Sinkhole (short fiction): Part Two

Erik looked at Caroline sleeping soundly in their hotel bed and felt the tug of comfort–the warmth of her body and the calm of her gentle breathing.  But he couldn’t stay. He. Could. Not. Stay.

The local police had restricted access to their property. The county sheriff had restricted access to his street. The state police were simply bypassed by the FBI—-who evacuated a perimeter a mile in diameter.

They had not been allowed to return to the undamaged portion of their home–to pack a bag, retrieve a wallet or grab a phone. Luckily, one of the local sheriff’s deputies allowed him to make a call to his commander at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. A courier (in this case a very junior second lieutenant) from the U.S. Special Operations Command met him at the local Hampton Inn with a new military ID, an encrypted cell phone and a plain envelope. Inside the envelope were $500 in twenty dollar bills, a credit card in his name and printed orders from much further up his chain of command.

3d illustration of metal cubeIt wasn’t the orders that roused him from his hotel bed. It was what played repetitively through his mind. It was an image–the gleaming, stainless steel monolith surrounded by skeletons. It was how his eyes were drawn past the bleached bones and into the cube.

Into the cube? He shook his head as he pulled on his grey Navy sweatshirt. Yes–drawn in. The warmth of the sweatshirt wasn’t enough to stop the chill of cold sweat running down his back. His eyes were drawn past the bleached bones and into the stainless steel—-but that’s where sense morphed into emotion. Feeling. Was it a feeling?

Quietly, he unlatched the chain on the hotel room door and slipped out without giving his slumbering wife another glance.

A few minutes later Erik stood outside and in front of the Hampton Inn–staring blankly. Focusing on the visual memory, he was again drawn into the cube–into the hazy transition from sight to…It was a feeling. The emotion he found in the silver mist of the cube was indistinct–not dark or light. Powerful, yet undefinable. Unclear, yet strong enough for him to leave his bed and his hotel.

In those intensely introspective moments, Erik hadn’t noticed that his eyes had closed, but he did notice when they opened—-and quickly narrowed in the blinding glare of spotlights.  Through the raised hand that quickly shielded his eyes, he now found himself not standing in front of the hotel, but at the bottom of a sinkhole standing on top of a large stainless cube surrounded by skeletons and more than a dozen alarmed FBI agents and analysts.

###

 

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~ by kipwkoelsch on April 19, 2019.

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