Fiona looked at her phone, still nothing. She took a sip of her coffee, she scanned the small coffee shop again, it wasn’t like Jack to be late and he was the one who wanted to meet with her. She shifted in her chair slightly, she should have brought a book with her, but then he was always prompt, it wasn’t like she knew she’d be waiting this long. She sighed and wrapped her hands around her coffee mug, she still didn’t know what this was about, just that cryptic message of “We need to talk, are you free to meet at the Coffee Hut, tomorrow at 3?” and that was it. Had they been dating the message would have worried her but now she was just downright curious and feeling slightly impatient. He didn’t respond to any of her text last night when she asked if everything was ok, he hadn’t responded to her text letting him know she’d arrived either. She ran through scenarios again, trying to figure out what it could be. It was unlikely that someone had died or been injured, he’d have told her that straight away. Maybe he’d started seeing someone new? That seemed possible but still unlikely, why the secrecy surrounding it? And we need to talk was almost universal code for something bad.
Jack entered the coffee shop, he looked pale and haggard, he came directly over to her, Fiona stood, intending to give him a hug, but she paused, “Jack, are you ok? You look…tired.”
“Yeah. I’m fine. Thanks for coming. Look we can’t really speak here. Can you come with me please? It’s too public.”
“Uh, yeah, sure. Just let me grab a to-go cup for my coffee.”
Jack nodded then stood impatiently, shifting from one foot to the other while Fiona approached the tills. She returned a moment later and poured her half drunk coffee into the cup, as she was putting a lid on it Jack turned and walked out without looking back. Fiona grabbed her coffee and hurried after him, worried thoughts swirling through her head. Why did he look so tired? Why was he afraid of talking to her in the coffee shop? A thought flashed by, maybe the stress of his job had gotten to him and he’s finally snapped. As she stepped outside a gust of cold air blew past, as it did she pushed the thought away. Jack was under a lot of stress, he always was, but if it was a mental issue, it was going to be much more serious than him freaking out over something minor. Jack was hurrying ahead of her, Fiona had to half jog to keep up.
“Can you slow down? Or at least tell me what’s going on?”
“No, look I will, but not here ok? Sorry, my heads a bit all over the place. Long few days, I need to show you something, it needs to remain a secret for now but I need someone else to see it, to tell me I’m not crazy ok? Because I’m worried I might be going crazy. Maybe it’s just some elaborate joke or something. I don’t know.” While he talked he sped up a little more.
They arrived at his building a few minutes later, Fiona was breathing heavily, Jack seemed perfectly fine. They entered the building and quickly got into an elevator. As it went up Jack started fidgeting. “Ok, before we go look at what ever it is, I want you to take a moment and just take a few deep breaths ok? What ever is happening we’ll figure it out, but we can’t do that if you’re too stressed out.”
Jack shook his head, “just wait until you see it. Then you’ll understand.”
the elevator stopped and the doors slid open smoothly, Jack stepped out onto the tiled floor and after a seconds hesitation Fiona followed. As they walked down the narrow hallway to his door Fiona’s heart started to beat faster. Jack paused at his door, key in the lock. “You know before I left I couldn’t wait for someone else to see, but now that I’m here it’s terrifying. I mean what if there’s nothing there? What if I’m just crazy?” Fiona put her hand on his shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze, “If there’s nothing there then we can work on getting you help and if there is, well, we can take it from there ok?” He let out a slow, shaky breath then nodded, Jack turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open.
He stepped inside, Fiona following after, she made it a few steps before freezing. “What the hell?”
Jack’s shoulders slumped slightly and he let out a strained laugh, “Oh thank god.”
“How the hell is it doing that?”
Jack shrugged, “I have no idea. I found it in the park yesterday. I thought it looked cool so I picked it up and then it started doing…that.” Above his coffee table floated a small misshapen stone, flecks of colour dotted its surface, one or two shone in the soft light from outside. Fiona took a step closer and waved one hand underneath it, then above it. There were no strings. Nothing to explain why it would be floating.
“Maybe it’s magnets or something?”
“No I tried that already. It doesn’t affect it.”
“Have you tried moving it?”
“Yeah, I have. It just floats wherever you push it, it stays about that height.”
Fiona reached out and gently brushed her fingertips across it, “It’s warm.”
She snatched her hand back, “It’s not like, radioactive or anything is it?”
Jack shook his head, “No, I don’t think so. It would be glowing if it was, right?”
Fiona shrugged, “I think that’s just in movies…we have to call someone, tell them.”
“Who? Who do you call for something like this?”
“I don’t know? A university or something? They’d know who to contact. The science department or something.”
“Yeah, good idea.” Fiona moved around it, unable to take her eyes away.
“Try and grab it.”
“Wrap your hand around it, see what happens. It’s crazy.”
Carefully she reached out and grabbed the floating stone. Fiona let out a strangled cry, she couldn’t open her hand, she couldn’t move at all. A burning heat emanated from the stone, enveloping her hand and moving up along her arm, once it hit her chest it spread out quickly until her entire body was burning. Her hand fell from the stone and Fiona collapsed, Jack rushed to her side and carefully helped her up.
“How are you feeling?”
“Ok I think.”
“Take your time, you need to adjust.”
Fiona shook her head, “We don’t have time to adjust. How is the plan going?”
“Seventy of the stones are active, no word from the others yet.”
“Am I the first convert?”
“After myself, yes. I haven’t gotten anyone else yet.”
“Ok. I’ll start getting people here, you do the same. The more we can get the better.”
Fiona pulled out her phone and fired off a quick text, “Hey, are you free to meet? We need to talk about something.”