Carson was awoken by a loud knocking at his door. His eyes opened and he tried to focus. It was still dark. He looked over and saw that it was four in the morning. He struggled out from his sheets and trudged out to the living room and opened the front door. There was a well-dressed young man standing before him with a bright, gleaming smile on his face. His hair was slicked back but way too much hair gel. He was wearing what looked to be a cheap suit as a uniform. A name tag was perched on his lapel that read ‘Chip’.
“Good morning, Mr. Barnes.” Chip said.
“Uh, good morning, Chip.” Carson said as he noticed the tag on the young man’s shirt.
“I’m sorry if I disturbed you. I suppose no one told you I was coming.”
“As a matter of fact, no. Who are you?”
“I’m here to drive you to the airport.”
“For your flight to Graveston.”
Carson’s face contorted in complete confusion.
“I just talked to Venris last night.” Carson began.
“Right, and he secured your ticket. Your flight leaves in two hours,” Chip said. “Don’t worry, we have time for you to pack if you need to.”
“Hold on.” Carson shut the door and ran back to his room. He searched around and plucked up the letter he received from the lawyers. He scanned the letterhead and found their numbers. He dialed up Archibald Venris. It only rang twice before his warm, accommodating voice came across, much to Carson’s surprise.
“Uh, Mr. Venris? This is Carson Barnes…”
“Ah! Yes. Mr. Barnes. I trust Chip has arrived.”
“Uh, yes. He’s here. Look, I appreciate all the trouble you went to here, but you could have told me.”
“I believe I did.”
“Not really. You didn’t tell me you were going to be sending anyone to pick me up this fast. I was still kind of thinking about it.”
“What’s to think about? Trust me, Mr. Barnes. You will not be sorry you came.” Archibald said, sounding more persuasive than ever. Carson held the phone to his ear tightly. He could feel the thoughts racing through his mind. He felt as though he were at a crossroad. He was really in no position to take a trip to a town he had never heard of to accept an inheritance from an Uncle he had never heard of either, but he also knew that if any part of this was real, Archibald might be right and this could save him.
“I’ll see you this afternoon.”
The trip to the airport was quiet. Chip wasn’t much of a chatter which suited Carson just fine as he was in no mood to talk. His eyes kept falling but he couldn’t manage to fall asleep, so he spent his time in the car just staring out the window listlessly. The sun was starting to peek out from the early morning clouds. A burst of orange and red was looming on the horizon as they zipped down the empty freeway. Carson was taken by how quiet it all was. He was rarely ever up that early. He had never seen the city so quiet and rested.
“The blue hour.” Chip said suddenly. Carson turned to him.
“I’m usually on the road between three and six in the morning every day and this is what I call the Blue Hour. The sun’s not up, but it’s not down and everything is kind of washed in a shade of blue. It’s like the hinge between night and day. One moment of peace before the chaos begins again. Look.” Chip said as he pointed to a swarm of cars loading up onto the freeway beside them. “It’s just about over. People are waking up and getting on with their day. It’s kind of like a flower blooming. Slow at first and then it bursts open, fully exposed to the world. It’s weird how we can’t seem to escape nature isn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, This is all man made, but it still obeys the basic rules of nature. It’s not alive, but acts like it is. Like it wants to be.”
Carson looked over at Chip.
“You think a lot about this?”
“Not much else to do when you’re chauffeuring people back and forth. People don’t talk and I’m not allowed to play the radio stations I like. They force us to put on this crap,” Chip said, pointing to the radio. Carson suddenly noticed the music playing. It was some kind of new age instrumental dirge. Carson noticed that Chip had the volume down to barely audible. “Not much else to do but think about things like that, but it’s true. It’s amazing how sometimes you can just open your eyes and see something amazing in something that’s been sitting in front of you all along.”
“I guess.” Carson turned back to the window and saw the sun was now more prominent and everything was growing brighter. Suddenly they were driving amongst a large school of cars that seemed to have come from nowhere. Carson looked forward and could see they were getting closer to the airport. He reached down to the radio and switched the channel to the classic rock station and turned up the volume. It turned on in the middle of ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Carson looked over to Chip who looked back to him and smiled as they cruised the rest of the way to the airport.
When Chip turned into the airport, he took an alternate route away from the main terminal. Carson looked back with bewilderment.
“Uh, Isn’t that the airport back there?”
“Yes, but that’s not where you’re going.” Chip said as he drove on. He began driving down a small route to a small air field down from the main runway. Carson saw a small twin engine plane on the landing.
“What is this?”
“The fastest way to get to Graveston is by private charter.” Chip got out and started unloading Carson’s luggage. Carson opened his door and slowly pulled himself out.
“Where is this place?”
“Over here!” A voice called out. Carson looked over and saw someone who looked like the pilot of the plane. He was a thin, black man with a perfectly shaved head. He jogged out towards Carson. “You Carson Barnes?” He asked trying to be heard over the propellers.
“Okay, just get in and buckle up. We need to get out of here.” The pilot said and then returned to the plane. Carson saw Chip also running from the plane after he had finished loading the bags.
“Have a safe trip!” Chip called out to Carson.
Carson pulled himself into the plane, nearly knocking his head on the ceiling. He belted himself in and almost immediately after, the plane began to slowly roll forward. Carson began to feel a surge of panic. He looked over and saw the wings wobbling violently and the surge turned into a torrent. He clutched the seat at the sides and gritted his teeth. He could see the pilot’s bald head staring back at him and beyond that, he could see the ground they were driving on, and then suddenly, the ground began to disappear. Carson could feel the pressure on his body. The horizon line began to move before them and Carson’s stomach felt weightless. The whole plane began to shudder and rattle as they climbed further into the sky. Just as Carson was certain the whole vessel was about to explode into a million pieces, everything just stopped and they began to level off. Carson’s hands relaxed. The pilot turned around in his seat to face Carson.
“You okay?” Carson nodded. “Sorry. This sucker gets to a rough start. By the way, I’m Jared Welbourne.” He said as he offered Carson his hand.
“Uh, yeah, nice to meet you, but shouldn’t you be, you know, driving?”
“Oh. It’s cool. We’re level and we’re set in. Sorry for the rush, but they keep us hoppers on a tight schedule.”
“It’s fine. So, how long is this flight?”
“Not long. You ever been to Graveston before?”
“I live there, my man. Part time anyway. This job kind of forces me to split my time.”
“What’s it like?”
“It’s nice. Quiet. What brings you up this way?”
“I see. You have family up there?”
“I used to. Collecting an inheritance.”
“It’s okay. I didn’t even know the guy.” Suddenly the plane jostled and Carson was taken by a look of panic on Jared’s face. Jared spun around in his seat and consulted the instruments. Carson looked around but couldn’t see that anything was wrong. There was nothing but blue sky from the front and he saw that the wings, while still shaking, were still attached. Soon the plane settled and Jared turned back around with a gleaming smile on his face.
“Nothing to worry about. Just a jet stream.”
Jared kept his mind on his work for the rest of the trip as Carson was plainly in no mood to talk. Carson felt badly about seeming so antisocial, but he had never been a good flyer.
“Hey, bud,” Jared called out. “You may want to look out the window. We’re here.”
Carson peeked out the window slowly and all he could see below them was acres of green tree tops. He scanned around curiously. He suddenly saw a large white steeple. The plane tipped over further and Carson could more clearly see the church located near the center of town. It was large and white, but the paint was worn. He could see smears of dark along the outer walls and the steps looked a bit broken from even their altitude. Carson could see the main road that ran through the entire expanse of Graveston. There were a few shopping centers along either side and then there were pockets of houses here and there. Big, old looking homes that looked a bit weather beaten but sturdy.
“That’s my house!” Jared called as they passed over a few homes. “The one in the middle there!” Jared further pointed out. Carson looked down and saw it. It was the smaller house in the grouping. It looked to be a seafoam green with white trim. Carson was beginning to feel a growing interest in Graveston until the road just ended and disappeared into the thick surrounding forest.
“Where do we land?”
“Further up!” Jared responded as he tipped the nose of the plane down. Carson could soon see a large flat clearing of land. There was a small black car parked off to the side. The plane hit the ground roughly. The whole cabin began to rattle violently and Carson grabbed his belt and clutched it tightly.
“Landings are a little rough!” Carson paid no attention. All he could hear was the rumbling of the wheels. His eyes were shut tight. Suddenly, it all stopped. Carson slowly opened his eyes and to his relief, the plane was stopped and calm. His hands relaxed and Jared turned around, still smiling.
“We’re here.” Jared then got up and opened the door. Carson managed his way out and looked over to where he saw the car. It was still there, then it suddenly came to life and slowly cruised over to them. It stopped and the driver side door opened and a tall, lean, older man with silver hair emerged. He was wearing a dark suit and walked towards him with long, deliberate strides. As he got closer, a smile stretched across his thin lips and he extended his hand. Carson looked at it. The fingers seemed more like claws than fingers. They were skinny and boney. The man got closer and Carson, in order to appear civil, took his hand. The grip was stronger than Carson had anticipated. He nearly yelled out but he caught himself.
“I trust the trip was a good one.” The man said in a familiar voice.
“Yes,” He said with an even wider grin, exposing his yellowing teeth. “Welcome to Graveston.”