Sunday, January 22, 2006

Chapter One

The Gathering

May 23, 2006

Just another day...

The small, cluttered office was devoid of people, with the exception of Henry, who was currently busy at his computer. The fluorescent lights cast everything in an annoying bluish light. Instead of working, he was currently looking at a web page of some theoretical propulsion device, which could supposedly allow a ship to travel faster than light. Normally, his concentration on his work was strong, but the dream from last night haunted him fiercely. He tapped lazily at the mouse, scrolling through the on-line document. For him, it was just another day spent dreaming. His mind wandered to thinking about all of his efforts: how many months--no, years had he spent on this pipe dream? He tried not to think about it. He tried not to think about all the vain attempts at achieving this 'goal' over the past several years, but his mind would not let it go.

More recently, he had been trying to do the research on his own spare time, and even more recently, during business hours. He essentially owned about a third of the small contracting firm--his father owned the second third; it was doing well, but was beginning to suffer from what the third owner--Geoff Trumbull--called 'delusions of grandeur.' And lately, Henry was honestly thinking about professional psychiatric help. Only yesterday did Henry erase all the files he had on the computer pertaining to faster-than-light research, much to his chagrin. But he had felt it was time to move on and stop dreaming.

And then he had that dream last night.

He had never experienced anything like it before. Henry sighed as he thought about it. Every time he gave up, something came along to prod him along, further into these 'delusions.' And just when he thought he had a hold on his sanity, Fate hit him with its coup de grace. It was almost like the universe was laughing at him.

But something in the back of his mind shouted no—feebly, though. Something wanted him to realize that he should not stop dreaming. Wasn't there a vow he made?

He continued to stare numbly at the monitor, as if drawn into the screen--as if it had some power over him. Or at least, some power over where his eyes were looking. It completely absorbed his attention--so much, in fact, that he was completely oblivious to his father walking in and stopping to look over his shoulder.

"What are you doing?" his father asked Henry.

Henry lurched out of his trance-like state. "Uhh?"

"There's work that needs to be done, you know."

"Yes, Dad, I know that. I'll be done in a few minutes." Henry turned back to the screen.

He leaned a little closer to get a better view of what was going on. "What is this?"

Henry hesitated. He knew his father saw him deleting all his files the other day on this kind of stuff, and now here Henry was again, looking at new files. He didn't tell his father about the dream last night. "Can't tell ya. Top secret," he finally answered, trying to force a smile.

"Uh, huh. Well, don't be too much longer on the computer. The Schmidt's need that foundation plan by the end of today, you know."

"Okay," Henry answered quietly. His father, knowing Henry was not really paying attention, simply shook his head and walked out of the small office.

Henry then proceeded with his distraction. He stopped long enough--apparently thinking of something he needed to do--to flip through the phone book, looking to call one of his friends when the phone rang. Sighing, he closed the phone book and lifted the receiver.

"G&T Enterprises. How may I help you?" he said somewhat dispassionately. Henry quickly reached over and grabbed a pen. "Uh huh..." He found a piece of paper and began writing some information on it. "Uh huh... all right..." His hand quickly controlled the pen. "Very well. I'll have to look into the extra cost, but I'm quite sure we can handle that." He put the pen down and listened some more. "Okay. You too. Good bye." He carefully put the receiver back on the handle. He then leaned back and sighed loudly.

His father walked back in just in time to see the somewhat distressed look on Henry’s face. "What’s the problem now?"

Henry shook his head sadly. "George Carver needs us to complete the plans for his house in two weeks."

"God." The older man leaned against the door jamb and crossed his arms. "I thought he wanted four weeks."

"He did, originally." Henry swiveled around and typed at the computer, minimizing the window with the spaceship technology on it. As it shrank into the corner of the monitor, Henry sighed despondently, closing his eyes and trying to control himself. "Damn it," he quietly cursed.

"Well, looks like a lot of late nights ahead for us," his father said. "I'll let Mr. Trumbull know he needs to get that equipment ordered sooner so we can start construction. Sooner." The man shook his head and walked back out of the office.

Once his father had left, Henry grabbed the pen and angrily tossed it across the room, glowering. He turned back to the computer monitor and fumed over the predicament. Over and over again… always a new obstacle.

Smirking rather ruefully, he maximized the web browser window. Clicking on a different 'favorite', he brought up his stock portfolio. In a flash, the login screen appeared, and Henry typed in the required information. And in a flash, came the news.

"Figures," he quietly said to himself.

His one stock that had been up over forty percent was now only up ten percent from the price he had bought it at. Overall, he saw he was down thirteen percent.

Sighing in resignation, he leaned back in his chair and switched the monitor off in disgust. He looked up at the perforations in the ceiling tile and dazed off... No breaks, no breaks... A billion thoughts of dismay raced through his mind. What the hell is the point? Why do I bother? How long have I been chasing this dream for?

No... not a dream. Trumbull is right. It's just a delusion.

But wasn't there a vow...

Henry looked over at the clock. Four fifty-three. Looking out the window, he bore witness to a beautiful, sunny afternoon. He figured that, maybe, the fresh air would get his mind off of this veritable nightmare, but knowing him, all the atmosphere would do would be to send his mind back into fantasy land. He sighed, shrugged, figured what the hell and got out of his chair to try and salvage the day.


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