Tam stood in the midst of a storm that was trying to tearing her in half but, though the gales blew and rain wracked down with endless force, she was in no danger. She knew where firm footing lay, and where the only place she wanted to be was.
“I think that’s the last of them,” Sarah said as she closed the thousand eyes of the seeking spell she’d cast. “Greenglim is now empty of all living creatures larger than bacteria.”
“Not bad,” Cynthia said looking up from the datalog she’d been recording the new arrivals on. “We made it with three days to spare.”
“We’ll have to let Greenglim’s world spirits know they can proceed with the cleansing sooner than expected,” Tam said, stepping through the portal she’d been holding open between Greenglim and one of the Earth’s ever green mystical realms.
“They’re going to be at it for a thousand years though aren’t they?” Cynthia asked. “Is a few days going to matter much?” She was partially covered in mud, with smoke streaks across her face and a hairstyle that could easily be mistaken for an overly large bird’s nest.
Tam felt her heart flutter across a beat, and suppressed a goofy smile at just how wonderful it still felt getting to spend their time together. An answering smile that wrinkled the corners of Cynthia’s eyes spoke volumes about how much trust it had taken to go through with a plan that had seen everyone on Earth spend at least a moment as nothing more than ash drifting in the breeze.
The only thing more beautiful than that sort of trust was the lingering knowledge that their faith in each other had been rewarded. Neither had left the other, they’d both made it back, each calling to the other even after their bodies had burned away.
Tam couldn’t say that they’d been the first two to wish each other back into the world. There were plenty of people around the world who either understand how to channel the divine power the High One had bathed the Earth in, or who simply loved someone else so stronlgy that their hearts demanded a miracle and in the presence of all that divine power had been able to make it happen.
With hundreds of billions of souls throughout all the Earthly realms, there were an uncountable number who’d chosen to retain their hold on the world and had called out to the others who’d been lost. From one voice to another, the call had risen. Earth and the realms of its imagination, be they dark or light, kind or cruel, solid or ephemeral, all of them had chosen to defy the fate the High One intended for them and to forge a new future.
It was an event unparalleled since the first burst of light created a realm of space and time for the Earth to occupy, and some small part of it still lived on inside everyone who had been part of it. In being recreated, each person had glimpsed the primal majesty which underlay all of creation. There were as many ways of processing that knowledge as there were people and the days they lived, but in so many cases it inspired hope and sparked a new kindness that Tam could believe she and her fellow Earthlings had become something more than they’d been before.
It hadn’t started with a kiss, and it wouldn’t end with one – because the whole point was that the Earth wasn’t going to end – but returning to find herself one of the first humans to draw breath again, and having that breath stolen away by Cynthia’s kiss had been a kind of magic that Tam knew no spell she ever cast would ever come close to equaling.
Repeating would have been nice of course, but, as usual, the moment they’d parted to drink in the sight of each other, duty had called and the billions of souls from distant and amazing worlds had needed tending to.
“I can handle the Greenglim folks,” Sarah said. “Both the World Spirits and our new friends here, if you two would like a little time off?”
“That would be wonderful!” Tam said. “But…”
Because there is always a “but”.
“But we’re already booked up for the rest of the day,” Cynthia said.
“Yeah, I told you teaching would be a tough gig,” Jim said, tossing each of them a set of keys.
Sara blinked as Tam jingled the key ring appreciatively.
“Do teachers normally drive DeLoreans or do you have some time traveling to do?” she asked.
“No time traveling with these,” Jim said, “But they do have an Oscillation Overthruster in them.”
“A what?” Sarah asked.
“Really? You get the Back to the Future reference but not Buckaroo Banzai?” Jim asked.
“Buck-a-who?” Sarah asked, looking to Tam and Cynthia for a clue.
“Next time you’re up for an old sci-fi film that’s over the top and really fun, let me know, cause you’ve got a great one to look forward to” Jim said. “The important reference point here though is that where back to the Future involved time travel and we do not want to uncork that genie from its bottle since it could, you know, destroy all of time and space, Buckaroo Banzai instead involved crossing over to parallel dimensions. Or as we call them, Earth’s different mystical realms, since ‘dimensions’ and the physics of the material world don’t really work like Hollywood needs them to.”
“And this is relevant to that pair of DeLoreans how?” Sarah asked, looking intrigued to hear the answer.
“Short form? Have a ton of free and self-renewing energy in the world solves a whole lot of problems, including offering technological solutions to things you could only do with magic before,” Jim said. “Things like traveling directly from one realm to another.”
“Wait, so you can drive back to the material world with these?” Sarah asked.
“You can drive anywhere with these,” Jim said, looking justifiably proud of himself before amending his statement. “Well, almost anywhere. And there are some places you can go that you probably shouldn’t. I tried to seal the interiors as well as I could but there’s still limits to the sort of environments they can withstand.
“So don’t drive them into one of the lava realms?” Tam said.
“Yeah, that would probably be a bad idea,” Jim said. “In fact anywhere without normal air? Probably not a great place to visit. The cars can survive brief exposure to almost anything but better to get back on solid ground and breathable air as soon as you can.”
“Two questions,” Sarah said. “Why do they need world walking cars and how do I get one?”
“It’s our teaching gigs,” Cynthia said.
“We have a lot of new people here, and they need help fitting in or helping us find a place where they can,” Tam said.
“But you can world walk on your own,” Sarah said. “I mean you just held a portal open that was large enough to pass a moon through.”
“Portals can cause problems,” Jim said. “According to James, there always a chance of unseen things passing through any portal that’s opened. Doesn’t even need to be malicious things to cause trouble either. Open a portal between Beijing and New York City and each side gets the others germs, which can be less than fun.”
“Also, these are meant to be for people who don’t have the magic casting skills we’ve developed,” Tam said. “It’s not enough that everyone came together to save the world, we either have to work on staying connected or we’re going to drift back into the kind of isolation that could have destroyed us.”
“Tam makes a good test pilot for one of the prototypes since if it breaks down, she’ll be able to get home without a problem,” Cynthia said.
“That makes sense, but what about you?” Sarah asked.
“She’s an even better test pilot since she doesn’t have any experience with spell casting, so her driving one proves out that the design isn’t drawing on the driver’s subconscious magical knowledge.”
“But what if she gets stuck somewhere?” Sarah asked.
“That’s not a problem,” Cynthia said.
“I can hear her no matter where she is, if she calls my name,” Tam said.
“Even across the realms?” Sarah asked,
“Across the everything,” Tam said.
“How?” Sarah asked.
“I called out to her when we were nothing more than burning embers,” Cynthia said.
“And when we came back, we came back together,” Tam said. “Any other separation is pretty trivial by comparison.”
“In answer to your other question,” Jim said. “Your keys are waiting back on my workbench. I have to fix one of the injectors in your Dimensional Manifold and you’ll be ready to roll.”
“I don’t have to start teaching to get one though do I?” Sarah asked.
“You’re working with the Border Patrol aren’t you?” Tam asked.
“Yeah, the new one,” Sarah said. “With all the new people from foreign worlds we’ve got wandering about, it’s pretty easy for some of them to wander off the proviable edge of the world and wind up in realms they never intended to travel to. If they like it there that’s great! But not everyone is a fan of falling into burning hellscapes, as it turns out. Those of us who are familiar with the different realms are volunteering our time to rescue all the lost and missing people we can find. And to help the people who do want to try crossing into a new realm. So I guess I kind of am in teaching job too?”
“That’s related to what I’m going to be doing,” Cynthia said. “Earth’s atmosphere is great for us now, but some of the people from other world’s have different respiratory or other environmental needs. A whole bunch of people from my Fire Company are volunteering to teach folks how to work in environments that are dangerous to them.”
“I wonder if we’re going to be able to do enough?” Sarah asked. “There’s so many people just on Earth alone now, and we’re making contact with new worlds every day!”
“That’s part of what I’m tackling,” Tam said. “We’re a popular spot for other worlds to connect with now so we’re seeing a lot of immigrants, but at the same time we’re seeing a lot of people who lived their whole lives with no idea that there were other worlds out there suddenly feeling the itch to go out and explore the cosmos. Whether they’re immigrating or emigrating, there are always things people need to know about their destination and often the best sources for one group come from the other, so making those connections between people and having them document the information they’re trading so that everyone has access to it is going to go a long way towards realizing a piece of Charlene’s ultimate vision.”
“I thought this was Charlene’s vision?” Sarah said. “I mean, she knew the kind of calamity we were facing, wasn’t just having us here afterwards the goal she was shooting for?”
“I think that was only part of the goal,” Tam said. “Survival is the most basic of needs. Creatures will do almost anything to survive. Charlene wanted us to be more than that though. I think she felt that all us, human, spirit, everything that can be called an “Earthling” were ready to grow up I guess.”
“Sort of like when you first leave home as a kid and find there’s a great big world out there and you’ve got a place in it?”
“Yeah,” Tam said. “Except I think it’s more than just discovering a broad context to our lives. I think part of what she was hoping we would do is create the connections that can make not only our world but all the worlds around us better places to live. Tyrants breed division and conflict between the divided groups because in closing ourselves off from each other we become smaller and easier for them to control. Charlene wanted us to go beyond that. She didn’t ask us to fight tyrants, she just asked that we take in those who were oppressed, and in doing that show them, and show ourselves, that we’re so much more than we ever imagined we could be.”