The Fallen 4, p.1Thomas E. Sniegoski
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The Dark Light excerpt
About the Author
For John Fogg—fighting the good fight
For my wife, LeeAnne, who deserves so much for all that she does. And to Kirby for allowing me the pleasure of his company.
And always for Mulder.
Big thanks also go out to Chris Golden, Annette Pollert, Liesa Abrams and James Mignogna, Erek Vaehne, Mom and Dad Sniegoski, Kate Schafer Testerman, Mom and Dad Fogg, Pete Donaldson, Dave and Kathy Kraus, Paul Deane, and Timothy Cole and the Abominations of Desolation down at Cole’s Comics in the City of Sin.
I bid you good day.
Jeremy Fox thought he might be sick.
Not the kind of sick where his head hurt and his insides might shoot up his throat, but the kind of sick that he thought might be the end of him.
He thought he might be about to die.
He could still feel the effects of the wormy thing that had been inside his head, setting up house, taking control of his body and making him fight his friends.
Jeremy remembered fighting Aaron. Part of him had struggled not to hurt the leader of the Nephilim, but another part—not so much.
’Cause if Aaron were dead, Vilma would be mine.
He quickly stamped on the thought, ashamed that his fevered mind had even gone there. Instead he blamed that crazy idea on the foul creature that had tried to control him.
Yeah, that’s right. It was all the worm’s fault.
He’d hated to leave his Nephilim brothers and sisters, but he’d been compelled to do so. His mother’s psychic cry had been like a hook inside his brain, pulling him from the old Saint Athanasius School to where she wanted him to be.
Jeremy opened his wings as he appeared in his mother’s room at the Steward Psychiatric Facility. As they furled upon his back, he fell forward, as though the life had been taken from his body. Lying there on the cold linoleum floor, he became aware that it was not only his physical form that felt like it was dying, but his spiritual one as well.
Though his body had been seriously hurt in his battle with Aaron and because of his attempts at purging the wormlike monster that had possessed his actions, the Nephilim side of his nature sensed that the world around him had been savagely injured too.
Something horrible had happened to the world.
His body was suddenly racked with painful spasms, and he curled into a tight ball. “Mum,” he managed through tightly clenched teeth.
“There, son,” he heard her say. She knelt beside him, pulling his shaking form into her spindly arms. “Put these on now. It’ll help with the cold.”
Jeremy suddenly realized that he was still naked after his struggle to purge the evil creature that had taken up residence inside his skull. Gabriel’s touch had healed his body, but it hadn’t given him new clothes.
It took nearly everything he had left to uncurl from the fetal position and take the blue scrubs his mother offered him.
“That’s a boy,” she cooed as he pulled the short-sleeved top over his head and then awkwardly got to his feet to slip on the drawstring pants.
“Something awful has happened,” he said to his mother, who was no longer in the hospital gown he’d last seen her wearing but was now in her coat. She looked as if she were ready to leave. He helped her up from where she still knelt on the floor.
“It’s too late to do anything about that,” she said, walking away from him to retrieve her purse, which rested on her chest of drawers in the corner of the room.
Slinging the purse over her arm, she turned to him and smiled.
“Ah, look at you,” she said, head tilting wistfully to one side. “If only the fates had chosen the physician’s path for you.”
For a moment he hadn’t any idea what she was getting on about. Then he realized she was talking about the scrubs he wore.
“Sorry to be a disappointment,” he said. “Where’d you get these anyway?” he asked as he slipped a pair of black shoes onto his bare feet.
“I saw that you’d be needing something when I called out to you, so I helped myself to a poke about the nurses’ station while they were otherwise occupied,” she said. She hurried toward the door and peeked out through its window, careful to not be seen. “The hallway’s clear now. If we move quickly we can—”
His mother had started to open the door, but he’d reached across and slammed it closed again.
“We’re not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on,” Jeremy said. His mother had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for most of his childhood, and even though she seemed relatively rational at the moment, he wasn’t about to blindly follow her anywhere.
“We don’t have time for this, luv,” she told him.
“Mum, you need to tell me,” Jeremy said. “When you reached out, you said something about helping a child.”
She looked him hard in the eyes, and Jeremy saw his mother as he hadn’t seen her in a very long time. She seemed sane, and he was stricken by the intensity of her stare.
“I haven’t the time to explain.” She lay her hand upon his cheek. “The longer we wait, the bigger the chance that they’ll find him.”
“Find who?” Jeremy questioned.
She abruptly turned away and opened the door before he could stop her. “Every second we spend talking brings them that much closer to him,” she whispered urgently.
Jeremy followed his mother down the hallway, scouting for hospital staff, and finding the corridor strangely empty. He could hear the droning of a telly broadcast off in the distance, and figured everyone was likely watching BBC One announcing the impending end of the world.
His body still ached from fighting his friends back in America, and his skin was still sensitive where it had blistered and burned away, but Jeremy ignored the pain. He hustled after his mother as she disappeared through another door at the end of the corridor. He had no idea where she was leading him, but he couldn’t take the risk of her hurting herself as she wandered around the old hospital.
They ran down another hall and then an old stone staircase, the fluorescent lights above flickering eerily as they descended.
“Quickly, Jeremy,” she urged, one hand clutching the railing for safety, the other her large purse.
His mother stopped before a metal door.
“It’s locked,” she said.
“Yeah, and what do you want me to do about it?” he asked. He gave the handle a twist just to be sure.
“You need to open it,” she told him matter-of-factly.
“Well, I’ve left my bloody lock picks at home,” Jeremy said, growing more frustra
“Is that any way to talk to your mother?”
Jeremy immediately felt ashamed. “I can’t see myself kicking down a metal door,” he said tritely.
“Think, luv.” She tapped the side of her head with a skinny finger. “Use what God has given you.”
He had no idea what she was getting on about, and she must have seen this in his befuddled expression.
“Your fire. Does this look like an obstacle that could withstand the fires of Heaven?”
Jeremy felt like a bloody idiot as he called forth a weapon of fire. Picturing the weapon in his mind, he watched it take shape in his hand. It wasn’t his favorite battle-ax—that seemed a bit extreme. Instead it was a sword.
“What a marvelous gift,” his mother said, smiling proudly.
“Isn’t it, though,” he agreed. He clutched the hilt of the blade and thrust it forward. The sword melted through the door with barely a hiss, leaving a puddle of molten metal on the concrete floor as he cut away the lock.
His mother started forward, but Jeremy held out a hand to stop her.
“Careful now,” he instructed. “It’s still hot.”
Jeremy carefully pulled the heavy door open, and allowed his mother to pass into another darkened corridor. There was a strange feeling in the air. Jeremy considered keeping the blade alight, but thought perhaps a sword of fire might give them away. Instead he allowed his hand to surge with fire so that it would throw off just enough light to see by.
“Next best thing to a torch,” he said. “So there’s a child somewhere down here?” The concrete hall seemed to go on forever.
“There is,” his mother said. “A very special child, one that must leave with us if he’s going to live up to his promise.”
Jeremy stopped, reaching for his mother’s sleeve with his non-burning hand.
“Leave with us?” he questioned. “Are you saying that—”
“Ah, here we are,” she said as she reached another door. This one appeared quite old, and was made out of heavy, dark wood. His mother daintily knocked.
There was no response, so Jeremy summoned his ax of fire. It looked as if something a little heavier might be required to open this door. He was just about to tell his mother to stand back, when the sound of a metal latch sliding back was followed by a click as the door was unlocked. It began to open.
“You can put that thing away,” she said, moving to greet whoever was on the other side.
His mother let out a sharp cry as the barrel of a pistol was placed against her forehead.
“How did you get down here?” a man asked as he stepped out from behind the door. He was an older man, dressed in a doctor’s lab coat, his shock of white hair looking as though it hadn’t been brushed in quite some time.
Jeremy didn’t recognize the man at first, in the dim light of the tunnel, but then realized that he was one of his mother’s doctors.
“Dr. Troughton, it’s me,” his mother said carefully. “Irene.”
The doctor looked at her strangely. “Miss Fox?” he asked. “Miss Fox, what are you doing down here? It’s not at all safe. You should be in bed.” He chastised her, but he did not lower the pistol.
“I’m supposed to be here, Doctor,” she told him. “We’ve come for the child.”
Troughton looked as though he’d been slapped. “Child? I—I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about,” he sputtered, stepping back to close the door. “Go back to your room at once, and tell the nurse that—”
“We’ve come for the child.” Jeremy’s mother reached out to hold the door. “My son and I.” She glanced back at Jeremy with a smile.
“Your son,” Dr. Troughton repeated, taking a look for himself.
Jeremy still held his burning ax and did nothing to hide it.
“We’re supposed to have him,” his mother said. “Let us in before it’s too late.”
The doctor seemed confused, his mouth quivering, unable to release the words he wanted to say. He pointed the gun at Jeremy.
Instinct kicked in then. Jeremy’s wings of smoky gray suddenly manifested and in one powerful push sent him hurtling through the air, as he brought the blade of the battle-ax down.
His mother screamed as Troughton stumbled back, holding the remains of his firearm. Jeremy’s cut had been precise, slicing the barrel but sparing the doctor’s fingers.
“I don’t care for guns,” Jeremy snarled as his wings furled closed.
Troughton dropped the remains of the gun to the floor.
“Oh, m-my,” the doctor stammered, running a tremulous hand across his brow, which was shiny with sweat. “We were told to expect someone… but I never would have imagined it would be you,” he said to Jeremy’s mother.
She smiled. “Can we see the boy?”
“The boy?” Jeremy interjected.
“Yes, it’s a baby boy,” his mother said, turning her attention back to Troughton.
“Of course you can see him,” the doctor said, motioning them into the passage. “Quickly now. We haven’t much time.”
The doctor pulled the heavy door closed behind them and slid the dead bolt home.
Without another word he walked them along another stone hallway, which pitched downward, traveling even deeper below the psychiatric hospital.
Jeremy’s curiosity was getting the better of him. He was about to ask the doctor where the passage led, when they passed through another doorway into an even larger chamber that looked as though it might once have been the hospital’s laundry. A small medical staff awaited them.
“Dr. Troughton?” asked a younger doctor of Pakistani descent.
“It’s all right, Rajat,” the doctor said. “These are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
Jeremy’s mother waved. “Hello!” she called out, her display causing Rajat and the others to look at each other with concern.
“Where’s the child?” Troughton asked.
“Bea has taken him to be cleaned up,” a woman in nurse’s attire said.
“And the mother?” Troughton strode to a curtained-off area and pulled the drape back.
“She expired less than five minutes ago,” Rajat said.
Dr. Troughton walked away from the bed, and Jeremy caught sight of the body of a young girl—she couldn’t have been any older than sixteen—lying there, as pale as a ghost. He didn’t know why, but he felt drawn to her, even though he would have preferred to look away.
“Who was she?” he asked. She was pretty, he thought. Even in death she’s pretty.
Nobody answered him, so Jeremy asked a little bit louder, and a little more forcefully.
“I asked, who was she?”
The nurse looked to Troughton and Rajat. “We don’t know,” she answered, walking to the bed and covering the corpse with a blanket.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” Jeremy asked. “There’s a dead girl lying here, and you haven’t a clue as to who she was?”
“She was the vessel for the child,” Troughton said. “That’s all we know… all we’re supposed to know.”
Right then a newborn squalled, and a woman in scrubs emerged from the back of the chamber, carrying an infant swaddled in a green hospital blanket.
“Oh, there’s the little tinker,” Jeremy’s mother said as she headed for the baby, her arms outstretched.
The nurse looked to Troughton, terrified. The doctor nodded, and begrudgingly the nurse handed her the babe.
“Aren’t you darling,” Jeremy’s mother said, bouncing the fussing child until he began to quiet. She carried the baby over to Jeremy, pulling down the blanket for him to see.
“Look at him,” she said, enraptured by the newborn. “Have you ever seen anything so perfect?”
Jeremy hadn’t been around babies much, and they made him very nervous with all that crying.
“Now what?” he asked his mother.
“We take him somewhere safe.”
Jeremy couldn’t stan
The baby began to cry again, and his mother gently shushed the child until he quieted down.
“He’s supposed to be with us,” she told Jeremy. “That’s all you really need to know right now.”
Jeremy wasn’t used to such resolution—such sanity—from his mother. “Mum, it’s—” he began.
“We are to protect him with our lives,” she interrupted. “Or what we see in the world now… what you’re feeling now? It will all be so much worse.”
Jeremy was about to question her more, when he noticed the others’ activity. They hurried about, attending to several clocklike devices throughout the room.
“Hold on here,” Jeremy bellowed.
Rajat squatted near one of the devices on an old, wooden folding table, activated it, and moved on to the next.
“Those are bombs?” Jeremy asked.
“Yes,” Rajat replied. “And they’ll go off in a minute’s time.”
“Are you bloody insane?” Jeremy roared.
“The child’s birth… ,” Troughton started to explain, but he looked as though he were having a difficult time. “The child coming into this world—they’re going to know about it.”
“Who?” Jeremy demanded. “Who’s going to know about it?”
“The Architects,” Troughton said. “The Architects will come, but he’ll be gone. Gone with you. No one will be alive to tell them anything.”
“The Architects? Who are the bloody Architects?”
And then it hit him like a physical blow.
“Wait a second. Nobody here alive?” Jeremy asked aloud. “You’re not planning on being here when the bombs—”
Rajat took a seat on the floor near one of the explosives. The nurses did the same.
The Fallen 4 by Thomas E. Sniegoski / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes