Emily woke up in terror to the sound of a young girl screaming in her bedroom. As Emily lay in the darkness, the girl continued to whimper in the corner.
Mommy, I want my mommy!
The room smelled like the worst campground pit toilet and there was another smell that Emily couldn’t identify, but scared her. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could just make out three young girls her age in the room, cowering in the corner in fear, half naked and smeared in filth and their own waste. That explained part of the smell.
Emily felt her own fear starting to well up as a scream in her own throat. She instinctively reached out for the bedside lamp as she always did when she had a bad dream and switched it on. It brought the safety of her bedroom flooding back as the light filled it, but it seemed that the images of the three girls and the horrific smell took an awfully long time to fade.
[Oh, Gosh! What a nightmare!]
I am afraid that was no nightmare, Emily.
For some time now, I have detected a great evil. It is a man who has taken young girls and locks them under the ground. It is in this city, not far away. I am afraid that the feelings of sadness and evil have become so powerful that I can no longer block them from you. That is why it came into your consciousness. I am sorry.
[I guess we’re kind of close now. You can’t help it.]
Yes. That is so.
[Can you tell me where it is?]
I can show you. I am afraid if we do not do something about this man immediately ... tonight ... these three girls may not survive. The evil man does not like what he is doing and it scares him, but when he works himself into this state, there will be no saving the girls.
[Oh, my God!]
I am not sure I understand the reference, but I assume you are offering a prayer for their deliverance. You are their deliverance, Emily.
[Can’t I just call the police?]
I do not know how to identify this location because the girls seem to be underground. The authorities may cause the man to harm the girls if he thinks he is cornered. I believe we must free them first and then cause his capture.
[Is this place far?]
I believe it will take one hour to walk there. The three girls are possibly under a house or in a cave.
[What is that terrible smell?]
Emily, that is the smell of death.
Emily, now dressed and rugged up against the cold, sneaked down stairs. She had a small flashlight that she used to navigate the stairs. The mantle clock gave three tiny chimes, usually reassuring, but now ominous. As she reached the front door, her dog Foxy yawned, shook and sniffed at Emily, wondering why she was up.
Your pet canine thinks you are going to take her for an unscheduled walk. I have instructed her to be silent and return to sleep.
[Thanks. I didn’t know you spoke dog.]
Carefully closing the front door behind her, Emily started down the street, avoiding the pools of light from streetlamps whenever she could.
Emily was puffing from her brisk walk through the early morning, making clouds of vapor with every breath. She was about to cross a main road and pressed the crossing light button.
There is a law enforcement vehicle coming. Hide immediately.
She quickly ducked behind a row of mailboxes.
[Shouldn’t I tell them about the girls?]
I am afraid they would not believe a 12 year-old girl on the streets at 4 o’clock in the morning and would no doubt take you into custody.
[How will we stop this guy?]
I will take care of this when we locate the girls.
The patrol car pulled up to the crossing lights as they turned red and the walk signal clickety-clacked to the empty street. The two police, a sergeant and a woman officer driving, look around curiously. When the lights turned green, the car slowly cruised on and turned at the next corner. Emily peered out from behind the mailboxes. The coast appeared clear, so she sprinted across the wide boulevard, not bothering to use the lights again.
As if by magic and not design, the entire character of the neighborhood changed. It became more industrial, left behind by time and prosperity. The cold seemed colder and the darkness now seemed much darker.
Down the next street.
Emily turned the corner into a dark, lifeless street. Many of the houses were obviously derelict, windows boarded up or staring, glassless, like the square empty eye sockets of a skull, the open doorways like silently screaming mouths. No lights shined from any of the houses, though none would have at this early hour anyway.
I believe it is somewhere down the end of this street, on the left. I cannot be sure until we are closer.
The street was a dead end. As Emily made her way down the street, she could see that there was a house on the left at the very end that was set way back, almost hidden until you were upon it. The only thing that distinguished it from any of the other houses in the street was that it looked a little less like a bomb site and some of the windows still contained glass.
Emily had been skirting down the side of the street and quickly melted back into a deep shadow. A man came out of the end house on the left. He turned and locked the door several times behind him. He was a small, thin man with the hood of his dirty coat pulled over his head.
Be very still. He cannot see you.
Emily froze. The man shuffled past, head down with his hands thrust deep in the coat pockets. As he passed, she could sense the evil radiating from the man as well as a whiff of that horrible smell.
Do not fear. I will protect you.
The man turned the corner at the end of the street and disappeared. Emily emerged from her shadow and made her way to the house.
[How do we get in?]
Through the front door, of course.
Emily gingerly climbed the front steps to the wooden porch of the house and approached the front door. There is a large brass padlock on a steel hasp and a deadlock.
Touch me to the locks.
She held The Stone to the big padlock. Immediately it snapped open and she lifted the heavy lock off the hasp. She then held The Stone to the deadlock. There is a noise inside the door and it slowly swung open with an ominous creak. Emily slowly entered and closed the door behind her. The open padlock swung on the open hasp outside.
[There is that smell.]
Just ignore it. We must find the girls quickly and depart.
[Can we call the police now?]
Once we have found the girls. Three are still alive.
[Alive? You mean some of them are dead?]
Yes. Death has occurred here. This human must be stopped.
[He is not human. He is a monster!]
Emily turned on her little flashlight and swept it around the room. The house was a dump. There were piles of newspapers, old food containers, wine bottles and beer cans ... and worse. She spied a solid looking door under the stairs.
The way underground is through that door.
Again, there were several locks. There were also dark stains all over the door, the locks and the floor around it. The horrible smell was almost overwhelming. Placing The Stone against each of the locks in turn, they popped open one at a time. The door swung inwards, revealing steep, flimsy steps down into the darkness. Emily flicked the light switch just inside the door, but nothing happened.
That is probably for the best, as these girls have not seen light for many weeks and it may damage their vision. Be careful with your illuminating device or you may blind them.
Emily put The Stone securely back into the pocket of her jeans and shined the flashlight carefully down the stairs. Its feeble glimmer could hardly penetrate the gloom. She started to descend, but slipped badly on something wet on the second stair. As her legs flew out from under her, she grabbed for anything to stop her fall. The flashlight flew out of her hand, sailing down into the basement, plunging everything into darkness as it broke apart on the hard floor.
Emily came down hard on her leg, crying out both in pain and from the frustration of losing the flashlight. She sat in the blackness, feeling sorry for herself as the wetness from the stairs seeped into her clothes and the horrific smell assaulted her senses.
Emily. Take me in your hand. NOW!
She grimaced in pain as she leaned to one side and slid her gooey hand in to her pants pocket and grasped The Stone.
You are not seriously hurt. I will deal with your condition.
Immediately, Emily felt better as her pain vanished and she was filled with confidence. Even the smell subsided a bit.
[Wow! That feels great!]
Close your eyes.
She did as she was told, knowing what would happen. She was ready this time. When she opened them, she could see in the dark, like a cat! Everything was glowing and green, like on TV. She looked down at her hands.
You are covered in blood, but it is not your own.
Emily suddenly lost some of her confidence and almost lost what was left in her stomach.
Emily! You must be strong now.
Keep going down the stairs.
She got up to her feet again and carefully kept going down the stairway, one step at a time. When she finally reached the bottom, she looked around. At first she could see nothing apart from a big empty basement.
On the opposite wall, there appeared to be a big black spot. It became clear that was actually a big hole dug into the wall and driven deep into the soil and rock. Emily noticed six bright sparks like stars in the blackness. Suddenly, she realized that these were the eyes of the three girls, reflecting off their retinas like animals caught in the headlamps. They stared in her direction, not quite sure who or what they were looking at.
Emily spoke out loud for the first time, “Please. Don’t be scared. We are here to help you.” The sparks converged as the three girls scurried together in fright.
“No, wait, I’m not going to hurt you,” she tried to sound reassuring.
There was a big wall of iron bars over the hole, like the old jails in cowboy movies. It was locked along one side with padlocks and must be swung out like a door.
[That must weigh a ton! I don’t know if I can shift it.]
The man has returned. He has discovered the open locks on the front door.
For such a small man, he made a lot of noise clomping across the floor to the door at the top of the stairs. A light came on in the house and spilled down the stairs. The three girls squeaked and ran around in the rough-hewn cave like frightened mice.
“Who’s down there?” The voice was hollow, with no emotion and nothing to lose. “You are going to die for this. Real slow.” He started down the stairs. Emily felt about ready to vomit again with fear.
Do exactly what I tell you. Take me out of your pocket. Hold me in your left hand straight above your head. Open your right hand out in front of you and when I tell you, point directly at his face with your index finger.
Your pointing finger!
She took The Stone in her left hand, held it above her head and opened her right hand in front of her. She immediately felt energy begin to flow into her from all around. The man reached the bottom of the stairs. Emily could see he had a very long knife in his hand. He could also see her hand in front of her in the dim light spilling from the door above. He sniggered at this lame attempt at defence.
There was a crackling above Emily’s head as energy seemed to be flowing from the very walls of the basement into The Stone. The man changed the knife to his other hand and came closer.
Point your finger NOW!
Emily brought her open hand into a fist and pointed her index finger directly at the man’s face, now only a few feet away. The energy in her body focused along her right arm and shot out of her finger in a thin beam of bright blue light. It hit the man in the middle of his forehead, enveloping his entire body in blue light. With several severe spasms, the man dropped the knife and collapsed as if every bone in his body had dissolved. Emily lowered her other hand. The girls behind her were still whimpering, not sure exactly what had happened.
[Wow! That was amazing!]
Touch me against the metal pipe on the far wall.
Emily stepped around the body of the man and went to the tarnished green copper pipe running up the wall. She held The Stone against the pipe for a few moments.
That is sufficient. I have summoned the police. Now open the locks on the bars.
The sergeant was driving the patrol car now while the female officer stared out the passenger window. There were still two hours to go in this shift and it never seemed to go very fast. Just then the police radio beeped and came to life. The digital display also lit up. The voice of a refined old English gentleman came out of the speakers.
“Please reverse your direction and travel 1.3 kilometers and await further instructions. This is an emergency. Four children are in danger from a man who kills. You must not hesitate.”
The digital display showed a glowing route line from their current location, heading in the opposite direction. “What the hell?” exclaimed the sergeant, picking up the microphone. “Base, this is 24. Repeat that last message, over.”
“Sorry, 24. It’s not us,” came the response. “We heard it, too. Maybe you’d better do what it says, over.”
“Roger that. 24 out.” said the sergeant. He replaced the mic, slammed the car into low gear and did a rubber-burning 180-degree turn. “Anything to liven up this shift.”
“At 1.3 kilometers, turn left and travel 2.7 kilometers. All of the traffic lights will be green for your passage.”
“Whatever you say,” said the bemused sergeant. He reversed and threw the police vehicle into another perfect bootlegger’s turn in the empty boulevard and headed off down the road as all traffic lights turned green before him.
O-1 picked up the receiver beside her bed and switched on the lamp. The senior officer on watch immediately made his report, “Ma’am, the increased number of sensors we placed throughout the target city have just gone ballistic. We’ve picked up numerous triggers throughout the Law Enforcement and Transport networks. ABACUS gives this an 82% probability that it could be the precursor to an attack, or at least the consolidation of a foothold on Earth.”
O-1 rubbed the sleep from here eyes, “I’ll be up there in ten. Call in the rest of the team.”
Emily had removed the locks from the bars and was straining to open the grille. “I just don’t think I have the strength. Can you girls help me?” she asked, but they just looked at her in fear. Their eyes then looked beyond her and grew wide, along with their mouths as they prepared to scream, because behind Emily, the man was rising up off the floor. She turned to follow their gaze and joined them in a quartet of piercing screams. The man covered his ears as if the screams were hurting him.
Please, Emily, STOP! It’s me! I am animating the body to help you!
[What? Are you kidding?] Emily stopped screaming, but the girls carried on wailing.
Yes, I mean no, I am not kidding. And with my heightened senses while in this body, the screams are causing me tremendous discomfort!
Emily turned and commanded the girls to shut up. Like a bizarre puppet, the man came beside Emily and together they dragged the grille open. The girls continued to cower in the back of the cave, even though their cell was now wide open. The man’s body turned like a malfunctioning robot and collapsed again in the corner.
[Is he dead?]
No, Emily, but he will remain in this state until he is in custody.
“It is the house down at the end of this street on the left. Please call in the address to summon an ambulance for three of the children and a van to take the killer into custody.”
The patrol car skidded to a halt in front of the house. The sergeant was out of the car immediately, telling the female officer, “Call it in, Janet. Last house in Velick Close. Make sure they got that message.”
“Right, Sergeant,” called the officer to the fast-disappearing policeman as she picked up the mic, “Base? 24.”
The Sergeant was up the three front steps and onto the porch in one stride. He had the door open with a swift kick and only then paused after the fact to call out, “Open up, police!” His face scrunched up when he got a nose full of the smell and he had to stop and gag. The light was on in the lounge and he headed for the yawning door under the stairs.
Even with a handkerchief over his mouth and nose, the smell got to be too much for him and he lost his doughnuts and coffee at the top of the stairs. The female office was then beside him, gun drawn and covering his back. He looked at her apologetically.
“Don’t worry about it, Sergeant. It gets the best of us. I grew up on a farm, so not much bothers me,” she said, sympathetically.
They both had guns drawn and flashlights held away from them as they slowly entered the door to the basement.
“Police!” they both called at once. A tiny girl’s voice called back, “It’s OK. We’re down here. He can’t hurt you.”
As the two police descended the stairs, the girl’s voice called out again, “Please be careful with the flashlights. These girls haven’t been outside for a long time and the light may hurt their eyes.” They held their flashlights downwards as they carefully took each step. At the bottom, they spotted the collapsed body. The female officer felt for a pulse on his neck and nodded. “He is the killer,” said the tiny voice again.
Slowly, the two officers brought their flashlights up. What they saw was both horrific and gentle at the same time.
In the cave hollowed out in the basement wall sat a young girl with a calm and determined stare. Clinging to her like baby possums were three stick-thin, half-naked girls, shielding their eyes from the light as well as the evil they had witnessed. In the distance, the sound of approaching sirens could be heard, followed soon after by many pairs of heavy boots on the floor above.
“Cuff him,” said the sergeant. “I think I’d better get the psych people down here first and keep everyone else out for a bit.” He turned to Emily, “Will you be OK with them for a minute? They seem to need you right now.”
“We’ll be fine, sir. Do what you think is best,” she replied. The Sergeant went upstairs. The female officer had rolled the unconscious killer onto his stomach and put handcuffs on him.
She then turned to Emily and had tears in her eyes, “Are you one of his…?” she started to ask, not quite able to find the right words. “No,” says Emily. “I just got here a little while ago myself.”
[Thank you for again doing a good thing.]
Together we have done a good thing.
[You really creeped me out when you made that body stand up.]
Yes, I can imagine that would be quite unsettling.
[This whole thing has been quite unsettling.]
Emily’s mother and father were shown into the interview room at the police station where she was waiting, having a cup of tea. They both immediately started crying and hugging and kissing her, all the while talking at a mile a minute.
“When we went to get you up and you weren’t there and we were just about to ring the police when they rang us and said you were safe and it was all over the news about a serial killer and dead children and a brave young girl who saved three girls and why did you get up in the middle of the night and go looking for a serial killer? …”
Finally, they stopped talking and just hugged.
“It’s no big deal. I just went out for a walk and heard these little girls crying,” Emily tried to sound casual, making sure she told the same story she told the police. “I … uh … got some old guy with a police radio thing to call for help and then went in to get them. The killer guy must have fallen down the stairs.”
Her Dad shook his head, “The Sergeant says the killer didn’t have a mark on him, they can’t find any old man with the radio who can also hack into a secure network, or someone who picked at least seven locks and lifted a two hundred pound iron grille by themselves.”
“I can’t do all those things,” protested Emily. “I’m just a 12 year-old kid!” [With a very special friend.]
[I just hope life won’t be so exciting for a while.]
I concur, Emily. Much less exciting.
On the main screen in the complex deep within the mountain, the alert began to flash again and text began to form: 99.98% probability alien suspect is Emily Sutton, aged 12.
Further details of Emily’s identification and location began to flash on screens throughout The Organization.
Everything that was ever put on a computer about Emily Sutton began to appear; family, friends, relatives, bank accounts, holidays, library fines, even stuff Emily and her parents had completely forgotten or didn’t even know. Plans were put into motion to bring in the suspect and her family.
At the core of the ABACUS computer, a large gold sphere sat amongst a nest of gold cables and ruby laser relays. Within the gold sphere rested a large piece of solid diamond, the heart of the ABACUS computer network.
Even The ABACUS Stone was able to appreciate the irony of being used to track down yet another of its own kind. As it sent its human minions out to do its legwork, it gave off a glow of satisfaction. It could now attend to more serious matters closer to home.