Daylight creeps in through the window, nudging me out of a long slumber. I shower, dress, and try to recalibrate myself for my new set of circumstances. Part of me can’t believe that I’m really in the world of duenkhy now, and I wouldn’t have been terribly surprised if I’d woken up and realized it was all a dream. But no, I’m still here in Lady’s spare room.
I reach for something on my nightstand.
It’s a skull mask that Lady gave to me while we were crossing over into Duen. She urged me to keep it nearby at all times, as it would offer me “protection.” What kind of protection she meant, I’ve yet to discover, but I’d accepted her words in a daze.
Though she said its effects would work whether or not I was wearing it, I realized it’d be nice to not stick out as a human here. I’d really prefer to be seen as another regular inhabitant of this world rather than a temporary tourist. I don’t know if the mask will facilitate that or just make me stand out even more, but it’s worth a shot, so I slip it on.
I look in the mirror and feel a little silly. But there’s also something freeing about being faceless like this. Being less tied down by physical appearances carries a lot of appeal for me. I pull my hair into a stout ponytail and do one last mirror check before heading out. Though my only plan for today is to visit Lady at her job, apprehension hovers around me like a cloud. The rules of this world are still nebulous to me, and Lady has yet to fill me in beyond insisting it shouldn’t be that different from my own world.
When I step outside, this truly does seem to be the case. The buildings, the pavement, the blue sky above my head… If I hadn’t experienced Lady’s magic pulling me into this world firsthand, I might think I’d just been kidnapped and brought to a neighboring city.
…I never expected the duenkhy world to be so damn normal!! Seriously, Lady just has a regular old house in a regular old cul-de-sac. She’s got a nine-to-five job at a bar, for crying out loud. This isn’t even close to what I thought a world of mystical creatures would be like.
It’s like dying, going to heaven, and realizing it’s just a bunch of middle class track housing in the sky. Talk about anticlimactic.
And yet, something uneasy disrupts my sense of balance. Something doesn’t feel quite right. I flex my fingers and look around, wondering what the source of my discomfort is. Nothing makes itself immediately apparent, so I brush it off.
Just nerves, maybe?
As I’m scanning my surroundings and reorienting myself, my eyes finally land on something interesting.