Kickoff written by fefedove


Everything is slightly off today.

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It was midday when things started going wrong.

There was no break in the cicadas’ cacophonous choir. The little creek kept bubbling and singing its song.

In the height of summer, time was almost at a standstill in the small town of Saundale. The humidity weighed everything down like molasses. Even the screech of brakes and angry honking of cars were muffled.

Despite the dust, it was quite peaceful.
The world was just slightly off kilter. In the humidity was a tension, an anxious itch.

Anders huffed, trying to get the waistband of his pants over his beer belly. But his fingers were clumsy today and the belt just would not clasp. His gut told him something was wrong. He felt a little panicked. Was he forgetting an important event? He had never missed a deadline in his thirty years of work in the garage, but maybe the customer had been waiting since the morning for the oil gauge to be fixed?

He scratched the rough hairs around his mouth and shook his head. “Must be the heat,” he muttered.
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His freshly pressed shirt was already collapsing around the corners, sticking to him like soggy napkins.

The man’s wife, busy at the table with her newspaper clippings, spared him a glance. “You look crazy.” Mirtha, a wiry and gray woman, was not wrong with her comment.
Anders’s left lazy eye swam around in a daze, like a plastic googley eye being shaken by a curious toddler.

“It’s the heat,” Anders defended. “God forsaken summer, can’t even breathe.”

Mirtha gave a noncommittal cluck. “Don’t forget those pepper grinders,” she called out.
A grunt could be heard before the back door slammed shut.

Activity resumed with insignificant white noise, just like every other house in Saundale.

And then bang, bang, bang.

Five hundred miles away, life bustled on in the city of Norkshire. It was just as dusty as Saundale, with extra soot and grime to match, but the flashy signs and high-rises still managed to shine through. The inhabitants of this city didn’t know about and didn’t care about
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the bangs that changed the lives of that small town. Even if it had happened here, no one had the time to distinguish it from the howls of stray dogs and backfires of struggling cars. And they had their own problems to take care of.

Nick stared at his computer screen as if in a trance. The building held multiple companies and his floor was jam packed with offices and workers like sardines.

Mr. Talinksy,
Thank you for your order.

He really hated writing these emails. They were so dry and polite. And did anyone even read them? He tried to keep up with his neighbor’s furious typing, but he couldn’t think as fast. The air conditioning protested and the overhead fan just spun lazily. A fly buzzed around his ears.

The five words blended into the flashing cursor.

His head clonked down onto the keyboard.

The white space he had struggled so hard with was instantly filled with

Mr. Talinksy,
Thank you for your order. ytryhgtfhyujyjdfjhsfdjsfadklhfsfffff

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hour passed before the intern walked by and found him hunched over.

“Nick?” she asked quietly. Sleeping on the job was a serious offense. When there was no response, she nudged him. The man gave in to her soft push, but would not move. Mandy set down the stack of papers that needed to be reviewed and finalized, and shook Nick’s shoulders, bringing his body up.

The man fell against the back of his work chair and his head lolled backwards. Two soulless white pupils stared up at the ceiling.

She screamed.
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