Walking in Slow Motion

Axi is just a normal girl in a gifted family. She isn't amazingly pretty, or intelligent, or popular. She's just a girl who gets bullied in school because her sister's dating the most dreamed-about guy there: and he's two years old than her.
Then she meets Seymour, a friend she never knew was always right beside her. When their teacher walks out of class, Axi begs him to teach her film editing-- a talent nobody in her family has.
But Seymour's teaching brings a new responsibility. In the middle of her first editing session, Axi discovers that she has skills. Special skills. Supernatural skills...
Who is Axi? WHAT is she? And will she ever be the same again...?
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10. Explanations

I don't waste time admiring the bear. After all, I don't know if it's going to stay frozen.

I turn around to see Gizzy, lying on the floor, motionless. "No!" I wail, and run to her. I crouch down beside her. She isn't breathing...

Then I realize: outside is perfectly silent. There's no sound of people talking, no sound of motors as vehicles drive past. And it hits me: Gizzy is frozen, too. This whole place is.

My shaking hand brushes Gizzy's shoulder. Instantly, she starts to breathe again, although she is unconscious. "Gizzy," I murmur, sighing with relief. "Wake up." I shake her gently.

"Uhggghh..." Gizzy's eyes flicker open tiredly and I jolt back in surprise. I hadn't thought she would wake up that quickly. "Axi?" Her hands go to her head. "Oww..."

I stand up and gather her into my arms. I can carry her easily, since she's so tiny. "Where to next?"

"Nowhere close," Gizzy mutters. "You won't be able to hold that freeze for long, and when you let go, that demon will track you down even if we're miles away by then. We'll have to go to another cael."

"Cael?"

"Latin for world, or universe. Do you think you can manage it?"

"Uhh... So this... where we are now... is a cael? And you want me to take you to another?"

"Exactly." She sees my expression. "You don't know how to do that, do you?"

"Nope."

"Imagine it. Just... do whatever you did to get here."

"I edited a film."

Gizzy sighs. "When you edited that film, you were imagining a world in which it was set. Pretend you're filming now, and create a world in your head. Any world."

"Er... okay." I close my eyes. I imagine myself filming a scene in a beautiful world, with sunshine and meadows. A breeze carries butterflies across a river. A world the bear won't be able to access...

"Hurry up, already."

"I'm trying, I'm trying..." I imagine myself standing on the bank of the river, Gizzy in my arms. Then I start to edit. I edit the world. I edit myself in my head. I edit everything, and as I do, I feel a strange sensation, like I'm being pulled headfirst through a keyhole.

I'm in the middle of editing the sounds-- adding my favourite songs to play in the world-- when I hear Gizzy laugh. I open my eyes.

It's the field. The field I was editing just now. It's even more beautiful than what I had imagined it to be. And when the music starts playing... I know I'm home.

"Oh, wow," I breathe, scarcely daring to move, for fear of disrupting the perfection of this world. "This has been here all this time? And all I had to do was edit a film to get to it? I can't believe... When they were bullying me, this would have been perfect..."

"Axi!" Gizzy gestures to me. She's sitting on a massive boulder, at least three or four times taller than me. I run towards her and climb up, using the indentations on its side like steps. I can't help laughing when I feel the breeze on my face, and a powerful sense of joy rises in my chest. This place is more than amazing. It's like the air I'm breathing is hope itself.

"This is a beautiful world, Axi!" Gizzy says when I reach the top. "It's perfect."

"It is," I say, panting slightly from the climb, and looking around for a place to sit. "Would you care to explain everything now?"

Gizzy nods. "Sit here, Axi." She pats a small niche in front of her.

I sit down. "So. What... what am I? I'm ready for anything you tell me, I swear."

She nods. "I know you are. Look, Axi, I won't be able to tell you everything today, okay?" Gizzy takes a deep breath. "The thing is, Axi... you're really special.

"At the start of each century, a person is chosen for a special job before they are born. This job is commonly called the tractatori, the manipulator, or the pax custos, the peace keeper.

"In 2000, a different person, a different tractatori, was born in each country. The jobs of those people were, and still are, to protect their own country (but not to the expense of others), allow the people within them to live peacefully, allow those alongside them to coexist in harmony."

"But I'm not born in 2000," I interrupt. "How can I be the tractor-whatever?"

"Questions after," says Gizzy sternly.

"These 2000-borns are going to enter the position of tractatori when they turn 18. When that happens, they will take over from the tractatori before them, and become frozen at 18 for exactly a hundred years, forfeiting his or her mortal life to become a sort of guardian angel. The previous tractatori will essentially die then, and the spirit will be relocated to one of his or her most beloved caels, where he or she will spend the afterlife with his or her loved ones."

"Forfeit her mortal life?" I whisper. I could never do that...

"Anyway, we can discuss that in a hundred years. Look, the thing is, tractatori have powers which help them to protect their country. Powers like the ones you've displayed. Freezing things, changing caels... the whole shibang. And the tractatori all get their powers from a certain type of media. You've probably guessed which media you've got."

She looks at me for confirmation. I nod. She continues.

"Your media is one of the most powerful ones, now that we're in the electronic age. You see, media powers work best on people who have had some experience with it. For example, say you try to use your freezing powers on some girl who barely reads books but instead spends all her free time watching TV. In that case, the girl would be frozen for a long, long time. That bear, on the other hand... Well, let's just say I'm really glad you got us out of there in time.

"Every tractatori has an assistant their age-- who's also their mentor. That's what I am, Axi." Gizzy beams with pride. "Mentors always come from the ancient cael of Iazizozosibip. That's where I'm from. In your language, English, "iazizozosibip" means "nutters"."

"Nutters?"

"Yep. A combination of "numbers" and "letters", since we use English numbers and letters to determine our language. Of course, there are those who just don't choose to see it that way."

I laugh, but I stop quickly. "Sorry. Please go on."

"Caels. Now, caels are fantasy worlds, invented and maintained entirely by a tractatori. Your cael can contain anything you want, even animals. However, caels dissolve quickly after a tractatori has left it. This one will, too-- unless you name it."

"Idyllica," I say quickly. "This is a paradise I won't ever lose."

"You've got to say the charm, too, though. Place your hand to this rock and say--repeat after me-- Ex hoc ego."

"Ex hoc ego."

"Alligaverit nomen."

"Alligaverit nomen."

"Huius caeli."

"Huius caeli." 

"Ad verbum Idyllica."

"Ad verbum Idyllica."

I feel a tingle in my stomach, and a blue light blossoms between my fingers. Idyllica. The very air whispers the new name to the cael. I fall silent for a moment, just listening to my very own world truly become mine.

"Good." Gizzy looks pleased. "See, I told you your powers were very strong."

I swallow. "Could you... could you take a loved one into a cael?"

Gizzy shakes her head. "Only other tractatori, and mentors, or other cael-dwellers. Normal mortals cannot. It is impossible for their spirits while they are still alive.

"But... if you truly, deeply, love a mortal, then you will find that a small part of his or her consciousness can join you in the cael. When you return back to Earth, the mortal will only recall his moments there as being a very vivid dream."

"I see." I'm quiet for a moment, absorbing the information. "Anything else I need to know?"

"I actually think that's everything important about the general tractatori world right now." Gizzy taps my knee gently. "You're taking this awfully well."

I shrug. "I always knew I was different."

Gizzy gives a small smile. "Good. Now, I think it's time we talk about you, specifically."

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