Anyway, Otto was still shaking his head saying, “Missing lectures again. How many times have I told you that will cost you on the exam?”
That startled me. “There’s going to be an exam? I thought I was simply here to listen to bunch of experts in their field. Admittedly, some were more long-winded than others, present company not included,” I added hastily. “Is there any way I can make up the points? Maybe, go on a field trip or something?”
A bright smile appeared on my mentor’s face. “What a lovely suggestion. In fact I had recently been hearing reports of strange creatures being spotted in a region just north of here.”
“Really? And did that region happen to coincide with any interesting mathematical computations you’d been working on recently?”
He gave me a disappointed look. “I’m a professor, I’m always doing some kind of mathematics. But to answer your question, yes they do. By the way, how are you with snowshoes? It’s going to be pretty deep where we’re going.”
This time it was my turn to smile indulgently at him. “Snowshoes? Pffft… who needs those? I can just do my Legolas impression and move across the top of the snow without breaking it.”
Which is true. I can make myself extremely light at will and can walk across a number of surfaces without breaking the surface.
Apparently, he’d forgotten this fact, but instead of looking too embarrassed he simply grinned evilly back at me. I had no idea what was going on in his head, but I just knew my bragging was going to come back to haunt me later.
Three days later…
“What do you see with your elf eyes, Nathan?”
See, I told you that wisecrack of mine would come back to haunt me.
Turning I stared down the mountain at him and replied, “A lot of snow, trees, and one wiseass.”
“You know, Aragorn told me Legolas said the same thing to him,” he smiled innocently.
I chuckled at that. Otto is one of those people you can’t stay mad at for very long if ever. At that moment, my ears picked up a susurration off to my left. I had gotten used to the sounds in the area over the last two days, which was why this whispering rustle caught my attention I slowly turned, scanning the terrain very carefully until my eyes detected one area among the trees where the light was much stronger than it should be, considering the sky above us was dark.
Pointing in the direction of the spot, I called down to my mentor, “It’s about two hundred yards to your left, and twenty yards up the hill.”
Nodding he started moving towards the spot I indicated with great speed, which was quite an accomplishment for anyone wearing snowshoes. But Otto is far more athletic than his appearance belies. At first glance one might think he’s in his later 50’s, short, and stocky. But he can move as silently as a cat, and as fast as a leopard when he wants to.
Even with my ability to run across the snow he beat me to the spot by a few seconds. Now the thing with Para-Earth portals is that in order to spot them you have to be at just the right angle. Otherwise, you could walk right past them and probably do several times a decade.
As we examined the opening, Otto made careful measurements, which I faithfully recorded for him. Then he prepared himself to step through. He always goes first, since out of the two of us I’m more vulnerable. The one time I didn’t wait, I wound up racing back to our reality with the worst sunburn you never wanted to see.
I watched anxiously as he disappeared through the opening and waited. They say the waiting is the hardest part. Even knowing how durable my friend is, I still get a little nervous. Luckily, my wait was not a long one. After a few moments, he reappeared sporting a pair of stylish sunglasses which told me all I needed to know.
“Let me guess, it’s very sunny over there.”
“Actually, I discovered that the future is so bright in that reality, I have to wear shades,” he quipped without missing a beat.
“Sounds too heady for me. I’ll stay right here and make sure nothing comes through that shouldn’t,” I told him.
“Good idea,” he nodded and then added, “And this time, please don’t let anything from this reality slip through the opening while you’re at it.”
Rolling my eyes I protested, “I only let that happen once. And it was just a bunny.”
“That’s what that kid said down in Australia, and look what happened there.”
“True,” I conceded and then added seriously, “Be careful, over there.”
“You worry too much,” he smiled, “But it is appreciated.”
I watched him pass through the opening once more and then turned to take in my surroundings. Trees blanketed the area, but were not so thick as to keep any snow from hitting the ground. A thin layer of white gently covered decades of fallen pine needles. Glancing up, I could see the snow was much thicker on the branches.
Between that and the fact that the nights were much longer at this time of year, I had little to fear from any hint of sunlight that might peek through.
Now my ears picked up the usual sounds of nature, birds, a stream in the distance, and the occasional scurrying of an animal either underground or foraging some ways off. In short, it was very peaceful. The perfect place to crash out for a while.
So I gathered up some fallen branches and moss and made a little nest against a thick tree, so my pants would stay dry and sat down. Leaning up against the trunk I relaxed and settled in to wait for Otto’s return. It was all so nice, I couldn’t help letting my eyelids close and drift off for a while.
And before anyone asks, no, I didn’t wind up sinking into the ground for a dirt nap. Contrary to what many in my extended family think, I do not always go to ground to sleep. I’m perfectly capable of sleeping in a bed, on a couch, or a sleeping bag, whatever. However, sometimes it gets a little lonely so I actually sleep in the ground more often than I actually need to. While I’m in the soil I feel more attached to the world itself. I can see and feel the vibrations of nature at work, like the plants drawing their nourishment, the passing of an industrious mole or field mouse making its way through the Earth. I’ve even had some pass through my liquid-like state on occasion, which was actually rather ticklish, believe it or not.
Anyway, this time I stayed above ground. The cool fresh air lent itself to some very pleasant dreams. Because I never know who might be reading this entry (i. e. YOU Lisa), I won’t go into details. However, I will say I was enjoying the company of an enchanting young person when a weight settle in my lap. Immediately, I recognized this form had warmth which roused me from my slumber.
Having grown up in the 1850’s when horses were our main means of transportation, I can safely say I’m quite familiar with their general physique and shape. I’d spent many hours among those my parents kept for pulling our carriages, as well as for personal riding. And more than once I’d had one of my more favored mares place her head in my lap while I was sitting on the fence of their enclosure. So even without opening my eyes, I knew my visitor was of the equine persuasion. A gentle horsey snort confirmed my suspicions.
At this point I was still not fully awake, but it did occur to me that this encounter out in the wild was rather odd. Not that I minded. Animals in general seem to be attracted to me, perhaps it’s the way I smell that puts them at ease. In any case, I started stroking the side of its face to reassure the animal that I did not mind the intrusion. Still, I couldn’t help wondering what was a horse doing out here in the woods? Just I moved my hand moved up to the animal’s long face and encountered an odd bony protuberance.
Immediately my eyes snapped open and I stared down at my visitor and saw a very long white horn sticking out of the animal’s forehead. It was a unicorn. A real live unicorn, and it was resting its head in my lap.
TO BE CONTINUED…