863 words (3 minute read)

Chapter 1: Fahrenheit

21st January 2019

The only sound that broke the silence of the Chamberlain residence was the constant tick-tock of their grandfather clock near the entrance of the dimly lit mansion. That and the sound of Lucia’s black boots striking the well-worn wooden floor as she strode smartly across the second floor of the family household.

Despite being indoors, she was dressed smartly in a black trench coat finished with tasteful red buttons and lining. Her bright blond hair was neatly tied back into a long ponytail that bounced softly on her slim back, keeping time with her stride. Her emerald eyes missed nothing as they darted here and there, taking note of the beautiful art pieces that hung along the hallway before focusing on the door at the end of the hallway.

She finally reached her destination at the end of the hallway, facing a double barred oak door.

Lucia knocked once and, without waiting for a reply, opened the door and slipped into the room.

It took a moment for her eyes to fully adjust to the darkness. There was no other light source in the room other than the three wide-screen panels directly behind a wide wooden table.

She walks towards the light. In front of the screens was a large figure, his shadow stretching all the way towards the entrance to the room.

Lucia reaches the table and sits down at the worn leather chair, waiting for him to speak first.

The Chairman says and does nothing to indicate that he’s aware of Lucia’s presence. His back was turned towards her as his sole attention was on the news report that was blaring across all three screens.

‘Today, fifteen year old Abigail Truro, a student at Riverdale High, is the latest victim of the Draught. There have now been thirty known patients inflicted with the Draught. All of them are residing in Victoria State Hospital, where doctors from around the world have been brought in to both treat them and determine the cause and, potentially, cure for the Draught. But, so far, neither cause nor cure has been forthcoming. In other news, the – ‘

The man taps the remote. The screen jumps and settles on a different news broadcast that seemed to be in a middle of a discussion with a panel of experts.

‘-sease seems to be targeting people at random. There are no commonalities between the victims. No distinct pattern. Absolutely nothing,’ lamented one expert. “My source at the State Hospital has informed me that the doctors there are at their wits end trying to determine what’s going on with the Drought. At this point, they’re just as lost as the police are!”

With another quiet tap, the screens went blank and the lights came on.

Lucia squinted and blinked rapidly as the bright light illuminated the man that finally swivelled around to face her.

“Father”, she greeted.

Chairman Chamberlain tilted his head imperceptibly in response. His short, black hair was pulled back across his receding scalp, showing further signs of aging through the liverspots that dot across his neck. However, to Lucia, his coal black eyes still had a steel glint to it whilst his mouth was set in a determined lined.

His veiny hands were curled into a fist and slammed softly into the cushy leather arm rest of his large wing backed chair.

“We can’t afford to lose any more time, Lucia”, he said. “Are we ready yet?”

“We’re sending our first expedition into the Other Side tonight. We should be able to establish a forward base and perform a reconnaissance of the surrounding area before the week is out. Further study and exploration will be carried out over the next few months”

“Good”, he replied, slumping his shoulders as he visibly relaxed. “Well, how does it look like?”

Lucia’s hand disappeared beneath her coat, only to emerge grasping a slim manila folder.

She slides it across the table towards the Chairman.

He picks it up and starts flipping through the pages as Lucia waited patiently.

The Chairman reached the end of the folder, having read the entirety of it in silence.

He grunted.

“Looks like you and the others have your work cut out for you”, he said, tossing the file onto the table. “One question. This…structure the scans picked up on the Other Side. What is it?”

“From what we could gather, it’s a nest”, Lucia responds quietly.

Silence rained for a few seconds before the Chairman spoke again.

“Lucia, find out what you can about this structure and the Other Side. And quickly. Before the Draught claims us all.”

“I will. Is that all, Chairman?”

He nods in response. In one swift motion, Lucia gets up and leaves the room.

Once the door was closed, she whipped her phone out and sent a short, terse and meaningful message to the group.

The message read:

Time to get to work, Fahrenheit.

Next Chapter: Chapter 2: Welcome Home