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Fiction: The Way of Escape

A Way of Escape(1)

Kat’s green eyes flashed and her face turned as red as her hair. “Carter, this is one of the craziest things you have ever tried to rope me into. There’s a barbed wire fence around this pasture and No Trespassing signs posted every 30 feet!”

“I know,” the blond haired boy said with a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes. “But look at that tree in the middle of the field. Have you ever seen anything like it?”

Kat calmed a bit and tried to focus on where Carter was pointing. “That’s very odd, isn’t it? I’ve never seen a tree that has two trunks that become one halfway up. The trunks aren’t just touching or entwined; they appear to actually become a single tree.” Kat stepped onto the second of four strands of barbed wire on the fence. Carter held her waist from behind to steady her, and she used her hands to shield her eyes. “What’s that between the tree trunks? It looks like a mist.”

“Pretty cool, huh?” Carter said. “The space between the trunks is like a triangular doorway with a misty curtain hiding what lies beyond.”

“Here, help me down,” Kat said. “We’ll never know, will we? Mr. Dow said that if he caught us on his property again that he would call the Sheriff and have our parents fined. My mom would ground me for a month! And if you will recall, we promised Mr. Dow that we would stay off his property; we gave our word.”

“True, but this is too good to pass up. When we were here two months ago, there were no trees growing in this field. That strange oak appeared out of nowhere. Somebody has to check it out. And FYI, I know for a fact that Mr. Dow took his family on a cruise to Panama. There’s no way we can get caught.”

“How do you know he’s on a cruise?”

“It doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t lie about this, Kat; trust me. We have to do this.”

Carter and Kat were best friends, the only two children who lived in a small cluster of cabins in the middle of a Texas wilderness. The two twelve year-olds spent so much time together exploring their area that they referred to their relationship as a partnership in the business of adventure.

Kat looked around as if she were checking to make sure no one was watching them. “It’s tempting. But I don’t know, Carter. It doesn’t feel right. When I make a promise I try to keep it.”

Carter could tell that his partner was weakening. “So you are tempted?”

Sounding irritated, she said, “Well of course I’m tempted, but that’s not the point—”

“The point is,” Carter interrupted, “we are in the business of solving mysteries. Here is one right in front of our noses. And as you said, it is tempting. That reminds me, I saw one of my mom’s book markers lying on the table that said something like whenever we are tempted there would be a way of escape. If that’s true, how can we lose? If we get into trouble, we’ll just escape.”

“Are you sure about this?” Kat asked.

Carter let out a whoop of excitement. “Yes!” Grinning, he reached down and pulled a strand of barbed wire up so Kat could climb through. Once on the other side of the fence, they proceeded in silence, focused on the strange object before them.

When they arrived Carter said, “I can’t see anything through that mist.”

“Neither can I. There’s no sound coming through either.”

Carter put his hands on his hips and said, “Okay, you stay here while I go into the mist and see what I can find out. Then I’ll come back and report.”

Kat shook her head. “No way, Carter, either we go in together or I’ll go in without you.”

Carter opened his mouth as if to protest and then closed it, nodded, and shrugged.

“No argument? Well that’s progress.” Kat smiled triumphantly. Before Carter could respond, she quickly added, “But you can go first.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” With that settled, Carter grabbed Kat’s hand and pulled her into the mist.

Caught by surprise Kat squealed, “Carter!” She expected that he would have tested the mist curtain by sticking a hand or a foot in first. She figured the abrupt act was punishment for not letting him have his way. Besides feeling surprised, she also felt an uncomfortable sense of being sucked into whatever was beyond the curtain. However, these unsettling sensations were nothing compared to what she felt once she saw what was beyond the mist. A wave of vertigo washed over her; she felt sick to her stomach and thought she was going insane.

The two friends found themselves in a small cramped space shaped like the inside of a tin can. The sealing was a mere four inches above their heads. The rounded wall that surrounded them, the floor, and sealing were a dull gray. Most shocking was the fact that they were not alone. Standing almost on top of them were three more Carters and Kats looking back at them.

“What the…,” Carter said with shock on his face.

“I’m going to be sick,” Kat said.

The Carter standing directly in front of them said, “Calm yourselves. You’re not going insane. You need to listen to me. Time is running out, and we are in mortal danger. You two are the fourth team of Carter and Kat to enter this trap.”

The Carter serving as spokesman touched the shoulder of the Kat standing to his right. “Kat and I were the first to enter, so we are Carter One and Kat One.” Pointing to the Carter and Kat standing to his right he said, “Two, and on my left is three. We are sealed inside a dimensional pocket where time moves at a different rate than in our world. When I entered, every two minutes that passed in here was an hour in the real world. Each time we enter this place the day resets, repeats, and time slows down in here which makes it appear that time speeds up in the real world. As you can see, in this tiny dimensional pocket we continue to exist as separate individuals. When you two entered, time changed again. We are not sure by how much, but it’s possible that we only have about ten minutes before group five comes in. When five enters, we will be so tightly packed in here that we will barely be able to move. Then five or so minutes after that, team six will enter. When they do, we will be crammed in here so tightly that we will not be able to expand our chests to breathe, and we will suffocate. That leaves us about fifteen minutes to figure this out. And before you ask, we have searched every inch of the floor, wall, and sealing several times. There is no way out.”

Carter Four turned toward the entrance and said, “What about the doorwa…?” He expected to see the misty curtain blocking the doorway. Instead, he found a clear opening. Day had already turned to night and time seemed to be moving so fast that he could actually see the stars move across the sky.

Carter One said, “It’s an invisible force field. We have pushed, kicked, pounded, and thrown our bodies against it. Trust me there is no way out.”

“Then what?” asked Carter four. “What haven’t you tried? What’s left to try?”

Carter one said, “We’ve been so focused on finding a physical solution to this problem that we’re having a hard time switching gears. We are hoping that you can come up with a new approach. I’m turning leadership over to you.”

Carter Four knew that there was no use in arguing with Carter One, so he just nodded agreement. He turned to Kat Four and asked, “What do you think? Any ideas?”

“No ideas just a concern that when team five comes through they will find themselves crammed in here with four duplicates of themselves. When we came in, I was so surprised that I almost panicked. It will be worse for them, and I know me. Kat Five will panic and maybe even go into shock.”

Carter Four said, “Kat, we need to focus on getting out of here. When five comes through, the time difference will be such that we may not even have time to explain the situation to them before the sixth team comes in and we all die!”

After a bit more discussion on the matter, Carter Three shouted, “Look, the sun’s already up!”

Carter Four turned and looked out at the brightly lit field. “But how can that be? We’ve only been talking a few minutes. How long has the sun been up?”

Kat four shrieked. “Team five’s already at the fence. Quick, everyone move back away from the doorway, look down, and cover your faces with your hands!” Kat glanced again through the doorway just in time to see team five stop before the mist curtain. She covered her face and yelled, “They’re coming now!”

Carter and Kat Five appeared in the small space left to them as expected. “What’s happening? I can’t move,” Carter Five said. “Who are you people?”

The teams with their faces covered did not respond. Kat five said, “Carter, look. They are all wearing the same clothes we are.”

Carter Four lifted his head and said, “Do not be afraid. I will explain what’s happening. I’m going to lower my hands; try not to be shocked. We’re almost out of time and every second counts.”

When he uncovered his face, Kat Five gasped, and Carter Five said, “You’re me? Why? What is this?”

Carter Four proceeded to explain, as quickly as he could, their situation. When he finished, the others uncovered their faces.

Carter One said, “We have to solve this now. We only have about two minutes before team six reaches the fence.”

Kat Four said, “Carter, what about the way of escape you talked about before we got stuck here? Where’s the escape from here? Are you sure you got that saying right?”

“Let’s see.” Carter four looked at the floor deep in thought. “When a person is tempted, there is always a way of escape. The mysterious tree tempted us. We gave into the temptation, broke the law and our word to Mr. Dow. We are now suffering the consequences, but there does not seem to be an escape from the consequences. I guess the saying isn’t true.“

“Or maybe it is a promise that there is an escape from the temptation so that one does not have to suffer the consequences,” Kat four suggested.

“So I guess there really is no way out for us,” Carter one said.

Carter Four said, “No, think about it. What if Carter and Kat six take the way of escape and never step through the barbed wire fence?”

“What chance is there of that?” Kat one asked. “Why would they make a different decision than we did? It’s us out there.”

“Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I have it! That is us out there. And it’s us in here. We may be six teams of Carter and Kat, but we are all of one mind. We are Carter and Kat. We thought the mystery that tempted us in here was our duty to explore. But our duty as people of honor is to do the right thing. We must be of one mind on this.

*****

 “What’s that between the tree trunks? It looks like a mist.”

“Pretty cool, huh?” Carter said. “The space between the trunks is like a triangular doorway with a misty curtain hiding what lies beyond.”

“Here, help me down,” Kat said. “We’ll never know, will we? Mr. Dow said that if he caught us on his property again that he would call the Sheriff, and have our parents fined. My mother would ground me for a month! And if you will recall, we promised Mr. Dow that we would stay off his property; we gave our word.”

Carter was about to argue that it was their duty to investigate this type of mystery. He was going to tell Kat that they did not have to fear Mr. Dow catching them because he and his family were out of the country. But then he felt a sense of self-respect that made him loath to be someone who broke his word just because it was inconvenient to keep it. “Yeah, I hate to admit it, but you’re right. When he and his family get back from their cruse, we can ask his permission to take a closer look at the oak.”

“What do you mean, when Mr. Dow gets back from his cruse? You knew he was out of the country and you didn’t use that information to try and get me to change my mind?”

“Carter smiled sheepishly and said, “I was going to, but then it occurred to me that I would feel better about myself if I respected Mr. Dow’s wishes, and I have to admit that breaking my promise didn’t set quite well with me either.”

Turning to look at the strange tree one more time before leaving, the children saw it fade and vanish. At the same time the tree disappeared, a full understanding of all that took place inside the trap entered their minds.

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