Debra is our hostess for this last Friday Fiction in April, over on her blog, Writing With Debra. Go sit a spell, and enjoy some fiction reading after the work week.
I have a new short story to share this week. I’m not sure yet how long it will be, but I’ve been having fun thinking of the concept. Without further ado, here’s part 1.
By Rick Higginson
Ian glanced at the address on the building, and then checked the text message on his phone to be sure he’d read it correctly. The old building had been vacant for as long as he could remember, and had collected its own local lore of strange happenings inside. He and his friends had once broken open a window on Halloween, daring to spend the night in the haunt. Nothing had happened, but when they returned later the next day, the window had not only been repaired, but reinforced.
Okay, Jeff, this place is certainly a trip down memory lane, but why would you want me to meet you here? He slipped the phone back in his pocket, and put the glove back on his hand. Occasional flurries of snow drifted on the breeze, confirming the weatherman’s prediction of a cold storm hitting the area that day. He paced a few minutes, and then decided to take refuge from the wind chill in the building’s entrance alcove.
He had no sooner leaned in the lee of the wall, when the door swung open.
“You made it,” Jeff said, from inside the door. “Come on in.”
“How did you get in there?” Ian asked.
“With the key.”
“Okay, where did you get the key?”
“From the realtor, when I bought this building.”
He paused on the threshold. “You bought this building? When did that happen, and whatever for?”
“Come on in, and I’ll explain inside. It’s warmer in here, and I have something I need to show you.”
The front part of the building remained unlit, and looked very much like it had on that long-past Halloween. “So, are you going to fix it up and open a business, or something?”
“It’s as fixed up as I need it right now, and I’ve already established a ‘business’ here.” Jeff locked the door, and adjusted the shade on the door to once again block any outside view. He turned on a flashlight, and aimed it towards the stairway at the back of the building. “This way,” he said.
Something cold and wet pushed at Ian’s hand, startling him momentarily. He glanced down, and a pair of ghostly blue eyes stared back at him, just before the dog gave his hand an experimental lick. “Your dog just gave me a heart attack. When did you get a dog?”
“Chronos? Oh, man, a couple of years ago, I think. He’s been helping me in my work. If you scratch his ears, you’ll have a friend. If you happen to have anything to eat in your pockets, you’ll have a friend forever. He’s a shameless mooch.” He reached the stairway, and flipped a switch on the wall. White LED lights illuminated the stairwell, and he ascended the stairs. “Up this way,” he said.
“Since you bought this place, did you think to ask the realtor who had fixed that window when we broke in? Man, what was that? Twenty-two years ago? Twenty-three?”
“Almost twenty-two, and, um, actually, it was me that fixed the window.”
Ian stopped a few steps from the top of the stairs. “You? How? The whole group of us was together the entire time. And why would you care about fixing the window, anyway?”
“I cared, because I owned the building.”
“Jeff, have you been doing something with chemicals up here? I think you’ve slipped a cog or two. If you had owned the building back then, why would we have needed to break in?”
“Because, back then, I didn’t know I owned the building.”
“All right – now I know you’re looney-tunes. You said a few minutes ago that you got the key from the realtor when you bought it, so how could you not know you owned it?”
He turned off the lights over the stairwell. “Come on up here, and I’ll show you.”
He climbed the last three steps by the residual light from the top floor, and stepped into a large room that was bare, except for a large oval ring, standing in the center of the room. “Huh. What? Are you an artist now, making abstract sculptures?”
Jeff grinned, and shook his head. “No, my old friend, this is my business. This is how I make my living, and how I bought this building.”
“Really? So where was this thing back when we were kids, and when you supposedly bought this building?”
“It’s always been right here.”
“Bull. We came up the stairs that Halloween night, and it wasn’t here.”
“Well, no, and yes. If you’d been in the building when I fixed the window, it would sort’ve been here.” He stood directly in front of the aperture. “Look through the opening, Ian. What do you see?”
With an impatient huff, he stared through the opening. “I see the other side of the room.”
He pulled a tennis ball from his coat pocket. “Now, watch this.” He tossed the ball through the opening. “Chronos, get the ball!”
The dog jumped through the opening and chased the bouncing ball until he caught up with it.
“Chronos, sit! Wait!” Jeff commanded.
Chronos sat with the ball in his mouth, facing the two men.
“Okay, Ian. Now, walk around the opening, and take the ball from Chronos.”
He skirted the structure, and stopped short. The other side of the room was empty. “He’s not here,” he said.
“He hasn’t moved. Come back here and look.”
He returned to Jeff’s side and looked. Chronos was still sitting in the same position, just on the other side of the oval. Leaning over to look around the edge of the oval, all he saw was the bare floor, but through the oval, the dog sat, waiting for the command to return. “Where is he, and just what is this thing?”
“He is precisely where he appears to be. What has changed is when he is there. I call this a ‘Step-Through.’ It’s a step through time.”
To be continued…