VOICES: Book 2 in the David Chance series (Suspense, Mystery, Thriller), page 1
Copyright © 2013, Amlin Publishing
Kindle Edition 2013
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
John Michael Hileman
VRIN: Ten Mortal Gods
The David Chance Series
The End Came with a Kiss
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This is a work of fiction.
Seriously. Don’t do anything silly.
In the quiet, just before sleep, Jonathan Blake listened inwardly. The voices were always there, softly erupting in nonsensical gibberish on the far edge of his consciousness, playing a game only they could understand.
But he enjoyed listening.
“Not today I think,” said one in his own voice. His voice, but not his thoughts.
“There’s no way about.” That was a woman’s voice. The phrase became clear in the middle, as if tuned in on a radio, but then vanished again.
“Bear those glassages.” The pieces of dialogue were always random and foreign, sometimes total nonsense. He couldn’t force them to come; they came on their own.
He had begun the nightly ritual of emptying his mind months before in order to break the habit of replaying every horrible, wretched moment of his life while waiting for sleep to come. It wasn’t enough to live his stupid life, something inside him wanted to repeat every detail and stew in the misery of it. Perhaps feeling misery was better than feeling nothing at all. He didn’t know, and he didn’t care. What good was self analysis, anyway? He needed a solution.
He couldn’t stay up half the night, every night, browsing the Internet until he collapsed on his bed and blacked out. And no amount of heavy-metal music blaring through his headset would drown out the events of the day. It could, however, drown out the sound of his father fighting with the bartender who fancied herself to be his mom. There was some small relief in that, but Jon needed something to help him sleep.
He had tried drugs, but the horribly unfair penalty for being caught by his self-righteous father had brought that experiment to a quick end—so he had turned to meditation.
“Where is the clock tick tick ticking?” said another voice, not his own. He liked those ones the best, the ones that had a rhythm to them. They soothed him with their inviting patterns and pushed him deeper into the warm dark.
“Come on!” yelled a young child in the hollow distance, far enough away that it blended with the others in both volume and tone.
Many were like this one, recognizable colloquialisms. It seemed that each sentence was merely a snippet of a much larger conversation that some advanced race observing humanity from orbit could tap into, so it made sense that colloquial phrases would be tuned in more often than others, because they would be the most noteworthy element in the conversation, especially if the hearer were not interested in context, but merely choosing the most important phrase based on frequency of use across the spectrum of conversations taking place on the planet.
He knew that, in reality, the voices were probably caused by flashes of electricity in the language centers of his brain, but that didn’t stop him from concocting the fanciful theory.
“We could, you know.”
“Tell him the bottom of it.”
Sometimes it sounded like the voices were communicating with him, but then the next random phrase always assured him this was not the case.
He lay still. Listening. Quieting his mind. Welcoming them.
“He’s coming home and he’s mad.”
“Shut up and drink ‘em!” That was a whisper.
“Yes. I’ll take THREE, please!”
“On the stairs.”
“It’s lies guns don’t.”
There was a pause. Then, as clear as if someone had spoken into his ear, a voice said, “Get out of the house, Jon.”
His eyes snapped open.
A loud bang came from the living room. He turned an ear to listen. There was a clanging of keys on the end table, and the television came on. His father was home. Had the voices actually predicted it? Were they warning him, or was this another fanciful coincidence made worse by his overactive imagination? He’d probably heard the muffled sound of his father’s truck door slamming, and his subconscious mind had added it into his pre-dream.
He rolled out of bed, groped for his jeans and t-shirt, and started sliding them on quietly in the dark. Through the crack in the door he heard the muffled voice of his father’s girlfriend, Sandra. “You coming to bed, Ross?”
He imagined her standing in the doorway of the kitchen, in her nightie, oblivious to how wrong it was to walk around scantily clothed with a teenage boy around. It irritated him how she assumed he would just accept her as a mother figure and not see her as an object to lust over. He hated her for the thoughts she made him have.
“What’s going on? What’s wrong?” she said.
“You tell me.” His father’s voice was cold and detached.
There would have been an awkward silence, but the sound of David Letterman announcing the top ten list filled the gap.
Eventually she responded. “What do you think I need to tell you?”
“I spoke with Pete,” his father’s voice growled.
“Pete?” she said snidely.
“And he said something about me?”
“Don’t give me that.”
“I don’t know what you think you know, but if it came from Pete...”
Jon peered through the crack into the living room. The flickering light from the television played upon the two figures. His father’s face appeared grotesque as the pale light danced acr
“What?! That’s a lie!”
“Why would he lie about something like that?!”
“He’s always wanted to see us break up!”
“And you think it helps that you act like a hooker around him?!” he roared.
“Listen.” She softened her voice. “You’ve been drinking. We can talk about this in the morning. I’ll go somewhere and give you time...”
“To where? Pete’s?!”
“No! Just somewhere else so you can cool off!”
“I DON’T WANT TO COOL OFF!” His father’s voice shook the air.
Jon’s mind repeated the warning from the voices. “Get out of the house.” He stumbled backward toward the window. A stream of expletives poured from his father’s mouth as he graphically depicted the details of Sandra’s betrayal. With each word the boy’s horror increased. Would he kill her? Would he kill them both? He’d never heard his father so filled with venomous rage. With trembling fingers Jon clutched at the bottom of his bedroom window.
“You have to believe me,” Sandra pleaded, “I didn’t...”
The living room exploded with noise, and Sandra began to scream. Jon pulled at the window, but it wouldn’t move. It was locked! His hands shot to the latches, and, with a twist, the locks released. He slid the window up and scrambled out onto the lawn.
The crashing and screaming came to an abrupt stop. Did he knock her unconscious? Was she alive? A wave of guilt washed over him, guilt for being such a coward and not standing up to his father. But how could he? His father had always intimidated him. It wasn’t only that he was the size of a football player, and he, himself, was a bean pole. His father had a way about him, an intensity that demanded obedience.
Jon looked through the window at the dim light of the television leaking in from the living room. He listened, but could only hear the sound of peepers coming from the woods behind him, that and the short, shivered breaths escaping his own gaping mouth.
A loud bang exploded with a brilliant flash of light. He fell backward onto the ground, and the window slammed shut. He scrambled to his feet as the neighbors’ porch light flicked on, and their dog began barking wildly.
Was that a shot? Light from the bedroom window drew his eyes back. His heart constricted with terror as the silhouette of his father’s massive body filled the entrance to his room. He dug his feet into the lawn and bolted toward the small strip of woods behind the house. There was a path leading to the school grounds, and beyond that, the city. If he could get there, his father couldn’t hurt him.
Branches slapped at his face in the darkness as he searched for the dirt path with his bare feet. The sliver of a moon offered some light, but not enough.
In the distance his father’s angry voice cut through the night. “Jonny!” He must have come out the back door.
A sharp rock stabbed into the bottom of Jon’s foot, nearly dropping him to the ground, but he fought the pain and limped forward onto the path. The rocky, matted soil was better than dead branches and acorns, but still rough on his feet, and it would be slow going in the dark. If his father grabbed the flashlight, he would easily catch up. There was no way he could make it to the school in time.
He quickly picked his way through the brush on the side of the path and started up a nearby tree. Even in the dark he knew this tree. He had climbed it many times to get a view of the city. It was tall enough to escape the beam of his father’s flashlight if he could get up through the branches fast enough. He climbed with reckless aggression, relying mostly on memory to find the quickest route to the top.
“JONNY!” His father’s voice was louder, and angrier.
A flickering light danced through the trees, and Jon froze, suddenly grateful for choosing black as the primary color for most of the clothing he owned. His heart pounded and lungs burned as he attempted to control the sound of his rapid breathing. The beam of light groped for him, but he shifted just enough to hide most of his body behind the trunk of the tree.
“JONNY!” The rage in his father’s voice sent tremors through his ribs. “JONNY!” Hearing his father yell for him in anger was nothing new, but this night the sinister quality was different.
He checked his positioning. Was he high enough to escape the light? Would his father think to look up? His left arm, leg, and bare foot felt exposed as the light grew brighter. He listened to the slow approach of his father’s footfalls crunching on twigs as he neared the entrance to the path; with each crunch his terror increased.
Then—a deafening silence as he entered the woods on the matted path. Jon desperately fought the urge to climb higher or shift farther behind the tree; any movement or sound would alert his father. All he could do was hope he had climbed high enough.
He quieted his heart and emptied his mind, seeking the comforting distraction of his voices. In some part of his being, he almost believed he could disappear into that place and be protected from the insanity of his father’s wrath. The thought had an immediate calming effect as he hugged the chilled tree trunk. His eyelids slid shut, and his mind easily sank into that familiar place.
A voice whispered, “Did you hear that, boy?” That was the voice of Mr. Dagit, his neighbor.
Another said, “Great! Just great!” far enough away so it blended evenly with the faint volume of the first.
Another floated to the surface: “Be advised, we have a shooting on Oak Street.”
His eyes flicked open, and his fingers clawed into the grooves of the tree bark. Those were definitely not random! Those were real! Random electrical misfires in the communication center of the brain don’t channel the neighbor talking to his dog or a police officer calling in a shooting. What was happening?
His father passed by on the trail and started running toward the school. The circle of light burned into the ground in front of him. He never lifted it to check the woods or the tree tops, but pushed on with singleness of purpose. Jon couldn’t help but wonder what that purpose was. Could his own father kill him? Until this night he had not thought his father capable of killing anyone.
He watched the light grow smaller until it was just a slivered glow in the distance, then crawled down and ran back up the path to the house. There were things he needed, not the least of which were his shoes.
He burst through the back porch door then through the door to the kitchen as he heard the faint sound of a siren in the distance. He had maybe a minute to grab his things and get out.
His father kept a can of bills and change in the cabinet above the fridge. He grabbed it, ripped the top off, and shoved the bills in his pocket on his way to the living room. Sandra’s lifeless body laid in a clump next to the coffee table. Blood flowed across the sloping floor into a pool by the corner.
He had seen enough dead bodies on the Internet and played enough First-Person Shooters to not be immediately repulsed by the sight of blood—but the smell took him by surprise. It was faint, but enough to give the scene a graphic reality no image could. He gagged, and ran to his room.
There was only enough time to grab the essentials: shoes, iPad, jacket, and hamster. He scooped Julius Caesar out of his cage with some bedding and tucked him into his jacket pocket, then zipped him snugly inside.
The sirens were loud now, and Jon could see a flashing glow in the trees beyond his neighbor’s house. He ran back through the living room, leapt over the body, and looked through the kitchen window. His father was on his way back; the glow of his flashlight was flickering through the trees. Would he return to the house with the police on the way? He doubted it, but his father was still too close for him to make an exit out the back.
He crossed the living room, snatched his father’s keys off the end table, and exited out the front of the house. The police had not yet crested the hill at the end of the road. There was still time. He jumped into the pitch black of his father’s pickup and scratched back and forth in the key socket till the
“JONNY!” his father screamed. “STOP!” He broke into a dead run.
Jon fumbled for the automatic lock switch as he tore out into the street. His father crashed against the passenger side door and pulled on the handle. It clicked just in time.
“What are you doing?! Open the door! Open it right now!”
Jon frantically wiggled the gear lever into drive.
“Open the door, Jon!” His father’s frothing face contorted. “OPEN IT!”
Jon stabbed the gas pedal and took off, tearing the handle from his father’s grip. He expected gun shots, but none came. His father’s dark shadow just stood, watching from the end of the driveway, while the flicker of police lights glowed in the dark behind him.
Jeffery Nord was the first to arrive at the darkened Channel Seven News station. It was no surprise really; he would have set up a cot and lived there if they would have let him. The mainframe computers, to which he was allowed unrestricted access, were infinitely better than the box he had at home.
Only a few corridors were lit on the bottom floor, but there was enough light to get him to the stairwell leading down to his office. He approached the security guard and gave a meek wave.
“Morning, Nerd,” said the guard with a friendly smile.
Upon hearing the nickname, his groggy brain felt a spark of life. “Salutations to you, my fine fellow,” he said, lifting his coffee mug as he passed.
To anyone else, being called Nerd would have felt derogatory, but not to Jeffery Nord. He remembered fondly when the name had first been attached to him. One of the news reporters had mistakenly called him Nerd, instead of Nord, and rather than correct himself, he’d repeated it. “We need more people like you, Nerd,” he said. “More people who can figure things out.”
Like a blaze of fire it spread through the station, and soon everyone was calling him Nerd, but not in a mean-spirited way like so many bullies had done from the time he was old enough to carry a book bag. This was different. The cool people weren’t teasing him, they were saying: we need someone smart who can figure things out for us—in much the same way Captain Kirk depended upon Spock’s analytical genius. Every time they addressed him as Nerd, he was reminded that he was not a misfit or an outcast, but an integral part of the greater collective. But not a collective like the Borg, Nerd thought, something cooler and less creepy.