Simon and Doc work on a plan to get Loreley’s soul back while keeping the book. Simon had a flashback to an earlier time. Loreley spoke with the White Raven and was bewitched.
Meanwhile in Hell…
Loreley clings, terrified, to the jagged cliff, face pressed against the volcanic rock face, eyes and mouth squeezed shut against the ashes, grit, and fumes.
Over the infernal howling, she hears a high-pitched ringing sound, like a delicate Japanese bell cooling the air on a summer afternoon.
Somehow, even in the blackness behind her tight-shut eyes, Loreley can see a tiny shining form flickering in the darkness, dragonfly wings and a luminous, flowing dress fly into her line of vision and hovers there in the air.
The tiny woman is wearing a delicate crown sparkling with the dust of all of the shining gems.
She looks deep into Loreley’s soul, and Loreley finds a great solace in the presence of this being who she knows is known as Glinda, the Good Witch.
Glinda sings soundlessly.
Loreley becomes aware of the eyelids of her third eye, also squeezed tight and she wonders how she could have forgotten about it.
She feels Glinda’s presence supporting her, helping her find her balance. Loreley feels the warm glow of Glinda’s aura seep into her muscles, relaxing the larger ones in her back, then shoulders, arms, neck, face, calves, feel- all softening to allow her to hold herself with a minimum of effort.
The screaming in her mind stops, gives way to a placid silence.
She feels a smooth flat surface under her feet.
Looking down she sees that she’s standing on the surface of a vast lake, reflecting the pinks, blues, purples, and star-speckled indigo of the sky above.
The wall of rock she had been clinging to, now smooth as glass, drifts away from her and sinks without a ripple into the water.
She turns to face Glinda, much taller now, glowing gold and standing on a floating lotus.
Loreley feels at peace for the first time since she met Simon.
“Glinda? May I call you Glinda?”
“Well, it is my name.”
“It just seems like you should have a title is all.”
“Hm,” Glinda says with a literal twinkle in her eye. “How about ‘Most Holy Highest Highness of All Heavenly Realm, Gate Keeper to the Stars, Her Supreme Excellency-”
“Uh, sorry, can you-”
“Glinda is fine. I know you have been wanting to know what’s going on, poor darling. It really is a very long story, and right now your soul is still in peril, but I promise you, in the end, you will understand everything. Relatively. You’ll roughly understand nearly everything. Assuming, that is, that we succeed in saving your soul.”
“Glinda, what’s happening?”
“Well, in a nutshell: you dabbled in some shit you weren’t ready for, and a much older man totally took advantage of you to try to weasel out of an old debt. You accidentally ended up in hell, but in a weird karmic twist, he rescued your evil doppelgÃƒÂ¤nger, Wicked Loreley by mistake. Now Wicked Loreley is planning to murder him for revenge.”
“Oh. I don’t blame her.”
“No, of course not. But here’s the thing. Only one of you can stay over there at a time. So if you want to get out of here and stop the world you know from ending, you’re going to need to battle her.”
Glinda waves her wand in a circle. A mirror-like sphere appears in the air. Inside the sphere is a smallerÃ‚Â sea of spheres, each one reflecting and distorting all of the others.
“Each one of these is a universe. In many of them, there is a version of you.”
Loreley leans in for a closer look and sees a myriad of variations of her face looking back out at her.
“The worlds have different rules. The nature of the world you were just in is to fragment, fracture and pulverize things. When you got sucked in there, you got fractured. In the world you are from, there can only fully be one of you at a time, or the whole thing starts to collapse. You know the old superstition about doppelgangers, don’t you?”
“What’s a doppelganger?”
“An evil twin. The superstition says that if you see yours you will die soon. It doesn’t mean die, exactly, but kind of. Anyway, there are usually safeguards to keep the worlds separate. But under some circumstances they become permeable, and things can pass through them. You, it seems, have a rare talent for passing between. Unfortunately, so does your twin.”
Loreley gulps. “She’s a murderer?”
“I don’t like to see her like that but she has few moral compunctions when she has a task at hand, for sure.”
“I… can’t we just have tea and hug it out?”
Glinda radiates compassion. “I’m afraid that’s probably not how this story works, sweetie.”
Meanwhile, on Earth…
Loreley’s knees are shaking, she is clinging to her backpack, trying to breathe silently.
The Raven, eyes still turned towards the ground, holds up a finger, indicating that she should wait.
“I’ll check the catacombs, but I can’t imagine how she could’ve gotten down there,” Doc says, twisting the head of one of the porcelain dolls and opening an elaborately crafted iron birdcage and shifting the angel on a trapeze inside of it. There is a deep rumbling under the floor.
He rolls up a threadbare prayer rug and lifts up a trap door set into the ancient oak flooring to reveal a rough-hewn stone staircase spiraling into the ground.
As Simon goes back up the iron staircase to get a bird’s eye view of the room, The Raven gestures at Loreley to follow hir, and s/he runs, eyes downcast, out through the closed and locked door. Holding her breath and without thinking, Loreley follows, feeling her body dissipate into a mist so fine that she’s able to pass through the spongy molecular structure of the door.
Suddenly she’s standing under the starlight in the middle of a city park.
The Raven looks at her, studies her.
“Did you remember the knife?” S/he asks.
Loreley looks blank.
The Raven projects an image of a primitive chipped obsidian knife and Loreley immediately remembers where she saw it in the shop.
She opens her bag. The Venetian bottle is glowing inside it, along with Claire’s gold pendant, and the Paleolithic blade.
Meanwhile, in Nirvana…
“Can you help me get back?” Loreley asks. Glinda looks a little sad. “Your double is too real right now. I can get you part of the way there. But it’s risky. While you’re between worlds, be careful not to open any doors.”
Glinda looks a little sad. “Your double is too real right now. I can get you part of the way there but it’s risky. While you’re between worlds be careful not to open any doors.”
“Ok, I promise. But how will I go in and out of rooms?”
“Loreley, it’s important.”
“Don’t open any doors! Got it!”
Glinda traces a rectangle in the air with her wand. Through it, Loreley can see the curio shop through a sparkling mist.
“Just call me if you need me and I’ll come,” Glinda says.
Loreley steps through the door and falls, unconscious, to the floor.
In the Curio shop…
From the top of the staircase, Simon notices a golden glow under the stairs.
He runs down the stairs. Loreley is asleep and fetal surrounded by an etheric aura.
Simon checks for Claire’s necklace. It’s missing. So is her backpack. He remembers the night he met her. It slowly dawns on him that something is different. Something about the energy around her. This is the “real” Loreley. The other one must be something else. But this one looks thin. Like she’s not entirely present in this dimension.
“Fuck.” Simon thinks.
Mumbling to himself, Simon unconsciously fumbles with the talisman in his pocket.