Authors: Douglas Wayne
Echoes of Tomorrow
ECHOES OF TOMORROW
Copyright © 2015 by Douglas Wayne. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, businesses, events or locales is purely coincidental. Reproduction in whole or part of this publication without express written consent is strictly prohibited.
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September 12th, 2013
A loud blast of thunder sent Tyler to his feet. He half-expected the sound to be another light fixture crashing to the floor, or a crane dropping one of the large air conditioning units into the freshly paved parking lot. His nerves calmed when he noticed he was in the safety of his hotel room.
The last few nights had been a nightmare. One problem after another kept him at the job site while he worked with the other contractors to get things right. There was only a week left before the project was due to be completed, forcing him to work more hours than his body would allow. When he was lucky, he'd catch a quick nap back in his office or, during the day when the rest of the crew was on-hand, out in the office.
The digital display of his alarm clock flashed three AM, sending him right back into a panic. Today he was supposed to meet the building inspector, to get the final round of permits in order, so his part in the process would be over. The foreman could handle the last minute changes and repairs that inevitably would have to be made.
Tyler pulled his phone off the nightstand and flicked it to life. He was relieved to see it was five in the morning, thirty minutes before he was supposed to be up. For a moment, he contemplated going back to sleep but decided against it. The way his luck had been going the last few weeks, he'd end up not waking up to his phone's alarm or the battery would go dead.
With a yawn, he walked across the room and into the shower and got ready for work. The hot water took a good five minutes to warm up, so he brushed his teeth while he waited. He hated staying in hotels away from his family for weeks at a time. Fickle hot water heaters and drunken neighbors were but a few of the issues he dealt with regularly. He longed to return home, back in his bed lying next to Carrie, talking about anything while time ticked by instead of here. As long as everything went the way it was supposed to, he would be on an airplane first thing tomorrow and back at his house in the afternoon, hopefully in time to catch his son's first game as starting tight end.
After his shower, he got dressed and headed on down to the site. There wasn't anything to do this early at the hotel, other than to catch a bite to eat or perhaps watch some TV, which he had given up years ago to spend more time with the family. He worked too much to get into any shows anyways. The guys at work used to give him a hard time about it after learning he didn't even bother watching the news. He tried to explain it to a few of them, but they never seemed to get it. Eventually, after they figured out he wouldn't know what they were talking about, they'd stopped asking, which served him just fine.
As he made his way through the lobby, he noticed how quiet it was this early in the morning. He figured it had something to do with him being out earlier than normal. What a difference thirty minutes makes.
The storm raged on as he walked through the sliding double doors and under the protection of the canopy. The winds were calm, yet the rain came down in sheets, drenching the world around. He was glad most of the outdoors work at the complex was done, otherwise a storm like this might keep him in town a few more days while the ground dried up enough to work with. The only thing left to do outside was to get the landscaping company in to beautify the grounds surrounding the buildings. Something that didn't require his presence.
Tyler sprinted across the parking lot to his truck, pressing his key fob to open the doors when he got close. He'd gotten in late last night and had to take a spot well in the back of the lot. If you'd watch the news, you would've known there was a storm coming in, he thought as he opened the door and jumped inside. His rain soaked clothes slid across the smooth leather, nearly sending him into the passenger seat of the rental car. They wouldn't be happy when he brought the car back later today to find the interior soaked, but that's why he always paid extra for insurance.
He flipped on the lights, started the engine, and drove out of the parking lot. Bolts of lightning flashed in the storm darkened skies, making it difficult to see. He was thankful for the light traffic this early in the morning, otherwise he might have been late for his appointment.
Yet it seemed too light.
He'd passed a car or two heading to the complex, but it was nowhere near the amount of traffic he faced most other mornings. Back home, a half hour could make the difference between a thirty minute and an hour long commute, so he figured it might be that way here.
Red and yellow lights flashed into his vision about five miles from the complex. Rows of cars lined up for a quarter mile before the accident, each throwing clouds of exhaust into the cool morning air. Trevor cursed at his luck as he stopped the truck behind a Smart Car; its owner waiving his hands furiously at the mess in front of them. Sights like that made Trevor smile. Everywhere he'd had traveled, drivers were all the same. Sure, some areas were bad for one thing or another, but no matter where he went, anger at traffic jams never seemed to change.
The rain let up, allowing Trevor to crack the window for a bit of fresh air. Five minutes later, he put the truck into park, leaned back, and closed his eyes for a moment, hoping he didn't nod off. If whatever going on up ahead was going to be awhile, there wasn't any sense in watching the road. He figured if things broke loose, the cars behind him would honk, returning him back to the real world.
A half hour later, the rain came to a stop as the sun poked through the clouds, causing the roadway to steam as it warmed. As he leaned back into a yawn, a vicious cramp tore into his leg, causing him to yell out. He looked around and noticed none of the cars were moving. Up ahead, the lights stayed in the same spot, as if whatever mess they hid had yet to be cleared up.
How bad was this accident that they didn't have it cleared up by now? He'd been sitting here for forty-five minutes by now and the accident had happened before. Surely it didn't take this long to clear things up, or at least divert traffic before the intersection to do their investigation.
Trevor turned off the truck, pulled the key from the ignition, and placed it in his pocket. He wanted to see what was going on up ahead and the last thing he needed was for someone to steal the rental truck. Rental insurance for him was expensive enough without adding a theft to his claims.
He stretched into a yawn as he stepped out of his truck; the pain in his leg faded near instantly as he did. He locked the truck and took a look around. The white Mazda running beside his truck came to a sputtering halt. Trevor figured the driver saw what he had in mind and decided to take a look himself. Trevor waited for a moment, figuring he'd talk to whoever it was for a moment to find out what he knew.
A minute passed and Trevor wondered if the driver had just turned off the car to save fuel, instead of getting out. Trevor hated being nosy, but he wanted to know, so he leaned over and looked into the window.
The car window's were covered in a layer of thick fog, making it impossible to see inside. Curious, Trevor knocked on the window.
"Hello?" He rubbed his sleeve against it, trying to clear it up, but whatever was causing it was happening from the inside, as if they'd been sitting inside without the defroster on while waiting in the traffic.
He waited a few seconds before knocking again. "Hello? Anyone there?"
He thought about walking away; leaving whoever was inside alone. But something wasn't right. What if the driver was having a medical condition and unable to speak? They could be dieing inside the car and nobody would ever know. He pulled the handle, but it was locked, so he walked to the driver's side door and tried again. It was also locked.
Trevor knocked again. "Hello?" He leaned into the window, trying to peer past the fog inside, but he still couldn't see a thing. He decided whatever was happening was worth risking police action on. The way the windows were fogged, and the car had turned off when he got out suggested someone was inside. If they weren't answering there had to be an explanation for it.
"If you can hear me, I'm going to break the rear window. Cover your eyes if you can." He gave the occupants a few moments to prepare themselves before trying to break the window. During that time he tied his jacket around his elbow to help protect it from the impact. "Here we go in three, two, one."
Trevor put his back against the window and thrust his elbow into the glass. The first blow didn't do a thing. The second created a fine crack that led from the point of impact to the top of the window. The third, webbed the glass, shattering it as his arm went through the hole.
Trevor turned around and looked inside. Other than a briefcase on the seat and discarded Diet Coke cans on the floor, the back seat was empty. He peered to the front, but it was empty as well. Trevor reached in to the front and hit the latch to unlock the door, then pulled it with his other hand. Once it was open he jumped to the front and noticed the front seat was empty. It was as if the driver had already taken off. But other than to make sure the windows were defrosted when he got back, it made little sense to leave the car running with the keys in the ignition. That was practically begging someone to come up and steal the car.
Trevor reached in and tried to pull the keys out, but found them stuck in the on position. A quick glance at the dashboard told him all he needed to know. The needle on the gas tank was on E, which explained why the car had died, but didn't explain why it was still running until now.
A thought pressed into his mind. What if the other cars were the same way? Left running while the owners took off. But he'd seen someone in the Smart Car in front of his truck, so it couldn't be that.
Trevor walked up to the blue Ford parked in front of the Mazda, leaned down and looked into the window. It was empty too. He checked four other cars around him and found the same thing. Each one running, yet their owners were nowhere to be seen.
What the hell is going on?
For the first time in years, he wanted to listen to the news to see if he could figure out what the hell was going on. He made the short trip back to his truck, slid the key into the ignition and turned the radio on. He wasn't sure what station was better for news in Mobile, but figured a wreck like this would be announced on most stations after a while. So it really didn't matter where he started.
He pressed the scan button and waited for the first station to come up. Thirty seconds passed, and the radio had yet to settle on a station.
This is weird. It should've found something by now.
He jumped into the truck and looked for himself. The digital numbers on the display panel cycled at a rapid clip from 86 to 108 at a rapid clip, never once stopping on a station. Figuring the radio might be defective, he pressed the AM button to try those. The dial did the same thing.