Saturday, November 23, 2013

Chapter Forty-Two - Home Again

October 14th, 2022
Hidden Springs, Alaska

A cold wind moved across the small Alaskan town of Hidden Springs, typical due to the state's location on the planet. Around mid-October, citizens of America's northernmost state would typically start to wear thicker clothes to ward off the frozen air as snow came from above and blanketed the town in a white layer of, turning it into a frozen wonderland. That was no different on this cold night as people made their way inside and gathered warmly around the fireplaces to share the experiences of their days. Others, mostly pairs, also gathered in front of fire places for other particular reasons to get their minds off the cold winter nights.

On the edge of town sat a small bar next to a large house. The owners of the house were out of town, having quickly left a month and a half before to take an impromptu vacation; however, no one in the town made their way to break into it even knowing that the denizens of the house were long gone. The bar, being away from the economic center of Hidden Springs, had the occasional customer but not too much business in the long run, and even less during the long winters that plagued the state.

On this cold night, a man by the name of Alan Fredel was currently tending the bar, wishing that at least his regular customers would step on in and order their favored drinks. Since they left he's had no one to really chat with and, in some cases, ask to take over while he had to tend to emergencies across town which in the long run had damaged his business in many ways, as he had to leave the bar closed on these particular nights.

In fact, it seemed that young lady who frequented the bar for a while, a girl by the name of Annabelle, drew in more business than even he did when she took over. He questioned why a young and attractive lady could bring in more business than he ever could, then realized he answered his own question.

Alan worked away at the bar when someone opened the door. It was a young biker, who presumably came in to hang out before heading out to continue driving. Alan was happy that this man walked into the bar as not too many out-of-town people made their way here, despite it being on what could be seen as the only main road in and out of the town. Then again, Hidden Springs was a small town in the middle of nowhere, so it wasn't surprising.

The biker walked up to the bar stand and ordered a drink, shaking snow off his boots as he did so. Alan made a silent gesture that there was a rug at the doorway for the particular purpose of wiping feet so other patrons wouldn't slip on the melted ice, but the biker made no attempt to listen to him. When Alan poured the drink and handed it to him, the biker took one sip then pulled his head back, looking at the bartender with an angered expression.

"What the hell is this?! I asked for a Spline Reticulator and you give something that tastes like crude oil. Pathetic."

"Most of my supplies are used up. I ordered some more but they never came." Alan said, calmly. "That's all I can give you until they get here."

"To hell with this." The biker said before spilling the drink on the ground, intentionally. "I am not going to drink this crap and I'm not going to pay!"

Alan protested. "Please, sir! My business is running slow lately! I can't get the best stuff in good quantity!" The biker stormed out and slammed the door shut before Alan could finish.

After a few moments, Alan walked around the bar and began mopping the spilled drink up. Before walking around to get back to his post, however, he heard a strange noise from outside. One that sounded like a slash, then a scream, then someone falling down.

Alan ran out the door and looked around. Off in the distance, he could see someone running away, and presumed it was the biker trying to scare him. As he was turning to go back inside he stopped cold; the biker was on the ground, slumped up against the bar wall. His face was slashed open and his eyes were frozen open . Alan leaned down to check the man's pulse and realized he was dead, then ran back inside to call the police, but not before turning around and seeing... something off in the distance.


The next morning was cold and gray, as expected due to the continuous snow fall. The main door to the house next to Alan's bar silently creeped partially open and the house lights were turned on by a black and blue gloved hand reaching inside.


Seconds later the door flew open, revealing Keera who happily kissed and hugged the walls of her home, very much glad to be back after a month and a half away. However she pulled away as she noticed the walls were different. In fact, a lot of things were different about the house. The walls were now white when they used to be brown, the floor was blue carpeting, and there was now a door connecting the vibrantly-changed living room as opposed to a simple arch. The kitchen also had a makeover.

"What the...? Are we in an alternate dimension? Did John send us to an alternate universe where everything looks like an awesome sci-fi flick? Because it's awesome. And sci-fi. And flicky. I don't care if flicky isn't a word because I just coined it."

Annabelle, walking in after her, smiled as she looked around the changed house. "Nah. I told you, just after we left, that I hired some renovators to change things up. I was tired of looking at all the drab empty walls, so I took action. So far this place looks exactly as I asked. None of our bedrooms were changed though."

Keera looked around confused. "Ah. I think I remember you telling me that. I understand though, why you would want change. When we left here you weren't exactly on the best terms with Tom."

Annabelle nodded. "Yeah. Oh man that reminds me, right before we left I wrote a nasty message on Tom's wall saying that he 'eats reptile eggs for breakfast'! I gotta go wipe that off."

Annabelle quickly ran upstairs, with Tom watching her as he walked into the door. "What's her hurry?"

Keera smiled, not wanting to tell Tom why she truly ran upstairs. "She wanted to make sure her art wasn't vandalized by the interior decorators. She'll be back in a bit. Does anyone need help carrying bags in?"

"Nah, everyone's good for now." Tom replied, looking back at John and Scarlett who were walking in side-by-side with Mirabelle not far behind. "Oh great, here comes the married couple."

Keera rolled her eyes. "Oh, they're married? I can't tell."

When John and Scarlett approached the door, John bowed properly and motioned his hand towards the entrance. "Do you want to go inside first, Mrs. Kethrin?"

"Why thank you Mr. Kethrin!" Scarlett laughed as the two stood there, bowing to one-another. "I must say I adore your gentlemanly mannerisms my dear husband! And I dare say I love being your wonderful wife!"

"Well I love being your dear husband little Red-"

"Will you just go inside already?!" Mirabelle bellowed out. "This backpack is damn heavy and I'm freezing out here!"

Scarlett turned around, smiled, then walked inside. John followed suit and the two walked upstairs to their bedroom to get settled in. Tom, Keera, and Mirabelle all collectively groaned as John kept spewing out old-style sayings declaring how lovely it was to be married. When they were out of earshot, Mirabelle looked at the rest.

"I swear if I'm that 'lovey dovey' with Kelly after our marriage you have my permission to throw me into a volcano. A REALLY hot one. Speaking of Kelly, where is she?"

"She's next door at the bar." Gabriel said as he walked inside. When he walked in, Mira dropped the pack on the ground and kicked it over against the door. "She went over there when the car pulled up, something about a crime scene or something. I wasn't really listening. I uh..."

Just then, Cassie walked inside and smiled at Gabriel, looking around the house that she was going to be living in for a while. When she was gone, Gabriel looked back to Mirabelle. "I was focused on something else. Excuse me!" Gabe walked away, but not before listening to Mirabelle tell him that there were guest rooms on the second floor, and that he should pick one.


When that business was done, Mirabelle walked outside and over to the bar. In the bright daylight, she humorously thought that she could see Kelly's bright blue clothes before she actually saw her face. "What's up hon?" she asked while her fiance stood there in the snow.

"I dunno," Kelly replied, "there's something that happened here last night, what with the signs indicating a crime scene. There's also... look over here." Kelly continued to claw at the snow and pointed in the direction of a red stain, a stark contrast to the white layer on the ground. When she saw this, she took off her snow goggles and put on her glasses to get a better look at it. "Blood. Someone was murdered here. Right outside this bar and twenty feet from our house!"

"Damn." Mirabelle said, visibly. "Not here! This was the bar John and Scarlett got engaged in. I hope the owner wasn't involved."

"No, I don't think so. I know Alan, he's too nice to have done this. Still, I want to head down to the police station to see if I can get any more info. You can come with if you want."

Mirabelle nodded. "Yeah, let's go. Get the car ready and I'll tell everyone where we're going. It will give me an opportunity to get away from Captain Sugarsweet and his Blushing Bride."

Kelly laughed, then stood up. "We should be going then. I wonder what happened here."

The two walked back to the house, with Kelly getting in the car and Mira stepping inside to tell everyone that they were getting ready to leave for a bit. The resulting vocalization from Tom, sitting at a nearby computer checking his SocialNet web page, was a resounding phrase of "Okay, see ya when you get back." The enthusiasm resonating from Tom's voice so striking evident (as in, none at all) that Mirabelle wondered if he was actually listening to her.

"Oh and pink elephants are dancing to Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker outside on the lawn."

"If you say so, Annie."

Mirabelle grew angry for a split second, wondering if Tom was messing with her or actually believed he was listening to Annabelle talk. 'To be fair', she thought, 'our voices are the same.' 

Tom continued to look at the computer screen while Mirabelle left the house and walked to the waiting car, getting in the driver's seat to drive Kelly to the police station. "So what if they don't let me in?" she asked, looking at the snow-covered road along the way, "I mean, you're the detective while I'm just a detective's fiance. Even worse what if they don't let you in? Your first day back in town and you're investigating a murder?"

"I am sure they'll let me in; I have developed quite the rapport with the HSPD." Kelly responded while looking at the internet on her phone, reading up on any recent events in town. The murder of a motorist outside a bar on the edge of town was hitting the news hard, but at the same time there were other reports of the Plumbob Pictures Studio opening again after a few month closing, with increased safety procedures and surveillance cameras across the entire lot as a way of preventing any other on-set accidents.

On the darker side of the coin, other cameras would be placed around town. Kelly quickly found a link on the main news site that led to a controversial idea of even placing hidden cameras in grocery stores and parks.

"This is wonderful." Kelly said describing the news report, not sure if she was sincere in her words or not. "The town is going to implement something called the Emergency Response Act, or ERA."

"What's that?" Mirabelle asked. "It certainly sounds interesting."

"It's a civil service act that will place hidden cameras all over town. It's slogan is 'Your Safety is a Camera View Away'. Why in the hell would people sign on for this?"

"I don't know," Mirabelle replied, "maybe it's a way to make the public feel, you know, safer. After what happened in Starlight Shores and Sunset Valley about nine years ago I wouldn't be shocked." With that she pulled into he police station's parking garage, allowing Kelly to get out. Mirabelle got out of the car as well, and the girl in blue walked over to her.

"You know I can ask if you can come in to assist as my associate. I may need your assistance, you know. You are a valuable asset to me. Wow, I'm using too many words that start with-"

Mirabelle laughed, knowing that Kelly was trying to bring some humor to this moment, then looked at her. "Nah, there's the library over there. I'm going to head on over and grab a book or two. You sure you're going to be alright in there?"

Kelly nodded. "Yeah. It's been a while since I've had a good mystery. Not that a murder investigation is something I expected to come home to." She then started to walk away, but not before turning around one more time when she reached the door. "Hey Mira, be careful. And know that I love you."

Mirabelle smiled, "I love you too," and watched Kelly walk inside the police station. When that was over, she made sure Kelly was safely inside the building before getting back in the car and driving over to the library, leaving her car behind and going inside.


Annabelle, after scrubbing the graffiti off Tom's wall that she wrote before leaving Hidden Springs, walked into her bedroom and felt a sense of happiness and familiarity that she had longed for for quite some time. There was something about her bedroom in Hidden Springs that outmatched the one she had back in Starlight Shores. She didn't know what that was, though. Perhaps it was the "feeling" of being "home", which she never felt back in the other house, even when surrounded by her friends and family.

Now that she was back, situated, and the snow was covering the ground outside, Annabelle decided to do something that she had only been able to do on an artificial level for the past few months. Opening up her dresser, she saw a pair of white ice skates, a name brand that she bought on the internet that she loved using every time it was cold enough to skate. She stuffed the ice skates into her backpack and walked downstairs, letting herself revel, again, in the fact that she was back home.

As she walked outside the door, she turned to Tom, who was still playing on the computer. "Hey I'm going to go ice skating up the hill. I'll be back in a bit."

"Okay, Mirabelle." Tom said as he refused to take his eyes off the computer screen. Annabelle wondered why he called her that, then realized that she and Mirabelle had the exact same voices. She curiously wondered if, when spoken to earlier by Mira, if he called her the opposite name as well.

"Well I, 'Mirabelle', will be back in a while. Keep an eye on the place, would you?"

Tom nodded while keeping his vision locked in on the computer screen. Annie chuckled as she left the door, thinking to herself as walked down the street and up the hill to a frozen pond. During this walk, she thought back to the event which brought Annabelle away from Hidden Springs in the first place, the whole thing with the Genie Lamp that she had to stop Jack Toomes from getting. The Genie she met, Anika Sundar, seemed to be sad, and lonely, and left so suddenly that no one in the house didn't even have a chance to get to know the girl. Annabelle hoped that their paths would cross again, for the sake of understanding who she was.

Annabelle then thought over why Anika left, at least the reason she gave everyone.

"I have to stop the Abyss."

  That was it, those words were spoken and then she was gone. Kelly looked up everything she could about "The Abyss", finding many links to an old movie from the 1980's, and the actual phrase of the word "abyss" but could not seem to lock down anything else regarding whatever Anika was talking about.

Kelly then mentioned something about a different word she heard, "Vornek", and looked that up to no avail. The only thing "Vornek" she could find a link to was the name of an old monster from a book called The Dark Hollow. Both Annabelle and Kelly were disturbed by this revelation because The Dark Hollow was the same book Nightmare's "good" human half seemed obsessed with and named herself after.

Annabelle wondered if Nightmare, the Abyss, and these fictional Vornek were connected, somehow.

Not wanting to bog her mind down with worry, especially after coming off a major conflict, Annabelle simply pushed that thought away and finished walking up the hill, finding herself at a small pond overlooking the town. Annie quickly changed from her shoes to the ice skates, using the backpack as a standing place so she didn't have to worry about stepping into the snow without shoes on, and stepped onto the frozen pond.

It took her a few moments, but Annabelle got back into the swing of things, being able to spin and skate backwards with ease. For an hour she did this: skating, spinning, and performing tricks that would have made other people envious had they been nearby when she was performing them.

Just as she was beginning to wind down, Annabelle sensed that someone was watching her. Despite the feeling, Annabelle kept skating but at the same time would keep an eye on her backpack, which was lying on the ground not too far away.

After another half-hour skating, Annabelle stopped and walked over to the backpack, putting her regular shoes on. She figured she was done skating at the moment, but decided to walk back down the hill towards a nearby resort to get some lunch, keeping the wet and heavy backpack back on the hill hidden against a nearby tree so it could dry out.

Content that the backpack was hidden, Annabelle began walking away towards the town, but stopped cold in her tracks when she heard a voice behind her. She turned around and saw nothing, then looked up and saw a woman literally flying in the air.

"Hello," The woman said. "I saw you skating, you were great at it! I wish I could skate but I always get the feeling to fly above the pond rather than on it." This woman, who Annabelle immediately believed was some kind of supernatural creature, had blue hair, orange skin, and was seemingly carried by a set of glowing wings on her back. "You forgot your pack thingy."

Annabelle, who had encountered witches, aliens, and genies in her life, was surprisingly stunned by the sudden appearance of, lack of a better word, this fairy. Of course she believed in fairies, but never in her life thought she would see one face-to-face.

"It's my backpack." Annabelle replied. "I am leaving it here to let it dry out. You're a fairy, aren't you?"

"We prefer the term 'Feen'," this woman said as she hovered to the ground. "I'm a Feen, you're green, it's the scene, ya know what I mean? Hey that rhymed! I'm totes writing that down, he-he. You don't happen to have a pen, no?"

Annabelle shook her head, and took another step towards the fairy. "What's your name?"

"Kaaaaaaaaleey. Kaley Botha. You? Or should I keep calling ya green lady with purple and black clothes. Cool combination. I would choose that combination if I was a Feen, which I am, I wish I could write this stuff down but I don't have a pen. You're an alien aren't you?"

"Uhh... yeah, not really though. How do you know that?"

"Well Aliens don't look like the rest of humans. You're green, they're not. I only met a different alien though. She was purple. She wasn't a Feen, though I have met some purple Feen this girl wasn't one."

"A purple alien?" Annabelle was intrigued by this fairy's words, and wanted to hear more regarding this other alien. "Please continue. When did you meet this alien, what was she like? She still around?"

"In that order? We met a while ago, she never shut up, and I think she's in some place on this planet I think maybe I dunno. I'm pretty sure you'll meet her one day. Hopefully you have ear plugs when you do. Hey look at that up there!"

Kaley pointed in the air and Annabelle looked up at it, she didn't see anything that the alien was pointing at, perhaps the top of the trees. Suddenly, she felt a tiny bit colder, which was a result of all her clothes being suddenly gone save for her sleepwear!

"WHAT THE HELL?!" Annabelle yelled out, angrily. She looked over at Kaley, who was snickering.

"Pranked ya! Love pranking people! He-he."

Annabelle, however, was less than happy. "This isn't FUNNY! I'm freezing here! Give me back my clothes!"

"I-I... I don't know how, they're automatically returned to your home and I don't know where your home is! It's a prank!"

"Give me back my damn clothes you giant radioactive butterfly!!" Annabelle yelled again, every other word a frozen stutter. "Now!! NOW!!!"

Kaley was scared that this woman, who didn't seem to be in the pranking mood, was going to attack her. Hoping against hope that a counter-spell would work, she closed her eyes and tried to reverse the prank without knowing quite what she was doing or how she was doing it. Suddenly a huge burst of magic shot out of her hand and hit Annabelle square in the stomach, knocking the woman back twenty feet and against a tree, which resulted in doing nothing more than knocking her out.

Kaley, opening her eyes again, looked over at Annabelle who was lying on the ground and hovered over to her. "Oh... oh dear. Oh dear, I killed her. I... I have... oh dear."

Annabelle stirred a bit, trying to stand up but falling out again. Kaley was relieved that the woman was alive, but scared for herself when she would wake back up. After a short contemplation, Kaley used some of her magic and cast a protective shield on the woman, keeping her safe from the cold. After this, she turned into a small sprite form and flew away, leaving Annabelle behind.


Kelly walked out of the police station and strolled over to the library, where she saw Mirabelle checking out some old books. "Why hello there little lady. What's up?" Mirabelle said, smiling.

"Police station was a dead end, they said it was a bear attack. I pointed out that there would have been more evidence of a bear than simply being slashed across the face, what about the fact that there were no bear sightings at all? Ugh, it's odd, I tell ya." Kelly then drew her attention away from the investigation and more at the books Mirabelle was checking out. "Whatcha got there?"

"Nothing much," Mirabelle replied as she used an auto check-out device, "some books on the theory of mental manipulation, inter-dimensional travel, and this 'Dark Hollow'. I heard about it, wanted to read it."

"Hmmm," Kelly replied as she looked at the book, "Annabelle and I were talking about that book not too long ago. Do you remember that I mentioned something about a word, 'Vornek', after our little trip the library basement the night Annabelle was kidnapped? That book has a creature called a Vornek as a monster. The description matched perfectly with that monster that John, Scarlett, and I saw in the park a few nights before the eclipse when we tested out the meteor device."

Mirabelle thought this over and opened the book, looking for the chapter with the Vornek. When she finally reached chapter thirty-seven, she saw something written on the top of the page in black ink, just above the chapter title.

After reading the inked-in note, a wide-eyed Mirabelle promptly closed the book and threw it halfway down the library. Kelly could sense a feeling of panic coming from her fiance, and walked over to the book, picked it up, and looked at the chapter, reading the written message.

"Use this well, Mirabelle Kethrin."

Kelly looked up and saw Mirabelle shaking in fear, trying to figure out why the book mentioned her by name, then went back to the book.


"It stinks that your brother didn't want to come over with us." Keera said as she, Cassie, and Gabriel were walking around the town's main center. Cassie decided to take a tour of the town with Gabriel, as both of them had never been to Hidden Springs proper. Keera, wanting to spend more time with her new half-brother, decided to take them on a sightseeing venture with Cassie driving the car.

In the meantime, however, all of them were standing in front of the town's city hall, using that as their jumping-off point to tour the rest of the community's main square.

"I know, but he has important business in Starlight Shores, and wanted to stay with Isobelle. Don't worry, they'll be here soon. Just as soon as Izzy gets some things done with her casino."

Keera nodded, "There should be a nice coffee shop not too far from here," she said, "I used to visit it quite a bit when I was younger and out of school." The three walked across the snow-covered courtyard to the town center and over to the building that Keera had mentioned, which was a small lot just on the main square. The three quickly ordered coffee and sat down at a nearby table, the teens finishing their drinks and tossing them in the trash before Cassie could even start.

"So Gabe," Keera said, looking at her half-brother, "Is Hidden Springs as beautiful as me constantly saying it was? I think so, then again that's just me."

Gabriel looked over at Cassie, and smiled. "Yes, I think it is. Quite a lot of hidden beauty in this town, a real treat for the eyes."

Keera, looking over at Gabe, then Cassie, and then back to Gabe, laughed. "Yes, exactly. You should see this town when it's spring. So green and vibrant! And don't make a joke about the green thing."

"I wasn't going to," Gabe replied.

Keera laughed again, "Then maybe you're not Tom's son!" She continued laughing while leaving Gabriel a bit confused.

"Well I've seen this town, at least the outskirts of it," Cassie said, "this place is where I picked up my brother from a hospital he checked himself into. He told me he had to, to better himself."

"What do you mean?" Keera asked, "I thought it was a hospital for his back. You... you told me."

Cassie looked sad as she spoke, "It... wasn't just a physical therapy facility... you know, I can't talk about this right now. I don't know when. So! About that tour!"

Keera and Gabe looked uneasy, then stood up in tandem with Cassie. The former nodded to the door, and the rest of the three walked out into the snowy town.

"You know, Keera? I'm glad I came along here." Gabe said as he walked past her. "This place beats the desert of Nevada any day of the week."

"Yeah." Keera's tone of voice seemed more distant for some reason, which Gabe didn't pick up on.

"I mean, it's such a great place! So cool, so beautiful, and I love snow. I take you agree, Keera?" There was no response. Gabe turned around and looked at the teenage girl, who was standing not too far away staring off into the distance. After peering into the snow, Gabe could see what she was looking at.

"The film studio." Keera said. It wasn't a question, a remark, or even a sentence, just a declaration of what the building was. The words were spoken with a cold chill, one that froze the air more than the icy flakes falling around the group ever could. "You ever hear what happened? What happened to me there? I'm sure I told you."

"An accident," Gabriel replied.

"You told us what happened, so did Annabelle," Cassie also said, "There is no need to dwell on things, Keera. I understand that you were hurt there. I know that the past is pain. But... it the pain is behind us, and it's up to us--all of us--to make things better from now on. No one can change the past, but everyone can change the future."

"I suppose." Keera replied, keeping her gaze locked on the studio for a moment more until she finally snapped out of it. The three then walked across town to a shopping plaza which had a few stores still under construction. Keera thought to herself that this store wasn't there before, and it must had been built recently.


John and Scarlett were standing in their bedroom, hugging one-another warmly after putting up pictures from their recent wedding on the wall against their bed. When they stopped hugging, John walked over to his backpack and pulled a small spherical object out of it, then put the object back into the container. "MIKE just contacted me. He's being delivered by truck because he doesn't feel comfortable being transported in a plane's cargo hold. He'll be here in a few days."

"That's good to know," Scarlett said, "we need our ring-bearer here."

"So, I was thinking about what to do for our honeymoon," John said while getting some other objects out of the backpack. "How about a spontaneous trip, one we can go on right now?"

"John, we just got back today. I'm tired, I'm pregnant, and I don't want to get back on a plane just after getting off of one!"

"No, this doesn't involve a plane. Come on, let's go to the basement, I'll show you a whole new world you've never seen."

Scarlett, confused, looked at her new husband with an equally confused look on her face. "Sorry but my mind is going to some interesting place-"

"No no!" John chuckled, then grabbed her hand. "I'll show you what I mean."

The two walked down the stairs, past Tom playing his game, and found themselves in John's lab in the basement, where he pressed a button on the wall which faded away, revealing a familiar spherical object on the other side. Scarlett recognized the object as the one John was building before they left for Starlight Shores, one she herself had trouble with building when they moved towns.

"That thing? I thought you decommissioned it after it exploded and sent Tom to that other universe?" Scarlett asked, wondering what she actually had just said. "Is this a different one?"

John nodded, "Yes, technically. I built it out of the old parts and added some new ones. While in Starlight Shores, I came up with an idea to develop a stable portal that we can use back-and-forth between dimensions! After Tom was sent to that alternate universe, and Annie and I worked to get him back, I figured out a way to travel freely between our two worlds, using the 'hole' Tom fell into as a starting point. A month or so ago, I went to this alternate universe where I met another John Kethrin."

Scarlett, looking confused, said "But I thought you had this device in Starlight Shores! How did it get here so quickly?"

John shrugged. "If you want to get technical, this isn't 'mine', this actually belongs to the different John whom I've been communicating with. He needed my help as, due to certain technological issues, he couldn't complete his own dimensional gate. So he gave me what he had built so far, and I was just about to give him a visit and tell him the full specifications of developing a device like this. Would the lady care to join me?"

"You... want me... to go to a different universe with you?!"

John smiled and held her hands. "Think of it as... a very special honeymoon. Why go to Isla Paradiso when the two of us can journey across space-time and find ourselves in a parallel dimension?"

Scarlett smirked, then stepped toward the device. John didn't have much luck with mechanical devices on their first go-round before, but thought to herself that the device they were staring at did successfully, if accidentally, send Tom to a different reality, and since then John had the time to tinker and toy with the device to get all the kinks worked out. Deep in her heart, she trusted his judgement. "First the alternate universe, THEN Isla Paradiso. And to be honest, if ANYONE else outside our family said that phrase I'm sure it would sound completely insane."

John smiled, then pulled the small spherical-shaped object he had earlier out of his backpack. The device beeped, then hovered in mid-air projecting a holographic control panel into the air in front of him. John then used a set of controls to activate the dimensional transporter, bathing the room in a brilliant blue light.

"Okay, crossing dimensional field in three... two... one... activating!"

Scarlett closed her eyes, then opened them again when she felt the warm sun on her face despite the fact that she was in an Alaskan basement not five seconds earlier. The first thing she saw upon opening her eyes was a large gray-stone mountain peering over her, looking over a familiar town.

"Sunset Valley! We're back in Sunset Valley!"

John smiled. "But it isn't our Sunset Valley. It's one that Tom visited a while ago. I've been coming here every once in a while to talk to my alternate self. We wanted to set something up for you. In fact, we're right outside the house they live in."


John, smiling, rang the doorbell on the outside of the house. A few moments passed, each one making Scarlett more curious as to what was happening, until the door opened revealing another John, this one wearing different clothes. The John who Scarlett knew nodded to his counterpart and whispered something to him.

"Come in, we've been waiting for you," the other John said.

John and Scarlett nodded as they walked into the house. Scarlett recognized the interior, but couldn't put her finger on where she'd seen it before. She heard footsteps upstairs, and then the other John yelling out that "she" was there. Red decided to take a look at some art pieces which were set on the floor, seemingly for packing and delivery to some type of show, and was quite happy to see that whoever made them chose the color red over any other color.

"Are these yours?" Scarlett asked to the other John, who was looking upstairs. "Did you make these, or-"

"Actually my girlfriend did. Well, most of them, really. The one in the corner is the result of her mother's work. Her family is very talented." The other John then looked at his watch and looked at the door. "Look, I have to pick up my.. sister... friend... sorta... well her name's Jessica and she's waiting for me at the hospital. She had a checkup today and needs a ride back to our house. You two just stay here, have some soda, and make yourselves at home. They'll be downstairs soon."

Scarlett shook her head, "Who are 'they'? What's going on?"

John, the one Annabelle was familiar with, held her hands. "I arranged a meeting here. I've been coming to this dimension for weeks, building up a rapport and explaining why I wanted you to come along. In fact, that's why I was always in my lab. I've actually been here, getting to know myself." He then chuckled, and looked at the stairs behind Red. "Hello there."

Scarlett turned around and saw herself standing at the base of the stairs, flanked by two others who were vaguely familiar to her. Suddenly, a realization hit her. She had seen these two people before, but only when they were younger, and only on a television.

"Mom? Dad?"


"Ow... ow ow... damned fairy thing." After being knocked out for who knew how long, Annabelle woke up and walked down the hill, keeping an eye out for the fairy in case she came back and decided to prank her again. Despite her clothes still being gone, Annie felt warm as though she was wearing a nice long coat. Still, the walk home felt long and arduous, and she constantly heard a "swishing" sound in her ear like that fairy was still following her.

Annabelle walked into the house and turned, seeing Tom still on the computer. "Hey, how long have I been gone?"

"A couple hours," Tom replied, "both you and Mirabelle left at the same time- Hey cool! A laser upgrade! These evil robots are going to get it now! No one takes over my city!"

Annabelle laughed as Tom went back to his game, not even turning around to see her. Despite being asleep for a while, all Annabelle wanted to do was go upstairs and rest. She walked up the stairs, into the bedroom, and eased herself into the bed.

But that noise woke her up again.

It was a constant sound, a "shwoosh" noise like wings catching air. Annabelle, worried about herself, stood up and walked over to the mirror to see if she had a concussion from hitting that tree so hard.

What she saw, however, shook her out of this daze.