Subject One Hundred

So many choices.

There were so many he could choose from. Which one should he take next? Which one would be the most interesting? Which one would do exactly what he wanted?

Not a single one so far had accomplished what he wanted. All were failures and all had to be terminated prematurely. He didn’t mind though. He’d grown to enjoy that moment when it became clear they were wrong. But he was growing tired of how predictable it became. He could tell as soon as the program started how long the subject would last.

Premature termination. He’d hoped it would only occur a few times before he found the right one, but so far ninety-nine subjects had failed. Ninety-nine failures that never came close.

But he had a good feeling about subject one hundred. He just needed to find her.

He searched the screens, his eyes twitching from one face to another. The images weren’t as clear as he’d like, but he’d have to make due. This was a quick set-up. It had to be a quick set-up in case he needed to move again.

They’d almost caught him last time. It was his own fault, he chose the wrong subject not only for the program, but also for disappearing. She’d seemed perfect. Until the police tracker in her wallet attracted nearly half the city. He was lucky his instruments picked up on it in time, but he had to leave her behind after a quick clean up.

The police claimed they found DNA, but they were liars. It was the closest they came to finding him and they wanted the people to believe in them.

The screen in the top right corner flashed. His eyes shot to it. A match? He stared at the face and slowly stood, leaning close to the screen. He hit several keys on his keyboard and the image cleared, distorting the others.

A smile cracked his lips. There she was. She was perfect.

Subject One Hundred.

  *       *       *

Five minutes. Five more minutes and she’d be free. Her eyes bore into the clock, wishing for the hands to move faster, but only succeeding in making them move slower.

“Come on,” Tess whispered under her breath. She gripped the box on her desk tightly. All of her belongings were ready to be taken home and out of this building.

The activity of the office around her continued on, not as focused on the approaching five o’clock hour. As with any time one waits for minutes to pass, the five minutes Tess watched the clock were the longest in her life.

Thirty more seconds to go.

“Tess,” a booming voice called from behind her.

She jumped and turned, seeing her soon to be ex boss Stephen standing with a package in his hand. She looked at the package and then at Stephen.

“No, Steve, come on. It’s my last day,” she whined, knowing the look in his eyes.

“I know and we’ll miss you, wish you well in your future, and blah blah blah, but I don’t trust anyone else to actually get this done.”

“Jim could,” she said, sounding hopeful.

“You and I both know he can’t. Look, it’s not out of the way. It’s on your way home,” Stephen said.

“And how do you know where I live?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Office party two years ago.”

She cursed. She forgot he had to take her home after that particular disaster. “What is it?”

“Home delivery of a few new computer screens. The buyer doesn’t need them installed just delivered. Simple drop and run,” Stephen said, smiling. He held out the package.

Taking an annoyed breath in, Tess took the package and placed it on top of her box. “Fine, but only because you asked me in a good mood and because if anything goes wrong you can’t blame me since I don’t work for you anymore.”

“Is the only time you’re in a good mood when you’re leaving? I should’ve asked you to make deliveries every night.”

“Funny.” She eyed the clock. Two minutes past five. “Guess this is it. Bye Stephen. Tell everyone else I’ll miss them but not that much.”

“Really, Tess, take care of yourself. We’ll miss you around here.”

Tess picked up her box and smiled at him as she headed towards the door. “You’re only going to miss me cause now this place is back to being all lazy bums.”

“Don’t I know it. And Tess?”

Tess stopped and turned to him. “Yeah?”

“Be careful out there.”

  *       *       *

The address was halfway between her house and the office. Tess cursed at the dumb luck. It was like the person who ordered it knew it was her last day and wanted to make sure she delivered it.

She looked up at the tall buildings. She’d miss her long walks home from the office, though lately they’d been a bit more nerve wracking.

Usually she’d take the bus home or drive herself, but for her last week she wanted to walk, taking in the feeling of going to the job she had for almost seven years. Seven years too long, she thought. But she enjoyed it. The work was crap and having to do deliveries whenever Stephen didn’t want to pay extra for the drivers had been infuriating, but she loved the people and enjoyed her own job.

Then the murders started. Almost one hundred women in the past three years had been kidnapped and found dead. The police wouldn’t release the cause of death, which only made everyone speculate, though some claimed the causes weren’t released because the police didn’t want copycats.

Tess knew it was dangerous to walk around alone even in the early evening before the sun went down, but the most recent murder had taken place clear across town. The murderer wouldn’t hit here so soon…would he?

She shook the thoughts from her head. All she wanted to do was deliver the package and get home.

She stopped outside the address and double-checked it with the package. The building was stuck between two tall, modern apartment complexes. It was an old mansion. Tess had seen a number of them throughout the city. The owners refused to sell their homes and companies were forced to build around them, cramping the houses, making them look out of place.

But this mansion seemed to blend seamlessly with the buildings. The surrounding gate was outfitted with state of the art technology and the house itself appeared to have recently been renovated. Tess tried to find a slot to place the package in, but there was none. She looked at the package and, turning it over, found additional delivery information.

There was a gate code, a door code, and a small message written. Please leave package in the small lobby between the outer front door and inner door.

“Damn it,” Tess said. She input the gate code in the small keypad and crossed the wide yard to the front door. She searched it for a similar keypad, but couldn’t find it. She noticed a doorbell and sighed. She hated talking to those she was forced to deliver to. They usually spent most of the time asking her questions and wasting her time.

Pressing the doorbell, she heard its chime echo through the house. After a moment a small mechanical whirr preceded a keypad emerging from below the doorbell.

Hesitating, Tess punched in the door code and waited. The front door opened and she peered inside. It was a metallic room leading to another door.

Her mind tried to think back on anything she’d ever heard of like this and the closest she came was sterilization rooms. She’d read a long time ago that some of the wealthy that became ill would build sterilization chambers for any visitors to use before being admitted into their home.

She’d never seen one before, but she assumed this was where she was to leave the package. She walked inside and placed the package on the floor by the second door. She turned to leave only to see the front door slam shut behind her.

The lights went out and her heart raced. She ran to the door, slamming into it in the dark and tried to open it. She banged on the door, but it wouldn’t budge.

The sound of gas entering the room filled her with panic and she fought against the door. Her motions slowed as her body became heavy. Drowsiness overtook her and she lowered to the floor. As she drew closer to unconsciousness she could see a tiny red light flashing at her from the top corner of the room.

Holding Room Sample

The door to the new holding room opened. The room was made completely out of thick glass except for the door and hallway leading into the room. Those were made of thick metal for security reasons. There were two beds set up side by side against one of the walls of the room. One was made with gray sheets and a single pillow at the head. The other bed was specially made up for the occupant of the room. The sheets were emerald green with a pink pillow at the head. A few stuffed animals were laid out on the bed, but they were really only to add a more homey touch to the barren room. Across from the beds was a table that had a cover made of cloth stuffed with cushioning to prevent injury. A chair, covered similarly to the table, was pushed in against the table. On the wall opposite of the door was a flat screen TV protected behind a thick layer of glass that protruded into the room. A smaller screen, made of inflatable material, was connected to the wall by a short chain. Underneath the TV was a shelf where a few books were kept. There was also a small array of drawing materials including markers and sketchpads. However, there were no pens or pencils.

Dr. Benjamin Travis, Sr. was standing in an adjoining, observation room, keeping a watchful eye on the door that had just opened in the holding room. His gray hair was combed back close to his head and his green eyes stared out from behind thick glasses. He kept his hands in the pockets of his lab coat. Today was a special day, for two reasons. It was the first day the new holding room was going to be used, but it was also Dr. Travis’s last day. He had been “asked” to retire by the higher ups of the program. The only positive thing about it was he got to pick his successor. That had been an easy choice for him, but one that the higher ups and those who had been working closely with Dr. Travis had voiced numerous arguments about. The choice was his alone. Therefore his first choice for successor was the one who had gotten the job.

Screams came from the open door leading into the holding room. Dr. Travis watched patiently as the backs of two workers came into view. They were struggling with something just out of sight. The screaming became more frantic as the two workers managed to move further into the room. Slowly, a young woman came into view. Her short, dirty blonde hair was messy, a few strands sticking up. Her eyes were wide and filled with terror. They were amazing eyes. The inner most part of them were a dazzling royal blue while the rest of the iris was a mixture of green and small specks of gold.

They were the most unusual and beautiful eyes Dr. Travis had ever seen. They were only one of the reasons she had been chosen for this program. Recently, ironically just before he was asked to “retire”, Dr. Travis had received a large grant for his research and a new building to use. That was where they were now. They had been moving everything in before even attempting to move her.

One of the workers was kicked in the stomach and thrown across the room. He hit the wall and crumpled to the floor clutching his shoulder. The other worker managed to grab the woman’s leg before it she could do the same to him. The woman’s screams became ear piercing and Dr. Travis sighed.

He leaned forward and, calmly, removed his right hand from his pocket and pressed a small button in front of him. “Leah.”

The woman became silent and froze. The worker still holding her looked at Dr. Travis. Dr. Travis nodded and the worker released the woman. He hurried to the other worker and started to check his shoulder.

Dr. Travis kept his eyes on the woman. “Leah. Look at me.”

The woman flinched at the commanding tone of his voice, but slowly turned her head. Her eyes hesitated at the floor before moving up to meet Dr. Travis’s.

“Leah, what did I tell you about kicking?”

Leah was fighting to keep her eyes locked onto Dr. Travis. She raised her right hand up to her chest, showing a homemade doll. It was made of gray cloth, similar to the sheets on the second bed, and clothes had been stitched onto it using other kinds of fabric. A small black and white plaid shirt matched a pair of shorts and hat. Leah clutched the tiny thing against her tightly.

Dr. Travis took a deep breath. “Leah? What did I tell you about kicking?”

“Don’t.” Her voice was barely audible through the speaker.

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t kick.”

Dr. Travis smiled. “That’s right. Now, I already explained to you yesterday what was going to happen today, correct?”

Leah nodded.

“What did I tell you?”

“I was getting a new room.”

“And?”

“And…I’d have to leave my old room.”

“That’s right. I told you all of that and you still decided to make this move difficult. Why is that?”

Leah mumbled something inaudible over the speaker.

“Speak louder, Leah.”

“I don’t like leaving my room. I don’t like change.”

“Look around the room, Leah.”

Leah, happy to look away from Dr. Travis, quickly searched the room.

Dr. Travis leaned forward, watching her very carefully. “Everything looks exactly the same. We made sure everything stayed the exact same as your room. The only thing that’s different is the outside.”

Leah looked back at Dr. Travis, still clutching her doll to her chest. “But I still had to leave my room. This isn’t my room. This is a new room.”

Dr. Travis stared at her in silence. He turned his attention to the two workers still huddled on the floor. “How is he?”

The second worker looked at Dr. Travis. “His shoulder is dislocated…and he may have a concussion.”

“Take him to first aid. I no longer need your assistance.”

The men hurried out of the room, moving around Leah carefully. Leah flinched when the door slammed shut and locked.

Dr. Travis returned his attention to Leah. “Look at me.”

Leah slowly shook her head.

“Leah. Look. At. Me.”

Leah bit her lower lip and slowly looked at Dr. Travis.

“No more fighting. Okay?”

Leah nodded her head and squeezed her doll tighter. “Yes, sir.”

Dr. Travis leaned back and put his hand back in his pocket, cutting off the speaker into the holding room. Leah slowly moved towards the shelves under the flat screen TV. She ran her fingers across the few books placed on the shelves then she grabbed one of the sketchpads and a handful of markers. She hurried to the center of the room and placed the markers on the ground. She cradled her doll under her armpit and started to tear sheets of paper out of the sketchpad and throw the sheets onto the floor. She then threw the sketchpad behind her and fell to her knees. She grabbed two of the markers and, quickly uncapping them with her fingers, she began to draw.

Her hands moved over the papers quickly, but were never sure of what they were doing. An image slowly began to appear across all of the sheets of paper. Dr. Travis moved closer to the glass wall that separated him from Leah. His eyes searched the drawing being formed in front of his eyes.

“Doctor?” a lab assistant asked opening the door into the observation room. “He’s ready to meet her.”

Dr. Travis waved his hand at the lab assistant. “Then send him in.”

The lab assistant left. Dr. Travis pressed his hand against the glass and strained to see the full image Leah was creating.

Leah’s eyes were locked onto the papers in front of her. Her hands moved like separate beings. They switched markers without a pause and soon the drawing was almost finished. She just needed to use two more markers and it would be finished.

The door to the holding cell opened and closed. Footsteps approached Leah, but she was too caught up in her work, until the shoes appeared in her vision. Her hands stopped their work, only one line left before completion. The shoes were unfamiliar to Leah. She knew everyone who worked with Dr. Travis. She knew everyone, but the man who was now standing in front of her.

Her eyes slowly made their way up to the stranger’s face. He was young, close to Leah’s age. His eyes were green and his hair was a deep, dark brown. He wore thin glasses, most likely worn not very often.

Leah’s eyes widened. She dropped the markers in her hands and her doll fell, forgotten to the floor. Her breathing quickened and she  whimpered. She scooted away from the stranger until her back hit the wall. Then she curled up into a tight ball, but her eyes were still visible and locked onto the newcomer.

The man watched her patiently. He took a few steps forward. He bent down onto one knee and picked up Leah’s doll. He looked into her eyes and smiled. “Hello, Leah.”

Leah began to shake her head furiously. “No! No! I don’t like change! Leave! You have to leave!”

The man stood and started to walk towards her. Leah squealed and curled tighter into a ball. “I’m sorry we had to meet under these circumstances, Leah.”

Leah uncurled and quickly crawled towards the bed made up for her. She grabbed the covers and roughly pulled it off the bed, pulling the stuffed animals and pillows to the floor with it. She wrapped the thick fabric around her, hiding herself from the man.

The man looked at Dr. Travis. “You really didn’t tell her anything about me.”

Dr. Travis laughed and pressed the intercom button. “I thought I had more time before I would be forced to leave the program.”

“No, you didn’t want her to know about me. You were going to try to convince her I was you.”

“What could possibly have put that thought into your mind?”

The man sighed and walked over to the emerald green, breathing blob that Leah was hiding inside of. He held out her doll. “Leah, you forgot Lee.”

The green blob flinched and slowly Leah’s head appeared from underneath the fabric. “How did you know her name?”

“I know a lot about you and Lee. Why don’t you come out and Dr. Travis will properly explain everything to you.”

Leah hesitated, but eventually she began to stand and reached for her doll. She quickly grabbed it from the man and looked at Dr. Travis.

The man turned to Dr. Travis and raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to be good and tell her what’s going on or do I have to do it?”

Dr. Travis took a deep breath and released it slowly. “Leah. I have been asked to leave. I will no longer be here watching over your progression.”

Leah shook her head. “You can’t. You’re always here. You can’t leave.”

“It’s not my choice, Leah. I have been asked to leave, but I was given the chance to name my successor. He is my successor.”

Leah looked at the man standing next to her. “But he isn’t you.” She looked back at Dr. Travis. “Things cannot change! I don’t like it when things change!”

“You don’t have to think of it as change,” the man said.

Dr. Travis eyed the man, a warning in his gaze. “That’s right, Leah. This man here is the closest to me I could possibly have found for you.”

Leah’s eyes flickered between Dr. Travis and the man. “What do you mean?”

“This is my son. Dr. Benjamin Travis, Junior. He is the only man I could possibly entrust my research to.”

Leah turned her complete attention to the man next to her.

He met her gaze and smiled. “If you’d like you can call me Dr. Travis. Although I prefer Dr. Ben.”

Leah clutched her doll to her chest. Suddenly she looked down at the doll as though it were talking to her. She slowly looked back at him. “Lee says I should call you Dr. Ben. She says I shouldn’t be afraid of this change. It will be all right.”

Dr. Ben looked at Dr. Travis. “How very kind of Lee.”

Dr. Travis cleared his throat. “I’m so happy this went so well. Dr. Ben, I would like to have a word with you before I leave for good. You, too, Leah.” He turned and left the observation room.

Dr. Ben turned to Leah and held his hand out to her. She stared at it and then at him. He laughed to himself and put his hand in his pocket. “We can be informal if you want to be.”

Leah wrapped the fabric of the covers around her tighter. “I don’t know what would be informal for the son of Dr. Travis.”

Dr. Ben wrapped his arms around her. Leah’s eyes widened and her heart began to pound in her chest. She roughly pushed him away.

“That would be informal, Leah.”

Leah hugged Lee close to her chest.

Dr. Ben’s eyes moved to the floor where the drawing Leah had been working on was lying forgotten. He walked to it and leaned down to get a closer look. “What did you draw, Leah?”

Leah walked forward and looked at her work. “I saw it in my head.”

The drawing was of a strange ship. It looked like a cruise ship, but some of the windows and the shape of the ship were unlike anything Dr. Ben had ever seen. The colors Leah had used added a haunting quality to the ship.

Dr. Ben looked into Leah’s beautifully, odd eyes. “You saw this just now?”

“Yes.”

Le Cirque de Disparaître Sample

The tent was filled with patrons, cramped close together in the smoke filled room. They ate their small bags of popcorn and nuts, watching those before them with wide eyes. Children cooed with excitement and grabbed the coats of their parents, pointing with their free hand at the sights in the center of the ring.

Yseult walked to the edge of the ring, sitting against a support beam for the tent, and watched the crowds with a blank face. She could see the awe filling their eyes at each act. Her violet eyes turned to stare at the next act preparing to go on.

Bipin stretched his muscular arms over his head, waiting for his cue to enter. His long black hair was braided down his back and one of the other acrobats quickly pinned it up into a tight bun to keep it out of his way. All he wore was white pants. His almond eyes were focused as he prepared his mind and body for what was to come.

The act before him finished and exited the ring. Bipin entered, surrounded by other acrobats, carrying chairs. At the center of the ring, a spotlight landed on a single chair, placed by the exiting act.

A loud cough and snort next to Yseult caught her attention. She turned her head to see a blonde haired man with thin glasses sitting against the support beam next to her. His dark coat was wrinkled from sitting on the ground and his eyes blood shot. A bottle in his hand was empty and his hair stood on end. His eyes rolled to look at Yseult and a gruff laugh escaped his lips.

“Came to see how the new one fares, eh? Or does La Reine have you on a little errand?”

Yseult stared at the man with the same blank stare, not answering.

“Do you think I have her out here for you, Monsieur Hammond?” a deep voice spoke.

Yseult and the man, Hammond, look up at a tall woman. Her sparkling hazel eyes burn with a youthful light. Her body was lean, muscular, an athletic build that was only accentuated by the black and purple corset she wore. The matching jacket she wore covered her shoulders and the tail rested atop the ruffled back of her skirt. The front of the skirt was cropped shorter, ending halfway down her thighs. The high knee black heeled boots and black tights covered her legs. The gray in her brown hair was the only sign of her age and a black and purpled feathered hairpiece held the loose curls from her face. The strong jaw and pronounced cheekbones almost gave her face a mannish look, but it didn’t lower her beauty.

Hammond flushed at the sight of her, but anger quickly replaced the lust that filled his eyes. “Madame Géroux, always a pleasure to see you.”

“I wish I could say the same to you right now, but as I can see the drink still drooling from your mouth I will have to hold my tongue.”

“Drinking is the only way I can feel normal anymore, Madame. All because of you and this little circus of yours.”

Madame Géroux leaned her hip to the side and placed a hand on it. She smiled

“Yseult, come.”

Yseult stood and followed Madame Géroux away from Hammond. When they were safely out of earshot, Madame Géroux turned to Yseult. She held up a pin with a white feather attached. Yseult stared at the small item.

“It is time for Bipin to be welcomed into the family. You know what to do, Cerise.”

Yseult’s violet eyes changed to black. She took the pin from Madame Géroux. “Oui, Madame.”

Madame Géroux smiled and patted Yseult on the cheek. “Très bon, mon métamorphe.” She walked away, disappearing backstage.

Yseult returned her attention to Bipin in the center ring. A tower of chairs stood nearly twenty feet high. Standing at the top, Bipin held his hand out to the side. An acrobat using a long pole, held another chair up for him. Bipin grabbed it and balanced it on the top of the tower. Another chair already waited for him when he placed his hand out and he grabbed it. He angled the chair and, with the chairs balancing precariously, he placed both hands on the chair, one at the top back and the other at the edge of the seat. His arms tensed and he slowly raised his body until he was in a handstand at the top of the tower.

For a moment, no one made a sound or breathed. Bipin took a deep breath and slowly raised a hand. The chairs shook slightly and sharp intake of breaths was heard in the audience. Bipin spread his legs and turned his head to look at the audience. At that signal the audience exploded into applause. Bipin calmly returned his hand to the chair and lowered his body down to a standing position. He held both hands out to the side and the applause grew louder. He began dismantling the tower, handing the chairs off to the acrobats below. He took one last bow once he reached the ground and the audience leapt to their feet and cheered their amazement.

Yseult moved to the side of the entrance to backstage. Bipin ran towards her, but before he could pass she reached a hand out to him. He stopped and walked to her.

With a movement as fast as a snake strike, Yseult plunged the needle into Bipin’s arm. He jumped away from her, but blood already trickled down his arm from the tiny wound. Yseult looked at the pin and the white feather changed to red. Her black eyes met Bipin’s confused face.

“Madame Géroux would like to see you to discuss your permanent addition to Le Cirque de Disparaître,” Yseult spoke in fluent Mandarin.

Bipin answered her in his native tongue. “I’ve passed her test then?”

“You have.”

“I’m ready.”

Yseult lead Bipin backstage, past many acts preparing for their turn. They exited the main tent and walked passed the smaller tents housing animals, families, and other things. At the back of the circus grounds was a purple and black tent. The door was made of intertwining cloths and Yseult stopped in front of it.

“You must go in alone. Take this.” She handed the feathered pin to Bipin and held several of the curtains to allow him entrance.

Bipin nodded his head and, taking the pin, entered the tent. Yseult dropped the curtains and moved to sit against a tree, waiting.

An hour passed before Bipin emerged from the tent, followed by Madame Géroux. She patted his back and spoke to him quickly in French. The wonder in Bipin’s eyes brought a smile to his lips and he thanked her in Mandarin. She motioned him away and he quickly headed for his own tent.

“Yseult,” Madame Géroux called.

Yseult stood and crossed to her, her black eyes returned to violet and she watched the older woman eagerly.

“I need Sévérine. It’s time to locate our next stop.”

Shifting uncomfortably, Yseult closed her eyes. When she opened them they were emerald green. “Madame Géroux, you must really be stumped if you need me. What can I do for you?”

“It’s time to find a new destination.”

“Oh? You’ve found everything here then?”

“Yes.”

“Your in luck, Madame. Since last we spoke a new signature has been screaming in my head.”

Madame Géroux stared at Yseult with wide eyes. “A new signature? Do you mean someone who…?”

“That’s right. I’ve located someone who may possibly be your heir.”

“Where?”

Yseult smiled. “The better question is when?”

A somber expression filled Madame Géroux’s expression. “I promised everyone we wouldn’t do another jump for a long time.”

“Well, it’s your circus. It’s your choice. Though if you don’t mind waiting, she isn’t going anywhere.”

“She? It’s a woman?”

“Not yet a woman. A young girl.”

Came Back Sample

“Kara. Kara, where are you?” Eric called. He walked through the small house. His eyes moved to the glass door leading to the backyard. He sighed and walked out through the opened door. “What’s wrong?”

Kara turned to her husband. Her green eyes were red from crying. “Nothing.”

“You hate the backyard. You only come out here when something is wrong.”

Kara hesitated. “I had the dream again…the memory again.”

Eric walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her. “It’s okay. It was only a dream. We’re safe.”

Kara looked at him. “I know that, but I have a bad feeling. It’s the same feeling I had that day.”

Eric laughed. “Calm down. We should get to work. One more day and then our relaxing vacation can start.”

Kara smiled and wrapped her arms around Eric, but her eyes couldn’t hide the worry.

 

 

 

 

Kara finished her final sale. She looked at her watch. 2:15 pm exactly. Eric would already be off from the bank. He was probably already waiting outside for her.

“All right, Kara. I have been sent to relieve you of your duties,” Jessica said, walking up to Kara. “Have fun on your vacation. Where are you and Eric going?”

“We’re going on a cruise. We’ve been saving up since the wedding.”

“Really? That sounds so relaxing!”

“That’s the reasoning behind it…Eric’s reasoning.”

Jessica leaned close to her. “Is everything good between you two?”

Kara laughed to herself. “Yeah. I’ve just been having…some stress lately.” She looked away from Jessica’s questioning eyes. Her face blanked.

Across from them moving between racks of clothes and crowds of people was a man dressed in weird black clothes. He looked at her and smiled.

“Kara?”

“I have to go,” Kara said.

She hurried away towards the man. He watched her move closer before turning and heading away. Kara picked up her speed. The man exited the store out into the blinding sunlight. Kara followed, slowed by two couples entering the store. She ran to edge of the street and looked around. She lost him. The man was gone.

A tightening in her chest pre-empts the tears that fall from her eyes. He couldn’t be here. If he was here, then they were here. But why would they be here? Why would they come back, unless…?

“Kara!”

Eric was across the street. He waved to her excitedly, but the excitement slowly drained from his face as he saw the tears in her eyes.

“Kara?”

The ground shook. People screamed and fell to the ground. The lampposts and stoplights swung wildly. Kara covered her head and kneeled to the ground. Eric does the same across the street. The sky darkened and soon it was dark as night. Automatic lights flickered on and the shaking slowed.

As the ground stopped, people stand and look up to the sky. They point with wide eyes. Eric slowly stood and stared at Kara. Kara slowly uncovered her head and looked up.

A black shield-like object covered the entire sky. Just inside a large ship was seen. It slowly moved directly over them. Kara stared at the ship with wide, terror filled eyes. She remembered. She remembered seeing the ship years ago.

A loud noise erupted from the ship. Those standing around covered their ears and screamed. Kara looked to Eric. Neither covered their ears. They knew the sound. It did not hurt their heads like the others. It did not hurt them because it was meant for them.

“Eric,” Kara whispered, but she knew he could hear her.

A light turned on over Eric. He looked up at the ship. Then he looked at Kara, but his eyes were slowly glazing over. He reached a hand out to her.

Kara slowly shook her head. “No.”

A second light turned on over her. She jumped away from it and hid under the store awning. She looked at Eric as he disappeared. She screamed and both lights turned off. The loud noise faded and those around her began to stand.

A hand grabbed Kara’s shoulder. She screamed and jumped back out into the opening. A light turned back on her and she rushed back under the awning. She looked at the man who had grabbed her. It was the man she had been chasing.

“Ryan,” she gasped.

The man leaned close to her. “We came back for you and Eric. They’re ready, Kara. But they need both of you to finish it.”

Kara pulled away from Ryan. “No, we escaped. They left.”

“You knew they would come back. You know why they came back.”

Gareth Sample

“Are you sure you’re okay? You’ve been looking a little nervous since you got here,” Harper asked, leaning close to Gareth. “You don’t have to be here if you don’t want to. I know it brings up bad memories.”

Gareth nodded his head and picked up his clipboard. “I’m fine. Don’t worry.” The feeling in his head grew stronger.

“Okay, but I’m going to keep an eye on you anyways.”

Gareth grabbed the back of tools and smiled as he left the through the side of the barn yet to be built. His eyes trailed the line of stones leading towards the dirt road and the feeling in his head changed to singing. He stopped walking and the smile faded from his face. The singing echoed in his head and he could almost see His eyes staring at him from an unseen place hidden beneath the rocks.

“Gareth?” Harper called from the entrance of the barn, worry thick in her voice.

Gareth heard something to his left and suddenly his vision cleared. He could see where everything used to stand. The two lines of stones used to be walls leading to the doorway of His home. But the home above was only a façade to protect what lay beneath the earth. He stared down and could see passages spreading like veins through the ground. One led far to the left where the small pond at the head of the creek sat.

Sensing the change in Gareth, Harper dropped her tool and ran for him. “Gareth!”

But she wasn’t fast enough. Gareth dropped the tool bag and clipboard and took off at a sprint. The singing in his head had now changed to His voice telling him where to go.

Find me, Gareth.

Gareth leapt what was left of the rock wall and tumbled down the hill beyond. He nearly rolled right into the creek, but managed to scramble to his feet and bolted up towards the pond. Harper’s screams behind him were drowned out by His voice.

Find me and bring me back.

The pond appeared before him and Gareth slowed his pace as his eyes searched for the secret entrance to the passage, but the cleared vision was gone. He stared at the large pipe sticking out of the side of the hill. Black sludge dripped from it into the pond turning the water a nauseating brown with a matching smell.

Gareth waded into the pond and searched, his eyes scanning every inch beneath the disgusting brown water. He spotted something hiding in the muck and dove his hands in, grasping for it.

Arms wrapped around him and pulled him roughly from the water. The sudden attack caused him to flail his legs sending large waves of water into the air. He struggled, hearing His voice fading as he was pulled from the pond.

“Gareth! Calm down! It’s us!” Harper screamed.

Gareth twisted in his captor’s arms and faced Jamison, his face pale and eyes wide. Black sludge had splashed onto his face from Gareth’s ferocious splashing. Jamison threw Gareth to the ground in front of Harper and glared at her. “I told you he shouldn’t have come. It’s still affecting him.”

“He was fine. Something must have triggered it.”

“Yeah, being here! He needs to leave.”

Gareth stared up at his two friends and fear filled him. He couldn’t leave. He had to find Him. “No! I need to stay! I won’t run off again. I’m sorry. I just thought I…saw something.”

“What did you see?” Harper asked.

Jamison huffed angrily. “He’s lying. He’ll say anything to stay. I’m sorry, Harp. We tried, but he can’t be trusted here. He needs to leave before he does something that puts all of us in danger.”

“What danger are you thinking of, Jamison?” Harper demanded.

“What if the next time he runs off it’s while he’s holding a power tool and he drops it on someone?”

The singing grew in Gareth’s head as the two argued and he looked back into the pond. He could see it now. The entrance was there, beneath the murky water. There was no handle or obvious opening. But there must be a way in.

“Then we don’t give him a power tool. He can stay with me and manage things. I’ll keep him in line.”

“And when he runs off you’ll tackle him this time?”

“Yes.”

Gareth’s eyes searched the pond and he saw it. A small line of wire buried in the mud. Find me, Gareth. Reaching his hand for the wire, a small smile formed on Gareth’s face. He’s almost there.

Hands grabbed Gareth and pull him to his feet. “We’re heading back and if he does anything else, it’s on you, Harper.” Jamison shoved Gareth ahead of him and Harper followed in silence.

 

 

 

“Gareth, did you hear me?” Harper asked.

Gareth’s eyes rolled up to meet hers. “Sorry, what?”

Sighing with a mixture of frustration and pity, Harper held her hand out. “Could you hand me the staple gun? Once I finish this we can go. Jamison’s waiting in the truck and I don’t think he’ll stay much longer. So if you don’t want to walk home, hand me that staple gun.”

“Right.” Gareth grabbed the staple gun and handed it to her. He stared at her back as she reached up to staple. Her hair pulled back into a ponytail bounced and he could see the sweat forming on the back of her neck.

Find me. Bring me back.

Gareth could see Him. He’s waiting for him. Gareth had to go to Him.

“Gareth?” Harper held the staple gun at him. “Sorry, could you hand me the hammer? I’ve got to hammer in some of the staples. I told Jamison we needed an air staple gun. The hand staple guns never get them all the way in.”

Gareth took the staple gun, his hand brushing Harper’s hand. He paused and the staple gun fell to the ground. Harper turned to him, worried that he’s having another episode. Instead, she sees him staring at her.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

The singing in Gareth’s head changed and a new feeling filled him. He carefully put the tool bag down and pulled Harper down from the stepladder. Confusion filled her expression and her eyes darted around.

“What are you doing, Gareth?” she asked.

Gareth moved close to her, staring in to her eyes. He leaned down, hovering his lips over hers. He could feel her body tense against him. Her breathing picked up and Gareth closed the small gap between their lips. He could feel Harper pull away slightly, but then her arms wrapped around him and pulled their bodies closer.

Find me, Gareth. Bring me back.

Gareth gently led Harper to the wall until her back was against it. He grabbed both sides of her head in his hands. He pulled away from her and her eyes opened. Staring into her eyes, a strange smile formed on his lips.

Suddenly, Gareth slammed Harper’s head into the wall, knocking her unconscious. Her body slumped, but he carefully laid her on the floor instead of letting her fall. He stood and walked out of the barn. He stared at the remnant of the wall and headed for the pond.

He grabbed the wire buried in the mud and pulled it. The ground trembled and a tube appeared at the center of the pond. The top opened, revealing a ladder heading deep down into the earth. Gareth crossed the pond and climbed into the tube. As he climbed down the ladder the top closed and he felt the walls shake around him as the tube sank back into the pond.

After a short climb, he reached the bottom and lights automatically turned on. The hallway was bare, empty. Gareth walked forward and followed the hallway for several minutes before reaching a large room.

At the center of the room was a large machine. The screens were dark except for a single line of text. Gareth approached and stared at the text.

Bring me back.

Gareth’s hand moved on its own, knowing exactly what to do. He pressed several buttons and the machine turned on, low hums growing in intensity and the sound of machinery deep in the walls moving grew. The screen in front of him brightened and a slot opened. A tray moved out and a strange thing sat on it. Gareth took the thing and stared at it. At one end was a needle and a thick cable connected a second piece. He twisted the needle and the cable grew warm.

Bring me back.

Gareth raised the thing and stabbed the needle into his temple. A bright light filled his vision and he felt his body collapse to the ground before everything went dark.