by Paul D
In 13 days the world ends.
General George Venhily chewed on a pencil while he waited. Congressman Whitcomb should have been here fifteen minutes ago. He hated waiting almost as much as he hated politicians. He continued to study the Congressman's office.
He considered Whitcomb's clean desk top a good sign. He frowned at the empty trash can; trash could be a treasure beyond belief. He saw a shredder on the lower shelf of one of the bookcases to his right and frowned; those things should be banned.
Three bookcases, which covered the wall behind the desk, displayed numerous books as well as some knick knacks. The office felt comfortable. While he studied the office, his pencil suffered for his impatience.
Framed photos, on the wall to his left, did not impress him. What did images of the Congressman shaking hands with various politicos mean?
He had been in the military for almost twenty-five years. He made General five years ago not only for what he knew, but also for what he would not reveal. He had a real knack for finding out secrets people wanted to keep hidden, and it saddened him because he had not discovered any dirt on the Congressman, but in time, he would.
He sighed. His thin patience was stretched to the breaking point. He heard the Congressman's booming voice and began to let go of his tension and relax. He didn't like giving an account of his activity to politicians, but it was one of the necessary evils of democracy.
Whitcomb chaired the oversight committee, which funded many military projects. These newest projects could truly alter the world, but it would all come to a screeching halt without funding.
Congressman Whitcomb strolled into his office like a lion entering his den, looking much younger than his fifty-two years. Venhily wondered, Hair color or a wig? His dark brown mane looked too full and too perfect to be true.
He put on his best face and stood, extending his hand. "Congressman Whitcomb, thank you for making time for me in the midst of your busy schedule."
The Congressman gripped his hand firmly as his blue eyes stared at him intensely. "You are laying it on a bit thick, General, is it really all that?" he asked in a skeptical voice.
He smiled at the Congressman's attempt to be with it. The slang sounded weird coming from his mouth, and he replied in kind, "Yes, all that, and more."
Whitcomb walked behind his desk and sat in his over-sized plush chair. "Sit down, General, and tell me about it."
He sat back down and explained, "War as we know it could become obsolete in our lifetime."
Whitcomb laughed. "In consideration of our ages, General, you are either deluded or an idealist."
He didn't join Whitcomb in his laughter. "I'm neither, Congressman; I'm very much a realist,” then he leaned forward and asked in a softer voice, “What has the Fourth Iraqi war cost our country?"
The question seemed to age Whitcomb even as he answered, "Economically, it has pushed our country to the edge of bankruptcy.
"In terms of people, we have lost thousands of men and women, and there are so many more thousands of our people who have suffered wounds of body and mind--not to mention their families who have been deeply impacted.
"Politically, it will cost the Republicans heavily at the polls for years to come, and it's possible the Republican party will not recover from the President's decision to become engaged in this war.”
"Congressman, if we could wage war today without killing or injuring anyone, would you be interested?"
"Are you serious?" Whitcomb sat forward. His face became animated, and his blue eyes focused like laser beams on Venhily.
"Yes." His short abrupt response seemed to catch Whitcomb by surprise.
"Okay, I'll bite. Tell me more." He sat back as if in anticipation of a lengthy explanation.
"Deception has always been an integral part of warfare. The more realistic the deception, the greater the chances are for success.”
"Deception begins in the mind, Congressman. What you see or what you think you see determines your course of action. What if we could influence a person's dreams? An entire army dreams they are not at war; they are only on maneuvers and will be dismissed the very next day. What would happen the next day, Congressman?"
Whitcomb nodded and smiled. "The opposing force quits the field, and you win the day without a fight." He chuckled. "A brilliant idea. Brilliant indeed."
Whitcomb frowned and sat forward. "General, what safeguards will be in place to prevent someone from using this technology to manipulate ordinary citizens?"
"The same checks and balances we have always employed will be in place. You are the Chair of the oversight committee, and the Chair will always have total and complete access to all facilities and to all documents. As well, the Chair will be informed of any actions taking place in the field."
"How long before this technology could be in use?"
"We estimate five years for research and development, and we are asking for funding for a five year term."
"Seven hundred and fifty million."
Whitcomb cleared his throat and said, "I can promise no more than five hundred million."
“There are two other projects that will also be of interest to you, Congressman. What if you opened your office door and stepped into China?”
“You're serious?” he asked in a high pitched voice with his face clearly displaying his disbelief.
“I have one of the best minds in the world working on this, and his team is world-class. We need five billion for funding.'
“No problem and the other project?'
“Are you familiar with nanotechnology?”
“I know very little about it.”
“A policeman puts on his nano-tex. The nano-tex is programmable and has sensors built into it, which interface with its nan-glas data base and weapons formulation program. If a criminal fires a bullet at him, the nanosensor immediately determines the type of gun and the trajectory of the bullet.
"The suit has three main options: move the officer, reconfigure the nano-tex to defend against the threat, or respond to the threat with a weapons response program.
“A businesswoman puts on her nano-tex for work. She accesses her nan-glas and selects dress, suit, formal, casual, size, color, length, style, and material, and the clothing conforms to the commands.
"This nano-tex never gets dirty--not ever. You could drop it in a mud hole, and it would not get one drop of mud on it. It is rain proof, fire proof, bullet proof, and it will never wear out; furthermore, you can't tear, cut, or damage it. For military purposes, it has no signature return.
“A doctor has a patient who needs an operation, but the patient is not strong enough to withstand surgery. The doctor orders a nano-med unit, which is so small you would need a microscope to see it. It is inserted into the patients body with a needle, then it goes to the site that requires repair. The doctor uses his nan-glas to direct the nano-med to perform the surgery.
“These examples are only a few of the many uses nanotechnology will have in our future. I need ten billion for this project.”
“A drop in the bucket, Congressman. The estimated profits from nanotech in the next twenty years is in the trillions. Every invention developed for the military, can also be sold to the private sector. This project will pay for itself when the first working program has been completed.”
“I will recommend ten.”
"When do you want me to appear before the full committee?"
"Next Friday at ten am."
"Thank you, Congressman. I'll be there." Venhily stood up and tossed the almost destroyed pencil into the trash can, then he left the office.
* * *
Gary did not fully relax until Venhily was long gone. The General acted like a shark in the water, looking for blood. He was a very dangerous man, and many people believed he might have political ambitions.
Gary still contemplated the three projects the General presented. The possibility of being able to stop war before it began excited him; however, he worried because if this technology fell into the wrong hands, then disaster could fall on this country, preventing that must be the number one priority. He took his phone from his suit pocket and called his friend, Bill Johnson, at NSA.
Gary put his phone away and relaxed. NSA would recruit people for this team Venhily needed to put together. There would be no surprises this time.
Part I: Project Hades
Evening: April 10, 2018
Major Wilson wore a hazmat suit as did the rest of his team. He held his machine pistol in readiness at his right side and stood to one side as he quickly opened the door of the first machine. He stared in disbelief at desiccated corpses. The smell made him gag, and he drew back in horror, quickly slamming the door. He didn't even bother to open the next four machines; instead, he looked through the face plates, verifying that the contents of all the machines were the same as the first one.
The minds behind the Hades Project had been silenced for all time.
* * *
The worker turned off the drilling machine, relieved this was the last hole. His machine was only one of a half dozen, working on the mountain all day. He looked back toward the airstrip, which he helped build last month, and watched a concrete truck emerge from a large military plane, then it moved slowly toward one of the holes and came to a stop.
The worker pulled off his gloves. He wasn't required to drive the drilling machine back onto the airplane, which made him very happy. He walked to the mixer and watched the concrete run down the chute and into the hole. Then he continued toward the airstrip.
Morning: April 10, 2018
Quami McIntire opened his eyes and looked at the alarm clock. It was a quarter until six in the morning--fifteen minutes before the alarm went off. Although he set the alarm every night, he always woke up before it buzzed. Today was an extra special day.
He had been adopted as a baby and lived in Ireland until age twelve when he left to attend Harvard where he majored in physics and minored in quantum mechanics, quark theory, space time continuum theory, and Einsteinian theory. He received his PhD in physics at eighteen.
As a freshman, he wrote a paper on 'space displacement theory,' which The Science Journal of Today published.
General Venhily read the article and came to Harvard to speak with him in person. The General made an offer no one in their right mind could have refused.
This small room made him almost claustrophobic. He stayed at Site R last night because he worked late, and the drive to his house took almost an hour and a half one way.
The space warp machine would be tested for the first time today, and he was excited. He had invested the last six years of his life into this project.
He looked forward to the next challenge: interstellar space travel, which was a natural extension of this project. He couldn't wait for the project to get approval, so he could get started. He was asking for one hundred billion dollars, and General Venhily assured him if today's test went well, he would get the funding.
Dr. Zion Hartz would take over the space warp machine project from him, which would free him to start a new project. Dr. Hartz flew into Philadelphia last night with one of her students. She would be driving down to Site R this morning.
He left the room for the showers down the hall. He could take his time because the test didn't start until noon.
* * *
Amber Ehle sat in the rental car waiting for Dr. Z. They flew out of LAX last night and slept most of the way. It was almost eleven forty-five before they arrived at the motel. They shared a room with double beds and crashed almost as soon as the door shut behind them.
Site R was a two hour drive, and they needed to be there by eleven. She looked at her watch: eight twenty-seven. Dr Z. had never been known for her punctuality, but they wouldn't be late today.
Dr. Z was as excited as Amber to meet the famous Dr. Quami McIntire. They searched the internet to find a picture of him. Apparently, he was camera shy. They couldn't find any pictures--not even from his high school and college years.
Amber would be graduated this year and receive her B.S. in physics. She applied to Harvard because Dr. McIntire was scheduled to teach some classes there this year, getting into one of his classes would be like winning the lottery. Every physics geek wanted to be in one of his classes.
She checked her watch, again. "Come on, Doc. It's almost eight thirty," she muttered. She stared at the hotel room, watching the door, as if that would be of any benefit. Open door! Open sesame! She laughed at her silly thoughts. I guess it's okay to talk to myself and maybe even answer myself, but if I start a three way conversation . . . .
She smiled as the door opened. Dr. Z still needed to checkout, but they would be on the road soon. About time too.
A short time later, she watched as Dr. Z walked toward the car. Several men watched her as well. Her walk reminded Amber of Marilyn Monroe, and Dr. Z joked all the time that she should dye her blonde hair black or change her name to Dr. Bimbo. Dr. Z played the dumb blonde to perfection.
Dr Z opened the driver's side door and slid into the car. "I got the phone charges from the motel dropped off the bill."
"How did you do that?"
"Well, ah do declare, Mr. Managuh, ahm so stressed out," Dr Z said in a thick southern accent. "Ah broke one of mah fingernails this mornin'. Mah whole day will be a disastuh. Now you'all say ah owe for the phone? Ahm so upset for mah poor fingernail, and the weight of another disastuh will just crush mah poor spirit. Will you'all forgive mah phone charge?"
"You are wicked, Doc."
* * *
Z enjoyed the drive to Maryland despite the Pennsylvania highways, which reminded her of a patchwork roller coaster, and she drove slower just to keep the car on the road.
"Are you ready for your finals, Amber?"
"I'm not worried about finals. My main concern is getting an acceptance letter from Harvard."
"I remember how I worried while I waited to get mine from Cornell. It can be nerve wracking, but I wouldn't worry about it.
"I'm nervous about meeting Dr. McIntire," Z admitted. "I have talked with him on the phone and email as well but to finally put a face with the name will be great."
"You think he'll be wearing a kilt?"
"That's a Scottish tradition."
"Oops, I did it, again," Amber sang.
"Be glad! Be very glad you did not apply to any school on a singing scholarship."
"Gee, thanks for the support, Doc."
"Glad to be of assistance anytime."
"But if he's Irish, he must be good looking."
"They have dogs in Ireland too, dearie."
"I've got a feelin'," Amber sang. "He ain't no hound dog, and he'll be a friend for all time."
"I think you have a crush, and you haven't even met the great Dr. For all you know, he could be the next Dr. Frankenstein."
The clock on the dashboard read: ten thirty-two. Z turned off onto a narrow two lane road on her right, which snaked its way along some small foothills. A short time later, she saw, on her right, a twenty foot high security fence with razor wire on top. She took the next road to the right, which went up a small incline. She felt a bit boxed in with high fences on both sides of the road. At the top of the hill, she stopped at the security booth.
"Oh my, machine guns," Amber declared.
"This is a very secure site," Z said. "I heard someone say the VP stayed here during 9/11."
"I wonder if he went through all this too?"
Z laughed. "I doubt it." She handed her ID and Amber's to the guard, explaining, "We're here to see Dr. Quami McIntire."
"I need both of you to sign the log," he replied as he handed a clipboard to Z. "Park in the visitor's space to your right. I'll make a call, and I'll bring your passes to you as soon as Dr. McIntire signs the log."
Z filled in the required information then handed the clipboard to Amber. When Amber finished, she handed it back to the security officer. Then she drove to the designated parking area and turned off the car.
"Hopefully, this won't take long, Amber."
"I brought a book to read."
Z laughed. "That was almost funny."
"Then, why are you laughing?"
"That's a sympathy laugh so you won't feel bad."
"Ha, ha. Dr. Z. Right back at cha."
Z jerked her head at a rap on the window. She turned and saw a professionally dressed young black man standing by the door. Security? With their passes? She turned the ignition key then powered down the window.
"Hi, Dr. Zion Hartz? I'm Quami McIntire. Welcome to Site R."
She knew that voice; just as she knew her jaw must be hanging down to her knees. "Uh . . . thank you . . . uh . . . Dr. McIntire. I'm going to lock up the car. Give me a sec."
She powered up the window and got out of the car even as Amber emerged from the other side.
Dr. McIntire grinned. "It's the accent. It gets people every time."
She chuckled. "You should give fair warning, Dr. McIntire."
"Call me Quami. What would be the fun in that?" His dark eyes twinkled with glee.
"Men and their idea of humor," she grumbled, "is beyond me, and please, call me Z."
He smiled. "Ladies, your passes are waiting for you at the guard shack. Get them, then you can take a seat in the Jeep. I'll drive us in, which will be much quicker than walking."
She took her pass and hung it around her neck and followed Amber from the guard shack to the Jeep.
Quami opened the car door for Z and Amber. "And a gentleman too,” Amber chirped. “I love a handsome man with manners."
"Yeah, I left my bear skins and club at home today," he quipped.
Z countered, "I hate caveman humor. It's so out of date."
"Oh. I don't know," Amber added. "Clubs are okay so long as the music isn't too loud because then I get a pounding headache. Then when you tell the guy you have a pounding headache, he gets all whinny and fussy and starts crying like a baby."
Quami roared with laughter. "I usually hate giving tours, but this is one I don't think I'll forget anytime soon."
"That's what they all say," Amber replied. "Then the guy walks around the corner; and when he comes back, he can't even remember your name, the dumb schmuck."
The road to the entrance to Site R was short. The facility was built inside of a large mountain. Z watched a large metal door open as the Jeep approached. The door reminded her of ones inside a bank vault. She'd never seen a door this thick before. Then they entered the mountain. Quami drove a short distance and parked. “Okay ladies, we walk from here.”
"What no magic rides?" Amber asked with a laugh.
Quami smiled. "No magic music either."
"No rides. No Music. Next you'll be tellin' me, 'It's free and no crowds'," Z quipped.
"There are more than five hundred people here. But it's not crowded, and if it makes you feel better, you are more than welcome to make a monetary donation to the Fund for the Preservation of Quami McIntire's Body After His Death."
Z and Amber laughed loudly.
"Who will be with us on our tour today?" Amber asked.
"I'm giving you two tours for the price of one. The first is a general tour of the facility, and the second one is of the lab itself. On the second tour, General George Venhily, Congressman Gary Whitcomb, Serena Albertson, who is Gary's wife, Dr. John Gravi, Dr. Lucinda Sharpe, and Dr. Brenda Marx will be joining us."
Amber said, "And I thought three was crowd."
They all laughed.
* * *
He sat at his computer. Today was the big day at Site R. The programs he created had been loaded into the computer system. His finger hovered over the enter key. He held the lives of many people in his hands. He punched the enter key, and their lives were now in the hands of fate.
The horrible works, which these enemies of the earth created, will soon be in the hands of the True Sons of Freedom, then the enemies of the world would be crushed at their feet.
Congressman Gary Whitcomb drove north on I-81. His wife, Serena Albertson, made the drive pleasant, and they planned to take the weekend for a mini vacation as soon as his meeting at Site R ended.
Six months ago at a White House dinner, he had been surprised when a fiery red head sat beside him, and he was even more pleasantly surprised when soon afterward, they ended up spending almost every waking hour together.
Those times when they couldn't meet, they would talk on the phone for hours on end. He'd never met anyone he could talk so easily with--not even his wife who had died about a year earlier.
Less than a month after they met, they were married. He wished he'd met her sooner. The death of his wife, Jill, hit him hard, and he had suffered grief and sorrow mostly on his own until he met Serena. She, literally, gave his life back to him.
* * *
The assignment, from General Venhily to spy on Gary, made Serena angry and resentful at first, but now she looked forward to each day and only worried because Gary might find out the truth. He was a very thoughtful man, and he knew how to make her smile.
This was her second visit Site R. Anticipation and concern filled her. She wished she could forget her first visit six months ago when she received a typed invitation to meet with General Venhily at Site R.
She kept the appointment with the General and learned he knew of her time at a Bunny Ranch. She, reluctantly, agreed to spy for him in return for keeping her secret.
Serena wiped a tear from her eyes. It was better not to think about the past. I'm happy now, nothing else matters.
“We’ll be there soon, dear,” Gary remarked.
“We will be finished up here in a couple of hours, then we will have the rest of the day for ourselves. We can drive up to Hershey Park and spend the rest of the day there.”
“I would like that.”
“We can spend the weekend in New York and return on Sunday night.”
Serena smiled and patted Gary’s leg. “Good plan, dear. Good plan.”
* * *
Dr. Avi Leopold entered the conference room, and General Venhily smiled. If anyone could ever be called a mad scientist, Dr. Leopold looked the part. He was rail thin; his clothes looked slept in; his eyes had the distant look of a brain trying to accomplish twenty tasks at the same time; his long grey hair looked as if he had put his finger in a light socket, and it had not been combed ever since. His sunken face and wild eyed look would have given Marty Feldman a run for his money.
“Avi, this is Congressman Whitcomb. Could you give him an update on your experiments?”
“Science is not an art, Congressman; it’s a crap shoot,” Dr. Leopold replied. “I’ve out done Edison. It took him two years to conduct one thousand experiments that failed, but it has taken me only one year.”
“Perhaps, invisibility is an illusion you will never bring into reality,” Whitcomb mused.
Dr. Leopold laughed harshly and replied, “Newton never saw gravity; Bell never saw a wave length; Captain Kirk never saw a Klingon he didn’t hate. When my experiment succeeds, I will also see nothing.”
* * *
The dream machine had been off for a week because the first test was a disaster; during that time, the machine was examined carefully. The software was examined by a team of experts. It took a week to find one line of code, which didn't belong, and one circuit board that was altered. An investigation still continued to determine who was behind the sabotage. Senita thought about yesterday’s meeting, which she would never forget.
She went to General Venhily’s office at Site R to find out the outcome of the initial investigation. He revealed the failure of the initial test of the program and said she would be held accountable for two hundred and fifty-six people who died. He gave her a choice to obey him or go to jail. She chose to take his directions.
He then directed her to make sure Amber Ehle, Congressman Whitcomb, and Serena Albertson were placed in the dream machine and programmed.
Now Senita stared at a picture of the ocean, hanging on the wall above her desk. She felt as much turmoil as the waves crashing into the rocks. The digital clock on her desk showed the time: ten thirty. Amber will be here soon.
* * *
Dr. Gravi stomped away from General Venhily’s office. The General was an idiot, which was putting it mildly. If an original thought ever occurred to him, he would dismiss it as a daydream.
Yesterday, Venhily threatened to fire him from the dream project unless he agreed to do exactly as he wanted. He still chuckled as he remembered his response: "General, I’ll get back to you on that tomorrow. I’m busy right now."
In the meeting today, he of course refused again to go along with the General. The General couldn’t fire him. No one could take his place.
Now, Venhily threatened to remove Dr. Berger from the dream project. He told Venhily, "Senita is tops in her field. If she is replaced, the dream project will suffer a set back, which will take years to recover from."
Sometimes, Venhily was beyond stupid; he was just plain nuts.
* * *
Lu walked into the lab, took a quick look around, and was pleasantly surprised to find a clean floor, every work station neat, and even empty trash cans. Her shock grew because even Jay’s work station looked pristine.
Jay Morris demonstrated brilliance as a scientist, but his work station was usually a disaster, waiting to be recovered.
He sat at his station working on a computer simulation. She walked over and put her hand on his shoulder. “Jay, are you sick or something?”
He laughed. "Hi, Dr. Lu. I’m great. Have you forgotten General Venhily and company are coming today?”
Dr. Lucinda Sharpe sighed. Indeed, she'd forgotten. She would accomplish very little today. Venhily would drive her nuts.
“Of course, I didn’t forget, Jay. It just slipped my mind.”
He laughed and Rachel and Wilma joined in.
“What fun!” Lu said sarcastically.
The door opened. Senita leaned partway into the room. “Can I see you, Lu, for a minute?”
They walked down the hall toward the dream lab. Lu said, “What’s up?”
“Dr. Gravi collapsed in the lab. There’s a nurse with him now. He’s been asking for you.”
Lu walked faster. John has to be all right.
Senita opened the door to the lab. Lu entered. “Where is--” She felt a sting on her thigh.
* * *
Myra Hitchcock rode the elevator up to the main floor. She had come from the Pentagon to Site R in a tunnel, which was almost a hundred miles long. She shuddered to think of what it cost to build it.
The elevator door opened, and General Venhily stood there to greet her. “Madam President,” he said in a smarmy voice, “welcome to Site R.”
“Thank you, General.”
She became President this year, before that she was in the Senate for twelve years. Congressman Gary Whitcomb brought Site R to her attention at the inception of the Hades Project six years ago.
She had welcomed this project for its bold and brilliant ideas and followed its development with interest. But then two weeks ago, she received a disturbing phone call from Dr. McIntire who was alarmed because he discovered some of the parameters of his programs had been changed without his consent or knowledge.
She commanded the director of NSA to assign a team of their top programmers to hack the computers at Site R and to make a judgment about the programs.
The report she received from NSA yesterday chilled her to the bone. She had shredded the report and ordered the NSA team be disbanded and any documentation be destroyed.
The investigation couldn't determine who made the alterations to the programs, but the recommendation was to shut down the Hades Project, and she was here to take care of it.
* * *
General Venhily smiled because all the seeds of his carefully sown plots and schemes were, finally, pushing through the field of his chosen ground: Site R.
“The dream machine just came back on line this morning, Madam President. I’m sure you will find it interesting.”
Two of the secret service agents along with Venhily entered the lab first, then the President and two remaining agents came last. He leaned against a wall and pressed a hidden button, and a vapor filled the room. Everyone, except Venhily fell to the floor.
It took him several minutes to get everyone into one of the machines, then he called Dr. Berger on the phone. “I need you in the lab.”
* * *
Bree felt like a volcano, preparing to blow its top. General Venhily threatened her yesterday using the reports he received about the failure of the first test of the dream machine. She refused to go along with his demands, and he was not pleased when she walked out of his office.
Last night, in the middle of the night, her home was targeted by the local police who busted down the door then tore the house apart, looking for drugs. Wonder of wonders, they found cocaine in the basement. She was handcuffed and tossed in jail.
She made bail early this morning and learned her house and car had been seized under the Rico act.
Dr. Brenda Marx was not a happy camper. The test of the space warp machine started at noon, and she planned to corner General Venhily after the test. Without a doubt, he was behind the drugs found in her house. She refused to put up with his crap.
* * *
Venhily watched while Dr. Berger loaded his programs. She said, “Five minutes and the dream sequence will be complete.”
“Thank you, Dr. I want you to bring Dr’s Marx and Leopold to the lab in ten minutes.” Senita nodded and left the lab.
Venhily looked at the clock, then he opened all five machines. He helped the President emerge from the last machine and handed her three disks. “You ordered Site R and everyone and everything to be destroyed. You saw first hand the beginnings of the destruction of this site and the bodies of every member of the management team. This site is no longer a threat: every machine was destroyed; holes were drilled into the mountain; concrete was poured in; every entrance was sealed. You hold in your hands the evidence of all of this.”
* * *
President Myra Hitchcock left the room and walked to the elevator. She remembered the faces she saw through the face plates of the machines. It is too bad they all needed to die, but it is for the security of America.
* * *
Gary stopped the car at the guard’s shack, and he and Serena filled out the log. Then he parked the car and waited for General Venhily.
He looked at Serena and smiled. He wasn't a complete fool. He had wondered why a young and beautiful woman would fall for a fifty-eight year old man who was losing his hair and developing a paunch.
His suspicion caused him to hire a private investigator whose results were mixed. While many of the things Serena told him checked out, there were gaps and glaring lies.
He reached the conclusion less than a month after he met her that she was a spy for General Venhily. He was furious at first; but then realized, he preferred a visible snake in bed, more than one hiding in the bush.
General Venhily pulled up in an army Jeep. Of course, he wasn’t driving. Gary got of the car. He and Serena went to the Jeep. After they got in, he said, “General, this is my wife, Serena Albertson. Serena, this is General Venhily.”
Venhily said, “Pleased to meet you, Serena, and I hope you enjoy today’s tour.” He handed two sets of laminated cards on a chain to Gary. “Put these on. They are your creds for the day.”
Gary put on the one with his picture on it and handed the other one to Serena.
* * *
The soldier who had driven the Jeep opened the door, and Serena entered the building with low ceilings and narrow hallways. It appeared as if a submarine was buried in the mountain. She walked down the hallway with Gary as the General led the way. They headed toward a conference room where they would meet up with some other people, then the tour would begin.
The General stopped suddenly at a door. He turned and said, “Gary, the dream machine is back on line as of this morning. I know you wanted to speak to Dr. Berger.” He opened the door, and Gary entered. Serena leapt forward when, suddenly, Gary collapsed onto the floor. Rushing to reach him, she felt something sting her leg.
* * *
Venhily and Dr. Berger pulled the Congressman across the floor. Senita opened one of the five machines and pulled the Congressman in it, then they pulled Serena into the same machine. Senita closed the door and turned the machine on.
Venhily stood by as Senita watched the monitor. A few minutes later, she said, “They are asleep.”
“Good. Load the program, then look for an opportunity to get Dr’s McIntire and Hartz.”
* * *
Senita stared at her work station. General Venhily was a very dangerous man. He was almost imperious in his demands that the dream machine get back on line as soon as possible.
He was elated when it was approved for use yesterday, and the General wasted no time this morning. Dr. Sharpe and Dr. Gravi were the first to go in then Dr. Marx and Dr. Leopold.
Senita didn’t understand why the General wanted people placed into the machine in pairs, and he refused to explain.
She was frightened because of a note she saw on the General’s desk this morning, which read, H coming today. Machines ready? ‘H’ could only refer to: Myra Hitchcock, the President of the United States. How he intended to get her into one of the machines, she couldn't imagine.
She needed to get Venhily into a machine because now that Dr. Gravi and Dr. Marx were within his power that left her as the only member of the dream machine management, and he would be after her next.
Amber walked with Dr. Berger into the dream lab. Dr. Z was talking with Dr. McIntire.
“As I explained a few minutes, ago,” Dr. Berger said, “General Venhily is impressed with your academic work at Cal Tech. We have an opening in the nanotech lab, and he believes you would be a perfect fit.”
Dr. Berger scanned a door with her security card and it opened. “This is the dream lab, and, as you can see, there are five machines, which have been off for the last week.”
* * *
Amber reached into her pocket, pulled out a syringe, slammed it into the thigh of Dr. Berger, emptying the contents into her leg. Dr. Berger collapsed to the floor. Amber picked up the syringe, put it into her purse, pulled Dr. Berger toward one of the machines, opened the door, pushed Dr. Berger inside, then she shut the door and walked to the main console where she inserted the data card, which she had been given several weeks earlier. She waited while it loaded then removed the card.
She heard the door and turned. “What are you doing here?”
He pulled a gun. “Open a machine and get in.”
“I’m not kidding.”
She walked to one of the machines, opened the door, and sat in a chair similar to one found in a dentist’s office. The door closed, then two leather bands snapped into place. One went across Amber’s waist and the other across her chest, then the machine began to hum.
She yelled, “Let me out of here.” Knowing she was wasting her breath, she continued shouting anyway.
* * *
Z walked slowly with Quami toward the cafeteria. The second tour began in twenty minutes, and she was surprised because Amber had not rejoined them yet. She had gone off with Dr. Berger while Z went on a tour of the facility with Quami.
Dr. Gravi walked quickly down the hall toward them. He stopped Quami and said, “Can you come to the dream lab for just a second? There's something I want you to take a look at.”
“Z, I’ll be right back!”
“I’ll go with you and see if Amber is done.”
A few minutes later, they arrived at the lab. Dr. Gravi slid his card, and the door opened. Z entered first and saw the lab was empty. She heard a sound behind her and turned around. Quami lay on the floor. “What happened?” she cried out, hurrying to him. Just as she reached him, she saw a syringe in Dr. Gravi’s hand. “No!”
* * *
Dr. Gravi opened the machine Amber was in and placed Dr's. Hartz and McIntire into it, then he turned on the machine. There was one more person left. He opened the machine where Senita had been placed. “It is time. Bring Venhily.”
* * *
Dr. Gravi sat down at the work station. He observed the brain waves on the monitor for a minute or two. In machine one, the Congressman and Serena were sleeping. Machine two held Dr. Marx and Dr. Leopold. Machine three Senita and the General slept. In machine four, Ms. Ehle, Dr’s McIntire, and Hartz slept.
He entered a command to start the dream sequence in five minutes, then the system would load the programs and the dream project would be born. He hit enter, then he put a program disk into the computer, which would interface with the nanotech lab computer and carry out the instructions.
He walked to the last machine, opened it, entered, and sat down in a chair next to Dr. Sharpe. The door closed.
* * *
Serena entered the small office where a middle-aged man sat behind a desk; he looked up from his work at the sound of the door closing. “Who are you?”
She walked toward him, and the man lifted the phone. “Send someone down; I have an unauthorized visitor.”
She reached the desk. “I have something for you,” she said in a monotone voice.
The man’s eyebrows rose. “Security will be here anytime now.”
She opened her purse, removed the pistol, and pointed it at the man.
He put up his hands, protesting, “No! Wait! I--”
Serena pulled the trigger, and the knockout dart hit the man in the shoulder. He slumped onto his desk, then she lifted the phone and dialed a number. “Pickup in room Z-14.”
* * *
Z pushed a hospital cart toward the cryo chamber. Quami walked beside her, pushing a second cart. The door was propped open, and they entered the room. The doors to three of the machines stood open, and the chambers were empty. She walked to the fourth and opened the door.
Z put gloves on her hands, then she leaned over and pulled at the frozen body. Quami’s gloved hands joined with hers in removing the man from the machine and placing him on the cart.
Z pushed the cart to one side while Quami opened the next machine. They removed a woman from the machine, placing her on the second cart, then they pushed the carts from the chamber.
* * *
Dr. Sharpe along with Dr. Gravi wore special suits designed for working in low temperatures. The door to the cryostasis chamber opened, and two more carts were pushed inside, then the door closed.
Lu walked to one cart and pushed it toward an empty cot. She lifted the legs of the man on the cart while Dr. Gravi lifted the shoulders, and they placed him on the cot. Dr. Gravi took a long hose and inserted the end of it into the shunt in the man’s arm, then he walked over to the work station.
Lu returned for the other cart. They made excellent progress on their task. Most of those who worked at Site R were already processed; in a few more hours, they would be finished.
* * *
General Venhily stood outside of the large room, looking at the monitor. There were rows and rows of people lying on cots. Frost covered everything. He looked at the temperature in the room, which held steady at minus 100 Celsius. He was very pleased because only one department remained, then everyone in the facility would be in cryostasis.
April 2019: One Year Later
10:45 A.M. April 10, 2019
They entered the conference room quietly. General Venhily was already speaking. ". . . for your safety. We will start in the Nanotech Lab."
Quami said, "See, we weren't that late."
"I don't think we missed anything exciting," Z said with a laugh.
"Yeah! It's much too early in the day for any excitement."
The nanotech lab was only a short way down the hall. Dr. Sharpe made the presentation using some short videos.
* * *
The twenty minute presentation by Dr. Sharpe went much faster than Z expected. She left the room with Quami and continued to the dream lab.
Dr. Berger gave a short talk about the project, then she showed everyone one of the machines.
* * *
Twenty-five minutes after entering the lab, everyone prepared to leave for the space warp lab. Z walked up to Dr. Berger and said, 'Have you seen Amber?'
"She went to the ladies room a while back."
Z left the lab and went to the ladies room. She looked around inside and found no one there, then she went back down the hall, hurrying to catch up with everyone.
* * *
Amber saw Dr. Z a few feet down the hallway just in front of her, and she hurried over. "Psst, Dr. Z."
Z turned quickly. "Where have you been hiding?"
Amber chuckled. "I went with Dr. Berger to the lab, then I went to the ladies room; after that, I stopped by the cafeteria."
"We are off to the space warp lab now."
"This will be your lab, doc."
"If the test goes well. . . ."
* * *
After the presentation, Z walked down the hall with Quami. "I enjoyed the talk."
"Thanks. Where is Amber rushing off to?"
"The ladies room again."
"Are you hungry, Z?"
"We can stop by the cafeteria if you like. It's just around the next corner."
Suddenly, the floor shook, and Z took Quami's arm to steady herself. Crashing and smashing sounds were all around her, then there was a horrific screeching sound, and the floor down the hall buckled and broke in half.
Z saw Amber fall, slide down the concrete floor, then disappear from sight. Z screamed and wrapped her arms around Quami, trying to keep from falling. The floor under them cracked and split apart. She screamed as they fell.
Day One: April 10, 2019
"This is Dave Roberts with a news channel eleven special report."
Ice Nagle sat down in his easy chair, and held his plate in his lap, leaning forward with anticipation."There was an 8.9 earthquake at noon in northeastern Maryland. There are also reports of a black hole forming in the area of the quake. Stay tuned to this station for updates."
He couldn't believe it. An earthquake and a black hole? He turned off the TV. What on earth went wrong?
Frank Early was born in Germany. Even at a young age, he was recognized as having a brilliant mind. At age two, he was sent to one of the finest schools in England where he excelled.
When he was fourteen, he was adopted by an American family: Robert and Judith Nagle. They didn't know he was a sleeper agent for the True Sons of Freedom.
He was accepted at Harvard when he was fourteen. He took a double major in physics and chemistry. He was tops in his class in chemistry and second in physics. Quami McIntire beat him out--barely, and Quami never let him forget it.
Quami was his best friend in college and told him of the Hades Project from its inception. Three projects comprised Project Hades: the space warp machine, the dream machine, and the nanotech lab. The creation of the various systems within the Hades Project would give the United States weapons, which could not be defeated by anyone.
He was graduated and worked in a lab for four years. Quami consulted with him on every step of the Hades Project, and Ice learned the project would be completed within a few years.
He decided to devote more time to the creation of programs necessary to take over the Hades Project once it went live. He quit his job and formed his own consulting business.
He gave a lot of thought as to how to take over the Hades Project. One incident from history stood out in his mind: the Trojan horse. His imagination was also captured by magicians.
Site R like the city of Troy could never be conquered by force, but if Site R disappeared from everyone's mind, then Project Hades could become a weapon the True Sons of Freedom could use to bow every head in this world to the true will of Freedom.
The dream machine was scheduled for its first test one week before the Hades Project went live, and Ice made certain the first test of the dream machine would fail.
He met Dr. Senita Berger two years, ago, and they secretly married a month later. She invited him to Site R to witness the test. They arrived early because she still had many things left to do.
It was simple to push her into one of the machines and turn it on, then he loaded his program and, from that moment on, he completely influenced her desires and actions.
He ordered a cryo system, and Senita received delivery of the systems and oversaw their installation. The original test for the Hades Project was scheduled for April 10, 2018. Ice loaded his other programs into the computer systems at Site R when he used the dream machine on Senita.
The day before the Hades Project went live, he learned from Senita the President would be at Site R for the test. He wrote one last program and gave it to her.
If you take a toy away from a child, they throw a fit. But if the child does not see the toy, then there is no problem. He planned to take Site R away from the military without them being aware of it.
On April 9, Senita drugged Dr. Gravi and put him into one of the dream chambers. The stage was set, and Dr. Gravi would be the puppet who directed the play.
Ice planned to make everyone believe Site R was destroyed, and he heard from Senita everything went exactly as planned. Every key player in all the projects were placed into the dream chambers and programmed.
The President arrived and was put into a dream chamber, then the President left, and the nanobots went to work.
He created a dream sequence for the President where she would believe everyone involved with project Hades was dead, all the machines destroyed, and that she ordered Site R to be filled with concrete and sealed off.
While workers drilled holes into the mountain, the nanobots filled the holes partway while making holes that led to the tunnels below. The concrete flowed into the tunnels instead of into the facility.
Senita and the others made sure everyone at Site R went into the dream machine and cryostasis.
Today was the one year anniversary of the disaster at Site R. The programs he wrote had shut down all the computers systems and programs except the dream machine and cryostasis. This morning he sent a command for the systems at Site R to reboot.
Everyone who worked there would, then, be revived from cryostasis. Under the influence of the dream machine, they would act in concert with his directives.
At noon the space warp machine went live. At 12:01 there was an earthquake. The black hole soon followed.
Ice's hard work had been for nothing. Even more disturbing, the computer systems at Site R booted him out, and he was unable to regain access. He needed to stop the space warp machine because he believed it was the cause of this black hole, but the only way to do it was to regain access to the computer system at Site R.
The True Sons of Freedom needed to have control of the Hades Project, then the enemies of the world would be crushed at their feet.
He could not fail now. He left his house and headed for the hardware store. A short time later, he drove his red Sunfire toward I-695.
* * *
Amber opened her eyes and looked around. What happened to Z and Quami? She lay on a concrete floor. She didn't hurt which surprised her. She sat up. It was very dark; she could see shapes and hear voices. She stood up slowly and walked in the direction the voices came from.
She stopped and listened. She heard a horrendously loud noise. It disturbed and frightened her. She turned in a circle, attempting to see what was frightening her, but it was much too dark.
She started walking, again, but much slower. She saw the outline of a shape in the distance; it looked familiar, but she couldn't put a name to it. She kicked a rock she had not noticed on the floor. The sound of the rock echoed and reechoed. She stopped in her tracks.
The shape in the distance whipped its head around, then it ran toward her. She stood frozen in place as a t-rex charged straight for her. This must be a dream; dinosaurs are all dead.
The t-rex lunged for her. She stepped to one side and kicked the t-rex in one of its legs. The t-rex tumbled to the ground, and she smashed her fist into its throat, killing it.
How ccould I kill a t-rex?
She slowly lifted her hand to her face and stared at it intently, then she began to scream.
* * *
Vice-President Samuel Hoffman sat behind the President's desk in the oval office. General Richard Roberts sat across the room in a comfortable chair, but he looked decidedly uncomfortable. "General, everything we discuss today will not leave this room."
General Roberts nodded. "Yes, sir."
"At noon today, I sat where you are right now, General. When the earthquake occurred, I felt the floor and building shake. I didn't know it at the time, but exactly one minute later a black hole formed at the epicenter of the earthquake.
"President Hitchcock sat behind her desk in this chair. She vanished at exactly the same time the black hole occurred. No one knows the President is missing.
"Can you explain to me, General, why an earthquake occurred near Site R, and why now a black hole is there?” he demanded sharply.
"Mr. Vice-President, there's no explanation that makes sense. The cables to every machine were cut before the facility was filled with concrete. There is also tons of concrete in every tunnel leading to Site R. What happened near there is a coincidence."
Vice-President Hoffman lifted the phone. "Send him in."
An elderly distinguished looking man entered the room. "This is Dr. Avery Vishtael: one of the most preeminent seismologists in his field. Dr. would you please tell General Roberts what you told me earlier today?"
"The epicenter of the earthquake occurred in a location where there are no fault lines. I have spoken with half a dozen seismologists, and they are all in agreement that this is a man made earthquake.
"Three projects, comprising Project Hades: the space warp machine, the dream machine, and the nanotech lab, were scheduled to go on line one year ago at noon, but the project was shut down by the President.
"The earthquake occurred at 12:01 P.M. At 12:02 P. M. the black hole formed. Did you know a black hole could occur if there was a tear in the 'fabric' of space and time? Although it would not be like a tear in a pair of jeans. This would be more like converging implacable forces meeting, and neither can give way to the other. In their pushing against one another, they begin to bend like when water hits a vertical surface, and its own force changes its direction. These forces bent inward and a black hole came into existence.
"This earthquake is from experiments being conducted at Site R. This black hole means the space warp experiment failed horribly."
General Roberts shook his head. “Dr. Vishtael, everyone who worked at Site R is dead; every machine was destroyed; then the facility was buried in concrete. There is nothing left at Site R that can harm anyone--ever."
"General, if you came across a field covered with the bodies of dead soldiers as well as the hulks of tanks, trucks, and other equipment, would you call it a natural occurrence? Of course not! Your first thought would be a battle occurred.
"General, regardless of what you believe, this is not a natural event. There are only two options. It came from Site R, or it came from someone who wants us to believe it came from Site R.
"Regardless of the source, we must find the machine and the program that created this and destroy it within twelve days."
General Roberts leaned forward. "What happens on day thirteen?"
"The length of a day is determined by how fast the earth spins on its axis. This rip in space and time is causing the earth to spin progressively faster. The black hole appeared at noon today. It will take twenty-three hours and thirty-six minutes for us to reach noon tomorrow. It will take twenty-three hours to reach noon of the next day. From day eleven at noon to day twelve at noon, it will take four hours and thirty-six minutes. Day thirteen ends at 12:39 A.M."
Major Roger Wills hesitated just outside the General’s tent. He hated being the bearer of bad news, but he was not given a choice in the matter. “He is free now, sir.” The private at the entrance said.
Major Wills entered. “We just received the satintel, sir.”
General Voorhees leaned forward slightly. “And?”
“It’s not good, sir.”
The General sighed, “So far this whole day has been ‘not good.’ Go ahead! Give me another headache. I’ve got plenty of aspirin.”
“When the satellite scanned the mountain, it couldn’t find Site R because it wasn’t there.”
“Now you know very well, Major, that is just plain impossible. I would suggest quite strongly you put your foot up someone’s rear end and get some good intel on this.”
“We have done two satellite passes, then we drilled twelve holes into the mountain from the side and the top, and we took a look inside with a cable cam. There is only empty space. Site R and Project Hades are gone!”
General Voorhees sighed deeply. “I was set to retire next month. What a mess.”
* * *
A road block was erected on I-81 five miles short of the turnoff for Site R. Ice pulled to the side of the road and parked. He walked over to the nearest trooper and said, “Do you know if Dr. Shelton is here?”
The trooper spoke into his mike for a moment. “Yes, he is.”
“Could you let him know Dr. Nagle has arrived for a consult?”
Ten minutes later, Ice sat in a fold-up chair in a small tent. Philip Shelton was a young man, but he looked as if he'd aged considerably since Ice saw him at graduation from Harvard. Phil was a junior, then. Now, his hair was thinning, and he wore horn-rimmed glasses.
Phil said, “You got my voice mail?”
“Yeah, I was already headed this way.”
“I’m glad. We are in deep doo doo on this one.”
“It’s not good?”
“It is way beyond not good, Ice. Project Hades is gone!”
Ice nodded. “It was destroyed a year, ago.”
“The military did a satellite pass, then they did a scan. The mountain is empty. No facility. No project. No nothing.”
“That’s not possible.”
“Oh, it gets worse. Believe me. We've determined the exact center of the black hole, and the exact center of Site R are a perfect match.”
Ice didn’t say a word for a few moments. “Site R could be inside the black hole and lost forever, or it could be a part of the black hole.”
“I agree with your conclusion, and we have additional problems.”
“What else has gone wrong?”
“The Earth’s rotation is increasing. We have twelve days to solve this problem. Do you have any suggestions?”
“I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple of hours, and I can think of only one thing that might work.”
“Hmmm . . . what’s that?”
“We create another black hole to counter this one.”
Phil laughed. “Right, that’s a good one.”
“I’m serious, Phil.”
“If . . . and I do mean if a second black hole was able to cancel this one out, how would we create one?”
Ice smiled. “First, how about you stop by my place later today? We can run some computer models, then we can talk about what comes next.”
“Give me your address. I’m out of here no later than eight tonight.”
* * *
Phil ran the computer simulation for the third time and saw the same result as in the two previous simulations. When a black hole opened up inside of a black hole, they both vanished. He sat staring at the screen. “Maybe, I’m losing my mind.”
Ice laughed. “Not at all, doc; you just don’t want to admit I was right.”
“True, now comes the really hard part, how do we create a second black hole?”
“If you can get me two missiles and two computer systems, I can supply the program.”
Phil held up his hand. “Wait a minute. Why do you need two missiles and two computer systems?”
“Project Hades, which had been built within the Site R facility, has disappeared. Correct?”
“When the first missile is ready, it will be launched so that it enters the black hole before noon of that day or before noon of the next day if it is already past noon. When the computer program is initiated, a second black hole will form then both will vanish. Now, at one minute after noon another black hole will form at the new location of the Hades Project, then we will fire the second missile and dispatch a team of people to pull the plug on the project.”
“Dr. Nagle, I’m impressed. You have a brilliant solution. How big a missile are you talking about?”
“It needs a ten by ten space for a computer system.”
“Do you have the specs for the computer system?”
Ice handed him a list. “This is what I need for each computer system. I will also need twenty computer technicians for each system."
“How soon can you be at Andrews?”
“I can be there by two A.M.”
“When you get there, ask for Major Weiss. He’ll get you on a flight to Florida. I’ll get the required parts for the computer systems on the way. How long do you need to have to get everything assembled?"
“The computer system will be loaded onto both missiles by end of day tomorrow, then I’ll do a system check and load the required programs. If all goes well, then by two or three in the afternoon of the day after tomorrow, we’ll be ready to go.”
* * *
Quami smashed into the ground hard. He lay still for a few moments, moving his arms and legs, making sure he was still in one piece. He sat up and saw stars. Stars? Zion lay motionless on the ground near him. He grunted as he got to his feet. He walked over and saw congealed blood on her head. He said, “Z, can you hear me?”
Z put her hand on her head. “Not so loud.”
“I’m glad you are okay.” He looked around but didn’t see Amber.
Z sat up. “How did we get outside? Could we have been knocked out for such a long time?”
“I’m as puzzled as you are.” He saw some lights moving in the dark. He yelled, “Over here!”
When the searchers didn’t come, Z remarked, “I don’t think they heard you?”
“Then they must be deaf.” He walked closer to the searchers and waved his arms, shouting, “We are here!” But despite his loud voice, the searchers kept going.
“What is wrong with these people?” he muttered. He took a dime from his pocket and threw it in the direction of the moving lights. He heard the dime strike something. The searchers paid no attention to the sound.
He sat down next to Z. “Where did they go?” she asked.
“They didn’t hear or see me.”
“That makes no sense.”
He sighed. “Lots of things are making no sense.” He looked at his watch. It was almost noon. Stars at noon? This made no sense. He yawned. Z yawned, too. Then Z lay down. “Don’t go to sleep now!” he implored her. His eyes felt so heavy, and he lay down as well.
Day One: April 10, 2019
Venhily woke up from his short nap and hurried to the bathroom. He looked in the mirror and sighed with relief that his dream of having a shark's head was only a dream. He also dreamt of the President having an upside down face. Why am I having crazy dreams?
* * *
Serena pulled at Gary’s elbow. “I’m off for the bathroom,” she said in a low voice.
She felt strange. I'm standing on the side of a hill, looking down at the bay. I know this place; yet, somehow it’s different. There's a slight breeze that pebbles my skin, and I wrap my arms around myself to give myself some warmth, but it's of no help.
She stopped in her tracks, shivered, and looked around. The image of the hill and the bay felt so real that, for a moment, she believed she was walking on the hill. But she stood in the hallway near the dream lab at Site R. I’m daydreaming while I’m walking toward the bathroom?
She couldn’t put a finger on why she was feeling so odd. I am back on the hill again and hear footsteps, turn, and see Gary walking toward me. “Where are we Gary?” My voice echoes.
“This is San Francisco Bay.”
“San Francisco? But . . . where is the bridge? . . . And . . . and . . . the city? . . . And the pollution? . . . and . . . where?”
She pressed up hard against the wall near the lab as though its support could somehow prevent her from falling down the ever present rabbit hole. The images and voices she was seeing and hearing were so real. Now, she was truly frightened, and her hands were shaking. A soldier passed her in the hallway and gave her an odd look.
Gary shrugs his shoulders. “Where? Perhaps, you should ask, ‘When'?”
“This is a dream. The answer to ‘When?’ is now.”
“This doesn’t feel like a dream to me,” Gary replies.
“That’s because it is my dream.”
“How can you be so sure if you are the dreamer or just part of another dream? Furthermore, why did I know where we are? If you are the dreamer, how is that possible?”
She struggled to continue walking down the hallway. She felt a deep guilt for having agreed to spy on Gary. Maybe this nightmare is being meted out to me as punishment, and tears began to stream down her cheeks. I should never have agreed to be Venhily’s spy, but if I had refused, then I would never have met my precious Gary.
I sit down on the side of the hill, and Gary sits beside me. “Maybe it's your dream, or maybe we are having the same dream.”
Gary laughs. “That would be really strange.”
She opened the door to the bathroom and entered. Just then the floor jumped, and she fell.
I begin to dig at the dirt with the heel of my shoe. “Why would I dream of San Francisco at a time when no one lives here?” she asked.
“Why not? Dreams are like that, you know. They don’t always make sense.”
She could hear things falling as she hugged the bathroom floor. The shaking seemed to continue for such a long time, then, finally, it stopped.
My shoe hit something solid in the dirt. I scoot down to see what it is and see a glint of metal. I continue to dig.
“What are you doing, Serena?”
“Something metal is buried here. I want to see what it is.”
Gary shakes his head. “You are just wasting your time.”
I laugh. “How can I waste time in a dream?”
“This place is so strange. My butt is getting sore from sitting on the ground.”
I laugh. “My hand is cramping from digging. It's hard to dig this thing out.”
“I haven’t seen any birds, insects, or even ants,” Gary remarks.
“I wouldn’t want ants and insects in any of my dreams.” I pull a can from the ground. “Oh, it is just a Pepsi can. Funny looking one, though.”
“Let me see!”
I hand it to Gary. “No kidding! How do you open this can?”
“Maybe you say, ‘open sesame'!” I reply with a laugh.
Gary turns the can in his hand. “This is so strange. The fine print reads: bottled in San Francisco; Pepsi copyright 2157.”
“Maybe it’s one of those joke cans.”
Gary grunts. “Hm . . . maybe.”
She groaned. The quake was over, and her head hurt. She hoped this crazy day dream was finished forever.
* * *
Gary struggled to stand up. His head ached. There had been an earthquake. I was knocked out? Serena? Then he remembered: she went to the bathroom. I need to make sure she is okay.
He took a step, and a can went rolling across the floor. He walked over and picked it up. This can was in my dream. He laughed. Someone must have missed the trash can, and it dropped on the floor. He noticed there were small bits of dirt on top of the can. He looked at the label ‘Pepsi 2157.’
He dropped the can as though it were on fire, and it rolled away. Why did I fall asleep? Gary looked around the room, which had been almost filled with people only minutes ago. Where did they all go?
He shouted, “Hello!” his voice echoed. There was an empty space on the wall to his right. Three machines were there earlier. Is this even the same room? Serena?
He rushed from the room and quickly ran down the hall toward the bathroom. He knocked at the door to the ladies bathroom and yelled, “Serena!”
When he heard no answer, he slowly opened the door. The woman standing there looked like Serena, yet she was changed.
The woman smiled and said, “Come!” Her long fangs frighten me, but her voice can not be denied. I take a step.
* * *
Quami said, “We are on line. Project Hades is up and running.”
“That is great,” Brenda replied.
Amber Ehle said, “I need to run to the ladies room.”
“Wait, I’ll come with you,” Dr. Hartz said.
Quami stood up. “I’ll walk with you Z. I wanted to ask you something.”
Brenda felt relieved because everything had gone so well. Now she needed to get the General alone for a short time. He stood in the hallway talking on the phone.
The room shook hard. Brenda couldn't believe it. Earthquake? Here? The floor jumped and she fell. She heard stuff falling. She didn’t even try to stand. When will this shaking stop?
* * *
Dr. Gravi lay on the floor, and it finally stopped shaking. He was standing near Lu when the earthquake started. He heard a scream, looked around, and saw Lu in the doorway of the lab. Suddenly, she vanished. He stood up and took a step toward the lab, then he started falling.
* * *
Dr. Berger stumbled. The first shock from the earthquake caused her to lose her balance, and she braced herself against a wall. The floor continued to shake, then there was a hard jolt and she fell.
Senita landed in a heap on the floor. This shaking had to end soon. Suddenly, it stopped, and she lay there too frightened to even move.
* * *
Z sat on a rocky ledge on the side of a hill. She could see a ribbon of a river far below. Where am I? She liked this beautiful place, which must be a dream. She looked at the clear blue sky, multitudes of shrubs, lots of trees, and wondrous beauty surrounded her. She seemed to be alone here. I know I am dreaming, but that is alright because it is a nice one.
She jumped when a pair of strong arms wrapped around her. "Morning, dear." She shivered in recognition of his voice. His lips kissed her cheek. This dream is getting weirder by the moment.
"How did we get here?" she asked.
His chuckle was friendly. "We have been living here for the past five years."
"Together?" She cringed at the sharpness in her voice.
"Yes, love, together--day and night. We are safe here."
"Safe? From what?"
"From the troubles of course!"
"Sweetheart, are you okay? You seem to be in a fog this morning."
Z sighed. She wanted to cry in frustration. "The last I remember is Site R."
"When we first met," Quami said.
"Yes, I am sure this is a dream!"
"I'm sure it is not!" Quami replied with a hard edge to his voice.
Z felt his firm hands on her neck and shivered. Then there was a necklace draped around her neck. "It is beautiful."
"To commemorate our fifth wedding anniversary."
She held the necklace in her hand. "Five years?"
Day Two: April 11, 2019
Z was jolted awake by a loud smashing, crashing sound. Even before she opened her eyes, she realized she lay on top of the bed fully dressed; even her shoes were on.
She was frightened and puzzled because last night she went to bed with ‘jamas on. She felt something in her hand and remembered the dream. Surely not!
She didn't want to open her eyes to see what she feared would be there. Her eyes opened and stared at the necklace. It appeared to be the exact one from her dream. This can't be! It was only a dream. How could I bring something from a dream into reality? Unless, this is a dream too. Z sighed.
She noticed the bathroom door hung sideways by its middle hinge, and the front door lay on the ground. What has happened here?
She slipped from the bed, sat up, and noticed Amber’s bed was empty. Then she saw a black man, in a business suit, sleeping in a chair near Amber's bed. She started to reach for her phone to call the police. But then she saw the clock: 12:10 am. I went to bed at 12:10 am, and Amber went to the bathroom to brush her teeth.
She stood up, calling the police could wait until she had a bit more information. She turned on the light, but the light switch wouldn't move. The bathroom light was already on, so it would have to do for now.
She shook the shoulder of the man in the chair. “Wake up!”
The black man opened his eyes. “Who are you?” he asked in an Irish accent.
She stared at him in disbelief, recognizing his voice from her strange dream. The same familiar voice from their many conversations on the phone. “This is my motel room. I’m asking the questions. Who are you?” I shiver for I already know the answer; still, I pray I am wrong.
“I’m Quami McIntire. Am I being punked?”
She laughed. “Dr. McIntire? Yeah, right! Do you have any ID?”
“Why am I wearing these clothes?”
“I asked myself the same question when I woke up. I’m missing the pj’s I went to bed in.”
“I am Dr. McIntire.”
“I spoke to Dr. McIntire on the phone just a few minutes ago. He was nowhere near here.”
“Then you must be Dr. Zion Hartz.”
“How did you know?”
“Because we spoke on the phone. You said, ‘Just wanted to let you know we got here okay. We’ll see you in the morning around eleven.’ I said, ‘Okay, see you then’.”
“Something is very wrong here, Dr. McIntire.” So wrong I want to scream.
“I agree. Call me, Quami.”
“Call me, Z.”
Quami tried to lift the TV remote. It wouldn't move. “This is so odd.” He stood up and walked to the TV. He pressed the power button. It didn't come on. "So much for that idea."
“Amber Ehle went to bed last night in this room. Where did she go?”
“I was hoping something in the news might answer some questions.”
“Or give us even more,” she added. "It seems the TV isn’t working.” She walked to the hotel phone and tried to lift the hand set. It wouldn't move. “What is wrong with this phone?”
“Z, did you bring a PC with you?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Turn it on. Let’s see if we can get the internet and email.”
A few minutes later, she looked up. “It won’t power up. Why is nothing working here?”
* * *
"Why is nothing working here?” Z's voice echoed in his mind as Quami walked to the bathroom. He tried to flush the toilet, but the handle wouldn't move. He tried to turn off the light switch, but it also refused to move. He left the bathroom and sat on the bed. He looked at Z. “We have a serious problem here.”
Z nodded. "Yeah! Like are we in the Twilight Zone or what?”
“Did you notice what time you woke up?” he asked.
“Yeah, and it was really strange. I went to bed at 12:10. When I woke up, it was 12:10, and you were sitting in that chair.”
Quami sighed, then he said, “Crap!”
“We must have been at Site R,” Z added.
“I concur, and we need to get back to Site R and make sure all the machines have been turned off.”
“There is one thing I forgot to mention,” Z said. “My dream last night was very strange.”
“Related to this madness?”
“I don’t know, Quami.” Z held up her necklace. “This necklace is from my dream.”
“I’m confused,” he admitted.
“I never saw this necklace until I dreamed of it. When I woke up, I had it in my hand.”
Quami’s eyebrows rose. “That is beyond bizarre." How could someone bring back something from a dream?
“That’s not even the good part. You gave me the necklace.”
“What?” Quami felt his insides begin to churn. If it wasn't a dream--
“I recognize your voice from the dream.”
“This makes no sense.” A space warp to the future or another reality?
“You might want to brace yourself for the rest of it.”
“There’s more?” Do I really want to know?
“In the dream, you were my husband.”
Quami chuckled. “Now if only we had awakened in Vegas, then I wouldn’t be so worried.” I pray I am wrong.
“How can we be so calm and collected?” Z asked. “We should be shouting, screaming, and calling for our mommys.”
“I think it's called shock, or maybe we're just nuts.” Or maybe by denying reality, we can delay having to face the truth.
“I could agree with part of your answer; you are definitely certifiable.”
“Don’t mention it. What do we do now, Quami?”
“We can hope we are in sync with Site R.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing works for us. You couldn’t turn on a light, your PC, or lift the hand set on the phone. I couldn’t turn on the TV, flush the toilet, or turn off the light in the bathroom. We are out of sync with this reality.”
“But I opened my purse. How is that possible?” Z asked.
“Would you have taken it with you at Site R?”
“Then it is a part of whatever reality we are experiencing.”
“You are scaring me.”
“Z, I’m way beyond scared. You are very familiar with the space warp machine project, but humor me for a moment.”
“Go ahead, doc. I’m listening.”
“When the machine was turned on, space became bent so that a person could go from one place to another in an instant. We are both pretty sure from our current situation we were both at Site R; therefore, we can infer something went wrong.”
“It is way beyond wrong, Quami.”
“Okay. Very wrong. I suspect everyone and everything nearby was pulled into the bending of space. However, we never arrived at any destination; consequently, we are caught in the middle of a space warp.”
“Now comes the million dollar question,” Z quipped. “What do we do now?”
“Now, we go to Site R.” I hope.
“Nothing is working for us, remember? So we can’t drive, and it would be a really long walk.”
“Z, I have a theory you might find impossible to believe, so I want to do a demonstration. I am going to enter the bathroom without walking over there.”
“Okay, this should be interesting. Go ahead.”
* * *
Quami vanished. Z stared at the bed. I am not imagining things; he was sitting there a moment ago. She ran to the bathroom. It was empty. Now she felt a fear like one she'd never known in her entire life. I am alone in a bizarre world. She sat on the bed. What do I do now?
* * *
Ice arrived at Andrews at just after two in the morning. The base stayed mostly quiet at this time of day, and he waited at the guard shack for ten minutes for Major Weiss to come for him. Fifteen minutes later, he was in the air. He was too keyed up to sleep, so he worked on the computer floor plan.
The airplane landed at Phillips Air Force Base in Florida. He stepped out of the plane into much warmer weather. He was pleased to see a soldier with a Jeep waiting for him, and he arrived at the missile site a few minutes later.
Computer technicians were already on site, working in different rooms. They were in the process of unpacking computer systems, setting them up, and testing them. When the tests were finished successfully, the parts were repacked and shipped to the missile site so they could be loaded on the elevators and sent up to be loaded on the missile.
Ice returned to the jeep and was taken to one of the missile sites. He stared for a moment at the height of the missile and the small elevator. He was reluctant to step into it. He had a fear of heights that had plagued him from an early age.
"Close your eyes. It helps," the soldier said. "At least it does for me."
Ice chuckled and stepped onto the elevator. He kept his eyes open. It was better to face fears head on. He needed to make sure everything was being laid out according to his floor plan. He refused to let his irrational fears deter him from what was important.
The walk, on the metal walkway, from the elevator to the missile was short but nerve wracking. He bent his head and stepped through the doorway. He felt as if he was entering a Cracker Jack box. The area was small and with the computer systems, it made the room look no larger than a postage stamp.
He started on one side of the room and mentally noted the placement of each machine. Less than half an hour later, he returned to the entrance and departed. His layout looked perfect. He nodded in satisfaction.
He returned to the Jeep. Then they were off to the location of the second missile. It was going to be a very long day.
Day Two: April 11, 2019
General George Venhily stood in the security booth staring at the security log. He couldn't believe Congressman Whitcomb and Serena Albertson were scheduled for a visit today with him. He had not made this appointment or authorized it to be put on the scheduled visitor's list.
Their signatures were on yesterday's list. Their signatures, in the log with the times along with his signature, shook him to the core.
This upset him even more than the fact that Site R was destroyed. An earthquake yesterday saw to that, and now the place crawled with rescue workers trying to find anyone who survived.
His lack of memory of the earthquake was not what truly terrified him because he could have been knocked down and out. The fact he had escaped the mountain without harm puzzled him, but it could be explained: he could have stepped out for a cigarette break.
He could even see where the stress of an earthquake could have made him forget the event itself, but today is Friday, 2018. How can I be missing a year and a day? He dismissed the year difference as a mistake in the log. Could it be possible they were here yesterday, and the trauma of what he experienced made him forget? He did not want to let that possibility even see the light of day.
"Sgt. Morris and Sgt. Bond, Site R is now officially shut down, and you are both being reassigned after today's shift." He handed them two sealed envelopes, then he took the log under his arm and waited.
He kept on waiting and wondering if they would show up, hoping they did not, terrified they would.
When he saw Serena's car, he felt sick to his stomach. He slowly walked out to meet them and stopped on the driver's side.
"Good morning, General," Gary said.
"What day is this?"
"This is Thursday. Why the odd question?"
"Because today is Friday."
"Nonsense, I know what day it is."
"Yeah? Well, welcome to the Twilight Zone, Congressman. I can't get you in today because Site R was destroyed by an earthquake on Thursday."
Venhily saw another car pull in: Doctor's Gravi and Sharpe. "Give me a moment," he told Gary.
He approached their car and asked the same questions, getting the same response.
He returned and informed Gary, "I'm riding with you. We are all going over to Verna Park."
The drive to the park took about twenty minutes even with a quick stop at a seven-eleven for coffee, donuts, and a newspaper. The walk to the tables under the trees took about two minutes. Every minute felt like an eternity.
Venhily continued to stand even as the others sat down. Finally, he sat and handed the newspaper to Gary. "Look at the date and the headlines then pass it around."
"Impossible," Dr. Gravi said.
"I don't believe it," Dr. Sharpe added.
"If I had not picked up the paper myself--" Gary stopped and stared at the table. “How could we be a year and a day into the future?” No one said a word.
"General, have you been able to contact anyone else from the labs?" Dr. Gravi asked.
"No, the guards at the gate were told to keep an eye out for anyone on yesterday's list. We need to talk about what happened because I do not believe in collective forgetfulness. The only conclusion I can make is that yesterday the space warp test went horribly wrong."
Dr. Gravi said, "Despite the fact that the test was supposed to be a year ago, I agree."
Dr. Sharpe nodded. "I concur."
Gary asked, "What?"
"Is this for real?" Serena added.
"Yes, this is for real," General Venhily snapped with an edge to his voice. "There is no other explanation."
"Uh . . . General . . . uh . . . what exactly happened yesterday?” Serena asked.
He shook his head. "I have no clue. Does anyone want to comment?"
"Does anyone remember doing anything at all on Thursday?" Dr. Gravi said.
"I remember going to bed Wednesday night," Venhily answered. “But, again, that was a year ago.”
Gary said, "What a nightmare."
"The report in the paper says an 8.9 earthquake occurred at Site R on Thursday around noon. On Thursday a test involving space and time was conducted about the same time. Obviously, something went haywire,” Venhily stated sharply. He looked at his watch. "We have two hours until noon."
"What do you expect to happen?" Serena asked.
Venhily looked down, and Dr. Sharpe coughed. "Oh no!" Dr. Gravi exclaimed.
"What?" Gary demanded.
Venhily looked up and shook his head. "We will just have to wait. There is no point in speculating. I am recording everything, and I also contacted a service company for a wake up call for everyone tomorrow at midnight."
Serena said, "I'm confused."
"I also contacted my secretary. She will be here shortly to transcribe and email everything to our respective email addresses."
Dr. Gravi nodded his head. "All wise precautions, General."
For the first time in Venhily's life, he prayed. He only wanted one thing to see the hands of his watch at one o'clock, then he could relax.
The sound of the alarm jerked Venhily awake. He sat up. The dream about Site R's destruction was still vivid in his mind. It seemed so real. Wow, that dream was so bizarre.
He walked toward the front door of his house to see if the paper had been delivered yet. It normally arrived by 5:00 am. He opened the door and stepped outside. He saw a large span of grass and a huge lake about two hundred feet away. Is this another dream?
He put on his slippers and stepped outside. He heard a shrill scream and looked in the direction it came from. Someone ran toward him. He wondered, What is happening? As the person drew near, he saw a woman, Dr. Berger?
As she ran past, she screamed, “Venhily, run!” She kept on running toward the lake. This is the strangest dream.
Then he saw the creature. Even from a distance, he could tell it was a t-rex. The earth shook as the t-rex ran toward him, and the sound it made almost caused his heart to stop. I'm amazed. This dream is even more vivid than the movie Jurassic Park. I can even smell the thing coming. It smells like death.
He didn't worry because this was only a dream even if was so real that he felt a part of this bizarre place. The t-rex stood forty feet high and was the fiercest thing he'd ever seen. It stopped a few feet from him. If I don’t move, it will ignore me. He laughed at his silly thought. This is only a dream. He felt a chill from a slight breeze blowing from behind him, and the t-rex focused on him.
He felt colder. It is time to wake up now. He didn't like the look in its eyes.
The t-rex pounced, and its jagged teeth sank deep into his chest, and he screamed. How can a dream hurt so much?
* * *
Senita woke up in a forested area. She was lying on the cold ground in her nightgown. She sat up slowly then stood up. Is this a dream? Her feet were cold, and she began to walk on a dirt path. "Ow." She hobbled to the grass and sat down. She lifted her foot and saw it was okay.
A chill in the air caused her to shiver. The smells of the forest were so real. All of her senses were telling her this was real place, but she couldn't think of any rational explanation for how that could be possible or why she was here. The last she remembered was going to bed on Wednesday night. When she woke up, she was here.
She stood back up and returned to the dirt path. She walked for a long time, then the forest was gone, and she came to a large grassy area. Her feet were relieved to have something softer to walk on. She walked for a long time.
She felt a tremble in the earth before she saw the t-rex. It was far away in the distance, moving in her direction. She took off running in the opposite direction.
She could not outrun a t-rex, but she ran anyway. She'd never run so fast in her life. The trembling in the ground was getting stronger, and her side ached, then she came up over a small hill and saw a lake below. She stopped for a moment to catch her breath.
She saw the lake as an opportunity to escape. She looked back and saw the t-rex gaining ground fast. She screamed in defiance and took off running, again.
She was shocked to see General Venhily standing on the grass. She yelled at him and kept running.
She dove into the lake and swam out a short distance. Then she flipped onto her back and floated until she was able to catch her breath. The water was cold, but it kept her safe from the t-rex.
She resumed swimming and reached the other side, then she sat on a boulder, looking back in the direction from which she'd come. The t-rex was gone. She was cold and needed clothes, shelter, and some food. She, also, needed some answers. She lifted her foot and looked at the blood on the bottom of it. I need shoes too.
* * *
Amber sat in the airline seat waiting for an opening so she could disembark. She stood up and walked down the aisle. She went through the open door and . . . sat down in the seat of the rental car. "Come on Z. Let’s go."
She blinked. The countryside flew by quickly. They would be at Site R in plenty of time. What is happening to me?
The soldiers held machine guns. They stood in readiness near the gated entrance to Site R.
She put her hand to her head. Stop! The soldier opened the door for her to enter the building.
She stepped out of the dream chamber. She felt dizzy from the images floating in her mind.
Her hand crushed the t-rex’s throat.
My hand . . . my hand . . . is. . . .
Amber was awake now. She was shaken by her dream. It wasn't terrifying until . . . her hand.
She lifted her hand, then she wanted to close her eyes and deny this thing before her eyes, but more than her eyes gave evidence of the truth. I am changed, and my hand is the least of those changes.
The only creature that could even come close to describing her appearance was a gargoyle. Only, I am much uglier, as if that could be possible.
She remembered looking into a puddle of water, screaming, then throwing up.
She prayed, Please let this be a dream. But it just goes on and on and on. How can any dream last for so long?
I lurk in the dark of this cavernous place. No people have come here since that first day when I killed the t-rex. I’m not sure how long ago that happened. Time has changed
Will this nightmare ever end?
Day Two: April 11, 2019
Gary opened his eyes and sighed. He needed to use the bathroom. Getting up in the middle of the night was such a bother; it was just another sign of his age.
I sink my teeth into my own lip and awaken immediately. I am cold and shivering. Why am I lying on the ground? I sit up.
He shook his head. Where did that image come from?
He sat up. He still felt groggy, then he stood up. The night light in the wall by the bathroom door was on, and the bathroom door was slightly ajar.
There is a hill not far away, and there is a large dark castle on top of it. Gary laughed. This is like a scene from a bad horror story.
He stopped midway to the bathroom. I must be losing my mind, then he continued walking.
He pushed on the bathroom door, but it didn’t move. What could be blocking it? There was another bathroom downstairs, but he didn’t want to walk down there unless he had to.
This has to be a dream. I taste blood in my mouth. I’ve never tasted blood in a dream before; at least, I hope not.
I look at the castle, but I have no intention of going anywhere near it. I take a step in the opposite direction . . . and the door of the castle opens . . . and then closes behind me.
He staggered and put his hand on the wall. The visions he was having felt so real. I am awake. How can I be dreaming while I’m awake?
He pushed harder on the bathroom door; it still wouldn’t budge. He sighed in disgust, walked out of the bedroom, and continued down the stairs.
I don’t like this dream. I want to wake up now. The room is filled with darkness, and I can almost feel it pressing down on me.
Then I see a green glowing fog, which is rolling down the stairs.
He almost fell on the stairs when the vision returned. He gripped the railing tight and hung on until it ended.
Gary laughed. Will every B movie I have ever seen make an appearance in this daydream? He waited with curiosity for something or someone to appear, then he continued downwards.
The bathroom door down here stood open. He tried to switch on the light, but the switch wouldn’t move up or down, which he found very odd.
A beautiful woman steps from the fog. I smile in recognition of Serena. She almost seems to float down the stairs.
He was afraid because this walking nightmare felt just too real.
When he finished, he tried to flush the toilet, except the handle would not go down. He couldn't understand why nothing worked. He tried to lift the lid to the toilet tank, but he couldn’t get it off, then he began to feel even more afraid.
I want to look away from her eyes, but I am unable to move my head. I want to scream, but sounds will not form in my mouth. I want--
He wanted to run and hide, but he refused to let his imagination take control. He felt a little hungry, so he wandered into the kitchen. He pulled at the refrigerator door, but it wouldn’t open. He walked to the kitchen sink and tried to turn the faucet handle, but it wouldn’t move. What is going on here?
He walked back to the stairs and climbed back up them. Could this be a dream, too?
Gary awakened Serena. She smiles and I see two large fangs. I lean toward her. A part of my mind protests even while I am happily obeying. I lower my head, and she wraps her arms around my head and--
He fell to the floor by the bed, and Serena looked down at him. “Are you alright?”
Gary told her of his odd dream as well as of the odd things he experienced. She said, “It's only a dream, honey. Don't worry about it”
He stood up and pulled at her hand. “Come on! See for yourself!”
* * *
Serena, reluctantly, crawled out of the warm bed. She had been so relaxed and comfortable. Gary half dragged her to the bathroom and said, “Go ahead. Try the door.”
I look at the Pepsi can in my hand. I still can't figure out how to open it. “You know, Gary, this place is kind of creepy. It is so empty. I’ll bet there are no fish in the bay.”
Serena gripped Gary’s arm hard.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I became dizzy for a moment. I’m okay now.” Gary threw a rock at the bay far below. It landed on the side of the slope.
She pushed on the door, and it opened easily. She looked at Gary. The expression on his face was priceless. "I can throw one farther than that." I threw as hard as I could, and the rock went bouncing down the slope.
Gary nodded almost absently. “You may be right, but it doesn’t matter. As you said, it was only a dream.”
“My finger is bleeding.” The rock was sharp, but I hadn't noticed until I saw the blood.
Gary said, "Let me see your finger. How did this happen? It wasn't bleeding a moment ago."
Serena started shaking with fright. Why am I seeing the ocean and hearing voices? How can a dream make my finger bleed? Do I dare tell Gary the truth?
Gary put his arms around her. "Please, love, tell me."
Serena relaxed in his arms and began to tell him of the visions and of how her finger was cut by the rock, then he rubbed her back hard and said, “Maybe you should go back to bed, sweetie.”
She said, “No!” loudly. “I can do this. I know I can.”
“Don’t move!” He pulled on the door, and it stayed in place. He looked at Serena. “Why does the door move for you, but it won’t even budge for me? This is crazy!”
I raise my hand, and he takes it in his. “It’s only a scratch. Don’t worry about it.”
I laugh. “If this is only a dream, why would I worry?” I lift my finger to my mouth and suck at it. “Hm . . . it tastes good.”
Serena shook her head. It’s a dream I’m remembering. Please! It must be a dream. She looked at Gary. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t understand any of this.” Then she smiled at Gary. “Come back to bed. It is late. We can figure it out in the morning.”
Gary backed away from her, and she looked at him curiously. “What is the matter?”
He pointed at the bathroom. “The mirror.”
She looked at Gary and smiled brightly, and he scampered quickly backward. “What is the matter with you?”
“You . . . fangs . . . like. . . .” Gary jumped up and ran.
“I don’t see anything wrong with the mirror.” Then Serena moved in front of it. My reflection is not in the mirror? She laughed. “You can’t move the door, and I can’t see my own reflection. Maybe the house is haunted.” I'm puzzled. I turn and--
Gary runs into me and falls to the ground. “How . . . did . . . you--?”
Gary slowly backed away. He was almost to the doorway of the bedroom. “Come back to bed.”
He shook his head. “Come!” She could feel something different in her voice.
I lean over and lift him from the ground. I don't know how I can move so quickly, or how I have become so strong. I am certain of only one thing: I'm dying for a drink to quench my insatiable thirst.
I lick my lips.
Then as he lowered his head, she opened her mouth, realizing, at last, what she thirsted for.
* * *
Gary woke up and sat on the edge of the bed. “Those were the craziest dreams I have ever had,” he muttered to himself. He stood up and walked to the bathroom. The door wouldn’t move, and he looked back at the bed. Serena?
There was a hammer in his tool box, and he could smash a chair leg to make a stake, and--What is the matter with me? Am I losing my mind?
Gary was frightened. He was supposed to go with Serena to Site R today to witness the Hades Project go live. He was having nightmares and walking daydreams. He needed a doctor, but Venhily would never understand.
Serena stirred under the covers, and Gary stared at the bed. Should I expect green fog to suddenly seep from under the covers? His ludicrous thought made him want to laugh, but he was too frightened by the vision.
This has to be yet another dream. Gary felt a shiver of fear. What if this is not a dream?
Serena sat up. “I’m cold. Come back to bed, love. Why are you up?”
“I . . . uuh . . . the bathroom up here isn’t working. I’m going downstairs.”
* * *
Serena watched Gary leave the room. He was acting so strange: almost as if he is afraid of me. She laughed at her silly thought. She was looking forward to going to Site R today--except she was not thrilled because General Venhily would be there. She remembered the first time she had seen him. . . .
The sound of Gary’s footsteps as he reentered the room, pulled her from her memories of the past.
“Go to the bathroom and open the door,” he demanded.
“No questions! Just do it!”
She slid from under the covers and bent over for her nightgown. “Leave it!” Gary yelled. “Open the bathroom door.”
She shivered. She went to the bathroom and pushed on the door, but it didn't move. She turned around. “It won’t open, Gary.”
He ran to her and wrapped her in his strong arms. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.” Then he told her of his dreams.
* * *
Gary listened intently as Serena spoke of her dreams. She remembered some of the same things.
“We have a problem, sweetie.”
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out,” she quipped.
Gary grinned. “That’s for sure. There are some things I want to explain about the dream machine and the space warp machine. The purpose of the dream machine is to make you believe a dream is reality. The first test failed and 256 people died.”
“What went wrong?”
“The machine was sabotaged, but the problems were corrected. The space warp machine will take you anywhere on Earth you wish to go in an instant.”
“How does it do that?”
“It bends space. I think these two machines may have something to do with what we are experiencing. Bring me your purse.”
She stood up and walked to the dresser, grabbed her purse, returned to the bed, and sat down next to him.
“Go ahead! Open it!”
She opened her purse.
Gary put his hand on her arm. “Why is it possible you can open your purse, but we were unable to open the bathroom door?”
“Hm . . . that’s a good question.”
“How are they different?”
She laughed. “I don’t carry the bathroom door with me everywhere.”
Gary grinned. “That’s exactly my point. You, me, and your purse have been somewhere the house has not.”
She shook her head in disagreement. “How is that possible, Gary? When we went to bed last night everything was fine, but when we woke up, we found ourselves in this nightmare.”
“That’s what we remember, sweetie. Empty your purse on the bed.”
She sighed. “I don’t want to hear any snide remarks about why this, that, or the other is in my purse.”
Gary laughed. “I’ll try to hold my tongue.” Then he began to riffle through the items on the bed.
“What are you looking for?”
He looked up. “I’m not exactly sure. Ah . . . here are a couple of receipts. Hm . . . this is odd.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a postcard you bought in a souvenir shop. It has a picture of Site R on it.”
She held out her hand. “Let me take a look at it. I don’t remember putting it in my purse.”
Gary handed the card over and continued looking through the items on the bed. “Wow, this is . . . oh my.”
Gary handed the receipt he found to Serena.
“Okay, it has today’s date at 10:36. The date on the register could have been off.”
“That’s possible,” Gary admitted. “But this item has me really puzzled.” He handed the business card to her.
She read out loud. “Dr. Zion Hartz--Cal Tech.” Then she flipped the card over and read, "Call me this afternoon. We’ll talk, Z."
“Ah, who is Zion Hartz?”
“She is a physicist who teaches at Cal Tech. She flew into Philadelphia last night, and she will be at Site R today for the launch of the Hades Project.”
“How did I get her card? I’ve never met her.”
“Is this your phone?” Gary held up a red and silver phone and handed it to her.
She smiled. “You know it is. You bought it for me.”
“Take a look at your phone list.”
A moment later, she looked up. “This is not possible. How can her name be on my phone?”
“Give her a call.”
“Yeah, right now!” he answered in an excited voice.
* * *
Ice lay down on a cot to rest. The computer system was set up on the rocket now, and the final tests were being run to make sure there were no problems. He would sleep until ten tonight, then he would begin loading the software, which could take most of the night.
Once the software was up and running, then the missile would launch. It would go around the Earth once then reenter and fly into the black hole sometime after 12:30 P.M. The program would activate, and another black hole would form, then in less than a nanosecond, they would both disappear. Then they would have less than eighteen hours to find the Site R facility, so the machines could be shut down. Once they completed that, they should be in the clear.
Ice closed his eyes. He needed to find a way to get control of Project Hades. There was still time.
Day Two: April 11, 2019
Myra walked with General Venhily down a hallway at Site R. The General is dead. I saw his desiccated corpse in the chamber. I was in a meeting with the Vice President just a few minutes, ago. How could I be here now?
Myra felt as if she was in a living nightmare. The General continued to talk, but she paid little attention to his words. Her mind was elsewhere. Where is my secret service detail?
He stopped at a door and swiped a card. He held the door open for her, and she entered. “This is the dream lab,” he said.
Myra looked around. She remembered the last time she was here when she had looked through the face plates of the machines and witnessed the dead bodies. One of whom was General Venhily.
“I was in a meeting at the White House with the Vice President about ten minutes, ago.”
The General laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
Myra saw the syringe in his hand, but she didn’t have time to block him from using it. She heard him say, “The Vice President is at Camp David.”
Myra opened her eyes and shivered from the chill in the air. Where am I? The last she remembered was the syringe in the General’s hand. She heard a loud thud and looked around and saw the body of Dr. Berger.
She almost screamed when Dr. Berger moved and sat up. “You are alive,” she said in a half whisper.
Dr. Berger turned her head. “How did you get in my dream?”
Myra laughed. “This is my dream.”
“This ground is really hard for a dream. My thigh has a large bruise on it. We should find shelter. There appears to be a path through the trees over there. Let's follow it and see where it goes.”
They walked on the path single file for quite a while. Dr. Berger was right; the ground was hard, and her soft feet were not used to this. Myra had removed her high heels earlier. She was unable to walk in them here.
They finally arrived at a large grassy area. “Ah . . . this feels so much better on my feet.”
Dr. Berger laughed, and we continued on our way. A few minutes later, Dr. Berger said, “Did you feel that?”
They both stopped for a moment. “It feels like a trembling in the ground,” Myra remarked.
“I wonder what it could be?”
They continued on their way. They walked up a tall slope. When they reached the top, they looked back. Dr. Berger said, “There!”
Myra looked in the direction that she pointed. “That’s not possible.”
Then they both took off running. Myra shouted, “This must be a dream. Dinosaurs are all dead.”
"Tell that to the dinosaurs," Dr. Berger shouted as she ran.
Myra struggled to keep pace with Dr. Berger. They ran up a small hill and stopped at the top to take a breather. She stared at the large lake below then noticed Dr. Berger was looking back the way they had come. She turned around. The t-rex was much closer now. She was startled as Dr. Berger suddenly screamed and began running, again.
They flew down a hill and started across a grassy plain. Myra saw General Venhily about twenty feet away.
Dr. Berger screamed, “Venhily, run!”
They didn’t slow down for even a second. Dr. Berger reached the lake first and dived in. Myra ran into the water and began swimming. The chilly water made her shiver, but she could endure it until they reached the other bank. They swam for a short while, then Dr. Berger turned onto her back. She said, “I need to catch my breath.”
Myra turned onto her back, as well, and tried to relax as she floated in the water. They floated a few minutes, then they continued swimming.
Myra, finally, reached the opposite bank of the lake. She used her remaining strength to struggle up onto the bank and collapsed onto the ground.
A short time later, she sat next to Dr. Berger. Looking back across the lake, she said, “What is going on here?”
Dr. Berger looked at her almost as if seeing her for the first time. “We are caught in a dream sequence.”
“So this is a dream?”
Dr. Berger shook her head. “Yes and no. It is a dream, but we are not dreaming it. We are living it.”
Myra shivered. “How do we escape?”
Dr. Berger laughed. “As long as the dream program is running, there is no escape. Our only hope is that someone will turn off the machine.”
Dr. Berger yawned. “I’m sleepy.” She closed her eyes.
Myra’s eyes felt heavy for a moment. Then she closed them.
* * *
The sounds of smashing, crashing, and bashing finally broke through to Brenda’s mind. Her eyes were almost open when her bedroom door slammed against the wall.
She was, unceremoniously, pulled from the bed and pushed to the floor. She was relieved she had put on a nightgown before going to bed. Her hands were handcuffed behind her back. Then she was pulled up from the floor and pushed into a chair.
“What is this all about?” she demanded.
She was ignored for the moment, but then one of the men came over and dangled a document in front of her face. “We have a search warrant.”
It seemed as if she sat in the chair for a very long time, but it was hard to tell. She kept wanting to nod off while at the same time she needed to stay awake to keep an eye on these people.
Finally, an older man entered the room. “We found five mil in cocaine in your basement. We are taking you in for booking.”
She sat in the chair stunned. Her first thought was Venhily. She was pulled up from the chair and led from the room. They continued through the living room where she was allowed to stop for a moment to slip her feet into a pair of shoes, then she was led out the front door. She stumbled on the steps in front of the house and--
Brenda landed hard on the ground. Her hands were still handcuffed behind her back. Suddenly, she realized all she had on was her nightgown. Where are my coat and shoes? She rolled over. Where is my house? She lay in a small grove surrounded by trees.
She struggled to her feet. Her left side hurt from the hard landing. She looked around. Where am I?
She saw a path nearby and walked toward it. She felt strange. She couldn’t put a name to her feeling, except this place frightened her.
A sudden sharp pain in her foot made her sit down quickly. She moved her leg around, but she could see nothing out of the ordinary.
Then her whole body began to spasm. She flopped around on the ground like a fish out of water. Pain coursed through her as though her very blood was on fire.
She screamed. Her left leg swelled and continued swelling until it became three or four times larger than normal. Then her left foot began to grow longer and wider. What is happening to me?
She screamed, again. It felt as if every muscle in her leg was cramping at the same time. Her leg, literally, bulged from expanding muscles. The sight reminded her of a body builder except her leg was even bulkier. Then hair began to grow on her leg. It grew fast and thick.
Her handcuffs grew tighter, then they snapped. She looked with horror at claws forming at the end of her fingers. Every werewolf movie she had ever seen was not as frightening as what was happening to her body.
She lay on the ground not moving for a few minutes, then she sniffed the air. A strong food scent filled the air. She leapt to her feet and ran upright down the path. She quickly left the forest behind.
The food smell grew stronger, and she ran faster. She felt a tremor in the ground; she ignored it and ran faster. She saw the creatures about the same time they saw her. They were at least three times as tall, and their mouths were full of jagged teeth that sent a clear message. She turned and ran.
She ran fast, but she could tell from the tremors under her feet they were gaining on her. She saw a tall tree and ran for it. She climbed up to the top of the tree quickly, then she waited.
One of the creatures ran at the tree. She jumped at the same time that it crashed into the tree, landing on its back. She dug her claws into its flesh and began ripping. As the beast roared and screamed, she kept ripping at its flesh, then she leapt from its back and ran.
She could hear a horrific commotion behind her, but she kept running. She came up to the top of a low hill and saw a large lake below. She saw some creatures in the water, and she ignored them.
She ran down the hill and stopped at the edge of the lake. She feared water, then she began to follow the bank. The water could not go on forever.
She walked for a long while before she came to the end of the lake. She sniffed the air and caught the scent of food to her right. She started running. As the smell grew stronger, she ran faster. Then she saw two forms lying on the ground, and she felt drool dripping down her chin. Her hunger needed more than food. She felt a burning hunger to kill, ravage, rip, tear, and devour.
By the time she reached the forms on the ground, she ran on all fours, then she leapt into the air and pounced upon them. She screamed and howled as she ripped them to shreds, then she began eat.
* * *
Z looked at the clock. Quami had vanished fifteen minutes earlier, and she remained on the bed the entire time immobilized with fear.
She was startled by the ringing of her phone. She had put everything back into her purse, fortunately the phone was on top. She answered it, “Dr. Hartz speaking.”
“Hi, this is Serena Albertson.”
“Just a sec.”
“Hi, Dr. Hartz. This is Congressman Whitcomb. We have your business card, and we need to talk.”
Twenty minutes later, Z ended the call. Quami was right. They were all caught in this madness. Toward the end of their conversation, she told Gary about Quami’s idea that he could focus on Site R at a particular time and go there.
Gary told Z that he and Serena would try to go to Site R. Z closed her eyes. She didn't know if this would work. She tried to let go of her doubts and focus on Site R. She began to breathe deep and relax, then she pictured the room in her mind. When I open my eyes, I’ll be there. Z opened her eyes.
Total darkness surrounded her; she couldn't even see her own hand. The total darkness made her feel a bit dizzy and disoriented. “What did I do wrong?” she murmured.
She sat on a dirt floor or on the ground itself. She wasn’t sure which one. She had a flashlight in her purse. She opened her purse and tried to find it by touch. After a few minutes, she gave up that idea, then she started to remove items from her purse one by one and piled them on the ground. I hope the dirt is not too dirty; her silly thought almost made her laugh.
Her purse was close to half empty before she found the flashlight. She turned it on and illuminated her pile of things on the ground. She dusted them off as she replaced them back into her purse. When she finished, she held the light in front of her. She couldn't see far or much.
She stood up and walked slowly for even with a light she had to take care not to run into something. She went no farther than twenty steps when she arrived at a solid rock wall. She could see marks on the wall. This space had been carved out by people.
This place was completely quiet, except for the sounds of her shuffling steps and breathing. She yelled, “Hello!”
Her voice echoed and reechoed. She heard an echoing “Hello” in return and felt an immediate jolt of disbelief, hope, fear, and joy all mixed together.
She couldn't tell where the voice came from, or who had made it. She stayed close to the wall and continued walking. She took a pen from her purse and tapped it on the wall as she walked. She could hear the faint echo of the tap-tap-tap.
She found an opening. Should I remain in the cavern or leave? She shouted, again, “Hello.”
Quami’s quiet voice startled her, and she dropped the flashlight.
“At least one of us came prepared,” he said. He bent down and grabbed her flashlight and handed it to her.
She laughed. “Thanks, you almost scared me out of my wits. Do you know where we are?”
“I’m pretty sure this is Site R.”
“What? There’s nothing here.”
“I’ve been waiting around for you to show up. Perhaps, if we put our minds together, we can make some sense of this.”
“Oh!” she said excitedly, “I spoke with Congressman Whitcomb and his wife on my phone.” She went on relating her conversation. She concluded saying, “They are going to try to come here too.”
“This is a pleasant surprise. Hopefully, they will arrive soon. Four minds are better than one.”
She turned off her flashlight. “I don’t have any extra batteries. How have you managed without a flashlight?”
“Poorly, I’m afraid,” Quami admitted. “I didn’t expect this.”
Z heard a yelp. “What was that?”
“Hm . . . not sure. Try Serena’s number.”
She grinned. “That’s a very good idea.”
She gave Quami a poke in the arm with her fist. “Don’t get a big head over it.”
“I’ll try to contain myself.”
She turned on the flashlight and found her phone. She dialed Serena’s number. She could hear the echo of a phone ringing. “They're here, Quami.”
Day Two: April 11, 2019
Phil stepped off the elevator. He hated heights. He reminded himself not to look down, then he could pretend he was not eighty feet above ground. He ducked his head to enter the missile.
He walked over to where Ice worked at a station. “How’s it going?”
Ice looked up. “Quite well, actually. The software loaded quicker than expected; now, I’m running some tests and simulations to make sure everything works. I’ll finish here around midnight, then I’ll get the software loaded to the second missile. Both missiles should be ready to go by six in the morning, then we wait.
Phil smiled. “This is very good news. The military has put together a team of specialists to fly to the new location of the Hades Project. This will all be over soon.”
* * *
Gary watched Quami using the marker on his arm. He was skeptical when he first talked with Z on the phone, but he decided to take a leap of faith and try the idea Quami put forth.
Quami suggested each of them make notes on their arms that would give them useful information for when they woke up the next day.
Gary didn't like this dark place. Quami finished with the marker, and Gary said, “Why do we have to go to where the Hades Project is located? Why not just go to the machines themselves?”
Everyone stopped talking for a moment, then a voice broke the silence. “A solution so simple it never occurred to me,” Quami admitted.
Gary chuckled. “Simple! True! But will it work?”
“I don’t know,” Quami admitted. “One of us could try to go. If that works, they could return, then we could all go.”
“That sounds fine in theory,” Z said. “But it assumes the person would be able to return. I stayed alone for a long time in that motel room. I would not wish to repeat that experience, again. Quami, whether you go or stay, I’ll be with you, and that is my final answer.”
There were a few chuckles, then Serena said, “I feel the same way, Gary.”
No one said anything for a short while, then Quami added, “We still have a choice to make. Do we stay here, or do we leave? If we leave, will we all go or only half of us?”
“I think we should go, Quami.”
“I agree, Z.” he replied.
Gary declared, “I’m tired of this darkness, and I am ready to leave. Serena?”
“Yes! Let’s go.”
Quami said, “Everyone close your eyes and listen to me. Breathe deep and relax. In your mind there is a staircase, and you are standing at the top of the staircase, then you take a step down, and each step brings you closer to standing in front of chamber one of the dream machine.
“As you walk down the staircase, you feel the anticipation of your arrival, and you see the smiling faces of those around you. As you draw nearer, you can hear the echo and reecho of your footsteps, then you hear the whir of the machines, and you see soft light from the hallway. Now you see the open door of the lab and you enter.
“Now, open your eyes!” Quami commanded, "and behold the dream machine.”
* * *
Lu opened her eyes. Her nightmares vividly lived in her mind. Although she felt strong pangs of hunger, she didn't have an appetite for anything after ‘that’ dream.
She raised her head. I was sleeping at my work station? She had never done before. She looked around. The empty lab surprised her. She looked at her watch. What?
She sat down just a few minutes before ten. It was now just after ten. She could not have slept for only a minute or two. “This makes no sense,” Lu muttered to herself.
She pushed her chair back and stood up. She walked out of the lab and down the hall toward the bathroom. The empty hallway and offices surprised her. The unnatural quiet unsettled her.
She stepped over a few drops of blood near the entrance to the bathroom. “People need to clean up after their own messes,” she grumbled to herself. Then she opened the bathroom door and entered. She walked to the sink, turned on the water, and splashed some in her face.
She saw the bottom of someone’s shoe sticking out from under a bathroom stall. Maybe I’m still dreaming. She blinked her eyes several times, but the shoes were still there.
She walked reluctantly toward the stall. As she drew nearer, she saw splotches of blood spattered about on the floor, wall, and stall, and there was a large pool of blood under the stall door.
She turned her head, almost afraid to look, as she pushed the stall door open. After the nightmares, she half expected to see John lying on the floor. But it was a woman she didn't know.
She turned her head and threw up. The woman’s body was missing chunks of flesh where something had been eating her. She heard the bathroom door shut, and she quickly turned.
She stared at a hideous creature, which looked like a gargoyle. She began backing up. There is nowhere for me to go. Then the creature leapt, and she screamed as its claws ripped into her.
* * *
Z opened her eyes. She stood front of the dream machine.“I don’t believe it.” She heard Quami laugh. He stood next to her. Then she saw Serena and Gary. “We are here,” she said excitedly.
Quami warned, “Don’t touch anything.” Then he turned around and walked toward one of the work stations. Z hurried to catch up to him. He looked at one of the monitors for a moment. “This isn’t good.”
“What’s that?” Z asked.
“There’s someone in all of these machines.”
Z jumped as she heard Serena scream. She turned quickly. Serena clung to Gary.
She hurried across the room. “What’s wrong with Serena?”
Gary didn’t answer. He pointed at the machine.
She pressed her face to the face place in the chamber. She saw Gary and Serena sleeping. “That’s not possible.”
She moved to the next chamber. She paled as she saw herself, Quami, and Amber. “This is insane.”
Quami pulled at Z’s arm. “We need to talk.”
She nodded her head and walked with him to the other side of the lab.
“We need to find a way to wake up everyone in the chambers.”
Z said, “Just turn off the program.”
He smiled and pushed a button. Nothing happened. “We are not in sync with this space time reality.”
“So what do we do now?”
Quami shook his head. “I thought for sure this would work.”
Z closed her eyes. “Maybe.”
* * *
Quami shouted. “No! Z!” But she was already gone. He suspected what she was attempting to do. He walked over to one of the sleep chambers. He looked through the face plate. He saw Z sleeping. Even if she tried to merge with this ‘Z.’ It wouldn't work because they were not in sync with this place.
Serena said, “What happened to Z?”
Quami stopped writing on his arm for a moment and looked up. “I don’t know.” He yawned. “I’m sleepy.”
* * *
Z slammed into--nothing. She opened her eyes. She knew she was foolish to try this. She turned her head, and her head wouldn’t move. She was in the dream chamber. She tried to lift her arm. It wouldn’t move. She tried to speak. She couldn't move her lips. Then she saw her own reflection in the face plate. Her body appeared to be sleeping. She wanted to scream, but her mouth wouldn’t open. She closed her eyes. She needed to get away from here. She focused on Quami.
Day Three: April 12, 2019
I stand on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The breeze blowing in from the ocean feels so good on this hot day. I drink in the smell of the fresh air and feel a sense of calm like I've never experienced before.
I hear footsteps behind me, and then warm arms wrap around me. My husband’s familiar voice says, “I love you, Z.”
I smile and say, “I’m pregnant.”
* * *
Ice watched the monitor. The missile was on course. The timing needed to be exact. He nodded his head in satisfaction because so far all was going well. He looked at the time. One minute left until impact. He stopped looking at the clock. The computer programs would bring the missile in at the right moment. He turned to his other monitor. The other missile sat on the launch pad.
This second missile worried him because some of its programming would have to be done while it was in flight.
He turned back to the first monitor. Ten seconds to impact. He followed the countdown. The missile entered the black hole. Almost instantly, the black hole vanished. He clapped his hands. His plan worked. Twelve hours from now a black hole would form at the real Site R, then the next missile would get rid of it, then his plan to take over the computers at Site R would become a reality. He looked at his phone on the desk. When the location of the black hole became known, he would receive a call.
* * *
Z jolted awake. There had been a loud smashing, crashing sound. She opened her eyes. The bathroom door hung sideways by its middle hinge, and the front door lay on the ground. Z felt confused. She went to bed in her pj’s. Now all her clothes were on even her shoes.
Her vivid dreams of last night hit her like a freight train. She felt a little strange. She moved her hands towards her abdomen. This is crazy. Still her hands seemed to move of their own accord. I'm pregnant.
I'm pregnant? This is impossible. I must still be dreaming. Please let this be a dream and let me awaken soon.
She slid off the bed and sat up. Amber’s empty bed seemed odd. A professionally dressed black man slept in a chair near Amber’s bed. She started to call the police. Then she saw the clock: 12:10 am. She went to bed at 12:10 am. Amber went to use the bathroom and to brush her teeth.
She stood up. Calling the police could wait until she had a bit more information. She tried to turn on the light, but the light switch didn’t work. The bathroom light had already been on.
She walked over to the chair and shook the man’s shoulder. “Wake up!” she commanded.
The black man opened his eyes. “Who are you?” he asked in an Irish accent.
She stepped back in shock. She recognized his voice: the one from her dream. I looked down at my pregnant belly. I was not pregnant when I went to bed just a minute, ago. He's my baby's father.
Her voice shook with fear and puzzlement. “This . . . um . . . is my motel room. . . . ah . . . Who are you?” I know what he will answer, but I must confirm my nightmare is real.
“I’m Quami McIntire. Am I being punked?”
Z laughed despite her condition, confusion, fear, and a sense of hopelessness. “Dr. McIntire? Yeah, right! Do you have any ID?”
“Why am wearing this suit?”
“I asked myself a similar question when I woke up fully dressed. But what has that to do with your ID?”
She watched while he fumbled at his pants. He looked up with puzzlement on his face. “My wallet and keys are both missing. Believe me. I am Dr. McIntire.”
“I know that's not possible. I spoke to Dr. McIntire on the phone just a few minutes ago. He was nowhere near here." Please! There must be an answer to this nightmare. Your voice is the same as the one in my dream. I need to deny your reality but cannot.
“Then you must be Dr. Zion Hartz.”
“How did you know that?”
“Because we spoke on the phone. You said, ‘Just wanted to let you know we got here okay. We’ll see you in the morning around eleven.’ I said, ‘okay, see you then.’”
“Something is very wrong here, Dr. McIntire.”
“I agree. Call me, Quami."
“Call me Z.”
* * *
Quami looked at his arm. “Hm . . . this is odd!”
“There is writing on my arm. I need more light.” Quami stood up and walked to the bathroom. He looked at his arm for a long time. “We are in big trouble here.”
Z nodded her head. “Yeah, like are we in the Twilight Zone or what?”
“What year is this?”
She laughed. “I wasn't expecting that question. It’s 2018.”
Quami shook his head. “No, it's 2019.”
“What are you talking about?”
Quami went on to explain. “I made notes on my arm of things that happened as well as of things I learned. I was in this room before. I see you have an unusual necklace on. Did you have a dream about it?’
She fingered the necklace around her neck. “I don’t believe it. This is from my dream. How did you know?”
“Do you remember going to Site R for the Hades Project going live?”
“That hasn’t happened yet.”
“Actually, it happened a year ago.”
Z shook her head. “I can’t believe that. This is 2018.”
“Something went wrong with the space warp machine. We are caught in some kind of space warp, but even more disturbing is we are also caught in some kind of dream sequence. Consequently, we are out of sync with the real world, and we are having some very weird dreams.”
“My dreams are beyond weird,” she said forcefully. “When I went to bed last night, I was not pregnant. Now, I’m four or five months pregnant. In my dream, you are my husband and the father of my baby.”
Quami threw up his hands in protest. “I’m at a total loss for words. Honestly, I understand nothing of what has happened to you. The length of your pregnancy is an indication that a long period of time has taken place.”
“Your logic has me doubting my reason. I don’t know if I want to ever sleep, again."
“Last time, I tried to move from the bed to the bathroom by visualizing that I would be there, but it didn’t work. I ended up at Site R, but there was no facility there. Then you focused on Site R and joined up with me. Get your phone from your purse.”
“How did you . . . never mind.” Z walked to the dresser and opened her purse. She took it out.
“Now find the phone number for Serena and give her a call.”
“Go ahead. Call her.”
“You just said we are out of sync with this reality." She opened her phone. "My phone is working.”
“The light switch wouldn’t work when you woke up,” Quami interjected.
She looked at Quami. “How did you know that? You are frightening me.”
“Hello,” a voice answered.
“Hi, this is Dr. Zion Hartz.”
“I don’t know anyone by that name. You must have a wrong number.”
Z covered the phone and looked at Quami. “She doesn’t know me.”
“Tell her to check her phone. Your name and number is on it. Then tell her to wake up Gary and put the phone on speaker. We have a lot to talk about.”
* * *
Serena hung up the phone. “I wouldn’t believe any of this except for the fact Z and Quami told us to try the lights and the bathroom door, but that we would not be able to move them."
"We need to prepare to go to the machines. Quami and Z should be there soon," Gary said.
* * *
Quami explained, “This is day three. We have nine days left to solve this problem.”
Z sat on the edge of the bed. They were caught in a space warp. They needed to find Site R, and every day became shorter than the previous one. But in my dream, I still live. What if it is the future?
“Quami," Z said excitedly, "I must tell you more about this dream.” She went on to explain, then she finished saying, "What if my dream was not a dream at all? If I actually went to the future, then this means the world will not be destroyed. We can figure this out."
"I have never believed in time travel. I am beginning to rethink that possibility. I wish I knew the answer. I told Gary to return to the dream machines. This will be a good place to start to find some answers. Are you ready?"
Z nodded. "I hope we find a solution soon because I'm tired of this nightmare."
* * *
At eleven o'clock, Ice's phone rang. He listened in disbelief. A black hole had formed in Alabama. "This is not possible."
He made a call to the missile site and to Phillips Air Force base. At least the black hole was not far away. It would be dealt with quickly.
* * *
Gary looked at his watch. Noon was in an hour. They had wasted most of their time trying to find answers where there were none. He was as frustrated as the others. Their day would end at a few minutes after twelve just as it had the past two days. There were nine more days to live. It made him sad to think about that.
* * *
Z felt different. They would all be asleep in a short while. She walked over to the machine where the other Z slept. "What?"
"Did you say something, Z?" Serena asked.
Z walked to another machine. "They are empty."
Quami said, "We need to go to Site R now."
"What?" Gary replied sharply.
"I don't have time to explain. When we get there, we will only have a few minutes to stop every machine."
* * *
Ice was relaxing when the phone rang again. He listened to the message, then he set the phone on the desk and rested his head in his hands. It was over. It was all over. The black hole would be destroyed in fifteen minutes. But unless the machine was shut off within another half hour another black hole would form, and there were no missiles to stop it. "This can't be happening."
The phone rang again. His hand hovered over it. After all this bad news, could something good be happening? He lifted the small phone and pushed a button to listen. The phone fell from his hand and bounced on the carpet.
How could things go so wrong? The most recent black hole was growing, and Earth would be destroyed in a few hours. A team was already on site, but they had no access to Site R. The black hole must be destroyed first, then the team would have fifteen minutes after the disappearance of the black hole to gain access to Site R, which he believed to be impossible. There was no way out of this nightmare.
* * *
Serena staggered as she landed on the hard floor. She jumped up and ran to the nearest lab. She fumbled with the ID card Quami had given her, finally managing to swipe the card reader and get the door open. She hurried across the room and began to pull cables from the machines as fast as she could.
* * *
Quami jerked the dream machines cables one by one. He felt as if time would stop any moment. Z struggled, at the other end of the room, trying to get cables disconnected. He worried for just a moment about what might happen in a few minutes.
Gary rushed into the room, "The other rooms are done," he said, breathlessly.
Quami pointed at a machine. "Take that one." Gary began to disconnect the cables.
Serena ran into the room. Quami turned from his machine and checked on Gary and Z
"Done," Gary said.
"Finished," Z added.
Quami began walking toward Z
* * *
"This is Jim Vance at Channel Four news. This is a special report. The black hole in Alabama has disappeared. Scientists are puzzled as to how this happened. We will have reports for you as they come in."
* * *
Quami entered the dream machine first. Z entered and sat on his lap. "We need to visualize the place you saw in your dream. Are you ready?
* * *
Gary turned off the dream machine. Quami and Z were gone. They never did tell him where they went, and he understood. He took Serena's hand. "Let's go home, love."
They walked hand in hand down the hallway. There was a small access door few knew about. He walked in that direction. "I am so glad this nightmare is over."
Serena laughed. "I know. I didn't think we would ever get back to the real world again."
"Well, it certainly would not be real without you. In this difficult time, I have come to appreciate how much you mean to me. I love you so much."
"There is something. I must tell you--"
"Shhhh! It seems you have forgotten I am a Congressman. I know where the skeletons are buried and to whom they belong. The past is gone. The future is yet to come. We have today. Enjoy it for what it is."
Gary reached the door and punched in his code. He was pleased it worked. He opened the door for Serena. She walked outside and began screaming, then she became enveloped in fire. He ripped off his shirt and used it to pull her back into the building.
He rolled her on the floor, and the fire winked out. He was stunned. She was gone, and he did not even know what happened.
He sat on the floor beside her weeping. He felt lost without her. What can I do now? He felt a prick on his arm, and he looked toward Serena. Somehow she had turned to her side. Her teeth were sunk into his arm; suddenly, he remembered the dream. I should be repulsed, but this is my beloved, Serena.
* * *
Serena stood over Gary as he lay on the floor. He appeared to be dead, but she knew better. Where her knowledge came from she didn't know When it was dark, he would rise, then it would be safe for them to leave. I am a vampire now. I am not pleased about that, but Gary will be with me. We'll learn how to live this new life. together.
* * *
Z sat next to Quami on the side of the hill. "It is no longer a dream."
Quami laughed. "But if it is, it is a good one."