Fictional characters never retire.
Ayeba the Huntress, twenty, glared at the unfamiliar blue room in which sweet soothing music played and blossoms filled the air with their scent. She fitted an arrow, carved from hartwood, polished with a nine days’ finish, to her bow. “Where am I?”
This did not look like the rolling meadows of her home planet, Or’yan. Or the.metal machine-domes that displaced swaths of trees from her jungle home. These machine-domes, with people that crawled in and out like bees or ants, all carrying their metal spears that shot fiery beams, sprouted up over the last hundred years on Or’yan. Ayeba smelled the same stench of metal and machinery here. An insult to her nose.
Her voice echoed, sharp, in the room with soft blue walls. “Where am I?”
A doll-eyed, pink-tressed girl looked up from behind a desk, her face unconcerned and serene even though she stared right at the wicked point of Ayeba’s arrow. “Welcome to Cerabella, where you can still live a fulfilling life beyond the page.” The sound of her voice matched the music. She spoke in Ayeba’s tongue, Or’yanian.
Ayeba gritted her teeth, then said, “I want answers, not welcome. I was hunting and now someone has abducted me here. And what do you mean, page?”
The pink-haired doll at the desk sighed and spoke into a long thin rod attached to some sort of headgear. “Director G, Huntress Ayeba from Star Prey has just arrived after hours from a world of her own.” She paused. “Of course. No trouble.”
Ayeba felt a flicker of uncertainty when she looked on the sweet placid face.
The sweet innocent young girl stood, revealing she wore some sort of long blue robe. “May I take your bow?”
Ayeba bristled at this attempt to disarm her. Why, with no one else present she could shoot this creature in an eyeblink. Instead, she drew back the string and then let the arrow whizz through the air and strike a mural on the back wall. It hit a rendering of a green lizard-creature right between the eyes.
The bit of a girl at the desk gasped, her eyes on the arrow. She muttered in an unfamiliar language that Ayeba understood several seconds later, because the translated words echoed out of a round blue knob at the desk. “And I thought I’d seen everything in this job.”
Ayeba’s new arrow, fitted to the bow, tracked the creature’s pink hair. “Explain how you know Or’yanian. Who are you?”
“Misako, the receptionist.” The girl patted the blue device. “Our translation devices help us communicate with—”
Ayeba understood machines, but glared at this one with wariness. “Receptionist for what?”
A deep voice, deeper than the roots of a tree, echoed in the lobby. “Cerabella. Your new home.”
Ayeba spun and let her arrow fly at a towering purple-and-red individual with a tentacle sprouting out of either shoulder. The hues of his skin clashed with the soothing blue of the room. His tentacle shot up, thick and serpentine and rubbery, and snatched the shaft of the arrow so hard it snapped.
She kept her bow up, even though she wanted to drop it in fright. No surrender for her. Stay armed against the threat.
The creature smiled at her, and at a well-kept elegant human in plaid athletic pants who happened to enter the room carrying a long metal stick with a rounded knob at the end. He gaped at Ayeba with a mix of fear and attraction in his eyes. “Beauteous,” he murmured. “Magnificent.”
Misako rolled her eyes. “Dorian Gray, behave yourself, your foursome is ready.”
Selfish man. Perverted.
Ayeba blinked. She never met the man in her life. He didn’t smell perverted. Her nose could tell, just as it could tell Misako smelled pure and ancient and the creature with tentacles smelled proud and dignified…and sorrowful.
The man named Dorian Gray winked at Ayeba and strolled off with his metal golf club under his arm.
“What is a ‘golf club’? What is ‘Victorian’?” she asked no one in particular.
The tentacular creature approached her. “I’m the director of Cerabella, Mr. Gargantua or Mr. G as most of the residents and staff call me.”
“Chief of this place? Then you have all the answers I need, pe (don’t you)?”
He said, “Pe ki (It is so),”
Ayeba grinned. “My language gives most people ache-aches.”
Mr. G nodded, his thick orb-shaped bald head bobbing. “Yes. Your creator modeled it on the Earth languages of Indonesia and Malaysia, where they double up words to emphasize meaning.”
Ayeba wrinkled her nose. “Creator? You have the lore of Mara all wrong-wrong.”
He bowed his head. “No disrespect to your Mother Goddess.”
Misako smiled with perfect teeth and made Ayeba aware of her own chipped one. Shinto. Buddhist. Japan. Ancient character. Anime.
The words slipped into Ayeba’s mind, and she gripped her bow, a defense against them. Misako slid a big-eyed gaze at her and said to Mr. G, “Uh-oh. The memory dump is hitting her now.”
Ayeba clutched her skull.
Or’yan. Ayeba the Huntress, age twenty. Heroine of novel Star Prey. Nemesis is Raiona the mother mountain lion. Backstory: Raiona killed Ayeba’s entire family…
“Raiona.” She bared her teeth in a snarl. “Raiona has done this to stop me from hunting her. She’ll pay.”
Mr. G frowned at the mention of the mountain lion’s name. “No. Your story with her is done as long as you are here.”
“She is here then? My story with her is the reason I exist. What are we, without our story? My author—”
Ayeba gasped at the words.
Stopped writing my story.
Sent me here to rot like yesterday’s corpse.
Mr. G touched her shoulder with the slick tentacle. “Let’s go to my office and talk.”
Ayeba lowered her bow, her muscles oddly dragged down by its weight. “All right. And then I will make that gutless wretch write another book.”