Crossings and Stepping Stones
A Short Story by: Dustin Brackbill and Ryan S. Graybill
“Hold it!” Ashlyn shouted not only catching the other two off guard, but herself as well. “Just hold it!” Her reiteration was not as loud, but her sternness was evident.
Anvay and Dwayne halted. Dwayne a little bit more easily than Anvay. It went against every fiber in Anvay’s being to take orders from anyone. Perusing his surroundings reminded him he wasn’t in corporate America anymore. It also reminded him, quite humbly, that if he couldn’t get the driver to stay put then perhaps a strange new reality could be forming. With this thought running through his mind and seeing this woman panicked and terrified, he submitted to her request. Remembering not everything comes back all at once, he motioned with his hand that he had no intention of moving.
Ashlyn, surprised that her voice was being heard, felt relief. Looking over at the other man across the street, Dwayne motioned as well that he had every intention of holding his ground.
“I just don’t think I’m ready. Yet.”
At this Anvay smiled his well-rehearsed business smile. His white teeth made Ashlyn pause. For a brief moment she felt in her gut that that smile was familiar, but quickly chalked it up to it possibly being a celebrity he reminded her of.
The three strangers sat at their respective corners of the intersection. Dwayne took out a handkerchief and wiped his brow while Anvay loosened his striped-pattern tie. Ashlyn sat, still on her guard, while visions of being taken against her will played out in her head.
They were silent for several minutes. Dwayne thought that if there were traffic lights hung across each route, they would have turned from red to green to red again a half dozen times. Time seemed to no longer exist. Having his devices and even his watched stripped from him, he had no idea the time. He wasn’t sure if the sun was ascending or descending.
Feeling there was no choice but to trust them – she felt her life would end either way – Ashlyn spoke. “How long did it take to get here?” Her voice had lost its demand from before. It was weak from both her inability to be tough in this situation and the unbearable heat. Neither Dwayne nor Anvay spoke. “I said…”
“No idea. No watch,” Dwayne stated while wiping his brow. “Did they take yours?”
“Yes, they did. Or she did. I think there was just one. Everything except my clothes was taken.”
Anvay interjected. “How long did it take you?”
“They blindfolded me, but didn’t tie me up. I could hear the radio station. Every hour they would seem to give the time. But that’s what is so peculiar. I would hear the time given on the hour, but by the next hour I heard...a more significant passage of time had passed.”
“So what time do you think you got here?” Dwayne asked.
“It was about four o’clock. In the morning.”
Dwayne was confused. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m not lying!” She said defensively.
Dwayne put both of his hands palm-out. “I’m not saying you are.” He gathered his thoughts for a moment. “It just seemed like you weren’t here that long when I got here. I guess I’m the one not making sense.”
“I was here for several hours. When I woke up…”
“They drugged you!?” Dwayne asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t…think so.” His comment made her think. “I was just tired…”
Anvay stood. “So, you were both tired and travelled a long way. I get that. But I gotta tell you that time and energy are a bit warped here. We should get moving…” He said showing impatience. Stepping onto the road quickly got Dwayne’s attention.
“Easy, dude. No need for that. Step back and sit down.” Dwayne said looking over at Anvay who rolled his eyes but heeded the plea. “Sorry…Lady.”
“It’s okay.” Ashlyn spoke up and looked to her left at Dwayne. “He has a point. We need some kind of a plan or we will roast out here.”
The three sat quietly for several minutes before Dwayne broke the silence.“Here’s what I know: They blindfolded me. Put me in the front seat. Must’ve been soundproof windows, cuz I didn’t hear a thing. Not outside or inside. The driver just muttered to himself once and awhile and slurped his drink.” Dwayne didn’t feel like saying anything else. There wasn’t much else. The reality was becoming more difficult to swallow. Especially with a parched throat. Dwayne thought for a moment about the muttering. It almost seemed like sometimes the driver was either attempting a conversation or giving advice. What was it he said? he thought to himself. Itineris?
Again the three were quiet before Ashlyn uncharacteristically initiated more conversation. Turning to her right, she looked across the road – not a single car had passed - to the Indian man who was now wiping his brow with his tie. “What about you? You aren’t saying much?”
Anvay squinted, not because of the sun (because it now behind his back), but rather out of confusion. During this, Dwayne and Ashlyn both looked at each other in their own bewilderment as to why their companion wasn’t answering.
“Are you okay, dude?”
Anvay stood and walked diagonally across the intersection so he was equidistant from them. He glanced back between Dwayne and Ashlyn looking more confused with each look. He finally spoke. “You two seriously don’t remember this?”
“Remember what exactly?” Dwayne said a split second before Ashlyn herself was about to ask the same thing.
“Ashlyn! Dwayne!” He looked at them as he said their names out loud. He had their undivided attention before he continued. “Remember being here before.”