Six Hours

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First Hour

Rounding the high curve along the front beach access, I come upon it. There are perhaps fifty cars, stopped dead in traffic, more on the opposite side of the double yellow disappearing east. The occupants are abandoning them, running toward the water. There, the wind blows our bodies and our scattered thoughts while we sway like dazed birds, helpless to move, our eyes on the horizon. A smudge the color of tobacco streaks along the rim of the world, blending the flat white sky mocha like a watercolor landscape. The air whumpts and chops all around us with giant noise and metal as military helicopters buzz overhead and dart away toward the sun.

Second Hour

We can only stare. We wait for a signal from some authority to tell us what’s happening, that it’s a dream, a government exercise perhaps; the signal doesn’t come. Hundreds of people are arriving, drawn to the water’s edge only to collapse in the sand. My cell phone shakes. It’s my father’s voice calling my name - so far away - with long distance crackle and panic on the line. I can hear Mom in the background saying the picture is snowy - on all the news stations - and then there is a muffling sound and she is on, weeping softly “are – you - alright?” and the phone goes dead.

Third Hour

The helicopters shoot past and skim a few hundred yards offshore. They don’t venture toward the horizon anymore; the first ones that did vanished… simple as that. No explosion… no attack… just gone… as if absorbed by the air. The beach is now standing room only, the air heavy, humid and humming as we watch the spectacle. Along the horizon, long black cylinders rotate, smooth and seamless like cigar tubes, cylinders the size of aircraft carriers, hundreds of them, more. They sit silent, turning above the water.

Fourth Hour

The man next to me is sobbing. He whispers something inaudible. He stands in an open stance, his legs apart, a small pistol quivering in a two-handed grip, the front of his jeans wet. Along the darkened rim, the cylinders have doubled in size, magnified, rising up like sudden skyscrapers blotting out the sky. The sobbing man puts the gun to his head and I don’t stop him. Instead, I run.

Fifth Hour

The mind falters when overwhelmed. It staggers, protects… closes down. I wonder if I will ever be open again. I don’t know my own name. Some primordial instinct instructs me to burrow away… to hide in this expansive house nestled in along the dunes. Like a badger, I burrow deep in a dark downstairs closet, clawing under fallen wardrobe, unable to look past neither the drawn drapes nor the next ticking second.

Sixth Hour

They are upstairs. I can hear them ‘clicking’ across the floor. It is a sound I can’t describe. It is like music, a musty melody worming inside my head, slightly nauseating, pleasing. That could be a good thing, I whisper to no one… it can... it will. It is.

 

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Paul de Denus publishes excerpts from the novels he's never written. This was one of them.

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