The marshy grass gave way to the scent of the yellow flowers. Was their sickness a punishment, Ty wondered, for travelling beyond the world we know? He still felt light-headed, just as he had moments before he left the cave of Man who Stands Alone. With each step he took, colors melded together and swirled around him. The flowers burst into a universe of brilliant suns and golden shells. He gripped Sita’s hand tighter. When he looked back at Ko and Shum, he saw their smiles waver like ever-increasing ripples in a pond. Their outstretched arms, as long as honey-gold fronds, reached toward him. The wings’ eyes, glassy fixtures of light, floated in blue circles. The hill was growing steeper, the air thinner.
“What did we drink?” Ty’s voice was hoarse with a creeping fear.
“You drank the woo-woo potion,” Sita answered. “You drank the future.”
“Future? What future?”
“When time falls over the stars, jumps over the sun.”
He stumbled forward. He tried to grab her arm. “Where are you?” he cried out. “Don’t leave me!”
“I am next to you.”
He tried to focus on Sita, struggling to make distinct the slurred words from his lips. “Then you are bringing us here.”
“Your vision-quest is bringing you here.”
The sky was cloudless, blue, like the blue surrounding the eyes of the wings. Ty couldn’t find the horizon. He felt as if a sheet of smoky wind was whirling through his brain. The earth cracked. Thunder roared through the soles of his boots. He clutched his stomach and held his breath. The wind inside his brain grew stronger, longer, swirling into a luminous ball, as if a thousand ghosts had exploded and all their filmy parts had gathered in his head.
He knew he was holding Sita’s hand, but he couldn’t feel her fingers. “I feel like everything is going away. My cave, my cliffs, my River Gan are leaving me.”
“You’re in the shot!” a voice bellowed through the wind. “Get out of the way!”
Ty and Sita froze. It was a voice! Ty recognized it was a human voice, but he had no idea what the sounds meant.
The wings clambered up behind them, breathless, filled with confusion and fear.
“The smoke people,” Sita whispered.
The voice returned still louder as the wind died down. “Please move! This is a closed set! We’re filming now!”
Ty shot a look to Sita. “Who’s that?”
Her brows furrowed, but her voice, in Kishoki, was clear. “Part of the future.”
Pgs. 97&98 in published book
Darren made a right turn into the Westside Pavilion parking. The Jeep spiraled up the huge concrete structure, turning through shafts of light and shaded tunnels.
“It’s like a giant cave,” Ty whispered to Sita. “We’re going back in time.”
“No, Ty. The shadows are playing a trick.” She patted his knee. “We’re still in the future.”
Darren drove up to the rooftop landing. “Remember, you don’t touch anything in the stores. You can look all you want, but don’t touch. If you drop anything, break anything, I’ve got to pay for it.”
Darren parked. The boys and Sita piled out. They hadn’t taken two steps when they stopped, mesmerized by what they saw.
From their view above the city, through a crosshatch of willowy palms, leafy trees and summer haze, the streets, traffic, houses and buildings spread out like a fantastic puzzle of jumbled colored shapes and moving parts.
“Ty, where’re you going?” Darren shouted. “Don’t go near the ledge!”
Ty’s gaze fixed on high-rise windows flaring with sunlight. Waves of heat rose from red tile roofs. He felt the staggering height of the cliffs beneath his feet. He breathed in the smoggy LA air and reached for the golden shell on his chest to center himself. But what he felt running through his heart was the red stone he had buried for Sita in his father’s cave. The bright colors of red tile and stone merged in his mind. Through a curtain of scarlet light swaying in the winds of time, he saw the closeness of caves and tile roofs, the beginning and end of his journey.
Then he felt Sita’s hand couple his.
“Are you afraid?”
“You feel warm.” She rubbed her forehead against his arm.
“I will live here,” he said. “I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but someday, I swear, I will live here.”
“You don’t want the cave anymore?”
He turned and looked down, taking in the sweet beauty of a face he had loved since childhood. “The cave is my home now, but some day, in another time–”
“Ty, Sita! Let’s go!” Darren was flapping his long white arms as if he were preparing for lift-off. “This is madness!”
Pgs. 179&180 in published book
Darren came back from his bedroom and handed out treats. “We’re starting over,” he said. “We’re all friends again.”
Shum shoved a handful of cheese curls into his mouth and followed Ko into the living room.
Ty and Sita lingered in the kitchen, helping Darren clean up the breakfast dishes.
Sita filled a skillet with soapy, hot water. “Did you call the man this morning?”
“The man on the piece of paper in your pocket.” She wasn’t sure if Darren was playing dumb or if he really had forgotten about the phone call.
“I left my number. He hasn’t called back. Besides, in case you didn’t notice, I was crewing up a window replacement.”
“So? That’s history. Call him again.”
“I don’t want to sound desperate because I’m not.” Darren slammed the cabinet door. Ten minutes hadn’t gone by and they were back in a fight. “I thought you heard me when I told you to get off my back.”
“I’m not on your back. I’m on your heart.”
“Oh,” he smirked. “Just one more of your little cave-baked profundities.”
“I don’t know what that means.” She paused, keeping her temper in check. “Darren?”
“Look at this house, at this kitchen. You have everything we don’t have. But we have something, too.”
“Yeah, a nutty story about cave life.”
“No.” She moved away from the sink. ”We have each other. I don’t see any of your friends come by. Only Dorsey, who you put up with.” She raised her hand, as if to stop him from a smart comeback. “Let me finish. You have never told us, not once, about any friend you have. So maybe it’s possible that we are your friends. No matter how we got here, that’s why we’re here.”
Darren answered with a blank stare, as if all the fanciful scaffolding of his life had just crashed in a major heap of dust.
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