You never can tell what might come hurtling out of the shimmer at the center of Main Street and Lark Avenue. Might be a small little doodad or whatsit, might be an entire seething metal machine, snarling and shaking the window panes up and down the block.
Nobody knows for sure when the shimmer began. The way some of the old geezers sitting around up at the feed store talk, they were seeing shimmers and shines their whole lives growing up and never told a soul about it. Pastor Bob says the shimmer was sent by God as punishment for our sins after the Halloween of 1873. No, nobody really knows when the shimmer started, but we all remember the day it bestowed upon us its first “gift.”
The big black metal box made of so many differently sized rectangles, blaring music of sorts with all the power of a full brass band, seemed to just appear. A man driving his horse and buggy nearly ran it clean over, and at least one lady fainted at the sudden noise. The constable poked and prodded at it with his nightstick, circling slowly with a hand to his ear as if he was trying to hear something beyond the sound. Finally, one of his prods poked one of the small rectangles on top of the contraption and the music cut off instantly, leaving behind the low murmurs of the frightened, curious knot of onlookers that had formed a semicircle around it.
The box was eventually hauled off to the small jail under the courthouse to be further examined. But even more interesting to everyone than the box that had appeared through it was the distinct shimmer hovering in the middle of the air at human height, like a thousand tiny suns glowing and winking in the midday. It stretched less than fifty feet across. Sometimes the shimmer was bright and blazingly apparent and other times it was hard to tell it was there at all unless you stood very, very still. Some items seemed to just appear and lazily float down to settle on the street. Others… well, others were not so polite.
And the timing is completely random. Believe me, we’ve tried to figure it out. People paid to be smart have made lots of notes and taken measurements, and people not paid but who really found it interesting did their best to figure it out. None of them can make a lick of sense out of it. So we don’t know when something is gonna come through or when, but we know that it probably will. And they tried to erect a barricade and route people around, but there ain’t a lot of town and the shimmer parked itself smack dab in the center of everything.
It’s not as if anyone wants to risk being caught unawares the next time a blazing fast train made of shining metal roars through the middle of town. But folks are a curious sort, especially folks with uncooked egg yolks for brains like the kids that pass through on their way to the school house or running errands for their mamas, or people who’ve knocked back a few too many nickel beers at Charlie’s.
So the watch was formed, and most of the time, that’s all we really do — watch. Sit for a few minutes, stroll the block-long perimeter surrounding the shimmer, squint really hard to see if anything seems like it might be coming through … and repeat. For seven and a half hours. It ain’t exactly glamorous, but the shimmer never takes a vacation, so it’s reliable pay and no lack of hours. And when something finally does come through?
Well, you’re first in line to take a gander. Oh sure, okay, sometimes it’s dangerous. We’re all reminded of that time to time when Big Jimmy hobbles through town on his peg leg, the flesh and blood one lost that time the machine called “Nordic Track” shot out of the far edge of the simmer and slammed straight into him and Abigail MacLean. But most of the time, I think it’s just plumb exciting.