Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Disconnect Part Three


Abraham Fulsom didn’t get to be a full-bird colonel by sitting on the sidelines. He made command decisions and stuck by them. He always made the correct decisions and the higher-ups in Army command (he didn’t think of them as ‘superiors’) almost always agreed. Half a garbled message had come through as the 423rd “Roadrunners” had passed Kansas City on their way back to Fort Carson. Fulsom decided they would stop and see what was going on.

At exit 204 on I-70, the transportation group’s very reliable convoy of vehicles suddenly rolled to a stop behind a line of civilian vehicles. Colonel Fulsom smiled at the thought of taking his soldiers into the college town to either help or assume command if need be from the local authorities. His soldiers were precise in their march into the park and sharp in their parade rest. Puffed up like the eagle he wore, Colonel Abraham Fulsom followed the police officer sent to escort him. His soldiers spread out to control the crowd.

Mayor Gerdes, Colonel Fulsom and FBI agent James Lavish were gathered around a picnic table in the park about fifty feet from the sphere waiting for Chief Goodby and Jimmy to give them the answer to the second riddle.

“Well?” The mayor’s arms were crossed and she was frowning.

Jimmy was looking at the notebook he’d been scribbling in and shrugged. “I don’t know. It sounds right, but I’m not sure.”

“You told me you had the answer, Cavanaugh,” Chief Goodby said. “What are you saying?”

“Look, the word is short, only three letters, but it sounds like one letter. Eye could be right; it fits with the two letters pronounced as one, double, single, forward and backward…. It all works. It even fits with the answer to the first riddle, ear, as another of the senses.” Jimmy tossed the notebook on the table. “I guess I just don’t know what to make of it. The answer is ‘eye’, I’m 95% sure.”

Agent Lavish picked up the notebook and flipped through it. “That would be my guess, too, Madam Mayor. We need to wait for another riddle/answer combo to determine if there’s a pattern in responses.”

Goodby looked at the mayor who was looking at Jimmy as he stared at the table.

“All bullshit aside,” she said, “what do you think? Is it good?”

He slid his hands over the rough wood of the tabletop. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s 95% good.”

“Do it, then,” she said. “Chief, you and Mr. Cavanaugh give the answer and see what happens. We should be ready to move the crowd away quickly and contain as much as we can.” She stood up then and looked towards the bandstand. “Thank you gentlemen,” she said and walked away. Lavish went with her.

“Let’s go Cavanaugh,” Goodby said. “Let’s find out if you’re any good at this.”

They were in front of the sphere again. “We’re ready to answer,” Jimmy said. The sphere showed the riddle again and flashed WHAT AM I? across its face. The crowd was stirring behind him as Jimmy said “An eye,” and the words on the sphere faded gradually.

Everyone watched. The people around Deirdre were shifting nervously. “Do you think it was the right answer?” she heard Shelly Ross behind her.

“I dunno,” a man answered.

“What happens if it wasn’t? Think it’ll kill us with a death ray or something?”

“You’ve played Destroy All Humans too much, Joe,” Shelly said.

The soldiers in the platoon on the west side were looking over their shoulders and saw Colonel Fulsom returned. “Rather be with my soldiers if something goes wrong,” he said. “Lieutenant Kerry, keep everyone on point.”

The sphere pulsed, swirled colors and shapes but went dark and silent, showing nothing. Its clock was black.

The mayor and Agent Lavish were watching intently, waiting for the response one way or the other. The crowd, now doubled in size, held its breath. The city was quiet.

Deirdre, a hundred yards from where Jimmy was standing heard his cell phone ring. The crowd murmured and shifted. The ring came again and they all saw Jimmy reach into his pants pocket and pull out the device. It rang again and he opened it, held it to his ear. Chief Goodby looked toward the mayor and Agent Lavish. Colonel Fulsom stood stock-still and watched Jimmy close his phone. He looked up at the sphere again and then at the chief of police.

Everyone who had a cell phone tried to use it, none worked. Not Deirdre’s, not Shelly Ross’, not Frank’s, not the mayor’s nor anyone else’s. There was angry buzzing amongst the onlookers aiming at Jimmy. The chief of police ran over to him. The soldiers braced themselves.

Chief Goodby looked at Jimmy. “What was it? What did they say?”

“A voice I haven’t heard in a long time, Chief. A friend who I haven’t heard from in --- god, I don’t know how long.” He shook with rage. “But there was no way it was her, it couldn’t have been.”

“Why not?”

Jimmy said, “Because she’s dead, Chief. She died a long, long time ago.” He clenched and unclenched his fists. “I was there. It’s not possible she just talked to me.”

“A recording, then?”

“Not possible.”

“Why does his cell work?” someone shouted from across the park. “Why doesn’t anyone else’s? Why’s he so special?” A general agreement of the anonymous assessment worked its way through the onlookers, the crowd beginning to turn into a mass of heat, frustration and anger.

“Someone needs to address this, Madam Mayor,” Agent Lavish said. “They need an answer that satisfies everyone.” Chief Goodby had Jimmy by the elbow walking quickly to the command post where Lavish and the mayor were watching. Lavish spoke to his watch, turned to look at the top of the courthouse and nodded. The mayor stomped away from the FBI agent across the green grass of the park towards the two oncoming men.

“What was that, Cavanaugh? Your phone working now?”

Jimmy tossed it to her. “You try it. I don’t want the damn thing.” He looked crushed and walked past her.

“What’s the matter with him?” she asked Goodby.

The crowd was getting restless, shouting and pushing. The 423rd Roadrunners, a transport group, were doing their best to keep them contained, but it was getting harder. People were looking for answers and weren’t willing to wait much longer. “Lieutenant Kerry,” Fulsom said. “Have your team unshoulder their weapons. Do not point them at any civilians. Do not alarm them, but keep them contained. Pass the word. I’m going to the command post. You’re in charge.”

“Yes, sir,” Kerry said.

“Did he get a riddle?”

“No, colonel,” Chief Goodby said. “He got a call from a ghost on a dead cell phone.”

“So this sphere is something supernatural?” the mayor asked.

“Everything has an explanation,” Agent Lavish said. “There’s nothing necessarily supernatural at play here.”

“Yes there is,” Jimmy said.

“How so?”

“The voice on the phone was someone who couldn’t possibly have been on that line. She --- I was there when she died. I also know one hundred percent that she never recorded her voice, so we’re dealing with something supernatural at the very least, and maybe supranatural if that’s not enough.” Jimmy was, pacing. He walked a circle around the colonel, the mayor, an agent of the FBI and the chief of police. He completed two circuits before he stopped next to the mayor and looked right at her. “There was a riddle.”

Everyone looked at him, waiting. The clock on the base had reset and was counting down 0:58. The crowd across the park was shifting, impatient. Fathers looked at sons, daughters, wives and made decisions for their family’s safety. Several were making their way out and back into the downtown streets. Once out of the crowd, they ran.

“Death rays, Shelly.”

“Shut up, Joe.” Shelly was watching the group of city leaders at their command post. “Just shut up, already.”

“Well?” the mayor asked. “What is it? We’ve only got an hour, what’s the riddle?”

“You’re not going to like it.”

Agent Lavish leaned in. “Tell us exactly what was said.”

“My phone rang. You saw me open it, but there was no number on the screen, no lights at all. I held it to my ear. I could hear sounds of a city, but there were screams and wails in the background. I could hear singing, too. There was a conversation, several conversations going on --- d’you remember party lines?”

They all nodded. Jimmy went on. “That’s what it sounded like, an old-fashioned party line. There was static and crackle, and then I heard her voice. ‘Jimmy? Jimmy, it’s Esme. I’m supposed to ask you a question. I miss you, I don’t know where I am, and – and I’m scared… Jimmy, what do I have in my pocket?’ and the line went dead.”

Disconnect concludes next week in Part 4!  CLICK HERE FOR THE CONCLUSION

©2009 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States

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