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This World we Live In
Not just I’ve-had-enough-of–this-place-I–want-out-so-I’ll-run-away disappeared. She just vanished into thin air, not a single clue as to where she went, no blood stained article of clothing convincing the world of a homicide or abduction. Kelsey was just gone.
It was a terrible time for our family, especially for me. Kelsey is my cousin, and we are only a few months apart in age, so we grew up together. Heck, we even went to the same school, suffered the same God awful teachers, (the one with the creepy lazy eye that would stare down at you was the worst) ate the same prison food that succeeded in making everyone gag at least once, and suffered through the grueling weeks of band camp together. There were times when we were inseparable.
A week after she disappeared, I finally dragged my butt out of the house and went to school. People avoided me like the plague, as though having a relative disappear was a contagious disease. I aimlessly staggered from class to class, tuning out each teacher so that all I heard was “Wahh wahh waw wa wah,” like the adults on Charlie Brown. Even in my favorite class I just stared into space, which resulted in a bruised arm during volleyball. I just didn’t feel like being in gym anymore.
All I could do was try to remember the last thing I said to her. I can’t even recall if it was during lunch or in our 5th period class. How terrible was that?! My cousin was missing and I couldn’t even recall my last encounter with her, not to the police, not to Aunt Holly, not even to myself.
Twenty four hours after Kelsey vanished; the police came around and asked us all questions. Sheriff Gunthrie was the one that “interviewed” me, though in this case I felt the word “interrogated” suited the situation better. Guthrie is a fat little dude with rusty colored hair and a walrus of a mustache to go with it. He reminds me of an obese leprechaun. And of course, I remember that conversation.
“James, when was the last time you saw Miss Kelsey Morgan?” Gunthrie asked. His mustache did a little dance like it was about to shimmy off his face.
“I dunno, sometime during school.”
“You have fifth period with her at school, Algebra 2. Am I correct?”
“Yes,” I grumbled. I didn’t see how knowing exactly what class I had with Kelsey had to do with her disappearance. She wasn’t missing until two hours after school.
He then proceeded to ask me a whole slue of questions: Was she in after school activities, did she do drugs, did she hang out with a certain group of people, had she ever mentioned running away, was she depressed. With each question I could feel my blood boil. How could he even dare to believe she had just run away?! Kelsey liked her home and her friends, sure she had teenage issues and the rare bit of drama, but no more than anyone else I knew. She was the most level- headed person there was, and wouldn’t just “run off” because her life could be difficult.
But, I answered them all the best I could. Sheriff Gunthrie clicked his little pen closed after he was done, and patted me on the back as he left.
I swear if he ever does that again, I’ll dropkick his fat a** back to Ireland.
Maybe I should point out that this situation has a happy ending, well, maybe happy for some, but not for everyone.
You see, nearly a month after Kelsey disappeared, she reappeared.
The same way she left us she came back; it just happened. It was Saturday evening that Uncle Keith came in shouting and crying that Kelsey was home. She just showed up at the door stop, dazed and confused, but unharmed. We all rushed over in excitement, I felt as thought a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Aunt Holly and Kelsey were in the living room; Aunt Holly had her daughter in a death grip: holding her against her chest like she was trying to pull her into her heart. We all surrounded the two within seconds, and I will admit there was crying. Even from me. The police were called and the search was over, it wasn’t until they arrived to the house to question my cousin that I noticed something amiss.
Kelsey was different.
She still had the same voice, the same smile, the same colored hair and eyes, but I noticed she looked distressed, her clothes had a baggy hand-me-down look to them and instead of her usual contacts, and she wore a pair of humorously dainty wire framed glasses.
When the police asked her where she had been, was she kidnapped, did she know their names, and was she assaulted in any way? All she could say was that she couldn’t remember. I guess the rest of the family noticed that she was different then too. The Kelsey we knew would talk your ear off about anything, even if it meant endangering her own reputation. But she refused to say anymore.
The town was shoved back into chaos for a few weeks after the missing girl’s disappearance, everyone wanted to know her story, but even her best friends didn’t receive an answer. Eventually the town returned to normal, the newspapers found more interesting news about other great tragedies with less happy endings.
Kelsey, however, still walked in a daze no different from the first day of her return. Aunt Holly became worried and started sending her to psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts and every other “psy” thing that existed. Kelsey dismissed them all. Not one of them could get her to tell them anymore than the rest of us knew.
Seasons changed and spring came, our senior year was almost over. The foreshadowing of summer was hard to ignore and the entire high school was waiting anxiously for summer break and with our last year of high school, our class was excited for college. I couldn’t wait to go to State. Kelsey on the other hand, showed no enthusiasm whatsoever. She hardly talked about life after we graduated, she wasn’t going to the college she had had her eyes on for the past three years, and instead she picked some local community college. She claimed it was “easier” that way.
I disliked the person she had become over the past few months, and though I still cared about her, I found myself avoiding her at all costs during school. She no longer was my “best bud” as she strayed away from the life she once cared about.
It wasn’t until May that I had a real discussion with her. I was moseying my way home from my friend Tucker’s house, we had started a band together called “Death to Platypi”, which I will say only lasted a few weeks. But this isn’t about my mundane life, this is about Kelsey.
I saw Kelsey sitting on the bank of Sewage Creek, notorious for smelling like dung from June to August, it wasn’t quite unbearable yet, but the funky smell was starting to waft in like a deadly fart. Kelsey was fiddling with an object as I approached her, she quickly tucked it away when she noticed me, I saw a shimmer of gold before it was hidden from sight.
“What’s up Stinkfoot?” she asked a hint of her former self shown through her new persona. I earned that nickname years ago due to a foot condition that causes my feet to smell terrible, almost as much as Sewage Creek, Kelsey would tease me with it when we were little, now it was nothing more than a notorious nickname.
“Nothing much,” I said, sitting down next to her. “What’s up with you?”
“Just thinking….” Kelsey whispered, closing her eyes. I watched her take in a deep breath. The breeze kicked in, the rancid creek odor caused me to cough.
“So…” I said, not quiet sure how to continue.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been acting normal lately.” Kelsey said bluntly, her eyes still closed in thought. “I hope that you can forgive me,”
“There’s nothing to forgive,” I lied. I didn’t want to upset her, even though I was angry with her for not trusting me with the truth.
We sat there and talked for a half hour or so, about school and other pointless things. The topic of her disappearance hovered on my tongue a few times, but Kelsey would turn and give me a look of warning each time I tried. It was the most we had talked since her return.
There was an awkward pause for a moment, a few crickets actually chirped, complimenting the mood. Kelsey cleared her throat, as though ready to give a speech, she seemed a bit nervous. Another minute went by before she spoke.
“James,” she asked “Do you believe there is more out there?”
“Out there? You mean like aliens?”
“No, not aliens, other worlds, similar to ours, just…..different.”
Honestly I had never thought of anything quite like that, so I just shook my head.
“Well, I believe in them. In fact, I know they’re real,” Kelsey smiled, looking dazed as ever. “And, today is the day I can see it again,”
I stood up; this was definitely not the cousin I once knew. I thought that maybe I should take her home and tell Aunt Holly. Kelsey was crazy.
“See this?!” Kelsey cried, holding up the shiny gold object in front of my face. It was a pocket watch, the kind you would see people in the 19th century have. It had beautiful carvings on it, swirls that looked like vines circled around the letters MC. “This is how I’m going to get back!”
“Kelsey, where did you get that?” nobody I knew had those initials; I became fearful that she had stolen it from someone.
“I didn’t steal it if that’s what you’re asking,” she huffed, reading my expression. “It was given to me.”
“I can’t tell you,” she sighed sympathetically, “Maybe I never will,”
She opened up the pocket watch and stared at it for a few moments. “What time does your phone say?”
“….5:08…” I slowly responded, wondering what she was up to and why she was asking me for the time when she had that watch.
The smile on her face widened, her eyes glittered with a light I hadn’t seen in a very long time. She clutched the pocket watch to her chest as though it was the only thing keeping her alive.
“James, I know you and I haven’t been so close lately, but you are still my best friend. I’m glad you showed up to see this; I want somebody to know the truth.”
“The truth about what?” I asked nervously, something was wrong with my cousin; she needed some help and fast.
“Where I’ve been….” Kelsey sighed “Where I belong,”
I hesitated deciding to not call Aunt Holly for the moment, I hoped at that time she would tell me everything.
“I-I can’t explain,” she stammered. “You would never believe me if I told you, that’s why I’m glad I get to show you,” she paused for a moment “What time is it now?”
“5:09.” I was becoming worried “Kelsey, maybe we should call your mom.”
But, Kelsey wasn’t listening; she wasn’t even looking at me. Her attention was on the pocket watch. Slowly she wound the watch and quietly sang a rhyme.
“Day and time of five and ten,
Then we’ll be together again.”
Kelsey held her thumb over the button ready to set it. She looked up at me with a sad smile. “James there is so much more out there in reality; most of us just choose to ignore it. I was forced into it….What is the time now?”
“5:10,” I sighed, and clicked the speed dial on my cell to call my Aunt.
Kelsey gave me sad look and shook her head. “I’m sorry you choose to act this way, maybe someday you will change your mind. Goodbye James,” she pressed down the button with a small click. What happened next will be forever engrained in my mind until the day I die.
Lights flashed around her, engulfing her entire body, I was nearly blinded by its brightness. I closed my eyes on instinct, trying to block it. That’s when I heard the voices, people talking, people not from this world, then suddenly, they stopped. I opened my eyes, the light was gone and so was Kelsey. Kelsey had once again disappeared without a trace, just like the last time. The only thing left of my cousin was glittering amongst the blades of grass. I dropped my phone; Aunt Holly’s voice was on the other end.
“Hello? James? Hello?!”
Kelsey disappeared, this time for good.
That day Aunt Holly found goodbye letters from Kelsey, saying that she had run away, and was never coming back. The police searched like they did the last time she disappeared, but I knew they wouldn’t find anything. I chose not to tell anyone what I saw; who would believe me? I had to lie to my family, my aunt and uncle and the police, but I know that’s what Kelsey would have wanted me to do.
Exactly a year has gone by since Kelsey disappeared for a second time. I’ve spent the entire year debating what I should do next, whether or not I should go find her, I believe she wants me to.
I hold out the gold pocket watch that Kelsey had left behind and examine it; I check my phone: its 5:10, on May 10th, the day and time of five and ten. I set the watch carefully, to point to the exact time.
Ok, let’s see if this thing will work again.