“Hey man I got it!” Aaron shouted running across the college courtyard towards Liam who was sitting, slouched under a shady tree.
Liam looked up to find Aaron waving a single piece of paper above his head triumphantly.
“Yea right, there’s no way that thing is authentic. How much did you pay for it?” Liam replied suspiciously.
“It’s real, trust me.” Aaron said curling himself over his legs to catch his breath.
“Let me see.” Liam demanded. Aaron thrusted the paper towards his friend before sinking himself onto the cool grass next to Liam.
“How much did you say you paid for this?” Liam asked again, his eyes widening as he scanned the document.
“Honestly, nothing. My brother ended up finding out what we needed and it turns out his old roommate works IT for the NSA and owed him a favor.” Aaron replied.
“See told ya, fake.” Liam threw the paper at his friend.
“Dude, it’s not a fake. Apparently, the favor was big. Like so big we didn’t even have to ask twice for it. Jack just called him up, said ‘hey you know that favor you owe me. Well I’m cashing in.’ He told him what we were looking for and 24 hours later there it was in my inbox. Fully encrypted and all.” Aaron said beaming with pride.
Liam never thought his friend would be able to pull it off. Originally, they had planned to find a hacker on the deep web. The two figured they could pool their savings and hopefully scrounge up the fee needed for such a high-level request. But this… This was pure fate.
“But there’s a catch.” Aaron said solemnly. “He couldn’t verify the source of the documents. So we have no idea where they got this information.”
“Shit, I knew it was too good to be true.” Liam scoffed.
They both sat silent for a moment pondering their next move. This document was the only thing either of them thought about nowadays and now that they had it right here in their hands they had never felt further from it.
“Screw it.” Liam finally said, breaking the silence. “I mean what’s the worst that could happen? We road trip out there, find nothing and come home.”
A wide grin swept across Aaron’s face, “I knew you couldn’t resist!” he shouted.
“Alright, alright. Get off me.” Liam said, laughing as he shoved his friend back onto the grass. “So when do we leave?”
“Already got it planned,” Aaron said confidently pulling out his phone. “Last days of class are this Thursday, then we won’t have to be back on campus until after spring break. That will give us plenty of time to get there and back.”
Liam thought for a moment. He wasn’t worried about the road trip itself, they had plenty of money for gas and supplies, but rather he was worried about the legality side of things. If they got caught they'd be charged with more than just trespassing.
“Does that thing say anything about security? Like is there armed guards, CIA, NASA, anyone who could turn us in or arrest us?” Liam asked.
Aaron took another look at the map. “All it says is that it’s an inactive site, deserted back in 1989. I'd assume that includes both civilians and military.”
Liam bit his lip speculating as to whether or not the risk was worth it. Worst case they'd get caught and charged with who knows what. Best case they finally got the footage they needed to prove they were right all along.
“Okay, so who’s car are we taking?” Liam asked.
Both of them agreed Liam’s Honda Fit probably wasn’t ideal for the gravel studded backroads and decided Aaron's Jeep was the better option. They still had two more days until classes were finished, which gave them plenty of time to plan and pack for their cross-country trip.
According to the document the abandoned lab was erected just outside of a small town in Colorado called Saguache. The town itself was a shell of what it had once been, reduced over the years to a mere population of 500- which made it the perfect location for the government to set up shop.
The entire drive from start to finish would take roughly 26 hours so they decided to take the drive in shifts, only stopping for the occasional bathroom break along the way.
By the time Thursday rolled around the two were fully packed and ready to go. Being that they were roommates there was nothing left to do and no one left to tell about their upcoming exploit so they headed out.
Roughly 30 hours later Aaron and Liam pulled into the small town of Saguache, Colorado. It was only 9 at night and the place already looked completely deserted.
“What do you think? Should we try to find a place to stop?” Aaron asked.
Liam drove in silence for a moment through the desolate, sleepy streets. Finally, shaking his head he replied, “According to the map it’s only another 20 minutes or so, we might as well keep driving."
They headed west on Highway 114 a few miles before turning north towards a place called Bonita Hills Peak. According to the map the laboratory was nestled just southwest of this mountain range.
“According to this we'll turn right at mile marker 18.” Aaron said pointing to a small sign posted along the side of the road.
“What number was that?” Liam asked, trying to keep his eyes focused on the road.
“Um, I’m not sure.” Aaron replied hesitantly.
Liam let out an annoyed sigh. The two of them had agreed to drive 6 hours each before switching and Liam was about 2 hours overdue. They had hit the 6 hour mark just before reaching Saguache when Aaron offered to take over. But Liam insisted he kept driving, a decision he now regretted.
“Just keep your eye out for the next one.” Liam said.
“Okay, here’s another one.” Aaron said, squinting through the darkness. “18! It’s mile 18. Turn here!” He shouted.
Liam firmly grabbed the steering wheel and swerved hastily to make the turn, not wanting to be in the Jeep any longer than necessary at this point.
They drove for a few more miles until they came upon a gated entrance. Liam slowed the Jeep to a stop as he peered through the windshield trying to see beyond the gate. According to a sign posted across it, this was a protected piece of forest and trespassers would be prosecuted. As he looked from side to side he noticed that the fence ran as far as he could see in both directions and was topped with barbed wire.
"Are you sure this is the place?" Liam asked.
Aaron took another look at the map. "Yea, according to this we're here."
“Where do you suppose it is?” Liam asked.
"I don't know. Think we should take a look around?" Aaron replied.
"Might as well, we're already here. We can park over there." Liam said, pointing towards a group of trees just tall enough to shield the Jeep from passerby's.
“Now what?” Aaron asked, examining the fence.
Liam was heading back towards the gate when he noticed a section of the fence had been peeled back. We’re not the first one’s here, he thought, crouching down to examine the wires that were cleanly severed with a bolt cutter.
“Nice work.” Aaron said walking up from behind.
“Maybe we should head back to town.” Liam offered but it was too late, Aaron was already working his way through the broken fence.
“What are you talking about? This is perfect!” Aaron replied, strapping his Go Pro to the top of his head.
“Right, don't you think it's maybe too perfect.” Liam said. “Obviously someone else has been here recently. Maybe this place isn’t as inactive as we thought?”
Aaron scoffed at his friend, “Liam, we haven’t seen a single sign of life since we hit town. No lights, no people, nothing. If someone was here there gone now."
“Alright fine, we get in, get some footage and get out. If it’s going to be that easy we can head back tomorrow to get more content. Deal?”
“Deal,” Aaron agreed smuggly.
After a few minutes of walking, they came upon a tree line.
“How big do you think this place is?” Liam asked.
“I don’t know but it must be huge. I don’t know why they would need all this space just to hide one lab. I mean it’s already in the middle of nowhere.” Aaron replied, adjusting his Go Pro. “Hey, make sure yours is still working. The last thing we need is to get back to town and find out we have zero footage.”
Liam stopped to check his camera when all of a sudden he could feel the hair on the back of his neck begin to stand up. “Do you feel that?” Liam asked, rubbing his neck.
“Feel what?” Aaron replied without looking up from his camera.
“Nothing,” Liam answered, chalking it up to nerves. “Come on, let’s just get going.”
They walked a few more yards when all of a sudden a small abandoned cabin appeared in the distance. It looked as if it was something built during the turn of the century. As they got closer it was clear that the building had been abandoned for some time. The roof was sunken in and the wooden frame was rotting away.
“Think it's anything worth checking out?” Aaron asked as he approached the dilapidated structure.
“Probably not. It doesn’t even look like it has running water. I doubt any government personnel would've volunteered to set up shop here.” Liam replied, peaking through the window with his flashlight.
The inside looked as disheveled as the exterior. The entire cabin had been stripped clean and all that remained were a few built-in shelves and a few kitchen cabinets.
They were about to move on when all of a sudden they could hear shouting coming from behind them. Liam quickly looked back to see 6 thick beams shooting into the air.
“Come on, we can hide inside,” Liam said as he grabbed Aaron's arm, dragging him inside cabin’s front door.
“Oh, what’s that smell?” Aaron asked, covering his nose with his arm.
“Who cares. Come on we need to find a place to hide.” Liam ran towards the back of the cabin, quickly realizing the cabin was much smaller than it looked on the outside.
As he opened the door to the back room the hair on his entire body began to rise. He felt as if he had just placed his hand on a giant plasma globe.
“You don’t feel that?” Liam asked as Aaron followed him into the room. “Feel what?” Aaron replied. Before Liam could respond lights began to flood the front of the cabin.
They were officially backed into a corner and had nowhere to run. Liam looked around the room, hoping to find something when all of a sudden his gaze landed on a small window at the back of the room.
Liam quickly ran over to pry the window open. After a short struggle the window finally came free and swung open.
“Over here.” Liam shouted over his shoulder. Just as he dived through the window he was engulfed in a bright light followed by a loud ringing that reverberated throughout his entire body.
When the ringing finally subsided, Liam found himself lying on the ground surrounded in darkness.
"Aaron?" He whispered.
"Over here," Aaron replied a few feet from him.
“What was that?” Aaron asked still holding his hands over his ears.
“I have no idea. But we need to get out of here?” Liam replied, trying to get to his feet.
“That works for me,” Aaron said, lifting himself to his feet. “Hey, check your camera first.”
“Are you serious,” Liam rolled his eyes as he unhooked his Go Pro to check the recording. “I'm still recording, now let’s go.”
They sprinted back into the forest away from the cabin when without warning they suddenly stumbled onto a brightly lit compound.
“Stop right there!” Someone shouted running towards them.
They stopped instantly, raising their hands as a sign of surrender. “We need help. We were trying to hike the mountain and got lost.” Aaron called out.
“Yea, sure ya did. Sir we have two more.” The man said, dismissing Aaron's claim.
Two more, Liam thought to himself. “It’s just us, we swear. We're traveling alone.” Liam said.
“We know. Alright straight ahead.” The man waved them towards the building at the center of the compound.
As the boys walked closer they began to realize that the man escorting them was unusually tall, standing at least 7 feet high. Liam guessed he must have been some kind of soldier or military police based on his gear and what looked like a gun slung over his shoulder. However, he didn’t look like the stereotypical soldier with big burly muscles and a shaved head. Instead, he was not only very tall but also very slender with bright white hair and almost translucent skin.
“You can put your hands down, we know you aren’t armed.” The man said as the boys walked past him. “How do you know that?” Liam asked looking up at him. “Because if you were my orders would’ve been completely different. Now move it.” The man barked back.
He led them into a door at the back of the building and up a stairwell until they reached a door on the 6th floor. “Sir, we’re here,” the man said out loud. Within seconds the door in front of them swung open and they were ushered into a large room that was completely empty except for a large desk and a few chairs at the far end.
As Aaron and Liam entered the room they became eerily overwhelmed with the lack of substance around them. Even the single desk was deficient of any kind of technology or supplies you would expect to find in an office that was currently occupied.
“That is all Alec. Thank you,” A man said walking towards them. He was of similar stature but his face had appeared to be quite a few years older than the man who escorted them inside. Liam also noted how the man was dressed in a completely different manner from Alec. Instead of sporting tactical gear adorned by various weapons, this man was dressed simply, sporting a dark high collard jacket that reached down to his thighs, a pair of fitted silk trousers, and what appeared to be soled slippers.
“Come in and have a seat.” The man said pointing towards the two leather chairs sitting in front of the desk. Aaron and Liam exchanged glances before hesitantly walking past the man to have a seat.
“It appears the two of you have stumbled onto a secret bigger than either of you are aware of.” The man said, turning to face a large window off to the side that still had the blinds down.
“Sir, if we could explain,” Liam started but the man quickly raised his hand silencing him.
For the next few minutes, the room remained silent as the man kept his hand raised peering into the blackness of the blinds in front of him. What is he doing? Liam thought to himself. We should have never come to this lab in the first place.
“No perhaps you shouldn’t have.” The man replied. Liam sat in a state of shock for a moment, Did he just…
“Perhaps I did. It’s clear now that you really don’t understand what is you’ve found here.” He lowered his gaze and let out a soft chuckle.
As he reached for the blinds Aaron and Liam could see small glints of light beginning to shine through the edges. The man quickly pulled the string revealing a scene that neither boy was prepared for.
The building they were in sat on top of a large cliff, overlooking a futuristic metropolis teeming with life. Liam slowly brought himself to his feet to take a closer inspection.
“There’s no way,” he heard Aaron mutter behind him.
“How is this possible?” Liam asked as he gazed beyond the cityscape, noticing the objects in the sky. “Are those… moons?” he asked.
“Indeed they are son.” The man replied.
“But I don’t understand. Where are we? How did this happen?” Liam asked.
“Ahh, What’s the saying you people have? When God closes a door he always opens a window.” The man replied.
That’s when it hit Liam. The window in the cabin, the bright light, the loud ringing. It was all some kind of magic portal.
The man said chuckling. “Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t make it magic young man. Here, come with me. We have a lot to discuss.” He said as he drew the curtains closed again and led Liam back to the chair.