Author’s Note: Vanishing is an alternate version of Kismet, a story now available at Amazon. I tried to get the attention of book publishers with this and the previous chapter (along with a third chapter, which I will post in the next few days). I never had any takers, but I never gave up on the story.
Lisa found herself driving aimlessly around town, soaking up the sunlight coming through her sunroof, and heading to nowhere particular. She drove past her parents’ house, decided not to stop, then headed to the drugstore to buy a home pregnancy test. Afterwards, on the drive home, she thought it was stupid to do so, but she wanted so much to see the stick show negative and prove the old woman wrong.
But she knew it would show positive. This was the first day of the past three that she had not vomited after waking in the morning.
“So what if I am pregnant,” she said. “That doesn’t prove anything.”
She caught herself talking aloud, a habit when she was upset.
“That’s right, I talk to myself,” she said. “I wonder if that’s in your stupid book that shocks people, lady.”
The pain in her elbow throbbed, but flared when she turned the steering wheel. She winced and bit her bottom lip as she drove into the driveway of her and David’s cottage home at Alice Lake.
She found David behind the cottage, heading to the deer path that led upwards to Myers Ridge’s Eagle Rock Incline. The college art teacher had painted vistas up there during the past two weeks. Lisa grabbed a bottle of orange Gatorade and tagged along, wanting his company and needing someone to talk to. The crazy woman’s strange conversation echoed in her mind until she unloaded on David the event.
At 630 feet above Ridgewood, she finished and David said, “I know. She called me right after you left. Told me the story of how she believes you’re her mother.”
“She’s insane,” Lisa concluded.
“Precisely what I told her.”
David and Lisa said no more while he set up his easel, canvas, paints and brushes. In front of them was a green vista of ravines and drumlins and several gulches around the blue one-mile spread of Alice Lake below. Every earthly feature had been carved into existence by great sheets of ice more than ten thousand years ago. That included the craggy ridge and its Eagle Rock Incline they stood upon.
As a grade school science teacher, Lisa knew well the geology of the old Pennsylvania hill—a mere remnant of the mountain it once was all those years ago. While David painted, she meandered along the hilltop, careful of the surface erosion and cave-ins where sinkholes threatened to swallow her if she wasn’t careful.
Despite the dangers, the place felt peaceful. It smelled sweet and powdery of life beginning to ripen. Lisa felt the love she had for the place stir. And then the atmosphere changed. A few fat raindrops fell from the cloudless sky and landed upon her arms and cotton blouse, chilling her skin. The sunlight scorched away the chill and wetness, so she returned to meander among the grassy landscape which looked like an old field sprinkled with aspen and birch trees.
It was while she was inspecting the outer edges of a sinkhole when she felt the tremor enter her feet and spread up her legs as Myers Ridge grumbled. The tremor quickly became a quake strong enough to bring down three aspen trees behind her—none of them close enough to strike either her or David.
Next to her, the ground around the sinkhole collapsed. She rolled away from the enlarging hole, then watched loose stone and sod tumble down into it. All around her—and David too, who was several yards away and holding his easel to keep it from toppling—the clash and scream of birds taking flight sounded like someone had ripped open the sky.
The quake, which lasted almost fifteen seconds, stopped.
Lisa stood and saw the sky over Alice Lake had darkened with growing rain clouds, as though an artist had dipped a loaded paintbrush into water. Thunder spoke as the sky over Myers Ridge buzzed with immediate electricity.
Lisa knew about the phenomenon of electricity sounding like the buzzing of bees when a static charge is building between ground and sky. As the sky buzzed, she felt the hair on her arms rise and the skin prickle. The fine hair on her face and neck came alive next.
Charged by electricity, Nancy had said. By the lightning storm.
“No,” she cried, “it isn’t possible.” And she wasn’t referring to the buildup of electricity around her. “People don’t travel in time.”
She called out to David while she scrambled to remove her wedding rings and told him to remove his own ring and anything else made of metal. She said it twice, her voice trembling each time, but he only looked at the sky and scratched the back of his neck. Above them, the sound of angry bees sounded angrier.
She ran to him, took his hand—the one still bearing the wedding band—and hurried him down the path.
A sudden wet wind pushed at their forefronts, slowed their escape, and caused Lisa to shield her eyes from the bits of grass and leaves flying at them. She did not see the green light emanating from the new sinkhole that obliterated the large part of pathway in front of them.
David skidded to a stop, but Lisa went on, not seeing the light and the hole until it was too late. Down she went, tripping over deadwood and rock and plunging into the light that filled the hole.
Inside the light, she fell long, and her screams resounded against the force that pulled her down, her mind fearful of what lay waiting for her at the bottom of the abyss.
[To be continued…]