The bright morning sunshine reflected off the placid waters of Lake Merritt as the two men walked along a path circling the lake. Joggers, mothers with baby strollers, dog walkers, and roller bladers shared the trail with them on this bustling Wednesday. Two canoes glided smoothly across the calm waters.
One of the men, approximately in his early fifties, was tall and lanky, with dark hair and long sideburns, wearing a plaid blazer and brown corduroy pants. The other gentleman was shorter and bespectacled, a bit on the chubby side, a little younger, and also had dark hair, dressed in a nice dark blue blazer and gray slacks. He resembled an old character actor by the name of Alex Henteloff. And coincidentally, this man’s name was also Alex.
He turned away from the bright sunlight reflecting off the water.
“So any new developments or trends in the field of psychic research or psychic phenomena since we last chatted?” the tall man asked.
“As a matter of fact, yes,” Alex replied enthusiastically, his hands in his slack pockets. “Remember that psychic demonstration I mentioned a while back? The one I’m going to hold?”
The tall man stepped aside, allowing a woman and her poodle to pass. “Yes.”
“Well, on that date I’m going to reveal to the public my latest visions.” There was visibly some excitement on Alex’s cherubic face.
“Care to offer a little sneak preview to an old friend?” the tall man smiled.
“Well, I can’t give up all my secrets, Albert. . .but let’s just say there’s nothing tragic or devastating to humankind in them.”
“Well, I guess I’ll just have to wait until that day to find out your big visions. Looking forward to it, man.”
They quickly walked ahead of a young couple and their baby stroller. “Say, how’s your friend doing?” Alex asked. “The young lady who helped us at Lynch Mansion. Forgot her name.”
“Jamie. She’s doing good. She’s on a roller derby team now.”
“Wow! Sounds fun!” Alex shook his head. “Seems like yesterday when we were on that investigation.”
“Yeah,” Albert replied, remembering that huge, spooky mansion that was enshrouded in fog, with its creepy looking gargoyles perched up on the exterior ledge, like menacing sentinels threatening to pounce on any outsiders. That was one heck of an investigation, all right, complete with séances, apparitions, and even a little back history of old San Francisco. “Time just flew by.”
“What about you? What’s the latest scoop from the paranormal world, Professor?”
Albert chuckled. “You sound like one of my students. . .uhhh, it’s pretty much the same old, same old, buddy. Teaching at the university, going on excavations and diggings here and there, putting out my little magazine, and going on investigations whenever someone needs help. Oh, did I tell you I encountered a Yeti and the Loch Ness Monster?”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me? So were they the real deal or hoaxes?”
“Genuine. It’s all documented in my magazine.” Albert’s face grew solemn. “And of course, there were some tragedies here and there on the investigations.” The faces of Sutan, Yankee Bill, and Sheriff Stan Briggs flashed in his mind. “That’s the toughest part of the job, dealing with that.”
Alex nodded. “I hear ya.”
“Hey, aren’t you gonna give me a grand tour of your new research institute?”
Alex drove them to his Berkeley Psychic Research Institute, not far from the university campus, where he gave a red carpet tour of the facilities, which included modern, newly furnished offices, a conference room, lecture rooms, and various soundproofed ‘testing rooms’ where individuals were tested for psychic abilities, clairvoyance, and ESP.
Albert peeked through the glass slit of one of the lecture room doors to catch a fully packed seminar in progress. Young people were everywhere, sitting on the floor, leaning against the walls.
The two continued down the hallway, stopping at another door. Another crowded seminar, where a woman was speaking with a lot of animated hand gestures. At a third door, through the glass, Albert saw a group of people meditating to the sounds of calm, soothing ocean music.
He nodded. “Nice. Where do you test subjects?”
Alex led him further down the hall to a door marked: TEST ROOM 1: OCCUPIED Going through another door they were able to observe the experiment in progress from behind a one-way glass. A man with curly brown hair sat at a table with a series of flash cards spread out before him. One card displayed wavy lines, another card showed a circle, and a third card showed a square. The man spoke his response to a question into a microphone on the table.
“This guy’s brilliant,” Alex whispered. “He’s one of my most talented students. He always gets ten out of ten without any problems.”
Albert watched as the man spoke his next response into the microphone, smiling confidently. “Cool. Does his gift include predicting the future?”
“He’s been known to foretell things here and there, even though he’s relatively new to the field. We’re still testing him.”
The curly haired man answered another question correctly, maintaining his grin. Alex pulled out a donation bag and opened it, pointing it at Albert.
“Care to make an offering to our coffee and donut fund?” he asked, smiling.
* * *
The big psychic show was held at the Embarcadero Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco. Sitting in the front row with a bunch of other enthusiastic people, Albert turned around in his chair and scanned the packed ballroom, surprised by the successful turnout. There was still a long line at the registration table near the entrance.
A young man sitting to his left, dressed in a saffron robe of the Hare Krishna movement, smiled at him and politely asked him for the time. Albert told him, and a minute later the stage lights were turned on and Alex stepped out and approached a microphone.
“Good afternoon, everyone,” he said, looking out into the audience. He smiled at Albert. “Wow, now that’s what I call a great turnout!” Alex gave them his little spiel about his institute, his background, etc., before settling down in a nice, comfortable chair on the stage. Then the man with the curly brown hair who Albert saw at the research institute came out, introducing himself as Joe Franco, and acted as the moderator for the event. The ’70s-style leisure suit he wore, with its big lapels, looked out of place yet was also amusing, Albert thought, for he liked retro fashion himself. The more Albert looked at him, the more Joe reminded him of a ’70s character actor named Gary Wood, for he had that similar solid, muscular athletic physique and the same mannerisms and body language. Probably an ex-ball player, Albert mused.
Alex relaxed and closed his eyes. Moments later, with his breathing steady and calm, his lips mumbled something incoherently. Audience members watched in fascination. “The very first image I have is that of the bright light, the enlightenment,” he said. “And then I see the president of the United States meeting with other world leaders to sign a pact, ending nuclear armament programs in most major countries. . .next, I see that young girl who’s been on the news recently, Patty. The one who went ice skating on a frozen lake and fell into the water and was trapped for hours. . .little Patty will emerge out of her coma and will be healthy again.” Someone in the crowd gasped. Another person, a woman, wept quietly in gratitude.
“It’s a miracle!” another woman whispered.
Alex paused for a moment, trying to grasp his next prophecy, a philosophical expression on his round face. “Now I see the darkness of outer space and hear its infinite silence. I see the unmanned space probe, Explorer 6, making contact with another spacecraft from another planet. I cannot discern which planet it’s from. . .but this spacecraft is large.” Silence ensued. “The manhunt for the serial killer, Frank Bottoms, will end successfully in his capture by law enforcement.”
People in the ballroom clapped. The following silence was more prolonged as Alex’s brow furrowed, trying to comprehend his next vision. This one was proving trickier than the others, it seemed. Albert and Joe watched on eagerly with the rest of the audience, wondering what was giving him so much difficulty. Alex’s face turned a little red as he grappled to understand what was going on inside his mind, trusting his intuition and inner, spiritual consciousness to guide him.
“I see. . .I see destruction, chaos, and tragedy here in the Bay Area,” he finally announced. “Fires are burning out of control, corpses litter the streets, families and friends will lose their loved ones.”
Whoa! Albert thought. Is this really part of his agenda? I thought there wasn’t going to be anything gloomy.
Joe, sitting across from Alex, looked stunned as well.
The young Hare Krishna member sitting to Albert’s left asked: “When will this occur?”
But he received no response from Alex, who was still in trance mode with his eyes closed. Minutes passed with no further announcements from the psychic medium. When he opened his eyes later he looked at Joe and at Albert, noticing the grave look on Joe’s face. That look said it all.
* * *
Albert poured some more tea into Alex’s cup and Joe’s cup. One of the dim sum food servers of the Empress of China Restaurant placed a bamboo basket of shrimp dumplings onto their table before pushing her cart away. Their table’s window offered spectacular views of the North Beach area, Coit Tower, and the majestic skyline of downtown San Francisco. Ask any local and they’d tell you that the Empress was a San Francisco landmark, with its 1960s design and look, seemingly frozen in time. Every tourist’s visit to Chinatown was incomplete if they skipped this joint. It was the kind of place one should try at least once in their lifetime, as the numerous pictures of past celebrity patrons in its lobby attested to.
“Whoa, so what happened back there?!” Joe asked, a trace of a Brooklyn accent in his deep voice.
Alex shook his head. “I don’t know. . .I remember conveying my visions to the public and then. . .and then I don’t recall what happened next.”
“You don’t remember telling people your last prophecy?” Albert asked.
Alex shook his head again. “It’s as if I blanked out at that point. . .weird. That’s never occurred before. Usually, I recollect everything vividly.” He shook his head once more, as if having doubts about his abilities.
“No one’s perfect all the time, my friend,” Albert reassured him.
“Yeah,” Joe added. “I don’t care how on top of your game you are, everyone makes mistakes. Perfectionism is unhealthy. When I played ball that was my motto. If I had gone the other way I would’ve experienced major stress, a heart attack, a stroke, God knows what else.”
A ball player! Albert thought. I was right! “Did you sense or see anything unusual when you had that last vision? Feel any strange sensations?”
“I don’t remember.” The uncertain, unsettled look on Alex’s cherubic face remained. “God, I wish I did, believe me. I must’ve been in some sort of void or dead space.”
Joe ate a shrimp dumpling. “So again, you don’t know anything about this major catastrophe in your vision?”
Alex shook his head, drinking some tea. “From what you described to me, it’s very disturbing indeed. I wish I had more information. . .perhaps I’ll have another revelation soon that’ll shed more light on it. Or better yet, I’ll do a sitting when I get back to the institute. You two will be my witnesses.”
Albert looked out the window at Coit Tower, that famous tourist attraction. “Maybe the vision was just a fluke.”
“I wish,” Alex replied.
* * *
When he was a teenager growing up in San Jose, California, during ninth grade in high school to be more precise, Alex discovered he possessed a ‘special gift.’ Initially, his new talent frightened him. He didn’t know what it was, how to use and control it, or why he had been chosen to inherit it. So he didn’t tell anyone about it for a year. Then in tenth grade, his father witnessed him demonstrating his powers in his room to his cousin, Marty. The two boys didn’t know the door was ajar and that Alex’s father was secretly observing them. Marty thought his psychic abilities were cool and loved hearing about his predictions, and was his number one fan forever after that first exhibition. He still got weekly calls and emails from Marty to this day, asking him what the future had in store for him and the rest of humanity. Marty hated Twitter, so no Tweets. Dear old Dad, on the other hand, upon discovering his son’s new gift, didn’t boil into a rage or call him a freak. No, surprisingly, dear old Dad and even beloved Mom were quite understanding and proud of it. They even encouraged their son to use his abilities in a positive, constructive way, like by assisting the police solve crimes and find missing people.
So Alex followed their advice and helped the San Jose Police with several cold cases. Three of them were successfully solved with his assistance. Young Alex made the front page of the local paper, was interviewed by one of the city’s news stations, and was extolled by his teachers and local psychic groups. This boosted and strengthened Alex’s confidence, desperately needed after being bullied around in high school because of his chubbiness and shyness. Marty kept pushing him to use his powers to get even with his bullies. Alex wasn’t a vengeful person by nature, but finally capitulated to Marty’s prodding, leaving a note to one of those bullies, some tall jock in P.E., telling the star swimmer how he was going to drop out of college and be hooked on meth, speed, and cocaine, eventually winding up penniless because of his addiction. Marty laughed it up when the jock fulfilled that prophecy later on in life. Alex admitted what he did was pretty cruel and felt really bad for the guy. No one deserved that, even for all the bullying he had committed. For another bully, Alex verbally told this high school math genius that he was going to be dead of an aneurism by age thirty-five. Years later, the mathematician croaked dead from just that. Marty sent him an email with a link to the guy’s obituary, congratulating him.
“C’mon, cousin, that wasn’t funny,” Alex told him.
“You would’ve thought so back in high school when he was bullying you, amigo,” Marty snapped back.
Alex thought about that for a long moment. His cousin always played devil’s advocate perfectly, always making him feel guilty. Deep down inside, Alex agreed with him. “Maybe. But that was a long time ago. It was a different time. People change, Marty. I’ve changed.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Suppress your glee, whatever, dude. I know you’re going to celebrate later and get wasted or get laid.” He laughed and hung up.
Alex was brought back to the present moment by Albert clearing his throat. Joe was setting up the recording equipment in TEST ROOM 2. When he was finished Alex went in and sat down in a chair and relaxed, taking some deep breaths. A few minutes passed.
“Ready?” Joe asked.
Alex nodded and Joe pressed the RECORD button on the tape machine.
Moments later, Alex closed his eyes, concentrating. Soon, images flashed through his mind. At first, they flurried through in a mad rush, too fast for him to grasp and understand. Whoa, whoa, whoa! he thought. Slow down! It was all a smattering of bright lights, dark, fuzzy images, muted colors, and lots of squiggly lines racing off in a million different directions. The speed at which the images were being processed through his mind was dizzying. Gradually, that pace slowed down and he was able to make sense out of the madness. When they finally came into focus, his mouth dropped open, his heart pained at what he saw.
Albert saw the expression on his face. “What do you see?”
There was a pause as Alex maintained his focus. “Death, destruction, chaos. . .fallen buildings, burned out cars, smashed cars, houses on fire, streets cracked wide open, streets and sidewalks split open and sticking up in the air. . .injured people, people and children crying for help. . .in another scene I see deserted streets, deserted buildings and malls, deserted schools and houses. Abandoned vehicles. It’s like a ghost town. . .what happened to all the people?” His brow furrowed at the question.
Albert and Joe watched the psychic medium carefully.
Alex pushed his glasses up his nose. “Where is everyone?” Silence as the images kept being fed to him. “BART trains sitting empty on the tracks in abandoned stations. Empty AC Transit buses with dusty, cobwebbed windows. . .the freeways are literally parking lots full of derelict vehicles. . .there. . .there was a devastating earthquake. The big one. The one that everyone in the Bay Area feared.” He shifted around in his chair, concentrating harder, trying to search for more clues, more information. “. . .I’m trying to find out a date, to learn when this will happen.” There was a prolonged silence as he probed deeper, hoping that there was something out there in the far depths of his mind, of his inner, spiritual consciousness that could assist them in their quest for answers.
Albert exchanged looks with Joe, both waiting. Joe briefly glanced down at the tape recorder, making sure it was capturing all this.
Albert looked at his psychic friend. C’mon, buddy, I know you can do it! Give us that date!
“. . .Saturday. . .” A pause. Alex frowned, his forehead a mass of twisted knots, beads of perspiration on his face and neck. “. . .Saturday. . .can’t read the rest of it!” He opened his eyes moments later, sighing in frustration.
“You okay?” Albert asked.
He nodded slowly, accepting a glass of water from Joe. “Thanks.”
“Well, you tried,” Joe said gently. “At least now we know it’s an earthquake of intense magnitude.”
“Now the public will really be freaked out,” Albert added.
* * *
Over the course of the next couple of weeks Albert paid extra special attention to the news, checking it at work in his office, on the car radio, and at home. As it turned out, the U.S. president and other world leaders did sign a pact to end nuclear armament programs, and little Patty Graham, who had slipped into a coma after falling into a frozen lake, regained consciousness and was healthy again. Serial killer Frank Bottoms was apprehended by law enforcement. The only prediction by Alex that didn’t come true was the one regarding the unmanned space probe, Explorer 6, making contact with a UFO.
Well, nobody’s perfect, Albert thought. He got most of them. And of course, there was the prophecy of the natural catastrophe that didn’t pan out yet. He advised Alex to not discuss the topic any further with others, to not mention it on his institute’s website, at least not until he received more information about it. It was quite apparent, however, that Alex’s ‘gift’ was proving very useful in more ways than one. He was able to help people, save lives, change lives, and improve and educate individuals.
Speaking at length with Joe later, he learned that the field of psychic phenomena also contributed to saving this young man’s life. They were walking towards the Berkeley Psychic Research Institute, enjoying the nice spring sunshine, noticing all the hip, young people basking themselves in the pleasant weather, and setting that vibrant energy buzzing along the streets of this popular college town. Traces of the historic hippy counterculture were still obvious in the little boutiques and cafes that lined the avenue.
One of Albert’s students smiled and waved at him from her table at a sidewalk cafe. He shot her a friendly grin in return.
“After my football career ended I dabbled with drugs a little,” Joe continued with a regretful frown. “I wish I could go back in time and erase that part of my life. . .luckily I was able to bounce back in a positive direction. A friend of mine turned me on to metaphysics. I was at a stage in my life where I was curious, adventurous. I had many questions about spirituality and all that. So I checked out all these little occult shops in Berkeley and on Haight Street in San Francisco, doing research, attending lectures, workshops, classes, what have you. And trying to find a group I could benefit from, you know?”
Albert nodded. “And you discovered you had a special talent.”
Joe beamed proudly. “That’s right! I was able to shed away all that negativity associated with the drug use by practicing and developing my psychic abilities, and use this new talent in a constructive, meaningful way.” He looked at Albert. “Now, I can help others, aid them in nurturing and activating their own powers of clairvoyance and ESP. I’m giving back to the community and it feels great.”
“That’s wonderful, Joe. I’m very happy to hear that. Have you received visions like Alex has?”
“I’ve had fleeting pictures here and there but nothing concrete yet. Still trying to harvest that skill.”
They finally arrived at the doors of the institute. Joe opened it for him, looking suave as usual in his ’70s-style leisure suit and bell bottoms. Gotta ask this guy about his tailor or where he buys his clothing, Albert thought.
They watched Alex conducting a seminar through a glass slit in a lecture room door. When the seminar ended he came out with a notepad and books clutched to his chest, smiling at the two. “Gentlemen,” he said. “Just in time to assist me with my next sitting.”
“How was the seminar?” Albert asked.
“Excellent. Went very smoothly. Lots of inquisitive, young minds out there. Would you like to register for one of my workshops?”
“Do I get a discount?”
“Oh, c’mon, like do you really have to ask that? Of course!”
They proceeded to one of the testing rooms where Joe set up the recording equipment once again.
“By the way, I analyzed the recording of the previous sitting,” Alex said.
“Catch anything that stood out?” Joe asked, with his deep baritone voice, traces of that Brooklyn accent still evident.
Alex pushed his glasses up his nose. “Aside from the occasional hisses and hums? No.”
Alex settled and relaxed in the chair.
“Ready?” Albert asked.
Alex nodded. Joe turned on the tape machine. Moments later, he had achieved a trance state. Bright flashes of light flooded his mind, followed by whirling muted colors, growing dark and fuzzy at times. The pace of these images was fast and dizzying like before. Eventually, things slowed down and he tried to make some sense of the chaos.
He breathed calmly, maintaining his focus. Albert studied him carefully, wondering what exactly he saw. He was curious. Joe monitored the tape recorder.
“Destruction and devastation,” Alex began. “Fires burning out of control, fallen, crumbling buildings. . .people trapped in cars.” Minutes passed. “Saturday. . .Saturday, March 26.”
Albert looked at Joe. “March 26th,” Albert whispered.
* * *
Another psychic demonstration was held at a lecture hall at UC Berkeley, where Alex revealed to the world his next prophecy. This one was close to being sold out, as was confirmed when Albert and Joe checked with the registration table near the doors. Scanning the mass of bodies all around him, Albert recognized some of his students as well as fellow faculty in those seats. Those same seats where his loyal students sat day in and day out listening to his stunning and thrilling lectures. It was either that or his sexy smile that kept them enthralled and returning for more and more.
One of his teaching colleagues, a man with a friendly, infectious grin, and shaggy salt and pepper hair, approached him, patting him gently on the back. “Hey, Mr. Hawaii,” the man said, making light of their recent excursion to the islands. “Not surprised to see you at this shindig, buddy. If it’s paranormal related, Albert’s got his fingers in that pie!”
“It’ll be good press for my magazine.” Albert handed him one of his magazine’s business cards.
“Hey, I got one of these already.”
Albert grinned. “Take another one and spread the word.”
“What am I? Your publicist?”
Albert chuckled, gesturing to Joe, who was standing next to him. “Avner, meet Joe Franco of the Berkeley Psychic Research Institute. Joe, my coworker, Avner.”
The two shook hands. “Nice meeting you,” Avner said. “Albert tell you any wild stories about our adventure in Hawaii yet?”
“Uhhh, no.” Joe laughed. “I think he’s saving the best for last.”
“All right! Well, I’d better find my wife and son before they faint from boredom.” And with that, Avner disappeared into the crowd.
“Hey, he kinda looks like Richard Gere,” Joe commented.
“Now how come nobody ever tells me I look like a celebrity?”
The two made their way up to the stage and assisted Alex with his demo. It progressed smoothly, as Alex expected, up until the point where he ‘saw’ the vision. Strangely enough, it wasn’t exactly the same vision he experienced before. Wait a minute. . .what he meant was that the sequence of images wasn’t in the same order as when he first saw them. It was like watching a movie that had been reedited with new footage, and some of the images were definitely ones he had not seen before. Like: Whoa! Where did that come from? And what about that? That wasn’t there last time. But it wasn’t different enough of a ‘reel’ to change the meaning of its message. Clearly, that was still intact. So how did all this make Alex feel? Disappointed? Anxious? Wary? Creeped out? Well, none of the above, actually. He knew that his visions didn’t always play themselves out in a set pattern, that they varied from time to time. He did worry occasionally that maybe he was ‘losing his touch,’ so to speak, that maybe his psychic abilities were diminishing. So he kept practicing his craft, like any good musician would hone his craft, by using that muscle in his mind to keep it active and reinforced.
Naturally, his vision of a disaster put everyone on edge inside the lecture hall. People whispered amongst themselves, some thought that it was just a plain hoax. “That fraudulent bastard!” one elderly man cursed in his chair.
Alex stood before them on the stage, trying as best as he could to pacify the large audience. “Please remain calm, ladies and gentlemen,” he said into the microphone. “I apologize for the tone of my prediction. But I had no idea I was to receive such a transmission. I’m as shocked as you all are.”
“You’re nothing but a fear mongering phony!” a woman shouted. “I want a refund!”
“YEAH!” a man agreed, standing up, trying to fire up the crowd.
“Oh, no!” Joe whispered to Albert.
Albert saw Avner and his family sitting in the front section. Avner looked at him with concern, shrugging. None of his students or other colleagues were complaining. Good!
“Please remain calm, everyone,” Alex repeated into the microphone.
Some people left while others stayed behind to support the psychic medium. “Let’s see if this prediction will come true or not,” mused one of Albert’s students.
* * *
He brooded over this latest vision of his, wondering if it would come true or not. A couple of nights were spent tossing and turning in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to his restless breathing. He checked the news frequently, seeing if there were any reported earthquakes in the area. Nada. Interestingly, that same week, he got a call from his cousin Marty, who told him that another one of his high school bullies, who’s name escaped him at the moment, had died as Alex had predicted so long ago. . .stabbed to death during a home invasion by some low-life thug.
“Really?” Alex was silent for a moment.
“Yep. Saw his obit in the paper.” Marty laughed. “Chalk another one up on your psychic board of successes. Aren’t you happy, couz?”
“That’s ancient history, Marty. C’mon, we’re not kids anymore. That guy didn’t deserve to die like that, in his own home. He had children, a wife. . .and from what you told me, it sounds like he changed and became a better person in life.”
Marty kept laughing. Family member or not, he could be a real ass sometimes.
“C’mon, have some respect for the dead,” Alex said.
Marty continued snickering. Moments later, he asked: “So you’re sure about the ‘big one,’ huh? Boy, I hope you’re wrong or we’re all in deep shit.”
Alex stared blankly ahead. “Yeah, I hope I’m wrong, too.”
Several days passed. He forgot how many. A few super busy days at the institute, back to back seminars and lectures. But no matter what, his eye was always on that calendar, where Saturday, March 26th was circled in red ink. He had already urged people, various police and fire departments all around the Bay Area, public officials, and disaster preparedness centers to be ready for the big day. In addition, Alex had also appeared on numerous talk shows promoting his agenda, was interviewed by TV news reporters, and he also posted video clips of himself verbally giving alerts on the institute’s website and Facebook page.
When the big day finally arrived Alex got up extra early in anticipation of the upcoming disaster. However, the one crucial thing he hadn’t nailed down yet was what time the big one would start. He kept staring at the clock, at his watch. . .and soon 10AM turned to 1:15PM and then changed to 3:35PM. Right now it read: 4:10PM. He had been waiting all day in dread, hoping his prediction was wrong. He didn’t care about his impeccable track record, his reputation as a well-known psychic or any of that. He just didn’t want anyone to get hurt. But he was pretty sure the police and fire departments scattered all around the Bay Area were tired of him contacting them with his warnings. They’d seen their share of pranksters and hoaxes.
Moments later, Alex cringed when he felt the first tremor, a small rumble that built up into a moderately vibratory earthquake. He stood under a doorframe as it happened, expecting it to get worse, his hands clenched into tight fists, beads of sweat across his doughy face. . .he tried to stay calm as the floor beneath his feet kept gyrating, and was surprised when it all stopped seconds later. It wasn’t that long. After pushing his glasses up his nose he checked to make sure nothing was damaged and quickly turned on the TV in his office. All the major networks had live news coverage on the quake. And the bottom line was that no fatalities were recorded.
“Good!” Alex said. To him that was victory.
He kept waiting in his office for aftershocks, pacing around slowly, but nothing occurred. Sighing in relief, he headed over to the kitchen of the institute, opened the refrigerator, grabbed a beer, and cracked it open. After taking a drink, he leaned against the fridge, hearing the hum of its motor. He suddenly felt at ease, knowing that he was flawed, that he made mistakes. It was part of being human. . .so what if I err? Who cares? He just hoped his next visions didn’t reek of the apocalypse or of doomsday.
It would be nice to have positive, uplifting glimpses of the future for a change.
Derek Muk is a writer and social worker from California. His short stories have appeared in various online and small press magazines, including “The Haunted Academy” (Novella-Midnight Frost Books), “Fiction On The Web,” “Whispers From The Past: Fright and Fear” (anthology), “Dark Eclipse,” “The Dead Walk” (anthology), “13 Magazine,” “Diabolic Tales 3,” “Both Barrels of Legends of the Monster Hunter I and II,” “The Trigger Reflex: Legends of the Monster Hunter II” (anthology), “Suffer the Little Children” (anthology), “Splatter: An Anthology of Horror,” “Death Rattle,” “Dark Things II” (Anthology), “Anthology of Ichor: Hearts of Darkness,” “Twisted Tongue Magazine,” “Static Movement,” “Sex and Murder Magazine,” “Sinister Tales,” “Night to Dawn,” “M-Brane SF,” “Sonar4 E-Zine,” “The Ethereal Gazette,” “7th Dimension Magazine,” “Switchblade Magazine,” “ESC! Magazine,” “Scorched Wings Magazine,” “Hardboiled,” “Masque Noir,” “Detective Mystery Stories,” “Dawnsky,” “The Pinehurst Journal,” “Mystery Forum Magazine,” “The Green Queen,” “Kracked Mirror Mysteries,” “Golden Visions Magazine,” “Crossroads Magic,” “The Street Corner Magazine,” “Calliope Magazine,” “Unspoken Water,” “Space and Time Magazine,” “Infernal Ink Magazine,” “Tales of the Talisman Magazine,” “Aurora Wolf,” “The Horror Zine Magazine,” and “Parabnormal Digest.”
He has three chapbooks published: “Three Parts,” “The Sacrifice and Other Stories,” and “Sin after Sin.” In addition to writing, he enjoys reading, traveling, museums, art, dining out, and meeting new people. He has a bachelors and masters degree in social work.
“The Occult Files of Albert Taylor” is his first full length collection of short stories. His author website address is: http://theoccultfilesofalberttaylor.wordpress.com/