In this world there are few surprises and even fewer miracles.
Most magical events happen beyond our reach but there are glimpses of the mystical if you really, really look hard. Those who seek hardest find the most answers.
This story is about one of those magical happenings.
It is a story that encompass some very strange and odd folk who generally move unseen among us.
Squashed into a dimensional gap is the road that leads to Unordinary Street.
It is a normal looking road if a little pointless. It is dead-end which is how most people view the road who live near to it. There are no houses upon this road and it veers sharply to the right as it comes to nothing but a birds-eye view of the motorway beneath.
For the most instances, this road is ordinary.
A pointless and ordinary road that leads to nowhere.
That gives you the first clue as to the mysticism beyond the normal looking facade of a dead-end road.
For things that seemingly look normal but have strange pointless ways about them mean there is more to them than meets the eye.
The road begins in the middle of another road and leads away from the suburban life which surrounds it to an unequalled view of the motorway beneath.
The second clue that something magical is afoot is the presence of a church, a cemetery and a forgotten garden.
When I say the word "forgotten" I don't mean completely. There are always the zealots who sense magic in their presence and seek to cultivate it.
Some humans sense magic. They don't know why or how but they understand that it is there.
When I say "forgotten" I mean to the world at large. There is a missing garden that people largely don't know exists and it is filled with the beginnings of the magical things that happen and are often overlooked. Locals know it is there and have been guarding it for hundreds of years in one form or another. People who live locally have the desire to work in the garden, or near to it.
There is a slight chill in the air if you ever find yourself wandering down this road to nowhere. Sometimes people have felt as if they were being watched or followed by unseen eyes. A powerful feeling of peace descends over you as you walk along and squirrels watch oddly as you pass on by.
Trees that sway shiftily in the breeze hide the gateway to Unordinary Street.
This gateway can only be accessed by a minority of elite beings that appear normal to the rest of us. We observe them walking down the road and expect them to take the pathway leading down to the motorway. Bus stops litter the bottom of this pathway and it is easy to get drawn into a logical conclusion.
However, to demonstrate access to Unordinary Street, we will follow one of these beings as they walk into the road, backpack slung across broad shoulders of a muscular and young-looking man. Not a bad-looking man, not a stunning man. Just an average man.
His name is Deter, pronounced similar to Peter and he had an accent which people just cannot place. His skin is darkly tanned and his eyes are bright and wide as he makes his way towards the footpath that leads down the hill and towards the bus stops that we would imagine was his destination.
We could imagine many things about Deter. Maybe he is off to his day job and needs to catch a certain bus to get there? Maybe he is walking to work, or college, or a day centre of some sort?
He makes the route every single day.
However, where the footpath curves suddenly to the left, Deter turns right and stands before a thicket. A bush full of thorns and nettles is before him and he barely notices as he stands in front of the mighty bush and stamps his feet impatiently.
"Come on, I haven't got all day!" Deter calls into the bush and immediately the thicket begins to tremble and shudder. In a moment, the leaves part and a pathway emerges that is nettle-free.
Sighing with displeasure, Deter walks confidently through the parted bush as the gateway closes behind him and foliage return to form a dense and impenetrable thicket.
To the outside world it would seem impossible for a thicket to part like the Red Sea unless with the aide of animatronics.
To Deter, this was an every day happening. Like catching a bus. Or riding a bike.
He made his way down a winding path amid trees and enters a copse about five metres away from the gateway.
In a moment, an older man jumps down from the boughs of one of the trees nearest to Deter. He is dressed all in green velvet and has large, pointed ears that flap in the breeze as he hums a cheery tune. His face is wizened, however his true age is not reflected in his face. "Nice one, Deter. It's over to you, lad."
Guardian of the Gateway is Henry dressed in green with elven ears. Deter is his day relief and bounds up into the tree with a single leap to a hammock located across two sighing boughs. Henry smiles wistfully, as if contemplating the folly of youth and makes his way onward ... past trees and fern and bush. He arrives in a road that looks suspiciously like any country road you would pass in a normal rural setting. However, there is something different about this road. There is three cars waiting patiently, stalling their engines even though there is no place to drive to. A nasty drop down onto the motorway is the only thing that lies ahead, but they seem unfazed by the drop or the noise of the traffic beyond.
Deter makes himself comfortable, pouring a drink from an oversized flagon. He watches the pathway, affectionately referred to by locals as "The Trail" as he reads a magazine about the latest film releases.
Guardian of the Gateway is a long and laborious task with little thanks. Henry had been Guardian for over three-hundred years but Deter had only started learning the ropes.
The main task of Daytime Guardian is to open the main portal, a giant window that leads from the dead-end into the mystical town of Dale in the wonderful world of Mazoria. Cars with magical occupants knew that the portal would open every hour on the hour throughout the day and night. Already, some cars were backed up and awaiting the opening of the portal. Henry has joined them, looking at a particularly beautiful golden wristwatch as he awaits the magic hour when the portal opens.
To open the portal, Deter had to learn basic magical skills. He had grown up in Dale and magic was a part of life, but this required the use of wording as spells. Language is a powerful tool for magic in Dale. So powerful, that spells are often cast accidentally from the wrong use of a sentence or a phrase.
Dale itself looked like any ordinary rural English town. Leading from the main city through the portal, you find yourself along a winding and very narrow road with buildings dotted along the left roadside like puzzle pieces. There is Mag's Emporium closest to the portal which houses relics and trinkets of all shapes, sizes and magical intent or mischievous ambition. Thor's Ales is the country pub that is next to the emporium. Based on the Norse God of ancient lore, the pub even has its own hammer on display. Whether or not it is actually Thor's hammer is up for debate. Brewing its own magical beer, The dark delight Dragon's Porter Potty and bitter Arrowhead Mild Ale, both guaranteed to muster a feeling of light drunkenness and revelry without the hangover.
Next to Thor's Ales is the Office of Postal Affairs. Like a post office, it handles mail sent to our world and all across Mazoria. However, the delivery of mail uses different resources than whistling postmen. Magic spells ensure recipients receive their letters in wonderful and thrilling ways, with fireworks or music or beautiful images. They fly in the night through our world and we would know them as midges. When you see a swarm of midges, something has gone wrong with the delivery of letters and something needs to be sorted out or the mail will be late.
Next to the Office of Postal Affairs there is a small bakery called Don's Oven and a small café with seats that magically appear as patrons order their drinks and a set of houses that follow the spiral, curving road perfectly. It looks almost absurd to see them following the contours so closely, but they do. It is part of the magical world that borders onto our own.
"Aye, Henry. You finishing the night shift?" The driver from the head vehicle has rolled down his window and nods over to the grumpy elf. "I thought you'd have gone home to that lovely wife by now."
"Alas, is the work of an underpaid Guardian, I'm afraid." Henry sighs. "Deter was late. Again."
"Be easy on the lad, Henry. He has a wandering mind and roaming feet. His pretty mind is all over the place. A little here. A little there. A little everywhere."
"Aha, and you would know, Master Maelstrom?" Henry leaned on the bonnet of the car, mischievously. "You with all your mind reading gifts, eh? It's almost impossible for you not to butt in on everybody's business."
"Now, now. You know my intentions are good." Maelstrom shook his head, which was slightly comical because his large magic hat kept brushing the car's rooftop as he did so. As he corrected the wayward hat and leaned out to talk to Henry from the open window, the top of the hat came out of the window completely and sighed in the morning air.
"And you, a senior Dale official being seen in this car without tinted windows in your magic hat." Henry burst into a full-throated roar of laughter.
"Tosh, Henry. They see me driving along and think I am entertainment for a children's party." Maelstrom shakes his head fondly.
Master Maelstrom is on the larger side, his hair rippling down his back in long, blond ringlets. Blue eyed and slightly wistful, he can read the mind of anyone who his eyes latch onto. He has crammed himself into the vehicle, knees sticking up in front of him. The wheel is slightly obscured by the long limbs folded before it and he does have a trouble driving the medium sized Ford to work everyday.
"It's time, Deter!" Henry yells impatiently as his wristwatch chimes the hour and the swirl of air begins to collect at the end, raging into an almost tornadic storm before pulsing with blue energy. The world opens from within and the road connects with the road leading to Dale as the drivers go through the portal and honk to Deter as they cross the threshold between our world and the magical one before them. Henry nods at Deter before crossing the portal himself and within moments, the swirling blue tinged doorway has closed for business.
That was the way it was, the way it had always been. Like traffic lights changing on the hour, every hour; the portal would open and the magical beings would seep through from one world unto another. It had worked for thousands of years and operated secretly.
It should have been secretly operating for thousands more.
Dale was as important to our world as out world was to Dale.
However, something was about to happen which would threaten the entire gateway and all the magical beings therein.
A storm was coming to Dale. A storm that had been building for twenty-five years.
This storm had a name.
Lester Maplin, Senior.