"Nothing to be scared of," the voice breathed.
Yeah, right, thought Gemma. If there was nothing to be scared of, then why was her heart pounding so hard she could almost feel her ribs starting to crack?
"Turn around, human girl. I want to see your face."
Gemma closed her eyes and swallowed. She turned slowly, one hundred and eighty degrees, and froze, her hands clenched in fists by her side. The sunglasses were pulled gently from her face, though she didn't feel hands touch her skin.
"Open your eyes."
The voice had control over her. She allowed her eyelids to flicker open. The face before hers was pure white, almost glowing. The eyes were wide and gentle, a soft shade of aqua blue. The creature had no nose, and its mouth was just a small slit in its face. The creature's body was short and serpeant-shaped, but hovered enough above the ground so that it was at eye-level with her. Two thin, short arms with tiny hands clutched the pink sunglasses. Its snowy skin glowed all over.
"Brown," the creature said, gazing into Gemma's frightened eyes. "I always dreamed I would meet a human with brown eyes."
"What are you?" Gemma whispered.
"I'm a light spirit." It lowered its eyes to look at the glasses in its little hands. "What are these?"
"They're... sunglasses," said Gemma. "You wear them on your eyes."
"To keep the light from your eyes."
The light spirit gave a small cry of shock, and stared at Gemma in horror. "WHAT? Why would you want to keep the light from your eyes? Light is the most wonderful thing there is!"
"Well, that's easy to say when you're a..." Gemma screwed up her face as she recalled the term, "Light spirit."
The light spirit returned its attention to the sunglasses, turning them over several times in its hands before holding them to its face and sliding them on over its giant bulging eyes.
It glanced around the white surroundings, peering through the tinted glass with fascination.
"This is... Strange," it remarked, raising its hands so that it could inspect them through the glasses.
Gemma frowned as his attention drifted from her. "Excuse me, Mr. Light Spirit," she said, not believing what she was saying, "but I was wondering if you noticed any other humans around here lately?"
The light spirit giggled. "The light is still there, but it doesn't get to my eyes! It's almost like... magic!"
"Excuse me!" snapped Gemma, lashing out blindly and knocking the sunglasses from the light spirit's face. Both of them watched at the glasses danced across the gleaming white floor and clattered to a stop about six metres away.
"I'm looking for some humans," said Gemma.
"A pair of specimens, male and female, mid-forties, terrified expressions?"
Gemma nodded. "That sounds right."
"And you need to get to the place where these humans now dwell?"
"Yes! I really do."
The light spirit shut its eyes and slowly shook its head. "Those humans were taken to the Dome."
Gemma frowned. "The what?"
"The Dome. It's a terribly secretive place where all of the humans are taken. I'm afraid it's rare for any humans to come back out."
Despite herself, Gemma gasped in shock, feeling completely sickened. As if all of this hadn't been distressing enough already... Now a floating creature made of light was telling her that Brom's parents were... what? Dead?
"By the way," the spirit said, reaching towards her with a tiny hand. "Nice to meet you. What do they call you?"
"They call me... Gemma," said Gemma, eyeing the light spirit's glowing hand warily. "What do they call you?"
The spirit made a grab for her hand, and Gemma's heart skipped a beat; she found that his flesh felt just the same as hers, warm and soft despite its cold hard appearance.
"What would you call me?" it asked.
"I'd call you strange," Gemma said with a nervous tremor in her voice.
"Well then Gemma... I am Strange."