Authors: M.L. Greye
Copyright © 2014 m.l. greye
The Other Worlds
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
About the Author
Trenton Alridge. He’s my great-grandfather on my mom’s side, but I’ve always known him as just Grandpa. My actual grandfathers died long before I was born. Death seems to be the trend in my family. I guess Trenton and I missed the memo.
In our family, we’re like an endangered species or the last two survivors of a plague. Trenton has outlived his wife, three children, one grandchild, and three out of his four great-grandchildren. The fourth great-grandchild is me, of course. Although my enduring existence past my family members is less impressive than Trenton’s, I still am the second to last one standing in both my fraternal and maternal lines. I have no cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, or siblings. All I have is Trenton. We are each other’s last breathing relative. Lucky us.
Trenton Alridge had three sons, who all died young, sadly enough. Two of the three died at war within months of each other, leaving only the youngest alive. This was my grandfather, Ethan. He was my mother’s father. He lived to be about thirty-nine before contracting a form of cancer in his liver. Ethan died when my mother, Lisa, was ten. She was an only child.
When my mother entered college, she chose to explore the shores of Southern California. That was where she met my father. They were married and had four children, beginning with me. We lived average lives. Simple but pleasant.
And then, all at once, I was left alone. In one swift accident, I became the last surviving heir to a man I knew almost nothing about. I became the future possessor of a wealth that I had never envisioned obtaining. When the lives of my family ended, I thought mine had done the same. I felt stranded, lost, and abandoned. I merely existed, barely more than breathing. I wasn’t in this state for long, though. Trenton Alridge came for me.
Transplanting me to the lush countryside of England, Trenton began the process of renewing my life – reminding me that I was not the one deceased. I don’t know why he did it. I still don’t understand why he demanded I stay with him rather than just offer his condolences. We after all had only met once before. Perhaps it was because he had no one else and, in his old age, he’d grown lonely. Or maybe it was because he held stock in more than one world and was ready to share it.
It’s almost humorous at how similar Trenton and I really are. Not only do we share the sentence of life without family, we encountered resembling circumstances that, in the end, changed us forever. Trenton was twenty when his parents were killed in a tragic train derailing. They left him an inheritance of an expansive estate and fortune, but he cared very little for any of it. Having been raised the only child of parents who enjoyed spending their great wealth on travel, he spent most of his youth in boarding schools. His brief visits to the estate had been during the summer and Christmas holidays.
Yet, following his parents’ death, he returned to his family’s home, intending to sell it before beginning a life of travel in the exotic land of Asia. Something happened, though, that he had neither intended nor had ever dreamed possible. One day, while staring out miserably into the forest surrounding his estate, he felt an urge to go for a walk between the trees. Deciding he had nothing better to do, he headed outside. But unfamiliar with the terrain, he quickly found himself lost and suddenly face-to-face with a large brown horse. Not until the young rider spoke did Trenton learn that he had mysteriously entered an extraordinary place called the Other Worlds.
The Other Worlds is another realm – one filled with what my world would have deemed freaks. There, people morph into animals, move things with their eyes, and see the past the way I see the present. Gifts are the norm and phenomenon runs rampant. The impossible is disregarded. In that realm, reality is often fantasy. And Trenton loved it.
Through a series of events, Trenton managed to step into that realm as a naïve Ethon and transform into a renowned Balnorrean hero. Named the Key, my great-grandfather was made into an Other World legend. He even won the heart of a beautiful Eve, Tyra. I don’t think Trenton would have ever left the Other Worlds if not for her.
After Balinorre fell, in order to save Tyra’s life, Trenton returned to his world of Earth – or
, as the Other Worlders call it – with the woman he’d grown to love. Because Tyra was in need of medical assistance, Trenton left behind his new life to prolong hers.
During the years that followed, Trenton and Tyra wed and raised their children the same as any other Ethon family. Their children took part in local activities, traveled, went to school, and one son eventually grew up to create a family of his own.
Tyra’s realm was nothing but a distant memory. Trenton Alridge’s descendants were never told of the Other Worlds. They had no idea that such a place existed. For all purposes and intents, they were Ethons – completely ungifted, just like every other person around them. Or so they thought.
Turns out, though, not all Ethons are utterly giftless.
“Oh, I got such a nice tan.” The girl twirled her hair around her finger with such finesse that the movement had to have been practiced diligently everyday. “The Caymans are seriously the place to be.”
“How long were you there for?” A pity question. The twenty-two-year-old farmboy-turned-prep from northern Idaho didn’t actually care. He just didn’t want the conversation to die. The girl was what he had deemed “his type.” Basically all that really meant was she was an American blonde with blue eyes and a great body.
“Three weeks. The best three weeks of my life!” A lie. It had only been one week, and she’d disliked every moment of it.
“Yeah?” He grinned, silently dreaming of her and him having the best three weeks of
life together on some deserted beach. “Did you go with anyone?”
She nodded. “My parents took me.” True, but still not entirely accurate. Her parents had taken her and her younger sister to her aunt’s funeral. Yes, they had stayed at
, but it hadn’t been the group of islands she was leading the farmboy to believe. It was the name of the little one-star motel they had spent the week in – located in a podunk town somewhere in Arizona with a population that could be counted on one hand. There was no beach, not even a pool.
Olinia Reien rolled her eyes and turned up the volume on her iPhone. Keeping her music app blaring helped to block out the ever-present rumble of voices around her – both audible and silent.
This was college. In an environment that was supposedly breeding intelligence, Olinia was surrounded by idiots, and no one knew better than she. Since the moment Olinia entered Ethon, nineteen months before, her mind had been greeted with the thoughts of every man, woman, and child within a hundred yard radius. She no longer had to reach out to learn what a person was thinking – their thoughts came to her freely. It was awful. Olinia missed the days when she had to work for her gift.
Off to Olinia’s left, the blonde laughed loudly. Olinia groaned and shut her eyes, focusing on the music. Her music really was a lifesaver. Without it, she would be yanking her hair out from all the mundane chatter that shrieked out at her on a daily basis. At least with her music blasting into her ears, she could mask some of the prattle with anything from rock to hip-hop. It didn’t really matter what it was, as long as it was loud.
The first day of the semester was always the worst, especially right after summer. Everyone had some sort of story they were bursting to tell the first person willing to listen. Little did they know, Olinia could already hear them all.
Before she actually ever attended a university, she’d pictured the campuses to be thriving little regions of intellectuals. She was way off. Maybe some of the universities were the way she’d imagined, but from her experience, college was nothing more than a bunch of kids just out of high school either looking for a good time or preparing themselves for their future careers. Some students were bright. Many were not.
A new set of thoughts joined the mix and the audible conversations began to calm down. The professor must have arrived. Olinia opened her eyes, but kept her head tilted against the wall at her left. She always sat next to a wall. Sometimes it was thick enough to muffle the thoughts on the other side of it, leaving her to deal with just the immediate room.
At the front of the class, the professor, Doctor Adam Sanders, began pulling out this semester’s syllabus from his twenty-plus-year-old leather briefcase. This was the first time Olinia had ever laid eyes on him. He was in his late forties and had an average face – nose not too large or too small, forgettable hazel eyes, and mouse brown hair slicked toward the left of his head to cover up his thinning hairline. He was a little shorter than six feet and was slender with the beginnings of a potbelly in front. Olinia couldn’t really call him ugly or attractive – just average. If he were to step into a crowd it would be easy for him to blend in.
Unfortunately, his thoughts were not blending in with the rest of the class. He was dreading his upcoming court case with his future ex-wife. Apparently, she was trying to get the most she could out of their divorce. Maybe he shouldn’t have cheated on her with that pretty student from El Salvador.
Olinia shoved her earbuds further into her head. This was exactly the sort of worthless babble she attempted to avoid. Everyone always had some drama going on that she cared nothing about yet was forced to listen to.
“Welcome to Anthropology 212.” Olinia watched Sanders mouth the words as she simultaneously heard them inside her head. “I’m going to pass these around.” He held up the stack of syllabi. “Take one when it gets to you.”
His eyes landed on Olinia, music still booming, and almost instantly he began his rant on his absolute hatred for electronic devices in his class. Olinia rolled her eyes and yanked out the earpieces, grimacing as her thoughts swarmed with the images and unspoken remarks of the class in overwhelming amounts. Why must everyone think so much?
As Sanders’s droning switched from texting and music to his page-by-page syllabus breakdown, Olinia sighed. It was going to be another long and boring semester.
For the thousandth time, Olinia wondered what had happened to her life. For over a year and a half, she’d been playing her portrayal of the average American. So far no one seemed to suspect her, but then, she didn’t exactly have any close friends. She really only had Trenton Alridge and her brother Legann. Her former friends and other brother, Zedgry, had long since deserted her to this realm of technology and self-centered war. It still surprised her that a world would fight within itself on such a regular basis. Countries were so strange.
Just then, the classroom’s door opened, and a straggler walked in. Olinia frowned while she took in his features. At the moment, watching him was her only form of amusement. Sanders definitely wasn’t giving her anything interesting to do.
The guy was taller than her, but that wasn’t hard. She guessed he was about five foot ten. He was clean-shaven and had the thin, toned build of a runner or soccer player. His dark hair was thick with lighter natural highlights throughout, and his eyes were a honey brown. The brown didn’t mean anything in Ethon. In the Other Worlds it was the branding mark of the Wends, but here in Ethon it was just another eye color.
He took a seat in an open desk at the front by the door. Sanders scowled at him for interrupting, but the guy didn’t seem to notice. In fact, he was quite pleased with his entrance. Olinia rolled her eyes. He just liked having everyone’s attention. When Sanders returned to his syllabus explanation, the guy unlatched his book bag and pulled out a pad of paper followed by a mechanical pencil. His thoughts drifted to the class syllabus as he began listening to Sanders.
Bored again, Olinia glanced away. Two rows ahead of Olinia, a red-haired girl was texting her friend about a new frozen yogurt shop she wanted to try out later that day. Olinia groaned inwardly and dropped her head into her hands. Why did she even go to class? It wasn’t like she needed a degree.
It was almost comical, really. Here Olinia was – the princess heir to the Other Worlds – learning about Ethon culture. It seemed so ill-fitting. Wouldn’t any world but Ethon be a better option for her and her brother?
Too focused. Too sloppy. Too…cliché?
Olinia glanced up in surprise. She’d been unconsciously still listening to the latecomer’s thoughts. He was practically reclining in his chair, surveying his classmates. Olinia couldn’t help but stare. He was searching through the women in the room for someone to hit on. This was a first. Olinia had witnessed many couples flirting in class, but never had she seen a guy go out of his way on opening day to find the next victim of his charm. Olinia felt like laughing.
His gaze landed on Olinia and their eyes met. He flashed her a brilliant smile.
She grunted and looked away. Once again, why did she even go to class?
: : : : :
Legann Reien watched each tiny tick of the second hand on his classroom’s clock. In about ten minutes, the final bell for the day would ring, freeing him from the nightmare known as high school. The clock wouldn’t go fast enough. He was restless and hungry.
Letting out a sigh, Legann sunk further into his chair, his arms draping over the connecting desk. English was such a dull class. He still found it strange that Ethons could make professions out of a language that in the Other Worlds was often thought of as common in comparison to Eveon or Arthelian. Legann glanced at the girl to his right. She was hurrying to scribble down even more to her pages and pages of notes. The girl was too devoted for Legann’s taste, at least as far as English was concerned.
If they were in Biology, then he wouldn’t blame her. That was his favorite subject. Now true, the best part of that class was listening in on the lab rats’ thoughts, but it was still more interesting than English.
At the front of the class, Legann’s teacher stole a glimpse at the clock. Legann almost laughed. Even the teacher was ready for the day to be over. Just five more minutes. Why did Ethons have so many time constraints? It seemed so pointless. He never had to deal with this in the Other Worlds. There, his schooling had lasted until the teacher ran out of things to say for the day, usually around lunchtime. At the reminder of food, his stomach grumbled. It didn’t like being empty. He wondered what Olinia would make for dinner.
Upon coming to the United States for school, about thirteen months before, Olinia had rediscovered her talent in the kitchen. It was something she hadn’t really used since her slave days. That wasn’t to say she had forgotten how to cook. Legann liked her cooking, but then he was never one to complain when he wasn’t the one doing the work.
Legann ran a hand through his short hair. It was strange to think that he had once kept his light brown hair shaggy, falling just past his ears. It had been the style of the Other Worlds. Since coming to Ethon, he’d cut his hair short, less than an inch long. Over the months, he’d grown used to it and actually preferred it now. The cut lengthened his oval-shaped face and helped his light brown eyes not appear so sunken in, not that his eyes were really that deeply set in his face in the first place.
The bell finally rang, and Legann practically leaped out of his seat. As he reached for his binder from his desk, the front pocket of his jeans vibrated.
, he mused, pulling out his cell phone.
He read Olinia’s text, telling him she was waiting outside for him as he left the classroom. It really was the beginning of another wonderful school year trapped in Ethon. Life here felt so mundane in comparison to what his life had been in the Other Worlds. Legann made a quick stop by his locker, picked up his backpack, and headed out to his sister.
Through the glass doors leading to the outside, Legann noticed it was oddly sunny. The weather was supposed to be cloudy, cool, and crisp. It was the beginning of autumn after all. Legann frowned. The app on his phone must not have updated entirely that morning when he’d checked it for the day’s forecast.
He whirled at the sound of his name. The exit to the free world was right in front of him. Who dared to stop him from leaving?
Across the hall, Emilio Martinez and Todd Peters, both seniors like Legann, were making their way towards him. They were sneering. Legann rolled his eyes. He preferred to fly under the radar of most students, but once during the last year, he was put in a study group with Todd. Unfortunately, the Ethon caught Legann staring off into a group of geese and unconsciously mouthing the thoughts he was sending them.
Apparently, that was grounds for being a freak who talked to himself. Not that Legann really worried about his popularity. He just didn’t want the unnecessary attention. For the last three months of their junior year, Todd had made it his duty to inform every member of the student body about how weird Legann was. If only Todd really knew that he’d been talking to birds rather than himself.
“Hey there, loner,” Emilio snickered, stopping in front of Legann.
“Hi,” he replied, moving his eyes up and down Emilio. The olive-skinned, dark-eyed kid still only came up to Legann’s chest. Apparently the summer hadn’t changed him. Legann didn’t really feel threatened by him at all.
“Where are you off to so fast? Do you need to talk to your imaginary friends again?” Todd asked. “Or is your sister out there?” He glanced out through the front glass doors, his pale blue eyes squinting. “She’s hot, like way hot.”
Legann grunted. “If you think you can date her, be my guest.”
His phone started vibrating again. Olinia was calling him. Soon, she would try to reach his thoughts. She hated waiting. It was time for him to go.
“Maybe you should introduce us. She’ll be happy to get in on this action.” Todd flexed his arms.
“I’ll put in a good word for you,” Legann returned.
Before they could stop him, Legann spun on his heel, leaving his drab school and all those inside behind him. Once through the doors, he took a deep gulp of fresh air. As he took the front steps two at a time, he noticed how hot he suddenly felt. It was still more summer outside than autumn. The weather hadn’t quite caught up with the calendar yet.
At the far end of the horseshoe-shaped loading and unloading driveway in front of the school, he noticed Olinia’s little blue car. It was where she had picked him up all during the last year of school. Legann let his breath out in a rush, marveling once again at how monotonous his life had become. Somehow during the past nineteen months, he had evolved from remarkable Saerdian warrior and Wend to average American teenager.
Trenton Alridge was fully responsible for the change. Beginning with immunizations and wardrobe, Trenton dedicated himself to the transformation and infiltration of Olinia and Legann to Ethon. He was determined to give them the full Ethon experience, starting with an in-depth culture study of the United States. Since Olinia and Legann’s accents matched the average U.S. citizen, Trenton thought it fitting to begin the Ethon life lessons there.
In order to learn both the past and current affairs of the area, Trenton decided to send the Other Worlders to the heart of American history: Virginia. He bought them their very own four bedroom house in a quaint little town about an hour outside of Washington D.C. and enrolled them both into school. Olinia was sent to a nearby university and Legann to the local high school. Why Trenton thought they needed a house with four rooms, fully furnished, for just the two of them was beyond Legann, though. They never had any guests over – excluding Trenton – so the only time one of the other rooms would get filled was when Trenton came to visit.
Letting out a sigh, Legann slid his backpack off his shoulder. He was almost to his sister’s car. That was another one of Trenton’s gifts upon their arrival to Virginia – both Olinia and Legann were purchased cars. Legann’s wasn’t brand new, as Trenton didn’t want him to stick out too much, but it was only a couple years old and in great condition. Olinia’s, on the other hand, was the current year’s model of what was deemed sensible for a college student when Trenton bought it.
Legann finally reached Olinia. He pulled open the passenger door and dropped inside. “Hey,” he said in greeting. Even though he knew she could hear his thoughts, he still didn’t feel comfortable being completely silent around her. He blamed that on his upbringing as a Saerd.
“Hi.” She smiled, shifting her car into first gear from neutral. “Welcome back to the free world.”
He groaned. “I don’t know how I’m going to survive English this year.”
“Just live for the weekends,” she replied as she pulled out onto the main road, putting more distance between them and the school. “It’s what I do.”
She had a point. The weekends were really what she and Legann looked forward to, more so than the average Ethon. It was on the weekend that they were able to fully be themselves and forget they needed to hide their gifts.
Because Olinia could hear the thoughts of everyone within a hundred yards of her, Trenton had been kind enough to choose a house for them on the outskirts of town, away from people and surrounded by trees. That way the only person Olinia had to listen to was Legann, unless Trenton came to visit. He usually came for at least one weekend every month, except during holidays when he would fly Olinia and Legann out to him.
“You haven’t been practicing, have you?”
“Huh?” Legann turned.
She sighed. “I can still hear your every thought. You told me you’ve been practicing your mental barriers.”
“Oh.” He grimaced. Another one of their weekend activities were his lessons in the Eveon ways, according to his Wend sister. Currently, she was teaching him to move objects with his eyes and to build up walls in his mind to stop the random Eve from intruding on his thoughts. Legann had a feeling though that the real reason she tried so hard to get him to improve was for her to have at least one person she couldn’t hear inside of.
“You’re right,” Olinia mused, answering his unspoken comments. “But I’ve already been inside your head. Putting up barriers won’t make your thoughts disappear from me, just dull them enough that I may overlook them every once in a while.”
Legann rolled his eyes. “I knew there was some way you benefitted from me becoming gifted.”
“You’re already gifted. I’m just having you acquire new skills.” She smiled.
They fell quiet for a moment, and Legann drifted back to worrying about the condition of his stomach. As if on cue, it growled loudly.
Olinia laughed. “We can stop somewhere for dinner on the way home.”
“No cooking tonight?”
She shook her head. “You’re not the only one drained from school. I don’t really feel like making anything. Plus, it’s the first day of a new semester. We should celebrate, right?”
He let out a short laugh. “As long as it tastes good, I don’t care.”
: : : : :
Serpents and beasts twisted and twined through the mist-covered ground. Sazx Tharrne rubbed his eyes with one hand. He had to have hit his head on something. Dropping his hand, he refocused his gaze. The creatures disappeared, evaporating into the trees surrounding him.
Sazx grimaced and continued forward, his boots making sucking sounds in the mud. Where was he? The fog around him was thick, blinding him from anything more than ten feet away. He was sure he was in a forest on some worn trail, but even that knowledge was limited to vague outlines.
He couldn’t remember how he had gotten there. The pounding in his head may have been responsible for that. His skull was filled with some sort of storm. White hot lightning flashed behind his eyes and overwhelming amounts of thunder crackled around his temples. Meanwhile, rain poured down upon him. Whether the rain was inside his head or outside his body, Sazx wasn’t entirely certain. He was in a daze.
Something had happened to him – some break in his internal being, some retraction of a vow – and this was the aftereffects of it. Sazx couldn’t remember that, though, either. All he knew was that he felt awful. His muscles were tight, the gash above his left eye was flaring, and he had a bruise the size of a fist across his side from where he had the vague recollection of being tossed into an overturned table…somewhere.
Up ahead, the mists seemed to thin, shedding more light on his path. Taking a deep gulp of air, Sazx attempted to double his pace, but one foot was caught in the mud, throwing him off balance like a drunkard. He flung out his arms to brace his fall. It was too late. His head hit a nearby log that had been invisible moments before. Sazx landed in a heap, and releasing a moan, slipped into darkness.
: : : : :
Dr. Sanders was droning again. Olinia yawned. Fortunately, she only had one more class until she was finished for the day. Sadly, to get to that class she first had to endure the rest of her current one. It still had twenty minutes to go. On Mondays and Wednesdays she had a speech class after her Anthropology one. Too bad today was a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday or Thursday because then she could just go home.
Up towards the front of the room, three rows ahead of Olinia, the annoying blonde from the first day was staring at her new manicure, wondering if she had paid too much for it. Olinia groaned inwardly. She was debating on pulling out her music again and hiding the cords from the earpieces in her hair. The thoughts in the room were once again inescapable.
With another yawn, Olinia turned to the window on the right wall in hopes to distract herself. A few trees growing along the building had branches brushing against the glass, swaying in a breeze. Their leaves were beginning to change. Even though the warm weather wasn’t really reflecting it, autumn was definitely on its way, and Olinia was looking forward to it. In Virginia, there was really nothing like fall. The entire landscape transformed from the summer green to shades of red, orange, yellow, and deep purple. It was Olinia’s favorite time of year, except for when it rained.
Two years ago, Olinia loved dreary days. She would anticipate them with excitement. But that was two years ago – back when the color of storm clouds hadn’t reminded her of someone’s eyes, causing her inner pain at the memory. That was before she had met the Ethon who ended up abandoning her in his realm. Things were different now.
“Time to pair up to go over last night’s reading.” Sanders brought Olinia’s head around. She hadn’t been paying attention to him.
She grimaced as her fellow students began to shuffle around, finding their partners. She wasn’t really in the mood to talk with a stranger while hearing their every inner thought perfectly.
Back at the front, the blonde straightened in her seat, grinning. She was admiring some dark-haired guy who had just stood from his seat in the far back right corner. He was making his way toward her, textbook in hand. Olinia recognized him to be the straggler from her first day of class. She watched as he reached the blonde’s desk and then passed by without so much as a nod. Olinia let out a short laugh. Fortunately for the girl, her friend the farmboy was sitting right behind her, ready to offer his assistance. Olinia smiled to herself, dropping her gaze to the textbook on her desk. She secretly enjoyed moments like these.
“Hey, do you have a partner yet?”
Olinia’s head snapped up. The guy who had passed the blonde was now standing in front of Olinia. She shook her head and heard herself admit, “Not yet.”
“Awesome.” He sat in the chair to her right. “My name’s Porter Mires.”
“Olinia Reien.” She forced a smile.
Porter thought as he opened the book in his hands.
Why did he pick her?
The blonde muttered to herself, glaring at Olinia.
“You know the reading for last night?” Porter asked out loud.
Olinia winced inwardly, forcing her mind to focus on the actual conversation she was involved in, rather than the silent rambling of every person in the room. “Yeah, pages forty-eight through ninety-seven, right?”
He nodded. “Did you read all of it?”
“I read some, but no, not all of it.” She reached for the textbook in her backpack, but her fingers slipped off its edge as she pulled it out. The book landed in a messy heap on the floor. Letting out a sigh, Olinia bent to pick it up, but Porter was faster. He grabbed the book and extended it to Olinia in one fluid movement. Surprised, she accepted the book, and noticed Porter’s fingers brush hers as he released his grip.
Almost instantly, her inner eye witnessed images of things she had seen earlier that day. One scene in particular stood out from the others. It was a picture of her and Legann in swimsuits at Virginia Beach the summer before. Trenton had taken it. That morning, before she left for school while Legann was in the shower, Olinia had opened a sort of diary she kept during her time in Ethon. Trenton had suggested she record her adventures here so that one day when she returned to the Other Worlds she could remember. He was more optimistic than she was. The picture had been inside the diary – next to a drawing Legann had done of…well, that didn’t matter. It was the image of them at the beach that was being focused on.
Confused by the sudden rush of memories, Olinia rubbed her forehead with one hand. Strange. It was almost as if someone had pulled the memories out from her, but that wasn’t very likely. Hearing everyone’s thoughts must have rekindled some of her own.
“How far did you get in the reading?” Porter began thumbing through the pages of his own textbook.
“I just basically skimmed it,” she admitted.
“Okay.” He glanced up from the book. “We may have done about the same then.”
“Has everyone found a partner?” Sanders called out to the class, interrupting his students. When no one responded, Sanders nodded. “Good. The person you’re with will be your partner for the rest of the semester. You’ll also write your final papers together, so be mindful of that.”
As Sanders turned to his briefcase, ignoring his class once again, Porter grinned. “Looks like we’re going to be with each other for a while.”
She nodded and opened her own textbook on her desk. “What should we discuss?”
“How about you?”
“Excuse me?” She blinked.
He leaned forward onto his elbows, keeping his face towards her. For some reason his thoughts were suddenly fascinated by her. “How old are you?”
“I’d rather just focus on the homework,” she replied.
“You can’t tell me your age?”
Olinia rolled her eyes. “I’m nineteen. How old are you?”
“Twenty. Where are you from?”
“Does it matter?”
“If you had done all the reading last night, you would have learned that often where a person is raised can determine how that person reacts in certain situations,” he answered smugly. He became proud of himself too easily.
Olinia grimaced. He believed that through his charm and wit he could get whatever outcome he desired from whichever woman he chose. She felt like laughing in his face at his last remark. If he only really knew where she had grown up.
Am I going to need to repeat myself?
Porter thought, inspecting her face.
She sighed and decided to give him a vague lie. “I grew up here.”
The students around her began to pack up their belongings. Olinia glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was time to go – her class was finally over. She stood, grabbing her backpack.
Porter watched her from his seat without moving. “Bye, Olinia. See you next time.”
“See ya,” she murmured.
As she left the room, she saw herself through Porter’s eyes. There were no thoughts accompanying the image though. He was only looking at her. But just as she went through the door to the hallway, she swore she heard him think one word:
: : : : :
Dishwashers were something Legann was going to miss. The Other Worlds really needed to invest in such luxuries. Living conditions would improve immensely. Legann finished loading the dishwasher with the utensils and plates Olinia and he had used during dinner before turning it on. Oh yes, he would most definitely miss it. Maybe he would look into bringing it to the Other Worlds once he returned to his realm. It could not be that difficult to construct. The civilized areas of the Other Worlds already had basic indoor plumbing so why couldn’t he bring his realm dishwashers? Oh yeah, electricity. The Other Worlds was sadly lacking in that sort of technology.
In the next room over, Legann heard the television turn on and switch through channels rapidly. He chuckled. Olinia was upstairs in her room doing an assignment but apparently wanted to search for something to watch on the main floor’s LED flatscreen television. It was a habit she had picked up over the last few months. A lazy habit. She would wait to come downstairs until she found something interesting to watch, seen through Legann’s eyes. Since she could hear and see his thoughts, she would use that to her advantage when Legann sat in front of the TV. There was no need for her to come down when Legann was there to see what was on.
Legann couldn’t help but laugh a little. What a weird lifestyle he and his sister were living. If any Ethon were to randomly pop in on them, they would run away screaming at what they found.
Grabbing a can of soda from the refrigerator, Legann moved into the adjoining room with the TV. He knew it was what Olinia wanted him to do. Her homework no longer held her attention once she turned on the TV. He sat down on the couch and tipped his head back against a cushion, watching the channels change. When the channel surfing stopped on a commercial, he opened up his soda and took a sip.
“Have you heard of this place?”
Olinia’s voice made him jump. He hadn’t heard her sneak up on him. She was standing behind the back of the couch. He blinked up at her. “Are you talking about the commercial? What is it?”
“Some sort of private after-school program near here.” She sat next to him. “It’s called DS Academy.”
Legann glanced back at the TV. “What does the DS stand for?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“How’d you hear about it?”
“Some of my fellow students went there during high school,” she answered. “I’ve heard people thinking about it a few times on campus.”
The DS commercial faded into another one, and Legann gulped down more of his drink. “What’s so special about it?”
“You have to be invited to attend, first off, and even then that doesn’t guarantee admittance. You need to pass their scholastic tests after that.”
“So, it’s basically some super genius school.”
She let out a short laugh. “Basically.”
“Yeah, no thanks.” Legann grunted. He had no desire to work harder than he was already in any Ethon school. He wasn’t that devoted to his education.
“You know what I want to know, though?”
He turned. “What?”
“If you have to be invited to that school, why are they advertising for it?”
“Maybe they’re low on students and need more tuition money,” he offered.
“Maybe,” she admitted.
“What were those students you saw like?”
“Oh, they were cocky. They honestly think they’re something special. I mean, that’s the exact word they use to describe themselves,” she replied. “They all have full-ride scholarships and feel as if they’re brilliant.”
Legann watched Olinia reach out her hand towards the TV stand. The remote to the satellite dish floated through the air across the room, landing in her hand. She then began skimming through the channels again. After a moment, he asked, “Why aren’t we like those students? We are High Royalty after all.”
She blinked. “Are you serious? We’re totally cocky.”
“Think about it.” She pulled a face. “We haven’t made any real friends here because we keep telling ourselves that we’re going home one day and these Ethons mean nothing to us.” She paused. “By all accounts, it looks like we think we’re better than the Ethons.”
“That’s not fair,” he protested. “We
different than them. This isn’t our home. We’re just waiting for-”
“He’s gone, Legann,” she cut him off. “I doubt he’s ever coming back. We’re stuck here until we find a way home on our own.”
She never said his name. Even after all this time, she still refused to acknowledge that he could one day return and take them home. He may not have left them in Ethon for so long on purpose. Something might have happened to him. Whatever the reason, Legann did not believe that he and his sister were on their own. Legann was willing to wait for him to come back.
“No,” she interrupted again. “I really do think you forget I can hear your thoughts. Sorry, but I’m not willing to just put my life on hold while I wait for someone to finally keep his promise. I’m done waiting. I feel like I’ve done it long enough.” She stood. “I’ve been stuck-up and bitter for too long at these Ethons.”
“I didn’t mean to make you upset,” Legann said.
“I know. You’re fine.” She tossed him the TV remote. “I think I’ll go to bed early. Night.”
“Wait.” Legann stood, soda in hand. She paused, her back still to him. He took a breath. “Have you really lost hope about ever going back?”
She faced him slowly. “In order to have hope for something, you have to want it first.”
He frowned. “What are you saying?”
“I-” she hesitated. “I’m not sure I even want to go back to the Other Worlds.”
“What?” Legann blurted. “Why not?”
She grunted. “At this point it almost feels like our native realm isn’t real.”
“That’s just the Ethon mindset rubbing off on you,” he retorted. “We both know our realm is real. We have real family and friends there, and real responsibilities. You’re going to be queen. You’ve got to go back.”
Olinia bit at the inside of her bottom lip. “Maybe I don’t want to be queen anymore.”
Legann could feel himself gaping, but he couldn’t help it. His sister had shocked him. “Since when do you not want to be queen?”
“I haven’t wanted to be queen for over a year now,” she said softly.
Legann furrowed his eyebrows about to respond, but she rushed on, “Look at us. We’ve been exiled to Ethon. We’ve learned things that no one in our realm has. Can we really just return to the Other Worlds and pretend that what we’ve experienced here no longer exists?” She paused. “No, we can’t. From here on out, wherever we go and whatever we do, we will have a part of Ethon inside of us. We’re not just Other Worlders anymore – we’re much more complicated.”
Legann watched her, somewhat speechless. He wanted to refute that once an Other Worlder always an Other Worlder, but he knew better. She was right. During basically the past two years, something in them had changed. He, just as she did, no longer felt entirely from the Other Worlds. In fact, at the moment he felt very much like an Ethon.
When Legann didn’t reply, Olinia offered him a sad smile. “I’m sorry to have put it so bluntly, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Even if we someday do go back, I don’t think I can be queen.”
Again, he didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure what to say. Half of his brain knew that he should want to go home to the Other Worlds, but the other half was telling him that he didn’t need to. Could he and Olinia really live the rest of their lives in Ethon?
Before he had the chance to form a sentence, Olinia broke into his thoughts. “I’m tired. Goodnight, Legann.” With that she headed for the stairs, leaving Legann to stare at her back.
He sighed and sank onto the couch, suddenly feeling exhausted and no longer caring about the soda in his hand. “Night, Nia.”
The weeks were once again blending together. It was week six of her semester, but it could have been week thirty-six for all she knew. Even though she felt drained and bored as usual, there was something else behind her fatigue. She had the vague sense that she was on the brink of desperation. Trenton had spent the last weekend with her and Legann. She cared for her father’s former friend a great deal, but his eyes… Sometimes Trenton brought her more pain than joy. Sadly, this past visit was one of those times.
As the music blaring in her ears switched songs, Olinia leaned her elbows on the table in front of her and placed her head in her hands, running her fingertips over her scalp. She didn’t really want to think about Trenton at the moment.
Just then, an image of herself sitting down with her back to the beholder came into her head. The person recognized her, and she unfortunately recognized him. Olinia felt like cursing. She was in no mood to entertain.
He tapped her on the shoulder. She turned, even though she already knew who had joined her. Apparently, being in the library of her school on the topmost floor in a corner that was generally unoccupied didn’t mean that she could ever really be alone. The lack of people was what drew her there to study – she didn’t like to be bothered. Yet, here Porter was with that silly, smug grin of his. He was pleased to have found her. Had he been searching for her? Reluctantly, Olinia pulled out one of her earbuds.
“Fancy meeting you here,” he said cheerfully and dropped into the seat beside hers.
Olinia resolved to never sit at a desk that sat more than one person ever again. She forced a smile. “Yeah, small world.”
“What class are you studying for?” He wasn’t going to go away.
She dug her nails into her palm. He knew exactly which class she was studying. He’d already observed that their Anthropology book was open in front of her. He simply wanted her to say it so that he could offer to study with her. Why did he choose
as his next conquest? She wasn’t going to fall for his little games. If only she could still turn herself invisible. “I actually just finished doing the reading for Anthropology and was about to leave.”
“Oh good, so you’ve got some free time before your next class.”
Olinia mentally kicked herself. There was still thirty minutes until their Anthropology class. She shouldn’t have said she was done reading. At least if she was studying he wouldn’t try to talk to her. She pulled a face. “Maybe I’ll go take a nap.”
She wants me to leave,
he mused to himself
. Sorry, not going to happen. I need some information first.
What information? Olinia blinked. What could he, an Ethon, possibly want from her? She decided she didn’t care to find out. Slipping her textbook into her backpack, she stood. “I guess I’ll see you later.”
He was internally laughing at her as he jumped up to block her path. He believed that his attention was making her feel uncomfortable, mistaking her averseness for being shy with attractive men. “Why are you wanting to run away from me?”
She had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. He shouldn’t flatter himself. Classic good looks were not something that weakened her. She grunted, “That was me trying to politely tell you to get lost.”
Her response surprised and amused him. He was grinning again. “Why do you want to be alone?”
“Look,” she sighed and for once said what she was thinking, “I don’t know you. I don’t really care to get to know you. How about I just see you in class?”
As she turned to go, Porter moved with her, prohibiting her from getting far. “You’re such a mystery. Makes me wonder what you’re hiding.”
Mystery? Really? Where did he get that line? He seriously needed to get out of her way. Her resolution to not use her gifts in front of Ethons thinned when she became irritated. “I’m not interested in being your friend.”
I know what you’re hiding.
Olinia sincerely doubted that. She let out a short laugh. The odds of him discovering her past were not in his favor, unless he already categorized her with aliens. In that case, he wasn’t too far off.
He frowned. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” she lied. “I’m gonna go now.”
She managed to slide around him and take a few steps before he called out, “You may think you’re the only one like you, but you’re not.”
“What?” She turned.
Porter closed the gap between them. “You’re different, Olinia. I can tell.”
“Different from whom?” She retorted.
“Than most people you meet,” he answered. His thoughts flickered between images of her in class and throughout campus. She inwardly gagged at the detail. He was on the verge of stalking her with how much he followed her around.
She bit at the inside of her lip. “Remember how you read where a person is from has an impact on them. Well, I’m not so different than those of where I’m from.”
“That’s hard to imagine.” His mind drifted to how soft her skin looked. He wanted to touch her again, like how he’d brushed her hand before.
Olinia released her breath in a rush. It was time to go. She nodded her head once. “See you in a little bit, Porter.” With that, she left him behind to stare after her.
: : : : :
It was not even two months into the school year and Legann was already anticipating the next holiday. He was once again bored out of his mind in English. He still strongly believed the class was a waste of his time.
The teacher, Mrs. Amellia Haglund, was up at the front of the room reviewing her favorite collection of poems. She was a short, round woman with long, frizzy brown hair. A pair of reading glasses dangled around her neck by a bright red cord and her eyebrows were in need of some help. Despite her odd complexion though, Legann did like her. Unlike some of her colleagues, she actually cared for the education and wellbeing of her students. She was a kind woman with an easy smile. It was just too bad that she taught English.
Legann glanced down at the notebook sitting on his desk and began to doodle on the top page. Before coming to Ethon, he had only used paper for learning how to read and write. Raised in a poor village under Kendren rule, there had not been an abundant supply of writing materials. Paper was a commodity that was not to be wasted on such things as art.
When he entered Ethon though, Legann was given as much paper as he wished. He began to draw and soon discovered he wasn’t half bad at it. It was soothing to him to recreate images from his realm and memory. Over the past few months, he had progressed in his drawing to the point of notice from Trenton. The last time he had visited, he mentioned for Legann to enroll in a sketch class as an elective.
He looked up in surprise, realizing Haglund had repeated his name twice already. “Yes?” He asked.
Haglund frowned. “You will be presenting with Lillie Pallort.”
“Presenting what?” He blinked.
“A poem,” Haglund reminded, giving Legann the impression that she’d mentioned this to him before. She shook her head sadly, as if disappointed. “It’s your turn on Friday.”
A girl off to Legann’s left and toward the front of the room turned around to steal a quick glimpse of him. He recognized her short hair – hair so white it was practically silver – and remembered her to be Lillie. For his entire high school experience, they’d shared the same lunch period. She would often sit alone – but by choice, not from rejection. She would read all through lunch.
Once Haglund returned her attention to her poems, Legann went back to his drawing. Today, he was interested in trees – big, thick ones with multiple branches, like those that had been in Delvich Forest. For the remaining forty or so minutes of class, Legann focused on outlining the dreaded prison forest of the Vrenyx world in his notebook. He was so engrossed in his work that he was startled when the bell rang.
Grateful for school’s end, Legann grabbed his things and stood. In front of him, Lillie did the same. He winced inwardly. It was probably best if he talked to her now about their assignment rather than later.
He hurried after her, pulling alongside her just as she exited the room. “Hey, Lillie.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Hello?”
Did she miss Haglund’s speech about them having to work together? Lillie looked as if there couldn’t possibly be a reason for him to be near her. He felt like rolling his eyes. It wasn’t like he was all excited to work with her either. “When should we meet up to do that poem thing?”
“During lunch tomorrow.” She reached into her book bag that was slung across her shoulder and yanked out her cell phone, purposely avoiding his gaze. “I can meet you in the cafeteria.”
Legann pulled a face, not that she noticed. Her eyes were glued to her cell. He sighed. “Alright. I’ll meet you there.”
“Great.” She glanced up at him. “See you then.”
She veered off down an adjoining hallway, and Legann slipped his own phone out of his pocket. There was the usual text from Olinia, notifying him of her arrival. He grunted and began for his locker, dodging students along his way. He had the vague feeling that Lillie had just ditched him.
: : : : :
Olinia closed her eyes and dropped onto her bed. She was alone, finally surrounded by complete silence. It was something that didn’t happen very often anymore. So when Legann would leave her, no matter the length, she reveled in only hearing her own thoughts.
Her current silence was due to an absence of milk and a few other necessities. Legann had volunteered to run to the grocery store, thus leaving her alone in their house. Well, the house Trenton had purchased for them. Olinia still didn’t feel like it really belonged to her and Legann. It was just another display of Trenton’s generosity. He was almost too nice at times.
The house was two stories. White walls, navy shutters and trim, and a gray roof made up the exterior. It was a newer home, not quite three years old, and had been the model home of a subdivision. When Trenton bought it, the surrounding land was meant for other houses to be built on. Because of Olinia’s unique condition though, Trenton decided to buy that land as well, preserving the little grove around the house. Olinia was glad that he had. Living right next to Ethons would have limited Olinia’s quiet time to nothing. She was content to just hear Legann. His thoughts she could handle.
It really was a beautiful home, too. With hardwood floors throughout and three full bathrooms, it fit right into middle-class America. On the main floor, there was a large kitchen, complete with breakfast nook and island, a guest bathroom, an adjoining family room, a study, a dining room, and an entryway. Upstairs were the four bedrooms and two other bathrooms. For just two people, there was more than enough space.
Since Olinia was older, she had claimed the master bedroom and attached bathroom. Legann hadn’t really minded taking a smaller room. He was rarely in it anyway other than to sleep. He preferred to spend his time in front of the TV or in the study when he had homework to finish. Olinia smiled slightly to herself. Her brother was easy to live with. He enjoyed her company but often did things on his own. Being with Legann was much like when she had lived in Sivean with her twin, Zedgry.
At the thought of Zedgry, Olinia winced. It had been almost two years since she had last seen him. She wondered how he was doing. Why hadn’t he ever come to find her? Someone had to have mentioned that she and Legann were stuck in Ethon. No, only one person had known about their exile. If he hadn’t returned, then how could Olinia expect her twin to find her?
Olinia sighed and stood, heading for the mirror above her bathroom’s sink. Before entering Ethon, her current reflection would have surprised her. Even though her facial features hadn’t changed much – she still had the high cheekbones, full lips, and dark brown eyes with gold flecks throughout – lately she had been dying her hair a dark brown instead of the light, golden brown she had sported for most of her life. The dark hair was a pretty color and made her not appear so young. Because of her Eveon blood, she basically didn’t age past seventeen for generations to come. The dark hair helped her look her actual age of almost twenty. The cut also helped. Since leaving the Other Worlds, she had shortened her hair to an inch or two below her shoulders and layered it throughout, giving it a choppy look.
Along with the changes in her hair, her wardrobe no longer consisted of wispy Eveon dresses or floor-length gowns. Jeans, T-shirts, zip-up hoodies, and flats were now her everyday apparel. She still wore some skirts, but it was usually in the form of summer dresses. Tight, blue jeans were the trend for Ethon women. Today, Olinia wore a dark pair of jeans and a slim, short-sleeved brown turtleneck. Yes, her appearance was definitely different than what it once was. She had never even donned a pair of pants before coming to Ethon.
Memories of her princess days made her pull a face. It was hard to believe that she had once imagined herself to be queen of Caprith, Evedon, and the Other Worlds. The realm she was raised in seemed too much of a fantasy to be real. Ethon had rubbed off on her. Just as she had basically told Legann, the desire to be queen that had once kindled inside of her had long since extinguished. How could she ever become queen to a realm that refused to discover her whereabouts? The Other Worlds obviously didn’t want her, and if Olinia was being honest with herself, she wasn’t so sure she wanted the Other Worlds.