“What is his name?” asked Pamela, referring to the man in the security picture. “Who is this farmer?”
Mr. Trevor seemed taken aback by the question, as if the name of the threat didn’t really matter. “His name is John Wyatt Douglas. A few weeks prior to this, Mr. Douglas was paralyzed from the waist down and unable to feed or dress himself, let alone have a conversation. He fell into a deep coma that should have marked his exit from this world. Instead, he disappeared from his nursing home and two days later walked into this grocery store fifty miles away.”
“That’s quite a trick, but I don’t understand how that makes him responsible for the explosion.”
Trevor used two fingers to pry open a sliver in the window blinds. He examined the main floor of the ICU as if to calculate how much time he had before an interruption by the hospital staff. His eyes narrowed. Did he recognize someone?
Trevor slowly stepped back from the window and to the door. The lock snapped into place as he stood in front of it. “The farmer,” he started. “The farmer had a thought.”
Pamela nearly laughed. “A thought?”
“The thought.” Trevor couldn’t be more serious. “The most beautiful and terrible thought any conscious being could ever hope to have. Legend refers to it as the ‘god thought’—a moment of clarity so pure and divine, it is believed to have mirrored what God thought to birth our universe. To possess such knowledge is to tap unlimited power. Bloomington was but a minuscule taste.”
“I see,” Pamela swallowed. Her throat suddenly felt very dry. “How many people have ever thought this . . . thought?”
“None since records have been kept. Until now, it’s been a story, an ideal that great luminaries of our world have strived to attain for centuries. It is what inspires scientists to seek the ‘God Particle’ or contemplate the geometric shapes of the universe or describe all of existence in a grand unified theory. It is why the Collective was founded. Answers, Ms. Chance. We believe John Douglas has somehow found the answer to the ultimate question and unwittingly tapped into a power that threatens us all.”
“Even if that were true, why would he want to threaten us?’” asked Pamela.
Mr. Trevor took back the manilla folder. “It’s not a matter of wanting. I don’t believe the farmer wanted to kill anyone in Bloomington, but it happened—like a child toying with fireworks over an open fire. The very nature of the god thought is that anything is possible to its thinker. If Mr. Douglas is overwhelmed by his own discovery, or has a bad day, or a nightmare, or a lapse of concentration, or he sneezes the wrong way—I shudder to think what that means for the rest of us. We need to find John Douglas.”
“And then what?”
“It’s members only from here on, Ms. Chance.” Mr. Trevor secured the manilla folder under his arm and offered a polite smile. He unlocked the room’s door. “If you help us, your father will be taken care of and you’ll play a vital part in safeguarding the world. You may even learn something about yourself. But you need to commit to the cause.”
Pam pursed her lips, a habit that surfaced anytime she had two thoughts that couldn’t agree. Despite Mr. Trevor’s abrasiveness, the offer remained a temptation. Yet there was something else that caused her to hesitate—what?
Sensing her indecision, Mr. Trevor moved back to the window and peeked through the blinds again. “May I show you something?”
Pam cautiously joined the man at the window, careful to remain in the shadows as they examined the busy hospital floor.
“You see that woman—talking to your father’s nurse?”
Pam examined the young red-haired lady in a black, sleeveless sheath dress as she appeared to argue with the nurse. “You know her?”
“I know her type,” corrected Trevor. “Her name is Tabatha Crowley. Freelance journalist. A real up-and-comer. Hungry for that one story that will make her career. A story like yours.”
“Or yours,” retorted Pam.
“It is your father’s plight that she is fixated on tonight. I paid the nurse to keep her and the other press at bay—you’re welcome.”
“What is your point?”
Trevor’s nose tipped up. “That woman would sell her soul for a minute of my time. She would give anything to know what I know, to know what you will come to know if you join the Collective. And yet, if her wish were granted, that same knowledge would likely destroy her.”
“Is that going to be my fate, Mr. Trevor?”
Trevor smiled. “Of course not. The fact is that you’re one of us. You were a part of this world long before I walked through those doors.” Trevor pressed forward. “We are but slaves to destiny—we can only choose to embrace or reject it.”
Pam grimaced. “I’d prefer to write my own.”
“Wouldn’t we all. Well, Ms. Chance? What’s it going to be?”
Pamela stepped away from the window to look at her father, then back at Mr. Trevor. Whatever happened next would be a huge gamble for humanity, with the odds stacked decidedly against it. Maybe, just maybe, she could manage to change those odds for the better.
(Copyright 2014. Dave Cravens.)
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