Sunday, January 15, 2012

Salvation Day - Chapter 7

As promised, a sample chapter from my novel, Salvation Day.  Here, the main character completes the first phase of his work with a new form of energy that he'll eventually use to challenge God.  However, danger confronts him at home, as well as an opportunity for reprieve...

            Mike walked to the panel and checked the readouts.  They were accurate.  Everything was ready.
            “Dr. Faulkner?”
            He jumped.  That happened a lot recently.  It didn’t take much to set him off.
            “Yes?” he finally said.
            Mr. Preston looked at him funny but didn’t press it.  “This is Mr. Jacobson, the Chairman of the Board.”
            Mike’s eyes darted over to the man with the shortly cropped hair.  Jacobson’s suit was obviously custom, and he wore a gaudy pinky ring.
            “Pleased to meet you sir.”
            “Likewise,” said Jacobson.  He took Mike’s hand and shook it bridkly.  Mike thought that Jacobson had to be nearing 65, judging by the silver hair and wrinkled jowls.  He looked Mike up and down like they’d met in a bar.  “Mr. Preston has given us the details on your work, and we’re excited to see it in action.”
            “Thank you.  You won’t be disappointed.”  He was aware that he was speaking quickly and made a mental note to fix that.
            “I trust not,” said Jacobson, the faintest hint of a warning in his voice.
            Yes, thought Mike, a powerful man.  And he knows it.
            There were 20 people in the lab, with half of them wearing suits that screamed power.  Mr. Preston was present, as was one or two other Hadlon executives he didn’t recognize.  The remaining eight were members of the board, none of whom Mike knew.
            The rest were the technicians that helped him finalize the machine.  Absently, he looked around for Gary, then laughed at his stupidity.
            After his episode – that’s what he would call it:  his episode – he called Gary to try and persuade him to come back.  But the call hadn’t gone well and they shared harsh words.  Mike knew he would try again, but didn’t know when.
            Briefly his mind drifted to Karen.  It was unfair that Gary had Donna while he had no one.  Mike found it hard to give Gary much sympathy for being out of a job.  If Karen were still around, he felt he could have mustered more humanity.
            The Board was seated.  Mike said, “Gentlemen, this is the moment you have been waiting for.  Harmonic Resonance Energy is a complex energy form that is manipulated across all spectrums with interwoven harmonic waves.  These waves produce a cascading effect that allows the energy to be manipulated even further and either focused or dispersed.  It can be shaped into whatever’s required, or controlled and moved in a stable form for further manipulation.  Now for a demonstration.”
            He stepped up to the machine.  Gary had been wrong in one regard.  It wasn’t the size of a Buick – more like a small Volkswagen.  The titanium casing gleamed, as did the tiny gold projectors.  Black bars sat on top like rails.
            The controls were simple – a wave to accelerant meter, energy output dial, four sliding dials to control the field, and a keypad.  His hands glided over the controls.
            Pushing his eye protection down, he said, “Please put on your goggles.  Things are going to get bright.”  Then he began.
            There was a low buzz as the first set of particles began to spin around the machine.  All the dials showed that the reaction was steady.  Soon, the buzzing became the only thing Mike could hear and he could feel his teeth vibrating.  As the initial energy output reached critical, he slid the keys on the controls slightly higher.
            The projector on the right went first, followed a half a second later by the projector next to it.  Both produced a thin stream of silver/gold light that converged ten feet in front of the machine.  The final two projectors were quick to follow and the field of energy to his front took form.
            It spread out from the convergence like an oil slick, whitish gold in color.  It seemed to sway as if it were a curtain caught in a mild breeze.  Mike adjusted the dials and focused the energy into a smaller, more concentrated form.  Behind him, he heard something faint.
            When he turned around, he saw the board on its feet, applauding.  Jacobson reached over and shook Mr. Preston’s hand, pulling out a pair of fat cigars.  For his part, Mr. Preston smiled broadly.
            Walking over to Mike, Mr. Preston shouted into his ear, “Can you move it around a bit?  Show what we can do?”
            “I can,” he shouted back.  “It could be dangerous.  This is the most intense field we’ve produced.  Let me see.”
            He turned back to the controls and started to slowly slide the dials while adjusting the pattern wavelengths.  The curtain of energy grew hazy and a little transparent.  Behind it, he could make out the features of the testing lab.  Most of the equipment had been moved, but some still stood against the walls.
            The curtain moved towards the wall.  Mike began to get excited as he manipulated the energy.  A little too excited.
            By moving the dials more quickly than needed, the energy field brushed the back wall, which suddenly shattered like glass.  Chunks of concrete flew in every direction.  However, none reached Mike or his seated guests.  Anything that came his way was quickly absorbed by the energy curtain.  Mike frantically reached up and shut down the field.
            Sheepishly, he looked back at the board.  Jacobson looked stunned, the cigar dangling from his mouth.  Cars and voices could be heard in the front beyond the shattered wall.  The Chairman took the cigar from his mouth deliberately and pushed up his goggles.
            There was a pause while Jacobson looked dumbfounded.  Suddenly, the board began to applaud again, some of them hooting.  Mr. Jacobson put the cigar back in his mouth and started clapping vigorously. 
            Jacobson walked over and shook Mike’s hand very hard.  Mike was stunned; this wasn’t the reaction he was expecting.
            “I guess we’ll need to get someone to fix the wall,” said Jacobson.
            “Yes sir,” said Mr. Preston, laughing.
            Mike walked over to the hole.  Cars had stopped in the street and the sidewalk was bare.  In the distance, Mike could hear sirens.  Doubtless the police were responding to what happened.
            “Don’t worry about it,” said Mr. Preston’s rich voice from behind him.  “We’ll take care of the police.  You should be proud – you’ve discovered an extremely powerful energy that can be manipulated and controlled.  Its uses are endless, and the board recognizes that.  I think that a big raise is in order.”
            He patted Mike on the shoulder.  “Now let’s go.  We’re all going to go up to my office and have some champagne.  A great day.”
            Mike heard him, but it took a moment for him to follow.  He was still thunderstruck by the damage a slight touch had done.  Gary was right – this could be perverted into something dreadful if they weren’t careful.  As he lumbered off in the direction of Mr. Preston’s office, he wondered if he hadn’t already opened Pandora’s Box.
            Back in his house that night, he sat on the couch and nursed a bottle of beer.  The board’s praise had been universal, and they’d begun querying him on ways to miniaturize the device.  He’d barely heard a word.  The image of the back wall blowing apart stuck in his mind.
            The TV blared the day’s events, but he was still lost in thought about the demonstration.  So much so that it took him several seconds to register the dogs barking next door.
            Finally, his ears perked up.  The barking wasn’t their usual “I see a squirrel and must chase it” tone.  It was menacing, growling.
            He got up and walked to his kitchen window to see if he could get a better look.  The dogs continued to bark, but it was less growling now than yelping.  Still, they persisted.
            As he stared into the darkness, the barking was interrupted by a loud crash.  Looking over to his back door, Mike saw two young men standing next to his smashed in door.
            They raced over, grabbed him, and wrestled him to the ground.  He tried to fight back, but there was one behind him with two massive paws around his neck, while the other one had hold of his arms.
            The man behind him was easily 220 pounds.  There was no way Mike was going to break free and the man knew it.  He bent over, forcing Mike to his stomach and pinning him to the ground.  Mike heard something plastic behind him and quickly realized his hands were zip-tied behind his back.
            They rolled him over and the smaller of the two men now pulled out another zip tie and put it around Mike’s legs.  Both men were too strong for his thrashing to do any good.  Picking him up, they sat him in a kitchen chair.
            “You need to stop fucking squirming, man, or we’re gonna hafta cut ya.”
            Mike looked at them.  The smaller man was dark skinned and spoke with a Hispanic accent.  Wearing an LA Lakers shirt and ripped jeans, he couldn’t have been more than 18.
            His friend also wore jeans and had a blond mullet.  The scrawled script on his t-shirt read Ozzy Osbourne.  Picking up the hat he lost in the scuffle, he put it back on, brim at the back.
            “We don’t wanna hurt you.  We’re just here for a little payday and then we’re gone,” said the first guy.  “Play it cool and you’ll live.”
            “If you don’t,” said the second man, pulling out a knife.  “Then, ggccck!”  He made a slashing movement across his throat.
            “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!” Mike shouted.
            The smaller man smiled.  “Sure thing, man.  Just gotta pick up a few things first.  Gotta do some shopping.”
            "Yeah,” snickered the heavier guy.  “Shopping.”
            “THIS IS MY HOUSE!”
            The heavier man stepped up to Mike and punched him across the jaw.  The nearby table stopped his fall, so he scooted back into the center of the chair.
            “You’re pretty fucking stupid, ain’t ya?  You keep quiet and let us work, k?  Don’t want no trouble, just some shit we can take home to mama.”  He turned to his companion.  “I’ll start checkin’ da house.  Keep an eye on him.”
            “You bet.”  He cracked his knuckles next to Mike’s ear.
            For his part, Mike didn’t know whether to be scared or angry.  The man keeping an eye in him did so with a blank look on his face.  He didn’t know whether that made him dangerous or stupid, although he suspected it made him both.
            The other one stopped at the picture of Karen and Samantha that Mike kept on the hallway desk.  He picked it up and smirked.  “Cute girl.  She around here?”
            When Mike said nothing, the heavier man slapped him.  “My friend asked you a question.  Answer him.”
            “No, she’s not here,” he ground out.
            “Too bad,” said the first.  “She was here, I could show here how a real man does it.”  He put the picture down and headed for the bedroom.
            The second guy knelt down on Mike’s left, placing his knife against Mike’s cheek.  “You probably don’t like us much.  That’s okay – we don’t like fuckers like you much either, sittin’ over here in your fancy house.  It’s cool – you earn it, we take it.”  Mike yelped as the blade slightly penetrated his cheek.  The heavier man then ran it quickly down the side of Mike’s face.
            The cut wasn’t deep, but Mike could feel blood.  He tried to turn his head as he braced against the pain, but his attacker grabbed his jaw and swiveled it back to face him.
            “I like the way you bleed,” he said softly, waving the knife.
            A few minutes later, the first guy reappeared in the hallway, a gun in his hand.  “I ain’t found shit,” he said, obviously disgusted.  “Couple of rings and necklaces.  One diamond earring.  But not much we can carry out that’s worth a damn.”  He turned to Mike.  “What else you got?”
            When Mike didn’t answer, the man smashed the gun across Mike face and he fell over.  “Tell me you sonuvabitch!  I know you got better shit than this.  Cash?  Checkbook?  Better fucking tell us or we’ll take it outta your ass!”
            He squirmed on the floor.  “I don’t have anything else.  I don’t keep much in my house.”
            The heavier man picked him up and slammed him back down into the kitchen chair.  Waving the gun again, the smaller man said, “You better figure out something, ‘cause I got no problem making that pretty little girl go to your funeral.”
            Mike’s insides exploded, although the intruders couldn’t know anything about Samantha or Karen.  “YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!” he screamed.
            The smaller man kicked him in the chest, sending the chair sprawling again.  As they picked him back up, one of them punched him in the stomach, taking his breath.  Shortly after, Mike found the gun in his mouth.
“I wouldn’t mind shootin’ you, but that makes too much noise, so I’ll leave my buddy to cut you up.”  Turning to his friend, he said, “Take that ring off his finger.  Saw the whole damn thing off if you gotta.” 
            “Gladly,” growled his friend.  He knelt again and grabbed the zip-tied portion of Mike’s hands.  Pulling them up, the heavier man ignored Mike’s cry of pain.
            Then there was another loud crash, this one at the front door.  In his pain, Mike hadn’t heard the dogs barking from next door again.  Now he did, but he also caught sight of a nightmarish vision.
            Framed against the door stood a man that had to be six foot ten and weigh 300 pounds.  He wore a wide brimmed black hat and black trench coat.  Long strings of black hair hung out from the side of the hat.  On his face, he wore a goatee and an evil sneer.
            “Who da fuck are you?” shouted the smaller man.
            The figure in the doorway said nothing and stepped inside, taking his hands out of the pockets of his coat.
            The smaller man pointed his gun at the figure.  “Get the fuck outta here man or I’ll put a hurtin’ on you!”  When the figure did nothing, Mike’s first assailant pulled the trigger.
            BANG!  BANG!  BANG!
            Mike watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as the figure didn’t fall, didn’t flinch, didn’t even acknowledge getting shot.  Instead, staring straight at the two intruders, he brought his right hand up to his body, palm facing in.  Slowly, five bullets came out of his chest as if pulled by magnets.  They came to rest in the man’s(?) hand, his palm now facing up. 
            With deliberate motion, he closed his fist.  Mike could hear the crunching sound of metal being pulverized.  The man’s hand opened again and a fine powder fell from between his fingertips.
“Did these belong to you?” asked the figure.  His voice was deep and gravelly, reverberating around the room.
            He stepped towards the intruders.  The heavier man grabbed his partner and threw him forward while making a run for the back door.  The figure took the smaller man by the throat and brought up his left hand.  As if by some invisible force, the back door closed.  The heavier man pulled on it frantically.
            The figure picked up the smaller intruder and held him by the throat.  His eyes flashed and the dark brown color retreated inwards, leaving only bright white behind.
            “This is what happens to the unjust,” said the man.  The intruder gurgled but could not wheeze.  Mike felt himself get sick as he heard the smaller man’s windpipe crushed.  There was soon blood trickling from the mouth and eyes.  No life showed through, and the intruder lay as still as a piece of driftwood.
            Slowly, the dark figure made his way to the heavier intruder.  The man tried to retreat, but there was nowhere for him to go.  He held his knife out in front of himself like a shield.
            “Go to hell!” he screamed.
            “Oh I will, “answered the man’s gravelly voice.  “But first I’ll be sure to make certain you’re there waiting for me.”
            The heavier intruder stabbed forward in a vain attempt to stop this new nightmare.  The dark figure stopped the knife with his left hand and brought his right down into the man’s ribcage.  Mike was sure he heard two sounds – the crumpling of metal as the knife couldn’t penetrate the figure’s gloved hand, and the sound of bone cracking as fist made contact with flesh.
            The intruder fell to the side, just managing to bring his hands up in time to stop his head from bouncing off the kitchen counter.  The dark figure showed no signs of stopping, though, as he moved and grabbed the man by the hair.
            A large blade formed along the arm of his trench coat, which the dark figure then slashed across the intruder’s chest.  The figure then reared back and stuck the blade directly into the intruder’s gut.  The intruder’s eyes bulged as the blade pulled up through the breastbone on the way to his neck.
            The intruder fell to the floor.  Blood pooled out from the man’s body as the dark figure turned around, eyes flashing back to normal again.  Mike tried to squirm and figure out some kind of escape, but he was still bound.
            “Relax,” said the dark figure, kneeling beside the chair.  He pulled off a glove.  The nail on his forefinger began to grow into a blade of its own.  With a sizzling sound, he sliced through the zip strips and stood back up.
            Mike scrambled out of the chair and backed up, trying to figure out the best escape route.  However, the dark figure brought up his right hand and Mike felt like he was held in place by glue.
            “I know you’re scared,” said the man.
            Scared?  Mike couldn’t even form coherent thoughts.
            “I just saved your life.  Had I wanted you dead, you would no longer be here to worry about it.”  He made a slashing motion with his left hand and the front door shut.  “I’m Ba’al, and we need to talk.”
            “Whatever you say,” blurted Mike.  “I’ll give you anything.”
            “Yes you will,” replied Ba’al.  “But not for my sake.  You’ll do it for yours, and that of the entire world.”
            He wanted to run, to get as far away from here as he could.  For the moment, though, the invisible glue held him here.
            “You’re a talented man, Dr. Faulkner.”
            He knows my name?
            “A talented man who has been treated poorly by others.  Your skills have been wasted in service to those ungrateful people, people who are too shallow and shortsighted to fully appreciate your genius.  It’s time for you to take control of your destiny.  We can show you how.”
            Mike still wanted to run.  “Who is ‘we?’”
            A grin.  “You can’t be told.  You must be shown.  Telling you would not have the impact we need for you to be fully motivated.”
            Ba’al moved into the living room, looking for more space.  Finally, he stopped in the middle of the room and traced a small square with his finger.  He then brought his hands together and parted them with a kiss.
            The floor broke open, and Mike could see an outline of orange underneath.  The portion Ba’al traced with his finger gave way, and Mike could see a basket of some kind emerge, resembling a dumbwaiter.  Thin wisps of smoke rose through the floor.
            Mike felt the constraints lift.  He was free to move.  He edged towards the front door.
            “Don’t go out there, Dr. Faulkner,” said Ba’al.  “I will not force you to come with me, but you must know what awaits you out there.”
            “Loneliness.  Despair.  And likely a padded cell after the police see what you’ve done to these men.”
            Mike looked bewildered.  “What are you talking about?  You did this.”
            Ba’al laughed.  “Do you think the police are going to believe anything you say about my appearance, especially after coming out here once and answering your previous delusion?”
            “How do you know about that?”
            “That’s not important at this moment.”  In answer to Mike’s look, he said, “All will be explained to you in time.  For now, you need to realize that this is your only way.  The other way will lead to gentlemen in white coats putting you away for a long, long time.  It’s your choice.”
            Mike’s breath came in sharp bursts.  He knew that Ba’al was probably right about being committed after what happened.  He looked at the fumes and couldn’t make out anything under the dumbwaiter, but he cautiously got inside the basket anyway.  Ba’al quickly followed suit.
            Ba’al held his hand aloft as if holding onto a subway rope.  “Elevator to Hell, going down.”

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