The room was huge—at least ten times bigger than Zane had expected. Bigger than the footprint of the house. Near the doorway, a simple cot stood against a bare wall. Next to it an alarm clock and a book sat on a table. All normal, everyday things.
The rest of the room was something out of a dream.
A set of heavy wooden doors completely filled the space. Simple inlaid handles joined to create a square with a single character in silver paint—like a letter from a strange alphabet—in the center. The space between the bed and the doorway reminded Zane of a Japanese rock garden with matching benches on either side of a walkway. The stones that formed the garden substrate glowed blue and seemed to oscillate, first solid, then flowing like a liquid.
Someone stood between the two benches, his back to Zane, dressed in a hooded robe of deep blue with silver embroidery at the ends of the sleeves that hung well below where his hands would be. The same letter painted on the doors had been sewn in silver thread into the fabric at the back of the garment. The scent of something familiar and sweet danced around Zane’s senses, reminding him of the delicate perfume his mother had worn, with its hints of citrus and ginger. In the face of the impossible beauty of this place—was he still in his basement?—the fragrance felt familiar and warm.
“I didn’t want you to find out this way.” Kit’s shoulders rose and fell as he drew an audible breath. He turned around. In the dim light of the room, his eyes glowed green and his pupils looked much like a cat’s. His skin was so pale, it seemed nearly translucent. He pressed his lips together and held Zane’s gaze before he reached up and drew off his hood.
Kit’s hair tumbled over his shoulders and down his back in waves, the red silk of it like embers in the hottest of fires. Zane gasped. Atop Kit’s head were two large ears like those of an animal, pointed and furred. Like a wolf, or a dog, or a—
“Fox,” Kit said as if he’d heard Zane’s thoughts.
With that, a wave of something black flew toward him. It wrapped itself around him and squeezed. He couldn’t see. He couldn’t breathe. His head spun and the room shifted sideways. The last thing he remembered was two strong arms catching him as he fell.