|I lost her once, but I will not lose her again. I only need time to develop a way to pursue her spirit and chase her soul in the afterlife.|
There was his love of reading; specifically, Science Fiction and Fantasy. Escaping into alien worlds, interacting with races of all creed and even those made up by minds of dreamers were his favorite past-times. So, when he sat at his desk and clicked on his email inbox, seeing an email from an unknown source with the subject header of "Science Fiction Comes To Life", he simply had to open the email at the risk of possibly infecting his computer. His eyes scanned the content excitedly, and within a few minutes he had already made up his mind to attend. The instructions at the bottom read,
If interested in joining us for this once in a lifetime event, reply to this email and a follow up email with directions, date and time, and place of venue will be sent back to you.
Doctor Victor Krull.
He smiled, as he thoughtfully replied to the email, looking forward to the response.
A week later, Charlie Harley was four hours in with his trip. The city of Toledo was well out of scope of the rear-view mirror, and already he had started to feel better, less confined to his art and more free on the open road. Three rest stops and two Big Gulps later, the little compact hybrid pulled into the sparsely filled motel lot around six in the evening. The air was cool and dry with only a few clouds rolling across the face of the full moon above. The older man behind the bullet proof glass briefly turned away from his small television, asked how long Charlie would be staying, and then took the credit card already placed in the small tray built into the center of the window.
"Here for the time share?"
"The meeting in 19A. We have a vacancy in the same building, so I will assign you a room in that section and make it easier for you to find your way."
"Oh. Um, thank you." Charlie replied taking back his card and feeling a quick jolt from the man's fingers.
"Apologies, sir. I must have build of some static charge as I came in through the door."
"No, I have been shocking people all night. I think it might be from that damn generator they are using for the time share."
"Really?" Charlie said authentically surprised. "They must have something real special planned for their event."
The clerk ignored this and focused back on his television. Charlie, feeling a bit awkward about this, turned for the door.
When Charlie pulled into the parking space outside his room, he noticed a strange violet colored light emitting from a window on the second floor. Assuming it were just the light from a television inside, Charlie grabbed his bag and walked inside the building. Once inside his room, he sat his bag down and took in a deep relaxing breath. There was a loud hum in the room, steady and controlled in its vibration. The whole room felt like it was moving, confirmed by the sound of a glass, somewhere in the room, chattering against a solid surface. Charlie noticed that the hairs on his forearm were standing on end, pulled by the energy all around him. When he turned to investigate the rattling glass, he caught a glimpse of himself in a nearby wall mirror. His image was distorted and murky in the polished glass, like his face had been removed and tossed into the wash of abstractedness, churned back into reality as a marred blemished portrait rather than the smooth sharp chiseled cut face he was used to.
His excitement stood in the way of reason, and logic was not to be expected at a meeting of like minded people who considered unexplained phenomena as part of the attraction and nothing to consider a threat. He reached for the mirror with a finger, wondering if it was just some clever trick done with concave and convexing of the mirror itself. There was an unexpected knock at the door. He stopped just before his finger touched the surface of the mirror and turned for the door, opening it.
"Mister Harley is it?"
"Um, yes. Who is asking?"
"Names, Spurt. Doctor Krull's assistant. I've come to give you your package."
Charlie stood silent for a moment, and then realized what the little man meant. The email he received back stated that, upon his arrival, he would get free gift, supplied by Doctor Krull and required to open prior to the start of the meeting.
"Oh, right. Thank you." He said taking the small wooden tinder box from Spurt.
"We are glad you made it and hope you will enjoy the experience as much as we."
Spurt stood quiet then. Charlie had expected the little man to turn and leave, uncertain what to do now that he had not done so.
"Is there something else that you need?"
"That will do."
Instinct forced his hand to close the door rudely in the face of Spurt, but there was not much else to do then. Charlie eyed the tinder box. It appeared to be made of mahogany and polished to a shine that needed very little light to sparkle. As he started for the desk to open the box, Charlie noticed a strange substance pool around the end of the door. When he opened the door, at his feet, there was only a puddle of liquid that looked a lot like the same substance Charlie equated to thermometers. Spurt was no longer in plain sight and the puddle did not trial off in any direction. He was now perplexed and his excitement was beginning to leave him. He shut the door, locking it, and proceeded over to the desk. The metallic substance pulled back from beneath the door and drained into the surface outside as though a hole had suddenly opened up and consumed the liquid, leaving no trace of it afterwards.
Charlie sat in the chair looking at the tinder box. The humming and the mirror were beginning to rattle him like a kid about to enter his first haunted house. He was scared, but could not wait to round the next dark corner with delighted anticipation. He placed his hands on the side of the box and shifted it lightly from side to side. Nothing rattled on the inside. He carefully opened the lid, removing the little gold latch from its catch, and peered inside. Inside the box was a small metallic device, oval in shape, pinned to a cushion. The device was very smooth and shaped, he noticed, like a ring, fashioned backwards so that the band of the device ended up on the bottom side of his finger. A note was scrawled on the bottom of the lid that read, "A token of appreciation."
Charlie took the ring-like device from the box and turned it over in the palm of his and. Doctor Krull had gone through great lengths to keep his audience entertained, and this new element of intrigue was far more mysterious than the trick mirror and the constant hum. He smiled and shook his head, slipping the ring onto his thumb. His reaction was immediate. Charlie closed his fingers around his thumb, knowing that if he were to pull it from his thumb it might do more severe damage, and sprung up from the chair. The pain was not intense, quick and easy like a needle prick, but the suddenness startled him into a panicked frenzy. He ran into the bathroom and instinctively ran cold water over his thumb and the device. His hand had began to shake and his thoughts raged inside his head. What had he just gotten himself into? Why didn't he just leave the moment he gazed into that damn mirror?
Then he settled down as quickly as he had roused himself up moments before. He felt light-headed and his body felt cold as though ice were traveling through his veins. Had he been drugged? The notion was very real and, although he knew this could not end well, he did not worry much about this. He sat on the toilet and looked into the mirror. Again, the image looking back at him was an abstract one. He felt a smile work across his face, and a chuckle rose up from his throat as he turned towards the door. The metallic liquid gushed up from the floor and pooled a few feet in front of him. Charlie Harley then felt very relaxed. His eyes started to droop and his muscles relaxed to such a state that he felt himself slump forward, caught by arms that reached up from the puddle and snatched him as he fell to the ground.
When his lazy eyes fought to open, it had all felt like a weird dream that was now fading as the light from the room forced its way inside his brain. He was strangely rested and if not for the pulsing in the end of his thumb, he might have thought it were all just that- a dream. He then shook the sleep from his tired eyes and noticed the large empty room in front of him. In the center of the room was a door, lit just enough to make out the number. Room 19A. He then noticed that he was not alone in the room. Beside him were four other people, male and female, from various walks of life. Like him, they too were bound to a chair, their hands and feet tied and their mouths gagged. He was abnormally calm about everything. Perhaps he had gone into shock or maybe he was not going to waste his energy on fighting with his restraints. But, there was something else that trumped all other feelings and emotions that should have been dominating his actions.
From behind him a voice began to speak. It was deep and throaty and scratchy and hurried in its words and thoughts, as though the speaker fought with his own tongue for control of his brain. It began with an apology for having to being them to the beginning phase of the meeting in such an inhumane way, but assured them of its necessity, for had it been more traditional and voluntary they might have never come. The hum returned to Charlie's ears, drowning out the voice behind him. He felt his chair raise and turn in the direction of the voice. Here, Charlie saw the machine that had to have housed the generator the clerk had mentioned upon his check-in.
An eerily old and thin man stood before them, dressed in a black tuxedo with the flap down the back making him look like some gravely ill music conductor. His hair was jet black in color and flowed just below chin level fixed to his head as though it were drawn on in crude oil. His face was bony and pale with a thin line of pink beneath his nose for lips that held a curious shape, wavy and lifeless, that was difficult to see due to the hang of his slick bangs that covered much of his face in a veil of shadow. He stood like a tiny figurine in front of the giant metal capsule that should have been much bigger than any room the motel offered. Wires ran from all around the capsule into the walls behind it that disappeared from plain view. Off to the side was a console that the wires eventually connected with. At the controls was Spurt, hammering away commands that Doctor Krull periodically stated in-between words to his guests. Charlie focused hard on the words spoken, drowning out the noise of the hum as best he could.
"Welcome, welcome. I am sure you are all excited to know why you are here and what role you will all be playing in all this. I assure you that your lives are in no immediate danger, and by the time we are finished with this demonstration, each and every one of you will be glad you made the choice to accept our multilateral time communication blast. Your universe is indeed most curious-Spurt, equation for the sub-dimensional space located at the M3 quadrant of hyper barrier-and your people offer a great deal of pleasures that my own kind have yet to indulge in-No, no, no. Like this."
Doctor Krull walked over to a large chalk board next to the console and jotted down his command. The chalkboard faced Charlie and the others, but made no sense to them.
"If we are going to journey into their bodies then we need to make sure we have the precise calculations so that they do not end up like you did, a pooling mess of molecular instability."
Charlie recalled the pool of liquid at his room door. Now, Charlie Harley was authentically afraid for his life and now fully understood the meaning of the phrase, Curiosity that killed the cat.