Of course I didn't call room service. I know better. But I blush with shame as he asks just the same. He would have seen or heard. And I was taught the rules. I know the rules. I am not to engage unless expressly authorized or permitted while in transit. It's too dangerous. A single word could give us away. He is kinder than I expected. He places both palms on the door and speaks in a soft voice. I know what he is doing and I can feel the strengthening of the door, like it's knitting itself together, filling in the gaps. He has already looked through the peephole. He has already identified the man as an employee by his energy. He has already seen the clean, white towels he holds as he cries “room service” before knocking again. He opens the door and I can hear him say. “I'm sorry, but we didn't call down for more towels.” “I understand that you can tell what room calls come from at the front desk, but we didn't call down.” “Okay. Thanks.” I could not hear the person in the hallway. He closes the door. He does not turn around. His shoulders slump and he sighs. He places one hand on the each side of the door and speaks another incantation. This one is weaker because must cover a larger area, but the walls become denser, like rock. I can feel it. That's why I was chosen. I can feel things in the air; when they are stretched or pulled or twisted. I can feel it. I can twist things, too, but I need training. I can feel his anxiety. Not fear. Fear tastes bitter, and this is merely sour. “We will be having chicken for dinner.” That's code. We are being followed and they are close. He may have seen them. Based on the walls, they must have guns. He wouldn’t have pulled that much into them for just fists or knives. He walks toward our balcony. We're on the 7th floor; the top floor. He slides the door open and I can see him studying the corner of the building. We are right on the corner, so the corner of the building is just to the left. He leans out and places his left hand on the building and speaks to it, while holding his right hand in the air. I can see the air thicken, like a blanket. He can't see it, but he knows what he is doing. I lament that we have no books, no guides, but he doesn't need books. Besides its forbidden to travel in the open with our materials. Our minds are the only tools we may take when we travel. I hear hard taps at the door and wall. I know they are coming. He motions for me jump over the railing and I do. The fall is swifter than I'd like but safe, like diving into water. We both touch down safely. He sees a wandering dog and motions toward it. It tilts its head and looks at him, before trotting over, wagging its tail. He bends down, gently places a hand on each side of the dog's face and stares into its eyes. The dog barks excitedly and yips, it's tail wagging even more. I know he is talking to the dog. That's his gift. He can talk to animals. Any animal really. Knowing the language is not enough, you have to know how they think and he does. He always has. He pats the dog on its head before standing back up. “They know about the Jeep.” That means we cannot drive away. But he didn't say anything about the tunnel, so they do not know about that. We have to make it on foot. Two people burst out of the side door of the hotel and quickly stumble into each other. They did not expect to see us. I can tell. They are holding their hands over hidden guns and are walking stiff-legged toward us. He makes a sign with his left hand and traces a vertical symbol in the air while simultaneously tracing another symbol on his leg with his right hand. “Hang on to me.” I'm little. So I climb onto his back and he runs, faster than a man can run. And the two people who came out of the hotel do not see us. They see us still standing there and they will until they make it to the spot. I can feel the hum of life twisted into new designs, I can feel it slowly unraveling, but it should be tight enough. The road is clear, the trees are singing. We find the silent spot and enter a shadow which becomes a room which becomes a tunnel. He nods to the others there. They were waiting for us. To rescue us. I ask if I can trace fire as we move forward and he allows it. I drag my hands on the walls and twist the dirt and leaves into blossoms waiting to bloom, full of fire and smoke. I know they will be coming after us, even in here, but we have a head start and this is our place, in the earth. We speak to it and it responds. They call out to false gods and beg for scraps of favor or power. We mold what is already present. We are stewards of the awash power always present in the living earth, the planet itself. We contradict the will of all outsiders so we are called monsters and cultists. They seek to syphon the life for their own uses, we cooperate and stay within. The earth listens and, as we move, changes itself behind us. I can hear them entering the tunnel now. They found the shadow door easily enough by following our path, but they do not see what the earth has done. I feel a blast of heat, smell the musk of singed dust and skin blown down the path and the screams of those who went first. Cursing and yelling as they call water out of the ground and water must oblige them such is their power, but it resists. The elements do not resist us because we make no demands, only requests. We reach the other end, our safe haven and he puts up a barrier behind us. Makes the air like glass, like plastic. They cannot pass and can only gnash their teeth as we exit to our city, home. Our safe place. Deep. He does a card trick for a child waiting at the exit. “Pick a card.” The child draws the 7 of Hearts. I do not see it, but I know it. “Hold it close to your heart.” He winks as he says this. The child does. The man shuffles and concentrates and speaks in a deep, hollow, whisper. This is the language of snakes, the language of the wind. Of Metamorphosis. I did not know he could speak to the wind. “I'm losing the image of your card” he says, but it is part of the trick. “Can you look at it again?” The child lifts their hand and gasps. The card has been replaced by a $20 bill. “That's right.” He said snapping his fingers. “I bought your card for $20.” He holds up the 7 of Hearts, “See?” “Please keep the money.” He says even before the child's parents can offer it back. He is kinder than I expected.

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