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In the dark: In Principio

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2019

Tom arrived at the police station in a bad mood, and he remained in this bad mood. Even Sam had taken notice and decided not to speak out on it. This day already started bad, Tom didn’t want to think about the way it was going to end.

Sometimes, he wished he hadn’t worked himself into this shit.

Around noon, he and Sam returned to their blackboard. They had attached pictures to it, written on it with chalk, and added all of the information at their disposal. Pictures of Tim, Deb, and now of Alice were attached to the board, and now they could finally add the picture of a suspect.

It was a composite of a man’s face, one Sam had made based on the description his daughter had given. A man with dark hair, a mustache, and a hat. He even had a name: Ted. It was good to have a face to focus on, but it was harder when Tom had never seen that face before. It did not even feel familiar.

Even when it looked like they were making progress, it did not feel like it. It felt like they were set back every time progress is made.

“Do you know why I became a cop?” Tom eventually asked. Sam, who had been staring at their board as long as Tom had, turned his head to his colleague. It didn’t look like he was going to say anything unless Sam answered in some way.

“I suppose you’re going to tell me now,” Sam said, and Tom nodded.

Yeah. It was time to get into this topic and to let all of his frustrations regarding the case out.

“I became a cop because in 1986, with Max’s investigation, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. They did everything wrong and it didn’t help the chief was an incompetent cheating asshole. But I would do the right thing. I’d do things differently.”

Sam was looking at Tom with a worried face. He didn’t know where this was going, but he knew that he worried about Tom and his mental health. He was in a vulnerable state. He wasn’t doing stupid things anymore, but that didn’t mean Sam wasn’t going to turn a blind eye when he ranted like this.

“But look at us now,” Tom continued. “Nothing has changed. Everything’s the same as it was thirty-three years ago. Two girls and my son are missing and now I’m the incompetent ass. We’re not going to get any further.”

And something popped into Sam’s mind as Tom finished his small rant. It was something Charlotte told him a long time ago, but it seemed fitting to their situation. It might not further their case, but it could take Tom’s mind off of things.

“Do you know about the thirty-three-year cycle?” Sam asked. Tom shook his head.

“Charlotte told me about it, a long time ago,” Sam said. “If I remember correctly, it basically says that our calendars are off by I don’t know how much. But every thirty-three years, the universe aligns itself perfectly again. It’s like some sort of reset; everything then looks exactly as it did thirty-three years ago.”

Tom did not really respond to this story. Sam shrugged.

“The circumstances of the disappearances have come back. Who knows what else will.”

Tom rolled his eyes. He did not care for these stories. These were nonsense. If they came from Charlotte, Tom was even less inclined to believe what was being said.

“Sounds like the biggest case of a cosmic deja vu,” Tom commented. “Do you believe in it?”

Sam shrugged again. “Who knows what’s out there. If I can find proof, then yes, I will believe it.”

“Belief won’t help us find these kids,” Tom said and he stood up from his chair to walk to the window; he needed some fresh air, he needed to look at anything but that damned board that had the victim’s faces. And he thought about the theory, and the more he thought about it, the more he became too pessimistic about the situation and the theory.

“Based on your theory, this means we won’t find the kids,” Tom said. “And I really don’t want to think like that.”

If they were going to find those kids, Tom could not believe that theory. Even though he did not want to believe it, he did feel deep in his heart this might be the case. There may be some credibility to the theory, and Tom did not like it.

“Alright. I’m sorry for trying to offer you a story,” Sam said. “Good news: in thirty-three years, another incompetent ass should be sitting on that chair.”

“What, and I’ll be as crazy as your dad?” Tom asked. He looked at Sam, who shrugged again.

“Who knows?”


Ethan visited his father’s grave.

He had been at the Hatchetfield cemetery before. Tony Green had been buried soon after he had committed suicide. The next day, Ethan also visited the grave for the first time. Not much later, Harriet sent her son away.

Ethan had not been at the cemetery since June. And now he visited his father’s grave once again, and he felt at peace. Though Tony was gone, standing at the grave, he felt some sort of connection between them. As if he were still there, watching over his shoulder and encouraging him.

Ethan did not really believe in heaven or hell. Tony was gone and he wasn’t coming back, not even as a ghost. The one thing that Ethan had left of him on this world, was that all-too-real headstone that bore his name as well as the dates of his birth and death.

There was nobody around. He enjoyed the quiet. Even when he heard footsteps behind him, Ethan believed that someone else had come to visit a loved one. He did not expect that someone else had come here for Tony, too.

“Are you okay?” a soft voice said.

Ethan turned around and looked at the man. He looked dirty. The stranger wore a dark green weathered rain jacket but didn’t wear the hood on his head. All other pieces of clothing screamed that he was homeless, but his short beard was trimmed and his mustache well-taken care of. He looked weary; like he had lived multiple lifetimes. His weathered look was in direct contrast with the semi-clean suitcase he held in his hand. There was a nametag, but Ethan could not read it.

He did not want to read it. Because, when he looked at the Stranger, he could not help but notice that this man looked like Tony Green.

“I guess so,” Ethan mumbled. “I’m sorry, you… look like him.”

The Stranger merely nodded mysteriously and he looked at the grave. He kept a respectable distance from the boy, but Ethan’s focus was gone. This Stranger… there was something about him, and not just because he looked like his father. Ethan felt some sort of familiarity, like they had met each other before. Yet, if they had, Ethan could not remember it, for this was - in his case - the first time he had ever seen the stranger.

“Have… have we met before?” Ethan asked him. The Stranger shook his head once.

“I’m afraid we haven’t.” He turned his head to look at Ethan for a couple of seconds. A calm gaze, steady. Like he had a purpose. But then, why did it feel like he was nervous.

“I did meet your father once,” the Stranger said, as he turned his gaze to the headstone. “He was a good man.”

Ethan nodded. “Yes, he was.”

The silence between them lasted for a minute - one minute, each to their thoughts, each to their own minds. With their own doubts and strengths, at the grave of Ethan’s father.

“He saved my life once,” the Stranger said, unprompted. “Back then, I didn’t know it, but he did.” He paused for a while. “In some way, he got lucky.”

Ethan turned to the stranger and frowned. “Lucky?”

He committed suicide - that wasn’t something to call ‘lucky’. The Stranger nodded, but he did not look directly at Ethan again.

“Tony Green was offered peace. He got out. Some of us do not have that luxury; we keep on going down a path that has no end until we’re too deep and have to continue, even though we forgot why we’re going in the first place.” The Stranger briefly closed his eyes - Ethan could not guess what he was thinking about, but he did know this man was very weird.

“His road has ended,” the Stranger said. “His life meaningful in many ways.”

Ethan took the opportunity to look at the suitcase. He had put it on the ground, in such a way that Ethan could see the name that was scribbled on it. In semi-neat handwriting, it said: Paul Matthews.

The Stranger had a name now. And Paul took his eyes off of the headstone and nodded once at the boy standing next to him.

“Good luck, Ethan.”

He picked up the suitcase and walked away from the cemetery, leaving Ethan behind at Tony Green’s face.


1986

After giving her statement, Harriet tried to make her homework in her father’s van. Mr. Kruger would rather not leave his daughter alone at home, so she came along while he delivered the clean sheets or took the dirty laundry with him. Harriet had become quite proficient in making her homework in this van, even after what she had done.

No. Don’t think about that.

Today, she couldn’t keep her mind on it. Even though the police would shake Tom up, Harriet still had a bad feeling about it. Her thoughts were firmly on Tom and Jane and the perfect family they were going to create with perfect children who were only going to mock Harriet because Tom chose Jane over her. Why? Because she had bigger breasts?

Her father stopped at their last stop: the hospital. Just looking at the size of the building, Harriet knew this wasn’t a simple five-minute job.

“This is going to take a while,” Mr. Kruger said.

"Okay,” Harriet said, her eyes on her English homework. Her father stepped out of the van and went to do his job. As soon as he was out of sight, however, Harriet put her homework next to her, pulled at the neck of her shirt, and looked down. No way Jane had bigger breasts than her.

Harriet sighed. Jane was a good girl, perfect in almost every way. Of course Tom was going to fall for her, but couldn’t it have been Harriet instead?

Was Harriet even pretty in his eyes?

When she looked out of the window and looked over the plaza in front of the hospital, she saw a boy sat on one of the benches. He wore some pajamas and had a scratch on his head and a present in his hands. He seemed to be about her age, maybe a little younger.

Maybe he could tell her if she was pretty. Though she may not be his type - she did not know him, nor his type - but he could tell her if she was generally pretty.

Since she couldn’t focus on her homework, she stepped out of the car to ask the boy. He was unwrapping that present on his own. She briefly wondered where his family was, but pushed that to the back of her mind. Maybe they couldn’t stay and left him the present. It was none of her business, anyway.

She sat down next to the boy and glanced at the present. It was a book, titled ‘I Am Not Afraid’. There must be a reason for it, but again, Harriet didn’t want to ask. It was none of her business. She hadn’t come because he was lonely, anyway.

“Do you think I’m pretty?” she asked him upfront.

He looked at her, a little scared. He probably hadn’t seen her walk over or even noticed her sitting down next to him. He stammered as he looked at her and it was hard to know what he thought. Which was annoying. She’d like to have her answer.

“Wha- I…” The boy tried to speak, but he couldn’t formulate a sentence. Harriet sighed and leaned on the bench.

“Figures.” Of course he couldn’t say anything. She’d flustered him and now, he wasn’t able to give her the answer she needed. She folded her arms and stared at the van. Maybe he hadn’t answered because she truly wasn’t as pretty as Jane. And if she couldn’t, then how could Tom ever love her?

Harriet wanted to complain. Luckily, she did not know the boy and the boy did not know her, so she could easily say stuff she did not want anyone else to know.

“Do you know what I’d like?” she said, without much regard for the boy that sat next to her. “Sometimes, I wish I could do magic. I wish I could make myself prettier, or just fly away from this town and never come back.”

When she was done talking, she glanced at the boy. He was looking at her with renewed interest, and it was a little weird.

“Magic?” he asked. Harriet nodded.

“Yeah,” Harriet said. “You were listening?”

She hadn’t thought he listened to her after he couldn’t even say a full sentence to her. But he had been and ‘magic’ seemed to have been the literal magic word to bring him to life.

“I know about magic,” he said. He leaned forward and reached for the ground. There lay a cap of some bottle of soda. He took it in his hand and showed her; in one hand lay the cap, the other was empty.

“Magic. It’s mostly illusions created by the magicians in combination with distractions.” He closed both hands and bumped them against each other. She looked up from the hands to look at his face. He was smiling. He had a cute smile. Didn’t look that bad, either. Not as handsome as Tom, though, but something about him intrigued her.

“If you find that right combination,” he continued, “you can make anything look like magic. Every great magician does it.”

He opened his hands again. Somehow, he managed to transfer the cap from one hand to the other. She hadn’t seen it move, not even a little bit, except for the bump. Harriet laughed.

“That’s awesome!” she exclaimed, and she looked at him. “What’s your name?”

The boy dropped the cap and looked at her.

“I’m Tim, from the future,” he said, extending his hand to her.

Harriet looked at it, smiled, and shook it.

“Hello, Tim from the future,” she said, “I’m Harriet.”