Chapter 4: Found
DISTANT voices and the sound of falling water roused me from sleep as I pulled in a waking breath. I cracked my eyes open but couldn’t focus. Above me lay an open sky…or was it a ceiling? The walls around me didn’t look right. Nothing looked right. Where was I?
I sorted through my memories furiously trying to track down the last one. My dad kicking me out. Mom in the hospital. The frozen trees. Running from the agents through Denver. Collapsing and losing consciousness. None of them told me where I was. Was I in some government facility where they’d make me their lab rat or try to use me as a weapon?
“Mom,” said a girl with surprise in her tone.
I looked across the long room to find two blurry figures.
“Oh, he’s awake. Good morning, Mr. Sharp.” The mother’s voice sounded older with a light British accent.
How did they know my name?
The two blurry figures stood and headed my direction. Tension seized my chest bringing the dark sensation out of hiding. It crept from my bones, weaving its way through my muscles like hundreds of slithering snakes.
I had to get out of here.
I sucked in a breath, flung covers off of me, and yanked an IV from my arm. Cords and sensors popped from my body like a frantic squid, and alarming electronic tones filled the room. A metal tray smashed into the ground spilling medical utensils across the floor.
“No need to panic,” the British woman said, still quite a distance away.
I threw myself from the bed with my aching limbs. They weighed twice what they used to, like I’d been drugged. My feet pushed off of cold stone toward the door a few steps away. The British woman moved her arm and the door slammed shut by itself.
I wasn’t the only one here with powers.
I grabbed a tray from the ground and threw it at the woman. She threw up her arms to block it, breaking her hold on the door. I jerked the door open and stumbled out.
“Mr. Sharp, this is quite unnecessary.” The woman’s accent might have sounded pretty if she didn’t frighten me half to death.
I’d come out into a vast area roughly the size of a small football stadium, its circular wall a fuzzy gray to my drugged vision. Another blue sky, more blurry than the last, hung overhead. What was this place?
My legs surged with energy, driving me through a grassy area. I crossed a wooden bridge over a stream and hit more grass on the other side. A waterfall lay far to the right, feeding the stream I’d just crossed, but all I could see was a tall white streak.
Gasps sounded around me from distorted figures.
“Ian, stop!” It was the girl again.
Pushing harder, I made it to a stone floor and through an unusually tall passageway. Deep into the hall, I slammed into a wall, unable to stop my momentum. Super-speed had its drawbacks.
I turned left and set off down another passage. Then right. Then another right.
Strength drained from my legs. I managed to slow down but braced myself for the inevitable. My body folded and I took a dive, crashing into an inset door.
I should’ve expected my powers would be exhausted in no time. Where was I running anyway? I didn’t have a plan. Didn’t even know where I was.
I propped myself against the door and waited. It wouldn’t take them long to find me.
I cursed. Why had I let this thing out of me? Why had I been so stupid? Now I’d be their lab rat and there was nothing I could do about it.
“Hey, are you okay?” The girl’s voice gently broke the silence.
I wouldn’t speak to her or anyone else here.
“You know you’re sitting next to a graveyard, right?” She didn’t have her mother’s accent. She sounded as American as me.
Wait, did she say graveyard?
“Well, we think it’s a graveyard,” she said. “We’ve never been inside.”
Her voice was so calming. My eyes even began taking focus little by little, as if they longed to see the source of the soothing sound. As she eased forward, her unfocused image became clear. Long, wavy blonde hair framed the most beautiful face I’d ever seen. Her dark-blue eyes shifted from me to the door.
I followed her gaze and found an elaborate etching of demons suffering a terrible fire. Angels ascended out of the flames as if they were vapors. The middle of the flames wore a dressing of some ancient pictographic language.
The girl ran her fingers across the characters. “It’s Paleo-Hebrew. It says, Herein lies destruction, sealed until the Day of Judgment, that it may be cast into the Refiner’s Fire until its purification is complete. May the Restorer of All Things bring balance to all. I’ve seen the same words on a tomb in Israel.”
“What does it mean?” I pursed my lips. So much for not talking to her. At least this would keep her busy for a little bit and delay any experiments and tests they had planned for me. Then again, if I were just gonna end up as a lab rat, why wasn’t her mother a lab rat?
She smiled at the engravings like an old friend. “We think it’s a warning, but it could just be here to ward off grave robbers. It might even be booby-trapped.” She rolled her eyes. “Joseph—our governor—starts acting all weird when I talk about wanting to open it, like he knows more than he’s letting on. He’s scared of something. I’m working on him, though. I think he might open it soon.”
Governor? Archaeology? This was sounding less and less like a government facility.
The dark voice I’d heard at school seeped back into my head. “It’s a lie, Ian. She’s trying to gain your trust.”
It sent a chill through me. Last time I’d listened to the voice, my life had fallen apart. I ignored it. “So you don’t know what the destruction is?”
She tilted her head in thought. “My guess is that there were some violent people who were either imprisoned or buried in here, and they sealed the tomb to contain them…supernaturally.”
I frowned at her. “You mean they were afraid their spirits would come out and haunt people?”
She shook her head. “No, they believed a person’s spirit slept until a future day of purification. They probably put this seal up to protect against any dark ones who might have left the bodies when they died.”
“Dark ones? Like…demons?”
“Something like that.”
I studied her face for signs of motive but came up dry. “And you wanna open it?”
“You’re not worried?”
“Why would I be?” She could’ve been talking about the weather from the sound of it. “If there were ever any dark ones in there, they’re long gone by now. That’s assuming they really exist.”
“Do you think they exist?”
She shrugged. “It’s possible.”
I looked back to the inscription. “So these dark ones can be purified?”
“Of course. The Ancient Hebrews believed hell was designed to purify people so everyone could be in Paradise, eventually. Still today, the Jews believe hell is a great kindness, a way to restore people. To them, God is the restorer of all things.” Her look said she could tell I didn’t understand. “Let me put it another way. Hell’s not some fiery place, but the refiner’s fire is a figurative picture of how hell purifies people. Have you ever seen how gold is refined?”
I shook my head.
“Well, hang around here long enough and you’ll get to see the process. We mine a lot of gold. When we have it refined, it gets melted down so the impurities will float to the top. Once they’re scooped off, it cools, and the gold is pure. The Ancient Hebrews called that the refiner’s fire, and that’s what they believed hell is—God’s refining fire…figuratively speaking. It breaks people’s resistance to God’s love and healing. Even demons.”
As she said the word demons again, energy flowed back into my body along with its tainted sensation. My hands shook. I put my focus on the conversation to take my mind off of my hands, hoping they’d go still.
“Huh.” I nodded. “I don’t even know if there is a God, but I like that.”
“Me too.” Her soft smile eased my tension a little, and my hands came to a rest. “It seems to fit His nature. If He’s really capable of doing anything, He wouldn’t be very loving or wise if He couldn’t create a system where everyone is restored in the end. People suffering forever isn’t justice, and there’s nothing unconditional about that kind of ‘love.’ It doesn’t accomplish anything.”
Half of me was drawn to this girl while the other half just wanted to run, but I couldn’t run from her. Something about her was magnetic. And besides, I had no idea where an exit was.
The dark whisper slipped into my mind, turning my stomach. “She’s trying to get you to drop your defenses.”
My shoulders tensed as my breaths became shallow. “How do you know my name?”
Her eyes narrowed slightly. “Your driver’s license was in your wallet.”
“Who are you?” The sick feeling of power continued seeping into my body, preparing for something.
She smiled and shook her head, embarrassed. “I’m sorry. I’m Abby Peirce. That was my mom with me earlier.” She got to her feet and stepped my direction with her hand out.
I pressed back against the wall.
Abby stopped in her tracks, dropping her hand to her side. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to—”
Footsteps sounded off down the hall sending my heart into a fit.
Blood hammered through my veins. “Who’s coming?’
The dark voice spoke in my head again. “Run, Ian.”
I pushed myself to my feet and lunged at Abby. She pulled a silver gun from behind her back and hit me, mid-air, with two muffled shots to the chest. I dropped to her feet, limp.
My heavy eyelids closed as I fell unconscious.