The whispering voices in the space between worlds were incessant. She did not remember them being quite so loud or so persistent on her first trip through this space. Being with Yuri provided a distraction that much was almost essential for surviving in this space. With no external distraction, she needed to find a way to keep moving forward with a voice as loud and deep within her mind that it might very well be her own, telling her with an unrelenting persistence that she should turn back.
It almost got her a few times. Her steps started to falter and she only just caught herself before she changed direction. To block out the words she started to hum. The humming turned out to not be loud enough to work effectively so she switched to singing.
More than half of her singing was humming and most of the rest sounded wrong as she stumbled over words and lost track of the melody. None of that mattered, she realized with a short laugh. No one could hear her make a fool of herself in this place. That knowledge set her free and soon the songs she sang to herself became things of her own creation.
The voice inside her mind persisted, but she was able to suppress the urge to obey as long as she kept singing. She put one foot in front of the other because it was the opposite of what the voice wanted her to do. She had no idea where she was headed, but she had to believe she would know it when she saw it. Until then she just needed to keep her doubts at bay.
Her voice held up against the constant singing for much longer than she expected. Of course, she was not sure exactly how long she had been singing. She was only fairly certain that she was still moving forward and sometimes she doubted even that. When she managed to block out the voice in her head a bit too well, her confidence faltered and she wondered if she somehow managed to turn around and was now heading in the wrong direction. She suppressed the urge to stop singing and listen to the voice. She knew the only way she would get out of here was by trusting herself.
If she kept moving she knew she would get out of this space between worlds eventually.
When she left her world it had been cold and nearly wintertime. She knew months had passed while she was away, but reentering this world to the bright, warm sunshine of late spring caught her off guard. She blinked as her eyes adjusted to the intense sunlight. It was possible to see in the place between worlds, but there was nothing remotely like sunlight there.
Fortunately, she was already dressed for the warm weather. There would not be much of an adjustment in terms of temperature, but other differences might throw her for a loop. Soon enough she realized what her first obstacle would be. She needed to adjust her expectations of where she would appear.
Since she left from an alleyway in town, she always envisioned she would return in an alleyway too. She thought she was being reasonable by not expecting it to be the exact same alley. She certainly did not expect to reenter this world in a field.
She looked around, hoping to spot something that would help her get her bearings. There were no landmarks visible in any direction. Instead of letting herself feel frustrated, she decided to be grateful she had not shown up in a cornfield she was not sure she would be able to see much of anything if the cornstalks were tall enough. She could see a road from her vantage point in the field and without anything else around to help her get her bearings, she decided the road was her best bet.
She did her best to carefully step between the plants on her way to the road. She was afraid if she stepped on any of the plants she would be immediately confronted with an irate farmer. Anything to avoid that sort of confrontation was worthwhile in her mind.
Getting to the road did little to improve her sense of direction. This could be any one of hundreds of country roads winding its way between fields. Her stomach did somersaults as it occurred to her that she might be quite far away from home. There was no real difference in the look of farmland in different parts of her home state or several surrounding states.
If she had her cell phone everything would be a lot easier, but she was not even sure when she had lost it. It was either somewhere in her hometown or abandoned somewhere in the desert outside of Detreya.
As she trudged through the muddy field, doing her best not to step on any plants, she went over the problems she currently faced, hoping to find some sort of solution before she reached the road. First of all, she was in the middle of the countryside which was at best a bit further from home than she expected. On top of that, she had no phone. A phone would have allowed her to call someone to pick her up and even tell her where in the world she was.
She realized she was only making herself more miserable thinking about things she did not have. Focusing on something positive or at least something she could control would at least give her some hope. She desperately needed a bit of hope now.
After everything she had put herself through the last few days, being in this quiet piece of countryside was a bit of a relief. As long as she could keep her own thoughts from running away she thought this could be a refreshing change of pace. It might even make it easier for her to adjust to being home since she did not have to take in everything at once.
She knew she needed this sort of positive thinking because there was no telling how long she would have to wait to actually make it home. Stacking up on the positivity now would keep her from falling into despair later.
On the road her suspicions were confirmed. It was just like any other country road in the middle of nowhere. From here could not even guess which direction she should start walking if she wanted to reach civilization. She looked back and forth before picking a direction using the only logic she had at her disposal: it was the way that would keep the sun out of her eyes.
It might not be the best way to make such an important decision, but at this point, the logic of it did not matter all that much. She just needed to get the ball rolling and so something. Once she was started and no longer freezing up as each opportunity presented itself, she could start to make some more logical decisions. For now, it was enough to just be moving forward.
With no buildings or trees nearby the road was in direct, unrelenting sunlight and normally that would have bothered her at this time of year. Fortunately, her time in Detreya had helped her adapt to warmer temperatures and sunshine without having to spend an entire summer adjusting. She already had what passed for a tan for her so she had a bit more time before she had to worry about getting sunburned today.
She was more concerned with how much daylight she might have left. She was terrible at guessing the time from the position of the sun, but she was fairly confident that it was already well past noon. The last thing she wanted to do was be stuck walking on a country road after dark. Hopefully, she would find her way to a house or a town before it came to that.
The shoulder of the road did not offer much room for a person to walk. The fields were up on banks between two and three feet higher than the road gently winding between them. Fortunately, almost no cars appeared to use this particular road at this time of day.
When the first car passed by, she heard it coming from quite far away and moved as close to the bank as she could without climbing back up to the field. The car passed without even slowing down. Willow could not say that she was surprised by it, but she could not help being disappointed.
She could not begin to guess how long it would be before she saw another car and being this far out in the country, she had to assume that her best chance for assistance would probably come from someone driving by. She was not normally comfortable with the idea of interacting with strangers that pulled over to talk to her but she was more than a little desperate at this point. Conveniently, she was also feeling a bit more confident than usual as well. Returning to a familiar place after a long absence made her feel competent for no real reason.
Almost as soon as the sound of the car’s engine faded from her hearing, she heard the sound of another approach. She kept her place over as far to the side as she could, but made a conscious effort to be as visible as possible without actively flagging down the car. She might be hoping for a bit of help, but she was not exactly desperate enough just yet to wave down a stranger.
What she did not expect to see in the least was the same car coming back around. She had hoped for help, but as soon as she saw the car slow to a stop, her heart started racing. She knew she needed help, but the thought of putting herself wholly in the care of some random stranger made her queasy.
The car scarcely came to a stop before the door was flung open. Willow’s first thought was that her eyes must be playing tricks on her. She blinked a few times to see if the apparition would disappear. When the vision did not disappear she could not stop a smile from spreading across her face.
“Willow, is that really you?”
Willow did not know if she was incredibly lucky or if some unknown power in the universe decided to look after her just this once, but she now knew that everything was going to be okay. Somehow the first person she met upon returning home was her aunt Aspen.