Chapter One

The explosion occurred on a Friday in the small town of Ferry Iowa, on Picket Street.

The phenomena seemed to rocket down the street with its force; rattling windows and setting off car alarms in its wake. Dogs for a mile radius went into a frenzied barking in the aftermath. Up and down Picket Street doors were being cracked open as people cautiously peeped out. Some of the seemingly more daring (but probably just thick), crept outside to look around. Seeing no harm had come to them, and certainly not wanting to be shown up by their neighbors, others ventured out; congregating in the street where a crowd formed. It was a mixed group of people. Some were having an excellent time of it, grinning like a bunch of fools with the roused excitement. Others were pale-faced and frightened. The remaining, curious and bewildered. The children had similar reactions. Some clung to their parents, while others shrieked and laughed while they ran through the crowd, thrilled with an unexpected event. In soft spoken whispers, neighbors inquired of other neighbors what had just occurred, which was actually a very stupid question to ask since no one had an answer.

The voices rose to an indiscernible hum. An older woman thumped her cane several times against the paved street attempting to draw attention to herself. She raised her fist and shook it in the air as she shouted gibberish about God sending his wrath down upon them all for the wicked ways of people, and she pointed it at this person and that person as she proclaimed them sinners. A man in the crowd, who had been on the receiving end of her relentless preaching one too many times, yelled at her to shut her flapping lips. She stopped only long enough to give the group a squint-eyed glare as she discerned which of them had uttered such blasphemy.

In the midst of the confusion and chaos, bored of the entire affair while her mother remained distracted, only a single small girl saw the back door of the neighboring house fling open and the odd spectacle of a tall, very lean man stumble out. From where Maggie and her mother stood on the front lawn of their house, only the two of them had a clear vantage point of that particular back yard.

The man seemed to be in a terrible hurry, a look of concern on his face. His untamed hair looked scorched, his face and clothing blackened. Wisps of smoke curled up from burnt holes in the material of the long white coat he wore. Maggie thought he was wearing long oven mitts on his hands, and that sight made her giggle. He clutched several glass tubes, and as he ran he tried to keep the pretty boiling purple stuff in them from lapping over their brims. The few drops that managed to escape seemed to sizzle when it came into contact on his oven mitts or the grassy lawn. She strained to see each splash from the heavily blackened brims of each tube, giggling with delight each time the lovely purple goo escaped.

She pointed towards him. “Mama, look at the weird man. He’s funny.”

“Hush, Maggie.”

Maggie couldn’t understand why her mother found this milling crowd more interesting then the man she was watching. She tugged at her mother’s sleeve. “But Mama, look.”

Maggie’s mother spared her a glance, putting a finger to her lips in a shh motion.

If little Maggie’s mother had only looked in the direction her daughter pointed, all would have made more sense. If everyone hadn’t been in such a state of shock they might have considered the possibility of their neighbor, a suspicious and odd character in Ferry, being involved in some shape or form. Uncharacteristic of their usual nosey habits, this was one person they had learned to avoid. His mysterious arrival in Ferry had initially garnered the attention of all, but the more they poked and prodded the more elusive he became, finally shutting himself away from the rest of the town altogether. They had managed to learn just enough to want to keep it this way.

Maggie of course didn’t know any of this. All she knew was that this man that had scurried from his house was far more exciting to watch than whatever was happening out in the street and she wanted to share the moment with her mother. As children often are though, the little girl was ignored.

Mere moments later, came another blast, echoing in the street so no one could pinpoint where it was coming from, to the frustration of all. People gasped, and many were knocked over in the sudden gust of wind that came. Grins faded from faces, and those who had already been frightened went into a dead faint, crumpling in the streets like wilted flowers. Children screamed, and several began to cry. A few adults joined them. Car alarms went off once more, and dogs picked up where they had left off. When the noise settled it happened with a suddenness so jarring that even the birds and cicadas went silent. Everyone held their breath, waiting for a third blast. But it never came.

The “funny” man emerged once more, hands now empty, his clothes and hair in even further disarray. He and Maggie made eye contact for a second, and his eyes widened. They widened even more when she waved to him. He mimicked her mother by putting a finger to his lips. She put her finger to her own mouth and smiled shyly at him. He gave her a wink, then slipped back through the door he had emerged from.

The folks gathered in the street were still trying to process what had just happened.

Maggie’s mother looked down at her little girl. “What were you trying to tell me earlier?”

“Nothing Mama.”

Maggie’s mother regarded her for a few moments before shaking her head and looking away once more.

Only one person knew what had happened that day, because he had caused it.

Next Chapter: Chapter Two