The Golden Chamber
“How did you learn to fight like that?” I asked as the car pulled away.
Amelia smiled. “Let’s just say that art isn’t the only thing I learned to do in the World of Books.”
The possibilities were just occurring to me of what my new gift could do. What could I learn in the World of Books if I could master my gift?
Amelia pulled a silver-plated star out of her pocket and showed it to me.
“This is how we are going to find the gauntlet.” She set it down on the dashboard. “I hope it still works.”
She gave the star a spin and the pointers began rotating and turning red until all five eventually pointed in one direction, directly ahead. “It looks like we’re headed into town.” Amelia hit the gas and the car lurched forward.
Mephitis touched the bars of the cell, watching each turn to gold and smiled to himself. The purity of the gold shined in the dimmest light and added beauty even to the long abandoned jail’s cells he was walking through. Looking down the rows of cells, he saw with disappointment there were no more left to turn.
Entering an open cell, he began turning the fixtures one by one. First the sink, old toothbrushes, then the double-stacked cots and even the old filthy toilets became sparkling new treasures as the wizard walked through the cells passing time. Kaleb had warned him that he shouldn’t wear the gauntlet too often but why should he listen?
A few times when Kaleb stood close, Mephitis had almost reached out and turned him into something a little more useful, “Or at least more decorative,” Mephitis thought, chuckling to himself. To be seriously considering such a thing, the gauntlet must be affecting him. He would have to be careful.
When he finished the last cell and looked back at his work, he smiled. The old cell block now shined a rich golden color. To complete the effect, he reached down and touched the floor, wondering how far the magic would work. He got his answer when the floor of the chamber from one doorway to the next turned to gold as well. He now had an entire chamber of gold.
The last remaining items were the light fixtures. Using his magic he floated up to them and began their transformation. As they turned to gold their light was extinguished. One by one the lights went out in the large chamber until finally he was left with one. He wanted to complete his work but he needed to see, so using magic he placed his own lighting at each end of the old cell block bright enough to light up the entire chamber. Smiling, he touched the last fixture, watching its light go out forever.
He enjoyed his handiwork for a few moments as he descended to the ground, thinking about his decision to come to this world. The elimination of his liberator had been necessary. He couldn’t have anyone knowing too much about him. Besides, could he help it if he was created to be evil?
Reaching the chamber floor, Mephitis began his walk to return the gauntlet to the protected place he had prepared for it. Looking over his handiwork once again he chuckled, perhaps Kaleb was right, perhaps he should use the gauntlet a little less.
We followed the pointer into Covington, turning east on Main St. and then heading toward the river and the older part of town. As we traveled the pointer turned a brighter shade of red, until finally we came to a block where each time we turned, the pointer turned, pointing to a an old building in the middle of the block. It was a part of town I had not been to before. The street housed the old city offices and buildings which were relocated many years ago to a new downtown complex. The building where the star pointed had been the old city jail.
“I knew this was going to be tough, but breaking into a jail makes it even tougher.” Amelia drove past the front door slowly. “I would imagine there are bars on all the windows and the doors are extra thick. The only way in will be the front door.”
“Then I’ll go through the front door,” I said.
“How do you expect to go through the front door and get out alive?”
Amelia turned the corner and parked the car on a side street.
“Kaleb is probably in there right now,” I said, looking in the direction of the jail. I’m sure he can sense that I am out here. He’s going to catch us the second I step foot in there. So I’ll walk right through the front door and accept their training. While I’m distracting them you can come in and find the gauntlet and get out. I’ll find some excuse to need to go home, then we’ll meet out here. We’ll leave before they know it’s gone.”
“It might work,” said Amelia. “But I see one problem.”
“What’s that?” I asked, seeing several.
“How will you know when I have the gauntlet?”
“I won’t, I’ll try to distract them for as long as I can and then leave when I can. If you have the gauntlet and I’m not out in two hours then leave without me and go back to the Warehouse and wait for me there. I’ll find a way to get there,” I said, not feeling nearly as confident as my words.
“You have a lot of courage doing this,” Amelia said, which made me chuckle.
“Did I say something funny?” she asked, confused.
“No, it’s just that if it wasn’t for me, none of this would have happened. I’m just trying to clean up my own mess,” I replied, getting out of the car.
“Yes, and most people would have walked away from their mess and let someone else clean it up. That is what I find courageous.”
“You have the dangerous part,” I told her as I closed the door and started toward the jail. I looked back one last time. Amelia sat in the car, waiting. I nodded my head toward her and headed to the jail entrance.
Kaleb sat in his room reading, still his favorite pastime after all these years. He had long ago learned control of his gift, which allowed him to read without being pulled into the World of Books. He still heard the call; he just didn’t heed it unless he wished too. He was enjoying this particular horror novel which was pretty much all he read any more. The way the killer went about his business in such a cold and heartless manner. It reminded him of Mephitis the first day they had met; a natural killer, pure evil, with no heart or remorse. Mephitis had much to teach him. Kaleb liked watching the weak suffer. It gave him a feeling of power.
When Mephitis had come back from the boy’s room with the gauntlet and discovered what it could do, Kaleb knew it was their ticket to destroying the Gifted once and for all and perhaps could be the means for their further ambitions as well. He read on—the murderer was about to find a pair of unsuspecting teenagers kissing in a car. “This never turns out well.” Kaleb’s grin widened. “At least, not for the teenagers.”
The entrance to the old jail was unguarded, the door half-open. I slipped through and into the lobby. The place appeared empty. There was a second cage door that also hung open and led down a long hallway. The doors lining the hallway were locked. When I reached the end, I began wondering if the finder was wrong. Then I heard voices.
Following the sound of the voices I stepped into a room filled with old T.V. screens set up along the far wall. Piles of books in different sizes and in various conditions were stacked against the walls, some in paperback and some in hardcover. They all appeared to be the same title from what I could see. The books were all titled “Fading Light”. I didn’t remember ever reading that book.
In the room were two rather bored-looking men, one standing and one sprawled across a couch. They both looked to be in their thirties with hair so blonde it was almost white. They had pasty white skin and bloodshot eyes. They looked ill. The man on the couch had both arms up behind his enormous head. Standing, the man would be easily seven foot tall. He was as big as Unbar but not as muscled.
Both men eyed me as if they were expecting something. Finally the one standing grew impatient, “Okay boy, how many did you bring?”
“How many what?” I asked, confused.
The man turned to his companion sitting on the couch, “How many ‘what,’ he asks?” He took a step towards me, his tone becoming dangerous, “You better have something for us, boy. The only reason people are allowed in here alive is the task. Now, do you have something for us or not?”
I took a step back. This was not going as planned. I’d thought I would meet Kaleb and be able to talk about the training to waste some time for Amelia. My hesitance appeared to be all the answer the two men needed. The large man stood up from the couch and took a step towards me. The smaller man flashed a knife in his hand. I was just about to run when I heard from behind him, “That won’t be necessary.”
Kaleb stood in the doorway. He didn’t look happy. He turned and said, “Follow me.”
I nearly ran to him, glad to be safe for the moment. We walked in silence before Kaleb asked, “How exactly did you find me? I left a card with an untraceable phone number.”
I’d already thought of my answer in case he asked that question, “The others who offered me training tried to tell me you were evil. They let slip where you live. They know right where you are at all times. I don’t know how.” I decided beforehand to answer as close to the truth as possible while lying to Kaleb.
Kaleb looked at my face. After a few dozen more steps he looked straight ahead and said, “I believe you.”
Then in a dangerous tone he hissed, “Don’t ever lie to me. I will know and the consequences will be…severe.”
The implied threat did nothing for the fear I was already trying to overcome. Kaleb led me to a flight of stairs which we took down and then down another short hallway until we reached the old prison library.
“We will talk here.” Kaleb gestured for me to sit in an old metal chair.
The library wasn’t much for the eyes. The paint on the cement walls was a faded grey. The paint was peeling and in some spots water had leaked down the walls creating rust spots. The books in the library were too new to be left over from the jail. The shelves had books on the shelves were strewn about in disorder. Books on the floor were stacked in piles along each wall. In a corner of the room a bed had been set against the wall with a reading lamp and a night stand.
Unlike the warehouse library, it had the feel of chaos and disorder. From what I could see, all the books were horror novels. I had read a few horror novels but it appeared that was all Kaleb read. When I remembered that Kaleb could enter those books I shuddered. Reading a horror novel was one thing; living it was another.
Kaleb sat down across from me and waited. Not ready to play my hand I asked, “What were those two men doing?”
“Oh, that is just a little project we are working on. I will tell you about it later. The important question is why you are here?” So much for stalling.
Seeing no way to delay any further, I said, “I’ve come to accept the training.”
“Very good,” Kaleb smiled, looking closely at my face. As he did so his smile faded, his features twisted to anger. “I told you never to lie to me. I don’t know what you are up to, but it isn’t to accept training. Come with me. I have someone you should meet. Perhaps he will convince you to be more truthful.”
Kaleb stood and led me out of the library and back to the staircase which we took down another level. As we walked my heart began pumping. The stupidity of my simple plan began to hit me. I knew there was no way Kaleb would just let me ‘run home.’ I knew I should probably run for it but that also meant Amelia would have no chance of finding the gauntlet. I was trapped. As we descended down a darkness so complete enveloped us my enhanced vision was the only way I could see two steps in front of me. Kaleb seemed to know his way just fine.
We left the stairs and went through another set of doors followed by a caged door but something was different about those doors. I didn’t have time to look closer. I didn’t need to when I stepped into the light of the chamber. Everything in the large two-storied room shined in the purest gold. The bars on the cells, the lights, the walls, even the floor. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was worth.
“Wait here,” said Kaleb, walking to a cell and entering. After a short time he reappeared with a man walking by his side. The man was just a little taller than me and looked to be middle aged: raven-black hair, high cheekbones, a cleft chin and stark blue eyes. He wore a black long- sleeve shirt of silk and black pants.
“You say you have come to accept our training?” said Kaleb, smiling wickedly. “This is Mephitis. I have a feeling you are about to learn a great number of things.”