Apurva had been living on Earth for almost six months now. However, this wasn’t her first rodeo here. She had come on Earth around five years ago for a small trip – a couple of months before going back. Now, she had planned to stay here for at the most two more weeks before going back.
This was the original plan.
Everything changed when she met Trevor. Trevor and Apurva met through friends who considered them to be a perfect match. Apurva didn’t see how a human can be a match for a phoenix but she decided to go with it and meet Trevor. Trevor was a tall but lanky guy who rarely smiled and mostly looked irritated by everything around him – almost as if everyone and everything was disappointing him constantly. Apurva found that amusing.
“So, Trevor, what do you do in your free time?” Apurva asked.
“Usually train… I mean exercise.”
“I can see that,” Apurva said sarcastically. Trevor noticed it.
“I have recently started exercising, probably three months ago. I want to build myself a bit more.”
Apurva nodded. Irritating him was hilarious to her.
Suddenly, Trevor got up. “I need to go to the washroom,” he said and left.
Apurva waited for him and had almost decided that he left her restaurant when he came back. He looked visibly tired.
“What happened? Are you alright?”
“Yes. It was hot in there. That’s all. They should do something about the airconditioning there.”
The conversation continued and was mostly boring. Trevor was acting either cagey or seemed preoccupied. His washroom trips were also one too many for a two-hour date and each time, he would come out looking worse.
“Tell me honestly, are you taking drugs?” Apurva asked him blank-faced the fourth time he came back from the washroom.
“Huh-uh. No! I just, I think we should go.” Trevor said and asked for the check.
‘No dessert, today,’ Apurva thought but she was getting irritated by Trevor anyway and there was no point extending this nightmare.
“Do you want me to walk you home?” Trevor asked while his tone seemed hoping to hear a no.
“Do you really want to walk me home?” Apurva asked flatly. She was getting tired of this drama while simultaneously getting curious about what was wrong with Trevor.
Trevor hung his head down.
“I’m sorry about tonight. For some reason, the stars aren’t aligning. I’m not this bad on dates usually.” Trevor said.
“But what’s wrong?”
“Hard to explain. My work, uh… it’s taking more time today than I had anticipated.”
“You were taking those breaks to work!” Apurva said.
Trevor nodded. “Yeah. I usually don’t expect more than one call in a day but this evening was unique. I have been seeing calls every few minutes, as you saw.”
“Can’t you just ignore those for one evening?”
Trevor smiled with a strain around his lips. His eyes were sad and he looked even more tired. Apurva started to feel pity on him.
“I wish I could ignore it. I wish I was any good at it. I wish I wasn’t doing it at all.” Trevor said and almost broke down.
“Hey! Relax. It’s not the end of the world,” Apurva said, confused. She gave Trevor a hug to try and calm him but Trevor pushed her away.
“I’m sorry. I have to go, right now.” Trevor said, his voice rising in terror, his tears almost going back in his eyes, and his gait becoming stronger.
“Where?” Apurva asked, still holding Trevor’s arm when everything went black for a second and she was in a completely different place still holding Trevor’s arm.
“Shit! You are not supposed to be here. This place is dangerous.” Trevor said taking out his gun.
“You have a gun,” Apurva asked.
“This is Alara,” Trevor said introducing the gun to her. Apurva looked at Alara with renewed curiosity. Before she could ask any questions, she heard a familiar roar. She turned and saw a dragon, the size of three elephants stacked one over the other. Trevor ran towards the dragon.
“Go run! I will take care of this,” Trevor screamed without looking at her.
Trevor took a shot at the dragon but the bullet did little damage. He knew that but his fear still forced him to pull the trigger.
“Don’t worry bud! I will not let you die,” Alara said to Trevor.
The dragon spewed fire and Trevor was barely able to dodge it. His arm still got scorched along with a few hairs getting singed. Trevor ran towards the dragon anyway shooting bullets at its face, hoping to hit an eye or the opening of the mouth.
When he was barely a few meters away, the dragon spewed fire again.
“Trevor, no!” Alara said as Trevor decided to stand instead of dodging the fire. He fired bullets through the dragon’s open mouth ensuring that the shot was true.
Apurva was looking at the whole scene confused. She had heard that there were other ways to come to Earth, including dimensions that were sometimes used by other creatures like the dragons but she didn’t know that there were humans who knew about it or who fought dragons.
Trevor was no match for the dragon and suddenly, Apurva understood the fear and tears that she had seen sometime back. Even after all that, Trevor was standing in front of a dragon which was at least fifty times his size, trying to fight it with a measly gun.
“And now, he’s going to die,” Apurva said as she saw him standing still as the dragon breathed fire towards him. Trevor had decided to shoot the dragon instead of saving himself.
Apurva sighed. She had less than a second and there was no way she could reach Trevor or protect him in her human form. She transformed.
She was still only half the size of the dragon but she was a Phoenix – far superior in agility, strength, and intelligence. Moreover, her battle right now wasn’t to defeat the dragon but to protect Trevor. She flew towards him and picked him up in her talons just in time. She kept him down a few meters away from the dragon and turned to attack it. To her surprise, the dragon was screeching with pain and then it fell down.
“Maybe the gun isn’t that useless after all,” Apurva thought and turned back to her human form.
She looked at Trevor who was looking at her dumbfounded. The scene changed and they were back to the same footpath. It seemed as if not time had passed.
“You were bright red. You had feathers. You…” Trevor muttered.
“I knew it. I knew there was a reason today was so crazy,” Alara screamed, only to be heard by Trevor and Apurva.
“A talking gun,” Apurva said.
“His name is Alara. He can slay dragons.”
“And you are a dragon slayer. Is this the job you were talking about?”
“Yes. Today, this was the fifth dragon I had to fight and neither of us knows why it was happening at such frequency.”
“I know now,” Alara said.
“And why is that?” Apurva asked.
“It’s because my energy and your energy combined are attracting the dragons towards Earth.”
“What are you?” Trevor asked.
“She’s a phoenix. I… I don’t know any more than that.” Alara said and went silent.
“Whosoever made you must not have deemed it necessary,” Apurva said.
“Thanks for saving me,” Trevor remembered.
“Walk me home. I want to hear more about Alara and about dragon slaying. And if any dragon attacks now, don’t worry. You have me by your side.”
Trevor smiled. The smile had both joy and relief.
“I can’t believe I can finally talk to someone about this.”
Apurva couldn’t believe how smitten she felt with Trevor’s smile.
‘Maybe it was just watching him fight the dragon,’ she told herself as they started walking.
Trevor told her about him meeting the previous guardian of Alara and how he was passed on the weapon to protect humans against the dragons. Then, she told him about her world which had both dragons and phoenixes.
“My friend told me that you were going out of town in a few weeks. When are you planning to come back?” Trevor asked reminding her of her original plan.
“Yeah. I don’t think I’m going anywhere anytime soon,” Apurva said and giggled.