An incessant barrage of rain fell diagonally from the sky, shattering upon the treetops, the lampposts, and the roofs of houses. Glossy streaks swam down the windows. The sun had long since swirled out of sight, and a bright, full moon traversed the inclement horizon, pitching light when given the chance. The dreamers, asleep in their beds, lay silently, paralyzed in restful bliss. Except for one dreamer, who sat at his window staring off into the night, and watched vast puddles grow on the street below.
Calvin Darrow traced the streams of rain as they slithered down the windowpane, unaware that they were following his lead. He often stayed awake late into the night, waiting for a certain occurrence. When he was a boy, roughly a decade prior, he noticed a strikingly clear image fade in and out of focus across the street, under the flickering lamppost that joined Hartford and Canary. It was ghostly in appearance, and so Calvin thought it to be as much. It was a short figure, seemingly opaque in design but with a recognizable dark patch, and carried a briefcase or some other such piece of luggage, as if waiting for transportation. In its other hand held aloft an umbrella to block the downpour. Its face was indecipherable, obscure in a horned mask of nothingness. Or, perhaps Calvin just couldn’t see it properly. Maybe the light fractured the illusion.
But, over the years, he’s developed trepidations; perhaps it was not a ghost, whatever it was. Nevertheless, Calvin promised himself to stay awake during the full moon of each month, hoping to curb his curiosity.
And then, just like magic, a glimmer in the light, a rippling of a ghostly mass formed. He saw the feet first, along with the piece of luggage, and then the rest of the body appeared, opaque but tangible. Calvin blinked to make sure he saw what he was seeing. Yes, he was sure. There was a figure. Calvin threw on a hooded jacket, slipped on some pants and tennis shoes, and quietly raced down to the street.
As he approached, Calvin raised the hood over his head. His shoes squelched in the puddles he carelessly stepped into. The rain soaked through his clothes and onto his skin.
The figure, barely illuminated—the light providing much of its bodily structure—beckoned to him wordlessly, almost as if a thin rope was thrown around him and pulled him toward the ghost. And Calvin complied. Curiosity had taken over, that was irrefutable. The rain, still falling, disillusioned the figure; it became blurry and difficult to decipher, its design compromised and out-of-focus, almost as if a dull, ineffective eraser poorly smudged it out.
The lamppost came into focus, and the light flickered through the downpour. The figure, still in a blur, held out a hand, and, with a lunge toward Calvin, clutched his shoulder with gaunt fingers. The light disappeared from the lamppost; the moon snuffed herself out. Calvin felt a deep coldness upon his shoulder, as if the ghost was drawing his warmth through its fingertips. The rain stopped, and a silence feverishly materialized. A frozen, fiendish chuckle stung the atmosphere.
The rain suddenly stopped and a great mist swirled about the air. And then, with a great staccato crack, Calvin and the figure vanished into nothingness.
There was complete darkness and coldness. Only a silent, fierce wind pulsing through his body was the only identifiable aspect for Calvin. His head throbbed, but he remained steadfast, unwilling to give in to such distress. And just as quickly as the dark and cold rushed through the air, a vast lightness came into view.
The figure formed in Calvin’s eyesight, still clutching the piece of luggage. He closed the umbrella and placed it on the stone floor. He greeted Calvin.
“Hello and welcome to my home.” His voice was cool and solid, thick like an earthy boulder. The figure even smelled earthy, as if he was brought up deep within the woods, amongst the moss and ferns, the dew in the morning light. It was difficult to believe that fiendish laugh came from him.
“Who are you? What’s happened?” Calvin asked, dazed and unsettled.
“Mine is an ancient name, one that only the trees and wind have bothered to remember. However, I am commonly referred to as Roman; you may call me as such. And, as for what has happened, we’ve just gone through a nice little wrinkle. Nothing at all to be worried about. Perfectly normal.”
“Yes. A wrinkle in time. A tesseract,” Roman said.
“And, what is that?” he asked, a quizzical look upon his face. He heard a sharp exhalation of breath from his acquaintance.
“Have you never read the book?” Roman responded, completely dumbfounded by this boy.
Before Calvin had the chance to shake his head with a pitiful “No,” Roman had spun around, set the piece of luggage down (now easily distinguishable as an oversized briefcase), and walked toward the back wall of this seemingly confined, chamber-like room, where a grand bookshelf overtook his view. That’s when Calvin noticed something he hadn’t before: haunches. Roman’s haunches. Calvin soon came to the realization that Roman was no ordinary individual—as if the sudden rush from one place to another hadn’t tipped him off—but, rather, a faun. The horns Calvin believed were sticking out from Roman’s mask, which wasn’t a mask at all (the light must have wiped his facial features), weren’t an accessory but attached to the top of his head. He gazed in amazement as the slight clicking of Roman’s hooves echoed across the chamber’s stone floor. Calvin had never seen a mythical creature before.
Calvin also came to realize the dark patch he saw before: an inky black star on his left side’s haunches. Curiouser and curiouser.
Roman pulled a book off the shelf and, returning to Calvin, gently placed it in the boy’s hands. “It’s L’Engle’s masterpiece. Exquisite, really.”
Calvin turned the book in his hands, admiring the blue cover with three children floating above a town, huddled beneath a vast winged beast. He considered it thoughtfully, and, trying to win the graces of the only other individual in the room—a captor, or perhaps a friend—Calvin promised to read it thoroughly.
“How you haven’t yet,” Roman said, “completely baffles me, especially with a name like yours. Ah, well, you can’t know it all. Let me explain it to you, as she does: Take a string with an ant on one end; if the ant were to travel the length of the string, it would take the ant some time to reach the opposite end; but if the string is folded, the ant can travel much more quickly. And that is what we did, Calvin. We took the string and folded it, made it a wrinkle. A tesseract.”
“So, we time traveled, then?” Calvin asked, hopeful to be right.
“Yes, we time traveled.”
“I know.” Roman gave the boy a look of smug accomplishment. After all, the faun did expedite everything.
Calvin, who had been sitting on the stone floor throughout this conversation, stood up on his wide, flat feet. He placed the book on a table next to him and looked around. The enormous bookshelf stood opposite him, the kitchen to his left, and a small sitting area and bedroom to his right. There weren’t any windows, and the only source of light, and heat, was a small black fireplace carved into the wall. Though, opposite the fireplace was a small pinprick of light that seemed to have no origin; he barely even noticed it on first inspection. A small painting hung above the bed: a mountain at the touch of dawn, a beautiful alpenglow sneaking amongst the clouds. The space was rather quite small.
“Look how curious the boy is,” Roman said, more to himself than to Calvin, rapping his fingertips on the bookshelf, a light rhythm repeating itself.
That caught Calvin’s attention. “I’m sixteen. I’m not a child.”
“Ah, the sweet turns of youthful ignorance where those just on the verge of maturity believe they’ve accomplished such a feat but are, in all actuality, simply not there yet.”
Calvin was taken aback by Roman’s biting tongue, his easy use of such harsh words. “You know, you’re kind of a dick.”
“Yes, but you’ll grow to love me. Everyone I meet loves me.”
“I don’t really see that happening,” Calvin retorted.
“Patience, young one. Patience. Everything will become clear.” Roman went to the kitchen and picked up a large silvery pot, filled it with water with a finger snap, and set it on the stove. Steam rushed from it almost immediately, and the faun took it off the heat, filling two cups with the boiling water. He picked one up and held it out toward Calvin. “Care for a spot of tea?”