Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Wednesday Writings # 27 - Out of Time

My "Wednesday Writing" posts were initially created as a writing exercise for me to try and keep myself motivated and on track by making sure that I spend at least 30-60 minutes each week (with the follow-up goal to turn it into a daily writing practice).

Over the past few weeks, I've been continuing the same story with a single post each week. To help you catch up with this serialized story, you can use the following table of contents:
  1. Morning Machinations
  2. Communication Between Friends
  3. Daydreaming Decisions
  4. Off to the Park
  5. Driven
  6. Coming Home
  7. Revealing Photographs
  8. Just a Dream?
  9. At the Tower
  10. Caught
  11. Revelations
  12. Lunchtime
  13. The Watch
  14. Visions
  15. Escape
  16. Evan (part 1)
  17. Evan (part 2)
  18. Evan (part 3)
  19. Formulating a Plan
  20. Testing the Boxes
  21. Betrayal
  22. Julie last week, I really felt "out of it" and started off this week feeling a little less than ready. But that's part of what this weekly regime is force me back on the horse. Hopefully it worked out.

Critiques, suggestions, comments, etc. always welcome.


Out of Time

Gabby followed invisibly beside Julie as she cautiously walked down the darkened hall towards the light coming out of the nearest door. They entered the library where they had originally met Walter Dalton and been debriefed on the strange nature of the time travel experiment. Evan sat in the leather wingback chair previously occupied by Dalton. A fire crackled in the fireplace painting his face with an odd mix of light and shadows.

Julie stepped just inside the room and leaned against the door frame, her hand perched on the doorknob to accentuate her uneasiness and her desire to run at the first hint of danger. Gabby, feeling safer in her invisibility, walked further into the room and stood between Julie and Evan, eagerly awaiting their discussion. No one spoke. Evan stared into the flickering flames for a full minute before acknowledging Julie's presence.

"Hello Julie. I'm not sure how much you believe. For the moment, I can't do anything to convince you or make you trust me. But I appreciate that you've come inside. You look cold. Would you like to warm yourself by the fire? I could move over to the windows."

Not waiting for her answer, Evan stood and walked to the tall picture windows at the far end of the room. He stared out into the darkness but in the dark glass his image reflected back to the girls. He stood still and silent as though waiting for Julie to cross to the fireplace. When she didn't, he spoke again, still facing the window.

"Gabby told me what Dalton told you. I'm sure it sounds like insane ramblings of an insane man. But I assure you that most of the things he told you are true. Which is yet another reason for you to doubt my credibility. And yet, I hope that you can at least open your mind to the possibility. Still, I cannot force your beliefs, and I would never try. At least in that, I am different from Dalton."

He turned around and took a step forward to stand beside the nearby desk. He moved a stack of papers and sat on the corner of the desk. Gabby alternated her gaze between Evan and Julie. Where Evan seemed calm, collected, even resigned, Julie appeared tense and frightened, her muscles tight and her body shuddering slightly, a combination of the cold and the fear. Her voice wavered as she spoke.

"You said something about Gabby needing my help. That she is in trouble."

"Yes. She is in trouble. And I do need your help to save her. I fear we may have already lost her. But I hope, you can help, somehow."

Evan's own voice wavered a bit as he spoke. He paused and breathed deeply. His eyes seemed suddenly brighter. Gabby took a step towards him and realized he had tears in his eyes. She moved closer still and suddenly Evan turned to look in her direction. His eyes scanned the room quickly, intently, as though searching for something.

"Julie. Turn off the lights. Quickly."

He took a small step towards Gabby, squinting as he frantically scanned the room. Julie stared, confused, but did nothing.

"Julie! The lights. Please!"

Gabby looked to Julie whose eyes were now wide with worry. Evan's body was twitching as he looked rapidly back and forth. Finally, Julie took a step to one side and flicked down the light switch next to the door. An eerie yellow gloom fell over the room. Light from the fire danced through the darkness and covered the wall with odd shadows from the chairs, tables and lamps near the fireplace. Evan stepped first one way then the other, pivoting around some point only he could see. As he stepped closer to Julie, she slid out into the hallway, watching his strange dance through the door frame. Finally, he stopped moving. Gabby stood directly in front of him with the fireplace at her back. She could just make out Julie in the darkness behind him. Evan stared silently for a moment, his hands uplifted slightly. Then he spoke again, but not to Julie.

"Gabby? Gabby, is that you? Oh, I hope this means we're not too late. Listen to me. You've been in Observation Mode for much to long. I don't know exactly when you went in, but I know it's been at least an hour. The longest anyone successfully made it through Observation Mode was 23 minutes. You can probably make it 30 minutes, maybe even a little more. But anything beyond that is extremely dangerous."

Gabby looked at her watch, remembered that it had stopped working when she had entered the box and started scanning the room for a clock. She saw the outline of a clock on the desk and started towards it.

"NO! No. Don't move. Don't go anywhere!"

The urgency in Evan's voice terrified Gabby. She froze in her tracks and stared at him. He maneuvered around a bit to line her up with the fireplace once more. Beyond his shoulder, Gabby saw Julie slowly approaching, her look of fear even greater than before.

"Gabby. Listen to me. The device has a limited power source. We built in some self-sustaining properties that allow it to recharge itself and run efficiently for countless travels. However, in Observation Mode, the device is literally split in two. In your hands, you hold the Visualizer. And back wherever you initiated the Voyage, you are literally sitting and staring into the Remote Anchor that ties your consciousness to the vision you are now experiencing."

Julie had approached Gabby and now stood, nearly a yard to the right of Evan, staring intently through the dim light. She kept transitioning her focus from Evan to the apparently blank air to whom he spoke. Evan caught a glimpse of Julie in his peripheral vision and turned to look at her.

"Gabby is here Julie. She's right here, invisible, but present."

Julie stared incredulously at Gabby, unable to see anything. She just stared back at Evan and took a half step backwards.

"You can't see her. I can't see her either, really. But I can see that she is here. Gabby taught me how to see, actually. She showed me that a distortion in time, even just a misplaced Observer, creates a minuscule vacuum in the air. Part of her dreams helped reveal this. The entire world is in motion. All around us at every instant. And yet, when someone cuts through the veil of time, they create a vacuum that stops all motion around them. Once she realized what they were, Gabby could see these easily. She could pick them out of the darkest night or the brightest day. She taught me. Helped me see what to look for. "

Julie stared towards Gabby, trying to somehow see her invisible friend. Nothing materialized, so she turned back to Evan who was watching her expectantly.

"You said she was in danger. That something was wrong."

Evan looked urgently back to Gabby.

"Yes. Gabby. I saw you, or rather, I saw the world freeze in my hotel room, so I know you were there. That was nearly an hour ago. If you've been in Observation Mode since then, you're in great danger.

"In our experiments, we had some volunteers who helped us test out the device. The first few tests were very short. After a while, we tried to push the envelope. I wanted to move slowly, to ensure everything was safe, but Dalton was over eager and overruled my advice.

"There was a volunteer named Jake. I'd never seen him before and knew nothing about him. Someone Dalton had found. Dalton sent Jake into the box with stories of revolutionizing the world, of turning science on its head. He also promised Jake $5000 for his efforts. Dalton sent Jake into the box with instructions to Observe for one hour. At my persistence, we monitored Jake's heart rate and brain activity while he Observed the past. As part of the allure of the experiment, Dalton allowed Jake to choose any time from his own history to observe and Jake, whose parents died when he was ten, chose to go back to his own childhood and spend time watching his tenth birthday party. His last great memory with his parents.

"Jake lay on a medical table with his eyes closed, clutching the box to his chest. Wires dangled from his head and a blood pressure cuff clutched his arm, tightening every few minutes to take measurements. After 23 minutes, his brain activity spiked and then all activity flatlined. I rushed to his side and tried to wake him, to jolt him from his Observation Mode. He wasn't breathing. He had no pulse. I tried to push the box aside to begin CPR but his hands still held firm. I tried to pull his fingers off the box but they seemed to grip the box tighter as I tried to break the grasp.

"Finally, unsure what to do, I pressed the Bailout button on the box. Jake's body immediately went limp and the box fell to the floor. I hurriedly prepared for CPR when Jake suddenly arched his back and let out a loud gasp. He began coughing, curled up in a ball and began to shiver. At least he was breathing. I wrapped a blanket around him and after a few minutes, the shock began to subside and he was back with us.

"We ran tests and asked questions and then left him to recover. Encouraged by his recovery, Dalton demanded we try the test again but this time let him go the full hour. I argued against it, but Dalton somehow convinced the rest of the staff to go along with him as long as Jake agreed. Dalton convinced him as well and the next day, he went back into the box. At the 25 minute mark, his vital signs flatlined. I argued that we needed to save him, but Dalton persisted in completing the experiment. After 40 minutes, I pushed towards Jake to try and revive him. Dalton called in his men and had me held back forcibly.

"Finally, at exactly 60 minutes, he released me and let me try to revive Jake. I pressed the Bailout button and Jake's body once again fell limp. We had procured a defibrillation kit and I prepped him for CPR. I waited a few seconds, hoping he would gasp his way out of it, but instead, he lay still and silent on the table. I charged the paddles and shocked his heart. I breathed for him, again and again. After nearly two minutes, his heart began to beat on its own and his lungs breathed a shallow, infrequent breath. But his eyes didn't open.

"We waited and monitored him all that day. And through the night. And the following day. Then a week. Then two. Nothing. For three months, we kept him connected to monitors and fed him through IV tubes. But he never woke up. Then one day, he was just gone. I thought perhaps he'd awoken. But I couldn't find him anywhere. I asked Dalton, but he just shrugged. I confronted him, demanded to know where Jake was. Dalton simply replied that it was better that I didn't know. And walked away."

Gabby watched the compassion and sorrow mirrored on Evan's face as he told the story. She saw his body droop with sadness for the loss of this hapless volunteer. This unknown martyr for the cause of science. She wanted to rush over and hug him. To tell him there was nothing more he could have done. And then she remembered, that she had now become the next victim of this experiment. She didn't know what time it was, but she was certain she'd been in Observation Mode longer than the 20 minutes Evan talked about. She pictured her body, back in her hotel room.


Panic spewed through Gabby like water from a fire hose. She shouted at Evan. Jumped up and down. Waved her arms. Desperate to get his attention. He'd said that Julie could help save her. Whatever he had planned, she wanted to hear it.

But Evan wasn't looking at her anymore. He stared down at his hands, wringing them silently, pain streaked across his face. Gabby looked to Julie and saw her staring incredulously at Evan. Gabby ran over and grabbed first at Evan, then at Julie, trying to pull them towards each other. To get Evan to see her again. Of course, as she pulled at them, neither moved or even acknowledged her presence.

Finally, she stood right in front of Evan and screamed as loud as she could. Nothing. She started waving her hands right in front of his eyes. It took a few moments, but finally, he shuddered, shook his head and looked up at her.

"We have to save her! Gabrielle. I WILL save you."

He reached his hand up and brushed through the air right next to her cheek. He closed his eyes briefly and then looked to Julie.

"I know you probably still don't believe me. But for Gabby's sake, will you trust me enough to help her? I have a plan."

Gabby stared back and forth from Julie to Evan and then back to Julie. When Julie failed to answer immediately, Gabby ran over to her and started pleading with her friend, rubbing her back and trying to help her realize that this was all true. After what felt like an eternity, Julie looked at Evan and spoke.

"What do I need to do?"


Brian Miller said...

nice...i can feel the tension rathcheting right before the cars go bloiwing over the top of the roller coaster...smiles.

logankstewart said...

Nice. Dalton's character gets more despicable with each segment. I like it.

By the way, I think you meant to type "shock" instead of "sock" when you're talking about Jake. Though the typo makes it funny. ;)

Phoenix said...

AHHH! (sorry, this means I'm grumpy that I have to wait another week before the next segment).

Another great two chapters (I just read two at the same time)! Evan better not be messing with her again though... and I still don't understand a) what happened to Dalton and b) why they both lied to Gabby about working together. But I'm probably getting ahead of the story, eh?

Okie said...

Thanks gang.

@ Brian - We're definitely approaching the top of the coaster and ready for (potentially) a free-fall.

@ Logan - he's like a rotten onion...or, to take a queue from Shrek, a moldy parfait. (And thanks again for the typo catch)

@ Phoenix - sorry to make you grumpy. Don't worry too much...I'm 'pretty sure' Evan's done messing with her *grin*. As to Dalton, I debated doing a partial reveal in this scene, but it just didn't feel right yet.