“This doesn’t creep you out?” Jonah asked Alliane. The couple walked through a thick forest of towering red-leaf redwoods. The red leaves filtered the sunlight pouring in through the canopy; by the time the sunlight reached the forest floor, it was a rich, red color.
“It’s beautiful!” Alliane replied with a smile. She grabbed Jonah’s hand and strolled along the path next to him.
“Yeah, I guess it’s kind of pretty,” he shrugged. “But they were people. Doesn’t that bother you?” Alliane stopped walking and looked at Jonah.
“Why would it?” She turned to the closest redwood and knocked on its bark. “Whatever this was before…,” she shrugged. “It’s a tree now. Its soul is safe inside, and the person is living the life they got to choose in another universe. That’s not creepy, that’s genius,” she said. “C”mon, it should be around here,” Alliane said then continued walking along the path. “I know you’re in a hurry to leave,” she said with a smug grin.
“I am, thank you very much,” Jonah replied. “Hey is that it?” he pointed at a red tennis racket that rested on top of a small stone pedestal. He looked around at the other trees in the area, but only a small few of them had the same stone pedestals, each with something different on them.
“Wow!” Alliane smiled and ran to grab the tennis racket. “Someone cared enough for these people to take care of their things. Isn’t it great?”
“Yeah, it’s fantastic. We’re done here, right?” Jonah asked.
“Yes, we’re done,” Alliane wiggled her fingers in the air and created a tall, black portal. Jonah ran through first and Alliane followed. The portal closed behind them once they reached the other side. They emerged in a quiet city plaza with only a handful of players wandering around. A green-haired mermaid swam to them through the air. She hovered in place with a large smile on her face.
“THANK YOU!” She handed Jonah an elegant ivory harp with blood-red strings.
“You’re welcome,” Jonah replied. “Thank you for the harp.” The mermaid nodded then turned to swim away while grinning at the tennis racket.
“Hey what’re you gonna do with it anyway? Decoration?” Jonah asked. She paused and turned around.
“None of your business,” Alliane said. She elbowed his side to make sure he got the point.
“I’m just curious,” he shrugged and lifted the harp. “I’m not complaining, but this is worth way more than a tennis racket.”
“It’s okay. In my old life…,” the mermaid held up the red tennis racket. “…this racket got me through some major tournaments. Once here, I learned about Uniques. I discovered I could send someone to pick it up for me,” she shrugged. The movement seemed to lift her higher in the air, then she drifted downward again as if pushed down by a current. “But I didn’t think I had a use for it here other than decoration.” She pointed at Jonah with the head of the racket. “The last thing I needed was a constant reminder of the life I can’t return to.”
“What changed?” Alliane asked.
“I found an Engineer that can import gear into the AlterNet,” She swung the racket like a club. “This is going to be my new weapon!”