Read SNAP: The World Unfolds Online

Authors: Michele Drier

SNAP: The World Unfolds

 

SNAP:

The World Unfolds

by

Michele Drier

 

 

 

For Darcy, Matt and the girls

 

 

 

 

SNAP:

The World Unfolds

Copyright 2011 by Michele Drier

PROLOGUE
 

 

 

It was blood. It looked like somebody dropped a cup or glass. It puddled in front of the sinks and filmed out on the bathroom floor.

 

I was startled; usually the bathrooms at SNAP Magazine were spotless.

 

It didn’t smell like fresh blood, that odd, kind of tangy, metal-y smell, but for sure I wasn’t going to touch it to see if it was warm.

 

I couldn’t scream, but I was suddenly queasy. My makeup didn’t need a touch-up that much. My knees shook as I spun back through the door and headed straight to my assistant’s desk to have her call maintenance or whoever and clean up the mess.

 

She looked up at me. “There’s what on the bathroom floor?”

 

“A big puddle of blood,” I whispered. “Come see for yourself.”

 

I didn’t want to run, didn’t want to incite concern in the rest of the staff and have it spread out through the cubicles, but we walked fast. When we got across the office and down the hall, I pushed open the door and said, “Look!” with a flourish.

 
“Look at what?” Jazz’ eyebrows disappeared up under her bangs.
 
I turned my head and saw...nothing. No blood, no remains, no pink sheen, not even water on the floor.
 
“Are you sure you saw it?”
 
“Of course I saw it,” I insisted. “It was right in front of the sinks. It covered a patch of the floor.”
 

Jazz shook her bangs out of her eyes and gave me a withering look that could have dried grapes into raisins. “I know you’ve only been here a few days, but I can’t think you found blood on the floor. SNAP has a reputation to keep up and they wouldn’t let something like that sit there for anyone to find.”

 

“I don’t think anyone would wander into a bathroom back here,” I said. “Isn’t this for employees only?”

 

“It’s supposed to be, but sometimes people who are here for a meeting or a shoot use these bathrooms instead of walking up front. These aren’t nearly as nice as the ones off the lobby and main conference rooms, but it’s quicker.”

 

I wasn’t happy. I saw the blood. I knew it had been there. I didn’t know why it was gone, but it wasn’t my imagination. There was nothing I could do about it now, but I was going to be on guard whenever I walked into a bathroom at SNAP.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE
 

 

When you get to the top savor it; it’s a long way down
, my mother’s mantra, hummed through my head as the elevator rose. On the eighteenth floor, a muted sound chimed as the doors slid open, and there it was. The headquarters of SNAP, the newest, cutting-ist edge gathering-of-information machine covering people who matter in the world.

 

As I stepped into the lobby I was deafened by the silence. Two receptionists sat behind the black marble counter, showing only their heads with headsets. They were murmuring something, but so quietly I couldn’t hear words. The famous SNAP logo etched into the wall-to-wall, ceiling-high mirror reflected the backs of their heads.

 

The reflection only showed my head and shoulders, my body disappearing as I neared the black slab. The receptionists were both blonds, so fair their skin had a translucent pale blue tone sliced by mouths slathered in Russian Red lipstick. At least I hoped it was lipstick.

 

The one at the right glanced up, murmured something and clicked a button. Up close, I could see that the phones were set into the marble counter and had no sound, only buttons that were lighting up. The receptionist tapped an earbud, pulled it away from her head and asked, “May I help you?” Her red mouth formed to something not quite a smile and her eyes looked through me.

 

“Good morning.” I used my best professional voice. “I’m Maxmillia Gwenoch.”

 

She looked, she continued gazing through me, she didn’t speak and didn’t blink an eye. I was startled. I’d never before seen anyone who could go that long without a blink.

 

It was clear my name meant nothing and she wasn’t going to deign to ask me why I was there, so I added. “I’m the new managing editor. I’m starting this morning. Can someone show me to my office?”

 

She blinked. Then she sighed. “We didn’t expect you so early.”

 

Early? I knew that SNAP staffers worked all different shifts. A 24-hour news day means that the old nine-to-five grind doesn’t cut it anymore. But I never thought that 11 a.m. was early. I’d timed my arrival so that I could find my office, check in with the HR department for the forms packet and still have a leisurely lunch with some of the executives.

 

“Just a moment,” The blond stuck the earbud back in her ear, pushed a button and murmured some words. Apparently all was well, because she looked up at me and nodded before she punched another flashing button and started murmuring again.

 

Hands down, this was the oddest reception I’d ever gotten at any of the many jobs I’d had. I was so stumped that I hitched my bag higher on my shoulder and slowly turned around, looking for a chair or couch or door, something. But this was it. The polished steel elevator doors behind me, the high, long, black marble counter in front of me and endless reflections of blond heads.

 

Suddenly the reflections wavered and broke as a door opened at the far end of the mirror. A young woman with pixyish brown hair, dressed in a brown suede mini, a forest-green top and brown stiletto boots came over and held out her hand.

 

“Hi, I’m Jasmine Fall, but please, just call me Jazz,” she bubbled. “I’m your admin assistant. I came in early this morning because I knew this was your first day. I hope you’ll like it here. SNAP is just too fabulous to work for; I’ve gotten to meet SOOO many famous people already. Follow me.”

 

First impressions don’t always hold up, but I’ll never forget my SNAP introduction. I followed Just-Call-Me-Jazz through the mirror and into my new workplace.

 

 

 

They were comfortable, their pace not quite a lope. The woods were dark, but the just-past full moon showed the path.


Those pigs...” the first one snarled.


They’re more trouble than they’re worth,” the second one growled. “They make way too much noise when they’re hunting.”

Baying suddenly broke the night silence. “The rest of the pack,” the first one tuned his head to listen. “How many coming out tonight?”


Only three besides us,” the second one sniffed. “Every body was out last night. Tonight, it’s just patrol and checking traps.”

Snuffling came from ahead just to the right of the path followed by fast-running feet. Night birds—ravens and owls—took off with rustling wings, swooping over the two heavy-shouldered men on the path. The owls were silent, only rushing air marking their passage. The ravens raucously called to one another, making the men pause.


Who else is out?” The first one’s voice rumbled low in his wide chest. Before he could answer, the second one let out a startled bellow.


I smell something.” he screamed, rapidly shape shifting into a wolf and going down on all fours. The first one dropped too, and, now both werewolves, they whirled and ran toward a snare net.


I knew I smelled him,” the first one said as they came upon a figure struggling in the net. The net, woven with strands of silver, was pale in the moonlight showing the prey.


It’s a Kandesky, let’s get him out and take him to Matthais.” Shifting to human form, they tied the Kandesky vampire’s arms behind his back with strands of the silver woven rope.


This is a big mistake,” the vampire hissed, his fangs gleaming in the dim light. “You know these woods are neutral. You’re not supposed to be hunting here.”

Instantly, snarls, high-pitched screams and shouts filled the dark. Wings beat overhead, bodies plummeted down with talons searching for flesh and another figure spun into the man holding the trussed vampire. A blade flashed and the man dropped the rope, howling, holding his right arm with blood spurting black against the night.

The two figures, now clearly vampires, were rising to escape when the pigs attacked. Heavy-chested boars with scimitar-curved tusks, slashed and gouged, giving the two captors time to call the pack. The pack answered, leaping through the brambles and saplings to bring the vampires to bay. The first man, licking the wound on his forearm, grabbed the net and threw it over the two cornered vampires. Werewolves, snarling and snapping, watched while the first two shape shifters bound the vampires together and dragged them down the path.

 

CHAPTER TWO
 

 

The actual workplace and offices of SNAP could have been any cubicle farm. Probably fifty of them filled the big space with what looked like offices and conference rooms ranging down the sides. At the back, or what I initially thought was the back, was another huge mirror, again etched with the SNAP logo.

 
Like the reception area, the huge room was silent.
 
“It’s a little spooky,” Jazz gave a small laugh. “I like it much better when there are people here. Follow me, please.”
 
“When are there people here?” I asked as we wove our way through the maze toward the mirror.
 

“Well, most of the editorial assistants start getting here about noon. The reporters, at least those who work here, begin coming in in the early afternoon, maybe one or two. The art department and the taping studio take up the 19
th
floor and I don’t go up there a lot. I think they come in later in the afternoon.

 

“The whole office is really rocking at six and then it’s a madhouse. We do the first TV show at 7 and the last one at 10 so it’s frenzied until about eleven, then it’s just over.”

 

We’d gotten to the mirror and Jazz waved her badge at it. Another door opened and she stepped through. I was standing there and must have been looking as astounded as I felt because Jazz said, “It’s not really a trick. You’ll get used to it. We all have.”

 

“It’s a little disconcerting,” I said. “How do you know where the door is and where to scan your badge?”

 

“It’s set so the sensors are in a strip. You line your badge up near the S. It’s designed like that so you don’t have to always keep looking at the mirror. And there is only one door through the mirror.”

 

I followed her through the mirror again and was in what were clearly executive offices. There was another reception area, but this was more inviting. Copies of SNAP: The Magazine, were artfully strewn around on tables. The receptionist, this one with black hair but the same Russian Red mouth, sat behind a black granite desk and her phone console actually rang, or at least made a sound like rushing water.

 

She looked up at me and smiled as Jazz said, “This is Maxmillia Gwenoch, the new managing editor. Ms. Gwenoch, this is Sasha, our executive receptionist.”

 

Sasha’s smile reached her eyes and her demeanor was friendlier than the Ice Princesses holding down the fort. But maybe that why they were there. It sure would cut down on any unwanted visitors.

 

“I’m happy to meet you, Ms. Gwenoch,” she said. I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.”

 

“Please, if it’s just in the office, call me Maxie,” I said. “I prefer Ms. Gwenoch if it’s a formal business association, but it’s cumbersome for daily use.”

 

I turned to Jazz. “So, do I have an office in here?”

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