The door is unlocked, and the flat is dark and cold. I don’t bother looking for dinner. We have only ever had exactly what we need. Two plates. Cups. Dining chairs. My mother does not believe in excess. Our fridge is even barer. Only one room has art or colour or warmth of any kind. I stand at the door and knock.
Sophia opens the door and a cloud of incense escapes. She gestures to the floor and I sit. Fabric covers the windows and rugs cover the walls. This room has a way of getting inside my head. The colour. The smell. Even the light is different. No chairs, only cushions and candles that never burn down.
She is in front of me but It’s impossible to tell how she feels. She holds everything tight. Even cross-legged on the floor she is in complete control of every muscle. I sit up straighter. We look alike, Sophia and me. We both have the kind of hair people assume is dyed. And the same eyes, not blue or green, but an even mixture of both.
“Peter,” she says, then stops and closes her eyes a beat. “I need you to do something, and you are the only one who can.”
“Only a Dreamer can take the next step. For us all. Do you understand?”
I assume she means, The Chapter, but I don’t ask. They all know I am one of the Dreamers. My mother was a Dreamer as well. It runs a clean bloodline.
“The Chapter needs to secure the Gift. If you succeed you will be rewarded. We both will.”
Sophia holds my eyes and seems to weigh my response before I say it, “Okay.”
“It has to be you. No one else. Understand?”
Sophia almost smiles, “The dream has set you apart. But now you must prove yourself. To me and to Jakob and to everyone in The Chapter who thinks I have wasted my time. We will prove them wrong. When you secure the Gift everything will change.”
“The wooden box? From the dream?” I ask.
Sophia nods, “Within that box is the key to unlocking a future we have only ever dreamed of.”
“Where do I start?”
She watches my face, her eyes never leaving mine., “You will be starting at school.”
School. A place I have never been. A place I don’t belong. This doesn’t make sense.
“The gift has already been given to another Dreamer. Your age and at your school. This is all I know.”
“School?” I ask. “There must be another way.”
“There is no other way. You start on Monday,” Sophia stands up. “When you succeed you can do whatever you want. Even gain a Wish before you turn eighteen. A Wish with no debt has been promised to whoever secures the gift and brings it to Jakob.”
This is tempting but I want to know more. “Are you sure?”
“I have only been given a glimpse, a small window of insight.”
She is standing above me now, her hand reaches out as if she might touch me. I try not to move. I can’t seem doubtful.
“Peter, all I need is a glimpse. I have seen the Gift in the hand of another Dreamer. Here. In Hamilton. For the first time in many generations we have a real chance. And if that person opens the box before we do…” she places her hand on my head and closes her eyes. “You will have help, Peter. The Unseen are on our side, not theirs.”
Sophia leaves, but I am not alone. She is right. The Unseen are here.
I have never been alone in her front room before, but its beauty can’t distract me from the twisting in my gut. My mother has raised me for this. That much is fact. After twelve years of home school I wasn’t expecting this. Attending school rattles me more than the quiet whispers of the Unseen. More than the Wish that can be granted to realise deepest desires. Even more than my mother’s lifetime of grooming me to join The Chapter.