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OUTSIDE IN

By
anonymous


 

The man moved swiftly through the jungle towards the ruined temple where his family made their home. Deep within the darkness, Grumpy snorted and roared, and the chirping horn of a celaphysis retorted. His booted footsteps made barely any sound in the soft red sand.

He reached the ruined structure and stayed within the shadows of the palms outside of the courtyard. The stone braziers were alight with wood crackling and casting bright shadows against the walls. Inside, he heard laughter as the Marshall family relaxed together after a hard day staying alive in the Land of the Lost. Tightness constricted his throat as he stood in the shadows, listening to Holly, Jack, and the murmur of voices. He yearned to move into their warm family circle.

I'm sorry Jack, Holly, he thought. He clenched his fists. I'll make it right. I swear I will.

* * *

 

Swirling images of rolling hillsides, yellow, star-shaped flowers in rich fields, cities of glass and chrome and walkways suspended on thin cables overhead and the smell of honeysuckle thick in the night air…

Will Marshall pressed his hands to his temples to stop the sudden flow of images and the sick, empty feeling in the pit of his stomach, a feeling of such utter loneliness and sorrow it made him want to cry right there, then and now. For a moment, he couldn't see Jack or Holly sitting beside him inside the temple they called home.

"Are you all right, Will?" Jack asked. "You're not getting sick, are you?"

"I --" Even speaking was hard through the thick fog of grief that gripped his soul. He shook his head. He focused on the temple wall, the canteen, Holly's worried eyes. "Yeah, I'm fine. For a minute there it was weird. It was like…"

"Like what?" Jack demanded. "Will, are you sure you're all right? You're awfully pale."

"I'm fine," he said with more certainty than he felt. "It was just like, for a moment there, I was looking in from the outside, and seeing all sorts of things…"

 

* * *

 

Back home on Earth, Will could never get up in time for school without the alarm clock blaring. He used to set it across his bedroom, on top of the book case next to his sports trophies and a photograph of his mother, to make himself get up and walk across the room and shut it off. Then, once up, he figured he had better just keep walking into the bathroom before Holly woke up and hogged all the hot water with her shower. He wished that was all they had to fight about now. He wished….

But here in the Land of the Lost, it was like his body was on an internal time clock, set to the rhythms of the rising and setting sun. He always woke as dawn crested the eastern sky, and golden liquid sunlight floated down through the leafy green canopy of the jungle, touching the tips of the ferns with her caress. He was always first up. He rolled back the heavy stone door using the lever Jack had fashioned, and he splashed cold water on his face before lighting the first fire of the day and surveying any damage the Sleestak had done to their campsite the night before.

Since taking up refuge in the temple, the Sleestak had done their best to roust the Marshall family from their makeshift home. God only knew why, Will wondered angrily as he stacked firewood, pushed aside broken palm fronds, and swept up a few cooking vessels the Sleestak had shattered. The Sleestak worshipped their own god who slept and growled in the pit beneath the Lost City, and he and his father had often ended up tied together and waiting to be sacrificed to the angry god. The Sleestak didn't need or want this temple, and they hadn't used it for what looked like centuries to Will. But whatever the humans had, the Sleestak hated, and so each night they came to the temple and ransacked whatever they could, sometimes banging on the stone door for hours.

But last night was an unusual night. Will bent down to examine the palm fronds. It was odd that the Sleestak had left broken plants behind. Usually their destruction was calculated for maximum annoyance. They broke cooking vessels, water gourds, they threw the logs around so that it would take hours for the Marshalls to clean it up in the morning. This morning, however, fronds were broken from the palms on either side of the courtyard in front of the temple, in a manner that suggested something else to Will…

"Morning!" Uncle Jack called. He was tightening his belt and fastening his watch. "I finally got a good night's sleep without Chaka snoring. I tell you, it would be a blessing if he did find Ta and Sa on this expedition of his, although I do miss the furry little guy," Jack added hastily. He looked around the compound. "What's the score today, Marshalls 0 and Sleestaks 1 or what?"

"Not sure," Will frowned. He pointed to the broken palm fronds. "This isn't like them. Look at the pattern It's ---"

Jack stepped forward to examine the palm fronds. "It's as if someone broke it not deliberately, but by stepping through them. Like someone --"

"Man sized," Will said. He felt excitement rising in his chest. "Jack! You don't think ---"

"Will, let's not jump to conclusions," Jack cautioned his nephew.

Suddenly, Will spied something else on the stone courtyard. "If I can't jump to conclusions now, when can I?" he asked, stepping closer to the mark.

For there, on the smooth granite floor of the courtyard, was a footprint. A series of footprints. Will put his foot down next to the print. Although his hiking boot made the outline bigger, the footprint was almost exactly the same size as his own. Someone had been there in the night.

"Wake you sister," Jack said. "We've got company."

 

* * *

 

They walked the jungle to search for more signs of their visitor until the sun was high in the noonday sky and they grew light headed with hunger. At the clock Pylon they called a halt to the morning's march and sat beneath the shade of the palms for lunch. They had seen the telltale footprints throughout the jungle, but just whenever they thought they had a definite trail in the red sand, the footprints stopped as abruptly as they started. The trail seemed to loop around the Lost City, moving from Pylon to Pylon, with evidence that the being had entered several, if not all of the available Pylons.

"It could be Zarn," Will said around bites of a drumstick they had saved from the night before. It wasn't too smart, since they had gotten food poisoning once before, but the chicken was too precious to waste. Holly nibbled on an orange and they passed around the water skin. "Zarn leave footprints."

"Yeah, but not that big," Holly said. "That looks like Daddy's boot prints." She didn't mean to say her father's name, but it slipped out, and when it did she realized suddenly why Will seemed to zealous in his search efforts. He must have been thinking it too.

"What, or who, is the Zarn?" Jack asked, and Will quickly explained about the strange being made of lights, the beautiful space ship he and his father had inadvertently crippled, and the Zarn's intense hatred of the humans.

"Boy, you three made enough enemies to last a lifetime," Jack said, shaking his head.

"Collie was a friend," Holly said, remembering fondly the old, crazy Civil War soldier they had found drinking fermented fish juice and mining the tunnels under the Lost City, convinced that he was somewhere in Southern territory and still fighting the war between the states. "And -- well, I got along with the Zarn. He came by one time. Remember?"

"Sure," Will grinned. "When you needed a baby sitter."

His words were calculated to sting, and Holly had a quick retort on her lips when Uncle Jack's warning glance stopped her. Resisting the urge to deliver the bon mot, Holly instead said, "What if Enik got the time doorway open, and someone came through?"

"Yeah, but he said he can't get Earth's doorway to stay open," Will pointed out. "It's something to do with us being here. It prevents the Earth doorway from opening."

"That wouldn't stop another planet's doorway from opening, would it?" Holly asked, looking between her uncle and her brother.

"No-o, I don't think so," Jack said slowly.

"I wouldn't even mind another planet to the Land of the Lost," Will said. He picked up a pebble and threw it at a palm trunk, missed, and reached for another. His throw was lazy and precise, this time nailing the piece of bark he was aiming for. "Something civilized. It wouldn't be Earth, but at least we'd be out of here."

"Will, don't say that!" Holly cried. "The devil you know is always better than the devil you don't know."

"Now where did you get a saying like that?" Jack asked, amused.

"Mother used to say it all the time, and I think she was right," Holly said, looking around the jungle. "Besides, we'd have a better chance of getting home from here, wouldn't we?"

Jack raised his hand to silence the children. Dinosaurs growled and screeched, insects chirped and birds sang. Someone waited in the underbrush.

"Jack Marshall! A word with you!"

"Hey, it's Enik!" Holly called excitedly as they spied the familiar reptilian humanoid form with his glittering red tunic step into the clearing.

"What brings you to this side of the valley, Enik?" Jack asked. He did not fully trust the Altrusian, a time refugee like themselves from a distant past, an ancestor of the fearsome Sleestaks that hunted the Marshalls the way they hunted moths in the jungle. But apparently Enik had been a friend of sorts to the Marshalls, healing his brother Rick when Rick had been shocked experimenting with the crystal technology available in the land. Perhaps he could not be fully trusted -- but he was about the closest thing to a friend the Marshall family had in the Land of the Lost.

"My complaint is not with you, Jack Marshall," Enik said. He pointed one scaly finger at Will. "My complain is with him." He said the word 'him' so derisively that Will felt guilty despite his complete ignorance of what brought Enik to them.

"What did I do?" he asked. He almost said, "What did I do now?" Since Will had smashed Enik's time sensitive device, the magetti, Enik had seemed even more cool and distant to the boy, although Altrusians are not by nature a demonstrative race.

"Do? Do?" If Enik could sputter, he would surely have done so now. As it was, his reptilian lips pressed together so firmly they made a thin line in his tan, scaly face. His nostril holes twitched; he blinked once, then continued, addressing Uncle Jack as if the children were not even there.

"Jack Marshall," Enik said. "Since last evening, the time doorway in my cave has been forced open, and held open using a device with which I am not familiar. I spied him --" he pointed a finger at Will -- "leaving my cave in the darkness. I followed him around the jungle, calling out to him to halt, but he did not. I demand that Will Marshall release it and allow time to flow naturally on the other side of the doorway."

"But Enik!" Will protested. "I was here, with my family all last night. And I don't know how to manipulate any time doorways."

"Yeah, you can be sure that if he did, we'd all be home by now," Holly said.

"Enik, are you sure that you saw Will?" Jack asked.

Enik cocked his head to one side. "Are you admitting your part in this, Jack Marshall? If you too had a part in this, you moved stealthily as well. Your nephew has been well trained for I found it difficult to keep up with him in the jungle, so quietly did he move in his black clothing."

"Black clothing?" all three asked at once.

"Enik, I don't own any black clothing," Will protested. "At least not in the bag that came over the falls. We have very little clothing. Most of it was lost when we went over the time doorway."

"Enik, can you show us your cave?" Jack asked. "If the time doorway is stuck open, maybe we can go through it!"

"The time doorway is indeed forced open, and it is stuck on one image, but the planet is not Earth," Enik replied. "Or, I should say to be accurate, it is not the Earth that young Will Marshall showed me on the day I found the time doorway looping around your incident. There is no canyon, no river."

"What do you see?" Holly asked excitedly.

"Yeah, Enik, Earth has a varied terrain," Jack said. "Mountains, deserts, woods, oceans -- there's a little bit of everything on various parts of our planet."

Enik shrugged. "I am not entirely familiar with your world," he said. "But come; follow me and I will show you." He turned on his heel and strode on stumpy legs through the jungle, his form blending with the greenery at hand, the only sight of him a glitter of red tunic through the trees.

"Come on," Jack urged the children. "If the time doorway is stuck open and another human entered, we may be able to get out of here after all!"

 

* * *

 

At the Lost City, Enik paused by the temple ruins; the children crouched behind a broken pillar, with Uncle Jack standing next to the Altrusian. Big Alice lumbered by, gently nudging her baby Junior, who by this time was no longer quite so cute. He seemed to have grown several feet and his little squeak of a cry had changed to a throaty rumble closer to his mother's loud call. It took them several minutes to cross the plaza in front of the Lost City, Alice's tail whipping around her baby protectively as she raised her head into the air and sniffed, possibly smelling the humans nearby.

As they were kneeling behind protective covering, Jack Marshall looked into the mouth of the three doorways of the Lost City. Something stirred within the shadows of the center doorway. He opened his mouth to point it out to Enik, then closed his mouth and watched. The shadow moved again. His heart quickened when he caught a glimpse of a form -- a human form. Light moved across brown curls flecked with gold, the flash of human skin. He caught a glimpse of a face that did indeed look surprisingly like Will or Rick Marshall, but the hair was wrong -- too long, and pulled back into some kind of ponytail he knew for certainty Rick would not be caught dead wearing, nor would he have ever allowed his son to sport such hippie hair. The figure sank back into the shadows, and was gone.

Alice and Junior finally lumbered into the jungle, Alice carefully picking up her thick reptilian tail the way a bride picks up her train as she mounts the stairs to the church on her wedding day.

"Whew!" Holly said. "That was close. Junior got so big."

"Did you see him?" Jack asked Will and Enik.

"See who?" Will asked. Enik said nothing.

"There was a man standing there," Jack said. "I saw him in the center doorway to the Lost City. He does look a lot like you, Will, but the hair is different. Longer. And he's a bit thinner and taller."

"I noticed no difference," Enik insisted stubbornly. Since Altrusians had no hair, it was no wonder a simple thing like hair fashion would miss Enik's normally sharp senses.

"He was there." Jack pointed. "C'mon. If there's a time doorway open…and a human got through…"

"Stands to reason we can get out!" Will said, and Holly jumped up excitedly. The two were off and running towards the Lost City before Jack could stop them.

Holly and Will reached the mouth of the middle doorway with Jack and Enik were about ten feet behind them, when suddenly, a wild hissing erupted around them. Holly screamed as the seven foot reptilian Sleestak slunk out of the shadows, casting a wide hand woven net over the two Marshall children. Will punched and struggled, but to no avail; the Sleestak merely crunched down his three fingered hands on Will's upper arms, causing intense pain as he pushed in, forcing Will's arms against his sides. Holly kicked and heard the satisfying thud of her hiking boots hitting the thick hide of the Sleestak, but it was like kicking an elephant; all it served to do was anger the elephant, and bruise her foot. Another Sleestak bound cords and ropes around them and dragged them deeper into the darkness. Once inside, the fight was virtually useless -- the humans could not see in the dark, and the Sleestak were nocturnal creatures, their large dark eyes accustomed to the perpetual night inside their caverns

Outside, Jack and Enik struggled to move forward. Enik used his mental powers, but when he managed to frighten a few Sleestak, more surged forward from the cavernous depths of the Lost City to take their place, and he was quickly becoming exhausted from the process. The angry Sleestak began firing with their crossbows and slingshots. It appeared to be a virtual army lying in ambush for the humans.

"We've got to get to the children!" Jack cried. Crossbows twanged and arrows whizzed overhead. Suddenly, Jack felt a jolt and a painful, red hot heat in his upper shoulder, like a swarm of bees stinging one spot at once. Numbness spread down his arm but he pressed forward. It wasn't until he felt something warm and wet drip against his fingers that Jack looked down to see a thick metal crossbow shaft protruding from his shoulder.

But he continued to fight, swinging wildly at the Sleestak until Enik put a hand on his good shoulder. "It is no use, Jack Marshall," Enik said. "You are injured, and the Sleestak have taken the children already down into the lower caverns. They do not seem to want to take you, just the children." For indeed, if they had wanted to capture Jack as well as Will and Holly, they would have had ample opportunity since the arrow had slowed him down significantly.

Jack slowed, and the Sleestak retreated into the caverns. A wave of dizziness overcame him, and he felt nauseous. He looked down and saw a pool of blood forming on the broken stones of the plaza. He said, "One of the children must be hurt. I've got to go to them."

Enik caught him on his way down as he fainted dead away.

 

* * *

 

Smoke rose from ancient braziers slung on primitive cords and hung from stalactites over the pit. Sleestak stood at attention, each one only about three feet away from the other, slingshots and cross bows at the ready. Will and Holly were bound back to back with so many ropes they felt like mummies.

Inside the pit, the Sleestak "god" moaned and cried, his callings like a huge stomach rumbling. Waiting to be fed.

"I thought they were done with this," Holly said. "This isn't the right time of year for a sacrifice, is it?"

"Any time of year is a good time for the Sleestak," Will said. He was twisting his hands in their bonds, trying desperately to budge them. The last time he had been bound this way with his father, he had managed to grab his dad's knife from his belt; this time, the Sleestak had taken their knives and even the little canteen Will kept slung from his belt. They had nothing, no crystals, no tools, nothing.

"Don't worry Holly," Will said, trying to remain calm. "Jack and Enik will rescue us. They didn't get caught."

 

* * *

 

Enik and Jack made it back to the Marshall's temple home, with Jack leaning heavily on Enik. Enik was surprisingly strong, rather like leaning on a thick tree, his skin cool and smooth to the touch. Enik steered him into the temple. Jack's thoughts constantly ran to Will and Holly.

"Enik…my survival kit…on the floor, over there…" Jack pointed with his good hand. Enik found the pouch and brought it over but had trouble with the zipper. His thick Altrusian fingers were not agile enough to work the zipper. They finally resorted to Enik holding the bag while Jack unzipped it and brought out antiseptic, bandages, and a thick gauze pad. Working together, Enik carefully pulled the shaft from Jack's shoulder, although he did manage to take more skin and flesh with it as he withdrew it, enough to make Jack bite his lower lip to keep from crying out. Jack had been a medic in the Korean war, and he knew what to do with this wound. Carefully, he instructed Enik, and the Altrusian bathed the wound, poured on the antiseptic and tried to push together the edges of the raw and ragged wound. Placing the pad onto the hole, Enik wound the gauze around Jack's shoulder and helped him change his shirt. The buttons were as totally beyond his capabilities as the zipper, but he patiently tried to assist Jack as best as he could.

Jack looked like he'd been dressed by a kindergartner, and he felt as if someone had taken a cleaver to his shoulder, but he at least had the wound under control. "We have got to get to the Lost City," Jack said firmly. He took a long drink of water from the gourd dipper Enik brought to him. He felt light headed, and he knew that under normal circumstances, he should lie down and rest. But these were not normal circumstances. They had fallen into an ambush of sorts, and the children had been the target. He had to get back.

"Jack Marshall, you should rest a while," Enik urged. "Lie down. I will go back and attempt to reason with the Sleestak. I will converse with the Sleestak Leader. We must find the reason for this attack."

Although Jack hated to admit it, he was feeling worse by the minute. He needed to rest. He was thirsty. He drank more water and looked wearily at the Altrusian. This was by far the worst predicament the Marshall family had ever been in since they had come to the Land of the Lost. Could he trust the Altrusian?
"Very well, Enik," Jack nodded. "I'll stay here. But hurry, please. And somehow, some way, I'll get there. I'll rest for a bit and then follow."

"Never fear, Jack Marshall," Enik said as he strode to the doorway of the temple. "I will find out what has become of the children."

 

* * *

 

In a secluded and quiet cave, deep in the heart of the Lost City, two figures stood before a glowing, pulsing matrix table. Behind them, the time doorway stood frozen on an image of an alien city perched on a cliff above a sea. Buildings of glass and steel, concrete walkways, fountains splashing water high into the air in dozens of public squares were surrounded by undulating waves of green grass, yellow star shaped flowers, and a towering mountainside rising into a deep blue sky. Various beings mingled around the plazas, some human, some alien, people talking, laughing, mingling, conducting business in the alien city. The mist clung to the edges of the time doorway raggedly, and every few seconds, shifted almost imperceptibly. The doorway was not frozen, as Enik had put it, but more accurately, slowed so much that to the naked eye, it appeared frozen. One luminous white crystal, high in the wall of Enik's cave, blinked like an emergency light, frantically signaling that the time doorway had been altered.

"How much longer do we have?" the woman asked the man.

She was tall, with long blonde hair and a gown of deep sea green. Around her neck was a heavy chain and a disk of blue that pulsed with white light. Strangely, it pulsed in time to the identical disk the man wore.

The man bent over the matrix table and touched sequences of crystals quickly and surely. He was dressed entirely in black, and a black cloak was thrown carelessly into a corner of Enik's cave. His long, curling brown hair was touched with gold. He wore it pulled back in a low ponytail at the nape of his neck. His blue eyes and the slight cleft in his chin softened the otherwise hardened look of years on his face.

"Not long," he replied. "This part's all a blur. What happened next?"

"We were waiting to be sacrificed to the Sleestak god," the woman said quietly. "Uncle Jack came, but too late. He was injured by a cross bow arrow."

"And?"

"They sacrificed us," she said. "We fell into the pit. And…" Here she hesitated.

"Well, go on," the man said irritably.

"The Sleestak god came. I tried to fight but the thing, it, it rushed past me, and….and he, he…he attacked you."

The man straightened up next to the matrix table. "Do you think this is going to work? Tell me honestly."

"I told you before, back on Shantih," the woman said, pointing to the beautiful city of shining steel and glass outline in the time doorway. "I think there's a chance it might. The temporal physicists thought you're wrong. They insist that the law of temporal inertia will thwart you, no matter what."

"Pessimists," the man pronounced.

"Maybe so, but at least we'd just go right back to where we started," the woman replied. "If you're right, we're taking an awful risk. We have so much to lose if you're wrong. We should just…"

"Go back?" the man pointed towards the shining city. "Look, Holly, it's because of me that we didn't get to go home…it's because of me that we have to live the rest of our lives on Shantih. If I hadn't been injured, if…"

"Will! It is not your fault you were the one attacked. I don't regret not going home. Oh, I think about it sometimes, but neither Jack nor I blame you….don't let guilt drive you to this. We can still leave now and let history repeat itself."

"No," Will said stubbornly. He turned back to the matrix table. "If I can prevent my younger self from being injured, then when the three moons line up again, we can use that pylon we found with Dad, and go home."

"Will we continue to exist on Shantih?"
Will looked up. He met her gaze. "I don't know, Holly," he said honestly. "We might. These folks may be like our alternate selves we found that day in the cave after the earthquake. They may just go home and we continue on….or we may not. The temporal physicists didn't think so. They thought that if we changed the time stream, our future selves -- us -- would disappear, cease to exist. Merge with our future selves in the altered time stream. But hopefully, those future selves are leading normal lives back on Earth. Either way, we win."

"I hope you're right," Holly said. "What if we make it worse?"

"We never made it home to Earth," Will snapped. "How can anything possibly get worse?"

"The devil you know is better than the devil you don't," Holly said.

He paused, startled. "Where have I heard you say that before?"

"I don't know. I don't remember. Will, let's just go home. Let's close the time doorway and go back to Caer Est."

"Holly, one last chance. Please."

"Will…"

"If I don't do this now, I'm always going to wonder if it worked. And what if it does, Holly? What if I -- we -- can get home?"
Holly swept her left hand towards the image frozen in the time doorway. "Will," she said quietly, "this is home."

 

* * *

 

Jack thought that he should rest, but after a few moments of trying to lay upon his cot, his thoughts churning over and over again with worries about Will and Holly, he rose and hurried to the door of the temple. It was futile. He would not be able to rest while the kids were in danger.

His shoulder throbbing with each step, Jack wound his way through the jungle towards the Lost City. It was eerily quiet after the battle scene before, except for Big Alice and Junior, who were standing near the spot of the battle. Junior was busy sniffing the pool of dried crimson on the ground. He raised his head and snorted questioningly at his mother, but if Big Alice could identify the substance as Jack Marshall, she gave no sign.

Jack waited behind a boulder until the two lumbered off into the jungle. In truth he was glad for the reprieve, and he rested his forehead on his arm. What would he do once he got to the pit? What could he do? He focused his mind on the weapons at hand and what he could wield with his hurt shoulder. Not much. He needed Enik's help. But how to find Enik in that Stygian darkness? Enik's cave. Yes, he would go there. If the Altrusian went anywhere, he'd probably go back to his cave for crystals, a rope, or some other tool of use. He would seek the Sleestak leader, and once finished his conversation with the leader if indeed he found him, Enik was likely to go back to his cave. It was the logical thing to do.

His mind made up, Jack crept forward and into the central tunnel, heading for Enik's cave.

 

* * *

 

Will could not free his hands. Frustrated, he stopped his struggles, sweat beading on his brow. Holly leaned against his back. He could feel her heart pounding beneath the thin flannel shirt. The Sleestak increased their hissing and moved slowly, as if underwater, in some ritualistic pattern he had seen once before when he and his father had almost been sacrificed.

"Uncle Jack isn't coming," Holly said through muffled tears. "We're going to get eaten by that -- that thing."

"No, we're not," Will said firmly. "Get a hold of yourself, Holly. Daddy got out once when the god attacked. We can too. Think of what Dad would do in this situation. He wouldn't cry, that's for sure."

"I -- I'm not Daddy. And Daddy isn't here." She sounded like she was crying harder.

Will's wrists were chafed raw from struggling against the rough ropes the Sleestak had used to bind them with, and his arms were numb from the tight knots they had used on him. The Sleestak seemed to have learned from past experience that the humans were good at escaping, for they made the ropes even tighter and the binds harder to escape.

"Will, I don't want to get out of the Land of the Lost the hard way," Holly said.

"We won't, Holly, I promise. Just keep your head, okay? We'll get out of this. Somehow."

"Okay," Holly replied, but she did not sound convinced. Deep down, neither was Will. Slowly, the Sleestak drew closer.

 

* * *

 

Warm yellow light from various crystal combinations spilled out through the doorway to Enik's chambers in the Lost City. Jack, stumbling slightly, crossed the threshold, holding onto the rocks at either side for support. "Enik! I couldn't rest, we have to go and rescue Will and Holly…"

He looked up. He was staring at Will and Holly. Not his Will and Holly, no, but Will and Holly all the same.

They had aged. Holly should have been the more striking comparison to the younger Holly, for now she was a beautiful woman, with shimmering blonde hair and a green gown that accentuated every curve. God, Jack thought with wonder, how she looks like Elizabeth, Rick's late wife. But it was Will who Jack's eyes were drawn to, over and over again. How could Will have changed so much? It wasn't the hair, although it did look strange to see his nephew with hair that long. It wasn't the odd cut of the clothes or the soft, draped fabric, or the fact that Will was swathed entirely in black, which was out of character for the outdoorsy-Marshall men. No. It was the eyes. Will's eyes were hardened by years of pain and suffering, wreathed with fine lines belying the torment of his life. His eyes frightened Jack beyond anything else. Bitterness pooled there, and wells of deep anger.

"I -- " Jack did not know what to say. "It was you, in the woods, after all. Your footprints. And in the doorway to the Lost City, before."

Will nodded. "Yes." The voice was the same -- deeper, perhaps, a slightly warmer timbre. Very much like Rick's. Will inclined his head over the matrix table once more, his hands deftly touching the crystals.

Holly came around the other side of the table. "Uncle Jack, you're hurt," she said gently. "Come and sit down."

"Are you two behind all of this?" Jack asked. "The Sleestak attack?"

"No and yes," Will answered. "They were angry with me for walking all over their precious tunnels and ruining the hunt last night, but it is of no consequence. They're always angry. Sit down." It came out as a direct command, as if Will Marshall were used to commanding many men.

Jack thought it certainly was of consequence, but he remained silent, watching his nephew carefully as the elder Will deftly touched sequences of crystals on the matrix table as a master pianist plays an intricate composition, from memory, with hands becoming one with the instrument. If Will hadn't stirred them up, the Sleestak would not have attacked them as they entered the Lost City. Jack looked around the chamber, and his eyes lingered over the image in the time doorway. He was struck by the beautiful city, its cleanliness, the images of the people and the aliens, and the sunlit sea beyond the cliffs.

"That's what Enik meant when he said the doorway was stopped on an image, Earth like, yet not of Earth!" he said. "Where is that? Is that where you two came from? Did we get out of the Land of the Lost after all?"
Holly paused for a moment, then said softly, "Yes, Uncle Jack, we did get out. On this day, ten years ago for us, we went through the time doorway that you see before you and into the planet Shantih."

Jack absorbed this for a moment. "And we lived happily ever after?" He looked from Holly to Will.

"Yes," Holly said.

"No," Will said. Will paused in his calculations. They glared at one another over the matrix table. "Shantih is a nice planet. The inhabitants are friendly. It's peaceful. It has a high degree of culture and prosperity. But it isn't Earth. And because of me, you two could never go back to Earth."

"Will -- "

"No, Holly, don't mince words." Will came around to his sister's side. His eyes were burning with bright blue fire. "Ten years ago, Uncle Jack, you were hurt and Holly and I were sacrificed to the Sleestak god. You tried to come back and rescue us, but you couldn't get to us on time. They threw us into the pit. I hit my head on a rock and while I was out, the Sleestak god did this." He raised his shirt, exposing his left side from the hip up. Jack gasped involuntarily. Jagged, crisscrossing red scars twisted in the flesh, knitting an odd plastic looking skin to the healthy tissue surrounding the wound. It must have been a tremendous wound.

"I was near death," Will said. "Holly managed to scale the rocks, using the old pitons Dad had nailed into the wall when he met the Sleestak named S'Latch. She ran to Enik for help. You and Enik were gathering crystals here in Enik's cave, ready to come back and fight, when she found you. Together, you fought the Sleestak "god" and got me out of the pit, but there was no hope for me here. Enik still couldn't get the time doorway to stop on Earth, but he could get it to stop long enough on several other habitable planets. Shantih looked the most like Earth, so you chose that planet.

"We went through. I nearly died. The healers tried their best but they could not save the original organs and had to replace them with artificial ones."

"I don't understand," Jack said slowly. "Why did that keep you from going through the time doorway back to Earth? Are you telling me that the people of Shantih can time travel?"

"They can, to certain places, like the Land of the Lost," Holly said softly. "If there are receptors at the planet's site, like the pylons here, they can use their technology and open time doorways briefly. There are a few sites on Earth that are receptive. But Will could never go back. Will now has technology in his body that is just light years away from 1976. What if one of the organs malfunctioned? He would have just 45 minutes to get to an Earth surgeon and have a healthy human liver and kidney transplanted. That's impossible, even if we lived in a big city like New York and not out in the sticks in Indiana. The Shantih government would not let him go back, for his own safety. You and I would never have allowed him go back and face that risk either. We chose, you and I, to stay with Will and forge a new life, together as a family. And it has been a good new life." She glared at her brother.

"I didn't say it wasn't, Holly," he said.

"No? But you're doing everything possible to ruin it!" she cried. "I know you want to change your past, Will, and let us go on to Earth. But I'm happy on Shantih, and I thought you were, too. You certainly seemed to be, when you weren't obsessed with this foolish plan."

"You were happy on Shantih because you've made up your mind to be so," Will said.

"Isn't that the way life is anywhere, on Earth, the Land of the Lost, or Shantih?" Holly shot back. "Happiness is what you make up your mind to have. You've just made up your mind to be miserable. Give it up. Let's go back to Shantih and forget this!"

"Our goal was to get home to Earth. I kept us from that goal. We can do it now, Holly, I know we can!"

"The rishi said that your plan was possible, but just barely. Even Leyna was skeptical, and she's the best expert on time travel there is! The law of temporal inertia…"

"Oh come on. You know they were just being conservative. All we need to do is change what happened on this day. And just by being here, we have! If we time it right, we may even be able to stop ourselves from being sacrificed!"

Jack's mind was reeling from the information he heard. He could picture it vividly. He knew, without hesitation, that if he had to choose again between staying in the Land of the Lost and a chance to go back to Earth, but losing either Will or Holly in the bargain, he would make that leap of faith through the time doorway again, to keep the family together and to save their lives. He knew Rick would have done so; he knew Rick would never have forgiven him if he let one of the children perish at the expense of the other. What a horrible dilemma. No wonder Will burned with guilt and anger at himself. But it was misplaced, as was his desire to change the past. Didn't he realize what he could be doing?

"Wait a minute," Jack said. "You're trying to change the past? Is that why you're here?" Will nodded.

"If I can just keep my younger self from getting that injury, then we'll stay in the Land of the Lost a bit longer, but when those three moons line up, we can all go home in the Pylon Express." Will's eyes burned with a hard, angry light. Jack shuddered.

"Will, this is risky," Jack warned. "If what you are telling me is exactly what happened on that day, ten years ago, then your very presence has changed history already. You weren't here the first time. Enik and I were. So at this time, ten years ago in your own time stream, it was just me and Enik in here looking for crystals. But Enik left me at the temple to seek the Sleestak Leader. Events have already changed. You don't know what the consequences are of these actions. For all you know, you could really die this time!"

He and Holly exchanged looks. "The temporal scientists feels that if we should really mess things up and die here, on this day, our future selves standing before you now will have a bit of a delay here in the Land because it's a closed universe…enough of a delay for Will and me to go through the time doorway and either mesh with our future selves, wherever they are, or go back to Shantih and just continue on, with your lives moving ahead in an alternative universe."

"I don't buy alternative universes. You've come back to alter my universe, and Will and Holly's. This is our present, not just your past, and you've no right to tamper with it!"

A motion at the door and a flash of red glittering tunic caught their eyes. Enik entered, stopped, and appraised the situation with cool detachment.

"Jack Marshall. I could not find the Sleestak leader in the Library of the Skulls." He paused. "I presume you are Will and Holly Marshall. One set of you is quite sufficient. What has happened?"

Jack jerked a thumb towards the elder Will. "You did see Will in the Lost City, Enik, just not our Will. This is his future self, come back to change the past."

Enik said, "That is not advised, Will Marshall. Nor is it very likely. The law of temporal inertia…"

Will waved his words away. "Yeah yeah," he said. "The rishi on Shantih told us the same thing. The law of temporal inertia states that time flows the same course and will always do so unless acted upon by some major outside force. Time, like nature is lazy. It looks for the easiest way out and it takes a major force to alter the sequence of events.

"The problem with that theory, Altrusian, is that no one knows what constitutes a major outside force. In some cases, it has been proved to be something tremendous, like a massive earthquake, a war, or an asteroid colliding with a planet. But in other cases, it can be as simple as a change in salinity of water by one pH point, such that life cannot begin on a planet seething with primordial soup….no one knows the extent to which one small, simple change can affect temporal ineretia; no one knows if it can truly be affected at all. We were warned by the rishi."

"Yet the rishi allowed you to attempt this journey," Enik said. "Fascinating." He spat the word fascinating as if it were anything but. "Even though I spent time studying their ways during my schooling, I will never understand their logic."

"Oh, their logic is to make do with what one has," Will said. "and to forget about my plan. But my research says they're wrong. We can come back and change today. It's a simple matter of keeping me from needing to go to Shantih."

"Will Marshall, that may not be enough to change the stream of time. You may divert it, as water around a rock, but it will flow towards the same point, as a river runs to the sea." Enik pointed a finger at the time doorway for emphasis.

Jack pressed the point further. " Will, what if no matter what you do, history wants to repeat itself? What if the grand scheme of things was for us to get to the planet -- what did you call it, Shantih? -- what if that was the plan all along, and the Land of the Lost was merely a stop on the great railroad of life?" Neither Holly nor Will answered.

Will glanced back at the matrix table, then down to his wrist, where an instrument similar to a wristwatch gleamed with soft dull silver precision. "Enik, you were in here when Holly found you, studying the matrix table. Can you stay here and repeat those actions now?"

"I can."

"Uncle Jack, it's time to move out to the pit. We're going to be sacrificed any second."

"Are you sure, Will? You've changed time already by being here. What if the Sleestak move more quickly this time?"

Doubt flickered briefly in Will's eyes. Then he said, "We won't be that far off. We can stop the sacrifice."

"Will, I just hope you know what you’re doing."

For an instant, the younger Will flared in the older Will's troubled eyes, and his eyes sparkled with mischievous light. "So do I, Uncle Jack. Let's go."

 

* * *

 

The creature in the pit groaned, and the mists rose higher from its putrid depths. Holly gagged on the smell. It was like an open latrine, a meat packing plant, and a chicken factory all in one. "Will, what is that thing?"

"I don't know, Holly. You saw it once, didn't you? When Dad and I fell down there, and you got that scar on your wrist."

"It brushed past me and I hit it," Holly said, "but I never actually saw it. Oh, where is Uncle Jack?"
The Sleestak leader stepped forward. "Will Marshall," he said in a deep sonorous monotone, "for ruining the hunt of the sacred Altrusian moth, the Sleestak sentence you to death."

"Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?" Will muttered.

"But I didn't ruin any hunt!" Holly said. "Let me go!"

"It is time." The Sleestak leader motioned with one clawed hand, and two of the largest Sleestak came over. Will and Holly began shouting and trying to back away, but to no avail. With a mighty push, the Sleestak slid the net into the pit, and the Marshall children tumbled over the edge.

In the tunnels leading to the Pit Cave, the elder Marshalls heard their cries. "How can this be?" Holly asked.

Jack had the childish urge to shout "I told you so!"

Enik beat him to it. "Jack Marshall was correct," the Altrusian said. "Your presence here has already altered time, such that you have miscalculated the sacrifice time. You may have miscalculated other events as well. Go, now, before you risk your past to your detriment. This is too dangerous an experiment."

"We're too late!" Holly cried.

"We're not too late," Will said firmly. "We'll just have to go down to the pit and save them there. But we've got to hurry." They broke into a run. Will removed a small, cylindrical object from his sleeve and held it at arm's length.

"What's that?" Jack gasped as they ran.

"Force field to keep the Sleestak back," Will said. He didn't seem to be out of breath during the run.

They burst into the sacrifice chamber as the Sleestak were finishing their ritual. Smoke billowed from the pit, and the creature howled and gibbered with amazing ferocity. Will clicked on the silver tube. The elder Holly rushed to the pit's edge.

"Holly, Will! Can you hear us?" The only answer was the creature's moan, mocking them.

"Let me go down," Uncle Jack urged. "You don't know what will happen if you two descend right now and see your past selves. Hand me the Sleestak's rope over there." There was a coil left over from the capture. "I'll get the kids out. Let's go."

"But you didn't go down to the pit that day, not until Holly came up," Will said. "You can't do this."

"Too late. The past has already been changed. One more change isn't likely to stop what's happening. I'm going."

Carefully tying the rope to a stalagmite, Jack fashioned a harness for himself and tied it with slip knots. While Holly held the angry Sleestak at bay with the force field, Will lowered Jack into the pit. Jack belayed off the edge, rappelling down as rapidly as he could in the thickening mist. His shoulder screamed in pain as the wound ripped open, and blood seeped through the bandage Enik had helped him apply. Cursing, his hands slipping on the rope as his shoulder lost strength, he dropped down the last several meters.

"Holly! Will!" No one answered. Gagging on the stench, Jack pulled his shirt collar over his nose and stumbled through the gloom. "Holly! Will!" his cries grew more frantic.

"Uncle Jack?" Holly's voice sounded weak. "Uncle Jack, is that you?"

He followed the voice. They had fallen about five meters away from the wall. The gloom and mist was so thick, Jack stumbled over Will's leg before he realized he was near the children. He knelt down immediately and called, "Holly? Where are you?"

Cold hands timidly reached out from the gloom. "Uncle Jack? The ropes came apart when we fell. We caught on a rock and it ripped apart the ropes. I think…I think Will is hurt."

I think so too, Jack thought grimly. He knelt down next to his nephew and felt for a pulse. It was there but weak and erratic. He touched Will's forehead and his hand came away sticky with blood. The mist swirled, and he spied blood on a rock outcropping a few feet off the ground. It told him all he needed to know. The two children had torn apart during the fall, with Will ricocheting off the rocks. Holly crawled to Will's side. Even in the bad light he could see a swelling lump the size of an egg on her forehead, and she held her wrist at a funny angle. But Will had not been attacked by the Sleestack god. At least, Jack thought, this part has changed. He felt an odd sense of foreboding.

"Holly? Are you all right?"

She nodded but swayed a bit as she nodded. "I think so. My head hurts. And my wrist feels funny. I can't move my hand." He realized she was in shock.

"Holly!" he called upwards.

"Why are you shouting at me, Uncle Jack?" the Holly by his side asked, puzzled.

"Don't worry, honey," he said. "Holly!" he cried again, louder.

"Yes, Uncle Jack?" a voice from the rim of the pit inquired.

"Holly, on this day, did you get hurt?" He touched Holly's forehead. She was clammy and cold. Shock. This wasn't good.

"No. I was fine. I climbed out for help and found you and Enik. I told you, it was Will who was hurt."

Closer now, the sound so loud it rattled his teeth, the monster in the pit roared. "This isn't good," Jack reported to those above. "You're both hurt now."

"That didn't happen to us then."

"Well, it did now," Jack retorted. "This time both of you are hurt. Any other bright suggestions, Will Marshall?"

The Will on the floor of the pit groaned and tried to open his eyes.

"Uncle Jack, you've got to get them out of the pit!" Holly, above on the rim, cried out. "You've only got a few minutes until the creature comes out to feed."

"I can't carry them out," Jack said in frustration. "My whole shoulder ripped open again from the crossbow wound."

The younger Will still had not regained total consciousness. Jack did not like the look of the thin trickle of blood seeping from his nephew's nose, nor did he like the way Holly kept blinking and looking around the cavern, as if she kept forgetting where she was.

Something slithered down the wall of the pit. A soft rope made of some braided gray fabric hung glittering before his eyes. It had come from the time traveling Marshalls. "Take the rope, and tie it to Will," Holly cried. "We'll haul him up."

Jack, moving quickly, his every sense alert, did as he was bidden. Will hung limply in the makeshift sling, lapsing back into unconsciousness. His breathing was ragged; Holly too looked like she kept sliding into unconsciousness.

"Hurry," Jack urged those above. "I don't like the looks of either of them."

Pushing from below while the others pulled from above, Will's inert body was raised into the mists swirling in the black pit. The monster roared again, the Sleestak god smelling the flesh and blood that waited to sate his hunger. Jack looked around frantically for a weapon to use against whatever monster he faced, but he had only his trusty pocket knife, and not much else. The rope came back down, and quickly he made a loop for Holly. "Holly, we're going to get you out of here," he said.

"Ronnie," she murmured. "I thought I heard Ronnie's voice. Did she come back to tell us how to get out of the Land of the Lost?"

"Sort of," Jack said. "Come on, honey, up you go."

Holly fared a little better than Will. She at least was alert enough to the danger, and clung to the gray rope with both hands, using her booted feet to rappel against the sides of the pit. Jack watched as her golden braids disappeared upwards. Strangely too, Jack noticed bolts, or what looked like Sleestak arrows, hammered into the walls at various heights. Holly used these to push up from, like a mountain climber with pitons. She made it to the top.

Now he was left alone with the monster in the pit. He sensed rather than saw a massive bulk, a horned, ridged head, and with a suddenly, blinding light, saw eyes, as big as headlights, gleaming a fierce bright red in the darkness. It sent chills of outright terror down his spine, every horror movie he'd ever seen, every sermon he'd ever heard about hell, the terrors of Korean battlefields where he'd been a medic, the time he'd been hunting with Rick and Tom and the bear had cornered them…

"Jack! The rope! Take the rope! Hurry!"

He shook himself away from the demon's hypnotic glare. With a roar and a cry the Sleestak god rushed the man, but Jack was too quick. He grabbed the rope with both hands and with his own answering cry, half scrambled and half pulled from above, he dangled just out of reach from the snapping jaws and gnashing teeth of the creature in the pit. With sweat dripping down his back and his feet finding the impossible pitons hammered into the rocks, Jack hauled himself over the edge of the pit.

They were a sorry sight indeed. In the light from the hanging braziers, he could see now the blood trickling from the back of Will's head, his sickly gray pallor, his labored breathing. Holly too was white, and her wrist was bent at such an impossible angle he knew immediately it was broken. The elder Holly -- Ronnie, Holly had called her for some odd reason -- was bending over Holly and speaking softy to her. Will, on the other hand, stood slightly to the rear, staring with wide, unfeeling eyes towards the two younger Marshalls and holding the cylindrical gizmo out to one side while angry Sleestak buzzed, hissed and hummed like a swarm of bees around the ten meter circle that protected the Marshall family, past and present.

"Well, are you satisfied?" Jack shouted at the elder Will. He swept his hand over the tableau, taking in the wounded children and his own sweat-stained visage. "Look what you've done. You've not only wounded yourself again, possibly worse this time, but Holly as well. They both need a doctor, and in case you've forgotten they're in short supply in the Land of the Lost. Even Enik can't help this."

"I -- " The elder Will Marshall licked his lips. "Come on." The words came out as a whisper. "You take Will. Holly, can you -- can you lead Holly?"

"Ronnie," the younger Holly whispered "I knew you'd come. I knew it."

"Come on, Holly," Ronnie urged. "Stand up. Follow us to Enik's cave. We're getting you help."

Jack struggled and finally lifted Will into a makeshift fireman's carry, slung over his shoulder. By this time his whole shoulder was numb and soaked with blood again, but his only thought was of getting his nephew help. He knew you weren't supposed to move a victim with head or spine injuries, but it was either that or let Will die right there, on the edge of the pit and in front of the Sleestak, who would likely feed him right back to the creature in the pit.

"Why didn't it work?" the elder Will muttered as he led the way down the caverns, holding the silver cylinder like a flashlight, keeping the force field moving with them. "It should have worked. I calculated everything to the second. I -- "

"How could you calculate everything to the second? The first time you were injured, were you investigating a mysterious stranger?" Jack gasped from the exertion of carrying Will's inert form and his own outrage.

"No," the elder Will said. "We were looking for Dopey. Holly was sure Big Alice had him cornered over by the Lost City. The Sleestak ambushed us there."

"We were out hunting you," Jack raged. "It was you this time, Will Marshall. You screwed this up yourself. You changed the course of your own plans, just by being here. You can't predict every little thing. One pebble dislodged more than last time and the arc of Will's trajectory made him hit his head. And I was down there this time to ward off the creature and prevent that injury to your side, but what of Will? What of Holly? Will they survive this?"

"Get them to Enik's cave," his nephew's elder self replied evenly. "I'll think of something."

When they entered Enik's cave, the Altrusian erected his own force field, and Will holstered the cylindrical device. The Sleestak would not be able to enter Enik's cave. "I was becoming concerned," Enik said. He stared at the bodies of the children. "Will Marshall. Holly Marshall. You are injured."

"Yes, Enik, they are," Jack said. He placed Will as near to the time doorway as he dared. He jerked his thumb towards the image of Shantih. "Can you get us home or are we stuck with Shantih?"

"As long as we are here," Ronnie/Holly replied, "we have to keep Shantih open."

"But a strange event has occurred in the time doorway," Enik said. "A radical shift. The image has changed. Some of the buildings have altered. It is as if --"

Jack interrupted him. "We've got to get them medical care," he said. "I don't care where and I don't care how but they need doctors. I can set Holly's wrist if I have to but Will's injuries are beyond me."

Enik continued on. " -- as I said, a strange thing is occurring in the time space continuum-- "

"Will, what's wrong with your hands?" Holly asked

"My hands?" The elder Marshall peered down at his hands. "It's like the time I went into the pylon and became invisible!" His hands were fading like chalk washing from pavement. "Enik, what's happening? The rishi did not anticipate this. We're disappearing."

"Your time stream no longer happened, and its events no longer occurred, " Enik pronounced. "Congratulations, Will Marshall. You have succeeded in proving the theory that temporal inertia is not always a given. Of course, you will cease to exist as a result. Now, your only hope of existence is through your younger selves." Enik pointed at the injured children. "Of course, you have no prevented the need for medical care, nor have you stopped yourselves from going to Shantih. But you have effectively changed the past. I congratulate you.

Ronnie suddenly gave a little jump and scream. Her feet were fading, fast.

"You've changed history," Jack said grimly. "Now there's no going back. We’re left with only this present moment. We can only go on from here. Good bye."

"Jack, I'm sorry!" Will cried in anguish. "I did it, I screwed up again! You have no choice but to go to Shantih, again." His upper body was fading quickly. His outline became a shimmer. "Take them to Andreas…he will heal them…" Will disappeared.

Ronnie took one last, lingering look at her younger self. She smiled sadly. "I am so sorry, Uncle Jack. We never meant to make it worse. Tell them how sorry we are…we shouldn't have tried this…." She winked out like a candle flame extinguished by a swift wind.

Enik's hand touched crystals on the matrix table. "I cannot keep the time doorway open much longer," he said. "And I cannot make it open upon Earth. They have used a device unfamiliar to me, and it too, is disappearing as the time stream shifts, and the event of it being placed in the doorway never happened. You must go now. It is Shantih, or nothing."

"Good bye, Enik," Jack said. "And thank you for all you have done for us. If these rishi can help you get home, I'll ask them for help. Can you help me get Holly into the time doorway? I'll take Will."

Enik came and took Holly by the shoulder. "The planet Shantih is advanced, and civilized, even by Altrusian's high standards," Enik said as he guided Holly gently towards the shimmering time doorway. "It is inhabited by many races, and some humanoids. I studied their planet and their advanced scientific techniques long ago when I was barely older than a hatchling. You will have a happy life."

Jack thought of the angry, hard look in Will's eyes, his misery, his guilt. He looked at the lifeless boy draped over his back like a sack of dirty laundry. He thought of how beautiful Holly had become, how she had insisted on keeping the life that she loved. Well, they would have that chance again, he vowed. A chance to rebuild what would be. And this time he would make certain he guided Will towards joy, making whatever they could of the life they would lead.

"Come on kids," he said to them both, although they were not listening. "We're coming around again to where you guys left off."

 

* * *

 

Will Marshall opened his eyes. At first, he could not believe what he saw. He half-expected cave walls, or the stone walls of the temple. His ears strained for the sounds of dinosaurs, of insects singing in the jungle and the steady crunching of brontosaurus jaws on ferns. Instead, he opened his eyes to light blue walls, and a window framing a spectacular view of a meadow carpeted with bright yellow star shaped flowers, rolling down to a sunlit sea. He sniffed and smelled the odd smells of disinfectant, medicine, clean sheets. A flat monitor on the far wall, like a TV screen, blinked and flashed with symbols he could not read. He looked down his arm and saw bruises all over it, and an IV needle stuck into his hand. Some clear liquid dripped down the IV tube. Bandages swathed his forehead. His mouth felt like it was filled with sand.

"Some view, isn't it?"

Will tried to turn his head, but a piercing pain filled it, and he flinched. "Ow. Uncle Jack, is that you?"

There sat his uncle -- clean shaven and dressed in a strange bluish gray shirt and trousers, with black boots and a black belt. The shirt was unbuttoned halfway down his chest, and Will could see a bulky bandage covered his shoulder. His hair was neatly trimmed and he looked well rested. "Welcome back to the land of the living," Jack said.

"Better than the land of the lost," Will replied. "Where the heck are we?"

Holly burst into the room, skirts of her green dress billowing about her slender form, followed by a short man with wild, curling red hair. He wore a simple white tunic over brown leggings, and a badge with his picture and the same odd symbols on the lapel of his tunic. He would have passed for a human if it were not for his eyes. Dark blue, they sparkled and gazed about with a deep intelligence, the pupils a darker shade of blue than the irises and ringed by a purple band that made his entire eye seem dark and lustrous.

"Uncle Jack! Dr. Jivada says the rishi agree -- they can get us home! They can open a time doorway home!"

"I see no reason why not," Andreas Jivada, chief healer for the healing center in Shantih's principle city, Kestra, said. "Once Will is healed, he can return with you. The concussion was bad, but the repairs won't be noticeable. Not to the instruments of your time and place, anyway."

"Will, this is Andreas Jivada, the doctor who saved your life," Jack nodded towards the healer. Andreas smiled at the boy. His smile was healing in itself, warm and accepting. Dr. Jivada came over to Will's side and gently touched his forehead. Will found relief from the pounding headache almost instantly.

"Boy, were you ever sick!" Holly said cheerfully. Her hair was freshly washed, and braided back, and she would have bounced on the edge of Will's bed if Andreas' gentle hands did not restrain her high spirits and guide her towards the empty chair next to her uncle. Will noticed that her wrist was swathed in an odd metal case, with blinking red lights.

"What happened?" Will asked as Dr. Jivada continued examining him, taking his pulse and checking his IV.

"The Sleestak god," Jack replied. He watched his words carefully to shield them from the unusual happenings with their future selves. "You two were captured and sacrificed. I managed to get you out in time, but Will, you took one hell of a rap on the noggin. If it weren't for Enik, I don't know what would have happened…" Better that they did not know what had happened, and could think this was all the normal course of events…

"Enik got a time doorway open, but to this place, the planet Shantih," Holly said. "But Will, they have time travel! They can get us home!"

"In a few months," Andreas Jivada cautioned. He straightened and addressed them all. "The planets must be lined up correctly, and the rishi must make certain they have the correct time and space continuum link on Earth for you to leave here. But yes, it does appear that you can go home eventually."

Home. Will sank back onto the hospital pillows and looked at his uncle's expectant face, his sister's radiant countenance, the doctor's happy nod. He thought of his father. He would see his dad again. He thought of long Saturday afternoons at the fishing hole with his buddies, the days spent on the baseball diamond, walking to Mr. Gurley's candy store after school, riding his horse Wildfire while Holly rode her horse, Comanche, on the weekends up in the hills. Normal life.

"Home," he said aloud. A lump welled up in his throat. "I am so glad. So glad that I'm not keeping us from going home…"

Jack frowned ever so slightly. "Will, what made you say that?"

Will tried to shake his head, but it made his head hurt. He said, puzzled, "I don't know. I just thought, what if I got hurt and we couldn't go home because of me?" He turned to the doctor. "But we can go, can't we, Dr. Jivada?"
Andreas smiled. "Home, to all things familiar."

 

 

Copyright Notice

All Land of the Lost characters, places and events from the television show copyright by Sid & Marty Kroft Productions.

The planet Shantih, the character of Andreas Jivada, the rishi, and the events taking place on Shantih occur in the science fiction trilogy Dancers of the Gateway, copyright 1999 by Jeanne M. Rudmann. Unauthorized use is prohibited by the author.