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What makes you think you’ve leaped inside a story? Maggie stepped back, a smirk on her face. The man in shorts stopped pacing. His and Maggie’s gazes met. She snorted and retreated again, hands steepled as if in prayer. Lisa examined her black attire: Straight long dress, shoes and short, spiked hair. Cool hair. Fortish? Is she a witch?
“What the heck is going on here?” Lisa squirmed in her seat, flinging the now empty glass back and forth.
“More water, dear?” Maggie leaned in plucking the empty glass out of her grasp. “Sit tight. I’ll be back.” As if floating on air, she swept out of sight.
Lisa’s mouth dropped, eyes drifting around room. Weird in sort of a neat way. This isn’t real, though. Can’t be. Holding her breath, she bent forward. “So, are you going to answer my question?”
“What’s that?” He stopped pacing and shook his head as if to clear it. Glancing over a shoulder, he caught both customers, bodies slanting forward, ears twitching. Lisa followed his stare. “Aren’t you two expected somewhere?” The tall one weighed the antique book in his hand raising his brows at his partner. She shrugged, returned her book to the shelf, and yanked his sleeve to do the same. Maggie materialized watching the exchange with a full glass of water dripping with condensation. Chins to chest, the pair skedaddled to the exit.
“Have another glass. This water is special.”
“How.” She shot Maggie a look, raised the glass to study the clear liquid. “I’m done being polite. Will someone please answer my question?” Eyes shut tight Lisa stamped her feet where she sat, slopping water to her lap and the carpet, sending a tattered slipper into the air.
Maggie glided to the front door, punched numbers into a keypad, and flipped to the CLOSED sign. “I have a sitting room in the back. We’ll be more comfortable there.”
Lisa gulped the remaining water and set the glass on the floor. “First things first. Is your name Zero?”
Something passed between the two friends. He lifted the back of his wrist drawing circles with a forefinger on the watch face.
“What a bizarre watch, or is that some new technology—Zero?” She concentrated on his reaction like a hawk.
“I’ve had it two ye…” His head whipped up, a flush rising from neck, to face, to ears.
Lisa’s mouth dropped flapping like a baby guppy.
“You’ve had a shock and are still dehydrated. Don’t worry. All will be fine.” Maggie studied Lisa’s wardrobe. Let’s arrange a change of clothing first.”
“Not necessary, because I’m… going home.” She yawned. “I’m so tired.” The woman led her to the back of the store, the man trailing behind them.
“Weird. This is a real bookstore. Are you an antiquarian bookseller? I don’t see any new books. I’m… I’m talking a mile a minute, aren’t I?”
They reached a curtained doorway. Maggie pushed the man in shorts back into the store.” You stay there. We ladies need privacy.”
* * *
Hours had passed. The cat refused to come out from under the bed. From the balcony, Mya checked the parking lot for her sister’s car. Right car. Right plates. Still there.
Hungry, she peered into the fridge. Nothing but bread and eggs. Typical Lisa. The freezer however, had two store bought pizzas, a couple Ziploc bags of deli soup, a bottle of vodka, and two glasses. She grabbed a pizza, slapped it on the counter and turned on the oven.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a blur of movement. Crash. Bang. The books clattered to the floor. She rushed into the sitting room. One book lay open. She didn’t believe her eyes. “Lis-saaaaa. What’s going on here? Where are you-u-u?”
* * *
Dressed in a pale green dress identical to Maggie’s black one, Lisa folded her clothes and exited the bathroom. She dropped the bundle. A hoarse, mournful voice called her name. Lis-saaaaa. What’s going on here? Where are you-u-u? Hands clamped over her ears, she swayed and grit her teeth.
“What is it?” Maggie gathered up the shirt and leggings.
“Didn’t you hear her call me? I keep hearing my sister’s voice. Something’s wrong.” Ear to a shoulder, she waited to the count of ten. No more Mya. “Wait. Lisa grabbed the shirt. “What is this white thing?”
“Hair of some kind. Wrong color for you. Do you have a cat?” She made a roll of the clothes instead of refolding them and abandoned it in a kitchen chair.
“I do. Mozart. He was curled on my lap when I…” Lisa rubbed her forehead. The white strand stuck to her head.
“You’re okay now. Make yourself comfortable. I’ll call Zero.” She pushed Lisa towards the sitting room. Sticking an arm around the curtained doorway, she waved an invitation.
Lisa sipped her peppermint tea, lost in thought. ”What is this place?”
“I mentioned Crow Lake, I believe. Don’t you remember?” Elbows on his knees, Zero edged to the front of the sofa chair.
“Ye-es, but how did I get here? It hurts when I pinch myself, which means I’m not dreaming. All I wanted to do was to read, but I showed up here instead. What month and year is it?”
“February 29th, 2020,” he said. Maggie nodded.
“No it’s not. Too warm for February. There’s no evidence of snow. Wait! Did you say 2020? Are you pulling my leg?”
He shook his head. “What year did you think it was?”
“Silly, 2016, of course, February 29th”
“You’ve heard of global warming? We have only one season anymore and are luckier than most. Four years ago, the Zika virus reared it’s ugly head and has now swept across the globe. Between deaths and people cutting their losses and leaving, we’ve lost three-quarters of our population since it began.”
“Weird. Why does this sound familiar?”
To be continued…
© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.
Image from Pixabay: No attribution required.