The story so far:
I can hear the wind blowing just behind me and it feels strange to know that it will not touch me. I keep walking. It seems odd that I do not have a goal, that I have no idea where I could be headed.
Edgar used to tell me about the Other, he would tell me the legends. He had a book of illustrations and stories that he used to read to me.
“You could be headed in two directions at once, Keiko,” he had said to me not long before he had disappeared. “This book, it is a journal. A century ago, they found it sitting just inside the Other as if left there to be found. The people who published it went missing days after its release. They went into the Other, Keiko, because it was so much better than our lands of labour and of constancy. The Realm Council controls all of us, out there nobody reigns. Everyone is free. It would make sense if people were not so scared of the ambiguity. People would live there; there would be no need to separate families,” then he had become very quiet. I remember I had said that there was no need to separate families here either, and then he had given me a big hug and he had held on for a long time. I was ten.
Now, at eighteen, I can see why he had said those things. He had been checking. He was checking if he could take me with him when he went. I was too ignorant, too fragile to go through with that. I would have gone with him, but I would not have been ready; I would have been torn between my big brother and the rest of my family. Now, I am ready. I love my family and I know they love me and they will know why I chose this.
The terrain here, which had been so bumpy at first, begins to soften. Suddenly, I realize I am on a mountain. At the top of a mountain. As mountains go, it is not terribly tall but it is the tallest of the few mountains in the area, I see. I can see all around me from here. There are two wide dirt trails that cross each down below, surrounded by bright green grass. It an attractive sight, however simple.
The soft ground underfoot gives rest to my tired feet yet the moss swallows them up with each step, giving my legs quite a workout as I continue to pull them up and out of the ground. I slip a few times on my way down the slippery moss, once hitting my back on a thick green rock. It hurts, but in an empowering sort of way. The dull throbbing is a souvenir of my troublesome trek down the mountain.
Now on flat ground, I can see there is a tall wooden sign in the centre of the intersecting paths. I jog over, my calves protesting weakly. There is a wooden post pointing in each of the four directions the paths lead. One says Welcome, one Greetings, another Salutations and the last says Keep Off the Grass.
Under Keep off the Grass, there is a picture of a stick man and under Greetings the letters E and L. My heart picks up as I recognise the initials of my brother, Edgar Lynn. I try to slow my pulse, because the letters could mean anything. Even so, I find myself taking the path of Greetings, just to be safe. The path is brown and smooth, as if it had been walked on very seldom.
The sky is very open and I can only feel joyous hope. As nothing of consequence has happened yet, I am looking forward to… everything. Knowing I am in for a surprise makes me walk fast, and I can imagine the look in my eye is more frightening than my goofy smile.
I run, suddenly more restless than ever before. I watch the ground as I run, wary of the ever-changing terrain. There are tiny rocks littering the ground and white dust covers my boots as I sprint over them. I almost run past a building as I run. It is much like my family’s farm; only I imagine this is what it looked like when it was new.
Hardly stopping to catch my breath, I march over to the front door. Just as I am about to knock, I feel suddenly self-conscious. I do not know what sort of person, if any at all, would open the door and I do not know if they would like me. It is so rare that I encounter strangers that I feel suddenly, overwhelmingly unsure. Shakily, I raise my fist to the door and tap my knuckles on the door twice, quickly.
After a moment, a voice calls out. “Come in!” The voice is that of a woman.
Hesitantly, I open the door. “Um, I’m sorry, you don’t know me,” I say, assuming she had expected a friend, “I only wished to speak with you. You see –”
“That’s fine,” she interrupts me, her accent is odd. I have met some people with accents different from mine before, but never any like this. “Come right on in, neighbour.”
She is very friendly, so I slip inside and shut the door loudly behind me, even though I am not her neighbour. “Should I take my boots off?” I call out to wherever she is.
“Uh huh, please do.” I hear her say. I do not know what uh huh means. When my boots are off, I walk quietly into the house, not wanting to come off too forward. I see her as I walk farther inside, through an open doorway. She is in a room with windows everywhere and she is sitting in front of a tall table on a very tall chair. She looks to be around thirty years old and has lighter brown hair than I do. She has some freckles and wide, light blue eyes. She looks taller than I do, though that could be the chair.
“Hi there, come in. Sit down,” she says softly now, not looking away from what she holds in her hand. “I’m sorry I didn’t greet you at the door, but I’m in the middle of a craft, you see.” She makes I am sound like one word.
“That is alright,” I say, “I am not familiar with the etiquette here, but you have been very gracious. Thank you.”
She smiles. “Uh huh.”
I settle into a tall chair opposite her. “Miss, how do I acquire a house?”
She laughs and looks up at me, finally. “There aren’t any rules, miss. You just find one. You can’t have a house, you just use one. See, I knew you were new when you knocked. Most just come in and holler for other people, some don’t even bother announcing themselves.”
“I am sorry, Miss. Would you mind it terribly if I stayed here tonight?” I ask with trepidation.
“Sweetie,” she says softly, “don’t worry about it. I’d say yes anyway, but I actually like you. Stay here t’night, stay here as long as you like,” then, “I’d like a tea, would you like some?”
I nod, “Yes please, thank you Miss.”
She shakes her head. “Call me Tess,” and she walks away through a door I had not noticed was there. Then she calls out from the other room, “Your remind me of someone. Do you have a brother?”