1: The New Day
Nobody noticed what was happening at first. To most people, It had appeared outside their windows in the morning, a brand new addition to their view of the sea. Years later, people would testify that they saw It appear much earlier than the official reports. Some would even swear upon their mother's graves that they could see It there the whole time—that they were the only ones capable of seeing It. Nobody took these claims seriously, of course, but there was always that thought in the back of people's minds. When had It come?
All that truly is known is that the seventeenth of February, 2000 was the day everything changed. It was the day It formed.
Traffic clogged up the road to Bridlington, making movement slow at best and impossible at worst. Sat in an old, blue Ford, Doctor Daniel Farrow tapped at the steering wheel with the side of his thumb. He checked his watch. Almost quarter past five now. Dammit. We're supposed to be half an hour away! I set off almost double that. Once again, the urge to find somewhere that sold cigarettes overcame him. He kept tapping.
The phone had woken him that morning at four. His personal phone. The one nobody called unless it was an emergency. It had still been dark outside and Michelle didn't even wake up next to him—she was doing that more frequently nowadays, he had made a note to ask her if her hearing aid was working properly.
"Daniel?" a female voice had said. It took him a moment to recognise the person on the other end, his brain was still waking up.
"Lambert?" he asked, his voice slow and his tongue thick. He sat up in bed and flicked the lamp on. Still no movement from Michelle. "Maria? What's wrong?" He could hear a shake in her voice. It was subtle, but Daniel had learned to detect it.
"It's…I can't explain," she told him. "Look, you need to come to Brid, okay? There's…something's going on and we've been asked to bring in as many scientists as possible that we think could know something about whatever…whatever's going on here." Scientists? I haven't been a scientist in a long time.
"What?" he rubbed his eyes as if that would help him understand any better. "You're not making any sense. What's happening? Are you okay?"
"Yes, it's just…" he could hear talking in the background but couldn't make out any words. "I'm sending you a fax, okay? Read it, then come here. You'll know where to go, you can't miss us."
"Miss what?" but she was already gone. Daniel snapped the phone shut and sat back. In the next room, he could hear the fax machine whirring to life and printing whatever was being sent.
At sixty-five, getting out of bed was becoming increasingly difficult. His bones just didn't want to work the way they had even a year ago. He made it, however, and walked over to his wife's side of the bed. He woke her gently and told her that he had to go.
"Work stuff," he had told her.
"You have to teach someone at four in the morning?" she asked.
"Apparently. I don't know what's going on, but Maria wants my help, so…"
She leant back, her black hair falling over her eyes. "Go on…I'll make you something when you get back."
The urge to smoke came back as the time passed with no movement. Daniel looked at the passenger side. The fax still sat, unread, on the seat. It was a report of some kind, he knew that much from just glancing at it as he left. No time like the present.
He picked up the papers and leant them on the wheel, making sure to glance up at the road every few moments in case the traffic moved.
Date – 17/02/00
Reporting party – Pvt J. Cole
Witness – Caroline Joanna Swanson
Report is as follows:
At around 0300, Mrs Swanson was on the way home from her shift at the hospital. During which, rainy conditions had forced her to engage high beams on her car. Because of this, her eyes caught sight of a blue light coming from the coast to her right that she initially mistook for the sea. Upon moving closer to the beach as she got closer to home, she noticed the unusual shade of the blue light and, at around 0315, stopped her car decided to investigate. Alone on the beach, Mrs Swanson saw the anomaly and immediately phoned police services, which was made at 0317. Recordings of said call can be provided upon request.
The next page contained a photograph of Caroline Swanson with lots of information. Age, medical history, stuff that would take hours to compile together. What the hell is going on? Anomaly?
He wanted a cigarette bad.
Even when the traffic jam broke apart, it took a while to get into Bridlington. Every other street, groups of men in dark green army gear and guns stopped Daniel as he made his way through. He had expected to be turned around each time they asked him what he was doing there, but once he told them his name, they allowed him to move on. Aside from those in uniform, the streets were barren. He couldn't even make out anybody in the houses.
You'll know where to go, you can't miss us.
The sun was up now, casting an orange glow on the sky and long shadows on the ground. Just what the hell am I doing here? He brushed his white hair back with his hand as he was stopped by another group of men.
"Dr Farrow?" one of them, a tall man with a head of dark hair, asked him. Daniel nodded. "Please get out of the car, sir. We'll take you from here."
"And my car?"
"If you'd like, we can park it up for you."
"No, I bloody well wouldn't like. I'll do it myself," the man looked flustered but didn't object when Daniel parked the car on the side of the road a few metres back. He wasn't always the grumpy old man, just when he thought he'd get an entertaining reaction from it—and the young man didn't disappoint. "Lead the way." He told them as he climbed out. They led him through a number of side streets until finally, they reached Bridlington Spa, the large, wide building right at the edge of the beach and blocking his view of 'the anomaly'. Whatever it is, I think I'll be finding out soon. He had been there before, though under different circumstances. Daniel doubted he'd be getting any relaxation anytime soon.
The men dropped him off at the two large black doors at the front, where two more men with guns stood guard. All around them, people bustled about, some army men, some businessmen, all talking fervently to each other about something or other. Those with a clear view of the beach couldn't seem to look away from it, their eyes were locked onto whatever they were looking at, whether they were talking to someone or not.
Without speaking, the men let him in. He entered a large room with a long reception desk at the end and giant posters of smiling would-be customers relaxing on massage beds, sat back in saunas, and eating expensive food. Maria Lambert was pacing the length of the room when he saw her. She was only thirty-five, but for some reason, she looked much older. Her hair was messy and stood up in one place, her eyes had bags under them, and she chewed her nails as she walked up and down. She saw him eventually and smiled deeply, her shoulders relaxing a little.
"Daniel!" she said, stopping her pacing and approaching him. She was wearing the same clothes she had worn the day before. "I'm sorry for this. Really, I am, but they wanted scientists who could possibly know about this thing, and—"
"Maria, what the hell is this thing? This 'anomaly'? Who wanted scientists?" Maria Lambert. Colleague for almost ten years. Extremely bright and on track for tenure. They'd even written an article together, though that was the last one he'd done.
"The army, they've quarantined the whole town and are trying to keep as many people away from it as possible, but…" she stopped herself. "Just…come look. It'll make more sense, then." She led him down through to the restaurant area, pushing past groups of people until they reached the open room. All the tables and chairs had been moved to the sides. One large, circular table was left in the centre, covered with sheets of paper and printings of satellite photographs. At the far end of the room, however, was a large window with a view of the whole beach.
The sea was blocked off by a wall of pure, blue light. It stood a good distance from where the water met the sand. Boats were sailing left and right of it, dwarfed by its size. It was at least thirty feet tall, blocking out any view of the sea from the restaurant. To the north, it ended right before the wharf, cutting off abruptly and letting the comparatively dull-coloured sea poke through. To the south, however, Daniel could see no end. It curved and bent with where the coast was, never touching the land.
"What…" Daniel's throat was tight. "What in God's name…"
"We don't know," Maria said, her voice just as constricted as his. "That report I sent you? We think that's the first time anyone saw anything. It just…appeared. We don't know what it is, where it came from…hell, it could be alien for all we know."
"How…" Daniel's mind was blank. His heart was beating hard and fast in his chest. He reached out and put his hand on the glass. Some tiny part of his brain woke up. "Someone…someone get me a goddamn cigarette."