Anodyne stood perfectly still, his coat slowly shifting by the force of the wind. He was concentrated, focusing all his energy towards his hand, channeling it from his mind, through his heart, around the stomach, then back out to his hand where he grasped the air and a door handle appeared. With a sigh of relief, the tension from his body fell, and a shower of clicks cascaded down from his neck to his legs. Each vertebra sounded off as his body returned to its resting state.
“This time, you will not be able to turn me down.” He snarled as the door slowly opened.
Bracing his left hand against the frame, he pulled with all his might, but still, the door opened as if it were being blown by a calm wind. His muscles strained as the satiations could be seen as they crawled just under the surface of his skin. His teeth gritted against one another, straining to stay together; the sound of them crunched in Anodyne’s ears. He watched as the darkness on the other side of the door stuck to the door itself, refusing to allow any light through. Propping his left foot against the frame, he removed his left arm and reached for the darkness on the other side of the door. It recoiled for a moment, and the door lurched open slightly more, giving Anodyne a grin. Anodyne nearly completely gave up on holding the door as he lunged for the darkness, just to have it disappear.
“So this is where you live, Tolterach, it is.” He paused for a moment as he took in his surroundings. “Strange.” He continued with confusion.
Anodyne looked back through the door to the planet he had started on, then back to the new universe that he had entered. Behind him, he could hear the door slowly receding into nothingness, leaving him stranded in Tolterach’s universe until he finds the door again or until he finds another way out.
“I, I need help.” He muttered as he looked up.
Before him, behind him, and to either side was a seemingly endless plane of white sand that had a layer of water on top, creating a perfect mirror. When he looked down, he saw his own reflection looking back up at him, and when he looked up, he saw himself standing on what appeared to be a ceiling made the same as what Anodyne was standing on. When he raised his hand to meet his reflection, they collided, and the water around his fingertips rippled.
“A whole universe that is barely over two meters tall?” He said to himself as he slowly pulled his fingers from the cold water.
He walked forward cautiously; as each foot rose and fell, it created great ripples that disturbed the surface of the water; the small droplets from his shoes added to the chaos and displaced even more of the environment. Anodyne felt a chill come across his body, and he stopped moving, once again allowing the water to settle. Carefully he levitated above the water beneath his feet, crooking his neck a little to avoid the water lining the ceiling. As he waited for the water drops to fall from his feet, he looked around in all directions as a sense of impending doom came across him, a sense that faded once the water settled. He started to fly off at speed in search of Tolterach when the sense of dread came across himself again, but this time he panicked and started to fly faster, but the faster he flew, the greater the feeling became. In a near hysteria, he looked behind him to see the water being displaced by the air he was moving in his flight. But while looking behind, he did not realize that he had started to fly upwards, and soon he collided with the ceiling of the universe.
His head passed through the water and made contact with the soft white sand; at his speed, he pushed through only a few inches until he made contact with water again and rose into another cavity, barely taller than Anodyne, water on sand, for both the ground and the sky.
Anodyne came crashing down, smashing back through the layer, then several more. He grabbed for something to stabilize himself, but all he got was fistfuls of sand. Eventually, he slowed enough and collided with a sand bed that did not let him through, and he was left hyperventilating on his back in the cool pool of shallow water; staring up at his reflection, he watched as his labored breathing created ripples around him.
“Hey.” A small voice called out.
Looking up, he could see Tolterach standing at his head, looking down at him; she was standing on the water as if it were glass, the ripples from Anodyne’s breathing fading before they hit her feet. Floating upwards, he turned around and stood on the sand in front of her.
“Finally, there is no more hiding from me.” Anodyne said as he reached out with one hand to her.
But instead of fear, Anodyne found himself being embraced by Tolterach. She squeezed him warmly, then let go; flicking her finger, the water and sand that clung to Anodyne’s form fell to the ground.
“How have you been, Anodyne?”
Anodyne froze with his mouth ajar.
“What? I thought that, did you not run from me last time?”
“I mean, yeah, but only because I had to be somewhere, I did say goodbye, but you weren’t really listening.”
Anodyne laid one hand on her shoulder, and she looked up to him with a loving smile. Anodyne recoiled at the sight slightly but pressed on.
“Well, since we are clearly such good friends, are you able to tell me what you know about dimensions? I hear you are someone who excels in this topic.”
Tolterach placed one of her hands-on Anodyne’s and gestured around.
“Well, of course, my universe is one of the largest, despite the fact that it takes up only infinity by two and a half meters.”
Anodyne tugged his hand back from Tolterach’s and quickly eyed around himself, but when he turned back, she was gone. He spun on the spot, looking for her; above where she stood was the slightest sign of a ripple, so without thinking, he breached the top layer of water and sand over and over again, and the ripples above him began to become clearer.
“No more running, Tolterach; you will give me the information that I require.”
He reached up and soon found he had grasped Tolterach’s leg; dragging her down, she collided with the sand on his level, and he started to speak calmly.
“You can’t run from me, Tolterach, not even in here.”
Tolterach laughed as she climbed to her feet, flicking sand and water from herself.
“I was not running; I said that I had to go see someone; I was coming back.”
“You didn’t say anything; you just left.”
“No, you recoiled from my hand, and while you were not looking at me, I said I would be back. It is not my fault that you don’t listen to me.”
“I don’t remember hearing you speak… Never mind, who could you possibly be seeing? Your universe is devoid of life besides us and the shadow beast that guards your door.”
Tolterach scratched her head.
“There is so much life in my universe, but I started populating it from the center, so none out this far, and certainly no shadow beast. Also, what do you mean by my door?”
Anodyne’s eyes narrowed.
“In order to jump universes, you have to find doors, and once you know how to find someone’s door, you can go in and out as you please; there are some who have managed to bypass the door system and tear their way through universes by force, although that does come with its own problems. More interesting, though, is the door shadow; I will need to do some research.”
“Oh my gosh, that is so cool! The spooky door thing, not so much. You will have to teach me how to do the door thing someday. Well, since I am already heading to the center, you might as well follow me; then, you can see the life I have.”
“Only if you promise not to run off randomly.”
“Well, I will only promise if you actually promise to listen.” She laughed, squeezing his hand a little as she flew off.
Anodyne was led by Tolterach up through layers of sand and water. The breaching of layers became almost rhythmical as they flew in silence. Anodyne enjoying the small impacts as they put a calming pressure on him as he passed through. But it started to change; the collisions started to take longer to arrive, so Anodyne started to focus on himself. The ceilings were no longer slightly taller than him anymore. They seemed to stretch tens of meters high.
“What is happening?” Anodyne yelled.
“If you want to find the center of my universe, we are going to need to pick up speed. Think you can keep up?”
“Oh, child, this has been nothing but a stroll so far. Show me your best.”
Tolterach smiled down at Anodyne just briefly before turning forward and accelerating. Anodyne kept up the pace and started to fly even closer to her.
“Come on, you must think I am crippled. Show me some real speed.”
Tolterach scrunched up her nose in frustration and started to fly faster still, and suddenly the ceiling seemed to be hundreds of meters between breaches. Anodyne flew right behind Tolterach to tease her, provoking her to fly as fast as she could, to which Anodyne kept follow as he promised. After only a few minutes of flying at her maximum speed, she breached one final layer and stopped.
Anodyne looked around, stunned. The ceiling was now out of sight, and the plane beneath him was the same mirror. Except there were islands and animals running around, with an enormous tree sat growing in the center of the plane. The life seemingly growing from this one tree. The only light was a source of less white light, which complimented the fact that there were nearly no colors present. Everything was black and white like old films; each creation had small slivers of colors but remained almost entirely white or black like the environment that housed them.
Anodyne turned to Tolterach, who had run off and was talking to a tall, lanky individual that towered over her. The man gestured slowly with his hands as he spoke calmly and too quietly for Anodyne to hear; Tolterach was entranced by what he had to say, nodding in agreement. He looked over to Anodyne, and the placid look on his face soured, finally speaking loud enough for Anodyne to overhear just one phrase.
“What is he doing here?”
Tolterach smiled and waved over to Anodyne as he was scowling at the tall man, catching her eyeline. Anodyne gave a small smile in response right as she turned back to the man and started talking. Once again, in hushed tones.
Anodyne watched as the tall man corrected his posture and dusted off his clothes, speckles of white shone like stars under the white light of the universe they were in. He then gave a slight bow with a hand resting on his chest before he slowly started to walk towards the tree.
Tolterach ran back to Anodyne and grabbed his arm.
“You seem to be terrible at making friends.” She chuckled.
“He knows me?”
“Not personally; apparently, he has heard a few things about you, though. You didn’t tell me you were famous.” She jested as she jabbed his ribs with her elbow.
Anodyne scowled as he watched the tall man walk away at a casual stroll. Turning his head slightly, he caught the man’s eyes and felt the anger that resided behind them.
“Is he one of your creations?”
“Him? Of course not; he is an old god I met a long time ago. He is one of my pupils, just trying to learn the things that come to me easily and seem to elude others.”
“That is one thing you need to understand, no deity is made equal. We are all born from the actions of our past lives, but also our intentions and our mental fortitude. If you are given the wrong hand during your mortal years, it can mean a struggle when you become a deity.”
Tolterach murmured in agreement.
“I guess no one can be good at everything, right?”
“Do you know how long we live? There will be some out there that crack it, as long as they are motivated and do the things that are needed. Then there are those that live the perfect mortal lives and seem to be reborn as the perfect deities, but they are usually a little strange in the head, and don’t interact, just kinda do their own thing.”
“Not that this isn’t a riveting conversation, but I do believe that you came here to get specific information from me.”
Anodyne focused on Tolterach and shifted his head to the side as he gauged her intent.
“Are you actually going to tell me, or is this going to be some bullshit that doesn’t count as an answer?”
“I do believe it will be the latter, but it may be helpful someday.”
“Do I get a choice in the type of information I get?”
“You can have it like this or not at all.” She said with a big grin, interlocking her fingers and holding her arms down straight as she looked up at Anodyne.
“Fine, give me the information.”
Tolterach looked to either side of herself to make sure no one was listening before she beckoned in Anodyne with a finger. He obliged, lowering his head. He turned it so that Tolterach could whisper straight into his ear. She leaned in as close as she could, then whispered at a barely audible volume.
“I need you to do something first.”
Anodyne gritted his teeth together.
“I need something.” She replied, standing up and returning to a normal speaking volume. “I am new to all of this, but I am not stupid. Information is the best form of currency, and the second best are items I need. So, go get my thing, and I will make sure you know everything I know about dimensions.”
Anodyne stared unblinking, testing the wits of Tolterach, waiting for her to crack. But she stood firm with her arms closed. Reluctantly Anodyne scoffed and smiled.
“What am I fetching for you?”