Hey, everyone! I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. Your priorities are to have fun with your family and friends, open presents, and share the Christmas spirit! Even if you don’t have family or friends (although you should unless you live alone on an uncharted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean), just grab a few good books and make them your family! Curl up in front of the fire tonight with a nice, warm cup of hot cocoa (or any other drinks you prefer), crack open a good book, and get to reading! The world awaits you.

As promised, I have the first of Kiriyah Renovelta’s great adventures. However, I was not able to finish the Thanksgiving one, and it turned out that the alternate universe mirrored Christmas. Hence, I decided to change it from a Thanksgiving theme to a Christmas one in order to get it to you on time. I have been working day and night, yet it is so long that I will split it into 3-5 parts for you, all strategically staged between today and tomorrow. The sequel will turn out to have two adventures with two different problems, each for a different holiday.

Happy Reading!

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“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!”

Kiriyah jumped up, alarmed, from where she was reading on her bed. “Mom?! What happened?!”

“We’re out of wrapping paper and we still have another 8 presents to wrap!”

Kiriyah shook her head and sighed. They had moved in only a week ago and already her mom was as busy as ever. that day was Christmas Eve Day, and they were all busy preparing for the age-old tradition of giving, and waiting for Santa Claus to bring them presents in the middle of the night.

Kiriyah tramped down the stairs. “While you go get the wrapping paper,” she announced, pulling on her fuzzy purple winter coat, “I’m going to take a walk around the neighborhood.”

“Be careful, Kiriyah,” her dad called from the living room, where he was in his favorite armchair by the fire, reading a newspaper. “You don’t have a phone and you don’t know the neighborhood very well.”

“Don’t forget to come back before dark,” her mother reminded her as she opened the door. “It’s easy to get lost in the dark.”

Kiriyah nodded and followed her outside, muttering a quick goodbye to her parents before taking off down the sidewalk. As she walked, she marvelled at the beauty of the street, with the pure white snow glistening among the trees’ bare branches, and blanketing the ground with the sleekness of the undisturbed white precipitation.

Kiriyah thought about her old life. She used to be a normal girl with a normal home who had normal friends and a normal everyday adventure. She’d gone to school–4th grade, in fact–and she’d had a normal family, along with an annoying little brother who wasn’t so annoying anymore.

They’d all perished in an anonymous fire that destroyed their home.

Kiriyah was at soccer practice, but when she wasn’t able to call her mom, she decided to walk home. There, she had found ashes where the house once stood, and what remained of it was in flames. Her family’s bodies were burnt to a crisp.

Kiriyah had gone to the local orphanage, and for years she had stayed there, hoping that someone would take her in, but no one came. She had had no money and was bullied by the older girls, since the younger ones were too afraid to stand up to them. The matron always turned a blind eye, believing the bully to be ‘her little angel’. After a while she gave up and resigned herself to being bullied and bossed around until she came of age.

Yet fortune smiled upon her. Her current parents–Cooper and Evangelina Renovelta–had been sympathetic about Kiriyah’s plight and taken her in. It turned out that they had a son named Anjelo, who became Kiriyah’s little brother.

That night, Cooper had lost his job.

They had been moving from place to place ever since. Cooper was trying to find a job, and so was Evangelina. Anjelo had recently started kindergarten, and Evangelina had gone from a stay-at-home mom to a worker–if she could find a job.

They had moved to the sleepy town of Everhollow Springs, where the most exciting thing that ever happened was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Sale.

Kiriyah saw ahead the old lady who lived down the street. Every day, she would come out and water all of the trees along the street, giving them their healthy vibes. Rain or shine, she would be seen outside protecting her precious trees without fail, even if most of them had died from the chill of first frost.

The lady looked up. “Ah, Kiriyah!” she called softly, beckoning her over. “Come see this.”

Kiriyah hurried over. “What is it?”

She pointed to the base of the tree, where a single green caterpillar, thin without leaves to eat, was sitting. It was clearly dying. The crumbly brown leaf next to it was covered in holes, yet the caterpillar had not eaten it since it fell down.

“If you give it the right care,” the lad murmured, “it will turn into a beautiful butterfly. But be careful; even the most harmless of creatures can be exactly the opposite.”

I stared at her, confused, but she didn’t look back at me. Instead, she was watching the caterpillar. Pulling a small jar from her purse, she gently scooped up the caterpillar and dropped a tiny stick inside. She held it up to the light and surveyed it. “Kiriyah,” she said suddenly.

“Yeah?”

“Would you like to come over to my house for tea?” she offered.

I shrugged my shoulders. “Sure, but maybe I should let my parents know.”

“Come now,” she protested lightly. “It’s only down the street.”

I sighed. “Alright.”

Together, we walked down towards her house down the street. It looked like any other house on the block, except the garden was exceptional, with all types of blossoming flowers, huge fruits, and, of course, trees of all sizes. Some of these plants weren’t even in season and should’ve been dying in the fall chill, yet they were alive and healthy.

The lady fished a key out from her purse and unlocked the front door. “Come on in,” she said, reaching for the light switch.

As the light flared on, Kiriyah gazed in awe at the foyer. Several hallways led off to the side, and a polished staircase with a huge banister led upstairs, winding around a central point. How it was so big, she didn’t know, but it was amazing.

The lady led Kiriyah off to the right, where they emerged into a lavishly furnished room. She gestured for Kiriyah to sit down, and she sat on a soft, comfy chair while the lady made tea.

Kiriyah sat for some time, but without a watch, she was unaware of how much time passed, as the old lady’s clock had long since stopped, the hands quivering on 1:42 forever. After a while, she stood up and went to the kitchen to see what was taking so long.

The lady was gone.

There were two cups of half-made tea on the black marble countertop, but she was nowhere to be seen. A note lay next to the cups, scrawled in hasty handwriting. It was difficult to read, but Kiriyah got the message:

Kiriyah, an urgent matter has overtaken me. I hope you will forgive me. All of the answers you seek are in the attic behind the BLUE  door. DO NOT open any others, particularly not the red door. Good  luck.

Kiriyah shook her head, tucking the note into her jacket pocket. She decided to try the little game, so she walked out into the hallway and pulled the chain to let the attic stairs down. After all, what was the harm?

Kiriyah climbed the stairs, half expecting to see 2 doors, blue and red–but there were 3. Blue in the middle, red on the right, and another door, green, on the left.

Kiriyah was tempted to open the red door, but she thought of the old lady’s warnings. Instead, she crossed to the green door and reached out a hand to grasp the handle, but again she remembered the note. With a sigh, she dropped her hand and stepped sideways to face the bright blue door.

With a trembling hand, she reached out for the handle, took a deep breath, and turned the brass knob.

It was locked.

Kiriyah raised an eyebrow. Was this all some sort of trick?

Just then, she noticed something glinting at the edge of her vision. She turned around. There, resting on an old, dusty cardboard shipping box, was a glinting golden key–and one that matched the handle at that.

Kiriyah picked it up gently, as if afraid it would crumble to dust when she touched it. Gingerly, she inserted it into the lock, turned it, and swung the door open.

She was greeted by a white light, glaring in her face. She stumbled backwards, falling onto the wooden floor.

The light died down, and Kiriyah opened her eyes. She stared out the door, then rubbed her eyes and checked again. No, it was really there.

It was a large expanse of black. The glistening substance stretched on for as far as she could see, and red-and white trees with light blue leaves sprouted from the ground. The air was crisp and cool, and the sun shined radiantly.

“Wonderful! You’re here,” said a voice.

Kiriyah peered out the door. The old lady was standing to the left of it, waiting patiently. As Kiriyah watched, she plucked a blue leaf off of the tree above her and dropped it onto the ground. She used a trowel to scoop up some of the black stuff and poured it onto the leaf. Before her eyes, another identical tree sprung up in its place. The black stuff melted into a puddle, hardened, and cracked into pieces, forming what Kiriyah had first took to be rocks.

Kiriyah blinked again. “What in the world–” she began, then trailed off, taking in her surroundings one more time.

“Kiriyah,” the lady said softly. “This is an alternate universe.”

“What?”

“An alternate universe,” she explained, “is a universe that is exactly the opposite of ours. For example: the ground here is made up of burning black snow. The trees reproduce through their leaves. There is no wind. The sky is yellow. The plants need neither food nor water, and people here don’t have to breathe.”

Kiriyah raised an eyebrow. “That’s both cool and creepy at the same time.”

“In here,” she continued, “books are real life and real life is books. Death is valued more than life. In truth, life is lived in our universe, and when death occurs, their spirits come here.”

Kiriyah’s eyes widened. “You mean there are dead people here?”

She was secretly thinking of her family, hoping she could talk to them. Could they possibly be here, waiting for her to find them?

“I’m sure you’re thinking of contacting the dead,” the lady said gently, “but it simply can’t be done. Only the ancient spirits, those long-forgotten, are back here. This door spawns into the mediocre part of the universe. The red door, as you recall, I told you not to go near, because behind that is the punishing part of the universe. The green door would be where the famous, long-lived, meaningful people go, but I don’t have the key for that one.”

Kiriyah nodded, digesting the information. She was disappointed that she could not converse with her family, but she tried again.

“What happens to new spirits?”

“They are in a different section that is inaccessible to all except the Spirit Queen,” the lady answered. “The older the spirit, the closer to the wall, but the younger spirits stay in the center. When a spirit is old enough, it gains the ability to pass through the wall and into the outer world. However, there are two different walls: the good one, which is behind the green door, and the moderate one, where we are standing right now. Those who are fit for the good part of the world can go to both, although most can only go through the one medium wall.”

“And the bad spirits?” Kiriyah asked hesitantly.

“They’re taken away as soon as they arrive. Every spirit, before coming to this world, goes through a mid-transfer trial between one world and the next, in order to determine what kind of person they were in life and what they should become in death.”

Kiriyah nodded again. She had a newfound respect for this world as she looked around. It seemed so peaceful. “Are there any conflicts in such a beautiful place?”

“Don’t let the beauty fool you.” A warning flashed in the old lady’s eyes. “There has been a massive war between the three parts, and everyone is forced to choose a side when they leave the wall–and there’s a huge number of those in each. Once you choose a side, you can’t change it. If you betray your side, not even your opponents would trust you, and you would be sought out by your side. The only way would be to go into hiding and try to find one of the three doors that are in my attic, to escape from the feud and begin anew with an actual life. They’d have all their memories from their previous life as well as from their time in death. However, they can only open it from the outside if they have the key, however. It requires a journey in itself.”

“It can’t be that hard to find a door, this seems like a common path,” Kiriyah reasoned.

“Turn around,” she prompted in return.

Kiriyah whirled around. The blue door she had come through, once set into the rock face, had dematerialized, blending in with the bright purple colors and leaving nothing but fuchsia rock staring back at her.

“It blends in so well,” she marvelled. “But does that mean they could only get through the green door?”

“Yes,” she confirmed. “How did you know?”

“You mentioned earlier that you had all of the keys except the green one. Where else could it be except here?”

“That’s true,” the old lady confirmed. “You’re a good listener and smart, too. I’m sure you could do great good if you were to come here more often.”

“Oh, could I?” Kiriyah asked, her delight lighting her eyes. “I’d love to explore!”

“Only if I were with you,” she said firmly. “Getting lost here would surely kill you. The Spirit Queen isn’t really happy that I have two of the keys in the first place, but if she found out I was letting you wander around here on your own with the key in your pockets–easy prey for door-seekers, I might add–would possibly cause her to force my keys away. I have enough power to defend the two of us from key bandits, but I am no match for the Spirit Queen.”

“I have one last question,” Kiriyah said. “Who else knows about this alternate universe aside from us?”

“You’re the first person I’ve told, and the only one,” the old lady replied, eyes sparkling.

“Why me? Why not a responsible adult, someone who could defend themselves?”

“Because,” she said, “you’re the only other one I know of who has magic inside you.”

Kiriyah gasped. “Magic?”

The old lady nodded. “You can’t defend yourself with sheer force. Knowledge and power–by which I mean magical power– are the only things that keep you safe around here. Also, only magic-users could bear a door key.”

Kiriyah looked down at the key she held in her hand. It was glimmering in the soft light of the blue sun, shimmering as if there were a thousand stars embedded in the metal. “It does seem magic now that I can see it in the light,” she murmured. “The red one would be tinted red, no?”

“That is correct, and the green a pale one,” the old lady said. “This is an aquamarine color, more solid simply because of the blue light, but in our world it would be a lighter blue–pale like a flower.”

Kiriyah looked at it again in awe. With difficulty, she forced herself to tear her eyes away from the beautiful metal craft. She shoved it into her left pocket uneasily, wondering what power it had just exerted over her.

Suddenly, the old lady uttered a quiet scream of surprise. Kiriyah looked up in alarm, eyes wide. Lithe, white-clad figures had surrounded her, throwing a very long grain sack over her head. It was so long that it fell past her feet and trailed onto the ground. The attackers grasped the end of the bag and turned it over, causing the old lady inside the bag to scream. Dragging her along behind them, they took off.

“No!” Kiriyah cried, taking a step towards them. “Stop!”

She raced after them as fast as she could, taking care not to touch the black snow, but the kidnappers were just too fast. Kiriyah slowed down, breathing heavily, as the attackers rounded a corner and disappeared from her line of sight. “Stop,” she repeated weakly, but there was no one left to hear her.

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