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A Santa Maria story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria series
Mac groaned. As he became aware again, he took note of what he could see. Nothing. Mac was laying in the dark.
Oh I hurt. That was a hell of a water park ride. And what the hell is sticking in my back. The bow! I hope it isn't broken. He forced his shoulders back and thrust his ribcage up. That hurts! His left arm slide away from his body while his left leg bent. Here goes! Mac pushed himself over onto his chest. Oh tomorrow is going to be painful. If I'm alive tomorrow. Mac slowly maneuvered into a standing position. He retrieved the bow from its resting place on his back and carefully began examining it with his hands.
Seems not to be broken. As he gingerly explored the bow, a faint glow started to emanate from within the weapon, creating a pale golden nimbus. The aura slowly expanded and when it reached Mac's body, it was like a burning match touching a pool of gasoline. Instantly a bright, beaming golden white corona flared up around Mac, which illuminated the area he was in.
He turned slowly looking around his surroundings. It was a room carved from dark rock, vaguely circular. At one end was metal disk, about ten feet across, set into the wall. It was adorned with symbols similar to the ones he had seen in the tide pool that had carried him here. Looking above, he saw an opening. Probably where I was dumped in here from. He walked over to the disk and instinctively, just as he had done with the tide pool, touched the center symbol. They came to life with a small hum and began to glow, each a different color, every shade of every color of the rainbow was present. Mac stepped back. The disk slowly became transparent and beyond it was a dark room filled with spheres that were reflecting the light coming off Mac. He tentatively reached his arm out toward the disk and his hand passed through it. He then stepped through the now insubstantial barrier.
Now that Mac was in the room, his aura illuminated it much more clearly. It was a immensely large room, its ceiling shrouded in darkness that the light couldn't reach. There was a path the winded through various spheres. They were of various sizes and clear, though some had a tint of color to them; violet, red, bright green, cyan, and orange were immediately visible in the spheres near him. Mac approached one.
It was about as tall as him, clear. It was filled about a third of the way up with starfish. Mac stooped and began examining them. Why would anyone imprison starfish? Wait, the have seven limbs, not five. He peered closer to curious sea creatures, placing his fingertips on the sphere for balance. It's cool. It doesn't feel like glass. Maybe-
His thoughts interrupted as several of the creatures shoot up at the wall of the sphere, sticking to it. Mac jumped back. The underbellies of these decidedly not starfish had small openings surrounded by small, gray spines. From the openings, tiny tentacles emerged, wildly thrashing about. They were at least two feet in length. The display was unsettling. Mac put his hand to his chest and attempted to regulate his breathing. He turned to look at another, smaller sphere. This one was about a foot across, tinted orange. Inside there were half a dozen carved figures. They were all female and in ball gowns with ornately styled hair. They're exquisite. Is that quartz, fluorite, something else? It's so curious that figurines would be imprisoned.
"Ah, moppet, they are more then figurines. They are six of the very powerful sorceresses and they caused a lot of trouble for Europe in the 1800s. They were put into this form as a means of capturing them and seemed a good idea to keep them that way. Another level of security, if you will."
So you are with me.
"I'll always be with you, love."
Mac smiled. Good to know.
He walked the path that weaved through the prisons reminiscent of baubles. He stopped a particularly large one, which encased a mass of undulating tentacles and eyestalks.
What is that?
"It is enough to know that is still properly sealed up, moppet. Let's keep moving. I fear your instincts are correct and something has acquired a certain amount of freedom, or worse, escaped." Mac started the journey once again, looking at each sphere carefully as he passed it. Another large sphere caught his interest and he stopped once more.
Inside the large ball was a human. Tall and muscled as Olympian God, he stood proud and naked. Mac slowly drank in the view, appearing not to register that the prisoner was white as marble, including his long hair.
Who is he?
"Greetings," the imprisoned man said. "How kind of you to brave the journey to this dankest of hells, simply to see that I am well."
"I," Mac started, but never finished. He fell silent and stepped closer to the sphere.
Those eyes, those beautiful grey eyes. I could get lost in those storms. I want to get lost in them. Is someone calling me?
"No need to listen, handsome one. I am truly blessed to have such a comely new jailer."
"What? Thank you."
"You are quite welcome." Mac stepped closer. "Yes. Yes, my handsome new friend." The prisoner outstretched his strong alabaster arms, the tips of his fingers touching the sphere. Mac raised his arms up, slowly moving his fingers towards the round cage.
"I- someone's calling me. I should go," Mac said.
"There's no need. Just stay a moment." Mac's fingers touched the sphere, the corona around him flared, and Mac staggered back.
"What, what happened?" Mac asked.
"Moppet, let me guide you. This villain is powerful and his cell has been weakened. Do not look upon him. We must strengthen it."
"Nothing, my handsome keeper. Come back."
Fine, yes. Do it! Mac, controlled by the Avatar, thrust his arms out, palms forward. Golden energy gathered at his hands, then streamed forward. The energy encircled the sphere the pale prisoner resided in. Then, just as quickly as it started, the energy subsided.
"You are too, late. My children have come for me. New children, born within. Her rules have been followed, and yet my children are still here."
"Let's go. We must check the other prisons."
Okay. Mac walked away from the ivory man.
"Oh, baby. You are going to see I never sleep, aren't you? Bree said to the child she carried in her womb. She paced her bedroom, her arm cradling her belly. "I wish I new what was bothering you. You're giving me such heartburn. I don't want to bother Mom, your Nana. Sort of. Maybe I can call Mel and see if she can swing by and- Oh!" Bree clutched at her belly. "Okay, that was uncomfortable. Okay, baby. I'm going to sit down," Bree said, sitting on the edge of her bed. "I'm never going to sleep again. I'm really not cut for pregnancy."
A knock came at the door.
"Yes?" The door opened.
"It's me, baby doll. I brought you some chamomile tea and some antacids. I had the worst heartburn with both of you girls."
"Oh, Mom, I love you!"
"I love you, too." Helen walked over and sat next to her daughter, offering her the tea and medicine. "Now, sweet pea, tell me what's wrong."
She took the antacids and washed them down with the tea. "It's just the heartburn, Mom." Helen gave her daughter a look only mothers are capable of. "I'm just worried about the baby and the fact that my whole will change with her."
"Fine." Helen stood. "We'll talk when you're ready to not lie to your mother."
"Mom," Bree whined. Helen waved her hand dismissively at her daughter and then left the room.
"But Mom, you don't understand. This baby is going to change everything." Bree rubbed her belly and took another sip of tea.
"Rodrigo, I won't tell you a thing if you don't calm down," Jack Dandelion said, his voice deep and strong. "This situation is bad enough without you falling to pieces or storming into the situation and making an utter mess of it. Ant is one of mine and he will be protected, I promise."
"He's been arrested as the psycho who's been killing all those people! Who killed Martha, and not you're telling me Oliver is dead? Calm is not going to happen, Jack!"
"Rodrigo, he didn't do it, he won't be convicted."
"Why doesn't he just skip out of there?"
"Because he knows that it would break the first rule of the Covenant. The mundane world must never know. Things came far to close to that with animated statues and the earthquake. The citizens of Santa Maria have been through a lot and they can't take much more and the Councils of the World would act fast and ruthlessly to cover up a breach. They can never know about our world. Now, don't worry about this. I will handle Ant. You should make sure that Bree and her child are okay."
"Jack, he's my boyfriend. I'm in no position to go play nursemaid. I can't just sit their holding her hand while Ant is going through all this!"
"There is nothing you can do for Ant. In battle, it wise to know where you can be of aid and to learn to stay off the battlefields you have no place on. Now, the Gamin risked a lot when they went to war with the Ghost Lords based on your word. Now, return the trust and know that I will keep Ant safe and soon enough he will be in your arms again."
Rodrigo looked at the tall, long haired blond. "Okay. Okay, Jack. I'll trust you on this, but so help me, if anything happens to him-"
"Nothing will, Ant. Nothing will."
Ant ran his fingers through his blue hair. He paced back and forth in his dingy cell.
This can not be happening.
The clank of metal on metal reverberates through the cell, given Ant pause. Moments later, a member of the SMPD appears with a scruffy looking young man.
"Sorry guys, but it's crowded tonight," the officer says, her voice devoid of any real concern. "Try not to kill this one, blue."
"What? Don't put me in with a killer!" the youth shouted. Ant sat on the bench and hid his face in hands.
"Hush, you. There's a camera. You're safe. You, Blue. Slide on down towards the back." Ant complied and slide down the metal bench towards the far wall.
"People get shanked in prison all the time!"
"That's prison. This is a holding cell. He ain't got no shiv." The guard pulled her keys from her waist cord and unlocked the cell, and pushed the handcuffed boy into the cell, slamming the door behind him. "Now, come on over here and I'll take those cuffs off." The boy turned his back to the guard and stepped closer to the bars. She took another key, removed the handcuffs, and placed them in her pocket. "Now, you two boys behave." She turned and left the area and the clank followed.
The young man, with short brown hair and a five o'clock shadow turned to look at Ant. The blue haired prisoner met his gaze and saw fear in the hazel eyes of the youth.
"You can't be 18."
"My ID says different."
"I didn't kill anyone. It was my friend who was murdered. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"What are you here for?"
"I'm Ant. You may have heard of me. I try to look out for street kids."
"Dude, you need to look out for yourself. You're in jail."
"Look, I appreciate that. I do. Just, when you're out. Ask around for Budgie or City Wolf. Tell them Ant said to help you. Even if I don't get out of this mess, they'll help you."
"Sure. Okay, Blue."
"It's Ant." The shadows under the benches in corner under the camera began to elongate.
"Fine, Ant. Whatever. Let's just not talk." A form takes shape under the shadows.
"Fuck!" Ant shouted.
"What?" The form jumps up, behind the youth. A clawed hand swats the camera down. Ant bolts up and pushes the kid behind him. "Don't touch me! Help! Help, this guy's going to kill me!" The youth turns to face Ant now and sees the thing that has joined them in the cell. Metal clanks against metal. Ant takes a defense stance. "What the fuck is that?" The clawed figure lunges at Ant and easily tosses him aside, slamming him into the wall.
"What the hell is going on in here?" the guard shouts as she runs into the area, gun drawn. "Holy Shit! Jesus help me!" She begin to fire at the creature. The youth runs to jail cell door, slamming on the bars.
"Let me outta here!" he yelled.
The creature seemed unaffected by the bullets and moved towards the youth.
"Look out kid!" the guard shouted. He turned, but too late. The dark figure struck out at the young man, it's claws tearing through clothes and hooking into his flesh. It then waved its arm back, tossing the young man to the floor, leaving a spray of his blood on the wall. Next it shoulders the jail door, easily knocking it away.
Like lighting, it was on the guard, who was screaming and futilely firing the last of her ammunition into the creature.
Ant righted himself, looked at the camera laying on the ground, and jumped for his fellow detainee. Touching him, they both vanished before the youth witnessed the guards death.
The creature turned and shrieked a horrific high-pitched sound. It then dove into the nearest shadow and was gone.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2008
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2008