As I worked my way toward the house, my cell phone buzzed and I reached for it reflexively before freezing with my hand just touching it. How could my phone be ringing here in another world? I looked at the number on the caller id; it was just a zero, a single zero. Was I getting a call from the operator because I’d entered a new calling region?
The phone kept ringing, so I decided it could do no harm to answer. I flipped it open, "Hello?"
"Steven, are you trying to get yourself killed?"
"Not really, Dad," I answered, "How did you get this number?"
"I'm helping to set up a cell system on this world and I noted the new phone. Since there are only a half-dozen cell phones in this world, the search signal from yours was obvious."
"But how did you know it was me?"
"I recognized your voice," he said. "Look, I don't know how you got here, but you have to get away now. Get out of California. Things are going to get very ugly there very soon."
"What do you mean?"
"You will find out soon enough, Steven, just get out."
"Why aren't you getting out, Dad?"
"I can't leave, I'm a prisoner here."
"So that stuff about having a new family, that wasn't true?"
"No, I just said it so that you would go away. I want you and your mother safe. Just go, Steven."
"I'll break you out. Where are you?"
"You can't break me out. Take my word for it that …"
I didn't want to get into an argument, so I hung up and turned off the phone. Besides, this could be a trick, someone impersonating my father in order to keep me talking and track down the signal. Not likely, but possible.
As I worked in closer to the house I eventually noticed a radio tower on the hill behind it. I don't know how I missed it before; I guess I was just so used to seeing radio towers that it didn't strike me as remarkable at first. There were cables running from the house to the tower and I wondered if my father could actually be in the house. That would surely make things easier.
From quite close up, I used my binoculars to examine the house through the windows. Various human and inhuman creatures moved about inside, and there didn't seem to be any alarm, so if that creature I'd killed was a guard, it had still gone unnoticed. None of the humans looked like my father, but I was sure I'd seen only a fraction of the residents of the house.
I turned on my phone, and it buzzed as soon as it connected to the network. Same incoming number. "Hello?"
"Steven, go home! You can't rescue me, it's impossible."
"I might surprise you, Dad."
"Steven, I can't go back to the bright world. Not ever."
My father hesitated for a long time, and then he answered, "Because I'm dead."