Ascendant – Snippet 4

Snippet 4 of Ascendant, The Kacy Chronicles, Book 2

By A.L. Knorr & Martha Carr

Snippet 4


Chapter 4

The Kacy Estate

There had to be a logical explanation for this.

Allan paced back and forth in front of the ‘booze bureau’ (that’s what Jordan called it), pausing at either end to eye the strange glass bugs in his bourbon bottle. Since he was now out of bourbon, the glass in his hand carried single-malt scotch instead. The normally smooth oaky flavour had turned to diesel on his tongue. Still, he was on his second tumbler and his hundredth journey across the carpeted floor.

These same bugs might enable him to contact his daughter, but how? The bugs had gone dormant and rested in the bottom of the bottle along with traces of bourbon still left inside. As though to reassure himself that he’d not imagined the whole thing, Allan tapped a finger against the glass. Two of the bugs sprouted legs and crawled over their companions to the glass walls of the bottle where they began to climb, ever optimistic that the cork had been removed since the last time they’d checked. How glass could cling to glass was beyond Allan, but the bugs were somehow able to scale the slippery surface, their tiny feet click click clicking.

Allan set his drink on the bureau, rooted his cell out of his pocket and scrolled through his contacts until he found Inspector Cranston’s number. His thumb hovered over the green call icon. He had to have answers, and if Cranston could talk all kinds of crap about avian-human chimeras, he’d have to be open to the idea of parallel universe bugs spelling out messages from his missing daughter.

“I am crazy,” he whispered, but he hit the dial button anyway. He lifted the cell to his ear, failing to block out the tink-tink of bug legs. He turned his back to the bourbon bottle and wandered to the archway between the parlor and the foyer. Bracing against the doorjamb, Allan sank to the floor and listened to the ringtone. The phone rang twice, then clicked as it was answered.

“Senator Kacy?” Cranston’s voice came through clear and crisp. “What can I do for you?”

“Cranston.” Allan’s heart doubled its speed and his palms suddenly felt cold and clammy. He felt his resolve weaken. “I – have there been any developments in the case? Have you found anything else out about the – uh, the chimera?”

“Nothing new, sir,” Cranston replied, then cleared his throat. “I hesitated to tell you about the blood for this very reason. I didn’t want you to worry. I assure you that everything is under control, sir. We’ll find Jordan and we’ll bring her back. I promise.”

Allan cringed. He hated when people said ‘I promise’. Cranston was just a man, and when men made promises they nearly always broke them. Allan thought that it was one of the many ways God kept men humble, as if to say, I can make promises. But you shouldn’t.

Allan’s eyes tracked to the bourbon bottle where two of the bugs were jammed into the neck. As he watched, they both put their legs away and fell with a clink into the pile of their companions below.

His mouth formed a grim line. Jordan’s bug message had told him the answer – she’d fallen through a portal. But how was it possible? How could any of this be real? Maybe he’d hallucinated the whole event. That wouldn’t explain the bugs though. He’d felt them beneath his fingertips, they were the only thing he could see now.

Glass marbles, moving and –

But Cranston was talking. Allan had almost forgotten he was still holding the phone to his ear.

“– get some rest, Senator Kacy. You’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep.”

“Wait, Cranston.” He took a steadying breath. “I’ve found something.”

The tuk-tuk of a helicopter’s blades overhead sliced through his certainty like a hot blade through butter. He was a senator, he was under watch, under protection, and he sure as hell couldn’t afford to look crazy at a time like this. At any time, really. Even a whiff of crazy equated to weakness, loss of all credibility, loss of any pull he might have.

Loss of power and credibility could endanger his life and Jordan’s as a result.

“What did you find?” Cranston asked.

Allan gritted his teeth at the bugs.

“What did you find, Senator?”

“It’s, uh, it’s a picture of Jordan. I thought you might need an up to date one for your records.”

“Oh,” Cranston replied, and disappointment leaked through the phone. “That’s fine, sir. I’ll come over in the morning to collect the photographs.”

“Good night.” Allan hung up before he blurted out anything about glowing marble bugs and portals. He let out a long exhale. “What do I do?” He forced himself upright and readjusted his glasses.

The bugs were unconcerned by his plight, their fat glassy bodies lay dormant again in the bottom of the bottle like so many eggs.

“What am I supposed to do?” Allan asked again, frustration mounting. He lifted the bottle and poked at the glass with his fingertip. “You in there. Things. What am I supposed to do?” He’d neatly crossed over the line between tipsy and drunk quite some time ago already.

If Jordan had used these little suckers to send him a message, perhaps he could use them to send one back. He could ask her where she was, how to get there, and whether she needed anything.

What if she was hurt? Or cold? Or lost? Fear pasted his tongue to the roof of his mouth.

Decades had passed since Jaclyn’s disappearance, but he’d harbored a secret fear ever since. He’d tended it in the silence of sleepless nights, and nurtured the fear like one would care for an orchid, this belief that someone would one day take his baby away from him too. That he’d also lose his daughter, the only person who mattered anymore. It was The Unthinkable, which of course meant that he thought about it far too frequently.

And now, it had come to pass.

These little glass balls were the only tie he had left to Jordan. “I’ll be damned if I let this happen,” Allan whispered. “I’ll be damned if I’ll just wait around and do nothing!”

He clutched the bottle in his fist and charged through the house, out of it, and down the deck stairs. He marched toward that five-hundred-year-old oak tree and it’s swinging chair, buoyed up on scotch and belief – he’d contact Jordan again.

Allan dropped to his knees in front of the old oak and said a quick silent prayer. Let me see her again. Let me bring her back. Let me talk to her. Please, she’s all I have left. She’s my little girl.

An image rose from the dust of his memories – Jordan as a five-year-old, her chubby hands squished against his cheeks. “You’re the best daddy borned. Smartess too.”

“Smartest, sweetheart.”

“That’s you.”

Tears squeezed out of the corners of his eyes and he lifted the bottle. His breath caught in his chest. The bugs had started glowing. Those two yellow eyes on each glassy marble had reappeared. His heart skipped to a strange rhythm to see how they’d responded to being near the tree. More proof that there was some invisible portal here.

“I need your help,” Allan said to the bugs. “I need to speak to Jordan. I’m going to let you out, but you have to help me, okay?”

They seemed to stare at him, unmoving, now. Was it a sign they agreed?

He uncorked the bottle with a ceremonious hollow pop – then laid the bottle in the grass on its side.

The bugs crawled out one by one and scurried toward the tree.

“No, wait! No, you have to do the message.” Allan grabbed one, then another. He tried arranging them, but every one of them wandered toward the tree as soon as he released them. He tried to gather them up all at once between his palms, as many as he could, but each time he placed them in a pattern, they scuttled off again, always toward the oak tree.

“Stop it,” he commanded. “Pay attention!”

The bugs didn’t stop. They glowed brighter, their two yellow eyes blended into one, blindingly bright light. They became like small stars. They reached the tree, crawled up its roots and swarmed over the bark. They blazed now, so bright Allan had to blink against the glare.

Allan stifled panic and tears, raised his arm to block the light. “Please,” he said, swaying. “Jordy.”

The light evaporated, replaced by darkness and silence. Nothing moved, not even a whisper of wind in the long grass or the creak of the swinging chair. He lowered his arm. The bugs were gone. But it was too quiet.

“Hello?” he croaked, staring at the tree where something was happening.

The center of the tree moved and blurred, a hole widened in the fabric of Allan’s reality, the bark of the tree melted away and pulled back, stretching open like it was made of latex. The hole wobbled and expanded, exposing a strange deep blackness which changed color from dark to midnight-blue, then to the bright glaring blue of a clear summer sky. The radiant azure rim stretched outward, undulating and widening with a serpentine sway.

The hole broadened, the blue haze at its center dissipated and revealed… something else. Another place, another time, a view of –

“It is a portal,” he whispered and broke out in a cold sweat. The bugs hadn’t sent a message to her, but they had left a hole, a path, a doorway.

It didn’t matter if the bugs had heard him and done it on purpose, or if it was purely an accident, a result of their travel back home. They’d created an opportunity. Allan scrambled upright and swayed on the spot. The edges of the hole in the fabric of Earth’s universe tightened, and Allan gasped – the opportunity, it seemed, would be very short. Now or never took on new meaning. He glanced back only once at his plantation home, his jaw tightening with resolve. He could no more say no to this opportunity than he could prevent grass from growing up around the old house.

He clenched his fists, faced the new world, and entered it to find his daughter.

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