Day 22

It wasn’t a good idea to stay out there mourning the loss of their two friends for long. Not because anything was going to find them, or they were scared and running for their lives. Perdita understood how it worked and they had done nothing to break any rules, so they didn’t change the vibration of the string. Nothing, for the moment, knew where they were at. So, it wasn’t an outside force that they needed to worry about.

They had just left a temperate climate that required nothing but shorts, sandals, and a thin shirt. Now they were in the wilderness of Montana that was in between fall and winter where the wind was cold and when the sun went down, it would chew at them until they grew tired and closed their eyes for good.

Moving to another time or string should have been their option, but Ophelia was unconscious on the ground with blood running out of her eye. When they checked on her, they noticed that her head was burning up and the eye in her skull was still trying its best to connect to her brain. If they jumped again, Perdita was sure her daughter, whom she just saved, and Amara sacrificed her life for would be permanently brain damaged.

Liam and Perdita took turns carrying Ophelia down through the forest following down the slope of the mountains until they found a wide river with ice cold water that looked about waist high from where they stood on the bank. There were a few elk standing on the opposite of the river frozen in place staring at the three of them.

“I don’t know which way that we should go,” Perdita said.

Liam shrugged. “Let’s follow this river.”

There was no argument that she could come up with, so they walked down the river shifting Ophelia from each other’s shoulders. The sun drifted down and though the cold was growing, they both felt stronger as the clean air entered their tired lungs. Their weary bodies ached and burned but they found themselves walking quickly without much trouble.

An hour after dark they came upon a collection of barns, cabins, and a large farmhouse. Smoke came out of the chimneys, and they could smell the woodsmoke as it drifted toward them. Horses made noises in the distant barns. Lights were everywhere.

“We’re going to get shot going down there,” Perdita sighed.

“Get shot in a warm house or freeze to death,” Liam shrugged with Ophelia held to him.

This was the second time that day that she had no argument against Liam. They took one more look at the place, picked the biggest house and started walking toward the largest house. As they passed the small cabins people came out in their sock feet, bleary eyed, bellies full of hot food. They stared with their hands on their hips and refused to wave.

By the time they made it to the house a man was standing in front of the house holding a rifle in his hands. He was wearing a pair of dark brown boots, worn jeans, and a heavy jacket. There was a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth and Perdita could see his face softened when he saw the girl.

“There’s no town from where you came from,” the man said. “So how did you get there?”

“It’s really complicated and a long story,” Perdita said.

“Well, I’ve got all night,” the man said as he took a step forward.

“She doesn’t,” Perdita nodded to Ophelia. “Get me a fire for her and we can stand out here until I die of hypothermia.”

“I don’t let children die,” the man said.

He turned and walked into the house without looking back and they followed him. The individuals in the small cabins went back into their homes putting their guns back on tables, against doors, or above fireplaces. They resumed their meals wary of the things out in the darkness.

Perdita laid Ophelia on the leather couch in front of the fire with a thick blanket and a pillow. Liam, Perdita, and the man sat in the kitchen with blue metal cups of hot coffee that he had been brewing for them since his scouts said they saw them appear out of thin air deep in the woods.

“Richard Proctor is my name,” he said after a while of silence.

They introduced themselves and he poured them each another cup of coffee. He dropped a plate of cold biscuits with a small container of butter. He laid down a butter knife and slid it to them.

“So, tell me,” he said. “How do people appear out of thin air?”

“You’re not going to believe us,” Liam said splitting open a biscuit. “No matter how hard we try.”

“Try,” he said leaning back in his chair resting a hand on his hip.

Liam shook his head. “We’re time and dimension jumpers.”

“That’s it exactly,” Perdita said.

Richard stared between the two of them while he ran his thumb across the lip of his mug. There was something moving in his mind and then he decided something, nodded, and took a long drink. He stood up and walked to the window and shoved his hands in his back pockets.

“There’s no way I can prove that you didn’t come from where you said,” he said. “So that’s it then.”

“Is there a town close by,” Perdita asked. “I’d like to get out of your hair.”

“About an hour drive away,” Richard. “We can take you tomorrow.”

“What about tonight,” Liam drank out of his cup. “We could be out of your hair.”

“You’ve got an hour,” he said. “Before going outside isn’t a good idea anymore.”

Liam lowered his head into his crossed arms and moaned. There was always something with these jumps. He hated that he wasn’t surprised, just disappointed that this land, as as it looked had a twist. It made his guts twisted up in his stomach.

There were these things, Richard explained, that would come down from the mountains and look for those that were outside of their house. The people that saw what they were wouldn’t survive to tell anyone what they looked like. The only thing that they knew was that they had two glowing eyes that almost floated independently of one another. More than once someone had related that one eye would drift away from a window only to appear at another.

Richard shook his head.

“No matter what you hear, don’t open the door. If you try and open the door, I’ll shoot you both and then your daughter,” he said.

“Why would we want to,” Perdita asked.

“If you look into one of the eyes,” he sighed. “You’ll want to open the door.”

“Why not shut the blinds or curtains,” Liam suggested.

“Because they’ll come through then,” he said. “They seem to like to look.”

Forty minutes later there was a knock on the door and a man stepped in breathing hard. He informed Richard that the horses were put away and safe and the door was already shut. He told him that there was one man missing, a Brandon Rift, he had been gone all day on an errand to town.

Richard shrugged and sent the man home to be with his kids. He then locked his doors, windows, and sat down across from the sleeping Ophelia with his rifle in his lap. Perdita and Liam sat in chairs beside the fire and watched the logs burn slow, pop and crack.

“Here it is,” Richard nodded.

The silence of the evening stopped, and it was filled with what sounded like sixteen different men and women humming. Bright orange lights broke through the windows, cracks under the doors, and ceilings. Perdita watched the light move close to the window and then she looked away. No matter what, she had told herself, don’t look into the light. There was something about it that told her if she looked into the light Perdita Prime would know where she was.

“Why don’t we open the door,” Liam said standing. “It’s hot in here.”

“Son of a bitch,” Richard grumbled grabbing his pistol.

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