After securing the horses in the barn, and giving them some food and water to settle them, Garrett bid Carrie farewell for the day and headed out.
Carrie watched him go, then went back inside the house, pleased to see her mother contently sitting in her chair watching some birds out the window. A small smile flickered over her face as she entered the kitchen to make a late lunch.
“Those fool horses were up in the north field just standing around,” she told her mother while setting a pot of water on to boil.
“Bit hot today for a run around, but I suppose the earthquake made them as jittery as my knees,” Joyce replied.
“Something like that.” Carrie poured some pasta into the boiling water, “We might be getting a break from this weather finally.”
“That so, dear?”
“Yeah, there was a cool breeze out of the north.”
Carrie made a slight sound of acknowledgment, but her mind was already drifting back to Garrett. She’d just been back in town around a month now and this was the first time she’d seen more than a passing glance of him. Three years and he had barely changed, she wondered if his feelings had.
Later that evening, after they’d had supper and Joyce had been settled into bed to read, Carrie heard that familiar truck pulling in the driveway once more. She kissed Joyce gently on the forehead, then headed for the front door.
“Seems like he can’t stay away from you,” her mother teased.
“Very funny Mum.”
Carrie slipped outside, meeting Garrett on the tiny front porch. She shooed him quietly towards the truck, following behind. “Mum’s resting, why are you back, Garrett?”
Garrett’s eyes lit up in the setting sunlight, excitement obvious in his expression. “Carrie some weird crazy things are happening around town!”
“What, like the earthquake?”
“No! Spooky things no one can explain.”
“Ok, I’m confused… Garrett what..”
“Here, come with me, you have to see it for yourself.”
Carrie hesitated, not wanting to leave her mom. Spooky things? Like Ghosts? Didn’t realize he ever got excited over stuff like that. “All right fine, but I hope it won’t take long.”
“Oh it won’t take long to see it, hop in the truck.”
After climbing in, Garrett pulled back out of the driveway and headed away from town.
“I thought you said in town?”
“No, around town. All around town, there’s some weird barrier or something… look I really can’t explain it. You’ll see.”
Once they reached the northeast edge of the property, Garrett had Carrie get out of the truck. She stepped out on the road and stood on the grass berm. Garrett rolled down his window. “Ok, now watch. I’m going to drive straight towards the creek crossing.”
“All right…” Carrie trailed off, feeling very odd about what was going on. I wonder if he’s drunk? But no… that’s not like him. Besides, he didn’t smell like he’d been drinking anything.
Garrett pulled away, then stepped on the gas, speeding toward the bridge. As the truck crossed the bridge there was a slight blur then the truck was flipped around, heading right back towards her.
Carrie was staring with her mouth open when Garrett pulled back up beside her. “What did you do?”
“Nothing! I just drove along and suddenly I was coming back.”
“But that’s impossible!”
“I know, but Care it’s the same all around the town!”
In his excitement he had let her nickname slip, but she hardly noticed. “What do you mean, Garrett?”
“Every road out of town does the same thing. You can get a little way out then you’re just headed back.”
Shaking her head in disbelief, Carrie started down the road towards the bridge.
Garrett turned the truck around, then caught up to her as she reached the bridge.
Carrie paused and peered at the bridge, the river, the road… Nothing appeared out of the ordinary. She could see just as far down the road as she always could. She glanced at Garrett, he gave her a slightly childish grin, then slowly drove over the bridge. It creaked slightly, and acted like a perfectly normal bridge but as the truck left it, something changed. A slight blur and the truck was suddenly headed back. The movement was so fast, it was almost lost on her and her brain didn’t even seem to comprehend that anything odd had happened, despite that she stood and watched it.
As Garrett rolled back beside her, he pushed open the passenger door, “Come on, I’m supposed to be picking you up and taking you to the Hall. Everyone is meeting there.”
“Yeah, about this,” He gestured behind him.
Carrie stood rooted to the spot, staring past the bridge. The breeze rippling the tree leaves close by continued on past the bridge, fluttering more leaves in succession as it went.
“I know, it doesn’t make any sense Carrie. It doesn’t make sense to anyone. Some folks are out checking all the roads, we’ll figure it out. Come with me, ok?”
Carrie nodded slowly, “Ok…” and climbed into the truck.
Though he’d seemed to be having a bit of fun about it, Garrett turned more serious as they pulled into the Hall parking lot. The Hall, as the locals all called it, was an old community center. It wasn’t used for much anymore, besides monthly Bingo night and the occasional Town Hall style meeting. Tonight though, they could see the cars of almost every resident packed into the parking lot. As they entered the Hall they even saw one non-resident, the county Sheriff named Paul Young. He was standing on the tiny stage in one corner with the mayor.
“We’re not sure what’s happening,” Mayor Roth was saying, “but it seems that we can’t leave town right now. Paul here’s checked every road and you all know what happens.” He gestured at a large map behind him, “Based on what he’s found, we’ve drawn an approximate circle around town. We want you all to stay away from the edges until he can investigate it further in the morning. We don’t want anyone getting hurt or disappearing. Also… so far we can’t seem to contact anyone outside town. It may be that the earthquake earlier this morning disrupted phone and radio service, we can’t really say for sure.”
“But an earthquake can’t make an invisible wall around town!” a random voice in the crowd called.
“That’s true,” Mayor Roth nodded in the general direction of the speaker, “Like I said, we really don’t know what’s happening but we’re going to try to figure it out. I suggest everyone stay home tonight and don’t go wandering around, it might not be safe.”
They was some grumbling from the crowd, as the mayor and Sheriff Young stepped back into the group to answer questions on a more personal level. Carrie caught bits of conversation from a variety of people. Government experiment, aliens, mass hallucination, dreams… it was boggling how quickly people were gossiping about every vague possibility.
Garrett gently grabbed her arm and pulled her away. Once they were standing back at the truck, Garrett looked into her eyes. “You good, Carrie?”
“I think so…”
“That’s a lot to take in. I don’t even know what to think, maybe it’ll be gone in the morning.”
“Maybe,” Somehow looking at Garrett she did feel a little better, despite how confusing everything had become.
After pulling in to Carrie’s driveway and putting the truck in park, Garrett drummed his fingers lightly on the steering wheel. “Do you need me to stay around?”
A flush crept up Carrie’s cheeks. She wanted him to stay close, the day had been a confusing mess and she thought she might be going a little crazy inside her own head, but she wasn’t ready to take that step. “Naw Garrett, go on home to your family. We’ll be ok.”
“All right, if you’re sure you’ll be fine.”
Carrie nodded despite that she wasn’t sure at all, and got out of the truck – leaving the secure feeling of being beside him behind. As she closed the house door behind her, she paused to listen as he drove away.