Authors: JD Lovil
Tags: #murder, #magic, #sorcery, #monsters, #parallel worlds, #tyr, #many worlds theory, #quantum jumping, #heimdall
By six o’clock, he was busy in the garage,
checking the fluid levels, tires, hoses and belts on the van. The
hour saw the van with a new oil change, a new set of spark plug
wires, and a retouch of the coolant. Tom gave her the once-over,
but could find nothing else significant to improve. Bailey panted
his approval of a job well done.
Tom and Bailey went back into the house, after
Tom had washed up in the shop sink that Susan’s Ex had installed in
the garage. Soon enough, he was nursing his fifth cup of coffee of
the day, and the sun had done its setting thing. Susan looked as
though she would be ready to go on her little adventure in another
hour or so. Tom still had not come up with a good way to beg off of
the trip, and was starting to think that maybe going east wouldn’t
be such a bad thing. Once she got where she was going, He and
Bailey could hitch across country until he got somewhere in the
Tom spent the next hour gathering up things
that he thought they might need on the trip. He placed a box of
tools and a gas can in the back of the van. He put together a bag
of travel goodies, including food, reading materials, a can of
orange spray paint that he found in the garage, some candles and
other miscellaneous items. This bag was currently in the living
room, in case he found something else that needed to go into it. By
this time, it was a little after eight in the evening.
Now that he had a chance to think about it, he
was kind of looking forward to the trip. It would be good to be
traveling again. He was sure that Susan would not be a great
traveling companion, but she really needed his help, and he would
be nearly a fifth of the way across the country, and if he had to,
he could always pick a convenient fight with her.
He was ready to go. She wasn’t ready, and for
the next forty-five minutes she kept him waiting. Just about the
time he was starting to rethink his plans, she came into the living
room with a packed bag. It looked like she was finally ready. At
this worst possible time, that was when it started.
A growling sound started outside. It sounded
like the house was surrounded by unseen predators. Looking out of
the window, Tom thought that he saw yellow eyes reflecting in the
darkness, but he could not be sure. Once the sounds started, it
took Susan about ten seconds to turn into a full-blown basket
Tom turned to see if there was anything in the
travel bag that he could use in this situation, and that is when he
saw him. There was a small, dark haired man with arcane symbols
tattooed across every bit of skin he could see. He was calmly
sitting on the couch as though he had been there all day, watching
Who the hell are you?” He asked
Just what I was going to ask you.
There is some sort of growling animals outside, and we were about
to take a powder.” Tom replied.
Last I remember I was lying down
to take a nap.” The man said. “Oh, I get it. You are in my
The man listened to the sounds of the growling
for a bit. “They sound a bit like the Dark Stalkers that hang out
around Ulthar. All you have to do is draw a square or a circle and
stay inside it. They can’t cross them. Running water works,
Tom went to the bag and rummaged around until
he found the can of spray paint. He quickly laid down a square with
the paint that included the couch and extended to the front wall
just inside the door.
I understand now. You are in my
dream, and this is the hard world adjacent to the dreamlands.” The
man said. “I am going to wake up now.” He silently disappeared as
soon as he completed saying this. Tom was looking directly at him
as he did so, but he could not distinguish any stages to the
process of disappearing; one second he was there and the next
second he was not.
Tom looked over at Susan, who seemed to be
frozen in place just in front of the coffee table in front of the
couch. She apparently did not even notice our brief visitor, and
she looked about ready to bolt in a wild panic run at any moment.
Tom went over and took her by the arm.
Susan, come over and sit on the
couch. I have it on good authority that we will be safe as long as
we stay inside the square that I painted on the floor.” Tom gave
her arm another tug toward the square.
The growling outside suddenly became much
louder, almost as if the monsters were about to break into a fight
to see which one got to eat them first. The sound was almost
deafening, and it was exactly the wrong time. Susan shook Tom hands
off her arm, and ran for the door. Reaching the door, she grabbed
the doorknob and jerked the door open.
With a small sound somewhere a scream and a
whimper, she darted out into the darkness. Almost as soon as she
crossed the threshold, she was suddenly jerked to the left. A
tormented scream came from her as parts of the darkness seemed to
form claws and ripped her body apart, in front of Tom’s eyes. In
seconds, it was over, and she was gone.
Tom eased over and used a broom to push the
door closed. Even Bailey seemed to have no desire to go out to
confront the owners of those claws. They sat in quietness until the
darkness had fled the countryside. Somewhere during the darkness,
they slept where they sat.
With the dawn Tom and Bailey woke. While Tom
made coffee, he cooked up the last of the bacon, giving a few
strips of it to Bailey. Tom made a mental note to pick up some dog
food on the road, although he really preferred to give dogs actual
meat as a nod to their carnivorous natures. When they stopped at
nights, he planned on buying ten pound bags of Chicken thighs at
the Walmarts he found. That would give the dog a decent supper and
a heavy breakfast each day. If people ate cereal as a meal, then
the meat flavored dry gravy that serves as American dog food world
probably be okay for Bailey once a day.
Okay, Bailey. Susan won’t be
coming, but we will still be driving east in the van, just you and
me. Everything is packed up and loaded, the van is healthy and full
of gas, and time is a’wasting. Did I miss anything?”
Bailey looked into Tom’s face, and barked. He
started wagging his tail and frisking about. He went over to the
door and gave it an exploratory scratch.
I guess that means that you are
ready to go. I’ll get the lights and the bag. Why don’t you drive
for the first few hours?” Tom quipped. He opened the door and he
and the dog headed for the van.
An hour later, he and the dog were whipping
down Interstate 10 at a steady 70 miles an hour. Bailey spent about
fifty percent of his time with his head out the window, and half
the time curled up on the seat getting a bit more beauty sleep. He
had steadfastly refused to drive at all so far, even though that
loaded Tom down with the total responsibility for the
Another hour saw them past Tucson, and
starting to head east to New Mexico, southern edition. Just before
they got to Benson, Arizona, Tom stopped to pick up a middle aged
hitchhiker carrying a briefcase and wearing a slightly threadbare
suit. Tom tried to engage the passenger in conversation without
much success, at least until the conversational gambit he used
broached the subject of food. For the first time, the hitchhiker
looked truly animated.
I love cheese, I love Roquefort
and Monterey Jack and Feta and Cotija and Gouda and Mozzarella and
Chèvre and Parmigiano-Reggiano and Camembert and Emmental and
Cheddar and Taleggio and Manchego. I never go anywhere without
them. See?” The Hitcher unsnapped his briefcase, and opened it.
Inside the case contained nothing but slices of cheese.
For the rest of the ride until they got to
Willcox, the Hitcher continued to speak at length about the virtues
of cheese. Bailey successfully conveyed by his facial expression
the little-known emotion of bemusement. At last Tom pulled over and
let him know that they were now at his stop. He looked a little
confused, but he relocked his briefcase of pungent dairy products
and got out of the van.
On the other side of Willcox, Tom parked the
Van at a rest stop, and got out to stretch his legs. Bailey piled
out of the van to keep Tom company, and they spent a few moments
admiring the assortment of buildings and landscaping that always
seemed to crop up in these places. They followed the trail into a
small canyon like area filled with a variety of fern-like plants
ranging from ground level to a small to medium sized tree height.
It looked like a mixture of Cycads and actual ferns. Bailey gave
out a couple of happy barks, which pointed out for Tom some
movement in some of the undergrowth.
First one, then another, and finally a small
herd of low-slung Dimetrodon looking animals wandered into sight,
actually grazing on the ferns they were passing by. Obviously not
carnivores, then, so not Dimetrodons, but their plant eating
cousins called Edaphosaurus, complete with back sails and all. What
were they doing here? Why were there any still alive? As far as Tom
knew, the last of these six foot long 150 pound sail-back iguanas
should have been extinct for 300 million years or so. Yet here was
a whole herd of them!
The dog was having a jolly old time, he had
made his way down into the herd, and was joyfully nipping at their
almost dainty legs, making them mill about in a sort of indifferent
alarm that only an extinct reptile could carry off. Hopefully,
there wasn’t something else living in the area that enjoyed eating
Bailey and Tom spent thirty minutes or so just
watching the herd of impossible animals. Tom spent another thirty
minutes trying to find someone that knew why they were here, but
all he found were other tourists that had no idea what he was
talking about. As far as he could discover, no one worked at the
rest stop. Even if they did, he had no reason to believe that they
would be aware of what was happening under their noses. Maybe this
was some alternative form of ‘the events’, and so the normal folks
just didn’t see it. It didn’t feel that way, though.
Finally, they got tired of watching impossibly
living, extinct reptiles grazing, and man and dog regained the path
and returned to the parking area. A stop at the restrooms and a
shot of water from the drinking fountain for each of them, and they
were off down the interstate once more.
Tom took the Voyager up to sixty-five miles
per hour, and they cruised toward El Paso. Once again Bailey did
not manifest any indication of taking a turn at the wheel, so Tom
settled in for the two hundred mile trip. It should take just over
three hours to make it there, and then they would probably put in
for the night.
As they cruised down the road, Tom was
unsettled to notice many small details about the landscape seemed
different from what he remembered from his last trip this way. For
one thing, the plant cover looked much more tropical than he
remembered, and when he noticed cacti or other succulents, they did
not look like the desert plants he remembered. They were much
bigger, and had leaf-like structures like many of the South
American succulents, not the over-supple of thorns and rib-like
structures that he expected in the American west.
There was something different about the
buildings they occasionally passed, as well. The gas stations and
restaurants and other service buildings that one would expect to
see along the route were still there, but now they seemed to be
inherently fortified, with connecting walls that turned them into
stockades, defendable if attacked. Attacked by what, Tom was not
sure. Tom decided that stopping at one of these places was not
advisable, and that they would continue on to El Paso before
After three hours, Tom was disturbed by the
absence of signage showing the distance to El Paso. As a matter of
fact, for the last hundred miles, there had been no mention of the
city in the signage at all. At about the position that Tom’s
odometer assured him should be the location of the city, he came
upon a small town which proudly proclaimed it to be the town of
They pulled up to a small diner of the sort
that one finds all over Texas, and after getting permission from
the lady in the front to bring Bailey into the place, they settled
at a table to order a speck of food. Tom had Bailey lie quietly at
his feet, so that no one had an excuse to rescind the
The waitress came up to take their order. Tom
ordered the Heifer burger with slab fries for himself, and two rare
hamburger patties for Bailey. The waitress sounded and looked
exactly like any West Texas waitress Tom had ever seen, with a tall
beehive hairdo, and the twangy accent that said ‘you all are
welcome home’. He always felt like he had found long lost family
when he found one of these waitresses.
Just as she got through taking down his order,
there was some sort of flicker around her body, and he saw her
walking back toward the kitchen, and standing in front of him at
the same time. When he looked into her face, it was obvious that
she was noticing nothing amiss, so he didn’t press the point.
Instead, it was time to solve the mystery of the missing El