The World Walkers

Travelling to Taithmarin

Zoe had always hated lifts. There was no real reason for her hatred, apart from her fear of getting stuck in one. It didn’t matter that it very rarely happened, because the simple fact that it was a possibility was enough to stop her. On the rare occasion she did get in a lift it was for a very good reason. She had a good reason the day she got into a lift with Adam. Normally she would have just walked up the six staircases that would take them to their holiday apartment. Having a large suitcase to carry up those stairs meant it made much more sense just to put her fears aside for thirty seconds.
When Zoe stepped out of the lift she wished she hadn’t. At first she was sure that they’d made a mistake and pressed the number for the wrong floor, so she turned to get back into the lift and found that she couldn’t because it wasn’t there any more. She stared at the wall where it should have been, knowing that something very strange had happened, before turning her attention to Adam. Even though they were having problems she was grateful that he was with her.
“What do you think happened?” she asked, wondering if it was possible she was dreaming.
Adam shrugged. “I don’t know, Zoe,” he replied, sounding tired and confused. He ran a hand through his hair the same way he always did when he was thinking. “Maybe we stepped through a wormhole and ended up in another world.”
“You’re almost right,” a male voice said from beside them, making Zoe jump. “The doorway you stepped through was actually a gateway between your world and this one.” Zoe turned to look at him, unsure what to expect, and was thankful to see someone who looked human. “I’m Joel, your guide, and I’m here to help you through the next two weeks.”
“How do we get back?” Adam asked, anger threading through the confusion and tiredness that still filled his voice.
When Joel’s eyes filled with pity Zoe knew what the answer was. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but there is no way back. From now on this world is your home.”
“What about the people I left behind? My family will wonder where I am if I don’t get back home in a week.”
“The magic of the gateway will have erased your existence from their minds. To them you will never have lived.”
Zoe looked at the floor, still attempting to stay calm even though she was about to fall apart. It had to be a dream. Nothing like that could happen in real life. She’d been anticipating her holiday with equals part happiness and dread, so she was probably just dreaming about the worst case scenario, which her brain seemed to think was walking into another world. For a moment she felt like she was going to laugh because it did seem totally illogical, but then her dreams had never been logical. Pushing away her fear that it was real, she looked at Joel again. At least she had created a good looking guy to be their guide.
“I need to go home,” Adam said, and Zoe knew from the way he was speaking that he was trying not to yell. “Now.”
“There is no way back. You came through a gateway that only works one way only.” Joel put a hand in his pocket and pulled out some keys. “If you’d both like to follow me I’ll show you to your new home.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“Stay here then.” Joel turned his attention to Zoe. “Will you come with me?”
Nodding, Zoe looked at Adam. “Please, Adam, let’s talk about this somewhere private.”
“The only place I’m going is home.” Hatred filled his eyes. “This is all your fault. If you hadn’t insisted that we go on that stupid holiday then we wouldn’t be here.”
“I thought it would be good for us.”
He laughed. “Good for us? No, Zoe, you were clinging onto our relationship because you don’t know how to do anything else. I wanted us to be over a long time ago.”
“This really isn’t the place to be talking about this,” Joel said, his voice calm but urgent. “People live in these flats, so what you’re doing isn’t fair to them or your girlfriend.”
“I’ve told you I’m not going anywhere with you. Listen to me, Joel. I have no interest in this world or the people who may be living in these flats. All I want to do is go home.”
“Everyone feels that way when they first arrive. It just takes some time to get used to being here.”
“I don’t want to get used to being here. There must be a way to send me home. If you can create a gateway that brings unsuspecting holiday makers here then you can make one to send me back.”
“We can’t send you back. It is impossible.”
“Nothing is impossible.”
“Look, Adam, this may be very hard for you to understand, but there is no way for you to go home. You have been erased from that world entirely. We cannot, even if we wanted to, send you back. There is no way to replace the memories of you into your family’s minds or your friend’s and it is as simple as that.”
The silence that followed seemed to go on forever, even though it was probably only a couple of minutes at the most. Zoe looked at Adam and tried not to see the hatred in his eyes. She half wanted to cry, but she knew that crying wouldn’t help at all. He was right that she had been clinging onto a relationship that was long over, because she still loved him. Unfortunately it wasn’t something she had a choice about. If she had she would have stopped loving him when it had first started hurting.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you tell me that I have been erased from Earth. I don’t believe you. You could tell me the same thing a hundred times, a thousand times, or until you’re blue in the face. Send me back.” Adam looked at Zoe. “You can keep her here though.”
Zoe did her best to push away the hurt she was feeling and kept telling herself it was just a dream. Walking through a doorway into another world was impossible. The way Adam was acting wasn’t exactly dream-like, but that didn’t matter. It was a dream, a very strange and painful dream but still a dream.
“Either come with me or I’ll call security,” Joel said. “I have better things to do with my time than argue with you, okay?”
“Go ahead, call them. What difference does it make?”
“Fine, but remember it was your choice. This could be much simpler if you just come with me now.”
Adam lent against the wall that had once been a lift and stared at the wall opposite. Still feeling fragile, even though it was a dream, Zoe wrapped her arms around herself. Tears welled up in her eyes but she refused to let them fall. She’d promised herself that no matter what happened she wasn’t going to cry over him any longer.
It was impossible to not hear Joel say, “I have an uncooperative new arrival. Can you send security here?”
“Adam, please…” Zoe whispered.
“I told you going on holiday was a bad idea. How could something like that fix something that didn’t even exist? You insisted that we needed to give it another go, and we end up here. Great. Thank you very much, Zoe, for destroying my life.”
“There was no way for me to know that something like this could happen. It was just bad luck.”
All she could do was remind herself, over and over again, that she was dreaming. She hadn’t really stepped into another world, Adam wasn’t really blaming her for it happened, because it hadn’t happened in real life. Real life was that thing that happened during periods of wakefulness, not during sleep. Other worlds didn’t exist in real life unless she was reading a book.
“Maybe you planned it.” Adam laughed. “It wouldn’t surprise me. Stepping into a new world where the only person I know if you and what choice do I have but to fall back into your arms.”
Zoe raised an eyebrow, the hurt turning into anger. “Yes, of course I planned it.” She shook her head. “Why would I leave my family behind because of you? I still love you, but I don’t love you enough to leave behind my entire family, my friends and my life in order to force you into falling back into my arms.”
“We both know that you never wanted to lose me. I mean so much to you.”
“Not that much.”
“How far would you go, Zoe? Where is the line?”
“The line was going on holiday. Ten days to fix whatever your problem was with me or that was it. Spending my time being hurt isn’t my idea of fun, and all you did was hurt me.”
“Could you take the male with you, please?” Joel’s voice said from behind Zoe. “He refuses to believe that he can’t go home and won’t come with me to the flat, so there’s not really much I can do with him. The female is fine.”
Two… men, possibly, at least they looked to be males of their race, stepped past Zoe and someone behind her put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry about this, Zoe.” Joel sighed. “Calling them isn’t something I like doing much but Adam gave me no choice.”
“I know.”
“Are you okay?”
“Not really, but there’s not a lot I can do about that. I’ve just stepped into another world and I think it’s pretty obvious that my relationship is over.” She watched as the two men, trying to ignore the fact they quite obviously weren’t human, did something to Adam. “This isn’t a dream, is it?”
“No, it isn’t. You really have stepped into another world.”
“What are they?”
“They’re Stormkin, a magical race that live here.”
“What are they doing to Adam?”
“One of them is doing a calming spell that should hopefully make him feel better for at least a short time and the other is wrapping him in a compulsion spell so he has no choice but to go with them.”
“Is it something they have to do often?”
“Not really. Most human new arrivals are like you, but you do get some like Adam who get very angry about the whole thing. Calling on the Stormkin makes things easier.”
“You called them security.”
“It’s easier for new arrivals to understand security than it is for them to understand Stormkin.”
Zoe nodded. “What are we going to do when the Stormkin are finished?”
“I’ll take you to your new home and then we can go from there. Everything will go at your pace, but in the next two weeks I do need to teach you everything I can about this world. At some point relatively soon we will need to go the council offices in order to fill in a couple of forms. If Adam isn’t back with us by then you may have to fill in his for him.”
“Okay.”
“I know right now everything is going to be really overwhelming. In time, I promise, everything will get easier. I’ve been in your position.”
“You really came through one of those doors?”
“Yes, Zoe, I did. That experience is why I chose to become a guide, even though I sometimes have to deal with people like Adam.”
“How long have you been here?”
“On Earth it would be almost five years, but here it’s been much longer. Lifespans get extended when someone steps through a gateway, so I’ve been here for just under twenty years and yet I’ve only physically aged the five years it would be at home.”
“Wow…” Zoe trailed off because she didn’t know what to say.
“I know what you mean.” Joel squeezed her shoulder. “There are other things that I need to tell you that will also make you feel that way.”
“You were right to call us,” one of the Stormkin said, as they passed with Adam, while the other picked up Adam’s suitcase. “There is much anger in this human.”
“Thank you for your help, Alcaeus.”
“You’re welcome, Joel.”
“Come on then, Zoe.” Joel let go of her shoulder and stepped forwards. “Let’s get you and your suitcase to your new home.”
There was a moment when Zoe wanted to run after Adam, because she couldn’t help feeling like she needed him to be with her, but she managed to stop herself. She grabbed the handle of her suitcase and followed Joel. He stopped by the doorway to the flat the the end of the corridor, taking the keys out of his pocket once again, before putting one of the keys into the keyhole. When the door was open he stepped to one side so she could enter first.