As relief from reading Journal of a Plague Year, Station Eleven, and The Plague, the board of EPIC Group Writers penned a serial novel for your entertainment. Since each author could only see the immediately preceding chapter, there are numerous plot twists and wild goose chases. Fortunately the “instigator,” Diane Naab, was able to pull the whole novella together after it veered wildly off course from the original story. Enjoy!
Gerald M. Bigelow
Jason felt a cold bead of sweat slowly sliding down his right temple, determined to find its way to settle in his right ear. Panic stricken, Jason remembered, he had forgotten to pick up his reclusive uncle, known to the community as “Weather Beaten Bill.” Jason was Bill’s only connection to the outside world. Bill had spent the majority of his adult life as a soldier of fortune. Without a war, he had become a soldier of mis-fortune, lost, living in a world of swirling images and vague memories.
Jason knew that he was taking his life in his hands, by entering Bill’s home without knocking. Yet he took the chance, speaking Bill’s name as he walked in. He spied Bill sitting in his usual position in the middle of the floor of his one room shack. Bill barely moved to acknowledge Jason’s presence. Jason noticed a low rumble of a whisper, emanating from Bill’s lips. Jason drew closer to catch the gist of Uncle Bill’s utterances. A song, a poem?
“Living in Tennessee, playing Monopoly, beneath the entangled roots of a Banyan Tree?” Seeing Bill, scribing verse on a coffee stained napkin and mumbling at the same time was a bit disconcerting. Bill struggled to grasp a stub of a pencil, pockmarked with the impressions of teeth forged in moments of deep contemplation and nervous jitters.
“Uncle Bill, we’ve got to go! I fed the dogs as I came in. We just have to get them harnessed-up to the sled.” The moon is full and the Northern Lights are dancing across the sky leaving rainbowed spotlights across the snow.
Bill arose purposefully as if awakened from a deep sleep. Still not uttering a word, his movements were deliberate as he reached for his fur-lined parka and sealskin boots. He made some random hand gestures and uttered a few unintelligible words as he and Jason moved toward the front door. Grabbing Jason by the collar, Uncle Bill spun him around and they stood nose to nose. For the very first time Jason saw unbridled fear, in Uncle Bill’s eyes.
“Uncle Bill, what’s wrong?”
“There is no wrong, just the plan.”
Before Bill could answer, the dogs grew restless and began to howl. Suddenly, as if on cue, all sounds ceased, silence overtook the presence of the night. The familiar crunching sound when stepping on crusted snow failed to occur. The rustling sound of deep labored breathing that happens in subzero temperatures failed to materialize.
Jason was starting to feel like he was becoming a prisoner of his own thoughts. If sound no longer existed how would he issue commands to the dogs? How would he and Uncle Bill communicate? Undeterred, he and Uncle Bill set about harnessing the dogs. Conversations became relegated to a few head nods and some random hand signals. Jason issued a silent “mush,” though restless, the dogs failed to take even a single step forward. Given the circumstances, they were most definitely going to be late arriving at the Annual Mukluks Festival.
Bill got off of the sled and approached the lead dog. With a friendly pat on the head and a symbol written in the snow, the team slowly started to move, giving Bill just enough time to remount the sled.
After the long and arduous trip through deep snow and total silence, the lights of the festival came into view. At that very moment, as quick as it came, the silence was gone. Barely noticeable, the ground began to shift. Bill started to laugh as the ground broke away.