“This is my street.” Kit Kat felt as if she wasn’t quite in her body as she hovered over her parents’ house in Emigration. It was daytime and the weather was warm. As she approached her home, she was confused. A pickup was parked outside the house. It wasn’t Daddy’s pickup. It belonged to Mount Zen. Why were the rangers at my house?
The garage was open. Daddy always scolded her when she left the garage open. It musta been Ricky. He always leaves the garage door open. As she floated into the garage, it was strangely different. Where were Daddy’s wood working tools? Where was his bench with the vise bolted onto it? Where were the baby food jars full of screws and nails and bolts and rubber bands?
She floated over the broken stairs to the garage, but they weren’t broken anymore. Someone had fixed them. Maybe it was Daddy. When she entered the house through the garage, she saw her father and rushed to him, hugging him, but the house was all wrong. Where the TV should be, there was a computer desk. There was a giant hand in her bedroom. It had two brown coats hanging from its thumb and pinky finger.
Mommy was there, in the kitchen. She turned on the gas on the stove, but before she could light the burner, Kit Kat noticed something strange. The gas was oozing out of the cooktop and floating up in great bubbles like someone had blown soap bubbles with a wand.
“I’m dreaming,” she thought. She faced her mother and told her, “I miss you so much. It has been so hard since you died.” Her mother couldn’t talk, however, because the aneurysm had taken away her words. She could only look at Kit Kat tearfully, but that was enough for her. Mommy hugged her so tightly that when Kit Kat woke up, she could still feel her mother’s arms around her. The intensity of it brought tears to her eyes.
She looked at the clock: 5:25 am. It was as if she could still feel her parents right there at her side and she suddenly missed her home. She got out of the bed and threw on a pair of jeans and a sweater. As she passed the kitchen, she unconsciously grabbed a gluten-free muffin that Vesta had made specifically for her. She remembered Elvis’ evaluation of them. “They’re not as gritty as last time. Vesta’s new at this gluten-free bakin’.” He had whispered at her, “Gives her a new challenge, I think.”
She walked out of her house with the muffin in her hand and got into her car. She still felt as if she were dreaming, but the chilly mountain air reminded her that she was only thirty-five minutes from home. How many times had she dreamt of home after her father died? She had been trapped in New York so far from home that she could do nothing when this feeling hit her except look at their home on Google Maps. Emigration was such a tiny town that street view wasn’t even available. All those times, she had to be happy with the satellite view.
Now, she could actually drive home. She could park her car in front of the Bangerter’s and just look at it. Did the Bangerters still live there? She had no idea. The muffin sat on her dashboard and she looked at it. Did she bring that with her or has it been there since the last time she drove the car? She picked it up and put it to her nose letting it touch her upper lip as she drank it in. It smelled like banana and chocolate chips and squished nicely in her hand. Fresh. She must have grabbed it on the way out.
She took a bite of it and let the milk chocolate melt in her mouth. Vesta had started using milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet because Kit Kat had mentioned she preferred them. She felt such a wave of appreciation for her old neighbor. What could she do to return the favor? She couldn’t think of anything and vowed to visit her tomorrow.
She turned down her street, approaching her home from the same angle as in her dream. It was a two-way road, but they had rarely arrived home from the other side. Thirteenth was a better road than Fourteenth. She slowed her car, creeping up to her home before letting inertia stop her car across the street, blocking the Bangerter’s mailbox.
The sun hadn’t risen yet, but the pinks and ambers were peeking out from Mount Zen. The lights were on in the house. Samson was awake. He might not mind if she knocked on the door. She felt herself get out of the car automatically. Was it still running? No, she had turned it off and the keys were in her hand. In her other hand, she had the muffin with one bite taken out of its top. It looked strange to her. Am I still dreaming?
A blast of cold wind whipped past her and the chill of the mountain made it vividly clear that she was, in fact, very awake and walking to her childhood home in her bare feet. She had dressed but forgotten to put on some shoes. She didn’t even throw on the flip flops that were right by the door in the foyer.
Flip flops, she thought to herself. When we were kids, we called them thongs. When did the name change? She tried to remember, feeling the lumps of rocks and asphalt under her feet as she headed toward the door.
When she climbed the steps, she almost opened the screen door to let herself in. Not my house. Not my home. She rang the doorbell. She saw a shadow of movement in the living room and within moments, Samson was at the door. He looked as if he hadn’t slept all night. At first he looked confused, but then he saw the half-eaten muffin in her hand and lack of shoes.
He asked her, “Are you awake?” She shivered in the cold. “I think so. I had a…” What did she have? Was it a nightmare? A dream? She looked to the left at the garage. The door was down, but the Mount Zen pickup was parked exactly where it had been in her dream. She tried to finish her sentence as he opened the screen door to let her into the foyer. “…a nightmare.”
He looked at her, worried, and suddenly she regretted coming home. He was going to blame this on the Bowen House. “I should go.” She turned toward the door. When this was her home, her mother had a bureau in the foyer with decorative figurines on them. Now, the foyer was empty. She had gotten that bureau and it sat in a storage facility in Emigration. At that moment, Kit Kat resolved to rescue her parents’ furniture from the storage facility and move it into the Bowen House.
“Absolutely not! You’re not going anywhere.” Samson stood in her way, blocking the door. Had mother’s bureau been there, he would have knocked down one of the Ancient Ones, breaking off a hand. Kit Kat imagined the Ancient One lying there, broken. No. She reminded herself. Mira has the Ancient One. He’s safe in her house in San Francisco.
Samson had her keys in his hands and was leading her to the kitchen. Her mother had left the gas on and the gas had been bubbling up like soap bubbles. Kit Kat checked the stove, verifying that the gas had been turned off and that they were safe.
He directed her toward the kitchen table. It was round, just like her mother’s had been. Her brother had that table now. It sat in his rec room with one of those poker table things on it. She could see the poker chips vividly in her mind. “Tell me about your nightmare.” Samson had taken her muffin out of her hand and placed it on a small salad plate. Wrong. Wrong. The plates should be Blue Willow, not these weird square things from Ikea. He undid the paper around the bottom of the muffin and cut it into small pieces for her. She ate one and described her dream to him.
“Thank you.” He left her at the table and hurriedly rushed out of the kitchen. She followed him to the living room. Where her parents had kept the television, Samson had a computer desk, just like in her dream. He picked up his phone, chose a name from a list and brought it to his face. “Yeah, Random. Let’s check the firewall software. That might be why only some of the ISPs are affected. Maybe they all use the same kind of firewall.”
She wandered past the living room to the garage. She opened the door to the garage and the chilly air felt good on her face. Were the stairs still broken? No, fixed. All the wood working tools were gone. She closed the door and looked at Samson working away at the computer. There was an empty package of Oreos next to him.
She walked to her bedroom. There was a bed in there, but it was obvious to her that it wasn’t Samson’s room. It must be a room for guests. As she turned to leave the room, she saw it. The huge hand. It was a hand chair and hanging off the fingers were two ranger coats, one for winter on the thumb and the spring coat on the pinky. She shivered at the sight of it and lay on the guest bed, looking through the open door at the living room.
Samson yelped into the phone, “Agnitum Outpost! They all are running Outpost.” She saw him turn around, looking for her. He saw her lying on the bed in her bedroom and nodded into the phone. “Yeah, I’ll tell you later, okay?” He hung up the phone and looked at her. “Let’s get you home.” She looked around. As wrong as it was, she recognized it. “I am home.”