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Chapter 25 - Witchy Woman

Emma's heart was beating hard as she shuffled the tarot cards. In her mind's eye she was cleansing them, surrounding them by white light and asking the Masters to remove any residue of other users. When she felt any old energy was cleared, she put down the deck, cut them three times to the left, then asked the question, "Which one card is my immediate future that I should pay attention to?"

She turned it over. It was The Fool. She laughed. "Yes, I am a fool for doing this, and maybe also it's saying this is a new beginning."

Keira smiled. "That's more like it! Would you do a reading for someone?"

"I'm guessing you have a specific question, which is fine, but you know, we are opening doors here and none of you have done anything to protect yourselves. You must protect yourself if you're going to do stuff like this." And then, almost as an afterthought, "Especially in an old place like this."

Olivia laughed. "Yeah, we're going to have spinning heads any time how."

Emma went to the cupboard and pulled out a bag of sage leaves. She put these in a small bowl and lit the leaves, then walked around the kitchen blowing on the white smoke, saying "I cleanse this space with the white light and positive energy." Then she took some salt and poured a circle around the table saying, "There shall be positive energy within this circle, let no harm come to those within."

"Christ mom, you're taking this shit way too seriously. How do you know this stuff?" Olivia asked her.

"Okay well if you must know, my step mom was part Algonquin and she showed me stuff okay? I don't like to tell people I know this because they think I'm a witch or something. I'm not, this is not magic, or dark stuff or anything like that. This just is; old time stuff. Not casting spells or nonsense like that, it is merely cleaning the air and respecting the energy that exists and it does exist."

"Okay, well maybe this is just too serious. I just wanted to do the card thing or something, not burning leaves and putting salt on the floor and junk like that."

Alexia's eyes were wide as she watched her doing the smoke and the salt. She said quietly, "Shouldn't there be a white candle or something like that on the table?"

Keira looked at her. Then she looked around and said, "You know what Emma? I think Alexia has a point. I think there should be a candle burning. A white one."

Emma said, "Yes well, a white candle is a good thing. Like I said I'm not that much into stuff like this I just know how to cleanse an area. White is a positive energy though so a white candle has to be good. Beyond that really, I just don't know and that's why I worry about stuff like tarot cards 'cause I know they are something, but what if we find out something we don't want to know?"

Olivia snorted. "Like that would happen."

Emma sighed. "You don't know. You just don't know." She felt like crying suddenly. "You know what? How about you guys learn to do this? I'll help but I had a bad experience once and I'll read the cards for myself but it just worries me to do them for somebody else. What do you say? Who's game?"

Alexia said, "I wish we had a ouija board."

Olivia seconded that. "Oh yeah, that would be so cool! Mom do we have one?"

"No," Emma replied, "and we're not getting one either. We're not. Got that?"

"What bug crawled up your ass and died?" Olivia snipped back.

Secretly Emma thought, oh how I can't wait until you have children yourself, you little...

And Keira said, "No she's right. Ouija boards aren't toys, and they're bad news. We all live in old houses here, we don't want to be inviting spirits into old places; they can already be here you know, maybe just being quiet and we could wake something up. It would be stupid."

Olivia crossed her arms and pouted, and for a second Emma saw the little girl who was so sweet not too long ago. She realized that, just like she could look at certain baby photos and see the older child that baby would become, the child is never really gone.

Alexia frowned. "So like, can we do that circle holding hands seance thing?"

Keira glanced to Emma, Emma shrugged. "I uh, I don't see why not but I want a cigarette first."

"Mom!" Olivia complained. "You're going to die of lung cancer!"

"Don't write me off yet." Emma told her, and lit up a cigarette.

Keira poured them both another glass of wine. "Girls, you want something?"

Olivia was severely tempted to say, yes, my dad here and that crappy girlfriend gone and him bringing my stuff home. But of course she didn't. "Mom do we have any diet Coke left?" she asked.

"Yes, in the bottom drawer of the fridge. Alexia, what do you want?"

She shrugged. "Just water I think."

As a favour to everyone, Emma told them they could shuffle the tarot cards, pull one, just one, and she would read that. What they need to do is to keep a question in their mind while shuffling, but the hard part is just one question and nothing peripheral being asked on the edge.

Keira shuffled the cards first and pulled a Queen of Wands. Emma told her that that card was basically just telling her who she is, and if she wants to do a full reading, use that one. Other than that, she's a nice mom.

Alexia looked at the cards worriedly, not quite sure of this. In the end she did shuffle, and she pulled the Six of Wands. Emma told her, this means she is a good friend and she has loyal friends in return.

Olivia shuffled a long time. Emma was particularly worried about what she would pull up, and when she put the card down everyone had stopped what they were doing to see what turned up. It was The Moon. Emma sighed audibly. "Okay," she said, "this pretty much just says where you are today. You see the moon says that things aren't always what they seem, and there may be hidden things. Are you idealizing something that perhaps you shouldn't? Are you aware there are always hidden things? It means that you are searching and haven't quite found your way. Nothing to be worried about at your age, this what you folks are doing right now is all. Plus, moon is more significant because you're a woman. You're mysterious, my girl, that's all."

My girl, the daughter of the moon. Yup, that's about right, Emma thought. Quixotic.

Emma's cigarette was smoked, everyone had their drinks, and the table was cleared. Alexia brought the candle to the center of the table, and Emma sprinkled some sage leaves into the flame. "Okay. Now I'm going to say that I'm only going on stuff I've seen on t.v., I've never done this before and have never seen it done in real life. Anybody else have any ideas then tell me."

They all shook their heads. What the heck are we doing? Emma thought.

"Okay. Grab the hand of the person on either side of you. We're forming a circle. Don't break the circle. Now. I say, "there shall be only positive energy within this circle, only positive energy. If there is someone out there, a spirit, who wishes to communicate with us, please use our energy and let us know you are here." " There was nothing. She said, "I honestly don't know how or what they would do if they are here, so if you guys think of anything please say it. Just let only positive thoughts and questions be asked. Only positive."

"We got it mom." Olivia replied.

Keira asked, "Does anybody have any one specific they want to call upon? Any question to throw out to the universe or whatever?"

Nobody said anything.

Alexia yawned. They held hands for a few more minutes and there was still nothing. No unusual sounds or lights or things moving, nothing. Keira said, "Well Olivia, Emma, this has been fun, but I really think it's time to call it a night."

Emma nodded. "To close the circle, we should all thank those who were here and those who were protecting us, and ask that any energies be dispersed as we close the circle, and bless all who were within in."

They let go of each others' hands. Olivia asked to nobody in particular, "If I wanted to talk to a baby, how would I do that? Can you? Can you talk to a baby?"

Emma's heart clenched. Blinking back tears she grabbed Olivia's hands and pulled her close to her. "Harmony is with us always sweetheart, never forget that. And if she doesn't play parlour games, that's okay, it just means that's not how she wants to communicate. Ask that she talk to you in your dreams. Okay?" Olivia nodded, but she could see Olivia was disappointed. She hugged her a little tighter. "It's alright. I wonder the same thing myself sometimes." And kissed her on the cheek.

The two girls ran up the stairs to their room. Emma picked up their glasses and cleared off the table, leaving the candle. Keira lit a cigarette, offered her one.

"So. What do you think of this?"

Emma shook her head. "I don't think this is the smartest thing to have done. Olivia wanted something."

"Oh don't be so hard on yourself," Keira said, "teenagers always want something."

"No, you don't understand. She wanted somebody specific."

"Oh." Keira said, but thankfully didn't ask anything further. Honestly Emma wasn't up to really going into that much detail about Harmony right now; in fact, she didn't want to think about it at all.

"So," Emma said, "this weather. How long do you think this is going to keep up?"

"No idea," Keira said, "none at all."

"Do you think the girls should come down and sleep in here?" Emma asked her.

"You know what? The wood stove is pretty hot. The last time I went to the bathroom it was pretty comfortable upstairs. I think they'll be just fine, they have down comforters after all. If we're here and remember to add a log or two when it is getting cool, it'll be fine."

"You're right. Better we leave them up there, but I think if I tell them to put a book in the door or something so it doesn't shut completely they'll be better off. That room will get cold if they do that."

Good idea, Keira said and Emma went upstairs to check on the girls.

Chapter 26 - In The Eyes of A Stranger

"Holy shit Emma!" Keira roared up the stairs.

Emma, who at this point was sitting on the very cold toilet, was thinking that something horrible had happened, yelled back, "What???"

"What the hell is going on in this house?"

"Wait a minute!" Emma shouted, "I'll be right down!"

As she passed by the room, the girls were laughing and listening to music on Olivia's radio. It wouldn't be long before that would die and she didn't know how many batteries they had of that size, but she did have her wind up radio so it wasn't that bad. She walked past the room knowing the girls wouldn't know that she had seriously considered walking in there and taking away the radio.

Not wanting to rock the boat on this breakthrough (at least in her estimation) night, she let that one go and went downstairs. Keira had a glass of wine in one hand, and in the other, the hand written letter from Daisy.

Emma didn't say a word. She grabbed her impromptu ashtray and wine glass and sat down. "Hit me. But first, do me a favour? Would you pick up the phone and ask for Division 5301?"

"What the hell are you talking about? And who is this Daisy person from 1928?"

"Just pick up the phone. If somebody answers, ask for Division 5301."

Keira looked at her like she'd lost her mind. "The phones are down, remember?"

"Now they are. But my phones are special. Try it."

Keira shook her head. "Whatever you say," she said and she picked up the phone. She held the receiver to her ear, then a very quizzical look crossed her face. "Division 5301," she said into the receiver.

Keira put her hand over the mouthpiece. "Who am I asking for? Why are you getting an operator on here?"

Emma just shook her head. "I have no idea. On both accounts. But I did get a message the other day from division 5301 asking for help, so there you have it."

Keira was about to say, "Have what??" when a voice came on the line. "There is no answer at the number you have requested. Please call again."

"Alright, so that was very strange. Want to let me in on that?" Keira asked her.

"Nope," Emma said laughing. "I have no idea what this is myself, but 1928 is calling, and, it's on my phone. You do know that the President of the United States isn't called Oakley, right?"

Keira smiled. "No he isn't. So what is that all about? There isn't any phone service right now. The lines are down. Tell me that when I pick that phone up again, there will be some lady asking for the number."

"Oh there may be, but may not. I all depends."

"I see." She said. "So what about this letter?"

"Ditto. I have no idea about that but somebody in 1928 does, and what's more that was left in my mailbox today with my regular mail."

Keira's face blanched. "That's not possible."

"No, it isn't, but it happened."

She lit up a cigarette and took a sip of her wine. Not much left to say here. "I don't know what's going on, but 1928 is creeping into my life and I have no idea why, but it wants me. It's really weird."

"This has got to be some sort of a coincidence or something. You can't be getting stuff from 1928."

"It's more than that. The radio is playing nonsense. Who is President Oakley?"

"Okay. Who is the Prime Minister in your world?"

"Arthur. Prime Minister Arthur."

Kiera looked around the living room like it was dangerous or something. Then she said, "Maybe we should do that seance then."

"Let me explain before you think of doing something like that. This all started last weekend when I turned on the news and the talking heads were all in a kerfluffle over something. That blonde bombshell weather lady? She was reciting physics formulas. And the other news casters were all panicked over something and talking faster and faster like they were on speed or something and the thing was, they made no sense at all! None of them. They had images in the background that were equally nonsense, and when I changed the stations, it was all more of the same. I was so scared I had Olivia come down and tell me what she saw and it was a feminine napkin commercial. She told me I had to cut out the drinking and to never ask her about something like this again."

"Wow." Keira said softly, clearly at a loss for words.

"So I took up smoking stale 5 year old cigarettes instead," she laughed. "Anyway, I was ashamed of myself. I mean, really, it had to be the wine, right? I don't normally drink every day and here it was, I was on my third glass. Can't remember the last time I drank that much."

"Except tonight, eh?" Keira giggled.

"Sure, rub it in and pass me a smoke." Keira did. Emma lit her cigarette, took a deep pull and coughed as she blew the smoke out. "Oh how I wish these things didn't kill you. Anyway, yeah, so there I was thinking I was crazy, almost believing it when I got the newspaper and I didn't recognize any of the stories. None. Now I don't have time to follow things as closely as I used to, but the major stuff I do know and I knew absolutely nothing. There was this story of this kid who was riding on the back of his dad's ATV and fell off and disappeared. They had been searching for the poor kid for days. Now that I would remember, right? And the Prime Minister and the US President are both different. Very very odd."

"Do you still have that paper?" Keira asked, wide eyed.

"Not that particular one, it freaked me out so much I used it to line the cat litter box. However, this isn't the only newspaper I've seen like that. I borrowed one from someone at work and when I looked at it, it didn't make sense either, it was this odd world again."

"So what does this have to do with 1928?" Keira asked.

"That's the even odder part. So I pick up the phone to call Olivia home from your place and this lady gets on the phone and says 'numba please' and I had no idea what I was hearing. So I picked up the phone a few times and she was still there! So then I played stupid and said I forgot my phone number and it was one of those old time numbers like the division 5301 I just gave you. Then I remembered what my dad's old phone number as kid was. He used to tell me about it all the time. I think he was proud he could recall it after all those years," she laughed.

"So what was his number?"

"Glashen 23570. So I gave the number to the numba please lady and she put me through and damned if I wasn't talking to my grandmother. Now I never knew her in life so that was just so ... I can't describe the feeling really, I was so stunned and she put my dad on the phone and for a few seconds I was talking to my dad as kid before he figured he didn't know me and hung up."

"Oh. My. God. You're kidding right?" Keira was cleared floored by this.

"No. I'm not. And then I was on one of my internet chat group lists and somebody said on there that he was having something similar so I wrote to him privately, not on the list because people were of course tearing him to pieces and he did answer but he regretted posting it, and"

"Sweet jumping jesus Emma. You're not the only one getting this? Is there more?"

"Yes. There is. And some of it involves," she quickly glanced at the stairs, and gestured Keira to lean close so she could whisper, "Mike. Mike is somehow involved in this but that's a different, what, branch of this situation? I don't know what to call it? You saw the letter, that's the Michael she's referring to you know. I have no idea who that Peter person who wants to go out with me is though, and for the life of me I have no idea about who Daisy is."

"Oh man, this is just so freaky I don't know what to say."

"How about it's time to put some more wood in the stove?" Emma joked, and rose to go do that as it was getting a bit chilly now.

"Doesn't take long for the wood to die down, does it?"

"No, but then I've been burning soft wood - birch is my favorite, it is a nice gentle heat and easy to light but it goes down so so quickly. I try to buy mixed hard and soft wood, but really, hard wood for heating is the best. It's just expensive. About $60 a cord."

"Well, I'm pretty sure what my uncle gave me is hard wood. He wouldn't give me crap." Keira put her hand to her mouth. "Oh gosh sorry, I didn't mean that the way it sounded!"

Emma laughed. "No problem. Let's go out to the truck and get some of that not crap wood and bring it in - actually that'd be a good idea before things get any wilder out there and it'll be hard to get to the garage."

Keira nodded yes. They put on their coats and boots and their mitts and went out into the windy freezing rain. It was a good idea they realized, that they did this now because there would be no telling whether in the morning they'd be able to get to the garage. Emma had salted the drive and everything, but when there's enough freezing rain falling fast, you get these interesting little pockets of salt under glass entombed in the ice. That is exactly what had happened to what she had put down. She slid over to the big bag of salt she left leaning against the garage, took out the scoop and spread the salt in front of her as she lugged the nearly full bag of salt back towards the door.

"That's better," she said as she leaned it against the house. "Salt is no use if you can't get to it."

"And wood neither," Keira said, as they headed back towards the garage and that nice hard wood in the back of the truck she had parked inside the garage.

It took them a good hour to take out a good pile and stack it outside the door, five or six logs in their arms at a time, stepping carefully so as not to slip, and as time went on the salt started being buried under ice so they felt comfortable with what they had. There was a nice stack near the stove, an even bigger stack (close to a cord Emma guessed) out by the door, and with two teenaged girls on hand, they would be able to get more tomorrow if they needed it. It was funny, neither of them assumed that the power would be on again tomorrow, though it could do, it just didn't feel like this was going to end nearly that soon.

Emma put on the kettle and fed the stove with some of this nice hard wood; thankfully there were good embers and some smaller burning logs still going strong in the stove so that she didn't have to worry about starting up a new fire, though with a hot chimney it wouldn't be nearly the problem it could be with a cold pipe. Sure enough, quickly the new logs were roaring, and a kettle was starting to bubble.

"Should we ask the girls if they want hot chocolate?" Keira asked.

"Sure, you do that, I'll get the tea steeping."

With that, Keira went upstairs to check on the girls. Soon after, Keira came flying down the stairs. "Emma!" she screamed, "EMMA!!!"

Emma went running out to the stairs. "What? What's the matter?"

"They aren't there."

"Well where are they?"

"They're gone. I don't know. They aren't upstairs."

Emma felt a pang of rising fear in her heart. "They can't be gone. Where would they go? It's not possible. Tell me it's not possible, Keira, tell me!"

"It isn't possible. It isn't possible. Not at all. They can't just disappear, they have to be here. GIRLS!!" she shouted, "GIRLS!!! This isn't funny! Where the hell are you?" Keira said with panic in her voice, cracking on the last sylable.

"Let's go up together, alright? We'll check everything, and downstairs, and out front, hey they could be sneaking smokes out front, who is to say?"

And with that the went up the stairs together, sticking close to each other, flashlight in hand. Emma barely noticed that the flashlight was glowly a pale orange, meaning that the batteries were nearly out. Didn't matter though, she had lots of candles and a couple of kerosene lanterns. At the moment though, such fine details were frightening absent from her mind.

You just never tell a mother who has lost a child that her only other one is missing. You just don't.

Chapter 27 - Baby when you're gone

Emma and Keira stood in the doorway to her daughter's room. The radio was playing crackly songs, the last of dying batteries. There were two half full cans of cokes on the floor, some magazines strewn on Olivia's unmade bed, and her camping lantern glowing in the middle of all of this, thankfully, still pretty good power. This is a good latern though, because not only was it battery, it did have a winding thing you could pull out and use if the batteries were going. It seemed like an extravegance at the time since she really wasn't all that interested going camping anyway (except her friends all wanted to) and since then they'd used it several times, usually for power outages.

This was very strange indeed. They should be here, there was no sign at all of them and no signs of any struggle, nothing. They just weren't there. Which made a small voice in Emma's mind say to her, no, they aren't gone. They're here. You just can't see them.

Regardless, Keira stood there, hands shaking, terrified, the possibility that the two girls had vanished sinking in, and Emma said, loudly, to the middle of the room, "These girls are still here, they haven't gone anywhere, we just can't see them in here. So now we go look around a bit. WE WILL FIND THEM."

And with that she turned around and left the room, while Keira took a few moments looking under the bed and in the closet. "Come on Keira, people don't just disappear. They don't. We're looking elsewhere." And she began opening doors to all the the rooms, all the closets, even the cupboards in the bathroom and the hatches to the attic space, and nothing. Keira was very close to losing it, her whole body shaking now.

Emma pulled her to her, hugged her tight and said out loud to her and to the atmosphere, "I'm serious. These girls aren't gone, they are as much here as you and I are. Now let's go check the rest of the house and if then they still aren't around, we sit down and we figure out how they and us, get in the same space. Got that?"

Keira took a deep breath, calmed a little. "Yes. That's what we'll do." She replied.

They went back downstairs, looked around the living room, opening again all the closet doors and cupboard doors they could find, under things, behind things, and Emma had to laugh when Keira lifted a vase to look inside it, at which point Keira put the vase down with a small clink and crumpled to the floor, laughing, tears rolling down her cheeks but Emma knew those weren't tears of laughter, they were of frustration and sadness and fear.

She sat down beside her, lit a cigarette, handed it to her, lit one for herself. "We're going to run out of these soon at the rate we're going."

"Yeah," Keira said. "Thanks anyway." She was still giggling, wiping away tears with her left sleeve.

Emma smoked in silence for a minute or so, looking around the room as she did, a little less panicked than Keira, mainly because her intuition told her the girls were just fine and were probably wondering where they heck they were right about now.

Keira grabbed Emma's hand so suddenly she jumped. "Sorry," Emma said, "I'm not used to being touched.

Keira shook her head. "That's so fucking sad," she said, tears rolling down her cheeks for real, "so sad, I mean it. I haven't been touched in a while either if you must know so I know where you're coming from. And the only real and true thing there is for me is gone, Emma, all we did was get some wood to keep us warm, what the christ would say we should loose the only thing we have to have a reason for living and what about them, where are they? Where are they? Oh Emma, WHERE ARE THEY?"

Emma pulled her close to her, patting her back, "Keira, no, don't go there. I'm serious, they aren't gone. I never finished what I was telling you, and while we were gone we don't know if the phone rang or the door bell went, or somebody knocked on the door, and if they did, and girls answered, it may be that the conditions of the atmosphere were such that answering whatever meant that they were sucked into that what - dimension? era? time warp? planet? Oh my god, Keira, I have no idea what's happening here, and we're not the only ones. What are we going to do?"

Both of them sat there for who knows how long, when the phone did ring. Keira said, "I'm answering that fucking monstrosity."

Emma shrugged, she wasn't going to argue with that.

"Yes?" Keira said. "No, this isn't she. This is her friend Keira, Emma is indisposed at the moment. May I take a message?" Her voice had a distinct angry edge that quite frankly, unnerved Emma.

Emma lit a cigarette, held it out for Keira. She shook her head.

"So you're telling me that Michael is where? Malaysia? Why? Hey, are you the Division lady? Well, I have to tell her who called don't I? I can't just say Daisy called, there's so many Daisys how do I know it's you she'd know who called?" She winked at Emma as she raised a hand to tell her to stop.

"I see," Keira continued. "Yes, that is something. Let me get my paper so that I may write this all down, she certainly needs these details. Of course she will telephone you back, that is a certainty," and with wild gesturing, Emma ascertained she needed a pen and paper. She handed them to her. "So, your number is Somerset 8993. Anything else I should know?"

"Operator?" Keira asked, "could you tell me something? It's going to sound silly but it's been a wild few days. What time is it? Okay, yes, yes, that's good, and the date? Just in case I turned the wrong page, yes, November what? Yes, and this is 1928? Yes?" She giggled, "Hey, I've lost days better check I haven't lost years. Yes, very good. Thank you dear. Do have a good evening. Yes. That's good. Thank you. Bye now." And with that she hung up the phone.

"So, what's my message?" Emma asked.

Keira looked at her with an odd expression. "Not until you tell me what's going on here, and, not until we check the basement."

"Okay, fair enough." Emma said.

"I'd say you check the garage too, but I'm afraid to be here alone, and I don't want to leave the house because then what?"

Keira led the way into the basement, sure in her knowledge that Emma was going to follow no matter what. They checked everywhere, under the couch, behind the stairs, even in the always scary furnace room, and in the closet Emma never went into. Neither of them thought that looking under the false ceiling would be of any use, though honestly that was because they were both too scared to do it. Still, rational thought would say, no there's no chance of them being up there.

They went back upstairs, Emma checking the stove and throwing in another log on the way. "Do you want some tea or should I just not say anything right now?" She asked.

Keira shook her head. "Oh, now, don't. Just don't. I don't know what to think. All I know is that this seemed like a good idea, you have a wood stove, I don't, and our daughters are friends. This evening was going well, we had a nice dinner, and fooled around with the tarot, but you know Emma it isn't the danger you think it is, it's ouija boards that are the problem and we didn't do that, and all we did was go a pile some wood so we can keep having heat and now we have no girls and some weird message from some broad in 1928. But she's talking about a now time person and that phone shouldn't be working, it's not a cell phone, and there hasn't been an operator answering in what, 60 years?"

"Something like that."

"So forgive me if I don't know what to say or think because a very HUGE part of me is thinking I should never have left the house and just dealt with the cold like everybody else and then it would only be your daughter, but that's mean but dammit, Emma where are they!"

"I don't know any more than you do. What was the message you got?"

She shook her head. "No. Not until I have an answer for my daughter."

"Okay, so what about a seance since you're the expert in that. Do you think that would help?"

"Oh frig, I don't know, I don't, this whole thing is scaring the hell out of me Emma, please, tell me the rest! I need to know what we are dealing with!"

"Well, I can't tell you any more about the guy on the list because I can't check my email. I can tell you that I've been getting all sorts of phone calls, some that are songs from the 1920s, the hit parade you know? And then there's been a couple of calls from Division 5301 with a girl saying help me, and then there's that Daisy lady from Somerset, as well as my grandmother and dad, all from 1920s. I have read the newspapers that aren't from this place but seems current, and then there was Mike phoning me from the plane saying he didn't know where he was and Jerri panicking because he hadn't called her and she's pregnant, and I did find Mike but he was in Boston where he's supposed to be so I have no idea what the heck that person who claims to be Mike and lost is all about. Oh, and then a guy from high school got my email from that school site where you sign up as being as student and people can find you, well I did that stupidly because who in the name of god would be looking for me, I was a mouse back then, but he found me and we sent emails but he was looking for my best friend who, it turns out he lived with in university and then proceeded to tell me what a great lover or whatever she was and how he missed and crap like that, he just wanted to know how to find her. I blocked him and took my name off the list. But then somebody called me at work, looking for me also looking for this friend. And then somebody from work called me at home to complain that the web site was down, I didn't pick it up so I sent a message to my boss saying "what the heck?" and then when I was in today it seems I forwarded the song Mac the Knife and the boss's assistant was sneering at me and then I went back to apologize to my boss and this girl hasn't been in for two days and he asks me where I was for 2 hours the other day when I was at work, they just didn't see me. Thing is, I was at my desk! In my chair! How could they not see me? Anyway, that's why I'm saying let's not panic about the girls yet, they probably don't know they aren't here, and I'll bet anything they come back soon."

"Oh man I hope so," Keira replied. Her hands had started shaking again. It didn't help that at this point the television came on, without any power working, and the newscasters were frantically discussing the case of the missing airplane. Seems they'd been following a cell phone signal but that was gone so they were now trying to get any sort of signal. It didn't look good.

Just as quickly as it came on, the t.v. stopped. "Keira, do you know where the wind up radio is?" Emma asked.

Keira sat staring at the television. "Emma?" She said, voice quivering, pointing at the television.

"Uh, the turning on thing is new, what they're saying isn't."

"The uh, the radio is on the kitchen table I think." Keira said.

Emma started for the kitchen, Keira jumped and ran after her. "You're not going anywhere without me!" She said, grabbing her arm.

"Let's stay here by the stove. It's warmer - oh, I should put another log on. Do you want some tea or coffee?"

Keira frantically wound up the radio. "How can you talk about tea at a time like this?" She said.

Emma tossed another log on the fire, and put on the kettle anyway. All the while Keira was winding. When Emma sat down with her cup with a tea bag in it, she put a hand on the radio. "I think you can stop now," she said softly.

She put the radio down. Nothing happened. "Well work, dammit, work!" Keira said to it. "Emma, what's wrong with this thing?"

Emma picked it up and flipped the on button. The radio came on loud and clear. "This is CBC radio, broadcasting from our studios in Toronto. For the news at the top of the hour, our lead story is the storm in Eastern Canada. Most of North, Eastern and Central Ontario is still without power, as is all of Quebec and New Brunswick, portions of New York State, Vermont, Maine, and there is still no telling when it will come back on. In New York and North and Central Ontario it is the heavy snow that's doing the damage, in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec there's a mixture of freezing rain to be followed by heavy snow, as well as varying degrees of both or each; there's too many areas to give details. So if you are in one of these areas and are hearing this broadcast, you've got a battery or wind up radio, which is a very good idea. If you are in these areas and have a fireplace or woodstove with wood, please consider checking on people - especially infirm or elderly or those with infants - who may not have a means of keeping warm. This is going to last days, possibly weeks. Local authorities are setting up warm beds in the various community centres, schools, or other local venues with room to accomodate large numbers and with the ability to be heated. People who have gas may still be able to have heat as the gas is still working, however the gas company says not to attempt to relight any furnaces or hot water heaters that have had their pilot lights go out unless you have been properly trained to do so. There have been reports of stolen wood, and stolen generators. As for gasoline stations with working pumps, each area has a few but we have no listings of these stations. In general, these are the older, non-digital pumps. Your chances of finding such a station are better in the outlying areas. Also, for finding fire wood sellers with sufficient stock of dry wood to purchase. The provincial police for each of the affected provinces has asked people not to use the roads unless it is absolutely necessary; also, they recommend that only those whose vehicles have sufficient wheel height and four wheel drive attempt to do so. They are still rescuing people stranded on the highways and don't want anyone else who aren't equipped to be out there for very long or have a sufficient vehicle to be attempting the roads at this time. The military will be checking on remote areas such as farms and small towns without a police presence to ensure all people are safe and not in need of medical services. They would also like to take this time to remind people that it would be best not to visit emergency wards unless it is medically necessary; for routine colds and simple fevers please don't burden an already taxed system; please remember that hospitals are running on generators which means that they must keep all electrical loads to a minimum. Now for those of us fortunate enough to be hearing this and not involved in the storm, environmental groups would like to remind people that this could be a result of global warming and that Y2K wasn't the only time we need to have emergency provisions and means of getting clean drinking water, food, and heat, as well as communications of some sort. Short wave radios, cell phones with solar chargers that are available from solar stores, these are all things to consider. Propane barbeques are good to have, as long as people don't attempt to use them indoors or for heat. If you do have a cell phone and it is one of the ones with text chat capabilities, when cellular communications are poor - as they often are in situations such as this - a thing to keep in mind might be that it sometimes possible to send text messages when it isn't possible to get voice capability. Now in other news..." And the rest was normal type news. Not 1928, not weird other reality, what the news should be.

Keira turned it off. She picked up the empty cup Emma had placed in front of her, picked up a fresh tea bag and Emma poured her some tea. "We should have gone to my uncle's farm. We should have gone there. Why didn't I just tell you two to come with me there? They have food, they have all the wood we'd ever need, and those old fashioned things? Those were things that kept people alive without electricity, they didn't have electricity, they just put it in in the farm in the early 40s after the depression was over and they had money again, money enough to splurge on something like that. Why didn't we go to my uncle's farm?" She took a sip of her tea, burnt her tongue and spit it out, then put her head in her hands and started to cry.

Emma really didn't know what to do. Her first temptation was to hug her and say, hey, I'm missing my daughter too, but then again she'd been living this strangeness for the last few days and she'd already lost a daughter. A huge lump formed in her throat, and blinking back tears, she took a sip of her tea and then picked up the tarot. She shuffled, asking the masters and her spirit guides and angels to cleanse them, and to cleanse the air in this house. In her mind she saw everything surrounded in a beautiful white light, protecting them. When she knew what to ask, and when the cards told her to stop, she put them down, cut them three times to the left, then put them back together starting from where she first cut. Then she laid them out using the Celtic Cross method and "this is what covers me, this is what crosses me, this is what is behind me..." all the way to "this is the possible future."

Keira paid no attention. Emma didn't want to cloud her intuition by reading the book, she just wanted to turn over the cards and read what her gut feelings told her. Of course, for the far past, The Tower, things falling apart. Old news for sure. That isn't the first card you usually turn over, but she was curious. So, back to what covers her and crosses her. It seemed like memories are crossing her, and what covers her is The Wheel of Fortune. That's not a bad card if you are feeling optimistic. She chose to be that.

The rest of the spread wasn't all that bad to be honest. It looked like she would be meeting a man with light brown hair, and that should do a little better in her work and financially. There wasn't anything bad in there, which to her was excellent news. And the future? Just better, building on a good foundation. Comforting. She needed that.

By this time though, she had to go to the washroom, there was no escaping it. Keira was still crying, though not as hard, so Emma told her quietly that she was going upstairs to go to the washroom. She didn't insist they stay together; in fact, she just mumbled something that sounded like an okay, and Emma went upstairs.

She picked up the latern they had left in the centre of the livingroom, its light still fairly good. Emma remembered, looking out the front window at some glowing bulbs under glass, that she had solar garden lights. Yes! Just the thing! Even in cloud, those things would charge themselves, so guaranteed they had some light, unless somebody stole them. She made a mental note to bring them in and put them behind the back porch where people from the street couldn't see them, but they could just go outside and grab them as needed.

Going up the stairs she kept her ears tuned for any possible noise from upstairs (or downstairs) at all. Nothing. At the top of the stairs she debated. Go right and go to the bathroom first, or go left and check the bedrooms again. It took her only a second to decide that it would be in her best interest to heed the call of nature first, then deal with whatever. What if there was something scary in ones of those rooms? She stiffled a giggle. Everything's scary right now, the least scary thing was anything going on outside. So she went right.

She walked with the lantern held out in front clearly lighting her way. Then, she went to the bathroom, waving the latern in every corner, the bathtub, in the cabinet, behind the toilet. Every thing in here was fine. She went to the bathroom, just stopping herself from flushing, remembering that all the water they had was in the bathtub and the toilet tank and the hot water tank (and of course whatever fell from the sky that could be boiled on the stove). Thinking that way, she thought, I should put a pail out there and collect the freezing rain and snow and when it melts put in the toilet tank. She'd do that when she went back down stairs. There was some alcohol hand cleaner in the cabinet - she took that out thinking, for just generic stuff, use this, for washing face, etc., use soap and water. So she used the alcohol gel. She took a whiff of it. Whee! Clears the nostrils too. She smiled. Okay, she felt better. Time to go explore.

She worried that something would either happen to her up here, or to Keira downstairs, but what could she do? If Keira was going to crumble under pressure like that, it was going to be an awfully long - what? - week? day? month? lifetime? Emma knew she had absolutely no idea what was going on here, not with the weather, not with 1928 and alternate reality stuff.

She took a deep breath, counted to five, and slowly let it out. With that, she picked up the latern and stepped out the door.

Chapter 28 - Everything Old is New Again

She looked in her room, nothing different there. Nearing her daughter's room she heard music and, as she got closer to the door - voices! She pushed open the door, and there the were, the two missing girls.

"Mom, where the heck were you guys? We were looking for you!" Olivia said, visibly annoyed.

"You were looking for me! We were looking for you!" Emma replied.

"No..." Olivia shook her head.

"What's up with this place?" Alexia asked, quickly followed by, "hey, where's my mom?"

"I left her downstairs, I had to go to the bathroom. She's a bit angry with me. She thinks we should have all gone to your Uncle's farm instead of coming here to this strange place, and she's realled pissed off that I didn't tell her strange stuff was going on. Speaking of strange stuff, did you notice anything strange while we were missing? Like the music on the radio? The telephone ringing or anything like that?"

Olivia said no, everything was fine in their space. Emma told them about their experiences with the phone and the t.v. and 1928.

"So it appears that this is some sort of parallel world happening. Or some portal to the past or something. The good news is it seems we're okay and we do come back when that happens."

"No, when it happens to you, mom." Olivia said. "This is all happening to you. It happened to Alexia's mom because she was with you with it happened, but it's all YOU."

Emma put her hand up to her mouth, a little frightened by that observation. "Oh man, Olivia, you're right. It is all me. But then I'm not the only one this is happening to. There's another on a list I belong to, and there's people trying to find my high school best friend, someone I haven't talked to years."

"Just keep your distance mom, keep your distance." Olivia laughed.

That laughter was like music to Emma's ears. "Will do," she winked at her daughter, "now how about we go downstairs before Keira disappears all by herself. That's freaky. I know, because it happened to me at work."

The went downstairs and poor Keira, who had still been crying at the kitchen table, looked up as they entered the room. Her face streaked with tears and blotchy, she shot out of the chair and threw her arms around Alexia. "My baby!" she kept saying over and over.

Olivia gave Emma a quizzical look; Emma smiled and put a finger to her lips, in a silent shhh!

"Sit down," Emma pointed Olivia to the table. "Are you hungry? Would you like some tea or pop or something?"

Olivia pulled out her chair and sat down. She laughed. "No, I'm okay. Relax. Hey, you guys going to sit down?" She said to Alexia and Keira.

They stopped hugging. Keira kept one arm around her daughter's shoulders. In a cold tone of voice she said to Emma, "I think we'll be going to my Uncle's farm now. I'll give you half an hour to shovel the last of the wood off the back of the truck. Alexia, get your things, we're leaving."

Emma blanched. "Keira, please..." she implored.

"Mom, NO!!" Alexia exclaimed. "Come on, be reasonable!"

Keira just looked at her daughter. Alexia knew she was beaten on this one; she stopped out of the room, Olivia following on her heels, crying, "Mom, you gotta tell her to let her stay!"

Keira glared at Emma. "Don't say a word," she said. "Now go get your wood. I'll keep an eye on the girls."

"Crap," Emma said just loud enough to be heard as she put on her coat and boots. Like Alexia, Emma stomped out of the room.

Standing in front of the closed door, she glanced at the ice and snow covered porch and walkway, and thought, the radio is right, they shouldn't be going anywhere. Regardless, she scooped some salt and spread it in front of her as walked. When she got to the garage she thought, didn't we unload all the wood? She peeked in at the truck. She could still see about a quarter of a cord in there. Damn. That was a lot of wood they were given, this was quite a pile they had already beside the house and in the kitchen. Oh well, she thought and entered the garage bringing a shovel with her. She was going to do what Keira recommended, she'd just climb up there and shovel it all off.

When she walked in beside the truck she deeply regretted not bringing a flashlight with her. Still, she had her lighter and cigarettes in her pocket, so she lit up a smoke while she walked around trying to find the camping flashlight she knew was on a shelf by the wall. Ah, there it was. Reaching up, she grabbed the handle and pulled the lantern down. It was a little dimmer than normal; she knew that this light would only last for an hour, two at the most, but she had no intention still being out here an hour from now. This garage was scary dark and she was suddenly feeling very tired. She finished her cigarette and climbed into the back of the truck. She opened the gate and started shoving the logs off the back, where they landed on the floor with a bang. She didn't think to check and see if there was anything important back there, but she didn't remember seeing anything so she didn't worry. This was more important.

She kept tossing and shovelling, her arms growing tired, but every time she felt ready to give up she thought about how Keira had spoken to her and she caught another second wind. Twenty minutes later, she was done. She climbed down from the truck, stubbing her toe on a log.

Limping, she opened the door onto a very lovely winter night, stars sparkling in the sky, crisp and cool the moon had a shroud across it; the windows of her house were lighted up, and looking across the snow that glinted like jewels she heard laughter, and far away from another house, someone was playing a phonograph. A dog barked.

As beautiful as it was, Emma was afraid to step out into that in case she got stuck there. She called out loudly, "Olivia, can you hear me?"

A man called back from a window somewhere, "Keep it quiet, people are sleeping!" and bang went the window.

She didn't quite know what to do so she turned around and went back into the garage. She sat on a plastic chair and smoked a cigarette, careful not to let embers get near the wood.

Now what? She wondered as she stared out the door, willing all that cottony snow to go away and be the nasty storm she had just left.

She stubbed out the cigarette under her foot, and she examined it carefully to make sure it was completely out. Then she picked it up, intending to toss it in the snow, but then Olivia's voice called for her from the kitchen door, and she looked up and sure enough, it was nasty out there again. The chill of the night started to ache in her bones, so she flicked the butt and gingerly made her way back, anxious to warm up by the wood stove again.

She quickly scanned the kitchen. Olivia sat by the wood stove, a cup of tea cuddled in her hands. "Time for another log I guess, right?" Emma said to her. She nodded. Then, in a whisper, "Are they upstairs? What's happened since I left?"

Olivia just shook her head. "I haven't heard anything," she whispered back, "but I'm pretty sure Alexia doesn't want to go anywhere. She's scared here but she's scared going out there, and she thinks her uncle is smelly and creepy."

"Smelly and creepy how? How old is this uncle?"

"Smelly like he does a lot of lifting and working with animals shovelling shit and he stinks."

"Manure. Shovelling manure." Emma corrected her.

"Yeah. Right mom. So he stinks and he's creepy 'cause he's always looking at her and he looks her up and down, and sometimes he hugs her too hard when they leave."

"Yuck. I can see why she wouldn't like that. Does he ever touch her inappropriately? Slip her the tongue or anything?"

"Ew, mom!" She exclaimed. Emma shushed her and pointed to the doorway. "Does he? How old did you say he was?"

"I don't ... I don't think so, she hasn't said. I'm not sure, I think he's like, in his forties, fifties, older than you."

"Okay. I know it's a hard thing to talk about, but sweetie, if she ever says anything that makes you think he is," she glanced quickly towards the door, "then you have to tell somebody like the counsellor at school. Promise me."

She shrugged, looking somewhat dejected. "I don't think I'm allowed to hang out with her any more mom. Keira's pretty angry." She sighed. "I hate this place."

And with that she took a sip of her tea. "Shit. Cold."

"Olivia!" she said, "This language is degenerating by the minute."

"You swear."

"Yeah, but I'm an adult and I don't swear all the time."

Olivia just rolled her eyes. "Whatever."

Emma put another log on the fire, topped the kettle up a bit with water from the water cooler (she'd have to be careful with how much they used of this, she made a mental note). 14. At 14 there was only so much Emma could tell her before she mentally shut the door, not that is so much different from how she'd always been. Headstrong, someday she'll be a force to reckon with.

Having said, enough, and figuring now was not the best time to her about the quick flash to 1928, she just asked, "Was there anything odd while I was gone? Like with the radio or anything like that?"

She shook her head. "No, I was just waiting for anybody to come back. I didn't want to leave the kitchen with everybody gone."

Emma grabbed her hand and squeezed it. "I am so sorry baby, I should have asked you to help me, but I thought that maybe Keira would calm down and rethink what she said and I'd find you all here, maybe not laughing but at least not cranky."

"Yeah, me too."

"Well, then," Emma decided. "I have to go pee, I'm guessing you might need to as well, and I was going to bring a bucket of snow up so it'll melt and we can flush with it, so how about we get that bucket and go upstairs and see what's happening there?"

"Okay," Olivia said, a little resigned, worried about how they were going to be when they went up. Her heart was breaking, losing her friend just because Alexia's mom was pissed off at her mom. It just wasn't fair.

Emma got the bucket from the hall closet, and together they scooped snow into it, then ran quickly back in (they hadn't bothered putting on a coat just for that, but boy it was cold).

They went upstairs, Emma carrying the bucket, Olivia the flashlight. Emma went to the toilet, then flushed, empting half of the toilet tank by manually lifting the flapper, so it would flush just enough but not everything in the tank.

She put the bucket by the toilet, washed her hands with alcohol hand rub, and opened the door. Olivia was standing just outside. "My turn," she said, and, "don't go away. Stay there. Promise."

Emma smiled. "Promise."

Olivia was in and out quickly, and after being reminded to use the hand gel, they headed towards the door to Olivia's bedroom.

It was fairly quiet, but the radio was still on, though lower than Alexia and she had been playing. Emma took a deep breath, knocked on the door.

There was a muffled response. Worried, Emma openned the door.

Inside, Alexia was sobbing, being hugged by her mother. Keira looked exhausted.

Emma didn't know what to say, so instead she just told Keira that the wood was out of the truck, but the roads looked really dangerous, even with a four wheel drivetrain.

Isn't it true, she thought to herself, that every major storm the ditches are littered with SUVs with four wheel drive, driven by idiots who think having this makes them immune from proper winter driving and slowing down. She feverishly hoped Keira would calm down enough not to make herself and her daughter one of those idiots.

Olivia asked, "Alexia, are you alright?"

Keira told her to mind her own business.

Wrong thing to say to Olivia.

Emma saw her daughter's face turn red and she exploded with her response to that one: "ALEXIA! Tell your mother about your uncle or I WILL! I mean it!"

Alexia shook her head. Keira pulled her away from her, lifted her chin up with her right hand, and looked into her her eyes. "What is she talking about?" She demanded. Alexia just shook her head. "WHAT IS SHE TALKING ABOUT?" She shook her head again, tears streaming down her face.

Keira looked at Emma, her expression so scared it was piteous and she truly hoped she herself would not ever be in this situation of trying to find a horrible truth. "Emma?" Emma shook her head.

"Olivia?" Olivia shook her head.


"I, uh, he," she started to say, when Alexia blurted out, "He grabs me. He comes up to me and he grabs my boobs and other places. He keeps trying to get me in corners and places I can't get out but they taught us some judo in gym class a couple of years ago and I know how to break a grip. So far. I hate him, mom, I hate him, he's gross and he stinks!"

Keira looked like she had been slapped in the face. She lifted her daughter's chin again, staring into her eyes, "No, no," she said, "he can't be doing that, he doesn't do that, he's a nice man, tell me you're making this up, oh please, Alexia, please tell me you're making this up!"

Alexia looked away, and Olivia yelled, "No, she isn't! She tells me every time! Listen to her. Listen to her, I mean it! You have to listen to her! Mom, tell her to listen to her! Tell her!"

Emma was so shocked she was speechless. "Olivia honey, Keira has quite plainly told me she thinks I'm awful and this place is terrible so I don't think I can to anything to change that. And Alexia, sweetie, I am sorry this has been happening to you, promise me please that you will tell the police about this when the storm is over and we can call out again." She said, glaring at Keira.

Keira, burst into tears. "Oh my God, I'm so so sorry, every body, and especially you Alexia. We'll go home. It's dark and cold but at least it's safe." And with that she picked up her bag with one hand, the other wiping away tears.

"No." Was all Alexia said.

"What was that?" Keira asked her.

"I said, no. You do whatever the hell you want but I like it here, my friend is here, I like Emma, this place is warm and we have food and I'm not going anywhere, even if the phone is funny and sometimes people disappear. I'm staying."

"I'm your mother, sweetheart," Keira said, pulling on her sleeve. Alexia pulled away.

"I don't care if you're the fucking Queen, I'm not going anywhere."

And that was that. There's wasn't anything more that Keira could do except leave by herself, and she was, quite frankly, terrified to go out there alone.

She took a deep breath. "I give up. Fine. We'll stay. I guess you're right. Doesn't matter where we go, this world has gone crazy and I just can't fight it. I'm going for a smoke."

She brushed past Olivia and Emma. Emma called after her, "Mind if I join you?"

"Haven't you done enough?" She shot back.

"I guess that's a no," Emma said.

Alexia giggled softly, highcoughing between sobs. "She'll get over it. Thanks you guys."

"No problem," Olivia said, "anything for my best friend." And she went and hugged her tight.

Emma watched and with a twinge of sadness, realized she was seeing her daughter turn from being her little girl, to a young woman whose friends mean more than everything. She'd never again be as close as she had been before this night.

She turned away and quietly made her way downstairs, put her coat on and went out the front door to have a cigarette. This was going to be incredibly ackward and so she decided that the best thing right now would be for her to give Keira as much space as she needed. If anything, Keira was going to be awfully embarrassed.

So she leaned against the wall, feeling very very tired, when she heard footsteps crunching on the snow-ice out back. She looked around and saw Keira lift up the garage door.

"Hey," she called out, "where are you going?"

Keira turned around. "I going to kill that bastard."

"What? No! Keira, stop!" She started to run out the front steps but wound up face first in an ice snow carpet on the lawn, and Keira started the engine, put the truck in drive and -

the wheels spun on the thick coat of ice. Even with the four wheel drive, she learned an important lesson - when you are driving on pure ice, you either need snow tires and a prayer, or you're likely not going to get very far. She spun the wheels until she had rubber burning and she backed up the truck into the wood in the back of the garage, turned off the engine and pounded the steering wheel repeatedly.

Emma thought about going to her but she thought, no, there's nothing I can do to erase the pain, and she really did just need some time alone. So she went back inside, sat down at the table, and with her head in hands, just let the events of the evening spin in her mind, not unlike the wheels of that SUV out there. She stiffled a laugh. That was an evil thought, but, if you can't laugh, then what have you got.

She dozed off at the table, her final thought of the evening was, "What next?"

Chapter 29 - Ma Belle Michelle

She couldn't tell how long she had been locked down here. It was dark, not a hint of light real or artificial crept through cracks under doors or anything. There was just nothing.

Sarah just knew from the beating of her heart, and the number of times she had dozed off, and the number of times she went pee, that it had to be at least three or four days.

She was thankful, if it could be called that in this basement there is a sink with a running tap, newspapers, and there was a set of shelves that held cans and assorted jarred things, and some bags of chips and also some big bottles of coke. These she'd been eating, and this was also how she knew she'd been there at least three days.

Her head hurt like hell, it was throbbing where she'd been hit on the back of her skull, and whatever she had been hit with left her with a huge egg sized lump back there. She figured she probably had a concussion, but she also realized that the very fact that she was here, where she had no idea she was, and that somebody had attacked her to put her here, it was likely this may well be the last place she'd be.

She couldn't remember where or what she had been doing when this happened. She was wearing jeans and a sweater so it likely wasn't during work, but what about after? What she was doing when she was abducted she honestly didn't know. She did know she wasn't wearing her watch, so whoever did this made sure she wouldn't have any light at all, nor anyway of knowing if it was day or night, what or even month it was.

She hurt in other places too but she didn't know if it had to do with the initial attack or manhandling to get her down here, or anything else. She didn't want to contemplate the possibilities, so she didn't. She also didn't want to contemplate the possibilities when or if that door up the stairs ever opened, though the sick feeling in her stomach told her it was likely she would find out what was going on soon.

In her fear and confusion, Sarah had been trying to remember happy moments, things that made her smile, made her feel good, faces, her in her mental ear voices she handed heard, in oh, how long?

She spent the better part of the space between one sleep trying to remember a friend of hers who had died when she was ten. It was awful. This girl was her friend, they knew each other from pre-school, maybe even earlier, they lived on the same block and played in the same sandbox at the park, swung on the same swings, took the same swimming lessons at the Community Centre, sat on the same mall Santa's lap every year, and they were part of the same circle of kids who connected, those each had their own best best friends, and these sometimes changed but not always, and then there were the second best friends. Sarah was just a part of the circle, this girl wasn't her best or second best friend nor she hers. But it was an unusual thing because around the time that this little girl's best best friend moved across the country, never to be heard from again except for a post card to every one saying, hi, write me! She never wrote anybody back, which was annoying, but it was really sad for this little girl. So you see, she had to remember the little girl's name. She thought and thought and thought and she thought it was Michelle, something like that. Somehow thought, the dark eyes and long black hair and delicate features made her think that it was likely her name was Michelle because she was pretty sure she was of French extraction, if not fluently bilingual, it's hard to say because at that time people were who they who, and often their playing as a group from the street was an interesting melange of French and English that you just understood 'cause, well, you'd been hearing it all the time that way anyway.

As she sat in the dark, scared beyond belief, her mind kept taking her back to Michelle. So here little Michelle was, a slight sweet little thing, and when she was eight, she seemed to get tired a little more easily than the rest of them, and then she fell while riding her bike. She was a bit of an emotional girl anyway, so nobody really paid too much attention when she was screaming and crying, except to pick up her bike and walk her over to her house limping. And yes, she wound up with a cast but it could have been a bad sprain, her dad had said.Her

But then it took a long long time to heal. A few trips to the hospital later, and she was away a lot. Nobody seemed to pay all that much attention to her being not around much, so one day Sarah plucked up the courage to knock on the door. She remembered that day well. It was a sunny May day, one of those days that showed a promise of summer it was so nice, and the tulips and crocuses were out and it was the kind of day that a nine year old should be out on roller skates or a skate board or a bicycle, and well, she wasn't. Nobody was around and it bothered Sarah that Michelle just didn't seem to be there.

When she rang the doorbell, Michelle's mother answered, and she seemed somewhat surprized to see her there. "Can Michelle come out?" she asked.

Her mother put her hand over her mouth, and looked like she was blinking back tears. "She's is not very well right now, but it isn't catching. Would you like to come in and I'll see if she's feeling well enough for a visitor?"

Sarah blinked hard a couple of times, not understanding, and nodded yes, she'd like to come in. Her mom led her to living room and told her to sit on the sofa. Her father looked up from his paper and said, "Oh hello, would you like some cookies?" and even before she answered, he was gone and back with a plate of chocolate chip cookies.

She nibbled on one, as Michelle's dad did, and he asked her how she was, and what grade she was in, and how was her dad doing, he'd need to invite them to a barbeque one of these days, and a cat brushed by her leg and hopped up into a wing back chair beside the couch, and Michelle's mom came in and said, "Sarah, she says she's feeling alright," her mom smiled, "and she is very happy to hear that you came to ask her to go outside. Come," and she swept her arm towards Michelle's bedroom, "oh, and take the cookies with you," and with a pointed eye towards her husand, "before her dad eats them all," and they both laughed.

She followed Michelle's mother down the hall, plate in hand, a little nervous. How sick was this girl? She just didn't understand what was happening.

Her mom led her into the bedroom, and Michelle, who had been colouring in a book, looked up and beamed the most beautiful smile at her. For a second, Sarah could see what she should like as an adult, totally gorgeous, like a ballet dancer or something, and then she blinked and she just kind of looked like a tiny angel, a pale, big eyed, tiny angel.

"I have cookies," she said, and Michelle laughed.

"Did my dad eat half of them? There's only four here."

Her mom looked at the plate and tsked with her tongue. "Yes, he did. Just a minute, I'll get you girls more. Oh what the heck, I'll bring the bag." And with that, she left the room.

Sarah looked around, and then looked Michelle straight in the eye. "How come you haven't been around lately? I came to ask you to the park but your mom asked me inside. How come?"

Michelle just blinked a couple of times, looked down at her colouring book, and took a deep breath. "What do people know?" she asked.

Sarah thought that was a stupid question. "What do you mean what do people know? All I know is you broke your leg or something, you had a cast, for a long time, and people just don't see you much since. I know you're sad 'cause Sylvie left but we're all still here."

Michelle didn't say anything. She took a deep breath and her mom appeared at the door with the bag of cookies. She reached up for them, and then asked, "Maman, can we have some milk too?"

"Certainly," she said, and went to go get those.

Michelle took the bag of cookies and poured a bunch onto the plate, more that they would both eat, but there they were, and she offered the plate to her and she took three, and then her mom showed up with the glasses of milk. They both took their glass, and thanked her mom and her mom left, semi shutting the door.

They each took a cookie, and ate them, and sipped their milk, and then Michelle said, "So how is everybody?"

Sarah though for a minute. "Daniel's mom is expecting another baby, and Carol broke her arm."

Michelle smiled. "It looks nice out today. Summery."

"Yes. It is," Sarah told her, "not one of those sunny days that are cold, it's warm. Nice. That's why I came to see if you want to."

Michelle nodded, her gaze never leaving the window. "Oh, I'll get to go outside, but not for a little bit."

Sarah said without thinking, "But why not?"

Michelle looked at her, then looked down at the bed, thinking carefully. "'Cause right now I can't. I had an operation."

"Oh," she said.

Michelle smiled. "When I'm better, then I go out."

"That's good," Sarah said, "when is that?"

"I don't know," Michelle said, "I'm thinking maybe never."

"Never?" Sarah had no idea why she'd say that.

"My mom says never say never, so I'm not."

"okay." Sarah really had no idea what this conversation was about. She honestly didn't. "So how is your broken leg? Is it still in a cast?"

A big stripey cat jumped up on the bed, purring like crazy. Without a thought, Michelle rubbed it behind its ears, and it lay down, still purring away.

"Not in a cast no." She said quietly, not looking Sarah in the eye.

"So that's good. When you feel better you'll be out in the nice sun - we can do biking or something if you like."

"I don't think I'm going to be out in the sun," she said quietly, mindful of the partially open door.

"What? Why not?" Sarah blurted out.

"I have cancer." She said softly, emotionlessly.


"My leg. It's gone."

"What do you mean gone?" Sarah asked, totally confused.

And with that, she lifted that blanket, on the left leg, and below her blue nighty, there was nothing. She had a thigh, but that's where it stopped. Sarah gasped.

"Yeah," Michelle said. "I did that too when I saw. The funny thing is, it still feels like its there sometimes. And it itches but there's nothing to scratch."

Sarah felt an overwhelming urge to cry. "Did it hurt?"

"A lot," Michelle admitted, "but cancer hurts a lot anyway. I'm having treatment now and that hurts too. I feel sick taking it, but they say it's making me better. I don't know how because I can feel it moving and growing inside me."

Sarah's eyes grew huge at her description of this, and her stomach was feeling very queasy. Feeling like she was going to throw up, she told Michelle she had to go home now, but that she would be back tomorrow or when she'd be allowed to. Michelle asked if she could talk to her on the phone; Sarah wrote out her phone number, Michelle gave her hers and she left.

Sarah said good bye to Michelle's parents, thanked them for the cookies and ran across the yard to her house, ran in the front door which she slammed and that caused the almost immediate, "For the thousandth time, don't slam the door!!!!" from her mother, and she raced into the bathroom where she promptly threw up all those cookies.

Her sister walked into the bathroom, screamed, "GROSS!! MOM!!!! SARAH'S THROWING UP IN HERE!!!!! EEEEEWWWW!"

Her mother who was walking down the hall at the time, scolded Tina for shouting. Then she pushed the door open and saw Sarah at the toilet. She ran over, saying, "Honey, oh my gosh, are you okay?" She felt her forehead. "No fever. Did you eat something bad? Did it taste funny?" She tsked tsked. "I'll bet it's that ice cream truck, isn't it? I knew somebody would get sick off that one of these days. Who knows how often they sterilize those spigots!"

Sarah swallowed hard a few times and sat back on the floor. Her mother shoed Tina out of the bathroom, responding to her pleas about the washroom with permission to use the forbidden one in the master bedroom, and then wet a facecloth with cool water and wiped Sarah's face.

She told her it's a good idea to brush her teeth and then come out and she'd give her some stomach pills and she went to the kitchen to put on the kettle for a pot of tea.

When Sarah came out and sat down at the kitchen table, she was very pale and shaking. Her mom offered her a choice of warm milk or hot tea with milk and sugar or honey; she chose the tea with the milk and honey. Her mother brought it to her, along with a small pink tummy pill, then sat down with her own cup of tea. She watched her take her pills, knowing Sarah would probably fall asleep soon, so she brushed her bangs away from her daughter's eyes, and asked if something was wrong.

Sarah didn't want to say anything, but, tears coming to her eyes, she couldn't not say anything. "Mommy, I went to play with Michelle today."

"Oh, that's good of you, I haven't seen her around much since her little friend moved."

"Mom," and she started crying, "I went to her house. I wanted her to come to the park with me. She broke her leg and nobody's seen her since and I figured she was shy and missing her best friend and I was bored so I went, and, and..."

"Oh sweetie, love, tell me. Did her mom or dad do anything that made you upset?"

She shook her head. "They brought me cookies."

Her mom laughed, "Were the cookies that bad?"

She shook her head again, smiling this time. "No, they were good but her dad ate most of them so her mom gave me the bag to bring to Michelle."

Her mom laughed, "Aha, the cookie chucking mystery deepens."

"Mommm!" She said, and then, "When she gave me the cookie bag I went into Michelle's bedroom, 'cause Michelle is sick, she was in bed."

"I hope it wasn't anything catching," her said, worried. "Neither you dad or I can take any more time off work and grandma just isn't going to come over just like that anymore, between your aunt and me she said she's fed up and has her own life, she'll only come if we ask in advance."

"Oh." Sarah said. "No, it's not catching, I don't think so anyway. Mom, is cancer catching?"

Her mother gasped and quickly put a hand over her mouth. "Cancer?" She said quietly. "No, not pretty little Michelle..." and, "Why didn't anyone tell me? Why didn't her mom call me? Oh my gosh, I have to bake something, but what? What do you bake that a cancer person can eat? What did we make for grandma Jean? Oh my gosh, this is horrible, Sarah," she grabbed her hand, "tell me, what kind of cancer does she have?"

"I think she said bone cancer, mom. She's going to get better, right mom? Mom?" But her mom didn't say anything, she looked at her and then glanced away, hand over mouth again, tears in her eyes. She cleared her throat. "Um, sure honey, sure, people can live through bone cancer, I've heard of that. And treatments get better every day! Love, would you mind taking your tea into the livingroom. Tell your sister you have to permission to watch whatever you want. Grab some chips or crackers and cheese if you like. We have curds. Oh, and fruit. So take what you like, dinner won't be for a while." She sighed. "I have to bake something. What do you bake for a cancer person? I have to call her mom..." she repeated herself.

Sarah knew then and there is was very serious indeed, and the quiver in her voice when she answered that sure, Michelle was going to live made her think her mom was lying to her. But she wouldn't do that, would she? She didn't usually lie. It seemed to her that one small door bell ring just turned her life upside down. Then again, she was around 9, and to her the satisfaction of telling her sister that she was watching what she wanted and then turning the channel to whatever else was on that wasn't what she was watching, and her sister running yelling to her mother who promptly told her to hush up or go to her room, and her sister coming back and sitting down with a whump so Sarah knew she was obliging but she wasn't happy about, this to Sarah made up for the way she was feeling, at least for a little while.

Still, it was strange how after all these years she'd forgotten that particular moment until here she was in the dark, alone and probably about to die (though the thought terrified her and prayed with all her might that this would not be her fate) and isn't it strange that how you are as a child foreshadows how you are as an adult. Her sister was still just as demanding and petulant, though her hockey-loving, loud-mouthed, locker room mouthed sexists husband did keep her in line just a bit. Not towards her though. She still treated her like her minion and less than worthy so she just didn't talk to her much any more. They had nothing in common, she was sorry to say, except for their parents, thought even there, they didn't see things the same. Oh well. Nothing much else you can say but that they are two individuals divided by a common memory. Then there was their younger brother, born when Sarah was 11. But that was after the days of Michelle.

There in the dark, the black so deep it was palpable, her eyes had almost adjusted to it. She knew that if ever anyone turned on a light she would be blinded, and it would be painful, and that when or if that ever happened, it would not be for something good, unless there were some way to talk to someone, lead them here. Now she wasn't a big believer of psychic things at all and in fact, she was one of the first to mock it if it came up in a conversation because really, it just didn't make sense, but then she did have friends and acquaintances who thought differently, and she dearly wanted to believe now that these people were right. Oh God, she prayed, if psychic ability is actually a gift and not a bad thing like her religion had told her (at least before she had no more time to follow it), let her discover she had this gift, or one of her gifted friends would they hear her if she called?

She didn't want to go so far as to say, my god, why hast thou foresaken me because that would be blasphemy and really, who was she to compare her situation to that anyway?

She thought she heard heavy footsteps upstairs. But then maybe it was just the furnace coming on. Or pipes knocking. She listened carefully. No, nothing. Had to be something like pipes.

In fact, the quiet here was so very quiet that she was beginning to believe there was no one here and hadn't been since she was put here. So why was she put here? She thought she was going to die of starvation eventually, because there were only so many pickles and chips on those shelves. That at least would be a little better than all the possible things that had been going through her mind.

So her prayer, first and foremost, was that whenever somebody opened that door, it would be somebody who was good and not someone who would be harming her.

She got up and drank a sip of sip of water from the tap, turning it on slowly and running gentle stream to make no noise. Under the sink was a bucket that appeared to have been catching drips or something from it's placement, and this she used for her toilet, and some old newspapers she found in a corner were her kleenex and toilet paper.

She picked up her half eaten bag of potato chips. It's amazing that, something that had become a greasy, salty calorie laden cholestoral delivery system turned into ambrosia and tasted like one of the very best things in the world right now. A little ironic that this may be the last thing she ate, after firmly swearing off these, the very first dimple of fat on her thighs arrived. Dreaded sign of aging, that's it, she took serious precautions. It seemed pretty silly now. She made a resolve that, once she got out (and for a moment the thought - if - came through and she shut that out), she may be sick of potato chips by then, but she wouldn't deny herself things that made her happy ever again, even if it meant a size 10 instead of a size 6, and dimply thighs instead of teenager clean ones. Who was she kidding, she thought, she's pushing 40. Why did she need to try so hard? And then an inward laugh of, does it matter anyway, here in the dark on what are likely my final days, and I'm thinking of cellulite. Sheesh. Wouldn't that be a good final thought to say at the Pearly Gates.

She laid her head against the cool cement block wall, and tried to remember Michelle again. So what happened after her mom called Michelle's mom? She remembered a phone being hung up on the wall, and a muffled crying, and footsteps up the stairs. Her mom came down later and there was the sound of the egg beaters whirring against the walls of a glass bowl, and Sarah's sister Tina started asking about food for dinner, and she heard her mom tell Tina to go ask her dad to think about buying dinner 'cause she had to make something for Michelle's family, those poor things, and Tina thump thumped down the stairs to the basement where her dad had a workshop and basic get away from everybody place, and they both came back upstairs and he asked her mom what the heck this was all about because payday was four days from now and all he had was what he had in his wallet, and she heard her mom send Tina back into the livingroom with a couple of sodas for her and her sister while they whispered, and a few minutes later her dad appeared with a strange fake smile on his face and in an overly loud and cheerful voice asked them, hey what would they like for dinner, how about southern chicken, and Tina said yes with the green salad, and even though Sarah loved this she didn't want her sister to get her way so she said, no, I want Chinese Food. Her dad swallowed hard and said, Sarah honey that a bit expensive just before payday, why not some chicken or pizza and she said why can't we get some won ton soup and egg rolls and chow mein and garlic ribs and those red chicken balls, just that that's not too much, oh and fortune cookies too, and her dad said, well, if we just get that maybe that's okay let me get the flyer, and he got that and added it up and said, okay, and I'll get some chop soey too 'cause I like that. We can get that. And he ruffled her hair and Tina said in a very loud voice, "but I wanted chickennnnnnnnnn!"

Their dad glared at Tina and said, "How old are you? Tonight it's Sarah's choice, you got that?"


Their dad glared at her, yanked on her sleeve and said, "We will talk later!" and went back into the kitchen and told their mother in a voice all could hear, "We're getting Chinese. Nothing fancy but that's what Sarah wants, and if we go to the Golden Dragon we get free white rice."

"BUT I WANT CHICKEN!" Tina roared.

"One more word out of you young lady, there'll be no dinner at all. Now shut up!" Which brought the usual, "John, language!" From her mom, and she and Tina both laughed.

Tears burned in her eyes now. Oh how she wished she were back then, early seventies, time of mustard coloured fridges and shag carpets and rock bands with glittery hair and sappy songs about puppy love and parking lots and life was just so much more simple and fun back then. The smells, the sounds, sitting in the dark here was like a deprevation chamber, it brought it all alive and almost so close she could touch it, and she hadn't been here so long that she didn't realize this was all memories but to see her mom young again, and to remember having skinny arms and legs and tangly hair and dirty face and hands, and the mysteries of life were how come we get so much homework and why couldn't I swim and breathe under water?

So that day they ate chinese food, and her sister's chicken turned out to be chicken balls in a flagrantly fuscia red sweet and sour sauce, and Sarah knew that there was something serious up because her mom never baked unless it was a birthday or she had to, and she almost never had the choice of dinner, if there was one given to the kids most often her loud and demanding sister got just what she wanted and that was that. But then, as she thought now, what was it that in her sister's soul even then, made her think that she was less than something, that she had to be loud and get her own way or she would never get it? Honestly she didn't care at this point, she just had come across too many who were just like that, and she thought here now that the noise of the earth became a furnace blower and her own heart beating, that maybe there were souls who had lots to learn, and souls who had been around enough they just didn't need to be told, and the loud and demanding ones were the babies of the universe and given a few lives of learning they'd calm down. How do you deal with them now though? She really didn't have that answer, and though she'd hoped she would find that answer before she died and every mellows with age right? Well what if you don't age? What if you were Michelle, never seeing 11 even? Then what?

After a few hours, she got over the why me thing. It didn't take her too long to realize that it didn't matter who the hell she was, whether she was 35 or 70 or 7, here she was in a situation that was the sort of thing you saw in movies and read in books and god forbid, saw in newspapers, and if there were any way that she get out of here she would do it, but if she didn't she hoped that people didn't think she was a pissy little bitch who thought only of herself. She hated women like that. And then the cold reality. Why in the name of god would anyone know her? She'd done nothing. Nothing at all. Nothing that mattered to anyone but herself and the people who signed the paycheque, and yes, if she were gone there would be a pot luck and sad stories and a wreath sent to her funeral. But would they really care? Really? The clerk would care because she'd have to clean out her desk of personal stuff. And then she'd have to look at everything and then she'd have to think, is this crap, or is this work related, or is this personal, or is this personal and family really wouldn't want to see this, and ... she pitied the poor clerk who'd be doing that. Then a reality moment also struck, and that was, unless it was obviously work, and unless it was a photo or a sweater or something like that, the rest would go in the garbage.

Just like everything in her apartment if her family had to go in. Her brother would take the electronics. That's just him. Her sister would take whatever looked like it had some value or was historically interesting in terms of geneology which of course there wasn't anything because she hadn't done anything interesting and her clothes would be thrown out unless somebody had enough sense to give them to one of the charities, and of course food would be thrown out though she hoped cans and jars would go to the food banks, and her paintings would be thrown out because they are crap and who would want them, but her couple of purchased paintings of actual real live Painters (capital p here) would they realize that those actually had value or would they think that was just more crap? Then she realized that she was assuming that anyone would care, and that she wouldn't make it out of this, and that wasn't the best way to be thinking. She had every intention of making it out of this. She had to. She wasn't sure why, she just knew she did have to.

Back to Michelle. Once the chinese food was eaten, and she went to bed, the days are abscent. She simply didn't remember. She guessed that that was just there was nothing really that stood out in her mind. Doesn't the quick recall part of the mind shuffle the less important stuff away so that if you really want to know, you need to go into therapy or brain surgery or take really impressive drugs, or what? She didn't know.

Her next memory was something a little silly in the sense it was she and her in a wheelchair, wheeling around the block. People were staring but she didn't care, and she guessing Michelle was so sick she never really paid attention. If she did, she didn't show it. But honestly, if I were that sick, she thought, I really don't think I'd be worried about what people thought. At least she hoped so.

She remembered her mom making a series of cakes. They were all chocolate, with these crazy floppy attempts at flowers (her mom was definitely no artist) and even if they looked like hell and sometimes had icing that crunched from the wrong kind of sugar, they still tasted good, and that was the main thing.

Michelle called her first after she went to visit. She pretended that it wasn't two weeks (and oh god, two weeks in a dying person's life, isn't that like forever?) and she chatted about going to the hospital for appointments and her tutor and the presents people were giving her and how tasty that cake her mom brought was, and how she hoped her flu was better now, and yes, Sarah promised she would certainly come see her now that her flu was over. Bless her mom's heart, she knew enough to lie for her, knew that she needed that little bit of time to come to grips with the news and once she did she would just try and be herself because herself was all she knew how to be and how often she wished she could just act in character and just not be anything other than what she was but alas, she just couldn't. She really wished she could be that, but no. It just wasn't a part of her personality.

So for the next few weeks, while fall turned into winter and winter turned into spring, she was Michelle's ear. As other people on the street realized the situation, there would be other people, but Sarah, she was the one who talked to her every day where she could be every day.

Then Michelle was in the hospital. And the treatments were making her skinny and her hair was falling out, but at that time it was experimental, and there wasn't much hope. Sarah didn't want to believe it, but as her grandma said, "little pitchers have big ears," and never once did she ever hear anyone say she was going to live. It was always how much time she had. By the end of the summer, they didn't even say that. They talked about making her comfortable able, and Sarah wanted to scream at them all, "doesn't any one of you believe in miracles?"

But in her heart, when she looked in Michelle's eyes, really looked, she saw the eyes of a person much older, a person who knew things and understood things and it didn't seem strange that September day when she held a little longer and tighter on Sarah's hand and told her to dance that dance at school, and not be afraid of things. Sarah promised yes, and gave her a hug and told her she'd be there tomorrow and Michelle didn't say, "Okay, see you then," she just smiled and said, "thanks" and those were her last words to her.

Still, at the time Sarah didn't know. And she didn't know when at one point in a dream it seemed that Michelle was standing beside her bed, and she didn't believe it when her mom came in to her bedroom on a Sunday morning early, when sunlight was streaming through sheers making everything glow and held her hand and said, "Oh Sarah, I'm so sorry," and she started to cry, and she asked, hoping for any other answer than the one she knew was coming, and she said, "she gone darling, in the middle the night, she just went to sleep and didn' d that's how everyone wants to go, and

that's so special that she had you for a friend, I know it meant the world to her and do you want to go to the funeral, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked that, oh sweetie, you're too young for this, I love you, here, come give me a hug,"

and then she was hugging her mother who was in her pajamas and yes she knew she'd been up all night from the smell of smoke off her, it was fresh, and the glowing window did nothing to relieve the unreality, and her whole world just turned upside down at least that's how it felt, because when it came right down to it, children shouldn't die. They just shouldn't. And if some meant obscene reality told her that regardless, that is exactly what happened, and that her smiling, amusing friend was now speechless and cold in some place somewhere that was just plain scary, that, well it just shouldn't be. Couldn't be. But it was. Otherwise, whose funeral did she attend? Whose mother did she hug? Whose grave did she visit for about 5 years before it just freaked her out so much she had to stop?

And always she kept in the back of her mind, if Michelle were here, she would be: getting her period, starting high school, going to her first dance, having her first boyfriend, falling in love for the first time, agonizing about sleeping with her first love, sleeping with him, losing her virginity, comparing that, graduating high school, working part time for extra money, going to college, earning some sort of a degree, or falling even more seriously in love and getting pregnant, or something like that, and hell, by her age, most of her friends had at least two kids, one of which would be in school, or maybe both would, and oh shit.

Michelle, she said to black black air, is this how you felt when you knew and you still hoped and that was how it was did you feel like this?

A voice in her head said, "yes".

Sarah knew she was losing it.

"Oh Michelle," she said to the emptiness, "I have no idea how I got to be here, I don't know if I'll ever survive. Are you out there somewhere?"

Yes, said the voice in her head.

"Michelle, I am so fucking scared, pardon my language, and you're the only person who has died I know that's my age, and oh my god I am so scared, I just want to do myself in but I have hope because I don't know where I am or who did this or why and I think if whoever it was wanted me dead I already would be but what, what do you say to this? What should I be doing?"

Of course there was nothing in response, and Sarah's eyes were drooping, and before long, she fell asleep. Thing is, if you call on a spirit enough in a short period of time, if that spirit can answer they will. If the don't, well, they are off doing other things. In this case, Michelle had actually been following Sarah's life because they were the same age. She was in no hurry for her next stage of learning, there were things she needed to catch up on. How else could she experience these things? And now she was a bit angry, because nobody, not even her, could see that one day Sarah would be locked in a basement praying for rescue.

Now that wasn't good. Not good at all. So she used what she could - she imagined a friend in elementary school and tried to get her to call someone who knew Sarah. Then she reminded Sarah's former lover in her dreams, making him want to see what had happened to her. And for what electronic interference she could do, and it wasn't much, she just wasn't that strong a spirit so she tried to call Sarah's best friend from high school, since her house had a strong energy she was able to call on the telephone, can send Sarah's voice calling, "help me" and told the line to say its number, but did it work?

Michelle regretted, in as much as a spirit can regret given that for them time is fluid and she can as easily be here as ten years ago and sometimes, she is permitted to know what will be. This time though, she was visiting her mother and flying around the world, she wasn't watching and she hadn't seen that this was going to happen. She would have done everything she could to make sure she didn't step into her car that day, or she would have made her feel weird about parking it in that parking garage, or sent a bad dream or just ... something.

So having sent homing signals, or so she hoped, she kept herself right beside Sarah, fending off entities hoping to feed off her fear and praying to her guardian angels and of course to God, that this young woman she is guarding (yes, she was a guardian spirit of a sort, but a person can have many, and they can't always communicate as they may be operating on a different plane or different energy level) this beautiful young woman has more things to do here, her reason for being isn't up yet, whatever lesson she was put to on Earth to learn - and Michelle didn't know what it was - she couldn't possibly have learned it. She was still floundering. There was nothing crystal clear in her knowing, no major soul growth. Yes, she had a ways to go.

But then, for a spirit, they don't necessarily know any better than anyone else what is, they may have some priviliged information and they may be able to see a year as a blink of an eye, but to communicate with the living and understand them? Not really. That isn't their territory. They are a different life phase of the same thing. One day you are corporeal, one second, you're not, you are here, and there, and there are lessons learned, and different planes you exist on for certain reasons, and sometimes your soul is very very old indeed and remembers and sometimes it doesn't, though when you leave your body you do remember different forms of yourself, but you are always you. And to make things much more interesting, there are different dimensions and different worlds and that fabulous soul of yours it can be anywhere depending on what it is you have to learn, and yes, even more fundamental - your own free will.

While Sarah dozed, Michelle lifted herself higher in the house, looking around, trying to send the layout to Sarah in her sleep. Sarah's instincts were right. She was indeed in an empty house. It looked like one that was for sale, with furniture just there for effect. Maybe it was one of those rentals that came furnished and it was between rentals. Michelle flew up high through the attic, up to the roof where she sat watching the street. If there were to be anyone approaching, she would check them out. But first, she needed to look around the outside of the house and get those images sent to Sarah's subconscious.

She flew to the front of the house, a non-descript bungelo on a non-descript street. Looked like one her gramma lived in, that kind of street. Not new but not really old. It was dark brick with big front window, white turned over L shaped roof, like an L tipped to the right. It had a chimney. It had bushes in front of the basement windows, and plain old curtains and blinds. In the storm there wasn't much else came to her eye, but then what a spirit sees isn't quite what regular eyes see; they are more attuned to energy, so the first thing she could look for was energy escaping, like an open window. She wasn't sure because there was so much strange energy in the air tonight. Anyway, from all angles, there were no recent footprints, nothing to show anybody was near the house. And there was a strange lock on the doorhandle, so yes, it was an empty house.

She went back to check on Sarah, sleeping soundly, and Michelle sent loving energy to her, and surrounded her with white light, asking the archangel Michael to stand guard over her.

Then back to roof where she sat, watching the storm building upon the snow and ice that had already fallen. And so it was, in Sarah's world.

Chapter 30 - It Was a Long Way To Tipperary

Emma had a very strange dream while she slept. She was playing with a bunch of kids she didn't know, and she wasn't sure why they were talking but when she talked back, they kept playing like they couldn't hear her. She jumped up and down and yelled and waved her arms about. Nope. Nothing. It was like she was in a movie, a hologram, and yet what she couldn't quite figure out was whether she was the hologram, or the children playing? It felt like it went on and on, and it was so interesting. She walked around watching, and from the time, it was the mid seventies, it looked like when she was a girl, all of it so familiar. She breathed the air and felt the warm sun on her face, and she just knew that at night you could still see the stars, and everything was so amazing because she was learning, yes, this was a magical time, and she wanted this movie dream to last. She told herself to remember everything, to memorize the faces, the houses; was there a street sign? Anything she could recognize?

Okay, so the girls skipping - they were speaking Franglais - a mixture of French and English common to Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. So yeah, she was at home. Where home, though? Was this Vanier, or Aylmer, or somewhere else like Embrun or Cornwall or Ottawa or ... who knew.

She thought about this message was telling her. But what if this was happening to these little girls and she's the intruder, peeking in on them from the future? She loved that idea! Regardless, she didn't know how long these dream would last, so she walked around all of them, and she heard one little girl call out "Heather!" and this blonde wavy haired girl ran into the double skipping ropes, and jumped out and then there we was, "We call Sarah in!" and this other smaller blonde girl ran in with a hop and was skipping and they made the ropes go faster, and then she jumped out and they were calling Kathy in, then Jenny, then Cindy, and Michelle, and Michelle tripped and they laughed and that was that for the double dutch. A mother's voice called from a kitchen door, and the girls scattered, grabbing their skipping ropes and bikes and scooter or whatever else they had been using at the time, and she loved the thought of those kids being called by a mom wearing a peasant skirt or gauchos or something else from the time. She watched those little girls with their safe little lives back before the world became too scary to be a kid outside the door, and she was glad she grew up back then. It was nice not to really know fear, not constanly anyway. That was good.

Then the street grew dark, and yes, there were stars out on this lovely summer evening. She wondered if she could walk in a door and see Ed Sullivan on t.v., or maybe M*A*S*H* or Mary Tyler Moore. Oh how she wanted to be inside those doors! She walked up to one window, and in the kitchen there was a family at a big table with metal legs and melamine top, and those chairs with the plastic back and seats, and they were eating weiners and beans with potato salad and, oh, one of those green jello salads with the bits of chopped celery and shredded carrot! Oh my gosh, it had been years since she had that, and how much she wanted just a taste!

After dinner she knew that the boy would probably go up to his room and be building a model airplane or re-enacting something from Star Trek or who knows what else, the girl would be trying to make her hair look like her favorite Brady or Partridge family person, and she'd be singing to the Jackson Five or to The Monkees and all of her school books would have flowers drawn and happy faces and, she couldn't help giggling, on the bottom of the bathtub would be those silly flowers that stopped you from slipping and those shag carpets, as dust laden and allergy prone as they were, they were also unbelievably comfy on the feet. Even if they tended to be an interesting combination of orange and red. She didn't miss the mustard coloured walls, or the avocado green appliances, but she did spirit the fun and the adventure and spiritedness that went into this. This was indeed a time when a person could draw a little yellow circle and put a smile in it and make it a cultural icon, and polyester was king, oh man it was fun. For child and adult alike. And nobody dreamed that in a few short years time society would suddenly start looking in on itself and get afraid of strangers, and circle the wagons and have children grow who never knew the joy of getting on a banana seat bicycle at 8 a.m. before mom and dad even get up, and just going where the feet peddled you, and that could be to the cemetary to feed the squirrels and ponder over the faces on the tombstones and where you'd light a candle not knowing why but thinking you should, or you'd go to the woods and climb a tree as far as you could go, or you'd bike to the store and buy a few candies or a popsickle and be on your way again, maybe running into a friend, maybe not, but that was okay.

As she peaked in the windows of the houses they all told the stories of her younger days, and almost every mom and dad was smoking a cigarette, and kids pretty much did their own things, but the funny thing was parents were much stricter back then, that grounding for a week meant the banishment from life because most kids didn't have their own phone, or computer, or any other way of communicating with a friend unless you could pass a note to your brother for a dime or a quarter to pass on to your best best friend. Emma laughed, thinking of the basket she had strung from her window to the window of her friend across the side that they could shoot between the windows, at least until they decided they hated each other and the string was cut. Oh well. That's the way things were then.

There was one house she looked at that just had an aura of something wrong about it. She wasn't sure what. It was your typical 60's bungalo, but it just seemed sad. She peeked in the window and she saw an older woman at an old wooden kitchen table, dark heavy mahogany, and there was a craggy faced dad and a couple of boys and one girl, and nobody spoke. Something told her to look closely at this place, and she looked in the basement windows and saw nothing but a big old scary furnace, and all the other windows were just the old wooden ones with the three holes at the bottom for ventilation and the usual cracked panes in a least one. These were three kids being raised by two unhappy people, who, she guessed were son and his mother, and there was such a sad aura about this place she didn't want to stay near it too long, as fascinating as it was. Before she left, she checked the number on the front of the door, and it read: 68.

She kept walking. It was after dinner now and older kids were going outdoors, as were parents. It was a nice night. The patio lantern lights came on and adults pulled their fold up metal and mesh strap chairs out, and soon the adults were laughing on the lawn and drinking gin and tonics or beer or rum and coke, smoking their cigarettes, and some one down the street pulled out a guitar and was playing songs from the Beatles and somebody else had put out a radio and turned it up loud, hey, the Rolling Stones were on, and car doors were thumping as older teens pulled out to go on their dates, and in the windows of bedrooms where kids were supposed to be asleep, littler kids left their lights on playing with toys or if their parents were sticklers, reading books under blankets with flashlights, or, if they were into music, with their transistor radio under the pillow and knob turned on to the best station, or, if you were bored you'd turn the am dial to where ever and see if you could get Buffallo or somewhere in New York State, and yeah, life was so good back then.

As she listened to ELO and remembered, oh my god they were good, somebody said, "Hey, it's cold in here." And Emma felt fingers poking her arm, and she blinked. Damn. Here she was now, with surly girls and an angry friend in a house with no heat or electricity and a severe shortage of anything interesting, and man she was tired.

It was her daughter poking her, while her friend Alexia stood beside her, arms wrapped around herself, shivering.

Emma blinked a couple of times. "Okay, well first." Emma said. "You are two girls in an old house with no heat and no electricity in the middle of a major winter storm and you're standing in front of me in t-shirts asking me to put more wood on the fire. Go put on something appropriate like sweat shirts or sweaters or something like that, and come talk to me then."

They turned around in a unit and left the room. Damn. That dream was so real, she so wanted to go back. Really, what was the lesson in that?

She put a couple of logs on the fire as it really was down to ashes. She didn't know if the girls had slept at all or how long she'd been sleeping, but certainly it had to be at least an hour and a half.

There was no car tires spinning in the driveway. Hmm. Where had Kiera gone? No matter. The logs started themselves nicely (the benefits of a hot stove!) and so she thought her best thing to do would be to brave a pee in the snow banks, and go have a smoke while she was at it. She poured some more water into the kettle from the water jug in the fridge, and she put that on the stove, and, on the way out took some tissues.

It was still a fine drizzle of freezing rain. There was no sign of Keira's SUV, but then, she could have parked it back in the garage and given up and gone inside and gone to sleep. She wasn't too anxious to go put salt all over the place to find out if she was still in the garage unless there was a question of that. Instead, she gingerly found a walk over to the pine tree with the big branches, and crouched under that to pee.

After that, she inched her way back to the porch, and then, under the covered part walked around, cigarette in hand, making sure that no heavy branches were threatening anything, and so far, nope. So, standing in front of the house, she sat on the porch swing, creaking, watching the glistening glass on snow that was her front yard. However dangerous and frightening freezing rain is, she had to admit it was incredibly beautiful to look at. Her cigarette burned to the filter, she flicked it on a snow bank, and laughed as it slid down to the street. She lit another one. Yes, this was bad, all this smoking, but you gotta admit, if this is the end of the world, well, who cares, and if it is the end of electricity and heat for a few days or weeks, yeah, she'd quit as soon as all this was over and she had to behave herself again. So alrighty. Cigarette number two.

She wished that somebody, anybody, would come outside. This was really beginning to get freaky because she knew that she had neighbours who smoked, in fact they all did, it was just that unlike when she was growing up, more smokers went outside or in the basement bathroom with the fan going outside where no one would be the wiser. She had to laugh. Back when she was growing up, it was the kids puffing smoke out the hole in the window with the 3 holes or into the bathroom fan. It wasn't the parents.

When all this went down, and life was good again, Emma swore she'd be back on the gum and she was going to say the hell with the limits, she'd just stock up and not care because dammit, smoke filled a void. Then again, she knew that the other houses that looked like all life had been extinguished except for maybe a candle if you looked hard enough, they were people that said, the hell with it, we're smoking inside and if you don't like it, shut up.

If it weren't for the weird phone calls, she'd be thinking they were the only people on Earth right now, she thought. Then she started to get worried about Keira. Did she come back inside? Did she leave? If she left, was she alright? Maybe her cell phone still worked, she could try that, if for some reason Keira did leave and was stuck somewhere. And then she worried about the girls. Were they asleep now? Still running down the batteries?

She heard a strange whirrump sound and a crackle, and she thought she saw the street lights flicker for a second, then go out. Damn. At least they were trying, somewhere, somehow, to get the power back on.

She flicked her cigarette butt onto the shiny snowbank, and this one won the race. It surpassed where her previous one had stopped, then sputtered and went out in a tiny pool of melted ice.

She tiptoed back around the house, to the garage, where she looked inside the window. It was too dark to see anything inside. She'd have to open the door. She tried, but the wind had shifted direction a little, and the ice would need to be chipped from around the frame to let her open it. She slid her way over to the back door of the garage, and even though it was a bit iced, she was able to turn the knob and with a gently kick, open the door.

The SUV was in there, and it was off. It didn't smell like the gas tank had been burned - for a brief moment she had a terrifying fear that Keira had accidentally asphixiated herself. Emma went to the passenger side front and peered in. Keira was cuddled up in a warm car blanket, stretched out on the front seat, sound asleep. Emma was tempted to just let her sleep but was worried that even if she didn't get hypothermia eventually, what if the garage iced up even worse and she couldn't get out or in?

That settled it. She openned the door, got in the front and gently shook Keira's arm. Keira mumbled something and turned over. Emma shook her harder.

"Keira," she said softly, "Keira, wake up!"


She shook her harder. "Keira!" she said, more sharply this time.

It worked. She shuddered, rubbed her eyes, and said, "What? How long have I been out here?"

"I don't know," Emma replied. "I fell asleep at the kitchen table and woke up and wondered where you were. And here you are. This looks comfy but it's not going to stay warm forever in here, and the doors are starting to freeze up on the garage, you have to come inside."

Keira nodded. "Yeah, I'm getting chilly. Bit thirsty too."

And with that, as though they hadn't had that huge argument, or anything, Keira and Emma got out of the SUV, and stepped out of the garage into the most beautiful winter day, sun was shining on sparkly fresh snow. Keira's eyes grew wide, and she gasped, turning to look at Emma. Emma shrugged her shoulders and surveyed the surroundings. Just like what happened before she thought, isn't this incredible. Far away a phonograph played, and a tinny old time voice sang, "It's a long way to Tipperary, it's a long way to go. It's a long way to Tipperary, to the sweetest girl I know." Without thinking, Emma began to sing along with it. This was a World War 1 song, long past copyright expiration, and now free game for anyone to use, but remembering having heard it in an old movie, this sounded like the original artists. Haunting sound to it.

Keira pulled on Emma's sleeve. "Are you singing to that?" She whispered.

Emma smiled. "Yes, I like that song. It was on the hit parade in World War One."

"What day is this? This doesn't look right? Who is playing that song?"

Emma shrugged. "I have no idea. I think it's 1928 though. Just like the lady on the phone. Sounds about right. It would be unusual for someone to play a favorite song from when we were in the war."

"How do we get back? Emma, I hate this time warp thing, I still want to leave."

"Keira," she replied, trying to sound reassuring. "You have nothing to worry about. This is happening for a reason, but we always come back. It may be that this is like a veil to the past, we're not really there, something like that. Last time this happened I went back in the garage, closed the door, opened it again and it was normal. Quite frankly, I kind of like the weather here, it's better," she laughed.

Keira cast her an exasperated look, and walked back into the garage without a word, Emma following on her heels. They closed the door, counted to five, opened it again, and sure enough, when they opened the door they were back in their ice world.

"I'm telling you, that 1928 view was much better, we should have stayed a while." Emma giggled as they carefully stepped back towards the house.

"Sure, but what would we do there and where would the girls be if we did go exploring?"

"Good question. Anyway, we're back and it's time for a cup of tea I think."

"Yes, that sounds good." Keira replied. She clearly was tired but resigned to her fate, however strange it was here. She knew she couldn't go anywhere, and after Alexia's confession, where would they go anyway? Her place would be freezing, she knew that much. Nope, she just had to make the best of a very odd situation.

Chapter 31 - Let Me Hear You Whisper

The phone rang just as soon as Emma stepped inside the door. She ran to pick it up. The numba please lady said, "connecting..." and then "Help me, help me," from a crackly far away voice.

Emma said calmly, "Who are you? Where are you?"

"It's me," the voice said, "I don't know but Michelle does." Then there was an eerie howl like the wind before a hurricane, and nothing. Hand shaking, she waited to see if the numba please lady would come back on. "Hello?" She said to the silence.

She waited. And waited. Keira called from the kitchen, "Tea's ready!" and then there was a click click on the the line.

"Operator." The voice said.

"Good evening," Emma said. "It seems my party got disconnected. Could you put her back on?"

"Just a moment please," said the operator. There were a few clicks and a hissing sound and then the operator's voice came back on. "There is no answer at that number."

"Then would you mind telling me her number? She started to say it because it was a poor line and I didn't get it all and now I can't call back. I'd like to. Please?"

"Yes madam, the number was Division 5301."

"Thank you ma'am have a good evening," she said and hung up.

"Who was it?" Keira asked, handing her a cup of tea. It was starting to get a little chilly away from the stove, she could see tendrils of steam rising from it.

"The girl who says help me. So I asked her who she was and she said 'it's me' and I asked her where she was and she said, 'I don't know but Michelle does.'"

"Wow." Keira replied. "This was that Division number again?"

"Yes," she said, "I really wish I could go to the library, an old phone book from the 20's would tell me what part of the city that was in."

"Yeah, that's right." Keira nodded. "If it's on microfiche or on CD you can do a search on that too."

"Oh yeah! I forgot!" Emma exclaimed. That would be the answer. Well, part of it, because once she figured out what Division 5301 was, and even if that building was still there, what good would that do? Would there be bones buried under the cement floor or behind a wall or something? How on earth could she help somebody from 1928?

But then again, why in the name of all things normal would anything from 1928 be contacting her now in 2004?

She hung up the phone and took a sip of her tea. "Should we check on the girls?" Emma asked, a little leery after their last encounter upstairs.

Keira replied, "I'm going up to the washroom. I'll check while I'm up. Don't worry, I'm not going to get upset if they aren't there. What can we do? They'll be back, we know that. Right?"

She didn't sound too confident saying that, but Emma felt a quite relieved with her mental decision to calm down. "Yup, you're right. I'd place all my money on the possibility they are both asleep. It's been an awfully long day."

"That it has," Keira said and she gingerly went upstairs, flashlight leading the way.

Keira was probably right, Emma decided. The girls were very likely asleep. She went back into the kitchen, checked the woodstove. It'd likely need a bit more wood in there but she wanted to dump out some of the ashes accumulating in the bottom. She got out the old metal wash bucket and the stove shovel and carefully opened the little door at the bottom of the stove with the bucket right below the door. That was a good thing, ashes tumbled out into the bucket. With the shovel she lifted out as much as she could until she started getting glowing embers. That, you keep because it feeds the flame.

The bucket was nearly full, so carefully she took it outside, walking slowly so that ashes wouldn't accidently blow out and light something on fire. Outside, she needed to dump the ashes in a place where, if the wind did blow, it wouldn't blow it into something that would catch fire, though, given that this was still a mixture of freezing rain and snow, that wasn't likely to happen.

She chose the most likely place, dead centre of the back yard, not a tree or building or errant leaf or anything near there except maybe a frozen poop from a passing by cat. Emma laughed. Poop under the glass of freezing rain almost looked like art. Not her kind of art though, so she dumped the entire bucket on top of it. She had to admit that hissing sound as the tiny embers hit the snow and ice was pretty fascinating.

That done she went back to the kitchen, reminding herself that on her next trip to the washroom she needed to bring the bucket back down and refill it with snow. She wasn't sure how long she could try to flush before the whole thing plugged up since the pumps weren't working, but she figured that would be a while. So, more toilet water.

When she got back in, Keira was at the table. "What were you laughing about out there?" She asked.

"I dumped a bunch of ashes on top of glittering cat poop. It was interesting, a rather pungent hiss that most cats would appreciate."

Keira laughed. "The girls are fine, by the way. They are sound asleep, just like you said."

"Do you have any idea at all what time it is?"

Keira looked at her watch. "Yes, it's 1:13 a.m."

"Oh my god, I'm so stupid," Emma giggled. "Wrist watch. I've got one of those too."

Keira laughed with her. "Oh man, I'm so tired, I'm getting giddy. Hey, what about that rum I brought. Where is it?"

"Not in the girls I hope," Emma replied and they broke down into unstoppable giggles.

Once they calmed down, Keira got up and brought the bottle back to the table with two juice glasses. "Yeah, those girls are too good. Tell me, no power, cigarettes around, booze on the counter, mothers outside doing who knows what for hours, what would you have done?"

Emma smiled. "No question. You steal a little booze, take a couple of cigarettes, open a window and away you go."

"Yup, me too. These kids these days are almost too good."

Emma nodded in agreement, but then said, "Yes, but things are so much more complicated. They are wiser now. They know things they don't know how to deal with."

Keira poured the rum for each of them, and lit a cigarette. Emma lit one for her self, and they both thought for a moment. "Is anything really more different or complicated?" Keira asked. "Think about it. Who died from drunk driving that you know? Who got pregnant at fifteen and had to leave school? Who died of an illness they cure easily now? Who got groped by a teacher and nobody cared, in fact if you complained it was your fault for dressing suggestively."

"Yes I know. But at the same time, even though life was dangerous and there were things you could count on, and people, and if you were in trouble and you ran and knocked on a door, somebody would answer it."

"That's true."

"Times were different, that's all. I think in a lot of ways, our kids are way more innocent that we were because they've had the fear of fear drilled into them. Now, a lot don't listen and that's just the way it is, always will be, but if we honestly sat down and told the kids everything we ever did as kids in the seventies and teens in the 80's what do you think they'd say?"

Keira shook her head. "I don't know. Like you said, times were different."

They both took another sip, contemplating everything. "How long do you think all this is going to last?" Keira asked.

"All what? The storm? The weirdness here? Life? Us and the kids? What?"

Keira nodded. "Yeah. All of that."

Emma laughed. "You ask a lot my friend."

Keira smiled, and just for a moment she had a sadness in her eyes that disappeared just as quickly as it happened. Maybe she didn't even know that flash of feeling, but Emma guessed she did and stiffled it.

"I like that you called me 'my friend'. I don't have many friends any more Emma, I don't."

Emma blinked back tears. "Me neither. We're the bad guys. Us girls we're supposed to take everything, aren't we?"

"Yes indeed."

She grabbed her hand.

"We both have a lot in our heads right now, and a lot of hurt in our hearts. You and I both know though, that if we don't put it past us, we're just going to mire in our sadness and that's that. Promise me you won't treat me like I'm the enemy? I'm not you know. I care. I do. I want to continue to care, but I can't unless you let me. Will you let me?"

Keira blinked hard, took a drag on her cigarette. "I'm sorry Emma, I didn't mean to be so hard on you. You have to understand that Alexia is all I've got, she's the only good thing I've ever done, and to think she might be gone from me, my head just exploded. I don't even know what I said, Emma, she was just gone and I couldn't find her and I was so so scared. I can't promise I'll never say these things again, but I can promise that I'll come around 'cause that is just my temper and I blow hot but I cool off quickly."

Emma squeezed her okay. "Okay. I understand. I was terrified myself, though I didn't want to show it. For me, to lose my other child, that would be so unimaginable."

Keira placed her hand on top of Emma's. "I know and I am very sorry. I should have thought a minute. Had I remembered your dear little daughter..."

"Please don't," Emma said, blinking back tears for real, "oh please don't. Until you lose a child you have no idea the hole that creates in your soul, and the guilt, and the what ifs, and the only ifs, and the wishes that you could turn it all back, and the prayers that god would take me instead, and all of that, and in the end, it was my sweet sweet baby in that tiny white box, surrounded by satin and it still makes no sense to me at all, none."

Keira stood up and hugged her as she sat there, tears falling. "Oh Keira, you just can't know what it feels like, oh my god, I went to get her up and I was happy 'cause I got a good night sleep, and Keira, she was cold. Cold. My baby was cold."

Keira hugged her hard, rocking her back and forth. "Shh," she said, "shh, now, shh. It's over, she's okay, that was what was meant to be, shh, shh."

"I can't sleep, Keira, I can't. I haven't slept a full night since then. And now there's the 20's on my phone and weird stuff on the radio and in newspapers, and I think I'm beginning to lose it. Tell any of this to a doctor and they'd say for sure I'm nuts. But I can't be nuts because I have bills to pay and a roof to keep over our heads and some damned new girlfriend of my ex complaining to me that she's having a hard time figuring out where her boyfriend is now that she's pregnant, and I've got a girl who thinks her dad is everything and more and doesn't realize if she goes he's not going to have time for her, not like she wants, and all those things she thought aren't quite reality and I haven't had the guts to burst her bubble."

Keira stroked Emma's hair as she talked, then gave her a hug. Standing up she said, "You are not crazy. Don't talk about this place with professionals, but since we all lived this, I know you are not crazy. As for Olivia, she's not going to say you're wonderful and her dad isn't, 'cause he isn't. The thing is, you're here, he's there and it's easy to hang your hat on what you don't have. Her bubble will burst when she realizes that her dad is just a human being as much as she'd like to think he's wonderful, he's just human, like you, and maybe you did have her best interests at heart. Or not. Who knows what goes on in people's heads but you can put anybody into this fantasy wonderland and you realize when you are in it, that there is no fantasy wonderland, it just feels like that sometimes."

"Yes, you're right," Emma responded. "Thanks. I needed to hear that."

"And thanks for reminding me that the scariest thing in the world is still something you survive, regardless."

"Well, for most. Some don't."

"Yes." Keira lit another cigarette. "Do you remember when it was perfectly normal to be sitting here lighting up smokes and dumping ashtrays and nobody cared except the complainers?"


"So I guess we should be checking the wind up radio to see if we can find out anything about the power."

"Yes, where is it again?" She looked around. It was on the counter. "Here it is," she said as she picked it up. She wound it up for about a minute, and then turned it on. CBC was a little hard to hear but clear enough. They were reading a short story. Which is nice, but they wanted a little more information than that so she just went up and down the dial until she got something. It was a local radio station, sort of. One that was on limited power because it was running on a generation they said, and the latest news was it was hard to find anywhere that sold gasoline so if you're smart you'll hide the car in the garage if you don't want people draining your gas tank. Good thing the vehicles were locked up sort of, it would be hard to open the door and it didn't look like there were vehicles here, thanks to the pristine layers of snow and glossy freezing rain - even tire tracks from Keira's attempts to leave were gone now.

Listening to the radio station updates it seems that the power would be out for at least another 24 hours. They had tried to reinstate it but that blew even more transformers, which is what had happened earlier Emma guessed, while she was out front. That settled it. They were in for the long haul. Given that they were outside the city, it could indeed be days before they saw electricity again.

"Well, we're not going anywhere soon. Are you tired?" Emma asked, turning off the radio.

"No, not yet."

"Well, we should do something. Cards? Something?"

"I've been thinking about all this. Someone is trying to contact you but why and why so far away in time? It doesn't make much sense. I don't know if all of this is just coincidence or is it all interconnected somehow? It is very strange and why here and now?"

"I think now because with the weather, and less electrical interference whatever is out there is able to come through better. It's great but strange. And the thing is it didn't just all happen today, it's been happening for days."

"When did it start again?"

"Last weekend. I turned on the news and it just got weird and I called Olivia down and she gave me hell because she said there was nothing wrong and I needed to get a grip but it wasn't like that, I saw that newscast, and you just don't get blonde weather girls with big boobs reciting what sounded like physics formulas and doing like they knew exactly what they are saying."

"Well, it is possible that that the weather girl has a degree in physics or math but that is a little unlikely. So why would that be? Is it a warning or a parallel universe?"

"I was trying to work that out with someone else who is experiencing this but lives elsewhere, I don't know exactly where. This person is online and well, we can't go online right now."

"No, we can't. So how does 1928 fit into this?"

"I don't know. That wasn't the first world war, it was over, so was the flu pandemic, and the market crash happened in 1929. It may have been related to rum running, but the murders and stuff wasn't really here much, that was in the States, we just supplied them with the booze'cause we could. And there is nothing to say that would be something that's happening here."

"True. Yeah so it isn't likely to be tied to any specific event, except that these people were survivors and happy to be alive, and they learned the lesson very well that life is fragile and special and should be enjoyed. Women, especially, learned how strong they can be. Or not. But mostly yes, because to be without a husband or dad or brother or cousin or whoever for a long period of time life here still went on, even though you worried they would die (and many many did), you still had to eat, and clean house, and wash clothes and some how pay the bills and regardless, a soldier's pay was crap really, even in families where the pay never saw anybody but the solider themselves."


"Yes. It was a fascinating time. Before the first world war, that was the end of the innocent age. Still, there was enough hanging on to the Victorian era that there was a whole lot to go yet, but people just weren't as protected as they used to be. They couldn't be. And now, are we seeing a little something like that but not quite as dramatic as that for sure."

"So what do we want to be doing here? I mean, we've got the phone and that would be great to record it, but also just leave a camera going connected to the internet. The problem with that is we need power."

"Yes, all of my ideas so far involve power we don't have."

"We can do tarot cards again but I'n not sure what the questions we would need to ask are."

"Me neither. I was thinking of that before. We could do another seance or ouija but I don't belive that ouija is safe especially here because what door would we be opening? Same with seances. Don't forget that if we stir the pot, then what? We still have to live here."

"Yes. I'm thinking anything with crystals or just plain asking the quetions and listening for answers are good. Can do a reading later on when things are running again."

"Yeah, may automatic writing. Still need to protect yourself though, if you do that."

"Definitely. I don't know how to do that though. Do you?"

"Me? Not really. Cards are my thing."

"yeah, me too though I do like the idea of the pendulum or writing if we can figure out how to do that."

"And how to protect ourselves properly. We really really don't want to be playing around with stuff we don't know how to close the door on. That is essential, other wise it would be awful."

They tossed out a few ideas, trying to think of what they could do or should do to solve this very intreguing puzzle. When Emma finished her glass of rum though, the day's weight settled heavily on her, and she knew she was very very tired. She told Keira that she just couldn't stay away much longer, so she'd put a couple of logs on the fire and then go up to bed. Was Keira going to be up for a while? She said she wasn't sure. Somebody needs to watch the fire. Keira said she'd sleep on the couch and when she started getting chilly, she'd put another log on. That sounded good to Emma so she went upstairs, brushed her teeth and washed up and crawled into bed. She was so tired she didn't find it hard to fall asleep in a cold bed, but then again she did have a wonderfully comfortable down blanket that quickly warmed up and kept the heat against her.

She fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow, and she was so tired, she slept completely in a deep slumber, so deep that if she dreamed anything, she didn't remember it.

Which is not the same thing that Keira could say.

Keira wasn't all that tired. She had actually had a very good nap in the garage, she had been exhausted and so she slept very well. It was good to just be away from everything for those couple of hours. As upset as she was, it didn't take her long to realize that really, what could she do? The only thing she could do as far as her uncle was concerned was never to have any situation where her daughter would be alone with him. It made her sick to her stomach to think of this; all the more so because she too had similar memories, things she had buried and nearly forgotten and all the while when she refused to be near her grandfather and uncle she was just the recalcitrant teenager and who ever would think of such nonsense. It's cruel how family can be sometimes; she herself had sworn that never would she prejudge and be nasty, well, nasty if it was deserved. Still what can you do about this? She would need to have proof. And to do proof would be setting her daughter up and that just isn't good. Trying to do something, rather than actually succeeding is hard to do anything legally, and there'd be no way she'd let her daughter be in a situation where such a thing could happen so, as angry as she was she knew the only thing she could do was nothing except stay away.

Staying away. Keira's whole life it seems, was becoming all about staying away. The goddamn prick of an ex, that was one, and his hateful mother and her cruel judgements and acid tongue, that was two, and then there was the former boyfriend who stalked her for a while until slashing the tires on her car and pissing in the gas tank was the solution to that, it seems that was enough amusement for him before he picked on somebody else. Of course it helped that she phoned the police and got a restraining order, which of course doesn't mean anything unless somebody can actually stop the person from coming close, but it certainly doesn't look good if anyone is doing a police record check.

Take a few friends who betrayed her, another few who dropped her like a rock - along with some relatives - when she left her husband, and it had pretty much become her and her daughter now, and very little trust left in her heart for anyone new. That included Emma, as kind as she appeared to be.

As she sat there in quiet and the dark of night, feeding the fire and giving the logs a poke now and then, and a part of her just wanted to cry to, another wanted to grab her purse and say the hell with everything and just go, and part of her wished she could just go back to when she was twelve and life was simple, just her and her mom and her brother living over a store where they'd have to be quiet when the store was open, no banging on the floor or loud radio or t.v. This was when she was working - she was a waitress in a restaurant down the street. She would come home tired and smelling like grease and sweat and her ankles would be swollen and her feet would be tired, and if she was still up, she'd put the kettle on for a pot of tea, and run some hot water with sweet smelling bubble bath in a small wash tub and carry it over to the kitchen table so her mom could soak her feet and relax a bit. She had no idea how tired her mother must have been, until she was a working mother herself. And to be a waitress, that was such a hard job, the verbal abuse and drunks grabbing and people treating her like garbage, but there was also very likely the odd person who treated her nicely and the majority who were civil at least.

Keira wanted better for herself. Who knew that she would do her mother one better by doing worse? But when she thought of her generation a lot of people her age did exactly that, with all the opportunities and education it was her mother's generation that made it hard for her, they did so well and lived so much longer than the previous generations what was left for them it seemed was the crumbs. And, they'd never rate, never match up to the high expectations set by those before them. It is easy to just say that you'll never be that good and give up and enough of them did just that. She guess that part of it was the ones just a bit younger, their cousins, they were raised like they expected the best and that it was what they deserved, but her parents said who ever said that that was what you deserved, you had to earn it. What a confusing mess of a world we live in, she thought. What a hopeless goddamn tangled mess of rules and laws and politically correct agendas that really masqueraded as a way to spread hate. Oh man, how were we to know that everything would turn on its ear like that?

As the time ticked on, she thought she heard things but in an old house, you do hear things. Somebody snoring, well, they all do that. Creaks and the click click click of freezing rain on the windows, all normal. The wind howls like a soul in pain sometimes too, also not a problem. The lamp light flickering, yes, normal. Same with the candles she had burning in various spots. Sometimes the flames go up, sometimes they go down, sometimes they change colour, you have to expect that living in a drafty old place. Things going thump in the basement, well, a little bit unnerving, but when you don't have the central heating going, things are going to be cooling down and pipes will be contracting.

When she felt a cold swift wipe across her face like a hand lovingly brushing her cheek, um, that's an odd draft but how often is she in an old drafty house with only wood stove heat, any air movement would seem like it really is freaky because it would be cold, not warmed up. That she felt like someone was watching her when she was in the living room, well, there were pictures on the walls and there were no lights except of the kerosene lamp on the table, and so yes, where there are darks shadows and semi-visible faces in photos and paintings of course you would feel like you are being watched.

Never mind that she was the one who felt there was no harm in ouija boards, who liked to read tarot cards even though Emma had warned that it might not be the best things for them to do be doing right now. Never mind.

Keira had to go to the bathroom, and she had an alterior motive. In her purse she had a small joint, just a taste to relax her a bit. She had this for so long that she figured it was probably so dry it was useless, but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. She planned to check on the girls and Emma, make sure they were sound asleep and then sneak this joint, burning some sage incense at the same time as sage does smell a wee bit like it she thought, oh and maybe throw in some of the lemongrass incense she noticed that Emma had by her little incense burner. Keira always kept sage incense cones in her purse because she knew that cleansing the air of a place was a good thing to do, to remove old energies that may not be beneficial.

She walked upstairs, and it felt like something brushed past her, but she thought, okay, it's late, this is a tight space on a small staircase, I'm imagining this.

Her flashlight was getting dim, its light turning a not so encouraging shade of orange, and she thought, I really hope there's more batteries. She made a mental note to buy everyone a wind up flash light and radio for Christmas this year. They cost a bunch and are only found in camping stores and geek electronics stores (though she suspected that, with enough storms like these, there would be more available in coming years) the rare times you need, hot damn they make a difference. Her intuition told her, really, they were in for some serious weather in years to come, this was just the beginning. Break out the candles and fire place logs, people, it's all coming, she thought.

She went into the washroom and, boy it was dark and cold. Quickly she went to the washroom and poured a little bit of the melted water into the tank. She didn't flush it because it wasn't the kind of going where she needed to flush, and thought that maybe she should bring in a bucket more of snow but the light was burning really low so she quickly used the alcohol hand cleanser and went up and down the hallway peaking in the bedrooms, everybody seemed fine, and went back downstairs just as her flashlight died.

She tried to remember where Emma said the batteries were, but then she thought, really, she was good for the bathroom for a while, and she did have the kerosene latern here and the woodstove and assorted candles, she'd be okay for a while. If this lasted for days and days, that she wasn't sure of, but for now, yeah, she was okay.

So, getting back to her plan, she lit the cone of sage incense, and the stick of lemongrass and went into the kitchen and pulled out her tiny old joint and lit it. She sucked the smoke in, coughing immediately. Okay, well, nice idea, she thought. Then, she told herself, hey, smaller drag okay? She took a tiny drag and held it in for a few seconds and let it out. Good. No problem there. It didn't long before it was gone. Just a few tokes. Enough though that she felt mellow and relaxed. A bit like a breathed in valium. She giggled at that thought. Breathed in valium, ha ha ha.

Oh crap. Now she was hungry. She looked around the kitchen, in the fridge though she realized everything in there was now suspect, Emma being the good mom she was, there was just bread and stuff that Keira knew wouldn't go bad in any quick time.

That of course meant bread, some cheese, olives, pickles, mustard, relish, pickles, water, a couple of kinds of pop, a half bottle of white wine, eggs, some whipped cheese spread, and that was about it. Oh yes, there were capers and worchestershire sauce too.

She grabbed a pickle and chomped on that. Nope, no good. She scoured the counters and the cupboards and found some popcorn in a jar. That's it! Popcorn, on a woodstove. How fun!

There was also margarine and butter both, but also salt and shaky cheese so that was fine. Lots of stuff to put on popcorn. Life was good.

She put the popcorn in a pot, added some oil at the bottom and put salt on the kernels, not really knowing if that was how you did this but that's okay. She put another log on the fire to be sure she had nice heat, and that was good. It flamed up nicely, and it was fun hearing the popcorn pop pop pop under the pot lid. Then it occurred to her she should probably hold the lid while it popped. She did and after about five minutes it started to slow down so she figured it would be a good idea to take it off. She then put a little poached egg pan with olive oil and butter on the stove and watched how quickly it heated up. This she poured on her pot of popcorn and realized she made enough for all of them. No matter, she dug into the popcorn and thought that it was probably the most tasty popcorn she'd ever come across.

She ate half a pot, poured herself a glass of tepid water from the bottle in the fridge, and drank that. The rest of the popcorn she put on the counter for future reference.

Feeling full and strangely satisfied by the popcorn and water, she was still wide awake. She lit up a cigarette and walked out onto the back porch to smoke and see how the weather was shaping up. As she opened the door it blew her back in. She figured it wasn't shaping up well. So okay. Forget going for a breath of fresh air. Next up, what?

When was everyone going to get up? Or anyone? Now that she had her own "breath of fresh air" she was nicely relaxed and mellow and she wondered when there would be somebody here to relieve her watch on the fire and stuff, and let her lie down and just crash.

She looked at her watch. It was 2:35 a.m. She guessed it was going to be about five more hours before anybody stirred. Shit. That was going to be a long time. She felt angry but then again, she guessed she kind of deserved this. You can't expect to lose it and make everyone pay without it coming back to bite you eventually.

So now what? She wound up the radio, tried to hear anything that could be useful or even interesting. There was nothing, just news and the news was pretty much what they already knew. They were in the middle of a big storm, stay put, don't go anywhere unless your limbs are falling off and even then that's not a good idea, nobody has any idea of how long this is going to take until it stops doing what it's doing, and then, who knows. She kept in mind that anybody listening to this was like her, with either a lot of batteries or a wind up radio, or not here and thinking that they are very thankful that they are here and not there.

She went back to the kitchen table and figured, what the heck, take a piece of paper and go where her mind took her. She got a pad of lined paper and a pen, laid it out on the table and relaxed her mind then put her hand and pen loosely on the page. If this was to be anything like she tried before, there would be an assortment of nothing but squiggles and straight lines.

She cleared her mind, put her hand on the paper and relaxed. Nothing happened. She breathed deeply. Nothing. As she waited for anything to happen to fell asleep, head on her arm. But not the arm that was holding the pen that was resting gently on the piece of paper.

How long she stayed like that, she had no idea. While she dozed, someone was using her energy to get stronger. Getting stronger means that, while for a spirit this dimension is a bit like molasses and vibrates at a different wavelength, making it extremely difficult to communicate. It is also the reason why most people can't see spirits, or even sense them, although the sensing part is more of rational mind blocking out whatever signs there are by making them mundane things. Yet in even the most of mundane matters, there will always be a little bit of magic, if you look hard enough.

So it was that a former someone who had been following them around this house and garage, trying very hard to make themself known unsuccessful because quite frankly, this one just wasn't good at this. She didn't have any anger to speak of, no desperate need to get in touch with someone in particular, and she knew that the law of universe is that she really can't affect the outcome of anyone's life because that wasn't her place. But she could relay messages and point things out, and this what she had every intention of doing.

You could say she was trying to repay a debt, but that wasn't it really, there wasn't a debt at all, it was just a bit of gratitude and where that somebody needs her help, then definitely it was her place to do what she could.

At first she placed her hand on top of Keira's, but of course it went right through it. Then she thought that maybe she should just keep her hand touching hers, her other hand on her shoulder so that it made a sort of circuit, for this is energy after all, and as she did this it was incredible. Did she feel stronger, more corporeal, and when she almost totally there she cradled the hand with her own and tried to lift it. Not easy. In fact, she couldn't do it. Then she thought, what about the pen? In animate objects are much easier to move because they don't have will, they don't have spirit, they just are.

She grasped the pen through the fingers she couldn't move. The pen it seemed wanted to respond, and though the human fingers holding it seemed more a hindrance that a help, they did hold the pen up for her. With great effort, she moved it a little. She felt so happy! She made something happen! Yes!

She tried a little harder. An attempt at "Sarah" came out looking like a strange S o n a h but then she thought, it's something. She then did M i c n o l l c . Hmm. Not quite what she wanted but then she had also run out of the page and she really didn't know how to make the pen go down a line and over to the left. She had to wake this person up. Keira had invited her to communicate this way, so she needed the help.

She tried giving a slap to the face, but this had no effect; if she were awake she would have probably thought there was a cool breeze going by.

Michelle concentrated on doing something that would feel like her blowing in Keira's ear.

Keira awoke with a start, and this caused Michelle to start and with her she pulled the pen out of Keira's hand.

Keira looked at the paper. Oh my God! There were scribbles. She didn't know what they were exactly, she'd need other people's eyes to help her figure out what it is saying. It seemed so exciting, and a little scary, at the same time. A part of her wanted to run up the stairs and yell to the girls and Emma to get up, there's someone here. On the other hand, she thought, maybe she should say nothing so she doesn't scare the living bejeesus out of them with this. She knew how Emma felt about trying to directly contact spirits. She repeated several times that that was an open door and what did Keira know about closing these doors she opens? What if she doesn't like what's walked through that door???

What then?

Michelle hovered in the corner of the kitchen near the ceiling, while Keira studied the paper. She looked it over, turned it around a few times, finally deciding that she would have to have Emma take a look and see if she could decipher it.

She cleaned up the kitchen a little, wondering if she should go get some snow and boil some water for washing dishes. She also thought that if this was going to go on much longer, they would be better off eating from paper plates and drinking from styrofoam cups. Or, making sure they always used the same cups. The sink was full of dishes. Yes, these would need to be washed.

Keira got a big stock pot from the cupboard under the sink, then went outside to get some snow. She'd need a shovel to chop through the ice to get to the snow. She should have left this pot out here so it would fill itself. Anyway, she grabbed the spade that Emma left near the wood by the door, and with a few good chops on the snow under the big branch of the pine tree where it wasn't too coated with ice; on the other hand there were needles and cones and stuff in there so once melted, she'd need to filter it before she boiled it. Okay, so maybe this wasn't the best choice of places to get the snow but she was committed to it now.

She shovelled the snow into the pot and brought it and the spade back to the door. Before she got back on the porch she heard a tink tink of things falling on the icy covering on the snow. She stopped, looked around. This really was incredible out here, in this frozen world everything under glass. She made a note to ask Emma if she had a camera handy, they had to take photos of this before it all melted. Unbearably beautiful this was, something you truly have to see to believe.

Once last look around at this very hushed world, and she noticed there at the edge of the horizon, just beside the band of indigo, and hint of reddy orange; dawn was coming.

Red sky at morning...

Chapter 32 – Sailor Take Warning

Keira put the pot on the stove, loaded another log on the fire, gave it a poke. Suddenly she started feeling very tired. When was somebody going to get up??

She knew it would still be a while, and she didn't want to have that water boiling on while she slept, so she busied herself cleaning and putting stuff away. She didn't want to lose the piece of paper with the writing on it, so she put it in her purse. Then, she hunted down the strainer. That's how she would do it – she'd boil the water, strain in a “scoop” pot full at a time into a plugged sink with soap in it. When that was full of soap hot strained water she would dip the cups and dishes in it, and she would have rinse water in the other sink, and run the dishes through there then dry them off. She was lucky, this worked very well and a hot a huge stock pot seemd to be suffient for doing both sides of the sink, if she put dirty dishes on one side, and clean on the other.

It took forever to do this, but, once done she was satisfied. By now it was light, and, the log she put in was now half burned so she another in and laid down on the couch to rest. Somebody would be down soon, and she felt confident that sleeping right now nobody would freeze to death, and they'd be happy that there wasn't dirty dishes and junk all over the place.

She took a couple of couch pillows and the throw blanket, the ubiquitous crochet square afghan that though ugly is always so comfy to have when you are on the couch, especially if you are sick. Or in the case, totally exhausted. She fell sounds asleep immediately.

Sarah awoke in her darkness, and found her toilet to pee. That done she went back to her corner. She was starting to feel cold now. She wasn't sure if the furnace was going but if it was, whoever owned this place kept it down as low as it could go without freezing the pipes, which is probably what they are doing if it is some place that isn't used.

In her fear and her anxiety, Sarah tried not to remember how she got here but thought about how she could possibly get out. How could she do that when she can't even see? Still, she wasn't competely tied up, she was just without her purse and coat and shoes, and thought that most likely such assuredness meant that where ever she was, if she did manage to escape she wouldn't or couldn't get far, or, it simply wasn't possible for her to open anything that would let her out.

She wished she could see. She wished it weren't so quiet she could hear her pulse in her ears. She wished she hadn't decided that time to go to the particular parking spot at that particular time. Not that she wished this on anyone else, but damn, what a waste. Her entire life is a waste if this is all there is. A goddamn useless effed up waste.

The odd thing was, there were times she felt utterly and completely alone, like now, and times where she felt like there was someone beside her, not a bad someone, just a somebody. It was probably all in her mind, she thought, inventing company so she wouldn't be all alone. At least she wasn't inventing scary company. There was more than enough of that to come, she thought.

She sat with her back against the wall, her arms around her knees, her face on thighs and began to cry. It was really starting to be her expectation that she wouldn't even see the sunlight again. She'd just be some bones somebody finds somewhere. One of those sad hideous faces they would sometimes put on the news, saying, here's this, we found this in a field and we think it's female do you recognize these teeth? Or that hair? This torn blue blouse?

Wiping her nose on her sleeve, she thought, damn. I hate this! She began to get angry. There had to be some escape, had to be. Honestly.

She thought she heard something upstairs and froze. She listened harder. No, it wasn't upstairs. It was outside. If she could hear outside, there had to be a window here. She was scared that this sound meant somebody was coming, but it didn't sound like footsteps. She wasn't sure what it was. Wind maybe?

She didn't know that outside the world was trapped under glass. Regardless, she stood up, and inched her way around the walls, listening very carefully. About half across the next wall, the sound became louder. It sounded like wind, and something like click click, maybe hail? She wasn't sure what that could be. The wall was a little cooler where she was standing. She turned around so that she was facing the wall, and ran her hands up it. When she was on her tiptoes, she felt a ledge. That had to be a window. It was too high up though, she needed to stand on something if she wanted to reach it. If she went to find a box or something, would she be able to find it again?

She turned around and slid down the wall, felt around on the floor. Nothing nearby. Then she thought that if she put one foot in front of the other, heel to toe, she could make her way back to the other wall. If she rememberd the number, she'd always find it. So she did that. The number was 43.

Looking around wouldn't be easy but if there were any way at all to look out that window, she was going to. There wasn't anything on this side of the room so she figured her best bet was to go straight across the room and check on the other side and see what she could bump into. She really hoped for a ladder or a step stool. Or a box. Or a crow bar or a phone or key or blow torch...she started to giggle. Oh yeah, she thought, she is going crazy.

She walked back to the middle of “her” wall, and walked straight across. Nothing. Then she walked down the far wall. It ended with another wall, a drywall wall. This was likely the furnace room. She didn't want to go in there if at all possible, there was something that bothered her about furnaces, even though they shouldn't, after all they are what keep you warm, she just figured there was an old memory, or the way they've been built to be useful but not in any way attractive to look at. Purely mechanical and those things do tend to be scary.

So she inched her way the other way, and she did bump into a box of something. She wasn't sure what was in the box or how sturdy it was, but it did seem fairly heavy. And feeling upwards beyond it, she realized she had come across a number of boxes stacked on top of each other. The one down by her foot had another on top up to about half way up her legs. She knocked on the side of it. Solid. There were books or something like that in there.

So of course she tried to lift the top one, and it was just so heavy. There may as well have been an anvil in there. Could she push it? Yes. So she pushed it off the top of the other box below. Could she pull it? Yes, but she'd rather not drag a box as heavy as that across the floor. She wanted one that would hold her but not be something that would take all her strength to move it.

The bottom box didn't seem quite so bad. This one she pulled out from between the box she just moved, and the tower of boxes on the other side, and she pulled it with the tops tabs and lifted it up and over. Yes, it was heavy but not so heavy she couldn't lift it using her legs.

She carried it slowly across the room so as not to hurt herself, then walked to the edge where the two walls joined and walked forward 43 steps. She dropped the box down, and stood up on it. The top sunk in a bit, but this was a box of magazines so she just slid a little. No harm done.

She turned to face the wall and reached her arms up, and yes, she could feel around up there but even on her tip toes, she couldn't reach the window itself. She could look up a little and see bit of window, and what she saw was – dark. There was a dark covering on it. She could hear was sounded like hail, but her idea of feeling around and maybe opening it was pointless unless she had about another six inches of something to put on top.

Her legs started to shake, and she crumbled. She wound up in a ball in front of the box, crying and shaking all over. Clutching her knees, she kept saying over and over again, “Where is it? Where is it? I just want to look out for Christ's sake, where is it? Where is my happy ending? Where? I want my happy ending! Where is it?”

She needed have worried too much about people coming back to the house at this point though. The radio, if she had had one and was able to hear it, was announcing that this storm cell had no intention of moving for the next 48 hours from what they could tell, in fact it seemed to be increasing in it's intensity and would now be mostly snow but then that could amount to about 3 metres, yes, that was metres you heard folks, accumulation, or, if ice, about 1 metre and even emergency vehicles were now having a very difficult time on the roads, the only things that seemed in any way to enable people to move around at the moment were snowmobiles, skis (though not so much on ice), and the new kind of snowshoes with the picks on the bottom.

For the rest of the world, well, we hope you have a fireplace and if not enough wood then some old tree branches or some crappy old wood furniture you can burn because we are sorry to say this will continue for quite a while yet.

It was 1998 all over again, but worse.

Except for Sarah, who had really no idea what was going on out there, and was simply bemoaning all that she lost, including the loss of what she would never have. Or, so she thought.

Granted it isn't difficult to think such things when your are stranded in a basement with no way out. What else would you think?