By: David L. Souers

Chapter 1


James Biedlar heaved a sigh of relief as he leaned back in his battered old plaid recliner and, ”popped a cold one”, which is how he referred to having a beer, or maybe even two, after a hard days work.

His friends called him Jimmy or Big Jim, down at the welding shop where the Arizona heat turned the place into an oven for seven or eight long months of every year. Jimmy loved to daydream of the time when he could retire, and spend his summers in the high mountain pines. His ability to visualize himself trout fishing on a cold clear stream was all that got him through these damned, horrible, hot days every summer. Just a few more years, and he would be able to spend the winters at his valley residence, and his summers where he wished.

Ellen, his wife of thirty-four years was putting the finishing touches to her, “slow cooker”, dinner. That cooking device had turned out to be a godsend when she had taken a part time position with the local Red Cross chapter. Working four to six hours a day, she found the work satisfying, as well as helpful in, ”keeping the wolf away”, an old expression she had learned from her dad that meant; staying alive, paying your bills, and eating regularly. Thankful that Jimmy didn't mind eating the electric crock meals, as long as she didn’t use it exclusively. She worked with casual efficiency while humming the bouncy tune that had been playing on the radio while she was on the way home that day. Jimmy’s smile of contentment seemed to evaporate into a brow-furrowing frown, even as she watched. Ellen knew he had been having some very strange and scary dreams nearly every time he went to sleep, for nearly a week now. This was so unlike him, she had begun to wonder what was going on. Jimmy sat in his recliner and seemed to be transfixed by something that was apparently beyond her ability to visualize.

Jimmy was just finishing his first beer when the dream that had awakened him that morning, came tumbling back into his mind like a thousand tiny bits, that quickly coalesced into a vision that was every bit as clear as the news commentator droning away on the tube.

He seemed to be standing on the tall mountains that were located on the south side of the huge metropolis that was spread out for tens of square miles below him. Gazing at the panorama below, Jimmy could see the lights stretching from horizon to horizon. Just a little way up the winding road, he could see the spot where he an Ellen used to park, back when they were going steady, and it was the very place where he had proposed to her on a clear fall evening, so many years ago. Suddenly, nearly every light was gone! Not a few here, and a few there, but all at the same time. Homes, skyscrapers, street lamps, and most of the autos, all black in an instant! Unconsciously holding his breath in wonder, he watched as a battered old truck, with it’s lights on, wound it’s way up the lover’s lane and slowly come to a stop right next to him. Unable to see the driver clearly, he started when an ancient, bony hand came snaking out of the window, and an emaciated finger pointed to the valley below.

“Best get your self an old one, before you end up like those folks down there”!

Turning to follow the direction that the trembling fore finger was pointing, he saw a large fireball erupt, as a jumbo airliner slammed into the city far below them.

He was still shaking and sweating when Ellen sat on the arm of the recliner next to him.

“Same as the others, Hon?”

“You know it, but even more realistic, and this time I was awake!”

Gently massaging his tense shoulders, Ellen had a suggestion. “Honey, why don’t you call Danielle and see what she can make of all of this. If you want me to, I’ll place the call and see if she’s home. Then you can get on the line and fill her in on what’s been happening around here. You can’t go on like this forever. We both know that we’ve got to find some answers, and I think she will be our best chance of finding one.

“You know I don’t like to put my problems on anyone else’s shoulders, especially my daughter’s. She has her own life to live, but I’m really starting to sweat this weird stuff. It was making sleep a frightening prospect, and now it has invaded my waking moments. That doesn’t leave me much room to maneuver, does it?”

“Do you want me to dial her number?”

“I guess so. I really don’t have much of an option, do I?”

“You just get yourself together as much as you can while I get Danielle on the line.”

She heard the connection being made, and at the end of the third ring the sound of the receiver being picked up, came across the line.