Heather watched as Ric reached above his head for one of several levers hanging from the ceiling. Where in the world did all of this technology come from? Heather thought. She watched Ric carefully twist the lever, then pull it straight down, and a buzzing noise began to fill the air. A blue shield surrounded the perimeter of the gazebo, and looking out on the island, she could see a very clear view of an entirely new landscape. Ric walked away from the periscope and took a place next to Heather.
In front of them was a clear aerial view of Mackinac. Downtown looked broken apart and abandoned, but with a pathway Heather recognized as the one she had taken to reach Ric. To the right was a sight of the Grand Hotel, broken down and seemingly empty. Even further right was what was once Harrisonville, but Heather could no longer see one standing building left there.
“This spot right here, can you see it?” Ric pointed towards a north eastern section of the island. “See that? That’s where it all began. I haven’t even been there myself. Just couldn’t risk it being here on my own…. that’s the starting point of all of this nonsense.”
As Heather stared at the location through the veil of Ric’s technological wonder of a gazebo, she could understand his concern. Nothing but smoke pushing straight up into the sky where an island landmark once stood. But it wasn’t your typical vision of smoke. Heather could clearly see the smoke moving in even waves toward the sky, like wavelengths of sound might look. If I close my eyes, she thought, I might even hear something.
Before she could even blink however, Ric continued on with his story. “I remember it like it was yesterday.” Ric placed his elbow on the ledge and his chin on his hand, and took in a deep sigh. “I was leaving the Mustang early one morning when…”
“One morning!?” Heather interjected.
“Oh don’t worry now, I’m not like that anymore!” Ric grumbled. “I can’t get to the liquor anyway… so I was leaving the place when I saw some kind of UFO in the sky. Had that same smoke coming out of it as you see right there in front of us today. I thought it was one of those frilly Chinese lanterns that some tourist had let go into the air, but instead of flying up, it was comin’ down! It disappeared behind the background and then it hit. Shook the whole ground. Caused a panic downtown too, and I swear everyone on Main street and people in those hotels got down to the docks and off the island real quick. Within in the day, even. But the residents? Well, some got out, but most stayed. That boom didn’t scare them… didn’t think these days they’d be scarin’ me.”
“So then it’s true? There are still people living here? The entire world considers this island deserted, like some sort of ghost town,” Heather could feel a little panic rising up in her chest, “and it’s off limits by the government, but now you’re telling me that there are people here.”
“Now wait one second…” Ric tried to interrupt.
“I’m here now, and I came for a reason,” Heather continued. “The locals on the mainland convinced me otherwise, and they’re also how I found Scott in the first place. He told me no one was left, but now here you are with me and you’re telling me there are more!?” Heather noticed that she was now pacing the gazebo floor, her eyes darting around the perimeter looking for signs of life down below.”
“He’s my only connection to the outside world, Heather, but as much as he wants to help, he’s more scared than I am to be here on this island. Now I appreciate his willingness to even sail his boat over, but sounds like he didn’t tell you about the others that he brought over to help, just like you, but didn’t survive. I’m sorry about that, Heather, I truly am, but there’s much more to it than you can understand right now.”
Her mind, in that moment, felt overfilled, and she stopped her pacing and promptly sat down on the floor. She had had this panic before, and took in a deep breath to start the process of calming herself down. Ric slowly knelt down next to her and waited for here to catch her breath. “You look like me, the very first time that I realized… well, when I realized how things were. These people need our help.”
“Ok,” Heather replied. “Tell me what’s next, then. How do we help? Where are these residents staying now, and what’s stopping you from talking to them?”
Ric sighed. “It’s not that easy. They just aren’t… themselves.” Ric stood up and reached out a hand towards Heather to help her to her feet as well. “I guess I’m going to have to show you. Time to get out of this gazebo, and get some supplies for us to last the night. I scavenge regularly for dried and canned goods, and with you here, I’m gonna need more. There are a few places I haven’t hit up yet and the closest one from here would be this big stucco house, right over there.
Ric pointed to a large, historical house that once was white with a dulled, red roof. It took Heather’s breath away. The side porch ramp, the large front yard, and the stone fence. It’s all still there, she thought. That’s my house.
She wasn’t sure if she should tell Ric her connection to the island yet, so she decided to keep the information to herself. “Alright then, let’s go.” She readjusted the rifle on her back and prepared herself for the gazebo to start spinning down.
“Not so fast,’ Ric said in a voice that sounded like a warning. He pushed the periscope back up into the ceiling, twisted it ninety degrees to the left, and pulled it back down again. It was no longer a periscope, but a box. Ric pulled out two taser guns and handed one to Heather. “We don’t want to kill anyone, if possible, but we will need to slow them down. You’ll see.” Heather looked down at her new weapon and back up at Ric, but at this point, wanted nothing more than to be back on solid ground again.
With the touch of a button, the gazebo was spinning once again and slowly placed itself back onto the ground. Ric and Heather walked out on the rocky pathway and headed back to Anne’s tablet, where Ric repositioned his goggles back onto his eyes.
“We won’t travel by foot for awhile anymore, Heather. From the mainland, you can’t really see this island because of the fog. But there’s a lot more to that fog than you think.”
Just as he had finished his sentence, a low grumble filled the air, like a storm in the distance. All of a sudden, the sky started to fill with snowflakes, and the ground quickly covered with a small layer of snow. Heather looked around her in disbelief, as the snowfall started to pick up.
“We’ve got one more walk to take, right down this trail where I’ve parked my snowmobile. We’ll go from there.” Ric started walking and as Heather turned to follow him, she thought she saw something move out of the corner of here eye. She took a quick step towards the edge of Anne’s tablet to look right at the marina. The waves were picking up as the wind was doing the same, and she noticed what looked like footsteps coming out of the marina towards the broken road. But the snow covered it up quickly, and Heather thought that maybe she was just seeing things, what with all the pure white snow surrounding her and filling the air, almost seeming to blind her.
“C’mon!” Heather looked up to see that Ric was already a hundred yards ahead of here and almost out of sight, so she brushed off what she saw as just her eyes playing tricks on her, and started on her journey back into the island for what she assumed would be one wild ride.
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