Double Beams Part 2 [short story]
This is part two of a short story I'm working on (in progress). Feel free to leave comments and/or constructive criticism.
“It’s something to do with the house or the Internet provider. Maybe we’re on some super high speed connection, quantum fiber optic. I don’t know what I’m saying. None of this makes sense,” Thom blurted out.
Lisa didn’t say a word, which was unusual for her.
“Let’s go inside. I have an idea.”
They sat in the living room floor.
“Type in Lisa Ross.”
They looked at each other when the results came up.
‘The first black female commercial pilot has been campaigning tirelessly for the highest seat in the military. The West Point graduated, who also earned a Master’s degree in Physics from MIT, has been appointed to secretary of defense.’
Lisa laughed hysterically. “ So I’m in the military. What in the world is this ?”
They typed in Beyonce as a final litmus test. This would prove or deny what they conjectured.
‘CEO of BET International, Beyoncé Knowles, tops Forbes list for fourth year in a row.’
“Jesus Christ, who the fuck runs the world now,” Lisa said.
“It’s the house, it’s the house. It must some kind of special connection. I bet if we go outside, this will all disappear.”
They walked out the house and refreshed the page. Beyoncé, Blu, and Jay sat together on the luxury yacht. Evidently enjoying their Italian vacation.
They slowly closed the front door and went up into the attic.
* * * * *
“This money is worthless outside of these walls.”
“Well maybe not, couldn’t we buy stuff online in the house? “ Thom pondered.
“And pay with cash? How does that work?”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
“I’m going to try to email somebody. Why don’t you try to call somebody.”
“Emails aren’t going thru. Sharon’s phone is going to a Jamaican restaurant,” she said with disbelief.
“It’s like we’re in a totally different Internet in the house. Access to another life or a different world where we are different people. A parallel universe.“ Thom couldn’t even believe the words that were coming out of his mouth.
“Let’s setup an Internet Café for a select few. “
Lisa’s eyes got big. “We could make a killing, $100 an hour. I could see it now , ’Get a view of the other you? I like it!” her excitement was contagious.
“We could be rich with this. “ Thom voice was elevated now. His mind already swimming in money.
Days went by as they jumped head first into this alternate reality. Looking at all the relationships and events happening around the world. Trying to evaluate this Internet 10.0.
“Wow, it looks like I’m a wealthy reverend in Alabama. I have a megachurch. Here look.” Thom handed Lisa the computer.
“But who’s this woman. You know what, I don’t even want to see this. I can feel myself getting upset with you about what you done did in another lifetime.”
Lisa gave him the laptop back.
“I guess for now we can setup two rooms for browsing, with refreshments and finger foods all included in the $100.” Thom said trying to change the subject. “You know I can sell the shit out of this. I had some lucrative side hustles while at Michigan. This can work.”
Thom rubbed his face, brainstorming a marketing tag. “Stop wasting time trying to figure out what you should be doing with your life. Take a look at what you are doing.”
* * * * *
“I’m so excited. I can’t wait for you to experience this.” Lisa said bursting with energy. “I guarantee it will blow your mind.”
She escorted the old oil tycoon to the private room.
“Have a seat. Here’s your headphones. Basically, search anything you want to know about the world or your alternate self.”
In an adjacent room, Thom was setting up a black teenage girl. “I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain how to use a computer or the Internet. It’s second nature to you Gen Z kids. Browse whatever you want, search yourself and family members if you want. But don’t be surprised by anything you find. Remember, this is not the world you know.” Thom paused and stood up straight with pride. “Welcome to Virtual Actuality, there’s some refreshments and snacks on the table. Let me know if you need anything.”
He walked out of the room to meet Lisa in the hallway. They gave each other a high five.
“We’re booked for the day, until 7 pm. That’s $2400 for the day.”
Thom smiled and walked into the newly furnished dining room.
“We’ll have enough money to buy another house in this neighborhood by the end of the month.”
Thom heard a raucous in one of the rooms.
“I can’t believe this shit. “ the old man laughed louder than expected.
“Why? This could have been my life? Really?” he said while pointing to the screen. His frustration noticeable on his face. “Where did I go wrong?”
Thom couldn’t respond to his desperate plea for an answer; there simply wasn’t one.
“No worries, everything worked out the way it’s supposed to be. Look at this way, that guy, the other you is probably saying the same thing. The grass is always greener on the other side.”
The old man struggled to get up from the plush leather chair.
“I guess so,” he grumbled and hobbled out of the house.
The young girl came out of the room.
“Did you know there’s a transport company that will send stuff from their world to ours. It’s supposedly regulated by the government, but privately owned. Here, take a look ?” she walked back to the room her wide hips barely fitting thru the door.
“Woah. That would explain the boxes. That’s probably how they got here.”
“Well this was fun, I guess I should go back to college and study photography, in my other life I’m world renowned and super rich. See you guys later.” She happily skipped out of the house.
* * * * *
“Fuuccck.” the large man was livid as the dust ran thru his fingers. He had hoped to keep his wife remains intact during the transport, but it didn’t work. His black skin was sizzling and eyes blood shot red.
“What was that ?” Thom and Lisa looked up. Thom pulled down the ladder and slowly climbed up to the attic.
“Hello ?” Thom yelled out. “Who’s up there?”
“What happened to my money? Who the hell are you? Get out of my house.” Micheal’s burple skinned puffed up and blistered as he spoke.
“We’re coming up, be easy.”
“This is my house. Do you know who I am ?” his voice trembled and his body quivered.
Thom and Lisa looked at each other.
“I own this city, matter fact I’m a multi billionaire. So not you or the government or anybody is going to stop me.”
“Okay brother, calm down. We’re just wondering what you want ?”
“What do I want, shut your ignorant mouth. My wife is alive over here, that’s what I want and I need to get rid of this garbage version of me she’s with. I can and I will. It’s taken me almost 10 years but I’m here now.” He laid out on the floor as the pain overcame him.
“I’m going to need your help.”
* * * * *
“Yes. Hello, Michael. We have you down for tomorrow 10am. Can you confirm?”
“Who is this ?” Michael said with doubt.
“You will receive a text with the address. Please arrive on time.”
Michael ended the call and stared at his phone.
"I was stupid then." As he snapped the paper thin phone in around his wrist.
"Once he’s here, I’ll take care of the rest, “ Michael said.
He sat back in the plush chair, both arms wrapped in gauze.
“Hey, when I’m settled I can give you some compensation, for your troubles,” Michael said. “How does a million dollars sound?”
“Yes. Sounds good.” Thom and Lisa quickly replied.
“Once we set him in a room, we are going for a long drive. The less we know the better. Please be done by the time we come back,” Thom demanded.
“Calm down, motherfucker. I’m running this.”
* * * * *
Michael came to the house at 10am sharp.
“Ok, we have you set up back here.” They escorted him to the room in the rear of the house.
"Any questions or concerns?" They simultaneously put on a wide smile and waited for his no. “We’ll be back in a few. Good luck.”
“This is awesome man. I’m so excited. I don’t even remember making any kind of appointment." He paused to swallow the fear.
"Have you guys every looked up your other life?” Michael asked without looking away from the screen.
“Yes, of course we have. But we have to go. Feel free to help yourself to anything on the table.” The couple scrambled to the door and into the car. Michael continued to look into his own personal window of virtual actuality.
“Wow, that must be nice.” The discovery was more depressing than motivational. Michael discovers he is a billionaire tech mogul on the other side, well respected and elusive.
The hypodermic needle pierced his neck with no effort.
“Shit.” he snapped his head back, grasping his neck before he hit the ground. The laptop eventually went into sleep mode.
“It’s all taken care of,” Michael said as they walked into the house. “I’m heading home now. Give me a couple days to get you the money.”
Michael, dressed as his former self, walked out of the house and into a blue Honda Civic.
“I hope we don’t regret this, “ Lisa said under her breath while looking at the sedan disappear down the street.
They stared at each other. “We need to stop this and buy as much property on this block as possible, rent out the houses and be easy.” Lisa said.
“Yeah, that makes sense. I just hope this doesn’t trace back to us. I mean, this is our house.”
“But how? “ When it came to money Lisa was the optimist.
“The truth always come out, I think we need to be prepared for the worst. What if somehow the police find out about the business? You know we’re not zoned for this,” Thom said.
“We didn’t do anything illegal. Where’s the evidence? Where’s the body. Gone.” Lisa clapped her hands as if she was doing a magic trick.
“Yeah, you are really putting a lot of trust in this guy. We don’t even know him. He’s filthy rich, what’s to say he won’t just kill us and keep it moving?”
“Because we know his secret,” Lisa retorted.
“That’s even more of a reason to get rid of us. I have an idea. Let’s send an email to the authorities on the other side that Michael was murdered.”
“No, no, no. That just gets us more involved in all this shit. Let’s chill out and see how everything plays out. We’re already in this, let’s not get any fuckin’ deeper.”
Their minds were racing. The house was eerily quiet that night. You could hear the street lights buzzing.
* * * * *
Michael took a deep breath before he opened the door to his new old home. “Hey honey, how are you ?”
He stood there in disbelief. He had dreamt of this moment. Seeing his beautiful wife, healthy and full of life. He got close and gave her a hug like a long lost friend, lover, and partner.
“Ok. I could get used to this affection.” She pulled him in closer. “You seem different, have you been working out ?”
Michael didn’t answer right away.
“yeah, yeah. I’ve been going to the gym during the day. I don’t want you running off with some young hot guy.”
“Honey, don’t be ridiculous. You’re the only one for me. Here sit.” She put a plate of baked chicken, yellow rice and asparagus in front of him.
“Oh, you cooked?” he asked surprised.
“Yeah, why do you seem shocked? I cook everyday.”
Her cell phone ringtone was Celine Dion.
“Since when do you like Celine Dion.”
She looked at Michael with confusion.
“Mike are you OK? You’re acting strange.”
“Hey mom ?” she spoke into the phone.
Michael was sure his mother in law was dead. This was not a part he was looking forward to.
“Yeah, he’s here. I think. He’s a little weird today.”
Lisa talked on the phone for a minute then ended the call.
“Mom says hi.”
“Where is she ?”
“Home. Where else would she be?” she grabbed the plate.
“Is the food OK?” she asked looking at the half eaten meal.
“Yeah, my appetite is a little off.”
“OK. Let me know if you want something else.”
Michael sat back in his chair. He looked around the room. The decorations were hideous. Wallpaper from the 40s, elaborate flower patterns and bland colors. Figurines in China cabinets and a sick collection of cats. Dozens of cat paintings, photos, sketches, puppets, and pillows. They were everywhere. He sunk deep into that chair and looked his wife up and down. He realized this wasn’t the woman he married. She was timid, submissive, and old fashioned. Just the opposite of what attracted him to her years ago.
“Here honey, your favorite.” She handed him some tea, but before he could grip it, the hot beverage spilled all over his arm and pants.
“Shit,” he screamed.
His wife jumped back, as if anticipating a slap to the face. She dropped to her knees to clean up the mess.
“I’m so sorry. I’m so stupid.”
It was evident she had been hit before.
He stood up and went into the bathroom. He stood in front of the mirror contemplating the situation. He figured he would give it some time. Maybe he could learn to love her again. Maybe even train her into the woman he always wanted. The little cherubs dancing on the wallpaper wasn’t giving him any motivation or hope.
“OK.” He splashed some water on his face and walked into the kitchen. He wanted to settle into his life or at least give it a real try.
His attempt at this life was draining. The monotony of his days emptied his spirit. Days turn to weeks, then months. Until he broke. This wasn’t him and this wasn’t his life.
“I’ll be back. I’m going for a walk to burn off some of this pasta.”
“OK. do you want me to come with?”
“No. You stay,” he said abruptly.
“Ok honey, hurry back I miss you already.”
Michael had no intention on going back. He had enough of this charade and was ready to go back to his other life of opulence.
* * * * *
They finally fixed the doorbell to a beautifully tuned sonata.
“Damn” Thom said thru the peep hole.
The taxi driver pulled off as Micheal stood on the porch.
“What the fuck?” Lisa whispered.
“I was hoping we would never see this fool again.”
“Michael. Come in.” they rushed him into the house.
“What are you doing here? “
Michael, walked passed them and upstairs. He pulled the ladder down going into the attic.
“Things didn’t work out like I anticipated. She’s not what I anticipated. It doesn’t make sense for me to stay here any longer. I need to go back.”
“OK,” Lisa said.
“You guys are going to help me. I have other plans for this place.”
Thom and Lisa stared blankly at each other.
“Listen, Micheal, we already don’t feel comfortable with what happened and really want to stay out of your business. We don’t want any trouble.” Thom said diplomatically.
“I’m going to need you to handle some cargo for me. The bags will come in, just make sure nobody finds out. I think the million dollars should cover your services. Either way, you will do what I say.” Michael got right in Thom’s face.
“OK, be easy. No problem.” Thom took a step back.
“Ill be in touch.” Micheal sat in front of the attic window while browsing the net on his wrist. He was there, after entering a series of passwords and eye scans, he was gone.
“Fuuuuck,” Lisa shouted.
Thom paced the attic.
“Get me some rags and a lighter.”
Lisa grabbed some ripped shirts and a BIC from the kitchen cabinet.
“Pack some stuff, we’re going on a vacation.”
Lisa did as she was told while Thom emptied a spray can of RAID into the rags.
“Throw a few things in the suitcase for me. We need to do this now,” he screamed downstairs.
The flame grew as soon as it hit the old doused cotton. He dropped it and lit another piece. Until the room was full of smoke.
“Lets go,” he yelled as he climbed down the ladder. They ran into the car and headed to the city. The house burned for an hour before the fire truck came screaming down the street. By that time the old wood structure had caught wildfire. The fire department worked the blaze for some time. But it was a lost cause. The only things remained were the bricks along the base of the house.
* * * * *
“Is this Mr. Thom Ross?”
“Yes, this is. How can I help you?”
“Mr. Ross, I’m sorry to inform you but there was fire at your home yesterday, 1600 Conrad St.”
Thom was silent for a few seconds for effect.
“Oh my God. We’re on vacation for the week in the Catskills. I can’t believe this. What happened?”
“We tried to reach you earlier but your phone went straight to voicemail. Seems like this is arson.”
“There is an interesting issue, a body was discovered in the ashes Mr. Ross. We haven’t identified who this person is. The investigators will be in touch with you to discuss further.”
“OK. Only my wife and I live in the home. I’m not sure if someone had broken into the house or what? Maybe he started the fire?” Thom said with a skeptical tone.
“Yes, that is a possibility. I don’t have all the details, but like I said a detective will be in touch. I’m sincerely sorry about your home. I heard about what you’re doing to revitalize the neighborhood.”
“Yeah, I appreciate that. Thanks for the call.” Thom ended the call without a goodbye.
“That motherfucker left a dead body in our house,” Lisa said with her teeth clenched.
* * * * *
“So, yes we had a small business going. Sort of an internet cafe. I realize the we aren’t zoned for that, but nevertheless. Michael was a client. Um, he used our services but didn’t like the results.
“What exactly are your services, just for my records,” the detective held his pen midair, waiting for Thom to answer.
“Basically, we gave our clients access to an underground network. Sort of a dark web kind of thing. They could purchase things that are hard to find.”
“OK. Continue.” The detective didn’t seem concerned about any potential illegal activities.
“We offered to give him his money back but he was adamant on getting the word out.” Thom explained.
“Evidently, we’re crooks and scammers,” Lisa added.
“He had to have been watching us, waited until we were gone and came back and burnt the house down.” Thom said as if he had it all figured out. He sat back with his arms crossed signaling the end of the show they were putting on.
“Its unfortunate you know when you try to do good and people take it too far. I hear you were trying to fix that neighborhood. I actually grew up over there. I was glad to see somebody come in and not be scared. I commend you guys.” The detective stood up.
“Sit tight. I’ll be right back. I think we have everything we need.”
“We should be able to stay at the corner house. There’s no one in there now,” Thom whispered into Lisa's ear.
Five minutes seemed like hours as the detective opened the door to the interrogation room.
“OK guys, you are good to go. We’ll give you a call if we have anymore questions. Here’s my card and I’m sorry about this whole situation.” The detective extended his hand to Thom.
“Yeah, we appreciate your words and wish the best for his family.”
Lisa shook his hand as well on the way out.
The car was silent as they drove away from the precinct. Thirty five miles into the ride Thom took a deep sigh of relief.
“I still can’t believe this.”
They drove past the remains of the house.
“I have an idea. Let’s make this into a community garden.” Lisa’s excitement was surprising considering they had just came from the police station under this extreme circumstance. Or maybe this was her proverbial sigh of relief.
“Yeah, we can clear the land and have the community come out and help start it up. Great idea babe.” Thom’s voice wasn’t as enthusiastic.
“Listen, I’m thinking we should move back to the city. This situ.”
“I totally agree,” Lisa answered before he could finish his sentence. They smiled at each other and headed to the freeway.