Monday, November 5, 2007

Chapter 5 - Puzzle Pieces

June 6th, 2008
Ryan's Apartment

Shit. I'm late for class, was Ryan's first thought upon waking up the next morning. He sat upright on the couch, as the momentary panic that accompanies such an epiphany quickly reached its peak. Class started at 8:30. By the time I get there, it'll be over anyway. Looks like I'm gonna have to chalk that one up as a loss, he thought. Just as quickly, the panic faded as a sort of resigned relief washed over him. It was out of his hands now.

He chastised himself for not setting an alarm, and then remembered that his phone had borne the brunt of his nervous frustration the night before. Now free of his morning obligations, Ryan took his time getting ready for the day. He was rinsing the shampoo from his hair before he remembered fully the ordeal of the night before. He was more upset at the loss of his bookbag than anything else, and wondered if there was any hope of recovering it. This thought quickly gave way to the worry that the creature was still out there, hunting him. He exited the shower, got dressed, and gathered his things before sitting down to his computer.

As the computer booted up, Ryan pondered the situation. Something doesn't feel right about all of this. The thing that attacked me last night never asked for any money, never even said anything. Didn't seem to have much in the way of motor skills, either. Drunk? High? Looking to pick a fight? Not to mention there's been some weird stuff happening on campus lately, too.

Just then, the screen went blank and the entire apartment fell silent. A power outage left every appliance in the house without life.

"Come on!" he shouted in frustration. He decided to resume his sleuthing on campus, where hopefully a computer lab had a reliable connection. He had to risk a confrontation with the creature to find out more.

Walking to campus was a paranoid affair. Every few steps he paused to look around, listening intently for a sign of another attack. Mundane sounds like bike tires or idle cars seemed to hang in the humid air, each threatening to turn into the distinctive moan. It was with great relief that he opened the door to the Stewart Center unscathed. He made a beeline for the computer lab, pausing only to grab a copy of The Exponent.

Time seemed to drag on as the scripts for the campus computer terminal processed Ryan's requests to log in. He drummed his fingers on the desk nervously and thought c'mon, c'mon, faster, faster... before seeing the worried glances of the students sitting next to him. He forced himself to sit patiently. As he waited for Windows to start, he flipped through the student paper for any notice of a pedestrian injury near Wood St. There was no mention of any accident of any kind.

He opened Firefox and searched the Purdue website for any indication of any abnormal news. Hillenbrand, he noted, had a last-minute cancellation of a conference. This was the same conference that was supposed to be occupying Jenny's building, which meant that she would probably have an empty building for the time being.

The paper offered no more insight. The graduate student mentioned yesterday was still missing. A construction injury. More visitors to the student health center. He also noticed that more record hot weather had been predicted.

he thought more power outages at the apartment. Just what I need right now.

A small icon popped up at the bottom right of his screen. He had several new messages. Opening up his e-mail inbox, he quickly skimmed over the messages. One came directly from Purdue Physical Facilities. Ryan knew it was fairly common for construction work to take place during the summer, as less students would be affected. Most students who stayed over the summer received these messages informing them of road closings, building services shut down, or other problems.

This particular message was a simple warning of a two lane road near Mackey being reduced to one lane starting next week until July. Playing a hunch, Ryan followed the link at the end of the message to the Facilities website. There he found a link there to a webcam that showed the progress of a new parking garage being built. He searched through the archives for a clip of the basement level that was under construction, dated last night.

There, on the screen, was a shadowy figure with an unmistakable gait.

The same gait, the same silhouette of the attacking figure from last night. He couldn't believe his eyes. It all made more sense now - the news, the "accidents", the strange beings on campus.

Fighting back a panic, he calmly logged off of his computer and resisted the urge to sprint for home. He stood up, pushed in his chair and briskly walked out of the room. As he left the Stewart Center, he took one last look of the students in the computer lab, unaware of the danger that now loomed large over Purdue. Run! he mentally urged them. Flee for your lives!

Ryan jogged back to his apartment nervously. He desperately hoped he was wrong, but the evidence was staring him right in the face. With his options dwindling and knowing full well every minute counted, he pulled his cellphone from his pocket.

Damn. Not much charge left, he noted. He dialed the number for Eric, and waited impatiently for him to pick up.

"Hello?" Eric answered.

"Beard - there's not much time, so listen carefully. Initiate the Emergency Zed Plan."

Current Word Count: 6,195


  1. Future Ryan mentally refers to his assailant as "creature" or "thing" even when he's still thinking it's some drunk acting weird and doesn't yet have any reason to believe it wasn't human. It's kind of jarring.

    I can only assume Emergency Zed Plan was imported from Britain. Good call, because Zed does sound cooler than Z.

    I would make fun of Future Ryan and Future Eric for having prepared a plan in advance for this eventuality, but seeing as how I do have a certain book by Max Brooks on my bookshelf, I guess I'm in no position to do so.

  2. Oooh, good point Paul. Hadn't even thought of that. Perhaps I will alter that if/when I go back and edit this novel more in Dec.

    I have that book myself, as well as a borrowed copy of WWZ. Both are a large influence, as well as great reads.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter/edition!

  4. Benji

    I'm so glad! The last line was something I've had in my head since I got the idea to write this, and if nothing else I enjoyed bringing it to fruition.

  5. Most of my faults are minor, or mentioned by Paul... you do say "There he found a link there to a webcam that showed the progress of a new parking garage being built." which gave me a moments pause, but other than that, I'm liking I slooowly catch up.