They stood there quietly, Kori and Aloyce, holding each other tightly as they looked around their new surroundings.
“Uncle?” Kori called out.
Another five minutes or more passed in silence. Uncle wasn’t answering.
Aloyce whimpered before she pushed Kori away. She searched the grassy field they stood in for any sign of something familiar. Everything was new. The air was different, cleaner, almost sweet smelling. The trees were wrong. The grass that surrounded them was light purple! This was happening! This was Real!
She took a deep breath and blew it out. Calm down, she had to calm down, that’s all. Aloyce closed her eyes, it was stress, if she shut everything out and counted to ten … o-ok, maybe to twenty then. Fifty?
Kori swallowed as Aloyce remained still with her eyes closed. He could hear her slowly counting and he wasn’t sure why. She was calmer than he was and that bothered him. But he was more bothered by the fact that Uncle wasn’t answering him. That he was confused and disoriented and for some reason he couldn’t catch his breath.
Aloyce had reached seventy when she heard something hit the ground behind her and found Kori laid out unconscious. She frowned. That convinced her that this was really happening, but it didn’t help.
Night came quickly and it found Aloyce seated in front of a fire with Kori sleeping soundly at her side. She was covered with dirt and soot from her many attempts at starting the fire. Using what she recalled from the survival shows and movies she had seen. It took a while but, she eventually got a small fire started.
Three years ago her father had come across the yang necklace in a pawnshop. A choice that most would have avoided as it was obvious that it was missing the other half, but it wasn’t for him. He bought it for her knowing how she liked making up stories to amuse herself. He had called it a mystical amulet when he gave it to her. It had the look of one. It was about two inches long and an inch and a half wide, tiny garnets followed along the outside of the Yang symbol’s curve. The yang itself was bright mother of pearl wrapped in antiqued bronze. She loved it.
She was a hard worker, barely had time to enjoy life with all the problems they kept having. Aloyce had never taken a vacation having always worked since she was legally able to. And when her father got sick the workload increased. It had to.
When she had time, she would find solace in her writing. Their little apartment was scattered with her notepads. Some filled with ideas for stories and others with characters. Her imagination made it easy to deal with reality, sometimes. Her father, Lamar had been sure that half an antique amulet would hold a lot of fantasies for her. And it did. Aloyce filled forty notebooks with stories as her father’s health declined. The one story she loved the most and secretly believed was that her soul mate would have the opposite piece. How the pieces would guide their owners to each other. It was embarrassing the number of fantasies she’s had with rich and famous guys.
Aloyce grinned slightly; famous singers, movie stars and hot basketball players would come to her job and pretty much whisk her away in the middle of her shift. They’d have a whirlwind romance, dad would love them and then they’d get married and her soul-mate would save her father by getting him the help they couldn’t afford … but that didn’t happen. Lamar died in his asleep in his favorite chair in front of the T. V. After a big dinner she made to celebrate her raise.
A year later she met Kori.
Kori moaned as he turned over, snapping her out of the memory.
It was all just a fantasy. An incomplete necklace with only the magic of her imagination. Kori wasn’t even interested in her.
Her stomach tightened uncomfortably at that fact. Aloyce stood up and decided to get a better look around the area before that feeling spread.
The crackling of the fire slowly awakened him. Kori rolled over and ended up with a mouthful of dirt. He sat up coughing.
“What the hell…?” Kori started then paused when he realized he was sitting in a small clearing next to a strange campfire. He got to his feet quickly. They were still in the middle of the field, but now it was dark and Aloyce was gone.
“Aloyce!” He started shouting and kept shouting for a whole two minutes before he finally saw her running toward him.
“What in the world is your problem?” She complained, her concern fading to annoyance as she realized nothing was wrong. She dropped her load of firewood. “I’m here, calm down.”
Kori sat down hard, “I’m sorry it’s just…”
Kori looked at her, “I what?”
She nodded a small smirk on her face, “You fainted.”
Kori just looked at her while he watched as she sat across from him.
“There’s gotta be a logical…” he started and watched as she calmly cut him off with a shake of her head.
“There is no logic to any of this and yet we are still here,” She tossed in a few sticks. “I searched a good length of this area. None of the foliage I recognize let alone the so called woodland animals,” She picked up another stick and started to poke at the fire.
“I saw something that looked like a rabbit.” She spoke softly.
“Yeah? What do you mean looked?” He moved closer as her voice seemed to fade.
“It had a long ringed tail, looked more like a cross between a rabbit and a raccoon.”
They were quiet for a long time. Kori watched her as she just sat staring into the fire. She was definitely taking it all better than he was but something seemed wrong. She was taking it maybe too well?
“Al,” He started and stopped as she gave him a warning look, “Aloyce.”
“You okay?” He moved closer. “I mean, you don’t seem to bothered by this.”
She wiped her face, “I had time to let it sink in. While you were dreaming the day away I saw things that just weren’t normal. The rabcoon or whatever it might be called was just one of what I’ve seen.” She huffed and then shook her head resignedly; “I cried, I yelled…I even yelled at you.” She shrugged and looked at the dirt on her shoes, “I’ve had time to think about everything and have decided to just take it…I mean, fighting it won’t help, will it? I’d probably only end up going nuts if I thought too hard about all this.”
“There is no ‘but’, Kori. We have no choice in the matter. You brought us here,” She eyed him, “All you had to do was give your uncle the amulet and he would have been gone.” She looked away from him again, “You would have been gone.”
Kori swallowed hearing how jilted she felt, “I’m sorry it all … came out this way, Aloyce …” He sighed as she hugged herself, “Look, I’m sorry I dragged you into this. I didn’t mean to get you involved this way.”
“So what was your goal? I mean, exactly how did you mean to get me ‘involved’? Did you think that if you …?”
“Stop.” Kori didn’t know what she was going to say, but it wouldn’t have been good or true.
She glared at him.
Kori couldn’t tear his eyes away from her glare. What was he going to do? What had been the plan when he finally got his hands on her half? So far it had only been to get to know her and find out about the necklace. Did he want to take it away from her? It would have been safer to just let her keep it, right?
He took a deep breath as she shut her eyes. A few tears slid down her cheeks and he couldn’t speak.
“When my father died … this necklace became so much more important to me!” She sobbed. “It’s a reminder of how well he knew me!”
“Aloyce, I’m sorry.”
“It hurts me to know that I could give it up so quickly to save myself,” She covered her face.
Kori not only felt bad for involving her, but stupid as well. Uncle would have never known about the other half had he not pursued her. Kori moved till he sat next to her. “You know your father would have rather you gave up the necklace instead of suffering for having it.”
She bowed her head, “I know.” She opened her eyes to see Kori’s face below hers. She started to shove him away and then sighed sitting up.
“I’m too tired to fight,” She mumbled, “I just want to sleep.”
Kori just nodded and started to remove his shirt. She began to protest until she saw that he was wearing an under-shirt. He handed her his shirt.
“It’s not much of a blanket, but you could use it for a pillow.”
She fought the smile as she took the shirt.
“I’ll keep watch since I’ve already had my nap.”
He watched as she got as comfortable as she could and then closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep.
Reality set in and his soft smile faded as he realized that this was his entire fault. True, he still felt this all to be some elaborate dream or some hypnotic trick of his uncle in a way. But the feel of the air, the grit in his clothes and present company made it hard for him to feel it wasn’t a hundred percent real. He removed the necklace from about his neck and stared at it. He had honestly thought that he had lost Aloyce’s half only now to find that somehow after he put them together they had become fused. He looked closer at their point of contact and tried to pull them apart. Nothing. He sighed, now to suffer for his stupidity.
He cocked his arm back and started to chuck the necklace into the woods that surrounded them, but quickly stopped before he regretted another rash decision. It couldn’t be just one way maybe sooner or later they would come across a way to make the necklace take them back. His eyes widened, or better yet maybe uncle was trying new spells now! He frowned, he hoped not. Uncle would be beyond being pissed. He replaced the necklace about his neck and sat down.
If Uncle Yeoh was casting a spell would he know? There were times the necklace would get heavy and other times it would feel as if he was wearing an ice cube. Were all those strange instances the result of his uncle’s spell-casting? Kori scratched his head and wondered if his uncle was casting a new spell, would it affect them now? As they were either in the future, which would mean that he was long dead, or they were in the past, which would mean that he wasn’t even born yet.
Kori found himself across from Aloyce, not remembering when he moved. He wondered what possessed her to keep her half. Most wouldn’t bother with half of an amulet in the first place. He bet that she probably came up with some fantastic story, something romantic. That thought made him pause. Kori wondered if the original story behind the amulet was true and if it was then that would mean that…
Kori shook his head and leaned back against the rather impressive pile of firewood Aloyce had gathered. The story didn’t matter, it was just that. A story.
Aloyce moaned softly curling herself into a ball as he watched her. He was very sorry for involving her into this. He shut his eyes.
Aloyce sat up abruptly not sure of what startled her awake. She looked about not at all surprised that her surroundings had not changed. The field was still a sea of light purple grasses, more than waist high and dotted with fragrant bushes of brightly colored flowers. Feathered clouds moved drowsily across the brightening sky. That was the only thing normal to her.
She rolled her eyes as she stood up and stretched and saw Kori less than two feet away from her … asleep. Her stomach clinched painfully as the true reason for their so called relationship. She had been happy, growing to love him. She knew her father would have had a field day if she had told him that, but it had been true. Warning her about falling for someone with a honeyed tongue and the ability to pick up on the little things that counted. But it had all been a farce. She started to ball her fist and slug him when she could have sworn she heard what sounded like horses. She squatted down quickly as she moved next to him.
“Kori!” She elbowed him and knocked him over. He started to yell out when she planted her hand over his mouth.
She swallowed. “I think we’re being watched.”
Kori sat up, “Are you sure?” He watched as she nodded fervently squeezing her eyes shut, she then hugged him tight scaring him as well as bowling him over.
“I don’t know if I’m ready to meet the folks of this world! Hell! What if we’re in some alternate past?” She cried into his chest.
Kori swallowed now more frightened than before. He peeled her away from him.
“Don’t worry; I’m not going to let anything happen to you … we’ll get out of this.” He started to retrieve his shirt when he knew he heard voices. Aloyce did too as her grip tightened around his arm.
“Which way?” He whispered and watched alarmed as she pointed one way and he looked in another.
“They’ve got us surrounded!” She started biting on her nails.
Aloyce almost screamed as Kori snatched her hand away from her mouth. “Stop that!” He snapped actually angry.
There was a sudden pounding, like something or several things running towards them. Both of them stood up as the sound grew closer and saw five or six mounted animals coming their way. Kori grabbed Aloyce’s hand and dragged her after him. The men on top of the horse-like beasts began to holler and whoop.
The chase was on.
He couldn’t believe this! This definitely was not the past not with those strange animals! They looked like horses but their colors were spectacular. They had six legs instead of four, reds and blues in hues too vivid to be real. The sounds they made were more of whoops and yips rather than whinnying.
Al’s hand nearly escaped his grip and he turned to fuss only to watch one of the men finish wrapping some strange vine-like rope about her waist.
“Al!” He yelled as he grabbed her wrist with his other hand and she grabbed him.
Her eyes were huge with fear as she pleaded with Kori not to let her go. Tears filled her eyes causing him to become frantic, “No…,”
With an anguished scream she was snatched away from him. Kori ran hard after them watching as Aloyce fought and kicked. Screaming as she struggled to get free from her kidnapper. They disappeared into the woods leaving him alone. He continued to run after them not ready to accept that she had just been snatched from him. He called her name over and over, following the faint echoes of her screams until he came out of the woods again on the other side. He fell to his knees the truth hitting him hard.
He had lost her.