Reality Dawn is a dimension travelling Reality Worker. She's on our Earth to make sure no unauthorised doors between dimensions are opened, Unbeknownst to most people, this happens quite often - passages from one Earth to another, parallel Earth open without warning, and the consequences can be alarming. Fearless, adventurous Reality Dawn loves her job, and loves having company on her travels, which is why, when Rae meets her after her sister-in law mysteriously disappears, Rae is invited along for the daring rescue from a parallel Earth unlike anything she's ever seen.
In this first episode, Rae's sister in law vanishes into thin air right outside her house. No one can figure out how that is even possible, never mind what has happened to her. Until, that is, the equally mysterious Reality Dawn turns up late that same night. Rae is alternately baffled and intrigued by this strange woman who is addicted to tea and biscuits but claims she can get Rae's sister-in law Morgan back from wherever she disappeared to. When Reality invites Rae along, Rae can't help but go - this might be the big adventure she was always hoping for. If not, at least it's better than sitting around twiddling her thumbs. And anyway, if this Reality woman is half as nutty as she seems to be, it's going to be one interesting trip. She only hopes Reality is serious about rescuing Morgan.
Good; Morgan was already on her way in. Bronwyn paused at the upstairs window to watch her as she crossed the front yard. Her cheeks were red from the wind and her old corduroys would definitely be going in the wash tonight. Bronwyn smiled at her domestic thoughts and hugged herself. Morgan looked good, her stride long and sure and even if she was dirty from the fields, Bronwyn was the luckiest woman in the world.
Morgan must have felt her looking because she glanced up at the bedroom window and grinned, raising a gloved hand in a cheery salute. It was funny how aware of each other they were, even after nine years together. They finished each other's sentences, knew when the other was thinking about them, and still spent any spare minute they could together.
Bronwyn lifted her own hand to wave back at the woman she considered her wife, but froze half way through the gesture.
Morgan was gone.
The room shifted around Bronwyn and she stumbled back from the window, disoriented, confused.
Morgan had been there one moment, crossing the yard in front of their farm house, giving Bronwyn that cheeky, delighted smile, then gone the next. Just like that.
Bronwyn fell against the cold glass of the window, fogging it with her breath, scraping at it with the pads of her fingers. Where was Morgan? She peered left and right, thinking she must have got it wrong – Morgan hadn't just vanished in front of her. Any moment now, she'd hear the slam of the door and Morgan would yell hello up the stairs at her.
But the house played dumb, staying silent.
Pushing herself away from the glass, Bronwyn stumbled out of the room, heart jittering inside her chest, and launched herself down the stairs, across the hall and pulled open the heavy front door.
The yard was empty. Morgan was nowhere in sight. Maybe she'd come inside quietly for once? Bronwyn spun around, leaving the door open and skittered down the hall to the big kitchen at the back of the house. It was the heart of their home, where they spent the most time, and where there was currently two plates of chops and mashed potatoes keeping warm in the old coal range.
Floss, the sheepdog, getting too old to go out into the fields with Morgan, lifted her black and white head from where she was curled up in her basket beside the range. She perked her ears to ask what was going on.
Bronwyn didn't know what was going on. She crossed the stone flagged floor and opened the door to the mud room. Morgan could have walked around the house to come in through here. The door outside was closed, snug on its hinges, the fabric sausage in its usual place keeping out the sneaking drafts that blew in under the door from the wild hill country outside. Nobody had come in this way.
Faint, Bronwyn walked to the middle of the room and looked around, her mind a daze. Morgan's jacket was missing, as were her boots. Of course they were, she was wearing them. And she hadn't come inside yet.
Bronwyn fled the mud room, flung a wild glance around the kitchen, empty except for the dog, and ran back down to the front door. It was still open and the yard was still empty. A piercing November wind tucked cold fingers down the neck of her shirt and she shivered. Slowing to a stiff-legged walk, Bronwyn stalked out into the yard, over to the place where she'd last seen her wife.
The space was empty, but for a moment, Bronwyn thought she felt the wind turn hot, breathing on the back of her neck. Her vision shimmered, then cleared.
Morgan was still gone.
Up there was the window she'd looked out of only minutes ago, seeing Morgan walking toward the house, grinning at her, waving. Then disappearing, winking out of existence. Bronwyn stared up at it as though searching for a ghost, the person she'd been those long moments ago when everything was still perfect. There was no one there.
Down here in the yard, there was only Bronwyn, standing in the spot Morgan had been before she'd vanished. Floss the dog padded out through the open door and walked over to Bronwyn, tail tucked between her legs. She pushed her cold nose into Bronwyn's hand and they both stood there shivering.
Rae hugged her jacket tighter across her chest and cursed the rutted lane that led to the farmhouse. The taxi driver had dropped her off at the bottom, saying it was close enough. She pushed forward into the wind, the pack on her back threatening to overbalance her, tossing her face down into the mud. It had been a miserable November so far, winter arriving early for the party.
There was a beat-up land rover in the drive in front of the house, and next to it a mud-spattered police car. Biting her lip, Rae hurried forward. She'd come as soon as Bronwyn called, sobbing into the phone something about Morgan. She'd barely been able to make out what Bronwyn was saying, but it was something bad. It had taken depressingly little time to pack her gear and jump aboard the first train, leaving the city behind in a grimy cloud of diesel.
Now she was here, and so was a police car. It must be bad. On the phone, her sister had been almost incoherent, her words garbled, punctuated by sobs and hitched breaths. Rae walked past the two vehicles, both of them empty, and made her way straight down the path beside the house to the back door. Somewhere in the house was her sister, for once needing her, instead of the other way around.
Bronwyn huddled at the kitchen table, hands wrapped around a cup of tea, Floss the dog beside her, ignored, thrust her nose into Bronwyn's lap. Her sister looked up as Rae approached, saw her and launched herself from the table straight into her arms.
Rae let her sister cling to her for a moment, wetting her cheek as she started sobbing again. 'What's going on, Bronwyn?'
Her sister sagged against her. 'Morgan's gone,' she said.
Already shaking her head – it was an impossibility, Rae shifted the woman in her arms so she could look at her. 'Morgan can't be gone. She'd never leave you and Gregory.'
This brought a fresh wail of pain and Bronwyn let go to stagger back to her chair and collapse. 'What am I going to tell Gregory? He's never going to understand. I don't even understand!'
Rae let her pack drop in the middle of the floor and pulled up a chair, giving the police constable a worried frown as she sat beside her sister. "What's going on, Bronwyn?' she asked again. 'Why are the police here? What's happened?'
The police woman slid a box of tissues across the table. Bronwyn took one and sobbed into it. 'I rang them,' she said, sniffing. 'When Morgan disappeared. You call the police when someone disappears.'
The police woman stood up, looking uncomfortable. 'I'll make us some fresh tea. You explain to your sister what happened. Maybe she can make more sense of it than I can.'
Thinking that was an awfully strange thing to say, Rae tugged one of her sister's hands away from her face. It came away clenching the tissue and Bronwyn looked at her in misery.
'Tell me,' Rae said, smoothing the hair away from Bronwyn's face. 'What do you mean Morgan's gone? I can't believe it.'
Bronwyn shook her head violently. 'She's just gone!'
What did that mean? 'Where did she go? Did she say, or leave a note?'
More headshaking. 'It wasn't like that.' Bronwyn snatched another tissue and wiped her eyes. Her hands were shaking, but she was trying to stop crying, at least. Rae's heart hurt. She couldn't stand seeing her big sister in pain. What had Morgan done? She'd always thought Bronwyn and Morgan had been happy together.
'She was walking across the yard,' Bronwyn said, holding a tissue in each hand now. 'She was coming in for lunch. It was lunchtime.' She gave Rae such a look of despair that Rae nodded and caught one of her hands, held it tight.
Lips trembling, Bronwyn looked about to cry again. She gripped Rae's hand and sniffed, sitting straighter. 'She disappeared.'
'What?' Rae shook her head. 'What do you mean?'
'I was watching from the bedroom window. She was walking towards the house. She saw me and waved. She was smiling; we were smiling at each other.' Bronwyn lifted her eyes to Rae, as though begging her to understand.
Rae didn't understand anything yet. All she'd had was that garbled telephone call, managed to figure out that Bronwyn needed her and after that she was packed and on a train. Now it was half past two in the afternoon, and Bronwyn was in even worse shape that Rae had feared. Just what had happened to Morgan?
Bronwyn was talking. Rae lifted a hand to stop her. 'What?' she said. 'What did you just say?'
'Morgan. Morgan disappeared on her way across the yard. One moment she was there and the next she was gone. She never made it inside.'
Shooting another glance at the constable, Rae leaned forward. 'What are you talking about? She what, vanished into thin air?'
'She was gone. Just gone. While I watched she just vanished, as though there was a hole in the ground and she stepped right into it.'
Impossible. 'But that can't be true,' Rae hissed.
Bronwyn dropped her face into her hands and kept it there. When she spoke again, her voice was muffled. 'It's what happened.'
The mudroom door opened and Frank, the young man who worked the farm with Morgan, stepped into the room. His face was red from the wind outside, and he had his woolly hat in his big, raw-boned hands, wringing the life out of it.
'Ah, Bronny?' he said. 'I've looked all round the place. Morgan's not anywhere.'
Bronwyn had lifted her head to look at him. Now she just stared, unblinking. Rae touched her on the shoulder and she flinched away. 'Thanks Frank; thanks for looking.'
'I'll go out again, I'll look everywhere twice.'
Bronwyn shook her head. 'She's not there,' she said. 'You might as well stop and have a cup of tea, Frank. Warm up a bit. You'll have to do Morgan's rounds of the sheep this afternoon.'
The tall, thin man nodded, flushed, then pulled out a chair at the table and cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable. 'She'll turn up, Bronny,' he said. 'She'd never go off without a word.'
'That's the problem,' Bronwyn said. 'Something's happened to her. Something bad.' She looked at Rae. 'She vanished, Rae. Just like that. There, then gone.'
Frowning at the cup of tea the police woman put in front of her, Rae didn't know what to think. What Bronwyn was saying couldn't be true. People don't just vanish in front of your eyes. Maybe she had fallen into a hole? There were old mine shafts and the like on some places. She didn't know about around here, but even so, what about sink holes? Could Morgan have fallen into one of those?
'Show me where it happened, Bronwyn?' Rae asked.
The police woman cleared her throat before Bronwyn could answer. 'I'll be heading off now, Ms. Kelly, now that you're sister's here.'
'What are the police doing about Morgan?' Rae demanded before the woman could make her escape.
'We came as soon as Ms. Kelly called,' the uniformed woman answered. 'We couldn't find any signs of disturbance...'
Bronwyn interrupted. 'They don't believe me about what I saw.' Her voice was flat and she stared at her fresh cup of tea.
'We don't know what happened, Ms. Kelly.' The constable turned back to Rae. 'The DC was here earlier. He didn't find anything, but I'm sure he'll be back if Morgan Green doesn't turn up or get in contact.' She forced a smile on her face and looked as though she wanted to pat Bronwyn on the shoulder but thought better of it. Bronwyn waved her away and she left.
'I suppose I was lucky they came out here at all,' Bronwyn said. 'I always thought you had to wait twenty four hours or something before reporting someone missing.' She plucked at a tissue and sniffed, her eyes still red from crying.
Frank poured himself a cuppa, looking awkward but genuinely upset. Rae knew he'd worked for Morgan for the last few years and guessed that Morgan and Bronwyn's warm feelings toward him were mutual. 'That might be just on the telly,' he said.
Bronwyn shrugged and sagged further toward the table top. 'I called 999 and told them that Morgan had disappeared. I don't know what they thought had happened, they didn't take me real serious to begin with – I had to call that other number.'
Frank interrupted. 'You mean 101, for everything that's not an emergency?'
Rae leaned forward. 'How could Morgan disappearing not be an emergency?' Of course, she knew the answer before she'd even stopped talking. Bronwyn's story was crazy. People don't just vanish into thin air.
'I spoke to someone from the police station and when I finally managed to get him to understand what had happened, he said he was logging my call as a grade two and someone would come out here in an hour.' She picked up her cup and sipped the tea, spilling some of it onto the polished wood of the table. 'They came out, looked around, scratched their heads and looked at me as though I had killed her or something. I had to go over and over the story. I was so upset they left the constable with me and said they'd be back again later or tomorrow if she hadn't turned up. I don't think they knew what to do.' She lifted her tear-stained face and looked Rae in the eye. 'People don't just disappear like that, but I swear Rae, that's what happened.' She burst into fresh tears. 'What am I going to tell Gregory?'
Rae checked the time on the wall clock. The school bus would be depositing her nephew at the bottom of the drive at any moment. But first, she wanted to see where Morgan had disappeared. Touching her sister gently on the arm, she kept her voice calm. 'Will you show me where it happened?'
Bronwyn immediately shook her head. 'I can't. I couldn't. I don't want to go out there again. It's...it's like...I feel weird every time I stand in the spot where she vanished. Like she's there but I can't see her and she can't see me.' Bronwyn shook her head and Rae worried that her sister had gone mad from shock.
Frank stood up, knocking his chair back. 'I'll show her, Bronny. Then I'll walk down to get Gregory.'
Rae didn't want to leave Bronwyn alone in the house, but her sister was nodding and Frank was already on his way out the door.
'Will you be okay?' Rae asked, still hesitating at the table.
'I don't think I'll ever be okay again,' Bronwyn answered. 'But go and look, if you think it will help.' She looked at Rae. 'Where's she gone?' she whispered, before sinking back down and burying her face in her hands.
'We'll find her, don't worry.' Rae didn't know how they'd find her – the whole thing sounded weird. But if there was one thing she knew, it was that people didn't just vanish into thin air. So Morgan, the woman her sister loved above everyone else, except Gregory perhaps, was still around. Somewhere. Something had happened, and Rae was determined to find out what. Despite the sick feeling in her guts.
'Maybe you should call Mum and Dad,' she said.
Bronwyn didn't lift her head. 'They'd be on the first flight over. You know what they're like.'
'Which is exactly why you should call them. It takes long enough to fly from New Zealand to the UK anyway.'
Flapping a hand at Rae, Bronwyn shook her head. 'Maybe Morgan will reappear.' She lifted her head. 'If crazy things like vanishing can happen, then she could just reappear, right?'
Rae nodded and bent down, hugging her sister hard. 'We'll find her Bronny, I promise.'
There was no answer and Rae went outside to find Frank.