Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Puzzle of Escher Bradley: Chapter Four

Click here for the entire story.
Click here for the previous installment...

Tauno and I pass the creepy slowmo statues, and walk into the house, without a word. We walk up the steps without a word, and then into the room without a word. Once we’re in the elevator, Tauno suddenly starts to want to speak.
“Is this your house?” he asks.
“No. I came here looking for someone. I have no idea who owns this place, if anyone. Is this not how you got lost?”
“I’ve never been here before,” he answers.
“Did you say this wasn’t your first time being in this other...world?”
“No, it happens all the time. Ever since I was little. But I think only since we moved to Kansas. I was born in the other Springfield.”
“Well, there are actually several other Springfields in the country. In fact, I believe that most, if not all, states have one.”
“I think it was the big one, the one that’s not very far away.”
“Probably Missouri.” It’s likely a good thing that the magical elevator takes so long, because he’s going to need some time before he trusts me enough to really explain himself. I’m just trying to take it slow and be patient so he doesn’t get spooked.
“I’ve never seen anyone else in that other world,” little Tauno says after a few moments of silence.
“It must be scary for you.”
“You kind of get used to it. I don’t know why it happens. Sometimes I wake up and I’m there. Sometimes I walk through a door, or I trip. Sometimes I just blink and it happens. It wants me. You can take me back home all you want, but it will always take me back.”
“How do you normally get home?”
“Same way. I keep walking, and eventually, it switches me back.”
I nod, because I have some idea what’s going on, but I’m new to all this, so I don’t actually know.
“What?”
I don’t know that I should tell him, because it could help immensely, or it could makes things worse. So I just move on, “your parents never realize you’ve gone?”
“No. Time doesn’t always do what it was doing outside. Sometimes I’m gone for days, and my parents just pretend like they don’t have a son. I watch them moving around the house. They can’t see me, and they never look for me. I think my baby sister notices, but she can’t talk yet, so I dunno.”
“When you go back home, what do they think you’ve been doing for the last few days?” I ask him.
“They act like I’ve been there the whole time. They remember driving me to school, and asking me to do my chores.”
“But the chores weren’t done, because you weren’t there to do them?”
“No, they were,” he corrects me. “They did them. When I come back, they just think it was me instead. I’ve never been in trouble before, but I’ve also never done any chores, because I’m always gone when I’m supposed to be doing them.”
I nod again, because this only enforces my theory.
“What?” he presses. “What is it?”
“I don’t think this...dimension is pulling you to it. I think you’re coming here on purpose.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Have you ever heard of the subconscious?” I ask, pretty sure he hasn’t.
“Is that like a submarine?”
“It’s part of your brain that you have no control over. It’s when you feel a certain way, but you don’t really know it. It still makes you do things, but you don’t realize why.”
“So...I’m like two people?”
“Kinda, yeah.”
“And this other part of me wants to be in this—what did you call it—dimension?”
“You say that time isn’t always going in slow motion. What are you feeling when it does go in slowmo?”
“Tired. And busy.”
I crack a smile, because now I’m almost a hundred percent sure I’m right. “You need time to sleep, so this dimension gives you that. It may not even be the same dimension as the other times. Maybe you’re going to a lot of them, but they all look pretty much the same.” I’m a bit proud of myself for understanding some of this stuff, even though I’m much not into scifi. Then again, I’m talking to a seven-year-old, so maybe my grasp of the material isn’t all that impressive.
He thinks about all this for a while. We continue to wait for the elevator to reach its destination, eventually sliding our backs against the wall and sitting down.
“Do you think I might be able to control it?” he questions me.
“I think, for now, you need to learn to stop it from happening. If you want to travel to other worlds in the future, you should wait until you’re older.”
“Why?”
“You’ve never done chores, right?”
“A few times,” he clarifies, “but not for a long time.”
I try to find the right words to explain to a child what worries me about his situation. I don’t want to make it overly complicated, or make it sound like I’m judging him. “You know how rich people have maids and butlers.”
“Yeah...?”
“Well, they don’t do anything themselves. They don’t ever fold their clothes, or clean the floors.”
“Okay...?”
“They don’t know how to do anything. I don’t know if you like school or not, but it’s important. Knowing how to do things for yourself makes you a better person. If you go your whole life slipping into another world every time something is too hard, or too boring, you won’t learn to get through it. You might never be able to make friends. Not only will you always be in this other world, but you won’t have anything in common with them, because they always had to do their chores when their parents asked them.”
“So I have to just be normal, even though I have these powers?”
“You don’t have to be normal,” I explain. “Just pretend to be.” It’s a bit harsh, but I feel like I should say it, because no one ever taught me this lesson, and I could have used it when I was his age. “Adults will tell you that you’re supposed to be special, and really you are. You’re supposed to be special, and you, Tauno Nyland, are indeed special. But when you grow up, you’ll realize that people don’t really want that from you. Special people make normal people feel bad, because. They don’t understand why adults kept telling them that they were special, but then they turned out not to be. They want you to be just like them, because then they don’t have to worry about whether they did something wrong. Do you understand?”
“I think so,” he replied unconvincingly.
I get a little bit more serious. “You can’t tell anyone about your powers, and you can’t use it again until you’re older.” Yes, calling them powers I think will help him. Kids already know they can’t use powers however they want. Comic books have done a pretty good job of showing what happens when people with powers go unchecked. “Think of it this way. You can’t learn another language until you understand your first language. Earth is your world, and you should get to know it better before you start running off to other places.”
“Okay,” he says, partly resentful about being told what to do with his powers, but partly relieved there may be a way to stop it.
We spend the next twenty, or so, minutes just talking. The topic of the dimension we’re hopefully in the middle of escaping only comes up a few more times. Mostly he tells me about the kinds of things he likes; dinosaurs, astronauts, and drawing. He says he’s not very good at art, but he likes to do it anyway. I tell him that he may be able to get better, that not everyone is just born with the talent. I say this even not knowing if it’s true. I also talk about myself; about my mentor, Detective Pender, and why I decided to become a police officer. I obviously don’t get into specifics about how it all started when a gangbanger shot Pender up with a fully automatic, and I killed the banger to stop him from finishing the job.
Finally the elevator doors open, and we exit. It’s nice to be home, sort of. I think he may be okay walking on his own, because he’s a little precocious, but he feels different. He finds comfort in holding my hand, so we walk down the steps like that, and leave this terrible house.
“That is not my son,” Tyler Bradley says as we’re coming out.
“No,” Cheryl agrees, “it’s not. Where’s Escher?”
“I thought you didn’t remember him,” I say.
“I do now!” she cries. “I don’t know how I could have forgotten him, but I remember! I remember everything!”
“Okay, okay,” I tell her.
“This is Tauno,” I say of the little boy hiding behind me from the screaming woman. “I didn’t find Escher, but I found him. Your son is not the only who’s missing. There may even be more. I can’t do this alone anymore; I’m going to need to call for backup. I go over to my car and get on the radio. “Temple Oxenfree, this is Nautical-eleven, requesting backup at four-two-five-six Purple Rose Lane. Missing child found; at least one still missing.”
Copy that, Nautical-one-one,” came the reply. “Racecar-two-four, please respond.
Racecar-two-four, go ahead.
Please proceed to four-two-five-six Purple Rose Lane.
Copy that, Oxenfree.
Cheryl comes up from behind and asks, “are you going to find my son?”
“I’m going to do everything I can,” I respond, and then turn around. “Oh, shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.”
“What is it?” she asks frantically. “What’s happened?”
“The house...it’s gone. I can’t see it anymore.” All I see is grass and bushes.
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” I answer, and I really don’t. If I can’t get back to the other dimension, I’m never going to find Escher Bradley.”
“I don’t see it anymore either,” Tauno says. “You may need it, though, but I don’t.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You said I have to learn to do things for myself. And I’m the only one who can do this, so I have to go.”
“Tauno, no! Don’t! It’s too dangerous; we don’t know where he is.”
“I’ll find him,” little Tauno promised. “Wherever he is...I’ll find him.”
“Tauno, sto—!”
“Who’s Tauno?” Tyler asks?
I jiggle my head, trying to remember. I have no idea why I just said that. Who is Tauno? And what the hell am I doing here? Click here for the next installment...

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