Josh and Anna waited for Boris to continue and say something else but Boris just kept quiet and kept his thoughts to himself. They now knew as much as they could, they knew that they were stuck here in Scriven and the real question was what next? What could they do to get back home. The only clue they had and the only person they could ask was standing right in front of them.
Anna and Josh shared a look and it was Anna that turned to Boris and asked ‘Do you know how we could get back home?’
Boris didn’t answer immediately he just stared towards the distance at nothing in particular and eventually said ‘To get back home you will need to move your physical body there.’
‘Like teleportation’ Josh interrupted.
‘Teleportation?’ wondered Boris ‘I am not familiar with that word.’ He added looking at the two.
‘It is the term people use, when they immediately transport themselves from one place to another. Although I don’t know if it is the same thing to go through one universe to another.’ Boris answered.
‘Ah, yes. To do that you need someone that can open the space between universes.’ Boris said ‘Not an easy thing to do, I am not even sure it is possible without help from the side you want to get to.’ He added pondering the issue.
At this both their faces dropped.
‘Don’t look so sad’ Boris quickly said ‘there are people who can do, this teleportation you speak of, but I am not sure that they can bridge two places.’
At this both looked slightly less depressed, but they still had no tangible answer for their immediate concern. So they kept their hopes to a minimum and just listened carefully.
‘The most obvious example I could think of, would be the Djinn. They continually go through places popping up and causing trouble. They could do it, but to get a Djinn to help you is another matter all together. The only way you can get a Djinn to help you, is by getting the artefact they are attached to, usually something old and inconspicuous looking, like rings, chains, lamps or lockets and pendants.’
‘So where can we find a Djinn’ asked Anna excitedly.
‘Beats me.’ Answered Boris simply, he eyed them both and added ‘But at least this gives you a starting point.’
‘Could you come with us?’ asked Josh hopefully.
Boris looked at him his eyes squinting, Josh felt as though he was being scrutinized, finally Boris answered simply ‘No.’
Josh was slightly taken back by the answer. He though that Boris would have helped them on their way, he surly didn’t expect him to just answer negatively, especially after all the answers he had given them and all the help he had already given them. He lowered his head slightly and decided it wasn’t worth making a fuss about it. Instead he said ‘could you point us in the right direction then? Maybe a place where we could find some answers, or clues to where we can find a Djinn?’ he asked.
Boris stared at the two his eyes sparkling in mischief. ‘You are asking me for advice?’ he asked.
‘Yes’ Josh answered.
‘Well, you should go to the cities of Muspelheim, Xibalba and Irkala, there you should be able to find some answers.’ Boris said smiling a wide grin that looked slightly frightening. ‘It will be difficult to find them though, but I think if you keep walking towards the forest,’ he said pointing towards the east at the outline of which a forest was just visible. ‘you might get there.’ he added cryptically.
‘What do you mean “you might”?’ demanded Anna.
‘Well the Djinn are not very sociable to say the least, in fact they loath company so they reside in little pockets in space that they create in inconspicuous and difficult to get to places, or things. Those cities are the first difficult places I can think of that might offer you some answers.’
‘Are you sure, you won’t come with us?’ asked Josh again.
‘Not in a million years’ said Boris ‘actually make that an indefinite number of years’ he added after thinking it through.
‘It isn’t anything dangerous, is it?’ asked Anna
‘Oh, no. I am sure that a couple of smart ones like you will be able to handle anything thrown at them with little to no problem.’ At this Josh smiled, Anna had a doubtful look on her face that stayed there for an uncomfortable time.
‘If it is easy then why won’t you come with us?’ asked Anna.
‘Because you could say you are now in my home. And with all due respect to you too I do not want to leave my family behind for a journey that could take weeks to complete.’
‘Weeks?!’ exclaimed Anna.
‘You want to get back home, even if you knew exactly what you needed to do and where and how to use it, you still have to get it and use it which won’t be easy. But now you don’t know where to go, or what to do and even if you do there is no guaranty you will find everything and get it to work. So yes weeks is very logical.’
‘Alright, thank you very much for everything.’ said Josh, extending his hand and shaking Boris’s hand vigorously in one big swoop.
Anna on the other hand didn’t share Josh’s enthusiasm; instead she just stared at Boris carefully and said ‘If everything goes according to plan we won’t see you again. If it does not, we will’
Josh stared at Anna in shock, not sure what to do with Anna’s threat. To his pleasant surprise Boris just smiled and said ‘May the sun follow you on your way.’
Anna and Josh started walking in the direction that Boris had pointed to. Josh was waving back to Boris for quite some time while they walked at first Josh could still recognize Boris’s figure standing in the fields but quite quickly he was just another part of the scenery, unrecognizable. Anna walked on, she didn’t look back, her back straight, she walked on firmly and unconditionally towards the forest, unflinching and not turning back to face Boris even once.
After they had walked for about 30 minutes Anna suddenly stopped in her tracks and turned to face Josh. ‘Do you think Boris pointed us in the right direction?’ she asked him her eyes stern and her face set firm.
‘Why wouldn’t he?’ answered Josh.
‘I don’t know,’ answered Anna her face deep in thought staring at the sky. Finally she faced Josh again and asked ‘but what should we do? Continue walking towards the forest or walk to the west instead to the mountain range.’
‘I think we should continue in the way that Boris told us.’ answered Josh.
Anna looked as though she was about to argue, than thought the better of it and without a second word she turned around and continued her march towards the forest. Josh stared at her Anna’s back, she wore what she always wore to school, a red and black shirt with blue jeans. It was simple but probably comfortable and it suited her. It fitted well with her character while dresses probably didn’t. Josh didn’t really know Anna, he was never the extravert type of person but he did want to get to know Anna a little better. Although with Anna it was always difficult, she was always a very closed and introvert person. She kept to herself and never talked to anyone, as far as he knew she had no friends in school. He always thought they were a little similar, he never talked to too many people either, but the big difference between the two of them was that he at least had some friends, and good ones at that.
Josh stared at Anna’s back again and thought that maybe Anna was playing a part in school, a theatrical role and that maybe she was a different person when she was at home, maybe she liked to wear dresses and skirts when she was at home for example. At school there were no real rules for what they were allowed to wear, as long as it wasn’t too revealing. Many girls wore skirts to school but Anna never did, she always wore the same kind of shirts and jeans. Josh was sure that skirts and dresses would have suited her too.
He tried to speak to her several times previously but she never really answered back to him. Or she was just being outright distrusting and simply pushed him away. That wasn’t going to deter him though, he kept at it and slowly she did open up slightly. Although maybe open up was pushing it a bit. It was more like she now tolerated his presence rather than shoed him away immediately. She still didn’t say much though, but it gave Josh the impression that even she ever wanted or needed someone she might call upon him. He was after all the only person in school she communicated with, even if it was only on rare occasions, so he really was the only her only option. He tried to come to terms with the situation and where he stood when Anna abruptly stopped and he very nearly bumped into her.
She turned to face him again and said ‘I think Boris lied to us’
‘Why would he do that?’ retorted Josh slightly resentful
‘I don’t know, but did you see the sly smile he gave us? It was a sneaky smile. I have a feeling he was not telling us something, almost like he wanted us to get into trouble or something.’
‘But Anna that makes no sense, he was helping us already by answering all of our questions. I mean he didn’t have to do that, but he did.’ Pleaded Josh
‘Exactly, he didn’t have to answer any of our questions and he could have told us anything and we would have believed him. Because the truth is we are stuck somewhere and we know nothing. So maybe he has some kind of secret agenda, I don’t know yet.’
‘That makes no sense, maybe he was just nice. Or if we assume he wasn’t nice then maybe he didn’t really care if we knew or not. Either way the only thing we can do now is go wherever he told us right?’
‘No. That is not the only option, we can choose to go the other way and make our own decisions based on what we saw. I mean, yes we are in some strange place, but no we don’t need to believe Boris. I don’t trust him.’ Anna stared at Josh waiting for him to talk her out of it, but he didn’t. Instead he just stared at her, waiting for her to make the decision.
‘Well?!’ Anna asked looking directly into Josh’s eyes.
Josh stared back and then quickly lowered his eyes to the ground ‘I don’t know. I think he was just being nice. And honestly the forest sounds better than the alternative.’
Anna stared at the view in front of them: to the left stretching as far as the eye could see was the forest, the first option. To the right was a stretch of sand and in the back of it far beyond was a large mountain range. The tips of the mountains were covered with a small layer of white snow. She tried to clear her mind and think which way would be better when she was interrupted by the growling and grumbling noises of her stomach. She stared at her little black wristwatch.
The black wristwatch was a gift her father gave her for her 8th birthday. Now a few years later she still had it and she wore it constantly. She only took it off when she went to sleep.
The time was 12:00, normally at school this was when she went outside took out her sandwich and ate it in silence, now though everything was different. She didn’t let it show but when Boris said that their journey might take weeks she was frightened. She quickly pushed that little part in her down and shut it up, but it was like trying to hush a waterfall, she could still hear it echoing in the far recesses of her head.
Three weeks? We have to survive on our own for three weeks? That is impossible! What will you eat or drink? Where will you sleep? And what about your father?!
She knew the voice well, it came to haunt her mind on many occasions and it was doing so now showing her; her failings, her insecurities showing her everything that could go wrong and worse of all it showed her, her dad alone, lost without her.
She bit her tongue trying to keep her emotions away, keeping her emotions in check. Over-thinking the situation was useless, she had a current problem and she needed to solve it. She tried to think of the situation objectively, tried to think what direction would offer the best solution or at least the least problems. She had to take into account that food could be a very real problem. Their first concern should be food and because they had nothing with them they needed to go somewhere where there was more chance to find some. If she looked at it that way the decision was easy to make.
‘I think we will go to the forest.’ Announced Anna finally ‘but not because Boris told us to go there. I think we should go there because that is our best chance to find food and maybe water.’
Josh smiled and simply said ‘that’s good thinking, I’m actually getting hungry. Do you think we will find food?’
‘Sure we will, who ever heard of a forest that has no food in it?!’
‘Yeah you’re right, we will find something for sure, I just hope we will also find this Djinn thing.’
‘For that we first need to get to the forest and don’t kid yourself it will be long.’
‘Alright’ said Josh his face set in unprecedented firmness and determination ‘Then we should get going.’
With that they stopped talking and focused on spending their energy on making their way to the forest. They weren’t sure how long it would take but they were now at least set to the same goal and with their destination clear a new determination guided them along the way.
About an hour or so into their march Josh started walking next to Anna instead of behind her. Anna was glad for this change; she didn’t much like walking in front of him, it just that she made a decision and went with it, for some reason it was as though she was the natural leader of their little pack. She didn’t want the role of leader or its responsibility that came with it, she thought that just taking care of herself was difficult enough. The only reason she was in front up until now in the first place, was because Josh for some reason known only to him decided to walk behind her rather than next to her. It made her feel slightly better knowing he was walking next to her.
They were walking for hours and they were becoming increasingly tired, so Josh suggested they should take a short break. There were no trees to offer any shade from the sun so they just squatted on the grass and took a short break to rest their legs. Anna stared at her watch it showed the time to be 2 in the afternoon. Anna hadn’t eaten or drank anything from 8 in the morning when she had her breakfast of cereals. Worse than the hunger however was the thirst, she was really thirsty now. Walking in the hot and warm air left her particularly parched. Her throat was dry and she felt an uncontrollable itch developing in the back of her throat in a place where she could not reach. She craved for a glass of fresh orange juice, or even a glass of cold water. She was never really a fan of water, she preferred juices but now she could do with some fresh water.
‘We shouldn’t wait too long, or it might be dark.’ Said Anna ‘plus the longer we wait the thirstier we will become.’
‘I am not that thirsty’ said Josh ‘and I have some orange juice in my pocket.’
‘You do?’ exclaimed Anna in surprise ‘Maybe we can drink a little?’ she asked.
‘Well I want to keep it for an emergency.’ Answered Josh. ‘Are you upset?’ asked Josh when Anna didn’t answer.
‘No’ she responded ‘I am just really thirsty but I understand. We should keep it until we feel we can’t go on without it any longer.’
Josh nodded and breathed a sigh of relief.
Anna allowed herself a little smile ‘what?!’
‘I just thought you might be angry with me.’ Answered Josh smiling a broad smile. They sat down for several more moments enjoying the temporary silence and rest before deciding it was time to get up and get going once again.
An hour later the first features in their immediate surroundings began to change. The grass around them was the first thing they noticed changing, at first when they sat out the fields were green and lush with a fresh smell hanging around, now though the lush green grass was becoming drier, the green fading into a dry yellow straw. The closer they got to the forest the drier the ground was which according to Anna made no sense. A forest needed water to prosper and from looking at the grass it looked as they were steadily heading to an area that had less water. Maybe the rainfall diminished but there was an underground current running that the trees were tapping into suggested Josh. With the uncertainty looming around them like a veil they marched on, somewhat reluctantly but without choice now. They were too far to change course and so stubbornly against their better judgment they trod on heading closer to the forest, that now seemed rather dark and uninviting and not at all the little piece of hope it seemed only moments ago.
The closer they got to the forest the more things around them changed. At first the ground changed from a fertile green grass to dry weeds and then completely dead barren with nothing growing in it at all. The ground turned hard and dark brown full of lumps and uneven, it was difficult to walk on it. But it wasn’t just the ground that changed it was the air around them. At first they hardly noticed but as they got closer to the forest it became more apparent. The blue skies were slowly turning into grey and the air around them which smelled fresh was now becoming stale, heavy and humid. The ominous feeling that they were heading to a place of darkness only intensified. They stopped just in front of the forest in unison and stared.
The trees were dark, dense and it was difficult to see anything through the thick brush of branches in front of them, anything at all. It was as though shadows danced in front of them blocking their view so that they could see nothing beyond the branches that blocked their passage. Anna and Josh stared at one another, they were feeling reluctant to enter the forest now that they were face to face with it, but neither of them felt like saying anything out loud. All thoughts of food and thirst were now of no concern as they faced the strange forest. They shared another look and then Anna stared coldly at the forest, searching for signs of weakness. She sighed and then took a step forward. Josh wanted to grab hold of her hand to reassure her as well as reassure him that everything was fine, although he knew the feeling deep down in the pit of his stomach told him to stop kidding. He wanted to walk calmly beside Anna but his feet were telling him that only a fool would enter a forest that was this dark when it was still light outside. But it was too late already Anna had already entered the forest and he had to quickly catch up to her, now if only his legs wouldn’t stay rooted to the ground he could get a move on. He tried to call out to Anna to alert her to his predicament but he was surprised to notice that when he tried to do so no sound would come. He tried to shout as loud as he could, but nothing happened. His voice just like his feet was not working properly. Fear slowly crept over him not because he was now rooted to the spot without any way to call for help, but because Anna now walked into the forest alone without him.
He pulled with all his might at his now frozen and motionless legs, trying to get them to cooperate but it was of no use. It was like trying to pull a truck. Josh tried to move the rest of his body only to find that it too was now beyond his control. Slowly but surely his body was not his to control anymore. It wasn’t as though he felt a numbness coming over his limbs it was as though all form of feeling was just gone. After his torso and hands were similarly irresponsive, came his neck and head until finally the only thing that he could maintain some control over were his eyes. He could blink and move them left and right without any problem; the rest however was now just flesh. He expected his body to fall forward but it didn’t, he was standing perfectly straight like a lamppost frozen to the spot.
Josh stood there for several moments where nothing happened, he was still breathing which meant that all the involuntary muscles weren’t similarly affected and for the moment there was no one around him. The feeling of dread slowly faded and there was not a lot he could do now anyway except looking around. He was concentrating on the sounds around him. When they first arrived this close to the forest he thought that all sound was gone, that they entered some closed environment, but now that he had some time to listen he noticed that wasn’t the case. There were sounds around him they were just muffled, as though his ears were padded with some gaze. He didn’t recognize the sounds he heard but they were definitely there. Soft throaty chirping sounds and other strange things that didn’t seem to go together, such as a gul-gul-gul sound similar to the sound you make when you drink combined with a tssss sound which sounds like a can of coke opening. Josh couldn’t make much out of the sounds but they made him slightly uncomfortable, more so because he couldn’t move and was now a target for anyone.
Several more moments passed and Anna still didn’t notice he wasn’t behind her or perhaps she was similarly stuck. Or maybe someone had taken his place. Maybe a monster of some sort transformed itself into him and was now walking with Anna. The thought of Anna being in danger made Josh increasingly anxious when suddenly standing there in front of him was Anna staring at him. Her mouth was opening and closing and it took him a while to realize that she was talking to him. Only he couldn’t hear her, whatever she was saying the forest was swallowing the sounds, or maybe his ears had been affected after all. Anna was becoming increasingly angry with Josh, he could tell because she was now opening her mouth wider when she was speaking and her face was contorted with a frown appearing above her nose. When Josh didn’t respond she put her hands on her hips muttered something and walked straight towards him and then just before she could reach him she looked like she hit something, she stumbled backwards in surprise and took a good look to see what it was that she hit. When she stumbled backwards Josh could hear a hearty laugh close to him, but he couldn’t see anything what it was. Anna probably couldn’t hear anything or if she did she did not appear to take any notice of it, instead she walked carefully towards Josh, arms stretched forward. Then just before she could reach Josh she stopped and like a mime miming a box she did the same. There was a wall or something between the two of them.
‘Is this it?’ asked a voice behind Josh ‘I thought I could get at least a few more funny moments from the both of you.’ The voice sighed and then just as though nothing had happened Josh had control of his body again.
Josh flailed his body back and forth in joy taking immense pleasure at the simple movement he could now do. He had a big smile on his face as he quickly walked towards Anna. He checked once just to be sure and sure enough the invisible wall had disappeared.
‘Anna, thank god you’re ok, I was stuck in the position you saw me in and I couldn’t move or anything and I thought maybe a monster pretended to be me was walking with you and…’ Josh trailed off because Anna wasn’t looking at him she was looking open-mouthed at something behind him. Josh completely forgot about the voice that was talking when he was stuck. He was so happy to be able to move normally again that the voice and more importantly its owner completely vanished from his mind.
He turned around afraid of what he might see and stared open-mouthed at the creature that was standing in front of them. It was humanoid only it was standing on only one leg; he was wearing red pants and had bright red hair, other than his pants he was naked his skin dark brown. He was holding a pipe in his hand which he was lighting; when he lifted his hands Josh was shocked to see that there were holes in his palms. After he lit his pipe the creature turned his attention back to the two of them.
‘So humans huh’ he said puffing on his pipe ‘I have not seen any humans for a very long time. But where are my manners, let me introduce myself I am Saci.’ The creature said and reached out his hand.
Josh was the first to close his mouth and snap out of his trance. ‘Pleased to meet….’ Josh couldn’t complete the sentence because before he could reach the creature he fell flat on his face the wind completely knocked out of him. The creature burst out laughing. Josh got up slowly and looked at his sport shoes. The laces of the one shoe were tied together with the laces of the other shoe. Josh sat and started undoing the knot ‘did you do this?’ he asked.
‘Me?’ answered Saci feigning innocence.
‘Why did you lock Josh up?’ asked Anna. It was the first thing she said to Saci and her voice was venomous.
‘Because it was funny! You should have seen your face you looked like you were about to explode when you thought the boy wasn’t answering you and then when you hit the barrier that was just priceless.’ The memory of the moment sent Saci back into a fit of laughing that ended with him laughing so loudly he halfway started coughing. He hit his chest several times and then said ‘this pipe will be the death of me.’ This was apparently again very funny because he launched into another fit of hysterical laughter.
‘Comeon let’s go’ said Anna ‘This Saci is a nutter.’
‘What is a nutter?’ asked Saci.
‘It’s a crazy person.’ answered Josh.
‘Hey’ objected Saci ‘I could be offended by that, but I am an optimist so I gather it means that I am a genius in disguise, because everyone knows that the true crazies are all geniuses!’
Anna and Josh turned their backs to Saci and were about to enter the forest when Saci interrupted them. ‘I would not do that if I were you.’ He said cryptically.
‘You won’t do what?’ asked Josh.
‘I would not enter the forest.’ Answered Saci simply.
Saci burst into another burst of laughter.
Anna looked at Josh his speech sounded slurred ‘Are you alright?’ she asked.
‘I m fn m ong s nm’
‘Oh your tongue is numb.’ Anna said trying hard not to crack and smile.
‘O gn na ma mt s nm’
Saci burst into laughter again his eyes were tearing. Anna was biting hard on her lips trying not to laugh herself there was something about Saci’s laugh that was contagious. She took a deep breath and looked at Josh. His tongue was sticking out of his mouth and he was now drooling. His eyes were said and he looked like he was begging Anna for help.
‘Saci, could you please do something about Josh?’ she asked the laughing Saci. He nodded.
‘That’s much better.’ Said Josh smiling. ‘Could you maybe stop doing these pranks on me.’ Josh asked.
‘Oh come now this is a joyous occasion for me I have not seen humans in centuries or is it longer than that? What is more than a century? Well whatever it is that is the answer.’
Josh looked at Anna she didn’t seem to understand it either. ‘What does that have to do with pranks or with what you are doing to me?’
‘What you have never heard of me?’ Saci asked in surprise.
Both children nodded their heads.
‘But I am famous. I am a legend in South America and in Europe. Have you really never heard of me?’
‘No sorry.’ Answered Josh.
‘Well I was always known for my pranks and I was an adored figure across continents although for some reason at first everyone feared me which was weird, but we all straightened it out.’
Josh and Anna shared a look, they had both never heard of a Saci. It was clear though that he had some strange powers and that he knew about earth.
‘Why shouldn’t we go into the forest?’ asked Anna again.
‘Because it is dangerous if you do not know your way around it. I would suggest to go back home, where you came from. There is nothing here. No humans, that is for sure. I have seen many creatures though. One thing I will tell you, do not try any pranks on the creatures in the forest they do not take jokes lightly! Which is strange in and of itself because how else can you take a joke?’
‘We can’t go back home’ said Josh ‘we are stuck here and Boris told us that the only way we might get back home is by teleporting there. So now we are searching for someone who can teleport us there.’
‘Well you are lucky you ran into me first because it could have been a lot worse you could have run into a dingonek or a unicorn.’
‘A unicorn?’ exclaimed Josh ‘I love unicorns’
Saci stared at Josh strangely ‘are you sure you are a boy?’ he asked.
Josh looked embarrassed and stared down to his feet.
‘Alright enough of this can we now enter this stupid forest? I am hungry and thirsty and tired from all this walking.’
Saci scrutinized Anna ‘are you sure you are a girl?’ he asked. When she started to look slightly embarrassed as well Saci burst out laughing again. ‘Do not worry you little heads I shall take you to my home and you shall be fed and on the morrow I will explain the forest and the things that lie in it and if you still feel like venturing into it I shall at least make sure that you are in good company.’ With that said the saci looked around the two and puffed on his pipe.
Josh and Anna stared at one another, they didn’t have much choice in the matter and it was better to be in the hands of an otherwise harmless prankster then in the arms of an unknown danger.
‘Alright Saci let’s go to your place.’ Said Josh.
‘Excellent’ and with a puff of smoke they were gone from where they stood.