The first time it hurt, obviously. Pain is a relative thing though, and Jess had always seen herself as a strong person with a high pain threshold. Procedures as they go these days, with internal computer systems into the body and detailed mind graphing, they usually make those operations devoid of pain. But the eyes, those hurt like hell. Severing of optical nerves were quick, but the input modules that were meshed around the socket; those ached as they were attached.
Jess had first used the magic from the altered years ago, before the books and the written language were truly understood. She had come by a small sample of the green matter, acquired like many backdoor drug dealings, through a shady acquaintance. It had been poor quality, mixed and watered down; removing its potency. She was naïve then and knew little about how it was to be used. She was naïve, but desperate. Eager to change her own and families circumstance. It gave her nothing but a longing to know more, to understand all about the altered and what came back from there. Over the years she was able to source her own ‘companion’, a little book of altered magic to help use the matter. Spells was a silly word, but it was what they were; incantations, yet ones that worked at a cellular and genetic level. It is what many needed now in this inequitable societal system. Able to shift makeups and change circumstances.
Temporarily. As was the problem for Jess. Her body makeup was not aligned to accommodate the altered states. The magic, the matter; never stuck for her. As was true for many others. Their level of incorporation was never sustained. It took cleansers like Levon to manipulate the matter and reconstitute it with their own to make something that could be transferred to those needing it. To change them into ‘accepted’ humans once more.
Jess persevered with her knowledge and training in the mystical arts however, doing what she could to help. Seeking out those to her help her and change her circumstance. Coming across the likes if Levon, and now Karen, The Bishop.
She put her eyeballs into a small metal cylinder that she removed from her pocket, having taken a seat next to the desk; and tilted her head back a little. Karen moved closer, taking the stopper from the small vial and tipping the contents into each of her eye sockets. The liquid pooled abnormally, as if floating inside her skull before turning to a vapour in an instant and clinging to the insides of her sockets.
“It takes a few minutes, relax if you can.” Karen said. Jess laughed slightly.
“Yeah right.” She said. Levon stood watching the colours now emitting from her.
“This will open the gateway to the bridge to the altered. You may have seen this before, but now you’ll be able to move through the haze too, beyond the marker point.” Karen added.
Levon knew what she meant, with his trips to the altered he was able to move above the bridge, flying above with his own abilities that took him seamlessly into the other world. It was as if he was a resident of the altered, able to move back and forth with ease. Others could be tourists, temporally view and touch the world; but their travel there were laboured and hazardous. Karen was setting Jess up now to be able to view and touch this world; and with the right incantations, would be able to eventually transfer parts of herself through. The bridge was always the challenge for everyone. It took time. But it was needed if you were to truly change.
After a few moments, Karen indicated that Jess could put her eyes back in, which she did. She opened them up and blinked a few times.
“How does that feels?” Karen asked, genuine concern coating her words.
“Fine thanks, it tingles a little.” Jess replied.
“Just the matter taking hold. I’ll start the incantation and it will unlock the gateway. With that, Karen took her small book and found the page she was looking for. She began to read aloud some strange words, words both Levon and Jess had heard before, but in different states. The lights in the room began to dim and a luminous glow appeared beneath the eyes Jess had recently placed back. Karen took her finger and tabbed at the top of the vial which had contained the liquid, drawing a small symbol on Jess’s hand. Levon’s own symbols began to glow, and Jess suddenly pushed back in the chair.
“Ahh.” Was all that Jess could exclaim. She was thrown out of the room there under the church and transported through a mist to the beginning of the altered. She could hear Karen’s words ringing out but they sounded tinny, as if coming from inside a shell. She extended her arm, and the mist moved apart like a cloud. The air hung with little sparks of blue light, like electricity in vapour. As the mist moved she could see before her a huge stone circle, and beyond a stone bridge leading off into the unknown. It reminded her of Japanese torii entrance-ways to shrines, the mystical and tantalising. She had only seen glimpses before, unable to move in the static. Now she could walk and move around. She moved towards the stone gateway, her heart beating to a hurried rhythm. As she approached she could see a smaller stone by the entrance. It was covered in the language she had tried desperately to learn over the years. Here the text melted, forming words now that she could understand and comprehend.
As she stood there she became aware of an encroaching shadow off in the distance behind her. Like a new weather front coming in. It seemed ominous and did not feel like it belonged here in this space. Everything she had ever known of the altered and its magic had always brought her warmth and comfort, this felt foreign and threatening to her. She turned away, towards the bridge now through the gateway. She tried to move her feet but it was then she felt a pulling, a tugging coming from inside her skull. It was then that she knew she was heading back, back to the crypt under the church. Like stepping out of a hot bath she returned back to the chair, Karen and Levon before her.
“How far did you get?” Levon asked her. She looked up excitedly.
“To the gateway, I could read the marker.”
“That’s good, the baptism seems to be dong its wonder.” Karen added. “Each time you’ll get further.” Jess looked concerned then.
“But it felt strange, there was a shadowy wall encroaching in on me. “ Jess said, rubbing her eyes. “I’ve not known anything like that before.”
Karen and Levon looked at each other.
“Do you know what it is?” Jess asked, seeing their faces.
“Yep. And it comes back to your friend Mr Tsutsumi?” Levon said, walking over to wall and tapping the blueprints that were pinned to the board.