The fact that she could not smell coffee from her espresso maker was a bad omen.
She could hear the shower running, and her room mates off pitch singing with the CD that she had taken with her into the bathroom. What song it was, she couldn't be sure; not many songs could survive the ass kicking that her room mate handed them. It didn't help that the song wasn't even in English. Alice groaned and buried herself deeper under the covers, unwilling to brave the day just yet. Sleeping on a lumpy couch in a less than reputable coffee house was definitely not the way to start an evening. Missing the bus, getting drenched in water by an apathetic taxi driver and then getting stuck on a train for half an hour more than usual wasn't the way to go about it either. Especially when she had classes the next morning.
She bolted up in bed and searched frantically for her alarm clock. The cord was still plugged into the wall beside her bed. She followed it, and discovered her clock hanging by its cord out of the window, still ringing an alarm much to the chagrin of passersby. With a grunt, she pulled the plug out of the wall and tossed it across the room, before collapsing back against the pillows. Both the watch on her wrist and the clock on the wall said she was an hour late for class. She groaned, the second time that morning, realizing that she wouldn't be able to make it to her first class. It would be the second time that month and fourth in the semester. The professor would, in all likely hood, fail her.
"Just what I need," she muttered blearily as she stumbled out of bed, still tangled in her covers, "an F. Dad'll say it's mathematically impossible or something."
She flipped on the espresso maker, then went to bang on the bathroom door. Her room mate was still belting Korean tunes at the top of her lungs, and using up all the hot water.
Oh yes, she could tell already; today was going to be terrible.
Much like she had predicted, the day had, so far, played out horribly. She had made it to class just as it ended, been lectured by an irate professor, had coffee spilled on her at Starbucks, lost a book she hadn't even know that she owned, and caused a traffic accident. The last one was the real kicker; she hadn't known anything had happened until the screaming rose above the volume of her iPod. Three cars. Three! Being lectured by a bike cop about looking both ways before crossing had been less than pleasant.
Now, her day nearly over, she was praying that nothing else could possibly happen. What could be worse than a car accident? Surely she had paid her karma in full by now. Hopefully. Maybe.
Not likely, she thought wryly as she strapped on her goggles. Taking chemistry had been her father's idea of rounding out her education. Her personal opinion had been that it was a disaster waiting to happen. By the evening hours, low on food and high on caffeine, her hands would be trembling. Not good considering that most professors expected their students to be intelligent enough not to accidentally blow away an entire city block. It had never happened to Alice, but with her luck, it was only a matter of time.
She tried to tune out her fretting lab partner as she measured out ingredients to mix over the Bunsen burner.
"Yes," she sighed and looked up. Her lab partner pointed to her latest acquisition from the library, which sat a safe twelve inches away from any hazardous materials.
"That's not supposed to be there," he commented. She glanced at the Lord of the Rings book blankly before returning to her measurements.
"Move it, then."
He wrung his hands together, clearly torn between moving it, or allowing it to sit there and letting her conscience eat at her. They both would have been better off if he had just left it up to her conscience. Instead, he reached for it, passing in front of her, and coming between her and the hands that were trying, very hard, to measure chemicals that could do lord knew what when mixed improperly.
"Hey!" she cried, but by then, it was too late. She watched, fascinated, as if almost in slow motion, the two vials she had been measuring slipped out of her already trembling fingers. They fell into the water filled beaker sitting above the lit Bunsen burner and ignited immediately. It was as if she could almost see the fire spread, until it over took her Tolkien book. Then, it decided, was the time to truly explode. And it did; the force and heat slammed into her with unimaginable strength and knocked her into the air.
I always wanted to go out with a bang.
And then she thought nothing for a very long time.
The first thing she realized was that she was falling up, instead of down. The second thing she realized was that she hated it. It was like having a hook in her spine and being helpless as it reeled her up and up and up. The ground, though she couldn't exactly see it as everything looked black, felt like it was getting farther and farther away. The higher up she went, the lighter she felt.
Gravity, she thought faintly. It's getting weaker.
And then, with a strength that knocked the breath from her body, she slammed into water. It was everywhere, and with sudden clarity she realized that it made sense given that she was in it. It flooded her lungs with alarming speed and she remembered belatedly that she couldn't swim. She couldn't even manage to hold her breath for any amount of time. Panic set in almost immediately, and she clawed at the water, desperate not to sink.
There was no light in the water, and she could see little, aside from her fingers, and the white lab coat that she had worn during the explosion. Air was running low in her lungs, her heart beating harder, and spots darkened her vision. In that moment the imaginary hook decided to come to life once more and with an almighty jerk, yanked her up, ever higher. She opened her mouth in a silent shriek of surprise and watched in dismay as precious air escaped her lungs in the form of large bubbles.
Light filtered through what she could now see was the surface, and was quickly becoming brighter. She renewed her attempts of clawing a the water, hoping that it would speed her journey to the surface.
Not at all soon enough for her, she was thrust out of the water in an explosion of heat and steam. No longer was she in a never ending ocean of dark water, but in a tub whose water she could crouch in safely. She coughed hard, beating on her chest with trembling hands, trying to force out the water that had, for a short time at least, called her lungs home. Steam rose from everything; the water, her close, her skin.
Alice heaved in breaths, trying to regulate her breathing, before turning over from her position on all fours to her back. Her chest rose up and down quickly as she stared at the ceiling, taking in its wooden beams, the lack of light fixtures, and the natural sunlight that filtered across them. She closed her eyes for a moment, before forcing herself to her knees once more, using the edge of the tub for leverage and attempted to stand.
It was when she was semi-upright that she noticed the man standing in the doorway. Tall and lean, golden skinned, his blond hair heavy and dark with water, he stood in the doorway to what she now assumed was the bathroom. She could still see water glistening on his skin and watched as a single drop rolled slowly down the center of his chest, across his taut abdomen, and into the towel that hung precariously about his waist.
Well, damn, she thought as she watched the towel slip from one hip. With difficulty she tore her gaze from his hip and raised her eyes to find him watching her, an eyebrow raised above a jewel like blue eye in question. She watched as the muscles in his arm flexed experimentally in alarm.
"You keep that towel right where it is, mister!" she shrieked, pointing an accusatory finger at him. "Right where it is!"
"I intend to," he said wryly. "Would you care to explain how you came to fall in to my bathtub?"
"I fell up."
"Up, I fell up."
"You can't have fallen up," he stated, with a dismissive shake of his head. His thick hair fell over his shoulder and she was given the first glimpse of pointed ears. Her eyes widened, going round like saucers and she fell back, slipping in the cool water.
She was still wet, her lab coat singed, and she had fallen up into a tub. She closed her eyes, counting back from ten then opened them again. There had been an explosion. Most likely, she reasoned with herself, she'd been knocked unconscious and was now in a coma. This was all some great, elaborate hallucination. Very, very elaborate.
"Mom was right," she groaned covering her face, "I spend too much time on the computer. Wake up, wake up, wake up."
"You are quite awake. And laying in bathwater, might I add."
She cringed, and forced herself to sit up, pulling herself out of the bathtub. The water had gone cold against her skin, and she felt as if she were carrying a million pounds of clothing. Her hair clung to her neck, clammy and disgusting and her fingers were wrinkly. The look he gave her was hardly appreciative and seemed to border on more of a cringe. She was a mess and she knew it; she hardly needed Adonis to look at her as if she were a drowned cat.
"Alright, Alice," she muttered, shivering, "where in the world have you hallucinated yourself?"
"Keeping in mind that this is not a hallucination, you are in the bathroom of my talan."
"Talan?" she squeaked. She recognized the word far too well and it was not something in American vocabulary. "Where is this talan?"
He gave her a look that told her exactly what he thought of her and it was not flattering, "Caras Ghaladhon, of course. Where else?"