Dave pounded on the door again, it was raining, which he was glad of, because he wasn’t sure, but he might be crying. “Mike, come on, I need your help!” I know I left you, but I came back dude! That’s what counts!”
“And you hit me in the head with driftwood. I have a gnarly scar, because I was trapped inside some travel brochure photo and couldn’t get stitches! I am not opening this door. I told you, I did the best man thing, because I love your mother and I didn’t want to disappoint Val, but you and I? That good ship friendship has sailed, man.” Mike’s voice came from the other side of the door.
It had been weeks since Mike had booted up the Wormhole OS 6.9 App and taken Dave into a bikini model photo shoot, then marooned him, hopping back into the real world while he lay bleeding on a photographically preserved, static beach, like part of some super sick still life. He’d gone back after him almost as soon as he’d returned, but it hadn’t been that easy. Wormhole was a tricky app and the photo Dave had taken his friend into had been altered.
Since Mike hadn’t been in the original photo, Dave’s jumps kept taking him back to the same pristine beach, with scantily clad bikini models posed for their closeup, but no Mike. Finally, he’d used a recovery app to reopen the deleted photo and retrieve his friend. He’d nearly gotten shanghaied himself by Mike who was rightly upset.
The wedding had come off without a hitch. Mike had been the consummate best man, true to his word, but he hadn’t returned a single one of Dave’s phone calls, or texts since. This was his second visit to Mike’s apartment, once the evening after the wedding, he had left his new bride in a bubble bath and jetted across town to try and talk to the man who had been in his lifelong best friend, and now tonight, but tonight was different.
“Mike, just open the door for one minute and let me explain. I screwed up bad and I need your help,” Dave sobbed.
“Man, whatever it is you did, you did on your own, Val will eventually forgive you and if you let me go back to sleep, in about twenty years, even I might come around. Go home, your drunk!”
Dave pounded on the door again, “That’s just it man, there is no Val! She’s gone!”
Dave could almost hear Mike sigh from the other side of the door, they’d been finishing each other’s sentences since grade school. “Man, she’ll come back. You just need to give it some time. What did you do?”
There was a long silence, Dave was trying to figure out how to say what came next, “It wasn’t me, exactly, it was Wormhole!”
“Wormhole? You still have that damn app on your stupid burner phone after what happened?” Mike yelled, “I should have turned you into the police the night I found out about the antiques. None of this would ever have happened! What did you bring back, a hooker?”
Dave grinned wryly, in spite of himself, “I deserve that, I really do, but that’s not it, man. I didn’t bring anything back. Including Val.”
The door slammed open and Mike grabbed Dave by the front his shirt, drug him into his entry hall and slammed the door shut against the rain with his foot. He gripped Dave’s collar and pressed him up against the wall. His voice came out barely louder than a whisper, “What the hell did you do?”
Dave wanted to collapse, hug his friend, ask for a whiskey and explain the whole thing while he dried out in front of the fire he could see burning in the gas fireplace in the next room, but Mike had blood in his eyes and Dave knew he needed to choose his words very carefully.
“I took her on a magic honeymoon,” he said softly, then dissolved into sobs.
Mike through him back against the wall with both hands, then turned away in disgust, “I cannot believe you, man! That app is going to get someone killed! Alright, tell me what happened.”
Mike walked into the living room where the fire burned, Dave headed toward the sofa, but Mike stopped him with a look, “Take one step off that tile, and that katana over my mantle won’t be just for show anymore. You’re soaked and I do not feel like cleaning up any more of your messes than necessary,” he pulled a plastic folding chair out of a closet with both hands and pressed it against Dave’s chest. “Sit.”
Dave did as he was told, mournfully eying the bar, six feet away that held a decanter and two highball glasses on a tray. Mike was into old movies and shows like Mad Men, so he accessorized like a Mid Century bachelor.
“You are not getting any of my 40 year old single malt. I’ll get you a glass of water,” Mike paused, he was beginning to soften, “tea, hot tea, okay?”
“Sure. Thanks,” Dave took off his coat, careful to contain the drips on his own lap. When dave returned he handed Mike a red mug and a towel.
“Thanks,” Mike said, rubbing the towel across his wet head.
“That towel is not for you, it’s for my tile, mop up after yourself,” Mike said, crossing to the bar and making a show out of pouring two fingers of golden amber liquid into a single glass. He crossed to the sofa and sat, facing his friend, sipping whiskey. “So, what happened?”
Dave sipped the tea and thought for a moment, “Well, Val figured something was up after the ring, so I pretty much had to tell her or have her snooping into my business for months trying to figure it out. So, we decided we could use it one more time, for the honeymoon of a lifetime, without spending a dime, you know?”
Mike ran his finger along a slight ridge at the back of his neck, where his “friend” had nearly killed him with a driftwood log not so long ago. He grimaced, “Sure, sounds like a great plan, what could go wrong? Oh, yea, you lost her.”
He took big swig to finish off the whiskey and went for more. This time he splashed some into a second glass and offered it to Dave. “You might want this, to take the edge off the beating I am going to give you as soon as you have finished this story.” He sat back down on then sofa, glaring.
“Thanks,” Dave said, sipping the whiskey, “So, we picked out a list of places we’d like to see. Niagra, the Eiffel Tower, the usual places. We decided on ten and for a finishing touch, we decided we’d see what happened if we uploaded a video! It worked. The people moved and talked, interacted with us, it was just like being there.”
“Africa. We went on safari, or part of one, anyway. We hopped around a bit and in the last segment, it just happened.”
“What ‘just’ happened?”
Dave finished his whiskey, “Well, we were about to hop back when this little motorbike with a guy on it just snatched her. Through her across his lap and just drove away before I could even move and right out of the frame.”
“Why didn’t you follow her?” Mike asked, forcing himself to remain calm.
Dave looked up at the ceiling, tears welling in his eyes, “Yeah, don’t you think I tried that man? I did! I tried everything, but every time I left the frame, I just bounced back here.”
“Aaaaagggh!” Mike threw his glass at the stone hearth, where it shattered in a dozen different directions, “Classic! Dave, just great! So, when was this, tonight, I assume?”
“No, three days ago. I thought for sure I could figure it out. I read every tutorial in the app, and that’ a lot, then I went back into the video and asked around, but every time I was there, the motorcycle just swept through, and once the video segment is over, you bounce back. I took her photo and asked, no one knew her,” he dropped his head into his hands, “So, I had an idea, maybe if I could jump into our wedding video, I could bring her back from there, or ask her where she was, I don’t know!”
Dave stood and paced over to the fireplace, “But, I couldn’t jump into any segments that I was in for some reason, so it took a while to find one where she was there, but I wasn’t.”
“So, what did she say?”
“Nothing really, turns out, they’re just echoes. She couldn’t understand me, didn’t even recognize who I was. She thought I was just another guest, if they ‘think’ I guess. I don’t know,” Dave deflated. The anger and energy he’d felt coming here just seemed to be gone.
Mike was done being angry, it was time to help, “So, why do you think I can help?”
“This morning, I got this,” Dave held out a burner phone that Mike recognized. It held the operating system that had recently gotten him stranded. He hesitated to touch it, but after Dave shoved it toward him, he took the phone. On the screen were these words, ‘Mike will know where I am’. What the hell did she mean? Do you know where she is?” Dave looked at his friend, tears in his eyes, “Was there something going on between you two? I’ve been trying to figure this out, and finally I decided I don’t care, I just want her to be safe.”
Mike froze. The look on his face told the whole story. Dave’s suspicions were confirmed in an instant, “You son of a bitch, I wish I’d left you on that beach.”
Mike sighed, “Man, it’s not what you’re thinking. Val and I were never involved if that’s what you believe.”
Mike poured himself more whiskey and offered the decanter to Dave, who accepted.
“Tell me, what was it like, Mike? Why would you have a secret with my wife?” Dave said, angrily.
Mike slugged down the whiskey he’d just poured and tipped the decanter again, “I didn’t want to have a secret man, but I wasn’t exactly in the mood to talk to you, either. After the Eiffel Tower, she called me. I told her what happened to me and she told me she was worried you were losing it. She said that everything was setting you off, that you kept talking about her leaving you, that were scared she would. So, somehow she got it in her head that you were going to leave her, like you left me, so she couldn’t leave.”
“What?” Dave laughed sloppily, the whiskey was beginning to take effect, “That’s crazy!”
“Is it? Is it man? Ever since you bought that damn Wormhole OS app things have been getting weirder. I couldn’t argue with her, so she convinced me to get her out. I was the guy, on the bike.” Mike said.
“You? You were the shpy, I mean, guy, I don’t know what I mean…” Dave tipped dangerously in his chair, whiskey slopped out onto the tile. “What did you do to me?”
A beautiful blonde stepped into Dave’s view, “Val? Val, is that you? You came back to me!” he slurred. Reaching out to her, which tipped him forward, onto the carpet, where he landed on one side, looking up at Mike.
“Sorry buddy, you’re too predictable. I knew you’d never leave that whiskey alone, so I poisoned your glass. Oh, you won’t die, but you’ll be paralyzed pretty soon. Meanwhile, Val and I have decided you need to spend some time here in this image. You didn’t come here on your own, we staged this, the door outside, the rain, we videoed all of this two days ago, it’s not even raining, man. You didn’t even know you were watching it. We fed it into your TV and it sucked you right in.”
“We’ll be back sweetie, I just need some time to think about what to do with you,” the blonde said. She knelt beside Dave and took the phone he’d dropped, “Won’t be needing this, you’ll be here for a while. The drugs will wear off, the fridge is stocked and we’ll come visit you soon. Bye now.”
As Dave watched, his wife and best friend blinked out of existence. He closed his eyes and passed out.
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