This is for SK's contest.

Day One Edit

I saw the boy leaning against the counter. The boy I had seen many times before but never paid him any mind. Today, though, was different; today he was watching me. I caught his eyes, forgetting about the others around me. It seemed as if he was studying me, trying to read the very core of my being.

"Hey, Drace? Anyone home?" The girl's hand waved in front of my face.

I shook my head, tearing myself away from the boy. "Yeah, yeah. I'm still here, Reese."

"It's getting late. You ready to head out?" My cousin flipped her hair as she waited for a reply.

I smiled, "Yeah, we probably should, huh?" I pushed myself away from the table, my chair scraping on the floor. I held the door open for my cousin, as I took a lingering look back. The boy was gone, no where in the ice cream parlor. I closed the door, as I stepped into the darkness.

"You okay? You look puzzled, cuz." My face must have been contorted with confusion.

"Just thinking," I stated.

"About what?" A streetlamp seemed to make her blond hair glow in the night, as we headed for her car.

"About when I have to leave for home again," I lied, as I often did.

Reese smiled, "Well you'll come back. You always do." I simply smiled back. From there, we drove to her house in silence. "I got to go to bed," Reese yawned when we entered, kicking off her shoes and throwing down her purse and keys. "Night." She gave me a tight hug before retreating to bed.

"Night, cuz." I plopped on the couch and took off my own shoes. I leaned back, letting my head rest on the back of the couch, as I drifted to sleep. Boy, do I wish I knew then, what I know now...

I woke up gasping for air. The first thing I noticed was that the soft couch cushions were missing. The next thing was the sky; the way it intermittently burned with fires of different colors. Holy... Gracious, what's going on? I thought to myself.

"The world we know is ending," said a voice that seemed to hold wisdom. "At least the one I know, Stranger..." The old man reached his hand out for me to take. Accepting it, he pulled me up. "Sorry."

I looked at him. "Sorry? For what?"

"This." He hit me over the head with his staff.

When I finally came to, I was back on the hard dirt floor, but this time inside a tent. "Ouch! You jerk!"

"Jerk? I didn't jerk you, I hit you on the head." The old man flipped his staff around, "And I can do it again if I need to."

"Where am I?" I ignored his comment, as i tried to rub my head... only to find my hands tied. "And what's with all the security?"

"You are in Shadewood, just outside Ivore. As for the security: I don't know if I can trust you, Stranger."

"Shadewood? Ivore? What the heck are you talking 'bout?"

The old man laughed, "You're in Manvadrasia. You're not on Earth anymore, Stranger."

"Not on Earth?! Manva-what?!" I was yelling now. "What is this, some kind of joke?!"

The man glared at me, keeping his voice calm, "Did the sky look like a joke to you? How about the trees that are on fire?"

"Okay, obviously this is just a dream. Yeah, just a dream."

The old man sighed, "Believe what you want, Stranger." He sat down in front of me setting his staff next to him. "All I ask is for you to listen... Once, there was only Creat, the god above all. But he grew lonely and so he created the three plains of existence; the Heavens, the universe itself, and Hell or Hades. And then he made entities to rule over these places: Hades over Hell, Icarun over the sky, Terrien to be for the ground, and the goddess Hydrain for the waters, while he himself would rule from Heaven.

"So, Creat called upon his creations to help form the worlds and stars, though Hades insisted on staying in Hell and built it from scratch. Thus Manvadrasia was born! Next beasts and Humans were created to populate it. Then deaths began and spirits drifted aimlessly, so the One Who Sends the Souls was made.

"Yet, our wise gods and goddess could not decide on a proper name for the One Who Sends the Souls. Thus war was declared, though the great Terrien spoke out against it.

"And now the Dragons have joined the War. Terrien stayed out of it as long as he could, until Visdoth, a Dragon, burnt entire forests down. From the ashes of these forests the Ashlands were born. And from the anger of Terrien, we were born.

"Our great father Terrien made us, so we may find the name that best suits the One Who Sends the Souls. He made us to see better, and for the older ones to hear, as well, than our counterparts the Humans. He gave us his memories and ways, thus we can understand the gods and Dragons. And he named us Skalikhaans, meaning "scholar" among the gods."

I yawned. "That's nice. Man do I have some crazy ideas in my head! Now, what is your name?"

"I do not have a name. I am a born leader, literally. They call me the Mirrian," the Mirrian stood up and jabbed the staff in my face. "And this is not your world. You may be here, but it is not your world. You were given permission by another of your race, to visit their world, Stranger."

I laughed, "Then who's world is it, oh great and powerful Mirrian?"

"Insolent pup!" Once again I got a staff to the face.

Day Two Edit

I woke up, gasping for air. I was lying on the hard wooden floor, the Californian sun flickering through the living room shades. A red river trickled along the floor, falling from my nose.

The rushed footsteps of my cousins came down the hallway. "What the-? Drace, your bleeding!" Reese helped me off the floor, pushing me back onto the couch.

I glanced at my youngest cousin, another girl, "Nata, go let your mom know everything's okay."

"Okay?! Your nose is bleeding!" Nata pointed out.

"Nata, go!" Her feet carried her away, as Reese glared at me.

"What were you doing? Slaying demons in your sleep?" Reese threw her hands up in exasperation.

I scratched my head. She won't believe me... But it's just a dream... Right? But it felt so... real... "I don't remember..." I lied. I ground my teeth, angry at myself for lying again.

"Well, you can clean up the mess. I have to get ready for work."

As she said that I had an idea. "Hey, Reese! Could you drop me off somewhere, when you leave?"

She looked at me sideways, "Sure, cuz. You just got to be ready when I am." She flipped her hair, as she proceeded to do whatever it is girls do to get ready.

I waved to my cousin, while she drove off to work. I had her drop me at a shopping plaza. The one that included the ice cream parlor from the night before. But I wasn't going there.

Instead, I stepped into a bookstore. I made a beeline to the search database and typed in "Dreams". Over 2,200 pages, with an average of thirty books per page... Yeah... I needed to narrow that down a bit. Switched it from searching under "all products" to just "textbooks". Just under 2,000 pages... "Science." 1,000 pages... Well, that was some what more manageable...

I now sat at a table with a stack of books. I flipped through them, finding the typical "dreams are used to relieve stress", "dreams are our mind's desires", etc., but one caught my attention... "Consciously, when we are sleeping, we know we are only dreaming. It is not possible to confuse lucid dreams with reality. Any idea that your dreams are reality is an indication of psychosis."

I frowned. "Any idea that your dreams are reality is an indication of psychosis"... I pondered those words... I knew that psychosis was the lack of discerning between reality and fiction... And I knew I wasn't suffering from that... Was I? Then, why? Why did my dreams seem so real? No... Why were my dreams real?

I was back home after a long day of reading. At one point I almost fell asleep and had to resort to walking around the store, avoiding the fantasy section as much as possible. But now, it was dark again... I was dreading sleeping so much, I was actually tempted to pull an "all nighter"... Though, I knew myself... Sleep would eventually take over. I stared at the floor where blood, my blood, had been, waiting for my heavy eyelids to finally close...

I woke up gasping. I was still on the dirt, with my hands tied. I was alone... A piece of leather was at my feet with what looked like a bunch of scribbles. "Mirrian! Mirrian!"

The old man walked in. "Ah, you have returned."

"Now before you say anything, I believe you."

"Well, that's a start." The old man smirked, "Now, you need to read that." He pointed at the writing.

"That?" I laughed. "You're kidding, right? Just pulling my chain?"

"Chain? You do not have a chain... This is rope." The Mirrian pulled on my bonds.

"Ow! You just like hurting me, don't you, old man?!"

He pulled harder, "Old man? And no; I am not joking."

"Ow! I think you have made your point about the rope!"

"Have I?" He smirked. Finally letting go, he glared at me. "Prove to me you believe, and read it." He turned to walk away.

"What?! No! No, wait!" I squirmed and began kicking my feet. "Wait!" He left anyway... "Gracious! What I want- No, need to do, is get out of here." I sighed.

"And of course..." I had flipped the writing in all my commotion. I stretched my legs as far as I could... Got it! Only to just slide it closer... Tried again... Miserable... Grasped it with both feet, and... "There we go!" I yelled a little louder than I meant to.

I attempted to read what had been scribbled, but it still looked foreign. But then... "What the heck?!" The words were shimmering and sinking into the leather. New words began to rise out of it. "Your hands are not tied." I frowned, "Right... And I am a warrior! Haha! Very funny, Mirrian! I read the stupid words, now let me out!"

"Do it yourself!" he yelled from outside the tent.

"But I can't!" I threw my arms down in exasperation. "Wait a minute... I threw my arms down? I threw my arms down!"

The Mirrian stepped in, "You truly are an Astral Planer. A person who can pass between worlds, control outcomes in those worlds, and project objects into and out of existence."

"Into existence? You mean like this?" I held out my hand and closed my eyes. I focused on the image of an item, thinking it into being. My hand became heavy. I opened my eyes to see... "A butter knife?! I obviously need some practice..." I grinned at the Mirrian, who began to laugh.

Then the Mirrian became serious again. "Follow me, Stranger," he said, as he left the tent.

I dropped the smile, pushing myself off the dirt. I stopped at the entrance, taking in the fact I was about to see a world beyond my own imaginings... I took in a deep breath, pushed aside the leather flap, and stepped out.

A warm breeze washed over me, as if the forest was alive and breathing. The tree cover was so thick above me, I couldn't see the sky. Fires and lanterns were being used as supplementary light among the scattered tents. The light skinned Skalihaans spoke among each other in a language I couldn't understand.

"Welcome to my world, Stranger. Walk with me?"

"Sure, but can I get one thing straight first?" The Mirrian nodded at my question, as he took the first step. "My name is Drace."

"Well, then... Drace the Stranger..."

I sighed, "Just Drace."

The Mirrian stopped, and turned to me. "Are you not a stranger? A stranger to my people? A stranger to our ways? A stranger to this... world? So then... are you not a stranger?"

I stared at him... I simply stared... I couldn't find any words to say...

"Shall we continue?" He didn't wait for an answer.

As we walked past tent after tent after tent, I noticed the way they stared at me. The way their eyes followed me to the precipice of visibility, before shying away. At one point, we had stopped for him to show me the way they sit in the fire, thinking. But that wasn't what caught my attention... It was the fear in the eyes of two children hiding amongst their tent...

"Why do they fear me?" I couldn't change my view, couldn't look at anything else.

The Mirrian didn't need to see what I was talking about. He looked at his feet, sighing deeply. "You look like an Ivoran, your beige skin in particular. You see, the people of Ivore fear us, and the way they display their fear is by... massacring us. On occasion, they will rip through our village and lay waste to us and our possessions. So that is why they fear you..."

After that morbid information, I didn't have the heart to speak, as we continued on in silence...

Day Three Edit

After I woke up, I sat cross-legged in front of the sliding glass window, basking in the California sun. I could still hear the Mirrian's words, echoing within the landscape of my mind.

So that is why they fear you...

The patter of feet snuck into my thoughts; Nata's up. "Hey, little girl. You up already?"

"I could ask the same of you." She rubbed her eyes, her hair reaching for the nearest electrical socket.

How can a twelve year old girl look so cute, when making such a snide remark? One of the many mysteries of life that will never be answered... I shook my head, "Couldn't sleep... Got too much on my mind..."

"Well, whatcha gonna do about it?"

"That's a good question."

She looked at me sideways, "You got to start somewhere. If you don't, it just keeps bothering you."

Out of the mouth of babes... I stood up, walked by her, and rubbed her head as I passed.

I sat beside my cousin, staring at the caravan of cars, neatly lined up before a ivory white mansion. Why did I ever agree to this? I hate parties...

"Drace, cut it out! You look like someone just stole your lunch money." Reese smacked my arm. I pretended to fall into the car door. "You agreed to this a week ago, and I told you no backing out!"

"You told me it was a get together, not a full fledged party. A get together is four, five people; a party's fifteen to twenty."

"Actually closer to twenty to fifty people..."

"See! I don't even know these things!"

She smacked me again. "You're going in there whether you like it or not! It's not gonna kill you to talk to people."

I opened my mouth to make a jesterly comment...

"Real people! Not your imaginary friends."

I smiled a cheesy grin, "You know me to well!"

Reese rolled her eyes and exited the vehicle. I opened my door, and could hear the frivolous chatter and resounding music of youth. She walked past the house to the backyard, towards the sound of yelping, which was followed by a splash.

"See, Reese? I would have walked to the front door. I didn't know you're suppose to barge into the backyard."

She ignored me as she opened the gate. We were greeted with a "Hey!" She responded with a wave in no general direction. She leaned into me, whispering, "You better start smiling."

"Like this?" I squeezed my eyes shut, grinning the biggest fake grin I could muster.

I imagined my cousin smiling as she answered, "Just be yourself, cuz."

When I opened my eyes, she had began to walk off. I was tempted to follow her, but decide I didn't want to seem like a puppy dog all night long. I sat down in the nearest chair, observing the crowd of people. Everyone was enjoying themselves... except for the boy watching me.

I stood up, my chair tipping over behind me. The boy raised his head, the hood of his sweatshirt shrouding his face. I began to push my way through the crowd. He followed suit, heading away from me. "Hey! Get back here!"

The boy started running, shoving his way past people. I took after him. He jumped over the fence into the front yard. I swung myself over, catching myself before I face planted. I drove my feet into the ground, sprinting. Closing in, I leapt for the escapee.

We hit the ground. Hard. I rolled him over, sat on his chest, and ripped off his hood. He was wearing a sneering look. "You actually caught me..."

"Who are you?"

He laughed, "They call me the Serpent King."

I grabbed his jacket, lifting him off the grass, "Stop laughing! Why did you choose me?"

"Choose you? Oh, I didn't choose you, the dream did..."

"'The dream?' 'The dream!' A bloody dream told you to choose me?!"

He laughed again, "Yep."

I dropped him, hearing his head hit the hard packed lawn. "I don't understand..."

Serpent King fleered at me, "I'm not even here. I'm... dreaming..." His body slowly faded away beneath me.

I punched the ground where his head had been. And again... again... and again...

My cousin ran up behind me, "Drace? Drace! Calm down!" She reached for my arms, trying to hold them steady. "Calm down, Drace!"

"One world with too many questions to answer!" I yelled over her. My hands were bloody, yet I was still trying to beat the ground. "The other has all the answers, but won't give them to me!"

"Drace? Your not making any sense." Reese raised me to my feet, ignoring the stares and whisperings of those around us. "Come on, let's go..."

We entered the house. "You're going to talk." Reese had been silent the entire ride home, leaving me to silently watch the headlights trace the road. "You will explain yourself."

I sighed, "Can we sit down first?"

She crossed her arms, following me to the couch. "So? Let's hear it."

"Damn it, Reese! Sit down! And shut-up, while you're at it!"

Reese scoffed, sitting as far away from me as possible.

"Remember when I woke up on the floor, with blood on my face? I had just woken up from a dream... A dream of another world, a world full of gods and Dragons fighting for the honor of naming a new god. I went back the next night, and found out, the people I stay with in that world, are being massacred. I want to help them... I just don't know how..."

"And tonight? What was that?"

I sighed, "According to their leader, that world is not mine; it's someone else's. That 'someone else' is the boy I was chasing tonight. He goes by 'the Serpent King'."

"'The Serpent King'? What? 'The Lion King' was already taken?"

"He sent me there," I continued, not wanting to stoke her fire. "For a reason. And I want to know why... I want to know what I'm suppose to do... I want to know why did he pick me... I'm still in high school! Sure, I've been taking criminal justice through the skills center, but I'm a writer first! A writer who can't even finish a story!"

"I'm not exactly sure what to say, cuz..." Reese looked down at her hands. "Maybe your'e searching for answers in the wrong places. Knowing you, you probably studied online or in scientific books. Every think of asking the leader questions? More than just "How do you live?" and the such. If you're going to start somewhere, why not at the one explaining your situation?"

"Geez... You and Nata aren't related at all..."

She looked at me, "What's that suppose to mean?"

"Oh, nothing..."

I sat up slowly in the tent, rubbing my head. The first thing I noticed was the lack of bindings. I smiled to myself, They are beginning to trust me. Well, the Mirrian at least...

To be continued...

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