Bad Neighborhood - By H.R.Riviter

   As she approached the pond, she knew something was wrong. It was nothing she had seen or heard, rather it was a feeling, thick as syrup, palpable and unnerving, that was giving her goosebumps. She stopped and looked in every direction, even up, but saw nothing untoward and continued on. It was a beautiful spring day, bright with new life and stunning colors, a day that would normally have brought a bounce to her step and a song to her lips yet here she strode purposefully, wary of something, careful but of what she couldn't say. It seemed so gloomy that she gave the sun a worried look, checking for clouds or . . . well, anything to account for this shadowy cover, for that's how it felt, like being in an oddly pervasive shade that lurked and hid things, yet the sun was bright overhead with no clouds nearby. Somehow the pond and its environs remained gloomy with a strong sense of shadow even under a bright sky. She stopped again. 

   “Hello?” she called out. She was sure she'd seen a furtive movement in the shrubs ahead by the path. With a fearful perusal she continued forward. 

   This was her second year as a deputy with the Loomin County Sheriff's Department under Sheriff Madsen, a fearsome 'my way or the highway' despot. She'd surreptitiously seen him frown and shake his head as she left to answer the call of suspicious activity at Donner Pond. This was not what deputy's ought to be doing, as he'd proclaimed many a time. This was for those damn uppity rangers since it was more'n likely some wild animal causing the trouble. Loomin County was rural and crime was rare. Enough wildlife though to cause problems. Unfortunately Deputy Runjump was not experiencing any normal kind of wildlife out at Donner Pond that day. 

   “Who's there?” she called out. 

   She'd unstrapped her service revolver and left her hand on it. Peering cautiously ahead she continued toward the pond. The wind was blowing persistently against her as if trying to push her back. She had a sense of being watched that grew stronger as she neared the pond. When she got there the first thing she noticed was how still the water was. Not a ripple despite the breeze which, she suddenly realized, was now completely still. Silence instead of the natural sounds that were usually heard in the countryside, sounds like birds, squirrels, and the buzz of insects, all silent. Again she felt goosebumps. 

   She seemed frozen to the spot, totally disconnected and surreal when her personal radio squawked and a voice asked, “Deputy Runjump! You hear me? It's the Sheriff. What you got out there?” 

   She was unnerved by the sudden call and took a moment to answer. Pulling the mike down she pressed the button and spoke, “Yeah, I hear you. Nothing so far. The pond looks calm and no one's around.” 

   “Yeah, it's like I thought. Probably just a bear or some bucks fighting. You should come on in.” 

   “Uh, sheriff, there's something odd here. Something isn't right. You mind if I look around a little?” 

   “What you think it is? You want backup?” 

   “I dunno, I don't think so. Haven't seen anything, it's just there's a strong feeling of wrongness here.”   

   “Hmm. Yeah, okay, but don’t be too long huh? Slow day so far but you know how quick that can change.” 

   “Copy that.” She reattached the mike to her shoulder harness and looked around. Silent and still. Then she heard footsteps, like someone walking on a hard floor or even marble. The pace was slow but steady and she looked nervously around. There was nothing but natural country, nothing paved for at least half a mile, that being the highway, itself poorly paved. There was nowhere this sound could be happening from. 

   Her fear increased and she pulled her revolver out. “Who's there?” she called loudly. 

   The steps continued and slowly, as if out of a cloud, a man appeared in the middle of the pond, wearing a typical business suit, and carrying a briefcase. He was walking on the pond's surface, which had somehow solidified. When he was in front of her, he stopped and tipped his hat, a black bowler with a wide brim, and said, “Good afternoon ma'am. You must be the Interferometer Oscillatum. I trust everything's okay on this end? I know there was a big ruckus this time. Sorry about the bangs and flashing lights. Rough connection, you know, the dimensional drift and all that but I assure you things will be calmer now going forward.” He smiled at her. 

   “Where you from?” she sputtered. “How'd you walk on water?” The only analogy she could think of was Jesus who also walked on water and that disturbed her deeply, deeper than she could say. 

   He looked surprised, “They didn't inform you? You aren't . . .” She just shook her head slowly. “Oh dear. Well this is a mess.” He looked around. “Say, this is Eridani 6, isn't it? Doesn't really look like it.” 

   “This is Donner Pond,” she said, glad to have something that she knew about. 

   “Yes, yes, but what planet?” 

   “Planet?” 

   “Yes. What planet?” 

   “Why earth, of course.” 

   The man visibly went pale and took a step back. “Oh my heavens!” He looked around fearfully and started slowly backing up, holding his arms protectively in front of him and using the briefcase as a shield. “Is that thing you're holding a weapon?” he asked with wide eyes, pointing to her hand. 

   She looked down and seeing that she was still holding her gun, she lowered it a little. “Yeah,” she answered. “So what're you? Where you from? I mean what's going on here?” She was beginning to feel a little hysterical and raised her gun again. Nothing like this had ever happened before. She looked out across the pond where the man had first appeared but could see nothing except maybe a little fog. When she looked back, he was gone. Slowly, as if the sound was being turned back on, she could hear the pond's fauna again. Now she could see little waves where the breeze was teasing the water and feel the wind blowing against her face. 

   Then she heard a disembodied voice, “We're so sorry to have bothered you, just a little calibration error, it'll not happen again, I can assure you. Oh, and by the way, madam, do you have any idea where you're at? Please be careful.”  

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