And woke in shock, the red glow so close . . .
He darted to the back door. Peeked out . . . nothing. He slid out the door into the bright moonlight. Where would the man be? Did he still have that knife?
A soft sound from the back fence. The loose board swung out of the way and a dark form slid through. Hunched, breathing hard, with a quiver almost like a laugh.
Exzy put both hands out, palms up and gathered moonlight and gravity. Power.
The madman stepped away from the fence and into the moonlight. Clawed hands flexing as if in anticipation of grabbing him. His lips peeled back from gleaming teeth.
“Go. Away.” Exzy could hear the quaver in his own voice, as the madman’s grin widened and he stepped toward Exzy.
Exzy shoved with both hands.
From fifteen feet away.
The madman flew back. Not hitting the fence, because the fence was already falling flat, pieces flying . . .
A fading scream.
A metallic rattle.
Exzy stepped out to where he could see the madman.
On the far side of the big ditch. Clinging to the chain link fence. Rattling it and now screaming incoherently. He turned around and spotted Exzy. He shrieked and ran straight at Exzy. Launched himself as if to fly back across the ditch . . .
His gaze met Exzy’s as his eyes widened in realization. As he fell.
The scream cut off with a thud.
And odd horrible feeling, like the screech of a fork skidding on a plate, but mental, sending a shudder down his spine.
Exzy ran out . . . the sprawled figure was clear in the moonlight. Head at an odd angle . . .
I didn’t kill him. I just threw him across the ditch.
He thought he could fly or something.
It wasn't really my fault.
He shuddered again.
I felt him die.
He backed away, ran back inside, tears running down his face while he huddled in the chair. Eventually he fell asleep. And woke to a hubbub in the back yard. Ruby and Jimmy out yelling across the ditch to the policemen there, and someone down in the ditch as well.
He huddled harder. I’m not going to talk to them. I didn’t kill him.
Eventually the noises stopped, and Ruby and Jimmy came back in.
Exzy wandered into the kitchen and looked at the empty granola bars box. Shrugged and grabbed an orange. He sat in the back yard and wondered how long it had been since he’d last brushed his teeth. Brushed his hair. Taken a bath.
I slept two nights, so this is only the third day.
I need to go home.
The sun light was just hitting the ground, warming him up a bit. He closed his eyes, and could see the red of the blood in his eyelids, hear the pounding of his heart. He looked deeper, and the red blended into purple, into blue. Fizzy and wild.
The inbetween. All the dimensional magicians talk about it. All the bubbles. It seems like I’ve always been able to see the bubbles . . . I just never saw the bubbles in the blue fizz.
And they talk about finding cones . . . like that one . . . to make gates. And someone is moving it. Bumping it with a bubble.
He reached out mentally and tried to grab it. It was spinning too fast, but it was slowing every time it got hit by a bubble someone was using to steer it with.
He reached and this time grabbed it, pulled it toward him. He felt someone trying to pull it away, and pulled harder. It froze, and he opened his eyes. A faint translucency right in front of him. He closed his eyes and looked at the inbetween again. Another cone was being pushed toward him, twisting around his and reach out for a faint crumpled paper looking thing.
He opened his eyes in time to see the translucency pale and spread, turning and becoming the sparkling white vortex of a dimensional gate.
Uh, oh. I hope it’s the good guys whose gate making I’ve just interfered with.
He got up, edging away from the gate.
A figure jumped through. Red hair in a pony tail . . .
“Exzy! What do you think you’re doing, interfering with my gate! I’m working, dammit.” Ryol frowned down at him. “Why didn’t anyone tell me you’d grasped power? And where are we?”
“Beats me.” Exzy looked over his shoulder. “It’s all right. It’s just my sister.”
“Oh?” Ryol scowled, one foot tapping. “And what are you doing here?”
“I’m having an adventure.” Exzy turned and walked back to Ruby. He shrugged off his coat, removed the bubble handles, and handed her the coat. “I have to go now. I’m sorry we never got around to the third wish. But sell the gold whenever you need to, and work to make your wishes come true yourself.”
He turned and trotted back to his sister. “Well, c’mon, you need to close this gate and make the one you were intending to make.”
“One! Little brothers are worse than twin brothers!”
The other side was a barren world with a half dozen gates scattered around.
Ryol pointed. “That’s the Gate Field. If you’ve got any sense at all you’ll go to Embassy and get cleaned up at Dad’s house before Mom sees you.”
The young man standing there looked uneasy. “Ryol? He looks kind of young to be on his own.”
Ryol snorted. “Exzy? He’s been getting himself into and out of trouble since he was a toddler. Getting lost across dimensions is something new. But I’m sure he can handle getting home from here. Now hush. I need to close this unauthorized gate.”
Exzy closed his eyes for a moment, and watched her find another cone and ram it, still spinning fast, into the connected cones and blowing them apart and away from the worlds they’d connected.
Huh. That’s not so hard. The next time I have an adventure, I can make one myself.
He jumped through to the Gate Field.
Hey! I didn’t get dizzy!
He’d been here about a million times, so he looked for all the tall buildings, the warehouses . . . So he was off in a corner, and the Embassy gate was over there . . .
He joined the small crowd of pedestrians waiting for the vehicular traffic to clear, then walked through with them. He got a few surprised glances from the uniformed guards, but his implanted ID was good for unlimited gate travel, so no one said anything.
Until he was out on the street.
A trio of boys, all too well known. Two girls he’d never met.
Oh great, someone for them to show off in front of!
“Oh, look at the pwecious widow boy! Did your Mommy wesue you?” Stodie grinned and the other boys laughed.
“Hey, lost your wizard coat? Larry can send you back to get it.” Ferris laughed and Larry cracked his knuckles.
Exzy looked at the just-past-full Moon, setting behind the wall that surrounded the Oner Embassy’s block. Pinched just a tiny bit of gravity, and thought about a nice broad, gentle push, and pushed.
They screamed like little girls as they were lifted off their feet and pressed against the wall.
“Put me down! Put me down!” Stodie squirmed, feet and arms jerking against the push as if he was trying to throw a vertical temper tantrum.
A guard popped out of the gate and checked the situation. Started grinning and walked back to his post.
Exzy stopped pushing and the trio dropped a meter to sprawl on the sidewalk. Exzy sniffed, and brushed at his sleeve. Turned and sauntered away. The sun was rising, wherever he’d been must have been a couple of time zones east.
If he hurried to shower and change, he wouldn’t even be late for school.
Senior Inspector Jim Kelso eyed the ragged unkempt back yard. The techs were sweeping the area, and Martha was hobnobbing with the pros. “Just a big circle of desert, and two people looking through it?”
“Yes.” Dr. Todd looked mildly amused. “Then the young woman who was sitting cross-legged on the ground stood up and jumped through. Exzy said she was his sister and he had to go back home now, and jumped through with the woman following him. She was carrying on about little brothers.”
Jim looked at the other two men and the middle-aged woman. “You told people he was your grandson?”
She fluffed her hair a bit. “I hadn’t dyed my hair then, it was pretty gray. I know we ought to have called the police, but the way the boy fell out of nowhere, well, there was obviously somethin’ odd goin’ on.”
“And we’re right, aren’t we?” Grissom, the snake-oil salesman, eyed him. “You knew just what to look for.”
Jim shrugged. “Gates like that have a magnetic pulse when they open or close. Once they’re open, they’re really hard to find. But some specially designed satellites can detect the opening and closing, and pinpoint the location. Unfortunately with about a week’s processing delay. So I had another team out scouring the ground of your alley, when this one was reported to us.”
He eyed the four of them. “We’re looking for anything your visitor left behind.”
They exchanged wary looks, then the guy with thinning hair snickered. “He fixed the glass in the house—but you can’t have it, unless you replace it.”
They took him inside to show him. Previously shattered glass that looked like it was welded together. At least the house was clean, and they’d been painting the exterior when the team rolled up.
Six adults living here? Obviously very friendly with each other.
“So . . . all you former winos, drug addicts and prostitutes suddenly cleaned up and banded together to get a roof over your heads. Got any of that magic wine left?”
More looks exchanged.
They all look quite ordinary, probably no genetically engineered ancestors, unlike the dead druggie. Or me.
Ruby Meyers, who according to her ID was fifty-five and looked ten years younger shook her head. “We drunk it all. Worse the luck.”
Her eyes narrowed. “So, how often does this happen?”
“About once a year.” Jim shrugged. “We had great hopes of actually being on time to find someone this time. If this kid comes back, give him my card and tell him that our authorities would like to talk to his authorities.” He handed out cards profligately.
I ought to be jumping all over the snake-oil salesman, but since that wine has proven to be a cure-all and anti-addictive, we’re not really going to carry on about the aphrodisiac properties. What we’d really like is to talk to . . . damn near anyone.
Except, perhaps the Animal Gang.
And . . . an eight year old boy? Running around having adventures in parallel worlds?
It just keeps getting weirder.