As soon as I saw it, I knew it was going to be a sequel to Awoken.
I sent Becky a prompt that combined a photo I had taken and a line of text from my sister. She posted a sweet piece in response. La Vaughn Kemnow also gave us a very tribute to her brother using the same prompt.
In mid September, shortly after the school year had started, Star had suddenly found herself standing in the middle of a weird void. At first it had frightened her, but once the shock passed she found herself excited when she thought about it. Her parents had told her that it was better not to talk about it, but she couldn’t resist telling her best friend, Robin Yokama. It never occurred to Star that Robin wouldn’t believe her since her friend could see and talk to spirits. In fact, Robin has asked if Star could show her; talking to dead people was all well and good, but this was new and exciting. Star had sadly told her friend that mom and dad firmly told her not to try it again, at least not before she learned the right way, the safe way, to do it.
Now, nearly two months later, Thanksgiving was looming and there was no sign of the required instruction. She’d tried to find some information, at least get a hint at what or where that place was, but nothing she found in the libraries even hinted that such a place existed, let alone that what she did was possible. What she was able to find on-line was more directed towards theory of the Einstein–Rosen bridges, direct travel between two points. She was torn between resigning herself to never being able to see that strange place again and defying her parents.
Star walked in the front door of her house, dropped her book bag on the floor and hung up her damp jacket. She’d forgotten that the forecast had called for rain and had not taken her umbrella so now jacket and book bag were wet. With a sigh she headed for the kitchen. Pestering her parents wouldn’t help, if anything it would only make things worse. Why did parents have to move so slowly?
“Is that you dear?” Patricia leaned back from the counter and looked towards the door.
No, it’s Nûñnë’hï. Star decided against voicing the smartass remark that flashed through her mind. First, her mother believed in the Nûñnë’hï and would be alarmed at having one visit, second mom would kill her for disrespecting her elders in such a manner. “Yeah, Mom, it’s me.”
“Good.” Patricia came to the doorway and gave her daughter a once over. “Go run a comb through your hair. Your father is waiting for you in the den.”
“I was going to get a snack. Why do I need to comb my hair to see Dad?”
“Because I asked you to. Now go.”
“Fine.” Star rolled her eyes and headed for the bathroom. “I’ll just starve in the meantime.”
Patricia bit back a sharp retort of her own. Star was just frustrated and teenage girls could be so dramatic when they were unhappy.
Star made a pretense of combing her hair and slouched her way into the den. Her father was sitting at the desk chair, in the other chair, leaning back watching her, was another gentleman. Her head came up as her pulse suddenly doubled. He looked almost like a cross between Val Kilmer and Fabio. He had the long hair and casualness of Fabio mixed with the blue eyes and intent stare of Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne. “You must be Astara.”
“Star,” she stammered. “Only my teachers call me Astara.” She could feel the heat in her face, so she took a few calming breaths.
“Well, Star, I’ve been talking to your dad and he tells me that you have a gift.” His voice was a rich baritone that flowed like warm honey.
Star started to shrug and stopped, thinking that it looked childish. “I accidently ended up in some weird place about a month ago.”
“What did it look like?”
Star shook her head. “I didn’t pay too much attention at the time, but it didn’t look like anything really. It was all grey and mist.”
“Up and down mixed up? Things move at weird angles?” Star nodded. The stranger looked at her father. “Sounds like the Chaos Realm.”
John Price looked between him and his daughter. “You can teach her how to go in and out safely?”
“If she wants to learn, yes.”
“Star, this is Gabriel MacKenzie. He has offered to teach you how to safely move about the Chaos Realm.”
Star stared at the handsome stranger, finally paying attention to what he was saying. “People can go in anytime they want?”
“A few people can. With training and practice they can move in and out safely; almost as safely as you cross the street.”
Star moved farther into the den and sat on the foot stool. “How long does it take to learn?”
“That depends on how hard you work, how much attention you give to your lessons.”
Star looked at him for a moment thinking that she could pay attention to him all day long. “When can we start?”
“That’s what I like to hear.” Gabriel laughed. “I can explain some of the basics tonight, if your parents don’t mind. Later, we can set up a regular lesson day, something that will work around your school hours.”
John stood up and stretched. “I rekin that’s my cue to go. Guess I’ll see if the missus needs help with dinner. Hollar if you need anything.” He smiled and tousled Star’s hair as he walked past.
“Da-ad,” Star ducked her head, embarrassed at the paternal display. She straightened her hair as best she could and turned back to this enigmatic figure.
“I’m sure you have questions.”
“Only like a million. What is it? How do we get there? Can you take someone with you?”
“One at a time. What is it? It is a kind of void that exists between worlds or dimensions. Ever read the Dragonriders of Pern?” Star shook her head. “X-men?” Another head shake. “Okay, you watch Babylon 5?”
“Yeah. I was glad they finally married Sheridan and Delenn. I just wish they had let Susan and Marcus have a life together.”
“Okay,” Gabriel smiled, “we have a starting point. Remember Hyperspace, how most ships need a jump gate but some can create their own jump point?” Star nodded. “We’re kinda like the Whitestar, we can create our own gates, but we still need the navigation beacon. It’s our ability to detect the beacon that is the real Gift.
“Getting into the Chaos Realm isn’t hard, find your way back out is. Too many young Realm Walkers panic or lack the strength of skill to find a distant beacon. They become lost.”
“What happens to them?”
“Sadly, no one really knows, but it is assumed that they die.”
“Oh.” Star’s eyes widened. It hadn’t occurred to her that the void could be dangerous, just scary.
“You got yourself out, that tells me that you didn’t panic and you managed to find a beacon.”
“The first time it took me someplace else, somewhere with a lot of snow.”
“Finding the right beacon is the hard part. That’s where a lot of your training is going to be.”
“You asked how we get there. For people like us, it involves creating a kind of portal, what we call a Gate, using our own energy. The first few times you open a gate you’re going to feel very tired afterwards. In time you may become strong enough that it won’t affect you as strongly. That will be the first part of your training; opening a gate when you want to and not accidently opening one when you don’t want to.
“Can you take someone with you? Yes, but,” he held up a hand to forestall the excitement in her face, “it is not easy, especially in the early stages, where you are now. You have to become good at opening the Gate on demand, and holding it open. You need to be able to find your exit location without error. Making a mistake can get you lost, hurt or dead.”
“Oh.” Star sat back on the stool. She’d really wanted to show Robin. Hopefully her friend would understand.
“Now, with that out of the way, would you like to see it again?”
Star bounced up, smiling. “Yes!”
Gabriel returned the smile and stood up, pausing to brush a few stray cat hairs off his pants. He slowly opened a Gate in front of him, letting Star see everything he did. “A Gate you open will always want to orientate itself in front of you, so you have to be careful, make sure the area is free of objects like chairs, rocks or other people.”
Star walked around the Gate, looking at it from various angles. She smothered a giggle when she looked through at the wavering image of Gabriel. Reaching out slowly she touched the shimmering circle. Even though she felt no real resistance, ripples flowed out from her fingers. “Kinda looks like the Star Gate.”
“The Star Gate is a stable wormhole, an Einstein–Rosen bridge, it goes directly to another planet. This is more like a pass-way; it puts you inside the bridge.”
“Ah, it dumps you directly into hyper space, where the star gate goes through hyper space.” She came around and studied it from the front.
“That captures the essence of it.” He motioned for her to go though. “The Gate closes behind you as soon as you cross the threshold.”
Star nodded and stepped into the circle. There was a slight tingle and then a chill as the energies slid across her skin. Almost like running your hands through one of those display waterfalls, but you didn’t end up wet. The sensation vanished as her torso came through. It was followed by disorientation as she stepping into the Chaos Realm. Her stomach lurched as her mind tried to find up and down. Part of her felt like she was falling even though the Gate was in exactly the same place. On the other side she could see Gabriel patiently waiting. He gave her a moment to look around before stepping though himself.
As he came through, Gabriel reached out and laid a hand on Star’s shoulder to stop her from moving away. “It is always best to stay near your entrance point until you get your bearings.” The Gate shrunk and vanished behind him.
“We’re standing …”
“Outside the world, yes. From here, we can move to anywhere on Earth we want. The Realm is also a juncture between worlds and dimensions. If you know how, you can cross to other them.”
“The parallel worlds theory is real?”
Gabriel nodded. “So I’ve been told. I’ve never wanted to explore myself. I find Earth interesting enough as it is.”
Star looked around and shivered. There was nothing to see but grey mist that roiled around them, but it was full of potential and exciting possibilities.
Gabriel smiled and let her look around more. He remembered when he’d first stood there, looking around in awe. After several long minutes he opened the Gate back to the den and motioned his new student back to their world.
Nûñnë’hï are a race of immortal spirit people in Cherokee mythology. In the Cherokee language, Nunnehi literally means “The People Who Live Anywhere” The Nunnehi often warned the Cherokee of impending danger and protected them in times of need.