I suppose somewhere “out there,” there’s someone who has gotten through life without any of the life-altering surprises that ambush most of out of nowhere. I’ve never met one, but there must be. My personal history is riddled with examples of surprises…pleasant and not…requiring adjustment on the fly. Life can be full of ambushes.
In Chapter 2 of West of Tomorrow, Clay Conover reflects on one such surprise…one taking the form of a new hire neither he nor his boss saw coming. Sheera Prasad is a striking, memorable woman with an enigmatic smile and eyes that take everything in while giving nothing back. And since meeting her, Sheera keeps invading Clay’s thoughts, whenever he slows down…like this Saturday evening.
Clay checked the horizon. Not long now. Sheera, he thought, as he straightened up behind his camera. Sheera Prasad. He’d been rounding the corner of his office, as the entry door to their suite opened. Jonas Stevens stepped through, his round face and New England complexion at odds with the California sun.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Stevens.” Nina’s friendly smile earned a curt nod as Stevens stepped aside to hold the door for a striking woman in a navy suit. Slender, tall with glossy midnight hair in a professional up do. She glanced at Nina, guessed her to be a receptionist and nodded with a professional smile.
The woman’s eyes panned the lobby and pinned Clay to the wall. The air seemed to crackle when their eyes met.
Stevens followed the woman’s gaze. “Clay! Come meet Sheera Prasad.”
“Welcome to So-Cal, Mr. Stevens. And to you Ms.—”
“Call me Sheera.” Perfect teeth flashed briefly between pillowy lips.
“Sheera, then.” Clay took the hand she offered, wondering inanely what it might be like to unpin her hair. He dismissed the thought with irritation. Before he could say anything more, Alistair appeared at the door to his office.
“Alistair! How goes business?” Stevens asked.
“It goes well, Jonas.” Alistair’s turned to the woman. “This must be our new associate?”
“Meet Sheera Prasad,” Stevens replied. “I’m sure she’ll make a strong addition to your team. Sheera, this is Alistair Montcrief.”
Had Stevens omitted Alistair’s title intentionally, Clay wondered? If Alistair noticed, he hid it well. He met Sheera half-way and offered his hand. “Welcome, Sheera. Did Jonas warn you what you were getting into?”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.” Her indecipherable smile drew attention to full lips. “But I’m certain we’ll manage.” She turned back to Clay. “I understand you’re an ex-Marine officer?”
“Retired Marine, Sheera,” Alistair corrected. “There are no ex-Marines.”
“I beg your pardon. So it’s true what they say?”
“Don’t know,” Clay replied. “What is it they say?”
“They say the military persona never dies.” Sheera flashed her rehearsed smile, again. “A little like old soldiers, I guess.”
“Referring to me personally?”
“I didn’t ask.” Her eyes danced with mischief. “But they might have been.”
“Nothing like being the unwitting topic of conversation huh, Clay?” Stevens interjected.
Clay stifled a frown, wondering if they had been Stevens. “No higher calling have I than to be dissected from afar. I was about to ask Alistair if he would join me for lunch at ‘From the Sea.’ Shall we make it four?”
Ambushes…at least in civilian life…are rarely fatal. Sometimes, they even prove to be welcome surprises. In Clay’s case, he’s certain something is going on, but as a retired Marine colonel, he’s not inclined to leap to conclusions. He wonders if it means anything and if so what? It may, he thinks, be nothing more than coincidence or at worst, competing agendas unrelated to him and outside his influence. But deep down, Clay doesn’t believe in coincidences.
Perceptive readers have already recognized there’s another question Clay should be asking. What has Clay done that may have made him the architect of his own ambush? If Clay (and we) are often responsible for setting our own traps, is it not the proverbial good news-bad news thing? As the architect (or one of them) of our ambushes, can we not also be the architects of the escape…if we’re honest with ourselves & about ourselves? Clay generally is. But will he know what to do with the information? That remains to be seen.
West of Tomorrow is a disturbing yet optimistic tale of corporate intrigue, romance and the phoenix in all of us, played out against the backdrop of shifting paradigms and flexible ethics. It is the tale of many, seeking for the elusive answer to the question: “Where are we when we’re west of tomorrow? West of Tomorrow published in January of 2016.
Dirk Sayers is a retired Marine officer, retired corporate trainer, & self-anointed word-slinger with a taste for layered plot lines and multifaceted characters. In addition to the putting the finishing touches on West of Tomorrow, Dirk is nearly finished with the draft volume one of a science fiction trilogy chronicling first contact between Earth and Knola. The twist? First contact happened thirty plus years ago and no one on Earth is aware of it. The Knolans need to keep it that way, for now…for them and for us.