Alissia Roswell turned the key to the car, and silence filled the air. Although one of her favorite songs had been playing on the radio, she was too consumed with memories of her haunted past to notice. There, in front of her, stood the aged oak tree near the pond on her family’s property, and at the base of the tree was a deep hollow containing her old diary.
It had been over ten years since she had held that diary, and it was filled with secrets from her past she had never shared with anyone. Alissia’s teenage years had been extremely difficult and during that time, she had often taken refuge beneath the large tree. She had spent many nights there, wrapped in a blanket, crying herself to sleep, and nobody knew of the pain she had endured.
She had left Jesup, Georgia, within days after her graduation, swearing she would never return to her hometown again. Before driving out of town, she had visited the old tree and had written her last diary entry. Then, she had placed it back in its hiding place at the base of the tree, thinking she would never see it again.
Although usually not an emotional person, Alissia found herself fighting tears that threatened to come. She let out a small, sarcastic laugh as she reminded herself that she had not cried once since she had been back in town, not even at her father’s funeral.
It had been less than a week since she had gotten the call from her older sister with the unexpected news of their father’s death. Janet had sobbed uncontrollably while telling Alissia how a man had fallen asleep at the wheel of his SUV and had swerved into their father’s lane, killing them both immediately. It had been the first day of deer hunting season, and Alissia could only imagine how eager her father had been to get to the hunting club early that morning.
Although she had loved her father dearly and had been very close to him as a child, all of that changed after an accident at work left him on disability and without a job at the pulp mill. She had only been twelve years old and within a few months of the accident, he began to drink. Suddenly, the loving father she had always known turned into a stranger she greatly feared. He had often searched for her while in one of his drunken rages, and she soon learned how to hide the bruises he left behind. She could still remember all of the cruel words he spoke to her each time he became drunk. It was as if all of the love he had felt for her had turned to hate, and the father she had known died that year.
She could still remember the man she had loved as a child. He had taught her to ride a horse, hunt, fish and so much more. One of her favorite memories was of her sitting quietly next to him in a tree stand, eagerly awaiting a deer to step out into the clearing. Her father had been full of pride the day she had killed her first deer, and he had bragged about it to everyone he knew.
Alissia sighed as her thoughts turned to the events of the past few days. Although she had occasionally talked on the phone to her mother and sister, she had not seen them in over ten years. After seeing her mother cry, Alissia now felt somewhat guilty for abandoning her. Maybe she should have flown her mother in for a visit, and maybe she had been wrong for turning her back on her mother and sister.
Her mother divorced her father shortly after Alissia left town, and her father moved into a mobile home on another area of their property. Neither of them remarried, and although they were no longer living together, her mother had often cooked and cleaned for him. Even after all he had done to the family, her mother continued to love him.
Alissia got out of the car and walked over to the tree. Standing next to it, she held out her hand and gently rubbed her fingertips along the bark. She had learned early in life not to trust anyone, and during her teenage years, she had pulled away from everyone and had become a loner. At one time, this tree had been her only friend, and she had tearfully confided everything to it as she struggled with her troubled life.
“I missed you,” she said softly as she pulled her hand away. She looked down at the hollow, and her desire for the diary grew stronger. She impatiently began to look around for a stick to drag it out, and it was not long before she was sitting at the base of the tree holding a dirty, old ammunition box.
A mix of emotions flooded her as she held the box, and her mind took her to places she had not been in many years. This time she did not fight the tears, and it took a moment before she wiped the last one away. She then took a deep breath before opening the box.
Suddenly, she felt as if she was being sucked into a swift tornado, and she began to rapidly free fall in a spiraling motion. White lights flashed past her, and her stomach lurched as pain began to rise up within her body. Although she tried to scream, her voice was no competition for the loud, train-like sound surrounding her. She soon became light headed, and everything went dark.
Barely conscious and in severe pain, Alissia could hear the distant sound of dripping water. The soil beneath her cheek was dank and when she opened her eyes, she could barely make out the cavernous walls in the dimly lit surroundings. The pain was too great to move, and she soon lost all consciousness again.
She awoke some time later, and it felt as though a fire was raging inside her body. She tried to scream before losing consciousness again.
The next time she regained her awareness, she could hear the sound of voices in a foreign language being spoken above her. The fire within her body now felt like a strong, dull pain, and barely able to open her eyes, she vaguely saw the outline of two small faces staring down at her. They were speaking to each other as if in a heated discussion, but they suddenly became silent and turned their heads sharply. They then began to speak frantically above her before they swiftly disappeared, leaving her alone.
In less than a minute, dirt and rubble flew up in front of Alissia as a man came to a sudden stop a few feet from her. Still panting from his run through the tunnels, he looked down at her with a shocked and confused expression upon his face. “Alexandra?” he asked in disbelief.
Not waiting for an answer, he rushed to her side and sat down. He quickly examined her body with a worried look upon his face, and then he said in a shaky voice, “I’ll get you out of here.”
As he gently scooped her petite body into his muscled arms, she lost consciousness again.
The next time Alissia opened her eyes, she found herself in a comfortable, soft bed, and she immediately thought she was dreaming because of the odd beauty of her surroundings. The room was dimly lit by a blue, glowing ivy plant climbing up the poles of the four-poster bed she was in, and she could see the stars of the night shining above her.
The sound of two men talking outside the room caught her attention, and although she could understand most of their words, their thick accents were like nothing she had ever heard before.
“What are you going to do?” one of the men asked.
The other man let out a long breath before answering, “I really don’t know.”
“Are you going to tell the Eldership?”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. What I did was illegal, and it wouldn’t solve anything. They’d be more focused on what I did than on trying to help her. You know how strict the laws are.”
“What are you going to do about work?”
“I told Darius I had a private matter I needed to take care of. I didn’t tell him anything else, so I’m sure he’ll be checking on me.”
“Oh, you’re awake,” said a female voice from the corner of the room.
Alissia turned her head just as the room became brighter from a glowing, white ivy plant growing along the stone walls of the room.
The woman walked to the side of the bed and looked down at her with a smile. She looked to be around the same age as Alissia, and she wore a long, single braid of auburn brown hair. The braid hung down her back and was decorated with small, blue flowers, and she wore a long, simple dress the color of pale blue.
The two men walked into the room, and she immediately noticed they were both dressed in clothing that reminded her somewhat of a Renaissance festival she had once been to. They even had a knife strapped to their leather belts.
One man was tall and rugged with unruly, light brown hair. Although he looked as though he spent most of his time working outside, his face had a soft and kind appearance to it.
The second man was dressed in much finer clothing. Unlike the other one, his thin, white poet’s shirt was tucked inside his dark pants, and his chestnut brown hair was neatly groomed. He walked over and stood next to the bed.
“How are you feeling?” he asked in a concerned voice.
A cautious look appeared across Alissia’s face as she looked at each person in the room.
“Where am I, and what happened?”
With a reassuring smile upon his face, the man standing next to her said, “My name is Grady, and this is my cousin, Anika, and her husband, Langley. This is their home. You appeared to be hurt badly when I found you, so I brought you here for help.”
The couple standing at the foot of the bed gave her a warm smile as she looked their way. Turning her attention back to Grady, she asked, “Why didn’t you take me to a hospital, and how long have I been here?”
Anika rushed to Grady’s side and asked, “Are you in any pain?”
Full of confusion, Alissia looked down and realized someone had removed her outer clothing and had replaced them with what appeared to be a large, brown shirt.
“Oh, I did that,” Anika assured. “You were completely covered in blood and dirt, so I had to remove most of your clothes before washing you. I promise the men weren’t in the room, and the lights were low.” With a confused look, she added, “You don’t seem to have any bruises or wounds from your fall, so I’m a little confused as to why your clothes were covered in blood. Can you tell us what you remember?”
Alissia thought for a moment.
“I was at the pond when something happened. I felt like I was being pulled and ripped apart while being dropped through the air.” Closing her eyes, she remembered the intense pain and the fall. “I don’t remember much after that, but I remember the pain. It was as if I were being burned from within.”
With a worried look, Anika asked, “That’s all you remember? Do you remember when Grady found you?”
Another memory flashed through her mind, and she replied, “I remember voices in a foreign language.”
Anika turned to Grady with a puzzled look. “I have no answer.”
“What’s going on? How did I get here?” Alissia asked, trying to mask her fear.
“You need to explain everything to her,” Anika said to Grady.
She then walked out of the room. After giving a quick glance towards Grady, Langley followed his wife and shut the door behind him.
Looking uncomfortable, Grady gently sat down beside Alissia, but when she began to sit up, he quickly stood to his feet again.
“Let me help you,” he said, as he grabbed another pillow.
She let him place the pillow behind her back, and he sat down on the bed again. Her stomach felt somewhat itchy, and she lightly scratched at it.
“I really don’t know how to tell you this, Alexandra –”
“Alissia,” she interrupted. “My name used to be Alexandra, but I changed it years ago.” Hiding her fear, she asked cautiously, “How do you know my old name?”
“I promise that I will tell you everything. Think of one earth, yet two very different realities. You were brought here by a sort of magical rope. Do you remember opening the box holding your journal?”
“Well, someone from our reality set up a connection to it. It was triggered once you opened the box, and you were pulled here. This has never happened before, and it appears as if it was not easy for you.”
His words only added to her confusion.
“Why would someone bring me here, and who did it?”
“There are some people in our reality whose job is to study your reality in hopes of learning more about it. We call them Watchers, and they can get small glimpses of where you are from. It’s our belief that our Creator formed our realities from the same world, and there are a lot of similarities between them. Our people even seem to speak some of the same common languages. If I recall, you call your language English; whereas, I speak Norian. Although it’s similar, you don’t know many of our words, and I’m sure I don’t know a lot of yours. Our accents are also very different.”
He paused to give her time to ask questions. When she did not, he continued.
“I am not a Watcher, but I took some classes many years ago. In a watching class, we learned how to open something resembling a window looking into your reality. Since our power source is from the gift of nature, we can only open windows in natural settings in your reality. It seems our most prestigious school is located in a place that is very natural on your reality because it’s a lot easier here to open a window than it is in some areas. There are some places we can’t seem to open a window, no matter how hard we try, and we believe this means there isn’t enough nature on your side. Maybe that’s where your side has a city. Does this make sense?”
Not really believing him, she decided to go with it and answered, “Kind of.”
“Once a Watcher opens a window, it records what’s on the other side. We can pick up traces of emotions, and that gives us a hint of where to set up a window. There has to be nature on your side, but we also don’t want to open a window where there aren’t any people.
“During my training many years ago, I was partnered with Agro. When we were given our assignment to open a window, we opened one near the tree you often went to. The window recorded, and we were to give a written report on our observations. After watching the first few recordings we had made, Agro and I agreed we didn’t want to share anything about you with our class. It seemed too personal, so we agreed to open another window for the school and close our connections to yours.
“During this time, Agro’s life was filled with trouble. Things had never been that good for him. His mother had been sick for many years, and his father had been doing experiments in hopes of saving her. He was desperate and began to do things highly illegal and was arrested. During the long trial, Agro’s mother died, and he blamed the elders for her death. He believed she would have gotten better if his father had never been arrested and taken away. He thought the elders should have had mercy and released his father so he could continue to work on a cure. Instead, they decided his father was guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.
“Agro soon withdrew from everyone at school. I thought he was depressed from all that was happening, and I became worried for him. I would go out of my way to find him and talk to him, and I visited him in his room often.
“He managed to finish his training and moved to another city on the other side of the mountains, and I was chosen for a position within the Eldership here in Allure. Allure is one of our biggest cities, and it is where the main offices are located.
“Seven years passed, and I had lost all contact with him. Then one day, I received an unmarked package at my home, and I was very surprised to find it was a stack of notes and recordings from your window. It also contained a jade, which is very rare and expensive. It’s also illegal to have. Although I had closed my connection to your window, he had continued recording the window and experimenting with it. He had been trying to open it so he could enter your reality. His notes proved he had found a way to get a slight opening into the window. He couldn’t send anything physical through it, but with the help of the jade, he was able to send out a surge of power and link it to your journal.
“He decided if he couldn’t send anything through the window, maybe he could pull something through it. The link was sort of like a rope that could pull you through the opening, and he was hoping your body would make the hole bigger.
“I could only imagine what something like that could do to you, and I realized after watching the recordings that he had done this after you had left home. I feared you would return one day, so I tried to find a way to break the link. All of my attempts were unsuccessful, and all I was able to do was attach a power surge to a ring so that I would know when you were pulled through. By this time, it had been several years since you had left, so I was hoping it would never be triggered.”
He held up his right hand to show a fresh burn mark around his ring finger and said, “This morning, the ring sent a surge of power, and that is when I went to find you.”
Still not ready to believe him, she asked, “How am I going to get home?”
With a troubled look, he answered, “I don’t know yet. The jade is low on power, and even if it weren’t, I don’t know how to send you back. I have to study the window first. I also don’t know how safe it would be for you to go back through. When I found you, you were covered in blood. You looked as if you were on the verge of death, and I didn’t think you were going to survive. We still have no idea what really happened to you and why you’re not hurt now.”
She closed her eyes and let his words sink in. If he was telling the truth, it meant she may never be able to return home and that she was in a place where she knew no one. He sat quietly next to her as she thought about all he had said, and then a horrific thought suddenly occurred to her.
“What do you mean by recordings? What exactly did you see?” she asked.
He looked down at his hands resting in his lap and hesitantly answered, “I closed my side of the window after the first two times of seeing you; however, I watched all of his recordings when I received the package.”
Fear filled her as she realized what he was saying.
“What exactly did you see?” she asked again.
Still staring down at his hands, he answered, “The recordings were of you at the tree.”
“How long? A few months? A year? And could you see and hear me?”
He cleared his throat uncomfortably and turned to look directly into her eyes.
“I could see and hear you, and the recordings were for a little over two years. They stopped the day you said you were never coming back.”
Alissia closed her eyes and turned away. Those last years in Georgia had been the worst years of her entire life, and the old tree had been her sanctuary. She had spent countless hours crying and writing in her diary there, and she had often spoken out loud. If he had witnessed those private moments of her life, it meant he knew more about her than anyone else ever had. She had never and would never share with anyone the pain she had felt during those years. Nobody had ever seen that side of her, and she had locked that part of herself away.
Even the people close to her during those painful years never knew the truth about her. In the beginning of her father’s abuse, she had openly cried in front of others, but after a couple years, she realized her tears were a weakness that never got her anywhere. Since she had already become an expert at hiding her bruises, it had only taken a little more effort to hide her true emotions. In the end, she became so good at her control that she learned how to look completely unaffected as she took each blow from her father. To everyone around her, she appeared cold and unemotional, and seeing how this confused her family, it gave her an even greater satisfaction. She had vowed to herself long ago that no one would ever have enough control over her to cause her pain or see her weak, and she had kept that vow ever since.
The fear inside her grew stronger as she realized he knew another secret about her. She had wrapped herself in a blanket under the tree and had cried for what seemed like hours. As she had prayed out loud, the reality of her weakness began to seep in, and her prayers soon turned into self-condemnation for not being stronger.
She had been on a date, and although she had said no to his advances, he would not listen. In the end he had gotten what he had wanted, and she had blamed herself for allowing it to happen. She had gone to her diary that night full of guilt and shame, and she could still remember how she had hated herself for being so weak.
Alissia’s first reaction was to run away from the stranger sitting next to her. She had never been in this situation before, and she did not know how she would ever be able to face him. Even if she did regain control of herself, he would be able to see right through her, and no matter how unemotional she acted, he would know the truth. She was capable of being hurt, and she hurt deep. She felt more exposed than she had felt in her entire life.
Once she realized he was not going to leave the room, she mustered all of her willpower to appear calm as she opened her eyes and turned back to face him. He had not moved and had been patiently staring down at his hands during her long silence. Without emotion, she said, “That was over ten years ago. I was a different person back then. I also thought I was alone during those moments, so don’t expect me to act like that now.”
He turned his head to look at her.
“I don’t expect you to act in any way. I don’t expect anything from you, and I only want to help with this situation. I destroyed the recordings and will never mention anything on them to anyone.” After a short pause, he said, “I am curious about one thing, though. Why did you come back?”
“My father died,” she said flatly.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” He stood to his feet before asking, “Would you like to try to get up now, or would you rather I leave you here to rest some more?”
Feeling an urge to relieve herself, she replied, “I want to get up.”
He nodded before responding, “Then I will have Anika help you.”
Shortly after he left the room, Anika came in and gave her a robe made with a soft material Alissia was not familiar with. “I will go into town tomorrow to buy you some new clothes, but considering how small you are, I may have a challenge.”
Her words did not surprise Alissia. Her petite size was rare in her reality, and apparently, it was rare in this one, as well.
Anika led her out of the bedroom and into a small sitting room with a fireplace and comfortable furnishings. A beautiful, stone wall divided the room from the kitchen, and glowing blue and white ivy grew along all of the walls of the room. The floor was made of polished wood, and a pleasant floral scent filled the air of the cottage. Extra light came from stones that glowed and were placed throughout the room, and she could see the night sky through the tinted ceiling.
Everyone watched as she looked around and stared in awe. After a moment of silence, Anika let out a small laugh and said, “I don’t know anything about your reality, but from the look on your face, I’m starting to believe there’s a big difference.”
Alissia nodded in agreement before Anika led her to an exotic bathroom with water flowing down one stone wall and landing in a small, in-ground pool. A blue glow came from the bottom of the pool and lit the water. Non-glowing flowers of various colors surrounded the stone pool, and at one end of the pool, something resembling a large lily pad with a pink flower floated on top of the water.
As Alissia stood over the pool and looked down, Anika pointed to the floating flower.
“That is a purifier flower. It absorbs all the impurities and dirt so the water stays clean at all times, no matter how dirty my husband can be from the horses.”
Alissia looked up in confusion and asked, “This is where you bathe? You use the same water?”
“This is where we bathe. The purifier flower keeps the water clean, so we don’t have to change the water.” She pointed to the glowing ivy on the wall and said, “Those are called bellas. If you place their roots in water, they glow. We keep these lit at all times, but the ones in your room, we will pull out of the water during the night so you can sleep.”
She pointed to a clear, gallon-sized container at one edge of the pool with a small bottle beside it. Both were half filled with a grey powder. “If the water isn’t hot enough for you, sprinkle a little of that over the rock in the bottom of the corner.” She looked around the room before adding, “I can’t wait to hear about your reality. Is it very different from this?”
Anika picked up a few bottles from beside the pool and said, “This is what you use to wash your hair and body. It’s made from a variety of scented and purifier flowers. I have more than one scent, so you can choose which one you want to use.” She pointed at another bottle and added, “That one is for hair removal, so you don’t want to use it.”
She put the bottles down and walked over to a small table beside a sink and mirror and picked up another container before saying, “This is what you put on afterwards to moisturize with.” She opened the cabinet beneath the small table and pulled out another bottle. “You can have this. It’s new. We use this to clean our mouth. You slosh it around your mouth for about a minute before spitting it out.”
Once Anika finished explaining what things were and how to use the plumbing, she gave Alissia a fresh towel and large shirt before leaving the room.
The sound of water trickling down the wall, as well as the sight and smell of flowers in the room were soothing to her. Alissia looked up into the clear night sky and she thought she was in paradise. She noticed a mirror standing in the corner of the room, and she walked over to it. She stared at her reflection and saw dried blood in her dark, long hair. She frowned before looking away and walked towards the pool of water.
After she removed what little clothing she had on, she dipped her foot into the warm water and smiled to herself. She slowly stepped into the pool and fully immersed her head. Once she came up, she noticed some blood floating towards the roots of the large flower as if it was being sucked into them.
Out of curiosity, she went to the corner of the pool where the grey powder was. She looked down and noticed a stone surrounded by a pile of other stones. She could feel the heat coming from the stone in the center, and she guessed the wall around it was there to keep someone from accidentally stepping on it.
Alissia picked up the small bottle and opened it before pouring some of the powder over the center stone. She set the bottle back down and watched as the water began to bubble up around the stone. The water began to get warmer, and she backed away.
She then smelled the scented soaps, and after making a selection, she began to wash herself. Afterwards, she sat on a ledge in the water and leaned back into a relaxing position before closing her eyes.
She stayed that way for a long moment and thought over the day’s events as her surroundings soothed her. The water never got cold, and when she finally stepped out of the pool, she wondered how long she had been there.
After drying her body, she wrapped herself in the towel and walked back to the mirror. She brushed her dark, long, naturally curly hair before frowning at her appearance. She could not remember the last time she had not straightened her hair and was not used to letting her wild hair go natural.
She walked to the sink to clean her teeth, and then she removed the towel and began to apply scented lotion to her body. As her hand rubbed across her abdomen, she felt something strange and looked down to find two small handprints branded into her skin. One was on each side of her stomach and directly beneath each rib cage. To Alissia, the prints resembled the appearance of an old scar of someone being burned by extreme heat.
She walked over to the mirror and placed her hands over the child-sized prints. With the handprints on each side of her abdomen and her butterfly tattoo concealing a small scar to the right of her navel, her stomach was nearly covered.
Although she did not feel any pain as she pressed down on the prints, she felt the same itchiness she had felt earlier, and she began to have an uneasy suspicion about the people she had just met.
After dressing in the shirt and robe Anika had given her, she felt uncomfortable over her lack of clothing in front of strangers. She had always been a modest person and had never forgotten the advice she had been given as a child from one of her aunts. Aunt Marge had often said, “Whatever bait you use will determine the type of fish you catch.” After what had happened on the night her date had forced his way with her, she knew what type of man she did not want to catch.
As soon as she stepped out of the bathroom, her stomach growled from the smell of food, and she slowly made her way to the kitchen. The men were sitting at the table, and Anika was pouring their drinks. She noticed Alissia at the door and said in her thick accent, “I timed it just right. Everything is ready, and you must be starving. Eat as much as you like and make yourself at home.”
Grady got up from his seat and pulled out a chair next to him, and Alissia sat down. Anika brought steaming bowls of soup and fresh bread to the table before joining them.
Alissia smiled and listened quietly as they told her about the ranch Langley and his father managed and lived on. She learned people traveled from far distances to buy horses from them. Anika had gone to school to become a teacher, but had left her career two years ago when she married Langley, and she now contributes to the family ranch.
After two bowls of potato soup and some bread, Alissia was no longer distracted by hunger, and she interrupted the conversation by blurting out, “How did I get the handprints on my stomach?”
An uncomfortable silence filled the room as the others looked to each other with confused expressions. When she did not get an answer, Alissia said, “I have two handprints branded on me, and since they are completely healed, I’m wondering how long I’ve really been here, who did it, and why?”
“Can you show them to us?” Anika nervously asked.
Alissia looked at both men before answering, “I’ll show you.”
The two women left the confused men at the table and walked back into the bedroom Alissia had been using. Trying to be modest, she got back into the bed and pulled the covers up to her stomach. She then opened the robe and lifted the shirt she was wearing, and Anika began to run her fingers over each handprint.
“I noticed these earlier, but thought this was something you had done before coming here. They appear to be severe burn wounds, but they are completely healed as if they’ve been on your body for a while. Are you saying these are new?”
“I have never seen these in my entire life,” Alissia stressed. “You didn’t do them?”
Anika shook her head. “No. How about the butterfly? Is it new, too?”
“No, I’ve had that,” Alissia responded.
With a worried look, Anika said, “I really think the men should see this. I have never seen or heard of anything like this before. Is it alright if they look at it?”
Alissia nodded her affirmation before Anika left the room, and it was not long before she returned with both men following her. They all stared down at the handprints in confusion, and Grady began to rub his fingers along the prints. As he pressed down on them, he asked, “Does this hurt at all?”
“No, it’s just a little itchy.”
He absent-mindedly moved his fingers towards her tattoo and asked, “How about the butterfly? Was it there before?”
Her body immediately stiffened as his fingertips found her scar, and she quickly pulled the blankets up to cover herself before answering, “It was already there.” A flash of anger went through her as she realized he knew how the scar had gotten there, and not even the person that had given it to her had known about it.
She and her father had been alone that night, and he had grabbed a small knife during one of his drunken rages. He managed to stab her with the tip of it before she was able to take it from him, and the next morning, the only evidence of the night before had been her father’s black eye and swollen lip.
She was certain her father had not remembered what had happened, and by then, her mother had gotten used to not asking questions. She had kept her wound tightly bandaged until it had healed and had never told anyone about it. It had happened a year before she left town, and it had given her the strength she needed to leave and never return. Years later, she covered the scar with the small, purple and pink butterfly to represent the change the scar represented to her.
After being cut by her father, she swore she would never allow herself to be a victim again, and she never gave him an opportunity to strike her after that night. If he even came near her while drunk, she was the first to attack, and her fierce punches were fueled by her anger and hatred towards him.
A look of regret instantly appeared across Grady’s face as he realized what he had just touched and how it made her feel towards him. Langley distracted him by saying, “It looks as though it was done with severe heat, and did you notice how small the hands are?”
Alissia remembered the searing fire she had felt before Grady had found her, and she mentioned it to them before she reminded them of the foreign voices she had heard.
“Maybe this explains why she didn’t have any bruises or cuts, yet she was covered in blood,” Anika said. “Could someone have healed her before you got to her? I’ve never heard of such a thing, and as much blood that was on her clothes, I think she might have been severely hurt.”
Grady asked, “Who could have done it?”
The three of them looked at each other, shaking their heads before Langley asked, “Where did you say you found her?”
“She was in a hidden cave on the edge of the mountains.” After a pause, Grady added, “I can do some research at the Eldership. Maybe I’ll find something to give us a clue. I also need to figure out what happened to the window as she came through.”
They each agreed before the men left the room, and Anika sat down on the bed next to Alissia. In a soft voice, she said, “I know this is hard for you. I can only imagine what I’d do if I were thrown into a different reality. Are you married, and do you have children where you come from?”
Alissia had been staring at a group of glowing flowers across the room, and still not looking at Anika, she shook her head.
“No, but I left behind my life with a great job and friends. What am I supposed to do here?”
“Don’t worry about that at all. We aren’t going to just throw you out on your own. Grady will find answers. Who knows? Maybe you can go back home one day, and this will just have been an adventure.”
“Yeah, but when? If I don’t get home soon, I will lose everything I had. What would I tell people when they ask where I’ve been?”
Anika gave a reassuring smile before answering, “We’ll figure something out.” As she stood to her feet, she asked, “Would you like to join us or stay in here for the night?”
Wanting to be left alone with her melancholy thoughts, Alissia answered, “I’ll stay in here. Thank you.”
“Then, I’ll pull the lights for you.”
Alissia watched as Anika walked to the corner of the room and pulled the ivy’s roots from a container. Within seconds, the bright white flowers stopped glowing, and the only light in the room was coming from the dim blue ivy spiraling up the bed posts.
“Do you want me to pull the other lights also, or do you want them to stay in?”
“They’re fine. I like them.”
After Anika left the room and shut the door, Alissia rolled onto her side and stared out in front of her. She could not stop thinking of Anika’s question about marriage and children, and it bothered her that she did not have anyone in her life she would truly miss.
And who would miss me?
Her friends would wonder what had happened to her, but she doubted any of them would cry over her disappearance. She had always been the fun one that loved being around lots of people, and she had rarely ever spent time alone with any of her girlfriends. Allowing anyone to get that close and private had always scared her, and it had always been much safer to socialize in a group.
What about her family in Georgia? She knew her mother and sister would be extremely upset and confused by her disappearance, and she hated causing them so much pain. The only clue they would have was her SUV left at the pond, and she had left her purse and cellphone in the front seat. Everyone in town would be searching for her, and
there was a possibility she would never be found.
A new thought went through her mind, and she felt a sudden knot in her stomach. Where was her diary? Had it fallen at the tree for anyone to find or had it come here with her? She definitely did not want her family to ever read anything she had written all those years ago.
Once her agitated mind finally settled down, she drifted into a restless sleep, and when she awoke the next morning, she felt as though someone had been watching her.