Author : Ryan Swiers

James hoped the battery would run out soon. The manual had said it was only good for three hours moving, double that when not. He had been looking for Alex almost five now. There was only one more place to look.

The woods were wet and dark, almost as dark as the overcast sky. James crawled through the border of damp branches and rotten logs to get inside the clearing. This was his son’s favorite spot. A makeshift fort so to speak. Even had a large rock that could pass as a cannon. It had been real fun breaking his back on that project.

On the far side of the clearing they had built a lookout tower, a tree fort really, yet sufficient enough to spot any savages and aliens foolish enough to crawl into the lethal sights of a plastic rifle. James was sure he too had been killed more times than was humanly possible in his course through the thicket, across the no man’s land, and towards the base of the tree.

He called up to that dread sentry.

“Bud, if you’re up there, we’re not mad at you. Me and mom love you. Why don’t you come on down and we can get inside, get warmed up, get everything worked out, alright? What do you say little buddy? Alex?”

The tree only replied with fat beads of rain water. James asked again. No response.

“Come on, champ, let’s go inside.”

He braved a peek inside the tree fort, more worried that the boards would give under his weight than fear of another gun wound. The boy wasn’t on the stool or huddled by a railing or asleep under the shelter.

The rifle was gone though. James made to pull himself up further when his foot slipped. His piece of the railing fractured and fell with him. Shortly, he could see that the sky wasn’t as dark as the sudden black beneath his wincing eyelids.

He groaned, rocking the agony, not really succeeding. It felt like his back had been stabbed with a horse’s spinal cord. Don’tcha know, pardner, they call ‘em trap doors for a reason. Har har.

“Heehee.” Giggled the boy from nearby.

James rolled on to his side, pain forgotten, searching. “Alex?”

The ring of trees, the snarled fence, rock cannon, a toy chest, and an old wagon; no boy.

There was something else though. The grass rustled in a line towards him. Above this the gray sky bulged, water-streaked, distorted, like a fish-eye lens. The bulge subsided as the movement stopped in front of him.

There was a slight *click* near his head. The rifle. Scratch another Comanche.

“Alex, thank god.” He waved an arm. “Help your dad up, bud.”

Alex giggled again. The distortion moved away.

The guy in the store had warned him. You need to buy spare goggles, too. James had to admit now he hadn’t listened. Lesson learned. Never give your eight year old an invisibility cloak for his birthday.


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