Hazel and Yena pitched headlong through the swirling waters of time, Hazel desperately digging her fingers into the folds of Yena’s coat and uttering an endless, silent scream, Yena just trying to guide them to a safe landing somehow.
She’d lost the scroll. How had she let that happen? This was unprecedented. Yena had no idea what would come next. They might still be hurtling toward the destination she’d been sending them to when she dropped the scroll, but what if she’d accidentally nicked another as she dropped it and grasped Hazel tighter? What if Traveling without the scroll would leave them utterly aimless no matter where she’d sent them at first? What if she could never Travel again?
And Hazel? Could humans even survive a Jump? She fought against the biting winds to tilt her head down and look at the girl. She was alive, at least. That was clear. Thin tears were appearing in Yena’s jacket from the stress of the girl’s fingernails, and bruises were undoubtedly forming on her knobbly elbows. Moving in jerks and starts against the blasting wind of nothing, Yena managed to shove her arms all the way under Hazel’s coat, plastering the two of them together as they hurtled upside down and backwards in freezing emptiness. Their bodies were buffeted and rocked by invisible blows, tilting and cartwheeling in what felt like an endless free-fall.
Then there was a sudden silence. Both Hazel and Yena opened their eyes, staring at each other and then around them. It was still blackness, but it was silent and ominously stagnant. Their breaths, just a few moments ago torn away by wild winds, misted and fell flat against their lips, becoming thicker with the air.
“What…” Hazel began timidly, her voice choking on fear. The air around them seemed to press in on them, stuffing their nostrils and mouths, and Yena found herself entertaining terrible thoughts of being trapped here forever, hovering lost in the in-between with the crushing darkness. She fought her rising panic, just holding on to Hazel’s violently shivering body, but her heart was throwing itself against her ribs and her throat was closing, struggling and spasming. She was a Traveler. One entire reality wasn’t enough for her. One frozen place in the middle of nowhere—literally—would easily drive her completely insane. And she’d brought Hazel. Rashly, foolishly, idiotically, stupidly, she’d brought Hazel into the middle of a void to rot for the rest of her stolen lifetime.
If tears were about to form in her eyes, they were stopped by a sudden shriek ripping through the blackness. There was something reminiscent of a sinking ship in that shriek, the feeling of a vast, looming, tragically elegant machine being torn apart at the seams, hundred foot thick reams of metal twisting and scraping against each other as they drifted to their lonely death in unimaginable depths. But it also sounded eerily like a voice; not human, maybe, but the howl of a creature in indescribable pain. The sound tore through their minds as it plunged toward them, and with it came a bright, angry light, a seam opening in the nothingness all around them. Even Yena’s thick hair stood on end as the light drew near, pulled by its immense power—and then they were both blasted away as it screamed past them, knocking them down, or up, or out in an uncontrollable spiral. Hazel’s arms were around Yena now, too, and even their legs knotted together desperately as they fell out of the void. They hit the border and dropped like stones into a new reality, and then there was nothing but blackness for both of them.