Jessie had been pretty pissed at Kyle.
First, he’d insisted on trusting Sandborn even though the only way Sandborn could be more obviously up to something was by growing pencil thin mustache and waxing it during their meetings. Then Kyle had decided he’d actually help the children cast their stupid spell because apparently he thought they were going to get themselves killed without his help. The only problem with that plan was Kyle couldn’t explain how they’d managed to avoid getting killed with his help.
Jessie remembered casting the sleep communication spell very clearly, and it had been pretty obvious that he didn’t have any more idea just what an unknown trigger would do than anyone else. Unfortunately, she also remembered he’d insisted on going first then as well. Despite being a generally sensible person Kyle seemed to have a bit of a hero complex. That probably kind of made him a good person on some level, or something, and if he hadn’t been like that he’d have kicked her to the curb when he found out she was spying on him. However, Jessie wasn’t going to be at all pleased if it also got him killed just a day after he’d finally gotten around to kissing her!
She wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice, so she didn’t try to argue him out of it. Instead she’d left him to his own devices praying he’d come to his senses and call the whole thing off. Failing that, she was also standing by to try to drag his butt out of the fire if he went through with the spell and things went south. All of which was how she’d come to be out walking off her frustrations when the Children had finally cracked the lid off their magical room.
As such, she didn’t know exactly how things went down. She’d just come home to find all the group’s magic users gone and the middle of the basement occupied by a blurry grey ball. Jessie had found Jen, who had explained what they’d probably done, and then everyone had waited for the spell to crack.
And waited some more.
The fuzzy gray ball in the center of the basement persisted for three days. After dozen hours or so, when Alexander had pointed out that the people inside would be getting pretty thirsty, they’d tried poking in a big box full of water and food, but it hadn’t gone in. One side of the box was on one side of the sphere the other on the other side of the sphere even though the sphere was at least ten feet wide and the box remained unchanged when they pulled it back out.
Jessie contacted Richard and Amadeus who’d seemed worried and who had sworn they’d get in touch with Sandborn, but they hadn’t been able to do anything. Sandborn had replied but he’d been equally powerless and had just said he, “had every faith in Kyle.” They’d tried to get a message to Charles but he was out of the country and unreachable.
So they waited.
At 2AM on the third day after the magi had tried whatever spell they’d tried Jessie was on the couch in the basement of the Children’s hideout. The couch wasn’t very nice. Jessie wasn’t certain where they’d gotten it, but they sure hadn’t bought it new. It sagged in the middle so badly that if she lay down the wooden frame pressed into her, and no matter how she used it the springs poked through the thin remnants of its padding to poke into her. Up close it smelled like mildew.
Still, she stayed on the couch because it was the most comfortable spot in the basement, and she stayed in the basement because she could keep watch on the sphere. How long could a person live without water? They’d looked it up on the Internet and the answer was “it varies”. Three days was the general rule of thumb, so by the third day they were watching the bubble around the clock in case it fell and the magi were there dehydrated and unconscious, in need of immediate medical attention to survive.
Alexander had taken the early shift; Jen would be awake for the morning, and Jessie the middle of the night. Murrow had asked, “what if it explodes or something,” and then refused to participate. That made no sense. If the spell had been designed to explode it would have done so already. If it was doing something, something other than trapping their friends that was, it should just fade whenever it ran out of power. Murrow, Jessie had decided, was a coward and a dick.
Jessie was trying to stay alert by playing with her phone when the sphere actually fell and there was no fanfare, or at least no bright light or sound so she didn’t notice at first. Her first hint there was something wrong was the room got brighter. It was a vague diffuse light, and seeing it out of the corner of her eye Jessie thought that someone had turned a light on beyond the door at the top of the basement stairs. However, when she actually looked, she realized that wasn’t the case.
The light was coming from a door, but it wasn’t a door the basement had possessed ten minutes before. It occupied the space where the spell had been and was big, and black, and really creepy. It stood just a bit open and light spilled out through the crack, and through a strange little window thing that seemed to be built into its frame above the main door.
She stood instantly and scanned the circle of floor that had previously been inside the spell bubble hoping that magi would be there. Unfortunately, it was empty. That made sense. If they’d been trapped inside their spell with that door then they’d probably looked for shelter or an exit beyond it.
She felt the a renewed shiver of worry, and with it her combat spell tried to take hold of her magic and break free. She only fought it long enough to reach into her pocket, pull out the small container full of twisted space she normally channeled her power into, and empty its contents into her purse so they wouldn’t be inaccessible when she let that spell collapse. Then she let the magic within her shift.
The room seemed to sharpen as her senses focused. The pattern of the shadows on the floor now made it obvious where the light was coming from even if she wasn’t looking at it. She heard the creaks and shifts in the house as it cooled and settled with the cool night air, and she could tell they meant no one was moving around in it. The couch smelled like mildew and that meant it was a nasty old couch someone had probably scavenged out of the garbage. Well, she couldn’t win them all.
Jessie crossed the floor moving on the balls of her feet so she’d be ready to jump in any direction if something came bursting out of the door at her. Nothing did. The door stood silent and ominous and Jessie reached it without incident. Even now that she was close to the opening she couldn’t see anything through it, just white light. She couldn’t hear or smell anything either.
She circled behind it. It didn’t help. No matter where she was standing she was facing the door. Perhaps it was turning with her, but she got the eery feeling that it somehow only had one side. She was tempted to just step through, run in, save Kyle and whoever else was trapped in there. If she’d been further under the influence of the spell she might have done just that, but she’d only just turned it on so she realized how stupid an idea that was so instead she left the strange artifact in the basement and hurried up to wake the other Children.
* * *
Thirty minutes later Jessie stood with her hand on the door prepared to go through.
Jen had inspected it and said it was the one they’d been trying to summon, so it should be safe, then they’d taped a raw egg and a phone to someone’s pool queue and poked it through with the phone recording video. The egg had come back unbroken, still cool from the fridge, and in every other way seemingly unchanged. The phone was, likewise, unhurt and the video it had taken showed a dimly lit tunnel of some sort with stone walls. It was by no means a comprehensive test, the egg and phone could have been irradiated, exposed to poison gasses, or molested in a number of other ways fatal to a human but harmless to eggs and electronics. However, it hadn’t been attacked and they couldn’t really think of any good tests they were willing to take the time to run.
Jessie was wearing a big backpack stuffed with food, and water. She also clutched a butcher knife from the kitchen, and an electric lantern Alexander had produced. She set her hand on the door and hyperventilated for a moment preparing to hold her breath if that was needed.
“Are you sure you want to do this,” Jen asked again.
“We can still call the cops,” Alexander added.
Jessie shook her head, “We don’t even know if they’d go inside. They might turn around and call, I don’t know, the EPA or the CDC or something, and then it could be days before anyone goes in. They certainly wouldn’t let us check it out. Just call them if I’m not out in, um, like an hour I guess.”
“An hour, are you sure you want to give it that long?”
“I don’t know, call them when you want to call them. You said the escaping slaves didn’t describe it as big in there. If it’s a hall sized place I should be out in like two minutes, but I might need a little time to look around if the tunnel branches or something.”
Jen nodded. Jessie tightened her grip on the knife gave a quick nod to the group, then yanked the door open and jumped through in one smooth motion.