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[Hello again it is time for my next entry into the vocal universe. As always thank you for reading and you can follow me on twitter @amccaul1976 or just about anywhere else at the same handle. If you like what you are reading here please share. Thanks again and i hope you enjoy the short story portals.]
Tim popped one eye open and then closed it again. Sunlight that was streaming in though the slats of his bedroom blinds was too much for Tim's eye. Tim rolled over so that he could open them to the late morning without being in too much pain as his newly opened eyes adjusted to the morning light. The one he had opened at first still watered in pain. The dust in the shafts of light swirled slowly onto the old brown carpet on Tim's bedroom floor. Tim still lived with his parents as the crippling debt of college didn't allow Tim to pay rent anywhere else. Hey, free room and board at thirty, Tim was lucky. Tim could be homeless with no job unable to make even the minimum payments of his loans. At least this way Tim could make the rest of his payment with both of his checks with just enough left over to buy lunch for himself. There were few things about Tim's life that Tim really liked. Tim's work schedule was one of those things. Tim's parents worked normal 9 to 5 jobs Monday through Friday where Tim only had Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. So by the time Tim got up, his parents were gone and by the time he got back in the evening his parents were in bed for the night. On the weekends when his parents were home, Tim tried being in the house as little as possible before heading out to work. Tim loved his parents but they just didn't understand that things change and the way they had done things isn't the way Tim could do them. They had pushed Tim to go to college because they had gone. After he graduated he used the college workforce center to help try and find a job. Tim didn't know at the time that they had a 15% placement of graduates into the workplace. The school was able to actually brag about this as it was higher than the national average. Tim had gone through all the usual channels as well trying to find a job. Tim had used LinkedIn, Monster, thingamajob.com, the want ads, online ads, dice.com, Craigslist, and Tim also tried the old tried and true method of just walking into places and dropping off his resume. Tim had received one serious response in eight years of looking. It sounded like a tossup between Tim and another guy. Tim wasn't selected for the job. At least they had called Tim back and told him that they had decided to go the other way on that one. Usually Tim received a form email saying "Thanks for your interest in seeking employment with company xyz. But we have no openings at this time. We will keep your resume on file for the next two to five years. Please feel free to apply again if we have any opening in the future." Tim had only heard back from the government jobs and that was years later after he had this menial job and even then most of the time Tim forgot he even applied with the state when he got a response. The responses from the state jobs had been even worse. The emails from the state went something like "thank you for your interest in applying for job xyz. This job has been re-purposed and is no longer available." Tim actually received an email from them saying that very thing just this last week. It had been almost three years since Tim had applied for a job with the state. Good thing he hadn't waited on the reply or else he would be dead as he wouldn't be able to afford food. This is what Tim's parents didn't get or understand. After all this effort and time searching they couldn't see why Tim didn't have a career. Tim really couldn't explain it either. Tim had used head hunters and everything else he could think of to try and get a job using his degree but the more he searched the more Tim found that it wasn't what you knew it was who you knew. Tim didn't know anyone. Heck even the current president hired all his friends and family to important positions. Tim just couldn't compete. Tim had been anti-social most of his life and had a very few amount of friends and even those it was more like the people he knew and not close relationships. This was why Tim dreaded talking to his parents. They always asked about what Tim was doing. Why didn't he apply here or there to which Tim would respond that he did have an application in with them or he had try doing that. Then they would move on to girls. That was even worse. What girl wanted to be with a guy like Tim? Tim had tried to ask girls out before always with disastrous results. Tim would stutter and whisper his request to go to dinner with no confidence. Girls hate that. They were always nice enough when they turned him down. But the excuses were always there. Oh I have someone. Not a boyfriend or even a girlfriend but they had someone. Why did they say that? Tim knew that it was something they thought up on the sop and not something that had any substance to it. The details were always odd too when pressed for further information later. After a few more conversations girls would then find ways to avoid being around Tim. Tim once asked a girl who then said she was moving out of state and then brought her current boyfriend by later. Tim saw her two years later and the girl didn't even remember who he was. Talking with her she admitted that she loved living in the mountains here and would never live anywhere else. It was like this every single time Tim talked to a girl. It would be different if it was just a dozen times or so. But since high school Tim had tried talking with a lot of different girls he found attractive and it was the same every time. Tim started to get discouraged after so much rejection. Tim didn't know what was wrong with himself but he figured he must be ugly or something so his attempts to date dwindled down to nothing. Again his parents just didn't understand this either. How could they? His parents never went through the things Tim had gone through. Maybe they had some rejection in their lives but it wasn't anything like Tim had experienced. So when they asked about jobs or girls and Tim tried to explain things they they never experience they couldn't understand why Tim had such a difficult time with things. Depression hit Tim again as he walked out to get his morning bowl of cereal. This was a daily cycle. Tears flowed out from the corners of Tim's eyes as he silently ate the generic cereal. It was the cheapest off brand of Cheerios. They were always rubbery and tasteless after soaking in milk for a minute or so. Tim clicked on the TV and an old episode of The Twilight Zone. The episode was titled "The Man in the Bottle." It was about a couple who were having financial trouble and found a bottle with a genie in it. By the end of the episode the genie had cheated the couple out of their wishes as every time they made a wish something would happen and the wish they had made was negated. Tim thought that sounded about right as it really didn't matter about having wishes. Tim had often thought about what it would be like to win the lottery or somehow making it big and thought it would be just about right that if he did make it big something would happen to take it away just like the genie had done to the couple.
Tim went in and took a shower to clean up a bit and felt better and not so sad. Tim dressed in his favorite Deadpool shirt and jeans and headed out to work. Tim went to get into his car and wondered if the car was going to start. The door squeaked loudly as he opened the door and had to slam the door shut to keep it from opening up as he drove down the road. Tim had bought the car in college for eight hundred dollars and every day it started Tim was amazed but it had run for the last ten years Tim had it. Tim did keep up the maintenance thanks to his parents who also covered the insurance. Once again the car started and sputtered to life. Black smoke cam out of the exhaust pipe and Tim drove the few miles to Wall-Mart. Putting on the blue vest Tim headed into the office to clock in.
Tim worked in the pets department and for the wages that he was paid Tim did the least amount of work he could but enough so that he wouldn't be noticed or talked to by his supervisor. Tim was starting his sixth year in the department and had just received another raise. Since they raised the minimum wage again his raise meant very little as he was now only making five cents more than the minimum wage again. Since he was just an associate he received basic benefits which were medical, dental and eye care. None of which he could use because they all had a co-pay and with his six hundred dollar student loan payment one and a half of every two checks he received a month was auto debited out of his account to pay the fine for his debt. Tim called it the dumb tax. This was because Tim was so dumb for doing it in the first place. If Tim had it to do all over again he would start working for Wall-Mart when he got his first work permit at fifteen and just invested the money at ten percent even with this job Tim could have bought a house by now with that kind of math. Not paying the giant debt he had plus making ten percent on his paychecks Tim knew he'd be raking it in by now. Well nothing to do about it now. Tim couldn't cry over spilled milk. Tim went into the back to grab the fifty pound sacks of dog food and loaded them up on the large flatbed cart.
Tim was loading the cart when Kim came back into the back storage area.
"Hi Kim, what are you doing back here? You work in pharmacy right?" Tim said.
"I do but I get breaks too you fathead." Kim said grinning at Tim. Tim thought Kim was joking when she called him a fathead but in Tim's head the word nailed him to the wall. Tim did think of Charlie Brown when Kim called him that. Instead of blockhead, Kim had said fathead but it sounded the same. Tim thought of himself as Charlie Brown. Charlie who tried his best to kick a foot ball, fly a kite, or win a baseball game but never succeeded. Here was Kim, Tim's little redheaded girl. Only Kim wasn't so little and was very attractive. Kim did have dark red hair auburn really. Kim's body was amazing as well Tim tried not to look as it was just agony for him knowing that he could or would never have a girl like her. The pain came up into his chest again and Tim shifted his body so that Kim wouldn't see his eyes water up. Tim lifted a few more bags onto the flatbed and after scanning the remaining brands the display told him he had all the bag that he would need to restock the shelves.
"Well, Kim have a nice break," Tim said.
"I'll try, one of these days maybe we will have a break together and you can try not to be such a fathead on our break. Then we could sit and talk," Kim said.
"Sure thing, one of these days we can sit and talk on break," Tim said.
"Well, try not to work too hard Tim," Kim said slapping Tim's back kind of hard then Kim walked off to the break room.
Tim wiped the water from his eyes and took a few moment to compose himself. Tim pushed the bags of dog food back out onto the floor and restocked the shelves. After that it was Tim's break. Tim thought about what Kim had said and the logical part of Tim's brain took over again. They would never have a break at the same time. It had never happened the three years Kim had been working here. The timing of when she got in and worked just didn't match Tim's schedule. There was too much wrong with Tim's life to hope of ever having a woman like Kim. Tim thought Kim wasn't everything he was looking for in a woman. Kim was ex-military and had served in Afghanistan. Kim seemed much younger than Tim though he didn't know her age. Kim worked right next door from Tim though it was inside the pharmacy booth so it was rare that Tim really got to talk to Kim. Though sometimes she stocked the shelves and at that time Tim did get to talk with her. Kim was abrupt sometimes and confident and seemed to be everything Tim wasn't. Tim thought at times that Kim might be interested in him romantically but then Tim would remember all the other times he had thought that about different women and was way off base. Tim knew he could never ask another girl out. Not the way Tim was right now. So much would need to happen before he could hope to provide for anyone other than himself. Not only that but the way Tim was with girls in general no way it would ever happen. Tim kept stocking the shelves and trying not to be noticed by anyone customers or the assistant store manager. Which today was like most days. Only one customer asked him anything. As per usual Tim had no idea what the correct answer was so he thought about what he could say and drawing upon a bit of wisdom from Deadpool he told the customer the item she was looking for was on the other side of the store. That way when they still couldn't find what they were looking for they wouldn't come back to Tim and ask again. They would be far away from Tim. No one working there knew where everything was. Tim knew where the stuff was in his own department but the rest of the items Tim had no clue about. When Tim was in a good mood and did what he was supposed to do he would walk with the customer looking for the item. They usually involved Tim wandering around with the customer for about ten minutes before finding someone else in a blue vest and handing the customer off to them.
Tim loaded cans of cat and dog food onto the flatbed before taking his first break.
When Tim got back to the break room it was empty of people. Tim would get some water from the fountain. The only thing he could afford to drink and sat down and watched TV. Tim couldn't find the remote so he had to watch Maury Povich. "You are not the father," Maury's voice blared out of the TV speakers. The screen said this girl had tested over fifteen guys and still couldn't find the father. First, that was a lot of guys to sleep with and Tim couldn't touch a girl. Next Tim actually found himself wondering if he had it better or worse than the people on that show. Usually people watch that show and feel better about their own lives but Tim thought somehow even the dregs of society might have it better than he himself had it. Tim drifted into a hypnotic like state zoned into the TV. Before Time knew it the show was over and his break had lasted far longer than it should have. Tim walked back to the flatbed and pushed it out back to his department.
When Tim got back to the pet section of the store he could feel something was different. Tim searched around for anything out of the ordinary but didn't see anything. The pet department was empty and fortunately for Tim no one had noticed he had been gone for so long. Hey, Tim thought sometimes it happens people lose track of time and are on break too long. I don't make a habit out of it. But Tim had become bad about it. Truth be told Tim did take an extra long break at least once a week. In all seriousness the store managers barely knew who he was or that he even worked there. Tim could clock in and sit back there most of the day. If Tim knew it or had thought about it, as long as he stocked the shelves once a day he could leave go back home take a nap come back to work and clock out and no one would ever find out. But Tim didn't know that which was probably the best for his own mental health. Tim didn't know this so stocking the shelves kept his mind occupied and off of his own life for a few hours every day. Tim knew that this was a good thing and tried to throw himself into his work every day so that he could escape his own life. So Tim did he started stalking the shelves with cans of dog and cat food. That is when things changed forever for Tim.
As Tim was moving the cans forward to fill the shelving or at least make the shelves appear full. Tim caught some movement out of the corner of his eye. Tim had never seen anything like them before. They were tarantulas of some sort but Tim never had seen spiders look like this before. They were like walking quicksilver. The bodies heads and legs were so shiny like moving mirrors. You think that would be the oddest thing about the spiders but it wasn't. They were walking into and out of existence between two sets of cans. Tim could clearly see a line where the spiders suddenly crawled into existence and where they disappeared again in a walking circle. Like the spiders were walking to and from an in and out door to somewhere else. Curious Tim picked up one of the cans and regretted it. Whatever had been there that was the opening ended the moment that Tim moved the can. The really bad thing was that when the area was disturbed and the doorway was broken it severed the spider right in half. It wouldn't have been that bad except that the spider didn't have normal blood it had acid. The acid quickly ate though the metal cans and shelving on its way down to damaging the tiles on the floor and the cement below the tiles. Tim and the spiders acted quickly. The remaining spiders ran back through the other doorway before it closed and Tim got both water and a powdered substance that was created for acid spills within the store. the spiders were quick enough to get out. But Tim wasn't so lucky and a lot of damage was done before restoring the PH balance to the acid. The shelf the acid had been on melted in half and dumped the cans onto the lower shelves. Tim knew what he would be doing for the remainder of his shift.
Tim cleaned up the cans and put the undamaged ones into a basket to go back on the shelf once he brought out a new one. Which was the next thing Tim did. Tim took the old shelf back and put a label with it and reported it as damaged. Though he made something up about finding it that way verses having to explain something no one would believe. Tim also put labels onto the damaged cans and then loaded the shelves with the remaining good cans. After doing all of that Tim cleaned up the remaining shelves and cans repeating the labeling process.
After coming back from the back shelving area and cleaning up the mess one last time and placing labels on the remaining damaged cans Tim found a person standing by the fish tanks in his area.
Tim couldn't tell what the person looked like other than they were in robes. The hood was pulled up and from behind Tim thought this person was a Catholic monk.
Tim was just about to say something when he noticed something odd happening again. This time above the fish tanks purple tentacles appeared. Tim looked in the water of the tank for the beast the tentacles belonged to but found nothing but the fish he normally saw in the tanks. Tim could then hear chanting coming from the monk. The voice was a woman's or a man had a really strange effeminate voice. Tim again was about to say something when the top edge of the tank glowed and the tentacles faded back into nothingness. Tim had decided he had enough when the figure in the robe turned around and he was looking at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen again the deep auburn hair was very attractive to Tim but it was her eyes that were striking. Deep violet eyes seemed to look through Tim and instantly knew everything about himself. Nope this is definitely way too much Tim thought and ran to the back of the store. Tim clocked out and left the store out of the back. Tim was going to go to lunch and if anything odd happened or he saw that girl when he got back he was leaving for the day.
Tim normally walked the short distance to Burger King but today he drove his car. He didn't know how much long her car would run so her tried to use it sparingly usually only to work and back but Tim thought this would be an alright time to make an exception.
Tim ordered his usual Whopper no tomatoes with cheese, which came with fries and a Dr. Pepper. Tim found the back corner booth way out of the way. Looking around making sure that no one was wearing robes Tim began to eat his fries.
Tim relaxed, after a short time he felt sure that he had imagined the whole thing. Somehow his mind finally snapped over how bad his shitty life was and started making him see things that were more exciting and things that didn't really happen. Tim had cleaned the area well and had been able to hide the damage to the floor tiles. Tim had done this so well he could think that it was all in his mind and that he really hadn't cleaned anything at all and that when he went back he would find no damage had been done to the floor.
That was when the girl say down across from Tim. She reached out and put a hand on Tim's own hand. Her hand felt warm and nice not like his dry rough ones. Tim froze not knowing what to do.
"Be calm and do not do anything rash I am not here to harm you," The woman said.
Tim couldn't find his voice but just nodded for the woman to continue.
"I know this will sound crazy but after what you experience I think you will find the truth is in my words," the woman said.
Again Tim nodded not knowing what to say or do.
"My name is Alana, I am from another world, a different plane of existence. My world is very much like your except that magic instead of science has progressed as the main method of study. I am here because one of the masters experiments went awry and now he has opened portals to many different places. So many different worlds and dimensions. I am here to fix what has been broken. Fortunately we have learned much. I don't have to close all the portals everywhere. Myself and a few others like me just need to close certain portals in turn this will close and heal all the other portals we can get to. So it will repair most if not all the damage. I shouldn't be here for very long. Because your world is build on science and not magic the damage here is very limited. I just wanted to talk to you because you have seen what the portals are and what kinds of havoc they can reek. I would ask that if you see anything else odd happen that you would find me before doing anything else. So you don't have any more problems like you did with the spiders. Is that alright?" Alana said.
"Are you from Russia? Or maybe one of the eastern block countries? Did Jake put you up to this? That guys is always playing some prank." Tim said.
"No," Alana said squeezing Tim's hand a bit harder she continued "I have told you where I am from and why I am here. This is no joke and could be life and death. Rarely do i get to speak to anyone from another world about my quest. I am only allow to speak to someone who has been directly involved and has already seen something like you have. Now will you help me."
"Yes, I will help if I can. What do you need me to do?" Tim asked.
"All I need is for you to do what you would normally and if you see anything odd let me know. Otherwise I will find the portals that I need to and close them," Alana said.
"How do the portals work? Is there anything I should look for?" Tim asked.
"A portal can be anywhere that has something physically around it. Anything could be a portal. A doorway, the cans as long as something has a hole in it can be a portal. Even your fingers if you put your finger and thumb together it could form a portal." Alana said letting go of Tim's hand for a moment and made a circle with her index and thumb and traced the opening with her other index finger. Then grabbed Tim's hand again.
"Alright, how do I find you if I need you?" Tim asked.
"Here take this stone." Said Alana and she handed Tim a smooth flat polished metallic rock. "If you need me the arrow will point you to where I am. When I am done here the arrow will disappear."
Looking down at the rock Tim could see an arrow pointing straight at Alana.
"Alright well my lunch break is almost over I guess I should be heading back," Tim said.
"If things go well you wont see me again. But if they don't find me," Alana said.
Tim nodded and Alana let go of Tim's hand. Before Tim could say anything else she was gone. Tim headed back over to Wal-Mart and clocked back into work. The rest of the day Tim looked down at the stone and he could tell Alana was walking all over the store. There were a few times Tim had triangulated Alana's position and was unable to see her. Since she was using magic, or so Tim assumed, she must have made herself invisible. But nothing else happen for the rest of his shift. No new portals formed anywhere and nothing happened. Tim's life went back to being lonely and boring again.
At the end of his shift Tim clocked out and found a place he thought Alana would be standing. Tim said to empty air, "I am done for the night I am heading home. If you're here I'll see you tomorrow."
"You act so strange you big fathead," Kim responded walking out of one of the aisles.
"Oh, I didn't know you were here," Tim said.
"Sure you didn't. If you weren't talking to me then who were you talking to?" Kim asked.
Tim started to tell her exactly who he was talking to but then thought better of it. Again there was no way anyone was going to believe Tim about any of this. "You're right of course. I saw you as I passed by and saw you. Have a good night and if you're here I'll see you tomorrow," Tim said.
"You have a good night and I'll see you tomorrow," Kim said smiling at Tim.
Tim had that feeling again and if he didn't know any better he would swear that Kim liked him. But Tim did know better and it was just another one of those things where he was mistaken again.
Tim left for the night and with his parents fast asleep had the run of the house. So Tim did what he always did with his free time. Tim powered up the PS4 and played games for the rest of the night. Though Tim was troubled by the events of the day and started to think about Alana and if she had a place to stay and how much longer she would be here. Tim still had the stone and pulled it out. It was pointing back down towards work. Tim couldn't help himself and got into his squeaky car and started driving. This time though Tim didn't drive as far. soon Tim was on a side road which quickly turned into a bumpy dirt road which lead to an abandoned mine. Tim looked down at the rock and the arrow pointed at the mine. Tim thought maybe Alana was sleeping here for the night and walked to the entrance. Looking down at the arrow Tim saw it fade and disappear. Tim's blood ran cold for just a moment as he knew Alana had been honest with him from the start. Tim's mind quickly ran through his options. Tim had a chance here for a fresh start. If he ran into the mine he would disappear from our world and start a brand new life in a brand new world. Tim thought about the loans and how long he would need to pay back those loans working his current job. Tim thought about Kim and if she did like him how long it would be until he was in a position to actually date her. Tim thought about his efforts with women and jobs and finances. What a waste of time it all really had been in all those years spent futilely chasing a life he would never have. Tim thought about his parents. Tim loved his parents and knew they would miss him if he left. Tim thought that they might understand and then thought they probably wouldn't. At least Tim wouldn't have to feel guilty about not having the life he and they wanted. Tim wouldn't need to answer any more of their questions. In one instant of perfect clarity Tim knew this was the correct choice and that he didn't belong in this world and that he never fit in and never would. As soon as that moment hit Tim he didn't hesitate but ran headlong out of our world and into another.