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Between the Lines
Part 1

by Robert Porter
sleestak2@juno.com

 

Rick Marshall awoke in a great mood that morning, but the feeling went swiftly downhill from there.

He had dreamt that he was back home. It was a good ten years in the future and his wife was still alive. She had never died, there was no Land of the Lost, and they had simply led a normal, fruitful life.

At the moment, they sat in the front pew of the church at their son's wedding. There, standing at the front of the church was Will Marshall, looking handsome and proud in his black suit as he awaited his bride-to-be to walk down the aisle.

Turning to his wife, Rick caught her eye and noticed the happy tears welling up in them. He leaned over and affectionately kissed her on the forehead. She put her arms around him for comfort.

The pipe organ music swelled and they turned to watch the procession coming up the aisle. Walking slowly amongst the string of bridesmaids was their daughter, Holly. Rick was struck with a great swell of pride at seeing her. She had grown up into a beautiful young lady with long, flowing blonde hair, that same cute smile and upturned nose from childhood, and a burning, determined spirit to be the best at everything she set out to do. Holly, her mother, and Will's fiancée got along famously and loved to get together and do the silly, giggly things that females liked to do that men so rarely understood.

Yes, it was a good life. Rick and his wife had worked hard to raise a good, loving, respectful family and they had succeeded. Now they could reap the rewards of that hard work. With Will's marriage, they could soon look forward to grandchildren...

The pipe organ swelled with that telltale melody that announced the coming of the bride. At once, everyone stood to show their respects and to get a good look at the woman of the hour.

Rick, being at the front pew, strained to see toward the back. Through the throng of guests, he could only catch snippets of her white dress as she very slowly stepped forward. Struck with a sudden sense of urgency, he fidgeted with impatience to see what she looked like in her wedding gown.

After a few moments of agitation, she finally stepped into view. Her gown was beautiful, being somehow simultaneously voluptuous and demure. She wore an elaborate headdress with the veil covering her face. He tried to catch her face through the veil, but it remained obscured. For fleeting moments, he thought he could see a shapely pair of eyes or a full, luscious smile, but the complete shape of her face eluded him. Her face, remained a mystery and he was struck by the peculiar thought that as much as he tried, he could not remember what she looked like. He remembered she was beautiful and a perfect compliment for his son, but he could not remember her face. No matter. Soon she would be his daughter-in-law and he would have many, many years by which to remember her.

Finally, she reached to front of the church and Will took her hand. They turned their backs to the crowd and began the ceremony that would bind their lives together forever.

Rick put his arm around his wife, held her tight, and fought back the tears of joy that welled up inside him. Life couldn't get any better...

Then he awoke.

Reality hit him as the hot, humid morning air rushed into his face and his muscles twinged at the overwork they had done the previous day in the prehistoric jungle. He wanted to keep the warm, contented feeling from the morning's dream inside him, so he curled up inside his sleeping bag and tried to play out the dream again in his mind.

The images and warm touch of his wife echoed in his mind and body. The feelings of the dream remained, but were too quickly fading to an indistinct haze. The more he tried, the less he could remember.

Finally giving in to the reality, he pushed back the flap of the bag and sat up on the makeshift bed. Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he looked across the cave to his two children, Will and Holly, as they continued to sleep.

Echoes of the dream stayed with him as he took in the reality around him. It gave him a great feeling of loss. The dream was just that— a dream. The truth was, his wife and mother to his children was dead. And the family which he loved so much was trapped in an alternate universe with dinosaurs, monkey people, half-lizard/half-insect people, and all manner of strange and dangerous places, people and things. Worst of all, he was now unable to give his children the one thing he most wanted to give them— a normal life. Will's wedding to the perfect young woman was just a fantasy. Instead, he was a teenager beginning his awakening into adulthood, but trapped in a land without a female teenage companion. He was essentially alone. He couldn't experience dating, infatuation, kissing, falling in love, and all the other growing experiences that came with puberty.

The knowledge left Rick with an incredible sense of sadness and regret. The irony of his emotions tickled at him. His emotional high just a few moments ago was replaced by an emotional low as reality crept in. His shoulders slumped with the burden he felt.

Regardless, the Land of the Lost was their reality and they had to face it as best they could. Heavily he stood and moved to wake the two children so that they could start the day.

***

By mid-morning, the day was in full swing and Holly was doing one of her least favorite chores. While Rick had gone off to gather salt for their stores, he had left Holly and Will to remove the ever growing plants from around the clearing at their home of High Bluff. In particular, they had to remove the plants they called "dinosaur nip" because of the way it attracted dinosaurs— in particular, Grumpy the tyrannosaur.

"Why do they eat this stuff again, Will?" she asked her brother as she tugged on the roots of another thigh high patch of dinosaur nip.

Will looked up from his careful measuring of homemade rope. "Don't you remember? It's because there's something in the dinosaur nip that they need for their diet— something Grumpy can't get from eating meat alone."

The roots of the plants that Holly was pulling finally let go of the earth and it came up in a cloud of dust and pollen. The tiny particles tickled at her nose and she fought back a sneeze. "Oh, I know," she finally answered her brother.

"Then why'd you ask?" he retorted.

She walked toward him and dropped the plants into a neatly stacked pile where he was carefully bundling them with the rope. "Well, I don't know. I had to say something."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you've hardly said two sentences to me all morning. You've been so quiet."

Will stopped tying the rope in mid-knot and looked at his sister sympathetically. "I know. I'm sorry, Holly. It's just that Dad didn't seem to be in a very good mood this morning. He seemed kinda depressed."

"I noticed."

"And I guess his bad mood kinda rubbed off on me too."

"What do you suppose is wrong with Daddy?"

Sighing, Will continued to tie the roped around the dinosaur nip. "I don't know. I wanted to ask, but I wasn't sure. And he seemed like he didn't want to be bothered. I think that's why he went off on his own this morning... he wanted to be alone."

"Hmm." Holly sat on the ground and wrapped her arms around her knees.

"Maybe he's lonely for someone his own age."

"Maybe. Or maybe he just misses home, like the rest of us."

"Yeah, maybe that's it."

For a moment, they stayed silent and lost in thought as Will finished tying the bundle.

Finally, he stood and lifted the bundle up to his shoulder, testing the weight, balance and strength of his knots. "This one's done," he announced. "You want to go with me to dump it in the crevasse?"

Holly looked up at him, but didn't move. "No. I think I'll stay here."

Will laughed lightly. "To tell the truth, I was kinda hoping you'd say that. I think all of us are wanting some time to ourselves right now."

"Yeah, I think so. And I don't want to be dragging that thing—" she indicated the bundle of dinosaur nip "—across the jungle with Grumpy chasing after us trying to eat it."

Will hefted it on his shoulder. "Yeah, well, he can have it. I don't necessarily want to carry it all the way to the crevasse, either."

"You go on, Will. I'll stay here pulling up more dinosaur nip."

"You gonna be okay here by yourself, little sister."

"Yeah, I'll be fine. If Grumpy shows up, I'm not too far away from the cave. And maybe Grumpy'll be more interested in the dinosaur nip than me."

"Maybe. But don't count on it."

Holly smiled at her brother's concern. "I won't."

Turning, Will headed off into the jungle with his load of dinosaur nip. Holly sighed and returned to pulling it out of the ground.

***

Will was grateful for the solitude. He had felt great after waking, but his father's somber mood had put a melancholy mood into him and his sister. What was eating his father? Usually he could talk to him about such things, but he just brushed off all of Will's attempt to break the ice, as if he didn't want to burden his son with the weight he was carrying.

His father's behavior ended up effecting his own mood. He felt helpless and frustrated. He suspected his father's depression was caused by his loneliness for someone his own age with whom he could interact. In turn, Will reflected on his own situation. He was without people his own age as well. He wondered what he was missing back home. He should be going to school, playing sports, dating girls, going to drive-ins, hanging out with friends. He was a teenager now and wanted to do the things that teenagers did. Instead, he was stuck in this strange, alternate universe. The thought depressed him. He didn't want to share his feelings with his sister and cause her to get in a bad mood as well. Maybe that's why his dad wasn't sharing his feelings this morning.

Will had been so lost in thought that he hadn't realize he was already at the edge of the great crevasse that separated the swamp from the Lost City. He looked tentatively down the cliff's edge and could just make out the river far down below. Cautiously, and so as not to lose his balance, he hefted the load of dinosaur nip off his shoulder and into the gap. For a few brief seconds, he watched it tumble along the rocks to disappear out of sight. Satisfied, he turned to go back—

His heart skipped a beat. Standing and looking down over him was the Land of the Lost's tyrannosaurus, Grumpy. Somehow it had quietly snuck up behind him and could have eaten him at any second and Will would've never known what happened. A sudden chill of fear washed over him. He felt stupid for not paying attention to his surroundings and realizing the dinosaur was there, probably after the dinosaur nip he was carrying. Now that he'd thrown it over the edge, he had nothing with which to distract it and nowhere to run.

Grumpy roared loudly at him, his rank breath pouring over him. The sound was enough to put Will into action. He faked left, causing Grumpy to start in that direction. Immediately, he ran right, his smaller body having more agility and time to change direction.

It worked and he ran along the cliff's edge away from the tyrannosaur. Unfortunately, he should have faked to the right. To the left, he ran into a solid wall of rock that blocked his path.

Looking for an escape, he spotted a massive, slab if rock leaning against the rock wall. There was a small enough gap between it and the rock for him to hide. He turned and dove for it.

In the confined space, he turned around as best he could to see where the meat-eating dinosaur was. He was startled to see the massive jaws snapping the air in front of him.

Grumpy crashed his head against the rock, bringing down dirt and pebbles on Will. He balled himself up and braced against the raining debris. Over and over the dinosaur crashed against the rock. Will wondered why he was being so persistent. Then he remembered that he had been working with the dinosaur nip all morning. With the smell of it on him and his own flesh, Will must seem a particularly tasty morsel to the dinosaur. "I don't have any dinosaur nip!" he shouted out at Grumpy. It didn't seem to do any good. He continued to wait out the banging on his tiny hideout.

After a few moments that seemed like forever, it finally stopped. Will hoped that Grumpy had gone away, but he doubted that it was giving up so easily. It was probably sitting back and just waiting for him to come out. Or maybe it's tiny brain was busy trying to figure out a new strategy. Either way, Will was going to stay put for a while.

Relaxing a bit, he looked around himself. The area was small, but not so small he couldn't stand with a stoop if needed. Enough ambient light was coming in that he could see quite clearly. The rock face around him was jagged, but otherwise quite featureless. He suspected the large slab of rock behind which he was hiding was once a part of the rock wall and had sheered off some time in the past. Lucky for him it left room enough to hide from dinosaurs.

The ground underneath him was hard and ragged. One particular pebble was sharp enough to hurt his backside, causing him to shift his weight. Still, another poked at him. It was as if the ground were littered with stones that refused to stop tormenting him.

He turned and crouched to clear the stones. As he picked one of them up to toss aside, he realized from the weight and shape what it was. Rubbing away years of dirt and grime, he revealed one of the beautiful blue crystals. Looking down, he realized there were many of the multi-colored crystals scattered here. All of them had none of the usual glow, were caked with years of dirt, and nearly impossible to see on the ground.

Will wondered at this. Normally the crystals could be found at or near the Lost City. Finding crystals on this side of the crevasse was somewhat of a rare occurrence. When they were to be found, they were generally only seen in the pylons and neatly arranged in a matrix table. What were these crystals doing here, scattered on the ground and obviously forgotten and neglected for a long time?

Maybe there used to be a pylon here, he thought. Maybe this is a pylon! He looked around, but the irregular rock around him didn't much look like a pylon. Then he spotted it. Off to the edge and looking almost like any other boulder was part of a square shaped stone.

Crawling toward it, he turned it over. Sure enough. It was a broken top of a matrix table, complete with rows of tiny holes for nesting and aligning the various crystals. A good third of the stone table was missing. He looked about for the remaining pieces to the table, but could see nothing that looked like the right size or shape.

Following from the broken matrix table toward the scattered crystals, he could see the pattern they had created as the table fell long ago. Following the pattern backwards, the matrix table appeared to have fallen from the solid wall behind him. But that didn't make sense.

Moving to the rock wall and looking closer, Will noticed a dark area on the face of the rock wall. Near ground level, he spotted a gap in the rock face. Dirt and debris had filled in much of the gap, but a slight hot breeze blew through onto his face. By following the crack of the gap up the wall, he could see that what he thought was the rock wall was actually another slab of rock. There was a space behind it!

By now, his earlier dark mood and Grumpy were all but forgotten as curiosity nagged at him and he worked to pull the dirt and debris out of the gap. Eventually, he cleared enough space for him to crawl through and to the other side.

He found himself in another gap in the rocks. This one, though, was large enough for him to easily stand and move about. And there was an opening in the rock above that he could see the blue sky and plenty of light poured in.

Almost immediately he spotted the other piece of the broken matrix table. There beside it was the toppled columnar stand on which the table normally rested. Otherwise, the "room" was bare.

Will wondered at what it could mean. What was a matrix table—a broken matrix table— doing out here in the middle of nowhere? What was this mysterious gap in the rock face? Could this be an old, destroyed pylon?

Eager to find out, Will crawled back to the other side of the rock and retrieved the other chunk of the matrix table and a handful of the crystals. Within the larger gap, he stood the matrix table stand on end and tried to put the broken matrix table pieces together on it, but the odd shape of the broken table would not let it balance on the column. The smaller piece fell away and landed noisily in a corner. Will cursed himself and hoped he didn't break it further.

Suddenly everything went dark and a harsh, foul wind touched his face. Looking up, Will saw Grumpy was at it again. His massive snout tried to push down into the gap and get at him, but it was just small enough that he couldn't reach. He roared his frustration, the blast of noise was deafening in the confined space.

Frightened and desperate, Will pawed amongst his collection of crystals for just the right combination. There they were. He wrapped separate hands around a yellow and a red crystal.

"Take that! You overgrown lizard!" he shouted as he thrust the two crystals together and tossed them over his head and into the mouth of the tyrannosaurus.

A concussive explosion rocked the air, causing more dirt to rain down on him, but that was quickly followed by the painful and frustrated roars of Grumpy. As he listened, Will could hear the dinosaur noisily and quickly retreating into the forest. It was finally giving up on him, deciding that the tiny, frustrating human just wasn't worth it.

Will returned to the matrix table. Since the column wouldn't hold the table, he left them sitting on the ground and brought the two broken pieces together. They matched perfectly.

Now he needed some crystals. Digging in the dirt, he pulled them together in little piles. He spotted several in a crack in the wall and crawled over to retrieve them—

Someone was suddenly standing over him. He jumped back in alarm.

There was no one there. He looked around himself wondering who or what he'd seen, but there was nothing. Deciding the image was some sort of illusion and Grumpy's attack was making him nervous, he ignored it and moved again to get the crystals—

Again, he saw someone and backed away. Again, no one was there.

Cautious about what he was seeing, he moved more slowly as he went to retrieve the crystals.

That's when he saw it— or rather, her. Standing motionless before him was a girl. She had to have been near his own age, only a few years into her womanhood. Her clothes were old, drab and ragged, but they draped her body in such a way as to accentuate her features rather than obscure them.

She stood completely unmoving, as if frozen in time. She appeared to be about to take a step forward, such that frozen as she was, she should topple forward unless she finished the step in the next split second. Her long, dirty blonde, curly hair stood slightly askew, as if in mid-swing, but unable to complete it's fall back onto her shoulders that gravity demanded.

And her face. When Will looked into her face, he was captivated. Her hazel eyes sparkled like crystals. The fullness and roundness of her face drew him in and belied an innocence and maturity all at once. And her full lips were slightly open and flushed. For a fleeting moment, he imagined himself kissing those lips and a swell of emotion washed up inside of him. He smiled stupidly. "I think I'm in love," he said to himself.

Suddenly, he blushed. She might be frozen in time and place, but maybe she could see and hear him. He was struck with an urgency to help her... to remove her from whatever eternal prison she appeared to be locked.

He stepped toward her—

She vanished.

He stepped back.

She reappeared just as before.

He stepped sideways and she vanished. Everywhere he moved, he realized he could only see her if he stood in just this exact spot. Otherwise, she was invisible. It was so very strange.

He wanted to help her, but was afraid that if he moved too far and lost sight of her, she would vanish forever. Still, he was helpless, alone and standing in one spot.

Finally, he decided to just grab her and pull her to him. As he stepped forward, she again vanished from sight. When he reached her position, there was nothing there, but air. He couldn't feel her at all. He grabbed a handful of pebbles and returned to the spot where he could see her. This time, he tossed the pebbles at her to determine her reality, but the merely passed through her, as if she were made of air. She looked so real, but she apparently wasn't there, at least not in a physical sense.

With a sense of urgency to do something, he finally stepped away and put his attention back into the matrix table. Carefully arranging a handful of crystals, on it, they began to faintly glow. Apparently the thing still had a bit of juice.

The glow urged him forward. He stepped back into the special spot to check to see if she was okay and was panicked to find her gone. He darted frantically around the tiny area before he found her again, still in the same pose but only visible from this new position.

Even though the matrix table wasn't yet full of crystals, his manipulation of them was having an effect on the girl. Angry and frustrated, he knew he couldn't do it alone. He'd have to have help if he was going to save her. He needed someone to manipulate the crystals while someone else watched to see what kind of effect it had on her.

Using a stone, he scratched a circle into the dirt to indicate the certain spot that he had to stand in order to see the girl. Satisfied that there was nothing more to do, he left for his father and sister and hoped they could work together to save the girl of his dreams.

***

Less than an hour later, Will had located his father and the three Marshall's were headed back to the crevasse and Will's mysterious find. As they exited the jungle and headed toward the rock wall, Rick asked, "Let me get this straight. You found a broken matrix table—"

"Yeah, Dad!" Will enthused.

"And a girl stuck in the wall?" Holly asked. Her face lit up at the prospect of having a female companion close to her own age.

"Yeah, but you can't always see her. You have to be just in the right spot."

Rick seemed skeptical. "And this girl. If you touched the matrix table, she moved?"

"Not exactly. It's like the spot where you have to stand to see her moved. She didn't move. She always stayed exactly the same."

"Will, what did I tell you about messing around with the matrix tables? What happened last time?"

"That's when we had a visit from Beauragard Jackson. But Dad, this is different. The girl is already here and stuck in the wall somehow. We have to get her out, Dad!"

After his dream this morning and his subsequent sour mood all morning, Rick wasn't in the mood for games. He'd see what his son was going on about and what they could do, but he kept envisioning some sort of camera-like image in the wall of a girl that the could be manipulated using the matrix table. Then again, it might give them a clue about how the time doorways worked and a possible way home. "Okay, son. Just calm down and show me what you've found."

At the rock, the trio squeezed through the first opening. They had to clear out more debris to get to the inner chamber, but eventually they were able to crawl through with ease and stand on the other side. Will immediately ran to stand in the circle he's scratched in the dirt to see if the girl was still there. She was.

Rick looked around the room and saw nothing but the broken matrix table lying on the ground. Otherwise, the room was featureless. He noticed his son's gaze on the opposite wall and followed it. It appeared to be that he was staring at nothing but solid rock and Rick began to question his son's sanity.

Holly moved to stand beside her brother and look at the same image. Her eyes grew wide and she gasped. "Daddy, come look!"

The three stood clustered together in the one spot and stared at the frozen girl. She appeared perfectly real from where they stood. "Dad," said Will, his voice sounding sad and somber, "she looks so real, but if you try to reach out and touch her, she's not really there."

"Well, we can see her, so something must be causing us be able to see her," Rick answered. He looked downward. "Is this the matrix table you said you found?"

"Yeah." Will never removed his eyes from the girl.

Rick squatted in front of the matrix table and examined it. There were still several crystals missing. "Holly," he asked, "did you bring some extra crystals?"

"Yeah, Dad. Will asked me to." She pulled the handful of crystals from her pocket and handed them to her father. Will also distractedly pulled extra crystals from his pocket and passed them to his sister to give to his father.

"Stand back, Holly," Rick commanded. "If that girl is really trapped in there, we need to get her out. I'm going to put these crystals in the table and see if we can help her. Will, as I manipulate the crystals, I want you to follow her image and tell me what kind of effect I have."

"Okay."

Holly stepped back and watched as her father inserted the crystals in the missing slots. They faintly lit as they were place in the table. "Is this having any effect?" he asked.

"Not that I can see," Will answered.

"How about now?" Rick touched and twisted a couple of green crystals.

Will scrambled around the tiny enclosure to keep the girl in sight. "Oh, yeah! She looks the same, but the place where I have to stand to see her keeps moving."

"Let me try this." Rick touched a combination of green and yellow crystals, then slowly twisted the yellow—

"She moved! Dad! Before it looked like she was about to take a step, but now it looks like she's finished taking it! Dad! She moved!"

Rick continued to experiment, but about all he could accomplish was to move the position where she was visible around the enclosure and on occasion, make her actually move. At one point, Will found himself leaning hard against the wall in order to keep her in sight, but he cried out in excitement. "Dad! For a second I thought I touched her! I had to lean in real close to keep her in sight and I think I actually touched her hand!"

"Okay, let me try that again." Rick retouched the last sequence of crystals, but this time he tried to change the order. "Does that—"

Holly screamed.

Alarmed, Rick looked up from his daughter, then to his son. At least, where his son should have been.

"Daddy! Will just vanished!"

A feeling of dread and fear washed over Rick. He moved to where his son had last been standing and found him— stuck in the wall with the girl. Rick's face turned to horror. "No!"

Holly came to stand with her father and look at the image. Will stood frozen, as if walking beside the girl after some distant, unseen target. The expression on his frozen face was not one of fear or dread, but curiosity. The girl appeared to not have noticed Will and was not reacting to him. "What happened to him, Daddy?"

"We have no idea of knowing."

"Daddy! Bring him back!"

Rick dreaded what he had done to his son. "We will, Holly. Just calm down. I messed around with the crystals without really knowing what I was doing and look what it's done. I think we'd better get someone more knowledgeable about the dimensional doorways in here to try and help them."

Holly looked up at him. "Enik?"

"Yes, Holly. We need to go find Enik."

 

FADE TO COMMERCIAL

 

Go To Part 2