The cereal adventure

Chapter 4 – Saci

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.

‘Why noug…’

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.

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Chapter 3 – Scriven

The shadows had disappeared as did the school. They were standing in a green and lush meadow, filled with grass and several different sorts of plants and small flowers, a large forest lay several kilometres in front of them and behind them they could just make out the start of a mountain range. The sky was blue, with a yellow round circle of fire and there were no clouds anywhere. It looked like they were in Switzerland now or at least something similar. Anna had seen lord of the rings several times and this looked slightly like middle earth or maybe New-Zealand. It could have even been Scotland on a good rainless day, although that was harder to believe.
Anna stared at Josh he bore a large foolish grin on his face and looked as though he at least thought everything was back to normal ‘we are home’ he stated.
No we aren’t Anna wanted to answer but for some reason she didn’t. She looked around again and had to admit that it did look like home, they were somewhere else maybe even close by to where they were previously but it could just as well be somewhere further away.
Josh was still grinning; a big happy grin, Anna looked at him and almost absent minded started counting how many teeth he was showing. There were quite a few of them. As Anna stared at him a strange shift was happening to Josh’s grin, it was slowly retracting and morphing into something different in fact his whole face was morphing and contracting in fear, his eyes were not focused on her though they were staring at something in the sky. Anna followed Josh’s gaze and saw a large beast flying past, she stared open mouthed at the creature of legend, of fantasy of her very own imagination. The creature had two wings and a large tail, it had dark red scales and Anna loved them, she even had a poster of several of them in a multitude of colours hanging on one of her walls in her room. It was a dragon. The red dragon was a fire breathing dragon, Anna recalled, there were also blue dragons that breathed out ice and lived in frozen lands and there were also green dragons, although she couldn’t recall what they breathed, poison? She remembered that there were also Chinese dragons but those were very different and she wasn’t completely sure about black dragons.
It was Josh who shook her out of it, not by physically shaking her but by screaming something incoherently, it was the scream that finally made her stop staring in shock and understand that they weren’t home yet. Anna grabbed Josh by the hem of his shirt, covered his mouth to stifle his scream and pulled him down to the ground. Dragons had very good eyes although they could get really bad eyesight depending on their age. Whatever the situation it was a bad idea if a big red dragon saw you or heard you which it most likely now did.
Josh stopped screaming and was now cowering on the grass, they were relatively lucky that the grass was long and so could at least offer some protection, Anna in turn was glancing every now and again at the sky trying to see if the dragon was coming for them or not. It seemed that they were safe for the moment, the dragon flew past very quickly, it almost seemed like he was being chased but what could possibly chase after a dragon?
Flying high above them in the distance was another creature, it was this creature that was giving chase to the dragon, it was still far away and they could not see it clearly, but as it was nearing they noticed that it wasn’t just one creature it was a flock of them. They all looked alike except for the leading creature. The leading creature had the face and body of a woman but it definitely wasn’t a woman for intertwined within the arms, hairs and waist were serpents, their mouths hissing and tongues sticking out. It wore a black robe and had large black wings that carried it very swiftly through the air. The woman’s face had a cruel and ugly twist to it, it was a terrifying sight, one Anna knew she would never forget, the beast was flying very quickly and it looked as though it was catching up with the dragon, which was lucky for them, she had the feeling that if the animal would have seen them they wouldn’t be around for much longer. There were about 12 monsters of a different sort but still quite similar flying behind. They had the body of a large bird and the face of a woman, although the face didn’t really resemble any woman, for if it did it would be the ugliest woman Anna had ever seen. They were all flying in formation chasing the dragon.
It was only when the beasts and monsters were far away in the distance that Anna allowed herself to breathe a sigh of relief and remove her hand from Josh’s mouth and they both got up. ‘What was that?’ she asked Josh.
It took Josh several moments to compose himself enough to actually manage an answer. ‘You mean the dragon or the Erinyes?’ he asked.
‘The Erinyes’ she answered somewhat surprised that Josh knew something that she didn’t. For some reason it annoyed her that Josh knew the name of the second animal they had seen.
‘That’s from Greek mythology’ Josh answered and looked at Anna. She motioned for him to carry on and as he did his eyes shone with excitement ‘they are one of the worst monsters in Greek mythology they are very intelligent and vicious, I think it was responsible for the torture of the dead in Hell or at least it was something like that, I don’t really remember the details. I think they used to punish the wicked but because they were so vicious no one dared speak their name, they are bad news. They have a sort of servant I guess which work for them and those are the Harpies that flew behind them.’
Almost as if the Erinyes heard them a screech echoed through the open space and they both stopped talking and crawled quickly back onto the grass. After several moments of cowering in the grass with nothing coming after them they got back up.
‘Do you think it was chasing the dragon?’ Anna asked.
‘It could be, I don’t really know why it would but I guess a Erinyes and those Harpies could attack a Dragon. I’m not sure if they could win against them, although the Dragon was running away. Erinyes are immortal so maybe that’s why the Dragon flew away.’
‘How do you know so much about Greek mythology?’ she asked.
‘I love Greek mythology’ he answered with a shy little smile ‘Not just Greek mythology though’ he added ‘I love fantasy as well and everything from dragons to dinosaurs and I love the Neverending story…’
‘Book or movie’ Anna cut him quickly.
‘Book, definitely.’
Anna stared at Josh with new found respect, she always assumed he was just a little cry baby it took her by surprise that they shared so many common interests. Strangely it annoyed her slightly as well, that Josh knew all about the Harper or Harpy or whatever that thing was and she knew nothing at all about it. She was always proud of her knowledge on almost any fantastical subject and here was Josh who seemed to know more about it then she did. But she smiled, dragons was her subject he wouldn’t more than her when it came to dragons. ‘What about the dragon we saw?’ she said ‘Did you recognize it?’
Josh looked shyly at the ground. ‘That was an evil fire breathing dragon’
He was good she had to admit that but… ‘How many different kinds of dragons are there?’ she asked confident that she could name more dragon sorts than he could.
Josh stared at the sky in thought and finally said ‘I’m missing a few but there are red, blue, green, white, yellow, grey, purple and black coloured dragons. There are also the metallic dragons that are silver, gold, bronze and all of those and there are other ones that I’m forgetting’ Josh paused for a moment trying to remember which ones he was missing. ‘Ahh’ he cried suddenly remembering ‘There are also rainbow dragons and brown, did I say brown already? That’s all I can remember now’ he resigned.
Anna stared at him in shock he knew more about dragons than she did. She made the list in her head just previously and forgot all about the rainbow dragons, she wasn’t actually even sure they existed and she forgot about the white and black ones which she knew about but simply forgot. The metallic ones were new to her as well; in just two little answers Josh had shaken her belief to the core, from the fantasy queen she thought she was, she had descendent lower than Josh. How many others were there that she didn’t know about? She always felt that she was a loner stuck in her own imagination, much to her own pleasure but maybe she was wrong. She pushed the thought away from her mind; it would do her no good now, the only good thing the questions gave them were a few moments of peace and escape from the harsh reality they were in. It was time now to face reality again and get home. Josh probably still had the ring, so all they needed to do was use it and get out of here. She didn’t have her toy anymore so it was all up to Josh.
‘Let’s get out of here’ she said to Josh ‘do you still have the ring?’ she asked. Josh nodded. ‘Good then use it and let’s get out of here as soon as we can.’
Josh took the ring out of his pocket and put it on his finger, this time Anna grabbed hold of him, she wasn’t going to let him go and disappear on her again. Josh grabbed hold of the ring around his finger as he has done previously with one finger on the rock and one on the other side. He tried rubbing it, turning it, twitching it, but nothing seemed to work. Josh didn’t disappear and they were both still standing in the same place.
‘Let me try’ said Anna. Obediently Josh took off the ring and handed it over to Anna who put it on and tried the ring out as Josh had done. But just like before, it was clearly not working anymore. They were stuck in this alien place, with no way to go back home.
It was the monsters that they had seen that made them stop thinking about home for the moment. They needed to find somewhere safe, that was the first priority then and only ten they could try and find a way to get home. So without a too long pause for sorrow or letting depressing and sadness take root Anna said ‘Let’s get out of here before we become lunch to the next monster that passes us.’
Josh didn’t argue and just nodded his head. He didn’t question her on why she asked him all those questions previously he just followed her. This is why she felt he was spineless, it was the same in class he was always quiet afraid to say anything. This was the first time he had actually talked, or maybe he talked to other people, she never really did pay attention to him before.
Anna marched in the direction opposite to the forest. She decided that the forest would be more dangerous than the opposite although they couldn’t really say anything yet, in the horizon that could see a mountain range with what looked like snow covering the peaks but prior to the mountain range they could see nothing. Anna felt as though it was going to be a long walk indeed.
‘Anna?’ Josh hazards a question.
‘What is it Josh?’
‘Where do you think we are?’
‘Must be someplace where fantastical creatures come alive, or something like that’
‘Do you think it’s only evil creatures or do you think there are also good ones around?’
‘I guess both of them are here, but I can hardly know can I?’ she retorted.
‘Maybe we can cry for help and one of the good ones will come to save us?’ Josh said hopefully.
‘Look Josh, think about it, what did you see flying above us just now? Do you really think that if we call for help it will just arrive?’
Josh didn’t answer her; he stared at the ground slightly embarrassed. She didn’t mean to make him feel bad, but he had to face facts. They were somewhere strange and magical where several creatures from the imagination and mythology just showed up, that meant trouble. Crying out for help would only make things worse, they had to fight for themselves and get through this. If she had to carry Josh with her she would.
Without looking back, Anna started walking along the long green grass towards the mountain range. Josh said nothing and hurried after her. They walked for several miles and the mountain range seemed no closer than when they started. It was still a long way away, and although Anna decided that was the best way to go, she now was not so sure anymore. She looked up at the sky, the sun was in the middle of the sky (she couldn’t tell the difference, if indeed there was a difference, between this sun and the sun of back home), noon, normally she was having a sandwich right about now, although she wasn’t really hungry now in this weird place, it was strange how familiar certain things were and how alien at the same time.
‘Ouch!’ cried an unknown voice from beneath her.
She stopped in her tracks as did Josh. She listened carefully trying to make out another cry, but there was nothing. She looked through the grass looking for the origin or the owner of the voice when suddenly it started laughing uncontrollably.
‘That isn’t even close to the direction I was in’ it said and it was now clear that it came from behind her. Anna turned around and looked at Josh. There was no one else there except from him.
‘Where are you?’ she asked.
‘Right in front of you’ said the voice.
Anna turned to the front, but again she couldn’t see anything.
The voice laughed again ‘Not there look down’.
Anna bent and looked through the grass until she saw a little figure of about 10-30 centimetres in length. At first she thought it must be a dwarf, but it looked nothing like a dwarf. It wore an all white suite and had long green grass where hair should be. He had a large beard and his eyes were really strange too, one was blue and the other was green. Anna stared at the creature suspiciously; she turned to Josh who looked just as astonished at the creature.
‘Do you know what this is?’ she asked him.
Josh shrugged his shoulders, nodding his head. It was clear he hadn’t seen it either.
‘That was very rude!’ said the creature ‘You could have just asked me what I was. But now, I don’t think I shall tell you.’ The creature turned his back to them in contempt.
‘I’m very sorry mister, we only just arrived and we don’t know where we are, or even what this place is and we already saw a dragon and some winged woman thing…’
‘Harpies and a Erinyes’ said Josh quickly.
‘Yea those’ confirmed Anna ‘and all we really want is to go home’
‘Go home?’ asked the creature. ‘Where is home then?’ he asked.
‘Home is earth’ said Anna.
‘Earth?’ ventured the creature.
‘Yes you know, big planet with a lot of sea and cities and buildings and other things like that’ replied Anna.
‘I don’t think I have ever heard of it’ said the creature. ‘And if I have never heard of it then you must have made it up.’ The creature concluded.
‘No I promise we didn’t’ said Josh desperately. ‘We are just really lost, and we need to find a way to go home’
‘But’ said the creature ‘if you only just arrived here and you don’t know anything about this place how do you know about Harpies?!’ asked the creature. ‘If you know about them it means you are from here and you just made up a story, and I will make sure that you will be punished severely for it!’
‘No please’ cried Josh ‘we are not lying, those things are part of our mythology. We made them up a long time ago and somehow here they are real’
The creature listened to this contemplating, rubbing his chin with his small hand, finally he said ‘Tell me, is there a land on this earth of yours, where they call themselves slavic?’
Anna stared at the creature, than she turned to Josh who was staring up into the sky, deep in thought. ‘Is that related to Slovakia, or Poland?’ Josh asked.
The creature thought for a minute and smiled ‘I think it must be Poland’ he said. ‘That’s where I am originally from you know.’ he said tapping the side of his cheek. ‘They had really good fields there’ he said wistfully.
‘How did you get to be here?’ asked Josh.
‘Well the world, just sort of exploded one day.’ The creature said, he wasn’t done though as he seemed to mule this over and added ‘But not like a real explosion, more like a ripping of the world. It was like the world tore itself apart.’
‘That’s not what happened to us’ said Josh. ‘we got sucked into this world, actually it was more like we passed through one place and then found ourselves here’
‘Well if you passed through you must be able to pass back’ said the creature.
‘Yeah we tried that already’ said Anna ‘and it didn’t work.’
‘Maybe somebody made you pass through to here.’ Said the creature.
‘Yea maybe’ conceded Anna, the thought sent shivers down her spine, so she quickly continued ‘now are you going to tell us what and who you are?’
‘Oh, yes sure. I am a Polevik my name is Boris.’ He said smiling.
‘Well I am Anna and this is Josh’ she said pointing at Josh who was still standing behind her. ‘We are both human’ she added not completely sure if that was what Polevik meant. Or did he mean species? ‘Or Homo sapiens. That also works’ she added.
Boris the Polevik simply nodded to her, but Anna wasn’t sure he understood.
Josh who was quiet most of the time suddenly said ‘wait, if your world tore itself apart from ours and we have no record of it anywhere on our world, then that means you must be really really old.’
‘Well not really old’ replied Boris the Polevik ‘rather immortal.’
Both children stared at him open mouthed and gasping. Boris didn’t seem to think too much of it though. ‘Almost everyone here is immortal or very close to it. If they are not immortal than either they are very difficult to kill or they are protected by something.’
‘Protected by what?’ asked Josh when he was able to speak again.
‘Oh the usual: Amulets, rings that sort of thing’ Boris answered casually.
‘Does that mean that I can become immortal?’ asked Josh unable to contain his excitement.
‘Sure, not sure you would like it though. It sounds good at first but then when you realize you will go through every day forever, it is actually tedious. Don’t get me wrong I don’t really want to die either,’ Boris added quickly ‘but it’s just so boring here.’
Both Anna and Josh didn’t really know how to respond and so they just kept quiet. Anna decided it was best to just change the subject altogether. ‘Boris, what species are you?’
‘Species?’ asked Boris.
‘Yes, are there more Polevik or other things like it?’ asked Anna.
‘Well Polewiki are I guess part of the faeries or pixis. We don’t really get along with the others though. Most of them are too rude and quite annoying actually.’
‘Wow, faeries. Like the tooth faerie?’ asked Anna.
‘The tooth faerie?’ asked Boris.
‘Yes, you know she comes to you at night when you lose your milk teeth and if you put them under your pillow, she takes them and leaves you something nice in return. Usually money.’ Explained Anna.
‘What does she do with the teeth then?’ wondered Boris.
Anna stared at him in surprise ‘I don’t know’ she finally replied.
‘Sounds fishy to me, but it could be something faeries do. Most of the ones I know, would terrorize you, or try to manipulate you. They wouldn’t give you anything in return unless it was something cursed. I haven’t really been in contact with other faeries for about a hundred years or so, so it might be different now. But generally they are a bad bunch, can’t be trusted.’
‘That doesn’t sound like the faeries I know about.’ Said Anna.
‘Well…’ said Josh ‘I have read some stories about faeries where they are usually evil creatures that only look after themselves.’
Boris nodded in agreement ‘Now that sounds like faeries.’
‘But you just said you are a faerie.’ Called Anna.
‘I did’ said Boris smiling a big smile. ‘But don’t worry the worst I used to do was send people the wrong way. Or punish some lazy people, but that’s about it. Now I just like sitting in the fields and relax.’
‘Don’t you have a family.’ Asked Josh.
‘Sure I do,’ answered Boris ‘why do you think I’m in the field? Can’t stand being in the house the whole time. Every day the same things, go do this go do that, so instead I just stay here in the fields.’
‘Where do you sleep then?’ asked Josh
‘Here in the field, weren’t you listening?’
‘But then when do you see your family?’
‘Oh once a year.’ Replied Boris nonchalantly.
Anna and Josh both shared a look. To see your family only once a year was an insurmountable amount of time. How could you not miss them, or at least visit them in the holidays like you did your aunts and uncles? It was a difficult idea to grasp, and both had problems with it. But if you were immortal maybe things like that didn’t matter anymore. Actually maybe nothing mattered anymore when you were immortal.
Josh who was still not clear on several issues asked ‘Boris, when the world tore itself to this place, how did that exactly happen?’
Boris thought for a moment and then said ‘The world used to be a big ball, it was then broken into a separate field, there was this really big light when that happened’ Boris seemed deep in thought, going back a long time in his memory. ‘I don’t know if it was the light that split the world or that the light was just the after affect. But what I do know is that after the bright light, we were all shut off from the light. It was as though the whole world. No the universe itself, shut off. There was no light, or stars or anything in the sky, even the bigger gods and more powerful deities could do nothing but stare and wait for something to happen. Eventually something did, when the darkness passed there was another moment of brightness where the stars and the universe came back. Only there were changes, the gods could not move between realms anymore, and the people were gone. People like you, we had no idea where you all went to but you all disappeared. That meant that all the gods and creatures that lived off of souls died. All the other realms collapsed and that is it really we have been living here ever since.’ Finished Boris his history lesson.
‘What do you mean the other realms collapsed? What other realms?’ asked Josh.
‘Well places like Hell or Heaven, and all the equivalent realms that were run by all the different gods and deities, they all disappeared and the gods that ran them ended up here.’
‘Didn’t that cause a lot of problems?’ asked Josh.
‘Oh yes, there were years or centuries, I don’t really remember, either way it was a long time where everyone tried to get the upper hand. Fights broke out everywhere and that quickly escalated to all out wars. At the end the world got split into several different places of which this is one.’
‘Is now everything ok?’ asked Josh.
‘As ok as it can be, I haven’t really been part of any of it. I found it stupid to go to a full all out war between immortals. The most that you can hope to achieve is to destroy the world or trap the others. You could never really erase the others, so I just kept out of it. Luckily no one cared about the fields here, so I just stayed here and skipped the whole war thing.’
‘I have never seen a war.’ Answered Josh gravely.
‘That’s a good thing.’ Said Boris. ‘Although if I am honest about it, now there are even more problems than when there were wars. Now everyone is looking out for themselves, so they do whatever they please. It’s a good thing no one ever bothers me here, well except for you too.’
At this the two of them felt slightly ashamed. But at least now they knew a lot more about the place they arrived in. In shock Josh realized they had forgotten one important question. ‘Can I ask you one last thing?’
Boris shrugged.
‘Could you maybe tell us what the name of this world is?’ he asked.
‘It is called Scriven.’ Answered Boris.

Chapter 2 – Entrance

Alright, try to think about this logically what was Josh doing just before he vanished? He was playing with her ring, the ring she got from the cereal box. He was trying to get it off when he was suddenly whisked away. Did the ring take him somewhere? If that was it then she had to find another ring like it and that would lead her to the same place. Whatever that other place was she was sure she could get him out of there, she had some money on her all she needed to do was to go to the shopping centre and find some cereal boxes that contained the ring. School was now an afterthought and she quickly left the school yard to find another ring.

It was a quick walk to the supermarket where Anna bought a pack of cereals. The pack looked the same and there was nothing there that made the pack looked different. Excited she walked out of the supermarket and sat on a bench in front of it. She opened the cereal box from the bottom of the pack instead of the top, it was a little trick her dad taught her. The toy is usually heavier than the cereals he used to say, so when the pack is moved from the factory to the supermarket it finds itself at the bottom of the pile. At the bottom of the pack she could already make out a price, she quickly opened the bag and took out the toy.

She stared at the toy in surprise it wasn’t a ring like she expected it to be but rather a small red toy car made from plastic. How was she supposed to use the car to get to where Josh was? The ring was a simple matter, at least she assumed it was an easy matter, she just had to put it on her hand and that would be that, but with the car things were more complicated. Assuming that car even worked and got her to the same place what was she supposed to do with it?

Anna closed the cereal box and put the car on the bench next to her and ran it back and forth. She stared around her hoping that perhaps something would have been different but it was all the same. The bench, the supermarket everything was the same, she hadn’t left and was still stuck in the same boring reality while Josh was lost somewhere. She tried to think about it a bit further, what would Josh do if he found himself in a strange place? He would most likely just cry or be utterly useless. He was hopeless without her, she was sure that it was her only option. She had to help him somehow she had to find a way to get to him to save him from whatever horror was assailing him right now. Secretly she was hoping he needed her, she tried to reassure herself that nothing too bad was going to happen to him but that he would be just scared enough that he would need her to save him. For that she needed to get to him however.

She got up and walked back into the supermarket, she needed to buy another pack of cereals and try to get one that had the ring in it. She entered the supermarket and was surprised to see that it was empty. She was just there and although it wasn’t very busy there were several cashiers and several costumers walking through the shop. Now she stood there on her own.

She walked through the empty supermarket, looking for costumers, workers or any at least someone that could confirm that they were just there. She sat only moments on the bench it was impossible for everyone to leave while she sat there. And why would the cashier leave? It made no sense. She passed aisles and rows of products but she could find no people anywhere. If they were here they were hiding very well. She wasn’t afraid of the sudden change only surprised. She walked to the cereal aisle, if there weren’t any people around she might be able to get the ring she needed. She went to the cereal the she ate this very morning and reached out to grab it. She gasped in horror as her hand went right through the box as though it wasn’t there. Anna stared at her hand in shock and when she was reassured that her hand was really there she stared at the cereal box, it looked just like any other cereal box. It was blue with a large white bowl on the cover and a slogan in red and the price in every box caption.

When the fear had settled a little and she was now sure that nothing would attack her and that she was more or less safe for the moment at least she reached out for the cereal box again. Again her hand passed right through it, as though it stopped existing on this plane of existence, or maybe there was something else going on. She tried to touch other things in the supermarket but she couldn’t. Everything was rooted to its place and she could touch nothing.           Fear slowly crept back into her heart like a leech tugging at her, what could she do now? What would she eat or drink? She couldn’t hold a book in her hands anymore, or play videogames or even use the toilet.

Maybe it was a joke? She thought hopefully. Yes that must be it why else would there be no one around. The whole shop or aisle at least must be a hologram or something. Maybe a projection of some kind aimed to trick me.

‘Ha good try! But I got you now’ she called out to no one in particular expecting people to jump out from behind hidden areas in the shop and shout surprise or something. Although it wasn’t her birthday and she was now actually breaking the rules by not going to school, her little break was now no longer a little break but rather skipping class…

She waited several more moments until she decided to give up on waiting for someone to jump out of his or hers hiding place. If they didn’t do so already it meant that whatever was happening to her was most likely real. Another thought occurred to her, what if the things that happened around her weren’t actually happening to the things but rather to her? Maybe she was now where Josh was? If that’s the case then she needed to get her toy back, the little red car, she left it on the bench outside. She had a nagging suspicion that it was too late though.

Outside the world was still, the wind, birds, cars and all manner of sounds and smells were incredulously absent. She did let it get to her and continued to walk towards the bench, she saw the pack of cereal sitting there and next to it was the little red car.

She bit her lip and reached out to hold the car in her hand. Her hand slipped right through it. How stupid could she be? She just lost her only way back out of this… whatever this was.

When Josh vanished she was jealous of him, she thought he must have disappeared to a miraculous place filled with wondrous animals, beasts and many other rarities only available in her own imagination. But now that she was here she couldn’t help but feel somewhat disappointed. There was nothing of what she wished for, and worse still she was all alone without the ability to interact with anything and the strangest part of all was the people. Where did they all run off to? Why couldn’t she see them or interact with them at least?

She clutched her head in frustration, how could I have been so stupid? She cried. She wasn’t alone Josh went to this strange place too right? So he must be somewhere next to the school, or maybe he went home when he couldn’t find anyone, she decided not to think about it and headed out to the school.

It was eerie the way the streets were empty of all the people. It wasn’t just the people though, there was nothing alive anywhere, no animals or at least no pets and birds, she didn’t check the zoo but she assumed that they were similarly empty. As she continued down the street to her school she realized that the absence of people and animals was only one part of the strangeness around her. She didn’t notice it before but as she was walking she noticed that there was no air around her, it wasn’t the wind that just stopped blowing but rather the air itself that was strangely still. She tried to take a deep breath expecting to hear the suction of air into her lungs but when she took a deep breath she noticed that no air was coming into her lungs. There was no air for her to breath. She wasn’t dead though she was sure of that and even if she was dead then where were all the other dead people? She didn’t know how many people died, but she knew that history was only about people that died, so the streets should be packed with people and not empty.

It was the same with sounds. There were always sounds around, from cars driving around and the people chatting or walking or listening to music but now it was as though all the air and noise was sucked away and she was walking through a plastic replica of her world.

There were other things as well that kept nagging her, things that were not normal but she couldn’t tell what they were. One of them though clarified when she looked up, she didn’t notice it at first because she hardly ever looked at the sky anymore, not like when she was younger, she used to love looking at the sky then she could spend days doing nothing else. For a moment the sky seemed normal she could see clouds and a big ball of fire and light above it slightly blinding her, on closer inspection though the sky seemed very different. The normally white or grey clouds weren’t white at all they were dark black and the sun was a strange mixture of colours. It looked like there was some brown and black there but also some dark green or blue, she couldn’t really tell but it hurt her eyes to look at it too long which made it at least a little similar to the normal sun. She knew now without a shadow of a doubt that she wasn’t home anymore, that this wasn’t her world but a mirror image of it.

When she reached the school she first went to the back of the school to where she and Josh sat down when he vanished. The place was empty, no sign Josh was ever there.

Alright she thought if I was Josh where would I go? Her first thought was actually where is that good for nothing fool, but she then thought that that wasn’t very nice and that she had quite a fright herself when it first happened to her. Although Josh was now much longer here then she was so maybe he lost hope of ever going out, or maybe he put the ring on and off again and got out of this place, leaving her stranded here. She pinched herself painfully in her arm for allowing herself to think that way and went back to the front of the school.

From the corner of her eye she thought she saw something move, she turned to look at it, but there was nothing there. She shrugged and walked into the school. She walked up the stairs and straight to her classroom, she walked quickly and got to her classroom in no time. She opened the door and looked inside. The room was empty, it was a strange sight she never saw the classroom empty before. There was always someone there when she arrived at school it was scary to see the class ready for a lesson but without pupils to fill the chairs or a teacher to stand in front of it.

Anna quickly closed the door and walked down the hallway, could she have missed Josh? Was she now stuck here forever? The thought never entered her mind but now she had nothing to hold on to. She hated to admit it but she had put her hope on Josh, he was supposed to be here, he was supposed to be the one to take her back, so where was he? Did he go back already when she went to get the car from the supermarket? If that’s what happened then this was it, her life was over.

She broke down and sat on the floor in the middle of the hallway, tears were now running down her face she couldn’t control them and they fell in large puddles on the floor. Her thoughts swirled between her family and the few good friends she had, now forever lost, which only increased the flow of the falling tears that were now accompanied by all out crying.

She suddenly stopped, there was something wrong. Fear came over her again and she quickly got up, something made her stop a noise or a movement of some king. She listened carefully and heard a clinking coming from somewhere in front of her. She walked slowly but steadily to the origin of the sound. She stopped in front of a maintenance cupboard and slowly opened the door. Inside cowering in the corner sat Josh, his head held down his body rolled into a ball. Anna’s emotions ran from happy to pity to simple confusion in seconds.

‘Josh?!’

Josh slowly lifter his head and stared surprised at Anna. ‘Anna?’ he ventured.

‘Yes silly. What are you doing in the maintenance cupboard?’ she asked.

He looked at her closely and asked ‘were you crying?’

‘No I wasn’t’ she said a little too quickly and tried to wipe away the remainder of the tears that were still there. ‘More importantly what are you doing?’

Josh suddenly shook himself as though he forgot something important and grabbed hold of Anna. He pulled her into the cupboard.

‘Hey what do you think your doing?’ she called angrily.

Josh motioned for her to be quiet. ‘Did you see the shadows yet?’ he asked.

‘What shadows?’ she asked. It was then that she realized what had been disturbing her this whole time. There were no shadows, although the trees and buildings were all there as well as a fake sky, they cast no shadows, it was only now when Josh had mentioned it that she noticed that they were strangely missing, there were no shadows anywhere.

‘The shadows move here, at first I thought there were no shadows but that’s not true there are shadows you just notice them at first’

Anna looked at Josh he seemed so sad so fragile. ‘What happened to you?’ she asked.

Josh looked at her and then past her to a place only he could see. ‘I was sitting on the bench and then I was here. I thought it was a trick or something but when you didn’t come back I headed back to class but I found no one there. I thought maybe I would just wait for my dad to come and pick me up that’s the first time I noticed the shadows. At first they follow you from the corner of your eye keeping just out of sight almost like they are studying you. But then they stop following you and try to attack you, several of the shadows chased me down the building until I found this maintenance closet and hid in it’.

‘Don’t worry Josh’ Anna said ‘they won’t attack the both of us right?’ she asked trying to reassure him.

He looked doubtful ‘I don’t think that’s how it works’

‘More importantly, do you still have the ring?’ she asked him.

Josh looked at her blankly.

‘The ring you took from me!’ she said angrily losing her calm.

Josh seemed to remember and reached with his right hand into his jeans pocket and pulled out the ring, silently he handed it over to Anna.

Anna looked at the ring pleased with herself. Now they could both get out of this strange place. She opened the closet door and got out.

‘Wait’ called Josh ‘it’s dangerous out there’

‘Don’t worry with the ring we can go back home now!’ Anna said smugly.

‘Really?’ asked Josh a glimmer of hope returned to his eyes.

Anna put the ring on her finger, now all she had to do was rub, or hold the ring like Josh did and she would be back home. But what about Josh, she had to take him with her somehow. Suddenly from the corner of her eye she saw something move, she turned to face it and saw a shadow move quickly towards her. This was what Josh had been talking about; she pushed the fear down and swallowed hard, if only she could get the ring to work for both of them they would be out of there. Shadows were now visibly moving out of their own accord towards her she stared for a moment in pure shock, she was surrounded by shadows that started walking or crawling or gliding towards her. Next to her Josh was shaking visibly.

Anna grabbed Josh with one hand and told him to grab hold of her. Josh very slowly as though he was dazed grabbed her arm.

‘This should work…’ She said out loud trying to comfort herself as much as Josh but Josh wasn’t looking at her his gaze was focused on one thing only a large shadow that looked like it was standing in front of them. Anna then held the ring like she saw Josh do and pulled it slightly…

The cereal adventure

Chapter 1 – The ring

“Look at this” exclaimed Nora “there is a ring in the cereal box!” She was sitting at the table in the kitchen filling a bowl with cereal when the ring fell out.

“Yes, honey. There should be” replied her father. He was facing the kitchen sink and didn’t turn around “it says so on the box, price in every box, right?” 

Nora looked at the box. It did say that in big bold letters A Price in every box. She wasn’t sure they meant this though. The ring she held in her hands had a metallic yellow-silver like colour to it. It shone and gleamed when light hit it, it had a little rock in it or was it a mineral, she didn’t really understand the difference between the two her mother even referred to the diamond in her ring as a rock so they were most likely the same thing anyway. The rock was golden it looked like molten honey had hardened on it and she thought that if she focused on it properly enough she could make out a few darker things. She thought it was beautiful. She put the ring carefully in her pocket and poured milk into her cereal bowl. When she finished eating she headed out the door took the bus and arrived at school.

She wasn’t late, well that wasn’t true she was hardly late when she arrived at school. The teacher had just closed the door by the time she got there, she tried to sneak in unnoticed but that couldn’t really work, as soon as she opened the door the teacher noticed her and she got scolded by her teacher and distraught sat down in her seat at the back of the class next to the window. It was a long lecture about something, it started with numbers and variables and she quickly lost interest. Whenever that happened she would start drifting to her favourite place in the world. Her imagination, it was the only place that was truly hers and whenever she felt like the world was uninteresting she would go for a walk there. There was nothing in her imagination that she couldn’t do and there was nowhere that was out of bounds for her. Her inspiration was always a mixed bag of graphic novels, books and television, although it could really be anything at all. 

***

“Dr Richard reeves?”

“Yes” answered a man wearing a large white coat without looking up from his big wooden desk.

“I am Anna your new secretary; you hired me several days ago. Today is my first day” said a timid woman wearing a short skirt and a vest.

“Oh yes” he looked up from his desk and got up with a hand extended. “Nice to see you again I’ll show you to your desk. Its right down here” he said and started walking down the corridor expecting Anna to follow. He took her to a desk and motioned her to sit, I already linked computer up to the network actually the technical service did that. It should all be ready for use” he stated looking deep into her big brown eyes. She was mesmerizing; her large eyes sucked him in as though they were incredible passageways into a secret and beautiful place. He had to hold himself in check as he noticed he was inching closer to her in order to kiss her. “If you have any questions I will be in my office” he added and walked away.

Anna sat behind her desk looking at her screen she didn’t move for several moments, did she just imagine or did Dr Reeves just try to kiss her. Just the thought made her blush, he was a well respected man but more than that he was good looking and she felt very much attracted to him. Maybe she should just try and chat him up, but something told her that if he really wanted to he would have kissed her when he had the chance. So she figured the best way to play it is by just letting it go and do her work to the best of capabilities. She turned back to her screen and looked at the screen, Dr Reeves was a very busy man, and his calendar was something of a challenge as there were no spaces in it at all and many people were sending emails with requests to have a meeting, it took her quite some time to get them sorted.

The sound of the phone put that on hold. It was Dr Warner who called to ask if Dr Reeves had left the results of a certain patient with her; she replied that he hadn’t and that Dr Reeves would be back in half an hour.

***

“Anna?”

“Hmm?”

“Anna…”Anna slowly opened her eyes and looked up. The teacher was standing next to her desk looking down, an expression of earnest anger on his face. “What did I tell about falling asleep during my class?” he asked his voice clearly angry.

Anna looked down ashamed “I’m sorry Dr. Reeves I promise it won’t happen again”

“Dr Reeves?” he asked looking at her in confusion.

“I mean Mr. Reeves” she corrected herself quickly blushing slightly.

“Very well, just pay attention from now on alright?”

She nodded vigorously. He left her desk and walked back to the front of the class.

“Alright where were we…” he asked rhetorically and continued explaining a certain formula he had drawn on the blackboard.

Anna breathed a sigh of relief and tried to focus her attention on the lesson, a task that was very difficult to her. She hated math and although she did like Mr Reeves, math was just boring to her, all those numbers never made any sense and at the end even if she had understood how to solve a formula she still couldn’t apply it to her question correctly without forgetting some step along the way. The worst part of it was that she actually did try, she wanted to be good at math but it seemed like a forlorn dream to her, a dream that had long passed. She would be happy enough just passing the exam.

“Psst, anna” whispered a voice from her right.

She turned to face Josh who was sitting at his desk next to her. He was a scruffy looking boy and she didn’t care for him much, he was always trying to talk to her though. “Yes?”

“Do you know what he is talking about?” he asked pointing at the teacher.

She sighed didn’t he just notice what happened? He seemed to be even more of a space cadet than me she thought. “Of course I don’t”

“Oh. That’s a shame. I thought you could explain it to me after school maybe” he looked slightly ashamed. Was he asking her out? She didn’t reply and just went back to focusing on the lesson with occasional pauses to look out of the window.

Outside it seemed like the world was infinitely more interesting than the real world, outside the world was breathing, there was action adventure and suspense everywhere. There were so many things to do, so many things to see, but hear in the real world you had to sit through boring math classes. Outside even a fallen leaf had his adventure struggling to stay afloat so that it wouldn’t feel any pain when it eventually landed on the ground, only to be whisked away by the wind to an unknown destination. Everything outside seemed so much more interesting then the classroom that she didn’t mind even switching places with a tree leaf. The only nice thing about the class was Mr. Reeves. She didn’t much like the other boys in her class they were all so childish but Mr. Reeves was different, he was a real gentleman. She could tell by the way he spoke that he was nice and gentle man, he could be stern but he would never raise his voice. He had a commandeering timber in his voice that would lead everyone around him to just forget all about challenging him. It wasn’t fear or anything like that it was a sort of respect. She thought it was the combination of his voice and his eyes the timber in his low brisk voice and his dark green eyes that pierced you through with their gaze that did the trick. Or maybe it was something else, he had so many good qualities it was hard to chose something that made him so formidable.

When the long lesson was finally over, she sneaked outside for a quick breath of fresh air. She walked out the front doors of the school and headed to the back where there were several trees some bushes and a few benches located in a neat corner. She headed straight for the bench in the middle where she could see the trees and sat down; she took several deep breaths when a voice startled her.

“Hi Anna, what are you doing?”

She quickly turned around and only marginally calmed down when she saw that it was Josh. “Hello Josh, what do you want? Did you follow me?” She asked him bluntly.

He smiled cheekily and nodded.

She could get angry with him for following her but what would be the point he was clearly a  foolish boy so she resigned and said “You can sit on that bench over there” she said motioning to the bench in front of her.

His smile beamed at her and he quickly sat in front of her happy and content. Josh was staring at her, as if he was expecting her to do some tricks for him. He looked just like a puppy she thought his brain probably worked like one too. The way he was staring at her made her uncomfortable and to distract herself from it she put her hand in her pocket and fiddled with the ring she got from the cereal pack. Josh continued to stare smiling although he was now also looking at the hand that was hidden in her pocket.

“It’s a ring I found in a cereal pack” she muttered taking out the ring. Why was she explaining this to him?

Josh looked at it closely “Can I hold it?” he asked.

Carefully she handed the ring over to him. He stared at it fascinated and then without waiting for her permission he put the ring over his finger.

“Wow this is neat” he said.

“I didn’t tell you that you could put it on your finger did I?!” she called angrily.

“I’m sorry I just thought it was a cool ring. I’ll take it off if you want” he quickly put a finger on the rock and another on the other side so that he could pull it off. “I promise, I didn’t mean to upset you I…” Josh couldn’t finish his sentence because he wasn’t there anymore.

Anna stared in shock but there was no one there. In a moment Josh just disappeared, he was standing right there in front of her and now he was gone. It must be a trick, she looked around trying to locate him somewhere “Josh this isn’t funny. Where are you?” she screamed, but there was no response, Josh vanished from the face of the earth.

Alright, try to think about this logically what was Josh doing just before he vanished? He was playing with her ring, the ring she got from the cereal box. He was trying to get it off when he was suddenly whisked away. Did the ring take him somewhere? If that was it then she had to find another ring like it and that would lead her to the same place. Whatever that other place was she was sure she could get him out of there, she had some money on her all she needed to do was to go to the shopping centre and find some cereal boxes that contained the ring. School was now an afterthought and she quickly left the school yard to find another ring.