Fiction Friday: The Tavern Pt 1

Fiction Friday: The Tavern Pt 1

Based on an idea that won’t leave me alone and (roughly) on an old TV series that I loved as a kid 😛 And I’m just going to say it now: The weather patterns don’t match the real world weather patterns. I don’t know if it’ll bug you the way it bugs me…

Parts One and Two of my fantasy series Orianna are already up – in a fortnight, when Part Two of this series goes live, I’ll add a page to my blog so all the links to my Fiction posts are in one place. I intend to post a fiction story once a fortnight on Fridays.

These fiction posts will tend to be more rough and ready than my “real” writing, as I like to focus the bulk of my creative energies into the book I’m writing. However, that book is now in the editing stage, so I’m writing these to try outlet some of my creative energies occasionally.

~*~

It was the snow that caught her attention. The breeze on the back of her legs had made her turn her head, but it was automatic, absent curiosity and an instinctive turn towards coolness on a blazing hot June day. Even the door, though it had never been there before on the wall she passed every day, was ordinary-looking enough that it didn’t trigger a reaction in her wandering and distracted mind. It was the snowflakes blowing out of it that made her pause.

Laura stepped closer and put her hand to the rough wood of the square door. It was old and cracked, weathered by sun and time, with black paint peeling and flaking off – and it was cold. If it had been in some back alley it would have been innocuous, leading into someone’s garden. Laura looked up and down the street. It was a high wall facing onto some train lines, there was no garden on the other side – and the door hadn’t been there yesterday. The door was cracked just the slightest bit open, the breeze and snowflakes escaping through the gap. Laura could feel them landing on her exposed legs, the flakes melting almost instantly in the blazing June sun, just as she could feel the beads of sweat on her forehead and rolling down her back. She curled her hand round the door handle and pulled it slightly further open. The hinges creaked in protest and the wood scraped unevenly over the ground – just like any other garden gate.

“Hello?” No answer – and no-one walking up and down the street either. Inside the doorway the darkness was almost absolute. Laura glanced about one final time, then down on the ground. There was a fist sized rock in the narrow strip of grass just by her sandal, so she kicked it into the doorway to prop it open. Then she stepped forward into the darkness. There was a moment of total disorientation, feeling as if she was being stretched ever so slightly in all directions, and then she stumbled forward into ankle-deep snow. Gasping with shock and sudden cold, Laura staggered blindly forward, arms outstretched, towards the first bit of pavement she could see. Then she stopped and started to spin slowly on the spot, mouth hanging open in surprise.

She was in the middle of a snowstorm.

~*~

Laura held her arms out, palms upwards, watching the flurries of snow build up on her skin. The fine, delicate, snow was swirling thickly in the air, sticking wetly to her sunglasses – which she ripped off when it became difficult to see – and piling up on the sidewalks. Laura spun round again, not believing her eyes. The low, modest sky line and brick buildings she was familiar with had been replaced by towering glass and concrete monstrosities, neon signs blazing through the storm. The empty street with it’s small road had been replaced by a bustling intersection. She started towards the nearest building, froze, and glanced back over her shoulder, terrified. The door was still there. She could even see a finger of sunlight poking through, and a small semi circle of half-melted snow surrounding the door.

Laura stuck her hand through the doorway, feeling the sunlight burning into her hand, the snow vanishing into water almost instantly, the odd distortion around her elbow as it hovered between the two zones, and the snow accumulating on her shoulder. Laura pulled her arm back through, then cautiously turned away. No one was watching her, she realised. No one was wondering what the girl was doing, dressed in summer shorts and a crop top in the middle of a snow storm, sticking her hand through a doorway in the middle of a street. She slowly walked back to the path, glancing backwards several times to make sure the door didn’t vanish. On this side the door seemed to be attached to a massive department store, bigger than any found back home. The garden gate was even more out of place on that wall. As she walked further away people began to notice her, glancing sideways at her unseasonable outfit. She began to shiver, teeth chattering and clothes sticking to her skin. Just as she was thinking of going home, back to the summer sun, she spotted a pub.

Gratefully Laura stepped into the warmth of the building, sighing thankfully as the wind cut off behind her. The pub was almost empty, as was typical for a Monday mid-afternoon. Two elderly men stared curiously at her from their separate solitary pints, and the barman frowned at her from his station behind the bar. Laura walked up with false confidence, only slightly belied by her shivering.

“Can I have a cup of tea, to start with, please?” she asked pleasantly.

“ID,” the barman replied instantly.

“…For a cup of tea?”

“For an unaccompanied minor,” he grunted. Laura rolled her eyes but fished the learner’s driving license out of her wallet – this wasn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence for her. The barman glanced at it and began to hand it back, paused, then looked at it again. He frowned. He looked hard at Laura, as if trying to figure something out.

“Is something wrong?”

“This says you’re 15.”

“What? No it doesn’t!”

“It says you were born in February 1995.”

“Right, which makes 20.”

“Not until 2017 it doesn’t.”

“Well what year is this?!” Laura exclaimed. The barman stopped frowned again, concern softening the edges of his expression. He put Laura’s ID to one side and leant forward slightly.

“Are you ok? Have you taken something? You won’t get into trouble.” The bartender looked her up and down one more time. “You must be freezing in those clothes. Wait there.” He took a tentative step away and, when Laura didn’t move, he smiled encouragingly and stepped into the next room. Perplexed, Laura stared about the room. One of the old men had gone back to nursing his drink, the other was openly staring at her. A flash of colour on the TV screen caught her eyes.

Countdown to Christmas 2011

Laura stared at the screen, open mouthed. The news was airing, muted but with subtitles on, discussing the upcoming Christmas season. The date was pinned to  one corner of the screen: 28th November 2011.

~*~

Panicked, Laura grabbed her ID off the bar and turned to flee. As she crossed the room in a few, quick, strides she heard the barman call out behind her,

“Hey, wait-”

She broke into a run for the last two strides and barrelled through the door back into the snowstorm. She ran back the way she came, snow splashing under her feet with every step, eyes raking the walls for the strange black door. After a few minutes her pace slowed, frigid breaths gasping in her unprepared lungs. Shivering and shuddering she continued to stumble onwards. Her eyes darted about, seeing window displays she hadn’t seen before, lights and window stickers and even the neon signs flashing christmas cheer. With frozen fingers she fumbled for her phone, stabbing at the button to wake the screen. An error message winked sadly at her. Laura looked round helplessly, a few scared tears beginning to prick at her eyes, when she finally spotted it — the door. A relieved sob welled up in her throat as she waded through the snow – now almost up to her shins – and burst through the door.

The moment she was through Laura snatched the stone prop out of the way and slammed it shut. She let go of the door and closed her eyes, willing it gone. When she opened her eyes again it was still there. She groaned and leant her forehead against the cool wood, shivering in her sodden clothes despite the heat of the day. The June day. Laura pulled her phone again and tried to wake it. This time she succeeded, and it bleeped happily at her, informing her she had received a text message from an unknowon number. With shaking fingers, she opened it.

Cool, huh? Wait till you see where the blue door goes 😉

Laura stared at the message, open mouthed, then staggered to her feet. She spun slightly on the spot, reluctant to look but not knowing what else to do. Sure enough, a bit further down a blue door had appeared in the wall. This one looked like an ordinary house door, painted a deep navy blue. In the middle of the top third of the door was a small dark stained glass circle. Laura leant cautiously on the – closed, she double checked – door and stood on her tip toes to peer through the glass circle. After a moment she realised that the glass was actually clear, it just opened onto an endless void of space, black nothingness with scattered stars. Her phone bleeped again, startling her enough that she flinched and fell over.

Don’t worry, it’s intimidating at first but soon you’ll find it as beautiful as I do. That’s not actually where the door goes, though. P.S. Sorry about the fall. 

Laura cursed and glared furiously up and down the still-empty street. Whoever was texting her was nowhere to been seen – and had sent her the apology before she had actually fallen, she realised suddenly. Brushing the dry grass from her still-damp shorts, Laura squared her shoulders and, with great determination, walked away.

 

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