Witch-Girl / Tempest Eyes (20/23) – Child with Dreaming Eyes
“All things can see,” she says, “it is the nature of things.”
Ramiel walks through the entrance hall, walks up the stairs.
They had not explored the second floor earlier that night – so long ago – but his Stacey-sense is clear and it leads up the stairs.
He stops walking as he suddenly realises that he had, earlier, compared himself to a homing pigeon. He’s not sure if he should be amused or annoyed. He shakes the thought away and continues climbing, reaching the landing, going into a corridor.
The doors along the corridor are all open, and he walks past empty bedrooms until he reaches the open door at the corridor’s end. There’s a library beyond, with book-filled shelves as walls.
Of course, he thinks, she’d be in the library.
Stacey is sitting by a table, reading. She looks up as he enters and she breaks into a wide, happy grin.
He is smiling too, as he walks towards her.
She stands up, starts towards him.
Then her smile drops and he stops walking, puzzled.
He feels a quick tug on his hand, caused by Alice pulling her hand from his. He had been holding her hand for so long that he had forgotten about it.
Stacey is standing, her face blank. She’s dressed as she is in the hotel, in a t-shirt (black, with the design of a pink heart) and jeans (denim), but she looks different; she’s shorter than she should be, and her hair is too short.
She stomps towards him and grabs his hand. She glances at Alice, quickly, just one look and then she is pulling him away with both hands around his one, pulling him to a corner of the room, the furthest point away from the entrance, away from where Alice stands.
Stacey says, “Who is she?”
She sounds annoyed. Her voice is higher, younger.
This close, he notices that she’s smaller than she should be; her chest is flat. She’s younger than she’s supposed to be; perhaps ten, or younger yet.
He doesn’t understand why she’s upset, so he answers honestly, “Alice. She helped me get here.”
“You’re just full of female friends, aren’t you?” she snaps.
“I…” he begins, uncertain. He feels bewildered. This is not how rescues are supposed to go. Princes do not kill dragons and troop into castles for the princess to complain.
She is no longer looking at him. She’s looking at Alice, walking towards Alice.
He follows behind her, stopping when she stops.
“You’re the Alice?” Stacey says.
“I am,” Alice says, shyly.
“The Child of Dreaming Eyes?”
Alice pauses a moment, “Um… with Dreaming Eyes.”
“With Dreaming Eyes, of course. Sorry.”
There is a long, awkward pause.
“Are you?” Stacey says.
“Are we in the Dreamlands?”
“Thought so. Will you help us leave?”
“I will, to a point.”
“What does that mean?”
Ramiel feels a sort of surprised confusion. The whole situation is surreal, and, he strongly feels, he has a rather lax definition of “real” to begin with. He is listening to children talk – Children! – and there appears to be a subtext flowing beneath their exchange that he can detect but does not quite comprehend. And he knows his fate is in their hands, in the hands of children, talking, in this library, in this house, in the Dreamlands.
“It means,” Alice says, cutting into his thoughts, “that I will not fight the King in Yellow.”
“Is he near?” Stacey asks.
“I do not know, but he must know that I am here.”
“Take a look at this,” Stacey says.
She takes his hand, curls her small fingers around his, starts to walk out.
He turns to Alice, offers his other hand. Stacey’s fingers clench around his.
He turns to Stacey, who is glaring at him for some reason.
He turns back to Alice, his hand still out. She shakes her head, once.
They leave the library.
Ramiel looks down on his arm as they follow Stacey down the corridor. The Yellow Sign is red and clear and giving off a sense of malignance. He can’t tell if that malignance is real, or just some fear in his head born out of everything that he has seen, that he has been told.
He looks at Stacey’s arm, wondering why he has not thought to check before, and, yes, the hundred Yellow Signs are still there, red welts upon her flesh.
“Should we remove the Yellow Sign on us?” he says.
“No!” both girls reply, in unison.
Right, he thinks, how foolish of me not to know that.
Ramiel stands behind Stacey and Alice while they look at the yellow stone, floating above the small, circular table.
“This house,” Stacey says, “is exactly as it was on Earth, including this rock.”
“What is it, I wonder?” Alice says.
“You don’t know?”
Ramiel looks up at the rock. It is, besides the floating, pretty much just a yellow rock, jagged and rough, no more distinctive than any chunk of stone.
“Should I know, I wonder?” Alice says.
Silence, for a moment.
It’s a rock, Ramiel thinks, it floats. “We should go,” he says.
“We should go,” Alice says.
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||Something witty this way comes…|
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