The Shadows Of Virgil Sullivan
Part of the Shadows Collective.
It all started ten years, three days, two hours, forty two minutes, twenty seven seconds ago. I was sitting in my office as I had every business day since 2015. I took a sip of my coffee and continued to read the bloated manuscript before me. I had no idea what to make of this thing. It was the third one I had attempted today. At damn near fifteen hundred pages, it was a poorly structured mess of incoherent ranting. My boss, Scott Shafer, handed me this monster as soon as I came in that day. Along with the two others. After those turds I figured the day would be a write-off. He plumped down the fifteen hundred pages fastened together with the unfortunate title of THE NIGHT CRASH! What a joke!
"Hey Charlie," Scott called to me. I guess I was to busy trying to stomach this crap to have heard him come in. He must have entered sometime between my last sip of coffee and just then. My desk was directly across from his in the office. Papers, manuscripts and books were strewn all across the floor and on the shelves wherever we could find room. One would assume this was a mess. We liked to think of it as controlled chaos.
"How's the book?" He asked.
"Garbage," I said frankly.
"Really?" He sounded surprised. "It looked interesting to me."
"It's long... Detailed I suppose," I closed the book. Two hundred and fifty pages was enough for me. "But two fifty in, nothing's happened yet."
"What's it about?"
"I'm not even sure. It reads like a cultists instruction book."
"That might play in a niche market."
"We can't publish this, Scott, There's no story or anything."
"I trust you," He said simply. "You gonna finish it?"
"Only if you're cruel enough to make me," I smiled at him. Scott started laughing. I wanted to plug my ears every time he did this. The laugh was way to boisterous for my taste.
"Don't tempt me," He stopped laughing. "I am gonna need you to tell the client."
"Why not send a letter?"
"Why the hell did you accept it then?"
"It was bit and important looking."
"Just because it's big..." I started to say. Scott cut me off.
"Yeah yeah yeah," He waived me off. "Just call him into the office."
Despite my earlier comments on the subject, I attempted to finish the book over the hours that followed. Scott shouted from his desk in order to wake me up. I jerked my head up and took another sip of the now cold coffee. I couldn't help but groan when the taste hit my tongue. Five hundred pages. I was only a third of the way through this damned thing.
"Ready to call him in?" Scott asked.
"Yeah.. Let's do it," I gave in.
"Good! I had to track his number with a damn internet search, I pinned it to the board."
I glance up at the pin board above Scott's head. I stood up and walked over to it. There was indeed a phone number with the author's name on it.
"Virgil Sullivan?" I read the name aloud. "Are you kidding?"
"Nope, that's the name the kid gave me," Scott explained.
"Yeah he looked like me was only seventeen, maybe younger."
"Great," I mumbled. I tore the small slip of paper off the board. Dialed it into the small handheld phone we kept in the office. It rang for a few moments. A high pitched voice answered, "Mr. Sullivan's office."
"Good afternoon, I'm attempting to find Virgil Sullivan," I explained. He couldn't have been a professor if he was that young.
"Vigil is Mr. Sullivan's grandson. What is this in reference to?" She asked. Her tone was absolutely robotic.
"Yes, my name is Charlie Hartman. I work for The Shafer Publishing House," I explained. "Virgil Sullivan submitted a manuscript to us for examination and we need to arrange to meet with him to discuss it. But he didn't leave us any contact information."
"He submitted a manuscript?" He tone did not change, but she did sound slightly surprised. As if this was something I maybe shouldn't have told her.
"That's correct," I confirmed.
"He wouldn't be home at the moment," She paused. I could hear her typing on a keyboard. "Hold please."
Her voice disappeared and music started to play. Simple elevator sounding guitar music. Another voice came onto the line. A deep guttural male voice.
"Yes?" I answered.
"Good afternoon, I am Virgil's grandfather. My secretary informed me that he submitted a manuscript to your publishing company?"
"Yes he did Sir."
"Would you mind telling me the title?"
"I supposed, It's called The Night Crash."
"Not so catchy is it?"
"Not so bad for a first try."
There was a few moments of silence over the line. Not even static sounds.
"Sir?" I checked if he was still there. He seemed to be concerned. I wasn't sure what else I should tell him.
"I must ask you to do something for me Mr. Hartman," He finally said. "Would you be willing to meet me at my office?"
"I..." I choked for a moment. "May I ask why?"
"My Grandson is a boy of merely sixteen, if he submitted something, you need to understand a few things before you make your decision."
"I suppose so," I tried to hold back the confusion in my voice. The man sounded very intimidating. "Where is the office?"
"Topmost floor of Sullivan Tower," He said.
God, what was I getting myself into? I had not been living under a rock my entire life and was able to figure out who this man was. It was becoming clear that I was on the phone with the CEO of AtlanTech. And now I had to stroll right into his office.
"I'll be there as soon as I can," I said.
"See you soon," Sullivan said and hung up the phone. After I hung up the phone myself I looked over at Scott. I took a breath and informed him of the conversation I just had.
He smiled big and said, "Doesn't matter if it sucks anymore."
"Why's that?" I asked.
"A novel from the grandson of one of the world's most powerful individuals. We have to work with the kid to make this thing readable."
"Wonderful," I said sarcastically. "I'm headed over to his office."
"Bet you ten bucks he has a hot tub AND a pool in there," Scott joked. I laughed lightly as I swung on my long brown suede coat, over my purple sweater. Concealed my black hair in a toque with the Batman symbol embroidered on it. I walked down the maze of corridors which I had committed to memory over the last two years. Exit office, make right, walk ten paces and make a left. Another right four paces and exit the door to the left. Descend two flights of stairs and voila! Easy as pie. Just imagine my first day though. I got hopelessly lost about twelve times before I found it. Scott was waiting in the office holding a stopwatch. When I arrived he said I broke the record. Apparently the record before me was held by my predecessor's predecessor. I broke it by a full minute. These were the thoughts running through my mind when I left that day. I couldn't help but try to think of something else. The idea of seeing this Sullivan guy in person was scaring me. A lot...
Why would I have been scared?
I took a cab out to the central AtlanTech office building. It stood taller than any other in the city. It design appeared as very old. Despite only being built within the last ten years or so. The building was beige and lined with windows as one could imagine. Except at the top. High above all the rest, the highest floor was only black glass walls. In the shape of a perfect pyramid.
Sullivan was known as a new age rich guy. He only came into the fold recently having purchased several successful businesses. Although he kept mostly to himself, it wasn't until a year or two into playing the stock market that anyone in the world knew his first name is Sylvester.
I entered the building and told the front desk agent about why I was there. Evidently he was told ahead of time of my arrival. This lead to the being scanned with a metal detector and run through and all my stuff being run through an airport-style X-Ray machine. He told me that there was only one elevator which would lead to Mr. Sullivan's office. The doors were black with a shiny blue outline. As they opened the security guard called out to me again.
"One more thing, Do not use you're phone when you're up there," The guard said with a stern tone. "The light won't do him any good."
I simply nodded and walked towards the elevator. The guard pressed a button at his desk and the doors slid open. Inside, I could see no lights at all. Just a small bench. I entered and looked towards the guard again.
"Long ride," He said. "Might wanna sit down."
I sat on the bench just as the doors closed. I held in a breath for a moment as the darkness set in. I sat in the pitch black for what felt like an hour waiting for those doors to open again. I always hated elevators and this was not only no exception. But ten times worse. I raised my hand and instinctively found my forehead to wipe off the sweat. Before the elevator stopped, I took out my phone and turned off the ringer. The light came off the phone screen and nearly blinded me. I rubbed my eyes vigorously, but because of the darkness I had no idea if it was helping or not. The elevator stopped. I expected to see nothing as the door slid open again. Thankfully there was some light beyond the doors. Although it was very dim. And colored blue. There was lines of lights along the floor. Creating pathways. Directly across the office there was a single desk. No one sat in it, but I left the elevator and headed in that direction.
The office was enormous. And perfectly pyramid shaped as I suspected. At least as far as I could tell. The lights only lit up so much of it. About half way up the leaned walls, there was a platform around all sides. I had to squint to see them, it looked like there were bookshelves along each wall up there.
"Mr. Hartman?" A voice called to me. Snapping me out of my daze.
"Yes..." I answered quickly.
"Thank you for coming," The voice was that of Mr. Sullivan. I couldn't tell at all where it was coming from. Until I heard the echoes of footsteps. Both to my left and right were sets of stairs leading up to the higher platform. A man slowly climbed down the steps to the left.
"My pleasure Sir," I said nervously.
"I apologize for my office. You are probably unaware of it, but I have a condition which causes me great pain when I am near lights."
As he came into view I got my first ever good look at the mysterious mogul. He was average height. His hair appeared to be brown. Although it was hard to tell due to both the darkness and the fact he had it combed back with some kind of oil. He called to mind a Gordon Gekko type. His voice sounded far less deep and guttural in person than over the phone. In fact it was downright pleasant.
"Also I disguise my voice anytime I use the phone. A man in my position has many enemies," He said as if reading my mind in that moment.
"You wanted to discuss the manuscript?" I asked.
"Yes," He said, he began walking over to the desk. "Please have a seat."
I sat in the chair opposite his own. At the desk.
"So my grandson gave you a manuscript?" He asked. Although it sounded like more of a statement than a questions.
"He gave it to my boss," I answered anyway.
"Did you read it?"
"As much as I could," I said, hoping this man would not be offended by the statement. I could not get a read on this man.
"Do you perhaps have the book with you?" He asked.
"No, my boss requested I leave it behind."
"Do you have any plans to publish my Grandson's work?"
"If I'm being honest, I don't."
"May I ask why?"
I started to think about this situation. The man didn't seem all that concerned with his Grandson. Rather the work itself.
"It's just not something we can publish," I said. Trying to be as honest as I could.
"Why?" He asked again.
"Well..." I continued. "It's too long for starters, and it doesn't have much of a story or structure. It just can't be done."
"Was there anything in what you read of it that could have been non-fiction?" He asked. I was plainly taken aback by the questions. If that book was non fiction than I'm an orangutan's niece! With thoughts like that running through my head I couldn't help but smile. Surprisingly Mr. Sullivan laughed lightly as well.
"I'm sorry," He said. "I don't mean to creep you out as much as I probably am. I just have to figure out as much as I can."
"Mr. Sullivan," I piped in. " What's this all about?"
The older man leaned forward.
"Mr. Hartman," He said. "Virgil is a disturbed boy. He is very intelligent to be sure. More than even he'll ever know. His Dad Mike was the same way."
Sullivan placed his hand on the surface of the desk and held it there. A hand print began to glow blue underneath. The desk flashed briefly and words appeared.
"Virgil Sullivan headline, open file," Sullivan said clearly. The screen went off and back on to show a scan of a newspaper article. "Ten years ago, his Mother was killed in an explosion at her parents far. He would survive. The six year old boy was devastated by the event. His story of what really happened cause quite a stir at the time."
I looked down at the article. Sullivan said, "Flip."
Then the image on the desk turned around to face me. The headline read: EXPLOSION AT LOCAL FARM KILLS TWO.
"It was clear enough to everyone that an old generator caused the damage. Virgil, however, claimed of a large bright light emanating from the sky and an extreme rise in heat," Sullivan told me. I couldn't figure out why he was telling me all of this. What did it have to do with the nonsense in the manuscript? "His claims over the years have made the site of my Daughter-In-Law and her Father's death have made the farm a popular invasion territory for UFO nut jobs the world over."
"Sir? Why are you telling me all this?" I asked finally. I had never been so confused in my life. Up until then at least.
"My question Mr Hartman, The reason I called you over here. Is, Did the book mention any of this?"
I thought for a few moments. Through all the inane technical babble and elongated words. Underneath the dim uninspired car-manual like structure. I remembered a small section describing this scenario. I though it had just been mistakenly added to the book. "I can't quite remember..."
What was I doing? I just lied about it. It was only a vague mention in the midst of over a thousand pages of nothing. Could it really have been that important? "Although I can't be sure. I didn't read the whole thing..."
"He has had trouble making sense for a decade..." Sullivan was almost whispering. As if to himself. "I do not wish to cause you any further discomfort, but I must ask a favor. For my Grandson's sake."
"What is it Sir?" I asked. He had started to sound a little more concerned. The question was what exactly he was concerned about. It made me want to help him. Although mostly it made me very curious.
"Do not publish the book," He said.
The way he said that sounded way more important than I initially thought. I took another look around the office. I'm not a stupid man, but I'm not well traveled either. Having said that I had never seen a place like this before. My curiosity was peaked beyond measure. But I knew the right course was to do what I was told.
"We will not be publishing his book."