That night, Carrie and Garrett sat at the kitchen table whispering excitedly. Joyce had gone to bed, but they didn’t want her to hear them.
“I just vanished?” Carrie asked, thinking hard.
“Soon as you stepped forward into that misty air, yeah. Just gone. Scared the wits out of me for a second.”
“Yet you came in after me.”
“Of course, Care, I… well I can’t explain it. I just had to get you back.”
Carrie smiled. Of course she knew he would. He always had her back. “And did you see how amazing it was?”
Garrett sat back, his brow drawn down, “I don’t think I saw much besides white and mountains. Mountains though! There’s no mountains anywhere near here. I’ve never seen any in my life.”
Carrie’s voice shook a little, “I have, out in Colorado mostly. It was amazing…” she trailed off and they both sat in silence for a few moments.
“Did you recognize it? Was that Colorado?”
Carrie considered for just a moment before shaking her head, “No, it was nothing like Colorado. I couldn’t say where that was at all.”
“Blasted cold though.” Garrett ran a hand through in hair, a habit he’d developed ages ago whenever he was confused about things.
Carrie smiled affectionately, a look which he caught and it made him smile in return. “We should go back,” She picked up a cup of hot tea to take a sip.
Garrett sat forward abruptly, “Seriously?”
Carrie stared at him, then set back down her cup, “Of course.”
Garrett raised his arms slightly, “We don’t know what’s out there!”
“Exactly,” Carrie tapped lightly on the rim of her cup, “Maybe it’s the way out of here. Maybe there are other people!”
Garrett sat back once more, reluctantly, and rubbed a hand through his hair once more. “I suppose you are right but I don’t like it, not one bit.”
“You don’t have to like it, just come with me?”
Garrett sighed in defeat, “You know I will. Someone has to keep track of you.”
Carrie laughed and Garrett joined her with a grin. “I guess we can go explore the world together this time.”
Carrie felt excited despite the situation being so bizarre. There had to be something out there, and she wanted to find it.
The next morning dawned with frosted windows and still air. Garrett puffed out a cloud as he crunched through the grass after Carrie, on their way to the shed.
“I’m glad Henry is able to come sit with mom for the day,” Carrie called back to Garrett as she reached the shed door.
Garrett nodded, and pulled his collar closer to his neck. “He’ll take any good excuse to avoid farm work for a day. I just wish it didn’t have to be so blasted cold this morning.”
“Aw come on. You know you’d be out in it anyway today. And besides, it’ll be just as cold where we’re going, if not colder. At least we don’t have to pack a change of clothes.”
Garrett considered this for a bit. It wasn’t something he’d ever had to think on before, traveling to different climates. He sighed and stepped in the shed to start up the four wheeler.
After a quick ride up to the corner of the field, Garrett’s nose felt chilled through already. “I’m glad it’s not windy at least, once you’re back on your feet.”
Carrie smiled at him, then turned her attention the fence line. She frowned, “Well that’s odd.”
Garrett turned his attention to where her gaze went, “What’s that?”
“No air movement. Yesterday we could see all the air coming through. I don’t even feel a breeze today.”
“Maybe the hole is gone,” Garrett walked out towards the posts where the hole had been before. Sure enough, at one step he just vanished. Carrie hurried in after him.
Garrett was standing in the snow, staring around. It was cloudy out now, unlike at the farm where the skies had been clear and still.
“At least the snow isn’t blinding.” Carrie noted as she stepped up beside Garrett. He seemed lost in contemplation, so she put a gloved hand gently against his shoulder. “Ready Gare?”
Her old nickname for him caught his attention immediately and Garrett turned to face her. He smiled and took both of her hands in his. “Ready if you are. But how will we know where to come back through?”
“Oh!” Carrie took her hand away and stuffed it into her pocket, returning it with an orange ribbon clutched in it. “We mark our trail. I’ve brought a bunch with me. I’ve gone hiking out in woods and mountains, and lots of trails are just marked with ribbon or plastic disks on the trees.” She stepped up to the closest tree, a small pine about her height, and tied the orange ribbon to the top.
“Smart,” Garrett remarked, “Wouldn’t have thought to do it myself.”
Carrie smiled, “And that’s why you have me!” With a small laugh she turned and they began their decent into the valley. Nothing human made was immediately visible, but the both hoped to spot a trail or road at least. Every now and then she paused to tie a new ribbon to a branch along their path.
“I suppose we could just follow our own tracks back,” Garrett noted as his boots crunched through the snow.
“True, but not if it snows again.”
Garrett squinted up at the gray clouds blanketing the entire sky, “Possible that it will, too.”
Within a half hour they reached the edge of the frozen lake at the bottom of the valley and paused. Carrie was frowning again, “I thought for sure some trail must come down here, nearly all lakes I’ve ever seen have loads of trails around them. Even if it’s just from fishermen.”
“Could be private property,” Garrett suggested.
“I suppose so. Do you think we should walk across and keep looking?”
“Hmm,” Garrett studied the lake’s surface, “Seems solid but I don’t know, Care, I’ve never walked on anything but small cow ponds in the winter.”
“Right…” Carrie peered at the ice, brows furrowed, then shrugged. “I think it’s safe enough, but we’ll stick close to the shore. Besides, then we can spot any incoming trails or roads.”
Garrett nodded and they set off around the lake.
It was fairly sizable, the surface blown clear of all snow, but they could still see the far shore. The search for signs of human life proved to be fruitless, however. The lake seemed to be entirely isolated. After another half hour of walking, they halted on the shore opposite of where they started.
Carrie sat down heavily on a nearly log and stretched her feet out. She was used to walking long distances, but she hadn’t been on a hike in months.
Garrett noticed her need to rest, “Well, how about you stay here a minute. I’m going to go up this little hill to that rock and see what’s over it. Maybe we could head back after. We might even be able to bring the four wheeler in here…”
Carrie shook her head at him. “Nah, Garrett. It wouldn’t do the snow so well. It’s not deep but that thing’s not made for this. I’ll be fine in a few minutes.”
Garrett nodded, “All right, I’ll be right back.” He trudged off through the snow, the boot crunching getting quieter as he got further up the hill.
Carrie watched him go, then looked around, noting some rabbit tracks nearby. Well at least we’re not entirely alone out here. The thought made her stiffen. I wonder what other animals might be out here. Bears? Who knows, I don’t even know where we are.
“Carrie!” Garrett’s voice sent her to her feet, she looked up the hill and he waved. He called something else out but she missed whatever it was because her boots were now crunching quickly up the hill towards him.
Once she got up beside him she was panting, “Whats wrong?”
“Gees Carrie I didn’t spook you did I? You didn’t have to run, it’s all right.”
Carrie bent over and panted heavily for several seconds. When she could speak again she straightened and glared at him. “Well what… did you go.. yelling.. for?”
Garrett turned and pointed, “That.”
Carrie glanced past him, then stared. Not too far from where they stood a large cloud of steam billowed out from… from what?
“Do you think it’s another hole?” Garrett turned to face her, one eyebrow raised.
Carrie hadn’t even thought about the possibility until he said it. She breathed out heavily once more, “I thought we were outside…”
“We are outside of the barrier around town but… I don’t think we’re actually ‘outside’.”
Carrie pressed a hand to her forehead, “How can that be?”
“How can any of this be, Care, it’s all weird.”
Carrie turned to Garrett and practically fell into him, though he caught her up with ease. Now she felt mentally exhausted, even more than physically. Garrett wrapped his arms tightly around her and held her patiently.