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       Eldnium, p.16

           Enoch Pyle, Jr

  He must have fallen asleep again, because he was, for the second time, finding himself jolted awake by the sound of the door latch being flung, the squeal of its hinges echoing in the room.

  As promised, three men entered, and two of them pulled him from under the table and to his feet, one hand grabbing each arm. The man at the door appeared to be the same man from the cabin…the one with the red cape.

  The hand on his right arm gave a few soft squeezes, and Jackson knew that Isaac was there. He felt relieved until the man with the cape cocked his head to the side. Had he noticed the squeeze? Surely not, Jackson thought to himself. It was barely anything.

  A moment later, the caped man turned and started out the door, and the other two men dragged Jackson after him.

  He was led down a corridor much like what he pictured in his mind when he was first brought into the building. Brick walls. Fresh paint. Tiled floor. At the end of the hall, however, stood something he hadn’t imagined. A door painted fire engine red. And they were headed straight for it.

  As the caped man pushed the door open, Jackson braced his eyes for the sunlight, but was surprised to see that night had fallen. He had, obviously, been held captive in that cell for hours…possibly days. Instead of adjusting to the sun, his eyes had to adjust to the light of darkness.

  Torches. Torches everywhere.

  They lined the path ahead, which was another corridor, but this time walled with chain-link fencing. On the outside, street people stood, staring silently with bloodied mouths and bodies, torn clothes, blank expressions. Thousands of them, all standing and staring as Jackson was led safely by.

  And then he spotted Underwear Man, pickle-shaped mark and all, and he couldn’t believe his eyes. Underwear Man, alive and well. Not dead. He hadn’t killed him after all. He no longer knew which memory was correct: the one where he bled Underwear Man dry, or the one where he slipped harmlessly by.

  He was so distracted by this spectacle that he hardly noticed when the fencing opened into a much larger area, and dead ahead stood…

  The tower.

  It was a marvelous looking structure. At the top and all along the edges, it appeared to be nothing more than a simple radio tower, but within the structure, deep down at the base, it was filled with whirling gears and flashing lights and arcs of electricity bouncing from point to point. What it was and why they approached it made Jackson nervous.

  Option 3-5-9 for transmission, he remembered hearing.


  Jackson had a vision of being beamed somewhere…something he’d seen on numerous television shows. But surely that was just science fiction. It couldn’t be real, could it?

  And then he noticed something else. Clouds circling around the top of the tower. Dark clouds. Storm clouds. Flashes of lightning reaching out, striking the tower, causing the machinery within to whir faster, the energy within to pulse more severely, the reality of what was about to happen becoming more and more of a horrible, horrible nightmare.

  And then the caped man stopped. He turned. He looked right at Isaac, and he said, “You.”

  Immediately, the four of them were surrounded by two or three dozen members of The Control, and three of them approached Isaac and dragged him away, forcing him to his knees. He tried to resist, but the men simply grabbed his shoulders, and Isaac was forced to his belly, screaming in agony.

  The caped man turned again and continued leading the way toward the tower, the remaining soldier dragging Jackson by his left arm.

  Jackson felt a surge of fear. He looked back to Isaac, who was still in terrible pain, the men now tearing away his mask. Jackson could see blood running from Isaac’s eyes and mouth and ears. And this scared Jackson even more.

  He tried to struggle, but the man’s grip was like iron against his arm.

  They reached the tower, and the caped man rolled aside a gate at its base which opened to a small pod within.

  The clouds overhead were sparking stronger now, the lightning building, charging the tower with energy. Jackson could feel the hair on his head reacting, reaching toward the sky. And then he was forced into the pod, and the gate was rolled closed.

  He could hear Isaac screaming, “NO! PLEASE, NO!”

  And Jackson reached for the bars of the gate only to find them so charged with energy that touching them burned the flesh on his hands. He backed away into the center of the pod, palms stinging. The lightning flashed. Thunder boomed. The ground shook. The tower rumbled. The cogs and gears spun, whirring, clanking, whining. And Isaac was screaming.


  But how could he? How could he run with the gate closed? How could he run when simply touching the tower might burn him alive?

  But still Isaac shouted, “RUN! PLEASE! RUN!”

  Jackson looked up and watched as a bolt of lightning struck the top of the tower. He listened as the gears whined into overdrive. He felt the heat from the tower sizzling into his skin, as if he was inside a giant microwave. He heard Isaac shout, “NO!”

  And then there was a flash of light, and Jackson’s world went dark for the last time.

  Part Three

  A Hero Dies

  The Shores of El

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