I don’t like this at all. Kellin frowned darkly to herself, standing near the rim of the ravine—a few feet back, in case the ground decided to move again. She had come back to the edge with Drew after the earthquake stopped, to look down at the ravine, at the creek. Something had stirred in the last hour, and was still stirring now.
Three dozen of them—no, forty of them now. Survivors from the campus. Eight had already left despite urgings to stay put. Kellin already knew they’d never see those eight again. She could feel it. It wasn’t a good feeling, either, especially because she knew they wouldn’t be the last to slip away, never to be seen again.
She exhaled through her teeth, watching the not-quite-imaginary ripples down near the creek that ran along the bottom of the ravine. They quavered and swirled, twisting back on each other, moreso than she was used to seeing them do. They wove themselves into knots that she could feel tightening, the lines suddenly changing, the fabric warping.
She glanced toward Drew. “You can feel it, too, can’t you?”
The tall man grimaced, following her gaze. “For the first time, I can see it,” he murmured. He’d never been able to see these things before, only in snatches and snippets, fleeting glimpses, but he’d always been able to feel it. He looked at her for a moment. “What do we do, Kellin? You understand this more than the rest of us.”
She snorted softly. “Rory understands, too. His understanding is just unique.” She crouched, hugging her knees and staring down. The ground trembled a moment, then stilled. “It’s bad, Drew,” she mumbled. “The whole…everything’s destabilizing. The lines…”
She nodded. “And faster than they should. Something hitting the river itself shouldn’t do this, either, not like this. Destabilize it, yes, but it doesn’t just feel like it’s the lines through here. It feels like the entire fabric is being twisted.”
“And torn,” she echoed, swallowing. And the others can’t grasp this yet. They will soon, but not yet. But they’ll ask. They’ll ask me, as if I have the answers to all of their questions. What do I tell them? She exhaled quietly. “It’s not good.”
“But it’s…the beginning, you said?”
Kellin blinked. I didn’t think he heard me say it. She licked her lips almost nervously. The words had slipped out when she had felt Jacqueline’s question, thought so strongly that it was audible to anyone even remotely sensitive. It was a beginning, though Kellin herself wasn’t sure of what—but something different. A new world, maybe? A new age? Probably. She shook her head slightly. “Of something. Not an end. Well. An end and a beginning at the same time. Something different. It’s…it’s changing. I’m not really sure that it’s…well. That it’s an awful thing.”
“Hope you’re right,” Drew mumbled, staring at the tortured lines below that he could feel but couldn’t see.
“So do I.” She smiled ruefully, watching the rippling and swirling below. “Has anyone found Marin yet?” Marin’ll be able to help. She can help me figure out what to say. How to explain it all, when they ask us.
Silence met her question. She looked up at Drew quizzically, brow furrowing at his frown.
“What is it?”
“Marin went to work. Got called in last-minute.” Drew scratched his head. “Not sure if she was off yet when this started.”
Damn. Kellin swallowed rising bile. “Hope she made it back.”
“I’m sure Matt does, too.”
Kellin winced. “Yeah.” Matt was Marin’s younger brother, less than two years younger than his sister. They’d been raised by their aunt after their parents had died while they were in high school; cancer took her two years before. Marin was all Matt had left these days. He’d transferred to the university a year ago, while his sister was finishing up her degree, after breaking up with his fiancé. That had been for the best, Marin had said repeatedly in the wake of the incident. Kellin crouched and drew in the dust with a fingertip near her feet. “If this is what it might be…we need her, Drew.”
“Preaching to the choir, Kellin. I realize we’ll need her.” He glanced back over his shoulder. Rory was on his way toward them from the knot of people, which seemed to have decreased by a couple more bodies. “This is going to be long-term.”
“Choir.” Kellin sighed. “You and I—and Rory, too, I’m thinking—know it’s going to be long-term. This isn’t isolated. Have you seen the meteorites stop coming down? I haven’t. Sky looks like it’s getting worse.” She didn’t mention the strange wind, or the dark clouds they’d been watching rising in the west. She didn’t need to mention the continuing ground tremors, or the feeling of the very fabric of the world, of its power-lines, twisting back on itself, unraveling.
“We drew the short straw,” Rory announced as he joined them. He grinned at Kellin’s quizzical look. “They want us to hike out to M-45, see what we can see. Count cars in the parking lots on that end of campus.” The grin faded. “Figure out how many people we should be looking for. How many bodies we might be finding before this is over.”
Kellin winced. Of course there’ll be dead. I just…wish there wouldn’t be. She slowly straightened, crouching again as a ground tremor stole her balance momentarily. The sound of breaking glass echoed off the trees and the ruined buildings. Not good. These buildings aren’t designed for seismic stability.
She made it all the way upright on the second try. Chewing on the inside of her lip, she chafed her hands over bare arms. “Someone else checking the dorms?”
“Tala volunteered. She and some of the other anthro students, plus Leah and Jacqueline.” Leah Vandenburg was in the nursing program—Jacqueline had met her in one of their freshman chemistry classes and they’d been friends since. Rory frowned at her. “Are you cold, Kel?”
She grimaced. “A little. Wind’s chilly.”
“It is,” Drew admitted, eying Rory.
Rory just shrugged. “Could be this is making the weather turn?”
“Pray it doesn’t,” Kellin mumbled. “If it does, things are going to get very messy very quickly, I think.”
“We’ll find a way to make it work.” The optimism in Rory’s voice was unusual, to say the least. Normally, the criminal justice student was the most pessimistic of the bunch—something in the midst of this insanity must have put him in a good mood.
The bleaker the straits, the more perky he gets, I guess. Maybe it’s the challenge. Or adrenaline. Kellin sighed again. I hope I don’t hate what we’re going to see when he finally comes down from this high. “Right. I’m thinking we’d probably be better off going the long way around rather than trying Little Mac. Let’s go.”