Updated: Mar 15, 2022
The portal opened.
I was in utter shock that it actually worked. I was going home. Though I’d never been there, Ryndpha—said like rind pa—, I could feel the magical summons pull me towards the bright rainbow-esque light like a pop can to an industrial magnet. I had willed the door to the hidden world to open to me, to obey my bidding. But now it was I who had no choice but to harken. Just feet from the once-barren and lonely tree lay the gray-blue body of Lake Lanier that shimmered with the multi-colored reflection of the portal and me, legs dangling, ten feet in midair. I must’ve looked insignificant and frail to the ethereal beings of the firmament above the above. Scared and pitiful, no doubt. But I also knew that I had never looked so beautiful. So me. So...fae.
I turned away shyly to my right in the opposite direction from my reflection where another shining thing very much out of place glittered. My birth token hung on the branch nearest the ground. It had been a feat to reach it with me being my standard clutzy self and it being—well, a tree. Don’t judge me. Not all fae navigate well around all elements of nature. Or, at least that’s what I’d been told. Read mostly. Well, still told if you count the gypsy I’d met at a harvest carnival I snuck into when I was ten. Okay. So, maybe that person wasn’t a gypsy. Who knows? What I’m trying to say is some mystical looking person in a wench-looking getup with silky shawls, head wrap, long curly hair, and hoop earrings as large as the many bangles on both her wrists told me that not all fae are graceful or fair in Awbete. That’s what she called this world. Awe-beet. As a ten-year-old, needless to say that I was awestruck. Get it? Okay, fine. Even to me that sounded like the lamest joke ever. I’ll stop now. Maybe.
But back to what’s happening in the present. The birth token had begun to vibrate and morph. It is like looking at liquid mercury having the time of its life. The silvery substance works its way in lines and then pushes outward forming something resembling my old gypsy’s crystal ball. The moonlight-like orb pulsates rhythmically from its solid pewter chain and I can feel the portal’s power feeding it and consequently supporting me. I am still up in the air and instinct tells me that I will remain this way for the duration of whatever is going on.
It hits me as I slyly glance back to my left again. The sun, past dusk’s apex, turned the watery mirror of this hidden foreshore from blue-grey to dark stone washed denim. It’s a dismal sheet of darkest blue with patches of white where the modest waves break distantly and clap back against the gravelly beach. There are no sunset colors here. Locals at the Last Village Tavern (a play on the ghost lore of underwater towns now covered by Lake Sidney Lanier) told me that in this part of the lake there was an ever-present gloom. And true that. Many people had died there, pre-Army Corps of the late 1940s and every year since completion of the dam. Atlanta local news consistently reported warnings and cautions during peak season. I’m sure the networks had saved many. But they didn’t save all. Nor would they ever. Many an Atlantan will praise the benefits of the beloved reservoir. But just as many are loathe to participate in that lake’s life. Edward Geter, the owner of the Last Village Tavern made sure to intimate to me that, “This lake is cursed!” They were right to feel this way, but for the wrong reasons. No evil ghouls or phantoms of long ago haunted the forest or patrolled the lake’s shores. The grave yards of the towns were re-located before the completion of the dam. So, no. No hauntings here.
This was ancient land that even predated the indigenous peoples. What humanity felt here, in this sacred space was space itself. It bended and twisted in on itself in ways that humanity could never comprehend. Time configured itself in loops and spools around the space, shunning linear understanding. It felt unnatural in a mundane world. It was, in effect, other-worldly. But what humanity would never recognize was the reason behind the tingling of their sixth sense: it was a trial. And the trial took the form of an encompassing, dense mist.
The mist minded to ascertain and then exploit the fears of mortals. What humanity often fears is what possibly lurks in the dark they encounter, whether it’s actually present or not. Make no mistake, heaven and hell are real. Angels and demons are real. Spirits of light and maleficence are real. Yet, the authentic experience of the supernatural is far less common than Hollywood would have the masses to believe. It takes a human with the ability of a seventh sense to even have an experience where there is more than just “a bad feeling”. Sense eight through ten would land you bona fide experiences of the supernatural. The rare human might go off the charts at their max of eleven. Those were called fae-friends. They were the humans that possessed “the gifts”—basically, the ability to live alongside higher beings in God’s hierarchy, which often vibrated highest in His cosmic choir.
So, this trial was one of if one belonged, or in the case of a human if one was deemed worthy by being blessed with the gifts. The mist was designed as both a safeguard and deterrent, a rewarder and punisher. A win of worth would earn the seeker clear vision and peace in safety. No fear of possibilities crouching in evil darkness. Those born with the right or the grace would see what was really there—the fae or rarer, fae-friend.
The spectral images of Halloween fantasies flickered weakly here and there around me like a set of tea light candles on a windy day. They were cheap, cheesy illusions that 1970’s Hollywood would’ve been proud to claim. No advanced CGI here. The closer I got to Yrwehehi—pronounced like your way he—the portal housed in the sacred tree, the more crude and feeble the flicks had appeared. But I still found myself unnerved. Hollywood had gotten to me after years of watching creature-features and the mist sensed that. It wasn’t really quite sure what to do with me.
We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Kortney's story. Visit our website today and pre-order Terminus 2: Black Fantastic Tales from the ATL today. Release date: June 19, 2022