I have always tried to keep an open mind, and to admit that there are things that I will not be able to understand. Perhaps this is why Aria and I became friends. When she first told me she was a witch, I thought it was strange but I accepted that was what Aria did and it wasn't really much stranger than the Friends meetings I went to on Sundays. I never thought that witchcraft was a real thing, or that it would work. After the open mic night, Aria had told me that there was a place she wanted to show me and that this place would 'blow my mind'. Several days later she was attempting to explain to me what the Ways were, as we walked towards the park.
"Wait, run this by me one more time because this sounds made up," I said following Aria as we walked towards the park.
"I know it sounds weird, but it's all real, I promise," Aria responded slightly annoyed. "Alright, we can go through it again, and pay attention this time," she demanded as we walked towards the grove of trees near the edge of the park. "There is a Library that doesn't really exist anywhere and has every book ever written, and some that haven't been written yet. The only way to get there are these things called Ways, and to let you use this Way I need to, sorta, turn it on."
"Which is why you brought the witch hazel?" I asked, still skeptical.
"Yea that's why I brought the witch hazel," Aria said as she gestured towards a dead tree that looked like it had been struck by lightning, "that is the Way over there." As we neared the tree, a group of black-clad men in body armor appeared from underbrush behind us.
"Shit," Aria said as we ran towards the lightning hollowed tree. Producing witch hazel twigs from one pocket and a Bic lighter from the other, she muttered some incantation and tried to light the twigs as the heavily armed men ran towards us. Tossing the unburnt twigs to the ground, Aria pulled me through the Way.
Going through a Way is like swimming in a river, if you open a Way properly or have a Library card, it is like floating in a inner tube. If you do not open the Way properly, there are many undercurrents, and eddies, which pull at you and drag you under. Not understanding any of this I became trapped in one of these eddies, I could not move on to the Library, I could not swim upstream. I felt a current grab hold of my legs, I fell below the surface of the Way, dragged away from the air, dragged deeper away from everything that existed.
I fell out of the world.
In the nowhere-pace there is nothing to see, at least not with your eyes. The Neverwere which reside there can be felt-not-seen, their descriptions intuitively known. The un-things that inhabit the nowhere place are always hungry, their hungers are the only points of a real something in the nothingness. I could feel the Hungers in the nowhere-place as they haunted the rivers of the Ways. I could feel the Hunger as it found me, as it became, as it began to consume. I floated and stood for a very short eternity as the Hunger soaked through what wasn’t left of me, like a spider the Hunger poisoned, 'I', as the Hunger soaked through the memories of Myself, changing them to gray and consuming them. The Hunger soaked, until the un-thing found something. I felt the un-thing recoil, and then become hungry as I recognized what it had not-touched, there was a flame that did and did-not exist, this flame burned within I, it was the luminescence of Myself. I-not-I remembered it, how I had felt-not-seen this before, and so I held Myself-the-flame, illuminating nothing as the Hunger-thing fled from the light. I listened as Myself-the-flame searched, yearning towards the candle flames outside of the nothing place.
I felt-not-saw my path through the Way-door, as Myself-the-flame emerged from the nothing-place. The Hunger unleashed a silent howl as the scales and poison of the neverwere dropped from Myself-the-flame. Myself-the-flame felt-not-saw a world filled with familiar human lights. Myself-the-flame yearned to hold and to feel the lights, as I remembered the fullness the light had provided when I was on the outside. Myself-the-flame sought this fullness, Myself-the-flame recognized the lights of people as the same as Myself-the-flame. I felt Myself-the-flame struggle for wholeness as an unreal thing in an existing world. I and Myself-the-flame moved towards a light-container, she did not know of Myself-the-flame as her Flame was held by Myself. Tethered to Herself-the-flame, I and Myself-the-flame could see existence through her eyes.
We saw many men, armed and armored, surrounding Ourselves as we examined the Way, now closed, with several others clad in white. "I am possibly getting some electrical readings, but its still pretty close to baseline," said one of the white-men towards Ourselves "is there anything showing up on the gravimeter Jen?"
"I maybe have some below average points, but this thing is so inaccurate it is hard to tell," replied to woman tied to Ourselves-the-flame, placing a reflective cylinder into a case branded with three arrows pointing inward. The soldiers and the white-men conversed as they placed many such cases into large black cars, which sped off in the waning light of the day. The woman named Jen entered into a smaller car by herself. As she drove away from the park, I thought of my situation, not existing as I in the world yet existing as an nonexistent self struggling with these ideas, not comprehending how such events could be possible.
"Ugh," sail Jen, rubbing the bridge of her nose and reaching for the bottle of Tylenol in the glove box. After consuming the cheerfully red pain killers Jen picked up a small black voice recorder and turned in on. "Junior researcher Jen Miller, debriefing for the investigation of a possible Library entrance, designated Fifteen dash double-u dash five. We recorded some fluctuations on the new gravimeter but I believe these will be within the margin of error. This portal appeared to be set in a natural archway, which is consistent-. Ugh, damn it," Jen grabbed the bridge of her nose again, wincing, "sorry boss, I am getting a killer migraine, I'll finish this at the office." Jen switched the recorder off and drove on in silence.
Jen carried Ourselves-the-flame to a place of strange lights, where one opened doors by passing cards and touching glass. Ourselves-the-flame felt-not-saw many flames bound in this place, there were bound flames and free flame, some dimmed by an unknown callus, and other war stained flames moved about the place. A black flame moved freely and the bound and un-bound alike cowered in it's glow. A light, stained and callused moved toward Jen, the container spoke, "Dr. Gears wants you to set up the gravimeter in 239's cell, new tests or something,"
"Oh Kay," replied Jen, "I'll do that and then I'm heading home, I feel like crap."
"Whatever" came the response.
Jen carried Ourselves-the-flame deeper into the place of strange lights. Ourselves-the-flame listened as Jen thought of the being called Two-Three-Nine as Jen carried Ourselves-the-flame towards a strange light. This light was unlike any in this place, not dark nor stained, not illuminated with otherworldly glows, the light was strong and diffuse, like a lighthouse in the fog. Ourselves-the-flame wondered at the light, "who else is there?" spoke the light, "you look funny." I was shocked to hear a voice in my nothing-world, I did not know how to speak in response. Bursting with intention I became translated by Ourselves-the-flame, adding meaning to the thoughts of I, "what… are you? How can you speak to me?"
"My name is Sigurrós, I can talk because they think I am asleep, I'm not really, but don't tell them OK?" spoke the voice of Sigurrós-the-flame, "you look funny, whats your name?"
"Ourself is of light, the names of I were forgotten in the nowhere-place." Ouselves-the-flame could not comprehend what Sigurrós-the-flame spoke as Jen carried us away from the place of strange lights.
As the one called Jen slept, Ourselved-the-flame contemplated ourselves We remembered the apparment where a flame called Aria had first told I of the rivers through the nowhere-place. Ouselves-the-flame listened and burned while I contemplated through the night. When the night concluded its darkening the one called Jen arose.
Aria finished stuffing her bag with the manuscripts and spell books she hoped would be useful in searching for her friend who had fallen through the Way. Aria flinched as the door to her apartment swung open, and she froze in fear when a woman in a lab coat emblazoned with the emblem of the Jailors walked through the door. "Who the fuck are you?" shouted Jen as she grabbed a large kitchen knife from the counter.
"I, I don't" stammered the stranger as a small rivulet of blood seeped from her nose. The stranger stood agape, silent, and fell to the floor. Aria approached the woman cautiously, waiting for a Foundation task force to swoop through the windows. As the silence continued, Aria approached the unconscious woman. "Ouch" Aria exclaimed as the charm on her wrist turned hot, Aria then began to tie the intruder to a sturdy chair and to gather an assortment of herbs and other items.
Jen-the-container awoke as the acrid fragrance of herb smoke passed into its lungs. Ourselves-the-flame listened through the ears of the container as another light spoke.
"I speak to the possessor of this woman, I demand your name" said Aria in a firm voice. The body of Jen lifted its head and spoke.
"Ourself is of light, the names of I were forgotten in the nowhere-place" spoke Jen-the-container. Aria stood, dipping her fingers into a strong-smelling jar of blue paint.
"I cast out the spirit, I cast out the possessor" Aria chanted as she drew symbols in iridescent blue on the bound woman's forehead.
"Ourselves hold no possessions, Ourself is of light, Ourselves are tethered to escape the nowhere place" replied Ourselves-the-flame through Jen-the-container. So its not a spirit thought Aria to herself, noting the lack of reaction of the woman's body to the spell, time for plan B.
Ourselves-the-flame felt not saw a familiar light as it shone a frightened and confused glow. Ourselves-the-flame recognized Aria-the-flame in the memories of I. Glowing with intention Ourselves-the-flame reached to Aria-the-flame. Yet Ourselves-the-flame could not touch Aria-the-flame, blocked by a different glow.
Aria's charm became warm against her wrist, "stop that" she said to the thing tied to the chair, "what are you?" said Aria in genuine confusion.
"Ourselves have known this flame, you are a memory of I" spoke the thing in the chair "you had led Ourselves to the nowhere-place". Aria's breath froze in her chest, she began to realize what it might be in front of her, "Padraic?" she whispered thinking back to when he disappeared into the Way, Aria wanted to throw up.
Ourselves and I heard what Aria-the-flame spoke, a word, a name, one that transcended both Ourselves and I. A new tether became, joining Ourselves and I with a common name. "Padraic" spoke Ourselves and I, "Padraic was our name before the nowhere-place".
"What happened to you?" asked Aria, crying.
"We fell out of the world, I was pulled from existence when ourselves left the nowhere place" replied Jen-the-container, blood beginning to ooze from her ears, "The only one who has seen Ourselves is the girl named Sigurrós"
"Sigurrós?" said Aria no longer crying, "Ive heard that name before" looking at the woman tied to the chair Aria could see fresh blood. "I think you are hurting her" said Aria beginning to draw a new symbol on the woman's forehead, "I am going to put her to sleep and you need to find a way to stop hurting her, I need to go to the Library."
Ourselves-the-flame had not intentioned to harm Jen-the-container, pain is not a consideration of the un-existant. To ease the pain of Jen-the-container Myself-the-flame became separate from Jen-the-flame and Myself and I became to be small.
Aria returned to the apartment several hours later holding a tweed newsboy hat, she rubbed the marks off of Jen's head "hey P, can you hear me?"
Myself-the-flame heard the words of Aria the flame, Myself and I became to be big once more. Speaking through Jen-the-container Myself and Aria-the-flame planned, we spoke of the Jailors and of the one named Sigurrós until Jen-the-container became pained once more.
Jen awoke to the ear-splitting klaxon of her alarm clock "ugh" she groaned and shuffled to the kitchen for coffee and breakfast cereal. Her morning rituals complete Jen got in her car and drove to work, paying no mind to the woman in the plaid newsboy cap in the backseat of her car. Her headache from the previous day had reduced to a dull throb as Jen got another large coffee from the Site Cafeteria. This anomalously average day working at the Foundation ceased when Jen walked into 239's cell to retrieve the gravimeter from the day before.
Myself and I entered the room of Sigurrós carried by Jen-the-container. Myself became big once more within Jen-the-container. "I remember you" spoke Sigurrós-the-flame, "you still look rreeeaaaaally funny. You're a funny head!"
Aria removed the needles from the Witch Child as the little girl slowly woke up. "Hi! My names Sigurrós, whats yours?" said the child.
"My name is Aria, I am a friend" said Aria as she reached into her coat and handed Sigurrós flower surrounded by a strange shimmer.
"Ali!" Said Sigurrós looking around "is she here?"
"Not today kid" Said Aria "but she gave me this because we need your help"
Sigurrós looked quizzically at the other woman who was standing empty eyed in the room. "You want me to fix funny head" she stated.
"Yes" replied Aria solemnly, and blinking in the sunlight of a wildflower meadow "oh, wow" she said.
"I thought it would be easier here" said Sigurrós "its also so prreeettyy!" she said twirling through the flowers.
"Can… can you bring him back?" asked Aria nervously. To which Sigurrós replied with an exaggerated child shrug.
"I dunno" said the child "I used the flower the last time, ile try my best"
Myself-the-flame recoiled as Sigurrós-the-flame urged for Myself to enter the Nowhere-place again. We passaged through the way-door, once again falling from the river of the nowhere place. I and Myself stayed there in nothingness. Through the Way-door Myself saw the diffuse light of Sigurrós-the-flame as it wove and unwound, making and unmaking, Sigurrós-the-flame moved toward Myself. I heard through Myself a song, the Song entered the nowhere-place as it spun and wove and moved like water in reverberation with Myself and I. I remembered singing, how it had filled I and Myself, and so I sang and Myself sang as we wove and spun and sewed towards Sigurrós-the-beacon, towards the Way-door, singing towards existance
I walked into the world.