Through the Portal
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Master Sherspine smiled with a spark of hope in his eyes that Evina thought looked out of character from his somber demeanor. "Excellent! I only wish we had more time to teach you, but regrettably, we are in a hurry."
"Okay," Evina said, "so, what do I do now?"
Master Pearl jumped to her feet. "This is what we will do: First, you will receive a graphite mask. I sense you are already familiar with these."
"Yes," Evina said, "perhaps too familiar."
"Next, we will use our combined energy to open a portal to Earth."
"What!? You can open a portal? I wish we had known how to do that on our last adventure. Where will it take me?"
"We will try to place you as close to the threat as possible, but you may still have to travel some distance. Then, you must locate the threat using The Shadow and neutralize it."
"Are you sure The Shadow will cooperate?" Evina asked. He expected some kind of punishment after putting it to sleep with the monks.
"It has cooperated with us thus far," Sherspine said, "though we don't yet know why. Regardless, we must rely on its help until the end. There is no other way. But be vigilant! Always be wary of its tricks!"
"I promise I will," Evina said. "Now I only need to know how to enter the dream zone."
"I was about to get to that," Pearl said. "The final step, to enter the dream zone, will require a special ritual." She walked over to the place where the incense had burned and collected some ash into a small leather pouch. Then she handed it to Evina. "Sprinkle the ash in an unbroken circle around you at arm's length. Then kneel down inside it, close your eyes, and speak these words: Realm of dreams and visions, desires and fears: open for me, that I may learn your secrets and find asylum therein."
As she spoke the words, there was a sudden chill in the air, and the other monks cringed.
"Those exact words?" Evina asked.
"Yes," the monkey said. "It is a translation from the original words in the ancient language, but still, we shudder at the sound of them. This incantation is not usually uttered by anyone seeking to do good; still, it must be done."
"And this ritual will make me enter the dream zone... just like that?"
"It should if it is done properly. None of us have dared try it before."
"How comforting," Evina muttered.
With a motion of her hand, Master Pearl summoned a couple of monks who came with pencils to apply the mask. They worked speedily and, although it was not the prettiest mask Evina had seen, it was suitable enough for the work he had to do.
"Now, off to your spaceship to await the opening of the portal," Sherspine said. "Meeting you was the greatest honor."
"Yes, it was," Evina said with sadness. He was never going to see them again, or anyone else for that matter. "I promise I will do all I can."
The hedgehog smiled. "We cannot fully express our gratitude, Master Gearloose."
Evina walked to the front door, put on his coat, and stepped outside. A rush of frozen air immediately slammed his body, and The Shadow abruptly awoke. It was irritated but didn't do anything. Evina felt it would be cooperative.
Down the side of the mountain, he slid. The moment he reached the bottom, he sprinted toward his ship. He knew where it was, and it was a lot faster to go this way than the way he came. As he climbed inside, he could already see a giant circle forming in the sky. The portal was opening. He lifted off the ground and sped toward the circle at full speed. It glowed in a mesmerizing way, making him feel disoriented.
With a loud whoosh and a dazzling gleam of swirling light, Evina left the tooniverse and returned to Earth. As the portal closed, he was left in darkness. Suddenly, he felt anxiety again. That was it. There was no going back now. He was stuck on Earth, alone until the end. No friends could reach out to him here. No Harry, no Gyro, no Glue Stick, no Kate, no Children of Graphite even. It was just Evina and The Shadow.
As his eyes adjusted to the dark, the lights on the tiny ship's control panel came into view. Apparently, it was night wherever he was. A loud beeping noise notified him of his dropping elevation. Still struck with dizziness, he hadn't noticed the sharp descent.
He instinctively pulled the wheel back as hard as he could, but it was too late. Before he knew what was happening, the ship collided with the ground in a fiery explosion.
When Evina came to, he was face down on the ground in pain. He looked up and found himself in a vast, empty desert. Smoke was billowing from the ground behind him. The ship was gone.
Dad's going to kill me, he thought. Actually, no he won't. We don't have any time left, anyway. I guess I'll have to walk the rest of the way.
And so, he stood up and walked. The Shadow guided him forward, although he had no idea where he was headed or how long it would take to reach it. There was no indication of anything out here.
He walked through the desert for hours. There seemed to be no end in sight. The first glimmer of daylight appeared on the horizon behind him, so he knew he was going west. Now he saw that there was a town up ahead, and he was almost at its borders. He knew he looked terribly dirty, but he didn't care. The mask was still intact. All he had to do was find a way to get out.
It wasn't long before he found a car repair shop. A man was standing outside the garage, looking down at some car's engine.
Evina approached him. "Excuse me, sir."
The man turned around and almost jumped at seeing Evina's dirty, appearance. "Oh, hi. How may I help you?" he asked hesitantly.
Evina opened his mouth but didn't know what to say. Nobody was going to believe him. But at this point, he knew he had to try, regardless of the consequences. "I need help," he said. "I'm from another world, and my ship crashed in the desert. I need a car to continue my journey. The fate of the world depends on it." He knew how stupid it sounded but, to his surprise, the man grinned.
"Well, how about that?" the man said, looking out at the smoke rising in the distance. "I'll be glad to help you. I'm a believer, by the way." Then he shook Evina's hand vigorously. "Come with me!"
Evina followed the man into the shop where he pulled the cover off an old hot rod. Its paint was red and sparkly with flames on the sides.
"This is Julie," the man said. "I've been keeping her for a special occasion like this. Now, promise to take good care of her, alright?"
"I will," Evina promised. "And thank you again. You have no idea how much help this is."
"I'm happy to do anything I can for our extraterrestrial friends," he said, "but in return, tell your leaders to take my family off the abduction list. We're not interested in being part of your experiments."
"Um... sure," Evina said. Then he took the keys, waved goodbye, and drove out of the garage with a roar of the engine. The car rocketed away on the highway headed west. He passed a sign that read:
He drove through the desert all day toward the place The Shadow directed him. An endless expanse of dirt and sagebrush went by. He stopped for fuel but never rested. The day passed, and it was nearly midnight by the time he reached the ocean. This place felt familiar. It wasn't far from where Doom had taken them before.
Evina stepped out of the car and felt a cool, salty wind. It was too cloudy to see any stars. Nothing but a gloomy shroud of darkness hung over the sea. There was nobody in sight. He turned around and saw little lights up on a hilltop. There was a large house up there. He knew what he was looking for was in there. The only question was whether to go now or wait until day. He was exhausted, but on the other hand, he didn't have time to waste. Anxiety gnawed at him with each passing moment.
He decided to at least take a look. Quietly, he ran up the hill and approached the house from behind. He didn't dare use any light, nor did he need it; The Shadow revealed every object in the dark.
He hopped onto a short stone wall and peered in through a window. Inside, he saw lavish rooms filled with golden light, but not a soul was in sight. He considered his options and decided that now would be the best time to strike. So, he quickly opened the window and climbed into the room. It was silent. He hesitated, wondering if this was actually the place he was supposed to be, but The Shadow urged him forward.
Down a dim hallway, there was a door slightly ajar. Evina crept toward it and glimpsed inside. He saw something he wasn't expecting. A very old human man was there, sitting in a wheelchair connected to tubes and noisy machinery. He abruptly awoke and turned to look at the intruder in the doorway. "Who are you?" he demanded with a raspy voice.
Evina didn't answer because he was confused. Could this person really be a threat to the whole universe?
"Answer me!" the man growled.
"I am Evina Gearloose, chosen one of The Shadow, here to defend my people."
"Shadow?" the man asked. "What is The Shadow? I know who you are. You're a toon! I knew a toon would come to torture me during my last days. It's too perfect. Here I am at my weakest. Are you here to kill me!? Do you want revenge!?"
"No," Evina said. "To be honest, I don't know who you are. All I know is that there's an evil threat here, something that could destroy the world."
"Darn right, there is," the man said. "Perhaps you've met my brilliant creation."
"You mean Doom?"
"Yes, but why didn't he destroy you?"
"I destroyed him first."
"Really? When did you last hear from him?"
The man's face tightened in anger. The weariness in his gray eyes became hatred. "Why you...!" He struggled to reach something behind his back. It was a vial filled with some fluid. He threw it at Evina, and it shattered. The dip erased Evina's mask, and the duck was revealed.
The man was awestruck. "So, you used a mask, but why didn't you melt?"
"I'm immune to dip. It's because of The Shadow I mentioned earlier." Evina took out the bag of ash and proceeded to sprinkle the circle around him.
"Now you're getting my floor dirty! You're lucky you found me here alone. During the day, you wouldn't have a chance to escape. Do you know why I created the Dooms? Do you know why I'm going to destroy your universe?"
"I've heard rumors," Evina said, "but I don't have time for chit-chat."
"Mark my words, there's nothing you can do to stop me! You will all suffer what you deserve! Everyone will!"
Evina ignored him, knelt down, and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath and concentrated. At last, he spoke the incantation. "Realm of dreams and visions, desires and fears: open for me, that I may learn your secrets, and find asylum therein."
The ash burned brightly, and a wall of darkness rose above it, enveloping him in a black dome. The earth was gone, and he fell, sinking into an endless sea of thought. He felt a strange sensation like he was being pulled apart, but it did not hurt. Confusion overcame him, and his mind spun around and around until his consciousness began to fade away. He had entered the dream zone.
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