This is a serial series I will be posting every week on Thursday. Please find the earlier posts on my blog.
“Well, Maxine Waters, I can’t say I’m impressed but it looks like luck was on your side.”
Maxine blinked to find the dreadlocked man standing above her. What had Falcon called him? Captain Gray Wind? No, Gray Wing.
He held out a hand and, after a few seconds of hesitation, she took it and he hauled her to her feet. She immediately felt the need to sit down again.
“What was that?” she asked.
“The beast? Or your savior?”
“Uh, both.” Maxine realized the entire crew was standing behind the captain, all eyeing her suspiciously. She looked down at her hoodie, jeans, and sneakers and realized she distinctly stood out from this crowd. A fair mix of men and women, both young and old, they swayed with the rocking of the ship. Some had fine clothes that would have made Charles Dickens feel at home and others looked like Gen Zers at the coffee shop across the street from her apartment. Maxine had called it “Bohemian-steampunk-thrift” back in her world. She wasn’t sure what it was here.
Captain Gray Wing smiled and motioned back with an arm, “Aprene, please come forward.” The crowd parted and Maxine thought she saw a shimmer of light before a tall woman stepped forward. Maxine immediately recognized her as the woman with the barbed spear that had been standing under the open maws of the beast only moments before. As she stepped toward Maxine, she extended her hand. Do people shake hands in this world? I guess I’ll find out. Maxine took Aprene’s hand in hers and for a second Maxine was transported back to the antique shop. Warm lamplight surrounded her and a soft rain fell on the roof. The front door was still shut and no ghastly wind blew her to the wall. Then, the vision was gone and Maxine gasped as she was returned to the ship.
“Aprene can have that effect on people,” Captain Gray Wing said. “She can help people realize their true desires…among other things.” Maxine waited for him to continue but he only said, “She also just saved you from the Sulphoridard, the beast with the, uh, bad breath.” Maxine tried giving Aprene a gracious smile but found the tall huntress studying her rather closely.
“You are familiar to me,” Aprene said, her voice neither husky nor airy but somewhere in between. “Where do you come from?” She began circling Maxine. “Have you ever been to Lake Mu’rin?”
“Umm…” Maxine had no idea where she was and, consequently, was at a loss for words. Do I tell them the truth? Or, pretend to be part of this strange place? All eyes were on her. She thought quickly. “No, no, I’m not. More in the general area of, uh, Lake Huron.” Maxine was, in fact, from Monterey Park, a suburb of LA, no where near Lake Huron.
Puzzlement furrowed Aprene’s black brows. They were like two perfectly symmetrical raven wings and Maxine found herself transfixed suddenly by her lovely face. She quickly glanced away and caught the eye of another crew member who was looking at her with some sort of contemplation on his face. He smiled slightly and gave her a bit of a nod. She hastily searched for somewhere else to look.
“I do know you!” Aprene suddenly declared. “Yes, of course! You are Yunil the Riant!”
“What?” said Maxine and Gray Wing simultaneously. He turned to look at Maxine more closely.
Shit, thought Maxine. She didn’t know why, but suddenly she saw that line of text on the typewriter at the antique shop: “A mirrored image is a reversal of self. What do you see when you see yourself?” She didn’t know why, but she felt something spark within her, like a fine crack forming on a teacup. Something was wrong–very, very wrong–but she didn’t know what it was. All she could do was slump against the railing of the ship and accept the fact that she likely wouldn’t be making it to the corner store for groceries for quite some time.
To be continued…