I Woke Up

I woke up. This was not news to me. I woke up every morning, so far as I knew. There had been a couple of times in college that I didn’t wake up until the afternoon, but that was a separate matter entirely. My head throbbed, and I seriously considered going back to sleep, but I knew if I didn’t get up, I’d never hear the end of it from my boss. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, or as much of it as I could get in a single rub, but I resisted the urge to open them. I slowly dragged my hands down my face. I paused as my fingers tangled in the thick beard running under my cheek.

“Well, that’s new,” I thought to myself. I’d never been much of one for facial hair. I’d tried a few different configurations, but became frustrated with all of them over the amount of work maintaining each one required, and inevitably returned to clean-shaven. I knew for a fact that was the state I was in when I’d gone to sleep the night before, so I found the presence of any hair on my face more than half an inch below each ear quite surprising, let completely alone the thick, bushy beard extending the full length of my neck. I couldn’t help but wonder how long I’d been asleep, and felt it necessary to pose the question out loud. “Ugh… How long was I asleep?”

“Hard to say, but I shouldn’t think it’s been very long.” My eyes snapped open at the sound of the distinctly female voice. This exposed me to yet another, far more severe surprise; a series of fairly severe surprises, actually. I was not alone, and I was not in my studio apartment in Philadelphia. I was laying on a bed roll in a forest, and there were four distinctly human silhouettes standing in front of me. I wasn’t entirely sure how to handle all this new information, and I was, to say the least, startled.

“You know, my good man…” said the man who had apparently been behind me, in a deep, almost god-like voice, “It isn’t safe for someone to wander in this forest alone.”

“I… I wasn’t wandering in… this forest alone. I mean, I was alone, but I wasn’t wandering, and I wasn’t in this forest. I was in my bed in Philly”

“Philly?” interjected the woman who had addressed me before.

“Yeah,” I replied, slowly. “Y’know, Philadelphia?”

“Philadelphia?!?” Two of the taller silhouettes replied in surprise and in unison, then continued to speak that way. “You, sir, must indeed be educated, to speak Latin with such familiarity. Though, we must say, while what you say does sound of Latin, we do not know what it means.” I stared questioningly, slowly adjusting to their mutual speech.

“It’s not just a word… Well, it is, but it’s not… It’s a name… Of a city. The City of Brotherly Love?”

“We have not heard of such a… city, sir, but it does sound like a wonderful place.”

“Not if your city’s brothers love like mine do, it doesn’t.” The man with the low voice absently touched the scar on his face.

“Uh… Yeah…” I trailed off, thinking of how I never really had found Philly to be a wonderful place, myself.

“What, may we ask, is your station, sir, that you speak as you do, but dress as you… don’t?” I shifted uneasily, becoming more and more aware that the people surrounding me were not only completely foreign to the concept of Philadelphia, but even more uncomfortable with the discovery that I wasn’t wearing anything but the blanket in which I was wrapped.

“Oh, uh, speaking of which, I know we just met and all, but could someone tell me where I might find my clothes?” I heard low rumble of laughter unlike I had ever heard, only to realize it was coming from just the one man.

“Did you check your saddle bags?” the man with the low voice asked condescendingly. I slowly turned to him, raising an eyebrow curiously.

“What?” I asked confusedly.

“Your saddle bags… On your horse?”

“My… horse… Yes…” I looked around tentatively, seeing a large brown horse tied to the tree nearest to my bed roll. I stood, slowly, firmly wrapping my blanket tightly around my waist. I walked nonchalantly to the horse and slowly opened the saddle bags. I pulled a tunic from the bag that I would swear I’d never seen before, but I pulled it over my head and continued rummaging. When I felt suitably clothed, even though every garment at my disposal was entirely foreign to me, I resumed my dealings with the strangers surrounding me.

The Sun had risen enough that the mysterious figures surrounding me were far more distinguishable. There were five of them. There was the man with the low voice, two women and the two figures who spoke as one.

The man with the low voice was intimidating, to say the least. The man was easily seven feet tall and built like a line backer. He had a single scar streaking from the left side of his forehead to his right cheek, passing under an eye patch. He was wearing armor, though it was in an advance state of disrepair. Patches of rust covered the pieces that were there, and many of the larger plate surfaces were cracked. He appeared to be in his early forties, and he walked using his large broadsword as a cane.

The woman who had spoken before appeared to be significantly younger than this battle-scarred ogre of a man. I would estimate that she was in her mid-twenties. She was about five foot six, with flowing red hair halfway down her back. She looked as though she had once been stunningly beautiful, but now she looked tired, as though she may have been travelling with her apparent companions for some time with insufficient time for maintenance. I dated a girl like that once. She dumped me when she looked tired like that. She was wearing what could have been a wedding dress back in Philly, but given the circumstances, that may have been her normal outfit. Her dress was slightly torn, and caked with dry mud up to the knee.

The other woman appeared to be in her early thirties. She was by far the shortest member of the group. She did not speak, but looked at me with the eyes of a suspicious child, as if she could tell how foreign all these things were to me. I could tell just by looking at her that she possessed wisdom well beyond her years. Unfortunately, she was not blessed with the beauty of her female travelling companion, though she did look far more tired. I dated a girl with a mother like that once. She had marks, tattooed on her face, that I recognized as Druidic runes, which I knew from the two weeks my roommate from college decided he had been a Druid.

The two who spoke in unison were both around six foot seven. One of them had a high, feminine voice, and the other spoke in a very low, masculine register. They stood within a foot of each other, and wore long, flowing robes and masks that totally obscured their faces. Their masks were, intriguingly enough, the classic drama masks, one laughing and the other weeping. While their voices were suggestive of gender, their costumes and proximity made it impossible to tell which voice came from which figure.

“Sir, if I may be so bold,” approached the younger of the two women, “would it be too much to ask for us to know your name?” The question reached my ears as if she’d just asked me of the gross national product of some third-world country. My mind groped blindly for the answer. Not finding it, I went immediately on the defensive.

“I… Um… What’re your names?” I knew it wasn’t exactly the most original question, given the circumstances, but never having been one for improvising, it was the best I could do at the moment. As predictable as I thought it may have been, the group appeared stunned by the unexpected interrogation.

“Oh. Well, my name is Miriam.” She blushed a little. “And she,” she indicated the other woman “is Sister Charity, of the Order of the Four Sisters.” Sister Charity grimaced, and Miriam hastily corrected herself “That is to say… She’s formerly of the order of the Four Sisters. Her convent was raided by Druids shortly after she took her vow of silence, and she was taken captive. She hasn’t spoken a word, since.” She cupped her hand to her mouth, in an attempt to divert the sound from Sister Charity’s ears as she whispered. “The Order of the Four Sisters is very strict.” Her attempt to be unheard was clearly unsuccessful, as Sister Charity glared at Miriam when she said that.

“I…” interjected the large soldier “am… was… Sir Jarvis, Earl of Kahnt.” I cocked my head to one side, thinking better of what I was about to ask, but clearly my mouth and mind disagreed, because I asked anyway.

“I’m sorry, but… was?” In retrospect, I should have gone with my mind and not asked, but the question had been posed.

“Yes. Was. I would explain, but having not the loose tongue of our friend, Miriam, here, I do not feel you deserve to be told until we know more about who you are or from whence you come.” He hefted his huge sword over his shoulder in a defensive stance, and I felt it would be best if I left the issue alone.

“And we, sir,” offered the robed pair, “are Comedy and Tragedy” they each gestured to the other as “Comedy” and themselves as “Tragedy.” “Do we bother you, Sir?”

“What? No, why would you ask that?” I asked defensively.

“Well, the expression on your face.” I considered what they said, and realized that I did have a confused look on my face. I shrugged and ran my hand down my face, fighting my fingers through my beard as I wiped the expression off my face.

“Oh, it’s nothing.” Their heads tilted suspiciously, but Sir Jarvis interrupted before they could pursue the underlying causes of the expression on my face.

“And what of your name? You never did share that with us.” Sir Jarvis interjected. Not having developed any great improvising skill in the last five minutes, I blurted out the first name that came to mind.

“Norman!” The entire group was taken aback when I shouted, but quickly settled down.

“Well, Norman of… Philadelphia. As you would likely be safer as part of a group than out here by yourself as you seem to have been, I would encourage you to join us.” I don’t know if it was just the logic of this argument, or if it was the fact that the largest man I’d ever seen was assuring me I wouldn’t be safe by myself, but I found his invitation to be quite compelling. “If you do intend to join us, I suggest you prepare yourself to move on, as we are not long for this forest.”

“Yes, I would… Gladly travel with you. Strength in numbers, and all that.” Sir Jarvis signaled to his companions, and the two women began to break down what I concluded must have been my camp. I rolled up my bed roll and tied it to the saddle on the horse. I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see Comedy and Tragedy standing either side of my campfire, and the fire apparently extinguishing itself, without even smoldering. I turned to Miriam, who was bent over reaching for something behind a tree.

“Did you see that?!?” She stood up quickly, looking as though I’d caught her doing something she shouldn’t have.

“See what, Sir Norman?” She approached with her hands behind her back.

“That! Those two putting out the… Did you just call me Sir Norman?”

“I’ve seen them extinguish fire much bigger than that, Sir Norman. Should I not call you that? You are a knight, are you not?”

“Why do you ask?”

“well, because you’re clearly an educated man, you’re brave enough to face this awful forest on your own, and then there’s your armor.” I didn’t know if she had more reasons that I should have been a knight, but I felt highly compelled to stop her right there.

“Hold on, Miriam… My what?” She appeared confused by the question.

“Your… Armor, good sir?” She pulled a helmet from behind her back, as shiny and polished as the day it had been forged. I inspected the helmet she handed me, and I knew it was my helmet, for engraved on the forehead were my initials: O.D.D.

Oscar Dylan Davis. That was my name. There had been many times I had actively resented my parents for it when I was younger, but I’d come to accept it as I grew up, coming to the realization of how much more interesting things are when they’re odd.


One Response to “I Woke Up”

  1. matt Says:

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

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