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Bytes: Original Version (Before Edits)

"Reset Your Password" Challenge Submission

By Z-ManPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 11 min read
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For the completed version, go here: (\m/, B'])

https://vocal.media/fiction/bytes

Introduction: Story Format (IMMEDIATE SPOILERS)

In the process of writing this story, I have experimented with a process of working line-by-line in each direction. I believe I started with a "center" sentence (or "centence", perhaps) and worked from there. As this introduction comes still during the writing process, I cannot say for sure if I will leave each sentence untouched, or "flesh them out" later (like layering matter over a spine). I guess we'll just have to find that out in time, won't we? \m/, <3 B']

I hope you enjoy the show (mwahahahah).

P.S. As I write this every other day or so, I may have accidentally started on the same side twice, which fundamentally changes the course of the story, logically. However, I am trying to keep mainly working by instinct of manifestation--outside of looking back to previous segments for reference, i.e. as to the position of certain objects--so, in that way, I am still tethered as closely as possible to the (my) original vision.

Moving on...

*

Set upon the lands of Men, treasures many lie in wait. Stationed by their unknown Deliverers, they capture and tease the slavish Living, planted remiss of cause and effect. Upon Tongues unknown their words echo forth, and upon Palates unseen they satiate their lust on the blood of their puppets. In parts unknown, the nature of Power lies waiting. In parts unknown, its Combatants prime themselves for glory. And in parts unknown, the distress and pain of broken lives lingers pure and unrelinquished. And...

And beneath the Heavens the tasks of Time ride faithfully on. From commonplace to glory sought, stories circulate around its boisterous halls. Voices lost among 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, their confidence saved by no more than a belief in them, and a submission to their truths and prejudices:

Legends speak of mighty warriors--of those who ascended the mountains of Death to lay their touch upon the pillars of Old; who supped of the illusive Fountain; who dined in the Air of King's and Nobles.

It is the reluctant heart that holds no power in such forays into mystery. It is the tremulous mind which falters in its musings of fortune and bliss. It is the immutable frame that fumbles sure in its pictures and choking fallacies. It is the relenting victim who falls, at once, from Treasure's grasp.

The prize of aim is nothing without the will to discover, so thus must the treasure seeker favor the journey at hand as sure as the wounds that accompany it. After all, there is no other way to glory. Be it in the promise of adventure, or the trial of the every day.

And so it came to pass one fateful day, when

*

The elements of night were in full bloom. The Moon, a picture of constancy and wisdom, hung like an unchallengeable eavesdropper. The secondary Stars were not so much plotted as they themselves appeared to plot. The Ether stood canvas-like, but impregnable. The Earth lay slave to suspect, as Life stood victim to it all. And yet...

In terms of wildlife, the sounds of the surrounding woods 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 lie disparate, some battlegrounds may hinge caustically between them.

Liam and Archie waited on the farmer's porch for Caleb, who shortly joined them. Until Johnny was ready to go, there wasn't much else they could do. They huddled near the truck, staring aimlessly toward the front door. The place was a real shithole, and the three of them thought it; whether consciously or otherwise. If anything, it was the shared insight of the century.

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...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 as he threw the logs, matches, and remaining gear onto the passenger side seat, and slammed the door shut. He got behind the wheel, started the engine, and took off. He did it all wordlessly. It was his show, after all. Fuck 'em if they didn't like it.

Johnny stared intensely through the windshield as he raced the truck down the driveway, his co-conspirators nestled in the back seat. Nestled, he mused humorously, and smiled. Hardly. But as he set his attentions back firmly on the road, his face settled into fury once again. 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 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.

Johnny eyed them all, marking them. Then he turned to the fire, and spilled the contents of the envelope onto it. They caught immediately; damningly.

As the pictures and paperwork began to curl and scorch in the blaze, Caleb was the first of them to stand. He was followed by Liam, who urged Archie to his feet. With growing reluctance, Archie resisted for a few moments...then gave in. They fell about aimlessly, waiting for their so-called "leader" to give his next order.

Johnny was tending to the fragments in the fire, making sure they had all turned to ash. His work was methodical and, most disturbingly, calm.

"What if something goes wrong?" Archie asked, 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 nervously back and forth, looking at anything but the pit.

"How are you so sure we will even be able to get through?" Liam was looking at Caleb intensely. He liked the kid, but didn't wholly accept his "boy wonder" routine.

"It shouldn't be that complicated to break into," Caleb said. "I'm confident I collected enough data to smooth over any roadblocks we may run into. And if not...then, we'll just try again later. What the hell, we're not talking about a bank vault here."

"Why don't we just let it go?" Archie asked, curious. He looked into the fire. "The goddamn thing's destroyed now. Let's end it there." He met Johnny's gaze again, as if pleading for mercy.

"It's gonna be your ass if we don't do this," Johnny said in spite. Archie looked mixed in his emotions, but was silent. Caleb felt sorry for him. "Let's move out," he ordered, and disappeared into the darkness. Reluctantly, they followed, leaving behind a campfire of smoldering ashes...and the evidence it had fed upon.

*

The hill descended smoothly toward the graveyard, the trees falling away a third of the way down. A cool breeze swept up towards them as the trees shook in turn, bringing unanimous shudders.

The mausoleum stood tall against the dark backdrop of night. The stars shined bright above. The light of the Moon spilled across the ground toward them, uncovering the shadows of mischievous gravestones. By all accounts, they were alone.

"It's dark out here, bro," Archie choked out. "What if Reaper shows up?"

"Caleb and I will take care of it," Johnny said, matter-of-factly. "You two just keep watch until we come back out." Then, they descended the steps and walked through the open doorway.

Archie and Liam exchanged nervous glances as the light from Johnny's lantern disappeared through the doorway, leaving little but a faint glow of presence behind.

*

The crypt door swung lazily in the breeze, sending a draft through the room as Caleb settled in before the computer.

The monitor was as dark as it had been before he sat down. The light from Johnny's lantern reflected hazily in the glass. Nothing else happened. He waited patiently until--

The screen flashed before him. Red text on black said simply: "Reset your password."

Caleb did what he was told.

An inconsequential barrage of characters, cloaked in asterisks, lay before him. The cursor flashed in wait.

His finger was poised like a carnival robot's appendage as he moved it toward the "ENTER" button, and pressed it downward.

The lights went out.

Johnny shouted at him from across the room, obviously surprised. "CALEB!! What the Fuck did you DO??"

"I'm not quite sure," he responded, honestly. "Maybe the movie's about to begin?"

"Oh, yeah. That explains it." Johnny moved behind him, turning his attention to the screen.

It was as black as if it were empty. They could as well be staring into a picture frame.

"How you guys doing out there?" Johnny shouted. There was muted shouted in response. Then, Liam appeared in the doorway, looking nervous. "We're doing fine. Just hurry up with that thing." He disappeared once more from sight.

Caleb started fiddling with the keys, starting with the ESC button and going from there. When that got nowhere, he felt around the monitor, looking for the power switch. Of course, if it were a composite computer, then shutting it off would be the last thing he would want to do.

"Well..." Johnny began, annoyed. "How are we gonna get this damned thing moving again?"

Caleb didn't go out of his way to incur Johnny's typical wrath, but he didn't have much choice right now. "I really don't know," he said. And he meant it.

*

An eerie creaking filled the air, and the night was all at once silent.

Caleb studied the dark curiously as Johnny stood at attention, alert. He picked up his lantern and slowly coursed through the crypt, searching. Suddenly, he called out: "Archie! Liam! Get your asses down here."

They were inside before he had finished speaking. Clearly, the creaking had come to them, too. "What is it?" Liam asked.

"Shut up and get over here," he demanded, continuing to search. He was feeling along the wall now, his head cocked to the side, listening. The boys stood behind Caleb, watching. They made no further moves until he spoke again.

Suddenly, Johnny stopped, peering closely at something on the wall. "What the Hell?" Then there was a loud bang as his lantern crashed to the ground, and silence fell once more upon the crypt.

If any one of them had seen it, it was not immediately clear. For whatever reason, it was Liam who called, quite simply: "Johnny?"

The breeze picked up as the words fell upon the air, as if doing away with the evidence that they had been uttered.

*

Then...it came.

A massive rumbling stole over the condensed space, and they all 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. As the rumbling continued on ceaselessly, it was clear what was happening: a passageway had been opened.

*

They each could see the object in the distance, clear as day. Perhaps it was the unearthly sheen that gave it away. Or maybe it was the way in which the path walls seemed to angle in towards it. Either way, it 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.

"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? He's gone now."

"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 object, they were helpless to object. The fact that they could walk away right now, essentially scot-free, weighed perfectly against the liberation Johnny's own folly had allotted them. If either of them had been a bit brighter than they were, they may have had a chance. Unfortunately...

*

The tunnel walls flickered in the golden light of the object, and shadows were strung through by its dominance, like stars in Heaven's unconditional sky. The wholesale impression was one of antiquity--but an antiquity immeasurable.

And yet, the object--while emanating such a pure and unchained light--was little more than a filter; an illusion of contained power. As sure as footsteps held true to their course, they were soon to find out as much.

Caleb was first through the opening, followed by Liam and Archie. Archie wanted nothing of it, but Liam pulled him along regardless. As far as he was concerned, it was all or none of them. Not that he was worried how they were going to explain Johnny's disappearance to his parents or other concerned parties--if it even came to that. The kind of shit he pulled...the world was probably better off with him gone.

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 permits its allure, and rises. Fingers poised upon the brink flex forward in turn, and plant themselves upon the surface.

And rooted at once in its ravishing soil, Caleb's form is swiftly consumed. Liam, unable to steal his gaze from the unfolding scene, is driven summarily to uphold its bidding, and clasps some nondescript point of the boy's unanimous stern.

But Archie, amiss of aim and will to journey farther, sees none of this. For to the object's discontent, he turns at once to journey back, and touches his hand down upon none other than the crypt door once more, running off into the night with the ghosts of screams echoing within his mind.

*

In the remainder of night that followed, only the Moon--a watcher to the end--remained. Even as the Stars were lost behind the blanket of Cloud, the Moon held its duty to the gravestones, nurturing the teeming darkness that lay, fully alive, just beyond them.

Short Story
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About the Creator

Z-Man

\m/,

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.

Thank You!

Zach

B']

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