“I don’t really like the sound of that. There is only one way. It sounds so final. You know?”
“That’s because it is. Tango this is incredibly serious. Everything you know hangs in the balance. I know you’re scared, but if you want to save her, as well as yourself. This must be done.”
I took a steadying breath. “Alright. What do I have to do.”
There was a long pause after that. He didn’t speak, he didn’t move, other than the stirring motion he was using on the giant wooden spoon in the pot. Green smoke started to billow out and somehow I knew, I was going to have to drink it…
“A potion? Really?”
“Really. It is quite a predicament you have yourself in. You are stuck between worlds right now. Not quite in, but not quite out. Which is why you are bound by the physics of this world, but not its inhabitants.”
“Like how I can touch objects, but not the princess.”
“So this…” I peered into the cauldron.
“It will bring you fully into this plane for a short amount of time.”
“So I can what? Fight that evil, big, scary dude.”
“Something like that.”
I stepped up to the bubbling pot and for a second time I looked down into it. It was even more green than before, and it somehow looked thicker. The thought of what might actually have been in there turned my stomach upside down.
“And you’re sure this is the ONLY way.”
“One and only.”
“Okay… for the princess.” I dipped the ladle deep into the swirling liquid and lifted out an entire spoonful. Bringing it to my lips, the green smoke invaded my nostrils with horribly awful stench. “Oh berry, that is disgusting.” I retched. Out of instinct I covered my mouth from what I was sure had to be toxic waste.
“Yeah it’s not meant to be sipped like nectar. You need to just take it down. One big gulp. For the princess. Remember?”
“Right.” I stared into the spoon, and then did as instructed. I took it all down in one large, painfully disgusting chug. At first I didn’t feel much different, but then it felt it. Heat, radiating from the front of my body, but it wasn’t mine, it was the cauldron. I could feel it! Suddenly the heat filled my entire body, and I tried to step away. That did nothing, everything was on fire now, my fingers, my toes and all the places in between. The potion hit my stomach like a stone and I doubled over, almost smacking my head on the pot.
“Whoa there son. Careful now.”
“Is this supposed to be happening.” I wheezed.
“Yes. It’s almost over.”
“Oh good.” Just as the heat subsided, everything went black.
Another sharp pain even fiercer than before, brought me back to consciousness. I thought for sure I was going to hit the ground, but the second round of excruciating abdominal stabs had revived me. To my horror, I had latched onto the side of the searing hot cast iron. I pulled away with a yelp.
“Hang on there! Or well not there literally.”
“I thought you said this was almost over!” I whimpered, tears beginning to cloud my vision.
“Well I could have said, just a few more rounds and then you are all done. Would have been better?”
“I’m not sure.” A painful cough escaped my throat.
Again the pain subsided. Only long enough for me to take in one deep breath before it all started again. I was barely hanging on, it took everything I had to keep myself from actually crying. And that was not easy when half my attention was averted, to keep myself from crumpling into a pile on the floor. Finally it stopped. The tremors coursing through my body slowly ebbed and I was able to fully get to my feet. I was awake but everything seemed hazy. It could have been the smoke, but more than likely it was the fact I had squeezed my eyes so tightly shut, that it was going to take a while for the blood to recirculate.
“You made it.”
After he was sure the potion had run it’s course, the man, who I still had not learned his name, went to a small shelf lined with tiny vials. Carefully he picked up the one on the far left and took it to cauldron. The color was slowly fading from the putrid ooze, but he assured me that it was just the right potency for bottling.
“She won’t need nearly as much.” He replied, answering my question before I asked it.
I assumed it had something to do with the fact she was from here, but he never did specify. He merely held out his hand to reveal a minature glowing green vile pinched between two fingers. “Hold out both your hands. This glass is very fragile. You will need to take extra care.”
“It’s so small. What if I lose it.”
“I’m sure you won’t. It is small for a reason.”
“You will know when the time comes.”
“Hey I don’t have all the answers. Just most of them.”
I thought it would be a fight. An epic battle of brains vs. brawn. I was not expecting to be welcomed inside, an arrogant smirk perched across his face. I lifted my hands to my face, preparing to go to fisticuffs with a man three times my size. He just laughed at my ridiculous display and clapped a hand hard down on my shoulder.
“You want to see the princess that badly. You can see her. Here I will take you.”
I dropped my arms, but I kept my wariness. What was he up to…
We walked through the dimmly lit hallways, till we stopped at a large iron door. He opened it and offered me to go inside first. Still watching his every move, I carefully let myself through the oversized archway. The room had even worse lighting than the previous ones. My eyes hadn’t even fully adjusted when I saw her. She was folded up on the floor, her dress splayed all around.
“Princess!” I ran to the bars and dropped to my knees. “Can you hear me!”
“Say your goodbyes my strange little friend, she won’t make it much longer.”