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Across The Threshold by Jack Bode
Chapter 23

An then I stood in the vestibule of my apartment building, three books in my right hand and shaking so hard that I feared my legs would buckle under me. I leaned against the wall, brushing my left hand over my eyes. My heart thumped so loud that I had the distinct feeling that it was on the verge of jumping through my throat and out of my body.

The door to the lobby opened and the man I had let in - how long ago? A year ago? Four months ago? I could not think straight - stood in front of me, taking my arm.

“You look terrible. Are you all right?” he asked, his voice showing his deep concern.

I nodded.

He led me back into the lobby. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, thank you very much. I am all right now.”

“If you need help ...”

“No, no,” I interrupted him. “I’ll be okay now. I don’t know what came over me. I think I am all right now.”

“You are going to the library,” he stated. “Do you want me to come along?”

“Thank you, no. I’ll go upstairs and have a cup of tea before I go.” I looked at my watch. It showed 2:51:32.

We walked to the lift together. He did not have to support me any longer.

“I guess you’ll be okay,” he said as he pushed the button to go up. The lady, the man and I entered the elevator. They lived on the tenth floor. I pushed number fifteen.

“Thank you for your concern,” I said as they both left. “I’ll be fine now.”

And I was. I made myself a cup of tea. While I slowly sipped it I analyzed the events of the past. I had spent almost four months somewhere, yet here in my own period no time at all had elapsed. It was exactly as my Norwegian experience had been. Only my right ankle hurt. I limped towards the radio. And as I walked the pain lessened. It was almost time for the 3:30 news. I turned on the radio.

“The news are brought to you by General Motors,” the announcer said, “where you find the finest in trouble free personal transportation. But first a look at the weather this Saturday, the 21st day of June. We expect it to cloud over later this afternoon with drizzle beginning around the supper hour. Tomorrow it will rain most of the day. This is the eighth Sunday in a row that it has rained. More details later. First the news.” I switched the radio off.

My ankle. I had broken it and had not Doc Williams warned me about being able to feel rain coming? Then it had been no dream!

I did not go to the library that Saturday. I could not. The experi­ences of the last four months were too fresh in my memory and I felt I had suffered a great personal loss. It would take a good deal of time to get over it.

Although I was very careful during the ensuing weeks a person’s vigilance diminishes over time if nothing happens. My apprehension lessened as the months went by. Each Saturday, bit by bit, my anxiety decreased. I still avoided going out around the middle of the afternoon, true. There was no point in taking chances.

Autumn arrived and as I looked out the window while waiting for the elevator I noticed the line-up of cars stopped at the traffic light on Warden Avenue had doubled from the previous year. Winter came and went and the number of vehicles doubled once more.

Meanwhile it took me an hour to get to work. Something had to be done about that. I went to a neighboring town to look for suitable accom­modations. Alas, everything was filled up. “But I can put you on a waiting list,” the superintendent of one building offered. “However, I must warn you. It could take a year or more before an opening occurs. If you have the time - “

“Yes,” I replied, “I would appreciate it greatly if you would put me on your list.”

I still often thought about Petra and the time we had spent together aboard the small ASV vessel. Occasionally, when I was walking through my neighborhood, my mind painted a picture of what might have been. And at other times I wondered whether I would ever meet her again, and if so, under what circumstances. Don’t be foolish, my rational mind said. Yo u will never meet her again. How can you? It is not possible for us humans to travel in the time dimension. Ye t I did not want to accept this. I kept hoping to step across a crack in the pavement and find myself in some locality where I would meet Petra again.

I followed my everyday pursuits and spring turned into summer. I had taken to going out on Saturdays again at all hours of the afternoon. Only I made sure that I always left the building together with a group of other people. That way I could not be whisked to some other time track without all the others coming along as well. It worked fine. Once I even left the building at precisely nine minutes before three in the afternoon. Nothing happened as I stepped across the threshold of the door in the middle of the crowd. That was proof enough for me that the jinx was no longer effective.

I remember it all quite clearly. That year we had a very wet and cool summer. At one point it rained every day for three weeks. And the rains were not brief showers. More often than not they were cloudbursts lasting for hours at a time. Then the rain would diminish somewhat only to come pelting down again an hour later. Traffic was chaos that year and our city had the highest accident rate of any large city in the county.

Then September came and the weather improved.

I had called the superintendent of the apartment building in the neighboring town every few months to inquire how things stood.

“You are slowly moving to the top,” he kept telling me. I seemed to be moving at less than a snail’s pace.

And then in October I got a call from him. “If you can come over next Saturday in the middle of the afternoon I can show you a place,” he said. I assured him that I would be there.

Saturday came. In the middle of the afternoon, the superintendent had said. About a quarter to three I got ready. It was a brilliantly sunny day and as warm as in early June. Before I left I looked at the thermom­eter. It read twenty-four degrees in the shade. It was almost like summer.

There was a bag of garbage to take out and a length of cardboard tube. I might as well take it along, I thought. As I locked the door to my apartment I was looking forward to moving to the new place. No matter what, I would take the new apartment. It was only fifteen minutes from work and would save me almost an hour in the morning and another hour at night, and it would also save the cost of running the car that long in heavy traffic and the frayed nerves it produced.

It was Saturday and mentally I was prepared for a lengthy wait for the elevator. The garbage chute was halfway down the hall. As I passed bank of three lifts I pushed the button. Then I figured I would get rid of the garbage and return and wait.

No sooner had I pushed the button when the door in front of me slid open. Well, I could always drop the garbage into the bin outside. If my watch was accurate it was ten minutes before three. My mind was occupied with the new apartment so that I entirely missed the significance of the time.

The elevator did not stop once. It took thirty seconds to reach the street level. The lobby was deserted. Through the window I could see the bright sunshine outside and the two mountain ashes throwing a light shade on the flower beds. The petunias and peonies were a riot of color this year, even this late in the season for we had not yet had any frost.

With my back I pushed the door open to the vestibule. A blast of hot air hit me. If it got any warmer they would have to turn on the air conditioning again, I thought, even if it was already late October. This crazy weather!

I distinctly saw the red berries on the two mountain ashes about twenty meters away as I shifted the garbage, taking the tube into my right hand and the bag into my left, ready to toss them into the bin around the corner behind the red brick wall. As I stretched my left hand out to open the door of the vestibule to the outside I glanced at the watch I wore on my left wrist. 2:50:59 the digital display read.

I pushed the door open and stepped across the threshold just as the display on my watch changed to 2:51:00. I was watching the ground. Naturally I expected to see the parking lot in front of me as I raised my eyes.

Looking up the air seemed to shimmer for an instant as it occasion­ally will on a hot summer’s day and...

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