She stood, lonely and beautiful, hair waving in the wind. She waited, patient and peaceful, watching the blooming fingers of dawn reaching over the horizon. She was a wise one, Daelani. She knew something would happen—something very important. And it would happen soon.
As the sun rose, the raven-haired beauty moved not an inch. The sun shone on her face and illuminated the clifftop around Daelani. Slowly she turned around, and just as slowly she smiled. There, in front of her, stood a perfect, albeit younger, copy of herself. That makes sense, Daelani told herself. She is my daughter, after all.
Daelani held out her arms. "Hello, my dear." She smiled warmly and waited as the girl took an uncertain step in her general direction. "What is it that you have come for?" she asked in her bell-like, melodious voice.
"I want to know about… Shaelia," the girl said timidly. "How did…" The wind swept through her hair and she jumped. Daelani looked at her curiously.
"It is only wind, my dear." The girl shook her head and whispered vehemently, "It isn't. It's probably another time warp, and I'll get lost again. I don't know where Shaelia's gone. I don't know how she got lost from you in the first place."
"Shaelia," said the Lady Daelani, smiling faintly. "Your daughter."
"No," the girl said, shaking her head. "I…my friend…" Reluctantly, she whispered, "My daughter."
"Darling," Daelani said. "I am your mother. Come with me, and I will tell you. I will tell you about how this came to be. We are safe from Time here. Watch; the sun rises and sets. Wait, but Time does not pass. We heed it not." Seeing that the young one was still uncertain about following her, Daelani held out her hand and took the girl's. "Come."
Daelani seated herself gracefully in a rosy-colored armchair, carefully placing her skirts so that they were not ruffled. "Now," she said, as her daughter sat herself down and then looked at her, wide-eyed.
"First of all," smiled Daelani, "I must ask you what I should call you. I understand that in your Timelife, you may be called something else…other than Shaparie."
"My dream told me my name was Shaparie," the girl whispered. "I had a lot of dreams." Shaking her head, as if to shake off the subject, she went on, "…My friends call me Shoppy," whispered the girl-child. "You could call me that."
"If you wish me to, then I will. We have all the time in the world. You needn't look so worried."
"We have time, yes!" Shoppy stood up and spoke loudly. "But Shaelia doesn't. She needs our help, miss…uh…Mother."
Daelani nodded. "Yes, but she can take care of herself, can she not? You'll only make it worse for yourself if you worry—you can do nothing to help her until I explain to you how all of this happened."
"I guess." Shoppy sat down again and waited, watching her mother's face, marveling that her mother looked not a second older than a twenty year-old woman, and much more beautiful.
"Now I'll begin," Daelani said, and began speaking continuously without waiting for a reply from Shoppy.
"When Shaelia was young, she was curious about Time. She wandered about our palace home, constantly trying to find her way into the rooms of Time, where I had imprisoned it. She never meant any harm. Then one day, she found the Key, in your locket. I can still remember your words to her: 'You mustn't touch that, not until the time is right.' But she opened it—she unlocked it the locket, and used the Key to open the door of the room. There was a great hole, and it sucked her in. She screamed, but no one heard her. Until it was too late…"
The young black-haired girl ran into her mother's room. Smiling slyly, she walked over to the bureau and opened a drawer, and looked through her mother's dresses until she found what she was looking for—a small golden locket. She clicked it open, and blinked a few times as the dust rose and settled in the air. Her eyes widening slightly, she picked up what she had been looking for—the Key to the Room of Time. She dropped the locket to the floor. It landed with a clack on the floor.
From miles away in the fields of goldflower, her mother's ears caught the familiar click of the locket opening, and the sound of it falling to the floor. "No," she whispered, and began to run.
The child giggled and ran through the house, then found the one door. The one that she had wandered by since her childhood, the one she had constantly wondered about ever since she was old enough. Carefully she put the Key into the lockhole, and opened it.
Peeping through the door, it looked like a normal room. She opened it all the way, then tiptoed through. In the center of the room, there was a great hole in the sky; there was nothing but black. It radiated an aura of evil, and the girl shivered, half with excitement, half with fear. She stepped closer, and then her heart caught in her throat. In the hole, she saw a face…
"Don't come any closer! Go back!" the panicked face of the girl that looked exactly like her, but older, seemed to be coming closer. Shaelia looked down and realized that her feet were being dragged to the hole. She started to scream, filled with terror, but the hole was relentless.
She flew into the hole. There was a screech as the door opened, and Shaparie rushed in. But it was too late. Shaelia screamed, "Mommy! Help me!" as she was hurtled into Time.
**Back to Reality**
"I remember. Shaelia told me—she was found when she was ten, walking around, confused. She must have hit her head somewhere in Time… She was sent from foster home to foster home until she couldn't remember a single thing. The weird thing was, I couldn't either, when we finally met up. All she remembered was black, and a screaming face… But whose face was it?"
"Her own. She is trapped in Time now, and is probably screaming at her child-self, telling her not to come any closer to the great hole," Daelani said.
"How will we get her out? What happened after she was thrown into Time?" questioned Shoppy.
Shaparie threw herself into the hole. "Shaelia!" she screamed, her voice raw and terrified in the bleak blankness of the place she floated in. Swimming through air, it seemed, she watched as pictures of future things hovered past her eyes. A strange box with faces in it; another box with words and a long rectangle covered with strange letters; a blonde girl wearing something Shaparie wouldn't even consider wearing to bed, singing about a crying, though lucky girl; and even more pictures zoomed past her, until she couldn't stand it anymore.
She felt herself almost shrinking. She felt like she was being packed into a tight cube of thoughts and feelings but no body parts, and she was falling through nothing, not even air. She was screaming but she couldn't hear a single thing. The horror of the situation struck her, hard.
Her mind stretched with pictures and snapped, then shrunk. Shaparie could feel herself grow younger and younger, until she was merely a decade old. She felt her bones being crushed. Her throat was tight, as her body changed its form and struck another Time warp—another hole. She fell sideways through it, and hit solid concrete.
"So that's how I got here," Shaparie said wonderingly. "How did you know all this?" she asked, suddenly curious.
"I know a lot of things," Daelani said. "My dear, you must tell me your story. How did you Shaelia get lost in Time again?"
"I… it's a long story."
"I've already told you. We have no Time in the world," Daelani said. Her daughter looked at her, confused, and Daelani explained, "We have no Time. We're safe from It. That means, in your own speech, 'You have all the time in the world.' That doesn't really apply, but basically…it doesn't matter how long your story is, because I'm going to hear the entire thing anyway. From beginning to end."
"Yes, Mother," Shaparie said automatically. She laughed a little, then continued, "But I'm warning you, this is going to take a while…"