Thoughts That Go Bump In The Night

never-a-vacationAs my mother got older, she would retire each night earlier and earlier. She was not one to take naps, but strove valiantly to use every precious moment of her life in keeping active and doing good. An avid lifetime genealogist, she maintained a tremendous correspondence with thousands of people up until the day she entered the hospital a couple of weeks before she passed away.

Invariably, when one retires for the night earlier and earlier over the years – first at 9pm, then 8pm and finally 7pm – the waking hours also come earlier and earlier. Mother would find herself wide awake at 4am, then 3am, then 2am. And wouldn’t you know it? The same pattern has been developing in my life. My mind snaps awake too early now with a multitude of racing thoughts.

I call upon the Lord in prayer for relief, but lately have resigned myself to responding to what I believe are promptings of the spirit to write and to share. I don’t always know what the Lord wants me to write when I start, but the very act of letting my thoughts flow through my fingers brings feelings and ideas I believe are from the Lord. Such is the case this early morning hour.

Mansplaining Love and Romance

For the past few nights, my thoughts have turned to love. I’m not a young man, am happily married and wonder why such feelings would demand my attention at 2am. I think often during the day of the love of my Savior. My prayers each morning petition His presence in my walk through life. My prayers at night thank Him for His comfort and sweet influence each day.

These feelings of love are profound. Normally men aren’t very good at explaining love and I am no different. Men in our culture learn at a young age to be stoic and staid when it comes to such things as romance. Years of living with Carol, one of whose favorite stations is the Hallmark Channel, have introduced me to more shows about falling in love than any man should ever see.

Being married to a romance writer has enriched my life in ways I never thought possible. Even though I was raised with four sisters, I never understood just how strong the desire for romance is in a woman. Carol has demonstrated for me the idea that “happily ever after” is more than a fairy tale – it can be a reality. I’ve also learned of another type of romance – “happy for now.”

Happy For Now – a Daily Reality

Don’t think of “happy for now” as a lesser kind of love. Think of it as a daily goal, one that is achievable and desirable. It’s a skill I’ve noticed some women have – perhaps all women – that is not built-in to the male psyche, or at least not into mine. When I’m alone for extended periods of time, I’m a pretty miserable and irrational fellow. I do stupid things that I just can’t explain.

When I’m with Carol, even if only for a few hours in the evening after a long day at work, I am content to simply sit at Carol’s side either in front of the TV, watching yet another Hallmark show or side by side at our computers as we write or edit stories and essays. I can’t begin to describe the joy I feel when Carol asks me to read aloud to proof edit one of her latest chapters.

This woman can write. Her stories move me with empathy and compassion for her characters. My stories focus on action, adventure and danger, while Carol’s stories focus on the simple human experience of building a relationship. I confess I never thought about such things growing up. Based on my behavior, my sisters must have thought boys were pretty icky.

Conversations with the Lord

Where am I going with this? Stick with me for a minute and we’ll both find out. When I pray to my Heavenly Father each night, I often discover I am actually speaking with my Savior. This started a few years ago. At first I would catch myself and switch back to the more formal way in which I addressed Father. I would sense a smile from both my Father and my Savior as I did so.

I no longer try to make a distinction. I have discovered the Lord is happy to talk to me and has no qualms about guiding me in my thoughts as I pray. He doesn’t mind that I address him directly. We speak all day long anyway. Why should a kneeling prayer at night be any different? We talk about my work, about my worries and concerns and about the people with whom I interact daily.

Carol and I pray together morning and night. Well, morning prayers together are not as common because I’m often on the road before 7am to get to work on time. I am grateful for the lifelong habit of praying together each night as husband and wife. When asked if she would like to be the voice for our evening prayer, Carol always seems to be willing to let me lead out in our worship.

Sacred Moments as Husband and Wife

And worship it is. Feelings come into my heart when I pray with Carol that are significantly more profound than the feelings I experience when I pray on my own afterward. There is an added strength when praying together. A desire for unity enters my soul. Expressions that are tender and sweet escape my lips that I ordinarily don’t use in those personal, private prayers.

I was criticized a month or two ago by a reader who felt my discussion of married life with Carol was inappropriate. I conceded his point that if I shared something on my blog that caused Carol to feel uncomfortable then I probably should not share it. If this anonymous reader wants to take exception at this post, I am happy to hear what he has to say about his own experience in prayer.

There is a reason God said it is not good for man to be alone. Some men can do it, but I always had difficulties when Carol went away to visit family for sometimes weeks at a time. I would throw myself into my work and come home as late as possible to keep from feeling lonely. That’s another thing our culture frowns upon. If men get lonely, they go hang with the boys.

The Value of a Combined Effort

once-upon-a-timeI admit I’m different. If I am alone I would rather think, read, study, pray, ponder, write or otherwise do something with my mind on the computer that helps me interact with a large but unseen audience of readers. Creativity for me is best when Carol is around. I confess I try to outdo her in friendly competition, but when I’m alone, the creative muse seems to disappear.

Carol is my muse. I write for her, even though she has said she doesn’t care for my posts. I should listen to Carol more. Character development is where it’s at. Theories and ponderings on doctrine, commentaries on scripture which seem to generate endless arguments, or discussions, and explanations of the way I think things are, pale in comparison to building relationships.

I can just hear my women readers at this point… “Well, duh, of course relationships are the most important thing.” No seriously, men don’t naturally think that way, at least I don’t, or haven’t, until recently. It’s my observation most men love to write about things in a way that shows they have been thinking seriously about a subject and are now ready to tell the world how things are.

Spicing Up The End of the World

I’ve been working on an end-of-the-world type novel for over five years. It has been a very slow process. Some chapters are downright exciting. Others are still obvious first drafts. I set one goal this year or at least one goal I have shared publicly. I want to finish that novel. When I started writing fiction, it was at Carol’s request to join her in writing adventures. Our paths diverged.

I think the reason the Lord has been waking me up in the early morning hours is because that’s when He has my undivided attention. I’ve had just enough rest where, if I had to, I could write a few hours and still function normally during the day. These thoughts of love I’ve been feeling lately are causing me to ask the Lord seriously what He is trying to communicate. I think I know.

When Carol and I first talked about my novel, she got so excited about the possible romances that could blossom between the characters. My efforts to put some of those ideas into the story backfired. After all, this was a story of death and destruction. Who has time for romance? Well, the Lord has been telling me Carol was right. I need to try harder on the relationship aspect.

A Project to Strengthen a Marriage

Can writing a work of fiction together as husband and wife be fulfilling? I think so. I’m not sure how or when I’m going to carve out the time, but if the Lord is going to wake me up at 2am each morning until I pay attention, then perhaps He knows a whole lot more than I do about writing. Somehow, someway, He will help us work it out so we can get this book written … together.

I hope it’s not the Lord’s plan to continue waking me at 2am with ideas for the book, but if that’s what He has in mind, then I’m willing. I can give my drafts to Carol to edit and critique during the day, then edit them at night when I get home. You know what they say, “Don’t quit your day job.” I have no dreams of publishing a best seller. I just want to get this book out of my system.

They say everyone has a book in them, but they’ll never write themselves. Its hard work to write and edit, re-write and then re-write some more until a story really flows. I’ve completed enough chapters that I’m familiar with the process. If this is what the Lord wants me to do, then there must be a reason for it. I sure hope this isn’t beyond me with all I do each day at the airport.

But in the end, does anyone really say, “I wish I’d spent more time away from home on the job?”

Up On The Mesa

GrandMesa“They say there’s a special kind’a power up on the mesa,” Mark said in a heavy drawl while he warmed his hands at their poor excuse for a campfire.

Jonathan glanced at his new friend, a fellow traveler like him with no place to go. The thin wool blanket he’d pinched from a nearly cleaned-out hardware store was the only thing between him and freezing to death on this barren Colorado plain. He held his hands over the fire as the two men huddled close together. “What kind of power?”

“Don’t know.” Mark shrugged his thin shoulders. “Ain’t been up there yet.”

“Then how do you know?”

“Seen the lights. They ain’t comin’ from campfires.”

“Go on. You mean they’ve got electricity?” He hadn’t seen electricity since the big quake took the life of Connie, his wife of thirty years and flattened the hills of Santa Barbara.

“Don’t know. But it glows like ‘lectric power.”

“I haven’t seen cities with electricity in years.”

“What tribe you from?” Mark drew a thin windbreaker close around him.

“Santa Barbara,” Jonathan said.

Mark shook his head. “Whatcha doin’ all the way out here?”

“I’ve got a brother here–least I had one. The plague got him.”

“Too bad. You married?

Jonathan swallowed the lump in his throat. “My wife died in the big quake. I was at work. The house shook to pieces. I found her body in the kitchen, buried it in the back yard.”


His empty gut churned. “Two, but I don’t know what happened to them. My daughter was in San Francisco, my son in San Diego. I couldn’t get through the gangs in either city.”

“Tough break. How’d you get outta California?”

“Took a week to walk out.” He shuddered, seeing the destruction in his mind again.

“Been a while since the big quake. Whatcha been doing since?”

Jonathan bristled. “What is this, twenty-one questions?”

“Take it easy.” Mark held up his hands. “Just passing the time. I meant no offense, friend.”

He felt his back relax. It had been a long time since he trusted anybody he’d met on the road enough to talk to them about losing his family. “I’ve been wandering, keeping one step ahead of the gangs.”

The last gang had captured him, wrested his shotgun and Sig Sauer away from him. They didn’t find his Rocky Mountain knife or snub-nosed .38 strapped to his calves. Thank God. He wouldn’t have eaten without them.

Mark appeared thoughtful for a moment then sighed. “Hard to do. No matter where you’re from. They’re vicious.”

“How about you? Are you from around here?”

“Nah. Started out in Houston,” Mark said with a quick shake of his head. “Made it up to Kansas City, stayed there for a while.”

“Cedaredge is a long way from Kansas City.”

“Yeah. Friend ‘a mine said gangs won’t come up here.”

“That’s what I heard.” Jonathan leaned back against his backpack. “I’m tired of running for my life.”

“Walk all the way?”

“Every night. I had to stay off the main roads.”

“What’s left of them,” Mark huffed.

“That made it easier to find food. You know, in old farmhouses and such.”

“All alone?”

“Not at first. Everyone that walked with me from California voted to stay in Grand Junction. The city still has some semblance of law and order and not many gangs.”

“Funny, I didn’t see you there.”

“Lots of tribes staked out in different parts of the city. I tried to avoid most of them.”

“Yeah.” Mark got a faraway look in his eyes. “We pretty much kept to ourselves, too.”

“So why haven’t you gone up there yet?” Jonathan pointed toward the mesa with his chin. It was getting dark, but the prominence of the Grand Mesa was clear to see.

“Been thinking about it,” Mark said. “Gettin’ up the nerve I guess.”

“I hear they’ve got some sort of special protection.”

“Whaddya mean?”

“I don’t know. Someone said they saw aliens or something coming down from the planet when it got real close.”

Mark looked incredulous, snorted. “You believe in that stuff?”

Jonathan kicked at the burning log, sparks flew heavenward. “I don’t know what I believe any more.”

“Me neither. Nothin’s the same.”

Both men fell silent. The last pink glow of sunset faded behind them. With the sun rays gone, the glow from the top of the mesa reminded Jonathan of old Las Vegas before the dam collapsed. He pulled his blanket tighter around him.

Mark’s eyes were locked on the glow against the dark sky. “Look. There it is again.”

Both men stood on their feet.

“Ain’t that the darndest thing,” Mark said in an excited voice.

“I’m going up there,” Jonathan said. He had to know what was going on.

“What, now? Must be ten miles up the road.”

“I don’t care. I  want to know if the rumors are true.”

“You’ll freeze.”

“Maybe,” Jonathan said, his mind made up. “I’ll starve if I stay here. Are you coming with me?”

Long pause.

Mark frowned. “Why not? Got nothin to lose. Let’s go.”

The two men walked north in silence. They left Highway 65 a few hours later to pick their way through the sage brush and scraggly grasses.

“Hang on a second. I need to catch my breath,” Jonathan said, puffing hard because of the altitude.

“Yeah. It’s gonna to be a tough climb from here.”

A drop of sweat rolled down Jonathan’s back. “I swear it’s getting warmer.”

“And the glow is getting brighter.”

“Do you feel that?”

“Don’t know. Like what?”

“I can’t say. It just feels … different.”

“Yeah. I guess.” Mark shifted his weight.

“I feel … lighter, if you know what I mean.”

“’Spose so.”

“Let’s head for that bright spot. They’ve probably got food,” Jonathan said with more confidence than he felt. He was terribly hungry, couldn’t remember the last rabbit he’d caught and skinned.

“That’s a steep climb. You up for it?

“Yeah. I feel better. How about you?”

“It’s weird.” Mark scratched his head. “Like somethin’s drawing me up there.”

“It less than two miles up the Old Grand Mesa Road to the first reservoir,” Jonathan told his new friend. “I remember seeing it on a map back in Grand Junction.”

They trudged on. The road was steep, full of switchbacks. It was nearly midnight before they arrived at the reservoir. Mark paused, leaned over to catch his breath.

Jonathan rubbed his hands together, astonished they were no longer freezing. He paced forward a few more yards.

“Hey, get back down here.” Mark called out, frenzy in his voice. “There’s someone standin’ in the middle of the road up there.”

“I see him.” Jonathan reached down for his .38. It was still there. He hoped he didn’t have to use it. “It doesn’t look like he has a gun.”

“He’s looking right at us. I think he sees us.”

“Well, I don’t care. I’m starving. Let’s see what he’s doing here.”

“You’re crazy. He’ll shoot you for sure.”

“I don’t think so.” Jonathan felt only warmth and peace. “I swear it feels like he’s expecting us.”

“Go ahead. I’m stayin’ right here.” Mark crossed his arms over his chest, held his feet wide apart.

Jonathan marched the hundred yards separating them from the stranger.

“Hello, friend,” the stranger said before Jonathan reached him. He wore a long white robe open at the neck leaving his chest bare. Jonathan wondered if the man was cold without a coat. But he could have sworn the man and his robe glowed.

“Hello,” Jonathan said. “We didn’t expect to see anybody up here so late at night.”

The man smiled. “Why don’t you invite your partner to join us?”

“Do you have any food? We’re starving.”

“There’s plenty to share.” The man gestured down to Mark, “Come.”

Mark hesitantly hiked toward them. The stranger handed them both a simple loaf of bread from a cloth bag hanging at his side. They ate it quickly, thanked the man.

“Looks like you were waiting for us,” Mark said. “Did you know we were coming?”

“This is a common entry point to the mesa,” the man said. “We have watchers here every night, hoping …”

“Hoping for what?” Jonathan asked.

“Hoping more will be courageous like you. We hope more will come join us.”

“What?” Mark asked. “You got an army up here for protection?”

The man’s smile was kind, easy. “No army. At least not in the sense you mean it.”

“What then? We’re tired of running from the gangs.”

“The gangs won’t bother you up here.”

“I’ve heard they tried a couple times a few years back,” Jonathan said.

The man shook his head sending his longish hair swirling around his head. “Yes, it’s true. Those were sad days. So many troubled souls perished from their own foolishness.”

Mark shot Jonathan a quizzical glance. The stranger offered no additional details. That worried Jonathan.

“My name is Abraham,” the man said

“I’m Jonathan from California. This here is Mark. He’s from Texas.”

“Come. Let us go to the city. There is a place for you there.”

“What do you mean?” Mark asked. Abraham led them toward a nearby clump of trees.

He spoke over his shoulder. “There is work to do and plenty of food. You’ll have a warm place to stay. There is much to learn.”

“How far is the walk?” Jonathan asked, rubbing his sore thigh muscles.

“We have no need to walk. My vehicle will carry four comfortably.”

They entered the small grove of trees. Jonathan saw a car unlike any he had ever seen before. It looked like a cross between a DeLorean and a space shuttle from Star Trek.

“Where are the wheels?” Mark asked when he looked closer.

“Get in. You shall see we have no need for wheels.”

Gull wing doors opened when they approached, closed after they climbed inside and sat on comfortable leather seats.

Jonathan noted Mark’s eyes seemed big as saucers. Felt his probably looked the same.

Abraham waved his hands over some controls. The vehicle lifted silently, effortlessly.

Mark held tight to the straps beside him. “Who’s driving this thing?”

“I am. But it knows where we want to go. We’ll be there in a moment.”

The vehicle rose higher, sped through the air, headed toward the brightest area on the mesa. A glowing city opened up beneath the hovering craft.

Jonathan knew the city couldn’t be seen from below the mesa, but it was huge and teamed with life. It covered the finger of the mesa from side to side and for miles back.

Mark glanced at Jonathan. They both shook their heads in amazement, then turned away to stare out their windows. So this was the source of the green glow they saw from Cedaredge. The Mesa commanded a view of the surrounding countryside for miles around. They could see the campfires of Grand Junction fifteen miles to the northwest.

The vehicle came to rest without any noise or dust in a small clearing between pristine white buildings. Jonathan could see the entire mesa had been built with buildings in a uniform plan, with grassy areas every few blocks.

Every building seemed to glow. Some blue, some red, most were green.

“Why are the buildings of different colors?” Jonathan asked.

“The homes are green,” Abraham said. “Meeting halls are blue, work centers red.”

The gull-wing doors opened after they landed. Mark and Jonathan disembarked from the flying car. A small group of men, dressed in white robes similar to Abraham’s greeted them with benevolent smiles.

A tall man with short dark hair held out his hand. He glowed too. He smiled at Mark and Jonathan.

There was something about his face that looked familiar but Jonathan couldn’t place it.

“Welcome to Zion.”

Not Your Typical Disaster Fiction

“We’re going to crash,” the woman in the seat next to Manny said again. Her voice sounded like brakes squealing on asphalt. She wore a green flowered dress that reminded him of the American housewives of the 1950’s, her hair steel-wool gray. She held both arms straight out, elbows locked, a vice-grip on the sides of the seat in front of her. She’d been like that for the last five minutes, eyes closed, head down, weeping.

“Stop saying that, madam,” Manny said. He fought the urge to spew at the woman in his native Russian. “You’re getting on my nerves. The captain’s doing everything he can.” The flight from Salt Lake had been uneventful until they approached Denver. At 10,000 feet a cloud of red dust choked the engines into silence. An eerie blue glow surrounded the plane. The smell of burning ozone permeated the cabin.

The woman didn’t look up. Her lower lip quivered. She sobbed, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.” Even the flight attendants, who took their crash seats long ago, looked annoyed at her repeated prayer and irritating crying.

The plane jolted again. The passengers lurched forward. The woman screamed. So did several others. Manny gripped the leather case tighter to his chest. His life’s research. He looked once more through the window to the stricken engine. It sputtered, and then flamed out again.

With each sputter another lurch, then another, first one side, then the other. A coughing backfire of red dust mixed with blue flame. Some of the passengers had their phones out. The man across the aisle shouted into his phone. “I love you. Tell the kids I love them.”

A boy dressed all in black with a nose ring used his phone to shoot video, first out the window, then back to the terrified passengers. “This is so cool,” he said. The girl next to him, also dressed in black, slapped at him each time he said it.

The fields outside the Denver airport turned into runway much too fast. The woman next to Manny repeated her mantra—faster now. The strange blue glow that had surrounded the wings, which shimmered when they first hit the red dust, had now disappeared.

Another lurch. This time a whoosh and a roar. Manny turned to see the left engine catch. The woman’s chants stopped. She opened her eyes for the first time, popped her head up in the direction of the now firing engine. Her mouth opened, her breath caught on a whimper.

The engine on the other side of the plane sputtered then roared back to life. Some passengers cheered. Manny felt the plane level out. The tarmac rushed by not more than a dozen feet below. He saw the big white stripes which indicated the end of the runway. Too fast. There’s no way the captain would try to land now. Surely he’ll go around and try again.

“Brace, brace,” the captain said over the intercom. This is the first they heard from the cockpit since the power went out with the engine failure. The fine red dust still rushed by the windows of the plane. Manny put his head down, grabbed his legs with his hands. His arthritic fingers screamed in pain. “Please, please, let me live to get my research to the conference,” he said in a whispered voice to no one in particular.

The voice of a pastor in the seat behind them increased in volume. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Stupid fool. Too much talk about death.

Manny felt the jet slam down hard on the asphalt. It bounced. Screams erupted. The plane came back down—hard. The emergency lights flickered then failed. The sound of grinding steel drowned out the screams. “Oh shit,” the boy dressed in black said. “Not cool.”

Manny clung to his legs. His knuckles screamed while the plane continued to bounce. It slid for what seemed like an eternity; then came to an abrupt stop. The grinding noise ceased. The dim lights flickered back on. The smell of jet fuel surrounded them. Passengers popped upright, heads turned first one way then the other. He saw shock on some faces, happy surprise on others. Sounds of “thank god” floated in the stuffy air of the cabin.

The flight attendants jumped up, began to open the doors. They shouted to the passengers in the emergency isle to get the wing doors open. The woman next to Manny cried again, this time happy tears. He helped her to the wing exit and through. She clung to his arm the whole way through. The flight attendant told them to jump on the yellow chute and slide to the ground. Manny jumped, moved away from the chute and looked around.

Their jet landed in a ravine, a few yards below a service road. A red and yellow fireball rocked the landscape a short distance away. A private jet had also caught some of the red dust. It was not so lucky and crashed hard. Flames shot into the red-dust-filled sky. Manny’s heart filled with grief for the unfortunate passengers.

An old pickup screeched to a halt along the top of the ravine. A young man in blue jeans and sport coat climbed out. Manny clutched the worn leather briefcase to his chest, raced up the embankment toward him. The red dust that floated everywhere filled his lungs, choked him. He wheezed his way up the steep incline, age showing in his ancient joints.

“Can you take me to the terminal right now?” The young man stopped at the sound of Manny’s voice. He stared at him as though he’d sprouted horns.

He looked to be in his early thirties, and not all that successful, if he judged by the thread-bare sports coat, worn sneakers and much abused jeans. A CU logo adorned the back window of his truck. An educator he surmised. Yet he looked vaguely familiar.

“I’ve got to catch the flight to Washington D.C. right away,” Manny said. “I’ve got important information about this red dust.”

The young man didn’t move, just continued to stare at Manny. Finally he spoke. “Are you crazy? People are hurt down there. They need help.” His voice sounded familiar. Now Manny felt certain he’d seen him somewhere before.

Manny looked behind him then back at the man. “There’s no fire. Nobody’s seriously hurt. I must catch my connecting flight.”

The young man ignored him, turned then ran down the ravine toward the plane.

Manny walked to the man’s truck, opened the door. Damn. No keys. He looked up the road toward the terminal. He’d have to walk. He slid on his way back down the ravine.

He approached the captain who looked overwhelmed. Manny grabbed his arm. “Look,” he said, “my name’s Manny Volynski. Here’s my card. I just got off that plane. Fine bit of landing, if I do say, but I don’t have time to wait for the rescue crew. Gotta go.”

The captain stared at him the same way the young man had. Had everyone lost their minds? Manny turned and hurried up to the road, determined to get to the airport.

Why wouldn’t that young man give him a ride? There wasn’t anything he could do for the passengers of the plane. Emergency services were almost there. It bothered Manny that he couldn’t place where he’d seen the man from CU before. He racked his brain as he walked.

This red dust’s not a good thing. It came sooner than he calculated. He had to get to that science conference back East. Wait a minute. David. That’s right. That’s his name. He’s that university professor from Colorado who got him thrown out of last year’s conference. Arrogant educated fool. Thinks he knows everything.

The truck roared up behind him, screeched to a halt in front of him. David jumped out, grabbed Manny by the arm. “Where do you think you’re going?”

Manny tried to shake his hand off. “I just got off a plane that damn near crashed because of your stupid comet, which, my dear professor is not a comet at all. But we don’t have time to discuss that right now, do we?”

David dropped Manny’s arm like it burned him, took a step back.

“You told people on TV yesterday we’d have some beautiful sunsets for the next few weeks.” He waved his arm in the direction of the plane. “Is this your idea of a beautiful sunset? You didn’t seriously consider what the tail would do this close to earth, did you David?”

Manny recognized the momentary look of panic in David’s eyes. He nodded his head. “Maybe you believe me now? I tried to tell you about this last year.”

The young man’s mouth dropped open. He seemed to fight for control. “Get in the truck, old man. I promised the captain I would get you back. Although why he should be worried about one crazy old goat is beyond me.”

For a prize winning scientist, this guy seemed to have fallen off the honesty cart. “This red dust is from your comet. You know it is. Why didn’t you tell people the truth yesterday?”

David’s expression morphed from annoyance to shock then concern. He started back for the truck. “Do whatever the hell you want, old man. I need to get to my lab at the observatory.”

Manny jumped in front of the truck, pounded the hood with his fist. “Didn’t you hear me? It’s too late for that. We need to get to that conference–NOW. They’ll listen to you.”

David ignored him, opened the door.

Manny ran to the door, grabbed him by the lapels. “If you don’t come clean with what you know about that comet, a lot of people will die. They have a right to know.”

David’s eyes narrowed. He pushed Manny away. “It’s too late. There’s nothing we can do. Millions of people will die anyway. Now go away.”

Manny didn’t go away. He leaned closer. David backed against the doorframe of the truck. “What was your price, David?” Manny said. “A new observatory? A seat on the NSF board?” He patted the worn leather briefcase clutched under his arm. “I have the evidence right here. I’m taking it to that news reporter you were talking to yesterday. She’ll be interested.”

For a moment neither spoke. David scowled at Manny. “Are you threatening me, old man?” He didn’t get in the truck. He didn’t push Manny away. Their eyes remained locked, neither moved. A fresh dusting of the red powder fell around them.

Manny held out his hand and caught some of the powder, then waved it at David. “Robert Blackstone isn’t paying you enough to lie about what this stuff can do.” David’s eyes grew large at the mention of the name.

“You can help save lives. People will listen to you. But communications will be cut off in a few days. You know this. We’ve got to share this at the conference before it’s too late.”

David eyed Manny’s briefcase. He licked his lips. “We’d better get you to a safe place. Get in. I’ll take you to the terminal. We can talk.” Manny smiled as the truck began to move.

Copyright 2012 Tim Malone