“Aaugh!” Kori Ito yelled out in pain. He released Aloyce Campbell’s wrist and fell against a tree, frantically trying to get at whatever was hurting him.
“What’s wrong with you?” Aloyce panted while she watched her so-called boyfriend fight with his shirt. They had been dating for maybe over a month, happily or so she thought. The last few days she was forced to realize just how much more interested in her amulet he was rather than in her. An antique amulet her deceased father had given to her about two years ago; one that was the matching yang to his yin. She somehow doubted that it was a coincidence.
Kori pulled his half of the amulet out and held it away from his skin.
“How … it burned me!” He exclaimed not realizing how quiet his company had become. He stared at the yin symbol as it dangled before him. Was it glowing slightly? Kori was fighting it, but little by little he was beginning to believe in his uncle’s so called ‘magical’ abilities.
Aloyce looked about her surroundings; sadly wishing she had never met Kori now. They had run far from the Georgia State carnival they had been enjoying. The cheerful sounds of the crowd and carnival games was barely audible at this distance. The carnival was one that came to the Atlanta Speedway the same time every year. Originally she would come with her dad, but he had passed two years ago. She thought it could be a new tradition to start with Kori. He had been against it at first, but she cajoled him into it. She should have known something was wrong when he kept searching about nervously. Aloyce watched disappointed as Kori blew down his shirt. He still hadn’t explained why his uncle was chasing them.
“Can you tell me what the hell is going on?” Aloyce looked at him. “Please?”
Kori looked at her slightly offended that she wasn’t concerned with why his half of the amulet was burning him and hers wasn’t doing the same. He shrugged it off.
“He’s my uncle. My eccentric uncle who believes that our amulet is magical … claims that he has spent five years ‘casting’ a temporal spell on it.” Kori explained. “My uncle believes himself to be a sorcerer of some sort.”
Aloyce covered her face, “So we’re running from a nut who thinks he knows magic.” She stared at him irritated, “You knew what you were doing from the beginning, didn’t you?” she pulled her hand away from him.
Kori sighed knowing this was going to hurt her. Her eyes were his favorite thing about her. They were a warm whiskey-brown when she smiled and laughed. Right now they were cold and dull. He simply nodded.
“You weren’t interested in me at all,” Aloyce whispered to herself.
“What?” He asked, knowing exactly what she had said, but not wanting to have to answer.
“What was the…,” she started and watched as Kori’s eyes widened before he grabbed her wrist again. She groaned as they were on the run again.
“Kori! Just give me the amulet! Nothing will happen to you or Aloyce!” Uncle Yeoh called after them. Two larger men caught up with the older man, huffing and puffing. Uncle Yeoh mumbled something to them and they slowly made their way toward the couple.
Kori shook his head as he pushed Aloyce ahead of him. “You’ve been tearing the house apart looking for this thing since dad disappeared!” He called back.
On a return trip from a business meeting five year earlier, Kori’s father went missing. Ryin Ito’s plane crashed in the forests somewhere near Washington. The oddest thing about the crash was that everyone on board had disappeared. The pilots, the stewardesses and the passengers, including Ryin Ito, were missing. Kori remembered that day clearly. The day the police came to the door handing him only the yin half of the amulet. Uncle Yeoh had been distraught when he saw that the amulet was incomplete, mumbling something about there being only two charges in the bauble.
Insistent tugging from Aloyce snapped Kori out of his reverie, “Aloyce … what are you…?”
“Let me go! I don’t want anything to do with this!” She screamed. “He can have my half!” she said trying to snatch her arm from him. “I don’t want anything to do with any of this … or you!”
Kori looked at her in disbelief. His speed slowed for a few moments before it picked up again.
For weeks they had gotten to know each other. Of course Kori originally sought Aloyce out because he noticed her wearing the yang symbol when he and his uncle ate at the restaurant she happened to be working at. He followed her around for several days before deciding to introduce himself to her. Kori couldn’t help but feel a little hurt … now that she knew … he thought-
“No.” Kori shook his head.
Aloyce dug her feet into the ground causing them to stumble.
“I’m not asking your permission!” She snapped.
Kori pushed her off of him, “I promised my father that I wouldn’t give him the amule -!”
“I made no such promise!” She snatched her arm from him. “I have nothing to do with this crap!”
Kori glared at her, “Technically your half belongs to me as well so that means…” He watched as she quickly removed the necklace from around her neck and threw it at him.
“Have it!” She started to run away from him only to have him grab her again. This time she was pissed, “Let me go!”
“Kori,” Uncle Yeoh panted as he and the two men finally caught up with them.
Kori and Aloyce froze as they were surrounded. She elbowed him.
“Idiot! I could’ve gotten away!” She glared at the ground. “I would’ve come back with the police…” she mumbled.
“Not likely,” Kori whispered, “You know too much.”
Uncle Yeoh shook his head as he started toward them, “Don’t scare her like that, Kori.”
Kori glared at him, “Scare her? Me? I’m not the one hunting her down!” He held Aloyce close as he brought both pieces up to show his uncle.
“Kori, don’t,” Yeoh said nervously watching his nephew hold the pieces inches apart.
“I’m just going to show you that the story behind this piece of jewelry is just a story, Uncle.”
“You can do that without me!” Aloyce shouted while she struggled to get his arm from around her when he started to bring the pieces together.
Uncle Yeoh ran at him, “Noooooooooooo…!”
There was a sudden feeling of disorientation as the world began to spin.
They stood there quietly, Kori and Aloyce, holding each other tightly as they looked around their new surroundings.
They stood in the midst of a field of light purple grass. About mid chest on Aloyce and hip high on Kori. Strange, pastel trees that resembled feathered brushes swayed around the edges of the field. The sky was threatening dusk here and there was not a hint of the State carnival, or the noise of the Atlanta speedway.
“Uncle?” Kori called out.
They stood there hugging each other for another five minutes or more before Kori attempted to call his Uncle again. 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. She rubbed her eyes then did it again harder. The view hadn’t changed. Everything was new. The air was different, cleaner, almost sweet smelling. The trees were wrong. Oh, wow were they 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. A small triumph, short lived as she was still stuck in some strange place.
Two 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 wished for 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 that year.
Months after she met Kori he revealed his half of the amulet.
Kori moaned as he turned over, snapping her out of 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…”
She inhaled deeply, ready to let him have it but exhaled slowly instead. No matter what was said or done, they were still in this … new world. She looked at him rethinking her next remark. “You fainted.”
Kori looked at her, “I what?”
She nodded at his look of confusion, a small smirk on her face, “You fainted.”
Kori just stared at her as she sat across from him. He had braced himself for an irate tirade. Now he was even more off balance than before.
“There’s gotta be a logical…” he started and watched as she calmly cut him off with a shake of her head. Aloyce sighed.
“The only logic is …. “ She shrugged half-heartedly. “… Is that your Uncle knew what he was talking about. He knew … magic, real magic. It exists and that amulet really teleported us to … wow, actually saying it out loud is a lot harder than I thought.” She tossed a few sticks into the fire before swallowing hard. “I searched a good bit of this area. Only the sky -.” She tapered off as she looked up at the night sky. The moon slowly making its way across while ignoring the billions of stars the twinkled around it. “The only thing that is recognizable, that’s freakin’ normal, is the sky.” She cleared her throat as her voice cracked. Kori watched her take a moment to regain the calm she had. Aloyce picked up another stick and started to poke at the fire. They remained silent for several minutes.
“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.” She hugged her knees to her chest. “But it had fuckin’ fangs, man….” She stared into the flickering fire.
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 too bothered by this.”
She wiped her face smudging her chin with soot, “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 every possibility…” she tapered off again. “Then the minutes stretched into hours, day turned to night.” She eyed him. “But I’m still here. I’m still hungry and thirsty and dirty and … stuck with you.” She rolled her eyes away from him. “Even in the dark the grass is still purple!” She snapped, she took a deep breath before closing her eyes. “Kori – 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’ve been gone.” She looked away from him again, “You would’ve 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. How did she get it? Was it a gift? Did someone give it to her? 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 … that necklace became so much more 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 already 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.
Kori 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? In the past there were times the necklace would feel as if it weighed several pounds rather than a few ounces 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 smile. She was such a romantic.
Kori shook his head and leaned back against the rather impressive pile of firewood Aloyce had gathered. He needed to take a hint. Get his shit together. He watched Aloyce sleep. She was seriously affected by this … whatever this was. She had fallen asleep so quickly. It usually took her about an hour to wind down enough to become drowsy. They would have talked for …
Aloyce moaned softly curling herself into a ball as he watched her. He was very sorry for involving her into this. Was he in it because he really liked her or was it because this amulet was the only connection he felt he had with his dad? 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 that reassured her that she wasn’t crazy.
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’ve had a field day if she had told him that, would’ve commented on the fact that he was Asian, but not begrudge her. 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, right? She started to ball her fist and slug him when she could have sworn she heard what sounded like voices. She squatted down quickly as she moved next to him. She hadn’t thought about the people that would live here. How would they be treated? Would they understand them? Were they cannibals?
“Kori!” She squeaked before shaking him awake. 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. He hated when she mutilated her hands. It had taken him a month to curb her of that bad habit.
He started to complain about it when there was a sudden pounding, like something or several things running toward 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.
Kori 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 behind quickly. 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.