The Rapture: A Sci-Fi Novel

BOOK: The Rapture: A Sci-Fi Novel
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The Rapture

A Novel

Nicholas Erik

Watchfire Press

Copyright © 2013 Nicholas Erik. All rights reserved.

Published by Watchfire Press.

This book is a work of fiction. Similarities to actual events, places, persons or other entities is coincidental.

Watchfire Press

P.O. Box 9056

Morristown, NJ 07963

www.watchfirepress.com

www.nicholaserik.com

Cover design by Kit Foster

www.kitfosterdesign.com

The Rapture/Nicholas Erik. – 1st ed.

Print ISBN: 978-1-940708-18-8

e-ISBN: 978-1-940708-16-4

Novels From Nicholas Erik

The Rapture

The Last Dreamer

Vanishing Midnight

Island Daze

The Singularity Conspiracy Trilogy

Shadow Memories (Book 1)

Shadow Space (Book 2)

Shadow Sunset (Book 3)

The Singularity Conspiracy Omnibus (Books 1, 2 & 3)

The Astonishing Adventures of Kip Keene

The Emerald Elephant (Book 1)

The Ruby Rattlesnake (Book 2)

The Silver Songbird (Book 3)

The Diamond Dragon (Book 4)

The Jade Jaguar (Book 5)

Remants of the Fall

Ashes (Book 1)

Ruins (Book 2)

Remants (Book 3)

Remants of the Fall Omnibus (Books 1, 2 & 3)

Turn to the back of this book for details on how you can get three full-length novels for free.

PROLOGUE

A Loop

This is how
it always ends, always will end.

I stand at the diner’s window, on the outside looking in, a single muzzle flash illuminating the ‘50s-era interior. I meet her eyes, brown, endless eyes that you could get lost in, drown in if you’re not careful.

And they pull me down with them, all the way to the floor, our gazes locked together until the moment that they aren’t, until her light goes out and her body crumples to the floor.

Crimson droplets splatter against the glass, like wayward paint on a canvas, and my shoulder dips against the squeaky door, a familiar chime playing as I rush in.

But it’s too late—it’s always too late, always will be too late. Just like every other time, she’s gone before she hits the ground, not part of this world, or another, no longer tethered to anything. She no longer exists—her body’s all that’s left, shrouded in the leather jacket that softens her fall, but can’t protect her from the .45 ripping through her chest.

I never notice the man who does it, even though I know he’s there, know who he is by the sound of his gasp. I can hear him struggle to the floor, die on the ground.

But that, it doesn’t matter; I’ve tried to kill him in the past, tried to change this endless loop, but it never works. The powers that be, they’re always one step ahead.

And so, here I am again, cradling Kristine’s shining hair in my arms, rubbing the blood from her face, and I’m crying.

That, at least, is different.

I’ve never cried before. But that’s the last thought I get in before the world opens up on me, and I’m brought back five years prior, back to where it all begins.

1

Canyon Killing

I figure that
death is like being real tired, when you just can’t keep your eyes open any more. I should ask someone, right before the end. But then, I might get to experience it yet—if I’m lucky, and this loop ever stops.

It always starts at the same place: where I crossed my former employer, when they decided to deal with me in a special kind of way.

I’ve been here three times, now—four, if you count the first fateful visit—and it’s always the same. The five years, I live them all, knowing what awaits at the end. There are only a couple events worth recounting, one at the beginning, the others all jammed at the back.

The rest is just time in solitary, stuck in stasis, meant to drive a man insane. I haven’t aged a day, and I wonder if this endless loop can keep me alive forever. One day, though, I know that my mind will break, and I will succumb to darkness, or hell, or whatever fate awaits those who go insane.

This is where it
really
starts: when I’m reminded about what I did five years ago, just when I start to believe that the loop might end. I think that maybe Davey will be late, maybe his truck will break down, or maybe he’ll hit a coyote on the way over.

But then he pulls in, and that thought is gone, snuffed out.

Maybe I’ve already broke; maybe this endless record on repeat is a product of insanity. They say the insane don’t know they’ve punched a ticket to the asylum—so maybe I just keep reliving the same five years as a coping mechanism, hoping that it will be different, not so that I can change the Syndicate’s harsh sentence. All so I can hold her again, keep her alive.

But I know that this is all real, because the pain, the searing pain, it’s always real. It’s too harsh to be the product of anything but reality.

And it starts now, a slow burn into a brushfire.

Moonlight shines off the Camaro’s hood as the visitor struggles with the oil. The small road is abandoned. Hands slick, he drops the metal rod into the desert brush. Whispered curses fall from his lips; he’s scared to speak louder, lest he disrupt his tranquil surroundings.

The glow of our headlights force him to throw his arm over his eyes. He waves his hands, a little slow, perhaps unsure if he needs help. The truck eases up alongside the sports car and Davey, tall and lanky, steps down into the midnight dust. Blinded by the glare of the halogens, the visitor can’t see a damn thing.

Davey, boots stamping the dust, is genial as anything. Don’t know why—our job is to capture the fugitives, send them back. That’s it. No chit-chat required.

“What seems to be the problem here, friend?”

“Oil’s shot to hell,” the visitor says, straining to make out Davey’s figure.

“I can fix that.” Davey hops into the truck’s bed and sifts his hands through the strongbox. Come on; let’s get this over with. “You from around here?”

“Nope,” the visitor says, waiting for Davey to return. Davey scratches his face, thin frame silhouetted by the glow of the moon.

And then, as the story always goes, Davey cuts down this man in the middle of an empty canyon with a single gun blast. Kills the boy right there, so the last thought that ever fired through the visitor’s head was about the Camaro’s oil, nothing grand or even worth noting.

The Camaro screams off, as if jolted to life by the gunfire. We shoot, but it keeps going, until it’s a blip. Poor kid didn’t even need oil, by the looks of it.

Then we dig a hole in the ground, put the kid in, and that’s it. But reality is real funny sometimes, and what you think is the truth turns out to be just an illusion. Because that wasn’t it, because we got sloppy.

Right as we drive off, I remember those eyes, hiding behind the wheel. The moon glinting in the girl’s eyes as she tore away.

And that’s where this all begins, and that’s why they send me back here, even though the real screw-ups happen at the end: because they know how much it hurts, looking into those goddamn eyes.

Someone once said they’re the window to the soul, and they weren’t wrong, just off by a bit; no, they
are
the goddamn soul, far as I’m concerned, and Kristine’s, they found mine. Forever.

2

Five Years Gone

The next five
years pass in a whirlwind. That is, if a whirlwind were slower than an old man who pisses himself as he staggers along with a walker.

But there’s not much to say about them, except that they happen. I still think about that girl in the canyon, her eyes, but they haven’t come back and screwed my life up six ways to Yuma yet.

“That was bad, man,” Davey says, “never should have agreed to leaving. I miss it.” Like we had a choice. The Syndicate doesn’t offer walking papers—but they did to us. We should consider that lucky.

It’s the first time I’ve seen Davey in five years. We keep our distance, given the events.

When the cops found that son of a bitch’s car, it created a hell of a stir around these parts. You see, in a town of a thousand—maybe less, if it’s been a bad year—there isn’t much going on that holds people’s interest. And despite what others may think—Riverton’s got some Wild West roots—there hadn’t been a killing here since the gold rush more than 125 years back.

None that they knew about, anyway.

Coyote Canyon is where they found the poor asshole. Not much goes on around here, but that doesn’t mean no one’s doing things they shouldn’t. When you need to be unseen, Coyote Canyon is where you’ll wind up—everyone knows it, and even the Sheriff avoids checking down there. But he had to come down when they told him this outsider was buried out there. It happened right quick, too—within a day. The girl, she must’ve tipped them off to the circumstances.

I hadn’t thought about it in five years—not until an unwelcome message made its way into my inbox, courtesy of a mysterious friend.

A minute and thirty-six seconds of footage, all grainy, of the kid being snuffed out. It’s got to be from the girl—Kristine, I remind myself; sometimes I have trouble remembering the details, the events, but the emotions, they never dull. No, they’re polished like fine silver before company that will never come—or, in my case, stomp on your heart.

LET’S FIND THE TRUTH the accompanying message reads, as if I’m some sort of private investigator who would take a shine to this shitbird’s unfortunate demise.

Which I’m not.

This is concerning, that she’s contacting me. Could go fishing for things that don’t need to be dredged up. Syndicate business. That won’t be good for me, for Davey, or for anyone.

“You see this, man,” I say, playing the video for Davey, hot sun boiling overhead, “how’d they know?”

“There was a girl,” he says, and there always is. He saw her too. Maybe that’s why we both missed; we wanted to miss.

“If only that bitch and Casanova hadn’t hijacked that transport, man,” I say, kicking the dust beneath my feet.

“It’s done.”

“Maybe they can give us access, allow us to fix it.”

“The Erasers? They’re liable to send them after us.” I look at Davey, and he just shrugs. Us Coyotes weren’t that high up on the Syndicate’s ladder—and that was when we worked for them. “It was a disaster though,” Davey says. “He didn’t have to die.” Our guns were just for contingencies, even if we’d used them more than enough in the past. I suppose that night in Coyote Canyon, five years back, this predilection caught up with us.

Davey drives off in a cloud of chalky dust, and I’m left with my thoughts. I need to do something about the video; I pull on my memory, but I never know where it will lead, just that my emotions tug me places, like a dog on a leash.

I walk back into the Lucky Lady and ring up Jasper Monk.

I sling back a whiskey on the rocks. It’s six in the afternoon; he should be up by now, after sleeping off last night’s binge at the El Dorado.

“Hey,” he says, like I woke him up.

“You got to get your ass in gear here, man,” I say, “the day’s almost kicked and you’re still stroking your damn dick under the covers.”

“Yeah, and now you’re hearing my sweet, sweet voice. Hard yet?”

“Doubtful,” I say, clinking the glass against the edge of the countertop, over, over and over again, “listen, your pops was investigating that kid down in the canyon, right?” Maybe he left behind some piece of information that will lead me to the girl.

“Yeah, right until he went at it a little too rough with Candice.” Jasper doesn’t miss a beat; everyone knows about the kid in the canyon, like it’s the name of a hit song, or something. “The examiner said his heart exploded, the old dog.”

“That’s great, a real touching story.”

“Hey asshole, that’s my old man we’re talking about.”

“I just need to know if the cocaine snorting prick knew how the kid died.”

“Everyone knows he took a bullet—”

“I meant how it went down, and…”

“You getting at something?”

Jasper doesn’t know; he doesn’t know anything. But someone does, this girl knows, and I need to figure out where she plans to go next. I glance at the clock; it’s only a few hours before I have to be back, get ready for tonight’s activities.

“I’m coming to you,” I say.

“I guess that means I have to shower.”

I hang up and see a new message.

I’M STILL HERE, MR. MITCHELL

Yeah, this situation calls for some further inquiries.

3

Mistakes

Just a slip
of the finger. A couple millimeters and everything changes. They call it the butterfly effect, I think: how small things ripple out, bring a storm’s worth of consequences.

But I just call that life.

Davey said his finger slipped. When unauthorized people came in, we were just supposed to find them and ship them back. That was protocol: send them back, let the people on the other end handle it. Otherwise it messes with the whole deal. Arrangements have to be made for time travel—it’s all technical, and deals with quantum physics and other things I can’t pronounce.

We were just the people who handled logistics on our end—like ferrymen on the Styx. Hence the Coyote nickname; we got people who didn’t want to be where they were to more hospitable climes. I’m not sure how the temporal end works, but the gist is this: when you time travel, if you don’t do it right, you screw everything up. Because everything exists at once—the past, present—and it’s all in equilibrium, balanced on a precarious fulcrum. What you or I might call the future—twenty years ahead—is just the present; where I’m at, we’re behind the times. That’s as far as the tape goes: the rest of time is blank until we fill it.

You dick with the reel, though, and you get reverberations, problems. You ever wonder why God took someone so soon? It wasn’t God, or fate, or anything else; it was physics. Mass can’t be destroyed or created; it can only change forms. Bring duplicate masses in and you’ve got a problem that even Newton’d be screaming about.

We got canned after that night, because we let the bitch get away. That much was clear, because a girl the same height, same weight, kicked it in town not three days later. She was a real gutter slut, but it was sloppy. The Syndicate doesn’t do sloppy.

You get three days to sort it all out, the redundancies. Don’t ask me why this is the case, just ask the creator of the universe, or whatever asshole puppet master is running this calamity.

But me and Davey, we didn’t mess up the fabric of reality that night—at least not
too
bad—unless you count the fabric of our own reality. We got lucky, too—most ex-Coyotes just get Erased.

We ferried fugitives between time zones. Don’t ask me how they figured it out, but it didn’t seem to involve any fancy lights or crazy machines. The people, they just showed up in a transport, one that looked like a regular van, only it floated, and that was it: delivered straight from another time.

But sometimes you got these crazy Rapture bastards, religious loonies. And they’d pop through every now and again, try to mess with the discovery of time travel—amongst other things on the continuum. So it was risky, being a Coyote, shuttling people—almost all bad people—across time’s borders and endless crags. But hey, it paid good, and it was an interesting gig.

Except when Davey’s trigger finger slipped a couple millimeters too far, and we had a mess on our hands. But he didn’t tell me about the girl, and I didn’t tell him, either.

The girl—it’s always about a girl.

BOOK: The Rapture: A Sci-Fi Novel
9.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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