“I’m Dustin Ryder, I’m eighteen, and you’re killing my buzz.”
“Sorry, man. It’s just... what is this place?”
He shrugged. “It’s going to be intense finding out.”
“Where are we going?”
“I don’t know that either,” Dustin said, “but don’t you feel great?”
I did. The place was magic, but I was worried. “Yeah, but Spencer told me that anyone can get through a portal. What’s to stop those soldiers from showing up and cutting this fairy-tale world in half with their machine guns?”
“Have a little faith, brother. Just because Spencer is like the leader of the mystics, doesn’t mean he knows everything. Maybe he’s never even been here.” Spencer was the mystic who had taught me the most and healed me when Lightyear’s Agent Fitts almost killed me. Spencer must have known about this place. He’d told me there is far more unseen than seen, more unknown than known, that there were places we know nothing about hiding from us in the breeze.
There was something in the air, an energy that pulsated; I felt I could do anything. Giddiness gripped me, like a kid at his first carnival. Four or five lime green and orange birds flew nearby, chirping sweet songs. I realized both of us were smiling at nothing, at everything.
Dustin suddenly stopped, extending his arm to block me. He tapped my chest with the back of his hand and motioned ahead. A person was leaning against a stark black tree that was crowned with a kaleidoscope of blue, green, purple, and yellow globes. Although I recognized him immediately, the sight of anyone else could not have shocked me more.
“Do you think he’s real?” Dustin whispered.
“How could he be?”
He suddenly looked at us. “Hey guys, I wasn’t sure you were going to make it.”
Before I could answer, he stared into my eyes. There was no mistake; it was me, Nate! I mean we both were. He looked slightly different, a bit older with shorter hair, but he was me.
“Who are you?” I asked, incredulously.
“Don’t you recognize me?” he smirked.
“Of course I recognize you, but how can you be... ”
“I’m you. I’m just about eleven months older.”
“You’re Nate from the future?” Dustin asked.
“Sort of. I’m from a different dimension, the closest one to where you just came from.”
“If you’re me, and from the future or whatever, then you must know that I don’t have a clue about ‘identical selves’ from different dimensions. Maybe you could try explaining it.”
“I’ll teach you about other dimensions. But first let me tell you what’s happened, rather what’s going to happen in the next eleven months of your life.” His somber tone bothered me.
“You can do that?” Dustin was excited. “Cool.”
“It’s not good, is it?” I asked, recognizing my own expression on him. It was obvious he/I was about to deliver some bad news.
“What?” Dustin asked, catching the mood. “Where am I? Why aren’t I with Nate eleven months from now?”
My “future self” took a deep breath. “You’re missing; no one can find you. Mom’s in federal custody.”
“Christ! How did this happen?” Dustin shouted. “Where am I? How long have I been gone?”
“There’s more, isn’t there?” I asked.
Future Self stared.
“It gets worse?” Dustin asked.
“Amber and Linh are dead.”