(This story is a novel excerpt)
There are no survivors from St. Louis.
We can’t call ourselves survivors; we’re only alive because we weren’t there.
I was eight years old when St. Louis, my home, simply ceased to exist. One day that summer I was rolling in the grass in the park at the base of the Gateway Arch; the next week I was curled behind the couch in a corner of my grandmother’s living room in Louisiana, trying to shut out the news network anchors.
My parents seemed off for weeks before that. I remember asking them if they were all right more than once, if something was wrong. Dad was hardly ever home, and he was distracted. Mom was quiet, which wasn’t normal for her. They put me to bed early and spent nights holed up in the study when Dad was home. They always looked tired.
Then they announced I was going to spend a week in Ruston with Grandma Jean. I was happy to have her all to myself for a week, but I still remember the moments before my parents drove away. I hugged each of them so hard I thought my chest would break. I clung to Dad, and asked him again if something was wrong.
For once he didn’t deny it. “We’re trying to fix it,” he told me.
“Is it time call stuff?” I asked.
“Sort of. I’ll explain when you’re older, Aurora, okay?” Dad didn’t elaborate.
“Jared,” Mom whispered sharply. She was cutting her eyes at him in that way she had—the way she looked at me when I acted up in public.
He shut up about it, hugged me one more time, and kissed my cheek. “I love you. Be good for your grandma.”Two days later St. Louis vanished. My parents, my grandparents on my mom’s side, my school and my friends...everything went with it.
A Brief Timeline of Temporal Communications and the Anomaly
2018 - The Anomaly appears north of St. Louis, MO, near the Mississippi River.
2019 - Cunningham Industries, owner of the property on which the Anomaly appeared, wins sole right to study of the phenomenon.
2023 - Cunningham Industries quietly forms subsidiary Temporal Communications, when the possible applications become clear from study of the Anomaly.
2025 - The possibility of calling through time is made public to the world by Cunningham Industries.
2030 - On September 22nd, Temporal Communications officially opens its doors for business, with two call center locations in the city of St. Louis.
2039 - Temporal Communications makes Cunningham Industries the top-grossing corporation in North America. Call centers begin to appear across the globe.
2050 - On July 17th, the city of St. Louis ceases to exist. An area 48.74 miles in diameter is decimated. All residents and structures vanish. Temporal Communications claims the disaster was caused by an unforeseeable fluctuation in the anomaly, and by no actions of their own. There is an investigation, but Temporal Communications and Cunningham Industries are not charged in the incident.
2051 - After a sharp drop in stock prices after the St. Louis catastrophe and disastrous media attention, Temporal Communications makes highly advertised and supposedly successful attempts to “stabilize” the Anomaly. After months of reassurances and a marketing re-launch of the “newer, safer” technology in their call centers, stock prices and business once again begin to climb.
2055 - Cunningham Industries is once again the top-grossing corporation in North America.