Love knows no boundaries. Even time bends to its will.
The Harris house stood vacant, at the top of Whitley Hill, surrounded by the vestiges of the trappings of old wealth. Weedy undergrowth clogged the unkempt hedgerows. Trees looked leaf-bare and withered in the gloomy night sky and grass only grew in patches where the sun actually had managed to break through the density of the overgrowth. Johnny, along with his friends, Lisa, Zack and Marie cautiously approached the ancient manse. Johnny was annoyed at the whispers and giggles of Zack and the girls. Why is it that every time he wants to do something, they always find a way to make fun of it? Angrily, he stomped ahead of the rest and strode up to the front porch. Pausing for only a brief moment, he looked up at the front of the house and peered at its windows, black eyes looking out upon a bleak sky, he thought.
Nervously, he climbed the steps to the porch and approached the door. It wasn't like any door he had ever seen before. Rather it was ornate, with a broad trim and filigree surround. In the center, at roughly eye-level was a slightly corroded, brass knocker in the shape of an elephant head. Johnnie reached up and tilted back the trunk of the elephant head and then let it drop. It was surprisingly heavy. He lifted it again, and then used it to tap the knocker plate four times. Through the door, he could hear the echo of each knock as he tapped it out. The knocks and their echoes fell silent.
He reached down and grasped the knob. Why am I so nervous? Giving it a turn, he pushed the heavy oaken door in. The hinges squealed like an annoyed cat. Just like in the horror movies, he thought. Letting go of the handle, he watched as the door continued to open all the way, screeching out its feline whine the entire way. A puff of dust-filled air washed over him, causing him to wave at it weakly with one hand while choking into the sleeve of his other. He turned to look back at his friends who had all gathered nervously at his back, there on the porch, eagerly peering around him for a glimpse inside.
Through the doorway, they could see a wonder in classic architecture. Italian marble floors in intricate inlays. Matching staircases, sweeping up in great curves on either side of the great entrance hall. A multidimensional chandelier, the old style, with candles and crystal instead of bulbs and glass. Egyptian cotton curtains on the interior passageways and windows. Dust-laden books on hand-crafted book-cases, lining rosewood covered walls. It was truly an inviting wonder to behold. Johnnie, shrugged trying to figure out why he had been so nervous moments ago. Then he put out his foot and stepped over the threshold.
Two days earlier, Johnnie Qasar awoke to the smell of pancakes coming from the kitchen. He knew that something was up. Mom only makes pancakes when something is up. It was Thursday. Thor's Day, he remembered from school. But it was Summer now and he was on vacation.
"Johnnie! I know you're up! Hurry up and get dressed and come on down to eat!"
Sticking his head out of the door to his room, he yelled back, "Be there in a minute!"
"What's going on?" He asked as he arrived at the kitchen table -- the breakfast nook, his mother always corrected him -- still pulling an arm through his T-shirt sleeve.
"Aunt Trudy has had a bad fall," she explained. "She's alright, but she'll need a little tending to. I'm going up to Springdale to look after her for a few days, until cousin Red gets back from Tucson."
"Bummer! Tell her, I wish her all the best."
Mom ruffled his hair--which he secretly liked but always pretended not to--and said, "How did I ever get so blessed to have such a wonderful boy as you?"
"George just lucky, I guess!" It was an exchange they'd often had between them. Their own personal moment together. Mom smiled and went back to what she was doing.
"I've put up some dishes in the fridge for you and your father. Just stick each one the in the mic -- she never said microwave. It was always mike -- for three-to-four minutes and they should be good. Test each dish with your finger, and add another minute or two, if you need to. And make sure to use the hand-warmers when you take them out. You and Dad should be fine with these until I get back on Sunday."
Around a mouthful of pancakes, Johnnie responded, "Okay, mom!" Which of course came out sounding more like "blow cay, bump!" She ruffled his hair once more ad then kissed his cheek.
"I'm off! Be good! Stay out of trouble and mind your father!" And then, in a whirlwind, she was gone. He finished shoveling in the remainder of his breakfast as she pulled her car out of the garage, backed out into the street and sped off toward Springdale.
As soon as she was gone, he grabbed his house keys, slipped out the back door, making sure to lock it, and ran over the fence to Zack's house. Letting himself in the back door, he grabbed a cookie off of missus Taylor's counter, flashed her a smile and asked her if Zack was in his room. When she told him to go on up and take a cookie or two for Zack, he grabbed up a few more and took off up the stairs. Ma Taylor always had something yummy coming out of the oven!
As he reached the top of the stairs, he could hear the "Pseww! Pseww! Pseww!" of the laser rifle coming from the TV in Zack's room and knew he was playing his favorite Space Wars video game again. Flopping onto Zack's bed, he dropped a couple of the cookies on the nightstand and picked up the other game remote.
"Whatever!" Johnnie had long since gotten used to being called Quasar, like the stellar object, rather than Kah'-sar as his name was truly pronounced. He didn't really care for it, but since Zack and he were like brothers, being best friends their whole lives, he let it slide for him. And now that they were getting ready to start High School in the Fall, their friendship would be even more important. He killed two of Zack's soldiers,
Then Johnnie threw down his remote.
"Hey! Mom's going to be gone for a couple of days. What's say we do something?"
"What do you have in mind?"
"Well, we could go down to the woods and build a fort or something."
"Nah! Them Rafertys hang out down there now, smoking' their weed."
"Maybe they might sell us some."
"Nah! Mom says is eats at your stomach."
"Yeah, mine says the same thing. Must be true though. Them Rafertys are always in a sour mood!"
"Yeah, that's fer sure!"
"How 'bout the old Harris mansion?"
"Yeah! Joe Petersen told me one day at school that the place was haunted."
"Yeah, he said he and Jennie Piccolo spent the night there and got the scare of their lives."
"He's such a blow-hard!"
"Maybe, but what-da-ya think?"
"Well, I can't today, I got piano lessons, and tomorrow, we're going over to the lake for their all-you-can-eat fish fry. But how about Saturday morning?"
Johnnie, a bit put out by the delay, never-the-less nodded agreement. Then they picked up their remotes again and went back to blasting each other vicariously through the video game.
Later on that afternoon, when Dad got home, Johnnie filled him in on the day's events, at which his father dutifully nodded and harrumphed. Then, upon learning that Mom had put up a left-over casserole for them, Dad suggested they call for a pizza instead. It didn't take Johnnie long to decide in favor of his father's nefarious plans and the two of them climbed onto the couch an hour later to eat Roman Ray's pepperoni, drink some beer--in Johnnie's case, root beer--and watch the Baseball game--damn Yankees beating up on our boys again!
Two days later, Johnnie jumped out of bed and into his clothes faster than light itself. Racing through a bowl of his favorite cereal in milk, he informed his father that he would not be home for lunch but that Zack's mom would pack them something as they would be out all day. His father, Um-hummed around the morning paper and then, in passing remembered to remind Johnnie to stay out of trouble and be home before dark. Johnnie promised to do as he was bid while running out the back door on his way over to Zack's house.
When he got there, he was surprised to find Marie Angelo, Jennie Piccolo's cousin and Lisa Hartford, whom he'd secretly had a crush on for going on two years now, waiting in the yard along with Zack.
"What's going on?"
"The girls heard about our adventure and wanted to come along."
Johnnie grabbed his arm and pulled him to the side, "Seriously? How'd they find out?"
"Well, I might've mentioned something to Marie. I think she's agreed to be my steady girl."
"Dude! This was supposed to be a guys out sort of deal! What if they get hurt? Worse yet, what if they think we're lame?"
"Ease up man! Lisa's into you. You just need to let her in."
Looking over in Lisa's direction, he couldn't help the warm feeling spreading deep inside his gut, or the queasiness he got each time he caught her looking at him with those big brown eyes. Grudgingly, he relented and together they all set out for the Harris House on Whitley Hill.
Winter blasted white, whipping snow into his face. He had just set his foot on the ground after having stepped through the door of the old Harris house. He wrapped his arms about him to warm himself and tried to get his bearings. Snow was driving into his face and body with the force of a tornado. He was clearly in a blizzard. There were no discernible features to be seen, so involved was the white-out. Turning around, he was able to see his friends just outside the door, which crazily looked to be a hundred feet from where he stood just at the moment. But he had only taken a single step! What was going on here?!
Just as he was about to start back for the door, he heard a sound that shook him to his very bones and felt the quake within the earth beneath his feet. Stopping in his tracks, he turned to see if he could figure out what it was. Then it came again, only louder and closer. Then he heard the roar of a massive creature, and through the gloom could just make out its outline, and the sight nearly filled his pants. A dinosaur! How could that be? How could a dinosaur hide on Whitley hill? He turned and tried to get his friends' attention, but it was clear they were either unable to see him or were playing some sort of game on him. Hurriedly, he ran for the door.
Zack was the first to see him go, being the next in line behind Johnnie. Lisa also saw Johnnie disappear right before her eyes. Where had he gone? Was this some sort of game? Some variation of Hide-and-Go-Seek? She decided she had had enough. Turning to Zack she demanded an explanation.
"What is going on here?"
"I really don't know! He was there and then he wasn't! I don't understand any more than you do!"
Marie, who hadn't actually seen Johnnie step through the doorway was dumbfounded at what they were talking about.
"What do you mean? Where's Johnnie?"
Lisa turned to her, "He went into the house and then just disappeared."
"Well, shouldn't we go in after him?"
"No! I mean, he just disappeared. Not into another room. Just poof! And he was gone."
"What are you talk…"
From out of nowhere, Johnnie burst through the door bringing a wave of blizzard-cold snow with him, knocking down Lisa and landing smack into her lap. And then the door slammed shut.
They all stood around waiting for Johnnie to warm up. Waiting for him to explain. But his chattering teeth and blue-tinged tongue weren't yet up to the task. Zack, of a sudden, remembered his backpack. Good old Ma! Packed them up a picnic lunch. He reached into his bag and brought out a Coke. It was warm, of course there being no ice in his backpack. But at this moment, that seemed like just what the doctor ordered. Opening the pop-tab, he handed it to Johnnie who drank it down hungrily. Like a man fresh out of the desert, starving for water. Then he looked up at them and told them everything.
"A dinosaur! Are you nuts?!" Zack was certain Johnnie had lost his mind.
"I know it sounds crazy. I can hardly believe it myself. But you can clearly see the snow all over me." Despite their skepticism, they were all nodding at that, swiveling their heads back and forth among themselves, trying to gauge each other's reaction to his story.
"Look. I don't know what's going on here, but I stepped through this doorway and ended up somewhere else. Some-when else, considering the dinosaur." He looked back into the faces of their disbelief and decided, he had had enough of that. There was really only one way to prove it. Standing back up, he grabbed the door handle, opened it up again and stepped through into the great hall. They all just looked at him as if he had lost his marbles.
"I'm telling you, that's all I did!"
"Well, maybe you didn't do it right," Zack said. "Try it again."
That seemed plausible, so he did. And once more, he was in the room and they were able to see and talk to him. Was he losing his mind? He looked down at the pop in his hand. Mom had always warned him that too much Coke would rot his brain. But no. He remembered all too vividly, that moment in the blizzard, running from T-Rex.
"Maybe it has something to do with the knocker," Lisa offered.
"Yeah. You knocked on the knocker before opening the door."
He did, didn't he? Reaching up, he took a hold of the elephant trunk. He rapped three times and then, he opened the door, and without a pause, stepped right in.
He was standing in a forest. The hill was a lot clearer to him now and he could easily see that it was, in fact, Whitley Hill. The sound of gunfire, not too far away caused him to duck down behind a nearby rocky outcropping, which he immediately recognized as the base of the Harris House outdoor fountain. Startled by a noise behind him, he quickly spun around to see Zack and the girls stumble through the door.
"You disappear…" Zack started to say, before Johnnie hushed him up and made them all hunker down behind the rocks.
"You disappeared, so we followed you in," Zack whispered.
"Why are we hiding and whispering?" Marie asked.
"This place looks familiar," Lisa said. "Is this the fountain?"
"Yes. It is," Johnnie replied. "And we're whispering because…" And then he was interrupted by more rifle fire. The acrid smell of black smoke in the air filled their noses. Hunkered down as they were; they were able to witness the happenings in the valley below them without being seen. From their vantage point, they watched a group of colonialists ford up at the old stone wall which still sits at the base of the hill. Coming around the other side was a small regiment of French regulars, in their blue uniforms. Through the woods, they could also see natives, in full war regalia, slipping between the trees. Huron! Those must be Huron! Johnnie thought as he watched the events below unfold.
The colonists, some militia, some simple farmers and milk-wives, men and women all, were passing loaded riles to the wall to be fired by the best shots while the rest reloaded the spent guns. A few ladies were tending to some wounded off to the side. More shots rang out and a few French regulars fell, along with two or three of the natives. It's an obvious pincer move, Johnnie thought. They're trying to flank the colonists and wipe them out from both sides.
Just then, a load war cry rang out from the other side of the woods and a full war party of natives in colonial dress--clearly friends of the colonists--jumped out and charged the Huron natives sneaking up on the group below. The colonists concentrated their fire then on the French regulars, who promptly turned tails and ran, back the way they had come. The friendly natives, Mohawk, they later learned, slipped back out of the woods, blood on their hands and clothes to see what help they could give of the colonists below.
Johnnie turned and waved Zack and the girls back toward the door. As soon as the last one exited, the door slammed shut.
"What the heck was that?!" They all started talking together.
After a few minutes, they quieted down and looked around at each other.
"I think we just witnessed the battle of Whitley Hill!" Johnnie said.
They all thought about what they had seen. After a little while in silence, regarding each other and trying to fit this new information into their heads, Zack turned around and rapped on the knocker about six times. Then he grabbed the door knob, twisted and stepped through. Instantly, he disappeared. Johnnie, turned to the girls and then shrugged and followed his friend, with Lisa and Marie at his heels.
There was Zack, looking ineffectual, standing over the hunched form of a sobbing girl. Lisa and Marie ran over to her to see what was the matter. She was roughly eighteen, yet she wore clothing of a time perhaps ninety or a hundred years in the past. She said her name was MacKenzie Harris and she was the daughter of old Eli Harris, who owned the cannery in town and whose grandfather had founded their little hamlet.
After calming her down, they were able to get her to relate her story. She was in love with a local boy in town whom her father disapproved, simply because his family was poor and his father worked at the cannery. Eli had caught them walking and talking up by Raven's Ridge on the south side of town. He had been driving by in his new motor car, freshly purchased from Detroit. It was pitch black and shiny, with the new-style flat head four-cylinder engine, Henry Ford had developed. After ordering her to get into the car, he had spun the new white-rubber tires on the gravel spraying them all over her young suitor.
Sequestering her in her room, on the third floor of the mansion, Eli had called for his old friend Nikola Tesla who had arrived two days later. Though she was basically under house arrest being cared for by her personal governess while her father and Mr. Tesla talked and worked, never-the-less, she had learned their intentions. They were working on a new invention which would electronically lock the doors to the mansion and prevent any unwary intruders from gaining entry. A simple knock on the door would set up a combination that would randomly send the individual to a new destination other than the house itself. Or a new time, Johnnie thought, without voicing his thoughts aloud.
"So what happened?" He asked her.
"Last week, Reggie showed up to pick me up for the Autumn Formal. Father invited him to come in, after he had knocked and when Reggie entered, he disappeared. Then Father close the door and Reggie has been lost ever since!" She began to sob again. "The worst part is, it looked so blizzardy there! How is he supposed to survive in all of that cold and driven snow?"
Johnnie and Zack exchanged looks. Then the idea came to them. Johnny asked Zack how many knocks he had used to get into the door. Lisa, standing behind him spoke up.
"It was six. I remember it specifically."
"But how come when I knocked four times, the second time, just like I did the first, I got a different place?"
"Actually, you knocked five times, the first time. Remember, you did a test knock before rapping the knocker four more times, but I think it counts."
Johnnie realized, he had to try. Leaving the others, he stepped back through the still open door, and closed it behind him. Once more knocking six times, he opened the door to find his friends still hovering over MacKenzie.
"It worked," he exclaimed as he came up to them.
"I'm going back to the first one and see if I can figure out what happened to her boyfriend."
"Should I go with you?" Zack asked, clearly not really wanting to.
"No, you stay here with Marie and keep an eye on MacKenzie. I can manage it on my own."
"Not without me you can't!" Johnnie looked into Lisa's big beautiful brown eyes and melted almost instantly.
"Okay, then. Let's go!"
Back out through the door they went, closing it behind themselves. Then Johnnie reached up, grabbed the knocker once more, and rapped it five times, and opened the door.
The blizzard hit them the moment they stepped through. Nervously, Johnnie looked around, but the dinosaur was nowhere to be seen. They started to wander further away from the door and look around. Lisa was holding onto his arm for warmth and comfort and he found the sensation quite intoxicating. God! She smells good! He heard the howl of another creature he could not identify and she gripped his arm a little tighter. But she stayed right with him. Then he remembered something he had learned about Whitley Hill. The reason, old Eli's grandfather had picked it for the mansion was that the hill was located over an aquafer that had a cave in the side of it, making it very accessible for obtaining water for the house.
Taking Lisa by the hand, he towed them in the direction of the cave. He had once gone there on a sight-seeing tour of the mansion when he was young and his parents, who had moved there when he was yet a baby, were curious about the origins of their town. He remembered its location on the side off the hill, just beyond the wall, where they had only that afternoon witnessed the Battle of Whitley Hill. The wind whipping past their heads forced them to cling ever closer to the sides of the hill as they skirted its rocky banks. Just as he was about to wonder if he had made the wrong turn, the black maw of the cave rose up in front of them.
Carefully watching their footing, they stepped into the cave. The darkness was even deeper after the blinding white of the blizzard.
"Who are you?" A voice called out in the blackness.
"Are you Reggie?" Johnnie called back.
"Reginald Watkins," came the answer. "Who are you?"
Slowly their vision improved and they could just make out a small fire in the back of the cave. And a disheveled young fellow, roughly the same age as MacKenzie sitting next to it, with a small rodent or something roasting on a spit over the fire.
"We came here to find you for MacKenzie."
"Her father is the reason I am here!"
"We know," Lisa answered, the softness in her voice, soothing his angry manner. "We are here to bring you back to her, if you still want to. If you still lover her."
At that, he looked up directly at her, the intensity in his gaze fearsome to watch.
"Of course I love her!" His vehemence, evidence enough of the truth of his ardor. "But her father will not have it!" He put his face in his hands and wept bitterly. Lisa pulled Johnnie aside and looked into his eyes intently,
"You remember from school how MacKenzie Harris had vanished? And how her father, basically went mad afterward?" He had remembered. He nodded his affirmative.
"I have an idea. I think, we are supposed to help them. I think we need to bring them back to our time."
This time, his look of amazement wasn't because of the wildness of her idea, but rather because they had shared it. He too had been thinking the same thing.
"I agree," he said. And then they laid out their plan to Reginald.
Sunday morning broke fine and bright as any day Johnnie had ever seen. As his mother pulled into the drive, back a little early from her visit with Aunt Trudy, who had begun to feel a little better, now that Cousin Red was back from her trip down to Tucson, Johnnie was making breakfast in the kitchen. As mom came in the back door direct from the garage, there at the breakfast nook, sat a pretty young girl of roughly fourteen or fifteen and a young familiar looking couple in their late teens or early twenties.
"Mom, this is Lisa Hartford, my girlfriend"
"I am, am I?" Lisa said with a sly smile on her lips. Oh those lips! How wonderful they had tasted when she had kissed him last night!
"…and these are our friends, Kenzie and Reg Watkins. They're recently married and are looking for a place to live here in town."
"They are?" Mom asked. "Well, as it happens, my friend Marge, over at the Five and Dime mentioned that there was an open house today over on Pine!"