The following comes from Then A Penguin Walked In and Other Tall Tales, currently on sale digitally and in paperback.


TWO DAYS LATER DOMINICK walked into a small, private room in the hospital wing of the palace.

The room was on the third floor and a large window stood open on the back wall, letting in the sun and the freshness of the morning. While he couldn’t see out of the window from where he stood in the doorway, he could hear the revelers still busy with their merry making down in the courtyard below.

The hospital room was sparsely furnished with only a tiny bed on a tall stand sitting under the open window, and a regular sized chair to the left of the bed.

Sitting up in the pixie-sized bed, reading a book and taking advantage of the sunshine and cool breeze, Dominick found Vivian.

He knocked softly on the edge of the doorway and she looked up from over the top of her book. She smiled.

“Dominick Hanrahan, savior of Gund, comes to see me at last,” she said.

“They wouldn’t let me in to see you till now,” Dominick said, entering the room. “Apparently being the One doesn’t account for much as far as the palace physician is concerned.”

Vivian smiled again.

“So,” Dominick coughed uncomfortably. “How are you?”

“I will live,” she said. “The nurse told me what you did. How you used the sword to drive Kraxull off of me. You saved my life.”

“Well,” Dominick said, heat rising into his face. “That’s the kind of thing I’m supposed to do, right?”

“Yes,” She said. “I suppose it is. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t say thank you.”

He felt the heat in his face build to new heights.

“What choice did I have?” He said. “You’re the only real friend I have here. You and Harold.”

“How is Harold?” Vivian looked more than a little concerned. “He was still unconscious out there when they took me away and they won’t tell me anything in here.”

“He’s fine,” Dominick said. “He was out for a while. Just came round last night. We’ll have to keep an eye on him for a couple of days.”

“We?” Vivian cocked an eyebrow. “Does that mean that you are staying?”

“I don’t know,” Dominick said, sitting. “I’ve been thinking about that for the last couple of days. I mean, I do have somewhat of a life back home. Sure, it’s lonely and, well, that’s it. But all my stuff is back there, like my apartment and my car.”

“I hear the Queen has offered you a room here in the palace.”

“Room?” Dominick laughed. “More like a wing. And she told me that I wouldn’t need to worry about anything for as long as I stay. Food, money, anything.”

“You are the One, after all.”

“Yeah, I guess. Anyway, that’s reason enough to stay, I suppose. But,” he let it just hang there.


“Well, it’s just,” he sighed. “There’s stuff from my world that I’m gonna miss.”

“Such as?”

“Comics, TV, movies, video games, technology. I actually enjoy spending the evening at home, alone, with nothing to do but read through a stack of new comics. And going to the shop every Wednesday to pick them up. The Comic Bank is like my second home. I’ll miss that.”

“The Comic Bank?”

“Yeah, it used to be a bank, but was sold and turned into a comic shop. It’s the best.”

“You don’t have to give these things up, Dominick,” Vivian said. “You have the ring. You can visit your world anytime you want.”

“Yeah, but you said time doesn’t work the same, that it moved faster here. An afternoon at the comic shop could be like a week here, or more, right?”

“Something like that, sure.”

“It just all sounds so complicated,” he deflated a little in the chair.

“In the end, Dominick, you have to ask yourself what kind of person do you want to be? One who lives with purpose or without? You have purpose here, Dominick.”

“What purpose? Hob’s no longer a threat.”

“There will always be threats,” Vivian said. “Your purpose in this world is to defend Haven from those threats. What would be your purpose back home?”

That, Dominick had to admit, was a question for which he did not have an answer. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that maybe he did know the answer after all.

He knew what he had to do, he just wasn’t ready to do it.

Instead he rose from the chair and walked over to the window. He looked out at Haven, at Gund. He breathed in the clean air. He watched the general merriment going on below him. 

“Such a serious face, Dominick,” said Vivian. “You don’t have to rush into a decision just yet, you know.”

“I know,” said Dominick, sighing. “I was just thinking about Hob.”

“The less thought about him, the better,” Vivian said. “Though, I have to admit I was more than surprised when I learned that you left him alive.”

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” Dominick said. “I went with my gut.”

“It has often been my experience that the gut is almost never wrong,” said Vivian.

“It all just seemed so fast,” Dominick said.

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” he sighed. “I’ve read countless fantasy novels, and there’s always so much more to it.”

“Fantasy novels?” 

“Books,” Dominick said. “Swords and sorcery. Dragons and elves and stuff. People in my world have been writing about places like Gund for a great long time.”

“I’d like to read some of these books,” Vivian said.

“OK, sure. It’s just that. Well, there’s always a journey. I mean, these are epic, sweeping stories that take the reader from one corner of the world to the other.”

“And?” Asked Vivian. “They sound exciting.”

“They are,” Dominick said. “But here I am, I’m living one of these stories and it was mostly a blur.”

“Life moves fast,” Vivian said.

“Sure,” Dominick said. “I get that. I guess there was a part of me, that small part that wasn’t peeing his pants that was hoping for a little more to the story.”

Vivian laughed.

“Your story isn’t complete, Dominick. All that matters is where you want to be when your tale is told. Back in your old life? Or here where you are needed?”

Dominick continued to look out the window. A man danced to a tune played by a quartet of musicians. He had a small boy perched on his shoulder. They both laughed.

“So what will you do, Dominick Hanrahan?” Vivian asked.

Dominick figured he knew.

To be continued...


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