Epic failures are always epic . Anyway, been a while since I wrote some original story.
Summary: She can't say where he is from, except for the fact that he's from That Other Place. He might have well appeared out of nowhere and it wouldn't make much difference – not in this case.
A/N: Partially inspired by Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.
Italics used for thoughts and emphasis.
FROM THE OTHER WORLD
She's been sitting by the fountain for half an hour already, stroking the fur of a black cat sitting in her laps, when that man appears. She squints, the cat opens one of his golden eyes and now both of them are eyeing the man curiously, for a short while looking for some entertainment in something that might turn into hard work soon. The cat quickly loses his interest in the man and makes himself even more comfortable in her laps, but she keeps watching the man, completely ignoring other people passing her.
The man is young, a bit younger than she thought at first, and doesn't look much older than her. He's slim and relatively tall when compared to other people around him. His hair is short, black and curly – not to mention messy – and he's dressed casually, in a pair of brown pants and a dark jacket. He could be one of these young men that pass her every second, but there is something that makes him look different – none of them would seem so overwhelmed and lost in this place. He wanders around, with a blank expression on his face, and approaches other people as if trying to talk to them, but once he gets closer to them, he always steps back.
She's the only person who notices that there is something strange about the man and his behaviour. She can't say where he is from, except for the fact that he's from That Other Place, and she's not sure how and when exactly he got here. He might have well appeared out of nowhere and it wouldn't make much difference – not in this case.
She watches him carefully, focusing her mind on the Mission awaiting her, and tries to predict what the man will do next. She frowns seeing that he's about to leave the square with the fountain, so she pokes the cat.
"Move, Cat," she utters. "We've got a job to be done."
The cat gives her a disapproving look –a feline equivalent of a pouting face in her opinion – and jumps down from her laps. He takes a few steps before turning to her and meowing.
"So now you tell me to hurry up?" She cocks her eyebrow, glancing at the cat, but he only spits in the reply. He turns away, obviously ignoring her, and heads toward the street which the man has just entered. She shrugs and follows that cat, trying to hide a smile that has just appeared on her face – this smile is not something that the cat would appreciate – and fixes her eyes on the man.
It's not difficult to follow the man, as he walks slowly, slower than people around him. The street is not crowded, but people seem to take such routes that would prevent them from getting closer to the man. She's seen it so many times before, but it still amazes her greatly how all these people who are not able to see or even sense beings similar to the man behave as if they actually could tell that someone like him is around them.
She winces and almost regrets that she doesn't posses that ability which the man does after some man, a random passerby, bumps into her. He catches her hand, preventing her from falling down, and quickly mumbles some apologies. She smiles politely at him in the response and waves her hand, assuring him that nothing happened. Then he goes away, but when he passes her, he shoots her a suspicious glance and she can hear him mumble, "I could swear that there was no one there".
The words sting, once again reminding her about what should be long forgotten, but she shrugs it off, and focuses on following her "target". Only that... She frowns and looks around, realizing that she can't see him anymore.
She glances down trying to find the cat, but the cat is gone, too. She snorts, frowns and keeps going, slowly taking one step by another and wondering where the man she's been following could go. With every second that passes she gets more and more nervous, because such a thing has never happened before.
Then, when she's almost lost all hope in finding the man, something happens – a small, dark thing falls down from the sky and stops in the air a few metres above the crowd that has started to fill the street. She squints, trying to see it better, and then a sudden realization comes.
"Thank you, Crow." She smiles, recognizing her other companion. Now that the crow has appeared and managed to find the man, she won't have any other problems with following him.
The crowd disperses a bit and she can see the man again. She tilts her head and bites her lips seeing how the man almost bumps into some woman, but he stops abruptly as if he hit some wall. Or maybe rather it looks as if something has stopped him. Stupefied, he looks around as if he isn't sure what has just happened, and, seeing how clueless the man seems to be, she needs to pursue her lips in order to hide a smile.
"Really, lost and still unaware that he doesn't belong to this world," she shakes her head and follows the man. She's sure that soon he'll realize the truth and it will be better if she is with him then.
Suddenly, she catches a glimpse of herself mirrored in a shop-window and she takes one more look to confirm what she has already known. It reflects everything: herself – the young girl with long, red hair and brown eyes, wearing old jeans and a tweed coat – buildings, cars and people, but it doesn't reflect the man. She frowns, looks away and focuses her mind on the Mission again. She quickly decides that it's about the time she should talk to the man.
It's easier said than done, however, and it's not until he's got to the park that she finally manages to catch up with him.
He stops under an oak tree, stooping his shoulders and hanging his head, and has that aura around him – a feeling of being lost and lonely that she always connects to These Who Don't Belong to This World. He's like the others, but at the same time he's different, and there is something about him that makes her want to hug him and say that everything will be okay once he's left this place. Maybe it's because she saw how he tried to talk to some people, but for the obvious reason he was ignored – after all only a few people can see These Who Don't Belong to This World. Or maybe it's because she saw his face back then – the face full of disbelief and pain. She can't say.
She bites her lips, feeling a sudden stab of pain in her chest. It's not the first time when such a thing happens to one from That Other Place, but never before has she felt so upset. She knows that there is no place for such feelings in her job – there is no place for that sadness and sorrow – and that lack of feelings is supposed to protect her. She's never had any problems with suppressing them; this time, however, she can't fight them back. This time...
Why is this time so different?
Involuntarily she clutches her fingers on the fabric of her coat.
"Why... Why did it all happen?" a faint whisper coming from the man brings her back to reality.
She shudders, but after a few seconds she calms herself down. She takes a deep breath and decides to come closer, but stops a few steps away from the man's back.
"They couldn't see you, so don't blame them," she says, her voice not louder than a whisper and she does her best to make it sound soothing.
Quickly, the man turns to her and she almost steps back seeing the look on his face.
His face is like an open book in which everyone could read, showing all these emotions he's feeling – some sorrow and sadness, being a reflection of what she's felt, and that feeling of being lost and overwhelmed. What affects her the most, however, is his eyes – blue with that warm shade of blue that the sky has on sunny summer days, but now somewhat clouded and full of pain.
"They couldn't...?" A barely noticeable note of disbelief and irony resounds in his voice when he repeats her words. "Why?"
She watches him for a while, not really sure what exactly she should say. Finally she makes her decision.
"It's because you don't belong to this world," she explains and glances at the man, somewhat afraid of his reaction to her words.
His eyes widen at this revelation, but, to her relief, he doesn't panic as some others before him did. He's only standing there, staring at her, and it takes a few seconds before he regains his ability to speak.
"But you can see me. Why?" His voice is shaking when he asks this question – the only sign of the impact that her words had on him.
"It's because I'm different," she shrugs and glances at the man.
"Different? In what way?" he knits his eyebrows pondering on her words.
She gives him a thoughtful look and her lips curve in a gentle smile. Finally she's heard the words that should be said.
"I can send you to the world to which you belong," she declares and reaches her hand toward the man. "The question is if you want to go there."
He stares at her hand and she can see how he's fighting with himself. Glancing at his face, she can even read his thoughts and feelings – at first pain mixes with distrust and disbelief, but when in those eyes some hope appears, she knows what decision has been made.
Slowly he reaches out and takes her hand. He touches it gently as if checking if it really exists and then his fingers clutch on her hand as if it was the only thing connecting him to his world. His hand is not cold, but it's not warm either, and it feels like holding hands with a person who's spent some time outside on some cool day. After a short while he releases her hand.
"Last time I tried to touch somebody, it felt like hitting a wall." She hears the man murmur. "I must have been imagining things."
"You weren't." She glances at him thoughtfully. "There was the Wall in fact. Contrary to the popular belief none of you can touch anybody who belongs to this world."
The man gapes, having heard such a reply. His eyes open widely at first, but then he shakes his head in a sign of utter disbelief.
"But... But I was holding your hand!" he exclaims finally, as if trying to deny her words.
"I told you, didn't I?" She squints and smiles at him. "I am different."
She takes his hand and leads him towards the hill towering over the park. The man follows her obediently, not saying any words.
They walk up the alley, slowly entering the oldest part of the park. Among young trees, oaks and maples mainly, some older trees appear. She smiles seeing breeches and lindens which still remember the time when the place was not the park, but served completely different purposes. Reds and yellows, in which autumn has already painted all the trees here, catch her eyes and attention and she knows that the view has impressed the man as well.
The longer they walk, the more the atmosphere changes. Soon the alley narrows to a barely noticeable path and a vault of leaves closes above their heads. Sunlight filters shyly through them, colouring the world around them with shades of yellow and red, and giving enough light for them to see the path. Wind is moving the leaves, but here, down among the tree trunks, it's only a quiet rustle of fallen leaves moved by her feet that accompanies them.
For many this almost complete silence would be overwhelming, but not for her. It doesn't seem to bother the man, too, as he's said no word since their wandering started. She darts him short glances when she thinks he can't see it and quickly she realizes that the man does exactly the same thing. Her lips curve in a smile and she can see that the man smiles as well, but none of them breaks silence. Not until they finally get to top of the hill.
The path ends, and they enter a clearing. The man stops and looks around, completely stunned, and she watches him, somewhat fascinated by that delighted expression on his face and his eyes gleaming with interest.
She tries to look at this place in the way he does and needs to admit that the view could be breathtaking. The clearing is small and surrounded by trees which leaves have changed their colour to miscellaneous shades of yellow and red. It's bathed in the sunlight and in the middle of it two big stones stand one by another, with small space between them.
Her eyes spot her two companions – the cat is basking in the sun near the stones and the crow is sitting on a branch. Obviously, both of them got to the clearing long before her and the man and it never stops amazing her how quickly they move from one place to another. She glances at them, wondering what kind of thoughts might be occupying their minds at the moment.
She smiles seeing that the cat is pretending that he couldn't care less if they've finally appeared here or not. At first he seems to sleep, warming himself in the sunlight bathing that part of the clearing in which he decided to rest, but when he hears them coming, he raises his head and opens his eyes, observing them for a while. His eyes narrow, watching them both speculatively, and she almost laughs seeing this reaction to their presence as such a behaviour would be probably more appropriate for a human that for a cat. After a few seconds, the cat closes his eyes and rests his head on his paws, ignoring her and the man completely.
The crow tilts her head, observing her and the man carefully. There is something about the crow that reminds her about a teacher watching students. Said teacher would be an elder woman whose hair would be gray, but whose eyes still would be sharp and piercing despite glasses she could wear.
Then she moves her eyes to the man and with some amusement she notices that he's been standing there, with his eyes closed and the face turned to the sun. Sunbeams are surrounding him, creating a golden halo around the man. It looks as if he was dressed in the sunlight and for a short while he looks like a creature from the old myths she still remembers, like a god from ancient times...
Like someone who doesn't really belong to this world.
Only after having thought it does she realize how ironic the comparison is, because that black-haired man does belong to the other world, and soon he'll leave this place, moving to where he should be.
The thought saddens her for some unknown reason. A sudden stab of pain shoots through her chest again, but she decides to ignore it.
"It's time," she tells the man and leads him towards the stones, but the man stops and catches her hand.
"Wait!" he exclaims and there is a pleading note in his voice, something that makes her look at the man in order to find the reason of his unexpected behaviour.
"Didn't you want to go the place you belong to?" she asks him, knitting her eyebrow.
"I want, but..." for some reason the man seems to be embarrassed and she almost smiles seeing how his cheeks tint with a pale shade of red.
"What happens to these that won't go there?" he asks quietly a while after, avoiding looking in her eyes.
She ponders a while on the answer.
"They roam in this world for the eternity, losing their right to go to That Other Place," she whispers finally in a reply.
The man seems to think intently about her words. Then something about the man changes – there is a serious look on his face now and his eyes gleam with determination when he looks at her.
"Could you, please, tell me your name?" he asks finally.
These words surprise her. She gapes at him, not really sure if she is imagining things or not – after all such a situation has never happen before.
"I'll understand if you don't," the man adds after a while. "I wanted to tell you mine, too, but I couldn't remember it despite thinking about it for all that time we spent on getting to this place."
The man smiles apologetically and she can't help smiling back even though what the man said once again proves that he doesn't belong to this place – that's the reason why he couldn't remember the name.
"I'm Branwen," she finally mutters.
"Branwen is a beautiful name," the man declares and smiles at her again.
"You'll forget it once you've got you world," she feels obliged to inform him and that simple truth saddens her.
"I won't." The man says and for some reason his words sounds convincing, as if he is sure of what he says.
She'd like to believe it, but she can't.
"All of them have forgotten..." She shakes her head.
"I'm different." The man remarks and she jerks her head after hearing these words, as the situation is a reversal of what was told under the oak tree in the park. "I hope to meet you again when I'm back to this place, okay?" he says and grins at her.
She stares at him, losing her ability to speak. And then something happens. Her body seems to move on its own. She takes one step and she's standing just a few centimetres away from the man, for the first time realizing how much taller than her he is. Quickly, she stands on her tiptoe and plants a kiss on the man's cheek.
"You'd better don't get lost next time, okay?" she mumbles into his ear.
Than, as if scared of what she's just done, she takes a step back. She flushes and can't even look at the man's face.
She knows that he's standing there with a hand pressed to the cheek she's just kissed and that he's utterly surprised with what has just happened. Not that she could really blame him for that, though, as this time she managed to surprised even herself. She sighs and with some effort she manages to calm herself down, focusing her mind on sending the man to That Other Place.
"Come." She takes his hand and leads him toward the stones and the man follows her obediently. Maybe even too obediently. For a short while she wishes that he would stay in this world with her. However, she quickly pushes the thought way, somewhat scared with her own selfishness.
She stops in front of the stones, and the man stands by her side. From a pocket in her coat she takes out a small, ordinary stone. In her hands it starts glowing with a bright light and soon, the same glow appears around the stones.
That's how it always happens – there is the Key, the Door and the one who opens it. Once again all of them in this one place in order that the Magic could work.
The glow around the stones becomes brighter and she knows that the Door should soon appear. A few seconds later the space between the stones whitens and starts to glow, too. The glow turns into a white light and the Door opens.
She looks at it, making sure that the passage is stable, and turns to the man.
"Go." She says.
He says nothing. He only looks at her, no emotion visible on his face, and nods. Then he takes a few steps and disappears in the light. The Door closes behind his back.
The glow around the stones disappears, but she's still standing there thinking about the last words she heard before the Door closed.
"One day I'll be back."
Once again all these feelings that she thought she had forgotten are back. Once again she feels lost and overwhelmed
The crow sits down on her shoulder and even the cat comes closer to her and soon he rubs herself against her legs, purring. She does appreciate that they try to comfort her in their own way – without out them her loneliness would be terrible, but she can't stop thinking that maybe too much time she's spent having the crow and the cat for her only companions.
"I wonder... Should I have told him that these who refuse to go to That Other Place one day also become a part of this world? That they obtain some appearances of life and live their false lives forever, but belong to none of the worlds in the end, even though they're aware that both of them exist?" She smiles sadly.
The cat meows quietly and she leans down to rub his back.
"You're right, Cat," she says and straightens up. "No one should cry over spilt milk."
One last time she looks at the stones and turns back, heading toward the path that led her and the men here.
Two women wearing nurse uniforms are walking down a long, white hallway. Every few seconds one of them opens one of many doors in the hallway and glances inside. Then she tells the other woman a few words and she writes it down in a big notepad.
The woman opens another door and looks inside. Carefully, she eyes a black-haired man lying in the bed. The man's eyes are closed and he's not moving, so she takes a quick look at the medical equipment standing by the bed. All the readings seem to be normal, so she closes the door.
"What is he doing?" the other woman asks her brushing away a single strand of blond hair from her face.
"Sleeping." The woman answers and smiles. "Really, one could think that after spending so many years in coma, he wouldn't sleep that much."
The other woman chuckles. "A Sleeping Beauty, indeed."
"You know... I've heard that after waking up he was saying something about a woman that brought him back." The first woman remembers all of sudden. A thoughtful look appears on her face.
"Really? It sounds almost like stories of these people that have experienced clinical death," the other woman remarks, writing something in her notepad.
"Yeah... But technically this man wasn't dead," the first woman replies and moves to the next door.
"Technicalities." The other woman pouts her lips, pressing the notepad to her chest. "Being in coma for so long, he could have well be dead."
They continue the round and their voices die away in the hallway.
November 1st, 2008
I wonder who's figured out who the girl is.
You know... There was a short while when I thought about continuing the story - I could write more about their past and show something from the future. Silly me D: