“He never should have been there in the first place.” Sally dropped the duffel bag on the counter. It landed with a thunk.
Hank put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Tyler. Go in the den for a bit.”
The boy sighed and trudged from the room.
Sally crossed her arms over her chest. “He’s twelve!”
“What were you thinking? I told you to call Debbie! He could’ve–”
“–been killed! What if the guards–”
“–had caught him? Damn it, Hank–”
She closed her mouth with a snap.
Hank walked around the counter and pulled his wife into his arms. “Babe, it’s okay. He’s–”
“He’s twelve. I know. He’s not a little kid anymore. He doesn’t need a babysitter.”
Sally pulled away but he held on. After a moment, she relaxed.
Hank kissed her on the cheek and released her. “We wouldn’t have gotten it if he hadn’t been there.”
“We would’ve figured it out.”
“No, we wouldn’t. He was the one who deciphered the sequence.” Hank laughed. “Who knew all that video game playing would pay off?”
Sally sighed, unzipped the duffel bag and looked inside. “Doesn’t look like much. Does it?”
Hank lifted out a small, gray cube. “Sure doesn’t.” He whistled softly, setting the object on the counter.
“I was starting to think we’d never get it.”
“But we did. Thanks to–”
“I know.” She looked over her shoulder at the doorway. “You can stop eavesdropping and come in.”
Tyler burst into the room, grinning. “That it? Shoot! A soul catcher!”
Sally slung her arm around the boy’s shoulders. “The soul catcher. Only one of its kind in existence. So the monks say. Hope that’s true.”
Tyler leaned closer to the cube, listening to its faint humming. “And they really can’t make the thingy go without it?”
“Nope.” Hank nudged the cube with the tip of his finger. Its humming grew momentarily louder.
“What’s it do, anyway? The thingy? You guys are always whispering about it but I can never hear the good stuff.”
Sally hugged the boy a little tighter. “The machine opens a gateway between worlds.”
The boy frowned. “Which worlds?”
“Any of them. But it’s their world they want. That’s not a place you want to see, believe me.”
A long silence.
“But they can’t make the machine go without the soul catcher.”
Hank shook his head.
“Then they’re screwed!”
Sally laughed. “No, son. You’re right. They can’t activate the machine without this. The question is: what do we do with it?”
Hank took the cube and held it up to the light. “We go home.”
- A Lovely Conundrum (a story in 500 words or less) (doingthewritething.wordpress.com)
- Catch the Moon – Flash Fiction Challenge (usaukwoods.wordpress.com)
- My New Genre: Flash Fiction (thewonderingpew.wordpress.com)
Ant Nebula: Fast Winds from a Dying Star (NASA, Chandra, 2006) by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, on Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0