It’s taken me weeks to track down where they took her. It took me a good fair while to get back to civilization after that ridiculous desert, if I’m completely honest.
I had very little to go on. They seemed to be from a psych hospital, but I had nothing more than prejudice and fanciful notions to back that up. I decided to stop at the church first.
The kiddy fiddler who runs the church wasn’t very cooperative at first, but then I started breaking things, and he got real talkative real quickly. Yes, he remembered the wedding I asked about. Yes, the bride ran out abruptly, with no explanation that he heard besides, “No, I can’t!” Well, yes, he did have contact details for the groom but that’s personal information! He can’t just— oh, he can give me an address. How helpful!
That’s more or less how it went. I took the church car and got driving. The address was only a few hours away, so I was hopeful.
The address was a fake. The groom was a fake.
I don’t know what the deal was, but he was not who he claimed to be. Perhaps he had been lying to She as well. Perhaps it was all some sort of trap. That thought made me want to find her even faster.
It’s only luck that got me here, in the end. After traveling all over the state asking about the van, trying to find something out, I had returned to near where I started, in a roadside gas station and diner not far from where She had been taken. I had asked the waitress if she knew anything when an old geezer in the next booth interjected.
“That van! Yep, that’ll be from that spooky resort in the mountains. They usually go into town a couple times a week for supplies. Ought to drive right by here if you wait long enough.”
I pressed him on the resort bit. “Well, I says resort, but I don’t right know what it is. Drove by it once. Big, nice buildings. New. Green lawn! Looked like a resort, but I didn’t see any tourists. Spooky, I tell ya.”
I thanked him and waited. I didn’t have to wait long, within an hour the van had sped by. Tossing too much money on the table, I ran out to the car and made to follow the van. And follow it I did. They turned off the road onto a gated lane up into the mountains. I kept driving then doubled back, parking a good distance away and then proceeding on foot.
Now I’m in the compound. I just need to find her. I should be able to feel her, actually… I clear my mind and wait. It’s not long before I see her. Second-storey room, not far from here. I find the room I think it is, and climb a tree outside. It’s evening now, and outside lighting is dim, little chance of being caught. As I climb, someone in the room above me screams.
What are they doing to her?
Peeking in the window, I see her. She is in a nightgown. Her hair is wild and her eyes look tired, so tired. A doctor is trying to get her to take medicine but she’s refusing.
“You need to sleep. You haven’t slept in days,” he says.
She shakes her head. She screams that She doesn’t want to sleep. That he can’t make her sleep.
But he can. He calls for orderlies and they restrain her and he injects her and She’s sedated. She collapses in a chair and passes out. I ought to jump in right now and rip them all to shreds but I wait. The doctor is putting some sort of device on her head. “Sedation took. Dreaming has commenced.” He flicks a switch, and the device projects an image on the wall, a movie but not.
She is a princess in red, and there are soldiers who protect her. But then a ninja comes and starts to kill the soldiers protecting her. She is afraid, so afraid, but She cannot fight back and She cannot wake up. I’ve seen enough.
I leap from the tree into the window. There’s a brief moment of commotion, but cracking a couple heads together and a swift punch to the doctor’s nose have gained me some time.
But what now? I can’t wake her up. She’s in danger in the dream. I need to help her. If only I could get into her dream to protect her. But that’s absurd, I say, me, the trillions of years old being from another universe who until recently was nothing but wind. Absurdity is relative.
I concentrate. I focus. Into her dreams. Into her dreams. Into her dreams. I leap.
And I am in her dream. I am a soldier, the last one standing between She and the evil ninja. She screams. The ninja approaches. We spar. I hold my own. The ninja retreats, but I sense he’ll be back.
I look to She. Relief spreads over her face, and she hugs me. But we cannot stay here. We must move. And so we do, we flee through the woods, through the countryside, and when it is evening, we stop by a small lake to rest. And it is here that She begins.
So that we may become happy, She sings, we have undertaken this journey. Look at you, smiling! It suits you.
We will never fade, She sings, but we will be reborn again and again through many fleetingly beautiful days, whether on dazzling beaches in the summer we’ve yearned for or in the midwinter as the snow swoops and falls. Whenever I turn around, there you are.
So that we may become happy, She sings, we have undertaken this journey. Everyone has wounds that won’t heal. But we are travelers, don’t you know! Look at you, smiling. It suits you.
We’ve gotten lost many times on the road, it seems, She sings, but I can always grasp your warm hands. The one who has raised me up — it’s been you all along.
At the end of this long journey, She sings, what will we think? Everyone is prowling about trying to take love for their own. But we are travelers, don’t you know! So let’s keep traveling until we’ve seen all there is to see.
A snap, a rustle in the trees. I stand just in time to see the ninja step out of the forest.
We fight. I am wounded, dazed.
I can only watch as he runs She through with his sword. After pulling his weapon free, he stalks back into the forest.
I crawl to her. She’s not dead yet, but she will be. I’m not long for this world either. Summoning the last of my strength, I get to my feet, lift her, and walk into the lake. And as we sink beneath the crystal surface, She grasps my hand. We will be reborn. Soon.