Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1
Title: Out of the Clear Blue Sky
“You’re sure this is the place?”
Joyous screams and laughter melded with the roaring surge and retreat of the tide on my left. High rise condos and hotels lined the sand along my right. Beachside bars filled with the sun-baked masses as the day waned. Shoes in hand, I curled my toes into the wet sand. The ocean rushed in with foamy fingers, sneaking under my feet to snatch the ground from beneath me. If I closed my eyes, the shifting seemed bigger. For a moment I knew the rhythm and flow of the earth.
“I’m sure,” I said.
“I gotta say,” the boy at my side said. “When HQ said we had to go save the world from a temporal rift, I was imagining something more dramatic.” Caleb Jennings stuffed his hands into his hip pockets, his slacks rolled at the cuffs and baring lean calves. “Clearly the beach has a calming influence on more than humans.” He stopped just shy of leering at a young woman walking by. Her melon-hued bikini promised to bare all with the tug of a few strings.
I wanted to smile, but the distortion from the rift grew with each breath.
“Keep it in your pants, Caleb.”
“You’re no fun, Jules,” he said. “I thought you liked the ladies.”
“If you were hoping to peep a girl-on-girl make out session, you’re going to go home disappointed,” I said.
“Damn.” He sighed. “No fun at all.”
“A tragedy, I know.” I rolled my eyes.
“It would have been so hot,” he said. “You’re a stone fox, Jules.”
And I would be telling HQ no more horny teenaged boys for trainees, please.
“Could we focus on the job, Cal? Just maybe?”
He pouted. “I don’t see what the big deal is,” he said. “It’s not like the world is going to end.”
“No it’s just like someone or something ends up in a world they don’t belong to,” I said. “It’s here.” I glanced Caleb’s way as he jerked around, eyes wide, all thoughts of lipstick lesbians pushed aside. “This is the spot.”
“You don’t feel it?”
“No, I do. I think.” He frowned, looking all around us. “Just a buzzing. Like a gnat in my ear. Annoying, but not urgent. Where is it?”
For a rookie, sensing anything at all put him above the average on a very steep learning curve. I closed my eyes and stretched with that extra sense as much a part of me as sight. My brow furrowed. We were right on top of the thing, damn it, but I couldn’t find the tear.
“Should I be looking for anything?” Caleb asked. “Giants? Aliens? Unicorns?”
“I saw a unicorn once,” I said. “Pretty damn cool, actually.”
He gaped at me. “You’re shitting me.”
“Came through a rift in Kentucky,” I said. “Most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen.” And scary. Oh yeah. Every bit of six feet at the shoulder, with eyes holding the wisdom of lifetimes. It had looked down to my soul, scraping free every darkness I’d hidden, buried, and forgotten. “If you’re lucky, Cal, you’ll never see one.”
“Lucky? But you said—”
“Where the hell is this damn thing?” I propped my hands on my hips and tipped my head up to the sky. Visible to my eyes but unobserved by the crowds around us, a thin, shimmering tear cut across the cloudless blue. “Oh, no.”
Caleb’s breath caught. “Jules. We can’t reach it.”
“But you need to touch it to seal it.” He lifted his arm above his head and jumped straight up. “Yeah, no way. How do we—?”
“I’ve got no idea, kid,” I said. “But it looks like you’re going to get drama after all.”
The temporal rift shivered and spewed forth a figure. A young man hovered fifty feet above us for half a second before the gravity of our world caught him and he plunged.
“Move!” I shoved Caleb away, diving for a clear patch of sand.
The dull, meaty thud of impact drew a shout from Caleb as the man crashed between us. Those closest to us echoed him, surprise morphing rapidly to panic as more bodies tumbled out of the clear blue sky. I grabbed Cal’s hand.
“Get up,” I said. “We have to run.”
He nodded, his throat working hard to swallow. I fished my cell phone from my pocket and dialed HQ.
“We can’t reach the rift!” I shouted to be heard. “What do you mean who is this? Check your fucking caller ID. Julia Stafford. Cancun. The rift is active and out of reach. We need containment, ASAP.” I spared a glance over my shoulder to the widening tear. “A crane would be good, too.”
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Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.