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The amplified sound of fall leaves crunching under boots was followed by a downpour of blood soaking him. The images woke Christopher Drew so abruptly that his upper torso jerked forward. Fortunately, he was restrained by the safety belt in the airplane seat. He felt like someone who had just tried to escape his own body.
The woman beside him immediately recoiled against the side of the plane. She looked as if she was on the verge of screaming for help. Her lips writhed and seemingly bubbled the collagen recently injected into them. The remainder of her face, which had been tightened and screwed to recapture some period of her lost youth, was unmoving. However, nothing could prevent the clear revelation of fear from shouting through her eyes.
The moment Christopher had sat beside her, he had speed-read her life. In moments he knew she was in her early sixties, widowed, essentially deserted by her self-centered children, who had inherited the characteristic from her. She was now in pursuit of some sort of rebirth, hopefully as a result of a prospective marriage produced through a friend acting as a matchmaker. She had money, but lived a lonely life on an island of her own vanity.
Christopher had little to say to her. He was far too absorbed in his mission and riddled with impatience. From the moment of takeoff, he squirmed in his seat like a six-year-old boy bored with the journey, and he was frustrated by the strict admonition not to turn on his cellular phone. The only way he could calm himself for the trip was to meditate for a while and then afterward drift into as restful a sleep as possible. Unfortunately, he had just experienced what had recently become a recurring vision, and although he still made no sense of it, he was positive it had to do with his present mission.
He pressed his fingers against his temples and then took a deep breath.
"Sorry if I startled you," he told the woman.
He had been sitting beside her for nearly two hours and had yet to introduce himself. First, she showed no interest in getting to know him, and second, from the moment he sat, she buried her attention in a recent issue of Glamour and Style, concentrating on the advertisements as though they were psalms and she was in church. He could feel that sort of religious involvement with the promises in the text and the doctored photos of the models.
She relaxed, but said nothing, her eyes still radiating with distrust. It had been seven years since 9/11, but paranoia still boarded every commercial jet alongside the passengers and paraded up and down the aisles. Men, and even some women, were primed and loaded like cannons personified, their bodies set to explode and leap up at a moment's notice so they could subdue a would-be terrorist. Christopher was positive the woman beside him had those sort of misgivings about him. Her fear was palpable. Her nervous energy flowed into him, disturbing his own heartbeat.
He had no Middle Eastern heritage as such, but he had a dark complexion, coal-black hair, and ebony eyes. He liked the way his Hemingwayesque beard framed his face, even though he recognized that he was falling into a physical profile most security personnel likely targeted. It did no good to point out that his ancestry was English and he could trace his lineage back to a sorcerer in the employment of King Henry II. These days everyone judged a book by its cover, and it was hard to blame anyone for doing that, especially with what he now was convinced he knew.
He looked at his watch. His companion's eyes shifted to catch the action. He could hear her thoughts as if they had been broadcasted over the plane's public address system. Is he checking the time to see if it is time to hijack the plane? Does he have any accomplices on the plane?
It did little good to smile at her, but he did. She flipped a page in response and turned her left shoulder just enough to block him from her peripheral vision.
Fine, he thought. Leave me alone, too.
Leaning forward he reached into the soft black leather briefcase he had placed beneath the seat in front of him to take out a folder. He opened it to review the coordinates on the map of the northeast. They crossed a good fifty or so miles west of Augusta, Maine, around a community called Ashton. He and his associates, Kirkwood Dance and Shelly Oliver, had traced this recent significant movement over the Atlantic until it had turned abruptly north and headed into the state of Maine. Its size increased as pockets of smaller, but similar gray, sulfurous auras began to gravitate toward it, coming from all directions within a one-hundred to a two-hundred mile radius. Something horrible, Christopher believed, was imminent.
Ironically, if it occurred as they had predicted, the terrible event would give him and his associates significant validity as scientists, perhaps significant enough to garner the attention they needed to begin what would be mankind's greatest hunt.
Right now, he was a joke even to his own family, especially his father. In fact, aside from his associates and his girlfriend, the artist Lesley Bannefield, he had very few supporters, which really wasn't surprising. He recognized that for most people what he did was still nothing more than voodoo.
For one thing, their predictions were too vague. It wasn't enough to say something evil would happen in this or that location. Something evil would happen anywhere some time or another. It was like claiming to be clairvoyant because you predicted a murder would occur in New York City this year. Duh. No kidding.
But they were far beyond being mere psychics. They were marrying their ESP to technology and science, albeit a science that was still not accepted. He was confident he would soon get it to be.
He felt his companion's eyes on him again. She was trying to get a good look at his paperwork. She was wondering if it was a plan for a terrorist attack. It suddenly occurred to him that it might be, only not his plan of course.
Not wanting her to think he was hiding something, he closed the folder as nonchalantly as he could. Then he smiled at her again. She clicked as warm a grin as she could muster on her recently reconstructed face and then turned back to her magazine. Sitting together had actually annoyed him more than it had bothered her. Thankfully, the flight attendant came on to announce they were approaching the Augusta, Maine, airport and everyone should begin landing preparations.
He adjusted his seat and sat back, taking another deep breath. His heart was beating faster, harder. He had done some channeling during his career. Right now, he was reminded of what it was like to sit in a Higgins boat closing on the beach at Normandy on D-day. There was the beginning of a battle out there, and Death was about to have a harvest.
The moment the plane came to a stop at the gate and the fasten seat belt sign went off, Christopher turned on his cellular phone and speed-dialed Kirkwood at the laboratory and research center.
"I'm at the airport. Any changes?"
"More thickening," Kirkwood said. "More rapid gathering, too."
"At the same point?"
"Precisely. Maybe it isn't wise for you to go there, Christopher. You have no idea what you're looking for exactly. It's like being told someone in Grand Central Station is a killer. Who is going to listen to you without your explaining our project in detail and even then they would probably think you're crazy. You know what we've been through every time we've made a presentation."
"We've got to go on. I've got to do this. I've got to commit myself."
"You could become the victim. You could walk right into a storm."
"Look, I don't know who'll listen to us, but someone better listen soon," he said not hiding his frustration as he moved down the aisle. Too many doors had been shut in their faces. Their money, which meant time, was running out.
He realized the note of frenzy and panic in his voice and felt his unfriendly, suspicious companion right behind him trying to catch a word or two.
"All I know at the moment is I have to get there. If I could have done something and hadn't, I'd feel worse. It's the point of all our work. We might not get such a clear opportunity like this for quite a while. It's the first time we've seen it all move so swiftly and concisely. Our fine tuning is finally paying off, or at least, I hope so."
"Okay. I'll be monitoring and call you if there is a significant change."
"Good luck," Kirkwood said.
He flipped the phone closed and turned on the woman. He could feel her practically breathing down his neck now to spy on his conversation. She gasped and stepped back, bumping into the passenger right behind her.
Christopher smiled warmly.
"Have a good life," he told her before turning to step out of the plane.
Her eyes went wide.
In her mind it sounded exactly like a threat.
Which was exactly what she told the amused policeman down at the baggage area.
Copyright © 2006 by Andrew Neiderman