by A. D. Smith
Part 1 appeared in issue 118.
After driving a few miles, Tink was faced with another mystery as he could not figure out where the vehicle had gone. The road petered out into a dry water channel. He came to a stop and exited from his car, leaving the engine to run.
He walked down to the edge of the wash and realized that he saw no car tracks. He looked up the creek bed and down and could not find any sign of where a car would go. He slowly began to walk back to his car. Part of him was relieved that he had failed. After all he had an excuse to go home.
He open the driver’s door when he heard a humming sound. It sounded like a electrified cable or the hum of a transformer, yet there was nothing around that could emit that sound. He thought perhaps he was hearing his own car, and reached in and turned off the engine. With the engine off, the humming was much louder.
Tink swallowed hard. He adjusted his glasses, ran his hands through the hair, and walked ever so slowly toward the sound. He could not see anything other than more sage brush and an old dead snag. He stepped further and further from his car. He looked down and was astonished to see a set of tire tracks heading off of the road and then, some fifty feet ahead of him, they disappeared.
‘How could they just disappear?’ He thought to himself. He followed the tracks while the humming sound grew louder and louder. Tink proceeded on until the sound was nearly deafening. He stepped one more step and felt an odd sensation which was hard to discern. It felt like walking into a vertical lake with the consistency of Jell-O. Tink stepped back and the sensation ceased and the atmosphere returned to normal. Tink stood there stupefied. He didn’t know what to think of what was happening. He reached out slowly with his left arm toward the apparent field. He watched the hair stand up on the back of his arm as he felt a thick mass envelope his hand. Obviously there was a field, but Tink could not see anything. He slowly shoved his hand through the field. It felt like he was sinking his hand into a mass. As he pressed his hand further and further forward Tink could feel the mass dissipate on his fingers which indicated that the field was like a wall, and that there was another side to it. He pulled his hand out of the invisible field.
The obvious next move would be to walk through the field and discover what was on the other side.
Then suddenly the hum stopped and instantly Tink was staring at a pair of head lights which were bearing down at him from an open garage door of an old derelict warehouse. Tink leaped out of the way as the vehicle roared by. The vehicle barely missed his car and then entered the gravel road, disappearing over a subtle rise.
Tink picked himself up and stared at the new scene of a building before him. It was not lost on him that a few seconds ago there was no such building. He stood there dumb founded. The humming sound resumed and the building disappeared.
“What the!?” Tink muttered out loud.
Tink looked around, but the countryside remained the same. One thing that puzzled him was that the occupants of the vehicle did not stop. Obviously the field hid from view the warehouse. Such security precautions were extreme and advanced technically, and yet, they had to have seen him standing there. Why didn’t they stop? Why weren’t there sirens and guard dogs and guards rushing out to seize him?
Nothing about this day made sense. The question that he now had before him was, what was he going to do now? Should he go back to town and get the police?
Tink thought about that for a while. It occurred to him that he did not know what to say. What was he going to report? The theft of his garbage? Who would believe him?
He thought some more. Perhaps he had watched too much Star Trek, but he was certain that anyone willing to violate the prime directive could surely make this whole thing disappear or at least vacate the warehouse before he could get back with skeptical law-enforcement types. Being made a fool of was worse than being blasted with a ray gun.
It was crystal clear to him that he had to find out more. He had to get some proof. He stepped forward and soon felt the pressure of an invisible mass which pressed against him at every point of his body. As quickly as the force pressured him, it dissipated just as quickly. He was again looking at the old warehouse, this time the large opening which the vehicle had emerged from, was closed with a barn-styled door.
Tink walked undaunted to the structure. It was a typical early twentieth-century building with white, peeling paint. The large door on the end of the building seemed to be the only entrance on this side of the building. Tink moved to the corner and peered around the building. The building was deep with a long bank of small-paned windows. Tink crept to the first window to peer in. The panes were so thick with dirt and grime that Tink could not see inside. He rubbed at the glass with his palm, but he still could not see anything inside.
He proceeded along the elongated side, occasionally stopping to look through a window. But each window was like the last, and Tink grew frustrated as he proceeded to circumnavigate the building. On the far end he discovered a wooden, paneled door with an old, black, spindle knob.
As he approached he noticed the door was ajar. He could feel warm air escaping from the building. He pushed the door inward slowly and peered through the slot which widened. He could not see anything discernable, only a white environment. His face was flushed with abnormally hot air. He pushed the door further inward until it could just accommodate his body. He crouched down and stuck his head through the opening. This way if he had to make a run for it, he could still do so.
He saw a small room with two archways leading into it from opposite walls. In the room was a pile of discarded cardboard cartons on a wooden slatted floor. Tink recognized many of the labels on the cartons. There were many of the leading trade names of computer manufacturers. By the looks of the pile they were newly opened and represented more than twenty desktops and other models. He walked very slowly and deliberately to the archway through the east wall. Tink entered into a small corner room where a new bank of windows began. There was a wooden table in the corner with three foot stacks of magazines, newspapers and an assortment of brochures, booklets and TV guides on top and additional stacks underneath.
Tink walked over to the table and aimlessly pushed the newspapers aside. They were from all over. Papers from major cities like New York and Los Angeles as well as insignificant places like the Yakima Herald and the Bedford Times.
He thought it was an odd collection of papers. So many different municipalities represented in one place. As he thumbed through one of the national magazines on the table, a loud machine noise started. The sound came from behind the closed door, which lead deeper into the building. The drone of a machine drew Tink toward the door. The knob and latch was missing from the door. Tink bent over and looked through the three-inch hole. His vision was blocked by what looked like a stack of cartons.
He pushed the door forward, it resisted his shove by scraping across the floor. With a little more shove, the door moved wide enough for him to slip through. It was uncomfortable for Tink as he knew the stuck door may impede his escape if he needed to do so. Yet the machine grinding on seemed to tempt him. He reached the pile of boxes and slid two apart enough to see into the rectangular room. There was a three foot wide conveyor belt which ran from a hopper for about one hundred feet to a return spool. There was a woman with long black hair, dressed in a long flowing linen dress, dumping a trash bag of garbage into the hopper. The trash trailed out on the belt. Once the garbage was spread over about twenty feet of the belt, the lady reach out and pressed a red button from a suspended control box.
The belt stopped. A man with a balding forehead and a bushy brown mustache, dressed in a complete black and white tuxedo with a red bow tie and cumber bun, appeared from a side door and stopped in front of the belt.
He and the woman started to look and prod the stream of trash with their hands. Tink thought this was the oddest behavior he had ever seen. The two looked like they had just returned from some charity ball and yet they were engaged in the lowly activity of sorting refuse. Tink was fascinated with what he was observing. He did not detect the approach of a third individual until he was almost beside him. When he looked up he was petrified with fear as he stared in the face of a tall, thin-faced man with a Roman nose and wiry eyebrows. His skin was oily white with great blotches of light tan freckles.
“Who are you? I do not have a recognition image on file,” the man announced.
Tink tried to reply, but his lips seemed adhered together.
“I strongly urge you to follow me.”
Something about the way the man looked when he told Tink to follow was foreboding. His dark eyes seemed to pierce through him. Though his words did not say it, Tink had read an ‘or else’ hidden in the request. He found himself following the man. The man wore a wool, cream-colored turtleneck sweater and dark slacks. He wore fuzzy house slippers on his feet. Tink wondered to himself why this group had not been taken in by the fashion police.
The man lead him across the floor toward another door. The two who were sorting the garbage did not look up when he passed. They were busy pushing trash around, occasionally lifting out a piece of paper and reading it. Tink could not be sure it was his trash, either. He couldn’t remember anything special that he had tossed in the last week which would prove it was his garbage.
The man open the door, which allowed a chorus of swirling and relay-switching electrical sounds to pour forth. On the right wall were three long folding tables covered by six desktop-designed computers with various-sized monitors broadcasting different pages of configuration. On the opposite wall the scene was the same, except there were two laptop computers substituting for two desktop models.
This was obviously the reason for all the different empty boxes in the back room. There were eleven unused and uninviting beige-colored metal folding chairs in front of each terminal with a remaining chair occupied by a petite, attractive brunette. Her ample curved figure was firmly held in place by a tightly-confining, tan, Marine Corps uniform. She rose to her feet and her beaming pleasant smile disarmed Tink’s fear. But what was amazing was he had seen this woman before. He couldn’t immediately remember her character’s name, nor did he have a clue as to her real name, but there was no mistaking the actress from the TV show JAG.
“Hello,” she pleasantly smiled. “I am Major Mackinze.” She sent out her hand toward Tink.
Tink shook her hand gingerly. He had noted to himself that she had given him her character’s name. It lead him to believe that perhaps he had walked into a movie set. But it did not explain the theft of his garbage or the intriguing force field he had walked through to get here. He looked around briefly to see if he could locate any cameras. He did not see any in the room.
The actress seemed to be studying his face closely and asked, “Something wrong?”
“Ah...” Tink began. He wasn’t sure what to say or ask. He finally asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I am on a mission from JAG,” the actress replied.
Tink took another strong look at the actress. She appeared serious. She didn’t seem to be making a joke. His suspicions were eroded by the woman’s beauty. Her warm hazel eyes and pleasant face seemed to cleave his current thoughts. Tink decided to ignore her last response and change the direction of the conversation. “Tell me something, are you and Harm ever going to get married?” Tink asked as a muse.
The actress’s face seemed to contort in response to the question. “Harm?” She started, “Ah well... er... we are going to do that later.”
“Really, and squash all the suspense? You are not really her, are you?” Tink asked accusingly.
“Well, ah, of course I am a major in the Marine Corps!“ She insisted.
“You are a jar head?” Tink asked. “No! I told you, I am a Marine, not a container,” she replied. Tink laughed. She was obviously unfamiliar with the jargon. Her response convinced him that he was dealing with either an impostor or a deranged, medicated actress.
The pasty thin man whom had lead him into the room, and had all the while remained silent but highly vigilant interjected himself into the fray, “Ah, Major, would you please excuse us for a moment.”
To be concluded...
Copyright © 2004 by A. D. Smith