Hank Frye would have dismissed the peculiar movement of Fate which brought him into work at such an early hour, had he acknowledged it at all, as a nonsensical lapse in rational thought. Hank Frye did not believe in Fate; to him, it belonged consigned to the past with all the myriad superstitions which had plagued the human race since early man first ventured forth from his cave after dark. The bogeymen were all dead, slain by the pure light of Knowledge, the mighty sword of Science. Sooner or later, Hank knew, even the more benevolent artifices of society would cease to be necessary, discarded, no longer needed. No great supernatural force regulated Hank Frye’s life, beyond his ability to understand. Such beliefs were for the less educated and ignorant. Hank Frye lived in the real world.
For this reason, Hank could not even appreciate the irony of that same Fate’s machinations. At least not yet.
Hank stood swatting at moths in the orange glow of the security lights outside the guardhouse of the North Florida Regional Hospital. Irritated, he punched the buzzer, pressing his face against the glass door, looking for the guard who would let him inside. One of the asinine security procedures to which even Hank had to adhere dictated that all doors were locked at night. No identification cards, not even his own, would permit access. Hank cursed, under his breath as though ashamed of the words. He pressed the buzzer again.
The face of a guard appeared on the opposite side of the shaded glass. A hefty, middle-aged woman whose name Hank couldn’t recall. Wide-eyed, she pressed her own buzzer and the door swung open. Hank forced himself to smile as he stepped inside.
“Oh, Dr. Frye!” The guard clutched his arm. “I’m so glad you’re here!”
“Is something wrong?” Hank asked.
“They’ve all gone crazy!”
“Calm down.” Hank pried her fingers from his flesh and patted her hand. “Tell me the problem.”
“The patients, they all started freaking out,” she said. “Trying to break out of their rooms, hootin’ and hollerin’ and carrying on. The staff inside called for back-up, and Jim and Pete went up, but I’m not supposed to leave this post!”
“Okay, slow down,” Hank said. “That doesn’t make any sense. They’re all nonviolent.”
The burst of light, so miniscule at first, registered in the corner of Hank’s vision, through the window of the guard shack. It seemed to emanate from the building itself, blossoming like a flower, a blinding, pulsating, scintillating, mute explosion of blue radiance. It spread outward, engulfing the hospital, the trees surrounding it, the starless sky above it.
“What the hell?!”
The light reached them. Hank felt himself being lifted off his feet, the breath crushed from his lungs by the impact. The light seemed to have a substance of its own. It filled his eyes, his ears. Blind and deaf, Hank’s consciousness slipped away, as the walls of his stable, clear, safe reality crumbled.