A faint flutter of light, light years away --or maybe further-- interrupted the perfect, glacial darkness.
No, that must have just been a dream; there was no light at all. None. It was and always shall be, dark.
Maybe the light came back. He-- was he a he? There was a sound like a skittering of --something. No, it was definitely quiet. And dark. Yes, it was definitely dark, that is what you called this: dark. And it was quiet now. No noise at all. --except a ringing, no that was his ears. Yes, he did have ears. --And eyes, but they wouldn’t open if you paid them to.
Wait, he got one eye opened a little. No, close it, it hurts too much.
Was he dead? It was too quiet to be... He felt like he had a head. Yes, ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. He had all those things, but...
It was so dark and quiet. The ringing in his ears was gone, but now he could hear his blood rushing through them. So, he was probably alive, then. It was cold, too. Was he in a mortuary cabinet --drawer --slidey thingy?
He tried to inhale. He was breathing but he couldn’t control it. His breaths came slow and regular. He couldn’t alter them at all.
He kept his mouth shut and the air went in his nose. No, this place didn’t smell like the chemicals you’d smell in a morgue or even a public building. It smelled like dry dirt and stone.
It smelled kinda familiar.
His right eye itched so he moved his hand to... his hand didn’t move. He felt for his hand. There was nothing there. He felt for his legs and his stomach, his groin, his back, anything! No. All he could feel was his head! He tried to turn his head and found that below his jaw, There was NOTHING!
The sound of his pulse in his ears got louder and the beats more frequent. I must be a quadriplegic, he concluded. He tried to turn his head again, nothing. Soon, his pulse slowed and the noise in his ears quieted.
He could move his eyes, and wiggle his face, but that was it. Who am I? he wondered as he lay there for what felt like a geologic age.
“He’s awake,” they said, opening the door in his ceiling for her.
She went down the oubliette hole on a long ladder to the floor below and looked back up at them as they pulled the ladder back out. The light was pouring in through the open hole; it extinguished as they closed it. A small ceramic figurine lit up. Its glow filled the room. She looked, the patient’s eyes were held tightly shut.
“It’s okay,” she said gently. “It’s not so bright now.” Shadows filled the spaces between rude logs in the ceiling and in the chinks between the stones in the walls.
The patient was covered by a thin woven blanket from mid-chest down. A hospital gown was visible from there up. He was on a short pallet on the floor. An empty bucket with a seat was in the corner. Nothing else was in the room.
A small, feminine, necklace made of pastel, multi-colored, quartzite stones lay across his throat, between his Adam’s apple and jaw. She moved it down below his voice box.
“How are you feeling?”
The first sound he made was inhaled and didn’t sound much like speech. But he soon learned to time it with his breaths. “What is... my name?” he managed to ask.
She looked at a deep, salmon-colored crystal on the pallet next to the top of his head, and then back to his eyes. “Do you remember anything?”
“Just this room and the darkness. How long have I been here?”
“For a very, very long time.” She stroked his cheek above where his beard grew in. “I’ll be back soon. Be patient.” She moved the necklace up his throat and he was voiceless again.
She stepped from the oubliette and through the portal which had opened to let her enter at the very lowest level of the another complex. She paused and looked behind her. The cliffs spilled down to the canyon floor many feet below. Above her, she saw the roof of the alcove within which was built her home. She walked the steps up the plaza to the east, along the cliff’s edge, over the top of a classroom that had been a kiva in the ancient days. On the far side, she came to a set of stairs. They were not uniform in size or depth. Many a person had tripped on them. None over the edge that she knew of, at least none by accident.
She walked nearly all the way around one kiva to go up a plaza. Now she was walking north, toward the deeper part of the complex. Up two sets of stairs in a row, convenient how they were engineered. Now she was at the very top and the deepest portion of the complex. She had no time to pause and take in the sights. Sad, one of her favorite views was from this small, private plaza deep within the Anasazi architecture.
And there it was, her destination: the office of the most powerful mage she knew.
He was waiting for her. “Come in, my dear!” He pushed the curtains aside. She entered and sat at the long, burnished table. The chairs and other furnishings clashed with the exterior of the office, but not with each other. The décor was Louis XIV, original and very well cared for.
“How is our guest?” he asked in his very high voice. There were no others in the room, Just the two of them. An intimate little reunion, or so it should have been.
She was ill at ease with her father, had been since her mother had died, Father had changed since then, but, so had she.
“He’s calm,” Jolene said. “The Tibetan crystal works just like it was promised.” She always felt the need to justify herself and her actions to Daddy Dearest. His eyes seemed to be burning holes into her soul, Good thing she didn’t have one of those!
“And the trap?” he scanned a mana window for data. “I see that the island did not blow up.”
Again, she felt that he was pressing for weaknesses in either her answers or in her character. “Our mole in the Other School tells me that the Samoans brought in a specialist.”
“From the Destroying Angels.”
“What?” he cried. He seemed on the verge of losing control of his temper. “I thought we neutralized them when we killed Old Man Smith.”
“The new Archangel might as well be a clone of him. And he’s got a protégé that must be the best. They pulled him from his LDS mission to help on this.”
LeDuc leaned back in his expensive chair. His eyes wide as he nodded silently. “That is unusual in the extreme.” He pursed his lips and steepled his fingers.
Moments, agonizingly long moments later, when he rolled his eyes back toward his daughter he said: “We need that information quick. Our window is closing.”
He flipped his hand dismissively toward the curtained door. She got up and left.
The ceiling door opened again, Light spilled in, intensely bright light. The brunette woman came back. She turned the salmon colored crystal above the patient’s head one tenth of a turn counter-clockwise and then moved the necklace down below his larynx.
“Hello,” said the brunette. “How are you?”
“A little more clear headed since the last time you came here.”
“Good,” she smiled. “So, tell me what you remember,” she said. “Let’s start with your name.”
“I know I have one,” he said. “And I know I’m not from here. Do you know my name?” his voice had such woebegone concern that she almost had pity for him. “It would help if you told me.”
“I’m so sorry. You came without clothes or identification. We were hoping you could tell us.” She kept her expression of tender concern on her face. She had actually practiced this in the mirror till she got it right.
“What do you remember before I came down the first time?”
“Just darkness, weird twisted shapes and distorted sounds. Nothing, else.”
‘That is a disappointment.’ she said. “I will have to leave you again. But I’ll be back.”
“No. Please, don’t go,” he said. “Don’t leave me in the dark...”
She slid the necklace up to his jaw again, then climbed the ladder and left.
It must have been a few hours later when the door opened again. The sunlight shown on the opposite walls of his room. Two men came down and saw to his toileting needs. After they left the woman descended the steps.
“Hello,” she said. “How are you feeling?” she asked sliding the necklace.
“Fine, I guess,” he said, gazing at her. “And no, I don’t know what my name is,” he said flatly. “I’m still hoping that you know and could tell me.”
The woman reached to the Salmon colored crystal and twisted it two-tenths of a turn. “I think I know my name,” he said with a bit of surprise.
“Oh, what is your name, then?” she sat on the floor next to his pallet.
“I think it’s Danny or something like that.” His sudden smile faded then he said, “Not quite...”
“Okay, Danny, what’s the last thing you remember?”
He scrunched up his eyebrows and looked off to the right. “I think I was outside next to a giant of a man. He wasn’t African...” He suddenly opened his eyes wide. “Africa, wow. But, no, not there. Um, Mexico? He was more like a Mexican than an African, but neither.”
The woman touched his cheek and his brow with the palm of her hand. “It’s alright. A tall dark skinned man and you...”
“Yeah, we walked up to a cliff and he touched something like a curtain...”
She waited for him to come back to the story, but he seemed to have petered out. She touched his cheek again, this time with a finger. “Hey, Davvy...” She pronounced the ‘a’ like in ‘cat.’
His eyes opened in surprise and he said: “Yes, Davvy, It’s short for Davic! That’s my name!”
“Okay, Davvy. We’re getting somewhere.” She smiled and nodded. “You and a giant of a Mexican..”
“He wasn’t a Mexican. He was a Samoan! Named Étuaté! And we were walking toward a cliff. He touched the curtain and it opened up. We had just gotten in when the door shut and we were jumped...” He lay there looking at the ceiling with disbelief. “And the next thing I remember is waking up here. ”
She paused, listening.
“You were there,” cried Davic. “You killed Étuaté! and then dragged me here. What do you want of me?”
She slid the necklace up his neck and then climbed the ladder.
The next time the men came, Davic recognized the first as the one that had stabbed Étuaté. He would have struggled if he could have. But nope. His body and his brain just weren’t on speaking terms with each other. He decided not to let on. even if he couldn’t feel it, the man could seriously hurt him.
By now, Davic was getting very thirsty and most likely hungry, but since he couldn’t feel his stomach he couldn’t tell.
He lay in the mostly dark prison cell. He must be a prisoner and not a patient. But for what and who...
It came to him. It was LeDuc’s daughter that was trying to get information from him. Yes, it was Lucin... Crys... Elizab... What was her name? Oh yeah, it sounded like that famous actress’ last name: Angie... Anna... Angilin... Angelina Jolly... Joeley... Joli! Jolene LeDuc who had married Professor Johnson’s... Johnson of the Institute! I am a Mage from Atalen ya Doaka!
“I must be in Yalun né Siana, prisoner of the LeDuc’s.”
Jolene descended the ladder again and ignored her prisoner’s accusing eyes. She turned the salmon colored crystal back to its original position and saw the light go out of Davic’s eyes.
“Five times, Davic,” she said. “Maybe this one will work.” She waved to those in the doorway and they came down. The two men moved the pallet to a tilted angle, that blocked Davic’s view of the doorway, and left. Then a red-headed woman came in.
Jolene turned the crystal to the second setting, two-tenths of a turn to the counter clock-wise.
The red-head placed her palm on the side of Davic’s head and ran her thumb along the ridge of his cheek. “Davic, I’m here. It’s Retta.”