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

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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

 

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 5

key-hamunaptra-mummy-movie-prop_1_2f9e45d03ef67fa74c50b51a4efc9e57

#Novel365 2018 Week Four

“Perhaps a later meeting would be best for all concerned,” Madi was on her feet, gesturing toward her office door. “Let’s see if we can slot you gentlemen in sometime next—”

“True, we should have contacted your office before dropping by unannounced,” Duffy interrupted, neither he nor Thompson budging an inch from their seats. “Before we leave, Mr. Quaice, will you answer a question for us? You said you’ve gone over all the relevant materials regarding the incident. Does anything leap out at you, aside from the shroud itself, anything gnaw at your gut?”

“Well,” I started and Madi handed over her computer tablet without my even asking. Was I really that predictable? I swiped my way through her notes, skimming information. “The New York subway systems have six hundred sixty-five miles of track, four hundred seventy-two stations, twenty-seven subway lines, so yes, two questions spring to mind: Why has this shroud only been spotted on the J line between the Alabama and Kosciusko stations and why hasn’t there been at least one report of a serious injury or death caused by whatever this is? With over six million riders a day, it seems highly unlikely someone hasn’t come in direct contact with it.”

Thompson slipped his hand into the same satchel from which he retrieved my book, this time producing two items: a folder marked with an official insignia I had never seen before and the bold, block text EYES ONLY stamped diagonally across, which he placed at the edge of the desk nearest him, and a metallic object that looked like a bizarre, ornate music box that he positioned in the center of the desktop.

Curiosity, always my master, I picked up the box half expecting one or both men to admonish me for touching the item before snatching it from my grasp. This did not happen. Upon closer inspection, the object hadn’t appeared like a music box at all but the moment I touched it I heard three unmodulated tones. Casting a glance around the room, it appeared that no one else heard the sound or they simply hadn’t reacted to it. I returned my attention to the box and as I slid my fingers along the intricate designs engraved on its surface, the sounds returned, discordant notes that seemed like a memory but one that was certainly not my own.

It was coming from the box, of that there was no doubt but it was playing in my head. Musical telepathy with an inanimate object? And was it truly music? The melody, if it could have been called that, was unfamiliar to me, somehow otherworldly, odd notes strung together that should have been disturbing but was instead unsettlingly beautiful. Strange that I thought of it as a box for I could find no seam on any of its sides in which to lift a lid. Was it a secret box, then? Something that could only be opened by solving a built-in series of discoveries?

They were all the rage during the Renaissance, complex brain teasers designed to entertain curious minds, with simpler versions containing only one trick sold as tourist souvenirs. The fascination with puzzle boxes naturally faded during the two world wars but returned to public notice during the 1980s and while I had seen many an interesting box, I never beheld anything as fascinating as this. The craftsmanship was astonishing. I turned it over and over in my hands just admiring the beauty of it but soon my touch became firmer as I searched the surfaces for pressure points.

At first, I was only using my index fingers but when I applied pressure with my right thumb, there came a soft click that I felt more than heard. A portion of the box slid out allowing one end of the octagonal object to be twisted like a Rubik’s cube. Then the room disappeared as I lost myself within solving the mystery of this box and its contents by locating hidden levers that cycled cylinders and for every puzzle I unlocked, a new, far more complex enigma took its place.

When a panel popped open revealing a compartment, I knew that I was victorious. Inside was a tiny device and when I went to retrieve it, Thompson promptly took it from my hands. I worked the box for what seemed like hours but when I glanced at the clock only a few minutes had passed.

“Impressive, Mr. Quaice,” Duffy said and grinned at me. “Most people never find the first locking piece, let alone successfully open the device.”

“Device?”

“Yes,” Thompson nodded, placing the box flat on the table. “It’s a verisimilituder, don’t ask, I didn’t come up with the name, but if you’re interested, I’ll show you how it works.”

Out the corner of my eye, Madi offered a slight shrug and I answered, “Sure.”

From the secret compartment, Thompson retrieved a small circular lens with a wire ring around the circumference that was attached to a four section rod that resembled a miniature blind folding cane when straightened to its full height.

“If you could place your right index finger here,” Thompson pointed to the small touch panel under the secret compartment’s lid. “And look directly into the lens, please.”

Following instructions, I pressed the panel and peered through the clear glass lens.

“We require your personal assurance that any information shared will be kept in strictest confidence,” Thompson said, pressing his fingertips on the EYES ONLY folder.

“And you have it,” I replied. “I will sign the nondisclosure agreement I’m sure accompanies whatever is revealed here.”

“There won’t documentation in any written form of this meeting or the information discussed within, nor any excerpts with facts and identities altered to be included in future articles, papers or novels. Do we have an understanding?” Duffy asked.

“On my word,” I said and a sudden bright light flashed in my eye that was nearest the lens. It temporarily stunned me so that I had not noticed Thompson slide the classified folder my way. “What was that?”

“Not to worry, it’s perfectly harmless, simply our version of an NDA,” Thompson said, fingers deftly returning the verisimilituder to its original state before returning it to his satchel. “The device registered whether you were being truthful when you agreed to our terms and recorded it for our files in the event of a breach of trust.”

In the event of a breach of trust, had the ring of a warning, a veiled threat, but I set it aside for later and invited Madi to move her chair closer so we could examine the information within the folder together. She had the remarkable ability of spotting the tiny important details I sometimes missed.

To be continued…

Well, it’s Week 5 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive… and the bloom is definitely off the rose.

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

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 4

de-bunker-button

#Novel365 2018 Week Three

CHAPTER TWO

I was blissfully unaware of the subway shroud and the internet fascination surrounding it as I was out of the country, in an unspecified part of the world working a corporate case that I was contractually obliged never to discuss. Truth be known, even if I wasn’t preoccupied with work, the chances were high that I would still have been in the dark as I have never been a frequenter of YouTube or any of the ever-expanding social media sites. It was only when my business associate, Madi Wasnofski, picked me up at the airport that I was brought up to speed during the car ride to our Manhattan office. Madi carefully documented the entire event in chronological order and organized them in numbered folders on her tablet that she handed me.

When she first began describing it to me I was prepared to write the matter off as a nonsensical hoax but as I started reading and rereading the materials and watching the original videos and the more insightful breakdown videos, I became intrigued. This was a proper mystery that baffled me. Not ever a man given to braggadocio, I always prided myself on having the gift to spot fakery and offer rational explanations of how the trick was accomplished and no reasonable explanation came to mind.

“Why are you showing me this?” which was a question I should have asked straight away before finding myself knee-deep in an internet enigma. Blame it on the jetlag, I suppose.

“You need to be briefed,” she said matter of factly.

“Short version,” I grunted. Clearly, I was too tired for Madi’s usual tendency for cat and mouse.

“There are people waiting to meet with you at the office,” she said. “Official people. The kind of people, knowing you as I do, that you would rather not be unprepared when you meet with them. Why else did you think I came to pick you up personally instead of arranging an Uber?”

We rode the rest of the way in silence. I realized that I had somehow offended Madi. This was something I did quite often with her without recognizing my supposed infractions. It would blow over quickly as she was not the sort to hold grudges, real or perceived, and the quiet allowed me the opportunity to commit the salient bits of the mystery to memory.

We were greeted by the beaming smile of our administrative professional (a title drilled into my brain by Madi to replace the word secretary) Penny, who always reminded me of the Little Orphan Annie, not so much for her auburn locks or diminutive size but for the lyrics of Annie’s 1931 radio show, “bright eyes, cheeks a rosy glow.” Penny was easily the most consistent, outwardly happy person I knew.

Madi looked around the tiny reception area and frowned, “Where are they, Penny?”

“They looked like they were getting antsy so I put them in your office, Ms. Wasonofski,” Penny used her ballpoint pen as a pointer. “I would have put them in Mr. Quaice’s, but…”

“Perfectly understandable. Thank you, Penny. Hold all calls, please.” Madi shot me a look I didn’t much care for though I was well aware of the unkempt state of my office.

Madi’s office was practically identical to mine in size but where mine seemed downright claustrophobic, hers accommodated the two men, who stood upon our arrival, Madi and myself, quite comfortably.

“Gentlemen, this is Darius Quaice,” Madi said and maneuvered another chair behind her desk as I shook hands with our potential clients. Both men, without fail, exerted a grip stronger than was necessary for a consultation visit and attempted to turn their hands over mine in the power position. By the handshake, the ill-fitting discount men’s store suits with yellow and teal dress shirts, ties that matched too much and their immaculately polished dress shoes, I knew these men were government, military, most likely, associated with the Department of Defense. They introduced themselves as Mr. Duffy and Mr. Thompson and hadn’t even bothered to show any form of identification, which undoubtedly would have been falsified if they had.

“We’re fans of your work,” Duffy said and as if on cue Thompson produced a copy of my book, The Quiet Lies Miracles Tell. “Big fans.” The book itself was nearly pristine which meant it was recently purchased for presentation only and perhaps to stroke my ego. I was certain their unnamed agency owned a dog-eared copy that some low-level employee was made to read through and bullet point all the passages of interest.

“Very kind of you, gentlemen. Now, how may I help you?”

“Are you familiar with the subway shroud?” Duffy asked.

“Initially, no, but Ms.Wasonofski has done an excellent job in catching me up.” I caught the slightest curl of the corners of Madi’s mouth for the recognition.

“And your thoughts?”

“Genuine or hoax? Genuine. Organism or device? Device. I have no evidence to support my opinion because whatever it is defies my limited knowledge of the current technologies available to us. But even beyond understanding its purpose, the more important questions are who built it, where was it built and how did they manage to build it?”

“You suspect a foreign government?”

“If I suspected a government it would include domestic as well as foreign, but as you’re sitting here with me, the former rather than the latter seems more plausible. And if it was built by a government, it most certainly is a weapon of war. The problem with that assumption is how has it been kept secret? Leaks are all the rage these days, particularly when it comes to possible war machines, and there hasn’t been any breaking news of a technology that could be linked as a stepping stone to this. So my gut instinct leans toward either the private sector or a lone inventor.”

Both men remained stone-faced and made no attempt to confirm or deny my theory. Duffy broke the momentary silence by asking, “How versed are you in the area of time travel, Mr. Quaice?”

“I have a layman’s familiarity with certain theories, possibilities and paradoxes…”

“Such as?” Thompson interrupted.

“Einstein believed time was a fabric that could be bent and torn with the right energy and some experts speculate that dark matter or negative matter could be the key. Then there are black holes but one would have to be the size of a subatomic particle if they had any hope of surviving the journey, and so forth.” I hoped they wouldn’t ask me to continue because that was the extent of my knowledge.

“As a debunker, we were wondering if you’ve ever had to deal with time travel and/or teleportation in any of your other cases?” Thompson asked.

“Debunker?” I could tell from Madi’s expression that my tone reflected my annoyance.

Duffy put a hand on the crook of Thompson’s arm to stop him before he spoke further. He himself chimed in, “Forgive my colleague for his poor choice of words, Mr. Quaice. He meant as an investigator of the…” Duffy searched for the proper word. “…fantastic.”

“Gentlemen, I am not at liberty to discuss previous confidential cases with my clients the same way I will not discuss our meeting today with anyone outside this room. So, if you don’t mind, I’ve had a long trip and I’d like to get some rest so please get to your business or make an appointment with Penny for a more convenient time on your way out.”

To be continued…

Welcome to Week 4 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive. 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 finally 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, and that terrifies and thrills me at the same time. And you get to watch me either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air or fall flat on my writerly face.

So, 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

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Sunday Hashtag Story Tweets

The missiles were on their way. Cleo and the rest of North America’s world would soon begin falling apart, and despite the impossibility, all she wanted in the moments before impact was for her late mother to hold her and tell her everything would be all right.

#saidsun

“Everything seemed to happen all at once but in the midst of the car crash, reality was frozen in position for a moment; the still life of a dramatic, devastating second. And I somehow knew this was the final moment that I would ever see my family alive.”

#sunscribbles

No one could understand why Laurence was fixated on Patricia because they could not view her through his eyes. To him, her raven hair was the night sky, her alabaster face was the moon, and he was the lone astronaut forever caught within her orbit.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Saturday Hashtag Story Tweets

Morgan’s drinking drove Jessica away. He did the only thing he could think of to bring her back. He drank. It was an illogical plan but it worked. His ex-wife did return to visit his deathbed with a bottle.

“One for the road?” she smiled with tears in her eyes.

“Do you love me? Tell me true.”

“More than all the stars in the sea.”

“Not at all, then?”

“What?”

“Stars do not exist in the sea, sir. Any fool knows that.”

“Oh, my sweet darling, allow me to illustrate how very incorrect you are.”

The hardest part of introducing people from your past is encapsulating their importance at a particular point in your life, so the anecdote I boiled Declan down to was, “He’s a friend from elementary school who made me un-die after a fatal car accident.”

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Thursday Hashtag Story Tweet

#writethurs:

I am not a man who knows many fears, but the softness of Lady Rosamund’s lips troubles me because her kiss is so very deep that each time our mouths touch I lose more of my balance and feel as though I may slip from my mortal shell and plunge into her bottomless love.

#thurds:

Hortense warned that her family was old fashioned but I didn’t realize how outdated they were until I got a toothache. For relief, her father wanted to hammer a nail into my tooth and when it bled, I was to remove nail and drive it into a tree to transfer the pain.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Wednesday Hashtag Story Tweets

#WineWords:

It was all coming to an end. With the asteroid only hours away, Gigi and Daryl let their legs dangle over the sides of the hammock as they watched the burnt orange of the last ever sunset that highlighted the beauty of their tanned, naked bodies.

#1linewed:

“Welcome to the Food Network! Pitch us your show!”

“It’s called The Quantum Chef.”

“And what’s it about?”

“Preparing delicious scientific dishes that allow you to om-nom-nom your way into cyberspace, the astral plane or even alternate realities!”

“All gluten-free?”

#TalesNoir:

The psychic rapport successfully bridged the gap between both men but as the telepath spotted a patch of sanity, he was attacked by his client’s psychosis. There would be no time to explore the malicious mindscape. This was going to have to be a snatch and run.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Tuesday Hashtag Story Tweet

#TuesLine:

Aggie’s anger was a genetic thing, passed down from parents she never knew. It was a curse feared by the townsfolk for when her temper exploded it created a crater that scorched dirt, trees, and small animals for a hundred meters in every direction.

#bookishtues

Maylene disobeyed her parents’ wishes and visited the “so-called” haunted house of Jaan DeCoumar, the soul cartographer, because she needed the assurance that her one true soul mate existed in a fixed position relative to hers just as the stars in the sky.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 3

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#Novel365 2018 Week Two

On December 30th, 2017, all of this changed. A Queens-bound J local train derailed between the Myrtle Avenue and Kosciuszko Street stations, at least it was listed as such. The train was traveling at five miles per hour and the track running between the stations was elevated above ground so a true derailment would have resulted in a jack-knifing of the train, sending cars toppling into buildings and the street below. Since the train had just departed Myrtle Avenue it hadn’t reached its average speed of thirty miles per hour, which probably saved the lives of the train crew, the one hundred and fifty-four passengers and pedestrians below. The truth was an event occurred within the fourth car from the front that caused it to cant several degrees, lifting one side of its wheels slightly off the track.

The incident happened roughly eleven thirty in the evening, in a car that suffered mechanical issues with the doors not responding to controls. Passengers were asked to move to one of the adjoining cars as the train crew locked down the faulty car, which was preferable to taking the entire train out of service. While the latter would have resulted in fewer injuries in hindsight, the action taken meant luckily there were no fatalities within the car in question.

According to eyewitness reports, as the train was leaving the station there was a slight rocking that might not have raised any alarm had it not been for a passenger, illegally standing outside the train between the fourth and fifth cars. He claimed he was not riding between cars to urinate, despite statements from other passengers that when the man rushed back into the fifth car, his fly was undone and his right pant leg was wet. The man yanked the emergency brake cord, yelling, “It’s a bomb! We’re gonna die!” At first, the other passengers were angered by the seeming lunatic but one of them looked through the windowed door into the fourth car and confirmed, “We gotta get out of here!” This statement caused a panic as passengers pushed and shoved one another to get through the door at the other end of the car. Fear spread like wildfire throughout the train as the fifth car passengers forced their way through car after car inciting their fellow passengers with speculations of another New York City terrorist attack. Eventually, the eighth and final car was jam-packed with passengers eager to escape, who took turns trying to smash out the windows and pry open the sliding doors. The Metropolitan Transit Authority crew tried to reassure them everything was under control but it was far too late by then.

The MTA acted quickly in cutting the power of both the downtown and uptown tracks and passengers were evacuated from the train station, some having to be rescued off the tracks when they had fallen between cars during the passenger stampede. Of the one hundred and fifty-four passengers all but seventeen were sent to the hospital with injuries sustained from the panic resulting after the activation of the emergency brakes.

Despite being told of the unlikelihood of the incident being a terrorist attack when the police and fire departments arrived it was investigated as such. From the outside, the only sign of distress to the fourth subway car was the bloating on one side that pushed against the station platform which caused it to cant. The initial thought was an improperly detonated explosive device. The inside of the car told a different story. On the side facing the platform, striations ran along its entire length, floor to ceiling. One investigator reported, “It was like looking at stretch marks on a pregnant belly from the inside out.” Another investigator thought the striations looked like watermarks, as if tides over the course of years had pushed against the car wall at decreasing levels. What the investigators did not find were signs of an explosive device, evidence of human tampering or vandalism, or even traces of unusual and/or toxic chemicals or gas.

The train was taken out of service and at the train yard, engineers were at a loss to explain the condition of the fourth car but one of the engineers knew a colleague who was a theoretical physicist who was more than happy to take a look and venture a supposition. And though the visiting expert was fascinated by his own findings, the MTA was less so. Somehow, a passage from his report was leaked online in which he wrote, “The investigator who said these striations looked like watermarks was closer than he realized, only these aren’t watermarks, they’re timemarks. I’m willing to wager that the metal between these linear marks are of a different age than the metal within the marks themselves.”

It did not take long for public opinion to link this new piece of evidence to the subway shroud, but now the theories shifted from it being a monster or alien to a time machine. The shroud now claimed responsibility for train delays, subway accidents, and even missing persons who were last spotted riding the rails.

And just as before, a new series of speculation threads, fan fiction stories and memes cropped up seemingly overnight. One clever NYU film student who beat everyone to the punch created a Doctor Who-inspired web series about a time-traveling subway rider with a quantum Metrocard, who encountered the likes of Agatha Christie, Leo Tolstoy, and Leji Matsumoto while solving train-based mysteries. Shortly after, The Hollywood Reporter ran an article about the filmmaker currently being in talks with Steven Spielberg to take the show to network.

To be continued…

“Is he still at it?” you ask and my reply is, “Damn skippy!” Welcome to Week 3 of my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive. 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 still have absolutely no idea who any of the characters are, or how many there will be, what the story will ultimately be about or how it will end, and that terrifies and thrills me at the same time. And you get to watch me either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air or fall flat on my writerly face.

So, 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