His library overwhelmed me like a four-page restaurant menu. I hesitated.
"Well, now, okay, maybe this is a little too much. How 'bout we confine your first trip to within the U.S. and you have to be back in 30 minutes. There's another part to your training that needs to happen at noon. It's 11:25 now, so that'll let you get your feet wet, so to speak, but not be too overwhelmed. Someplace warm, you said?"
"I don't know. I guess it doesn't matter actually. Could I really go all the way to California or Washington; all the way to the Pacific with time to take a little walk even?" Impossible.
"Yep. That's kind of the point." Mr. Custos took his phone out of my hand and zoomed in on the Northwest, way up to the top corner of Washington. "Look here. You could go to Ozette Triangle. I've got special access to a handful of backcountry privies. From here you walk down past the bear-bag line, past a campsite and out onto the beach." He swiped to a new page and launched a photo of where he wanted to send me.
"That's on this planet? Yes. I want to go there. I have to go there. I've never seen anything like that." I said. My heart jumped. He gave one nod of agreement, and uploaded the location to my TP Ware library. He set the countdown timer for 30 minutes, entered the round trip travel information, which included a return trip to the "arrivals" port-a-potty at the far end of the construction site. "When you get inside just tap the green "Go" button, wait until the whirring stops, open the door and you'll be there. You ready?"
I nodded. My mouth was too dry to form even one word. I stepped into the john next to the trailer, locked the door and tapped "Go". I heard whirring as Mr. Custos hollered, "Have fun! See you in 30 mi...!"
The whirring stopped. I opened the door to a place I'd never seen before. A thin fog played lazily through the tall grasses and trees, muffling the sounds of waves . A briney-breeze blew seagull cries in from the water's edge. I found the landmarks that Mr. Custos told me to look for, surprised to find a tent pitched in the campsite and two small black-tailed deer dropping poop-pellets as they leaped away from me. Just on the other side of the tent, I stepped through the grass and stood in awe of the rocky, sea-stacked beach.
"Oh, wow!" I sighed quietly.
Sounds of pounding feet and dislodged rocks startled me from well off to my left. I heard panicked, angry shouting among several people. I ducked behind a small tree, peaking through the branches. Three people ran along the rocky shore, zigging, zagging and ducking out of each other's reach in a game of keep-away that wasn't playful. The person in front held a gray bag to his chest, juked out of the reach of a woman as she tried to grab the hood of his black sweatshirt. He slipped on the seaweed covered rocks. He went down hard, arms flailing about and losing hold of the bag. His head bounced up off of a rock before dropping back into a shallow tide pool. Instantly his body went limp, coming to rest at an angle unmistakable even to someone who'd never before seen death.
I sucked air into my lungs in a choking gasp, clasped my hand to mouth to stifle the scream. The couple grabbed the bag and turned to book it back in my direction. The campsite I walked through must have been theirs. I tripped backwards away from the tree, wheeling my arms to keep from falling. I heard them yelling at each other as I turned to run. A small, red backpack hanging from a dead tree branch at the edge of their campsite caught my eye. I ripped it and the branch from the tree as I leaped, like the deer, over the tent's guylines. I heard the woman yell, "Someone's got our bag, Benny! Godammit! That bitch got our bag!"
I sprinted toward the outhouse, pulled out my phone and woke it out of idle. TP Ware jumped to life and the green button for my return destination pulsed calmly, like a heart at resting speed, waiting for my touch to send me back to the East Coast. I slammed the door, threw the bolt and tapped the button repeatedly just as my 30-minute warning alarm chimed.
"C'mon, c'mon!" I begged. The whirring began, footsteps pounded closer and a body crashed against the door, rattling it and me. I screamed. Their voices disappeared, the whirring stopped. I sat in the john holding my breath, listening with every cell, waiting, sweating.
Knock knock knock...
"Eve? That's you in there, right? You okay? Thought we'd...I'd meet you down here."
Mr. Custos! Relief. I took a deep, shaking breath, stood on wobbly legs and stepped back onto New England ground. Crisp late Fall air filled my lungs, washing out the low tide brine. A booming, bass chorus of cheers knocked me back a step against the port-a-potty. Cold, bubbly, liquid rained down on me. I slid to the ground, clutching the red backpack to my chest, shaking uncontrollably. I gasped and gulped huge mouthfuls of champagne air.