Welcome to your Monday Sidetrack! Start by reading the story all the way through. Then, if you need a bit more of a sidetrack from your day, go back and explore the hyperlinks I've found for this bit. That way, you'll get the most out of the whole post. Enjoy!
(This story begins with Monday Sidetrack: 6. Start there to get caught up and see the photos or go to https://www.lavendersidetrack.com/story-catchup to read all the previous posts as one long post. Then subscribe to find out what happens next!)
Ruby stood up and began pacing around the center of the table.
“I’ve seen something about this somewhere. I know I have. It might be in my pack.”
“It might be in your pack? I'm not sure what you mean by that. Is there a portal in your pack?"
"No, I have a book that might help us, but first I'm trying to remember that story I heard about when I was a kid. The one about Viola's grandfather. I think it's related."
"You know a story about my grandfather?"
"Of course I do." Ruby stopped in her tracks and looked at Viola. "I mean, he gave me to you. I knew him."
"Well, tell us. What is it? My grandfather never came home. This elephant is the last thing I have from him."
"I'm so sorry to hear that." Ruby's chin quivered a tiny bit and then she began to pace again. "He was traveling around the country and found the portals like you have, Lana. There was one in particular that he really liked for some reason. I don't know why." She picked up a stray grain of salt and held it up to the light.
"He wanted to go back one last time before he went home, so he was getting things ready to find that specific place at a specific time. Right before he finished working out how he thought it would work, he sent me to Viola. All I remember about his theory was he had to have something from that time and place and he had to commit to the transport like there was no going back. He spent three days on ideas and finally decided that he'd need to almost die in his plane to go back to the other."
"Wait a second. What do you mean 'almost die?'" I shifted in my seat.
"He was going to jump from a cliff into Lake Wakatipu, near Queenstown. It's New Zealand's third largest lake and more than 1200 feet deep. If he was right, he thought he'd enter that other plane right when he would have died here."
"Why did he think that would work?" Viola asked.
"He had met someone through one of the portals who told him about it."
"But we don't know if it worked," I shifted again.
"All we know is that he never came home."
"I'm not about to risk my life based on that. Also, how important is it that I have my backpack? Couldn't I get new gear here?"
"That's not how this place works. You only have what you bring in. Everyone here is in their own loop."
"And there aren't any people in shopkeeper loops?"
"Lana, getting your own things is also the fastest way." Ruby walked toward me. "It could take weeks to find a shop here and it might not be the right kind."
"If it works, it would be the easiest."
"Then my loop has me stuck in this lighthouse. I'll never leave." Viola's eyes fell to the tea tray again.
"Viola, there's no way for me to know the edges of someone's loop." Ruby looked like she knew the realization Viola was having.
I'm not going to jump off a cliff to test this theory.
I'm not ready to die.
"This is ridiculous. You want me to jump off the top of the lighthouse or something just to go back and get my backpack? I won't do it. I'll just keep exploring this lighthouse until I find a way back. It worked last time."
"That's your choice, of course. If you do that, you won't know when or where you'll end up. For all you know, your kayaking trip is over by now. At the very least, you most likely won't come back here even if you do find another portal somewhere."
"So, my choices are to let the portals take me wherever they want, stay here in this lighthouse, or try your crazy idea."
"Yes." Ruby walked back to her pie and sat down.
"Lana, you are, of course, welcome to stay here with me."
"Could Viola ever leave here?"
"I don't know. Like I said, there's no way to know the edges of someone's loop. The only way is for her to try to leave. It's possible that she could."
No one said anything for a while and I took a few more bites of pie.
If I try Ruby's idea and it works, I might be able to really explore this place and figure out why I can see the things no one else can.
Could I find out what happened to my grandma's grandpa?
"Viola, do you want to leave the lighthouse?" I took my last bite and set down my fork.
"I might." She scraped her fork along the top of the whipped cream. "I've thought about it from time to time, but it seems like there is always something else to do."
Viola looked up at me.
"I love to sing. This isn't such a horrible existence. I have a beautiful home and everything I need. My family visits me often and maybe that means I could visit them." Viola finished her pie and took her dish to the sink.
"Maybe. You could try it right now, if you want to." Ruby stirred the pot.
"I'll try it if Lana will." She turned back to face me.
"That's hardly the same thing. All you have to do is walk down the stairs. If it doesn't work, you just won't be able to go any farther. We're talking about me jumping off the top of the lighthouse. If it doesn't work, I could die." I stood up and walked five feet toward the stairs and back to the table. Out and back and out and back.
"It's true. Or you could get the supplies you'll need to start taking this journey seriously."
That stopped my legs. I stood still looking down at the stairs.
"You just have to decide what kind of vacation you want to have - the basic outdoor adventure or something a little more insightful and...inciting."
"I've never taken a real vacation before. A couple of weeks living the outdoorsy New Zealander life might be enough for my first attempt."
It's not enough. What if I can see a New Zealand most people can't? What if there's something here about my great-great-grandpa?
"It might be enough." Ruby leaned back on her hands.
"It's not enough," I turned back to the table. "How can I get to the outside of the beacon?"