This story is by Susie Lee and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
A dark figure ran silently through the woods. Fall leaves fell around him, the calls of autumn changing the surroundings. He was lost, but that was the entire point of being an explorer.
Wanderlust, that was what led him. As his duties as an explorer of the HexaForce, he was searching. The HexaForce was where he was born, Huge green hologram hexagon shapes covered the city, protecting it from the creatures outside. There he earned his worth, first as a thief, now as an explorer.
An enchanted mirror stirred the wanderlust that was dormant in his heart. The mirror told him many things: of a world of no magic, no bewitching animals, and no monsters. He shivered at the thought. This world had hideous machines. They beeped and made the weirdest of sounds. That world was shouting out a challenge. And he accepted. Packed up and ready, he left the HexaForce to find this place, New York City.
Even when he was lost he kept walking, searching for the world of metal and technology.
Eventually he came upon two trees bent together, connected and forming an archway. The shimmering purple gossamer webs that crisscrossed through the trees made it obvious it was a portal.
He had found the portal leading to his destination. Without hesitating he charged through the shimmering threads, and he was gone.
Airia looked around the road. Only a few more seconds before the street light signaled everyone to cross the street. The busy streets of New York rushed all around her. Taxis swerved, people jaywalked- just another normal day in New York City. Pulled along with the crowd, her dirty blonde hair whipped with the fierce wind.
It was the weekend. She was free from the college course homework she finished the day before. It was a nice chilly Sunday, therefore Airia had decided to go to Central Park. She gripped her purse tightly. She had recently gotten a new book that she was dying to read. Called The HexaForce, The Thief. She just started the series, and she was itching to read the next book.
Walking through the orange and red trees she found an empty stone bench. Comfortably, she settled on a nice bench and took out her book. The cover was nothing special, just a blue background along with a shadow of a boy. Above the boy was the symbol of the HexaForce. A simple cover, but enthralling. Her fingers fumble as she opened the cover, the weather was chilly today.
She was immersed the second she started reading. Hours passed and she didn’t even notice. She was part of the book, she felt James’ perspective, she was with him in his ups and downs.
Sitting on a stone bench under the shade of interchanging trees was how James found her. He had stumbled into a forest of some kind. He tried talking to the birds only for them to fly away, strange, they usually talked his ear off. This girl was the first human he had come across in this world. Stealthily, he crept toward the girl only to be startled by a sound coming from the most ridiculous leather satchel he had ever seen.
Airia was snapped out of her stupor of reading by an alarm on her phone, leaving her on a cliffhanger. Looking up, she certainly wasn’t expecting the very person she was reading about with the same eyes and black hair, face to face with her.
Surprised she fell backwards and almost off the bench, if it wasn’t for the fast reflexes from the stranger steadying her. Shocked, eyes from both of them stared into each other. Once Airia was stable he let go of her hand quickly. She searched for her phone that was beeping and turned it off, she had read longer than she thought she did. After, she turned her attention to the boy around her age.
“Hey,” James said trying to start up a conversation. “I’m James an explorer of the HexaForce. I would say my full title, but it’s too long.”
At that she had to crack a smile. “I’m Airia , and I’m a college student at New York University. Nice to meet you.”
Airia put away her book in her purse– it could wait. The glance of movement caught James’ attention, he curiously watched her put away that object in her satchel. It gleamed of shiny material and under it was a blue background. Words were neatly scribed. Thinking back on that rectangular thing, it looked very much like a book from his world. If James had looked closer, he would have seen the symbol of his home.
“Is that a book?” He asked the green-eyed girl beside him.
“Yeah, it is.” she answered.
After those few words they both went into a comfortable silence. That is until a popsicle stand strolled by, the cold popsicles lying in the depths of the fridge. The man controlling the vehicle stopped in front of them. He was dressed in white complete with a hat on top of his blonde hair.
“Popsicle?” the man asked in a thick New York accent.
“What is this popsicle?” James spoke wonderingly. He had seen many things while working at the HexaForce but the stuff in this world didn’t even compare! Too bad there was no dragons. It were always better with a dragon or two.
The man looked at the boy strangely, but before he could answer Airia broke in.
“We’ll have two please.” she said, drawing the man away from James. “How much?”
“Two fifty each, including tax. So that’ll be five dollars please.”
Airia dug out her wallet and handed him a five dollar bill. Meanwhile James watched the exchange closely, curious to see what that little green paper was. Once the man had his money he was out of there, pushing the cart and going to somewhere else in Central Park. She handed a strawberry flavored popsicle to the black clothed boy and kept a lime one to herself.
Cautiously, James licked the red cylinder holding the stick connected at the end. Pure delight. He had never had something so good. Flavor burst in his taste buds exploding everywhere. It was as good, no better, as the ice pops from home. Ice pops were just frozen ice with juice, these were actaully tasted good and the flavor stayed to. Plus, most ice pops were just plain badly flavored.
She snuck a glance at James, he just couldn’t be the very character she was reading about. They both had the same title, plus they both looked and acted the same way. But how was that possible?
“Where are you from?” Airia asked.
“Somewhere very far away,” he changed the topic. “Could you enlighten me on what those metal demons that swallow us up are?”
“That’s a car James. I’ll have to show you sometime.”
“Well, how about those buildings that reach so high that they scrape the sky? Or those small squares that light up when you touch a button?” James excitedly fired a bunch of questions at Airia.
Airia explained to the best of her ability what each and every thing was. She mentally prepared a rough idea of a tour to show James the perks of the Big Apple. Still there was one question on her mind, that he hadn’t answered yet.
“James, can you explain where you’re from?”
James then launched into a full explanation of the world he left and how he found this world. He told her about the enchanted mirror, the urge to find the very city he was in, how he got here.
He got so into it, that he demonstrated one of the simpler spells, which was lighting a fire on his hands. A swish of the wrist and concentration was all it took, but it wouldn’t light. He tried again, this time it flickered a match sized flame but then it blew out. Try as he might he couldn’t get the fire back.
Shocked, he tried various spells with the same results. Strange. That one flame had drained him beyond belief, and all his other attempts made it worse. He slouched on the bench. Suddenly he didn’t have the power to sit up. Frantic he tried using his strength to push himself up but he couldn’t. He just ended up leaning on Airia.
Confused he struggled to stay up, looking weakly around. He only saw slashes of color. Fainter and weaker he became til everything in his eyes saw was silver. Airia watched horrified when James suddenly dissolved into a silvery powder. The powder, James, rose up to to form the words:
Never again shall the Fictional and Real will meet up.
Airia gasped as her book flew out of her purse. It opened the last page and the silver powder got sucked into the book. None of the powder was left behind.
There was no sign of James here. All traces of James was gone.