My bag was packed, my boots were on, and my hiking staff lay on the floor at my feet. I, however, was sprawled in my desk chair staring vacantly at my computer screen. I had gotten myself ready, Pat had given me a kiss and wished me pleasant journey and grown sons Lee and Aaron had nudged each other and said that this was great idea – I didn’t get out nearly enough. Then I had toured around the house and a very cold and muddy yard with two happy Labrador retrievers in tow, but not found any hint of a portal to Lemuria. I twitched my computer mouse absently, but I really didn’t expect anything to happen. And it didn’t. This was the story of my life lately.
There was a small noise in the knick-knacks arrayed on the top of my desk. The goblet with the dragons on it rocked a bit, but I didn’t see anything near it. I shrugged; it was probably my imagination.
Moments later, there was another small sound, this time behind me. I turned thinking we might have a mouse, but what I saw made me sit up straight and my eyes grow wide. “What the…”
A small, gnarled figure the color and texture of old, wet driftwood stepped out from behind a storage container of yarn and bowed.
“Who are you? What are you?” I gasped.
The small figure turned a hurt face to me. “Why, I’m the Skink,” it replied, “Don’t you remember, you wrote about me in one of your stories…’Maple Days’, it was.” The Skink shuffled his feet and looked at the floor. I thought I could hear a faint sniffle.
“Oh, Skink! I’m sorry. I really didn’t expect to see you.” I was quite embarrassed and sorry to have hurt his feelings. “Of course I remember you. The fact is, I’ve had such a hard time doing anything creative lately, with the She Wolf gone missing, that I really had no idea any of you old friends could come visiting anymore.”
The Skink looked at me reproachfully. “We’ve been here, all of us. Not our fault if you’re not seeing us.”
“No, of course not.” I sighed. “I just haven’t been able to let go enough to see any of you. It’s my fault…” I sat back as the Skink began to fade from view.
“Hold on now! That’s the whole sort of attitude that lost us in the first place!” He jumped in front of me again.
I shook my head. “Look, Skink, it’s good to see you – you don’t know what a relief it is to know you guys aren’t gone for good – but I have another problem right now.”
“I know,” the Skink nodded sagely. “You need to find a way into Lemuria and your usual portals won’t open for you. Well,” he stood up straight and strutted a bit, “I am here to help you with that!” A tiny gnarled thumb poked at his chest, which was puffing out with pride.
“If you think I’m going to follow you Underhill, you have another think coming,” I snarled, turning back to my computer.
“No, no, no,” he replied placatingly. “Not Underhill. I know you better than that. I have other ways I can take you.” He stopped, considering, for a moment. “’Course they might be a bit, well, not as SAFE as some of the portals you’ve taken in the past, but I can get you there. It just depends on how badly you want to go and find the She Wolf.” He took a sudden, deep interest in his fingernails.
The Skink had me where I lived, and he knew it. I wanted the She Wolf – my muse, my alter ego – back so badly that I could taste it.
“All right, what do I need to do? Where are we going?” I didn’t need more than a few moments to think.
The Skink lit up with excitement. “Just take my hand, and we’re off!” He reached up and tugged on my hand as I extricated myself from my desk and chair. “Close your eyes. I think you’ll like this place. You just need to be careful of the King.”
“The King?” But the rest of my words were lost in a whooshing noise. I could feel a vortex spinning around us as we whirled away to wherever it was that the Skink was taking me.