This post is part in a series of rough draft chapters of a novel in progress. You’ll find Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3 by clicking on the links here. I wanted to push things out into a little different direction here with an addition to the plot. Enjoy!
The bulletin came over the computers a little after 2:30 in the morning.
Charlie Reynolds sat on the balcony of the Reynolds Observatory. The telescope looked like something out of a movie, located on a hillside ten miles from the old University of North Carolina. Reynolds himself was an alumnus, coasting through the science program since the building had his name on the front. Montgomery Reynolds, one of the founders and key members of the Manhattan Project, split his fortune between the university and his only son.
The steeple of the district church glowed in the distance, sending a blue shaft of light into the night sky. He took a pull from his cigarette, cursed his luck, and flicked it over the side of the wall. His supply was dwindling and the “criminals” of the new order weren’t established enough. He had tried to find more, driven for days around North and South Carolina, and came up empty. A half carton waited in his desk.
He squeezed the tension from the back of his neck.
His cell phone vibrated on the concrete and he picked it up. An alert he didn’t recognize showed on the screen. A tornado had been spotted to the west, moving quickly towards the area. All residents were advised to get inside. He put the phone back on the ground.
Clear sky. No wind. No emergency sirens, if they even worked anymore.
It had to be a fluke.
He shut his eyes and yawned, thinking about the bedroom he had built-in the lower floor of the observatory. He’d taken many a sorority girl to see the sights, literal and figurative.
The bed called.
It would be a short journey and he could be sleeping in minutes. He inhaled, reaching for the final cigarette in the pack and felt it skitter away from his hand.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
He stood to chase it just as the pack fell over the side of the railing. A gust of wind pushed hard enough to send his shoulder into the railing and he cringed. Thunder crashed and the stars disappeared as the storm system arrived. The top of a funnel cloud formed over the observatory. He needed to warn people, get the word out somehow.
The sirens remained silent.
He reached for his phone and the world went white.
A hand, cold and soft, lay on his forehead. He opened his eyes to see the night sky, clear again. The atmosphere, though, crackled with electricity. He leaned forward to a shot of pain and pressure. The figure kneeling before him blurred into focus.
It started as a swirling wind of matter like its own universe somehow centered on the balcony two feet away. He squinted and it settled to the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
Her hair was black, cascading in a viscous mass around her head. Her eyes were almond brown and, for a moment, he was lost. Colors moved and changed inside them. She wore a slate grey business suit.
He attempted to look at her body but couldn’t move.
“Don’t be afraid.” The words seemed to come from the air. Her voice was the sound of ringing bells. He opened his mouth but nothing came. “Charles, I have a message for you from the Lord.”
He tried again to speak and felt his throat tighten as if a pair of hands constricted against it.
His breath cut off completely and he thrashed on the ground pulling at the invisible hands around his neck.
“You will tell a story to change this world. Your journey starts at dawn.”
Blackness came at the corners of his vision. He tried to stay awake.
“I will see you again soon.”
Thunder crashed. The funnel cloud appeared where she had stood moments before. His ears popped with pressure and he screamed, finally able to pull in breath and shut his eyes.
In the span of heartbeats, all was calm again.
He stood, head spinning, waiting until he could walk. The elevator ride almost made him vomit. He crawled to the bed and fell into a deep sleep.
The room was dark. It shouldn’t have been dark, not with the large window across from the bed. They had built it to overlook sunrise to the east as a natural alarm clock. His throat was dry, his arms and legs sore. He rolled over and felt for the light, flipping the switch.
He sat up in bed, forcing his eyes open. The room remained dark.
He scrambled to the floor just as the phone started to ring and vibrate on the side table. It took a minute to find it with roaming hands.
“Who is it?”
“Charles, why do you persecute me?”
The voice cut deep into his heart. It was the woman, the thing or whatever it was, from the night before.
“What? What happened to me? Who the hell is this?”
“Go into town and you will receive your instructions there.” The call ended. He threw the phone and listened to it crash against the wall.
If only his parents were still alive. They would know what to do. He wouldn’t be stuck in this monstrosity of a building by himself.
Somehow, he was blind.
He tried to imagine what was around him but the images were fleeting. The only constant figure was the woman and the storm. She did this, somehow. He needed to take inventory and figure out a way to get in town and go where?
The tears came before he could stop them and they puddled at his feet.