..."Do you want to sit and talk?” she gestured to the sofa, “I can answer any questions you have about who I am.” He followed her to the sofa, “Ok so who are you?” “My name is Erin”...
She moved herself gracefully to the corner of the couch where she sat and rested her head on a cushion. “I don’t remember much about when it started… but I remember some people came and took me from my house and locked me in a dark room. One night there was this storm and… suddenly the room was filled with light. I walked into the light and… I found myself on a green field in a medieval village. I was too young to be anything but terrified. I wanted my parents. I wanted to get back… but there was no way back.” And then she spoke of the strange worlds she had visited. Of kingdoms of light and cities of darkness, of how she had grown up never spending more than a small amount of time in one world before it was ripped away from her. Sometimes she was glad of the jump… but other times she had been adopted by good families and began to find her feet again.
Ray lay back and let her speak. He thought this was the most elaborate pick up story or conn job ever… but his curiosity let her continue. His burned hand didn’t hurt anymore – he guessed that they had, indeed, gotten ice on it in time. And she was fascinating. As she spoke of some worlds her eyes lit up as if she was really speaking about an experience she had had. Other worlds got the opposite treatment and she skimmed over what could have been disturbing details. Every so often he would ask a question. Humouring her. Humouring her… but also entertained… fascinated. She was a marvellous story teller and a part of him wanted to believe that she truly had visited other universes. In each universe he played a different role – but like a character from a dungeons and dragons game he always had the same attributes: someone who was brave, strong and caring. Even though it made him slightly uncomfortable hearing himself described as such, Ray couldn’t help but enjoy it. And who wouldn’t? As the hours wore on she did not tire… instead she seemed to grow more animated. In contrast, Ray started to catch himself drifting off…
Bright light, shining through the window, directly onto his face could have been what woke him. Else it was the smell of eggs from the kitchen… or maybe it was the figure curled up beside him. Whatever it was, it took Ray a few seconds to realise that he had fallen asleep on the couch. And then he let out a small shriek as he realised that the girl, in the tiny brown tunic, was curled up against him smiling serenely.
He sat up so fast he knocked a pile of clean washing off the side of the sofa.
Ed was sitting in the armchair near the sofa, rolling a joint and watching Ray. “Great night dude?” he asked gesturing to Erin who was rubbing sleep from her eyes.
Ray looked at
“No worries dude.” Ed was smiling knowingly, “I’m not gonna judge you.”
And then Gina swooped down on them.
Gina was good at swooping. She considered it her specialty. She was a small woman with blond dreadlocks and a lip ring. Other than that she appeared perfectly normal. She was a hippy who enjoyed the fine things in life… like fashion, a fancy car and her father’s money. Anyone who hinted that there might be a contradiction somewhere there was putting themselves in line for trouble.
“And who is this?” She asked Ray, neatly manoeuvring herself in front of the sofa and handing Ed a plate of scrambled eggs.
Gina dropped to her knees to look at
“No. She’s not” Ray stated firmly.
“I was wondering why you disappeared so soon…” Gina grinned at Ray, “I guess you had other places to be…”
The words were loaded with meaning… meaning Ray didn’t particularly like. “Listen. It’s nothing.
“And you offered her the couch?” Gina asked.
“And then offered to keep her safe and warm on the couch?” Ed added.
“No… I…” he was floundering, never good at expressing his thoughts even when they didn’t involve entertaining women from alternative universes.
It was Erin who came to his rescue, “I met Ray on the way home last night. I was a little worse for wear so he brought me here till I recovered. I guess we both fell asleep.” She shrugged as if this was the most natural occurrence in the world.
If there was one thing both Ed and Gina could identify with, it was being ‘worse for wear’, so they turned their attention away from interrogating Ray and on to her.
“I’m sorry.” Said Gina, “How do you do. I’m Gina” and offered her hand and then pointed out Ed, explaining that Ed was her boyfriend who shared this flat with Ray. Ray was content to sit back and let Gina control the situation.
“Where do you live?” Ed asked, trying to drive his girlfriend’s attention away from
She opened her mouth to reply but Ray cut her off, afraid she might merrily reply that she was from another universe, “she’s from out of town." He scanned her quickly before adding, “and she was mugged and all her things were stolen except the strange costume she’s wearing.”
“Oh how terrible!” Gina exclaimed.
Ed looked up noncommittally over his joint.
Gina's attention was focussed purely on Erin, “You mean you don’t have anything to wear but that?”
In one swift movement Gina had pulled her up off the couch and was swooping to Ed’s room – where she kept a small wardrobe of clothes - twittering about the crime rate.
Alone in the lounge Ed and Ray looked at each other.
”I think she’s mad.” Ray said.
Ed nodded slowly, “I know… but she’s so good in bed…”
Ray blinked. And then realised the mistake, “No no, I mean
Ed cocked his head sideways slightly, “she’s also good in bed?”
“No. I think she’s crazy.”
Ed nodded slowly again, “I see.”
Hopeless as he seemed, Ed had a certain understanding of the universe beyond even that of the lecturers at the university. He majored in philosophy and physics and said that he took them because they sounded similar and he couldn’t remember which was the one with the explosions. Yet somehow, he managed to get firsts for both…seemingly without trying.
“Where did you find her?”
“In a dark ally.”
“Ah” Ed continued nodding, “Yes those are always the strange ones.”
“She’s not a whore.” Ray stated, suddenly realising what Ed meant, “I mean… I don’t think she is.” In truth the thought hadn’t crossed his mind. She seemed too soft-spoken and… delicate.
“What is she then?” Ed asked.
“I’m not sure” Ray said honestly, “but she says she’s from another universe.”
Ed’s face lit up, “Awesome. Out of this world. Literally” he laughed and then leaned forward and said in a conspirative whisper, “You may want to go see Hannah about that though.”
“Ray… man…you’ve been wanting to see her for ages. Take the girl to her, have her checked out. Maybe she was just kidding with you, maybe she’s conning you or maybe she’s really wrong in the head man. Either way you get to see Hannah” he winked.
Ed had not given up hope that Ray and Hannah – who worked as a psychologist for the university’s counselling centre – would get back together. Ray had. He shook his head and affirmed verbally, “This girl isn’t my responsibility.”
As he said it she stepped into the room.
Dressed in a pink and white two-tone top and jeans,
“We’ve agreed she’s going to stay here for a few days.” Gina declared.
The two actual residents of the apartment looked at each other.
“Hannah”, Ed said under his breath, “for both our sake’s, dude.
Find out what happens next in Chapter 3.