Chapter 9

“You’re kidding me,” Ric muttered under his breath, looking on with a smirk on his lips.

As Heather, Ric and Mila watched, the swirling wall of water finally cleared and through its opening rested a bright red Thunderbird. The fanciest car Heather had ever driven was her dad’s hand-me-down minivan, so to see any kind of sportscar up close was somewhat of a thrill for her. Ric, on the other hand, started to chuckle.

“Out of all the cars you could be driving down here, this is what you chose?”

“Well I thought it’d be ironic having a Thunderbird underwater,” Mila replied, “plus, I look super cute in it. Besides, it’s got all the newest upgrades and everything… well, all the upgrades that I could get from, oh, how many years ago? Hehe, I guess I’ve been down here too long.” She pulled a set of keys out of her back pocket and with the click of a button the car revved its engine, the headlights turned on and the doors opened up. She walked towards the car, motioning with her hand for Ric and Heather to follow, and as they all climbed inside, Heather wondered how Mila could be hidden under here this entire time without knowing her dear friend Ric was alive. Did she even try to look for him? Or was Ric’s strong affection for her really only one-sided? There was a part of Mila’s story that Heather needed to find out, and fast, if she was truly going to trust her.

“Like I said, this road will take us around the entire island, but there are two entry points up onto the island itself. The first is located where the old dock can be found further north on the island, close to British Landing, and we’ll head there now. I also have extra protection for us in the trunk if we need it… guns, ammunition, and a few ~ ”

“No! No guns,” Ric interrupted. “We have no need to kill. What we need to do is find out how this is all happening, who’s responsible, and find whatever antidote we need to help the people on this island. The last thing we need is to have people die.”

Mila nodded in understanding, and with a slight tone of relief replied, “Okay then. In the trunk they’ll stay. I’m a little relieved that I haven’t felt the need to actually use any of that stuff.” She stepped on the gas and started driving on her underwater road. There wasn’t much to see around the car as the currents along both sides of the car were still moving at a pace too fast for anything clear to be seen through it. Heather wondered what else could be created to connect the island to the mainland… or how this underwater technology could connect islands, peninsulas, countries, even continents to each other. She also wondered how quickly this mind-controlling disease, or whatever it was, that had taken over the Mackinac Island community could spread all over the world in a short amount of time, in a matter of months, possibly even days. “Mila, you said there were two entry points onto the island. Where is the second one?”

“It caved in. I lost the manpower to fix it… my construction team was on the island and overcome by that crazy smoke before they could get back down here… and I don’t have enough electrical power to start up my tunneling machine. If there was some way that I could find a generator or extra power on the island, I could start it up, and with both of your help I could reopen the tunnel.”

“I think I can help you with that, Mila,” Ric replied, “both of us can, with both things.”

Mila slowed down and made a right turn to drive into another tunnel, one that slowly started to incline onto the beach. She stopped before the car could be exposed to the land, and shut off the vehicle. “I think this is as far as we drive. This is about as far as I’ve ever gotten, actually.” She opened up her car door and stepped out, and Ric and Heather followed suit. Mila stepped forward several feet and reached her hand up towards the surface of the water, where she could just reach one finger through into the air. She started to swirl her hand in a clockwise motion until the water above her head began to spin apart, creating a hole like that which they had first jumped through by the marina. All three looked up through the opening, but since they were still below land they couldn’t see anything. “Heather, why don’t you get up on Ric’s shoulders and you can see what I’m talking about.” Mila pointed to Ric, who offered out a hand for Heather to step on, and he lifted her up onto his shoulders. Her head poked out up enough from the water for her to see the beach ahead of her, and what the beach was covered with as well, as her eyes widened in disbelief at the scene before her.

*                                      *                                       *                                       *

The beach was dense with people… people roaming the beach, the street, walking slowly with their heads down, bumping into each other and continuing on as though they were sleepwalking. Heather squinted as reflections of light shone in her eyes, realizing that there were reflections coming from all different directions, the silver in their pupils catching the sun. Surely walking through this hoard of island zombies would be a death sentence, she thought.

Heather tapped Ric on the top of his head and he knelt down low enough for her to step down. “It looks bad. It’s congested with people up there.”

“It’s why I’ve never driven up onto land,” said Mila, “just watching these people and how they act, so viciously but so sporadically, I was afraid I’d run someone over. We’ll need one heck of a good game plan to get past them.”

“Oh we’ve got one.” Ric pulled out his taser. “I know that all three of us are capable of maneuvering through tight spots, but we need to do the same thing up there, just faster. I’ve got a taser just in case someone gets too close to me, Heather you’ve got yours, and Mila…?”

She nodded at Ric and pulled out her own taser from her belt. “When we’re ready,” Ric continued, “we’re gonna spread out. They won’t have a chance to gang up on us all in one place. It’ll seem like every man for himself, but trust me, this is how we’ll work together.”

Mila stepped back up to the watery opening and swirled her hand around its edge until the hole extended to the shore. “We have about ten seconds before this opening disappears. Here we go!”

Heather took in a deep breath as she watched Ric run out in front of her and onto the beach first. She follows right behind him knowing that Mila is right behind her, and Heather takes a sharp left with her eye on the tree line, shoving people out of her way before they even have a chance to register what’s happening. She had just reached the trees when the first pair of silver eyes connected with hers. Oh boy, she thought ,and grabbed her taser just in time to use it, but she threw her hand out too high. The taser makes contact with the islander’s face, shocking him right between the eyes, and knocks him out. Heather stumbles backward, thinking that her mishap may have caused more harm to this man than necessary, or that she may have cost him his life. But her eyes focused back towards the new pairs of silver eyes gravitating her way, and she knew she had to go.

Heather ran through the trees, searching left and right for another running human being, when she sees Mila and Ric escaping up British Landing Road. Mila looks over her shoulder and catches Heather’s eye, throwing her hand in Heather’s direction indicating her to catch up, and Heather sprints up the road to meet them. The three then disappear up the road knowing that they have a long run ahead of them before they reach Ric’s underground sanctuary, but Heather secretly hopes that he’ll lead them instead to a location closer by…

 

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Chapter 8

Heather looked up at the water opening she had just jumped through, and stared amazingly as the water swirled back together in a whirlpool. This place is becoming more magical than I could have ever imagined as a kid, she thought, thinking back at all the times she would play imaginary games with her siblings as a child. She turned her attention back to Ric and their new third party, and took a look around.

Although they were surrounded by a solid wall of water, that wasn’t the most amazing part of the scene. Heather realized that she was actually standing on a sidewalk. A sidewalk! Next to it was a street, that stretched as far as she could see. And across the street was a wall of water, the underwater scene on the other side of the wall muddled as the currents were moving. Heather didn’t know how this could all be possible, but with all that she had experienced with her short time back on Mackinac Island, nothing seemed impossible anymore.

There was a dark mass on the other side of the wall, and Heather wondered if there was some kind of deep abyss. “What IS all of this?”

“It’s another project from the government. Something that had been worked on for decades, but never revealed to anyone. I headed this project, and unfortunately I’m the only one here to oversee it.” The woman who had just a moment ago given Ric one long embrace reached a hand out to Heather in peace. “My name is Mila. I thought I was all alone here, but I see that I’m wrong.” She broke a little smile as she looked back at Ric.

“We’re long time work colleagues, and I have a lot of respect for this woman,” Ric said. “She’s the reason I came to Mackinac Island. She’s also saved my life plenty times…”

“… so you owe me big time,” Mila interjected with a teasing voice, then punched Ric square in the shoulder. “We were both here working on separate projects but with the same goal: to create a technological world here on this island that would be usable in any place in the world. I had just finished up with this,” she waved a hand towards the water walls and road, “when the event occurred. That kinda threw a wrench in the works, and I thought everyone was gone, even this guy.”

Ric was staring at Mila with a longing look on his face, soaking in every word she spoke. He really wasn’t kidding about his respect for her. “So,” Heather started,” you created this underground road?”

“A waterway, if you will. If successful, we would take this project and apply it to larger areas, even expand it to connect continents. But we needed a place to test it so, here it is. And it works, too! This waterway is like an underground M-185, goes all the way around the island. Wanna see?”

“Well I don’t know if we really have time for a long bike ride right now…”

“Don’t worry, we’re not technically ON Mackinac Island, so I’ve got another means of transportation for us…” Mila walked over to the waterwall and stuck her hand through it, grabbed something on the other side, and pushed it down. To her left, the water started to swirl in a huge vortex that expanded eight feet on every side. The dark mass on the other side of the water wall was about to be revealed, and as the opening to started to get bigger, Heather and Ric could see the car that was waiting for them on the other side…

What car do you think Mila has behind the wall of water? Have an idea of where you’d like the story to go next? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section: To start at Chapter 1, click HERE and scroll to the bottom.

Chapter 7

Silence followed Heather’s message, then the walkie talkie started to make some white noise once again. She could faintly hear the voice of a man coming through, most likely Scott, but she couldn’t make out a word. The noise stopped and silence once again filled the room. “We’re too far down to get a good connection. Try it again in the morning. Maybe we can get him to sail over here while we’re down near the marina. He could be our eyes off shore.”

Ric made a good point. Heather turned the walkie talkie back off, reassured that Scott did hear her message, and at least he knew that they were still alive. Ric turned to his side and said, “You asked me a question, now I’ve got a question for you, and I’m afraid I already know the answer, but…” Ric thought for a moment, unsure of what he would say. “Why haven’t more people tried coming over here?”

Heather sighed. “When the event happened, it was all over the news. The government had tried their best to fix things. The police and fire department, even the military was deployed, but whatever took over this island apparently took over everyone that was stuck here that day. Nobody knew what to do. The state backed off for a few days, only observing and trying to put together a plan of action, but those few days were enough for things to get worse. They really thought everyone had gotten off the island. The crash had left enough destruction, and the smoke had become such an issue for help to get here that the state decided… and very quickly, by the way… to declare Mackinac Island a forbidden area, that all traffic to the island would cease, and only those who know the locals around the straits area are really privy to information on how to get here. Technically, I was supposed to go to the state and fill out forms for clearance in order to visit. But, doing that would only land me years of waiting, probably forever. So, I came back, talked to the right people, found a ride, and here I am.”

Ric looked off into the distance, a look of sadness on his face. “It’s like a regular Poveglia Island, this place,” he said, “this place abandoned, cursed… except without the ghost stories. Well, I guess there used to be ghost stories. I sure as heck don’t worry about that though.” He reached for his blanket, pulled it up over his shoulders, and turned on to his other side. “Time for some sleep, Heather. You’ll find more blankets under the table, and turn that lamp off whenever you’re ready.”

She reached a hand under the table and pulled out a small quilted blanket that seemed to feel cozy enough. She grabbed another blanket and rolled it up to make a makeshift pillow for herself. Before she could fall asleep, she wanted to take a closer look at the books on the table. There were two books on mechanics, and one about Mackinac Island. Then there was a book that seemed to have a title in a different language. Heather didn’t know any other languages, but tried to memorize the shapes of the letters she saw, as they weren’t english letters. She then turned out the light and tried to imagine the island as it used to be to help her get to sleep.

~

The next morning, Heather woke up to the sound of much louder rumbles above her head. She wasn’t sure if they would be traveling in rain today or not, but she figured Ric would tell her before they left. The predictable weather was another mystery she was hoping to solve while on the island, but saving the people was the main priority.

Heather stood up and rummaged through the pile of rain gear, finding a suit that seemed to be her size, rolled it up, and stuffed it into her bag. She remembered the pad of paper with her list of places to go for the day, and just as she grabbed the paper, Ric started to wake up. They didn’t say much as they slowly started to wake up and get ready for the day. Ric and Heather, once dressed and packed, walked back to the narrow end of the room and stood on the foam platform that was under the dirt ceiling where they had first entered. Ric shoved a hand in through the ceiling and pulled out another tree root. He grabbed Heather around the waist, this time Heather feeling more prepared for the exit, and as he sharply tugged down on the root, it quickly pulled back, thrusting the two of them upward and back up to the outside. They dusted themselves off and Ric motioned to walk down a short trail towards two bikes leaning against a nearby tree. They hopped on, and headed towards town.

Instead of riding on the main road, Heather and Ric turned towards Cupid’s Pathway, a path more hidden but brought them more quickly to their first destination. They found themselves making a few more turns until they were on the East Bluff of the island. Again, another destructive scene of downtown could be seen from the bluff, and Heather felt a pang of anxiety begin to rise inside of her as they sped down the bluff.

One more sharp turn to the right and a few blocks down, and they were now in front of the marina. Heather parked her bike and looked out into the bay. There were the clouds, hanging over the north as though waiting for the most opportune time to finally come down over their heads. In the meantime, she pulled out her walkie talkie and tried not to think about the weather.

“Scott, can you hear me?” Heather listened to more white noise as she waited for a response. Still nothing. Could the rain clouds just off to the north really be causing a problem with the signal? Or maybe there was a problem on the other end?

All of a sudden, a shot rang out and hit Ric’s front bike tire. Ric lifted his rifle and aimed towards the yacht house. “Come out!” he yelled.

Heather reached over and touched Ric’s arm. “Don’t,” she said, and called out on her own. “We don’t want to hurt you, or anyone.” She squinted her eyes to see a person’s head poking out from the porch. “We just want to help. We NEED your help!” Still, no answer or movement. “We just want to save the people here and get some answers.”

The few minutes of standstill seemed to go on for ages, but finally, a hand went up in the air. Ric pulled his goggles onto his forehead and looked with wide eyes. Another hand went up, and finally, a full person emerged from the porch, pulling off a leather cap to reveal long, red hair and a fair face unblemished from the sun. She spoke with a voice of relief. “Ric?”

Ric threw down his gear and ran up the steps of the yacht club, embracing the woman who was just a few minutes ago, shooting at him. Looks like they know each other, Heather thought, more excited about the fact that they had not only found another human being, but one that Ric knew. But before she could approach them to introduce herself, another shot rang out, this time hitting Heather’s bike pedal and nearly hitting her in the knee. She jumped out of the way and grabbed the rifle Ric had dropped, not sure of where to point it. Then the woman cried out…”To the north!”

Heather turned to look at the clouds once again. They were moving now, at a rate faster than any kind of clouds she’s seen before. Lightning began to hit the water and thunder filled the air. It was only a matter of seconds before the rain would start. Ric and the other woman grabbed Heather and ran towards the marina. The woman led them past four docks before running down the fifth one, jumping off, and disappearing into the water. Rick looked at Heather and said, “We need to trust her,” then ran down the dock himself and jumped after the woman. Heather ran to the end of the dock, and tried to see them through the water. She didn’t have to look very hard, as a swirling hole kept a tunnel through the water open for them to jump through. Heather could see Ric and this other woman looking up at her, holding their hands up towards Heather. Well, I guess I trust her! Heather thought, and crossing her arms over her chest, jumped into the water.

~

The three disappeared from sight as the swirling hole in the water disappeared into the waves. The thunderous clouds began to cover the entire island, lightning hitting the ground and breaking up trees, lampposts, and the street into pieces. As the storm continued, he lowered his rifle and laughed, looking down at the marina, knowing the destruction that he was about to cause. “This is only the beginning,” he said out loud to himself, and disappeared back into the forest.

Have an idea of where you’d like the story to go next? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section: To start at Chapter 1, click HERE and scroll to the bottom.