As a cry, raw and piercing, broke the dawn silence, Willoughby felt a
momentary chill. He peered into the jungle, searching the dark shadows
carefully. He saw nothing. It was probably a primate, high in a tree
somewhere, a lone watcher, anxious for that first glimpse of morning
light. Strange how wild things seem to sense the light even before it is
physically seen. Was that why he was out here? Had the wild things
inside him—the tangle of his incessant thoughts—betrayed him? Had
they driven him out into this open air to search a black horizon for
some brightening of hope? He glanced at his watch. It read
four-forty-nine AM. This was complete madness, to be out on the edge of
a jungle in northwestern India, staring up at a dark sky, trembling at
the cry of some lone primate.
Yet, here he was.
He rubbed a hand over his face. It was never really quiet here at the
GEPP, or Gujarat East Primate Preserve. First of all, the preserve
housed nearly a hundred monkeys. Most were gray langurs, but with a few
troops of toque macaque and gibbon monkeys mixed in. The high,
state-of-the-art habitats were seldom without some kind of activity.
Second, the preserve was nestled into a hilly section of jungle. The
huge trees, thick with vines, teemed with life, and anchored a raw
energy that hinted of ancient, even primal, times.
Willoughby’s ears pricked. A tense quiet had suddenly descended on the
air around him and he thought he saw the sky lighten ever so slightly.
Jungle shadows froze. Willoughby looked up, peering toward the spot
where he expected the horizon to be. Like a developing photograph, the
low hills faded into view--slowly at first, but then with more
conviction. The sky was becoming noticeably bright. With an almost
unanimous reverence, Willoughby sensed a thousand eyes trained on the
far spectacle. Life, it seemed, was steeling itself, preparing for that
moment when bright, hot light spilled in hues of molten gold across the
A point of sky behind one of the taller hills began to brighten faster
than the rest. Fuzzy hints of yellow-white brought clarity to the jungle
hilltop, pushing Willoughby’s mind to another time, another place.
Hints of yellow-white reflecting out from a vibrant sunset...
It was early spring in his own yard. Sydney was there, shining and
brilliant in her own way. Rays of sunlight played upon her silky, black
hair as strands tousled in the breeze. She stood with her violin tucked
gently under her chin. They were behind the garage among growing stalks
of sunflowers, marveling at how the broad face of each flower had turned
to follow the soft glow of the sinking sun. Willoughby could hear his
mother in the kitchen a short way off, clinking dishes, and the ting of
the porcelain seemed to meld with the ting of Sydney’s bracelets. She
honed her focus and raised her bow. Music circled in the air—beautiful
music, soft like the singing of angels.
Willoughby’s half-sisters exploded with giggles and claps of delight
as they danced in and out of a row of waist-high corn. The oldest of the
girls, Densi, was studying to become a violinist as well, and she and
her sister, Cali simply adored Sydney. They reveled in her status as a
world-renowned musician with a pop-star-like following. They also loved
her music. They would not let her leave until she played for them at
least two or three tunes. Often, it was a fairy tune, or an adventure
chase, or an angel’s song. This late summer evening, they had wanted
to hear angels…
Another shriek, this one louder, bringing his mind back to the GEPP, to
his visit here to India. A low cascade of rumbling shook the branches of
the trees as unseen critters jockeyed for better views, deep blue turned
to powder blue. Streaks of white gold began to shoot up from the
hilltop. Then, in a moment, a heartbeat, the morning broke. Rays of sun
shot over the jungle canopy, highlighting the dark greens of the
treetops with new edgings of gold. The jungle sang. Screeches, and
hoots, and whistles, and roars burst out in one brief moment of pure
ecstasy. It was a welcome cry. It said, “The dark is gone! The long
night is over!” The effect was not unlike that of hearing the wail of
a newborn, hung upside down, startled by the sensation of cold breath
being slapped into its newfound lungs. Willoughby thought of a line from
a poem he had memorized in tenth grade; To Morning, by William Blake:
“O radiant morning, salute the sun, Rous’d like a huntsman to the
He stared, spellbound. He couldn’t turn away. Smell was palpable. A
thousand odors rose and mixed to form a pungent, tangy scent, crisp in
the morning air. It was a magic moment, very like the moment with
Sydney. He breathed in slowly. What would it be like to live in such
golden moments forever? But that is not the way of time. He had come to
understand that now. Time is not a book, dusty on a shelf, or a picture
hung on a wall. Time is liquid, and like a river, it can only be
observed within a context of motion. We may reach for moments, but in
the end, we find them impossible to hold. Even as we cling to each
second of joy, we see it slip, like flowing water, through our fingers.
The key to appreciating time, Willoughby mused, is less about stopping
the moment, and more about finding beauty in the rhythms of its flow.
Standing perfectly still, Willoughby let his eyes move over the jungle
canopy to a small, mountain village, barely visible on a hill in the
distance. He was facing away from the tidy buildings and the carefully
manicured lawn of the GEPP. The Gujarat East Primate Preserve was one of
the dozens of facilities which were secretly owned and operated by
Observations, Inc. Dawning sun warmed his face as his eyes traced the
curve of a deep ravine, cutting through a small clearing to his right.
It snaked lazily through the jungle vegetation. A dirt road bordered it,
leading up to the village, white against the dark greens of the scraggly
The drama of the sunrise complete, Willoughby let out a sigh. He walked
to a low, wooden bench. He sat, content to wait for the sun to clear the
treetops and its warmth to spill down his lanky frame and thaw his
Even though he was still facing the jungle, his thoughts turned toward
the preserve. It was divided into three segments. The first set of low
buildings housed the dorms, a state-of-the-art lab, an animal hospital,
and various public areas (including a research library). A second set of
domed buildings housed a few local breeds of spider monkey and a toque
macaque troop. The third, or central, habitat held the bulk of the
monkeys. Overall, the facility was one of the more brilliant facilities
designed by the secret organization of which he was a part, which was
saying a lot as the organization had proven itself to be a master in the
art of disguising its facilities. Like others he had visited, the
facility was really a façade used to hide the true purpose of the
complex. Ingeniously hidden beneath the center habitat was a functional
time door, designed to take advantage of a natural weakness, or hole in
the fabric of time and space.
Willoughby frowned. It had been just under two years since he discovered
this secret organization. They called themselves Observations, Inc. They
had allowed him to find one of their time door facilities, then had
promptly whisked him off to another time using technology he only
dreamed could exist. The promise of adventure, of time travel, the
ability to unravel mysteries, spending time with a team of like-minded
geniuses—it had seemed so alluring. Then he had learned that there is
a dark side to adventure. He had come across a being in the grid, one
who called himself Beelzebub. The demonic creature took an interest in
the fact that Willoughby could sense the time grid and was brilliant
with mathematics. Suddenly people were dying all around him. He learned
that his birth father, Gustav, had run from this creature almost his
entire life. He had left Willoughby and his mother one dark night
without any explanation. That was before Willoughby was even three years
old. As he grew into his teens, he had dreamed of finding his father and
bringing him back—of knowing the truth about what had happened to him.
Now that he knew, it hurt even more. He had to face the fact that his
father was gone and would never come home.
Willoughby thought of his friend Antonio, who had helped recruit him,
and had been the architect on many of the Observations, Inc. facilities.
When the Director of the organization, a formidable man who went by the
initials H.S., had been brutally killed, Sydney’s father, Aiyito, had
officially taken over the secretive organization. That had been a little
over a year ago, and during that time, Willoughby had rarely seen the
man, despite several contacts with Sydney, Antonio, James Arthur, and a
new member of the team, Hauti. His family had met and grown to trust his
whole team, viewing them as fellow victims of the unfortunate incidents
on their “educational” excursion on the Absconditus. In fact,
Antonio had somewhat framed the current invite to GEPP as a way to
“put the terrible tragedy of the Absconditus behind the team.” His
parents had been a bit reluctant to let him go, but he was seventeen
going on eighteen, and they had grown to trust the team—especially
Frankly, Willoughby suspected that Antonio was the real power behind the
scenes at Observations, Inc., despite Aiyito’s title. It was he who
reached out about a month ago, and agreed to visits and discuss the trip
personally with Willoughby’s mom and step-father. He had framed the
excursion as an “educational tour of India.”
Willoughby still wasn’t completely sure why Antonio had invited the
team to India. He had been a bit vague about the purpose of the
gathering, saying only; “There are issues we must discuss my
friend—together, and in a safe location.” The only thing that made
sense was that Antonio had found a clue nearby, a lead that could help
them find a missing friend. Antonio had been searching relentlessly to
find her—a Princess, first lost from her own time, and now lost
somewhere in the time stream. The late H.S. knew her. Just before he was
killed, he had confessed to being a man out of time himself. The tale
had to do with a city out of fable, the lost city of Atlantis. The
Princess had confided to Antonio that she was much older than she
looked. She had claimed that H.S. was much older than he looked as well.
She had become stuck in her late teens due to the odd effects of time
displacement. H.S. still looked to be in his fifties, despite being in
at least his hundreds. When Willoughby met her, the Princess had gone by
the initials T.K. She was a Cabin Girl on the ship that was to take them
to France on their first mission together as a team. She had the bluest
eyes Willoughby had ever seen. They had become friends.
He sighed to himself. Antonio had not arrived at the GEPP facility yet.
They had been told that he was busy setting up some sort of expedition
to a nearby set of ruins, one recently discovered under a couple of
hundred feet of water in the Bay of Cambay. Wiping at his eyes,
Willoughby tried to let the memories go. So much ground to cover when
trying to think over the past two years of his life. So much he had
tried to not think about, to block from his mind. His superior in the
organization, H.S., had been a teacher, a mentor, and a father figure to
him. Even after a year, he struggled to cope with what had happened,
with the man’s brutal death. H.S. had seemed larger than life,
invincible--a window to wonder, to the secrets of science, a guide to
the pathways of time itself. Willoughby had begun to imagine that H.S.
alone could stand against the demonic Beelzebub and the edge of darkness
that had descended upon all in the organization. His step-father, mom,
and half-sisters knew nothing of what he was going through. Sydney’s
father had stepped in after their disastrous first mission. He had
invented a plausible natural disaster, and on behalf of the educational
organization that had sponsored the excursion, had personally offered
his apologies, lauding Willoughby’s bravery.
The real story was that the mission had ended with their beautiful ship,
the Aperio Absconditus, being sunk after hijackers had killed most of
the crew. The main team had barely escaped with their lives, diving into
a dysfunctional on-board time door that flung them out across multiple
time lines. That had been only the beginning of the adventure. After
facing a frozen mummy on a mountain top where he almost froze himself,
an attack from hungry plesiosaurs, and a desert witch with an army of
snakes and skeletons, Willoughby had struggled to put up a façade of
normality to assure his family he was okay. He knew the danger was still
out there, though—somewhere; waiting, watching him.
A low hooting sounded from the complex behind him and quickly rose to
the pitch of a staccato cough. Willoughby knew without looking that
something had startled the gray langur and toque macaque monkeys. The
cry of the langurs in particular was hard to mistake. It was probably
Sydney. She was usually up by now, and seemed to enjoy going into the
monkey habitats to practice her violin, playing a lively mix of
classical and original violin compositions. The monkeys made a fuss
about her encroaching upon their domain, but in the end, they gathered
around her and quieted, watching with rapt attention as she played.
One particular male toque macaque monkey found Sydney quite intriguing.
He seemed to have taken a shine to her and watched her every move. His
chosen methods of attracting her attention included clicking his teeth
together whenever she looked his way and rummaging through her things
when she did not.
Willoughby listened for the crystal-clear tone of Sydney’s
Stradivarius. When it came, he smiled to himself. The preserve was
familiar territory to her. She had spent a fair amount of time here with
H.S. In fact, she had known H.S. much better than any of them. The
Director of Observations, Inc. had been more than a father figure to
her—he had been a true second father. She rarely saw her own father
Aiyito, and her mother had left long ago to pursue a dancing career, so
she had clung to H.S. and his secretive organization.
What was she feeling? There had to be memories of H.S. flooding back to
her. It had been almost a year now, and she still refused to really talk
about it. There had been no funeral for H.S. Aiyito had made sure that
the man simply disappeared, listed among those lost when their ship had
been hijacked and sunk. None of the team had been able to openly discuss
the loss of the Absconditus captain and crew, or H.S. It had been too
painful, and Aiyito had been adamant that they could not afford anyone
asking too many questions. So, the fabricated stories were supported,
and the whole affair had been swept under the rug. But that didn’t
keep them from grieving on the inside.
Willoughby leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. He looked
up, out toward the jungle. At times, it seemed that his course was set,
that he had a path he had to follow whether he liked it or not. What was
it the Roman general, Julius Caesar, said as he crossed the Rubicon,
defying the demands of the Roman Senate and inciting civil war? “The
die is cast…” That’s the way he felt now. He wasn’t sure what
demands he may be asked to defy and certainly hoped he wouldn’t incite
any wars, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was locked into a
chain of events he had little control over. He knew something was
coming, but what? When? The waiting around was eating away at him.
So, he had come outside in the early hours of the morning to watch the
sunrise over a wild domain and it had been beautiful, magical. They
couldn’t take that away from him.
Or could they?
At least if it came to confrontation, he wasn’t without talent. He
knew things, he could see things, mathematically, in the air around
him—equation strings that let him track weaknesses and human traces in
the time grid.He had learned to manipulate these weaknesses, allowing
himself to physically move while time stood still. H.S. had believed he
could chart his own destiny, that he could face the challenges ahead and
even change things. Was he right?
Leaning back, he gave a great yawn and stretched. If he allowed himself
to think too long, or too hard about his predicament, he knew the strain
would cripple him. So, he tried not to think about it. The team was back
together, on some sort of Observations, Inc. business and he couldn’t
ignore the sense of dread that he felt. What was it? He couldn’t name
it, he couldn’t put a finger on it, but it was there, there in the
jungle itself—a primitive feel, an unnatural silence. It forced him to
face and take note of the shadows in his past, but even more than that,
there was also something else…a presence, a darkness, waiting,
watching, wanting to awake.
The sun trickled down through the edges of the high canopy working its
way down the ravine. Maybe Antonio sensed something here as well. Maybe
that’s why he had called them all to this place. As brilliant, yellow
shafts of light finally reached the tops of the GEPP habitats, the
hooting exploded into a cacophony of shrieks, whoops, and chatter. The
troupe of langur monkeys were giving their own welcome to the sun. The
shadows in the ravine began to soften and lighten. Willoughby let his
head drop back. He felt something touch his shoulder and jumped,
spinning his arm around with his hand curved in a karate style. He
checked the blow mid-swing. It was only his old limousine driver, the
captain of H.S.’s yacht, Sam. The dour-faced man looked down at the
poised karate chop with a raised eyebrow.
Excerpted from "Cryptic Spaces: Book Three: Dark Edge Rising" by Deen Ferrell. Copyright © 2017 by Deen Ferrell. 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.