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Chapter One of A Temporal Trust

 

Chapter One

 

 

“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.

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The Temporal AND A Temporal Trust is FREE today at Amazon

41QhBJHPSFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_51ORtmd3BEL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-69,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Today only–you can get both books in the Temporal Series absolutely free.

The Temporal–Sam was ordinary. Then came the Echoes of Eternity, a mysterious Japanese woman, and the realization that he alone can stop a terrorist plot. Click to download.

A Temporal Trust–After stopping a terrorist plot to position a murderer as president, Sam Williams must come to grips with his newfound abilities. As one of the Temporal, his encounters with eternity give him both gifts and challenges to overcome. Click to download.

The Temporal is FREE and #7 in Amazon.com’s Superhero eBook Category

The Temporal is ranking #7 right now in Amazon’s Superhero category (for free eBooks).

kotoba-temp

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)

The Temporal and A Temporal Trust Book Covers

The Temporal and A Temporal Trust are now available at Amazon (and soon elsewhere).

two-temps1two-temps2

Originally, the redhead was the cover for book one (with a red background). I decided, however, The Temporal was more about Suteko and A Temporal Trust, about Kaileen. These covers are the result of much tweaking and experimentation over the course of the past year. Whew. I’m finally happy with them–I think.

Here is the first page from A Temporal Trust.

Chapter One

“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 closed his own eyes and 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. She was dressed for battle.

She was the bait.

The Temporal – a 327 Page Supernatural Thriller

A Temporal Trust – a 370 Page Supernatural Thriller

The Temporal “Sales Report” Now at #15 in Action & Adventure

I’m excited that The Temporal is still going strong. It is now #483 in the Free list (which again, is horrible compared to that one experience with Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter which quickly zoomed under 100 in the entire Amazon store!) and #15 in Action & Adventure.

 

 

A few days ago, I took The Temporal off Smashwords (which was still pending review for the Premium distribution), and BN.com (which was not selling at all) to test KDP with it. KDP Select allows authors to make their books free for up to five days every three months. The only bad thing is for three months I have to agree to not sell the ebook anywhere else.

That’s fine. If I can get a few reviews on Amazon, it will be worth it. So far 468 people have downloaded it. That is over about 28 hours. Again, not nearly as impressive as when Tanaka went free–I counted two seconds, refreshed, and saw another “sale”!  While I’m not getting that kind of response, one good side effect is, I’ve sold four, I think, Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughters since yesterday. I think the freebie is leading people to checkout my other work. I just wish I had more “other work”!

I had planned to make it free for just one day (yesterday), but it seemed to be gaining momentum last night so I decided to use the second free day for today. And overnight, it went from #30ish to #15 in Action & Adventure.

If you haven’t “bought” the FREE Temporal yet, please grab it today while it is still free.

Blog Announcement: The Temporal is Free on Amazon Today Only

The Temporal by yours truly is free today at Amazon.

It has been doing well–not as well as Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter the first day it went free (see the old post), but not bad either.

Still, if you have space on your Kindle, iPhone, iPad, Android device, PC, or Mac, please download it today while it is still free.

It would make me ever so happy.

It is currently #30 in Amazon’s Action & Adventure category. Do I hear a #29?

It’s free and as someone told me on Twitter this morning, who can resist a freebie?

The Temporal was $2.99 on sale for .99 (plus borrow for free) at Amazon

I had listed The Temporal for $2.99, but Amazon just price matched it against Smashwords, I guess. Now it is .99.

Oops.

But I don’t mind. If it means more people reading and buying it, I’m happier–even with less money coming in.

I have five “likes” but so far, no reviews. As you know, reviews make or break an author’s effort. If you are interested in reading the novel for free in exchange for an honest review, please contact me.

Of course, I’d love to get five star reviews, but I’m not going to ask for it. If the work can’t stand on its on, I may be wasting my time and it would be better to know sooner than later.

I’m feverishly working on Book two. I have about 17k words written, and today, I spent a few hours working on the cover for it. I’m hoping to be done with the first draft by the end of June. July and August will be spent in editing. I’ll post the cover as soon as I am done with it.

Hopefully by the time the second book is ready, I’ll get my first The Temporal review!

Hint! Hint!

The Temporal Book Trailer Video–What do you think?

Here is the exciting new book trailer for my new thriller: The Temporal (and at BN.com)

What do you think?

CJ Martin’s Podcast and How Authors can make a Podcast

Well, I had messed up the XML for the iTunes podcast. I’m doing everything by hand so the XML gets tricky in Notepad. It should be correct now.

I have eleven episodes now with two complete stories (George and the Elraton Gang and Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter). The one I’m currently going through is my 62,000 word novel, The Temporal.

Just for those wanting to know how to put up a podcast, here are the simple steps and a sample XML file that I use.

1) Create an audio file or video.

2) Make an XML file (see below)

2.b) Make a 300×300 image that will show up on iTunes (like the one I have to the left here)

3) Upload said XML, image, and Audio or Video files to a folder on your website’s server

4) Submit the XML file’s location to iTunes here: https://buy.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZFinance.woa/wa/publishPodcast

5) I also recommend signing up with Google’s free Feedburner service http://feedburner.google.com — this allows you to track subscribers and see how many people are actually listening. iTunes doesn’t give you any data and seeing the number of people notified when a new podcast is uploaded is always encouraging.

Here is a watereddown version of my XML file: Feel free to base your XML file off of mine. Just change the info, of course!

<?xml version=”1.0″?>
 
<rss xmlns:itunes=”http://www.itunes.com/DTDs/Podcast-1.0.dtd” version=”2.0″>

 <channel>
  <title>CJ Martin Books</title>
  <link>www.CJMartinBooks.com</link>
  <description>Mr. Martin is an author of thrillers</description>
  <language>en-us</language>
  <copyright>Kotoba Books 2012</copyright>
  <lastBuildDate>Sun, 12 May 2011 12:09:54 GMT</lastBuildDate>
  
<itunes:summary>Any story or novel written by CJ Martin that has been recorded will eventually find itself here in this podcast!</itunes:summary>
<itunes:category text=”Literature”/>
<itunes:category text=”Arts”/>
<itunes:keywords>thrillers,CJ Martin,ebooks,audio books,supernatural thrillers, japan, Japanese</itunes:keywords>
<itunes:owner> 
 <itunes:email>cj@kotobainc.com</itunes:email>
 <itunes:name>CJ Martin</itunes:name>
</itunes:owner>
<itunes:explicit>no</itunes:explicit>
<webMaster>cj@kotobabinc.com</webMaster>
  <ttl>1</ttl>
    <item>
   <title>Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter</title>
   <description>Part I – In search of his daughter</description>
   <pubDate>Wed, 12 May 2011 12:09:54 GMT</pubDate>
   <enclosure url=”http://www.japanesereaders.com/downloads/podcasts/Tanaka1.mp3” length=”740″ type=”audio/mpeg”/>
   <itunes:duration>12:20</itunes:duration>
   <itunes:keywords>thriller, tanaka, Japanese, Japan</itunes:keywords>
  </item> 
  </channel>
 </rss>

This is how it would look with only one MP3. To add your second, Just copy from <item> to </item> and paste it just under the first one.

The only thing tricky is what “length” means. I thought it was the file size in bytes so I was inputting crazy numbers like 985434422. But “length” means the number of seconds, the duration…

It takes a little work to start, but creating and adding to a podcast is a great and free way to advertise your stories and gain readership–or listenership.

While we are on the subject, please subscribe to my podcast on Feedburner or directly on iTunes. Thanks!

The Temporal, a Supernatural Thriller Podcast #4: Chapter Three

The Temporal Chapter Three by CJ Martin  (Right click to download)

(If this is the first section you’ve heard, start with the Prologue Podcast)

Here is Chapter three of The Temporal–an exciting new Supernatural Thriller by CJ Martin. This podcast is free, but you can also buy the ebook at Amazon or B&N for $2.99.

Chapter 3

Looking around, Sam thought he had to be in the States. The buildings up and down the street were American style with English lettering. But something was wrong. There was smoke, confusion, and a teary-eyed mother searching frantically for her child. An explosion. Screams. Some horn was blasting, building in volume and depth. Sam arched his neck in the direction of the sound. A creeping darkness encroached upon the periphery of his field of vision like an old-time photograph.

Something was terribly wrong.

Another explosion. More screams. A gaggle of people ran down the street toward him. In the distance, there was a ball of fire consuming everything in its path—as high as the sky, as wide as the buildings containing it. It grew larger heading—no, aiming—directly for Sam. His legs defied the command to move. He threw up his arms in a futile attempt to fire-proof his face.

Sam awoke with a gasp of air and labored breathing. He was in a hospital room, and through the half-curtained window, he could see it was a moonless night. A bathroom mirror light gave the room a subtle illumination—the kind that make shadows seem to be more than shadows.

He noticed there was an ancient night drawer opposite of the bathroom. The large sliding door to the room was closed. A thin, translucent bag in the trash can near the door twitched ever so slightly. There must be a draft, he thought. But then his eyes and ears made out a fan on the floor quietly circulating the air.

As his breathing returned to normal, he heard a voice to his left. A woman’s voice was speaking quickly and softly. He could only recognize scattered words here and there.

Ikanakereba naranai—I must go…”

He turned but saw nothing.

Another voice, this time of an older man, came from the direction of the window. Sam jerked his head quickly, adjusting his eyes to the darkness. He heard one word:

Shinu—die?”

Just then, the door cracked open, and he heard a third voice say, “Shitsurei shimasu.” The door slid open fully. A man very much visible walked in. The bathroom mixed its dim light with the bright hall and Sam could see it was a doctor.

“Ah, you are awake. We were very worried.”

The doctor flipped the light switch, illuminating the room and causing Sam to squint his eyes slightly.

“Doctor, wh… what’s going on? Where am I?”

“You were very lucky. Do you remember earthquake?”

Sam was unclear what happened at the beach, but, yes he nodded, it must have been an earthquake.

“It was shindo six—in the Richter scale, I don’t know, but it was big. We found you the next day. In fact, how do you say, the center of the earthquake was close where you were, maybe exactly where you were. A small hole opened under you and things fell over you. We had dogs and one of them found you.  There was some fear of tsunami but it’s okay now.”

The doctor smiled quite a bit. He was very pleased that his English was being put to such good use. It was fairly rare for the doctor to have a patient with whom he could practice his English. It was a small village and the tourists were usually healthy.

“Ah, pardon me. I am Doctor Watanabe. And more importantly, you seem to be in good shape. You have some bruised ribs and mild dehydration, but considering, you are in excellent health. I’m not sure why you were out so long—I didn’t find any evidence of head trauma. Just be sure to drink plenty of water.”

Next to a pitcher on the side table was an upside-down cup. The doctor flipped it over and poured Sam a drink.

Sam took the small cup and drained it in one gulp. For a few moments, he just looked at the empty cup unable to process what had happened.

“Are you all right?” The doctor’s smile changed to a concerned frown. “Do you have any pain?”

Sam shook his head and focused his eyes and mind on the current situation. The earthquake made sense; the voices did not.

“No. Arigatou. I’m fine. Doctor, are… are there other people in this room?”

Dr. Watanabe seemed puzzled at first, but quickly stooped under the bed and obligingly peeked in the closet.

“Nope. I believe we are alone.”

“I know this sounds crazy, but I heard a woman over there and an older man at the window just before you came in.”

The doctor’s big smile returned.

“I’m sure you heard a patient in the next room. This is an old hospital. The walls are quite thin. We Japanese have a saying, ‘The walls have ears and the paper walls have eyes.’ Better not tell any secrets here!”

With that he gave a big chuckle. He told Sam to get some rest and that he would be around in the morning. A nurse would be on hand if needed. Her English wasn’t great, he said, but better than the day nurse’s.

Sam, slightly reassured, smiled back. The doctor turned off the light, and as he slipped out, he pulled the door shut. “Shitsurei shimasu,” Sam heard muffled from the hallway.

Sam closed his eyes, half expecting to hear the previous conversation continue. It didn’t, and Sam soon drifted off into a deep and pleasant sleep.