One day I had to work late into the night. I was very tired, and I was not looking forward to the walk home, which was several miles. It was almost midnight when I left the office, and luckily I kept a flashlight in my desk for emergencies. I wouldn’t need the flashlight until I passed through the town proper, though, so I put it in my coat pocket.
As I got to the edge of downtown, I came up to the town cemetery. I heard a scream, which then was muffled into silence. At first, I was inclined to believe it was only a figment of my imagination, but even so, I felt more vulnerable every second. I thought about just ignoring it, but my conscience got the better of me, so I decided to go check it out.
As I passed through the gate, I heard another scream. My heart was captured by it, and I was drawn to it. I searched amid the tombstones for a while, thinking some unfortunate victim was trapped somewhere or in the clutches of some monster. Just when I had made up my mind to retrace my steps, two glowing eyes rose up to meet me. They were not fearsome, but coaxing. I hesitated, but then a large hand reached forward and grabbed me by the neck with a grip that was superhuman.
It dragged me back into the cemetery, where the streetlights were blocked by trees. I started to shake with fear at the thought of what this ghoul might do with me. I thought about the scream I had heard before, and if that was any example, I was in for it. He took me back to a big oak tree, where I saw something hideous. Dangling from the limbs of the tree were many thick ropes, and at the end of the ropes were men, women and children, all with grim faces. Their emaciated bodies were covered with cuts and bruises. Their feet were covered with blood, dripping as if freshly drawn.
As I feared, my fate was soon to be the same unless I could somehow escape. I tried swinging my body behind, kicking my feet and pounding on the ghoul’s hands with all my might, but to no avail. I was trapped, just like these other poor creatures, and soon I would be joining them as another decoration on this ghoul’s tree.
That’s when I remembered that I had a flashlight in my pocket. I decided anything was worth a try, so I reached down and grabbed it like a weapon. I shined it straight into the ghoul’s eyes, and he dropped me. I ran back to the gate as fast as I could. I don’t know if the ghoul followed me or not, because I never looked back. When I got to the gate, I ran through and kept running for a while, just to be on the safe side. Finally I looked back, and did not see anyone or anything behind me.
Thinking back now, I realize how stupid I was to enter that darkened cemetery. I should have run away as soon as I saw those glowing eyes, but oh, how they pierced my soul. I went straight to bed when I got home, and when I woke up, I thought back to what happened the night before, and I thought to myself, “Did I dream it, or was it true?” It was so unbelievable that I never told anyone until now as I write this entry in my journal. I know I won’t be walking into any cemeteries at night again, that’s for sure.
“Wow, just like that. I barely get in, then I’m waiting. At least I know what I’m waiting for. Before I was clueless and miserable. Now I have hope that all this mess in my head will get straightened out.”
“Well, I guess you better get back, huh?” Katie replied.
“Yeah, I guess so. I think I remember the way out.”
Stephen walked down the hallway, not paying any attention to the people practicing to the sides. He walked into the beginners practice area and, as he walked, he looked around at the colorful stripes, getting an inkling that next week, he would be trying to focus on some crazy frequency or something, even though he didn’t see how in the world that would relate to him.
He got his bike from where someone had thoughtfully taken it out of the enclosure and put it with other bikes to the side on a rack. Then he walked over to the enclosure and as soon as he stopped moving, just like before, the platform began to rise up to the surface.
When he got to the top he became a little nervous about whether he’d be seen, but then he remembered he was in a back alley, so he relaxed. Then he got on his bike and peddled home, deep in reflection.
When he got home, he put his bike back in the shed. His mom must have seen him through the window, because she opened the back door and yelled out, “So where have YOU been? ”
“I was at the park,” Stephen attempted.
“Doing what, for all day?” his mom said. “You’ve never been gone this long before without a good reason. I have half a mind to ground you for a week!”
“I didn’t do anything wrong, Mom!”
“We were worried sick! Okay, I was worried sick.
But your father was concerned when he came home, and he wants to speak to you–now!”
Stephen knew he was in for it now. He couldn’t be grounded for a week! He would miss his training at the center. His Dad would never understand. He would have to think fast.
Stephen walked into his Dad’s office and said, “Hi, Dad. Mom said you wanted to talk to me.”
“Yes, that’s right. Have a seat.”
Stephen plopped down on the couch on the opposite side of the room from his Dad, looking down at the floor.
“Look at me, Stephen.”
Stephen looked up at his Dad, still thinking of what to say.
His Dad said, “Stephen, your Mom was very worried about you today. Can you tell me what you were up to?”
Just then, Stephen got an idea.
“I met someone–A girl.”
“Oh, really?” His Dad’s face lit up with a smile.
They had been waiting for this day. Stephen had never expressed interest in girls. They hoped in a year or two, for sure, but now was great.
“So what’s her name? Is she pretty?”
Stephen realized he found a winner, and he decided to go with it.
“Her name is Katie, and, yes, she is kind of pretty.”
Stephen’s Dad smiled again. He said, “Katie, huh? That’s a nice name. And I bet she IS pretty. Call your mother in here.”
Stephen took two steps outside the office, and yelled, “MOM!”
His Mom was in the kitchen making dinner, but when she heard Stephen yell, knowing he was with his father and in trouble, she came running.
“What is it, Stephen?”
Stephen’s father spoke up,”Come in here, Lisa.
Stephen has met a girl. Her name is Katie, and she’s pretty!”
Stephen’s Mom was mildly impressed, but she did show a change of face. “That’s great,Stephen. I’m glad you met someone.
So, is it serious? When do we get to meet her?”
Stephen had to think fast again, something he was not very good at, or so he thought.
“Well, we want to see each other every week, at least. We don’t really have a plan yet, though.”
Stephen thought this was safe enough for now.
But he had underestimated his parents, and, more importantly, he had underestimated Katie.
Sensing an opportunity for an exit, Stephen said,
“I’m kind of tired. I think I’m going to go lay down.”
Stephen thought to himself that he was going to have a lot more thinking and explaining to do before this was over.
“And the biggest explanation would go to Katie.”
Katie was Stephen’s sponsor and teammate, nothing more. She was pretty, but that was beside the point. They both had a job to do, perhaps a very serious job, and they had to stay focused.
But enough of that. How was Stephen going to explain to Katie that he had insinuated that there was some sort of love interest between them and that his parents wanted her to come over for dinner?
The first thing that Stephen saw was Katie. She had a big smile on her face, and she ran up in front of several other people who appeared to be waiting to greet him. She took his hand and pulled him out of the opened enclosure/scanning device, then pulled him past everyone and into a rather large area that looked sort of like a school gym.
“This is the practice area. The colored lines on the floor are meant to help beginners focus on certain frequencies. You’ll learn stuff like that when you begin your training. C’mon, I’ll show you some more stuff.”
Katie kept hold of Stephen’s hand while she raced ahead. Stephen was just trying to keep up, but he was eager to see more. Once they crossed the practice area, they entered a hallway that branched off into several rooms on both sides which had a see-through door on each. Stephen could see that some of the rooms were occupied by one older man or woman and one younger boy or girl.
Katie pointed to the first room.
“The youth is Sam. He is practicing moving objects.”
Stephen looked for some sign of movement. It looked like Sam was staring at three blocks, one blue, one red, one yellow. All of a sudden, the blue block went flying across the room and into the wall. Sam jumped up and held his fist in the air while yelling, “Yeah!”
Then Katie took Stephen across the hall to look in a second room.
“This is Terrence,” Katie said. “He can see through things–sometimes. But that’s what he is practicing anyway. Kristina is his trainer.”
Stephen saw that Terrence sat on one side of a partition, Kristina on the other. Kristina would hold up a card with an object on it, but not so that Terrence could see, and then Terrence would hold up his own card. Kristina was talking to Terrence softly, so that Stephen and Katie could not hear her. Then, she held up a card with black circle on it. Terrence kept his eyes closed, but his body was relaxed. He finally held up a card, an anchor. Kristina said something, then Terrence sunk down in his chair.
Katie shouted through the door, “Don’t worry! You’ll get it!”
They continued down the hall to several doors that were black, no glass. Katie told Stephen,”This are the practice rooms for the more experienced members, some of whom are trainers.”
Stephen asked,”Why do they need to practice, and why can’t we watch?”
Katie smiled. “Well, everyone needs to practice sometimes, to hone their skills. The black door is not to keep us out, but to prevent distractions. Some of skills that the leaders work on are much more difficult, and a little privacy gives them some space to concentratrate better–at least that’s what they tell us. Personally I think they’re doing secret stuff in there! Secret even from us!”
Just then the voice from the enclosure spoke up behind them. “Don’t worry, Katie. There are no secrets here, you know that. However, there are experiments that go on in those rooms where skills are being tested occasionally for safety and even validity. Sometimes a fluke can lead to a new discovery, or nothing at all. But we rule nothing out until it’s been tested several times by several leaders.”
He then turned towards Stephen. “I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself earlier. Your sponsor was so eager to wisk you away on a trip of discovery.”
Katie blurted out,”I was just–”
“No big deal, Katie.” He smiled and gave a little chuckle. “As I was saying, my name is Phoebus, and I am the current master of ‘The Center’, as we call it for short. I do not live in an ‘ivory tower’ so to speak, and you can always approach me with questions, as long as I am not busy with another member. My office is down this hall at the end. If the door is closed, feel free to knock. And if any meetings are going on inside, there will be a sign p0sted on the door, so you know I am busy.
“Stephen, I have a personal question for you. Some of our members can sense the mental and emotional state of others. They have sensed a slight disturbance at your house. My question is, since you are so young, do you need to get back there? I’m assuming your parents do not know you are here, which is good, but certain precautions must be taken, especially by those who are young. We do not want to cause any problems with your parents. Otherwise, your time with us may be short-lived, indeed.”
“Stephen was disappointed, but he said,”I understand.”
“Your first training will begin in exactly a week. Come to the center at 10 a.m. and plan to stay for the day.”
With that, Phoebus walked down the hall towards his office.
Stephen asked Katie where the center was, and Katie replied, “It’s Downtown, sort of. Kind of on the edge of Downtown. It’s not far, really. You’ll see.”
Stephen nodded his understanding, and they got on their bikes. Katie was right. It took about fifteen minutes to where they stopped, although it said the name of some big hotel above the entrance.
Katie said,”We get off our bikes here, but we bring them with us around the back.”
Stephen played along, so they went down the alley on the side of the building. About halfway down, Katie did something that Stephen didn’t expect. For some reason, there were two water faucets right next to each other on the building about halfway down the alley. Katie stopped when they came to them, reached out to the one one the left, and gave a turn to the right, and just as quickly, a turn to the left. Stephen noticed that not a drop of water came out of that faucet.
“Okay, c’mon,” Katie said, and they kept walking.
When they got to the back of the building, Katie instructed Stephen to watch her, then do the same. Katie walked into the corner, opposite the building, and she lined up her bike with the edges of a metal platform. No sooner did she stop moving then the platform began to descend. This made Stephen a little nervous because he knew that once Katie was gone, he was on his own. He thought for a moment of asking her if he needed to go back and turn the faucet again, but just when he was about to ask, she was gone!
Stephen stood there for a few seconds, then decided he better move, so he got himself and his bike up on the platform, positioning himself as close to how Katie had done as he could, and, sure enough, as soon as he stopped moving, the platform moved down. When the platform sunk below the ground, Stephen heard a strange noise and noticed the sound of the motor for the platform had ceased. It lowered for several moments, then silently came to a stop. Stephen had been in the dark for the trip down, but now that he reached the bottom, bright lightscame on overhead. With the lights on, Stephen could tell that some type of enclosure had risen from the floor below. The enclosure was solid black, surrounding the platform completely on all sides, reaching about ten feet from the floor, and provided the bright lights that were making Stephen squint his eyes. He stood there under white lights for a minute, then the colors changed. There was red, blue, green and orange, interspersed by a long minute of darkness.
Stephen searched his mind for any clue he had for what was going on, but the experience was such a shock that his mind was a blank. The lights went back to white, and then a voice came on what Stephen figured must be an intercom. Stephen looked up in search of a speaker but couldn’t find one. Finally he paid attention to the voice itself.It was a calm voice, with a friendly manner. It was a male voice, and he knew Stephen’s name!
“Stephen, we apologize for the uncomfortable circumstance that you are in right now. Unfortunately, we must take precautions before we allow anyone to enter our building. The vessel you see around you serves two main purposes: to keep you safe, and to allow us to scan you for abilities that you may possess that are of interest to our organization. It is only upon discovering these abilities that we feel it is safe for you and for us to allow you to enter these doors. So, we need to come to terms. Katie has told us that you hear music and you get very complex ideas and solutions to complex problems. Is this all true?”
“Stephen said, “Yes, what Katie said is all true, but I can’t control it nor do I know of any way of triggering my abilities to work. It happens, just, anytime.”
“Well every now and then we do make an exception for a student with at least strong rumors of extraordinary abilities, a verbal consent and a willing sponsor. We have received back several commentsfrom various credible sources about your abilities, obviously far from developed or honed to any real power, but, nonetheless, still strong. Also, Katie has already volunteered to serve as a helper to you who will show you the ropes and be you teammate as you search your self, struggle to find the s0urce and direction of your powers, and eventually to shape those powers into something that you can use to help yourself, your teammates and the greater humanity. You must understand that our permission to allow you in our facility is contingent on your attitude, behavior, and, most importantly, respect for the center and those that come and go in it. And the first rule is: Do not tell anyone about the center without first having approval from the center. This is simply to protect those who come here and so that they will feel safe to continue to do so.
Stephen sensed it was his turn to speak. He said, “I promise to keep a good attitude, behaviour and respect for everyone in the center and for the center itself. And I promise to do my best to find the source of my abilities and cooperate with my sp0nsor and my teammates, whomever they are, in a proper manner that is appropriate to whatever rules the leaders of the center have set down for the good of all.
There was a brief silence, and then the door in the enclosure began to open…