I hope you enjoy this small sample of IMPACT EARTH: SYMBIOSIS which is coming out in February 2016. In this chapter, titled Damage, we meet Victor, one of the main characters caught up in an alien invasion in downtown Seattle. While this has been through a round of edits there may still be a few minor issues. Also, this is an abridged version of the chapter. Impact Earth runs over 350 pages so there will be plenty more to sink your teeth into.
Rain pelted the overhang in a steady rhythm that washed away the sounds of cars racing along 1st Avenue. The downfall came so fast and heavy that at times Victor wondered if a marching band had taken up residence above and decided to use the shelter’s roof as practice for a college football game.
He dared not look up, because his rain jacket had seen better days, and if a hint of wind caught his hood, he would likely end up with a face full of water. He wished he could have stayed in bed with Laura and ridden out the storm.
When he’d tried to leave the apartment this morning he’d found himself blocked in.
The jerk on the first floor spent his days smoking weed. In the summer, when the back door had to be open to keep the upstairs apartment cool, the smell wafted up and filled Victor’s living room on an hourly basis. Even though it was improbably early it seemed that the downstairs neighbor’s buddy had showed up, probably to sell him more pot, and in the process had blocked in Victor’s car.
That had led to a near-fight, when the Cubans visiting the apartment told him to go get fucked. The only thing had that stopped him from storming into the apartment and probably getting beaten to a pulp was the fact that Laura was upstairs with the brats.
So this morning he’d had to walk to the bus stop instead of driving to a park and ride, just to avoid a confrontation. Of course the bus had been late, packed to the gills, and had gotten him to Seattle just in time to miss his connecting ride.
September had a mean streak this year that didn’t want to let up. As the month marched toward October, it brought nothing but vicious storms, clouds, and cold, and Vic wanted nothing more than to stay in bed until June. Seattle weather was notoriously wet. Ask someone about living in the state of Washington and they inevitably mentioned that it rained all of the time, which wasn’t much of an exaggeration.
A bus finally moved through the intersection and came into view. The bright numbers displayed on the side told him that it wouldn’t get him anywhere near his job.
How could both be so late on a Wednesday morning?
His cell phone buzzed against his leg. Shifting his backpack around, he reached beneath his jacket and dug out the device. As he lifted the the phone, his wet fingers lost their grip and the device clattered across the ground.
Even through the sound of the heavy rain, he knew what that cracking noise meant. He leaned over to pick his phone up, and nearly fell straight into the deluge. Water staccatoed across his back and hood, but he stood up, otherwise none the worse for wear.
The same could not be said for his phone.
Whoever had called would have to wait until Victor arrived at the work site and could get to a working phone.
As another bus came into view, he realized it was his and moved back into the rain, but not before the angry woman with the fancy purse could dash around Victor and cut him off. She seemed to delight in stepping in front of him, judging by the way she straightened her back.
His phone buzzed again. He stared at the dead screen and realized there was a little bit of life left. After trying several times to push the answer icon, the phone finally relented.
“Hello?” He pressed the phone to his ear. “Laura?”
“Victor? Did you see it?”
“Laura? What’s wrong?”
“It’s all over the news, baby. Please…”
“Oh hon, you wouldn’t believe the morning I’m having… Hello?”
The call cut off. He tried to call her back, but the remains of his screen refused to cooperate with his fingers.
The bus windows were completely fogged over from condensate. It rolled to a stop, tires kissing the curb, and the door shot open, letting out a blessedly warm blast of air.
People streamed out, and just when he thought his line was going to move, a mother with two small children moved to the front and asked the bus driver a question while the little ones–no older than three and four–tried to go in several different directions.
She got her hands on them, but her bag fell off her shoulder, items spilled across the floor. She yelled at her kids, apologized to the bus driver, and shoved things back into her purse as quickly as possible. An older gentleman grabbed a tube of lipstick off the floor and offered it to her.
Rain continued to pour into Victor’s jacket, and he decided that he was never getting on this damn bus. He was going to stand here in purgatory until the day was done. He was concerned about Laura’s call, but whatever she been talking about probably wasn’t going to effect him in the city. He’d just call her as soon as he was on his lunch break.
The busy woman with two children managed to catch both kids’ hands and help them down the two stairs. The pair were dressed in miniature colorful rain gear, complete knee-length yellow slickers.
The woman who’d cut him off stepped onto the bus and, of course, had to pause to find her bus pass.
Victor’s considerable patience came to an end as he groaned out loud, “Oh, come on.”
What came on wasn’t the lady moving her ass, though; it was a massive boom that thundered around them.
“What was that?” she said, and actually took a step back down the stairs.
He didn’t make it on the bus.
Instead, the impossible happened: the dark sky opened, pushing fat grey clouds out of the way. Bright light replaced the haze, casting the city in bright hues of yellow and orange. Oddly, rain continued to strike his jacket and hood in a rapid-fire pattern.
Victor raised his head. His hood was blown back and rain hit his head and rolled down his neck, but it didn’t matter now.
As the clouds were shoved aside, a section of sky revealed itself, now bright red. The rain faded to a mist, and then was completely gone.
Around him, the city was silent… until a driver ran a red light and was promptly crushed by a semi that had the right of way. The car screeched across the asphalt until both vehicles rammed into a concrete divider.
Brake lights lit up as cars slammed to a halt. Accidents all around him as heads gawked upward.
Voices rose in alarm from every direction as the shapes crossed the sky. Hands frantically wiped across bus windows as the occupants struggled to look out and up. One of the passengers wore a pair of oversized headphones, and nodded, eyes closed, oblivious to the madness that was occurring.
Victor panicked, grabbing his phone and beating it against his palm. Laura! He had to reach her and tell her that he loved her, just one more time. When was the last time he’d even said the words out loud instead of shooting a “Back atcha,” or “Me too,” whenever she said that she loved him? Too long; far too long, was his guess.
But his phone was barely responsive beneath a spider web of shattered glass.
“What do I do now?” he muttered, and looked at the bus. The driver stared back at him in shock.
“What’s going on out there?”
“I don’t know, man. Something in the sky. Look up,” Victor yelled.
The bus driver slipped out of his seat and then down the stairs. He craned his neck back and gasped.
A roar built and then intensified until Victor had to slap his hands against his ears. The driver did the same and staggered back onto his bus.
Victor opened his mouth to cry out in terror, but if any sound came out it was washed away by the screaming horror above. Day became brighter still as the object continued its march across the sky. It was so large, it defied thought. As it ripped the morning apart, it did so on a trail of fire that scorched the atmosphere.
The sound reached a crescendo and then started to fade. Victor made for the bus, but the driver was having none of that. He panicked, dove into his seat and slammed the door closed. The bus lurched forward, rolled onto the curb and then rumbled off with a trail of smoke belching from its exhaust.
The departing bus left the curb with a crunch, sped through a red light and smashed into another bus that had been forced to stop in the middle of an intersection.
Whatever the object in the sky was, he had to find somewhere to hide. He looked around in a dread and found a few concrete barricades that were being used to keep cars from cheating a parking lot out of money. He rushed to one and crouched behind it. Another man followed him and did the same. Victor looked into the guy’s eyes and they exchanged an unspoken glance filled with fear and horror.
The sky was still as bright as a summer day, and across it roared the object, until a shadow passed over the entire city. Smaller balls of flame followed behind, but veered until they were aimed at the ground below.
Victor screamed as a flaming object the size of a small car pelted the city.
He should run, but what if he ran into wherever the thing struck? He was terrified, stuck in place. Every ounce of willpower was trying to convince him to haul ass to anywhere but here.
“This is not fucking good!” the man next to him yelled.
A small object fell like a lead weight and smashed into the building they were cowering in front of.
Victor thanked his luck and God.
Then something punched him in the back, and he was propelled into the concrete barrier. He didn’t have time to question what had struck him before he fell, limply. Just like that, consciousness was gone.
Victor came to, and regretted it.
The world rumbled around him, but along with the noise came a sensation like he was on a slide and about to fall off the edge of the world. His shoulder hurt like crazy! He reached for it and found blood, and an object protruding from the wound.
Rain pelted him in the face, so it became a struggle to keep his elbow over his eyes while feeling at the damage. He gave up soon enough, because touching the protrusion caused pain to race up and down his arm, neck, and chest.
“You okay, buddy?” an unfamiliar voice asked.
Where was he? Hospital? Hell? Purgatory?
Vic looked around and found that he’d been dragged by under the overhang of a building. This part of the city wasn’t well-known to him, because he usually just caught his bus and didn’t stick around any longer than he had to.
Someone grabbed his leg near his ankle, and then he was pulled again. At least that explained the feeling of riding a slide.
“Stop!” he yelled.
“We’re almost there. Sorry, buddy, I didn’t know what else to do. You were lying on the sidewalk in the rain, with blood pouring out of your shoulder. You okay? I tried to call an ambulance, but they didn’t pick up.”
Blood? Ambulance? Then it came back to him. The object in the sky and something falling toward him. Something silvery that caught the sun’s reflection and temporarily blinded him.
“The asteroid? Did it hit?” he asked, though he knew the answer already, since he was still alive and breathing.
“I don’t think it was an asteroid, but whatever it was passed over the city and kept heading toward the coast. Damnedest thing I ever saw.”
The man was in his early fifties, going by his appearance. Grey beard, and hair to match, which had well and truly receded into a bowl cut. His eyes were sharp, though, and that made Victor feel a hell of a lot better.
“What happened to me?”
“I don’t know, buddy, but I’m real sorry to say this is all I can do. I gotta figure out how to get back to my family, you understand, right? You got a family?”
“I do, but please don’t leave me, man. I’m bleeding.”
“Not much. I’d stay, I really would. You have a cell phone, right?”
“I dropped it and the screen broke.”
“Bad luck.” He looked up and caught the eye of an Asian woman hurrying past.
“Miss, miss!” the man called. She looked at them and doubled her step.
The old guy got to his feet and rushed after her. He moved into her path and spoke with the diminutive figure.
“He’s hurt. Call an ambulance, please!” he said, and then the guy was off like a shot.
“Oh, fuck me,” Victor said. He knew the woman wasn’t going to stick around and help some stranger. She’d be off just like the older guy, but was Victor any better? If someone stopped him on the street and begged him to call 911, would he do it, or make it anyone’s problem but theirs?
Something buzzed around in the back of his mind like an annoying fly. Strange. Victor was overcome by lethargy. No. Something was talking to him back there. Something or someone and it was genuinely bizarre.
Much to his surprise, the woman approached him. Her step was tentative, and when she got closer, he saw that she was young and cute. If this was about to be his Mother Teresa, at least he was in good company. She had short, dark hair that covered one eye. Must be weird having one eye always behind a veil, Victor reflected.
“You okay?” she asked as she leaned over and looked at the blood. Her lips pulled back in a gasp.
“No, I’m not okay. Please call 911. Something’s stuck in my shoulder.”
She knelt beside him even though it was into a puddle and touched his jacket. She slid the zipper down so she could slip the jacket open, then pulled the left side open until she could see his wound.
“Nothing here. Blood,” she said, and their eyes met.
“It must have come out. Christ, it hurts so bad! I don’t guess you have some Tylenol or something stronger on you?” He tried to sound flippant, but he hurt too much to be in a humorous spirit.
The buzzing wouldn’t go away and it was driving him crazy. He clenched his eyes closed and rubbed his temples. Was he dying? Was this how his world ended bleeding out next to a sidewalk in Seattle?
She took a handkerchief from her pocket and looked at it. Oh no, if she was sneezing on that thing, he didn’t want it on his flesh. She might be a looker, but that wouldn’t save him from an infection.
She dug around in her bag and came out with a package of tissue. The girl pulled out a wad of them, and then slipped her cold hand inside his shirt until she had the tissues over the wound. She pressed down enough to make him see stars.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!” he gasped, again and again.
“Sorry,” she said, and she did look sorry. She looked downright miserable as she took his hand in hers and guided it to the wound. “Hold here. Help comes.”
“Thank you. What’s your name?”
“Kimiko. I’m Kimiko. Nice to meet you.”
“You’re very kind, but I can’t imagine this is in any way nice,” he said.
She looked at him quizzically, but he didn’t offer any follow up questions. What was wrong with him? He’d been stabbed by something, left to bleed out, and all he could think about was being a smartass.
She glanced over her shoulder and up at the sky worry etched on her face.
“You know, finding a guy on the ground with all this stuff going on overhead. It’s just nice of you to stop. Thank you for helping me.”
“You are welcome.” She smiled and pushed a wet strand of black hair out of her eyes, leaving a streak of his blood across her brow.
“Oh no. I’m sorry,” he said.
His words sounded hollow and he had the urge to take the tissue from his shoulder and wipe her face. Then something lurched inside him, near the wound, and pain made him see stars. It started in his shoulder and sent pulsing waves along his spine and sides. He tried to wave at her face, unthinking, only to find that his arm wouldn’t respond.
Kimiko had her phone out and dialed again. She hunched over and used her jacket’s hood to keep the phone from getting soaked.
“Oh, oh! Answer,” she said, and handed him the phone.
Victor gave her a tight smile, took the phone in his left hand, and slowly tilted his head to avoid straining the damaged muscle too much, but it wasn’t enough, and once again he saw stars. He wanted to bite down on his tongue. His teeth ached as the pain overrode all other senses.
The buzzing was still in the back of his head. It whispered to him and tried to reassure him but there were still no words, just the feeling of peace.
Something wretched in his arm again and he cried out. He reached out and grabbed hold of the curb, squeezed, and wept as the waves of pain built and washed over his body.
Then the ache faded and he felt—better? Not better, he felt different. It was the same feeling he used to get when he was a runner. After the first few miles he’d reach a state of mind that was almost like ecstasy. It was called runner’s high but that made absolutely no sense.
“Ah crap, sorry, sorry. My name is Victor Barnes and I’m at the corner of…” He kept talking until he felt like he was going to pass out. Ten minutes later, the glare of flashing lights and the sounds of a siren brought him out of his near-fugue state.
“Saved at last.”
But when he looked around, Kimiko was nowhere to be found, nor was the phone he’d been talking into. At least she’d stuck around until she knew help was on the way.
The Victor noticed that the small section of curb he’d been clutching in pain had been crushed into chunks of concrete and powder.