(Read Pt. 1 here!)
It was bright. Not like the blinding light of the sun peeking through the window in the morning and waking you up. It was just super colorful. Like I had stepped into a kindergarten classroom that the kids had barfed paint all over. There wasn’t any white or black to be seen.
I found myself in what seemed to be a giant hallway. Both my right and left extended out endlessly, though I couldn’t see very far. A hazy blue fog obscured my view so I couldn’t see past a few hundred feet. The hallway was both wide and tall. Several dozen feet in both directions. On both walls there was an innumerable amount of doors. They were only separated by about a foot or so. And some of the doors were several feet off the ground. The hallway was slightly rounded off the edges, and there were absolutely no features to identify beyond the various door handles, which were all unique in their own right. No stairs, no tables, no benches. Just a huge hallway with a bunch of doorways and no end in sight.
After a few moments, I also noticed the sound of music. It seemed to be a sole piano, and though it was distant, but unmistakable. In fact it was the only thing I could hear. My footsteps made no sound whatsoever. I even tested it by stomping. I tried snapping, and then shouting. Nothing. I almost tried clapping when I realized I still held the red Sharpie in my left hand.
“What in the world?” I said. Well, at least I tried to say it. I felt my mouth move, but still the only noise was the piano playing so far away, and yet somehow so near.
I turned back to the door I had come from, still ajar. Like a window back to the bland world of normalcy. No amazing colors. Just Lisa’s small, lame apartment.
Movement caught my eye, and I hurriedly focused on it as I backed to safety.
Tiny little creatures walked out of some of the doorways, passing through them rather than opening them. They were about as high as my knee I guessed, with heads bigger than their torsos and arms and legs the size of baby carrots. Their shape and color varied somewhat, but they all seemed to be some sort of translucent pastel. They had only the barest modicum of a face—only two eye sockets and a hole where the mouth should be. They looked like colored sheet ghosts, really, only humanoid shaped rather than formless. And their heads gave me a vague impression of lumpy bowling balls. To my surprise, I found the little things adorable.
Whatever they were, they were all marching (though they didn’t have knees) in the same direction. They made no sound as they all massed to the right. I watched as one colored a sky blue tripped and faceplanted onto the painted floor. His tiny little limbs noodled around, but he couldn’t seem to pick himself up.
They were moving like a giant, or tiny, rather, herd of… mice? I don’t know. There must be tiny animals that travel in herds. Lemmings! It was like a tiny herd of lemmings, but even so I found my way across to the one that had fallen over. Gently, I grabbed his head and pulled him onto his feet. It felt cold and sort of squishy, but he was practically weightless. I got the distinct impression that he was male, even if none of the creatures seemed to have any sort of gender. Thus saved, the little thing glanced up at me, cocking his head.
But then, both of us seemed to notice the music once again, and he joined the other little ghosts as he walked alongside the rest of the lemming herd.
I followed the crowd with tentative steps. They didn’t move fast—consequence of their carrot legs—so I could have turned around at any time. With how much bigger I was (wow, I don’t think I’ve ever said that in my life), running in the opposite direction and bulldozing over them probably would have been easy. If it came to that.
These little guys seemed entranced. By the music, probably. Though it was still quiet, it seemed somewhat clearer in my mind. If it was magic—a notion I found myself more and more willing to accept—it didn’t work on me. I was just a curious bystander wondering where these little guys were going.
As we walked through the endless shades of reds and yellows and blues, the crowd of little guys got thicker. They all bunched up around one specific door, trying to get past one another without having the dignity, intelligence, or supervision to make an orderly line.
By now the hallway was absolutely filled with them, and walking was getting difficult. Of course, the ones closest to the door never opened it. They weren’t even tall enough to reach the handle. Instead, they just passed through like it wasn’t even there. It was eerie seeing so many little things moving around and yet not hearing anything except for the music.
The piano was still quiet, which seemed weird. I must have walked a quarter mile or more. If anything, the music sounded grainy, like it was coming from one of those old record players with the brass horn on it.
I carefully stepped in between the squishy little ghosts and approached the door. The handle to this one was pretty ostentatious—one of those twisty carved bar handles to mansions. It didn’t seem to have a hinge, or whatever you call those mechanisms that keep the door closed. So once I got close enough, I grabbed the handle and pulled.
A rush of hot air blew into the hallway as the door opened. The floor on the other side was dark, natural stone. With the little ghosts bunched up both ahead of and behind me, I stepped outside into the noonday sun.
I could feel the heat through my shoes as I stepped onto the rock and gazed out into the open air. I heard some sort of… bubbling, in addition to the piano now, which was definitely an old recording rather than a live performance.
The little things were waddling off and, to my horror, plummeting out of sight as they stepped off a cliff ahead of me. They really were lemmings!
I scrambled after them, but stopped short as the light and heat of the enormous pool of lava blasted into my face. I had to recoil at the intensity of it. A phonograph sat on a nearby outcropping at the edge of the cliff (and I felt a wave of satisfaction having remembered what it was called). I didn’t know the composer, but the piano was fast paced, almost comical in a sense. Like the music to a silent film that was sped up. The way it was angled, the little guys were walking straight out of the door—which, I realized now, was carved directly into the rock—and headed straight for the source of the music, only to fall into the pit below.
I crept on my hands and knees to the edge once more, and exhaled a breath of relief when I saw that there was a huge iron cage installed below the cliff that was catching them. They weren’t falling to their deaths, at least. But there had to have been hundreds of ghost-things already, trapped like the fish in the net at the end of Finding Nemo.
“Well, well, well!” a voice boomed from ahead of me, across the lake. I glanced up to see a well-dressed man standing on a column of rock that jutted out from the cliff. His coat wasn’t quite modern, and the staff he held looked like he had taken it right out of a video game. “If it isn’t the always punctual Lisa Stenton! We meet again, for the first time—for the last time!” He spoke that last bit with an air of ruthless defiance, his free hand clenched as he shook it towards me.
“First my cat ruins my house, then this skull-face guy breaks in through my closet looking for my mom, and now this evil super villain guy killing ghost things knows me by name,” I muttered under my breath as I stood. “Sure, Lisa. You’re not insane. You’re just having a rough day. No biggie.” I looked back to the river of little guys flowing into the cage. “What in the world is going on? Who are you?” I yelled to him.
“My name is Wesley Blankenship, wizard extraordinaire and a chronomancer of unique talent, thanks to you. You and I are both doubtless here for the same reason: revenge! As for me, you and your little leech friend have ruined my plans one too many times, so I’m going to destroy it before you two get the chance to meet! Not to mention that you’re the one that got me into this mess! I’m ruining your future so you won’t be there to ruin my past!”
I frowned. My little friend? Ruining his past? What was he talking about?
Whatever his plans were, I had to stop him. Those little guys were obviously creatures of some sort, and were defenseless.
Somehow I had to stop that music.
I started pacing towards it (if running near a swimming pool was dangerous, I could only imagine how dangerous it was with lava pools), and he started laughing. He held his staff up and angled it carefully, and the light of the sun reflecting off his staff shot right into my eyes.
Flinching, I threw my arms up, blocking the intense beam. He was laughing even harder now. A chilling and menacing, but undoubtedly practiced, laugh.
Something hard struck me on the back of my head, and I staggered forward, reeling in pain. I eased my eyes open. The guy on the rock wasn’t there anymore.
I turned around to see him standing right behind me, swinging the staff upwards in another attack.
It caught me right in the stomach, groaning as I doubled over. I could have stayed in bed today, I thought. Getting beat up on the top of a volcano was definitely not on the agenda.
Mercifully, he stopped. I looked up to see him slack jawed, staring at me in… terror? But no, he wasn’t looking at me.
He was looking at the red Sharpie that I somehow still had on my person.
“You already have it?” he said, shocked. “Impossible. You aren’t supposed to be Wizened yet!”
Head and stomach throbbing, I got to my knees and held it up at him as if it was some sort of weapon. If he was scared of it, maybe I could beat him. Or get out of here, in the very least. After a second thought, I pulled the cap off and stuck it on the back end. “Get back or… or I’ll…” I’ll what?
He furrowed his brow. “You… don’t know how to use it?”
Uh oh. He was on to me. I took a quick breath and lunged at him, swiping the Sharpie downwards. I slashed down and got the sleeve of his coat pretty good.
Wesley smiled and started laughing again. “You don’t know how to use it! Wonderful! I’ll destroy you and take the artifact! Besides, my cursive is much better than your pathetic scribbling. With the pen in my hand, no one will be able to stop me!”
Cursive. I had written on my notepad, but it hadn’t done anything. It had to be cursive?
He swung at me again, but I ducked out of the way and ran in the opposite direction. My head pulsed again with a throb of pain, and I tripped over the uneven rock.
My knee skidded against the ground, and I winced in pain. He was coming. I didn’t have time to get back up.
Panicked, I wrote ‘gun’ in cursive on the rock.
I watched as the word began to glow and actually lift off the ground. The letters wrapped around themselves and… turned into a pistol, a solid red color, the same color as the ink from the Sharpie.
With one swift motion, I scooped it up and swung around, aiming it at him as he made to strike at me again with his staff. He stopped short instantly.
“Whoa,” he said. “Let’s not get hasty here.”
I didn’t want to kill this guy. I didn’t know if I could. He seemed bad, but I really had no grasp on what was really going on here. If I had to… go to court or something for this later, could I call this self defense?
I pointed at his foot and pulled the trigger.
The blood drained from my face. I had a gun, but I didn’t have bullets. I was still powerless.
He smirked and swung downwards.
I rolled to the side, dodging out of the way. Rushing to my feet I threw the gun at his head.
It didn’t hit him in the forehead like I had been hoping, but he did grunt in pain when it smacked his nose.
I bolted for the phonograph. That ridiculous piano was still playing, and the ghosts were still falling into the cage. It was super packed now.
I looked back to the phonograph, and the wizard guy was now standing in the way.
The momentum carried me right into another vicious swing of his pointy staff. I could feel the blood on my cheek before I even hit the ground.
“How… did you…” I muttered.
“Chronomancy,” he said. “Your future self had the audacity to sever my temporal connection to the world. A small blessing in some ways, but it’s a infuriating when you go into a Starbucks only to find that the drink you hadn’t ordered yet is already ready and cold. You can’t imagine the horrible things I’ve had to suffer through because of this curse. Because of you!”
Hurriedly, I wrote ‘sword’ on the ground with the Sharpie.
As he approached, I swung upwards with the solid red blade as hard as I could.
Metal slammed against metal as I sliced right through his staff. The force of the blow thrust the two pieces from his grasp, and it toppled over the cliff into the lava below.
He staggered backwards, anger and fear painted on his face.
Getting to my feet took some effort and no small amount of pain. I hurt all over, but he didn’t seem eager to fight anymore. The sword was a lot heavier than I expected, but now he was the one who was unarmed.
Short of breath, I walked over to the phonograph and heaved it off the cliff. The music stopped almost immediately. I didn’t even hear it hit impact the lake over the sound of the bubbling. I watched as the spirits all stopped walking in a little trance. They all seemed to regain a sense of themselves.
“No!” he shouted, looking back and forth between the ghosts and me. “No, no, no! You’ve ruined everything!”
“You’re the one who attacked me! And those little guys, too!”
“You started this,” he seethed. “And I’ll be damned if I let you be the one to end it.”
I had nowhere to run. On all sides of me was more lava.
Throwing the sword away, I dropped as low to the ground as I could right as he lunged for me.
A rush of air whizzed over me, and it was followed by a loud slam against the rock along with a cry of panic.
I peeked around to see him barely holding on to the rock by his forearms.
“You give up yet?” I said, trying to sound confident. It came out as a request.
“I may have seen the last of you, Lisa Stenton,” he said. “But you have most certainly not seen the last of me! I will be your end, even if it’s the first thing I do!”
And with that, he let go of the rock. My breath caught. One moment he was there. The next, he wasn’t.
I didn’t have the courage to look over to see if he… made it. I didn’t want to have to live with what I expected to see.
But it seemed it was over. Whatever it was.
This wasn’t how Harry Potter was introduced to the supernatural. I wondered if I was supposed to have some guide. Some sort of Hagrid that would teach me about wizards and goblins and vampires or whatever. Instead, I was just a girl that had found herself, by circumstance alone, fighting a wannabe villain based on some weird personal vendetta against her. My mom owed me some sort of explanation for my near death today.
I turned back to see the little ghosts starting to file back into the doorway through which we had all come. ‘The Passway’, I supposed.
“L…Lisa?” I heard another voice say. It was high pitched and distinctly not human.
I looked down to see one of the little ghosts looking up at me. He was sky blue just like… like the one I had helped up after he had tripped.
“You can talk?” I asked.
“A… little,” he replied. His voice went up and down. His voice was like a wind chime trying to speak English.
“Well, we should probably go home. I’ve got to clean still. And maybe go to a hospital. We’ll see.”
“Home,” he hummed. “With you?”
“That’s not what I meant. Haven’t you got a home?”
He hummed, but made no reply.
“I suppose you can stay with me a while,” I said. “I have to admit I am a little curious as to what you are.” That gave me an idea. “Maybe you can be my guide!”
“Guide…” he said. “Home?”
“Well, I’ll take you home. Then you tell me what you know. Deal?”
Having almost forgotten about the spirits in the cage, I really had to scratch my head as to how I would get them out. Eventually, I remembered my Sharpie, and wrote ‘ladder’. It worked perfectly, and though I was worried I’d have to make several hundred trips scooping them out, they actually managed to hop onto the rungs themselves and climb their way out. It took probably an hour for them to clear out, but I didn’t mind. None of my cuts were bad, and though I’d look atrocious tomorrow, I was pretty sure I only needed some good rest.
I realized later that finding my way back could have been a nightmare. All of the doors in the colorful Passway looked the same, except for the handles. In fact, I might never have found my way back home, had I not left the door to my closet wide open. Whoops.
Luckily, Whimsy was still locked in my bathroom. And after thorough inspection of the rest of my house, I concluded that nothing spooky, supernatural, or magical had found their way into my apartment via my closet. I really should invest in a lock of some sort, but for now, I settled for pushing all the boxes against the door to deter any would-be intruders.
Plus, I kept the red Sharpie on my nightstand. Just in case I needed a sword at a moment’s notice.