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|“I’m getting cold! Kill me and get it over with.”||
A half-mile down the gravel road, Samara had a change of plans. He quickly unhitched the trailer leaving it along the side of the road and turned the truck around, flipped off his headlights and followed the rifleman’s taillights back to his farm. He wanted to know why he was chased off and what the man meant about spooks. If he knew something that might be a clue, it was important to follow up. He would have to be devious about it.
Samara kept a good distance from the stranger, ever mindful of being caught. Not long after, the rifleman turned onto a long driveway to a farmstead very near the bridge. No wonder he knew about their presence. He most likely saw them from his home.
Moving on past the driveway, Samara found a place to park his truck on the entrance to a field within walking distance of the farm. He took the headset from around his neck and put in on his head, clicking the on button on the transmitter strapped to his belt. “Aquarius come in,” he said awaiting an answer. “Aquarius come in this is Samara.” No answer, he was well out of range by now. The transmitter could only work within a two-mile radius of the base unit.
He placed the headset back around his neck and turned off the transmitter. Looking out the window, he could see the snow shimmering in the moonlight and the glow of the mercury light by the farmhouse. He leaned over and opened the glove compartment and pulled out an emergency flashlight. Clicking it on, he saw it was still working and placed it inside the pocket of his coat. The door opened and he stepped out onto the snow covered gravel road. The breeze whipped by and bit him with a chill that stung his bare skin.
Samara pulled the hood over his head and walked briskly down the road to the entrance of the farm property. It was dark enough that he thought it would be difficult to see so he walked on the driveway, keeping an eye on the farmhouse ahead. To the side of the road sat a row of round hay bales stretching forty feet, covered on top by a coating of white. On the other side sat on old combine and several barrels lying on their sides.
What was he hiding? Samara wanted to know. Why had he chased them off the bridge? The farm property consisted of a house; a barn, a shed and three-grain bins that stood tall, illuminated by the light from a tall, wooden pole by the house. Around the property sat various machines and vehicles along with piles of silage and brush. Nothing seemed abnormal about the place, nothing except the man with a rifle inside the warm house.
Samara moved in the shadows of the hay bales using them for cover as he looked to the house for movement. He could see someone in the house through the window talking to someone he could not see. The man was sitting at a table holding a cup of coffee and chatting away. This made Samara feel better knowing he had a chance to look around without looking over his shoulder.
From the hay bales, he crept over to the grain bins and stood in the shadows. He grasped his field glasses from around his neck untangling them from his headset microphone. Scanning the area, he noticed nothing that seemed worthy of investigating. Everything looked normal. But then of course it would, who in his or her right mind would leave anything of consequence out in the open for everyone to see? He needed to get inside the shed and take a look.
Squatting down, he darted over to the shed and slipped inside the sliding door. In the dark, he was as invisible as the night itself. The flashlight clicked on and the beam illuminated the inside of the shed, it was uneventful at best. Piles of metal and junk along with tools were scattered in all directions with no sense of order. A typical tool shed, he thought. He was starting to get frustrated and very cold.
He peered out of the shed and looked back to the house. The stranger was no longer visible in the window and Samara stood silent for a while seeing if he would reappear. A light turned on in an upstairs window and he felt better. The stranger must be getting ready for bed. Early to bed – early to rise they say.
The barn was across the yard and the only way to get there, other than to venture out into the farm field, was to walk exposed near the light. He left the shed and crossed the barbed wire fence into the empty field. It was a longer journey but a safer one.
Walking on the old corn stubble and the uneven surface of the cornrows was difficult, especially with the snow cover. It was several minutes before he found his way to the rear of the barn hidden in the dark shadows cast by the light.
He put his back to the barn and walked sideways along the narrow shadow towards the front. The barn faced the farmhouse and the mercury light almost lit the side he was on. Only a sliver of darkness concealed him from view from the porch of the house. He needed to get inside the barn to take a look around.
As he made it to the corner, he peeked around to get a view of the front of the barn only to be greeted by a shocking sight. “Oh my God!” he said under his breath. Bobby, his young assistant, was tied to the lamppost with his hands high above him. He was hanging from one of the steel pegs that the linesmen used to climb the pole. He was completely naked and Samara could just barely see steam from his breath drifting from his partially open mouth. His head hung low and he was absolutely motionless, apparently unconscious. His toes touched the ground but his heels were raised inches off the ground. The scene eerily reminded him of the crucifixion of Christ.
Samara realized his two assistants must have followed the stranger also. Only they got caught. He scanned for Aquarius but found no trace of him. Samara knew he couldn’t just leave the man there to die. He also knew if he tried to free him, he would most likely meet a similar fate. Every minute that passed brought Bobby closer to death.
From behind Samara heard a click. He did not need to look, for he knew he was caught. Hesitating, he turned ever so slowly, and was shocked to face Aquarius holding a rifle at his head.
“What the hell is going on?” Samara asked, his breath drifting upwards into the night.
“Move out into the light,” Aquarius said. His eyes were dark and piercing.
Samara moved out from the shadows and the yard light shown upon him in the courtyard. His shadow was long and blended into the darkness of the field behind him.
“Turn around,” Aquarius said.
Samara turned and faced Aquarius holding the rifle at his midsection. He was dumbfounded and surprised at this turn of events.
“What’s this all about?” Samara asked.
“It’s all about science,” Aquarius replied. “You want to see spooks and I am here to show you just that.”
“What are you doing to Bobby? You’re going to kill him!” Samara spoke up.
“I think you will find differently.”
“How long has he been there?”
“A good twenty minutes I suppose, why do you ask?”
“He has to be hypothermic by now!”
Aquarius looked past Samara at Bobby hanging from the pole. “No, I don’t think so. He looks dead to me.”
Samara spun his head around and saw that Bobby was no longer breathing. His color was chalky. “What are you doing?” Samara asked.
“I have something I need to do, you were just an ends to my means. I thank you for that.”
Samara was at a loss for words. He had no where to turn and nothing up his sleeve. He reverted back to his old self. “I always thought you were an incompetent son of a gun Donald. I guess maybe I was wrong. You’re a crazy son of a gun!”
“That’s what I hate about you Professor. You are a condescending Jerk and an overall dummy.”
“I’m getting cold! Kill me and get it over with.”
Aquarius smirked at Samara enjoying his petty revenge. He would grant Samara his wish soon enough but first he felt the need to become the teacher in this situation. He motioned with his gun for Samara to start walking. “Get in the barn.”
Without saying a word, Samara moved towards the barn keeping his eyes glued to Aquarius’. The journey was short and the entrance was dark and foreboding.
“There’s a light switch to your right,” Aquarius said.
Samara reached out and flicked on the switch that lit several lights throughout the interior. Entering the building, he immediately noticed a large stone structure in the center of the floor. It was a large circle, about thirty feet in diameter made up of tall stones, taller than a man was, evenly spaced about five feet apart. Inside the circle at ground level appeared a glassy, semi transparent, almost metallic surface. Outside the circle it was clean and dry, just dirt floor.
“What is this?” Samara asked, turning to face Aquarius.
“It’s what you have been seeking all along and didn’t even know it.”
“It looks like Stonehenge.”
“And there is a very good reason for that,” Aquarius replied. “It’s an updated version.”
Samara thought for a moment. He wondered to himself about the whereabouts of the rifleman or the farmer or whatever he was. “Where’s the guy who owns this place? The guy I followed?”
“Come here and I’ll show you,” Aquarius replied. He led Samara, keeping the rifle pointing at him at all times. It only took a second for Samara to realize the rifle belonged to the stranger. “Look,” Aquarius said, pointing inside the circle between two of the great stones.
Lying on his face in the oily dirt of the barn was the stranger who was motionless on the edge of the circle.
“Is he dead?” Samara asked.
“Why don’t you go see?” Aquarius replied, pointing to the man. “I’m sure he needs medical attention.”
“You sick bastard!” Samara said under his breath. He walked over and stepped up to the edge of the circle, bending over to check the man. He rolled him over, toward the circle. He was alive but hurt. Suddenly from behind as Samara started to stand, Aquarius used his boot to shove him out onto the glassy surface of the circle. The injured man, semi conscious, soon followed.
Samara had a strange sensation as he tumbled through the air for a moment. Then without warning he landed shoulder first into some snow.
Samara turned to find Aquarius but he was gone. Everything was gone. He was no longer in the barn, but was apparently somewhere in a farm field. The barn was no longer there.
Samara stood and spun around looking again for Aquarius. A hot flash came over him. He was confused and disoriented. He swallowed hard and took a step, then he stepped back. He didn’t know where he was and he didn’t know where to go. Nothing looked familiar to him.
Then Aquarius’ head and shoulders popped out of nowhere. His disembodied upper trunk hung in mid space above the ground and seemed to hover. “Are you lost,” Aquarius asked.
Samara could not believe his eyes. He was so shocked at the sight that he couldn’t answer.
“Come on Samara, make sense of it. You are a scientist, just make a hypothesis.”
“This is some sort of gateway?”
“Very good, you get a gold star,” Aquarius replied. “I’ve dumped you into the middle of your worst nightmare. You and that old man will be lucky to live through the night.”
“Don’t do this Aquarius, I beg you, let me go home!”
“You shouldn’t have snooped in other peoples business professor. Now you must pay for your ineptitude along with that old man there.” Aquarius replied. “Now I have things to do. I have to make preparations.” In a flash, Aquarius pulled his head back out of the gateway and Samara was again alone with the stranger lying at his feet.
Aquarius stood proudly back in the barn, satisfied that he had gotten rid of two of his least favorite people if not forever – for a least a few months. He knew the gate was misaligned. When he started this mission five months ago he knew his task would be difficult. He never counted on being transported thousands of miles away in the blue reality. He was fortunate to find an alternate gateway there within a couple of days but and his sudden return here to the blue reality had somehow affected his long - term memory. He had a very difficult time finding his way back to the farm. He assumed it would be the same for Samara and the old man. Little did he know that they had been transported just a few hundred yards from the barn containing the gate in the yellow reality.
Samara had more questions than answers and needed to find shelter as soon as possible. It was in his best interest to help this man who earlier threatened him with a gun, for he was in a situation where he had no control, no information, no idea what to do next.
Samara turned and slowly scanned the horizon for any landmarks like a road or buildings or something. The countryside was snow-covered hills and fields, just like he had been in before. The air smelled a bit stale and he noticed that the moon had a strange yellow haze. The gateway, he thought, must not have taken him too far. If he could just get his bearings he could get back to his truck and get an ambulance for the stranger.
Samara knelt down and examined the stranger lying on his back in the snow. Steam puffed from his nostrils and Samara knew he was alive. Looking him over, Samara saw that he was hurt, but still very much alive. “Who are you?” Samara asked. He kept a firm grip on the stranger’s shoulders as he spoke.
The stranger, lying on his back, strained to see Samara’s face in the dark of night. He was cold and shivering and in obvious pain. “Noah Black,” the stranger replied with a spit and a groan.
“Noah, you have some explaining to do.” Samara reached out his hand to the bearded man who was struggling to sit up. Taking his hand, Samara assisted Noah to his feet and helped brush off the snow clinging to his overalls. “Now that you no longer have a gun pointed at me, you can tell me what that thing was I fell through.” Samara paused and awaited an answer. Receiving none he added, “And why the hell did you chase me off the bridge?”
“To stop you from doing just what you have done,” the man replied.
“Just what? What did I do?”
“You passed through the gate!”
Samara was confused and the look on his face showed it well. “How was I to know? I was forced through
by my assistant!”
Noah had his back up against a wall. It was no longer in his best interest to keep secrets and he needed the assistance of the man who he had threatened only a few hours earlier. Taking a deep breath Noah spoke, “I am a gatekeeper.” He awaited Samara’s response. Samara looked at him as if he was examining his every word. It looked like a light bulb was going off over his head. “It is my job to keep people from passing through. Only spirits may pass.”
Samara stepped back and looked to the snow thinking about his situation not knowing where to start, he turned his head back to Noah and asked, “Who gave you this job?”
“My father,” was the reply. “My family has guarded the gate since my family acquired it back in the 1800’s.”
“From who?” Samara asked impatiently.
“The Indians? What were the Indians using it for?”
“Same as us,” Noah replied. “They guarded this gate with their lives since the dawn of man in these parts. Its an unknown fact of history that some of the bloodiest Indian battles where fought near these gates. It wasn’t until the white man pushed them out, they were forced to abandon it. My great great grandfather built the barn over the gate to hide it from the others.”
“OK,” Samara said, thinking about what Noah had just said. “Why does it have to be guarded? It should be studied and explored.”
Noah shook his head in disagreement. “Absolutely not, no one can know about the gate.”
“Why?” Samara said in disgust.
“It’s dangerous! You don’t know anything about it! You don’t know where it has brought you!”
Samara was becoming angry. Kicking the snow in anger he asked, “Well, where the hell are we?”
Noah motioned for Samara to keep his voice down. He looked around and listened for anyone who could be listening. He stepped in closer and whispered, “The way it was explained to me as a child, was that there are two planes of existence. The land of the living and the land of the dead.”
“I’ll be damned,” Samara exclaimed. “My theory exactly!
“There are only two ways to get to the other side. Either you die and pass through or you pass through the gate as we have.”
“So, we’re in the land of the dead?” Samara said looking around. He bent down and picked up a handful of snow and tossed it in the air. “Looks pretty much the same to me.”
“This is nothing to make light of young man,” Noah replied with a scowl.
Realizing he was pushing the envelope with this man, Samara backed off and asked, “Are we the only one’s alive here?”
“You are the only one here from what we call the blue reality, anyone else you may see here passed from death on your world to a new life on this side.” Noah replied. “Even I am of this side, the yellow reality, I guard the gate here,” I passed through the gate earlier this evening when I sensed you on the bridge. The gates are out of alignment. My children are lost. I must make amends.”
“Your children, the woman on the bridge, she’s your daughter?”
“Very perceptive,” the older man replied, “She is the gatekeeper on your side. Others have passed, from this side to your side and I am afraid their motives are not pure. The misalignment allowed the damn Weeds to pass through when our guards were down.”
Samara was on information overload; this had to be a dream. He continued with his questions, “Now what do you mean about the land of the dead?” What do you mean by that?”
“All the souls live in two planes. The one we just came from and the one we are in now. When you die, your spirit will be reborn into this plane.”
“So no one really ever dies?”
“On the blue side they do. People are born and live their normal lives. When they die their soul transfers to the other side and is reborn. They look the same as they did in their prime, say 20 – 40 years old.”
“This is preposterous, I must be having a nightmare!” Samara exclaimed.
“This is too much for you to comprehend. It was for me also.” Taking a deep breath Noah led Samara out into a clearing so he could take a look around. The sky was now yellow gray and flakes of snow danced from the sky onto the frozen ground. As they walked Noah explained. “When someone dies, their soul transfers over and they are born again into a new family, with a history. They have no memory of their former life.”
“And no one wonders how they just show up?”
“No one knows, to them they were always there. You never know if the brother you thought you knew for your whole life appeared yesterday. When you’re gone nobody cares.”
“But you said people pass through the gate.” Samara said, trying to understand.
“Yes, and we retain all knowledge from the previous plane. We have knowledge of both and that is why only gatekeepers are permitted to pass through the gate, their job is to maintain the balance. Your passage has further thrown the gates out of alignment. When you are returned, hopefully you will have no memory of this place and balance will be restored. ”
“Balance?” questioned Samara as they walked.
“Until now I haven’t had to protect the balance in twenty years. All gatekeepers from around the world are summoned to protect the balance when the need arises.”
Samara stopped and turned to Noah. “What is it we’re hiding from? Why all the whispering?”
“This plane is different. You are not of this place and because of that you do not fit in. It is a different culture and a different society with their own ways of life, their own set of morals and standards. We are in danger so we must not be detected.”
“To get back we just need to find the gate on this side,” Samara said looking around.
“I am a bit disoriented,” Noah replied. “I am the gatekeeper in this region but I can’t figure out where we are. If the gates are aligned you simply pass from one gate to the other. In it’s present condition you can be dropped many miles away.”
“Why is all this happening, why am I involved?” Samara asked.
“You got yourself involved by investigating the bridge. I don’t know why I bother explaining this to you. I’m a tired old man and I’ve lost my drive. Everything’s falling apart and I don’t really give a damn.”
“Come on, please don’t give up on me now. You have to get me back or fix whatever’s gone wrong. Receiving no response he continued. “So, Aquarius what’s his story? I take it that he is more than just a grad student.”
“Of course you’re right. He was lost and needed help to find the gate. You’re experiments caught his attention and led him here and now he has silenced you as well. But that is not the worst of it.”
“What can be worse than this?”
“He is my son.” Noah said.
“I’ll be go to hell,” Samara said in disbelief.
“When I saw him in the truck, I had hoped he would not recognize me!” Noah said. “That’s why I sent him away so quickly. You see, I lost my son five months ago when the gates began to misalign. He passed through the gate to your side against my wishes and the journey through must have placed him far from the gate on the other side. I wasn’t able to tell him in the barn that now I think he is right. He struck me down from behind. The boy is upset with me. He blames me for the Weeds.“
A tear welled up in Noah’s eye as he spoke about Aquarius. “My son is of this side and lived here with me. Now I have lost his allegiance and it’s all my fault.”
“Wait a minute, you mentioned something about weeds, what are you talking about?” Samara asked.
“You could think of them as suicidal terrorists, we call them Weeds. Until recently they were docile and subservient. They were unwanted, disruptive ne’er-do-wells. They are treated worse than dogs,” Noah offered. “We feed them to the dogs,” he said under his breath.
“And you say they, these Weeds, are loose on my world?”
“Five maybe six passed through to the other side. Like I said they are organized they are suicidal and their mission is total human extinction.”
“By crossing through the gate they retain full knowledge of both worlds?” Samara asked.
“Yes and Aquarius is hunting for them,” he answered with a nod. “He has worked as a hunter on our world, he is also a purest and an heir to my job as gatekeeper. I’ve become a drunk over the past years and Aquarius is upset with me. If I weren’t his father he’d have killed me at the farm. Instead he just used me as bait to get rid of us both.”
|Alignment chapter 5||Morning Star chapter 24|
|Alignment chapter 12||Alignment chapter 6|
|Morning Star chapter 19||Morning Star chapter 26|