Gone Before Dawn

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Day Two

Delta and Shane walked outside turned and saw Anson and Eric’s worried and scared faces in the faint candlelight.

She shoved a candle and matches in her pocket. Shane lit his candle and they started walking back to the bus.

What was there to say? There would be nothing appropriate to say anyway. They were in Virginia but in some other time. So maybe Mr. Myrnachick was right, some kind of proving ground for string theory.

“Delta,” Shane said.

She wondered is she reach for his hand but maybe not. He did it first. Maybe he was scared then. It was scary. The lightening, the fire in the trees. The fear she felt when she knew Sherry was trapped at the bus. What if they were all dead? What if lightening struck the fuel on the bus. Would they hear it explode?

“Yeah,” she said. She would hold his hand but he would have to do it first. And she should think about any of this because they were in a crisis situation. A crisis situation. Not a cheesy episode of The Love Boat and this was not a haphazard adventure with carefree love. No wonder she was always misunderstood. She always thought the wrong things at the wrong times. No one got her but Sherry.

“So I don’t know if this is the right time but I was wondering if you would go to prom with me?”

“Isn’t prom next week in 2015 in Glenwild Maryland?” Delta asked.

“Well I know we aren’t going to make it so I just thought I would ask because it is something I wanted to do. Well I wanted to ask you out, but I suppose the prom is good enough.” Shane said.

“What are you talking about?”

“I wanted to go out with at least once or at least have the nerve to ask you out. I know you’d say no but I guess I am kind of hoping,” Shane mumbled as they went down the road.

“What do you have some bucket list? You think you are going to die or something?” Delta snapped.

“Well I didn’t really mean it that way Delta.”

“I don’t want to die. If we have to start a new world here, then we will. So do you plan on dying?”

“What is wrong with you? Why would you want to live in a world like this?” Shane asked.

“I don’t see the point of dying. This place is different. It’s like Virginia but not. We can make it work. There are plenty of girls and boys to procreate. I would think about having children if that meant survival. Although I think I would be much better in the role of teacher or something,” Delta said logically.

“Did you hear what you said? You make no sense. For someone so damn smart, you really don’t make a lot of sense.”

“I don’t make sense? You just asked me out although the whole point is moot so you can cross off the only thing that you can do on your bucket list. It is like you are giving up,” Delta said.

He said nothing. And maybe Delta should have kept her mouth shut. She thought about starting a new world as soon she really knew that they were more than likely weren’t going to open up another wormhole and go back to their time. Shane was actually the complete package. He was quite good looking and incredibly intelligent. He wanted to build roller coasters. It was his idea to come to Jolly Rodger’s. He planned the trip, got a hold of Ashton whatever for the behind the scenes tour. He did it all, so when he went to college, he was already prepared for a job as roller coaster designer. She knew Shane since he moved to Glenwild when they were in ninth grade. Shane’s father works at the COO at her father’s company, BioTech Enterprises. She was mean. This is why she didn’t talk to other people. Sherry just didn’t care. If Sherry were a man then she would be the perfect mate. But Sherry was a girl and Delta really did not feel attraction to her. She did with Shane.

Shane held the candle as they walked on the road. Delta turned back and there was nothing but blackness.

“I wonder when the light will come.” She said to break the silence but he didn’t say anything.

They were at the tree. It seemed like darkness lasts a lot longer, but the light came back with its faint yellow glow. There was no visible sunshine. Just as fast as the darkness came on, the light came on. Shane blew out the candle.

“Yes,” Delta said.

“What?”

“I will go to prom with you. I don’t have a dress. I didn’t think I was going to go. I am sure Sherry has one.”

Shane stopped and looked into her eyes. She saw this in romance movies. So this is the part where he kisses her. And since this will be her first kiss it will be amazing and she and Sherry will talk about it. But that would be in Glenwild. Of course, they were not in Glenwild. He would never ask her out, he would never kiss her and she would never know.

“So when it comes time to procreate, how will we choose our partners? Lottery or lust?” He asked.

“Uh, I don’t know I was kind of thinking we would pair up the best we can based on compatibility,” Delta said.

“And who will you pair up with? Since they are more girls than boys? Or will you pick two?”

“I don’t know. I guess you. You and I seem to be the most compatible out of my choices. I can’t pick Jude even though he is more compatible because my mom dated his dad. If I had to pick two, then you and Vince. All though Vince is kind of a wimp I guess so Anson and Eric are good choices, but I do not find them attractive.”

Shane put a finger on her lips, “so let’s leave it I am the number one choice all the other stuff you said I’m just going to ignore. I am not sure why you gave it so much thought.”

“I told you, I don’t see the sense of dying. This place is something I can’t explain it,”

“Fascination, Delta. You want to explore it and learn about it. I can see it. You jumped at the chance of coming with me and the others. You jumped at the chance to come back. I know you care about Sherry, but you want to be out here wondering around It’s rather cute.”

She pulled her gaze away since he wasn’t going to kiss her. “Come on let’s get back to the bus. We should think of something to carry all the bags. We could use the clothes and stuff.”

Shane smiled and followed behind her.

Much to her relief, the bus was fine. They were all outside except for Vince and Jude. Trisch waved and ran over. She was crying but smiling at the same time. She hugged Delta hard. Then hugged Shane.

“Where’s Anson and Eric?” Trisch asked. Her brows furrowed as her eyes darted behind Delta and Shane.

“They are okay. We found Lulu’s, but it is empty. There is shelter and food. We came back to take all of you there.”

Trisch breathed out and smiled, “Thank God, I don’t know if I can take losing two more,”

“More?” Delta asked.

“Sherry’s mom died early this morning. Michael built a shovel and we burying the bus driver, Mr. Myrnachick and Sherry’s mom. Sherry’s a wreck. She is on the bus. She needs you, Delta.”

Delta ran into the bus. She got up the stairs and turned back and saw Trisch kiss Shane on the cheek. She hoped Vince or Jude would be at least interested in procreation. Sherry got up and threw her arms around Delta’s neck. Delta hugged her hard. They sat together and Sherry cried. Delta looked out the window as the others took turns digging graves for the dead. Sherry fell asleep and Delta broke from her grip and put a jacket over her.

Delta went to the back of the bus where both Vince and Jude slept against their respective windows.

“Get up. I don’t understand why you guys are hiding in here. You built a whole computer world and now you have a chance to look at a new world and you want to stay in here and die.” Delta said as she kicked their legs.

Jude woke up first and pulled her down to his chair and put his arm around her mouth.

“Am I supposed to be nice to you because you were going to be my sister? I knew my dad was going to ask your mom to marry him on this trip. You know when he told me? He told right as we pulled into the parking lot,” Jude snarled. Vince looked on and smiled crookedly.

“Why the hell does it matter anyway? It’s not going to happen? And who cares if they would marry?” Delta asked.

Jude shoved her to the seat and lay on top of her. His breath stank and he needed deodorant. “Because I can’t jerk off every night to my step sister. This isn’t like Cruel Intentions. How am I supposed to look at you when I when I think about you naked every second of the day?”

And she knew she was an alternate reality but there was always a connection between her and Jude. They used to talk online all night long. He made the Queen of the Underworld in her likeness.

“I want you to be mine,” he said and forced his mouth on hers. She took but something didn’t feel right. “ You’re the one I want, Delta. You fucking know that,” Jude said.

“Listen, Jude you are my soul mate. If you help us survive, we can start a new world here. You and I can make lots of children,” Delta lied. She never lied to him before. Her mind was on Shane but sometimes one had to take desperate measures for survival. Jude wasn’t right. He wasn’t right before. He was very obsessed with theory and death and all sorts of weird stuff but Delta was drawn to his darkness.

“Do you hear me, Jude? Here in this world, it’s you and I. Isn’t that what you want?” she asked breathlessly. She pulled his head toward her and kissed him. She wanted fireworks like when Shane looked at her but this wasn’t right.

“Now, Delta. I want you now,” he said and started to undo her pants.

“Jude listen. We found shelter. We should go there first and then we can start. Okay? Let’s make it to Lulu’s.” Delta said.

He kissed her again, “you are mine right, Del?”

“I do love you, Jude,” she said. She did love the old Jude well at least the Jude online in his computer world. This Jude was strange.

“Hey Jude, I want her too. Maybe we can take turns having babies with her. She is the best one here. I already had a go around with the others except for Sherry but she’s not my type. Neither is Talia but she gives good head,” Vince said with hope and his eyes almost sort of sparkled.

“For the new world, right Delta? You, me and Vince.”

“Sure Jude. Come on let’s help bury the dead. Then we will leave when it gets light out after the next darkness.”

He stood up and changed his shirt and put on deodorant. Vince followed suit.

Shane came on the bus and looked at them in the fading light.

“We are ready to say good bye,” Shane said.

Delta woke Sherry up and they went outside. There were three mounds behind the bus. Jude clung to Delta as she stood around the graves. Shane took notice and said nothing. Maybe if she was lucky, Jude would die sometime between the bus and Lulu’s. Would she save his life? No, she wouldn’t. She would watch him die but someone else would like Trisch or Talia who have big hearts and have this burning desire to care for other people. And what kind of person wished someone else dead? Sherry always said she wasn’t right in the head and maybe she wasn’t. Maybe she wasn’t any better than Jude with his crazy obsessions.

After they said good-bye, Sherry and Delta went off together to use the bathroom.

“What is going on Delta? Did something happen?” Sherry asked.

“It’s Jude and Vince. They’ve lost it and I promised Jude him and I can be together. It is a mess, this whole thing. I like it much better when everyone ignores me,” Delta said and buttoned up her pants.

And just like the darkness fell over them. Delta pulled out the candle and lit it with her matches.

“No one ignores you Delta, you ignore them. Shane wants you. You obviously want him but you promise yourself to Jude?”

“He and I very close. He gets me like no one else. I am sure it would be fine. I hope when we decide to procreate that you are with Shane. Your children will be beautiful and intelligent.”

“Del, you are talking almost as crazy as Jude and Vince.”

“It gets better, I am actually supposed to be with Vince but I guess Jude is my main guy.”

Sherry hugged her hard, “what did you get yourself into?”

“I don’t know. I was just trying to make Jude feel calm or something. It’s like those two just snapped. I don’t know what happened. It’s like their reality is different then ours,” Delta said.

“Just try to evade his advances as long as you can. And if he tries to rape you, I will fucking kill and roast him over the fire.”

Delta frowned in the candle light. When the earthquake started again, Delta dropped the candle and it went out. Sherry fell on top of Delta but this time, Delta screamed because the woman came back.

“DELTA, THIS IS MOIRA PONDS I WANT TO HELP. TALK TO ME, DELTA. SOMEHOW I HAVE TO TELL YOUR MOTHER YOUR OKAY.”

Delta screamed and Sherry for her in the darkness.

Delta whispered “ILU.”

***

I lost touch with Shirley and I tried for hours to get her back. Finally, I did. They were all okay. I saw the world she was in and it was different from this world. I have heard of things like this before but I never once experienced it. My mother once told me about other worlds but she never helped anyone before. Shirley would not talk to me but allowed me to see the blackness that surrounded her. The trees were black and the sky was a faint yellow. I could feel the air was much different. I wondered where they were and how I can get them back. The others were sleeping in the car but Shirley was sitting on the hood of the car. I will try again later.

Moira couldn’t believe it. If this happened in 1980, she wondered how many other times this has happened. She marked the journal page by folding the corner of the page down. She went over to her computer and brought up Lulu’s and Route 301 in Virginia. At least ten different news stories came up on the search.

In 1980, a group of missing teens Shirley Anders, Timothy Woodley, Shawn Woodley and Susan Bliss went missing on their way to the Jolly Rodger’s Amusement park. They were never found. Moira clicked on another story and in 1985 a girl by the name of Janet Ripley went missing from the area. Her car was found but she never was. In 1990 a man and women went missing they were last seen at Lulu’s. Another girl went missing in 95, again her car was found but she never was. In 2000, family stopped alongside the road so George Sunley could urinate and he never returned. There were five other disappearances along the road and always around 6:30 a.m. on that stretch of road.

Maybe, Moira thought, it is a hole that opens every day at the same time. Maybe she could get them back through but maybe it’s only one way. If that was the case there as to be another portal that opens that lets travel back to this world. That’s how the portals were supposed to work. Like walking in a slinky, you go in one side and the other. But how to find the other side. Someone had to cross from that side to the other side. But how would she figure it out?

Moira got up and paced the floor. If someone came from a different world where would they go? Maybe home if they had one but what if they didn’t belong here. Where would they go? Maybe the real crazy ones would go to the nuthouse and some of the smarter ones would just blend into everyone else. Make a whole new life in this new world. Of course, none of this information helped her figure out how to get them back home.

“Aunt Belinda, it’s me again. I don’t know if you can hear me, but I think I can save those kids. Maybe if Shirley is still over there maybe Delta will get them. And then we can help them all. Aunt Belinda, I need to figure where the other end of the portal is. I think it opens on that road where everyone goes missing but I think another opens somewhere else. What do you think? Ask some of the others of there, wherever you are to see where it is. I need answers and I need them now. I don’t know what kind of danger those kids are going to have in that world.”

There were no signs. We work in mysterious ways the voice Belinda rattled in her head. She just needs time. But what if they don’t have time? She had to make sure Delta was okay.

Moira ran a hot bath and covered the windows with a black cloth and the room darkened. She lit a candle and tuned off the bathroom light. Slowly she undressed and rubbed lavender on her body. Moira sunk into the water and blew out the candle, the bathroom went dark. Moira let go of the world around her and breathed in and out. She saw Delta in her world.

“DELTA, THIS IS MOIRA PONDS I WANT TO HELP. TALK TO ME, DELTA. SOMEHOW I HAVE TO TELL YOUR MOTHER YOUR OKAY.”

Moira felt Delta’s world shake. There was so much darkness. It must be night there.

Delta whispered “ILU”

She didn’t know what that meant but Delta’s mother would know.

“Delta I will not scream anymore. Just tell me you are okay. I am working for a way to bring you home. I just need time. Please just try and stay alive and I will do everything in my power to bring you all home.”

Delta replied not speaking out loud but with her mind voice, “Keith, Amy, and the bus driver are dead. The rest of us are okay. Lulu’s exists over here in this other dimension. Two are at the restaurant, but I didn’t see any others.”

“I will try to get a hold of your mother. There should be others there, Delta. Others who went missing on the same road. I want to bring you all home.” The world stopped shaking, but it was still dark.

“How long can I talk to you?” Delta asked.

“I don’t know” and then she lost Delta again.

Moira’s eyes flung open and she gasped for breath as she was completely submerged in the water. She got out of the tub and wrapped in a towel. For once in her life, she had a purpose. She had a duty. Almost excited and scared, Moira dressed, booked a flight to Richmond and reserved a car. It was time to do a little investigating of her own.

***

The earthquake stopped once again. Delta fumbled for the candle and relit it.

“Is everyone okay?” Shane called from the bus.

“We’re fine, we’ll be right over,” Delta called back.

She grabbed Sherry by the arm, “it happened again. I talked to Moira Ponds.”

“What did she say?”

“She’s going to figure out how to bring us all home. She said there were others that went missing the exact same place we did. There should be other people on this side.”

“I wonder if Anson and Eric are okay,” Sherry said suddenly.

“I would hope so. I don’t want them disappearing before we get there.”

“Do you think it would storm again?” Sherry asked.

“I don’t know. I can’t say.”

They started back to the bus holding each other’s hands for support and guidance.

They went on the bus. Trisch and Talia were huddled on their own bus seats. Vince and Jude were in the back. Shane stood in the middle of the bus with Michael in another seat on his own. Sherry flopped in an empty toward the front.

“So how far are we walking tomorrow,” Michael asked.

“It is pretty far and we won’t make it before dark settles in again but Eric and Anson will be waiting for us. There is food there. So we will make it.”

Michael settled in and covered up with his jacket. Delta looked at Shane in the candlelight. He smiled at her.

“Hey Delta, come back here and sit with me,” Jude said. Delta frowned slightly and handed Shane the candle as she went past him. Jude moved over to the window and Delta sat next to him.

“Are you tired?” Jude asked.

“I guess a little,” Delta said.

He opened his jacket and motioned for her to come closer. She moved in closer and wrapped his arms around her. Shane blew out the candle and the darkness crashed hard. Delta wanted to see something a light. What if it were true about the portal thing Moira talked about. Why couldn’t they see it? Maybe she should just take a little nap and then go for a walk, following the same path the bus took before it crashed into the tree.

Jude was her secret internet lover. They never had a relationship in the real world. It was the way they both wanted, just dirty stories in the middle of the night. Now Jude was all loving and tender. But something didn’t seem right with him or Vince. Though, she found herself dozing easily off in his arms. He didn’t touch her or try anything like he did earlier. When she woke who knows how long later, it was still dark and no chance of light in the near future. Jude released his grip on her and he was curled up by the window barely breathing. The bus was quiet. The outside was quiet. She wondered what time it was. It didn’t matter, she would be back before they got up. Delta slid out of the bus seat and tip toed to Shane’s seat. He also was sleeping with a jacket as a pillow. He laid the candle on the seat. She reached for it and bumped his leg. He stirred. She put her fingers to her lips and took the candle. He followed her. Quietly, they crept out of the bus and into the dark woods. She lit the candle and walked a bit more so they were far enough from the bus.

“What are you doing, Del?” Shane asked.

“I have something to tell you and it’s going to sound crazy.”

“This whole situation is crazy,” Shane said.

“I can talk to this woman named Moira Ponds, I have no idea who she is but she said she is going to try and bring us back. She said other people disappeared on the same stretch of road at the same we did.”

“So what’s that mean?” Shane asked.

“I don’t know yet. I figure it was less than a mile from the opening of the portal until we smashed into the tree. I just want to walk over there and check it out. Maybe I can see the light or something.”

“Then what? You are going to run through the portal? What if it doesn’t work that way?” Shane asked as the followed the tire tracks from the bus.

“No, I don’t know what I am going to do when I get there. I just want to see it I guess,” Delta said.

“What if there is nothing to see and you go through and die?”

“I don’t know, Shane. We just won’t follow the tire tracks all the way.”

They walked in silence when Shane asked, “what’s up with you and Jude?”

“It’s complicated.”

“Tell me.”

“We are sort of internet lovers I guess. I don’t know how to explain it. He and I aren’t the most social. I don’t like people and neither does he. We started chatted and it was comfortable because you know it was the internet. Then we used to tell each other stories, sexy stories,” Delta said.

“And now?”

“It got weird real quick. When we came back to the bus, I went to talk to him. He lost it or something. He held me down and pretty much forced me to say that I want to be with him in this world. I don’t know what to do about it. There are too many other things to worry about.”

She stopped and showed the candle to the ground. “It’s about a foot and the tracks stop. Pick up a rock and throw it into the woods.”

“What if someone is coming on the other side?”

“Well then we will have a visitor,”

Shane picked up a rock and hurled into the black woods. They heard it thump against the forest floor.

“Now what?” He asked.

“I don’t know. We wait here. And every once in a while we throw rocks at the forest and see if anything disappears.”

Delta and Shane sat down on the not cold nor warm forest floor; it was nothing just like this whole place. It seemed like time was slow and nothing changed.

“Come on, we should get back before they panic.” Shane said and helped her up. He moved the hair from her eyes and kissed her. Her heart fluttered.

“Now, we are secret,” he said.

She didn’t say anything but started ahead. When they got back to the bus, Talia and Trisch were starting a fire.

“Morning, Del. Where were you guys?” Trisch asked. Talia lit a cigarette and tossed the match on the twigs.

“Is Jude still sleeping?”

“He takes a pill and he’s out. Who do you think provided Mrs. Thompkins with pain medicine?” Trisch said. “I figure we should have another half an hour of darkness. I have been keeping count.”

“We followed the bus tracks in the woods to see if there was anything,” Shane said.

“Did you see something like a portal?” Talia asked.

“No, maybe missed it. We were there forever. We kept throwing rocks where the bus disappeared and we heard every single one hit the ground,” Delta said.

“What’s for breakfast?” Michael asked and wiped his eyes on his sleeve.

“For you my darling, over easy eggs and bacon,” Talia said.

“You know what I like my Russian dumpling.”

They made a makeshift pot of some kind of metal and there was some kind of soup cooking over the fire.

“What is it really?” Delta asked.

“Water and cut up tree bark and cut up twigs from smaller trees. I threw some mud for flavor but tastes like nothing. So it’s okay, it fills the bellies of my comrades,” Talia said. Michael took what looked like a thermos lid and Talia poured a little soup in there. Once Michael was done, Trisch had her share. Delta and Shane took some. Talia threw more into the pot when Sherry, Jude and Vince got off the bus. They greedily took their portions. Just as Vince finished his soup, daylight reappeared with its faint yellow glow and missing sunshine.

They started packing everything in the bus. Michael cut the vinyl from the seats and salvaged any parts he could carry.

“We can always come back, Mike,” Delta said as she slung her bag across her back filled with her and Sherry’s clothes. Sherry packed her suitcase with other essentials from the bus. Talia put out the fire and they started through the woods. Shane took the lead with Talia and Trisch. Vince and Sherry were in the middle and Delta was stuck with Jude in the back.

“You want to hold hands or something?” he asked her out of the blue.

“Not really,” Delta said.

“Yeah I know. I don’t know this whole boyfriend and girlfriend thing works. It is so much easier online. I don’t know who you think I look like when we talk online, but I always imagined you just the way you are.”

“God gag me, that was so stupid,” Sherry piped up.

“What do you know, you spend all your time whoring around.”

“Enough Jude, I know one thing for this to work you have to get along with my best friend. Just like I have to get along with yours,” Delta said.

He fumbled for her hand and dropped his head. They didn’t speak. The group made it to the road just as the darkness flooded the roadway. He lit a candle and Delta lit another. They huddled together.

“Shouldn’t there be an earthquake or something?” Trisch asked.

“I don’t think they come at the same time,” Delta said. “It seems inconsistent.”

“Just stay close together. Eric and Anson know we are coming. They should have more candles there. We should see Lulu’s before we get there.”

Jude squeezed Delta’s hand. She didn’t squeeze back. She became lost in her thoughts. She didn’t think about her parents or Shane but Moira Ponds. When was going to make contact again? What if she was going crazy and Moira was a figment of her imagination. No one talked to each other. They all waited for the earthquake to happen. It had to happen at some point but when Shane shouted, “do you see it? It looks like starlight. It’s Lulu’s.” He started to run and the others all though very tired also started to run. Anson and Eric were outside with dozens of candles burning. Each took a candle and went inside.

“Bad news about the propane grill, the propane is empty. We can build a fire out back,” Anson said.

Michael reached for a large can of pears. “I hate pears, but today they are my favorite food.” Some laughed. Others sat down. Sherry and Delta sat in the corner of the restaurant.

“What’s our next move?” Sherry asked.

“I don’t know, I am hoping Moira Ponds will talk to me.”

“Why don’t you try talking to her? Didn’t you say when you yelled for help that she is the one that heard you?”

“Yeah, but I don’t know how it works.”

“Scream in your mind. Scream for Moira Ponds,” Sherry suggested and that is just what Delta did.

***

They’ve been gone for over twenty-four hours. Korah didn’t sleep neither did Brian. They laid in each other’s arms for the night. They both slept with their phones and there were no calls. Brian called down to the front desk and no one called either.

“So I’m going to my room and make some calls. Come get me if anyone calls you.”

She nodded, “thanks for staying with me Brian.”

“Thanks for letting me stay,”

Would there be a reconciliation? They grew apart but they always remained civil. It was too late. Korah only loved him the way friends do. Korah loved Keith though. And she knew something bad happened to him. She knew it but she hoped otherwise.

As Brian talked on his cell phone, she checked voicemail and called back the parents. It seems like they were all coming to Richmond. How nice. The news changed from the missing kids to the missing kids and the disaster of the press conference. The hotel phone rang, she dropped her phone and grabbed it.

“Hello,” she said anxiously. Please let them be alive. Please let them be alive she said over and over.

“Hello Mrs. Risotto this is the front desk, there is a woman here to see you. Should I send her up?”

“Who is it?” Brian offered a reward so it had to be one those people looking for money. Korah didn’t want to deal with the fakes.

“She says her name is Moira Ponds,” the front desk man said.

“What does she want?” Korah asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Tell her I will be down in a few minutes.”

Korah changed her shirt and brushed her hair. Brian was still on the phone. She would tell him if it was about Delta. Moira Ponds was a skeleton in silk. Her long white hands held two carry on bags. She looked like she was coming off of being high. Her long brown hair lay in poofy bunches on her head. Her lips were pale and her eyes were shallow and deep set. If death looked like a woman it would be her.

“Moira?” Korah asked.

She stood up and shook her hand, “can we talk privately?”

“The restaurant?”

They were seated and Moira ordered coffee and a large breakfast. Korah stared at her.

“What I am going to tell is going to sound crazy but I have to tell you.”

“Let me guess, you are claiming the reward,” Korah said cooly.

“What reward? No, I saw Delta.”

“Sure you did.”

“Please just give me five minutes of your time.”

It was hope and five minutes was not a lot.

“Okay five minutes.”

“I don’t want the reward. I have plenty of money. Have you ever heard of Belinda Starsbrau? She was my aunt. She used to help find missing people.”

Belinda Starsbrau did sound familiar but anyone could make it anything up to sound credible.

Moira continued, “ the morning Delta went missing. I was passed out from vodka and percs. Her voice cut through me. It woke me from the deepest sleep. I saw her. She was wearing a Jolly Rodger’s tee shirt. I talked to her. She is alive and she is okay but she is not on this plane.”

“Anyone could have guessed she was wearing a Jolly Rodger tee shirt. She was going there on a field trip,” Korah snapped.

“I know but you said you would give me five minutes. In 1980, a bunch of teens went missing on that road. My aunt talked to the one Shirley, but she could never figure out how to help them. I am still working on it. I want to tell you the kids are alone. The adults are dead. The bus driver died in the car crash, Amy died of infection and Keith died in the accident.”

Korah stood up. Her chair fell to the ground. She slammed her hands on the table and yelled “how do I know you are not lying for the million-dollar reward?” The few that were in the restaurant stopped eating and looked at her.

“ILU” Moira said softly.

Korah looked at her. “What did you say?”

“I asked Delta to tell me something you would know I was telling the truth and she said that I don’t know what it means.”

Korah didn’t know how Delta knew. Maybe she overheard it. Maybe Keith said it and she put two and two together. It was a special phrase only two people knew her and Keith. Maybe the press went through their emails. They were vicious creatures who loved to suck a good story out of nothing.

“Your five minutes are up.” Korah said and picked up her chair.

Moira grabbed her wrist and slipped her a piece of paper. “I am going to figure out how to bring them home. Call me whenever you want.”

Korah crinkled the paper and didn’t throw it away. She shrugged off Moira’s delicate grip and went back upstairs.

What if it was all true. All of it? What if Delta was alive but not on this plane? Was that even possible? Brian would know he was always good at the science stuff. She heard about that kind of stuff on tv. But maybe Delta was dead and the plane was the other world but then that wouldn’t make sense since Moira said the adults were dead. That meant Keith was dead. Her true love was dead. She fell to the bed and started crying. If Delta is somewhere else, how would she get back. She’s gone and she was never coming back. Moira was a liar. She wouldn’t be able to do what scientists have been trying to do for decades, time travel baloney.

Brian came in and went to her, “What’s wrong, Korah?”

“I met a woman downstairs. She said she saw Delta, but Delta was somewhere else like on a different plane and Keith is dead. She told me Keith is dead. Moira said ILU.” Korah sputtered in between heavy sobs and snot.

“Slow down, Korah cakes. Tell me from the beginning,” Brian said and stroked her hair.

“The front desk called and said a woman was here to see me. I went down and she said Delta was alive and that she talked to her. But Delta is not on this plane, she is somewhere else I guess. When she talked to Delta, Delta said the adults were dead. Then Moira asked Delta for something to tell me to let me know Moira talked to her and Moira said ILU.” Korah wept harder into Brian’s shirt.

“What does ILU mean?” Brian asked.

“It was mine and Keith’s code for I love you.”

“Do you believe her?” Brian asked.

“I don’t know.”

“I’ll be right back.”

Brian tossed the tissues on the bed and went back to his room and made a phone call. He brought his computer back over and sat next to Korah.

“I had one of my guys do a basic background check on that Moira Ponds. Take a look.”

Korah looked over the findings. She was in the mental institution for schizophrenia. She was arrested for drunk driving. Her aunt was world renowned psychic Belinda Starsbrau. Moira was incredibly wealthy and lived outside of Detroit. Moira couldn’t be trusted, just another crazy, trying to be a hero.

“Do you feel better now? She was crazy. And you know until they come home, we will see a lot of crazy people. Money brings the crazies out,” Brian said and closed his laptop.

Korah sniffled and wiped her nose, “Brian, if I ask you something will you give your honest answer.”

“You know I will.”

“Do you think it is possible that Delta is one another plane?”

He frowned, “Of course it is possible, there are a lot of theories about other dimensions, but no one could actually go to another dimension. There have been cases over the years of worm holes opening up but never reopen. But no one could prove these things. I want to believe Delta is alive somewhere in this universe but reason is telling me that some crazy person has her on this plane.”

Korah nodded and curled under the blankets.

“Get some rest Korah cakes. I’ll be here with you.” Brian said and sat next to her on the bed.

***

Moira knew the meeting with Korah Risotto would not go well. How could it go well? There was a huge reward for the safe return of the kids. But she had to tell Korah that Delta was okay. That Delta was alive. She saw it in Korah’s eyes. There was a glimmer of hope, the glimmer of belief. Moira didn’t care if Korah thought she was crazy. She only had to tell her Delta was alive.

No sooner did she get in her car when Delta screamed for her.

“MOIRA, PLEASE TALK TO ME.”

“You don’t have to yell Delta, I am here, but I don’t know for how long.”

“How long have we been gone?”

“For almost two days.” Moira could see they were in a building with candlelight. “Are you safe?”

“Yes, we are in at Lulu’s. I guess in the future I don’t know. The canned food has expiration dates for 2380. We didn’t see anyone yet.”

“I saw your mother.”

“Is she okay?” Delta asked.

“As okay as she can be.”

“Have you figured out how to bring us home?”

“Not yet but I will, I promise.” Moira said then Delta was gone.

“God damn it,” Moira said and slammed her hands against the steering wheel. She had other plans for today. She had some of her own experiments to run. She planned to sit on route 301 until 6:30 a.m. and see if she saw anything. But this would have to be done delicately. She knew where the traffic cam picked up the bus so she would start there. She didn’t want to be sucked in as well. Then maybe she would stop at Lulu’s and try another experiment. Moira wanted to know how close the planes were. She was going to leave her a message. There was so much to do and she wondered how much time she had before she would lose all connection with Delta.

***

Delta lost Moira just as the earthquake started again. The building around them creaked and moaned but nothing seemed to move which as odd. Maybe all the laws of physics don’t work here. Sherry grabbed Delta’s hand and held onto it. The others hit the floor and covered their heads. They were missing for two days according to Moira but here, wherever here was time didn’t make sense. Days were short and nights were long. The earthquake stopped. And the rain started to fall again. No lightening this time. But the rain was harder than the last time it rained. Delta let go of Sherry’s hand and went to the door. Shane and Jude were standing looking out the glass door. It was too dark to see anything.

“It sounds hard,” Delta said.

Shane nodded.

“We should use these cans and capture the rain,” Michael said.

Delta grabbed some of the empty cans of pineapple and pudding and opened the door. The rain felt like tiny little daggers pelting at her skin. It soaked her within seconds. The rain slammed against her as she placed the cans outside the door.

“Come on Delta,” Shane yelled.

The rain knocked over one can and she picked it back up. The pudding can was already full. She picked it up and gave it to Shane.

“Empty this, she yelled over the rain, get me something larger.”

She stood in the rain. It was like the hurricane she was in a couple years back. Her dad took her to North Carolina for his annual “no tech for a week trip.” No radios, no cell phones, no computers. He would spend his days on the boat fishing or fishing from the shore. Hurricane Cassandra came up the coast. They knew it was coming before they left. Though he believed that storm wouldn’t hit them until they were leaving. Her dad always rented the same house in the far reaches of Ocracoke Island. They were isolated. When her parents were married, her mom even loved the no tech week because her parents would laugh and have a good time. When Cassandra came up the coast, no one told them the hurricane had moved faster up the coast. It started with rain. Her dad was at the house cooking steaks on the grill. Delta was further down the beach about a mile looking for conch shells and other interesting sea treasures. Delta started back with the rain which increased every step she took. She started to run but the wind picked up and the rain fell harder. And no matter how fast she wanted to run, her heart pounded so hard that is almost started to hurt. Her dad met her halfway and scooped her up and dashed back to the beach house.

Shane handed Delta a large plastic pail that looked like it some sugar or something in it.

“Get out of the rain, Delta,” Jude yelled. The rain fell harder. And in a silent world where the smallest sounds just went dead, she heard the screeching, the chomping of something. Delta stopped and looked in the blackness. Shane grabbed her and dragged her inside. Whatever it was slammed into the side of the building. In the faint candle light the wind pushed the water into the windows with so much force the windows themselves curved inside. Delta stood at the door and watched the wind and almost saw a face. She knew it was a trick of the eyes. Then like all the weather it stopped. Delta waited then opened the door. The air returned to the cool air. Shane followed her and grabbed the water containers.

“What are we going to do?” Shane asked.

“I don’t know. Moira is going to try and help us,” Delta said.

“She talk to you?”

“I contacted her. I don’t really know how I just closed my eyes and yelled for but it doesn’t seem to last very long,” Delta said.

“You should change your clothes,” Shane said. “Walking around in wet clothes won’t be good for you. You’ll just open yourself up to viruses and well who knows what kind of viruses there are here.”

“Sure dad,” then Delta started crying.

Shane pulled her close and hugged her.

“The rain was like the last time my dad and I went to North Carolina and the hurricane came up and we didn’t know it. It rained so hard. My dad picked me up and carried me back to the house. He was always a fast runner. He told me the same thing when we came back but then of course as I was changing, the window broke in my room.”

“You said that Moira was going to help. You got to believe that because I have a prom to get to,” Shane whispered in her ear.

They came back inside. Jude kissed Delta’s cheek and wiped the tears from her eyes. It was kind of creepy and tender at the same time. Delta changed into her other clothes and hung her wet clothes in the kitchen

They gathered at a center table meant for large groups. If they did make it to Lulu’s in the real world this is the table they would eat at. Everyone already selected their booths they want to sleep in. Jude had on reserved for him and Delta but she chose to be with Sherry.

Vince who was supposed to be the leader sat at the table and said nothing. Some leader. Shane stood up. When their world went to hell, there was one true leader, Shane and Delta felt like the right-hand man. Which was odd since in the real world, Delta’s dad was the leader and Shane’s dad was the right-hand man.

“Okay so this place seems really safe and I think we should make this our home base. I think we should have only one group go out into this world for exploring. If we need to go to the bus for whatever materials then one group goes. I was thinking when the light comes back. We have a small exploring party to follow down the road. What do you all think?”

“Why?” Trisch asked, “We have food, water and shelter. It’s not like we are going home.”

Others murmured in agreement.

“Because there might be other people in this world. How long can we last here? We will eventually need to go out into the world and find food. We need to know as much as our world as we can while we are here,” Shane said.

“I think that is a good idea, Shane. Count me in,” Delta said. He smiled at her, and she smiled back.

“Okay, so what about those here?” Talia asked.

“Stay close and travel in pairs. Find firewood and just explore near here. We can take turns going out into the world,” Shane said.

Talia nodded.

“Who goes in the real world?” Vince asked.

“Four of us should go. But if only two then only two. It’s voluntary.”

Delta looked at them all sitting around a round table. It was like were the knights of the roundtable. If Shane was King Arthur that would make her Guinevere with Michael as Merlin since he was the dynamic inventor. She couldn’t figure anyone else out. Jude would be Lancelot but evil and not some romantic chivalrous hero. She stood up.

“I have a confession to make. When the bus first crashed, I screamed for help and this woman named Moira Ponds talked to me. Moira is from our side. We are like connected. She believes we went through some kind of portal and she thinks it’s like a slinky where there is an exit. She says other people disappeared on the same road we did. There might be other survivors here in this world. We need to stick together.”

Anson and Eric and Trisch looked at her with shock. “Why didn’t you tell us before?”

“I don’t know. I thought I was going but crazy, but we kept talking. I think this is the real thing. If there are others here, I want to bring them home with us,” Delta said.

“Why? Why give a flying fuck about them?” Vince yelled. He leapt to his feet and his chair fell to the floor. “If there are others, who the fuck cares?”

Shane looked at him without saying anything. What was there to say? There were no reasons for helping other people, other than the feeling of good will and bringing loved ones back together. Why did Vince just go ape shit like that? She never really liked Vince, if anyone had the apathy and the know how to blow up the school it would be him. Maybe he was gay and madly in love with Jude. Jude told Delta a couple of times of the weird things Vince would say.

“Vince, it’s the right thing to do. When we go home, and we didn’t try to find and bring the others it will . . . ” Delta started

“Will what make us look bad? Who cares? Who said we should go back anyway? How do you know that portal is the only one and is only one way? We are stuck here and it’s probably for the best. I would rather stay here then go home.”

His ramblings made no sense to Delta. The others just looked at him.

“So if we can figure out how to come home, you are staying?” Delta asked.

“Yes,” then he grabbed her wrist, “and so are you and Jude. Remember you are starting the new world with us.”

Jude got up, “Vince come on man, you are scaring her. We’ve got our whole lives to start the new world. Let them have their little exploration parties and looking for others. If it makes her feel better, then we get down to our new reality.”

Vince released her wrists and picked his chair and sat back down. Jude returned to his seat.

Shane waited for few minutes, “Who is going with me and Delta tomorrow?”

Sherry raised her hand, “I want to go. I know my mom died here, but there is nothing I want to do more than go home. I hate it here.”

“If Delta is going, then I’m going,” Jude said.

“Jude, what the fuck?” Vince said.

“Vince, you can come to.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Whatever buddy. Delta’s my girl and I want to spend time with her.”

They all started murmuring.

“Talia and I will stay back. We are much better keeping us together and making a home,” Trisch said.

“I am staying,” Anson said. “I feel safe here and I don’t want to leave unless there is a good reason to.”

“Me too, I am staying, I might help the ladies with the firewood. Plus, I want to capture an animal. I saw one or two while we were here the first night,” Eric said.

“I am staying. I want to make electricity,” Michael said. “Will you go to the bus in a couple of days? I might need some stuff.”

Shane nodded. “Okay so me, Delta, Sherry and Jude are going out tomorrow. Vince, Anson, Eric, Michael, Trisch and Talia are staying here. Remember always stay in pairs of two or three don’t go out by yourself. We don’t know the dangers of this world. And if we are going to be here for a while we have to cautious. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

Delta and Sherry went to their booth in the corner. Sherry had put makeshift pillows on each side of the booth.

“Sherry, whoever thought of you as the domestic type?” She smiled.

“Are you going to talk to Moira tonight?” Sherry asked.

“If she calls me. I need to sleep. I have never felt so tired.”

Delta settled in her booth and fell asleep.

Sherry woke her in the morning, “Delta, Shane wants to leave soon.”

“Where is he?” she whispered.

“He is in the office, it’s through the kitchen the door is open. He is looking for flashlights or something,” Sherry slipped her a candle. It was still dark outside and there was only one candle lit in the dining room. Jude was still sleeping in the booth with Vince. Delta slipped in the darkness into the shadows. Talia and Trisch were in the kitchen preparing a meal with small fire they made out the back door. At least they had real pots to use. Their backs were turned to her. There was no one else in the kitchen.

There was a small light coming from the office. The lock on the door was broken. Delta went in and quietly shut the door but it popped open slightly. She took a broken down folding chair and jammed it under the door knob to keep it closed.

Shane spoke, “your boyfriend?”

“Sleeping.” Delta said and moved closer to him.

“Sherry woke up after me. I guess she is not a good sleeper,” Shane said.

The office was small and Delta moved quickly. He took her and lifted her on the desk. His mouth met hers and she let him with his tongue. She could feel his heart race. Her face grew hot. She wrapped her legs around his waist.

“I’ve been waiting for you to get the hint, Delta,”

She pushed him away some, “this is not the right time.”

He kissed her cheek then touched her lips gently with his, “I know. I know.”

She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair and got off the desk and released the door. She looked out and no one was around.

“What did you find?” Delta asked.

“Actually I found paperwork. I didn’t really go through it. I did find a couple of flashlights that don’t work. The batteries are corroded. I think I will have the others look through the paper work maybe we can learn a little something about this world,” Shane said.

Delta looked at piles over the desk trying to read them by the candle light.

Shane took her hand and they dropped it below the desk. He looked into her eyes and in a girly dream it would just be her and Shane he would make love to her while the sky shot blue lightening bolts. This was the desire she and Jude wrote to each other in the middle of the night. Obviously, for Jude it meant more than words. With Shane there were no words, there didn’t have to be.

“I am worried about leaving Trisch and Talia here,” Shane said.

“Why?”

“Vince.”

“Do you think he would hurt them?”

“I don’t know. They were okay when we left them before but then he went after you earlier.”

She stroked his hair with her free hand, “I don’t know Vince. Yeah he is Jude’s best friend or whatever but something doesn’t sit right with me when it comes to Vince.”

“We should go,” Shane said. “According to Talia’s counter she made the light will be here soon.”

Delta kissed him on the lips lightly and quickly. She smelled cooking SPAM coming from the kitchen. Others milled around the cooking counter as Talia gave each a plate with SPAM and canned pineapples. Vince and Jude grabbed a plate and went out to the dining room. Trisch was out back making more food.

“You guys are amazing,” Delta said and really smelled the food.

“I hate SPAM, you know but it is better than eating trees and bark.”

“You guys be careful of Vince,” Delta said.

“He’s unhinged right? I noticed. I know he wasn’t right before. But now it’s like he lost his mind. Can I kill him if I want to? You should have heard what he asked me while Sherry’s mom was dying,” Trisch said.

“Do you want to kill him?” Delta asked.

Trisch took the pot off the small fire and looked Delta in the eyes, “You know, I don’t really know. I have never thought about killing anyone before. But for Vince I would make an exception. I hate it here, and I definitely don’t feel safe with him here.”

Delta didn’t say anything. She wondered if she could kill anyone. “What do you want, my permission?”

“Well you and Shane are like our leaders right. It makes sense. Your parents are leaders at your dad’s company.”

“I’m no leader.”

“Yeah, you are Del. You may not want to admit it but right now we look to you and Shane for guidance. We need it. So yeah, I want your permission.”

“And Shane’s?”

“It is different from you because if that creep had laid a hand on me last night like he did to you, I would have at least beat his stupid head in. You are more level headed, more reasonable. Hell, you want to save other people and bring them back with us, if that friend of yours on the other side can bring us back. You value human life. You value us.”

“Trisch, I’ll put it this way. We are in this world and if you have to kill for whatever reason, then so be it.”

“What does that mean?”

“Take it to mean whatever you want. I will always be on your side, Trisch. We must stay together and get each other’s backs because that is only thing that will guarantee our survival in this world,” Delta said.

Trisch hugged her, “Thanks. Stay safe out there.”

Once everyone ate, the sky returned to its sunless pale yellow sky. Both Anson and Eric were going to go through the paperwork in the office. Trisch and Talia were going to gather firewood and whatever else. Leaving Michael to work on his electricity and Vince for God knows what.

They each took a book bag and filled their water bottles and took vacuum-packed salmon with them.

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