Robert Gross
Author of The Extinction Gene      
Chapter 1

A run in the desert usually purged Allen’s mind. The brain-

boiling Arizona heat rippled through his body in hazy

synchronization with his stride and cleared away thoughts.

Not today.

It was spring. Peak temperatures were a month off , but it was

still 108 degrees.

He liked to run without a shirt. He stayed cooler if he

exposed as much body surface as possible to the humidity-

starved air.

Allen glanced down to check a tricky stretch of terrain and

noticed wild strands of gray hair on his chest, mixed in with the

dark brown.

When the hell did they pop up? They weren’t there yesterday.

He felt the first twinges of pain in his once tireless legs.

Pretty early in the run for that, stud, he thought.

Shit. He had gray hair, his legs hurt, and his first pair of glasses

lay on his desk, the ultimate insult to an ex-combat marksman.

Things change, he knew, but this fast?

He decided mortality sucks, and kept running, determined not to

ruin a perfectly good run by contemplating anything deeper than

the prairie dog holes he dodged.


Allen, something is changing out here.

This isn’t the same desert.

Something is out of balance.


Despite his efforts, the words of his dad’s last letter rolled up in

his consciousness and interrupted his zen-like focus.

Was his dad perplexed, haunted? He had been dying when he

wrote it.

The air did feel different today, and even looked odd. It seemed

to shimmer at a strange frequency, and the hawks overhead

circled in a different direction than normal.


They say when a man loses one of his senses, the other senses

become more perceptive. Maybe when a man’s time is up, he starts

noticing other things, other sensations that the living world overpowers

and drowns out.

There are too many strange feelings in the air.

Maybe they’ve been there my whole life—maybe I’m just now

noticing, but the world is changing, and I don’t think we’re going

to be part of it much longer.


Allen preferred to remember his dad as the robust soldier and

scholar who hunted and walked in the desert every day with

him—teaching, always teaching. His mind’s inner eye winced at

the image of the frail, introspective invalid that his father

became, staring out the window at the desert he loved, but

whose heart no longer allowed him to explore.

Allen shook his head to clear his mind.

Jet lag, he thought to himself, jet lag, gray chest hairs, and too

many Brazilian beers.

The muscles around the faded scars in his legs began to ache

more, a signal it was time to finish. Much farther and the still-

buried shrapnel would begin to burn like heating elements.