Chapter One

Chapter One

A Chapter by Jooolie

The Rarest Thing

        Darwin Hayes looked up from his notebook as a small leaf gracefully placed itself on the paper. He took a moment to stare up from his spot at the foot of an elm tree and he gazed about Washington Square Park. He enjoyed the peace and quiet, usually accompanied by a cool breeze, and the fall was his favorite time to study in the square. He had awaited this month of October, where the surrounding buildings would be preparing for Halloween. Unlike the previous years, however, Darwin knew this holiday season would not be as lively as it had been in the past. This time was different; there was a strange feeling through all of Greenwich Village. Even the leaves, he thought, seemed hesitant to change. Even nature was afraid to move forward. 
Of course, Darwin knew the reason. The entire city was being forced to hear the same message streaming from every television and radio station. The New York Times at his side read the same headline: the world was going to end. The press release left Darwin skeptical and confused. Scholars had been saying the same thing for decades, with no result. But this speculation caused a different reaction. It seemed to create more of a fear in people. 
All of the news stations were saying the human race could become extinct within a year, caused by an excess of carbon dioxide in the air. Darwin stared at the surrounding trees, wishing they could clear the air faster. He knew there had been a noticeable decline in open lots around the city in the past year- the largest one yet, he heard in one report. And numerous environmental campaigns were spread across the world in an effort to avoid the disaster. But Darwin was reluctant to look into the issue. It was not possible for a shortage of trees to cause such destruction. Yet as much as Darwin hoped a small-name scientist would come on the air and disprove the theory, he could not understand why the news loomed in the back of his mind. As he observed other university students walking through the park, he noticed the same sense in all of them. They were afraid, almost scared to breathe for the fear of only helping the dioxide spread. At the sight of this, Darwin found himself holding his breath as well.
He rose and looked up at his shading. As his hand lightly touched the bark, a small piece chipped away and fell to the ground. The sight of the brown sliver in the grass made Darwin wonder how long it would be until such an average thing would become one of the rarest in the world. 
Darwin shook away the thought as he looked ahead and noticed a growing crowd across the square. He glanced down at his watch, confused by such a commotion in the late afternoon. He assumed the attraction to be another psychic, boasting on how she could save the souls of the city before the coming Apocalypse. In the past few weeks since the dioxide news was announced, Darwin had seen a fair number of fortune tellers floating around the campus. But he noticed that instead of ignoring the psychics, students continued to approach them with interest regarding the disease.
Darwin rolled his eyes, unable to shake away his increasing curiosity, then lowered his gaze to his notebooks strewn across the ground. He sighed as he gently picked them up and, as he placed them in his bag, walked across the square.
As he approached the commotion, Darwin immediately spotted a tall, slender red-headed girl in the crowd. Her white sweater stuck out from the mass and her long hair waved behind her as she was shoved in between other onlookers. Darwin kindly nudged his way through the mix and pushed his black-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose before gently patting her on the shoulder.
“I thought you’d never show up,” he muttered behind her.
The girl turned around, a gaudy Pentax camera dangling around her neck. She quickly gave an apologetic sigh.
“I’m really sorry,” she answered as she produced a new lens from her large camera bag and twisted it onto the camera. “I meant to call you, but I thought this could make a good feature.” She motioned her head toward the crowd.
Darwin craned his neck toward the center of the commotion. “Another fortune teller?” 
“Another fortune teller,” the girl echoed casually as she focused her camera on the crowd. “But hey, whatever gets a story. Tell me honestly, would you read something like this?” She held her hands open to the sky, as if picturing her article spelled out across an invisible marquis. “Fortune teller spills for the future...but do we have one?” She quickly turned to Darwin for approval. “Yeah, you don’t have to say it. I know it needs work,” she continued immediately, “but really, this is all I have right now. I mean, have you seen the papers lately? All they talk about is this disease! Yesterday, I tried to cover one of those little charities they’ve got going out in the theater district and the whole newsroom was laughing at me, it’s crazy!”
Darwin shook his head at the girl. He had always envied journalists, especially the free-lance ones like her. They actually got to see more of the world than the average law school he faced. 
He stood on his toes to look over the crowd and caught a glimpse of the psychic’s table. Darwin shook his head at the sight. “Where’s your friend?” he asked as the red-headed girl scanned through her photographs.
“I’m not sure, she said she was going to meet me here,” the girl said as she continued to stare at her camera screen.
Darwin smirked. “Well if she’s anything like you when it comes to meeting on time, I’d say she could be anywhere.” He dodged a pair running out of the group and backed into something hard behind him. He turned just as another camera lens flashed in his face. The photographer yelped, fumbling with her camera as she let out a breath and growled. “Why don’tcha watch where you’re going?” the small girl blurted in a gritty tone. Darwin mumbled an apology as he turned his eyes down at the girl. He was initially surprised as he looked from her bright yellow Converse shoes to her black and white striped sweater and plaid skirt, and he stifled a laugh as he noticed her long wavy hair, elaborately dyed in multiple colors. 
The girl snarled as she reached out and grabbed the arm of Darwin’s jacket. “I’ve dropped my damn camera about a dozen times now because of punks like you,” the girl snapped, then sharply pointed a finger to her head as she glared up at Darwin. “Think it’s funny, huh? Go on, laugh at my hair if you want. Everyone else does.”
Darwin stared down at the girl in awe as he felt something dart past his shoulder. He struggled for words as he saw the red-headed girl dashing around him to embrace the stranger. “Do you two know each other?” he asked quietly in a daze.
The red-headed girl turned to Darwin. “Right, I was getting there,” she motioned toward the rainbow-haired girl. “This is my friend, Ellizabeth.”
Ellizabeth looked from the girl to Darwin in shock. Embarrassed, she sighed and shook her head as she extended her hand toward Darwin. “Hey, man, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were with Aimee,” she smiled. “We’re cool. And forget about the whole hair thing, I’m used to people laughing at me.” She turned her eyes up toward her head. “It was an art project. Didn’t exactly work as well as we’d hoped, but hey, I figured I’d keep it. I think it makes me look rebellious, you know?” She grinned widely as she energetically shook Darwin’s hand. “You can call me Elli for short, Ellizabeth’s too fancy. I’m a new transfer student out of Sacramento.”
“You’re a ways from California,” Darwin replied slowly, afraid to anger Ellizabeth again. “Where are my manners? I’m Darwin, Darwin Hayes. Aimee told me she was meeting a friend, but she never told me much about you. It’s a pleasure.” 
Aimee nodded. “Elli was an acquaintance of mine back when I took that photojournalism internship in London a few years back. She and I took the same program and I finally convinced her to visit here for next semester.”
“I’d imagine the city is much more chaotic than you’d expected,” Darwin answered and nodded toward the crowded table. “These guys are all over the place, more so after this whole Apocalypse story.”
“It’s pretty cool to hear about this unpreventable death of mankind thing. It’s getting to be big news around here.” Ellizabeth’s smile grew wider as she looked around the crowd. “I mean, I personally find it a bit ridiculous. But at the same time, it’s almost gut-wrenching! The thought of the end, I mean.” A look of excitement spread across her face as she twirled her camera strap around her finger. “And I figured, if the world really is gonna end, why not get a few good shots for a portfolio before it’s over, right?”
“Alright, let’s get this show on the road,” Aimee cut in as she tossed her long hair over her shoulder and braced her camera in her hands, “I want to get this article done for tomorrow.” She beckoned for Darwin and Ellizabeth to follow her as she passed through the crowd with ease and approached the psychic’s bench. “Excuse me, I’m with the press. I’d like to take some pictures,” she said, waving her press pass in the air as she put on a cheeky grin and squeezed through a cluster of people. 
Darwin rolled his eyes as he and Ellizabeth fumbled after her through the audience. He dodged a few stray people as he grabbed Aimee by the arm. “I really wouldn’t waste your energy on this if I were you,” he muttered, pulling her slightly back from the table. “She’s probably just another fake anyway.”
“He’s right, you know,” Ellizabeth added as she casually elbowed an on-looker out of the way and reached for Aimee’s other arm. “It’s no use giving her any attention in the news. I mean, you don’t really think she’s telling the truth, do you?”
Aimee laughed as she shook her head and pulled herself from Darwin and Ellizabeth’s grasp. “Who cares if she’s telling the truth or not? I’m more interested in the people that come to see her. It’s amazing that they put all their trust in her.” She glanced around the crowd, a pure look of awe gleaming in her bright green eyes as she drew out her camera and recorded the crowd.
Darwin smiled. Like it or not, he had to give Aimee credit for her honest love of the sport. He had always secretly admired Aimee’s eye for news. In the three years since they had met, Darwin had always known Aimee to hold a genuine interest in people, which he found exceedingly rare in the city. Her devotion to learning a simple passerby’s story always intrigued him and, though he figured it was unknown to her, he held her in the utmost respect.
“Well I guess that makes you the average journalist,” he joked. “What does it matter what we tell the people, so long as the story’s juicy?” Darwin glanced at Ellizabeth for approval.
“Oh come on,” Ellizabeth chuckled as Aimee prepared to argue Darwin. “You know this whole disease conspiracy is just a publicity stunt for the media. Look at what they’re saying, all this end of the world talk. It was an original lie the media continues to bring up every time the previous version gets disapproved.”
“Well whether this psychic’s telling the truth or not, it looks like she’s doing a pretty good job of getting attention,” Aimee winked, turning from the other two as she began to push closer to the psychic’s table. 
“I just can’t believe that anyone could still turn to these kinds of people,” Darwin retorted as he followed Aimee. “I mean, look around you, look at this table. People are believing this!”
Aimee stopped and calmly turned to Darwin. “People are... easily fooled when they become scared.”
“That’s for damn sure,” Ellizabeth growled as she shoved her way closer to Aimee and Darwin.
“I’m serious,” Aimee said, shooting a disapproving look toward Ellizabeth. “People will believe anything if it offers them a chance to keep moving forward, even if it seems crazy to those of us who aren’t quite so desperate yet.”
“Well you’re right, this all seems pretty crazy to me,” Ellizabeth muttered.
“You of all people shouldn’t be judging anything for being crazy,” Aimee sighed as she cocked her head toward Ellizabeth’s hair. 
As Ellizabeth growled and prepared to snap at Aimee, a quiet and gentle voice cooed behind the group. “Faith is a rare thing, it seems,” the words seemed to rise above the crowd and directly speak to the three students. 
The group turned to see the psychic shake her graying head as she cleared her deck of cards from the last customer. The stool in front of her booth was now empty and she sat behind her table, draped in a thin striped shawl with large hoops dangling from both ears. 
Ellizabeth shrugged to the other two before inching ahead of them and toward the booth. “Whatcha see, ma’am?” she asked sarcastically as she leaned an elbow on the psychic’s metal tabletop.
“Time, fear and disbelief,” the psychic replied slowly, flipping three cards over as she casually worked around Ellizabeth’s arm.
“Well, you got the disbelief part right,” Darwin muttered. In an instant, he struggled to understand how this woman could logically know his inner thoughts. 
For as long as he could remember, logic was his only train of thought. If something did not fit into the formula in his mind, it did not exist to him; it was not possible. But this coming Apocalypse could kill him, Darwin understood that. It was possible and he could not control it. And to think that something besides himself could defeat his very being, without his consent, made Darwin afraid. 
He shook away his moment of panic; it was not logical to show it. There was no logic in joining the rest of the paranoid, becoming just like every other skeptic that walked the square. “At least that makes you a better psychic than most of these other frauds on the street,” he smirked.
“It is unfortunate that someone so young can be so bitter towards those he does not know,” the psychic looked back at her table, collecting the majority of her cards as she began to close down her booth. 
“But can’t you agree?” Ellizabeth blurted out as she planted both hands on the table, making a loud, booming noise as she hit the metal. “This end of the world stuff is becoming way too popular. Every time we get into one of these scenarios, we end up passing the date with what? Nothing. Nothing ever happens. When we get no response, we make up another theory. It’s just a cycle.”
Darwin saw the psychic turn to him, and he gave a surrendering shrug at Ellizabeth’s point. “I have to say she’s right,” he said. He looked around the park as the crowd began to disperse around the booth. “Answer me honestly,” he said quietly, leaning in closer to the psychic. “How many of these ‘cycles’ have you made money from?”
“I make money every day, sir, these ‘cycles’ as you call them, make no difference.” The psychic paused, looking him in the eye momentarily before saying a final word, “Darwin.” She grinned slyly before continuing to shove her belongings into various bags she carried with her.
Darwin attempted to hide his surprise and raised an eyebrow as he shuffled casually through his notebooks to see if his name was written on anything in sight. There was nothing. “Well then, cool trick,” he started. “I was going to introduce myself, but I guess you beat me to it.”
“This will kill us all. You know that,” the psychic replied in a monotone voice, never stopping to glance up from her table as she piled her cards into a box. 
Darwin glanced from Aimee to Ellizabeth and sighed. He shrugged at the psychic. “Can’t say I do.”
“You will,” the psychic grinned. “Now please excuse me while I move elsewhere.” She flung her bags over her shoulders, folded up the table and the portable stool accompanying it and strapped them together with a set of tattered belts. Without another word, the psychic pushed past the group, her expression one of pride and her mouth set in a quiet smile.
Ellizabeth stared after in disbelief. “Well, that’s never happened before,” she mumbled blankly as she slowly pulled her camera bag over her shoulder. She squinted her eyes at the setting sun and took a quick look around the square. “It’ll be getting dark soon. I was planning on getting some shots in the park tonight.” She began to walk away from the other two, but stopped after a few steps and turned back. “Unless, of course, that dioxide kills me first,” she smirked. “I’ll call you later.” She nodded her head in farewell to Darwin and Aimee before quickening her pace down the walkway, her bright yellow sneakers gleaming among the leaves until she disappeared into the distant trees. 
“Well, that didn’t exactly go as planned,” Aimee sighed as she began to pack her camera back into its case. 
“I guess that wasn’t really the article you were looking for,” Darwin replied, patting her on the shoulder.
Aimee shrugged. “I’ll figure something out,” she answered quietly.
Darwin looked apologetically at Aimee. “I’m sorry,” he groaned. “You’ll fix it somehow. You always do.”
“Not by tomorrow, I’m guessing.” Aimee attempted a grin. She shook away her momentary frustration and looked at Darwin. “Hey, would you want to-”
“I’m tellin’ ya, Frank. What’s the pointa gettin’ that new place anyways?” a rough voice cut in as two men passed behind Aimee. “Accordin’ to the TV, we’ll be dead soon anyways. I don’t know about you, but I’m spendin’ my money other places if ya know what I mean!” The two strangers erupted in laughter as Darwin shook his head in frustration.
“I’m sorry,” he frowned, “I can’t listen to much more of this.” He waved meekly to Aimee before turning down the path. As he walked under the marble archway, he pressed on the bridge of his nose in an attempt to fight off an oncoming headache. This news was not going to go away any time soon, he knew there was no stopping that. But Darwin took slight comfort in knowing one thing he could control was his ability to avoid giving in to the growing fear he could feel in the back of his mind.

© 2011 Jooolie

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Well done.

Posted 13 Years Ago

Oo doom and gloom and the end of the world, this seems to be my kind of story. Definitely didn;t get the same old man sense this time, which is good. I think you are developing your characters well, which is a good thing. Everything seems to be very well paced in general actually. There really is nothing bad I can say about the story. You use description very well. Excellent story so far, well done.

Posted 13 Years Ago

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so-so-so descriptive and attention getting.
i cannot wait to continue reading... WoW!!!


Posted 13 Years Ago

Building a sense of doom is very good early on; I find your attention to detail bright and consistent.

Posted 13 Years Ago

I like the plot. Very original. I would just do a bit more showing vs telling. The sentence structures overall are pretty good too.

Posted 13 Years Ago

another of those apocalyptic flick..... good dialogues driving the story forward......

Posted 13 Years Ago

This was intriguing. I love the concept. Apocalyptic earth stories are always fun. I think you need a little more action and a little less dialogue. Let the character's actions tell the story. I thought you did a great job with the structure of the chapter.

Posted 13 Years Ago

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7 Reviews
Added on September 19, 2010
Last Updated on March 18, 2011



The city with the water tower, IA

I'm a sophomore in Journalism/Mass Communication and in the process of some sweet novel-writing. I thoroughly enjoy show tunes and I don't care who knows. I really like reading short stories an.. more..

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