Short story: The Haven

Hello all! Below is a short story I wrote about a year ago as part of my English class. I posted it earlier on an old blog, but I just finished editing it today. Feedback would be greatly appreciated, and tell me what you think about the idea of me continuing it. I’ve been considering it, but I’m not quite sure, and others’ opinions would really hope. But anyways, enjoy the story!

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    I expected something was up, I really did. Rarely, if ever, does one receive a completely unexpected one week paid vacation, especially in a job like mine. The Friday before said break was just a normal day in the office, researching and working on my newest article. On my way out, my boss yelled out to me “Lang, you’re off next week.”

    I swiveled around, thinking I’d heard him wrong. “Excuse me?”

    “I said, yer off next week, administrator’s leave. They say y’aint in trouble though and it’s very “pertinent”. But they still ain’t trying to tell me why. Yeah, so don’t come in Monday.”

    I nodded, and walked out the door with all my things, as usual. Confused I was, but as I was putting my things in my car I decided that I was probably overthinking it. I put all my worries past me by the time I got home.

    Fast forward to the following Monday. I wanted to make the time off as enjoyable as possible. I decided to start the day off by going to this family-owned coffee shop I really like. So I’m sitting there, drinking my caramel mocha and typing on my laptop, when the lady working the tables puts the check on my table. I sigh, and I’m about to pick it up and pay it when a hand reaches out and grabs it before I can. Looking up, I see an average-looking but sharply dressed man looking directly at me.

    I raise an eyebrow at him. “The hell are you doing?”

    He didn’t seem to notice what I just said. He removes a $20 bill from his pocket and sets it next to the table. “Are you Jackson Lang?” he asked.

    I would’ve protested, but he was paying my bill, so I decided I should at least let him finish. I nodded to him. He reaches into the inside of his blazer, pulls out an envelope with nothing written on it, throws it on the table, and walks out without a word. So I started thinking of all the possibilities of what that could’ve just been. Surely I hadn’t done anything illegal, had I? I started mentally reassuring myself that I had payed all of my bills and taxes on time, and that nothing had been done wrong on my part. Soon after, I tentatively opened the envelope, and inside was a slip of paper, just big enough to fit the following note:

“Listen to me, Jackson. You don’t know or understand anything yet but this situation is dire. Many people are in danger. You’re in danger. Leave this city immediately and bring nothing with you but this piece of paper. I’ll be waiting for you. Don’t tell anybody about this, do not talk about it out loud. Just go. -Mr. Jones”

I didn’t know what to think. I saved what I was doing and put my things back in my satchel, thinking about what I’d just read. I guess I didn’t really process the situation well enough, because I was still perfectly calm, but strangely, I didn’t doubt him. I got my caramel mocha and put it in a to-go cup (believe me, that place has such good coffee and scones that not even the potential threat of a large-scale disaster would make me want to waste it), and headed out the door, toward my car, the blue Volkswagen Passat that I took good care of. When I got in and buckled up, only then did it occur to me that I didn’t know what he meant by ‘out of the city’. I reviewed the note again to see if there were any details I missed, but there weren’t. I sat there for a moment to decide, and eventually I concluded that he probably meant the bridge, as that was the most used exit to outside the city limits. So that’s where I headed.

So I’m driving there, sipping my caramel mocha and being careful not to spill it. I’m quickly approaching the bridge, and I kept calm as best as I could, which was surprisingly good. Only when I was actually on the bridge did it really dawn on me that something really serious was about to happen. “What the hell am I doing?” I think to myself. My heart is pounding, but as I always do in my life when there’s stressful situations, I pressed on, trying to just not to think about it. As I got to the apex of the bridge, I noticed a fleet of black vans and cars at the other end on the right hand side, around the area where there was a bunch of dilapidated gates and old shacks, a section that had caused a lot of curiosity amongst me and my co-workers. Of course, when I saw them I knew it had to be the place the man was referring to, so I switched to the rightmost lane in order to get over there. I pulled over just inside the rough dirt path. I turned off the car and waited there for a little bit, to see if the strange man would appear any time soon. A few minutes later I’m still sitting there, lightly sipping the remnants of the caramel mocha, when I hear the same voice from the coffee shop, but only now coming from the passenger seat.

“So, you’ve come.” The man said.

As you could well imagine, that startled me. I just about jumped out of my seat, and stared at him while feebly trying to protect myself with my arms. “What the hell!” I said, “How’d you get into my car?”

He was still looking forward. “That’s not quite relevant. But if it matters to you, I wanted to make sure that you were going to the right place, so I hid on your backseat floorboard.”

I had many additional questions. How’d he unlock the car? How’d he get into the seat without me knowing? Why’d he want me to go right to this specific spot? I was about to ask but he turned his head toward me a little bit. “What do you have on you?” He asked me.

“Nothing but my caramel mocha.” I replied. “And my shoulderbag was where you were sitting.”

He looked forward again. “You can take the drink with you, but nothing else. Questions will be answered on the way. You can call me Mr. Jones.”

“Where are we going?” I asked him, but he ignored me and opened his door, beginning to walk out. I was still quite wary, but I had no choice but to follow him, so that’s what I did. We started walking toward the wooded area, and his eyes kept darting between the jet black vehicles I had seen before. After we passed them, he turned around and made some weird hand signals to the space around him. To my relief he appeared noticeably less tense. He looked at me, more directly now. “So, what do you want to know?” he asked.

“Well for one thing, what was that thing you just did?” I asked him shortly.

He smiled a bit, and he actually answered my question for the first time that day. “It was a nonverbal signal to my colleagues that we are here. They have been awaiting our arrival, and we don’t use words to remain relatively undetected.”

“That’s another thing, who is ‘we’? What is all of this about?”

He was still smiling, but his face got a bit more serious. “That’s a much longer explanation. It’s better that I explain that as we walk, as to not use up any more time. Again, follow me.”

He started walking forward. I now followed him less reluctantly, as he had effectively piqued my curiosity. The trees started getting thicker and the path more precarious, and it was clear that this path had been carefully planned out. I listened intently as he explained everything that was going on.

“Mister Lang, we have been awaiting you eagerly, as this day is going to be very eventful. First of all, to answer your question, I am part of a large secret organization dedicated to preserving us, us as in humanity. You are indeed in danger, everyone is. Our intelligence data combined with our top mathematicians showed that we are about to head into a very large war. This one is quite different, though, because we are almost sure that this war will end in mutually assured destruction. All the sides of this very covert impending war, made up of about 150 countries and governments according to our research, are extremely angry at each other, and are unwilling to compromise. They all have reached the point where they would much rather have the whole world end than have to succumb to any sort of opposition to what they believe in.

“Additionally, many of those countries are equipped with artillery, bombs, and in some cases, powerful weapons of mass destruction. We have realized that we need to take drastic measures to ensure survival, so this is what we have done. We have collected and analyzed tons and tons of data on people of the world, and due to a wide range of parameters we are choosing a certain number–half a billion, as of now–that are viable candidates for saving. This is the only way it can go; we wish we could save everyone, but we can’t, and it’s in our manifesto that this is the next best option. As you’ve probably guessed, you were one of the people selected for your demographic. Right now, we are headed toward a place we call The Haven, where we are holding and preparing all the other candidates. We are doing it now, as our calculations have narrowed the date of the first move to be some time within the next. You’ll be taken to The Haven shortly, via submersible aircraft, as it’s underwater. Prepare yourself, because this is it.”

I was absolutely speechless. I had nothing left to say. I kept smacking my hand against the nearby trees to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, but as it turned out, I wasn’t. I continued to follow him. Eventually he led me through a wall of thick foliage and into a large clearing, with other people scattered around. I walked in, and started walking around; it appeared that everyone else was just as confused as I was. Mr. Jones headed back toward the foliage wall, and turned around before leaving. “I’m going to go get the last guy” He told me. “Make sure you don’t do anything rash.”

He walked back from where we came. I started pacing around, trying to wrap my head around everything. I tried to realize that everything that just happened was actually real, but I was having extreme difficulty. Eventually I gave up, and leaned against a tree, awaiting my supposed departure toward The Haven.

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