Chapter one - The Vision and the Reunion
Alex squinted as the spotlight shone in her eyes, almost blinding her at first. But she regained her sight in a moment, glancing out over the audience, who had gathered to hear her sing. It was only a talent show act, but still she felt encouraged by their anticipating stares. She began to strum a chord on her guitar, took a calming breath and sang:
*Misery cannot be left behind
'Til joy in You I've found
As I walk along this winding path
For the Promised Land I'm bound*
The song went on for a few minutes, but when she'd finished the audience gave her a wild applause. Her friends on the front row clapped louder than the rest and gave her various 'you-did-great' hand signals, which brought a smile to her face.
It had been three long, dull years since Alex had thought about her adventures in Adan-gwann. Mind, the now seventeen-year-old hadn't forgotten - but her schoolwork occupied most of her thinking time nowadays, especially with her Junior year was almost halfway over. And her guitar; she had learned to play the guitar very dexterously in three years as well. Living in the small town of Prattville, Alabama gave her time to do a lot of things daily, when she wasn't doing her homework at the last possible second.
After this long a time, it almost seemed a dream that Alex would see her old friend Alastair again. She did often dream of him, as a matter of fact, but she felt empty and afraid for him just the same. More frequently she would wake in the middle of the night, drenched in a cold sweat and short of breath. But she tried not to let her constant loss of sleep affect her daily life. After all, it was almost time for Christmas break now - today was the day before her last day of school, as a matter of fact. She was determined not to let her dreams get in the way of her having a good time on her break.
'I'm almost there,' she thought happily as she retreated backstage. 'Almost there...'
That night, as Alex lay in her bed, she began to wonder about Alastair. What if she did see him again? Would he have changed so much that she wouldn't recognize him? Or would he not recognize her? Had he even survived three more years alone in Adan-gwann? She slowly drifted off to sleep, thinking of the boy she'd left behind...
...but then awoke in a small, dimly lit room. Glancing around wildly, she saw that she was in a cabin of sorts, lit only by a small fire in the fireplace. Two silhouettes sat in chairs opposite of one another about ten feet in front of her. Alex couldn't make out faces, but listened to their conversation instead. It seemed as though they had not acknowledged her presence in the room at all.
The taller shadow spoke first, in the low voice fitting either an older teenage boy or a middle-aged man. Alex could tell he was slightly angry by the tone of his voice. "What do you propose to do, old man? Just sit back and let that world be assimilated, too?!"
"No," the second replied slowly, his voice complementing the 'old man' description the first had given him. Alex now glanced his way, as if she was watching a tennis match. "I can send you there, if you'd like to try and stop the evil from spreading. But you won't be able to reach the girl in time."
"WHAT? I can find her," the first snapped. "Just give me time - she'll be more of a help than any other. You-"
The first cut him off in mid-sentence. "It would take too long to locate her and you know that. There's hardly any time, child!" He exclaimed sternly. "I wouldn't place your faith in finding her before it's too late."
"I'll find her. You'll see." The first slowly stood as he spoke, still ignoring a very perplexed Alex. "Just give me three days from my arrival there. I can, and I will, find her." The last sentence was spoken through gritted teeth towards the latter shadow, who sighed.
"You know the current situation better than I," he began slowly, "and how much time until the King's colony is in place. You know how many lands there are as well, and how vastly they stretch, I presume?" The voice was skeptical. Alex raised an eyebrow at the mention of a 'King's colony'.
Hesitantly, Alex took a step towards the two arguing shadows, but awoke with a jolt sitting upright in her bed. She was trembling, short of breath, and her hands were like ice when she touched them to her flushed, burning face. But the dream was still fresh in her memory. Despritely, she thought back through the entire episode she'd just witnessed, trying to decipher who either of the two shadows were, but to no avail. With a heavy sigh and another dreary glance around at her room, Alex laid back down, rolled over and fell into a dreamless slumber.
The next day, a cold, overcast Friday afternoon was waiting outside of Prattvile High School's walls.
Alex, however, was on the inside, and waiting for her sixth period class to start. She let out a sigh of boredom as she plunked herself into a seat. This was the longest day in all her seventeen years - she was absolutely positive of that fact.
A familiar boy took the seat next to her, running a hand through his short dark hair as he did. "Hey, Al. Is it sixth already? I really don't want to have to sit through an hour of the Civil War after dissecting a frog in Biology." He grinned. "Although, this'll give me nice mental images of the battles..."
She laughed. "I'm glad the day's going so quickly for you...this whole day's been in slow-motion for me ever since I woke up."
"I'd like to switch biological clocks with you for just one day and see what happens."
"Um, Nate...boys don't have biological clocks."
Alex let out another laugh, but cut herself short as the classroom door opened again. She was expecting to see the history teacher stalk through the doorway, more or less shuffling his way to his desk, as he always did every schoolday. Instead, a male student quietly slipped in, evidently unnoticed by everyone else. Alex gasped when she saw his face.
Every facial feature and physical characteristic was identical to Alastair's. The ebony hair; the clear, crystal blue eyes; even the scars across his cheek that told of long ago beatings with a flogging whip...it was all there, just as she'd remembered. The only difference was his attire - a blue and black plaid button-up overshirt, white tee shirt underneath, black jeans and tennis shoes. But no one else seemed to notice his arrival. Alex found herself staring and quickly, trying to cover the burning blush crossing her face, looked down at her open history book.
As the boy, who was apparently seventeen or eighteen, came up the aisle of desks next to her, she caught a strange smell that sent her mind racing. Leather, earth, and a slight sweaty scent all mixed together... 'No,' she forcably thought to herself. 'It's not. Quit getting carried away in a mere coincidence, Alex, you know better than this!'
Then a flash of blue material caught her eye as the boy sat down in the desk on her other side; the desk that was remarkably unoccupied and forgotten by the twelve or thirteen other students. She glanced at the boy's pocket out of the corner of her eye and witheld a cry of surprise. A familiar, though faded, blue baseball cap (decorated with a lightly-colored cross on the front) was stuffed in his jeans' side pocket.
A voice drifted through the girl's thoughts, causing her to jump. That voice...it was the voice from her dream - the one belonging to the younger man! This was all too remarkably coincidental, and so she mentally repeated to herself while staring at her desk.
'Alex...listen to me,' the voice begged. 'Be out in the field in the back of the schoolyard after this class is over, and I'll explain everything. There's no time now, I can't concentrate on this message...' The words seemed to fade, as if distracted. 'Oh gosh, you're more beauti-NO! Not now! I'm sorry, just meet me there!'
As the voice left her head, Alex turned to stare at the boy beside her, a shaky hand covering her open mouth. He seemed to be ignoring her, reading his own book as she looked at him. "A...are you..." she began to ask in a whisper, but stopped as the door's thunderous slam made her jump again. She was secretly getting tired of the numerous adrenaline shocks she'd had so far.
The teacher shuffled over to his desk and began to talk to the students in a monotonic voice, facing the chalkboard and scribbling dates down as he spoke. But the girl didn't hear a word of his speech throughout the hour she sat there in class. She was too nervous about the boy sitting next to her...'It has to be him! It HAS to!' She told herself. 'But...if so...why would he come back, after all these years?' Her thoughts trailed off as, to her surprise, the bell rang to signify the end of class.
The boy quickly picked up his books and effortlessly moved through the crowd of students, disappearing before Alex could say a word. Nate looked at her with his eyebrow raised for a moment.
"Hey Al, you alright?" He asked slowly.
Alex sighed. "Yeah, I am. I'll see you when we get back, right?" Without waiting for a reply, she bid him goodbye and dashed out the door towards the back exit. Once there, she grasped the cold bar on the door and took a deep breath.
"Here goes nothing," she said to herself.