TITLE: Sacred Academy - Ch 1 "Darkness Approaches"
By Amy Davey
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“Ouch!” she yelped after colliding with the low hung ceiling. She mumbled under her breath a string of obscenities her father would never approve of while rubbing her throbbing head. Her fingers found a bump beginning to grow already and Liz grimaced at the shot of pain.
The cellar under her old farmhouse was a damp and miserable place. It looked to Liz somewhat like those you would see on the set of an old horror film where some killer would bury the bodies he may have mutilated behind the dirt and stone walls. She used to be afraid of this place a few years ago, but now she was fourteen, well almost fourteen, and fourteen year olds weren’t afraid of that sort of thing. Besides, sometimes she felt safer in the blackness; almost as though she could be invisible. There was an air of expectancy tonight that hung like a thick blanket around her, she was sure anything could happen; so Liz hid quietly waiting, watching for any sign of movement. What I wouldn’t give to be invisible now she thought to herself. She caught the glint of moonlight on the steel handlebars of her cousin Manny’s motorbike between the branches where it hid. Liz had convinced him to store it at her house while he went out west to find work; somehow she had known it would come in handy one day. I have to be invisible. This is it, this is the night, I can feel it! Stepping out to get a better view Liz crouched low on the ascending staircase and felt the hard cold concrete beneath her skin. She scanned the bushes carefully as the cool breeze picked up and began making the small branches flutter and wave gracefully. Her nostrils caught a slight hint of barbeque wafting in from the neighbor’s backyard and felt her tummy rumble in excitement. She had forgotten to grab a quick bite of supper before rushing out to her stakeout but she wasn’t about to turn back in now.
Liz shivered as she fought to keep warm in the light t-shirt she had decided to throw on. Thrilled at the imminent adventure, she had climbed out of her second floor bedroom window and shimmied down the eaves trough, only to realize later that in all the excitement she had forgotten to grab her sweater. Although it had been an unusually warm September this year it was beginning to get chilly at night. As she fought the temptation to head back for a sweater, Liz saw a shadow move in the far corner of the yard. She held her breath and focused on that spot, silently willing her eyes to adjust so she could see in the darkness. When she thought she could stand it no longer, Liz finally saw a figure emerge from behind the wall of bushes walking quickly towards the driveway. She sunk lower as the figure came into full view under the energy saving motion light her dad had put up last summer. Finally able to see the woman’s face, Liz instantly recognized her mother from the old photos dad kept on the wall after she had disappeared.
Her mother slipped into the old Volvo which sat humbly in the driveway, completely unaware that she was being watched. It hadn’t been used much lately, but dad had kept it for Liz when she grew old enough to drive. Liz rather thought it may be her father’s way of holding on to the past, but she never mentioned it to him.
No one will believe you. Wisdom reminded her. You’ll need some proof.
Liz reached back in house for the small digital camera she had placed neatly on the shelf by the door and stashed it in the small knapsack which lay at her feet. Wisdom had been speaking to her since she was small and was a dear friend to Liz, closer than any friend she had ever had. Her Dad often got upset when Liz brought it up in conversation which had always confused Liz. Once during a dinner party Liz mentioned Wisdom and Dad flew around the table to usher her from the room before she could say another word. Being an embarrassment to her father had become a large part of her life, and Liz resented him for it. She was sure her mother would never do such a thing, mothers are different, or so she had been told at least.
After slipping in the vehicle and adjusting the mirrors Mom turned the key and the engine came to life. Though it had not ran in years the old car started up relatively easily, sitting for a few seconds chugging to life before making a guttural purring noise as it idled on the new asphalt.
“Here we go” Liz thought to herself. She slipped the knapsack over her shoulders while darting across the lawn to the bush, pulled the motorbike free and hopped on board. She didn’t want the engine and headlights bringing any attention to her, so she waited until her mother’s car had pulled out of the driveway before she started it up. Keeping a safe distance, Liz followed the Volvo as it snaked its way through the maze of subdivisions in their neighborhood.
After what seemed like forever with the chilly air racing down her back, they finally came to a part of town that seemed quite run down and deserted. The eerie sensation that she had been there before crept under Liz’s skin and she racked her memory searching for any mental image of this God-forsaken place. She wondered who in the world her mother could have possibly known in this area of town. As she drove through patchy fog which had begun to form, Liz could hardly believe her eyes at the broken scene that faded in and out of view. The streets were covered with garbage, rats and human feces. It seemed like a ghost town except for the odd beggar on the street corner looking dejectedly at his empty tray. Large buildings loomed in the darkness and threatened to crumble on those who would dare to walk beneath them.
Suddenly a wall of fog appeared and Liz plunged into the middle of it, unable to see anything for quite some time. She could no longer see the taillights of her mother’s car; in fact she could no longer see anything… except white dense fog. Finally, the fog lifted slightly allowing an intermittent reprieve of a few feet at a time.
With every passing moment the hope of finding her mother’s car was growing dimmer. Liz could no longer see the taillights at all. She leaned in closer to the handlebars and tried to concentrate. It was no use. Her mother was gone.
“Where am I? How do I get home?” Liz questioned the night air.
“No one ever goes home from here little girl” the night hissed back.
Liz spun around looking for where the voice may have come from but found only darkness, empty darkness. The little hairs on the back of her neck began to stand up. She pushed the feelings aside, abandoning her bike momentarily on the sidewalk to search for someone she could ask for directions. She walked cautiously down the broken sidewalk, peering intently at every shadow as though each were a dangerous thug about to attack. She rounded the corner, and was relieved to find streetlights flooding the area. A little more at ease Liz’s pace quickened to a stroll, that is until a curious sound rose on the cool breeze coming from one of the side alleys.
An incessant and desperate moaning grew louder as she approached an old abandoned building on her right. Oddly the sound of children laughing and playing intermingled the now clear moaning of a woman obviously in agonizing pain. The smell of death was all around her; it seeped into her nostrils and nearly suffocated her. She looked for the children she had clearly heard … and saw none. The place was abandoned and run down; in fact the only sign of any life at all was a dim light in one window where the moaning seemed to be coming from. Chills ran down her spine as she realized the voices of the children were very familiar to her, very familiar, and the laughing … was her own. She had been here as a child, how and when she wasn’t sure, but she knew this place. A creepy sensation filled Liz with a sense of knowing, but she wasn’t willing to accept it, her father had told her where she grew up and this wasn’t it.
Liz wheeled around, more than desperate to leave this place, and headed back to her bike. Beside the bike an elderly man now sat hunched over on the curb, he appeared to be covered in oozing sores and he reeked of alcohol. The man reached out to grab Liz but he just missed her leg as she swung it over the seat straddled the bike and turned the ignition. The unbearable stench of this whole place made Liz want to vomit and she couldn’t stand it any longer; pushing the thoughts from her mind and pressing on the handlebar accelerator hard she held her breath until her lungs ached for oxygen.
Liz rode for about half a mile until all at once it seemed the thick blanket of fog engulfed her completely, wrapping her in its white mass until she was blinded.
Suddenly a loud blaring noise pierced through the cloud and bright lights raced by Liz as, startled, she fell back on her bike and came crashing to the ground. Liz looked up and caught a different pair of taillights belonging to a large pickup truck swerving all over the road. Somewhere in the back of her mind a hazy realization. Get up. You’re in the middle of an intersection. Wisdom was right, she had to get up and get out of there. She dragged her aching limbs until they were at right angles to support her weight and pushed with every ounce of strength she could muster. Her strength failed several times until thoughts of doom and death clung to her subconscious whispering hopelessness in her ears. You have to move, NOW! Wisdom screamed above the whispers. That was when she heard the eerie sound of the screeching tires and air brakes. Liz spun around in time to see the front grill of a moving van hurtling towards her. The driver tried to steer the massive vehicle to the side but its wheels kicked out from underneath and launched the entire truck three feet in the air. Liz frantically scrambled to get away, or at least that’s what it seemed like to her. Her arms flung forward as though she would take off in flight but she remained rooted in place. Panic swelled in her chest as she crumpled under her own frail weight. She grabbed at the pavement desperately trying to pull her body to the side. As the bright lights and sound of the loud horn hurtled closer, a scream that sounded totally unlike her own came out of her throat and filled her brain with paralyzing fear. She felt a sharp tightening around her mid-section and a forceful jerk that folded her in half sending pain radiating violently from her middle out to either end of her body and her limbs flung like a rag doll as she rolled and tumbled hitting the curb with a thud. Dizzy and disoriented she felt as though every bone in her body was broken and she wondered if she were dead, but then she wouldn’t have felt the pain she thought, so she couldn’t be, could she? The stars in the sky which seemed frightfully clear now seemed to spin above her and just before she blacked out Liz saw large army boots coming fast towards her. “14 years…” she thought to herself “…and this is the way it had to end… life is so unfair.”
“Take it to the back of the warehouse, and get a move on it!” Claude’s gruff voice filled the loud speaker outside the small booth he spent his long days cooped up in.
He stretched his sore knee as he pressed the buzzer which opened the large gate leading to the warehouse. The years had worn on him and while he still did his job with passion and confidence, his strength had been waning as of late. He knew he couldn’t let on that he was sore and tired, so he only pushed harder; there was no room in this compound for the weak and he knew that all too well. Claude had been dubbed the enforcer of the Ottawa Region MAGOG compound when he caught a young man in his 30s sleeping on duty in the barracks instead of manning the weaponry hold. He sent him to the pit without even blinking an eye. The pit was a dreadful place, Claude had been there several times himself, the punishment for mistakes on duty or for breaking compound rules was severe, and he still had the scars to remind him.
“Hey old man” a voice behind him pulled him from his thoughts. He felt her arms wrap warmly around his shoulders.
“Analie, you know better than to be in here! You want to get us both in trouble now?” Claude huffed. He was furious with her, had he not taught her better than that? He felt the familiar anger well up inside, but when he looked around at her he just couldn’t stay mad as she made her usual puppy eyes to curb his wrath. He smiled slightly; they both knew he was glad to see her. She was a ray of sunshine in his otherwise dreary day.
“Oh come on Claudifer! I just wanted come and say hi, I won’t stay long” she teased him.
Claude had done his best to shield Ana from the horrors that can happen in this place, he would do anything to keep her from coming to the same end as his own daughter Tabitha who committed suicide the year before Ana was inducted. He had volunteered to take Ana in; she was only in her twenties then, the same age as his little girl had been. He figured it was a sign, a second chance to do things right.
“What is he bringing to the warehouse?” Ana inquired.
“You know I can’t tell you that” Claude scolded her, “the contents of the warehouse are not for you to know, its classified information.”
Ana looked down knowing she had stepped over the line, he didn’t like scolding her but he knew it was for her own good. He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder giving it a slight squeeze to reassure her.
“So what are you cooking in that kitchen, I can smell it from here and my tummy is rumbling!” he laughed a hearty laugh which made her smile again.
“Well, you will just have to wait and see mister!” Ana said with a twinkle in her eye and then spun on her heel letting her hair brush his face as she strode out, but not before looking back to wave goodbye as she closed the door.
Two minutes later, the door slammed again and Claude grinned. “See I knew you couldn’t wait to tell me about your new masterpiece dish!”
Turning around he immediately stopped grinning “uh, sorry sir. I uh, thought you were someone else.”
“Claude, your needed in the main building now, I will man your post.”
Claude left the small room wondering why he had been summoned. He couldn’t remember doing anything wrong, which was normally the reason, but then you could always break the rules without even knowing they existed since they were changed on a constant basis. He began to worry but pushed the fears to the back of his mind knowing it would do him no good. Whatever would happen would happen now whether he wanted it to or not, that was a lesson he had learned long ago. The whole compound was about the size of 7 football fields and the main building stood directly in the middle. Since the warehouse was on the outer edge, it took Claude nearly an hour to walk there and his knee was throbbing by the time he entered the massive doors.
He stopped briefly at the front desk to report his arrival and was ushered into the great room to wait. While he waited, Claude admired the polished grandeur of the décor. Large marble statues stood in each corner and gold leaves trimmed the ceiling. The plush carpet under his feet would have felt like heaven if he were allowed to walk barefoot but his boots nearly never left his feet. He pondered what it would be like to settle into the large pillow-topped sofa with a newspaper instead of the hard wooden chairs he was given for his quarters.
The door slamming against the opposite wall ripped him away from his fantasies and he spun around standing ridged before Roche. It occurred to Claude that he had never seen his leader more grave and serious than he seemed in that moment. Whatever he had summoned Claude for, Roche was not happy about it.
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