by G.A. Blythe
Will is taken to another world and learns the value of friendship and respect of life.
Stooping low to the ground, Will made his way across the small ranch owned by Mr. Bryce’s. The ranch was a reserve for all sorts of animals who had lost their home. Will could smell them as the cool summer morning air breezed right past him, sending the scent of the horse stalls straight to his face.
Will pinched his nose and lowered himself further to the ground. Then, he continued past the worn stable, it's peeling red paint and weathered doors giving it a deserted look. Over grown trees and bushes lay scattered around the area and like a ninja, Will used their tall shadows to hide in. As he ducked behind the bushes and scurried along the side of the wall, he reminded himself why he was there, “I’m not chicken. I’ll let that stupid zebra out.” He told himself as he made his way to the front of the stable.
Mr. Bryce owned a zebra that was known through the town as the “Magical Zebra”. The younger kids claimed that it was a hundred years old but the older kids no longer believed in magic. Instead, the older kids used the trips to the animal reserve to prove their bravery through a series of pranks.
Will crept along with only the light from the rising sun to lead his way, scampering to the barn stables, only looking back once at his companions before slowly pulling at the large red door and slipping inside. He silently walked across the hay littered floor, passing from stall to stall, until he approached the end of the barn. There he noticed the zebra that everyone talked about.
She stood there, watching him as he moved towards her, her eyes wide and glistening from the early morning light that shined through the open barn. “So, you’re the one that everyone talks about.” Will said as he looked along the railings of her stall. “I bet you hate being in here don’t you? How about I let you out?”
The zebra came towards him, her nose nudging the railing. “Hey, you aren’t that bad are you? Yes, good zebra.” He said as he held out his hand, walking down the stall as she gently led him along with a nudge until he reached the end. “Hey, I can’t go any further.” He told her, a smile on his face as his hand stroke the side of her face, his hands smoothing over her black and white stripes. “I would let you out if I could.” His fingers continued down her snout as she pulled away, forcing him to reach towards her. It was then that he noticed a bright, round red button on the inside of the stable, several inches from his reach.
“Whatever you do, do not, I repeat, do not push the red button." Will repeated as he read the big, bold black letters that sat above the red button.
“Is that how I let you out?” he asked the zebra, who instantly gave another nudge towards the button. With a smile, Will leaned over and stretched across the rail, his finger barley touching the edges of the button. Stepping onto the bottom rail, he again leaned forward and instantly smacked the red button.
He jumped off the rail, “This sure is going to make Old Man Bryce flip when he sees his prized cargo walking amongst the groups of kids." He said as he stood there, rubbing his hand against his jeans, waiting for the stall to open.
“Man!” he shouted out as the tingling in his hand increased and ran up his arm. By the time it came to his chest, he felt like he was hit by a baseball. Teetering, he grabbed onto a post as the stable began to spin counter clockwise.
A cold sweat broke out across his body and, just as quickly, he felt his skin burn as his hands and feet began to feel solid and heavy.
"What on earth?” he looked at the zebra who lead him to the button. “What’s happening to me…?" He said and finished with an animal like cry.
In an attempt to clamp his mouth shut, he knocked himself in the face with a set of hooves. Sliding them along his face, he noticed that his nose jetted out and was now elongated. Panicking, he searched his body, noticing faint black and white stripes forming. Shaking his head in disbelief, the sandy blond hair that hung in his eyes began to change to a jet black pigment.
Before he could make another move, his body suddenly lunged as his knees and elbows swiveled 180 degrees and his neck lengthened. As his body re-proportioned itself, his clothes began to rip at the seams and as he took a tumbling step forward, they fell to the ground.
Will stood there, his eyes clinched shut, shaking like a small child in the cold. His eyes looked around, seeing no color at all and making him feel as if he was almost running. "This can't be! This isn't real!" He said as they fell, not onto the face of the zebra, but instead onto that of a girl not much older then he was.
She walked over to him, her mouth open and her grey eyes wide, “A zebra.”
Will stood there and watched her as she approached, “A zebra!” he shrieked out but only the sounds of an animal cry could be heard. “I’m not a zebra, I’m human!”
“Human?” she asked.
“Yes, human.” He said in another animal cry.
The girl gave a giggle, “Well you are the funniest looking human I’ve ever seen.” She told him. “If you’re a human, why do you keep on barking and snorting sounds, why don’t you talk to me?”
“I am talking!” A loud braying sound came from Will’s mouth.
“You call that talking?” she asked.
Will paused for a second, “If I’m not speaking in English…” he listened to the whuffling sound he made and looked at the girl. “Well, if I’m speaking zebra, how can you understand me then?” he asked.
Her grey eyes stared into his, “You really aren’t from this world are you?” she asked.
“This world?” Will asked puzzled.
“You really don’t know,” she said as she stood inches away from his snout. Will stood still and allowed her to place her hand on his face. “My name is Xyra keeper of Amira Spherical.”
“Xyra Keeper of Amira Spherical, do I have to call you all of that?” Will asked.
She gave a laugh, “No, Xyra would be just fine.”
“Xyra.” Will thought as he watched her sliver hair sway across her face.
“Yes?” she asked.
“I didn’t say anything.” He told her.
“But you thought my name.”
“You can read my mind?” Will asked.
“I am the keeper of Amira Spherical, I know all, there is nothing kept from me. I can read the minds of every living creature, even the Nefarious Mortica.” She told him.
Will looked at her, his eyes questioning. “Nefarious Mortica?” he asked.
Xyra sat down on a near by rock, “Nefarious Mortica is the evil life that is taking over the Amira Spherical. It came to us through the hatred of one man and has spread to all living creatures. Soon, even those who had nothing but love in their heart were taken by the darkness. Now, only I remain, for only I am able to bring enough life to this planet to keep me alive.” Her arms spread out, “This here is all that is left of the Amira Spherical, it is all that I can maintain.”
Will looked around and saw that under his feet there was green grass which spread out for a short distance. It contained a small garden of vegetables, a few fruit trees, a couple of shrubs, and a vine that ran along the side of a small hut and produced grapes. In the middle of the area there sat a water well. Beyond that there stood nothing but flat land, grey dirt and dying trees. No life could be found at all.
“The Nefarious Mortica did this?” Will asked.
Xyra gave a nod, the beaded jewels in her hair twinkling as she did. “I am the only one left now. We cannot go beyond the land that I control.”
“The only one left, how did you survive and no one else did,” He asked.
“I am the keeper of Amira Spherical and have been for millions of years. I am the only being who is capable of holding the light which provides the life here in my world. But men are weak; they have little understanding of how all living things are webbed together. For them, taking the life of another was simply a matter of living. What they did not know was that when you take more than you can give, you begin to destroy the delicate web that holds us all together. Life was destroyed at a faster pace than I could replenish it. In the end all that I could do was make this small world of my own and watch as the Amira Spherical and all of its wonders were consumed by the Nefarious Mortica.”
“Can you not bring it back?” Will asked.
“Not alone. I can only do so much on my own. Once the Nefarious Mortica has hold of a being, it will consume them. It would take all of my powers to bring them back. So, I would need the help of another to bring back my entire world.” She smiled at him.
Will looked around at the small area, “It must be hard.” He said, “Living here all alone.” He watched Xyra as her round face, full of color, smiled up at him.
“It is, but now that you are here…” her words drifted off and Will blushed.
“Well, I’m not much of anything now, just a zebra. Should have seen me when I was human, all the girls thought I was something.” He said as his tail swooshed around.
“I love zebra’s. I love all living creatures.” She smiled at him again as she got up from the rock and headed towards him.
Will’s tail continued to swish. “Well yeah.” He stuttered out. “I mean, if I wasn’t a zebra I couldn’t do this cool deal with my tail and all.”
Xyra gave a little snicker and watched Wills tail as it swirled around.
“You are funny,” she said “Did the other humans find you as funny?”
Will stared at her blankly for a moment. He had not thought about home much since he had come to Amira Spherical. “I’m not sure.” He looked around the space. “I mean, I guess they thought I was.”
Xyra wrapped her arms around his neck. “I can feel your pain; I know that you miss them already.” She whispered in his ear.
“I was just thinking,” Will looked out to the dark horizon “I was just thinking about how hard it would be to live here. Just with you, all alone that is. It makes me miss my family and all of my friends.”
“This is not your place Will, you do not belong in my world, you belong in your own.” Xyra stroke the back of his mane. “You must go home to where you belong.”
Will instantly looked around, “The button, the red button. I pushed it and that’s how I got here.”
“Red button?” Xyra asked, “Will there is no such thing.”
“There has to be Xyra, I pushed it and then it changed me and sent me here. It was in old man Bryce’s farm. It has to be the way back. We have to find it.”
Xyra looked around the small section of land. “There is no such thing here Will, I have lived here for thousands of years and I have never seen such a thing.”
“Could it be somewhere else?” He looked out once again to the darkness. “Out there maybe?”
Xyra, followed his gaze, “Yes.” She said in thought. “The Haumae Stone, The Red Ruler.” She turned to him. “The Haumae Stone is a red stone set to the east. It is said to rule the worlds, not just that of the Amira Spherical but all worlds. It would be the way back Will.”
“How do we get to it?” Will asked.
Xyra looked over her back, “We can’t get to it.”
“Then how will I get back home, to my world?”
She turned to face him, “I will have to bring it here.”
Will looked up at the black clouds that sat overhead. “I don’t want to be left here Xyra, I want to go.” He said, his eyes full of concern. “I don’t like it here.”
“I cannot bring you. The moment you stepped into the darkness would be the moment it consumed you.” She placed her nose onto his snout, “I am sorry Will, you must stay, it is the only way.”
Will gave a nod and watched her as she walked away, “You will be okay right?”
“I hold powers beyond your belief Will,” She said.
Will watched as she stepped into the darkness that surrounded the small section of living land. Once both feet hit the desert floor, a loud crackling boom sounded, shaking the ground. With his heart racing, Will stumbled but caught footing and began to run towards Xyra.
“No Will!” she called out to him, but it was too late. His fearful speed had knocked her down and instantly he was paralyzed, lying on the floor in the midst of the darkness.
Xyra quickly grabbed him by his hind legs and with great power she pulled him back into the living world of Amira Spherical, “Will!” she screamed as she dropped to her knees “Will, can you hear me?”
Will lay there, his body cold, an awful dread eating away at him. “I can’t see you Xyra, where am I?”
“You are back with me, do not worry. I have you now.” She said as she looked him over. The darkness had touched him and she knew it even though it had not yet shown.
“It hurts, it hurts all over.” He whimpered as his blind eyes filled with tears. “Can you make it stop, please?”
Xyra listened to his plea. “I-I ….” She looked back over her shoulder, “I will be back Will. Stay strong and I will be back, I promise.” She bent over and kissed him on the cheek. Then, in a quick movement, she stood up and ran out of the Amira Spherical and into the Nefarious Mortica.
Another loud boom sounded once Xyra stepped back into the darkness. Like before, it did not bother her and instead silver wings grew out of her back, lifting her off the ground and into the darkness. With her wings came a light and with that light she made her way, over the darkness with its hard earth and dead remains, and to the Haumae Stone in the Far East.
As she flew, she listened to the whimpering of Will’s mind. She could tell that the pain was getting worse and that only meant that the darkness was spreading deeper in him. “I am almost there Will.” She told him, “I know that the eastern mountains are near, I can feel the power of the Haumae Stone.”
Just seconds after her words, she lowered to the ground, landing on the rough ground of a mountain side. There was not much that she could see since the darkness had fully taken over the area and her own powers only showed the rocks and dirt that lay a few feet ahead. She walked on a few feet, the Haumae Stone’s powers growing as she did. Soon she saw a red gem, sitting in front of her and glowing against the darkness. She picked it up and held it in the palm of her hand. “I found it Will.” She said with a smile, “Hold on.” And with her words she lifted into the air and headed back to the Amira Spherical.
Xyra landed on the outskirts, where the darkness met what was left of the living. With quick steps she made her way to Will and dropped to her knees. Placing his head onto her lap she held the Haumae Stone over him. “I can send you home now Will.” She told him.
His body shook on the ground. “It hurts Xyra, it hurts so much. I want to go home, it hurts so much,” He cried to her.
Xyra looked over his body. His black and white stripes had become pure black. His soft fur and flesh had become stiff and hard from the darkness. “I, I can’t send you back like this.” She stammered out. “You cannot make it like this.”
“Please, I want to go home, I want it to stop,” Will continued crying.
Xyra gave a nod and instantly an aura of green surrounded her. “I will do both, I will send you home, I will stop the darkness.” With her words the green aura left her and engulfed Will’s body. Instantly, his flesh began to heal and his vision came back.
With his new vision he looked up at Xyra, “I can see Xyra. I can see and it doesn’t hurt as much.” He smiled at her, baring all of his teeth.
Xyra continued to sit there, holding the Haumae Stone above him. The redness in her cheeks was gone. Her silver hair had become a simple grey, matching the color of her skin. “What is happening?” Will said as he tried to stand. “Xyra, what is happening?”
He looked around, the fruit from the trees had withered up into hard black balls, the branches black with no leaves, some had fallen off. The berry bushes had turned to ash and blew away. The green grass had become nothing more then the hard black earth of the darkness. “Xyra,” Will shouted out, still unable to move. “The darkness, the darkness is coming.”
“I know.” Her voice was calm. “I know Will and come it must.”
“But, but it will take us both. You have to do something, it will take us both.” He continued on frantically.
“No, this is not your world Will, you do not belong here. You belong in your own world and to your own world you must go.” She told him.
“But what about the Amira Spherical, what about you?” he asked with wide eyes.
“This is my world Will. This is my way. I am the life of the Amira Spherical. It is up to me to bring life, to save life. That is what I do and that is what I must do for you. My world is dead but your world is still living. Remember Will that this is only the end of one life. You can be the keeper of life in your own world. You can prevent the darkness from taking over. By doing so, Amira Spherical will never die and neither will I.” With those words she spread her hands, allowing the Haumae Stone to fall from them and land onto Wills body.
Instantly a tingling sensation hit and began to go through his body. His face shrunk back down, his dark mane returned to its sandy brown color, his stripes faded and, as his body returned to that of a boy, he watched as the last of the sparkle in Xyria’s silver eyes faded into the darkness of Nefarious Mortica. Within seconds, he left the world of Amira Spherical and found himself standing in the stable.
“She is a beauty.” A rough voice came from behind Will causing him to jump. He turned and faced the old man. “Don’t worry now, it’s just me, Old Man Bryce is what you kids call me.” He gave a smile
Will quickly wiped the tears that streaked his face.
“You okay son. You’re out here a little too early, you ain’t lost are you?”
“No sir,” Will managed to get out in a meek voice, “I’m not lost.”
“Ah, I guess not.” Mr. Bryce said as he heaved his blue overalls by the shoulders straps before leaning against the rail of the zebra’s stall. “Me and my wife picked her up out in Africa.” He said while stroking his gray beard with his hand. “It was a night trip, we were doing some wild life help out there and there this one sat out in the desert, laying there, surrounded by nothing but dirt and darkness.”
Will turned from Mr. Bryce and took a step to the stall.
Mr. Bryce looked over at him, his brown eyes studying him. “It’s a shame though. She had been blinded and was trapped out there in the desert. Couldn’t help herself, so we took her in. She can’t survive out in the world. This is the only way for her now.” Mr. Bryce gave him a nod.
Will looked over to him, “How did she get out of the darkness? Didn’t Nefarious Mortica destroy her and the Amira Spherical?” He stood there, tears forming back into his eyes, “She said she couldn’t….” his words faded away as he turned back to the stall.
“Nefarious Mortica, Amira Spherical? I see.” Mr. Bryce came over to Will, “You are one of those kids who believe that this zebra here is magical aren’t you?” he gave a smile and rubbed the top of Wills head.
“She does have magic.” Will told him as he shoved his hands into his jean pockets, knowing that the old man would not listen.
“Aye, yes she does have magic. Even my wife said so.” Mr. Bryce reached behind him and grabbed a bucket. “I’m sure I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.” He told Will.
Will peered further in the cage, looking at the back of the zebra.
“Would you like to feed her?” Mr. Bryce handed the bucket to him with a nod and a smile.
Taking the bucket, Will leaned against the rail, “Xyra.” He whispered out. “Xyra, it’s me, Will.” With that the zebra came to him.
“Hmm she seems to like you Will.” Mr. Bryce said while once again stroking his beard.
“I think this could be a good friendship if you want it to be. You can come by and feed her every so often.”
“Everyday.” Will suddenly said before turning to the old man. “I mean, I want to feed her everyday.”
“Well, everyday is fine with me. I don’t mind as long as you don’t mind.” He watched Will as he shook his head and then turned to walk away, “Well I guess that makes you her keeper now Will. Just remember, a life is in your hands, treat it carefully.” With that he gave a wink and walked out of the stable.
Will turned back to the stall. “I am the keeper…” he said as he stared into the zebra’s sparkling silver eyes.