Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 12

#Novel365 2018 Week Eleven

I became aware or at least I waded in the waters of the outer fringes of awareness. I could not say that I had awakened because the act of waking never felt quite like this; like some mysterious force outside myself suddenly prodding my cognizance to remind me I existed. My mind was plunged in the deepest layers of unconsciousness, the lowest notch on the coma scale before brain death, but an infinitesimal scrap of self dug its fingers into the loose soil walls of a bottomless grave of oblivion and slowly clawed its way up in search of normalcy or at least something familiar.

When I realized I had absolutely no idea where I was, bewilderment shifted to dread and I began to shake. I was lost in a forgotten place with no memory of how I had gotten here or even the faintest recollection who I was. Then there was pain, almost if I remembered to feel it, not excruciating but a dull throbbing ache in my head and back. I imagined myself broken, shattered to pieces, a hollow porcelain shell of a person that in no way could ever be properly reassembled. This feeling seemed familiar but distant, an old vague memory of being stricken with a plague of night terrors in which I had been paralyzed in a similar manner. I could not name what terrified me then but it lurked in the dark, always in the dark and perhaps it was a patient thing that had waited for my return. Perhaps it was here with me now. I tried to call out but I had no voice and that call strained to become a silent scream as my mind thrashed about in black confusion.

After a long helpless moment, the fog lifted and all at once I knew myself, I remembered tumbling into the subway shroud. I entered falling but how far I fell or for how long, I couldn’t rightly say. Somewhere during the process of spinning head over heel in the void, I had lost consciousness. When my senses eventually returned I found that I was resting prone on a surface, hard yet to my fingertips it had the texture of material. The black was so dense my eyes couldn’t locate enough light for me to see my own hand in front of my face let alone to make out any detail of my surroundings. I took a deep breath to calm myself because losing my presence of mind at the moment wouldn’t have produced the most advantageous outcome. I sat up and took stock of my situation. I was still alive, still able to take in air and there was indeed air to be taken in, I still possessed the sensation of touch as I could feel both the surface below me and my body, which seemed to be intact, but still had no clue as to my whereabouts. Inside the shroud, yes, I knew, but where was here exactly?

I fumbled in my pocket for my smartphone to use as a light source but my pocket was empty. In fact, all my pockets were empty, turned inside out, then I realized my backpack was gone as well. I remembered seeing footage of a man being struck by a car with enough force that his shoes flew off his feet when his legs whipped out during impact. Had that been the case here? My shoes were still securely fastened to my feet but if I had been thrown into an alternate dimension what were the rules governing what objects and matter could cross over and what could not?

Was this even an alternate dimension? The surface beneath me made me exclude the notions of being in a void or limbo. I stood up, arms stretched wide, fingers wiggling like feelers, testing my surroundings. My first thought was to look for the portal that brought me here. Was the shroud still on the train? Could I find my way back home? Were Madi and the others safe?

“Hello, hello!” I shouted into the intense darkness as I took a few tentative steps forward.

“I’m here, I’m here!” I repeated until my mouth went dry and I was about to abandon all hope of anyone hearing me in the abyss.

Suddenly a hand landed on my shoulder and I felt myself leap out of my skin; and I heard, yes, I heard these words pronounced in my ear,

“I hear you, Horton.”

It was Madi’s voice and I recognized the reference from a Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who! even though she got it wrong. Horton was the one doing the hearing when he discovered a world the size of a dust speck. Not that it mattered at the moment.

“Madi, is that you?” I spun and collected her thin frame in my arms.

“Who else would it be?” she answered.

“The shroud swallowed you as well?”

“No, when it reappeared, I jumped in after you.”

“You foolish—,” I said, my face buried in her neck as I hugged her to me. I was filled with a mix of emotions, happy that I was not alone here, angry that she risked her own safety for my sake and flattered that she had.

“I’m sure what you mean to say is thank you and you’re welcome. Now, how about you break this bear hug and we find a way out of here?”

I let Madi’s body slip from my arms but took hold of her shoulders, “Do you have your phone? I can’t find mine and we need some light.” But I knew the answer before she said it because when I hugged her, I didn’t feel her backpack.

I could hear her patting herself down. Her pockets were as empty as mine.

“We’ll just have to make do without them,” I said, placing the back of my hand on the back of her hand to let her figure out where my arm was. She held my arm just above the elbow and walked a half step behind me. “Since there definitely was a way into wherever here is…”

“Then there has to be a way out,” Madi said and I wondered if her inability to see physical dimensions in the dark was having any effect on her claustrophobia? “I hope you’re right.”

“I am,” I assured her. “Though the exit may not exist at our point of entry.” Without the aid of a cane, I had to test the ground with each foot I put forth.

“At least our situation isn’t absolutely terrible.”

“How do you reckon that?”

“Because we’re not dead, Darius.”

“And where there’s life there’s hope.”

“If we can’t believe that, what’s left? Besides, the film crew must have gotten all or some of what happened on tape, so there’s proof and perhaps our disappearance will spark an investigation and Andrew can lead a group of people much smarter than ourselves to find a way to rescue us.”

Madi stated it in such a self-possessed manner that I couldn’t bring myself to point out the flaws in her scenario, the biggest one being the next date scrawled on the 1924 subway map was two years away so even if McKissick mounted a rescue the plain and simple truth of the matter was we only had ourselves to rely on. So, I resolved to be the soil she could plant her hopes and faith in, whether I agreed with them or not.

Madi stopped suddenly and tugged on my arm. “Shhh! Did you hear that?” she whispered.

I held my breath for an instant and listened. It might have only been my imagination playing tricks on me, but it seemed to be a scuffling noise.

“Did you hear?” she murmured.

“Yes.” This time there was no mistake! A groaning sound accompanied the scuffling and it was close by! An insane thought flashed through my mind as insane thoughts had been known to do. Just for a moment, I wondered if we were truly dead and the sounds were of approaching demons coming to ferry us to processing place for final judgment. I quickly pushed it out of my mind.

It made more sense the sounds were coming from some other unfortunate soul who had been swallowed by the shroud and the most logical assumption was the old woman I sought to protect.

“Miss? Miss, are you all right?” I called out.

“What is it? Do you see something?” Madi’s grip tightened on my arm.

I ignored her and cocked my head straining to locate a sound I scarcely heard, a sound that was growing closer and closer. And after a moment something brushed past me and when it felt the contact, it clung to me.

“Madi, stand back!” I pushed her away and bawled my fist because the grip on me hadn’t felt like it belonged to an old woman.

“Madi?” the feeble voice asked. “Is that you, Quaice?”

“McKissick?” I murmured.

“Andrew!” Madi cried.

“Where are we?” asked McKissick.

“Inside the belly of the subway shroud.”

“Did you come in with the old woman? How many more of us should we be looking for?” I asked.

“My brain is still a little fuzzy but I remember the shroud skipping over the woman and thinking how fortunate she was that she didn’t move and then I woke up here.”

“Do you have a phone or lighter or anything we can use to see where we are?” I asked. “Ours are gone.”

A moment later McKissick confirmed that all his pockets were empty. There was something unnatural about our missing personal effects, a missing clue wandering in the back of my mind that I was missing. Best not to focus on it, I would let my subconscious sort that bit out.

I instructed McKissick to take the crook of Madi’s arm the way she had taken mine and we made our way slowly in a direction. I groped about and in a matter of steps, my fingers made contact with something smooth, polished and hard. I swung my foot forward, kicking it, and the blow produced a metallic sound and my fingers found a row of small protuberances which made me think the wall was made of riveted plates. Were we in some sort of a room or other enclosure constructed by a human?

Madi and McKissick joined me in searching the wall for a door frame or vent or some other aperture but the bare wall revealed no trace of window or door. I asked McKissick to lend me a hand in hoisting Madi up to see if she could feel how high the wall extended. She was barely able to feel a ridge but not enough to secure a handhold. We then began pounding on the metal wall in order to communicate with whoever built this, to let them know we were trapped inside or were we outside banging for them to let us in? It was impossible to tell in the total darkness.

Questions began forming in my mind daring me to find the answers to what the metal wall was for? Who built it? What type of beings lived inside the shroud? Were we even inside the shroud or teleported to another place?

Suddenly a noise, like iron works violently pushed aside, came from our left in the darkness. A door opened and the dense darkness suddenly gave way to extreme light so strong that I could not bear it at first. My eyes were so dazzled that I was barely able to distinguish the movement in the doorway from the figures that stepped through it. I shielded my eyes and squinted to better make out the backlit shapes. After the last had entered, the door shut immediately with a bang. The area remained lit as two of the figures attached phosphorescent domes to the walls with a magnetic clank. I blinked several times as my eyes adjusted to the light and I saw six people standing in front of the closed door.

We were in a long narrow room, metal riveted plate walls, a domed metal ceiling and a wood slats floor with a runner carpet laid down the center of it. Of the six individuals, five were men of varying shapes and sizes, from short to tall, wiry to muscular, hairy to bald, each looking like they had been plucked from Dick Tracy’s rogue’s gallery. But in the center stood a supple, statuesque woman who radiated enormous self-confidence. Her ochrous hued skin was impeccable, framed by midnight hair that tumbled over her broad shoulders and highlighted by dew-pond round champagne-brown eyes. She was without a doubt the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life.

While I was mesmerized by this woman, Madi and McKissick were asking questions in rapid succession. Where are we? What is this place? Who are you? How did you get here? Do you know the way out? And so on. But no answers were forthcoming. The six merely stood there in silence examining us with great attention which sparked annoyance in Madi that quickly escalated to anger.

“Madi, give them a chance to speak,” I touched her arm gently, though I did not, could not take my eyes off the raven-haired woman.

“Perhaps they don’t understand us,” offered McKissick.

And as confirmation of that, the tall, wiry man turned to the woman and spoke to her in an unrecognizable language. Although I spoke no other language besides English and Jarberish, I could identify most languages easily, but what they spoke, the harshness of vowels and the harmony of consonants, it seemed almost extraterrestrial, sounds the human tongue would have difficulty making.

To be continued…

Week 12 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive… and now the story truly begins. No more floundering for ideas. I finally know where the story is heading. I think I may have even stumbled on the story’s voice (though that, like everything else is subjectto change.)

As a recap to newcomers:

This story is an experiment to write a stream of consciousness book with no outline or plot in mind, just a year’s worth of whatever-pops-into-my-fragile-little-mind tweets without edits or the fancy flourishes that will come in the rewrite.

I always knew this story would either be in a speculative fiction, sci-fi or horror vein but I never anticipated it would be a time travel story as I’m not the biggest fan of those. Just goes to show you, a story can sometimes take you where it wants to go, not necessarily where you want to go. There are seven more characters that have yet to be introduced but I have a sneaking suspicion that at least one of them will make an appearance in the next installment. Don’t hold me to that, though. The characters are still in complete control of this (pardon the pun) train wreck.

I’m still lagging behind in my progess but you know what, I will persevere in my endeavor to either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air. Falling flat on my writerly face is not an option at this point in time.

Previously I asked if you can spare a moment, I invited readers to either cheer me on or tell me what a colossal mistake I’m making. But I’m past that point now. I will gladly accept attaboys and constructive criticism, but if you’re on a negative vibe, you can keep that to yourself. I already own more than my share of that.

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

 

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Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 11

The plan on paper was very precise. It calculated the average speed of non-rush hour subway trains, measured the distance to be traveled, factored in the time to switch from southbound to northbound tracks and vice versa and even gave an allowance for train congestion caused by track workers and the occasional signal problems. It permitted us to estimate how many trips we could comfortably fit within the time allotted to us.

The number we mutually agreed was reasonable, even with the factoring in of unforeseen delays, didn’t even live in the same neighborhood as the reality of the situation. To make matters worse, it was only minutes before the start of the morning rush hour and already all the debates and conversations had wound down to a bored and impatient silence. We weren’t even halfway through the day when the R179 returned to the Jamaica Center Station and we each were not only in need of a bathroom break but a break from one another as well.

We reconvened in time to catch the 7:23 am rush hour J train after we confirmed there had been no unusual activity reported during our absence and decided to position ourselves in the fifth car along with the morning commuters. The harnesses and rope were no longer a viable option as our maneuverability was now limited so we relied solely on the use of the digital Geiger counter cradled in the palm of McKissick’s hand, the global needle compass Madi wore on a lanyard around her neck and line of sight visibility as we peered into adjoining cars and across the tracks out of the door windows. Legere attracted the majority of attention as commuters held up their camera phones to us attempting to puzzle out what we were filming, but she ignored them like a pro.

“We’re never going to get anywhere like this,” Madi said studying the number of people pushing their way onto the car at each stop and though DaVinci and Rodko attempted to act as a human barricade, we were beginning to feel the crush.

“You’re right, Madi. This is a foolish waste of time. We approached this the wrong way around—” I had no time to finish my thought.

In the midst of the general din of aggravated commuters and the clackety-clack roar of the subway speeding down the track, McKissick’s voice boomed over everything when he shouted:

“I’m picking up a reading!”

CHAPTER FIVE

We turned to McKissick who held the Geiger counter out before him and pointed to the next car. I slid open the end door of the subway car, the Brooklyn tracks rushing vertiginously beneath me, gripped the black rubber straps that connected the cars with one hand and the handle of the adjoining car in the other, sliding the door open as I raced across, the car platforms shifting under my feet.

When Madi, McKissick, DaVinci and his crew cleared the door and pushed their way into the crowded car, I nudged my way past a man in a business suit, opened the cover of the wall-mounted compartment that housed the emergency brake which activated an alarm and I pulled the brake handle down. The train lurched to a stop with the squeal of metal on metal and the car was plunged into darkness.

It was early morning, the train was above ground on an elevated track, the forecast accurately predicted clear skies, yet our car was pitch black. But only for an instant. The lights flashed on again. But only for an instant. It was as if a recurring momentary vacuum sucked in all available light, creating a bizarre strobing effect. When I was able to see, my heart pounded like a jackhammer in my chest. McKissick hadn’t been mistaken and we all saw the object his Geiger counter detected.

In the center of the subway car was the rectangular void from the internet videos that stretched the length of the ceiling to floor that the public dubbed the subway shroud. It wasn’t a hoax or a mass hallucination. It was a terrifyingly beautiful object that emerged out of seemingly nowhere and brought with it light—all the light, within the car and from the outside sky—then disappeared, sucking all available light into a tiny pinprick that vanished. But it wasn’t only light. I actually felt the vibrations of its presence and absence pushing and pulling through my body—similar to the effect of standing directly in front of giant concert speakers during a live band performance—as it blinked in and out of existence and McKissick’s Geiger counter went from a series of beeps to one continuous ear-splitting tone whenever it appeared.

“Stay away from it! It’s highly radioactive!” I yelled into the cacophony of screams as passengers were standing up trying to get out of their seats, jamming themselves together and I wasn’t sure if it was my warning or the shroud itself that triggered the flight instinct but the commuters swarmed into a mob and all I could see were faces and hands. I put my arm out across Madi’s chest the way a parent does for their child in the front seat of a car during a sudden stop and tried to flatten ourselves against the wall while the tsunami of people clawed at us as they surged past. Through the rapids of terrified faces, when the strobing allowed visibility, I tried to spot McKissick and the others but it was impossible.

Then the car shuddered and the screams of the fleeing passengers were overpowered by a deafening clank and the grinding of steel. A pressure was building within the car, a pressure powerful enough to expand the subway sides outward. McKissick, DaVinci and his film crew came into view against the opposite wall when the crowd thinned. The astrophysicist gestured toward the middle of the car and his movement seemed to be in slow motion. When I turned my head to follow the place his finger pointed at, I found that I too was moving slower than expected.

In the center of the car, an old woman was on the floor apparently knocked down during the stampede for the exits and behind her, the subway shroud was advancing. The shroud was still winking in and out of reality but it too now moved at a decelerated pace.

I raced toward the old woman, that was to say I urged my body to run but just like during the REM stage of sleep when the brain disconnected all skeletal muscles from action to prevent dreams from being acted out, my movements were sluggish. The air felt so thick, it was like wading through molasses. I pushed against the resistance, forcing my body forward as the shroud faded out and reappeared ever closer to the woman. It was a race against time and the shroud was covering the distance in a plodding yet persistent way I was unable to match.

I struggled for breath. Anxiety overrode fear and made me drive myself through the dense atmosphere. The shroud gained on the woman, each teleportation creating sluggish waves that made my forward momentum just that much more difficult. But the closer I got to the shroud I could make out a luminescent aura that danced in the air like dust motes that left a phosphorescent trail in its wake reminiscent of ghosting, the appearance of a secondary image on a television screen.

Then all at once when the shroud evaporated, plunging the car into darkness, the air pressure normalized and I stumbled as the momentum I had forced upon the thickened air caught up with me, rushing me suddenly like a stiff wind on a blustery day. I managed to reach the woman but, in an attempt to correct my balance, I overstepped my mark and wound up tripping over her legs. I tumbled forward just as the shroud blossomed behind her with alarming rapidity. My arms reflexively flew to shield my face from a collision that did not occur. I slid into the inky void of the subway shroud as easily as stepping into a bathtub of water.

The last thing I remembered seeing was Madi and McKissick in a mid-air leap. Madi, rope wrapped around one wrist, tossed the other end of the rope in my direction, which I reached out to grab as the rectangular gateway to the reality I knew closed suddenly. A fearful shock followed when my arms flailed for purchase and found none. I fell into a sea of darkness.

To be continued…

Week 11 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive… and now the story truly begins. No more floundering for ideas. I finally know where the story is heading. So, good on me! (Yes, I gave myself an attaboy pat on the back, deal with it)

As a recap to newcomers:

This story is an experiment to write a stream of consciousness book with no outline or plot in mind, just a year’s worth of whatever-pops-into-my-fragile-little-mind tweets without edits or the fancy flourishes that will come in the rewrite.

I always knew this story would either be in a speculative fiction, sci-fi or horror vein but I never anticipated it would be a time travel story as I’m not the biggest fan of those. Just goes to show you, a story can sometimes take you where it wants to go, not necessarily where you want to go. There are seven more characters that have yet to be introduced but I have a sneaking suspicion that at least one of them will make an appearance in the next installment. Don’t hold me to that, though. The characters are still in complete control of this (pardon the pun) train wreck.

I’m still lagging behind in my progess but you know what, I will persevere in my endeavor to either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air. Falling flat on my writerly face is not an option at this point in time.

Previously I asked if you can spare a moment, I invited readers to either cheer me on or tell me what a colossal mistake I’m making. But I’m past that point now. I will gladly accept attaboys and constructive criticism, but if you’re on a negative vibe, you can keep that to yourself. I already own more than my share of that.

‘Til next week,

☮️ and 💗!

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 10

Untitled design

#Novel365 2018 Week Nine

Time was a bizarre creature. It crept in its petty pace from day to day, as Shakespeare once said via Macbeth, and I was anxious to get to the heart of this investigation, to confront the mysterious subway shroud and dissect it and disprove its mythical existence by exposing the reality behind it. And at the very same time, it sped by far too quickly, the handwritten date on the map was upon us so suddenly that we were not prepared for an encounter, not by a long shot.

True to his word, McKissick brought the 1924 BMT map to our office two days after our meeting in Beach’s pneumatic transit station. We asked the astrophysicist if the men who paid him a visit left a business card by any chance. They did and he fished it out of his wallet. It was identical to the one in our possession. A one-sided cornsilk card with no logo, organization identification or personnel name, only a toll-free phone number in raised Odile Initials lettering. But if the same men visited the both of us, why use different aliases on people they paired to work the same case?

Madi asked if he had attempted to contact the number. McKissick claimed he was waiting until we had something more solid than wild hunches to offer them. One of the possible plans we discussed two nights ago was to somehow convince the MTA to shut down train service on the elevated J train line between the Marcy Avenue and Cypress Hills station stops on March 12th in both directions.

“It shouldn’t raise any suspicion,” Madi said. “The J train is undergoing extensive track and station repairs at the moment and while people aren’t exactly thrilled with having to contend with shuttle bus replacement service, they’re used to it fouling up their daily commute.”

A unanimous vote found Penny dialing the mystery number and putting it through to Madi’s office, which was still the more presentable between hers and mine, and we three seated ourselves around the phone. The voice on the line identified himself as Duffy though he hadn’t sounded like the man we originally spoke with.

“Ms. Wasonofski and Mr. McKissick are also in attendance, so I’ve put you on speaker, I hope that isn’t a problem.”

“Not at all,” the unfamiliar voice of Duffy said. “Have you worked out your proposed turnaround time?”

“We’re actually calling to ask a favor,” Madi chimed in.

We each took turns revealing what we had discovered so far as well as our hunches and asked if their agency had enough pull to affect a partial train shut down for a twenty-four-hour period.

“For both dates?” asked Duffy.

“For March 12th, certainly. The next date is two years away. I doubt you’ll want to keep us on retainer that long,” I said.

“Let me see what I can do. Are you reachable at this number all day?”

“We’ll wait for your call.”

We moved out into reception and brought Penny up to speed, though we suspected she overheard most of our phone conversation with Duffy and went through the plan again over Chinese takeout. Having Penny be a part of this was crucial as she had the uncanny knack of spotting flaws and weak points and punching holes in our logic, which allowed us to devise several backup plans.

Two and half hours later the phone rang. It was Duffy. He wasn’t able to convince the MTA to partially suspend J line service but he had managed to secure an alternative option.

***

On Sunday, March 11th, we met at the Jamaica Center Station which was the last stop in Queens for the J train. We arranged a rendezvous time of 11:00 pm and while I was on-the-dot punctual, I found that Madi and McKissick were already there as well as the three-person guerilla film crew we hired to document our endeavor.

Project DaVinci, that was the name listed on the driver’s license of guerilla film crew director–what type of parent would do that to their child–held up a blank sheet of paper in order for Sarah Legere, the director of photography, to white balance the Sony PMW-300 One XDCAM mounted on the iso-elastic arm of her Steadicam harness. And Dennis Rokdo, the audio technician, clipped lavalier mics to the collars of Madi and McKissick’s shirts while they were engaged in what appeared to be an intimate conversation. Or perhaps just a conversation. I was being foolish and I was aware of it and I was slightly ashamed of the jealousy within me I hadn’t known existed until now. Though I pushed the thought aside, this was clearly a matter that needed to be addressed one way or the other once we concluded our work on the subway shroud case.

First to greet me was the station manager whose name might have been Peterson or Patterson but I wasn’t paying attention during the introduction and felt it would have been rude to ask the man to repeat himself.

While Duffy had been unable to suspend service on the section of the J line that we requested he had done the next best thing, which was probably the only other option available to him, he secured for us a test train.

“The test train models are called the R179,” Peterson/Patterson said as he pointed to the spotless silver beauty that sat on the local track, “which the MTA paid $735 million to the Montreal-based company Bombardier for the purchase of 300 new cars. The first of R179s were delivered in September 2016, and the first test train of eight cars was placed in service in November 2017.”

I knew this information as well as the fact that although the R179s passed their 30-day in-service test in December 2017, there had been a number of failures, which included train operator consoles erroneously indicated doors were open when they were closed, the emergency brakes kicking in when a bucket fell onto the tracks from the 121st Street station platform in Richmond Hill, Queens, and a test train leaving the Sutphin Boulevard station in Jamaica losing motor power in an ascent uphill at half speed over a standard gap between train equipment and the third rail, among others.

“Just so you know, this train won’t be in operation between the hours of 7:00 am to 10:00 am and 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm,” said the station manager.

“We were informed we would have access to the train for 24 hours,” Madi said.

“And you do, but this train will not congest our rush hour schedule. Whatever strings you pulled to gain access to a brand new train, it wasn’t high enough to convince my boss otherwise.”

“Then what do we do during rush hour?” McKissick asked.

“Rely on normal train service like the rest of us, I guess,” said Peterson/Patterson.

It wasn’t bad enough that we weren’t able to narrow down our search to either the Queens-bound or Manhattan-bound track or pinpoint one or two stations out of the sixteen Brooklyn stops but now we had to contend with commuters. Although I was not a superstition man by any stretch of the imagination, I knew better than to incur the wrath of the dreaded jinx by asking, could this get any worse?

Only one door of the train was open, the last door of the last car. There were signs taped to the windows of all the doors which read,

R179 TEST TRAIN
NOT IN SERVICE FOR PASSENGERS

If our train had been put into service, it wasn’t noticeable to me. The R179 was spotless and still had the new train car smell about it. For some reason, we were given a tour of it and I think it had more to do with the station manager attempting to get in a little screen time for himself as the film crew was recording everything.

“This train is equipped with updated control systems, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning or HVAC as we call it and public-address systems,” Peterson/Patterson continued. “It also employs FIND, an advanced Flexible Information and Notice Display, which includes an LCD screen displaying the route, route information, and advertisements, as well as a dynamic red, yellow, and green LED strip map that displays the next ten stations, plus five consecutive further stops to riders. And you’ll notice each car iss equipped with looped stanchions to provide passengers on crowded trains with a greater amount of pole surface area to grab on to.”

We were then introduced to our motorman and conductor and advised that the train would depart promptly at 11:45 pm.

“So, what were you thinking?” asked DaVinci.

“First off, a walkthrough of the full length of the train then hovering around the middle four cars. That’s where the shroud sightings seem to occur most frequently,” I said.

“And we have film rights?” DaVinci’s gaze skimmed our faces, catching each of our eyes for just a moment.

“Did you bother reading the NDA you signed?” Madi said. “If we capture anything abnormal on film, be it the subway shroud or some related phenomenon, there’s a six-month embargo before you can broadcast the footage in any form on any platform.”

“And you’ll need our written consent for any footage we appear in,” McKissick added.

DaVinci waved a sure, sure as he moved to the DP to discuss strategies for shooting around us to minimize our appearance in shots. I also heard DaVinci grumbling over the fact we vetoed his idea to have a pair of parapsychologists on hand, not because he believed their participation would have made any of this more successful but he wanted to edit in shots of them fiddling with their supernatural detection equipment and close-ups of dial measurement readings. If he truly wanted them so badly, he would have to shoot b-roll on his own dime.

Jessica Ettinger’s voice came in over the public address system announcing, “This is a Manhattan-bound J local train. The next stop is Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue.”

“Stand clear of the closing doors, please,” said the recorded voice of Charlie Pellett, veteran Bloomberg Radio news anchor/reporter. Following the door chime familiar to New York City commuters, the R179’s doors closed and the train pulled out of the station.

“And so, it begins,” I said.

***

Despite his ridiculous name, DaVinci seemed a decent sort once we had begun talking and seemed, from my limited point of view, an experienced filmmaker, from the way he went about framing shots and discussing dramatic angles so that each car we walked through took on a slightly different appearance from the one before. His personal opinion of the subway shroud was that he believed it to be a trans-dimensional doorway which could be opened at spots where two realities pressed against one another and both sides simultaneously generated a harmonious resonance frequency, such as trains traveling at a certain velocity in the same direction at the same time on either side of the divide. But he gave me his assurance that he wouldn’t let his views bias the outcome of our findings today.

Legere and Rokdo were of similar beliefs and openly discussed and calculated the possibility of a sighting and hopefully of a physical interaction. They promised that should such an interaction occur they would leave the investigation and exploration to myself, Madi and McKissick, and stated their desire was nothing more than to document the shroud but their sincerity was put into doubt by the eagerness in their eyes and manner when discussing the matter. I spoke with Madi in Jarberish to advise McKissick that we would have to keep our eyes on the filmmakers should we make contact.

The guerilla crew had armed themselves with enough backup batteries and memory cards for a 24-hour shoot but hadn’t thought to bring provisions. We hadn’t suspected they might but Penny had over-packed our carry sacks, so we divided food and waters amongst us evenly if for no reason other than to lighten our load. In addition to food, we equipped ourselves with compasses, GPS, flashlights, a first aid kit, multitools, duct tape, rope, harnesses, locking and non-locking carabiners, prusik cords and a Geiger counter.

Once the journey was underway, Madi, McKissick and I fitted the harnesses around ourselves and ran the length of rope between them, with myself in the lead, Madi following and McKissick acting as the anchor.

McKissick had a knack for chatting and little by little his conversations included me. The thing I began noticing about the man was his ability to draw information out of people. There was an attentiveness to his listening that made it seem he was genuinely interested in what the speaker was saying, regardless of the topic. He also shared himself with anyone willing to listen and was not afraid to give an opinion on popular astrophysicists and their popular theories. When he spoke of his adventures in astrophysics, he made gestures like he was reciting verses from Old English epic poems, as if he was Beowulf doing battle against the Grendel that was the universal unknown.

He made fast friendships with DaVinci and his crew as he has done with Madi and he attempted it with me but I was a tougher nut to crack and I think he was beginning to sense it. The thing that put me ill at ease, aside from the fact that he was an absolute stranger who was thrust upon us, was the fact that he wanted me to like him. Almost as if he needed me to like him. But I pretended, as much as I could without getting roped into his duplicity, that we were comrades brought together by fate and our connection was cemented by the unknown and possible extreme dangers that awaited us. I had the sneaking suspicion that if I lived another hundred years and spent every day in the man’s company that I would not know the man any better than the day we first met.

McKissick also loved to debate. He hadn’t shared DaVinci’s view of the shroud which the filmmaker had trouble wrapping his head around. “How is it possible you’re not convinced that we’re dealing with an interdimensional doorway here?” asked the director. “You’re a hypothesizer by profession; you’re used to confronting the impossible and trying to solve it with a math equation. Out of everybody here you should be the first one to embrace the likelihood under the circumstances!”

McKissick countered that he could posit theories to support each and every opinion people had regarding the shroud and if he was truly invested, could present a math equation, as DaVinci put it, to support every single one of them, but that didn’t mean he believed any of them to be true.

And the conversation went on, to the positive and negative energies that ley lines emitted and their connection to the attraction of UFOs, to ley lines and their connection to adverse spiritual phenomena, to Planetary Energetic Grid Theory and Sacred Geometry, to the Becker-Hagens Grid, Curry lines, Hartmann net and so on.

Their debate pulled everyone in, even Madi but I was bored with the conversation almost immediately which meant the next seven hours passed like a montage in an Orson Welles film based on a Marcel Proust novel.

To be continued…

Week 10 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive… and this is the moment before we get to the meat of the nutshell. I pretty much have a handle on where the story is headed but I won’t say that definitively because the characters might toss me a curveball.

As a recap to newcomers:

This story is an experiment to write a stream of consciousness book with no outline or plot in mind, just a year’s worth of whatever-pops-into-my-fragile-little-mind tweets without edits or the fancy flourishes that will come in the rewrite.

There is at least one character floating around in my gray matter that hasn’t made it to paper yet and if I commit to that character there are six more characters that need to be added to support the storyline. As mentioned above, a plotline is starting to take shape and it definitely will be a time travel story (Why? The world may never know) The ending is still anyone’s guess. Maybe I’ll get lucky and one of the characters will clue me in.

Though I’m lagging behind at the moment, I will persevere in my endeavor to either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air or fall flat on my writerly face.

Don’t forget, if you can spare a moment, I invite you to either cheer me on or tell me what a colossal mistake I’m making. I’m good either way.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 9

Untitled design

#Novel365 2018 Week Eight

The room inside was tiny and dark. I carefully ran my hand along the inside wall feeling for a possible light switch but only pulled away cobwebs.

“That was pretty impressive with the door,” McKissick said but though the compliment was intended for me he addressed it to Madi, which I found more than a little odd. “Is he always like this, Ms. Wasonofski? And do you mind if I call you Madison?”

“It’s Madi, one d no e, but only if I can call you Andrew, Mr. McKissick,” Madi answered.

“Consider it a deal,” said McKissick.

“And no, Darius isn’t always like this. It’s only when you least expect it that he surprises you. I’ve been with him since God spoke to Moses and I still don’t properly know him, I mean, better than most, but there’s always something new lurking around every corner.”

“Oh, are the two of you together?”

“Me and Darius? God no,” she waved the implication off like a bad smell.

I cleared my throat and I believed they received the message because the conversation halted. With the light that spilled in from the waiting area, I saw a single lightbulb in a ceiling-mounted hanging socket. I stepped inside and gave a quick tug on the pull chain. The light from the 40-watt bulb that lazily flickered to life was only slightly better than the darkness. McKissick followed me in and the space instantly became cramped. Madi stood in the doorway. Even if there was enough room for her I doubt she would have taxed her borderline control over the claustrophobia.

If I were into steampunk, the single control panel fitted with antiquated levers, switches, dials, gauges, knobs and wheel hand cranks, would have been a wet dream, but as nothing was labeled in any sort of helpful way that might have indicated their function, I found this hidden control room gem unimpressive, to say the least.

“This doesn’t make sense,” I said.

“What doesn’t?” McKissick asked, closer to me than I was comfortable with. I felt his hot breath on my neck when he turned his head to speak. Apparently, it was a pet peeve I hadn’t been made aware of until this very moment.

“Don’t you find the contrasting technology between the door lock and this control panel the least bit peculiar?”

“Is that an electric telegraph machine?” McKissick pointed at a device in the center of the crowded console.

It was, or more accurately it was a telegraph key, a metal frame fitted with a hammer, anvil spring tension adjustment, circuit closer, wiring post, and contact gap adjustment which sat on a wooden base. McKissick reached for the knob and began tapping the hammer to the anvil.

“Is that Morse Code?” Madi asked.

“Yes, it is,” smiled McKissick.

“What are you saying?”

What hath God wrought,” said McKissick. “It’s from the Book of Numbers 23:23, the first Morse code message transmitted 1844 to officially open the Baltimore-Washington telegraph line. Doesn’t appear to be working though, and why would it? Who would be on the other end, if it still had an other end?”

McKissick turned his attention to other items on the console, fiddling with knobs and levers and even tapping a few of the dials testing if the needles would budge.

“Why go through the trouble of securing this room if nothing here is functional? And if you’re going through all the bother of restoring the station why ignore this?” I asked.

“For posterity?” Madi offered.

“If it’s meant to be a mini technology museum, why hasn’t it at least been dusted?” I blew a small cloud off a section of the console and regretted it an instant later when I began to cough. As I turned my head away from the dust I caught sight of something, a triangle of paper wedged between the end of the console and the wall. I pried at it with my fingertips until enough of it was exposed for me to pinch hold of and pull free.

“What is it?” Madi stretched up on her toes trying to see around McKissick.

It was an old bit of paper folded like a pamphlet, yellowed to the point of browning. I held it up to the light and read the front cover, “BMT Lines, Rapid Transit Division 1924 subway map.”

Madi asked, “What does the 1924 BMT line have to do with any of this?”

“Absolutely no clue,” I turned the map over on my hands.

“Is that handwriting?” McKissick pointed at the ink scrawling in the margins. I nodded.

“Well, bring it out here in the open where the light is better and let’s take a proper look at it,” Madi waved us over to the cocktail table near a settee. I could only guess that it was either the size comparison to the control room or her overriding curiosity that made her consider the waiting area an open space.

We huddled on the settee, Madi to my right and McKissick reluctantly on my left. It was clear he wanted to sit next to Madi and was disappointed when I claimed the middle seat. When all this was said and done, he and I were going to have a talk. I placed the map back cover up on the table and we studied the handwriting done in ballpoint pen that wasn’t nearly as old or faded as the map itself.

“A series of dates,” McKissick said.

“Not in chronological order,” added Madi.

I tapped at the top date, September 12, 1867, “This was the day Beach demonstrated the pneumatic train at the American Institute Fair held in the Fourteenth Street Armory.”

“And February 26, 1870, was the day he opened the pneumatic train to the public,” said McKissick.

Both McKissick and I pointed at June 14, 1911, and simultaneously said, “Zanetti.”

“Um, what’s Zanetti?”

“You weren’t subjected to the verisimilituder?” McKissick eyed Madi.

“No, only he was,” she shook her head and thumbed my way.

“And you didn’t tell her?” McKissick asked.

“Hadn’t gotten around to it yet,” I answered. “Instead of forcing the information on her all at once, I figured I’d offer it as needed.”

“Makes sense. I suppose if I was in your position I might have considered doing the same.”

“Hello,” Madi waved. “Still in the room. Would one of you brainwashed cultists please clue me in on what a Zanetti is?”

***

Zanetti was the name of an Italian railway company that unveiled its prototype excursion train on June 14th, 1911, and offered, free of charge, a test ride to members of high society in hopes of creating a word of mouth campaign to attract additional investors.

One hundred passengers boarded the three-car steam train at Zanetti’s station in Rome, along with a crew complement of six, and set out on a leisurely tour of the local sights, the most popular of which was a tunnel that had been carved into one of the Lombardy mountains.

But while the rest of the passengers were enjoying the complimentary hors d’oeuvres and champagne as they socialized, two men were simultaneously struck with a premonition of impending disaster. They attempted to share this with their fellow passengers and members of the crew and were at first dismissed then openly mocked.

As the train approached the mountain tunnel, it decelerated and the sensation of unease within the two men rose to a blind panic at the sound of an ominous humming followed by clouds of black smoke that began filling the train. The crew went about trying to put the passengers at ease as they opened windows to vent the smoke.

The two panicked men raced into the rear car and looked out of the window. Each reported seeing a milky-white fog billowing from the mountain tunnel and as the engine entered the cloud, the car split wide open. Both men leaped from the train to safety seconds before it entered the tunnel. The fog within appeared to be swallowing the train whole like a thing alive.

Their statements were later discredited as no debris was located inside the tunnel from where the train supposedly split open but the one fact that couldn’t be ignored was something mysterious happened during the ride since the train had actually vanished without a trace, taking one hundred and four people with it.

“Just so you know,” Madi pointed at both McKissick and I. “That was creepy.”

“It’s just an urban legend,” I said.

“Not the story, Major Marco, the way you two recited it in tandem. At one point you were finishing off each other’s sentences. Doesn’t that cause either of you the slightest bit of concern?”

It was true. I wasn’t able to tell which one of us said what. “Okay, you’ve made your point. You were right. I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable having information stored in my brain, especially not knowing who placed it or what else they planted in there. I was wrong for subjecting myself to it, but if I’m honest, if something does go wrong, I’d rather it happen to me than you.”

“I hate when you do that!” Madi was on the verge of a pout but restrained herself in front of company. “You’re not going to win emotional points with me over this! Anyway, it’s too late now. Just promise me when this is all over that you’ll get yourself checked out, please?”

“I promise,” I gave her a two finger Cub Scout salute. “But you’re here and on the case so I feel safe because I know you’ll shut me down if I go fatal.”

Madi shook her head in exasperation but I caught the corners of her mouth turn up in a barely noticeable smile. She apologized to McKissick for some unknown reason, perhaps she thought she was being unprofessional but the astrophysicist wasn’t bothered by our exchange.

“Who’s Major Marco, by the way?” McKissick whispered to me.

“From The Manchurian Candidate,” I replied. “She’s insinuating we’ve been brainwashed.”

“You’re both lousy whisperers and she is probably right, but we’ll table that discussion for another time,” Madi gestured at the next date on the list. “So, how about that 1940 date,”

McKissick and I looked at one another and I motioned for him to explain.

“The events of this day came from the meticulous notes of a psychiatrist living in Mexico,” McKissick said. “He wrote about the admission of one hundred and four people into a local infirmary, each of them diagnosed with mass insanity. At first, most were in a catatonic state, and those who spoke seemed to be spouting gibberish but someone eventually worked out they were speaking Italian. When they finally located a translator, the patients claimed to have arrived here by a train they boarded in Rome.”

“Are all the remaining dates urban legends as well?” Madi asked.

“The next two are,” I said. “The first one came from an ancient record that told of a giant sled with a pipe spouting suffocating clouds of black smoke and dragging three smaller ones behind it bearing down on the walls of a medieval monastery in Modena, Italy that vanished just before it made impact. Next on the list is the date in 1955 when a Ukrainian signalman witnessed the sudden appearance of an unannounced steam locomotive with 3 passenger cars heading for the barrier of the station, running in an area where there were no tracks. As you might suspect, it also vanished seconds before impact.”

“Two of the remaining dates are present day and coincide with two of the shroud sightings,” said McKissick.

Madi was on her feet, pacing in front of the coffee table before I even finished, “So, the mysterious they filled your heads with these urban legends as a supposed connection to the subway shroud, but how does Beach’s missing pneumatic car fit in?”

“We have at least two chances to find out,” I said.

Madi stopped dead in her tracks, “What?”

“There are three more dates, two of them in the near future.”

“And the third one?”

“There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell any of us would live to see it,” I said.

Before Madi could respond, we heard a noise coming from the system control room. A repetitive clicking sound.

“That can’t be,” McKissick was out of his seat and halfway to the room before I could react. “Grab something to write with!”

Madi pulled a pen from the back pocket of her jeans but there was no paper in sight so she snatched the map off the table and I followed her across the room.

McKissick hovered over the telegraph key, huffing more from excitement than excursion, and shouted out letters as he deciphered the Morse Code dots and dashes until he determined, “The message is just repeating now. What does it say?”

Madi turned the front of the map to face us and the message read:

THE DIGERATI AWAITS YOU

“So, am I the only one in the room who doesn’t know who or what the digerati is?” asked Madi. Neither I nor McKissick had the faintest idea. “Now you two know how it feels. I guess the only sensible thing is to ask whoever sent the message.”

“Wonderful idea but we’ll have to wait until they’re done transmitting,” McKissick turned his head in the direction of the system control room and the clicking of the telegraph machine. “There’s no discernable variation in the pattern which suggests the message is on an automated loop, however that’s possible.”

“Digerati is a term coined in the early 90s to describe people skilled with or knowledgeable about digital technologies, especially computers and the Internet,” I held my iPhone out, displaying the Google page.

“We can get a signal down here?” Madi fished her phone from her pocket. “Why didn’t I think to check it? I could have kept pace with the pair of you.”

“Why is that important?” McKissick asked me under his breath.

“She has a thing about being left out but I wouldn’t mention it, she’s pretty sensitive about it,” I said in the softest voice I could manage.

“For your information, I am not sensitive. You won’t find a person on the planet who likes being out of the loop. And to save yourselves future embarrassment, please abandon the whole whisper thing. It isn’t working for you.”

McKissick asked if there was any additional information on digerati, anything relating to an organization or a movement. There wasn’t. We couldn’t even be sure it was connected to our case or simply some random message.

“I want to take another look at the map, see if it proves us with some sort of clue,” I plucked the map from Madi, who was conducting her own online investigation.

Unfolded, the map interior resembled the current New York City subway map minus the IND and IRT train lines and it didn’t take long for us to notice an area of the J train line circled in pen that encompassed the Brooklyn portion of the ride, from Marcy Avenue to Cypress Hills.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” asked McKissick.

I was. The next date listed on the reverse side of the map was March 12, 2018, and if our theory was correct, the subway shroud or better still the ghost train would be making another appearance.

The next hour was spent investigating the waiting area for anything we might have missed, waiting to see if there was a break in the telegraph message for us to contact the party on the other end, and trying to construct a plan on how to make contact with a ghost train and what to do if we were successful.

“All right, we’re just spinning our gears here,” I said as the jetlag finally caught up with me. “Maybe we should rest up and reconvene later with clearer heads.”

“Of course,” McKissick said. “Would you mind if I took the map with me? Only for a day or so. I’ll deliver it to your office, I promise.”

“Why not take pictures of it with your phone?” Madi asked.

“No cell phone,” he patted his pockets. “Unusual in this day and age, I know, but my landline serves its purpose nicely so I never saw the need in having one.”

Madi and I traded glances but we had gone over the map with a fine-tooth comb so there wouldn’t have been any real harm in our taking back and front photos of it and letting McKissick hold on to the original.

We were ready to part ways when McKissick asked, “Where are you going?”

“Back to the ladder in the tunnel that lets out on Reade Street, same as you, right?” I replied.

“Why would I do that when the original entrance has been incorporated into City Hall Station?”

“You mean we climbed down a manhole for nothing?” Madi shouted, her voice echoed in the waiting area.

She was never going to let me forget this.

To be continued…

Week 9 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive… and I think I’m starting to get a handle on the story… it’s still early days but I’m no longer rudderless.

As a recap to newcomers:

This story is an experiment to write a stream of consciousness book with no outline or plot in mind, just a year’s worth of whatever-pops-into-my-fragile-little-mind tweets without edits or the fancy flourishes that will come in the rewrite.

There is at least one character floating around in my gray matter that hasn’t made it to paper yet and if I commit to that character there are six more characters that need to be added to support the storyline. As mentioned above, a plotline is starting to take shape and it definitely will be a time travel story (Why? The world may never know) The ending is still anyone’s guess. Maybe I’ll get lucky and one of the characters will clue me in.

Though I’m lagging behind at the moment, I will persevere in my endeavor to either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air or fall flat on my writerly face.

Don’t forget, if you can spare a moment, I invite you to either cheer me on or tell me what a colossal mistake I’m making. I’m good either way.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License