“You think that’s all?” Billy asked Cherry as he lowered his arms. He raised them to protect his head from an onslaught of stones that came flying out of small black holes; they seemed to stop coming.
“For now, probably,” Cherry said. “But, I think you can count on Ballisea terrorizing you for a while.”
“It was Vanilla’s decision,…” Billy grumbled. He relaxed and appraised Cherry again. She arrived only moments before the stoning began. The girl’s white hair matched Vanilla’s; she wore a blood-red hoodie and held a small potted plant.
“She knows,” Cherry smiled and knelt to the ground. They were atop a small hill surrounded by white and orange flowers. It was where Billy buried Vanilla. “That’s why you’re not dead.” She dug a hole in the ground with her hands. When she was satisfied she turned her attention to the potted plant and began to pull it out for transplant. Initially, Billy thought Cherry brought a flower for Vanilla. As she placed it in its new home he realized it looked more like an herb. Billy recognized it somehow. He did not know how but assumed it was due to the knowledge he gained from Vanilla’s soul.
“Is that Peppermint?” Billy asked. Cherry nodded and rose to her feet. “Can you give him a boost?” she asked while clapping the grass and dirt off the knees of her black jeans. “It needs to take root.” Billy nodded and knelt by the peppermint plant.
“Is he mad at me too?” Billy asked. He touched one of the rounded leaves and accelerated time for the plant to speed its growth.
“Nah,” Cherry dismissed his concerns with a hand-wave. “Holding grudges is how Ballisea has fun,” she said. Billy felt like he’d done enough for the plant and stood back to see what would happen next. He bumped into someone behind him.
“I did my part,” Cherry said. She sank into a black hole that appeared at her feet. “See ya’ around, Billy.”
“Peppermint?” Billy asked and turned around to see who he bumped in to. A tall, lean man with a neatly parted white hair and a full, groomed white beard bowed as an introduction to Billy. He wore an elegant forest-green suit with a white vest and white bow-tie. After the bow he stood up straighter; he had a ’37’ tattooed on his cheek directly under his right eye. Instead of an eyeball, he had what looked like a glass eye painted like the Earth; the ball was turning slowly in its socket. His left eye was a normal green eye.
“Ah, you’re the new one. Hello, Billy. I don’t actually walk out of the plant, you know,” a green portal appeared behind him. Instead of the flat black portals Billy was used to, this one shimmered like the surface of a pool. The black portals looked empty to Billy, like they led to nowhere. This portal looked more like a proper wormhole to a distant destination. Green light washed across its surface in pulsing waves. He could almost see another Earth on the other side.
“Thanks for coming,” Billy said. He offered Peppermint a handshake. “I know Vanilla wanted me to meet all of you, thanks for making it easy.” Peppermint nodded and shook Billy’s hand. “So how about the Luna?” Peppermint shrugged.
“No one’s seen him or her. We’re not sure there’s one out there.” Billy shook his head. He knew something. In the back of his mind, Billy felt certainty. Vanilla’s certainty.
“Vanilla was sure. I think she met…,” Billy paused and listened to his mind. “…him. I feel like Vanilla met him already,” he said.
“Wonderful,” Peppermint said dryly. “I’m sure she has her reasons for not telling the rest of us; but, if she didn’t tell them to you either that might be a problem.”
“We’ve got some time,” Billy said. “We’ll figure it out by then,”
“I hope so,” Peppermint said. “This experiment of hers is starting to get old.”