GENRE: Contemporary • Fiction • Gay • Paranormal
LENGTH: 238 pages
Balthazar Sykes is just an ordinary man who works at a New York advertising agency. But he quickly discovers he possesses extraordinary psychic abilities. His dreams become mirrors to the past, revealing his friends’ most private secrets. His thoughts manifest themselves into pure energy, giving him superhuman abilities. His search to discover what is happening leads Sykes on a page-turning adventure into the mysteries locked within the human mind.
As events unfold, Sykes finds himself lost in a maze of metaphysical intrigue and immediate danger. At the center of it all is a covert genetics experiment called Project H.E.L.I.X. With the help of his closest friends, Sykes twists and turns through lies and deceptions on his quest to discover the truth about the source of his powers.
Each hour, Sykes’ abilities continue to strengthen, becoming much more powerful than anything science or the military could have envisioned. His adversaries will stop at nothing to prevent him from exposing Project H.E.L.I.X. to the world.
Part I, Chapter 2NOTE:
Summer evolved into the brisk, clear days of autumn in New York. Sykes smelled the new season in the air, a whiff of toasted pretzels mingled with automobile exhaust and a tinge of lingering mothballs from overcoats resurrected from the limbo of storage. He dashed into his company’s office building where the odor changed to that of the industrial strength polish used to shine the deco brass and chrome of the edifice. Up the elevator and down the hall, Sykes entered a familiar reception area.
“Hi, Madge! Any mail today?”
“None. Sorry, sweets,” she answered. Madge had the habit of treating Sykes like a younger brother and usually opted for endearing terms over calling him by his last name like everyone else in the office.
Sykes didn’t mind. In fact, he found it almost endearing. Besides, he had a definite aversion to anyone calling him Balthazar, his real first name. He resented the fact it was given to him at birth in homage to a great-grandfather because it had caused him lots of trouble in his early years. Despite his parents’ admonitions, he forced his friends not to use it. These days, the only one who got away with it was his boss, Mr. Rubenfeld, who thought it “a royal appellation with good strong roots.” And if it made his boss happy ... well, hey, what could Sykes say to that?
In the confines of his small office, Sykes set to work. When his lunch break arrived, he opted for a catnap; his Friday schedule allowed for such a minor luxury.
* * * *
Sykes found himself at the reception desk late in the evening. Mr. Rubenfeld, on his way out, said a hasty good night. Why did his boss suddenly appear so much younger? Soon thereafter, the elevator door slid open and a man emerged. He was not in office attire and seemed to be scoping out the entrance. Sykes found this suspicious and was about to pick up the phone to call security, but was somewhat puzzled. He understood how he slept through the afternoon (it had been a long week), but failed to comprehend how his location had changed while he'd been napping.
“Nice evening, beautiful,” said the stranger.
“Right,” Sykes responded. Not only was he alone in the office, but this degenerate was obviously plastered and a little too personal even for someone as liberal as himself.
“Like to come for an evening stroll with me, honey?” the man asked.
“Uh, I think you had better leave. The office is closed and there’s nothing here you could possibly want.”
“Oh, there’s plenty here I want. Come on, baby, what d’ya say?”
Sykes moved to grab the telephone receiver, but his hand was stopped by the stranger. Then he heard the unfamiliar mouth whisper to his face, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Sykes’ adrenalin was pumped to the point where he just wanted to lay one on the bastard. To his utter shock, the creep grabbed his arm and forced Sykes to his feet. He felt helpless.
“You’re even nicer standing up,” the stranger said.
Sykes was about to say something rude, when he looked down. Speechless, he saw his own body had been replaced by that of a young woman dressed in a 1960’s outfit, go-go boots and all.
“Wait, what’s going on here?” Sykes stuttered.
“What’s going on is that we’re going for a little walk, you and me,” the assailant crooned. He forced Sykes’ arm tighter behind his back.
“Now hold on a damned minute!” Sykes screamed. “I demand you release ...”
* * * *
His office door swung open and Madge asked, “Were you shouting for me or are you having a conversation with yourself?”
Sykes looked around and responded, “No, Madge. I guess I dozed off and was talking in my sleep or something.”
“Sounds to me like you should take the rest of the day off, if you can get away with it,” she suggested.
“Maybe it would be a good idea,” Sykes agreed.
After Madge left his office, Sykes closed his laptop and grabbed his coat. On his way out, he stopped to say goodbye to her but she was on break. He headed toward the elevator when he noticed a photograph which had not caught his eye until today, it was Madge with her co-workers from many years ago; it was easy to spot her heart-shaped face accentuated by a dimpled smile. Even today, a mature woman in her early fifties, Madge retained the statuesque college girl demeanor. She had few visible facial wrinkles, a turned-up nose and striking green eyes framed by the same auburn bob of her youth. The eerie thing was that everyone in the photo was posed in 1960’s attire, with Madge dressed in the go-go boots he had seen in his dream.
Could it be Sykes saw this photo before, but had not consciously remembered it? Did the image surface as part of a subconscious fantasy? This was doubtful, thought Sykes, who prided himself on his excellent memory. He shrugged it off, but was not satisfied with his own explanation. At the elevator, he made a mental note to grill Madge about the photo when he returned the following week.
The elevator door opened and Sykes stepped in, joining two older women. He greeted them with a nod and stood behind them. As they descended, he overheard their conversation.
“I still think you should get the security guard to escort you out of the building if you plan on working late tonight,” the woman with the overcoat said to the other.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’m a big girl and can take good care of myself,” was the response.
“I’m sure you can, dear. But just remember what happened to the receptionist at Ace during her first job in this building.”
The lift door opened to the seventh floor and the coatless lady stepped out after saying good night to her friend. By this time, Sykes’ curiosity scorched a hole in his mind and he had to satisfy it or he’d lose sleep.
“Excuse me, ma’am. I don’t mean to pry, but did I overhear you say something had happened to the receptionist at Ace Advertising?” he inquired.
“Well, not recently,” she said. “This was about thirty years ago, and I thought everyone in this place knew the story by now.” The elevator stopped on the ground floor and Sykes accompanied the woman through the lobby. She continued, “It was a horrible thing, really. Seems the first evening she was permitted to work overtime, some hoodlum sneaked into the building and assaulted the poor girl at her desk. She didn’t even have the chance to ring up security. He dragged her into the hallway and tried to rape her. Fortunately, the night janitor walked in through the fire exit just in time to scare him off. It must have left an impression on the girl because she hasn’t dated anyone since. Or, so I hear.”
“Thanks, ma’am,” was all Sykes could blurt out as they parted company on Madison Avenue. She nodded an acknowledgment and disappeared into the crowded sidewalk. He turned west and bee-lined towards Fifth Avenue to catch his train.
During the ride home Sykes’ brain was filled with the events of the afternoon. One thing was certain; he felt an empathy with Madge ever since the experience.
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