"Allegiance, will you shut up?" Alliance mutters. She shoves me away as she stands up. "I'm a figment of someone's deranged imagination. I can't get hurt!"
"It's still nice to know that you care for her," Alynn comforts, setting a hand on my shoulder. I cross my arms. I just want Alliance to love me the way a big sister should. I'm pretty sure I look like a pug, the way my face is all pouty. The funny thing is, Alynn doesn't know how to deal with this face. She think's I'm crazy and takes one quick step backwards.
Suddenly, I hear a loud voice from the center of the room that demands, "What on earth is going on here?"
Everyone freezes. That voice, with a southern belle accent and an Italian's volume, belongs to The Author. She's spawned right in the middle of the room, staring at everyone with a really weird look on her face. I don't think she always knows what's going on the deepest recesses of The Imagination. We'd like to keep it that way.
"The American started it!" bellows the weird Viking chief guy. He points at Rhett, the time traveler's son. Rhett deflects the blame to his friend Ji, who's too modest to do anything about it.
The Author sighs. "Okay, guys. Do what you will, but I need some of you for a scene. Alynn, Lukas, let's go! Everyone else, shut up!" She sits down and opens her laptop before I realize she doesn't have a chair. It's funny to watch her suspended in space like that, but it's her Imagination. I guess she can do whatever she wants.
We know the drill. All the Characters who aren't in this scene line up against the walls. Alynn tosses her sword to me, then joins a really nice monk named Lukas in the middle of the room. The Imagination changes into a large kitchen. The walls are stone, and there's three cooking fires lining them. Only one is lit, and there's a pot boiling over it. Alynn ladles whatever's in the pot into two bowls. It looks like a cross between oatmeal and camel puke, and it smells absolutely terrible.
I hear a door open while Alynn's setting the bowls on the table. Lukas joins her in the kitchen, dusting snow off his boots and his dress. Everyone tells me he's wearing a tunic, not a dress, and that I'm insulting him. But not even Alynn's dress isn't as long as his.
“I surveyed the blizzard damage,” Lukas remarks. He seems oblivious to the stench in the air. “Nothing worse than at least three inches of snow, thank the Lord. And…what, may I ask, is this ye’ve set on the table?
“Parsnip porridge,” Alynn answers. Her face turns a slight shade of red. "A mouse chewed a hole in the bag of--"
"This won't work," The Author mutters under her breath. She taps at her keyboard for a bit, pushing her glasses farther up her nose as she reads over what she just wrote. "Try this."
"Parsnip porridge," Alynn repeats. “I finished the bag of oats yesterday, and the root cellar’s snowed over."
Lukas stirs the pot over the fireplace, and I think he finally realizes how bad it smells. “Indeed. How’d ye make it?
“Grated, boiled, and seasoned parsnips,” Alynn says. She sets two spoons on the table. “Don't worry, I've taste-tested it."
They both sit down at the table, and Lukas prays for their food. Then, for a while, they just stare at their bowls.
"It won't poison you, if you're wonderin'," Alynn snaps.
"Nope," The Author declares. She taps again at her keyboard. "I am a terrible writer...."
The keys keep tapping for a while, and Lukas's prayer is worded differently. As soon as it's over, he takes his spoon and slowly tries one bite. He chokes on it. I almost laugh as Lukas practically drops his spoon and downs half his mug of water. "Och, goodness! What did ye add to this after ye tested it?"
Alynn's eyes widen as she takes a bite. She looks sick, and she spits it back into her bowl. "Faith! Lukas, I'm sorry, it won't kill us, will it?"
"Crap," The Author mutters, tapping again at her computer. Then she stops, like she's heard something, and looks up quickly. "Coming, Mom!" she shouts with an Italian volume that makes the cooking fire flicker. She disappears like a magician--but it's her Imagination. I guess she can do whatever she wants.
"And while she's gone," someone shouts, "let's play a joke on her!"
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.