Wheel of Fortune was ending. Ran and Alli sat on the couch and listened to the rain drops striking the windowpane.

Ran rubbed Alli’s upper arm, “Was there anything in that lab that could have hurt you?”

Alli sunk into the crook of Ran’s arm and kept her eyes on the television set, “There are other types of avatars: Dark Avatars that are like shades; they live in their own grayscale world.”

“There are also Anti-Avatars, that are sentient, and take on human forms, like avatars, but their true forms are not beautiful and iridescent, but bestial and ugly. Monstrous.”

Ran’s face grew pale and she looked down at Alli, “Did you ever see one of those things?”

Alli nodded; her hair was soft, cut in a medium fade, “A few times. One appeared and got through…the night Aro was hurt…Then the lab was closed down.”

Ran held Alli close, in the darkening room, to protect Alli from something Ran herself knew little about. Water cascaded down the glass.

Alli let off an involuntary shudder and closed her eyes. Ran reached through the gloom and encroaching feelings of dampness, to turn on the lamp.

“You can find great strength, within your vulnerabilities,” Alli remembered Aro saying, yesterday evening on the beach, in Atev. Aro still wore her hair cut in a high fade, even though she now wore tailored suits, smoked cigars and had many gold rings on her fingers – instead of a jean jacket with holes in it.

“You deserve all of it, after what you’ve been through,” Alli had said, setting down her knife and fork, after their meal.

Aro smiled, “You deserve it too. Become the Sky Avatar. You deserve to be happy.”


A 3-Sigma Event


Alli lay in the multipurpose pool, at the gym, in a T-shirt and shorts. A game of water polo raged nearby, but not close enough to tussle the water where she was floating.

The water was warm, and at just the right salinity. She closed her eyes and let the water fill her ears. Buoyant, Alli could use this pool of ions, a sea of electrons, as an extender, an antenna for her signal. Tethered to that terrestrial room, Alli could unspool her link to this side, and spelunk further and further out, into the in-between, to Atev.

She stood on a rocky outcrop, overlooking the beach. The crashing of waves greeted her ears. Alli was here in Atev, on an island that exceeded Keo’s description of Naxos, Greece, in beauty.

Aro waved from the top of the hillside. A small table, covered in a white tablecloth, whipping in the breeze, stood next to a castle. Aro was dressed for summer, in a white suit and blue ascot, held by a golden pin. She held a cigar in one hand, and a bottle of Les Hauts de Smith sat on the table, waiting for them.

Alli, now in a navy-blue cashmere sweater and khakis, hiked up the hill, toward Aro. As she took a seat, a waiter poured a glass of the red wine for each of them.

“So, I hear you are going to be the next Sky Avatar,” Aro said, letting out a plume of smoke.

“Where did you hear that?” Alli blanched, pulling herself closer to the table.

Aro sighed and re-crossed her legs, “I hear many things in the capital.”

Alli shook her head, “I’ve never known how to take any of it.”

“Come on now,” Aro chided, leaning forward, “You’re not going to reject this opportunity, are you?”

Alli looked around, nervous, “No of course not, but do you think I am ready for it? It’s like being told, tomorrow, you are going to be an ambassador.”

Clouds were floating by, further out to sea. The butt of Aro’s cigar burned bright, a whole tobacco leaf curling into ash, “I think you’re ready for it. It’s not natural to like beginnings or endings.”

The waiter brought them two plates of salmon and sorrel. The breakers of the other land pounded the shore and receded out to the horizon.