God’s Light Monastery, California
The Diablo mountain range in the California Coast, along the pacific coast located in the San Francisco Bay area held the clandestine God’s Light compound. There were four God’s Light compounds held secret to the public at large; the Diablo God’s Light compound in California the second biggest in the ministry. High up in the mountains sat the sanctuary a dug-in, gigantic circle in the ground. The rolling hills concealed a village and cathedral with vast boulders and majestic redwood trees. Once in a while the clouds in the sky expose bright rays of sunlight producing a blinding shimmering reflection in the huge eye, which is the Gods Light symbol, high above the cathedral.
God’s Light, still alive and well throughout the centuries, converted to Christianity two thousand years ago but they had their origins in Samarian lore. The star meant for the praise of the God, Anatu, and head of the Sumerian pantheon. The star looked so much like an omniscient eye that it made it easy to assimilate with almost any religion. Founded to exterminate the supernatural creatures which were considered a threat to all mankind, but as technology progressed they shifted to the study and research aspect as well.
The sanctuary looked like a handmade menagerie. A makeshift habitat of sorts, a twenty-foot wall encircled the outskirts of the dug-in town with wooden cottages encircling the compound. Like the Quakers or the Amish time did not exist with the inhabitants isolated from civilization. The inhabitants of the compound go about their day normally without modern day conveniences. There were no televisions, telephones, radios, cars, or even microwaves in the dwellings. Like a spoke wheel seven circular cobbled streets intersected four more streets which lead to the center of town and a beautiful Gothic cathedral which was shipped to America from Europe brick by brick. All streets widened to meet at the base of the Cathedral.
A small infirmary in case of emergency, a three-part library/ apothecary/general store and even a bar graced the outskirts of this quaint city. The laws and rules of the country did not apply inside the tall walls. Simple villagers worked in the shadows of the striking Cathedral, a place for worship and prayer, and each and every one of them employed by God’s Light. The Cathedral has concealed, elaborate and high-tech security measures which must be circumvented before the employees are allowed entrance underground. Diablo Mountain provided the perfect place to dig underground in confidence and secrecy. Sprawling and intricate corridors led to the secret activities which were held down below.
Families employed by the God’s Light every Wednesday and Sunday came to pray within the Cathedral. Long, oak, cushioned pews graced the sprawling room. Fourteen pews split in two rows to accommodate a red carpeted aisle leading up to the altar. The Altar of Christ stood back and center on the wall and held a concealed corridor leading to an elevator. The trap door was the only way to get in or out of the massive complex. It would be sacrilege if innocent parishioners found out that instead of their own Christian God’s eye the massive and elegant eye bolted into the back of the altar had originally been the eye of Anatu, watching the masses.
The only way in or out of the town without a hazardous trek down the mountain, a monthly helicopter that dropped off food and supplies, medical and mundane. The God’s Light had been well supplied a week ago yet the sound of helicopter blades whirled early for an extraordinary occupant. Below the helicopter a small trailer, like a ridiculously oversized dog carrier complete with air holes along the sides, hovered, suspended in the air. Fortified chains kept the trailer level just above the ground.
“Chopper came early.” Matt, a scientist for four years with the God’s Light, commented to James, an advisor and also an employee.
“I’m so excited.” James locked his knee on his weak left leg, braced his good right leg and wrapped his right arm around Matt’s shoulder for added stability, “Thank you, um, um, uh, uh, Matt. I heard this lycanthrope was um, uh, was captured before the time of Christ. She has survived as long as um, um, um Lucem Dei has uh, existed.”
James’ heart raced a mile a minute just thinking about glimpsing the legend in the flesh. He had a genetic malformation which had burst in his head many years ago, which left him paralyzed on his left side. A good long time had passed before James could function almost normally. But he still struggled to find and say the words in his injured brain.
“No problem man.” Matt hit James playfully on his back hard enough to knock his weak foot and knee off balance, prompting James to clutch his cane tightly for stability.
They both were garbed in white lab coats flowing down to their ankles. Shiny ID badges complete with their photos were clipped to the pockets on their chests. James was level 3 and Matt level 4, the numbers corresponding to the levels in the complex. Friends, they were inseparable since they met four years ago. Similar religious beliefs set them apart from the rest of the God’s Light employees. The two stood out from the overbearing, radical, zealot Christians that made up most of the employees here.
The Cathedral’s Iron gates fit for a titan begrudgingly groaned open. Byron Atkins, the leader of the North American God’s Light chapter, hobbled out. He carefully blotted the sweat off his brow with a handkerchief and began barking orders on his walkie-talkie. The deafening reverberation of the helicopter drew closer as if in response. Shadows were cast over his bald head and artificial grass began to blow. Byron shouted one more order then, signaling with his hand, the trailer started to be lowered.
“Watch out, James.” Matt warned, motioning with his hand.
James awkwardly stepped aside as the ground started to rumble. Pebbles sprang to life jumping around and shaking as the cobblestone street leading towards the church vibrated then gave way. Artificial lights shone from the increasing gap, spreading out until revealing an underground room with shadowy figures waiting for their orders below. Matt and Byron signaled the helicopter to adjust left or right as the trailer continued to carefully descend. James strained his neck to see just a glimpse of the sedated and immobilized anomaly.
In a flurry of commotion, employees wearing a mishmash of colorful religious robes came out of the Cathedral to give assistance to Byron and the hovering trailer. With the sun at its apex James could just make out the eyes of an animal before shadows claimed her again.
Matt knew exactly what James was wondering and yelled to be heard over the noise, “From what we deduced her name is So-Sata or So-seti or something like that.”
Aticus had been wrong for thousands and thousands of years. He thought his grandmother was dead. Instead, a much crueler fate had come upon So-seti, captured by God’s Light for interrogation and torture until her mind was on the brink of madness and collapse.
All eyes were on the helicopter and the trailer-like container as it descended through the slim hollow in the earth. The whoosh of hydraulics began as a ten-ton jack lifted a platform into the air until it met the rust covered trailer. An annoying noise, not unlike fingernails running up the length of a chalkboard, made the assistants cringe.
“I heard she spoke some sort of wild, lupine language full of yaps, snarls and growls and a broken Samaria dialect of sorts. I don’t know the specifics or even why she survived as long as she did or what they are keeping her for, but I’m really excited for this opportunity.” Matt continued, unconsciously ducking down from the helicopter’s whirling blades.
Fumbling around the assistants and careful not to trip on the trailer’s narrow gap, James looked closer at the dozen or so dinner plate sized holes in the wall of the container. Although heavily, almost lethally sedated, So-seti’s eyes were open and taking in all of her surroundings like a waiting viper. Her wrinkled nose crinkled up, drawing in the entire area’s aromas until she zeroed in on James watching her through one of the large holes. Their eyes locked for what felt like an eternity. So-seti’s red glowing eyes did not dim with time but sharpened like a laser beam on James’ eyes. He felt like all of his life, all of his study of myths, all of his dedication to Lucem Dei, despite obvious mental and physical disabilities, religiously throughout the years had finally come to a head. With a lesser security clearance, he had never seen a real-life lycanthrope here in flesh and blood, only in his head as he was stuck in libraries researching the myth.
Just her brilliant eyes, shadowy wrinkled visage and fangs could be seen, prompting James to try to get a closer look at her before the trailer lowered all the way, but in a fierce betrayal his knee suddenly gave out. James grabbed at his cane to steady himself. The cane betrayed him as well and slipped across the loose gravel.
“Watch it buddy!” James suddenly felt Matt’s strong, steady hand on his shoulder pulling him back.
“Thank you. I, uh, guess, um, uh, excitement came over me, I guess, uh…” James said as his stomach sank in embarrassment.
His eyes reflexively looked over at Matt while he apologized. Momentarily distracted, James could only see the top of the storage unit now as it descended safely beneath the Earth. Matt gently nudged James’ shoulder persuading him to step back. Byron and two others began to detach the helicopter’s chains from the trailer.
“I believe they’re keeping her alone in level 5.” Matt offered confidently, shifting his full six foot six frame while the chains swung loose. The helicopter hovered up slowly then out of sight. “We busted our ass to get the room just like her old one so she doesn’t freak out.”
Red-faced and sweating Byron caught his breath before again barking instructions in his walkie-talkie for the unseen staff down below. Oblivious of Matt and James, Byron bullied between their shoulders like a football player before climbing the steps of the Cathedral and disappearing into the broad entryway.
“You know, James, this may squash the debate we were having about the origins!” Matt grinned, exposing deep dimples and unusually pearl white and perfect teeth. “Maybe once and for all we can settle our bet.”
“Which one um, um of them?” James smirked, “We have so many uh, um, bets.” James put his arm around Matt while the separated faux cobble street finally united.
Matt was reminded of the many nights in the park when work was done. Matt would meet James to play chess to blow off some steam. They would vent many problems and come up with solutions to others while they laughed and talked the night away. Many nights James would beat him, game after game, leaving him awestruck as pity came over him thinking of James’ lot in life.
Matt had remarkably striking bone structure and bright blue eyes that hadn’t changed through eight years of mind numbing study for his doctorate. All throughout his career his colleagues second-guessed and laughed at him because of his youthful, adolescent appearance. With his curly hair, long ears that stuck out, lanky length, and weighing onehundred and ten pounds soaking wet, most of the others labeled him a freak. Although brilliantly gifted in the mind, Matt had many avenues closed to him, day after day, until he happened upon God’s Light.
“Dr. Matthew LaFallette, please come to the office.” The walkietalkie squawked, “Dr. LaFallette, come to the office.”
Matt shrugged begrudgingly and rolled his eyes. Matt hated the underground area more after he had been on the mountainside and taken in the scenery, but he had to earn his paycheck. In unison Matt and James silently strolled over to the sidewalk, stopping only at the Cathedral steps. Helping James up the steps, Matt pulled the doors open and walked inside the church.
They saw a guard who sat comfortably, legs crossed while quietly reading beside the entrance, there to guard the elevator. The red iron doors closed behind them with the immediate echoes of their footfalls reverberating in the massive dome of the Cathedral.
After the two men walked in the guard flipped a switch, momentarily blinding them. Strobe lights alternating slow at first then faster and faster startled James. He squinted, struggled to walk, staggering and eventually tripping on his numb left foot. He felt that Halo effect that he had gotten used to since his stroke now coming over him.
“Hey buddy, are you all right?” Matt directed the question at James but he was looking at the security guard accusingly.
Ire in his voice, Matt scolded the innocent security guard, “Turn off the damn strobe lights! James had a stroke and this is going to give him a seizure!”
The strobe lights, which managed to involuntarily transform any lycanthrope in disguise, threatened to give James a full on grand mal seizure. Matt switched off the strobe lights before the guard had a chance to respond, leaving the parishioner dumbstruck. The robed guard took one look at James’ limp left arm and a well-used wooden cane. The guard flinched slightly looking at the black paint flaked off the cane where his hands had gripped it for stability over many years.
“Hey, I’m sorry. I’m just doing my job.” He said in a monotone voice, quickly sitting down in his seat again, “are you okay?”
“Um, uh, yes I, um, um, guess so.” James stuttered, gathering his wits together and taking a long deep breath before he was sure the threat of a seizure had passed.
“New guy didn’t know you’re disabled.” Matt said, once more giving a glaring eye to the guard who wasn’t paying attention to the two men, burying himself in his book once more.
Smacking James on his back teasingly he made off to the altar. Tones on a hidden security touchpad sounded almost melodiously as Matt punched in the various numbers that elevated the altar and opened the hidden doors. No floor controls to speak of, just two laser palm controls which were designed to fish out any lycanthrope that successfully snuck past the strobe lights and the sensitive sentinel.
Matt pressed his palms on the glass. A flash of light, a brief pause while the laser ensuring Matt’s fingertips were properly spaced out and not all the same length then the elevator doors closed. The elevator made its way down into the depths of the god’s light compound. The jerks and vibrations made James involuntarily grip the rail with his good hand any drastic movement made his head spin. The elevator stopped and James opened his eyes. The doors slid open with well-oiled efficiency.
“Back to the salt mines.” Matt said sarcastically, hesitating for just a moment before stepping off the elevator.
“Yeah,” James laughed, shaking his head, before he stepped off the elevator too.
The elevator doors opened into a sophisticated fully equipped scientific research facility. Security cameras were half-concealed in the ceiling in four corners to diligently watch for any suspicious activity. Lofty, clean, steel walls stretched and exaggerated each and every movement like a fun-house mirror. They were standing in a breathtaking and expansive underground foyer. For all their years working here, Matt and James could not get used to the God’s Light lobby and the unnerving silence or the sterile, metallic smell all around them. Even the receptionist, who registered the comings and goings through the one door to the hallway behind her, went about her day silently and blissfully oblivious to those around her, black ear buds piping music into her ears to keep her awake.
Once they registered with the receptionist the friends Split ways Matt went off to answer the boss’ call, and James made a B-line straight to where he knew he’d find the mysterious container in the middle of the foyer still on the hydraulic platform in the middle of the room. With Matt and several parishioners in a meeting, presumably a meeting for the new acquisition, and the receptionist off in her own little world, James was left alone to admire their new guest.
James couldn’t take his eyes off the container. He stared at it looking back at his own reflection, indefinitely lost in thought. He could see a large pink and white scar clearly visible in the break of his thick, unkempt brown hair that reminded him every day he had survived an aneurysm that could have ended his life. James’ features that of an intelligent man, with a high forehead, the lines deepening in thought and frustration. James still had a noticeable droopiness of his left eye and lip. However, the laziness of the left side of his face inhibited any wrinkles there may have been. The right side was a whole different story; wrinkles crisscrossed his eyes and lips like an interstate. His pulse raced in excitement but he did not know why.
James couldn’t help himself edging forward and staring at the porthole with his good hand touching the warm steel. Straining his eyes he gradually made out a thin silhouette, the silhouette of a woman. He had to get closer. James could see no movement. He thought about his younger days when he went to a carnival and he won the most colorful goldfish he had ever seen. He took the fish home, poured it into a bowl, and swore that if the fish survive the night he would get all the supplies the fish needed. The goldfish survived. Expensive tank, expensive medicines, expensive accessories were bought and brought home. Only to find the goldfish had died, its colorful belly floating at the top of the glass bowl. James could not stand it anymore. His stomach roiled. He found himself irrational and shaking as he reached for the locked handle as he thought about the precious werewolf and the dead goldfish.
“James! Step away from the cage!” Someone shouted, prompting James to step back awkwardly and look around.
Matt, Byron, and another scientist named Carson stepped out of a nearby hall. James wasn’t sure who had yelled the order, but he complied. Byron skipped down the steps with a set of keys secured by a chain on his belt and walked towards the container, his eyes gleaming like he had just spotted a huge present on Christmas morning.
James stepped back as Byron turned the key, a harsh grinding sound echoed throughout the hallway as the bolt slid open. James saw the light from the lobby illuminate a horrid head covered by sickly white hairs and a white sheet covering a skeletal body. Her arms were still strapped down to the cot. No movement could be seen. No movement even when Matt and Carson jostled the stretcher trying to get it out from the container and onto the marble floors.
He imagined his dead goldfish as the corpse-like creature rolled past him. Butterflies churned in his stomach. Whether the corpse reminded him of the brilliant colored dead goldfish of his youth or it justified and vindicated the obsession of his adolescent life he couldn’t decide. Her death now would be just like the goldfish and it was truly a tragedy for all his life’s work had only recently come in the flesh. Irrational compulsion took over him. He found himself pushing past Byron and right to the stretcher. Impulsively James checked her pulse for signs of life.
“James!” Byron exclaimed, moving quicker than his plump body alluded, roughly jerking James’s hand away, “get your hands off of her.”
Fresh and unfamiliar aromas, the sudden jarring of the stretcher, the uncomfortable tight restraints, and incredible hunger were just too much for So-seti to bear. She came out of her self-induced and beneficial coma, staring up at James, “Jaamessssssssss!” “Jamesssss!” So-seti spat.
Groggy, So-seti could only make out three shadowy figures moving around her, the chain at its limits her skeletal hand gripped Byron’s wrist, James’ heart skipped a beat, and he stood motionless, she is still alive! The other pseudoscientist turned parishioner inevitably rushed into action.
“Jamesss!” So-seti hissed quietly, her grip tightening as the scientist with his white coat madly looked for a sedative in a drawer inside the container.
“Get her off of me!” Wide-eyed and trembling, Byron looked around for assistance but found James unresponsive and staring at the monstrous wonder.
So-seti could see more clearly now, the sounds around her more distinctive and she zeroed in on James’ unique scent. Even in her stupor, strapped to the stretcher, flown in darkness and transported by helicopter an intriguing redolence hung in the air all around her, reminding her of something taken from her a long, long time ago and it encouraged her to strengthen her grip around Byron’s forearm.
A swoosh and Byron stumbled back, his arm freed. Carson had found a silver blade amongst the surgical equipment and had severed So-seti’s claw. So-seti’s decapitated arm flailing about, Byron flinched before remembering her neck securely strapped to the bed too.
A well-rehearsed emergency plan taking place, Carson pulled from his pocket a ten-gauge needle, the preloaded syringe emerging. Concentrated paralytic toxin made from puffer fish, Saxitoxin, in small doses designed for facelifts, this outrageous dose designed for paralyzing a legend.
The plunger descended until So-seti had been given the full dose. So-seti’s vision blurred as the toxin flooded through her system. She looks at her decapitated wrist as gravity succeeds in lowering her arm back onto the soft cot. Conversations, some hostile, seem to merge together, infuriating her as she tests her restraints but realizes her body had betrayed her.
“Carson, um, um, um if she wasn’t dead before um, um the medicine,” Yelling, James could not believe his eyes as he tried to reach for a frail So-seti, but Matt quietly obstructed James’ path urging him to be still. He could see the exposed shoulders and So-seti’s neck veins expanding, “That much uh, um, uh, Saxitoxin, with her um, um, um obvious health issues, uh, surely her heart will explode!”
“It will just paralyze her, calm down!” Carson argued, annoyed at James and the conversation he rolled his eyes. “It is the preloaded amount prescribed by the Vatican God’s Light.”
Carson removed the syringe and stepped back, happy with his quick actions and with So-seti, lying as fixed as a statue. Byron, still wide eyed, rubbing his wrist, was annoyed that he let himself be exposed to mortal danger. He prided himself in safety and calculated decisions. Matt gauged his boss’ behavior to judge his mood. The mishap did not intimidate him in the least. In fact, Matt watched as his boss crouched down and smiled as he picked up the severed claw-like hand.
“Kathy,” Carson calmly and quietly ordered, the receptionist Kathy perked up, closing her gaping mouth and taking the ear buds out of her ears, “go get a specimen bag for this and see if our guest’s room is ready yet.”
“Yes sir,” Without any hesitation Kathy dialed frantically the numbers that connected her downstairs.
She had said his name hadn’t she? And in English to boot! James’ head whirled, ignoring his associates to stare at her in mute wonder. Soseti’s eyes, swollen and glassy, were open; shrewdly taking in everything around her but her head remained still. His heart hurt when he saw the thin, almost transparent sheet that covered So-seti. He noted the circular stain of blood where her hand used to be. He noted her fragile physique with legs that abruptly ended at the knees. If So-seti had been captured a long time ago what horrible tortures she had probably had to endure, James thought. Uncontrolled tears welled up in his eyes and spilled down his flushed cheeks as he stared at her knees.
He looked back to her bony face, startling him when he realized Soseti’s eyes were now staring back at him. Her furrowed nose wrinkled, her nostrils flaring as she tried to take in all of James’ unusual but enticing scent.
Carson looked towards the C-shaped desk in the middle of the room as an unseen conversation unfolded between Kathy and her well used headpiece. Her bangs took flight with a huff of accomplishment and a swipe of her neatly manicured nails to her forehead and her hand fell back onto the arm of her chair.
“Byron…” A sudden pause and a catch her throat, “The room is ready.” Kathy said with professionalism trying to steady her voice, her wide eyes betraying her frayed nerves.
James turned back to So-seti, her striking eyes staring at him suddenly too much for him to take in all at once. He tried to instead focus on the dazzling white marble tiles beneath him, so clean and orderly, he thought. A surreal moment occurring as So-seti’s eyes burned into his brain. From this moment forward his life would never be the same.
So-seti whispered, windpipe straining for just one word, “Jaaamesss.”