Two days, eighteen hours, fifty-eight minutes... The time of your life on this earth. Richard Goodman is the caretaker of a unique institution that trains disabled youth in the art of watchmaking. But he is no ordinary administrator. He possesses extra sensory powers he does not fully understand and cannot control. But an innocent outing to Coney Island results in him obtaining a more disturbing ability, along with a terrifying prophecy that he will die in less than three days. As the clock of his life counts down, a still greater threat emerges. An uncanny assassin who will destroy everyone he knows and loves. Unless he can discover who the killer is. And stop him in time.
Bronze Award in the Global E Book Awards, Horror-Fiction
|Publisher:||Cosmic Egg Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
David I. Aboulafia is an attorney with a practice in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
Visions Through a Glass, Darkly
By David I. Aboulafia
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2015 David I. Aboulafia
All rights reserved.
It is always dark in some part of the world.
I find the light a transient thing. It is the darkness that pervades. We are born from it; we die into it. At some time, in every evening anywhere, someone closes their eyes and immerses themselves in the black.
We depend on the darkness; we require it like food, like water and like oxygen. Deprived for any significant time of the murky emptiness that sleep provides we find ourselves mad. Our time in the sun is made possible only by the moments spent in the shadows.
The universe itself is dominated by darkness. The stars are not the entranceways to the heavenly realm that the ancient mariners believed they were. They are mere pinpoints; anomalies, abstractions and distractions, filling the void in only the most infinitesimal way, offering only the vaguest, most tenuous respite from the surrounding beyond. Perhaps they struggle each moment to avoid being swallowed whole by the very giganticness of it.
Yet it is the light that we walk in, and to which we ascribe all manner of attributes. That it is good and omnipresent and that the physical energy of it washes away the gloom. That the light of God, or the light of truth or the light of justice shall shine forever through the darkness of evil or cruelty or hatred, or that of Hell itself, making all these terrible things disappear, or dissipate, or be rendered moot.
You poor fools. The light is never there for more than a few moments. Only for as long as it takes the sun to go down on your side of the world. Only for as long as it takes you to flip the switch of the lamp beside your bed.
Or for as long as it takes for you to close your eyes.
Of course, for some, there is more time in the dark than for others.
Time. For most of us unconcerned with Einsteinium theory, metaphysics or astrophysics, time is merely a straight line that we walk upon; a path with a discernible beginning and a definite end.
But most hope that there is more. Many believe that there is.
And to me, that's what's really funny. Because I know there is more. Ohh, so much more. But that "more" bears little resemblance to fiery pits of molten flame, or depths of ice where Judas hangs halfway out of the mouth of the devil; it shares little similarity with any artist's vision of a celestial Promised Land, where white people with blond hair and halos take flight among the clouds and smile all the time at everything and nothing at all.
Can we talk? You don't mind if we talk, do you?
You see, I know nothing of bearded men with stone tablets on mountain tops. I don't know if flocks of virgins wait patiently in some distant reality for the holy of heart. I can't tell you whether we all repeatedly reincarnate from one existence to the other or, if we do, whether we are reborn as cows or as millipedes. I do not know if an ancient wise man sits judging us all upon a throne in another dimension, or whether that wise man is in fact a youngish looking black woman, an Asian youth with a tricolored Mohawk haircut, or someone else.
I cannot say whether there are two immortal beings engaged in an eternal struggle for the souls of mankind, or whether there are two immortal beings who simply don't give a crap, who activate the Earth like we turn on television sets, and who sit and merely watch – for time immemorial, like some kind of eternal couch potatoes – real life sitcoms, horror stories, dramas, mysteries, crime series, divorce courts, animal planets, music videos, and the like.
I know only what I see, what I experience, what to me alone is true, eternal, and proven beyond any reasonable doubt or calculation. And what I see are things that no one else can see; what Iexperience, things that I alone of all the people in the world am capable of experiencing.
In many ways, I suppose, all of us are unique. But this trite assertion has little meaning to me. For I, among all of you, am inimitable, one of a kind. And because of this, regardless of any human association I may attempt to construct, I am utterly, and completely, alone.
My name is Richard Goodman.CHAPTER 2
My parents were products of the Depression, my father, working from the age of nine, was desperately poor throughout a childhood that was not much of a childhood at all. He never owned a bicycle or a baseball glove, never went to a ball game, never had a radio, never had ice skates or a football. As a boy he made his toys from scraps of wood and discarded rubber bands and shined shoes for a penny on cold street corners; a penny that might buy a sweet potato for dinner that evening. He loved animals and would frequently rescue stray dogs from the street. If they were small enough, he would keep them at home and hide them from his parents. If he couldn't, he would escort them to makeshift sheds he built on a nearby vacant lot. He would care for them there, saving small scraps from the dinner table, even when he barely had enough to eat himself. Sometimes, he would have to beg for food for them from local merchants, reliably softened by the lad's obvious concern and conviction. He nursed most back to health and saved a few lives along the way.
Some would eventually just disappear, never to return. Others lived to a ripe age in their homes made from wooden milk cartons and cardboard boxes, complete with a backyard and regularly served meals.
He loved his animals. He dreamed of being a veterinarian when he grew up.
However, by the time he was seventeen, the United States was at war, and he was in the Air Force, a tail gunner on a B-29 Liberator Bomber. By the age of eighteen, he had saved a man's life, cost twenty-four Japanese their own, and had been shot out of the sky, parachuting on that occasion into the jungles of the Philippines.
All members of the crew were able to parachute out of the plane before it crashed. My father landed, somewhat miraculously, into a small clearing through thick stands of trees and otherwise impenetrable undergrowth. As the story goes, he was covered by his parachute upon landing, and, after a few frantic moments, freed himself from its constraints. In his possession were a .45 caliber semi-automatic and ammunition, a pocket knife, a mirror, two packages of topical disinfectant, a gauze bandage, and a small packet of safety matches. He drew his gun immediately. He was, after all, on a Japanese controlled island. Enemy combatants, he knew, were beheaded on the spot.
He looked around him and saw nothing but jungle. Relative quiet abounded, and he wondered what had befallen his comrades, most of whom had jumped before him. He looked up.
Small green lizards observed him from their precarious holds on tree trunks. The occasional parrot squawked in the distance. Sunlight barely filtered to the jungle floor through huge stands of bamboo – some 100 feet tall – and ancient ficus with leaves three feet wide and five feet long. When a glint of sunlight did meet his eye, it was like a miniature heat lamp, burning through his cornea and into his brain, blinding him momentarily. He realized he was sweating profusely; it was May and 102 degrees.
He saw their shadows first, backlit spirits seemingly suspended in midair. And they were spirits indeed; the remains of a flight crew primarily composed of eighteen and nineteen-year-old boys; not merely suspended, but impaled upon the branches of the trees they had landed into.
The scene was reminiscent of the roadways leading to ancient Rome, lined on both sides with the bodies of men, women and children nailed to crosses of wood.
Despite his fear of capture he screamed, and screamed again. He ran blindly through the jungle, following a sickening trail of hanging corpses, mangled and contorted into impossible positions, unambiguously relating the tale of a rapid plunge from fifteen thousand feet through the equivalent of barbed wire and spears that ripped limbs from torsos, pierced lungs, tore kidneys, and popped eyes from their sockets.
He was counting them as he ran, screaming, through the jungle, or at least he thought he was; he finally stopped running when his former friends appeared to be accounted for, and when the ghastly trail ended of its own accord. The jungle continued to enjoy its relative peace and quiet. This was not unusual. In this place, death often came silently; sometimes by biological design; sometimes through the cruel and inexplicable workings of an arcane and unknowable fate.
For three days, he wandered without either food or water. On the fourth day, half mad with dehydration, fatigue, and fear, he was surprised by a troop of soldiers, whose presence was announced by the crack of branches and then by the crack of gunfire. Later, he would not be able to recall who had been the first to fire, but by the end he had emptied his weapon twice, wounding six and killing one of the twelve Australian soldiers who had come to his rescue.
Anyway, with little regard for an unfortunate misunderstanding that had occurred on an island in the Philippines, my father was ultimately discharged honorably as a much-decorated staff sergeant. He, like so many thousands of his peers, had entered the conflict a boy, and been lucky enough to leave it intact as a man.
In a manner of speaking.
The war had changed the world, and the world was about to change significantly more.
The prime of America's youth were returning to the Homeland, a different kind of youth that had risked their lives and fought the good fight against unspeakable enemies and had prevailed. They brought with them their energy and optimism, their talents and ideas, their confidence and limitless potential. They offered loyalty and hard work and, in turn, they were welcomed with open arms as conquering heroes.
The returning GI's settled down, married, had children, and began the quest for the American Dream at a time when dreams could come true, and often did; when opportunities were real, when hard work and honesty and service to your country meant something; when talent was appreciated and often rewarded. It was a time when a poor immigrant's son might realistically expect to succeed in his life.
The vacant lot of my father's youth was now a six-story tenement under construction. Soon after his return to The Bronx, New York, he stood before that emerging structure, feeling somewhat numb, in his Air Force greens with three stripes on each shoulder and three rows of medals on his chest, looking upon that once-vacant space as if it were some kind of vanishing species. His childhood, such that it had been, officially ended that day when he looked at the playground of his youth and saw the ghost of a hungry child and his furry friends.
Three years ago. A lifetime ago.
Gone today but not forgotten.
His world had changed; the war had left him changed. And he was to change still more, undergoing a transformation that had started long ago, one evening as he rushed fourteen blocks through the rain on a September night ...
... It's after 9:30, a half hour past my bedtime. I'm home, getting ready to go to bed; today's Tuesday and tomorrow's Wednesday, a school night. Mom is sick again and has been asleep for an hour already. She goes to sleep earlier and earlier these days.
Someone knocks loudly at the door.
Stevie, my eldest brother, is out somewhere. He seems to be out of the house more and more lately. Marcus, the middle child, is working, and Dad is working, too, running the coat check at the Club. Mom doesn't stir at the big bang.
I ask who it is. Dad says to always ask who it is before you open the door. Ricardo Espinoza answers back. I recognize his voice because he's Spanish, and he works with Dad as busboy. They call him Ricky-Boy. I open the door and let him in. He's holding a wet, black cap in both hands, the kind the cab drivers wear, and he keeps turning it around and around in his hands. Ricky-Boy keeps looking down at the ground, and he's trying to say something, but for some reason I'm not paying attention, not yet. I'm just looking at him turn his wet cap around and around. It's as if he's nervous, as if he wants to hold back what he has to say for a few more seconds.
I'm old enough to know that words can hurt, like when Stevie calls me a shrimp, and I think Ricardo has words that might hurt, words that might change things: that might change everything.
Now the words come. He says Dad fainted and that he's very sick and that he's in the hospital. A lump gets into my throat and I can't swallow. I look back at Mom through her open bedroom door. She'll be difficult to wake. Even if she were awake, she couldn't do anything or go anywhere; her legs don't work very well anymore.
Ricky-Boy is just standing there, head down, looking at the floor. So I take off my pajamas, put on my clothes, grab my only jacket and run right past him; through the open door, down the stairs, out of the house and into the street.
It's only September but it's cold outside, and it's raining hard. It didn't seem to be raining a little while ago. I don't have an umbrella or hat. My left shoe has a piece of cardboard inside covering the one-inch hole in the sole. I feel the bottom of my foot getting wet as I begin to run.
Running, running, running.
I know where the hospital is. It's a long way off, but my feet will take me there. I'm small, but not weak and I'm fast, very fast; everyone in the schoolyard tells me so ...
By the fourth block, the downpour has become a freezing rain. The wind is blowing harder. I round a corner, and I am nearly knocked off my feet by a cold, wet blast. I fall, and crash into a stand of silver metal garbage cans put out for the morning's collection. I slowly get to my feet. I look at my pants. There is a long rip at the left knee. I only have two pairs of pants. There is an ache where the rip is and I think I'm bleeding. My shoulder hurts. I start to cry. And, then I start to run again.
By the seventh block, I am soaked to the bone. My knee is stiff and it hurts every time it moves. Two blocks later, I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, and I can't catch my breath, so I start to walk.
By the eleventh block I am running again, but my whole body is numb. I am shaking and shuddering and I can't do anything about it.
I never thought I could do anything to make my body stop working, but it feels like it's going to stop working now. But I'm not gonna stop unless it does.
I'm not gonna stop. I'm not gonna stop no matter what.
In 1945, Dad returned to The Bronx, met a beautiful girl and got married. It wasn't an unusual story, considering the times, but it was a nice one. He was quiet, shy and physically small, and not much to look at. But he was funny once you got him to talk: also honest, kind, hardworking and sincere. He possessed a unique drive to better himself, along with a powerful need to succeed. I guess he possessed enough redeeming qualities for Mom to love.
Early on, he got a job as a low-level bookkeeper for a small construction company on Long Island. He went to night school to earn his degree while helping to raise his infant son, the first of three. His young family lived in an apartment in a four-story walk-up tenement. Living there with them were water bugs the size of mice. The flat had a dumb waiter, and dark cubbyholes built into the kitchen walls, with funny knobs on the doors.
Dad owned a four-door, brown Pontiac Bonneville. It had no heat, minimal braking power, a broken AM radio, and took a half hour to start if the temperature dipped below freezing. But he had cut a great deal on the car, promising to complete and file the owner's tax returns for five years in exchange for the vehicle.
He wasn't quite sure whether he could make good on his promise without subjecting the man to significant IRS penalties, but he did know that he had a talent for manipulating figures. This aptitude extended to anything that had anything to do withnumbers. By the time he graduated college – magna cum laude, with a bachelor's degree in accounting – his superiors had realized that his cost-cutting measures, tax strategies, and acquisition tactics had significantly increased their bottom line. He was promoted, and then again. With each expansion of his authority, the company grew and prospered. As the company prospered, so did my father.
So did we all.
Excerpted from Visions Through a Glass, Darkly by David I. Aboulafia. Copyright © 2015 David I. Aboulafia. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
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