It makes me most anxious to see what the coming year will bring. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/12/29/the-year-in-review/
Bah! What caused me to utter those words? Why should I care what the coming year brings? I daresay it will not bring me any closer to home.
I have been in this horrible place for nigh on four years now, reckoning by the measure of time used in this place. I first arrived in their month of March in their year 2016. Upon my arrival, I met others from my world. They explained to me that we were here through a mysterious accident. It seems we fell out of the pages of a manuscript. Yes, you heard me correctly. We – flesh-and-blood, sentient creatures – fell out of a manuscript. We slid off some parchment that had been inked with words and symbols, and landed here. Preposterous, I say!
The sorceress who created this manuscript makes wild, unbelievable assertions. She claims we – myself and my fellow victims of this accident – are living in two places at the same time. We are here, bumbling around in this foreign world, while at the same time – she claims – we are in our own world, continuing with the lives we were living when we were ripped from that world and trapped here. Again, I say preposterous!
I have been here for nigh on four years. When I arrived, I was a pint-sized man of indeterminate age. I was leathery-skinned and bald as a billiard ball. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/how-did-i-get-here/
Do I look small or bald to you? No, I thought not. I – like my fellow accident victims – have changed since arriving in this land. Dragon has changed color. Sorceress has changed species. The Old Dwarf is now a loyal, noble, principled being, hardly recognizable as the amoral, ego-centric, cunning creature he was in our world. I could continue, detailing the changes in each of my fellow expatriates, but I think I have made my point.
We are no longer what we were, what we should be, what – according to the sorceress who calls herself The Writer – we still are in our own world.
I do not know if having to live in, and adapt ourselves to, this world with its strange magic system known as technology has caused us to change, or if the changes have been the whim of The Writer, who continues to chronicle our lives, both in this world and in our own.
What I do know is I am the Bounty Hunter. My last memories of my life in my own world are of pursuing my prey. When I arrived here, I thought perhaps I had come of my own will, following my quarry, even though I had no memory of doing so. Alas, no. I am, like the others, here by accident. And The Writer has informed me in no uncertain words that in this world, I am not to pursue my objective.
So, what is a bounty hunter to do when he is no longer allowed to hunt his bounty? I have continued honing the skills needed for my profession in the hopes I will someday be able to return to it, either in this world or back in my own.
I practice my stealth. Many are the conversations I have overheard, completely unnoticed by The Writer or any of my companions. Many are the times I have followed one of my associates throughout an entire day without once being seen, either by my subject or by anyone else.
I practice my weapons skills. I regularly parry with my comrades who are proficient in swordplay, and I continually sharpen my aim with my knife, often in the guise of a game.
I practice my subterfuge on many levels. Frequently, when in conversation, my companions know not that I am lying. Often, when challenging an opponent to a knife-throwing game, I intentionally lose, thus concealing my true weapons proficiency from them. I strive – with great difficulty and frequent failure – to comport myself in a mild manner, speaking softly and assuming a non-threatening stance. And no one suspects my true feelings toward my bosom buddy, the pretentious elf – not even the loathsome creature himself.
I practice my negotiation skills. I have lost count of the times I have gone to the defense of that pompous elf, justifying his actions to the other exiles, and even to The Writer, saving him from their wrath.
I practice my patience. I continue to do my best to fit into this world. I listen without rancor to the prattling of my companions. I carry out the orders of The Writer and her spouse. I remain close to the elf and do his bidding. I do all this while biding my time.
Someday, somehow, I will once again be the Bounty Hunter in truth and not merely in name.
* * *
All morning long, I had had the feeling of being watched. It was unnerving. I kept looking up from my computer, expecting to see one of my characters at the door, ready to barge in and disturb me at my work. Each time I looked, there was no one at the door, although several times I swore I saw a quickly retreating shadow.
At lunch, Miles noticed how distracted I was. “Honey? Marge? Marge!”
“Huh?” Startled from my thoughts, I dropped my cup of tea, breaking the delicate porcelain vessel and splashing hot tea over the table.
As my husband rushed to grab a towel and help me clean up my mess, he gave me a look of concern. “Sweetheart, I’ve been talking to you, trying to get your attention, for the past five minutes. You’ve been a million miles away. What’s up?”
I took the towel from him and started sopping up the spilled tea, and he began sweeping up the shards of the broken cup. As we worked, I explained. “I’ve just had the feeling all morning that I’m being watched. Whenever I look up, there’s no one there. I don’t know if I’m being paranoid or if someone really is watching me, either physically or by some magic means.”
Miles frowned. “I don’t like the sounds of that. Do you think it could be someone from another world who has a grudge against you, like that evil wizard, what’s-his-name?”
“Morcant.” I shuddered, my eyes widened, and I could feel my mouth go dry. When I found my voice, I tried to reassure Miles. “No, no, no, no. It can’t be Morcant. We forever ended any threat from that depraved being more than three years ago.”
Miles sighed. “But was he the only one who held a grudge against you?”
I frowned and raked my hand through my hair. “I honestly don’t know.”
Miles took my hand and gave it a squeeze. “Maybe you should talk to you characters. Maybe one of them knows something. Maybe it’s your Arrogant One, playing a prank again. Or maybe Sorceress is giving your Gypsy more lessons in scrying. There’s any number of possibilities.”
I nodded. “You’re right. I’ll talk to my characters.” I looked around, suddenly bewildered. “Wait. My characters! Why aren’t any of them here? They never miss a meal!”
Miles sighed and gave me a look of pity. “You really are stressed out over this. They told you yesterday they wouldn’t be around for a while. They’re giving us a treat – a few days to ourselves. Remember?”
I frowned, then sighed. “Oh, that’s right. They did tell me that. But do you know exactly where are they?”
Miles shrugged. “Dragon said something about taking an illusory trip. Maybe they’re in the conference room?”
I nodded. “I’ll look for them there after lunch.”
But when I opened the door to the conference room, no one was there.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in my office, trying to work, researching some facts for an article I was planning to write. I ended up jumping at shadows so often, I finally gave up and went back upstairs.
Miles took one look at me and shook his head. “Still feel like someone is watching you?”
Miles sighed. “You know, sweetheart, your characters gave us this gift of time alone. I think we should try to enjoy it. Why don’t we go out to dinner tonight, and then catch a movie?”
“Sounds like a great idea. Let’s go.” I gave my husband a warm smile and a big hug.
By the time we returned later that evening, I had forgotten all about my earlier discomfort. Then, in the middle of the night, a noise awakened me. I opened my eyes and thought I saw a shadow rushing out the door, which closed slowly behind the unsubstantial image. I jumped up, scrambled into my robe, and bolted into the hallway, but the corridor was completely empty. I made a quick search of the rest of the house but found nothing.
When I returned to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I lay there, tossing and turning for what seemed like hours. The only sound in the room was the steady rhythm of my husband’s breathing accompanied by the faint whoosh of his CPAP machine.
I looked at the clock. Morning was quickly approaching. As I rolled over once more, I glanced up toward the ceiling. There, a huge pair of eyes looked down at me.
My scream echoed on and on.
Who or what is watching me? And why? When my characters return from their illusory trip, I shall have to enlist their help in uncovering whoever or whatever is behind this matter. Be sure to come back next week and see what we find. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.