I remember the first time I saw the old Scuba Shack. We had just moved into town not three days earlier, and there it was all by it’s lonesome out on the backroads on the way to the old high school. Flamboyant buoys and old oceanic ropes and lures hung in the windows.
The sight immediately struck me as strange, considering our small rural town was in northern Colorado, and at least 700 miles from the nearest ocean. There were a few small lakes not far away, but most of them were filled with muck and not used for recreational activities. I couldn’t – and still can’t imagine that a business that specialized in Scuba gear could stay afloat out there.
But it did… somehow. Over the twelve years that I lived there, the Scuba Shack remained as it was the first day that I saw it. I never saw anyone maintaining the property or doing renovations. Never even saw anyone go in or come out of it. It was like no one in the town even acknowledged it was there.
Kids at school used to spread rumors, saying it was a front for a drug operation, or the lair of some covert nautical-themed pimp. Some people have even claimed it was a stop-off for a human trafficking ring, and claim that’s why it was close to the local high school. Some kids also claimed they had been inside, but they were lying. That became clear when we found out what it actually was.
One night me and a couple friends were at a house party nearby. The music was blaring, and it wasn’t long before the police rolled up to spoil the fun. In a drunken stupor, me and two of my friends fled the scene out the backyard.
We hopped several fences as the police swarmed the property. I heard them yelling as I hopped the last fence, but I never turned back. We ran, numbed by the alcohol dulling our minds and fueled by the adrenaline surging through our veins.
We got away from that neighborhood, and found ourselves on the backroads not long after. We began to joke and reminisce about the wild night, when a barrage of red and blue lights suddenly flashed on the road behind us.
We booked it into the woods, desperate to escape the police and any trouble that may ensue. I already had three tickets for underage drinking at the time, and knew my parents would likely lobotomize me if I got another. The woods were incredibly dark once we left the vicinity of the street lights, and soon enough we were stumbling our way around using just our phones and the full moon shining above us.
The flashing lights drove right by us, but we continued deeper into the woods, knowing they were likely out looking for stragglers from the party. I didn’t even realize where we were headed at the time, but I really should have.
A while later, and we finally broke through the treeline on the opposing side of the grove. There, standing directly in front of us, was the one and only Scuba Shack. Unoccupied and desolate as always, but something was different about it that time.
The back door was cracked open.
A car then pulled out a couple streets away; one that looked eerily similar to the Crown Victoria models that the police in our town used. The three of us freaked out, and Tim shouted a command as the car started to turn in our direction.
“Over there!” His arm outstretched and pointed towards the open door of the Scuba Shack. Without really thinking the three of us rushed for it. My other friend Carlos was the last one in, and he quickly shut the door behind him. We all stood there catching our breath as the cruiser slowly prowled by outside. The headlights drifted through the building, and illuminated the inside as we ducked in the shadows.
The car finally pulled off a couple moments later, and the three of us took a moment to relax and look around. On the wall there was an assortment of oceanic equipment. There were snorkels and flippers, masks, boogieboards and wetsuits. Pretty much anything and everything related to ocean leisure, entertainment and exploration was there.
After all of the rumors I had heard about the place, I was a bit stunned to discover it actually appeared to be what the name suggested. Just a mom and pop store selling an assortment of water equipment. That struck me as really strange – because as I said earlier, this was Colorado. We’re not exactly known for our expansive oceans. A few lakes and rivers sure, but I doubt anyone scuba dives in them. How the hell did they manage to even stay in business?
“Oh shit… this is the Scuba Shack.” Tim said with a chuckle while gawking at a selection of boogey boards. The three of us looked around briefly, as the lights on the police cruiser faded further down the street.
“Alright let’s get out of here…” Carlos said, making his way to the door.
“Hold on dude…” Tim countered. Carlos whipped his head around with an annoyed look.
“Scuba shack dude… I’ve heard about this place.” Tim said taking a look at the walls.
“So what? If we get caught in here, we’re screwed.” It was Tim’s turn to look annoyed then.
“We’re not gonna get caught. Cops are busy with the party, don’t you wanna know what this place is up to?” Carlos shook his head.
“They sell bathing suits and shit dude. Mystery solved… do you really want…” Carlos spoke while stepping forward, but paused abruptly as a sound disturbed the argument. The floorboard underneath Carlos creaked in a way that the others did not. He looked down beneath him and cocked his head. He pushed his weight down and it creaked again.
“The hell?” Carlos asked as Tim and I stepped closer and tried ourselves. Sure enough, the creak continued. It sounded ridiculous, but my mind turned to a single theory. A false panel.
I took my pocket knife out and began to pry around at the wooden panel. Moments later it popped, and I dug my knife underneath. I pried at it, and the board popped upward and off the floor. Slowly, Tim and I moved the panel aside.
Underneath there was a ladder, dropping down about a dozen feet to a dirt passageway below. I lifted my phone and stared in disbelief as the flashlight revealed a dirt tunnel. It was probably five feet wide, and at least ten feet tall.
“Ho-ly shit…” Carlos muttered. Tim gave an excited laugh and bounced on his feet.
“Dude I knew there was something sketchy about this place.” Tim said excitedly.
“It’s gotta be a front for something.” Carlos added as his jaw dangled open.
“Something man… this is some jeepers creepers shit though…” Tim said with a laugh. Carlos slowly approached and peered down the passage. All the color seemed to drain from his face.
“So, who’s gonna be the first to go down?” My question was mostly rhetorical, and I really had no initial intention of acting upon it. Carlos and Tim both looked at me with a curious glance though, one which possessed less skepticism than I originally anticipated.
I can’t say why exactly we did what we did. Maybe it was the overconfidence of youthful metabolism. Maybe the unquenchable curiosity, or the drunken ambition that drove us on. One way or another, I ended up answering my own question a moment later as I began to descend the ladder.
I reached the bottom a moment later, feeling the damp dirt squish beneath my feet. The tunnel smelled of mildew and wet soil. I shined my phone light, and my heart skipped a beat as I saw a door down at the other end.
“Wadaya see?” Tim called down.
“There’s a door down here.”
“What? Really? What’s it look like?” Tim called back.
“Like… a door, I don’t know just come down here.” I answered a bit irritated at the question. Both of them hesitated, but after I teased them for being scared, they followed me down.
“Uggh, smells like ass.” Tim said as he touched down behind me. I said nothing, only continued to shine my phone flashlight at the door.
“Damn… there really is a door.” Tim said. Carlos seemed to tense up as he touched down, and a certain fear grew upon his face.
“Dude I don’t know if we should be down here. This could be like a drug mule tunnel for the cartels or something.” Carlos said pensively.
“Underneath this ghetto-ass town? What would be the point?” Tim shot back, and Carlos shrugged.
“Exactly, no one would suspect it…” Carlos might’ve had a point, but for some reason, I felt like it was something more than that. I imagine if the tunnel and shack did have to do with drugs or sex trafficking or something else nefarious, then it would’ve been better guarded. The door to the shack itself was left wide open after all. Maybe someone being careless or maybe it was for another reason entirely. Maybe someone left it open, knowing we would find it.
I then spotted something lying in the dirt a couple feet away. I don’t know how I didn’t see it earlier, but as I approached, I found a newspaper laying in the dirt. It was torn and damp, but I managed to just barely make out the headline.
‘St. Louis Cardinals close out world series over Detroit Tigers, 4-1’. The newspaper was dated for October 28th, 2006. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I’ve never been into sports much, but if I were, I imagine that moment would’ve been a lot stranger. Tim and Carlos glanced it over as well, but they stayed silent.
None of us said it, but of course, we all knew that by that point we couldn’t just walk out of there without opening the mysterious door. The curiosity was too great to resist, despite the unnerving situation. Next thing I know, the three of us are walking towards it, without so much as another word spoken between us.
The door, was barely even a door at all. More like a makeshift plywood board cut to vaguely resemble one. It obviously wasn’t going to keep anyone out who was hellbent on getting in, and it made me wonder what the point of it even was. It slid open without resistance, and the three of us held our breath.
The door opened, revealing a decrepit storage room with boxes, and old Scuba equipment lying about. There were all kinds of manuals, a few obsolete electronics and some luggage bags as well. A thick coat of dust covered everything, once again eluding to the fact that it had not been disturbed in quite a long time.
A dripping sound emanated from somewhere deeper in the room, but aside from that it was silent. Most of the clutter seemed relatively recent, at least within the last decade or so. No treasure chests or mummified bodies, or anything too exciting upon first glance. The three of us ventured slowly into the room, taking care to not disrupt anything.
“Doesn’t look like anyone’s been down here in a while.” Tim spoke quietly as the three of us explored around. The clutter grew thicker the further from the door we went, but there appeared to be a path that had been left open for walking. As we traversed through it, something on the wall caught my eye.
There was a bulletin board stapled with dozens of newspaper clippings. My heart sunk, as I wondered whether it was some collage of degeneracy from a serial killer or something. I don’t know if serial killers actually do that in real life, or if it’s just a trope from movies. Regardless, as I looked closer, I saw that didn’t appear to be the point of the bulletin board.
I saw an article about the Iran-Iraq war, one about a tourist dying in Czechoslovakia, another about Michael Jordan’s baseball career, the Soviet Union collapsing in 1991, the Higgs-Boson particle being discovered in 2012 and Nelson Mandela being released from prison.
All in all, there really didn’t seem to be a single theme uniting the dozens of articles. It just looked like someone had collected a random assortment of entries over the years. Tim and Carlos soon wondered up behind me, and inspected the board for themselves.
“Wait… that can’t be right.” Carlos suddenly spoke, pointing to the clipping of the Nelson Mandela headline.
“What?” Tim asked.
“Nelson Mandela.” Carlos replied.
“Who’s that?” Tim asked. Carlos scoffed and shook his head.
“That dude from South Africa man, weren’t you paying attention in history? He’s like… I don’t know what he did exactly, but he was in prison for a long-ass time. But… I thought he died in there.” Carlos eyed both of us, but neither of us really knew much about the event. I remembered hearing something about him in the news awhile back, but I couldn’t quite recall what it was.
We continued eyeing the bulletin board, and Tim stepped away. A couple moments later and we heard him shout from further into the room.
“Dude look at this.” Carlos and I turned, to see his flashlight illuminating something on the far end of the room.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Just come over here.” He said waving his hand. Carlos and I walked over, and as we neared him, I saw his light illuminating another passage that seemed to go down another floor. Tim began descending without a word, and we followed, now altogether enthralled with finding answers.
The old, wooden steps creaked as we walked, and I thought they were on the verge of collapse. At the bottom, we found ourselves in a completely new room. The floorboards seemed even more rotted than the ones on the floor above, but none of the clutter was present.
There looked to be a some more Scuba gear laying on the ground at the far end of the room, but that wasn’t the real curiosity. On the ground a couple yards further, there was an open hole in the floor. My flashlight then illuminated something painted on the wall behind it in black paint.
“Take the Plunge.” Carlos read it aloud.
“The hell does that mean?” Tim asked. The three of us ventured nearer, and cautiously peaked down into the hole. There was water only a few inches below it, black as oil and without ripples. As we inspected the hole we found it wasn’t a well at all, but rather that the entire floor which we stood was suspended just above a sort of subterranean lake.
“I guess we know what the diving shit is for.” Tim said with a chuckle. Carlos looked incredibly pale as he stared down at the water.
“Who the hell would dive down here?” Carlos asked. I was wondering the same myself. I thought maybe it was some scientific exploration or something, but if that were the case, then where was everybody? Where was the security preventing us from getting inside in the first place? None of it made much sense, but the message on the wall was somehow unnerving to me.
“Let’s get out of here.” I said, feeling suddenly very uncomfortable. Neither of them said a word, but I could tell they were thinking the same. The floor creaked with every step on the way back, and foolishly, I did not follow the same path to the stairs that I had taken out to that hole. That proved to be my greatest mistake.
Next thing I know, the floorboards beneath me splintered, and my foot slipped through the rotted wood. I didn’t even have time to react, and within a millisecond I had broken through the floor entirely and tumbled down into the murky water below.
A freezing rush of ice-cold water burrowed into my bones, and I felt my body flood with adrenaline. I saw the faces of Tim and Carlos approach from above, but they were helpless to assist. The water wasn’t normal water. I was swimming as hard as I could, but my body just sunk like a rock deeper into the obsidian depths. Panic flooded into my mind, as I realized that was probably how I was going to die.
My frantic swats at the water to try and resurface did absolutely nothing to help me. It was like some unseen force was dragging me downward. Within moments nothing was visible at all and I was alone in the pitch black. Suddenly I bumped into something. I then felt hands grab me tightly, like the talons of an eagle on its prey.
The adrenaline surged in me to one-thousand percent, and I kicked and pushed with all my might; desperate to escape my doomed fate in the watery chasm. I managed to eventually push away from whatever it was that had grabbed me. My vision then began to fade, and my lungs felt as though they were about to burst from lack of oxygen. I just kept sinking, and was a mere second away from breathing the freezing water into my lungs, when I felt something else grab ahold of my ankles.
I had no strength left to fight, and could do nothing as the arms pulled me downward, or at least what I thought was downward. Next thing I know, I felt my legs jut out from the water, and my head seemed to spin. The hands wrenched me upward, and within seconds, they hauled me from the water and back out onto the wooden floorboards.
“Dude Eric, are you okay?” I heard the familiar voice of Carlos ask me. I spewed the vile black water from my mouth and throat, and coughed and choked the rest of it back out of me. That first breath of air was the sweetest thing I’d ever experienced in my life.
I continued to sputter and cough up water as Tim and Carlos patted my back. I was shivering from the cold water, and they helped me remove my soaking clothes and wrapped me in their jackets. The warmth slowly crept back into my body, and after a few minutes of panting and shivering I finally felt somewhat coherent again.
“Dude… we thought you were a goner.” Carlos admitted, fear dripping from his voice.
“You guys saved my fuckin’ life.” I almost teared up as I said it, once again realizing how close to death I had truly been.
“What the hell happened?” Tim asked, and I just shook my head.
“I don’t know… the floor… it just broke. I couldn’t swim back up. I just kept sinking.” Tim and Carlos seemed a bit confused by that, and honestly, I did too. If I had really been sinking, then how did they manage to pull me out? Furthermore, I had fallen in feet first, and yet they somehow pulled me out by my feet.
It didn’t make any sense to me at the time, but I just assumed I had gotten turned around in the water from my struggle with whatever had grabbed me. I also didn’t mention that part to them. I looked up, and thanked both of them profusely for saving me.
“That’s what homies are for man. Don’t forget your water wings next time.” Tim lightened the mood a bit with his joke and I chuckled, but noticed something strange. Carlos was wearing a hat; a Colorado Avalanche hat.
“Where’d you get the hat?” I asked him. Carlos cocked his head back at me.
“I always wear this hat.” He replied. Once again, I thought that was strange as I had literally never seen him wear that hat – or any other hat for that matter. I ended up not really worrying too much though, as I assumed my brush with death had jumbled my memory a bit or something.
After a few more minutes, I was able to walk, and the three of us quickly made our way back out. We got back up to the main floor, and Tim proceeded to push the door open and exit. As soon as he left the building, someone grabbed him and tackled him to the ground.
“Don’t resist!” The person shouted in a bellowing voice. Before I could even assess the situation, four police officers entered the door with guns drawn and seized Carlos and I. Within seconds I was on my chest in a pair of handcuffs.
The cops loaded us into separate vehicles, and drove us down to the station to await our parent’s arrival. I heard Tim’s parents laying into him in the cell over from mine, and soon after that, my door opened once again.
In stepped my father, bearing a stoic, but harsh look. Accompanying him was one of the officers from the station.
“You okay?” My dad asked. I nodded as I avoided making eye contact, knowing no words I said to him would help my situation then. My dad looked to the officer.
“Are we free to go?” The officer nodded to him, and then looked to me.
“You’re not gonna be a problem anymore tonight, right Eric?”
“No sir.” I replied meekly. My dad then spoke words with terrifying gravity that only a father can have on his son.
“He’s not gonna be a problem ever again. I’ll make sure of that.”
I knew I was in deep shit, and that my dad was absolutely furious with me. He didn’t need to say it, I could tell by the way he looked at me. He didn’t say a word the entire ride home, and I was left to contemplate how screwed I was in silence. We pulled back into our driveway, and my dad put his truck into park and shut it off.
“Give me your phone.” He commanded. I did as he requested, and he put it into his pocket and stepped out. Before shutting his door, he paused.
“There’s going to be a lot of fines, and you’re going to pay off every one of them.” He looked to me, and I nodded back in understanding. He then reached out and put a hand on my shoulder.
“I’m glad you’re okay.” He and I got out of the truck and walked inside. My father has always been a man of few words, and I knew he wasn’t going to scream at me; but my mother on the other hand, well I knew a barrage was looming.
I stepped inside the door, and immediately saw the outline of my mother waiting on the couch. She turned on the lamp, and the most astute sense of confusion I’ve ever felt in my life struck me like lightning.
“Do you have something to say for yourself?” She asked, a pronounced scowl etched onto her face. Her hair was blonde, but cut shorter than my mother’s. Her voice was also different and she was taller. Her entire face was different too. She was not my mother, but some other woman that I had never seen before.
“Who are you?” I asked. My dad shot me a glance, as if I had just made some outrageous claim that he couldn’t believe. The stranger woman too seemed taken aback.
“What kind of stupid question is that? Do you realize how much trouble you’re in for this?” Again, her mannerisms and voice were all off. She was not my mother, and I didn’t understand what was going on.
Much to their collective chagrin, I just apologized and retreated down into my room without another word. My head was spinning, and things were becoming way too weird. The rest of my room looked normal, aside from a single item in the corner of my room that I did not recognize. A guitar; one which I have neither any memory of obtaining nor any experience playing.
Exhaustion took me quickly that night, but it was the only lengthy sleep I got for the next few weeks. That time was probably the most difficult in my life. The courts and fines were one thing, my imposter mother was another, but the worse part about it was the astute sense that something was very wrong.
There was a lot that went on in regard to the court appearances, but I’ll skip it because it’s not really that important. The more time that went on, the more strange things I discovered that were different from the way I remembered them being.
Little things at first; like the fact that our local Taco Bell faced west rather than north as I remembered. There were kids at school that seemed to know me very well, despite me not having any memory of them whatsoever. I also had a girlfriend named Kelsey; despite never actually having a girlfriend named Kelsey. She was cute, so I didn’t really question that one too much. I figured all of it was just the result of some weird amnesia, but the other things I found could not be so easily explained.
A local mountain that I used to go snowboarding at all the time called ‘Winterhawk Ridge’ apparently no longer existed, and never had. I have vivid memories of this place and yet no one has ever heard of it. No one has heard of Mr. Mathis either; a geography teacher at our high school who is one of my favorites. Well he was one of my favorites anyways, but everyone I’ve talked to about him just looks at me like I’m crazy.
I really had an existential crisis though, when I found out that the Iran Missile Attack on November 16th 2003 never actually happened. When I was in 7th grade, the town’s warning sirens suddenly started blaring in the middle of class. I remember being ushered by teachers down into the locker rooms to take shelter from an apparent incoming ballistic missile.
The missile struck a shopping mall in western Nebraska of all places, killing nearly 2,000 people on impact. It was all over the news for months, and the day became a national day of mourning for the country. It also sparked a long and ultimately pointless war, in which the United States invaded Iran.
It finally ended when it was discovered that the missile launch was directed by a rogue agent operating in the Iranian government who was aligned with a terrorist group known as Al-Zaiib (al-zy-eeb). The agent was ultimately killed along with his entire platoon by an airstrike on their compound in Turkmenistan, which finally ended the war.
I’m guessing you guys have no idea what I’m talking about, as with all the research I have done, I have yet to find a single piece of evidence of this event ever actually occurring. I still remember the day it happened, and how the country came together to mourn and assist those in need. My dad actually drove out there to donate clothing and food, but apparently all of this never even happened.
My father and new mother eventually caught wind of my strange behavior, and brought me to therapy. I went through a lot of different medical professionals, and was diagnosed with several different mental illnesses. Anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder and traumatic amnesia just to name a few. All little more than labels for me, because I know the reality now, as crazy as it may seem to everyone else.
I’m not in my world anymore, I’m in yours. A world similar – but also very different than the one I’m from. I don’t understand how it’s possible, but it’s the only explanation. That night in the Scuba Shack must’ve been when I slipped through, because that’s when everything changed.
The doctors I’ve spoken to tell me I suffered brain damage in that incident and these are all just false memories, but they’re not! I know the truth, but I don’t know how to make people see it. Unfortunately, there is no longer any proof as the Scuba Shack was demolished not long after that night for safety concerns. I’ve tried going back there, but they’ve hidden it.
They are all liars, and they’re just afraid that I’m right. I know the truth, and no amount of their pills or therapy will ever make me believe their lies. They can keep me in this padded room all they want, but it won’t change my mind. This world is just a cruel imitation of mine. I know where I came from, and I just want to go home.