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Nelson was driving from Arizona to Vermont to spend a week with a friend. He decided to stop in Jamestown, New York as memories tugged at him. Years ago he had known someone in that small town and he was curious. Unable to get a room at the Jamestown Comfort Inn, he noticed a white Victorian that had a bed and breakfast sign. As he had eaten a late lunch and was tired of driving he decided on a whim to try it. He went up the steps and rang the bell, which was answered by a young, attractive woman in a white blouse and a long, black skirt. She smiled at him and opened the screen door, extending her hand. Nelson prolonged the hand shake, feeling a strange connection. She looked at him with puzzled hazel eyes and introduced herself as Marion, the owner of the B and B. She welcomed her visitor as it was the middle of the week and he was her only guest.
That night she invited him to the porch and they sipped ice tea, easily chatting. Nelson told her he was retired and living in Flagstaff, divorced with grown boys living in Arizona and Colorado. Nelson hesitated to tell her about his encounter some 30 years ago when he had lived his junior year in nearby Olean and played for the high school baseball team. There had been a series in Jamestown and afterwards festivities where he met Annette. Her last name escaped him as they rocked on the porch. That night they had walked and chatted, sitting sat shoulder to shoulder against the right-field fence. A warm spring evening led to a coming together, which was never forgotten. He had written Annette letters from Olean but no reply. She had told him about a boy friend in the army and he could tell she was embarrassed at their encounter.
As they talked on the porch, Nelson formed a plan to spend a few days in Jamestown, tour Chautauqua Lake and linger with Marion to know more about her. She had already told him her mother had recently died of cancer, her father had died years ago in an army accident. There was something about Marion that tugged at him, but what was the connection? He needed to give it time. No need to rush to Vermont.
The next morning Nelson rose early and went to a nearby convenience store, buying coffee and doughnuts for them. As he walked back, he paused to allow an elderly lady slowly back a large, dated Cadillac out of her drive. The woman buzzed down her window and with annoyance motioned Nelson to pass. As he started behind the big car, the woman accidentally hit the accelerator and plowed into Nelson sending him and his coffee flying. He fell awkwardly and hit his head on the curb.
Awakening later, Nelson found himself in a white room that was replete with medicinal smells. He vaguely recalled the old lady backing into him and he gingerly tested his limbs, then felt the back of his head. He settled, waiting for the busy nurse to check on him, or for a visit from the attending physician. But no one came.
Having assessed that he was reasonably okay Nelson carefully got out of bed and dressed himself, shedding the white, hospital gown. He made his way out of the hospital, noting that no one was about. Perhaps there was an emergency in some other part of the building. He could settle his account later as he planned more time in Jamestown.
Nelson found has way back to the white Victorian and climbed the steps. He went to open the screen door when he heard Marion on the phone. "Yes, he is staying here." She said. And then her shoulders slumped, her eyes wide. "But that can't be. What happened?" Marion cried, putting her hand over her mouth.
Opening the door and stepping into the hall, Nelson waved his hand. "Marion it's me. I'm here." He was in her line of sight, but she seemed not to see him and slowly hung up the phone, then started as the screen door banged.
At that moment, Nelson understood his hospital solitude had been for his transcendence. He gazed at Marion who was rigid, her face taut and pale, as if she had glimpsed a ghost. He reconciled that this chance encounter with Marion was cruel folly, an irony. His connection with her 30 years ago would remain an unsolved mystery.
Nelson was dead.
Ryan sat at his aunt's window in his wheel chair, his broken ankle disabling him for another few days. He looked at Beacon Road and watched as a middle-aged man in a suit appeared and went into the small red house across the street.
Shifting in his wheelchair, Ryan leaned forward and stared at the odd, small red house on the corner across from his aunt's. With a start, he realized that for the last few days he had watched people go into the house. But no one ever came out.
Did people visit the house during the day, and then leave via the back door? Or did they depart at night when he was away from the window? Ryan raised his eyebrows as a young woman came down the street. She went up the walk and without hesitation opened the door and vanished into the red structure. What was going on? Puzzling over the scene, Ryan though to enlist his aunt's delivery boy. Pay him to linger behind the house on the adjacent street to monitor the back door. Ryan's theory was the visitors went in the front and then emerged from the back door. Perhaps a drug thing.
Later that evening, when the boy brought groceries Ryan thought to offer him $20, but he hesitated. The delivery boy would have to loiter on the corner in order to watch the red house back door. Someone might call the police so Ryan concluded not a good idea. A few days later, the cast was off and Ryan was fitted with an ankle brace. He had devised a plan to tackle the riddle across the street.
He was now ambulatory and went out for a stroll, albeit with a limp. Ryan headed south, then crossed at the corner and started back north on Beacon. He spotted a well dressed man coming toward him. Ryan slowed his pace to intercept the man at the front of the red house. Ryan met the man as he turned on the walk to the front door.
"Excuse me," Ryan said politely. "Is this the Morgan residence?" The visitor slowed and swiveled his head, looking at his questioner. To Ryan's shock, the man's face and eyes were utterly blank, no expression at all. The man turned away from Ryan without a reply and marched up the walk and through the front door.
That night Ryan monitored the comings and going to the house across the street. A few comings, but no goings. Eventually, the amateur investigator went to bed, falling into a deep sleep. Ryan had a vivid dream about the red house. He found himself inside the living room, which was a control room with flashing lights and glowing screens. A Roswell-like alien with a large head greeted him, explaining he was the chief engineer and that their scout ship had been marooned on the lot. When Ryan asked for how long, the alien replied they had been there for 70 years. To escape the ship needed human-life energy to propel them back to the mother ship which hovered behind the moon. The engineer reported he now had sufficient fuel and would soon launch. Suddenly, a strange hum began, growing into to a whine and the ship began to vibrate.
Ryan awoke suddenly and sat up. He rubbed his eyes and smiled, then lay back trying to capture the strange dream. The next morning Ryan watched from his window as people continued to drift into the red house. Oddly, there were no more visitors that afternoon. That evening after his aunt had gone to bed, Ryan went out and crossed the street. He went up the walk and approached the door, squaring his shoulders and gathering his courage. He stiffened as he heard a hum that slowly grew in intensity.
And then Ryan entered the red house.