Thursday, February 20, 2014


Dark Horses

The map was criss-crossed with myriads of lines and decorated in strategic places with a few red pins or arrows. Dan paced back and forth with his arms folded.
"Think again guys. All of the places you encountered that odd feeling or even saw something or someone that didn't look right to you. Any place!"
"Even our own p. . places?" Stammered Mary. Dan and Jack looked at her.
"Yes, Mary," said Dan. "Especially your own place. What did you encounter there?"
"Well. . . about a year ago  I was having a lot of trouble in my life and things got so bad that I was desperate to make them better. A friend at work, or I thought she was a friend anyway, she told me about this man who fixes things. Mr. Make-Right, they call him," she rolled her eyes. "Anyway, to make a long story short, there's a box that he gives you. It's. . .well, it's red."
"Creepy," muttered Jack.
"It gets creepier. Before I took the box home - he said not to open it until you are sure you know you can handle the aftermath of whatever is fixed in your life - well, his words gave me second thoughts on the box. You know, I've had problems before that were pretty rough and I got through them without some magic box. I also got the feeling after a few days of owning the box that I was being followed and watched. Everywhere I went I got this bad feeling. I'd noticed a car following me home from work. At times it seemed black and other times, dark red. Several times I thought I caught it trailing me." Jack sat up straight and his eyes widened. Dan glanced at him but motioned for her to continue.
"And then, whenever I looked in the mirror my own image talks to me."
"What?" They both exclaimed.
"Yes! it's no lie. She has tried to convince me to open the box and use it. Threatens me. Sometimes I can't go home unless I turn the mirrors over or break them."
"I need to see this. . box." Said Dan.
"No!" Mary shook her head frantically.
"Mary, Mary. Calm down. Right now we will continue using the map to find the enemy but we need to discuss the box. You said that your image harasses you about it while at home?" He asked. Mary nodded.
"Does this happen to you when you stay somewhere else?"
"I haven't noticed it, no. Only at home."
"I've never heard of this." Said Jack.
"Me neither." Seeing Mary's distress Dan turned back to the map. "I met the group of punks on the waterfront, right here." He marked the location where he was thrown over the waterfront with a red pin. His eye twitched involuntarily to even mention it.
"Ok, so we have nine places so far throughout the city where we have encountered The Others."
"What do we do next?" Asked Jack.
"We can place listening devices around some of these places, bugs. I ordered some off an internet store in Japan. I see no reason to wait for Trillion to give us further instructions. Snooping is something we can do on our own. But, he gave me these pulses. They draw the redshifters, attract them like moths to flame. We draw them out and we shoot. we won'r be using these yet though until I hear from him."
"What about people who serve them?" Asked Mary querulously.
"We stun them with pepper spray. Unless they try to kill us and indeed some of them will. It nearly happened to me. In that case, defend yourself. Look, we're not looking for fights - yet. We're studying where they are. Where they can be found. Redshifter hotspots, if you will." Dan crossed the room, stood back and examined map. He made a sound of startled surprise.
"What? What do you see?" Asked Jack.
"It's. . it's a pattern. Or it seems like one. Look at the shape. It's like a circle with satellites all around it. Look!" The other two stood up and approached the map.
"You're right." Indeed it did seem interesting. The redshifter hotspots they had already found all circled around an old warehouse in the industrial district.
"It's not really a pattern yet, though." said Jack. "For that, we have to find more and see if the other hotspots, if there are any more, look like this."
"That's true." Dan looked at Mary.
"Mary," he said in concern. "You're apartment is one of those satellites, if indeed it is one. I find it interesting that this person confronts you only at your home. Why don't we go to your place first?" Mary blew out a nervous sigh and nodded.
"Ok. My place first."
"But what exactly are we looking for at any of these locations?" Asked Jack.
"Anything strange, weird, out of the ordinary. Anything that trips our red radars." Dan said. "Right now all I've got is maybe. Maybe the hotspot in the middle is a power source. And maybe Mary's red box is a clue as to what kind of trouble we're up against."
"Well, we've got one advantage right now," said Jack. "They have no clue who we are and what we're doing. How long that lasts is another matter."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


The Meeting

Daniel sat back and tried to relax his muscles. They were still sore from his deathly ordeal but his recovery had come quickly. He had not seen Trillion in about a week.  He felt and even heard things with more regularity now. He was on his way to a bookstore to meet the team.
The team consisting of people who were like him. They could see the beings that had infiltrated human society. Red-shifters, Trillion had called them. The Others.
The passed by a the Glass, a small and popular music venue. Someone big was in town. There was an impossible line snaking all the way around the block. The taxi rounded the corner a block down toward a tiny, rundown looking building crammed in between a pub and an old pharmacy. It was pouring rain and Dan's senses were on high alert. Hard to get used to. His feelings of helplessness and out-of-control experiences had gone away. The black outs, the feelings of flying. Gone. These were burgeoning aspects of his talent of discernment. Thankfully that phase was gone.
The taxi pulled to a stop in front of a pitiful looking bookstore. Dan paid the driver and pulled his coat up around his head to shield himself from the rain. It looked dim inside. He tried to push in the door, hearing the taxi drive away.
"Come on, come on!" He said impatiently. The door was locked. He banged on the door, feeling rain slide down his back. Finally the door opened. A short man with thick, wide glasses peered out.
"Hi. I'm Dan!" The man opened the door wider to let him in and Dan pushed his way in from the rain.
"Nasty out there." Said the man, closing and locking the door.
"I don't usually close up this early. This is cutting into profits you know, Trillion." Said the little man. Dan looked around. the smell was musty and very old. Profits, huh? he thought.
"By the way, I'm Andrew. I own this palace." He said dryly. Dan nodded.
It appeared he was the last one to arrive. There were four other people gathered, Trillion among them.
"Glad you could make it, Dan." Said Trillion in his usual gentle voice. Dan now turned around and got a good look at the team. There was the bookseller Andrew, short, harried looking and a little disheveled. There was another man dressed in black with jet black spiky hair, scuffed boots with intense eyes boring into him.
"Jack." He said curtly. He nodded slightly but didn't have much to say beyond his name. There was also a young woman. She looked she smiled but Dan felt it was more out of nervousness than anything else. She had a jittery aura about her as if she felt she were being chased. Not surprising given the circumstances. But there seemed to be a heightened sense of fear in her.
"I'm Mary." She said and reached out her hand to shake his. He shook it.
"Good to meet you." He said. Of course there was Trillion, or T.
"Well, let's get started. I brought you all here because of your gifts. Also to bring you out of the wild and into safety." Said Trillion. "And Andrew here, a trusted friend and one who believes in the existence of the Others was good enough to lend us his store for our meetings. You are all here because you can see what others can't. You see them outlined in red. That is for a reason. Their aura gives off such a color. Some humans, like yourselves, have been imbued with the talent to fight the coming takeover. Super powers, you might say."
"Super powers?" Asked Jack with a slight smirk.
"Super powers. You  have the ability of a sort yourself and you doubt it?"
"I didn't say that."
"I can hear it in your voice." Said Trillion. Jack made a dismissive noise. Trillion smiled mildly and went on. Dan interrupted.
"I once heard you call these Others red-shifters. Why did you call them that?"
"Yeah." Asked Mary. "I'm curious too."
"In physics, red-shifting happens electromagnetic radiation or light from an object moving away from the observer is increased in wavelength, going toward the red end of the spectrum. Simply put, a red-shift happens when light moves away from an observer. In terms of how this affects us, it is an ethical, moral one. Those who are red-shifters move away from what is beneficial or good for all living things, save themselves. They are the enemy. So, we apply a physics  principle to the moral issue at hand. They move away from the light of goodness while those in blue turn toward and are supportive of life on this earth."
"So, can humans too be red-shifters?" Asked Jack. 
"Most certainly." Said Trillion. Then he went on. "This place is one of the portals that needs to be protected from them. One that as of now doesn't work. All of the portals we know of are closed and hidden from the others."
"How do you hide them?" Asked Dan.
"They have a protective barrier. Each building that houses them has this invisible barrier over it. It can't be seen. It's a cloak but it works to cloak specific things within a space instead of the entire space. Over time you will see more of what I mean but I do mean to let you have a look. This place is our portal. Andrew and I have to get it working. Come. I'll show you what I mean." Trillion and Andrew led them to the back of the store and downstairs. It was filled with cobwebs and reeked of a dank mildew smell.
"Can't be good for books?" Said Dan glancing at Andrew. Andrew shrugged.
"I'm near broke. Had an incident here some months ago which caused it. Tell you later. I'm trying to do something about it. I swear." Once they got downstairs Trillion went to the back of the room. It was lit with a a bare, flickering incandescent light bulb. Trillion pulled back a series of old shower curtains to the back wall. Except the wall was not there. In place was what looked like an opaque, web-like or space. Behind it was a soft humming and muted light seemed to flicker on and off every few seconds.
"What the. . ." Said Jack.
"Can we touch it?" Asked Dan. Trillion looked at Andrew then at him. Andrew nodded.
"Be careful. It is dangerous. Ethers and gases and things that you don't want to breath in for too long." Dan moved forward to the invisible wall and gingerly touched the opaque mass. It felt like spiderweb and mist, a strange sensation. It also felt wet. He pushed his hand farther in and it disappeared.
"Wow." Murmured Mary.
"So, this place is like a tunnel or like a wormhole?" Asked Jack.
"Yes. With these portals we can monitor the movements of the Others and hide and escape from them more easily. When we fix it we can fight them more effectively. We will have an edge."
"How did they get here? The portals?" Asked Dan.
"A good friend of mine. My captain. He created them. He died in the last great battle with the Others. This was a century ago. He only told a few of us where these places were and had them hidden first within old abandoned buildings and then when technology took its leaps and bounds during the Industrial Revolution through the web cloaks. he himself was known as an inventor rivaling Tesla."
"Dan, what does it feel like?" Asked Mary.
"Like fog or mists. Sort of wet. and weird." Once you put your hand through it disappears as if it never existed. So, will we meet every week?" He glanced at the other two.
"I don't see why not." Said Mary hopefully. She clutched her stomach absently.
"Every Monday?" Asked Dan.
"Every Monday." Said Jack. There was screaming and then the sound of wailing sirens outside. They stopped talking until the sound died down.
"Every Monday then. So what do we do with all this time between Mondays?" Asked Dan to Trillion and Andrew.
"Hunt the enemy." Said Trillion.
"Sounds good to me." Said Jack.
. . .

The others were sitting round quietly drinking coffee. Andrew had brought out his ancient and filthy coffee-maker and a few dingy cups and offered coffee. Jack and Mary and were quietly speaking with Trillion. Dan himself wandered through the isles looking at the books. Andrew's store was a used bookstore and naturally, full of old, dusty books. Piled high on shelves full of old, old books. He glanced at his other two team-mates when Andrew suddenly rounded the isle. He brought him a cup of coffee.
"Thought you might want one. Might help you brainstorm. Work things out. I always work best at night." He handed the cup to him. Dan took it and thanked him. He took a sip. It was terrible and weak but it was the thought that counted.
"I was wondering," Dan asked, "how did this guy build these portals here? Who is Trillion? You know him? he must be like the guy who built this place. Special."
"Trillion calls himself a outsider and sometimes a helper. He has special abilities too but different than yours. He doesn't go into great detail about himself though." Andrew took a sip of swill.
"Is there any history or information about these "Others"?
"Like a book?"
"Well, there is something. It's a diary of sorts. It was written by a guy who lived over a hundred years ago. He kept a journal of various things concerning strange events that he saw near his house. The journal ends abruptly. The problem is the man was mentally ill. Or mad, as they used to say long ago. However, much of what he writes in relation to the others is very interesting and informative. Almost like a road-map to seeing the others if you don't have a special ability."
"And no one knows what happened to him?"
"No one knows. He just vanished."
"Nothing just vanishes."
"He did."
"Can I see this diary?"
"Follow me." Andrew lead him to the last aisle of the bookstore but instead of plucking a book from the shelf he went to a small room beyond the door, opening it up with an old skeleton key. When he came out he had an old book in his hands of cloth and brown leather and yellowed pages. There was no title or writing of any sort on the front cover.
"This is a direct copy I made of it. I have only one other copy. I used to think it was just a diary of a mad man's scribblings. Found it in the trash at WorldCon some years ago. But after meeting Trillion this book is almost like a Bible. There are things in here that this man saw and knew that you won't find anywhere else. You guys are like this guy. Except in a better position because you can truly fight them. I have a feeling he was taken or maybe even murdered. You have an advantage this poor guy didn't. You can see them and they don't know it. Yet." Dan took the book.
"Here, you better take this back. I don't want to spill it." Said Dan.
"Oh yeah." Andrew took the cup back. Dan fingered the book's dog-eared corners.
"So we are embarking on a new era." Said Dan quietly. Andrew nodded, his eyes almost comically big behind his glasses.
"I feel like I've been dropped in the middle of They Live."
"That's because you are." Said Andrew. Dan went back to the front of the room. The others were getting ready to leave.
"Wait! Mary, Jack. Let's get numbers. I want to meet with you guys as soon as possible. Tomorrow maybe?" Said Dan getting struggling through his pockets looking for a pen.
"What? You don't have a cell phone?" Asked Jack.
"I lost it and didn't have much time to get a new one, recovering in the hospital and all." Said Dan. I can tell this guy is gonna be prick. They exchanged numbers.
"Friday then? And then Monday here?"
"Yeah. Friday then." Said Mary. Anxiety was pouring off of her in waves. Mary is really nervous. Wonder what she's seen? he thought. 
'What will we be doing Friday?" asked Jack.
'Well, my idea is this: Map out every place we know these red-shifters hang out." All three filed out of the bookstore, planning the next meeting in hushed tones.
. . .

Andrew closed the door, locked it and flapped the sign around to indicate the store was closed. He turned down the lights.
"You think this will work, Trillion? We're up against something we don't fully understand yet."
"We don't have time to wait anymore. We've waited too long already. We do understand enough to realize that the others are a threat to human existence, that they have failed in the past and have learned from their mistakes. They won't make the same mistakes again."
"I wish there were more people in the world like them."
"There are. My job is to find them, turn them into fighting machines or spies. Whatever it takes to win the looming battle."
"Let's hope that doesn't take too long. The world is getting darker all the time and most people are oblivious to what is going on. We may already be too late."
"I know." Said Trillion, buttoning up his long overcoat and getting ready to head out into the pouring rain. "I know."