Frozen In Time

A short story by Meg Sorick.

Bright. Blindingly bright. He felt awful —his head was pounding, his stomach was roiling and his mouth tasted like blood and bile. And he was cold. Very, very cold. Alex shielded his eyes from the sun and tried to remember what had happened. The party? Yes. The fight with Valerie? Oh, yes. He couldn’t remember leaving and —god, he hadn’t actually tried to drive in that state, had he?— crashing the car.

He tentatively opened his eyes. The front of the car seemed undamaged. A look in the rear view mirror told another story, though. The back windshield was a spiderweb of smashed glass and the trunk of the car was pushed up and backwards so as to obscure the view. Alex returned his gaze forward. The sun was just coming up over trees that shimmered with a thick glaze of ice. It had apparently snowed heavily overnight, though he couldn’t remember that either. The effect was disorienting. He couldn’t get his bearings. Where was he? The car hadn’t gone into the ditch, rather it seemed to be stopped in the middle of this unfamiliar road. He tried turning the ignition. Dead. Not even a cough. Wishful thinking.

Where was his phone? He found it lying on the floor in front of the passenger seat, screen cracked but operational. He sliced his finger trying to swipe it open. Cursing, he stuck the bloody digit in his mouth. To his dismay, he discovered that he had no cellular signal. How could he have driven so far away from the party to lose coverage? He checked again, moved the phone in all different directions but it was no use. He wondered, without much hope, if Valerie would be looking for him.

After checking himself over to assess the extent of his injuries, Alex unbuckled the seatbelt and tried the door. The impact had jammed it forward but with a huge shove and a creaking groan, it finally opened. He gingerly stepped out into the snow and looked around. Behind the car, the faint imprint of his spin-out was just perceptible beneath the deep snow cover. Further beyond, was the apparent cause of the accident —a train, stopped on the tracks that crossed the road.

“I must have run through the crossing and nearly made it,” Alex said aloud as he examined the back of the car. Twisted metal and plastic protruded from the wreck. He turned his gaze to the motionless behemoth, its engine quiet, just a residual trail of smoke rising from it’s stack. Smoke? A steam train? “What the…? What is this, some kind of tourist attraction?” Alex muttered as he stared in confusion. “Where is everyone?”

He took a step forward, struggling in the deep snow. “Hello?” he called out. Only the soughing of the trees was the response. A chill not from the cold crept up his spine. He checked the phone and again got only a bloody finger for his trouble. By the time he reached the train, the cold air breathed in through exertion was hurting his lungs and he’d lost the feeling in his feet. Soon, he realized, the cold would turn deadly. He either had to find help here at the train or find a spot where his phone picked up a signal. Surely, the train, even if it was an antique, would have some sort of modern communication system.

As quickly as he could manage, Alex trudged to the front of the train. Finding a step and hand bar to grab onto, he hoisted himself into the engineer’s compartment. The space was empty but fortunately slightly warmer thanks to the coal still burning in the firebox. He saw no electronics, not even a radio that he might use to call for help. Alex took a minute to thaw out and consider his options. He could only assume that the engineers had gone back into the passenger cars to check on the people.

After he’d warmed himself sufficiently, he once again braved the cold and snow to forge a path to the first car. Pulling himself up by the handrail, he pushed the doors open into the compartment. The cold penetrated to his bones as he stared into the blank, frozen eyes of the passengers. Every single one of them was dead. Not just dead, frozen in time. Frozen with newspapers in their hands, teacups raised to their lips, leaning over to whisper in their neighbor’s ear. Nothing in nature could freeze a living, breathing human so quickly. Alex slumped against the doorway of the last car to steady himself. As the cold stiffened his limbs and thickened his blood, his last thought was of Valerie and he wondered if she’d ever forgive him.

The Bucks County Novels – by Margaret Sorick

Once a year (yes, I’m terrible at marketing…) I like to remind my followers that I have a series of novels available for purchase on Amazon. The novels are set in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I live. My characters are ordinary people with families, people who fall in love and sometimes find themselves in outrageous circumstances. While the same cast of characters appears in each of the books, the plot focuses on a different one every time. The first  novel in the series: Three Empty Frames won first prize in The Writer’s Digest E-book Awards for Mainstream Fiction in 2017. Here is a look at each one of them:

Three Empty Frames  – Book OneThree Empty Frames_02_HR_front_2

Life just got complicated for Jennifer Dunne. Her dead mother’s diary has revealed clues to a famous art heist from the 1960s. Have the missing masterpieces been hidden among her things all this time? Jen is targeted by a pair of ruthless criminals who certainly think so. Meanwhile, she’s falling in love with her new lawyer, who works with her to unravel the clues. But will the fledgling relationship survive when another handsome rival appears on the scene? And have the clues to the whereabouts of the missing masterpieces led them astray? Were the paintings hidden in plain sight all along?

Seeing Red – Book Two 514HE57Sz1L

Beautiful, hardworking, Desdemona Murray doesn’t see herself the way others do. She only remembers the awkward teenager she once was. The talented landscape designer is hired to install a custom deck at the home of star football player, Ethan Samuels. When she catches the eye of the handsome professional athlete, and he begins to pursue her relentlessly, she is at first, flattered and amazed. However, her heart belongs to a man whom she believes only considers her a friend. Adam Quinn has always been a ladies man, not one to settle down, or so she thinks. Little does she know his feelings for her run much deeper. When Des finally sees both men for who they really are, the choice she must make is obvious. But when she chooses, Des finds out how dangerous it can be to break free from a man who can’t take no for an answer.

Run For It – Book Three fullsizeoutput_cc7

Joni Cooper is in the best shape of her life. In fact, she’s training for the Boston Marathon. So why does she feel like the last kid picked for the team? Mostly because her two best friends have fallen in love with a pair of handsome brothers. It looks like she’s stuck with the third and final brother, Graham, as an escort for both weddings. Even though Graham is gorgeous and successful, he’s also irritating as sin. Will the two of them manage to call a truce until the two couples are married? Or will the sparks these two generate erupt into a five alarm fire?

Tainted Inheritance – Book Four fullsizeoutput_f0c

Why would anyone want to hurt Olivia Sutton? Her life was finally coming together after her divorce. She’s found new love with contractor Leo Donovan and made a fresh start in a new home. When she becomes the victim of one too many random accidents, she realizes someone is stalking her. Has something in her past come back to haunt her? And can she and Leo discover the secret before it’s too late?

Breaking Bread – Book Five breaking bread_01 copy

Maya Kaminsky has finally realized her dream of owning a French bakery cafe, despite the opposition of her rigid, narrow-minded family. But as the business grows and thrives, Maya discovers she has an enemy. Beginning with petty mischief, the cafe becomes targeted by vandals who quickly escalate to dangerous sabotage. To complicate matters, Maya’s childhood friend, Brad Logan, moves back into town and with his recent inheritance, buys her building, intending to help her out. However, Maya’s fierce independence makes it a struggle to accept help from anyone, let alone a man with whom she finds herself falling in love. Nevertheless, Maya will need all the help she can get to save both her business and her life.

Inhuman (2)

You can find part one of the story here.

(2)

Amanda paled. “What do you mean, it’s like he’s not alive?”

Ignoring her question, the doctor hurried to the door and called for one of the nurses to come quickly.

Brian sat in stunned silence. He shook his head to clear it. “There must be something wrong with his equipment,” he murmured.

Amanda smiled nervously. “Yes, yes. Of course you’re right. It’s got to be some sort of malfunction.”

The doctor returned, a second stethoscope and sphygmomanometer in his hands and performed the tests a second time. Without a word, he shook his head in dismay. A moment later a nurse entered the room with yet another set of tools and a tray with syringes and vials. When the third examination yielded the same results, the doctor readied the syringe. “Bloodwork,” he said. “We’ll get to the bottom of this.” But as he probed for a vein, his look of concern turned to fear. “I can’t even find a vein. I’m sorry… let me just try…” he said as he found a spot and gently pressed the needle into flesh. “What the…?” he said, stumbling back. The needle had barely penetrated Brian’s skin. He tried another spot and another. Then the other arm but it was no use.

“What is it? What’s going on?” Amanda demanded, the doctor’s alarm apparent.

“There’s something under the skin. Some kind of barrier.” He sat heavily on his rolling chair and looked at Brian with awe. “Artificial limbs? Some kind of advanced technology? Experimental surgery? Something? Anything? Any way you can explain this?”

Brian shook his head. “Never even had my tonsils out.”

The doctor rubbed his hands over his face. “We need to run more tests. I’m sending you to the hospital.” He turned to the nurse. “Call ahead. Tell them the situation so they’re ready and waiting for him.” Then taking a deep breath, he continued, “There has to be a logical reason for these findings. We’ll get x-rays, a CT scan, maybe an MRI. The hospital is one of the finest in the country. You’ll be in the best possible hands.”

They sat, not speaking while the doctor typed furiously into his laptop. A moment later, the nurse returned to let them know a team of doctors would be expecting them and gave them directions as to where to go.

As Brian slipped his shirt back on, there was a commotion in the waiting room. “Excuse me a moment, will you?” the doctor said and hurried from the room. Amanda and Brian exchanged a look as the sound of raised voices, then shouting and doors slamming reached their ears.

“We’d better go see what’s happening,” Brian said. But just as they reached the door, it flew open and two imposing figures blocked the way. The men, at least they assumed they were men based on their size, were dressed in hazmat suits, masks and boots.

“You both need to come with us,” one of them ordered.

“But what…?” Brian began, before the other one cut him off.

“Everything will be explained. We need to go now. This is not optional.” And to emphasize his point, he raised his gloved hand to show them a gun.

Each man took Brian and Amanda by the arm and escorted them through the now deserted office. A third man stood guarding the door. After exiting the building, they were herded into a waiting van. Just as the door was sliding closed, Amanda turned back to see the man guarding the office pull of his mask and unzip the suit.

“What’s going on? Are we in some kind of danger?” Brian demanded as the van began to move.

The two men who had rushed them from the office now removed their protective clothing as well. The one holding the gun spoke. “No. We just needed a plausible cover to remove you from the office. The staff and the other waiting patients were told there was a noxious spill, and we were clearing the area as a precaution.”

“But why? Where are you taking us?” Amanda asked, her voice shaking.

“I’m not authorized to answer your questions. Please be patient,” he said.

“We were supposed to be going to the hospital… my husband…” Amanda began.

“We are aware of that ma’am. That’s how we found you. We been monitoring medical facilities on the chance something like this would happen. That’s all I can tell you. Please remain calm.”

“Remain calm?!? Remain calm?!?” Amanda cried. Brian tried to put an arm around her but she shook it off. “You need to tell us what’s going on and where you’re taking us, right now! Right this very minute!”

The two men exchanged a look and the one not holding the gun opened a small case sitting on the floor beside him. “We hoped it wouldn’t come to this.” He extracted a syringe and before Amanda could react, stuck it into the side of her neck.

“No….” she sighed as she felt unconsciousness overwhelming her. The last thing she remembered was staring up at the dome light of the van.

To be continued…