Monday, August 2, 2010

Chapter One

There was a small marble shaped void hovering about six feet over Bartram Colby's driveway. It was on the right side of the drive, close to the fence, about halfway to the garage, and would have gone unnoticed if Bartram's back hadn't been aching. The wire-laced fence that divided the Colby property from the McKinney back yard sat on the edge of Bartram's driveway. It extended from the gate on the side of his house, along the walk next to his garage, up another twenty feet of lawn behind the garage to the back yard property limit. The entire back yard was fenced off in a rectangular shape, 70 feet long by 60 feet wide.

Bartram Colby was a reluctant retiree. He had spent 30 years as a devoted employee of General Motors and when the auto industry started having troubles, Bartram was given the choice to retire or be laid off. ("Recession? Hell, it's a full blown depression!" he bitched. "I'm not even fifty, and they want me to sit back in a rocking chair!") Retirement was the lesser of the two evils, so that is what he opted. He figured that while he collected his pension, he could find another job to fill his time. Unfortunately, the only place hiring was Wal-Marts, and there was 10,000 applicants for every opening. Finally, to fill his days, Bartram became fastidious about his back yard, keeping the lawn trimmed and free of weeds, edging the drive and walk, handclipping around the shrubs and fence. It was an excellent time killer for residents of Warren, Michigan.

On the last Sunday of May in 2011, Bartram had been scooching on his knees up his driveway, handclippers working away feverously at the blades of grass that dared to grow longer than three inches. He had started at the street and had worked his way into the back yard when his back stiffened from stooping. He stood up to stretch and allieviate the soreness. He closed his eyes tight as he arched backwards, shoulder blades nearyly touching. When he opened his eyes he saw it. He did not know what to make of it. It was a distortion in the air, sphere shaped, about an inch in diameter. He stepped up to the void to examine it closer. At first he thought it was a bubble of smoke because he could see through it to McKinney's garage. Yet it wasn't really smoke. It was a darkness.

Bartram circled around the void, careful not to get too close. He had an instinctual fear of it. He was not outright scared, he only felt as if he could be harmed if he touched it. Like fearing a caged wild beast. The potential danger is there, but not imminent. As he looked at it, he looked through it. The through view was right and wrong. As he faced towards the back side of McKinney's house, he knew that something was askew. He moved his head back and forth, detailing his neighbor's bedroom window, something was different between the true view and the view through the void. As he panned accross the window, he saw it. The curtains, as seen through the void, were slightly open. When he moved his head and stared straight at the window, he saw that the curtains were closed tight. Bartram nearly fell over backward at this discovery. His earlier fear heightened. The clippers fell from his hand and he made a wide arc around the void and ran to his side door. He hurried inside, went to his sliding back door and stared in the direction of the void. Try as he might, he could not detect the presence of the void from this distance.

He spent the next hour standing at the glass door trying to pinpoint where he seen the dark bubble. He finally gave up and went into the living room and turned on the television. Sitting in his Lazyboy Bartram stared at the tv not paying any attention to what he was watching. His mind kept its focus on the small void floating in his driveway. He tried to convince himself that what he had seen was not real, that it was a trick of his mind. He tried to believe he hadn't really seen the neighbor's curtains slightly ajar. Finally, he worked up the courage to go back for another look.

He stopped at his sliding back door and once again tried to find the floating void. He could see his handclippers laying on the drive. He tried to focus his view six feet above. Nothing. Perhaps it was gone. He slid the door open and walked over to the grass shears. He stooped down, more to be certain to clear the void than for retrieving the handclippers. He picked up the tool and stepped back before standing erect. He looked at the spot where he had last seen the shadow bubble. It was there but now it was almost black. The void was between him and the McKinney garage and he could not see the garage through it. As he circled it again towards the back of McKinney's house, it remained black until it was in direct line between him their bedroom. Through the void he saw that the curtains were wide open and their overhead light was on. When he stared directly at their window he saw the curtains still drawn shut. Through the void; curtains agape, lights on.

Bartram moved his eye closer to the floating dark sphere. He could see the entire back of McKinney's house. It was nighttime and the only room lit up was the bedroom. He backed up and was once again under the summer sun along with his neighbor's home. He took the grass scissors and hesitantly brought them up to the void. He gently touched the tip to the floating dark spot. The scissors gave him a small shock, more startling than painful, like a cell phone suddenly vibrating while you're holding it. He dropped the grassclippers again.

He took a moment to calm himself and gazed through the void again. He stared at the lit window waiting for movement. He wondered if he would see Jeanette McKinney in this warped view of her nighttime window. Nothing happened for around forty-five minutes and then Barton saw a shadow on the wall and the light went out. McKinney's house through the void was now dark.

Bartram backed off the floating bauble and directly studied the McKinney's house. He found Jeanette McKinney staring at him through her kitchen window. Washing dishes, he surmised. Then he realized how he must appear to her; standing in his driveway, stock still for almost an hour with his eyes focused on her bedroom window. How could he explain himself? He raised his hand and waved, smiling sheepishly. Jeanette returned the wave but did not include the smile. Bartram hurried back inside his home. He had quite a bit to ponder.