Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 2/39: Alara’s New Guardian

Niraj preferred the solitary life. He liked the mundane, enjoyed the company of silence and found solace in the charms of a good book. Even when he was out of his house, he would always find the coziest place in the cafe to sit, away from everyone’s peering eyes and focus on self-contemplation and peace. Niraj enjoyed the ordinary.

He was sitting at his favorite coffee place which was almost always empty. The coffee was horrible but that allowed him the peace he preferred because no one actually came to the coffee house. He didn’t know how the place was running as he doubted they were profitable. Nevertheless, for him, it was a perfect place. Today, the place held three people, including him. One was a man in his 40s with a mustache which was graying and hair which were jet black. ‘Color’, Niraj automatically thought. The man was wearing an overcoat which was a tad bigger for his size and was looking at a poster with grave intent.

The other person was a girl, in her 20s, perhaps even younger. She was playing on her phone with no notice of the world around her. She was definitely waiting for someone.

Niraj sighed. For his standards, it was a crowded afternoon. He spent the next fifteen minutes on the crossword that had bewildered him all morning. When he looked up again, the girl was sitting with the man in the overcoat, talking intently. The man nodded feverishly and then shook his head with even more vigor. Despite himself, Niraj was intrigued. He kept glancing at the two and lost complete interest in his crossword. The scene was stuck in a time window. Niraj sitting at his table, looking at the table across, two people sitting and whispering on that table, and a manager sitting without any interest in the whole setting.

It was Niraj’s phone ringing that broke the trance of the coffeehouse. Both the customers looked at Niraj as if waking from a dream. Niraj looked at his phone, almost apologetically.

“Hello,” Niraj whispered.

“Hey. I need your help,” the voice on the other end said.

“What happened? Are you okay, Samaira?” Niraj asked.

“Yeah. I’m fine. It’s Damien. I don’t think he’s handling himself well. You know since…” Samaira trailed. Niraj understood. A week ago Damien’s partner passed away and Damien had been acting really weird since then, sometimes saying that his partner died three years ago, other times lamenting that why he couldn’t stay as a ghost. Niraj and Samaira had tried to help as much as they could.

“I’ll come,” Niraj said and picked his bag.

“Excuse me,” said a gruff voice in a most gentle tone. The man was looking at him. His eyes were tender and he had a grin on his face. Niraj couldn’t help but smile back.

“Yes.”

“Can you please take a photograph of us?” The girl said in a chirpy tone. She was almost squeaky and carried the same demeanor as the guy. They looked completely different up close. From far, Niraj thought they were in a serious conversation but now, they looked happy, excited, and almost exuberant.

“Sure,” Niraj said and took the phone from the man. Niraj clicked a photograph and the phone started to warm up rapidly. Niraj was surprised by the heating and dropped the phone.

“I’m so sorry,” Niraj said and crouched to pick the phone. All he saw was a gun that was glowing with heat. The man picked the gun and put it on the table.

“What is the meaning of this?” Niraj whispered. He was surprised by his whispering.

“It is our gift to you. You are perfect for this – caring, solitary, and intelligent.” The girl said with enthusiasm. Niraj didn’t share the enthusiasm at all.

“What are you talking about?” Niraj said and got up. He concluded that this was a crazy couple and decided to make a run for it. The man held Niraj’s hand. Niraj couldn’t move at all and realized that this old man was stronger than anyone or anything he had ever seen or heard. Niraj sat down but his mind went into overdrive.

“I’m Mikas and this is my wife, Joita.” The man looked at his wife with love and adoration. “We are tired,” Joita said.

“Tired?” Niraj said trying to find a way to escape.

“Yes. Running around, chasing, hunting, hurting, healing and repeating the cycle. It has been decades. We are tired,” Mikas said.

“I’m tired and Mikas has agreed to listen to me,” Joita said squeezing Mikas’ hand. Mikas laughed.

“That discussion between you two was about that?” Niraj said. He couldn’t think of a way to run from the situation. Mikas was still holding Niraj’s hand and was showing no sign of leaving it.

Joita grinned, turned to Mikas and said, “See! I told you he was noticing.” Mikas shared her smile.

“No. We were just discussing whether we should change our coffee place. The coffee here is horrible,” Mikas said.

“Our decision was made weeks ago. We had been looking for an ideal replacement to pass on Alara. Now, we have found you,” Joita said with pride.

“Alara?”

Joita pointed towards the gun between them.

“What does all this mean?” Niraj pleaded.

“My days in the field are behind me. This world needs a new Dragonslayer. Good luck.”

Mikas said and stood up.

“Good luck!” Joita said and stood up as well. Niraj left the coffee place almost hurrying through the door.

He had taken ten steps when he felt the weight of his bag increasing. He looked inside and saw a gun – Alara – inside. He immediately went into a nearby lane and threw the gun. By the time he had taken another ten steps, the gun was back in his bag.

Niraj ran back to the coffee place. It was empty, except for the manager.

‘If you have questions, I can answer them.’ A voice spoke in his head.

“Who?” Niraj almost shouted.

‘My name is Alara and I’m your new best friend.’ The voice spoke again.

“I have lost my mind, haven’t I?”

‘It’s a possibility but I’m no expert in human psychology. I know a lot about dragons though if you are interested.’

“What do I do now?” Niraj said to himself. Alara took it as a question to it and answered.

‘You have three options – go home and do whatever you were planning to do, sit here and we can talk and you can learn more about your ahem… new job, or you can pick me up and kill the dragon that I can sense nearby.’

On cue, the whole scenery changed. It was as if the whole world had paused and Niraj had entered a new dimension. In front of him was a lizard, almost the size of an elephant.

The lizard jumped towards Niraj who jumped sideways and then started running.

‘I’m sitting in your bag. Can you please take me out?’ Alara pleaded.

Niraj took out the gun and pointed it towards the dragon.

‘Umm. That trigger isn’t gonna squeeze itself, buddy.’

Niraj closed his eyes and squeezed the trigger. He missed. And the dragon got pissed. Niraj could feel Alara rolling his eyes.

“I have never used a gun before,” Niraj said apologetically to Alara.

‘No worries. Try once more and this time, don’t close your eyes. I don’t want you to break the record for the shortest time of being a dragonslayer.’

Niraj looked at the dragon which was slithering towards him. It didn’t have wings and had only two legs in the front. A weird lizard-snake hybrid that could move faster than such a creature had a right to move. He pointed the gun towards the dragon’s body and fired once more.

‘Again,’ shouted Alara in his head.

Niraj continued to fire until the dragon fell in front of him. The scenario started changing back and he found himself outside the coffeehouse holding the gun in his hand. He hastily kept it in his bag.

Niraj took a deep breath and opened the door of the coffeehouse.

“I pick option two. Let’s talk Alara.”

Inspired from reddit prompt – [WP] You meet a casually dressed stranger in a cafe, who hands you a pistol. “My days in the field are behind me. This world needs a new Dragonslayer. Good luck.” [Link]