This story begins with Topaz Bond – The Call (1). To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.
Abelard looked down, heaved a sigh, and spoke with his mouth again. “Sorry. But how…?”
“Why do you keep switching the side of your head that you use to look at me?”
He gave a full-body twitch. “The left side receives, the right side projects.”
Unsure of how to interpret this answer but not wanting to display ignorance, she answered his repeated question. “I hear voices that no one else hears.”
“Ah. I think they used to call that schizophrenia, right?”
“What do you mean, ‘used to’?”
He didn’t answer at first. Instead, he ambled in a circle around her, keeping his head down, trying to decide something. She rotated to face him as he walked. When he had circled twice, he asked, “What year did you come from?”
“Common Era? I wasn’t even born then.”
“You mean… you’re from the future?”
“We’re outside of space and time, remember? Aum touches all of human history.”
“Only humans?” Eileen felt weak. “What about… aliens?”
“Haven’t run into any of those yet. Maybe they’re across the ocean. Nobody makes it across the ocean, I’ve heard.”
“What happens when you try to cross the ocean?”
“You get bored and turn around. It’s easy to get bored in Aum. We don’t even have weather here.”
“Yeah, it was pretty quiet before you showed up.” Eileen considered her options. Send him away and explore alone? As a general principle, safety in solitude, but Abelard seemed friendly enough and maybe the next being she would come across would have worse intentions. She still didn’t know too much about Aum. Abelard seemed willing show her the ropes. And she could always part ways with him later if he got on her nerves. So, safety in numbers then. “Okay, I’ll walk with you.”
His animal face twisted into some kind of smile. “All right, Opele, let’s walk.” He fell in beside her.
For a moment, she wasn’t sure whom he was talking to. Then, she remembered giving him her alias. She decided on the spot to start thinking of herself as ‘Opele,’ rather than ‘Eileen.’ “Hey, weren’t you going…” Opele peered in the direction of his previous amble, wondering what he might want to avoid.
“Well, like I was saying when we kicked off this little tutorial, Aum’s geography isn’t fixed. The coasts are fairly stable, but they’re hemmed by a set of mountain ranges, and once you get inland of those, the regions just phase in and out as you travel, with no order I’ve been able to grasp. It’s a right mess. A couple of the beasts I’ve come across tried making maps when they first started out, and it drove them batshit until they stopped.”
Opele furrowed her brow and rubbed her forehead. “So that means…”
“If you were walking this way, I can walk forward with you, and for all we know, we’ll still end up in the Feathered Forest, where I came from. It’s a very peaceful place. Beautiful trees.”
Thank you for reading! In my next installment, Opele and Abelard discover an unwelcome surprise.
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