Here’s an alternate Chapter One that I wrote when I was frustrated with my current draft. I won’t be using this chapter and it hasn’t been edited so don’t upset at the grammatical, spelling or punctuation issues.
Joe Marshall drove his old Mercedes home from work for the last time. After almost fifteen years he was fired without notice. He stared vacantly at the road rushing under him as he sped down the interstate toward his suburban home. His daughter, Chloe, would be waiting for him at home if she wasn’t at one of the many martial arts schools she attended.
He silently hoped she wasn’t home when arrived. He needed some time to process all that had happened today. Where had he gone wrong at work to get himself canned like this? They said it wasn’t his performance but what else could it have been? Joe didn’t need this shit right now.
A flash of light in the sky caught his attention. He looked up and saw a faint sparkling of light, almost like someone had launched fireworks during the day, but way, way up in the sky and not just one little spot. The tiny flashes were radiating out from a central point to the East. More flashes of varying brightness popped into existence along the edges of the growing concentric circle as those in the middle faded.
What the hell is that?
Subconsciously he pressed the accelerator down as he increased his speed to the point where the police wouldn’t bother giving him a ticket, they’d toss his ass in jail for the night. Joe didn’t care about that. He didn’t know what the hell was happening up in the sky and he damn sure wasn’t going to be pulling over for any police right now. Not with that light show going on.
The sparkling spread out further. Part of the circle had disappeared below the horizon while the rest had spread enough that it was directly overhead. A strange swirling of color appeared in the center of the spreading circle. It looked like all shades and hues of blues and greens were raining down in the Eastern sky. The streaks of light looked familiar but he had never actually seen anything like this in person.
Joe swerved as his car screamed past a slower moving vehicle that was slowly drifting onto the shoulder. He watched in his rearview mirror as the car sloughed off the loose gravel and into the ditch where a shallow stream of water stopped the car’s forward movement.
He knew he should stop to make sure whoever it was driving that car was alright but he had a bad feeling about these lights and the only thing he wanted right now was to get home and make sure his only living relative, Chloe, was safe. Joe was driving as fast as he could handle. He passed cars on the right and left until he reached the exit that would allow him to start heading North, toward home.
Joe had to hit his brakes to avoid sliding off the road as he entered the ramp curving up and to the left. His tires screamed in protest at his reckless speed. He wasn’t going to slow down any more than absolutely necessary.
Chloe. Shit, I have to make it home.
Emergency vehicles had joined him on his race North. Mostly he saw police cars screaming along the Southbound lanes with the occasional cruiser speeding North past him. Joe glanced at his speedometer. It read, ninety-seven miles per hour. Those cops must be doing one-twenty. The fact that he was speeding didn’t seem to bother them at all, in fact, every single car was either tearing up the interstate as fast as they could or they’d already crashed or pulled off the road.
Joe felt a twinge of pride knowing he’d made it further, faster than those poor bastards in the ditches. He immediately felt guilty for his mean thought. He focused once again on the road ahead as he planned his route through traffic. Slightly left around this bend, pass a car on the right, hop onto the shoulder to get by a minivan that couldn’t be breaking eighty.
That’s just dangerous. Get off the road if you can’t keep up!
He had the pedal pressed to the floor now. His Mercedes was going over a hundred miles an hour. Joe didn’t spare the glance at the speedometer, though, as the driving was taking all of his concentration. On the Southbound lanes, he watched in horror as a fire truck careened to miss a stopped semi-truck. The fire truck careened toward the center median. Joe imagined is busting through the shallow ditch and plowing, headfirst, into his car but thankfully the thick cables mounted along shoulder caught the truck. The posts which held the cables bent and flexed as they dug great black and silver gouges out of the side of the otherwise bright red fire truck and with a flurry of sparks the cable fence seemed to fling the truck back into the Southbound traffic.
Joe focused on his path as he spied his exit coming up fast. Too fast.
Shit, I’m going to miss it!
Joe slammed on his brakes as he swung the wheel to the right in an attempt to make it onto the exit ramp. His car started to skid and lose control. His older Mercedes didn’t have anti-lock brakes or skid control like the newer cars all had. Those would’ve come in handy right about now. His car had spun around and out his windshield, Joe saw the cars he’d just passed rushing toward him.
Thankfully his time spent as a youth screwing around in his car in empty parking lots finally paid off. Muscle memory took over and he swung the wheel quickly to the left and took his foot off the brakes. This caused his car to continue its clockwise spin and he quickly found himself facing the correct direction on the exit ramp he had intended to be on. He smashed the accelerator back to the floor and accelerated down the ramp.
Cars had stopped at the light at the end of the exit. The lights in the sky were growing and swirling in an intricate and hypnotic dance. They’d grown to engulf most of the sky. He swung wide to the right side of the stopped traffic. He saw that the intersection was clear so he mashed the accelerator intending to run the red light.
Instead of the gentle force pushing him back into his seat, a disorienting weightlessness overtook him as he experienced a vertigo-like sensation. His car had lost power instead of gaining it. His car became difficult to steer as the power steering was no longer being fed energy from a running engine.
Joe’s car was making a sluggish curve to the left, through the intersection. His peripheral vision took in the flashes in the sky as they faded away over the western horizon, barely bright enough to be seen in the glare, sparkling away into the sunset. His car came to a rest against the curb. He tried several times to start it but turning the key had no effect. Not even the infuriating click of a weak battery.
Joe took a moment to look around. The cars at the stoplight didn’t appear to be moving even though the red light had gone out. The drivers began opening their doors and standing next to their cars. Several looking up at what could only be the Aurora Borealis, others looking around with profound confusion on their faces. He looked up at the stoplight. It hadn’t turned green. All of the lights on the stoplight were out. Not even the slow yellow flashing that usually accompanied a signal failure.
He opened his door and stepped out of his car. Reaching back in, he grabbed his cell phone from the passenger seat. Clicking the button to turn on the screen he automatically started to swipe his finger on the dark screen. Nothing happened. He clicked the button again, more deliberately. Still nothing. The phone felt strangely warm as he put it in his breast pocket.
He started to yell across the road at the people who were standing at the intersection but his voice caught in his throat as he saw a black streak falling through the air behind the people. The streak started making an audible screech as it approached. The horrible sound it was making became louder until Joe had to cover his ears with his hands. The object was c
Close enough to identify now as it fell toward him. He saw on the side in huge letters, “American”. The plane was falling at such a speed that it barely registered in his mind that the plane was sliding sideways.
The American Airlines plane tumbled across the sky barely a hundred feet above his head toward the north and out of sight past the incline that marked the Northbound entrance to the interstate. Barely two seconds later the ground shook and immediately after, a loud rolling boom, like thunder, thudded through him.
Joe dropped his car keys and ran. Not toward the plane crash, there was no saving them. He ran toward home. He had to get to Chloe. He had to get to safety.
Alternate Chapter One