38. The Way the Light Bends and the Darkness Falls

July 24th, 2017 § 0 comments

Chapter thirty-eight of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


Sophie just walked right through the lightfall as the rest of them stood discussing who should go first. They heard her squeal and giggle like a child at play in a warm bath, then her voice floated ethereally to them: “It tickles!”

“Sophie!” Luci cried, panicked despite what she’d heard.

Mouse grabbed her arm to stop her from bursting headlong into the lightfall, but she pulled free and took another step, stopping only when Carlos quietly said, “I don’t like the way the light bends.”

“What?” she asked curtly.

“Come on, Mom!” Sophie called from the other side. “This is so wonderful!”

“Sophie? Sophie, where are you?”

Luci walked up to the lightfall and reached out a tentative finger. It was bright like the sun, but it didn’t hurt her eyes, and she watched as her fingertip disappeared into the cascade, the light warm and soft around it.

“Maybe the light is yellow,” she said dreamily, her finger now thrumming like a tuning fork that had set her whole body aglow. Somewhere she heard someone call her name—was it Mouse? Lorna?—but it meant nothing to her now.

“It’s all colors,” Sophie said. Luci could see her face now, smiling a few feet from her, and though she spoke, her lips weren’t moving. “Come all the way in, Mommy!”

Luci stepped forward, into the light. The rest of the PISA crew stepped toward her as a group, as if to catch her when she fell, but she didn’t fall. Luci never fell at all. She moved slowly and wisely into the light, and for the first time in her life, she understood. It felt like an epiphany, only as if the revelation was something she had learned long ago, but had forgotten.

“Your father’s okay,” she said to Sophie, relieved tears welling in her eyes as a final resolution took hold. “He’s okay…”

“I know, Mommy,” Sophie replied, moving over and hugging her. “I told you he was okay.”

“I know you did. You always did.”

They hugged silently. Luci heard again the disembodied voices behind her, calling her name without effect.

“We have to bring them into the light,” she whispered. Sophie hugged her more tightly.

“Luci!” Mouse barked again, impatiently. “At least answer us!”

He looked wildly over at Bransen and seemed about to accuse him of being at fault for everything that had gone wrong—or could go wrong. But before he could, Bransen stepped into the lightfall, followed silently by John Fobell. Henry took Lorna’s hand and pulled her with him quickly, like diving into an ice-cold swimming pool. Mouse looked to Carlos, who stood firm.

“I don’t like the way the light bends,” Carlos whispered again, his eyes wide and darting. “Light shouldn’t fall like that. It shouldn’t bend. Not like that.”

“Come on, you two!” Bransen cried out gleefully from the lightfall. “My God…!”

“We can’t stand here forever,” Mouse finally said to Carlos. “They all sound okay. And I think it’s getting darker.”

“It’s your eyes. They’ve adjusted to the light. Darkness doesn’t fall here, not in that way.”

Mouse shrugged and stepped into the light. Carlos could do nothing else but follow.

* * *

“So what is your name, Admiral?” Hiram asked as they hiked through the verdant grasses that made up the forest floor of Perendjo.

Hillocks spotted the landscape, as did giant boulders that looked more placed than formed, and everything was green, even in the soft twilight. Hiram’s companions still looked a bit awestruck by the massive trees poking out of vast, wavering fields of green grass. The passage through the portal was always disorienting; such a deep sense of freedom was sure to be overwhelming at first, especially if you understood that it was the sensation of your spirit leaving your body.

“Admiral Thomas just seems too formal,” Hiram added, stopping and turning to him.

“Jude,” the admiral said. Something in his posture gave away the fact that, by using his given name, he was admitting he was no longer a military man.

“Very good.” Hiram smiled warmly and clapped him on the back, walking again as he talked. “Names are important. They help define our sense of self.”

“I never liked my name,” he admitted. “Most people call me Thomas.”

“But I will call you Jude,” Hiram stated kindly. “It suits you.”

Howard jogged a few steps and caught up with them, puffing along beside Jude.

“So, Hiram, where are we going?”

He gazed around wide-eyed, visibly wincing at the crashing noises of broken branches above them and the occasional glimpses of massive winged creatures in the dizzyingly far-off canopy.

“We are heading toward Green Lake, and from there, we will find the city of Lithari.”

“City?” Howard squeaked.

Howard clearly envisioning a swarming metropolis of Golgantry. Jude, on the other hand, looked thrilled at the idea. He was thinking of finding some people who lived here to talk with—the locals, in other words.

“It seems that everyone here ends up at Lithari sooner or later,” Hiram explained. “And barring any further contact from Sophie or any of the usual denizens of Perendjo, I think it’s a safe bet that we should find them there.”

“What about Rauchbach and his men?” Jude wondered.

Hiram chuckled lightly.

“If they last that long, Jude, then I imagine they’ll end up there, too.”


37. Langer in the Air | 39. Ghosts in the Forest  ⇒

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