~The Journal of Etta Castle Teague
I said I thought that maybe all of this ascension crap began with alien abductions, well no, not exactly. It actually started way before then with crop circles. If you don’t know, reports of crop circles date as far back as the dark ages…ok the 16oo’s but that might as well have been the stone ages. They were called “Fairy rings” back then.
They are the anchors that the Towes use to weave their net around the Earth. The Towes had been anchoring to earth for centuries, Capturing people, and testing their make-up. The humans who came back were rejects. They didn’t have what the Towes needed, whatever that is exactly. That didn’t mean that they or their children wouldn’t prove useful to them in some way…
* * *
“What did he just say?” Jørn was just about to call for his next patient when the man with the bloody arm came in screaming.
“I think he just said we are trapped.” Rachel started forward, her game face on. Somehow she had not let the current events knock her off of her axis. She had worked in the ER for so long that she had made an art out of emotionally disconnecting from the war in front of her—fixing, aiding, diagnosing, and moving on to the next person, almost like a production line. She reminded him of Etta that way, her ability to detach, but what had made Rachel an excellent ER physician had made Etta emotionally unapproachable over the past few years, maybe more.
Rachel opened another patient’s chart, scanned it quickly, before the one of the nurses on staff called out their name. In passing Rachel said, “The guy could just be delusional. A lot has gone on and with all the bad driving today, the mess of the ascension, it could be a concussion.”
“What about Wong? How is she?” The thought of the Vanessa Wong being shot was just bizarre, but somehow seemed plausible all things considered.
Rachel back tracked a few paces and whispered for Jørn’s hearing alone. “Nonresponsive, but stable. We’ll talk. Maybe you can lend your opinion?” She gave him a wan smile and headed off back into the trenches, no word on bullet wounds, head injuries, just the promise of a pending conversation.
One of the nurses in the waiting area helped the screaming man to his feet as Meg wheeled a chair towards him. Jørn came along side him as he dropped his weight in the chair.
“Meg, I will check on him.”
-“Hey, Doc! Some of us have been waiting here for hours!” A woman glared in Jørn’s direction. “This guy is no more important than the rest of us.”
Jørn kept his cool, even with all the other eyes that were now on him. He could see through the man’s tattered shirt sleeve that his wound wasn’t that deep, it actually didn’t even appear to be bleeding anymore, but the nagging question at the back of Jørn’s mind made him skip past the others and single this guy out. He was the one who screamed they were all trapped. If the ascension had gone as bad as had been rumored, then there might have been some validity to being trapped. Maybe the Lotus and whoever or whatever they worked for were rounding everyone up for one big death blow.
Jørn wanted to hear the guy out, gather whatever information he could. He already felt like he was in the dark. His mind was still reeling from last night. Finding out that Pastor Meeks was on the council with Mayor Wong was a shock all of its own, but Mr. Albert? Jørn definitely did not see that coming, and it had been going on right under his nose. Maybe that was why Etta had stopped talking to him. Maybe she knew all along.
He shook the thought and put his mind on the one solid fact he had. The world around him was shifting like sand and he wanted to find a way to solid ground before he and the people he loved were doomed to sink.
He had witnessed first hand the chaos of last night and the train wreck that had been the ER only a few short hours ago. Things had calmed down considerably even though most of the chairs were still filled with waiting patients. But if Jørn’s gut told him anything, it was telling him that this guy and his condition might be the first of another wave of the wounded, if not that afternoon then soon.
He clenched his fist and wrung out the nerves. He really wanted to talk to Etta, needed to. He would do so after he was done with this patient.
He cleared his throat and answered the woman who had called him out, all the while guarding his tone. “Ma’am, I understand that you have been waiting here for a while—”
“An hour and a half! And Sport over there comes crashing in the door like Chicken Little, ‘The sky is falling! The sky is falling!’” She waved her hands mockingly in the air. “And you all jump to attention.” She folded her arms across her chest. “Well my hip hurts and my insurance premium is insane so basically my sky is falling too, so can I get some attention too, please?”
Jørn bit back a sarcastic jab of his own and settled for empathizing with her instead. “I understand that you have been here a long time, Ma’am, but this man has an open wound and needs immediate attention,”
“I need immediate attention!”
“I promise someone will be right with you as soon as possible.” He offered her a quick smile and turned away from her before she could say anything more, following behind the nurse who was now pushing the wheel chair. “Sir, I am Jørn Teague, but you can call me Jørn. What is your name, please?”
The man jerked his head up and behind him and stared unblinkingly at Jørn before looking forward again, crying into his hand. Jørn waited until they were situated before he asked him again.
“Thomas, my name is Thomas Allan.” He sniffled and wiped his face with his sleeve.
Jørn entered the exam room behind him, closed the door and pulled on rubber gloves before he removed the soiled fabric of Thomas’ shirt, getting a better look at the laceration. It had indeed stopped bleeding but it still needed stitches.
He began to swab down the wound, as another nurse wheeled in a computer. “So how did this happen, Thomas?” Jørn wanted to just dive right in and ask him about the statement he had unleashed in the waiting room but thought better of it. He would ease forward instead.
Thomas winced from the sting of antiseptic. “I uh, I was on my way back home and uh right as I was coming closer to the “Thank you for visiting Ubert County” sign, like a dozen Lotus dropped out of the sky,”
Jørn stopped. “Ubert County? That is what 30 miles from here?”
Thomas hunched his free shoulder. “I don’t know, I guess.”
He pulled the needle through Thomas’ arm. “Okay so you were at Ubert County crossing line and Lotus just came out of nowhere?”
He nodded, his face went pink again and started to crumple up in an attempt to cry. “I am not from here! I am from West Glen. I came into town with my girlfriend.”
“Your girlfriend? What’s here name, Thomas?” Jørn really didn’t care he just needed the guy distracted enough to keep him from crying.
Thomas looked confused for a second before finally answering. “Andrea?”
Jørn cocked his brow. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. Her auntie was supposed to ascend and she wanted support. I told her I would come over with her but I wasn’t going to the Yard. I hate the Yards!”
Jørn could relate to that, he hated the Yards too.
“So I was at her auntie’s house, waiting on her to call me to pick her up and she did accept she was screaming that the ascension had been hijacked and that Lotus with legs were rounding people up and shooting at them or something,”
Jørn’s throat constricted. Meg had said something about shooting earlier. What if Etta had been shot? He swallowed down the knot in his throat and steadied his hands before he continued stitching. He calmed himself with the thought that if Etta had been shot she would have been in the ER and he had checked for her name several times. If she were in the morgue, someone would have told him already.
He tightened his jaw and kicked himself for having such pessimistic thoughts. But why hadn’t she called him? He needed to check his cell phone. His voice came out several octaves louder. “And what did you do when she told you that?”
Thomas’ stopped crying, he was now more irritated than anything. “Why are you screaming at me?! And what do you mean what did I do? I got my butt in my truck and I high tailed it towards West Glen!”
“I didn’t mean to yell, I am sorry. Back to what happened. You didn’t go get your girlfriend, first?” Jørn pulled off his gloves and tossed them in the proper disposal bin. He laced his fingers together fighting off the thought of punching Thomas. How could the man leave his girlfriend like that? He didn’t leave Heidi and he would have never left Etta! He wanted to leave the hospital and go and find her in that very instant. The more he thought about it the more convinced he became that he should have done it a long time ago.
“No. I didn’t. Don’t judge me, I was scared! I still am.” His voice trailed off.
“I am not judging you, Thomas.”
Thomas cradled his bandaged arm. “Those things came at me out of nowhere. I had to hook a u-turn and push the gas. It was insane, man! I looked in my rearview mirror to see if they were still following me in towards Greenwich Pass but they weren’t. They were chasing down other cars that came near the boarder.”
“I’m confused. When did the Lotus attack you, then?”
“They didn’t they just chased me away from the boarder line.” Thomas was suddenly amiable.
“Then how did that happen?” He pointed at Thomas’ arm.
“Yeah, about three miles north of the hospital. I was going back to my girlfriend’s auntie’s house and a dog ran into the road. I lost control and slid sideways into a ditch, cut my arm climbing out the passenger window.”
“The car flipped?”
“No, it slid.” Thomas mimicked the motion with his free hand. “My door smacked against a tree and was at a weird angle so I had to climb out the passenger side window, because the door doesn’t work. I had duct tapped it because it had gotten broken last week, so when I was climbing out of it I cut my arm up.”
Jørn tried not to grind his teeth. He wasn’t sure what was going on but he was certain he wasn’t going to get anything solid from Thomas. The more he talked the less reliable he became. Rachel was probably right, they guy most likely had struck his head in the collision with the tree, had a concussion and was hallucinating about being trapped.
“Thomas, did you strike your head at all during the crash? Do you recall?”
“No, I didn’t hit me head. The truck slid and I cut my arm.”
“Are you sure?”
Thomas began to scowl. “Yes I am sure! My head would hurt if I hit it.”
Jørn sighed and pulled out his pin light and held it in front of Thomas’ face. “Thomas, follow this light with your eyes please.” Jørn was finished talking. He just needed to leave, especially now that he was fully convinced of Thomas’ concussion.
He finished his checkup and then with long, quick strides began to head towards the other end of the hospital. He was going to call Etta again and if he couldn’t get her on the phone he was going to go and find her. He was going to have to find someone else to cover this shift.
* * *
Etta stared down the hillside through dark sunglasses. Even then she could still see the shattered auras of the people below. But that far up the feeling and frequency that came from them was much less intense.
In the time she spent waiting for Kyle to show up she was able to pay a bit more attention to what it was exactly that she was seeing. From the hillside she saw the auras more like what they were—Towes shackles, wrapped around each and every person, and rising up and disappearing into the Net above were thin tethers that kept each person connected to it. They reminded her of puppet strings.
She held her hands up in front of her eyes again and flipped them over, studying them for any like signs of auras to those below and Baldwin who sat beside her.
“Why do you keep doing that? It’s not likely to change. You don’t have what we have. You were not programmed as a child. We have already gone over this.”
She dropped her hands into her lap. “I know but, still. It’s like discovering a new super power, you know? I’m just checking to make sure its still there.”
“Are there other “supper powers” that you have that I should know about?”
“Shut up, Baldwin.” Etta rolled her eyes. She hated his sarcasm. He was less angry than he had been earlier, which was a good thing. Now he was just restless. They had plowed their way through traffic to meet up with Kyle, only to discover that he was late. That at least gave them time to talk and attempt to figure out what had happened to her.
Baldwin reasoned that the shattered auras were indeed the work of the Towes and the Net. That would explain why everyone but Etta seemed to have one. They also reasoned that this was the way that the Towes kept everyone programmed through Their artificial event boundaries.
It was a simple hypothesis for a not-so-simple science.
“About time,” Etta stood up and watched Kyle come around the bend. Even with the sunglasses she could see his red hair and now his aura as well.
Kyle hunched his shoulders and gave an apologetic smile. “Sorry, Etta. It wasn’t my fault, traffic sucks today for obvious reasons.” He waited until she was seated again before he sat down next to her. Baldwin moved out of the way.
“I have been up here for almost an hour.”
“Yes, well I had to drive from Ubert County line.”
She studied the shards around him as he talked. They were full of color closer to his body but the more they grew outward the smokier gray they became. “So it’s done then?” She lowered her voice to near inaudible.
Kyle moved closer and matched her volume. “Yeah, the Lotus seedlings are in place. Some idiot in a truck nearly got himself killed by driving right into a couple of them. But in the end they all burrowed themselves completely. There were a few other cars too but it all worked out.” He tossed a rock down the side of the hill. A trail of dust spurted up behind it. “Why did you have me do that? Aren’t they supposed to grow in wooded areas?”
Etta pointed a finger at him. “No questions, Kyle. That is the deal.”
“Fine, fine. Just thought I would ask.”
She cocked her head to the side and stared at him, her mouth a tight line. “Did anyone see you? Did you talk to anyone?”
Kyle rolled his eyes. “I was well hidden, Etta. No one saw me and the only person I have talked to all day is you.”
She looked down the hill again. “If you didn’t get a chance to do the other thing I asked you to do, don’t worry about it. I will take care of it myself.”
Kyle almost looked hurt. “I told you the traffic was bad! It wasn’t my fault,”
“I know that, Kyle. This is not a demotion there has just been a sudden change in plans is all.” She squeezed his shoulder and pasted on a smile. “Nothing for you to worry about. Thank you.”
“We have company, Etta. They’ll be here in like five minutes.” Baldwin stared down the trail that Kyle had walked up on. Etta had heard them coming, heard their frequency and felt it as it drew closer.
Maybe what the Towes had done wasn’t so bad after all.
“You should probably head out now, Kyle. Follow that trail down the hill and loop around to your car. And no work tomorrow. I will call you if anything changes during the week. Keep your phone on you.”
“Right on, Captain.” He stood up.
Etta turned her eyes towards the trail that Kyle had come up on. “Kyle, you are a doll.”
“I hope not.” He walked away and disappeared upon the trail.
Five minutes later, their uninvited guest was there, standing like a sentinel at the edge of the trail, his eyes unreadable.
Etta waited a few long moments, enough to ensure that Kyle was out of harms way before she acknowledge their presents. The strangeness of the shards around them made her remove her sunglasses and look upon them with narrowed, scrutinizing eyes. “I didn’t expect to see you so soon, Mr. Albert. Is the Council ready to meet with us already?”
Mr. Albert scowled.