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|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
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The Tesla Gate
By John D. Mimms
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 John D. Mimms
All rights reserved.
"Many of our daydreams would darken into nightmares, were there a danger of their coming true!"
—Logan Pearsall Smith
I had the dream again last night. It was a recurring nightmare worse than any monster I could conjure in my sleeping brain as a child. I have been an adult now for a number of years, but time and experience don't make our nightmares any less terrifying; in some ways it makes them more real.
As the father of a mischievously precocious six-year-old boy, I share the same fear as a multitude of parents, a fear that their child may one day disappear. This worry seems more and more justified each day with another smiling angelic face on the news, snatched from their innocent existence by another real life monster. These monsters are not the ones under the bed, a product of juvenile imaginings. No, these monsters are real, and they could live next door; a fact that makes them all the more terrifying.
The dream always starts the same. I am at McCain Mall with my wife, Annabelle, and my son, Seth. The Pendleton family on another carefree family outing on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Ann is excited about looking for some new place settings and Seth is bursting at the seams to invade the toy store downstairs.
"Which color do you prefer, Thomas, blue or yellow?" Ann asks me with her usual resplendent smile.
I have no opinion on the matter and frankly I couldn't care less. I would never let her know that, though. Her thick chestnut hair bobs up and down as she bounces along with enthusiasm. She had not worn her hair that long since before Seth was born, but in the dream it did not seem unusual at all, even though her hair had only been shoulder length for years. Maybe that is just the image I hold of her in my mind: the long-haired, button-nosed, athletic beauty that I had fallen in love with in college. She is still just as attractive to me now, and even in my dream it gave me great pleasure to see her happy smile radiate her delicate features.
"Whatever you pick will be perfect, honey," I said squeezing her hand. "You are always good at that. I'm just color blind."
I really wasn't, but I might as well be when it comes to fashion and furnishings. Ann smiled proudly and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. This was not our typical family outing. Our together time, while rare, was pleasant but with less Norman Rockwell family perfection. I guess you could say we were typical.
Seth's excitement finally exploded.
"Come on, Daddy, come on!" he pleads, tugging at my arm.
"Just a minute, son," I say as a power tool display catches my eye.
I don't know why I am so drawn to it. I stare in inexplicable amazement as the powerful features of the tool are demonstrated on a small video screen. I am oblivious to anything and everything around me. The new project possibilities are endless. Nothing else matters. I guess that is why I barely noticed that Seth had quit tugging on my arm.
At what seemed to take a forceful effort, I pulled my gaze away from the display and looked down for Seth.
He was gone.
A clammy hand grasped my hammering heart as I looked about wildly for my son. He was nowhere to be seen in any direction.
"Seth!" I called as I dazedly began to walk toward the escalator to the lower level. He was at the toy store, he had to be.
I glanced at the clerk working the counter of the power tool display, it was my boss, Don Lewis, but then again, it wasn't him. It was one of those weird oddities that seem to present themselves so often in dreams. He was a no name clerk but also my boss at the same time. As creepy as that is, it wasn't nearly as troubling as the knowing grin he gave me as I walked toward the escalator. It sent a pang of terror up my spine; I knew something was wrong, something terrible ... something unimaginable.
Panic filled my guts and I began to run.
I leapt down the escalator, jumping three steps at a time. I almost bounced over the side but managed to hang on and resume my mad dash to the bottom. As I sprinted toward the toy store the crowd seemed to inexplicably grow as if a thousand people had suddenly flooded into the mall at the same time. My progress was impeded causing my anxiety to rise to breathless frustration.
The bottom level of the mall was not the way I remembered it. It seemed to be completely occupied by tool stores and candy shops. When I reached the place where I knew the toy store was, there was nothing but a brick wall. A single small metal sign hung on the smooth brown surface. The message on the sign read mockingly: Lost?
I spun about madly looking for the store, but all I could see was a wall of people closing in, expanding, and undulating. I felt like a tired swimmer caught up in an undertow. Just when I thought I was going to be engulfed and swept away in the throng, I spotted the sign of the toy store in the distance. It was not where it was supposed to be, but it was there and there is where Seth had to be. With renewed vigor, I bolted through the crowd knocking people and my manners to the side.
After what seemed like an eternity of struggling, I finally reached the entrance to the toy store. I stopped cold at what I saw; it was as if an invisible fist had been slammed into my stomach. The metal security gate barred the entrance to the store, separating its dark interior from the brightly lit mall. A sign hung on the gate that read: Closed for Remottling. It seems like an odd message to have on a sign, but to me it made perfect sense; that is exactly how Seth would have pronounced remodeling. That misspelled sign sent a reinforcing jolt of alarm through me.
"Where the hell is my son?" I half-breathed and half-croaked as I peered into the dark cavity beyond the gate. From the ambient light of the mall I could see that the shelves were all fully stocked; it was as if the store had just been closed for the evening.
I staggered backward absently and was knocked to the marble tile floor by a passing horde of teenagers. As I pulled myself to my feet, I happened to look up the level above. My heart lifted as I saw Ann peering down at me from over the railing. I tried to call out to her but no sound would issue from my throat. It was if I had no air in my lungs to help form the words. Ann didn't say anything but looked down at me with the saddest expression I have ever seen on her face. Her sorrowful look, coupled with my sudden muteness, was nearly overwhelming as my desperation to find Seth tortured me without mercy. It has been a long-held belief that one cannot feel pain in dreams. That may be so in a physical sense but, emotionally, dreams can hurt like hell.
My torturous desperation was soon accompanied by rage as my boss, Don Lewis, aka mall clerk, walked up beside Ann and looked down at me with a damnable knowing grin. His devilish smile made my blood run cold but I did not have time to consider this; a moment later I heard Seth's faint voice.
"Daddy?" he called, sounding distant.
I froze, looking about madly. I heard the voice again, this time a little more distantly.
I'm not sure how I knew but this time I realized it was coming from somewhere deep in the toy store. I ran forward and grasped the gate, jerking up, down and side to side. It would not budge.
"Daddy?" even more faintly, like he was slowly walking away down a long tunnel.
"Seth!" I yelled as I redoubled my efforts to open the gate. I listened as I struggled but did not hear him again.
I summoned up all my strength and pushed as hard as I could while letting out one last desperate yell.
With a deafening roar the gate gave way, bringing the ceiling down on top of me. I continued to wildly call Seth's name as debris rained down on my head. I was startled to feel someone take my face in her hands and kiss me on the cheek.
"Thomas, you're dreaming again ... wake up."
It was Ann, and when I opened my eyes I was lying in my bed in a damp ring of sweat. As reality started to flood back over me, I turned red with embarrassment.
"Again?" I asked, sheepish.
"Yes, you were calling out for Seth again. He's all right, he's safe."
I smiled faintly and looked at my wife. Her heart-wrenching expression of sadness from my dream thankfully was not present, but her wrinkled brow clearly relayed her worry. I squeezed her hand and kissed her on the cheek.
"Okay," I said swinging my legs over the side of the bed. "I just need a drink of water."
That was not a lie. I was thirsty, but my primary intention was to check on my sleeping son. I walked across the upstairs landing to Seth's bedroom, which was directly across from ours. I gingerly opened the door and looked inside. The faint glow of the street light outside was just enough to reveal that he was sleeping peacefully; a ring of Star Wars action figures on his bedside table stood guard like miniature sentinels.
My first impulse, like every other time I have had this nightmare, was to enter the room and give him a kiss. But that was selfish, because I wasn't giving him comfort; I was giving it to myself. I had woken him up accidentally the first couple of times, and that never went well. He was like me; once he had been awakened, he had a hard time getting back to sleep.
I gently closed the door and carefully walked down the stairs to the kitchen. After filling a glass with ice water in the refrigerator door dispenser I sat down at the table and stared absently out the window. I couldn't help but consider the same thought that I have had so many times before.
Can dreams be prophetic?
I didn't think so. I am not a superstitious man and would have to classify myself as casually religious. I know that Joseph in the Old Testament interpreted dreams for Pharaoh, but I am no Joseph. I have no clue what the nightmare means or could mean, or if it even means anything at all. I just know that it scares the hell out of me. The one comforting thought I have is that I have had nightmares all my life in some form or fashion, but none of them have ever come to pass ... thank God. I had quite an imagination as a child. Some might have even called me a bit twisted.
Whether I believed it to be a divination or not, no matter how hard I tried to bury it, the thought was still there in the back of my brain fighting for attention. I looked at the clock; it was 4:15 A.M. There was no point in going back to bed, it would take me an hour to go back to sleep and I get up at six anyway. I went back upstairs and got in the shower. I was taking Seth to school and picking him up today. I decided that once I was showered and dressed, I would make him a special breakfast of scrambled eggs and Chocolate Berry cereal, his favorite breakfast combo.
I splashed hot water on my face and stepped under the showerhead, ready to wash the monsters away. It felt good and soothing, and after a few moments I was able to relax and direct my thoughts to my plans for the coming day for a while. Shortly, my thoughts drifted back to my dream. I guess it was unavoidable but I tried to put a positive spin on it.
As the steamy water washed over my head and back, I smiled at the memory of a song my granny used to sing to me as a child when I had bad dreams.
Take a good shower every day and keep the monsters away
Eat your veggies and do what's right, and you will have no bad dreams at night
Mind your parents and teachers, too, and sleep will be peaceful for you
I considered the comforting words this might have to a child. All you have to do is eat right, do right, and mind your elders to ensure no monsters and peaceful sleep. What could be simpler? I considered teaching this song to Seth, but not now. He usually sleeps carefree, like a rock, but I would keep it in my mental "comforting dad queue" if needed someday. I was the one that needed comfort now. I also decided I would have the stranger danger talk with him again. The more he considered this, the safer he would be. I started to feel a little better.
Just a little.CHAPTER 2
"Action expresses priorities."
That afternoon I sat outside Seth's school waiting for class to dismiss. My mind was preoccupied with a project I was working on at the office, but I also couldn't help but dwell on the nightmare. The high-pitched squeal of tires broke me out of my trance and sent my heart into my throat. As disturbing as it was, it was nothing new.
I wasn't looking in the direction of the commotion but I knew what it was; I knew it without a doubt. My son had recklessly bolted across the street without any regard to oncoming traffic. I have talked to him about this on countless occasions and he is pretty good about observing safety rules, except when he gets excited. Excitement seems to drain every bit of common sense from his otherwise intelligent brain.
I turned quickly in the direction of the noise to see him approaching the car in a sprint, completely oblivious to his surroundings. He grinned from ear to ear with eager excitement while the drivers of the two cars looked on with what was probably extremely subdued irritation. I waved, embarrassed, and gave silent thanks for their quick reflexes.
Everyone drives cautiously around St. James School because it is a posted school zone, and let's face it: caution is not a word that is common to most primary school kids' vocabulary. Seth hit the door like a bird hitting a window and then gleefully pulled open the door to my SUV. I was just about to scold him when my phone began to ring.
"Thomas Pendleton, how goes it?" asked the voice on the other end of the line. It was my boss, Don Lewis. I immediately knew it was either very good or very bad news because he rarely used my last name and he usually calls me Tommy.
"Daddy, Daddy guess what!" he blurted. I held up my finger to silence him as I answered the call. I barely noticed as his bottom lip puckered and he dejectedly dropped his Star Wars backpack in the floorboard.
"Fine," I replied, cutting my eyes at Seth as he began to rummage through his backpack, "what's up?"
"I'll make this quick because time is of the essence," Don said with excitement in his voice. "We got the Memphis account!"
Don and I work for PortaPad Manufactured Homes, which is the country's largest manufacturer of mobile homes. It also is based in my hometown of Conway, Arkansas. We had been negotiating with a manufactured home retailer in Memphis for a year—a retailer which happens to manage almost 40 dealerships in Tennessee and Mississippi.
"That's great!" I exclaimed, "So when do we ..."
Don cut me off before I finished my question. "We close the deal next week, but I need you in the office tonight so we can start getting everything together. We need to make sure that our i's are dotted and our t's are crossed."
"I'll be there!" I said and hung up the phone.
In my excitement I had almost forgotten that Seth was in the vehicle. Ann usually picked him up from school, but she had a doctor's appointment today. I had been excited about picking him up and spending some quality time together but, like on most occasions, that was not going to happen today because work always seemed to intrude. I had no sooner hung up the phone when he started in with his barrage of reporting on the day's events.
"Hey Daddy, guess what we watched today?" Before I could reply, he answered his own question. "We watched the NASA channel in science class today and guess what?"
Again he was quicker on the draw than I in answering the question. "The scientists say there is a magnetic storm heading toward Urf, and it will be here in a couple of weeks!" Seth is an intelligent six-year-old but he does have a slight speech impediment. It was cute when he was younger, and Ann and I always thought he would grow out of it, but we have recently come to recognize that he might need speech therapy. I was experienced enough with his dialect to recognize that there was a magnetic storm heading toward Earth.
"That's interesting," I said.
I had heard a snippet on the radio earlier but I hadn't really paid attention. Meteor showers, eclipses, visible planets and comets, it seems like we have some new phenomenon to observe on a weekly basis. So, I didn't believe this one would be any different, maybe some colorful lights in the sky for a night or two and even then it would probably only be visible in Nova Scotia, Oslo, Norway, or Timbuktu. Conway, Arkansas, never has anything exciting like that happen.
"We may not be able to see it but it might interfere with TV or rabio signals," he said as he pointed at the radio dial.
I barely even heard him because I noticed another kid about Seth's age dart into the street just as I was pulling away from the curb. I was reminded of Seth's earlier similar lack of caution.
Excerpted from The Tesla Gate by John D. Mimms. Copyright © 2014 John D. Mimms. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Nightmares,
Chapter 2: Absent Birthday,
Chapter 3: The Sign,
Chapter 4: Seth,
Chapter 5: Chockit Berries,
Chapter 6: The Boss,
Chapter 7: Boundless Limitations,
Chapter 8: Rattling Bridges,
Chapter 9: Father Wilson,
Chapter 10: Unseen Developments,
Chapter 11: On the Road,
Chapter 12: The Birds of Fiddler Park,
Chapter 13: Vacancy,
Chapter 14: Jackson,
Chapter 15: The Prodigal Guide,
Chapter 16: The Search for Shasta,
Chapter 17: Tears of the Recently Departed,
Chapter 18: Mother's Love,
Chapter 19: The Road Less Travelled,
Chapter 20: Hostage,
Chapter 21: Officer Pace,
Chapter 22: Lost and Found,
Chapter 23: Haven,
Chapter 24: Tommy and Abe,
Chapter 25: Capital Secrets,
Chapter 26: Historical Significance,
Chapter 27: Morning Guests,
Chapter 28: The Other Side,
Chapter 29: Playmate,
Chapter 30: Across the Mall,
Chapter 31: The Plan,
Chapter 32: Journey's End,
Chapter 33: The Shredder,
About the Author,