Curveball

The Foe Beneath: Part One

Submitted by C B Wright on
Thorpe Island

There is a moment after the storm passes when the tension eases—almost like an exhalation of breath, as if the island is relaxing into the promise of calm after weathering the winds and pounding rain. The sky still rumbles, but the sound is faint, and light no longer flickers across the sky. The only trace of the storm that remains is the wind, and it, too, is dying away. There is only the sound of surf rolling onto the sand.

And then, there is something new.

Out of the sky, a trumpet sounds, blowing a long, clear note. It has no discernible source of origin—the sound simply is, existing everywhere, surrounding everything. It isn’t loud, but it carries an unmistakable feeling of power. The trumpet sounds again, and the air hums, vibrating with the power it carries. A third time the trumpet sounds, and a soft, steady hiss fills the air as a sharp wind blows over the beaches, creating tiny funnels of sand that quickly dissolve into formless clouds. When the sand falls back to earth it almost sounds like the patter of raindrops all over again.

A Trumpet Sounds: Part Five

Submitted by C B Wright on
Robert Thorpe's Office

David is out of shape.

This isn’t a new condition—he’s been out of shape ever since his first concussion—but it’s never been quite this bad. His time on the island took more out of him than he wants to admit.

His sides are burning before he gets anywhere close to the main complex, but he doesn’t dare stop. He can feel the magic getting stronger, an invisible noose slowly tightening, and he knows that they don’t have much time to prepare. He ignores the pain, ignores the knives stabbing at his lungs every time he draws breath, ignores the agony in his ribs and sides, and forces his legs to move. He’s running as fast as he can, not bothering to stop for apologies or explanations.

A Trumpet Sounds: Part Four

Submitted by C B Wright on
Thorpe Island Pier

David Bernard sits at the end of the pier, conjuring orbs of darkness as he watches the ocean roll by.

Robert Thorpe’s artificial island is an impressive feat of engineering—in some places it’s indistinguishable from the real thing—but here, at the end of the pier, something is different. He’s not sure if his new connection to Artigenian’s power has altered his senses, or if his knowledge the island is fake is convincing him to doubt what he sees, but he’s half-convinced he can feel a point just a few feet from the pier where the island falls away, and ocean depths begin.

No, it’s not his imagination: he can feel it. In his mind’s eye he can feel the cold of the ocean drawing him down. If he closes his eyes he can almost see it—a dark, murky green, the only light coming from the sun filtering through the surface, steadily dimming until it’s little more than the barest hint of suffused luminescence. Finally all light disappears, and his perception of the water changes: no longer shades of light and dark, but shades of motion and stillness, currents and the ripples of things swimming through, all the while the water growing ever colder…

“What’s that?”

A Trumpet Sounds: Part Three

Submitted by C B Wright on
Haruspex Analytics

The walls and floor of the long rectangular room are granite. The ceiling is covered in baroque plaster tiles. It is fancy, but empty: no furniture, nothing hanging from the walls. The only door leading into the room is plain, almost shabby. It’s a simple, solid wood door, painted a neutral gray color that is slightly lighter than the granite.

Few Haruspex Analytics employees know this room exists. Fewer still have been inside.

Lights embedded between the baroque tiles flicker to life, filling the room with soft light. The plain gray door opens, and a man steps into the room. He’s tall, older but still vigorous, with sharp blue eyes and silver hair that falls to his shoulders. He’s expensively dressed, in a dark gray three-piece suit and a matching silk tie. In his hand is a long plastic tube, the kind used to carry rolled-up posters, blueprints, or pieces of art.

The Chairman walks to the center of the room, stops, kneels. He opens one end of the tube and pulls out a rolled-up piece of paper. He sets the tube aside, and spreads the paper out on the floor. It’s a large map of the Atlantic Ocean.

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