Dad just sat and cried. He cried for two whole weeks. His face was blotchy and his eyes were red. Then one day, he just stopped… Like mom’s death didn’t matter anymore.
How can he pretend he doesn’t care!?
I tiptoe down the stairs, cautiously stepping onto the boards. I don’t want to wake him up, especially after last night.
‘Eric!’ I jump as Dad’s voice from last night rattles my brain. ‘He’s still asleep…’ I say out loud, until I realize I might’ve been a little too loud – although, his snores say otherwise.
I wince as I trip over an empty beer bottle, ‘Umph!’ My hands reach towards the bottle on instinct, and it stays in its spot, safe and sound. Tightening my grip around the strap of my duffel bag, I catch myself glancing towards the bedroom again.
It’s not like he cares about me anyway.
I swing the door open as quietly as possible, then pull it shut. He doesn’t care. A million thoughts tug at my brain, and I open the door again, only to shut it with force. If he’d woken up, I don’t know what I’d do.
I’m leaving no matter what.
‘What’re you doin’ here Eric? It’s 2 in the morning!’ Ron whispers as he pulls me into his house.
‘Can I crash at your place?’
‘What? Why? I mean- sure, I guess… My mom’s is on the night shift, and dad is in the Jensen Family Store.’
‘I just need a place for the night… I-I’m… moving.’
‘Moving? Where? Also, is that your bike out there?’
‘Woah, what’s with all the questions!? Let’s just sleep already…’
‘Hmph alright, here you go!’ Rubbing his eyes, he throws a blanket towards me, ‘Make yourself comfortable.’
His raspy voice rings through my head again.
‘ERIC! I know you’re in there! I can see your bike! Come out right now!’
Except this time, it’s really him. He’s found me.
Ron tugs the blanket off my face, ‘Eric, your dad’s looking for you, what’s wrong!?’
‘Nothing – ‘
‘Hang on, I’m gonna let him in – ‘
Dad pushes Ron out of his way and speeds up the stairs, ‘Eric! Didn’t I tell you to come out –’
His voice fades away and I flinch as his hand flies up to my face.
Before my skin stings at his touch, Ron holds him back, ‘Mr. Rayner, calm down!’ Out of the corner of my eye, I see him whisper, ‘I’ll distract him. Go!’
‘Thanks,’ I mouth back. Grabbing my duffel bag, I sprint out of the house, which now looks as if it were hit by a tornado.
‘Eric, get back here! Don’t you DARE run away!’ Dad shoves Ron again, his feet pounding against the wooden planks as he chases me.
I mount on my Daytona, and for the first time, I appreciate its speed. I need to get away. Fast.
I quickly turn to see Ron struggling to hold my dad back, his face covered with bruises from my dad’s punches; and dad… although I can’t see, I know he’s furious.
Tears blur my vision, but I whiz through the traffic. I drive until the buildings look like Lego blocks, and I’m far from my dad’s thundering glares and stinging punches.
As I brush the tears off my face, I realize there aren’t any vehicles or people around me. For a moment, I wonder if I’m hallucinating until my eyes land on a rundown warehouse. It looks empty… maybe I can stay here until I figure out where I’m going.
Parking my bike outside, I cautiously walk towards the entrance. Gravel crunches under my feet as I explore my surroundings.
The lock looks suspiciously new, so I don’t try to break it. Instead, I scout around for a back exit. Soon, I find a window at the back of the warehouse, and the perfect rock to break the glass.
The glass shatters into a million pieces, leaving only a few shards at the edge of the windowsill. The eerie silence in the warehouse suddenly breaks as a colony of bats fly out the window.
‘AAHH!’ I stagger, falling onto the broken glass.
Not even a minute later, I find myself enveloped by silence once again. Should I go inside?
Wincing, I pull a shard of glass out of my hand, and grab an extra shirt from my duffel bag. I place it on the glass-covered windowsill, then climb over.
Despite the sharp sunlight reflecting off the streets outside, the warehouse seemed to be swallowing darkness. Setting my bag near a strange mirror, I pull out a torch. A shimmer sways through the corner of my eye, but I ignore it.
Ugh, the musty smell… Eh, I need to find shelter anyway.
I unscrew the cap of my bottle and slowly pour some water onto my palm. If only I had a band-aid… A flutter of wings shakes me to the core, making me drop all my water onto the floor. ‘I should’ve bought MORE WATER!!’
After snacking on a few granola bars, my eyelids feel heavier by the second and I slip into a deep slumber.
A sudden gush of wind drags me out of dreamland, and I feel like I’d been sucked into a vacuum tunnel. An instant drop of pressure surrounds me and just when my ears are about to pop, the wind subtly drops me onto the cold concrete.
What just happened!?
I look around to see the warehouse, and I catch myself looking at the mirror yet again. Something feels off, but I just can’t place it. Was I dreaming?
A slow breeze makes my hair stand, and a curtain I hadn’t noticed earlier flutters out of the window. The broken window – now fixed and wide open. Walking towards it, I realize I’m in a completely different place. The warehouse looks the same – at least from the inside.
Leaning against the windowsill, I look for my Daytona in vain. It’s gone…
A strange woman zooms by in a glowing car, and I duck between the thin walls, trying to stay away from sight. As I slowly straighten up, I wonder if I am hallucinating. Did that woman just float!?
I tear a piece of cloth from the curtain and tie it around my palm. Grabbing my duffel bag, I climb over the window and slide off the ledge. It’s still dark outside, I can hide easily…
As I walk down the street, I recognize my surroundings. Similar to what I know, but at the same time, equally different. It’s like the world had an update and I slept through it.
I stroll around for a while, hoping to navigate myself to the city. If this world is anything like what I know, I’m about 2 miles away from “home” …
All of a sudden, in the distance, I see a beam of light shooting forming the number 12 in the sky. I quickly glance at my watch, it’s midnight.
After wandering for an hour, I take a break under a dying willow. Other than a few tumbleweeds and gnarly shrubs, there doesn’t seem to be any habitation at all. A gentle breeze ruffles through my hair and I fall asleep. Again.
I wake up to feel the ground underneath rumbling, but then I realize it’s just a strange truck coming up the street. The driver doesn’t even pause to look at me.
Looking down at my watch, I realize it’s been 5 hours since I found this place. It’s almost 5 am. I need to figure out what’s happening.
I follow the truck until it rambles out of sight. I stride towards a hazy spider-like structure standing at a distance, hoping I’d be able to find help. As I reach closer, I realize it’s a building.
Then, just like five hours ago, another beam of light explodes into the sky, this time, forming a number 5. I guess it’s a clock, then…
I look up at the flag, fluttering atop a strangely familiar building.
Hotel Radyson? Then my house should be right… there.
My attention shifts towards a row of houses behind another skyscraper.
It’s right there.
But everything about it feels different.
Instead of broken bricks, peeling paint, and rough walls, is a house just like mine, but with smooth grey tiles. The side of the terrace looks like a puzzle block.
As I walk past another house, the door swings open, and a woman jumps out in sportswear. Somehow, even though the world feels different, I seem to recognize this woman. Why does she look so familiar?
Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so. She stares back at me, looking me up and down, then, her eyes stop at my face.
‘Who are you?’
‘I-I’m Eric… Do I know you?’
‘I’m Rayme Wiggins – everyone knows me!’
‘Rayme Wiggins? Don’t you mean Raymond Wiggins?’ I mutter, but she manages to hear me.
‘Raymond Wiggins!? Who are you talking about?’
Just as I’m about to reply, a small boy rushes out of the house, ‘Grandma Ray! Can I join you on your walk?’
Looking me up and down, just like her “Grandma Ray”, she extends her little hand out, ‘Hi, I’m Sam, who are you?’
Annoyed, I reply hastily, ‘For the last time, I’m Eric, Eric Rayner. Okay?’
‘Eric Rayner? Grandma, doesn’t Erica have the same surname?’
Erica? Who’s that?
‘Oh look! Here she comes,’ Mrs Wiggins interrupts my thoughts and points to a girl unlocking the door to my house. ‘Erica? Honey, I’d like you to meet someone!’
Erica jogs towards us, dropping her keys into her pocket. ‘Hey Mrs Wiggins, what’s up?’
‘Meet Eric!’ Mrs Wiggins replies, pushing me forward. Watch out, lady!
Tucking a rogue strand of hair behind her ear, Erica reaches out towards me, ‘Hi… You’re not from around here, are you? We don’t see many newbies in our town…’
Uh yea, I live right there…
‘Erica! Eric has the same surname as you!!’ Little Sam points towards me, running around Erica.
Just before she can reply, Mrs Wiggins interrupts, again – ‘Erica, dear, why don’t you take him over for tea? He looks dreadfully exhausted!’
‘Uhm- I mean, okay… If you want to?’ Her eyes seem to meet everyone’s’ but mine. Well, obviously she’d be uncomfortable! I should refuse…
Mrs Wiggins gives another slight push at my shoulder, ‘Go on!’
Ugh, she’d be perfect for the nosy Mr. Wiggins I know.
The inside of her house looks exactly the same. What is this place!?
‘Take a seat!’ She ushers me to the couch, and walks to the kitchen, ‘So where are you from?’
Before any words escape my lips, a loud scream breaks through the walls – ‘I TOLD YOU, I DON’T KNOW ANY ERIC RAYNER!’
‘Hide,’ Erica whispers, and runs towards the door.
I sprint up the stairs and slip into Erica’s room.
If this house is anything like mine…
I quickly pull open the closet and push around her clothes to give way to a trap door. Below the trap door is a loft, and a few cushions. Comfy.
I crawl into the loft and lie down as flat as possible, before pulling the closet shut, and then the trap door.
From a small crack in the trap door, I see 3 men pacing around the room.
‘HEY! Excuse me! You can’t just walk around my house like that-’ Erica enters right behind them.
Their footsteps echo through the house and the tiles rumble under their boots as they inspect every nook and corner.
‘Let’s look somewhere else…’ They leave the room as quick as they entered. Just when I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding the closet door swings open.
Erica looks into my eyes through the small crack in the trap door, ‘H-How… How did you know there was a secret loft in my closet?’
The hinges squeak as I crawl out, ‘I need to tell you something. But, I promise, I’m not crazy. You can’t tell anyone about this.’
She pulls out a chair and points to the bed, ‘Okay, tell me what’s wrong.’
How do I tell her this?
‘I think, you’re me.’ Good going, dude.
She scoffs, ‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Okay so, my dad’s name is Chris Rayden. And wild guess, your mom’s name is Chrissy Rayden?’
Erica nods, and I continue, ‘I ran away from home last night, and found shelter at a rundown warehouse right outside the city. I found a strange mirror in the warehouse, and before I knew it, boom! And here I am.’
‘Are you saying-’ Her eyes grow as wide as saucers.
‘Yes, I got dragged into a portal, and now, I’m in an alternate universe where everything is exactly the opposite of my world. And those men, from earlier? They’re not from around here either.’
‘I knew it…’ Erica gasps, then suddenly gets up and pulls the blinds shut. ‘If you’re right, then you’re in danger.’
‘Thanks for the breakfast…’ I gobble up the last of my blueberry pancakes, and swallow the last drop of the smoothie.
‘Wow! You’re really hungry, hmm?’ Erica giggles as she lifts her hand, and the dishes go flying to the sink.
‘Not anymore… WAIT WHAT JUST HAPPENED!?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Did that glass just fly by itself?’
‘Yeah? Do you not have powers?’
‘No… Can you fly? This explains that strange woman I saw before…’
A million questions run through my brain, and before I realize, I start to worry about her mom.
‘Where’s your mom…?’
Erica’s expression quickly darkens, and she looks out the window, ‘Probably getting wasted somewhere, she’ll be back around midnight, I guess.’
‘Oh, okay… Can we go look around town, now?’ My mouth spreads into a boxy smile, and I try to lighten the mood.
‘Alright, let’s go…’ The edge of her lip lifts up into a small smile, and she unlocks the door.
We walk around town (more like I walk, and she floats on a hoverboard) and stop by the Jensen Family Store. Instead of my best friend Ron Jensen, a girl with uncanny similarities sits at the counter.
‘Hey Ronnie!’ In a blink of an eye, Erica floats towards Ronnie’s side and hugs her.
‘Erica!! What’s up?’
‘I want you to meet someone-’ Our eyes meet, and I nod my head, ‘This is Eric.’
After an awkward pause, I excuse myself and practically get dragged out of the store. ‘Okay come on, I thought you wanted to see the rest of the town!’
A light beam shoots into the sky once again, except this time, it’s a darker colour. Erica staggers, looking into the sky. ‘We… We need to go. Follow me!’
She tightens her grip around my wrist and pulls me towards her house. ‘Come on, Eric!!’
What’s going on?
Pushing me into the house, she starts barking out a bunch of instructions.
‘Quick! Go upstairs, lock the windows and draw the curtains!’
With a swift flick of her hand, all the windows bang shut, and the curtains pull themselves together. I run upstairs and do the same, without magic of course.
Making my way down the stairs, I realize Erica has shut all the lights and lit up a few candles.
‘So… Do you want to tell me what’s going on, now? What did that beam of light mean?’
‘The beam of light is like a central watch tower. The mayor’s power is mental connections, so he can control the tower from anywhere. Usually, it’s just like a clock, each hour, a beam of light shoots into the sky.’
‘Oh yeah, I saw the number 12 in the sky when I got out of the warehouse!’
‘Yes, but today it’s different. The only time this ever happened was 60 years ago. The existence of the portal is a widely known rumor, but that’s all it ever was. That is, until you showed up. I think… the same thing happened 60 years ago.’
‘So, the darker light beam means a portal has been discovered?’
‘No, you dummy! It means, we’re in danger! In our world, there have never been large disputes of any kind. The dark light beam is a warning of a dispute.’
‘You mean “war”?’
‘Maybe. I think you bought “war” along with you.’
While we hid inside the house, the ground rumbled below us. I need to see what’s going on.
‘Hang on, I’ll be right back.’ I whisper, not wanting to wake Erica up.
Despite my cautiousness, she mumbles in her sleep, ‘Where are you going?’
‘Terrace… Just wait here.’
I duck and step out onto the terrace. ‘Oh my god.’
All I can see is thick, billowing smoke, erupting from fires all over the town as the buildings fall apart.
I need to fix this. It’s all my fault.
I run back into the house and wake Erica up. ‘What’s happening?’
She gets interrupted by a booming voice, that echoes through all the walls. ‘Eric Rayner, surrender, or else we’ll be forced to injure everyone in our way.’
‘That’s the mayor!’
‘Your mayor!? Not the men who followed me through the portal?’
The mayor spoke again, but this time, with a slight quiver in his voice. ‘You have one hour to come to the Central Plaza or else-’
A loud bang blasts through the speakers and our ears meet with a shrill feedback. After some shuffling in the background, a different voice speaks.
‘Or else the mayor of this city will no longer live, and the city will be destroyed.’
Erica looks at me, and I know what she’s thinking.
‘No. No, no. You’re not coming, I’m going alone. I’ve brought you enough danger for 100 years.’
‘Eric, it’s not up to you.’ She curls her fingers around mine, ‘I’m coming.’
We dodge every burning building and flying blocks of fire, and soon, we’re at the Central Plaza.
When we get inside, the doors slam shut, and we are surrounded by 6 men in gas masks. ‘Eric Rayner, come with us right now. You need to return to the other world.’
‘W-Who are you?’ Erica steps closer to me, her eyes dart around, looking for ways to escape.
‘We are here to take you back home. No more questions, or the mayor dies!’ The man in the center of the cluster snaps his fingers, and a screen drops down from the ceiling. ‘Look at him.’
Glowing wires surround and pierce into the mayor’s head.
‘They’re using his own power against him…’ Erica whispers, ‘The mayor is the most powerful and he can make anything happen just by thinking of it!’
‘Hey!’ I try to distract the men, putting as much confidence into my words as I can, ‘We made a deal. If you harm the mayor, I won’t go back… And I’ll tell everyone about the portal. The government will be overthrown. Do you want that to happen?’
All the men touch their earpieces at the same time, as though they were receiving orders. ‘If you leave now, everything will go back to normal. The mayor’s powers will cure everything here, and everyone’s memory will be wiped.’
Something doesn’t seem right…
I quickly bend over and pick up a large rock. In a flash of a light beam, I fling it as hard as possible towards the man. At the touch of metal, a few wires pop out and light up a few sparks.
A cold breath escapes Erica’s lips, ‘They’re robots… They’re not real!’
No, they’re not.
I clasp Erica’s hand, ‘Run.’
Together, we push through the robotic warriors and run out of the plaza. Over the exploding sounds, Erica shouts, ‘We need to get to the portal! They won’t harm the mayor as long as you leave.’
I nod and keep running. Another light beam flashes into the sky, and I know I’m going the right way. ‘Come on, it’s right around the corner!’
A few minutes later, when we reach the warehouse, I stop to catch a breath and look back at Erica.
‘Go find some shelter… You need to be safe until the mayor fixes up the city!’
Our eyes meet once again, and she shakes her head, ‘No, I’m not going back. I’m coming with you… To your world.’
‘Erica, you don’t have to do this.’
‘I do… I’ll survive. As long as you’re there with me.’
‘What about your mom?’
‘She’ll live! How do I make you see, there’s no one else for me?’
The portal swirls with light, as though agreeing with her.
Hands entwined, we step into the sparkling mirror for a brand-new future in my world.
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