Walkabout by Alanna J. Rubin

For Darla

3 Storied.

That’s what the business card read and on the back an address. Cali couldn’t even remember where the card came from or how it got in the pocket of her dark purple leather jacket with fur trim.  The strange part was that as soon as she held it in her hand, she felt compelled to go the address. Now she stood in front of a dilapidated building, whose two stories were marred by disuse, its windows broken and walls sprayed with colorful graffiti. Her mind screamed at her to turn around, but her heart told her to move forward, and Cali was never one to listen to reason. Cautiously, she moved through the foreboding entrance way, whose powder black steel and glass door hung precariously by one tarnished brass hinge. The inside of the building looked no better than the outside. Trash was piled in the corners and strewn across the floor, the once white walls speckled black and gray with layers of grime.

Why am I here? She thought, but something was pushing her onward until she came face to face with the gold mirrored door of the elevator. Its surface was caked with dirt, but not enough to completely obscure her reflection, which caught her off guard. In it, she saw her dark denim skinny jeans, black calf high boots, and white turtleneck sweater go out of focus. A floor length silver gown that set off her long dark hair, chocolate eyes, and hugged her curves in all of the right places, replaced them. She squinted in an effort to make the hazy image sharper, but the strain seemed to push it further away until it disappeared, revealing her familiar appearance once more.

Without warning, as if they had a mind of their own, the elevator doors slid apart, beckoning her inside. Once again, the thought of turning back occurred to her, but how could she? Cali always loved a good mystery and here one was begging for her exploration, so she stepped inside, the doors closing behind her immediately, which set her heart racing. The interior of the elevator was lit only by one dim light that was recessed in the ceiling of the car. It was enough to show her a panel of buttons, one of which was labeled with the number of a nonexistent floor. Her stomach tied in knots due to a mixture of nerves and excitement, so with a shaking slender finger, she pushed the button with the number “three” written next to it. The motor screeched to life above her, the long disused cables straining from the effort of pulling the car up the shaft.

Cali’s heart pounded furiously until it was the only sound that filled her ears. That’s when the car abruptly came to a stop, causing her to stumble backward, and the dim light turned off, casting the car into darkness. The absence of light was oppressive and made it difficult for her to breathe. Keep calm, she chanted to herself while she felt around the walls for the buttons, hoping that pushing them would set her free. Cali had frantically pushed all of the buttons she could find when the doors opened of their own accord letting in a blinding light, as if they had opened onto the sun. Cali squinted and strained to see what lay beyond, but to no avail. She looked around, realizing that she couldn’t stay in the elevator and so, stepped forward. Crossing the threshold felt as if she were pushing through water, like crossing some kind of barrier.

Once through, Cali realized that she left behind the stale air of the elevator and breathed in deeply. The air here smelled as sweet as honey. She also found herself in a forest whose trees were as tall as skyscrapers and leaves so green they looked to have been painted. When her eyes adjusted to her new surroundings, a tall muscular man with cobalt blue hair and silver grey eyes stood in front of her. His full pink lips housed a smile that warmed Cali from head to toe.

“Calista,” he whispered, “thank the four winds that you found the beacon,” he said with relief as he pointed at the business card still clutched in her hand. Cali looked at it with surprise as it morphed into a smooth triangular wooden talisman. “You’ve been gone for so long, I was afraid it wasn’t strong enough to bring you back home.” Her lack of response caused the man’s smile to twist into an expression of worry. “Try to remember,” he urged. “You left one year ago for your walkabout among the humans.” Cali’s brow was still furrowed with confusion, so he continued. “You were gone longer than normal. Our memories begin to fade when we’re away from our world for extended periods of time.” Still, he saw no recognition on her face.  With a hint of desperation, he said, “Maybe a change of clothes will help,” and then snapped his fingers.

Her outfit was once again replaced by the silver dress she saw reflected in the elevator doors. It felt warm and familiar against her skin. She approached him, her heart pushing her forward, the soft grass cushioning her bare feet as she walked. Cali studied his every feature, the angles of his jaw, the endearingly crooked bend to his nose, and the beautiful way his dark eyelashes fanned out around his almond shaped eyes. He breathed in sharply as she ran her dainty hand through his thick hair revealing his pointed ears and then moved to caress his cheek. “Micah,” she said softly, recognition lighting her eyes.

Relief flashed across his features as he gently rested his forehead against hers. “Welcome home, my love.”

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