bell on the door jingled.
man entered the "Soothing the Savage Beast" music store.
Subdued and generally humorless, he walked past rows of colorful
electric guitars mounted on the wall and ignored the cheerful
big band jazz soundtrack blaring on the loud speakers. His black
trenchcoat matched his dark hair, but his face lacked sunlight
equal to the bland hues of his shirt and tie.
man in the trenchcoat took a patient stance behind a customer,
watching with detached interest the purchase of a digital tuning
prefer good old-fashioned tuning forks, myself," said the
salesman, a balding pear-shaped man in his fifties.
young man in grunge T-shirt signed the credit card receipt and
walked out of the store with his bag.
the counter, the balding older man sighed disappointment as he
closed the cash register drawer.
almost look as if you were trying to talk him into buying a ten
dollar tuning fork over the hundred-dollar gadget," remarked
the man in the black trenchcoat.
these days. Everythings digital. Hand them something that
doesnt require plugging into the wall, or an antenna, and
theyre lost." He clasped his hands and leaned on the
glass display cabinet. "May I help you, sir?"
took out his wallet and flapped it open to display an identification
card with his picture. "My name is Special Agent Fox Mulder.
Im with the FBI. Id like to ask you a few questions
about what happened to you and your children twenty five years
ago, Mr. Marshall."
Marshall led Agent Mulder into the music stores back room.
Open shelves bulged with stacks upon stacks of band instrument
cases, each sporting a hand-written yellow tag with a date and
repair fee. A work bench took up most of the rear wall, scattered
with screws, metal filings, guitar strings and miscellaneous components.
closed the door, catching the broom as it fell, and then turned
to the FBI agent. "Have a seat, Mr. Mulder."
perched himself on the bar stool at the work bench, one leg hanging
straight. "In the summer of 1974, you and your two children,
Will and Holly, went on a camping trip."
vanished for over two years, and then in September 1976 firemen
fighting a brush fire discovered you hiding in a gully?"
resisted being rescued, and the firemen say you were babbling
about dinosaurs, lizard men, and your children being alive and
in danger? Even though every square inch of six hundred acres
all around you was burned to a crisp?"
leaned against the work bench, and he took up a segment of a clarinet.
As he talked to the FBI man, he fiddled with the clarinets
broken key. "If you know that much about my case, then you
also know I spent the next four years in the psych ward of a VA
Mulder said. "I know."
have faced the truth."
let out a subdued smile, as if that phrase had special meaning
for him. "What is the truth, Mr. Marshall?"
children died in an accident and I was unable to save them. I
created a delusional fantasy to deny my very natural grief and
side-step survivors guilt."
see. Youre also no doubt aware that your brother, Jack,
went searching for your family, and he also vanished without a
happens in the wilderness, Mr. Mulder."
it sure does."
been twenty-five years. Unless you have some news about my children
or my brother?"
Im sorry, I dont."
how can I help you?"
took a photograph from his pocket, a Polaroid of a pale white
teenaged boy in a hospital gown. "Do you know this young
is Kevin Porter. Last week, he was rescued by firefighters during
a brush fire. Like you, he was frantic about his family being
in danger and not from the wildfire. He said his father was swallowed
by a Tyrannosaurus Rex."
put down the segment of clarinet.
little sister, he says, is lost in a dimensional time-space portal,
and his girlfriend is a prisoner in a lizard city."
say this young man has been watching too much Sci-Fi Channel."
Marshall rubbed his hand over the top of his balding head, stopping
at the receded hairline where the brim of a cap would be. "Im
sorry, that was insensitive. Obviously this is a disturbed boy.
I hope he gets some help."
too." Mulder tucked away the photograph. "Six days ago,
Kevin Porter left County General without a doctors discharge.
He kidnapped an EMT thats a paramedic and
illegally got a-hold of an assault rifle."
was last seen headed north on Interstate Five in Northern California.
I believe hes coming up to Portland to see you."
believe Kevin Porter got your name and address from AVSAC. They
visited him in the hospital."
is an Aff-Sack?" Marshall asked.
Victims Support Advocacy Council. Theyre a local offshoot
of the national Mutual UFO Network. Youre listed as a member."
months newsletter reprints your interview from twenty years
ago and compares your story to Kevin Porters."
Marshall shook his head. "I may have talked to some far-out
groups when I was in the psych ward. I still get a lot of junk
mail from crackpots and free subscriptions to tabloids. Have you
seen the headline, aliens are supporting George W. Bush for president?
I throw out shopping bags full of crap every week."
see. Does the word Sleestak mean anything to you?"
was a moment before Rick Marshall could talk. He cleared his throat
and rasped, "That was a nonsense word from my delusion. Jabberwocky.
Bibbity bobbity boo. Oompa-Loompa. It doesnt mean anything."
Well, can you explain to me how Kevin Porter used this word in
his initial psychiatric evaluation?"
two men, twenty five years apart, whove never met
its a word from some old book that we both read and forgot
about. Heinlein, Bradbury or Edgar Rice Burroughs. Gibberish words
can get stuck in the collective unconscious. It doesnt mean
that there are actually time-space dimensional portals leading
to other worlds with triple moons, and dinosaurs, and talking
ape men, and Sleestak cities."
never said the Sleestak live in cities." Mulder stood up
and tossed his business card onto the work bench. "If Kevin
Porter contacts you, give me a call."
messages were on his answering machine when Rick Marshall went
home that night. One was the mechanic apologizing for taking so
long to fix the pick-up truck but he had to special order another
part and it would be a few more days. Second was the neighbor
upset about Marshalls dying lawn and the proliferation of
native vegetation. "Just because were a mobile home
park doesnt mean we have to look like trailer trash,"
was the mans basic argument, punctuated with enough four-letter
words to make Quentin Tarantino blush.
third call was brief. "Uh
Ill call back."
hit the replay button again, hoping to recognize the voice. Could
have been a woman with a husky voice or a young man. Noise on
the line obscured the sound, meaning the call either came from
a booth or a cell phone.
sat down in his vinyl recliner with a bottle of lime flavored
Calistoga water. He cradled the televisions remote control
until well past midnight. He dozed off during an infomercial on
cleaning products, and the remote dropped to the scuffed linoleum.
his dream, Rick Marshall ran through a jungle of thick foliage,
dodging ferns and overhanging palm branches, leaping fallen logs
and tree roots. His panicked breaths tore through his chest like
shards of glass, and he myopically headed for a cliff of white
sandstone. A beast roared behind him, louder and more furious
than feeding time at the zoos lion house. Not daring to
look behind him at the enormous beast crashing through whole trees
to get at him, Marshall kept running. He made it up the cliffs
side and entered a cave. A javelin stood by. Marshall seized the
sharpened pole, turned, and faced the Tyrannosaurus Rex at eye
level. Hanging from giant crocodile jaws were the two children,
Will on one side, Holly on the other with her blonde braids flapping.
"Help us, Dad, help us!" they cried. Rick Marshall hurled
the javelin at the dinosaurs eyes, and it bounced off the
bony brow ridges.
woke up thrashing. Mineral water spilled all over the rug and
he didnt care.
on all the lights, he re-familiarized himself with the small room
and its Goodwill brand furnishings: a bookcase on cinder blocks,
poster art framed at the mall, and a jazz piano dating from the
turn of the century that Marshall intended to re-string, regulate
and tune up someday. No dinosaurs. No Paku talking ape men. No
Sleestak lizard people with crossbows and bulging eyes. This,
he told himself, is reality.
to stop watching that goddamned Discovery Channel," he muttered
on his way to bed.
happened the following Tuesday afternoon, when Rick Marshall had
just picked up his truck from the mechanics. The engine
still ran roughly, after a crude bypass splice to the electrical
system, and now he could only turn the ignition when the parking
brake was engaged. Still, for all its gurgling and farting, the
pickup truck functioned once more and that was enough.
the front door, he didnt feel the secure click of the dead
bolt and Marshall wondered if he had forgotten to lock the house
when he left for the music store that morning. Oh well, no harm
done. It wasnt New York City.
young man sat in the recliner, facing the door, aiming a machine
gun at him. Rick Marshall looked first at the gun, and then at
the person holding it. Despite the unshaven fuzz on the upper
lip and a general wild-eyed desperate look, he matched the Polaroid
that Agent Mulder carried.
do you know my name?"
Im psychic. Put that thing down before you hurt somebody."
Marshall put his car keys on the cluttered end table next to the
whimper from the corner drew his attention.
huddled a lean, tall black woman dressed in a soiled blue firefighters
uniform. Duct tape covered her mouth and, Marshall assumed, bound
her arms behind her.
went to the woman and knelt beside her. He expected her to flinch
when he drew his pocket knife he was never without it
but a weariness in her wide, dark eyes suggested she had been
scared for too long to react anymore even if a werewolf should
crash through the window. Confronted with horrors over a protracted
period of time, you got used to being scared.
cut the tape between her wrists and released her ankles as well.
"Go on," he said. "Get out of here."
Kevin shrieked. "She cant go!"
woman froze like a deer in the headlights, but when Marshall stepped
in between her and Kevins machine gun, she ran.
paramedic flung aside the porchs screen door, and she ran
with arms and heels flapping. A moment later, Marshall heard a
finely tuned engine va-room to life and tires crunched and skated
out the gravel driveway.
you do that? Whyd you do that?" Kevin chanted in a
hysterical falsetto. He paced around the living room and hugged
his machine gun.
was my hostage! She was my only chance!"
down and relax, Kevin. Lets talk."
go straight to the police. Shell tell them where I am. Ill
be locked up again. You cant let that happen, Mr. Marshall.
You cant let them take me away. My little sister needs me.
And my girl, Christa needs me! The Sleestaks have her and Im
the only one who can
said, sit down and get a hold of yourself, Kevin. And give me
blinked. "I need it."
police will surely kill you if they see youre holding onto
that thing, all right? Lets just take it easy." Marshall
reached out his hand, and Kevin cautiously handed it over.
up, the weapon was less impressive than it had been from across
the room. Marshall recognized it as the Smith & Wesson M76,
a 9mm semi-automatic as outdated as his pickup truck and probably
just as reliable. He didnt ask Kevin where he got it, he
simply removed the ammunition magazine and set the weapon on the
me," Kevin said.
went into the L-shaped kitchen, and Kevin dogged his heels all
the way. The refrigerator was empty but for an expired carton
of milk and a white box of stale Chinese take-out, and so he took
a pair of Hungry Man dinners from the freezer and set them in
the microwave to heat.
not really psychic. The FBI talked to me Friday."
panic. Im not calling them, am I?"
took a few shuddering breaths and calmed down.
you think youve been to another world?" Marshall asked.
Yeah. The constellations are all different. There are three moons,
and the little one moves faster than the other two. My Dad says
. Said. He said its because its
on a different orbit."
microwave beeped. Marshall set the disposable tray of pot roast
and mashed potatoes in front of the boy. He handed him a heavy
spoon and sat back to watch Kevin scarf it down.
can you honestly say your father and your sister and your girlfriend
whats her name
Kevin mumbled while chewing.
fall victim to a tragedy a very real tragedy and
the only way your mind could deal with the horror was to fabricate
a delusional world full of monsters. That way, whatever happened
to your family wasnt your fault."
coughed on a mouthful of mashed potatoes. "What the hell?
Youre saying you dont believe me?"
want to help you, Kevin, I really do, but I cant do that
until you face the truth. You hallucinated about seeing three
same way that people who have so-called near death experiences
are hallucinating the afterlife. Scientists have recreated the
same effect in a laboratory: the bright lights, the sensation
of floating, the rushing toward a central point. When a brain
is in distress, the neurons go into a specific firing pattern
similar to what happens when you take LSD. There is nothing spiritual
or metaphysical about it."
yanked a crumpled paper from the back pocket of his jeans. The
newsletter of AVSAC proclaimed in a bold font, "We believe
." Kevin waved the paper. "My family wasnt
the first one to get lost there. You had been there. You knew
what Id been through."
only place I got lost was on a boating accident on the Colorado
way. No way!"
take a minute here to manage."
was there. It happened. The Tyrannosaurus eff-ing Rex ate my dad."
sorry to hear that, but
took Christa. Pea-brained salamander faced bullies."
murmured, "How do you know what they look like?"
sister and I went into the catacombs under the ruined city to
try and rescue her. The Paku showed us a hidden tunnel."
did you say? Paku?"
the little friendly ape dudes that are always mooching food off
them," Marshall said.
third graders in orangutan suits."
orangutan and not gorilla suits?"
theyre not black. Their fur is orange brown," Kevin
said. "Believe me now? Ask me anything."
did you get here?"
was kind of a brainiac. She opened a vortex or something in the
catacombs of the Sleestak city. It looked like the way home but
something really went wrong for us in transit. She vanished out
of my hands like a special effect in a bad ghost movie. And me?
I ended up here, minus nine years of my life."
years? Hows that?"
dropped into hell in 1991. I should be twenty-five, but look at
me, I dont even have a drivers license yet. Explain
that, Mister Yourre-Hallucinating."
guys look young for their age?" he said uncertainly.
pointed to his own face, to the faint black fuzz smudging his
upper lip. "I havent shaved in a week. You could ask
Rhonda, but oh, you let her go."
faced him down grimly. "This cant be happening. I spent
four years in therapy to accept the fact that there is no parallel
world full of dinosaurs, ape men and Sleestaks."
slammed his fist on the table. "I had proof. I had it, and
they took it away. The spike from a stegosaurus tail. It was this
long." He held his hands apart about the length of a salmon.
"If they Carbon-14 date it, theyll see its not
150 million years old. Its not even a year old."
softly, Marshall asked, "How old was your sister?"
covered his face with his hands and choked to refrain from weeping.
pickup truck broke down within sight of Mount Shasta. Rick Marshall
pulled over to the gravelly shoulder of the road.
Kevin said, pounding the dashboard with both fists. "Now
what? Well never make it back to the Grand Canyon in this
hunk of junk."
crossed his hands on the steering wheel and gazed through the
windshield at the white mountain. The lopsided cone of year-round
white snow stood unchanged since the days the first tribes of
hunter-gatherers migrated across the Bering Strait and south into
the redwood forests. Bigfoot had routinely been seen in the woods
around Mount Shasta, a fact that up to now Rick Marshall had scoffed
at. Twenty years of nay-saying and sensibility drained away and
he felt as if he could see clearly for the first time. Beyond
the freeway guardrail, anything could happen.
continued, "You dont have a credit card, so we cant
charge airline tickets or take the Caltrain. And even if you had
more than fifty bucks in your checking account, we dont
dare use an automatic teller or the FBI will track us down. Think.
up, Kevin," he said softly.
can hitchhike. Yeah, we can hitchhike!"
Marshall slowly got out of the pickup and stood leaning against
the rear view mirror. "You know, the Modoc Indians used to
believe Mount Shasta was a sacred place. They said that gods or
spirits or something lived there."
what am I thinking? We cant hitchhike. What if we get picked
up by a serial killer?"
a dormant volcano," Marshall said.
were places of power. All the ancient peoples of the earth understood
that. The Greek gods dwelled on Olympus, and Fuji Mountain in
Japan was a holy place as well. The Native Americans of California
honored the nature spirits in the mountains, not just at Shasta
but at Tamalpais near San Francisco. When mountains were reduced
to a set of statistics: elevation, mean annual rainfall, geologic
composition something special was lost, an element of truth.
What is a mountain, really? Beyond that, what is a volcano but
a gateway to the center of the earth where temperatures are so
high they melt solid rock?
skipped around the steaming front fender. "Maybe we can stowaway
on a Greyhound bus?"
flashed on the rear view mirror. Light balls churned over the
silvered glass, taking on form and substance, arranging themselves
in a perfect circle of insubstantial diamonds.
human figure appeared in the mirror. She wore a blue silk dress,
sleeveless and cut in a straight tube that neither revealed nor
concealed the feminine elements of her body. Straw blonde hair
veiled her torso ending in curls at the waist. The woman was older
than twenty and younger than forty, and because her apparition
glowed around the edges he couldnt see her face clearly.
she smiled at him.
are you?" Marshall asked.
woman raised her right arm and pointed away from the freeway.
that where you want me to go?"
nodded, lowered her arm, and vanished.
Porter asked, "What was that?"
angel to light the way." Rick Marshall heaved his large backpack
from the open bed of the truck, shouldered it, and started walking
toward the mountain.
the unacceptable without question, Kevin Porter followed.
Marshall pleasantly surprised himself with how easily his body
adjusted to a steady hiking pace. Sure, the pot belly jiggled,
but he got used to it as he got used to the weight of the backpack.
Cap on his head to prevent sunburn on the bald patch, he kept
pace with the young man barely out of his teens. Kevin Porter,
on the other hand, walked with a jerky rhythm, slowing down when
he got winded and speeding up when he took a swig from a canteen
and got another burst of energy.
Kevin said. "Not used to walking very far without getting
chased by dinosaurs."
smiled. "Yeah, I know."
postcard forest gave way to rocks the farther they went. Gravel
replaced dirt on the foot path, and boulders became as plentiful
as trucks at rush hour. Bright orange California poppies grew
in thick bouquets from cracks in granite.
the hell is that stink?" Kevin asked.
and brimstone. Were getting close."
stopped at a puddle of yellowish-green mud that reeked of rotten
eggs. The boy stood beside him and looked expectantly at the simmering
dont understand," Marshall said. "She pointed
us this way. Theres got to be a power point around here
picked up a black rock. "Look at this. Its like a chunk
The indians used to make arrowheads out of it."
cool." Kevin turned the black crystal to admire the jagged
edges and the pond-ripple rings of fractures.
hit the obsidian just right. Violet, purple and lavender glowed
from deep in the center of the crystal.
is it supposed to do this?"
gripped the boys shoulder. "Watch."
broad shaft of purple light extended from the black crystal in
Kevins hands. The light took on a life of its own and snaked
toward a boulder the size of a mattress just ahead. The beam encircled
the boulder, drew a triangle, and then turned upwards. As if drawn
by Harolds Purple Crayon the lights outline took shape
and solid form to create a translucent teepee of shimmering silver
pylon," Rick Marshall gasped, stepping back from it.
side of it opened invitingly.
charged forward. "Come on, Mr. Marshall, lets go."
two men plunged into a weightless void. Bubbles of rainbow colors
swarmed around them as if juggled by an invisible man. Unlike
Alices fall through the white rabbits hole into Wonderland,
there were no book shelves or cupboards or jars of orange marmalade.
Just a never-ending plunge that took hours or perhaps only an
pylon opened to a forest of deep green. The air had less stifling
humidity and was as cool as a spring morning in Oregon.
Marshall led Kevin out of the pylon to stand on a cushiony carpet
of fallen leaves and low-growing herbs. Orchids grew out of knots
in the towering trees, and even the insects were beautiful.
are we?" Kevin asked.
silvery teepee shimmered and then like a desert mirage the pylon
threw himself on the bare patch of ground, thrashing his arms
and legs and screaming, "Where is it? Where is it?"
down. Kevin, get a hold of yourself."
just kept screaming and pawing up handfuls of white clover.
Marshall grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and shook the
young man, yelling at him to stop.
else was there. Another pair of hands covered Marshalls,
touching the sweat stains on Kevins back.
womans voice soothed, "Shh, there, there."
snorted and choked and managed to achieve a shuddering silence.
Marshall stood up together with the woman in the blue silk sleeveless
gown, the very one whose image he had seen in the rear view mirror.
eyes captivated Rick Marshall, drawing him in. If he focused only
on the pearl blue irises and let the rest of the grown womans
body fade away at the edges, he could see through her into his
memories. Another pair of eyes hed once known matched hers,
only theyd always stood below chest height.
Rick Marshall seized her for a bear hug crushing her face against
his shoulder. "Holly, Holly, my God, Holly."
gently patted his back. "Dad, I was so worried about you
being alone all these years in that world."
do you mean? I was home on Earth."
reluctantly withdrew from his clutches. "We need to talk.
Come with me. It isnt far."
where?" Kevin Porter asked.
Altrusian city. I live there now."
skeleton of the ruined city Rick Marshall had known was still
there, but now it had flesh on its bones. The Egyptian columns
and arched doorways glowed alabaster white, pure and unbroken
in the tropical sunlight. From a distance, the citys inhabitants
looked like stout bald people wearing silk robes in rainbow colors.
one seemed to be in a hurry. They walked in orderly rows, in and
out of serene groups, gesturing to each other with patience and
when they came nearer, to a stone bridge with a silk cord railing,
did Rick Marshall recognize the pedestrians with bald lizard heads
and large jewel-like eyes who walked upright on flat feet with
Porter recoiled, refusing with a mules stubbornness to set
foot on the bridge that would take them into the outskirts of
the geometrically perfect city. "Sleestak are Sleestak no
matter how nice their clothes are. Theyll club us to death
and eat us for breakfast."
Holly assured him. "They wont."
chubby Altrusian in a knee-length silk tunic came to the far side
of the bridge. "Is that you, Rick Marshall?" he called
out, in a pleasant tone.
smiled and led the way, her blue gown flowing around her legs
as smoothly as the liquid gold tresses of hair hanging down her
back. Rick Marshall trudged after her with the weary boy bringing
up the rear.
Marshall shook the lizard-like hand with gusto. "Its
good to see you again, Enik."
you too. Although, more accurately, I should say it is good to
explained, "Here youll find it is not so important
to know where you are as when. This is Enik before he traveled
to the future, before he knew us."
that some kind of paradox?" Marshall asked.
is a string that is not stretched straight but goes around in
a circle. If you travel far enough, you come to the beginning."
more, in English?" Kevin said.
smiled and continued into the city.
group walked over the open patio of jade green marble tiles. A
glimmering silver fountain spiraled as tall as a brontosaurus.
Rick Marshall could not help superimposing his own memories on
the place, what he had known as the ruined and crumbled pieces
of this once great city. Velociraptors would someday prowl here
in packs, hopping over fallen columns and spraying on the cracked
fountain like dogs at a fire hydrant.
came to an enclosed patio and sat down to rest.
brought a glassy pitcher of cool liquid and two test-tube thin
goblets. "Please, refresh yourselves."
Marshall drank the vaguely sweet minty beverage and asked for
a refill as Kevin was still sipping his. "Holly, what happened
to you after I left?"
sat down to face them. "Uncle Jack took your place, Dad,
to balance the equilibrium of the dimensional vortex."
added, "Our two worlds are connected, and there must always
be a certain mass of solid matter exchanged. Think of the protons
and electrons of an atom, always the same number, always in balance."
Marshall nodded to show hed absorbed that much. Kevin frowned
as he probably had in junior high school chemistry classes.
tried to get back home a year later," Holly said. "When
the celestial alignments were correct. Due to our inexperience,
we missed Earth and came here to Eniks past instead. Weve
lived here in peace and comfort for about ten years, in your terms.
Ive learned so much."
and Jack?" he asked, daring to hope.
said, "When I guided you here, I had to arrange for two others
to replace you in the Earth sphere. Yes, Dad. Theyre home
where they should be. They look forward to seeing you again."
thank God. But Holly, youre still here?"
my choice, Dad. I want to stay. I am learning from the Altrusians
so many things. It makes quantum physics seem like connect-the-dots."
Marshall looked at his fully-grown daughter, thinking she should
be concerned with graduation, a prom date, or getting to vote
for the first time. Issues of concern to any other young woman
her age were far from the thoughts of this Altrusian disciple.
The reunion felt oddly bittersweet, for the girl in blue jeans
and pigtails was forever gone replaced by a lovely stranger he
didnt even know.
Dad, I brought you here for another reason. I want you to witness
a very special day."
gestured as if opening an invisible screen door. "My future
self plans to return to a point in time not long from now. He
will bring evidence of what tragic fate awaits our civilization
and he will teach us how to choose another path."
future self?" Kevin asked.
explained, "This is the past of what you knew. The Sleestaks,
that is the Altrusians, once had a beautiful, peaceful advanced
civilization. Their inability to control their aggressive emotions
destroyed it, and thousands of years later they became the club-wielding
brutes that chased you around the jungle."
nuts. Its all backwards."
true. Havent you heard the expression, World War III would
be fought with nuclear weapons and World War IV would be fought
with sticks and stones?"
the generation gap. Enik time traveled into the future
or, hes going to -- and explained it all to us. He was our
friend. He helped us, saved our lives, I dont know how many
times. Just like us, he was trying to get home, only for him it
was a more urgent goal. He wanted to warn his people of what had
happened, what would happen to them in the future, in the hopes
of preventing it."
Enik said. "Time is not a single line where one event inevitably
leads to the next. Infinite threads of infinite combinations of
choices stretch before us
strings on a loom," Holly supplied.
can take a step to the right and go forward on a parallel thread,
one that does not lead to the destruction of all that is beautiful.
My future self will teach us how. All your terrors and suffering
at the hands of my descendants, Rick Marshall, will never have
asked, "Okay, so that means Christa wont be kidnapped
by Sleestak in the first place?"
cant be sure," Holly said. "When youre talking
about infinity, anything is possible."
hopped off the bench to pace around as he spoke, getting more
agitated with every word. "I still dont get it. Why
didnt the dude in the future who wants to warn his people
of Armageddon come back here yet? Holly is here."
she said. "Only one person can occupy the same space and
time. I have gone forward in time to speak to my childish self
but only as an apparition, without substance, in the same way
I appeared in the mirror of your truck, Dad. In order for the
Enik of the future to return, physically, the Enik of the here
and now must go away."
what happens if he doesnt?" Kevin asked.
Marshall said, "Two identical men occupying the same space
at the same time is like two protons trying to be in the space
allowed for one in an atomic nucleus. Fusion. It could cause a
more intense atomic blast than the H-bomb."
Holly said calmly. "That is why we have checked and double-checked
each others calculations. Dont worry about it."
okay," Kevin said. "I have a waterproof wristwatch that
tells time down to the tenth of a second, but even Ive been
late to English class. What happens if he screws up?"
a face incapable of outwardly displaying emotion, the Altrusian
managed an indignant scoff. "I will be certain to synchronize
it so that my future self after I depart."
Marshall closed his eyes to sip the refreshing beverage. "Relax,
Kevin. If you knew him like I do, youd know. This guy doesnt
about my sister?" Kevin insisted. "Shes stuck
in that- that- time vortex or whatever. What happens to her when
you go through?"
will calculate every probability."
be honest," Enik said. "I cannot guarantee that my passage
through the dimensional portal will not affect her destination.
Think of a leaf floating in a pond."
illustrate, Enik tossed a fallen leaf into the lower tier of the
nearby fountain. It drifted slowly to the left away from him.
He put his reptilian hand in the water and the ripples carried
the leaf floating farther away.
another object disturbs the current of the time flow, a number
of variable outcomes emerge. She may reunite with you at the point
you lost hold of her. It may be she will return to Earth before
any of this ever happened and have no memory of the Land of the
Lost, as you call it. Or, she may cease to exist."
put a comforting hand on his arm. "Please, stay calm."
threw her hand off. "Dont tell me to stay calm! Annies
all the family Ive got left. Youve got to make sure
shes safe before you do whatever you do."
is a miniscule chance of risk," Enik reminded him.
is not logical for you to reach that conclusion before I have
fate of my entire civilization rests on this one act. The lives
of many outweigh the life of one, dont you see?"
when that one is my little sister!"
put a bean-sized ruby to the young mans forehead. "Shhh,"
she soothed in a vaguely commanding way. "Having a temper
tantrum is not going to help. Control yourself."
Porter closed his eyes, exhaled slowly and completely, and he
sat down and said nothing more.
did you do to him?" Rick Marshall asked.
held out the ruby for him to see. "I calmed him down. Theres
no harm done."
put the ruby to his own forehead. Feelings drained away. A chill
passed over him that wasnt Altrusian air conditioning. In
the psych ward, the doctors had given him an array of little pills
that had a similar effect.
yanked the jewel off and dropped it to the ground, but for a moment
he looked at Holly with no more affection than he would feel for
is time," Enik said. "I must go."
Altrusian walked calmly to the shadowed archways and winked out
Marshall felt his words come slowly, worse than if hed had
a cavity drilled at the dentist. "Holly, you have a lot of
Dad, theyre very soothing. Much better than the people of
Earth who rely on drugs, dont you think?"
Valium," Marshall remarked.
said, "I wish we could bring them back and share them but,
unfortunately, they dont work anywhere but here."
Kevin put both hands against his head. "What was I saying?"
touched the boys shoulder. "Your sister."
my God," Marshall said in a bland monotone. "Holly,
do the Altrusians use these a lot?"
shrugged. "Maybe. I guess. Im sure theyll use
them more when Enik comes from the future with the proof of what
Ive been saying all along. See, theres a minority
who takes my warning seriously, kind of a fringe group. The general
public still doesnt believe."
will tell his people that their inability to control their emotions
is what causes the downfall of the Golden Age. Hell say
their anger and their greed and their jealousy will turn them
into club-wielding cannibals."
if hes wrong? What if we were all wrong?"
youre not making any sense. If you keep a cool head and
think about it
offered him another ruby. Were her pockets full of them?
theres a difference between a cool head and a cold heart.
When you suppress anger you lose outrage, and without a little
greed you dont have ambition to succeed. Holly, dont
you see? Emotions arent going to destroy the Altrusians.
The lack of them are."
stood up to face her. "I was talking about my sister. What
the hell did you do to me?"
thought I was helping to ease your pain."
made me stop wanting to get her back," Kevin said incredulously.
touched her bare shoulder, slowly reawakening his fatherly affection
for her that the ruby had dulled. "Honey, what we always
had that the Sleestaks didnt we cared about each
other. Pain reminds us of that. If were willing to take
a chance of scattering one little girl to the winds of time--."
my God," Holly said. "Youre right. Its when
you dont give a damn that you stop building, you stop creating,
you stop living. We have to tell him."
three human beings entered the catacombs of the Altrusian city.
Holly led the way through a maze of subterranean tunnels. At last
they came to a stony chamber.
stood resting his hands on the edges of a square stone table inset
with a crystal salad of glowing jewels. Rainbow lights played
on the reptilian skin of his throat. "Ah, Holly Marshall,
will you monitor my journey?"
would be honored. First, we must share with you a new theory.
It is not the inability to control your emotions that will cause
the downfall of this beautiful civilization but it is the suppression
and denial of feelings."
is not logical," said Enik.
Marshall chuckled in spite of the somber church-like mood in the
closed chamber. "Thats our point."
tilted his head slightly. "I will consider the possibility.
After I exchange places with my future self, please discuss this
theory with me further."
Holly said with a broad smile.
portion of the wall dripped mist. Behind it a mirror appeared
on the stone, reflecting not the contents of this chamber but
the immeasurable vortex beyond.
small girl stood framed in the misty mirror against a backdrop
of watercolored lavender and gold. Her jet-black bangs fringed
the tops of thick Clark Kent glasses. "Kevin? Kevin, where
Kevin gripped the rim of the mirror and mists dribbled over his
arms. "Hey, Short Stuff, Im here."
I cant find you." Her voice echoed in overlapping waves.
trying. Hang on!"
insisted, "I must go now. Do not worry, Holly Marshall. I
have already made my calculations. I will pass by her with as
little disruption as possible."
stepped into the misty doorway. The outline of his stout reptilian
body shimmered and dissolved into the stone.
earthquake hit. The floor buckled and rocked like the deck of
a boat. The humans reached out for the smooth walls, clawing for
something to hold onto.
happening?" Kevin cried. "Whats happening?"
ceiling cracked. Pebbles and dust clouds showered around them.
Holly leaned to the left, straining to hold onto the crystal dais.
She studied the crystals, able to read meaning in the Christmas-tree
blinking of rainbow colors.
emotions are generating electro-static impulses in the vortex,"
asked, "What does that mean?"
didnt calculate for her to panic! The human nervous system
generates micro-voltages of electricity, but its enough
to disrupt the calibrations beyond the margin of error that he
sister," Kevin whimpered.
shouted at the little girl in the mirror, "Calm down, Annie!
Everythings going to be fine. Just get a hold of yourself!"
back half of Eniks bald scaly head absorbed into the mirror.
At the same time, his googly-eyed face emerged. The two images
overlapped, one going in and one coming out.
Rick Marshall grunted.
bejeweled table flashed white and continued to glow with theater
intensity, drawing a blinding bright circle on the domed stone
ceiling. Rick Marshall shaded his eyes. Holly stared unaffected
at the light.
bell on the door jingled as the man entered the "Belle of
the Berkshires" bed and breakfast inn. Pale and cheeky in
the face, his black trenchcoat matched his dark hair. He looked
to be a subdued and generally humorless person, walking past rows
of colorful Shaker quilts tacked to the wall and ignoring the
cheerful kiosk of maple syrup products.
man in the trenchcoat took out his wallet and flapped it open
to display an identification card with his picture. "My name
is Special Agent Fox Mulder. FBI. Im investigating a missing
persons case in the area."
can I help you, Mr. Mulder?" asked the man behind the check-in
desk. He looked barely forty, with a full of head of curly brown
hair. Shorter than the average man, and handsome with a kind of
Dick Clark ebullience, his blue eyes sparkled with eagerness to
you know where I can find Mr. Marshall?"
me, Will Marshall."
Im looking for a Richard Marshall, an older man?"
eager light in Will Marshalls eyes went dim. "Thats
my father. Is this about what happened Tuesday night?"
depends on what you think happened."
theres something you need to know about my father. Twenty
years ago, he was in a bad traffic accident that put him in a
coma for six weeks. Ever since then, hes had these, uh,
what you could call lapses."
does that mean, exactly?"
Marshall leaned forward, on the counter, between a rack of postcards
and a propped-up hardcover book of New England antiques. "Frankly,
Mr. Mulder, my father sees things that arent there. Hes
had conventional therapy."
odd choice of words drew Mulders attention to a family photograph
framed on the wall. This man, Will, stood with an older version
of himself and a blonde woman. All three Marshalls had their arms
around a bald Asian man in orange Buddhist robes. The blonde woman
wore a T-shirt proclaiming, "Free Tibet."
take it hes tried less conventional therapy too, Mr. Marshall?"
glanced to the photo, blushed, and looked back to Mulder. "Most
of the time, hes fine. Last Tuesday night, I guess hed
been watching the Discovery Channel. You know, the thing about
I saw some of that. Great show."
it touched off something in him, I guess. We had to call in and
refill his prescription. Im sorry he made that 911 call,
and Im really sorry that you wasted your time coming out
appreciate that, Mr. Marshall, but I really would like to talk
to your father. Trust me, I wont agitate him in any way.
I have some experience in these kinds of cases, actually."
Will Marshall came out from behind the desk. He ducked around
the staircase and opened a small door. "Dad?" he called
into the darkness beyond the door frame. "Dad, could you
come upstairs for a minute?"
Will." Clump clump came a mans heavy footfalls up the
rickety wooden stairway. There emerged a man taller than his son,
balding on top and sporting a pot belly that bulged his khaki
this is Agent Mulder from the FBI. Its about the 911 call
Marshall stepped forward, a wrench in one hand, to shake Mulders
hand. "Sorry to cause such a fuss, but it seemed so real
at the time."
you tell me what you saw?"
in the sky. They buzzed over me and I swerved off the road."
kind of lights, Mr. Marshall? Were they attached to anything,
say, a cylindrical or a cigar shaped object?"
have been meteor pebbles, headlights from a passing semi, or lightning
balls. Who knows? Its the cold light of day, Mr. Mulder,
and Ive reconnected to the here and now. The truth is, I
dont believe in UFOs or Bigfoot. I dont think
big game hunters from outer space caused the extinction of the
nodded with his hands in his pockets. "And thats your
bell over the front door jingled again. A family lumbered in,
dragging backpacks and suitcases. The father looked haggard and
bedraggled as the two children behind him never lost a step in
the little girl in black horn-rimmed glasses whined. "Kevin
just called me a noodle head."
did not!" objected the teenaged boy.
stop picking on your sister for just five minutes, okay?"
Marshall took the largest suitcase and set it down by the check-in
counter. "You must be the Porters. Welcome to the Berkshires."
said the weary father. "You wouldnt believe what weve
been through to get here. We got lost about ten times."
come to the right place to relax, Mr. Porter. Well take
good care of you."
Marshall tapped a desk bell. A girl of barely eighteen emerged,
kinky blonde hair pinned up in a turn-of-the-century bun, and
her hands in the pocket of a calico smock.
Will said to her. "Take the suitcases up to Room Three?"
Mr. Marshall," Christa said.
teenaged boy, Kevin, gave a long hard stare to Rick Marshall before
the older man went back down the basement stairs.
was on his way out when he heard Kevin say, "Dad, this is
weird but, we couldnt have been here before, could we?"
I was five years old, my older brother convinced me he had the
magic power to walk through trees. He showed me, and proved it
with footprints in the snow. (A Will Marshall kind of big brother
this guy was not.) My parents scolded him for teasing his little
sister and playing with her mind, and assured me that he just
tricked me by stepping around the roots in the back. I kept insisting,
"I saw it, I was there! Why don't you believe me?" Thus began
by disconnect from reality.
have been reading fantasy and science fiction since I could read.
You name it: Tolkein, Burroughs, Bradbury, King. I watched way
too much t.v. and I was a Star Trek and Star Wars fan from the
ancient days. Now I am (supposedly) all grown up. In the daytime
I am a regular mommy who volunteers at the elementary school.
I have two daughters, so I have to tape X-Files and watch it after
they've gone to sleep.
call myself Queen of the Zines because my work has appeared in
Doctor Who and Star Trek fan publications on a regular basis.
It's very encouraging because zines don't give me the high degree
of Rejection that I've run into when submitting original fiction
to professional magazines and the Big Guys (the book publishers.)
I have a fantasy novel I'm trying to sell that's part of a trilogy,
or heck maybe a series at this point. Every slush reader on the
list has chucked it back at me. Boo-hoo-hoo. So writing this LOTL
story was a lot of fun.