Authors: Susan Lowry
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Psychics
Ping – From the Apocalypse
By Susan Lowry
Copyright © 2011, 2013
Books by Susan Lowry:
Gerry, Aaron, Amanda,
Mom, Dad, David;
Rick, Dave, and Chris
Ping — From the Apocalypse
Table of Contents
— The Blackout
In the Upstairs Bedroom
— The Rash
— Husband on the Couch
As the Crow Flies
The Phone Call
Beside the Fridge
— Blanket of Snow
The Hole in the Ottoman
An Amazing Lesson
The Journey Begins
Trouble at Customs
The Grove of Palm Trees
Out on the Bench
Hot on the Beach
A Shift in Priorities
Desperate to be Rescued
The Good, the Bad, and the Impossible
Hovering above the Flight-Deck
Birds of a Feather
The Hotel Parking Lot
Proof of Life
The Burial Grounds
One Talking Bird
Ben and Rose
The Last Cabin
Laying Down the Law
Christopher and Lucy
— The Ping Factor
Ping — From the Apocalypse
It was strange how it drew her attention
: a tiny speck of red where the snow had not held on her car. The colour glinted at her from under the streetlamp, glowing out from the vast white. It was a white that whirled and tossed against the blackness of the sky and tumbled down to earth; a white that stretched across the landscape as thick as an enormous eiderdown — silencing everything beneath it.
Curious, after the lights flickered, Kate had gone to the window to peer outside. Ice pellets clattered against the frozen glass as she massaged her throbbing head and swallowed
-expected the blackout. The furnace clanged, and an electrical snap left her standing in darkness, listening to the wind howling through the trees. Even the streetlights were out, and the clouds blocked the glow from the moon and stars.
“I knew it
,” she said.
Her tiny house rattled sporadically
as she felt her way to the kitchen. She fumbled with a wooden matchstick, striking it against the flint side of its small cardboard container. A soft halo of light curled around her and she touched the flame to the wick of a candle. Shadows stretched across the wall as she crept to the end of the passage.
She nudged the
office door inward peering into the room, which was washed in an eerie, blue tint from the computer screen. Jon was in his office chair, wisps of blonde hair fanning out from the tall back of it, and he appeared to be sleeping. She raised her candle, leaned in for a better look and a long shadow wavered across the desk.
Is that what you’ve been doing all this time? You must be exhausted, honey.”
“Jon, there’s a blackout. And you’re going to fall off the chair in a minute.”
major deadline for a project was approaching, which had been obviously stressful, keeping him working all hours; he’d been up since the early hours of the morning. The client was waiting anxiously for some completed code, but he had to be completely drained. And on top of that, he’d complained of feeling ill earlier, like he had the flu. Now, she was certain she had it too.
I made us some soup sweetie, but I don’t want any now,” she groaned, feeling the glands in her neck. “I’m feeling horrible.”
He didn’t budge.
“Jon, are you okay?”
tepping gingerly between the heaps of documents on the floor, wondering how he ever made his way around the room, she grumbled, “If this is your idea of joke, I am not laughing — in case you hadn’t noticed.” A powerful gust shook the office window.
?” She raised her voice this time, feeling a little concerned. He must have been more worn-out than she had even imagined. Most of the time he would wake at the sound of a pin dropping, and he could even hear what people were saying at the other side of a large room. It was clear that he was pushing himself way too hard lately. His damned client would just have to be more patient, this wasn’t worth his health.
Trying to get over to him
between all of the stuff on the floor, she accidently knocked over the pile of papers in front of her which cascaded across the rug; her foot slid, her legs splayed and she screeched on the way down, falling with a hard thud so the wind was knocked out of her.
y the time she had collected herself, a smoky glow was curling along the edge of a crumpled piece of paper where the candle had landed. She quickly grabbed a nearby dictionary and dropped it on top of the flames, smothering them. Then she peered over at him. With all the noise he still hadn’t budged.
She crawled on her hands and knees through the mess over to her husband’s side, grabbing his hand and squeezing. But his jaw remained slack, sagging open; in the cold-blue light of the computer his skin was ghastly white. He appeared dead.
Now Kate’s heart was pounding as she probed for a vein in his thick wrist, finally feeling a weak pulse.
“Okay, now just open your eyes, Jon!”
feel the warm pants from his mouth — weak and too fast — which was hardly reassuring, and her focus switched to his overflowing desk. “Where on earth is the phone? How can you function like this?”
er fingers searched between the mounds of papers, beneath various pieces of hardware scattered around them, around several books and spare monitors, feeling up and down and over the top of things, until finally she dragged a cellphone from below a couple of file-folders. She gaped at the buttons and pressed 9-1-1.
,” she mumbled.
he ringing seemed to go on forever and the emergency workers should have responded, there had been plenty of time. “What the hell is going on?!”
ven after calling back twice, not a soul answered.
She lifted his head
which had fallen forward, cradling his face in her palms. “What’s wrong with you?”
To her relief
, he let out a long, pathetic moan.
“Are you okay?”
Please say something honey.”
His eyes were
sick and unfocused, but they finally met hers. Then, he screamed, “Ahhh… the pain!”
his heavy arm around her shoulders, she heaved him up. Carrying a man as large as Jon, when he was barely conscious, was not an easy feat. “Come on. Let’s get you out of here. Help me, okay?” she groaned.
stumbled into the pitch-black hallway, then on to the living room, nearly falling over the coffee table. Jon collapsed on the sofa pulling her down with him though she was unable to make out even the faintest outline of him. She felt his legs dangling over the edge of the cushion and lifted them so that he was lying flat and perched on the edge beside him.
“Christ, you’re burning up,” she said
, stroking his forehead and holding his arm tight, for her own comfort. “I dialled 9-1-1, but there was no answer. It — it must be the storm. Too many accidents… or something.”
—I need some water.”
Of course sweetie, I’ll be back in a second.”
he stumbled through the darkness to the kitchen and located the box of matches, another candle, and a glass.
Why didn’t you tell me you were this sick?” she said, handing him his water while she placed the flickering candle on the table in front of them. Jon gulped it down as if he’d been in a desert for days, coughed, and then gasped, giving her the drained glass. “It hit so fast. I think I passed out. This isn’t normal pain, Kate.”
was fighting an increasing amount of pain herself, and struggled to stay calm. Her entire body felt like it was on fire. “I’ll have to shovel that damned driveway and get you to the hospital myself, since I can’t contact anyone. This is too creepy Jon—”
Suddenly Jon began twisting in agony and a bizarre groan emerged from deep inside him — like a large dying animal.
He lurched over the edge of the couch retching violently and Kate leaped to the side just in time. When he had stopped, she watched him disintegrate with a quivering moan into the cushions.
Oh Jon,” she said weakly, placing her palm on his forehead trying to be soothing, but the wind was raging outside and the window trembled so violently that Kate couldn’t help glaring nervously toward the darkness beyond the frosted glass. She combed her fingers through his hair. She didn’t feel well enough to shovel their lengthy driveway and besides, the roads would be impossible to manoeuvre.
suddenly noticed blood, dribbling from his lips. It made her heart begin to race again. She didn’t want to upset him. “I — I’m just going to get a cloth for your face sweetie. I love you.”
shadows wavered nauseatingly as Kate went back to the kitchen. Squeezing water from a towel at the sink she had to stop abruptly and grip the edge of the counter, overcome by the pain. But then she heard Jon vomiting again and she rushed back to him.
He was out again —
not moving an eyelid as she wiped his face. She examined the dark stain on the cloth close to the flame, her insides twisting in horror. Then she peered down at the floor and gasped at the pool of blood.
“Oh Jon!” she shrieked, racing to the front of the house, tugging on her boots and her coat and charging out into the bitter cold.