Thomas Alverson is not having a very good start to his work week...
The buzzing of the school bell wakes me up, as usual. Sitting up in bed, my sheets gliding like rain drops down my naked body, I glance at the alarm clock sitting disconsolately on my bedside table, its piercing cry having been ignored yet again. I shrug a half-hearted apology in its direction before easing into a standing position and stretching my arms out and to the side.
There is no sunlight filtering through the window of my second floor apartment, no melodic birdsong to welcome me to the start of my day. No, it is dark and gloomy out there and the only sounds I hear are the slapping feet of panicking children as they run to class at the high school across the street and car tires moving reluctantly through the piles of decaying leaves covering the asphalt in front of my building.
“Oh well,” I grumble as I head for the shower, “at least it’s not raining.”
I leave the bed unmade, revelling in Abby’s absence. Work has taken her out of town until Friday night, to a conference in some far flung corner of nowhere. What was it called again? Networking For Modern Women in The Modern World. More like: 150 Ways to Whore Yourself Out to Potential Clients, but I guess that name didn’t sit so well with the resort that’s hosting it.
In the short hallway to the bathroom the stench from the pile of crusted dishes and overflowing garbage in the kitchen that fills my nostrils are just two more indications that I have the place to myself. She’s only been gone two days now and the apartment is already nearing disaster zone status.
There’s going to be a lot of cleaning to be done Thursday night.
But it’s Monday morning right here and now, so there’s no need to worry about that yet. I step into the shower and turn the water as hot as it will go, scorching the sleep from my skin. I don’t bother with the soap or the shampoo, counting on the heat to kill any stink germs I may have collected overnight.
After a vague attempt at giving my short black hair some direction, I leave the bathroom behind, trailing a river of water behind me since all the towels are at the bottom of the laundry basket. I enter the kitchen and yank the fridge door open, closing my eyes as its cool breeze blasts my steaming skin. Then I open my eyes and swear loudly.
“You’ve got to be joking. How can I be out of milk?”
Well, that’s breakfast ruined. I’m not about to eat my Corn Flakes dry. Damn it. Looks like I’ll be making a trip to the store before work.
I get dressed with both eyes on the clock, pulling on jeans and struggling into the first shirt that passes the smell test. I rescue my cell from underneath the piles of reports and memos on my computer desk and run for the door with only fifteen minutes left before I’m required to check in at the office. Choosing to work from home was the best decision I ever made and I refuse to do anything that might endanger this opportunity to only see my anal retentive supervisor once a month.
Reaching the sidewalk I hang a right towards Knight Street, my hands belatedly checking my jean pockets for my wallet and keys. Thankfully they’re both exactly where I left them - another benefit of the old ball and chain being away.
The fall air is cool in my lungs and raises goose bumps on my forearms; if the store was more than a five minute walk away I might turn back and grab a jacket. Thankfully I don’t have to face that possibility.
My mind is so firmly elsewhere that I don’t see the two men in front of me until I almost bowl them over.
“Sorry,” I mumble, turning sideways to squeeze between them, but they step closer together and block my way. I really don’t need this right now.
“Thomas Alverson?” the guy on the right asks. I really, really don’t need this.
“Depends who’s asking and why,” I reply, taking a short step back to get a better look at them. What I see is not encouraging.
They are both clean shaven and deeply tanned, like they come from a place with year-round sun. The man that asked the question is wearing a zip up neon green hoodie and blue and black pyjama pants cling to his spindly legs. A black ball cap, turned sideways, and brown steel-toed construction boots complete the look. His buddy is not much better: a pink wool cap, plaid fleece jacket, business slacks, and unlaced white runners is his uniform of choice. Only his bodybuilder physique would stop everyone within ten city blocks of making fun of him - in front of his face, at least.
It is way too early in the day to deal with crazies.
“You are Thomas Alverson, are you not?” the steroid junkie asks after an unreadable look passes between the two.
“How do you know my name? And, more to the point, what do you want from me?”
“We are here to save you,” the first one says, relief in his smile and a zealot’s gleam appearing in his eyes. I begin to shiver and it has nothing to do with the cold.
“Why? And save me from what?” Why am I even wasting my time with these lunatics?
“Because you have a role to play and you have not yet stepped onto the stage,” Door Number Two says. “We’re here to make sure you survive to fulfil your very important part.”
“As for your second question,” Door Number One says, his expression unchanging, “let us show you.” He turns and points over the tree-lined schoolyard to a red sports car travelling south down Knight. “That car is about to attempt to make a left hand turn at this intersection.” As I begin to roll my eyes the driver turns on his turn signal and reduces speed. “Unfortunately, he is also about to fail in that attempt.”
“What the hell is this?” I ask, finally starting to get angry. “Look, I’m going to be late for work, so you’ll have to excuse me from your little crazy party. Some other time, per-”
But my offer is cut short by the tortured scream of metal on metal and the chorus of dozens of horns springing to life moments too late. My jaw drops as I watch the red car spin twice, three times before coming to a rest on the sidewalk on the far side of the street. The light blue minivan that hit it rolls on to its side and scrapes across the pavement before slamming roof first into the lamp post nearest to where we are standing.
“Had we not stopped you,” the first man tells me with tears in his eyes, “you would have been crushed between that van and the pole. Your death would have been instant.”
“If our information is accurate…”
“… and it always is…”
“… this will not be the last attempt on your life. Come with us and we will keep you hidden from those that wish to do you harm.”
It is way too early in the morning for this.