Hazel reluctantly opened her eyes, quickly shielding them from the sun with a hand. This place was not the train she had just been on just moments ago. She's been in locations like this before, it always felt the same, but they never looked the same.
Taking in her surroundings and all she could see for miles was long, honey gold grass. It all felt so real, it always did—the sun on her skin, the wind in her hair. Taking a deep breath, finally getting to her feet. The grogginess causing her to fix her footing before taking the first step forward.
"it's silent this time." Hazel thought to herself. The ather, the realm outside the living but not quite the afterlife. It's always changing, always another person's view of reality, taking another look around, trying to take in every detail of this place. "Hello?" calling out to anyone who'd listen.
"Are you going to make me wait?" A voice echoed behind her, close yet so distant. It sounded soft and strangely familiar. Hazel could feel a massive knot start to form in her stomach. "Hello?" she called out, her throat felt like she hadn't talked for years. Getting to her feet, Hazel decided to find the owner of the voice. Slowly making her way through the grass, the voice chirped back up, beckoning her closer and further into the endless sea of gold. The sound started as a whisper, slowly growing in volume as Hazel walked seamlessly ever forward.
Many questions raced through her head that it became painful to think straight, but she knew she had to keep going. Swiftly like the blink of an eye, the day had set into the night, and like a billion little stars, fireflies filled the air. She wouldn't have noticed the change if a few hadn't smacked her face to snap her from the racing thoughts. A few feet away, there stood a girl in a white dress; she was facing away, and Hazel couldn't make any features.
"What kept you?" The question sat in the air for a while, not sure what to say; Hazel stared at the girl. "You know that this path you're walking leads to some dark tides." Hazel watch in silence as the girl twirled around; she wore a soft smile on her face. "Just be careful, friend. most importantly, wake up."
With a jump of the train, Hazel rocketed awake. She frantically looked around her, but she was alone in the passengers' cabin. Taking a deep breath and slumping back down in her seat, Hazel tried to remember what had made her jump so hard, "The train? No, this felt more primal than a sudden bump." Hazel turned to look out the window, that had always calmed her down after entering the ather, and so tired green eyes met in the clear surface, and that's where they stayed. The train came to many stops without anyone disturbing Hazel, but like all good things, they come to an end.
A small tapping on the door to the compartment broke her trance; on the other side of the door stood two figures; A tall, lengthy male, dirty blond hair, khaki pants, and a black sweater vest a white undershirt. The other was a shorter female with longer darker brown hair and a tucked-in black tank top into khaki shorts. Hazel waved her hand to invite them in.
"Thank you so much; I swear all the other compartments are full." Claimed the girl, now closer, Hazel could see that the pair shared similar features. "I'm Arryn, and this is my twin James." Hazel sheepishly greeted them with a week wave.
Arron sat next to Hazel with a bounce, "So sweet ginger child, where you from?"
"I am-" Stammering to find her response. "I'm from a small town in the southern kingdoms; you probably wouldn't know it." Hazel waited for some remark, considering the reputation of those areas. Still, nothing came but a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
" From what I hear it's pretty rough down there, you gotta be one tough cookie." Hazel locked eyes with the girl; they were a warm green color and almost relaxing to look at, but she broke away feeling too awkward to keep eye contact for that long.
"I wouldn't get to close sister. I hear all those southerners have abilities to do with death." Shot a cold voice from across the compartment. "Maybe just touching her will null your magic." Hazel could feel the rocks in her stomach grow heavier. Though instead of agreeing with her twin, the girl tossed a bag at him.
"Don't be an ass; They could say the same about us stealing their kids for experiments or some shit!" again putting her hand on Hazel's shoulder as reassurance, though with a small jerk she could tell she didn't appreciate the violations to her personal space this time. "Besides, look at her. She's just so cute to be evil." Hazel could feel the daggers that James threw with his eyes.
"no, my village has no part in the wars or the night cults. My parents were simply just the town healers and wanted me to have a good education. " Hazel could feel her nerves tense up more and more as the conversation went on, even more so as the pair continued bickered about her.
The arguing progressed for the following 2 hours before James abruptly rose. "Well, this has just been lovely, but I can no longer stand the sight of my sister. While I go for a walk, would you mind not sucking the life out of her southerner? she's obnoxious, but I do need her to return home at some point." Arryn promptly gave him the bird as he left.
"Don't take what he says to heart; he might be a dick now, but once you get to know him, he's a real darling." Hazel gave her a questioning glare. "That's IF you stick around Gingersnap, but I feel you're going to try and disappear in the crowd the moment this train stops." Hazel opened her mouth to object, but Arryn wasn't wrong.
"I mean, I could simply slip away while you guys sleep." She shot back sarcastically. Arryn snickered. "You could, but that's not what friends do." Arryn stretched, letting out a long yawn. "I'm going to hit the sack; I recommend you do too; this bad boy has a handful of stops before we finally get to the school." Hazel nodded. She hadn't even noticed it was night now.
Opening the top bunk from the wall and locked in position with a click. Arryn climbed above and slid beneath the covers, allowing her boots to plummet to the floor with thuds. "And hey, if you're still hanging out when I wake up, we can officially be friends. How about that?"
"Deal, but what about your brother?" Arryn laughed at the question, "Don't worry about him; he's like a church mouse." after that, the two remained silent and not too long Arryn had fallen asleep; Hazel could feel her jealousy of the girl above her grow as her snoring grew louder. But the truth was she was afraid to fall asleep; her chest became more burdensome, which made sleeping anytime soon but a sweet thought.
Hazel had spent hours staring at the bottom of Arryn's bunk, even after her brother had joined her in slumber. Putting her hand over eyes to massage them, but when she opened them, something felt off. Hazel was still on the train, but it was void of all noise. She looked about the compartment, but the twins were gone as well. "Hello?" She called out, but only silence answered her. Going to the door, she could see figures moving to and frow. She tried for the door handle, but it was locked. So She pounded on the door, screamed but none of the figures noticed her.
A raspy whisper of voices spoke in her ear; Hazel nodded frantically. "Yes, but who are you!?" Suddenly she could feel cold but comforting hands on her shoulders; Hazel felt the anxiety leave her. Once again, the amalgamation of a thousand voices spoke to her, but it did not frighten Hazel. Her whole body became limp as she slid to the floor; she could barely see a figure of an older man standing over her as she fell asleep. She managed to slip out a "thank you." before she hit rem.
Hazel could feel a small tapping on her foot, whispering, and a loud bang. Slowly opening her eyes, she had found herself leaning against the compartment door and her two roommates already bickering. "AH HAHA! See, she isn't dead!" proudly announced Arryn, with her brother nodding his head with interest. "And you, I'm glad you're finally alert; that means we can all go get food."