Since I had absolutely nothing better to do, and she was one of the most intriguing people I had ever met in a dream ever, I decided to listen to her. I wasn’t sure whether I could wake myself out of this dream, anyway. Of course I didn’t actually believe her, but I figured talking to her would make for an entertaining experience anyway.
‘I’ll try to take you seriously. For now. If you’re straight with me’ I say, pushing away a few particularly tall clusters of grass as we passed through them.
I take a few moments to gather my thoughts.
‘How do you know all this, then? Are you a psychic or something?’
‘The same way I know who you are.’, she says simply. ‘’I suppose you could say it is one of my quirks.’
Her lips twitch up. ‘You hide a collection of toys you used to play with at the back of your wardrobe, underneath your socks draw. You feel you have too large a collection of National Geographic magazines but you can’t bring yourself to get rid of any of them. You -’
‘Okay,’ I say quickly, ‘stop. Stop it.’ I take a deep breath. Chill, this isn’t real, I reminded myself. This isn’t real. You’re going to wake up soon.
‘What do you want from me, oddly pretty visitor of my dreams?’
‘I know other things, too, things you haven’t learned of yet.’ Aestara continues as if I hadn’t spoken. I know where the gameboy is leading you. I know about your unusual experiences… Things you call Supernatural. I can explain everything, Amber, if you let me.’ She pauses. ‘I just need a simple promise from you.’
I’m caught between an overwhelming urge to run away and another overwhelming urge to keep listening to her – and to whatever explanation she has for her being here.
The curious part of me wins out.
‘Okay, fine. Let’s just say for a moment I believe you’re not a some weird part of my imagination. How do you know all those things? Who are you?’
Aestara tilts her head. ‘I am not sure you would believe me if I answered either of those questions.’
‘I’m not sure I believe you anyway.’
‘But that won’t stop you from accepting my promise. You wouldn’t want to turn down my offer, Amber.’
I bite my lip, then reply quickly, ‘Okay, fine? Whats the promise?’
Aestara takes a long moment to respond. When she does, her voice has a hint of satisfaction in it.
‘You must promise to give me the gameboy. Give me back the gameboy. I’m afraid it was never your right to keep it.’
Well, I wasn’t expecting her to say that.
‘I’m sorry, I can’t,’ I reply. ‘I can’t promise that. Its important. To me. I need it.’
Aestara dosen’t seem particularly perturbed by my refusal. ‘I could show you, if you want. I could show you everything. No more riddles, no more searching through old service tunnels, following obscure clues and maps. I could give you all the answers.’
A gentle breeze tickles my face. It is so real I almost forget again that it can’t be.
‘Give me the gameboy and I will give you what you want, what you have spent such effort searching for. The answers to every riddle written in its code, the locations of whatever place it can direct you to.’
I knew, or at least I thought right then, that there was no way I was ever going to give her the gameboy.
Then she continues smoothly, ‘Here is something to draw your interest; the answer to the puzzle you have been struggling with for the past three weeks, if I am not mistaken, is an eleven digit code. 91743581174. Enter it in the third door, past the eyeless statue.’
It would take a while to explain exactly what that, but basically, that is a part of the level I had been stuck on for the past few weeks – exactly like she said. The past three weeks.
I quickly did a few mental calculations, and ran the level through my head a few times. To my great surprise, I realised the code actually might work. I had been going over that level for long enough that I could remember all the important parts in my head. It was based on a complex set of physics problems about the universe, addressing everything from atoms to stars, and all the subjects and mechanics in between. The Gameboy gave me clues, like it had done in the previous levels, and I was supposed to use the clues to find a set of different numbers that would unlock the code of the door. I had been working on those numbers for the past few weeks, and as answers to the physics puzzles, those numbers actually worked. All of them did.
Aestara noticed by shock. She looked a little pleased. ‘Oh, don’t look so unsettled. Its mine. I had plentiful time to examine it, to discover its secrets, before I lost it. There isn’t a secret buried inside the gameboy that I don’t know about.’
‘I trust you will remember, at least long enough for you to write that down when you wake up’ Aestara adds, a small hint of amusement in her voice. ‘You wouldn’t want to forget that.’
I take a deep breath. ‘Okay, I guess I don’t know how to explain how you knew that. Why do you want it back so much?’
Aestara pauses for a moment. ‘It is valuable to me. I need it; temporarily, at least,’ she says finally. ‘I went to much trouble to acquire it. This little adventure you have gotten yourself into, trying to puzzle the true meaning out of the gameboy; it isn’t as simple as it looks. I thought you would have realised that by now.’ Her takes on a hint of warning. ‘It has far more significance than you can imagine.’
I swallowed. ‘And what if I say no?’
‘Then you can keep it for as long as you find it intriguing. But I doubt you will ever make much further progress investigating its purpose. No matter how insightful you are. You must have noticed how each level becomes more and more difficult. Well, there are plenty more before you reach the end. A few hundred, in fact.’
She stops walking, and I feel her gaze on me again.
‘Will you take my offer? Or would you prefer to -’
‘Okay, fine,” I say quickly, before I can stop myself. ‘I’ll give it to you.’
I still didn’t think she was real. It was easy to tell myself I had subconsciously figured out the last numbers of the code myself. So I saw no harm in promising her the gameboy. I knew I was going to wake up soon. And then she would be gone.
When I glance up at her again, she is smiling. The best way I can describe that expression on her really is breathtakingly alien.
‘Good. You have at least some sense in you.’ She starts walking again After a moment, I do, too.
‘I will take that as a promise, Amber. Please don’t try to break it. I will be very displeased.’
The smile remains, but I think I see something else flicker across her face. Her eyes turn cold and dark again, full of meaning.
I look away again quickly. The whole ‘its just a dream’ thing isn’t reassuring me as much anymore.
After a moment, Aestara continues, ‘And now, I will explain everything I can that you do not understand. Though some of it you may not find, in your ignorance, sounds entirely believable.’
‘My ignorance? What is that supposed to mean?’
‘Simply that you cannot accept the world outside of the way it was first taught to you,’ Aestara replies calmly.
I know, a lot of what she told me is confusing. I’m still trying to understand what half of it meant.
‘I suppose you’re about to explain that to me, then,’ I say raising my eyebrows.
Aestara inclines her head slightly. ‘As best as I can. With what time we have here together.’
I can’t think of anything particularly sensible to say to that, and after a moment, Aestara continues.
‘I suppose I should start with what will happen – what would happen if you were to successfully completed every challenge and puzzle that exists on the gameboy. I don’t suppose you have heard of the legend of the Wanderer?’
I blinked. ‘Um, no, I don’t think so. Am I supposed to?’
‘I would have been pleasantly surprised if you had,’ she answers casually. ‘But I expected you to be naive on the subject.’ She sighs. From her, the sound is almost melodramatic. ‘The wanderer is a story. A myth, or legend, as you would call it. It is, perhaps, not so well known, not around people familiar to you. But where I am from, the legend has great significance.’
I made a mental note in my head to ask her where she was from as she continues.
‘The legend is a story about lovers, I suppose, as many of yours are. I could recount it as a poem, if you wish, as it was originally transcribed.’
I hesitate. ‘Okay, sure. Tell me the poem. But how is this supposed to have anything to do with any of this?’
‘It will make sense to you soon enough,’ Aestara assures me. She considers, then adds, ‘I shall repeat it slowly. I think you will want to remember this.’
I know she recited the whole poem. But I only managed to remember a few lines word by word. I had already forgotten the exact words for most of it when I woke up.
But I do remember what the poem was about. I remember that perfectly.
Basically, the poem was about this person called the Wanderer. Well, she wasn’t exactly a person, more of a god, or something like that.
The poem began with a story about a man who went on a journey through the universe, and met and fell in love with a beautiful woman on a forgotten world. They lived together happily for a few (hundred) years, and in that time, the man created something of great beauty and untold power for her, using materials and technologies he had discovered in his journeys through the universe. It was supposed to be the most beautiful structure the universe had ever seen. A celestial orrery, which could model whole galaxies, through some kind of supernatural or magical power.
His wife would ask him constantly what it was the man was working so hard on as he built the orrery, but he refused to tell her, wanting to keep it a surprise. But on the night he finally presented the completed orrery to his lover, she crumpled to the floor, and then, as he rushed over to her, she opened her eyes, and he saw that they had changed to a pure, sparkling, blue.
The orrery was of such beauty and perfection that it drew the attention of this woman, or goddess, called the Wanderer.
The Wanderer possessed the man’s lover. She must have made a pretty big show if it, because when she claimed she was a goddess that had seen his creation from the stars and decided she was supposed to be his soulmate, he believed her. But he wasn’t happy. Instead, he demanded she leave his lover’s body and give his lover back. The Wanderer told him she had forced her soul out of her body, and his lover’s soul was lost to the void. If the Wanderer were to leave her body now, then she would die instantly.
The next part of the poem was all about the man doing everything he could to try and get his lover back, and the Wanderer doing everything she could to try and make the man love him. She created magical cities and utopian gardens, paradises; she even used her powers to go as far as small stars. Each world she offered him was full of unspeakable beauty and pleasures. But nothing she did could make the man love her. Or, in fact, stop him from hating her.
The man finally realised there was absolutely no way for him to get his lover’s soul back after speaking to the Unsouled, some kind of other godlike being that really, really hated the Wanderer. After he learnt this, the man tried to kill himself, but the Wanderer, who had been observing him the whole time, saved him and then made him immortal.
This made the man hate the Wanderer even more, and he swore then that he would always hate her, and he would spend the rest of his existence trying to kill her. The Wanderer asked what she could do to make him love her, and he told her nothing in the universe could replace his lover, or make him forgive her; no paradise, gift, or utopian heaven she could create for him.
I think at some point the Wanderer tried to create the man’s lover again and pretend she had brought him back, but it didn’t work. With some help from the Unsouled, which really wanted to mess with the Wanderer as much as it could, the man managed to see through every lie or illusion the Wanderer tried to use on him – either to convince him she was his lover, or his lover was still alive, having betrayed him, or left him for some other reason. She tried a whole lot of tricks to get him to love her. Nothing worked.
The Wanderer finally did the one thing she thought might offer her a chance for eternity with the man, or, at least, stop him from hating her; she herself began searching for a way to bring the man’s lover back.
She searched every corner of the universe, and used all the power she possessed, but nothing she was capable of could bring the man’s lover back to him. She finally went to the Unsouled, who was supposed to have some kind of major power over life and death. It was one of the only things in the universe that possessed powers the Wanderer didn’t have.
The Unsouled told the Wanderer it could offer help, but only at a great price.
I know, you’re probably wondering why it decided to help her, because it was supposed to hate her, but the Unsouled knew the price of the ritual would make it worth it’s time.
They struck some kind of bargain and the Unsouled told her when she possessed the man’s lover, her soul had been forced out of her body, and it had entered some kind of limbo, instead of passing on like it would if she had died. The Unsouled offered a ritual, in which the Wanderer send a part of her soul into limbo to guide the mans lover’s soul back to reality.
They performed the ritual, splitting the Wanderer’s soul and sending half of it into limbo to search for her. This left the Wanderer crippled, with most of her power gone. Well, most of her power; she could still fly through space apparently, because she tried to find the man again to tell him what she had done.
But as it turned out, the Unsouled had hidden him away somewhere, and with her now limited power, the Wanderer was helpless to find him. The Wanderer went back to the Unsouled and asked where he was, and the Unsouled told her the man never wished to look upon her face again. So the Wanderer waited for his lover’s return, when she would compare her to all the universe the Wanderer could offer him, and let him make his final choice between them.
That’s pretty much the end of the legend, as I remember it, at least. It sounded a whole lot more enchanting as a poem than it does when I wrote it out like that.
Of course, I had absolutely no idea what it had to do with me.
Part one: https://amberpixster.wordpress.com/2019/11/13/entry-23-part-one-the-lady-who-never-lied/
Finding the gameboy: https://amberpixster.wordpress.com/2018/03/26/entry-six-evans-old-gameboy/
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