By Marie LeClaire
She told him No several times and in many ways. No, she didn’t want to have an adventure. No, she didn’t want to save the world. No, she didn’t want to be the stuff of legends. She just wanted to sit in the corner of the coffee shop, sipping chai and reading a good book, which is exactly what she was doing when this when this whole thing started.
The young man approached her gingerly. “Excuse me. Um, you don’t know me, but I have an important, question to ask you.” He looked around nervously.
“Leave me alone or I’ll scream,” she replied casually, barely looking up from her tablet. She wasn’t going to scream but she wanted him to know that she would.
“No, no, please don’t do that. I just want to talk for one minute. Give me one minute,” he pleaded. Then he sat down, uninvited, at her little bistro table. He was young and good looking so she didn’t protest, figuring at least she might get an interesting conversation out of it.
She shouldn’t have listened. She should have followed through with her threat or gotten up and walked away or insisted he leave. Anything except give him one minute. Now look where she was, trudging through the snow on a god forsaken night dragging a bag of who knows what to who knows where for who knows who.
“This is the most important thing you will ever do in your life,” he said.
“Really? That bar is low, seeing as I have never done anything even remotely important.”
“So am I. And the reason I have never done anything important is because I don’t want to.”
“Look, I don’t have a lot of time to explain.” He looked again over his shoulders then turned his attention back to her. “How would you like to go on an honest-to-god adventure?”
“People will be telling stories about you for generations.”
“Aren’t you even a little bit curious?”
“Take this and…” He slid an envelope across the table.
“I will not!” she interrupted, pushing it back at him.
He tipped his head back, looking skyward. “Alright. They said this wouldn’t be easy.” He turned back to her as he pushed the envelope back across the table. “This is a key to a locker at Joey’s Gym, around the corner. Get the bag that’s there and follow the directions. You have to believe me that the fate of the world depends on it. I can’t explain. I’m out of time.”
“What do you mean you’re out of time? Is this some kind of drug deal gone wrong because I’m not…?”
“Pleeeaassseee?” he interrupted her.
Just then, the cafe door opened and a tall man in a long black overcoat walked in. The collar was turned up. A tan scarf, wrapped around his neck, was tucked into the front. An old-style brimmed gentleman’s hat topped off the mysterious look. Her companion got up quickly and, as smoothly as he could, he headed for the side door. The tall man followed with long strides, eyeing her suspiciously on his way by.
She was sitting there, wondering what the hell just happened, when a woman entered the cafe wearing a black leather coat, jeans and leather boots up to her knees. The woman was scanning the faces of the patrons, starting at the other side of the seating area. While the woman’s head was turned, she grabbed the envelope and headed out the side door, hoping the woman hadn’t caught sight of her.
“Son of a bitch. Son of a bitch. Son of a bitch,” she chanted as she trudged through deepening snow. The directions said go to the end of the trail and turn right. Walk a quarter mile through the woods to a small cabin. She hoped it was heated. Just then she got a whiff of burning wood and was spurred onward by visions of an overstuffed chair by the fire.
She had looked into the bag at the gym but whatever the item was, it was wrapped securely in a piece of vinyl tarp. She wanted desperately to know what was inside, but the tall man and the woman in black had given her a sense of urgency, and daylight was already long past the horizon. Now the only thing on her mind was getting warm and dry.
She was a little creeped out by the woods at night, but she felt a parallel sense of excitement she’d never known, and she was liking it. “Son of a bitch. Son of a bitch. Son of a bitch,” she continued towards a light that had appeared in the woods. Who would be there? The young man or the people in black?
When she got to the door, she wasn’t sure what to do. Knock? Walk in? Peek in the windows? Before she could decide, the door opened. The heat drifted out like a warm inviting breeze, melting the snow that had gathered on her hair.
“Come in. We’re glad you could make it,” said the tall man.
She looked around the small cabin. They were all there.
“Yes, dear, welcome,” said the woman as she helped her off with her coat.
“Nice role play at the cafe,” the young man complimented her. “I wasn’t sure you were in.”
On a small dining table were four cups of what smelled like hot chocolate. In the center was an MP3 player and a speaker. Silently, they settled themselves in around the table.
“Are we ready?” the tall man asked.
Nods from the others prompted him to push play.
“Congratulations. You have completed the first level of your Quest For Adventure game. I would like to remind you that all participation is voluntary. If you wish to discontinue your involvement, we request you notify us in advance so we can make necessary adjustments to the game. Now, here is your next quest.”