Lewis opened his eyes and found himself on a bench in the middle of a freezing winter's night. As he shivered he took in a few breaths of the cold air and tried to recall what on earth he was doing in the middle of the city park. Then he remembered.
Lewis had been abandoned and cruelly left behind in the middle of the city park to die with the freezing cold. 17 years to the day a kindly middle aged couple called Joe and Stephanie had found him and had taken him to the Social Services where he went into foster care. And that's where he'd stayed for the past 17 years. Lewis knew there was something about him that was weird, not quite right, and other people sensed it, that's why he could never stay with one family for more than a year or two, that's why eventually the Social Services forgot who he was and he'd been forced to run away from his current foster home to come back to the place he was found 17 years ago to ponder and think. He'd walked around the park at 4 in the morning, thinking , over and over again the same questions filled his mind and didn't disappear "Perhaps I was such an ugly baby they didn't want me" Lewis used to think in childhood.
People occasionally told Lewis to his face that he was ugly, they all thought he looked ‘odd', ‘not quite right' and according to the taunting kids at school ‘Weird'
Lewis had to admit, they had a point. He was freakishly tall, and was nearly 6 foot 3 by the time he was 9, even from then on he never stopped growing and now he was close to being 7 foot. Lewis longed to be a normal height like everyone else but he was clearly not a normal person. The longish, red hair and contrasting wide bright, blue eyes didn't help his appearance; neither did the almost constantly pink skin or the slight clumsiness of his gait. Lewis looked in the mirror each morning and questioned what kind of freaky family he had, imagining a family photo where the father's head was out of shot due to him being 12 foot tall and the mother having massive frizzy red hair and blue eyes the size of dinner plates. Maybe there was no family, maybe his mother was some high school tart who ran out on him purely in cowardice and his father was some 40 year old married man on a sneaky one night stand. Lewis quickly realised he didn't care who they were or what they were like - he just wanted the annoying buzz of endless, useless questions to leave his head. He was frantic for closure, and for some reason he was compelled to come back here, to the place of his unofficial birthday to end the questions. It wasn't working, not even a bit. Now all Lewis knew was that fellow humans were ignorant, unhelpful and cowardly, and that was irrelevant no matter how true.
Lewis got up off his bench and started pacing around- it had been three days since he'd ran away, three days and no one had bothered to ask why he was wandering round a park with the ever loitering drug dealers and prostitutes and thieves. Someone had tried to mug him, but once they'd seen his size they'd ran off the other way immediately afterwards, that was another attribute that pointed to the cowardice of the human race. Lewis closed his eyes and took another breath in, tasting the sweetness and moisture of the air- it was so much better here, away from the city. There was no choking smell of petrol or smoke- right in the centre of the sky at night there were a few stars which had managed to escape from the suffocating omnipresent artificial lights of the city. He had managed to escape too, no matter where he was or who he was with, he knew he'd managed to escape and although endless questions filled his head he was happier than he'd been in a long time and he couldn't explain why. Through the night mist, Lewis saw a stranger, standing and staring at him, Lewis wondered if he'd have to end up scaring off a mugger again and pondered this for a while. Soon the stranger came into view and Lewis was highly taken aback by his appearance.
The stranger was wearing clothes that suggested he'd just been or was going to some sort of strange history convention. Lewis looked at the clothes once more and decided that the convention must be based on working classes through medieval times. The clothes were not the only thing to instantly grab Lewis' attention though; the man in question seemed to be very pale, looked almost completely white in fact. Lewis assumed that this was due to the darkness of the park and his own exhaustion; he looked like he didn't have any eyes, or at least no pupils. No matter how hard Lewis squinted into the darkness he couldn't see blue or brown or grey or green, there was just darkness there, cold darkness where the stranger's eyes should have been. The stranger walked forward and frowned as though he was concentrating.
"Look, if you're drugged up then you can clear off, that bench is mine and I'm going back to sleep on it in a minute" Lewis told the stranger shortly.
"Drugged up?" the stranger replied, his voice had a cold, harsh tone surrounding it. The stranger surveyed Lewis for a few moments before plucking up the courage to ask "Where are your parents, boy?"
"Are you a police officer?" Lewis asked, suspicious.
"A what?" the stranger tutted exasperatedly and muttered something that sounded like "Foolish boy" The two looked at each other with slight disdain now. "Do you have any parents?"
"No...well, yes. Somewhere"
"Your mother's name?"
"I don't know, they don't tell me"
"Then your father's?"
"I have no idea, what's it to you? - why are you asking me these questions?" Lewis asked, folding his arms defensively.
The stranger ignored this question "Where were you born?"
"I'm not telling you" Lewis answered, stubbornly.
"Foolish boy, if you don't tell me now..." The stranger walked forward towards Lewis and Lewis took a couple of steps back. "Listen, you half-breed fool..."
"Half-breed, what do you mean half-breed?" Lewis marched forward shoved the stranger angrily. "If you call me half-breed again I'll hit you so hard people will think you're a half-breed"
"Enough of that, where were you born?!" the stranger kicked Lewis in the shin, unafraid of Lewis' last statement "Tell me now, it's important you idiot- can't you understand that?!"
"I wasn't born anywhere!" Lewis retorted, feeling anger bubbling up inside him "I was abandoned...here actually, here by that rock...according to Social"
The stranger nodded and stared over at the rock for a few silent seconds "Is your name Gruth?" He asked.
"No, my name is Lewis...technically, Lewis Michaels at the moment"
The stranger nodded "In that case, Lewis- you have to come with me and hold your breath boy, otherwise you'll end up on the other side, dead- you understand?"
"Other side?" Lewis frowned, perplexed at what the stranger had just said.
"You'll know soon enough" the stranger grinned and white teeth with a bluish hue appeared, making Lewis wince with slight shock. The stranger walked forward and took Lewis by the arm, Lewis had no idea what was about to happen, not even when the stranger started walking backwards, back towards a lonely tree standing in the middle of the park. Suddenly darkness pressed down onto the park, making the sky and the hum of the endless traffic of the city disappear.
The stranger was still walking quickly through the darkness, still holding onto Lewis' arm. Lewis felt different, odd - something wasn't right with the air. And then he realised as his lungs laboured for a proper breath, there was no air, no air at all. Lewis dizzily noticed the pure white hand against the darkness, gripping his sleeve even tighter as he swayed. In seconds Lewis collapsed onto nothing and the hand let go of him. The roaring silence of the airless void was broken by familiar, clear, sweet singing. A girl appeared with light blonde hair, only a couple of years older than Lewis, she was in rags, and her unbelievably bright blue eyes lit up against the background- they were not ordinary, the sparkle in them was not life but something unearthly and eerie. The ghostly girl started walking, nearly floating towards Lewis, the clear singing that seemed so familiar to Lewis got louder and louder. Lewis wanted to cry out, to struggle from the chains of this nightmare that seemed so real, there was no breath in his body to do anything now. Lewis was suffocating. He felt the grasp of a hand on his shoulder and the sensation of floating before he went blind. Then the singing died away too as Lewis took one weak gasp for air before passing out into complete blackness.
Lewis was only aware of two things when he came round again, firstly he had the worst headache in the history of headaches, and secondly it was now day time. The bright sunshine of wherever he was shone through his eyelids and made his head hurt even more. As Lewis' senses sluggishly began to return he noticed he was moving, someone was holding his collar and dragging him roughly across the ground. Lewis didn't open his eyes, his heart was racing with new, quick breath and the person who was dragging him was muttering, barely coherent.
"Stupid half-human....told him to hold his breath...Ery ignorance is clear"
Suddenly the words "Half human" shocked Lewis into full-consciousness, it was obvious that the stranger had knocked him out, kidnapped him and taken him to some tropical country where the sun was brighter and hotter. For some reason Lewis elected not to open his eyes, perhaps it was the fact he didn't know what the stranger was capable of, or perhaps it was because he didn't want to find out why he kept calling him "Half-human".
A few minutes of staying completely still and limp later and Lewis heard a door being kicked open, the stranger pulled Lewis onto a wooden floor and dropped him. Lewis' head smacked against the floor hard and he felt like swearing at the stranger as his headache was increased a lot. Suddenly Lewis heard voices from the other room and footsteps, he felt someone lean in close to him.
"He's still breathing, I had to smack him in the chest to get him breathing again, but it worked"
"Gruth, go and fetch a pillow- I can't believe you just left him in the middle of the floor" The second voice was womanly and kinder sounding than the other stranger's. "How did he pass out?"
"Either he saw..." the stranger paused and sounded like he was taking a deep breath "Either the fool started trying to breathe in the portal and passed out or he tried to breathe, collapsed, saw Elizabeth and then passed out"
"Well...there is something eerie about imprinted souls isn't there?" The woman replied. "Like they're searching for someone or waiting for something. I can see why Elizabeth appeared for him...what's his name by the way?"
"Not Gruth then?" The woman sounded surprised.
"No...it's probably for the best, he was hanging around Earth on his own when I found him- I think he's been alienated for most of his life as I predicted" the stranger paused for a few seconds "It wouldn't have been that way if Elizabeth..."
"Alright, Gruth" The woman replied, she touched Lewis' face carefully. "I think he'll live, he should have come round by now though" The woman sounded slightly concerned. "If he doesn't live, Sethrin will not be happy"
"Don't you think I know that Vita? Seth's been unhappy with me for 17 years anyway..."
The woman named Vita went out of the room to fetch some water and the stranger was suddenly next to Lewis' ear.
"Don't die...do not die, Lewis. You're the only thing, you're my only success- please don't die. Wake up"
Lewis was confused, these people were talking about things that were making his head buzz and ache even more, who was Elizabeth and Sethrin, why would Sethrin be unhappy if he died and where on Earth was he? Lewis opened his eyes and saw the stranger named Gruth kneeling over him with a concerned face. Lewis immediately sat up and started backing off rapidly until he was flat against the wall behind him "Go away" He told Gruth, who was now smiling the bluish-grin at him.
"Look, Lewis I'm not going to hurt you...thank goodness you're alive"
"GO AWAY" Lewis frowned and flattened himself even more to the wall. Gruth looked stranger in the sunlight of this odd place, his skin was completely white and he had short dark- purple hair and deep, black eyes. "I'm going to wake up soon- on my bench in my park and this will all be a dream, you understand?"
Gruth shook his head "Now you're just being foolish. Listen if I was going to hurt you, don't you think I would have done it by now?"
Lewis thought this through and relaxed a little "Why did you knock me out if you aren't going to hurt me?"
"I didn't, you tried to breathe in the portal, boy. Right after I told you to hold your breath"
"Well how was I to know?" Lewis retorted. "I don't even know who you are, where I am, who that woman in the darkness was. Why won't anyone tell me!"
Suddenly the woman who had been talking to Gruth came in, she was stunning in an otherworldly way, her skin was as white as Gruth's but her purple hair was long and her eyes had warmth that Gruth's seemed to lack.
"You're awake" Vita grinned, showing bluish teeth like Gruth's.
Lewis felt like he could immediately become calm in her presence "...and confused" he told her.
"Well of course you are" Vita looked Lewis up and down "You're not that bad looking for the Ery blood. I think you got mostly human blood in you...well apart from the hair and the height of course" Vita looked with disappointment at Lewis' longish-red hair and Lewis self-concsiously patted it down. There was an awkward pause before Vita pointed to a chair by the table
"You can't stay there on the floor all day, come and sit down and eat some soup" Vita grinned in a way that made Lewis smile back at her.
Gruth walked over to the table and nodded to Vita as a kind of thankyou.
"So" Vita smiled as she poured out the soup "Your name is Lewis isn't it? Tell us about yourself, and then we'll tell you why you're on Beory"
Vita put her finger to her lips "Tell us about you first, Lewis"
"Well...I'm 17" Lewis racked his brain for something interesting to say about himself as he ate some of the soup "I was born...whenever..."
"It was in the Winter." Gruth said shortly.
Lewis looked at him with slight shock, for years he had wondered about his birthday, pondered whether he was a summer baby or a winter baby, and in the 5 minutes he'd been here he'd already found that out. These strange people knew things about him that not even he knew.
"Carry on, Lewis. Don't let yourself be interrupted by this rude Diash" Vita nudged Gruth who merely stared at her.
"Well...look, I really can't think of anything positive to say about myself- I feel like this is an interview!" Lewis took his bowl up and gulped the rest of the soup down, suddenly ravenous- he put the bowl back down on the table only to see that Gruth and Vita were staring at him with slight fascination.
"In-ter-view?" Vita repeated, annunciating the syllables slowly as if they were new to her. "What's an in-ter-view?"
"It's a...question thing. So people know what you can do before you get a job. Surely you've heard of interviews"
Gruth and Vita both shook their heads at the same time and carried on staring at Lewis, it was beginning to un-nerve him slightly.
"Anyway, that's my whole life basically. It's been one big useless blank. Now it's your turn, tell me why I'm here. Tell me what I'm doing in Beory or wherever" Lewis pushed his empty bowl aside and kept eye contact with Gruth, who turned to him holding his eye contact.
"Thank Vita for the soup" Gruth narrowed his eyes.
Lewis' eyes flicked to Vita for a moment and he smiled and said "Thankyou"
Gruth eyed him with trepidation for a second or two and said "You better believe everything I say boy, every little sentence, every little pause I make you've got to believe it. Otherwise this isn't going to work"
Lewis nodded "I will"
"Good, some common-sense at last" Gruth pulled his chair in at the table; Lewis leaned in close, doubting and wondering all the while.