Darcy Lewis was having a distinctly weird morning. It hadn’t started out that way. No. It had all been completely normal and ordinary a mere hour earlier. She’d gotten up, showered, picked up a coffee and donut on her way into work, and that is pretty much where ‘normal’ turned into ‘Holy shit, what the hell just happened?’.
Her boss, Jane Foster, had been working on this Einstein-Rosen Bridge thingy. Theoretically, it was some sort of wormhole that could connect two dimensions. Darcy didn’t really deal in theoretically. She dealt in snark, entering data, and earning her final three credits for her poli-sci major, which being Jane’s intern was helping her to achieve.
So when her Boss-Lady went on and on about the physics of this, and scientific properties of that, Darcy usually tuned her out. In retrospect that might have been the smartest thing to do. Especially when Jane’s equipment had a high rate of failure and unexpected results.
Today had turned out to be an unexpected results kind of day. And really, it was quickly becoming Darcy’s least favorite unexpected result ever.
She’d just walked into the lab, cup of coffee in one hand and the bag with her donut tucked under her arm, when she heard a lot of very frantic shouting. It had taken her a second to pull her iPod earbuds out so she could understand what Jane was saying. By that time it was already too late. There was an extremely bright explosion of rainbowy lights followed by a scary whooshing through the air sort of feeling. The next thing Darcy knew, she was laying flat on her back, trying very hard not to throw up.
She failed miserably at that endeavor. At least she hadn’t eaten the donut yet. Not that dry heaves were high on her list of stuff she enjoyed doing, but they were better that than losing her breakfast. She rolled over onto her back again, and tried to lay as still as possible in an effort to not anger the rampaging elephants that had taken up residence in her skull.
“Jaaaaaane,” she yelled, eyes scrunched tightly closed as she fought another wave of nausea, “I think your bridge thing misfired again. Could you maybe help me up? I kind of want to die.”
There was no answer from Jane or anyone else.
“Erik? Anyone? Seriously you guys, this isn't cool.” Darcy cracked her eyes open a sliver and immediately shut them in disbelief. She counted to ten and opened them again. The impossible landscape surrounding her was still there. Well, fuck.
It looked like a forest. Only it couldn't be a forest, because there weren’t any forests in that part of New Mexico, and Darcy positively refused to believe she was no longer in New Mexico. Maybe she was dreaming. Although, if her dreams were going to start involving her vomiting into a pile of dead leaves, she was going to start asking for refunds afterwards.
She lay on the ground for a few more minutes, just staring up at the glimpses of sky between the branches swaying overhead, and trying to get her equilibrium back. Her head had finally stopped spinning, when she heard what sounded like a scarily large something moving around nearby. She cautiously sat up, peered around the small copse of ferns into the clearing directly behind her, and immediately wished she hadn’t.
Standing not fifteen feet from her, was the very large something that she’d heard. It was totally worse than she’d expected. Darcy decided she had to be dreaming. Simply because this particular animal did not exist in any form of reality as she knew it.
It had antlers, and scales, and several more legs than seemed strictly necessary. And the smell… She had no words. In fact, she doubted the words had even been invented. Mostly because she was pretty sure she was the only person to have ever smelled it before, and she wasn’t a language major.
What the hell was her brain actually thinking, conjuring up an animal like this? Being unconscious seriously sucked. She watched in horror as the thing began heading her way, making these wet, snuffly noises. Dream or not, Darcy needed to get the hell out of there.
Trying to remain undetected, she stealthily got to her feet. So far so good. Scalylegs MacAntlerface hadn’t noticed her get up. She quietly crept along the edge of the clearing, trying to keep as far into the brush as she could. Everything probably would have worked out just fine, had she not stepped on a tiny, insignificant twig just as she reached the gap in the trees.
The minute she heard the sharp snap under her foot, Darcy knew she was toast. The creature went dead silent, and then she could hear it sniffing the air. She froze, hoping against hope that it wouldn’t realize she was there. Just as she was starting to relax, she heard a furious bellow and it came charging right for her.
“Shit!” she shrieked and ran for the gap in the trees, her hoodie catching on the small, spiny branches as she sprinted by. The creature followed, making horrible slavering noises and crashing madly through the undergrowth.
Just in front of her, she could see what looked like a long wall of green with a tall, skinny opening in the side. She dove for the opening, hoping she could hide behind it. Instead of an open space, she found herself inside a corridor made of shrubbery.
Out of options, she darted down the long tunnel, looking for another way out. The hallway of shrubbery ended in a sharp corner, and as she wheeled crazily around it, she realized with a sinking heart that she was in some sort of labyrinth.
“Are you fucking kidding me!” she yelled to no one in particular, taking another tight corner and racing down a long, leafy corridor. “What sort of psycho leaves a maze lying around in the middle of the woods?”
She’d come to a t-intersection and stood there frantically trying to decide which way to go. The creature sounded like it was off to her right, but with the way the maze was winding around, it was really hard to keep her bearings.
After a few more seconds of debate, Darcy flew down the left-hand pathway only to be brought up short by a dead end. Fanfuckingtastic. Now she had to double back, and try to find another way around the deadly whatever it was.
Snorting. Pawing. Loud, horrible bellowing. She took a deep breath and slowly turned around. The thing was standing about six yards away, drooling from its massive, tooth-infested mouth. Darcy took stock of her weapons. Donut. Check. Tiny bottle of mace on her keychain. Check. Taser...fuck. Where was her taser? Had it fallen out of her bag?
She rifled frantically through the cluttered expanse of her messenger bag, but no reassuring cool plastic met her fingers. In an effort to spare her life by distracting it, she tossed the donut in the direction of the monster. The sugary glazed pastry bounced harmlessly off its immense forehead and tumbled to the ground.
All she succeeded in doing was pissing it off further. Perfect. She was going to die. Jane was so never getting forgiven for this.
Then Darcy remembered something she’d once seen on Animal Planet. When confronted with a growling dog, you could sometimes diffuse the situation by remaining calm and speaking to it in a firm, even tone. This was definitely not a dog, but at this point, what did she have to lose? Darcy squared her shoulders and addressed her adversary.
“Um, hi.” She gave the thing a small wave. It made a terrifying grunting sound in response and she took an involuntary step backwards. Think positive, woman...positive, she coached herself. Don’t let it smell your fear. Oh God, can it smell fear? What does fear smell like anyway? Fuck! Focus! “I think we really got off on the wrong foot here. Or you know, in your case, all six of them.”
The creature gnashed its teeth. Darcy didn’t really take that as a good sign, but soldiered on.
“So, it seems like maybe you're having some sort of anger management slash hunger issues, and I get that. Really I do, but I don’t want to die right now. Also, just so you know, that thing at your feet is a delicious donut. I’d seriously appreciate it if you ate that instead of me, and I apologize in advance for it not being bavarian cream. They were all out.”
Several large splashes of drool hit the ground and Darcy could hear a hissing sound like the saliva was made of acid. Her day just kept getting better and better. She was absolutely resigning as Jane’s intern if she survived this.
“Anyway, it was super nice meeting you and all, but I’ve got to go. Maybe we could do lunch sometime.” She stopped, realizing what she had just said. “Or, not lunch. Coffee. Coffee’s neutral, right? Anyway, like the saying goes, don’t call me, I’ll call you…”
The whole time she’d been talking, she was furtively checking for any type of opening in the thorny hedges closest to her. All she succeeded in doing was getting a deep slice down the middle of her palm.
“Ow! Shit!,” she exclaimed and jerked her arm back, watching the blood well up from the cut and drip down her wrist in horror.
Everything seemed to switch over to slow motion as the droplet of blood spilled through the air and landed with a tiny plop on the grass at her feet. She stared at the spot of red on the ground and then dragged her eyes back up to the ravening animal in front of her.
The moment it caught the scent of her blood, its nostrils flared and it let out an earsplitting roar. Within seconds it was bearing down her and she had absolutely nowhere to run.
“Duck!” she heard a commanding voice yell at her.
Not waiting to see who it was, Darcy dropped into a crouch, covering her head with her hands. There was a blinding green flash followed by loud roars and squeals, and a whole buttload of pain.
The next thing Darcy knew, she was staring at the ceiling of an unfamiliar room, and her head hurt like hell. In fact, most of her hurt like hell. She tried to sit up, and immediately moaned as a wave of dizziness and nausea rolled over her.
“You may not wish to do that,” the voice from before said, and Darcy turned her head towards the sound.
A face swam into view above her, and she blinked, trying to clear her vision enough to make it out. As her brain finally processed the person she was looking at, Darcy said in a slurred voice, “Oh fuck me. I’ve fallen into a renaissance fair.”
An amused smirk appeared on the face of the man gazing down at her. “I don’t believe you are in any condition for that at the moment.” He gave her a slow perusal from head to toe, smirk gaining ground as he paused over her breasts. “Although, I may take it into consideration later when you are healed.”
“Awesome,” she replied, and then passed out cold.