Devon Mogay was tired.
It was mid-afternoon in the middle of summer in England and he felt like he was dying of heat exhaustion just walking up the road. He wiped away the sweat from his handsome face, brushing away a lock of deep red hair. He pondered stopping to buy some water but he couldn't be bothered and anyway, he was a student so he had no money. He followed the road to the University and walked through its grounds. He soon reached the long winding road that went up to his house. It wasn't far now until he could lock himself in his room with the fan turned to maximum. He heard an owl hoot as he went past a tree. He was near the entrance of the park already.
Then he stopped. Why was it suddenly nightfall? It had only been half past two when he looked last. He shook his head. His watch was wrong - that had to be it. He yawned and continued walking.
Then he heard a different noise - an artificial noise like a surge of power or something electrical blowing a fuse but far louder. To be precise, it went 'FFAUGLM!'. He looked around in surprise. It was suddenly pitch dark, like the dead of night. The noise emanated from something in the park. It looked like some scaffolding had been hastily erected and something on top of it was emitting a weird energy that flared monochrome. The pattern spread outwards in a dome shape, slowly encompassing all of the area there was. He heard another noise, like a fax or a very old modem, coming from inside the sphere. He watched it in fascination at first. Then he heard yet another noise- a scream. A familiar voice.
"JOAN!" he yelled, running towards the pulsing dome of energy. He could just make out the figure of his girlfriend near its perimeter, screaming and hitting it. It was crackling as though it was electrified. He ran to her aid.
"The barriers! They're turning hostile!" she yelled.
"Joan, come away from it! I'll handle it!" he ordered.
"No! I can't go home! None of the barriers let us in... everyone... it took everyone..." she began sobbing. Devon grabbed her in his arms and pulled her back.
"It must be a virus... I'll fix it..." he held out his arm. Before he could finish whatever he planned to do, however, the energy flared wildly and shot out past him. Joan shrieked. Devon turned around just in time to see her evaporate, immolated by the black and white fire, before he himself was taken by darkness.
An owl hoots.
She looks through the tall slit window. All she sees are the lw-addmers sliding along the natural crystalline platforms and the administrative tinge to the air. She walks silently across the room like a swan gliding across a lake, then looks through the other window. There she sees the owls. She watches them.
This is how she sees the ripple. Like a monochrome wave in a badly coloured sea, it spreads from the rift outwards. A leakage of pressure, more being pulled in than out.
"Who else is making gateways?" she wonders, "And which side are they making them from?"
As she touches the window, it ripples and both of them disappear.
Heat. Oppressive heat that bore down on him so hard he thought he would be crushed under the weight. His throat was parched and his flesh felt raw and burned. He coughed. Sand entered his lungs, making him splutter. He wanted to stand up but his limbs felt heavy. He was so exhausted. The pain was wearing him out even more. Oh, to succumb to sleep... this was probably all just some kind of terrible nightmare anyway...
Something soft and furry poked its nose in his ear. He opened his eyes and saw a pair of small green eyes staring unblinking at him. The cat purred and rubbed its face against his. Devon picked up the cat and stroked it.
"Hullo, pussy cat! Who's a nice kitty?"
The cat gave him a funny look and meowed again. It walked off, batting its tail into the sand and raising golden clouds in the vast desert that Devon seemed to have ended up in. It went to a pile of seemingly random things dumped in the sand nearby and rooted around in it. Purring with satisfaction, it retrieved a small blue cloth cap and walked back with it. It meowed and dropped it in Devon's lap.
"Is that for me? I don't think it suits..."
"MEOW!" ordered the cat. Devon shrugged and put the hat on his head. It fit quite well.
"That'll be 500 meseta, please."
"AAAAAAAAAAARGH! A TALKING CAT!" yelled Devon.
"AAAAAARGH! A TALKING NON-CAT!" replied the cat, batting its tail in what was a sarcastic gesture to cats, "Now are you going to pay me or do I have to scratch your..."
But Devon had already fainted. The cat rolled its eyes. Standing on Devon's head, it yelled "RYUKA!"