Gone Before Dawn

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Day Three

Shane started back on the road. Delta turned back and waved to the girls left behind. It was as it always was- a world in pale yellow and silence. Eerie and creepy silence. It was starting to become normal and every day. Delta ached for the noise of ringing cell phones and laughter. Yet, in this silent world, she could hear her heartbeat and Shane’s. Sherry and Jude’s. Why couldn’t Jude stay back with Vince at least Vince wouldn’t go crazy.

“So what do you think we will find down the road?” Sherry asked.

“Well if Lulu’s is here than maybe other things are here. There is a town further down. I thought maybe if anyone was there. That’s where I would go,” Shane said.

Jude grabbed for Delta’s hand but she slipped out of his grasp and joined Sherry and Shane up front.

***

Anson and Eric carried all the paperwork from the office and took it outside. Talia and Trisch were out in the surrounding woods with a sled Michael made from a broken table in the storeroom of the restaurant to find firewood. Michael tinkered out back and Vince slept in his booth.

“What is it Shane hopes to find?” Anson asked as looked through the papers.

“The same thing we all are, answers you know.”

Anson looked at the invoices from food suppliers.

“Look at this, Lulu’s had a delivery in the year 2379. I thought by now everything would be computerized. Here are some more some 2379 and some from 2380 but I can’t find any later dates,” Anson said.

“What did they get?”

“The normal, fruits and vegetables and meats,”

“From where?”

“Looks like some supplier in Virginia,” he said and looked through the paper work.

“I agree, I always thought the future would be all computers. This stuff looks like some stuff from the 70's,” Eric said.

“Okay if you get a meat delivery in July of 2380 but then nothing, what happens then? What year are we in? If this is an alternate future version of Earth, then where did everyone go?”

“I don’t know. I can’t find anything else. So Lulu’s has been around for a couple hundred of years.” Eric shuffled the papers and a placemat fell out with a post it note.

“Jill, this is the proof for the placement. If it’s good let me know Tuesday,” Eric read from the post it note.

He opened the place mat and there was a crude map of the area. There was route 301 but it was not called that anymore. It was 96 and the line on the map looked different from how 301 went. There was a town further down which was now called Evertsville. What the hell was it called in their world? He couldn’t remember. He was only down to Richmond a couple of times. Around the map was local businesses- a gas station, grocery store, and some other small town business.

“Look at this Anson, so much for the future.”

Anson took the place mat and examined it.

They stacked the papers up and put them back in a pile. They lay on their backs and watched the sky with its faint yellow.

“Do you think Delta is right about finding a way to get out of here?” Eric asked.

“I hope so. I don’t like playing boy scout. I would much rather be at home on the computer.”

“Playing Death Gods.” Anson said.

“Come on you know that game is just awesome.”

“Well Vince and Jude might be weird, but they made one hell of a game.”

“Do you think the girls play?” Eric asked.

“I think Delta might because she hangs out with Jude’s character all the time. I think they are dating in the game but in real life Delta doesn’t want him. You can tell,” Anson answered.

“What do you think they were talking about last night when Vince said that Delta has to stay with him and Jude and make a new world?”

“Vince is a loon. But it makes sense. I don’t know whose idea that was. If we can never go home, then I guess we will have to procreate to make a new world.”

“Yeah that is great. I wish my game girlfriend was here, then I would be cool with it”

“Who’s that?” Anson asked

“You know that demon chick, she goes by the name of Luscious Blood Wings?”

“That is Talia.”

Eric opened his mouth, “how the hell do you know?”

“I did a little hacking in our friend’s computer’s. When I meet a character online, I don’t want to know them in real life.”

“Why? It would make things easier,” Eric said.

“No, it won’t. I like the online life. I am an amazing warrior, and women throw themselves at me. Why would I want to trade it in?”

“So Talia is Luscious Blood Wings?” Eric asked.

“Yup and Trisch doesn’t play at all. She spends her time, making her own video game not role playing but something fun. She is a smart one.”

“So what do you know about the others?” Eric asked.

“I can’t get into Vince’s. He’s way too good at computers better than me. Jude is obsessed with Delta. I mean, like really obsessed. It’s easier to snoop through Jude’s computer when he is cyberhumping Delta. He’s got thousands of pictures her. And Delta’s computer is clean. Her browsing history is filled with articles in bioenegineering. The only weird thing is her love affair with Jude and some chats with Sherry.”

“What about Sherry? I always thought she was pretty does she play?”

“Hell no. Did you know Sherry is like a genius? She is not as brilliant as Delta but no one comes close to Delta. Sherry hides it. The only reason she is in STEM club is because of Delta. You know Delta is like this weirdo smart kid and Sherry is this smart kid who looks good. She would rather date and have a good time. Sherry got Delta to join Stem club because she thought Delta needs a boyfriend. And Delta gets a cyber boyfriend and Sherry’s is screwing the real thing,” Anson spilled all his secrets about his club members.

“Why is Delta just so I don’t know?” Eric asked.

“Because she is okay by herself. I knew them both since kindergarten. It’s always been that way. Sherry and Delta balance each other. This one kid started picking on Delta at recess. She was digging through the mud and collecting worms and putting them in a Styrofoam cup. The kid kicked over Delta’s worms. Sherry stepped in and literally kicked him in the ass. He went into the mud and stared crying. I remember Delta just looking up at Sherry with these strange far away eyes. Sherry picked up Delta’s worms and helped Delta up. They were always joined at the hip.”

They didn’t say anything. Anson wondered if any of the ladies would choose him as a procreation partner. He didn’t care either way.

“You know the women have an advantage they can choose who they want,” Eric said. “ I think we should kind of sway their minds. Who do you want? Or we can be crazy Jude and Vince and go after one girl.”

“You know what I hate about last night? She doesn’t want to do it. Both Jude and Vince are teetering on the edge and they are dragging Delta with them. I don’t know what happened, but I think she was forced into whatever deal they have going on. You can tell who she wants to be with Shane. It’s the way they look at each other. I don’t care how bad things get. If one of the ladies wants me then I will be happy to oblige. I like them all, especially Trisch. She reminds me of my mom. But I will not force any of them into making babies with me.”

“What the fuck? You think I am crazy or something? You think I forced Delta to have children with me. Not true. Jude suggested it. Delta agreed. He loves her. He loves her more than me, but he loves me enough. He said he will share her with me and we can take turns to make babies. I will tell him. I will tell Jude that Delta is not loyal to him,” Vince screamed at the top of his lungs. Both Anson and Eric were startled and jumped to his feet. There was something strange in Vince’s eyes.

Vince charged Anson and they went to the ground. Eric tried to pull Vince off but Vince punched Anson in the face, “I am not fucking crazy, you stupid loser.” Another punch for Anson, then he punched Eric who went flying backward.

“Michael! Michael help us.” Eric yelled as he went for Vince again. Vince overpowered Eric sending him to the ground then pounded Anson’s face.

But it was Trisch who came around the back and stabbed Vince in the leg with a steak knife. Talia and Michael followed behind her. Vince screeched and pulled the knife out of his leg. The blood rushed out his wound and he hit the floor. Michael helped Anson who was bleeding just as bad Vince. Vince writhed on the floor.

“Trisch, help him,” Talia said as Talia helped Eric to his feet.

She took her belt and tee shirt and tossed it to him.

“Fix it yourself, Vince.”

She opened the door as Talia and Michael helped Anson and Eric in. Trisch stood at the door in her black lacy bra and watched Vince wrap her black tee shirt around his leg and then use the belt.

Trisch went back outside.

“Stupid whore,” he snarled between his teeth.

She kicked him hard in the stab wound. He screamed again. As he held his leg, she grabbed the knife and put in her jean’s pocket. She could actually see the tears in his eyes.

“It’s nice to know you feel pain,” Trisch said cooly.

Trisch went back in and took the thin rope from the kitchen and went back out front and tied Vince’s hands behind his back. Then she forced him to his feet. He winced in pain

“I will not make babies with you. I am Delta’s number two.”

“I can honestly say, if you were the last man on the planet I would rather kill you than sleep with you,” Trisch said. She grabbed the extra rope and pulled him into men’s room in the back of the restaurant. She tied it to the bottom of the urinal.

“This is where shit goes, right down the drain,” Trisch said and left the bathroom. “Trisch, we need to treat him. You stabbed him.” Talia said.

“I will take care of him,” Trisch answered and went over to Anson. His face was swollen and bleeding all over but he was breathing just not well. Talia brought Trisch a shirt from the community clothes pile. Sherry brought tons of extras and gave them to all the girls.

“Thanks,” Trisch said. “It looks like his nose is broken.”

“It is,” Michael said as he returned with a first aid kit. And started cleaning Anson’s face. Eric held a rag to his nose but otherwise he was fine.

“You fucking bitch, You need to clean my wound,” Vince screamed from the bathroom.

“What’s going on Trisch?” Talia asked.

“Vince has lost it. We can’t wait for Jude to get back. Michael will you help me with Vince?”

“Let me finish up with Anson and I will go in.”

Talia pulled a bottle out of her sweatshirt “so this is the good stuff I found in the desk drawer. Give it to Vince until he calms down. His screaming is driving me crazy.”

Trisch took the bottle and took a hearty swig. She went to the bathroom and Vince was crying and spitting out nonsense words as wriggled around the floor trying to break the pipe.

Trisch went over and rubbed his sweaty head.

“Vince, drink this,” she said calmly.

“I changed my mind Trisch,” he muttered, “If I can be your number one, I will make babies with you. You have to promise me that I will be number one. Jude has Delta but I am still number two. So you can’t have another guy. Just me. Trisch. Let me free, Trisch and it’s you and me. I promise you will be my number one and I will be your number one. “

She softened her voice a little. Maybe Vince couldn’t handle it over here. Maybe this sent him over the edge. He was sick and he would need help. But all he had on this side was the group. What good would that do him. Trisch thought about her conversation with Delta.

“Okay sweetheart, drink this up,” Trisch said helped Vince sit up. Then helped him drink the vodka. He spit it out first but then drank more. “Don’t drink too much honey bunny. You’ll get sick.” She helped drank some more than he laid against her chest and she stroked his head. What were they going to do with him? He was so sick. Michael came in. Trisch held Vince close to her heart as Michael took off the shirt and belt and then his pants.

“You got him good Trisch but it doesn’t look major. You missed his major arteries. I am going to try and get this wound together as best as I can. I will be right back. I saw some duct tape in the office.”

Vince was asleep when Michael finished with Vince. Michael put Vince’s pants on and the two of them carried Vince to his booth.

Anson was also sleeping. Eric lit candles as it was already dark.

“What happened Trisch?” Talia asked.

She started crying into Talia’s shoulder, “I want to go home, Tal, I want to go home.”

“Delta will find a way. I know she will.”

***

Korah and Brian met with the other parents in the lobby. He secured them all rooms.

“Didn’t Vince’s parents come?” Korah asked Amy’s husband.

“No. No one can get a hold of them. I tried calling them and I went over but no one answered the door.”

“I haven’t heard from them either.” another parent said.

Korah expected them to attack her because she wasn’t on the bus. Yet, what she wanted was to be alone with Sam, Amy’s husband. She wondered if he would believe her. Korah had her doubts about Moira but something nagged Korah. She knew Keith was dead. She felt it in her heart.

Sam Thompkins owned the grocery store in Glenwild. It was in his family for years. Sometimes Amy and Sherry both worked there when he needed help. Amy liked to be home with Sherry but since Sherry got older, she was never home. Korah loved every inch of Sherry it brought Delta out of her shell.

“Sam, can we talk in private?” His eyes were red.

He followed her to the restaurant and they sat at the bar. She bought him a drink.

“How’s the job?” he asked.

“Same, flying all over the country. I love it though,” Korah answered and drank half her drink. “Can I ask you something? You ever hear of a woman named Belinda Starsbau?”

“Yeah, she was that psychic lady. I watched a movie about her a couple of weeks ago. On Lifetime or something like that,” Sam answered and ordered another whiskey sour.

“Did you know she had a niece named Moira Ponds?”

“No, what’s the point here?”

“Moira came to see me.”

He set is glass on the bar searched Korah’s eyes, “what did she say about Amy and Sherry?”

“Brian ran a background check on her and she is loony. She’s a drunk and was in the hospital. I don’t know if I trust her,” Korah said.

“Give me something, Korah. Give me some kind of hope.”

“Moira said Sherry was alive and doing okay. She talked to Delta.”

“And Amy? Tell me about Amy.”

“She’s dead,” Korah said and frowned. She lost her best friend and for some reason that didn’t really sink in until she told Amy’s husband of twenty years that she was gone. Now she hated Moira more than anything. Sam started crying.

“I knew it. I could feel it in my heart. It felt like I was having a heart attack. I knew she was gone,” Sam wept and held onto Korah.

She knew Sam since high school. Korah, Sam, Brian and Amy grew up in the town. For the longest time, it was the three of them. Amy and Sam were together forever. Brian was older and she only knew of him but didn’t know him. He was a senior in high school and she was a freshman when they first met. It was a blind date from mutual friends of Sam’s. Korah had plenty of first dates but never a second date. Brian didn’t really have dates. When they meant, Korah wanted to run for the hills because he was way too smart for her. He did skip a grade but she gave it a try then a couple of years later she is barely two months pregnant with his baby when she graduated high school. She and Brian didn’t get married until Delta was three, when Brian got his PHD. He was in a lot of newspapers for his brilliance and how fast he went through school. Korah always felt kind of jealous of Brian. She never did anything special, ever. That is until after the divorce and she started writing her travel blog. With her excess cash from the divorce settlement and her daughter wanting to live with her father, Korah had the time and money to see the world.

While Brian was at MIT, Korah lived with Sam and Amy. Their daughters were like sisters, but when she married Brian, they moved in their own place. That was the beginning of the end of their relationship. It was different when he was getting his PHD but when they started living together. He worked all the time. Everything changed between them and Korah hated the love Amy and Sam always had. She felt she wasted her time all these years with Brian.

“Korah, where were you?” Sam asked.

“In the past, thinking about when I lived with you and Amy for three years. I worked at store, while Amy took care of the kids. I was just thinking about how I lost my best friend and how I hate Moira for taking the hope away from me.”

Sam kissed her forehead, “You have Delta. She told you Delta is still alive and so is Sherry. I know you lost Keith as well.”

They hugged again, “Sam, what are we going to do?” Korah asked.

“Are you going to call Moira Ponds? I want to speak to her.”

“So you believe me?”

“Of course, I do.”

Her head thudded with too many tears and too many thoughts. ILU Delta I always will she thought to herself as grabbed Moira’s crumpled phone number and dialed it.

***

Moira checked into the hotel and turned off her phone. She planned on going to Maryland, but she was so tired. She needed a drink. She looked at the bottle she bought at the liquor store. It begged her to open it up and take a drink. She shook all over. She knew what was happening. She had to drink. She spent too much time in a bottle to just quit. Maybe one little tiny sip to take away the pain. One little sip. Sure and one sip turns into three sips and four and then half bottle. What if Korah called? What if Delta called? She needed to be there for Delta.

Just one little sip should do it. Moira grabbed the bottle and opened the lid. She was about to put the bottle to her lips when it flung out of her hand and smashed against the wall. The tv turned on

“Jeff Bishop, local author of the hot new bestseller In the Blink of an Eye, has hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list. We will have an exclusive interview with him when we come back from commercials.”

“What does this mean Belinda?” Moira asked in the musty air but there was no answer.

Moira sat on the bed and turned up the TV.

“Jeff, this book is so amazing and creepy. How did you come up with the story?” the pretty blonde reporter asked.

He smiled and grabbed her hand, “I dreamed about this place once. It was like a future earth but instead of flying cars and all that computer stuff it was like the people went back in time but in the future.”

“Belinda, is Jeff from where Delta is?”

There was no answer.

The interview dragged on and she couldn’t figure what made him so special. She couldn’t find much about either online. So she tried an in depth background check. Oddly, enough he didn’t get a social security number until he was twenty-five and there was no record of his birth or his parents are. So where did he come from? He was in Richmond; she was in Richmond. Maybe the exit portal was in Richmond.

There was hope after all, but would Jeff even talk to her. She turned on her phone to call his number but instead Korah called three times. She called Korah instead. Maybe Korah could believe her then maybe Korah would convince Jeff to help her.

***

Jeff Bishop finished his interview. The production assistant took off his wireless mic.

“I didn’t have a chance to read your book yet, I was supposed to but I had the intern do. She loved it.”

“What about those kids that went missing?” Jeff asked.

“Well there is nothing. All the parents of the kids came to Richmond they are all staying at the same hotel. We don’t know anything. Another day or so and that news will be long gone. That’s how it is in this business.”

He nodded and watched the kids photos flip through once again.

Jeff went back to his small house just outside of Richmond. The one he lived it for the last five years. He poured himself a drink and stared into space. The female in his book was named Christmas based off the real Christmas he met ten years ago. She was wondering on the road and he saw her. This beautiful angel. She had soft blonde hair. He knew she didn’t belong his world. She was lost. At first she was afraid and tried to run but Jeff caught her and held her in his arms for hours. Then she trusted him enough to talk to him. He asked as felt the tears roll down his eyes. Those kids weren’t his problem.

***

Shane and the others stopped and sat along the side of the road. They opened their salmon and sat there. Delta sat in between Shane and Jude and Sherry sat opposite her. Her knee touched Shane’s and she felt something stir.

“How long are we walking until we turn back?” Sherry asked.

“I don’t know I am guessing we already were walking an hour. But we are not going to get anywhere if we turn back now. I think we can make it in the dark for a little while then we can either turn back or move on,” Shane said.

“I think we should move on, because what is the sense, right? We will never get anywhere,” Delta said.

They sat there and didn’t say a word.

“Do you think you should try for Moira again?” Sherry asked out of nowhere. “I want to get a message to my dad.”

“I don’t know I can try I guess,”

“So how do you do it?” Shane asked.

“Last time I close my eyes and yelled for her.”

To make it look good to Jude and keep him in line, Delta crawled between his legs and laid her head on his chest. He went to hold her but Sherry shook her head. Delta closed her eyes and screamed Moira’s name first out loud and then louder and louder. She didn’t answer.

“Delta what time do you guys talk?”

“When it’s dark out,” she replied.

“Okay we will try again when it’s dark. We should keep moving,” Shane said and grabbed her hand and helped her up. Then he helped Sherry up. They were standing when they heard something rustle in the trees. It sounded like a lot of something what if it were people? Delta’s heart jumped in her chest. They stood motionless as a group of somethings came from the woods.

The creatures were black like the trees. They were a mix between moose and caribou. Neither of which lived in Virginia but maybe this Virginia was different. There were six of them. And they lumbered across the road. Their eyes were yellow. They cleared the road and then kids were alone once again.

“What was that?” Sherry asked.

“Moose and caribou or something like that,” Shane said.

“Wish I had a gun right about now, that would be good eats” Jude said.

“Why are they black?” Sherry asked.

“Why are the trees black? Evolution of some sorts,” Delta answered and started walking forward. Just like that the yellow sky changed to black in seconds.

“I wish there was more a sunset, at least then we would know it’s coming,” Sherry said as she lit her candle. The others did the same. And started walking on the road.

Shane saw a wooden building up ahead.

“I see something.”

The kids moved to the building. It looked like a gas station. They wanted to move faster but the earthquake started slow and rumbling and like a giant wave it came on hard. This was probably the hardest one yet. They dropped their candles and they went out. In the dark Shane found Delta and held her close. Delta found Sherry and pulled her closer. The shaking made her sick to her stomach. It was rougher than any ocean. It stopped. Shane let her go before Jude could light a candle.

“Do you think it will rain tonight?” Jude asked and started toward the building.

It was a small gas station with one pump. It didn’t look different from what she saw at home. No rain came. Shane tried the door and it was locked. Jude covered his hand and broke the window and unlocked the door. They went in. It was musty and dirty. It was a little store with candy and chips. The coolers were empty though and most of the snacks were gone. Delta found a chocolate bar and went to bite in when a worm crawled out. She dropped it on the floor.

“I found batteries, so that’s a good sign,” Shane said and stuffed his bag full of batteries.

Jude popped open the cash register and it was empty “that’s weird there’s no money.”

“And what makes that weird?” Sherry asked.

“Because nothing was stolen. And the door was locked.”

“But someone did eat some of the food and lock the door,” Shane said.

“And what steal the money? Maybe who runs this always took the money at closing.” Delta suggested as found a magazine rack. There was a Cosmo from 2380.

“So I think we are in 2380. Look at this magazine,” Delta said.

“I think the big question is, where are the people?” Shane asked.

“So are we staying here tonight?” Jude asked as he drank the rest of his water.

“We can or we can keep going. Where there’s a gas station there is a town,” Shane replied.

“How long does daylight last?” Sherry asked.

“About six hours, give or take Talia made some kind of hourglass counter. See” Shane reached in his bag and pulled it out. “ She loves her numbers.”

“What else are we going to do but count the seconds of daylight,” Sherry asked. “I don’t know about you but I am fucking tired. I could use some rest.”

“That’s a good idea, I think we could all use a break,” Shane said.

Jude lay on the floor, “you coming over sweetheart?” he asked to Delta.

“Not yet, I want to look around, some,” Delta answered.

“Have it your way. I’ll be waiting. At least kiss me.” She went over and kissed him on the lips. Sherry and Shane looked at the magazine between candlelight. Delta slipped behind the cash register and made it known she was in the back room. She hoped Jude wouldn’t get up. There was a back door. She unlocked and propped it with a rock. Then she sat on the small cement ledge that ran around the building. Faint foot steps came from inside. Please don’t let it be Jude she said to herself.

“Hey Del,” Shane whispered. He smiled at her through candle light. He blew it out and sat beside her. The darkness swallowed them both. He grabbed her hands and held them. She snuggled into him.

“Jude?”

“Sleeping. Sherry went over and looked at him. She’s in there, reading. This world is more different then I could ever imagine. I seriously see more skin on Sherry right now then in Cosmo.”

He found her lips and kissed her, “You want to call Moira? Please ask her the time. I need to know the time,” Shane said and kissed her again.

They say in each other’s arm in the dark silence when they saw a light. It was Sherry.

“Hey Del, you going to try Moira?” She asked.

“I will leave you both to it. If you need anything just yell,” Shane said.

Once Shane left, Sherry and Delta sat together.

“Jude is crazy weird,” Sherry said.

“Don’t I know it? But at least we can control him. Vince on the other hand, we can’t control him.”

Moira called for her and Delta collapsed on Sherry’s lap.

“Tell her to tell my dad, I made a pot roast, but it went bad,” Sherry said.

“Moira, what time is it?” Delta asked in head. She never could see Moira only hear her voice. She wondered if Moira could see her.

“It’s four p.m.”

“Sherry wants you tell her dad that she made the pot roast, but it went bad.”

“I will. I was on your way to see your mom. She called me but I caught the end of the news. I have to tell you something.”

“What is it? Did you find something?” Delta whispered out loud.

“Yes and no, but I think you guys are in danger. Where is Vince Olsten? Is he near you?”

“No he is at Lulu’s with the others. Four of us went to exploring.”

“I heard on the news. Vince killed his parents. The FBI is now saying he is responsible for all of this. He killed his parents. Delta you are not safe.”

“Moira, maybe it was a crime of passion. I don’t know how much time...” and then she was gone.

Delta sat straight up. “We have to get back to Lulu’s like now.”

“What’s wrong Delta?”

“It’s Vince. It’s all of them. We have to go.”

“What did Moira say?” Sherry asked and lit her candle.

“Shane, Shane,” Delta yelled.

“Delta what’s wrong?”

“We have to go. Now. We have to go. They are not safe with Vince.”

Shane grabbed her shoulders, “what did she say?”

“Vince killed his parents.”

***

They all met at the police station. The FBI called them in shortly after the rest of the parents arrived in Richmond.

“I am Agent McGowan. I wanted to update you on the situation. After Jill and Adam Olsten did not arrive at work and did not answer the door when local PD knocked the door. Local PD went in and found Mr. and Mrs. Olsten dead. We have strong evidence that their son, Vincent, killed them about 3:45 a.m. We have reason to believe that he hijacked the bus with his classmates and has them somewhere,” the agent said. The small meeting room erupted in shouts and questions.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are currently have many agents in cooperation with local and state PD in the nearby woods. We have the dogs out,” he said.

“You’re saying our kids are dead,” one parent shouted with a thick Russian accent.

“No, we are not. We do not know the details. But we do know he had homicidal fanatacies. We found dozens of notebooks and plans to kill classmates but he never gave any names. We will let you know more when we know more.” Then Agent McGowan slipped out the door.

Korah sat next to Brian. He grabbed her hand, “remember Delta is a survivor. Isn’t she his friend?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why would he kill his friends?” Brian asked.

“Because, he is a crazy fucker. You and I know both know it.”

Within minutes the news ran an update with the new information. Korah looked over the family photo now that hung on the screen.

“Brian, I know you don’t believe Moira, but I do and so does Sam. I called her. She is coming back. She needs to tell Delta. She could be in danger.”

Brian kissed her head, “if it makes you feel better.”

Moira was waiting in the lobby of the hotel when the three of them came back from the police station. She fiddled with her purse and stood when they approached.

“Moira, this is Delta’s dad, Brian and this is Sherry’s dad, Sam,” Korah said. Moira put out her skinny hand and shook them both lightly.

“You need to tell Delta about Vince,” Korah said suddenly.

“I did. I was leaving the hotel and I heard it on the news. Sherry said she made the pot roast, but it went bad.”

Sam hugged her with tears in his eyes, “you talked to Sherry?”

“No Delta. Sherry told Delta to tell me,” Moira said.

“How we can trust you?” Brian asked. “You are a drunk and spent some time in hospital.”

“You can’t. I know that. But I am going to figure out how to get the kids back. I won’t stop. It will just be easier if you were to help,” Moira pulled a leather journal out of her purse.

“I didn’t read all of this yet, but in 1980, four teens went missing off Route 301 and Shirley was connected to my aunt. I was going back to Maryland, but I wound staying in Richmond in a motel outside of town. I was going to drink because let me tell you I haven’t had a drink in almost two days and it’s getting unbearable, but I didn’t drink,” Moira said.

“Let’s have a seat. I want to know more about everything,” Brian said.

“I believe her, Brian,” Sam said.

They sat. Moira sat in an over stuffed chair which made her look smaller and more shrunken. Brian sat closest to her on the sofa and Korah sat next to him and Sam next to her.

“Okay Moira, I want to believe you because that means Delta is alive. But this portal thing is theory. There is no proof that these things exist. Two, your history does not help you all. So you admit to being a drunk?”

“Yes, but I want to explain.”

Brian sat back in the couch, “so explain.”

“Aunt Belinda has the gift. Only certain women in our family get the gift. My mother did not have it, but she died when I was young. No one knew I was Belinda’s niece so I went to a foster family. I started hearing voices when I was ten and the state put me in a home and put me on drugs. When I was twelve, Aunt Belinda got me out of the hospital and took me off the drugs. For the next few years she tried to teach me to embrace the gift. I tried and Terrence died. I knew I failed him and I just drank and drank. When Belinda died, I gave up. The only way to quiet all the voices was to drink. I know those aren’t good excuses, but unless you live in my head, you never know. Over the years, the voices were quieter but not Delta’s. Hers was loud almost like she was shouting in my head. What more do you want me to say?” Moira asked her eyes were glassy and bloodshot. Maybe it was the alcohol detox or sadness or everything.

“I have a trouble believing in this portal, how are you going to get them back,” Brian said.

“I didn’t know about the portal at first until I read the journal. The one thing I know is there in a place where the trees are black as oil and there are earthquakes. The kids are fine. Delta said just three people died,” Moira said.

“Moira, let me ask you how do you plan on getting them back. It’s not like you can’t open a portal or a wormhole. Trust me if it could be done, I would get whatever you need and do it,” Brian said.

“I think there is a portal from where they are to here. I think the key is this writer named Jeff Bishop,” Moira said.

“Why?” Brian asked.

“I don’t know if you will believe me,”

“Say what you know,” he said.

“Okay I ask Belinda for help. See we sort of belong to all planes spiritually speaking.”

“Like she is a ghost,” Brian said.

“I suppose she doesn’t talk or whatever just shows me signs. I went to open the bottle of vodka and something took it out of my hands and smashed it against the wall. Then the tv turned on and there was an interview for this Richmond writer, Jeff Bishop. I think he might be from over there.”

“Why you think that?” Brian interrogated.

“Brian, come on you can at least try and believe her,” Korah said and put her hand on his knee.

“Answer the question Moira,”

“When I was in Detroit, I was pissed because I didn’t know how to help Delta. I was going to give up. I need a new bottle of vodka so I went to the store. I kept seeing the number 780. Then it dawned me. Aunt Belinda always used to bitch at me for not being more in tune to my spiritual side. Anyway, I went to her room and grabbed the journal. After the first paragraph, I knew someone else went there. I looked online and so many disappeared around the same time on the same road.”

“I remember that one reporter saying something about that at the press conference. Those people were never found again. They just vanished into thin air,” Brian said. “So what is that you want Moira? Money?”

“I am wondering why I need money from you especially. If you know I was in the hospital then you would know how much my Aunt left me. I have almost as much as you do. What I want, Mr. Risotto, is to bring Delta and the others back. Maybe she will find other survivors. I want to help someone. I want to quit drinking and be like my aunt finding people,” Moira said.

“So can you talk to Delta when you ever want?” Brian asked.

“Every time I call for, I get her. But I don’t know, it is dark there now. Every time we talk it is dark except for the first time. It was sort light there. But she called me first,” Moira said.

“And how do you do it?” Brian asked.

“I see her and I concentrate. I scream in her head, but now I don’t need to. I can talk normally to her.”

“I don’t really believe you, but I will not stand in your way. If you are telling the truth and you get Delta and the others home I don’t care. I want to believe you, though. You don’t know how much I want to believe you, but I just can’t.”

“Okay fair enough,” Moira said.

“We can get you a room here,” Korah suggested.

“No, I want to go back to the motel. It’s outside of Richmond and very quiet. If you don’t mind, I want to get something to eat and read some more of the journal,” Moira replied and stood up.

“Fair enough, Moira it was a pleasure. Will you keep us informed when you talk to Delta?” Brian asked.

“Do you want me to give her a message?” Moira asked.

“Tell Del to remember hurricane Cassandra and what I told her when I grabbed her from the beach,” Brian said.

“Could you tell Sherry, I love her more than anything?” Sam said.

Moira nodded and looked at Korah. “Tell Delta I am sorry for everything.”

“Why don’t you all try to get messages from the other parents and I will pass them along,” Moira said. She put the journal in her purse and walked of the lobby.

“Korah, are you sure about this?” Brian asked.

“Look ,we can let the FBI do their thing. But if Moira can do something then why not give her a chance? It’s not like she wants anything from us,” Korah said.

“Sam, you too?”

“I believe her.”

“Should we tell the others?” Brian asked.

“Not yet. I don’t want to scare Moira off,” Korah said.

He nodded.

***

Jeff Bishop lived in the black woods. He preferred it this way. There was none of those puritanical bastards that ran the world. He avoided them at all costs and it was easy. They didn’t always venture in the woods. He saw her walking on the street, the pale yellow day illuminated her yellow hair. He was fascinated by her. He knew she didn’t belong. No one walked on the streets, especially not women. Jeff quietly followed her through the woods. When it got dark, she stopped and sat by the road.

He waited for some time then lit his torch and approached her. She was scared but she was too tired to move. Her face was dirty and cut.

“Where am I?” she whispered. “I’ve been walking forever.”

“You are in Virginia.” Jeff answered but didn’t near her.

“No, I was on Route 301 and my car broke down. I was on my way home from work. I am not in Virgina.”

“I can guarantee you are in Virginia,” Jeff said. Then he thought for some time, “What year is it?”

“It’s 2010.”

“Well then I suppose you should be asking when you are,” Jeff said.

“Why? What do you mean?” She asked.

“It is the year 2380 and you are in Virginia and you are not safe here on the side of the road.”

She opened her mouth but then closed it. She didn’t move or ask questions.

“You can come with me, it’s a little bit of a walk but I have a small shelter. It will keep you safe,” Jeff said.

Just then, the earthquake started. He dropped to his knees and laid his torch on the road. She started crying as the violent shaking rushed through the woods. He was used to it, since he didn’t know anything else.

“What the fuck was that?” she said when it was over.

“Earthquake.”

“Not in Virginia.”

“Well I guess maybe not where you are from but here things are different. We have six hours of daylight. Things don’t grow. ”

“What do you eat?” She asked.

“Animals mostly, some people grow stuff. They have greenhouses and use whatever light we have to power the greenhouses,” Jeff answered. That was a weird question.

Then she started to sob. He couldn’t understand anything she blubbered about. He went over to her and put his arms around her. She cuddled into his chest. Her tears wet his jacket and shirt. After sometime, she wiped her nose with her hand. Her arms were cold. Jeff took off his jacket and gave it to her.

“So you want to come to my shelter?” He asked.

“It’s better than anywhere I guess.” Jeff helped her off the road and led her deep into the woods.

“What’s your name?” He asked soon as they were far enough from the road.

“Christmas O’Rourke. You?”

“Jeff Bishop.”

He heard rumors about people coming from another time. Because they were always just different. Once the Puritans found them, they would hang in town square. He never saw the hangings just only heard of them. The Puritans called them demons. Maybe they were maybe they weren’t. He saw Christmas and only saw a beautiful woman who was from a different time.

Once back at the shelter he started a small fire and gave her a blanket to wrap herself in.

“If this three hundred years in the future, why aren’t there like flying cars or whatever? I thought everything would be computers and all,” Christmas said.

“I don’t know if I can explain it.”

“Am I going anywhere anytime soon?”

“I read some books. They are not easy to find. The Puritans burnt all books from before.”

“Puritans, aren’t those pilgrims?”

“These people are like a new kind of Puritan. I can’t tell you too much because I didn’t go to school. My dad just follows the rules well for the most part because I guess he doesn’t want to die. Anyway a bunch of people came to power not just here but all over. They wanted to bring back a simpler time and better environment. They wanted pure education and pure morals. This was a popular idea because computers did take over the world it seemed. So this group sent off emps all around the world knocking out electricity. They burned books and made all sorts of laws. They are Christian and they killed every single person who had different religion. There is a day- a holiday when we celebrate the annihilation of people who were Muslim. They bombed entire Arabic countries and I guess Jerusalem got caught because it was wiped off the planet. Then it seemed like people in India and China converted to Christianity. ”

Christmas shivered. “I wish I could go home. I hate it here.”

“I do to. I was born in Oklahoma but I travel a lot through the woods and all. I like living free and the only way to do that is staying away from towns and living in the woods. I will sometimes find an abandoned house and I will sit and read for hours. Those books never burned. I bring a few with me always.”

Jeff showed her his small collection of books. “These will get me hung, but I will hang if I am caught anyway.”

“I can’t believe this at all. I just don’t understand how this all happened.”

“I don’t either and neither did my parents or grandparents. They didn’t want them in power. Sure they wanted some good old-fashioned morals. But the people that came into power. I don’t know they run the world by fear or something. I wish I knew how I could get you home because I would go with you.”

“Did anything good happen?”

“Sure, the Earth is returning its former glory but for some reason there is only faint sunlight and the trees are black and the earth shakes every day.”

He looked over at her and then grabbed her hands, “I have to tell you something. You will die if they discover you. You will hang in the town square. I know a person. He is very trust worthy. I can get you some clothes and all, and you should never go anywhere by yourself. I just don’t want to see you die.”

“They’ll hang me?”

“Yup, my friend, Orville, he is against the puritans and the puritan sheep. Those are the ones that go along with the leaders just so they get a little food or whatever.”

“I am scared, Jeff,” she said.

Jeff poured her a cup of water. She drank some and wrinkled her nose, “it has no taste not even a water taste.”

“Christmas, you should be scared. I am scared for you.”Jeff said.

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