“Hey, I’ve had a great time, but I’ve got to go now. I’m late for an appointment. But it was really great meeting you guys.”
I went the wrong direction for the closet, but found it on the other side of the door and got my coat. I had only met Janie, Kyle, and Ellen two days ago, but we found that we had similar interests. I was happy to meet friendly people, especially since I had just moved to this city. This was the first time I visited them at their place.
After putting on my coat, I instinctively reached into the pocket where I kept my keysâ€”and found nothing inside.
“My keys. Where did they go?” I scrabbled around in the pocket in case it had fallen into a fold.
“Aw hell. Not again.” Kyle said, exasperated.
“What are you talking about? I’ve never lost my keys with you guys before.” I said, as some annoyance crept into my voice. I actually rarely lost anything, I was always careful with my possessions. I tried looking in back pocket of my pants, and then realized that I was wearing a skirt without any pockets in them.
“It’s not what you’re thinking Shel,” Ellen said, “and Kyle, don’t jump to conclusions either. You can’t be sure that it happened again.”
“That what happened again?” I asked, as I continued to rifle through every pocket I had. I never carried a purse, so at least I didn’t have to search that. I looked at my cellphone to check the time, and shook my head. I was getting more late every moment.
“Can you think of where you might have put it? Are you sure that you left them in your coat? I want you to think back.” Janie said, as she pushed her long brown hair from in front of her face, with a look of concern. There continued to be a sense of exasperation coming from Kyle, who was a solid, chunky guy in his late 20’s with short cropped blond hair, and a loose-fitting football jersey on with a baseball cap turned backwards on his head.
“I never keep it anywhere else so I won’t lose it. I do the same thing with the keys every time.â€
“I know it’s happening again. It’s been a while since the last one. You know we’ll have to go on another quest.” Kyle said.
I sneered at Kyle. “Cute. A quest to find my keys.”
“I wish I was being funny.” Kyle said, and he brought something out from under the coffee table which looked just like a crystal ball. He shoved a game controller onto the floor, as well as a big coffee table book with optical illusions in it.
â€œDo you have to make such a big mess, Kyle.â€ Janie said.
â€œI have no idea why we live with a guy,â€ Ellen said.
â€œYes you do,â€ said, as he dumped a stack of textbooks off the table. â€œI’m the one stupid enough to face an entire horde of goblins as you struggle to finish your spells.â€
â€œDo you guys play Warcraft?â€
â€œWe don’t even have a computer. I mean, we did, but we didn’t bother to get it back.â€ Janie said. â€œI never liked computers anyway.â€
â€œYeah, well, it wasn’t your computer, Janie.â€ Kyle said. â€œWe could have…â€
â€œYou saw what we were going to have to face to get it back.â€ Janie said.
â€œSo, then, you guys play D&D?â€ I asked, hoping against hope that I’d finally found some gamers.
â€œUm, no. I mean, not exactly.â€ Kyle said.
â€œOh, maybe you play Fantasy Hero then, or GURPS?â€
â€œGURPS? Sounds like a disease,â€ Janie said.
â€œIsn’t that the game you play in steam tunnels?â€ Ellen asked.
â€œNo!â€ I said, feeling as if my geek nature was a bit exposed. â€œIt’s with dice and books. Anyway, what did you mean about facing a goblin horde? Aw hell, I’m really late now. None of this is helping me get my keys back.â€
â€œShe’s right, El. You are the seer. Check out if it’s there.â€
â€œYeah yeah. I’m more like Cassandra. No one listens to me.â€ Ellen sat down on the floor in front of the crystal ball, and concentrated. I blinked as it got smoky, and then started to clear.
â€œIs that like a special TV or something from Sharper Image?â€ I asked.
â€œIt’s actually a crystal ball,â€ Kyle said, â€œjust like it looks like. So keep watching.â€
The image resolved into my keys, hanging from a hook. â€œYou found it!â€ I said. â€œWhere is it?â€
The image pulled back, and fell back along what looked like an impossibly tall tower, and pulled backwards along the ground, a lake, villages, a waiting army of…strange creatures. And then, Ellen’s voice rose, but it sounded both distant, and incredibly present all at the same time. â€œThe object of your desire hangs from the tallest tower in the land of Vene Be’er, past the army of Throrgar, through the lands of the Dreamsenders, and guarded by the grand Vene’er himself.â€ Ellen stood up, and her eyes rolled up so that only the whites were visible. â€œHEAR ME, SHELLEY REGINA DAWSON, YOU MUST RECOVER THE OBJECT OF YOUR DESIRE, FOR IT DOES GREAT EVIL IN THESE LANDS. WITH THIS I CHARGE YOU.â€
Ellen’s eyes went back to normal, and she didn’t even stagger. Instead, she said in a very normal voice, â€œAs long as I’m up, anyone want a beer?â€
â€œWha?â€ I said.
â€œI’ll have one,â€ Kyle said. â€œAnd I told you it was a quest.â€
â€œYeah yeah,â€ Ellen said, â€œWant one too, Shel? Looks like you need one.â€
â€œYou guys playing a joke?â€
“Nope.” Janie said. “I’ll have one too, and I hate to admit it, but Kyle was right.”
“You should admit things like that more often,” Kyle said, crossing his arms.
“Yeah, I’ll get right to work on that as soon as you start being right more often.”
Ellen walked in with some beers, and handed one to each of us. I started to take a draw, and she grabbed my hand, and held it back from my mouth. She held her can out in front of her, and we all toasted at the same timeâ€¦and then found ourselves in a windblown field, in another land.
Our clothes had changed. I was wearing black leather, had rings on nearly every finger, and a sudden mastery of thievery. Kyle was in a full set of armor, with a large sword hanging behind his back. Janie’s long hair was bound in a bun, and she had a staff in one hand, and her eyes glowed with strange power. Ellen seemed to be wearing a cloak. Incongruously, we were still holding the cans of Bud Light in our hands.
Kyle downed the beer in one swig, crushed the can against his helmet, belched, and tossed the can. “Like I said, a questâ€¦.”
Two months later, we were back in the apartment, and I was holding my keys. “â€¦that the metal in these keys held magical properties in their world?” I finished the sentence in my own land. “Aw crap. We’re back, and I’ve probably lost my job after being gone two months.”
“I doubt it.” Kyle said. “Time moves funny there. We usually get back just a few minutes after we left. You’re probably still late though.”
“Damn. You’re probably right, let me check my cellphone for the time…oh no.”
“Missing your cellphone?” Janie said, raising her eyebrow. Ellen started to lean down in front of the crystal ball.
“Screw it.” I said. “It was time for a new one anyway.”