Vestige, page 1
One-third of the world’s population has gone missing.
Micah doesn’t know it yet, but he is the only one who can make things right.
by Deb Hanrahan
Cover design by Dreamscapes Covers
Published by Philyra Publishing, LLC
Copyright 2012 by Deb Hanrahan
All Rights Reserved.
For permission requests, write to the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org
ISBN 978-0-9835266-8-1 ebook edition
ISBN 978-0-9835266-9-8 pbk, 1st edition
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously.
To Dad & Monsignor Sean
I would like to thank my husband Jack and my kids for their support. I would especially like to thank my son Brendan for his regular input and my brother Sean for the name “Clarke." I would also like to thank my great friend Nicole for reading Vestige before it had all the kinks worked out. Finally, I would like to thank Joy Stroube of Dreamscape Covers for the wonderful cover art and Chris Eboch for her editing skills.
All of the bible passages used in this book were taken from King James Version of The Holy Bible.
Jon saw brightness behind his closed eyelids. The sun was up, and he needed to get going. But after a long night of constant shivering, his muscles ached, and he found it difficult to move. During the night, his cardboard slab offered little comfort atop the cold cement, and his blanket was too threadbare to keep him warm. The balmy summer nights were turning frosty. Before bedtime tonight, they would need to find a warmer place to sleep.
Jon rolled over and ran his hand across the ground beside him. Feeling only empty space, the old-looking young man opened his eyes and jumped to his feet. He slipped out from the nook between the two buildings and into the alley. “Bob...here boy...where’d you go?” As he waited for his dog to appear, Jon wrung his hands. Where was Bob?
The brown pit-bull mix had been with Jon for many years—ever since that night Jon found him lying next to the train tracks with blood pooled around the place where his tail used to be. Even though Jon didn’t like animals much, he did his best to nurse the wounded creature back to health. Once Bob was on his feet, he followed his caretaker everywhere. Jon grew to love the fleabag. They made a great team.
Jon put his head down and walked in a tight circle. Bob never ran away before today. “Never, never, never….” Something terrible must have happened to him. “Terrible, terrible, terrible….” He needed to find his dog, but would the voices allow it?
They were already yelling at him, insisting he get to work. According to them, there was no time to look for his dog, no time at all. Jon struggled to understand their instructions. He ran his fingers through his lice-infested hair and yanked at the tangled mess. “Get out of my head!” Tears began to fill Jon’s eyes. “Be quiet...I need to find Bob first.”
He only caught parts of their demands. They were loud and rude, constantly interrupting one another.
They shouted names at him, so many names.
“Save my husband, Jack—”
“Warn, Jane, my wife—”
What did these people want from him? He knew that they wouldn’t stop until he did as he was told, so he dried his eyes, retrieved the sign from his nook, and headed up the alley towards LaGrange Road. The entire time, he kept a lookout for his best friend.
Even though it was early, the street was already jammed with cars and people. The noise from all the traffic mixed with the voices in Jon’s head, creating a deafening hum that reverberated in his brain. He covered one of his ears with his free hand and continued to walk. He passed Starbucks and Palmer’s Place and then crossed the train tracks before he finally stopped at the corner in front of the gas station.
The voices liked this spot. They wanted Jon to preach here because so many would receive the message. After all, the whole neighborhood seemed to walk through this intersection—commuters hurrying to the train station, parents walking their young kids to school, and high school teens traveling in their packs.
Jon held the sign up in front of his chest as a man, surrounded by a white light, approached him.
“Good morning, Jon. Bob sleepin’ in? Have you had your coffee yet?” The man slipped Jon a couple of bucks. “Say hi to Bob for me and have a great day.”
“Thanks.” Jon tried to smile as he took the money.
For as long as Jon could remember, he saw a light around everyone he encountered, and the color of the light varied from person to person. It was funny, but it seemed as if Bob could see it too. Jon didn’t always understand why he saw these lights. But once he figured it out, he knew that this ability was a gift, maybe even a blessing.
Jon always liked the people with the white light. Bob liked them too. These people were kind often giving him money or food, and they never failed to greet Jon with a smile and to pat Bob on the head. Very few adults had a white light, but all the young children had it. Bob had it too.
Jon didn’t mind the people with bright colored lights. These people might glance at him and Bob, but—more often than not—they would hurry past with their eyes fixed on some imaginary point in the distance.
Jon and Bob feared the people with dark lights. Jon could not only see the gloom surrounding these people, but he could also feel it. These people were mean, angry, and lost. Some even seemed to go out of their way to make his life more difficult. Sometimes these people ridiculed him or stole from him. Other times, they hurt him by throwing garbage at him, tripping him, or kicking him. He tried to avoid the people with the dark lights. He didn’t even like to look at them.
Each morning a group of teenagers, dressed in black leather and ripped denim, walked through the intersection. The group included three boys and two girls. One of the girls had pink hair; the other had jet-black hair. Two of the boys were tall and thin; the other was short and stocky.
One of the tall boys had a snake tattoo. On a warm day, Jon could see the body of the snake slithering down the boy’s arm from under his t-shirt sleeve. The snake’s head covered the back of the boy’s left hand. The serpent’s forked tongue extended out from its mouth and down the boy’s middle finger. Today, snake boy wore a jacket, so Jon could only see the head and the tongue.
A black glow surrounded each of these teens except for the tall, blond boy without the tattoo. A golden light surrounded him. Jon had never seen anyone with a golden light before, so he assumed that this boy was bad just like the other teens were.
Whenever those teenagers passed through Jon’s intersection, Bob would growl at them, and if they came too close, the pit-bull would bark and snarl. As a result, the teens kept their distance. Now that Bob was missing, Jon worried they might cause trouble for him. He dropped the sign down to his side and began to walk in a tight circle. He wanted to go back to the alley and wait for his friend. “I have to go, go, go….”
The voices yelled, “No! You can’t leave. What are you waiting for? You’re almost out of time. Preach!"
Jon balled his hand into a fist and punched the side of his head. With that, all the voices melded into one perfect voice. Jon lifted his sign again and repeated their words aloud. “Fear God and give glory to him; for the hour of his Judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea and the fountains of waters.
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that thi
As Jon’s voice boomed over the sound of the traffic, some of the people turned to stare; others crossed to the opposite side of the street. Nevertheless, he carried on until the bad teenagers arrived. When the teens saw Jon, they pointed at him and laughed. Jon’s stomach twisted into a knot. He tried not to react as they advanced towards him, but with each step, his urge to run grew.
“You must continue…. There isn’t much time,” the voices insisted.
The group of teenagers encircled Jon. The boy with the snake tattoo jerked the sign out from Jon’s hands. “What does this say?”
Jon closed his eyes and continued to recite his lines. “Fear God and give glory to Him—”
The shorter boy with the green hair laughed.
Snake boy joined Jon and read the sign along with him. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
Jon stopped and looked at the ground.
Snake boy rolled his eyes and tossed the sign into the oncoming traffic.
The voices in Jon’s head grew unbearably loud, but Jon couldn’t continue. Snake boy’s darkness consumed the empty spaces inside Jon. A heaviness filled his chest; he couldn’t breathe. He was drowning in snake boy’s despair. He needed help, or he would surely suffocate.
Jon looked at the boy with the golden light and found some relief. Golden boy wasn’t as scary as snake boy or the others for that matter. Sure, he looked angry…never a smile, but he also had a glimmer of something, something good. His gray eyes flashed something hopeful. But as soon as golden boy noticed Jon staring at him, he looked away.
Snake boy flicked his lit cigarette towards Jon, hitting him in the chest. “So, you think it’s the end of the world. Why don’t you party with us? We have money.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out several wadded up bills. “It’s a donation from my kindly father, only he doesn’t know about it.” Snake boy laughed. They all laughed except for golden boy.
Snake boy held the money up in front of Jon’s face. “I bet you’d love to have this much cash.”
Jon put his hands up defensively. “The Kingdom of God is at hand...”
“If you take this money and go into that gas station and buy us some beer or vodka, we’ll share it with you,” said snake boy.
The girl with the black hair grabbed snake boy’s arm and cooed, “Cody, I’m out of smokes.”
“What Amber wants; Amber gets.” Snake boy grabbed the girl from behind.
Golden boy shifted his weight from foot to foot. His eyes darted from one person to another. At first, it seemed as if golden boy was going to stop snake boy, but in the end, that didn’t happen. Instead, golden boy turned and walked away. “I’ve gotta get to school.”
The girl with the pink hair ran after the boy with the golden light. “Micah! Wait...I’ll go with you.”
“Don’t go, Jess,” begged the girl with the black hair.
“Yeah Jess, you’re gonna miss all the fun,” said the shorter boy. A green chunk of hair fell over his right eye.
The girl with the pink hair looked back and shrugged her shoulders but continued to follow the boy with the golden light.
Snake boy scowled. “What a pussy. Let’m go.” He turned back to Jon and patted his back. “More for us, right buddy?”
Snake boy picked up Jon’s hand with his and forced the money into it. The gloom of snake boy’s touch penetrated Jon’s being. He was overcome with darkness. For the first time in years, the voices in Jon’s head fell silent. He didn’t know what else to do, so he went into the gas station and bought a case of beer, a fifth of vodka, and a carton of cigarettes.
Micah stood in front of the gas station. Like any other weekday morning, people came and went. But unlike any other weekday morning, no one seemed to notice him. Micah’s subconscious nagged at him. He needed to do something, but he couldn’t remember what. He struggled to pull the thought to the front of his brain. He reached for it. He brushed his fingers across it. But unable to grip it, he finally let it go.
He felt something flat and smooth in his hand, so he looked down. When he saw a tattered piece of cardboard, he lifted it up to take a closer look.
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
The homeless guy’s sign. Why did he have it? And why was he standing on the corner where the homeless guy usually stands?
Micah jumped at the sound of barking. He looked to his left and saw the bum’s nasty pit bull standing next to him. All of a sudden, the sign disappeared. The dog barked again at something across the street.
Micah followed the dog’s eyes to a tall, dark-haired man standing on the opposite corner. The man seemed to be looking back at Micah. Why was the dog barking at him? He looked normal enough; he looked as if he were on his way to work, wearing a suit and tie. But after a couple minutes, Micah started to feel uneasy. The man was still there, standing and looking. The dog continued to bark, but the man wouldn’t move. What was he doing?
In a flash, all the other people disappeared. Only Micah, the dog, and the stranger remained.
“Weirdo...why is he staring at me?” Micah muttered.
Micah looked at the dog. The dog stopped barking and looked at Micah. It seemed to understand what he had said. When Micah looked back towards the corner, the man’s mouth began to move, but no sound came out.
“What? I can’t hear you.” Micah stepped off the curb and into the street. But before he could go any farther, the dog grabbed Micah’s hand with his teeth and pulled him back onto the curb.
The man opened his mouth wide and screamed like a woman.
Micah snapped awake to the sound of his mother’s screams. He immediately forgot about his dream as he tried to understand the wailing coming from the other side of his bedroom door. He sat motionless. Jesus, what did he do this time? Did he forget to lock the door last night? Did he leave the milk out on the counter? Did his parents find his weed? After several seconds, Micah threw back his covers and jumped out of bed. No matter what he did or didn’t do, a scream like that meant trouble. He needed to get out of the house quick, or he’d have to endure the wrath of his parents.
Micah sifted through the carpet of clothing on his bedroom floor, looking for something clean to throw on. Within seconds, he found a wrinkled Slipknot t-shirt and a pair of old jeans. He slipped on his beat-up black Converse without undoing the laces, picked up his fake leather jacket, and grabbed his pack of cigarettes. He checked his pocket for his phone and without hesitation, climbed out of his second-story bedroom window onto a large branch. He inched his way across the massive oak until he reached the tree house. When his family first moved to LaGrange, his dad had built this tree house for Micah. But Micah never liked it much, not until he discovered that it made a handy escape route.
After he stepped off the bottom rung of the ladder into the yard, he ran along the side of the house and down the driveway but paused when he reached the front yard. An empty police car sat at the curb, and he could still hear his mother’s muffled cries. Whatever he had done this time was big. He took off as fast as he could run.
Once Micah was a couple of blocks away, he stopped to catch his breath. Needing his morning dose of nicotine, he pulled a cigarette and a lighter from his pocket. As he watched the black tip of the cigarette turn red, guilt took hold. He hated himself for upsetting his mom, but at the same time, maybe she deserved it.
Sure, his mom tried to be normal, and she tried to make their family life normal. But how could she be normal after growing up on a survivalist compound? Despite her efforts, his family was still a freak show. As far as Micah was concerned, he was the only sane person in the house. His dad and Owen embraced her nonsense, playing along with her drills and contributing to her conspiracy theories. Yeah sure, Owen was just a kid, and maybe someday, he’d grow out of it. But what was his dad’s excuse? He should be a voice of reason. He
At least he felt normal when he hung out with Cody, Dustin, and the girls. Like him, they understood crazy. They all had insane families too. When he was with them, he didn’t have to cover for his parents or make excuses because no one ever talked about family. Yeah, sure, Cody and Dustin gave him a hard time about other things like his clothes or his sex life but never about his parents.
Micah comforted himself knowing that in less than a year he’d turn eighteen. Then, he could leave that asylum and get a place with Cody and Dustin. It would be so awesome. They could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. And he would finally get some quality alone time with Jess.
The thought of being alone with her without having to worry about who was going to walk in on them excited Micah. Once he had his own place, they could be together whenever they felt like it. Amber and Cody were always screwing around. They had been for years. Both of their houses were empty almost all the time. But Micah and Jess weren’t as lucky as their friends were. His stupid mom was always home, and Jess was the oldest of five kids.
As Micah felt the first effects of nicotine, he started to walk. After what had happened with the homeless guy yesterday, he didn’t want to see Cody this morning. Cody would definitely give him shit for yesterday, and he wasn’t in the mood to deal with it. Micah saw the fear in that homeless guy’s face, and he couldn’t just stand there and watch Cody take advantage of him. He would have been okay with Cody asking someone to buy them beer. He could have even looked the other way if Cody and Dustin stole it. But intimidating a crazy homeless guy wasn’t cool. They might as well have asked a little kid to do it.
So instead of meeting his friends at the park as he usually did, Micah headed straight to school. Besides, he was already in trouble with his mom for...whatever. He didn’t need to get in trouble for being late too.