'The Gateway to New Worlds'

I still remember that day like it just happened five minutes ago. It was truly the defining moment of my life. I say this because it actually created the life I have now. That day opened doors to whole new worlds, to powers and realities most of you don't yet know about... but you will. You will, because I'm going to explain it all to you... in good time, I promise.

The day started with me, dressed in nothing but a simple, white cloth hospital gown, standing alone in a field of knee-high grains. I had no idea how I had gotten there. I didn't know my own name nor could I recall any details of my life. It was the moment I now call my Awakening. I stood there, terrified, in the slight drizzle that fell from the dark sky, unsure of what to do.

Eventually, I set off across the field. I had no idea where I was, but I knew I needed to find shelter because the storm was getting steadily worse. As I walked I tried to remember something, anything about myself, my past... anything. Nothing came to me. It didn't make sense. In fact, I realized I couldn't even remember what I looked like apart from the long sheet of wavy deep brown hair that fell to my waist.

In the distance I could make out a small barn with a lantern dangling on a post just inside the open door. I approached cautiously, concerned that either the owner was mean and would chase me away or that I might startle whoever was inside and they would impale me with a pitchfork. It also occurred to me that a young girl, (I should point out here that I wasn't even sure how old I was) completely defenseless, walking alone toward a dark barn was a terribly bad idea. However, when I slipped inside, the barn proved to be empty apart from several cows that looked sleepily up at me from their stalls.

"Hey!" a voice suddenly shouted from above me. Startled, I stumbled backward and fell over something hard. I hit the hay-covered ground flat on my back. A pain spiked through my head from the impact. I heard the thump of footsteps and soon a young man appeared kneeling beside me, staring concernedly down at me.

He was handsome in that rugged, farmboy way. He had blonde hair roughly the color of the straw I was lying on and piercing green eyes that shone with concern.

"Hey, you okay, girl?" he asked me. I nodded and he helped me sit up. "Gosh, I'm really sorry about that. I was just surprised when I saw you down here. I haven't seen you around town before. You new around here?"

"I guess," I replied, surprised to hear the British accent that accompanied the first words I could ever remember saying. Slowly, I shook my head. How do you explain to someone that you literally know absolutely nothing about anything? I didn't know what to say. Luckily, he did.

"Well, my name's Jack and this is my family's farm you've stumbled onto," he explained. He waited for a moment for me to introduce myself. When I didn't reply, he arched his eyebrows.

"Uh... what's your name?" he asked me. I shrugged weakly.

"I don't know," I told him. I explained everything I knew, which was remarkably little. He looked at me sadly as I told him my tale. When I was finished he shook his head.

"Maybe you were in some sort of accident," he suggested. "Maybe you were hurt and lost your memory. I'll take you to the town hospital. It's just up the road a bit. Let me finish with these cows and we'll head out." He stood up and helped me to my feet. I looked down to see what I had tripped over and found an old cow bell half buried in the hay.

"Oh, I've been looking for that," said Jack, picking it up and dusting it off. "Sorry... shouldn't leave that lying about." He placed the bell on a milking stool and knelt down to pick up a shovel.

"Still, I do need something to call you," he added. "Any ideas?"

"Uh..." I said rather cluelessly. I couldn't come up with any good names. Jack, however, proved to be a bit of a jokester.

"Well, how about Belle?" he asked, nodding toward the cow bell. I glanced down at the bell and thought it over. Well, there were certainly worse names in the world.

"Fine," I said with a shrug. "Belle it is."

"Great!" Jack exclaimed. "Now, let me just get these stalls locked up and we'll be on our way." Jack moved through the barn, securing the stalls for the night. I sat down on a milking stool and tried to force my brain to bring up some small detail of my past. It didn't work. If I had ever had memories, and I could only assume that I had, they were gone forever.

I guessed then that wherever I had come from, I must certainly wish to go back. I surely had family, didn't I? I must have! Clearly they were out there somewhere and I should try to find them... unless they did this to me. What if they were the ones who damaged my mind and dumped me here? You can see how difficult it is to make a decision with no memories, right? It's hard, not knowing anything... or if you can trust anyone.

Well, there was one person I could trust. Jack. Yeah, I know I just met him but... I trusted him. It was easy to trust him... almost like I was supposed to trust him. I felt as though I was a pawn, a character in a story being led to follow a predetermined narrative. If I was... if some greater power was guiding me, I had little choice but to follow the path laid out before me. I would go with Jack... and hope he was on my side.

Jack pulled his pickup, a black Ford F-350, around the barn and climbed down from the cab. He waved me over. I stood from my stool and walked to the truck, wondering if this was my crossroads. If I got into this truck, everything changed. If I went with him, my story would take one path. If I refused and continued to walk in a different direction, it would go another. But something compelled me to get in. I'll tell you now that I never regretted getting in that Ford. You'll wonder, as I tell you more, why I never did. You'll wonder why I never wanted to change that choice. I could have changed it... I could have, but I didn't. I stayed the course.

Jack hopped up into the driver's seat as I climbed in the passenger's side. Moments later, we were off, trundling down the dirt road through the wheat fields and out onto the pavement. The lonely paved road led into a small town about a mile away. The little town of Divinity lay in the valley between two large hills. A wide lake that looked more like an ocean bordered the town's northern side and the sprawling farmlands spread out on the southern end of the town's outskirts.

Podunk didn't even begin to describe Divinity. The entire town fit within twelve square blocks laid out in a four-by-three grid. From our vantage point on the hill, I could see the town's only gas station, a country store, a bar, a bank, and a post office. That pretty much described Divinity as far as businesses were concerned. In the center of town stood the Town Hall, a rather impressive building built in the traditional style... odd for such a tiny town.

A wave of exhaustion hit me as we passed the welcome sign. The last thing I remembered before I drifted off was the large wooden sign just on the outskirts of town. It read; 'Welcome to Divinity - The Gateway to New Worlds.'

I woke suddenly to the sound of the driver's door closing. Jack had parked the vehicle and gotten out. He walked around the truck and opened my door. He grinned when he noticed I was awake.

"Hey there, Sleeping Beauty," he said brightly. I smiled at the compliment, my erased brain making no connection to the story book character. Geez... I didn't even remember a Disney character. Of course, I hadn't made the connection that Jack had named me after another Disney character either, so maybe it really isn't that much of a surprise. "C'mon, we're here." Jack continued. "Let's go inside."

Jack led me toward the door to the small hospital. He held the door open and ushered me inside. In truth, it was less of a hospital and more of a community clinic. It had a small, homey feel to it. The receptionist, a cute blonde girl in her early twenties looked up at us as we entered.

"Hi Jack!" she called, smiling brightly at him and waving.

"Hey, Emma," said Jack. I glanced at him and noticed he looked remarkably uncomfortable. I couldn't help but grin. There was something very funny about this handsome, tough looking cowboy seeming so disconcerted around a bubbly blonde.

"You're looking particularly handsome tonight," said Emma, still smiling. She stood and made her way over to us, flipping her long hair and batting her eyes sweetly.

"Um... thanks," said Jack. He put his hands in his pockets and shuffled his feet nervously. "You look... really good too," he added offhandedly.

"Thanks!" Emily said, seeming unaffected by Jack's less-than-enthusiastic reply. It was only then that she seemed to notice me. I say she didn't realize I was there up until this point because when she turned toward me, her eyes widened in surprise.

"Oh..." she said, looking slightly crestfallen. "Who's this?"

"I'm..." I began, faltering slightly as I remembered that I had no idea who I was. Jack, however, rescued me.

"Em, this is Belle," he explained. "I found her walking on our farm. She doesn't remember anything about her life. She doesn't even know her name. Her memory's just gone. I was hoping Dr. Buford could take a look at her."

"Oh, you poor dear!" Emma exclaimed, looking oddly relieved and suddenly she became perfectly friendly toward me. "Here, let's get you out of that gown and into something more comfortable." She went into a neighboring room and returned a moment later with a bundle of clothes in her arms. She directed me towards the bathroom down the hall with a wide smile.

"You go on down there and change, sweetie," she said warmly. "I'll get Dr. Buford to come see you when you're done." I went into the darkened bathroom, feeling slightly apprehensive. I wasn't sure what style of clothing I might like to wear, but the short skirt and low cut top Emma wore probably wasn't to my taste.

Blessedly, she had given me a pair of faded jeans, a white t-shirt, and a bra that looked to be two full cup sizes too small. Regardless, I squeezed myself into it for no other reason than to stop Jack's eyes from drifting down to my chest every few minutes. Once I was dressed, I went to the mirror above the sink to finally get a look at myself.

I wouldn't call myself beautiful, that would be highly egotistical after all, but I was pretty... well, pretty. I had thought I would have brown eyes, I'm not sure why, but I had very bright blue ones instead. It was then that I saw a thin scar roughly three inches long hidden by my hair behind my left ear. I was just beginning to investigate it further when the most shocking thing I could have imagined happened. In the mirror I saw what I can only describe as a vortex opening behind me.

It swirled violently and lightning cracked inside. I looked closer at the image in the mirror, mesmerized by the sight. In the very center I could make out what looked like the tops of buildings, but I didn't recognize any of them. Slowly, I turned around to see the manifestation with my own eyes, but a noise like water being sucked down a drain filled the room and the vortex disappeared before I could fully turn to see it. I was suddenly terrified beyond belief, beyond all reason. I turned and bolted from the bathroom, slamming the door closed behind me.