The last thing I remember hearing once I ran out of the school building were the excited shouts and screams of every student around me, trying to start their summer break right away. Many people tried to push and shove their way through the exit doors, swarming out like flies, wanting no more of the constant, boring school days and more of the exciting fun outside of school. It was insane, everyone was desperate to start their summer vacation like there was no tomorrow. To be honest, I don’t mind school much, so I didn’t really care if it were to be the last day of school or not. Probably the one guy that I know who’s crazy about breaks from school, or basically any day where there isn’t school is my best friend, Barry Amsterdam.
Barry was the guy at school who got into detention countless amounts of times for, well, a lot of reasons actually. Most of those reasons are because of slacking and not doing much of his school work. Some other reasons involve skipping classes by hiding in the boys’ restroom, texting during class, and being disruptive immaturely for fun. Even though he does these things at school, he’s actually a great guy once you get to know him.
I became best friends with Barry when I started middle school a few years ago, he sat with me at lunch for absolutely no reason and started talking to me. I was just flat out confused, he talked to me as if he knew me, about what he did before school started. What happened was that he had brought a stray cat he said he found outside on his front porch, he had it dressed up in a skunk costume, and had let it roam free around the school. It had surprised a lot of students, they were running away thinking it was a skunk, teachers too were freaking out. The principal had found out and given him a few weeks worth of after-school detentions. I remembered that day, someone came up to me and told me there was a “wild animal” roaming around in the school, and it ran past us. It took me a minute to realize that it was too big to be a skunk.
It was a simple prank, but thinking about it more, it was a bit cruel to do that to an innocent animal.
Barry was in a few classes with me, so I actually got to hang out with him in school and after school, he was really nice to my parents when I first introduced him to my mom and dad, and played some video games in my bedroom. My parents know about the kind of trouble he usually gets in, but Barry told me that he’d never act like himself around anyone related to his friends or family, unless he wanted to. Sometimes. I was introduced to his parents, his parents didn’t care much about what they wear in the house. His Dad was a man who drank a lot and usually wore a white tank top and shorts that had a few stains on them, I wouldn’t ask what the stains are though, but he’s actually very welcoming once you get to know him, just like Barry. His Mom was the kind of parent who was hardworking and tried to keep the house clean, usually drenched in sweat every time you’d see her, but she’s also kind as well. It reminds me of the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, don’t you think?
That’s just what Barry and his parents are like, but I’m the opposite. I live in a small, decent house that’s always clean for anyone to come and visit with my Mom and Dad, and my little sister, Cassandra. You’d pretty much expect what they did for a living, both have great jobs, they have great well-behaved children, and are living a great life. As long as I’m doing well to make my parents happy, which they always are whenever I do something better, especially in school, I’m happy with the way I am.
I’m currently out in the school parking lot, standing as I wait to see if Barry would come out and ride our bikes home. Most of the time, he would be in the principal’s office, either about whatever shenanigans he got himself into, or about whatever dropping grade he has in some of his classes. I have a way of finding out if that were to be the truth, by counting down from fifty, because he’s usually one of the first people to come out of the school building. If he doesn’t come out by the time I finish counting, he’s obviously in the principal’s office or in some classroom.
I decided to start counting down from fifty as I looked around for him, which was kind of hard since I was surrounded by a big crowd.
No Barry so far.
Nope, still isn’t here yet.
He’s still not here with me, so I continued counting. As soon as I reached zero, the parking lot was less crowded with students and teachers, so I was able to run back into the school without having to run into someone. Getting to the principal’s office, I saw Principal Horrace and you-know-who, slouching into a chair as he sat in front of his desk. I decided to wait a few minutes for him to come out, which didn’t take long at all. Barry came out with a disappointed look on his face, which surprised and shocked me at once. Usually, when he’s out of the principal’s office, he seemed to shrug it off as just a warning, but this was rare for him to look at me as if his whole world had turned upside down.
“What’s up?” I asked him, looking down at his hands, which were behind his back as if he had something he didn’t want me to see. Barry tried to avoid eye contact with me, so I tried to get his attention.
“Hey! I’m right here, now tell me, what did he say?” I asked him, snapping my fingers in his face. He finally managed to show me what was in his hands, which was a piece of paper that had his grades throughout the eighth grade school year, which were bad, of course, but underneath all of that was something that almost made me lose my mind. This had never happened to Barry before, he would usually go into different grades every year, but this time, he’s being held back into the eighth grade.
“Yeah, I’m not going to the high school with you this year,” said Barry.
I let out a loud groan and shoved the paper into his face, moving it around as if I was smearing a pie into a clown’s face as a joke.
“What have I told you about raising your grades a little? Always get at least—”
“—a passing grade in some of the classes.” Barry and I said at once, him knowing what I said many times before. “I know, but school is just boring. If they made it a lot more fun, then I would participate in learning a lot more. God, you’re like my parents.”
“I just want to be with you throughout the rest of school, then we’re off for good! But then I would have to wait a year for you to graduate, or maybe a lot more if you’re going to keep this up! Come on, let’s get home.” Then Barry and I walked out of the school and towards the bike rack, getting our bikes and heading home.
It was nighttime, I sat and ate some Italian food for dinner with my family, and I was about to stay up and quietly play my video games. My bedroom was dark, but I was able to see some of my surroundings with the illuminating light from the television screen. I picked up my controller and turned it on, but then I heard a slight buzz come from my phone. Picking it up, I noticed that Barry, of course, had sent me a message. He was the kind who would nonstop text anyone, even if people are busy with something and Barry would still try and text them, mostly trying to start a conversation. I opened up my phone and checked out what Barry had to say, only to find a short message: open ur bedroom window.
I slowly got off the bed, quietly walking over to the window and lifted it open, only to see Barry with his bike, waving up at me.
“God, dude! What are you doing here? It’s already dark out, my parents are asleep!” I whispered loudly at him.
“Come on, man. It’s summer break, we’re supposed to have fun! Now come and get your bike and let’s head out,” He said, patting his bike seat as if he wanted me to get on with him.
“I don’t know, maybe get a slushy at the gas station and hang out at the park?”
“First of all, I’m not sneaking out with you when it’s so dark outside, and second of all, I don’t have any money.”
“And that’s why I always come prepared.” Barry held up his wallet, showing it to me.
Yup, you might have guessed correctly, I went to sneak out into the night with my best friend, who kept pressuring me to go out. I had to grab my bike out of the garage without my parents, who were asleep, waking up to see what was happening. Out in the cold night, the moon was already shining bright, and the silence was being broken by Barry’s loud howling as we pedaled down the empty streets on our bikes. I tried to get him to quiet down, but he just ignored me as he had all the fun in the world, while I had to be dragged along when I could’ve enjoyed a good video game. Don’t get me wrong. Like I explained earlier, Barry is a really great guy when he’s not wild and crazy, but he can be a pain in the ass sometimes.
It only took us a few minutes to get to a gas station downtown, it was still open with the lights on inside. The parking lot was empty, pretty much expected, except for a motorcycle that was parked on the side of the building, possibly belonged to the worker at the register. We walked in after we parked our bikes next to the motorcycle, an even colder breeze hitting me like a brick.
“Hey,” the worker at the register said in a casual hello tone. Barry nodded at him in greeting. I did the same as we both walked closer to the slushy machine on the other side. I got myself a blue raspberry flavored one, while he got cherry cola.
As we got to the register to buy our slushies, the worker, an older teen named Ray, according to his name tag, smiled at us as he scanned the cups.
“Starting your summer break fun, huh?” Ray asked us, handing us our slushies. Barry and I nod.
“Heck yeah, we are!” Barry said, giving Ray a fist bump, followed by a mimicking sound of an explosion from the both of them.
“Man, I remember being able to sneak out and start doing whatever I want the moment I got out of high school, that was awesome. Alright, guys, have a great night!” Ray said, chuckling. We went to head out of the gas station, but he stopped us before I pushed open the glass doors.
“Just don’t do anything too crazy, okay?”
“Sure, yeah,” I said, then we both walked out and headed to the park.
The national park was closed for the night hours, but Barry pressured me into sneaking in. I went to drink my slushy as I sat on a swing while Barry went down a slide with his, some of it splashing out of his plastic cup. He made as much commotion as he can, acting like a little kid on Christmas when waking up to find presents. Once he tired himself out, which was when I was halfway finished with my slushy, he walked over and sat next to me in another empty swing.
“Come on, why aren’t you having fun?” Barry asked me, noticing how down I was. I didn’t answer him for a few seconds, but then I decided to say something.
“It’s just that we’re not going to be in the same grade together.”
“I’ll be in high school with you, eventually. Come on, cheer up.” He started poking me with his finger in my ticklish spots, trying to get me to smile. With each poke he did, he kept saying “huh” in the weirdest voice he could do. I eventually let out a laugh, feeling a bit better.
“Yeah, you’re probably right—”
I stopped talking as I heard a noise coming from somewhere around us. I couldn’t make out what it was, but I can tell Barry heard it too. He was looking into the forest that was by the park, his attention only looking deep through the dark trees.
“I heard it from those woods, let’s say we check it out!” He dropped his cup and ran off into the woods, leaving me alone at the park.
“Barry! Wait—” I got off the swing and ran off to go look for him. It was almost pitch dark, I could only see outlines of trees. I stopped running every now and then to see if I can hear any sort of noise, at least a twig or leaf crunch.
“Barry?” I didn’t hear anything. I continued running, but then I saw someone standing still, a few meters away from me. I tried to be quiet, walking closer to inspect who or what it is, finally able to see that it was Barry, his back turned to face me.
“There you are! What in the heck were you doing?” I asked him, trying to get his attention, but he didn’t even bother to face me or say anything.
“What are you looking at—” I stopped to look at what appeared to be some sort of an elevator, out in the middle of the woods. I went up to touch it, expecting it to be a hallucination, but I actually felt cold metal once I placed my hand on the doors. This really was an elevator, the kind you would see in any building, a nice one that would have the buttons you would press to go up or down any floor, but except taken out and placed randomly in this spot.
“What’s this doing here?” I asked, both surprised and confused at the same time.
“Should we go in it? You know, to see if it works?” Barry asks, finally speaking. He ran up to the elevator and pressed a button on the side that had a down button on it. A few seconds later, a loud ding rang out as the elevator doors slide open, revealing a nice interior, as if nobody has ever been inside. The elevator had a red carpet, white wallpaper, and a brass handrail, just an average looking elevator. What’s not so average however was why it was here in the middle of the woods, out in a clear opening with no trees.
“Yeah, it works.” I say before both of us go in. It felt a bit warm inside, not enough for me to start sweating right away. Barry pressed the down button, the others being the up button instead of 1st, then a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floor button, the doors closing and the elevator going down.
“What do you think those other floors would lead to?” Barry joked at me, chuckling.
“I don’t know, man. What if it just leads underground in the dirt or something? What if this elevator is just abandoned here for no reason?” I ask him.
“Would it not work if it were to be abandoned? Besides, it’s too weird to have something like this in the woods. It’s obviously going to lead to somewhere.”
It took us a few seconds for the elevator to stop moving and the doors to open, only to leave us…where we first began? It seemed like the elevator took us back to the woods, because the only thing we could see were trees, but there’s no way it would take us back outside. It would be impossible to do so, since Barry pressed the down button to take us to a lower floor.
“Yup, garbage. Let’s get out of here,” Barry said, walking out of the elevator.
“Barry, wait!” I went to catch up with him, noticing a disappointed look in his face. “You know there was no way it would take us somewhere, right? There’s just no way something like this would be out here in the middle of the woods!”
“I know! But hey, at least it worked, right? Besides, I’m done having my fun, I just want to get back home.”
We headed out of the woods and out of the park, riding our bikes back home. I checked my phone as I arrived, it was almost midnight. We’ve been gone for about two hours. I was glad to be back home so I can relax, but at the same time, I felt as if something wasn’t right. I looked around, and at Barry, who looked at me back.
“What? We’re back to your house. Is this not it?” He asked me, groaning impatiently.
“I guess so, yeah.” I sat my bike on the side of the house and headed inside, only to notice something wasn’t right. I checked every room in the house, my family was gone. Everything was here in the house, untouched and where it should be, but my parents weren’t here in the house. I was alone. I ran out of the house, noticing their car was in the driveway, they definitely didn’t go anywhere.
“What’s up?” Barry asked, starting to worry as he saw how terrified I’m feeling.
“My family is gone!”
“Yes, way! Where have they gone?”
“Not a joke?”
“Not a joke, I swear!”
“I’m sure they’re fine, even if they headed off somewhere.”
I got out my phone and tried to call them, but I had no service, so I couldn’t get a connection. I told Barry that we should do to his place and see if his parents know where my family went, and he thought it was a good idea, so we headed off. As we got to his house, we noticed that his parents are gone too. In fact, we went to look around town and noticed nobody was here but the two of us.
“What is going on? Where did everyone go?” Barry started hyperventilating, both of his hands on his head as he freaked out. “This is just too weird for words!”
“Calm down, man!” I slapped him across the face to calm him down. “Okay, so all of this happened when we got into that elevator, right?”
“So, if we get back into that elevator and head back home, that probably would get everyone back!”
“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea!”
The two of us got on our bikes and were about to head off, but we stopped as we heard a noise. Maybe it’s just our imagination, I thought, probably a trick from the elevator, perhaps, if it has the ability to do things like that. Barry didn’t seem to notice, so we continued to ride down the hill to the park. Barry rode his bike to the gas station first. Wondering what he was up to, I decided to follow him. By the time I got in there, he was already to pick up a few items, a gallon of gasoline and a matchbox. He looked up at me as I stood at the entrance with the doors open.
“What are you going to do with those?” I asked him, out of curiosity.
“I might use it for some sort of an emergency,” He replied.
“I’m thinking about burning the elevator once we’re out of here.”
“But you know it’s surrounded by large amounts of trees, right? You want to cause a forest fire? But at least the fire could stop the elevator from working properly somehow.”
“Eh, you do have a good point.”
The worker, Ray was gone too, we both noticed. Getting out of the gas station and to the park, we pedaled fast to the point where our legs were burning and we were sweating. A few minutes later, we finally got to the park, and are about to go into the woods, but then I heard the same noise from earlier again. This time, it was a bit more audible, as if the source of the noise was coming closer to us.
“You hear that?” I ask Barry, who held the gasoline gallon up to him like a shield, looking around at his surroundings. He only nodded, trying to stay quiet in case the noise would appear again, the sound of what I could finally make out as footsteps. The footsteps were getting louder, but we couldn’t see anything in the dark. I kept looking around, and stopped to see a dark figure standing far away from us. Barry noticed what I was looking at too, and took a step back. The outline of the figure moved a bit, getting a bit bigger as it got closer. Each time we stepped back, it would make the same movement as we did.
I thought we were alone? I thought. Feeling terrified, Barry and I started running away, the sound of footsteps now becoming rapid and loud. With every single piece of energy I have in my body, I kept running, dodging trees that were in my way. Eventually, I stopped to see if we outran whatever was chasing after us, but I noticed that Barry was gone. My heart starting to pound hard in my chest, I looked around in the darkness, staying where I was.
“Barry?” I whispered out loud. Nothing happened, everything was just quiet, except for my heavy breathing from running so much.
“Barry!” I yelled this time. At that moment, I felt something push me to the ground, knocking me over to the grass. I tried to punch and kick whatever was on top of me, but I stopped to see Barry, a few scratches and light bruises all over his face.
“We need to get out of here, now!” He said, pulling me up as we started to run further into the woods.
We eventually found the elevator. I immediately pressed the up button and waited for the elevator door to open. Then the same sound of footsteps came in, mixed in with the crunching of leaves and twigs on the ground got closer to us from behind.
“Come on! Come on!” I shouted as I banged on the elevator doors, waiting for them to open. I turned around to see Barry, opening the gallon and pouring the flammable gasoline around us, then threw the empty container on the ground as he finished. He turned and looked at me as if he wanted me to finish the task, which I knew what to do. I opened the matchbox and got out a matchstick, igniting it as the flame on the match head appeared. I threw it on the ground, a circle of fire instantly surrounding us. It started spreading fast, and yet the elevator door still didn’t open yet. From over the fire, we saw the light of the fire shine onto a blood-covered Barry, another Barry coming closer to us. Two Barry’s? Why is there two of them? And was that what was following us?
“Don’t! Just ignore it! Let’s just go, now!” The Barry next to me said.
“Don’t—” The other Barry from the other side of the fire ring muttered. I turned around to the elevator, noticing the doors opening. I felt as if good luck had hit me fast, grabbing Barry as we both got into the elevator. I pressed the up button inside the elevator, the doors closing a few seconds later. The last thing I heard from the other Barry before the doors closed still left a stain in my memory, something I can’t stop thinking or hearing in my head over and over, the words being a painful scream that still terrified me to this day.
“Don’t leave me, please!”
A few months later, summer break has ended and it was time to go back to school. Barry and I had decided to forget about the elevator, and never dared spoke a word about it, even if it comes back up in our minds as an unforgettable memory that will forever stay with us for the rest of our lives. I still have a few questions about what the elevator was and what its purpose was for, which I can’t seem to figure out a reasonable answer. There were other buttons as well, but if they did lead to other floors, what would they be like? There was nobody in town when we went to that one floor, but what was with the clone of Barry? Was it something that had to do with the elevator? Has anyone ever encountered it before? And most especially, where did it come from? A lot of other questions kept coming into my head, but I just thought about letting everything about it pass. I had my first day of high school, which was actually better than I expected. I got to meet a lot of new people from different grades, I had great teachers, but it still isn’t the same without Barry. After school, I went over to the middle school to wait for him. I started to count down from fifty.
In those few seconds, I saw Barry run toward me with a smile on his face.
“Hey, man! How was your repeating year in middle school?” I asked him.
“Great, I’m actually doing great in most of my classes! Who knew learning was fun?” He replied, giving me a few school papers of his. I looked through each one, noticing all of them actually had good grades marked on the corner. Most of them were B’s, one of them was an A, which was rare for Barry to get a grade like that.
“Wow, you actually took my advice!” I said, surprised as I looked through the correct answers he got on some of his work.
“Yup! I changed! It’s almost as if I’m not who I once was anymore, the old Barry!”
Those words that came out of his mouth somehow gave me an unnerving chill, hoping it was nothing, but I couldn’t help ask him the question I felt like asking.
“Um, Barry? How do I know if you’re the real Barry?”
“What?” Barry was looking at me with a confused expression on his face.
“. . . nevermind.”
Ever since that day, I’ve started to question myself whether or not Barry is who he says he is. The clone from that strange version of our town seemed to be the only person, or thing there was, and it took the form of my best friend. I have noticed a few differences from him, but just hoping for the best that it’s just a change he’s willing to make himself a better person. For example, one time when he came over to my house for a sleepover, he actually had good manners at the dinner table, unlike him usually being a fast eater who would chew loudly and make a few messes. He also seemed nicer than usual. He apologized to every one of his teachers for his behavior from before, which is unusual for me since he cringes whenever he’s forced to apologize. I don’t know… There’s no way that the Barry that was left out of the elevator could be the real one, the one I have been best friends with throughout my middle school years.
But could it be?
Credit: Adrian Johnson
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