Home » , , , , , , » Queen Of Hearts (Part Four of The Wonderland Series) by Robert Hill

Queen Of Hearts (Part Four of The Wonderland Series) by Robert Hill

She was staring into the eyes of Jesus, her hands clasped together so tight that her knuckles were white.

“Help me, Lord,” Lupita whispered as she leaned forward in the pew. “I don’t know what else to do.”
Queen Of Hearts (Part Four of The Wonderland Series)
Queen Of Hearts (Part Four of The Wonderland Series) by Robert Hill
Jesus continued to stare down at her, silent, his eyes displaying the misery of crucifixion. His depiction, as uniform as any other rendering of that moment two thousand years in the past, was as the same right there hanging above the altar as it would be in any other church on the planet. Lupita could almost pretend she was back home at her church in Corpus Christi; the likeness was so much the same. But she wasn’t back home. She was stuck here, kneeling in St. Mary’s Church on Gorlitzer Strasse in Rothenburg, Germany - alone, abandoned, and without food, money, or even a passport. “I don’t know what else to do,” she repeated, bowing her head low, pressing it against her clasped hands upon the back of the next pew as she felt a stinging tear trickle to the crest of her left cheek and just dangle there. Lupita had made many rash and stupid decisions in her forty years, but leaping through an ancient alien device portal that allowed one to communicate and teleport through common everyday mirrors, taking her from her bathroom in Corpus Christi to Antarctica to Germany, was beyond a doubt the dumbest thing ever. Even getting pregnant at nineteen wasn’t anywhere near as foolish as this. Well, at least, she thought, out of that pregnancy she had Alejandro, the one joy in her life. A smile drew upon her face despite the tear suspended from her cheek, thinking of Alejandro, all grown now, but still a baby in her eyes. As for the teenage boy who got her pregnant, Ramon, he never truly became the father he should have been to Alejandro. Ramon had been in and out of Alejandro’s life, but never in Lupita’s. Nor had she wanted him to be. Ramon had gone down a dark path of drugs and thievery, and he never found his way back. The last Lupita had heard he was in Huntsville doing ten years for aggravated assault. A life with Ramon would have been just as bad, if not worse, than the life she had with Raul. It would have been just another bad choice in a long line of bad choices. And now this foolishness! That one evening when she found in her bathroom mirror reflection the face of an Antarctic geologist who had discovered an alien device buried beneath the ice, had led her from one misadventure in her sad, miserable life to another. What was she going to do? Who would possibly help her? What was she thinking teleporting to Germany? She wanted to get away from Raul, that’s what she had been thinking. Knowing that the government had finally arranged for her transportation from Antarctica back to America, she had no desire to go back with Raul now that she had a taste of what it had once been like before he came into her life – and controlled it. Raul had dominated everything in her world, including Alejandro. Although, she had to admit that part of it had not been such a bad thing. At least Raul had been a father of sorts to the boy, even if he had not been the best she could have asked to have for him. Other than the fact that she had no working skills and no means to support herself over the years, what with a growing boy attached to her hip, Raul’s mediocre attempt at being a father was the only reason she had not run away from him years ago. Well, that had not been entirely true. She had tried once, but then learned the lesson of what happens when a woman runs from a possessive, alcoholic macho ... Something touched her left shoulder. Lupita flinched, thinking it was a policeman, and she looked over her shoulder to see … nothing. Well, not exactly. There was something, but it wasn’t really a thing or a person that she clearly saw. It was more like … Lupita drew the sign of the cross. “Do not fear, Lupita Espinoza,” said the wisp of something whose translucent outline suggested a being or a spirit the size of a person. It stood there, or rather hovered just above the floor in the aisle of the church, gazing down upon her. “Are … are you – “ “No, Lupita, I am not,” said the wispy, glowing being. “Although throughout the ages of your kind we have been mistaken for such – angels, gods, spirits. But, no, we are of the ahel, from a place far, far away from the Earth.” “Martianos!” What appeared to be the glowing translucent outline for the being’s head nodded, and it seemed its tone of voice was smiling at the word she had spoken. “In the language of your ancestors, yes. We are beings from a place two thousand light years away in distance, and existing within a sub-dimension of the universe located there. It is our home. My name is Gebrihl.” Lupita could hardly grasp what the alien was saying to her. Sub-dimensions of the universe? Light years away in distance? Whatever it meant, it sounded like some place altogether different than anything she could possibly … “Yes, it is,” Gebrihl said, interrupting her thoughts. “It is a place of perfection, harmony, and joy. It is a place where anything is everything to us, and we exist in a state of bliss and peace. And it is a place we have been waiting for thousands of years upon which to return.” “We?” Lupita asked looking around but only seeing Gebrihl. “Myself and - the best description in your language that I can use - my brother, Mikhil,” he said. Then hovering next to Gebrihl, Lupita noticed another being. Where once no one stood, now glowing translucently appeared another being the same as Gebrihl. Mikhil and Gebrihl remained silent for a moment, just hovering in the aisle, staring at her. Lupita could not speak, could not breathe, could not even think clearly, so overwhelmed her mind became at the sight of these celestial beings. Where had they come from? How had they come to be here with her at this time? Had she gone crazy? What was happening to her? She closed her eyes, hoping to blink them away, but when she opened them an instant later they were still there hovering before her. Both appeared to be similar – roughly the same size as her in height, and also nearly human in their shape, yet they were almost invisible except for the faint glowing outlines of their bodies. What appeared to be heads, however, glowed much brighter as if surrounded in the glare of …yes, they were just like halos! And, although she could hardly believe it, there also appeared to be the faint outlines of what could only be described as great folded wings emanating from behind their shoulders. No wonder, as Gebrihl had said, these martianos had been mistaken for angels in the past … “Exactly,” he said, once more interrupting Lupita’s thoughts. “And also the reason why we have for the most part remained camouflaged and obscured from humanity throughout the years of our stranded existence upon your planet. At first, thousands of years ago, we were not as careful, and our appearance amongst your ancestors led to many misunderstandings as to our true nature.” “Stranded?” “We are explorers,” then said Mikihl, “much in the same way that your own kind has a natural curiosity to discover new things, new places within the universe – new beings. It is the reason we came to your dimension and to your planet by way of the paa’riel, that which you refer to as the Mirror Anomaly.” “I don’t understand,” Lupita said. “You said you were stranded. But it’s right there in Antarctica.” “We know that now,” said Gebrihl. “But until recently it had been lost to us for thousands of years when a third one of our own chose a wrong path and attempted to subvert humanity for purposes of domination rather than to merely explore your world. The attempt led to betrayal, sabotage, and the loss of the paa’riel. Only recently we have become aware of its discovery by your kind as we have sensed the various openings and closings of the portal only it can create. We are very sensitive to its tremendous power, but until we found you, we were not certain of its general location.” “So that’s how you found me?” Lupita asked. “Yes, we noticed the first uses of the paa’riel, but we were unable to be present at an opened location. Only the paa’riel can create the opening, not the other way around. When we sensed numerous openings in this general location on the planet, we journeyed here, where we located you and have been with you ever since you entered this church.” “But how did you know to find me? I don’t understand. The mirror I came through is not with me here right now.” “It is not, but it is nearby, correct?” said Mikihl. Lupita hesitated for a moment, remembering how it was she came to Germany, and her disappointment once she arrived here. Johann had been such a liar. Lupita had communicated with him numerous times using the Mirror Anomaly in Antarctica, thinking he had been a handsome single man. During the numerous times she had secretly talked to him, she had found him interesting, and it appeared he was interested in her, too, well beyond the mere extraordinary curiosity of having a woman contact him through his bathroom mirror from another distant place on the earth. She had developed a bit of a crush for the handsome German with the broken English, but then when she unilaterally decided to be with him and to jump through the Anomaly’s portal to escape having to return to Corpus Christi with Raul, she quickly came to realize that Johann was married … or at least living with a woman. Johann had not been home at the time, but from the things Lupita had seen in Johann’s home, there had been no doubt that he was in a committed relationship. Lupita realized then what an idiot she had been, but there was no way she was going to go back to Antarctica. She wasn’t going back just so she could be shipped off for government questioning, and then sent home to Corpus with Raul. So she left Johann’s house, quickly, because she didn’t want anyone coming to bring her back, not even Bernie. Bernie had seen her making her escape from Antarctica through the portal, and although she cared greatly for Dr. Bernard Skarpinski – her white knight – that geologist who had first appeared in her bathroom mirror, she knew she had to run away from him, too. So, instead Lupita walked out of Johann’s house, not even bothering to look back, and without Johann or his wife, knowing that she had even been there in his home. From that point she was stuck as she wandered the streets of Rothenburg for two days. It was a strange, yet beautiful little city. And a wonder she had never heard of it, what with its medieval towers and ramparts that surrounded the older parts of the city. Rothenburg was like a fairy tale kingdom that had been dropped on top of a modern day world, mixing old castle towers, ramparts, and walls with steel and concrete edifices which were filled with offices and shops and restaurants. Lupita liked the feel of the place, and wondered why she had not ever heard of it. The rough-hewn ramparts of medieval architecture combined with plaster and timber buildings dating back a couple of centuries, and the newer, modern-day structures that reminded her of the States, even though many of the signs on them were emblazoned in a language she did not understand, seemed like something that should be quite well-known throughout the world. It was a place that made her feel at peace, too, in spite of the gloom she felt over Johann’s dishonesty and the loneliness that poked at her stomach when she thought of Bernie, now continents away from her. Over those two days of wandering the streets of Rothenburg, she had wondered what it would be like to actually stay there. But then the emptiness in her stomach, more so from lack of food than distress, and the absence of a passport, money, or a grasp of the German language would creep in, snapping her out of her daydreaming as she walked those chilly autumn, foreign streets. “We need your help, Lupita Espinoza,” Gebrihl said, jarring her from her recollections. “How did you even know to find me here in the church?” Lupita asked. “You say you can sense the Anomaly opening the connections, but I don’t have the mirror with me here, so how could you have known to come here?” Gebrihl hovered closer and then he stopped, leaning toward her. He reached out and his translucent, glowing hand touched the sleeve of her parka, which she had not removed since leaving Antarctica because of the cooler climate of Germany at this time of the year. When he pulled away his hand, the outline of it where he had touched her was glowing green upon her sleeve. “When a being makes passage through the portals there is a residue that is left behind that we can detect. Your clothing and your body are saturated with that residue.” That light syrupy film that Lupita had found herself covered in the two times she had passed through the mirrors was what Gebrihl was talking about. It was cold and sticky, but it evaporated quickly like a mist. Or at least she had thought that was what had happened since it seemed to have gone away an hour or so after she landed in Johann’s bathroom. “Take us to the mirror where the paa’riel connected a portal,” said Mikihl, but his tone suggested that this was a request. Lupita sensed these beings were not dangerous, despite the strangeness of their appearance. And she did not feel afraid of Gebrihl or Mikihl at all. They seemed gentle, peaceful, and comforting in a sort of way. They were also in a similar situation as Lupita. Stranded travelers, just like her, seeking a way home, even if their home sounded like it was much further away than Corpus Christi or even Marble Point Station, Antarctica. “I can’t,” she said. Lupita didn’t know what she was going to do about her current situation, but there was no way she was going back. “Why would you refuse to assist us?” Gebrihl asked. Lupita’s nostrils flared. “If you can read my mind, then you already know why I won’t.” “We can, yet your thoughts are clouded, conflicted,” said Mikihl. Lupita shook her head as she stood from the pew. “I’m sorry, but I’m not going back. I don’t want to be questioned by the government, or get into any trouble, and I certainly do not want to go back with my boyfriend to Corpus Christi. There’s nothing but trouble for me if I go back.” “You will not be harmed for your actions, Lupita Espinoza,” said Gebrihl. “Fear not, for we will make certain of that. But we do need you to take us there. You are the only one we have been able to find that can take us back to the paa’riel.” “But I already told you, it’s in Antarctica. Why not just go there for yourselves. If you could come here to find me, then you can go there.” “You are correct, we could travel there,” replied Gebrihl. “But it would be easier this way.” “Not for me,” Lupita snapped. “Besides, even if I took you back to the mirror that I came through to get here, you said so yourself – the Anomaly is what opens the passages, not the mirrors they are connecting with. What good would it do to go there now?” “Perhaps someone will open it again,” said Gebrihl. “It is likely someone will come looking for you, especially if you were supposed to be returning to your home and would now be missing from this place in Antarctica.” Bernie, she thought. Bernie would be able to look at the settings on the Mirror Anomaly to see where she had gone. Lupita had left Johann’s house quickly enough for the very reason that Bernie Skarpinski might come looking for her out of concern, despite everyone being prohibited from using the Mirror Anomaly until experts from the United States could arrive to examine it. “I have no idea if anyone will be looking for me or not,” she said. “It’s not like I told anyone where I was going, you know. I told you – “ “Lupita, you must take us there,” said Gebrihl, his tone suggesting he read her mind clearly enough to see through her lie. “Your people have now discovered the paa’riel. It is a powerful device that if misused could have terrible consequences.” “You mean misused by the government?” “Perhaps,” replied Gebrihl. “But we are also concerned that our fallen brother might also seek out the paa’riel and misuse it himself.” “Fallen brother?” Lupita asked. “Although we believe he no longer exists, as we have not encountered him for millennia, there is the possibility that he might live, and we cannot allow him to find it, either.” Lupita had not thought of that. There was more at stake here than just her fear of being interrogated by government authorities or having to go back home with Raul. She had just been thinking that she was running away from her miserable life, and also from government officials who were certain to “debrief her”, when there was a greater problem at hand. Those same government officials who would debrief her might decide to misuse the Mirror Anomaly. Or if they did not, there was the chance someone else would. “You would be doing the right thing, Lupita Espinoza,” said Gebrihl, as he floated slightly away from her. She wasn’t entirely certain of it, but perhaps Gebrihl was correct. And she could not afford to make any more stupid choices. For once, she needed to do the right thing. For once she needed to do something different. Even as she exited St. Mary’s Church out into an afternoon cast in drizzling rain, and began walking along the streets back toward Johann’s house just a few blocks away on a street called Sudstrasse, she realized then that what she had been pulled into when Bernie first appeared in her bathroom mirror several weeks ago had become something of great importance to the whole world. Lupita Espinoza was not looking forward to confronting Johann should he be home, much less going back to Antarctica, but she also knew, as she had always known about life in general, that there was always a reason for why things happened. She recalled how she had become pregnant with Alejandro. Then, twenty years in the past, she had been trapped into something based upon a bad decision. But in the end, she had brought into the world a precious child who had been the one bright spot in her life. Now here she was faced with something that was far different from that moment, yet it was just as important. She just had to have faith that whatever the reason for everything that was happening to her, that it would work out for the best – just like Alejandro. Her anxiety grew as she approached Johann’s house and began walking up the sidewalk to his front door, her parka slick and her brownish, greying hair damp with the cool rain. But she knew she had to do it. She knew she had to help the ahel, despite her own consequences. Gebrihl was assuring her that she would not be harmed; that he and Mikihl would somehow protect her. They were there now with her as she walked up to the door. But her heart was pounding so quick, that it felt like if it were a race horse it would shoot through her chest and dash to the finish line of her life. She knocked on the door, and then stepped back, feeling her throat constrict as the words she was thinking of saying to Johann became clogged there like a fistful of gravel. She glanced over her shoulder to look at Gebrihl, knowing he was still there, even though he was unseen, invisible. “I’m not sure how this – “ The door latch clicked, and Lupita turned her gaze upon the door again. At the peephole she noticed, too, that someone was looking out as the door slowly swung open. Then Bernie stepped out onto the front step and wrapped his parka-covered arms about her. “Thank God you’re safe,” he said softly as he held her. “I’m so sorry,” she choked the words out in a whisper. Bernie’s chubby cheek brushed against hers, and in that instant Lupita turned her head, and kissed him on the cheek. He pulled her closer, smothering her body within the thickness of his zipped parka, and he turned his head to face her. Lupita leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. She kissed him as tears welled up and mixed with the rain drops upon her face for the man she had left behind at the bottom of the world. She kissed him because her white knight had come for her. She kissed him because he was the only one who ever seemed to care about her. She kissed him because he was chubby-cheeked Bernie Skarpinski, the only man she had known in her life who had ever bothered to talk to the wallflower that she always assumed herself to be. She kissed him in that one long moment, as if nothing else mattered - as if the fate of the ahel or of the world was no longer at stake. She just kissed him. Then Bernie pulled away, his smiling face now becoming covered in the rain as they stood there. “Where have you been, Alice?” he asked, making reference to the nickname he had given her that first time when she had fallen through her bathroom mirror and had ended up in Antarctica along with Raul. “I’m sorry,” she replied. “I just couldn’t. I just couldn’t go …” And then the tears poured as she once more leaned into him, burying her face into Bernie’s chest while he clasped her tight against him. “Don’t worry about it,” he whispered. “I was just worried about you. Everything is going to be fine. But come on inside. We have to get back.” She nodded as he stepped back inside, pulling her in with him. Bernie closed the door behind her, and they just stood there for a moment staring at one another while Lupita brushed the tears and the rain from her face. “I was looking all over this town for you. Where were you?” Bernie then asked. “I was in a church.” “Oh, one place I didn’t think to look,” he said as he turned and started for the part of the house where Johann’s bedroom and master bath were located. “Don’t know why I didn’t think to –“ “Bernie, I have to tell you something,” she said, as she took a couple of steps to follow, but then stopped. He turned back to her. “What is it?” “I … I met some … people,” she said. Bernie squinted at her. “People? Who?” Suddenly, standing beside her, Gebrihl made himself translucently visible, glowing as if he were a being made of the sun itself. “So we uncovered your means of transportation from your dimension to ours,” Bernie replied as he stood in Johann’s bedroom, moments later, after listening to what Gebrihl and Lupita had to say about the Mirror Anomaly. “I guess that explains quite a bit.” Gebrihl’s facial features were not detailed enough to suggest a clear expression, and it just appeared as if he was staring blankly at Bernie. “Now you understand why it is important for us to return with you so that we can use the paa’riel to return to our home.” Bernie shrugged. “Why, yes. Yes, of course. That’s not a problem.” “It’s not?” Lupita asked. “But the mirror is not connected. How are we going to do it?” “Simple,” and then Bernie rummaged around in the side pocket of his unzipped parka and pulled out a cell phone. “You know, you could have made things much easier for me, Alice, if you had brought one of these when you left for Germany.” She blushed. “I wasn’t planning on calling anyone to come get me. Besides, mine is still on my kitchen counter in Corpus.” “Yes, well, there is that. But still, what if something had happened to you here?” “Actually, something did happen – “ “I know, I’m staring at him,” Bernie said, his lips drawing across his face in a thin straight line. “So who are you going to call?” she asked. “Anyone who could help us is back at the research site, and I don’t think they’re going to be too –“ “Raul,” Bernie replied. Lupita blinked hard as if it would make the word go away. “What? Raul?” “Relax, Alice,” Bernie said, apparently seeing the nervous creases she felt folding upon her forehead. “He was the only one I could trust. None of the other research team could I be certain about. So, he’s sitting in his bunk with one of the sat phones waiting for me to call him.” “Are we talking about the –“ Bernie shook his head. “I know what you’re going to say, but just think about this. You know he wants you back, and as far as he knows, he’s getting you back. He has the same invested interest in getting you back safely as I do.” Bernie started dialing in numbers into the cell phone. “I guess you’re right,” Lupita replied. Then she sighed, thinking about Raul being aware that she had jumped through the Anomaly, leaving everyone behind. “But what did you tell him? I don’t want him to know about – “ “Johann Mueller? Contactee number forty-three? Location, Rothenburg, Germany?” Bernie interrupted. “No worries. Your secret is safe with me. I told Raul you just made a random jump because you didn’t want to deal with the whole government debriefing now that they were coming to pick you two up to take you stateside.” Lupita leapt forward, wrapping her arms around Bernie’s neck and kissing him on the cheek. She was so grateful that she would not have to explain to Raul about her romantic contact with the married German banker, despite being a bit embarrassed that Bernie was aware of it, now seeing how they apparently felt about one another. “Okay, okay,” Bernie said, chuckling, as he pulled her away from him. “Let me make this call so we can get out of here.” He put the phone up to his ear, and waited a moment. “It’s me,” he then said, pausing for a moment. It seemed like he was listening to someone on the other end. “Go ahead … yes, she’s fine. Just be careful, we can’t have anyone seeing you or we’re stuck … The coordinates are already set from when I made the jump … Well, just remember what I told you. You haven’t seen me. Maybe everyone will get distracted enough with a search party to keep things quiet around the Anomaly –“ There was a distant shutting of a door somewhere in another part of Johann’s house. “Johann?” It was a woman’s voice. “Standby … I will call you back,” Bernie said as he disconnected the call and grabbed Lupita by the hand, pulling her toward the bathroom. She followed after him with Gebrihl gliding along behind her to enter the bathroom. Bernie gently closed the door but only just part of the way so as not to make whoever was in the house suspicious that someone was inside the bathroom. He and Lupita were both standing next to a full length mirror that was hanging on the wall beside the sink vanity and opposite the toilet where Lupita had nearly smacked her head when she had passed through the Anomaly’s portal upon her arrival two days previous. Bernie put a hushing finger to his lips. Lupita could hear someone coming into the bedroom. “Johann?” And then the woman said something else, speaking in German, Lupita supposed. She could not see the woman through the partially closed door, but Lupita could hear her footsteps on the wooden floor of the bedroom as they approached, but then stopped. Lupita’s eyes were wide, and she was trying to calm her breathing, but not without much success. She glanced at Bernie, who was staring at the back of the door, his lips pierced, causing his otherwise chubby cheeks to narrow inwards against the contours of his jaws. Then Lupita could hear the woman turning, and her footsteps sounded as if they were leading away from the bathroom. Bernie’s phone rang. “Shit!” he whispered as he went to try to silence it. “Ullow? Johann?” said the woman in the bedroom as she stopped, and Lupita could tell she was starting to walk toward the bathroom. Lupita shoved the bathroom door shut, turning the latch to lock it. “Johann?” said the woman, her tone sounding quite irritated. And then Lupita could hear her talking again in German, unable to understand what she was saying. The door handle to the bathroom was rattling, and Lupita could see the woman was trying to open it. She heard the woman call Johann’s name again, and then she knocked on the door, still speaking in German. Then a man’s voice was heard in the bedroom. “Shotzie?” The woman yelped, and it felt as if someone had pushed up against the door. “Was ist losse, Ursula?” Lupita knew it was Johann who had come into the room, and had startled his wife. Ursula must have gone away from the door, as her voice suddenly sounded further away. She was speaking quickly and hysterically, but it was all in German. “Schnell!” Johann could be heard saying, whatever that meant. And then he started yelling, quite firmly in German from some place closer in the bedroom to the bathroom, but still a bit distant. “He is asking who is in here,” whispered Gebrihl. “He says he is calling the police, and wants to know who is hiding in his bathroom.” Lupita whispered back. “You can understand him?” “We have been amongst you for thousands of years, we know most all of your languages,” he replied in a whispered tone. Bernie and Lupita were both pressed up against the door now in an attempt to keep it barred in case Johann had a key or tried to force his way in. Lupita could still hear Johann talking quite threateningly. It was not exactly the Johann she knew, but then she imagined if someone was trapped in her bathroom, she might sound a little mean, too, provided she had not gone running to safety, and hysterically calling for the cops instead. “Let’s just get out of here,” Bernie whispered and he started calling Raul again. Johann was still yelling at the door from a few feet away. Possibly the lack of response on their side of the door had emboldened him a bit. Then Lupita could hear that Ursula was back in the room. “She is on a telephone,” said Gebrihl. “She is talking to the police, telling them she has an intruder.” “Yes, no kidding,” whispered Bernie. “What’s going on?” Lupita asked, glancing at the cell phone pressed against Bernie’s ear. “I don’t know,” he replied. “He’s not answering.” “What do we do?” Lupita asked, looking at Gebrihl. “Do not fear. No harm will come to you.” She turned toward the bathroom door. “Johann, it’s me, Lupita,” she said loudly. “What are you doing?” Bernie whispered harshly as he attempted to put his hand over Lupita’s mouth, but she stepped away from him. There was a sudden silence in the bedroom as Johann stopped making threatening noises, and Ursula stopped in mid-sentence on the telephone. “Johann, I’m sorry, but it’s me, Lupita from the mirror.” Then Ursula said something, appearing to be speaking to Johann. Johann responded, but his menacing tone had dropped to almost a squeak, like a timid rat. “Johann,” said Lupita. “Can I talk to you? I can explain everything.” “Lupita, vhat are you doing here,” Johann responded, his voice still cracking. It reminded her of Alejandro when he was a teenager, and his voice had started to change. “I can tell you everything,” Lupita said, as she unlatched the lock to the bathroom door. “Okay, but why are you here?” Johann asked. “How did you get here?” “Just let me come out.” Out of the corner of her eye she saw Bernie shaking his head, urging her with his eyes for her not to do it. Lupita raised her eyebrows at him, and then she glanced the other way at Gebrihl, who had started to fade in obscurity, becoming invisible as he hovered behind her. Lupita went to open the door, but Bernie pressed his hand against the door to stop her. “What are you doing?” he whispered. “We can’t get out of here,” she replied. “This is my fault we’re here. Please, let me –“ “Lupita –“ “Call Raul,” she said, and then indicated with her eyes for him to pull his hand away from the door. Bernie just glared at her as he pulled his hand away, and stepped behind the door so he could not be seen while at the same time he again attempted to contact Raul on the phone. Lupita opened the door and stepped forward into the doorframe to face Johann. He was standing there, sweat beading on his forehead, but otherwise looking as handsome as she last saw him in the mirror. He was dressed in a well-tailored, black business suit, but his red tie was pulled loose, and he was holding a club loosely in his right hand. His wife, the woman Lupita had not known he was married to the numerous times she had spoken with him through the Mirror Anomaly, was standing a few feet behind him just within the doorway to the bedroom. She was blonde, and a little heavy set, but with piercing blue eyes that looked like if they were laser beams that they would cut Lupita into two pieces right at the neck. Lupita glared back, but not at Ursula. How could she? It wasn’t the woman’s fault that her husband had been flirting with her and had indicated something more during their numerous conversations. No, Lupita’s glare was for Johann. His shoulders slumped as he stared at her there in the doorframe of his bathroom. “Lu – Lupita, what are you doing here?” Ursula marched forward, and she started yelling at Johann in German. Johann turned away from Lupita and started speaking to Ursula. It was all in German, and Lupita could not tell what was being said. In turn, as he continued talking, Ursula’s responding tone was becoming angered and intense as she continued yelling at Johann. “He’s attempting to explain to her that you were a woman in their bathroom mirror whom he had been speaking with,” whispered Gebrihl in her ear from directly behind her. “Of course she does not believe him.” Lupita turned to look, but Gebrihl was completely camouflaged from her view. “What should I do now?” she asked, realizing that maybe she had made a mistake after all in coming out of the bathroom. “We should retreat,” he whispered. Lupita turned back to see Ursula had grabbed the club out of Johann’s loose grip, and she was lunging toward Lupita. Lupita turned and rushed back into the bathroom, and Bernie tried to push the door shut, but Ursula could not be stopped. She shoved the door back up against Bernie, smashing him against the wall, and pinning him between it and the bathroom door. “I can explain!” Lupita said as she cringed against the far wall of the bathroom, raising her arms up to protect her head just as Ursula barreled forward and swung the club in her upraised left hand. Lupita flinched, closing her eyes as the club came down in an arc toward the top of her skull, but then it never connected. She looked up, and saw the club still in Ursula’s hand, but it was frozen in mid-swing just a few inches from her head as if some invisible shield had blocked it. Then the club flew out of Ursula’s hand and tumbled end over end in a violent somersault through the bathroom before smacking against the clear reflection of the bathroom mirror beside Bernie. The impact shattered the mirror, causing fissures and cracks to radiate across it just as the club itself clattered to the tiles of the bathroom floor. Ursula lurched back, and started backing out of the bathroom. There was a look of terror on her face, and it appeared like she was trying to scream but nothing escaped her. As Ursula backed out into the bedroom, the glowing angelic outline of Gebrihl’s body became visible. Having shielded Lupita from Ursula’s attack, Gebrihl was now swiftly gliding in pursuit of the woman. Ursula reached where Johann was standing in open-mouthed shock, but then Johann grabbed his wife by the arm. Both turned quickly, yelling in German as if they had seen a ghost, and rushed out of the bedroom. Gebrihl stopped pursuing them and turned back toward Lupita, who was crouching against the far wall of the bathroom, just staring at him. “Come on let’s get out of here,” Bernie said, pushing himself free from behind the door and rushing over to her to pull her up. “Go where?” Lupita asked. “What about Raul?” “Still not answering. Let’s go,” Bernie insisted, as he grabbed her hand and started out of the bathroom. “But the mirror – “ “It is broken,” said Gebrihl. “Even if the paa’riel were activated, it would be unable to make the connection.” They raced out of the bedroom, and started for the front door, eyes cautious to the possibility that Johann and Ursula might still be in the house and may have quickly recovered their senses after having seen the glowing apparition of the ahel. Bernie pulled open the front door and they rushed outside, running out into the rainy street. When they had managed to reach the end of Sudstrasse, Lupita could hear police sirens somewhere in the distance, but they were growing louder. She stopped and tugged back at Bernie’s hand still clasped tightly about hers. “So, now what do we do?” He turned back to her. Bernie looked a little frazzled for an instant, but then brushed his free hand through his wavy, brown hair, and the worried look evaporated from his face. He transformed once more into her white knight. “I don’t know, but it will be okay,” he said. “I found you, and that’s all that matters for right now.” Lupita hugged him, and she kissed him on the cheek. Bernie pulled her away and smiled. “Come on, let’s find the train station.” “The train station?” He continued smiling. “There are officially one hundred and twelve known contactees. A few of them are here in Europe. We’re bound to find one of them that we can direct Raul to tune the Anomaly to make contact with again.” “How are we going to do that? We don’t have any money?” Bernie laughed, and then pulled out his wallet. “Alice, you really did go off unprepared for your adventure in Wonderland, didn’t you?”


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