Andy awoke to the sound of screaming. This was, of course, nothing new for him. He chalked it up to having crackheads for neighbors. He rolled over in bed and clamped the pillow down over his head. It was rare to have a night where Harriet and Barry didn’t scream at the tops of their lungs at each other.
There was something about this scream in particular that was different. He pulled the pillow off of his head and listened. It was Harriet, all right. She was usually screaming at Barry, calling him this or that. But this time…
No, she was just screaming. A blood-curdling scream. And she didn’t let up.
Andy checked the time on his bedside alarm clock, an old wind-up clock he’d picked up in Switzerland years before. It was four-twenty in the morning. They usually stopped screaming by one, after having had their fix.
“Shit,” he muttered to himself. He got up out of bed and threw some clothes on. He flipped the switch and let his eyes adjust to the light, then took a peek out the window.
He couldn’t see anything. He could still hear Harriet clearly, and some commotion from outside. Andy figured the power was out again. It happened from time to time in the little trailer park. One crackhead or another would launch himself into the task of removing the hundred-meter length of copper wire from the power lines and hock it for scrap. Lately, it had been happening more and more often, so Andy had sunk money into a diesel generator.
The generator supplied the needed power to the lights and filtration system that kept his little project going. Andy had run several marijuana grow-ops over the years since coming to Dunsmith. He hadn’t smoked the stuff himself in years, but it always made for a welcome income. After all, with fuel prices the way they were, he needed the cash.
“Andy!” someone yelled from outside. Andy recognized the voice immediately. Billy Jessup, his neighbor. One of the few people in Kamper’s Korner he’d actually gotten along with. He’d known Billy for well over twenty years. “Andy, get out here! There’s something wrong!”
Andy opened his window and poked his head out. “What the hell is it?” he asked.
“I.. just get out here! Barry Pattison’s… The park’s all… Jesus, just get out here!”
Andy swore and slammed his window shut. He walked out into the adjacent room, which normally would have been his living room, but for the past three years had served as Andy’s nest egg. He’d usually grown outside, but after having his crops raided three times in a row, he’d chosen instead to convert his living room into a growing space. He quickly walked through rows of plants near harvest. He was proud of his crop. It was some of the finest hydroponic bud on this side of the island. He fetched a good price for his product.
He got outside, and the first thing he saw was Billy, white as a ghost. Harriet had stopped screaming. Now she was just sobbing uncontrollably, blubbering out words. He could hear some of the neighbors trying to calm her down.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Barry… he’s… I mean… the park…”
“Jesus, it’s four-thirty in the goddamn morning, Billy!” Andy yelled. “Can’t you give me a straight answer?”
Billy just pointed towards Harriet and Barry’s trailer. Andy let his eyes adjust to the light. It was getting harder as he grew older. When he was still a young man, he could see for miles, but Andy was pushing sixty-five now, and his eyesight was starting to go. Still, he could see the faint white outline of their trailer, but something about it was off.
It wasn’t all there.
“It’s a wall,” Billy said, pointing.
Andy was about to ask him what Billy meant, but his eyes adjusted and he noticed it. It was a wall. He could see the gleaming light from his trailer bounce off of it. He ran inside and picked a flashlight out of his toolbox. Turning it on, he stared in awe.
“Jesus Christ,” he said.
About a quarter of Barry and Harriet’s trailer was jutting out of a dirt wall. Andy ran over to the trailer and shone a flashlight through the window. What he saw made him sick.
There was blood everywhere, all over the bed, which had been half-buried in the dirt. On the floor next to the bed was a severed arm. A little farther down, a leg. They too were jutting out of the dirt wall that had sliced its way into Harriet’s trailer. Andy would have thought Barry was buried under the dirt, had it not been for all the blood, but he knew, like the trailer, Barry just wasn’t there.
“Jesus,” he swore. He looked back to Harriet, who was still hysterical, but starting to calm down as Samantha Whittaker stroked her head and tried her best to soothe her.
“It’s dirt,” Billy said. “Some weird dirt wall. Look up there,” he said, pointing above the trailer.
Andy stepped back and pointed the flashlight. There, about ten feet above the trailer’s roof was a tree line. It was a forest floor. He noticed the dirt crumbling down. Andy took a step back, wary of the trees coming to crash down on him.
“What the hell does that?” Andy asked. “Earthquake?”
Billy shook his head. “There was an Earthquake just before,” he said. “Woke me up in a second, but then this God awful light filled my trailer. I swear to God, Andy, I thought the damned world was ending. Damn aliens came to get us or something. Then it all just stopped, all at once. Killed the power, too. I’ve never seen anything like it, but I doubt that could be caused by just an earthquake.”
“Where the hell is the rest of the park?” Amos Bradley, one of the more elderly residents of the park, asked as he approached the two men. “What the hell is this?”
“Welcome to the party, Amos,” Andy said. “You got me.”
“The phones are down,” he said, gnawing on his toothless gums. “Someone’s got to drive into town and get help.”
“Can’t you?” Andy asked.
“Why, I’d love to Andy. Only one problem,” he said, then pointed over towards his trailer, which was two lots down from Andy’s. His trailer was there, the problem was that his car was only half-there. It had collapsed into the dirt, a result of having an altered center of balance. The dirt was slowly spilling down onto the remains of the car.
“Shit!” Andy said. He stood for a moment, thinking things through. He looked Amos in the eye, and then over at Harriet, who had now collapsed of exhaustion.
“Fine,” he said. “Let me just make sure things are locked up and I’ll head into town.”
Boomer stared up at the strange orb in the sky as he sat on the curb outside the Gas ‘n Dash. He had noticed the small ultraviolet light when it had appeared in the sky. Boomer hadn’t known what to make of it at the time, but he knew it wasn’t normal. The first thought that entered his mind was that it had been a UFO, so he’d called in to the RCMP, hoping that perhaps they could supply some answers.
He had been outside when the light expanded and the earthquake had started. Boomer wasn’t given to panic easily. In his twenty-five years of life he could count on one hand how many times he’d actually been scared enough to do so. As the earthquake began to shake the very foundations of the gas station, he allowed himself a moment to do just that; panic.
But then the light enveloped him, the gas station, and the town entirely. When the sudden flash came, he shielded his eyes. In another moment it was over. Boomer took a moment to catch his breath, and then locked up the store, making sure the big red emergency button that stopped the pumps was pressed down. Without power, the pumps wouldn’t operate anyway, but after the earthquake, the last thing Boomer wanted was a gas leak, let alone an explosion. He chose to sit outside and await the officer that the operator had said was en route.
He’d noticed the strange planet hanging in the sky only minutes later. Upon noticing it, the hair on the back of his neck began to stand, and a shiver traveled down his spine. It was the strangest thing he’d ever seen, and Boomer had seen a lot of strange things.
Boomer had been born as Cecil Henry Sproul, a son of the Sproul family. He’d come from a long line of bankers and investors, but when he was eighteen, he emaciated himself from his family, took on the name of Boomer and purchased a small house in Dunsmith with his trust fund. For seven years, he’d called the little town home, and found it a welcome change from the bustle of city life and the ever-watchful eyes of Vancouver’s high society. He’d been offered a chance to go to Yale University at graduation, but Boomer had been around Ivy-Leaguers his whole life. Instead, he applied at Malaspina University-College in Nanaimo, a school he’d been attending as a part-time student since he’d moved to the Island.
He stroked his blond goatee absentmindedly as he regarded the alien object hanging in the night’s sky. Boomer was a thinker. The moment he’d gotten over the initial shock of seeing the planet, he’d set himself to start figuring out why it was there.
So far, he had nothing.
He’d been in the middle of debating whether or not the moon had suddenly sprouted an ocean when he noticed the RCMP SUV pull into the lot. Boomer stood up and gave Constable Littleton a friendly nod in greeting. She pulled the truck to a stop and got out.
“Sorry it took so long,” Shelly said. She jabbed a thumb towards the planet. “I imagine you understand.”
Boomer nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “So what gives with that?”
Littleton shrugged. “Still in the process of figuring that out, but there’s more,” she said. “Apparently the road into Nanaimo’s out.”
“Out?” Boomer asked. “Like how? The earthquake?”
She shook her head. “No,” she said. “Out as in not there. Constable Shephard came back on the radio a few minutes ago. He said the road just doesn’t exist. Where it used to be is some forest or something.”
“A forest?” Boomer asked. He looked up to the planet again. Suddenly, he had a thought. “What about the south end of town?”
Shelly shrugged. “”No idea,” she said. “Phones and power are completely down. As for now, we’re supposed to keep people calm and rendezvous at City Hall.”
“This is insane,” Boomer said. “Things like this don’t just happen.” He looked at her. “You think it might be aliens?”
“Right now?” Shelly asked. “I’ve got no qualms with blaming it on little green men.”
“Gray,” Boomer corrected.
“Whatever,” Shelly replied. She looked up to the planet. “It’s just so surreal. Could it be a hologram or something?”
Boomer shrugged. “Who knows?” he said. “I doubt it, though. You can usually tell a hologram from the real McCoy.” He pointed toward the planet. “And that looks pretty damned real to me. Mind you, all that government tech is so far off the scale that it could be.”
“It’s strange,” she said. “I mean, it can’t be real. It just can’t. Can it?” she asked, looking over to him.
“No. But then crazy blacklights that make the air glow aren’t real, either.” He pointed towards a small landmass on the strange planet-moon and snapped his fingers. “Look, there’s an island. Or something.” He put his hands on his hips and cocked his head up in thought.
“Do you feel any different?” he asked, looking over at Shelly.
“Do goosebumps count?”
Boomer would have laughed, had he found it funny. “No,” he said.
“What about temporary insanity?”
“If you’re insane, then me too. Right now, I’d believe I was crazy.”
“Why do you ask?” Shelly asked.
“Well, I mean weight-wise.” He jumped around a little, testing his balance. “I feel like I weigh the same, but I could be wrong.”
Littleton shook her head. “No, I feel the same. Why should that make any difference?”
“Well, look at it this way. That thing’s huge. I mean– massive. If it’s not at least as big as the earth, I’ll eat my hat.” He gestured to his black fedora with white pinstripes hanging off the vacuum handle inside the store. He was rarely seen outside of work without it on his head. “But if it was that big, and as close as it looks, we’d be feeling the effects of it.”
Boomer shook his head. “No, not really. I’m not sure of anything right now, but I am sure we’re not in Kansas anymore.” He looked over. “So you guys don’t have anything, then?”
Shelly shook her head. “We know about as much as you do right now. It’s as if we were uprooted from here and dropped somewhere else.” She poked a thumb at the planet hanging low in the sky. “But I’m pretty sure anyone who’s seen that can find that part easy to believe.”
Boomer nodded. “Yeah, I’ll believe it. A little hard not to believe it right now.” He looked off to the east. “You can usually see Vancouver’s lights reflecting off the clouds this early in the morning, but they’re gone.” He shook his head. “Since the power’s out, there’s not a whole lot of good I can do here. Everyone’s meeting at City Hall?”
Shelly nodded. “I imagine that’s where most folks will end up,” she said. “Sergeant Boone’s gone to wake up some folks.”
“Wake up? You mean people actually slept through that quake?”
“Most likely,” she said. “Otherwise I imagine the roads would already be flooded with people.”
Boomer nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “Well, I’m going to lock up the store and drive on over.” He looked to Shelly. “Want some coffee or something?”
Shelly nodded. “I think I could use one right now.”
Boomer nodded. “Cool, let me just write a note in case anyone thinks ‘Always Open’ applies to unforeseen freaky planets just chilling out above the town.”
Gerald Boone knocked on the door vigorously. It was the only option he had, since the phones were down.
“Come on, dammit,” he swore to himself as he stepped back to peer through the windows. He shone his flashlight through each window, hoping to wake someone up. Either the mayor or his wife. But still, no answer.
“Problem, Gerry?” a voice called from a yard over. Boone looked to see Don “Goose” Payne leaning out of his kitchen window, blinded temporarily by his flashlight. “Jesus, man. Watch where you point that thing!”
Boone pointed the flashlight to the ground. “Sorry, Goose,” he replied. “I need to wake Rob up. We’re… having a bit of an issue.”
“Well, good luck on that one,” Goose replied. “But you’re knocking on the wrong door. Rob and Gretchen are in Vancouver for the weekend.”
Boone swore. “That’s just all I fucking need.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and ran his hand over his bald head. He then looked back to Goose. Goose was the Mayor’s neighbor, best friend, and town alderman all at once. On top of that, he was the chairperson for the Emergency Committee.
Which was exactly what Boone needed.
“You need to come with me,” Boone said.
“What? Why?” he paused. “What’s going on? Why’s the power out?”
“You didn’t see it?” Boone asked. “You didn’t feel the earthquake?”
“Earthquake?” he asked. “Well, that would explain the power. I didn’t see anything, but then I only woke up a couple of minutes ago to some idiot pounding on my neighbor’s door at four in the morning.”
Boone ignored the jab. “Look, about ten—fifteen minutes ago, something happened,” he said. “The road to Nanaimo’s gone.” He paused for effect.
“Gone?” Goose raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean, ‘Gone’?”
“I mean Gone as in not there,” Boone said. He was getting impatient. “We lost contact with the dispatcher in Nanaimo some twenty minutes ago, the same time we lost phones and power. I tried raising Duncan or Chemainus, but I’m getting nothing. We’re completely cut off here, Goose.” He sighed. “And there’s more.”
“There was a light– well… Not a normal light, it just kind of… Happened. Everywhere. I had two cops on the road, they both saw it. I saw it, and I’m pretty damn sure everyone who was awake saw it.”
“I never saw it,” Goose stated.
“You were sleeping up until I got here.”
“So what happened?”
“Damned if I know! We started getting reports of weird lights, then everyone saw a weird light, then pow!” he slammed the butt of the flashlight into his hand for effect. “We got nothing.”
“I don’t get it,” Goose stated.
Boone nearly threw a tantrum. “I don’t get it either!” he exclaimed. “And if Rob’s in Vancouver, then I need you to come downtown with me.”
“You’re on the Emergency Committee!” he exclaimed.
“So are you,” Goose reminded him.
“I’ve got my own issues to deal with,” Boone said. “I’ve got to wake up every cop we’ve got and get them on the streets to inspect the damage and deal with things. You, however, have got to get downtown and keep people from panicking. They’re going to start wondering what’s up. Especially once they start noticing that!” He pointed excitedly into the sky above Goose’s house.
Goose craned his neck to look uncomfortably over the top of his house. “See what?” he asked. He quite obviously couldn’t see it.
“I’m not describing it,” Boone said. “It defies description. Get outside and take a look at the fucking thing yourself.”
Goose shot a wounded look back at Boone. “Fine,” he said. A few moments passed while Goose got his housecoat and boots on, but he eventually got outside. “Now what the hell are you– Holy shit,” he said. “Well, isn’t that a hell of a thing?” He chuckled.
“A hell of a thing?” Boone asked. “That’s a damned planet, Goose.”
“I see that,” Goose said. “But what’s it doing there?”
Boone looked at Goose with a touch of contempt. “Oh, I don’t know. Stopping by for a cup of tea?” The sarcasm oozed out of him.
The effect was lost on Goose, however, who quickly ran through his front door and called to his wife. “Helen, you should get up and come see this! It’s the craziest thing!” he exclaimed.
Boone threw his arms up in frustration. “Look, it’s all well and good that you’re entertained by this,” he said. “But there’s going to be some serious panicking soon, and it’d be nice to have at the very least a loose government dealing with it at some point.” He glared Goose in the eye.
Goose had always been a man of humorous intentions. He found humor in every situation, and he oftentimes convinced other people to find the humor. When old Bill Knight had ‘bit the bullet’, Goose had the entire funeral procession rolling around the tombstones in laughter. The story had become something of a legend in town. Boone couldn’t really fault Goose for it. It was just the way Goose was, and that pissed Boone off to no end.
Boone was about to start another tirade when he heard something from down the street– a frantic scream. He could see several people standing in their yards, pointing to the sky. People were starting to wake up and notice. In a few minutes, the whole damn town would be down at City Hall, red-eyed and pissed off.
“Fine, fine,” Goose said. He sighed. “I’ll head down to City Hall, just let me get ready.”
Boone felt the weight lift from his shoulders. “Thank you,” he said.
The voice was faint, distant. Lily stirred in her bed for a moment, not wanting to acknowledge that she had heard Terra’s voice. She felt a finger poke her cheek.
“Liiilllyyy,” Terra repeated in a singsong voice. Lily groggily opened her eyes and looked up at Terra, only seeing the dark outline of her thin face. Terra flicked her lighter on and brought some light into the room.
“Wha?” Lily asked. “What is it?” She looked over to her alarm clock, only to discover that it was off. “Power out?”
Terra nodded. “Yeah, there’s… a bit more to it than that. Ryan’s on his way up,” she said. “We’re going to go downtown.”
“Why?” Lily asked. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s hard to explain,” she replied. “Can you get dressed?”
Lily sat up and yawned. She wasn’t in the mood for this. She already went to bed late as it was and she had to be up for work by five. “What time is it?”
“Almost four-thirty,” she replied.
Lily fell back into her bed. “Ugh,” she said. “I’m not in the mood for this.” She could smell the aroma of marijuana. It was strong. However, this was nothing new. Terra loved her weed.
“I know,” Terra said. No sooner than she had said it, a knock came to the door. “That’s Ryan,” she said. “Get dressed, come out, there’s something you need to see.” She bounded out of the room and closed the door behind her.
Lily sat in the dark for a moment and sighed. Might as well get up– she would have to get ready for work soon anyway. She had worked at the Dunsmith Coffee Shack since she was eighteen. Now, at twenty, she’d been the manager for just over a year. It wasn’t the best job in the world, but Lily was goal-oriented and driven, and being a manager always looked good on a resume. The Coffee Shack was temporary, until she could get enough money to escape the two-stoplight town.
She groggily crawled out of bed, listening to the chatter coming from outside her bedroom. She could hear Ryan’s voice, clearly excited about something. This had better be good, she thought. I’m not in the mood for bullshit.
She got dressed quickly, choosing to wear the clothes she’d worn the night before. Still rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she opened her bedroom door and greeted the wide-eyed Ryan with a wide yawn.
“Okay,” she said. “What’s the big deal?”
“The balcony,” Ryan said, pointing towards the living room. He stalked off wordlessly, and Terra followed. Lily just shook her head and tagged along. She passed through the sickly sweet aroma of burning marijuana that lingered in the living room and didn’t give it a second thought. She was used to Terra’s habits. After all, they had been living together for years.
As she reached the balcony and followed the direction of Ryan and Terra’s outstretched index fingers, she found herself frozen mid-step.
She looked back at Terra and Ryan, who were studying her for a reaction. Her head moved back to the… planet that sat in the sky, and stared again for a few moments. She worked her mouth, searching for something to say, but found that the words wouldn’t form.
She stared a third time, just to be sure.
“What… the…. fuck…?” she asked.
“No kidding,” Terra replied. “We’re heading down to City Hall. You coming?”
Lily continued to divvy her attention between Terra and the planet. “Should we… even go outside? I mean. What…?”
Terra pointed out the window. “I’m pretty sure if there was anything out there that could get us, it would have done it already. And there would be nothing we could do about it anyway ’cause we don’t know what the fuck is going on.” She smiled. “And the only way we’re gonna know what’s going on is if we go downtown and find something out. Now,” she looked over to Ryan, “you should warm up your truck.”
Ryan nodded, and wordlessly left the two girls standing on the balcony.
“I’m not sure–” Lily began.
“Neither am I,” Terra said. “But I’d love to find out. You coming?”
Lily remained silent for a few more moments, weighing the options in her head. Finally, she looked back at Terra. “Yeah.” She ran back inside to gather her things. Terra stood on the balcony, her eyes set skyward.
“When did the power go out?” Lily asked from inside.
“As far as I can tell, around the same time the big smiley in the sky showed up. Ryan was talking about some kind of light and an earthquake or something. He didn’t make any sense until I saw that planet-thing. But the power’s out, the phones are dead, and Ryan’s cell isn’t getting any reception at all.” She sighed. “The clock in the living room still works, so does my mp3 player, but everything else? Off.”
A few moments later, Lily emerged carrying her shoes and wearing a jacket. She had put a hat on to cover her hair.
“Ready?” Terra asked.
Lily put on her shoes. “Ready,” she said. They went back inside and began to make their way to the front door. With a rattle of keys, Terra opened the door and stood outside. Lily followed and turned to close the door behind her.
“Ouch!” Lily blurted as a visible bolt of static electricity shot out of the doorknob into her finger. It nearly lit up the dark room.
“You okay?” Terra asked.
Lily nodded. She cradled her finger and shook the numb feeling out. “Let’s just go.”
Boomer pulled his car up across the street from City Hall. It had been no more than twenty minutes since the strange light had engulfed the town, but already a small crowd had started to gather on the grassy front lawn of City Hall. They appeared to be every bit as confused as everyone else, throwing their arms up in exasperation and staring at the planet that was starting to make its way towards the eastern horizon. Boomer recognized a few of the people, but it was Justin Alverra, one of his co-workers at the Gas ‘n Dash that noticed him first.
“Hey,” Justin exclaimed as he ran up to Boomer. He was puffing back on a cigarette vigorously. “What gives?” he asked. “Shouldn’t you be at the store?”
Boomer shrugged. “There’s not a whole lot I can do with the power out,” he said. “I locked the place up and turned off the pumps.”
“Don’t you think Ron will be pissed?” he asked, referring their boss, the owner of the Gas ‘n Dash.
Boomer shook his head. “Nah, I’m pretty sure he’ll understand,” he said. “Besides, he can’t make me stay in light of the emergency.”
“So what do you figure?” he asked, pointing at the planet.
“Couldn’t say,” Boone replied. “You heard about the road to Nanaimo?”
Justin nodded. “It’s all everyone’s talking about,” he said. “That chick that works at Bart’s Kitchen is taking bets on whether or not we’ll find the same thing down south.”
“Kayla Winder?” Boomer asked. He rolled his eyes. Kayla had a reputation within the town for running her mouth off. She was loud, obnoxious and the type of person who was always right, even when she was dead wrong, and she never hesitated to remind people of that fact.
Justin nodded. He looked as though he had just rolled out of bed. His sandy-blond hair was matted up in the back, and his clothes looked as though they had just been thrown on. “I woke up during the quake,” he said. “When the light came in and the power died, I figured this was the place to be.” He jabbed a thumb back towards the grassy lawn. “Looks like I was right.”
Boomer nodded. He was about to say something else when he caught the headlights of a truck out of the corner of his eye as it rounded the corner at the top of the hill behind City Hall. He looked up and recognized it instantly.
“That’s Ryan,” Justin said.
Boomer had known Ryan for a few years. He used to wander into the Gas ‘n Dash in the middle of the night, usually blasted from alcohol consumption. They hadn’t been friends then, in fact, Boomer used to find him annoying and loud. But when Ryan cleaned his act up and stopped drinking, he’d found that the two had more in common than previously thought. Ryan was a talented guitarist, and if there was anything Boomer appreciated, it was talent. In fact, Boomer used to go watch him play with Justin when the two of them had their band Dreamland Conspiracy.
Justin had known Ryan for longer, though. They had gone to school together and even played in a band together. Justin played bass, while Ryan ripped up the guitar. Neither took it very seriously, but Boomer had been around for enough jam sessions to know that if they had applied themselves harder, they had a good shot at getting signed.
But that wasn’t the way things went. Boomer watched as Ryan pulled his truck over and parked it behind his car. Ryan was the first out of the truck, but he was quickly followed by Terra Murphy and Lily Rasmussen.
“Boomer!” Ryan called. “Can you believe this?”
Boomer shook his head. “Insane, man,” he said.
“Hi Boomer,” Terra greeted. She hopped up and sat on the hood of his car as the five of them mulled about. “You hear anything yet?”
“Besides the road being out? No.”
“Road?” Lily asked. “What road?”
“North,” Justin said, pointing up the highway. “Apparently the road to Nanaimo’s just gone.”
“What do you mean gone?” Lily asked.
“Just that,” Justin replied. “Gone. Poof. Vanished. There’s nothing left.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Ryan said. He looked up to the planet again.
Boomer shook his head. “Not at all,” he said.
“I don’t get it.” Lily replied. “How could the road just be gone?”
“I’m pretty sure if you did get it, you’d be the smartest person in town,” Boomer stated. Lily smacked him in the chest.
The group watched as another car came down over the lip of the hill. It was one of the Crown Victoria squad cars in the Dunsmith RCMP fleet. They watched as it parked, and Sergeant Boone stepped out. A moment later, a jeep began to descend down the hill behind him.
“Isn’t that Goose?” Boomer asked. He looked over to Boone. “Hey, Gerry! What gives?”
Boone only regarded him for a moment. “Mayor’s out of town,” he said. “Goose is going to deal with it.”
“So, no idea what’s happening?” Ryan asked.
Boone sighed. “Kid, if I knew, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
“So what do we do, then?” Lily asked. “I mean, there’s got to be something. If Nanaimo’s gone, what about Duncan? Chemainus? Cedar? My aunt lives in Cobble Hill.”
Boone shook his head. “Haven’t been able to reach any of them. Even civilian bands are down.”
Ryan nodded. “Yeah, we’re not picking up any radio stations at all in the truck,” he said. “I don’t know about this.”
As Goose parked his jeep on the side of the road next to City Hall, people began to move in close. Obviously, they were expecting answers, and Goose was the only man available to give them.
“We’re all going to die,” Justin said under his breath as they crossed the street to join the rest of the crowd.
Goose couldn’t believe the crowd that had already amassed at City Hall. There were at least a couple of dozen. Goose could see a wide assortment of characters. Some of the local crackheads, cops, even that kid who worked the graveyard shift at the Gas ‘n Dash was there, uniform and all.
Goose actually felt nervous. The looks on their faces were severe, set. He looked out the window at the waiting forms outside and took a deep breath. He turned the ignition off, took a deep breath, then opened the door.
He stepped out of the car.
—questions came in a flood of noise that made no sense at all to Goose’s tender eardrums. Figures. He expected they’d have given him until at least three-one thousand. Goose picked up the air horn from the side pocket in his door and blew it.
The sound shook the questioners up, and they remained in quiet shock for a moment.
“Give a guy a second, would ya?” he chided them. He opened the back door to the car and pulled out a bullhorn. It squealed when he turned it on, which made him jump, not to mention the already jittery crowd, which was already starting to become more vocal.
“Okay, ladies and gentlemen!” he announced, speaking loudly and clearly into the bullhorn. “The mayor’s out of town and the rest of the committee will get here when they get here, so I’ll be taking it for now. Questions one at a time, please, but first, I have a question.”
The crowd remained silent.
“What the hell is going on?”
The question earned a great deal of shouting. Some people in outrage, others earnestly answering his question, but all trying to be heard.
Goose blew the air horn again. “Okay, all right. That’s not working. You, Boss,” Goose said, pointing at Boomer. “What have you got figured out?”
“I dunno exactly. About a twenty minutes ago I saw this weird light in the sky,” he replied. He started to continue, but Goose interrupted him.
“Weird light in the sky. Check,” Goose said, interrupting. “Anyone else see the weird light?”
There was a show of hands. Most of the crowd, actually.
“Okay, your story checks out so far. What next?”
Boomer almost seemed like he was going to laugh, but he kept it together. “It.. I dunno, expanded. There was this crazy earthquake, but the light… it was like a blacklight, except it went everywhere. It went through walls and everything, which doesn’t make sense. There was no line-of-sight!”
Goose was nodding. “Anyone else buy that?”
Another show of hands.
“Motion passed. See, now we’re developing this plot line a little. Let’s see if it can explain that,” he jabbed a finger at the planet above. “Anyone got an answer?”
“It appeared after the light,” Ansel Stephens, one of the local fishermen, explained. His voice was rough and scratchy as a result of his many years of smoking. “When the light went out, it came out from behind the clouds.”
“Cool. See, now we’re getting somewhere.” He turned to Boone. “Now, what’s this I hear about the Highway?”
“We can’t really verify if Shephard’s telling the truth,” Boone said. Goose had to fight from rolling his eyes. “But in light of everything else… he says the the road into Nanaimo ends right at the airport.”
“Define ends, Sergeant.”
“His words? He said he thinks the whole damn town is… somewhere else.”
There was a moment of silence. “Somewhere else,” Goose said without the bullhorn.
There was a loud interruption as a truck coming from the south end of town came to a screeching halt at the turn-off into town. The driver stopped not far from the crowd and screamed out the window, waving his arms maniacally.
“Hey! Hey! We need help! It’s a medical emergency!”
“Shit,” Goose muttered. “When it rains it pours.” He put the bullhorn to his mouth and said, “What’s going on?”
“I dunno. Down at Kamper’s Korner, it’s like God came down and cut the earth down the middle with a razor blade, and he happened to catch Barry Pattison in the middle. All we can find is his arm and a piece of leg, but the whole damn trailer–”
“Okay, Boone,” Goose said on the loudspeaker. “Get in touch with the ambulance station, we should still have that. Get someone down to Kamper’s Korner. Even if all they find is an arm, we have to assume there are others that are going to be hurt. We also need to ascertain exactly what’s going on. Start appointing some deputies. Your job is to find out exactly what’s going on with this razor blade business, and figure out just how far it goes.” He looked around. “I’m going to need some people to start gathering together some supplies. Generators, gasoline. We need to start waking up the right people and getting our shit together.” Goose pointed at a person in the crowd. It was Justin Alverra. “You,” he said.
Justin looked like a deer in headlights. Goose continued. “I want you in charge of a wake-up committee. Start recruiting people to wake people up door-to-door and informing them of what’s going on. Tell them we’re asking for the publics help in getting this sorted out, so if they feel they can assist with anything, you tell them to get their asses down here, because we need them.” Goose looked up at the sky. “It’s almost dawn, and if people aren’t already awake, they’ll be up soon. It’d be best to avoid a panic. Anyone with skills they think could help, please come talk to me. With that being said, get moving!”
Leave it to Goose Payne to get a crowd moving.
It wasn’t long before a question was posed to Ryan.
“That your truck?” Sergeant Boone asked. Ryan nodded.
“You know the logging roads?” he asked.
Ryan nodded again.
“Good. You’re deputized. I need you to get out there and check ’em out. See how far up you can go.”
Ryan blinked in surprise. “But– I— uhh–”
“You got anything more important to do?” he asked. “I got Ansel Stephens following the coast south, Peter Johnson’s driving up into Whitepoint. I’ve got Littleton taking care of the ambulance, and Shephard’s still dealing with shit up north. You got a truck, perfect for the logging roads. We have to figure out exactly what our borders look like.”
“No problem,” Terra said. Ryan shot her a severe look.
“What? I want to see what all the fuss is about too.”
“Good, then it’s settled,” Boone said. “Here.” He handed a radio to Ryan. “Report if you find anything.” He then turned and stalked off in search of other victims.
“Please don’t volunteer me for things like that,” he said. He looked over at Lily. “You coming?”
Lily shook her head. “I’m going to help Justin out,” she said. “Besides, I have to open the store.”
“I doubt your boss will blame you for skipping out on work in light of the circumstances,” Ryan said. “Besides, isn’t she a part of the Emergency Committee?”
“So she’ll be along soon enough,” Ryan said. Carla Meriweather was the owner of several businesses within Dunsmith, an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, and a shrewd negotiator. She’d likely close down most, if not all of her businesses in lieu of the event.
Lily nodded. “But the store–”
“Don’t worry about the store,” Boomer said, interrupting her. “What are you going to do without electricity?”
Lily thought on it for a moment, and then conceded. She looked over to Ryan. “You guys go ahead,” she said. “I’ll help Justin out. I’m not so sure about this border business.”
“Me neither,” Ryan said, then shrugged. “Well, we’d better get going.” He looked to Terra, who nodded, and the two of them started off towards the truck.
“I’ll come straight home after,” Terra said to Lily before she left. The strange moon was beginning to fall under the horizon. The first signs of the rising sun also began to peek over the mountain in Whitepoint, and Terra pointed to the sky. “Look at the bright side. At least the sky’s still blue.”
Goose sat at the mayor’s desk and rubbed his eyes blearily. In the minutes since he’d arrived and gotten inside City Hall, the number of people of people outside were beginning to overwhelm even him. He’d had Boone set up a ‘talent triage’ to take in the increasing number of volunteers offering assistance in one form or another and sort out the riff-raff from the crowd.
Even as he watched, the number of people standing outside City Hall was rapidly growing. Boone slipped into his Goose’s office.
“There’s a lot of people out there,” he said.
“Why thank you, Gerry,” Goose said. “That’s a very acute observation, I must commend you.” He almost clapped.
“Brad Renfrew and Carla Meriweather just arrived. Brad took off to the power plant, he’s convinced he can have it up and running within the hour,” he said. “He says once the power’s back up, the phones will be up and running soon after, but without the centralized system, the switchboard will have to be jury-rigged and numbers reassigned.”
“And the borders?”
Boone looked grim. “Ansel Stephens just radioed in. The coastline ends at South Davies. Just cuts through the neighborhood, juts out about five hundred meters, and continues south into somewhere else. His words, not mine. I just heard from Littleton. She says Kamper’s Korner’s got a thirty-foot dirt wall that sprung up right in the middle of the park. I haven’t heard from Peter Johnson yet, but I’m not expecting him to come back having found the road to Nanaimo. Shephard’s just finished sorting things up by the airport and he’s on his way back right now. It seems the forest beyond the borders are arboreal, so at least it’s not completely alien, but it’s not ours. That’s for sure.”
“What about to the west? The east?”
Boone walked over to the window and pulled up the blinds. “The sun’s up,” he said. “It looks normal, at least. But if you look out over the water, you can see something missing, and something that shouldn’t be there.”
Goose looked out of the window. Sure enough, the familiar shape of Thetis Island was missing in the distance. In its place, and further away, was another island, much larger than Thetis.
“That answers east. And I expect we’ll find the same thing west, but that Stills kid hasn’t reported back. Those roads are long, so chances are he hasn’t reached the edge yet. But I think at this point it’s safe to assume we’re completely cut off from the rest of the world.”
“Christ on a cracker,” Goose cursed. “This stinks, Gerry. Seriously. If people aren’t panicking already, they’re going to once they find out we’re completely cut off from outside help. Most of the people here have friends and family on the outside. Even jobs.” He ran his fingers through his greying hair. “Gerry, if we don’t get some answers quick, I’m afraid they’re going to riot and lynch us all.”