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excerpt from book ii
THE CHEVEYAN PROPHECY- THE GAME CHANGER
RETURN TO THE OUTLANDS
I ride Dragon, heading away from the Valley and the smell of crisp air that rushes up my nose as the wind shimmers in violent iridescent colors. It’s speaking to me-the entire breath of currents, unnerving me by the sheer magnitude of its width and spaciousness. Howling past my ears at an unimaginable speed elongates the words and makes them unintelligible. But I know its speaking lessons of the world to me, wisdom of the ages that come straight from higher realms or maybe premonitions of how my decision to leave the Valley will unfold. My muscles tighten as the desire to clearly hear the lessons claw inside me. Part of me knows Magic wouldn’t order the wind to speak to me if it weren’t important, and if she’s trying to tell me what I should heed what the warrior said- and keep the faith. Well, I tried that, and the council man who dragged me from the mansion told me if I wasn’t gone by tonight, they’d come to Rob’s and personally escort me and my mom to the outlands.
So, there was no keeping the faith because no one was able to reach Santi or Blue River in time. Meanwhile, the goddess of magic keeps whisking lassos around me that spark like fire as she tries anything to get my attention and pull me from the edges of the outlands. My eyes lift farther down the road where an iridescent membrane stretches from one side of the road to the other. It’s where the Valley ends and the outlands begin. My eyes squint as it ripples wildly with the colors of the rainbow. The goddess again- I scoff, angry at my fate! My shoulders shoot up when I hear strikes of thunder behind me. I twist to look behind me, my eyes wide and my heart thumping erratically as I halfway except to see the Cheveyan god of thunder Sedeni standing as tall as the cliffs and shimmering in golden light. Instead, there’s a tree split in half but the mighty oak at its side has broken its fall, so it doesn’t block the road. Still.... But actually, that’s not what concerns me- it's the dark clouds rolling in from the woods chasing me and threatening to dump buckets of rain. I ride faster, my heart pattering as my hand squeezes hard around the gas clutch. I cross into the outlands just as the sky breaks with swords of water falling violently from the clouds to the ground. The goddess, Sedeni, or both add a few strikes of lightning for good measure. Leaving isn’t something I want to do. Doesn’t magic know that? Tears spill over my eyes and tangle between my lashes as I look around the outlands and see that in the blink of an eye, everything looks different. My heart shreds more and more and the farther away I go from the old world. I breathe in a shivering breath, my eyes darting around, the twinkling air has dulled and the words inside the wind, silenced. Through the smog of the city, I see the skyscrapers beyond the a rain-turbulent river, and smell the faint whiffs of trash lilting along the passing air. I never knew magic existed, but now that I’ve returned to a world where no one believes in it, the deadness inside me resurrects and consumes me like a second skin.
Not an hour ago I turned off my phone to preserve the batteries and stuffed my backpack full of clothes. Then I said goodbye to Audrey as though I was going to the woods as usual. My mom and Rob will return from the shore a few hours from now, but no one will know that I’m gone until nightfall. By then and for their own good, they’ll be only memories in my mind, and I’ll make certain they don’t surface and haunt me until I’m sure that I can do as I was told by the Council, and never return.
I’d forgotten how abandoned cars mar the streets of the city, and how little sky there is because of all the buildings. I ride through the barren neighborhood of southwest Philadelphia seeing only a tree here or there, and the ones I do see look strangled and nothing like the robust trees that stand like mighty sentinels inside the woods. My chest is tight and the more distance there is between me and the world of magic, the thinner my veins contract until I’m little more than a corpse. I have no choice though, no more cards in my hands to play. I’m forced to go to the only place in the world where no one will tell my mom where I am, and a place that my mom would never think to search in a million years. And that’s my father’s side of the family. Here I have a million cousins I’ve never met, a ton of aunts and uncles and big, boisterous, food-loving, loud talking family of strangers who never stopped loving me- apparently. The downside is that they’re all big drinkers who argue all day and get into at least one bar fight a night, if my memory serves me right. But when I called my granny to say I was stopping by, she cried so much I couldn’t hear anything she was saying except that she couldn’t wait to see me. Even my pop-pop couldn’t cough away the quiver in his voice. I was the first grandchild on both my parents’ side. I was special, the sunlight of their lives and would be the first to graduate from High School and get a proper job.
I haven’t seen this side of my family since I was 9 years old, and I don’t know how I feel about visiting, and I don’t know why my granny mentioned something about my uncle Riot having an extra room in his house either. But as I turn onto 56th street, I remember my mom complaining about having to visit for Christmas dinner because my grandparents lived in the most run-down, littered filled, dilapidated part of the city. Things haven’t changed. It’s dirty, crowded with cramped small homes and some of the blocks I ride down are mostly filled with abandoned houses. A hot surge of self-pity rises up inside of me, along with memories of the Cheveyan rowing event, emerald green woods and herds of beautiful horses galloping along rolling hills where the descendants live. I slam the visions away. There’s no place for this kind of sentiment where I’m headed now, and it doesn’t matter anyway. I had my chance at being someone, I could’ve been a sportswriter, I could’ve gotten into college and according to the goddess of magic, I could’ve stopped the deaths of the Cheveyan tribe. But that and everything else about the Valley is behind me and lost forever.
I take a deep breath, my chest feels heavy as I eye the crumbling cement steps, I close my eyes tight for a second, then knock on my grandparents' door. It opens a second later like my grandpa was standing two inches away just waiting for me. But when I go inside, I realize it’s just that the house is small, and my grandpa’s easy chair sits only a few feet away from the drafty vestibule. They’re thrilled to see me and I get a tight unison hug that melts the chill from my body as four arms hold me snug and warm cheeks on both sides of my face sandwich me in. My heart splits in half, with one side broken and brittle beyond repair, and the other hinting at a nascent bloom that may or may not break through the soil smothering it. But I know I’ll never be whole again. Not after leaving the world of magic, my mom and Max and Vixbi. Every inch of my body aches, and when I cry and I can’t tell if it’s because I’m dead inside or if it’s because my grandparents’ love for me is still as full as it was when I was just a kid. My grandpa rushes to put my bike in the back of the house where he locks it up. When he comes back in, he tells me how safe it is and not to worry, then nods his head toward the corner of the room where his rifle is sitting against the wall. But it’s 2 o’clock and it can’t stay long, he has a tete-a-tete with a glass of scotch and his drinking buddies, he informs me, and only now do I notice his red blotchy skin. I sneak a wayward glance toward my grandma expecting her to give him a disapproving look, but she just smiles, her eyes shining and loving as she tells me she ordered Kentucky fried chicken, mashed potatoes and biscuits just for the occasion.
My grandpa leaves and we eat and talk about old times, I tell her how I thought I was going to become a sportswriter, but I can tell an aspiration like that is too big for her to seem real. She doesn’t even ask why I’m referring to it in the past tense. Anyway, we talk more and now I understand why she told me about Riot having a spare room. She uses a word I haven’t heard since I was 7 years old- ‘dibs’. My aunt Cathy whom I haven’t seen since my dad went to prison, is due to arrive the next morning along with her three kids, all under the age of five. There isn’t enough room for everyone, and since aunt Cathy asked to stay with them before me, she gets ‘first dibs.’ Memories of me, my mom and dad almost getting evicted skirt through my head. I remember my dad yelling that Riot had first dibs even though he was only staying with my grandparents because he had an argument with his then-girlfriend, but we were about to be evicted! It’s not fair! He kept saying it over and over. My old life returns, as though my nothings ever changed. And in the span of a breath, it’s as though I’ve never seen the Valley. And a new reality hits me, all at the same time, which is, I’ll be out on my own tomorrow. But fortunately, Uncle Riot, as my grandma reminds me lives a block away and has a spare bedroom.
All three of us have glazed donuts and hot milk for breakfast before I’m off to Riots house, but as I head for the door, I get the same big loving hug as before, except this one is longer. My uncle’s real name is Richard, but he earned the nickname of Riot because he used to get into fights all the time. It’s cold and rained the night before and I can’t wait to get inside where it’s warm and get settled. I hope I can stay with him for a few months. At least long enough to get enrolled in a new school and find a part time job. After that I know there are shelters for kids like me, and if I have to leave Uncle Riot’s, that’s where I’ll go. I eye his house when it’s about forty feet away. The door is brown, and the shades are lowered in all the windows. The paint is hard and peeling, and it hurts my hand when I knock on it. Then my hand hurts from knocking so long. I have his number and I call him. He doesn’t answer and I knock some more then call him until I’m so cold my teeth are chattering.
I have no choice but to opt for plan B, which is walking around the neighborhood until the stores open for business. When I get close to the corner of 58th street three boys get out of black, dark window tinted mustang. I feel them eyeing me, but I’m staring at the exhaust blowing warm air from the tail pipe. Every instinct wants my body to stand in its wake to restore the lost heat from my bones, instead I cross the street just in time to feel the brunt of a blistering wind sweep across my body, my backpack tumbles from my shoulder to the crook of my wrist. My body hurts from the cold and I refuse to expose my hand to the elements to pull it back, it swings awkwardly at my side. My eyes tear up and a wheat-colored overgrown field where houses used to be shimmers. Three abandoned houses still stand, and I hear a scrawny cat meowing and scratching at hole where broken bricks present a way out from the cold. I think of Hildy, glad she’s in a warm home with people who love her and swallow a lump as big as a golf ball. It falls hard to my stomach and makes my eyes tear up even more now. The inside of my body hurts like there’s a raw electrical wire burning up my nerves like a hot fuse.
I cross the street to where an Asian store owner is raising the metal security doors of his diner. There’s a gutter a few doors away and in front of a littered filled lot, clouds of warm air gush out warm air and I stand on the curb hoping some of the heat will bring life back to my feet at least. I stare out into nothing really and see images of the goddess attempting to materialize. I push the image away, my stomach boiling with acid as I think of all the lies she told me! I don’t have to push too hard to make her fade, I can feel how hard it is for her to manifest in a place like this. I chuckle, cynicism eating me up from the inside out. Of course, the goddess can’t exist here! My face heats up with an icy cold chill and I start walking again to get the acid out of my veins.
“Got some spirit molecule and yage’ for you.” A boy says surprising me by hopping out of a car just before I pass by. His dark eyes are striking, but his sly smile gives me even more chills.
“I’m good.” I say, sniffing my tears away relieved that I probably just look as though my nose is running because of the cold.
“Oh, you’re good babe.” Another boy says getting out of the car on the other side, I hear the door shutting as his lyrical and flirtatious tone rings out behind me. “What’s your name?”
“She’s new round here.” A boy grins as he crosses the street heading for the two behind me. His hands are in his jacket and his baseball cap is facing backwards. “Knockin’ on Riot’s door. What you, his niece or somp’in’?”
Gees, good guess, but how’d he know all that? I could’ve been anyone. I don’t say anything but I pass them by, then turn to give them a fleeting smile. I know the game, and you can’t just flag a boy and think he’s not going to be pissed. They say a few more things, but I can’t make it out. I just know the tone is good- meaning, I’m not in any danger.
I end up sitting in the back booth of the diner all day, first ordering breakfast and then passing time reading a book I uploaded to my phone a few weeks ago. Every now and then my eyes lift to see what kind of people I’m soon to consider my neighbors and my eyes fill up with tears that don’t reach the rims of my eyes and only make everything sparkle. I keep thinking of my mom and Rob. It’s Monday, so Rob is at work, and my mom, she’s probably still in bed and crying. I took the $300 dollars of mad money that was stashed in the cookie jar and tapped it to my waist. I took Rob’s credit card too, but I haven’t used it yet. I know him too well, and figured he’d try to trace me if I made any purchases. I won’t use the card until I’m out of cash, which I hope isn’t any time soon. The owner of the diner pours me more tea as he offers me a small smile. My lips curve but the smile doesn’t reach my eyes. I lean my head against the cool window, it feels good because the diner is small and with all the meals they’ve been making, it feels like an oven inside. My eyes close, but right before I drift off to sleep, I see Max’s face and my lips curve into a dreamy smile.
I’m watching Max gently rocking to and fro as Vixbi rides through the woods. It feels like I’ve been staring at him for hours and I only now notice I’m wringing my hands because he’s sweating and looks thin. I reach out to touch his forehead to see if he’s feverish and his skin is warm to the touch. I only now notice that I can feel inside both of them, and I’m getting hammered at both sides with emotions of angst and impatience. Vixbi’s threading his hair and it looks even more disheveled than usual as licks of short curls stick every which way. His emotions start to climb like mercury inside a thermometer and My dream body slips into his head. It’s dark inside, and then a screen appears, it looks like just the screen you see inside a movie theater, and I can feel and see his thoughts as though they were mine.
Images of Santi’s estate keep passing through his mind like it’s on a constant rewind and I hear his thoughts creep up behind the image as it rewinds back and forth. “Going there will help.” He’s saying as I start floating around the darkness inside his mind and hitting the top of his skull as the car bounces over something. I gasp softly when a 3D scene of a wintry landscape takes the place of Santi’s house. Tall pines and a mountain landscape stretch for as far as the eye can see, while softly in the background he laments that none of this would’ve happened if Santi had been here. He mentions another person, too, their name is Blue River. Vixbi’s emotions about this Blue River character are full of reverence, admiration and a little fear. The inside of his head turns to a storm of emotions and the wintry landscape is now gray like a cloudy day. I hear snatches of his thoughts; he’s saying that all of this is because Max is alive. I shudder and turn into a million pieces of flying specs of dust before I gather myself back into its ethereal form. ‘This is why we’re in this mess!’ I hear him say clearly. His thoughts send a flush of fire through my being and then another image flashes fast onto the screen, the volume is loud and slams me into the back of his head like a mighty gust of wind.
They’re inside the Coburgan mansion. Vixbi is pacing back and forth, as Jackson yells. His eyes keep darting over to Max sitting on the edge of the bed, doubled over with his arms around his side. I know he’s in pain, but Vixbi’s emotions keep me anchored. Jackson is screaming that it’s against tribal law- then his voice lowers, and he warns Vixbi that if he makes the call, he’ll be forced to turn him in. The inside of Vixbi goes red, but he tries to calm it and walks away. The red explodes like a volcano, fire blazes through his veins like they’re doused with kerosene, and he spins around and cracks Jackson jaw. Jackson falls to the ground like a lead pipe, but gets back up, his eyes narrow and his mouth twisted as he goes after Vixbi who devours him with hard direct punches, all to the face like his hands are made of bricks. Jackson looks like he’s stuck his head in blender as he zig zag out of the room and Vixbi rushes to Max’s side. He pulls out his phone, his eyes fixed on Max as he calls- me…
“We have to do something.” Max says weakly, popping me out of Vixbi’s head in an instant. A cocoon of worry sweeps over me, while Vixbi nods and holds back an ocean of worry behind his placid features.
“We will. We’ll get her back.” Vixbi means what he says, but his heart is weak and compromised by his concern for Max. He eyes Max. ‘The light inside of Max’s blood is too strong, he’s thinking. It’s melting his insides’. Vixbi turns to look ahead at the road as he pretends to concentrate on getting to wherever they are headed in one piece. ‘But if Max beats this,’ he continues, ‘ all his light enriched blood will turn his muscles into steel. Max will be able to run at the speed of light and probably rise fast above him and all the other new recruits. Vixbi smiles on the inside and hopes that’s how all of this turns out. “Remember when we were kids, and I could find everybody when we played hide and seek?” He says to rally Max’s emotions.
My dreaming self-hoovers over Max and my fingers gently touch his gaunt face with translucent flesh. His eyes blink quickly as though a butterfly fluttered too close to his face. He doesn’t answer Vixbi, he’s too tired and his fatigue feels like a sack of cement wrapped around his shoulders.
“It’s because I could see through everybody’s eyes.” Vixbi says smiling and looking over at Max. “I used to be good at it.”
I’m curious about Vixbi’s comments until I see him pull into Santi’s driveway. My heart quickens as they get out of the car. It’s getting dark and the wind is fierce and Vixbi sneaks a concerned look Max’s way as he leads the way toward the tall pines that stand as a barrier to the read of Santi’s estate. I follow eagerly impervious to frigid the temperatures, and anxious to see the secrets lay just beyond the trees.
They walk along the tree-shaded path until they reach the generous plot of land that hosts a beige sweat lodge with a stucco dome where pale clouds billow out from a hole in its roof. Mysteries and secrets radiate from the structure and sweep across the field reaching it almost instantaneously, leaving them still moseying toward it.
Vixbi eyes Max thinking he looks a wind away from collapsing. “You shouldn’t go inside in your condition.” He warns, purposing flattening out his voice to sound nonchalant. He turns his face from Max and digging his hands in his pocket as he sends up a prayer to the Great God that Max will listen to him for once.
“There’s no way I’m waiting until you’re done to find out-“Max shakes his head, the words he wanted to say leaving his mind before he could speak them out loud. My heart shrivels with the thought that he’s even worse than I suspected. I pray to the Great God that he doesn’t go inside either, not knowing why Vixbi is concerned, but trusting him.
When they reach the door of the lodge Vixbi lifts the latch, but instead of opening it, he bows his head, biting his tongue and trying to quiet his racing heart. “Maybe just wait inside, in the back room.” His voice is choked as he clicks his head towards the rear of Santi’s house. Images of the room immediately fill my mind. Memories live inside the room, floating around like invisible bubbles with entire moments of the shared experiences they and others have had in there. I can see a vision of Max and Vixbi along with three other youths coming out of the sweat lodge, their shirtless bodies are drenched in sweat and they look drained and thirsty. Santi gives them all bottles of water as soon as they step inside as he eyes them with some level of concern. They drop into the chairs, their heads hitting the back of the seat hard enough to hurt. They don’t seem to notice or care as their chest rise and fall violently…
Vixbi opens the door to the lodge and I shimmer back into existence. His eyes squint from the heat radiating out into the cold, a cloud of warmth engulfs both of them and I breeze by them to see the inside. I notice red hot stones right away, Vixbi tearing out of his jacket makes my awareness swirl in his direction and I watch him snatching his shirt over his head and tossing it across the room. It lands haphazardly on the lower bench and hangs precariously over the edge. I sit next to Max who collapses onto the lowest bench thinking he’ll come out of his jacket too, but he just lays his head back against the wall and shuts his lids as though they’re heavy. His mind slides me inside it, and my heart swells when I see images of myself. His visions of me are more beautiful than I really am, and I glow luminously, surprising myself since I didn’t know I could be or do anything except exist as translucent dream matter! The inside of his mind is just like Vixbi’s, a large dark room with a screen at one end. The vision of the Coburgan mansion squiggles, until it focuses- somewhat. The inside of Max feels like a stem of thorns, everything pricks and stings as he reaches for memories but comes up with only fragments that wriggle and blur before they fade completely. He sighs as he recalls me pulling him into my bosom. He remembers hearing both me and Vixbi sobbing badly. His minds switches channels. He, Vixbi and the young man whose family owns the Black Sky land are climbing Santi’s steps. I sense tell that Sanit’s not there and that they aren’t supposed to be there either! I shadow them quietly as though I shouldn’t be there either. We all gingerly climb the stairs to the third floor and walk in the direction of the back room. The young man who lives on the Black Sky land enters the space first. It looks like a room that honors Santi’s ancestors and ancient photos and paintings hang on the walls. I drift closer to a picture of a chief who looks like a splitting image of Santi. Vixbi and Max stare at it too, and the young man hangs back watching them as though he’s been in the room before. Max and Vixbi admire another painting, and then another. This third one makes their heads spin toward each other; I feel their hearts pounding inside my own chest. They’re beating hard and fast- Max’s breath staggers and Vixbi calls out to the Great God of the skies. “She looks just like her…” Max’s voice nothing but a strained whisper. I soar toward the painting, wondering what shocked them so. The slumber Max pops into another dreamscape, pulling me into it at lightning speed. He and Vixbi are swimming in a pond inside the woods, the sun washes onto their skin causing it to look more radiant than I’ve ever seen and without warning, I end up in Vixbi’s head, dazed by the unexpected transportation.
Vixbi is thinking of me, his emotions are so strong they drew me in like a magnet. His concern for me rattles him to his soul, his unsettled emotions stretch into space like fingers desperate to find something. I gasp when I realize he’s searching for me! But how I wonder as my dream-self slides on the surface of his emotions. They feel as slippery as ice and I find myself slamming into a vision of Santi. Being inside Vixbi’s head is as precarious and changeable as his personality, I think just before Santi’s image shatters like a mirror. My back tickles as sweat trickles down Vixbi’s spine. I’m confused by the sensation as he twitches and his back arches like someone’s poked him with stick. His mind becomes still, like a pond that’s frozen over, but beneath the ice is anger. He’s thinking of me, thinking I’m in danger and wanting to desecrate anyone who comes near me! My dream-self startles, I’m tumbling into darkness until I hear Santi’s voice. It snaps me back like a boomerang and my head spins terribly.
“What are you doing in my head Vix? Is everything okay?” I can’t see Santi, because it’s only his voice that’s inside of Vixbi’s head!
Vixbi’s eyes pop open, his brows crunch, then his gets sucked back inside. “No, no it’s not okay. We need you!”
“What’s happened… calm down, you’re losing the connection!”
“How- what do I do…I don’t know what I’m doing!” Vixbi’s talking inside his head and I wonder where Santi is and how they’re talking to each other! An explosion of light in the center of Vixbi’s head goes off, my dream eyes squint quickly and a hand shields my face. Santi is there- inside Vixbi’s head. And it’s not his voice this time. He’s like a dream self just like me, except he’s awake and I’m asleep inside a diner in Southwest Philadelphia!
“You’re doing good son… Now tell me what’s going on?” Santi says gently glancing around the inside of Vixbi’s mind. I wave my hands over my head wondering if he can see me, but he can’t! I frown and have a three second temper tantrum.
“Max was- he had an attack on Friday night- it was bad. He wasn’t going to make it this time. But I saw Julion- we were at the Cosimo party. He had an episode then too, but she… “ Vixbi pauses as though either he doesn’t believe what he’s about to say, or he thinks Sanit won’t. “She made him better… I know I shouldn’t have, but when he had another attack- I called her and she agreed to come. Santi…” Vixbi’s mind keeps putting up brick walls, they fall, and then some part of him erects another within seconds.
“She healed Max?” Santi says and I go flying outside of Vixbi’s head for a second before I swim back in through some kind of portal. I still feel shocked, but I manage to keep my dream self, put.
Vixbi whispers ‘yes’, and I shiver.
“So, that’s the problem? You don’t know what to make of it all? Are you wondering if she’s a healer?”
“No… yes… I mean, there’s more.”
“Calm down… it’s hard to keep the connection with you and I’m freezing my ass off- trying to find some shelter so I can focus…”
Suddenly I see Santi, his real body in the middle of a wilderness far larger than the woods inside the Valley. There’s only land as far as the horizon, peppered with white patches of snow and trees space sparsely apart. In the distance is a mountain range with several dark caverns at its base.
“They took Julion!” Vixbi says, his voice thundering with urgency.
I quiver when Santi’s heart slams into his ribs. “Who- what do you mean they took Julion? Who did?” He asks, the tension ticking upward.
“The council member, Seneca! Then he handed her over to Montana… Jackson didn’t want me to get Julion involved, so he called his mother to get healers over to the mansion. When they came they accused Julion of injuring Max… And now… Now she’s gone.”
“Gone?” He asks, the tension is like a glass plane stretching to the point of shattering. “What do you mean? They took her somewhere?”
“Elan said they exiled her!"
The screen inside Vixbi’s mind goes black and silent.
“They exiled her and her mother for attacking a tribesman?” Santi says, he sounds confused.
“No… Yes… No, she, she left, Julion left on her own and no one knows where she is. We’re worried, her mom’s sick with worry… She’s out there alone and her mom has called everyone she knows!”
“Okay, okay…” Santi sighs. And a cool wave of calm swirls inside Vixbi’s mind as the screen slowly slides back up. “I need you to give Elan a message for Blue River. Can you do that?”
“Yes, but what about Julion?”
“One thing at a time.”
“Okay…Yes, I can do that.”
“Tell Elan to have Blue order the council to not enforce any further decisions on this matter until I return, and to rescind their current ruling. Can you do that?”
“Yes.” Vixbi is speaking out loud now. Max’s eyes blink a few times before they open all of the way. “I’ll tell Elan to tell Blue that the council is not to enforce anything further, and to rescind the ruling.”
“Good… Now, I need you to relax and get as calm as you can… I’m going to help you make a connection with Julion. I’ll be the telephone wire… but you have to dial the number… So, think about a moment when you were with her- when you were having a good time… laughing, or maybe she was interviewing you after a game… “
The hallway inside the Cosimo home materializes behind his eyes. Me and Max are walking ahead of him, but his eyes are on me. He’s warm with attraction but he tries to scramble his head with thoughts. He’s afraid Max will catch the scent of his pheromones. The mouth of my dream self falls to an imaginary ground.
“Good… keep thinking that thought, whatever it is…”
Vixbi startles, his back, board straight. He sees me sleeping inside the diner! My real eyes pop open and I look around startled, the owner is asking if I want more tea, as steam floats into the air and catches my dazed eyes. My mouth parts to answer him and dream fading fast inside my mind, suddenly flies away like ashes.