The streetlamps illuminated the black empty sea of asphalt. A quiet calm laced the row of sleepy houses. Alex reveled in the tranquility. So much noise constantly filling his head, any semblance of stillness wrapped around his mind like a child's favorite blanket.
In the center of the glass, a small sphere of light caught his attention. At first, he thought it was in the yard. Leaning forward and squinting, he realized it was a reflection coming from directly behind him.
Jumping up, he spun around. Growing in diameter, it was beginning to spin.
"Hey, whatcha doin?" Margaret said groggily.
"Stop. Babe, slowly move to your left and come over here by me."
"Why? What's going on?"
Margaret gingerly slid to the left as Alex instructed, and then quickly scurried by his side. "What do you see?"
"It's the vortex opening, the gateway to that girl, Ophelia.”
"Alex, please be careful. Remember what your Gram said. Don't get too close," Margaret pleaded.
"She's there, it looks like a bedroom."
"What's she doing?"
"Sitting on the bed, she's covering her ears."
The wind whipped around the vortex howling like a wolf speaking to the full moon.
"I don't hear anything?" Margaret turned to Alex.
"It's like a high-pitched howl. It's deafening. Wait. It's quieting down. She sees me."
"What's she doing now?"
"She's coming closer."
Alex leaned closer to the anomaly.
"Alex, back up." Margaret tugged at his t-shirt.
"Babe. I gotta do this. Please. Let go of my shirt."
Margaret reluctantly let the fabric fall from her fingertips.
Alex inched closer.
"You are Alex McKenna, right?" Ophelia asked.
The anxious teen widened her eyes in anticipation.
"Yes. I've seen Haven. Who is she?"
"She is my sister."
"I think she's in trouble," said Alex.
Ophelia floated off the bed and stood directly in front of the entrance to the living.
"I've been searching for her for years. She was taken by a man, a Soul Gatherer. I think she is counting on you to help."
"I think she is, too."
"Can you?" Ophelia's eyes widened.
"I can try. Where are you? Is it The Academy of Souls?"
Ophelia’s chin dropped.
"Yes. You know about my school?"
"What is it?'
"The gateway. It's closing!" Ophelia shouted.
Alex heard the desperation in her voice as he helplessly watched the circle shrink. The wind cried out once again, as it violently thrashed around the outer edges of the bridge between the dimensions.
"I have to go." Alex tasted Margaret's lips. "I'll be back soon."
"What the hell? No. Alex. You can't," Margaret shrieked.
"I love you," his voice trailed.
Alex stepped into the center of the storm. The vision of Ophelia rippled, traveling to the rim of the circle, and splashing into the void. "This shield is my power to protect against evil, this shield keeps out harm. No dark entities shall pass through this shield. As I will it, so shall it be."
Sawing to fill his lungs with air, he pushed forward and landed on the floor of the dorm room. Gazing up, Ophelia stood in front of him, her mouth wide open.
"Ugh. My head hurts. Where are we?" a voice echoed.
Alex winced. His heart punching the walls of his chest. Whipping his head around in a frenzy, Margaret was lying on the floor beside him.
"No, no, no, no. What the fuck, il mio amore." Alex scrambled to her side.
Ophelia moved closer. With her pointer finger, she quickly poked his shoulder and retracted.
Alex didn't respond. His focus was Margaret.
"How could you do this? Why did you do this?" his voice strained.
"I couldn't let you go without me."
Alex kissed away the saltiness from her cheeks. With the back of his sleeve, he gently patted dry her eyes.
"Alex?" Ophelia murmured.
The couple turned to the bewildered Ophelia Wetherton.
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