The Refuge

Submitted into Contest #118 in response to: Set your story during a sudden change of season.... view prompt

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Science Fiction Romance

Is this the beginning or the end?

Have my girlfriend and I, stumbled into a horror movie or have we been blessed beyond all understanding? Never in a million years would I have dreamed of being in this dilemma and it really put into perspective my piddly little problems in the scheme of… the universe!

A week earlier, my girlfriend and I were at a bar in Glebe. An Inner West suburb of Sydney and an easy walk, drive, bus or light rail from Sydney CBD. We lived around the corner in our old one-bedroom apartment and had been together for about a year, since my twenty second birthday.

Julia was originally from the Australian alpine region and grew in Jindabyne, while I grew up in Sydney. We met when she was employed the same company that I worked for and gotten along really well from day one. I enjoyed showing her around Sydney, as she had just moved there from Jindabyne. Julia had no family or friends nearby and had this sort of… damsel in distress thing happening that I found very appealing.

About a month after we met, I took her out on our first date, and we started finding out more about each other. I told her a little about myself, then said,

“Oh, my real name is Franz Gruber. Not Frank. I changed it when I immigrated from Austria when I was thirteen years old because didn’t want to seem weirder than I was. I’m glad that I did because I would’ve been associated with the villain from Die Hard!”

Julia laughed and said,

“I thought I heard a slight accent! Have you been back to Austria?”

“Uhm… No. I actually haven’t traveled much at all. I’ve been meaning to, but something always got in the way. You?”

Julia laughed and said,

“Oh, yeah… Sometimes I forget what home looks like!”

The expression on Julia’s face changed and I presumed that she thought about all the places that she had visited. We talked about where she had traveled to and explained what she liked most about them.

Julia and I had a great evening and we both felt that electricity that people look for when trying on new people. I drove her home and she invited me up for coffee, but it wasn’t long before we were making out on her couch. I was going to take it to the next level when she said,

“Frank… Uhm, hold on a second. I really like you, but I want to be careful.”

I assured her that I had condoms and agreed with her.

“That’s… that’s great but I want to be 100% careful, so would you mind getting a blood test? I’ve had a cousin that had a really bad experience and it gives me nightmares.”

She looked at me and seemed worried about how I would respond. I really liked this girl - she was smart, beautiful and I was happy to jump through any hoops that she offered.

“Oh… OK. Sure!”

“I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you and understand if you don’t want to go out with me again.”

She said in reply.

“Don’t apologize! I’ll get one as soon as I can and you can get one too, so we’ll be both on the same page. Deal?”

“Deal!”

During the next week, I saw my doctor and asked for a blood test to check for everything. Especially STDs. Julia was most insistent that it be a full blood test and that I obtained a copy of it, because she had some medical experience and wanted to see it for herself. Apart from this strange request, Julia was a great girl and we saw each other often, then once I gave her my blood test results, she quickly read it then jumped me.

I thought that ‘I’ was getting a little… frustrated but Julia was ready to go. Afterward, we laid on my bed, panting and just looked at the ceiling then I thought to myself, ‘that’ was worth the wait.

The ceiling of my bedroom was the same aubergine color as the walls, giving it a slightly spooky feel. My whole apartment had a bohemian thing happening and I thought that’s why I liked it. Once I moved in, I added to the eclectic vibe with Moroccan style lamps and other funky furnishings.

I turned to her and said,

“Wow… Thank you!”

“Uhm… You’re welcome?”

Then she laughed.

“I’m sorry. It was so good, that I had to express my gratitude!”

It was natural with Julia and it wasn’t long before she moved in with me. I then professed my love for her, and she told me she felt the same.

About eleven months later, we were in a pub in Glebe and she thought it would be great to drive down to Jindabyne and meet her family, then maybe see some of the mountains. It was late spring, and the weather would be comfortable, meaning no need for thick clothing and I thought it sounded like a great idea.

We hired a car as my old Kingswood would struggle on the trip. I’ve never thought of buying a new car as living so close to where I worked and where my friends lived, didn’t make it a necessity. I had filled the tank of my old car a month ago and it was still almost full!

We stopped at Goulburn then looked at the giant Merino sheep monument and was amazed how the landscaped changed as we approached the Snowy Mountain range. Australia didn’t have many tall mountains and its proximity to the equator, meant that snow was a rare occurrence.

Once we rounded Lake Jindabyne, I noticed that the temperature was around twenty degrees centigrade, or sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. It was dry and sunny, which was my favorite kind of weather then a few minutes later, we were at Julia’s parents.

Geoffrey and Emma seemed like nice people but very… plain. Geoffrey had an almost monotone way of speaking and I thought that he could easily put me to sleep! We spent the day together then Julia and I made plans to visit Mount Kosciusko, which was Australia’s tallest mountain the next day.

After breakfast, we jumped into our car and drove to the mountains. The granite rocks and boulders, laying by the side of the road, seemed alien to me but were quite beautiful. I was glad that Julia drove, as it allowed me to appreciate the beautiful landscape.

I was so mesmerized, that I didn’t realize that the weather had started to change but I noticed it when we exited the car and retrieved our hiking gear. I turned to Julia and asked,

“Is the weather… going to be a problem?”

“No… This will blow over soon.”

And with that, we started walking along a number of trails before finding Summit Walk. Julia said that we were walking toward Seamans Hut, which was a great picnic spot, but I started to worry as the temperature started getting colder. I said to Julia,

“Hey… I don’t want to look like a wuss but I’m starting to worry.”

“We’re OK… Look over there. That’s where we’re going.”

In the distance, I saw what looked like a small a stone cabin then I thought worst case scenario, we could get out of the elements. I checked my phone to see if I can look up the local weather but couldn’t get any reception.

We arrived at the front of the hut and I checked to see if we could get in, while Julia walked to the back. A few moments later, Julia called me.

“Frank! Over here!”

I rushed to where she called and saw Julia standing in front of an open door.

“Luckily, they keep it unlocked, just in case hikers are caught out in a storm or after sundown.”

A moment later, we entered the hut, which consisted of two small rooms and a pot belly stove. Before we closed the door, I looked out toward the approaching storm which came out of nowhere. I felt the temperature plummet even further and I started to panic, as we weren’t dressed for the cold. Julia must have been reading my mind and said,

“I’m glad I brought matches with us! We can use it to light those old newspapers and place them under that good dry wood in the pot belly stove.”

She went straight to work, and we had a good little fire in no time. Julia saw me looking at my phone and asked.

“No signal?”

“Nope… I’m hoping that this storm passes soon! Do you have any reception?”

“No…”

And as if on cue, it stated to snow. Julia sensed my growing panic then came up to me and said,

“Hey… We are going to be OK! My parents know we’re here… we have shelter… I brought a picnic… It’s going to be an inconvenience, at worst!”

That made me feel better, then she came up and hugged and kissed me. We passed the time sitting on old benches placed around a little dining table and talked. I could hear the wind howling outside and saw some of the snow blow though the gap beneath the door, so we closed the internal shutters, just in case. Julia kept trying to cheer me up and said,

“This is going to be a fun story to tell our ch… friends in the years to come.”

I looked at her for a moment and I saw her cheeks had turned a little pink then she cleared her throat.

“what were you going to say?”

I asked, with as lopsided smile.

“Nothing I just misspoke.”

“Were you going to say… children?”

I said with a big toothy grin, then Julia tried to make light of it, but she wilted under my gaze.

“OK!!! I think that we have something great and sometimes… I think about our future.”

She regarded with me with a little fear as she wasn’t sure how I would react, but I decided to put her out of her misery.

“I like to think about our future too, Julia.”

“You do?!”

“Of course, I do! We get along so well and you’re not just me girlfriend, you’re my best friend. You’re gorgeous, smart, funny and kind… How can I not want to spend the rest of my life with you!”

Before I could say anything else, Julia interrupted me then turned very serious and asked,

“What if… I had to leave the country. Would you come with me?”

I said yes without hesitation.

“What if you couldn’t come back… for a very long time?”

I tried to be funny and answered,

“Are you going to abduct me or something?”

Julia looked stunned, so I said.

“I’m kidding… but, my dad’s dead, my mum has a life that she doesn’t want me to be part of and I’m estranged from my brother, so apart from a few friends… sure! I would do anything to make you happy.”

Julia jumped over the table and landed on my lap, then started to kiss me while she cried for joy.

“I love you so much and you don’t know how long I’ve been looking for you!”

She said, while wiping tears from her eyes then a moment later, we heard a knock at the door. It startled both of us, but I stood up then opened the door and were amazed to see… Julia’s parents! I let them in along with a blast of cold wind, then closed the door with some effort.

Julia’s parents were dressed for the occasion, but they looked very cold and went straight to the pot belly stove. I was amazed that they were there and asked,

“Geoffrey! Emma! H… How did you know we’d need help?!”

“We… uhm… knew that you would be picnicking here and thought we’d come and see if you were OK.”

“But… that was really fast. We’ve only been here for… a few hours.”

I said incredulously, then Julia’s mum asked her,

“Is everything OK, dear?”

“Everything is wonderful…”

They all turned to me like they were about to tell me some bad news, then Geoffrey said,

“Frank… We have something to tell you but… you’re not going to believe it at first, but you will in about five minutes.”

“What is it?”

“We’re going home!”

Said Julia’s mum, excitedly.

“Great! Do you know if the storm’s going die down soon? Are we going back to your place?”

All three of them looked at each other then back at me, with a little fear in their eyes and Julia tried to explain something.

“Well… yes and no, you see… we’re from around the area but it’s not called Jindabyne… where we’re from. We’re from… another dimension.”

I laughed as I thought she was joking then said,

“You mean, you’re an alien?”

“No… we’re from Earth but not ‘this’ Earth.”

I started to worry, as they all seemed serious then Julia’s father tried to explain further.

“We’re scientists on ‘our’ Earth or as we call it, Glycon but our civilization is far more advanced than it is in this dimension. Over the years, there have been a number of landing parties sent here to carry out various… tasks.”

“Which are?”

Julia looked at her dad then tried to explain.

“In our dimension, the human race is almost completely sterile but I’m one of the very few people that aren’t and… I came looking for a husband, or as we say, cantero.”

I decided to play along, as I didn’t think it was wise to challenge them at this time.

“Different words for Earth and Husband? What else is different?”

“The languages spoken in the various countries are different, but we’ve had so many missions to this dimension, that we have training facilities to help with integration…”

Emma said, then Geoffrey continued.

“We’ve had some brutal wars and they used chemical warfare, which is why most of the Glycon is sterile. It’s a beautiful and peaceful world now but the legacy of those wars still remain.”

Julia walked up to me, took my hand and tried to explain further.

“You love Startrek, right? Glycon is very much like that! We have very little disease and most people live to be over a hundred years old… no poverty… very little crime… It’s what most Earthlings would call paradise.”

“Oh! This is like a prank because I like Startrek?”

I said with a smile on my face, but they weren’t smiling. Suddenly, we heard a very low and deep tone, then what sounded like a sonic boom that shook the little hut. I wasn’t smiling anymore.

Julia looked at me and asked,

“Do you love me?”

“Yes!”

“Do you want to be with me?”

“Yes!”

“Will you come with me?”

And just then, Julia’s father opened the door to the hut, and everything was eerily quiet outside. It was still cold but there was no wind. I was about to turn back to Julia when I saw what appeared to be a large metal square, sitting about twenty meters away. It was about two stories tall and approximately twenty metres square with no windows, but it had one rectangular opening, that must have been a door.

I thought to myself, OK… this wasn’t pretend. This wasn’t an episode of the Twilight Zone and I’m witnessing something supernatural. Julia’s parents seemed so excited then Julia’s dad looked at me and asked,

“Are you OK, son?”

“I thought if I ever saw a UFO it would be… like a silver saucer… or something with wings.”

He laughed and said,

“It doesn’t fly in the traditional sense. It travels from one plane, through a wormhole and arrives at another plane almost instantaneously… but, we can’t stay too long as the storm we’ve generated only gave us a little cover. I’ll leave you kids to it, but I do hope that you come with us, Frank. You seem like a nice guy and would fit nicely in our world.”

And with that, both he and his wife walked quickly to the craft… device… whatever it was, then Julia turned to me and asked again,

“Will you come with me?”

“I… I don’t have anything with me but the clothes on my back!”

“You’ll be given everything you need and more than you can imagine, when we arrive at Glycon!”

“I don’t have any means of supporting myself! What would I do? Where would I live?”

We could hear Julia’s dad calling her from the craft, which now had a ladder protruding from the door.

“You would teach us what you already know about Earth! Your knowledge is valuable to us and there is no form of currency and… you’ll live with me. In my man-made island on what you call Lake Jindabyne, but we call Ardnar Vascular.”

Julia was getting more and more frantic and I could hear her father calling her. She started to cry and asked again,

“Will you come with me?”

“I have nothing to give you!”

“All I want is you! You’re my dream… my hope for a future and a family!”

She let out a sob, grabbed her bag and said,

“Goodbye Franz… I’ll always love you.”

She then hugged me and headed for the ship. I couldn’t move – frozen to the spot by fear and indecision. I watched as Julia reached the bottom of the craft’s ladder then she looked back at me, raised her hand as a final goodbye, then started her way up.

“WAIT!!”

I screamed and ran toward the ladder, which began the move as I climbed it. The moment I got inside; Julia hugged and kissed me while the door closed behind us then I asked her,

“How do you say, ‘I love you’ in Glyconian?”

Then we heard…

The end?

November 04, 2021 04:47

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