APPROXIMATELY OCTOBER 12TH, 12:00 AM (APPROXIMATELY OCTOBER 11TH, 11:00 PM MOUNTAIN TIME)
Lang’s heart sunk to his feet.
Robert immediately headed to the front of the bus.
“All right, everyone,” Nahas said, approaching closer to Akina. “Don’t get too worried yet.”
After summoning up some level-headedness, Lang gradually released his arm from around Kyleigh, though hesitantly; he didn’t want their closeness to end. “Come on, Kyleigh. We better go see this.”
Lang headed down the aisle, with Kyleigh following closely behind him. Evan and Alan were not far behind her.
“Like I told Akina, we have to keep in mind that one second their time could be thousands of ours,” Nahas continued. “We really don’t know when this last decrease event will occur. But if the hull is going to keep this accurate…once it does occur, expect everything outside the hull to simultaneously explode away and become instantly black.”
“Captain Indalo’s last premonition coming to life,” Lang said, stiffening his body as he walked, trying hard to suppress some new trembling.
Nahas looked at him. “Yes, regrettably.”
They all now huddled by the driver’s area, like on Jupiter, except no one was enjoying the view. And Evan. Evan wasn’t attempting to climb on the driver’s seat to stare out the window, but instead stepped near Alan, and stood out with him as one of the two tallest guys on the bus. Evan glanced down at his PSP, or out the windshield, mainly at the laptop’s time. Lang focused there too. Akina was definitely correct – the time was right on the 2300-hour mark.
“I have May 2nd, 4:48 PM, now, on my PSP.” Evan looked at Nahas. “You say black, because there will be no speed of light?”
“Exactly, Evan. Matter will have no charge, so no attractive forces, and nothing connects to nothing. And since we only see because photons enter our eyes, with no light speed, nothing enters.”
“Of course you’re speaking hypothetically,” Robert said. “We can’t see light out there now anyway. The hull is mind controlling it to us.”
“Yes, Robert. I’m speaking strictly in scientific terms of what--”
Bright red light flashed all around.
Yelps and discomforting hollers blurted out from everyone. No. Can’t be! This was it. Lang squinted, but didn’t close his eyes completely, though it hurt. He kept his slit stare locked on Tauring’s face. Instantly that face, that head broke apart into millions of tiny, cube-like pieces, mostly red and beige in color, and materialized away in random directions. Everything else broke apart in the same disturbing manner.
And then darkness filled everywhere outside the bus.
But in another instant, the bus’s interior disappeared. Not a speck of it was left anywhere.
Darkness suddenly flooded all around Lang - it was the same terrible, dark place he had seen after Dr. Bohanek’s laser experiment, confirmed by that silver disk up ahead in the distance. He stood upon nothing but black space. “No! Not this again!” His breathing came rapid, labored. He flailed his arms and legs to keep his balance. Quickly he observed that a familiar single hull encased around him again, glowing orange, the hull’s thickness now as it used to be at the base.
“Dad! Is this that same place you saw before?”
Relief. Evan’s voice. Though yet deep and mature. “Yes…Evan. I think so.”
Lang looked around. Evan was about ten feet away to Lang’s right side. Kyleigh was about the same distance from Evan’s right. Thank you, Lord, thank you. Both of them were encased in glowing, orange hulls with the same thickness as Lang’s, but they too struggled to steady themselves. “Try…to stay calm.” He watched, and waited for a horrible sinking feeling, of falling down into never ending darkness, or being moved around elsewhere. But no. Neither was happening; instead he felt his feet resting upon some sort of invisible surface. He looked at Evan. “Don’t panic. We’re all right…not sinking.” Though each of them was back in a typical hull, Evan himself hadn’t gone back; he was still a tall, older teenager, as evidenced by his voice.
Lang swallowed. His throat had that familiar dryness from breathing hard. Lord. Please. Help me keep calm! He searched for the others, and thankfully found them. Akina, Nahas, Alan, and Robert, in that order, small, glowing orange figures against the enormous darkness surrounding them in all directions, stood in an arched line from Kyleigh’s right, level with where Lang stood. Each was about ten feet space from the other. Robert, farthest away, was trying to calm a thrashing, confused Alan. “Everyone!” Lang called out, “don’t panic.” Strangely, there was no echo, no sense of an enormous, expansive area. His voice traveled as though they were still on the bus. “I think we can actually walk, on some sort of invisible surface. Just move one foot in front of the other.”
Staring down, his orange-glowing hull-covered legs and feet an impossible scene above black nothingness that appeared to go on forever, Lang took his own advice and carefully stepped forward as he would on any floor. It was working. He felt a surface he could walk upon, disturbingly strange as it seemed. But enough of that darkness below. He focused his eyes ahead, on that silver disk, or all around, at Kyleigh, Evan, and the others.
“It’s working for me too, Dad.” Evan’s motion was now less erratic. “I can walk.”
“Good, Evan,” Lang said. “Just keep it up.”
Alan, and everyone else, was attempting to walk. They could manage it too. And Alan was calming down. Evan and Kyleigh were even more stable now.
“Yeah, so I’m walking,” Alan said loudly. “But to where? Looks like I’m heading for that silver UFO.”
“Never mind that. Where the hell did the bus go?” Robert yelled out, looking in any direction he could. “Where’s the Suburban? Nahas’ Mondeo? Akina’s subway?”
“You’re right.” Nahas scanned all round. “All I see is that silver spacecraft ahead of us, though not sure the name spacecraft fits anymore, given we supposedly just lost our space, our universe.”
Robert let out a nervous laugh. “Yeah. Guess we’re not lost in space then.”
That was funny but no one laughed
But Kyleigh. Lang watched her trying to balance herself to walk. Evan was more relaxed now, his pace, his stance normal. “Kyleigh,” Lang called out to her. The hull was gently highlighting her pretty face with that orange glow, making it even easier to lock his eyes on her. “I’m going to try to walk over to you.” He imagined the ground beneath his feet was simply a dark field in the blackest night. It was working, enabling him to make a half-circle path in front of Evan and draw closer to her. But something was off; every step he took inched him to the left, toward the silver disk, like the invisible surface was moving. He stopped and looked down, and then at the disk, to compare. His feet were moving on their own. “Hey. Are we on some sort of invisible conveyor belt system?”
Evan stopped walking and watched. He too kept moving toward the silver disk. He looked at Lang. “You’re right, Dad.”
“So, it wants us to arrive at that silver craft, no matter what,” Nahas said. He let out a short chuckle. “But of course, there’s nothing else around.”
“I know.” Robert looked everywhere. “What sort of insanity is this? Where are we?”
But Lang ignored their words. “Kyleigh.” He moved closer to her. Evan stepped to his left more, creating extra room so Lang could be near her. “Are you all right?”
“Lang, I’m scared.” She was trembling. She looked over at Akina, walking between herself and Nahas. Akina was trembling likewise, and struggling to keep steady, though Nahas stayed near her and spoke softly to her with encouraging words. “Akina is too.”
“I know. I am too, Kyleigh. Doesn’t help the hull is taking us to that silver disk for some unknown reason.” He wanted to wrap her up tightly in his arms, so they could both be comforted. “Do you want me to form a hull tent around us?”
“Umm…” She stared up into his eyes, the orange glow distorting her blue irises to light brown. “I mean, I don’t know. What is this, Lang? What’s happening to us?” She was trembling even more now.
“I…I don’t know. But try to stay calm. It will help.” Hypocritical to say, when his own teeth were rattling together. At least his body wasn’t showing it as much.
“How is any of this even possible?” Alan suddenly blurted, his loud voice charged with panic. “Who the heck is moving us? We’re…we’re in the middle of freaking…of freaking black nowhere, or intergalactic space in an alternate universe! I’m getting out of here!” He turned around and pumped his legs hard to walk away in the opposite direction.
“What the hell are you doing?” Robert followed after him. “There’s nothing back there but total dark. Where do you think you’re going to, you dumb bloke? The bus is gone, and so is everything else. Remember?”
Alan tried forcing his legs even faster. “All an illusion, Robert! You always say everything’s not real. From the hull. Remember.”
“Yeah, smart ass.” Robert increased his pace. “Get back here.”
But soon Alan wasn’t moving anymore; he was speed walking, then running, but only gaining a few feet of distance between Robert and himself.
“It’s an invisible treadmill that appears to be everywhere beneath us, as Lang demonstrated in his stroll across it,” Nahas said. “But it’s only allowing us to go forward, toward that silver craft down there. And its speed seems to be increasing. You’re fighting a losing battle, Alan.”
“Yeah, whatever!” Alan yelled. “These f-ing aliens are just bound and determined to keep me alive and here! Why?”
“Oh, put a sock in it!” Robert said. “Poor you. Always alive and experiencing things. Why, why, why?”
“Men. Please! Of all times, this is the worst.” Nahas stopped walking and only stood still. And he kept moving, at the same rate as the rest of them, Lang included, who were still walking. “Appears we don’t have to walk at all. It wants us down there, for some purpose.”
“No kidding,” Robert said. “We’re definitely getting closer to that thing.”
Alan exhaled loudly and turned forward, thankfully done with his fight to run backwards. “Yeah. But you guys are okay with that. I’m not. And you’re making me go there.”
“Yeah, but we have no choice!” Robert said. “Besides. You and all your…your suicide attempts. The hull hasn’t harmed us yet.”
“And let’s hope it won’t now,” Nahas said. “Hmm.” He was quiet a moment. “I wonder about actual distance, around us. And apparently there definitely is, with the decreasing distance between us and that silver craft.”
Evan pointed up, to his left. “What was that?”
Lang jolted. “Huh?” He looked up in the same direction. “What did you see?” But it was soon apparent; numerous crystal-like shapes were flying by rapidly. Some small, some larger, but all around inches in width and length. They were mostly brown in color, highlighted by an orange glow, not too unlike the hull’s glow. “What are those?”
“I see more up there!” Akina pointed upwards.
Kyleigh was looking up too. “I see them. What…what are we looking at?”
“Miniature spaceships?” Alan shouted.
Robert let out an exasperated gush of air. “Of course. First they shrink us, now we’re huge compared to everything else. Wouldn’t doubt it.”
Lang noticed the varying-sized crystal shapes flew together in bunches or long lines, and were getting more numerous. “But why so many? Looks like hundreds of them now.”
“And observe that.” Nahas pointed ahead. “They’re all heading toward the silver craft.”
“Just like us,” Evan said. “I guess that’s where our answer lies, of why the hull did all of this.”
Lang couldn’t help but think the same. “I agree, Evan.”
Everyone became quiet. Lang either stood motionless or walked periodically, like Kyleigh, Evan and the others did, since it wasn’t mattering – they, along with those crystal things, were definitely heading toward that silver disk. He tried to relax and calm his yet rattling body, especially to be strong for Kyleigh, and Evan, and it was actually working; his shaking was lessening. Though it was hard to tell for sure, with nothing to compare anything to in the pitch blackness, the silver disk now appeared to be about a half mile away from all of them. But those orangey-brown crystals things were forming an odd trail heading to the silver craft. “Kyleigh, you see that? Seems like a cone-shaped path, with those crystals. And then they’re circling the silver craft.”
“Maybe they are like light beacons for us,” Kyleigh said.
“Yeah.” Robert laughed. “The hull hasn’t been keeping us in the dark so far, now has it.”
That wasn’t the best response, but maybe Robert was acting out of stress. “Yeah,” Lang said, “but Robert, what are those things then?”
“Never mind that now.” Nahas motioned his hand toward the silver craft. “Look. I think we’ve been staring at its top, and now we’re heading down, toward its side more. You notice, there’s an open area beneath it?”
Lang squinted, focusing better. “I think I see it.”
“Makes you wonder what’s really going on here,” Robert said. “Why allude to a spaceship in the middle of intergalactic space, when they want us to believe the universe exploded away? So we can’t be in intergalactic space. Just some dark environment, non-hostile to those aliens. Or maybe it’s white for all we know, and the hull’s making us see black.”
“Or is this an alternate universe,” Akina said. “Could that be it?”
“Maybe, Akina,” Nahas answered.
“Do you think our universe didn’t explode away?” Kyleigh asked Lang.
He thought for a moment. “I don’t know. Maybe not.”
“It’s all some sort of big illusion,” Nahas said. “How could we speak to each other as if in a large room, with no echo? We can hear very well even with our distances. And how could we feel weight, gravity, when we’re supposedly in a place without gravity?”
Lang just stared ahead. Let the others discuss the details, he figured. They were moving much faster now, since the silver object, whatever it was, was growing quicker in size. All it consisted of was a silver disk-shaped roof and a silver disk-shaped bottom, or floor. And above and all around both disks those orangey-brown crystals flew, together or separately.
“Dad. Are we really moving closer to that silver ship?” Good. Evan’s deep voice sounded less fearful, more calm. “Or is it coming at us?”
“Well, this floor thing we’re on, feels like it’s moving us to it. But I can’t say for sure. Just try to stay calm like you are now. It will help.”
Kyleigh looked at Lang. “You see that thing in the middle of the floor level?” Her voice was shaky. She was still trembling.
Lang wanted to wrap her up in his arms, and keep her close, but they just couldn’t now. He stared carefully. A large oval object, like a huge smooth stone was right in the middle of the lower silver level. “I have no idea.” More of those crystals flew overhead. He looked up. “This is all getting really weird.”
“No kidding, Dad.” Evan looked up and around too. “And there’s no way this is intergalactic space, or even an alternate universe. I don’t see one distant galaxy anywhere.”
“Good observation, Evan,” Nahas said. “I’ve noticed the same. But looks like we’re wanted on that silver disk floor, very soon.”
Nahas’ words rang true; their speed was increasing. Only about fifty feet of distance now lay between all of them and the silver lower level, and they were closing in fast.
“There is no…there is nothing holding up the ceiling part,” Akina said, alarmed. “See, look!” She pointed around the silver craft’s perimeter.
Observing carefully, Lang noticed no visible beams or other structures from floor to ceiling. “Wow. You’re right.” Many of those crystals were still flying around, though less than earlier, their flight paths visible against the dark perimeter space between the silver floor and ceiling disks.
“Maybe some sort of anti-gravity device is keeping both levels apart,” Nahas said. “Or charge or magnetic field repulsion.”
“Great,” Robert said, “and we’re heading right into it. Then again, can we believe anything we see?”
“I doubt it can harm us. Nothing has yet.”
“Yeah,” Alan said. “I’m proof of that.”
“I hope they’re right,” Kyleigh said softly to Lang.
He couldn’t help but agree. “Me too.”
“The floor level appears a complete perfect circle, even from our viewing angle,” Nahas said. “Though I’m not certain of its diameter.”
Everyone’s distance from each other was getting closer as they approached the silver floor’s circumference.
“Looks about thirty meters diameter to me,” Alan said. “Nothing but silver, but not level.” He lowered himself and moved his head around to get a better view. “And the floor dips down all about that oval thing. What is that thing?”
“Probably represents a control device,” Robert said. “An extremely advanced control device.”
“Wouldn’t doubt it,” Nahas agreed.
Lang figured the lower level’s diameter was about a hundred feet in diameter. He focused his attention on the perimeter edge of the lower level, about a foot in vertical width, and polished smoothly beyond belief. “You guys see how smooth that edge is? And how smooth the floor’s surface itself is?”
“Yes,” Nahas said. “And we’re about to land on it.”