The concrete blocks paved way from Jennifer's school all the way to her neighborhood but it seemed to be more for show than use. Jennifer has yet to see any of her classmates use the sidewalk. She usually walked home completely alone but today, her best friend Charlie accompanied her. They decided to have a sleepover and since Jennifer never used the school bus, they had to walk home instead.
Charlie didn't complain. It gave both of them time to talk privately without the interference of teachers or parents. They made their way down the main street of their town as the yellow buses passed them by. The street was surrounded by tall grasses and trees further out in the distance. One could easily mistake the street as a backroad to some broken down ranch. Yet, every once in a while, a large parking lot cut its way in with a strip mall at its back.
Jennifer was telling Charlie about the horrendous homework she received in Physics class when she noticed a path through the tall grasses. The way it wound its way into the woods and beyond, she knew it would end up in her neighborhood. In fact, she could almost see the roofs of her neighbors over the shallow line of trees.
The two turned and decided to take the shortcut. Jennifer explained to Charlie that the pot kids often hung out in the trees. It was the only place where they could easily hide their habits. Within seconds, the pungent smell of marijuana hit their noses. Charlie nodded at Jennifer knowingly.
Within minutes, neither of them could hear the cars going by behind them which was strange. The path was supposed to take much less time to cross. The two girls were engaged in a discussion when Jennifer's phone rang. It was her mother. They exchanged a few words and Jennifer hung up. When she looked around, she realized they were nowhere near the woods and the pot smell was gone. In fact, the grasses had shortened and yellowed which was unusual for that time of the year.
Charlie kept turning looking for an answer but shrugged in the end, "I guess we didn't pay attention to where we were going," she said at last.
Jennifer shook her head, "We couldn't have walked for more than five minutes on the path. We should hear the cars, where are the woods? This doesn't make sense."
She sighed, "Not again."
They continued down the path until they reached an expansive lake.
"This shouldn't be here," Jennifer proclaimed. The two girls made their way around the lake until they found a small cottage.
Charlie knocked loudly on the door but it only swung open.
"You know, come to think of it, the nearest lake near your neighborhood is five miles out," Charlie furrowed her brow.
Inside the cottage, they found two beds, a small kitchenette but no sign of any human life. It had been cleaned recently but there were no pictures, no clothes, and no sign of anyone having used the beds.
They ventured out and kept walking around the lake for what seemed like hours until they reached the point where the path would wind its way back to the street. When Jennifer checked her phone, she noticed that it was 7pm and the night would fall soon. Without a signal, however, she could not tell her mother that she was okay but simply inexplicably late.
They walked down the path and within minutes heard the sound of cars, saw the grasses grow taller and greener, and the woods had returned along with the smell of pot smoke. They stood right by the trees.
"Dude!" a guy yelled out at them, "How did you just appear there? What just happened?"
Jennifer turned to see one of her classmates leaning on a tree.
"Man, what's in this shit?" he said to his joint.
When Jennifer got home, she saw that the time on the microwave was only 4pm and her phone had told her the same thing.
Jennifer and Charlie returned to the lake often but could not figure out how it got there. Charlie tried sneaking in there a few times but only made herself look like an idiot in front of the stoners as she backed up and walked straight down the path several times without ever getting to her intended destination. Jennifer, however, did not have that problem.
She tried to find lakes in the area that matched her description but she could not.
Over time, Charlie and Jennifer grew to cherish the place where their dirty dishes in the kitchenette magically cleaned themselves when they got there the next day, and time went by differently. They took advantage of it by studying there and using it as an escape during stressful times.
Years later, they even started their own garden there, built a small dock and a fishing boat, and made the lake cabin their home.
One day, they decided to move there permanently, away from civilization and the hardships of modern life. They spent twenty years there without ever coming out before they ventured back into the real world. What they saw, they could not believe. Their twenty years of happiness amounted to only minutes on the outside.