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Between the Lines
Part 3

by Robert Porter
sleestak2@juno.com

 

Andrea shrieked at the sight of Enik and pushed at Will to move away from the Altrusian. Will grabbed her by the shoulders and held her to him. "It's okay!" he shouted at her.

She clung to him in fear and moved to his opposite side so that Will was between her and the Altrusian. "Wh— what it that?" she asked in a frightened whisper.

"That's Enik." He gently stroked her hair, hoping to calm her down. He was understanding that after a hundred or so years of loneliness and a year with himself as her only companion, she had the right to be frightened at the sight of a bug-eyed monster. "He's the Altrusian I told you about. We're back in the Land of the Lost." Enik was ignoring them and their reactions, choosing to keep his concentration on the matrix table. Will looked over at his father and Holly. "At least I think so." Holly didn't look like she'd aged a year, if a day. He was amazed that she still looked like such a child.

Rick found his breath and gently spoke. "Will, are you okay?"

"Yeah, dad. We're not hurt." His voice came out as a whispered croak.

Holly ran forward to greet her brother with a smile so wide that it filled her face. "Will!" She stopped short of hugging him when she noticed Andrea holding him so tightly already. "I'm glad you're back!"

At the sight of Holly, Andrea relaxed her grip on Will somewhat. He took the opportunity to pry her loose and face her toward his family. "This is my father and my little sister, Holly," he told her. "Dad. Holly. This is Andrea Charleston."

"Hello," Holly greeted reluctantly.

"Hello," said Rick. "It's good to see you, son. Good to see both of you and that you're okay." He smiled with relief.

"Yeah it's—" Will started. He hesitated when his heart betrayed him. For a split second, he felt angry with his father and sister for bringing him back to the Land of the Lost. He was happy with Andrea in that other place. They'd made their own home together and he didn't want to give it up so soon. But just as quickly as he had that thought, a wave of guilt washed over him. He knew it was better to be with his father and sister. They were trying to do what was best for him. And he was certainly grateful that if he had to come back to the Land of the Lost, he at least had Andrea here with him. "—it's good to see you two again as well." His hesitation was only momentary and he hoped his father hadn't noticed, but the squint in his eye and cock of his head told him that he had noticed. "What happened?" he asked, deflecting

his father's unasked question.

"You got stuck in there with her," Rick answered.

"Yeah," Holly offered. "You were frozen in the wall, just like Andrea."

Rick continued. "Enik says it's a crack in time."

"A crack?" Will started. "Well— it took you a whole year to get us out of there?"

"No, not a year. It was..." Rick hesitated when he realized what had happened to them. "...only this morning. Will, you were only in there for less than a day. Are you saying you experienced a whole year in there?"

"Yeah, Dad. I haven't seen you or Holly for nearly a year now. It's just been me and Andrea all alone. It's really weird because time doesn't flow correctly in there. We don't age, some of the trees don't grow—"

"I may have an explanation," Enik interrupted. He'd stood and stepped away from the matrix table to address them.

"What?" Will asked.

"You and the girl were inside of a crack in time, a tiny universe that exists outside of all the other known universes and outside of the normal flow of time. Because a crack in time does not flow, time stands still. You did not age because you did not belong there. Time did not exist for you."

"But Enik, it did exist. I was there a whole year and Andrea over a hundred."

"You experienced time as you know it. Nevertheless, time did not exist for you. That is why you did not age. It only appeared to exist because of the unpredictable rules of your small universe and your human mind’s need to experience time. You went into the crack in time this morning. You have returned this evening. That difference in time was only because of the flow of time in this universe, not that one."

"But it was so real!"

"Real for you. It seemed real within the crack in time. But when I eliminate this crack in time, it will no longer... be real. It will have never existed."

Andrea still kept Will between herself and Enik, but she at least found the nerve to speak out loud. "What is it talking about?" she asked.

"I'm not sure I really understand," Will answered.

"That is why the operation of the time doorways is beyond the human ability to understand. You cannot grasp the true meaning of time and space within the universe. Your knowledge is primitive compared to the Altrusian mind."

Rick sighed. They had a lot of explaining to do about the day's (and year's) events, not stand here and discuss the superiority of the Altrusian intellect. He stepped into the conversation. "Did you get the crack in time fixed, Enik?"

Enik stepped back and looked down at the matrix table on the ground. A few crystals glowed weakly, but most showed no light at all. "No, Rick Marshall. Unfortunately, the movements of the humans within this crack in time has destabilized it. I fear that we are in even greater danger of a collision, and it will not be easy to repair."

"Well, I thank you for taking the chance to save Will and Andrea."

Enik stared at him silently for a moment, before finally responding uncomfortably. "I must repair the damage. Please leave me in solitude so that I may complete my task."

Nodding with understanding, Rick agreed. He gently urged his children and the newfound Andrea Charleston out of the small rock enclosure. They would head back to High Bluff, talk a while about what happened to them, and maybe get a few hours sleep before morning.

***

Rick awoke that morning in a better mood than he had the previous morning. The night before, they were all tired and confused, but had taken the time to explain the events of what had happened to them from each point of view. He'd gathered that poor Andrea had been alone for a very, very long time and Will had turned out to be her savior.

Although it remained unsaid, it was also obvious that Will and Andrea had fallen deeply in love. That was understandable, considering that they were two young people who only had each other for company over a very long period. And as it was, Andrea didn't seem a bad catch for her son, even if she was the proverbial "only woman in the world". She was bright, kind, and cute. It warmed Rick's heart to see his son in a good, happy, loving relationship. If they were going to end up stuck in a land of dinosaurs, it was a consolation that Will at least had that.

Holly, on the other hand, seemed reluctant to accept Andrea. Rick gathered that it was jealousy that she no longer had Will to herself. She didn't want to share his attention. He thought back to his dream the night before and knew that in time, Holly and Andrea would become good friends. Holly needed the female companionship almost as much as Will did, even if she didn't know it yet.

Rick didn't want to see any of them stranded in the Land of the Lost, but he knew that Andrea was better off with them here, than stuck within that crack in time where time didn't exist. Fate had delivered Andrea to them and it was something they all needed. They would make room for her in their family and life would go on.

At the moment, Rick and Will were rearranging the cave and trying to make room for Andrea's space among them. Although it remained unasked, Will automatically made room for her bedding beside his. Rick wasn’t completely comfortable with the arrangement, but decided for the moment to remain silent and observe how the two behaved.

Meanwhile, the two females were preparing a late breakfast, with Holly showing her the ropes of making breakfast in the Land of the Lost. She remained guarded toward Andrea, but seemed to be enjoying showing off her skills as a homemaker as well.

"Hand me that salt and we can add it to the potatoes," Holly told Andrea. "You need the salt to help improve the taste. Otherwise they're kind of bland." Andrea looked around at the collection of gourds, unsure which one Holly wanted. "The big one with the wide top," she indicated.

Andrea reached inside and pulled out a thick slab of crusted salt. "This one?"

"Yeah." Holly took the salt and ran her a knife over it to scrape off the crystalline mineral. "Besides, Daddy says that salt is very important for our diet. Without it, we could get sick."

"I didn't have salt back... back there. I seem to be okay."

"No salt? How did you live?"

"I don't know. I seemed fine without it."

"Hmmm. Maybe it has something to do with that ‘no aging’ thing that Enik talked about. Since you weren't really growing, you didn't need the salt."

"Maybe." She paused, considering the statement for a moment. "But I needed water. I got thirsty. And if I didn't drink water for a long time, my throat would get dry."

Holly grabbed another potato and used the knife to peel the skin and throw more slices into the mix. She was so accustomed to cooking for three, that she realized she hadn't put in enough for Andrea as well. "Really?" she continued. "Well who knows. I guess you'll have to get used to a whole new set of rules for how time and stuff works. Time works here in the Land of the Lost just like back home." Then she smiled when she realized that what she said wasn't entirely true. "Well, except for when someone messes around with the pylons, and when we get people and creatures from different times showing up here, and... well, it's complicated."

Andrea sighed. I think it's going to take me some real adjustment to get used to all this. It's been so long... Will you help me, Holly, to make sure I do things right?"

Holly beamed with pride. She liked the idea of being the "big sister" to this older girl. She liked the idea of being able to help her out. She especially liked the opportunity to show off. "Sure!" she enthused, "I'll be glad to show you stuff. We don't want you to get hurt or anything."

"Thanks!" Andrea smiled with relief.

"Now, I think these potatoes need a little spice to bring out the flavor, what do you think?"

***

"And that there is Emily."

Andrea looked to where Will was pointing, but couldn't see anything. Will and Holly had gone out to show Andrea around the jungle, and introduce her to all the various animals. It had been four days so far, and all Andrea had seen were the creatures that came through High Bluff area, including Cha-ka, a few pteradactyls that flew overhead, Spot, and of course, Grumpy. Today, they wandered out toward the swamp to show her a little more of the world. "I'm sorry, but I just don't see it," she told Will.

"How can you not see Emily?" Holly exclaimed with exaggeration in her voice. "She's so big!"

"Emily is a brontosaurus," Will explained. "See that big blue-grey tree?"

Andrea saw it, but she tried to spot some sort of creature that could be on or near it. She still saw nothing. "Yeah?"

"That's Emily."

"Where? I still don't see it."

"The tree is Emily. That's her long neck. If you follow it down—"

Andrea gasped when the blue-grey "tree" bent downward, revealing that it was actually the neck of the dinosaur. The tiny head on the end of the neck nipped at the leaves of a nearby tree. The other end of the neck was attached to a massive body with four muscular legs. "Oh! It's so big! It's even bigger than Grumpy!"

Will beamed. "That's Emily!"

"And her baby," added Holly, "is Dopey. He used to be my pet, but he's so big and... well... dopey. Besides, he can survive better here in the swamp with the other brontosaurs where Grumpy can't get to him."

Andrea looked around herself in fascination. Now that they had pointed out the brontosaurus to her, she could see all manner of strange creatures in the swamp. This was a very strange, yet interesting new world for her. It was going to take a lot of getting used to it and she was glad she had Will and his family to help her adjust.

"I'm going to go see if I can find Dopey. I want to show him to you." Holly darted off amongst the reeds and deeper into the swamp.

"Be careful!" Will called after her.

"I will!" her voice cried out in the distance, from where she could already no longer be seen.

Andrea grabbed at Will in alarm. "Will, this place doesn't look safe! She might get hurt out there!"

"Relax," Will commanded, a touch of patronization in his voice. "She'll be fine. We've been here a long time and she knows her way around. She knows to be careful." Will turned to face her and grabbed her by the shoulders, giving her a mischievous look. "Besides, this means that we're alone for a few minutes."

Returning the look, Andrea smiled. "Oh, and what do you suppose we do while we're alone?"

By way of an answer, Will pulled her to him and kissed her.

Ever since they had returned to the Land of the Lost, they had clung to each other for emotional support. Rarely, though, did they get any time alone together. Holly was always getting underfoot. And Rick seemed to accept Andrea as Will's girlfriend, but silently expressed his discomfort when they showed any sort of affection. Will and Andrea respected that and knew it would take some time for things to settle down, so restrained themselves as much as possible. It was nice to be able to steal a kiss every now and then as the moments were rare.

"Hey, I found Do—" Holly said as she charged through the reeds.

Will and Andrea immediately broke the kiss and stood apart from each other, embarrassed at getting caught as much as Holly was in catching them.

"You found Dopey?" Will offered as a way to smooth over the awkward moment.

"Yeah," Holly said, immediately forgetting her embarrassment for a chance to show off her pet. "I tried to get him to come over here, but you know how Dopey is. We've got to go to him. Come on!" Again, she darted off through the reeds.

Smiling, Will and Andrea stole a quick peck on the lips before heading off after Holly.

***

Life was quickly getting back to routine for the Marshall family, with Andrea finding her niche and doing what she could to fit in. It had been just over a week that she had been there that the family had finally gotten back to the task that had precipitated her arrival: the removal of the dinosaur nip from the perimeter of High Bluff.

At that moment, Rick and Will were on their way to dispose of the plants that Holly and Andrea had gathered into bundles back at the clearing in front of the cave. Each had the heavy bundles in slings that they carried over their shoulders as they made their way through the jungle. Unlike last time, though, Rick had suggested that they find a different place to dump the plants. There were already two occasions where they'd been confronted by Grumpy as they dumped the plants into the crevasse. This time they were making their way to the edge of the jungle and an area to which they rarely visited. It would do good to put the dinosaur nip there, so that it would hopefully take the big animals away from their home at High Bluff, the fresh water supply, the pylons, the Pakuni compound, and any other place the Marshall's might need to visit on occasion.

They had walked silently most of the way, each lost in their own thoughts. Will was considering his relationship with Andrea and the peculiar way in which his father reacted to it. He knew that in time his father would accept it and find a place of comfort with it. It just didn't come soon enough for Will and he tried to think of a million different ways to broach the subject. Each time he played out the conversation in is mind, he ended up sounding silly and immature to his own ears. How do you ask a father to accept his son kissing and openly showing affection to the person he loved?

"Hold on a moment, son," Rick commanded. They'd encountered a thick root, about waist high, that blocked the path that they'd been following. Will had been so lost in thought that he nearly collided with it. Rick held up his hand to indicate that Will should stop, then looked off for the end of the root where it vanished into the jungle's foliage.

"You want to go around it, Dad?" Will asked.

Looking back at the root, Rick answered, "I don't think that's necessary. This root's not so high that we can’t climb over. I’d rather not have to cut through the thick foliage where we can't be sure what we'll encounter."

"Okay." Will moved to toss the sling of dinosaur nip over the root when Rick stopped him.

"Wait. Why don't we rest for a moment. We've got a ways to go before I'll feel we're comfortably away from the cave and the Pakuni compound." Rick dropped his bundles. "And I’m beat."

Grateful, Will dropped the load and sat on his haunches on the ground. Maybe now was a good time to talk about his relationship with Andrea. "Dad?" he started timidly.

Rick sat beside him and put his hand on Will's arm to forestall him. "Son, there's something we need to talk about."

"Oh?" He had finally worked up the courage to broach the subject, but he was immediately grateful for an excuse to put it off until later. "Yeah, what's up?"

As if reading his mind, Rick said, "I wanted to talk about you and Andrea and your... relationship with her."

"Yeah, well... I sensed that something was up."

Rick smiled. "I know I haven't exactly been the most comfortable around you and her when you show affection for each other. I know she's a... a young woman and you are attracted to each other. And I know you spent what was a whole year alone with her in that place. But... well... I suppose..." He faltered as he tried to find the words for what he was trying to express. Will, unsure of what to say, simply waited patiently. "I suppose I sometimes still think of you as a little ten year old boy. I know you're a teenager now and you've taken on many of the responsibilities of an adult, but... there are some things I want to be sure you're ready for."

"Like having Andrea for a girlfriend," Will offered.

Rick shook his head and smiled. "Yeah, that's it. I'm still your father and I'm still responsible for teaching you the ways of life. Thinks like having a girlfriend and the proper way to behave and treat a young woman."

Smiling, Will said, "Don't worry, Dad. I learned most of that from watching your relationship with Mom. You always treated her right and I knew she was happy. The rest... well, we had a year alone together to figure that out."

"I think maybe that's what I'm worried—"

There was a gentle popping sound around them.

"—she was happy," Will said, exactly as before. "The rest... well, we had a year alone together to figure that out."

"I think maybe..." Rick's voice trailed off and a confused look came over his face. "That's weird. I just had this very intense feeling of deja vu."

"Me too. It's like we—"

Again, there was a gentle popping sound.

"—she was happy. The rest... well, we had a year alone..." Will stopped. "There it is again! Time just repeated itself."

"It's like a record that's skipping."

"Yeah, that's—"

Again, the gentle pop.

"—she was happy. The—"

Rick stood up in alarm. He looked around and into the jungle to where they were heading, beyond the root in the trail. When he gasped, Will stood and looked with him.

What they saw was a dark mass of nothingness floating in the air. The view of the jungle around it's edges was distorted and twisted. To Will, it was as he'd imagine a black hole, with everything around it, including light, being sucked inside. "What is that!?" he exclaimed.

Again, the gentle pop.

"—she was happy. The rest... well—"

Rick grabbed at Will and pulled him to his feet. "Come on! Something must be wrong with the time doorways around this place!"

They turned and ran back the way they'd come.

***

Meanwhile, Holly and Andrea worked to uproot the plants and pile them neatly at the jungle's edge. While the two men were gone carting away the plants, Holly was enjoying a private moment with Andrea.

"So it's been a week, now," Holly said conversationally, "since you came here?"

Andrea looked up from where she was crouched down and tugging at the base of a stalk of dinosaur nip. "Actually one week and two days."

"Wow. Really?"

"Yes." The roots gave way and the she fell backwards in a plume of dislodged dirt. They both got a good laugh out of the situation, but Andrea's face quickly turned serious. She wiped at the sweat and dirt on her face, leaving a dirt smudge across her cheek. "Is it always this hot here?" she asked.

Holly dumped her load of plants into the pile for the men to bundle and take away, then returned to pull at yet another of the plants. "Mostly. Although there are some seasons here. And if we really wanted to, we could adjust the thermometer using the weather pylon."

Andrea didn't react to Holly's attempt at humor, but sat contemplating for a moment. Finally, she asked, "Did anyone ever find out if your Enik friend closed the way back to my world."

"You mean that place that you and Will were stuck in?"

"Yes."

"I don't think so. He might have, but Enik doesn't always tell us what he's doing. He kind of does his own thing most of the time. I suppose he has by now. We'll have to ask him next time we see him."

"Can we find out?"

Holly paused at her plant pulling. "If Will and Daddy are going to the crevasse to dump the dinosaur nip, I'm sure they'll look in and see if Enik is still there."

Andrea's voice sounded sad. "I hope so." She again wiped at the sweat on her face, further smudging the dirt and grime. Her breathing became quick and shallow, as if just sitting there was tiring her out.

"What's the matter? Do you miss home?"

"Home? Is that place considered my home?"

"But I thought—"

"No, it's all right, Holly. I wouldn't call that place home. Home is back in Pennsylvania. That place was a prison. I don't ever want to go back there... never."

Holly heard the sadness in her voice and the dark, tired mood that had suddenly come over her. She moved to sit down beside her and maybe give some sort of comfort. "It must have been awful being all alone for so long."

Andrea reached out and grabbed at Holly's wrist forcefully. "You have no idea. The loneliness is just unbearable." Her face dropped and tears threatened to well up in her eyes. "You never want to go through that Holly. Never, ever, ever." She let Holly go and put her hands on the ground to support her as she leaned back. Her breathing suddenly turned harsh as she gulped for a good breath of air that never seemed to come.

Alarmed, Holly leaned forward to look her in the face. "Are you okay?"

Gasping, Andrea said, "I don't know? I'm just so tired." She fell back and laid down in the dirt. "Can we just rest a moment? I'm so tired and don't want to move."

"Sure. If you want, you can go back to the cave—"

"No, no. That's not necessary. I'll be... okay. I—" Suddenly she clutched her stomach and cried out in pain.

"Andrea!" Holly crawled over to grab her by the shoulder. "Andrea! Are you hurt!?"

As her face contorted with pain, Andrea spoke through gritted teeth, "Yes, it hurts. It feels like—" The rest was left unsaid as she again cried out in pain.

"What's the matter? Where are you hurt?" But Andrea could not answer for her body had gone limp with a sudden loss of consciousness. "Andrea!"

Holly looked around, hoping to find Will or her father. She was panicked and not entirely sure what she should do. She was afraid for Andrea and whatever had caused her such pain, but she was also aware that they were sitting right in the middle of a dinosaur nip patch and any moment now, one of the big creatures could come by for the plant. If it was Grumpy, Andrea could be in serious trouble! Even the tamer dinosaurs, such as Dopey or Spot, could accidentally hurt Andrea if she couldn't get out of the way.

"Daddy! Will!" she shouted out. "Are you out there!?" She was afraid to leave Andrea's side to go look for help. Instead she began to drag Andrea's limp body out of the dinosaur nip patch while calling out, hoping someone would hear her.

***

Eventually, Rick and Will did return, but not soon enough for Holly’s tastes. They were able to take Andrea into the cave without an incident from the dinosaurs and set her up in her sleeping area, with plenty of blankets to keep her warm. The strange skipping time they had experienced deep in the jungle had stopped after they'd left that part of the jungle. Rick had made his first concern to help Andrea and he would look into the area of skipping time later.

Holly had been sent off to gather ingredients for a Pakuni concoction that had been proven to fight off fevers. Still, Rick was not entirely sure that a fever was her problem. It was early evening and Andrea was still slipping in and out of consciousness, but her condition refused to improve. When conscious, she complained of horrendous pain all over her body.

"I don't get it, Dad," said Will. They stood away from the resting Andrea and talked quietly about her problem, while Holly worked to prepare the ingredients she'd gathered. "She's so cold. How can that be a fever?"

"That's what I was thinking, son," Rick said. "She's exhibiting all the symptoms of a fever except she's cold instead of hot."

"Are you even sure it's a disease?"

This made Rick think. "You said that during her whole time in the crack in time, she never got sick."

"That's what she said. I think it must have been that whole stopped time thing. She couldn't get sick. The bacteria, if any, couldn't get to her."

"But if that's the case," Rick continued his thought, "then she just entered the Land of the Lost where her body was assaulted with all sorts of unknown diseases. Her body was so accustomed to not having to fight off disease, that she was easily susceptible to the simplest diseases here."

"You think that's it?"

"Maybe. It's just a theory right now."

"Well, then what about the Pakuni? Surely they'd know how to treat most diseases around here. Maybe we should go see them."

"Good thinking. Let's go down to the Pakuni compound and try to get Ta to come up here and take a look at her."

Knowing the lead Pakuni, Will looked around the cave for some sort of valuables. "We'd better be ready to bargain, as I'm sure Ta won't come up here and help her out of the kindness of his heart."

Rick grinned. They knew the Paku too well. "You're right." He looked around. They had crystals, which the Pakuni certainly coveted, but they also often misused them so that was out of the question. Maybe a stone for Stone Soup? Or some tools, such as rope?

"Rick Marshall!" said a commanding voice.

Rick turned to see Enik standing at the mouth of the cave. Will came to stand next to his father. "Enik? What are you doing here? I thought you were going to close the crack in time?"

"We have a very serious problem," stated Enik flatly.

"Dad," said Will, turning his attention to his father. "Maybe Enik can tell us what kind of disease Andrea has and how to cure it?"

A knot formed in Rick's stomach. Enik was supposed to repair the crack in time, then time starts misbehaving in a selected area of the jungle, then Andrea fell ill and Enik shows up at his door. Somehow he knew they all must be connected. And for Enik to say there was a problem did not portend well. He calmly put a hand on his son's shoulder to forestall any further outbursts. "What is it, Enik? Were you able to close the crack in time?"

"No, Rick Marshall. That is why I am here. At present, I cannot close the crack in time. If I do not do so soon, at it's current rate of dimensional acceleration, it will destroy our universe within two days. I am missing the key."

"And what key do you need to close it?" Rick asked, already knowing the answer.

Enik extended his arm and used his clawed hand to point at Andrea. "Her! I need the human female!"

"Her name is Andrea Charleston!" shouted Will.

Rick grabbed at Will's shoulders and held them tight to indicate that he should calm down. To Enik, he asked, "why do you need Andrea?"

"The girl— Andrea Charleston— belongs within the crack in time. When the crack was created, apparently she was a part of its creation. In other words, she entered the crack in time at the exact moment the crack occurred. She may even have been the cause of the crack. She is an integral part of it. She was a stabilizing force on it. When we removed her from the crack, it destabilized. It now threatens to destroy the closest universe— the one in which we now live."

Understanding what that could mean, Rick asked, "She's fallen ill. Does this have anything to do with you removing her from the crack in time?"

"Of course. In her reality, she existed within this crack in time for many years. During that experience, she did not live with true time as you know it. Her body now experiences time and must catch up with what it has lost."

"You mean she's growing old for all that time she missed."

Enik paused at Will's naiveté. "Not precisely. Rather, her body has grown accustomed to living without time. For it to have time again, it must adjust. Her body is having difficulty adjusting to time. Imagine you have a fleshy, ripe fruit. That fruit is frozen solid. While frozen, it retains it's shape and texture. But when the fruit is thawed to its normal temperature, it quickly turns to a mushy substance and disintegrates. It cannot survive the experience. Andrea Charleston is that fruit. She cannot adjust to being 'unfrozen' from time."

Will couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Does this mean she'll die?"

Enik stepped back from the waves of mental anguish that Will was broadcasting. He clasped his hands behind his back to brace himself for what he knew was coming. "Yes," he answered flatly, "unless..."

"Oh, no!" Will doubled over, his whole body becoming tense with grief. "Unless what? What can we do to save her?"

"We must take the girl back to the crack in time."

"NO!" Will cried out. "She hates it there! She would rather die than go back!"

"She must go back!"

"She can't! There must be another way!"

"There is no other way! She must return to the crack in time, so that I might stabilize it and close it."

"You mean she'll have to stay there forever?"

"Not exactly. She must go back into the crack in time. When I close it, several things may occur. She may go back to her original world, before she entered the crack in time. If she does that, her current physical problems will cease because it will have never happened. She may transition into our universe, in which case she will die a very painful death as time destroys her body. She may cease to exist altogether, along with the crack in time. Or she may transition to another universe where time does not exist and she must stay there forever."

"Enik! You don't understand! She can't live like that again! She'd rather stay here and die than risk going back to a world without time!"

Enik's voice turned powerful and demanding. "You do not understand, Will Marshall! The crack in time must be closed! If she stays here in this universe, not only does she die a very painful death, but we all die!"

"No!" Will shouted in denial. "It can't be!" He turned away and let the tears flow.

Rick wrapped an arm around his son's shoulder in comfort. Quietly, to Enik, he asked, "Are you sure there's no other way?"

Enik's voice was still loud and powerful. "There is no other way, Rick Marshall!"

Although he hated to admit it, in his heart Rick knew it had to be true. It all made sense. Enik had been unable to close the crack in time and many strange things had been occurring in the Land of the Lost since Andrea's appearance. It now seemed that the universe was breaking down around them and Andrea along with it. He pushed his son from him. "Will," he said gently. "Enik's right. We have to take Andrea back. Go talk to her and—"

"But, Dad!" Will groaned in emotional pain.

"Will, this may be the last moment you have with her." He thought of his own wife and her untimely death. If he’d had the time to tell her how he felt—how much he loved her—before her death... "Make the most of what you have left. Go talk to her and say your goodbyes. Tell her what she means to you."

Wracked with grief, Will turned away and stumbled to Andrea's side. There he found her conscious, but obviously so wracked with pain that her eyes wouldn't focus. Softly, he crouched down on the ground beside her and gently stroked her hair. "Andrea?" he said, almost in a whisper.

The sound of his voice caused her to stir. She turned toward him, struggling to find his face. Eventually, recognition played across her features and she asked, her voice extremely weak, "What's wrong with me?"

Biting back the tears, Will explained it to her. "Enik is here. He says it's because you were too long in the other world. You didn't experience time there and your body is having difficulty adjusting. That's what's making you sick."

"Is there a cure?"

A wave of pain and regret washed over him. He considered not telling her the truth, but he knew she would want to know what might happen. He couldn't hide the truth from her if she should end up stuck in that world again. She certainly deserved to know. "Enik says you have to go back."

She gasped in pain and her features turned even paler than they already were. "No..." she groaned quietly. "Don't let that happen."

"But you'll die."

"Then kill me... kill me now."

"I can't. Because if you don't go back, we all die."

"What?"

Unable to hold back any longer, the tears began gushing forward. "Oh, Andrea. I love you so much. I don't want to see you in pain, but... if you don't go back, then our universe could be destroyed. We'll all die."

Her breath coming in short waves, Andrea fought the pain and reached up to touch his tears. "I don't want you to die, Will Marshall. I love you too much."

"I love you too, Andrea."

"Thank you, for what you've given to me. If it means your life, then take me—" her eyes grew wide as a massive wave of pain washed over her. "Take me back!" she cried before lapsing back into unconsciousness again.

Will hated seeing her in pain. He buried his face into the nape of her neck and wallowed in the last moments of her femininity he would have. He wanted to hold this moment forever. He needed this last, sweet moment with her. He hated doing this to her, but he knew it was necessary.

Pulling back, he drank in the shape of her face and etched it into memory. He would remember that face forever. He loved her and he always would. She had touched his life in the most basic way and with the sweetest manner. He needed her. He needed her more than he’d ever needed anything in his life.

Putting an arm behind her shoulders and the other under her knees, he lifted her from the bedding and held her to him with her head nestled against his shoulder.

Turning to the others, he saw his father and sister watching them with pained empathy on their faces. The Altrusian, of course, remained expressionless, although Will was sure he was telepathically aware and processing the waves of anguish that they were all outputting. Enik stood patiently waiting for Will Marshall to process his emotions so that he could get on with his task.

Will adjusted Andrea's weight to a better balance. "Let's go," he told them flatly.

***

Their trek through the nighttime jungle was silent. Holly had offered a quiet "I'm sorry" to Will, but he merely nodded his head in acknowledgment. All of them, except for Enik, were lost in their own thoughts about losing Andrea after such a short time and were saying their own silent goodbyes to her. Enik's silence was due to his concern for their very universe's existence. But even he, sensing the anguish from the humans, felt a note of melancholy for the loss of the girl.

They stepped into the clearing at the crevasse. "We must hurry," Enik said, stating the obvious. They glanced about the moonlit clearance for signs of predatory dinosaurs, but the way was clear. At a fast walk, they moved—

There was a loud popping sound.

The four humans and Altrusian were suddenly standing within the tiny niche with the broken matrix table.

"Daddy, what happened?" Holly asked in alarm.

Before he could answer, Enik responded. "It is getting dangerous. The crack in time is getting very near our universe. We must hurry!" He crouched at the matrix table and began adjusting the crystals.

Will, still holding Andrea in his arms, felt cheated. His time with her was limited as it was, but now the universe was conspiring to take away what little time they had left. Privately, he wished that if this time jumping were going to occur, that it would go backward, as it had done that afternoon, so that he could have just a few more moments with her. He wanted to keep this last, precious moment with her.

"Will Marshall," Enik intoned, breaking through his haze of turmoiled emotions. "I am ready." He pointed toward the ground before the wall of stone where they had first seen Andrea's frozen form. "You must place Andrea there."

His feet felt like they were filled with lead weights, but he finally moved toward where Enik had pointed. Slowly he crouched down and laid her unconscious form on the ground. Staring into her face, he couldn't turn away. Drinking in her lips, nose, eyes, hair, and the shape of her face, he tried to memorize it as best he could. He didn't want to ever let it go.

"Will Marshall!" Enik called, his voice sounding like it was coming from far away. "You must stand back!"

Ignoring him, Will continued to hold her head up from the ground. He couldn't just leave her there. He knew how much she hated that place. He didn't want to see her in pain. But if she had to go through it, he wanted to be with her to help ease it. If only there was a way.

A hand touched his shoulder and he recognized the familiar touch of his father. He heard his father's reassuring voice telling him that he had to stand back. He conceded. For one last moment, he bent down and kissed her forehead before softly resting her head on the ground and backing away to stand with his father and sister.

With a touch of a few crystals on the matrix table, there was a brief flash of light and Andrea was gone. Silence engulfed the tiny room.

After a few moments, Will’s cracked voice asked, "Is that it?" It all seemed too fast and too simple.

Enik continued to monitor the matrix table. "No. I am calculating new matrices in order to eliminate the crack in time. Andrea has returned there and stabilized it. However, because it has come into such close proximity to our universe, I must recalculate."

Will, was horrified to think of Andrea back in that place and the terror she must feel. "You mean she's back in that place... now?"

"Yes."

Holly moved to the other side of the room and located her. "Will! I see her!"

Both Will and Rick shifted to stand by Holly and see the image. As before, they saw her unmoving form standing against the wall. This time, however, a look of intense sadness and pain was frozen on her face. "Dad!" Will cried out, horrified at was he saw. "She knows what's happened! She's in pain!"

"I know," he said gently. He put a reassuring arm across his shoulder. "It'll be over in a moment, son."

"We hope so, Dad. Enik said she could be trapped in a place without time forever."

Rick couldn't think of how to answer that and bring comfort to his son. All they could do was wait and hope it wouldn't happen.

"I am now closing the crack in time," Enik stated as he began manipulating the crystals. At first, nothing seemed to happen. Then tiny flashes of light, like tiny firecrackers, started bursting in front of them. Then a loud grinding sound, as if two massive stones were being scraped together, emanated from somewhere.

The flashing increased in number and intensity, then Andrea's frozen image suddenly vanished. Will ran around the room, trying to find her again. When he got to the opposite side on the other side of Enik, he gasped at what he saw. She was there, but this time her image was distorted and an expression of terror contorted her face.

Rick and Holly ran to see it with him. Suddenly it hit Will. If she were to be stuck in a place with no time, he would be there with her. He would give her the companionship she needed. He couldn’t stand existing without her and he couldn’t stand the thought of her in such pain. Unexpectedly, Will stepped forward into Andrea's image and the flashes of light.

"Will!" Rick screamed, "NO!" He was able to reach out and just grab at the fabric of Will's shirt sleeve. The rest of his body vanished into nothingness. As much as he tried to pull Will back from wherever he had gone, an incredible force was pulling him back in.

"Rick Marshall!" Enik shouted. "Will's presence is disrupting my calculations! You must remove him from there! This is a very crucial time!"

"I'm trying, Enik!"

Holly grabbed her father's arm and added to his effort to pull Will back from the nothingness.

Then—

time—

shifted—

The world fell apart around them. One of the moons came crashing down into the swamp. The Sleestak caves collapsed upon themselves. Grumpy's body turned inside out and exploded. The pylons levitated before breaking into a million tiny particles.

The Land of the Lost's universal structure shattered like glass.

—shifted

—time

—Then

Whatever had been holding Will finally let go. He came crashing back into his father and Holly and they collapsed in a pile on the floor. The matrix table that Enik was working sparked and cracked apart with a plume of smoke. The sweet smell of burned crystals filled the air.

The room was plunged into darkness.

Rick, unsure of what happened, was afraid to move his daughter and son's limp bodies off of him. "Is everyone okay?" he asked into the darkness. It took a moment, but they finally pushed themselves to a sitting position and affirmed that they were indeed not hurt.

"Enik? Did you close the crack?"

They heard the Altrusian shuffle in the darkness. "I believe so." Moonlight was beginning to return and they barely seen the image of Enik’s body bending over and examining the broken matrix table. He adjusted a few crystals and brought a faint glow back to some of them. "Yes. The crack in time is no more."

"What about Andrea?" asked Will timidly. He got to his feet and helped his sister up as well.

Enik sighed. "I do not know."

"How can you not know!?"

"As I told you before, I could not be certain what happened to the girl when I eliminated the crack in time. She could be back in her original universe on your Earth. Or she could no longer exist. Or—"

"She could be trapped in another place without time," Will finished for him.

"That is correct. Obviously she is not in our universe, so one of those other alternatives must be the case."

"And there's no way to find out what happened to her?"

"It is very unlikely. I tried to monitor her locations when I eliminated the crack in time, but I had higher priorities that demanded my attention... such as factoring the effects of you attempting to enter the crack in time. As of now, it is statistically impossible that we will ever know what has happened to your friend, Andrea Charleston."

Ashamed at his actions, Will backed away from his interrogation of Enik. He had wanted to simply be with her and help her, and he may have been the cause of her being lost in time. His actions were why they could not know what happened.

Enik sensed his shame and tried to offer what he could. "Do not blame yourself, Will Marshall. The odds were high that regardless of your interference, we would not know what happened to her."

It was small comfort. Will reached out to hug his sister and father, not caring if they saw his tears. Already, he missed Andrea so much it hurt him to the core. He loved his father and sister, but they could not fill that void within him. He needed Andrea here. He needed that female companionship. Not having her here was tearing him apart.

After a moment, he released his hug on Rick and Holly and voiced his thoughts. "I miss her. I miss her so much. I... I don't think I really realized it until now, but I need her. I really need her in my life."

Rick's heart went out to his son. He recognized the pain as something he had felt when their mother and his wife had died. At least then, there were other women around that could have filled that void and the need for female companionship. In the Land of the Lost, they were alone. There was no one else to take Andrea's place in Will's life... or Holly's... or his own. "We all need her, Will." He hugged his children fiercely. "We all need her."

Quietly, and as a family, they all turned and walked away.

 

THE END

 

AUTHOR'S NOTE: First of all, thanks for reading "Between the Lines" and I certainly hope you enjoyed it. The genesis of this story came about when somebody mentioned on The Lost (a Land of the Lost email list) that Will must have it rough in the Land of the Lost, being a young, sexually maturing teenager with no female companionship. What does he do when he's alone in the jungle and no one's watching? Well, the conversation got a bit crude after that, so I won't say anything more. Land of the Lost is, after all, a children's show and the topic of Will’s love life—or lack of it— never came up on the show itself. I wrote "Between the Lines" to address that issue. I tried to keep the same look and feel of an actual episode of the show, therefore, I was sure to keep it at a strictly G-rated level. The title, "Between the Lines", is in reference to how the crack in time exists between universes. But it also has a double meaning. What exactly did Will and Andrea— two young, sexually mature people of the opposite sex— do all alone in a land of paradise during their year together? It was on purpose that I did not answer that question. I chose to keep the G-rated feel of the story and leave it up to the reader to read "Between the Lines".