The Paradox

 

THE PARADOX


          A stranger is found shot and unconscious along the side of a country road, curiously dressed in period clothes. When he regains consciousness, he is disoriented by his surroundings and has no memory of who he is or where he is from.

          As reporter Kip Stevens and hospital psychiatrist Ericka Porter try to uncover “John’s” identity, they are drawn into a mystery within a mystery that pushes their belief systems to the limit and calls into question their entire concept of reality. Is “John” a time traveler? Is he the reincarnation of a man who lived well over a hundred years ago? Or is he a huckster? In his quest for the truth, Kip also questions whether the events that led to his involvement were really all that random.

PROLOGUE


This is NBC with breaking news. The coronal mass ejection or CME that is on target to hit Earth has more than doubled in speed and intensity in the last few hours and will arrive in two days instead of the projected five. NASA scientists are baffled.

“The solar flares and CME measured out last week to be moderate. A geomagnetic storm of this level shouldn’t even be a possibility,” said one NASA spokesperson.

Satellites will soon be disrupted, affecting GPS and wireless communication systems. All aircraft have been grounded. Officials fear that a geomagnetic storm of this magnitude may also cause damage to electrical grids that can result in blackouts for several hours across much of the Northern Hemisphere. People are advised to have flashlights on hand and enough food and water for 24 hours. If a blackout occurs in your area, stay at home and wait out the storm. Emergency crews will be patrolling the streets to provide aid, and police and the National Guard will be on the alert for looting and criminal acts...

Amos Hamel clicked off the television, greatly disturbed, and paced the floor as he debated what to do. He couldn’t risk calling his friend and colleague. Every word spoken these days was monitored in one way or another, and he was certain he was being watched. It was just a matter of time until they came for him.

The physicist sat down at his desk and took out pen and paper. He laboriously wrote out everything he knew, what he suspected, and what he feared. Using the computer was out of the question. A good tech could reconstruct enough from a hard drive no matter how badly he damaged it after the fact.

When he was finished, the physicist hesitated for a moment before sealing the papers in an envelope. He would be placing his friend in jeopardy, but someone had to know of this. The physicist addressed and stamped the envelope with a renewed sense of determination and purpose and covertly placed it in the outgoing mail slot of his apartment complex.

Across the country, an old woman was suddenly awakened from her sleep. She felt unsettled, unbalanced. Something wasn’t right. She had no idea what it was, but she knew that something had happened to upset the equilibrium.

CHAPTER 1


Fairfield, Pennsylvania


Two days later


As Kip Stevens drove the two-lane country road from Addison to Fairfield, he wondered again what had possessed him to come this way. Habit certainly wouldn’t have dictated it. It wasn’t a route he normally took. He liked to feel connected to the outside world. Radio and cell phone reception in this area was spotty at best with the Allegheny Mountain. And, he liked the conveniences of gas stations and fast food restaurants.

Today, however, he couldn’t argue that point. Everything was closed. The entire area was feeling the effects of a major solar storm not experienced in modern times. Satellites and electricity had been down for several hours and officials weren’t speculating on how much longer. Still, Kip had to wonder at his internal compass for directing him this way. He finally decided that it was because, time-wise, this was probably the shorter route with all the traffic signals being out on the major roadways.

Twilight was falling. He looked in the rear view mirror. The road was completely deserted, making the situation seem even more surreal. It would appear people were heeding the advice of the mayor and the governor to wait out the storm at home. Why not? Traffic lights weren’t working; there was no voltage to run machines or electronics; no Internet or phones to conduct business. If things didn’t get back to normal pretty soon, thought Kip, he would have to type up his story on a manual typewriter. Idly, he wondered if any still existed. He hadn’t seen one in 20 years.

As he rounded the bend, his eye caught sight of something several feet off the side of the road. It looked like a pile of clothes in the tall grass. Peering closely through the windshield, Kip slowed down as he approached the spot.

“What the—holy shit!” he exclaimed.

He jammed on the breaks so hard the car rocked. Throwing the gearshift into park, he jumped out and ran over to a man lying doubled up on the ground.

Kip bent down and slowly rolled him over. The man looked as though he had been in a fight. He had cuts and bruises on his face and one eye was swollen shut. He didn’t move or say anything. Blood covered much of his shirt-front and Stevens saw that the man had been shot as well. Kip felt for a pulse. It was thready at best. Just then, the man moaned and his eyes flickered open.

“What is your name?” asked Kip. “What happened to you?”

The man stared up at him blankly and Kip could see that he was in shock.

“I can’t call for an ambulance on my phone. There is no reception because of the solar storm. I’ll have to take you to the hospital in my car.”

When the man remained unresponsive, Kip carefully hoisted him to his feet and half carried him to the car.

The man groaned and lost consciousness again as Stevens lay him on the back seat. The guy looked to be in pretty bad shape and Kip didn’t hold out much hope that he would survive. They were still 10 miles from Fairfield and the hospital was on the other side of town.

Kip drove as fast as he could on the back road. When he entered town, he sped through the streets, heartened to find that the only traffic he encountered were emergency vehicles patrolling the downtown and neighborhoods. The town was eerily quiet and dark now, except for the light from flashlights and candles winking in the windows. A few people had generators.

Kip pulled up at the emergency room entrance and ran inside. “I need help!” he shouted.