Quest for Knowledge

“Damn, it’s bigger than I thought,” Jane said with a sigh. She surveyed the spacious library around them, then nodded at her five friends. “Split up,” she said, then pointed at a fair-skinned blond girl. “I’ll go ask and take Sharon with me to help her learn.” Her friends nodded and each wandered off in a separate direction except for Sharon. Jane noticed a sign from the ceiling that pointed the way to the help desk. She turned right and paced down the main walkway lined with study tables. Sharon was quick to catch up.

“Where’s your back half?” Sharon asked about Jane’s missing centaur half.

“It never occurred to me that someone might notice it,” Jane shrugged. “I changed my display settings so that it’s only visible on official servers.” She turned left under another yellow wooden arrow. Sharon followed and saw the information desk up ahead after the turn. “Did you pick a character yet?” Jane asked.

“Not yet,” Sharon shook her head. “There are way too many choices.” She replied as they reached the information desk. A low, metal desk with a computer on top and a surprisingly frazzled librarian seated behind it. The man’s eyes kept flitting to something under the counter as the girls approached.

“Can I help you?” he smiled at them and sat up straighter.

“Hi,” Jane returned his smile. “We’re looking for a book.”

“Well you came to the right place,” he chuckled and pulled the keyboard closer to him. “What’s the title?”

“Actually I don’t think it has one,” Jane said and reached into her pocket. The librarian’s eyes darted under the desk when Jane said the book had no name. She pulled a transparent glass card out of her pocket and held it out to him. “I have a picture though.”  The librarian looked at it and his eyes went wide. He was initially impressed with the technology. The girl showed him a phone like he’d never seen before. It was as thin and small as a playing card and completely transparent, except for the bright colorful image. The librarian was about to ask Jane about her phone when he recognized the book in the picture.

It was the same black leather book that had been plaguing him since he started working at the library six years ago. The same golden lion embossed on the cover that had mocked him every morning like his own private, miserable sunrise. Each day, no matter what, he found the book waiting for him under his desk. But he’d never had anyone ask for it. The librarian had a million questions about the book and why the girls were interested in it, but he knew better than to chase a rabbit down a hole. He would willingly leave all his questions unanswered to be rid of the book.

“YES!” he nodded quickly and reached under the desk. The mysterious book wasn’t there moments ago, he dumped it into the shredder that morning. It became his own way to celebrate Friday.  He’d been waiting for it to reappear when the girls approached. But he knew it would be there when he needed it. “Here you go!” he hopped up off his chair and nearly threw the dark book at the table. He managed to restrain himself at the last second and placed it down gently.

“Thank you! We’ll bring it right back!” Sharon said.

“No, you don’t have to!” the librarian protested with waving hands.

“Thanks again,” Jane said and grabbed the book. She turned and led Sharon away from the desk.

“We don’t have to bring it back,” she said. “We didn’t use a library card to check it out.”

“Oh no,” Sharon stopped. “Do we need to go back?” Jane stopped walking at a wide intersection surrounded by empty tables and shook her head. Sharon noticed the rest of the group walking towards where Jane stopped.

“There’ll be a duplicate back under his desk tomorrow.” She lifted her node and the book to Sharon’s eye level in time to see the girl give her a confused look.

“How? Why?” She asked. Jane smiled and tapped the glassy node to the book. The book dissolved into white powder and disappeared. Jane smiled as she pocketed the node again; a green-skinned boy opened a black portal behind her.

“It’s a quest item. It has to respawn for other players too,” she said then walked into the black portal.

Deer Friend

Sharon panicked when the girl’s eyes met hers. She had been caught staring and now the teenager was headed right to her. Sharon was headed out of the mall when half a small deer distracted her. It was hard to see at first; it was surrounded by a group of teenagers. But she definitely saw light brown fur on something the size of a well-fed Great Dane. It wasn’t until the group moved to the escalators that Sharon realized the truth. The doe’s half was attached to a tan girl with straight, long, dark brown hair.

Their eyes remained locked on each other. When she was close enough, Sharon started to pick out the colors in the stranger’s eyes. They were unlike anything she’d ever seen. Instead of a segmented separation of the iris, the colors all blended together seamlessly. Her black pupil was surrounded by a dark green iris and each color melted into a lighter shade of green next to it. The girl broke eye contact once she reached Sharon and looked past her.

“The elevator moves faster if you press the button,” the girl said. Sharon turned around and realized she’d stopped by the elevators on her way out. She had been, and still was, too distracted by the fact that the girl had four legs. The girl met her eyes again and raised a single eyebrow. “Yes?” she asked. Sharon responded with the first thing she thought of.

“That’s a great costume,” she said as the elevator dinged its arrival. She decided her best course of action was to play dumb and avoid the situation. If the girl thought that Sharon thought it was a costume they could each go their separate ways. The girl’s eyes widened. She grabbed Sharon’s shirt and pulled her into the empty elevator. She held onto Sharon until the door closed; then released her.

“You can see what I am?!” she asked in a whisper. Sharon nodded quickly, her eyes flicked to the girl’s furry hindquarters then back to her odd eyes. The girl sighed and extended a hand. “I’m Jane,” she said.

“Sharon,” Sharon replied and accepted the handshake. “Why can’t anybody else see you?” she asked.

“They’re not supposed to,” Jane said, then shook her head. “You’re not supposed to. Only Uniq-.” Jane interrupted herself and tilted her head. Her eyes roamed up and down Sharon. “What’s your favorite number?” she asked suddenly.

“19, Why?” Jane’s straight face grew into a broad smile.

“Because that’s why you can see me. Awesome!” Jane cheered and pressed a button for the second floor. The elevator began to rise and Sharon shook her head.

“I don’t get how?”

“It’s kind of complicated to go into right now,” she pointed at the floor number; it changed to ‘2’. “The short answer is you’re special.” The elevator slowed to a stop and the door slid open. There was a group of four teenagers waiting by the door; Sharon recognized them as Jane’s friends. Jane stepped out of the elevator. One of the group members, a teenage boy, held up a burlap sack and nodded. Whatever was in it was leaking dark red. Now that Sharon saw all of them up close he noticed they all were odd in some way. The boy that lifted the bag looked like he had light green skin.

“We’re done already, did you get credit?” he asked. Jane nodded then turned to look at Sharon. Behind Jane, the green-skinned boy wiggled his fingers at the air.

“If you want to find out how special you are, and what to do with it, you should come with us.” Jane took a step to the side and gestured at a large black hole that hovered in the air. Only the green-skinned boy was left; Sharon guessed the rest of Jane’s friends walked into the hole. She decided she needed to find out what was going on.

“Okay,” She said with a firm nod.

Misplaced

“I’m not going to hurt you!” Nyva spoke loudly at the building. An overhang created a lightless corner that she needed to get by. “I’ need to be seen on camera making my rounds but I’ll ignore you if you ignore me.” She hoped the child knew how to speak. She had no idea how old it was when she noticed it on camera. Nyva did not realize what it was until she stood outside inhaling the sour, gamy scent of werewolf emanating from the darkness. She considered it might be feral and clenched her fists as she moved to pass by.

She felt eyes following her as she walked to her next visual check in, but the short journey was uneventful. After her rounds, Nyva sat at the bank of monitors to wait for her next walk-around. She checked the corner camera several times throughout the hour but did not see it again. She assumed that it fled as she completed her perimeter check until she hit the wall of stench at the corner on her next round.

“I wouldn’t be here in the morning if I were you,” Nyva said to the shadows and continued to walk by. She spent the next hour wondering if it would still be there the next time, and what that might mean. “Maybe it’s hurt.” The realization stuck with her until she stood outside again by the corner, the scent hung in the air.  “Are you okay?” she asked the darkness. She heard rustling in the darkness, then a child stepped into the light. Nyva guessed the young, blue-haired girl to be about six. The blue moonlight fell on her face as she looked up at the security guard’s shiny badge with brilliant green eyes.

“I’m lost,” she said softly.

“Lost?” Nyva looked the girl over. She wore a long light pink nightshirt with no socks or shoes. “How’d you get lost honey? You look like you were in bed.” The little girl nodded.

“I was.. and I woke up…,” she pointed to the edge of the forest. “…in there.” She looked down at her bare feet. “The ground hurt so I came here.” She stomped her foot on the concrete.

“You were asleep and you woke up in the forest?” Nyva asked to make sure she understood. She debated what to do with the obviously abandoned child. The girl nodded. “Fantastic.” Nyva thought sarcastically. She knelt in front of the child.

“I’m Nyva, what’s your name?”

“Stella,” the girl replied.

“Okay, Stella,” Nyva stood and patted her stomach. “I’m hungry, are you hungry?” Stella nodded with an eager grin. “Come on then, I know a great place.” She took the girl’s hand and led her to the parking lot.

“What about your job?” Stella asked.

“One of the other guys will take over when they see me leave with you. We have special rules for lost children,” she said. Nyva lied through her teeth, but she did not want to make the child feel worse on the night she was abandoned. There was no other security in the building, and she was definitely walking away from her job. They did have special rules for lost children, but she could not hand a werewolf over to the police. Luckily she did know someone she could leave the child with and help her find a new job.

“Do you know what I am?” Nyva asked once she pulled out of the parking lot.

“Uhuh, I can smell you.”

“You’re not scared?”

“No, why?” Stella asked. Nyva wondered why Stella’s parents did not warn the girl about the dangers of vampires; then, she remembered the girl woke up in a forest.

Someone should warn her,” Nyva decided.

“Vampires and werewolves don’t normally get along. If you ever see or smell a vampire that isn’t doing a human job do your best to avoid them, okay?”

“But my best friend is a vampire!” Stella replied with a confused tone.

Great, she’s already calling me her best friend. That’s the last thing I need,” Nyva grumbled mentally while she drove. “Well, friends are one thing, but still. You should always be careful around vampires. A lot of them like hunting werewolves for fun.”

“Since when?” Stella asked.

This poor child, her parents didn’t want her at all.” Nyva thought. “I hope you like Chinese food,” she said as they pulled into small parking lot. A red neon sign read “Donna Chang’s” on top of a quaint restaurant.

“I love it!” Stella said. She sounded excited about something for the first time since Nyva met her.

“Awesome, let’s go.”  An old, Asian woman approached them as they entered.

“WHAT ARE YOU!?” Stella let go of Nyva’s hand and ran to the old woman. She walked around her excitedly, sniffing the air around the woman. “You smell sooooo PRETTY!” The woman smiled at the child.

“Hello cub,” Donna said. “I’m a dragon. What are you doing here?” she asked Stella. The girl continued sniffing at Donna and pointed at Nyva without looking. She decided to change tactics.

“My name is Donna Chang, what’s yours?” Stella shook hands with Donna.

“Stella.”

“Stella, would you like to eat before you go home?” The girl nodded with a large smile. “Okay, go sit down and look at the menu.” The girl bolted off to a red booth with a golden table.

“Home?” Nyva asked. She looked around Donna to check how far away the girl was.” She leaned closer to Donna and whispered.

“I don’t know how you know where she lives but I’ll chalk it up to dragon magic. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea. She woke up in a forest. Her parents probably drugged and abandoned her.”

“WHAT?!” Stella yelled from the table while staring at them. “THAT’S NOT TRUE!!” Donna chuckled and walked to the booth. Nyva followed with her head hanging heavy with embarrassment.”

“No, it’s not true,” Donna said once she reached the table. She continued to smile warmly. “Nyva doesn’t know everything. I’m sure your parents will be very worried about you if you’re not in your bed in the morning.

“Okay, what do you know that I don’t?” Nyva asked.

“Stella is from a different Earth. Her powers kicked in while she was sleeping, but I can send her home,” Donna said. Then she looked down at the girl. “But if you keep visiting after I send you home I can teach you how to use your power.” Stella nodded then focused on the menu again.

“A different Earth? Those exist?” Nyva asked. “And you never told me about it before?” Donna shrugged.

“No reason to.”

“OH! Can Nyva come to my Earth?” Stella asked. “She can find a job there.”

“Why do I need a job?” Nyva asked. She did but was curious about how the girl knew.

“Because you stink like Zane when you lie,” Stella grinned. The answer only confused Nyva more.

“Who’s Zane?”

“My best friend!”