PROLOGUE


     The 911 operator studied the second hand of the clock mounted in front of her station.   It was eleven fifty-eight - two minutes to midnight - and the end of her shift.  The room was silent except for the hacking cough of a large woman leisurely dusting the redundant console nearby.

     The operator yanked off her headset and turned to face her nightshift companion.  “Hey, Missy?” 
     “Yeah, Hon?”
     The operator waved at the clock, “I swear this mother slows down as it approaches the top of the hour.” 

     The big woman straightened up and braced her lower back with both hands.  “Hell, girl.  It’s possible.”  She let out a throaty chuckle.  “Maybe your eyeballs is slowing down.  Ever think of that?” 
     “Ain’t that the truth!  You know, I turned thirty-five last week.  Jesus Christ.  Thirty-five.  I’m getting to be an old woman like you!”  The two cackled in unison.  

     The older woman pointed at the desk as the center screen of the console lit up.  Between gasps of laughter, she blurted, “You a got a call, Hon.”  
     “Seriously?”  The operator wrestled with her headset and repositioned herself to take the call.  She looked at the clock. Midnight. On the nose.   
     The cleaning woman scratched her head.  “And where the hell is that useless Devlin anyway.  Wasn’t he supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago to take over for you?  The boy gets on my last nerve...”
     Without warning, all four screens exploded with flashes of call data.  “Oh my god, Missy.”

     “You all right, child?” 
     “There’s hundreds of them!”  The operator froze.  Protocol.  What was the procedure?  She closed her eyes and tapped the keyboard with her index finger.          
     “Well, how can that be?  There is only two thousand people in this whole damn town!”  
     The operator held up her hand to quiet her friend.
     “911 – Please state your name and location.”  The call was gone.  “Hello, this is 911….”  The next call in the queue disappeared from the screen.
     All four screens went blank. They recovered instantly, but the Dialed Number Identification Service description on every one of the two hundred and five incoming calls had changed.  They were now all coming from the same number and location.   
     Their 911 outbound office line.  Her station was calling itself.
     “Oh my god!”
     Then, all of the calls were gone.  
     “What the hell is happening?”   
     The screens went dark again.  
     Missy moaned behind her.
     And then the lights went out.