Below are the first two chapters of Arcendo Rising. For those interested, the entire novel can be purchased at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B097F8K5S7/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0
A 1965 Ford Mustang blared by the partially obscured idle Explorer Sheriff SUV, a throaty rumbling sound echoing through the air long after the coup disappeared over the low-slung hill.
“You’re just going to let ‘em go by like dat?” Dwayne asked, his Bostonian accent just barely breaking through.
Dwayne was one of two men sitting in the SUV. He sported fuzzy black hair an inch long atop his tan skin and wore a distinctive purple dragon tattoo on his thin left arm, obscured partially by a light brown Sherriff’s deputy uniform. Dwayne looked to be a year or two out of high school, with acne still apparent on his forehead and nose.
The second man, at least 20 years older than Dwayne, sat in the driver’s seat and wore a similar uniform, only with sergeant’s rank. The driver kept his hair even shorter than Dwayne’s, a pale razored cut displaying bulging veins that ran down his neck and seemingly out through his sculpted arms. Saul’s stomach did not continue the pattern of muscle though, instead presenting a bit of a gut. His ears looked small on his shining scalp, and Saul’s pink upper lip was almost nonexistent beneath his thick nose.
“Calm down boy,” Saul responded in his southern accent, pursing his lips and sneering in the direction of Dwayne. “That there is Bethany Eben’s son. We don’t need no mayor to change her mind on our little side-gig, now do we?”
“Yeah, sure.” Dwayne tapped his foot against the plastic floor mat that had collected a healthy amount of mud. “But didn’t Sherriff Bewley say-”
Saul slammed his fist against the wheel in front of him, accidentally honking the vehicle’s horn for a split second. “Dammit Dwayne, you know the rule.”
“Okay, yeah, okay.” Dwayne took a deep breath and thought over his words. “But if da boss finds out that we’re pickin’ and choosin’ again…”
Saul chuckled. “The boss won’t find out.” He ran his tongue over his teeth and then set his left arm out the open driver’s side window. “What Bewly doesn’t know can’t hurt him.”
“Do you think dat-” Dwayne started.
Saul slapped the metal on the outside of the vehicle hard enough to physically shake the Explorer. “Dammit boy, I’m sick and tired of your questions.” He spit a dark fluid out the window and set his head back against the headrest. “Do you really think ya’ll questions are going to get actual answers? And those answer will make ya happy?”
Dwayne sat there silent, resisting the urge to fidget. When he began to open his mouth again, Saul reached his right hand up to the radio’s volume knob, turning it until Dierks Bentley’s voice could be verified by passing cars travelling on the highway in front of the Sherriff’s SUV. The two men sat there listening to the music for a good ten minutes as the sun peaked in the sky.
Saul began to move his hand over to place the vehicle’s gear into drive when a blaring siren erupted from the radio. Saul quickly turned the volume down to keep his eardrums intact. With the minimized signal, a secondary noise could be perceived from coming outside the vehicle. Dwayne stuck his head out the open window to hear tornado sirens going off in the distance. Both men looked up but failed to find a single cloud in the light blue sky.
“Maybe a pop-up storm?” Dwayne asked.
Saul swallowed and looked back at the radio, turning the volume back up just as the emergency tone ended and a robotic male voice came over the system.
The words coming from the Explorer’s speakers led to goosebumps on both men’s skin. “We interrupt our programming at the request of the White House. This is the Emergency Alert System. All normal programming has been discontinued during this emergency.”
“What da hell-” Dwayne started.
Saul nearly smacked his passenger. “Shut up boy.”
“This station will continue furnishing news, official information, and instructions for Dubois County. If you are not in Dubois County, you should tune to stations providing news and information for your area. It is important that you listen carefully to announcements from the station in your local area.”
“Hey Sergeant,” Dwayne said softly, pointing to the only traffic signal that could be observed from their place along the roadway.
The signal was nearly two-hundred feet away and had transitioned from its normal operation to flashing all colors at the same time. Red, green, and yellow all came on together and then disappeared over and over again. Thankfully, no vehicles could be seen near the intersection, but squealing tires and metal smashing into metal could be heard around the bend, where both men knew another intersection resided. The signal near them remained that way for nearly thirty seconds before blinking out completely and then transferring to flashing only red a moment later.
“You eva seen dat?” Dwayne asked hesitantly, more concerned about Saul’s reaction to another question than about the emergency notification or the lights.
“Probably just from more brownouts,” Saul quickly conjectured. “Maybe them forest fires started back up again.”
Saul went to put the vehicle into drive when the Explorer’s electrical systems all suddenly failed. The men sat there as silence saturated the atmosphere. Dwayne held the autumn air in his lungs, suddenly aware of his heavy breathing. Saul attempted to start the SUV again but was unsuccessful, with absolutely no response returning from the ignition on the first three attempts. On the fourth try, the engine roared back to life and the emergency notification began to replay over the radio.
“-has led to malfunctioning electronics.” The robotic male voice explained over the vehicle’s speakers. “The public should take shelter as soon as possible. We have no specific information on the cause of the incident but there is no current evidence of any deliberate act. A full investigation will occur as soon as the situation stabilizes. The public can best help by staying tuned to television and radio broadcasts for important updates. This is an evolving situation and conditions will continue to-”
Static erupted over the emergency notification, drowning out any discernable speech. Saul quickly turned the radio off and began to drive forward, turning the SUV left and moving toward where he expected an automobile accident to be revealed after they passed the first flashing red signal and a bend in the road. The Explorer’s red and blue lights came on, but for some reason the sirens failed to blare as Saul flicked the switch off and on multiple times. The vehicle careened around a corner and found itself slowing down at an intersection with a single gas station sitting to the southwest side, farm fields filling all other applicable parcels of land.
Both Saul and Dwayne’s eyebrows raised when they saw Sherriff Bewley’s vehicle sitting to one side of the wreck, the Sherriff’s car appearing perfectly intact. A semi pulling a trailer full of minivans had struck a large tractor that appeared to be moving from one field to another, the thirty-foot high green frame now laying on its side. One of the massive tractor wheels was lodged into the front of the semi cab and blood could be seen dripping out of cracks in the cab’s window.
“What the hell?” Saul asked as he slowed his own vehicle down and stepped out. He was looking not at the wreck, but at the Sherriff, who was kneeling on the ground fifty feet away throwing up black liquid.
Bewley had no obvious injuries and appeared to have just arrived on scene. When he looked up and toward the road though, the whites of his eyes turned green and a strange bulge was revealed to have grown on the left side of his face. The Sherriff slowly fell the rest of the way to the ground, unable to gather enough strength to stay on his elbows and knees.
“Whadya think happened?” Dwayne asked.
Saul contained a creeping smile as his eyes locked into the Sherriff, who continued to sink into the asphalt. “An opportunity,” Saul gleaned as he walked forward and the emergency tone began to play again from another nearby radio.
A horn blared on the interstate as a jade van pulled in front of a dark red Toyota Highlander. “What the hell?!” Daniel shouted from inside the red SUV. “Don’t get in this lane if you’re going to go five miles an hour under the speed limit, asshole!”
His breath quickened in frustration and his face morphed into a frown. He waited for the van that had cut in front of him to pass the semi that was driving in the right lane.
From his car speakers came a female voice that spoke in a disapproving tone. “Five miles an hour slower than the speed limit babe? Are you sure you weren’t going five over?”
Daniel took a deep breath and brushed his right hand through his short dirty blonde hair. “Maybe,” he said in a whisper quiet enough that the microphone didn’t pick it up. “But you don’t cut in front of someone like that! It’s dangerous!” His hand was out in front of him pointing at the vehicle he was now staring down.
“Uh huh,” the female voice remarked. “Just don’t ride his bumper now. You don’t need to go around ‘teaching people lessons’.” Daniel rolled his eyes and eased off of the vehicle in front of him. “And don’t you roll your eyes at me!” The voice said. “I may be in Indy, but I know you just did that.”
Daniel couldn’t help but smile. The van in front of him moved out of the way and he resumed his normal speed.
“What would I do without you Sam?” Daniel asked.
“Probably be in jail or a fight club,” Samantha said with a laugh. “But I’ve got to go. I have a group meeting in 30 minutes. I’ll talk to you later tonight though!”
“Okay angel. Be safe.”
“After you. Love you Daniel!”
“I love you too.” There was a click over the speakers in the car and the radio came on as soon as the conversation finished. A blaring emergency notification tone could be heard through the speakers as Daniel’s vehicle headed off the interstate and onto an exit ramp. As the Highlander slowed, the tone ended and newscasters could be heard once again.
“- and gentlemen, we have quite an evening of accidents to review with you.” A female voice came over the radio in a surprisingly distressed tone, unusual for the Ally Borden, the regular reporter for 101.7. “Starting at the south-side of I-465-”
Daniel flicked the radio off, rolling his eyes and glad that he was nearly an hour south of the Indianapolis traffic. He took a deep breath and relaxed his muscles, attempting to get his mind off the rude drivers he had encountered on the way south.
Only 21 years old, Daniel was pale with a military-fade dark blonde haircut, brown eyes, and an average but slightly athletic build that stood at six feet tall. His high cheekbones stood out from his face and his nose had a slight break in it, forcing the end a quarter of an inch to one side. He ran his tongue over his thick maroon lips and rubbed his fingers along the stubble that clung to his sharp chin.
A recently painted wooden sign welcoming visitors and residents to Bloomington appeared in front of a hill that was covered in red and orange trees, leaves blowing across the roadway as a burst of wind flowed through the region. Daniel retreated into his thoughts as he passed the hill and headed down toward a traffic signal and the first display of Bloomington traffic.
Alright, he thought as he slowed to stop at the red light, I still have two papers to finish and an online quiz to take. Shouldn’t be too bad. Plus, I’ve got until Tuesday for the quiz. After I get a quick shower, I should have enough time to play a few games with Matt. The red SUV continued along the road toward another light, slowing when the yellow flashed to red.
Daniel looked around and took his sunglasses off as the sun began to dip behind the trees. The sidewalks, which were normally quiet on a late Sunday afternoon, were peppered with college students that were grouping together. The anomaly barely registered with Daniel though, as the light turned green and he pushed down on the gas pedal. He continued along the road, passing a Denny’s and two hotels before seeing the football stadium on his right.
As he slowed for another traffic signal, he blinked and his expression froze as he peered around quickly. Did the power just go out? Or was that just me? He looked up at the stoplight, which was still red. Suddenly, it flashed. Daniel began to move his foot from the brake to the gas, expecting the light to turn green. Instead, it blinked back to red.
Daniel scrunched his eyebrows in confusion and glanced around. The roads didn’t have heavy traffic on them, and he could see the football stadium behind him to the right, with its high powered beams on overhead. Suddenly, the lights went out and Daniel held his breath as they flashed back on. He looked at his dashboard and found that his vehicle seemed to be acting fine. Letting the air out of his lungs, he closed his eyes, trying to calm himself.
Time seemed to dilate, and Daniel’s eyes grew large as he glanced toward the stadium, waiting for the lights to flicker off again. The sound of a car horn from behind made him jump. Daniel turned back to the front to see that the stoplight was now green. He drove forward cautiously across the intersection.
“Jackass,” he muttered at the car behind him, clenching his hand into a fist as he refocused his attention on the road.
The sky above seemed to stir. Clouds were forming from nothing as Daniel drove past buildings and trees on the four lane road. He finally turned left and headed into a neighborhood, driving much slower than he usually did through the area. He kept his eyes toward the sky as he reached a one-story house and pulled his vehicle into the driveway and onto a spot next to a nine-year-old grey sedan. Daniel climbed out of the car and looked around the neighborhood as leaves tumbled across the asphalt road and a few lamp posts began to flicker on.
Maybe it’s just my imagination… He looked across the street and saw his neighbor, who he had never actually met, walking out to her car without any worry. The young woman with shoulder-length jet black hair was on a phone and appeared not to notice any of the disturbances. Daniel watched as two vehicles headed down the street, neither of their drivers looking into the sky. Yeah, yeah. It must have been my imagination… What would cause all of that anyway? A solar storm?
He looked back to his rented house before heading to the rear of his vehicle and grabbing his blue fabric suitcase. He glanced toward the sky once more, watching the clouds turn dark grey and roll like waves across the ever darkening backdrop. Daniel shook his head and closed his eyes for a moment before heading into the building.
He held the door open with one hand and pulled his suitcase in with the other, hearing someone yell, “alright!”
Daniel rolled his eyes and walked into the wood-paneled kitchen. Another shout came from down the hall to his left as he glanced over the off-white counters. Two dinner plates were out and crumbs covered the counter’s surface around them. On the stove was a saucepan with a yellowing item cooking within it.
Removing the saucepan’s covering, Daniel wrinkled his nose at the fishy smell that came from inside. He turned the stove to a lower setting and shook his head before heading down the hallway and into his room.
His bed sat to one side of the chamber, the dark blue covers appearing as though they had been undisturbed since he had left. To the opposite side of the room was a desk that held a computer and two attached monitors, both sitting silent.
Daniel heard stirring in the bedroom that was adjacent to his and listened as a voice said, “hey man, it’s about time you got back!”
Daniel smiled and looked toward the entrance to the hallway. His roommate, Matthew, walked up to the doorway and leaned against it. Matt was slightly pudgy and had a round face and thick neck. A dense rug of red hair covered his head, wrapping around his chin and over his lips. The beard and thick orange eyebrows helped to break up his smooth face.
Matt’s normally pale skin was red from the workout that he had just completed. The man’s face lit up, and his eyebrows rose as he walked into the room and opened his arms to hug Daniel. His yellow t-shirt and red shorts were drenched in sweat as he strolled barefoot into the room. Daniel squinted and curled his nose up.
“Really?” Daniel smirked. “I could smell you when I walked in!”
Matt, who was four inches shorter than Daniel, offered a hearty laugh. “You just always have to complain about me! I’ll never be good enough for you.” With that, he shoved out his lower lip and walked away with hunched shoulders.
Daniel rolled his eyes and lugged his suitcase onto his bed, wrinkling the covers. “How was the party?” He asked as he unzipped the luggage and began to put clothes away.
Matt walked back to the precipice of the room. “Fine. I left after an hour. Zach started to get a bit wild and wouldn’t respond to advice, so I let Berry handle him.”
“Berry?” Daniel asked with a snort. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re both still passed out in the front lawn of their place. You felt fine leaving Zach alone with him?”
Matt shrugged. “What does Sam say… Don’t throw pearls to swine?”
Daniel laughed and finished putting his clothes away. “Yeah, something like that.” He zipped his suitcase back up, placed it on the floor, and then turned around and sat on the bed.
“So how was home?” Matt asked, droplets of sweat plopping onto the laminate floor as he wiped his arm across his forehead.
“Fine,” Daniel said quickly, a frown spreading across his face.
Daniel sighed. “It wasn’t what I hoped it would be.” After Matthew waved his hand in a request for additional information, Daniel continued. “It was like their only goal the entire weekend was the move. I swear, it’s like they waited for me to show up before moving half of the furniture.”
Matthew snickered. “Are you serious man? What did you expect?”
“I dunno. A nice dinner out or something. Instead, I got advice and a bill for last month’s vacation.” Daniel pushed out a forceful sigh. “I just wish that they’d act like they appreciate me. They didn’t ask Cecily to do anything the whole time, and they took her out to dinner alone on Friday before I got there!”
Matt shook his head, noticing Daniel’s reddening face. “Relax man. You’re back down here and they’re on their way to Washington.”
“Yeah,” Daniel said, looking down and releasing his fist that he hadn’t notice had clenched up while he was speaking. He looked up and shook his head after seeing Matthew’s raised eyebrows. “It’s fine. I’m fine, okay? I’m getting better.”
Matthew laughed. “Do you want to though?”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you want to change your attitude, be different?”
Daniel opened his mouth and began to speak but was interrupted.
“No,” Matt said, shaking his head. “You don’t.” He shrugged. “You can’t change someone if they don’t want to, even if that person is yourself.”
Daniel lowered his head. “Yeah,” he said quietly before looking back up. “How was having the house to yourself this weekend?”
“Quiet. My dad called.” Matt tapped his fingers against the nearby doorway. “My mom’s not doing well, so I’ll probably head up there in the next few days.”
Daniel swallowed and nodded. “I’m sorry bud. Are you alright?”
Matt leaned his head to one side, throwing off another drop of sweat. “As much as I can be.” A pop could be heard from the kitchen. “Oh crap,” Matt said as he turned around and rushed to the stove, leaving sweaty footprints in his wake.
Daniel shouted after him, “Hey, could you manage to clean-up a little better while I’m gone? There are breadcrumbs everywhere.”
“How do you even notice that stuff?” Matt called out from around the corner in the kitchen. “And don’t worry about it. Bread crumbs have never killed anyone! Plus, I can’t help but make a mess while cooking good food.”
“What did you make, anyway?” Daniel asked, following his roommate down the hall. “Did you just throw random junk into the pan?”
“Hey now,” Matt said as he stirred the yellow slop. “That’s good stuff. Plenty of protein.”
“It’s just cheese and fish, isn’t it?”
“Cheese and crab! There’s a difference!”
Daniel laughed and rolled his eyes. “Wonderful. I’ll just go ahead and make something from the grill, because that does not sound appetizing in the slightest.”
“Actually,” Matt explained, “I already started some bratwursts on the grill to mix in with this. Just trust me, it’ll be an experience.”
“Well, I can’t argue with that. And are you planning on burning the bratwursts like last time?”
“Hey! Those weren’t burnt! They were just blackened.”
“…Which to most people means burnt.”
“Well, I don’t mind it.”
“Then you can eat it,” Daniel laughed. “But if I don’t like the dish, then I’m going to Subway.”
Matt shrugged his shoulders and headed out the glass door leading to the grill out back. “Suit yourself then.”
Daniel turned around and headed to the restroom. Finishing his business, he turned to the sink to wash his hands. The cold water slowly warmed until steam began to drift up from the ceramic vanity. The water stung his skin at first, but the warmth rolled through his arms as he kept his hands in place.
He took a deep breath and reached up to turn off the faucet when dizziness suddenly overwhelmed him. The sensation of vertigo was so powerful that he failed to remain upright. His hand gripped onto the nearby door’s metal handle as his head dipped low, nearly hitting the edge of the sink. He crawled out into the hallway and sat back against the wall.
Nausea washed over him and then began to dissipate as a burning sensation rolled through his body. At first, Daniel thought it was a reaction to the hot water that was still running in the nearby bathroom, but as he sat there longer, he realized that the sensation was originating in or near his bones. Pain erupted from his interior at seemingly every point and he leaned over, his face against the laminate floor.
Unable to gather his thoughts amidst the pain, Daniel stared at a corner of the flooring that was beginning to ripple thanks to age and regular foot traffic. After a couple of minutes, the pain began to subside and a soreness replaced it. Daniel attempted to push himself off the ground and felt sharp pain return again, as though the bones in his forearm had broken into multiple segments. Gnashing his teeth, he slowly stood back up, his legs feeling much stronger than his arms. The sliding glass door to the kitchen could be heard opening as Daniel took a step away from the wall.
“Hey, are you okay?” Matt’s voice called out.
“Yeah,” Daniel called out in a guttural tone.
“What happened? There’s people shouting outside and then I thought you screamed from in here.”
Holding his right forearm carefully in his left hand, Daniel took a step toward his roommate. “I don’t know bud.”
“And did you see the lights go out?”
“Like the stadium? And the traffic signals?”
“What?” Matt asked, worried. “What do you mean?”
“Did you feel anything?” Daniel said in almost a whisper, feeling softly at his bones as he moved toward the scratched-up wooden kitchen table and leaned against it.
Matt shrugged and walked over to look back out of the glass door again. “I don’t know. It was probably nothing. My chest was just tingly. Are you okay?”
After taking a moment to consider the situation, Daniel remarked, “I don’t know. It’s just been a long weekend. And I need some dinner.”
Matt smiled at him and handed over a blue ceramic dish filled with a yellow sauce and pieces of crab and bratwurst. As Daniel reached for a fork, the kitchen lights began to flicker.
Abruptly, a scream then resonated from outside the front door of their house. Both sets of eyes turned to the entryway. Setting his plate to the side, Daniel followed close behind Matt, who opened the door and stepped out into the rapidly darkening night.
Outside, the lawn was dim, the nearby lampposts flickering. The smell of fresh cut grass entered Daniel’s nostrils and the cool November air made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Thankfully, it was warmer than usual for that time of year, and neither of the men needed to put on any extra layers. Even with the lamppost light out, the ground appeared to be illuminated. Daniel looked up to the sky and realized that an Aurora Borealis was displaying its colors beyond the clouds.
“I’ve never seen the Northern Lights before,” Matthew remarked, unable to take his eyes off the sky. “When’s the last time it was down this far south before midnight?”
As Matt spoke, what appeared to be lightning raced along the path of light that the seemingly natural phenomenon created. The bolt moved slower than any that Daniel had ever seen, illuminating the clouds beneath as it flew through the sky.
A second arc moved beneath the clouds as Daniel’s breath quickened. With the light from the sky, he could see the clouds rolling quickly along their paths. He reached into a pocket in his jeans and pulled out his phone, quickly calling a familiar number. After three rings, he heard a voice on the other end.
“Samantha?” Daniel asked. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” she answered hesitantly. “I think so. What’s going on?”
“Have you seen the sky?”
“The sky?! It’s… amazing.” Daniel stared up at the thin dark clouds and light show beyond. His mouth hung slightly open.
“What do you mean?” Samantha asked. “Sorry, I’ve been a little distracted. For some reason my electricity has been going on and off.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean babe. Something is going on. Something big. Just… please be careful.”
“Daniel… are you okay? You sound out of breath.”
“I don’t know. Something hit me earlier and then the lights and the sky…” Daniel’s voice trailed off.
“Hey,” Samantha exclaimed. “I forgot to tell you. Abe called me earlier today.”
“Yeah. He sounded concerned.”
“About what?” Daniel asked, tearing his eyes away from the sky. He began to pace back and forth in the driveway.
“He said that he needed some help at the camp. I think I’m going to head down there this week.”
Daniel halted in surprise. “What about your classes?”
“You didn’t see?” Samantha seemed to be moving around her apartment, a door being heard shutting in the background. “They were cancelled through Wednesday. I’m pretty sure yours got cancelled to. Something about a national emergency. I’ve been trying to watch the TV to find out what’s going on, but half of the channels are just static and the others just keep replaying the same messaging over and over.”
“Okay,” Daniel said breathlessly. “Maybe I’ll go down too.”
“Just let me know,” Samantha said in almost a whisper.
Daniel sat back against the hood of his vehicle, droplets of water sprinkling down around him. “Yeah, yeah. Of course. Let me know as soon as you’re down there.”
“Okay, I love you.”
“Love you too,” Daniel said before lowering his phone.
Daniel saw out of the corner of his eye that Matt was waving him into the house. “News,” he called out. “We should check it out.”
“I’ve got to head in,” Daniel said into the phone. “We’re going to check the news babe. I love you.”
“I love you too,” Samantha replied. “Be safe.”
“Hey, are you okay?” Matthew suddenly shouted as he promptly began to move across the street, his eyes focused on a scene playing out behind Daniel, with no more intention to move inside the building.
Daniel turned to watch as his neighbor across the street took three steps down the driveway, obviously stumbling. The thin woman appeared very different than she had when speaking on the phone earlier. One leg appeared to be lagging behind the other. Daniel’s eyes widened when he realized that a red liquid was running down her neck. Matthew sprinted toward her as she tumbled to the crumbling concrete driveway headfirst.
Arcendo Rising and other books written by Christopher Myers can be discovered at: https://aquilitz.com/books/