During the ritual, Brian finds himself elsewhere, in a land where everything is multi-hued like rainbows. He is joined by the dogs, Zofia and Janus.
The only sounds were from the animals. He couldn’t even hear the wind, though he felt the strength of it on his face. The animals led him to a rocky pool. Above him, there was a waterfall. It was about twenty feet high and could only be reached by scaling slippery rocks. Brian knew he had to climb up to the top. Taking his time, he did so. Janus and Zofia watched from far below, but some of the more agile animals went with him.
When he reached the top, he looked down. The water was crystal blue, like the azurite on the amulet around his neck. It glittered and gleamed invitingly.
“Dive in,” he heard in his head.
Brian felt compelled to walk to the edge of the cliff, which seemed higher since he arrived. Taking his diving stance, he took a deep breath. Launching himself over the edge, Brian fell an impossibly long way before his fingertips touched the water. His body cut the surface without a sound or a splash. Down he went, far deeper than he’d ever been before. Strangely, he could breathe here. There was no struggling for air. He could inhale the water and derive oxygen from it. He opened his mouth, gulping it in. It was pure and sweet, unadulterated water. This is what water in the Garden of Eden must have tasted like. Brian drank his fill as he swam around in the depths.
The water surrounded him with light, buoying him as he swam. Still, he didn’t find the Peddler. He wondered if the Peddler even lived here. Had Brian done something wrong, landed in the a different spot? Had he died and gone to Heaven? He couldn’t imagine that Heaven could be any better than this. It was the most beautiful place he’d ever seen.
He propelled himself to the top of the pool, splashing through the surface. The animals had gone, only Janus and Zofia were there, lying on the banks. They stood, grinning, when he walked out of the water.
“Is he here? Did I come to the wrong spot? I wish you could answer me.”
Brian stood on the banks of the pool, casting about for ideas. He had no clue where to go, what to do or how to get home. He could only hope that the ritual had worked and that he wasn’t lost here forever. That thought dulled his enjoyment slightly. As lovely and peaceful as it was here, he wanted to go home.
The landscape faded and he felt himself drifting down. With a thump, he woke as he sat hard on the damp ground. The drums stopped, the flutes fluttered to a halt. The chanting ended and all eyes stared at him. No one spoke for several seconds.
Jordan dashed forward with a blanket, wrapping it around him. She kissed his cheeks, feeling his head. “Are you okay? You’ve been out for ages!” Bursting into tears, she clung to him.
Miles and Heath helped him up. They walked into the house, supporting him. Jackie and Dr. Beauchamps, checked him over.
“Except for being a little chilled, he’s fine,” Andre’s father declared.
“What happened?” Brian asked.
“Let’s get you home and we’ll tell you,” Heath said.
Miles took Brian to the bathroom and helped him dress. When he was warmly covered, they went home. Jordan refused to be separated from him. She held his hand the entire way home and wouldn’t leave his side once they walked in the house. Maribelle fixed him a hot, restorative tea, and Brian waited for an explanation.
Miles poured a measure of whiskey in a glass, handing it to Brian. “I know you’re only sixteen, but I think you deserve this.”
“What happened? Did it work?” Brian sipped the whiskey, shuddering slightly. It sent a tingling warmth throughout his body. He sipped steadily until it was gone.
“We don’t know if it worked, son. Do you think it did?”
“I haven’t a clue.” He told them about the place he’d been and told them about swimming in the pond. “What happened here? Jordan acts like I’ve been gone forever.”
“You did the dance, we did the spell. It seemed to work, got all the fancy fireworks we were expecting, only you collapsed. You were breathing, but you were completely unresponsive. We wanted to pick you up and carry you inside, but Janus appeared out of nowhere, followed by Zofia. They wouldn’t let us anywhere near you. They lay next to you, kept you warm and didn’t move until just before you got up—two hours later.”
“What? I was only gone ten minutes!”
Jordan took his hand, scooting closer. “Two hours, Brian. Exactly. You didn’t seem to be in distress, in fact, you were smiling and it looked like you were drinking something delicious.”
“The water,” he said quietly. “It was the sweetest, freshest water I ever tasted. And I could breathe underwater. I kept thinking, Is this Heaven? Am I dead? But the dogs weren’t real communicative.”
“Did you see anyone?” Miles asked.
“No, just the animals. All kinds, some I don’t even know names for. They led me to the pool. I heard a voice telling me to dive in. I did.”
Jordan flung her arms around him, burying her face in his shoulder. “You scared me to death,” she whispered. “Don’t scare me like that again! Promise!”
Brian took her face in his hands, giving her a kiss. “Given who we are and what we have to do, I can’t make that promise. Because I won’t break a promise to you, Jordan.” His next kiss lasted longer. He wanted her with every nerve in his body. They sang a chorus of desire that he wished to join. Her hands and lips weren’t enough.
“I know she’s a delicious taste sensation, but get a grip, boy!” Hearing Andre’s voice in his mind, he slowly broke his hold on Jordan.
© 2017 Dellani Oakes
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