Genre: (Sci-Fi) Fantasy
About the main character: Gold! Just gold really (_awkward_pineapple_), emo/a dark-style/goth (hannah.is.still.here), gayyyy also goth (kim_bierkens)
About the other main character: Has red hair! (adricnnxart), clumsy pansexual cottagecore girl (coc.friesland), she’s a redhead! (celestialcassy),
The opening sentence: “The sky looked like a melted bag of Skittles.” (thebookishgirlinbooktown)
The sky looked like a melted bag of skittles.
You couldn’t really point out a singular color if you tried. Even if you tried really hard.
The people of Kaetov didn’t.
They didn’t have time to indulge in frivolous activities like discerning colors.
Horribly hopeful and honest Humans.
The first time Slay ever heard of humans, she had been four.
It had been a traumatizing experience, even for someone who rarely experienced emotions, because the Human in question had ruined her father’s career.
Her father had worked at the Splotch estate for years, slaving away his long, long life by cleaning chimneys and pressing clothes. He’d almost made it. Almost reached the top of the pecking order, when the Human stumbled into Kaetov and everything went to ruin.
Four-year-old Slay had vowed to herself that she would make it.
She would work and work and work, until she could establish her own estate.
Until she could spit on her father’s image and scrub it sparkly clean.
Slay looked at her watch.
She was perfectly on time for work.
With determination, she pushed open the little side door of the Goosefeather estate.
“Good morning, Slay,” the first chambermaid greeted her. “Today’s another busy day. The linen needs to be washed.”
Slay inclined her head.
As third chambermaid to the estate, that was all she was allowed to do. It was better than being a second kitchen maid, at least.
“I will start at once,” Slay said.
She navigated her way through the hectic crowd. Chambermaids, dust sweepers, and steampressers scurried this way and that. Everyone was in a tizzy because of yesterday evening. Unprofessional was what you called that.
The bowels of the estate were a maze of small hallways and equally small rooms. Only the kitchen was a monster of a room, breathing fire and smoke in self-importance every hour or so.
Upstairs, there was less chaos.
This was because the upperlevels were accessible to the Goosefeather family and, more importantly, to guests.
Upstairs, the staff needed to present an air of competence and sophistication. There was no room for tizzies or emotions upstairs. After all, a good staff makes a good estate.
Slay went to the first bedchamber, checked if it was occupied, then went inside. It was a splendid chamber, decorated with the finest paintings and dressed with the grandest of rugs.
Her hands brushed the bed’s soft linen. It still smelled fresh, like lavender and clouds. Another subtle trick to show guests how incredibly wealthy the family was. Lavender didn’t grow on Kaetov, so it had to be exported from another realm. An expensive little flower, it was.
Slay had just stripped the sheets of their linen
when she heard a soft thunk.
That was not entirely unusual.
There were lots of little sounds in an estate as grand as the Goosefeather one. Slay was reaching for the pillow when she heard it again.
It was no little sound.
This was a clumsy and boorish sound. Like someone was hiding in the vintage closet they exported from the faerie realm.
Slay carefully put down the pillow,
straightened her uniform,
and walked towards the closet.
Whatever it was,
if it was intruding, it would leave the estate in handcuffs.
“I know you’re there,” Slay said, because it was polite to offer a warning to something you were about to curse to the fourth level of Hell.
Then she grabbed the door knobs, and threw the closet doors open.
Her blood froze at what she saw.
It wasn’t just bad.
It was very, very bad.
Folded together in the closet, staring up at her with wide eyes, was a Human.
It had glasses on its nose, a shock of red hair, and a white poofy dress.
And it screamed as soon as it saw Slay.
This vexed an already unnerved Slay so much that she shut the doors again.
Which muffled the screaming somewhat.
But it was by no means a real solution to a real, horrible problem.
Slay closed her eyes.
It needed to go back to its horrible Human realm before it could cause any real damage. But they couldn’t go through the staff’s floor. It would still be crawling with, well, staff. They’d have to cut through the frequently deserted part of the estate.
Reluctantly, Slay opened the doors again.
The Human had stopped screaming and was staring up at her with something that looked like shock. Expressive creatures, they were.
“Hello,” Slay forced herself to say.
“Holy shit you’re hot,” the Human whispered.
Slay pretended to be ignorant. “My kind naturally runs hotter than yours. Now get up and out of my employer’s closet.”
“Ha,” the Human said. “Are you asking me to come out of the closet?”
Slay didn’t blink. “Yes.”
The Human then proceeded to do the thing Humans did when they were well taken care of. It stretched its mouth, showed its teeth and started repeating a single sound over and over again.
Slay allowed the Human its moment of happiness, then reached for its arm and hauled it out of the closet.
“I don’t have all day,” she said. “Some of us have work to do.”
“I have work,” the Human said. “I work at my local garden center. The pay is lousy, but the plants are gorgeous.”
Slay didn’t deign that nonsense with a response.
There was no such thing as a meeting place for gardens.
She opened the door and looked into the hallway. At the far end, there was another third chambermaid but his hands were full of linen, obscuring most of his vision.
“Say,” the Human said, “where am—”
“Slay,” Slay corrected.
“Yes, that is my name.”
“Oooh. Cool. That’s very cool. So Slay. Are you aware that you have horns?”
Slay didn’t answer, because the third chambermaid had just disappeared into a room. Without warning, she grabbed the Human’s arm and pulled it into the hallway. It was relatively quiet, until it was not.
“Wait,” the Human started, as they both rounded the corner.
Slay shushed it immediately.
Miraculously, it was smart enough to understand the simple order and kept quiet as they sneaked through three empty hallways.
At the fourth, it spoke up again.
“Slay, hold up. Where are we going?”
“Don’t ask questions,” Slay said.
That was the wrong thing to say.
The Human started struggling, trying to break free of her grip. Foolish. It must not be as smart as she thought, because Slay was very, very strong.
“Stop that,” she said.
The Human did not. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me where I am!”
It was getting loud. If they stayed in the hall, others would certainly hear them.
Annoyed, Slay checked the room to their left. It was empty. She dragged the struggling human into it.
Before it could make loud noises again, Slay explained, “You’re in Kaetov. I’m taking you to a portal, so you can go back to the Human realm.”
The Human’s eyes blinked furiously behind its round glasses. “Kaetov? Where the fuck is that?”
“Uh, I’d say it does? How on earth did I even end up here?”
“There are portals.”
“Okay, sure, but it’s not like I wandered into an old forgotten wardrobe. I was just going into Starbucks to get myself a pumpkin spice latte and before you say anything—I know it’s basic, but they just taste like autumn, okay?”
Slay stared at the human.
Frankly, she hadn’t really paid attention after wardrobe.
She nodded, hoping that would placate it, then opened the door just as three chambermaids ran past. Bloody hell. She quickly shut the door, cursing herself for being hasty.
“Hold up,” the Human said. “You don’t even want to know my name?”
“No,” Slay said, ear pressed against the door.
“But I know yours!”
The hallway was quiet. Carefully, Slay opened the door and sneaked into one of the many hallways the Goosefeather estate had to offer.
“Seriously,” the Human continued. “You’re kinda rude.”
The next hallway was also empty.
Slay was thankful for this bit of good luck on such a bad day.
“I just thought you’d be curious about me too, you know?”
Stared at the horrible, whiny Human.
“Will you shut up if I ask your name?”
For a second, the Human said nothing. Then it nodded. “Yeah, sure.”
“Okay. What is your name?”
“Page,” Slay said.
The Human squinted its rather large eyes at her. “I feel like you’re not pronouncing that right.”
Slay honestly couldn’t care less. She grabbed the Human’s arm and dragged it through half the estate. Sometimes it would comment on what it saw. The most normal things seemed to surprise it the most.
“Why is this floor so cold? Why is this floor sweltering hot? Why are all the lights out? Is this the part where you murder me?”
They had almost reached one of the hidden exits—a good estate had many—when they nearly ran into the first chambermaid and the second housekeeper.
The Human said oomph! when Slay pushed it against the wall, flattening herself against it to keep out of sight. The Human was surprisingly soft and squishy. Like a pillow.
“—need to keep a better eye on your underlings,” the housekeeper was saying. “A new one was found crying in one of the rooms.”
The first chambermaid tsked. “Must be because of yesterday’s incident. I swear, the new ones get softer each year. I long for the time when a simple murder barely paused the daily activities.”
The Human sucked in a breath.
Slay gave it a threatening look to keep quiet.
“As do I. Be that as it may, I expect you to monitor them better. Imagine if a guest had found them. Crying.”
The Human started to tremble. “Someone was murdered?” it hissed.
Slay didn’t respond until the first chambermaid and the second housekeeper went to check out the left wing.
Fortunately, they hadn’t seen them. Unfortunately, that was precisely where their exit lay. Slay took a step back, recalculating their escape route.
“A murder?” the Human repeated.
“Yesterday,” Slay said. “They happen all the time in estates. Families don’t advertise them of course, so the new staff sometimes get startled pretty badly.”
“Holy shit,” the Human said. “So this isn’t your first murder?”
“No. But I didn’t get startled by my first either.” She pronounced the word startled like she would Human. With as much disdain as she could muster. “My father has worked in estates all his life. I already knew of such practices before I could walk.”
“That’s really awful, you know that right?”
“That’s the way an estate is run.”
“Yes, keep up.”
Slay headed towards the right wing.
She hadn’t wanted to cut through here, not even with a Human on her tail, not even on a normal day, but there was no other option.
The others must not see the Human. If they did, everything was lost.
The right wing hallways were very tall and narrow.
The floors were all carpet, incredibly soft and prettily decorated with a swirling pattern, for reasons Slay did not want to think about.
“Oh, this is a nice carpet,” the Human said. Then, because it could not keep its mouth shut for longer than a minute, “So you work here?”
“Yes,” Slay said tersely.
“Chambermaid? Like, for a manor?”
“Okay, okay. Fancy. So what do you do as a chambermaid?”
“Third chambermaid,” Slay corrected. “I wash the linen.”
The Human nodded. “And?”
“And nothing else.”
“Hold up.” And, annoyingly, the Human actually stopped walking. Slay gave its arm a tug, but it wouldn’t budge. She could tug harder of course, but she didn’t want it to get loud again. “You only wash the linen? No offense, but that sounds incredibly boring.”
“There are 203 guestrooms in the Goosefeather estate,” Slay said.
The Human’s eyes blinked behind the round glasses. “That’s a lotta linen.”
“That is a lot of linen,” Slay agreed.
The Human was content with this answer, because it continued walking again. Slay hoped it would keep up this trend and not notice the rooms they were about to pass, but no such luck.
When the wall turned into glass, the Human’s head immediately swerved towards it, observing them first with interest and then concern.
“Why can we look into this room? That’s a little weird. Even you got to admit that. Who would want to sleep in a room where everyone can look into?”
Clenching her jaw, Slay continued walking.
“Hey, what’s that? Why is there a hatch in the wall? It looks like those things in prison doors. You know, for pushing food through. Wait. Is this a cell?”
“It’s not a prison,” Slay said.
“Yeah, I’d say. The glass doesn’t seem sturdy. Obviously I dunno for sure, but I think your horns would break that glass pretty easily.”
Slay refused to preen.
She marched past the glass room in hopes of distracting the Human with something else.
“So if it’s not a prison cell, what else is it for?” The Human paused. “Wait, is it like a zoo? You know, like an exhibit?”
Upsetting a Human could result in loud noises.
It could squeeze its eyes shut, start producing salt water while simultaneously opening its mouth to scream.
Ergo: attract the attention of everyone in the estate.
Ergo: a bad idea.
Do not trigger the salt water.
Except Slay couldn’t handle the bloody questions anymore.
“These are the Human quarters,” she said, whirling around. “The wall is made of glass so guests can look at the Humans. It’s a form of entertainment. A status symbol. Not every estate has one, and as you can see, the Goosefeather estate doesn’t own one yet.”
The Human did its blinking again, but this time it was accompanied by the corners of its mouth drooping.
“You’re going to lock me up?”
“No, I’m not. I’m going to get you to a portal and send you back to where you came from.”
“So would you please continue walking?”
Mutely, the Human followed Slay.
That was better. Less desirable was the Human’s pinched face. It looked seconds away from dripping salt water all over the fine carpet.
The Human quarters ended with another door. This one was tall and narrow and made to look like it was part of the wall. That was because it led to a secret passage. Slay tried the doorknob and was relieved to find it unlocked.
Inside the passage, it was dark. There were no torches or sconces or windows. It smelled like darkness too, which seemed correct, given that darkness was the only creature really using this passage.
They didn’t have to be quiet in the secret passage.
Slay hadn’t mentioned this fact to the Human, yet it seemed to have caught on in record time.
“I thought I could be a hero,” it sniffled. “I thought that this was my chance.”
Slay rolled her eyes, but kept quiet.
“You know, I had always hoped that magic was real. The thought kept me going on bad days. Just knowing that there was something more.”
At the end of the passage was another door. The exit. It led into one of the many splendid gardens surrounding the Goosefeather estate.
Slay started walking faster.
“I thought this new world would be a chance to be my best self. Maybe I’d save someone. Or pull the sword out of the stone. Or maybe get a new dress that would look totally hot on me.”
Slay stopped. “That’s not a bad idea.”
“You think I look hot?” the Human sniffed.
Slay didn’t even entertain the thought. “New clothes,” she clarified. “So you don’t stand out so much.”
Instead of arguing, the Human took a step back to look at Slay’s clothes. The passage was dark, however, so it was peering and squinting an awful lot. Slay vaguely remembered that Humans didn’t have dark vision.
“You know, in my world, your clothes would make you stand out,” the Human said unhelpfully.
This was only obvious.
Slay said, “Every realm has different dress codes.”
“And your dress code is hot goth?”
“This is the Goosefeather estate’s uniform.”
“Looks like hot goth to me.”
There was simply no reasoning with these creatures.
Slay turned and opened the door.
A calm breeze tickled her face and ruffled her uniform. She took a deep breath. It was frivolous and indulging, but oh how she loved the fresh air. Slaving away all day in an old estate, it was a luxury and a treat.
“Wow,” the Human was saying repeatedly, in various intonations. “What even is this?”
Slay turned to see what caught its attention this time.
The Human was staring up with awe on its face. Slay noticed that in the daylight, its red hair looked like someone had spilled paint all over it. The red was bright and burning and Slay had never seen anything like it.
“What color is the sky?” the Human asked, then let out the happiness sound. “That’s the meme, Slay! The infinite scrolling meme!”
Slay had no idea what a meme was.
Though she did understand how a scroll could feel infinite sometimes. Especially when the subject matter was very boring.
“Page,” she said. “We have to go.”
“Yeah, okay,” the Human said. It was still doing the happiness thing with its mouth. It looked rather nice. “But you have to admit that the sky looks incredible.”
“Like a melted bag of skittles,” Slay murmured.
This was absolutely the wrong thing to say.
The Human was beyond delighted to find out that Kaetov had skittles, and on their walk to the Store District kept asking her how and why and what did she think of them.
Because the workday had just started for everyone, there was practically no one on the streets. This was good. This meant no one would see the Human, nor Slay with the Human, which meant Slay would keep her job.
The first store they came across only made estate uniforms, but the second was filled with dresses, something Slay thought the Human would appreciate. She dragged it inside, but tried to keep it out of sight. No need to freak out the store assistant.
The store was clean, as everything in Kaetov, the floor was shiny black, and the clothes were organized by dress-length. Slay barely looked at the things she picked out, throwing them over her shoulder at the Human with a, “Catch.”
When the Human had a stack of dresses in her arms, Slay pushed her towards the back to change. There were little cubicles with deep red curtains. The Human had barely closed the curtain or the store assistant appeared behind Slay.
“Shopping for guests?” he asked. His horns were adorned with many sparkling chains and they tinkled whenever he talked. “Goosefeather estate, right?”
“That’s right. But we’re not here for guests,” Slay said. “This is just a precautionary measure. Imagine a guest forgot to pack a dress and the situation calls for it. The Goosefeather estate doesn’t want its guests lacking.”
“Of course, of course,” the store assistant agreed immediately. “Very sensible.”
Slay nodded, hoping this would be the end of the conversation. She didn’t care for small talk. But it seemed like today was just not her day because the store assistant was looking at her horns in fascination.
“Can I just say your horns are exquisite? I don’t think I’ve seen gold horns before.”
“Thank you,” Slay said stiffly.
“Anyway,” the store assistant said, snapping out of it. “I’ll be at the desk if you need me.”
With a faint tinkle, he was gone.
Immediately, the curtain opened and the human stepped out in a drapey grey dress with gold buttons at the throat. It was elegant yet professional. It was sophisticated yet young. It was—
“I look like I’m going to the Met Gala,” the Human said, incredulous. “It’s amazing, but like. A bit much, you know?”
“Too much of what?” Slay asked.
The Human waved at her dress.
When Slay didn’t seem to understand its meaning, it waved again but in a slightly different fashion.
“Alright,” Slay said. “Try another.”
“What was that all about anyway? Is there something special about your horns?”
“Is there something special about your hair?” Slay countered, a bit sharply.
The Human reached for the shock of redness. “Huh. Not really? I mean, there aren’t many natural redheads anymore but I wouldn’t call my hair special.”
The answer actually worked perfectly.
“There you have your answer,” Slay said and pushed the Human back into the dressing room.
The Human tried on all of the ten dresses Slay had ripped off the racks. In the end, she decided on a black two-piece thing that billowed behind her like a cape. Bronze metal lined the upper part of the dress, giving off the impression of a corset.
“I look like a villain!” the Human was saying, but it seemed happy about this.
“You look like a Kaetov citizen,” Slay said.
The Human gleefully swished its cape around. The fabric floated and billowed beautifully behind it.
Slay had to admit that the deep black looked especially good with its bright red hair.
“Question,” the Human said, putting its hands on its hips and throwing its hair over one shoulder. “Do I look hot?”
Slay rolled her eyes and went to pay for the dress.
The Human changed into her new outfit in a back alley. That was the short of it. The long version included a lot of squirming and no peeking and i’m standing naked in the streets in a strange world.
Finally, the Human emerged from the alley in its magnificent black two-piece.
Slay nodded. “Much better.”
The Human did its happiness thing.
Together, they walked through the quiet Store District and towards the Portal Screen. Slay was glad for the quiet. Though the estate was by no means noisy, it did have a certain chaotic energy that was tiring on good days and leeched off her energy on bad ones.
“Slay?” the Human asked.
“What is it, Page.”
“Do you like being a third chambermaid?”
This was a dumb question.
“I don’t need to like it,” Slay said. “I only need to do my job well enough so I can advance.”
“Yes. I don’t want to be a third chambermaid forever.”
“So you want to be… a first chambermaid?”
Slay contemplated laughing at the idea, then decided against it. “No,” she said. “I want to possess my own estate.”
The Human did its happiness thing again, and Slay had to begrudgingly admit that it looked mildly attractive.
“That’s a good dream.”
“It’s not a dream,” Slay said. “The Graphite estate is a goal I shall achieve.”
The Human looked at Slay far longer than usual. Its eyes squinted like they had in the dark passage, when it couldn’t quite see what it was looking at.
“And this goal makes you happy?” the Human asked.
“It doesn’t need to make me happy. I need to clear my family’s name.”
“Okay, I think I get that… But what will you do when you have your own estate? What makes you happy?”
Slay raised an eyebrow. “You talk about happiness as if it’s a goal on its own.”
The Human raised two eyebrows. “Well, isn’t it?”
“I’d say not.”
“Then I’d say that makes me sad for you.”
“I don’t need you to feel emotions on my part.”
“You can’t stop me.”
That was true,
therefore it irked Slay.
Confused and annoyed, she focused on getting to Portal C.
The journey didn’t take long. The clean, wide streets of Kaetov soon curved around its National Bank, and then it was straight ahead. You could already see the building. It was a squat, square place. Like a rock it sat firmly on the ground, unshakeable and unmovable.
“Is that it?” Page the Human asked.
“That’s it,” Slay answered.
“Question. Why are all your buildings black or grey?”
“Our sun is weak. Makes it harder to keep our buildings warm. So we make our structures from black materials, trying to retain as much heat as possible.”
Slay opened the door to Portal C., which was really called Portal Central, but everyone had collectively decided not to call it by its full name.
Inside, the floors were a marble marvel of black and white stone. Lining the walls were screens filled with information. Little pedestals with small screens were put in the middle, for those who wanted to look up something specific.
Slay strode to the pedestals and tapped on its screen. She chose, in this order: EXISTING PORTALS, OUTWARD PORTALS, HUMAN REALM.
“Hey, there was a tab called FUTURE PORTALS,” the Human noted. “You actually know when new portals will appear?”
“Yes,” Slay said, scrolling through the list of existing portals. “Some of us possess that power. We have to. It would be bad if an Harilia portal opened up without us knowing.”
“Ah yes, we wouldn’t want an unnoticed Harihari portal.”
Slay looked at the Human. “Harilia.”
“That’s what I said.”
“You did not.”
The Human Page laughed. “Alright, so why is Harilia bad?”
Slay found herself wanting to return the happiness sound, even though it’s been days, weeks, months since she last made it.
It was a disturbing realization.
To distract herself, she explained, “Harilians produce the finest instruments and jewellery. Their dexterity and craft is unparalleled. Harilia is a land of plenty, or so I’ve been told. It has rolling hills of green, fruitful orchards and the cleanest drinking water.”
“Sounds like heaven,” the Human said.
“For some, yes. Not for us. The creatures of Harilia hunt us for our horns. They use them to craft their jewels and instruments.”
The Human’s face twisted in horror. “What?”
“Gold horns were once just as normal as red, black, purple and green ones. Now, they are not.”
The Human reached out and put its hand on Slay’s arm. “Slay, that’s horrible.”
Slay looked at the hand and didn’t know how to feel. This was a gesture of sympathy. With a shock, she realized that the Human was feeling emotions for her.
And it wasn’t terrible.
Unnerved, Slay turned her attention back to the pedestal. She scrolled through the list of portals too far away, until she came across one near the Daub estate, which would be open for another day.
“We’ll go here,” she announced.
Outside, she took a deep breath of fresh air. She still felt rattled by the Human’s response. Without a word, she led the way to the Daub estate.
It was a smaller building than the Goosefeather estate, but the location was gorgeous. Placed on a small hill, it overlooked acres and acres of landscaped gardens. There was a maze, at least three fountains, and loads of flowers, imported from the Faerie realm.
“It smells lovely here,” the Human said.
“Wouldn’t you like to own a garden? You look happy outside.”
“When I have my own estate, I will have a garden.”
“Okay, but like, a garden you can work in and get your hands dirty. I could help you out, you know. I do work at a garden center.”
Slay didn’t know how to respond to the Human’s curious interest, so she returned the question: “If you’re so fond of happiness, what makes you happy? What is your goal?”
“Jeez.” The Human let out a laugh. “I dunno. I would actually love to own a little cottage or a small farm. Own some farm animals. Grow my own tomatoes. But there’s no way I could ever afford that. I mean, besides my work at the garden center, I also occasionally sell my own stuff online. I can sew pretty decent skirts and dresses, but I’m not as good as people who’ve been doing this for years.”
“You will get better over time,” said Slay, who thought sewing to be a valuable skill.
“I’m sure, but it’s not like I have heaps of it.”
If Slay was correct, Humans could grow to be a century old. Which was more than sufficient time to learn how to sew a dress.
The Human let out the happiness sound. “You look confused.”
“Merely by my own knowledge. I thought Humans could live to be one hundred.”
“Oh, yeah, sure! But if I want to sell my clothes and start my own brand, I need to do it now, you know? Honestly, I should’ve started when I was sixteen. I had so much time back then. Now I’m twenty one and I only have like nine years left at most, before I’m too old.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Thirty is not even half of your lifespan.”
The Human brushed its hand over the garden’s shorn hedges. “I hear you. I think it’s our culture. Beauty, youth and success are more important to us than anything else.”
“I cannot argue about success,” said Slay. “And you don’t need to worry about beauty. But to desire youth for all eternity is a foolish goal. It cannot last.”
The Human Page smiled at her. “You are so very right.”
They walked the gardens twice, but found no sign of the portal.
To Slay’s surprise, the extra time with the Human wasn’t so bad. When Page wasn’t producing salt water or talking loudly when it ought to be quiet, it was actually interesting to speak so freely to someone outside Kaetov.
“Wait,” Page said. “What about the maze?”
The only place they hadn’t searched yet.
A clever observation.
When Slay said as much, Page beamed as bright as its red hair.
The maze was aptly named,
for it was not at all easy to get through. Slay didn’t enjoy puzzles on a good day, and today was… She stopped in her tracks. Today was actually not that bad.
She looked at Page.
It was staring up at the skittle sky again, its face a picture of wonder. The Human had said it believed in magic, and that Kaetov had been her proof.
Slay had never looked at Kaetov as anything other than the place she lived. She couldn’t imagine it to be anything else. Just like she couldn’t imagine to be anything else than an estate owner.
And yet Page had looked at her and said Slay looked happy when she was outside.
“Oh,” Page said. “Wow.”
This awe meant they had finally found the portal.
It was a shimmering, floating door.
Slay had only ever seen the portals to the Faerie realm, and they had been sparkling oval disks that smelled strongly of flowers. Not doors. Interesting.
“So,” Page said. It smoothed its hand over the black two-piece it was wearing. “This is it, huh. We’re already at the end of my quest. My hero’s journey.”
“You’re not a hero,” Slay said.
“Ouch,” Page laughed. “No, I guess I didn’t overthrow the evil king or fight the horrible Harilians. I didn’t really change anything in your world.”
As the Human said the words,
Slay felt they weren’t true.
Perhaps the Human didn’t change anything big, but Slay couldn’t say she felt the same as she did this morning.
“Anyway,” Page continued, brushing the shock of red hair behind its ear. “Thanks for the killer dress and for letting me see parts of Kaetov. It was strange, but I loved it. And I loved getting to meet you.”
Such a Human word.
Slay didn’t understand it, nor did she understand how the Human had experienced so many feelings in one morning and could still call it a good day. No, Slay didn’t really understand Page.
But she… she thought she liked her.
“I’ll open the portal,” Slay said, disturbed by the weird twisting feeling in her chest.
She walked to the door, grabbed the knob, and opened it.
Bright lights burst out the portal, illuminating the maze and making Slay squint. Through the door, you could hear Humans. They were talking, shouting, laughing. They were experiencing so many feelings at the same time.
But that’s not what caught her eye.
“Your sky is blue,” Slay said.
“Yep,” Page said. “Boring, huh?”
“It might be for the best,” Slay noted. “You humans demand so much attention. Where would you find the time to look up at the sky?”
Page let out a bright happiness sound. “Maybe you’re right. Okay, then. Here I go.”
The Human used Slay’s shoulder for balance as it climbed into the door frame. Its small hands grabbed onto the door frame, balancing itself. Just then, a wind blew through the portal, ruffling its red hair.
Page looked over its shoulder. The happiness was gone, replaced by a strange sadness. “Will I ever see you again?”
“Maybe,” Slay said. Her voice was rough. “Portals are created all over your world too.”
The Human nodded. “Okay.”
Without another word, Page’s hands slipped from the frame as it took a step into the dazzling brightness that was the Human world. That horribly hopeful and honest world. Full of horribly hopeful and honest Humans. And one Page.
Slay watched it go
until even the last bright red strand of hair had disappeared.
Her heart twisted again, an emotion Slay had only felt twice in her life. It was awful, and made her wish she could produce salt water from her eyes.
As she couldn’t, she simply stood by the portal for a long time. Longer than was quite necessary.
Eventually, she tilted up her head and looked at Kaetov’s skittle sky.
It was a swirl of different colors. Normally, she couldn’t really point out a singular color, even if she tried.
But today, the sky above Kaetov looked bright red.
Bright and burning and full of curious questions.