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Ripples in a Lake
Posted By: The Meep<HaloFanatic101@yahoo.com>
Date: 1 February 2008, 5:50 am

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Right off, I want to say that I'm sorry I wrote "A General's Tale: Prologue"... and then left any anticipating readers hanging, probably damning the series in the process. But, real life has been getting pretty tumultous, and so the series has kept getting pushed back. Combine that with a vicious writer's block and a sudden lack of ideas... Just know I'm working on it. So, I pulled this out of my hard drive, dusted it off, and posted it here in hopes it will keep you distracted from my laziness. It's a year old, from when I had just started writing, so... sorry if it's not up to snuff.

      It was a little too quiet for the neighbourhood. No dogs barked loudly. No cars drove by with the distinctive hum of hybrid engines. No loud music blared from late night parties or rebellious teenagers. Even the crickets and owls found their voices muted, unable to express their natural nocturnal sounds.

      It was a little too dark for the street. Trees, laden with the new leaves of spring, blocked the headlights from the nearby highway. Of the two automated street lights, one was dead, and the other flickered sporadically. None of the houses had lit windows, and the sky was overcast, preventing the dual moons and myriad stars from boasting their light.

      On this street, in this neighbourhood, with all light and sound surpressed, a team of seven black figures ran silently down the newly paved sidewalk. They continued past the dead streetlight, melting into the shadows as they passed the flickering one. To a casual viewer, they would be a moment's shadow; once they looked closer, they would see nothing.

      The black figures split up, encircling a small, unremarkable house, the one behind the malfunctioning lamp. Then... they dissapeared. One minute. Two minutes. Nothing disturbed the

      Exactly three minutes later, the figures returned, one carrying a small, limp body over his shoulder. They ran a few meters, stopping as a grey van pulled up. Five seconds later, the street was empty, silent, and dark once more.

91 Days Later
      It was late afternoon, and the binary suns, so close together as to appear as one star, cast long shadows over the small, suburban street. The sky and clouds were lit up an eerily beautiful orange-red, looking like a fire had sprung up from the horizon itself. A single '17 Vaulke, the latest model of car on Eridanus-2, drove up the street slowly, invisble clouds of water vapor trailing behind it.

      It slowed, eventually pulling past a flickering street light and into the long driveway. A man stepped out, the Vaulke automatically locking as the door closed. He was rather average: average face, average body, average business clothes. Just as unremarkable as the house he entered.

      Isiah closed the door behind him, dropping his coat and bag on the bench right beside the front door. He was grinning from ear to ear; the face of a man with big news he just couldn't wait to share. "Ellis?" he called out into the kitchen and dining room, walking past the living room to the stairway. He glanced in, seeing John watching a vid.

      The young boy pulled his eyes from the mesmerizing program long enough to send an enthusiatic wave at his father. "Hey Dad!" he called out before returning his entire focus to the vid. Isiah's proud grin shrunk to a fatherly smile as he watched his son.

      Suddenly, Ellis came up beside him. Like Isiah, she was mundane: brown hair, average height and body, fair skin, brown eyes. Her presence startled her husband, and he jumped a little. "Hey honey. How was work? What do you need?"

      "Need?" he answered.

      "You called my name, didn't you?" she replied, a quizzical look pasted on her face.

      Isiah grinned again. "O, work was fine. Just fine."

      Ellis frowned, as if thinking. Then she shrugged, giving Isiah a light peck on his cheek. "Well, we got several bills today..." she said, elliciting a groan from her spouse. "Electrical and water," she continued. "They raised the prices again. Nothing we can't handle though."

      Isiah was about to reply when he noticed the vid had stopped. It wasn't the end of its program, and it drew his attention. A knot formed in his gut, but he didn't know why. He tried to shrug it off, but it was still there.

      Ellis noticed his discomfort. "Everything OK? Something happen at work?"

      "No, everything's fine," he said distractedly, quickly, as if rushing to say his next statement. "Hey John, you all right champ?"

      Ellis cocked an eyebrow and looked at him. "Why do you always call him that... You know I don't like it."

      "Shh..." he said. "I didn't hear him."

      The couple exited the kitchen, entering the den where their son was watching the vid. Except he wasn't. John was sprawled on the floor, completely uncounscious, the vid projector lying, broken, next to him, apprantly swept off its stand as the boy fell. "Oh my God..." Isiah muttered. Ellis gasped, her hands flying to her mouth. Neither moved.

      Nothing moved. John lay still, not breathing, his parents transfixed in the doorway like statues. It was like someone pressed pause on the remote control of life. After a few seconds, a distant car pulled onto the highway slightly to hard, its wheels screeching on the pavement.

The sound shattered the fragile moment of stillness. Everything resumed motion. Isiah ran to John's side, checking for a nonexistent heartbeat. Ellis, already knowing the worst, slouched against the doorframe, a wail of motherly grief caught in her throat. A fly that had sat on the end of the couch zipped into the air, slying to some other, unknown place. Everything moved... but John.

      A woman, only in her early thirties, stirred in her sleep, her eyelids fluttering in the deep REM sleep. It was almost as if she was trying to wake up, to escape her mind. She felt grief, guilt, regret; a tableau of sorrowful emotions plaguing her dreams. Without warning, she sat straight up in her chair, a wave of disorientation sweeping over her as she woke up somewhere outside her bed.

      Dr. Halsey. I detected a sudden spike in body temperature and brain activity.

      The voice startled Catherine, but reassured her also. That voice meant she was just in her office. She must've fallen asleep doing... soemthing. She couldn't quite remember, not with the latest nightmare weighing on her counscious. "I'll be fine, Deja," Dr. Halsey responded shakily, still overcoming the disorientation. "Time?"

      0432 local. Dare I say, Doctor, that your current physical condition hardly falls under "fine". A pause. Was it the children again?

      Halsey placed her palms in her eye sockets, rubbing the grit from them, and then putting on her glasses. "Not this time, Deja. Their parents..." Halsey whispered the last part, her voice barely audible. A single tear, one of understanding and regret, moistened the corner of her eye. She blinked it away.

      After this, despite Deja's inquiries, Dr. Halsey would deny both the tear and her final statement. The guilt of the seventy five children was bad enough. Halsey knew she wouldn't be able to function if she had their parents plaguing her thoughts as well. Over time, the tear was forgotten, a sign of weakness buried under years of activity.

      But she would never forget the dream.