She nodded. The visions could be controlled. Seeing things on the other sides of walls or hearing conversations in other rooms. Could she reach out to another city? What were her limits? Trying to imagine the possibilities she began to hope.
“I don’t want to be here again,” she whispered.
Derrex returned to the kitchen. Xania got up and went to the window. The view was sad. The brick building next door was old and displaying its wear. The alley below was dark and filthy. Not a classy part of town. It was still better than staring at the apartment walls. Derrex walked up to her, talking. She didn’t hear him, her mind wandering. He stopped, realizing that she wasn’t listening and smiled. He gently laid his hand on her shoulder. She flinched, but didn’t come back.
The rain thundered against the window and the darkness seemed to move behind the falling drops. It was cold and danger was near. He would come. He had to come, as much for his sake as hers.
Xania looked down at the beautiful child in her arms and wondered if she’d ever see him again. His pale white curls lay across his forehead. He smiled and cooed up at her, his blue eyes sparkling with love. His trust in her hurt. Was she betraying him? Something in her screamed to hold onto him tight. But she trusted that this was the right thing to do. They could not keep their son with them. If they did, he would die.
The air swirled and shifted about her. He was here. It was as if he had always been there. His skin and hair were white, blending in against his robes. It seemed like the fabric was an extension of him rather than attire. If it wasn’t for the chill in his eyes, she could have thought of him as an angel. He took the child from her arms. He was amazingly gentle, cradling the baby against his chest. Then he was gone, as suddenly as he had come. She was alone, more completely then ever. She wept.
Derrex pulled back his hand, feeling cold shoot up his arm.
Xania blinked, tears spilling over her cheeks.
“Are you alright?”
“No,” Xania said.
She rushed past him and found retreat in the guest room. The door slammed behind her.
Did this vision for tell the future? Was there a chance to change things? She leaned against the door, breathing hard. The visions scared her more than all her other powers. What did they mean? She didn’t want them! Why did they keeping coming to her?
Derrex knocked. She felt the gentle thumps through the wood. She squeezed shut her eyes, pushing out the last of her tears.
“Xania?” Derrex called.
“Go away!” she screamed.
“You can’t hide from your powers,” he said.
He leaned against the door, tired of trying to convince her.
“I don’t want the visions! Make them go away!” she wailed.
She turned to shout at him. The baby in her arms. He had been so beautiful. There was no purpose in seeing him. Why know that she would one day give away her son? All it did was wrench her heart now when there was nothing to do about it.
“I can’t do that. No one can. But you could control it,” he said.
“I don’t want it! The visions are thieves, rapists,” she panted.
She pounded the door.
“It doesn’t have to be,” he said.
“Yes, it does. Always. I know things about you that you’ve never told me. They’re your secrets to share or keep as you choose. I have no right to look at them,” she said.
She thought about all the memories that had flooded through her mind last night when the three of the had held onto each other. He didn’t really like coffee. He’d rather have mint tea, but wanted the caffeine. The face of his mother. Smells of his favorite foods. There was that strange looking animal that followed him around when he was a child. They were as rich and real to her as her own memories.
Xania put her forehead to the door. The wood was cool.
“What right do I have? Who am I to shape tomorrow?” she asked.
“We all do. Everyday we make choices that shape tomorrow,” he countered.
“But can I even change what I see or are we bound by fate?” she asked, thinking again of the child she’d held in her arms.
“I don’t know,” he answered.
He shrugged, even though he knew she couldn’t see him.
“There is too much that I don’t understand,” she moaned.
Derrex said nothing.
Xania sighed and wiggled her fingers against the wood. She wanted to touch him. She wanted to be held, but was afraid of what visions might come. The grain of the wood was rough under the smooth finish. The ripples in the wood reminded her of water. She traced her fingers over these lines, wondering if Derrex was still there. Her hands stopped. Yes, he was there. His hands pulsed against the wood, sending vibrations through it. Was this as close as she’d be able to get to other people without having visions? Or did the barriers even matter? She had seen something within the woman and boy in the market, but she had never touched them. She wiggled her fingers against the wood again and imaged that barriers didn’t matter, that she could still touch him. She pressed her hands into the door, picturing her hands pressing against his. She thought she heard his surprised gasp as her fingers interlaced with his. She smiled. It was a nice little daydream.
There was a large crowd around her. They were happy, celebrating. People were dancing and clapping to the rhythm of the music. Xania danced with them, glad to be in a place that still knew joy. The crowd formed a circle, still moving to the music. At the circle’s center was Derrex and a woman. A happy couple. He was dressed in a complicated white suit that was accented with silver buttons and jewelry. His hair was long and free. The silvery strands billowed around him as he danced. The woman he was with was beautiful. They were a contrast to each other. She was tall and thin. Her robes were rich black velvet, sprinkled with red glitter. Her hair was black and was woven into braids with red beads twisted into the locks. The braids swayed around her as she moved with Derrex. Black and white, they were a perfect set.
The music stopped. There was shouting. People moved and shuffled about, hearing but not seeing the commotion. Men on horses burst through the crowd, sending people running in all directions. Derrex and the dark woman stared up at the intruding riders. The lead riders lifted a rifle and pointed it at Derrex’s bride, Serene. He’d just been married. The rider offered some threat. Several other riders began to shoot. The wind died and the world fell silent. It seemed that everything pulled itself around Serene.
“I call your soul and summon it back to the stream,” Serene whispered.
Serene’s chest glowed and burned under the dark cloth of her robe. The rider that had spoken jerked forward then fell from his horse. He was dead. The other riders came at her in a rush, swinging axes. Derrex reached for her, trying to pull her back. Joban leaped from the crowd, swinging a mighty blade at one of the riders.
A bullet burst into Serene’s chest. Blood splashed over Derrex. It was hot. He caught Serene as she fell back. He held her tightly and poured all his magic into her, willing her body to heal. Willing her to be whole. Willing her to live. Staggering, he went down, unable to stand. She lay on the ground and he pressed his hands against her. Calling on Gaia, he gave it all to her.
Joban swung again, striking the rider. The rider fell. The crowd seemed to coalesce then, moving against the remaining riders in a swarm. Joban fell to his knees at Serene’s side. Shoving Derrex aside, he broke the link between them before Derrex could drain himself of his life force. Joban touched her with his hands glowing softly with a green light. But he could not find the pulse of her life source. She was already gone.
Derrex pulled her weakly to his chest and moaned. How could the gods take her?
Xania shuddered. Derrex had lost a wife. She opened her eyes. She screamed and pulled at her hands, they were on the other side of the door. Her arms stopped at the wrist; from there on was only the smooth grain of the wood. How had this happened? Derrex squeezed her fingers on the other side.
“It’s alright. Your hands are over here,” he said.
“But I’m stuck!” she wailed.
Xania pulled at her arms again, panic rising up.
Derrex let go of her hands and she balled them into fists, trying to make them smaller. Derrex opened the door and Xania had to step forward with it. Derrex fluttered his hands around her a moment.
“I can’t touch you!” he said.
“No! Please don’t,” she begged.
They looked at each other. A giggle trickled out of Xania. She hung her head, but the laughter came out in a great roar. Derrex gaped at her a moment. The laughter was contagious though and he was quickly caught up in it.
“We’ll figure something out,” he said through the chuckles.
“That’s good because I’d hate to stay here,” she said.
She stifled her laughter some. Of all the stupid things. There was a war raging. A tree was dying. A king was hunting her. She was budding super powers. And now she was wrist deep in a door. She could learn to control her power. That’s what he said. Maybe melting herself into a door was the first step.
Derrex went to the bathroom and dug around.
“What can I do?” he thought.
He rifled through the cupboards and stared at their contents, hoping for something of an inspiration. He grabbed the liquid soap. Maybe he could lubricate her hands enough to slide them back through the holes. He went to the kitchen and grabbed one of the stools. He returned with his hopeful treasures, glad that Xania had stopped laughing. It really wasn’t funny.
“Here’s something to sit on,” he said.
He put the stool down and helped her sit.
He looked at the soap and added, “This might take a while.”
“So what’s your plan?” she asked.
She gave the soap a dubious glance.
“I’m going pour soap on your hands and maybe you could slide them back out,” he said with a shrug.
He sounded a little dumb once he said it out loud, but he didn’t have any other ideas.
“Will that work?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said.
He went to the other side of the door and squirted the soap over her hands.
“That’s cold,” she gasped.
“Sorry,” he muttered.
He looked at the dripping mess, guessing at the amount and than asked, “Can you wiggle them at all?”
She tried to turn her wrists, but they wouldn’t move.
“No,” she answered.
Derrex cursed. He ran his fingers through his hair, making it stand up in oily tufts.
“What now?” she asked.
“Maybe I could rub it down closer to the wood,” he offered.
“Will I have a vision?” she asked.
Her heart beat faster.
“You might,” he stated.
“Do it, but quickly,” she said.
He rubbed at the copious soap on her hands so that it was down her wrists near the wood.
“Try again,” he said.
He looked at her around the door.
She pulled at her hands again.
“They still aren’t moving,” she reported.
“Should I try magic? I can’t mold wood myself, but I might be able to channel your ability,” he suggested.
“Do you think it will work?” she asked.
Leaning her head against the door, she wiggled her fingers. They were getting cold.
“Not sure. But it’s the only other idea I have,” he said.
“Alright, let’s try it,” she answered.
Derrex took Xania’s hands and rested his forehead against the door.
“What do I do?” she asked.
“You need to try to find the place where your power is. I imagine mine as a bubble that holds my power and spills it when the bubble pops,” he explained.
“How do I find it?” she asked.
The image that came to mind was not pleasant. A large balloon over filled that explodes and coats Derrex with a slime. And that works for him?
“I don’t know you just do,” he said.
“That’s not very helpful,” she snapped.
“I’m sorry, but there’s no way to explain it. Even if I could, it may not be the same for you,” he snapped back.
Xania sighed, wishing she could scratch the itch on her nose.
“I’m not an object shaper, but I am alright at channeling other people’s powers,” he offered.
Alright. That was the key word there. She never liked the key words much.
“What is your magic good at?” she asked.
He was quiet a moment.
“Healing and light tricks,” he answered.
Not molding. Not channeling. Not anything useful or related to what they were doing right now. But hey, he was alright at channeling. A bubble of frustration rose up from her gut. She was tired of things being complicated. All the solutions never quite lined up with what she needed. People never knew what they were doing. And she sure as fuck never did. Why was that? Life was groping in the dark.
She could feel his disappointment in the palms of her hands. It radiated from him in dark waves of heat. She was sorry that his power never became all he wanted it to be. Derrex had once hoped to be a master of the magical arts, but his own power limited him to being nothing more than a dabbler. Xania could feel how he used that anger to spur the magic into frenzy. The energy crawled against her skin. It was like holding a handful of worms. He pushed at it again and it rushed past the barrier of her flesh, rushing inside her like acid. She screamed and tried to pull away.
“Don’t fight me,” he advised.
“It hurts!” she declared.
“Do you want to stay in the door?” he asked.
Xania forced herself to relax and she let the energy flood her. It seemed to fill the even the spaces between her cells. Xania screamed and felt her own power respond. It raged in response to the presence in her flesh. Her energy pushed out from her center in throbbing, soothing waves and flooded out into Derrex; expelling the alien force from her. Her power surged into him and he cried out. She opened her eyes and could see only him. Where had the door gone? When had she closed her eyes?
A screaming child. Mother whispering sweet little hushes. The room was pale blue with a huge window. Long lace curtains billowed into the room, rustling restlessly. Outside was the noise and bustle of the city. Enormous white towers rose up into the sky, casting dark shadows. The streets twisted around the bases of these tall buildings. People stood impatiently, waiting for the side walk bubble to move again. Every fifteen minutes, but not soon enough when you’re already late. Swoosh, the bubble slid away and in a few minutes another stopped where the first had been. The streets where filled with thousands of these bubbles. People stood, paced, or sat while they waited for their bubble to get wherever they were going.
Rising above the streets and the white towers was an even larger and more grand structure. Convoluted marble walls surrounded the immense stone beast, as if it were caged there. Miles of lush gardens stretched between the wall and the structure. Walkways wove between the bushes and trees that thickly filled the gardens. The walkways were old-fashioned stone. No one traveled them despite the flowers that fragrantly spilled out color. The structure itself looked like a huge dragon. Its mighty wings stretched up and out into impossible heights. Its jaw held fierce fangs and spewed forth an elegant fire of red glass. The fire struck the ground and roiled up as if it could burn the slope of the gently rising hill.
Xania pulled back, floating higher up into the sky. The dragon slowly shrunk and then disappeared into the general green. Xania blinked. There was nothing there. Where had she come to? She wanted to go back. It was a beautiful city. She wondered why Derrex had ever left there.
She fell. The ground rushed up at her, the white towers zoomed up past her and she stopped short of slamming into the street. She hovered above the ground a moment before a gust of wind gathered her up and hurried her along the twisting streets. Then she was rushed into one of the towers, into an elevator and up. The elevator dinged and stopped. Out into the hall and to a door. It slid open to reveal a small apartment. There was little here to speak of. A carpet sat in front of a small table by the window. A mostly burned candle and a well thumbed book adorned the table top. The rest of the room was empty and the hard wood floor glared up in a naked sheen.
Xania walked across the room to the doorway. There was a small carpeted room here with nothing in it, but doors leading out. She could hear voices here.
“What’s going on, dad?” Derrex whined.