“Everything’s fine,” said the man. “The crate just fell over is all. Nobody’s hurt.” Some people nearby had come to investigate the noise, but Sarah’s boyfriend managed to deflect their curiosity. In a few minutes, the three of them were alone again.
“Just who the hell are you?” demanded Sarah. “And how did you do that?”
“My name is Penelope Harrison, and I’ve been invisible since I was a small girl. Except for one boy I met a few days ago, you’re the first people I’ve talked to in years. Well, I talk to lots of people, but they never hear me. But you do! I can hardly believe it.”
“Whoa, slow down,” said the man. “Let’s start from the beginning. I’m Manny. I’m the director of this gallery. Who are you?”
“Like I said,” explained Penelope, “I’ve been invisible since I was a girl. I just happened to be hitching a ride with Sarah when I saw what she could do, so I followed her here hoping to find some answers to my predicament.”
“Wait, you were following me?” asked Sarah. “How long has this been going on? Are…are those my shoes?”
“What? Oh yeah, sorry. I was just borrowing them until I could get some new ones. I guess I’ll have to start paying for things now. I’m going to need money. And a job. It’s a whole new world!”
“All right,” said Manny, “I’ve seen some weird shit in the last few months, and you probably just saved my melon back there, so I’m going to take you at your word, crazy as it sounds. I think the first thing we have to talk about is what just happened here. Have you ever experienced anything like that before.”
“No, what was that?” asked Penelope. “It was like gravity suddenly doubled.”
“More like quadrupled from where I was standing,” said Sarah.
Penelope mumbled, “From where you were standing…”
“What are you thinking?” asked Manny.
“I think it’s obvious,” said Penelope. She pointed to the pillar standing across the hall and took a few steps toward it. “It started when the three of us were near that obelisk. It must be the source of the gravitational anomaly.”
“Is that what we’re calling it?” asked Sarah.
“Sorry, I’ve read a lot of Star Trek novels,” said Penelope. “I may be wrong, but I can think of a simple enough way to test the theory.” She looked at each of them. Sarah cocked her head to one side, and Manny shrugged. They stood in a line facing the obelisk with Manny in the middle and Sarah on his left. They each took one pace forward. When nothing happened they did it again. After half-a-dozen steps, the floor began to hum and they started to feel heavy. They scrambled back a few steps to safety and the humming stopped.
“Now, just the two of you,” said Penelope.
“What is that going to prove?” asked Sarah.
“Just try it and see.”
Sarah and Manny repeated the ritual, moving forward on step after the other. They moved past the point where the humming had started but felt no change. They kept moving forward until they were right next to the pile of broken lumber and still nothing happened.
“Now, stay there,” said Penelope. She walked up to the previous point and inched forward. When the humming started she immediately stepped back. Sarah and Manny hurried away from the obelisk to join her.
“So that clinches it,” said Manny. “I really felt it when I was standing right next to it.”
“Unfortunately, that leaves us with more questions than answers,” said Penelope. “What is that thing, and where did it come from?”
“Until today, I thought it was just a chunk of rock with some strange carvings,” said Manny. “It’s been buried in the Mesopotamian desert for thousands of years.”
“So what’s our next step?” asked Sarah.
“I hate to ask, but do you mind if we get something to eat?” asked Penelope. “I haven’t had anything for two days except for a slice of pizza and the smell of that Chinese food is driving me crazy.”
“We can heat it up in the staff lounge,” said Manny, picking up the bag of food. “And we can talk about getting you some new clothes too.” They started walking toward the velvet rope at the entrance to the hall.
“Thanks,” she said, tugging at her torn shirt. “I don’t usually dress like this. It’s a long story, really. I love to tell you all about it.”
“Hey, where did she go?” asked Sarah.
“Penelope, this way,” Manny called out.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” chanted Penelope. She waved her hands in front of their eyes and shouted, “Not again. I was so close. Please, not again.”
“I guess she wasn’t kidding after all,” said Sarah.
Tears welled in Penelope’s eyes as she fought back the pain of disappearing all over again. It brought back all the childhood memories of being left behind and forgotten. It was almost too much for her to bear and then she remember per the obelisk. If it was doing weird things when they were around, it must be what made her visible again. She rushed back into the hall.
“Where did you go?” asked Manny.
“It seems that chunk of rock is what lets me be seen, “said Penelope, “so I guess I’m stuck in this room for the rest of my life. I guess it could be worse. The view’s not bad as far as prison cells go.”
“I’ll tell you what,” said Manny. “I’ll go and heat this up and bring it back down here. And as to your being stuck here, I might have an idea about that too.”
To be continued…