It will soon be Friday Josh told himself. He stacked a couple of boxes in the basement of the house he was emptying. The day was only half over. He knew they wouldn’t move anyone else today, so his boss told him to not kill myself rushing or anything. He lifted, or tried to lift, the two boxes, and decided he’d only be able to take one at a time. The basement was dark and dingy. The only real light came through the small window at about ground level. He picked up the top box which he knew wasn’t that heavy, and tried to lift the bottom one. No way he was going to muck that up the stairs himself.

                Maybe he could take something out of the box. He examined the box in the low light. It was sealed – possibly air tight. He’d thought it was an ordinary cardboard box. Well, he’d have to call out to Hal to help him carry the box up the stairs. He could carry the weight, but not with a box that size, and vice versa.

                He unsnapped the mechanism keeping the box sealed and immediately wished he hadn’t. A crushing smell like an overflowing outhouse, attacked him. He saw enough inside to know it was a dead body. It wasn’t fresh, but it wasn’t fully decomposed yet. Of course, the lack of oxygen would slow the decomposing process, he thought.

                He heard a loud click, followed by footsteps slowly coming down the stairs around the corner.

                “I told you people to carry the boxes, that the packing would be done on my end.”

                It was the owner, Matt. Josh had remarked to himself when he met the guy that he was weird.

                Josh looked at the situation. He had to face him weaponless. Then he saw the window and briefly considered trying to get up to it to climb out. Then he saw a large kitchen knife on the workbench. The window was a no go anyway, so he picked it up. He was bringing a knife to a gun fight, but there was no other choice that he could see.

                The guy was in no hurry to get down the stairs. Josh pulled out his phone and muted the speaker. He waited until he heard the voice say its piece and hissed into the microphone. “Someone might be killed at this address.” Then he just put his phone in his shirt pocket.

                Matt came around the corner and Josh flung the knife at him and dove, rolling across the floor out of the line of fire. The problem there is that he had no line of sight from where he crouched.

                “I’d prefer not to shoot up my basement, but I will if the time comes. I’ll just say you were attempting to steal something of mine, I confronted you and you pulled a knife.”

                “Where’s Hal,” Josh said.

                “Your partner is gone to my new home in his pickup with a load of delicate items. By the time he comes back you’ll be dead and my proof of self defense will be this little scratch that your knife made.”

                Josh didn’t know what to do. He was pretty sure the man knew where he was. He could just start shooting willy-nilly and probably hit him. But it seemed he had to talk first.

                “Do you know who he was?” Matt said.

                Josh didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to give his location away.

Josh heard a voice behind him. A whispered, “over here.”

He looked. A tiny person dressed in green with the wildest blonde hair stood behind him.

Josh stared at the little person. He or she didn’t look like a kid, just small. The tiny person had wings. She wasn’t a little person or a dwarf, she was more the size of maybe a fairy? A large black circle hung in the air beside her.

Josh had several thoughts then, none of them calming nor reasonable. But what he was looking at was not possible. He must be hallucinating. Picked a fine time for it. He could hear Matt moving slowly in his direction, the gun probably held out in front of him.

The fairy bade him to be quiet with a finger to the lips and gestured for him to go through the black hole in the wall. He stuck his arm in the hole. It turned out to be an actual hole. Seriously?

So… he had a choice. Get shot to death in this basement, or go through that opening in the wall and risk his life. Perhaps he had a chance through the hole. He had none in this basement.

He crawled through the hole.

He didn’t have to look back to know the opening closed behind him. But it was dark. No light at all.

The voice from before said, off to his right, “My name is Tinker-bell. I’ll be your guide.”

“Tinker-bell? You’ve got to be kidding me,” Josh said.

“As good a name as any. That’s what I look like to you, isn’t it?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact.” He didn’t want to think about the implications of that at that moment. “You said something about being my guide?”

“I did.”

“Well I hope you can see in absolute darkness, because I can’t.”

“Just follow me. In this place, I am the only friend you have.”

“This place. Where am I? And why don’t I feel scared.”

“You are in a dimensional hallway of sorts. You have several choices in front of you, or you should have, momentarily.”

“I should have?

“Yes,” if you survive this first ordeal.

Josh didn’t like the sound of that. “Can’t I just go back to that basement at an earlier time or something?”

Tinkerbell seemed genuinely amused. Her laugh sounded much like a tinkle. “Just keep following me. As much as the New Agers get wrong, they got it right when they said that all we have is the present moment. The past is erased, except for some monumental moments in history, as soon as they are no longer relevant. The past remains in the mind, however inaccurate the memories might be, and there is no place in the mind for the future to reside, because it truly hasn’t happened yet. Worries and fears serve no purpose because they can never be trusted to predict the future. Anytime they do it is what we call a coincidence. Oh yes, despite what you may have heard, there is such a thing as a coincidence.”

Josh followed the sprinkles of light bouncing off Tinker-bell’s wings. The ground beneath his feet felt solid so far, but he didn’t dare do anything but follow the tiny creature in this blackness. There was nothing to see but her wings and what brief reflection the small light played on the rest of her body. Following a firefly would feel the same way, except he found himself clinging to the hope that Tinker-bell held more sway in this world, whatever it was, than a firefly would. She wouldn’t have to be that significant even then though. He tried not to think. His thoughts were like school children all wanting to be picked for the team. Where the hell was he, was the most prominent, and got the most attention.

He walked for what seemed like a mile and a half. The little winged creature said very little.

Josh marveled at the fact that his eyes were trying to see what might be around him. Not enough light emanated from Tinker-bell’s wings. He didn’t think there was anything close enough, but it was just a guess.

Then a pinprick of light appeared ahead, and began to grow. After a short time it began to look like the other end of a train tunnel.

“What is this place Tinker-bell?”

“It is a tunnel between worlds, as I said before. It circumvents time in the way we understand it on earth, for instance, to allow people from different times and places to intermingle for a few moments. It happens outside the rules I mentioned earlier about the moment being all we have, but only for this particular purpose. The Time-keeper controls the Mingling Dimension. People are taken from all over time and space and brought here so they can learn from each other and converse, hang out, if you will. Then they are sent somewhere else. Only the Time-keeper knows where everyone is at any given time. She can make copies of people too, for situations where relationships are complicated.”

He felt like Tinker-bell’s words were tripping over each other. “So, why am I here?” It was an obvious question. The light had become nearly as large as a doorway.

“You’ll go on from here alone. Nothing can hurt you. The path is wide, though you cannot see it. Follow the light at the end of the tunnel Joshua. Follow the light.”

Tinker-bell disappeared. She had been and she was no more. Josh began to feel like some kind of joke was being played on him. He began to wish he had not left that basement, and had taken his chances on getting shot.

He made it to the opening. The light shone bright in his eyes, but did nothing to illuminate the place he was leaving somehow.

He walked right in and it looked like the set of Cheers, the TV show. He saw a great sign near the ceiling that said, “…Where everybody knows your name…” The place was crowded. There were several people at the bar, but the tables stretched out to infinity, he was sure.

A portly man smoking a big cigar strolled up and said, “did he show up as Tinker-bell again?”

“He?” Josh couldn’t take his eyes off the way the tables faded into the distance. It looked like an optical illusion.

“Yes, he,” the portly man said. “he appears in many forms. But those who get Tinker-bell show up here pretty uninformed and confused. I could tell by the look on your face.”

Josh stared around him. By then the man had guided him to a table and a chair to sit on. He was only half listening to the Portly man.

“What is your name,” Josh said.

“Fred,” he said, “and you are Joshua Hale.”

“How do you know my name?”

“We know everyone’s name here,” and he gestured at the sign. “Here,” he handed Josh a small piece of metal. “You wouldn’t have heard the shot. Got you right between the eyes.”

Josh looked down at his hand. A small bullet sat in his palm. “Who did you say Tinker-bell was, again?”

“I didn’t. But so you can relax and get used to the place I’ll tell you.”

Fred and a few other patrons told him later not to be ashamed of himself. He wasn’t the first person to faint when he found out he was guided there by the Grim Reaper.

Copyright © 2020 Rick Hayes All rights reserved.

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