The Akasha Chronicles: Ascension

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Summary

A pact sealed with deception leads 18-year old Helen Grey on a multidimensional journey to rescue the sacred Akashic Records from the evil Sikaara, but will her quest to protect Earth destroy her? Who is murdering the Akasha, the group of twelve etheric guardians protecting the Hall of Akashic Records? With the guardians dying and the life records of billions of entities placed in jeopardy, the peaceful Nikeelans step in and recruit Helen Regan, an earth-bound eighteen-year-old who must solve the murders to prevent further infiltration of the Hall of Akashic Records. If she is too late, the records will fall into the dangerous hands of the goddess Hathor and her Sikaara army. Based loosely on an ancient Hindu concept and brimming with Egyptian and Persian influences, The Akasha Chronicles: Ascension follows Helen as she travels from Boston to Mount Shasta, California and discovers that she must first experience her own ascension process before she can attempt to solve the murders and save the Akashic Records. But as tragedy strikes, Helen realizes that sometimes what appears to be truth is nothing more than a beautifully orchestrated lie…

Genre:
Fantasy / Thriller
Author:
Kathryn_Merz
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
32
Rating:
n/a 1 review
Age Rating:
16+

Chapter One

Nightfall on Mount Shasta. As the mountain rose into view, its peak illuminated by the full moon and covered in snow even in early August, Helen Regan and Theresa Quinn pulled into Shasta Meadows campground and began unloading gear from the trunk of their rental car. It had been a long, tiring trip from Boston, but now that they had arrived, adrenaline and excitement took over.

“Wow,” Helen breathed, staring upwards. “Can you believe we finally made it? Look at all the stars! This beats the Boston night sky for sure.”

“And no humidity—even better,” Theresa agreed, running a hand over her blue-black hair.

It was incredible, thought Helen; despite the growing darkness, Theresa’s hair still shone and her almond-shaped eyes still flashed an unexpected moss green that stopped people in their tracks. Helen tugged at her thick brown hair and pulled it subconsciously back into a ponytail. Theresa’s Tibetan-Welsh heritage, complemented by a petite stature and creamy skin, made her unconventionally pretty, but in a mesmerizing way that Helen could not compete with. Although slender herself, Helen was taller than most girls by several inches, which she used to her advantage during her four years on the track team. She knew she was attractive, but she didn’t have Theresa’s charm, her sex appeal. Helen thought of the men who flocked to Theresa and then considered her own dry spell. The last time a guy had noticed her was junior year, and that had been a disaster. She sniffed at the memory.

“My mom couldn’t believe I was doing this,” Theresa went on. “She thought I was nuts to give up a comfortable bed for four days.”

Helen raised an eyebrow and laughed. “Not for nothing, but she wasn’t the only one!”

“When you told me about it, I don’t know...” Theresa trailed off, thinking, and then shrugged. “Either way, I’m glad I came—just as long as the scorpions stay away.”

Helen tossed Theresa a small flashlight. “Here’s a black-light so you can check your surroundings for them.”

Theresa stared at her. “You’re kidding, right?”

Helen grinned. Was it bad that she secretly enjoyed seeing her friend’s discomfort? “Nope,” she replied. “Don’t forget to shine it into your sleeping bag.”

“Jesus. What the hell did you get me into?”

Helen laughed. “Camping’s fun, you’ll see.”

They had the tent up twenty minutes later. Theresa began unpacking the fixings for dinner while Helen started a campfire with a bundle of kindling the campground supervisor had given them. She looked up from stoking the fire to look again at the stars that blossomed against the sky. In this part of northern California the air was cooler, drier, more like an early autumn night back east. The campground was surrounded by new-growth pine forest and plenty of open, flat meadowland. She breathed deeply and smelled a sweetened mixture of pine and moist soil.

Theresa glanced up from the fire and nodded toward the mountain. “It’s like it’s watching us,” she mused. “Don’t you think?”

“It is imposing,” Helen agreed.

“It looks haunted.”

It was true. Mount Shasta did carry a strange ghostly quality about it. Bursting forth from the earth without any other mountains nearby, it appeared to float above the world like an eerie apparition, its snowy peak gleaming white beneath the moon.

“You just have to get used to it,” Helen reassured her. “You’re not used to this sort of thing. Camping can be intimidating at first.”

“Is that it?” A hint of bemusement entered her voice. Helen didn’t answer. Theresa broke the silence by changing the subject as she scooped baked beans onto her plate. “So—that guy on the plane. What was the deal with him? Do you really think he didn’t speak?”

A chill ran down Helen’s neck at the mention of the man. She weighed her words. “I guess. I mean, that’s what the flight attendant said. Why would she lie?”

“I don’t think she would,” Theresa agreed. “Tell me again what happened? Because I know you, and unless you lost your mind back there, you don’t make stuff like that up.”

Helen didn’t have a good explanation for what had happened on the plane. She’d developed a migraine half-way through the trip and closed her eyes for a few minutes of needed rest. When she re-opened them, the man in the passenger seat offered her some medicine for the pain. She declined, but the man kept talking. He wanted to know if she’d ever heard of the legend surrounding Mount Shasta. It was a weird way to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but there was something about him, something in the way his voice held a gentle, lyrical inflection, that captivated Helen.

“No, what legend?” Helen asked, leaning her head against the cool window pane. “Let me guess: Big Foot?”

The man’s eyes had shone a crisp arctic blue, nearly silver, beneath the daylight that flooded the cabin. A curious sensation coursed through Helen when she met his piercing gaze, a subtle electrical current that quivered like a dying light bulb in her lower stomach.

The man managed a polite smile. “Not Big Foot, no. Something more fascinating. It’s even more mysterious than some half-man, half-ape that roams the forests.”

Helen cast him a long look. She’d seen ballet dancers and yoga practitioners with the same body type as this man, lithe with subtly defined muscles. He carried a purposeful air to him, in the way he placed his hands just so on the arm rests, his fingers curling around the edges as the plane banked towards the west.

“Sounds creepy,” she murmured.

He was electric—and energetic. He reminded her of Indian yogis, the ones who were known to levitate on Himalayan mountaintops using strict mental and spiritual practice, although his outfit was more business casual than yoga hip. But his hair, the color of shiny black ink, was pulled back in a long, straight ponytail, and his skin, unusually smooth and unmarred, was a warm brown color; a mixture of cocoa and caramel—perhaps northern Indian, though Helen couldn’t be sure. She couldn’t place his age, either; he was paradoxically as youthful looking as a child and as old in his demeanor as her father.

The man then turned to Theresa and studied her with the inquisitiveness of a scientist looking at his lab specimens. Helen had bitten her lip, assuming he was, like everyone else, consumed by Theresa’s beauty. Then he raised his left hand and, palm down, placed it a few inches above Theresa’s shoulder.

“What are you doing?” Helen demanded.

The man didn’t answered. The act lasted a mere moment before he dropped his hand to his lap. Worry lines splintered along his forehead and around his eyes, spoiling his self-assured disposition. “Tell me,” he said instead, “how long do you plan on staying at Mount Shasta?”

She found herself answering, “Four days.”

The man gave her a steady look. She averted her eyes, unnerved. What did he see that she couldn’t? Her headache throbbed and she absently pressed two fingers into the spot above her right temple to alleviate it.

“I’m curious,” the man said instead, “you have not asked about the strange legend of Mount Shasta. Are you not interested?”

“I am, but you still haven’t told what you did to my friend,” she countered.

The man wiped his hands together as though dusting them off. When he spoke next, his voice was so soft that Helen had to strain to hear him. “I apologize for my inappropriate actions, but your friend’s energy is wrong.” His eyes locked onto hers. “Mount Shasta could be a dangerous place for her.”

Helen recoiled in her seat. “What are you talking about?”

He gently touched her forearm but she jerked it away and clutched it to her chest like it is injured. “Don’t touch me,” she hissed.

“Please do not be alarmed,” the man said. “I should have taken greater care with my words. You see, I am a type of psychic; I am called an energy reader. Your friend’s energy is out of balance right now, and that can lead to…unhealthy situations.”

“Are you saying she’s sick?”

“No, no, nothing like that. Perhaps I should not have spoken about it at all,” he murmured with a frown. Then he refocused on her and the doubt vanished from his eyes. “You are supposed to go to Mount Shasta, but I sense you already knew that.”

She swallowed hard, her throat dry. Her headache thudded in her ears. She began to think the altitude was affecting her. “It’s a beautiful place,” she mustered. “Why wouldn’t I want to go?”

“Indeed,” he answered. “But you believe there is another reason, correct?”

She struggled to stay alert. “You’re the psychic; how about you tell me?”

He smiled sadly. “You already know, Helen.”

She opened her mouth but then shut it again. She wanted to ask how he could possibly know her name, but nausea swept over her as the migraine jackhammered its way through her frontal lobe. “God,” she whispered, cradling her head in her hands. She couldn’t help but close her eyes—it was all she wanted to do. “The pain…”

The man’s voice drifted lazily through the air like tendrils of campfire smoke. “Please rest, Helen; you need your strength for what awaits you at Mount Shasta. You’ll feel better after you wake up.”

And with this blessing Helen’s eyelids fell again, welcoming in the darkness. When she woke next, the headache had completely disappeared. The shattering pain, the nausea, the fatigue—all of it was gone. Instead she felt rejuvenated, high on adrenaline, like she’d just run a track meet. But when she turned to the man to apologize for falling asleep during their conversation, he didn’t answer. Helen caused a scene trying to get his attention but he just remained expressionless, silent. Even Theresa called the man’s actions rude when she tried to get his attention. It was the stewardess who angrily told them that the man was deaf and mute, with poor eyesight as well. Despite that explanation, Helen insisted she’d spoken to him, that he must lied about his condition. The glares from the passengers and crew told Helen that they all thought she was ignorant, and possibly insane.

“It felt so real,” she said now to Theresa as they ate their dinner.

Theresa nodded. “I wish I hadn’t been asleep for it all.”

Helen pursed her lips. “Me, too. But I guess it was a dream, right? A very realistic dream.” She nudged a log back towards the fire, avoiding eye contact. The flames leapt orange and blue into the air, tossing her shadow along the ground like a ragdoll.

“But he said he was concerned about my safety here. That sounds more like a premonition than a dream.”

Helen was growing increasingly more uncomfortable. “Let’s not read into it. It’s nothing. It’s not important anymore.”

“It seemed like it mattered earlier.”

“Like I said, it’s probably nothing,” Helen frowned. “Nothing but a weird dream caused by a really bad migraine. I’m surprised I didn’t get sick to my stomach.”

“Okay, Helen. Whatever you say.” Theresa stabbed the fire with a stick. “So what are we doing tomorrow?”

“It might be fun to hike part of the mountain. Are you up for it?”

“Definitely,” she said. “Paul won’t believe me when I tell him I went hiking.”

Helen’s stomach dropped. Her voice caught. “I guess you’re surprising everyone with this trip, then.” She bit her lower lip and fought the emotion that inched into her heart. She tried to ignore the pain, the bitterness that lingered. It’d been a year, but it still hurt.

Theresa laughed. “I think I like surprising people.”

Helen managed a thin smile. “You do it well.” Then she cleared her throat and stood. “Listen, the jet lag is getting to me. I should sleep.”

“I’m going to stay out for little while longer,” Theresa said. “Is that cool?”

“No problem. Just be sure to put the fire out with a bucket of water.”

“I will,” Theresa promised. “See you in the morning.”

Helen went into the tent and prepared for bed. She lay there, trying to push the memory of Paul kissing Theresa from her mind. Theresa never had a problem getting guys, but for some reason she’d gone after Helen’s crush. And of course she got him. No other girl stood a chance when Theresa was around. Bold, confident and determined to get whatever she wanted, she could be a loyal friend when the situation called for it, but at her deepest level she was an extremely selfish person, maybe even narcissistic. And, like everyone else, Helen got caught up in Theresa’s crazy and unpredictable world. It took her a long time to get over Theresa’s betrayal—and maybe she still wasn’t completely over it—but she eventually forgave her. Helen thought her forgiveness was a testament to their friendship. But sometimes, like tonight, she wondered if that was true.

As sleep drifted in, she thought she heard Theresa speaking softly outside, a murmuring, really, but in that realm where reality blended seamlessly into the dream world, Helen wasn’t sure about anything.

In those strange transitioning hours in the dead of night, Helen was jolted awake by the inexplicable knowledge that she was alone. She turned over and switched on the lantern. The bright light momentarily blinded her as she looked over at Theresa’s sleeping bag. It was empty.

Helen took the lantern with her as she exited the tent and expected to see Theresa still sitting by the campfire, maybe even asleep in her chair. But the chairs were empty. The fire’s remaining embers pulsed brightly in steady intervals like a chorus of lightening bugs. Helen stared at them, confused. Why had the fire only recently died down when her watch read three a.m.? She went to bed at ten o’clock. Theresa, Helen assumed, would have come in a short time later. But the fire had been reignited at some later time. Theresa knew little about camping, and she definitely didn’t know how to maintain a fire. Helen gazed around the immediate area, hoping to catch sight of her. But the darkness was thick and she saw nothing.

She didn’t know what to do. Should she alert the campground supervisor that Theresa was missing? But maybe Theresa went to the bathroom and would return any minute. She decided to wait before waking the supervisor; she didn’t want to panic, after all. She knew Theresa must have had a good reason for leaving. With her mind made up, Helen went back into the tent, into her sleeping bag, and waited with the lantern turned off. It wasn’t long—maybe only fifteen minutes—until the front flap of the tent shifted and a beam of moonlight crested in. Helen peered through squinted eyes and made out Theresa’s form as she entered. The tent flap fell smoothly, blocking out the moon and the direct view of Mount Shasta.

Helen opened her mouth to speak just as Theresa turned her head in her direction. And in a single moment Helen suddenly understood every word the strange man on the plane said.

In the tent, where blackness reigned supreme, Theresa’s eyes glowed green, a shockingly bright green, brighter than any emerald on earth and certainly brighter than her normal green eyes. This was a neon green, chartreuse, even, that penetrated the dark like two laser beams and sliced Helen to her core.

She froze, a chill erupting over her skin. A thin smirk tugged at Theresa’s mouth as she stared pointedly at her friend. It was a challenge, Helen realized as she met the icy stare of whatever, or whomever, possessed her best friend. It was a challenge to see if Helen would be the first to speak, the first to call attention to this unnatural scene. But Helen could not respond with a word, a movement, nothing.

The staring contest continued for what felt like an eternity, though it was probably no more than a few seconds. Then Theresa turned dismissively away before climbing, fully clothed, into her own sleeping bag. Moments later, she began to snore.

Helen was too stunned to do anything but lay there. She remembered the man’s warning about Theresa’s unhealthy energy and recalled his haunting prophecy about Helen needing strength. She pondered every last word he said to her until exhaustion gripped her and she fell into a restless sleep, and until the first light dawned over Mount Shasta, summoning a new day.The Akasha Chronicles: Ascension

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