As the world changes, Joe’s search for justice takes on a global urgency and he races to find answers before deadly answers find him.
The world is not what you see.
And neither is Joe.
There was nothing normal about the town of Normal.
In the middle of a lush, green state, the barren town was nothing if not abnormal. There were no trees, no grass, nothing much but barren, dry land. It was as if a bomb had been dropped in the area and the blast had sucked the life out of everything.
The air was stagnant. Wind did not blow, and there was no such thing as a cool evening breeze. The temperature ranged from hot to hotter. Seasons were a joke: winter and fall lasted about two weeks and for the rest of the year, summer and heat ruled.
The rural area surrounding the town was fertile with crops of corn and beans and other imaginable or unimaginable vegetables and fruits. The corporately owned farms around Normal were abundant with life of all sorts.
Normal was different. It was as if the town had been cursed with a vast, dry blight that no amount of water could help. The few weeds that dared to grow quickly died under the oppressive arid heat.
A long time ago, something had happened to kill the ground around Normal. Some said it was nuclear testing. Others thought it was ground contamination from a power plant a few miles away. Still, others swore it was barren from alien spacecraft that had landed and scorched the land.
Buildings around the town appeared dry and brittle and looked as if they might topple down with a little gust of wind. However, that was not a problem since no wind blew in Normal.
The air was so hot that sweat dried on the skin as soon as it formed. Lip balm and lotion were mainstays of men, women, and children alike. Cracked skin was a common ailment the local clinic treated on a regular basis.
Life was strange in Normal. Everyone moved at a much slower pace than normal. All the people in the town knew each other and, more often than not, spent most of the day trying to keep cool and the rest of the time complaining about the heat. Aside from the continuous topic of heat, the mainstay of the town was gossip.
The new building built at the edge of town was a strange bird. It had numerous driveways, but few windows. The top was covered with satellite dishes. There was a guardhouse at the entrance and a steel gate enclosed the structure and the barbed wire fence surrounding the two hundred acres behind the building.
A separate water supply station and powerhouse stood at the back. Three other smaller buildings stood apart from the others, but their purpose was unknown.
The crews who built the structure were not local. They were all clean-cut and muscular, all wearing the same type of dark brown t-shirts and work pants, and all sporting dark, wrap-around sunglasses. At a distance, you could not tell one of them from the other.
The townspeople of Normal were having a field day speculating about the owner of the building’s business, mainly, what kind of business needed such security and secrecy. From front porches to lawn chairs, the highlight of the past month had been binocular-watching the comings and goings of the work crews at all hours of the day and night.
It did not matter, though. As far as anyone could tell, there was no one person in charge and there was no one person not in charge. No one from the structure ever came into town. The land was owned by a corporation, and when the local historian had tried to find out the names of the executives of the company, he had come up almost empty.
The corporation was a privately held company with one board member by the name of John Q. Smith. There was no other information on Smith, no address, no phone number, nothing.
Taxes were paid on time and the bills were sent to a post office box in New York City. Since the structure was just outside of city limits, there were no papers filed with the town that might have contained more information about the mysterious owner.
Something else strange was happening in Normal. One by one, the population of fifty-five was dwindling down. Calvert Mitchum was the first to go with the excuse that he was moving to Albinville to be closer to his mother.
His mother had died over thirty years before.
Jeff Rankin and his family were next. One day they were going about their business and the next day they were packing up all of their belongings. When a neighbor asked, Jeff told her that he had gotten a transfer and had to leave immediately.
The neighbor did not buy it, especially considering the looks of fear and excitement on the faces of Jeff and his family. Something had happened and it had scared the crap out of them and, at the same time, had made them all exhilarated to the point of silliness.
One by one, people disappeared. The local historian was the last to go and he was prepared to fight until he came face to face with the emotionless men who offered him the deal of a lifetime.
For a sinfully wonderful amount of money, the historian sold his house and soul to the devil. The only catch was he could never, ever talk about where he had come from nor who he had dealt with nor what they had given to him.
To reinforce this, the emotionless men who had made him the deal showed him a photo album of people who had broken their end of the bargain.
The historian vomited into the garbage can after looking at the pictures.
Just to get the point across, again, – and they really did not need to because he got it the first time – the nameless men made him watch a video on the LCD display of a camcorder they had brought in.
The historian vomited once more.
With money in his pocket and an aching arm from a strange hypodermic shot they told him was part of the bargain, the historian left town that very day. The nameless men told him before he left that they had injected a small tracer in his arm and if he tried to remove it, it would implode in his vein and cause a massive stroke.
In addition, the tracer would pinpoint his location at all times and would also monitor everything he said and did. If he broke the pact he had made with the faceless men, he would be found immediately and would become the poster boy for pain and mutilation.
He did not even look back as he left the town.
With the last person gone, Normal briefly became a ghost town, but that soon changed. The corporation came in and deconstructed the entire place. New buildings went up almost overnight and a company store with everything under the sun was up and running within a week.
They even went so far as to reroute the roads leading into town. To get into the town at this point, one would have to go through military-type checkpoints. Outsiders were always turned away.
Although the entire town was not fenced, that did not mean anything. The latest in security parameters surrounded the town and nothing got in or out without injury or death. The first casualty was a vagrant traveling cross-country hoping to score some cash from the people of Normal.
When he unknowingly stepped over the parameter after blatantly ignoring the no-trespassing-violators-will-be-shot-dead signs, the tingling he felt starting at his feet quickly raced to the top of his head. Vibrating violently, his teeth cracked as he uncontrollably snapped his mouth open and shut as hard as possible.
Paralyzed into position, he could not move a muscle or even blink. Smoke spiraled off the vagrant’s fingertips as a current continued to race through his body. He felt nothing; his pain sensors had short-circuited.
After a preset time, the current automatically turned off. The vagrant fell to the ground, clawing at the dirt as his body twitched and convulsed its way to death. His mind had gone and his body was reacting on a primal level.
The clean-up crew standing around him as he died waited for the all-clear before loading him onto the back of what they called the “morbid” truck for the short ride to the crematorium.
They never found dead animals around the parameter security fence. Unfortunately, that just went to show that even though animals could not read the signs, they were smarter than some people who did read the warnings, but chose to ignore them with fatal consequences.
The new Normal was on the map but not on the map. Airspace over and around the town had been restricted to the highest orders. The rerouted road kept the bulk of the traffic away from Normal, and the occasional lost traveler was quickly and politely escorted back to the main highway.
Instead of a dry, dusty, barren place, Normal was soon transformed into a lush, fertile area that blended with the lush, fertile areas surrounding the town. This was due in part to the emergence of underground springs the original townspeople thought had dried up, but, with the right tools were quickly opened up.
Green replaced dusty brown as the new color in Normal. Large trees were imported and planted, bushes thrived, grass grew, and flowers bloomed. Had the original townspeople been there to witness it, they would have been amazed at the transformation. Even more so, they would have been amazed at the occasional breeze that was caught in the trees and directed toward the town.
Although there were few people roaming the streets at any given time, the town was not silent. There was a busy hum of activity at all hours. Regardless of the time, there were always people coming and going. The sun and moon meant nothing to the new residents of Normal.
That is, the sun and moon meant nothing save for one.
Writing since the age of seven, the love of the written word has kept Dare grounded in the curiousity-laden world of writers. Constantly thinking what if?, has given Dare the seed for many stories.
The first stories published by Dare were written for Rutger Hauer’s website many years ago. Since that time, other short stories have been published academically and in mainstream fiction.
“False Positive” started out as an entry into a contest sponsored by CourtTV (now TruTV) in October, 2007. The initial book was written in thirty days. The author is still recovering.
Although “False Positive” did not win the contest, the book interested Dare’s current publisher, Second Wind Publishing and made its debut in October, 2008.
The next book in the Joe Daniels trilogy, “False World,” was written at a more leisurely pace and was published in November, 2009.
The author is recovering quicker this time.
The third and final novel in the trilogy has been started. Since the author seems to be averaging a finished book a year, expect the next installment in late 2010.
Click here to buy: False World