Thomas Cross sat quietly at the head of the classroom, feeling slightly disoriented. It was a feeling that was becoming all to familiar. So familiar that it almost felt normal, like some core element of his life that was never enough in focus to recognize, but always there.
He sat at the teacher's desk. He was the teacher. He recalled that, as well as the nearly twenty years he had occupied that desk and taught generations of children to write. He had been writing just now when the feeling came over him. The pen was still in his hand, and the journal open on his desk. He put the cap on his pen, and put it in his pocket. He closed the journal and locked it in the left hand drawer of his desk.
Thomas stood with care. He did not like the feeling that had come over him. He was confused, but the confusion was deep beneath the surface of his awareness. He checked himself carefully, to be sure all of the parts were in the proper place. Yes, his old and tweedy suit felt right over the same body he had occupied over the course of many years.
He brushed at the pants, noticing that he might have to retire this comfortable suit one day soon. He liked the comfortable feel of old clothing, but it was necessary to keep up appearances when guiding young people through their educations. Or so the administrators often reminded him.
Thomas was glad none of the students were present to see his confused state. Most of them seemed to care for him, but it was not a good thing to burden his young charges with anything that did not move their educations forward.
He let himself out of his classroom into the main hallway. He headed down the hallway toward the teacher's lounge, intending to sit a bit and regain his composure. Then he would head home and see how he might be feeling. This was a strange feeling troubling him. Stranger, because it seemed to be purposefully avoiding his full awareness.
Even stranger was the end of the hallway. Where he ordinarily turned right there was no longer a right turn. The hallway ended in a brick wall, in front of which was a trophy case. He recognized the case, and the trophies inside. He recognized the hallway going off to the left from this main hall. He did not recognize the paneled wall that stood where the right hallway ought to be.
Thomas felt he had but two options. He might return the way he had come, and make his way out through the main entrance and find his car and go home. He might also take the left hallway and see what other strangeness lay in store for him. Somehow the prospect of exploring the strangeness seemed less daunting than trying to go on pretending nothing was wrong.
He turned left and went down the center of the hallway. He looked at each door as he walked, taking some comfort in their schoolish sameness. Classroom door after classroom door. Plain, functional, except for this one now standing before him. Heavy wood, stained glass window, and a dark arched encasement. It was wrong.
Thomas turned the handle and walked through. The pipe smoke on the other side was disconcerting. So were the many tables, and the large fireplace with the blazing fire on the grate. He glanced out the window on the far side of the room and glimpsed a gypsy wagon passing by, drawn by a single horse. Two men sat on the seat, and something shiny was mounted above their heads. The light that momentarily glinted off of the object disoriented Thomas further.
"Thomas!" called a fellow seated at a table beneath the window. The man waved a clay pipe at Thomas, inviting him over to the table. Thomas heard a sound like a door closing behind him. He turned and was somehow not terribly surprised to find the door he had just passed through to no longer be there. Just a dark paneled wall.
He straightened the pleats in his kilt and walked across the room. Thomas recognized the man seated at the table. Jenkins, one of his fellow teachers. He was momentarily taken aback by the long pointed ears, but could not guess why they bothered him. Half-elves like Jenkins often retained the pointed ears of their elven parents, even though they may assume almost exclusive human features in all other respects.
Thomas sat next to his friend and pulled his own pipe out of the pouch hanging from his belt. Jenkins tossed him a leather pouch and Thomas loaded his pipe. Without thought he took a pair of tongs from the holder on the small brazier on the table and picked up a tiny coal. He lit his pipe expertly, yet in the back of his mind he wondered at even knowing what the little brazier was for. The strange feeling that had nagged at him was back, and stronger than ever.
"The Headmaster is pleased by the progress of your students." Jenkins said. "He has said so rather frequently of late. I think he is trying to hold you up as a model instructor for me to emulate."
"Nonsense." said Thomas, feeling nonetheless pleased at the news. "Your students are progressing just fine. Anyway, I just teach them their letters and a bit of writing. Nothing like your courses in practical magic."
"I can only relate what I hear." said Jenkins. "Practical magic is important, that I grant. Still, your students write clearly and have imagination."
Thomas drew on his pipe in gentle puffs, and stared into the fire.
"Those feelings are bothering you again, aren't they?" Jenkins asked. Thomas nodded. "Let me brew you some head tea, my friend. It will make you right again in no time."
"Yes, perhaps." said Thomas. He pulled his pen from behind his ear, absently straightening the feathers. Jenkins already had some ink on the table. Thomas extracted a few papers from his inside jacket pocket, and laid them out on the table. "Perhaps I just need to write down some of these feelings while they are clear to me."
Thomas began to write, feeling the click and rebound of the keys. Something about that did not seem right. He glanced up from the screen and looked at his companion. The Jenkins IV unit sat passively across the table from him. Why they had chosen to give the IV model elven features still defied Thomas. Even so, the machine was a coworker and friend.
"Thomas Crossing, I think I need to make a few adjustments to your reality centers." said the Jenkins IV. "Your reality cohesion is slipping, and it is impacting your work."
Thomas recalled his name and what it meant. Thomas Crossing. He was a trans dimensional being who was able to phase between various planes of existence. Yes. That was the confusion. He was drawn to the human form. He found the creatures fascinating. Bound to only one reality and having relatively short lives these creatures had developed immense imaginations.
They were so finite, however. Locking his being into their form caused disturbances in his trans dimensional psyche. No wonder he was becoming disoriented.
"Yes, Jenkins. I think you are right." he said. "Please do so."
The Jenkins IV unit soon had the adjustments made, and Thomas Crossing felt a bit better. His cohesion was reestablished, and the multiverse was again clearly in perspective.
"Well, I have to log." said the Jenkins IV. "Will we play tomorrow?"
Thomas felt another moment of confusion. The Jenkins IV laughed.
"Thomas, whenever you log on as that trans dimensional being you get all whacked out." said the Jenkins IV. "Log out and take a break. You can't play this game all of the time."
The Jenkins IV froze and then faded away. Thomas stared at the space it had occupied.
"Yeah, I guess I should log out." said Thomas. He sighed. "I have a class to teach tomorrow."
A few keystrokes later Thomas Crossing felt a portion of his being fade away. Fortunately most of the other aspects of his trans dimensional being remained logged in. He stood up and turned toward the door, wondering what might be on the other side.
Only one way to find out. He stepped up and put his hand on the handle. A whole multiverse was on the other side. Taking a deep breath he turned the handle.