The table in the room was full of objects and books. I ran my hand over several statues of angels holding crystal spheres, thick stone carvings of moons, stars, and suns that looked like extra thick coasters for a coffee table, silky white cloths with understated ivory embroidery, a very tall, olive wood ladder, and several unlit oil lamps. To one side was a golden pitcher full of extra oil, and a basket full of miniature etched marble and stone carvings—all of people being taken by rays.
The carvings particularly caught my eye because in each carving the person being taken looked peaceful. Some held out their hands as if basking in the light of the ray. Others smiled with hands placed together in front of their chests, as if they were praying. But every face in every carving was peaceful.
“Harold, are these carvings the same as on the outside of the building?” I asked.
Harold who had been touching the silky white cloths with interest turned and picked up a carving. “No. I’ve never seen these before. Granted, there are a few around the building outside and inside where people don’t look horrified by the rays. But most are rather unpleasant looking as if there is always at least some discomfort, fear, or surprise. But these… these are quite intriguing.” He ran his fingers over a carving of a woman smiling and praying.
“Look at this angel statue,” Manny said. “Inside the glass sphere is a star.” He used it do to a few bicep curls, but kept his eyes on the sphere.
I set down the carving I’d been holding and walked a few steps to look at the statue. Manny was right. Inside the angel’s orb was an etched star.
“How did they do that?” Zoe asked, twisting a dark curl between her fingers. “The ball is solid glass.”
“There’s a sun and moon in these other two,” Harold said. He’d grabbed the other two and was peering at them under the light of the torch. “Sun, moon, and stars embroidered on those silk cloths too, and then you saw the coasters. Well, they’re not coasters, but you know what I mean.”
I headed back over to the table and opened one of the leather books. “Hey! There aren’t any words, but there are pictures…diagrams and stuff…things we can puzzle out.”
I looked at the book and it was full of pictures of people and rays and the angel statues and the coasters. The oil lamps, ladder, and the cloths were shown too. It was clear to me what the book was trying to communicate. I stumbled a little bit while standing in place. “Guys, uh…I think someone wants to answer our questions. Someone actually put this stuff here for us.”
“How do you know?” Harold and Manny asked in unison. They scowled at each other.
“How could that be possible?” Harold asked, moving away from Manny and coming to stand beside me. He peered at the book’s pages over my shoulder. “What is this, anyway?”
“Somebody really did hit me when I came through that door,” Manny grunted, ignoring Harold.
“And we all woke up laying right next to each other,” Zoe said, swallowing, “like we were put to sleep, somehow, and then lined up.”
Harold rolled his eyes, turned around with his hands on his hips, and sighed, “That seems positively ridiculous.”
I elbowed him, “Except you said you were falling into an abyss. What happened to that abyss? Then, you were suddenly asleep?”
Harold spluttered. “Yes, but why? And who? Argh, it’s not fair! That’s what it is…unfair. Do you know how many years I’ve been searching for answers? Why do you think I took the post as a tour guide? I wanted to figure all this stuff out. Now you three show up, the building goes extra wonky, then you go plunging through the red door into a hallway that I’ve never seen—”
“Wait, what?” I asked. “What do you mean a hallway you’ve never seen before?”
Harold shook his head. “That red and gold door is supposed to lead to the normal side, where all the students are. That door should have opened into a short hall with three more red doors. I know those doors. And it never changes…at least, it’s never changed before that I’ve seen. But when you opened it…well, you saw. It was like the hallway with 100 doors. Except, not the same one that we saw on the tour. Then you had to go running blindly and choose a random door. Now…well…here we are. And why didn’t they turn on the light, for goodness sake…whoever it was…”
Zoe, who had been silent, was smiling bigger than I’d ever seen before. “This building…it has to be a link between our world and another, or maybe even more than one. Maybe this building is linked to the utopias—all of them. Maybe when we disturb the spaces, it causes the links between realities to weaken a bit.” She turned to Harold, “You said that objects sort of appear and disappear. You don’t stand still too long on tours to avoid getting trapped in the dimension shifts. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Well, maybe somehow someone heard us and they’re helping us now.”
“Which is why they couldn’t actually light the torch. They could only bring stuff to us from their dimension, their place of existence.” I said, the possibilities piling up in my brain. “But, why would we all fall into a sleep?”
“And if where they are is shifting too, then that would explain why we all had different experiences when entering the room.” Manny added.
“But which rooms overlap where? And, who heard us? And why did the random room I chose work?” I kept babbling questions to myself.
“Sleep is the easiest to explain,” Harold grumbled, though it was clear his annoyance was being overcome by the growing possibilities in the situation. “Sleep is itself sort of another consciousness…another reality. Right? It was more likely a default in our brains. With so much interdimensional chaos our minds reverted to the only state they understood: sleep.”
“But how could the people in the other reality touch us? How could they have laid us all in a row?” I asked, perhaps a little quieter. “Did they come here physically?”
“Overlapping realities…” Zoe said, mumbling.
I looked over at her. “But why now? And why help us? Harold’s been here for years.” I said.
Manny shrugged. Harold merely stood staring at me. Zoe cracked a half smile and arched her brows, an uncaring mask over what was clearly an astonished inner core.
I put a hand to my chin. For a moment, we all stood quietly, processing our theories. I looked back down to the book I’d set on the table, reminded at what I had seen there. I breathed deeply, trying to figure out how to tell Manny and Zoe.
“Maybe different utopias can impact this building differently,” Harold suggested before I could open my mouth to reveal the exciting, yet terrifying, news. “Maybe…different utopias overlap with different parts of the building, different rooms…that would be incredible.”
Manny grabbed my arm and turned me to face him. I held the book firmly and met his eyes. “Do you think we could get through to the utopias through this building?”
“What?” Harold choked. “Get to the utopias? Is that…what you kids are trying to do?” Zoe and I nodded soberly toward Harold. Manny grunted positively. Harold’s mouth gaped open. “Is…do you…do you think you could?”
It was time. I took a deep breath. I held open the book to the pages I’d stumbled upon. “I think we can…”
Harold, Zoe, and Manny’s eyes all scanned the very clear, impeccably drawn images. Harold backpedaled and nearly fell over. Manny’s eyes and mouth opened wide as it registered in his cunning brain. Zoe grimaced and nodded.
“…And I think we’ve been invited.” I added.
For a very long time, all of us were silent. Harold took the book from me and went and sat down on the floor, studying the symbol-covered pages. I went back to the table, perusing all the objects, trying to wrap my mind around what was being offered to us. Zoe and Manny stood, uncertainly. Then Manny reached out and put an arm around Zoe, pulling her close. She tried to fight him at first, but then eventually settled against him. After a bit, I jumped up and sat on the table.
“It looks like you can go,” Harold said, very sedately, after a bit. “But there are no instructions on how to get back. And timing the rays…finding one. That’s going to be tricky.”
“Maybe we won’t want to come back,” Manny said, but his tone had none of its usual fight. “It’s not as if my life is much to come back to.”
Harold looked at Manny sideways, in a fatherly way. But he didn’t say anything. I caught Zoe staring absently at the floor. She was still tucked firmly under Manny’s arm.
“It’s no use, Harold. We’ve had this plan now for a few years…the three of us. We’re going to the utopias. Now, the only question is when.”
Harold opened his mouth to answer me, but before he could, the room shook. Everything on the table, including me, jostled in the trembling. Then, suddenly, the room was still. I hopped off of the table and stood. But after taking only a step, the room shook again. “I think we’re being invited to leave.” I said. “Gather up everything. Let’s get out of here.”
“Harold gave me his phone number.” Manny said as we took the highway exit that led toward my house. “He was adamant that he wanted to help us.”
“Aren’t you afraid he’s going to tell on us?” Zoe asked. “He seemed both jealous and worried at our plan.”
I shrugged from the back seat of the car. “I think perhaps he might want to go to a utopia too. Even though he was trying to talk us out of it. He thinks we’re too young to take the risk. Nice guy, Harold. A little odd though.”
It was pitch black night on the drive back. The anxiety of returning home a liar was already weighing on me. I could already see the look on my mom’s face. She would be waiting on the porch; her anger at my betrayal buoyed up by hours and hours of worry
“The only thing that can stop us now is…us. We’ve got to figure out how to catch the rays,” I continued, trying to ignore the feeling of a chunk of lead in my gut. “The symbols seem to suggest that it’s not too difficult…once we figure out the formula.”
“But how did they know?” Zoe asked. “Whoever it is that helped us. How? I just can’t seem to wrap my head around how it all worked out perfectly on our first and only visit to the school.”
Manny grunted. “Maybe that building isn’t the only place our world overlaps. Maybe…what we do isn’t a big secret to the utopias like the utopias are to us.”
“Whoa, Manny. Don’t get too philosophical on me,” I giggled, but it was shallow. The closer we got to my house, the worse I felt.
“What would be the point of them watching us?” Zoe said. “Besides creepy…”
I shrugged again, but Zoe and Manny couldn’t see. “Harold said that people either found the building’s oddities amazing or creepy. I suppose it’s creepy if someone’s watching you with an ulterior motive. Like, if they’re tracking you to do harm. But is it creepy if we’re being tracked for something good? Is it creepy if someone from another dimension was happy we went to the school because then they could finally help us? Maybe that was the only place they could cross our path closely enough to…to give us the aid we’ve been so desperate for? Maybe being in that building was critical?”
“Guess Harold was wrong, then.” Manny laughed. “That building is a religious experience.”
I wanted to take deeper note of Manny’s newly found depth, but the dread in my heart worsened and blocked it out. Finally, he turned the stolen car onto my street and pulled up in front of my house. Jack and Dora sat on my front step. The porch light silhouetted them from behind, but I could still just barely make out Jack’s face. He’d been crying. Dora’s hand was rested on his shoulder.
“Oh no!” I exclaimed, sliding quickly to the door, wrenching madly at the handle to open it. It wouldn’t open at first and I began to panic.
“What?” Zoe said. “What is it?”
But I didn’t answer her. I felt in my gut exactly what was wrong. Finally, I got the handle to work and flung the back seat door open. I slammed it shut behind me and ran. Jack stood slowly to greet me, and I crashed into his chest. He wrapped me in a hug. Sobs, gut-wrenching sobs, exploded from me.
“I’m sorry, Fern,” Jack whispered.
“Where is she?” I begged, but I was crying so hard I could hardly speak. “Which…which one?”
“She’s with Joy now,” Jack said, gulping. “A white ray took her.”
This kid-fiction serial is about done. The final chapter…will be available by purchasing the book! Head over to our Kentstead Media SHOP to pre-order your copy today. $2, or more, will go to The Road Home – UT to help shelter the homeless! Click here! Or on the picture above.
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Hi! My name is Angela Tempest. I write fiction that entertains, takes you to another world, and fills your life with truth. I hope you’re enjoying A Search for Utopia. If you love it, there’s more. Check out my author page to read my other stories!