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Authors: Glen Krisch

Arkadium Rising (6 page)

BOOK: Arkadium Rising
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3.

 

Jason couldn't hear himself think for all of the rushing water. But he was free. With the commotion and excitement of the explosion, Marcus and his followers seemed to have forgotten about him. They were leaning over the edge of the hill, gaping at the unfolding destruction. Jason slinked away to his car, hopped inside, and locked the door.

Delaney saw him and grabbed Marcus's arm to get his attention.

Jason turned the ignition, and with all the noise, didn't know if the engine engaged until he shifted into reverse. Marcus frantically waved his arms, trying to get Jason to stop. Whipping the car through a semicircle, he shifted and recklessly gunned the engine down the winding road.

By the time he closed on the tree where he'd left the boy, the raging water hit the Accord's tires, creeping as high as the rims. He lost control of the car when he stomped on the brakes. He went sliding across the road before slamming to a stop when he hit the curb.

He kept the engine running as he hurried out into the rising water. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw a huge surge of water falling from the uppermost part of the dam where the explosion had sheared away a large section of concrete. He hoped the rest would hold long enough for him to find the boy and get out of here.

He didn't see the boy right away and was about to call out his name, but suddenly realized he'd never introduced himself.

"Hello? Are you there?" he shouted, looking up into the tree branches. Water splashed his shins and would soon reach his knees. He slogged through it, trying to spot the boy among the branches. The boy was gone.

Must've run when he heard the explosion
, Jason thought.

"Hello? If you can hear me, we have to get out of here!"

Jason scanned the neighboring yards and the living room windows of nearby houses, but the boy had disappeared.

Damn it!

He wished the boy the best and ran back to his car. By the time he reached his Accord, water had already flooded the passenger compartment and killed the engine. He tried to start it again, but it was no good. His one means of escape was gone.

He estimated the distance to the hills. At least half a mile. When he was in his best running shape in high school, he would've been able to cover that half mile in under two minutes. But the rising water was knee high, and he wasn't in the shape he had been ten years ago.

A tremendous splash forced his attention back to the dam. Most of the dam had come crashing down like an enormous felled tree, making his plight infinitely more complicated. The splash sent a ten-foot wave down Main Street Concord, directly at Jason.

Not in any position to be choosey, he ran for the nearest house. He tried the front door, found it luckily unlocked. Water immediately flowed into the house, an uninvited guest bent on destruction.

"Jason!" someone shouted over the chaotic rush of water.

Jason was shocked to see Marcus leaning from the window of a jacked-up Chevy truck with monster wheels. It was the kind of truck that came with a hunting dog on the passenger seat and a gun rack over the rear window. The water hadn't yet touched its belly. He was urgently waving him over.

"It's not too late! Come with me and I'll save you!"

"Go to hell, Marcus. You'll be happy there."

Jason didn't know how high the water would get, but he left Marcus waiting in the street. He wasn't about to put his fate in his brother's hands.

The giant wave crashed into his back, throwing him farther inside. The wave diminished as it reached out to touch every floor surface of the house. Jason regained his feet and immediately saw the people who lived there. A married couple and a teenaged girl. Face down. Hogtied with rope and gagged with duct tape, their pleading eyes their only means to ask for help as they struggled against the onslaught of water. The water washed over them, lapping over their faces, covering them. Burying them.

Jason ran over and lifted the woman's face above the water. When he freed her mouth of tape, she choked out a mouthful of water, then screamed, "My daughter, Gabby! Where's Gabby? Gabby!"

He looked around the living room, the quickly rising water moving from his mid-thigh to his waist. Even with adrenaline pulsing through his system, the cool spring water was quickly sapping his energy. He saw a family portrait on the wall next to the T.V., the little girl's blue eyes, the mother's smiling face, the husband's eyebrows perked up, on the verge of laughter. Nothing more. Nothing living. The woman slipped from Jason's grasp as another huge wave pushed into the house. The husband was no longer visible. The girl's white shirt bobbed near the surface of the dirty waves, for only a moment, then was gone.

Jason felt a tug on his shoulder as the water reached his armpits. He turned, seeing Marcus's frantic face. "Come on! Get moving!" His younger brother manhandled him to the stairs. "Look what you've done. You're going to ruin everything!"

Marcus shoved Jason higher until they reached the upper landing. They entered a bedroom. Flowery pink wallpaper... stuffed animals... water spilling across the carpet as it breached the second floor...

"Let's go, over there, out the window."

Jason noted Marcus's still-confident smile as he forced the window screen and climbed out to the overhanging roof just outside. Jason was starting to shiver and his thoughts were jumbled. The grit of the roof shingles scraped his palms as he followed Marcus out the window. Marcus grabbed him under the arm and forced him to the roof's peak.

Jason sat for a long time, fully expecting the water to reach the roofline and higher still, until it swept them away. But the water leveled off at some point, and the sun warmed his clothes and unclouded his brain.

"You... you destroyed the town. Everything's just... gone."

Marcus sat close to him, looking out as the water pushed by, debris flailing in the violent current.

"And pretty much without a hitch, thank you very much. All except for your meddling."

"All of that water... the Black Hawk never held so much water."

"It did before man's interference. Dams upon dams for hundreds of miles have enslaved these waters, and we freed them one after another."

"You won't get away with this."

"Oh, but we already have. This little flood is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. There are a thousand bigger events happening at this very moment around the world, all carried out by a thousand branches of the Arkadium; fires engulfing whole cities, explosions ripping apart transportation networks, floods like our very own washing away the filth of humanity. Every one of them synchronized to simultaneously destroy modern man's stranglehold on nature."

Marcus had gone mad; Jason could see it in his eyes. Once and for all his brother had fully committed to his madness, throwing away all pretense of dabbling at his destiny. There was no way Jason could believe otherwise, no way he could possibly wrap his mind around what Marcus insisted about the fate of the rest of the world.

"You're crazy, Marcus. You know that, don't you?" He wanted to shake him, shake him until the fillings dislodged from his teeth. Jason's fists tighten at his sides.

"Remember when we were kids..." Marcus said as he checked to make sure his cell phone still worked. His eyes gleamed with happiness as he turned his gaze to the water. "The best day of the year wasn't Christmas, but the 4th of July. There was always a noontime picnic, then baseball until it was too dark to see, and chasing lightning bugs all over the neighborhood, property boundaries meaningless. And when it was full-on dark, the sky blazing with a trillion stars in all colors of the rainbow."

"Jesus... how did those people ever follow someone like you?"

"I'm a great leader. It's true. Adam, the leader of the Arkadium, glimpsed my talent, got me clean, helped me find the right path."

"You, a leader? More like a mass-murderer." Jason thought about the people he'd left behind downstairs. With dozens of homes in Concord, there could be hundreds of people bound, dead and dying just within the surrounding blocks.

"Look around, brother. This is my doing," Marcus said and checked his cell phone again. "One minute."

"One minute until what?"

Marcus said nothing, but he stood and braced himself against the canting of the roof, raising his hands high above his head as if awaiting the clouds to fall on him like cotton candy.

"What are you doing?"

"Look! What perfect timing." Marcus pointed toward the horizon. A passenger jet arced into view, trailing a white vapor trail across a perfect patch of blue. "I bet that's a flight heading for Chicago."

Jason stood, his legs shaking.

"Just watch. Bear witness with me. It's just like the best day of the year, but better. It's the best day ever. The best day of all humankind."

Jason looked to where Marcus stared at the sky. The dusk of early evening seemed to tremble as if in direct reaction to their attention. Yellow-gray waves coursed across the horizon like ripples in water. One wave crashed into another, taking it into its fold, growing larger, impacting more and more of the sky.

"Always remember, brother, I love you."

A piercing whiteness suddenly exploded in the sky, sending deltas of lightning cascading down as far as the eye could see. The white ball bloomed wider, its brightness no longer blinding, but still an enormous bright globe, a second moon, a satellite of white-hot flame.

Thunder rained down on them in the lightning's wake. It pummeled Jason, jarring the air from his lungs and popping his eardrums. He fell to his stomach and covered his ears, screaming against the calamity. He screamed himself hoarse, but the noise was so profound he couldn't hear his own voice.

After a minute, or maybe ten, it was hard to tell exactly how long, the thunder eased before quieting for good. Jason opened his eyes and saw Marcus in a similar position next to him, but he still wore that same ecstatic smile. The glimmer in his eyes reminded Jason of those earlier days when he would come across his brother doped to the gills.

"What the fuck?" he said, his voice sounding distant to his own ears.

"EMP."

"What?"

"EMP: Electro Magnetic Pulse," Marcus said, as if Jason would have any idea what that meant. "It's created by exploding a series of nuclear devices high up in the atmosphere. And look, it worked!"

Marcus pointed again to the sky. The passenger jet's contrail had been scattered by the EMP's explosion. While the jet remained overhead, its nose now pointed down and it was in total free-fall. It fell at tremendous speed until it disappeared over the trees in the hilly distance. Jason couldn't hear a crash, but he saw a flash of an explosion and black smoke rising into the sky.

"How did you...?"

"I've come a long way in the last couple of years, but the EMP has nothing to do with me."

"Then who?"

"There are members of the Arkadium at the highest levels of power across the world. You see, we would've never been able to tear down civilization from the bottom rungs of society. We had to have access to the greatest technologies, even though we despise it." Marcus took out his cell phone and placed it in Jason's hand. "See for yourself."

The phone display was blank. He hit the power button and nothing happened. "It doesn't work."

"It's just an artifact now." Marcus took back the phone and threw it as far as he could. It splashed into the floodwaters and disappeared. "Electronics, that's all a part of history now, brother. Can you understand how important this step is for humanity?"

"What about Mom and Dad?"

"They're most likely dead. St. Louis isn't there anymore, if everything went as planned. Besides, if I'm to carry on and be the leader of my people, I can't have them a part of it. They are old and weak. Trying to save them would most likely kill me in this new world."

Jason coiled his hands into tight fists and punched Marcus in the gut. His brother staggered back, out of reach of a second blow. He had to lean over with his hands on his knees, but the punch didn't have the impact Jason had hoped for. If anything, it had only made Marcus mad.

"Jason," Marcus said as he caught his breath, "there's no need for that. You're here for a reason. It doesn't matter how I got you here, but only
why
I chose to include you in my plans."

"Fuck you," Jason said and charged his brother.

Marcus sidestepped Jason and pushed him down against the gritty shingles. Jason skidded down the canted roof until he reached the edge. His body tumbled over the side, and at the last instant, he was able to grab hold of the gutter.

"Jason, no!" Marcus called out and followed after him, his desperate face appearing above Jason. "Damn, I thought I'd lost you."

Jason looked at the black, muddy water rushing by a few feet below him. He saw cars bobbing like oversized fishing tackle and a good-sized tree uprooted and carried by the flow.

"Give me your hand!"

"Fuck off, Marcus."

Jason looked down, ready to jump. He didn't know if he could survive in the choppy current. He didn't know if he cared at this point.

"Please, Jason, I need you!"

The metal gutter cut into his hands, raking the wound inflicted by the lawnmower blade. Did that really happen just this morning? Had the world really ended in the last twenty-four hours?

Jason reached for Marcus's offered hand. His younger brother, always bigger and stronger than him, easily lifted him back to the roof.

Jason trembled, exhausted, both physically and mentally.

"I'm sorry about this, Jason, but time is short and I still have a few things to wrap up."

Jason looked up in time to see his brother's fist a split-second before it collided with his cheek. He felt the blunt impact, and the world lit up like the best day of the year, and the world started spinning, and then he was falling, and it felt like the roof was rising up to meet him. It brought with it the black void of unconsciousness.

 

 

Chapter 5

 

 

BOOK: Arkadium Rising
10.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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