Prologue

@copyright Jean G Hontz 2010

 

She wiped grease from her hands onto the nearest bit of cloth, which, sadly, happened to be her shirt. She used the back of her hand to brush away sweat that was forming on her brow and threatening to run down into her eyes. She then adjusted the goggles that sat on her nose and frowned in concentration.

After a moment she sat back and examined her accomplishment. She couldn’t help, nor did she want to, the sigh of satisfaction. She threw the switch and was rewarded with a soft susurration as the gears began to turn and mesh with other gears and parts began to move smoothly and perfectly. Almost silently. A smile brightened her otherwise plain face and gave it real beauty.

She scrambled to her feet to go find... That was when she heard it. It wasn't loud. Just the merest sort of popping sound. At first she thought it might be something wrong with the engine running at her feet. But then she heard it again, and she knew the sound was coming from the other room.

She turned and jumped when a sudden booming crack of thunder sounded. The floor itself lurched with the power of the lightning strike that came nearly immediately after the thunder. The rain drummed down on the tin roof, hiding any further sounds.

The lights blinked twice then went out altogether. the storm finally winning out over science. But she had a torch nearby. She was nervous and worried and fearful for some odd reason, so it took her more fumbling than normal to find it. She hit the switch to light it, and the room sprang back into view, a world of sharp shadows and softly lit angular shapes.

The rain suddenly ceased, going from almost a deafening roar to dead silence. She heard someone moving. Someone groaning? Geoffrey groaning? She picked up the lantern and hurried out of her workroom toward the main laboratory. She rounded the corner and saw him. Something dark was seeping from his head. His eyes met hers but... She started to race forward, her heart pounding.

A slight noise from behind her made her whirl. Thunder crashed and lightning, brilliant and cold and uncaring, flooded the room with light so bright she lost her vision for a moment. She barely caught a swift movement out of the corner of her eye. Then there were brilliant lights and shooting stars behind her eyes. Pain came immediately afterwards, as did unconsciousness.

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“Miss Crenshaw?” a voice asked.

She swam upwards toward the sound, from what seemed like the depths of some dark and silent cavern. Only the voice penetrated the stillness and the dark. The voice seemed to leave a trail behind it and she gladly latched onto it to find her way upwards.

“Miss Crenshaw?” the voice asked again.

No, a different voice, now. This time male. The last time had been female, hadn’t it? But she wasn't sure! She was frustrated and suddenly frightened. It was confusing and maddening. She couldn't see! She could barely hear! And she didn't seem to feel...

“Lie still, Miss. You’re fine. You're in hospital.”

That was when the smell of the place hit her. Chemicals, medicinal as well as the even harsher scents of powerful disinfectants. Thank God whoever was in charge believed in cleanliness!

Then suddenly lights hit against her eyelids and she cried out from the pain, the first sound she’d heard other than the mysterious voices.

“It’s all right,” the voice said. “You’re safe now. You've been gone for awhile now. Ah the lights. Let me shut the blinds.” She heard him move away and heard the sound of draperies being drawn. “Your eyes will adjust again to light. But we need to take it slowly. I see no reason why you should not recover completely.”

Her lips were dry and she used her tongue to try to wet them. She wanted to squint out from under her eyelashes but the light, though dimmer, was still too painful. And her head began to pound.

“My brother?” she asked. “Where is my brother?”

“I’m... I’m sorry to say, Miss Crenshaw, that he wasn't as lucky as you were. I’m afraid he’s dead.”

“What? How?” she asked, struggling to sit up, tears welling up at the thought. “It can't... He can’t!”

“I’m sorry, Miss Crenshaw. We’ll explain everything soon enough. Rest now. Nurse, give her another....” And with that she felt herself sinking back into the welcoming, unhurtful darkness and silence.

 

 

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