Idea by Tom Austin Originally written by Tom Austin
Revised and vastly improved by award winning author Meg Sorick
“You’re wondering why I’m here, aren’t you, Mildred?” asked the old man.
“Actually, I was beginning to wonder when you’d show up,” said Milly.
“Oh, dear me, I did say something like that didn’t I?”
Milly nodded. “You seemed to know a lot about us when we know nothing about you. You mentioned my parents… Did you know them? Were they friends of yours? Is that why you look familiar?”
“Oh, dear me, questions, questions! My dear Mildred, I hope I haven’t upset you,” he said, wringing his hands. “I didn’t mean to.”
“I’m not upset. But I want answers. Why all the mystery? Why did you speak in such a cryptic manner? Brad almost died trying to figure you out.”
“Oh, dear me, I most certainly did not intend that!”
“And please stop saying ‘oh, dear me!’ It’s driving me crazy.”
“Tsk. Very well. I shall attempt not to utter those words again during our conversation. But if I do, please forgive an old man. We only have two hours.”
“Two hours to do what?”
“Two hours to relay a message, and to teach you.”
“A message? From who?”
To this point, Milly had been leaning against the door frame, but upon learning that there was a message from her deceased parents, she suddenly felt the need to sit down. She murmured, “This is too much.”
The old man saw her face go very pale as she began to sway, so he quickly rose and went to her side. “Come my dear,” he said, as he helped ease her into the armchair.
Milly tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come.
The old man patted her hand. “That’s quite alright. I suspect if the situation was reversed, I would react in much the same manner. Besides, you made this old man feel useful again. And believe me, it’s been a while. Now take your time, dear.”
Milly took a deep breath and shook her head to clear it. “Sorry about that. You caught me by surprise. I’m alright now.” She paused and studied his face. “What is your name? You haven’t told me what to call you.”
“I’ve been instructed not to tell you my real name, but some call me ‘Messenger’ because of the messages I carry.”
“Ok, Messenger… You said you had one for me. Let’s have it!” said Milly with all the exuberance of a child on Christmas morning.
“Indeed I did. Now where did I put it?” Messenger checked all his pockets. Milly was so anxious she was bouncing in her chair.
“Aha!” he said, holding a folded paper up for her to see. “Here it is.”
“Can I see it? Can I hold it?” Milly asked eagerly.
“Not yet! Not until you have visited The Second Realm. Only then can you hold the message.”
“I’m not allowed to hold a message from my own parents? Come on! That’s ridiculous.” Milly grabbed at the paper, but her fingers passed through the paper like it was air. She gasped. “What… what… what is going on, Messenger?”
“This message was written in The Second Realm. It is a place that is slightly out phase with this dimension. Only someone from The Second Realm can touch something that originated in The Second Realm.”
Milly gaped at him. “Out of phase… this dimension…” She blinked. “So…. How do I get to The Second Realm?”
“The closet over there?” He pointed. “Inside is a doorway. That doorway allows people or things from The Second Realm to pass through to this reality. And of course, the reverse is true.”
Milly’s jaw dropped. “Are you telling me that people from The Second Realm have been traipsing through my apartment without my knowing it?”
Messenger smiled reassuringly. “No. I’m the only one to come through. And today was the first and only time this particular doorway was used.”
“Phew, that’s a relief.” Milly slumped back in her chair. She lifted a hand and let it drop. “I don’t want anyone seeing the place when it’s a mess.” She rubbed her temple. “What a silly thing to think….” She sat up again. “Since I can’t hold the message myself, can you hold it for me?”
“Oh, goodness, yes! Here you go.” Messenger held the paper close so Milly could read it.
Tears welled up in her eyes and soon spilled over. “They know about me and Brad. And they want to meet him. T-T-They’re happy for me, and can hardly wait till we come to The Second Realm,” she said.
“And that, my dear, segues neatly into the second reason I’m here. To teach you about the doorway. You see, it doesn’t just take you to The Second Realm. It can take you to any point in both time and space.” He held up a cautioning finger. “But there are strict rules regarding time travel. You can only use time travel to observe. You are forbidden to interact in any way. If you make any attempt to alter the event you are observing, the mere act of trying to change history will result in your being returned here, your memory of the events you’ve witnessed being erased, along with all knowledge of the doorway and The Second Realm. You will remember nothing. And the same applies to anyone who has gone with you, even if they had nothing to do with the attempt to interfere.”
“Wow. You guys don’t mess around.”
Messenger now pulled out two photographs from his pocket. The all too familiar scene showed the crowd of people watching the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Messenger pointed towards the grassy knoll. “You see these two figures?”
“Yes,” said Milly.
“They went back to this point in your history.” He shuffled the second photo to the front. “You’ll notice that neither figure is in this photo.”
“What happen to them?” asked Milly.
“They were removed from that point in your history, and returned to the point where their journey began.”
He tapped the first photograph with his finger. “This person tried to change history, albeit in a very small way. Nevertheless, the attempt was cleaned up and both of their memories were erased, including those of the doorway and The Second Realm. This is all that remains of their transgression.”
She gulped. “You said I have one of those doorway thingies in this room?”
He nodded. “Indeed you do. And it’s very easy to use. In fact you might say it’s idiot proof.”
She smirked. “That’s probably a good thing. Just in case Brad has to operate it. Anything too technical seems to be beyond him. Organ transplants? No problem. Ask him to program a universal remote? You’ll die of old age waiting.”
“Oh, he’s one of those,” Messenger said, chuckling.
“He calls himself a techno-klutz.”
“I like that! I must remember it. Let’s get back to the doorway. If you’ll be so kind to join me in the closet,” he said, rising to his feet.
He crossed the room and disappeared inside the closet. Milly followed but could only poke her head in. With Messenger inside the closet, there just wasn’t enough room for two grown people.
“All you have to do to activate the doorway is to touch the corners of the molding. Upper left corner first, then the upper right corner. After that you must push your hand on the very center of the wall. I’ve all ready came through it so I know what to expect. Why don’t you try it?” He pressed himself against the wall to make room for her.
Milly squeezed in front of Messenger and he repeated the directions. “Okay, top left, then top right, then push on the center of the wall.”
Milly did as she was told and the molding started to glow. She let out a shriek. “Is that supposed to happen? Oh my gosh! Did I break it?”
“No, no, my dear! It’s not broken! You’ve just done the hardest part.”
“The hardest part?” she repeated.
“Many electronic things of your time must be “initialized” before their first use. That’s all you did. The doorway has never been used from this end. Now it’s ready.”
“Yes. Just stretch out your arm that’s closest to the wall.”
As she did, she watched her hand disappear and the lower half of her forearm fade into mist. She drew in a breath. “My fingers feel all tingly. Is that normal?” she asked.
“It’s just your molecules becoming accustomed to a different reality. When you go all the way through it for the very first time, your entire body will feel tingly for about a minute,” replied Messenger. “Your job, my dear, will be to teach Bradley. Tell him everything I told you. Most importantly, you must warn him about misusing the doorway.”
“Why can’t you teach him too?”
“Bradley cares for you and wants to keep you safe. He surely doesn’t feel that way about me. In fact, after our first encounter, I suspect I’m the last person he’d listen to. But you, Mildred, he cares for and trusts. He will be much more receptive to this information if he hears it from you.”
Just then, they heard the sound of the key turning in the front door lock. Messenger said, “My two hours must be up. I’m sorry I couldn’t stay longer, but I really must dash. I have a few more messages to deliver.”
Messenger touched the activation spots on the molding, then touched the center of the wall. He gave Milly a slight peck on the cheek, stepped through the doorway, and was gone. Milly heard the front door open.
“We’re back,” Brad called out. “… and you have the horniest damn cat in the world!”
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