Awareness is a strange concept. It’s like a focus of attention. You can have awareness of self, the ability to know how your body reacts and feels or who you are in distinction to those around you. You can have awareness of your surroundings, knowing the land and environment you are in. There’s awareness in magic, being able to focus your energy to cast a spell, invoke a change and create something with that energy. Then there is awareness in your sleep, like your consciousness. When you know you’re sleeping or dreaming, but you can control your actions and think for yourself, rather than just observe yourself doing strange things you’d never do when you’re awake. Perhaps some would also call this the awareness of spirit or of death.
Awareness comes upon me suddenly. I am surrounded at first by blackness. It stretches endlessly in either direction, no matter which way I look. Then, a distant ball of light appears and it grows closer and closer. I feel attracted to it, so I urge myself forward, feeling my feet take a step. Although I can see nothing, as I step I feel a heaviness like I’m walking through mud.
I approach the ball of light, reaching out my hand to touch it but suddenly I’m thrown back so hard I’m flying backward through the blackness that surrounds me. I lose awareness here.
The next time I become aware, I wake up on a beach. The sand is white beneath me, the ocean is a clear blue like I’ve never seen before. There’s a gentle breeze and I see tuffs of beach grass and small trees lining the edge of a growing forest. I see a rock on the beach, a little ways from where I am laying. On the rock sits a woman in a white roman robe with gold bands on her arms. She looks out at the sea, lost in thought.
I prop myself up and realize I too am wearing white, like a formal historic royal outfit with gold embroidery on the bust and polished gold buttons. I am also wearing white pants. I don’t know where these clothes came from, but I can’t help but think I look pretty spiffy.
I stand up, moving to brush the sand off, but find it hasn’t stuck to me at all. Strange. I walk over to the rock as a faint memory returns to me. I’ve seen this woman before but in a white dessert. The landscape has changed so much since last I was here.
The woman breaks her contact with the sea and looks at me, long wavy brown hair tossed by a sudden breath of wind. “So, you succeeded. You’ve gotten all of the artifacts now. That’s commendable. She smiles but her face looks sad. “Why have you come to me like this?” she asks.
I look at myself, trying to find my memory of how I got here. “You know I don’t always choose to come here, right?” That seems right. I feel like I just show up without trying.
She smiles ruefully. “Yes, but in a way, you did choose. I can’t knock you for being brave. You are certainly one of a kind,” she swings her legs off the side of the rock, reaching her toes down to touch the sand. She slides off the rock and walks toward me. “At least you’re not dead, yet.”
I frown at her comment. Dead? Yet? What does she mean? Her eyes glint mischievously and she places a hand on my shoulder and pushes me back. “Have a seat Time Guardian. You have a while before your soul is ready for the real world so I might as well teach you something worth your while.”
I fall back and expect to land on my butt, but instead, I land on a carved wooden chair made from driftwood. “Are you going to tell me why I’m here?” I ask her.
“No, I’m not privy to that information, being outside of time and all. You might remember all that when you wake up, but for now, your spirit is trapped here until you have enough magical power to get back. I’m sure your body is in safe hands.”
I grow alarmed as I recall the faces of people, a group of people, people who seem familiar to me. They must be my friends. I don’t remember their names off hand, but I know their faces.
“So. You’ve learned there is a limitation to your magic. You can’t jump everyone. That would kill you. Also, jumping time takes more magical energy than, say, a jump through space. You could potentially move more people through space than through time, but still, this requires a heck of a lot of energy. Spiritual energy. This energy isn’t endless either. It has to come from somewhere,” she explains.
“The longer I wait, the more it builds up,” I say.
“Right. It’s like a magnet. You accumulate spiritual energy within yourself and release it when you use it to jump. You, yourself, attract this time energy to you and store it. Have you figured out how to sense how much energy you have on you?” she asks.
I look at the sand, thinking. “No, I don’t think so. I usually hear a loud ticking though when I have a lot of energy built up,” I reply.
“Yes, that’s different. That’s the voice of time itself. It is different for each time mage, depending on the time period they are from. Someone from a millennia ago would not have heard ticking, as they would not know what the noise is. It would not have existed.”
“Ok. So what would the energy feel like?”
She smiles coyly. “How do you envision stored time?” she asks instead.
“Stored time? I don’t know. I wound spring or… or an hourglass I suppose.”
“Ok then, an hourglass. Each grain of sand represents a particle of time energy. How much it’s worth is up to you. Try to be aware of this energy, this hourglass inside of you. How much do you have?” she asks, crossing her arms and leaning heavily on one leg.
I nod and try to picture this hourglass. I try to start with a meditation, as Waaseeywaa taught me many months ago. After I achieve this I focus my attention on the energy of time. I furrow my brow with the effort. I feel like it shouldn’t be this hard. Suddenly an image comes to mind and I see the outline, the frame of an hourglass, carved wooden bars encasing a glass bulb on each end. The glass is shattered and there is no sand.
I look up and stare at the roman woman. “It’s broken. The glass is broken, there is no sand.”
“I expected as much. You pushed beyond your limit, which resulted in your spell drawing on more than the time energy it had accumulated. It resorted to using your own life energy to make up the difference. That is what you can’t do. That leads to death,” she says solemnly.
“I see. So that’s why I’m here then. I used too much of my time energy in a jump… with… my friends,” I try to piece the faces together again. I see ten faces, but not all of them are familiar to me. Some of these people I feel I only just met. “My memory seems sluggish. Is this a result of using my life energy instead of my time energy?” I ask her.
She nods. “Yes, when you outdo yourself you become disconnected from your physical body. Your memories are tied to your body. This is why I can no longer remember my own name. My body has been lost for ages now. My personal memories are few and the rest are long gone with my body.”
“Ok, so then, how can I build up this time energy again?”
She looks amused at my question. “Well, that should be obvious. You wait. I suppose there’s a way you could increase the wait time. As you know, time moves differently here. A minute could be hours, but then the reverse could also be true, where an hour here could be days. There is no concept of time relativity here. We are in the space between time. It will be hard to attract time energy while outside of time, but it can be done.”
She steps away, facing the ocean and walking toward it, leaving behind footprints in the sand. I’m still taken aback at how much this place has changed. There seems to be life here now, with all the elements present. I see birds in the sky above. But how can that be if we are outside of time?
I look at her as she also looks up at the birds. “They are a figment of my imagination. Things I can remember. They could be yours too. With the artifacts gathered, this space out of time is transformed. All that’s left for them now is to open the portal,” it’s as if she read my mind.
“The portal? Is this safe? Why would we want to connect this space to the physical realm?” I wonder aloud.
“Well, a long while ago, for you, someone’s soul was trapped here with magic. He cannot return to his body without a door. He is different from you and I. We, being able to move through time, have an added advantage of space hopping too. When you jump time, are you always in the same spot?”
“No, I can jump to various places,” I answer.
“Right, that’s because space and time are relative. You move constantly through time and space. The earth is not stagnant, neither are the particles in it. Just as time in the physical realm isn’t stagnant either. It’s constantly flowing forwards. As a time mage, you can orient yourself in either space or time at your whim. It’s just a law of time magic. Relativity.
Other mages can’t do this on their own, except a space mage. So where you and I can leave here at any time, as long as our body is alive, another cannot without a door that lets their spirit hop space. But enough chit-chat. I want you to practice. We may be outside of time, but you can still use your magic in this space. That’s where you and I are special,” she gives me a playful wink as she steps onto the water and vanishes.
I stand up suddenly, turning left and right, wondering where she went.
Follow me. I hear her voice on the wind.
“How?” I ask allowed.
Figure it out, Andrei.
I step up to the water but I don’t see her anywhere it’s like she’s teleported… through space. She’s space jumped. I see. I look at the water, taking a deep breath. I guess, like how I can see other mages with auras, she must have one too, though I’m not sure if a mage without a body would still give off an aura or not, perhaps there’s a trace left.
I look at the spot where she stepped onto the water and train my eye on the air above the wave. I smile with interest as I see a faint hazy line where she’s drawn two spaces together. I don’t know how I know that, but as I look closer, I see a faint image, like seeing a slice of a picture on the computer, against the backdrop of a completely different image.
The hazy line is deep brown in colour and doesn’t match the blue water behind it. She’s jumped into a forest perhaps. I guess to follow her, I have only to step on the line? I stretch my foot out and let it fall, expecting fully for my foot to touch water.
And it does. It falls right through the line and soaks my white boot. I kneel in front of the line and stare at it.
You need to catch it. It’s fine. I hear her voice again.
Catch it, like the edge of a paper?
Precisely like that.
I stand and try again, feeling for an edge. I feel a slight resistance and grab it with my boot. I lean forward and find myself stepping into an orchard of olive trees.
I gasp in surprise as I see her leaning up against the trunk of a twisted olive tree, ripe with olives. “Very good. You figured it out. That’s a trick you can use in the real world without trying to invoke time.”
“How did you connect the spaces though? I can see how I could follow it but how do I make that myself?” I ask.
“Easy, really,” she stands straight. “You have but to envision your step as a doorway to another space. Picture the location in your mind and connect it with your heel and toe. It’s like the line in the sand,” she says.
“Or… the line in the sidewalk,” I compare.
“Sure. I don’t know what that is, but whatever helps you envision that connection, that’s how you do it.”
I thumb my chin as I grasp the spell. “Ok, so I suppose this is limited to places I’ve been then?”
“Well, there’s a trick around that. You could technically jump to a space that looks identical to an imagined space because that space actually exists. Or, if you’ve seen a detailed enough image of it. In my time I think this would have been harder to accomplish without having been there, but I think I’ve been to times where paintings were able to accurately portray a space that I was able to jump to. You should try,” she smirks.
“Ok. I will,” I imagine a room, with fire-hued sheets and a bed, stone floors and a thick glass window where the morning sun shines through. I remember a face that goes with this room, a face with fire red hair. A name tickles the back of my mind, it starts with a ‘k’ sound. K… Ka… Kaitlyn. I feel a rush of emotions, love, and desire, passion and fear, pain and sadness all at once. The memories are jumbled and I blink with the sudden onslaught of information.
With the information comes an awareness of the hourglass. I hear a clinking sound like glass puzzle pieces fitting together. The hourglass is whole again and a few grains of sand are within it. I grin to myself, focusing my attention on the room.
I step forward, heel in this olive orchard, and toes in the room. I feel a sort of forward motion and suddenly find myself in the room, surrounded by the stone walls and the fire coloured sheets. I let out a breathy laugh.
“I did it! I did it! I really did!” I can’t stop the smile from growing on my face.
She appears beside me a moment later, eyes alight with approval. “Very good. You’ve learned to jump space, safely.”
“Well, you’re a good teacher,” I say.
“I’ve had my share of students. How’s your hourglass?” she asks, knowingly.
I tell her about the healed glass and the grains of sand.
“Excellent. Seems like you’re making fast progress. You have a strong connection with the physical realm. Maybe this won’t take you as long as I thought.”
“I hope not. I have a feeling my friends are worrying about me.”
“I suspect they are,” she says turning around. “Let’s try one more spell before you leave me.”
“And what’s that?” I ask, curious.
“The future,” she answers.
My eyebrow shoots up with surprise. “Wait, really? I mean…” another face comes to mind, dark brown hair, glasses, and a beard. He’s tall and swings a pocket watch… “Ceph! He can jump forwards in time. He’s come to visit us all the way from the medieval ages,” I say, feeling my hourglass fill a little more as his memories come to me.
“I see. So you and Ceph have met. He is a talented time mage. One of the best I can remember. Listen to his advice. There’s a number of ways you can invoke this spell. Let’s try this. How does sand fall inside an hourglass?” she asks me.
“It falls down,” easy enough.
“Good. So the bottom space represents what time? Past or future?”
“Well…” present would be the small hole between the two spaces in the hourglass, “I guess the past would be the bottom because it’s fallen.
“And that would make the top…”
“The future, because it has yet to fall,” I say.
“Good, you understand. So to visit the future, you could envision yourself flipping the hourglass around so that time flows backward,” she says. “Hourglasses are easy things to picture. Here’s another way, though.
When you’re in the space that is only time thre-”
“That timescape?” I interject.
“Yes, the name is up to you, but it looks the same for all I believe.”
“The place with the ribbons of time,” I say.
“Yes. I usually call them threads. Have you ever looked at the bottom of the ribbons?”
I frown. “No, never,” I’ve only ever been focused on the times.
“You can see the time that has passed on the ribbon itself, but if you look at the bottom, you’ll see that the ribbon is knitting itself into a string of time. The threads are like the events, where they come together, is the present, and the ribbon itself is the past. But the future, this is the tricky part. The future is the origin of the string that makes the ribbon.
“To jump to the future, you have only to follow the thread to where it comes from. It’s more difficult than the past because of undecided events and choices, and it takes precise accuracy unless you don’t want accuracy. Simply take the thread in your hand, like you would the ribbon and you should find yourself in the future.
“The thing with the future is, these are all based on projected choices. Certain events are predetermined but other forces, but individual lives are finicky so you won’t need to be as careful affecting present-day events like you do when you jump to the past. It’s more like a glimpse of the potential time in your life. With me so far?” she pauses.
“Yes, I think so. Because time isn’t stagnant, the undecided future isn’t stagnant either. It’s ever-changing,” I paraphrase.
“Like the ocean,” I add on. Suddenly I remember the blonde with the blue eyes. Caroline, the water mage. And Kaitlyn, the fire mage. With Caroline, comes Kaede, my high school friend and then Selene, the white-haired British girl, a spirit mage.
My hourglass starts to accumulate more and more sand as each memory connects with another.
“It’s almost time,” I hear her say from beside me.
“To go?” I ask.
She nods. I feel something warm around my hand and I look down, expecting it to be her hand, Kat’s hand. I see nothing, but I feel it. It’s strange. I move to squeeze back, but there’s nothing stopping my hand from forming a fist instead of a handshake. I sigh sadly.
“Don’t fret. This is a good sign. When you return to the physical realm, try a jump to the future sometime. Maybe Ceph can show you how,” she looks towards the window and I can’t help but think she looks sad. Her eyes seek something, but she doesn’t find it there. She turns back to me with a nod.
“Your spirit is strong Andrei, but don’t overestimate your abilities. You are growing stronger each day in your magic, but if you overextend yourself, you may make a mistake that will cost you your life. Be wary of this. I’ll see you soon, I suppose.”
I nod and feel my awareness slip away. The room dissolves and I’m no longer aware.
By Kayla West