Thriller & Suspense

Shimmers

By

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Synopsis

When a team of particle physicists conducts an advanced test at the Edison Laboratory in Milan, Ohio, they break through the boundaries of time and space. Their initial enthusiasm crashes when they realize they have released a mysterious and malevolent force.
Fifteen miles away, James and Joshua, identical three-year-old twins, frolic near the woods at a local campground. Unaware they are the only ones who can see the anomaly, they approach the spherical Shimmer. Joshua steps into the mist and disappears.
Through the years, James continues to encounter the Shimmers – some good…some terrifying. Determined to find his missing sibling, James partners with his younger brothers Matt and Mark, and his lifelong friend Bob on a mission to find Joshua and bring him home.
Their exploration sets up a life and death struggle – and the future of the world as we know it hangs in the balance.

PROLOGUE

A Crescendo of Calamity

March 1973

Milan, Ohio

David Springer studied the readouts like a man on

the cusp of greatness. He looked for any sign, any

hint, any movement in the numbers that might

provide an advantage – something he could exploit to

reach his Promised Land.

Springer was young for a scientist at Edison Lab.

A few months shy of his 35th birthday, he continued

to battle the “way we’ve always done it” mentality so

embedded in federal facilities.

Founded in 1965, the Federal Accelerator

Laboratory in Milan, OH, lay 60 miles west of

Cleveland. Someone eventually mentioned Milan as

the birthplace of Thomas Edison. In a grand gesture,

the facility received the new name: Edison Laboratories.

It was home to the world’s premier particle accelerator.

The proposed purpose of the lab lay in ramping up

atomic particles to the threshold of the speed of light,

colliding them, and investigating the interconnected

nature of matter, energy, space, and time.

Springer liked to explain his work to non-scientific

folks by saying, “It’s like an amped up Demolition

Derby.” His colleagues did not approve.

Springer could not have cared less.

Short and borderline frail with sandy, blonde hair

– turning gray at the temples – and premature eye

wrinkles brought on by too much espresso and too little

sleep, Springer exuded enough confidence to make his

associates despise him. But his overwhelming ability,

his near-superhuman intelligence, almost made them

forget how much they wished he would fall on his face.

“Are you ready, Dr. Springer?”

Springer looked up from his calculations to see Dr.

Eric Palmer, all 6’5” of him, standing over his desk.

“Are we in a hurry this morning, Eric?”

No one believed Springer was unaware of his

annoying voice – nasal, pinched, and invariably snide.

“Do you have a squash game scheduled, Eric?”

Palmer chuckled. He knew he could smash Springer

like a gnat, but he admired David’s ability, even if the

young doctor’s personality was as loveable as a blobfish

with a runny nose.

Springer continued. “We still have to wait on Kline

– he should be rolling in here about a quarter past late.”

“I heard that, David, and I’ll have you know, I was

only five minutes past on time this morning.”

Dr. Lionel Kline, the senior, but lowest ranking

member of the team, possessed an easy – some said

laconic – manner and displayed a noticeable paunch

under his lab coat. His even-keeled nature made him

a favorite in the lab, but everyone at Edison knew he

could, if riled, roar like a Bengal tiger with a hangnail.

The full team had been together for almost five years

with, what was officially broadcast as, minimal success.

The most common chorus in the back halls usually ran

along the lines of, “With an old bull from Cal Tech,

a superstar from Rensselaer, and the kid genius from

MIT, you would expect something more laudable than

the concoction ‘Killer Hot Chocolate.’”

The concoction was good – no it was stellar, the

best anyone had ever had – but given the brain power

involved, and the overwhelming costs, no one was

particularly pleased.

“Good morning, Dr. Buzzkill,” Springer said. He

and Kline often clashed on protocols. David always

took the aggressive line – Kline, older and more-often

scarred, preferred a more judicious approach. Although

he typically acquiesced to Palmer and Springer, Kline

routinely expressed concerns regarding the project’s

direction and aims.

Today’s test required approval from all three scientists,

a fact Palmer underlined just before Springer gave

the order to “Commence.”

“David,” Palmer said, “we have a little problem

with…uh…authorization.”

Springer’s eyes never moved from straight ahead.

“Take care of it, Eric,” he said.

“That might not be easy,” Palmer said. “Dr. Kline

has not signed off yet.”

Springer’s head whipped around. “Dammit, we’re

three minutes behind.” He glared at Kline. “What’s the

problem?”

Kline was uncharacteristically formal. “Dr.

Springer,” he said as he adjusted his bowtie, “I have

concerns regarding potential for dimensional surface

decay.”

“You’re talking about fractional – no, minute

– amounts of matter migrating via possible dimensions.”

Springer’s face grew rosy and his eyes narrowed.

“Nothing too dangerous in my mind.”

Palmer slid between the two men. “I think Dr.

Kline would like us to install and verify a few additional

safeguards – right, Lionel?” He looked at Kline, who

remained impassive. Palmer continued. “He wants to

ensure our experiments don’t lead to a mishap – a little

extra precaution.”

Kline nodded. “I understand the theory like

anyone else,” he said. “I accept the theoretical nature

of the experiment. But what if multiple dimensions,

alternate realities, and parallel universes exist? In that

case, we must be careful not to open an unintended

portal. We need to exercise caution, and that requires

more stringent safety standards.”

Springer’s lips formed a strained line. “We have

just applied for a generous grant, predicated on our

results. If we choose to play it safe, that funding will

undoubtedly dry up. I am not suggesting recklessness,

but we must push the envelope before our monetary

sources decide to back an alternative project, one

willing to assume more risk, like the one in Chicago.”

Palmer looked at Kline and said, “He isn’t wrong,

Lionel. In the last five years, we’ve had some serious

financial shifting. Remember, no cash – no collider.”

Kline shook his head. This was his moment to exert

some influence. “What are they expecting? Are we

supposed to develop time travel in five months? These

experiments require a long-game approach, gentlemen.

If we predict incorrectly – if we rush – we could have

a disaster on our hands. I know (he held up a palm

toward Springer, who was rising from his seat) – I know

– the chances are low. But we should err on the side of

caution. I do not want to be that arrogant scientist in

all those sci-fi movies who ignores the signs and ends

up initiating a catastrophe.”

A phone on the control panel next to Springer rang

just as the young scientist looked ready to implode. He

snatched up the receiver.

“Springer,” he said. “I know. (He looked at Kline.)

Yes, all systems for Test 333-A are ready. Yes, I know

you are waiting for my godda…for my order. Maintain

energy levels for firing and stand by. We are working

out a few details on this end.”

Springer turned on the charm. “Dr. Kline – Lionel

– listen, we have everyone standing on tip-toe. They are

ready to rock n’ roll. We ran last month’s test with 10%

less power and a fractional differential in the quantity

of matter. Everything went great, right?”

Kline nodded without enthusiasm.

I got him, Springer thought. “Okay,” he said. “If

you approve today, I promise I will sit down with you

and Dr. Palmer and anyone else you want, and we will

talk this through to your total satisfaction.”

He paused – One Mississippi – two Mississippi…

“Lionel, I need your approval – now.”

The senior scientist looked ready to agree – he even

nodded – then, David saw something flash in Kline’s

eyes.

Uh oh.

“David,” Kline said, “you are a wonderful scientist.

I realize you want this project to succeed. Still, you

understand the concept of a tipping point. What if

even an incremental change in power or material proves

sufficient to create a cascading effect and, ultimately,

different and drastic results?”

Springer turned to Palmer. “Want to help me out

here, Eric?”

Dr. Palmer looked at Kline. “Lionel, due respect,

but I think you’re being a bit neurotic here. We’ve

seen nothing to indicate a problem. Consider our past

readings.”

Dr. Kline pursed his lips, blinked, then said,

“Alright, run it. But before we do another test, you

promise we will talk, right?”

“Absolutely.”

Palmer nodded, “Yes.”

“Okay then. Dr. Springer, I give my verbal approval

for Test 333-A.”

Palmer recorded the verbal authorization on a

clipboard and handed it to his colleagues to sign.

Before the ink dried, and while Kline said a quiet

prayer, Springer snatched the receiver from its cradle.

“Control, this is Dr. Springer. Commence Test

333-A.”

The devices surrounding the scientists began to

hum - deeply, resonantly – almost frighteningly. In a

few moments, the ions would build up speed. Protons

would hurtle around the injector rings, then head

towards the central core, a location dubbed Edison’s

Curve. In his mind’s eye, Springer could see the particles

as they accelerated through this masterful creation of

human ingenuity.

If anyone’s going to unlock the secrets of the Universe,

it’s going to be us – here.

While Springer and Palmer stared at the dials,

Kline chewed the inside of his mouth until it was raw

and bleeding. He knew the likelihood of a cataclysmic

event was quite small, but something gnawed at the

back of his mind. He worried about future generations

– he worried about irreparable harm – he worried

about…everything.

In the deep recesses of his heart, he felt a crescendo

of calamity. Though clueless as to its nature, instinct

told him that he and his colleagues, instead of pushing

the limits of human ingenuity, were engaged in

something far more dangerous – something unnatural.

A few minutes later, the collision test concluded.

“Success,” Springer said.

The trio of scientists began to analyze the data.

Dr. Palmer said, “Gentleman, we have a small issue

here. I see a fraction less mass in the chamber than we

had at the start. The reading indicates a bit of matter

has left our collection matrix.”

Springer snorted. “Care to be a little more vague,

doctor?”

It’s “vaguer,” you insufferable twit, Kline thought. No

wonder no one likes you.

Palmer ignored the cynicism. “As we all know,”

he said, “matter cannot be lost. Any diminution of

mass means the missing matter is either somehow

unreadable within the chamber or has been moved to

another dimension or universe.”

Springer looked like a third grader who’d won a

spelling contest in the school cafeteria. “Precisely,” he

said. “See, Kline, I told you there was nothing to worry

about. Gentlemen, I think we have discovered the

power threshold for matter transfer.”

“Or the tipping point,” Kline said.

He opened his mouth to speak again when he saw

one of the control panel dials spike – a quick swing to

the right peg, then back to normal.

“I think there’s an anomaly building within the

core,” Kline said. “Take a look.”

The other two men peered over Kline’s shoulder.

“Any theories?”

“About what?” Springer asked. “Everything reads

normal.”

“Oh hell,” Palmer said.

The others looked up from the array of dials and

followed Palmer’s pointing finger all the way to one

of the screens. A dark, spherical mist about a foot in

diameter floated in the chamber.

“What is that?” Palmer asked.

“No idea,” Kline said. “It’s only on that single

monitor.”

Springer reached up and tapped the screen as it

flickered, but the image was undeniable.

Palmer leaned toward the screen. “What is that?

I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The sphere slowly began to collapse back upon

itself. As the sphere shrunk to approximately nine

inches in diameter, a gnarled claw appeared out of the

rolling mist. It was neither fully human nor a distinguishable

animal. It swiped in a grabbing motion, then

disappeared into the cavity from which it came.

The Shimmer dissipated into nothingness.

Dr. Palmer asked, “What in God’s name was that?”

Dr. Kline turned to his colleagues his face ashen.

“I’m not sure God has anything to do with it.”

CHAPTER 1

The Missing

May 1973

About 15 miles west of Edison Labs, Jimmy and

Joshua, identical three-year-old twin brothers,

played in the grass. They rolled a ball back and

forth. They’d seen Daddy playing on the Pong game

in the bowling alley – it looked like fun. Their mother

Maggie, six-months pregnant, made dinner.

“Paul,” she said, her voice carrying the usual hint of

maternal concern. “Paul, are you watching the girls?”

Paul waved from the crest of a small rise, then

snapped off a salute. “The Father of the Year is on duty,”

he said. “Angie and Heather are at the pool – lifeguard

and everything.”

The family loved the Webegone Campground. It

was their favorite getaway spot. They could all be in

the same place at the same time – but doing different

things, something the girls thought was “way cool.”

Josh tugged on Maggie’s cover-up. “Mommy, I’m

hung-we for spettios.”

“…and, and, hot dos,” Jimmy said, looking at his

brother for approval.

Josh crossed his arms. “Yes, yes, hog dogs.”

“Well,” Maggie said, smiling, “come sit down at the

picnic table to eat before you starve. It’s been all of an

hour since you had your snack.”

The boys scrambled over the table, sat down, and

tucked paper napkins into their shirts.

“Take your time,” Maggie said. “Remember, chew

your food.”

The two boys devoured their food like hungry

beagle puppies around a single bowl of chow, tossed

their napkins in a trash can, then went back to their

game. Maggie slapped a half-dozen hamburger patties

on the grill and called to her husband.

“Paul get the girls. Burgers in less than 10 minutes.”

When she’d finished preparing dinner, Maggie

placed warm hamburgers on a plate, wrapped them in

foil, and set them on the table. Then she went around

the camper to check on the boys.

They. Were. Gone.

A few moments before, Josh had heaved the ball.

It soared past Jimmy’s outstretched hand. Josh chased

it down the hill, and Jimmy followed right behind his

brother.

At the edge of the forest, Jimmy stopped when he

saw a spherical mist just inside the tree line. Six feet

by 12 feet, it reminded Jimmy of the parachute his

preschool class used for games.

“Jimmy, look at the big booble. Monkey in the

Middle!”

Jimmy wasn’t sure. He reached down and picked

up the green ball, but he never took his eyes off the

silver sphere.

Josh motioned. “Come on – Monkey in the

Middle.”

Jimmy shook his head; Josh edged closer to the

Shimmer. The silver dome slowly expanded until it was

five feet in diameter. Jimmy could not see anything

inside but the silver mist and a faint shadow.

Josh, ever curious, thrust an eager hand through

the middle of the “Shimmer.”

“Jimmy…cold. Come here.”

“Don’t touch,” Jimmy said. He felt his throat

tighten. This is bad.

“Feels like snow,” Josh said. He took his arm out

and rubbed it.

Jimmy, now within arm’s length, stabbed at the

Shimmer with an index finger. The orb rippled like the

surface of water.

“Come,” Josh said. He stuck his hand through the

wall again and giggled. “Cold.”

Their mother’s voice rose from just beyond the hill.

“Josh! Jimmy! Boys, come here right now – you are in

big trouble!”

Josh looked at Jimmy, grinned, and said, “Monkey

in the Middle!” He jumped into the Shimmer, which

immediately began to shrink.

Jimmy shrieked for his mother. “Mommy! Jimmy

– ball!”

Th e boy felt a moment of relief when he saw Mom,

Dad, and his sisters running down the slope. Dad

looked annoyed. Mom looked terrifi ed.

Maggie scooped Jimmy up. “Oh my God, you

scared me to death. Where is your brother?”

“Ball,” Jimmy said. He pointed to the silver sphere,

now about the size of a large pumpkin. Th e sphere now

measured only 12 inches across.

“What ball?” Dad said.

Heather snickered. “Liar, liar, pants on fi re.”

Jimmy thrust his hands down in frustration. “Ball!”

Dad took off into the woods. “Josh! Joshua! Where

are you, son?”

Maggie’s head swiveled, her eyes darting as she

lived every mother’s worst nightmare. Her voice came

from someplace deep inside a breaking heart. “Josh!”

Th e girls began yelling, too. Th ey were all looking

away when a small hand squeezed through the Shimmer.

Th e fi ngers opened and closed, clutching, grabbing

only air. Jimmy reached out but only managed to brush

Josh’s fi ngertips before the hand was yanked away, as if

pulled abruptly from the other side.

Jimmy heard his brother’s tiny voice. “Big monkey.”

Tears seeped from Jimmy’s eyes. All he could say

the rest of the day was, “Josh in the ball – big monkey.”

For the next two days, multiple search parties scoured

the area. Jimmy was questioned numerous times by his

parents, the police, and even a psychologist. The boy’s

story never deviated; all it did was confuse the adults –

ball, hand, big monkey. After an exhaustive search of the

five-acre woods, the police ruled Josh’s disappearance

an abduction.

The family never quit hoping – praying – for Josh’s

return. But every day painted another layer of grime on

the window of hope, and joy slipped ever farther into

the realm of the past.

Jimmy had not seen his mother smile for three

months until he went to the hospital to meet his new

twin brothers. Still, the smile seemed forced – and her

eyes remained sad. Maggie clung to her newborns with

ferocity and foreboding.

In July, the local newspaper, the Bellevue Gazette,

ran a story titled, The Missing. Ten people had gone

lost from the local area under highly suspicious circumstances.

They had all disappeared between early March

to late May.

Josh had been the last.

About the author

Shimmers is Dr. Strecker’s debut novel. Born in 1970, Jon grew up in the small town of Bellevue, OH, which continues to be a source of inspiration. Jon was influenced by his large family of seven and his strong friendships, which have heavily influenced his style of writing, view profile

Published on October 16, 2020

70000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

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