• Keri Heath

Park Bench


It was an odd day. The wind blew hard and the weather was strangely cool for this time of year. The cold front had swept in completely unexpectedly, drawing the heat away practically overnight. Something was about to happen, or was coming, or was changing. Neville could feel it. Something was brewing in the air, making the blowing branches shift direction and the sounds of vehicle traffic and people's healed boots into crisp, solid tones.

Neville was sitting on the park bench on the sidewalk with a book on his knee and half a turkey sandwich balanced on the other. It was cool enough out that he'd kept his jacket on, even though he was sitting in the sun. There was a trash can right next to the bench so people kept on walking up to his bench so they could toss away their coffee cups or granola bar wrappers or unfinished crossword puzzles. Neville kept instinctively looking up from his book when people entered his peripheral vision and making brief and awkward eye contact. Maybe it was the book. It was a pretty decent story about a guy who discovers he was actually the son of some kind of god. But for some reason it just wasn't hooking him today.

The weather was, though. He kept looking up to watch the leaves rustle across the street or smell the fresh, fresh air. When he looked up again, there was a creature withe big bat ears, wings and a long, pointed face digging through the trash can.

Neville blinked. Still there.

He looked back down at his book and read the same line three times. He looked up. Still, the creature was there. It had its arm in all the way to the elbow and its eyebrows were pinched in concentration.

Neville glanced around but none of the people walking by seemed to notice.

Neville cleared his throat. "Um, are you, uh, looking for something?"

The creature plunged its arm in farther. "I dropped something and I'm pretty sure it ended up in here. You humans are always taking things that don't belong to you and putting them places you shouldn't. I mean honestly."

Neville nodded. "Right for sure. We humans?"

"Seriously," it said. "When was the last time you were walking along and saw a Galadian crystal orb on the ground and went, you know what, I'm think I'm going to put that in the trash? I mean, who does that?"

"Yeah, that sounds...terrible," Neville said. "Just terrible." Neville glanced down at the turkey sandwich. Maybe this was a dream. A weird dream. He ran a finger over the top of the white bread. Still there.

"Why was your crystal orb on the ground?" Neville asked.

The bat creature stopped rummaging and glanced away. Was that...was that a sheepish look on its face? "I may have sort of dropped it. I know grandpa told me to affix everything to me securely during inter-dimensional migration, but it was in my pocket," he said. "I thought it would be fine, but obviously not."

At that moment, the wind fizzled and a tear ripped in the air right in front of Neville's park bench. Another bat-like creature with wrinkled skin poked his head out of the whole. "What are you doing?" it called. "We're halfway to the Fields of Armary. Hurry up."

The younger creature turned around. "But Grandpa, I left my orb..."

"That's your own fault," the older one said. "You're just going to have to deal with the consequences. The migration is happening now."

"But..."

The older one shook his head. "Now!"

The younger one sighed dramatically and shuffled over to the hole. The grandpa pulled the young one through and the circle closed up with a snap.

Neville blinked. Had that really happened? He glanced at the people walked or jogging past, but no one seemed concerned. Then, when he felt something roll against his foot, he looked down. It was a shiny, red orb that sparkled in the sunlight. Neville bent down and picked it up.

"I wonder if this is what he was looking for."

But what Neville didn't see was behind him and that in the path that the orb had rolled to his, feet, the grass had turned purple.

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