"Oh, there you are," she said matter-of-factly. "Martha was worried sick, you know, though I told he Henry here would make sure you found your way back. Otherwise I'm sure you'd still be hopelessly lost."
I sat by her on the bed and sought her eyes, but she wasn't returning my gaze. I was still feeling a little dazed and empty, but also strangely excited and eager to share with her my recent experiences. "Selena, I found the most amazing..."
She cut me short with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Sure, I know where you were, but that's not important right now. And really, you should have waited for me before you set off to explore the Manor. There are dangers if you don't know what you're doing. Martha should have warned you."
She still wouldn't look me in the eye and it felt curiously like I wasn't really there for her, or that she wasn't truly real, but was like an image in a crystal ball or a hologram, having merely the semblance of reality.. "But Selena, you weren't here, and Martha said I mustn't go outside..."
"Quite right," Selena said crisply. "You must never leave the Manor on your own. But now that I'm here, we can go together." And now she did look me in the eye, or seemed to, but it was like there was a veil between us that stopped me from getting too close. Then in a flash she was standing by the bed, though I hadn't seen her getting up. "Come," she said. "There is so much you need to see and learn, and not much time...."
Well, I sure did have a lot of questions. None of what was happening made much sense to me, though to be honest my thinking processes are usually pretty twisted, but there was apparently to be no question and answer session at this point so I followed her and Henry out the door and down the spiral staircase. About halfway down we came to a narrow door that I had'nt noticed when I passed that way before, perhaps because it was hidden in shadows, and we passed through onto a veranda and then down a bunch of stone steps that ended where the rust-red landscape began.
The ground beneath her feet was hard, dry and cracked, lifeless, as though every trace of warmth and vitality had been leached out of it over the course of countless mellenia. There was no sun overhead, only a pale violet light that was neither reflected nor absorbed by the landscape below. There was no breeze, no movement as far as the eye could see. Angel shivered, for though it seemed neither cold nor hot, a penetrating chill was seeping into every cell of her body. And the thought came to her, This is hell, though for a brief moment she wasn't sure whether she was looking at it from the outside in or from the inside out.
We walked, Selena and I, out toward the horizon, but it was all the same, so what was the point of going anywhere? I did notice, though, that those things sticking out of the ground were not rocks. They were all different shapes, some smooth ivory and others coarse, yellowish things. I felt queasy just looking at them, they gave me the creeps.