Alina's Crossing: Guardians of Terrin

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ALINA’s CROSSING

The Guardians of Terrin

Taylor Shane

 

Acknowledgments

 

For my son, Isaac. May you
fulfill all your dreams and pursue the excellence I know you are destined for. You
can do it.

For Jon, my one true love.
Thank you for seeing me through this and standing by my side.

For my mom, thank you.

 
 

 “No one saves us but
ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

-Sayings of Buddha, Gautama
Buddha

 

 

 

CHAPTER
1

ALINA

It was
the same dream again
.

I was running.

I was small and frightened,
tears streaming down my cheeks as I hold my grandmother's hand. We were running
fast and running for our lives. We’re scared, and I don’t know why.
 

The fact that my grandmother
was scared made it worse for me.

 “Hurry Alina!” urged my
grandmother, squeezing my hand for reassurance. She forced a weak smile on to
her face. Even as young as I was, I wasn’t fooled.

Something wasn’t right.

We were running through the
dark, twisting labyrinths of corridors, a terrible mix of mildew and rotting
wood assaults my senses, making me feel dizzy and lightheaded.

My grandmother stops suddenly.
We rushed into a room. Upon entering, I notice there is a man who appeared to
be anticipating our arrival. He was a very tall man wearing a long black robe.
His eyes were soft and kind. I’d never met him before and I wasn't frightened
of him.

I sensed that he could be
trusted.

He looked out the door and down
either side of the corridor before he locked the door behind us with a huge
wooden bar. My eyes started to wander, scanning the room. It has a dirt floor
and crude walls made of rough stone. There is a long wooden table in the center
of the room with a hoard of objects littering its top. A cold fireplace was the
only recognizable feature.

I heard my grandmother gasp and
she collapsed into the strange man. He says something to her in a hushed
manner. He held her as she cried, comforting her.

He looks my way, a thin, small
smile on his face offered as an apology to me. I still didn’t understand what
was going on and they didn’t speak to me. Apparently, whatever was going on was
for grown-ups only.

I see the man flick his wrists
out of the corner of my eye. Suddenly, the stale and stagnant room filled with
a gush of wild wind. My hair starts blowing around me. I watch in horror as a
giant, swirling hole opened up where the wall once was. I wanted to run over to
my grandmother for comfort and security, but I was frozen.

My grandmother hugged the man
as if she was saying goodbye. She picked her bag up off the floor, and grabbed
my hand.

She led me towards the twisting
hole in the wall.

Her face was red and swollen
from crying and I realized at that moment it was the first time I had ever saw
her cry. I looked back at the man and he returned my smile. He made an
encouraging motion to follow my grandmother.

 “Ok, Alina,” my
grandmother said urgently. “We are going on a little trip together. Are you
ready for an adventure?”

 
I nod.

It didn’t seem as if I really
had a choice in the matter. I was young but certainly not dumb.

Grandmother looked back once
more to the man. His face was sad as he inclined his head to my grandmother and
I. We then walked purposefully towards the wall with the swirling hole, the
light inside getting brighter with every step.

It was then that I always woke
up.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

*********

 “Aaahhhhh.” I screamed as
I rolled over in bed, looking at my alarm clock in horror.

 “No, no, no, no, no!” I
yelled, jumping up and running to my bathroom. I woke up to the horrible
discovery that I had to be at the bus stop in less than ten minutes to be able in
order to get to the museum in time for my internship interview. This day was
going to be the day that would change my lonely, solitary existence into a life
filled with promise and purpose, my life-long dreams finally full-filled.

I was left utterly alone after
my grandmother died suddenly my senior year of high school. I had a few friends
that I never saw much outside of the hallways at school but I think it was
partly because I was busy and partly because I chose to not make time for them.
I had already turned eighteen when she passed away, so I didn't need a guardian
and I had no other family that I knew of. I lived alone in the house we used to
share while I finished high school becoming the only student who lived on their
own. School mates would often come up to me and ask if I was going to have a
party or if they could have a party at my house, knowing full well that I had
no adult supervision. I always declined, claiming other obligations. I would
occasionally look longingly at pictures of fun nights out my friends had posted
of themselves on social media. They had always invited to be included but my
studies had to be more important to me than underage shots of vodka, cute guys
and dancing.

I threw myself into my studies
after her death, trying to block out the memories of my beloved grandmother who
had raised me and the happy times we shared. I quickly adjusted to my hermit
life, a life that seemed to suit me. The swells of loneliness creeping up in
fewer and fewer increments as time went on. I had sacrificed so much of my life
for my dream and it was finally going to pay off.

 
I was left the house in her will along with
extremely detailed instructions and more money than I knew she had. I was to
sell the house once I graduated high school in order to pay for college and keep
the rest of the money in a savings account to live off of until I graduated.

I had a hard time letting go of
the house I grew up in when it was time to sell it, but I knew it was what she
wanted me to do. She had been determined to get me through college without
taking any loans. She wanted me to be able to be able to go off to a distant
land and dig happily in the ground, with no worries about repayment on loans. I
followed her instructions, abiding by her wishes when the time came, knowing
that if anyone would come back from the dead and kick my butt, it would be my
spunky but incredibly loving grandmother.

 “This is not good, not
good, not good,” I said to myself, checking things off in my head. I tripped
twice over my cluttered floor, my toe throbbing. I was usually tidy, but I got
involved in a last minute organizing project. When I get nervous or can't
sleep, I tend to delve into projects, whether they need to be done or not.
 
Now, I was tripping over things, which was
making it harder to get ready than it already was.


Murphy's Law was not my friend.’
I thought.

I ran past my mirror, catching
my reflection. I raced back, leaning as close to the mirror as I could. I was
not a great beauty, although people did say I had the brightest blue eyes and
that my long brown hair was pretty, which, neither at this particular moment
looked close to anything resembling beautiful or pretty. My eyes looked watery
and red and my hair was sticking up in every imaginable direction.

I pushed my face close to the
mirror. I was still having trouble focusing my eyes but they did catch a
glimpse of the pimple that had erupted right on my chin overnight.

On my internship interview day
.

‘Excellent.’
I
thought.

‘This was NOT how this day was supposed to go.’
I thought to myself.

I made sure my alarm was set
before I went to sleep and I picked out my outfit the night before. I had a
glorious fight with myself, unable to determine if a skirt was the right way to
go or if pants and a jacket would be more professional. Some skirts, when
paired with the right top could be professional and other times, tended to make
people think sexy librarian. I had a nice figure but I was going for studious,
not slutty. Every piece of clothing I owned was now in a pile on a chair in the
corner of my room, yet another task I had inadvertently set up for myself after
my interview.

 
It was going to take me days to repair my home
from the damage I caused in less twenty-four hours.

I had made sure my coffee was
set on the timer. I had planned ahead, like I always did.

I wanted to make sure I had time
to get up early, sip my coffee at a leisurely pace while going over my notes,
answering anticipated interview questions out loud to myself, perfecting my
professional speaking voice. Now, the tease of fresh brewed, delicious coffee
that had made itself, filled my nostrils and begged me to come take a sip of
its deliciousness, but I didn't have time for even a sip. I thought about
running into the kitchen and just gulping it out of the pot, but I knew I would
just spill it on myself. It was terrible and utter torture and a complete waste
of perfectly good coffee.

I had wanted to arrive at the
museum thirty minutes early to ensure I wasn’t late. I especially did not want
to be in a rush or worry about anything other than what I was going to say in
my interview. There was no reason for me to be any more nervous than I had to
be.

That is why I prepared for
every possible contingent I could think of.

Bu that is not how it happened.
Not at all.

I raced into the shower and had
gotten dressed faster than I ever did before. I checked the mirror a few times
to make sure my clothes matched and were on the right way. I stuck my hair
brush and pins in my purse.

I would just have to do my hair
on the bus.

I grabbed my purse, shoving my
feet in my shoes and raced out the door with no time for pantyhose. Halfway
down the hall I touched my throat out of habit. I realized that I didn’t have
my lucky necklace on. I was already so late and almost decided not to go back
for it, but I reconsidered quickly.

That was my lucky necklace
which was a special present from my grandmother, given to me on my fourteenth
birthday. I swore to her I would wear it every day. She was adamant about it
and by this time, I had gotten used to always having it on. The simple, but
spectacular pale pink stone had a naturally formed star inside of it and hung
from a simple silver chain. I rolled my eyes, racing back to my apartment.

If I ever needed a lucky
talisman, today would be the day.

I flung open the door, charged
into my room and grabbed the necklace off the nightstand, rushing right back
out. I managed to make it to the bus stop just as the bus was pulling up.


Maybe it wasn’t going to be so bad after all
.’ I thought.

I settled on the bus and took a
few minutes to compose myself.
 
This was
my shot, my chance to work with renowned archaeologist Dr. Alan Campbell. He
usually takes his interns, if he likes them and the job they do for him, on one
of his digs overseas as his assistant and that was going to be me. I was going
to dig up some fantastic piece of history, write a paper about my findings and
the significance of its place from whatever time period it came from.

I knew, from the moment of my
first independent thought that I was going to be an archaeologist. I would bury
stuff as a child and then dig it up. Or I would take myself on “excavations”,
picking a spot in the yard to deface, much to the disdain of my grandmother. I
had a whole slew of “tools” I would use in my pretend play that were more
sacred to me than any toy I ever had. Shovels, paint brushes and buckets had
long replaced dolls and make-up. While some girls played dress up with their
mother's clothes, I requested “archaeologist clothes”; long pants with lots of
pockets, boots, long sleeve shirts and safari hats.

I had a journal I would take
notes in and I had perfected the art of sketching whatever object I had dug up
that day. I would also write scholastic papers, giving my grandmother a
presentation of my findings. She would always sit politely in the living room,
listening to my paper with a great attention and enthusiasm. My grandmother
never said anything negative regarding my hobby. The only thing she ever said
to me was,
'Just don’t dig up my petunias
dear.'

And I never did.

About a mile away from the
museum I felt a shudder coming from the bus. The bus driver pulled over to the
side of the road and he got off. I leaned over but quickly removed my forehead
from pressing against the window once I realized I was doing it. I didn't need
a large, red spot on my head to add to my trials today. Others on the bus were
starting to look at their watches or cell phones. They also had places to be.

I took out my cell phone and
looked at the time. I needed to be at the museum in ten minutes in order to be
able to get into the waiting room and look like I had been sitting there for a
while. My future was at stake. I grabbed my purse and ran off the bus stopping
only long enough to see the very large bus tire flat as a pancake and the
frustrated driver talking loudly on his cell phone.

 
I could run a six minute mile in sneakers, I
could surely do it in seven with heels on.

Eleven minutes later I arrived
at the steps leading up to the museum. Whoever had the bright idea of having a
mile's worth of concrete steps leading up to the entrance of the building must
have been out of their mind. Sure, it looks impressive in design, but they
really weren't conducive to sprinting.

I realized that the picture I
had in my head of me happily walking up the steps into the museum every day, a
smile on my face, coffee mug in hand was not a very practical image. I had to
drag myself up the last few steps, pausing every ten steps or so to lean up
against the railings and breathe, silently reprimanding myself for not being as
fit as I thought I was. I continued my torturous run up the stairs to the
interview inside the museum, cursing my decision to wear the long, calf length
black pencil skirt. Yes, it looked professional and if you were walking, the
slit in the back provided enough leg room. If you were running, like I was, it
did not provide the needed leg room.

I felt like a penguin running
down the street.

The heels weren't helping
either. I loved my beautiful, expensive bright red shoes. They were a present
to myself I bought for the interview and the only thing I had ever splurged on.
At that particular moment, I fantasized about flats.

My body was drenched in sweat.
July in New York was not a cool month. I judged by the pile of hair pins in my
hand that my hair was still in utter disarray. For once in my life I was glad I
was an OCD pre-planner because several days before the interview I went to the
museum and sought out the office that I was looking for ahead of time so that I
knew where I was going on the day of the interview. I did not factor in non-functioning
alarm clocks and flat bus tires. I'd make a mental note to include that next
time I had a major life changing interview.

I stormed into the office like
a mad woman, my purse wrapping around my legs from the force of my entrance.
The waiting room was empty. There was no receptionist, no other nervous
candidates, tapping their fingers on their briefcases in nervous anticipation
of their turn, no horrible elevator music pouring from the speakers.

 
This was either very good or very bad.

He might not have waited for
me, which, considering the magnitude of the importance of this opportunity, why
would he wait for the candidate that couldn't bother to show up on time?

Maybe he was (hopefully)
running late too. I crossed my fingers that was the case. In my current
situation, I needed a little turn of luck sent my way.

I saw a large mirror in the
waiting room, so I set out smoothing my hair as best as I could with my limited
resources. I started jumping up and down, flapping my arms like a bird to dry
my armpits and my clothes.

Of course, it turned out I
wasn't as alone as I first thought.

I heard somebody behind me
clearing their throat.

'Please don't let it be Dr. Campbell, Please don't let it be
Dr. Campbell, Please don't be let it be Dr. Campbell'
. I thought.

I tried to turn around with
some dignity, but I don't know why I was trying. There was no dignity left in
me today. I knew it was Dr. Campbell, of course. Who else would it be?

“This day is so not my day.”
I thought to myself.

 “Are you practicing an
Aborigine dance that I don't know about? I usually make it my business to know
many things about all cultures. This particular display doesn't look at all
familiar.” said Dr. Campbell with a smile on his face.

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