A low growling sound made Van jump. He looked around cautiously to see if there were some demon about to attack them.
"Sorry. I didn't have a chance to eat dinner." Kerry said timidly.
Van looked at him with surprise, then broke into a grin as he said, "We should have some leftovers in the kitchen, if that's okay."
"You don't need to bother. I'll be fine. I should have thought to drive through somewhere on the way to the team meeting. I just didn't know that we were going to have a case tonight." Kerry said honestly.
"It's no trouble. Besides, if you eat the leftovers, then Mom will have to make us new food tomorrow. I'm ready for new food. So you'll be helping me out." Van said with a grin.
"Well... I am here to help." Kerry said reluctantly.
"Come on." Van said warmly as he led the way out of the dining room.
* * * * *
"Oh, there you are." Alana said as she walked into the kitchen.
"Van's fixing me something to eat." Kerry said timidly.
"Would you like some? There's enough for one more plate." Van offered pleasantly.
"Thank you, no. But could I use your phone? As you saw, mine had an unfortunate accident, earlier." Alana asked hopefully.
"Sure. It's right over..." Van began to say, then looked strangely at the wall by the kitchen door.
"What's wrong?" Kerry asked with concern.
"The phone. It's not there." Van said with surprise.
"What do you mean?" Alana asked cautiously.
"There should be a phone on the wall, right there by the door." Van said as he slowly walked to the wall and felt around where the phone was usually located.
"This isn't good." Alana said anxiously.
The sudden sound of a high pitched ::beep:: caused Kerry to jump about a foot in the air.
"Your food's ready." Van said absently as he continued to inspect the wall where the phone had always been.
Kerry slowly walked to the microwave, then thought to say, "You can use my cellphone, if you like."
"Um, no. I need to talk to Derek, right now. This isn't good." Alana said distractedly, then hurried out the kitchen door, toward the dining room.
"How could the phone just disappear, like that?" Van asked disbelievingly.
"I don't know." Kerry said as he took the plate out of the microwave.
"Whatever it was seems like it really bothered her." Van said seriously as he walked back to Kerry's side.
"It's not making me too happy, either." Kerry said frankly as he picked up a fork.
"Stop!" Van said abruptly and reached out to put his hand on Kerry's wrist.
"What?" Kerry asked as he froze in place.
"Look." Van whispered.
Kerry followed Van's gaze to the plate of food, which was alive with maggots and flies.
From there, Kerry looked at the fork, inches from his mouth, and found the food there was also infested.
"I think I lost my appetite." Kerry said as he slowly set the plate and fork on the kitchen counter.
"Me, too." Van said anxiously.
"Let's go into the dining room and see what Alana came up with." Kerry said as he started toward the door.
"Yeah." Van said, following a step behind.
* * * * *
"Where's Alana?" Kerry asked as he and Van walked into the dining room.
"Upstairs, with the doctor and her husband, as far as I know." Derek said as he worked on trying to salvage what he could of their equipment.
"She was just with us in the kitchen and said that she was going to come in here and talk to you." Kerry said anxiously.
"Alana? What's your location?" Derek asked into the walkie-talkie.
"I'm in the basement." Alana said cautiously.
"Is something going on, down there?" Derek asked slowly.
"Not that I can tell. But the funny thing is, when I walked through the door into the dining room, I somehow ended up down here." Alana said in puzzlement.
"Um... guys." Van said as he moved closer to Kerry's side.
Kerry followed Van's amazed wide-eyed stare at the blank wall where the door had been moments before.
"On a related topic, it appears that the dining room door is missing." Derek said slowly into the walkie-talkie.
"So are the basement stairs. And the basement seems to have become an endless labyrinthine maze." Alana said in frustration, then thought to ask, "Is everyone else there with you?"
"I have Charity, Kerry and Van here with me." Derek said cautiously.
"Good. Stay together." Alana said seriously, then thought to ask, "Dr. Osmani? Are you and your husband alright?"
"Yes. We are well. We have remained in our bedroom. Is there anything that we can do to help you?" Dr. Osmani asked cautiously.
"The best thing you can do right now is to stay together. One of us will come and get you once we've figured this thing out." Alana said confidently.
"Please, just let us know if there is any way that we can be of help." Dr. Osmani said grimly.
"Yes. And you call us if there's anything we can do for you." Alana said seriously.
* * * * *
"What do we do, now?" Van asked in a whisper.
"I don't know what we can do." Derek answered honestly.
"The door's back." Charity said cautiously.
"What's it doing over there?" Van asked anxiously.
After a long moment of silence, Derek quietly said, "It's teasing us."
"Should we open it and see where it goes?" Kerry asked quietly.
"On the list of really stupid, bad ideas, I think that's probably pretty close to the top." Derek said frankly.
"Our only other choice is to stay here." Kerry said frankly.
"Actually, I have no problem with that." Derek said honestly.
"It's gone." Van said suddenly.
Everyone turned in unison to see that the door that had been there a moment before was now conspicuously absent.
"What kind of a funhouse have we gotten ourselves into, here?" Charity asked as she cautiously looked around.
"Why? Are you having fun?" Derek asked with weak humor.
"One of these days I'm going to hurt you. You know that, don't you?" Charity asked dryly.
"Mrs. Batton kept saying how everything she was seeing was lies." Kerry said thoughtfully.
"Yeah. She said that the smell was the truth, but the ghosts and most of everything else was lies." Van confirmed.
"What are you thinking, Kerry?" Charity asked curiously.
"I think that Alana must have been onto something. She must have been getting too close to the truth, so the demon, or whatever it is, started switching things up to stop her... or maybe to distract us." Kerry said thoughtfully.
"Alana. Kerry thinks that all of this is happening to distract us." Derek said seriously into the walkie-talkie.
Everyone waited for a moment for the response, but there was none.
"Guys." Van said in a shaky voice, then held up his hand, which was now holding a walkie-talkie.
Kerry checked his belt and found that his own walkie-talkie was still there.
"Alana was about to call someone. Do you know who that might have been?" Kerry asked thoughtfully.
"I don't know. I guess it depends on what she was trying to do." Derek said frankly.
"Alana. Kerry thinks that all of this is happening to distract us." Derek's voice said from Van's walkie-talkie.
Van stared at it for a moment, then cautiously walked to set the walkie-talkie on the dining room table.
"Don't let yourselves get distracted. If we weren't close to figuring something out, it probably wouldn't be going to all this trouble." Kerry said firmly.
"Yeah. Well, I guess if Alana were going to call someone, it would probably be either an exorcist or a demonologist." Derek said thoughtfully.
"Right. If we can figure out which one, then maybe we can find a way to contact them ourselves." Charity said slowly.
"Why not just call them both?" Van asked curiously.
Derek and Charity looked at him with surprise at the suggestion.
"I'm sure my parents wouldn't mind paying extra for whichever one we don't need. In fact, I'm okay with dipping into my college fund if it'll make this stop." Van said frankly.
"It won't come to that, but thanks." Derek said as he started typing on the laptop before him.
After a few seconds, he stopped and said, "Imagine that, the battery is dead."
"We'll find a power cord for you." Kerry said as he walked to the nearest pile of computer equipment debris along the wall and started digging.
Derek nodded, then started working his way through other pieces of equipment, searching for cords, batteries or a working laptop.
"The door's back." Van said slowly.
"Ignore it. This is where we need to be, right now." Kerry said as he continued to dig.
"Um, I need to go to the bathroom." Van said shyly.
"Actually, if there's a bathroom on the other side of that door, I could really stand to go, too." Charity said regretfully.
Kerry let out a slight indignant huff, then said, "Do you see that ficus over there? That's our bathroom. If neither of you can hold it... you'll do what you have to do."
Charity and Van looked at Kerry with matching looks of horror at the suggestion.
"The only way anyone is walking through that door is if we all walk through it with you." Kerry said firmly.
"Alana. Kerry thinks that all of this is happening to distract us." Derek's voice sounded from the walkie-talkie on the dining room table, again.
"That's really disturbing." Derek said anxiously.
"I'm sure that's the point." Kerry said flatly.
Suddenly, from the dead laptop on the table, a gruff voice said, "I'll see you in hell, little girl. Wear something nasty."
As everyone watched, a little puff of smoke wafted up from the keyboard.
Derek looked to Charity and seemed to be about to say something, but before he could, she pointed at him and said, "Don't."
Derek broke into a smile, then went back to work, digging through the computer salvage at the edge of the room.
"Do you think we should chance trying my cellphone?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"I have mine. But after what happened with Alana's, I'm a little hesitant to do that." Derek said honestly.
"But think about it. That was incoming. This will be outgoing, so it might work. Besides, the cellphones aren't doing us any good if we're afraid to use them." Kerry said frankly.
"Okay." Derek said, then added, "But I'm using speaker."
"Good call." Kerry said with a nod.
* * * * *
Everyone gathered around as Derek selected the proper number from his list of contacts.
"Christoph, it's Derek. Listen, we're at 13th and Elm and we've got a really nasty..." Derek was saying when the smoke started rising from the cellphone. A moment later, the back of the phone was beginning to melt to the table.
"Do you think he got the message?" Charity asked nervously.
"We can hope." Derek said frankly.
"What else can we do?" Van asked quietly.
"How many phones do we have left?" Derek asked seriously.
"I've got one." Kerry said immediately.
"Me, too." Charity said firmly.
"Good. Let's give Christoph some time and if he doesn't show up in... let's say, an hour, then we can try calling someone else." Derek said decisively.
"But what do we do when he gets here? How do we answer the front door?" Van asked cautiously.
"If there even is a front door." Kerry added.
"Good point." Derek said simply, then continued, "And I guess, with the way things are, that one room is pretty much like another."
"So do you want to try door number one, or door number two?" Charity asked seriously.
Everyone turned to find that there were now two doors on the same wall at opposite ends of the room.
"Maybe we should split up." Derek said cautiously.
"Absolutely not." Kerry and Van said in unison, then looked at each other and grinned.
"Go ahead and grab anything you think that we might need, because there's a good chance that we won't be coming back here." Derek said seriously.
"Alana. Kerry thinks that all of this is happening to distract us." Derek's voice said from the walkie-talkie sitting on the table.
Kerry looked at Van and quietly said, "Leave that here."
Van nodded his wholehearted agreement.
* * * * *
"Here we go." Derek said as he opened the door that he had initially used to enter the room.
"What room is this?" Charity asked as she stepped through.
"This is my room." Van said with surprise.
"Where's the camera?" Derek asked cautiously.
"What do you mean?" Van asked curiously.
"I set a camera up in here, focused on the closet. It's gone." Derek said carefully.
"Is there some kind of a timeslip going on, maybe?" Kerry asked uncertainly.
"So this might be earlier or later in the night?" Derek asked uncertainly.
"Or it might all be some kind of illusion." Charity offered.
"It doesn't matter. This isn't getting us any closer to the front door. If there's any kind of logic to this, then our only chance is to keep moving." Kerry said seriously.
"Right. I guess there's only one choice of door, this time." Derek said with resignation.
"There's the closet, too." Charity offered.
"No." Kerry and Van both said firmly.
"Just asking." Charity said as she raised her hands in surrender.
"Come on." Derek said with a grin, then opened the bedroom door.
* * * * *
"I'm guessing from the decor that this is Malika's room." Kerry said as he looked around.
"Yeah." Van said anxiously.
"The camera's missing from in here, too." Derek said absently.
"So, what are our options?" Charity asked as she looked around.
"Go back through the door, or don't." Kerry said frankly.
"Stay together or don't." Derek added.
"I can't see any advantage to splitting up, or to staying here." Kerry said honestly.
"I can't really see much advantage to us continuing on, either." Charity said frankly.
"There's always the chance that when we go back through that we'll end up at the front door." Derek said weakly, obviously not believing it himself.
"There really isn't a choice." Kerry said as he walked back to the door that they had entered through.
* * * * *
"Not good." Kerry said as soon as he recognized their surroundings.
"Basement, huh?" Derek asked as he looked around.
"Yeah. And Alana already said that the stairway was missing." Kerry said nervously.
"If the door's still there, we might still be able to find a way to make it work." Derek said cautiously.
"Let's try over here." Van said quietly.
"What's over there?" Kerry asked curiously.
"Well, if it's the same as it was, there should be a door." Van said seriously.
"Lead the way." Kerry said decisively, then thought to ask, "Where does this door go?"
"Nowhere. It's like a little closet thing, where they kept canning jars." Van said quietly.
"Alana! Are you down here?" Charity called out.
"I think it's safe to say that she isn't." Derek said frankly.
"This is wrong." Van said as he stopped.
"What's that?" Kerry asked with concern.
"This is where the door should be. It's gone." Van said frankly.
"Then I guess that we should keep moving." Kerry said uncertainly.
"No." Derek said firmly.
"Why not?" Kerry asked curiously.
"Because, when we stayed in one place, back in the dining room, the doors kept coming and going. If there's 'supposed' to be a door here, then maybe we should just wait here for a few minutes for it to show up." Derek said thoughtfully.
"Yeah. I guess that makes sense." Kerry said cautiously.
"And there it is." Charity said with a smile.
"Let's get it before it takes off again." Derek said as he led the way.
"Stick close, Van." Kerry said before following.
* * * * *
"What the actual FUCK is going on here?" Derek asked indignantly as he stepped back into the dining room.
Every bit of equipment that had been broken and battered, laying around the room, was now back in it's proper place, seemingly in pristine condition.
"Check to see if you have an Internet connection and if the camera feeds are working." Kerry said quickly.
"Yeah." Derek said with distraction as he moved around the table and sat down.
"Don't we need to be searching for the front door?" Charity asked quietly.
"Let me see what we've got here." Derek said carefully, then froze in place.
"What is it?" Kerry asked with immediate concern.
"It's us. This is the live feed and I can see us walking in the upstairs hall." Derek said distantly.
"Alana, this is Kerry. What's your location?" Kerry asked firmly.
"I'm in Mr. and Dr. Osmani's room. Is something wrong?" Alana asked cautiously.
"Yes. Something's very wrong. There's too much to explain on the radio." Kerry said honestly.
"Are you in the command center?" Alana asked carefully.
"Yes. Derek, Charity and Van are with me." Kerry said seriously.
"I'll be right down." Alana said firmly.
"This isn't right." Kerry said quietly.
"Gee whiz, Captain Obvious, do ya think so?" Derek asked with a roll of his eyes.
"What about the Internet, did you have any luck with that?" Kerry asked thoughtfully.
"No. No connection." Derek answered simply.
"What about the computer time? Is it right?" Kerry asked curiously.
Derek looked at his watch, then at the laptop before saying, "It seems to be."
"Alana. Kerry thinks that all of this is happening to distract us." Derek's voice sounded from the walkie-talkie in Van's hand.
"When did you pick that back up?" Kerry asked curiously.
"I didn't. I just all of a sudden... had it... again." Van said as he set the walkie-talkie on the dining room table.
"We're being misled. This different time or dimension or illusion or whatever it is seems to be trying to divert us from reaching the front door." Kerry said honestly.
"But we have to stay here in case Alana can find her way back here." Derek said in a conflicted tone.
"Which Alana? And which here?" Kerry asked with frustration.
"Who's up for trying door number two?" Charity asked seriously.
"Let's do it." Derek said as he got up from behind the computers.
Charity and Derek walked through the door, side by side, followed immediately by Kerry and Van.
* * * * *
"Welcome back." Charity said tiredly as she looked around Van's room, yet again.
"We're just going around in circles." Van said wearily.
"Does anyone want to try the closet door, this time?" Derek asked unenthusiastically.
"What do you say, Van? Are you up to it?" Kerry asked quietly.
"Yeah. Why not?" Van answered tiredly.
Derek opened the closet door, then as a group, they stepped into darkness.
* * * * *
"Ow! Someone turn a light on!" Kerry said quickly as he rubbed his head.
Two different flashlights turned on at the same time.
"Where are we?" Derek asked as he looked around the stuffy, confined space.
"I think this is the attic." Van said uncertainly.
"Do you know the way out?" Kerry asked hopefully.
"Um, let me see. I'm turned around, here. Um, yeah. I think there's a door over there that leads to a stairway." Van said as he pointed.
"Go ahead. We're right behind you." Kerry said encouragingly.
"Everyone. Watch your step. If you fall through this floor, I can't imagine where you might end up." Derek said frankly.
No one seemed to have the will to dispute his words as they followed Van on the walkway of wooden planks.
* * * * *
"Well, it was supposed to lead to the stairs." Van said as he looked around the kitchen.
"This is progress. We have an external exit and a phone." Kerry said as he quickly surveyed their surroundings.
Charity walked to the phone and picked it up.
Rather than receiving a dial tone, an angry man's voice bellowed, "YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!"
"Yeah. You already said that. Do you think you could either let us out or at least give us a door that leads to a bathroom?" Charity asked hopefully.
She listened for a moment, careful not to bring the phone too close to her ear, and heard no response.
After clicking the cradle a few times and receiving no dial tone, she finally gave up.
"Does anyone want to give the back door a try?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"I'm all for jumping out a window, at this point." Derek said honestly.
"Maybe on our next pass through the kitchen." Kerry said wearily.
"Kerry, your food. It's not here." Van said suddenly.
"Check the refrigerator. See if the food that you took out is missing." Kerry said quickly.
Van cautiously walked to the refrigerator and peeked inside before saying, "No. It's still there, just like it was before."
"Let's just stop for a minute. This is getting us nowhere." Kerry said seriously.
"I doubt that stopping will get us anywhere, either." Derek said frankly.
"Van, when we were in your room, the camera was missing. Did you notice anything else being out of place?" Kerry asked thoughtfully.
"No. It was the same as it always is." Van said cautiously.
"Derek, when we went to the dining room the last time, did you notice anything missing or out of place?"
"You mean, besides the doors?"
"Yeah. Besides that." Kerry confirmed.
"No. I think everything was there." Derek said slowly.
"And when we talked to Alana on the radio the last time, she had no idea what we were talking about." Kerry said slowly.
"Yeah. So?" Derek asked impatiently.
"To us, it looks like something's wrong with reality. But I think whatever's going on is really happening to us. Maybe we're unconscious or asleep or in a trance or something. We might even be physically here, but that would mean that 'here' is an alternate reality, and whenever it changes, it resets back to a point in 'real' reality." Kerry said carefully.
"As crazy as that sounds, it's not even in the top ten craziest things that have happened today. Go on." Charity said seriously.
"If we're trapped inside this thing, how do we end the illusion, break the spell, or get back to our own plane of existence?" Kerry asked as he looked around.
There was a long moment of silence, until Van quietly said, "Mrs. Batton kept saying that everything was false. All of it was a lie. The only thing she talked about being real was the smell."
"Draw in the light. Let it surround you." Kerry said distantly.
"What?" Charity asked slowly.
"When Mrs. Batton and Max got here, that's what she told Max to do to protect himself. She said something about 'attuning' or 'acclimating' so that they could see past the lies." Kerry said thoughtfully.
"It sounds like a bunch of hippie crap to me, but, what the hell, I'll give it a try. What do we have to do?" Charity asked casually.
"Close your eyes and draw in the light. Gather it around you. Let it surround you and protect you." Kerry said calmly.
"Are you going to try to uncramp my chakras and smooth out my aura, while you're at it?" Charity asked with a grin.
"Just close your eyes and pretend you're a glowstick." Kerry said with playful aggravation, then looked around the table and said, "Let's join hands and all try this together."
They were silent for a moment, then Charity quietly began singing, "Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya."
Derek released her hand long enough to swat her playfully on the shoulder.
"Draw in the light. Let it surround you and protect you. Let the lies fade in the light of truth..."
* * * * *
"What do you mean? Who summoned what?" Alana asked quickly.
"It's impossible to say, at this point. There's too much darkness, too many lies." Mrs. Batton said seriously, then glanced at Derek, Charity, Kerry and Van as she continued, "But I'm sure that you'll be able to see past the lies, to what's beneath."
"Thank you for coming, Mrs. Batton. I can't tell you how much we appreciate it." Alana said sincerely.
"That's alright, Dear. I think I know." Mrs. Batton said with a smile as she and Max walked out of the house and to her car.
After seeing them off, Alana walked back into the house and said, "If you'll wait down here for me, I need to go upstairs and talk to Mr. and Dr. Osmani about bringing in an exorcist to release their possessions so that the medicine will have a chance to work. Normally I'd wait for the second night of the investigation to call in a professional, after we had completed the evidence review. But this time, I don't think that we can afford to wait."
"We'll see you in the dining room, when you're done." Kerry said quietly.
* * * * *
"You guys remember the same thing I do, don't you?" Charity asked when they were alone in the dining room.
"Doorways moving and disappearing?" Kerry asked cautiously.
Charity slowly nodded, as she looked at Kerry and Van anxiously.
"Alana. Kerry thinks that all of this is happening to distract us." Derek's voice sounded from a walkie-talkie on the dining room table.
The room fell silent.
Charity looked around anxiously as a shiver of dread ran up her spine. Then she spotted Derek on the far side of the room with another walkie-talkie in his hands and nearly doubled over with laughter.
"You asshole!" Charity screamed.
"Everything's okay." Kerry chuckled as he walked to Van and put an arm around him.
"Yeah. I think it's going to be." Van said as he enjoyed the show of affection.
I feel as though I just watched the whole season of Dallas where the guy shot J.R. and then watched the whole darn second Newhart show, where at the end he ends up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Dang! I was shooting for Wizard of Oz when it all turned black & white again!