The Red Hand Part 3
by Shane Migliavacca
Part Three Home and Far Away
The woman steps out from behind the curtain. She's old. Looking somewhere in her '80's. She's tall. Taller than one would expect for a woman looking like your grandmother. Her hair is long and grey, hanging down over her shoulders. She looks human. But there's something off about her features. Her face is narrower. Her brow more pronounced. And her eyes slightly larger than normal. Besides her height and face, the other striking thing about her is her left hand. Or rather her lack of one. She smiles as she looks me over.
"Are you from Earth?"
"Yes. I was born there. In that reality."
That reality? And then I realize her mouth never opened when she spoke.
Is she human? She looks so different. And she can read minds. Is she in my mind now?
"Don't worry." The old woman reassures me. "I'm only projecting my thoughts to you."
What kind of world have I been dragged into?
My companion, kneels before the old woman, who then touches her shoulder. I hear the old woman's voice again.
"Quite a find you've brought me Tenth."
"Tenth?" I blurt out. "That's her name?"
"Yes." The old woman's voice rings in my head. "She's the tenth hatched in her clan. The Reveka. Making her a younger hatchling. She's also my friend." She looks down at Tenth. "You need not honor me like that. Stand."
Tenth stands up. She says something in her language. And motions towards me. I'm guessing she's telling the old woman about finding me. I can't hear the old woman's voice now. Guess she wants to talk privately with her. As the two chat I let my eyes wander the cave. It's lit by a few large crystals embedded in the wall. Like the ones we passed in the entrance. There's a table and chairs made of wood. A bed made from the same kind of wood. There's a stack of books by the bed. Hanging from a rope strung across one area of the cave are what look appear to be roots or vegetables of some kind. What is she doing here? For all I knew these two could be planning on eating me. But my instincts tell me I can trust both of them.
"What are we going to do about you?" The old woman's voice again.
"Me? I'd like to go home?"
The old woman's laugh rings through my head. "What should I call you child?"
"Serena Van Allen."
"Well Serena, you may not be happy to meet me. But I'm very happy to meet you. My name is Maebh. It's been a long time since I've seen anybody from Earth."
Maebh asks me how I ended up here. I tell her about checking out the house. My mechanical stalker. The painting in the attic, getting sucked into it and ending up here. I tell her about my run in with the bat thing and meeting Tenth. Afterwards she has me and Tenth sit at the table as she makes us something to eat from the vegetables and roots she has on hand. Maebh sets two bowls down. One for each of us. I hesitated before I started eating. Tenth had no such qualms. She picks up the bowl and starts eating from it. Slurping up the contents. If these two wanted to kill me they could do it easier than poison. It didn't look practically great, but I was starving and ready to eat a couple of my fingers if I had to. Maebh sets a crude looking wood spoon down in front of me and smiles. I pick the spoon up and take a little bit from the bowl. I watch it slosh around on my spoon before committing.
What surprises me the most was how good it was. Maybe it was just the hunger. But I gulped it down and took another helping when Maebh offered it. Tenth took another helping as well.
"Is there some way home?" I ask. Feeling full and ready for a nap.
"There are many." Maebh answers. "Different then the painting. None of them are easy."
"How long have you been here?" I ask.
"I've lost count. When I had left that man Hitler was taking Europe for himself."
"How old are you?"
"Ever think of going back?"
"This is my home now. Listen, I want both of you to stay here tonight. In the morning we'll see about you getting home."
What could I say? It's not like I could go anywhere. At least there was food here. And somebody who might be able to help me. Tenth eyed me. I wondered what she was thinking. She and Maebh seemed to have a history of some kind.
Maebh made us beds on the floor with fur rugs she had. They were actually very cozy. I couldn't help but think this was the most screwed up sleepover ever.
My eyes flutter open. Sun is streaming down through my curtains. My curtains? I sit upright in the bed. I recognize these sheets. I loved the dark blue color of them. When I was fourteen I got a couple cigarettes from Debbie Larson. I lit one up that night after mom went to bed. Used a book of matches I stole from downstairs. I had no more then taken my first puff and started coughing bad. Some ash fell on the sheets. Putting a nice little burn mark in them. Of course Mom found it eventually. She knew how it had got there. Not only did I get a lecture, but I felt like crap. I'd let her down. I frantically look over the sheets. There's the burn mark. But this can't be. I was in that cave. I didn't dream it. I didn't dream having a job. I got out of bed. How is this possible? I look at myself in the mirror. I don't look younger. I'm wearing a pair of shorts and a Goo Goo Dolls shirt. I got rid of that shirt after I went to college. Back when I thought I'd be an interior decorator, I hear the upstairs bathroom door shut. Somebody is here with me.
I open my bedroom door and step into the hall. The hall carpet feels so relaxing against my bare feet. I hear the shower running in the bathroom. I debate knocking on the door and decide to just go downstairs and wait them out.
When I get downstairs I hear somebody in the kitchen. I walk in to find Mom making breakfast. She turns and smiles at me in that polite way of hers. Her smiles at best looked like there was a great sadness hiding behind them.
"Hungry?" She asks.
"Good. I made plenty for everybody."
My mom wasn't much of a dater after dad died. I don't remember her ever bringing a man home with her.
"Mom, who's in the bathroom?"
"Who do you think silly head?"
"That smells darn good." A man says behind me.
I spin around. I don't recognize the voice. But-But... The face. My dad. Looking just like he does in the photos mom has.
"Yeah?" He says.
This can't be. Dad died in a car wreck. This dream, it's just cruel.
"What's wrong honey?"
He reaches for me and I back up. "You're not real. You’re dead!"
"Serena!" Mom says. "Your father has just been away!"
"Serena honey. I'm sorry I had to go away."
I feel warm tears run down my cheeks. I start to sob. He wipes a tear from my cheek.
"I didn't want to go. But you have to listen to me. Can you honey?"
I nod. Unable to form words in my current state.
"Imagine so many different worlds. Like ours, but not. Slightly different. Then at the center of all that something else. Something amazing. People beautiful and terrifying lived there. Far away from everything."
There's a loud knock at the front door.
"Who's there?" I ask.
"Pay it no attention. You have to listen to your father honey."
"You have no idea Serena. What you’re capable of."
The knocking continues. It grows louder. More violent.
"Why won't it stop?"
I put my hands over my ears. Why can't I wake up?
Mom holds a large bowl with a crude wood spoon.
"Have some oatmeal."
The bowl, filled to the brim with blood. Dribbles over the side. Droplets hitting the tiled floor.
"It's in the blood."
Mom drops the bowl as the knocking starts to shake the house. The bowl shatters, blood splattering my bare feet.
The knocking turns to hammer like blows. The sound of each one drowning out everything else.
The house trembles and shakes with each hit.
"What is that?" I scream over the deafening sound.
"It can't be opened!" Dad grabs me by the shoulders. "You can't let it open." He points at the front door. "Never! Never!"
The house starts to crumble around us. The ceiling starts to collapse. Dust so thick everything goes black. I try to find mom and dad in the darkness. But I'm all alone. Alone with that thing outside the door.
I remember where the backdoor off the kitchen is. I feel my way there in the thick dust. As the house falls apart around me like the House of Usher. I turn the doorknob. My dust filled eyes are greeted by blinding white light as the door swings open.
I find myself standing in the desert. The twin planets hanging in the sky. Ahead of me is a large dune. I can hear the sounds of a battle being fought. Someone screams my name. Begging me to help them. I scramble up the dune. As I near the top I start to slide back down. Again and again. Getting a little closer to the top with each attempt. The screams for help continue. As do the sounds of battle. Finally I reach the top. I collapse. Lying on the sand. Down the other side of dune two large armies are in pitched battle. One army is purple like Tenth. The other blue. I try to stand and the sand gives out under my feet and I slide down its side right into the battle.
The army. The soldiers. Are all toys. Plastic. Tiny. I start to laugh. I've lost my mind. I must have. I'm still in that house. Completely nutso. I sweep my arm through the army. Toppling them.
I stop laughing as I see a crimson hue creep over the desert floor. I look up to see the sky, the clouds all sharing the same hue.
I see a great hand reaching out of the void of space. A hand bathed in red. It pulls apart the sky. It's like the time I ripped down that Britney Spears poster in my room. It tears uneven, here and there. Revealing what was hidden underneath. Beneath the sky is an empty blackness. At its center a large eye. Larger than anything I've ever seen. The eye looks at me and I scream.
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