"Bragho," you hear. You open the door and see him in his black vest and shorts. "I was thinking, you might want company."
"How do you mean that?"
He waves a paw. "No, not a date. You don't know this world though."
You've spent almost the whole day with him, stuck in a movie studio and pretending to be someone you're not while everyone else resents you for being there. "Then I'd better start figuring it out for myself!" you say. You're still not used to your higher voice and the weird echoes of it through your muzzle. The local language comes naturally to you, probably the wizard's doing.
"All right," he says. "But be careful, okay?"
You wait in your house till he goes away. A few minutes later you've got your hair fixed up and are out the door.
Seems like you can see pretty well in the dim light. There's a whole town you've barely seen. The narrow streets are paved, the buildings made of wooden boards but with an unfamiliar sort of curved shiplike look. A few foxes stroll along or ride bicycles. Electric streetlights stand in a few spots where there're shops still open. You find something that could be a convenience store and peek in.
Three foxes are playing a board game. One notices you and smiles. "Hi, miss! Haven't seen you here before. Interested in a game of skulk?"
"Sure," you say, looking around at the shelves of merchandise. Games and books and magazines, mostly. "Mind if I look around first?"
"We'll be a few minutes finishing this round anyway."
You paw through some of the reading material. You're totally ignorant of the news, here, so every article is a puzzle. "Gorzam Trade Treaty a Success." "CP Solar Advances." "Carmelita Leads Coopers to 5-3 Win." Nothing totally alien at first glance but for the photos of dignified foxes giving speeches.
"Ready!" say the game-playing foxes, distracting you from another headline. You head back to their table and get into a game they teach you. It's something about hunting and trapping a monster. After a few rounds of that you're looking to do something else, though.
"Say, has anyone got a map?" Maybe you can do some traveling over the next few nights, and see a little more of the world.
Someone fishes out a map and you spread it on a table. A roads stretches out from the valley to a city and from there to a shoreline. It's too small-scale though for you to know whether this is Earth geography with different names, or a totally different place. That's something to ask Bragho. You sigh; there's work tomorrow and there's only so far you can go. You thank the foxes for the game and head on out.
You wander through the streets. It's quiet enough that you wonder why, and realize what's missing -- cars. There're a few bicycles and a motorized scooter or two, but that's it. Maybe they don't have gasoline engines? There's a fortune to be made if you can "invent" them here.
You find a glittering electric storefront and deduce that it's a movie theater. And coffee shop. The scent is wonderful. Inside, it's cozier than the megaplex theaters you're used to, maybe because it's a small town. The ticket booth guy smiles at you, saying, "Hey, Lenara! You look a little different tonight. New hair?"
You're not sure how to answer that. The director mistook you for her at first glance. You're not eager to explain that you're actually a visitor from another world who's accidentally booted Lenara into a convoluted magical trap. So you just dodge the question. "Hi. What's playing tonight?" But at some point you're going to have to explain, right?
"Well," he says, "the toon equipment's got a flea in the software, so we have to wait for an authorized technician. The regular theaters are up though -- 'Legend of the Chalice: Guardians of Glory' isn't as awful as it sounds."
You say, "Toons? Right, you mean the bodysuits. Want me to take a look at the equipment?"
"No way, ma'am. I don't want to get you arrested. You get your usual ticket discount though."
You fish money out of your pockets. "Sure. The fantasy one, please."
Yes, it is that bad. Awful script-writing seems to carry over between worlds. There are these big-eared ape monsters, see, and they go around ripping the pelts off foxes, and then this one fox gets turned into a were-ape and his girlfriend hates him but then he brings peace to the land. It's not clear where the chalice comes in, but there'll be a sequel.
You stretch your cramped tail and leave the theater, feeling vaguely superior. It's pretty dark now, so you'd better get some sleep. What a long, strange day!
It occurs to you that you're lost, when you turn down a dim empty street and hear footsteps behind you.
Written by Snow on 23 May 2010