The next few weeks passed for Aidan in a whirlwind of excitement. He had but one thing to focus on, and that was the school list. The list had been simple enough -- almost too simple, in fact. It required the clothes on his back and had only one other odd request: he had to go outside and pick anything he wanted.
It took him a while to choose. The yard was full of interesting things, but one caught his attention more than the others. It was a rock, which seemed rather plain at first. But when he picked it up, it broke apart. The inside was smooth and black but notched in different places. He pressed the two halves together and they stayed once more, seeming to be whole again. It was fiddly and interesting, so he pocketed it and considered himself ready.
His parents didn't really talk about the recent events. He was sure they discussed it with each other, but never in front of him. At least he had known what to expect, thanks to the book. They seemed to be taking the whole thing badly, as if their world had suddenly been turned upside down. In a way, it had.
Before any of them could really come to terms with the idea, it was the night before the arranged date. In the morning, they would travel to a small mountain without any inhabitants. His mom was still not convinced that it wasn't one big trick, but everyone's curiosity was insatiable. They couldn't wait to leave the next day.
The car ride was about an hour away in a direction they had never been. The sky was still dark when they arrived and the morning air nipped at their faces. Getting to the top of the mountain was not difficult, but neither was it fun. There was a simple trail and it only took thirty minutes to climb, but the air was cool and the lighting poor. As far as mountains went, it was more of a hill, anyway.
When they reached the top, a tall woman with long blonde hair was waiting. The wind blew at her pin-straight locks and she stared to the sky as if highly disinterested. Her garments were much like Shiloh's, but in a glistening grey instead of blue. When they were mere feet away, she turned fluidly to face them, but did not smile.
"Hello. You must be Aidan," she said impassively. It was not a question.
Aidan simply nodded.
"The fabric between our world and yours is stretched here," she said vacantly, staring back off at the sky. "I can feel it. Nobody knows why it is thin in some places or thick in others. It does not correspond to anything measurable. But I can feel the air rushing through. Your air is foreign and polluted."
Nobody really knew how to respond. She seemed distant and as light as a feather. She spoke very softly but her voice had underlying strength, a subtle warning. Talking seemed rude at the time, so the family stood in silence.
"Your clouds are strange here, too. They are wispy. And your moon is horrendous. I am sure Shiloh found that miserable. It is so far away."
"Well, it is pretty far," Aidan said. "Almost 240,000 miles."
The woman turned to Aidan now and appraised him. He stared back, unsure of how to react. Her look was scrutinizing but not unkind. After a minute of this she turned back to the moon.
"I should apologize. There is nothing wrong with your world. I just feel lost here. My mind is up there," she pointed now, to a particular point in the sky. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yes," Aidan said quietly.
"Okay. I will use elemental magic to create a tear in the sky. It will sound terrible, but do not to worry. As soon as it opens, you have to want to go through it. There is a careful balance between our two worlds and this will break it. This break will last just long enough for us to exploit the natural confusion and choose where we want to be. Then, it will close itself up. Understand?"
"So, when we see the tear, we just have to will ourselves to go through?" Aidan asked.
"Exactly. Now, I need silence."
She closed her eyes tightly and placed her palms together, as if in prayer. Her head tilted back as she drew her hands up, pointing the fingertips at the sky. Slowly, she pulled her palms apart and air rushed furiously upwards. It seemed to hit an invisible wall -- the "fabric" she had described -- and push against it. Next came a dreadful ripping noise, unnatural and frightening and impossibly loud.
The sky began to open at the seams, slowly at first. On the other side was the darkness of early morning. The mouth stretched wider to reveal a moon, which looked only slightly smaller in the sky than their own moon. However, the rip stretched further to reveal part of a second moon, but this one was enormous. It seemed to be at least five times bigger, or closer, than the moon Aidan knew. The sight was both beautiful and awe-inspiring.
"Now," said the woman, voice strained.
Aidan thought about arriving in the other world and excitement flooded him. He was suddenly drawn up towards the sky, as if flying. The gaping hole was growing closer as if in preparation to swallow him whole. Finally, he was sucked in.
The next moments were not at all like he expected. Everything was a milky, pearly white. It felt like he was swimming in some substance between air and water. It swirled and caressed strangely. His breath did not come, for it felt as though he did not need to breathe. At first, the experience was blissful, but he soon started to feel lost and alone.
Something began pulling him back down and he was suddenly in free fall. He shut his eyes tightly and wondered when ground would hit. After what felt like an eternity, his knees fell to the ground and he toppled on his side. Somewhere he was acutely aware that the force had not been strong enough to cause pain. He opened his eyes slowly to see a figure standing above him.
The woman looked out through pale eyes and offered her hand. Aidan took it happily and stood up, still shaken. His parents were next to him, looking a little shaken but perfectly intact. The sky was whole again and the moons glowed brightly.
"Quite an experience, isn't it?" the woman said. "It is rumored that a soul which is fully prepared for death will never leave that place, but I do not know if that is true. When are we ever ready for death, after all? I'd prefer to become one with the air."
She glanced at his parents and beckoned all three of them to follow. "This way. Waimferth is not far from here."