Sapphire Angel – Beginnings (Prologue and Chapter 1)
Written by CJS :: [Wednesday, 08 May 2019 18:27] Last updated by :: [Friday, 10 May 2019 18:29]
Twenty-one was too young to die. Russell Harrison knew the end was near. The men dragging him through the dark hall hadn’t told him they were going to kill him, but still, he knew. He hadn’t been the first they had dragged away, screaming into the night. None of the others had ever come back.
As the large door at the end of the hall grew closer, he observed with more than a little irony how welcome his ramshackle cell would be right about now. The food had been terrible and sparse, and he had slept on the floor, but being alive sure beat the alternative.
The men tightened their hold on his arms. He would have struggled if he had the strength, but after weeks with barely enough food to sustain him, it was pointless. Even if he had been at full health, he wouldn’t have stood a chance against them. And if he somehow got past them, there were more men in front of and behind him. They were scientists or doctors, judging by their white lab coats, but he would be no match for them in his current state.
A massive black man in a tailored suit led the way, pausing when they reached the door. The large man swiped a card before a panel on the cinderblock wall and pushed the door open.
They led Russell into a large room, about thirty feet across, with a large glass cylinder in the middle. The cylinder was at least twenty feet tall and half as wide and resembled a massive test tube. Russell couldn’t take his eyes off it. It sat on a metal base, where blue and yellow lights blinked, and several hoses and levers crowded the surface.
The men half dragged, half carried Russell to the cylinder, opening a barely noticeable glass door built into its curved surface. One of them yanked the gag off his mouth and shoved him inside. As he tumbled to the floor inside the cylinder, they closed the door behind him.
Silence enveloped him. Through the glass, he saw the mouths of some of the men moving but heard no words. The men moved to a door on the opposite side of the room and disappeared through it.
As the seconds ticked by, Russell could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He stumbled to the glass door of the cylinder and pushed, but it didn’t move. Somehow it was locked, despite any visible hardware on it.
And then the rumbling started. All around him, the entire cylinder seemed to vibrate. Russell dropped to his knees as the vibration intensified until the entire cylinder shook like it was his own personal earthquake.
And then the torment came. As a golden light filled the cylinder, a searing pain erupted in his chest and a tortured cry escaped his mouth. He fought the burning feeling inside him as if he could actually repress it, knowing that to give in to the agony would be the end of him. But it was no use. As the light burst inside the cylinder, illuminating the room like the midday sun and blinding him, a final scream tore from his lips.
Elizabeth Harper turned the combination lock’s last spinner into place and pressed the button next to it. Nothing. The metal box on the coffee table remained locked. Her face showed no emotion as she picked up a pencil from the table and crossed off a number on the page of a spiral notebook. The page was filled with numbers, half of which were similarly crossed off.
She rose from her seat on the sofa and moved around the coffee table to the living room window. She paused to glance at the clock near the television. John, her boyfriend, should be back soon. She had been disappointed he couldn’t take a day off of work during her visit, but she understood. She visited often, and this was his first year at his new job. He needed to make a good impression. When she graduated from college in a few months, she would be in the same situation.
As she looked back at the box, her eyes fell upon the stack of comic books piled next to it on the table. A pang of guilt hit her. She had told John she would read a few of the comic books, to better understand his hobby. She owed it to him for opening up to her about an interest he’d been too embarrassed to share.
She’d gotten through one, but had spent the rest of the day finding one excuse or another to avoid reading more. The surprise she planned for him should more than made up for her failure to read his stupid comic books. She tingled with excitement just thinking about how he would react when she revealed it to him. If she could go through with it.
She turned back to the window and pulled back the curtain, seeing a strange mixture of denizens stalking the street in front of John’s apartment. As darkness fell upon the town, miniature ghouls and goblins moved from door to door, with their parents not far behind. They were almost outnumbered by adult-sized pirates, police officers, and devils, many of whom were clad in short skirts and revealing tops. This section of Harrisburg had become a party town, and Halloween was an excuse for its young adults to not only party but to also push the bounds of decency.
Beth Harper turned to look at herself in the mirror. Perhaps she shouldn’t judge. Her costume was less risqué than many of the costumes she saw outside the window but was more revealing than anything she had ever worn in public, except to a beach or pool. Her heart raced, still unsure if she could follow through with surprising John with this attire. But he would love it.
They were heading to a Halloween party after he arrived home, and she had decided she would be a superheroine. Not Supergirl, Wonder Woman, or some other popular heroine, but a heroine of her own creation. One that had come to her in a dream, perhaps thanks to John trying to push his hobby on her.
The main part of her costume was a figure skating dress, made of a stretchy blue and white spandex-like material. Sapphire blue on top, with a white skirt and white bikini bottoms stitched under the skirt, it was all one piece. Most notably, it was very formfitting, leaving little of her slender figure to the imagination. Thin with subtle curves, her five-feet five-inch stature had always turned heads. This outfit might cause those heads to explode.
Her costume was accentuated by tights that gave her slender legs a subtle sheen. She wore white ankle boots on her feet. Her arms were thin and toned, as were her shoulders. She wore satin gloves that extended from her fingertips to her elbows. The gloves matched the white skirt of her costume and added an air of elegance to her appearance.
Her straight blond hair hung down and caressed her shoulders, framing the face of an angel. Sweet and innocent, the face made her look like the proverbial girl next door. The costume, though, suggested otherwise. The costume screamed sex appeal, yet somehow remained tasteful.
She moved to the bedroom and stood in front of the full-length mirror affixed to the door, hardly believing she was looking at herself. She couldn’t wait for John to see her. He wouldn’t give the unread comic books a second thought.
She turned left and right in front of the mirror before spreading her legs slightly and standing akimbo, striking her best superheroine pose. A smile crossed her face.
From behind her, she heard a scraping and the grunts of a man. It meant one thing - John was home, working to open the front door, which always stuck in the frame. The defect was annoying, but at least it alerted her when he arrived. With a skip, she headed to the door. She pulled as he pushed, and the door scraped open.
John stood before her unable to speak, with his jaw hanging open.
“Hello?” Beth said, putting one hand to a cocked hip.
“S… Sorry,” he stammered. “You just look unbelievably hot.”
Beth’s grin grew wider.
“Too suggestive?” she asked.
“No way. You saw last year how people dress at this party. And your outfit actually has some class to it. Holy shit, you look incredible.”
She could get used to this. John always fawned over her good looks, but she had never seen him like this.
“You can either stand there like a stammering fool, or you can come in,” she said.
He stepped inside, still looking at her.
“Is that…” he started to ask as he nodded at her attire, but his voice trailed off.
Beth nodded and looked down. “Yes.” She didn’t need him to finish the question. It was the skating dress her aunt had made for her one year earlier, a few weeks before losing her life in a car accident that also had killed Beth’s grandmother. Beth had packed up the dress, never wearing it, and had even stopped skating. The outfit had remained in a garment bag in her closet, having been seen only by her and John.
“I’m glad you were able to bring yourself to wear it. I think she would have wanted you to. What changed your mind?”
“Probably you and your incessant pushing of your hobby,” she said in a teasing voice. “Thanks to you I had a dream a couple of weeks ago. I saw myself wearing it, and got the idea you might like it.”
“You were right,” he said with a grin. “My friends at the party are going to wonder what happened to my sweet and innocent girlfriend.”
Beth blushed but said nothing.
“And who are you supposed to be? All superheroines need a name.”
Beth chewed on her lip. “I haven’t come up with that yet.”
“Damn,” was all John said in reply, as he continued to run his eyes up and down Beth’s frame.
“Enough gawking. You need to get your costume and makeup on while I finish getting ready. Your stuff is on the corner of the sofa.”
She stood on her tiptoes to peck a kiss on his cheek, before turning and walking toward the bedroom. John’s voice sounded behind her as she reached the door.
“Did you get through any?” he asked. The excitement in his voice was unmistakable.
Knowing immediately what he must be asking, she turned to see him looking down at the stack of comic books on the table. He looked up at her, and she could feel the eagerness emanating from him. She cringed, thinking now that her superhero costume wasn’t such a great idea. Maybe she was giving him the wrong idea, and causing him to think she was embracing his hobby.
He must have read her expression. His face sank.
“You didn’t read any,” he said.
“I read one,” she said. “The one you asked me to read first.”
“And you hated it, didn’t you?”
She watched him before answering. She could fudge the truth, and spare him the disappointment. But he wouldn’t want that.
“Hate is a strong word,” she began slowly. “It just seemed a bit… clichéd.”
“Clichéd? How so?” he asked as his face twisted in annoyance.
Beth exhaled before speaking. “It was just like a couple of your superhero movies I’ve sat through. You know. The average Joe gains powers but is reluctant to use them, until his loved one dies because of his inaction,” she said, lowering her voice to mimic a movie trailer voiceover. “He then embraces his destiny, and goes on to vanquish evil!”
“Hey, that’s great storytelling.”
“Using a loved one’s misfortune as motivation to become a hero is the biggest cliché there is.”
John frowned. “That might be a cliché now, but the one you read is a classic,” he said, pointing toward the stack on the table. “It was the first one to explore that kind of theme.”
“I’ll take your word for it, sweetie.”
John waved a hand at her. “Go get ready,” he grumbled.
She tried to give him her best, “I’m sorry” look, and entered the bedroom. She stepped into the adjacent bathroom to brush her hair and to check over her makeup one last time.
When she returned to the living room ten minutes later, John was already dressed, standing in front of a full-length mirror near the bedroom. He looked completely different, with tattered clothing and even worse looking skin. His flesh, mottled and green, hung in rotted chunks from his face.
“Ew,” she said. “You look gross.”
“That’s the point,” he said and sat on the sofa. He looked at the long and narrow lockbox.
“I can’t believe nobody can get into that thing,” he said.
Beth shrugged. “You know it’s not from lack of time or money trying. And I’m sure my mom hired a few locksmiths herself before giving it to me.”
“You think she tried to get into it, even though it was supposed to be a gift to you from your aunt?”
“You know how my mom is. And she probably figured my aunt would have given her the combination anyway, if she hadn’t died in the crash.”
John glanced down at the spiral notebook next to the box. “Only about 600,000 more numbers to try,” he cracked.
She sat next to him. “Someday I’ll get into it.”
She reached forward and advanced the last dial, moving it one digit forward, and pressed the button. The lock sprang open.