Where are you?
Footsteps sounded from far off in the distance. They were echoing between the trees, like drums being sounded with great volume as every step drew the person closer.
Flash was worried. In the otherwise empty and quiet forest, this sound frightened her. It could be anything; it could be anyone. Though the sound would have gone unnoticed by someone else, she knew it was sane to be scared.
Bothered, she searched for a hiding place, so as not to be noticed when the owner of the footsteps wouldn't discover her. The only place she could see close by was a hollow log. Seeing it, she sprinted over and quickly slid inside, hoping whoever was passing wouldn't bother questioning the random mattress she had with her.
She crossed her arms over her chest, shutting her eyes, and prayed to the goddess Zula.
Bletheeen elu en tenner sam. Zula friu draween esben ohchel. Elloween evernemm chellum trywayn ocnob swaf yem.
The words were repeated over and over again in her head as she wished her presence would not be noticed. There was hardly anything she could do here, in this unknown world.
She wasn't even sure her abilities would work. If they could, would she have the heart to use them?
The sythe in her utility belt felt heavy, desiring to be used. Flash overlooked the feeling.
Amongst her praying, the footsteps stopped. Her eyes peeked open to see if she was safe.
There were legs blocking her view. A gasp was stifled halfway in her throat.
The young man the legs belonged to bent over, sneaking a look inside the log. His brow furrowed when he saw her. Her heart was racing.
"Why are you in here?" he asked, laughing. His accent was strange.
What is with this world? Why did I even bother to come here?
"You do realize skunks and raccoons live in these types of places, right?"
He wasn't leaving. His hand went out towards her, as if to grab her and rip her from her hiding place. At once she shrieked, her left leg sliding out from under her, and kicked out at him. She felt the sole of her boot make impact with his face.
The stranger fell back, moaning and holding his face in his hands. Flash took the opportunity to race out towards him and hit him from the side, causing a collision. As the two fell backwards onto the grass, she reached into her belt and pulled her out sythe. It glowed in the black of the night.
His hair fell in front of his face, darkening his features. He was rather colorless, with shining sapphire colored eyes, and handsome too. She was curious as to if he were like her, only in disguise, but he had no marks and his hair was simple brown. He couldn't have been like her.
"Define your species," she snarled.
The tip of the sythe's blade went to his neck, keeping him in place.
The man blinked. "Hu-hu-human," he cried out. "Isn't that what everybody is?" His nose was bleeding profusely, an odd color pouring out of his skin, in her opinion.
Something on his wrist glinted in the moonlight, also catching her attention. She grabbed his hand, pulling it closer to her face, as her eyes squinted to catch what it said.
"What time is it now?" she demanded.
"Uhhh," he stole his hand back to look, "Uhhh. Uhhh. It's 11:57." He gulped. "Why?"
"I'm running out of time," she breathed.
Before the man could understand what she meant, she leapt up from her position and was racing to the mattress she left abandoned. Her chest was hurting from all this running. She hadn't run this much since she was in group.
Despite being in pain, the man sat up and struggled to his feet, just to catch more glimpses of Flash. He worried she wasn't all there. However, the tattoos covering most of her face caused him to keep a small distance.
"What are you?" He gaped, as he spotted a bright red flash shoot up into the distant sky. Flash was mildly astonished he would say what instead of who, yet didn't bother to answer just the same. Another flash of light beamed high in the air, then faded back down amongst the darkness of the trees.
Midnight was crawling closer every moment. She didn't have much time until they would show up, until he would show up. He who is feeble minded in landings. Otherwise known as her older brother.
"Would you be quiet for one moment and help make use of yourself, haft?" She grunted with the large mattress, pushing it into the gap between the trees ahead. It was thicker and heavier than earlier, but she supposed that was because there were ten others helping push it.
If only she were given the gift her brother had. Would it have been so hard to switch all those years ago? She never thought to ask.
Forgetting the past, focusing on the present, Flash shot up another red flare in the sky. Until now the man thought it was a flare gun, but now he could see the color came straight out of her tattooed palm. A Japanese flower blossom tree.
"Do you mind if I at least ask your name?" the man asked.
Ignoring the man was the least of her problems. Flash instantaneously became aware that her brother was to arrive any second now and the mattress wasn't in the proper situation. She decided against using her strength before, to reserve it later in the course of time, but now knew the better solution.
With a flick of her wrist and a blink of her eyes the mattress slid across the grass and sprawled out perfectly to cover every inch of open meadow.
Weakened, Flash collapsed to the floor.
"Oh my G–"
The man's outburst of surprise was interrupted. Out of the sky came another large beam of red light, only this one not conjured up by Flash, but rather from the person falling through the hole. He was identical to her in every way, except his skin paler and his smile more frightening.
He wore a broad grin and a charming set of pale blue eyes when he caught sight of his sister. Outstretching his arms, he ran in her direction, apparently not shaken by the steep fall, and buried his face in his sister's hair. Her smile deepened into one of warmth once she wrapped her arms around his thick torso.
"So glad you're alright. And Atlas?" She blinked back tears, hoping he was fine. By the expression in her brother's eyes, he was not.
"He's… He's been captured." Her legs buckled underneath her a second time, and she stumbled backwards into the trunk of a tree. It held her upright as her brother began cursing to himself under his breath.
"I didn't mean for this to hap–"
"No," she raised her hand. "The only thing that matters is that you're still alive. I suppose we can mourn for the others another time."
"I'm so sorry, Flash."
"No need, Zeek."
"Who are you?" the young man repeated. He was scanning the surrounding area, wondering if there were to be another person falling out of the sky anytime soon. It didn't look as if there were, as both Zeek and Flash were both ignoring the night now and only focusing on each other.
With rage, yet a shocking amount of poise, Flash turned her head to glare at the man. "We're fey. Who the hell are you?"
"You're joking," he said. His eyes bulged when he took in her words.
Come to think of it, he thought, they don't really look like everyday people. Plus, didn't that guy just fall out of the sky?
He irritated Flash, but Zeek held her back before she did anything she would regret. "Does it look like I'm joking?" she retorted.
The man took a breath. "Actually, no. It doesn't."
Zeek took in the other man's presence as he smiled coyly. "Who is this?" he asked his sister, looking him up and down. "He's kind of cute."
Flash moaned, eyes rolling. "No," she growled. "Not now. Think." She snapped her fingers, gaining his attention back. "What happened?"
Her brother's eyes focused on her after a long moment of staring at the haft. He finally collected his thoughts, turning serious as he spoke.
"We were crossing the Garden of Truth," he said, "and were just about to reach the Vast Gate, when someone beamed in before us. It was Tryu and others from the yong. Two of them grabbed Atlas, and before I could react, Ewyn pushed me through the portal and everything became a blur. Soon enough, I found myself falling into a mattress."
The man piped up, eyes returning to their wide state. "So you're not from this world? There are other worlds?"
Zeek grinned, about to respond. His mouth opened, but Flash pinched him in the arm. She remained ignorant of the haft.
"How did Atlas look? Was he healthy?"
She was far beyond worried for him now. Tryu might be his brother, but that didn't mean he wouldn't kill Atlas for what he had done. Tryu was obsessed with following the rules of the yong, so intent on following them he would do anything to make sure everyone around him was following them too.
"He was smiling, Flash," Zeek assured, touching her arm in a loving way. "You should, too. You'll see each other soon."
Flash pushed him away, irate. "How could you say that?" she squealed. "You're hurting my chest." Her hands placed themselves over where her heart beat madly beneath her ribcage.
The haft watched as they quarreled. He hoped this wasn't a dream.
"I apologize," Zeek replied. "I just thought you should think pleasing thoughts for once."
They grew silent as Flash grew ill at the thought of what Tryu could be doing to Atlas, and Zeek made strong efforts to comfort her in her time of grief.
Those moments of stillness were what drove the haft over the edge. He couldn't hold it in any longer. He couldn't stand on the sidelines while what should be two fictional beings talked about what should be fictional events.
"Excuse me," he said, hand raising to grab their attention. The two looked over at him, Zeek smiling and Flash scowling. "Hi. Yeah. I'm completely flummoxed here."
Flash had enough with the haft. He wasn't any use to them, and especially had no business eavesdropping in their private discussion. "Who ca–?"
Zeek hurriedly placed his hand over her mouth. She yelled into his palm while his smile broadened.
"So you're human, right?" He pleasingly smiled even wider, perfect teeth shining. "Heh. Lovely."
The sight of the two of them perplexed the haft. They were nearly identical, both strikingly attractive with their ancestral marks, light blue eyes, and blackish-purple hair.
"You're – you're really fey?"
I'm getting sick and tired of your words, haft! Not speaking aloud was the best Flash could do as far as calming down. Being so concerned for Atlas was not doing well on her health. She did her best to not pay heed to the simple haft, but it did not work.
"Yes," Zeek said with a glimmering eye. "We are. Wonderful, isn't it?"
"Enough with the questions," Flash mumbled.
"Hmm?" Zeek asked, leaning in to her.
"Are all the fey the same?"
Flash moaned, storming off. She was sick and tired of standing around doing nothing but chatting while her loved one was back at his colony, quite possibly getting tortured.
Her brother let her go, ignoring her. "Same?" he asked the haft.
"You both have those eyes," the man said, "and that hair, and you're so thin and tall."
She couldn't allow this to go on any further. Flash returned to the two of them without a second to pause. "It's none of your business," she answered for her brother.
The haft was taken aback. He opened his mouth to apologize.
"Be kind to him," Zeek said. "Do you not recall how you were when you first discovered humans were real?"
Flash turned her back on the haft, facing her brother fully. He was trying to catch the haft's attention, not so much into focusing on the depressing things with his sister.
Will you stop flirting for one second, and get a grip on yourself? Can't you see this is a serious matter, and not something that will lead to awkward silences and dark expressions?
"Why would Atlas be smiling?" Flash asked, tugging on Zeek's sleeve.
"Flash," he huffed, eyes returning to her fragile face, "stop worrying about it. He will be fine. Tryu would never harm him."
"You're not certain of that!" she yelled. "He very well could!"
Zeek rolled his eyes, trying to focus them on the haft again. "Highly doubtful," he said, voice drifting while his attention wafted back to the haft. Apprehensively, the man blushed and hid his face.
Flash slapped her brother. The haft flinched, feeling his pain. "How would you know?" she argued.
He stretched his jaw, rubbing where she hit him. "They're brothers, are they not?" he shouted.
"But Tryu is demented!"
"You look like anime characters," the haft cut in. His voice shook from the embarrassment that came with speaking in front of new people, unsure whether or not they'll laugh at you for your ridiculousness.
Is that racist to say? he thought afterwards.
"Anime?" Flash removed her blade at once from her belt. "What is this?" She swiftly raised it to his neck and held it there. "Is this an insult from your kind?"
Zeek, who took her sythe from her shaking hand, and attached it to his own belt, found humor in the moment. "Easy, Flash…" He looked up at the haft's face. "She's not used to humans, much. Tends to get nervous around them."
The man gulped, feeling his neck. It stung, but there were no gashes, unlike his nose, which still throbbed when the wind blew.
"I can see that," he said.
"Flash," Zeek said, taking her face in his hands, averting her attention to him. "Flash, you must calm down. Soon you will end up slicing his throat, and we can't have that. We need him, if you plan on fitting into the haft world in order to find your veral."
"Haft?" the haft repeated. "Veral?"
The young fey realized his mistake. "Oh," he said, "Right. Keep forgetting. You don't know about our culture either. Haft is what we like to call humans. It makes us seem special." Flash rolled her eyes, he noticed, but chose to ignore it "And, veral to us is boyfriend or girlfriend to you."
"Okay," he said with unease.
Zeek stepped forward, his flirtatious side getting the best of him once again. As he came closer, the haft took precautions and moved backwards. "So…," Zeek's eyes wandered again. "Do you have a veral?"
"Me?" The haft's face went ablaze with color. "I…"
Flash stepped in between the two of them, back to the haft. "Stop trying to mate with the haft," she ordered.
"Mate?" Zeek's cheeks reddened slightly, and he coughed out a small discomfited laugh. "I beg your pardon? I'm not trying to do anything. It was a simple question."
He pushed her aside as she readied herself to argue, which brought about her rolling her eyes yet again instead.
"I'm terribly sorry," said Zeek to haft. "She has no manners, either." His smile whipped itself into shape, to charm the human.
"I do have manners," she hissed, defending herself. "I simply prefer to use them with creatures they're useful on. Hafts are a species I do not mind observing through the mirror, but not conversing with in person."
"You really do act like brother and sister," laughed the man.
Flash's hand went straight to her belt again; ready to use the sythe on him one more time. "Is that another insult?" Her upper lip curled.
Without pause, Zeek reached around her and grabbed the sythe back, placing it in his identical utility belt. She went to grab it, but he pushed her backwards.
"Ah. Ah. Ah," said he, with a gallant expression worn on his face. "Remember what we talked about?"
"Count to ten. I know. I know."
"Then why don't you, I don't know, go and count to ten?"
Her arms folded over her chest, causing wrinkles in her jacket. "Because I don't want to waste time!" Flash screeched. "We should be on our way to finding another portal, not standing around flirting with strangers. Do you know how dangerous this is, what we're doing right now? You know how most other races on Earth feel about the fey."
"I'm trying to have a civil conversation," Zeek said, not perturbed by her anger. He was used to it by now. Their relationship consisted of many heated discussions and fights like this. The only difference with this one was it had a reason to get his sister heated. "Why don't you go brood over there?" he proposed, suggesting the same log Flash had been cowering inside moments ago.
"Ugh!" She raised her hands in the air, fists burning white. "You're preposterous!" Flash spun around on her heels and stormed off, cursing at the air. "I'll go find another portal on my own, then!"
"You do that!" Zeek called back, with a smile still planted on his face.
The haft wondered if he ever went without a smile.
"Sisters," chuckled the fey.
Tonight was a beautiful night, not that any of the three were interested in seeing this. Flash was too busy shouting profanities, Zeek was too busy conversing with the haft, and the haft was too busy trying to get his head wrapped around the last ten minutes or so.
Had it really only been ten minutes?
Stealing a glance behind Zeek, the haft stared after Flash and her enraged body language. "Shouldn't you go after her?" he asked.
Zeek didn't even need to look behind himself to see his sister. He knew her all too well. "She'll return. She always does."
The haft's eyes returned to the fey's. "Are you sure…?" He pointed. "She's pretty far."
Flash kicked at the ground, causing clumps of dirt and grass to go flying into the air in front of her. The tips of her boots were dirtied, but she had no reason to care. The only reason she wore all this dark clothing was for this type of situation.
Her jacket's elbows were muddied up as well, which did bother her a little it. She rubbed them as she mumbled in her livid tone.
"I'll find a portal," she said to herself. "I'll save Atlas. I'll defeat Tryu. I don't need that horrible child, Zeek." She kicked the dirt again, this time getting some caught in her face. Flash coughed, wincing, before continuing to walk at her quickened pace.
"He can have as many hafts as he so chooses," she said. "It doesn't matter to me. I don't need him. I don't need anyone."
She caught herself and kicked the ground a third time, this time as punishment for her stupidity. "Other than Atlas, of course."
Her mind was so jumbled from the happenings that at the moment she couldn't quite remember most of what happened previous to tonight. It made her even more bitter knowing that she was so sleep deprived and ill that she couldn't remember things that shouldn't be so easily forgotten.
The sound of laughter rose up from behind her. Incensed, she looked around to see her brother was the culprit. "Laughter?" Flash was sickened by her brother's take on everything.
He never liked Atlas, anyways. I'm sure he's secretly happy for this turn of events.
"Fool," she said. Her strength was leaving her swiftly, her legs weakening, her body aching after the course of the past few days. Everything was finally catching up to her, and it was exhausting. She leaned against a tree.
"While my veral is being beaten, burned, cut, he's having a jolly ole' time with a haft," she said with a sharp edge in her voice. "What has this universe come to?"
Flash stole another look back at her brother.
"I'm sick," she said. "I need Atlas."
Clouds of gray swayed in the sky up above, mixing with the stars and bright, full moon. She wiped her eyes with one hand, while holding her stomach with the other.
"I can't do this by myself," she whispered. "I hate him."
Her eyes turned upward to see the stars twinkling between the trees. "I'll find you, Atlas," she declared. "Don't give up on me."
"What's your name, human?" Zeek queried.
"My name? It's, uh, it's…"
Flash laughed at him. Her attitude had morphed back into the discourteous girl she was before she left on her own. "Don't know your own name?"
She acted as if nothing had happened, though her eyes were puffy and her voice coarse. The other two respected her silent demands to not ask.
"Silence, Flash," Zeek said, hiding his smile for a fleeting moment. "He's nervous." He looked back at the haft. "Go on."
"My name's Tucker," the haft answered.
"Tucker… I like that name."
Flash found it too mundane.
"I'm Zeekenialflaten. Zeek for short." He offered his hand to Tucker. "It's a pleasant evening to meet you, Tucker."
"Uh, same to you?" Tucker responded, doing his best to shake off the nervous jitters he still possessed. The haft shyly took the fey's hand in his. It was as hard as stone, and as hot as fire.
The two shook each other's hands, Zeek's grip tightening around Tucker's hand, to keep it locked inside his for as long as he could manage. Tucker's skin burned from the length of time they were shaking hands.
"This is Camilla," Zeek added, arm draping over his sister's shoulders. She growled. "But unless you wish to be killed by her sythe, I suggest you simply call her Flash."
Flash clapped her hands together. The sound boomed through the trees like thunder. Tucker flinched, hand jerking out from Zeek's grasp.
"Now that we're all acquainted, let's go," said Flash.
"Go where?" He hoped they would stay longer. "There's nothing for miles."
Zeek glanced around, as if questioning the one who lived in this world.
"How did you get here?" he wondered.
Suddenly Tucker remembered why he had come this way in the first place. His eyes, for a brief second, went wide again as he spoke. "I have a motorcycle."
Zeek grinned. He knew what those were. They had similar machines back home.
"But it ran out of gas," Tucker thought to mention. "That's why I was walking, and that's how I came across you."
"I see," Flash said. Her lips pursed as she contemplated what to do next. She turned to her brother when an idea came to mind. "I suppose we can use our powers, manipulate our surroundings. It'll have us travel faster."
"Yes, but kill him in the process," Zeek said, frustrated. "I would appreciate you not doing that."
Her anger got the best of her again. "You don't even know him," she said.
"Wait," Tucker said, "I'm coming with you two?"
It sounded as if the two had decided this without his consent, but he would agree to almost anything they asked, as long as he could be with them for as long as possible. They were, after all, the only fey he's ever encountered, as far as he knew. No one in their right mind would ever let them go if they had a say in the matter.
"Yes," Zeek replied. "I thought we made this clear, already. You are to come with us to help us fit in with your society, and to help with issues of travel and knowing where exactly we are."
If there were a way around this, where the haft wouldn't have to be present during their search for another portal, Flash would choose that way instead. Though, there were many circumstances keeping that option out of the choices available. One of them was they really did need him as a guide, even if she hated to admit it. Another reason was a clear one, one that even the most clueless being would see – her brother fancied the haft.
"Where exactly are we, Tucker?" Zeek went on talking, not paying heed to his sister any longer. She was getting the cold shoulder, and she didn't even know why.
"England," Tucker said all too eagerly. "Sutton, England to be exact."
"Lovely area." Zeek twisted this way and that, taking the scenery in as if it were his first time on Earth. "So you're Bri–"
"Oh, all right," Flash blurted out. "What do you want to do, then?" she moaned. "Sit around in hopes another haft shows up?"
While Tucker flinched again, so jumpy, Zeek peered over at her with a timid smile.
"I have a cell phone," the haft said, raising it up.
"A what?" asked Flash.
Zeek exclaimed with joy, "Wonderful!"
Tucker noticed he was out of range, however. How thwarting. "But it doesn't have any service here," he admitted with hints of guilt.
"We'll just have to walk for a bit then," Zeek suggested, "until we get service. Right?" His arm slipped in the open space between Tucker's arm and his side, causing their arms to link.
"I…" Tucker couldn't wrap his head around any of this. "I guess?"
"Great," said Zeek, starting to walk forward. "Then a walking we shall go."
A new plan formed in Flash's head, and right as she committed it to memory, she figured out she was being left behind. When she came to make sense of what they were doing, she ran after her brother and the haft, shouting. "Zeek!" she called out.
He grumpily paused, not letting go of the haft's arm for a moment. "What is it, Flash?"
She bent over, the exhaustion taking over again. "Would you care to hear my plan?" she asked.
"If it involves using our powers, I don't think I would. This poor soul," he gazed at Tucker, "would get something damaged."
"Actually," she said, recalling something, "I used my powers in his presence earlier." Zeek's eyes mimicked what Tucker's had been doing all night. "It didn't affect him whatsoever. It quite possibly frightened him," she said, out of breath, "but other than that nothing differed from his previous behavior."
Tucker was lost in the haze of the evening. Every inch of the early morning was too complicated and perplexing for him to make sense of it. He simply was just along for the ride, agreeing to practically everything they said. He was sure they could sense he was still baffled, but he hoped they couldn't see just how much.
"Really?" Zeek looked between the haft and his sister, his grin returning with zeal. "Well, then…"
In one rapid motion, he grabbed his sister's hand and dragged her closer to him. "Zeek, no–"
Tucker didn't understand what was going on. It was better he didn't.
Zeek's eyes shut, and almost immediately he said, "The closest town!"
The oxygen was sucked out of their lungs, being replaced with emptiness and a choking feeling. Their entire bodies were smashed together, being folded into small little compartments rather speedily, as if being sucked inside something.
In the next second they weren't in the middle of Sherwood Forest anymore, but rather in a closet. A mop fell onto Zeek's head, but it didn't erase his grin. That still shined smoothly on his face, even though he knew he had the place wrong.
"You said closet, didn't you?" Flash asked. "Zeek, annunciate your words! Fool!" She kicked him in the shin as punishment for having a power she didn't, and not being able to use it.
His grin never broke.
Tucker was shaking as his hand turned the knob on the door, opening it to find them inside a bar. The three spilled out and into a table, knocking the chairs over and causing a commotion.
The bar was closed, to their delight. Zeek and Flash didn't want to think about what they would have had to have done if the bar were still open when they came bursting out from the small room.
Zeek straightened out, accidentally pulling Tucker with him whenever he moved. He noticed the reason, and eventually unlinked arms with the haft.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"It's fine," said Tucker. He bent over, knees on hands, taking in deep breaths while the room spun. He never experienced such a thing before, and he hoped he never would have to again.
"It gets better the second time," Zeek assured. "I promise."
A new sensation ripped at his stomach. He grew dizzier, and could feel something crawling up his stomach. Zeek's hand touched the small of his back, as an attempt of comfort. "Are you feeling well?"
Flash sensed what was to happen next. She took a few steps back away from the haft, pulling at her brother's arm to imply he should do the same. Zeek swatted at her hand.
"No," Tucker said. "I think I'm just going to–" He heaved forward, experiencing involuntary spasms in his stomach. The contents from his abdomen escaped him rather quickly, to his surprise and disgust. Tucker groaned as he expelled even more, and in the presence of fairies, no less.
"Revolting!" Flash recoiled from the scene, rolling her eyes at the haft. Even though she would never admit it, she had done the exact same thing after the first time her brother leapt with her.
"Hey," Zeek scolded. "He's still charming, even when he's vomiting."