There was a loud knock, then a slipping sound, and I sat up sharply in bed. My head reeled with pain from the night before. Way too late, way too much. I heard footsteps coming down the hall. The hardwood floors creaked as the footsteps came closer to my room. They stopped right outside my door. I could see a shadow standing there. Just waiting.
What the hell was going on? In the other room I heard the dog barking furiously. He didn’t like not being able to see out in the hallways. But since he had gotten into the trash a few nights prior, I had been locking him up at night. The feet outside the door hadn’t so much as moved since they had found their place there. Someone had broken into my home. I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and stared, frowning, trying to make something out of it. Who could it be?
They just stood there completely silent. It was kind of creepy. And the damn dog would not shut the hell up! I wanted to yell at him to knock it off, but I didn’t want the stranger outside my door to know I was awake. Or even here. Surely he knew I was here though. Or she. Or whatever it was outside the door. I glanced around the room, in search of something I could better myself with, in case of confrontation.
I swung my feet down onto the floor and had to curl my toes under, as the floor was so cold. There was a pistol in my nightstand drawer, but if I opened it, the stranger outside might hear it. Or maybe not. Because the dog would not shut his barking mouth. Maybe this was a good thing. I slid the drawer open and removed the pistol. My .44 Magnum, nickel barrel shining, was cold to the touch. The whole house was cold. I was surprised not to be able to see my breath.
I cocked the pistol and spun the shell house slowly, making sure it was fully loaded. Not that it mattered. One shot would tear someone completely in half at close range. It held five slugs when fully loaded. It was fully loaded. I aimed directly at the heart of the door and spoke my warning. “Open the door slowly. I have a high caliber weapon aimed at your heart. If you do anything stupid I will mow you down.” I didn’t know who I spoke to. I wasn’t even sure he heard me. The damn dog was barking maniacally.
I slowly took it upon myself to open the door, as I had gotten no response. As I turned the cold brass knob in my hand I felt a breeze on my feet coming beneath the door. And the dog was barking wildly. I pulled the door out and slammed the barrel of the pistol against the stranger’s chest, knocking him back a few inches. Well, that is to say it would have knocked him back a few inches. Had someone actually been there. Instead I stared down at the cat, purring and walking in circles around my legs.
As I scuffled to the kitchen to make some coffee, the phone rang. It was my agent. He told me he had some new developments for me, and to meet him at the pre-specified location at noon. Okay, I said, and hung up. I looked at my wrist watch, which hung loosely on my arm. It was eleven. I had fallen back asleep, and just steadfastly refused to be awaken until now.
As the coffee boiled into the pot I took a quick shower and got dressed. I pulled on a thick sweater and poured myself a cup of coffee. As I headed out the door, I picked up the mail from the table by the door and slipped it into my planner pocket. The street was bare and dry, leaves blowing in from the hard wind that ripped through the neighborhood. It promised to get colder. This was absurd. It was already cold enough to raise a polar bear.
At some point on my way to the rendezvous, I guess I became complacent with my driving, because I didn’t even see it coming. But I saw it happen. As we (we being myself and the three other cars around me) approached an intersection, the car in the left lane started slowing and signaled to turn left at the intersection. But the intersection was only a ‘T’, with its stem protruding to the right. He hit the curb and bounced into the oncoming traffic lane, and was immediately smashed by a two ton dually truck head-on. The car’s front end raised up high as the bumper fell to the ground, spraying sparks and smoke in every direction. The large truck had still not been able to stop, and it drug the car ahead with it, until it finally smashed it into a telephone poll.
The cars vitals poured out onto the street, and the horn locked on loudly. I had jerked my car over into the median past the intersection, and slammed it into park. I ran across the intersection to assist, and noticed the driver of the pickup was already getting out of his truck. He seemed to be in perfect condition. As we approached the other vehicle, we both slowed, and looked at each other in the midst of a horrifying revelation. Our eyes met, and I could tell he was fine. But something was amiss with the other vehicle. And we both knew it simultaneously.
I came around to the passenger side and peered in through the shattered glass. The other guy did the same on the driver’s side. I couldn’t see very well, so I kicked in the shattered glass on the back edge, then pulled the sheet out and away from the door, letting it fall to the ground in a crumpled heap at my feet. Once again, my eyes met the other guy’s as we both leaned into the respective windows. Now it had been confirmed. There was no driver.
I turned 360? on my heel searching the area to see if he had been ejected from the car. Nope. Then I noticed the seatbelt was still fastened against the empty bucket seat. The radiator steamed and hissed as its fluids ran freely beneath the car. I could see over the roof of the car that the driver of the truck was as perplexed as I was. Then I saw it.
Just over his left shoulder, I saw a flash of light. It wasn’t a flash that disappeared, nor had I seen it appear. It might have been there the whole time. It just stayed there, hovering about five feet above the ground. It didn’t move, bob or blink. It was perfectly silent and perfectly still. I squinted as I tried to make out its form, but it was too bright. I pointed and asked the other guy, “What the hell is that?” He turned and frowned at it too, bewildered at it. It wasn’t much bigger than my closed fist, and it hung there motionless, as a reflection. At first, that’s what I had thought it was.
I walked around the side of the car and over towards it to get a better view. Upon closer examination, it looked just like a star, hanging there right in front of me. I moved around it in a complete circle, astonished at its properties. What the hell was it? That, indeed was the question. It certainly wasn’t a reflection. Not any kind of reflection I had ever seen.
I finally got the guts up to touch it, wondering if it was some freak fire or something. I reached out with my hand and touched it. My hand went right through it. But I couldn’t feel anything. I decided to put my cheek next to it to see if it gave off any warmth. None. When I turned to look at it close up, my face came in contact with it though. I stepped back quickly, and tripped over a log and fell into the bushes and bramble that covered the ground. The blinding light I had seen still left purple spots on my vision. As I sat on the cool undergrowth, in the middle of the forest, it started to sink in. I had been teleported. It hit me like a brick when I realized I was no longer in the middle of an intersection. There were no cars, no people, and no road. There was nothing here but trees and undergrowth. And there was a beautiful silence about the place. No ambient noise from a distant highway, no voices. Just silence. There were not even any birds chirping.
Where the hell was I? It seems the question had rapidly changed. And just as sure as I had seen the frozen flash a few moments before, I now sat here in the middle of a primeval forest with nothing around but my wit. And the frozen flash was gone.
If I truly was awake and truly was experiencing what I thought I was, then there was no way back. I was stuck here – God knows where – with no means or ideas whatsoever for ever getting back.
I thought about this prospect for a moment, and no sooner did it start sinking in, than I started trembling. My stomach filled with butterflies. You know when you’re on an elevator and it reaches your floor and stops moving, then sometimes there is an awkward pause before the doors open? Sometimes that pause is slightly longer than you would expect, and right at the moment you start losing control of your thoughts and getting scared, they open. That’s the way I felt here on the forest floor. But no doors were there to pop open. And I got scared.
I turned around looking in every direction, trying to see if I could find the frozen flash, or better still, another way out. Of course, there were none. It was totally quiet and peaceful, but I did not feel peace. I felt my ears starting to burn as my fear sank in. I was trapped. I just didn’t know where, or when I was. I started walking through the bush and bramble, trying to make some sense, at least, of my surroundings. Fear would obviously do me no good.
I walked for over an hour and saw nothing but trees the whole time. A few squirrels had become visible, and I slowly started hearing the chirrups of birds. It finally became a normal background level. But there was nothing behind that. No highway noise or bulldozers working in the distance. An absolute quiet. It was around five-thirty by my watch. After a few minutes I glanced at my watch again, though, and it said the same thing. It must have stopped working.
After coming to a clearing, I saw in the distance some fallen trees that looked to be in the form of a hut of some sort. There was finally hope, at least for some explanation from a native. I approached the hut slowly, cautiously, and peered in through the door into the darkness. I heard a twig snap behind me and turned to see a dirty, bearded man behind me, staring wide eyed. He looked angry. His beard was long and tangled, as was his hair. He looked strong and very lean. I turned slowly, and raised a hand. I said, “Hi, my name is Carter. Do you speak English?” I knew he couldn’t possibly understand me, as he was stranded so far out here in a primeval forest.
But he did. He extended his hand and answered, “Jim Gable. What are you doing here?” He had a normal American name, and spoke perfect, unbroken English. He eyed my shirt and tie with an odd suspicion.
I said, “It’s the strangest thing. I saw this flash like thing, and as soon as I touched it, it sent me here… I am from San Diego, California.” He nodded, slowly, then turned and crouched into his home. I followed, anxiously wanting to hear what he had to say. He lit a torch in the corner of the hut and sat on a couch oddly constructed of pine wood and a bunch of ivy. He pointed for me to sit as he bit into an apple. I sat on a stool made similarly. He was quite good with wood, I could tell. There was nothing on the walls, nothing on the floors. Just these two pieces of handmade furniture. What a bare life he lived here!
“I, too, am from San Diego,” he spoke. I was shocked. What in the world had gotten him out to here? And I asked him that. He answered, “I was driving my car home from work one day, and tried to make a left turn in this intersection, then realized it wasn’t a left turn. I hadn’t been paying attention. I remember hitting the curb, then got slammed into by a truck. Next thing I know, I am laying on the floor of this forest.”
I was excited now. This was the man missing from the car I had seen just a couple of hours ago! I told him, “Hey, that was only a little while ago! I stopped to help you, and noticed you weren’t in the car! How could you have made all this so quickly? Did you stumble onto this?” I was curious, and growing scared.
He replied calmly, staring out into the woods through the small door which we had entered. “No, son. I have been here for forty years.”