Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Story: Part 2

Here's the latest section. Still needs revision, but I like where it's going. Let me know what you think.

Tomas Barden opened his eyes to the dim light of midday. He raised his head an inch from his thin grey pillow. The sheet smelled like dirt and sweat and dreams unbegun. A breath creaked out between his dry lips. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep again.

Twelve minutes later, a harsh digital chirp sounded next to his head. Tomas glanced at the clock as the chirp accelerated. He forced his feet to touch the floor and reached to deactivate the alarm. Standing in front of his tiny window, Tomas looked out upon the world. The sun was only barely visible in the sky, and the street below was shrouded entirely. The fog was thick today.

He dressed and fed himself. Glancing outside again, Tomas noted that the sun was now completely hidden. He had overslept. He put on a grey rain jacket and prepared to leave. Before opening his door, Tomas paused to look at a photograph hung by the frame with a thumbtack. She was still smiling through brown hair and green leaves. He wondered where.

Tomas opened the door and stepped outside. The fog was thick enough today that he could not see to the other side of the street. He glanced at his watch. He was an hour late. It wasn’t safe to drive on a day like this, but he didn’t really have a choice, so he walked to the curb and unlocked his car. It was a 2009 Toyota Camry. How it had survived this long was beyond comprehension, but here it stood, defiant, if shabby, on the street before his doorstep. So many of its exterior parts had been replaced with scraps that it looked more like a kid’s half-painted model than a working vehicle.

The streets were mostly empty, thanks to the fog. Before he drove away from his home, Tomas tapped a device on the dash with a jury-rigged digital clock face. A small antenna sat on top of the instrument, pointing directly upward, seeking for objects in the sky above the fog. With a faint buzz, the screen lit with dim green zeroes. Nothing.

The drive was easy enough. The building where Tomas worked was a standard modern office, metallic grey on the outside with no windows. It was a small building, set on the fringes of a large cluster of buildings like it. The towers increased in size towards the middle, where a single massive cylinder loomed above the rest of the city. Unlike the boxes around it, the tower was smooth and black, with silvery windows stretching up to its top above the haze. Its walls seemed to shift around the glance of the eye, contorting and bulging out of focus. It looked weird, out of place among the standardized rectangles that surrounded it, as if it had drawn them together like scraps to a magnet.

Tomas left the car a block down from his building and walked to one of the side doors. He was almost two hours late by now, and he knew he would have to sneak in to avoid being disciplined. He entered the building and walked directly to the staircase in the corner of the lobby. Seeing no one on the stairs, Tomas began to sprint, taking the stairs in threes until he reached the twelfth floor. Panting, he stopped beside the entrance to the floor and leaned against the wall to compose himself. He glanced at his watch, trying to remember when they checked the floors for attendance. 9:58. Shit, he thought. Too close.

Suddenly, the air passing in and out of Tomas’ lungs changed. It grew tense, vibrating within his chest and around his face. Invisible molecules trembled violently, and his skin began to shiver, agitated by a gentle but persistent itch. Tomas pressed himself against the wall. He held his breath. He tried to stop the blood from pulsing through his veins. The vibration intensified into a clutching pressure, and he felt his skin turn white and then begin to bruise in spots, like a piece of fruit abused by a careless hand. He squeezed his eyes shut and prayed that it would not see him.

Finally, the vice loosened and the air calmed itself. Tomas opened his eyes and allowed himself to breathe again. Uttering a sigh of relief, he opened the staircase door and slid through onto the office floor, collapsing in the chair of his narrow stall.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Story: Part 1

This is the introduction to a new story I've been working on. I have more coming, so let me know what you think.

When he was young, the man saw a shooting star streak across the night sky. He had been driving down an empty stretch of highway, carrying his girlfriend home. Tired and distracted, the young man stared into a patch of space above the horizon. The spot of light coalesced into existence and streaked across the unmarred navy heavens, disappearing without trail or trace. Years later, the man remembered what he felt at that sudden coincidence. Things were normal then. But he remembered the feeling, seeing that flying bulb. A sudden heaviness on his heart. An unconscious clutch of fear, unbearable dread that his rational mind soon replaced with the appropriate awe and wonder. Looking at his girlfriend, he realized that she saw the light too, and felt comforted by the shared gasp and surprised laughter.

Things are different now. When he goes outside at night into the vast indigo waste there is no upward stare. He does not hope for a flash and a streak of white. And when he looks up at long last, he sees the falling shards of heaven and can only remember when they meant just a gasp and a wish.

The first cases were barely noticed. They happened too far apart to be considered unusual. They sometimes happened around cities, but most of the cases occurred over oceans, empty fields, frozen wastes. A few scientists spoke up, but only to note a small rise in reported sightings in the past five, ten years. When someone happened to actually see one, they reacted normally. They told their friends and families the next day, and went on with their lives.

It wasn't until twenty years after the first cases that people began to notice the difference. Within a month's time, sightings increased a hundredfold. More were happening above cities, and more people began to wonder. When it became clear that something was happening, people started talking. They talked at first like they weren't afraid, with feigned scientific interest. Soon though, voices became hushed, and the cases became the default topic when people ran out of distractions. They talked about their own sightings, and how afraid they had been. They talked and admitted their fear because if everyone feared it then it was alright to be afraid.

Still, few people took the cases seriously. The impacts, when they actually happened, didn’t seem to have any effect on the land or the people living nearby. The objects were rarely found, and when they were, they were so small that it seemed impossible that they could be dangerous.

The world changes every day. On July 12, 2036, the world changed again. It began in the dusk hours around the globe, just as the light from the sun faded to a deep violet and the stars began to shimmer. Among the stationary points of light streaked small white lines that fell between the stars like raindrops between leaves. At first there were just a few, appearing every few minutes, then every ten seconds. By midnight, the news stations were reporting a surprise meteor shower, more intense than any other on record. As darkness moved across the planet, the meteors continued to fall, cascading over the unsuspecting Earth as onlookers watched in awe and mounting fear. Scientists had no explanation; it was later discovered that the meteors had been mostly concealed in the shadow of the moon. Strangest of all, however, was that the objects did not seem to make contact with Earth as a few of the early cases had. Scientists assumed that they simply burned off in the atmosphere, like any other asteroid would. That day is known as Cataclysm Zero. No physical consequences were observed, but the event became the topic of concern for the media worldwide. Scientists were disturbed by their inability to anticipate an event of such magnitude. People were scared for a while, but eventually forgot their fear and went on with their lives.

That was two years ago. The world has changed.