She is stunned beyond imagination, dazed beyond thinking. She runs through the moss-draped rainforest where towering cedars live a thousand years and black bears are born with pale fur. Bridges constructed from slender fallen trees breath under a carpet of green adorned with ferns. Trees still standing bend, grazed by flashes of morning light. The canopy is soft and muted, and lichen drips from hemlock and yew branches. Zoem trips in the spongy ground as she dashes toward the river.
Egg-heavy fish clog the waterway, while rocks drown in algae. Even the misty fog can't mask the funky rot of salmon carcasses lying tangled in stands of tidal Sedge. Day activity will emerge as dawn settles in: wolves swimming after black-tailed deer, bears fishing snout first for fish in shallow creeks and consuming seals and scavenging herring eggs, and eagles with ginger heads. At least, these are the scenes which scouts described to the rest of them. None of these animals appear to Zoem but there are signs all over. Here, a tuft of fur snagged onto an alder branch and over there, chewed bark. Though she doesn't know what their diet is exactly, there are little tart fruits throughout the forested bank, and mussles in the river, and lupines whose roots are edible.
Zoem is utterly confused. So all these planets, all of these worlds and dimensions are only accessible to people because of some pact between Earth's humans and the Affinas? And what is an Affina, anyway? The first dream, vision, whatever, had taken place in the dark place. And she was sure she didn't want to go there again.
She sat on a cold boulder and watched the reddish sun of her world slowly creep out into the green sky. And the fact she had gone into Earth in the pathway had been no accident. The Affinas had put her into some trance. She had been intentially been set up to visit the planet of her ancestors. Why? Why her? Why her and not billions of others? A stupid creepy dream, a destiny put upon her shoulders and poof! Zoem kicked her shoes into the ground with frustration. She wanted answers.
She knew she always had lousy luck. But all of this was pure insanity. No it was all just insanity. The Affinas, whatever they were, just couldn't exist. Zoem repeated this mentally over and over again. Doesn't exist. Doesn't exist. Doesn't exist.
A small earthquake shocked the ground for a brief second as an explosion blasted the air from the direction of camp, and she knew her luck was about to get a lot worse.