I remained by the open door watching old man Ben pace back and forth in the living room. His arms waved wildly in the air. He had a crazy look in his eyes. I glanced out the door a moment before closing it. Ben wasn’t leaving until I had some answers.
I leaned against the wall with my arms folded across my chest. I needed to be sure my anger didn’t get the best of me. I was sore, tired, and confused. Trevor, as he had a habit of doing, was missing in action. I was grateful that the light no longer felt like it was jabbing tiny daggers into my eyes.
Ben continued to banter on how it was my fault the world, as we knew it, was going to end. I was curious to find out how he knew about what happened last night. How much did he know? Did he know about the cave? The place I was taken to? Did he know where Becky was?
My mind drifted back to the cave again. There had to be a secret door. But if there was, where did it lead to. The rooms I was in, the place I saw Becky, could not have been inside the mountain. Could they? How did I heal so quickly?
“Are you listening to me? You messed everything up. You couldn’t keep well enough alone, could you?”
“I don’t understand a single thing you’re saying? Do you know what happened last night?”
He stopped and blinked back at me. He licked his lips and gave me an even crazier look than he had before.
“I know what happened. You were nearly killed. And you seem surprisingly in one piece now.”
“Did you follow me last night?”
“Then you know what happened to the sheriff? Why isn’t there a big commotion? You mean to tell me that no one came across his remains in the park?”
“It never happened. That’s what I’m talking about.”
He was crazier than I thought. I know what I saw. I touched him. I had to get his keys from his pocket. I saw his mutilated body. I know it happened.
“It happened. I saw it. I touched him. It was real. I don’t know what you’re trying to do but your obviously crazier than you look.”
Ben exhaled loudly and shook his head. He pulled at his beard a couple of times. I waited for a response. He looked at me and then walked toward the dining room before returning. He mumbled some words that I couldn’t make out. He stopped just short of the couch as his hands fell to his sides.
“It never happened because the town can never know it happened. It was cleaned up. Out of sight. Out of mind.”
“The people in this town have a right to know that something monstrous lives in those woods. The town’s elected official was killed. Who cleaned it up?”
I took a breath. My anger was rising. I moved away from the wall and farther from Ben. The sight of him was making my heart hammer in my chest.
“The other people,” Ben called out.
His words stopped me in my tracks. Other people? An image came to mind of Becky, Mr. Hill, the man in gray, and the nameless man I had a conversation with. Could those be the other people Ben was referring to? I turned around to face him.
“What ‘other people’?”
“People other than us. You aren’t too bright there, are you son? Where do you suppose that thing in the woods comes from? Because I can assure you that, it’s not from New Jersey? That’s what your sister was after, ‘them’.”
I couldn’t process the multitude of thoughts that were swarming around in my head. The thing in the woods was something I had never seen before or would have ever believed existed unless I had seen it with my own eyes. What if Becky found out that the thing in the woods wasn’t from here? Maybe she knew something and now they had her. Stop it. Madness is talking. I am starting to sound like Ben.
“Becky? Where is she? Why is her car in your garage?”
Ben stared at me, scratching at his beard. I watched his one good eye dart around the room. He was thinking. Thank you Criminal Minds. Who needed extensive education when I could binge watch all the crime dramas and learn these techniques in half the time.
“She’s with them, I suppose. She wanted to hide her car at my place seeing as I don’t really get many visitors. She said she was going away for a while and didn’t want anyone getting suspicious if her car was left at her house.”
“You knew she was going away and you never thought to tell me?”
“She asked me not to tell anyone, so I didn’t.”
“I’m her brother,” I shot back. “She obviously would have wanted me to know.”
“Especially you. She told me you would be up here and said ‘don’t tell my brother, no matter what. He will only worry.’ That’s what she said, I think.”
Why wouldn’t she want me to know? None of this made any sense. Was there any truth to what Ben was saying? Three quick knocks wrapped against the front door. Ben and I exchanged a look.
“Don’t answer that,” he said as I walked to the door.
I answered it. A huffing and puffing Trevor edged past me and stopped in mid-stride when he saw Ben.
“What is he doing here?”
I looked at Ben, who blew out a breath of air before returning my attention to my newest visitor. So many things have happened in such a short amount of time. So many thoughts were running through my head, I couldn’t concentrate on one thought before another one replaced it.
“The better question is, where have you been? What happened to you last night? What happened to me last night?”
He pointed at Ben. “Don’t listen to him. He is just a crazy old loon. He will fill your head with fantasy and lies.”
Ben shot back. “Who are you calling crazy?”
I held out a hand at each of them. Trevor was about to say something but stopped. I gave Ben an angry look and then turned to Trevor.
“I am sick and tired of playing this game. I came here to find answers. To find my sister. Nobody seems to want to help with that, though, everyone has more answers than I have. Enough.”
Ben and Trevor glared at each other but neither of them said a word. I didn’t know what to do. The only one in town that seemed interested in helping me was dead. My sister was alive, but as to where she was, I didn’t know. Trevor knew where she was. Ben knew she went someplace, but he didn’t know where. Ben’s talk of ‘other people’ scared me. He was either crazy or I was starting to lose it because the idea was starting to grow on me.
“Where is my sister? Every time we talk, you always talk about her in the present tense, like you know she is alive. Ben here, thinks you and the creature come from the same place, and that place isn’t New Jersey. Becky wrote about you and pretty much said the same thing. The sheriff suspected that those animals found in the woods were not killed there, but rather left there, as an offering to that beast. Everything, and I mean everything, leads back to you. You know what’s going on here. You know where my sister is. You know what that thing is out there. And you know what happened to me last night after I entered the cave.”
I was hot. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to catch my breath. My hands were balled up into fists. I saw Ben grinning from the corner of my eye. Trevor, though, never looked away from me. His mouth was tightly shut. His arms were down at his side. He was relaxed. He was not surprised by my comments. That worried me.
“Ben, I think you need to leave. Trevor and I have things to discuss.”
The old man began to object. I raised my hand again, stopping him in mid-sentence. He gave Trevor a sideways glance, exhaling deeply. He looked back at me for a moment. I held his gaze. He shook his head.
“Remember what I told you.”
I followed him to the door. I opened it and he stepped past me. He stopped on the porch and turned around. His eyes held my gaze for a moment longer. He wanted to say something but it seemed like he was searching for the right words. Ben leaned into me.
“Watch yourself. He is one of them. The other people.”
I watched Ben walk down the walkway. When he was gone, I shut the door and returned to Trevor. I didn’t know what the ‘other people’ were but the more I thought about it, it made sense. I wondered if I had spent too much time in this town because what Ben was saying was starting to make sense.
Trevor was sitting on the couch. I moved to the recliner and sat down. He watched me quietly. His silence made me a little nervous. I had to be careful about how I approached him. I didn’t know what he was capable of. I didn’t know if he was the enemy. And he still had my gun.
“You didn’t seem surprised by anything I said. Let me ask you this. Where are you from?”
“That would be a bit complicated to explain.”
“My sister is alive. I saw her last night. That was no dream. Then there is this,” I said pulling up my shirt to expose my abdomen, “I should be dead but I barely have a scratch. And these aren’t my clothes.”
Something in his face changed. He looked at my abdomen and then closed his eyes for a moment. He leaned forward and pulled out a rubber band from his pants pocket. He placed it on his index finger and began to spin it around.
“Do you believe in time travel?”
Time travel? What was he talking about? I shook my head.
“I don’t either. There are people in the world that are so convinced that it is a reality that they have spent their entire life trying to prove it. The ability to jump back in a timeline, to events that have already happened, to see things you have only read about in history books. That prospect is so huge that people, scientist, dreamers, can’t let it go. But it’s not possible.”
“Is there a point to this?” I watched the rubber band spin faster around his finger.
“Think of this rubber band as your world. Spinning around continuously. A steady, continuous, linear path. One world. All alone. But what if there was another?”
He pulled out another rubber band. He stopped spinning the first one. He placed the second rubber band on the same index finger and began spinning both of them.
“What if there were two worlds. Spinning simultaneously, one oblivious of the other. Two worlds that are so close together, each very similar but entirely independent from one another.”
I watched his hand move faster, the rubber bands circling in unison. The band on the top part of his finger occasionally ran down his finger and bumped into the bottom one before moving back up.
“What if, these two independent worlds intersected at times, occupying the same time and space for brief periods. What would happen?”
I was transfixed on the spinning rubber bands like they were going to do something. I didn’t know where he was going with this.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re not making sense. What are you saying?”
“You live in this top rubber band. I live in the bottom rubber band. Your sister is in the bottom rubber band. Every so often they intersect, people can move from one rubber band to the other. Two worlds. Two realities. Two universes.”
Did I really just hear him say that? It brought to mind all the science fiction shows I watched as a kid. There was a show called Sliders, where a group of people moved between different parallel universes. It was a great show but it wasn’t reality.
“How is that possible? If this was true, wouldn’t people have said something? Scientists? Military?”
“People know. Some people that is. Can you imagine if everyone knew? What would that do to people’s belief system? Religion? Moral judgment? You commit a crime here and then hop over to the other world because no one knows what you have done. There is a balance that we must keep to protect the people in both worlds.”
Was there another world just like ours? I thought about what happened last night. I was in the cave and then I wasn’t. I saw Becky. My injuries were completely healed. Was I actually considering that there was some truth to what Trevor was saying? The creature in the woods? From over there?
“I know how this all sounds, but it’s true. And you also must realize that this must be kept a secret.”
“Is that your job? The secret keeper.”
“And at what length would you go to protect that secret if what you are telling me is true?”
“You’re getting off point. Listen, I will tell you everything later. I will answer all your questions but we don’t have a lot of time. We have things to do or more people are going to die. You have no idea what will happen if we don’t stop that Crog. It won’t stop on its own. This whole situation has the possibility to cause havoc in both worlds.”
“Stop the what?”
“Crog. That is what the animal is called. It generally keeps to itself. But lately, it’s been getting bold. Something has changed. This thing with the animals being left in the woods. Someone is luring it out, provoking it. If we don’t stop it, many people will die.”
“So, you have known what this thing was the whole time and you didn’t say anything? What is it doing here anyways?”
“I told you, I will answer your questions, all of them. If it comes to town, it won’t stop there. If people see it, it will raise questions. If people start asking questions, it’s only a matter of time before people find answers. If they find answers, the world, both worlds, would be in jeopardy.”
“Why should I trust you? You have lied about everything.”
“Because, if you help me, I can take you to your sister.”