Have you ever had one of those encounters where somebody seems to know you, but you have no idea who they are?
And you always think you should remember them too, but you just don’t at all. Their face seems like it could be familiar, but hey, you’ve seen so many faces in your life that there’s just no way you could put a pin on it.
What do you do from there? There’s always that awkward moment, where you either ask them who the hell they are or just try to fake it till you figure it out.
Well this was happening to me, and it was at my own birthday party. I was a little drunk and I haven’t ever been the “Fake it” type anyways. So I ask the boy… Actually no. I Tell the boy.
“I don’t know you.”
“Sure you do,” he says with a smile.
I’ll admit, it’s a cute smile. And for some reason, it makes my heart flutter. But when a guy grabs me by the arm and spins me around in the middle of a conversation with my friends, I get defensive.
“No. I’m sure I don’t,” I reply with only a hint of haughtiness.
“Think about it.”
I don’t want to think. “I don’t want to think about it.”
The boy just laughs. “Yah, that sounds like you.”
“Yeah, it should,” I say back sarcastically. “I said it.”
I turn back around to continue the story I was telling to my friends, but he grasps my shoulder and twirls me back around like a dancer.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!” I shout, and I swing my hand up to backhand him. I’ll admit, it’s an overreaction, but this is MY party and I really don’t feel like dealing with a creep, no matter how cute he is.
To my surprise, he catches my wrist and presses it against my shoulder.
“Too slow,” he says. “That’s a first.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t know you!”
“Amber!” my brother calls. “Somebody bothering you?”
My brother saunters over in his casual swagger. He’s tall and lanky, and I’ve seen him put a bat through more than just a car window. He’s always looked out for me, even though I can handle myself in a scrap. Hey, what are brothers for?
“Nothing I can’t handle,” I call back to him before he gets near. If I can overreact, Forest can fly off the handle. And I’m just trying to have a good time. My brother takes the hint and slides off to the side. He starts flirting with some girls while keeping an eye on me.
“Amber?” the boy asks curiously and gently releases my hand. “That’s not your true name.”
“Yes. It is. I think you’re at the wrong party, Kid,” I say.
“You don’t remember me?” he asks.
He seems upset in a sad kind of way; like he’s genuinely disappointed. He locks eyes with me and holds my gaze a moment beyond platonic. My heart skips a beat and I have to look away. I wrack my mind again, because I felt a spark of memory, but it’s already gone, like a pleasant dream. He’s still staring intently at me. God, his eyes are beautiful… But that’s beside the point.
I’m not big on sympathy.
“Yes,” he replies softly. “More than anybody else.”
“Well sorry to disappoint you.”
“We swore to find each other.”
“You’ve got the wrong girl.”
“Apparently. If you believe your name is ‘Amber.’”
“I think you’ve been drinking too much.”
“I think you’ve been thinking too little.”
“Okay,” I say calmly, taking a deep breath. “Now your getting on my nerves.”
“Yeah, I’ll see you later,” he says darkly and turns and leaves.
The way he said it unnerves me. Who was that?
I try to ignore the strange encounter. It was more than an awkward “forgotten acquaintance” moment, it was unnaturally mysterious. That type of stuff just doesn’t happen in real life, does it? What was he talking about my name for? And when would he see me later?
If I have a new stalker, I am going to be so pissed off.
I’m not scared of him. More curious. And the more I think about it, the more it seems like I really am supposed to know him. But sifting through every memory of my life, nothing comes to mind.
So I ignore it and enjoy my party.
Besides the strange boy, the whole night is a blast. I lose my mind on the dance floor and laugh my ass off with my friends.
All thoughts of the boy escape me into the cool night sky.
And I don’t think about him ever again… Until he shows up at my house the next morning.
I’m up before my brother. He’s passed out and is gonna need some Mydol when he wakes up. Don’t laugh. He drinks like a Troll and the stuff does wonders on a hangover.
There’s a knock at the door. That’s unusual for this early. I’m the only conscious person in the house, so I go to answer. As I reach for the handle, I can sense him. I know he’s there, on the other side. Don’t ask how I know. I just trust my instincts.
I calmly walk back to the kitchen and grab my favorite butcher knife. Then I answer the door politely.
“What the hell do you want?”
He smiles. That same smile that makes my heart flutter. Who is he?
“You,” he says mysteriously. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted. You know that.”
“Okay. That’s creepy,” I say and close the door.
I lock it. I’m gonna go wake Forest up.
As I head up the stairs, the boy raps loudly on the door. I ignore it and keep walking. Next thing I know, there’s a massive crash and I turn to see the door fly off it’s frame into the house.
“What the hell?!” I shout.
“We really need to talk,” the boy says calmly.
He steps through the open entryway and I bolt up the stairs.
I’ve always been fast, and I had a twenty foot lead, but before I get up four steps, I feel a hand close around my ankle and I fall on my face. I swipe back at his arm with the Butcher knife and he lets go with a chuckle.
I scramble up the stairs and head down the hallway into my brother’s room. He’s already out of bed and holding his bat as he rubs his aching head.
“Wush goin on,” he yawns.
I respond in a flat bland tone. “That guy from last night is here. He’s trying to kill me,” I say, less frantically than I think I should feel. My mind is racing, but my body is calm. It’s a weird feeling.
“Oh,” Forest says. “Is that all?”
My brother exits the room and I peak out from behind him.
“Aha!” the boy shouts excitedly at the sight of Forest. “Now there’s a soul that will remember!” He grins broadly.
Damnit! Stop thinking that.
“Eh?” my brother asks. “Who dat? Azzhole.”
The boy laughs. “Good to see you too!”
“Don I owe you an ass whoopin?” my brother smirks. I can’t see his face, but I can hear the lightness in his voice.
“Yeh, go on and try it,” the boy says.
My brother lunges forward. He can lunge a lot farther than most people expect. He swings the bat down like a hammer, but the boy steps to the side and spins a kick into Forest’s stomach.
I watch in horror as my brother is launched backwards down the hall and smashes into the wall. It looks like he got shot out of a cannon. There’s no way anyone can kick that hard. It’s impossible.
The boy smiles again, but right now, I’m too horrified to be interested.
“Now then,” he says in that same calm tone. “Have you remembered your name yet?
“What the hell do you want from me?” I ask, backing up.
I look at my brother. He’s unconscious, still with that stupid smirk on his face. “Jah… neh…” he seems to mumble. Nonsense.
“I just told you. I want you to remember,” the boy says, walking forward steadily.
I hold the knife out, hoping he’ll stop. He doesn’t. I back up, keeping distance between us.
“Stop that,” he says exasperatedly. “Don’t retreat.”
“Don’t tell me what to do!” I say.
I’m backing up, but I’m not scared. I’ve never been scared. I’m just acutely aware that he is stronger than me. He has some sort of power. Something otherworldly.
“Do you ever feel like you’ve had another life?” the boy asks.
That’s absurd. But it rings of something I’ve forgotten.
“Do the things you sometimes imagine ever feel too vivid?” he asks.
I do. But I’m just creative. I’ve even asked about it before. If other people think about smells in their mind. Or have mixed emotions about things they make up. Or if their imagination plays out entire scenes like a dream while they’re awake. Turns out some people do to an extent, but not really like me. Not altogether perfect like me. But I haven’t thought of stuff like that forever. I’m just creative. I’m just a little weird and get wrapped up in my own fantasies.
“Get away from me,” I say, the boy’s nearness snaps me out of my thoughts. I don’t know how he got so close, but he’s right up against my knife now and pressing forward, daring me to stand my ground. I back up.
“Don’t do that!” he shouts and grabs for me.
I swipe his hand away with the knife and dive into the bathroom, locking the door and hiding.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” he roars from outside. “THE YOU I KNEW NEVER RAN. THE YOU I KNEW WOULD NEVER HIDE! YOU WERE NEVER SCARED OF ANYTHING!”
“I’M NOT SCARED!” I shout back.
“THEN PROVE IT!” he yells.
The bathroom door is ripped out off its hinges and the boy tosses it aside down the hall. He leans back against the hallway wall and crosses his arms. He looks me up and down and regards me as though he’s waiting for something.
“Say your name,” he says coolly.
“What?” he interrupts. “Are you embarrassed? Are you ashamed of the name you know is yours??” The boy walks into the bathroom and I back up. “What is the name you call yourself in your mind? What is the name YOU chose?” My back hit’s the wall and he presses me into it. He‘s intimately close and the heat of his body is cooled by his breath as he speaks softly. “Say it,” he demands. “Say the name you will always answer to.”
Suddenly the words he’s saying make sense. Even though I haven’t thought of it for years. Not since I was a child. Not since I quit making my imagination stories. I had a name for myself, or for the older, stronger, cooler me, that I used to imagine. I don’t know why I used a different name, I just did. I think I did because it was a different me in my imagination, but it was still Me, right? But I’ve never said that name out loud. Not once. Not ever.
“I’ll tell you yours if you tell me mine,” the boy says seductively as he gazes knowingly into my eyes.
How was I supposed to know his name? Unless… No…
He reaches up and brushes a loose strand of hair behind my ear, and the mysterious boy says the name so softly that I can barely hear his voice. “Fel…”
A shock reels through my body. Whether it’s from his surprisingly gentle touch or hearing that name said aloud, I’m not sure.
How did he know?! “How did you…”
I can’t even bring myself to ask. How can he know? How can anyone know? I’ve never told anyone that name. I’ve never told anyone those stories. How did he pick that name out of my head like that? It feels like ice. It feels like somebody has invaded my memories. Except they’re not even memories. They’re just made up fantasies. It’s like he’s stealing them from me. But at the same time, he wasn’t.
After the shock, I feel warm. I feel comfort. That somebody knows. Somebody knows the inside me. The whole me. He’s not stealing anything. He’s sharing…
“Noh…” I mutter. I’ve never pronounced the word like that out loud before. Only in my mind.
“Yah,” he replies.
And it’s impossible. It can’t be, but there he is.
“You are Fel,” he says.
There he is. And I know him. I know where I know him from. It kills me to admit it, but some kids have imaginary friends. I had one that was more than that. My imaginary boyfriend. My perfect man…
“And I am…” the boy continues.
“Azzen,” I finish.
Azzen. That was his name. And that was his face. How could I forget?
The boy smiles and my heart flutters. The same way it always did in my dreams.
“Yes,” he says.
“You…” I stammer. I don’t even know what to say or ask. “How… What…”
“You can’t be real?” he paraphrases for me. “How are you here? What is going on?”
“Yes!” I shout. “All of that! And why did you kill my brother?” I demand. I know he’s not dead because I saw him breathing, but I don’t care to be specific.
“He’ll be fine,” the boy… Azzen, assures me.
“It was all real, Fel.”
The name still shocks my ears. I just can’t believe it.
“I’ll give you some time to think about it, now that you’re remembering. Try not to freak out and I’m sorry about your doors,” my fantasy guy says.
He turns and begins to leave.
“Wait! You can’t just leave like that! This is crazy. I’ve got so many questions.”
“I know, but you don’t even know what to ask yet. Am I right?”
“No! Well… Yes. I guess… but-”
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” he says. “Just wait. I’ve been searching for you for a long time. Don’t worry, I’m not going to lose you now. I can’t. The world needs you too badly.”
“What?” I ask.
“It’s going to be so much fun. We’re being called on again.”
“What do you…”
Before I can finish my sentence, the boy disappears. There’s a pop and a huge poof of black misty smoke, and he’s gone. The smoke quickly dissolves, and there’s no trace of him, other than the broken doors and my broken brother, who is now snoring obnoxiously.
I see him again the very next day. After spending the previous twenty-four hours trying to remember everything I could about the old stories I used to make up, I’m pretty eager to find out what he meant when he said it was “real.” I mean, when I say I’m creative, I mean I’m fantastically creative. Even as a kid, or perhaps, more so as a kid, the thoughts on my mind were absolutely impossible. So maybe parts are real, like Azzen’s face and my real name, and other thoughts were just thoughts.
He shows up at breakfast. I had a feeling he would. I hear him knock on the doorframe, from behind the curtain me and Forest hung up.
Yesterday, after Forest woke up, I told him what had happened. Everything. Even about Azzen being an imaginary friend that I made up when I was a kid and coming to life. I asked him to stay away for the day, cuz I wanted to talk to him alone. My brother is usually overprotective, but he was surprisingly understanding. In fact, he didn’t put up a fuss at all and told me to have fun. When I asked why he wasn’t more freaked out about the guy that broke in yesterday and kicked him across the hall, he shrugged and responded, “because Azzen was my imaginary friend too,” and then left. I haven’t seen him since.
“Come in!” I call out from the kitchen. I hope he likes a continental breakfast.
Azzen sniffs the air as he enters. “You can cook?!” he asks in mock surprise.
“Only on a skillet,” I say with a smile.
“Oh, I’m sure you can make a decent stew, too,” Azzen replies, taking a seat and making himself comfortable at the table.
I’ve only just met him, but it already feels natural.
“Actually,” I say, as I come over and dish him out some cheesy eggs, “homemade chicken-noodle is one of my few specialties.”
Azzen smiles and winks knowingly. He helps himself to some bacon off the platter in the center of the table. I sit across from him and stare while he simply eats. I still can’t believe it’s actually him. That he’s actually real.
“Where did you come from?” I ask, breaking the silence. It wasn’t the first question I’d planned, but sometimes it’s better to play it by ear.
“This is actually my world,” Azzen says. “It’s you that’s not really from here.
“I’m not sure what you mean by that,” I say. “I was born down the street.”
“For this life. But you’ve lived another,” Azzen explains. “And me from this life, knew you in that life.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well that’s a long story…”
“Well I want to know.”
Azzen doesn’t reply. He eats some eggs and seems to be thinking about what to say. I follow his lead and take a few bites. He seems more casual about this than me.
“How much do you remember?” he asks after moments.
“I’m not sure… I mean. I don’t really know if I remember anything. I know your name and your face. And there were others too, but I don’t know what’s real and what’s not.”
“Do you remember how we met?” he asks
I squirm. “I’m kinda embarrassed to admit it, but no. I remember certain scenes and some details, but I was really young when I thought all that up. Most of it escapes me. I just remember it was some sort of wild adventure.”
Azzen chuckles. “That’s for sure.”
“Well how did we meet then?” I ask.
“Too many questions. I’m trying to eat! This food is almost good.” Azzen jests, stuffing a fat piece of egg in his mouth.
I’ve barely known him, but I know it’s a joke, and I answer back with sass. “Just like a man! Mouths are for conversation too you know, not just stuffing your face.”
“Yah, buht nawt at the saym time,” Azzen says through a full mouth.
“You’re gross,” I ew.
Azzen gulps. “And you’re cute.”
“So just do that for a while, while I finish.”
I stare him down angrily. He pretends not to notice and eats. He takes a bite of toast, and washes it down with milk. He “ahh”s in satisfaction afterwards.
“Good?” I ask sharply.
“Mhmmm!” he replies.
“Yeah, I made it cuz I thought you’d like it. Now I’d like some answers!”
“What? Oh no, I thought you were asking if the silence was ‘Good.’ The food was alright. I’ve had better.”
I throw a fork at him and hit him in the head.
“Next time, it’s the knife,” I menace.
He grins broadly, and I can’t pretend to be mad anymore either, so I turn my head to hide the quick smile that spreads across my lips.
“Some things never change,” Azzen says. “Well I guess I’ll give you your answers. Hmmm… Where to start…?”
“How we met,” I remind him.
I wait expectantly. Azzen takes another sip of milk and begins his story.
When we met, you were a couple years younger. We both were. And like I said, I was originally from here. I don’t know how to explain it right now, but one day I was on my way home from classes and I noticed something shimmering in the trees off the sidewalk. I wasn’t in no rush, so I went to check it out. It looked like a mirror with a sparkles as a frame. Sparkles like from sparklers, but just floating there. And it wasn’t really a mirror, more like a picture. The scene in it was a forest, and the picture wiggled and waved, like heat waves. Being young and foolish, I touched it, and next thing I knew, I fell into your world.
“My world?” I interrupt.
“Yes. A different world from this one.”
“What was it like?”
“Well I was getting to that…”
“Oh, yeah, keep going.”
I was unconscious laying there for I don’t know how long. But when I woke up, it was dark. And I was woken up by somebody kicking me in the ribs. That would be you. You didn’t actually kick me, you tripped over my body and fell on me.
I groaned awake and you immediately covered my mouth with your hand. That was the first time I ever laid eyes on you. There was a full moon out, but besides that, there even seemed to be a light glow about you. In the darkness, I couldn’t make out your precise features, but one thing definitely stood out that marked you different from other girls.
You… uh… wellll…
Azzen pauses for a moment.
“It was… uh…”
“What made me different from other girls?” I ask sweetly.
If my imaginationings are truly true, I already know what it is, but I want to hear Azzen say it.
“I don’t really know how to say this other than being blunt. You had cat ears.”
“Cat ears?!” I exclaim in mock surprise.
Now I know for sure that he’s the real deal. Nobody could have guessed that detail. In my fantasies, I was like a panther woman. Nothing fancy like fur and paws. Just the ears and a tail. I don’t know why. I just thought it was cute or something. Both feminine and powerful. I always figured I picked it up off of batman or something.
“Did I have fur??” I ask.
“Noh,” Azzen replies. “Just the ears. And I’d see later that you had a tail. No fur or claws or anything like that. Regular Human hands and feet and body. Regular everything except the ears and tail.”
“Hmmm…” I mutter pondering. That doesn’t jive quite right. I remember, in some of the stories, that I had some sort of claws… But that must have been made up then. “Well keep going,” I urge Azzen, wanting to know more.
The very first thing you said to me was, “If you make a move, I’ll cut your throat.” And your ear twitched. That’s how I knew it was an ear.
“Who you?” was the next thing you asked, removing your hand.
“Azzen,” I said. I don’t know why I said it. It wasn’t the name my parents gave me. It was the name I always used in video games or as my screen name. For some reason, it just came out.
I wasn’t sure where I was and didn’t want to piss off a crazy catgirl, so I didn’t say anything else or make a move. You sat there for a moment and it seemed like you were listening for something. Then you cursed and took off. I remember thinking that you were running away from something.
I took that as a sign that I should get moving too and got up in the forest.
“Forest is my brother’s name,” I interrupt again for no reason. I just feel like I should be part of the conversation, even though I have nothing relevant to contribute.
“Yeah, well that makes sense,” Azzen says.
“Cuz your name here is Amber.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’ll explain it later.”
I wandered out of the forest and found a dirt road. On one side of it, the forest continued, and on the other side, fields and farmland stretched as far as I could see. I followed the road and found an old fashioned farm house with a barn in the back. I courageously knocked on the door.
The woman that answered wasn’t completely a woman. She didn’t have cat ears, but her ears were still different. They were in the same spot as a Human’s but they were as long as a ruler and pointed at the ends. I was a little taken aback, and kind of forgot what to ask.
“Uh… hello,” I said.
“’Elloh,” she replied sweetly.
“I, uh… I’m not really sure where I am.”
“Eh. Yer one of those, eh? Too scrawny for the Master? What’d your parents drop you off and he wouldn’t accept you? You don’t look so bad, compared to some of the other runts he takes on.”
“Well, come on in then,” she said, and allowed me into her home.
“Ooh issit?” a gruff voice called.
“Just one of the Master’s children,” the woman sang. She was very beautiful and her voice was as sweet as a bird’s. I would place her in her mid-twenties. “That’s my husband,” she told me. “I’m sorry if he’s a bit rude in his later years, he’s still an honest man though.”
“Good,” the man shouted from the dining room that the woman was leading me too. “I’ve been needing some more wood chopped.”
When we entered the room, I was surprised to see that the woman’s husband was an old man. More than old. Elderly. His hair was white and thin and his skin was wrinkled and sagging.
He didn’t seem as rude as the woman had apologized for and he offered me some stew.
“You can stay the night if you’ll chop ten logs for me in the morning,” he told me. “I’m sure that’ll be no problem for you. It’ll set us up for a while. I’m too old these days and I hate to have my wife deal with that sort of labor.”
I agreed and thanked him for the hospitality, to which he grunted an acknowledgement and then seemed to fall asleep in his chair.
I wanted to ask the young woman how she’d ended up with such an old man, but thought it would be rude. Later, I’d realize that she was an Elf and was probably several hundred years older than him. Probably Manbating for the land.
“An Elf?” I ask. For some reason, I’ve never liked Elves. Or at least the stories about them.
“Yah. I was lucky too. In that area, it could’ve been a Goblin.”
Azzen laughed. “Ohhhh yah. We’ll get into them later.”
So I stayed the night and spent half the next day chopping up those ten logs. The Elf lady made a comment that it was no wonder the Master tossed me out of his school. I didn’t know what she was talking about and didn’t ask. She gave me breakfast and lunch, which I was thankful for.
When I was done, I asked if I could use her phone. She asked me what I was talking about and after trying to explain it, she said I might be able to find such a device in the city. She pointed me up the road and I started walking again.
I passed a few more houses, but I was pretty weirded out by what I’d seen so far, so I just kept going towards the city. After several miles, I came to a large manor with a bunch of kids fighting outside. They weren’t really fighting. More like practicing with sticks.
There were kids of all ages, from six year olds to guys and gals that could be twenty. Most of the younger kids were wearing straight up rags. Brown and tattered. Most of the boys were shirtless. The older kids had clean clothes, but they were plain white shorts and shirts, made out of some sort of thick cloth. A few of the oldest kids were wearing fancy dyed clothes, green or purple or blue, with golden embroidered designs. One of them shouted at me as I was passing by.
“Hey you!” he yelled. “You with the weird cloak. Come here, Rat!”
I had never heard of my hoodie being called a cloak before, and I’d never been called a Rat either, so I waved him off and ignored him.
“He aint one of us!” one of the younger kids in rags shouted.
“Well go get him then,” the boy in fancy green clothes shouted.
All the kids in rags cheered and ran towards me with their sticks, Some of them were pretty big and seemed older than me.
“What do you want?” I asked as they approached.
One of the bigger “Rats” pointed his stick at me. “You come with us,” he said. “You’ll see the Master.”
“No, that’s okay,” I said. “I’m heading to the city, it’s that way right?” I pointed and kept moving.
The swarm of kids circled around me.
“No,” the big boy said. “You come through here; you see the Master.”
“I really don’t think I want to,” I said, getting an ominous feeling.
“You don’t get to think,” said a boy that could be no older then ten. “yousa Rat.”
An older boy smacked the younger one on the head and said, “Talk proper.”
“Um, no… I think I’m gonna go.”
I brushed their sticks aside and tried to push through, but they barred my way. The boy in green strode over to us.
“You’ll come or you’ll fight,” he said, drawing a sword that I hadn’t seen before. “And you’ll be fighting me, not just these Rats. So think wisely before you decide.”
One of the younger Rats eagerly offered me a stick.
“Uh…” I said. “I guess I’ll go talk to your Master for a minute.”
The boy in green snorted and the Rats all sniggered as they led me towards the house. The Rats stopped at the door and the boy in green knocked loudly, then they all stepped back and waited expectantly.
My thoughts while I waited was that the door was too large. It was ten feet high and wide enough to drive two cattle through. But when it opened, the massive man staring down at me nearly filled the entire entrance. Thinking back on it, he was probably part Ogre, though I’ve never thought of that until just now.
He had thick spiky hair and a scarred face. It looked like something had tried to chew through one of his cheeks and the other had a large slashing scar across it up to his brow. He was bare-chested, wearing only white shorts and a black belt, bringing to mind some sort of monstrous, gladiator, karate master. His chest was purely muscle, and looked solid as marble, though he was quite tan. There were pale scars littered across every inch of his body.
He exhaled a sort of “hmmmmm” grunt. And said, “What do you want?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “They told me I had to see you.”
“Yes, you do,” He stated simply and continued to stare at me, as though he was studying a specimen.
“Uh, okay. So can I go now?”
“Where are you going in such a hurry?” he asked.
“Well I was heading to the city, but I guess I’m really just trying to get home.” Suddenly inspired, I asked, “you don’t happen to have a map, do you?”
The Master snorted some sort of grunt or laugh and said “Yes. I have a map.” And then mumbled to himself, “at least he speaks right.”
The first thing that I noticed when I entered was You.
“Me?” I ask.
“Yes, you,” Azzen replies.
“What was I doing there?”
“Yah, you were sitting in a comfy chair off to the right, in a room lined with bookshelves that was attached to the foyer by an archway. And you didn‘t look up at me at all, but I saw your ear twitch.”
Something seemed to bother the Master as we passed you, because he barked at you to go get us some wine and you closed your book and obeyed him immediately. That’s when I noticed your tail.
“Who’s she?” I asked.
“She’s none of your business,” the Master growled.
Another thing I noticed about you was that your clothes were different from any of the other boys or girls outside. You wore a white blouse and a white skirt, and they were embroidered with red instead of gold. But I didn’t know anything about that at the time. I just thought you were pretty.
The Master and I walked through a room, down a hallway, and turned into another room. This one was a Library, with many more books than the small study you had been sitting in. The Master wasted no time in going to a shelf and pulling out a large rolled up parchment. He laid it out on an impressive oak table and dropped a couple sculpted paperweights on it to hold it in place. You seemed to know where we went, because moments later, you arrived with a tray, holding a bottle of wine and two full glasses.
The Master took a glass and growled at you to leave the tray and get out of there. You did, but you also took the other glass and walked it around the table to me. When you handed it to me, we exchanged one glance. The sharp look in your eyes told me everything I needed to know at once: “You don’t know me. You didn’t see me last night. You’ve never seen me before now.”
“One look told you all of that?” I scoff.
“I took a good look,” Azzen replies.
The Master examined the map and asked where I was from.
I said “Kent.”
And he searched the map, uncertainly, mumbling to himself that he had never heard of such a place.
So I told him it was in Washington, but that just confused him even more.
“I’ve never heard of it,” he told me. So I took a look at the map, but I didn’t recognize a single landmark on it. And besides that, it was just an island. I didn’t even know if I was in America.
“Where are we?” I asked.
The Master pointed to a spot that meant nothing to me.
“Uh, do you have any bigger maps?” I asked.
“What do you mean? This one takes up the whole table. It’s as detailed as you’re going to get,” the Master replied.
“No, I mean, like of the whole world,” I said.
The Master eyed me suspiciously. “This IS the whole world, Boy,” he stated.
“I’m not from anywhere on here…” I said. “Are you sure… I mean, do you have a map that’s not just the island?”
The Master didn’t understand. “You’re from an island?”
“No. Well, I’m from America. Do you know where that is?”
“I’ve been to every territory of the world, Boy. And I’ve never heard of an America.”
“Oh… Okay. Well, thanks for trying to help,” I said.
I took a sip of the wine, so as not to be rude. Immediately, warmth flushed through me and my whole body tingled. I heard ringing in my ears, but it subsided quickly. I felt a knot of fear in my stomach. There was something wrong with that wine.
Woozily, I continued what I was saying. “I guess I should head to the city though… I think I’ll be able to figure it out from there.”
“Yes, probably,” said the Master. “But you won’t make it there by the night. You’ll stay here with the boys tonight and chop some wood tomorrow. I’ll have one of the boys take you later.”
My will to disagree seemed to have temporarily slipped from my grasp, and chopping wood seemed to be the norm for payment here, so I agreed.
Then the Master asked me where I got my clothes and why they were so weird.
“Uh, they’re just regular… where I come from, I guess,” I replied.
“You’re not rich are you?” he asked suspiciously.
“Not particularly,” I said.
“Not a Noble?” he asked.
“Noble what?” I asked back.
The Master cracked a smile. “Well I don’t allow my boys to wear fancy clothes unless they earn them. You’ll change into some Rat rags to fit in. Don’t worry, they’re clean, just brown.”
I didn’t want to cause trouble when he was apparently helping me out, so I agreed to change my clothes before I slept for the night.
I would find out that he wasn’t helping me at all, but it would all be worth it, because at the Master’s is where I really met you, Fel.
“And that’s all for now,” Azzen says, cutting off the story.
“What?” I ask. “Why?”
“Cuz breakfast is done,” he responds.
“It’s been done. And you were barely getting to the good part.”
I want to know more. So far he’s mostly just talked about himself. I want to know about my supposed past life. He could still just be making all this up. But even as I consider it, I doubt he’s lying. As he was talking about me, it came back. Tripping over him, being at the Master’s, and the wordless look I gave him when he first got there. It all came back when he said it.
But there was something wrong with the Master. Not something that he said… something he didn’t say. I’m trying to figure it out. That’s why I want him to keep going.
“Was the Master really strong?” I ask
“Well, that depends on what you call strong,” Azzen answers.
“I mean, like physically. Beyond being a huge guy. Like was he especially strong for some reason? Like how you ripped off my doors.”
“Yeh,” Azzen says. “He was strong like that, but nothing special in the long run. Back then though, he was definitely the strongest guy around.”
“Oh,” I say. “Was he bad?”
“I don’t know,” Azzen says, looking at me with interest. “Was he?”
“I think so,” I say. “Was he holding me captive or something like that?”
“Yes, he was. Your starting to remember. He was holding all of us against our will, actually. I didn’t realize I’d walked into a spider’s web when I first got there. But I‘ll tell you more of that some time tomorrow. I‘ve got some things to take care of today.”
“Things more important than me?” I ask sweetly with a stretching smile.
“Things FOR you,” Azzen winks.
“Oh that sounds nice,” I say. “When will you be back?”
“I’ll find you when I’m free, wherever you are,” he says.
“How will you find me?”
“It’ll be easy, as long as I have permission to use your name,” he says.
“What does that mean?”
“It means I can always find you if I have permission to use your name. Fel, do I have permission to use you name?” Azzen asks with a sly smile.
Something was rubbing me the wrong way. He was already using my name. My TRUE name, according to him. And with these tales of Goblins and Elves… I’ve heard stories about True Names…
“You only have permission to use my name to find me,” I say, wording the statement carefully.
Azzen chuckles. “That’ll do. I think you remember more than you let on.”
“No. I’m just not stupid.”
“Course not,” Azzen says. “I was always the dumb one.”
The boy smiles and then leaves, hugging me before he goes. This time he uses the door instead of swirling into black mist.