Return From Paradise (Intro)

Taylor stepped out of the Light. He looked around and grinned. Taylor was finally home. Most people beyond the Light found peace and contentment, but Tay only found mind-numbing boredom. He longed for an adventure. It took a lot of convincing, but Peter finally allowed Tay to leave. Everyone beyond the Light was shocked. No one could remember anyone ever willingly returning to the land before the Light. Taylor shrugged. He had never fit in anywhere else, why should he fit in there? He took one last look over his shoulder and watched the Light disappear. What now?

Tay took a closer look around and scowled for just a moment. He was exactly where he was when he entered the Light, the bottom of the big hill on Mill Town Road. Taylor had a brief flashback of the two bright lights, and he shivered. He sighed and started walking up the hill. Taylor had his backpack slung over his shoulder, is skateboard tucked under his arm, and he knew he would be home in less than fifteen minutes. Life could be worse. Tay wondered what everyone would think when he showed up. How much had changed in the six months he had been gone? He was excited to get home to surprise his family and friends.

When he reached the top of the hill, Tay set his board down and glided down the other side. He skated all the way to the end of his driveway. As he picked up his board, he noticed two teenage boys playing in his front yard. He thought they looked familiar, but he wasn’t sure who they were. Tay assumed they must be friends with his little brother Dustin. Dusty was way more popular than Tay, and it seemed like he was friends with the entire town. Taylor walked over to the two boys, who eyed him suspiciously.

“Hey, guys, where’s Dustin?” Tay asked.

“Dustin who? The only Dustin I know is our dad.” One boy said.

“No, no. Dustin Bell. He’s my little brother. We live here.” Tay pointed at the house.

The two boys looked at each other, both confused. The older boy spoke. “What are you talking about? Who are you? Dustin Bell is our dad. We live here.”

Tay’s eyebrows shot up, then a look of intense concentration formed on his face. “That can’t be right. I’m Taylor Bell. Dustin is my younger brother. This is where we’ve lived our entire lives. Who are you guys, and why are you lying to me?”

The younger boy tapped his brother on the shoulder. “Jimmy, look at his skateboard! Look at him! He looks exactly like all the pics of Uncle….” Crash! The sound of breaking glass stopped the boys’ conversation.

“Tay? How can you be standing there? You look exactly like the night you left. Even your clothes are the same!”

Taylor looked at the older man standing behind the two teen boys. He squinted his eyes nearly shut, then opened them again. “Little Chief? Is that really you?”

The man stepped in front of the two boys. “I didn’t want to believe my own eyes, but no one else has ever called me that name. How are you here, Tay? Are you a ghost?”

“I’m not a ghost. I’m back, Dusty. How… how long was I gone? It was only a few months for me.”

“Tay, you died thirty-two years ago. I was devastated. I’ve missed you so much. We all have. What’s happening, Tay? How are you here?” Tears were streaming down Dustin’s face, and his two sons were both intently watching and listening.

Taylor reached out and took Dustin’s hands. “I’m back, Dusty. I’m here, but I have no idea why it was six months for me and thirty-two years here. Time must move differently over there.”

“Over where? Where have you been? We… we buried you, Tay.”

“Can we go inside the house and talk?” Tay looked at the two teenagers again. “These are your kids?”

“Yes, and yes.” Dustin put his arm around the older boy. This is Jimmy and that is Brian. James Dustin and Brian Taylor to be exact.”

“I’m named after you, Uncle Tay.” Brian beamed.

“That’s cool,” Taylor said. “How old are you boys?”

“I’m 14 and Jimmy is 15,” Brian answered.

“This is confusing, Uncle Taylor,” Jimmy said.

“I’ll explain it all the best I can when we get inside, Jimmy. I’m a bit confused myself.”

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