Rachel followed her mother, feeling as unsure as ever but comforted greatly by Raven's presence. They were within Rachel's psyche, and although neither of them had absolute control here, the sway that Raven held was considerable.
The mindscape presented itself in stark bleakness: the woman and the girl walked along a winding, rocky path that floated in space, myriad other paths and isolated islands floating or moving through the starless void, the whole lit by a low monochromatic light that cast no shadows or made anything truly bright. To fall off of any of the paths or islands was to fall forever. As they walked, Raven's reassuring presence manifested as a solid metal guard rail which moved along the sides of their path with them, for which Rachel was grateful.
The island they now approached was different from the others: while most of the islands floating in the void were largely random in shape, the only regularity being a flat surface to walk on, this one was larger, flatter and shaped more like an intentionally-built platform than a mere lump of rock. Its floor was grey marble striated with darker streaks bound in granite, so the colour at least did not deviate.
There didn't seem to be anything on the platform.
Raven looked at this incongruity with a nostalgic smile. She paused in her tracks and turned to her daughter. "Still so afraid of the Void, Rachel?"
The girl clutched her arms to herself, looking away to the safety rail. "It goes on forever." Her hood hid her frown, whereas Raven's face was plain to see.
"You don't know that until you've fallen into it," Raven mumbled, turning to the platform.
Rachel wasn't sure whether this remark was addressed to her; her mother said it in an undertone, almost a whisper, as though she were merely thinking aloud to herself – however, it sounded like it could be advice. Rachel never ignored advice from her mother.
With a twist of her arms as though turning a car's steering wheel halfway around, Raven rotated the remainder of the path so that it corkscrewed upside-down, the rock grinding loudly yet never even cracking, as though it were made of rubber. Rachel felt a chill run down her spine, but Raven was prepared for this.
She reached out a hand to her daughter. Rachel took it in an instant, and then feared that her mother might scold her for showing weakness so readily. When she looked into Raven's face, there was nothing there but her mother's usual serene warmth.
"You aren't ready yet, but you will be, soon enough," said Raven softly. "Until then, there is no shame in staying close to your mother, or closing your eyes to the Void."
That is what Rachel proceeded to do. She shuffled along the rest of the path, her eyes screwed tight shut, her grip fixed like iron on Raven's arm. Raven bore her daughter with a strange smile on her face; it only widened when she saw the rest of the platforms slowly spinning with them, their surfaces parallel to Raven's current plane. Her expression was that of one revisiting old territory, seeing it with new and clearer eyes. Raven was inclined to reflect on the folly of youth, but knew that, in doing so, she would only be indulging the folly of age.
"You can open your eyes now, dear."
Rachel did so: they were on the platform. She looked around: the other rocks were the right way up, as was the path behind them; no twist was in evidence, and it hadn't even felt to Rachel as they walked that they'd gone through one.
"But... what happened to the flip?" asked Rachel, bewildered. "Didn't we turn over?"
"What flip?" Raven asked, smiling in innocent amusement. Rachel felt momentarily angry, but knew that her mother would never intentionally spite her – the anger soon passed. "Come, Rachel; this is what I wanted to show to you."
There were three pedestals on what had previously been the underside of the platform. Evenly spaced, they each occupied their own third of the platform's surface, and each one held a different item.
Rachel glanced at them in turn. She liked the one on the far right. The one in the middle scared her... but the one on the left terrified her.
"Can you work out what these are?" asked Raven, moving towards the pedestal on the right.
Rachel considered this momentarily. She'd learned a thing or two about the psyche. "...They're pictures; illusions. Symbols of things that are."
Raven nodded. "More specifically, they are the symbols of your psyche. You have only just become fully aware of this place's existence, which is why I've brought you here. Do not fret: you will become more familiar with this place as time goes on, and as you do, it will no doubt become... richer." Raven smiled that smile again. Rachel wondered at what it meant.
"Now... tell me what this is." Raven gestured to the pedestal on Rachel's right.
"Safety." The order and the response were less than a second apart.
Raven's smile noticeably did not change. "Correct... in a way. Take hold of it, if you wish; study it."
Rachel did so. It was a full-face mask, smooth, silvery-white; although it appeared metallic it was warm to the touch.
Rachel looked at its face, noting the patterns which weaved across it: subtle lines and curves, flowing within and around each other, picked out in shining silver filigree which glittered against the smoother, almost milk-white surface of the mask.
Raven noticed that the detail was already quite advanced, and that the mask as a whole didn't seem to have shrunk even slightly. She felt a brief pang of sadness, but soon quelled it with another thought; one that twitched her ever-present smile.
As she held her mask, Rachel felt a strong urge to put it on; an urge that seemed natural, but the strength of which scared Rachel into automatically disobeying it. She almost threw the mask back onto its pedestal, suddenly repulsed by the seemingly beautiful object.
Raven raised an eyebrow of concern at this act. "It scares you?"
Rachel didn't answer for a few seconds, staring at the mask with wide-open eyes. "I... thought it didn't, but, seeing it now... it's different. I don't know how to describe it. I feel like I've seen it before, but I know I haven't."
Raven nodded; it was much as she'd expected. "It'll make more sense soon enough. Now; the others." Raven moved clear across the platform to the pedestal on the other side; Rachel followed her with dragging feet.
"Can't we do the one in the middle next?"
"Best 'til last, my love." Rachel blinked at this and looked at the middle pedestal. On it was a strange, floating light, almost like- "Hey. Over here."
Rachel grumbled under her breath and trudged over to the far pedestal, trying to hide her fear of what lay on it.
Raven, however, seemed to hold no fear of it – indeed, she was poring over it as though wishing she had a microscope. "Hm..."
"What-? ...What is that thing?" asked Rachel, not coming within five paces of the pedestal.
Raven looked sideways at Rachel, still smiling that same, warm, reassuring smile. "Come closer, and see for yourself."
Rachel swallowed painfully, and edged closer inch by inch. Raven tried to look as though she was continuing to investigate the item on the pedestal, but in truth she was wondering if she'd ever been that timid herself. Of course she had; that was why she was doing this for her daughter.
Rachel was close enough that she could now see the thing distinctly, although this was an object that defied distinction due to its very nature.
"It's... darkness," said Rachel. "A pool of darkness."
"Almost. Perhaps a demonstration is in order."
With barely a thought, Raven conjured a floating point of light from the thin air beside her head.
The light moved, orbiting the pedestal from above.
"Watch the darkness," said Raven.
Rachel did. She saw it change as the light moved. She changed her attention to the light, and saw where it was moving; around the pedestal, and around the two of them... but it changed irregularly.
"...Why does the darkness only deepen when the light is behind me?" asked Rachel. "Why doesn't it do the same for you?"
"You mean you can't work it out?" Raven asked in return, smiling pleasantly.
Rachel thought about it. The answer soon struck her, and when it did, her eyes shot open wide with the realisation.
"...Oh," she said, quite simply.
"I think you've got it," said Raven, her smile widening again. "Now, as I promised: the best is last."
Rachel followed her mother, her fear for the darkness quite forgotten in the light of her newfound thoughtfulness... and the light of the thing on the middle pedestal.
That's what it was, mostly; light. It was like a small fairytale star, suspended in space just above the pedestal, bobbing slowly up and down as though riding on gentle waves.
"You can hold it, if you like," said Raven, still staring at it. She seemed very thoughtful as well, although why, Rachel could not tell.
Either way, she was more intrigued by the light. She slid her hands underneath it and picked it up, finding that it bobbed an inch or so above her cupped hands as it did on the pedestal. Studying it more closely, she saw that it was not in fact purely white as she had at first thought, but was in fact shining all the colours at once, so seamlessly that they almost blended perfectly into whiteness – almost. Every now and then, the tiny star in Rachel's hands would twinkle slightly, revealing another brilliant colour which would then hide again as quickly as it had showed itself.
"Wow..." said Rachel breathlessly. "It's... beautiful."
"And it will become more beautiful as time goes on, I've no doubt," said Raven, her smile returned. "You can see the colours, can't you?"
"They'll become better, too: stronger, more visible. Then, of course, the star itself will grow."
"It looks so small," said Rachel. "And it feels... almost like I'm holding a small bird in my hands. Like there's a tiny, fluttering heartbeat." Rachel smiled, feeling happy in spite of herself.
Raven looked away for a moment. She'd thought much the same thing.
"It may be small, but it's no less powerful for that," Raven continued, moving closer to her daughter.
Rachel fell silent for a moment. When she spoke, it was tentatively. "I know this is going to sound stupid, but, this light... is this light... me?" She looked up at her mother.
Raven laughed: a sound of pure delight. "I suppose you could say that it is. However, you could also say the same of the other two."
Rachel glanced at them; the mask and the shadow, before looking back up at her mother. "I don't understand."
"Neither did I, once upon a time. However, you will, soon enough. Come; put the light back. It's time to go home. I'm sure you'll have a lot to think about when we get there."
Rachel placed the light back on top of its pedestal with a kind of bewildered reverence and took hold of her mother's proferred hand.
As they walked away along the path, Rachel looked back in wonder.
"Can I come back?"
"Any time you like. Just... don't stay too long. I'll come and get you if you do." Raven winked at her, surprising Rachel. However, she didn't stop; she still had other questions.
"You said that this place will become richer."
"As you grow, yes."
Rachel remained silent for a moment.
"So... do you have a place like this as well?"
Raven smiled. So like her daughter. So like herself, come to that.
Then came the inevitable question, hot on the heels of the previous answer. "Can I see it?"
Raven chuckled at Rachel's childlike enthusiasm. "Sorry, Rachel, but not today. But... someday. I promise you that."
"Oh... okay." Rachel thought some more, the only sound their footsteps ringing through the floating silence.
"That place, that belongs to you... will mine be as beautiful as yours, one day?"
"What makes you so sure that it's beautiful?"
"I can see it in your face." Rachel smiled, taking Raven completely off-guard. This was the kind of thing she might have expected from Garfield, but not from her daughter. Well... she was Garfield's daughter as well, Raven reminded herself. It surprised Raven sometimes how easily she forgot that, when it was just the two females alone in the silence created by the lack of either Garfield or Tobias.
Raven smiled back at Rachel and paused on the path. She took her daughter in her arms and hugged her, receiving one in return from Rachel's smaller, yet grateful arms.
"I'm sure it will be just as beautiful as mine one day, Rachel," said Raven softly. "Nothing would make me happier than to see your light shine more brightly than mine ever has. I only hope that I'm still here to see it when it happens."
Rachel rested her head against Raven's body, the picture of contentment, even in the midst of the Void.
"I love you, mum."
Raven leaned down, kissing the top of her daughter's head and holding her close. "I love you too."