Grant opened his eyes at the hiss of escaping gasses. The translucent door slid open before him to reveal a darkened laboratory.
“Hello?” he said weakly; the word hurt coming out. The lab he remembered was bright and full of busy lab coats. The room appeared to be the same, but it was completely dark outside of his cryo-chamber.
The lean man took a slow step out of the chamber. The first time he tried to rest his weight on it for the next step; he felt it wobble under him. He paused to get his balance, then tried shifting his weight again. Once he was confident his leg would hold him, he took another step forward.
“Anyone?” he asked the darkness.
“Who are you?” a girl’s voice asked. Grant turned toward the voice but saw only black.
“Grant,” he said. “You?” he hoped he didn’t sound rude, but his throat burned like a flaming cactus.
“Molly,” the girl replied from the shadows. Her voice came from a different part of the lab; Grant did not bother turning to face the new direction; his legs still felt weak.
“Water?” Grant asked. After a silent moment, he added, “Please?” A blue glow appeared in his peripheral vision and he regretted not turning toward the voice. He shuffle-turned toward the light and found a young, pale girl. The light came from a blue ball in her hands. She stepped toward Grant and offered the glowing orb to him.
Grant decided to just accept it without wasting the energy to ask what it was. With some effort, he managed to raise his hand and hold his palm out. The glowing sphere looked large in her small hands, but in his palm, it was only about the size of a small cantaloupe. It felt cool and wobbled like a water balloon when she dropped it on his hand.
When she did not see Grant do anything with it, the girl produced another, smaller orb from the darkness. As soon as its light came into view, Grant managed to pick out some details. She seemed to pull the orb from a bag hanging over her shoulder. She lifted the smaller ball to her face; it showed her pointy ears.
“It’s water. Drink it,” she said, then lifted her own orb to her lips. Grant watched the sphere get smaller in her hands until she pulled it away. The weakened man followed suit and touched it to his lips.
The water flowed into his mouth the moment his lips touched it, without having to suck it like a straw. The cool liquid washing down his throat felt heavenly.
“Thank you!” Grant said after a pleasant sigh. His throat felt good as new, and his arms and legs seemed to have found their strength again. “That was the best water ever!” Molly smiled.
“You’re welcome. Where did you come from?” she asked. He whirled around to point at the cryo-chamber. “I’ve been napping for…,” he paused. “…uh what year is it?”
“Two-hundred thirty-seven,” Molly replied.
“Awww, crap. Do you know anything about the calendar before this one?” Grant asked. He considered the possibility of a calendar change, but everyone was documenting every moment of their lives at the time he went under. He assumed the lab technicians would have all the relevant information for him when he woke. That plan was obviously out the window. He was supposed to be woken up after 500 years and he wondered how much time passed before the change, 237 years ago. Molly shook her head.
“I don’t, but the library in Sharp city might.”
“That’s great! Do you know someone that can take me there?” Grant hoped the library would have information about the old calendar and maybe medical information. “Do they have good doctors in Sharp city?” Molly nodded, then shook her head to answer his questions.
“I can take you, but I don’t know what a doctor is.”
“Uh, someone that takes care of sick people? A healer?” Grant elaborated, and Molly smiled broadly.
“Were you sick?” she asked.
“Very,” Grant sighed. “They put me to sleep and I was supposed to wake up when there was a cure. If there’s no cure yet, I’m dead in a couple of months. “
“Nu uh,” Molly’s eyes sparkled. “I’m a healer.” Grant smiled down at her.
“I’m sure you’re a great healer,” Grant did his best to not sound condescending. “But how far is Sharp city from here?” He changed the subject to avoid the topic of her healing skills. He did not know how much the world had changed, but he could not imagine someone so young being a doctor.
“100 miles,” she said. “I can take you tomorrow. Sorry, I don’t have time today.” Grant’s eyes adjusted to the darkness by this point; he saw and heard Molly search through her bag. The young girl pulled out a cloth-wrapped bundle and handed it to Grant.
“Here’s some food for tonight,” she said. After Grant accepted the food, she held her palm out. Moisture from the air gathered in the center of her palm and began to glow with green light instead of blue. Within moments, she held another ball of water. “And some more water if you need it. If you stay here tonight, I can come back tomorrow to take you to Sharp city.
“Why’s this one green?” Grant asked as he accepted it.
“It’s a different spell. This is plain water, the blue one was to heal you.”
“What? Spell? As in magic?” Molly nodded and grinned.
“I told you I was a healer.”
“Magic is…real?” Grant said aloud; more to himself than to Molly. “What the hell did I miss?”
“Don’t know, I hope you find out tomorrow,” Molly said, then she gave Grant a half-wave. “I have to go. Goodnight, Grant.”
“Thank you, Molly, goodnight.” Grant expected her to turn around and walk away. Instead, she shook her head and muttered to herself with an amused smile.
“These NPCs are so real, this is gonna be a fun quest,” she said quietly, but Grant still heard. Before he could ask her about it, Molly’s features blurred and changed; a black, faceless mannequin was left in her place. After a second, the mannequin disintegrated and disappeared.