A Moment Between Worlds
By Violet Day
Date: December 8, 2017
Ch. 22

Feeling a little sick, she turned up the volume of the TV and turned it from the movie to a news station.
“Commuters were terrified and confused this morning when a strange creature boarded city transit.” A young woman shoved a microphone into the face of a little girl standing in a train station. “Can you tell me what you saw?”
“A dragon,” the little girl said, completely seriously. The man standing behind her, presumably her father, elbowed her and hissed “Sarah..”
He looked at the camera. “It was some kind of escaped zoo animal, I'm sure. I didn't get a great look at it, it was moving so fast.”
“Because it was a dragon,” the little girl whined.
The camera cut to a man sitting at a table in a studio. “Animal control are currently searching for this mysterious creature. We will keep you updated with any developments.”
Tessa blinked.
She turned off the television.
She hadn't thought about dragons and knights since her middle and elementary school years, when she had been a voracious fantasy novel reader. In high school she had gradually given that up for textbooks and social acceptance.
Maybe she was just losing her connection with reality. It was bound to happen sooner or later, right? Her mom had spent a year in a mental facility when Tessa was ten, for reasons never explained.
Maybe those reasons were being explained right now.
Tessa threw away the rest of her TV dinner and collapsed into her bed, face down on the pillow. She would probably feel a lot better after a good night of sleep.
She was just falling asleep when what sounded like a firework went off outside her window.
Groaning, she rolled over and buried her face in her pillow. She had never regretted renting an apartment on the ground floor with a window to the alley so much as she did in that moment. Usually while falling asleep she was serenaded by the sounds of hobos peeing, cats meowing, and low voices hammering out the details of a drug deal. Not pleasant, but relatively quiet at least.
Now it sounded like something was on fire. Light streamed through her alley window.
She was tired enough that going into the alley and yelling at the culprit seemed like a good idea.
She pulled on pajama pants and a loose t-shirt –she had been sleeping in her underwear –and headed into the hallway. She turned purposefully towards the back alley entrance. Only as she was opening the alley door did she realize she was doing something kind of stupid.
Bone-chilling night air woke her up fully. She leaned through the doorway and looked into the alley.
A dark figure was sitting underneath her window, knees pulled up to their chest, with what really seemed to be an orb of warm, crackling, fuel-less fire floating a foot in front of them.
“Excuse me,” Tessa said, stepping into the alley. Her building’s door swung shut behind her with a thud. “Are you okay?”
Though this strange person had woken her up from sleep, she still felt a bit worried for them. From what she could make out in the firelight, the figure was wearing tight dark pants, boots, and a loose button up shirt. They looked to be male. His face was looking away from her so she couldn’t quite tell.
After a long moment in which Tessa seriously considered just going back inside –the fire was probably just a projection or something and she didn’t quite mind the noise –he finally looked her way.
“Kind lad,” he said softly. “I am not, as you say, okay. I am a long way from home and very cold.”
Tessa couldn’t even process his words for a long moment.
The man was absolutely gorgeous.
His hair seemed to take on the color of the firelight, but also had a pale quality that hinted it would be light blonde or white in neutral light. His bone structure was immaculate, his cheekbones smooth and his face slender. His eyelashes cast long shadows down his pale cheeks.
She desperately wanted to know the color of his eyes.
Tessa swallowed. She remembered the weird guy in armor calling her a lad, too, earlier that day. She didn’t usually have any issues with people not recognizing her as female. She didn’t dress in skirts or dresses very often, but her hair was chin length and she liked her makeup.
“I’m not a lad,” she said, unable to move past that thought.
The man stood, the fire fizzling away. Now they were only illuminated by the neon lights and passing cars at each side of the alley.
“My mistake, my lady.” He bowed, one hand pressed to his back. “The length of your hair and the nature of your dress led me to believe you a pageboy, but your lovely voice says you are the lady you purport to be.”
“Um,” Tessa said. “Okay.” Yet another strange person. She was going insane. She was hallucinating. “There’s a shelter up the black,” she said finally regaining her wits. “If you need somewhere warm to sleep.”
Speaking of warmth, she was freezing. Her t-shirt and wimpy pajama pants weren’t doing much for her against the icy breeze.
“My lady,” the man said. “I do not wish to seek shelter with coarse strangers and vagrants. Would you consider bringing me to your master, as we have already made acquaintance. I would be glad to introduce myself to him.”
Tessa tilted her head. “I don’t have a master, dude.” She stepped back inside the hallway, keeping the alley door open with one arm. “Look, come in. You can warm up at my place until I can figure out what mental institution you belong to.”
The subtleties of Tessa’s terse invitation seemed lost on the man, but he still followed her into her building, smiling.

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