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In This Fateful Hour

by on October 5, 2015

Merrick stumbled out of the time machine into chaos. He was in a broad room, all concrete and metal. Lights blazed on his face, unwavering, too bright, and oddly pale. People in odd uniforms dashed past him, yelling at each other or into devices they carried in their shaking hands. A steady howling wail rose above the din, lasting far longer than any wolf or dog could have done. Merrick had no idea what was going on, but he decided he might as well set about his task. He reached out and seized the arm of a frantic passer-by. “Where’s Margaret?” he shouted.

“Who? Oh, you mean Meg!” The man was so terrified that he didn’t even think of asking Merrick what business he had to be there. “Outside! With Super Soccer Mom! They’re trying to stop-”

The concrete floor suddenly bucked under Merrick’s feet like a wounded animal. The lights flickered, and bits of plaster fell about his head. The man pulled free of Merrick and darted away towards a set of stairs. Merrick shrugged and followed, hoping the man was headed outside. It turned out that he was instead heading for something he called “the bunker.” Merrick had no idea what a bunker was, but rapidly decided that it wasn’t outside. So when the man bolted down the stairs, Merrick charged up the other way. He pushed through a door that squalled like a newborn child, and found himself outside.

He saw Margaret immediately. She was much younger than the version he knew, and more brightly clad, wearing a red uniform emblazoned with a yellow sunburst. She was on her knees, sobbing over another figure lying on the ground. Merrick realized that if he was going to whack her over the head and stop her from wrecking the world, now was an awfully good time. He looked about for a stick.

Then he paused. Merrick was not a cruel man. Some people had snapped in the hard life they had to live, but he hadn’t. He’d killed bandits, sure, when they stormed his camp or raided his trade expeditions. But he had never killed anyone in cold blood, and never a friend. This was still Margaret. Maybe she was the Nameless One of legend, but he knew her. Basic survival skill: never turn on a friend. A friend could give you shelter when the spring storms wreck your cabin, supply goods to trade with, provide company on long journeys or cold nights. And so, now, faced with the choice to smash a friend’s head in just to create an uncertain new future … Merrick just couldn’t do it.

The younger Margaret was still crying. Merrick heard a sudden grating burst of laughter. He turned, and saw a man in some sort of metal armor at the edge of the square. “Looks like it’s just you an’ me, princess!” the man blared. “No more mommy, just you an’-”

Margaret rose, her face twisted in fury. Her hands lit in yellow fire. Merrick knew what would happen next. World destroyed. End of everything. No more time. No stick either. Couldn’t use it anyway. Now what? Calm reasonable discussion?

He ran forward, more on instinct than anything else. Margaret saw him coming, reacted without thought. A bolt of power slammed him down. It hurt, badly. He could still see her, running towards him, her fury replaced by shock now. He wondered if that had changed something. The sky stretched blue above him, marred with smoke but still there, unending, forever. Then it faded to black.

This story is part of the Megverse serial. Thanks for reading!


From → 8. The Megverse

  1. Great story and excellent cliffhanger, sir!

  2. I see your door squalling and floor bucking pathetic fallacies. I think they add a lot to the chaos of the situation. Did you know that was a thing? I sure didn’t. Another gripping installment, Michael!

    • i didn’t either. It did give me the chance to use the word “squalling”, though, which is a good word. πŸ™‚

  3. Jennifer G. Knoblock permalink

    I just love how you’re digging into these characters. Also your deft painting of the chaos in the opening.

  4. Christine permalink

    Oh no! Merrick! This series has captivated me more than even Mr. Stamper, which is saying a lot. Great job, by the way, of giving us a story that both stands on its own and fits into your series. That’s a tricky thing.

  5. Natalie DeYoung permalink

    I like the little details you add in here that make it jump to life! The door squalling, especially. πŸ™‚

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