Walls stretched up out of the greenery on all sides, but before her lay a gate. It was unlocked, open even. She could easily walk through it and escape the fire burning her tracks and the men in hot pursuit. However, her feet were rooted to the ground like the great oak in the middle of the courtyard behind her. "I can't do it, I won't go! Not without you Kinnely. Come with me please." She begged again. She had been begging since he first suggested she leave four gardens and six floors ago.

"Pheonix – this is not the time to argue with me. I have said this several times. Why won't you listen? I'm going to stay behind and make sure they can't track you down. Run far and run fast. Just get away from here." Kinnely pushed at Pheonix trying to force her out the gate, but she turned and grabbed her wrists without a care for the sword in his hands that now came dangerous close to her cheek. "Pheonix, don't…"

"Don't what?" Tears ran down her cheeks, cutting defined lines through the ash coating her face. "If you come with me you can protect me better. There are many more enemies out there who might attack me, but where will you be? Here. What good will you do me here if I am out there?" She honestly wanted to know. Did he not understand how hard this was for her? She couldn't leave him behind.

Kinnely stared at the crying girl before him and his hardened features let up for a moment. He could hear the sounds of battle outside the walls. Screaming and hollering of both victims and conquerors met his ears as he listened. That was not all that he heard though. From behind came a shout of triumph as a soldier clattered out into the open courtyard and spotted Kinnely and Pheonix standing before him. He cursed and turned to Pheonix, "Go now." He leaned in and kissed her cheek quickly and then broke free of her grasp and brandished his sword at the man who threatened his life and that of the woman he loved.

Pheonix too saw the man. Kinnely told her to leave, but her feet moved forward in the direction of their foe. She grabbed a dagger from the belt at Kinnely's waist. "I will fight beside you."

"No! Get out while you can!" Kinnely had said more, but it was drowned out as a great crackling sounded and then an earsplitting unidentifiable sound. The great oak had caught fire and in its old and brittle state was falling apart; large charred chunks cascaded down around them. The man took the momentary distraction and used it for his advantage. He lunged at Kinnely and thrust his sword at his chest. Kinnely blocked, but another attack swiftly followed.

More soldiers spilled into the courtyard from the mansion. Pheonix did her best to help protect Kinnely, but she kept getting pushed back by him. In the fray she missed how she had been forced through the gate… until the gate slammed shut in her face. She cried out and pushed against the cool iron bars in vain. Kinnely had thrown the lock. She tried to work her arm through so she could undo it, but too soon Kinnely was slammed against the gate and she was distracted.

He howled in pain as a broadsword was shoved through his abdomen and twisted. Pheonix could not help but scream as she watched the flashing metal protrude from his backside. "Kinnely! Kinnely!" She shook the gate uselessly and then tried to reach through and unlock it again. The hand of her lover gripped her wrist as it passed the bars and tried to push it back.

"Just go. Please…" He pleaded. "Save yours-"

He was cut off as another sword entered his chest. Pheonix screamed again in outrage. His hand fell from her wrist, limp. Hot tears burned her eyes. The soldiers dragged Kinnely's body away from the gate and opened it. She should have ran, but she couldn't. Even if he was dead she couldn't leave him. She shoved her way through the soldiers, fighting out of their grips as they tried to restrain her. Nothing would stop her from reaching him. Nothing.

Distraught, she fell to her knees next to his body and brushed his hair out of his face. Sobs racked her body as she said his name softly. "Kinnely… please come back to me. Please." A soldier grasped her shoulder. She turned her head in the direction of his hand and bit him hard. He kicked her in the side and she flopped over the body before her like a ragdoll.

It wasn't fair! Why was he dead? Why was she living? Did the Gods care to take everything from her? Why? "You won't win! You can't keep me from him! Not even in death." She called to the sky overhead. It was clouded by smoke from the flames that engulfed the whole town. She took the knife she had stolen from Kinnely's belt and held it over her as she sat back up. The soldiers tried to wrestle it from her grasp.

"It's not your time to die, girl. You have more jobs to fulfill," One said with a sneer.

She would not relinquish her hold on the weapon and as they attempted to hold her still she struggled harder. She managed to free herself and she looked to the heavens with disdain. "You cannot keep me from him. This I swear - I will find him again!" She plunged the dagger down toward her heart, but as it came close there was a flash of light. The world felt like it fell out from under her right after a violent jolt. All sound ceased around her and the dagger in her hands froze.

Pheonix couldn't remember closing her eyes, but she must have because she had to open them once she felt ground beneath her once again. Slowly her lids fluttered and her eyes opened to reveal a strange room with green walls covered in pictures of people. The dagger was still gripped tightly between her hands over her heart, but it had lost all momentum.

"Phee! Phee, come on. We're going to be late for class if you don't hurry up." Pheonix dropped the dagger in surprise as a voice called out to her. Footsteps were drawing near. With a panic she stuffed the dagger under her pillow and stood up as the door opened. "Phee… what on Earth are you wearing?" Pheonix turned to a girl with soft brown hair who stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips. "I realize your major is fashion design, but I thought you were sticking to every day clothes, not costume stuff."

She looked down at her clothes – a long red dress with gold braiding at the hems and flowing sleeves. It was a little charred, but not noticeably so unless you were close. She then looked over to the girl in the doorway and noted her attire to be breeches of some sort and a white billowing blouse. She was dressed… like a man. Pheonix frowned and was about to speak when she became dizzy. She staggered and then fell back to sit on the bed.

"Phee, are you alright?" The brown-haired girl came into the room and sat beside Pheonix, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and feeling her forehead with the back of her hand. "You do feel a little warm and… Ugh – what are you covered in?"

"Ash…" Pheonix muttered quietly. The girl grimaced and stood up, brushing her shirt off and cursing when the black soot smudged on the clean linen. "Nadia… I'm sorry. I'm going to go change."

"Clean yourself up too. God, what am I going to do with you?" Nadia left and Pheonix sat for a minute, astounded by her unreasonable knowledge. How had she known the girl's name? How did she suddenly recognize the breeches the girl had been wearing as some article of clothing entitled jeans? She shook her head and decided to just roll with the new information. She was curious as to where she was. Was this Heaven… Hell? She felt like she was still alive and the dagger had never reached her heart. If this was the afterlife… well how could it be?

Pheonix stood and walked toward a door across the room from the bed she sat on. She entered and found a closet full of jeans and other apparel. She grabbed a pair of pants, a shirt, and a bright yellow track jacket before leaving again and entering a door right next to the previous one. That door led to a bathroom where she cleaned up and dressed in her new clothes. She felt awkward and comfortable at the same time. It felt natural and yet unnatural. She couldn't explain it to herself, how right and wrong things felt.

Leaving her dress behind she exited the bedroom and walked down a hallway until she saw Nadia slipping on a leather coat and shoes at another door. Pheonix hesitated, then approached. She slid her feet into a pair of silver sneakers before hefting a black bag over her left shoulder and looking to Nadia expectantly. "Oh, so you're ready now are you? I don't know what's up with you today. Normally you're so with it. Come on, let's go. We're going to be so late."

Nadia opened the door beside her and scooted out into the hall. Pheonix followed suit, flipping a lock on the inside as she went before she closed the door. She followed the girl down the hall and stairwell, out the entrance of the building and along the sidewalk. She stared in fascination at the buildings around her – so tall and advanced. She was astounded and yet something told her she should be used to them. Another set of stairs appeared. They led down into the ground and she had to take them.

A subway.

They came to a gate and as if by habit she reached into her bag and pulled out a card which she swiped through a groove and then replaced in her bag. She made her way through the gate and then looked back in surprise. Nadia tugged her arm though as she fell behind and Pheonix returned her attention to where the girl leading her was going. They made their way to a train with its doors closing. It was close, but they managed to slip inside just in time.

"Phee, Nadia! Terrific, I was running late today and thought I had missed you both, but I guess you were running late too, huh?" Pheonix looked over and saw a tall redheaded man approaching.

"Mark! What luck. Yeah, Phee was having issues this morning. She's a strange girl, but today… well Phee, why don't you tell him?"

"Huh? Oh, um… I was dressed in some medieval style garb and Nadia thought it a bit much."

"And the ash?"

"Oh yeah, I was covered in ash too. Weird, huh?" Pheonix flashed an innocent smile Mark's way and he laughed and shook his head.

"That's our Phee. What a nutjob." He looked to Nadia a moment and then continued talking. "So Joey and I have decided to move in together. He should be packing this afternoon. Thankfully, he doesn't have too much stuff so he should be in by tomorrow or the day after."

"That's great, Mark! I told you he'd agree to it. You worry too much, but you two are meant for each other." Nadia punched Mark in the arm lightly.

"Mm. I had my doubts I must admit. It's been a hard relationship, what with him being straight originally. I was surprised when he said he'd give me a chance so excuse me if I was a little nervous about asking him to move in." Mark blushed and scratched his head. "He's such a nice guy though. Straight and yet he tried to date me because I seemed to like him so much… and then he stuck with me!"

"Truly an amazing boy, you that is, Mark. Hot enough to make a straight man gay!" Nadia chuckled and Mark joined her.


Pheonix watched the two of them with mild curiosity. She knew Mark was homosexual, she knew a lot about Mark, and Nadia, things she couldn't understand how she knew them. Two minds seemed to be warring inside her skull. One was a girl who knew all the happenings in this world and the other belonged to a girl who had tried to kill herself and ended up in a foreign time and place, a girl who was confused beyond belief at the things going on around her. She couldn't comprehend any of this for her life, but thankfully the second mind did. The second mind filled in the blanks.

The train came to a halt and Nadia and Mark filtered off the train with the rest of the crowd. Pheonix also followed along, not closely paying attention to them – too preoccupied by the sights, sounds, and smells around her. It seemed like it took no time at all before they stopped and Pheonix found herself outside an establishment which the second mind recognized as its place of learning. She entered inside and left Mark in the lobby with a wave, continuing on with Nadia to a small classroom on the third floor. The class was already in session, but it seemed only by a few moments.

"Ah! Miss Sanders, Miss Kingston. So nice of you two to join us. Running a little behind, don't you think?" The professor asked as the two girls entered inside the classroom and took their seats beside each other.

"Sorry, Mr. Boyde. I was feeling a bit ill this morning, but Nadia reminded me that I couldn't miss classes today due to exams. I had been prepared to stay home until then and then I had to rush to get dressed and we missed our usual train." The lie flew from her lips with ease. She blinked and hoped he bought it. He just seemed to huff and go back to what he had been doing before they came in.

Nadia raised an eyebrow and then took out a notebook to write down the words scribbled on the blackboard. Pheonix couldn't even be bothered. She was busy observing everything in the room, everyone. Nothing of too much interest except a black box her second mind called a computer. She had had one in her bedroom too only smaller and it folded up – a laptop.

Before she knew it a bell was ringing and the class was leaving. She did the same and moved on to a new room. Her whole day went something like that. Bell, class, bell, class. She moved from room to room four times before she had the feeling she could go home. She didn't go home though. Instead she went exploring. Her feet carried her along the stone… well, cement… paths that lead all around the… city. Eventually they stopped and she found herself outside a small store where people were sitting and drinking or eating. Phee entered inside and walked up to the counter to look at what was written on the boards on the wall.

A young man came to take her order, but she excused herself and said she wasn't sure what she wanted yet so he moved on to the person beside her. "I'll have the Diesel Fuel."

"Uh, boss which one is that again?" Phee looked over and watched the boy – obviously new to the staff – ask his boss about the drink.

"It's the orange, cranberry, and grapefruit juice mixed together and carbonated with lemon seltzer." Phee blurted out without thinking. Her second mind seemed to love to take over without warning.

"Oh, right… thanks."

"No problem." Phee muttered.

"I'll also take an oatmeal raisin cookie." The man who had been ordering added. Phee couldn't help but look over. His voice sounded so familiar, but she couldn't place why – until she saw his face.


The man turned to her, black hair falling into his eyes as he did so. He brushed the hair away to reveal striking emerald eyes that looked amused and curious. "I'm sorry, do I know you?"

"Y… not exactly." Shit. That was definitely Kinnely. She would know his face anywhere. Her eyes started to blur with tears. Her second mind told her she was an idiot and to stop herself, but her first mind could not stop the tears from spilling over. He wasn't dead here. He looked fantastic and alive. She had watched him die. She had felt his skin grow cold under her trembling fingertips. How could she stop from crying now when she saw the man she loved standing before her alive once more?

"Goodness, are you alright? Did I offend you that much by not recognizing you? I'm sorry."

"N-no. It's not your fault. I um… you just look like someone I know… who passed away recently."

"Oh… named Kinnely? That's ironic since that's my name. Perhaps I have a clone."

"I um… God, I'm such an idiot. I'm sorry. I have to go." Pheonix wiped the tears from her cheeks as she passed by him and headed for the door. Once outside she glanced back in to see him staring after her curiously, but she just spun on her heel and hurried off to the nearest subway station to go home. Her heart was throbbing in her chest, pounding against the back of her ribcage.

That was Kinnely! He said that was his name and it looked just like him. How could that be? Kinnely was dead. She watched it with her own two cerulean eyes. Either this was Heaven – as she could not picture Kinnely ending up anywhere else – or a parallel world to her own. Or… a horrible, horrible hallucination. She wondered briefly how she could determine which choice it was. Her mind that belonged to this world did not believe in magic… well, witches and wizards or other magic folk anyway. Was that because they did not exist? Or simply because she was a skeptic? Perhaps Phee would look for someone or something to help her… there had to be someone, right?