She opened her eyes, exhaustion weighing on her fluttering heart. Time was relative. She had no idea how long it had been since before, but knew these journeys were transformative both physically and cosmically. Waiting to land in another world always spiked her adrenaline in the black unknown. This time was different, though. Running from a force intent on capturing her had taken its toll. She remembered flying, erratic and desperate to escape the light being. A space, spanning the lengths of the universe, yet full of nothing, beckoned her. Stars danced, dizzying and all-consuming. Then, a voice spoke.
I am the one that took you, and the rest, out of your homeworld. I wish there were more reasons behind my acting that I could explain to appease you, but that’s not the case. I was desperate. I shall start from the beginning so you can at least maybe understand.
When I pulled you out, it was not the first time you traveled. It wasn’t the first time for any of you. Every time you go to sleep, a piece of your mind leaves your body. Everything you have ever dreamed of was real for someone else. The nicest dream you had, the most utterly terrifying nightmare is just other worlds your mind was attracted to. What I did was merely bring your body with it to serve a purpose. That’s also why your memory was fragmented at the start, because of all the unusual heavyweight.
But the reason I did all this was that I needed help. The beings that chased you here, they’re threatening to end it all. They may not realize it, but they’re leading everything into extinction. You see, trillions of years ago, their civilization was going to disappear rather sooner than later, so they retreated into themselves, learned to control the journeys their minds went in to escape their reality. We achieved what we set ourselves to do, but we never stopped. At some point, I realized we were changing. Deep inside ourselves, we were different. Our minds were lost in the infinite universes with nothing to come back to, and so, we recessed into something that we never meant to become. I retreated here, into this limbo detached from any world, to remain forever. Alone, but sane. Now, my people are unrecognizable. If they still think, it’s in a way that nobody else can understand, and their behavior is simply erratic. There is no helping them anymore.
They feed off the places they inhabit through the objects you’ve been finding. I wanted to do something before, but if I ever go out, my mind could simply never return. Using you was the only way to stop this, and even then, communicating has been hard. They’re far too sensitive to the ways of the universe now and able to feel any alteration in it. Even when you travel. Even right now that I brought you here. Now that you know this, you have to focus. You have to find the world they once belonged to and bring me the object so that I may destroy it, and them, once and for all. What I have placed on your shoulders might be a burden, but I fear it’s a necessary one.
Nothing more and nothing less needed to be spoken. She nodded firmly before entering the magic embrace of another world.
She tumbled, her hair caught in the grassy knoll in the forest. There, she saw her familiars. Jo and the witch of Haresden, Orla, repaired a cairn to appease Mamo’s restless spirit. The woman wrote in her journal. Documenting her travels for the Higher Being now equated to saving her world from ruin.
Emilia’s Journal: The world is so much bigger than anyone could ever fathom. I’m grateful to again visit Orla and Jo’s universe, where magic seeps from the whispering leaves of the forest to roots buried in hardened soil. Orla and Jo build the cairn, and Jo asks Orla to teach her magic. Jo wants to wield this power. She is drawn to magic and the secrets it contains, and now, I feel a similar pull. If magic settles in the right hands, it can change the world.
Much to Jo’s surprise, she realized Orla had already shared a magic conduit. The necklace hanging around Jo’s neck — once a gift from Mamo to Orla — was a gift from Orla to Jo. A pedant yields power. A pendant funnels power from its users: the power to share, to give, and to accept the responsibility of this power.
Emilia’s Journal: I am transported as Orla and Jo bike around town. My own body feels untethered from time and reality at this point. It’s becoming harder to discern reality from a dream, and I feel as if I am merely a soul floating at this point. I have to find an object to return to the Higher Being. In a land with magic literally altering the town itself, I’m sure the object will turn up when I least expect it.
She searched heartily, the traveler once confined to isolation, then shivering with enlightenment. Orla and Jo collected nettles under the simmering sunlight to ward off bad magic. They collect enough, gently uprooting their stalks and weaving them into a protection ward. Together, the two casted magic upon a group of sheep standing in a concentric pattern around one of Mamo’s buried bones.
Emilia’s Journal: Jo performed magic! Magic can be utilized, learned by the power of willfulness and collaboration. The creepy sheep crop circle dispersed and revealed another eerie bone. I hurried to keep up with them as they headed to this forest where black birds circle the sky unendingly. Hopefully, they can find the answers to why Mamo’s bones are misplaced, strewn throughout Haresden.
A black crow, obsidian wings reflecting the light, spoke to the young women. Jo had saved Caractus before, and she was calling in a returned favor.
Emilia’s Journal: I don’t know why a talking bird surprises me after all I’ve seen now, but the gravelly timbre to his voice makes me uneasy. He looks like a shadow. A streaked ink stain painted on a canvas. Caractus wears a lengthened black hat upon his bird head that appears to mesh into his body. Finally, Jo and Orla find answers to their burning questions from this corvid. Before her death, Mamo asked the corvids, the magical birds, to scatter her bones in all corners of Haresden. Oh god…she let the bird eat her body for…power? Power seems dangerous in the wings of these creatures. Talk of death and bones upsets my stomach still, but my intrigue has overtaken my fear of death these days. “Power given freely is power doubled.” The mantra repeats itself again in this universe. It holds nuanced implications about the cycle of life and death itself.
Bound by the bargain, Caractus explains how his deal with Mamo came with no additional inquiries. They simply accepted the exchange of services and unleashed Mamo’s chaos into Haresden. Without understanding, Orla and Jo charted the buried bones once again on their map. A pattern emerged on the piece of paper.
Emilia’s Journal: They’ve buried nearly all the bones at gravesites except one. Looking at their map, they realize they’ve fallen into a trap! This devil bird and the untamed magic duped the two women. A faery ring pattern has surfaced on the map. I remember faery rings meaning curses from before…they’re in trouble now.
Next to her, the woman found a black shape no bigger than her fingernail pushing through the earth. She dug up the soil to find a ceramic figurine in the shape, carved in the shape of a black bird. From the figure, blackness swirled until it overwhelmed her body and stole her back into the void.
From the depths of that empty space outside of everyone’s reach, Aimée now appeared on a beach. They remembered it well. It was the first time they met with Emilia. Wexler, the threatening robot, was there. Pacing, waiting for something to come out of the water. It dawned on them he was waiting for Eve, who, the last time they saw her, had dived into the water to look for the vault that could save humanity.
A threatening sound came from underneath the sea, like the world itself was roaring. A giant monster made of metal thrust out to the beach. In a rapid series of events, Wexler threw a blow against the robot, but it was a useless attempt, as it made no real damage, and the machine suddenly returned the favor with a missile. Everything happened so fast that Aimée’s head took time to process the sound of the chaotic scene. When they finally reacted, they hid behind some debris to write what they just witnessed.
Aimée’s journal: The missile did not explode or anything. It…grew trees in the collision area, they trapped Wexler. The mecha is not attacking either. They’re…talking! It’s Eve! And that’s the vault, I’m guessing. She’s telling him to do better while she’s away, trying to save the world. She will go for a long time, planting the seeds all around the continent. But she will come back.
The vault then started walking in the opposite direction across the beach, shooting the seeds from its mechanic tail, automatically planting them into the ground. Trees grew large in a manner of moments, as the gigantic silhouette became little until it disappeared in the distance.
Aimée’s journal: How does Eve manage to maintain so much hope? She not only firmly believes she’ll be back, but she will also save the whole world, preserve humanity. It’s admiring. I wish I could do the same. What I find hard to understand, though, is Wexler. Does she really expect him to be better? I mean, he clearly has a deep care for all the Eves, but…I don’t know, how can that work out? Talking about that, I should check on him.
Aimée returned to the wooden chains where the robot was trapped. Somehow, walking on that beach, they noticed how the sensation of the world had already changed. It wasn’t just a devastated and ruined world, but a devastated and ruined world with a future brighter than its present. However, when they reached the place, Wexler’s absence surprised them. He had already escaped, which worried Aimée, considering his previous homicidal tendencies regarding any humans apart from Eve.
It felt like he could be right behind her, with his claws prepared to rip them apart. But despite that, they kept looking and were able to hear sounds coming from the house at the shore. Some growling mixed some steps. They got dangerously close to the window in order to check what was going on and found the killer robot with an unexpected prisoner inside: Eve. The older Eve who turned into one of the monsters. She was tied to the wall, with the eyes blank and an inexpressive face.
Aimée’s journal: I thought he killed her after she turned! He’s saying something…He’s gonna keep her alive and try to cure her somehow. Even he hopes for things to be better, no matter how bleak they seem. I guess…maybe I should allow myself to do that for once.
They held their journal against their chest, a bit afraid, a bit braver. They realized now what they needed to change. Then, the time would come to put that into practice.
Aimée’s journal: Night is just about to come, and I’m gonna go to sleep. Until next time.
World matrices and a labyrinth of unexplored realities merged. Dark spirits transported the woman in their palms, passing her along until quantum dimensions synthesized. The bodiless forces quavered momentarily, reticent. Nevertheless, she somersaulted into a universe where spirits crawled from the galaxy’s outer reaches onto quiet grasslands. But something changed. She was sent here before, she recognized, hiding in an attic behind wooden boxes and a long-forgotten childhood basketball. Reality-jumping came full circle, like a snake consuming its tail.
Emilia: Orla. Jo. It’s them again…
Already, her fingers meshed with the quantum-strained pages of her leatherbound journal. The witch, Orla, and the girl with the sick mother, Jo, climbed down the creaking attic stairs before the woman could slither out to follow them.
Emilia’s Journal: Somehow, I am back. Fate has returned me, and I watched Jo and Orla capture Mamo’s insidious, viscous-appearing spirit inside a taut coin sack. No time has passed here since I left them. How is it possible? Is magic key to returning home? Do I want to return home? At least I landed inside Jo’s house this time. I entered a cabinet, the slats providing me enough light to watch them from afar. But I am finding darkness and isolation…not as comforting as I used to.
As Orla sewed luminous threads of magic into the sack containing her grandmother’s restless spirit, the woman wrote everything. Their existence was the antithesis to the woman’s own secluded life. Orla prepared an altar at the hearth and set it aflame. A coal-colored spirit resembling a lizard extracted a bone, Mamo’s bone, from beneath the hearth’s ashes.
Emilia’s Journal: Orla and Jo are leaving the house now, so I’m writing as quickly as I can. Orla, with her magic and knowledge, released the hearth spirit building a nest out of Mamo’s bones. The bone, no smaller than the length of my Orla’s finger, was radiating untapped power. Jo’s mom should get better from her sickness now that the girls extricated the bone. Mamo didn’t receive a burial after death, Jo explained. Instead, her energy was redistributed…and they need to locate Mamo’s bones to conduct a proper burial. Death…I am so familiar with death. I can’t help but hold out hope that maybe…maybe Mamo isn’t dead?
Orla and Jo traversed the sweeping countryside, burying the bone at Haresden’s border. The woman trailed them, emotions rolling through her like the ebb and flow of the hills surrounding them. She noted a tangible connection growing between Jo and Orla. For the first time, after watching Orla describe how the anchoring talisman Jo wore on her neck was a protective witch power source, a longing for human gnaws at the woman’s broken heart.
Emilia’s Journal: Mamo’s unburied bones have been scattered across countryside gravesites. Jo doesn’t hesitate when Orla announces the necessity of visiting each gravesite and fixing the berserk magic plaguing Haresden. Although they barely know one another, and Orla remains somewhat closed off, they have a deep-rooted understanding. The symbiotic borders of Haresden need to be maintained. Jo will do anything to quiet the restless fae and swelling waves threatening her town, even without magical abilities. I remember that desire…a burning flame of loyalty toward my father throughout our limited time together. Orla and Jo… are showing me that death does not have to be an endpoint. Through death, an ember can spark, leading to new relationships. Have I been wrong to close myself off from the outside — from everyone — my entire life?
She followed them, listening to conversations multiplying her grief while Orla dined with Jo’s inviting family. She followed them as they mapped their journey on paper, identifying a pattern in Haresden’s borders coinciding with Mamo’s power as a hedge witch. Talk of patterns was paramount. A spell was required to reinstate the deceased witch’s power. If only spells could restore the woman’s life so easily, she yearned.
They traveled to Haresden’s docks, where a humble fisherman and an old fishwife pointed them toward vexed fae in the rockpools. Diminutive rock trolls ambushed Orla and Jo on their escapade. Mankind intervened in magical beings’ natural order, and Mamo’s death meant an inability to protect the finite balance between structure and chaos.
Emilia’s Journal: I’m exhausted. After a few days here, I’m beginning to wonder if I will have to leave. Haresden is beautiful, and Orla is bringing peace back to the unsettled land. When Jo speaks about her love toward Haresden, I want to experience that same joy and commitment somewhere. I don’t love the solitary existence I meticulously created for myself back home…I want a home again. Traveling is new after years locked inside a self-made prison, yet it also brings me a feeling of…catharsis? Orla and Jo rebuild the cairn townsfolk had destroyed to widen the road. They appease the trolls, but Orla’s demeanor is downcast. She explains how magic is a resource meant to be harnessed, and how constant traveling brought her a similar sensation of magic. Magic holds potential, but corkscrews and flourishes in different places for each person who wields it. Orla left Mamo because she could not thrive with her grandmother. My father left me through death, and I could not thrive without him. Could Mamo and I be harboring similar resentments?
Ruminations on life, family, death, and magic spilled into her mind like a gurgling water pitcher until the dark maelstrom seeps inside. Her thoughts cracked into a million shards as magic whisked her away to another world.
Francesca was suddenly awoken once more. When did she fall asleep? Was she knocked unconscious? If she had a body she could readily discern, it would be aching. She felt pangs of discomfort and soreness, despite not really being in a corporeal form. What was going on?
She looked at the screen again to see Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, and Big E once more. The pain she was feeling seemed irrelevant when she saw these three men before her. The trio was in Triple H’s office after their successful first outing as a tag team. They were introduced to awkward dudes who seemed to be doing the same song and dance she had seen earlier with Kofi, trying on different gimmicks and corresponding costumes, only to feel like none of them felt right. Francesca started to feel a deep sense of sadness, “Why am I so attached to these people? Why do they feel so familiar?”
Big E, Kofi, and Xavier finally settled on an evangelist gimmick that they didn’t entirely love but were asked to stick with at the behest of Xavier Woods. They agreed they love the name The New Day but felt like the preacher angle is mildly offensive at best. Francesca looked on with anxiety, “I know this is incorrect, but I can’t figure out why exactly I know this. Why does this feel so wrong and still so…gah, why does everything HURT?” She muttered to herself.
As Francesca continued to watch these men struggle to find their place amongst their WWE peers, the men finally seemed to come to some kind of impasse. They separated, only for Xavier Woods to hope that once their break was over, they’d all come back as the New Day to fight in the ring again. Francesca’s anxiety built as she witnessed each member go back to their respective homes and lives outside wrestling. They discussed with their loved ones how they couldn’t seem to find the right footing yet, and whether or not they should bother continuing on their current trajectory. She was suddenly drawn closer to the screen as she saw Xavier Woods gently caressing his locker as he cooed: “The time isn’t right. Not yet, old friend. We have to wait” Francesca could hear this echoing in her mind and started to feel dizzy. Was this a déjà vu?
After several disappointing losses left both the New Day and Francesca feeling pretty deflated, Xavier Woods, like the lovable rapscallion he is, decided the best course of action to get their star on the rise was to simply…be themselves.
As the New Day was asked to use their power of positivity to boast about potatoes in the great state of Idaho, they did exactly what WWE creative generally didn’t want from their performers; they improvised. Francesca cringed the entire promo as they haphazardly tried to talk up the special spud but started to feel a rush of prideful adrenaline when the improvisation began. Xavier, Kofi, and Big E started bad-mouthing the potatoes given to them for the spot. This pivotal moment was where the future of the New Day really became clear.
Francesca watched as the light in Xavier Woods’ eyes glimmered. He showed Kofi and Big E the internet’s reactions: they were being talked about. ”Hey, any heat is better than none, right?” She thought. The New Day then found themselves in a feud with The Shield over the differing opinions regarding their formerly slighted tuber. The Shield had challenged them to a pancake fight in Philadelphia. She felt the infectious energy of the men’s excitement built on this absolutely ridiculous angle.
The three men were lost in thought, stunned by the chance they had always wanted but unable to process how overwhelming that opportunity was. They are then pulled back by a young girl who notes she is a fan of theirs and wants a selfie with them. The New Day knew at that moment how they were going to proceed with this huge opportunity they had been given.
The pancake fight with The Shield was underway and Francesca felt unease creeping through her. Half out of excitement from seeing The New Day looked so in sync with one another, moving effortlessly like they were three parts of one greater being. The other half being fear of the outcome of this match. Could they win? If they do, where would they go from here? Too many questions to even begin to answer, and they all made her feel sick with worry. Then suddenly, she saw it. The moment she was unaware she was waiting for: Xavier Woods jumped into the squared circle and started shouting, “NEW…DAY ROCKS…NEW…DAY ROCKS!” She started to feel and hear the echoing in her mind again and winced. Once she looked back at the screen, she saw it. Xavier Woods, proudly playing his beloved trombone in the ring for the first time with the New Day. She heard Kofi’s innermost thoughts, “I was so caught up in it, I almost forgot to pin him. Until I heard Francesca.”
This time they couldn’t remember what they dreamt. An all-black panorama tainted with white spots was the only image that would pop out in their minds if they tried to remember. Everything was incinerated by the white spots, as Aimée opened their eyes to intolerable pain. To their misfortune, their back was serving as a blanket to all kinds of scraps.
Lifting their upper body, they were met with a devastating view. The buildings that were still up looked like relics, ruins from a past time that left nobody to be remembered by. It felt like every frightening thought lurking in a kid’s mind at night crossed to reality at the same time. What struck them the most, however, was the silence, the emptiness. There was no one around.
Aimée: This…Looks like my world. What if it is?
The sound of people not sufficiently far away startled them. Hiding amongst all the junk with velocity, they saw two young people relaxing on the roof of a deserted house. Aimée checked if the journal was still in the pocket and hadn’t fallen out and combined with all the trash to a pleasant confirmation. The two people could’ve been confused as the same person if it wasn’t for their age difference; one of them a kid, and the other a teen. However, there was someone else, apart from anyone else as they were, who Aimée was unaware of.
Emilia: Eve and her…sister……they’re together. They’re safe!
The pen returned to her hand. She eavesdropped and wrote because listening and writing had shielded her from harm thus far.
Emilia’s Journal: I am happy to report the older version of Eve acting as younger Eve’s guardian. I remember the fearlessness in Eve from the last time I visited this world. Although, Eve’s clone exhibits Eve’s tenacity amplified! They are a united front in the face of a hopeless world, which gives me hope for my own situation. Wexler, that evil bear I saw massacre the other orphans last time, was taken down by older Eve! Yet, I hear them talk about Wexler’s ability to rebuild — he is hunting them again. I wonder if I am being hunted by that inexplicable light source still? We are all running from evil as it adopts different forms.
Keeping up with the two adolescent girls became an arduous task for the woman. She ran, nimbly and quickly, feeling emboldened by the freewheeling affection the girls displayed.
Emilia’s Journal: These two don’t stop moving! They have a mission to find a vault — one sunken underwater into the hollow recesses of the ocean. Their determination forces me to evaluate myself, humbling me. Overcoming impossible odds seems plausible with someone by your side. If I ever get home, I need to seek out companionship. Living life alone, I am betraying an instinct for friendship. The older Eve just told young Eve how Wexler betrayed them both. The son of a bitch bear murdered their father! Oh god, they lost their father at such a young age. At least I had nearly twenty years before my dad died…they are so young, yet so resilient.
The elder version of Eve told the younger Eve her survival methods. Her words revealed a barbaric truth undercut by irony as the two gorged themselves on a feast.
Emilia’s Journal: I slipped into a boarded-up room while the Eves ate. What I discovered…worries me. Older Eve related how she forced herself to eat a minimal amount of food to stay alive. At first, I felt horror at this planet, forcing a mere child into starvation.
As night blanketed the girls in shadows, the woman listened to a tale with enough terror to fracture her worldview.
Aimée: What if this is my world? How the fuck can I be sure that’s not the case? All those people, just gone. All the time I spent alone, avoiding everything. Guess I don’t have to make that much of an effort now…Shit, what am I talking about? I don’t know if it’s that what hurts me or the fact that it doesn’t hurt me as much as it should.
Emilia’s Journal: Out of every dimension I have visited, I can’t help but question the creation of a place so beset with horrors. The older Eve is a clone — and not a clone of the younger Eve. No, they are two out of six clones of an original, human Eve. I must be lost within the withering pages of a science-fiction novel. They were born and grown in labs, learning about a world lost to mankind’s environmental mayhem. The Eves were meant to be saviors. And the cruelty of this world continues…only these two Eves survived. I can only rely on a former instinct telling me that I will survive too.
Morning came again, and the woman soaked in daylight like a sponge.
Emilia’s Journal: As they eat breakfast, I listen intently and am determined to record every word of their encounter. Apparently, restricting calories was necessary. By hindering pubescence, the older Eve has been forcefully preventing herself from reaching adulthood. She has every reason to fear adulthood. Here, adults turn into monsters. Adulthood has its challenges in any world, but adults cannot thrive as people here. I feel my stomach churning, thinking about how much these children have endured.
They ventured outside and began to rummage through a towering junk heap on the docks. The woman tentatively followed them, overwhelmed with a chill. Somewhere, another presence lurked.
Emilia’s Journal: I waited inside the red stone building instead of following the Eves. I can see them from the slats in the wall. The older insisted on Eve taking a boat out to search for the underwater vault while the older Eve clone waits behind. As I watch the younger Eve float out toward the sea, a figure caught my eye. I am looking now, straining to look across these mountainous trash piles cluttering the land. Could it be? Another person? Another traveler? It’s definitely a human…but I can sense their impermanence in this world. They are like me. I…I am not the only one.
Aimée’s journal: I saw someone moving beyond the girls. At first, I thought she was going to attack the girls, but…She’s just writing, like me. What could this possibly mean? Maybe I’m not the only one going through all of this. Should I reach out? Why would I?
Sadly, accurate conclusions coalesced in her thoughts too slowly. The robot bear clanked loudly, distracting the woman from the person writing in an exact replica of her journal. Wexler, the robot, spoke calmly to the elder Eve, igniting a reunion much like a parent returning to their abandoned child. Humanity’s continued existence depended on Eve, the bear said. Although, a suggestion floated in the air; dandelion seeds catching the wind before replanting in fertile soil.
Emilia: Humans could be…wiped out? This planet is devastated though..maybe it could regrow without humans for a while.
On July 7th, a mother woke up as the sunlight entered boldly through the window, kissed her wife on the forehead, and went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. She had finished all her paperwork from the insurance company she worked at to spend the day properly with her family. She called their teenage son to come downstairs, telling him that she made his favorite; PB&J sandwiches with hot chocolate milk. She had to call again and again, each time with a little more annoyance in her tone, until she screamed, and thought how such a nice morning had already been ruined.
On July 7th, a young man was dreaming. He was inside a house of mirrors on a circus, but none of the reflections were his. He woke up with cold sweat and a little saliva falling from the side of his lip. He tried to reach his partner, but the only thing there were the sheets where they fell asleep the night before.
That day, there was a sudden rise in missing persons all around the world. There were no letters left, no goodbyes said, and no clues as to what might have happened to them. They vanished overnight without a single warning and no trace to follow, almost as if they never even existed.
A quiet sound, that’s not quite a sound, resonates, saying ”Mamo”.
White turned to black. The sterile environment the young woman meticulously maintained vanished as ripples appeared in front of her face. Swaths of green painted themselves on the walls as the room fades. Terrified, the woman clasped her hands over her eyes and held her breath when scents of pine overtook her nostrils. The humidified air that had filled her lungs inside the house she had not left in years transformed. Suddenly, she was outside, planted on a hill in the verdant countryside. Her eyelids fought to open, but she could see enough to know that she was no longer safe inside. The infinite openness stretched on for miles.
Emilia: No! I can’t be outside! Oh god, the bugs. They’ll crawl into my mouth when I sleep. And the birds. Diseases everywhere! Where am I? I haven’t left my house in three years, two hours, and . . . clocks. Where are the clocks? I need to know the time! My sanctuary is gone! Where am I going to find filtered water with the correct pH balance out here in the . . . woods? It’s bright! The sun is so bright! Somebody help me!
A feeling like dew sprinkling the morning grass clouded itself in her mind. She could hardly see or stand, frozen in place when voices rised out across the rolling hills.
Emilia: There are other people here too? Should I ask them for . . . no, I can’t go near them. Look at them, the germs on that girls’ bike. And oh — the other one has a cat! Who lets a cat roam around outside like this? Who knows how many germs are sticking to its paws right now?
A noise tinkling softly behind the woman momentarily distracted her from her panic. Her head darted toward the sound, but her weak limbs felt as if she was trodding through brambles. In front of her lay a journal, petite and bound with brown leather. A pen rolled toward her. Trembling, she tenderly reached toward the book, hoping for a lifeline out of her nightmare. Only two words were inscribed on the first page: “Write everything.” There was no obvious escape. One option remained: Comply and pray for rescue.
Emilia’s Journal: I am lost, outside during daylight hours, but I am not alone. I can hear them. Voices of people. I have had so little contact with people, but they may hold clues that will give me a gateway out of . . . wherever here is. The young woman on the bike is begging for help while the hat-wearing lady appears disinterested. She’s reading a book instead. I wonder if she reads poetry. What I’d give to be back in bed, an Emily Dickinson collection of poems in my hands. Wait! She’s a witch! The blond cat lady is a witch! Where the hell am I? They’re arguing about the girl — I think her name is Jo — Jo’s town. Jo needs the witch’s help because . . . magic is running amok in a town called Haresden? Magic! If magic exists here, I can surely use it to my advantage. All the fantasy novels I’ve read show magic has a price, but I’ll pay any price to return to the confines of my sweet, clean home. Oh no, Jo said her mother is cursed with an ailment, an infestation, in her body. I think I’m going to be sick.
While she wrote, Jo started heading south with the witch and her black cat along the vast plains of the hills. Rays from the sun felt unfamiliar, searing her flesh like pinpricks from glass shards. She decided to covertly follow the two women. Unable to write and run at the same time, she commited the unimaginable events occurring to memory. Later, she received a moment to rest in a shaded area by Jo’s house front.
Emilia’s Journal: Write everything. Okay. I’m about to write everything. Apparently, the witch, Orla, had a grandmother — Mamo — who died recently. Magic is out of control, moving borders and causing sea turbulence because Mamo governed the nebulous relationship between the townsfolk and beings called the “fae.” I almost cried as I stalked Jo and Orla through the forest. Branches and god-knows-what poisonous leaves skimmed my skin on the way. I’m quite certain I won’t make it out of here alive. I almost gave away my position when Jo nearly fell victim to a faery trap. She thought a silver spoon lodged in the forest floor was the same spoon that belonged to her mother. Thank goodness Orla intervened and recognized the magic. Why anyone would pick up a disgusting item off the ground is beyond me. Orla has already proven herself as more knowledgeable than Jo. She’s the one I could ask for help if I had to. But I do empathize with Jo. Her mother is sick and possibly dying inside. If Orla can save Jo’s mother, I know she can save me.
Flashes of darkness billowed around the attic window from Jo’s house. The woman realized she was developing heightened senses and witnessed writhing shadows of a Mamo apparition contracting around Orla’s body.
Emilia’s Journal: I thought Orla said Mamo was dead. What is that Mamo ghost, and why is it trying to strangle her granddaughter? Orla’s magic powers have manifested now; yellow sparks flash from her fingers in concentric patterns. No! Orla can’t break that shadow demons’ grip! If only I could touch the doorknob and walk into the house. Wait! Jo managed to release the grip the creature had on Orla’s body. Magic shimmers in the air, casting the inky blackness in all directions. Why can I see this so far away? I’m so tired. Are these powers of my own? I want to sleep, but there’s so much dirt everywhere. Perhaps I’ll just lay down for a second. I haven’t died yet.
The soundthat could be heard only by a few changed, and now it said ”Basilisk”.
A young man with tousled, dark blond hair sat slumped in a diner booth with his eyes closed. He sniffed the air; the smell of freshly grilled burgers stirred his sinuses. He opened his eyes, blinking.
Martin: Wh-what’s going on?
He looked down at the table in front of him. No food, no drink, just a small notepad, with a pen tucked into the rings.Picking it up, he flipped through it. Empty, except for a note on the first page.
Martin: Write everything, huh…
He was startled out of his reverie by the ding of the door opening up. A tall man with a thick beard came in. The man walked up to the table behind Martin. He stopped and started to talk. Martin flipped over the page of the notebook, took the cap off the pen. Somehow, he knew this conversation was worth recording.
Martin’s journal: These people seem to be part of some society. Three people total, now that the new man’s joined them. And they’re talking about… someone’s been captured. One of their friends, their partners. Someone named Regan. Even though they’ve tried to rescue her, it hasn’t been working. But, wait… Regan’s eyes killed her rescuers? How can you kill someone with your eyes? Either way, it seems like this Regan isn’t really cooperating with her friends. And they agree. One of them’s getting up, leaving. Saying something about being recognized. And wait…
Martin heard a sound from further behind him. Casting his eyes around the diner, he started to see everyone overcome with a form of madness. Some were choking up blood, while others had what appeared to be vines growing out of their nose. Everyone seemed to be overcome by violence, hurting themselves and those around them. Martin slides under the seat, breathing heavily, praying that he will be spared. He continues to write.
Martin’s journal: Everyone’s gone crazy, everyone except me. I don’t know why I’ve been spared. I don’t even know why I’m here in the first place. But everyone’s talking about… smells. And tastes. Maybe this has something to do with the senses? Is that it? Do they control the senses? That must be it. And they’re hurting everyone so that they can’t, well… do this. Tell anyone else what’s been going on.
Martin shrunk further into the seats, staying as quiet as possible.
Martin’s journal: I hope they don’t hear me, don’t notice me. I’m scared to even write, in case they hear the pen. That’s silly, though. It’s too loud here for them to hear it.
Martin winced at the chaos, the violence; though it was petering out, getting quieter.
Martin’s journal: It’s almost over, now, though. I’m not sure whether to be relieved… or horrified. Because that means almost everyone’s dead. I don’t want to breathe. They’re still there, right behind me. And I don’t know why they’re here, or I’m here, but I was put here with this notebook, and if they find it, destroy it, then I know I’ve screwed up. I think that’s it. They’re leaving now.
The bell dingedagain, as the three people who had been talking in the seat behind Martin walked out of the diner. Martin extricated himself from under the booth, his legs shaky. He walked around the diner, taking notes as he went.
Martin’s journal: This has been hard to see, to look at. But I have to record the crimes. Everyone’s dead; Someone has a fork stuck up their nose. The fry cook dunked his face into the oil. It was still sizzling; I had to turn it off myself. I can’t believe these people, their cruelty, their callousness. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t look at this. I should go, in case the police or someone else comes.
Ducking out the back door of the kitchen, Martin stumbled into the woods, where he found a soft tree trunk. He sat down to keep writing.
Martin’s journal: I can’t get it out of my head. The deaths… I don’t think I’ve seen anyone die before. I don’t know, though. I don’t remember. I should get some rest. Maybe that’ll help.
Sighing, Martin laid himself down on the mossy forest floor and closed his eyes. He dreamt of burgers, of fries… and of eyes that killed.
The sound was no longer just not a sound, now it was also not colors. Non-colors that talked, and said ”New Day”.
A feeling of dark emptiness mixed with an unnerving sense of displacement and confusion crept into every fiber of her being. Suddenly, a warm light fell upon her. She thought to herself, “Am I dead?” When she seemed to have some semblance of consciousness, her first thought was simple: write everything down. When she comes to her senses in the void, she seemed to have found a single writing utensil, and a notepad seemed to be lovingly placed near her. What was it even placed on? There were no objects aside from these. They seemed to be onto something, but there was no discernable surface to be found in this void. Suddenly, something akin to a large viewscreen, almost like an IMAX theater screen, appeared before her.
Three men appeared before her in bright, almost fluorescent clothing. The shortest one was holding a trombone. She focused on the instrument and looked at it, puzzled. She then had a moment of clarity. “Is that…me…?”
Francesca did not seem to have a body, but she did feel as though she was a presence. A concept? Something unknown, but definitely…alive? Conscious? Not sure. She started writing, not sure how she was doing that as she didn’t see or feel any limbs per se. The view screen continued to roll footage of the three men.
Francesca watched the screen to see what felt like a familiar sight. Gazing upon these technicolor men in spandex brought a warm, calming sensation to Francesca. The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods + Francesca) were fighting in a Tag Team match against The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins). They turned to what looked to be the beginning of an origin story. Francesca looked with confusion. “Where is this going, and where do I fit in?”
We saw a young Kofi Kingston watching wrestling with his friends. Francesca didn’t specifically recognize the teenager in front of her, but seeing him brought a sense of comfort that she couldn’t quite place. He delivered a heartfelt speech about how seeing a Black wrestler inspires him. It seemed as though at this moment, Kingston had decided his path in life led to professional wrestling. He waited outside of the venue to meet his idol, Faarooq, after a show. He offered to introduce the teen to a friend if he was serious about training and becoming a professional wrestler.
The screen quickly switched to a different view. Francesca was confused but delighted to see another face that felt oddly reassuring. Young Xavier Woods sat in front of a tv screen with a friend, choosing a video game character to play. Woods and the friend had a heated discussion on individual character stats. She was shown Woods excelling in all of his teenage pursuits: school, band, and high school wrestling. Francesca excitedly leaned closer to get a better look at the quick view of Woods’ trombone. “Is that me?” Francesca then deflated: it was not her, she surmised.
Just as quickly as it came, it was gone in a flash, and Francesca felt as though she recognized yet another young face: that of Big E. She didn’t understand why this young man’s visage made her happy and excited, so she stayed glued to the view of him. Another boy was being bullied only to have Big E come into the picture and help the bullied boy repel his harassers. It turned out that despite Big E’s large size, he opted to use his words to jab at the bullies, lest he was the one to receive punishment at the hands of the school administration. Big E ran into the bullies again outside of a barbershop and had a physical altercation with them. He won, but barely. The boys brought weapons like game consoles and books with them. The barber inside came out after he talked to a man on the phone during the duration of the fight. He mentioned to Big E that he has a friend, Joe, that could help train him to become a capable fighter.
The screen went blank for a moment, and Francesca got anxious. Just as she started to get seriously concerned, the screen showed a new scene. It moved forward quite a bit in time. Francesca was still mildly anxious but started to feel calm again once she saw Kofi Kingston’s face. She was then shown what seemed like a highlight reel of Kingston’s early career and struggles to find an identity, his gimmick. Kingston was a beloved figure in his wrestling scene, but he wanted more. Once WWE approached and signed Kingston, there was another leap forward in time.
Kofi Kingston was talking to Hunter Helmsley, otherwise known as the wrestler Triple H. Kingston feared he would be pushed into a stereotypical, humiliating gimmick. Francesca felt Kingston’s anxiety with him. “Where is this going?” she wondered. That meeting was the catalyst for The New Day. Kingston got paired with Big E, and they became a tag team. The pair tried to find their footing but seemed to be missing something. An X factor, perhaps?
Xavier Woods approached Big E and Kofi Kingston in an over-the-top clandestine meeting. He posited that the missing piece of their puzzle was simple: they needed him on their team. Kingston and Big E seemed apprehensive but agreed with Woods’ proposal. In their first fight as a trio, they felt more like themselves than ever before. Somehow, someway, that oddball formula clicked on that night. Francesca waited with anticipation to see where the story went from there but decided to rest before everything continued.
And the sound and the colors that were neither of those things now turned into something not quite like a shape, and it expressed the words ”Wynd”.
The howling of the wind intertwined with that of the owls during late-night, as a young person laid in the middle of a spacious room, with a tender but intimidating atmosphere, and started regaining consciousness while their eyes remained closed.
Aimée: What happened to me? My head is killing me, and my body feels like I’ve been underwater for a week. Did I get drunk?
They opened their eyes with fatigue like their eyelids were almost too heavy to control and continued to sit on the immaculate floor. The room gave a sense of clarity and calmness that contrasted with the feeling of their knees, which felt like rusty screws trying to function after years of abandonment.
Aimée: Wait, what kind of room is this? What am I doing here? It looks like a fucking castle, a very weird castle, and I don’t think I belong in a weird-looking castle. I must be dreaming or hallucinating or something.
While they talked, the invasive noise of a conversation slowly penetrated the room; strangers were about to enter, they needed a place to hide. For some reason, even though the circumstances were abysmally different, running away from people didn’t feel uncommon. Hiding was an instinct, a necessity. When they started running off, the sound of something hitting the ground broke the silence even more than the still distant conversation did. Aimée turned around, and there was a journal with a pen that had fallen from their jacket. They grabbed it and hid behind a kind of bed that looked like no other bed they could recognize. They proceeded to open the journal and realized it just had a note on the first page that said ‘’Write everything’’. They thought, if it was a dangerous situation, maybe writing everything was a good idea.
Aimée’s journal: I don’t know where I am, I only know it’s some kind of castle, but it doesn’t look normal. Someone’s coming, so I’m hiding under the bed. It feels like my insides are trying to escape my body through my throat, and even the floor feels like it’s a hundred feet away from me.
As they tried to keep their breathing as quiet as possible, four beings entered the room; two humanoid figures with bug-like features, carrying an unconscious winged kid, as a girl similar to the other two accompanied them. The kid was left to rest on another bed across the room and then got out of the room. With all of this on sight, Aimée’s breathing, just for a moment, became almost too heavy. Not much time passed until the winged kid woke up, disoriented but comfortable enough to talk with the girl.
Aimée’s journal: This cannot be real. She’s not human! She’s green, with pink eyes and wings. They both have wings, but different, and the boy looks more like a human. Is this even my world? I can’t even be sure of that right now, nothing’s making any sense. The boy’s name is Wynd, and his friends are being brought here by other guards, like the ones that brought him. It seems they don’t know each other, but they’re friendly, the girl is going to tell him a story! Maybe they’re not so bad, but I can’t take any chances. What should I even do if I asked for their help? Tell them I’m dreaming and need their help to wake up? Maybe I fell into another world? They’d think I’m crazy! Maybe I am.
As the girl told the story, Aimée wrote every single detail down. It was an old tale that belonged to their culture; the fairies. It explained how old gods called the Winds created everything present in the universe. Every flower, animal, river. They also created people, winged people, that walked the earth with them as their children. But two sisters escaped the paradise their people chose to live in, to explore the lands. They went in different directions, and thirty years later, when a reunion came to be, one was turned into the first Fairie, and the other one, the eldest, into the first Vampyre. The Vampyre wanted power and ignited a war that broke every good concept the Winds built for them. Disappointed, the Winds disappeared along with the winged people and were never seen again.
Aimée’s journal: There are vampyres, fucking vampyres. And apparently, they’re following Wynd and his friends? This couldn’t go any worse. I just want to be back to whatever house I live in, wake up in a comfortable bed. My world may be fucked up, but at least I’m used to that kind of fucked up.
After the story ended, a bell rang, catching Wynd off guard, and Aimée even more; for a moment, they thought that they were found, and the alert was because of them. The fear felt like they suddenly submerged in the coldest water imaginable. But it turned out it was just a sign that the boy’s friends had arrived.
Aimée’s journal: That was too close, I almost moved. I have to be more careful. They’re both leaving now, finally. But the girl looks worried, she says she’s going to have a meeting with something called the Council of the Elders to explain and get help. Sounds serious. But it doesn’t matter anymore, they’re gone. I’m safe.
As Aimée wrote that last word, they stood still for a moment, with the pen in their hand. The silence and sudden desertedness were calming, but it also made the fear more real. The inertia was gone. Now all that was left to focus on, was the fear of not understanding anything, not knowing what to do. It almost made them cry, but they decided to hold it back. Maybe it was all just a dream, and all they had to do was go to sleep. Even with all the fear, the limited space, and the cold, they managed to do it, and dreamed of infinite nothingness, with millions of colors they couldn’t even recognize.