The World Walkers

Arriving

Amy’s side: Losing Someone

It took me two steps to realise something strange had happened. Then I turned, and almost walked into a wall I knew wasn’t meant to be there. I stared at it, watch ticking on my wrist as some kind of horrible reminder of how time was passing, before kicking it. Kicking it didn’t help at all, because the wall stayed solid and the path I’d been using to get home was gone. Slowly, the emotions I was feeling right then more than I can describe, I turned once more so I could look at where I’d found myself. After the strangeness of what had happened it was a surprise to find myself standing in what appeared to be a block of flats almost exactly like the one we’d lived in when I was younger.
Breathing deeply, I looked down at my watch. Five minutes from home turned into… I bit down hard on my lip, trying to hold on to my calm, which wasn’t exactly the easiest of things. I’d have been able to sleep for a couple of hours before Amy arrived, to spend the day together, before spending the evening probably getting pizza with family. With Jack, who always made to be home then, so we could hang out, because we had so little time to do that during the week.
A not all that unexpected tear trickled down my cheek, and I scrubbed it away. What else could I do? I didn’t know where I was, or how I’d got there. One of the only things I could be truly certain of was that I wasn’t home any longer, and that… there was a time, when I was younger, when I’d dreamed of living on another world. Preferably with magic. Only I wasn’t him any longer. I’d grown up, and what I wanted, more than anything, was to be home. Was to be with Amy, the woman I knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I knew then I needed to do something, and I started walking down the corridor, to where there was another door.
I was a step away from the door when someone on the other side pushed it open. “Hi.” The young woman there gave me a smile, but I could see she hadn’t expected me to be where I was. “I’m Siobhan, your guide.”
“Where am I?”
“Taithmarin.” Siobhan obviously knew what my next question was going to be, because it was kind of inevitable. “It’s one of the worlds the fae created when they travelled to Athare after destroying their home world Kalinia. Taithmarin evicted them, because it didn’t want them here, and has been gathering the races it does want ever since then.” She sighed. “Including humans.”
“How do I get home?”
“You can’t. The door you came through is something we can’t control and we haven’t been able to work out how to create another one. I think that’s partly because Taithmarin doesn’t want anyone to leave when it’s brought them here, no matter what they’ve been forced to leave behind.”
“My friends and family…”
“Will have forgotten you. As far as they’re concerned you never existed, thanks to the magic of the door. You’ll remember them, which I think is one of the hardest parts of this whole thing, but this won’t affect them in any way.”
How… there were so many questions going through my head right then, and I didn’t know where to start. There was only one logical explanation. Unfortunately the logical explanation was also the one I least wanted it to be. “How is something like that possible?”
“Magic.” Sioban’s eyes were full of sympathy. “Everyone who travels to Taithmarin from Earth has to come to terms with leaving their lives behind, and making a new one here. Some people are more successful than others. This world is very different, there are other races here, and there are a lot of people who spend their whole lives clinging onto what they left behind.”
“Why am I here?”
“No one knows for sure why the door choses people, but those of us who have embraced Taithmarin are really good at magic, and that seems to be the reason we’re brought here. Others think it’s purely down to luck, whether that’s bad or good depends on how they feel about Taithmarin, and unfortunately the majority of humans decide that it’s purely bad luck they’ve been dragged here against their will. The guides think it’s due to some of the other races who live here, as some of them aren’t humanoid. Talking to an animal, that has magic, makes them uncomfortable.” Siobhan smiled at me. “I don’t know how you’ll react to things, but you won’t have to deal with the other races until you’re ready, Matt.”
Running my tongue over my bottom lip I studied her, wondering if there was a time when she was a new arrival too. “How do you know my name?”
“The name of every new arrival is written into a book in the council offices a couple of days before they step through the door. We know it’s thanks to magic, but apart from that we have very little understanding of how the door connects with the book, or why we get advanced warning. A couple of the guides I know think it’s because the door chooses a time for the new arrival to arrive in, and that, for some reason, takes a couple of days.” Siobhan shrugged. “There’s a lot we don’t know about Taithmarin, and the door. Everyone has theories, some which have changed with time, while others have stayed the same ever since the first human arrived here.”
“Does that help you plan for the new arrivals?”
Siobhan nodded. “We have a flat ready for you, and the council are getting your first payment ready, which we should be able to pick up from the office in the next couple of days.”
“Payment?”
“Every new arrival is given some time to get used to Taithmarin, and to make that easier the council pays you an allowance. Part of it will go towards paying your rent, which is based on the size of your flat, and then the rest you can use for anything you want, including clothes and food. You can even buy furniture if you want, but pretty much all properties in Taithmarin come with furnishings.”
“Electricity, gas, and water bills?”
“All bills are included in your rent.” Siobhan’s eyes met with mine. “Do you want to see your flat, Matt? It’s just a couple of doors up from here.”
Working out the answer to such a simple question was harder than I imagine it could be. Getting home was the only thing I really wanted to do, but if Siobhan was telling the truth… blinking away more tears threatening to escape I breathed in deeply again, and did my best to deal with the situation I’d found myself in. Finally I nodded, trying to smile at Siobhan, even though I don’t think it worked too well. It was a relief when she smiled back, showing that she really did understand the position I was in, and I found myself wondering what it must have been like for the first human to find themselves on Taithmarin.
“Lead on, Siobhan.” Having something to do would hopefully take my mind off all those thoughts. “Tell me about the place.”
“What you have is a one bedroom flat, and I’ll be sleeping in the lounge.” She pulled a key out of her pocket. “Normally we only have to deal with one new arrival at a time, but we have had couples before, and once we even ended up with a group of five walking through the door at the same time. Thankfully they were friends who were happy to live together, at least to begin with.”
Siobhan made her way up the corridor, stopping in front of a door that was much closer than I expected it to be, even though she’d said it was only a couple of doors away. “What happened when they weren’t happy to live together?”
“They petitioned the council for permission to move early.” She put the key into the door and turned it, before pushing the door open. “Most of the time new arrivals will stay in their first property for a couple of years, to give them time to get used to Taithmarin, and the other races that live here, as well as giving the people here a chance to get used to them. You’ll find a lot of humans chose to live in the human section of the town, because they aren’t comfortable with the other races. Some do chose to live in the mixed centre, where you’ll find the main market, but there are so many of our race who don’t embrace what’s happened, instead dwelling on, and clinging to, a past they should really let go of.”
“It’s not that simple, though, is it?”
As I stepped past her, into the flat, she shook her head. “Unlike some of the races who’ve been brought here, or are being brought here, we don’t all have lives we could easily live behind.” She sighed. “I took a long time to come to terms with the choice made for me by a magical door, but once I had I did everything I could to embrace this world. I’m not going to lie to you and say I don’t think of the people I was forced to leave, because I do, but I’ve accepted they’re not going to have been affected by what’s happened, which made things a lot easier for me.”
“You’re certain that no one I left behind will remember me?” I looked at her, and she looked back at me. Maybe it would be easier for me to accept my fate if they didn’t. “They…” I shook my head. “My girlfriend? My siblings?”
“As certain as I can be.” Siobhan bit her lip. “There are a few people who are immune to the magic of the door, but it doesn’t happen often, and if it did happen to someone you were close to I’m sorry. Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about it, there’s no way of sending you back, and it’s something you need to put to the back of your mind.”
“Has anyone ever got back to Earth?”
Siobhan glanced at the ceiling, appearing to be asking someone up there for the answer to my question, before looking back at me. “Yes, they have, which is how we know no one will remember who you are.” She shrugged. “It happened by pure luck, and I don’t think it would ever happen to you. We honestly don’t know how to recreate the door, because if we could I wouldn’t be here. The moment I knew it was possible I would have gone back.”
Nodding, even though I didn’t want to, I gave her another terrible smile. “I believe you, Siobhan. I just can’t help wondering if it might be possible to go back, and what the people I left behind might be going through.” I turned back to look at the flat I’d been allotted. “Amy might still remember me?”
“There’s a chance. It’s a slim chance, and even if she does, Matt, the likelihood of you returning is even slimmer. You also have to take into consideration the time difference and how the magic works, because you getting back to Earth at the right time seems impossible. She’ll move on, in the end, the same way we all have, because there’s nothing else we can do. To her you’ll have just disappeared.”
“Could she find out about Taithmarin?”
“I don’t know. I suppose it’s possible, if enough people do remember losing someone and there was someone to tell them about our world. Taithmarin is big, so I have no way of knowing everything that goes on everywhere, and that means I don’t know exactly who’s returned home, or if someone who lost someone and remembered them turned up here. With magic anything could happen, but that doesn’t mean it will.”
“Okay, so you think I would be better of simply accepting what’s happened and moving on?”
“When I did this all became very much easier, but there are some people who haven’t and probably never will. This world isn’t where they want to be, there are too many strange creatures, and all they want is to return to the world they left behind. It doesn’t matter to them it will have changed, the people they loved might have died, they might end up in a time completely different to the one they left behind, or the magic of this world could have made them into something different.” Siobhan blew out a deep breath. “Most of them will never be happy again, but I have a chance of making my life here as good as the one I left behind was.”
I nodded again, in understanding more than anything else, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make a new life on Taithmarin. Not if there was a chance, no matter how slim, I might be remembered. Leaving Amy wasn’t an option, as far as I was concerned, and I was going to do everything he could to get back to her, in the hope she was one of those few people who were immune to the magic of the door. Only, if she was, how would she feel when she found out I was gone? Was that really something I wanted for her? I did, and I didn’t. I wanted her to remember me, so we’d have a future together when I got back, and I wanted her to forget me, so she didn’t have to go through the pain of losing me.
Doing my best to take my mind off that I looked around my new one bedroom flat, trying not to think about the plans we’d had for the future. We were going to find a flat to live in together, to make certain we were right for each other – although we’d never had any doubts – before we got married. I was working enough to be able to pay for it, and for Amy to be able to go to university, if that was what she decided she wanted to do, without having to worry about getting a job as well. Even though she would any way, because she wasn’t the sort of person to want to leave the financial burden on his shoulders if she could help it.
Now none of that mattered. I was on another world, and Amy was on Earth. Maybe she was living her life exactly as it would be if I’d never been there. She might be dating Jack, because that seemed to be the least difficult thing for the magic to do, so she’d still be a part of my family’s life. It was impossible to imagine her not being a part of it, as she’d spent so much time round mine, partly to avoid the family she hated, true, but mostly because all we wanted was to live our life together. The only reason we hadn’t already moved into our own place was my insistence we had some savings, just in case something happened. If I hadn’t been so stubborn we’d have already been living together.
“Okay, how much is the rent for this flat?”
“Fully furnished places are always a little more expensive, to cover wear and tear, but it does mean you aren’t going to be spending out anything on furniture now. The council believe you’re much more likely to want to buy clothes, and food. You receive 1,200 clays a month, half of which will go towards your rent, while the rest is yours to use as you wish. 600 clays is more than enough to buy a month’s worth of food, and some of the clothes that you’re going to be need, but as long as you have the most important items it’s something you can purchase as time passes and you see what each of the seasons is like, as the seasons here are…” Siobhan shrugged. “Well, I’m guessing you lived in the UK, as that’s where nearly every human has come from, and, honestly, it’s something you have to live through in order to understand.”
“Why?”
“Honestly I have no idea, although there are theories. My favourite is there’s more magic in the UK, and therefore that’s where the door finds it easiest to connect.” She bit her lip again, looking thoughtful. “Unfortunately there is no one we can ask for the answer to that question.”
“So the seasons here are very different to there.”
Nodding, she smiled. “Yeah, in England we’re lucky to get seasons. Here every season is different, although Spring and Autumn are both times when you’re likely to see rain, but it’s Winter and Summer that are nothing like there are at home. Summer is hot, while Winter is cold, and there’s snow. The first year I thought it was a fluke, but I’ve been here a decade now and it’s snowed every year, so for it to have been a fluke every year… well, it’s unlikely but not impossible.”
“Is anything here impossible?”
“Probably, but I haven’t come across anything yet. The thing I love the most is I get to make potions in my flat – ones that actually work. We’re the one race in this town who can, although, again, couldn’t tell you why. Most never ;earn it, because it’s another of those reminders of the fact we’re on another world.” She shook her head. “I’m lucky enough to know someone who did manage to return, and then get back to Taithmarin, so I could get him to tell you what it’s like there if you wanted. The last thing I want is for that to happen to someone who wasn’t prepared for it, like it did to Alex.”
“I’d be happy to talk to him, whenever he’s free.”
“Maybe we can get together with him in a couple of days. He’s working with another new arrival at the moment, but I know his two weeks is nearly up and unless we’re particularly busy we get a week between new arrivals, otherwise we’d never be able to spend time in our own homes. I don’t mind spending a couple of weeks with new arrivals, and it’s good money, so I wouldn’t have a problem with going from one new arrival to another, while the others often like a chance to relax at home. All of us are different, we all became guides for different reasons, and there are times when we disagree on how the job should be done, but we’re friends too, who enjoy being able to share stories of the new people we’ve met and how well we think they’re going to fit in.”
“Will you talk about me?”
“Yes, I will. Talking about our new arrivals helps, so we can be prepared for what we might be dealing with next, but I promise you that we only talk to each other. We never share our stories with anyone who isn’t a guide.”