Subject to Annihilation

James Huffaker
40 min readDec 19, 2020

Nine chapter excerpt: Please leave comments :)

Could aliens take over the earth and no one notice?

New Prolog Please Comment If You Like

Brent Soledad went everywhere with his parents, not the moody pre-teen that wanted to be alone or with friends. Brent genuinely liked, loved his parents. They went for drives, camping, sightseeing, people watching, enjoying life and each other. His dad loved his mother, there was never any doubt. Cindy returned that love wholeheartedly and both included Brent in the circle.

That was almost 22 years ago. Both parents had been ripped from Brent in an accident that should not have happened. A change was taking place that science, weathermen or the government could not explain. The evening skies were brooding reds and purples that were unnatural. Nights were becoming darker and all along the coast of the Eastern City that darkness caused an increase in crime, apprehension and outright fear to everyone.

Brent and his parents were returning from far up the Northern coastline, where they had traveled for a weekend getaway. They found people that did not want them there, refusal of rooms, closed camping areas and even the great wooded parks were closed with signs that stated “Danger — Do Not Enter”.

Returning home in the late afternoon, traffic became difficult, no that’s the wrong word, traffic became frenzied. People were trying to get wherever they were going and no concern was given for anyone else, right of way or traffic laws. The people drove panicked. As they neared the Middle City where they lived, the car communication system announced that the Mayor and Police Chief had ordered everyone home before dark.

It was just at that moment a large auto, driven by a wide eyed frightened woman, crashed into their much smaller vehicle and broke it in two. His mother and father were killed instantly. Brent, being in the back seat with the advanced protection devices, was protected in a cocoon. Not that he wasn’t shaken up, but the trauma was the loss of his parents. That moment changed Brent but did not destroy him. He found strength in the lessons learned from his parents. He wanted answers, and he wanted to fix this broken city where his parents died.

Brent had met his wife, Julie, one morning as he walked down the sidewalk next to the parkway. The expanse of bright grass, well tended blue, white and yellow flowers with numerous small ponds made the area a magnet for people. Julie was sitting on a bench reading a book about traveling to distant lands and fresh adventures. That was keen in Julie’s mind, somewhere where people lived differently, without fear.

There had been a time when Brent would have walked by, pretending not to notice the attractive woman. Her purse had slipped over onto its side, and some contents were about to spill out. That brought his attention to the woman. She was stunning. Medium length shiny brown hair, thin build but with an athletic shape, long legs coming out from under her tidy burgundy skirt, ending in business high heels. If he had just filled out a singles ad for the woman he was looking for, she would have been it.

“Hi, your purse has fallen over, may I pick it up for you?” Brent said.

Julie looked up from her book for a moment in an unfamiliar place from her reading. Looking first at the man speaking to her, then down to the purse, she smiled.

“Oh, would you, please?” Julie said.

Her plea for help was about more than the purse. She imagined this man might be her knight in shining armor, the hero in one of her books coming to rescue her. Could he take her away to the lands she was reading about, could this man change her world?

Brent bent down and took the purse by its straps and pulled it back out from under the bench and sat it upright at her feet. That gave him abundant opportunity to look closely at the woman. She was exceptionally attractive, well dressed in clothes that you would find at the better establishments. From the shoes to the hair, she looked as though she just came from a stylist or modeling agency.

“My name is Brent, I go through here most mornings on my way to work. I rarely stop, but you caught my attention. What’s your name, if I may ask?”

“Julie. Thank you for helping with my purse. It would have been a mess if it spilled. I work near here, but on a pleasant morning like this I sometimes take a few minutes to read. It makes my day a little brighter to read about travel to other places.”

That meeting was five years ago. They had spent many hours together before and after work. Sometimes on the weekend they would go on short planned drives into the countryside. It was always difficult because they had to be home where they could turn on the lights, lock the doors and be together before the Darkness came.

The Darkness was more than just the sun going down. Something tangible living with a hate that was palatable occupied the night. Hated, yes hated everything and everyone with an unnatural power and that power of hate spread through the night, touching everything that lived, leaving behind a primal fear of the Darkness. Those that worshiped Deities postulated than an evil spirit from the land of the dead came and occupied the planet. After twenty-five years, that belief had many fearful followers.

The Hotel

A man stood looking out the window of the fourth floor room he rented for the night. From the hotel room one could hear the fallen leaves being pushed down the sidewalks and streets by the invisible broom of the stormy night. A streetlight half a block away popped on, thought better of the action and popped back off, repeating that operation every few minutes. This gave a run-down broken feeling of a city not maintained and fallen into ruin.

Nothing in this picture told of the hundreds, yes thousands, of people that would soon occupy the streets, buildings and cafe’s that adorned the city. The morning sun and duty brought them out every day to work at their chosen or assigned occupations. But the night belonged to the darkness. People everywhere avoided being out once the evening became violet in sunset. They went home, or if they were travelers, to hotels like this one. Those that braved that stormy darkness seldom returned to families and friends.

People making small excursions into the night, for an emergency, often showed signs of severe stress long after. They may never go out at night again. The terror that ruled the darkness was overwhelming. It had overloaded the hospitals with people suffering from stress and mental breakdown during the first years. Life had not always been this way, twenty-five years ago something happened. There are as many theories of what happened are there are people willing to talk about their experience or that of someone they knew.

The first thing that everyone noticed was the color of sunset. It changed, losing the bright yellows, oranges and reds familiar to everyone on the planet. The night began coming on with an ominous violet, turning purple. Along with the change of color, the wildlife in some remote areas started running away, not going anywhere specifically, just running as though certain death were chasing them. Animals large and small left wild areas, many thousands died going off of cliffs, running into rivers and lakes. Some were just found dead, with no actual cause. The farmers brought domestic animals inside to lighted barns and sheds with the doors closed to prevent the madness. Governments and scientists sought the answer to the new problems, they did not have answers that could bring solutions. If they discovered the cause of the change, they kept it hidden.

An uneasiness fell upon all people. During daylight everything was normal for most people. Once darkness fell, it was difficult to go out. Soon reports of harm coming to anyone that ventured out in the darkness. Strong capable men losing their minds, screaming at terrors they could not see and they could not communicate the source of their fear. Other people were just found dead, no physical cause except, as the medical doctors ruled, mortal terror causing death. Businesses began closing long before dark so people could get home before nightfall.

Investigation

Tonight Brent had to stay in the city, The City, The City of the East Coast. His work brought him late and staying the night was the only option. That is why he was peering out the window in the early dark hours. He could never sleep without Julie at his side. He would toss and turn, reach out for her and find empty, waking him up without the hope of sleep returning. Empty, like the night, lonely and wanting to be with her, the person who made him hope. Keeping hope alive was hard. Hope for what? Hope that someone would discover how to end the terror of darkness.

Most people did not work after dark, they stayed indoors with lights on throughout the night. Restaurants and bars closed early, at late dusk everything in the city had stopped as Brent observed from the hotel windows. Most hotels would not accept someone to check-in past twilight. That was what the police were for, anyone out at twilight as the sky changed to its darker hue, was placed in protective custody for the night. Few ever objected.

There were those that worshipped the Darkness, as there will always be that segment of society that looks to a powerful evil to tempt sharing its power. Some worshipers had become so damaged that they required full-time restraint to prevent them from hurting themselves and others. This group of worshipers found, by many pains and errors, that a group of nine could withstand the overriding fear that night brought on. So they gathered in groups of nine, early before darkness fell and they made preparations.

They would bathe themselves in water infused with bitter herbs, make their hair tight against their head with oily dressings or wax, and put on slippers made of rags. They covered every small patch of skin, either with the toga styled tunics they wore or wrapped in rags, like their feet. This made them look strange. This costume easily identified a group of these worshipers. Whether the costume aided in mitigating the fear, who knows, but the grouping of nine seemed to be key. Meeting at the outskirts of town, they knew each other by some secret mark, known only among insiders of the group. A few enforcers had tried to get in the ranks because they feared what this group may do. They could never determine what the sign or mark was that identified them to each other. They found enforcers who tried on the outside, either dead or deranged by the experience. They quit trying.

An executive agent for the largest security company in the city, Brent had many privileges and operated autonomously. Because of Darkness, there was virtually no theft or damage done after sunset. The time just before sunset was a different matter. Many of the poorest in the city were not above looting for needed things just before sunset. They knew police would not pursue them after Darkness and the next day everything seemed swept clean again. If the employees at the store were safe, and got away to shelter before the looting, the police would seldom pursue the violators. The security Brents company sold was audio/video recording of the stores, inside and outside. They also sold in-store safe rooms where employees could shelter during a night if it was too late to travel before they left. The rooms were pleasant, with as many small bedrooms, just spacious closets really, as the store needed for employees, excellent lighting with backup power, communications, bathroom, entertainment and games that might distract someone from the emptiness and fear of night.

Brent had read that once there had been hundreds of cities from Canada to Key West. Now there was just The City of the East Coast. When the lines from all the cities intersected each other, government and management became broken and problems were insurmountable. The solution had been to consolidate all of the cities on the East Coast, just like they had done with the area from what used to be San Francisco to Mexico. That had become one city a hundred years ago. This allowed local governments to be set up that didn’t spend most of their time getting elected, they were hired and could be fired. Local governments answer to a ten person working cabinet. There are ten such cabinets in the City. Those cabinets are under three governors and those report to the President of North America. Two more Presidents, in South America and Mexico join with North America to form the Nation of the America’s. The Darkness and problems it brought was a universal thing in the America’s.

Earlier this afternoon Brent toured one installation that people attacked the night before. He looked for clues that would help prevent further attacks everywhere. No police were there, no one was injured in the attack. When the attack started both employees went in the safe room and closed the door. The doors for safe rooms sold by Brents company were thick metal and pivoted on heavy metal hinges in a hardened frame. The room itself is fireproof, even if the surrounding building burned to the ground. That would not happen. Brick and steel were most commonly used in commercial buildings. The people that ransacked a store were desperate, they were after food, water and things about everyday life. Once they had been just like the store employees, or Brent, but the spread of Darkness caused them to be unemployed and without means.

Brent played the recordings back on the monitor in the safe room. It all looked normal, hungry people rushing the doors as one opened to let a customer out. They blocked the doors to keep them from closing and locking. The tape recorded the noise of the servo motors trying to close the doors. None of this group seemed to be WOD, the short slang for Worshipers Of Darkness. As the recording went on, something was unusual, something he had not noticed before at other scenes like this one. Just at the edge of the outside video, in the darkest spot in the lot, there was something. That was the only way he could describe it, something. Just looking at it on the monitor almost caused him to lose bladder control, almost as if, even recorded earlier, IT knew he or someone would watch and it was seeing you. Brent turned off the recording. Moved the video over to a tiny key chain data-plug he had brought in his pocket and hit erase. No one else needed to see that yet. He would start checking other sites better.

He laid back on the sofa and put his feet up. In a little while he would call Julie and say good morning like he did every day that they were not together. Hearing her voice always gave him resolve to get through another day. She was so bright and cheerful, especially in the mornings, he often wondered how she did it. Julie had once been a trauma ward doctor, but quit when she couldn’t take the terrible damage that the dark did to people. Now she worked for Urgent Care, for those accidents everyone had in the business of life.

Network access, The Network, connected most of the people on the planet at some level or another. Even the very poor had I.D. chips and imbedded screens. If the government, police enforcers or a powerful person wanted to find someone, it was a matter of putting in the search data. If the police needed to warn someone in a particular area, it was even easier to do a local broadcast. Seeing some faces on the cameras, Brent formed a plan of action to find out more. He would use his security position to interview some participants in the angle of preventing further looting by addressing needs, if this was possible. They would view him as a progressive, someone who thought they could change society and reform the violent. Brent didn’t subscribe to that line of thought, but if it brought him closer to the truth, he would use it.

Sitting on the sofa, with the terminal pulled extra close, he entered his search information. Computers all over the city would blink, and the results would be at his screen in milliseconds. Phrasing was vital, computers were not sentient, but people monitored them. If his search terms flagged him as a problem, he would have failed and might have a visit from the police. He entered his return code, then his search “find anyone who died near Falling Star Market last night”

That was the first search, to see if any of those rampaging had died during or after the attack on the store. The screen brought up what he was looking for;

— Falling Star Market, 1400 block East, body recovered, Male, 23–25, average build, no drugs present, cause of death; apparent shock.

— Falling Star Market, 1400 block East, body recovered, Male, 40–50, heavyset, bald, no drugs present, cause of death; blunt force trauma, no weapon found.

— East Street. 1500 block East, partial body recovery, female, 20–25, thin, estimated 5foot 2inches tall and missing legs and arms; cause of death; undetermined.

— East Street, 1800 block East, Larry Freed I.D. LDF7751340, 52. Average build, cause of death: apparent shock.

Now he was interested. Four dead people near the market, three that had their chips removed or damaged, the last one, far from the market, still had his chips but was dead from some night terror. The next step would be to find Larry’s family and get an interview. Brent needed to find out about Larry’s habits and friends. Easy to cross-reference Larrys next of kin and came up with his home address, Larry was married and worked in the city delivering food by truck. Larry and his wife lived near the market on 2407 Jospin Street. Now Brent was eager for daylight. There was a direction to research. He picked up the phone and dialed Julie, “Good morning, did you sleep well?” Brent said.

“You know I never sleep well when you stay in the city, will you make it home before late afternoon today,” Julie asked?

“I have some clues I want to check out on an attack that ransacked a market last night and left four people dead.” Brent said.

“Oh, No. Please, be careful, isn’t that a job for the police?” she said.

“It would be, but they are not linking these to the market, they are not just violence against a person, three of them had their identity chips damaged or removed. I don’t know that this happened before, this is the first I have heard of it. Have you had any cases where someone attempted to remove an identity chip?” Brent said.

“No, I can’t say we have seen anything like that, if someone tried to remove an I.D. chip that would be an assault case for the police.” Julie said.

“If it is people acting badly, I will turn it over to the police, I am afraid it is something more than that. I will call you later. Have a wonderful day at the clinic, I love you Julie.” Brent said.

“I love you too, please be careful and don’t be late.” Julie said.

Brent cut the connection and readied himself to the day. He made a call into work, letting Martin, his supervisor, know he was following up on a situation he discovered on the Falling Star Market’s video.

Victims of Terror

2407 Jospin Street, though, early morning, the trees in the yard and the grounds around the property appeared clean and neat. Not the person who goes berserker and attacks a market in the dark. He looked closer at the house. There were lights installed all around the perimeter of the house that would illuminate every foot of the property up to fifty feet or so from the windows and doors. This person did not like the dark any more than he did. Larry had prepared his house to go through the nights. He needed this interview; he hoped that the police had already informed the family of Larry’s death. Walking up to the door, he heard his steps on the porch; it sounded solid. He stood straight and pressed the announcer. The home computer read his chip and announced him by name to the residents. Soon the door opened, a middle-aged woman, hair starting to grey, answered. She had been crying, her eyes were puffy and red, she held a tissue in her left hand.

“Are you here because of Larry?” She said.

Brent nodded and tried to smile, but he could feel her sadness. “Yes, I can see that Larry was not a part of the bunch that attacked the store on East Street.” Brent said, “May I come in and find out more about him so I can help all of us understand what happened?”

The woman nodded and motioned for Brent to come in.

As Brent came into the home, he smelled something fresh baked, either bread or muffins it was a delicious warm yeast buttery smell. The thought occurred to Brent how nice it would be to bring Julie to meet her. Then he remembered why he was here. He scanned the room as he approached a well used chair. There was the expected picture mantle on the long wall, filled with pictures of Larry and his wife, children too. They apparently traveled some before the darkness came. “I am so sorry, being focused on finding answers to what happened, I failed to make a note of your name, are you Mrs. Freed? I am Brent Soledad and I work for the security company that supplies all the cameras and recorders to the business.”

The woman stopped dabbing at her eyes and said, “I am Larry’s wife, Gina Freed, Larry and I lived here together for years. Larry has driven a delivery truck here in the city for twenty years. We had no trouble.”

The room didn’t feel the sadness that Gina showed, it still felt comfortable and warm. A family lived here that sheltered every night in peace, away from darkness and fear. The slightly worn carpet from the kitchen into the living room and a small bookcase with dark bound classic writing and a small stack of periodical magazines. There were four decks of cards on a small tray. They looked well used. Playing cards in the evenings with the house well lit on the outside, warm and happy with each other.

“Did Larry go out to the store just before dark last night?” Brent said.

“It wasn’t too late, he really wanted some nuts to eat while we played cards last night, he has gone out before and had plenty of time to get to the store and back.” Mrs. Freed said.

“Did your husband carry any weapon when he went out like that?” Brent said.

“No, he was confident that he could make the trip before any problems with the police or the fear the darkness brings.” Mrs. Freed said.

“I believe he felt that way, it’s only a few blocks, normally it should have been easy. Last night desperate evil people targeted that market. I am afraid that Larry may have just gotten in the way. Now that I see a better picture of him, I will review the recordings and see if he made it to the market.” Brent said.

“Oh, I know, the police are of no use anymore for things like this, but here at home without him, I would feel more complete at least knowing what really happened. Just to be told that your husband died last night in the dark doesn’t answer questions of the heart.” Mrs. Freed said.

“Mrs. Freed, Gina, I am so very sorry for your loss. This Darkness has taken many lives and ruined many more minds beyond repair. Anything I may find out about it may improve our lives and someday eliminate that fear. Do you have a small photo of Larry that I could take to help with my research?” Brent said.

“Yes, Mr. Soledad, I have two of these, it’s from a few years back when we went hiking near the lake.” Mrs. Freed said.

“Thank you, if I can provide some real information about what happened you will hear from me.” Brent got up and extended his hand to Mrs. Freed who took it in her surprising firm grip.

“Thank you for coming by, it isn’t right that nowadays someone can die, even in the dark and just be forgotten.” Mrs. Freed said.

“They should forget no one, everyone has someone who loves them, and deserves to know how and why a loved one died. It wasn’t Larry’s fault.” Brent said.

Mrs. Freed walked Brent to the door and stood there as he walked down the sidewalk to his car.

The drive from the Freed home to the office was about fifteen minutes in light traffic. It was still before noon and this was the time people did whatever they needed. As it slid toward mid afternoon traffic would get heavier leaving the city and traveling to the nearby bedroom communities that sustained the city.

Arriving at his office, Brent closed his door and pulled the storage device out of his pocket. Turning the screen away from view by someone passing by, he plugged in the video file and started looking at it in fast forward until he got near the time of the attack. He saw many people come and go, none were notable. As the time got closer to evening, a pair of people came in that were wearing jackets. Brent could see that the bottom of the jackets revealed togas underneath. Their hair was flat against their heads but not heavily coated as most of the WOD, and they wore sneakers. They looked to be wearing makeup or a light paint on their faces. Brent made a note of the time on the recording and would follow up with an interview of the employees later. The pair bought normal things, water, prepackaged ground beef, an onion, things anyone might buy for dinner. They paid and left without drawing attention to themselves. Just before the attack, Larry came in. He acted nervous, shifting weight from foot-to-foot and in a hurry. The cameras showed he picked up a large bag of nuts and headed for the register. He paid and didn’t wait for his change, walked to the door to exit. The checker pushed the button and Larry had just walked out when the attackers forced open both sides of the doors and held them open. Larry fled, dropping his purchase in front of the store. He ran terrified. Whatever the source of his fear, followed him two blocks to his death.

Brent wanted to identify the three others that died. He would have to go to the morgue and get pictures, then come and go over the video and see if those three had been in the store. Picking them out of the 27 people ransacking the store, filling bags with everything on the shelves and in the coolers might be hard. If he could identify them, he might get a lead from their families or personal history. He was looking for a link that might bring him closer to expose the source of the Darkness, whatever it might be.

John Doe

“Hi Julie, I am glad you had time for a call. I am on my way to the morgue to get pictures of the three people that died near the market last night.” Brent said.

“Oh, that’s awful, must you really do that? Haven’t the police identified them?” Julie said.

“No, the police are treating this as a standard ransack, with three non-employee fatalities there doesn’t seem to be anyone looking for the three dead people.” Brent said.

“Well, be careful, hanging around a morgue isn’t a place where you find friends,” Julie said.

“I will, these are the three without I.D. chips, I will try to identify them off the video as part of the group ransacking the store. If they are not part of the group, then they might also be people in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the question remains, why rip out their I.D. chips? It doesn’t make sense, so it’s a clue.” Brent said.

“All right, you know it will worry me, try to call me when you leave for home. I will try to leave early. We have had a slow day here.” Julie said.

“Sure thing, I love you, goodby,” Brent said and broke the connection.

It only took a minute to locate the morgue closest to the store. It wasn’t far from the office and was in the general direction of home. He pocketed his official looking identity card that the security company provided for their investigators. It was meaningless if it came down to a standoff with police or an administrator that bothered to look closely. Brent didn’t think someone going to the morgue to investigate dead bodies was going to raise much suspicion.

Traffic was picking up, it was just after noon. People do their business and shopping as early in the day as possible. Most of the shoppers and trades head home just about this time every day. Buildings have installed disconnects that activate if there is a plumbing break. Private fire systems have been updated and enhanced so far that a City Fire Department is more for monitoring and advising on how to design the building and fire system. They would not come out in the middle of the night if a city block was on fire. It was something he noticed at times like this, drivers were very courteous. He had read about times before, how highway accidents were frequent and angry drivers caused problems, sometimes violent. That was another change the Darkness brought, people valued life and friends more. They didn’t want any problems, especially on the highway.

Turning off and driving down the street to the morgue, there were quite a number of people out, in their yards, walking, and enjoying the day. The address he was looking for was just a block past this residential area. It was on a large corner of an industrial complex. The building was old-fashioned, sharp peaks, like a church steeple and spread wide on the lot. There was an acre of parking, Brent looked for the Delivery entrance and parked near that door. Just walking in the back made a lot more sense if he was an official investigator than going in the front like a grieving relative.

Carrying a small camera and network tablet, he looked official and hoped that held out. Through the door, the first thing was the potent smell of cleaners. There was good air movement, probably necessary given the business. Straight in, not looking around, like he had been there before, he came to a door that stopped him long enough to record who it was passing. That didn’t raise any alert or questions, so he went in. The office was small, with an unusual abundance of paper files not used in most business for over fifty years. There was an elderly man, apparently a doctor by his dress, looked up from the desk, “Can I help you, young man?”

“Yes, I am Brent Soledad, investigating the three John Doe’s from the Falling Star Market area on East Street. We have access to the recordings from the store and hope that will help us identify them.”

“I am Dr. Lyons. In the past I would make you do lots of paperwork and get some official authorizations. Those days are gone, and probably for the best. If you can identify these three that would be an enormous help. Probably more important would be to find out why they were killed and by whom. So you have my help, just a minute here and I will get you the autopsies for each of them.”

“Thanks, that will really help. I want to do exactly that; find who did this and help stop violence of this sort.”

Dr. Lyons got up from his seat and ambled to a row of file cabinets, all identical grey official cabinets with dates on the front of the drawers. He opened one near the top and pulled out a thin folder for each of the unidentified bodies as the musty smell of the file momentary overpowered the cleaners. Since the Darkness had arrived, police departments were busy just trying to keep people off the streets in the evening. Some tried investigating the anomaly for a while, resulting in many police officer deaths and damage. Now, they compiled information, sometimes shared information, but direct action that might stop the problem was lacking.

He laid the three file folders on a table near the file cabinets. “Here you go, look these over. When you are ready, I will take you to see the bodies.”

Inside each folder was a two-page autopsy form, a note of when the bodies came in and who brought them. A blank form which read ‘Investigating Officer’ and had space for notes, was inside each folder. There wasn’t going to be any investigating officer on these. Brent opened each in turn and did not find much more information than the description on the network. There was a drug report, only the female had any significant drugs in her system. The two males had a moderate amount of alcohol, but not enough to contribute toward death. The wounds from ripping out the identity implants were rough, not done by a doctor, but not the cause of death. The autopsy reports showed the I.D. chips were ripped out by some sort of pliers or a mechanical tool. That could be a clue. If Brent ran across a tool that could do that damage, he may find who did this.

The J.Doe that had died from blunt force trauma appeared to have been kicked to death by a large group of people. The one that died from shock showed minor damage other than the ID being ripped out of his arm. He would be the most recognizable of the two men. Brent took photos of the face from several angles to compare with the video. The woman was a different matter. The report said, the arms and legs were missing. They were removed but not cut off with a knife. The skin around the shoulders and neck showed an improbable amount of circular stretching. If you took a clay figure and twisted the arms around and around until they just fell off, there wasn’t any known cause for that kind of damage.

“Dr. Lyons, I would like to see these bodies now, if I may?” Brent said.

The doctor took Brent into the cold room, these three were still on examination tables. Dr. Lyons stood off to one side and motioned toward Brent to take a look.

Brent folded the cover back on the woman first. That was the worst one.

He motioned for the Dr. to join him. He came over slowly and stood next to Brent.

“Dr, can you verify what I am seeing? It looks like the arms were twisted off?”

“Yes, that is my conclusion as well. As unlikely as that may be, it’s worse, both arms were twisted off while she was alive. I cannot say if she was conscious, but she was still alive until they were removed.” The Doctor said.

“And the legs.” Brent asked?

“I have never seen such a thing, maybe in a large industrial factory it could be possible, but her legs were pulled clear off with great force. She was dead by the time the legs came off, so it was just for shock value.” Dr. Lyons suggested.

“Yeah, shock value, like what killed John Doe 2.” Brent said, shaking his head and made some notes in his tablet. He took a couple more photos of the woman and men.

“Have you ever seen anything in the darkness cause this kind of death and mayhem?”

“I have been a city coroner for many years, since before the darkness, whatever is happening, it is getting worse.” Dr. Lyons said.

“Thank you Dr. Lyons, there will not be much reason to come back or contact you unless we get another bunch of bodies. So I hope we don’t meet this way again. I really think we might identify at least one of these. You will know when I find out.” Brent said.

“Very good, Mr. Soledad, maybe we will run into each other when we are not working. You can let yourself out, if you are all right with it?” Doctor Lyons said.

Brent walked toward his car. The bright light of day seemed to be healing him from the sights he just experienced. He strolled, not wanting the feeling of warmth to end. As he reached the car, he raised his face up to the sun and felt the warmth going through him. This thing, whatever it is, hates the light, the daytime and everyone that lives here. He knew that he might be the only one trying to stop this thing from ruining lives. Brent shook his head, it couldn’t be that bad, someone somewhere must also be doing the same thing.

“Hi Julie, just leaving the morgue, looks like it was a good stop in the investigation. I am on my way home from here.”

Julie must have been busy, it just went to auto-answer, not uncommon for trying to reach a busy doctor. He moved the car out into traffic and headed home, by this time the traffic out of the city was a steady pace. Brent’s mind was traveling at its own speed. Reviewing everything that he had experienced and learned up to today. He knew that the cause of this darkness was based in something tangible, perhaps not something they had every experienced before it started years ago, but it had to be a real thing. Brent logically determined that something intangible, an apparition or simple belief, even if held by many people, would not cause the things they were experiencing. If it was tangible, then it had to have a location, a form, and it had to have arrived by some means when the symptoms first appeared. That was his next direction, find the origin.

Fire in the Sky

Twenty-five years ago in a secluded part of the northern continent something did happen. Animals went mad, people left the area or refused to stay after dark. The sky changed, slowly at first then quickly became a darkening purple at sunset. By that time, no one could endure the darkness.

So this is where Brent needed to start. He used the network to access every file, news clip, government report and fire call within three months before the reports started. The truth would be in those reports somewhere, he just felt it.

He reached home, Julie wasn’t there yet. She said she was going to leave early, something must have kept her. Brent gave her another call, she picked up on the second ring. “Hello, I am sorry but we suddenly had a rush of small accidents. We are trying to get everyone stable and medicated so they can go home, or moved into rooms here at the clinic for the night.”

“Oh, I was looking forward to spending some time together. I know how it goes, it isn’t your fault. Are you going to be home before dark?”

“Yes, they are nearly finished and it looks good for me leaving in the next few minutes.”

“Great, I miss you, I have some leads that look promising. I will tell you all about them when you get here. Do you want me to start diner?”

“It’s been a hard day, something light, so I will leave it to you. I love you, see you soon.”

As Brent broke the connection, he realized he missed asking if any of the dead still had a phone with them. They could trace the numbers recently called and see what turned up. He felt like a detective peeling back the layers of clues. He had an uneasy feeling because of what he saw at the morgue and what he almost saw on the recording. This could be bad, but his earlier initiative to go back to time zero of the anomaly still was the most important information.

Most of the reports he asked the network for were now on his computer. He queried the refrigerator and decided that making dinner would take about five minutes. He got comfortable, pulled the screen up close and started reading the history of the past.

Twenty-six years ago, there was no sign of the anomaly that was causing the new darkness. People lived, died, had children, went to parks, camped out at night. It was a picture of a very ordered planet. In the third month, twenty-second day of the year 2455 a remote part of the planet recorded a meteor strike. Not a big one, as far as meteors go, but it was bright and noisy. The account of northern fishermen was a moving light like a falling star, but getting very bright and coming in close with a loud roar. From the direction and distance reported it seemed to crash between forty and sixty miles inland just about the latitude they were fishing.

Another report from a fly over by a military recognizance plane showed a few trees knocked down and no fire or other danger. The report just went in as a meteor fall.

Three weeks later, reports from small towns south of the fall location told of mass movement of animals from that part of the forest. They were not just migrating, they were panicked and running. When men went into the wood to investigate they found dead and dismembered animals. They recorded scenes that appeared to show predators being eaten alive by rats. As evening fell on the investigators they reported hallucinations and paranoia, on the verge of insanity. They left the area, returning to town where the problems seemed to disappear.

Similar accounts came from towns to the east of the crash. Fifty miles away dogs fought each other to the death in the dark streets. Townspeople huddled in their homes in fear of things in the dark. Some reported hallucinations, some lost their minds. Whatever this thing was, in ten weeks it completely controlled a hundred and fifty miles square.

Twenty-three years ago, national and local governments issued warnings to everyone advising them to be inside their locked doors before nightfall. Police activity changed, from being enforcers of laws, to sweeping the streets of people that had failed to find shelter inside. Sure, occasionally a serious crime would be committed. Once the darkness consumed the night, petty crimes and violence changed. The type of person who would commit violent crimes had difficulty with the new curfew. As it turned out, learning fear, with the other effects, changed many of those personalities into frightened careful people that would no longer bother anyone. In the first years a great many of those people died, some horribly. This reinforced the fear for others, compliance with the curfew was mandatory, but stronger was the fear of finding oneself alone in the dark.

In the past twenty years, this evil force has propagated through the Earth. There were no more investigations, no scientific studies, not even discussion on returning to the time before. Light kept the darkness at bay, and staying inside with well lit homes, either by electric lights, or other means. They discovered that the feelings brought on by the darkness did not penetrate the light.

Brent had known most of the later information for years. The meteor crash was new and seemed to be crucial to the appearance of this dark entity. Now he was certain it was something alive that fell to Earth in that fireball and have moved to control of night, maybe more. His action now was to use technology to study the forest. There were satellites in orbit that could read a book someone was holding in a park. There were security drones in the upper atmosphere that could and often did track anyone anywhere and simultaneously record all their network conversation. He needed to find that access and look in the direction of the crash.

Julie arrived well before dark, he was relieved. The five minutes for dinner was a good estimate, they had a salad with some type of canned shrimp and a little light dressing that made it all cool and easy to eat. Brent got up and came back with two glasses of wine, light red wine, Julies favorite.

“You have to see the information that I dug up today. It can really change perspective of the problem to see where it began.” Brent said.

“As long you are going to give me wine and attention, I will be most happy to sit here and listen. Maybe in telling me what you found there will be something that I see that can help.” Julie said.

Any Action is Action

Brent and Julie moved their wine over to the sofa, that was where they did most of their computer work. He pulled the monitor up for Julie and started going through the afternoons research. The wine helped, and Julie was interested in where it all began.

“This is unusual, if you map the growth of the affected area it began growing much like an infection. The effects started local, moved slowly out in all directions and gradually encompassed the continent within four years. Shortly after that it was dominant on every continent and land mass. The growth and spread was hyperbolic, like bacteria grows on a petri dish. That is amazing, could there be any chance this is just an unknown virus?” Julie said.

“If it is, it seems to have intelligence or a very advanced mechanism for infecting mammals, including humans.” Brent said.

“But do you see, that changes all the autopsies and work because no one is looking for a viral cause. I can talk to a couple doctors that I know, we can have tissue samples ran through the atomic scope looking for a new virus.” Julie said.

“That can eliminate other causes, please specify that they check brain tissue. If it is a virus, it goes directly to the brain.” Brent said.

“It may be tricky, but I was going to get access to one of the powerful Earth directed spy cameras. Using that I should be able to go over the meteorite crash site in high detail. It could be almost as good as being there. If it’s a viral something then we don’t want to go there.” Brent said.

“We should be able to do both these at the same time. I will make some talking notes and call my friends right away. How can you get access to the satellite?” Julie said.

“A couple years ago, I was installing a full safe-house security system for a powerful government official. He had lost his daughter that year to one of these store rampages. He told me then if there was ever anything he could do to help me stop this to call him. I still have the number.” Brent said.

“Right, let’s get started. It is really motivating that we have a hope of providing some true light on this menace. I do think the official government position is; this is nothing, ignore it. That lends some credence to it being an intelligent virus infecting the leaders of the world.” Julie said.

“Julie, that is a pretty wild conspiracy theory, I think we are about done with the wine for tonight,” Brent said as he gave Julie a hug and kiss.

“You’re right, that has gone right to my head. Exactly where I needed it.” Julie said.

“Let’s put off the calls until tomorrow, and I will put you in bed and let you get some rest.” Brent said.

“I have a better idea, how about you shower with me to make sure I don’t fall down, and I will help you dry off.” Julie suggested.

She didn’t have to ask twice, Brent was up and taking the glasses back to the kitchen. He came and helped Julie off the sofa and made play of her needing some guidance and help to get in the shower.

Once Brent had heard about time long ago where even married people only had sex in the dark. He thought that was so strange, nowadays darkness was the enemy. Everyone was used to doing anything and everything under the lights or by the light of the sun. Light provided safety. Of course, that wasn’t on his mind as much as how beautiful Julie was in the light. He was a fortunate man, a real job, a nice place to live, a beautiful smart wife and she was on the bed giving him that what are you waiting for look. The bed was exactly in the middle of the room, Julie had always wanted a round bed, so you never had to walk around it to get somewhere. The sheets were satiny sky blue and the pillows almost purple. Julie now was sitting in the middle of the bed with one of the pillows held against her breasts, smiling and looking at Brent. That was the end of any restraint he had been pretending, doctors know things.

The next morning early they were laying on the bed, the sunlight shining across the room. Brent thought it would be easy to just forget about everything and lay here with Julie. Tracing the rays of light across her soft skin caused her to stir. She rolled her head toward him and smiled. “Maybe that was what I needed as much as the wine.” Julie said.

“I was hoping you wouldn’t wake up and we could just lay here in the sun all day.” Brent said.

“That’s not going to happen, I had dreams about this thing being a virulent intelligence and taking over the world to feed on mammals, us.” Julie said.

“Too much medical knowledge will have you doing more conspiracy theories. Let’s get some facts and then run off screaming, how about that?” Brent said.

“OK, OK, but you know we both, or at least I, have to go to work. Would you be the love of my life and make me something for the sulfites hangover I have from the wine. We should find a beer we both like, less pain.” said Julie heading for the shower.

Brent pulled on a comfortable thin robe and slippers. In the kitchen he asked the network for the latest news and weather. The weather was going to be warm and clear again. It was odd that the weather from sunset to sunrise was almost always windy with clouds, sometimes rain. Going back to Julie’s conspiracy theory, was the intelligence using the wind and rain to move itself around the world? That was pretty far out but something odd was happening.

Four eggs with cheese and some shredded squash was ready in minutes, four slices of bacon came out of the convection oven a few seconds later. He put the food on the table told the network to alert Julie breakfast was ready. Coffee was poured, one with an extra shot of espresso. Julies coffee had that extra shot, she needed it to get through the morning.

Mornings were when people came to Urgent Care with all the stupid stuff they did the night before sticking out of their heads and hands.

There was a news break on weather, another report of supposedly homeless and hungry vandalizing a store on the East side again. The crime was sticking in that area for some reason. He was about to check and see if the store was one of their customers when the phone rang.

“Brent, this is Martin, one of our customers on the East side was vandalized last night. I know you are investigating these so I thought you would want to include this in your research.”

“Martin, thanks for the call. I do want to know when these happen, I will be on my way over there this morning, then there is someone at the State building I have to see. You will get an update on the network if anything is happening.” Brent said.

“Thanks, we need to do something to minimize customers losses, we will lose business if all our security doesn’t stop anything.” Martin said.

“The other problem is the police just don’t have the time or manpower to even look at these unless I take an obvious criminal to them. We are fighting both sides and not close to being even.” Brent said.

“Yeah, I agree, let me know.” Martin said.

Brent joined Julie back at the table, “See,” she said with a big smile, “I told you we both had to go to work.”

Julie and Brent did the dishes together, trying to keep their hands off each other so they could get ready. Finally he wrapped his arms around her and parked her on the table, he was still only wearing his robe. The table held up, and wasn’t terribly uncomfortable for all that. She had already finished her make up so he had to be careful. Her glow looked much better as she straightened her clothes out and pecked him on the cheek. “I knew you would help me with my hangover, you are the best. I love you, see you later.”

Millions of Little Pieces

Brent knew the police were in a rush for information. If anything really happened, they were the first to panic. It was political; they had to keep the peace and here was a big mess that needed cleaned up. It was a surprise that this even made the news. Someone missed a bribe somewhere. The last market was not the mess this one was in, but people still died. He reached in the tray of his car and picked up a small storage plug. He looked at it, then picked up a second one. Sharing information sometimes was the only way to keep the water coming. He would make two copies, as quickly as he could get to the equipment, and make a big happy about handing it over to the ranking person on site. There just wasn’t any way he was going to give up his only copy.

When he arrived at the store, it was a full scale circus, so many important people had arrived to take pictures showing they were cracking down on this activity that the police were valet parking cars for people that needed to be there. He gave the officer his card and got out; the officer gave him a real Valet tag from the police department. That showed they had planned for this type of thing. Nothing would surprise him. He had seen many interesting things in his investigations. Slipping the tag into his jacket pocket, he moved toward the front of the store, trying to get an officer’s attention.

“Hey,“ someone shouted. “They are closed, you can’t be here.”

Brent pulled out his, almost looks like a badge, ID from his company and asked to see whoever was in charge. The patrolman turned and pointed to the man in the three piece blue suit,

“That’s Jerry, he is not happy, make Jerry happy and we won’t lose your car.” The officer said.

“Thanks for the tip, I will help Jerry be happy.” Brent said.

The patrolman went back to bothering other people that were coming close for a look.

On the way over, his phone told him that Jack Lei, a recent import from the Chinese continent, was the owner.

He had some idea from the spread of blankets covering bodies that Lei had been more successful than the police might have expected. Very little was missing from the store, mostly perishables. As soon as Mr. Lei died, those that came in took meat, eggs, cheese, even canned meat. Once they had those items, they vanished into the night.

As he approached Jerry, he could see the man’s face. Not happy was an understatement. This guy might be the Chief of Police. Someone was on his ass hard and Brent could imagine he was about to turn that on him. Instead of the investigator badge, he pulled out a business card. Definitely the right move, Jerry handled business cards more often than he handled badges. He reached for Jerry with his right hand, business card in his left hand, held so Jerry could read it. In less time than most people blink, Jerry had read the card, decided what needed done and told Brent to get the files for the night downloaded immediately and then bring them to him.

Exactly the outcome Brent had been looking for; carte blanc in the server room to make his two copies. He would not take time here to go through all the tape, and since it was the scene of a mass murder, he was going to walk carefully. There were three other bodies not getting any attention.

His phone told him that the coroner for this area was the same morgue as the other Jon Doe’s. At least he didn’t need an introduction. It only took two minutes to get the file transferred to each of the storage plugs. One he put deep inside the inner pocket where it would be hard to feel. The other he kept in his hand as he turned off the computer and went to see if Jerry was happy.

“Sir, I have the files here on storage. I did not take any time to look over anything, but it seems the video and audio systems were in good working order at the time of the, whatever you are calling this mess.” Brent said.

“I am calling it a mess. Can’t charge the Chinese guy, he’s very dead. That is what you need to look at, what the stars happened to Lei.” Jerry said .

“Have they have moved him to the morgue yet?” Brent said.

“No, what’s left of him is in Forensics trying to answer questions.” Jerry said.

“Could I get permission to at least look and stay out of the way?” Brent said.

“Give me back your card,” Jerry ordered, “here, I wrote on the back that, if there is any problem, call me.”

“I appreciate that, sometimes getting the answer is more important than the means. I will stay in touch.” Brent said.

Brent took his valet tag out of his pocket and walked across to where the cars were being parked. “If you have my keys, I can drive it out myself.” Brent offered.

The patrolman didn’t miss a step, handing off the keys and going back to whatever it was he was watching.

Brent found the way back to Dr. Lyons at the morgue. He walked in and the Dr. seemed to expect him.

“Welcome back, Mr. Soledad, I had hoped we would not be meeting again this soon.” Dr. Lyons said.

“Same here, this was a surprise, has this last week been unusual in any other way?” Brent said.

Dr. Lyons pushed back from his ancient desk, “That’s the funny thing. Did you know that two people came to claim the bodies of the Doe’s? I see you didn’t. Man and woman, middle-aged, hair plastered to their heads, white tunics, funny shoes. Came and had papers saying they were taking them to cremation for the next of kin, the paperwork was actually more complete than normal. I put names on all the Doe’s and released them.” Dr. Lyons said.

“That is an interestingly accurate description of the two. They were both at the market just minutes before the attack. Now they are picking up the missing to cremate the evidence. I don’t suppose you have any tissue samples left from the autopsies?” Brent said.

“Yes, now that you ask, it’s standard to index and freeze samples for further analysis. Sometimes we have to go back years and on a cremation, that is difficult. It isn’t public knowledge, some might have problems.” The doctor said.

“Dr. Lyons, you are definitely an asset to any investigation. Thank you very much, my wife, a doctor at Urgent Care is going to have two infectious organism professors look at the tissue for anything of interest.” Brent said.

“Here is my regular State card, it has phone numbers where I can be reached. My network address and I am writing my private phone in case you really need me for something.” Dr. Lyons said.

“My wife or the professors will make arrangements to get some samples. Now what do you have for me today?” Brent said.

“There were three more bodies found in the market’s vicinity, not close but each in the mountain’s direction just behind those homes. One was two blocks away, Two was five blocks away, the third was just at the base of the mountain before the ground got rough. Something bad moved that direction with purpose. You need to find it and stop this.” Dr. Lyons said.

“Did they still have their identity implants?” Brent said.

“Yes, no physical damage to One or Two, Three was beaten and kicked by people, but he died of affixation but no prints or sign of damage. Someone might have sat on his chest until he died. But I don’t have evidence to support that.” Dr. Lyons said.

Brent took the names and addresses. He would look them up later. He needed to get tissue on its way to the researchers and make the meeting with the State Logistics Coordinator to get access to the satellite.

End of Excerpt — Today I added three more chapters 1/3/2021

If this has your interest so far, let me know. The book is finished and looking for readers. I am new to Medium and getting acquainted with how it works. Planning to put three more chapters up in a day or two. Leave a comment, yell at me for writing issues, would really love to have any feedback at all.

Thanks in advance,

Ben Moreland publishing name (aka James Huffaker)

The book is now on Apple Bookstore, however I am unable to give you specific information. Because the AB is difficult to navigate, I cannot find my own book on the site.

--

--

James Huffaker

aka Ben Moreland, retired. Interested in science, technology and future of earthlings. Sometimes I see things a bit different.