Awakened to Shadows
Adventures of an Interdimensional Coffee Girl
By Ryan K. Stansifer
Lah’ra didn’t want to open her eyes. She was terrified of what she might see when her vision became clear. The events of the last hour remained fuzzy. She remembered the strong hands of Toan forcing her toward the dimensional transit core and violent weapons fire of the SecGuards. There was a bright light, a surge of sound and color.
And then nothing.
She decided that she wasn’t quite ready to glimpse her surroundings yet, so she explored her other senses. She felt a soft, downy mattress beneath her with an overstuffed pillow cradling her head. A comfortable series of blankets were draped over her body.
There was a strange earthy smell to the air. It was something that she never smelled at the station. In fact, it seemed to be the opposite of the cold, sterile scents of the place she reluctantly called home. There was a warmth to the air, which ebbed and flowed in a quite natural way.
The barista knew she couldn’t stay like this. If she had faced the evils of interdimensional travelers late for their transits, she could face whatever strange place she was in now. Her eyes slowly crept open and her vision began to clear.
The room around her was dim, filled with flicking shadows borne of a low fire burning in a hearth on the opposite wall. The walls of the room were a combination of wood and stone that first struck Lah’ra as quite homely looking. Yet the entire thing was madly surreal.
Glancing around, she spied several bookcases built into the left wall, filled with old leather books and various woodcarving knickknacks. On the right wall, there was a large paned window, shuttered with dark wood slats and covered by thick red drapes, diffusing the light to a subtle glow.
Lah’ra sat up and flung the covers aside. What lay beneath them was even stranger than the room. Her clothes had changed. Instead of the forest green shirt, black slacks and stained tan apron she wore into the transit core, she looked like something out of an old adventure vid. Her torso was clad in a blood red vest, leaving her white arms bare. Beneath those, she wore a deep brown skirt that went down to her knees.
After staring at the clothes in utter bewilderment, she turned and placed her feet upon the hard wooden floor. She noticed a pair of worn sandals beside the bed and eyed them suspiciously. With a sigh, she tried them on, and sure enough, they fit perfectly.
Standing, she walked over to the drapes, a little knot of fear dancing in her stomach. Her common sense told her that this was all just a rather vivid dream and she would do well simply to curl back up under the comfortable sheets and hide until it all went away.
She opened the curtains and lifted one of the slats despite the recommendation of her common sense.
The first thing that caught Lah’ra eye was the sky. Billowing black clouds, filled with the imminent promise of rain spread across the expanse. A few glimmering patches of sunlight shone blasted through the dark canopy, shining down upon the landscape.
The beautiful scene stretched out before her though the window, unmarred by smog or haze. Small rustic houses dotted the landscape, each of them marked with a thin spiral of smoke. In the near distance, a sapphire creek wound its way through the softly rolling hills, leading up to a water-wheel and a large building beside it. Lah’ra couldn’t comprehend what the structure could be.
She had never seen such a vast amount of green in her life. Even in her childhood on Earth, she never came within a hundred kilometers of one of the few remaining nature reserves. It was almost unnerving to see this much open space.
The barista stared out across the landscape for an untold amount of time, just trying to absorb the magnitude of what she was seeing. It wasn’t until she heard a faint groan from behind the door that she turned away.
Once again, curiosity got the better of fear and she crept over to the door. Her hand wrapped around the carven handle and the door opened with a whisper.
It opened into a good-sized living room, filled with hand carved furniture. Dim light streamed through the shaded windows beside a door that probably lead outside. A fire crackled nosily in a cooking hearth and a plush rug covered most of the wooden floor, decorated in swatches of green and gold.
Another groan came from a large sofa on the far wall, next to an open doorway that appeared to lead into a kitchen. Lah’ra didn’t look closely at the kitchen, as her attention was entirely focused upon the body of Toan, who snorted in his sleep. She was delighted to see that like her, he appeared dressed in the same strange garb.
Which meant he no longer had his weapon.
She hefted a book from a convenient bookcase and chucked it the rogue’s head. He yelped and fell off the couch, landing hard against the floor with an expression of loss.
“Where did you take me?” Lah’ra screamed at him.
“Huh?” He rubbed his injured head. “What’s going on?”
“You jerk! Where are we?”
“Not you,” Toan groaned as he looked away from her. “Leave me alone.”
“Listen you ape, you’d better…” Lah’ra trailed off as she saw the plaque behind Toan’s
head, above the couch.
“What now?” he grumbled and turned to see what she was staring at.
It was a picture of the two of them, smiling happily and holding hands. She was dressed in something far too white and he was dressed in a formal looking coat.
“Lah’ra and Toan,” Toan read, his voice incredulous. “Married, twelfth day of Kel, two hundred and four.”
There was a momentary silence.
“If you just said married, I’m going to kill you, Toan.”