Part 1: The Sounding
Part 2: The Blank Slate
Part 3: The Infinite Jest
Part 4: The Third
Part 5: Portals
It felt nice to stroll through the trees. Though we hadn’t encountered anyone else during our time together, I liked the sense of seclusion they provided. I finally felt like I could relax.
Jester seemed perfectly content to continue holding my hand as we walked. I didn’t know if she actually liked me, or she was just starved for human contact after being alone for so long. I figured, if I was lucky, it would be a bit of both.
When we emerged on the other side of the woods, we stood at the edge of a vast desert. “There’s nothing subtle about this change in landscape,” I observed.
“This place can be dramatic,” Jester acknowledged. “Some parts of it can also be very subtle. So far you seem to be able to recognize both.”
“I’m guessing that’s good.”
She nodded. “That’s very good. So good, in fact, that I think I can teach you how to move around this world.”
“Already?” As anxious as I was to learn this trick, I assumed it would take longer to prove myself.
“Well, if you don’t want to, I guess we could walk through this desert instead,” Jester said playfully. Her eyes sparkled, and it was unexpectedly difficult to look away.
“On second thought, now isn’t soon enough.” Though I knew Jester was joking, that desert didn’t look all that pleasant. The sun beat down relentlessly on the sand, and the light reflected harshly back, threatening to blind me.
“All right, John Doe. Hold out your hand,” she instructed.
I made a mental note to choose a good name. My given name meant nothing to me.
Once I extended my hand, Jester grabbed it and ran a light finger across my palm. A shudder ran through my body in response. “You need to pay attention to every sensation. When you reach out to open a portal, keep in mind that reality is layered. Feeling out the layers in reality is like turning the pages in a book. You just need to know which page you want to go to. Finding it, however, is more a matter of instinct.”
Instinct. This meant either it would come to me, or it wouldn’t. I let Jester position my hand with my palm out, and she guided it to mimic the little wave I’d seen her do. After a few practice waves, she seemed satisfied that I had the motion down. “Now what?” I asked.
“Now, think back to the big room where we saw the universe together. Remember how it felt. With that feeling in your mind, wave your hand.”
I tried to do as she asked. I just didn’t really understand what she meant. The room was vast, and I felt so small while I was in there that it was unreal. Yet, even with that smallness, I also had an unprecedented power. In that room, I could walk anywhere and see anything. There was a limitlessness that I’d never known before. With these recollections prominent in my mind, I swept my hand through the air.
The sensation startled me at first. I wasn’t expecting it, but I felt my hand catch on something. As my hand continued to move, I realized it was prying the layers of reality back like an onion skin. Left in awe by this remarkable thing I’d done, I stepped through.
The black hole that held us captive earlier with its raw power was once again below my feet. “I did it!” I exclaimed. I could open doorways in thin air. I could stand over the most powerful forces in the known universe and walk away unharmed. The feeling of power coursed through me, and I felt more alive than I could ever remember feeling.
Then a power of an entirely different kind seized me from behind. I found myself spinning around, and Jester’s arms looped around my shoulders. The black hole may not have had any hold over me, but she certainly did. Balancing on nimble toes, she stretched until her lips locked on to mine.
The force with which she held me there in that kiss could only be described as gravity. Her kiss was firm and demanding, and I felt it all the way down to my knees. I didn’t have the ability, or the will, to pull away. Her body was pressed up against me, and my hands came to rest on delicious curve of her hips. I promptly forgot about everything else as my enthusiasm drove me to lift her off the ground. Her powerful legs were soon wrapped around my waist, and my arms caged her in with the same fervor.
Then she leaned back, and her flushed cheeks showed that she enjoyed that just as much as I did. Unfortunately, her expression was all business again. “You need to see something.”
Part of me wanted to resist this change in tone, but I said nothing as she released her grip and lightly hopped back down. “What do you want to show me this time?”
“I guess you could call it the end of the line,” she replied. “After that, you’ll need to decide whether you want to stay or not.”
Part 6: The Dream Reader
Part 6: The Dream Reader