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The Wishing Map
Chapter Fifteen: Destiny
Previously: Zack and Gina finally made up, commiserating over the fact that they would (presumably) never return to Ismara.
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Nearly two months had passed since school started. Gina and Zack were surviving. Sort of.
Mr. Trippifel boiled a frog to death in Biology: it didn’t know it was dying because the temperature rose so slowly. That’s me, Gina thought. Except I know.
Zack wrote a story entitled “Liulah, the Cloud Shepherd.” Mrs. Simonson gave him a C and told him to “write about real life.” So he wrote about trout fishing, and got an A. “See what happens when you write about real life?” said Mrs. Simonson. He’d never been trout fishing, but dead trouts sounded real, and real was what Mrs. Simonson wanted, so… He spent the rest of his time trying not to be seen by Fierce Fischer, and experiencing about as much of real life as a dead trout.
They dreamed of Ismara every night, but only in re-runs; there was never any sense that they were actually being contacted. Until one night in mid-October…
Gina dreamed she was at a table by a window, grading papers. She was a spinster teacher with bifocals and graying hair. She never looked out the window because the view never changed. Henry David Thoreau’s Walden was on the table, propped open to the passage that read, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Outside, an ordinary Middletonian moon was slowly rising over the Kleemuk Hills.
In Zack’s dream, he was among a crush of children, struggling along the edge of a chasm. Some managed to find their way to a crystalline bridge that led across the abyss, but most were grabbed by demons and pulled down into the hades below. Just as Zack was about to step onto the bridge, the largest of the demons blew smoke in his face and let out a hideous laugh. Then two other demons grabbed him and hurled him into the pit, taunting, “Please, please, please tell us a story, Zacky!” as they did.
Spinster teacher Gina glanced up from her grading, suddenly feeling compelled to look out the window. First she noticed the double moon, next she saw a cloaked figure walking toward her. It was the man in the golden helmet.
“Please! I can’t…” His voice faded as if the volume had been turned down.
He gestured desperately for her to come.
“The window’s closed.”
“You have to come now…before…” His voice faded away again.
Flames rose up and engulfed him.
Gina ran to the window, screaming, but he was gone.
Zack’s fall ended not in the pit but on the Dark Tinkurs’ stone platform. Once again the ashen-faced man hovered over him. Only this time, instead of removing his organs, the man was trying to put something into him, something that glowed so intensely it could not have been from mere heat. Despite the man’s thick dragon-hide gloves, the thing began to melt his flesh. He cried out in shock, the first emotion Zack had seen from him. Zack watched in horror as it absorbed not just the man’s body but his essence…until all that was left was a pile of post-human rubble.
Zack awoke muttering, “Three days…13.” And then he saw it. “Woah! Gina! Gina!” he shouted. “The double moon is back!”
“Yes, young Zachaeus,” a voice called from downstairs, “we have observed the lunar phenomenon to which you allude.”
“Aunt Aloysia!” Zack shouted as he threw on his robe and ran out of his room.
Thoughts: Have you ever had an “Aunt Aloysia?” A person who turned your life upside down and re-shaped your destiny?
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