Sample Chapter

The cover illustration is from an original painting by Pat Nix.

Chapter One

Embarrassed, Drew Owens looked across the library to see if anyone had seen him jump like a startled rabbit. To his relief, he saw no one. In his defense, the librarian’s announcement had been over kill, comparable to a teacher using a foghorn to wake a kindergarten class after naptime. 

Lacking the element of surprise this time, the librarian repeated the announcement, “The library will be closing in five minutes.”

He had been so absorbed in his work that he had lost all track of time. Frustrated, he groaned to himself, knowing that he might not have the time to finish his molecular biology assignment that was due in one week. He conceded that he had been a little too ambitious choosing his thesis. His original intention was to create a dissertation that would impress his professor; unfortunately, the price for making that impression was exhaustive research that left him drowning in a pool of work. 

Recognizing that failure was a possibility, he yielded to the inevitable—simplify the subject. There wasn’t any need to write a book; quality outranks quantity. What had he been thinking anyway? Yes, better to trim the scope of his thesis, turn it in, and hope for the best. He knew the paper didn’t represent his best efforts, but the title was cute—DNA in Search of Self. Who knows, maybe his professor would give him points for being creative, but that wasn’t very likely. In fact, it was fantasy. 

Quickly saving his notes to his flash drive, he logged out of the computer and made his way to the first-floor lobby. Glancing across the massive library for other poor souls scurrying around getting their things together, he discovered that he had been abandoned. His fellow students had better things to do on a Friday night. He shook his head in exasperation as he envisioned spending the rest of the weekend transcribing endless notes. He was becoming a prisoner to his apartment that had become an austere monastery.  

Nodding at the librarian who smiled at him seductively, he exited the building with two minutes to spare. 

Making his way down the marble steps, he paused long enough to scan the entire quadrangle. The first thing catching his attention was how eerily quiet everything was. Of course, sensible people wouldn’t be out on a wet, dark, and utterly dismal night. Feral animals even had enough sense to hole up safely in their dens. 

Unlike most people, he had no quarrel with dreary weather. On the contrary, he loved capricious weather that exerted its own personality with different mood swings—weather with character—not the mundane, run-of-the-mill kind. 

Shrouded by a fog mixed with light drizzling rain, his surroundings took on a surreal appearance, like an abstract painting in one of nature’s grand exhibitions. Shapes would suddenly materialize out of the fog like apparitions as he walked toward them. 

The huge oak trees with their sinewy limbs danced lazily with the wind and appeared as tall, grey ghosts stretching toward the heavens in the faint glow of a city that had not gone to bed. 

Those gentle giants were a testament that the world was more than just concrete, brick, and plastic. They were a part of nature that was not prefabricated nor engineered. They were living souls, the quadrangle’s majestic sentries that had diligently stood there on watch ever since the University of Michigan was only an infant. 

Moving beyond the trees guarding the library, Drew approached the street that would take him home. Looking as far down the road as he could see, he quickly concluded that he was a solitary traveler moving down a lonely street partially hidden in fog and shadows. He smiled as he realized that the scene could be a metaphor for his life. 

Approaching an intersection, he looked carefully in both directions only to see little pools of hazy light emanating from street lamps. The faint, amber luminescence of the lamps appeared strange as they struggled to provide light for any hapless person finding his way through the maze of light and shadow. 

The damp, cool weather that tended to be unfriendly kept most students off the street, but he welcomed the night’s serene solitude. He suffered no great loss whenever he was far away from the crowd with all its noisy expectations and hassles. He loved the spooky, chalky fog that made him feel as if he were walking alone through the streets of London. Forgetting all about his research, he took a deep breath of fresh, chilled air that left him contented as he moved down the familiar route toward his apartment.  

Unfortunately, everything comforting and serene about this night was about to end. As he took a long stride to avoid a puddle, he abruptly felt an unnerving chill that traveled the length of his spine, leaving him inexplicably afraid.