The storm raged on. It was after midnight and had been thundering and
lightening a good hour already. The rain and battering winds now
breaking loose tree limbs and roofing shingles. One incredibly bright
flash explodes from the night sky, quaking the house. An old shed in the
backyard burst to ruins. The storm’s raging fury seemed to announce
the end of the world.
A child was huddled in his parents’ bed, his mother cuddling, soothing
the frightened young one. The father stood, cursing, as he looked out
the back window, down into the yard. Sheets of rain blotted out his
attempt to see. Through the sounds of the downpour, he heard a distant
yelping. The family dog had returned from its roving.
“Damn mutt,” the father grumbled as he headed downstairs, the
dog’s cries growing louder, as it scratched at the back door. The
father was making his way through the darkened kitchen when it was
suddenly alighted by another crackling boom. As he reached for the brass
knob, however, the violence abruptly ceased. The father opened the door.
Upon doing such, he was beholden to the surreal. Time had been
suspended; the porch and backyard illuminated and frozen in space, the
pouring rain hung still in the air, as did the jagged sizzling bolt of
lightning that connected the porch. “Are you coming in?” he asked,
and the dog scurried into the safety of the house. The father then
walked out and into the nether.
The big old house had long since prevailed. Having been built back at
the turn of the twentieth century, it stood alone on a winding road,
quaintly named Talisbury Trail. A splaying of other large homes with
great properties had since sprung up amidst the township, though these
were all far from us on the other side of The Ridge. Our fine Victorian
still remained quite secluded, its great brick chimney rising
prominently as if some stalwart to the heavens.
My family, dating back several generations, resided in the sprawling
two-story house since its beginning. Grandpa, an only child, once
frolicked carefree about the property; his widowed mother had resorted
to taking in boarders to help meet expenses. Grandpa, at the time, was
far too young to remember much of his father, who had disappeared that
night of the great storm, so many summers ago. Subsequently, as years
passed, so too did my great grandmother, and the house bequeathed to her
Grandpa was fresh home from Europe at the end of the World War II,
opened his own small business, construction, and married a local girl.
They too had themselves an only child, my father, who grew up, graduated
college with a Master’s degree and pursued a career in the burgeoning
computer industry. It took years for his career to firmly establish
itself, at least to where my dad had fore-sensed it should be, but when
finally it did, he married and had himself two children: my sister,
Angela, and myself.
Grandpa now, however -- after Grandma’s passing (my only memory of her
was painting a portrait of a very young me, my dad and grandfather) --
was confined to a computerized wheelchair with a textbook case of
locked-in syndrome. His mind remained brilliant . . . beautiful they’d
say, and he communicated simply with his eyes via high-tech glasses and
a smart-screen – not unlike the renowned physics professor. A
‘round-the-clock’ nurse cared for him, along with my mother, who
also tended the home and my very important father.
Father was almost always absent from home, away on business trips. His
dealings would take him to the farthest reaches of civilization, yet he
always had loyalty to ‘family time,’ via Skype. Father was an
outrageously motivated man, highly renowned throughout the business and
the social community, who had just recently eclipsed the age of
retirement. Yet through all his important business dealings he never let
us forget that he was first and foremost our dad – especially when he
was home for those preciously brief periods of time, at the very least
twice a year, when he’d whisk us all away on some spectacular/exotic
family vacation to a far off destination.
My sister had since moved out, into the city, where she was pursuing
life on her own. She was five years my junior but had made the most of
her education, landing many career advancing sub-jobs -- with a little
help from dad -- ascending the ever-precarious ‘corporate ladder.’
She was a good two-hour drive from our house, here in the countryside,
and would visit us most weekends. Sometimes my mom, who once worked as a
registered nurse, now retired, would take the train down to see her. She
would spend time in her posh apartment, doting over the little things
that a good mother does.
As for myself, I focused my energies on creating Video Game Applications
– or just plain Apps, as they are technically referred to. I have
marketed over a dozen during the past several years and was currently at
work on several more. All reasonably priced and available on that
greatest of worldwide purveyors: The Internet. To date I have sold –
regrettably -- a handful to my loyal followers: Gamers and Facebook
To round out the remainder of my days, and provide myself with pocket
money, I worked nights at the local ‘big box store’ where I had
established several friendships; though I’ve tried not to become
overly involved in their lives for most all suffer from the great family
drama. I preferred The Gamers -- total uncontested anonymity -- with
whom I’ve connected with from around the globe, all for the strict
excitement of advancing, bettering one’s status, conquering the
standard. Currently, I was gaming in Space Vedas…
“James!” that British voice boomed from the other side of my bedroom
door. “Get off that f ---- computer and get out here! Now! I need help
Grandpa’s wheelchair needed its battery recharged daily. It was my job
to see to that, plus it gave me some ‘special time’ with Evvie --
that was the aid’s name – who basically lived at our house.
I was dressed in grey sweats and my favorite t-shirt; the one with an
alien silk-screened across the front. I hadn’t shaved in two days, yet
I always remembered to brush my teeth – my perfect, ‘pearly
whites’– for I never knew when I may have that encounter with Evvie.
I exited my room, quickly locking the door behind me (because no one was
ever to go in there) and scooted past her in the hallway. Evvie was in
her late twenties, petite, and always wore her silken brown hair tied
back in a ponytail. A splash of make-up around her cheeks, highlighting
the smooth skin of her face. Around her neck, she wore the most delicate
of gold crosses. There too, about her was just the slightest air of
I bantered down the creaky old stairway to be greeted by the smell of
Mother’s cooking, deliciously lofting throughout the house. I made my
way into the parlor, next to the Grand Fireplace that was often used
during the cold winter months, to where Grandpa’s bent and fragile
form awaited me; gnarled and unmoving, slouched over, his shriveled head
tilted awkwardly. He sported a baseball cap and a pair of thick computer
glasses that allowed him his only means of contact with the outside
“Good morning, James,” his electronically synthesized voice greeted;
it was initially jarring, though one quickly became accustomed to it.
“Hey, Grandpa.” I cradled him gently, kissing him on the cheek.
“We need to plug you in for a little charging.” I lowered my voice
as I worked around back of him. “I know I really should be doing this
overnight, but – you understand.”
While I uncoiled the cord, and plugged it into the back of his chair, I
noticed Evvie had come down the stairs and just stood there, arms
crossed, staring at me. She always wore that dumpy blue pantsuit with
the white stripe across her shoulder. ‘Nurses issue,’ they called
it. It did nothing for her figure, which I knew was libidinous beneath
those haughty garments.
“You know,” she began once again in that British accent of hers;
Cambridge, I believe she once called it “I am perfectly capable of
that. I don’t know why you insist that I call you.”
“It’s the least I can do for my grandpa,” I said. (And it was)
The front door opened and in stepped my sister, Angie. Angelina -- Angel
as my parents had wanted to name her: she being sent from Heaven; as
compared to the terrors I had supposedly bespread them with during my
first years of life. Whatever . . . With arms full of groceries and a
night bag, Angie stepped through the front door, retreating from the
winds that had whipped up outside. The ides of March were gathering. Or
so I was often entertained by my own imaginings: seasonality, I felt,
provided an integral subsistence in my gaming ventures. For in my Apps,
each world I developed held a specific season; and if Angie were ever to
come from one of these it’d be one of contention, suddenly affected by
desecration, then eventually fading to great tranquility.
She politely said her “Hellos” to Evvie and quickly made her way to
Grandpa, where she gave him the gentlest of hugs and a noble kiss. She
shared with him a brief exchange on the pre-season baseball stats -- she
and grandpa always had that connection -- and then complimented him on
his attire; Grandpa was always dressed in a fine suit and tie,
attributable to Evvie’s ever-professional caretaking skills. Angie
then shot me a look as I rose up from behind the chair. “Good to see
you’re doing something around here.”
“How lucky am I to have both my grandchildren with me today,”
commented Grandpa in his electronic voice. “Evvie, please take
Angie’s bag to her room.”
“No, that’s alright Grandpa.” Angie protested, shifting her
packages. “I got it. Where’s Mom?”
Mother walked in from the kitchen on queue. She was wearing her favorite
flowery apron. “I have sauce on the stove,” she said. “I’ll put
the pasta on shortly, say twenty minutes? Is that good?”
“I brought bread,” Angie announced, giving mom a kiss, and then
handing her two fresh loaves from her bags.
“Please, let me take your things,” Evvie insisted of Angie, who then
obliged. Evvie ascended the stairs to the guest bedroom, Angela’s old
“I’ve just got a little unfinished business up in my room,” I said
to Grandpa. “You’re going to be charging for at least half an hour,
I’ll be back to check on you then.”
“Half-hour to rub one out?” mocked Angie, leaving to deliver her
groceries to the kitchen.
“Angela!” Mother yelled after her. “That’s disgusting.” Mother
then moved over to the elegantly decanted libations at the living
room’s mini bar. “Why would you –?”
“Sorry.” Angela feigned an apology from off in the distance.
“At least that’s something.” Mother said with a huff. “I know
she didn’t really mean that,” she said, reaching to pour herself a
glass of wine. “It is almost noon,” she justified, looking around.
I once again subdued the anger that welled up inside of me. Out of
respect, I didn’t want to further spoil the moment. So, embarrassed, I
excused myself and headed up to my room to further indulge myself in
Space Vedas. I had long ago discovered playing online video games was a
great escape – especially when dealing with a sister like Angela.
It was there, in my room, which my world came to be. I had long ago
painted the walls black, and decorated them over with glowing stars;
planets were suspended from the ceiling. There were shelves filled with
dusty old trophies from my youth (when everyone got something for doing
nothing) a few detailed model ships and cars from when my interests were
of a tangible sense, versus the metaphysical. And right smack in it all
was my old faithful Captain’s Bed, meticulously crafted by Grandpa
from a long-ago storm-felled oak. That was way back when my grandpa was
healthy and always very busy around the house. Ripping out walls here,
putting up new framing there, and the yard -- amazing what one man could
do with an oversized tractor. ‘It’s as if he has super-human
powers’, Mom would always say about Grandpa. I wondered about him,
The lone window of my room looked out upon our expansive backyard. A
great lawn that swept back to what must have been near a football field
in length. Behind our property was state land; thick forest, thousands
of pristine acres. Often times I would just sit in my chair with my feet
up and daydream, looking out at the backyard, thinking of times when I
was a child and would play back there, always wandering all the way back
to the tree line, and into the woods. It was a fantastic place to play
‘manhunt’, back when I’d have friends over . . .
My dad kept the yard in fabulous shape, respecting all of Grandpa’s
hard work. Dad paid landscapers thousands of dollars a year just to cut
the grass and tend the shrubs, which lined the property – and there
were a lot of shrubs, evergreens, all of it finely manicured, as were
many of the estates that intermittently occupied the upper fringes of
I rolled my chair over to the desk (my command post, as I liked to think
of it) put on my microphoned-headset, signed-in to my desktop computer,
and linked back into my ongoing battle. Immediately I became lost again
in a world that was unknown – alien -- to the rest of my family.
Flying through space, dodging laser fire in a stolen cargo vessel,
having hacked the main computer system to self-destruct the Overlords’
base before fleeing it, I pointed the craggy spacecraft to a location
fifty light years hence, and was about to engage the star-drive . . .
Suddenly the screen blinked to naught and an odd code presented itself.
What the Fu-- I said to myself. For the past week this code, this virus
would suddenly appear and I would have to shut down the computer get rid
of it. Then reboot. I swiveled my chair and awakened my partnered
computer (it operates on the dark web) and figured I’d do some surfing
on there -- for entertainment purposes, naturally. After a brief while
of perusing my favorite porn sights, again this code presented itself.
Yet before I could shut it down an image of my Grandfather locked onto
the screen. Reflexively, I pushed away from my desk. Embarrassed, to say
the least. I walked over to check the lock my bedroom door (for what
reason, I don’t know) It’s good. Grandfather’s image began to
speak, and it was very life-like! His gestures and articulations
bringing me back to when I was a child.
“Hadn’t you better things to do with this ‘gift of time’ you
possess?” Grandpa said, his lips moving; a stern look to his eyes. A
chill rand down my spine, hoping this was some hacker’s cruel joke. I
moved to shut down the system, but he stopped me. “James, No!” I
pulled my hands back from the keyboard. “Before you turn me off,
listen to what I have to say.” Grandpas’ features softened. “I
have a gift for you. The codes you’ve been receiving lately have a
very specific purpose. They are not viruses, but a key-lock that will
introduce a whole new world to you.” He paused and I was about to
speak, but he continued, “A world with purpose; one of good intentions
-- a world where you can contribute your talents for the Salvation of
“Grandpa,” I said. “Can you hear me?” Thinking this all some
sort of weird put on. ‘Salvation of Mankind’. Good God! I knew I
sometimes found enjoyment in hacking.
“Quite perfectly,” Grandpa responded. I was aghast. It was him –
or was it? Had he known what I’d been doing up here all these years?
Following my exploration, my endeavors on the wicked worldwide web? I
felt the blood rush to my face.
“You are talking to me -- through your computer, right Grandpa?” I
asked him, somewhat confused. “Is this a program you’ve been working
“In a sense, yes. With some help?”
“Help?” I wondered aloud. Who in this family? The only one who knows
programming around here is me – something that I was quite proud of
having earned my Master’s in, though as of yet was to put it to any
real monetizing use.
“No need to think about that, now,” he consoled me. “I am speaking
to you as your loving grandfather. I feel it is time for you to enter an
endeavor that we have simply come to call: The Intellect. You’ve been
wayward now far long enough and I, We – need your assistance.”
Grandpa paused awkwardly again, then continued: “I have spent the
entirety of my later years preparing this house for its predestined
function . . . And now you have been chosen, by My Authority, to advance
and become part of it. Are you willing to trust me? Your own
grandfather? Remember, ‘Family Loyalty’!”
“Well, sure Grandpa,” my mind was swirling, still unsure if all this
wasn’t some sort of Cyber-Joke. “But what am I supposed to do?” I
felt very unsure of my agreeing – yet something deep within drove me.
“Start by rebooting your primary system and clicking on the link that
I send you. It is the first step in a series of commands that must be
followed precisely in order to access The Portal.”
Grandfather said nothing. I did as he instructed. I rebooted my primary
system, entered the appropriate commands into it, and then minimized my
grandfather’s picture to further the chain of instructions listed on
my Secondary System. One of the final steps in the litany of such was to
turn the dimmer knob on my bedroom wall to a specific Fibonacci Ratio,
then push a button next to my window. I had always thought it was just
for show, but this time it actually worked, and immediately an opaque
blind slid down, totally closing me off from the outside world.
I sat back down at my computer and studied the final code that had
arisen, blinking: I moussed over it and pressed ENTER. The entire room
hummed ever so slightly as distant gears meshed beneath me, in the thick
of the ceiling downstairs. My beloved Captains’ Bed, the sleep
sanctuary of my past twenty-five years, began to lift at its mid point,
opening as if a large mouth waiting to devour. Beneath it the floor had
slid back, revealing a lighted stairway, which must have ran along
inside an old pantry in the kitchen downstairs and an outside wall; the
second story of this house cantilevered out over the first by nearly two
It all seemed unbelievable. But then I thought back to my childhood, and
all the secretive projects that grandpa was always working on, in and
around the house. It was now obvious as to what he had devoted all that
time to. But how could he have kept this from us? But then again, Father
was often gone for days/weeks at a time. Angela was very young, and
mother? Well . . . I guess . . .
I turned on an Internet Documentary overladen with music and cautiously
ventured down the stairs.
Excerpted from "Beyond Imagination: The Intellect (Neuphobes)" by Thomas Zman. Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Zman. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.