Lounging back on my mediocre couch, later in the night than I admit I stay up to, I hear a knock on my door. Curiously, I check the analogue clock hanging on the wall, and substitute how much time it’s probably behind on.
It says five am, but it’s really eleven.
The knocks become more persistent, and because I can recognize that knock, I pull myself off the couch begrudgingly and open the door.
“I need your help,” he says, holding a dazzling and incredibly sharp sword out to me. “Your family’s life depends on it.”
I look him up and down for a solid ten seconds before meeting his eyes again.
“Gavin,” I deadpan, crossing my arms and shifting my weight onto my left foot. “I don’t have a family, you know this.”
Gavin’s face contorts in realization, and I raise my eyebrow pointedly as he sighs.
“Ignoring that though, are you getting involved in some illegal underground stuff?” I gesture at his clothes, a soft billowing chemise under a rich red vest accented with gold and green stitching. “I mean, what the hell is that? It looks more expensive than your car if you somehow managed to fix the door lock and mirror. It looks great,” I commend, looking down at the hand-stitched design on the pants, “but I only know you for wearing greasy sweaters with pockets stuffed with chicken nuggets. Gotta admit, you definitely look snazzy, but-”
“Jule I swear to the gods, stay on one point.”
I give him a solid look, glancing up at his smooth, actually washed hair.
“You look nice, but what the hell is this about?”
It’s the wary and reluctant expression he gives me that makes me start thinking seriously.
“Well, uh…” he starts, finally pulling the sword back and sheathing it on his hip. “There’s, uh…”
“Gavin, what’s going on. Are you really stuck in some shady business?”
“No! No, gods no, nothing I’m doing is illegal.”
“Right, okay. Then what is it?”
His eyes fall from mine, and he starts playing with his hands. “There are things that you… don’t know about.”
“Then stop being cryptic.”
He looks up and scrunches his nose at me, clenching his hands together into harmless fists. “It’s not safe here anymore, and we need to go.”
I blink. “We need to… Gavin, what? This is my apartment, I live here. It’s pretty damn safe, and I’m not leaving.”
“No, you- Jule, this is important.” He reaches out and takes both my hands in his, giving me that pleading look that makes puppies look mean. It’s basically a shot in the gut. “We need to leave. You can put together whatever you want to keep, however much you want, but we have to do it fast.”
“What? No, Gavin, I’m not leaving-”
“Please, Jule, you have to believe me.”
I hold his gaze too long to be able to fight back, and my shoulders fall with my defense. He doesn’t look triumphant, only slightly relieved.
“Alright, inside, fast,” he says, turning me around and pushing on my back. I skid on my feet and crinkle the carpet, but shake out of my shock quickly to run to my bedroom.
“There are a bunch of bags under the sink,” I yell, rummaging through my closet to get my suitcases out. “Pack up whatever food you think we’ll need, and after that, pack the valuable stuff.”
As I’m rushing to fold dresses and jeans, Gavin shouts back, “What counts as valuable?”
“Anything that costs enough,” I yell back, “or that I really like!” I glance over at my nightstand drawer, where I know all my sentimentals are. “Actually, don’t think too much about that last part, most of that’s in here!”
“You’re really confusing, and not good in a rush!”
“Shut up, you’re the one who said we need to go!”
I roll my eyes at his loud grumbles, zipping up the first suitcase with all my favorite and best clothes. I force open the next, getting dangerously close to breaking the stubborn zipper and moving towards the drawer to carefully dump everything in there out into an inner pocket. Next in the pocket goes my phone and charger, that I had to curl up tightly in order to fit.
“We don’t have a lot of time!”
“You made that very clear!”
I huff and push my hair behind my ear, looking around my room for anything else I needed. Clothes, electronics, valuables, I’d already grabbed that, and I could hear Gavin making a ruckus in the living room.
Grabbing the suitcases, I drag them towards the bathroom, where I shove my toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, and other things like that into the second case’s open storage, before second guessing myself and opening another pocket.
“I swear to god, Gavin, if this is all a joke-”
“It’s not a joke, I promise!”
I pull both suitcases out of the bathroom, giving the closet door one glance before deciding nothing in there was worth the effort and moving on. Gavin runs up to me as soon as he sees me and takes the first suitcase from me, setting it in a large, intricate chalk circle he drew under where my rug used to be.
“You moved my rug-”
“Do you want the rug too? I’ll have to widen the whole thing if you do, and that’s a lot of work-”
“No, it’s fine, what the hell is this?”
He pockets the chalk I just noticed was in his hand and runs over to the counter, where all my food is bagged up and bundled together. He scoops as much as he can into his arms and rushes over to me, putting it all in the second suitcase, and running back over as I shift it around so it fits. He pushes two more bags into it before zipping that stubborn zipper closed and dragging the whole thing into the circle.
“I said, what the hell is this?”
“It’s a teleportation circle, Jule, get in here.”
I step away, eyeing it with concern. “No.”
He slumps his shoulders, sighing deeply until the sigh becomes a deep, frustrated groan. “We have to go! This isn’t negotiable, this is life or death and I don’t want you to choose death!”
I shake my head, grabbing onto the wall beside me, which didn’t have any nooks to hold onto so that was pretty much useless. “You’re being weird as hell and haven’t actually explained anything. My family, which doesn’t exist, some magic stuff, life or death- what?! You need to explain these things, you’ve never talked about these things before. Does it have something to do with your religion? I hate to break it to you, but I’m still an atheist, and fully believe that everything you’re talking about is bull, crazy bull! I’m not in danger, you’re not in danger, maybe you are if your religion ended up being a cult, but no magic teleportation is going to save either of us-”
Suddenly, Gavin reaches into his pants pocket and pulls out a small bag of glitter, or glittering powder, and pours it into his hand before he clenches his fist and starts whispering.
“Gavin, what are you doing. Gavin, what is that, it’s not going to work whatever it is-”
He runs out of the circle at me, scaring my skin off, and throws the glitter in my face. My limbs grow limp and weak as my mind fogs up, and I start falling.
I barely realize he catches me and starts carrying me over to the circle before I black out.
“My sincerest condolences, Julep. I’ll be sure to make it up to you later.”