My feet stopped at the edge of the rickety old bridge as if obedient to some secret intuition I wasn’t aware of. A feeling of overwhelming dread took hold of my core as I placed the first foot on the creaking wood. Looking down at it, there was nothing ominous or strange to see, but I wasn’t so concerned with visible things as I was with things that aren’t. The water sped by on its way somewhere other than under my feet, reflecting iridescent glimmers of the sunshine through the treetops.
When my second foot found the weathered wood, the seal tightened around my ring finger until it felt like being lassoed by a thread – pinpointed pressure. It was startling, but I found myself less afraid the tighter it got. Rami wouldn’t be trying to hold me if there were some danger for me. I knew that by now because of the nature of the seal. It would pulse out almost in anger if something threatened me. But this wasn’t that at all. Rami was trying to keep me from moving forward, and he was using fear to do it.
I dared hope that the thread would break somehow, like if I had the courage to take a few more steps across the bridge, somehow I’d end up back home. I almost ran as that thought latched onto me. Ignoring the seal, I set my jaw and stuck it high in the air. I pushed forward, one foot after the other.
The problem was that I was walking in reverse. I looked at my feet in alarm, wondering how it was that I could moonwalk now. I had never been able to do that, but I did know a guy in seventh grade who did it to get back to his seat every time he finished handing in a test.
To my amazement, I slid backwards. I straightened quickly, shaking my hands off to the sides as nerves took over.
“How is this possible?” I asked out loud.
I wasn’t talking to anyone, so I didn’t expect an answer.
“It’s a blood barrier,” came the voice.
I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound. It was male and familiar, but familiar in a weird way, like an actor from a favorite TV show. My head whipped right and left, but there was no one anywhere. The trees played with shadows as leaves tried to control the sun, letting in light here and there and changing position every change of the wind. My eyes were wild and wandering, darting from tree branch to river, bush to shadow. I couldn’t tell where the voice had come from.
A full minute passed.
I was agitated and fidgety, but the worst part was that I couldn’t move or I would slide even further backwards and away from a very intriguing bridge. My gaze dropped from the thickness of the forest. I knew whoever was out there wasn’t dangerous and they didn’t have to show themselves. If they did, they would have already. Just when I was about to resign myself to an awkward backwards stroll to the castle, I heard the voice again.