Dayna blinked at the short guy and the tall blonde in the superhero outfit who sat calmly on the porch outside her house. The story they’d just told her was like nothing she ever thought she could have believed. The presence of Kian and Lara were the only things keeping her from questioning her sanity. She idly wondered if she was dreaming, then decided against it. Not even her dreams were this weird.
“So basically,” she addressed her online friend Jason, the short guy. “You’re telling me that everything we thought we created is real.”
Jason nodded. “Provided we actually write it, then yes.”
“And that Kian and Lara were kind of…free-floating spirits before we ‘discovered’ them.” Again, Jason nodded. Dayna sighed. “I think I need to stop going on those caffeine binges.”
Kian had been staring at Lara, the blonde, with something approaching awe. “What?” Lara asked finally.
“Nothing,” Kian said quickly. “I, um…that’s a very interesting outfit.”
“You only like it ’cause it’s Spandex,” Dayna teased.
Kian blinked. “Pardon?”
“Never mind.” Dayna turned to Lara. “And you’re the one who figured this all out?”
Lara shrugged. “Not exactly. It’s part of the knowledge that was given to me by the One.”
“Keanu Reeves?” Dayna supplied.
Jason groaned. “You need new jokes,” he said, rolling his eyes.
Lara glared at Dayna and leaned back in her seat. “The One,” she began, “is the creator of every universe. The Ultimate God, if you will. There are people in every dimension who can ‘tune in’ to the other universes, and by writing about them, give them form and structure. In that way, they are servants of the One. You and Jason are two of those servants, giving life – so to speak – to each of your respective realms.”
“What happens if a writer doesn’t write their story?” Dayna asked.
Lara grimaced. “It’s horrible – chaos,” she said with a shudder. “Entire universes are totally negated. Please don’t ask me what that feels like.”
“That’s probably why so many writers feel compelled to write,” Jason said. “That extra sense of responsibility.”
“Does it matter if the story gets published or not?” Dayna asked curiously.
“No,” Lara replied. “It’s the word that’s important. The word gives form to the event.”
“So what are you?” Kian asked abruptly. “If these two are the caretakers of dimensions, then what are you?”
“For the most part, I’m just a character,” Lara replied simply. “But I’m also what’s called a Guardian. I travel through several different dimensions, making sure everything is as it should be, averting minor crises. I can see what ordinary mortals cannot.”
Kian was impressed. “You’re like a Goddess,” he said almost reverently.
Lara gave Jason a long-suffering look.
“Just let it go,” he suggested.
“No,” Lara sighed. “I’m not a Goddess. What you call your Gods are also caretakers of your world – but what they do is control the natural laws of their universe after it has been given form. They deal with the day-to-day things once the writer is finished with the story.”
“It goes kind of like this, as I understand it,” Jason explained. “The One comes up with the ideas, the writers make them coherent, the Guardians proofread them, and the Gods take care of everything else.”
“That’s what I just said.”
“I like the way I put it better.”
Kian was struggling with a thought. “So what you’re saying is that I’m not real?” he demanded incredulously.
Lara laid her hand on his. “None of us are real, Kian,” she said gently. “And at the same time, we’re as real as anything. We are all children of the One, existing in our own worlds, unaware of all others.” She made a face at Kian. “Until you went and knocked us off-course,” she said pointedly.
“It wasn’t my fault!” he protested.
“Was it ours?” Dayna asked Jason.
He shrugged helplessly. “No clue,” he said. “Possibly. We might have been writing those scenes at the exact same moment, and…well…” He gestured, indicating Lara and Kian.
“Boom?” Dayna suggested.
“To put it succinctly.”
Dayna shook her head. “The mother of all brain leaks,” she sighed dramatically. “We really need to stop doing that.”
Jason smiled knowingly.
“So…” Kian began. “How do we get back to our own dimensions? Not that your world isn’t nice or anything,” he added quickly. “But I’ve got this pressing engagement back home.”
“Nothing simpler,” Lara assured him. “Jason will write a story that will put me back in my home dimension.”
“Just like that?” Kian asked dubiously.
“Just like that.”
“Easy for you to say,” Jason told his creation. “You’re not the one who has to come up with it.”
“Don’t be such a baby,” Lara shot back. “You get tons of ideas a week. You’re in charge of fully three dimensions. Besides, you don’t even have to strain your creativity. Just write down how the day’s gone.”
“Will that work for Kian too?”
“No. Dayna is in charge of Kian’s universe.” She pursed her lips. “I suppose you’ll have to co-write it with her. Call it a crossover or something.”
“We’ve been wanting to do that for a while anyway,” he agreed. “Well, I suppose you ought to fly me home so I can get on the computer…”
“What’s the hurry?” Dayna asked. “I mean, we don’t have to write it right this second, do we? Couldn’t we…?”
Jason raised an eyebrow. “You’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking, are you?”
Dayna grinned wickedly. “It is a Friday,” she pointed out. “And as long as we have visitors, we might as well show them around, right?”
Jason gave her a mildly disapproving look. “Show a blue elf around town? Yeah, that’ll go over well.”
“I’m not an elf!” Kian protested, but the writers barely heard him.
“How often do we get to hang out with our own characters?” Dayna pressed. “Besides, if what Lara says is true, we can write this so that only you and I will remember any of it.”
Jason’s mind was working very quickly now. He looked speculatively at Lara, her silky hair glistening like spun gold in the sunlight. “It’s got possibilities…” he admitted.
“Come on,” Dayna insisted with an impish grin. “It’ll be fun.”
Lara buried her face in her hands. “Why do I have a feeling I’m going to regret this?”
Kian patted her shoulder. “Be brave.”
“Well,” Jason said. “I suppose I could take Lara out on the town for a while without attracting too much attention. She’s at least been to an Earth before. But what are you going to do about Kian?”
Dayna considered it, looking over Kian’s alien features. There weren’t too many places you could take a guy with blue skin and pointy ears that weren’t Star Trek conventions. Except maybe…her face lit up. She knew just the place. “Tell me, Kian,” she asked coquettishly, taking the magus’ hand. “Do you dance?”
Kian stared at himself in the mirror with horror. “No,” he said emphatically. “Absolutely not!”
“Oh, come on, you look great,” Dayna said. “Don’t you guys think so?”
Dayna’s friends Ben and Mary sat side-by-side on the edge of Ben’s bed, staring hard at the water magus. “He’s…blue,” Mary said after a short, awkward silence. She’d said the same thing at least five times already since she and Ben and picked Kian and Dayna up from Dayna’s house, despite the somewhat evasive explanations the writer had given them. The foursome were currently involved in dressing Kian up as your typical adolescent suburban goth-rocker. Cajoling Kian into forgoing his own clothes for the night had been tedious, but Dayna was an expert cajoler, and Kian had finally surrendered. They’d gone through five different outfits already, Kian’s expression growing progressively more pained with each one. Currently the elder Roh was outfitted in a semi-conservative black t-shirt with the logo from “A Clockwork Orange” on it, a pair of blue jeans and sneakers. Dayna thought he looked kind of cute, actually. “Really blue,” Mary reiterated.
“You’ve mentioned that before,” Kian grumbled.
“Don’t be snippy,” Dayna admonished. “And Mary…remind me to write you a little less monotonously.”
“Inside joke.” She looked over at Ben, who was idly fingering Kian’s tunic. “You seem to be taking this in stride,” she noted.
Ben shrugged. “I’m a gamer. I’m used to weird-looking guys hanging around. Hey, can I borrow this tunic for the Renaissance Fair?”
“No,” the other three replied in unison.
“I look ridiculous,” Kian complained, pulling at the collar of the shirt.
“You look fine. Really,” Dayna said again. “Black suits you.”
“He’s not bad-looking,” Mary acknowledged. Ben raised an eyebrow at his girlfriend. “You know,” she amended lamely. “For a blue guy.”
Ben kissed her hand. “Nice backpedal, dear.”
“You promise I won’t look out of place?” Kian asked plaintively.
“Actually, compared to most of the guys at Chasers, you’ll look relatively normal,” his creator said.
“Ain’t that some shit?” Ben observed sagely.
Kian sighed. “Suddenly, I’m getting nostalgic for a good old-fashioned fight to the death.”
Dayna laughed. “If that’s how you feel, then there’s a guy I really want to introduce you to.”
The room was cold, dark and high-ceilinged. Multicolored lights flashed from every corner, bathing the patrons in an array of horribly clashing hues. Black lights on the ceiling made any hints of white and certain colors fluoresce, and Kian’s eyes glowed ultraviolet as he surveyed the dance club. His first thought was that they were all insane. Dozens of people about his own age whirled and gyrated on the dance floor, horribly out of time with the music – which, apart from beingalmost painfully loud, wasn’t all that bad. He looked around for the source of the sound, found none, and decided to chalk it up as one of those Earth things. He listened again, more closely. The beat was steady, not overly fast, and the instruments…they were like nothing he’d ever heard, lush and layered and unreal. “What is this?” he asked Dayna, shouting to be heard above the din.
“Chasers,” she shouted back. “Your basic refuge for the underaged, disillusioned, overly pretentious suburbanite.”
“No, I meant the music,” Kian said. “What’s the song called?”
“‘Enjoy the Silence,'” Mary supplied.
“We’re into irony,” Ben added.
Kian was enraptured by the sound. He’d spent time in royal courts, listening to the most gifted musicians in Andanon, but this…although he really wished it wasn’t quite so loud, he found the song strangely compelling. Otherworldly. Which, come to think about it, was fairly accurate. “I like it,” he decided.
“Good for you,” Dayna congratulated him. “Want to dance?”
Kian flushed. “Oh no, I…I couldn’t,” he stammered. “There’s…people and I don’t really know-”
“Kian,” she said in a level tone. “Look around. None of these people can actually dance. I can’t dance. The whole point here is to make an ass of yourself while having a lot of fun doing it. Besides,” she said flippantly. “I kind of made you. Believe me when I say that you can not-dance with the best of them.”
Kian looked at Ben and Mary. “Is she always like this?”
“You have no idea,” Ben sighed wearily.
“Don’t tell stories,” Dayna admonished her friend. She grabbed Kian’s hand and pulled him onto the dance floor. “Come on. Let’s go conform to non-conformity.”
“I wish I was dead,” he moaned, fixing an imploring gaze on Ben and Mary, who simply smiled and waved.
At first, Kian simply stood uncomfortably as Dayna danced to the music. She wasn’t graceful by any means, but she wasn’t as bad as she’d suggested, either. She grabbed his hands and smiled, trying to get him moving. He began to dance, halfheartedly at first, but then with greater abandon when he realized nobody was really watching him anyway. He tried imitating what the other kids were doing, feeling very self-conscious, but figuring he wouldn’t remember any of it once he got back home.
“Pretty slick,” his creator complimented him. He stuck his tongue out at her, and she laughed. “I’ll let you off the hook,” she said as the song changed. “Let’s go sit down.”
She dragged him over to an apparently vacated table to sit back and catch their breath. “What did you think?”
Kian thought about it for a moment. “It was different.”
“That’s a tactful way of putting it.”
“You didn’t actually want the truth, did you?” he asked knowingly, and they both busted up laughing. They spent the next half-hour watching the dancers, joking and telling each other stories of life on Earth and Andanon.
“You’re in my seat,” an all-too-familiar voice said suddenly, freezing Dayna’s blood. She turned around.
Kian saw a tall, lanky guy with short, shaggy brown hair. He was almost as pale as Kian’s friend Aron, but his face didn’t have the same open friendliness as Aron’s. He was dressed in all black, the same as everyone else in this place, but he stood out to Kian – mainly because the guy was staring at Dayna with totally undisguised contempt.
Dayna looked very uncomfortable. Kian noticed her hands clenching almost involuntarily. “I don’t see your name on it,” she replied coldly.
“I see my coat hanging on the back of your chair,” he pointed out.
Dayna looked behind her. “Huh. So it is.” Then, very deliberately, she knocked the guy’s coat to the floor. She smiled viciously. “Guess now it’s not your seat anymore.”
The guy glared at her, then bent to retrieve his coat. “Bitch,” he snarled as he went out onto the floor. Dayna closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Don’t hit him,” she murmured. “Don’t hit him…”
“I get the distinct impression that I’m missing something here,” Kian said lightly.
“Long story,” Dayna replied wearily.
“Old boyfriend?” Kian surmised.
“Maybe not so long.”
He patted her hand reassuringly. “Ignore him. He’s not really bothering you. You’re not hurting each other.”
She laughed at that. “Boy, you should have been here last time.”
“He broke my heart, so I bruised his jaw.” Off Kian’s look, she said, “I don’t want to hear it. I’ve already heard every possible reaction to that revelation.”
“I could do better than hitting,” he offered.
Dayna blinked. “Except that one,” she said, surprised. Then she sighed. “Forget about it. I already had my revenge, and besides, I’m in enough trouble with my friends for that sucker punch as it is.”
“This is your story,” he reminded her. “They won’t even remember it.”
She paused. “That’s true, isn’t it?” She thought for a moment, and then an evil grin spread across her face. She leaned over and whispered into Kian’s ear.
“Dayna!” he gasped, shocked to the core. “That’s a horrible thing to do to a man!”
“But you will do it, won’t you, Kian?” she pleaded in a little-girl voice. “For me?” She fluttered her eyelashes at him.
Kian stalked off to the men’s room to lie in wait for his prey, muttering to himself and gesticulating wildly.
Ten minutes later, he came back out, almost bursting at the seams with suppressed mirth. “Let’s get out of here,” he said quickly, grabbing Dayna’s arm. She snatched up her coat, and the pair made a mad dash for the door. Outside in the parking lot, Kian finally gave in, howling with laughter.
“What did you do?” Dayna demanded.
Kian gave another chuckle, wiping a tear from his eye. “I couldn’t do what you asked me to,” he apologized. “That’s just too painful.”
“What did you do?” she asked again impatiently.
“I froze him,” Kian admitted.
Dayna stared at him. “You froze him?” she repeated incredulously.
“Well…not all of him,” he replied evasively.
Just then Ben and Mary stepped out of the building. Ben was shaking his head in disbelief, and Mary was cackling. “Why, whatever is the matter?” Kian asked innocently.
“You’re not going to believe what just happened to Howie!” Mary laughed.
“Try me,” Dayna said, folding her hands across her chest. She deliberately avoided looking at Kian.
“You better tell her,” Mary said to her boyfriend. “I’m having trouble breathing.” She burst into another fit of giggling.
“Don’t ask me how it possibly could’ve happened,” Ben said, totally at a loss. “I went into the bathroom, and there he was, just…” He paused. “Well, he was…” He stopped again, groping for the words. “Let me put it this way. You ever hear the joke about the weather being so cold, the dogs are sticking to the fire hydrants?”
Realization dawned on Dayna. She gaped at Kian, who simply gave her a little smirk.
Then she doubled over in helpless laugher.
“You’re cold,” Ben accused.
“I bet he’s colder,” Dayna gasped. “Ohhh God…”
Ben and Kian shared a look. “Is it really that bad?” Kian asked mildly.
“They’ll probably have to chip him loose.” Ben sighed. “Let’s just go home.”
“Don’t you want to stop at Denny’s first?” Dayna asked, still chuckling.
Ben shook his head. “Believe me when I tell you that I really don’t feel like eating.”