Authors: April Marcom
Tags: #coming of age, #family, #danger, #sacrifice, #alien, #extraterrestrial, #love at first sight, #soulmates, #pianist, #new adult romance
At the bottom, the trees died out, so I stood
there searching for Enock in the little meadow between hill and
It scared me to death when a big black fox
ran out from behind the nearest tree and bit into my dress, tugging
it forward. I screamed and fell back, scaring the fox enough that
he scampered away. Hands shaking, I yanked my necklace off and held
my pepper spray out. But the fox had disappeared.
As I stood up, something far bigger emerged
and began to move in front of me. An enormous elk with this year’s
pointed antlers just growing in came to stand maybe three feet
away. His head towered above mine and he watched me with shining
charcoal-black eyes. This great beast scared me far more than the
fox had, since he could easily trample me to death if he wanted
But he turned away from me and then stared
back. The fox came out of the trees again and went to sit beside
him, watching me with his own pair of shining black eyes. It was as
if they were waiting for me. So I took a nervous step closer, and
then the elk began to trot toward the meadow, with the fox right
beside him. I followed them into open land, closer to the forest on
the other side.
I could hardly believe I was getting to
explore with an elk and a fox, both of which looked back from time
to time to make sure I was still following. It was spine-tinglingly
mysterious, not knowing where these two were leading me and hoping
it had something to do with Enock. Keeping one hand over the pepper
spray, just in case, I slipped the necklace back on and tried to
enjoy the mystery.
As we neared the edge of the endless forest,
the trees began to sway and bend as another archway formed for us
to walk under. Each branch and leaf seemed to hum with life as we
passed them. It was almost like they were breathing—in and out, in
and out—and then the grass began picking itself back up each time
it was trodden on. The deeper we went, the more magical it
It began to occur to me that I might get lost
if I went too far. The arch was still closing behind us, and I
didn’t know if it went both ways. So I stopped and turned around,
taking two steps before I felt the fox brush against my legs.
I looked down and found him staring up at me.
Somehow, I knew he wanted me to keep following.
“I need to go back,” I said, stepping over
him. But the branches that had just opened for me closed themselves
tightly against each other, making it impossible to get
“Where are you taking me?” I asked, turning
back to the elk that stood waiting. Of course, he only turned his
head back to the way we were going and resumed walking.
I wondered if I tried going around and then
back whether the whole forest would shut me in until I went the way
it wanted me to.
When the elk looked back and realized I still
wasn’t following, he let out an angry grunting sound.
We walked for another fifteen minutes, the
trees around me still pulsing with mystifying energy, and then I
saw something blue and black up ahead. The trees had bent back
around it so that sunlight was pouring over whatever it was and
onto the ground surrounding it. I got just close enough to
recognize an inhuman-looking Halvandor kneeling on the ground,
wearing only the cloth I’d first seen them in. His head was tucked
against his chest and he had one hand on the ground. The strange
force I felt in the trees was pouring from him into the earth and
then to everything else.
But since I couldn’t tell who it was, I was
terrified. I still didn’t know anything about them or their nature.
So I began walking backward, hoping he wouldn’t see me. But the elk
noticed and raised his head to let out a high-pitched cry.
The Halvandor looked up, and my terror melted
away when I recognized Enock. After feeling so horrible, I was
relieved to find him exactly as he was the first time we’d met. It
brought tears to my eyes, in spite of how scary this form of him
I’d felt so alone in a new country, in a
place where everything and everyone was so different from what I
was used to. And it seemed as if Enock, the entire reason I was
there, didn’t even care. But here he was, with the creatures who
had led me to him sitting obediently at his side. And his amber
eyes began to glow like two precious stones reflecting beams of
sunlight, as the glistening scales spread over his skin and he
He stood up and rushed forward, reaching out
to hold and kiss me. The fiery tingling filled my mouth and throat
and began to flow downward throughout my body. It felt amazing, and
suddenly every single thing I’d gone through or would go through
was worth it, because there was simply nothing in this world that
could compare to the way he made me feel. “Oh, Sarafina,” Enock
said, lifting his head, “I’m so glad that you came.”
I had to lick my lips and give them a second
to work, because they felt delightfully swollen. “Why didn’t you
say anything last night or this morning?”
“Because it would have been dangerous for
you. Halvandors are not supposed to care for a human this way, so
I’m not certain what would happen if it was discovered.” He took a
deep breath and rested a hand on my cheek. “When I first saw you, I
meant to erase your memory of having seen me, sort of like what
Kristoffer attempted last night—but I saw inside of you. I only saw
a little, but it was enough that I had to see more. And I fell in
love. I have not stopped thinking of you for even a moment since
“I haven’t been able to stop thinking of you,
I had so many questions, but suddenly I
really needed to take off my coat because I was swelteringly hot. I
forced myself to pull away from Enock’s embrace and began
“Allow me,” he said, taking my hands between
his fingers and thumb to place them at my sides. I stared into his
eyes, as he stared back into mine and unfastened the bronze buttons
before he slid his hands from my shoulders down over my arms,
taking my coat off with them. “I will not be able to care for you
as well as I would like, since this must be kept secret, but I will
do everything I can whenever it is possible.”
He walked over to the tree at his right and
placed a hand on the trunk, the skin of his arm turning blue, and
dark spots painting themselves over it. The end of the arch that
was still behind me closed and the trees surrounding us groaned as
they shifted back into place. One long leafy branch that had been
hanging a few feet above our heads reached down until Enock could
hang my coat on it. With his hand still on the tree, he looked down
and the fallen leaves all over the ground became blue as they rose
and twirled around us, like snowflakes kept afloat by the wind. The
tiny blue flowers on the ground lit up and began vibrating a soft
melody—sort of a ghostly, romantic humming that gave me goose
“I know you don’t care much for dancing,”
Enock said, returning to me, “but will you dance with me as humans
He smiled and came to take my hand, moving
back and forth gently with the floating leaves. As we swayed, I
felt the awkwardness of being with a man I hardly knew, the
infatuation of just beginning to fall for someone completely, and
the security of knowing he would care for and defend me with his
life. It was kind of overwhelming to experience all of this at
once, and it brought my many questions back to mind. “Can I ask you
“Whatever your heart desires.”
“There was a crash right before I saw you.
Where did you come here from?”
“Another world, one that is many galaxies
away. A branch of a very well-off family will sometimes make a home
for themselves on an inhabitable planet such as this one. Some of
my ancestors did so right here centuries ago. Paul is their most
direct descendant and has inherited everything. I came with some of
my family to visit your world and learn more about it.”
“So you’re leaving after you’re through
visiting?” I asked sadly.
Enock pulled me closer and paused to say,
It actually felt like someone had just lifted
a hundred pounds from my shoulders at that one word.
A purplish leaf stroked my elbow for a moment
when it was caught by the force carrying it around and around. “How
do you control the trees and these leaves like that?” I asked.
“The people of my world are able to control
any living thing we touch, except for each other.”
“Why don’t I leave a footprint in the
“All the surrounding Halvandor land is
designed to hide any trace of those who live here. It helps to keep
“Can you control humans—like Henrik?” And all
the other men with blank expressions on their faces I’d seen that
“Yes, that is how I got you here. I heard
Demora desired a pianist, and I told him to suggest you to
But Henrik and the others were like robots,
no emotion or sense of self whatsoever. It seemed cruel to take
away their ability to think or act for themselves.
That could’ve been me,
the reality of it hitting me hard. “What exactly was Kristoffer
trying to do to me last night?” I asked gravely.
Enock returned the seriousness in his voice.
“He would have modified your memory, as is done to any human who
will ever leave these grounds. It is the only way to protect our
secret from the world.”
I stopped to stare at him. “You mean he would
have erased everything about me—who I am—just so they could have a
“I would never let that happen.”
“But it already has happened to Henrik and
that man sitting next to me at breakfast. Doesn’t that bother
“I don’t agree with it, no, but it is only
done to servants who occasionally travel into town. And the man
sitting beside you this morning was brought here because Demora
decided we needed a teacher for the Halvandor children. So she had
Henrik search for someone who would not miss nor be missed by the
outside world. He found a man with no family who had attempted
suicide and been left all alone with a great deal of brain damage
and no desire to live. Arrangements were made and he was brought
here where the damage was repaired, and he is able to live without
emotional or physical pain of any kind. Whether it bothers me or
not, there’s nothing I can do about it, except to protect you from
it. And Kristoffer would not have erased who you are. He would have
only put it into your mind that anything you saw or heard here was
perfectly normal, and that you would have no recollection of this
place if you ever left it…” He held our hands up again. “Will you
continue dancing with me now?”
“Yes,” I smiled, content in knowing that at
least he had nothing to do with it. Obviously, it still didn’t seem
right that they’d forced it on any of the people born there, but
the teacher thing seemed merciful, saving that poor man from years
or decades of loneliness and pain.
There was another question I knew I needed to
ask, the hardest and most important one. Had he actually killed
that woman the day we met? But the morning was so peaceful and
perfect, I decided to put it off and ask another burning question,
even if it was a hard one, too.
“That day when you took my hand…I couldn’t
remember or feel anything except for my own attraction to you. Can
you do that again?”
Enock smiled and stood still. “You felt what
I was feeling, then, which means—I’ve experienced every part of
your life. Would you like to see me the way I have seen you, to
know the things of my life and my world as I know yours?”
“Yes,” I said curiously, thinking that this
might answer all my questions.
Enock leaned over to put an arm behind my
knees and pick me up before he sat down in the grass, cradling me.
“You became immobile when I did this before, and I don’t want you
With me reclining back against one of his
arms, he held up his other hand. So I lifted my hand and laid it
flat against his. Instantly, I felt like I was shooting through the
sky and then falling, but only for a second.
And then I was standing on flat ground made
up of old cracked rocks with tufts of knee-high blades of dark
green and blue grass, all tangled in their little clumps. Big
dome-shaped houses made up of flat onyx stones were all over the
place, the entire area surrounded with jagged eight foot tall
blades that had been twisted and shaped into a fence that protected
the little city.
Beside each house was a shining dark gray
spaceship-looking thing. The front came to a blunt point. The top
was made only of glass and inside were three rows of sleek black
seats—a row of three, then four, then four more.
Strings of yellow pear-shaped lights hung on
gold glowing threads from house to house. And the sky was always
the perfect color of crimson.
Inside their homes, I saw the incredible
gadgets that took care of every need they could ever have, and the
strange guns that hung on every wall, loaded with an endless supply
of lethal energy that was ready to fire at any given moment.
The entire thing seemed to be fast-forwarding
around me, as people zipped about on two or four legs, speaking in
those hissy whispering voices. I began to feel like I could’ve
understood them if it wasn’t all happening so quickly. I saw their
amazing abilities—controlling living things and shape-shifting to
match any form, with the exception being each other on both
accounts, matchless speed and strength, incredible hearing, healing
injuries, and being able to see each other’s memories.
I saw Enock’s immediate family—everyone in
the Halvandor city was kin to him in some way—which consisted of
his parents, two brothers, and a sister. He and Kristoffer were the
only ones who were left, though. His other brother, a year younger
than Enock, had rejected their clan and left it behind years ago,
even though every Halvandor had the spotted print tattooed onto
their arms when they were young, making this a very dangerous thing
to do. His little sister had snuck out of the shining steel walls
with their hunters once and lost her way in the woods, never to be
heard from again. His parents, both pure Halvandors, had broken the
city’s rules and left it to search for her alone, and were also
never heard from again. Their dismembered bodies were eventually
recovered by a group of their hunters, though.