Author's Note: Story Format (Potential Spoilers)
If you want the details of my writing process when crafting this story, you can check out the precedent of this finalized submission here:
If it gets a bit wordy, I apologize. I'm fine-tuning my habit day to day.
Hope you enjoy the show. \m/, B']
Set upon the lands of Men, treasures lie in wait. Stationed by their unknown Deliverers, they exist to tease the slavish Living, calling remiss of cause and effect. By Tongues unknown their words are formed, and satiate do their Palates on the blood of puppets.
In parts unknown, the nature of Power lies, waiting, its Combatants prime themselves for glory. As the distress and pain of broken lives lingers pure and unrelinquished, beneath the Heavens, the tasks of Time ride faithfully on.
From commonplace to glory sought, stories circulate the boisterous halls. Voices lost amongst the fray recall tales of gain and lack, recounting all with feverish flourish. They speak in tongues segued and transplanted, in words of barren and reluctant logic; in a confidence chained by belief and prejudice.
Legends of mighty warriors rise, praising those who ascended the mountains of Death, and laid their touch upon the pillars of Old. Stories of those who supped of the illusive Fountain follow, and tales of Men who dined in the Air of King's and Nobles echo further.
Yet, principle among these jaunts is the reluctant Actor, who sallies forth in grand supply--the being whose heart holds no power in such forays into mystery; whose tremulous mind falters in its musings of fortune and bliss; whose immutable frame fumbles sure in its pictures and choking fallacies; whose relenting victimization demands a falls, at once, from Treasure's grasp.
For it is written between the lines that the prize of aim is nothing without the will to discover; that the treasure seeker must favor the journey at hand as sure as the wounds that accompany it; that there is no other way to glory.
It is this principle that holds true both in the promise of adventure, and the trial of the every day.
And so it was on that fateful day when, as with any other, that
the elements of night were in full bloom. The Moon, a picture of constancy and wisdom, hung like an unchallengeable eavesdropper. The Stars plotted upon the Heavens. The Ether stood, canvas-like, but impregnable. The Earth lay slave to suspect, as Life stood victim to it all.
The sounds of the surrounding wood were at a standstill. Whether the call of a gathering was to blame could be attested to by none other than those privileged to it. For though worlds appeared disparate and lone, some battlegrounds were children of both.
Liam and Archie were waiting for Caleb, who shortly joined them on the farmer's porch. Until Johnny was ready to go, there wasn't much else they could do.
They moved toward the truck, and waited.
The place was a real shithole, anyway, and the three of them couldn't help but consider this obvious fact. Hell, one of them thought, if that wasn't the shared insight of the century, I don't know what is.
Nevertheless, Johnny came out of his house a few minutes later, toting everything they would need for the job. Night had fallen as they prepared, and the only extraneous sounds that came to his ears were those of freeway traffic. Fortunately, there were no sirens of any kind.
Not that he was worried about it. Nobody but them knew the score. And if any of them talked...well...he would have found out about it.
The boys stood there, thumbs up their asses. He looked them over contemptuously. Did he have to do everything around here?
"Get in the truck," he ordered. "The three of you can sit in the back."
They piled in one by one as he threw the logs, matches, and remaining gear onto the passenger side seat, and slammed the door. He got behind the wheel, started the engine, and gunned it. He did it all wordlessly. It was his show, after all. Fuck 'em if they didn't like it.
He shot a glance into the rearview mirror, marking his nestled co-conspirators with his stare. Nestled, he mused humorously, and smiled. Hardly.
As they barreled down the drive, he stared intensely through the windshield, his face settled into a groove of fury. There was only one thing standing in their way now--and it was about time he took care of it.
Within the darkness of the Settler's Preserve, an inferno roared. If not for a pre-arranged sequence of events, the transgression would surely have been handled.
However--as it were--the right palms had been greased, and the "innocent malfeasance" had been disregarded.
Not bad for a fifty spot, its purveyor thought.
Johnny eyed them all, marking them once more. Then, he turned to the fire. He spilled the contents of the envelope onto it. The pictures and paperwork caught immediately; damningly. The envelope followed the rest.
His tending's were methodical, calm, and utterly disturbing.
Once curls and scorches had turned to ash, Johnny stood. He was followed immediately by Caleb, and then Liam. It was Liam who urged Archie to his feet, shedding him of his growing reluctance for the moment.
The trio fell about aimlessly, waiting for their so-called "leader" to give his next order.
"What if something goes wrong?" Archie uttered at one point, to no response. He spoke so low that they probably hadn't heard him. Perhaps he had just been talking to himself. He was pacing ceaselessly back and forth, looking at anything but the pit.
"How are you so sure we will even be able to get through?" Liam whispered, looking intensely at Caleb. He liked the kid, but didn't wholly accept his whole "boy wonder" routine.
"It shouldn't be that complicated to break into," Caleb whispered in response. "Besides, I'm confident I collected enough data to smooth over any roadblocks we may run into." He paused. "And if not, we'll just try again later. Anyway, we're not talking about a bank vault here."
"Why don't we just let it go?" Archie exploded, his voice cutting clear through the air. He looked down at the fire. "The goddamn thing's destroyed now. God, let's just end it there." However, after meeting Johnny's gaze again in a plead for mercy, he shut up completely. He could only stare hopelessly into the comfort of flame.
"It's gonna be your ass if we don't do this," Johnny said in spite. Archie looked mixed in his emotions, but remained silent. Inwardly, Caleb felt sorry for him. "Let's move out," he ordered, and took off down the nearby path.
As Johnny's voice called furiously back to them, they, reluctantly, followed.
Of the ashes and their contents, origins remained inconclusive. The detail that discovered the pit the following morning would ultimately claim total ignorance of its burden...even as the bill which ignited the dirty deed lay, nestled, in the depths of one pocket, burrowed in the darkness like the smoking gun that never was.
The path's opposing mouth eventually broke onto a hillside, widening to its apex about a third of the way down toward the graveyard. A cool breeze swept up towards them as the trees shook in turn, bringing unanimous shudders.
The mausoleum stood tall against the backdrop of night, the stars shining in tandem with the Moon, their collective light uncovering the shadows of mischievous gravestones. By all accounts, both groups stood alone. Proximal...but alone.
"It's dark out here, bro," Archie choked out. "What if Reaper shows up?" Reaper was their childish nickname for the cemetery's caretaker, a epithet which they--and that included Johnny--had by no means originated.
"Then I'll come out and take care of it, you goddamn chickenshit," Johnny said, briskly. "You two just keep watch until we come back out. Got it?" But he was already moving down the stairs as he said so, focused on the door and the task at hand. Because there was no question if they would or not. The fact remained that they would.
Without another word, he propped the door open, and was gone. Archie and Liam exchanged nervous glances as the light from Johnny's lantern left the doorway virtually behind, leaving little but a faint signal of its presence and influence.
The entrance door swung lazily in the breeze, sending recurrent drafts throughout the hall and into the crypt in which Caleb had purposefully settled into. Lights that had been strategically hidden in the ceiling had been flicked on, and each and every nook had been unabashedly exposed.
The device which perched alert before him would, under no normal circumstance of thought, be attributed to such a place. Only by the nature of the situation was that staple of logic shattered.
As he waited, impatient in his curiosity, the computer monitor remained as ceaselessly dark as it had been prior to his arrival. The light from Johnny's lantern reflected hazily in the glass, teasing him. Eventually, he decided to fiddle around with it--venture be damned. It helped that Johnny had left the room in pursuit of the mausoleum's other potential spoils. He'd want them all for himself, anyhow.
The screen flashed before him. Red text on black said simply: "Reset your password."
Although it was an odd thing to request without the precedent of a login name, knowing what he did, Caleb proceeded as directed.
He eyed the inconsequential barrage of characters which had been inked carefully across his palm. The cursor flashed in wait.
He manipulated the keys with his free hand, using both only when the SHIFT key deemed it necessary.
Once he was finished, he moved his right pointer finger like a carnival robot's appendage toward the ENTER button, and clicked it. He smiled broadly as he did so; gleefully. So it was unnecessarily dramatic. Whatever. He liked dramatic.
And then the lights went out.
A cry of fury broke the still as a surprised Johnny called for his blood. "CALEB!! What the Fuck did you DO??"
"I'm not quite sure!" Caleb shouted back, as dignified as he could despite his terror. "Its probably part of the process!"
"Oh, yeah!" Johnny said, glaring at Caleb as he entered the room. He moved behind him. "That explains it."
They turned their attentions to the screen. If not for the glow of the lantern, they could just as well have been staring into a framed picture of a void.
"How you guys doing out there?" Johnny shouted, to muted, albeit swift, responses. Liam shortly appeared in the doorway, looking nervous. "We're doing fine. Just...hurry up with that thing." He disappeared in haste.
Burning with annoyance, Johnny turned his attention back to Caleb, who was blindly fiddling with the keys.
Caleb started with the ESC key and worked from there. When his trials turned up empty, he felt around the monitor, looking for the power switch. Of course, if it was an all-in-one computer, then shutting it off may be the last thing he would want to do.
"Well..." Johnny began, annoyed. "How are we gonna get this damned thing moving again?"
While Caleb didn't purposely go out of his way to incur Johnny's signature wrath, he didn't have much choice right now. "I really don't know," he said. And he meant it.
What came to accentuate their efforts was not subtle by any means. Instead, it was an eerie creaking which assaulted the air with a fury that not even Johnny could have hoped to match.
Caleb studied the dark with intense curiosity as Johnny stood at attention, alert. Then he walked over to his lantern, picked it up, and walked into the hall. Caleb found him searching along the walls, as delicately as he had handled the fire earlier.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere: "ARCHIE! LIAM! Get your Asses down here!"
But they were already inside; had been, in fact, since around the same time that Johnny had started searching. "What is it?" Liam asked, puzzled.
"Shut up and get over here," he demanded. His head was cocked to the side, listening. However, the boys had remained behind Caleb, watching. Contrary to his usual behavior--if it were a conscious choice, anyway--Johnny didn't appear to notice.
Suddenly, Johnny froze. He was peering closely at something on the wall. "What the Hell?"
A loud BANG! echoed in the still. Judging by the suddenly departure of light, it was evident to them all that it was the lantern that had been responsible for that one.
For whatever reason, it was Liam who spoke next. "Johnny?"
As if in response, a strong gust of breeze flooded the mausoleum. It swept through its space as if on a mission; a mission, no doubt, to destroy any evidence that such a word had ever been uttered within its secretive walls.
An even more massive rumbling stole over the condensed space, and they each thrust their hands to their ears in haste; would have run, in any case, if not for the fact that they had yet to hear a word from Johnny to do so, or otherwise.
From above the spot where Johnny had been only a minute or so before appeared a light which grew progressively taller in reverse.
As the rumbling continued on ceaselessly, it was clear what was happening: a passageway was being opened.
Perhaps it was the unearthly sheen that gave it away. Maybe it was the manner in which the path walls seemed to angle in towards it that called them to glory. Either way, it was like love at first sight as the treasure pulled them in.
As they reached Johnny's lantern, it was clear that he had disappeared entirely. Although none made mention of the fact, or appeared to notice it at all, an intense relief had found its way into each of them. For what it was worth, they were glad to be rid of him. After all, who wouldn't be?
"What do you suppose happened to him?" Archie inquired, more for his own sake than Johnny's. "What do you suppose he saw?"
"I..." Liam began, then fell silent. "Aww, hell," he reiterated. "Who knows? All I can tell is he's gone. I'm not sure there is much more to it than that."
"I have a pretty good idea," Caleb offered, mysteriously. "I tried to tell him, but he wouldn't listen." He looked down at the lantern. "Fortunately for us, the hard part would appear to be out of the way now."
Liam and Archie looked at each other, equally unsure of what to make of what the kid had just said. However, as he started to move toward the distant...whatever it was...they were helpless to object. The fact that they could walk away right now, essentially scot-free, weighed perfectly against the liberation that Johnny's own folly had allotted them.
If only they could have known that from the start.
The tunnel walls glimmered in the golden light of the object, the shadows of their etchings pulled taut by its dominance, like a banner of stars strung across Heaven's unconditional sky. The wholesale impression was one of antiquity--but an antiquity immeasurable, nevertheless.
And yet, the object--while emanating such a pure and unchained light--was little more than a filter; an illusion of the power which it "housed". As sure as footsteps held true to their course, the boys were soon to find out as much.
Caleb was first through the opening, followed by Liam and Archie. Although Archie had completely resisted, obviously wanting nothing to do with it, Liam had forced him along regardless. As far as Liam was concerned, it was all or none of them. And not because of the implications of Johnny's disappearance, which would certainly become a burden that they would have to carry for some time after (though knowing the kind of shit he pulled with just about anyone and everyone, he wouldn't be surprised if it got unanimously swept under the rug in the interest of the world at large). It was because...
But he had no logical reason to show for it.
He only wanted...
With every step came burgeoning compression, and as the concept of distance fell further and further out of grasp, the object beckoned them forth into its embrace. Within their eyes its visage twinkled, and first Caleb, then Liam, were ensnared completely by its chain reaction.
Come upon the shining totem, Caleb's hand permitted its allure, and rose. Fingers poised upon the brink, he flexed them forward in turn, and planted them upon the surface.
Rooted at once in its ravishing soil, Caleb's form was swiftly consumed.
Liam, unable to steal his gaze from the unfolding scene, was driven summarily to uphold its bidding, and clasped some nondescript point of the younger boy's luminescent stern.
But as fortune perhaps favors another for a change, Archie, amiss of aim and will to journey farther, sees none of this. To the object's discontent, he turns once more toward the mausoleum, seizing nothing but the entrance door as he, without looking back, slams it shut behind him.
The ghostly screams he leaves behind--if there are any, in fact--fade, stripped and powerless, into the night. And in no place but the darkest prisons of his mind shall they ever be found once again.
As night burns toward dawn, only the Moon--a watcher to the end--remains. Even as the Stars are lost behind a blanket of Cloud, the Moon itself pulls through. For it is dutiful to the gravestones that rely on it, and by its way their shadows are nurtured; the teeming darkness which lays, fully alive, just beyond them.
About the Creator
Hello all! I am an aspiring vocalist, filmmaker + writer. I hope you gain something personal + inspiring from my work here. You are also welcome to subscribe to my YouTube Channel: Ad-Libbing With The Zman.
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