CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and NINETY-NINE
Later that day
Time seemed to bend in the Marlowe Mine. Jacob thought they’d been in the mine for four hours, at the very least. But his watch reported that only two hours had passed. Certainly, the trip down the cave wall had taken two or three hours. And the encounter with the soul stealer? That had to have taken a half hour or maybe longer!
Jacob tapped his watch and looked at it more closely. Abi nodded toward him.
“Time has stopped,” Abi said.
“How is that possible?” Jacob asked.
“How did your ancestor create that amazing sculpture while he was dying?” Abi asked.
“You know? I’ve wondered that,” Yvonne said, lightly.
Abi nodded her head to the side.
“You think time always stops in this cave?” Yvonne asked.
“No,” Abi said. “It’s a factor of the creature we’re hunting.”
“Why did you wonder about the time?” Jacob asked Yvonne.
“I was thinking that this would be a lovely spa,” Yvonne said. “Imagine if you could stop time here! It’s the ultimate spa treatment. ‘Come to the Marlowe Mine Spa. Erase time.’”
Jacob grinned at Yvonne, and she gave a soft laugh. Abi turned to look at Yvonne.
“What is it, Mother?” Yvonne asked.
“You are such a light,” Abi said. “Makes me smile.”
They were standing in the cave near the ladder. Gilfand had gone to hunt the soul stealer. They were hoping he would find a good place to fight the soul stealer. He’d been gone a long time, which is what had made Jacob look at his watch.
“Is the creature near us?” Jacob asked. “Is that why time has stopped?”
“Define near?” Abi asked. “We have come in contact with a rare and unusual specimen. If the natural scientists were here, they would want to capture it to study.”
“Should we … ?” Yvonne started.
“No,” Abi said. “We will kill this creature as it has killed numerous beings in its long life.”
“But … ?” Yvonne started again.
“Put it out of your mind, daughter,” Abi said. “If given the chance, this creature will kill you in the worst possible way. He will steal your soul and force you into slavery for the rest of your life. When your soul is depleted, he will eat the shell of you.”
“You mean like the Spider did to me?” Yvonne asked softly.
“Worse,” Abi said. “Mr. Alvin was human. He died in the way humans die. If this man captures your soul, you will live a long, long life in his service.”
“We think he went underground more than five million human years ago,” Jacob said. “There’s no way of knowing how many souls he’s enslaving right now.”
Abi nodded. Yvonne impulsively hugged Abi.
“Wha … ?” Abi asked.
“You are very old,” Yvonne said. “Behind your words, I can hear that you have been a slave such as I was. I love you and am so glad you are here with us now.”
Abi kissed Yvonne’s cheek. The kiss ignited Yvonne’s light. It grew in ripples from where Abi had kissed Yvonne. Abi grinned at the effect. For good measure, she kissed Jacob’s cheek. The kiss caused a tickling sensation throughout his body.
“I am also glad you’re here,” Jacob said.
He turned his other cheek toward her and leaned forward. Abi laughed at his antics.
“What are you doing?” Gilfand appeared next to them.
“She …” Yvonne started.
“Wishing them luck,” Abi said.
Gilfand scowled at Abi, and she grinned back at him.
“What did you find out, old man?” Abi asked.
Gilfand’s eyebrows rose at the words “old man,” and Abi laughed. He shook his head ruefully but he was grinning.
“What did you find?” Jacob asked.
“You were correct, Jacob,” Gilfand said. “There is an open space about twenty meters from where we fought him.”
“Did you find him?” Abi asked.
“He has a den near the vent for the Fire of Hell,” Gilfand said.
“And the Fire of Hell?” Yvonne asked.
“There is definitely something there,” Gilfand said.
“Some thing?” Jacob asked.
Gilfand turned to look at Jacob. After a moment, he turned to Abi and said something in the other language.
“Come on,” Jacob said.
“He said that he thought this adventure was good for you,” Abi said.
“You are growing into yourself,” Gilfand said. “There is nothing better for us to see than that. You’d be surprised how often people with much potential and fail to grow into who they should be.”
“Most,” Abi said.
Embarrassed, Jacob blushed and looked down at the cave. Yvonne grinned at him.
“This is true for our Yvonne as well,” Gilfand said. “The difference is that our Yvonne will have a much longer life.”
“Because of her parents?” Jacob asked.
Gilfand and Abi nodded in near unison which made Jacob smile.
“We stopped at some thing,” Jacob said. “There is some thing in the Fire of Hell?”
“I don’t have more to tell you,” Gilfand said. “Whatever it is has been eating souls for a very, very long time. The soul eating has distorted whatever it was originally.”
“We cannot rule out that this thing is being held captive by the soul stealer as well,” Abi said.
“He will do anything to preserve himself,” Gilfand said. He thought for a moment and nodded. “I believe Abi is correct. The soul stealer is feeding this thing souls. In return, the thing gives the soul stealer a long life.”
“There is no way to know the moral quality of this thing,” Abi said. “Is it a part of this unholy union out of necessity? Choice? Or is it simply something that the soul stealer set up to extend his life? We do not know.”
“We should focus our minds on the innocence of the thing,” Gilfand said. “With any luck, the thing will be able to redefine itself once the soul stealer is gone. By believing in the thing’s innocence, we move it in the direction we want.”
Jacob scowled. When Yvonne nodded, Jacob turned to look at her.
“I will tell you that my Tannie’s belief in me made all of the difference in the world,” Yvonne said. “She never gave up on me. I knew my Tannie was waiting for me, which made me want to be what she thought I was.”
“Tanesha sees your innocence, your beauty,” Jacob said. “She loves you.”
“My Rodney calls it the ‘purity of my soul,’” Yvonne said. She gave a soft smile. “Their vision of me allowed me to see myself as they did and to be free of the Spider’s mental chains.”
“That’s what we shall do then,” Gilfand said. “We will believe in the ‘purity of the soul’ of the thing in the Fire of Hell.”
“Did you find a place to fight the soul stealer?” Jacob asked.
“As I have said, there is a junction in tunnels not far from where we fought him the last time,” Gilfand said. “We will have to defend every tunnel.”
“There are four of us,” Jacob said.
“But Yvonne …” Gilfand said. He looked at her disappointed face. “I’m sorry, my dear. You just aren’t …”
“Yvonne is the key to all of this,” Jacob said.
“How?” Yvonne asked softly. “He is right. I have no real abilities.”
“The soul stealer fled from you and your light when we fought him just hours ago,” Abi said evenly. She threw Gilfand a hard look and he nodded at her reprimand.
“Yes, he did,” Gilfand said. “That is correct. I am sorry, Yvonne. I see you as a child and wish to protect you. Abi is correct that you are strong and capable.”
“Okay,” Jacob said in a joking way and the other’s smiled. “Can you and Abi get Yvonne and I to the junction in the tunnels?”
“Of course,” Gilfand said. “You can fly there yourself.”
“I was hoping to catch him off guard,” Jacob said.
“What do we need to do?” Abi asked.
“First, we need to drench ourselves in the spring,” Jacob said. “The boron in the water should act like armor to keep him and his energy from getting too close to us.”
“A good first line of defense against losing your soul,” Gilfand said. “Smart.”
Abi nodded. Jacob took the blue diamond knife out of his pocket. He held it out to Yvonne.
“This is a blue diamond,” Jacob said.
“It’s very pretty,” Yvonne said. “Does it have the same boron that Jill’s diamond has?”
“Yes,” Jacob said. “Well, I don’t know for sure, but I am assuming.”
Yvonne nodded and took the knife.
“I want you to shine your light through the blade,” Jacob said.
“Can I practice?” Yvonne asked.
“Of course,” Gilfand said.
Abi went to Yvonne’s side. Abi spoke quietly to Yvonne and Yvonne nodded.
Yvonne held the blade in one hand and pointed the index finger on her other hand. She took a breath and focused. Light came out of the end of her index finger and went through the blade. There was a sizzling sound and smoke came from where the light hit the cave floor.
“Good,” Jacob said. “Now …”
“Oh but look,” Yvonne pointed to the place where her light had gone through. “The blue is gone. The blade is ruined. They are so rare, too.”
“Don’t worry,” Jacob said. “There are many more in this mine.”
Yvonne gave him a sideways look. Jacob pointed to where his ancestor had been sitting.
“With Abi’s exlixir, I can see them in the wall right there,” Jacob said. “I can easily get to them if we use up the blade. And even then, if we use up the blue in the blade, it will still be a very big diamond.”
“Well, that is for sure,” Yvonne said with a smile. “Now, should I slice open the soul stealer’s neck?”
Abi, Jacob, and Gilfand gawked at her.
“Or do you think it’s better to take his head off,” Yvonne said. “You know, like in those Zombie movies.”
No one said anything. They just stared at her.
“Do we know if his blood is dangerous?” Yvonne asked. She looked at Jacob and nodded. “Because it’s going to be messy.”
Still no one responded.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Yvonne asked.
“You are an amazing woman,” Gilfand said.
“We’re surprised that you are so battle ready,” Abi said.
“I spent many, many years of my life planning on what I was going to do to the Spider for hurting my Tannie,” Yvonne said. “This creature wants to hurt my dear friend Delphie. He needs to die and not come back.”
Abi and Gilfand nodded while Jacob still just looked at Yvonne.
“What?” Yvonne finally asked Jacob.
“I can’t believe Rodney showed you his Zombie movies!” Jacob said, incredulously.
“He sure did,” Yvonne said. “That man loves the Zombie.”
“What is a Zombie?” Gilfand asked.
Jacob, Yvonne, and Abi laughed.
“Why is that funny?” Gilfand asked, looking offended.
Abi spoke quickly in that other language. Gilfand looked confused.
“I’m sure Rodney will show his favorites to you,” Jacob said.
“You’re always welcome at our home, Father,” Yvonne said.
Gilfand seemed touched and overwhelmed at the same time. The genuine fondness they felt for each other was more than apparent.
“Let’s get this thing over with and get out of here,” Jacob said.
“Maresol is cooking,” Yvonne said with a smile. “What’s the plan?”
“We get wet in the stream,” Jacob said.
“For the water to act like armor for our souls,” Yvonne said.
“Exactly,” Jacob said. “Abi and Gilfand will bring us to the junction of the tunnels.”
“What if he’s not there?” Yvonne asked.
“He will be drawn by your souls,” Gilfand said.
“Yvonne and I are bait,” Jacob said.
“What if he … ?” Yvonne asked.
“I will fight him in this world and the next,” Gilfand said. “I will not allow Abi’s child to be lost.”
“You don’t have souls?” Jacob asked, softly.
Abi and Gilfand shook their heads.
“Change of plan,” Jacob said. “Yvonne and I will act as bait. You will fight the creature. Yvonne with use her light and the blue diamond to kill the creature. I will protect her.”
“I still think it’s good to get wet,” Jacob said.
“I agree,” Abi said. She turned over her hand to show water pistols. “We should fill these, as well.”
“What are they?” Gilfand asked.
“Katy and Paddie played with them last summer,” Abi said. “I was attempting to protect the small child, Maggie, when it turned out that she was the instigator of the water fight. She got me wet with a balloon full of water. We laughed and laughed.”
“Water fight?” Gilfand asked.
“You really don’t get off the Isle of Mann very often, do you?” Yvonne asked.
Gilfand shook his head. Jacob patted his shoulder.
“We’ll fix that,” Jacob said.
Gilfand took a water pistol from Abi. He touched the side of it and it was full of the warm spring water. Jacob mimed how to used it. Gilfand sprayed the water pistol.
“Ingenious,” Gilfand said.
“Of course, I have …” Abi held a large water blaster.
They laughed. When their laughter died down, they looked at each other
“Are we ready?” Gilfand asked. “This is the time of the most danger.”
“I’m ready,” Yvonne said.
Jacob gave a quick nod.
“Let’s have another small drink,” Abi said. “For luck.”
She passed around her fairy elixir and they each took a sip. Abi tucked it away. They went to the warm stream to get wet. They splashed each other a little bit before Gilfand got impatient. A bucket appeared and they were soaking wet in minutes.
“Are we …?” Jacob asked.
He found himself standing in a Marlowe Mine tunnel. It was oddly warm, as if there was a heat source nearby. The light was dim. He had the sense that the soul stealer was in front of him, just past the junction of tunnels ten feet away. Yvonne grabbed his arm. They stood close, holding onto each other, until their eyes had adjusted to the light. Yvonne nodded to Jacob when she was ready. They moved to opposite sides of the dim tunnel and pressed their bodies against the walls of the tunnel.
There was a soft flutter of wings. Gilfand and Abi were in position.
Jacob felt a wave of the fairy liquor hit him. The elixir had enhanced his eyesight before, but now all of his senses were enhanced. His eyesight was just that much keener allowing him to see impossible things. As he watched, his and Yvonne’s smell move through the tunnels. Down the tunnel, he heard the soul stealer sniff the air and chuckle.
Jacob looked across the tunnel at Yvonne. To his surprise, he saw shadowy outline of Rodney, Tanesha, and Yvonne’s grandchild, Jabari. Delphie, Maresol, and Dionne were there, as well as his mother, Celia. There was even an image of Jeraine, Tanesha’s husband, and the dog, Mr. Chesterfield. These shadow images were connected to Yvonne by something that looked like kit string. And they were alive! The shadow image of Rodney seemed to raise hand to wave to Jacob.
These shadow images were the souls of the people that Yvonne loved.
Jacob looked down at his body. Sure enough, there was shadow image of Katy and his twins, Tanner and Bladen. Jill was there as was his father, Valerie, Mike, and Valerie’s children, Jackie and Eddie. Sam and Delphie, his mother, as well as Blane, Heather, their children, Aden and his children, Sandy, Tanesha, Edie and smaller images of people from Lipson Construction. Even Fin and the Navajo people who’d saved him from sure soul death were hooked to him. All of the pets who lived at the Castle and the horses that Katy and Paddie rode. A piece of the soul of every being that Jacob had ever cared about was connected to his soul in big and small ways.
If the soul stealer took Jacob’s soul, the soul stealer would have his hooks into everyone Jacob loved. The thought shocked him. He looked down to see Katy’s soul nod to him. He felt his dog Sarah’s soul press against him.
The soul stealer would have his hooks into Jacob’s entire family, all of his friends, everyone he’d worked with at Lipson Construction, and everyone who’d he’d ever cared about.
The same was true for Yvonne. The soul stealer would take Yvonne’s entire family and all of her friends.
Even the dogs!
Shock shot through him like an arrow. He leaned his head against the tunnel to take a breath. If he failed at this mission, everyone he loved would spend the rest of their days in the service of the soul stealer.
“Steady, Jacob,” Gilfand said. “The creature is coming.”
Jacob readied himself. He looked across the tunnel to see Yvonne’s lips moving. His heightened hearing told him that she was praying.
“The Lord is my shepherd …” Yvonne’s words came to Jacob.
Jacob heard the soul stealer starting down the tunnel.
“I shall not want …” Yvonne’s lips moved in saying.
Rather than mimic the sound of a man’s steps, Jacob heard the soul stealers large body move across the ground in a sound more like that of a snake then a man.
“He maketh me lay down in green pastures.” Yvonne seemed to increase the pace of her words. “He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
Jacob swallowed hard. He realized that he had no idea if this plan would possibly work.
“He restoreth my soul.” Yvonne said with feeling. “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Jacob liked the idea that they were standing on a righteous path, even if it meant the brutal death of the soul stealer. His head went up and down in a nod as if he were nodding to Yvonne’s prayer.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” Yvonne said. “For thou art with me. They rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Jacob silently wished for some God to be with them now. His eyes flicked to Abi. She nodded as if she’d heard his plea. Somehow, Abi and Gilfand did not see like the all powerful G. O. D.s that everyone talked about.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies,” Yvonne continued. “Thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
Jacob was certain that they were in the presence of a true enemy — one that could enslave not only Jacob but his entire family for the rest of their lives.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” Yvonne’s lips moved with these last words. “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Jacob had been so distracted by Yvonne’s prayer that he’d mostly forgotten about the soul steal.
“Well, well,” the soul stealer said as he moved into the junction between the mine tunnels. “Back for round two?”
The soul stealer was ready to fight. Jacob cast his eyes to the ceiling for one last time. Nodding to himself, he stepped out into the center of the mine tunnel.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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