The last thing David wanted that Sunday morning was to think about school. The 12-year-old boy would have preferred to be in his room playing video games. His parents insisted he spend “outside time” at least a couple of hours every week. Not that they worried about him killing brain cells in front of a screen; David knew the real reason. His parents didn’t want David to be an only child anymore. He wished they would ask him his opinion because he loved being alone.
He walked a familiar trail while his mind grumbled at being forced out into the sunshine again. David didn’t pay attention to his surroundings, he just walked. He unconsciously followed the trail into the woods near his house.
A snapping twig caught his attention and he stopped in his tracks. He looked up from the trail and saw a small abandoned cabin in a clearing several meters head. He’d seen the cabin several times, but what drew his attention was the brunette girl walking away from the cabin. She wore a bulging backpack with a rolled tent sitting on top, and a familiar black and gold hoodie.
“Cathy!?” He called out after her. The girl stopped walking and turned calmly; she smiled when she recognized David. Cathy was one of his classmates, though neither considered the other a friend. David didn’t go out of his way to make friends, and neither did Cathy. They were paired for a project once, and it was the best experience David had working with another person. She did all her work and was communicative, but not once did they ever talk about their personal lives. Seeing her reminded David that he had a big week of exams coming up at school; a thought he’d managed to escape most of the weekend.
“Hey, Dave,” she said once he reached her. “What’s up?” she asked as if she didn’t just walk out of an abandoned house on a Sunday morning. Her tone surprised David for a moment; he thought it was obvious what he wanted. He was curious. Then, he remembered it was the first time he’d been curious about anything around her. Their interactions were always mutually beneficial in some way, but this was different.
“Uh… did you camp here…,” he nodded at the abandoned cabin “…last night?” It was a yes or no question and David felt the answer was pretty obvious. She would either say yes or lie. As David tried to plan his response, she surprised him with an unexpected answer.
“Every Friday and Saturday night for the past year,” she said. David sputtered.
“What!? Why!?” He almost asked if she was homeless, but if that were the case it wouldn’t be limited to Friday and Saturday. Cathy stared into his eyes for a moment, hen she gave him an appraising look up and down. After several seconds of silence, she met his eyes again.
“What’s your favorite number?” she asked.
“What?” David asked, then shrugged. “I don’t know, 999 is pretty cool I guess? What does that have to do with you spending the weekends here?” At that question, Cathy burst into a fit of giggles.
“You’d be surprised,” she said. “You must be really curious, you never ask me anything,” she added. David shrugged again.
“I’d rather be at home playing video games, but my parents want me to have a kid brother or sister,” he said. “I got nothing to do and you’re here. You’re pretty cool,” he said.
“COME ON!” Cathy suddenly grabbed David’s arm and charged back into the cabin dragging him along. David followed her through the dim cabin thankful she was leading him. After several quick turns, they stopped in what David guessed was the master bedroom. It was at least twice as big as David’s own bedroom, but there was hole dug in the middle. The wooden floorboards were gone leaving a pit in the soil.
“What’s going on?” David asked. Cathy was already on her knees unpacking the tent with practiced skill. In minutes she had it up and covering the hole perfectly.
“If I tell you, you won’t believe me. Just do what I tell you, and I’ll explain things when you’re ready,” Cathy replied. “You trust me, right?” David shrugged, then nodded. He hadn’t thought about it until that moment, but he realized that he did in fact trust her.
“Get in,” she said then crawled into the tent. David shrugged, sunk to his knees, then crawled into the tent behind her. Inside, they both sat in the dirt hole side by side. Cathy turned and laid on her back.
“Lay down,” she said. He did. The space was tight with his somewhat larger frame. He felt the cool soil wall of the hole against his right arm and soft warm skin against his left. David noticed the pleasant scent of orange coming from the dark hair next to him.
“Close your eyes,” she said. As he waited for what might happen next he focused on the feeling of her smooth arm against his. He was surprised when the sensation was suddenly gone even though he didn’t feel her move. He felt a gentle breeze rush past his arm where her skin was moments before. “Open your eyes,” she said.
The first thing David realized was that he was standing now. In the middle of an endless amber wheat field under a violet sky. The stringy tops tickled his fingertips.
“Whaa…-,” David started to ask but Cathy interrupted him.
“You wanted to play video games, right? This is where I spend my weekends. Welcome to the AlterNet!”