Part 2 - Maggie Makes Two
There were hills clad in Astroturf with pebbles for rocks. Little houses with ornate, dark roofs. There were tall churches, elaborate stores, and extensive farms. It was like something I'd once seen at a fair, only I was driving a train through it. If I didn't look down at the wheels, I could almost imagine the train was flying high in the air. A cool breeze from a hidden overhead vent helped sell this illusion.
As the train traveled in a snaking pattern across the room, a dim light showed on the wall horizon. It washed everything in a reddish tint. I watched as an overhead light blinked on and became a bright morning. Little automated bits of the scenery drew cars along the tiny roads. They contained little figures going off to work. I gawked at little factories puffing to life.
The whole cycle of the day passed before me as dusk fell and I made my way out of the room. The next curve led me into a tunnel that climbed up and up. Painted rocks lined the path, and my train chugged its way up slowly. A stronger breeze blew from overhead as the train crested the rise and hurried down the other end. I blew the horn for fun as it pulled into another station.
My eyes widened as I realized someone was waiting at one of the benches. I slowed the train to a stop right in front and stepped out.
She wore a thin pair of red-tinted glasses and looked at me with a slight smile. She was dressed in gray denim jeans and a collared blue top. She was a good deal shorter than me with a rounded face, pronounced nose, and narrow hands. Her hair was long, draped across her back and the same color of dark brown as mine. I eyed her and she eyed me in turn with her hands in her lap.
Her expression was flat but her mouth twisted in place before forming a slight smirk as she said, "Hello, Andy."
I froze and naturally asked her how she knew my name.
She scuffed her sneakers on the wooden floor of the train station. "Well, I didn't know, but I figured it was a good guess. But then we've never met…well, at least I've never met this version of you….That probably sounded confusing…"
I could only nod, which made her giggle and stand up.
She walked around me and asked, "So how did you get here?"
I explained stepping through the door in the closet, then finding the extra door, as well as everything that followed. She didn't look the least surprised.
She explained. "First of all, you can call me Maggie Thornhale…which is my name. And you are Andrew Thornhale…my brother."
I raised my eyebrows as she continued, "I am the younger sister you may not have had in your reality. I was named for mom, naturally. So Maggie isn't my… full name, but I really prefer Maggie. There are realities where you, as my older sister, got that name instead."
My mouth hung open a little as she folded her arms and asked, "Going too fast?"
I tried a smile. "It's all a bit much. I'm not even sure if I'm dreaming this."
She raised her eyebrows. "That is a problem. But there is something I could do about that…shall I?"
I shrugged and agreed. She told me to shut my eyes. I did so. I waited and suddenly received a stinging slap across the face.
Jerking my eyes open, I rubbed the sore spot. It stung!
With a glare, I asked her, "Why did you do that?!"
She held her hands out innocently. "You gave me the okay…actually, I just wanted to do that without consequences…hehe."
I narrowed my eyes and muttered, "You must be my sister…"
Maggie stuck out her tongue and said, "Yup! Well, you never had a sister. But here I am anyway."
Still rubbing my tender cheek, I asked, "How? What is all this…if it's not just a dream?"
She brushed her hands on her knees. "Well, firstly, it's definitely not a dream…unless I'm having the world's longest dream. And, just so you know this before you ask, I am not a figment of your imagination…"
I held a hand out in front of my cheek. "Yeah, you convinced me there."
She brushed at her hair but couldn't hold back her amusement. "So, with that settled, I can tell you what I've figured out. This is the inside of the house. The Thornhale family house. Many versions of it. And I actually came to enter it in much the same way you did. I found an extra closet door inside the laundry room, hidden behind a pile of junk. It led first to a closet in the living room which hadn't been there before. Then a greenhouse. And, coolest of all, I actually found a door to a supermarket beyond that."
We sat down, and she continued. She said the supermarket was empty except for her and the people who apparently worked there. They came and went. She could buy anything in it with anything from other parts of the house. An old, broken clock for a bag of apples. Last week's newspaper for a box of pasta. They never took money, but some items were worth more than others.
I thumbed my chin as she off-handedly mentioned there was a toy store as well. I asked her, "And how do you get out of the house?"
She leaned back and scratched at her cheek. "That's a little complicated. You can trace your route back to your starting point but sometimes that path can shift. The house will sometimes change based on what you're thinking about. Also, you can try leaving through an outside door. Sometimes they just lead to Annexes, parts of the house that just look like outside."
I frowned lightly. She raised a finger. "But! When you get to those places, all you need to do is sleep. I've tried this before. You sleep on the faux outside lawn under the pretend stars. When you wake up, you're actually outside, on real lawn and looking at the real sky. I've gotten out that way several times. And I can always get back in the same way. Makes returning to the house supermarket quite easy."
I felt relief knowing that. Maggie took the opportunity to frown. "But why would you want to leave so quickly when there's so much house to see? It's absolutely amazing. I think it might be endless. I always find new doors. Just found a seafood restaurant a few doors away. They take spare buttons for payment. Which is great because of a nearby sewing room." She giggled to herself, hopped out of her seat, and invited me to follow her. Naturally, I did.
The next door was on the other side of the station. It led up some stairs and to a room with many musical instruments. The floor was polished wood. Maggie twirled and noted, "I've always wanted to take a dance class. Never got the chance before." She dipped and swayed with her arms out and lifted her leg.
After a while, she stopped and gave a grin. "I'm not very good, but I'll keep at it." The piano was the centerpiece of the room. I played "Chopsticks", badly, and told her, "I thought about a piano class. Never took one either."
She scampered over to a large tuba resting in a rack, took a huge breath, and blew a note which sounded like the anguished mating cry of a walrus. I went over to a kettle drum and banged out a thunderstorm. We made chaotic noise for a while then tried the next door.
It was actually a slide with steps along the side to get back up and a pile of cloth cushions to ride down. We raced each other to a tie. At the foot of the slide, Maggie led me into the seafood restaurant she'd mentioned. Pulling a pile of buttons from her pocket, she said, "Let the feast begin!"
The restaurant was small, with a few white-clothed tables. The walls were ocean blue with slow fans turning on the ceiling.
There were five others in the restaurant, and they all seemed to work here. Our server was a very short, blond lady with her hair tied back in a ponytail. Her clothes were crisp white with a black apron around her waist. The name on her pocket was "Nonami" with the handwritten words, "Thornhale House Seafood Bonanza" underneath. I also saw a busboy with short, spiky-red hair and the same outfit. A trio of chefs occasionally showed their arms from behind a windowed wall.
Maggie watched me with her hands folded on the table.
Nonami smiled and looked between us as she asked, "Are you ready to order? I can get your drinks first."
I looked up at her and asked, "You work here?"
She gave a polite little laugh and said, "Yes, sir. Do you want anything to drink?"
I just asked for a glass of water. Maggie asked for hot tea. The server hurried out of sight. Maggie leaned over the table and told me, "This is gonna be cool. Just wait…"
Curious, I waited. Nonami returned quickly. Or rather, what seemed to be Nonami returned. She was tall now, taller than me, with short brown hair frosted with blond highlights. The name on her pocket was still 'Nonami' but the words under that now said, "Thornhale Seafood – See What I Mean, Andy?"
Nonami put our drinks on the table with coasters underneath and clasped her hands.
"Would you like to start with an appetizer?"
It was then that I realized we hadn't been given menus. I asked her about that, and she blinked at me curiously before saying, "There's really no need for that. We can make just about anything. Just ask for it."
Maggie leaned back with a wide grin on her face. I put a hand to my chin. There were plenty of dishes that came to mind.
"We can do them deep-fried, pan-fried, stir-fried or any way fried with any kind of sauce."
"We have at least twenty varieties of broth."
"Pasta with seafood?"
"Over ninety-types of pasta and whatever kind of sauce you might like."
I tried to stump her but she always had an easy response.
Then, I had an idea.
I thought back to a family trip by the ocean. We ate at a small place on the wharf. I had a seafood dinner that was unlike any before or since. It wasn't too rich. The flavors were just right. The only shame was that the place closed soon after.
Looking at Nonami, I asked, "I'm thinking of an entrée. Can you make it?"
She smiled at me and nodded. "Of course, sir. We have all the ingredients needed. It won't take long. Would you like anything to go with that?"
I just looked at her with my mouth open. Eventually, Maggie said, "I think he'll be fine with that. I'll have that too."
Nonami nodded. She was about to leave when Maggie added, "Oh and could you leave for a minute and then return. I'd like my brother to try something." She readily agreed.
When she was away, Maggie said, "You saw me change her…you should give it a try. Just imagine her any way. Well, almost any way. Remember, I'm not afraid to kick you in the shin if you try something perverted."
Of course, I immediately envisioned something just like that. But I cleared that from my mind and tried again. It took me a moment.
When Nonami returned, she was a five-year-old girl with long, curly-orange hair wearing a white dress and a black, lacy apron.
She asked in a small, cute voice, "Is this okay?"
It was Maggie's turn for surprise. She nodded and said, "That's fine." With that, Nonami skipped back to the kitchen.
Maggie was silent for a bit before saying, "Well…I didn't suspect that. So, you're either far stranger than I figured, or I have an adorable brother."
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Bio: I'm MajorKerina and I love to collaborate creatively with a group of friends to make tales where people have their genders, identities, and very realities questioned, contorted, and turned upside-down. I like slice-of-life with a spicing of the supernatural, strange, or surreal. Reality with a scent of the impossible. You can find me on DeviantArt, Twitter, ScribbleHub, and other places.