The Dimension Dial: Part 1
That day the air was cool. It blew softly on our skin, drawing out goosebumps that prickled underneath our jackets. Although we didn't mind, the foggy afternoon sky made the perfect conditions for one last walk around town before my brother and I had to return home. Our cousins Desiree and Tayla accompanied us, along with their dog Louie. Louie was a big yellow labradoodle that still harnessed the energy of a puppy, despite his old age. He dragged poor little Tayla down the street, and sent her sprawling along the sidewalk every time he spotted the white pouf of a bunny tail. At first, I admit, it was a little funny. We’d all suppress giggles and help her on her feet, but after a while, it just looked exhausting. I caught my brother’s attention and jerked my head towards her. He immediately got the hint, as his eyes had widened and he responded with a silent “no way.” So I looked over at Desiree, I mean after all it was her dog and her sister. She was pretty distracted though, her Contechs (technologically advanced contacts) clouded with what could’ve only been some form of social media. She smiled to herself and veered slightly to the right, clearly not paying any attention to what was actually in front of her. I sighed.
“Hey Tayla!” I called ahead. She swivelled around, pulling Louie, who had been eagerly pushing onward, to a sudden stop.
“Want me to walk him for awhile?” I asked her. She smiled and nodded, looking relieved.
I jogged toward her and she handed me the leash. Shortly after, she too fell into the seclusion of Contechs, while I however, took to absorbing my surroundings. The tall, glass buildings reflected the sky and created the illusion of a relatively invisible city. It truly was mesmerising, the way they captured and reflected light, although it hadn’t always looked this way. About 50 years ago this place was practically crumbling down. It was never a big city though, just a small agricultural town, so it didn’t cost much to renovate. A lot of the older structures still existed, they were just located around the edge of the city, leaving all the innovation to be concentrated towards the center. Already I could see more variation, smaller brick buildings mixed with the newer, shiner ones. I kinda liked them though, it was as if their owners took pride in owning something more original or native to the area. Each one was decorated with hanging baskets of flowers or colorful awnings, that contrasted beautifully with the red brick. I wondered how life used to be, when they all looked like this.
I glanced back at my family. Desiree and Tayla looked like blind zombies, blurred images dancing across their eyes. They made Colton stick out like a sore thumb. He noticed me and laughed.
“See Juni, I knew you’d be the nice one,” he called out to me. I rolled my eyes and smiled, turning my attention back onto the dog.
Then all of a sudden he stopped. I watched him closely. His head lowered slightly to the ground as his body took up a crouching position. My grip on the leash tightened.
“No,” I said scoldingly, “Louie…”
He burst into a run, tongue lolling in the wind. The sudden force jerked me so hard I landed on my hands and knees, helplessly reaching for the leash that was so unexpectedly torn from my grasp. Louie bounded toward a small grey bunny. It appeared to be heading out of town, I guess all these glass buildings frightened the little guy. It kept changing direction every time it came face to face with a window, apparently scared of it’s own reflection. Well, either that or Louie’s. Eventually, I pursued after them and hit the town limits. The bunny slipped under an old, rusted fence. Louie tried to follow, but found he was much too big, so he sat there, whining uneasily. Tayla rushed toward him.
“Bad dog!” She shouted, gathering up his leash.
“Hey,” yelled Colton. We both looked back at him.
“Is that a cemetery?” He asked, finally catching up to us.
We stood before a fairly large stretch of land, encased by a tall, daunting fence. Tombstones and plaques littered the dry yard, all their dates and names clearly aged or too ugly to be used in modern times.
“Yeah,” replied Tayla, “it’s pretty creepy though so now everyone uses the one in Arden. This is one of the few parts of town they didn’t renovate. Then again, I don’t know what they could’ve changed...”
“Do you know anyone in there?” I asked, peeking at the decrepit gravestones.
“I don't think so…”
“Yeah we do,” said Desiree, joining us at the edge of the fence.
“Grandpa Vesper’s brother.” She added casually, still mostly invested in her Contechs.
“Oh yeah, that's right.” Said Tayla looking unsettled. She fidgeted with Louie's leash.
“Wait the one who went crazy? I asked her, squinting to find his name among the deceased.
“Yeah something about a date carved in the street,” Desiree said slumping against the fence, unamused, “he wouldn't let anyone go near it.”
Colton scanned the area, stopping to focus on one stone in particular. He looked confused and maybe a tad bit curious, as he let his blonde eyebrows gather in the center of his forehead.
“Why is that one blank?” He asked, pointing to a plaque just inside the gate. It was completely empty except for an end date and a generic quote about leaving footprints on the earth.
“Oh that was from some car accident,” said Desiree, “they found a body with no identification, probably just another hobo.”
Colton stared at the plaque for a few seconds before shrugging his shoulders. He started walking toward the center of town.
“Let’s head back.” He said.
The teleportation center was unusually quiet. Not many people occupied the halls. Then again I guess that's to be expected in such a small town. They didn't even necessarily need their own travel center, they could’ve just shared with the adjacent town, Arden. But nonetheless, Colton and I walked along the first floor, where they kept the cheaper, more local portals. Before long, we found the one that would take us home.
This particular portal was huge. It stretched high above our heads and looked as though it could squeeze in three cars simultaneously, most likely made to accommodate larger transports. It consisted of a rectangular, metal frame, silver in color, that glowed a purplish hue on the inside. This harbored a dark, shimmering blue surface that rippled as if it were a wall of liquid every time an object passed through. A large sign above it read “60 units of change.”
“We’re only 60 miles away?” I asked Colton.
“Yeah.” He pulled out our tickets for the guard to scan.
“If it’s so close, then why don’t we ever drive?”
He pocketed the tickets again and I followed him over to the monitors to record our intended destination.
“Well for one thing, it’s cheaper.” He said.
“It’s also faster, better for the environment, and supports the science community.” He added with a smile.
I rolled my eyes, I knew he’d say something like that. Colton was actually studying to become a portal engineer himself.
Our destination request got accepted and another employee waved us through. We stood before the portal, waiting for the signal to enter, when a new operator came to take the current one’s place. He had greasy grey hair, gelled to form a comb over across his shiny, sun blotched head. Bright green eyes blinked at us through spectacles that magnified them ten times larger than their natural size. He smiled and nodded at us before setting down his coffee and directing his attention to the controls.
“60 units of distance headed toward Thisbe,” he called out, “ready when you are.”
We had only taken one step toward the mass of glistening blue, when a high pitched screech echoed from the operator’s chair. I turned to see the man drenched in his own coffee, which he had managed to spill everywhere but the controls. He looked over at us, a disappointed scowl disfiguring his face, then took a deep breathe and got back to work, not even bothering to clean up the mess.
“Sorry folks, hold on. Some of the dials got switched.” He said.
“Okay now we’re ready for you.”
I stepped into the suspended liquid. It was cool and smooth, and felt as if we were passing through jelly. Then my feet hit the ground. It was uneven and patchy. Confused, I opened my eyes, but immediately clapped my hands back over them. The sun burned madly, suffocating us with unbearable heat. Colton tore off his jacket and angrily chucked it at a tall stalk of corn.
“He messed up the damn location!” He shouted through gritted teeth.