The Writer Side of Life
Story Excerpt: The Cloud

The following is an excerpt from a work in progress tentatively titled “The Cloud” by S. D. Scott, and is therefore protected by copyright. Please do not steal my ideas, thanks.

    Nobody was sure where the Cloud had come from. Officially, it was the Austin Non-Euclidean Regional Anomaly, but everyone just called it the Cloud. Some scientists said it was a hole in the universe, slowly spreading out until it reached equilibrium, leaving chaos in its wake. The more histrionic religious leaders claimed it was the Mouth of Hell, Satan’s beachhead against the armies of the Righteous. The paranoid fringe claimed it was a military experiment gone wrong, or some new terrorist weapon designed to wipe our cities off the map. I really had no opinion on the matter, but what everyone agreed on was that under the Cloud, the world didn’t work in the same way as it did everywhere else.
    Scientists had tried to measure it. If their probes worked at all, they registered conflicting information before failing completely; after all, it’s impossible for something to be both two hundred degrees above and below zero at the same time. Gravity didn’t always work the way it should either: There were areas under the Cloud where you could walk on air, and other zones where someone nudging a foot across the line would pull back a crushed, mangled stump.
    When the Cloud formed over the downtown area of Austin, Texas two years ago, a lot of people died. Others, mostly those on the outskirts of the Cloud as it formed, managed to escape - although not all of them were unscathed by their experience. Many were still in therapy, and not a few were now long-term residents at various state mental hospitals.
    My wife Diane hadn’t emerged at all. She worked in the Frost Tower downtown, near the center of the anomaly, and had just called me to discuss dinner plans when the vapors of the Cloud erupted into the air; black and somehow oily and gritty at once, with flashes of red and green lightning crackling along hilights of a violet-blue un-light. It had spread quickly from the university area just north of downtown and I remember Diane’s last words to me, stating that it looked like it was going to rain just before the line went dead with an electronic screech that almost sounded like a piteous keening.
    Searches for survivors in the five-mile radius of the anomaly had been futile; nobody that went beyond the Border and further into the Cloud returned whole, if at all. No one that had been closer than three miles from the center of the event had come out at all. The entire area had been declared a no-go zone by FEMA, and armed guards patrolled the Border although it wasn’t entirely certain if they were there to keep people out or keep something else in.
    I had given up hope of ever hearing Diane’s voice again, much less seeing her. You can therefore imagine my utter astonishment when, one night after a solitary dinner of beer and cheap Chinese take-out, my cellphone rang with Diane’s number on the caller ID.