Ada hurried through the streets.. It was cold out, and the setting sun didn’t help at all. She had missed the bus that would take her within reasonable walking of her house, and she didn’t feel much like sprinting across the city in the dark in the dark.
The chill bit through her old jacket. Ada gritted her teeth and tugged the fabric tighter around her. She couldn’t complain much, though. It was better than being stuck outside in a dress. She still couldn’t understand why her mother was insisting that she wore dresses. It wasn’t the 1600s anymore, for God’s sake. But for whatever reason, her mother was stuck in the past, and so Ada wore her brother’s old clothes.
There weren’t many people out now, which was odd. This was downtown, wasn’t it? She realized that, having gotten lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t been paying attention to where she was going and didn’t know where she was now.
“Great,” Ada mumbled, brushing her hair out of her face. She stopped in her tracks and thought about her options. She could try to find her way back, but there was a chance she’d get even more lost by doing that. She could look for a phone box and call her parents, but she wouldn’t be able to tell them where she was. Or she could ask someone where the nearest bus stop was. After a few moments of deliberation, she decided to go with the last option.
The problem was, there was only one person around now. Ada didn’t believe in the saying, “Never talk to strangers,” but she would have felt more comfortable doing it in a crowd. She didn’t exactly have many other choices right now, though.
Ada walked up to the person. “Excuse me,” she said in what she hoped was a confident voice, “do you know if there’s a bus stop somewhere near here?”
The stranger turned to face her. It was a boy around her age. He stared at Ada quizzically, making her feel like she was being examined. She shifted uncomfortably under his piercing gaze, tugging her conductor’s hat lower over her eyes.
The minutes stretched by. Just when Ada was about to give up and walk away, the boy spoke.
“I know of one a few minutes walk from here,” he said slowly, as if he was uncertain if he should be telling her this or not, “but I don’t think you’d like to go on the bus there.”
“No, it’s fine,” Ada told him, relieved he had finally spoken.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes,” she sighed, exasperated. “I really need to get home.”
The boy hesitated for a moment, then shrugged. He pointed down the road. “It’s that way. Just keep walking, you can’t miss it.”
“Thanks.” Ada turned to start walking.
“Oh, Ada, wait!” She spun back around to face the boy. He rummaged through his pockets, then held a small slip of paper out to her. “You’ll need a ticket.”
“I have a pass...” she said, puzzled.
The boy shook his head. “No, trust me. You need a ticket.”
“Alright?” Ada took the ticket hesitantly. Now, usually when someone takes a piece of paper from someone else, they feel the pressure of the other person’s hand release. Not this time. In fact, the paper didn’t even feel all that solid to Ada until the boy’s hand released. She stared at it for a moment, before lifting her head and giving the boy a shaky smile. “Thanks.”
He smiled back at her. “No problem.”
Ada hurried off. She felt the boy’s gaze on the back of her head, but something else was bothering her. Only when the gaze was no longer on her did Ada realized what it was.
“How did you know my name?” she called, looking over her shoulder. But the boy was gone.
Ada rubbed her eyes gently. Pale blue shapes had been appearing in her vision for a few minutes now, and it was getting annoying.
The ticket the strange boy had presented her with was still clutched tightly in her hand. She didn’t know why, but she felt that if she let go of it, it wouldn’t be real anymore. It was a silly thought to have, especially now that there were more people about and that she was beginning to recognize where she was again.
The bus stop suddenly came into view. The boy had been right - there really was no missing it. The metal pole was very tall - at least three times Ada’s height. It’s dark gray paint was worn, but not chipping. A old-style lamp shone from the top of it, and a second lamp hung from a beautiful swirling arm about three quarters of the way up. A few decorative metal vines and leaves were placed here and there, like on the swirl and below the top lantern. At eye-level with Ada was a large old sign. It was cracked and bent, but the word “BUS” was still very clear on it. The pole was captivating.
Ada tore her eyes from the bus stop and gazed around. She frowned. She most definitely knew where she was now - in fact, she passed through here at least once a day, and she had never seen the bus stop before. But it seemed familiar to her, in an odd way, as if she had seen it during her childhood and couldn’t recall it clearly now. A nostalgic feeling overtook her, just as a large pale blue shape flashed through her vision. She scowled and rubbed her eyes again.
It didn’t seem as though the bus would come very soon, so, after checking both ways up and down the street, Ada turned and watched the people walking down the sidewalk.
“Carlos!” she cried, suddenly recognizing one of the people as her older brother. He ignored her, however, and kept walking. Ada frowned.
“Hey!” Ada shouted after him. Still nothing. She scowled and ran after him. As soon as she was within arm’s distance of Carlos, she reached out to push him in the back. Her hand didn’t collide with her brother, though. It just slid right through him.
Ada skidded to a halt. Carlos kept walking, and her hand slid out of his back. She would have screamed, but them something even more miraculous happened.
As he walked, Carlos began to fade from a detailed person to a pale blue, translucent silhouette. Ada blinked rapidly, trying to see if it was a trick of the light. It wasn’t. She gazed around frantically, but all the other people had faded as well. She was the only person who was still solid.
A soft rustling noise came from behind Ada. She turned slowly, almost scared of what she might see. Instead, she was entranced. It was something she had never seen before, something that didn’t exist. On all fours, it was shorter than the bus stop, but Ada was certain it would be taller than the pole if it stood on it’s hind legs.
Ada studied the creature carefully. It had a snowy white plate for a face, complete with a sharp beak and two large, black holes for eyes. From behind the plate sprouted large, pale tan feathers, creating a sort of mane. The feathers got smaller quickly as they traveled down the creature’s long neck. They continued along it’s lean body and down it’s dragging tail. Large wings sprouted from it’s back. The legs were feathered down to the knee, where they turned smooth and white. The feet were a mix between human hands and bird feet - five fingered and jointed, but with long, hooked claws at the end of it’s toes.
“What are you?” she murmured softly to the creature. It swung it’s head around to face her, boring into her with it’s dark eyes. For some reason, though, Ada didn’t feel threatened. She instinctively knew that thing wouldn’t hurt her. It gazed at her for a while longer, before simply walking past her. She stayed perfectly still as the creature passed - not out of fear, but out of respect. She didn’t even turn around to watch it when she heard it spread it’s wings and take off.
Ada walked back to the bus stop just as the bus turned onto the street. She only jumped a little when the headlights blinked to reveal startlingly green cat eyes. The bus rolled to a stop in front of her. Ada gripped her ticket tighter, silently thanking the strange boy she had encountered earlier for giving her the chance to see this wonderful place.
The bus doors, which were shaped rather like butterfly wings, swung open.