Running Out of Time
It would have been a pleasant early spring day for most suburban teenagers; while damp, mild enough that life may have seemed less hateful than in colder days not long past. But these were unusual times. The global scope of the crisis meant nothing to young Martin Drake; his anger sat much deeper. Martin's older brother and mentor, Jake, was among the vanished.
As he'd done each night since Jake had gone, Martin sat alone on the back patio pondering life's unfairness, darkly desperate to avoid most anyone. Martin resented that the world shared his pain. Martin felt robbed of his own process, as if his pain were water swallowed in an ocean.
“So... how goes the nightly brooding session?” Martin's sister Sara had playfully stuck her head out the open sliding door, intent on lifting up her brother, even knowing it could not last.
Living in the shadows of her more free thinking, quick witted, intellectual siblings, Sara always strove towards normality. Were Sara more in touch with herself, she'd have seen her actions, in truth, as part a series of hopeless, random, grasping attempts at reason in a world gone mad. However, faced with the state of things, it was near the best one might expect of any 14 year old.
“Yeah, you know, just checking the back yard for some hope.” Martin sighed in an awkward shot at humor to lighten the mood. The back yard was one place that felt almost normal, as budding trees and chirping crickets saw the day to night. The only difference was the smell. Trash service like every other part of life had been delayed. Some people said they'd gotten used to it, but Martin saw this as self delusion. “Not one thing hadn't changed.” he thought grimly.
“Find any?” While clumsy, Sara's reply didn't miss. Martin's demeanor betrayed frayed nerves; Sara had hit a chord.
At school, Martin's new 'normal' was 'independent study' which translated to everyone sitting in the cafeteria doing whatever they felt like provided no one disturbed others and no rules were broken. The tedious environment this created was added to by 'Counselors' circling the room to pick out the more despondent to chat. All this advanced the feeling of dread so that the hair on everyone's neck felt as if it were permanently erect.
Initially, days consisted of trying to find new ways goof off, but soon students settled on quietly doing whatever they usually enjoyed in whatever groups formed. These groups were so obviously more beneficial than official 'counseling' that counselors become little more than window dressing. Who better to understand youth than other youth! Martin garnered a reputation for an uncanny ability to dodge counselors, earning him near legendary status amid sectors of the student body. “The trick is to blow your top for no damn reason every three weeks. I usually yell at Sam because he loves to yell anyway,” Martin had told his friends.
“Nope... how was school?” Martin half hoped for an interesting answer, while thinking such a mundane question might annoy his sister into leaving him alone. In Sara's view, going unnoticed was key to surviving school's monotony.
Sara's junior high experience had become 6 hours of counselors begging any trending that way not to suicide. Inept as they were, the counselors had certain things they would look at as signs you were having problems. Perceived Efforts at dodging these volunteers was considered one such sign. Sara's habitual strategies for keeping her head down backfired.
“Figures… it is basically the end of the world.” While Sara surprised her brother by sidestepping Martin's trollish bait at a change in subject, her attempt at cheer had failed. Instead, Sara had been pulled down as well, but she had still mustered the mental agility to ignore Martin's trolling. No one was that hard to bring down anymore. Sara had been faking it for weeks since her last good cry.
“And I thought I was a pessimist,” Martin replied, having to switch roles unexpectedly.
“Millions are gone; thousands more every day. I may be fourteen but I'm not stupid! We're all running out of time.” Martin wanted to argue but what could he say, except perhaps the one thing he'd been avoiding.
“I still can't get Jake out off my mind.” The tables had turned for the first time in a long time. The nihilistic front Martin had used to avoid talking about what he felt and knew was harder than ever to maintain. Revealing that would draw attention he did not want.
“Eventually, you have to let go.” Sara began to cry.
“I can't sis.”
She had to ask why, a question Martin had been lying about every time anyone asked since Jake went missing. It was clear family and friends were not buying it because they kept asking.
“He's still out there” Martin was sick of lying.
“Marty he's gone...” Sara said after a long silence as Sara wondered over her brother's sincerity then sanity in turn. Both were crying but Sara was on the verge of an outright fit. “They're all gone, millions of people, where would they go, how could they still be out there?”
“I have no idea.” Marin felt dumb.
“So, you just know?...” Sara blurted out, now sobbing heavily. “I'm not sure which is sadder, the millions gone or the billions trying to pass this off like they're coming back. They're not, and the sooner everyone realizes it the sooner we can get back to normal” Sara, while realizing how ridiculous she sounded, felt betrayed. Since Jake had vanished Martin had become her defacto source for reality checks. Feeling now that he was even more mixed up than she, Sara stormed inside before her brother could react.
Part of Martin felt bad for upsetting his sister; part of him dreaded the inevitable efforts of just about everyone he knew to 'help' him to let Jake go, but mostly he was just glad to get the truth out. Besides, Martin was convinced so deeply that his brother was alive somewhere that he couldn't imagine any argument that might faze him. Martin almost felt as if he could feel his brother alive, and if Jake were to die he would know just as deeply. Even so Martin was in no hurry to face what he knew would come when he went inside, so he decided it was warm enough he would catch a nap while his family had the inevitable “What the . . .” conversation inside.
A Fierce Defender of the Little Guy
Across the Suburbs but not far from Martin's mind were two siblings perhaps more opposite than any other siblings in the vicinity. First is Jose, a transgender boy whose parents were wholly supportive of his identity. Mary and Christian Ramirez had worked as ACLU lawyers but started their own very successful transgender rights defense firm after splitting from their former employers over leftist principle and wishing to fight for the rights of people like Jose.
Jose sat staring at his computer blankly, pausing now and then to focus on something that would contain his worry. It might have been the essay he was supposed to write for school, though had to stop to remember the assignment, or whether or not he had heard from someone he should have on social media that night.
“Hey dummy.” Said Jose's brother, Sam, as he stuck his head in the door.
“What do you want you hardheaded brute?” Jose's remark was mildly cutting but Sam knew it fit. He prided himself in near equal measure for being stubborn and for his willingness to throw down on behalf of anyone facing injustice.
“Just seeing if I can save you from yourself,” Sam explained. Jose was the type who in seeing a loved one in peril saw it as a personal mission to see them out of danger. With peril omnipresent and safety more clearly than ever an illusion, he was twelfth level anxious all the time. Sam knew Jose better than Jose and the opposite was even more true.
Sam, by contrast, was a white straight kid who had been raised by an abusive father whose idea of culture was to have a buddy over while he drank cheap beer and watched Fox News. When Sam was 11, his father killed a man in a bar fight. The two 'combatants' were drunk, and the man Sam's father killed had brain damage and bumped his head on the floor when he fell dodging a drunken punch. Still, the court charged him with manslaughter and sentenced him to 10 years. Following the drama, a family friend, hoping to save Sam from the foster system contacted Jose' parents and told them of the trouble. One thing led to another and the family adopted Sam.
“Well, if you keep up you might just have to save yourself in a sec'!” Jose was about as queer sass as queer sass gets, and he reveled in it - after all he was very good at it. No one at school made fun of Jose as, in return, he would put you down so well a meme on twitter would materialize.
“Mom says it's time for bed.”
“So have Mom come tell me, or are you her official messenger now?”
“You know you don't want . . .” Sam began but was interrupted as Jose leapt on him and tackled him into his room across the hall. Sam was a highly physical being, living more through athletics than words, as it provided a constructive outlet for the anger he felt towards his father. Athletics provided a place to learn to move past the same as he progressed in skill and grew as a person. Being the victim for so long, Sam was a fierce defender of the innocent, so much so that bullies refrained from their normal routine when he was in earshot, rather than risking his wrath. Jose, realizing all this, often turned to the physical to make his point, knowing his much larger and more fit brother would never actually try to hurt him.
“What I want is to be left alone!” Jose said as loudly as he thought he could without drawing his parents' attention.
“Oh come on . . .”
“Wait, what is that?” As Jose got to his feet he looked around his brother's room and saw what was undoubtedly the oddest thing he had ever seen. As an extension of Sam's commitment to all that was innocent Sam was a lover of animals. Sam had taken to defending and caring for local wildlife that wandered into town as humanity retreated to their homes in an instinctual grab for anything resembling safety or control, Jose joked it had become “The Sam Ramirez Animal Sanctuary” but his brother had been too fond of the notion for Jose to repeat it. During Sam's latest excursion looking for lost and vulnerable creatures, he had found something else.
“You can't tell Mom and Dad.” Sam pleaded. Jose didn't hear him; he was stunned by disbelief.
In Sam's closet was a medium sized pet bed but what sat upon it was unlike any pet seen by modern eyes. The creature was vaguely the shape of a large Maine Coon cat, only with legs about half again as long. It also had wings and three tails. As he crept closer, Jose could see that there was a mix of fur and feathers in a rainbow of colors running in long striped from front to back and the creature had a cat's nose, eyes and whiskers but they sat over a small stout purple beak.
“This . . . this is wrong! What if it's related to the vanishings?” Jose's first concern was Sam's last.
“What if it's not? What if it's a solution? We both know what most humans would do . . .” Sam reasoned.
“How long have you had it?” Jose wanted more information, but he was already forming an argument. Just as Jose's mind began to work on this, however, the thing got a funny look on its face and there was a loud bang and a bright light. Then it was as if a bolt of lightning streaked across the room, and the creature sat by Sam's foot, looking up at Sam affectionately.
“We have a lot to talk about!” Jose realized it must have taken a long time for Sam to gain the creature's trust and his brother would be heavily emotionally invested in the thing's safety. To Jose' mind, the short time the creature had been around also meant that it at least could not be directly responsible for the current crisis or Sam would already be one of the disappeared.
The Town's Most Noteworthy Event
On another side of that same suburban hell was the other and most treasured member of Martin's group of loved ones. Jamie, a trans girl was Martin's on again off again romantic partner. The two had put things on hold after Jake vanished so that Martin could, as he put it, 'sort out his feelings' - but Jamie was very much in love, even though she had never said as much.
On the night in question Jamie awoke from a deep sleep and sat up in bed, panicked, she let out a scream. Two blocks away from Jamie's house had been the town's most noteworthy event of the crisis. A group everyone said was a cult was caught in some kind of explosion that killed them and a several neighbors. Jamie had trouble sleeping and found herself staying in the guest room at Martin's or the couch at Sam and Jose's place more and more often. Everyone in the area had been understandably on edge since.
“I'm here.” Jamie's mother, Luna called put calmly as she came through the door. Luna, a psychic by trade, had sensed her daughter's stress before it happened. Despite her abilities it seemed not even Luna could say what had happened to those who had vanished and Jamie had not appeared to inherit her mother's talents.
“I heard something.” As Jamie spoke Luna was already looking out the window. The night was still and no danger could be seen. Luna had not seen the cult's fate before it happened so she learned to avoid resorting to assumptions based on her ability when reassuring Jamie.
“Nothin' there child.” Jamie's mother was as supportive a parent as one could be of Jamie's gender identity, hence she had taken to gender neutral pronouns for her and her friends. Luna graduated to obnoxious when around Sam and Jose, as if she had to make sure the kids with civil rights activist parents knew how cool she was.
“Sorry mom, I'm still so jumpy.” Teenage Jamie had no prior experience facing violence; she did not understand the inevitability of the trauma response. Luna however was far more versed in such matters than she would ever admit.
“You're nerves will settle, and you'll be all the stronger for it,” Luna explained. Jamie was a born leader - quiet, and unlike her friends and peers, very confident. She got it from her mother.
Jamie had an ability that defied her young age: a preference to allow events to unfold and, as long as the world cooperated, cede decisions to others. Jamie held her opinions for when they were needed most. The strategy generally paid off well, as on the rare occasion Jamie spoke, people listened. If they didn't, someone often told them to.
As her mother exited Jamie stood at her window and looked out, not so much in fear like most others, but far more in wonder. Through it all Jamie was the only person she knew who had yet to waver from a position of hope. To Jamie, the fact that no one could explain what happened was a good thing. Jamie's theory was that in so great a mystery anything could be true. If anything could be true; Jamie chose to believe in hope.
Majik is a free to view, donation supported fantasy universe created by
Horror-Fantasy writer (Among other things) LIL 6 but is intended to be shared by
the fandom. Rather than try to own it, LIL feels that the best way to create something
amazing is to allow it to be created by its culture. Fan fiction is invited and some
of what is submitted will become canon and some writers will be invited
to write canon about stories that have been planned.
“This is my creation but I want to give it to its fans; this is yours.”
Eventually a group will form to decide what will or will not be canon and
LIL will relinquish control to them and move on to create other shared
universes already in the works.
The Boiling Point
In the first quarter of 2027, 250 million citizens vanished from the Earth and existing solutions bore no fruit. Thus, it was understandably harder for the planet's inhabitants to notice the sun peeking through the clouds.
The typically tenuous relations between American authorities and her people had descended to near anarchy as the prior proved impotent to stop the disappearances. Efforts at security or grouping proved vain. When one vanished, it happened in a flash and no barriers were effective. Someone might blink as another checked another while a third yawned; in an instant it was as if you'd never been.
Social services mobilized at the behest of humanity's “leaders” were woefully inadequate and mired in delay as politicians debated minutia instead of taking action. Not long after the full scope of events dawned on the already dissatisfied masses, protests and riots tore through most cities. When answers given by faith leaders failed to resonate, dozens of cults arose focused on the crisis - many appearing violent - alongside several viable faith groups.
As the world struggled to find sense amid the strife, several governments fell and no one had reason to hope for change towards the better; such was the shared reality six weeks into the crisis. As civil unrest neared the boiling point it became sufficient harbinger to chaos such that the powerful sought to censor all news sources. The populace felt as if humanity was altogether powerless to affect it's future; whatever came next seemed likely to break them completely.
Government approved updates arriving weekly through couriers refusing to give names were read at work, on the “news” and in schools. People took to using epithets like “Mr. Smith” for the couriers. The gist of the reports was always the same: “Don't panic… all will be solved… authorities are working on several promising...”
No one listened.