The Hu Factor Book 1
Here is the next installment. If I am posting these too slow for you, you can buy the entire manuscript as a pdf from me at http://garden.vagobond.com/purchase-the-hu-factor/
And I am archiving the chapters at http://vagobond.posterous.com Please share this, plus one it, and help me to find an agent and a publisher so that I can feel good about continuing the series…and feed my family while I do it. Who knows maybe Syfy will even make a series of it that survives longer than one season. As always…I strongly encourage you to give me feedback whether it is editing, plot holes, emotional response (cool, that sucks, I love that guy) or even “I love it” (and that last one is especially good for us writer types – it’s like crack – we can’t get enough of it)
“Okay Ben, what do you suggest we do now? We’re out of the building, now what’s your plan?” Vlad actually smiled, though Ben couldn’t be certain if he were smiling at having escaped the building or at putting Ben in the hot seat.
“I don’t know. To tell you the truth, this was as far as I’ve thought. I mean, you can probably see better than I can, I don’t know what happened to my glasses, but they are gone. I’m just about blind without them. Do you see anything at all?” Ben was still bothered by the fact that his glasses were gone. He was glad that it hadn’t been an issue yet, but he suspected it would cause him some serious problems in the near future.
“From here, all I can see is the street and the building across the way. We should probably go outside. I feel like I should run, but even from upstairs, I couldn’t see anything that looked an different from anything else. It is all abandoned buildings as far as I can tell, but there must be other people here. The question is though, are we going to run into the good guys or the bad guys Ben?” Vlad turned and walked through the empty room towards the shattered glass wall that led to the street. Ben followed looking for anything that might be useful but seeing nothing. As Vlad reached the street outside, it occurred to Ben that a shard of glass with a cloth wrapped around one end, might make a decent weapon if they did run into ‘bad people.’
As he wrapped and tied some of his ‘rope’ around a suitable piece of glass, Ben was startled when Vlad suddenly exclaimed “Oh my God!”
Ben jumped up and moved to where Vlad was staring up at the sky. Daylight was gone, but that didn’t mean that it was totally dark. There were no streetlights or artificial lighting but as soon as Ben looked up, he knew that he didn’t need to be alarmed. In the sky above him were more stars than he had ever imagined it was possible to see. The sky was literally lit with stars. Millions, no billions and billions of them. If he were to measure the light parts against the dark parts, Ben was pretty sure, the light parts took up more of the sky. It was astounding.
The modern world, the world Ben had been living in until very recently, was so saturated with light pollution that only a very tiny fraction of the stars in the sky were visible to the naked eye. Unless you were literally hundreds of miles from any manmade light source, most of the stars remained invisible. Ben now knew that one of two things had happened. Either all the lights had gone out or he was far enough away from them to see the unpolluted sky for the first time in his life. He realized that even without his glasses, he was able to see more stars than he had ever seen with them.
“Ben, this is the first time I have seen the sky since I was arrested and I don’t know if I have ever seen the sky when it looked like this.” Vlad was weeping. “ I don’t know whether to believe you or not, but for this Ben, for this, I thank you. If only for this moment, I am again a free man. I am alive.”
Ben said nothing but felt tears in his own eyes. He had never felt so small as this moment for both being under the vastness of the stars and for his previous thoughts and judgments of the man who stood beside him.
While exposure to such beauty and reality can feed the soul, it does little to calm the grumblings and pangs of bodies that have seen neither food nor water for a day…or longer. Soon both men realized that they would have to move on in the search for nourishment. Vlad’s initial assessment was correct, there really didn’t seem to be anything to distinguish one block or building from the next. They walked straight down the street in front of them towards a vast wasteland of dark buildings, broken glass, and little else. The roadway they followed seemed to be less pavement than dirt. Something was bothering Ben and it was only a few minutes into walking that he realized what it was.
“Vlad, there are no cars. No garbage cans. No piles of garbage. Where is everything?” He didn’t really expect an answer, but his companion had surprised him more than once already.
“Maybe they took everything with them Ben. Everything but us. Maybe they only forgot us.” Vlad stopped. “I think we should go into one of these buildings and sleep until it gets light. We can see nothing in the dark and we might be passing exactly what we need.”
“Alright, my friend, we will do that, but will you humor me by going on for a few minutes more? I don’t know why, but I want to be some distance from that building we woke up in.” Ben did know why, it was because of Vlad’s confession and talk of government agents, torture, and prison. Ben didn’t know where he was, if, he somehow had ended up in the middle of some otherworldly concentration camp, he wanted to make damn sure that there was some distance between himself and the building he had just escaped from.
“Okay,” Vlad seemed hesitant, “ but I will lead us. I am worried that my fatigue and hunger has led me to trust you too much. You can follow me, or you can go your own way.”
With that, Vlad turned left down an even narrower dirt street. Ben followed realizing that the kind of paranoia Vlad suffered from was contagious. He had begun wondering if Vlad had been placed in his general vicinity on purpose. Maybe he was the one being led to where someone else wanted him to be. Yes, paranoia was definitely contagious and he tried not to let his mind create conspiracies where he had no evidence to believe in one. Not that it wasn’t conspiracy worthy to have his life literally crash on him and then to wake up in this god damn bizarre place, but he really didn’t have any reason not to trust Vlad, and besides, it wasn’t like there was anyone else here that he had met. Vlad was it.