The carriage arrived with the clanking of metal hooves. Leaping from his seat, the coachman landed neatly to the side of the carriage and pressed a button, causing the steps under the carriage door to extend, accompanied by the sound of hissing steam. It was all one swift motion for the coachman, who then managed to open the carriage door while simultaneously bowing.
The Electroucianess stepped down from the carriage door, her dainty feet taking each successive step cautiously. Her skirt and jacket were olive green, highlighted with golden buttons. A rounded cap, highlighted with feathers of yellow and green, set on her head. The feathers fluttered lightly as gusts of wind blew through the Arcade’s arrival station.
“Madam,” said the coachman. The Electroucianess thanked him kindly, but she did not fail to notice the look in his eyes that was a little too “unprofessional,” too admiring. The coachman seemed to catch his own error, and his normal stoic expression took over. Careful, she thought to herself. He had better not let the Electroucian catch him looking at her like that.
The coachman pulled the carriage off to the side to make way for other guests that were arriving. It took subtle manipulation of the reins and harnesses to steer the metal stallions that pulled the carriage, each one a different material: gold, platinum, bronze, and steel. The night did not have to be cold for steam to come from their nostrils.
The Electroucianess, meanwhile, made her way to the door, where she presented the ticket that her husband had left for her.
Inside the Arcade, all was chaos. Loud music played – a live band, dressed in strange garb, played their instruments, not on a stage: but on a floor area that had been cleared especially for them. People off all types, some entirely alien, were gathered about. The Electroucianess had never seen such strangeness gathered in one place, and the people! Well, she had only read of such beings in books. She suppressed a gasp. Were they even from this world? Perhaps not, if what her husband had suggested about tonight’s event was correct.
Many of the Arcade’s occupants were standing in circles talking. Others were gathering snacks from a table, and even more were playing at the elaborate machines that were scattered about the walls: these having no other purpose but amusement. One such game involved firing balls into holes from small cannons mounted on metal rods. Another was played by pulling chains that caused figures on a wooden field to move about in different configurations. It was the kind of thing, the Electroucianess noted, that her husband might wile away the hours at playing, losing all sense of time. Such amusements might require her to do more than flutter her eyes in order to lure his attentions away. These games were normal for the Arcade. They were what drew people there, but everything else was entirely unusual.
“Welcome, my love,” said a voice beside her. Of course, it was him – her husband, The Electroucian. He loved to saddle up beside her and appear as if he had been standing there all along. She suspected that doing so entertained him, as did so many silly things.
“Hi Sweetheart,” she responded, leaning in for the kiss.
It was awkward to pull off, given the mask that the Electroucian was wearing, but they managed nonetheless.
“It is good to see you again,” the Electroucian said. “Your smile that speaks of tenderness and wit, your deep brown eyes that one can get lost in.”
“You flatter. I see the gathering is as you described.”
“Yes, it is indeed odd.”
“But how did it come to be, again?”
“Sarah!” the Electroucian called, shouting out to one of the other guests. “Can you explain to my wife how this event happened?”
Sarah shrugged herself away from a small group of people, aliens, beings, or whatever they were, and joined the Electroucian and his wife.
Sarah was more than willing to explain what had happened at the Arcade, and in her usual manner, expounded upon the recent happenings with a flourish, as if it was a story she had been telling for decades.
“A rift appeared right here in this very building, of all places! It connected multiple dimensions, linking worlds with worlds, unknown lands with our own. At first there was a sense of alarm among the staff of the Arcade, and they thought of contacting the authorities. But my friend Sewit heard of this and had a better idea: turn it into a party! After all, don’t the authorities ruin everything with their humdrum rules? Why, right now, we are able to talk to these beings from the other worlds – to engage them. What better way to start off relationships with those from other universes?”
“Indeed, but…” the Electroucian began to say, but Sarah cut him off.
“The authorities would make everything so rigid. They would interrogate, put the aliens in confinement, and run batteries of tests. No! That should not be. This is so much better.”
It seemed that Sarah had completed her speech. “Oh! There’s Lisa!” she said, and she was suddenly off into the crowd.
The Electroucian looked at his wife and then back at the gathering.
“So there it is,” he said, adjusting his mask. The holes in the mask followed the natural angle of his blue eyes, which were often themselves veiled under heavy lids that belied his intelligence. The mask, itself, had a small tube that ran from the Electroucian’s temple to his nose. Scattered about on the surface of the mask were small puzzle pieces, which, in the Electroucian’s mind, were profoundly symbolic.
He turned to his wife to speak, when the mask was ripped off his face by a powerful blow.
“Asshole!” exclaimed the man who had just punched him.
The Electrouciness held tightly onto the Electroucian’s arm, which he had drawn back as if to respond in kind.
Restricted from violence, he responded instead with vehemence.
“Sven,” the Electroucian said, naming his attacker. “What the hell?”
“I heard about your experiments,” Sven said. “They threaten our way of life. Everything that we have built. Our jobs.”
“That is not my intent,” the Electroucian answered. He bent to the ground to pick up his mask, and placed it in a bag that his wife was carrying. She extricated a cap and a pair of glass from the same and handed it to him.
“Besides, look around you,” the Electroucian continued. We are in the presence of a transdimensional rift, and you are worried about my meager experiments?”
“I can’t control the universe,” Sven answered. “But I can stop you from being reckless.”
The Electroucian attempted to answer, but a commotion from outside drowned out his words. Everyone turned toward the entrance. “Wait here,” the Electroucian said to his wife, before dodging around several guests in order to get outside.
Once through the doors, it was obvious where the problem was, and it directly affected him.
Off to the side of the arrival station, his carriage – the one that had brought The Electrouciness to the party – was tipped to its side. The horses, his most prized possessions, were gone.
The Electrouciness herself had clearly not listened to her husband’s instructions, because she rushed passed him and ran up to the carriage. “Robere!” she yelled, using the coachman’s name. She turned to her husband, “It’s the coachman!”
The Electroucian caught up with her and saw the coachman on the ground. The coachman’s sword, which he always carried with him, was still in his hand, and it was red with blood. He had put up a fight, but he hadn’t won.
The Electroucian knelt down to check the coachman’s pulse, and looked back up at his wife with an expression that said it was too late for them to do anything.
His wife began to sob.
“Perhaps,” said the Electroucian, “inviting the authorities might not have been such a bad idea.” He stared off into the distance, as if he was straining to see his four horses disappearing over the horizon.
© 2017, Bruce A. Smith