[Estimated reading time: 3 minutes]

This is a work in progress.

Anna and her husband Tom watch helplessly as their friend Walter slips on the wet rocks and goes head-over-heels into the airy void. They're at the top of American Falls some four hundred feet above the gushing river. Walter's falling form disappears into the mist and after a second the scene goes back to its idyllic state, unblemished by the temporary tragedy.

Anna lunges for the edge, her right arm stretched out to grab at the receding form. Tom holds her back from the treacherous edge, "Careful, don't slip!"

"We have to get down there!" Anna is frantically looking around, searching for a safe path down.

Tom pulls her close and holds her, strokes Anna's hair. "We will. I'm going to call this in, first."

Anna buries her head in Tom's vest and cries. She knows they're not going to find Walter.

The memorial happens on a dreary Saturday. Tom and Anna are joined by a few other climbers, but that's it. Walter did not have too many friends, and no family to speak of.

There's also no body, just a blown-up photo of a smiling Walter, Anna and Tom next to him, they're all up on a mountain overlooking the bay.

After the services, Tom and Anna head over to Walter's place. Tom let's them in with a spare key that he got from Walter a while back.

"Feels strange to be here," Tom says as they walk into the modest apartment. It's a pretty standard bachelor pad, though with even less furniture than usual.

The living room has a single couch that faces a wall-mounted TV. Under the TV is a host of game consoles and a PC.

Along one side of the wall is a long table filled with camera equipment. There are rows of cameras and lenses, with three obvious gaps, the equipment that Walter had with him at the falls.

"He didn't have anyone?" Anna asks again at the sight of all the high-tech toys. "Won't anyone come for these?"

"Just us," Tom shakes his head. "Walter really was a loner. A great guy, but damn he was a loner. Hell, I've only been here twice before."

They start cataloging Walter's things, identifying and sorting them. Most of the clothes go into the donation pile.

Walter wanted the climbing club to have his climbing equipment, so Anna goes through and figures out what Walter had.

It's late in the afternoon so Tom orders pizza and they keep going through their dead friend's belongings.

In the back of a closet, inside an old trunk, Tom finds a Russian nesting doll. He takes the doll out to the living room and shows it to Anna.

"We had one just like this, before the fire." Tom opens the outer doll to reveal a smaller but similarly-painted doll.

Anna takes the inner one, opens it and pulls out another doll. She's seen pictures of these, of course, and Tom has described the small collection his family had, but this is the first time she got her hands on one.

"They're so beautiful! Seems like a shame, they're closed off from the world most of the time." Anna starts stacking the dolls on the table, a growing sequence of smaller and smaller dolls. "Every time I think that I've got the last one, it snaps open and reveals another one!" There are already a dozen dolls on the table, but Anna continues to find smaller and smaller dolls. She's finally holding a wooden doll that's about the size of a rice grain. "Come on, don't tell me this one splits open!" She carefully rolls the doll around and searches for the line separating the two halves.

The lights dim and a dark smoke seeps out of the ground around Tom and Anna. It twists and turns around the two, a jet-black silent tornado in the middle of Walter's living room.

Tom grabs Anna and they hug, both trying to get as close to each other and as far away from the strange phenomenon as possible.

"What the hell is going on?" Anna whispers.

Tom shakes his head, "No idea. Was there LSD in that pizza? You're seeing this too?"

"Of course," Anna replies, just a tad miffed. "We're not hallucinating, this shit's real." She reaches a hand out, her fingers gingerly touching the swirling mass of black smoke. "It feels a bit cold."

The black tornado dies down as quickly as it started and the two find themselves in a strange metallic room with high ceilings. Walter's living room is gone.

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