The trio stood up as their eyes basked within the unknown texture surrounding them. They turned around swiftly to check if the wall was still there, with the intention of going back if required. Astounded by the inexplicable occurrence, the trio was trying to sum up the incident.
“We just came through a portal right? Tell me if this is really happening?” Rudolph asked. “I hope we are not under some spell.”
“What if we are in some fucking ditch, all drugged up by a psychopath?” Jake stated.
“We must keep walking,” said Vincent.
“Walk where Vin? I do not sense any direction we can aim at.” Rudolph stated.
“We walk straight,” Vincent said.
A direction was something vague for anybody who was standing where they were. Most incongruously, the land practically had nothing. It was like a clear, bright and overpowering sun was shining on a discarded section of a far-away world which was simply golden brown in colour. The terrifying part was that the land itself seemed quite disoriented and one might feel like it is something which had been chewed and thrown away.
The three kids kept on walking for few apparent-minutes and without any notice, they saw a shack right in front of them. The scruffy shack was almost camouflaged by bearing the same hue which represented the entire place. However, the entrance of the shack had glass doors like a pawn shop would and that separated it from the rest of the dementia-stricken land.
The trio was not stopping to question anymore and were absolutely insinuated to enter the shack. They were inebriated with zeal to ask about their predicament to whomever or whatever that came in their way. They reached the shack and gradually trudged inside through the door. The interior of the shack was simple enough to demand a description.
While the walls were decorated with cheap brown wallpaper resembling the outside, there was one door at the corner of the room next to a cupboard. The trio began investigating for a sign of life or anything that would communicate. One of the walls had a mirror which would just fit one face.
Right amidst the inquiry, the door opened and a very tedious old man entered the trio’s purview. The man had put on a torn round neck which was unintentionally hidden under a brown cardigan. The trouser looked dirty, as his feet were deprived of a covering and it was by choice.
The old man slowly approached the three and before they could burden him with the queries of the living, he opened up.
“You all are here,” he said, as the skin on his almost-bald head and wavy forehead showed signs of freedom.
“You knew we would be coming?” Jake asked before anyone else could.
“Who are you?” Vincent threw the question right after recognising a little query competition.
“You must be Vincent,” the old man responded with an unnerving choice of words.
The trio gazed at the weary-aged man with the strangest of visions. The glass door was a little open and with the absence of windows in the room, the breeze outside hastily came in through the door. It fluttered the remaining silver linings on the man’s head.
“I know you quite well, you see. It must be hard internalising these moments of truth,” he stated.
“But we do not know you. Do we?” Rudolph threw the question to all the entities.
“Do these questions really matter? I believe we have better things to talk about, don’t we?” the old man responded while glancing at the kids with amazement.
“We do have questions but about the possibility of all that is happening,” Vincent said.
“Right there, you see. That is what I am talking about,” he said with an elated voice.
“What is this place?” Jake asked.
“We haven’t been here before. Is this a parallel world?” Vincent asked.
“It is obviously a world, to be accurate. Like a double-paneled comic strip showing two different places of the same premises, this is a part,” the man answered.
“But how do we visit this place? Other than the wall that we came in through,” Vincent asked.
“Yes, like a road or something,” Rudolph uttered.
“Just because you came through a wall, it doesn’t mean that it is really a wall,” the old man stated. “From here, it sure does look like a road to me.”
The old man lifted up his head a little and tried to peek into the object they were discussing. The trio tried to get a gaze and saw it on a wall even then.
“This place doesn’t look like Marshall at all,” Jake said.
“What if I tell you that it is, in fact, Marshall, Jake?” the old man stated. “It is just a matter of perception.”
“You’re telling us that we are in our town but on a different dimension?” Vincent asked.
“What you just said is quite complex to my ears, Vin,” the old man stated as he shuffled through the cupboard. “Come here, let me show you something.”
In a daze of the momentary quest, the trio moves towards the old man with unfathomable enthusiasm. The old man pulled out a fat and long hardcover book while dusting it gently.
“Come close you three. You must see this,” he said.
“Is it a photo book?” Rudolph asked.
“Yes. In a way it is. You can say that it is the book of ages where things are immaculately presented through photographs,” the old man responded.
“You’re going to show us the future?” Vincent asked.
“You may say so. Jake, shall we start with you,” the old man said while looking at Jake and stroking through the book.
Jake bypassed his mates with the intention of knowing what’s in store for him. Vincent and Rudolph stared at Jake and then old man to face what‘s coming in their way.
“Jake, here are your graduation day photos. You would make your parents proud. They might even boast a little when you become a police detective,” said the man as he showed photographs establishing his remarks.
The photos euphemistically showed the history that would be hitting Jake. He leaned down on the book trying to inculcate everything at once with bewildered eyes. The major reason for this bewilderment was not the ability to look into the future but of the fact that he never thought of becoming a cop. It was Vincent’s ambition.
Vincent’s face was submerged within thoughts of excessive doubt and of betrayal. Jake was discovering himself inside areas where people before him have pre-visited multiple times. The photos showed his graduation day ceremony, the day he passed the detective’s exam and more.
Rudolph was then summoned and as he went near, the old man shuffled the pages.
“A professor I see. Moulder of minds. A profession of heritage,” said the old man while Rudolph bent in to see the images.
They showed Rudolph giving lectures at different venues. Rudolph gradually moved away from the photos and asked the most important questions.
“Who clicked these?” he asked.
“The ones who watch over us. I am afraid there’s not much I can tell you about them,” the old man responded.
“I became a detective too right?” Vincent asked out of nowhere.
The old man looked at him and went on with the book while trying to find out something. But in a few wee seconds, he closed the book and gazed at Vincent with clueless eyes.
“What happened?” Vincent asked.
“You will not become a detective son. I do not see…,” Vincent interrupted the man as he was about to complete his sentence.
“Then what do I become?” Vincent asked.
“You died at the age of fifteen. I am sorry, son,” the old man responded.
An infuriated Vincent jumped aiming at the book. He snatched the book as the old man left it from his clasp. Vincent dug in and kept on turning the pages until he stopped at one. Tears streamed down his cheeks as the other two leaned in, to find something extremely excruciating.
It was a photo of a television screen which said that the body of Vincent O’Hara, a fifteen-year-old boy, had been found dead in the forest of Delmo in Marshall.
“This is definitely untrue. Why shall we believe in any of this?” Rudolph asked.
“I am just stating what is mentioned in the Book of Synchronicity,” the old man uttered.
Jake and Rudolph approached to help Vincent to come out of the entire event. However, while Jake tried to console Vincent, he reacted with extreme hatred for Jake.
“Why don’t you shut up Jake!” Vincent screamed. “You took away the most important thing in my life. I knew you were envious of me. You betrayed me.”
Jake was unable to register the shock which was garnered by the reaction. Rudolph tried to calm the scenario with words of caress but the failure in the venture appalled him. As he became exhausted from the on-going conflict, Rudolph turned away to the mirror just net to him. Most surprisingly, he could look into it without even lifting his feet. As he stared at it he discovered specks of facial hair, something contrary to his age and biology.
“Guys, I have got hair on my face,” Rudolph stated with a choked and heavy voice.
The signs of puberty were early and with that realisation, Jake moved in front of the mirror to encounter the same.
“That happens here. The problem with age,” the old man stated.
“We must leave now. This is freaking me out,” Rudolph said.
“Well, yes. The moment is most opportune. You have to leave now anyway. They don’t allow outsiders longer than this,” the old man exclaimed.
The two looked at the old man with indiscernible emotions. The two went back to Vincent and helped him to get up from the pit of agony. The old man went near the door of his shack and opened it as the three kids walked out. Rudolph walked in front as the two followed him. Vincent was the last one walking. As he moved away from the shack, he turned back his head repeatedly to see the old man at the door looking straight at them. Vincent’s nature was seeking for an elusive conclusion.
The trio went in through the patch on the wall and went back to their dominion. Without uttering a single word they turned their bicycles towards their respective habitats. Vincent was too weary to ride and strutted carelessly with his bike. The night had not aged at all in Marshall. Rudolph looked at his watch, which had entirely lost its purpose a while back, and realised that the time spent on the other side was just five to six minutes in their part of the world. However, it seemed like they had spent hours when they were across the wall.
“I will go back tonight. I have more questions,” Vincent stated before riding towards his house.
The two boys did not flinch once as they kept staring at Vincent who sporadically disappeared into the dark of the night on his bike.
Across the wall, the old man moved into his shack after closing the door. He went in as his eyes were absolutely watery and stood in front of the mirror. He unhooked the mirror from the wall and frowned at it.
“I have done what was asked of me. I have filled them up with deception and manipulation. Can I now have my childhood back?” he voiced while breaking down completely on his knees, jostling with tears.
The next morning Jake woke up to find his parents and elder sister adhered to the television screen. As his mother saw Jake, she strapped him with her arms. The television optimized the newscaster’s voice which talked about the discovery of Vincent O’Hara’s body in the forest of Delmo.
The telephone at the house rang with every possible outlines of a conclusive story. Jake’s father picked it up.
“Hello?” he inquired for more. “Yes.”
“Jake, Rudy’s on phone,” he directed to Jake who seemed hypnotised.