I have to say that this experience I am going to relate is truly bizarre and strange and if anybody doesn't believe it then I can certainly understand why. I have trouble now even being able to comprehend it and it really did happen to me. Regardless of whether anybody decides I'm insane or not after this, I have to write it down anyway.
By way of introduction I should explain a little about myself. I am a young woman in her thirties. I am neither ugly nor extremely attractive but then I have always believed that one or the other comes from inside anyway. I am practical and down to earth but I also enjoy the occasional daydream, although I have always placed little faith in the realm of imagination and fantasy. My childhood was normal in this day and age where dysfunctional homes are the norm. My marriage was about the same, where we struggled to work together and then realised that this wasn't happening and went our separate ways. So as can be seen I am just an ordinary, everyday person that was trying to make ends meet and support two young children at the same time. I never considered that there was real magic. That belonged to fairy tales and loonies. The fact that life had more than the average, run of the mill things to offer was also something that I left to the romantics. However, on one specific day my opinion changed forever on this particular point of view.
When you have two kids it is a prerogative that you keep a certain amount of routine happening. I've never been very good at this and even at the best of times I find myself just letting things happen, as they will. On this particular day I was doing my best to meet the requirements that I set myself. To make sure that I picked the kids up at the regular time and that I got them home for their bath and dinner. I was feeling especially stressed, due to a run in with my ex-husband, and needed to take some time out before I faced the children and carried on the regular routine that we normally had. On the way to picking them up from their respective places I decided to stop and have a peaceful moment at a lake that was close to our home. It was always soothing to go and listen to the peace and serenity and enjoy the wildlife of the area. Often I would sit and soak this up, absorbing what I needed from the natural environment.
This day, I sat at the edge of the water watching the ducks go about their everyday existence, and thought about the direction my life was going. Things weren't going too great financially and this, added to the concern of bringing up two small children on my own. This was enough to cause me stress to last several life times - or so I thought at the time. I noticed as I sat and pondered that there was a shadow in the water. Without thinking I stood up to get a closer look and saw that it was a rock just below the surface. I wouldn't have taken too much notice except that it had a strange look to it. It was almost as though it were a carved shape. I decided that it wasn't very deep where it sat in the lake and took off my shoes so I could go in to investigate. I waded out through the water, with the mud on the bottom squelching between my toes, and it only came to thigh deep when I reached the stone that I had seen.
It is very hard to describe what happened next. It feels peculiar even putting it into words. I could see the rock beneath the surface of the water. I'm not sure if it was the magnification of the water but it seemed bigger now that I was standing near it. Its shape resembled that of a rough carving of a female form. There were no details but the outline definitely had the shape of a woman. I reached down below the surface of the water to touch it. As my hand made contact with it, I felt something resembling a bolt of electricity passing up from it and through my frame. I could feel every hair of my body stand on end and I stood rooted to the spot unable to take my hand from the stone.
What happened next is hard to describe. It felt like my body became drawn into the stone and after a moment of disorientation and the panic of claustrophobia flung out again on the other side. When I became aware of my surroundings again it was with a great shock. I no longer stood in the same lake that I had before. I was still in water but it was the ocean that I was in now. I stood, with waves washing passed me, up to my waist in salt foamed water and the sound of the surf was all that I could focus on for a while. Dazed and not a little confused I made my way towards the sand and gravel that made up the small beach. I didn't recognise where I was and the place seemed totally deserted.
Flopping down onto the sand I felt shipwrecked. I felt lost and bewildered at being in a strange place. Exhaustion pulled at my body and added to my emotional instability. I was doing my best to decide what was happening to me. Had I finally lost the plot and gone mad? What sort of delusion was I suffering from? The rough feel of the sand and stones beneath my cheek and the stiffness of salt encrusted clothes as they dried made it hard for me to give credence to the insanity idea. This did little to allay my fear. I lay unmoving for a long time, battling with my anxiety and sense of displacement, before curiosity got the better of me. I sat up, squared my shoulders and rose unsteadily to my feet. I decided that I would follow the coastline and see where it went. Maybe there was some form of civilisation around the headland. After trudging through the sand for hours, following the sea as it met the land, I decided that if this was an island it was a truly large one. If anyone lived here then so far I had seen no evidence of it.
I was beginning to get very thirsty when I came across a river that ran out into a bay. It was still salty water but I thought that if I followed it inland then surely I would come across some fresh water eventually. The sun was starting to get low in the sky and I decided I should find somewhere to spend the night. Shelter would be appropriate while I remained stuck in this strange place. I followed the course of the river for what seemed like forever. My thirst was gradually becoming worse when I came across a stream. Following it to its source I found this water fed by a spring. Having satisfied my thirst I sat considering what I was to do now. A group of stones stood in a clearing next to the spring and for want of anything better to do I went over to investigate. There were about half a dozen stones standing in a rough circle around a much larger stone that stood in the centre. I stepped inside the circle and made my way to the central boulder.
The area in amongst the stones shifted and tilted and I was thrown to the ground with a force that knocked the wind out of me. Having suffered the indignities of the past few hours I was starting to get annoyed rather than afraid and I looked up to glare at whatever I could find to direct my ire at. What I saw threw my angry resolve to the wind. I was lying on a rough dirt floor in a dingy little hut that an open window or two and a good clean would be an improvement. A fire burned in an open grate at one end. A scrawny figure with wild unkempt hair and only a piece of cloth wrapped around its lower half squatted beside it feeding wood onto the flames. The form's back was to me and it was hard to gather much of an impression in the dim light. The smoke from the fire was beginning to make my eyes water and it stung the back of my throat. Without wanting to I found myself being forced to sneeze and then cough as a result of the stifling atmosphere.
The silhouette beside the fire turned without surprise in my direction and I was able to see a little better what it was that I shared the space in the hut with. I had thought I was beyond the surprise factor but once again I faced something hither to unknown to me. What I saw in no way resembled any human I had ever come across before. Still squatting on his haunches, this being reminded me strongly of the stories of elves I had read as a child. He had elongated and skinny limbs and his face was slender and bony, long uptilted eyes taking up half it. Pointed ears poked up through a bird's nest of hair that sprang out in all directions on his head. Altogether he made quite a comical sight emphasised by the serious expression on his face that was directly at odds with his appearance.
He regarded me steadily for a moment. "I see you've finally made it here Georgette."
This simple statement threw me into confusion with the implied idea that I was supposed to be here and the fact that he knew my name. I sat up and stared at this scrawny little elf and then hurriedly shut my mouth when I realised I had let it drop open in my amazement. It was only after a couple of attempts that I was finally able to say anything in return and when I was able to speak it all came out in a flood of questions.
"How did you know my name? Why am I here and where is here? Why is this happening? Is this all in my head?" I stopped more from running out of breath than questions.
"The reason I know your name is because it is my job to know your name. Here is here. It has no exact place because it is outside of places and time. It is a static point that exists between worlds. In a way I guess it is in your head although I am very real. As to why all this is happening, surely you are aware of that. You've gone on a journey to find yourself." He stopped for a moment as he scrutinised the look on my face. "Ah. I see you didn't realise that. Some people don't I suppose. It always surprises me when I meet one of you that aren't aware of what they are searching for. Well now you know. Should make it a bit easier for you."
The whole time he spoke I sat in stupefied astonishment. Here was this elf that squatted in front of me like an underfed child. He was talking to me about things that were almost out of the said child's imagination, discussing them as though they were real and everyday occurrences. With my mind running on with these thoughts it was a second or two before the last of what he said registered with my overwhelmed brain.
"What should be easier? What do you mean that I'm looking for myself? I'm right here." Even as I spoke I had a sneaking suspicion that I knew what he was talking about. I hadn't been sitting staring out over the lake wondering what was wrong with me and where I was headed, for no reason. This thought brought back the first part of this strange experience and I decided to see what the place that I had first come to was all about. "How come I had to go to that deserted coastline to get here?"
At this point the first sign of anything except perfect seriousness showed itself on his face. A grin slowly spread across the imp's features and a mischievous glint appeared in his slanted eyes. "That was just to let you know that this wasn't necessarily a dream. I thought that perhaps a detour and a bit of time would convince you that you're not just hallucinating. Think it might have worked too, Hmm?"
I gave him what I hoped was my most disgusted look and then brought the conversation back to what concerned me. "Well now that I'm here what am I supposed to do now? I can hardly search for anything while I'm stuck in the nowhere between worlds. How will I know when I find myself? Am I looking for somebody that is like a mirror image of me? Or what is it I'm supposed to look like? Oh, and as long as I'm going to be taking advice from you I don't suppose I could find out what your name is? Like to know who I'm getting bossed around by." I felt that some more answers to questions might help to elucidate things a little more for me, if that was at all possible under the circumstances.
The face in front of me grew serious again and he levelled his gaze as he looked straight into my eyes. The colour of them was like silver orbs that held red highlights from the reflection of the firelight. It was like drowning in moonbeams and I felt suddenly a little afraid. Goose-bumps stood up on my arms and a shiver worked its way up my spine. After a time he relinquished his stare.
"You don't know who I am? I think if you give it some thought you will know. It's in here." He put his long bony finger to my forehead and it was like ice and fire at the same time. The feeling spread through my skull and seemed to reach right into my brain. Just when I thought I wouldn't be able to stand it another moment it dispersed and clarity burst through like the sun coming out after a storm.
I recognised him now. The present guise he wore, was just that. It was a camouflage that fitted him into this setting. I realised that I had seen him in many disguises and that he had always appeared at turning points in my life. He was an ephemeral thought that I had encountered time and again and never been aware of. It was he who led me down many paths but it had always been in my dreams before. I realised that I had not seen him in a long time and I marvelled that he now stood before me and that he seemed so solid and real.
"Why haven't I seen you for so long?" I felt sad as I asked this, realising that I had missed him. Sometimes he had been serious and at others he had been light-hearted or even mischievous and naughty like the glimpse I had caught earlier. Now he was solemn as he looked into my eyes.
"You couldn't see me. I was always there but you didn't want to see me." He seemed pained as he said this but the impression was fleeting.
He reached up suddenly into the air and pulled something from out of nowhere into his hand. It was a silver chain that glinted in the firelight, its links fitted together by skilful twists that made it seem alive. He stretched up and then drew it over my head and settled it around my neck. For a moment it burned into my skin and then I could feel nothing. There was no weight and I reached up to see if it was still there. My fingertips touched its beauty gaining reassurance from its presence.
He stepped back and explained, "This is a gift that I give to you that will protect you as you cross over into worlds. It has always been yours but the time of giving had to be right. It is time for you to go now. You will see me again but it will be in your dreams that we will meet."
Again the ground shifted under my feet and the sense of displacement I felt was almost familiar. Once the world had stopped moving, I looked around with interest. I found myself sitting at the edge of a fountain in a city square. It was a centrepiece to a courtyard surrounded by tall office buildings and people were hurrying to and fro, all in a rush, intent on what they were doing. Few looked in my direction and those that did gave me a curious but distracted look and then continued on with whatever business that compelled them. The first thing to strike an impression was the amount of noise. It was a continual thing that never ceased. I had no idea where I was and assumed that being in a different world it was hardly going to matter. I looked around to get my bearings I then decided to get up and just wander the streets for a while. With any luck some idea may come to me as I had a look around. I reached up to see if my chain was still in place and then headed off in a direction that seemed to have less of a crowd along the sidewalk.
I soon became quite engrossed in my surroundings, always finding new and interesting things to see and think about. I walked for most of the morning, which was a little strange as the last place I had left had not been long from nightfall. I began to feel a few hunger pangs as lunchtime drew closer. I wondered how I was going to get something to eat when I remembered the money I had shoved in my pocket before setting out from home. I hoped that the same currency from home applied in whatever world I was in. I found a cafe with a likely menu and sat at an outside table to wait for what I had ordered.
While I sat and waited I thought over everything that had happened. So I was supposed to find myself. It was a daunting task in a city of this size. I still wasn't even sure exactly what or who was supposed to be myself. Maybe it was just a figure of speech. The meal came and as I enjoyed the fresh garden salad I had ordered, I continued to ponder my situation. I had become so engrossed with this process that it was a while before I realised that someone stood near me and had spoken. Giving myself a mental shake, I turned my attention to the person that stood across the table from me.
They spoke again. "Excuse me, do you have the time?"
It was only as I was answering, shaking my head because I never wear a watch, that I looked at the face of the young woman in front of me. Whatever it was that I was going to say disappeared into thin air. This was like looking at an old photograph of myself. The hair was a different colour and the clothing was not something I would have worn but the height, the colour of the skin, the shape of the mouth, even the line of her jaw were the same. It was like looking into a mirror that reflected back without the wrinkles and the other effects that time and experience put there. The girl returned my stare with one of her own.
"Do I know you?" She looked puzzled.
I answered and the words seemed to come from a long distance. "Not yet. Sit down. Can I get you a coffee or something?"
I felt bemused. I hadn't needed to search at all. This young woman had found me. I hoped that she would accept my offer. I wanted to get to know her. I had forgotten what I had been like when I was this young. The girl sat down and nodded yes to the coffee. After the waitress had taken our order she looked across at me again still with the puzzled look she had had earlier.
"Are you sure we haven't met before? You look so familiar."
She didn't see the resemblance between us. Maybe it was because I was nearly twice her age. I shook my head both to answer her question and to clear it. I wondered what I should do now that I had found myself again or as close as I was going to get anyway. I could hardly take this young woman home with me. She obviously had a life here. I decided to ask questions and get to know a little about her.
She seemed to quite enjoy talking about her life. I discovered that her name was Amber and that she had just finished school and was thinking of a career in the arts. She talked about the part-time job she held and how she was saving hard to be able to attend university the following year. I sat back and listened and relived all the old memories of my own dreams that I'd had all those years ago. There was a vivacity and vitality that lit up her features as she talked, transforming them into a loveliness that had nothing to do with physical appearance. Eventually she sat back and stopped talking, content to just look around and observe our surroundings. I let her be and just watched her quite overcome with emotions that I hadn't felt for a long time. I felt a yearning to accomplish the goals that I left behind as a young woman. I had blithely forsaken them for things that at the time I had thought of as more important.
After a couple of minutes she looked back at me and said quite out of blue and with no context to our previous topic of conversation. "I want to show you something. Are you busy? I'd like to take you somewhere that is special to me. If you'd like to come that is."
"I'd love to come with you." I felt relief at the prospect of a postponed parting. I got up, payed the bill and then walked down the street beside her. I followed her lead as we crossed over streets and through arcades wondering the whole time of our destination. I liked surprises and wondered if she sensed that because she volunteered no information but chatted about this and that, usually something or someone we saw as we threaded our way through the crowds. The amount of people we passed started to thin out and we walked along almost solely suburban streets now. Large trees grew along beside the path that we followed and the afternoon sun was pleasant through their shade. At the end of the street we turned into a park. There were kids' play things in a large sandpit at one end and a path that went down in amongst some trees to what looked like a creek that ran along the other end. It was like an oasis in the middle of this big city. Even the sound of the traffic became muted here.
Amber led the way down the track and I followed along behind. She still had not offered any clue as to what she wished to show me and I was getting more curious by the minute. As the stream came into view, Amber stopped and pointed across to the other side where the bank was made up by a collection of rocks. Standing in amongst them, taller than the others, was a stone shaped like a human figure. It was a blurred outline but gave a definite impression of a person poised amongst the rocks on the other side of the water. We crossed the stream with the aid of stepping-stones and then she took my hand and led me up to the tall rock. There was a distinctive suggestion of a woman's shape and memory stirred in me as I recalled the rock I had glimpsed below the surface of the lake where this had all started.
Taking our joined hands, Amber reached out and touched the figure. Time stopped as I became drawn into the stone. It was dark and warm, and this time I didn't feel alone as I passed through it and out to the other side. When I opened my eyes again I was standing in the lake with my hand still on the rock where I had begun my journey. The day was just as I had left it. Taking my hand from the rock I looked out across the lake and took in the familiar sights, glad to be back home.
To this day I would have put it all down to fantasy and imagination except that I still wear the silver chain that my elf gave me. I see him often in my dreams and even though I usually forget to thank him, I think he knows. I feel happier now and have even found some of the dreams that I had when I was Amber's age. I think of her often and wonder how her life is progressing. Sometimes I think I see her in my dreams too. Maybe one day I will get to see her again.