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 combined a shuffle and a slide to move down the dune toward Eileen. He compensated for the contrast between his lumbering hippo side and graceful deer legs with practiced ease. Eileen wondered why no longer had a human body. “This is the Little Desert.”
“ ‘Little’? Is there a Big Desert somewhere else?”
“I’ve only heard it called the Great Desert.”
“Do you know how I ended up in the Little Desert?”
“Well, not really. Usually the Little Desert is next to the Stone Meadow or the Torn Crags, but I just came from the Feathered Forest, so I guess it depends. How many breaths have you taken?”
Eileen narrowed her eyes.
“Oh. You must be just starting out! You wanted to know how you ended up in Aum, period.”
“Yeah.” Abelard closed his hippo eye and turned the deer side of his head toward her. “This realm is called Aum.”
“How did I get here?”
“You’re uncomfortable in that position. Are you unwilling to make a garment, or do you not realize that you’re able to do so?”
“What?” Eileen’s flesh tingled unpleasantly, as if exposed to very mild electric current, and she felt a pull toward Abelard. She raised her arms in defense, but the tingling and pull ended almost immediately. She looked over her forearms at him; he had turned his head back to face her square on. A pale, translucent fedora now perched at an angle on the hippo side of his head. He winked at her with his deer eye; she felt the tingling again and a push away from him. She watched this time as the fedora melted into what she could now only assume to be the air around it.
“People show up here in the clothes that suit them best. I’ve never heard of anyone showing up naked, but we’re all so spread out, someone else probably did.”
“How did you do that? Make that hat?”
He hunched his animal shoulders in an approximation of a shrug. “How do you move your muscles? There’s a scientific explanation involving nerves and impulses, but a person needs education to explain that. No one’s given me an education on the magic here, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it.”
“Do you… think about it?”
“Do you think about moving your muscles when you want to do something physically? I man, you can think about lifting your arm, but do you? Usually?”
“Right. Once a person gets past early childhood, that sort of thought generally isn’t necessary unless he or she is attempting something truly challenging or has experienced brain damage. The same holds true for magic in Aum. The weird part is that none of the humans who come here have to go through infancy. We can all just do what we need to… Some people choose to develop their skills to perform feats that others can’t. They’re like athletes. But we all come here with an intuitive sense of how the basics get done. Apparently, some part of you does not need clothes.”
“Well, yeah. Not when I’m alone.” As soon as she began to really think about the difference between solitude and socializing, she felt pressure against her skin. She looked down and saw that an opaque, sleeveless leotard had filmed over her torso. Amazing. She stood. “I just made that? Out of what, air?”
“I don’t think what’s around us is air, even though we still feel like we’re breathing. It’s some other medium. Best just to think of it as magic. Aum isn’t a physical place. It’s outside of space and time.”
Thank you for reading! In my next installment, Eileen and Abelard continue to get acquainted.
If you are enjoying “Topaz Bond,” please support my writing on Patreon.