Five preview chapters of "In Days Gone By", my newly published novel.
Day: Currently Unknown
Date: Currently Unknown
Time: Currently Unknown
Location: Currently Unknown
Time Remaining: 72 hours
“Jake, try to remember. This is important. This means the difference between the life and death of billions of innocent people throughout the world.” My head was spinning. Where am I? What happened? I tried to think back and remember where I had come from; what had happened. The only thing that I could remember, though, was a large white building. It was distinctive in shape; majestic and proud. My gut was telling me that I should recognize the building before me but I couldn’t. “Jake, can you hear me?” The voice interrupted my thoughts and I suddenly became aware that people were looking at me. I tried to open my eyes and look and them, but couldn’t. My eyes felt as if they had been welded closed. “Jake, if you can hear me, you must remember.” Listening to the voice that spoke to me, I tried to identify it. I tried to recollect what it was he wanted me to remember. I tried to remember something... Anything... But nothing other than that majestic white building filled my mind. Those words were the first human contact I had had in God only knows how many days. Those words; desperate; pleading; needing me to remember something. Something that I could not remember. Perhaps it would return to me, later, but the desperation that filled this voice told me that I did not have much time left. I tried to open my eyes, again, but failed once more. Somebody must have immobilized me. But, why? “Jake, can you hear me?” The voice said again. He was less desperate, now, probably coming to the understanding that I was not answering. “Jake, if you can hear me, find a way to respond. Any way possible.” With his desire for me to speak fuelling me, I tried to reply. I tried to say “yes, I can hear you” but the words only formed in my head. They never left my mouth; it never even opened to let a vague sound escape. I tried to move my head, to nod so that he knew I could hear him. But, I could not control that either. I tried to open my eyes again and blink, but that failed too. I was stuck inside my own body, unable to escape. Immobilized by something, I was unable to respond to anything that anybody asked me. “This is hopeless,” another voice said. Different to the first, it was calm, relaxed, yet deep and menacing. “You're wasting your time with him, professor,” he said. There were footsteps and some clattering about on a tray. “No, no, no, Mark, this is not a waste of time. We must help him to remember; we must help him. If he does not remember, then what hope do we have in this war?” War. The words skipped through my brain and alarm bells began blaring. We were at war? Was I involved? Had I done something to cause the war? What the Hell did these people want with me? “Professor, you know as well as I do the chances of him remembering. They are slim, at best. We have seventy-two hours until the nuclear war starts, and you want to waste your time with him?”
“Mark, how can you be so cold? Jake was your partner during the Afghanistan War; he was there with you. You saw him captured.”
“Yes, captured by the Russians. And look what happens when he comes back. A week after his rather miraculous return, the White House is blown up.” The White House? Blown up? The image of the majestic white building filled my mind again and then I recognized it. Of course. The White House. “The President of the United States was killed in that explosion. Even if it wasn’t Jake who detonated the bomb, how do you explain his body being inside the grounds? More importantly, how do you explain his body in a bush looking straight into the Oval Office?” The President was dead? That’s not possible. And there’s no way I would kill my own President. “Mark, just give him time. When he comes around, we can help him remember. We can learn what role he has played in this. Just give it time.” More footsteps and then a quiet wisp of, what I thought, was an electric door sliding open. “Professor, I would love to waste my time playing your game with you. But, we do not have that sort of time available to us. We have seventy-two hours before the missiles are launched. Seventy-two hours, that is it. And the Russians have Star Wars. Remember? A traitor among us gave the Russians the plans for the SDI. And, I'm willing to bet my life it was my 'partner'.”
“Mark, just give me some time...”
“You have your time, professor. Seventy-two hours. And, whilst you are wasting your time on him, I'm going to try and work this out by myself. I’m going to try to save the world before it is too late.” The footsteps marched away and then the door slid closed again. Footsteps shuffled around me. A metal desk was suddenly pounded and made me mentally jump. The 'Professor' sighed and I heard him collapse into a chair. “Jake, can you hear me? Did you hear any of that?” In my head, the words “I heard everything” formed, but I could not make them audible. The 'Professor' sighed again. “I didn’t think so. Please, Jake, please wake up, soon. And please remember. We are running out of time. Do you hear me? There are seventy-two hours before a global thermonuclear war ignites. You are the key, Jake. You are the key and we are running out of time.”
Date: 13 September
Time: 9:15 am
Location: Currently Unknown
Time Remaining: 70 hours 45 minutes
“Professor, what's my name?” I was now sat on the bed I had been laid on earlier, which turned out to be a hospital bed, looking at the Professor. “You tell me,” the Professor replied. “It is your name, Jake; your memory; your life. So, you tell me.” I closed my eyes and shook my head. “Professor, I don’t know my name. The only thing that I remember is the White House. Please, tell me. What’s my name?” The Professor’s brow furrowed and he sighed. “Fine,” he breathed. “Your name is Jake Peter Crown. Now, you mentioned the White House?”
“Not yet,” I replied. “What is your name, Professor?” I asked. The Professor closed his eyes and nodded slowly. “My name is Professor Alexander Schwarz, Jake, and I am here to help you.”
“Please,” I replied. “Let me learn about myself and you, first, and then we can get onto 'helping me'.” Professor Schwarz sighed again and nodded.
“Where am I?” I asked.
“You are inside a secure military facility, Jake. There is no way of leaving any room without pressing your hand against a fingerprint scanner. Before you even think of trying, you are denied access, meaning you cannot leave this room.”
“When was I born?” I interrupted. The Professor looked at me and smiled sympathetically. “You really remember nothing, do you, Jake?”
“When was I born?” I asked again. The Professor smiled and stood up. I watched him as he walked across the room, to a filing cabinet in the corner, which I hadn't noticed before. He pulled open the top drawer and flicked through the files in it. When he found the one he wanted, he let out a little laugh of success. “Aha, here it is,” he said, taking it out and pushing the drawer closed. “Jacob Peter Crown, born 4th July 1946.”
“When were you born, Professor?” I asked. The Professor looked up.
“23rd September '39, Jake.”
“Where was I born, Professor?”
“And you?” I asked. The Professor seemed to understand the structure of our conversation now and answered before I had barely got the words through my lips. “Moscow.”
“What job do I – did I – have, Professor?”
“You were – are – a Private in the US Army, Jake.”
“What about you, Professor? Where do you work to have been put in a place like this?”
“I work for the US Government, Jake. I am a professor of mental health.” I ignored the Professor’s attempt to make me feel weak and continued with my questioning. “Do I have any family, Professor?” The Professor briefly scan the file until he found the relevant section of it. “None living, Jake. Your father, Peter Jason Crown, died on 6th June, 1950 in a car crash. It was reported he had been driving under the influence. Your mother, Sarah, drowned in Lake Johnston on 7th June, 1953. Your brother...”
“Brother? I had a brother?” I interrupted. That was the biggest news of the day, so far, to me. I could vaguely remember my mother and father; they used to be so happy together. Then, my mother’s face filled my mind and I quickly locked the memory back up. I couldn’t remember anything about having a brother. “That's what your file says, Jake,” the Professor answered. “It says he died on 3rd September, 1958, but the cause is still unknown. That's it, I'm afraid.”
“What about you, Professor? Do you have any family?”
“I'd... rather not talk about it,” Professor Schwarz replied, looking away. What’s he hiding? Alarms began blaring immediately in my head but I ignored them. “What else does my file say?” I asked. “Who I am, Professor? Who am I?” The Professor walked over to me and dropped the thin brown file on my lap. “Here, you can read it for yourself,” he said. I looked down at the file and picked it up. My name was printed on the front in big, red capital letters. “Private Jacob Peter Crown.” I took a deep breath and opened the file.
Full Name: Jacob Peter Crown Date of Birth: 4/7/1946
Gender: Male Age: 37 when recruited
Home Town: New York Profession: White House Security
Marriage Status: Single Ethnic Origin: White American
Living Family: None Known
Dead Family: Peter Jason Crown (Father) - 6/6/1950 - Road Accident
Sarah Louise Crown (Mother) - 7/6/1953 - Drowning
Mark Jason Crown (Brother) - 3/12/1958 - Unknown
Height: 5'7' Weight: 62KG Build: Athletic
Hair Colour: Dusty Blonde Eye Colour: Sea Blue
Skin Colour: Tanned White
Education: New York Uni – Degree – Engineering – Never pursued
Work: 1970 – US Air Force - Applied for pilot - Failed written exam
1975 – US Navy - USS Missouri - Called to combat - PTSD
1983 – US Army – Private - Called to protect President
1984 – US Government - Bodyguard - US President - Current
Marriage: No Children: None
I closed the file and dropped it on the bed beside me. This was all basics. It didn't include anything that I really wanted to know. I looked up at Professor Schwarz, who was sitting on a chair he had taken from the desk by the door. “Professor, what am I doing here? I don't understand. The file,” I gestured to it, “tells me about my past. But it doesn't tell me who I am, now, or what happened. It doesn't explain anything to me.” The Professor sighed.
“Jake, if I tell you, you must accept what you hear and not argue with me. Is that clear?” I nodded. The Professor sighed again. “Very well, Jake. I am going to take you back to 1979, during the Afghanistan War.” I leant forwards on the bed and the Professor scooted his chair closer to the bed. “You were there with Marcus Goldenberg, your partner.” I nodded.
“I heard you talking to him earlier.” The Professor smiled.
“Good. Well, you were there with him, Jake. Afghanistan is just the beginning. It was the beginning of the end of the world.”