The beat-up old car loudly ground to a halt a few feet from the shore. As the ignition shut off, the door flung open, and out stepped a disheveled man in his late twenties. He adjusted his sunglasses and looked out over the lake, watching the sun slowly descend towards the horizon.
It’s almost time.
He sat down on the bumper of his car and pulled out his phone. Pressing a few buttons brought up a string of text messages, all from an anonymous sender, but each beginning with the same four letters: JANE.
The phone suddenly rang, nearly making him drop it in shock. Scrambling onto his feet, he answered, “Hello?!”
The voice on the other end of the line was garbled with static. Even still, he recognized it immediately.
“To…Tom…Tom, can yo…er me?”
He sighed with relief. “Barely. Is it time?”
“Not qui…but we’re almo…ady. Just hold on—the connection should stabi…as we get closer.”
“Alright. Just tell me when.”
Tom walked around to the back of his car and opened the trunk. Inside was a bizarre radio-like device labeled in an unknown alphabet, with an extendable antenna that, at its highest, reached three feet above the roof of the car.
“It’s ready,” Tom reported. “Waiting for your signal.”
“Okay. Heh…the waiting is the worst part, isn’t it?”
“It’s bad, but…I wouldn’t say it’s the worst part.”
There was no reply. Tom watched as the sun fell lower and lower, each second feeling like an hour.
At last, the phone spoke up, “Alright, counting down! 5…4…3…2…1…now!”
With one fluid motion, Tom flipped a switch on the radio and turned its dial to the maximum setting. An earsplitting noise filled the air, making Tom wince, but he endured and watched as the sun finally began to pass the horizon. The air around him felt heavy, and a feeling akin to blacking out washed over him. He grabbed the car to steady himself. Before very long, the feeling passed, and he stood up again.
The voice wasn’t coming from the phone. Tom turned around to find that the road he had travelled had vanished, replaced by a mirror duplicate of the shoreline, trapping him on a tiny spit of land. Another car sat on the opposite shore, and next to it stood a smiling young woman in a lab coat.
Tom felt his emotions surge. Fighting back tears, he whispered, “…Jane…”
The two of them rushed towards each other, locking into a firm embrace and sharing a passionate kiss. When their connection was broken, Tom tentatively reached up and brushed his hand against Jane’s face.
“Nice to see you again,” Jane chuckled.
Gently wriggling free of Tom’s arms, she strode over to his car and examined the device before looking up at the sky. The sun had also been duplicated, placing the reunion squarely between two equally magnificent sunsets.
“You said you found something?” Tom asked as he walked up beside her. “You know, about why this only works on the equinox?”
Jane nodded. “I did. The technology over here is much more advanced—you could almost call it magic. It turns out that dimensions run in paths similar to planets, and the equinox brings our worlds exactly parallel to each other. Further research has shown that a proper mix of sunlight and moonlight, when exposed to a compatible radio disturbance, create a transdimensional phenomenon that allows temporary melding of…”
She looked over at Tom, who was furrowing his brow in confusion.
“…Er…broadcasting the right signal in the right place at the right time pulls both worlds together temporarily.”
“Oh,” Tom said. “That makes sense…I guess.”
Jane smiled, leaning in to kiss him on the cheek. “Don’t worry about it. The point is, we’re able to see each other, at least for a little while.”
Tom tried to smile, but it was short-lived. Jane took a few wandering steps and went back to staring up at the heavens.
“…I still haven’t figured out exactly what caused me to be thrown over here, though,” she quietly admitted. “Even this world’s science has its limits. In the end…I’m too powerless to bring us together for real.”
Tom put a hand on her shoulder. “This is real. It may be temporary, but it’s real. And it’s all because of your work.”
Jane closed her eyes and grasped Tom’s hand. “…Thanks.”
She turned around to face Tom. “So…what do you want to do?”
“To be honest, I was hoping we could just talk. You know, like we always used to.”
“That sounds perfect.”
So they talked. They sat down and held each other close, talking about whatever came to mind as they watched the rays from both suns slowly fade from the sky. Every now and then they would pause to cry, pause to laugh, or pause to kiss. They treasured each moment, but they could do nothing to halt the passage of time. Both suns had set, and the last traces of their light were quickly being erased by the night.
“…I think it’s time,” Jane said.
Tom nodded. “I know.”
They stood up and walked closer to the water. Tom wrapped his arms around Jane, trying his best to stop from trembling.
“It’ll be alright, Tom. I’ll keep working. There has to be some way to recreate the portal, and I promise I’ll find it.”
“Just don’t overwork yourself, alright? I don’t like having to wait so long to see you, but it would be worse if you burned out.”
“Hehe. You’re always so worried about me.”
The darkness thickened around them. Tom braced himself for what he knew was coming.
Taking a deep breath, Jane whispered, “Tom…I love you.”
“I love you too, J—“
In an instant she disappeared from his arms. The last light of the day was gone, and the road back had returned. Tom was alone once more.
This is the worst part, he thought.