Michael Haley is the author of “Lost on the Edge of Forever,” a spiritual romance of the Fantastique published by Curiosity Quills, released on February 2, 2014. You may read his inspiring WIP interview on MM Jaye writes.
Lost on the Edge of Forever – Prologue
Genre: Spiritual/paranormal romance
IT HAPPENED TODAY
The morning I died wasn’t unique. I hit the snooze alarm twice, checked e-mail for word on grad school, gawked over celebrity gossip, threw my hair into a ponytail, and begrudgingly crawled to class. A typical day, with an insane to-do list: code data for Dr. Trudard’s lab, turn in a cap and gown order for graduation, work ‘til ten at Gramps & Gran’s, and write a twelve-page Bio Honors Seminar paper on necrosis due the next morning. The air was spring-chilly warm, and the sky was clear. A busy day, yet an ordinary one.
By noon, my name would be among the twenty-four students and teachers killed during the Prairie State Shootings, often considered to be the worst school shooting in the state’s history. I knew death would come someday, obviously, but only after I’d pioneered numerous life-saving breakthroughs in cancer research, visited every country the entire world over, and raised an awesome family with an awesome husband.
Apparently Allah had other plans.
At roughly a quarter ‘til eleven, I walked into Barker East, Prairie State University’s then newly renovated lecture hall. I waved to Kiko, my lab partner and friend since freshman year, and sat next to her. I had barely taken off the backpack when Kiko tapped my arm. “Hey, Leila? This is like―I don’t even know.” I peered over Kiko’s shoulder at a message highlighted yellow on her laptop:
To all my FRIENDS, WHO EVER u are! We’re fucked! It’s that MENTALITY OF the normals, and they’re the ONES who deem US inappropriate! INAPPROPRIATE! you know what I mean! For all of those who THINK THEY CAN JUST mess with us downtrodden, IGNORE OUR humble pleas and ELONQUENT declarations of ENDLESS LOVE will receive their SALVATION and MY mercy! God bless YOU!
Kiko stared at the screen. “What. The. Hell.”
I read the message a few times. “Probably a bizarre joke. What do you think that meant?”
“It’s nonsense. Guy’s name is Lenny, and he was a grad assistant in my sophomore poly-sci course. He actually friended me and like, no one else in the class apparently. His personality’s just, like, I don’t even know.”
Both our phones beeped.
University alert―Male seen with gun at the corner of 14th and Baker Street. Do not approach if you see him and seek shelter immediately.
“You don’t think this is serious?”
“Not likely. This is like the fifth alert we’ve gotten this semester. Probably someone stealing from Mildred’s again.” Kiko shrugged. “So I’ve given it, like, a ton of thought and decided we have to go to Cancun for our final spring break. It’d be so perfect.”
Cancun, really? Although the idea of hundreds of bodies getting drunk and horny on a beach sounded more fun than my inner feminist should probably admit to, I still had reservations. “Kiko, I’d love to. But Cancun is so typical―why not Paris? Barcelona? Hot Spanish guys could teach us how to flamenco dance, and I’m sure they’d be a little more sophisticated than white farm boys on a beach. We got enough of them here at Prairie State.”
“I don’t want sophistication. It’s our last spring break. Why not have some crazy-wild fun before we have to get serious with our lives?”
Our phones beeped again.
University Alert―Gunshots Reported―Ellison and Ezra Halls. Two potential shooters. Stay inside and secure doors. Emergency personnel responding. Call 9-1-1 for assistance.
“Another one?” Kiko asked. “What the hell?”
Beeps, ringtones, and vibrations cascaded from student’s backpacks and pockets throughout the room. Scores of faces morphed from curiosity to horrific shock as they stared at the devices.
“What’s all the commotion?” Professor Trudard asked from the podium, the moans and whispers of the class increasing in volume.
One person yelled from behind, “There’s a fucking shooter at Ezra! That’s across the street!”
Dr. Trudard raised his hands and motioned for the class to calm themselves, but by then nearly everyone had read the text messages streaming into their phones. They insistently muttered, stuttered, and whispered:
Is this real?
Are the police coming?
They can’t be in the building.
Has anyone been killed?
Oh my God, oh my God.
Oh my God, oh my God.
The unmistakable sound of gunshots rang in the hallway outside the doors. Kiko screamed along with everyone else. The gunshot was immediately followed by another. And then another. Someone screamed we needed to run. Someone yelled the doors needed to be locked. Someone cried we’re all going to be killed.
The door blew open. Everyone gaped with quiet paralysis at the man who stepped through. Two bullet sashes across his chest. An assault rifle caked with grime. An empty face, splattered with someone’s blood. He looked up and lazily scanned the room with dull, dumb eyes, settling on Kiko. He aimed the weapon at her head, and without hesitation, fired twice.
Kiko’s neck snapped with an audible crack as the bullet’s propulsion whipped her head over the chair’s small back. The classroom erupted into a chorus of screaming and crying, Kiko’s legs, arms, and fingers chaotically twitching and contorting upon themselves in the throes of death. I laid myself against the floor, shut my eyes tight, and prayed for her: in the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful…
All noise ceased. No sound of gunfire nor screams. No crying nor even breathing.
I slowly peaked my head above the ridges of the seats, staring at the horrific, incomprehensible, and yet―mystifying―sight before me. The gunman’s body was halted in place―in time perhaps―as was the burnt-orange, midfire light frozen on the edge of the gun’s barrel. I looked about. The class was motionless in the midst of panic―faces covered by textbooks, bodies clinging onto one another in hopes of safety and salvation―everyone still as a dead heartbeat.
A voice, with neither body nor form, spoke soothingly into my ear like a breath from the wind. Dude, have faith this was meant to be. I love you.
The voice instantly steadied my frightened body, its timbre serenading erratic nerves into a serene calm. I took one breath and then another. I can get through this. This situation is transient. My fear will come to pass. Although my body is temporary, nothing bad could ever happen to my soul. Allah will protect me.
I’m not sure when time resumed, nor will I ever know if he fired upon me intentionally or by happenstance. All I remember is the searing agony of the first bullet ripping open my lung, followed by the second bullet shattering my skull, the petite piece of lead landing somewhere inside the occipital lobe before exploding. My knees buckled and cracked hard upon the floor. The smooth, bone-cold floor. Pain, excruciating and infinitely intolerable. My throat lurches like a fish gulping for air. I’m unable to breathe. My lungs seize. I attempt to scream. Allergy-hued mucus vomits onto the granite base under the seat, and heated blood tasting like minerals gurgles between broken teeth. More pain cascades through every organ, even more infinitely intolerable if such a thing were possible.
And then, all feeling ceases. No sensation from any of the splayed limbs of my battered body. Nothing except the vague feeling of waking from a dream. Maybe I was dead. Maybe I was alive.
Is there really a difference?
Amazon USA: http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Edge-Forever-Michael-Haley-ebook/dp/B00I7HE2T8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400558131&sr=8-1&keywords=lost+on+the+edge+of+forever
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Edge-Forever-Michael-Haley/dp/1620074192/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400558169&sr=8-1&keywords=lost+on+the+edge+of+forever
Pinterest (Visual Playlist of Music that Inspired the Novel):http://www.pinterest.com/mhyclone83/lost-on-the-edge-of-forever-visual-playlist/
Twitter: @Michael__Haley (two underscores)