Zeke had just opened and was wiping down the counter when the doorbell tinkled and he looked up, then down into the face of a dried apple doll, with wild Janis Joplin hair that flowed around her head like an aura. She wore a lavishly embroidered peasant blouse and multicolored long skirt. She couldn’t be an inch over four feet tall, Zeke estimated. She peered at him intently through dark round glasses, which only added to the Janis image.
“What can I get you?”
“I’ve come to see the wizard.”
“I have pastry and I get great bagels from Moravski’s deli. There’s coffee and tea of course, but sorry, no magic.”
“We shall see,” she nodded and sat down on one of the big overstuffed chairs near a table. Zeke quickly produced for her tea and a bagel. The old woman studied it for a moment, took a bite, and her face lit up. “Well, this is a delight.”
“Like I said, Moravski’s has the best.”
“Yes, this bagel is marvelous, and the tea is also good.” She continued eating as she talked. “I must see the wizard, don’t deny it, I haven’t the time. All the signs show he is here.”
“It’s just a coffee house, no wizards, no magicians. No magic of any kind, in fact. Though I have poetry readings that can be magical under the right conditions. I also have book discussions Thursday nights. We’re no ‘City Lights’, but we…”
She politely tuned out his sales pitch as she considered the signs. “The signs cannot be wrong,” she thought. Everything pointed to a wizard being here.
Zeke moved and the sun shone behind him. Bruhana stared while his aura flickered and shimmered. It was white! He moved again and the aura blazed so brightly, she put her shades back on. “It is you.” She announced.
“I’ve been me for as long as I can remember, though there are times I don’t remember and I might have been someone else,” he said with a grin. “I am pretty certain I have never been a magician or wizard.”
She nodded. “And yet, here you are. I have searched for you for a long time.”
“I’ve been here the whole time.” Zeke grinned.
“I had all but given up. When the sun hit your aura, I was stunned.”
“I’ve got a groovy aura?”
“You have an extraordinary aura.”
“How can my aura help you?”
“I have no tyro,” she said, as if that explained anything. Zeke stared at her, hoping for enlightenment. “A great evil has come upon my world and a wizard alone can scarcely hope to face what is coming.”
“The wizard Xanthipi is ensnaring and controlling a great evil that threatens my world. We have lost many wizards so all the tyros have been matriculated and we need more tyros to train and teach. I needed a special tyro. The signs lead me to your world, though I like it not at all.”
“It’s got to be a drag to have evil wizards wreaking havoc on your world,” Zeke said in sympathy.
“I do not know this Nixon, though evil has many forms. have been gone from Woolton Wood for too long and worry about the state of affairs. Now that I have found you, we must leave.”
“Leave?” Zeke looked at the old lady as she began to shimmer like a mirage on a desert road. The hair on the back of his neck stood up and a cold finger ran down his spine. She reached out her hands. “Quickly take my hands, it will be…easier for you.” Zeke grasped her hands, papery soft with a scent of lilac. She whispered in a language Zeke had never heard before and for a minute San Francisco faded, as if fog had suddenly rolled in thick and heavy. Zeke blinked and then the street was gone. He looked behind, and could see his coffee house as if at a great distance. A wind blew up, cold and harsh off the ocean and Zeke shivered. It grew very dark, the sky rumbled and the wind whipped wildly. Rain pelted down on them, in sharp icy drops. Suddenly he felt pulled and twisted in every direction at once, as if he was caught in the vortex of a tornado. He had the sense he was moving forward very quickly, seemingly propelled by the winds. The rumbling was deafening and his eyes blurred with tears caused. His stomach dropped as if he’d fallen from a high tower. Then…nothing.
He barely had time to discard his bloody sleeping garment and clean the blood from his hands and feet before he heard his pursuer...