“Are you alright?” Tom asked Stacia as they jogged into the woods.
She nodded absently, yet looked back over her shoulder for perhaps the fourth or fifth time.
“Look,” said Tom, “don’t worry. I’m sure we can find some way to help them.”
“Thank you, Thomas,” Stacia said quietly.
“C’mon,” he said, and grabbed her hand and urged her along into the woods.
It wasn’t more than about thirty yards beyond the tree line they found Mr. Gunderson and Stevie had stopped. Mr. Gunderson was fiddling with a cylindrical object he had in his hands. On the ground at his feet was a pile of things – tools, scraps of metal, a roll of tape, glow sticks.
“Alright, Mr. Gunderson, you seem to know something about what’s going on,” said Tom, slipping his machete back into the leather strap.
“Of course he does!” said Stevie. “He knows lots about fighting ninjas, dontcha, Mr. Grunderson? You have to if you’re gonna own your own store.”
Mr. Gunderson chuckled, but said nothing at first, just focused on what he was doing with the device in his hands.
“Well,” he said at last, bending over and setting the thing down gently on the ground, “it’s kinda hard to know where to start. I do know what’s going on… sort of.”
“Is there a way to save my daddy?” Stacia broke in. “Let’s start with the ninja-things,” said Tom at the same moment, while Stevie asked, “But where’d the robots come from?”
“Robots?” asked Tom and Stacia at the same moment.
“Now, hold on,” said Mr. Gunderson, “we really need to back up a little. First of all, they’re not ninjas.”
“I figured that out,” said Tom.
“They’re from another dimension, another world.”
Stevie’s mouth dropped open. “Space ninjas!” he said in awe.
“No, not from outer space, Stevie, they’re from… elsewhere.”
“Define ‘elsewhere’,” said Tom.
“Well, I- I can’t really, Tom. It’s hard to explain. Let’s just say, it’s not a world that works the way ours does. And because of that, they don’t work according to our natural laws.”
“Mr. Gunderson, I have no idea what you are talking about,” said Stacia.
Mr. Gunderson sighed. “This is very hard to explain,” he repeated.
“Are you talking about a parallel world?” asked Tom.
“A parallel world would have similar rules to ours. They are from a world with different rules. Think of it this way.” He stooped, picked up two sticks from the ground, and stood back up. “Okay, this is our world,” he said, holding up one stick. “And there may be – may be, I stress – parallel worlds where the rules are the same but people and choices are different.” He held the second stick alongside the other. “Parallel. Going the same direction, not touching. Do you follow?”
Tom nodded. Stacia shook her head. Stevie grinned.
“Okay, but where these things come from is somewhere else entirely. Like so.” He turned the second stick so that it was at an angle to the first. “It doesn’t even go in the same directions. It’s separate entirely. The very laws of physics are different. Unfortunately, that means that once in a while,” he laid the second stick over the other and rested it on the first, “they touch.”