Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 15

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#Novel365 2018 Week Fourteen

I finally managed to get my legs under me, to straighten them to a standing position but my personal sense of time was still off so I wasn’t sure how long it took for me to accomplish the feat. I gave Madi, who was equally as drained as I, a hand up and held on until she could steady herself and then we saw to McKissick.

“You’re telling us that maelstrom out there, that was time?” I asked.

“The entirety of time,” the woman nodded. “Unfiltered.”

“Unfiltered?”

“Time, like many vast things—though nothing is quite as vast as time—consists of layers and we experience these layers separately through our limited perceptions of space/time. There is a popular theory that we are all made of stardust, which I subscribe to, but we are also made of time particles that pass through us from the moment of our conception long past the day we die. Being exposed to time in its raw state can be quite maddening as it overloads our personal capacity for time retention.”

“Why weren’t you affected?”

“I stood to the side of the door and shielded myself.”

“You didn’t stare into the abyss.”

“The only effective method of avoiding its gaze upon you,” the woman said. “Now, I have been civil toward your party, Mr. Quaice, distant but civil and this was done out of respect for you and the aid you may eventually bring. Understand that I do not need them.”

“If it’s gratitude you want,” I answered, “you’re looking at the wrong person.”

“Gratitude is a capricious creature that I have no interest in,” replied the woman, quickly. “Understanding is what I seek. I am not what you would call a patient woman. In my historical research experiment, I have made certain calculations that I believed to be accurate and foolproof though the results have been less than desirable causing fracture points in time and now I find I must further splinter the timeline in order to rectify the original error which should then undo each of my missteps thereafter.”

Although her tone was level there was a flash of pain in her eyes, perhaps anger, perhaps something else. Had she done something terrible in the past to the past, to my past as well as her own and in a blatant disregard for protecting and maintaining the past was willing to unravel all of history to correct her original sin that might very well be uncorrectable, leaving none of us with a familiar present to return home to?

If this vehicle had the capability to pierce the barrier of time, past, present and future, what force would exist that could stop her, what authority could hold her accountable for her actions and if her conscience was not to be her guide whom would she fear answering to for any and all damages done in her name, by her hand, for her own selfish ends?

I realized I had not enough information to form a rational opinion and as much as I hated wild speculate, these questions ran through my mind immediately nonetheless while the woman remained silent, apparently lost in thought. She gave no notice to us as if we were insects, things beneath her notice which made me despise her but that was mixed with a healthy dose of fear, interest and something that might have been the beginnings of admiration which was to be expected, especially if her claims were true for I had never encountered a person from the future before.

I could see Madi chomping at the bit to break the silence but I shook my head and inconspicuously waved her down. Shortly after, the woman continued speaking.

“Perhaps my comments might have appeared threatening,” said the woman, “but that is not my intent. Your party has committed no crime against me and therefore will not be treated as a hostile. Fate has brought us together so perhaps you all have a part to play that may be of service us. You are welcomed aboard, free to travel beyond this area with the stipulation that you do not touch anything unless so directed and will not inquire about or note future events. I have enough mess to clean up on my own doing and would not care to add additional troubles to the task ahead. What say you all, are we in agreement?”

“And you would take us at our word?” I answered.

“Yes, I would. As I see it, I am your only means of returning home safely so it would be foolish of you to break your oath if given. You will not be granted full access and may sometimes be consigned to what we deem to be a holding area at times as that would be to our mutual benefit. I am not violent by nature and my initial assessment of your party is that we share this in common. Behave civilly and you will be treated civilly. If you accept and obey my condition regarding your non-interference of my research, I will endeavor to deliver you home to your time safely. Do you accept?”

I was not so arrogant as to be blinded to the reality that there were things about the future which I shouldn’t know, things about my future or society’s which might affect my actions in a way as to thwart the direction of my destiny and the woman had a point for none of us knew how to return to our own time and so must therefore put our trust in her hands and hope for the best.

“Do we have a choice in the matter?” I asked although I knew I would accept still I felt the need to test the waters if nothing more than to gauge the type of person we were dealing with.

“Certainly. You may remain in this car if you wish. I will even leave the rear door unlocked which means you are free to take your chances outside.”

“And if we accept, we would be allowed to wander through the rest of your time vessel?”

“You would be free to travel between these train cars and observe as you see fit as long as you remain out of the way and leave an area if instructed by myself or my team. And for clarification’s sake, these cars are not my time vessel.”

“I don’t understand.”

“All will be made clear.”

“So, we are granted limited access to your mysterious prison?”

“We occupy the same space so if this is indeed a prison then we are cellmates. I am not your jailor and you are free to leave at any time. There are reasons governing our inability to return you to your point of origin that you will learn if you are patient with our distribution method of knowledge. Remember, you came here to me, you are essentially guests in my home and will be treated accordingly but being my guest does not grant you full access to all my and the future’s secrets. At this point in your lives, my existence should unknown to all of you, as I’ve said before Mr. Quaice, we are meeting two of your years ahead of time. I need to protect my research, my mission and myself from the unknown and you three have brought that unknown to my doorstep.”

It was apparent from her tone that her feet were firmly planted in the soil of her resolution and she would not be budged.

“So, we must voluntarily offer up our obedience and possible assistance in your mission which you refuse to divulge even if that mission goes against our own principles in exchange for your promise to attempt our return home?”

“Simply put, yes. But I am fairly certain that none of you will have much to complain about once you have seen what lies beyond this car. You will encounter technology and theories that will astound you and may even find yourselves impressed against your will by what we have accomplished and if you are truly open-minded you will come to see that despite all you think you know, you actually know nothing at all. Can I marvel you, Mr. Quaice?” the woman smiled.

I was not sure if it was her words or her smile or the temptation to view the unknown that lured me in but I was hooked. I forgot for a moment of the potential danger we were in the potential danger we could cause and all I wanted to do was follow this woman into her casual world which for me was the undiscovered country. So, I answered, without consulting Madi or McKissick, I answered for all of us:

“We accept your terms, Ms.—”

“Ah, we have not been formally introduced, have we?” replied the woman. “My apologies. First, allow me to welcome you on board as passengers of the Pneuma; and I am Dr. Boerum, Cariad Boerum, the daughter of Professor Rupert Boerum, the creator of time travel.”

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

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Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 14

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#Novel365 2018 Week Thirteen

In my line of work, I encountered many a bizarre situation that at first glance defied both logic and understanding. Examining beneath to odd surfaces, more than I felt comfortable admitting had been legitimate occurrences that existed outside the definitions of normal phenomenon, however, most of the cases I was brought on to investigate had been well-staged hoaxes, lies I had been able to unravel thread by thread until the truth was exposed but this, what I was looking at now, this, only fragments of which were identifiable, I was having a difficult time piecing those fragments into a cohesive whole that made sense.

When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

The famous quote by Friedrich Nietzsche turned over and over in my mind but I was not gazing into what existed beyond the door, it was surging into my eyes, forcing me to take it in, blinding me to all else save its presence. The thickness of it bled into all my senses, pouring on layer after layer, taxing my ability to absorb it all. My limited comprehension was immediately overwhelmed with abstract concepts and nightmarish visions but the images invading my body were also infused with texture and weight and a vibration that created a high pitch sound I should not have had the capacity to hear, a sound that drove icepicks into my head, piercing the membrane of my middle ear.

No, this was not an abyss, not some dark immeasurable chasmal region of hell but within it existed abysses dwarfed by greater horrors and wonders. I had the inexplicable notion that it forced itself on all my senses because it realized mere sight was not enough to take in its enormity and words would not have been enough to describe it for how does one describe the smell of an extremely hot, small, and dense superforce of a singularity? The texture of the rapid expansion of existence? The sound of an atom being born, of the formation of galaxies? The taste of the sentient spark that would launch civilizations?

This thing that was so much more than anything I had ever encountered in life also snaked its way into my sixth sense, my power of perception, and taunted it with the concepts of everything, everything that ever was, everything that ever will be, everything known and unknowable. And with that came what could only have been called the stench of humanity, putrescent corpses marinated in human excrement, seasoned with sulfur and a sickly sweet, overripe fruity overtone, all of which I tasted on my tongue.

In order to prevent myself from gagging, I forced myself to adjust to it, to adapt and not die, but it was altering itself at such an ultraliminal pace that my eyes kept sliding off certain places I tried to focus on as if it was coated in a visual oil slick, while refracting my vision in other spots. It was an ever-expanding vista that occasionally folded in on itself and exploded into brand new structures that expanded and folded and exploded in a never-ending yet not quite repetitive cycle. It was like watching the Big Bang occur, race through a twenty-billion-year lifespan until its gravity eventually stopped its expansion and it began contracting until all its matter collapsed to a final singularity, only to explode into life again like a phoenix rising from its own ashes. But even this comparison was not totally accurate, it was simply my mind’s attempt at filling in the numerous blanks.

Between its expansion and collapse, figures appeared within it and faded away, not detailed humans or even humanoid but impressions of ambulatory flesh and behind them—ever present in the background and sometimes pushing its way through to the forefront of an instant here, a moment there—was a dark shadowy thing that seemed to billow like fog but left a visual echo like a living stop-motion entity that flattened each reality it pushed through and crumbled them like so many dry leaves to be carried off by the invisible winds of entropy.

As reality whirled just beyond the doorway, the once solid train floor turned to quicksand and the car seemed to rock and sway, threatening to rob me of my balance, to send me falling ever deeper until I cracked my skull and let slip the tiny remnants of sanity I somehow managed to hold on to by the tips of my fingers.

The longer I stared through the doorway—where the air bled realities that not only overlapped but intermingled other realities before it burned the bottom layer realities away—the less comprehensible the realities became. They became something alien to me, and I had a sense that I knew nothing at all about reality, about existence, about myself. I was finally able to see through all the lies I unconsciously told myself to distract me from the truth that I had ignored my biological imperative and would remain alone and this acknowledgment of the futility of my existence, of filling my life with busy work and would continue doing so until the day I eventually died made me want to leap. The most frightening part was if that managed to happen, if I managed to be sucked into the swirling madness that was terrifying and somewhat familiar in places, I did not think I would have minded experiencing the miracle within it firsthand.

I was drunk on existence. I had only been truly intoxicated two times in my life when I was foolish enough to keep company with experienced drinkers and had not thought to fortify my body with food beforehand and this made those head-pounding, gut-wrenching experiences seem nothing more severe than a bad after-taste. Within this inebriation there lurked an awful formless panic. I was in the middle of nowhere and everywhere simultaneously and I felt vulnerable and lonely but also at one with a slippery existence in which I could not maintain balance. I was falling, always falling, falling within falling, struggling against the fall, though I realized I was still standing upright. All the individual bits of me, my mind, personality and soul had been separated into layers by year then by month, by day, by hour, by minute, by second and my core self was falling through each of those layers.

Suddenly I was a child again, helping my father repair the roof of our house and against his instructions I climbed above the rung he told me to stay on. Spotting me, he shouted a warning that shook me and made me lose grip. My fingers slipped from the top rung and I fell backward off the ladder. Throughout the years, the pain associated with making contact with the ground was gone and all I remembered was falling in slow motion which felt a bit like flying followed by the sparks and stars that filled my eyes and the blood that filled my mouth. This time as I tumbled within myself my eyes were filled with blinding futures and my mouth filled with bitter pasts.

Then civilizations crashed down on me, civilizations inhabited by people, by beings, by creatures, hundreds of them, thousands, millions, piling on me, pressing their way into my skin, melting into my muscles, my organs and my bones and I could not remain separate from them because the pressure increased as their descendants and their descendants’ descendants buried me under an avalanche of flesh that would not stop and I could smell them and taste them and hear the noises they made and feel the sensations they experienced and I screamed against the agony, so wide I felt my jaw unhinge, which only allowed them to fill my mouth and choke the life from me. Soon there would be no room left in my own body for me.

I tried to pull my self back into myself, to turn my overcrowded head away from the mouth of madness. But I couldn’t. At this point, I was not quite sure that I wanted to as if it was an action I would not be able to take unless the entirety of my being was totally committed to it. Just how long had I been standing there, how long would I have continued standing there, if the train car door had not suddenly closed?

The weight of the universe was lifting from me and my bones creaked in relief. My arm was still resting on the riveted metal plates of the car walls and I made the slow returning climb to the physical world.

It was being extracted from me, everything that had previously invaded my body was being expelled. It ran as tears from my eyes, mucus my nose, bile from my mouth and sweat from the pores of my skin. It left me aching and weak, my insides grew soft and I melted like wax. My body crumpled into messy folds on the train floor and as the experience of what existed outside the train car left me, when there was nothing else inside my body but me I realized just how empty a shell I was, how incomplete, how hollow and I would have become lost in this realization forever if not for the burning sensation in my throat. I gasped and shuddered as a single breath of air traced its way into my lungs. I savored it and wondered had I been holding my breath the entire time? How long had it been since my last breath for me to be gulping any oxygen that may enter? I remained on the floor until my breathing normalized.

How I managed to endure being one with everything than stripped back down to a singular self, I’ll never know. Through sheer will, I managed to crawl over to Madi who lay on her back groaning and rubbing her eyes with the heel of her palms. I wanted to collapse beside her, I wanted to fall asleep to wake up in my bed to find this had been nothing more than a dream but I couldn’t. There was a mystery to be solved and my mind wouldn’t let me rest until I peered behind the curtain and exposed the truth.

“You still with us?” I asked. I wanted to say more, I wanted to make sure she hadn’t been harmed, I wanted to hold her, to feel the reassurance of her presences, but we were under the observation of the mysterious woman and any affection I displayed might have been interpreted as weakness.

“What the hell was that, Darius? Hypnosis?” Madi raised herself on her elbows.

“A distinct possibility. They could have planted a post-hypnotic suggestion when we first arrived.”

“Not hypnosis,” the woman said. “What you experienced is very real and the reason we sealed off all the windows in here.”

“What is that?” McKissick asked. Just beyond Madi he managed to get up on his knees and shook his head to clear the cobwebs.

“What is it? Where is it? When is it? Any of these questions are applicable, Mr. McKissick. I call it the vein of God. We are sitting within time itself.”

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 13

#Novel365 2018 Week Twelve

Their outfits were of a similar fashion, not to say they were identical as in a uniform but cut from the same material, a peculiar fish-scaled texture that leisurely cycled through a series of patterns from leopard spots and tiger stripes to snakeskin and peacock plumes. The various leg cuffs either tapered into or covered to the ankle, boots of very thick fur, almost like a sea otter’s which actually consisted of two layers, an undercoat and longer guard hairs.

The woman replied with words I didn’t understand in a husky voice that caught me off guard. I have heard some men say they found the trait alluring in women and I hadn’t agreed until this moment. I wondered if I had spoken my thoughts aloud for the woman’s eyes fell upon me in a questioning manner.

Since eye contact had been established, I attempted to explain that we did not understand what they were saying. I spoke slowly and carefully ensuring that my movements and gestures could not be misconstrued as aggressive. She looked at me as if I was a fool and she had every right to because I felt like one.

Madi came to my rescue by explaining how we came to be here, starting with the strange occurrences on the subways, being visited by Duffy and Thompson, visiting Beach’s pneumatic tunnel and accidentally landing here.

The woman’s manner and stance were hard, but her eyes were soft, she listened to Madi’s retelling of our adventures quietly and politely, but those eyes never left my face. When Madi had finished, she simply stood there not saying a word. Had she understood any of it? Did she know we were not a threat to her? I could not tell.

The woman opened her mouth to ask, “When are you from?” articulating each word in a precise manner. It was English. She had understood us after all.

“We’re from New York,” I gestured to Madi and myself. “McKissick?”

“Same,” McKissick said. “By way of Arizona.”

“When. Are. You. From?” she asked again more forcefully this time.

It was a bizarre thing. I heard her say when the first time and thought she misspoke. I replied, “2018, of course. What does that have to do–”

The woman made a curt hand signal and the short, roundish man on the end nearest the door opened it and they filed out of the room quickly and efficiently. We chased after them and yelled for them to wait, not to lock us in again, but it was too late. The door slammed shut and the sound of metal bolts sliding into place echoed throughout the car. We pounded on the door and shouted until the futility of the action set in. We could not hear any sounds outside our prison; all was as silent as the grave, which made us suspect they were deaf to our noises.

If there was a positive to be found, in their haste our captors had left the domed lights, I wasn’t sure if it was their intention or not, but at least we were no longer in the dark and finally able to take in the room.

“It looks like an old-fashioned train car,” Madi said.

“I was thinking the same thing,” said McKissick.

Madi’s eyes went wide, “You don’t think-”

“The Zanetti?” McKissick shrugged. “No stranger than anything else we’ve encountered so far.”

“True,” I added, “but if the subway shroud is a doorway that leads on board the Zanetti and recorded sightings are far and few between, where does a railway bound Flying Dutchmen go when it doesn’t appear anywhere on the planet? We don’t seem to be moving.”

“And who are our captors?” asked McKissick. “Whatever language they were speaking it wasn’t Italian. And what about their clothes shifting patterns, forget the fashion, that isn’t even any current technology that I’m aware of.”

The car was equipped with eight windows, four to each side but they had been boarded up which was to say that bands of metal had been welded entirely across the frame, same as the windows on the doors at both ends of the car.

“And what don’t they want us to see?” Madi walked to a window and rapped one of the bands with the knuckle of her index finger.

Along the floor near the windows were broken bits of wood presumably from wooden seats that had been removed, so besides the runner rug and ourselves, there was nothing else in the car. We took turns individually trying to open the doors. There were no indications of locking mechanisms nor a keyhole so we were unable to make out just how they were fastened so securely, but they refused to budge even under the combined might of all three of us.

Going over the car with as fine-toothed a comb as we could manage, we each came to the conclusion we were trapped here and would have to wait our captors out. We sat on the runner rug in the center of the car.

“So… plan, anyone?” Madi asked.

“The only offensive strategy would be to rush the door when they open it again but there are too many unknowns to factor in,” McKissick said. “We don’t know what types of weapons they possess if any and how many more of them there are beside the six we’ve seen.”

“Even if we were successful, we don’t know the rules, how things operate and what our limitations are, so the best play is a defensive play,” I said. “If we can build their trust and gain some freedom we’ll each go on reconnaissance and gather as much information we can then regroup to form an offensive plan.”

Just then we heard a noise. The locks were turned, the door opened, and the woman appeared.

“Your plan won’t be necessary, we will cooperate with you and share as much information as is considered safe,” she said. “We have been anticipating your arrival, Mr. Quaice. Unfortunately, we seem to have met at the wrong time of your life.”

CHAPTER SIX

We rose from the floor when the woman entered the car, this time without her companions.

“How do you know what we were discussing before you opened that door?” asked Madi.

The woman gestured at the dome lights. “Each one has a listening device installed within it. Consider it a precautionary measure,” she said with an air of confidence that was unmistakable and palpable.

“Digerati, I presume?” the words flew out before I realized what I was saying. It wasn’t due to anything we had discussed or something that I actively contemplated while examining our current situation and with all the confusion surrounding the commotion of our arrival in this place, I hadn’t spared a moment of thought on the mysterious Morse code message we received on the antiquated telegraph machine in Beach’s renovated transit tunnel. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my statement was as much a surprise to Madi and McKissick as it was to me.

“Pardon me?” the woman furrowed her brow and somehow I was convinced that she had no idea what I was referring to. Not knowing her, it was indeed possible that she was either an accomplished actress or liar. I was then confronted with the choice of pushing my subconscious and spontaneous wild stab in the dark and pressing her for answers or try a subtler approach to see what information she might volunteer. My choice was clear,

“You act as if you know me, but I’m certain we’ve never met because I doubt that I would have forgotten you.”

“No, we haven’t met before and we weren’t supposed to meet now, not your now, at least,” she shook her head and I thought I detected a hint of disappointment in her expression but it vanished so quickly I could not be sure I wasn’t mistaken.

“Not my now,” I repeated the phrase back to her, not as a question or a statement, I merely wanted her to hear what it sounded like from my point of view.

“Yes, I suppose explanations are in order. I do not know you personally, sir, but I know of you. You are Darius Quaice, founder of Qui Dubitat, Latin for Those Who Doubt, a professional skeptic, or more accurately a scientific skeptic, formally an investigator of modern miracles for the Catholic Church, before leaving the church behind to start a non-secular private organization that investigates and catalogs unexplainable phenomena. Your organization is famous in certain circles for challenging paranormal, occult, supernatural and pseudoscientific claims,” the woman said, leaning against the door frame with her arms folded. “I do not know your companions, though.”

“My name is Madison Wasonofski-”

“I know your names,” the woman waved Madi off, “I’ve gone through your effects. I simply wasn’t expecting yourself and Mr. McKissick.”

“But you were expecting me?” I asked.

The woman scanned me with profound attention, “Yes, Mr. Quaice, we are merely out of sequence.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You and I were destined, are destined, the tense becomes confusing sometimes, to meet. It seems that chance has outweighed fate for some bizarre reason because this encounter was supposed to occur two years in your future.”

“And our meeting now causes a problem?”

“I should say so for you currently do not possess the information we require to rectify matters.”

“What information is that?”

“How to get us home, sir, and fix the shambles we’ve made of time.”

Had we not been visited by Duffy and Thompson, had they not used a strange device to implant knowledge directly into my head, had that knowledge not lead us to discovering a hidden transit station thought destroyed and had clues from the station not led us to an encounter with the subway shroud, I would have thought the woman either insane or a fantastic liar. Instead, I nodded and accepted what she said at face value. I had questions, but they could wait until I properly digested the situation. Also, I was preoccupied with trying to locate the woman’s country of origin. She spoke perfect English, fluently as if it was her native tongue but her accent, though slight, was bizarre.

“You must accept my apologies for the rather shabby treatment and for the delay in making ourselves known to you,” she continued. “We have had previous visits by unexpected passengers, so to speak, which have resulted in major disruptions in our plans. Once your identity and time period had been established, I made the decision to delay this discussion to weigh the inconvenience of this annoying circumstance of seeking a man with solutions only to find that he does not have answers and his very presence may now trouble our existence.”

“Trouble your existence?” I replied and heard the restrained irritation in my voice. “Isolated in whatever this is you are probably unaware of what has been taking place in my now as you so casually put it. Unaware of the civilian injuries and train accidents caused by whatever it is you’re doing here and if our theories are correct, what you have been doing throughout time. Surely you can understand that my being here, of being hired to solve the mystery of the occurrences that you have been and are causing is bigger trouble to our existence than it is to yours.”

“Are we to be enemies, Mr. Quaice?” a slight smile curled the edges of her lips, but it contained no mirth. “Instead of aiding my endeavors to cease my disruptions in time and possibly repair the damage I have done, will you choose to stand in my way?”

I said nothing for I could not commit either way without a proper assessment of the situation. She spoke of the possibility of repairing damage, did that mean altering the timeline? If so, how much of it had she affected, how far back did it go and what would be the alterations to what I was accustomed to? Surely I would stop her from further damage if I was able but would I prevent her from undoing what was already history to me?

The woman took steps toward me and I was unsure of her intent. I braced myself for a possible confrontation but relaxed when she strode past and made her way to the door at the opposite end of the car, unlocking the magnetic mechanism. “For reasons neither of us understands, Mr. Quaice, you will become an important man in my life, so I need you. There is no record of my encountering your friends which means I do not need them. Their presence here might even prove to be a hindrance to your aiding me in my cause. It would have been quite simple, while you were unconscious, to cast them out into this…”

The woman let the door swing wide and I was drawn, we all were drawn, to what lay beyond the antiquated train car like moths to a lit candle, oblivious to the dangers of being burned alive or trapped within the wax of a vista that defied comprehension let alone description.

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

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

 

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

R179_subway_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

1924 Map

#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

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 8

#Novel365 2018 Week Seven

“I can read you like a book, you know,” I used the tire iron to drag the manhole cover into place overhead. “Right now, in your mind, you’re asking me, Why we didn’t try to access the station directly from Broadway and Warren Street?

Madi did her best to hide it but I could tell the climb down the wrought iron ladder rungs into the transit tunnel below was a chore. The problem was when it came down to offering emotional support or finding the proper words to act as a salve for difficult moments, I wasn’t the go-to person in our relationship for that sort of thing, she was. The best solution I could come up with was attempting to distract her by rambling on about the history of Beach’s invention.

“The simple answer is it doesn’t exist anymore. The entrance to the station was housed in the basement of Devlin’s Clothing Store in the Rogers, Peet & Co. building but after the project was shut down, the tunnel entrance was sealed and the basement was reclaimed for other uses. The entire building was eventually destroyed by a fire in 1898,” I said.

When Madi reached the bottom she immediately clicked on her a compact flood flashlight at maximum brightness, flooding the tunnel with 32,000 lumens and shone it in both directions. Unlike the average New York City subway tunnels which were rectangular in shape, the pneumatic passageway was circular and to my surprise, it wasn’t as cramped as I imagined, however watching Madi’s eyes widening in horror and hearing her breath begin to quicken, I knew she hadn’t shared my spatial opinion.

We were standing on a narrow brick-laid lip that I assumed was a pedestrian walkway in case the pneumatic car halted midway and passengers needed to disembark single file back to the main station or in the event technicians needed to arrive to effect repairs. To the right, the tunnel appeared to stretch into nothing. I tapped Madi’s shoulder, pointed left with my chin and gave her a gentle nudge to get her moving before the paralysis of fear consumed her body. Luckily, there weren’t any other distractions that would have made our being here more problematic for her. The corridor itself was dank but there was no scent of sewage, urine or any littered trash for that matter, no tunnel-dwellers—which was a very real concern according to a documentary I happened upon some time ago—and no rats. Just the two of us and the only sound, apart from the distant rumbling of a train somewhere beneath us, was the empty sound of our own footsteps.

“This is incredible, really,” I continued. “By 1870, Beach’s crew managed to build this tunnel, complete with a tunneling shield in only fifty-eight days. It runs three hun—”

“Uh-uh! Don’t give me numbers!” Madi snapped, shaking her head. After a moment, her tone softened. “And…thank you.”

“For what, bringing you up to speed?”

“You know what.” Madi’s voice had a forced calm to it that made me both proud of her and guilty at the same time.

I didn’t know how to respond. That was the closest she had ever come to admitting her phobia and it couldn’t have been easy for her to do in the moment. I opted for something I thought was safe, “Is it working?”

“I’m annoyed that Duffy and Thompson crammed junk in your head without your permission…so, yeah, I suppose.”

“Well, there’s plenty more where that came from,” I offered a weak smile. “Only one car ran on the track, controlled by a 48 short tons Roots blower, nicknamed the Western Tornado, that was originally designed for ventilating mine shafts. When the car reached the dead-end at its terminus at Murray Street, baffles on the blower system were reversed and the car was pulled back by the suction to the Warren Street main station.”

The brick-lined corridor began slanting downward into a left turn and I heard a hollow echo that suggested we were approaching an open space.

“Since the system couldn’t get approval as a regular mode of transportation, Beach opened it to the public as a novelty attraction at 25 cents per person with the proceeds going to the Union Home and School for Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans.”

“Some good came from it, then,” Madi said.

“I’d say. During its first two weeks of operation, the Beach Pneumatic Transit sold over 11,000 rides and over 400,000 total rides in its single year of operation.”

“Whatever happened to it?” Madi asked. “The pneumatic car, I mean. After the fire.”

“Workers excavating for the current-day BMT Broadway line in 1912, dug into this tunnel and found the remains of the car, the tunneling shield used during initial construction, and even the piano in the subway’s waiting room. The shield was removed and donated to Cornell University, which has since lost track of its whereabouts.”

“And how much farther is this main station, Mister Tour Guide?”

“By my estimation—from the junk in my head, as you so eloquently put it—it should be just around this bend. I wish I could have seen it in its glory days. Reports claimed the main station was a very ornate proj—” and suddenly I was at a loss for words. There was no longer a need for Madi’s flashlight as we cleared the bend, for we found the Beach Pneumatic Transit station and it was fully lit.

I helped Madi step up onto what must have been the passenger boarding platform for the pneumatic car and just beyond that was a small flight of stairs which led to the waiting area. I was stunned and I could see that Madi was as well. It was beautiful beyond imagining. The light that revealed the luxurious interior of the waiting area was coming from Zirconia lamps fitted into two old-fashioned rock-crystal chandeliers. The walls were adorned with frescoes done in a style that seemed to expertly imitate the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, in fact, one appeared to be the Sybils, his famous 1514 painting that decorated the interior of Santa Maria della Pace in Rome. In the corner nearest the stairs to the boarding platform was an elegant Steinway & Sons square grand piano. There were several bronze statues strategically placed in the space as well as plush leather easy chairs and settees and in the center was a goldfish pond filled with fresh water and live fish.

“This place is immaculate,’ Madi said, swiping a finger along the leather of an easy chair and holding up a finger to show no trace of dust.

“And it must have cost a small fortune to restore it and manage the upkeep,” I added. “But who would go through the trouble and for what reason?”

“Million dollar questions, the both of them,” a man’s voice said from behind and startled the hell out of me. Madi let out a little yelp. I swung around, maneuvered myself between her and the unknown visitor and raised the tire iron.

The man stepped out from behind a velvet curtain in the far corner, hands outstretched in front of him, palms facing us. “Unarmed, I assure you. I mean you no harm and my apologies, it wasn’t my intention to frighten you,” he said with a friendly smile. Going off his face alone, he looked to be in his mid-thirties but the graying at his temples was throwing my estimation off. His expression was one of weariness as he gave me the once-over but when he eyed Madi, he suddenly didn’t look tired at all.

“Are you the caretaker of this place?” I asked. My grip on the tire iron tightened.

“No. I’m as much a trespasser as the both of you. Good evening, Miss,” he nodded to Madi and tipped an invisible hat.

“Who are you?” I demanded.

“My name is Andrew McKissick,” he extended his hand and looked at the tire iron. The message was clear, I would either have to switch the steel level to my non-dominant hand or put it down to accept his greeting. “And you must be Darius Quaice. I’ve been expecting you but I wasn’t aware you would be bringing an assistant.”

Madi stepped in front of me and shook McKissick’s hand before I could stop her. “I’m Madison Wasonofski, Mr. Quaice’s business partner,” she said, gripping his hand firm enough it caused him to wince slightly and pumped it hard twice to stake her claim as my equal, as she had been known to do to thwart off misogynistic behaviors whether intentioned or born of ignorance.

“Wait a moment. McKissick. McKissick? As in the astrophysicist who examined the subway car for the MTA?” I asked.

“Guilty as charged.”

“But his name was never revealed in any of the arti—” Madi started but stopped when I tapped my temple.

“And you said you were expecting us?” I queried, leaning forward to take the man’s hand.

Madi suggested we be seated as we exchanged information and made her way to the settee and easy chair nearest the goldfish pond. I think she needed to focus on the fish in order to prevent her claustrophobia causing a scene.

McKissick explained that he had been visited by two men fitting the description of Duffy and Thompson, though they gave different names, two days ago in a meeting nearly identical to ours in which they informed him that I would be accompanying him on the subway shroud investigation shortly after they had the chance to speak with me.

I had never been a man who liked, believed in or trusted conveniences or coincidences. Someone was laying a trail of breadcrumbs and like a fool, I had followed it. Despite the knowledge implanted in my mind that confirmed his identity, there was no reason for us to believe this man was telling the truth or not to suspect that he was in league with Duffy and Thompson, or worse yet, the mastermind behind this entire affair. But I couldn’t deny that something in his manner put me at ease.

“So, you believe the subway shroud is a time travel device?” I asked. I sat beside Madi on the settee while McKissick took the adjacent easy chair.

“I wouldn’t state that conclusively but I suspect it may be capable, whether it was designed to or not, of generating a time dilation field.”

“Like in Doctor Who?” Madi asked. Off his confused expression, she added, “There’s an episode where the Doctor and Bill Potts are separated on opposite ends of a huge spaceship trapped in the gravity well of a black hole and time passes differently for the both of them.”

“I’ve never seen the show but the principle is sound,” McKissick said. “It’s the theory of relativity at play and it’s been tested with a pair of atomic clocks. One remained earthbound while the other was sent on a trip into space and when it returned there was a small disparity which proved that time moves slower under the influence of a stronger gravitational field.”

The three of us debated gravitational time dilation as an effective means for time traveling giving the limitations of being able to only move forward in time, speculated on the identity of the organization behind our recruitment, attempted to solve the riddle of why the pneumatic station was in pristine condition. When all the logical and completely absurd avenues of possibilities and probabilities had been explored and we each sat there in absolute silence, mulling the mysteries over in our minds, I was struck with a thought,

“Where’s the car?”

“What?” Madi said.

“Where is Beach’s pneumatic car? Someone went to great effort to restore this place to a working station, right? So why not restore the car as well?”

“Unless they did—” McKissick started before I cut him off.

“When we first spotted you, you were coming from that corner, McKissick. What’s behind those curtains?”

“Nothing, actually,” he shrugged. “Just a wall with a bit of writing on it.”

I leaped from my seat and hurried to the maroon velvet curtain. Brushing it aside I saw that the wall was covered by 2×2 inch polished mosaic tiles and at eye level were thirteen lettered tiles that spelled out the words COSTLY MENTORS.

Madi and McKissick were soon behind me reading the words over my shoulder.

“Is it some sort of clue as to who’s behind all this?” Madi asked.

“I thought it was some sort of inside joke left by the original builders or the restoration team,” McKissick said.

“Why tiles?” I said, thinking aloud. “Floor to ceiling, only this section of the wall is tiled and then covered in a room filled with dazzling opulence. The ultimate obfuscation? I mean, when distracted by the wonderment of everything else, who would bother to look here?”

“Dar, what are you getting at?” Madi’s voice faded into the background. The words Costly Mentors had my full attention now.

I ran my fingers over the raised letter tiles. They appeared to be loose but just barely, not enough for me to pry any of them free. Then I moved on to the surrounding tiles, exploring each until I discovered a plain bone-colored tile that had a slight give to it. I pressed the tile slowly into the wall roughly an eighth of an inch until it clicked into place. Stepping back, I waited…and nothing happened.

“Curious,” I muttered. Leaning closer, I inspected the tile edges surrounding the gap left by the recessed bone tile. There were grooves in the exposed ends of the tiles. Testing a theory, I placed two fingers on the tile above the gap and pulled down. The tile slid one space down without effort.

“What is it?” McKissick asked.

“A sliding puzzle?” Madi guessed.

Nodding, I continued shifting tiles around until I had access to the lettered ones. “I have an idea.” Sliding tiles around the puzzle was the easy part, lining the letters up also proved no real difficulty. The problem was arranging the letters into a word or words when I wasn’t sure what I was looking to spell. I managed MERCY TON SLOTS, MY LOST CORNETS, TRY MOST CLONES, and a series of others with no success…until I stumbled upon SYSTEM CONTROL. One digital beep and the sound of a magnetic lock tumbling later and the door to the Beach Pneumatic Transit System control booth opened.

“Pay no attention to the booth behind the curtain,” I smiled.

To be continued…

Week 8 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive… and I’m not particularly happy with my progress at this point. It’s nearing the end of February and I’m at a mere twenty-three pages. Definitely time for me to step up my game, make some hard choices and push the plot forward.

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.

Although I have introduced one new character this week, I still have absolutely no idea what his importance in the greater scheme of things will be, or how many others will be added later on, what the story will ultimately be about (but it seems like it’s going to be time travel story which is bizarre because I’m not a fan of those) or how it will end. Initially that terrified and thrilled me simultaneously.

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 7

Beach_Pneumatic_plan

#Novel365 2018 Week Six

CHAPTER THREE

We gave Penny her back pay with a bonus for her patience and understanding from the cash retainer and deposited the rest into the business account before I went home for some much-needed rest. The events of the day were almost too much to process and my thoughts were in a jumble. I knew a nice long sleep would sort the facts out and I would be in a better state of mind to assess our latest case. But I found when I got home all the fatigue was gone. I hadn’t been unconscious that long when I passed out from the seizure so there was no possible way I could have gotten sufficient rest to feel this refreshed. Perhaps Madi was right. Perhaps the men calling themselves Duffy and Thompson had done something to me with their verisimilituder that made me accept the assignment without hesitation, that made weariness drain away and made me feel as if my true calling was to investigate the mystery of the subway shroud until I uncovered the truth.

I waited for as long as I could but tomorrow wasn’t coming fast enough so I found myself pounding on Madi’s apartment door just after midnight. She answered the door immediately, angrily, Louisville Slugger in hand hovering over her right shoulder ready to mete out justice on the delinquent who foolishly sought to take her unawares.

“Darius? Have you lost your mind?”

“Possibly.”

“Do you know what time it is?”

“Too late for a social call but not after your bedtime,” I said, making mention that she wasn’t dressed for bed, which meant she like I couldn’t sleep because she was most likely working the case.

“Banging on my door like that…I have neighbors!” Madi’s body language eased a bit and the hand with the bat dropped to her side.

“All right, I’ll admit that’s in bad form. May I come in?” I asked as I pushed my way past her.

“Wait a minute! What if this isn’t a good time? What if I’m entertaining a guest?”

“If there was someone in your life besides Penny and me, I know about it, trust me.” which was the wrong thing to say, said in the worst possible way and Madi spent the next ten minutes illustrating just how insensitive it was, as I prepared tea for the both of us.

After she had calmed down sufficiently to enter into a rational discussion, I sat across from her at the kitchen table and detailed the contents of the folder that had been flash-loaded into my mind. For the most part, it was the history of the New York City subway system.

“By 1869 street traffic had become such a nightmare especially along Broadway, the most crowded and congested thoroughfare in New York City, that an inventor and wealthy businessman, Alfred Ely Beach, had the radical idea of creating an underground system of circular, brick-lined tubes, inspired by the underground Metropolitan Railway in London, but instead of using conventional steam engines, he would place high-powered fans at the end of the vehicle which theoretically would create air pressure to push a streetcar back and forth along the line in the same manner that the pneumatic tubes of the time were used to transport mail. The plan received the go-ahead from William Magear “Boss” Tweed, the then Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall but only for the transport of mail, not people, and for two years Beach’s crew attempted to build the transportation system that promised to be gas, soot and steam-free in secret but the materials being delivered to Warren St near Broadway made the construction of the tunnel obvious to anyone who paid attention. And someone had been watching and taking note for the New York Tribune published an article a few weeks before the scheduled opening. Shortly after, the Beach Pneumatic Transit project was scrapped by Boss Tweed in favor of the construction of the elevated subway line in place today.

“The mayor at the time, George McClellan, who not only oversaw the openings of the New York Public Library, Chelsea Piers, and Grand Central Terminal but also licensed the very first taxicab and christened the city’s first subway service. It was a ceremony in which McClellan was only meant to start up the engine of the debut subway train but he was so fascinated by the whole experience that he wound up piloting the new train to 103rd Street before handing over the controls to George L. Morrison, the motor instructor of the company. That was the official story, the story that was printed in the papers and had become history.

“In actuality, when Boss Tweed introduced the bill for Beach’s subway, it didn’t pass, some blaming it on his Tammany Hall political machine which had fallen into disgrace. In an effort to gain reformer support, Beach stated that Tweed opposed his subway system, but if truth be told it was Alexander Turney Stewart and John Jacob Astor III, leading a collective of property owners along Broadway, who were afraid the underground tunneling would damage their storefronts and interfere with surface traffic. In an effort to dispel their fears, Beach operated his demonstration railway, which had one station in the basement of Devlin’s clothing store, a building at the southwest corner of Broadway and Warren St, and ran for a total of about 300 feet, first around a curve to the center of Broadway and then straight under the center of Broadway to the south side of Murray St.

“In 1871-72, the Beach Pneumatic Transit bills passed the legislature but were vetoed by Governor John T. Hoffman on the grounds that they gave away too much authority without compensation to the city or state. Governor John Adams Dix signed a similar bill into law in 1873 but Beach wasn’t able to raise construction funds and then the Great Depression later that year dried up the financial markets.

“While all this was happening, other investors had built an elevated railway in Greenwich St and Ninth Ave, which operated successfully with a small steam engine. Since this railway was well away from Broadway, the wealthy property owners had no objections to its construction.”

“I hate to interrupt you,” Madi said, setting her tea mug on a coaster. “But is this leading somewhere?”

“It is,” I nodded. “But I can’t control how a relay the information to you. I’m telling it the way it was implanted in my brain.”

“Still not happy about that.”

“Really? Try being the recipient,” I said a little sharper than was required. Madi’s expression softened, most likely at the realization that I was helpless in this matter and there wasn’t a thing she could have done to change that fact.

“Mea maxima culpa, which, by the way, should have been your response when I wigged out over your barging into my home in the middle of the night,” she sighed. “But that’s in the past now, so please, continue.”

“I will, but not here,” I said, thumbing toward her bedroom. “Go change into something you wouldn’t mind getting dirty and grab a flashlight. It’s best we get there before the sun comes up.”

“What? Wait…where are we going?”

“The Beach Pneumatic Transit station, of course.”

***

I never learned to drive, never saw the necessity in it. Manhattan-born and bred, I had lived in each of New York City’s five boroughs and could easily have hailed a cab, hopped a bus or train or walked to any destination. Despite the lousy reputation the MTA had for delays and passenger safety, I’d proudly hold it up against any other mass transit system in the world. The only times I wished I knew how to drive was when I needed a car to make a spur of the moment trip. It would have saved me considerable time trying to convince Madi to drive me to locations she considered inconvenient. The only acceptable places being the bank, the supermarket and the launderette which were all conveniently located between our office and her apartment. These exchanges usually involved my questioning her logic: “What’s the point of having a car if it doesn’t offer you the freedom and ability to travel anywhere you need to go, especially inconvenient places?”

She eventually relented as she always had when it involved an assignment, and we drove to lower Manhattan and parked on Broadway opposite the bus lane between Duane and Reade streets.“Pop the trunk and don’t forget your flashlight,” I said, opening the passenger side door and moving to the back of the car before she could ask me why. With a soft click the trunk of the teal Volvo S40 opened and from it, I retrieved a tire iron. What followed was the tricky bit.

I closed the trunk and walked toward Reade Street never once looking back to see if Madi had gotten out of the car or decided to follow me. Thankfully both foot and vehicle traffic down Reade Street was practically non-existent this night so there were no obstructions in the crosswalk. I was looking for a manhole cover and at this street crossing alone I found eight. I discounted the ones marked N.Y.C. SEWER, and WATER, which left two choices remaining. The larger of the two was bronzish in color and bore no writing. When I eyed the smaller, I knew I had found the right one. I slid one end of Madi’s tire iron into one the cast iron manhole cover’s pick holes and pried it up with considerable difficulty. I was surprised a lid so small would have been so heavy but I was able to lift the lid just enough so a portion of the cover rested over the lip of the hole. Then I readjusted the angle of the tire iron in the pick hole dragged the cover clear of the manhole.

I stood over the open manhole still not casting a glance over my shoulder to see if Madi was standing behind me. Even though I had convinced her to drive me here and even though it was for a case that could possibly bring a handsome bit of revenue into the business, had I told her we needed to root around the tunnels beneath the city in search of answers, she would have shot the idea down cold. I, therefore, needed to lure her into the mystery. Knowing her as I did, I knew she hated not knowing things other people, especially me, knew. She hated secrets and surprises to the point she demanded to know spoilers for the books she was reading or movies she planned on watching. She was a person who simply had to know and I was counting on her own brand of curiosity to compel her to join me. I didn’t want to do this alone. I didn’t want to do this without her. I am better and more at my game when she is around.

“You expect me to go down into the sewers?” her voice came from behind me and I stifled a smile. Did I know my Madi or didn’t I?

“Not at all. Those lead to sewer pipes, those to the water main and that, that one doesn’t say CON EDISON but I think it’s electrical,” I said pointing at each of the manhole covers.

“And the one you’re standing over?”

I pointed at the manhole cover bearing the initials NYPTS and I tapped each letter with the tire iron, saying, “New York Pneumatic Transit System.”

I pointed at the manhole cover bearing the initials NYPTS and I tapped each letter with the tire iron, saying, “New York Pneumatic Transit System.” After a moment I asked, “So, are you in?” and it truly wasn’t until that moment that I fully realized what I was asking.

This hole, the one I was inviting her to climb into was smaller than the others, a tighter fit. In my anxiousness to jump hip-deep into this mystery, I had forgotten that Madi suffered from claustrophobia. In my defense, though I wasn’t making excuses for my thoughtlessness, she never admitted to the affliction but from years of working side by side with this incredibly brave and tough as nails woman, I knew the phobia generally presented as a fear of restrictive movements but sometimes also reared its ugly head as a fear of unfamiliar small places. Her hesitation allowed me a moment’s self-recrimination. How selfish was I being? Was I truly afraid to take on the endeavor without her? I was about to suggest she go back to the car and act as lookout while I searched for answers when she cleared her throat.

“I’m here, aren’t I?” Madi shook the flashlight in her hand. “And you know where we’re going?”

“I can see it plain as day,” I nodded and tapped my temple, then I gestured to the manhole. “Ladies first.”

“Excuse me?” she couldn’t keep the panic out of her voice. “Why am I taking point? You’re the one with the map in his head.”

“I need to replace the cover behind us. We don’t want anyone knowing we’re down here or accidentally falling through the hole, do we?”

Madi shook her head and shot me a look so filthy that had it been put into words would have embarrassed that foul-mouthed celebrity chef with the Estuary English accent, as she descended into the manhole.

To be continued…

Week 7 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive… and I find myself trying to flesh out and define the relationship between Darius and Madi.

As a recap:

This story, an experiment to write a stream of consciousness book with no outlineor 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, has, as of this week, become a chore.

Although I have introduced a few characters, I still have absolutely no idea what their importance in the greater scheme of things are, or how many others there will be, what the story will ultimately be about or how it will end. Initially that terrified and thrilled me simultaneously, now, though it seems like a hinderence.

Still, 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 6

#Novel365 2018 Week Five

“Am I correct in assuming, as you’ve put your device away and haven’t raised an objection to Ms. Wasonofski viewing your file, that she’s covered under my NDA acceptance?” I asked.

Duffy replied, “Everyone in your employ is now bound to secrecy and will share responsibility…”

“In the event of a breach of trust.” Madi and I said almost in unison. Apparently, she caught the sinister undertones of the comment as well.

Upon closer inspection, the seal on the folder appeared to be the Chimera from Greek mythology, a monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature composed of a lion with the head of a goat arising from its back and a tail that ended in a snake’s head. Encircling the offspring of Typhon and Echidna and sibling of Cerberus and the Hydra, was the Latin phrase, AUT VIAM INVENIAM AUT FACIAM which translated as, I will either find a way or make one, a statement attributed to the great ancient military commander, Hannibal. While interesting, it offered no real clue as to who we were dealing with.

My thumb slid inside the folder and Madi placed her hand on it, stopping me before I could open the cover.

Are you sure you want to do this? she said to me in Jarberish. It was our secret form of communication, seemingly jargon and gibberish words supported by a number of phonemic components, including movement of the face and torso as well as the hands. Basically, an idioglossia similar to the phenomenon known as twinspeak. We weren’t twins but Madi had been a part of my life since second grade and I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment we had begun speaking in code but we thought it was brilliant creating words only the two of us knew and over time it grew from words to phrases to a comprehensive language.

What I want to do is go home and sleep for two weeks straight, I replied. But I get the sneaking suspicion this pair won’t let that happen.

Duffy commented on the language, calling it interesting, and asked its origin. Madi deflected the question, politely and expertly, each time Duffy and Thompson rephrased it until they finally got the message. Duffy suggested he and his associate could leave the room if we required a bit of privacy, but she let them know that wouldn’t be necessary. And then they simply sat there patiently as Madi and I finished our private conversation, the eyes of both men calm, placid and as cold as gunmetal.

I know you’re going to wind up opening that file no matter what I say, Madi said. But can we at least discuss this before you commit to what could be the biggest mistake of our career and maybe even our lives?

Of course, I nodded.

Let’s review the facts, shall we? Men In Black wannabes show up on our doorstep, an unlisted and unregistered office doorstep of a company that doesn’t advertise and whose clients are all referral based

Perhaps we were recommended? I interrupted.

Or maybe they work for an agency that’s been keeping tabs on us and the confidential work we do, which means they might have the upper hand of knowing more about us than we do them, Madi countered. Anyway, they pop up unannounced with a bag of money

Money?

That satchel is filled with hundred dollar bills, at least three hundred thousand of them, I’m guessing. They flashed it at Penny when she tried to give them the brush off. Don’t blame her, she knows we could use the money. It’s been a while since our previous case and it’ll be at least a sixty-day wait for Berkshire Hathaway to cut a check for the assignment we just completed. We’re running on fumes here, so the money got them in to see me and got me to drive to the airport to pick you up.

Cash payment, I sighed.

Yup.

From an agency or organization we know nothing about or who and what they represent.

Yup. And we don’t even know if they’re responsible for what’s going on in the subways. They could be looking for someone to pin in on as a diversion.

So, you think we should cut bait? I asked. Even though we could put that money to good use?

Absolutely, one hundred percent, without the shadow of a doubt.

But my curiosity is piqued.

Look what that did for the cat, and now it was Madi’s turn to sigh. You’re going to open the file, aren’t you?

I have to, I said, grinning apologetically at her. I want to see where this goes.

Madi removed her hand and I thumbed the folder open, surprised to find only a single white sheet of paper inside, totally blank. But it wasn’t blank, not exactly. My eyes swept across the page until I saw or thought I saw a white on white pattern reminiscent of the Magic Eye 3D hidden image stereogram posters that ignited a worldwide craze in the 90’s. The trick was to use parallel-viewing in order to see a picture secreted within a tiled pattern, so I unfocused my eyes and looked through the paper until the sheet became blurry and doubled which made the barely visible patterns overlap each other and each eye saw a slightly different image. It looked like a Quick Response Code, the type of matrix barcode first designed for the automotive industry in Japan. Only this QR code contained multilayered information, numeric equations, alphanumeric articles, byte/binary video segments that flooded my brain. Madi was saying something but her words, her voice, tapered off as if she was moving away from me or more accurately as if I was falling away from her.

***

The next thing I recalled was looking up into Madi’s sweet, concerned face. Ever since we began Qui Dubitat, I looked at her in a professional capacity. She was my friend, to be sure, my dearest and oldest, but in working together seven days a week over the past fifteen years, our relationship matured into a partnership as we struggled to keep afloat a business that seemed far more intriguing when we were younger and far more idealistic; it was only in moments such as this that I could appreciate just how beautiful she was. And I wished I could have lingered in that appreciation a bit longer and perhaps told her how much I’ve become accustomed to seeing her face every day and would happily have chosen it over every other face on the planet if I had only one face to see for the rest of my life. But that fleeting thought evaporated the moment Penny came into view beside Madi, holding a paper cup of water and behind them, the strangers that went by the pseudonyms, Duffy and Thompson.

I was lying on the brown Chesterfield leather sofa in reception and when I tried to get up Madi held me down, putting me through a series of questions, testing my state of mind, I supposed, and I was able to answer them, though I was very tired. When my agitation began to show, she let me sit up and I took the paper cup from Penny.

“Gentlemen, I must apologize,” I said, taking in sips of cold water. “I have no idea what happened. I must have been more tired than I thought.”

“No, we owe you an apology, Mr. Quaice,” Duffy said. “We should have warned you about the file.”

“Warned him? Why? Nothing was in it but a blank sheet of paper,” Madi said.

“It’s not blank,” I said, and my head began to throb at the thought of the QR code.

Off Madi’s expression, Thompson added, “The sheet is encoded with a subvisual, subliminal digital data stream that is only accessible to those exposed to the verisimilituder. As indicated on the file, the information within is classified Eyes Only and this method is currently the best way to ensure its secrecy.”

“In our experience, most people only suffer a minor headache, though a few have experienced mild vertigo,” Duffy was running interference, cutting off Madi before she had a chance to question what else their little device had done to me. “This is the first time we’ve ever seen anyone going into a seizure. Perhaps this was an unforeseen side effect of your jet lag. We can most certainly continue this another time when you’re feeling better.”

“That won’t be necessary,” I waved Duffy off. “We’ll take the case.”

We’ll do what? Madi said in Jarberish.

Trust me, I replied. To Duffy and Thompson, I said, “We’ll require a retainer to get the investigation underway.”

Thompson opened the satchel and began placing one hundred dollar bills in ten-thousand dollar currency straps on the coffee table. A total of thirty in all which meant Madi was correct in her guesstimation. Three hundred thousand dollars in cash sat in our tiny reception area.

“Penny, will you do me a favor, please, and write these gentlemen a receipt?” I asked.

It took a moment for Penny to tear her attention away from the coffee table. “Of course,” she said. “Gentlemen, if you’ll step this way.”

“A receipt won’t be necessary, Mr. Quaice,” Duffy said. “In the circles we travel in, your reputation is beyond reproach. How soon may we expect results?”

“You’ll have our initial assessment within the week, at which time we’ll be better able to offer you a fairly accurate timetable.”

And with a nod and not much else, Duffy and Thompson gathered their belongings and left, leaving Madi, Penny and myself staring at a pile of cash.

After a long period, Madi broke the silence, elbowing me in the side, “Have you lost your mind? What have you done, what did they do to you, and what was on that sheet of paper?”

To be continued…

Week 6 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive… and I’d like to say the story is beginning to take shape in my mind but that’d be a big fat lie. Where this is all headed is as big a mystery to me as it is to you.

This story, 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, has, as of this week, become a chore.

Although I have introduced a few characters, I still have absolutely no idea what their importance in the greater scheme of things are, or how many others there will be, what the story will ultimately be about or how it will end. Initially that terrified and thrilled me simultaneously, now, though it seems like a hinderence.

Still, 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