Author’s Note: Vanishing is an alternate version of Kismet, a story now available at Amazon. I tried to get the attention of book publishers with this and the two earlier chapters. I never had any takers, but I never gave up on the story.
Heat had blanketed David when a bolt of lightning struck the center of the sinkhole seconds after Lisa fell. Within those seconds, he had felt an explosion in his eyes and skull from the lightning and the plume of green light that erupted from the hole. The force hammered him down until he was on his back, his eyes and head throbbing and fire burning inside his lungs.
Now he sat on his sofa, barely able to breathe, and trying to make sense of what happened.
“Believe in things much greater and far more mysterious than we can explain,” Nancy Pennwater Stephenson said to him inside his living room. He squeezed his eyelids shut. To the right of her, bright morning sunlight had entered the bay window. “When the earthquake struck yesterday, I knew that it had happened. Again.”
“I came home, took a rope back to the hole and went down inside the cave,” David said. “It’s like a giant geode of crystal with no way out but up.” He turned his head until it was out of the sunlight. “So what else can I do?” He looked dumbly at the journal and photograph in his hands. “The police think I’m crazy, that I killed my wife. They don’t believe that she fell into the hole and disappeared.”
“They’ll think you’re insane if you try to tell them the truth,” Nancy said.
“The truth.” David sighed. Then, he looked at the photograph and the journal, both yellowed and faded, yet so tangible—especially the pages of names and addresses and phone numbers … some of them exclusive to him and Lisa. “How?” he said and sat back. “How do I get her back? If she’s in the past, how can I go to where she’s at?”
Nancy sat for a long time and said nothing. Then, “Go to the cave where she vanished. The answer is there. It has to be.”
“And what is the answer?”
“I don’t know. But when you find it, God be with you.” She stood and said goodbye. David unfolded himself from the sofa and showed Nancy Pennwater Stephenson—his daughter from another time, another dimension—to the door. After she had driven away, he sat for an hour and reread Nancy’s journal. After that he prayed. For what it was worth, he got some satisfaction from talking to the supposed ruler of the universe, although most of the one-sided conversation was spent begging for a miracle.
When he stepped from the room, he knew that Nancy was right, as ludicrous as it seemed to the rational part of his mind. The doorway leading to Lisa lay within the cave’s green crystals and the lightning that had struck there.
He prayed again for a miracle, then went to the crystal cave and waited for a miracle.
During the third week of July, not long after another terrible thunderstorm had passed over Myers Ridge, three teenage boys hiking Eagle Rock Incline stumbled upon the sinkhole and cave. Inside, the boys found an overturned tent containing a sleeping bag, a dozen empty cases of canned pastas, soups and vegetables, and three one-gallon containers of store-bought water. They also found some books about lightning, local history from the 1940s, and theories on time travel.
They also found no one inside the cave, alive or dead.