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What am I looking at? It's three in he morning, and the noise is gone. Now there's just an empty room with a whole lot of pieces of bread all over the floor, and the remnants of something that might have been a magic circle, and scorch marks. A smell of ozone. The entire memory of the past six hours missing but for noise. Did I do this?

I must have. I know that look, the way the darks glimmer in the light. It's the ghost of magic, real magic, and this circle was an oval, oblong and warped according to the fluctuations of the space, and the bread... the bread... it was part of it, whatever it was. This kind of ritual would have used a placement, a shape, and a focus. The bread must have been the focus. Which means this was probably my idea. Nobody else would ever try something like that, not even Garrett, though he did try a few other things after the sixth shot of vodka. Or something along those lines; whatever it was, it was strong and I don't remember much of it myself.

Something must have happened. I got back and... and what? Whatever it is, it's got to be around here somewhere, and it was me, and I'm right here, so why am I even looking?

Okay. Center. This is me we're talking about, and if it were me, I'd get a wand. Not a real wand like they have in the movies, but something else, something normal and vaguely wand-shaped, like a dildo or a breadstick or a radio antenna. And I'd make a circle right here, just like this, yes. I wouldn't decorate it, of course. Nobody really needs that; the entire point is the circle, though it does need to be perfect, of course, or it won't work properly. But I guess they couldn't really do that in the olden days, back when they didn't understand space so they made up shapes and squiggles to make up for it.

And then there would have been the shape. Possibly a squirrel, or a squash. Sometimes a chipmunk. But this time it would have been a fern. I was pretty drunk, after all.

And the fern... oh. Oh bugger. Buggery buggering bugger.

So...


BUGGER.


So that's what happened.

That wasn't supposed to happen. I just wanted to see it. I didn't mean to hit it. To break it. to collide. But that's Sarathi for you, I suppose. It never lets us get away with what we intended. Touch it, and it will carry you away, if you're lucky. If you're not so lucky, it seems inclined to just take away everything you held dear instead.

Are they there? They're not here. I checked. All gone. Houses empty. Spaces silent. The marks of their passing clear. I'm too hungover to mount a rescue mission. Got too many goats. Wouldn't even know where to start. But they're bright, creative. If they've any hope at all, they should be fine.


Fine. Fine on Sarathi. It's bloody SARATHI. Nobody is fine on Sarathi. Ain't nobody.

Doesn't change the facts, though. I need to go after them. It'll take time, and power I don't have, but if nothing else I'll find out what happened. Maybe I'll even get them home, but maybe not. That comes later.

For now, supplies. Find someone to look after the goats. Deliver the news, or some variant thereof, to their loved ones. And power. Power to trace the portal, power to follow it, but even more so, power to return. Can't return home without power. It just doesn't work. If you can't turn on the lights you can't even tell which one is home.

Or something along those lines.