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A Hop, Skip, And A Universe Away.

Chapter 1

By MikMacMeerkatPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 17 min read
Runner-Up in The Fantasy Prologue

“There weren’t always dragons in the valley,” he said, in what was sure to be one of the worst pick-up lines of all time. But I let him talk. It took a confident man to walk up to a woman with the line, have you heard about the dragons? I didn’t want to dash it too soon. I took another swig of the brandy from my now half empty bottle. The rest of the amber liquid sung through my veins.

Not nearly loud enough.

I could still feel the broken shards inside me. They gouged invisible scars underneath my skin. The alcohol seemed to help a little.

The house party pulsed like an animal. But here up against the second story window it felt hushed. We sat at a small bar table. Lights faded in and out of focus outside the foggy glass. Casting odd shadows across the room. I needed to drink some water, but I took another pull from my bottle instead. On this anniversary I deserved to get wrecked.

“But then,” he continued, “an artwork was created. So beautiful. Perfect in every gleaming scale. The dragon simply stepped off the page.” He whispered the words to me, like we were sharing a secret. Bridging the space separating us, between one word and the next. “Art come to life.” He concluded. At least he was inventive. I couldn’t predict where the hook would land. Where this sweet seeming story became more innuendo than fairy-tale. But it would. Up close his brown eyes were as intoxicating as my brandy. Like honey in the sun. Framed by dark lashes and caramel skin. This man was all burnt sugar and sweet words. Even his hair looked like liquorish curls.

His flowing white shirt revealed too much of his chest. Or not enough. His silk waistcoat looked soft and worn. Odd for a Halloween costume. He had come as a pirate. Britches, boots, and all. His dark beard sharpened his jaw, hiding flashes of a bright smile.

It was nice to see a smile.

Half the party were in face masks. The kind that covered your mouth and nose. Even after the cure for the dreaded Eight Plagues had proved its effectiveness. People were still wary. Nobody wanted a bout of mind reading sickness. Or a headache that could cause a building to collapse. So, half the party had come dressed as some kind of medicine man. Doctors’ surgeons, or nurses. Others flitted about us in more reckless costumes, a sexy witch, a sexy cat.

That woman was just wearing a bikini.

Bold. And freezing.

Yet, this man looked only at me. In my far too realistic paramedics’ costume. Blue uniform and scars. I’d had multiple people comment on how good my makeup was, the wicked scars that curved up my arms to caress my face. But when I jumped in the shower tonight, they wouldn’t wash off. My fingertips idly traced their rough edges. Fading slowly. I could still feel the twist of jagged metal in my skin. The glass that had sliced my face.

I took another swig.

I waited for him to tell me I was a work of art. A year ago, I would have believed him. A year ago, I believed all the pretty words. So, I sat and waited for him to lie. See what it would feel like. Would it hurt? Would it burn? Or would it feel like nothing at all?

Instead, his fingers fluttered under the chain around my neck. He pulled the gold strand out from its hiding place. A dragon charm dangled from its length. The small creature looked like it was flying as it swung in the light. When my brother gave it to me on our fifteenth birthday, he had held it the same. The pieces inside me sharpened.

A galaxy of glitter and black mist rose in the shape of a hand. It curled around the pendant and cupped it with care. The hallucinations were meant to stop when you got better. If they were hallucinations. A part of me said this felt too real. Something new, possibly dangerous. Not the side effect I wanted.

It was my hand, or some astral projection. A constellation of stars formed each finger, thumb, and nail. Separated from my body. Its fleshy shell lay immobile on the table beneath it. Like I, all broken shards, and scars, had split in two. The ghost of smoke and light reached for the pirate beside me. Its fingers traced the lines of his paint-speckled hands. The odd watch at his wrist. It glided over the exposed gears and leather cuff. Then up to his smile. Like I wanted to do but didn’t dare.

So much worse when I drank. My body out of sync with whatever part of me this was. Is. Could be. Shouldn’t be.


The pirates’ eyes travelled my face, taking in my dark eyes, and tan skin. Lingering on my lips. No one could see the hand that floated in the air like stardust.

I forced the figment back down to the cold flesh and bone that lay beneath it. Stretching my fingers as it fell back into place. The prick of pins and needles the only sign of its absence.

A rough hug yanked me from my trance. It smelt of vodka and cheap cologne. Mark the nark.

“Hey girl, good to see you! Glad you’re doing better!” I wrenched out of Marks hold. He was dressed like a surgeon. Wishful thinking.

“Doing better?” I asked. He took a step back and returned my frown with one of his own.

“Well, yeh, you’re out!” He cleared his throat, “no hard feelings, right? You know I didn’t mean to –“

“Get me fired?”

His frown intensified.

“What’s going on? Where’s the girl that would flick her hair back and buy everyone a round of shots? I mean it’s not like you need to work anyway, right?”

I could understand his confusion. Not so long ago I would have touched his arm. Said, well at least I got to use the uniform for something else. I’d laugh, He’d laugh. It wouldn’t matter that my smile was fake. I was good at faking smiles. But tonight? I couldn’t. The broken pieces inside me were too sharp.

“She left about half a bottle ago,” I said.

“Is it him? Is he bothering you?” Mark asked.

I let some of my mother seep into my stare. Mark couldn’t look me in the eye. Typical. Predictable.

You are bothering me,” I said. The pirate beside me just smiled.

“Oh, come on. You know I had to report you. After what you did?” He stage whispered the last. Folded his arms across his fake blood-spattered chest.

“What I did? Get sick?” I asked over the rim of my bottle.

“You and I know it wasn’t like that.” He hissed. Yes, him and I. And the ethics committee. And the hospital. And the reporters. And everyone. Everyone. Everyone. My hand clenched on the nape of the bottle. Suddenly the music was too loud. The crush of people suffocating.

I turned to the man made of sugar and spice and all things nice.

“Will you take me to the dragons?” I asked. I didn’t care if I cut his seduction short. He pretended to check his fake steampunk contraption watch and smiled. Pushed a firm hand against Mark’s chest and ushered me through the space, snagging something from the kitchen before we hurried out the front doors.

Outside the air was cutting. A blessed relief from the heat inside the stately house.

“What’s your name?” He asked.

“Jess,” I lied. Why ruin this with reality?

Jess,” the pirate said. His tone serious. “Time is money. Money is pizza. Pizza is life.” He held a pizza box towards me with a flourish. For the first time that night, I laughed.

I took a slice. Smiling as he did the same.

“This way Miss Jess” he gestured up the street. I suppressed a sigh of relief when he didn’t point toward a car.

We ate as we strolled. Hidden under a canopy of manicured trees. We passed the Pinterest worthy houses with picture perfect lawns. The peace broken, every so often, by a hover car zooming overhead.

Us richies and our toys.

He bounced as he walked. With every two long legged strides he stopped, circled me, walked backwards, or skipped. Like a golden retriever out to the park. It was hard not to grin. I wished I could bottle him. Take him like a supplement. One pill of sunshine a day will keep the depression away!

The bottle sloshed at my side. My current medication needed improvement.

“Where are these dragons?” I asked.

“A hop, skip and a universe away.” He said. A dizzying smile and a wink followed before he bounded up the path ahead. I didn’t hurry. Just let him bounce back. A man on an elastic band. A girl could get used to this.

We turned up the path through Kings-park. The Park perched on a hill. The small Perth city glittered in the valley below. He was leading me somewhere, and I wasn’t sure I was drunk enough to follow.

I took another swig, ah, now I am.

“What would you say if I told you I wasn’t from around here.” He asked. I raised my eyebrows at him.

“I’d believe you,” I said.

“And if I told you I was from another universe?” he smiled. Now walking at my shoulder. We slowed. Then stopped. The wind whipped my dark hair into my face. He tucked it behind my ears with warm fingers and my eyes fluttered closed. If only to feel the warmth more. I’d felt cold for so long. His fingertips traced the shell of my ear and lingered over the scar that graced my chin. I let my mind wander. If I tasted him, would it be enough? Or would the sugar high end in a dizzying crash?

Then the warmth was gone.

“Shouldn’t you ask me if I believe in other universes first?” I asked. Slowly opening my eyes. He stood in front of me. Too close and yet not close enough.

“Do you believe in other universes?” he asked, “Do you believe that another place exists? A universe where we made different choices?” He circled me as he talked. Now striding back around to my front. Long legs making quick work of the pavement at our feet. “A place where accidents had different outcomes?”

My heart hammered against my lungs. Wanted? Yes. Desperately. But believed?

“I don’t believe in fairy tales.” I sighed.

“And yet you followed me for dragons.”

“You don’t know why I followed you.” I said continuing down the path. The brandy tasted bitter now. Like ash and blood and smoke and petrol. I squeezed my eyes shut, pushing the memories away. I wanted a distraction. I wanted honey, caramel, and sweet words.

We descended to the Kaarta Gar-up lookout. The best view of the twinkling city could be seen over its rails. I knew it was beautiful and yet. I couldn’t feel it.

He trailed me a step behind. A head above.

“I know more about you than you think.”

“You just met me.” I reminded him.

“Well, you just met me.” The words made my feet pull to a stop. Of course. Of course. How could I have been so stupid?

“Your mother calls you Jasmine.” He said.

“Only when she’s happy with me.” I sighed.

I couldn’t remember the last time she had called me Her Jasmine. I did remember when I woke up in the hospital. My heart beeping in a jagged line. Each breath sparked pain across my ribs, my head swam with the drugs and memories.

The memories.

My eyes had muddled open to see her hands. Pressed to the white sheets of the private hospital bed. I stretched my palm across the cotton and polyester. Each stich pulling fire against my flesh. My fingers grazed the back of her fresh French tipped nails. She said nothing. Merely lifted them out of my reach. A year ago and I still thought about that moment every day.

I pulled myself back to my current reality. Focused on the feeling of the wind on my cheeks. The thrum of the brandy in my veins. We lent against the railing and watched the Swan River move slowly below us. Tension hung in the air. So, my mother had hired him. I shouldn’t have been surprised she had figured out my plan.

“You’re very entertaining,” he said. “Like watching those dances where they keep changing the masks. Jess, Jasmine, Jiao. Crazy socialite, tortured soul, cold blooded heiress. Do you know the things people say about you?”

“I know what they say,” I muttered.

“Infected yourself with one of the Eight Plagues. Refused the cure. Had to be held down they say. Stark. Raving. Mad.”

“I know what they say” I repeated, louder now.

“How much of it is true?” He asked.

“Are you a reporter too?”

“How much?” he insisted. I rounded on him. Putting my back to the pretty city sight.

“And if I said all of it? What would you say?”

“I’d ask. If the truth is taken out of context, can it even count as the truth?”

I swallowed. Pushing off the rail I distanced myself from him. But didn’t run.

“You are not crazy. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Crazy?” he shook his head. “I think I know why you did it. You wanted the side effects.”

I didn’t respond. My mother had taught me the value of silence. How to wield it like a weapon.

“Mind reading?” he asked. Circling me again. No longer a happy puppy but a wolf. “No, no not that. You don’t want to change your hair or eye colour with just a thought either.” The wind whipped my straight black hair across my face. Stinging my cheeks. I ignored it. “That would be a shame. I’ve never seen eyes like yours before. Like black holes, pulling me in.”

I rose to my full height. Took a measured step towards him. Crowding his space before he could choose to invade mine.

“You think flattery will help you now?” I asked.

“I think flattery always helps me.” He smiled, “am I talking to the Heiress now? The cold Jiao Goh?”

I let my mother slip into my stare. Nose to nose with him now. But he didn’t look away. Instead, his eyes glided over my face. Tasting my lips and scars before returning to my eyes.

”Ah,” He said “I see the gadol, and the gadol sees me. I know what you wanted.”

Gadol? I didn’t need to know. I didn’t care. I took a moment. A long-protracted piece of time before I spoke.

“Go on. Impress me with your powers of deduction.”

He paused and smiled. It was a sad smile now, the sparkle drained from his eyes.

“You want to be able to talk to the dead” he whispered. The breath froze in my lungs.

“But no. Not exactly. You just wanted to talk to him.

Tears burned like acid at the back of my eyes. But I refused to give him the satisfaction.

“Did you get what you wanted?” he asked.

“I’m leaving now,” I said. Turning on my heel I headed back the way we came.

“So, you didn’t get what you wanted but you got something!” He called after me. My feet skidded to a stop.

I could feel that other part of me, the one made of mist and stars. It strained against my skin. I took a step back toward him.

“You feel out of sync. Like the contours of your body can no longer trap you.” He said.

I took another step. Another. Another. It was that or leave my body behind.

“And it hurts when you return. A hundred needles. A thousand cuts. Sometimes you wake up and your whole body is on fire.” He spoke truths I’d never told anyone.

I was back. Pressed up against the railing where he leaned.

“And not the good kind of fire,” he whispered.

“The good kind?” I asked. Two hands of stars and smoke pressed against his chest. Their scarred cocoons clenched at my sides.

“I’ll show you if you ask nicely.” He cradled my fists. Pulling them up and placing them over their copies made of smoke. I gasped as they sunk back into my skin. “Have I impressed you with my powers of deduction now?” he asked.

“What do you want?” I countered.

“I’m kidnapping you,” he said with a shrug.

“That’s hilarious.” I laughed. But I didn’t move. So close I could feel the warmth of his breath on my face. His hands burnt mine. Defrosting my fingertips with each passing second.

“Whatever she is paying you, I’ll double it,” I whispered.

“Not a thing you can double.” He said with sad eyes. It was like someone had turned the light off inside him. Just for a moment.

“Then I’m sorry,” I said. “But you won’t get back what she took.”

“I will.” He nodded, “you are going to come with me.”

“What makes you think that?”

“You’re not running”

“I don’t run.” I said, “I don’t hurry, and I don’t go anywhere I don’t want to go.”


His honey and spice eyes didn’t leave mine. My mother had chosen well. I licked my lips. How much could I blame on the alcohol? I could give up. Go with him. Give up my mission. It would be easier. So much easier.

I jumped as his watch screeched, spitting sparks from his wrist. It pulled me out of his honey and caramel trance. Whirring. Its gears glowed with strange markings.

“Perfect timing.” He said, stepping right then left. Aligning himself with some kind of sensor on the display.

“What is that?”

“Our door!” he said with gravitas, his arm arching up in an impressive sweep.

Then nothing.

He smacked his wrist with his other hand, another spark spat at his face.

“Work! Work!” He groaned.

He’s crazy. I was with a crazy person.

The watch gave another spark. It speared through the air. Each bloom of fire carved an arc through the darkness. Until they stopped. Hung in the air as if caught on invisible threads. The pirate reached up a steady hand and touched the first. Pulling a line of light between one and the next until they connected in one long sash. Dragging it to the concrete with one final flick of his finger. The sides of the line fluttered like drapes at an open window. Sunlight peaked out between the cut in the air. Casting long golden lines on the dark moonlit ground.

“You wanted to know where the dragons were.” He pulled on the side of the cut and my reality folded like a curtain. The stars pushed against my skin and I stumbled forward. Standing on the edge. the light warmed my uniform and danced across my hands.

Below, on the other side sat another Perth city. The sun high in the sky. I reached through the gap and touched the warm railing. A shadow covered my hand as I looked up.

A beast with golden scales flew down.

I yelped. Jumping back through the gap and into the pirates waiting hold.

The dragon cleared the rail with centimetres to spare. Gliding on big wings towards the city below.

The pirates arm wound around my waist. Gentle. Just enough to stop me from falling. I clung to his arm. My heart a hammer in my chest.

“You think I will go with you, because of the dragons?” I asked. Not taking my eyes off the retreating beast. Its scales gleamed in the afternoon sun.

“No.” I could hear the smile in his voice as he set me upright. I pulled my hand back to myself. But the one made of stars still clutched to his arm.

“My universe is very similar to yours.” He said, his breath tickled the hair at the top of my head. “Differing in a few magical aspects. But in one way more important to you than anything else.”

He lent down behind me, to whisper in my ear.

“In my universe. Your brother is still alive.”


About the Creator


I spend so much time daydreaming I figured I should start writing it down.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

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    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (4)

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  • Brian DeLeonard9 months ago

    I really liked it. It’s a smooth read, twisty, and character focused. Nice work.

  • Signe Paige11 months ago

    I Hope you continue writing a little more about this beautiful daydream of yours! (even if it's just excerpts) I truly felt like I was in a daydream as I was reading this! And you have definitely earned a subscriber as I can't wait to see what else you decide to write about! I don't know if you just wanted to share this for fun and aren't looking for in-depth reviews, but I couldn't help myself. Your style is similar to one I'm going for in the stories I plan on publishing, and I am not a fan of people who read my work and just say "I like it" or "it's good" without sharing constructive praise or criticism and I want to say something since I enjoyed it so much and think there's more than just potential if you plan on becoming a professional/published author. If you don't want it, I will refrain from doing so in the future (but will still be reading and enjoying it!) The opening sentence after the designated one really caught my interest and promised me that this story will be different than the rest. And you fulfilled that promise! I also like how you started out with a scene a lot of people would be interested in or connected to and you grounded it in realism then slowly started to weave in the fantasy! Your style of writing flows very well and you use just the right amount of description (for me) to tell your story and reads like poetry without polarizing the moments that aren't as rhythmic or descriptive. The mix is integrated well (and is something I struggle with in my own works). SOME FAVORITES: "He pulled on the side of the cut and my reality folded like a curtain. The stars pushed against my skin and I stumbled forward. Standing on the edge. the light warmed my uniform and danced across my hands." "The pirates arm wound around my waist. Gentle. Just enough to stop me from falling." "I laughed. But I didn’t move. So close I could feel the warmth of his breath on my face. His hands burnt mine. Defrosting my fingertips with each passing second." "I’d had multiple people comment on how good my makeup was, the wicked scars that curved up my arms to caress my face. But when I jumped in the shower tonight, they wouldn’t wash off. My fingertips idly traced their rough edges. Fading slowly. I could still feel the twist of jagged metal in my skin. " However, there are a few places I think may need a little more to it or edited just a little (according to my preference, as I'm no professional yet): "I jumped as his watch screeched, spitting sparks from his wrist. It pulled me out of his honey and caramel trance. Whirring. Its gears glowed with strange markings." - this one is the one where it feels like it may need a little more to it to really make it sing like the rest. "The watch gave another spark. It speared through the air. Each bloom of fire carved an arc through the darkness. Until they stopped. Hung in the air as if caught on invisible threads. " - the only problem with this one is the sentence structure doesn't match the rest or your work and engage as well since they're all pretty much the exact same length. It just comes off as a little choppy. There are a few more like this, but they have just enough variation, in my opinion. The way you refer to things and give them a personified 'descriptor' of their features/personality/how the main character perceives them was one of my favorite parts of this! I wish more writers use the technique like you do, especially in short stories like this where it doesn't have to feel forced! (and if you have any recommendations, I would appreciate it) My favorites: "...the one made of stars" "His honey and spice eyes" "This man was all burnt sugar and sweet words" "A galaxy of glitter and black mist " "I let some of my mother seep into my stare" & "I let my mother slip into my stare." - I particularly like how you showed the difference in the reactions as well as using it as a revealing factor of who her mother is. It is also a fantastic way to show what kind of mother she had without using a whole paragraph or two to explain it. "He smacked his wrist with his other hand, another spark spat at his face." - It characterizes the watch, which I love. I know it's probably not actually a sentient watch, but it's fun to visualize it as one.

  • Luckyabout a year ago

    Love this story !!

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