Saturday, June 13th, 2026
Dressed in khaki pants and a button-down business shirt, Craig Buffet headed out the door. Unaware that at three-thirty this afternoon a nuclear mishap with guaranteed retaliation would destroy the world. Nothing would be the same again.
In seven hours, a peaceful IT specialist will battle for his life against blood sucking creatures, become a murderer and create a hacktivism group to bring down world governments.
If Craig realized, when he woke before six this morning, that his life was about to change, he would have stayed in bed.
But this Saturday began like any other workday. Rolling out of bed and onto the floor one minute before his alarm blared, Craig pumped out ten push-ups. On his dresser was a list of morning exercises from the Internet. His junk food diet and working in a cubical ravaged a physique he longed to show off.
Next on the list were star jumps for thirty seconds. Followed by thirty burpees. Six burpees in, he stopped and caught his breath. Sweat dotted his forehead and added a sheen to his arms.
A few years ago, he hiked with his best friend Leon. He missed those days. Craig didn’t see much of his friend these days, except at work. They traveled every holiday, or three days weekend. In Westport, they cycled The Old Ghost Road. In Otago, they hit the Central Rail Trail. In Fiordland National Park, they jet boated and walked the Hollyford Track. They trudged up Mount Tongariro and Mount Taranaki three months later. They planned the next hike for Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain in Wanaka. But it never happened. Leon's wife popped out a baby.
Craig thought about going by himself. But being shy he found it difficult to speak to people.
He needed to increase his explosive stamina—but not this morning. Craig yanked off his sweat damp boxers. He wandered naked through his tiny apartment to the kitchen where he set the coffee machine.
In the shower, he massaged his hands. It was a sharp pain like broken glass raked across the knuckles. Giving his hand a hard shake fixed the problem. Ten minutes later, wearing only the towel, he sipped two cups of coffee. Time to put some clothes on. Cubical working and dealing with Internet issues was not as terrible as people claimed. No rainbows and unicorns, but it covered the bills—which he hid under a skydiving brochure.
Skydiving! Hiking was one thing, but leaping to certain death from a plane was ludicrous. There were more pressing things to do, like building computers, going shopping or retrieving the morning paper. He shuffled outside and collected the newspaper.
Two years ago, he moved into this apartment and decided to get newspaper deliveries for the comic strips. After a half year, he stopped reading but still collected the paper. Craig built up an enormous pile of unread newspapers. Today’s edition landed on the top of the stack. One day he might get around to reading them.
He switched on the SimTek 10K television for background noise. Plugged into the TV was a stereo system for Home Entertainment. An eccentric collection of DVDs sat on a small bookcase with only a few books from Laymon to Child to King to Koontz.
Why did I agree to work on a Saturday? Sure, the pay was better. A half-day with a full day’s pay. Fine occasionally, but once you agreed, the higher ups found it easier to ask more often. He hated conversations with managers. Still, it was a job, and it beat the unemployment line.
Craig sat at the living room table and looked at the white-painted swing door that opened to the kitchen. It needed a good cleaning. Hung on the wall, next to the door, were three framed photos.
The first was him aged five. The snapshot was labeled ‘the first day of school’. He wore a gray uniform and a toothy smile.
Next to that was a photo of him and his parents standing in the arena of an electric fencing contest. He was decked out in a 3-Weapon Mask, Underarm Protector, Front-Zip Jacket, 3-Weapon Glove, Stretch Pants and a Gold Electric Epee. He had the gear but not the skills.
The third photo showed him holding a ‘Crack-Shot’ certificate, his sixth and a .303 rifle, barrel pointed to the ground.
Everyone thought Craig had a ton of natural ability. Olympic talent, somebody said.
His mother signed him up for twice-weekly lessons. On his eighteenth birthday, he gave up both sports for girls, beer and free weekends.
The certificates hung on the wall above his tattered sofa. They held memories of better days as did the sofa. His eyes moved to the fencing photo.
The sofa belonged to his parents, taken from him five years ago by a drunk driver who fell asleep at the wheel. He ran a red light, jumped the curb and smashed into a restaurant plate window. The car plowed into his parents on date night. Nine people died that night. Five other diners landed in the hospital. The CCTV footage proved most harrowing when played on the nightly news: he saw his parents watching the car as it rammed into their table.
Craig finished his coffee, checked his leather shoulder bag for the MacBook Air and stepped out the door with his third cup of coffee in a brown paper cup. Checking his SimTek watch, he hit the streets on schedule and arrived thirty minutes early, as per routine.
The building that housed Systems Info was designed with mirrored black glass. Other buildings across the road blocked the morning sun, making it resemble a dark fortress. But this afternoon, the windows would gleam.
He made his way into the elevator bay and pressed the button.
He spun around, surprised at the familiar voice, and shocked to hear it on a Saturday morning. “Hi, Leon.”
“In need of some overtime?”
“They asked, so here I am.”
The elevator doors opened. Leon motioned Craig to enter before him. “Hey!”
“We haven’t been out for a drink in a while.”
“Life catches up to everyone.”
“Time flies, yeah?” He slapped Craig hard on the shoulder. “Susan keeps me busy around the house. You should come over more often.”
“And help you do yard work for free. No thanks.” Craig watched the elevator numbers climb.
“Speaking of which, are you seeing anyone?”
“You asking me out?”
“You could do worse.”
“Shut up.” He showed Craig a picture on his outdated phone. “This is Susan’s friend, Jenna.” Blond hair, blue eyes, and unblemished golden skin. “She’s quite a surfer. And she’s single.”
Surfing. Now, there’s an idea.
Craig imagined parachuting with a surfboard attached to his feet. The wind rushing past him, the sun high in the sky, and the smell of the ocean filling his lungs. He would cut the chute and hit a wave to ride to the shore where Jenna waited and cheered him on.
“Earth to Craig?” Leon said, breaking into his buddy’s thoughts, “Interested?”
“I’ve never surfed.”
The elevator opened, and they got out. “What are you doing next Saturday?”
“God willing, not working.”
Leon smiled. “I’ll see to that. How about we meet at the beach?”
Craig fiddled with his bag.
Leon read the indecision on Craig’s face. “Don’t worry about it. What’s the worst that could happen? You have a spectacular day at the beach and body surf some waves. You might even get a date out of it.”
Convinced, he agreed. “All right.”
They separated there.
In the assigned cubical, Craig switched on the computer. His hands twitched, like it had in the shower. It was worse this time. Each move of his fingers felt like his joints grounded glass into his knuckles.
His hands vanished.
Craig jumped up. His knees banged the desk and he almost lost his seating when the chair rolled to the center of his cube. His arms evaporated.
He told himself to calm down and took several deep breaths.
Craig turned to the compact mirror near his computer and checked his reflection. His face and brown hair faded. The skin became more translucent each second.
Craig screamed but had no voice. His breaths came in rapid bursts. A jack-hammering heart pounded against his chest as he saw himself vanish out of existence.
“Are you all right, Craig?”
He looked up. Lucy, who toiled in the cubical next to him, leaned over the partition. He stared at his hands, flesh once more. Craig twiddled his fingers and touched his face and hair. Back to normal, his breathing slowed.
“I saw a ghost.”
“Don’t tell me that.”
In her mind, apparitions were real, and any entity that returned was hell-bent on destruction. “Sorry,” he said, “I’m kidding around.”
“But you’re okay?”
Lucy's smooth lips crinkled as she nearly scolded her coworker like a mother. She was concerned. Craig did not understand how to explain what happened, even to him it sounded nuts. It was as if he were fading out of existence, never to be seen again, or even missed.
“I’m good, Lucy. Thanks.”
She gawked at him a minute longer, flashed a tea-stained smile, and disappeared behind her partition. Craig checked his hands. They were solid enough, but the incident freaked him out. People didn’t simply vanish like that. His life wasn’t a Rob Sterling mystery. At least, he hoped not.
Craig logged on to the advanced communication system. Threw his headset on, adjusted the mic, and prepared for the first call.