sci-fi

Eye of the Storm – Part 3

“Nice to meet you, Summer,” Victor echoed my words from earlier, then turned back toward the bar. “Hey, Howe!” He called out, raising his head and his glass in search of the bartender. “Can I get another one of these?”

Curiously, ‘Howe’ was nowhere to be seen. I shrugged, about to use this opportunity to escape my new ‘friend’ and head back to where Debbie and Paul stood to either side of the jukebox trying to choose the next song, when the power went out. Without lighting or sound, the dilapidated old bar was just that. It was pitch black thanks to the shitty weather and the fact that the streetlamp outside the front window had also gone dark. Guess this isn’t just Howe blowing a fuse.

I could hear voices and shuffling even if I couldn’t make anyone out. It wasn’t crowded by any means, this being a Tuesday night, but it wasn’t a big place. Somebody must have bumped into Debbie because she squealed, “Paul, that better have been you!”

“Uhh…” I heard Paul reply.

“Power’s out across the street too,” somebody called, presumably looking out a window, “but it seems to have stopped raining, so there’s that.”

But my attention wasn’t on the bar patrons, it was on Victor. From the sounds of his stool scraping back, he’d stood and if the darker shadow over the bar was any indication, he seemed to be trying to clamber over it. “Howe?” He called out again from somewhere ahead and above me.

I heard a thunk as Victor landed heavily behind the bar, followed by rustling noises. In the background someone said, “Hey, a power outage doesn’t have to ruin the night, I brought my guitar!”

Despite my better judgement, I started forward, feeling for Victor’s stool. I found it with little trouble. It was still warm. Without thinking too hard about what I was about to do, I put my drink down, hoisted myself up onto the still-warm leather seat of the stool, and stood, stepping onto the bar. My foot hit what I presumed to be Victor’s drink. I made a point to avoid it as I let myself down the other side.

“Aha!” Victor proclaimed seconds before a match flared to life in his hands and our eyes met for the briefest of seconds in the sudden illumination. He seemed surprised to see me there. I was simply glad the ruddy light of the single flickering match didn’t allow Victor to make out the embarrassed flush of my cheeks.

“Here,” he shoved the pack of matches in my hands before grabbing another and starting past me. By the time I got a match of my own lit, he was halfway around the inside corner of the L-shaped bar and moving quickly. I hurried to follow.

A door I hadn’t noticed before now was open slightly. Pulling it wider, Victor disappeared into the opening, his body cutting off all view of the match in his hands. Rounding the corner myself, I almost bumped into him where he had stopped on a set of stairs headed downwards. In retrospect, wearing black was a poor choice, Victor, I silently admonished him.

I became aware of a strange sound coming from the darkness below. Halfway between a hum and a rumbly growl, I couldn’t identify it, but the sound unsettled me in way I couldn’t explain. “Howe?” Victor called again, more tentatively this time, I thought.

Silence greeted his call. I mean real silence; whatever that grumbly sound was, it stopped the moment Victor spoke. Against my better judgement, Victor started forward again, lighting a fresh match and raising it high above his head. I made it two steps before my own match burned my fingers, forcing me to shake my hand forcefully to put the fire out. I stuck my fingers in my mouth and looked down, less than eager to face the prospect of burning myself on another match.

My fingers in my mouth were the only thing that kept me from screaming. There on the ground, in a pool of his own blood mingling with the juice from a smashed jar of pickles was the bartender, Howe. His pale green shirt was bloodied and torn, and the gut I’d noticed earlier was missing entirely, having been replaced by a gaping maw, resembling nothing more than a fleshy crater. From that crater rose a field of spikes, like an over-sized porcupine had taken up residence inside the portly man.

“Holy shit!” Victor cursed and flailed wildly, causing his match to go out.

I fought the urge to vomit as he quickly struck another. The initial flare of light glinted off large yellow eyes and as the light settled to its dim brightness I became aware of what I was staring at. Well, not what it was, exactly, only that I was staring at it.

It, was the source of that strange rumbling growl from before and now the sound returned. A warning, low and guttural, it informed me on an instinctual level that I was in danger. Even with shock numbing my mental faculties, I didn’t need the warning. I fled, Victor’s heavy footfalls on the stairs proclaiming that he was trailing after me. Only two steps were needed to take me out of the basement, but they felt like twenty. I cleared the threshold of the door and quickly realized I was trapped by the L-shaped bar I didn’t know my way around.

Victor however, did. He made straight past me for the exit. I started after him, but a blur of motion crossing my vision stopped me.

The creature’s leap was silent. It’s landing wasn’t. Bottles crashed and the wood of the bar groaned as the massive cat-like thing landed on it. Soft guitar music was replaced by a cacophony of screams and curses from the bar patrons as the thing swung its head around, sniffing the air.

I felt a hand grab mine, warm in the darkness. I gasped, but it was only Victor, pulling me away from the scene and toward the back door of the bar. I stumbled along after him and we broke out into the cool, wet night air.

The rain had stopped, but the sky still looked dangerous.

*** Missed Part One, find it here. Part Two is here. If you’d like to read more of this serial, like this post, subscribe and/or leave me a comment!***

 

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Eye of the Storm, Part 1

Remember that opening I shared as an example of how openings are hard to write? (You can read about that here.) Well, with two books currently in the works, I have no plans to do anything about the sci-fi novella I started, so… I thought I would share it with you. If you like this opening bit, let me know in the comments below and I’ll keep posting every week or two so you can see where this story goes (and keep me motivated in writing it at the same time!)

rain3

Chapter 1 – The Rain

The change came without warning, unless you count the rain. It pounded on the window of my battered Oldsmobile, demanding to be let in. I sighed, frustrated. So much for the Weather Network. Wrenching the rusted driver’s side door open, I was drenched in seconds. I scurried across the city parking lot, doing my damndest to avoid the worst of the puddles, though it hardly mattered now. The damage was done.

Inside the bar, the lighting was dim and yellow. Even so, it took a moment for my eyes to adjust.

“Summer!” Debbie ambushed me before I could so much as shake myself off like a dog after a swim. Her dry hair smelled like strawberries and stranded me somewhere between envious and nauseated. “You came!”

“Of course,” I mumbled. “You said it was important.”

Nodding, Debbie pulled back. “Come on. There’s someone I want you to meet.”

This is it, I realized, I’m finally going to meet the new boyfriend Debbie has been going on and on about. Despite this guy being the subject matter of all our conversations over the past few weeks, I really knew very little about him. I think she said his name was Paul…

“Well, if it isn’t Summer Green!”

Wait… Paul? As in Paul Sheffield? It was him, in the flesh. The very, very attractive flesh. Oh, god, what am I thinking. He’s Debbie’s boyfriend now… Not my highschool fantasy crush.

“Paul!” I didn’t manage much more than awkwardly saying his name before my nerves shut down my vocal cords. Leaning on a barstool, his elbow up on the bar, Paul was as drool-worthy as he’d ever been. Maybe more so. It had been years since I last saw him, but I remembered the day clearly. It had played in my mind over and over again to remind me of just how pathetic I was. Our last of of high school, Paul had left his group of much cooler friends to come over and give me a goodbye hug and I was so shocked I’d garbled any useful words that could have come out of my mouth in that instant. He’d walked away, a confused and sympathetic expression on his face and I just waved awkwardly and let him leave, instead of being suave and asking him to hang out over the summer like I’d planned.

In my fantasy, that summer would have led to a fabulous romance. In reality, I spent that summer working in a greasy 50’s themed diner, which was where I’d met Debbie. We were as opposite as people get, but somewhere along the line we became inseparable.

Speaking of Debbie, she’d managed to fit herself under Paul’s muscular right arm, her thin frame fitting far better there than my plumper one could have managed. She was looking up into his clear blue eyes, her own green ones twinkling. My slight envy from earlier came back with the same ferocity as the storm raging outside the building, developing into full blown jealousy.

“Paul and I are getting married!” Debbie exclaimed, looking to me for my reaction.

My eyes widened and my breathing became laboured. Face with them both and their sickening perfection, I suddenly became very much aware of my bedraggled and water-logged appearance. The nice white top I’d chosen for a night out with Debbie had been soaked through and was likely showing off my breasts, not to advantage like I’d planned, but more in an indecent sort of way. And my jeans, once form-fitting in a comfortable sort of way now just stuck to me in places where I’d rather they didn’t. I took a subconscious step back from the scene before me, wanting to be anywhere but here, but was stopped by a combination of the squashing sound my sneakers made and Debbie’s sudden frown as she began to realize I didn’t share her elation.

“That’s…great…” I tried to save face and failed.

Debbie pouted. “I know it seems unexpected and sudden,” she allowed, “but it makes sense when you think about it. Paul’s a dual citizen and is living and working in Michigan. If I want to be able to move in with him, we’ve got to get married. It’s just part of the immigration process.”

Whoa, immigrating? ‘Just part of the process…?’ I know Debbie moves fast, but holy hell.

I kept my thoughts to myself. “No, I’m sorry, I’m happy for you. I was just caught off guard, that’s all.”

Debbie beamed, assuaged. Paul smiled, that oh-so-cute lopsided smile of his that used to make me weak in the knees. Now it just made my stomach do uncomfortable flip-flops. “I get it,” he said. “You’re Debbie’s best friend, so it would stand to reason that you’d want to get to know the man she’s going to marry. Lucky for us, you and I go way back.”

“Yeah, lucky…” I mumbled. “If you’ll both excuse me, I’m going to go get myself a drink.”

***

Let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to continue sharing this story and if I get enough comments, I’ll put part two up on Thursday, next week! Thanks for reading.