When They Come Back | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

When They Come Back

WHEN THEY COME BACK By: Dallas G. Releford Mark Clayton discovered the sinkhole on his grandfather’s farm when he was fourteen years old. It was just an old hole in the ground, about thirty feet wide and surrounded by a grove of Locust trees. It was full of water and was sometimes the host to young neighborhood boys who dared to go swimming there in the heat of the summertime. There was an old ancient barbwire fence around the place to keep the cattle and horses from falling into the abyss. Since it was a couple of miles from the cliff above the river, the family and just about everyone else figured that it was connected to the river in some way. It was so far away from his home that Mark rarely visited it, until that summer of 1931. What was amazing about this sinkhole was the fact that it was filled with the clearest water that anyone in those parts had ever seen. Some people said that on the night of the first full moon of the year, the water would start to twirl around about midnight. They also said that before an hour had passed, you could hear the sound of the whirlpool. It sounded a lot like the rushing wind, or perhaps, a tornado. Mark had only experienced this phenomenon once in his entire life. That one time had been enough. Nobody knew just why this occurrence happened when it did, or what caused it. Some speculated that the gravitational pull of the moon created a suction of some kind that caused the water to become the whirlpool. Some old farmers thought the river created the whirlpool by means of underground caves that were connected to the pond. Whatever the cause, the effect was one of pure awe. Of course, there were other tales attached to the whirlpool. One such tale that had been told by Indians who lived in the area hundreds of years ago, told of warriors being sucked down into the pit, never to be seen again. The Native Americans believed that the pit opened up into another world. Some of the local old timer’s said that it came out in China. Most local residents dismissed these insinuations as pure “idiocy” and ignored those who even dared to suggest such a thing. As a very young boy, Mark had listened intently to his grandfather recount the stories as his father had told them to him. His grandfather had said, somewhat sarcastically, that it was just another way to get to Hell. Mark had been so frightened by the stories that he believed him. The more Mark had researched the history of the hole in the ground, the more curious he became over the years. Since the hole was on private property, most knowledge of it had been contained in the local area and even some of the people that had more recently moved there didn’t know about it. This made it hard to find out much, so Mark began talking to the old farmers and others that had lived in the area in days gone past. One ancient report, attributed to the Mound Builders, said the hole was created when a glowing, silver stone fell from the sky and knocked a hole through the entire earth. It was a legend in the time of these ancient people, so apparently it happened more than 10,000 years ago. One fact seemed to be apparent; whatever went in never came out. On that hot, sunny afternoon in 1931, the whirlpool looked just like any other farm pond in Central Kentucky. The water looked so cool, calm and mesmerizing that Mark and four of his friends decided to take a quick swim to cool off. With the temperature above 100 degrees and the humidity so high you felt like you were swimming in hot water, the youngsters didn’t need a whole lot of prompting. There seemed to be a voice that beckoned them to enter the cool depths of the pool. It was not like something speaking to you but rather something that just got into your head and you hardly knew it was there until it started talking to you. You just wanted to get it out of your mind but it seemed to keep saying, the only way you will get rid of me is to come into the pond. Mark thought that this might be due to the dreamy, hot, laid back summer afternoon they found themselves in. Every time he had entered the area of the pond, he got this drugged feeling, as if he was sedated and just didn’t care anymore. Being the teenagers that they were didn’t exert too much caution into the situation. Few of them stopped to consider the consequences of their actions because the coolness of the water in the sweltering heat was more appealing than any apparent dangers they might encounter. Joe Owens was the first to bow to the temptation. All five of the friends had stripped naked and sat on the bank with their feet in the cool water. It was as calm as a sheet of paper in a shoebox. One thing that caught Marks attention was that he couldn’t see any of their reflections in the water. He thought that it might be because the water was so clear or maybe the angle of the bank they were standing on had something to do with it. The other thing that really nagged at him was the fact that you couldn’t see the bottom. In fact, you could only see down a few feet and then it was just blackness. Joe was always the first one to do just about everything. He was the real leader of the pack, so to speak. He stuck his big toe in to test the water, or so he said, but everyone knew that the real purpose was to see what happened. The water remained calm so he proceeded to submerge his leg and then finally when everything seemed all right, he dropped his entire body into the cool waters with a big splash that all but covered the others. “How is the water?” Pete Foley yelled as Joe splashed around in the bottomless pit attempting to get back to the surface again. “Everything’s fine,” Joe yelled, “come on in and find out for yourself. Watch that first step though, it’s a big one.” “Oh, I’m sure it is but I think I’ll wait and see if your feet can touch the bottom,” Pete teased. By now, the other boys were getting the urge to enter the water but a little more cautiously than Joe had. After all, they didn’t want to plunge in and go down too far until they found out what it was like. Mike Rowland was the next one to venture into the water. He yelped loudly like an old hound dog just before he slid several feet below the surface. The other boys knew he wasn’t a good swimmer and Joe immediately dived below to help him back to the top. They were all busy enjoying themselves until Joe noticed that Mark was still on the bank. “Hey Mark, when are you coming in?” “I’ll be there in a moment,” he remarked, “I want to put our clothes where they won’t get all muddy and wet.” “Well, hurry up, the afternoon is going to be gone and we won’t get in a good swim.” Joe told him before resuming his act of splashing water all over everyone else. He seemed to ignore the reason Mark had for not entering the pool. At the moment, the safe keeping of their attire seemed to be of low priority. They were all now in the pond, except for Mark. Mark had been standing on the bank and decided to proceed in moving the clothes to a safer distance from the water so they wouldn’t get wet. The only safe place, he decided, was on the other side of the barbwire fence. He felt the prick of the barbs on his back as he crawled through the fence. He would have to remember to tend to the scratch later, he reminded himself. A little scratch from the barbwire could be a serious matter if not tended to. He placed the clothes under the old Oak tree and satisfied that they were now safe, he turned to join the others. He made it through the fence again without mishap. It wasn’t until he was almost to the edge of the pond that he realized how quiet everything really was. Were the other boys playing a prank on him and had run off and hidden? If so, they had done it in just a few moments and he really couldn’t believe they all could have gotten out of the water in that very short period of time. In the time it had taken him to get through the fence, put the clothes under the Oak tree and then turn around, they were gone. Mark felt a cold chill run down his spine and he shuddered at the thought of them playing a malicious prank on him at a time like this. He could hardly believe it but as the moments ticked away, he could feel the pull of the pond on himself and he just wanted to get as far away from the place as he possibly could. After the first shock wave wore off, he decided to play along with the other guys and pretend that he didn’t miss them. The minutes turned into more minutes and finally an hour had elapsed but still there wasn’t any sign of life anywhere. After half-an-hour, he decided that the game had gone on long enough. All of the yelling for the guys to stop playing around and come on out produced absolutely no results. Mark searched the entire area for over an hour before settling down on the bank by the pond to think about what to do next. He noted with little surprise that the sunlight didn’t reflect off the water and the water wasn’t a bit muddy even though four young bodies had been doing their best to make it that way. He wondered what could have happened. By four o’clock in the afternoon, he was really getting worried. There weren’t any tracks where the guys had stepped out of the pond. There was mud all around the edge of the water and there should have been some indication that they had walked out, but there wasn’t. Exactly what he was thinking at this precise moment was a number of things. There were a few possibilities that he had under consideration. Somehow, they could have got out of the pond and were hiding, perhaps trying to freak him out. Maybe they had dived into the lake to see how far they could go and had drowned? And yet, another possibility entered his mind, although remote that it was; the pond had swallowed them up in one big gulp. He didn’t like any of these possibilities but he had to consider all of the facts. He liked the last one least of all. As the afternoon wandered on, he sat there pondering what to do. There wasn’t any concrete proof that they had drowned in the pond or that anything else extraordinary had happened to them. The very fact that they weren’t there was proof that something was amiss. Being the teenager that he was, he was more than reluctant to go home and tell his parents what had happened. He knew how angry his father would be when he learned that he had done something that he had been told not to do, go into the pond. Of course, it was just a stroke of luck that he had hesitated a few moments before diving in. The simple act of moving the clothes had saved his very life but if only something similar could have saved the others. While he put his clothes on he debated on what to do with the other boys clothes. Should he leave them just in case they came back or should he take them with him? It was a question that he didn’t have an immediate answer to so he did the best thing that his logic told him to do, he left them hanging up in the old Oak tree. There they would be safe from any animals and the boys would see them when they came back, if they came back. What would happen if they never came back? The little community was devastated by the news of the disappearance of the children. After a week of searching and mourning for the lost boys, a funeral was held on that following Sunday. The saddest part of the whole incident was the empty coffins that were ceremoniously buried with full honors in the local cemetery. The talk around town for months was about how divers had gone down into the pond but hadn’t been able to find the bottom or anything else. They had reported that the water was as clear as could be and that the walls of the hole dropped straight down from the top. There weren’t any caves or any sign of life in the pool. In despair, the search had finally been given up as hopeless. Unless a miracle happened, they would never see the boys again. For many years afterwards, people claimed that on cold, moonlit nights, you could hear the boys playing in the pond but nobody ever seemed to investigate. Hunters reported seeing a strange blue light coming from the area of the pond. One brave soul had actually gone to the pond to see what was going on but when his hounds ran away, he decided to leave himself. What he had seen was the subject of much discussion in the following weeks and months. He had claimed that he and several other hunters had observed a strange bluish light in the area. He was the only one that would go investigate. When he was close enough to the Locust grove to see a bluish light coming from the pond, the dogs began to act strangely and ran away. They didn’t want anything to do with the pond or the light. He managed to summon up enough courage to enter the Locust grove and get close to the pond where he was able to see a strange blue ray of light shining up from the deepness of the pond. He said that he had the strangest feeling all of a sudden, like something trying to take control of him. In fact, he said that he felt like he was out of control. A sudden feeling of helplessness came over him, like he was drugged. It was at this point that he decided to take control and get out of there. It took every effort on his part for him not to plunge into the pool himself. It was as if something or someone was begging him to please enter the pool. He was not about to do that so he ran as fast as he could. “Maybe I’m a coward,” he told everyone, “but at least I’m a live coward.” There was some talk in the community of covering the pond over in some manner or maybe even filling it up with rocks, but since it didn’t have a bottom, nobody had ever figured out how to do it. Gradually, the memories of the missing boys faded away and everyone pretty much forgot about it except for the families and close friends. The summers went by and it was only occasionally that someone mentioned seeing some strange lights or other unusual occurrences in the area. Mark graduated from high school and married his life long friend, Emily Laker. They settled down on a little farm that Mark tended during the day while working a part-time job on the weekends to make ends meet. Emily became the towns’ only doctor and had a very successful practice going when the first Japanese bombers appeared over Hawaii on that fateful Sunday morning on December 7, 1941. Just like everyone else at the time, they were devastated by the news and Mark reluctantly signed up for the Marines. He hated the Japanese for what they had done to America but he hated having to leave Emily most of all. He would never forget that fateful morning when he kissed her passionately on the mouth, then boarded the troop ship and sailed away toward a rendezvous with destiny, somewhere in the South Pacific. His heart felt as heavy as a ton of lead, his legs felt weak and he almost succumbed to the stress of losing the woman that he loved. He hoped the loss was only temporary and he was confident that it would be. As the ship sailed away, he was able to watch her standing on the dock with the dozens of other women and children. She stood there attempting not to let her feelings show, but he knew that deep in her heart there was the same pain and fear that he himself suffered. He saw the tears in her eyes and felt the sadness in her heart. Neither of them could possibly know at the moment that they would not see each other for a very long time. At the moment though, they both had their memories of times of joy and pleasure to keep them company. Mark spent the next several uneventful weeks on the ship constantly thinking of Emily and wondering what she was doing, where she was and if she was thinking of him as much as he was thinking of her. He wrote her two letters every day with the intention of mailing them when they reached Hawaii, which was their first port of call. Nobody on the ship apparently knew where they would be sent next. He guessed that he would just have to wait and see. Six weeks later, he was no longer guessing where he was, he was just wondering why he was here. His unit found themselves on a small, Pacific island, which was about forty miles in diameter, located near the Solomon Islands. It was so small that it didn’t have an official name but it had some strategic importance in the overall scheme of things. The powers that be figured that a small group of Marines placed here could watch for any enemy ships or carriers that might enter the area and they also planned to build an airstrip on the island. The central part of the island was flat and level but surrounded on two sides by mountains. This was almost a perfect place for an airfield. It would be almost undetectable from the sea. Unfortunately, the Japanese had the same theory. The only bad thing about it was they were already on the island but the Marines were not aware of it. At least, they weren’t aware of it just yet. The Marines had settled in and set up observation posts on the southwest side of the island near the beach. This side of the island had a high cliff that led down to the beach and was the perfect place where you could hide without being seen. Most of the landscape was perfectly tropical, mostly thick, overgrown jungle, a conglomerate of vines and overgrown leaves. The weather wasn’t much better with almost constant hot rain, thunderstorms and a high humidity, which made up a lot of soggy mud. It was difficult and sometimes almost impossible to travel very far in the dense undergrowth. It was because of this situation that the Marines didn’t discover that they weren’t alone on the island. They hadn’t traveled very far from where they had landed and since they took several days to set up camp, they themselves had virtually gone undiscovered. This all changed the first time they sent out a patrol. Mark was chosen to lead the patrol as he had been promoted to Captain. He felt confident that his training, common sense and love of God would see him through. He was further encouraged by his determination to live through all of this so he could see Emily again. No matter what the obstacles, he would have to lead his men through them. It took hours of grueling, hard, fatiguing travel through the wet, hot jungle before they finally reached the peak of the mountain and were able to look down on the valley below. It was a combination of jungle, bare spots where the foliage had died for some reason or the other and the island seemed to have a few inland waterways. There would have to be some heavy equipment brought in to make the airfield, he reasoned, but it could be done. The next thing they wanted to do was to go down into the valley and explore a little more to find out just how level the land was. This resulted in the first encounter with the elite Japanese warriors who considered the island theirs and intended to keep it that way. The party consisted of Mark, who was leading the expedition and five other young Marines. They made their way down the inland side of the mountain and into the hot, mosquito infested jungle below. The sun beat down on their helmets, forever tempting them to remove the headgear but they dared not to do so. They had crossed one stream and traveled about one-half mile into the jungle on the other side when they came upon a small lake in the middle of the jungle. Mark thought that it was strange at first because it was fresh water while all of the other streams in the area they had found so far, had been fed from the ocean and was salt water. But as they quenched their thirst with the cool water and threw it all over each other, they soon forgot about the strangeness of the pool. There was still something vaguely familiar about this particular pool and Mark could not quite place what it was. Jason Patton was the one who suggested that they should take a break from the grueling work, fill up their canteens and go for a swim. Mark posted a guard to keep watch and allowed the men to fill up the canteens and relax a little before continuing the exploration. As he leaned over the pool and saw his reflection in the water, he suddenly realized how deep the small lake really was. Just as Robert Norris was about to plunge in, he grabbed him by the arm and held him back. Memories from a distant time and a different place flashed into this mind. He remembered a similar situation of long ago. “What’s the matter, Cap?” Robert asked, halting just in the nick of time. “Something funny here,” Mark replied, “wait just a moment and let’s think this situation over.” Everything was beginning to become clear. Something was truly unique in this environment, something he had seen before. Mark didn’t like what he was thinking. Was this a pool like the one back home, a pool where people went swimming, never to return? If so, he wasn’t going to let that happen again. Completely aware of the situation at hand, he picked up the largest rock that he could find and threw it toward the center of the pool. It fell with a huge splash getting everyone wet. He looked down as they all gathered around him to see what was going on. He couldn’t see it hit the bottom of the pool; in fact, he couldn’t even see the bottom. “What the hell is going on here, Captain, ain’t that thing got no bottom to it?” Roger Spears was not the excitable kind. He was from the backcountry of Kentucky and it took a lot to spook him but Mark could clearly see that he was concerned. “I don’t know for sure ----- I just think that we should drink it and not swim in it,” Mark said. “But Cap,” Robert protested, “it’s hot out here and I was so looking forward to a nice refreshing dip in the pond.” “It might be refreshing but it might also be your last,” Mark replied. “What do you mean, Cap?” “There isn’t any bottom ---- it is bottomless,” he replied softly as he turned away and started back to where the guard was stationed about forty yards away. “Take some of the water in your helmets and pour it over each other, that will cool you off.” The first mortar exploded on the other side of the pond sending a shower of rocks, mud and water all over the five comrades. “Cover!” Mark yelled at the others as they ran for the cover of the big trees beside the lake. Most of them were naked and few had time to grab their clothes. Then the submachine gun opened up as bark and splinters from trees in the path of the deadly lead and steel sprayed the air. The splinters were almost as deadly as the real thing. Nate Johnson was hit by the first volley and lay on the ground near the pool bleeding and yelling for help. As soon as Mark reached cover he turned just in time to see another mortar take his leg off. Joe was past screaming now. It was like the yell of some alien creature, something that was hardly recognizable. Mark felt pangs of fear and dread shoot through his entire system. It was the moment that he had hated to think about throughout his brief war career. He had to make a decision. He had to get his man out of there and get him some medical attention. The Marine on the bank of the small pool wouldn’t last long under the circumstances. He was bleeding to death even as Mark was thinking about what to do. Mark looked around him. There were at least three machine guns. There was one on the right and left and one straight ahead. He could hear small arms fire as bullets cut through the air with increasing ferocity. He knew that the Japs also had at least one mortar and they were definitely pinned down. If he went after the downed Marine, he would surely be killed. “Robert, Jason ----- ROGER,” he yelled at the Marines, partly to get their attention but mostly to be heard above the deafening noise, “give me some cover, all that you can. I’m going after Nate. Cover me!” The first three or four yards seemed like miles as he scurried forward on this stomach as he had been taught to do. He felt like an Indian and wished that he had all of the attributes of one. The bullets were humming and zinging over his head as he crawled slowly forward. “Hold on Nate,” he said, “I’m coming to get you.” He didn’t hear any more sounds from Nate. Was he dead or had he just lost consciousness? He knew the man would be better off if he was dead. From what he had seen, he had taken several rounds in the stomach and chest and then the mortar had blown his leg off. Without instant treatment, he would soon be a goner anyway. “Nate,” he yelled, “are you okay Nate?” There wasn’t an answer. When he finally made it to the downed Marine he discovered that he was indeed no longer of this earth. With bullets flying all around him he made his way back to where Robert and Jason were huddled behind a big tree. “Looks bad Captain,” Robert said as Mark crawled up on his belly, “they got us pinned down --- how’s Nate?” Mark just shook his head and they understood. Words would not explain things any better. “What do we do now?” Jason asked nervously pinching off a few rounds and then ducking back behind the tree. A few bullets tore up the tree beside him. “Not much we can do, just wait and see if we can pick off a few. Maybe we can sneak off in the dark or something.” “That’s gonna be a few hours,” Robert reminded him, “big question is, can we hold off that long?” “We got to,” Mark answered, “we just got to, we don’t have much choice.” “Cap, do you think the other guys can hear the guns and come to our rescue?” “Not likely, “ Mark answered, “they’re on the other side of the island ---- even if they did, it would take them several hours to get here.” “How many do you think are out there,” Jason asked. “Maybe twenty or so,” Mark answered, looking like he had aged a lot in the last hour. The mortars fell and the bullets were almost a steady stream by the time the sun was setting and it was getting dark. Mike had been hit in the arm and was in terrible pain. They made him as comfortable as they could under the circumstances. Mark had two men left that could fight, not counting himself. The odds were not good. It rained steadily for over an hour and the Moon came out. Mark figured it was about eight o’clock as the Moon now was about at 2100 hours. An eerie fog hung close to the ground and almost covered the pond to a point that you couldn’t tell it was there. The bare landscape around the pond area looked like snow in Wisconsin in mid-December. “Looks hopeless, boss,” Roger replied with tears in his eyes, “it’s been real nice working with you guys.” They all could hear the noise of something or someone moving all around them. They knew that they were completely surrounded. It would seem that it was all over for them. The end of the war and they hadn’t even killed one Jap yet. “Don’t despair,” Mark said, “we’ll make it yet.” He wasn’t all that sure himself but he wanted to keep the morale of the men up. Without hope, they wouldn’t have any chance at all. “What is that noise?” Robert looked quickly toward the pond. They all responded by looking toward the pond but didn’t see anything. “Just the wind or something,” Mark assured him. “Oh sure Cap,” Jason said, “the wind don’t sound like that, now does it ---- Listen!” They all heard the swishing, roaring noise as if a small tornado was tearing through the jungle or twirling the water in the lake around. Then all of a sudden they all could see some great black form emerge from the pond. In the moonlight they could see whatever it was fall on the bank. In the next few moments the one form became four as four heavily armed soldiers emerged from the one being. Mark thought it was a trick of the enemy or maybe he was dreaming or worse yet, maybe they were dead and this was hell. Whatever it was, the four forms started moving toward them. Mark was just as shocked as the others as they helplessly watched the dark figures move forward. “They’re ours!” Jason shouted excitedly. “Can’t be, that pond is bottomless,” Mark replied, “unless ----- ,” and then he hesitated. “No, it just can’t be.” “Can’t be what, Captain?” Roger asked. “Just can’t be,” Mark exclaimed staring at the dark, empty figures, “just can’t be.” By now the enemy had seen the advancing soldiers and opened fire but the steel covered bullets just passed right on through the dark banshee forms. In a few minutes the phantom soldiers had divided up and three took out the pill boxes and the other one got the mortar. In half an hour all of the enemy were either killed or were running for other parts of the island, preferably as far away as they could get. “Just unbelievable,” Mark exclaimed, “come on, let’s help them mop up what’s left of those guys.” In a few short minutes, it was all over. Mark and the others followed the phantom soldiers as they marched back toward the pond. As the soldiers stood on the bank of the little lake they all turned around and saluted the four remaining marines. Then one of them picked up the dead marine and tossed him in the lake. Mark walked up toward the phantom soldiers. He hoped he could get close before they went back into the lake because he knew now why the lake looked so familiar. “Thanks Pete, Joe, Mike ---- gosh, it really is good to see you guys again. What happened to you anyway?” He really didn’t expect an answer and was greatly surprised to get one. The four ghostly figures that had once been his teenage friends were now grown men or at least grown ghosts. He could hardly recognize them except for certain features they all still retained. There were some things about people that never changed, he reckoned. “Can’t --- can’t wait for long,” the first figure that Mark recognized as being Mike Rowland said. “The Lake is some kind of time portal with certain powers that we can’t fully understand. It goes from one side of the earth to the other. We were suspended in time but we were aged and transported here because we had a specific purpose in life --- that purpose was to save you so you can return to Emily and play an important part in this war. I figure this island is important and it’s important that you hold it --- maybe fate intervened.” Mark was hesitant to ask too many questions because he was afraid they would disappear at any moment but he hoped he had time to gain some knowledge about what had happened to his friends. “What do you mean that you were stuck in time?” “I guess we went through the portal when it was weak or something because we found ourselves suspended in time --- a blackness; a nothingness that extended into forever, into eternity. It seems like we’ve been isolated there forever, mere phantoms of what we were that you see now. We’re images or reflections from the mirror. The only time we can come out is when the moon is just right and the whirlpool appears. We think we are trapped there forever --- except at certain times can we leave our prison. We will see you again when the whirlpool appears on the other side of the earth ---- back home, Mark.” “But, when will I know to look for you and will you be older or younger?” Mark was completely confused but he figured they might know some answers to his questions. “Mark, we really don’t know,” Joe Owens answered. “We really don’t have too many answers. Maybe the time portal is some kind of force field that can sense certain needs and meet them? Maybe it’s some kind of invisible creature? We believe that we can leave for a short period when the conditions are right but we don’t know how long we can remain out of the pool ---- Mark, only time will tell and we’ll all just have to wait and see what happens. We all miss you and we’ll always be nearby.” “That’s right,” Mike said, his voice trailing off into the distance, a reverberating echo of what it once was, “and your friend that was killed --- well, we sent him through the portal and he should arrive on the other end, alive. We have some knowledge about the portal and what it can do but that knowledge is limited. It seems we get the knowledge when we need to have it. I really think the portal is intelligent; a living thing was we said.” “That’s all so great,” Mark said almost crying, tears swelling up in his eyes, “I really do miss you guys.” Mark could barely recognize his old friends, shadows of the night that they were. Even the voice of Mike Rowland seemed to be coming from the wind. “Don’t waste time ---- get out of here,” the other figure said, “there’s more Japs and they’ll come back and we won’t be able to help you this time.” Mark thought the phantom that warned them of the impending danger was Pete Foley but he wasn’t totally sure because the figures were starting to fade like the fog on the ground. “Thanks for the help this time and I miss you guys ---- we all miss you.” “We know and we’ll all be together someday,” Mike said. “What do you mean?” Mark asked. “The meteor or whatever it was that crashed here thousands of years ago was some kind of antimatter that created sort of a black hole in the earth. It will be here for eternity but for now, we are trapped in it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to leave when we’re needed or the being in the portal allows us to leave and I have reason to believe that when it is done with us that we’ll be released.” With that, the four phantom soldiers saluted once again and disappeared into the deep, bottomless lake. Mark stood sadly and watched them go. He gave one last salute to his valued friends. Would he ever see them again? “Wow!” Jason said almost feinting. “You sure have some strange but most welcome friends.” “Yes, I really do,” Mark agreed. “Just one thing though,” Robert insisted. “What is that? “ Mark asked. “I think that we all should agree to keep this between ourselves.” “I think so too, “ Mark replied, “after all, who would believe us.” Four years later Mark lay beside Emily in bed. She was sleeping soundly and he was thinking about the life they had together now that he was home. He had continued his education and was now a great writer, known far and wide for his books on mystery and science fiction. There was one story that he was afraid to write. He was afraid that it would put a curse on the friends that he knew that he would always have in the pond in the woods. He often visited them on moonlit nights and spent as much time as he could with them. He always explained to Emily that he was out hunting but she acted as if she didn’t believe him. Somehow, he knew that she knew what he was doing and just didn’t want to question him. Nate had been there along with the others and they all promised that every time the moon was full and the whirlpool would permit it to be so that they would visit with each other. They all had a lot of stories to tell and many happy times to talk about. Whatever the force was in the portal, it had decided to keep Nate in the portal with his other friends. One good thing that made Mark exceptionally happy was that his friends didn’t age anymore. The End
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