Sarah slowly eased on the accelerator and switched pressure onto the brake. The Audi came to a halt in front of a huge wooden gate, the only thing visible apart from the stone wall that stretched to either side for about half a mile before turning away from them. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel for a while as she observed the gate, with iron bolts visible on the edges and the margin in the middle where it was supposed to open. She pressed down the horn for a few seconds, and then sat back with a frown on her face. When she had first seen the twinkling lights, she had thought it would be a proper town. But talk about first impressions. For God’s sake; wooden doors and stone walls? Did we just jump into a different world, or a different age too?
Many, many ages. Backwards.
She was hardly bothered when Chris replied mentally. She had gotten used to their somewhat telepathic link during the two hour journey from the mall to this gate, with Chris speaking now and then to give her his opinion on something she was brooding over.
Suddenly there was a sharp clicking and sliding sound and the door swung outwards to open just a few inches. A young man, well built and almost six feet tall with curly golden hair strode out of the door, walking straight towards their car. He stopped two steps short, stared at the Audi for a few moments as if wonderstruck and then shook his head to look straight into Sarah’s eyes.
His eyes are blue.
Cute, innit? When Chris spoke, she got out of her reverie with a shrug and looked at the steering wheel. Can’t he just stop doing that? Interfering with- Sarah’s chain of thoughts broke when she heard more footsteps coming towards them. She looked out of the visor and stared. A girl was now approaching them, shorter than the man but having almost the same face as the boy, but completely feminine with a sharp nose and an angular face.
Chris stopped listening to Sarah’s thoughts when she emerged out of the door. She had that young man’s face, totally transformed to look female. Her golden hair hung loose across her left shoulder, she was wearing a pale blue dress with lacework across the front and the waist. And her eyes were the bluest he had ever seen, calm and clear as the morning see. Her eyes are blue!
Cute, innit? This time Chris jumped, really jumped. He had forgotten to check his dam holding the river of his thoughts and Sarah had heard him loud and clear. Suddenly surprise flowed through him in a wave that made him look towards her, and found she was looking at the people standing outside as they bowed down towards them.
He opened the door and got out of the car, quickly followed by Sarah. He bowed back- or tried to. He couldn’t take his eyes away from the golden haired girl, so his neck remained stiff while Sarah bowed in perfect imitation of those two.
The boy spoke first. “Welcome to Arendil, Sarah and Chris Earthborn.”
“Welcome to Arendil, Chris and Sarah Earthborn.” The girl spoke second, in a melodious voice that reminded him of a flowing stream for no apparent reason.
Earthborn? What has a planet’s name got to do with me? “Hi.” Chris spoke.
“Hi!” Sarah spoke with visible excitement. The boy and girl looked at each other for a moment before addressing them. “Come inside, we have to talk.” They turned back and began walking towards the slightly open gate.
“What about the car?” Sarah spoke, and the girl turned around with grace befitting a queen. “A car, is it? Leave it here. Come.” Not understanding anything, Chris and Sarah walked towards the gate and stepped in.
“Wow.” The words escaped his lips before he could think about them. Chris stared at a cluster of trees a hundred steps ahead, with flowers in all colours he had ever seen and in full blossom in all their glory. He saw the boy and girl standing in front of him, smiling. “I am John Seymar, keeper of the Gate. This is my sister and twin Jenna Seymar, responsible for the Guests. Let’s have something to drink, you both have many questions as I am sure and it will take time to answer them. Come.” So saying, he beckoned towards a road branching right from the brick road Chris found himself standing on. Without a word Sarah and he followed them. He passed near the grove and was astonished by even more number of unseen flowers growing in the deep of the grove. The road on which he was walking had establishments on both sides, but they differed as much to suggest that those on the left were residential and on the right were shops. The residential structures had a front yard with plants growing in them beyond two or three stairs that ended at doors. There was a round window on the right side of the door in every house, but curtains hanging inside prevented him from seeing anything. On the left, the buildings were more like houses without the doors and windows. The front wall was missing, replaced by a slab and shelves visible on all the walls behind it that were stacked with different items that Chris couldn’t comprehend.
They paused in front of a door with a sign hanging over it from a wooden spike that showed a man kneeling on one hand in front of a man with a rod in his hand.
“This is the inn known as King’s Blessing. Please.” John held the dark wood door open and gestured inside. Inside were wooden tables with benches on either side sufficient for two on each. On the left was a counter with a shelf behind stacked with bottles of different shapes and sizes. On the right was a door which opened to reveal a maid dressed in a dull brown dress carrying a tray laden with food towards a table occupied by two men wearing black hats and long deep green overcoats. Smell of food cooking wafted to him when the maid opened the door once again to go inside, probably into the kitchen. In the front was a staircase leading above. They took a table on the far left corner so that anybody coming in or going out was visible to John and Jenna, and then John beckoned the lady standing behind the counter, probably the innkeeper, and asked for four glasses of soft wine when she came to them. She beamed at Sarah and Chris and went away nodding her head.
Chris pulled back his hand quickly when he felt something touching it, and regretted it instantly. It was Jenna. “I didn’t mean to surprise you Chris Earthborn, forgive me. I just wanted to ask whether you will ask your questions now or should we explain things to you.” She spoke, her gaze not wavering at all from his. He looked at Sarah, and after getting her nod he asked her and John to explain. The glasses came, and despite her protests that she didn’t drink John handed Sarah a glass. Chris took a sip and felt a warm sensation slipping down his throat. Far from unpleasant, it was surprisingly refreshing and rejuvenating. The wine was cold, but it felt warm once swallowed. Sarah was feeling the same, he could tell from her thoughts floating in his mind.
John started speaking. “Arendil is a village in the territory of Arisia, the kingdom of King Darshen. Arisia is home to all those summoned by the Watchers of Time to punish them for disturbing the Flow. When your chance comes, you shall be summoned to the palace of the great king for trial. A sentence is pronounced, and after you complete it you will be sent back to your own world. As you can see around, the world we live in resembles the medieval era of your world. There is no purpose for this; the king chooses how to keep his kingdom and we obey. The kingdom lies a hundred miles north of the Lake of Need for the summoned, so this village houses people for as long as they are not summoned for trial.”
Jenna started speaking when he paused. “You have to stay here and accept this new existence as a way of life. All your possessions from your world will soon disappear. The car has already dissolved into the air, and what you were carrying-” she spoke and pointed at his backpack-“is disappearing too. We will now take you to the village seamstress Joline, and she will give you both clothes to wear before they disappear too.” A shock as great as his own echoed in his mind from Sarah, and it pained so hard that Chris had to rub his temple. John saw their discomfort and immediately spoke, “Don’t worry, you still have one full day” before going back to sipping wine and looking at the inn’s door. Jenna resumed her speaking. “You see, molecules of your world do not stay stable for long in a new dimension, because the forces holding them are not adapted to existence without time.”
Chris coughed in the midst of sipping his wine, which sent him into a spasm of coughing from the wine entering his wind pipe. “No time?” He asked Jenna, red eyed from coughing so badly.
“Yes, time does not flow in Arisia.”
“But that’s impossible!” Sarah spoke so loudly that the two men in green overcoats that had been sitting earlier stared at them.
“It is not.” John spoke with a smile as he set down his empty glass on the table.
“We will now go to Miss Joline, if you will follow me. She will have your clothes ready by nightfall.” He spoke as he rose from the table, and Sarah and Chris followed. Jenna brought up the rear as they emerged out of the inn onto the brick road again. Sarah stepped quickly behind John, very anxious to meet Joline before her clothes disappeared.
A day or not, I want this silly countrywear on me today! Chris grinned as her thought came floating to him. Footsteps behind him reminded that Jenna was walking behind, so he slowed down and fell in step with her.
“Yes Master Chris?”
“Please call me Chris only. Why do you both keep calling us Earthborn? What has our planet got to do with our names?”
She smiled as if he had asked two plus two, but in a way that also expressed that she had heard this questions hundreds of times and was used to it.
“It helps to keep track of everybody.”
“What do you mean?” Chris looked at her as they walked.
“You will understand when you meet other villagers. You know, yours is not the only universe where beings on different planets disturb time and are summoned here. Naming people by their planets helps.”
“You mean there is alien life in the universe?”
“Of course, it’s so big...all universes are. How could there be just one planet with life? It’s common sense.”
Alien life forms were common sense? This is madness.
“There’s more than one uni- universe?” He couldn’t get the words out of his mouth.
“Of course. Why, your neighbour is going to be Miss Elanya from the Blue universe! You’ll be glad to meet her.”
Chris stopped dead in his track, and saw Jenna walking away behind Sarah and John. His mind was spinning so badly his head was throbbing with a major headache. My neighbour is from another freaking Universe? His head was pounding.