Welcome one and all to The Infinite Bard! Our mystical tavern full of storytellers, merrymakers, a roaring fire, and an unlimited supply of your favorite refreshing beverage is always open once you know the way.
I hope you’ll sit down, relax, and let the tales take you away for a much-needed break from everyday life. You might just find a new favorite bard among our number. You can sample the wares of other featured tale-spinners at the links below.
Passed Over by Michael Kingswood ∞ Before She’s Gone Forever by Phil Giunta ∞ Ninja Angel by Jess Barry ∞ Mistletoe and Murder by Lauryn Christopher ∞ Tinsel by Frazer Lee ∞ Hide and Seek by Kris Katzen ∞ Ice House by Debbie Mumford ∞ Purple Hills by Rigel Ailur ∞ Full Voice by Jason M. Hardy ∞ Murder and the Little Old Lady by Lorraine J. Anderson ∞ To Ashes by Leigh Dragoon ∞ So Much to See by Frazer Lee ∞ The Princess and the Assassin by Tony Jones ∞ Doppelgänger by Michael Kingswood ∞ All That Matters Is What You Believe by Phil Giunta ∞ The Raven by Barbara G. Tarn ∞ Moongarden by Sarah Stegall ∞ A Warm Tale for a Cold Night by Debbie Mumford ∞ All Kinds of Ghosts by by Reid Allan ∞ Author of Murder by Jean Rabe ∞ Blind Spot by Donald J. Bingle ∞ Diamond of the Sky by Azure Avians ∞ First Command by Chris A. Jackson
Read on for my turn on the Infinite Bard stage, a short prequel yarn from my Storms of Future Past Series. I hope you enjoy Sensing the Storm! The ebook and paperback are for sale at your favorite online retailer.
For more of my fiction, including exclusive free short stories and discounts, early pre-sales, and adorable pet photos, pay a visit to The Confidential Adventure Club.
Hope to see you there!
Sandy Hughes stared into the steaming, dark amber liquid in her blue porcelain mug as if she could extract nine hours of sleep from it. Aroma from the peppermint tea she’d optimistically tucked in with two English Breakfast bags attempted to make it through her sinuses to her brain.
But all Sandy got was the odd sensation of disconnection between her slow-moving body and her nearly comatose mind.
Turned out these twenty-four hour shifts in the ER truly were a game for the young. Or at least a game for the much younger than her.
She sipped the tea, pleased she’d let it cool to exactly the right temperature even when she was groggy. Her tongue and mouth sent an invigorating heat warning out along the Nervous System Express, but no signs of lasting damage. Hopefully the caffeine molecules would follow the same pathway so she could manage to get up from her desk and head back out.
The (hopefully empty) halls of the finest teaching hospital in Chicago awaited, along with what sometimes seemed like a seething horde of medical residents. Even at nearly the halfway mark of the twenty-first century, nothing could quite replace hands-on training with experienced supervision.
Sandy took another long sip, then forced her tired eyes to move, to focus on her surroundings.
Old-fashioned wooden desk, pale oak scarred from at least three generations of docs. She suspected it was still there because no one was motivated enough to cart it out of the narrow office door or willing to chop it up into firewood.
Scratchy blue sofa only as ancient as her own undergraduate years and lugged around ever since. Primarily because, with the addition of one of her Granny Hughes’s lovely Appalachian piecework quilts, that sofa was the best napping surface ever discovered. Even if an hour-long nap only made the long shift feel worse, Sandy never could resist.
White walls loaded up with black metal bookshelves, in turn loaded up with decidedly unusual paper and leather medical reference books Sandy had collected since she was in high school. Sure, she carried a pocket-sized computerized assistant and diagnostic aid, just like everyone else on the floor did. Including the residents and other students, who were far too dependent on the things. But when she had the time and leisure, nothing compared to the satisfaction of finding her answers in fragrant paper between those gorgeous textured covers.
Some part of Sandy—the part more active when she was asleep than awake—knew there were times the pocket computer wouldn’t have the data. Or it would glitch or fail or simply miss a diagnosis. Never see a connection a human brain would catch, even a tired one.
And so deep down inside Sandy could ignore it more often than not, her recurring dreams were starting to convince her that someday PocketDocs and all the other electronics people were certain they couldn’t live without would fail.
When they all crashed headlong into humanity’s greatest test since the last Ice Age.
She shook herself, finished the tea, and got to her aching feet with a groan. No time for dwelling on her nightmares, no matter how strongly they carried the weight of onrushing reality.
Not when some perfectly ordinary person living their ordinary life could be hauled into the ER at any second, thrust unsuspecting into a waking nightmare and depending on Sandy and everyone else to bring them through.
She ran her hands over the sensible braid she used to keep her dark blonde hair wrangled and presentable on nights like this, then brushed the wrinkles out of her purple scrubs. Slipping on her thigh-length white coat covered the worst of it, so she wasn’t sure why she bothered. Probably a lingering concern with looking presentable left over from her rural Virginia childhood, one that didn’t apply during the survive-if-you-can hours ahead.
Time to help guide the next crop of doctors in the mysterious ways of Staying Awake Longer than Humanly (or Humanely) Possible. And maybe teach them a thing or two along the way.
The hallway outside her first floor office was indeed empty, and the antiseptic burn of recent robotic cleaning forced Sandy’s gray matter into a bit more alertness. The emerald green-tiled floor sparkled under the overhead lighting, making up for the cold, early twilight of January against the windows.
Modern as that eerie, automated cleaning staff might be, along with the state of the art equipment in the ER and every other room, the hospital itself was even older than Sandy’s beloved desk. Parts of the building were over a hundred years old, with secret glimpses of those gorgeous sturdy bones waiting for those who knew where to look.
One of the younger ER docs—the great-great nephew of one of the original architects—had shown Sandy a few groovy Mid-century Modern and even Art Deco façades hidden in dusty sections of the administration wing. Kurt Robinson had been absolutely bursting that day with family pride and excitement about working right here.
But dwelling on the curves and beauty of the past and how little of it remained in blocky modern design wouldn’t get her through the next several hours.
With no noise but the rubbery squeak of her black leather shoes, Sandy allowed herself to imagine the last six hours of her shift could possibly stay as calm as this quiet walk.
She even managed to quiet down uneasy ripples from her nap as they bubbled to the surface inside her head. Unpleasant as those streamers and whispers from her unconscious mind could be (her husband called them aftershocks), the fact that Sandy managed to send them packing let her know she was more or less awake.
Awake enough to get through a slow shift, anyway.
Still no noise or smells or signs of panic ahead. Maybe this would be a calm evening after all. Easy enough to think that when she was still twenty feet away from the emergency room double doors.
As was far too often the case, all hell didn’t break loose after she triggered the automatic sensor and the staff doors swung open.
The three residents, two nurses, and two med students clustered around the bed in the middle of the white-partitioned walls of the treatment bay to her left turned toward her at once. Wide, frightened eyes in all those faces brought Sandy up short, and her shoes let out a ringing chirp against the polished floor.
The person on the raised diagnostic bed in the middle of the crowd answered with an ear-splitting shriek and thrashed hard enough against the chest restraints to nearly tip the heavy bed.
“What the hell?” Sandy said, charging forward. “Report, now!”
One of the most promising of the residents, a young Mexican woman with warm brown skin and black braids as thick as Sandy’s blonde ones, stepped close enough to speak into Sandy’s ear over the continued screaming.
“Thirteen-year-old male, Ricky Edwards. Unconscious when his parents brought him in. Vitals good, no signs of trauma, QuikTox came back negative. Found him on a couch in the living room an hour ago, and he’s been out that whole time. As soon as they got him in the doors out front, he started screaming.”
The boy’s cries slowed and dropped an octave, and Sandy’s shoulders and neck started to unknot.
“Had you treated him with anything before that started, Dr. Sandoval?”
“No, ma’am. He calmed down when we brought him back here, away from the other patients. And, well, even more when we all stood around him.”
Sandy blinked. She glanced up at the attending doc she’d been thinking about on her walk, and he nodded. At nearly six and a half feet tall with huge green eyes, a red goatee, and a gleaming bald head, Kurt Robinson was unmistakable in a crowd no matter how crazy things got around here.
Those eyes didn’t look as tired as Sandy’s felt, and they held a trace of a smile.
“She’s right,” he said, shrugging, his voice barely above a whisper. “What the kid seems to need is quiet and company.”
“Don’t we all,” Sandy said. “That doesn’t help us figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it. Suggestions?”
Dr. Sandoval glanced back at the bed, and Sandy followed her gaze. The big display panel above the African-American boy’s head showed green across the board, not a single alert to be seen. Even his heart rate, which had to have been elevated when he was screaming and thrashing around, was normal.
“It doesn’t seem to be seizure activity,” Dr. Sandoval said, turning back to Sandy. “Nothing the bed’s scanner can pick up, at least. Since noise seems to set it off, or other patients, I don’t think that’s it. No fever or abnormal ear discharge, and he’s not overly sensitive to light.”
Sandy nodded, concentrating on keeping her mouth shut and her expression neutral. As her junior in this situation, Kurt did the same. She remembered being that nervous resident, so afraid of missing something on the checklist that she had to learn to step outside of it. Outside of her own chosen concentration and over to someone else’s.
Come on, kid. We treat more than the body in this place.
Dr. Sandoval raised her chin and looked Sandy in the eyes.
“I suggest we monitor his vital signs and call in a psych consult. Dr. Tahara if she’s on-shift.”
Sandy allowed herself a quick smile.
“Agreed. Why did you pick Dr. Tahara?”
“She’s got the best bedside,” Dr. Sandoval said. “If any patient ever needed a calming presence, it’s this one.”
“Good,” Sandy said. “I’ll send the alert and warn her about the shoe noise. Sorry about that.”
Sandy pulled out her PocketDoc, watching Kurt and Dr. Sandoval walk carefully back to the bed. The boy, Ricky, was still moving his arms and legs, turning his head back and forth, but he’d downshifted to a low mutter.
She tapped out a quick note to Dr. Jane Tahara—the best psychologist on-staff and Sandy’s best friend since they were the ones sweating out med school.
Through residencies and pregnancies, no one besides her husband knew more about Sandy’s day-to-day.
But even Jane didn’t know about the odd dreams that came true more often than Sandy admitted to anyone else.
Kurt again towered beside her when she finished, his arms crossed, watching the crowd around the one occupied bed. She’d only been working with him a couple of years, but he’d proven to be a solid, reliable partner when it came to wrangling baby docs as much as upset patients. He’d make a fantastic lead in his great-great uncle’s hospital when the time came.
“What do you think’s happening?” she said.
He shook his head. “Damned if I know. Parents are worried half to death, said he’d been getting quiet and moody the last couple of months, but they thought it was typical thirteen-year-old boy stuff. No problems in school besides the usual. Good grades, ordinary family life.”
“Deaths, divorces, diseases?”
“Not a thing according to mom and dad. Said Ricky hasn’t been sleeping well, so at first they weren’t worried when they found him. Thought he was just taking a nap. An hour passed, and he hadn’t moved. When they couldn’t wake him, they loaded him up and brought him in.”
Kurt jerked his chin toward admissions. “Mom works at an engineering firm across the street, so she knew how to get here faster than an emergency pickup could get there. They’re out front, good people who love their kid. I asked them to sit tight out there when the screaming started.”
Sandy, Kurt, and everyone else besides the boy turned when the staff doors opened again. Jane Tahara leaned in, looked around, then walked silently over to Sandy. Her straight brown hair was pulled back into its usual messy bun, but her black pantsuit and white coat were immaculate.
Jane’s lovely robin’s-egg-blue eyes lit up her face and everything around her.
“Quiet hours down here now?” she said, smiling. “The ER has changed since my last rotations.”
“Hey Janie,” Kurt said. “Much as I might like it, no quiet hours. The other exam rooms are getting a bit crowded trying to keep this one clear.”
Sandy waved her hand toward the baby docs and students, still and quiet as statues around the boy.
“Dr. Sandoval suggested you examine our patient Ricky Edwards, who was a heck of a lot harder to take care of a couple of minutes ago. Seems to get agitated at noise or being around other patients.”
“Or being left alone,” Kurt put in.
Jane stared at the vitals display over Rick’s head and frowned.
“Looks plenty calm to me.” She pulled out her own PocketDoc and scanned the messages that popped up automatically now that she was near her assigned patient. “Unless I’m missing something, there’s nothing physically wrong.”
“You got it,” Sandy said. “Nothing we can find. Any ideas before we let Dr. Sandoval fill you in?”
Jane raised her eyebrows and looked from Sandy to Kurt.
“Not a clue. I just hope he’s able to talk to me. And willing.”
After a few minutes of hushed conversation with Dr. Sandoval and the others, Jane waved Sandy and Kurt over. When she saw the others walking away, Sandy braced herself for a renewal of the shrieks.
Ricky’s soft brown eyes were still open, but he was staring at the textured white tiles on the ceiling.
“What’s going on?” Kurt whispered.
“I want to see if he’ll respond with a little bit less attention,” Jane said. She stood by the head of the diagnostic bed and leaned down. “Ricky? You’re in the emergency room, and I’m Dr. Tahara. Can you look at me?”
Ricky blinked once, then several times. His eyes tracked in jumps, darting slowly over to Jane’s face. He sighed, and his slender face and body visibly relaxed.
“It’s you,” he said, his high voice rough and breaking. “You’re the one who can help me.”
Without a backward glance, Jane hooked a rolling chair Sandy hadn’t even noticed with her foot, then settled onto it, close to Ricky’s eye level.
“I’d be happy to help you, Ricky. I’m glad you’re here. Where should we start?”
Ricky blinked again, then glanced at Kurt. His eyes still had that jumpy movement, but his face and his vitals remained calm. When his gaze met Sandy’s, she felt a jolt of recognition that made no sense to her at all.
“You know, too,” Ricky said, raising his head toward Sandy. He let his head fall back before he spoke to Kurt. “You don’t know. You wouldn’t understand.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Sandy saw Ricky’s heart rate take a jump. As usual, she didn’t have to say a word to Kurt.
“I’ll go get the baby docs rounded up,” he said. “They’ve got two other exam rooms full and ready to go. Take care, Ricky.”
He nodded at Sandy and Jane, then walked out. Quietly.
“Okay, Ricky,” Sandy said. “I’m Dr. Hughes, and I’ve known Dr. Tahara for years. How can we help you?”
Ricky closed his eyes, long, curling lashes overlapping before he blinked them open again.
“You can’t help me. I have to help you.”
Hard chills ran over Sandy’s arms and legs, and she had to force herself not to shiver. Those words hadn’t sounded like the ramblings of a sick kid, or even one making the words up as he went.
Ricky’s words somehow sounded like her strange dreams felt. Ringing with authority and reality yet to be.
Ricky’s words sounded true.
“Do you think you can explain that a little bit more to me, Ricky?” Jane said, her voice shaky. Sandy looked up into Jane’s wide eyes.
She’d never breathed a word to Jane about what happened inside her head sometimes when she slept. How what should have been nothing more than random firings of her resting brain occasionally seeped through into her reality.
More often over the past couple of years, if she was being honest with herself.
But in that startled gaze, Sandy knew deep in her bones that she wouldn’t have to explain the dreams to Jane at all.
Jane already knew.
Sandy jumped when Ricky spoke again.
“It’s something here.” He turned his head slowly from one side to the other, his eyes still showing that jittery motion. “Inside here.”
Jane nodded, putting her Trusted Counselor’s face back on before she looked at Ricky. Sandy was too afraid her shock would show to look anywhere but at Jane.
“Inside this room?” Jane said. “Something with me or Dr. Hughes?”
Ricky blinked slow as a cat.
“You and Dr. Hughes and me and the other doctors and the nurses and the students and all the sick people and all the healthy people, and my mom and dad, too.” A huge tear rolled down his cheek at the mention of his parents.
Even though Sandy knew the reason for it, she was still surprised at how fast both she and Jane jumped from what was wrong with Ricky to what awful truth he was trying to tell them.
Images danced through her mind—now painfully awake—of an Ebola scare when she was a med student. A female patient brought in straight from Atlanta’s airport, already showing advanced symptoms that her boyfriend hadn’t recognized.
Not because she’d been to the outbreak zone. That would have been too easy.
Because a friend of hers had.
Easily enough contained once the docs knew what they were dealing with, and everyone had survived with no further outbreak. But Sandy had never forgotten the hours of terror, of not knowing who’d been exposed, inside the hospital or out.
“Okay Ricky,” she said. She leaned closer, resting a trembling hand on the bed. “Help us figure this out. Where do we need to go to fix it? Is it in the air? In this room?”
He shook his head against the pillow, and now his gaze locked rock solid onto hers.
“Not here. Deep inside. Where no one can see.”
“Inside the building?” Jane said. “You mean in the basement? Is someone sick down there?”
Ricky shook his head again, and his gaze locked onto Jane’s.
“The air is sick. The building.” Another huge tear rolled down. “Almost out of time.”
“Listen, Ricky,” Sandy said, hoping she wasn’t about to upset him. “I believe you, and Dr. Tahara does, too. But can you tell us how you know all of this?”
A phantom smile crossed Ricky’s lips, a smile that never touched his eyes
“I don’t know like you do,” he said. “Not in dreams. I see when I’m awake even though I don’t want to. Maybe because I don’t want to.”
This time Sandy did shiver. Ricky didn’t sound like a scared little boy anymore.
Now he sounded like a furious and exhausted grown man.
She touched the back of his hand, and he grabbed hold and held tight.
“You said the problem was in the basement,” Jane said. “The air is sick. I’ve dreamed about the air being sick, Ricky. But I don’t think I understand what you mean.”
Ricky shrugged, his narrow shoulders barely moving.
“Can’t see it. Can’t touch it. Can’t let it stay where it is.”
Sandy rubbed her forehead with her free hand. A few paragraphs floated into her mind, dredged up from her beloved leather-bound books.
“There was radon,” she said. “Got into older buildings through the soil underneath. Odorless, colorless. Most of that got eradicated years ago, and there wasn’t much in the ground here to begin with. Much more to the west of us. Do you mean that kind of thing, Ricky?”
He stared into Sandy’s eyes, his face getting tighter and more upset by the second. She didn’t have to look to know his heart rate was going up again.
Ricky finally shook his head.
“I don’t think that’s it.” His high voice had a watery, about to cry sound, and his chin and lips trembled. “But I don’t know for sure. I don’t know.”
“You said we were almost out of time,” Jane said, her voice gentle, but Sandy saw her jaw clenching. “Can you tell me what you meant?”
“I don’t know!”
Ricky didn’t scream like Sandy was afraid of, and he didn’t even wail. He simply squeezed his eyes closed and cried like a frightened, lost little boy. In a flash, he’d gone from a worn down angry man to a scared kid younger than his thirteen years.
He still held tight to Sandy’s hand, and he grabbed Jane’s like a lifeline.
“This building doesn’t have any gas lines, does it?” Jane said in a low voice. “They switched over to other sources years ago.”
Sandy raised her eyebrows and shook her head.
“I haven’t heard of any kind of trouble with gas since we started work here, ten years ago. Think we can get someone from admin or the city down to check?”
Jane glanced down at Ricky when he let go of both of their hands to cover his eyes. His tears or the soft whimpering sobs hadn’t slowed. Jane and Sandy both rubbed his shoulders.
“Probably, but I doubt it would be tonight,” Jane said. “Past six in the evening on a rainy Tuesday in January, when we don’t really have anything to tell them. This isn’t exactly the kind of emergency they’d respond to with nothing to go on.”
Ricky dragged in a shuddering breath and whispered to himself. Sandy leaned down until she caught the words.
“…out of time, out of time, out of time…”
She took in her own deep breath.
“Okay Janie, listen. I don’t know how to…how to say or ask or anything else. When Ricky said he didn’t know in dreams, not like you do.” Sandy paused, then reached across Ricky’s bed and grabbed Jane’s other hand.
“He was talking about me,” they both said together. But neither giggled at finishing each other’s sentences like so often had in years past.
Jane nodded, squeezing Sandy’s hand. “So you know as well as I do that we have to take this seriously. No matter how it sounds.”
“We can’t wait for the city if they don’t have a good reason to come,” Sandy said. “So we have to find…a…a way…”
Her half-screaming alert, half-exhausted mind flashed up huge green eyes. A proud and delighted grin framed by a red goatee.
“I might know someone who can help.” Sandy dropped Jane’s and Ricky’s hands and grabbed for her PocketDoc. She pushed an emergency through to Kurt before she touched Ricky’s damp and overheated cheek.
“Ricky, we might be making progress. Don’t worry about where the trouble is, okay? Can you tell me if you remember anything else? Anything else about what you saw?”
He separated his fingers enough to peek at Sandy.
“You got it, Dr. Sandy? Dr. Jane? Are you going to fix it now?”
Sandy’s breath caught, almost like Ricky trying to hiccup in air through his tears.
Neither she nor Jane had told him their first names.
“We got it, Ricky,” Jane said. “We’ll do everything we can to fix it. I’m going to have Dr. Sandoval sit with you, and maybe bring your parents back if that’s okay with you. If you think of anything else, can you have Dr. Sandoval send us an emergency note?”
Ricky nodded, still peeking through his fingers.
“I will. I’d like to see my parents, please.” His voice broke on his next words before he started crying again.
Jane nodded toward the main entry doors, and Sandy turned to see Kurt walking through. Thank goodness Dr. Sandoval was right on his heels.
A few seconds later, Sandy had Dr. Sandoval settled beside Ricky, and Kurt, Jane, and herself out the same staff doors she’d come in through what felt like hours ago.
“Got an idea what’s going on with him?” Kurt said.
Sandy glanced at Jane, and they both smiled.
“That we’ll have to explain to you later,” Sandy said. “Maybe over Gino’s deep-dish and several beers, my treat. Remember how you showed me a bunch of the old details of this building when you first came on staff? The stuff your uncle designed?”
“My great-great uncle, yeah.”
“This… I know how this is going to sound, but it can’t be helped. Does your uncle still have those original old plans? They’re called blueprints, right?”
This time Kurt frowned, but his eyes lit up.
“Not anymore. I’ve got ‘em. He gave them to me before he passed about ten years ago.”
Jane jumped in, catching on to where Sandy was headed.
“How soon can we get a look at those? There may be a problem in the basement, old gas lines or something like that. We might not have time to call admin or the city, not until we have an idea what’s going on.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right about that,” Kurt said, rolling his eyes. “Uncle Fergus never got tired of complaining about the glacial pace of the bureaucrats, and his younger buddies all backed him up.”
Sandy nodded, clenching her fists at her sides.
“The blueprints, Kurt? Back at your apartment? How fast can you get them here? And can you read them?”
“Sure, I can read them. Uncle Fergus made damn sure of that. They’re in my office, Janie. Two doors down from yours.”
Ten minutes later, after a swirl of huge, blue-tinted pages that smelled almost as good as her antique medical books, Sandy, Jane, Kurt, and Kasey Bishop—the facility supervisor with the bad luck to be on that night—stepped into a creaky service elevator.
The elevator car was massive, with none of the niceties of passenger elevators Sandy was used to. Things like a carpeted floor, handrails, or even buttons. This thing was all bare gray walls that smelled like stale sweat and hot metal, a textured steel floor pocked with rust, and a key slot marked Sub 1, Sub 2, and Sub 3. A single bare bulb shaped kind of like a white teardrop showed accumulated crud and dirt in every corner all too clearly.
Kasey seemed almost as rough and utilitarian, with her brown hair cropped close to her skull, standard hospital green overalls, and her own sturdier version of a PocketDoc clipped to a brown leather belt. When she reached up to start the elevator, Sandy noticed the hand holding the old-fashioned metal key was surprisingly delicate.
“This better be worth the damn interruption,” Kasey said, twisting the key to Sub 3. “I’m telling you, no one ever uses these old subs any more, not for decades. I was actually working in the twenty-first century, got a crew upgrading the wireless service in the admin wing. A crew that needs supervising. Admin’s going to be thrilled with this little diversion.”
Jane winked at Sandy just as Sandy’s PocketDoc chimed.
“We appreciate your time, Supervisor Bishop,” Jane said. “It shouldn’t take long, and we know no one else has access.”
The elevator shuddered into what felt like extremely slow motion as Sandy brought up the PocketDoc’s screen.
“Damn right no one else has access,” Kasey was saying.
But her voice and the elevator’s creaks and groans faded as Sandy read.
Rotten eggs. ??? Ricky says you might smell rotten eggs, or maybe onions??? If you do, get the hell out of there!
Much faster than Sandy expected, the elevator thudded to a halt.
The doors rattled open as she drew breath to pass along Dr. Sandoval’s warning.
And Sandy choked on a mouthful of eye-watering, too-thick air that felt like they’d just invaded the rancid den of a thousand pissed off skunks.
“Holy shit!” Kasey shouted, her words sounding far away in Sandy’s ears.
She caught a wavery glimpse of dark pipes and filthy concrete floors before the door managed to shake itself closed again. Sandy doubled over with coughs and retching, grabbing for a handrail that wasn’t there. Instead she caught Kurt’s shoulder as he squatted beside her, his back heaving.
Both he and Jane were choking and gasping for air, too. Eyes watering, faces bright red.
Only Kasey seemed to have any presence of mind, and Sandy distantly heard her yelling into her handheld electronic assistant.
Something about emergency and city.
And gas and shut the damn lines down, now.
Sandy fell to her knees beside Kurt as the elevator stopped again and fresh air flooded the car.
But not enough fresh air to keep her swimmy head from pulling her under the surface.
The last thing she heard was Kasey, coughing herself now, calling the ER.
Sandy jerked back, away from a stinking burst of the nastiest cat box on the planet. Her head bounced against something soft even though she was upright. She opened her stinging and swollen eyes.
She recognized the green tiles and white walls of the treatment bays. In the ER section she’d left with Janie and Kurt…how long ago? Dark brown eyes hovered close to her own, framed by rich brown skin and black hair.
“There you are,” a woman’s voice said. Dr. Sandoval. “Just relax, Dr. Hughes. We’ve got all three of you back now.”
Sandy shook her head. That didn’t sound right.
“All three of us? Weren’t there four?”
Dr. Sandoval smiled and nodded.
“Kasey Bishop was with you, yes. She never stopped, though I don’t know how. She’s busy getting the ventilation open to that subbasement right now. The city’s emergency gas crew is probably down there with her already. Smelled those rotten eggs, huh?”
Sandy flinched and turned her head to the side, and looked right into Jane’s puffy red eyes. Jane sat up in her own treatment bay, with the partition walls pulled back.
“Those old-fashioned smelling salts reek,” Jane said. “But they get the job done every time.”
“At least they smell better than that basement did,” Kurt said from Jane’s other side. His voice was as rough as Sandy’s throat and chest felt. Sandy took a long drink of the water Dr. Sandoval offered before she spoke.
Dr. Sandoval nodded toward the treatment pod across the room, where Ricky was sitting up now too, chest restraint removed. His parents sat on the bed on either side of him, tears in their eyes as they watched their son.
“Ricky saved all our lives,” Dr. Sandoval said. “No one’s really filled me in, but I did look up the rotten egg thing before we ran down to meet the three of you. That was a gas leak in the old city main lines. Big one, too, from the notes I’m getting on the PocketDoc. Between the city getting it shut down and Kasey getting the vents going, the worst of the danger should be past.”
Sandy turned back toward Jane and Kurt.
“You understood those blueprints a lot better than I did, Kurt. What would have happened if we hadn’t gone down there?”
An even rougher voice than Kurt’s answered.
“Whole damn building would have gone up. Probably the whole damn block, thick as it was.”
Sandy turned to see Kasey, face and green uniform covered with black streaks, eyes bright red as a summer sunset. She took a few steps closer, wiping at her mouth.
“I’m sorry I was so gruff down there,” Kasey said. “Thank you for calling me in.”
Sandy started to wave her hand toward Ricky and his parents, then stopped.
She’d never told her best friend about her dreams, and even her husband didn’t know much more about them.
Despite what they’d all just been through, and knowing Jane had the dreams herself, she was dreading talking to Jane and Kurt. Even though they’d have to come up with something to tell the city and admin. Some way to explain how they’d known.
Sandy needed to talk to Dr. Sandoval, too. She deserved an explanation.
And Sandy was scared to death of what they all might think of her.
She wasn’t about to throw a thirteen-year-old boy into that same scrutiny.
The time to talk to Ricky and his parents would probably come. Hopefully with Jane by her side, to give them even an outside chance of explaining the whole thing.
“You’re quite welcome, Kasey,” Sandy said. “Thank you for acting so fast. Now if she’s through with us, you need to sit down and let Dr. Sandoval check you over. Admin really would string us all up if we didn’t take care of the woman who saved the day.”
While Kasey pretended to resist and deflect Dr. Sandoval’s attentions, Sandy caught Ricky’s eye and mouthed thank you.
His radiant smile gave her all the courage she’d need for whatever dreams—or reality—came next.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed Sensing the Storm as much as I enjoyed writing it! This story from the Storms of Future Past Series is also available from your favorite ebook retailer, with a print version soon to come.
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Book and cover design copyright © 2019 by Spiral Publishing, Ltd.
Cover art copyright © 2019 by stnazkul | Depositphotos.com
Print ISBN-13: 978-1-082293-84-9
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.