CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and NINETY-EIGHT
“It says ‘Beware of the one who captures the souls for one who eats them whole’,” Gilfand translated without hesitation.
“What does that mean?” Jacob asked.
“Shadow and dark,” Gilfand said.
“Okay?” Jacob raised an eyebrow at him.
“Oh Jacob,” Gilfand said. “There are times when you are truly brilliant. This is not one of those times.”
Jacob grinned at him.
“Do not grin as you disappoint, child,” Gilfand said. “Think.”
“It brings up a confusion I have,” Yvonne said.
Abi nodded to her.
“You’ve indicated that there are two creatures we will have to fight,” Yvonne said.
“The soul collector,” Jacob said.
“Shadow,” Gilfand said.
“So the one who eats the souls must be the dark,” Yvonne said.
“This warning seems to switch that,” Jacob said. “The soul collector may be the dark while the one who eats them is merely the grey.”
Gilfand and Abi nodded as if that was possible.
“The question is then — what is grey?” Jacob asked.
“A mixture of white and dark?” Yvonne said.
“A reflection of light through dark,” Jacob said.
Instead of responding to Jacob, Abi and Gilfand turned, in unison, to look down the tunnel in which the river flowed.
“We are not alone,” Abi said in a whisper.
For a moment, the only sound was the stream. Jacob gave Abi a questioning look. She nodded her head toward where the cave transition into a tunnel.
Someone or something was leisurely walking in the gravel beside the creek. Someone or something was coming in their direction.
“We will find out soon enough,” Gilfand said in a low tone.
“What should we do?” Yvonne whispered.
Abi grabbed Yvonne’s arm. Together, they ran to where the cave wall next to the tunnel opening. Abi pulled out her spear at the same time she gestured for Yvonne to stand next to her. They pressed themselves against the wall to make themselves as flat as possible.
Jacob and Gilfand moved to the opposite side, where Jacob’s ancestor’s bones lay. They were mostly hidden from view as the person approached. To avoid the creature’s eyes, Jacob looked down into the pile of his ancestor’s bones. With his fairy-juice heightened senses, Jacob saw the glint of a Bowe knife blade in a rotten cover. He knelt down and pulled out a knife with a nine and a half inch clip point knife blade with a horn handle from his ancestor’s belt. Near the hilt, there was a “U” and then a star followed by an “S”. Jacob used his psychokinesis to quickly sharpen the knife.
Gilfand made a sound and Jacob looked up at him. Gilfand pointed to something sitting between the bones of the hand.
Jacob carefully extracted it from his ancestor’s hand. He held up a knife with a two and a half inch, blue diamond blade. He touched the blade. It was very sharp.
Gilfand touched Jacob’s shoulder. Gilfand was holding a leather cover for the Bowe knife and short hard leather blade shield for small diamond bladed knife. Jacob looked up at Gilfand to thank him, but Gilfand’s attention had returned to what was coming down the tunnel.
Jacob stood up, slipped the leather sleeve with the Bowe knife onto his belt, and stuck the shielded diamond bladed knife deep into his pocket. Gilfand looked at Jacob, and Jacob nodded that he was ready. Gilfand disappeared from where he was standing. While they couldn’t see him, they had the sense that he was flying down the tunnel. A few long minutes later, he reappeared at Jacob’s side.
“Did you see it?” Abi asked in a way that made no sound.
“It is as you expected,” Gilfand replied in the same manner.
“You have had many dealings with him,” Abi said. “Can you describe it for Jacob and Yvonne?”
“Of course,” Gilfand said. “Please nod if you can hear me. My sister speaks this way often, but I rarely have a chance anymore.”
Jacob nodded as did Yvonne.
“Good,” Gilfand said. “The creature that is coming down the tunnel toward us is a shape shifter He can transform his exterior appearance into the shape of anyone and anything. He can sound like anyone. Try to ignore what he looks like all together as it’s false. Yvonne, it’s likely that you will feel this false front and possibly see it. Jacob, you have met him when you were at the golden house. He may seem or feel familiar to you. More importantly, your energy will be familiar to him. You may not be able to cloak yourself from him.”
“Do you mean the other dog that tried to get into the cabin?” Jacob asked, attempting to communicate in the same manner.
“He is not truth or light,” Gilfand said. “He can only mimic. His one purpose is to capture souls.”
“To suspend them in misery?” Jacob asked. “Like the Sea of Amber?”
Across the mine shaft, Yvonne nodded.
“He has,” Gilfand said.
“Every indication is that this creature is feeding the souls to the God-like being that lives in this Fire of Hell,” Abi said. “The souls captured live out a kind of life in service the being in the Fire of Hell. The being in the Fire of Hell feeds on their soul until eventually they are consumed.”
“There are any number of creatures who live off the energy of souls,” Abi continued. “Human souls are the biggest and provide the most energy for the longest time. If Gilfand is correct in guessing what this is, he trades his capacity to capture souls for the creature’s protection.”
“We will have to fight them both,” Jacob said.
“Yvonne, your light may force him to appear as he is,” Gilfand said. “You may see through his disguise. We will all see his truth only as a kind of shadow, behind him.”
“Like a mirror,” Abi asked. “One image in front and the truth in back.”
“Exactly,” Gilfand said. “He won’t guess that you have this gift, Yvonne. It’s likely that he’ll ignore you all together. Only use your light when you absolutely have to.”
Yvonne nodded. As the creature drew closer, they could hear what sound of him whistling “Oh my darling Clementine.” Jacob caught the distinct scent of lilacs with a subtle smell decaying flesh under it.
Jacob touched Gilfand’s arm and then pointed to his noise. Gilfand nodded.
“It’s likely that you can smell him,” Gilfand said. “He is a fetid, rotting creature, long dead.”
“Kept alive by the pain of others,” Abi said. “No matter what happens, do not let him feel your pain. It will make him stronger.”
“He is dead?” Jacob asked.
“Well past dead,” Gilfand said. “And should be gone.”
The footsteps stopped just a foot from them at the entrance to the cave. The creature made a sound that seemed like “Huh.”
“Who is there?” a man’s voice asked. “I smell …”
They heard him sniffing the air. Jacob took out the Bowe knife. He adjusted the knife until he was able to see the creature in the reflection of the knife.
“A man, a woman, and …” The man’s voice stopped talking. “Could it be? My old friends have returned.”
“Do not listen to what he says about us or you,” Abi said in their minds. “He is a liar. Nothing he says is true.”
With her bow in her hands, Abi stepped out in to the middle of the mine shaft. She pulled an arrow back and shot it. The arrow went right through what appeared to be a solid man. The arrow’s passage created a foot wide hole in form of the man. A moment later, the man’s body had filled in.
“I am not your friend,” Abi said.
“Mother of all,” the creature said. “Why are you always so hostile?”
“You are an aberration,” Abi said. More for Yvonne and Jacob than for the man, Abi continued, “There is death. There is life.”
“And then there is me,” the creature said. “The Universe is a wide place filled with all kinds of creatures.”
“Not this universe,” Abi said. “There is no space for you — even among that which is interacts with the dark.”
The creature did not respond for such a long time that Jacob was tempted to lean his head out to look at the thing. The creature laughed.
“Perhaps you are right,” the creature said. “And yet, I have lingered here.”
“How did you wind up here?” Abi asked.
“On this planet?” the creature asked. By his tone, he was clearly chiding Abi in an attempt to make her angry.
“In this mine,” Abi said.
“I made an agreement with a man,” the creature said. “It was a fair deal. I’d say a good deal even. But he turned his back on me. Even after I kept my end of the bargain.”
“Human beings cannot bargain with their souls,” Abi said.
“Sure they can,” the creature said. “It simply brings about their demise.”
Abi shot another arrow through the creature. This time, Jacob caught a glimpse of a snail like creature with a thick body that moved not in steps but across the ground. The snail was too upright to be a slug and too big to be an actual snail. This moving, breathing blob was standing beside the creek. When the creature spoke, the snail’s mouth moved.
This man-shaped creature was some kind of a projection from this slug-like thing.
Jacob vaguely wondered if the blob was sensitive to its environment. Send it violence, it became violent. Send it love, it became loving.
“No,” Gilfand said, answering Jacob’s question inside Jacob’s mind. “You are asking this because he’s already working on you. He’s a villain — plain and simple. Send him love — he’ll capture your love and you. Send him hate — the outcome will be the same. Its only sensitivity is to its own needs and desires.”
“You make me sound so evil,” the creature said out loud. “I am not evil. I am no devil. I am merely a creature of God, no different than you.”
“I don’t capture other people’s souls,” Jacob said. Sheathing the knife, he stepped away from the wall to the center of the mine shaft. He stepped forward until he was standing slightly behind Abi and to her right. “I am different than you.”
Standing in front of the creature, Jacob could see the man-shape directly for the first time. He was moderately tall, wore a white short sleeved button up shirt and khaki pants. His hair was white and thinning. He wore a swoop of hair over the top of his head. He wore bent, metal-framed glasses straight out of the 1970s.The creature looked like a harmless computer repairman or possibly a grocer. The creature laughed.
“Look at that,” the creature said. “You’ve found yourself a Marlowe. A male even. However did you survive?”
“I’m tough,” Jacob said.
“He’s also put the queen back together,” Abi said. “There is no longer a curse.”
“Imagine that,” the creature said. “The world will soon be swarming with Marlowes.”
“There are already four of us,” Jacob said. “There’s not a thing you can do about that.”
The creature grinned.
“The man was defiant too. He’s been dead a long, long time,” the creature said. He lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “He died a painful death, and I am still here. What does that tell you?”
“That you are not long for this world,” Jacob said. “I have reunited Queen Fand, helped to drain the Sea of Amber, and even participated in the destruction of the last breeding pair of evil serpents. I have no doubt that I will destroy you. I am the right heir.”
The creature grinned at Jacob.
“He was cocky, too,” the creature said. In a mimic of someone’s voice, he said, “I di-n’t survive da war betweens them states to see my endin’ at the hands of the likes of you.”
“He died from his broken back,” Abi said. “Looks like he was right.”
The creature sniffed at her words.
“Look at him,” the creature said. “I am still standing. He is long gone.”
“Of this I know is true,” Gilfand’s voice boomed in the cave, “it matters not how long you live, but rather what you do while you are alive. What have you done with your long life, soul stealer?”
“And what have you done with yours, father?” the creature asked.
“I am not your father,” Gilfand said. “You crawled out of the slime by your own accord. Always wanting to be human, but barely achieving a reflection of human beauty, fallibility, and sheer perfection.”
“You do realize that no matter how many souls you steal, the creature in the Fire of Hell is never, ever going to make you human,” Jacob said, setting his voice for absolute certainty.
Enraged, the creature rushed toward them.
“Yvonne,” Abi said softly. “It is time.”
Yvonne stepped in front of Abi to stand in the opening of the tunnel. The light from inside her grew quickly until she shone as bright as a phosphorescent light. The creature squealed in horror. He held his arm over his eyes to avoid the light, but her light was too bright.
The visage of a human man faded in the light leaving a squealing, screaming slug-like creature. The creature spun in place and zipped down the tunnel. Without thinking, Yvonne took off after him down the tunnel. Her footsteps made a splashing sound as she ran in the creek.
“Yvonne!” Abi yelled. “No!”
Gilfand moved with lightning speed to get between Yvonne and the creature. Abi and Jacob took off. Jacob ran as fast as he could, but Abi sprinted past him. Somewhere up ahead, he heard Gilfand tackle the creature. Nearing, he saw Abi grab Yvonne and wrap her body around her. They stood together in the water. The creature knocked Gilfand off of him.
The creature sent out some kind of energetic hook. It looked the Jacob like a nearly transparent thread of a fishing line made of energy. Abi and Yvonne ducked to avoid it.
“Jacob!” Abi screamed.
Jacob jumped. Still coming toward him, the thread rose. He lowered himself. The thread followed his motion.
This thread was coming for him.
He dropped onto his belly in the warm stream. The thread flew past him. He held his breath for a long moment before he heard the thread move over him in its return trip to its master. He lifted his head out of the water with a large gasp.
“I’m okay,” he said. “You?”
“We’re okay,” Abi said.
“Yes,” Gilfand said. “He has retreated further into down the tunnel.”
“Come to us, Jacob,” Abi said.
Jacob got up. Wet head to toe, he sloshed as he jogged to where Abi and Yvonne were standing. Gilfand was standing further down the tunnel. Abi and Gilfand were deep in conversation in another language. Yvonne gave Jacob a firm hug.
“You are so brave!” Jacob said.
“Impulsive,” Yvonne said.
Abi turned her head to nod. Yvonne raised her eyebrows in a kind of “See” gesture to Jacob. He smiled.
“I should have waited,” Yvonne said.
“You did what you thought was right,” Jacob said. “You are here — by request, by mistake, or by simple divine intervention. You have to trust that everything you do is supposed to be a part of this adventure.
“Including the missteps?” Yvonne asked.
“Especially the missteps,” Jacob said. “That’s all anyone can do in these circumstances.”
Yvonne gave him a warm smile. He nodded to her. Touching her arm, he moved around her to Abi and Gilfand. They glanced at him, but did not break their conversation.
“You do know that we don’t understand you,” Jacob said.
“That’s the point of speaking in Doric,” Gilfand said.
“You were speaking in Dork?” Jacob asked, grinning.
“Funny,” Gilfand said.
“Doric is a dialect of Ancient Greek,” Abi said. “Spoken mostly to Macedonians.”
“Good to know,” Jacob said, still grinning.
“We are allowed to speak to each other, child,” Gilfand said.
Abi grinned at Gilfand, and he shrugged.
“We were being rude,” Gilfand said. “We are told that a lot. When we get together, we sometimes wish to speak to each other exclusively. We spent a many millennia speaking only to each other. It’s frustrating to me that now that human’s exist they wish to be included in every conversation.”
“It’s okay,” Jacob said. “I know other twins.”
Abi looked at Jacob for a moment before she laughed. She said something to Gilfand and he had to hide a grin.
“I’m wondering if you came up with a plan,” Jacob said.
“We have no plan,” Abi said.
“We were discussing what we know of this creature,” Gilfand said.
“Is he afraid of light or injured by it?” Jacob asked.
“This was a point of contention,” Gilfand said. “Abi believes he is merely afraid. I thought I caught his skin burn in Yvonne’s light.”
“We know that he was forced underground during a supernovae event,” Abi said.
Jacob scowled at them and walked away. He bent to the stream and took a handful of water before turning to look at Gilfand.
“Supernovae?” Yvonne asked. “So he might be able to leave the mine now, but he could not then.”
“That’s correct,” Abi said.
“Jacob?” Yvonne asked.
“That thread?” Jacob pointed back to the place where he had stood. “The stream seemed to protect me from it and, more to the point, from him. I wondered what might be in that stream.”
“He never went in the stream,” Yvonne said and Abi nodded.
Jacob looked at Gilfand.
“Is there boron in this stream?” Jacob asked.
“Boron? The mineral?” Gilfand walked to the stream and took another sip. “Yes, in fact, there is boron in this stream. Why do you ask?”
“The mining people who have contacted Val and me?” Jacob asked. “They said there was a higher percentage of boron in this mountain than almost anywhere in the world.”
“How does that relate to this?” Gilfand asked impatiently.
“The mining people said that boron is almost exclusively from cosmic ray spallation and supernovae events,” Jacob said. “They said that the last supernovae near the earth was around five million years ago and likely in this area of the world.”
No one said anything so Jacob continued.
“When I took Jill’s ring to the jeweler to get it fit, you know, before I gave it to her,” Jacob said, “the jeweler was excited to see a Colorado blue diamond. At first, he didn’t believe me. When he saw it with his own eyes, he started babbling information. He talked the entire time I was there.”
“There is a point?” Gilfand asked with uncharacteristic good nature.
“Blue diamonds get their color from a type of boron in the crystal,” Jacob said. “As you know, my ancestor had one in his hand. A knife.”
Jacob took out the knife to show it to everyone.
“He was able to keep this creature at bay even with a broken back and broken legs,” Jacob said.
No one said anything for a moment.
“Boron?” Abi asked.
“Boron is not dangerous to most creatures. Human’s excrete it,” Jacob said.
“It has never affected us,” Abi said with a shrug.
“You’re thinking you will cut him with this knife?” Gilfand asked. “I don’t wish you to get that close to him. He is treacherous. Evil. He will capture your soul and then …”
Grinning, Jacob tapped his temple.
“Nah,” Jacob said. “I thought and used my brilliance to create a plan.”
“You think this plan will work?” Gilfand asked.
“It just might,” Jacob said with a grin.
Yvonne looked at Abi and they both started to laugh.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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