The Return to Gold Strike
CJ, Levi, Melissa and Tyler would ride in Levi's Tacoma. Melissa had brow beaten Tyler about his behavior at Levi's party; she ended up challenging the teen to show up and "act like you used to... as Levi's best friend." The surly teen offered no justification for his recent obnoxious attitude.
Charles would transport himself, Ed Milo, Randy Owens and Rex Stein. Owens' demolition equipment would go in the Tacoma... after he assured Levi that none of the contents could go off by accident!
Expedition day came too soon for CJ. Everyone else was lively and excited about the trip back to where "it all started" for both boys. Levi tried to bolster his young friend's somber mood but a cloud as dark as the ones at the instant of their time travel seemed to be hanging over the younger teen.
Even Tyler was animated although distant from both boys. That attitude bothered Levi. While polite and civil to both, he nevertheless was aloof.
Tyler did help the men load their equipment into both vehicles. The convoy of two trucks rolled out of Phoenix around 6:00 AM on a bright sunny September day. On the Interstate, Levi, Melissa and CJ talked about Doctor Pastor and the future plans for Levi's young friend. No one was more excited than CJ...
"I can not.... uhhh... can't.. wait..... I feel like I am so behind everybody else!" he said softly.
Melissa told him to stop worrying; "It's not always so cool to be hip and sophisticated in the ways of the world!"
"Besides!" she said, batting her eyes at the young stud muffin, "Some girls like a real down to earth country boy!"
Levi laughed and told her she was wasting her time trying to peel CJ away from him.
"I've got something he really likes!" he said, eying the boy.
"Several things, actually!" CJ replied.
Everyone laughed at the boy's humor; well, everyone except Tyler. Attempts to engage him in conversation were met with one syllable grunts and nods, until Melissa threatened to throw him out of the Tacoma unless he checked his attitude.
That threat caused Tyler to mellow out a bit, but he still kept casting a wary eye at both Levi and CJ.
The caravan stopped at the rest area; CJ and Levi shared a meaningful glance at the restroom where the young teen had laid out three men as easily as if they were paper mache manikins. The restroom was closed; Levi later told CJ it was probably because of what had happened there....
The trucks soon hit dirt. Levi led the way, reducing speed as the trails became progressively worse. Finally a little rise in the road indicated the old railroad grade. They were there. Back where it all started....
Everyone disembarked. Levi pointed to the distant hill; the location of the remains of the Wildcat Mine and the cave.
Rex Stein and Ed Milo were fascinated by the remains of the town. They had never before seen a ghost town. Likewise, Melissa and Tyler were crawling all over the ruins, looking for souvenirs.
"Watch out for rattlesnakes!" was a repeated warning by Charles, "Don't place your hands or feet where you can't see the ground!"
"Where exactly did the street shoot out take place?" Rex asked.
CJ showed them the location.
"I see! It matches the background topography! He said excitedly.
"The General Store was about here!" CJ said, standing on some rock ruins, "The Main Street is or was... where the trucks are.... The Saloon was over there!"
He pointed to a flat open area.
"I was coming out of the Store and Levi was just standing there watching the two men....!" CJ explained.
"I didn't have a fucking clue what was going on!" Levi continued, "And all of a sudden I'm knocked to the ground and bullets started flying and.....!"
"We looked up and there was the guy taking pictures!" CJ finished the story.
"Now Rex... Look at these two screen shots Levi saved... One shows a street scene with plenty of people milling about... There.. that looks like a man down... But in the foreground in THIS picture there is nothing... And in THIS picture... Look!" Charles pointed.
There were the two blurry images. Charles pulled out a computer reconstructed and enhanced version of the same photograph.
"By God... It IS them !" Rex exclaimed.
"That's not all!" Levi interjected, "The mine ruins are totally different. When I first got here, it was nothing but a massive pile of rock at the shaft...!" he showed them pictures he had taken, "But when we go by it today you'll see that it's all changed now!"
The party mulled around looking and recording everything in sight.
"Where was that house you talked about?" Charles asked.
"Oh... The Holloway House.... It's over on that side street!" Levi said, pointing to a large washed out gulley.
"That's a street?" Melissa asked.
"It was a Century ago!" CJ replied.
They hiked the long way around to the house, past the spot where CJ had sucked his own cock the day he met Levi (the young boy smiled at the memory), past the church where Pastor Owens and his "closet case" son Elias lived, to the impressive remains of the House.
"This was quite a large and substantial building!" Charles observed.
"Look here!. Is... that... cast iron pipe?" Rex asked.
Levi nodded and explained how the House's plumbing was set up; he also tried to explain the lighting system but he couldn't remember the name.
"Probably kerosene or carbide!" Rex guessed.
"YES! That's it!" Levi replied.
They spent a good two hours going over the town site.
"Here's the old rail bed; it goes directly past the base of the mountain where the Mine and cave is located!" Levi explained, "We can either follow the rail bed... That's the route I took.... or try and follow the old road. I heard it's pretty rutted and washed out so that's why I followed the railroad... There's some big boulders but we can go around them!"
Charles looked at the boy and remarked, "I can't believe you came out here all by yourself!"
"Well if I hadn't.... Then... would CJ be here with us today? Levi shot back.
Charles had no answer for that rhetorical question.
The convoy headed North. CJ started to get really fidgety.
"Remember! We're NOT going in or near the cave!" Levi told the other vehicle.
The two trucks were linked by CB radios. Cell phone service was way too spotty in the canyons.
They arrived at the base of the mountain.
Levi and CJ bounded out first.
"My. uh..... I lived down there!" he pointed to an overgrowth of brush and a distant dry creek.
"You LIVED there????" Melissa asked in awe.
"Yeah... Now he's got quite an improvement.... don't you think?" Levi asked.
"No shit!" she giggled, "I've read about how people lived back in the early days of this country but I just can't imagine what it must have been like!"
"It sucked!" CJ blurted out.
Levi ruffled the boy's hair as they explored the old water tank foundation.
"CJ and I went skinny dipping in the old water tower that used to be here!" Levi said.
"What else did you guys do?" Tyler said in a soft tone.
"Pardon us, Tyler... Did you say something? Are you joining the ranks of the living?" Melissa asked.
She had heard the teen's remark and shot him an evil glare.
Tyler sulked into the background.
"Skinny dipped?" she asked.
"And bathed too... We did not have no plumbing like Levi's got in his place!" CJ explained.
"In OUR place, Babe!" Levi corrected the boy.
Tyler rolled his eyes; Melissa saw him do that and shot him another glare that could almost kill....
Rex helped Randy unload his gear from the vehicle. It was decided that all of the party would make the hike to the mine. CJ announced he did not want to go any further up the mountain from that point. Levi understood his friend's fears. First, the younger teen had been shot a short distance past the mine. With his memories now back, Levi thought confronting that location might stress out his friend. Then there was the cave itself. CJ had been near death when carried there by Hok'ee and then transferred to Levi's care. It was also the site where Trapper had been decapitated although CJ had been unconscious at that point.
Neither Levi nor CJ would back down from their refusal to go anywhere near or inside the cave.
"It's a perfectly clear day!" Charles said, "You said a storm was a requisite for the time travel event to take place!"
It was indeed a clear, warm and typically sunny September day. The sky had that deep, intense blue only found in Western states with a low relative humidity.
"I don't care!" Levi replied, "I'm not the expert on the subject. I may have done it twice but that doesn't mean shit.... CJ is NOT going, and if he's not going, neither am I!"
"Bunch of pussies!" Tyler mumbled.
"What?" Levi said.
He had heard the boy's derogatory remark. Levi was growing tired of Tyler's petulant behavior.
"You got something to say, grow a fucking pair and say it!" Levi confronted his friend.
"I'll go in the fucking cave!" Tyler replied, "It's just a fucking hole in the mountain anyways!"
"Good!" Charles replied, "We can use a strong young guy like you as a pack mule!"
Everyone except Tyler laughed at the remark.
"I understand!" Melissa said to Levi, "You've been through hell and... well. Why would you want to chance anything again?"
"Thanks!" Levi replied.
"You really do love him, don't you?" she said, nodding towards the pensive CJ.
"More than I ever thought possible.... He's really bugged about this whole trip. I promised him we would abide by his decisions... Of course his first decision was NOT to even come here... so already I feel like I've pushed him too far!"
The expedition began. After an arduous climb with all of Randy's gear, they stopped at the mine site.
"Wow! What a view!" Melissa exclaimed.
"It's even better at the cave!" Levi replied.
Noting CJ's scared reaction, he added, "But you'll have to see that for yourself. This is the end of the line for us!"
Levi showed the men the before and after pictures of the mine site. The original picture was indeed a massive pile of rock debris filling the opening. Being the geologist, Ed could confirm that the picture was accurate.
"You never know!" he explained, "Sometimes.... with old pictures and less than accurate data, a photo can be misidentified with a wrong location!"
From this point on, the party split. The men and Tyler were going to the cave; Levi, CJ and Melissa were remaining at the mine. Communication would be possible with the GMRS hand held radios.
As the mine party disappeared up the trail, Melissa, CJ and Levi sat in some scant shade at the mine site. Melissa was curious to learn more about CJ and his life in the past. She soon had him engaged in a very animated discussion about life in Gold Strike circa 1912.
Melissa accidentally "stepped in it" when she asked about CJ's personal life; how he survived and who he lived with. Of course she meant no harm in her question but as soon as she asked it, CJ clammed up and didn't say a word.
Of course Levi realized what had happened and moved to try and diffuse the inadvertent tension. Fortunately the radio came to life as Charles announced they had arrived at the cave.
"Go ahead Charles!" Levi said, "What have you seen so far?"
"Randy, Rex, Tyler and Ed are checking it out. I'm pretty sure Randy is doing whatever he needs to do to make sure he can seal the opening up. Is this the only way in?" he asked.
"CJ told me the cave used to connect to the mine but you'd have to go pretty deep to find that passage way.. Plus since the mine site is barricaded I don't see how that could be an issue!" Levi answered.
"Okay.... Rex is coming out now... Hold on!" Charles answered.
Levi and his friends waited.
"Levi?" the radio crackled.
"Yes!" he replied.
"There's nothing here except a cave!" Rex announced.
"What did you expect to find? Cameras and lights and maybe Nirvana playing on stage? Or maybe a stagecoach loaded with frontier passengers ready to haul you back in time" Levi quipped.
Melissa laughed at the boy's remark.
"Well... I don't know... I guess.. wait a minute!" he said.
"We found your inscription!" he continued.
Levi looked at CJ; they both nodded at the revelation.
"Yeah well... CJ carved that for us... last month and a Century ago!" Levi replied.
"Ed is examining it right now.... I want to see if it can be dated for authentication!" he replied.
"What about the explosives? Is there going to be a problem sealing it up?" Levi asked.
"Randy doesn't think so... In fact he said it looks like there are some bore holes in the cave walls....Probably someone did some drilling for mineralogical sampling...!" Rex said.
Charles took over the conversation, "Well someone has been here... Probably kids... lots of beer cans... litter... condoms... Looks like they were having a good time!"
"Yeah.unless they got sucked into another time!" Levi replied.
The conversation ended as Charles indicated Randy had almost everything in place. The plan was to vacate the location, return to Gold Strike and detonate the charges.
The three teens waited patiently for the rest of their party to return. Melissa carefully distanced herself from any more unintentional prying into CJ's past life.
Sooner than expected the men and Tyler returned. Discussion was brief other than they found nothing remarkable except CJ's inscription, which Ed indicated was very old.
"It has been subjected to natural weathering. Although sheltered inside from the elements, there is still moisture, freezing damage, and probably some vandalism by visitors to the site," he indicated, "the cave itself is completely ordinary. Actually the further back we went, the natural cave itself appeared to end and there was evidence of man made excavation. I would suspect maybe some mining was attempted but the main veins of mineralized rock are lower down the mountain and on the Eastern slope."
"So we have nothing but a fucking hole in the mountain!" Levi said, "So then why did I.....!"
"I don't know the geologic composition of the entire mountain. There may be other factors at work that would require more research. Probably excavation and sampling, which we can't do here," he said.
"Just seal the fucker up and let's go home!" Levi said.
Everyone agreed that their job was done at the cave site. Randy made a final check on his work to make sure everything would work as planned.
"So are we gonna see a big fucking explosion that lifts half the mountain into the air?" Tyler asked.
"Typical guy talk... All show and no action!" Melissa quipped.
Tyler shot her a nasty glare.
"No... Nothing that dramatic. We won't see anything from the Gold Strike site. We might hear an echo or two but I doubt even that.... I've done work like this before and it's very easy and very quick!" Randy said.
On the way back to Gold Strike, discussion was lively about the town site itself. Levi felt like the trip had been a "bust" so far. He thought maybe the men might have noticed some anomaly about the cave that would explain what happened to himself and CJ.
"I would have loved to have seen it in real life!" Ed said.
"No you wouldn't!" CJ said, "I lived there and it was not that great!"
Laughter ensued and Ed continued, "Yes I understand but from a historical perspective it would have been fascinating. Levi's pictures are awesome but to see the town, the buildings... a real steam engine sitting there... WOW!"
Around two in the afternoon the party was back in the center of what had been Gold Strike. Randy set up his gear while everyone else munched on some sandwiches.
CJ was as nervous as Levi had ever seen.
"We should leave here now!" he whispered to his friend.
"Why?" Levi asked, "The cave is loaded and ready to blow. We're here a good mile and a half or more away. What could possibly go wrong?"
CJ just looked at the boy and said, "Lots!"
"Are we ready?" Randy asked.
Everyone gather around his computer.
"I guess that's a 'Yes!'" he laughed.
"Randy!" Levi said.
The man looked at him.
"Make it so! The teen said in another bad imitation of Captain Picard.
"Okay!" the man said.
He pushed a button and everyone waited.
"I thought we'd hear something!" Charles said.
"Are you sure the charges detonated?" Ed asked.
"Of course I'm sure!" Randy replied, "I've done this a million times------!"
"HOLY FUCKING SHIT!" Tyler exclaimed.
The party heard it before they felt anything.
A low, rumbling, rolling sound. Like a moaning.... Things stressing. Breaking. Then the ground started to tremble.
"What the fuck?" Randy exclaimed.
"You said it was going to be a small blast!" Charles cried out.
"IT WAS GOD DAMN IT! I KNOW HOW MUCH EXPLOSIVES I USED!" the man replied.
All eyes turned to the mountain where the mine and cave were located.
Collective gasps filled the air as the party saw the impossible.
The mountain appeared to lift up in the air. Not separating from the ground but stretching upward in an elastic manner. A cloud of dust, or dirt, or debris rose to obscure part of the terrain.
"WHAT THE FUCK!" Randy cried out.
"LOOK!" Levi exclaimed.
A greenish-white cloud began to expand from the mountain. The mountain itself suddenly collapsed back to its normal shape and then slowly settled even lower to the ground. The deafening sound of tons of rock settling ricocheted off nearby canyon walls.
All eyes were focused on the greenish-white cloud moving out in a complete circle from the mountain's base.
Charles glared at Randy.
"I THOUGHT YOU SAID YOU KNEW WHAT YOU WERE DOING!" he barked.
"I DID, GOD DAMN IT! THIS ISN'T SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPENING!" he replied.
"We need to get out of here!" CJ cried.
"THERE'S NO TIME! THAT CLOUD IS GETTING CLOSER. EVERY BODY NEEDS TO HIT THE DIRT!" Charles yelled.
Everyone did just that. Levi pulled CJ and Melissa under the Tacoma. Tyler and the men huddled near or under the Jeep.
Then it hit.
A strange silence enveloped the Gold Strike site. The air became translucent, as if in a heavy mist. Except the mist was not white. It was the same greenish-white the boys had seen on the mountain. There was no blast wave. No shock. No more ground trembling. An eerie silence filled the town site. The sun, the bright Arizona sky, was gone. It was all obscured by the cloud that had traveled down from the mountain.
Charles was the first to crawl out and stand up.
"What the fuck!" he whispered.
"Ed! I think you got your wish!" he added.
One by one all of the party stood up and looked around.
Melissa let out a gasp.
Tyler let loose with a "FUCKING AWESOME!"
CJ grabbed Levi and held on for dear life.
"I tried to warn you!" he said.
Levi knew now that the young teen had been right to be afraid.
The town was back!!
Gold Strike: the buildings, the people, the horses, the train sitting at the depot. Smoke curled upwards from its stack. Except the town was.... different. Everything was there as Levi had remembered, but it all shimmered and glowed, like a slightly out of focus picture, with the same greenish-white tinge.
"OH MY GOD!" Levi exclaimed, "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?"
Everyone started to move out from the vehicles, which were very much real and unchanged.
"Well at least we can get the fuck out of here!" Levi suggested.
Charles tried to start his Jeep. Nothing. No sound at all. Not even the radio.
"Try the Tacoma!" he said.
Levi turned the key.
"Nothing!" he replied.
"My phone isn't working!" Melissa said.
"Service is probably spotty here!" Charles suggested.
"No she means it ISN'T WORKING!" Tyler said, "It's dead. So's mine. NOTHING at all!"
"It's like electricity......!" Melissa started to say.
"Has just gone completely away!" Tyler finished.
Indeed the observation was correct. Nothing electrical seemed to work. The two-ways, the lap tops, the GPS.
"I thought you said everything worked when you went back in time?" Charles asked Levi.
"It did... How the fuck do you think I took all those pictures?" he replied.
"And the town!" he continued, "It didn't look anything like this!"
"It looks like it's there but it's not... It shimmers and glows.... Like an illusion?" Melissa said.
Before anyone could answer, Randy yelled, "LOOK OUT!"
A wagon and team of horses rounded the corner of one of the buildings and headed straight for Levi's Tacoma.
"FUCK NO!" Levi cried as the horses and wagon drew a bead on the truck.
"Can't the motherfucker see?" Tyler yelled, "HEY ASSHOLE!"
He tried waving the team down.
Then it hit. The horses, the wagon and driver... all passed right through the Tacoma as if it didn't exist.
Everyone gasped in shock at the sight. The wagon moved on down the street, completely unphased by the encounter. The Tacoma remained unharmed except that it still would not start or even turn over.
"This is horseshit!" Tyler barked and he moved towards one of the Gold Strike townspeople walking past their location.
"HEY DICKWEED!" Tyler yelled as he moved to confront the man.
As with the wagon and horses, Tyler moved right through the man and emerged unharmed.
"WHAT THE FUCK!" he yelled.
"It's like they are here but they're not!" Levi said.
"Or out of phase.... Or maybe out of time!" Rex suggested.
All the party's heads turned towards the man.
"Don't look at me!" he laughed, "I'm not the 'expert' in time travel!"
He looked at Levi.
"Maybe he's on to something!" Levi suggested, "We're here; they're here... Obviously this is a scene from Gold Strike... a long time ago... It would have to be since the town pretty much died after the mine failed. The train shows the time period... But.... We're 'out of phase'.. like we are occupying the same space but in a different time!"
Tyler snorted, "Who the fuck are you, 'Doctor Who?'"
"Well if you have a better suggestion!" Melissa barked at the teen.
"So how do we get back? Or out of here?" Ed asked.
"We haven't gone anywhere... We're still where we were!!" Rex suggested.
"So then what? Do we walk out?" Tyler asked.
"It's too far for that now... We have plenty of food and water... I suggest we look around Ed.. You wanted to see the town as it really existed... Well... Here's your chance!" Charles replied, "If we have to spend the night here... then we will and then maybe see about hiking out tomorrow!"
"So if we're in some kind of time phase... Or if Gold Strike is... How far does it extend? Is the whole world like this?" Melissa asked.
No one seemed to have thought of that. And no one had an answer.
"We should all keep together if we explore the place!" Charles said.
You're forgetting the one expert about Gold Strike!" Levi said.
All eyes turned to CJ.
"CJ.... Can you tell us anything about what we're seeing? Like maybe what time we're seeing Gold Strike in......!" Levi asked.
The boy was ashen white.
"I tried to warn you not to come back here!" he said.
"But we're still where we were; the town is the thing that has changed!" Levi replied.
"But we are stuck here!" CJ replied.
"Not necessarily... Even if we don't all hike out, a couple of us can go for help!" Charles said.
"Unless it's like this all over!" Melissa said again.
CJ lead the party through the town. Ed was pissed because his camera wouldn't work.
"Here's a fucking grand piece of history and I can't record a second of it! Why the fuck I ever went digital... If I had a real good old fashioned camera at least I could take some damned pictures!!" he complained.
Tyler, Melissa and Levi had fun "walking through" people and even buildings.
"It IS like they are out of phase!" Levi said.
"Just what the fuck does that mean?" Tyler groused.
"Well, asshole.. It means the town is here but it isn't!" Levi answered.
"Oh fucking great! Bill Nye would love that one!" Tyler laughed.
"So CJ... any clue as to 'when' we're seeing things?" Charles asked.
The boy nodded, "No!"
"Well if this is Gold Strike after CJ left, then we won't see him here!" Levi suggested, "Of course he could be here and we might miss him... Or he could be at his home!"
"You mean I might run into myself?" CJ asked.
Shock wracked the cute boy's normally adorable face.
"Yeah.... And Oh God... !" Levi had a sickening thought, "What if we run into Trapper?"
Levi took some comfort that the man would not see them.
"How come we can see them but they can't see us?" Melissa asked.
"Because they are in the past and can't see forward in time?" Levi suggested.
Charles looked at the teen.
"I'm trying to refute that remark or think of a better reason and I can't come up with one!" he laughed.
Levi spotted a familiar face.
"Oh I have to fuck with this loser!" he laughed.
Elias Owens, the seventeen year old son of Pastor Owens, was with his Father and sister walking towards their church.
Levi ran up to the boy and taunted him.
"Lose any more loads in your jeans?" he cackled, "God will strike you dead for that... How about a quick hand job? Wanna suck my fat cock?"
Levi ran "through" the boy several times as the family walked down the street.
"What the fuck is that all about?" Charles asked.
"Even in Gold Strike's time they had 'holy rollers!'" Levi laughed.
He told Charles the story of their encounter. CJ was amused at Levi's actions.
Then everything changed.
"Holy fuck!" Tyler yelled.
Everyone turned to see what had happened.
Out of the General Store strolled a boy. A drop dead cute boy with a black cowboy hat. Levi recognized the lanky tall frame in a minute. It was CJ. A sketchy, blurred, greenish-white CJ. He sucked on a peppermint stick as he walked down the main street.
All eyes in the party turned to "their" CJ.
The "real" CJ looked at his mirror image carefully.
"It ...It.It.IS..ME!" he said softly.
"Can you tell when?" Levi asked.
CJ looked at "himself." That feeling was completely otherworldly for the boy.
"Well I had my hat... I lost that.... 'bout a month before I met Levi.... And... I do not... DON'T look too different from me now!" he said.
"So I think we might be seeing Gold Strike about a month or so before Levi arrived!" Charles suggested.
"I KNOW!" Levi exclaimed, "We can go to the railroad office or the telegraph place and see.. I bet there's a date....!"
"Excellent!" Charles shouted.
CJ had been watching "himself" walk along the street. He carefully avoided contact with the blurry self-image. It seemed too frightening an idea to even try and interact with it....
Before the party could move to head towards the depot, Levi saw it... He tried to yell a warning at CJ but it happened too fast.....
The "vision" of CJ... the Gold Strike CJ.... moved... deliberately... or so it seemed.. .towards the "real" CJ. The two boys met.
It was different than all the other encounters.
The "real" CJ didn't pass through the "old" CJ. The two met and seemed to stop in time.
Levi saw it happen and yelled.
At the same moment, the "real" CJ cried out for help.
"LEVI!!!!!" the boy screamed.
Everyone turned to look.
The "real" CJ was changing into a greenish-white form.
"It's trying to take him back!" Levi cried.
Everyone rushed to the two CJs.
Levi reached towards his friend. Charles restrained the teen.
"Not a good idea!" he said.
"IT wants him back.... !" Levi cried, "If he's going back then so am I!"
Levi pulled free from Charles; the man was amazed at the strength in the teen's body.
Levi grabbed the part of CJ that was still "here." He cried out as his hands passed through parts of the "real" CJ that had somehow phased into the Gold Strike existence.
"HELP ME!" Levi cried, "WE HAVE TO PULL HIM BACK TO OUR TIME!"
Surprisingly, Tyler was at Levi's side in a flash.
"Just like old times savin' your ass!" he smiled at his friend.
The animosity he had shown since the party was instantly gone. Friends were united to save the young boy.
Tyler saw CJ slipping away and he could read terror in the boy's face; Levi was crying as he saw his friend turning into a greenish-white mist right before his eyes.
CJ screamed to Levi, "I love you!"
Levi cried "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!"
No matter what Tyler, Levi and now Charles did, there was less and less of CJ to hold on to. He was still there, but more and more of him was turning into a misty illusion.
"LET GO OF HIM YOU SON OF A BITCH!" Levi yelled at.... the ghostly apparition of the boy he loved.
"Charles! Look!" Melissa screamed.
The greenish-white mist was lifting from the mountain. The blue Arizona sky was returning.
"The mist.... the town... It's gonna disappear and take OUR CJ with it!" she cried.
"I'm losing him!" Tyler screamed.
There was nothing he could hold on to. CJ was "vaporizing" before their eyes.
Levi looked into the eyes of the Gold Strike CJ. He would swear later that the Gold Strike CJ was looking right at him.
"PLEASE!!! PLEASE!!!" he cried, "YOU'RE ALREADY WITH ME... DON'T TAKE MY CJ AWAY FROM ME!"
Tears flowed down Levi's face. Tyler was also crying. He had nothing left to hold on to. CJ was almost gone; back to the Gold Strike era.
CJ looked at Levi. The boys knew it was over.
"I LOVE YOU!" Levi cried, "I WILL FIND A WAY BACK TO GET YOU!
CJ cried as he was almost gone from Levi's world. He knew he would never get a chance to see Levi again... He was going back to. The thought of Trapper, and living in a world so harsh and primitive; of not having Levi to hold, to cuddle, to make love to.... was too much for the boy to handle.
"LLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEE ----- VVVVVIIIIIIIIII!" he screamed one last time.
There was a flash of light. Much like what had happened when the boys had made the time jump. Levi and Tyler were knocked to the ground. More flashes of the greenish-white light sent bolts of lightning from the two CJs.
The " real" CJ fell to the ground.
The boy was shivering. Crying. Shaking like a leaf. But he was there. Live. Real. In Gold Strike with Levi...
Tyler scooped the boy up and held him like a puppy.
Everyone turned to the spot where the two CJs had almost merged.
"HOLY FUCK!" Levi cried out, "HOK'EE!!!!!!!"
A misty apparition of the tall, imposing Native American was there. Unmistakeable. He had pulled the Gold Strike CJ backwards, freeing the "real" CJ and allowing him to return to where he belonged. Hok'ee now restrained the Gold Strike CJ. The apparition kicked and struggled but Hok'ee was far too powerful.
Levi looked into the man's misty eyes and cried.
"THANK YOU!!! OH DEAR GOD!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!. FOREVER!!!!.... I HAVE MY CJ BACK!!!!!... AND YES... I LOVE HIM!!!!!... I WILL LOVE HIM FOREVER!!!!!!" he cried to Hok'ee.
No one understood how it happened, but the apparition of Hok'ee smiled at Levi.
"Charles... Look!" Melissa yelled.
The cloud was dissipating. The north end of the town slowly vanished into the bright sunlight. Hok'ee remained, holding the Gold Strike CJ, keeping him from trying to draw the "real" CJ back in time.
"HOK'EE!!!! GOODBYE!!!!" Levi cried, "I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU.... AND I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR BOTH OF US!!!!"
The cloud began to lift over Hok'ee and the Gold Strike CJ. The two apparitions faded into the clear air. The cloud continued to vanish, as did the town. Soon the party was standing in the blazing Arizona sun.
"What the fuck did we just see?" Ed asked.
"I don't know what you guys saw... but I see two guys totally in love with each other!" Tyler said softly.
He carried CJ to the Tacoma and laid him in the front seat.
Levi looked at the boy and leaned in for a kiss.
It was real! HE was real! Levi could taste the familiar essence of the boy he loved.
"I am back?" CJ croaked.
"YES!" Levi cried.
Both boys cried. Everyone cried. No one understood what they had just witnessed. No one except maybe CJ and Levi. They had been rescued by their love for each other and with the help of a mysterious man from a Century ago.
CJ looked at Levi and asked, "So if... we saw a Gold Strike before you and me met there... and it had to have been since the other 'me' had my old hat......!"
Levi nodded "Yes!"
So far the older boy followed what CJ was saying.
"Then how did Hok'ee know.... To save me?" CJ asked.
Levi was thunderstruck. In all the excitement, that point had slipped his mind. The misty, unfocused, ghostly vision of Gold Strike that appeared briefly in the 2014 Arizona desert had to have been a Gold Strike from earlier than when Levi first arrived there on August 25th, 1912. If that was the case, then Levi hadn't yet met either CJ or Hok'ee. Levi knew he had seen recognition in Hok'ee's eyes as the man separated the two CJs. The Gold Strike CJ had seemed determined to draw Levi's CJ back to whatever era Gold Strike they had all seen that afternoon.
Why? Nothing made any sense. Other than Levi thought deep down inside that the spirit of the Native American who saved his CJ from an absolutely horrifying experience must somehow still be residing either with the two boys or somehow watching over them as they grew in their new life together. The thought made Levi feel warm, happy and secure.
In a way, he felt responsible for almost losing CJ. The young teen had warned him over and over that nothing good could come from their return to Gold Strike. Levi vowed to never disregard CJ's feelings or advice again.
Looking at the blonde haired, blue eyed boy lying in the Tacoma made Levi start to cry even more.
"I almost lost you!" he cried, "Never again.. NEVER!!!!"
The boys hugged each either and sobbed.
Their crying was interrupted by numerous beepings. Everything electronic was working again.
Charles turned the key in the Jeep. It started without hesitation.
"Let's get the fuck out of here!" Levi barked.
Levi hugged Tyler.
"I owe you!" he said.
"No... I owed you for... me being such a dick! I... you.... you... guys are so lucky!" the boy cried.
CJ looked at Levi and smiled.
"The next time I warn you about something......!" he laughed.
"I know!" Levi cried, "All I care about now is you... me... and... 'twenty times!'""
CJ smiled, "Now I am REALLY going to hold you to that promise!"
Please note! There are loose ends from this story, however none of those fragments are central to the underlying theme of two boys... Two VERY special boys... who met each other in a most unusual way.... and came to love one another with a passion seldom seen in life.
For those who may question..... Yes.... Levi and CJ remained together forever. How long is that? Does it matter? One day, Ten years or half a century...... There will always be Time Enough For Love....
Thank you for reading.
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