by Rowan Gladish
The last thing an exhausted Anne Beedle had expected to find in the nursery was a pirate. Not the kind of pirate that was really just her young boys dressed up in play clothes with wooden swords and bellowing exclamations of “argggg!”
No, this was not quite so mundane. In her nursery, there stood a tall, rather dashing man wearing a ridiculously large hat and swinging a sword that looked far too sharp to be safe. He was dueling with another man. While the first man wore a loose white shirt, the other had a bright red coat and a much less scruffy look about him. The two men were clashing swords seemingly undisturbed by their presence within the baby blue walls, dancing around the toys that littered the ground with unparalleled focus. Anne found herself frozen on the spot, mouth agape in a way that was entirely improper. She let the laundry basket full of blankets and baby onesies fall from its place against her hip to the ground with a thud, and finally, the two men ceased their duel. They both stared at her, and the man in red took a step forward.
“You should not be here,” he began, tone angry and menacing, “you should not have seen.” He was close now, so close that she could see the beads of sweat running down his forehead. Anne could hear the faint sounds of her boys fighting on the lower floor in the drawing-room. Childish yells of ‘mother!’ cut through the tense room, but no one paid them any attention.
She heard her husband Edgar yell up to her from where she knew he was sitting in his morning chair ‘Anne, dear’, and found that her voice could not possibly muster a reply.
The man was almost upon her now, sword raised. “I do apologize, ma’am,” he said, sounding sorrowful although his face was twisted in a grotesque smirk, “but we shan’t leave any witnesses today.”
The first man, who had been standing dumbly throughout the entire ordeal suddenly shouted, “Catch!”
A silver blade went sailing through the air. Anne found it in her outstretched hand before she even realized she was moving. Her arm swung up to deflect what would have been a fatal blow, the sound of blade against blade resonating in her bones. The red coat looked surprised, and Anne realized numbly that he had intended to kill her. A sudden wave of anger washed over her. Kill her? In her own home! Anne thought about the absurdity of it all, of the pirate, the discarded laundry, and Edgars second, slightly more agitated call of ‘Anne’, and swung the blade clumsily forward in a pure fit of rage at the impossible situation.
The red coat, still looking baffled at the way Anne had blocked his attack, was too slow to realize what was happening before Anne’s blade connected with his undefended chest. Anne gasped in horror, realizing what she’d done and expecting to feel the blade connect with bone, to see ghastly red staining the pale blue walls. But there was no sickening thud, the man simply burst, like a firework, into a cloud of golden dust which settled on the nursery floor before disappearing entirely.
Anne looked up at the other man, sword still gripped tightly in her hand, and the man looked back, smiling.
“Right, well,” he said, tone surprisingly joyful, a playful smile dancing across his lips, “I must be going, unless you fancy more visitors.” He pulled out a small pocket watch and twisted the crown. A tunnel opened up where the nursery window had been. The man started towards it, and Anne realized that this impossible moment was about to end. The word “Wait!” was already tumbling out of Anne’s mouth, her arm stretched toward the man. He turned and smiled at her, offering a hand of his own as if he’d been expecting this.
“Would you like to come?” He asked, and Anne answered without a second thought.
“Yes.” She took his hand, even as she heard her sons calling out for her, even as the nanny sat in the backyard with the baby, even as she heard her husband start up the stairs. ‘Yes,’ she said, her heart hurting but also somehow free. It was beautiful and it was terrible but most of all it was true. She stepped into the tunnel and didn’t dare to look back, only looking towards whatever grand adventure was to come.
About the author:
Rowan Gladish (She/Her) is a 21-year-old author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She spends her evenings reading, writing, and ignoring the horrible gut feeling that whatever lived under her bed as a kid will one day return. Rowan lives in Ontario and is currently completing a comprehensive apocalypse survival plan as she works through her bachelor’s degree.