Alise Egan’s scarlet gown fluttered behind her like a great cape as she faced the maelstrom. When she’d first seen the painting in Keyne Harlan’s private collection, she recognized herself immediately, even though she had never met the anonymous artist. But she assumed that whatever the woman was confronting was an ocean wave. Now she knew that the plasma field was the conduit between her world and another.
Long, slender legs walked forward with surprising confidence as her blonde hair, like her dress, billowed behind her, blown backward by an unseen discharge from the phenomenon just three meters in front of her. One moment, she had been admiring her billionaire benefactor’s painting and listening to him recite the legend and the curse attached to the artwork, and the next, the mystic tale had come to life, and she was inside living it.
“I’m here, Alise.” The familiar voice echoed out of the swirling energy ripples.
She had only been two when her mother died of cancer, and five when her father, physicist Daniel Charles Egan had vanished during the first experimental trial of what he called the “quantum drive,” meant to be mankind’s key to interstellar travel. Everyone assumed that the explosion vaporized him along with seventeen other scientists and technicians, which also left behind a 300 meter crater as his only legacy.
Dr. Egan’s eccentric employer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Keyne Harlan took in the orphan, adopted her, provided the child with everything she ever needed, that is, except love.
Days after she graduated from MIT, following in her father’s footsteps, he called her to his Malibu estate to show her his latest acquisition, purchased under mysterious and most likely illegal circumstances. He had still been reciting from the text that came with the painting, uttering a strange and archaic language with surprising fluency when it happened, the endless sand and the vast sapphire effervescence confronting her.
“Yes. I’m here. Come to me.”
“Where are you?”
“The other side. It’s fantastic…indescribable.”
It couldn’t be him, but what if…?
She reached out with a tentative hand, her fingers greeted by sparks crawling up her hand, her arm, then surrounding her.
“Wait! No! Keyne, get me out of…”
Then Alise felt her hand gripped by another as the turbulent vortex surrounded and engulfed her. His face took shape first, then the rest of him, just as she remembered her Daddy from childhood. He wasn’t alone.
“I’m alive, Alise. We’re all alive. The experiment leads to another reality.”
“But Daddy, you’re dead.”
“That’s what I thought, too.”
“I don’t know. Our physical laws don’t apply here. There’s no difference between science and magic.”
“Magic. The painting. You know about it?”
“I know everything. Some people are able to sense the barrier between one world and the next. I was able to send a message.”
“The painting. I need your help, we all do.”
“Oh my baby.” The woman’s voice came from just behind Daniel. “My little Alise is all grown up.”
The young woman’s eyes went wide as she materialized beside her Daddy.
“Mommy!” She leaped forward and embraced the woman, a child’s memories of her abruptly reignited.
The three of them stood hugging at the center of chaos, and when Alise opened her eyes again, she saw other figures, a few, then a few hundred, then men, women, children without counting.
“Mommy. Daddy. Who are they?”
“They are like us, darling.” Her Mommy kissed her cheek.
“We all need your help, Alise. We need to come back to the world.” Daniel squeezed her hand.
“But you’re dead. You’re all dead. Daddy, you can’t mean…”
At first, his face was just as she remembered it, but now it was changing, not a real face anymore, not a person.
“No. You’re not my Daddy and Mommy.” She tried to pull back but they held her fast, and the others were getting closer to the threshold.
“We needed someone from your world to be the bridge. It’s too late. The fool Harlan played right into our hands, well, if we had hands, but we really have to thank you’re father, dear. His experiment reached into our realm making us aware of yours. His thoughts and memories belong to us. Now, your world will become ours.”
They were pushing her backward toward the edge of the field, toward the real world, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, all there were, whatever they might be, and they were just seconds from invasion.
“Physical laws don’t apply here. There’s no difference between science and magic,” she muttered, repeating the words she’d heard before. Then Alise pushed back hard and they stumbled. She pushed again and the hundreds nearest her scattered. Her crimson gown swirled around her like a cape in a hurricane, and be they aliens, spirits, or demons, she pushed back with all the force of her imagination to resist them, and then to triumph over the millions.
And that was just the beginning.
The painting looks less like an ocean wave and more like some exotic energy field. With that in mind, I thought of a reason for a woman to be standing there. The red cape made me think of Superman, so I decided to have Alise do something heroic.