Mist rises, swallowing the road, the cottages on either side of it. The gate ahead disappears.
Christopher turns back to look for Peter, but he, too, has disappeared.
He swallows, keeps walking. The stone beneath his feet turns into gravel. A glance down reveals tiny blades of grass and flowers poking through the pebbles. They start to wither, becoming dust. The crunch of the pebbles beneath his boots softens.
He looks down again to see white sand upon the ground.
The mist darkens to a opaque gray. A lantern sways in the distance, blue and green light swirling around each other, captured in the glass.
Christopher follows the light to the hooded figure carrying it. One wrinkled, weary hand emerges from a billowing sleeve, holding onto it for dear life.
The wind gust past Christopher, blowing back the hood to reveal Map’s tired face, her shadowed eyes.
Tiny invisible hands tear at Map’s robes, at Christopher’s hair.
Map: Pay them no mind. It will only make them stronger.
Her warning makes it impossible not to Christopher. The wind wails, moans, and complains. Christopher hears Jupitre’s lamenting in its cry.
My lost light, the power which once crackled in my hand. Why did you abandon me?
Map stops in the tracks, tension vibrating in her bent shoulders.
Map: Why? Did you ever ask what it was like to be squeezed? To be swallowed whole? You only notice the pain when you’re the one feeling it!
Christopher: I thought that would only make him stronger?
Map: If he was stronger, maybe he’d shut up.
Christopher: Are you sure he’s talking to you?
Map: (turning to give him a speculative look) Do you think he’s talking to you?
Christopher: I don’t know.
Map: It doesn’t matter. He blames us both.
The light caught in her lantern, a pulsing blue and green energy beat against the glass walls.
Please, Map. Let us out.
The trap doesn’t instruct. It only confines.
Christopher recognizes the two voices, the pulses of energy. He flinches.
Christopher: They’re your children. Why are you doing this? Why not let them out?
Map: They’ve been bad. (She tapped against the glass.) They did things they weren’t supposed to do. They lost themselves because of it.
Christopher: Didn’t we do the same when we opened a Door?
Map: (frowning) You let them go.
Christopher: They were taken from me.
Map: To protect them. I have to protect them and you. I have to take you all somewhere safe.
Christopher: (looking around in the darkness, wind ripping at his clothes) Is there any such place?
Map: (heaving a sigh) No. No matter how hard we try to find, someone always finds us.
Christopher: Instead of hiding, why not help them…us…prepare for being found?
Map: We’ll never be prepared.
Christopher: It’s worth trying. Better than just wandering and hiding.
Map regards him for a long moment. She sets the lantern down upon the sand and opens it.
The light come flying out in streaks of color over the sand. They leave a trail of grass and flower in their wake.
The sky lightens as the mist clears, revealing grass peeking out of the sand, even beneath his feet.
Christopher: Why are the plants no longer turning to dust beneath my feet?
Map: I don’t know. Why did I release the lights? They’ll only spend their energy and fade faster.
Christopher: Only you can answer that. Maybe you didn’t want to make them cry.
Map laughs, some of the sadness lifting from her brow. She and Christopher watch a tree shoot out from the ground, branches spreading out.
Map: What will the price be for all this? Will it be worth it?
Christopher: It’s what they wish to do with their energy.
Map smiles, showing a hit of the sphinx she sometimes becomes in these strange places beyond the Door.
Map: Good answer.