Iufaa was kind of late in getting adapted for the Arena, as I recall it, but he worked out fairly well. I actually wrote this more to play with my concept of chaos.. which isn't a whole hell of a lot like the mathematical one, to be honest. I'm surprised. I still really like it.

The Chaos Stream

It's quiet here -- real quiet. And the light is neutral. No day, no night. No sound unless we make them -- we try to talk at least once in a while so that we don't forget how. Or so that we don't forget the sounds of our own voices. It's hard to get a sense of the place, I've been here so long. The pulse and flow beat in time with my own blood -- I can't distinguish it. I tried to keep track of it at first, but you know how that goes.

Chaos is tricky stuff. Form without form, sense without sense -- all that kind of garbled nonsense people try to use to describe it. It's been my life and breath for -- well -- I don't really know how long now. Arcadia might know, but she's been sulking lately.

"I want to go back."

"Sorry." I didn't add the implied "I didn't force you to come," but she heard it anyway and glared. Maybe she glared. Everything's sense and feel now -- I don't know if I can see.

"I'm hungry, Iufaa," she complained. "I haven't eaten in so long ..."

"Neither have I." My father's gates ... usually my trips don't last long. I pop in one side and out the other. I can't help but wonder if I messed up somehow ... but there's not much help for it at this point. We'll just keep going until the gate opens again.

The last world I was in ... it was a nice place. It was actually a lot more like home than my original home is now -- especially since my original home doesn't exist anymore. But one by one, everyone died, and it's hard to keep a home when there's no one there to keep it with. I don't look it, but I've been alive around four hundred fifty years -- that's enough time to lose most of your friends and relatives. I don't know why I've been alive so long -- I always thought I was mortal like everyone else.

Well, almost everyone.

Arcadia's a vampire from the world I left -- five minutes ago -- five years ago. She's really strange. But she's about as loyal as any friend I've had -- and any vampire I've known. I don't know why I asked her to come. I don't know why she accepted. I think she's sort of regretting it now, but that's all right. We can't really do anything about it now.

I could feel the flow changing as we moved along -- it's always changing, and it's always the same -- but this time it's not the way it Should Be. Chaos has patterns, but this isn't choas -- it's normalcy. Solid. Firm. We floated toward it for days -- weeks? Minutes, maybe.

I don't know if Arcadia felt it, so I took her arm -- maybe. Did we still have shape and form? Who knew.

"It's changing," I said. I could feel the gate open, and almost at the same time I felt her arms wind around my neck. Solid. Real.

We were leaving the stream. She might have said something -- I didn't hear. I was straining toward the un-change that was taking shape around us. Gradually and abruptly, skimming the refuse off the top of the stream -- returning us back to time and space, where we belonged. I wrapped my arms around her waist just to make sure, feeling the book -- my book, oh, you have no idea about my book -- pressed between us.

It was sort of like popping out of a bubble. The light was too bright, the sounds too harsh and real. Arcadia lifted her pale head, squinted in the sunlight -- had sunlight always been so yellow? So bright? -- and promptly buried it back against my neck. Normally I'd have reservations about a vampire being anywhere near my throat, but I've known Arcadia for a long time.

I think I stared at the sky for an hour, waiting for the world around me to become mundane again. Birds chirping in the trees, the breeze blowing grass and clouds, and a wagon with horses clopping along a rutted road.

Arcadia remained a stubborn lump in my lap. She could survive in sunlight, but she didn't like it much.

"I wonder where we are." My voice sounded strange. Blast it. "Talk to me, Arcadia."

"I want to go back." A sniffle.

I sighed. "Do you want to sit in the shade 'til nightfall?"

She nodded firmly, face still buried against me.

"Come on, then. We'll have to get up and find some."

A much put-upon sigh. But she did move, finally. She blinked in the sun as I stood up, offering her my hand, which she ignored. I chose a direction and started walking, and she followed me. Good enough.

I didn't find any trees, though. Just a wooden fence and more grass. I followed it for a while, and I was almost convinced that turning around would be a better bet, when it widened up into something I'd never seen before. Arcadia stopped just behind me and pressed her hand into mine. I guess I should have been a little intimidated, too, but I wasn't.

It was a coliseum -- an arena -- the biggest I'd ever seen in all my travels. And it teemed with life. I could practically feel the currents of energy. I pressed my hand lightly against the book -- I keep it wrapped up in my tunic, most of the time -- and didn't get much reaction.

"Come on." I squeezed Arcadia's hand. "It's a good place."

She looked at me doubtfully.

"I promise."

She sighed, rolling her deeply violet eyes. "As long as there's food."

"More than you can possibly consume."

She smiled -- not the fanged grin she gets when she's feeling predatory, a real one. We started walking toward the arena.