I'm done school and I'm looking forward to getting back to my stories!
Here's where you may notice a slight difference, the change was intentional. :)
-Chapter 7: Finding Our Way-
Stopping off briefly at Ness's house, they grabbed a rope. Finally getting the chance to be honest, he got to tell her they were going to Giant Step to look for a certain location. Paula had to top it all of with deception and said it was a school project she was doing for extra credit over the summer. Luckily she had a digital camera on her to seal the deal.
Jokingly, Rachelle told them the urban legend surrounding the area. "People warned their children of the monster that lives there. When Eagleland was founded, there were mythical beasts; they were driven out when humans settled. But one was left behind. He wanders the plains in search of children. If he sees any he kidnaps them and keeps them in his cave for company. The worst part of it is...he's very boring and has nothing interesting to talk about...sheer hell!"
Ness couldn't recall ever being told that tall tale. "How come I don't remember you telling me that?"
"Oh honey, you were too smart for that kind of nonsense," she said with a laugh. The two teens thanked her for the insight and headed off to destinations unknown.
The cliff was a steep incline, not straight up like originally thought. The rope still ended up being a good idea; Ness ended up loosing his footing near the top, only the rope aided his fall. Going uphill, they looped it around a sturdy base and used it as a guide to walk up the side. They searched for hours, but nothing popped out at them. Their search finally ended on an area unlike any other of the surrounding structures. "Ness, this place is all flat," Paula said.
"It does look odd," he commented and scanned the rest of the location. "Maybe that 'beast' legend has something to do with the sound stone."
Paula shook her head. "Don't you think parents told kids that story because they knew gangs hang around up here? I mean, when kids get involved in a gang, they tend to 'not come back home', right?"
He stared blankly for a moment. "I doubt my mother was that clever. I always thought it was because she couldn't see us if we got hurt." He defended his mother's position, he felt she was in the right.
"Yeah," she said with an eye roll.
Ness took the sound stone out and noticed something odd about it. "This thing is glowing brighter, and it's pulsating quicker too." He looked around but still didn't see anything noteworthy.
"I had something I wanted to mention..." a brisk wind swept up from beneath them and nearly took the hem of Paula's dress above her waist. She quickly held it down. "The dream I had last night...it was you sitting in a dark spot, in front of a small opening. You kept telling people to look in, but no one listened and kept going by."
He gave her the strangest of looks, one eyebrow was raised, "That's weird...now that you mention it, something does come to mind." He told her about a place he played at once when he was younger. That day he and his friends ventured far into the caves of Giant step without their parents permission. When going down one of the corridors, Ness suggested they try a narrow path he had found. Everyone said they didn't see the hole Ness wanted to adventure into. "Maybe none of them were meant to see it, except for me." His eyes widened and he gave a cat-like smirk to Paula, still beaming about the meteor incident.
"You're getting on a high horse," she sighed.
"Am not. I don't want to have to be the one to save the world, I'd gladly pass that torch. But if that nook is the place we need to be, it's a bit farther." He smiled triumphantly.
As they walked on, Paula couldn't help but sense Ness's mood. "I get it, you're happy your friends weren't assholes?" she asked.
"Close; I'm happy I wasn't crazy," he said with a smile.
Light was beginning to evade them, not because it was late, the clouds were moving in again with threats of rain. "It's going to spill," Paula said and grabbed her hair back into a single pony tail, looping her two ribbon accessories around her newly made hairdo.
"It's down this way," he said and walked in further. The path was still opened at the back of a wide hall. Ness stepped closer and the opening got bigger and bigger. Hardly being able to contain themselves at the sight, they zipped though the crack and found yet another flat plain, this one was covered in a reddish haze.
"Ness," Paula said as she looked around. "Isn't this the same spot we were a second ago?"
He examined the area. "Seems like it...but it can't be, the rope is gone. And look," he said and referenced something marked in the ground. It was several large craters that formed a larger footprint. "That's kind of cool, I wonder who put that there," he said.
"Him," Paula mentioned as she motioned to the ominous outline of some large creature. She and Ness stood their ground as they watched it lumber slowly along.
The majority of his shaggy body was invisible, only feint hints of light accented its edges. It could be seen that this creature walked on all four feet, but had the option to stand on two. His elongated horns protruding from the back of it's head curved inward and nearly touched at their points. They vibrated as he gave a bellow of happiness, finally he had some company. The beast calmed down and then glanced over his shoulder at the two young ones who had come by to visit. "You need me? I will go," he said telepathically. Slowly his body dissolved into small red dots that floated upward from his feet. The beast hummed a soft melody as his body became a part of something bigger. The red pinpoints in the air traveled up the creature's body, more appearing each second, filling the area with a brilliant array. When the beads of light were done dissolving the beast, they surrounded Ness and Paula in a swirling vortex. It spiraled into the center and landed on the Sound Stone, gradually they were all absorbed into the rock. "The Apple of Enlightenment decrees it so," were the last words he uttered before fading completely. The rock went dark, back to it's usual hue of blue.
Before either of them could get a word out, their world 'jumped' for a moment. The once dusty atmosphere that surrounded them was gone, and the world seemed a little less quiet. "What the hell was all of that?" Ness stammered, unaware of how he should treat the encounter.
Paula couldn't help but notice the rope was back, "Maybe we have to enter these places a certain way for them to work. Let's keep that in mind for the rest..." she said and began to go toward the only thing they could call an exit.
"Where to next?" Ness followed.
"That stone started to react when we got close to this place, maybe we just need to walk around until we find another one." She slid along the rope, hobbling her way on down the side on an angle.
Ness gave the rock a ruthful look and put it back in his pocket with a sigh. This was really happening to him and there was no way of stopping it. He felt so helpless. Ness slinked down the rope and he and Paula headed to the local arcade to blow off some steam.
Later on they sat out back, a slush in each of their hands, exhausted from the constant bombardment of noise and lights. Paula slurped from her frosted plastic cup and remembered the 'beast' from earlier, "I've had enough lights for today." No sooner was the word 'today' finished when the street lights decided to come on. "Really now? Come on," she said and laid her back flat against the wall, bending her legs so she remained propped up with little effort.
"Remember when I slipped on the way up uphill? I didn't notice until I was sitting down in there, but my wound is totally healed. No scar either." He tapped his hip.
"...are you sure? It was toward your back, maybe you missed it. Let me take a look," she said and reached out to him, kneeling down on one knee.
Ness tugged his belt out of the way to show her the 'lack of' mark. "Pretty amazing, huh?"
"I guess that place we went is special," she said.
"I'm sorry!" yelled a voice from behind them. It was the same boy who happened upon them in the tree-house that first fateful day. "The hero's conquest knows no bounds!" he said and took off. "You're a beacon of hope for us all."
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?" Ness mumbled and wondered if that was an insult or not.
"I hate this place," Paula said. "Come on, before they start calling me the 'Whore of Onett'!"
It took Ness a few seconds to replay the scene in his head and how it must have looked from his angle. This caused a bold reaction on his face, "I just hope Pokey doesn't catch wind of any of this. The last thing I need is my mom thinking I'm doing things like that." Public indecency wasn't high on her list of things he wanted to get grounded for. Not that it mattered anymore, soon they would be in Threed.
He and Paula thumbed a ride with some farmers to get to Twoson before the sun was down. From there, they'd worry about getting to the next town, Threed. On the ride there Ness wrote a letter for his mother, explaining his situation in the most vague means possible. Paula hovered over his shoulder the whole time, auto-correcting him on thing's he wasn't being elusive enough with. "Talk about giving people the wrong impression," Ness said, remembering the misunderstanding they had earlier. He had looked over the letter in its entirety, hoping that reading it from start to finish was all it needed. He was wrong. It was blocky and kind of sounded like he was running off to join the circus. "I hope she thinks 'circus' and not 'Shark'. I don't need her or Strong making me look bad."
"I'll bet she thinks you took off to find your dad." She didn't realize her suggestion was going to stir the pot as it did, but it didn't happen right away.
Her words stuck in the back of his head, "No way; I'd have no way to know where to start looking."
"You did though, by leaving. No one can find what there looking for by standing still," she said, not meaning for it to sound so 'deep'.
"That's true..." Ness folded his letter and sealed it away in an envelop. The next chance he could get he needed to drop that off in a post box; he didn't need his mother sending out a search party for him. For her to do that, he needed to be missing for a full twenty-four hours, plus 'no notice'. This letter covered what he needed to be said.
"We come back." Paula said abruptly.
"...to...where?" he attempted to clarify.
"In the end, we come home," she said.
Ness smiled warmly, "Another vision of yours?"
She nodded. Paula had no way of telling how or why, or when, they succeeded, all she could see was Ness walking her home at the end of their journey. She told him this and saw an immediate drop in his anxiety level. His shoulders were less tense and he spoke a little more.
A short while later, "We're here kids," said a raspy voice from out front.
Paula had dozed off on Ness's shoulder. She awoke first and moved before he noticed. "We must have fell asleep,"
"Fallen," Ness said, earning him a confused glance. "We must have fallen asleep." He was barely awake and correcting grammar.
"We're in Twoson," the farm lady said, "So unless you want to end up in Threed, you best be makin' tracks."
Paula inhaled sharply, "You know what...I think we'll take you up on that, if you don't mind," she spoke abruptly. "Ness?"
"Yeah, good," he said and began to doze off again.
The back cab was filled with glass jars containing preserves. The old couple made them in the countryside and sold them in the big city. Threed wasn't the big city, Fourside was, Threed was merely along the way. The clinked lightly together as they motored along the highway, it kind of annoyed Paula.
When they arrived in Threed things didn't seem right. "I don't like the look of this," Paula said as she looked out the small window in the cab. "I'm sorry," she laid a palm flat against the glass leading to the drivers cab, "Can we keep going?" She thought for a moment, "I'm worried that it isn't safe at night."
The lady in the passenger seat slid the window open to talk to her guest personally. "We've come through here for more than fifty years, we never had any trouble."
"You don't understand...something's not right about this time," she tried to assure them. Her worried words were understood when a small circle of lights came into view. "I think that's the town square," the most central part of town.
"I hope no one's gone missing, it looks like a search party," the husband driver said. He could see flashlights going in many different directions. The big truck pulled up alongside a gutter a short distance away from the group of people.
"Maybe it's a town meeting." The wife slapped him enthusiastically in the shoulder, "Let's poke around."
Paula admired the old lady's spunk but still felt uneasy about leaving the vehicle. "I can't leave," she said. The couple was alright with this and set off to see what the commotion was about.
"You were the one who got us here, no backing out now," he said and lifted the handle of the back door to let himself out. His shoes hit the pavement and he turned on a dime, "It's chilly, but I can't complain..." his nose got a better sample of the air now that he was out in the open. "Oh, yes I can. What's that smell? It's like..."
"Death," Paula said and reluctantly approached the back doors on all fours.
"Don't be so dramatic," Ness scoffed. Their timing that day seemed to be spot on; just as Ness was about to get a cap on the drama, something happened out of the blue, yet again. The only difference was that it struck from the darkness and swept them both off their fee, and out of sight.
The old farmer and his wife finally came back to have some parting words with his two, as he deemed them, love bird passengers. They were nowhere to be found. "Odd...I guess they were in a rush," he got back in his cab and continued on to the circle of lights. Walking down there was out of the question, it was surrounded by barbed wire. They needed to gain clearance using a driven vehicle as per the sign out front. 'No admittance on foot'.
When Ness and Paula finally had their worlds turned right side up again, some lights came on. Two agile figures quickly slid out of sight and into the ceiling. In front of them sat a young man, possibly from Dalaam, cross-legged and cross looking. "What are you doing here?" he said with no introduction.
"...Eloping?" Ness said, trying to stay away from the whole 'undercover alien exterminator' role.
"You idiots," he snapped, "Especially you," he faced Paula. "Neither of you are strong enough to be here yet."
Ness reached into his pocket, the stone was glowing quickly, "Paula...is this guy..."
"Yes...he's one of our allies." Her words sounded empty, for her eyes were filled with hearts for the newest addition to their posse.