Portals © 2011 Mike Calhoun
“I broke into, toddled into a Top Security Air Force Facility, based near a central Californian farming town.” Not quite elderly, but certainly an older man, with that ancient youthfulness I imagined Gandalf or Merlin had. Short but stocky, trim white beard and greying hair pulled back in lumpy knot, his gaunt weather-redden cheeks, he looked like a painting of “John Brown, the Emancipator” as he rode wildly through, freeing slaves.
“They caught me leaving.” Mitchell inhaled, exhaled sweet smoke, “I was four years old,” he smiled sadly, “So they put me under house arrest. As my Dad was Air Force Intelligence, they figured they owned me.”
I stared in disbelief, ignoring the passed pipe in my fingers.
“I was a happy kid.” He leaned back, staring into the past, “There’s an early black and white photo of me, a grinning toddler in enormous sunglasses, reading the Sunday funnies. You can see ‘Dagwood‘ if you turn the picture upside down.” He took the pipe from my fingers, relit. “Good for the glaucoma,” He inhaled.
“We lived just this side of the railroad tracks,” he shook his head, “With a little vegetable garden on the wrong side. I was sitting in the dirt, my Mom pulling weeds when I heard a train rumble like it did several times a week and she pointed up.”
“ ‘There’s your Dad. He’s in one of those planes.’ ”
I saw a train in the sky heading slowing up at an angle towards the distant hills.
“ ‘A train in the sky!, I laughed.”
“‘Airplanes, that fly,” she pulled weeds, ‘Your Dad will be back some day.’ “
“When I saw Dad again, he was different. Shorted, fat and nearly bald. We moved to a real house, with a backyard, a big yellow dog, a cat and my new little brother.” He paused, puffed, “One morning, my Mom was yelling at the cat, my Dad was yelling at my Mom and my little brother was howling his head off in the highchair AGAIN. When Clancy the dog started barking, I took an apple from the table bowl, quietly left that house and toddled away, nearly four years old, an apple in my pocket.”
“I walked straight up the street, then turned a corner and another, coming back to the same direction a street or so over. Another block and the neighborhood was denser, a square of streets with trees made me turn a corner back and then another to head on in the same direction. It was late afternoon, almost evening when I reached road that went either way, but in front of me, across that street was a low hedge, wide lawn, and a large, well built house. I could see cool dusk in the background as a large dark-haired woman in a long dress or coat came to the hedge.
“ “Are you lost? Do you want to call someone? Your parents?’ ”
I thought They will never find my parents HERE and I will have to talk to people in uniform like my Dad
“ ‘I’m ok,” I turned back across the smooth street, “I’m going home.’ ”
“When I got back, it was early warm afternoon, my Mom spanked me for running away and demanded I tell her where I had gone.”
I watched him do the staring into the past thing.
“I couldn’t find it though I went the same way, only this time that road ran along a dry yellow field with hills in the background.
“Why are you telling—?” I started; his blue eyes stopped me.
“That’s the Air Force story. I’ll tell you how they trained me, conditioned me, kept me on a virtual leash and several others...I’ll tell you about portals.”
“Other places.” Mitchell smiled and got up, “You know computers, those things, get this on site or whatever and I’ll keep you interested.”
“Other might want to know, or compare experiences.”
He left and I thought about it.
Maybe they would.