“How many of them, boy?”
The old man’s eyes were wide, his mouth hanging open as if still in the process of releasing his last word. Sam couldn’t tell if it was from fear or simply the anticipation of the moment.
Sam gripped the metal pipe he was holding tightly and closed his own eyes to shut out the world around him. Patterns soon emerged within his mind that represented Nephloc—the dark creatures under the enemy’s control.
“Three—no, four,” Sam said, opening his eyes and turning to Marcus who was not twelve inches away. “And they are closing in fast.”
Seeing a burgeoning smile, Sam determined the wide eyes were revealing anticipation and not fear.
Sam looked down from the rafters upon which they were hiding and watched as Suteko walked casually around a chair on the floor below. She wore her long, silky hair back in a ponytail. Her clothes were loose to enable quick and varied movements. Hidden under the belt around the small of her back was a bamboo nunchaku. She was dressed for battle.
She was the bait.
It was Marcus’ plan, and Sam had been dead set against it. He had finally found Suteko, and the best plan they could come up with was to have the woman of his dreams become the lure to entice the Nephloc—waking nightmares—into a trap.
But it was the Temporal’s only hope; they had no knowledge of the enemy’s plan and they desperately needed intelligence. All they knew was the Nephloc would be coming and that meant opportunity.
Brushing Sam’s fears aside, Suteko understood this was their best chance to gain information, and she willingly submitted to the plan. Kaileen—the presumed leader of the Nephloc—was on the move, always one step ahead of the Temporal. No one would be safe until she was stopped. If they could just get some hint of her location, this whole matter could be behind them; Sam and Suteko could have a life together.
The call-out by Marcus was answered by fewer than he had hoped. Many Temporal, individualistic by nature, had not been fond of the idea. Others understood the danger and were arranging transportation. The timetable varied for those planning to come. Some were willing to leave immediately. Others required weeks to settle local accounts. They were, after all, about to assume a new name and a new life.
Ian Cooke and Catherine Porras were the first to arrive in Washington DC. Even before Marcus’ invite, they were intent on paying the old man a visit. While nothing concrete had happened, both Ian and Catherine had experienced a number of strange parallel dreams. Consulting Marcus in person seemed appropriate. Hearing of the threat only solidified their decision.
But they were not without their disagreements. Ian had a complicated past with both Suteko and Marcus, and Catherine was unstable and highly suspicious of Suteko’s motivations.
Ian and Catherine’s dreams and visions had been filled with dark creatures. These evil beings were searching for something. After some discussion, they both agreed that the object of the enemy’s attention was Suteko. From this interpretation, the current plan was decided upon.
In their visions, Ian and Catherine had both been shown a specific location. They were certain the attack would take place there. They had no address, but both had a vague sense of the area and felt they could find it.
Marcus consulted with President Brad Gardner who sent Lieutenant Scott Harrison. Harrison worked in close liaison with the Pentagon and the Secret Service as a facilitator, someone who organized meetings and had the authority to make what needed to happen, happen.
Following Ian and Catherine’s instructions and making ample use of Google Maps, they soon discovered the location. Remembering their visions, they immediately recognized the outside of the house. When they stepped inside, the interior was exactly like their dreams, as well. Only their guide, Lieutenant Harrison, was surprised to discover the house was actually a Secret Service safe house; the others nodded as if some intricate puzzle had been solved.
With its few rooms and exposed rafters, the building was more of a cabin than a house. It sat atop a small hill and was a good half mile away from the nearest neighbor. The north side of the hill had the lone access road and provided an unobstructed panoramic view—perfect for watching for intruders. But, of course, this may do little to hinder intruders of the supernatural kind.
The lieutenant was told that only Suteko would require lodging at that location. It wasn’t that Lieutenant Harrison was untrustworthy—he seemed to be of the highest moral character—but the Nephloc, through nefarious means, would somehow learn that Suteko would be alone in this place, and they wanted to plant as many seeds as possible to lead the enemy to that conclusion.
They had been waiting for over a week, each night careful to make it appear as though Suteko was alone and vulnerable.
And now, the time had finally come. Ian and Catherine’s visions had proved prophetic.
Up in the rafters, Sam shot a glance at Ian. His brow was crinkled and his narrow eyes burned with anger, waiting for the fight to begin—itching for the fight to begin.
Sam watched Ian’s right hand move into view. He was holding a fairly large knife. Next to Sam near the doorway, he saw Marcus gave Ian a most disapproving look. Ian, who was positioned in the middle of the room, ignored the old man and continued looking down upon Suteko and her chair. Ian licked his lips, eager for the fight to begin. Marcus had been insistent on capturing the Nephloc alive. As much as he respected Marcus, Sam was glad at least one of them had a weapon that could kill.
Ian had seemed quite taken aback by the dreams. Sam had noticed it. Ian gave Suteko more than a fair share of his attention. The subtle glances…the readiness to agree and take Suteko’s side no matter the context. While he certainly appreciated Ian’s concern and protection, Sam began to suspect Ian had more on his mind than simply preventing a nightmare from coming true.
It wasn’t that Ian was a bad guy. The first time they met, they seemed to have hit it off. But a few days later, Ian was a totally different person. Sam didn’t put it together at first, but it soon became obvious it had something to do with Suteko.
“Suteko.” Sam spoke in a voice just above a whisper. “Thirty seconds.” He had let the thoughts of recent events run too rampant. Sam had to get control of himself within the moment—anything but total success was unacceptable.
The old man, who was near Sam, asked, “Which direction?”
“They are circling the building,” Sam whispered, drawing his finger around before pointing at the window and then to the door.
Ian’s face hardened. His right hand squeezed a wooden beam a little too hard, sending bits of wood pulp to the floor. He was above and to the right of Suteko, about six feet from Marcus and Sam.
“Steady.” Marcus’ face was resolute, his voice little above a whisper. “Ian, watch the window. Sam and I will focus on the door. No talking.”
Ian and Sam nodded and concentrated their attention on their respective targets. Suteko sat down on the single wooden chair in the middle of the room. After glancing upward, she alternated her eyes between the curtained window and the solid oak door. Sam wondered how she could be so composed.
A screeching sound, like that of a barn owl, thundered nearby, causing the window to rattle.
Sam touched the old man’s shoulder and got his attention. He flashed out three fingers in the direction of the door and one at the window. The old man nodded, and Sam turned his attention back to the door.
A minute passed and Sam began to worry. He sensed the four creatures were just outside the door and window of this small cabin, but they were not moving.
Ian waved his hand in Marcus’ direction and then signed a silent question with his right hand. After reading the sign language, Marcus leaned over to Sam and whispered into his ear, “He’s asking what’s going on?”
“The Nephloc are outside the door and window, but they are just waiting for some reason.”
“Can you read their thoughts?” asked Marcus in a voice just over the hum of a nearby air vent.
After making sure his legs and arms were solidly on multiple beams, Sam closed his eyes and concentrated. He allowed his body to relax. Gray patterns, dark and unclear, floated before his closed eyes.
Out of the drab color, faces appeared and grew in detail. He began labeling the patterns. Doing so organized what he saw, preventing confusion. He saw Marcus, Ian, and Suteko. He noted Catherine’s pattern several hundred meters away. No doubt, she was watching and also listening to the echoes while waiting for the signal.
He turned his attention to the middle area just outside the small building, the area where the enemy waited. There, he saw four dark patterns that resisted his attempt to bring them into greater detail. He could see nothing more than gray shapes. Unlike the gray blocks that represented his friends, these shapes remained undefined and unknowable. The enemy was emitting some kind of barrier that prevented Sam from learning more.
It was like viewing a television channel that had been scrambled; he could see that something meaningful was there, but its content was a mystery. He had never encountered this kind of resistance and was unsure of its meaning. But he knew one thing: these creatures were their hunters, the Nephloc that had come to harm Suteko.
His anger burned enough to momentarily disrupt his concentration, but he soon had the indefinite shadows back into view. He saw no further detail, but he could at least monitor their movements.
As Sam quieted his mind, the nature of the information he was receiving from the four dark shapes changed. It all seemed meaningless—garbled data missing the beginning or the key portion that could unlock the overall meaning of the message. But it was information, and information meant intelligence.
Sam decided upon a different approach. He stopped trying to listen or view their thoughts as one would hear or read language. Instead, he attuned his senses to their hearts. These Nephloc had been well trained; they were masking their thoughts masterfully—or else, someone was masking their thoughts for them. They could not, however, hide their feelings, their pure evil intent.
There was something else that Sam sensed…fear. He still couldn’t hear their actual thoughts, but the meaning behind their thoughts was clear to him.
Sam whispered into Marcus’ ear, “They want confirmation Suteko is here and alone. They sense a trap.”
Suteko looked up at Marcus. He signed a message to her. She nodded and began singing, slowly and softly. It was a Japanese lullaby just loud enough to penetrate the door in front of her.
Mori no fukurō ga iimashita
Watashi wa mori no mihari yaku
Kowai ōkami, Kitsune nado
Kosasenai kara, nenne shina
Gorosuke ho- ho- Gorosuke ho-
Sam was enchanted by Suteko’s voice and the Japanese words, very few of which he understood. He knew it had something to do with an owl in the forest standing guard against terrible wolves and foxes. He knew the Nephloc were listening and were likewise interested in the sound. He just hoped they didn’t know about the owls watching and waiting for the foxes.
He began to see movement in the patterns and shapes on the map in his mind.
The Nephloc were responding to her voice. It was working.
Then, Sam’s muscles tightened. He could sense that they were counting down. Marcus and Ian looked to Sam as he held up five fingers and folded one for each second that passed.
He closed his fist. Suteko stopped singing.
Two loud bursts blasted from the direction of the window and door. There was an explosion. Shattered wood and glass fragments went flying into the air, showering the chair that Suteko had quickly vacated. Smoke poured in, bringing with it a bitter, acidic smell.
As the smoke cleared, they saw the door had splintered, but was mostly intact. A gloved hand punched through a large segment and pulled out enough of the wood for the Nephloc’s enormous frame to enter. The monster that came through was colossal, dark, and by any definition powerful.
Still up in the rafters, Sam’s first thought was they were trapped. The small cabin had two accesses to the outside and both were covered by the enemy. Something made him look down at Suteko—her face unyielding and stance ready for battle. He shook his head free of thoughts of defeat and prepared to follow Marcus’ lead.
Sam could see that the one at the window had already entered completely. Marcus held up his hand in view of Ian and Sam. The creatures were moving cautiously, and he wanted all four inside the room before springing the trap. If one escaped, total control of the situation would not be possible.
Suteko repositioned her footing. Although only one of the three at the door had fully entered the building, the Nephloc from the window was closing in on her. She took a few steps toward a far corner. One hand reached behind her back and gripped a handle of the nunchaku—but she kept it hidden from the enemy’s eyes. It was swaying to and fro as if injured, dragging its feet heavily over the tiled floor. Each stride produced a metallic scraping sound unpleasant to the ear. Adding to the general discord, it also let out a sustained growl with each exhalation. With the breaths came the sound of an occasional crack, as more of the oak door fell victim to the other intruders’ blows. A black, gloved hand reached out toward Suteko’s position.
Sam kept his eyes on the Nephloc closest to Suteko. It was big. Comparing its height to the rafters, Sam guessed it was nearly eight feet tall or at least it would have been had it not been slouching.
It passed under Sam’s location. The stench it brought with it was every bit as impressive as the monster itself. This Nephloc still had much flesh to rot off.
The whole scene was even more frightful to Sam than his memory of several smaller dark-clothed Nephloc that had attacked him in front of a Japanese hospital. They had drawn his blood and overpowered him, but it had been dark, and he was now seeing their horrid appearance in the clear artificial light.
He remembered not being able to see the Nephloc’s face then. There had been a scrambling field preventing any recognition of facial features. This time, his vantage point prevented even that. All Sam saw now was cloth, completely black cloth.
A sudden movement snapped Sam’s attention to his right. Ian ignored the old man’s still-held up hand and had jumped down from the rafters, landing behind the one Nephloc who had entered via the window—the one reaching for Suteko. His left hand caught the neck of the creature. His right hand lifted the knife. With a twist, Ian ran the blade of the knife across its chest and sent its head down hard into the floor. The slash produced no blood, but the creature staggered in pain.
Marcus sighed and also dropped down. A second later, Marcus and Sam were facing the single Nephloc that had managed to get through the door. It turned and, along with the other two enemies, began fleeing outside. Without a second thought, Sam threw the metal pipe into the back of the closest Nephloc. It stumbled, but continued a lumbered retreat.
Marcus pushed a button on a keyring signaling Catherine to leave her observation perch and give aid. He then flashed outside, leaping into the air. His fist plummeted into the Nephloc Sam had injured, his touch paralyzing the enemy instantly.
Sam followed and grabbed the Nephloc that was stiff and unresponsive. It was like a stone from Marcus’ attack. With a show of great strength that surprised even him, Sam threw the Nephloc through the door, taking portions of the outer wall of the building with it. As Sam let the creature fly, he used that split second to glance at Ian who was still inside the cabin.
Ian was on top of the Nephloc that had come in through the window—the one that was after Suteko. It was on the floor, and Ian landed blow after blow into its face and chest. He didn’t see the knife any more, but Ian’s fists were plenty. Suteko was beside him pleading, trying to get him to stop. Ian didn’t acknowledge anyone else’s presence; all that existed was him and the enemy.
But even more fascinating for Sam was the creature itself.
The Nephloc under Ian had been so large, and yet now, it was nothing more than a sniveling mess frantically trying to avoid Ian’s blows. The beating this Nephloc was taking would have killed any human. And yet, there was no blood, only a pulp of flesh and bone.
But it was experiencing great pain and fear.
The sounds of high-pitched screeching filled the small building. Ian’s eyes were burning as he jumped off that nearly unconscious Nephloc and headed toward the one Sam had just thrown in. That Nephloc was now against the wall attempting to position itself as far away from the coming avenger as possible.
The captured Nephloc were poor reflections of what they had been only a minute before. Tiny, hardly more than the size of a child cramped in a huddled fetal position.
“Enough!” The old man’s voice boomed, stilling the fists and turning the heads of not only Ian, but everyone else in the room. Marcus had returned with the third Nephloc in tow. Releasing it, the three Nephloc cowered together in a tight group making stunted, bowing motions directed at their Temporal captors. They were cornered and defeated. All possible exits were covered by Temporal who were clearly stronger than they. This was a happy surprise for Sam who had imagined the enemy would have offered a much greater attack.
Marcus shot a disapproving glance at Ian who was once again sporting clenched fists and was in mid-stride toward one of the creatures. The old man repeated, “Enough. They are defeated and will have quarter.”
Sam stepped in front of Ian, stopping his advance and daring him to continue. After a few ponderous breaths, Ian lifted his fist. Sam stood firm, but pulled his shoulder in slightly. With a cry louder than the explosions that had opened the window and door, Ian turned and slammed his fist into a nearby wall.
The old man nodded and said, “Hold them here while I help Catherine capture the last one.” Marcus then flew out the door with a speed faster than the eye could process.
The Temporal is ranking #7 right now in Amazon’s Superhero category (for free eBooks).
It’s a little funny since I had no intention of writing a “superhero” novel. But that is kind of what it became. I don’t know how Amazon categorizes things, but it seems to be pretty accurate.
One of my early beta readers told me he was following the progression of the Temporal’s “powers” in relation to eternity just fine until it got to the part about their quick healing abilities. Then, he told me, he realized he was reading a superhero novel. Why not? It’s fun and superheros are in demand now.
Download the complete novel for free at Amazon. The second novel in the series is now on sale for only .99 (I will maintain the normal price of $2.99)
I’m always thrilled to get a new review–I do hope I get to a point soon when it becomes ordinary (hehe). But a review today really made my day.
Kattia from Florida wrote the kindest thing about my short story, Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter.
stars Short But Sweet, February 1, 2013Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)This review is from: Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter (Kindle Edition)
The book as a whole is VERY small in size, but that does not mean it is not good! I was hesitant to get this because of its size. How could something so short possibly be all that good. I was pleasantly surprised to find my self corrected.
C.J. Martin has now become one of my favorite authors now because of this little story. The book literally jumps straight into the action, so if that is what you like, go ahead and get this! You won’t be disappointed! 🙂
Wow! Thank you, Kattia. You are so kind. I wish I knew who you were. I’d be thrilled to send you what we are working on to continue the Tanaka story. It is slow going (my Temporal series seems to come together faster), but I really believe the Tanaka stories my partner and I have planned will be fun.
Please click here to read more about Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter.
The image you see on the right of a Red Headed woman is now the cover of the forthcoming Book 2 (The List of the Temporal)–the only perk out of being unknown and unread is I can do things like this and no one will notice. 🙂
Here is the brand new cover for Book One of Suteko, the Japanese Temporal:
Book Two, The List of the Temporal, should be out later this month. I am in the final editing stage now.
Tanaka, Sons of Redemption is due out mid-December. My partner, Joe Lemont and I are also making great progress.
My partner and I still do not have the novel ready, but here is the short story that started (or is starting) it all.
The bullet tore flesh from his left shoulder. Akira Tanaka yelped in pain but quickly regained his focus. He had been shot before and knew he would be shot again if he didn’t keep quiet. He took a moment to control his breathing and glance at the bloody wound. It was a lucky shot; he had been out of their line of sight.
Tanaka’s daughter has been kidnapped. He must face a group of determined yakuza to save her. This fast-paced 7,500 word story is the first in a series of thrilling adventures featuring Tanaka.
“Well written and puts you into the action right away.” – Larry LaVoie, author of Leap of Faith and other suspense/thriller/mystery novels.
Would you like to read this for FREE in exchange for an honest review? If so, please email me (see contact me page).
If you like thrillers with a slightly weird twist, this book is for you. It has some weirdness (hence the “supernatural” part) but I think it could also work as a straight thriller. Book two (The List of the Temporal, coming late summer) will be more of a “super hero” action thriller, however.
I would rate it as PG-13. Coarse language is at a bare minimum, and the violence isn’t described in detail, but there is some violence. The prologue below will give you a taste of what I mean.
About the book:
“Concise, action-packed chapters that really keep the pace moving. … CJ Martin will thrill you while making a surreal world seem so plausible.”
ETERNITY: Existence outside time
The Temporal, a supernatural thriller by CJ Martin
After his wife leaves him for a former friend, Sam Williams moves to Japan to start his life over.
But a quiet life for Sam was not to be.
A devastating earthquake in central Japan sends eternity crashing into time, enabling Sam to hear echoes of the past and even the future. Through the echoes, Sam and a mysterious Japanese woman learn of a terrorist plot that could plunge the world into turmoil and position a murderer as the leader of the free world.
They alone have the knowledge and ability to stop the plot.
But even with eternity on their side, can they stop it in time?
This novel has 62,000 words, 48 chapters (plus prologue and epilogue), and is about 250 printed pages.
And here is the Prologue in its entirety:
Four Months Ago…
With his right hand, Fakhr al Din reached for a large chunk of white cheese. He had lost his little finger, but was blessed by Allah to still have retained the full function of the other three and his thumb. The explosion had been greater than anticipated. In the end, however, the mission was successful. He allowed his hand to momentarily hover over the cheese, giving him a chance to admire its marred form—his small sacrifice for the cause.
The lighting in the room was dim and set primarily above the food on the table. His periphery was completely in shadow, but that shadow was not void of eyes watching and fingers gripping weapons. There were two guards ready to give their lives to protect the great imam of the Bushehr Province in Southern Iran.
He took a generous bite into the cheese while enjoying the heavy aroma of garlic in the air. The garlic paired surprisingly well with the hint of fragrant mint and thyme flowing from a gift basket in front of him. He had received many such gifts since an anonymous spokesman from his Warriors of the Sword had, through Al Jazeera, publicly taken credit for the latest bombing in Sderot, Israel. Of course, on CNN International and in English, Fakhr al Din himself had categorically denied any involvement in the “atrocious and unfortunate event.”
Even with the local popular support and the current pleasant refreshments, the imam hated to be kept waiting. Hamim, his head of security, was due for a report on local threats and was twenty minutes late.
Last week at Hamim’s request, the imam had ordered the killing of an innocent boy to remind the locals of the holy mission with which they were all entrusted: to protect Fakhr al Din. The boy’s parents had been quite cooperative. It was amusing to him how quickly planted evidence persuaded the father to disown his son, the infidel. As the child was dragged away to sentencing, his father led the frenzied chants of condemnation. The whole matter, of course, had not been the imam’s personal desire. But he had to periodically remind the neighborhood of their sacred duties.
Where is Hamim?
The Americans had taken an increased interest in him. He, however, felt sure his current safe house was secure. Two dozen loyal guards were on the grounds. The latest surveillance equipment continuously monitored every inch of the compound. A tunnel that exited into the kitchen of a nearby house was an escape route of last resort. In addition to all this, he had a more traditional security system stationed at the three entrances and trained to discover explosives, his Belgian Malinois dogs. These precautions would afford him the precious minutes needed to facilitate an escape if necessary.
Fakhr al Din grabbed his pita filled with lamb shawarma, but before he could bite, the door flung open.
“Hamim, where have you been?”
But it wasn’t Hamim.
Two strange men—Westerners wearing sunglasses and dark suits—stood in the doorway. He could see another shadowy figure in the distance beyond the men. A woman?
Two of the imam’s men, unseen and hidden by the shadows, stepped into the light. Brandishing their AK-47s, they let off a few rounds before they were silenced no more than two seconds later.
Fakhr al Din was left with his mouth open and without comprehension of what just happened. He had heard the rat-tat-tat of the weapons to his left and right, but what he saw straight in front of him defied understanding. Instead of blood and flesh ripped by bullets, he saw, for the briefest of moments, the two dark men’s hands go from their sides to a level equal with the incoming bullets. The motion—if it could be called motion—was quicker than his brain could process. It was as if their arms were in one position and then in the next moment, up to meet the bullets.
He heard the sounds of a dozen rounds ripping into and ricocheting off of the walls, furniture, and glassware around the room—but not into flesh.
In the next instant, the cleric, still looking forward, saw only the figure that had been behind the two men. The two black suited men had vanished, leaving what he could now confirm to be a woman. Her fiery-red hair was free and not held back by the traditional hijab head-covering. She was beautiful and terrifying.
Where are my men?
He turned left and then right to see his men held by the throat and off the ground, struggling to breathe.
Fakhr al Din looked at the table. His SIG P226 was next to the cheese. With the quickest of motions, he jerked his hand out, slapping it on the hard wooden surface where the gun had been a second ago. The woman had closed the two dozen feet within that timeframe and now held his weapon; its muzzle was directed at him.
He heard the sound of bodies pounding into the floor and turned to his left and then right. His guards were on the ground. Their throats were still tightly held by the intruders who were now down on one knee and had their heads turned toward the center of the room. Although the dark sunglasses hid their eyes, they both were clearly looking to the woman, waiting for her command.
“What—what do you want?”
“A chat. A private chat,” she said with a smile, causing the Iranian man to shudder. “Tell your men not to disturb us.”
The imam was at a loss. He felt her cold fingers gently lift his chin. Her motion first closed his opened mouth and then raised his entire head to meet her eyes. With the other hand, she held up his gun. Depressing the magazine release, she let the clip fall with a clunk onto the table.
“Tell them to go.”
Before he realized it, she had the gun lifted directly above her head. A single shot expended the remaining round, ejecting the spent casing and filling the small room with an explosive sound. It somehow seemed louder to the imam than had the bursts of the AKs. Bits of clay and plaster rained on Fakhr al Din, covering the table and cheese.
“Tell them to go—now.” The woman, having moved to his side away from the debris, startled him. Her voice was soft, silky even. If it weren’t for those eyes that seemed to drill violently and deeply into his soul, she might appear peaceful and sublime, like an angel.
“D—don’t disturb us,” the imam said to the men, keeping his attention fixed on the woman’s face. As terrible as they were, he feared to wander too far from those dark, piercing eyes. “Tell the others to not disturb us!” Dirt and plaster dropped from his beard as he shouted the order.
She nodded. Her two men immediately released their prisoners and returned to a standing position. In an instant, the two dark suited men were standing with their hands cupped in front like pall-bearers awaiting their duty. The guards on the floor rolled away from their captors, coughing.
“Go!” the woman shouted with a force beyond what seemed humanly possible.
The two men jumped to their feet and made for the door.
“Now,” she said as she walked casually to close the door, “I have a job for you. A job that I’m sure you will find to be mutually beneficial.”
The Present Day…
“Donata desu ka?—Who are you?”
Her hand darted up, grabbing air as if she could touch the visage of the man standing in front of her in her dream.
She only required five or ten minutes of sleep daily and yet this dream had continued for over half an hour. She had already kicked off the top futon and her head was far from the pillow. Sweat dripped from her brow.
“Do you not see me?”
She always remembered her dreams which seemed to begin immediately with her loss of consciousness and end when her body’s need for sleep was sated.
Particularly vivid were the dreams with him in it. His name was a mystery to her, but his face—she could recall it with exquisite detail and on command.
Her eyes fluttered, then opened with the full realization that she was not awake. Her mind projected the dream world onto the wooden ceiling above.
“Who are you?” she repeated.
The man stood two dozen feet or more away and was enveloped by an obscuring cloud—a first for a dream with him in it. Even still, her keen vision discerned a panic within his eyes.
How different this dream was. The man had always brought peace to her heart—not conflict and now… this horror. In previous dreams, the man recognized her. But now, she was invisible to him.
The man began to run. He was running from something and in her direction, but his position remained unchanged as if on a treadmill. He craned his neck over his shoulder in search of someone—his pursuer.
She sharpened her vision and dared to peer beyond the man to see the nightmare from which he was escaping. A moment later, he vanished. She realized she had moved ahead of his position and was seeing what he saw. She faced his nightmare directly.
As the scene gradually came into focus, she saw a street. It was in slow motion, but people were fleeing from some terror. She squinted her dream eyes hard until she saw what they saw. A fireball.
Then it all disappeared. There was nothing but white.
“Sam,” chanted some disembodied voices from the whiteness. It was a calm, sweet sound but with a multitude of voices singing in unison like a well-trained choir. It was as pleasant as the gentle whoosh of the ocean at eventide.
She answered, anticipating the voice. “Samuel Williams, the one at the hospital.”
She understood the meaning and allowed it all to slip away.
The Temporal Chapter Two by CJ Martin (Right click to download)
(If this is the first section you’ve heard, See the Prologue Podcast)
Sam’s new job would begin later in the month. This gave him time to find an apartment and, of course, time to explore Japan. The hotel concierge helped him order shinkansen—bullet train—tickets to Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. The return trip would be a scenic route back through the Hokuriku area in central Japan.
It was August, the time of the Obon festival when everyone traveled, the concierge warned. Sam was fine with that. He wasn’t in a particular hurry and thought it therapeutic to be around crowds of unfamiliar distractions.
The next morning at the station, with a little help from a kind and elderly gentleman and a kid eager to practice his English, he found the correct train and waited in a line that led him directly to his seat.
In the train, his mind wandered aimlessly in search of an anchor. At times it seemed he didn’t have the strength to stop it from latching on to his wife—his ex-wife. (He had a hard time accepting that simple change of title.)
The announcement music began, snapping him back to reality. A tinny, speaker-tainted voice announced the next stop in Japanese.
Two elementary school girls giggled at seeing “Fuji-san” for the first time. Sam closed his eyes and was back in his childhood. He and his classmates had climbed that active volcano several times.
Living in Shizuoka prefecture, it was his school’s yearly summer field trip. Well, the bus would drive them up to level four and they would hike to level five. This is how they “climbed” Mt. Fuji. Still, even this short hike was enough to exhaust the young Sam. The air was thin and with every step, it became thinner.
Thoughts of his classmate’s laughter and the tossing of volcanic rock at the crows gave way to fleeting images of recent events mixed with absurd abstract notions that seem so sensible to a half-asleep mind. This continued until the announcement music brought him back to the train and Osaka was just ahead.
He got off and did the touristy stuff, not really sure about his direction. He came across and boarded an English tour bus. He heard all about Osaka Castle and that big crab in mid-town Osaka. But his mind kept wandering Stateside. Self-pity engulfed his thoughts. Nothing could penetrate this shroud of darkness it seemed—not even the sharp pincers of that giant crab.
A day or two later, he boarded a train to get to Kyoto and found a hotel for the night. After that, it was Hiroshima, but it was no matter. His mind was ever sinking, and his spirit was crushed under the weight of failure and betrayal. No change of scenery reciprocated a change of mind. But onward he went.
Hokuriku was different. He took local trains stopping at every minor town. A business man in his forties sat next to him all the way through Fukui prefecture. Unusually bubbly and eager to strike up a conversation with a foreigner, the man provided a welcomed distraction from Sam’s melancholy. The man had been on a week-long business trip; a week away from his family. The businessman stepped off at Eiheiji in northern Fukui leaving Sam to contemplate the meaning of the word, “family.”
In short order, Sam got off the train at Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture. It was a typical August morning in Japan: humid with no healing breeze. He found an information desk at the station and asked for an English guide to the sights around Ishikawa.
He had been here once before. His parents took him to Kenrokuen—one of the three great gardens of Japan, he was told. As a child he glossed over the controlled natural beauty of the garden. At thirty-five, he would have another look.
A young girl, surely on her first summer job, took his money and handed him his ticket. It had a full color photo of the park in the winter just as he had remembered it. The snow covered rock gardens, stone bridge, and roped trees he saw as a child instructed him how beauty—and by extension, love—needed to be restrained and cultivated. But it was now a hot, eternal summer and the trees were left naked and free. This led his thoughts back to his wife; was he too controlling or not enough? He knew the trees were trying to teach him something, but he wasn’t sure what it was.
Following the instructions on the tourist guide, he took a bus to Noto Peninsula. Noto boldly sticks out the top of Ishikawa prefecture into the Sea of Japan. Sam wanted to be bold.
They stopped at a small building that served as a bus stop. The sounds and smell of an unseen beach were strong and nearby.
The Japanese characters on a paper pinned to a board caught his eye. He started to ask someone what it meant, but thought it better to leave the mystery intact for now. He began jotting down a rough representation of the kanji to look up later.
He only copied a single character when a clock chimed and distracted him. He heard it ring one, two, three… He knew it had to be ten o’clock, but he continued counting anyway… six, seven, eight…
Somewhere between nine and ten, time stopped. The earth, a hungry lion, groaned. There seemed to be a pause, a preamble to the inevitable, like the moment after an orchestra tunes the strings but before the performance begins—an overwhelming silence.
In a moment seemingly outside time, he relived his birth. He didn’t have time to think of the oddity of it. In fact, it seemed there was no time involved. It was more of a holistic feeling; not a thought or memory, but something he just understood instinctively. He experienced his mother’s mixture of extreme pain and joy, seemingly opposite feelings in perfect harmony.
Then the rubber band snapped.
All the pent-up energy imploded inside him. Time had no hold on him. Sam, for that one moment, seemed to float outside his body; see all things, hear all things. His senses were heightened and time slowed if it existed at all. A terrible sound; of trumpets; a thousand percussion; brass instruments; simultaneously striking a crescendo of vastly discorded notes. The sound waves were even visible to Sam’s eyes as they blasted him with extraordinary force into a newly formed cavity. The building next to him collapsed and showered him with debris and large chunks of earth.