Must… edit…

finishing up NaNoWriMo day 2, or maybe starting day 3 depending on how you want to look at it.  It didn’t look like I was going to get a chance to write at all then I managed to get almost two solid hours in.  5,488 words and I’m falling asleep at the keys.  Unfortunately, it is absolutely killing me to write without editing (not including spelling and minor-obvious grammar issues).  Anyone else have that issue? A nagging voice that keeps reminding you that you need to stop and review every few paragraphs?

Most of what I’ve posted online are partially edited and stripped versions (versions that get to the point and “skip the scenery”) of what I write offline (for many reasons).  For every hour I spend writing, I spend two editing and re-editing and re-re-editing.  Now with a word count target, I’ve promised to stick to writing and defer editing, re-editing, etc, until the end.

OCD is fighting me every word of the way and I’m pretty sure I will end up losing eventually.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 1

So, I managed to get about 4 to 4.5 hours worth of writing time in today which is pretty good I think.

Word count is at 3,745.

Considering that I did absolutely no prep work, I guess that’s pretty good.  I’ve figured out the main characters and the setting of the story but I have no idea where to go with it or what the point is yet lol I guess I’ll figure that out as I go.

As for the story itself, I used a combination of two random thoughts to build the setting.  Those thoughts go something along these lines:

(a) We hear about hero stories in the news every so often.

If someone just saved your life, what would you do for them? how would you repay them, or would you?

How would that be different from going back an hour in time and knowing that you were going to die and that this person was the only one in the entire world that could change your fate and save your life.  What would you offer them then? Most likely it would be 100x the reward you would offer after the fact.

If they knew they were going to be in the position of saving your life, would they stay on course? or would they turn and run? what if their life was in danger by saving yours? What if it was reversed, if you knew that you were the only one that could save a complete stranger, but your life would be in jeopardy too, would you still help? or avoid the situation altogether and leave them to their own fate?

Desperation and the will to survive are powerfully motivating forces.

(b) It’s amazing how easily influenced we are by other people’s opinions, especially those in the media. We all have thousands of preconceived notions about people, places and things that we have absolutely no firsthand knowledge of, because of stories we’ve heard or things we’ve been told, regardless of how credible the storyteller is (or isn’t).

maybe you haven’t had these exact thoughts, but I’m sure you’ve had something similar cross your mind:

I would never vacation in “country X” because people get abducted there all the time – even though I have no idea what the kidnapping statistics are or if there is any merit whatsoever to that statement.

I would never buy product A because it’s a rip off, product B is so much better – yet I’ve never used either and can’t even recall why I think that.  The product could be anything: a brand of beer or maybe a make of car.

I hate “celebrities X,Y & Z” because they are horrible people and are so mean to fans – even though I’ve never seen or met them in person and the only thing I’ve ever known about them came from an online blog.

instant, and mostly anonymous, forms of modern social media can amplify the problem tenfold.  I can pop on twitter and start a rant about how I saw a local politician out at a bar with someone other than their spouse, making out and getting nasty, and thousands of people will take that as a pure fact long before the person has a chance to defend themselves and disprove the allegations, making it virtually impossible to fully repair the damage done to their reputation.

I could also simply write that I heard celebrity A called celebrity B a _______  and more often than not, fans on both sides will start fighting and trashing the other celebrity in defense of their favorite.

What would you do if you were shunned by modern society because of false accusations?  How far would you go to prove your innocence? Or would you settle for revenge?

NaNoWriMo…

National Novel Writing Month for those that don’t already know.  Not sure why I entered this to be honest and I wasn’t going to even bother actually participating until this morning when I mysteriously decided to give it a shot.

So, November 1st is here and I have nothing, no story idea, plot, character, 1st word, etc.  I do however have a couple of hours of free time so lets see what happens.

 

 

 

 

The Siren’s Call

The Siren’s Call

“This place is so beautiful, so perfect” Gina gushed as she looked out over the calm water of the lake from the deck of her boyfriend’s boat.

“Being here with you is perfect,” Roger replied.  It was a cheesy line, but Gina bought it.  “How about we make it… more, perfect?” Roger added as he turned on the radio.

Gina smiled meekly.  She knew what Roger wanted, but she was still a virgin and wanted to wait for marriage.  That was her idea of perfect.  Still, he was a great guy and she loved being with him.  Gina began to dance to the music, slowly and suggestively, the way Roger liked it.  She didn’t want to rush into sex, but she still enjoyed doing some of the things he liked.

Her bikini had a skirt bottom that Roger absolutely loved to watch as she shook her ass.  He grinned appreciatively and joined her, grinding against her bare thighs.  After a couple of songs the action turned hot and heavy.  Roger was feeling and groping at her, trying his best to get a hold of the strings of her bikini top to pull them loose.  When the song ended, Gina took the opportunity to get a break.  “I need a drink” she said softly and pushed herself away.

Roger grabbed a glass of wine and handed it to her.  He had been doing his best to get her as drunk as possible all night.  “No, I need water,” she insisted and grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler.

“What the fuck Gina? Seriously?  Look at this place, look at this sky.  This is so perfect.  We have a few drinks, share a few dances and have a great time.  Why do you have to fight it so much?  You told me you want to be with me, sexually, and yet you push me away and run from me every time” Roger’s face was glowing red.  He had been getting himself as drunk as possible all night as well.

“Roger? Why are you so mad at me? Why isn’t this good enough? We’ve talked about this a thousand times, I want to wait.  You know that, so I don’t know why you keep getting so angry… if you can’t wait for me then you should be with someone else, I’m sorry but I just can’t” Gina began bawling dejectedly and turned to look out over the lake so Roger couldn’t see her face.

Seeing her so vulnerable made him want to console her and Roger rushed to her, hugged her tightly from behind and began kissing her neck softly.  “I’m sorry… it’s just that, I feel so strongly for you.  I don’t want anyone else”.

They stayed in that embrace for a few minutes.  Gina was feeling reassured that he actually cared for her and was getting the message and so she was beginning to relax again.  Roger was smelling her hair and sucking on her neck while brushing his groin up against her tight ass.  He was drunk and hornier than ever.  He could feel Gina relaxing and not resisting so much and he took that as a cue that she was opening to his advance, even though she was actually oblivious to what he was really up to.

They both saw things the way they wanted to.  She saw him as being understanding and caring.  He saw her as loosening up and accepting him.  His hands had been on her hips, but now, feeling more confident, Roger slowly slid them up along her slender body until they reached her top.  With a firm push, he forced his hands up under the bikini top and grabbed hold of her bare breasts.

“Roger!” Gina cried out and struggled to get free.  He was holding her so tightly that she could barely move.

Again and again he squeezed and groped at her chest while thrusting his penis violently against her.  “Roger, stop! I mean it! Stop!” she begged and then screamed as loud as she could.  In the emptiness of the night, the sound blared across the surface of the water and rocketed off in every direction.

The sound prompted Roger to release her and he stepped back in shock.  He had been sure she was going to give in this time.  She was crying hysterically and holding her hands up in front of her chest defensively.  “Take me home! You fucking monster!” she shouted angrily.

Something inside him snapped.  Something he had never seen or felt before.  Without thought or hesitation, he lunged forward and punched her in the head, sending her flopping backwards, overboard.  “Gina!?” Roger called out apologetically.

She was barely conscious and floating face up in the water.  “Oh shit, she’s dead, you fucking killed her!” Roger moaned to himself as he paced back and forth.  He was going to jail for this.  Then it suddenly dawned on him; he would only go to jail if anyone found out.  If he saved her, she would tell the police that he tried to rape her, punched her and tried to kill her.

If he left her there, she would drown for sure and then he would just tell the police she fell overboard as they were cruising and he lost sight of her in the dark.  He dove in and tried searching for her but couldn’t find her.  So, that was what he decided to do.  “Help me…” Gina begged softly from the water.  It tore at Roger’s heart to hear her, but it was too late now.  This was her fault and he had to go.

He quickly put the boat into full throttle and sped away from the scene.  The wake from the powerful motors pushed water over Gina’s face, causing her to panic and choke.  Within seconds, she was sinking to the bottom of the lake.

———–

To celebrate his 19th birthday, Justin Jackson was heading up to the family cottage for a week with two of his best friends, Jessica and André.  It was supposed to be a foursome except that Justin’s girlfriend Kimberly turned out to be an online stripper and he couldn’t deal with it, so he ended their eight-month relationship the day before.

Jessica was cool; she hated Kimberly and spent the entire two-hour drive telling Justin how much better off he was and that he would find a ‘good’ girl when college started next month.  André spent the time playing devil’s advocate, trying to convince his best friend that he was stupid to end things with such a hot girl and that he would be kicking himself later while watching her site.

Still, despite the fact that his friends didn’t get the hint that this vacation was supposed to be a getaway from his personal problems, Justin was excited to be “roughing it” up at his mom’s cottage.  It was in the process of being completely renovated although it was at least another year from being complete.  Even though he had not been there in three years, since his parents got divorced, he had spent the majority of his childhood summers there and had friends in the little community that surrounded Whisper Lake.

He was particularly interested in catching up with Trisha; she was a tomboy and the two of them were practically inseparable as kids.  A lot can change in three years, especially when puberty is involved.  Trisha had emailed Justin several pictures of herself, including one where she was frolicking in shallow water in a tiny bikini, with a caption “I can’t wait to see again, miss you!”

She definitely didn’t look like a tomboy anymore.  Although puberty was far more kind to Trisha, it had at least given Justin some facial hair and the beginnings of a muscular build which he hoped would be enough to give him a shot at taking their friendship to the next level.  The drive was almost completely uneventful but thankfully short.  Justin had been driving as fast as traffic would allow and he managed to shave at least a half an hour off the usual travel time.

The cottage looked amazing, the finished sections anyway.  It had been his dad’s pride and joy and that was exactly why his mom made sure she got it in the settlement.  That didn’t work out the way either of them planned.  His dad had no interest in going up there anymore since it represented family time to him and his mother hated camping in any form so she never went either.  The cottage was only being fixed up to sell.  That impending end put all the more pressure on Justin to make something happen with Trisha sooner than later.

A small boathouse sat about thirty feet away from the back deck of the cottage and even though his dad kept the boat, he didn’t care to use it anymore so it still sat inside.  “I’m going to make a supply run into town, then I want to catch up with some friends, see if there are any parties or anything going on” Justin called out as he brought in the last piece of luggage.

“I guess we’ll stay here and unpack” Jessica replied as she began sorting the bags into their appropriate rooms.

“She means we’re going to have wild, dirty sex in your bed while you’re gone,” André quickly corrected.

“You and I both know you have no chance of getting laid until she’s drunk and I’ll be back before that happens” Justin smiled confidently and walked out to the car.  He couldn’t care less what the two of them did; he had other things to worry about.

The small town of Brisbane was the only semblance of modern civilization for over fifty miles in any direction.  Still, it was a fairly lively place.  Whisper Lake brought in cottagers from all over the country and was a hot spot for low-key college parties.  Justin did two laps around the town but Trisha was nowhere in sight.  Eventually he pulled into Tucker’s Convenience.  He actually did need supplies.

“Hey mister Tucker!” Justin called out to the old man sitting in the rocking chair in front of the store.

“Fuck you kid!” Mr. Tucker called back.   He was an eighty-year-old war veteran that ran a soup kitchen in town in his younger years.  He was the most respectful person Justin had ever met.  Hearing him swear at all, never mind at him, was shocking.

“What? Mr. Tucker, it’s me, Justin… remember, you used to call me Little Jackson?”

“You heard me. Buy something or get the hell out of here” the old man growled and lit a pipe.

Justin quickly headed in.  Mrs. Tucker was working the register.  “Justin? Aren’t you going to say hello?” Mrs. Tucker called out and raced over to give him a hug.

“I uh, yeah, sorry.  I just saw Mr. Tucker, he seemed pretty upset with me, I didn’t know if maybe something happened” Justin replied sheepishly.

“Don’t mind that old windbag.  He’s been like that for a few days now” she answered and headed back behind the counter.  Justin could tell that she was upset even though she was trying to brush it off as just senile ramblings.  “The whole town’s gone loopy ever since that poor girl drowned…” Mrs. Tucker’s voice tapered off as her mind wandered.

The next fifteen minutes were extremely awkward as he searched the store for everything he needed.  He was trying not to rush, figuring the longer he was in town, the more likely he would be to run into Trisha, but he also didn’t want to be near Mr. Tucker any longer than he had too.  The way the old man stared at him was so creepy.

Finally, he gave up and decided to check out.  “Say, Mrs. Tucker, you haven’t seen Trisha around today have you?”

Mrs. Tucker smiled brightly.  Maybe it was intuition, but she seemed to know exactly what was on his mind.  “No sweetie, not today, but she usually goes over to Mel’s around six on Fridays”.   Mel’s was the place to be in Brisbane.  It was a triple threat of family restaurant up front, sports bar in the middle and bowling alley in the back.  All three sections served alcohol with little regard for checking IDs.

“Thanks, it’s nice seeing you again” Justin smiled as he picked up his bags and headed out.

Mr. Tucker didn’t say a word, but glared viciously as Justin passed by.  “Crazy old bastard” Justin cursed as he climbed into the car and tossed it into reverse.  He was so busy watching Mr. Tucker that he almost backed straight into a light post.

“Fuck!” Justin shouted angrily and slammed the steering wheel with both fists.

Then he almost pissed his pants when someone knocked on the driver side window.  “Hey stranger!” the young woman called out.  Justin leapt out of the car hoping for the best, but was left feeling like an idiot when he saw that it was Amber, Trisha’s best friend.

“Hey Amber, long time no see.  How are you?” Justin mumbled awkwardly, holding out his hand to shake.  The two of them had always been like oil and water and he was quite sure she hated his guts.

She looked at him strangely for a moment and then laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a big hug.  “A hand shake? Seriously? I’ve known you for like fifteen years and you want to shake my hand as a hello.  What do they teach you boys in the city anyway?” Amber teased in his ear.  She held her hug for a while and then left her hand resting on his shoulder when she finally let go.

The fact that she had gotten a lot hotter over the last few years didn’t go unnoticed, but Justin did his best to act casual.  She was shamelessly flirting, but ogling her best friend definitely wouldn’t help his chances with Trisha.  Then again, Amber may turn out to be a decent consolation prize if things didn’t work out the way he was planning.  If he could get past the fact that it felt like he was suddenly attracted to a sexy a cousin.

“Um, Amber, have you seen Trisha today?”

The question drew a bubbly smile from ear to ear.  “Good man! She’s been talking about you nonstop by the way.  It’s very annoying.  We’re going out to The Point tonight.  Be there at eight.  I can’t wait to see the look on your face when you see how gorgeous she is now,” Amber giggled as she practically skipped away.

Maybe the flirting had been a test? He wasn’t sure, but he did learn two things.  First, Trisha sounded almost as excited to see him, as he was to see her.  Second, watching Amber walk away dissolved any question that she should be the backup plan.  When Justin got back to the cottage, André was standing out by the boathouse, looking out over the lake.

“What’s up buddy?” Justin gushed as he walked over to his friend.  His excitement was taking control and there was literally a bounce in his step.

André glowered back over his shoulder with a vicious stare and then back out at the lake without answering.  Justin stopped in his tracks and decided to head into the cottage instead.  That was the second creepy stare down he had gotten in the last hour.  “Hey Jess, is everything alright?” he called out as he dropped the grocery bags off in the kitchen.

“No, everything isn’t alright.  Your friend is an asshole,” she cursed as she stormed down the stairs.  “I asked if we could watch cuddle up on the sofa and watch a DVD with the fireplace going and he just grunted at me.  He wouldn’t stop staring at the lake so I asked if he wanted to go swimming and he started mumbling curses… fuck this, fuck that, and then stormed outside”.

She was clearly pissed off, but the story gave Justin chills.  That was the absolute opposite of André’s personality.  He could be a dick once a while but never like that and never, ever, to Jessica.  He was more of a doting fool than an angry ogre when it came to her.  “I’ll go talk to him,” Justin offered.  He had no desire whatsoever to follow through, but he had to try.  The last thing he needed was for these two to ruin his week.

After twenty minutes of unpacking and organizing clothes and supplies, Justin headed out to talk to André who was still standing in the exact place, as if he were a statue.  Justin walked over and stood quietly beside his friend.  He tried to initiate the conversation last time and it got him a death stare.  This time he would let André talk, if he wanted too.

He was staring out over the lake, but his eyes wandered ever so slightly as if he were trying to pinpoint something.   “Can you hear that?  It sounds so beautiful,” he mumbled after five minutes.  “I can’t figure out what it is”.

It looked as if André had at last returned to reality.  “Are you okay now?” Justin asked nervously.

“Yeah…” André replied crudely.  He seemed oblivious to the way he had been acting and was looking at Justin as if he was the insane one.

“Oh, okay.  Jess said that you seemed upset and you looked like you wanted to eat my face off earlier so I was just wondering if you’re still insane or not”

André stood still for a moment as if trying to recall what had happened.  “How long was I out here for?”

“I don’t know.  Probably an hour?”

André shook his head in disbelief and then headed inside calling Jessica’s name with an obvious tone of remorse in his voice.  Justin decided that he would just take the boat and head out to The Point alone.  Those two needed some time alone to patch things up and he wanted to be as alone with Trisha as he could get.

The Point wasn’t actually a marked location.  It was a spot on the lake where the cool kids set up their boats in a circle and turned on spotlights to go night swimming.  They called it The Point because it was near a rocky overhang that was shaped like an arrowhead.  It was an obvious enough name to the people who were invited and vague enough to everyone else.

Justin hopped in his dad’s bass boat and sped off.  It was still only seven-thirty and he didn’t want to show up so early, figuring he would look desperate, so he decided to cruise the lake.  There were always boats out on Whisper Lake.  It never got cold enough to freeze and there were always people fishing or swimming at any hour of any given day.  With that in mind, Justin was mystified to find that he was the only one out.  No jet skis, no sailboats, kayakers, no canoes…  it was as if the lake had died.  The sun was setting, but there was at least another half an hour of decent light left.

Then he came to the most bewildering sight he had seen yet.  A huge group of about thirty boats were all anchored dangerously close to one another, forming a circle in the middle of the lake.  Justin cut the engine and slowly cruised by, trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on.   People were just standing around on their decks, staring into the water in the center of the boat circle.

Every once in a while he would see someone leap off into the water.  He could hear their splash, but couldn’t see what they were doing because of the mass of boats in the way.  After a while, the person would clamber back onto their decks, soaking wet in their street clothes, and then would go back to staring blankly.

It was so abnormal that Justin couldn’t look away.  These people all seemed to be completely nuts, or they knew something he didn’t, which struck his curiosity nerve hard.  “Oh shit!” Justin cursed himself and fired up the engine.  It was eight twenty and he had been staring at these lunatics for half an hour.

He gunned it over to The Point and was relieved to see that only three other boats were there, usually these shindigs ended up with at least nine or ten, so he wasn’t too late.  It didn’t take long to spot Trisha’s boat, even with the fading sunlight.  Justin manoeuvred his way beside her as quickly as he could, wanting to secure his spot before someone else popped in.

Once he was parked, it didn’t take long to spot the object of his obsession either.  Trisha had come up onto her deck as she heard the boat approaching.  She was wearing the very same bikini she had on in the email and was holding a bottle of champagne in her left hand a paper plate with a piece of cake in the right.  “Ahoy there sailor!” she called out while giddily bouncing up and down.

“Hey!” was all that Justin could manage to say.  He wanted to say something cooler, something more suave, but it was mesmerizing watching her and that was all the brainpower he could spare.

“Come on over!” Trisha called and motioned with her head for him to join her on her boat.

“Prepare to be boarded!” he shouted back in his best pirate voice and then felt like a total jackass for it.  Trisha didn’t seem to care; she was still smiling as she disappeared to the back.  Justin pulled off his shirt and tossed his shoes aside then leapt into the water.   It was surprisingly cool, much cooler than he remembered it ever being before, and that helped motivate him to get out faster.

As soon as he got on the deck, Amber, Trisha, and three other girls that he recognized, but didn’t remember their names, started singing happy birthday.  “Thank you, thank you,” Justin said as he bowed graciously.   His mind was racing a hundred miles an hour the wrong way down a one-way street.  All five girls were so incredibly sexy, and not just because they were soaking wet and wearing bikinis.

It was as if they were all simultaneously flirting with him, as Amber had been earlier.  They each wanted a long, tight hug hello and were so ecstatic to see him.   Being alone on a boat with five hot, college aged young women in bikinis was more awesome than could have fantasized, but something was clearly wrong.

He was better looking than he had been three years ago, but not good-looking enough to warrant this kind of attention.  How was it that none of these girls had a boyfriend with them? It was unlikely that they planned an all-girl party just for him, though it would be so awesome if they had.  Now the question was how badly did he want to know?  Was he willing to risk wrecking whatever craziness he may have wandered into?

“So, are we expecting anyone else?” Justin asked.  He wanted to test the waters with a vague question.  If they all started speaking in unison or mentioned any type of cannibalism he would jump overboard, otherwise, he would just shut up and go with the flow, regardless of the consequences.

“No” Amber answered curtly and handed him a plate with a slice of cake.

Trisha and Amber sat on either side of him, so closely that it was difficult to hold the plate and eat the cake without elbowing them.  The other three girls sat on the sofa across from them.  They were holding hands and never stopped staring at him or smiling.   He hated himself for it, but he just couldn’t enjoy the moment while feeling so creeped out.

“Is everyone up for some swimming?” Justin asked as he hastily leapt to his feet.  He looked silly doing it, but the quick manuever bought him some personal space.

One of the three girls turned on the radio and then the three of them pulled off their bikinis and dove into the cool water.  “Good god…” Justin mumbled in disbelief.  Amber stood with one foot on the deck and one on the ledge, prepared to dive in as well but she was waiting for Trisha to join her.  Instead, Trisha took advantage of the time alone and began kissing Justin’s neck.

It was so much more incredible than he had imagined it would be, or even could be.  Standing there with her, under the cloudless, starry night sky was like a cheesy chick-flick ending only this was so much more enjoyable.  Having the bikini clad, sexier version of Amber standing close by with an approving and lustful grin, definitely wasn’t part of his previous fantasies, but it would be from now on.

The night began to move in slow motion.  His head felt like it was inflating with helium and threatened to float off his shoulders and out into space, if it didn’t burst first.  Trisha refused to stop kissing him and soon Amber had joined her.  The creepy feeling was long gone and Justin wouldn’t even care if Mr. Tucker was sitting on the deck giving him his evil death stare, he was as close to heaven as anyone could get on earth and he wasn’t going to let anything ruin it.

He wasn’t sure how, but soon Justin was lying on his back on the deck with Amber and Trisha on top of him and the other three girls lying around him.  He smirked blissfully and then time leapt forward, like a DVD with a fingerprint smudge skipping ahead by a scene.  One by one, the girls took turns riding him as he lay there and every few seconds, in the blink of an eye, time would suddenly skip ahead by minutes.

It was so disorienting and Justin’s already muddled mind was becoming more and more of a jumbled mess.   One second Trisha was on his left, sucking his finger and then in a flash, she was on top of Amber, making out with her.   He didn’t know and didn’t care what was happening.  Maybe he was going insane.  It didn’t matter.  He didn’t even know the other three girl’s names, but he didn’t care about that either.

Eventually he couldn’t take anymore and he moaned in glorious ecstasy and blacked out.  When he awoke, he was lying on the deck of his own boat and being blinded by the sun as it crept out from behind the clouds.  Justin leapt to his feet to find he was still anchored at The Point, but he was alone.  His body ached from head to toe, but not in a horrible way.  It was like the feeling of lactic acid lingering after a heavy workout, reminding you that you did a good job.

“Yes!” he screamed to the sky with both arms raised victoriously.  No one would ever believe his story, but he didn’t care.  He would revel in the glory of that night for the rest of his life.

“Justin” a woman’s voice whispered softly to him.  Justin spun in circles trying to locate the source, in vain.  More whispers came but they were too faint to hear clearly.

“Hello?” It was embarrassing to be shouting to no one in particular but then again, if no one was around, no one would know he did it anyway.

“Justin” the woman whispered again.  The sound seemed to float across the lake on the warm breeze.  He was tempted to follow it and see where it was coming from, but André and Jessica were still back at the cottage and he had a lot to talk to them about.  With the boat at full speed, he made his way back.

André was standing beside the boathouse in the water up to his knees, staring blankly out over the lake again.  “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Justin muttered softly to himself as he parked the boat.

“André? What the hell are you doing?” he called to his friend but was ignored.  Justin headed into the cottage.  With André acting so insane, he was worried about Jessica.  “Jess!  Are you here?  Is everything okay?” he called out as he searched room by room.

“In here!” she called back from his bedroom.

Justin raced up the stairs and into his room.  Jessica was rolling around in the bed in only her black thong and thigh high black stockings.  “What the hell?” Justin groaned.  She looked like a cat that just found its owners catnip stash.

Jessica slid off the bed and thrust herself into Justin’s arms.  “Jess, what the hell are you doing? Stop!” Justin begged as he tried to pry her off him.  She wouldn’t let go and even jumped up and wrapped her legs around his waist while squeezing his head in her arms, pressing her bare breasts into his face.  It was so horribly wrong.  She was a good friend of his for years and the girlfriend of his best friend.

Unfortunately, that just made the whole scenario so much more enticing.  He was almost as sexually excited by Jessica’s impromptu, semi-nude ambush as he was by the naked quintet the night before.  “Jess… please…” he grumbled half-heartedly, but there was no stopping her and Justin gave in without much resistance.

Like it had on the boat, his brain began to swirl in his head and his body refused to respond to his commands.  Jessica easily manoeuvred him onto the bed, straddled him and eagerly had her way with him.   Also like the night before, time seemed to twitch forward every few seconds.  It was frustrating and Justin felt as if he was being robbed of his intimate moment, only he was enjoying himself too much to complain about anything right now.

Jessica, Trisha, Amber and the other girls all filled his head as he blacked out.  Their beautiful naked bodies, their lustful grins and soft whispers were all so fantastic.  If only he could make out what they were saying.  When he awoke, Justin was alone on his bed.  “What the hell did I just do?” he cursed and raced around the house looking for Jessica, who was nowhere to be found.

He was terrified to face André and had no idea how he was going to tell his best friend what happened.  André wasn’t outside and neither was Jessica, but the car was gone.  Justin figured they must have gone into town, or maybe, they were pissed off and abandoned him, as he deserved.  With André and Jessica gone, Justin turned his attention to finding Trisha.  He walked out to the boathouse and started up the boat.

He had no idea where to start looking but he pulled out and headed off over the lake.  Again, there were no boats anywhere in sight, no people on the beach swimming or fishing.  The entire area was deserted.  “Justin” the soft voice whispered.  It was so sweet and sensual that it was impossible to ignore.

It was beckoning him.  “I’m coming” Justin shouted back and turned the boat towards the sound.  Within minutes, he came upon the boats had encountered the night before, still huddled in a circle around the spot on the lake, only there were a few more now.  Dozens of people were still standing on their decks, soaking wet and staring blankly into the water.

“This is so fucking insane,” Justin said under his breath as he drifted closer.  No one paid any attention to him as he approached.

“Help me Justin” the woman’s voice called out softly.  She sounded like Trisha.  Or, was it Amber?  Maybe it was Jessica?   They were all missing after all. Maybe they were here.

Justin pulled up close enough to another boat to be able to leap across onto it.  “André?” Justin cried as he landed on the other boat’s deck.  André was standing at the edge of the boat, waiting for his turn to leap into the water.

“André man, what the hell?” Justin called and reached out to grab Andre’s wrist.

“I have to go, I have to save her.  Can’t you hear her?  She’s drowning.  I have to save her,” André droned on without breaking his concentration.

“Help me Justin” the woman’s whisper was now crystal-clear.  This was clearly where it was emanating from.  Justin leaned over the side of the boat to look into the water at whatever had everyone’s attention.

Somewhere, deep down at the bottom of the lake was a light; a bright blue glowing orb that pulsated vibrantly.

“Justin!”, “Justin!”, “Save us Justin!”, “Justin save us, please save us!” the whispers came over and over, bombarding his brain from every direction.  It was all of them.  Jessica, Trisha, Amber and even the nameless girls.  They were all down there, calling out for help.

“We should help them” Justin replied to André, his eyes fixated on the glowing light.

André climbed on the ledge and leapt into the water.  He tried to swim down as deep as he could, but eventually he burst through the surface of the water and gasped painfully for air.  He swam over to the boat, climbed up the rope ladder to the deck, and resumed his spot on the ledge, waiting for another turn.  Justin grabbed his head with both hands and began violently scratching at his scalp, trying to claw away the insanity that was taking over.

Looking around he counted at least forty people, all men, standing on their decks.  Then he noticed that there were at least thirty other men lying on their decks, presumably dead.  Either from eventual drowning, their lungs slowly filling with water each time they dove in, or maybe from starvation, depending on how long they had been out there.

“This is so crazy, so crazy… so, so crazy” Justin thought to himself, but he couldn’t leave, he had to save them.  His turn was next.  He climbed on the ledge and dove head first into the water.  The orb became so bright as he swam towards it and the whispers grew into loud cries as he swam closer and closer.  He wasn’t even half way to it when he started to lose control.

He couldn’t hold his breath any longer and the trance broke.  His survival instincts kicked in and he quickly swam to the surface.  The more he panicked the more water he took in through his nose.  The surface looked so far away and he was sure he was going to die.  Finally, he broke through and gasped vehemently at the revitalizing air.  With his mind temporarily clear, Justin quickly made his way up to the safety of the boat.

Only, as soon as he was back aboard the deck, the whispers came again, “Justin! Save us Justin!” and he was trapped.  He couldn’t leave.  He had to save them.  Hours passed where he would wait his turn and then leap forward into the water only to have to rush to the surface to avoid drowning.  On his thirtieth trip back to the surface, Justin smacked his head on the bottom of a new boat that had just arrived.

The blow nearly knocked him out, but it also seemed to shake some sense back into him.  Justin made his way up onto the deck new ship, with it being the furthest away he figured it would be the safest.  He also hoped that the new person wouldn’t be completely nuts already.  A middle-aged man with a huge grin was eagerly steering his ship deeper into the group by bumping the smaller boats out of the way.

“You have to get out of here.  Now!” Justin begged as he sprawled out from exhaustion on the man’s deck.  The whispers were there, but his head ached so badly that he couldn’t make out what they were saying.  It felt good to be able to think straight for the moment, but deep down he was dying to hear the sultry voice again.

The man ignored Justin’s pleas and leapt to the deck of a smaller boat to await his turn.  Justin struggled to his feet and stumbled around the boat.  The broken whispers were calling to him and they were becoming clearer.  In a minute he would be back, diving into the water like all the others, he knew he would.  A lifesaver was hung on the side of the cabin wall and Justin considered roping himself into it so that he couldn’t dive in anymore, but it was too late for that.  They were calling him back and he had to go.

With his last moment of sanity, he had another idea, a completely insane and yet logical idea.  He took the rope off the lifesaver and secured it around his waist with one end and the other he knotted around the base of the barbecue sitting on the deck.  It was too heavy to lift, so Justin pushed it over the side.  With a loud splash, the barbecue crashed into the water and pulled him down with it.

There was no turning back this time.  He sank deeper and deeper towards the light.  The whispers became cries and then eventually joyful cheers.   “We missed you Justin” they called happily.  The water was becoming cooler and cooler as he descended into the depths.  Water was beginning to fill his nostrils, but there was no panic, not this time.  The orb pulsed and faded, and began to transform into a beautiful woman with her arms open wide, welcoming him into her clutches.  Justin smiled brightly as felt the warm embrace he had been longing for, and then, his world fell dark for the last time.

——————-

The death of the pure, virginal girl served as a sacrifice to the spirit of the lake.  It’s calls for retribution brought the young women of the community to its side, to seduce the weak-willed men and send them out to their doom.  One by one, the men perished until the spirit’s thirst for vengeance was finally sated.

The Harbinger – Chapter 19

The Harbinger – Chapter 19

It was almost an hour before the doctor came by.  Luckily, Jeff had the room to himself and was able to relax watching some old movies on the mounted television.  He had never been in such a modern and pristine hospital before.  Everything looked brand new; like it had just been delivered the day before.  The room was setup for three patients but the other two beds were vacant.

In any of the big city hospitals he had been in before, he would have waited in the hallway for hours, surrounded by sick and coughing seniors and crying babies, before even getting near a room.  This was almost too luxurious to give up.  With just the slightest tug of a small cord, he would have sexy nurses waiting on him hand and foot.  If only he had a case of beer, he would be in heaven.

The doctor made his way into the room and over to the side of the bed.  He was the friendliest looking person Jeff had seen in years, maybe ever.  An older man, probably not far removed from retirement, with a compassionate, grandfatherly look.  “Mr. Steele, how are you feeling?” the doctor asked without looking up from his clipboard.

“Much better, thank you.  This hospital is amazing!” Jeff gushed while glancing ever so slightly over the old man’s shoulder, trying to catch the climax of the movie with his peripheral vision.

The doctor scribbled some notes in between flipping pages and then suddenly flung his left arm out, hitting the power button on the television, still without looking up from the clipboard.  It was hard to resist, but Jeff managed to bite his tongue and hold in the “wow!” Clearly, this wasn’t the doc’s first time dealing with a distracted patient.

“Cynthia said you were… co-operative” the doctor finally looked up from the clipboard just long enough to give Jeff a two second long stare of disapproval before looking back down.  “Well, you are a very lucky man, Mr. Steele…”

“Please, call me Jeff.  And I’m assuming Cynthia is…?”

“The nurse.  Yes.  Well then Jeff, you are a very lucky man.  We’ve been flooded with people injured in the riots and quite frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years.   You had some minor head trauma, like you took quite a tumble, and your ears will probably be sore for a day or two after being so close to that explosion, but you shouldn’t notice any major lingering effects.  There are some minor burns on your left thigh and forearm but all in all, you’re lucky to be in one piece, never mind having such limited injuries.”  The doctor put down his clipboard on the foot of the bed and moved to Jeff’s side.

“I’m Doctor Westwood by the way, excuse my manners.  I am going to recommend that you see a cardiologist when you get back home.  Your blood pressure is fairly high and your breathing is a bit erratic.  Given the intensely stressful situation you were just in and at your age, I think it would be prudent to get yourself looked after by a specialist.”

Intensely stressful situation? Doctor Westwood was a wise man but he had no idea just how stressful the situation really was.  Jeff didn’t exactly take the news about his potential heart issue well, but he had already blacked out several times in the last week so maybe it was worth considering.  Cynthia burst in through the door, tears streaking down her cheeks.  “Doctor, I think you should come quick,” she gasped.

Maybe it was because she was so vulnerable in that moment, or maybe it was because he was just an emotionally deprived individual, but Jeff couldn’t help but stare affectionately at the young nurse.  Only the staring promptly descended into outright ogling as his eyes wandered lowered to her legs.  Doctor Westwood raced out of the room, the nurse closely in tow.

It didn’t take more than a minute for Jeff to notice the clipboard still resting at the foot of the bed.  He reached for it and started scanning through the paperwork.  It was pretty basic and boring stuff but it gave him a bit of a rebellious rush to be sneaking a peek at it anyway.

“Knock knock” Dawn called out.  She was leaning against the door frame with her right arm in a sling, but looked otherwise healthy.  Her lack of make-up and being draped in the hospital smock didn’t detract from her looks at all.

“Oh, hi there.  Come in, please, I could use the company.” Jeff called out while motioning her forward.  “How are you feeling?”

“Like my head exploded!” Dawn joked.  “My arm is a bit busted up and my head kills whenever the meds run out, but other than that I’m just grateful to be in one piece.” She added and sat on the bed at Jeff’s feet.   “I can’t believe it.  I grew up in that town.  It is such a quiet and boring place.  This is just so insane.  They destroyed everything.  So many people are seriously hurt and a lot are dead…”

Jeff could see Dawn’s eyes were welling up with tears and so he sat up, turned and slid next to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders.  “I’m sorry.  I really am.  I don’t know what to say, but it’s over now.”

Dawn sat quietly, nodding her head.  Jeff felt horrible.  He was the one that brought the book.  He was responsible for everything that had happened.  “Come on, let’s go look for the cafeteria, I’m starving” Dawn said with a half-hearted smile.  She jumped off the bed and practically pulled Jeff out of the room with her.

“This place is amazing, don’t you think?” Jeff asked.  He was still in awe of how organized everything was.

“Yeah, definitely.  What’s that?” Dawn asked, stopping in front of an open door.

Jeff shrugged as if he didn’t know or care, but he couldn’t withstand the magnetic pull of curiosity and walked closer.  The sign on the door read “Generator Room.  Keep Out” and the diagram below it showed a Z-shaped hallway that eventually ended in a large square room housing three very large backup generators.

Jeff’s feet started to throb as if they had fallen asleep on him and he knew that was a clear-cut sign he should just close the door and keep moving.   In the first leg of the hallway, there were stacks and stacks of clean towels, lining the walls on either side.  At the end of the hall was a puddle that was slowly flowing out from around the corner.

“Maybe we shouldn’t…” Dawn whispered and squeezed Jeff’s left triceps muscle tightly, digging her nails in painfully deep.

“I’m sure it’s nothing” he replied confidently.  He was lying and he knew that Dawn knew it too.  The humming sound from the generator was so rhythmic.  It sounded like someone was whispering to him so softly that if he got a little closer, he could hear it clearly.  “I’m just going to go have a quick look,” he said and started into the room, unaware that Dawn was right behind him.

The room offered a mixture of fresh lavender-scented detergent, engine oil and the pungent odor of rubbing alcohol.  When he reached the back of the closet, Jeff turned to see that the puddle, which was starting to resemble more of a stream, trailed a good ten feet before disappearing around the next corner.  The second hallway was lined with shelves, only instead of towels there were boxes of surgical gloves and various cleaning supplies.

The humming was getting louder and sounding more and more like a whisper, only he still couldn’t make out any words.  The last leg of the hallway ended at a slightly ajar door.  Jeff stopped in his tracks only a foot from the handle and Dawn bumped into him.  She had been staring down at the eerie, oily fluid as she walked and didn’t realize Jeff had stopped in front of her.

“Oh, shit… you scared me, I didn’t realize you were behind me” Jeff said as he held his chest with his hands; he was breathing erratically and was now convinced that Doctor Westwood was on to something when he suggested a cardiologist. “It’s definitely oil…”

“You hear it too, don’t you?” Dawn asked nervously.

The question was a nerve breaker.  He had denial on his side up until that point.  Never underestimate the power of denial.  That was going to be his new motto.  Knowing that Dawn heard the sound also, meant that he wasn’t imagining it.  A real sound was scarier than a made up one.  Still, knowing that it was real, made the urge to find out what was making it stronger.  He had passed the threshold of no return.

The humming sound was like a beautiful siren resting on a rock at sea, calling him to leap from the safety of his boat and swim to it, throwing caution and any sense of self-preservation to the wind.  Jeff nodded slightly to Dawn and then pushed the door open.  In the center of the room was a stool with the book sitting atop it, Jeff was certain.  The oil streaked all across the floor, making strange designs as if someone purposely shaped it.  On the other side of the stool was someone bent over on their knees, facing the back wall.

Jeff’s heart and brain went into overdrive.  He hoped they were passed this, that the book had been destroyed in the explosion, yet deep down he knew that wasn’t true.  Dawn instinctively moved towards the person to see if they were okay, stepping over the oil as she walked.  The man heard Dawn approaching and leapt to his feet while turning to face her.  He was wearing the janitorial staff uniform and it was smeared with oil as well.  That was when Jeff pieced it together.

He quickly glanced around to see that the caps from the generators had been removed and siphoning hoses placed inside.  Oil was slowly leaking out of each motor, meaning that most it had been drained already.  A couple of empty drums, obviously emergency reserves, were discarded in a corner of the room.  Dawn raced back to Jeff’s side, leaping over the oil on the floor and then hid deftly behind his back.

“Are you okay?” Jeff shouted.  Clearly, the man was anything but okay, however, that seemed to be the question you are supposed to ask and it was probably a better choice than what he wanted to ask, “Are you nuts?”

The man didn’t acknowledge the question.  He was staring at the book on the stool and his mouth was moving incredibly fast, only he wasn’t saying anything.  “We have to get out of here, now!” Jeff shouted to Dawn suddenly.  The humming sound wasn’t the generators, they weren’t even on, it was this lunatic softly chanting, impossibly fast.

“Look at the floor!” Dawn cried out.  The oil had been shaped into a pentagram, with the stool standing in the center of it.  The crazy man picked up two scalpels from the floor and began slicing himself all over.  The pain would have been beyond excruciating and yet he didn’t even flinch and never broke the rhythm of the chant.

Jeff watched in horror as the man’s blood drained down his body to the floor.  As soon as it touched the oil on the ground, the blood hastily spread along the shape of the pentagram, turning it a glowing blue color and giving it a strange hazy aura.  Jeff didn’t know what to do, but he knew he needed that book.  He leapt forward and grabbed a hold of it.

In the instant his hand touched the cover, he blinked and the world flipped over on him.  He was now standing in the middle of a beautiful meadow.  Flowers of every shape and color decorated the landscape and birds chirped happily as they flew overhead.  Off in the distance, just up a small hill, was his wife Katherine and son Owen, sitting down on a blanket for a picnic.  The scenery was straight out of a commercial or postcard.  It was too perfect to be true and yet the warmth of the sun and smell of the flowers were so vivid.  An familiar older man was standing beside him, smoking a cigar.

“Why do you keep fighting it?  Just let go and this could all be yours,” the man promised.

“You’re lying.  None of this is real,” Jeff grunted angrily.

“It looks real.  It feels real.  Isn’t that enough?  Your own personal utopia!  You can have your wife and son back. Imagine it, you can play with your son and never worry about him growing old, getting sick or dying, again.  You can go fuck your wife whenever you want, however you want, or hell just play cards.  Do whatever makes you happy and never have to worry about fighting or arguing.  Live in any house you want, drive any car you want… You can have a never-ending supply of drugs and alcohol at your disposal and no one will tell you that you shouldn’t touch them, in fact, they’ll encourage you.  Don’t tell me you’re not dying to get your hands on those?” the man inhaled the cigar smoke as if it were the greatest sensation he had ever felt in his life.

Jeff spotted a row of bottles, glistening in the sunlight on the blanket next to his wife; whiskey, vodka, scotch, cognac and many others.  He wanted it more than anything he had ever wanted in his life.  He needed it so bad that his emotions were running amok and it was nearly impossible to think of anything else.  The withdrawals were suddenly so powerful and so frustrating that he wanted to punch something, anything.

“Good! You don’t have to hold back here.  There are no police, no laws, no rules… This is your utopia.  If you want to go and haul off, punch your wife in the face, go ahead!  I promise you she won’t mind.  She won’t be hurt, unless you want her to be.  What about your kid? His singing getting on your nerves? Why don’t you go give him a good slap?” the old man handed the cigar to Jeff and pushed him towards the picnic.

Owen stood up and started running down the hill singing “M-I-C… K-E-Y… M-O-U-S-E!”  Jeff hated that song with a passion.  He was becoming so uncontrollably angry.  Owen began singing it over and over, faster and faster with his voice getting increasingly irritating with each rendition.

Jeff was losing control.  He was sure that he wanted this life, to be away from the craziness of the real world.  No aging, no death, no pain, no sickness and most of all, no rules, except his.  He raised his open hand and swung down at Owen’s face.  “Jeff!” Dawn screamed and it startled him awake.

Jeff was standing in the middle of the generator room again; he had just taken a violent swing at midair, hitting nothing.  He was so disoriented from being wretched out of his fantasy that he nearly lost his balance and fell backwards.  He was drenched with sweat and trembling.

“Get the book!” Dawn shouted, pointing at the stool.

He hesitated for a moment and then Jeff reached out and grabbed the book again.  The crazy man grabbed his wrist with cat-like reflexes and then leaned forward and whispered, “You can’t win,” and then released Jeff’s arm.  With a smile and maniacal laugh, the madman raised a lighter in the air.

Jeff didn’t hesitate this time.  He turned and bolted for the door, nearly smashing Dawn over in the process.  “Go, go, go, go, go!” he shouted and pushed her forward, practically carrying her out of the room and down the hallway.

The Center – Chapter 1

The Center – Chapter 1

December 21st, 2035.  My name is Sam Fillmore.   My story is as true as it is impossible.  I’m writing this journal as a record of the events that unfolded here at The Center over the last eight months.  I was stationed here, along with over thirty other people, as part of a psychological study meant to help improve the lives of workers in high stress and depression prone environments, or so we thought.  Now there are only nine of us left and two are isolated in separate rooms, quarantined.   It all seemed to happen so fast.

Of course there were signs.  We just didn’t want to see them.  It started with the headaches.  We should have seen it coming after Luke died, but it was too unbelievable.  We were all so focused on finding a logical explanation that we purposely avoided the truth until it was too late.  Now we’re trapped on the second underground level of this god forsaken place, surrounded by solid concrete with nothing to do but wait.  The soldiers are getting antsy, we all are, but they’re planning something.  I can see it in their body language.

I think they are going to ditch us and make a break for it.  Hell, they might even sacrifice us as a diversion.  I don’t blame them.  If I’m thinking about the possibility, I have to imagine that I would consider it if I were in their shoes also.  Maybe it’s only fair; they are probably the only ones with any hope of getting out of here alive.   If anyone here deserves to die, it has to be me.  I was so blind to the truth… but I guess that was why I was chosen, because I could be manipulated and kept in check easily enough.

The only thing we can do now to fix our mistakes is to prevent this from spreading.  I know what to do, I just don’t know if I have the nerve to do it.

Eight months earlier:

Life was supposed to get easier as I got older.  Instead, I am zeroing in on thirty-three and life is anything but peachy.  Turns out, I have some issues, specifically in the anger management department.  Personally, I don’t see it, but nevertheless I’m stuck doing weekly visits to a “therapist” for “mediation”.  I don’t know why, but I always get a good laugh out of how far people will go to avoid calling things what they really are these days; political correctness, the bane of my existence.

Doctor Phillip Sizemore is the shrink.  He’s a good guy and he seems genuine enough.  He doesn’t have much in the way of a sense of humor but that may just be his professionalism getting in the way.  Turns out that not only do I have rage issues, but I also use humor as an escape mechanism when dealing with… well, pretty much everything.  Doctor Phil, as I love to call him to his chagrin, has recently become quite famous, which makes visiting him bearable.  I think it is a sort of shameless, awesome-by-association feeling that of course is not warranted in any way.

So how did I end up here? Standing on the sidewalk, outside of a reputed psychiatrist’s office building, smoking a fake cigarette and pondering the meaning of my puny existence? Fate really did a number on me.  I used to get really frustrated with people whose lives tanked on them and yet they had no idea.  It always seemed like they were swimming in a sea of never-ending excuses.  I mean, there are always signs right?  It turns out that is not the only thing I was completely wrong about in life.

I have always been a tough, hard-working, physical laborer all my life.  You know, the meat and potatoes, tailgate party and extreme wrestling kind of guy.  People that went to psychologists and group therapy were a bunch of yuppies and wealthy whiners that could not handle a day of honest work, at least so I thought.

Three years ago, I was living the dream.  I was happily married to a gorgeous younger woman, driving my favorite truck and living in a great house.  I was still working at a factory, but I was next in line to become foreman and the current one was two years off of retirement.  I wanted to have kids.  Turns out, my wife wanted to move to Barbados and become a stripper.  Truthfully, I don’t actually know where she skipped out to, it just makes me feel better to believe that.

It took nearly a year of drunken debauchery before I got my act together enough to start shaving and showering regularly.  Surprisingly I was excelling at work.  I guess because it offered me a mental release and probably because I could not drink on the job with all the heavy machinery and whatnot.  On the year anniversary of being ditched, I received the official divorce, due to abandonment, papers and a phone call from my best friend, Dominic.

I was going to be offered the foreman job the next morning but I had to be at work by 6:00AM for the meeting.  Old Ferguson was retiring early, score for me.  Or so I thought.  Life can be overwhelmingly unpredictable and all it took was one cold snowy day to send the world toppling down on my face… again.  I could barely sleep because I was so excited, genuinely excited for the first time in a year.  I was up by 3:00AM and raring to go.

If only I would have looked outside.  Every year we are bombarded with messages from the doomsayers, soothsayers and self-appointed prophets claiming that global warming will be the death of us or that it is just another unavoidable phase in the circle of life.  I am not really a science-guy, but I know enough to realize that since I was a little kid, the snowfall in our area has been practically doubling every couple of years.

I took my time, showered, shaved, put on my nicest working clothes and brushed my teeth.  I was reveling in the glory that was to come in just two short hours.  I guess because work had become my life, I was getting an Olympic gold medal caliber feeling of acceptance and recognition.  What was it really? A few thousand more a year, better benefits and triple the workload combined with a guarantee of being the least liked person at the plant by the end of the year.  Still, I had nothing else going on for me at the time, so it felt great.

I headed outside at 4:00AM, even though it only took a half an hour to get to work on a busy day, to find that the entire street had been blanketed in almost two feet of snow.  I busted my ass shoveling the driveway and cleaning off the truck and even salted.  It was 4:45AM and the street was still not plowed.  My eighty-four year old neighbor, Miss Lively, was outside on her porch with a shovel.  She was a wicked old lady, but I couldn’t just leave her there.

So I headed over and offered to shovel for her.  She nodded and walked away without even a smile or “thank you”, as if she had no intention of ever shoveling and only stepped outside to remind me that she was old and I should help her.  I hated her, so I did a shit job and maybe that was the reason I slipped and fell, injuring my back.  It was at that moment that I became a big believer in karma.

It was after 5:00AM and the street was not any closer to getting plowed.  I figured my truck would be fine; it was in the commercials anyway, zipping around in the tundra.  So I head out and even though it is slippery, I managed to make it to the end of the street fairly easily.  All the sudden this little SUV with a plow mounted to the front comes skidding down the road towards me.

I floored the accelerator only the truck wouldn’t budge as the tire spun on some ice.  The SUV stopped barely an inch from my passenger side door and then boom, the tires caught and my truck raced forward, right into a stop sign.  Of course the SUV hightailed it away as if nothing happened, leaving me with an at-fault accident I would have to explain to my insurance company later.

I wasn’t going to let one bad morning ruin my special day.  After work, I would down a few beers to celebrate and this would all be a distant memory.  As I was reversing from the mangled sign, I could see my house in the rearview mirror.  An enormous limb from Miss Lively’s old, dead tree, the same one I had been begging her for months to have removed, snapped under the weight of the ice and snow and crashed onto my roof, smashing the eave and sending some shingles flying.

I won’t get into specifics about what I was shouting at that point, but needless to say, it would definitely fit the description of an anger management issue.  I left it alone; the promotion would pay for the repairs, and headed out to the highway.  Only, the highway was littered with stalled and stuck vehicles, making it treacherous and ridiculously slow to maneuver.  Finally when I hit a clear stretch, I was trapped behind a wall of four, very large salt trucks, clearing the way for me.

My blood was burning hot in my veins and heart was verging on exploding.  All I wanted to do was get to work on time and every possible barrier, from nature, to morals to stupidity, managed to get in my way.  Maybe I shouldn’t have helped Miss Lively.  Then again, maybe I should have done a good job and not spent fifteen minutes writhing on the ground in agony.

I had my house and truck to fix and both would require calling the insurance company and that meant deductibles and probably raised premiums.  My back was hurting bad, but unfortunately since the injury occurred outside of work, I wasn’t covered by either the government, or the company’s worker’s compensation plans, meaning I was due to lose some time at work and the pay that goes along with that time.

By the time I got to work, my nerves had been completely fried.  From the moment I stepped in the building my mouth ran at a hundred miles per hour, spewing obscenity laced, nonsensical gibberish.  When I finally made it to the meeting room, I blacked out just as I reached for the door handle.  I’ve been on sick leave ever since and the company insisted that I complete an anger management program before returning, if I did, they would keep the foreman position available for me.

Did I mention that all happened on the one-year anniversary of the day my wife up and left me without notice?

However, that was not going to be my legacy.  Life bottomed out on me and I managed to stay afloat, albeit with significant psychiatric assistance.  Doctor Phil told me that he was working on something huge and that he wanted me to be a part of it.  He said that if I succeeded, it would be beneficial for both of us.   That it could turn my life around and help me move forward, emotionally.

I didn’t really want to go to whatever dull, psychobabble seminar this would end up being, but seeing as how my day was going to otherwise consist of sitting around watching television and feeling guilty about putting on weight as I downed several beers with potato chips, I figured I would humor him and go.

The Center – Prologue

The Center – Prologue

Though the threat of global warming is omnipresent and fear of melting ice caps setting off a catastrophic chain of events, culminating in the destruction of life on earth, at least as we know it, there are those that welcome the changing climate with open arms.  Like an arms dealing selling to both sides of a bloody conflict, there are those that yearn for the chance to make a profit, even if means entire island paradises will be submerged in the process, taking countless men, women and children along with them.

Fear is a great motivator.  Most of us get our daily dosage in the news or from one of the many social media outlets.  Even though scientists from all over the world admit that it is impossible to gauge exactly what the results of global warming will be, if any, the fear mongering has been in full throttle for decades.  Now, more than twenty years after the Kyoto Protocol was scrapped in 2012, the developed world has yet to come to a clear consensus on how to effectively battle the phenomenon.

Will global warming eventually lead to another ice age? Or maybe widespread drought and famine from rising global temperatures?  Will the heating effect of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere offset the drop in temperature from a stalled Thermohaline Circulation? Will entire islands be swallowed by the rising tides of the oceans?  Although Hollywood clearly has its own favorites for worst case and most likely scenarios, the truth is, no one really knows for sure.

What we do know, is that where there is pain and suffering, there is potential for profit. With the ice barriers around the arctic receding, the area has become the hot topic of the international community.  Not so much for the ever-expanding gap in the ozone layer, but because experts estimate that as much as a third of the world’s untapped oil supply lies in the deep recesses of the arctic region and with oil shortages plaguing the modern world, the race to seize control of the area has begun in earnest.

In 2020, dozens of corporations had set up surveying operations and temporary facilities to get a foothold on the area and a head start on the competition.  Only, by 2025, much of the melted ice had unexpectedly regenerated, dashing the hopes of the shareholders and executives alike.  Many a CEO was usurped over failed arctic endeavors.  It is now 2035 and once again, the ice is in recession and lineup of those willing to stake their fortunes and careers over the promise of untold riches, is no shorter than it had been before the disaster of 2025.

Most educated people believe that we need to take better care of our planet by reducing carbon emissions and pollution in all of its forms while eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels.  Oddly enough, those same educated people have very little to say when it comes to finding alternative sources of those same fossil fuels, when their own supply becomes limited.  Drilling and mining in the arctic, along with increased ship and vehicle traffic would surely do considerable damage to the now nearly pristine arctic environment.

New highways and train routes would be required as well as commercial airports to transport the riches back to mainland society.  New factories and refineries would be constructed and pollution of every kind would be introduced to the region.  Wildlife would become an expendable nuisance and relocating or employing the native populations would be a necessity to maintain peaceful working conditions.

The additional damage to the environment and wildlife may seem appalling at first… that is until there is not enough gas or fuel for people to get to work, heat their homes or run their barbecues.  Not to mention the fact that petroleum is required for the manufacturing of thousands of daily use items from toothbrushes to garbage bags.  Realistically, the machinery used to refine oil and those that manufacture items from petroleum, cannot function without petroleum.

The fear of losing every day conveniences trumps the desire for habitat preservation.  Besides, the money made from the new oil could fund several dozen new polar-themed zoos.  With the most likely alternative to secure oil reserves being war, the public support for arctic excavation is at an unprecedented majority.  Dozens of small towns are already being erected in the northern regions of competing countries in anticipation of the mass migration north.

The promise of hefty wages for workers willing to risk their lives in the rugged and unforgiving terrain seem almost too good to be true for those drudging along in a time of constant economic struggle; a time that has seen the middle class teeter on the verge of extinction. Severe drops in already freezing temperatures, powerful winds and tremendous storms plague the area and only intensify as the sea ice retreats.  The same boon that allows passage into the arctic is also the curse that makes it increasingly inhospitable.

Where most will fail is not due to the fragility of the human body, but of the mind.  Being hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from family as well as urban comforts and luxuries, in an eternally frigid and barren ecosystem that cycles between six months of constant sunlight and six months of perpetual night and twilight, can lead to a host of psychological issues ranging from stress disorders to depression to solipsism syndrome.

The Center was the promised solution to that problem.  A self-sustaining facility that offered not only the top of the line equipment and machinery, but also the essential creature comforts to allow people to live and function as capably and enjoyably as they would in any small town.  Doctor Phillip Sizemore, a renowned psychologist and mental health advocate was the one who developed the idea.

The Center started as a pipe dream for Doctor Sizemore. His idea had been rejected nearly twenty times before anyone actually offered the time to discuss its potential merit.  All it took was one willing ear to get the snowball rolling downhill.  Within six months, he and his new partners received a sizeable government grant and the backing of eight large corporations.  Two years after receiving the funds, phase one, the construction of the facility and installation of life support systems, was complete.

A giant concrete dome, built along the western coast of Baffin Island.  It would eventually become the envy of the world in the race to exploit the arctic’s riches.  Built to withstand both the most treacherous winds and all but the most powerful modern bombs and missiles, The Center would eventually be recreated several times, in strategic locations as bases of operations.

Billions of dollars of computer equipment, both for civilian purposes of surveying the region for reserves and deposits and military purposes with advanced sonar and radar systems, would be implemented in the final phase.  There would also be billions of dollars of defense systems such as surface to air missiles and communications jamming devices.  With a priceless supply of oil and natural gas embedded in the arctic seabed, it was almost inevitable that their procurement would turn violent, especially without significant deterrents in place.

Phase one dealt with the feasibility of constructing the facility.  Every step was assessed, from being able to transport the materials safely and economically, to the efficiency of installing the required electrical wiring and equipment.  A state of the art, albeit only a working prototype, of a miniature nuclear reactor was created specifically for The Center.  It could maintain power, even with all systems running at maximum capacity, for over a century.

The living quarters were designed to feel more like hotel rooms than jail cells and were loaded with as many modern-day conveniences as space would allow. It was imperative that the workers stationed there, be able to associate The Center with the comforts of home.  An enormous cafeteria was scrapped in favor of several small, differently themed eating areas. With the first phase a resounding success, the second was about to begin.

Doctor Sizemore was given the task of proving The Center’s superior ‘livability’, and how the increased mental health and comfort of the crew stationed there would increase productivity and reduce major liability issues such as depression-induced suicides and costly treatments for disorders.   If The Center could live up to its promise, with lower expenses and higher standards of living, the workers could be offered greater incentives and it would be easier to lure the highest quality staff.

Four months of sunlight, followed by four months of darkness, that was the timeline he was given.  Eight months and his brainchild would become a reality, vaulting him into the top twenty wealthiest people on the planet rankings.  He, along with thirty test subjects, ten military personnel, two cooks, two doctors, four nurses and his best friend and colleague would be stationed at The Center for the duration of the experiment.

All they had to do… was survive eight months.  They may have been successful too, if it was not for the meteor shower that proved too enticing to resist.  With the promise of never before seen minerals, a team sets out to track down a meteorite, only to return with more than they bargained for.