What Lies Beyond: Chapter 47

It was warm, the air was clean and full of fresh scents, and there was a gentle breeze blowing. At first it was so relaxing that she didn't even want to open her eyes, but the peace was soon disrupted by an energetic voice.
“This is it! We're here, we're here, I can't believe it!”
The sight before her eyes was breathtaking, a sea of bright colours surrounded her in all directions. Apart from the thin dirt path she was standing on, everywhere the light touched was bursting with plants of all different sizes and colours. Some of them were as tall as she was, and seemed almost to be leaping out towards her. Lapse was there too, her long black hair flopping about wildly as she vibrated with excitement.
“Where are we?” Sister asked, marvelling at the wonder of it all.
“This is the place I always wanted to go-” She started to say, before stopping abruptly: “Oh no, where is he?!”
Sister wheeled around. Sure enough, it was just the two of them standing there, with no one else in sight.
“No, no, it can't be! Don't tell me he didn't make it! I've waited so long for this!”
“Calm down”, she tried to reassure her. “I made it, I'm sure he's here somewhere. We just have to find him.”
“Pack!” she called out, loudly. “Pack, where are you?!”
“Hey!”, Sister said, cutting her off. “You can't do that, what if a stranger hears you?”
Lapse frowned. “But this place is huge, we might not find him in time.”
“Then we'll have to split up to look for him.”
“Okay...” she sounded uneasy with that suggestion.
Sister gave her a hug. “It'll be all right. We'll all be able to look around this place together before long.”
“Be careful,” she said, still not convinced. “This place really is very big, if you don't watch which way you're going you could get lost.”
“I will be”, she replied, and they set off along the path in different directions. Sister's confidence faltered a little and she looked back, wondering if it might have been better to go together after all, but Lapse was already out of sight. She took a deep breath and pressed onwards, trying to remember each place as she passed it in case she needed to come back this way.

Lapse's heart was a twisted mess of conflicting emotions. She wanted to take in the sights and scents and enjoy herself, but now being here by herself she felt far more lonely than she ever had back when she was on her own. She was excited at the thought of finding Pack and sharing this place with him, but she also felt kind of anxious and uneasy. She sighed. “My life has become complicated, hasn't it?”
Walking along the dusty trail was really the first chance she'd had to stop and think for quite a while now. The last few nights had been a whirlwind of pain, fear, love, and euphoria, and through it all she had just kept pressing on, never stopping to let it all sink in. Only now when she had a moment's peace did the full realization of how much her life had changed start to come over her. The first pangs of self-doubt began to claw at her insides as she wondered if she was really ready for all of this. Could she make him happy? Would they get sick of each other after a while? “I can't think like this”, she said, pushing those thoughts away. “I just have to keep going, just like I always do”. She stopped to smell a giant yellow lily that came all the way up to her face, and it made her feel a little better as she pressed onward.

Elsewhere, Sister wasn't having much luck on her search. The path had split a few times now, and each time she had tried to remember which way she had come from, but it was tough. She tried to pick out some particular sight she had seen each time, but the entire area was so vibrant and beautiful that everywhere she looked something caught her eye, and it quickly became difficult to remember them all. She came up alongside a white building on the right, with plants growing all the way up the walls. There were little plants hanging outside the windows and she could even see some more inside. “I wonder if he could be in here?”, she thought to herself, and she kept walking until she came to the door. She tried the knob, and it slid open, but as she poked her head in there, it suddenly became dark and very cold. She quickly pulled her neck back out and slammed the door, her heart racing. “I think I'll keep looking out here”, she said, taking a deep breath and walking quickly away from that building.

She eventually came across a part where the path widened into a square. In the middle was a structure made of stone, with water shooting out the top of it and landing in a pool below. She couldn't believe how high the water went into the air, it had to be at least 3 or 4 times her height, and sometimes she could even see some sparkling colours in the air after the water passed by. For a moment she just stood there, transfixed, but she reminded herself that she was looking for Pack and couldn't just stand around. It did seem like it would be nice if they weren't in a hurry, though, there were even some benches around where you could just sit with someone you liked and enjoy the sights. She wondered if Corsair would like it. “He'd probably want to keep exploring”, she smiled. “When presented with something new he could never sit around.” She turned to leave, but then she noticed that there was someone else in the square, sitting on one of the benches. It wasn't Pack or Lapse, but it was the first person she'd seen so far. She thought for a moment about asking if they had seen Pack, but then she remembered all the trouble that had caused when they were trying to find Steven. “Perhaps a more subtle approach...”
“It's so quiet today”, she said casually, walking up to the woman who was sitting there, “I wonder where everyone is?”
She didn't say anything, she just pointed to the pathway behind her. Sister looked down the path, it seemed much like all of the others, except it was flanked mostly by tall leafy bushes instead of the colourful plants from before. She didn't have anything else to go on, so she decided to head that way.

Elsewhere, Lapse had yet to come across anyone, either. Although she was pretty sure she had been here once before, she really couldn't remember much of it, and she was starting to worry that it might be so big that she would never find either of them again. As she walked along she started to hear the faint sound of voices, and then she saw a display of flowers that she was pretty sure she remembered from last time. Anxiously, she hurried along and finally started running down the path as the voices became louder and louder. There were lots of people gathered ahead, and maybe Pack was there as well.

Her face lit up as she reached the clearing. Dozens of people were seated on rows of benches among the grass, all facing a large stage where a small party of well-dressed individuals were gathered. The men were dressed all in black and white, and the women wore long white dresses with tall white shoes. The entire area was lavishly decorated, with roses and lilies of all different colours adorning every isle, and the centerpiece of it all was and a giant white rosebush wound all the way up the arch at the top of the stage, practically bursting out the top with at least a hundred blossoms.
“I have to find Pack”, she thought, happily, “he needs to see this.”. Everyone was still milling around, so she quickly scanned the crowd to see if he was here. Her heart sank a little as she failed to find him among the benches. “Maybe he's not here after all.”
“Please be seated”, someone called from the stage, startling her. Obediently, she sat down at a nearby bench, still searching around for him.
“We are gathered here today to witness the union of these two fine people”, spoke the same loud, clear voice, but Lapse wasn't really paying much attention to him. “I will now read the vows”, he continued.
“He's not here”, she sighed.
“I take thee to be my lawfully-wedded wife...”
Her heart stopped. She hadn't recognized him at first, but the voice was unmistakable. “It can't be”, she squeaked, in a voice scarcely above a whisper.
“...to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
“This must be some mistake” she thought, bewildered. “He mustn't know where he is.”
“And I take thee to be my lawfully-wedded husband...”
Suddenly she felt very sick. Tears streamed down her face as she recognized the soft, kind voice that she had thought was her best friend.
“Why?” She thought, heartbroken, as she listened to the rest of the vow. Had they become close while she was away? Or did Pack want someone more stable than her? More normal? She tried to stifle her sobbing, but no one was paying any attention to her anyway. She was just an outsider, destined to watch others' happiness from afar.
“If anyone knows any reason why these two should not be wed, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace”, said the man on the stage.
She knew she had to say something, but when she opened her mouth, no sound came out. She was too choked up with fear and self-doubt. All she could do was sit and watch as her dream shattered into a million pieces.


“Lapse!” Pack exclaimed as he finally caught sight of her. “There you are, I've been looking everywhere for you!”
She didn't reply. She didn't even look up at him.
“Come on, let's hurry, we've should go find Sister”. Her lip trembled. “Hey, are you okay?” he asked, softly.
“How could you?” She squeaked, barely audible.
“What?” He asked, not sure he'd heard her. “Lapse, what's wrong?”
He put his hand on her shoulder, but she moved away. She looked up at him, and he could see that her eyes were full of tears. “Do you know where this is?” she asked, in a terrible, pained voice that cut into his heart, “Do you know what this meant to me?”
“Lapse, please!” he pleaded, frantically. “I know things haven't gone well so far, but we'll find Sister and then-”
“I trusted you”, she said, sadly, stepping back from him. “I shared everything with you, even the things that hurt and frightened me. I gave you everything I had to give, knowing that it couldn't be taken back. I thought it mattered to you, but it could never be enough.”
“Lapse, what are you saying? I love you!”
But she was already walking away.
“Lapse, please! Don't go! I can't lose you again!”
Despite his protests, she didn't turn around, and in another moment, she was gone from sight, and from his world.
“What did I do?” he asked, falling to his knees with his face in his hands. “Lapse...”


“Maybe I shouldn't have come this way”, Sister lamented as she stared at the path ahead, which had split again with no sign of anyone on either path. Her feet were starting to hurt from walking so much, too. She decided to take just a tiny break, and sat down on the ground at the side of the path. “It's like this place goes on forever.” She leaned back to stretch her legs and almost fell back onto the ground.
The sun was starting to go down in the sky.
“Oh no”, she thought, frantically, “it's been too long. I've gone too far away. Lapse probably found him by now, and I bet they can't find me. What do I do?”
She quickly got up and looked around herself. There were high, leafy plants on both sides, which prevented her from seeing what lay beyond them. “This is a bad place to be”, she thought, “I'm completely hidden here. We could be right beside each other and not know it.”
Her heart was racing, but she tried to calm down and come up with a plan. Suddenly, it came to her. The water spout! It was out in the open, easy to spot, and four paths joined each other there, if they were looking it would be a good place to find each other. Ignoring her tired feet, she started running back the way she had came.
The tall plants whizzed by her on either side as she sprinted back towards the giant water spout, and towards her friends. She ran so fast that she reached the end of the path long before she expected to
But the water spout wasn't there. The square wasn't there. Her friends weren't there. All there was were some tall trees and a path that split off in two directions.
And the sun, setting in the sky.

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