So I wrote this awhile ago. It never got through the editing process. However I was supposed to post something today and don’t want to leave you guys hanging. So here it is, The Old Light.
The Old Light
Written by Peter Buczkowski
“Shit that hurts” Micheal said as he looked down at his bloody arm. The hole in the roof was smaller then he had thought. On his way down he had cut his arm on it. He made a mental note to remember to be more careful going up
“You ok down there?” William called down. William was his real name. But all the other boys called him Baby Bobby. No one called him Baby Bobby to his face though. William was a big boy, easily twice the size of the other boys, which made the other boys like the nickname even more. Micheal didn’t like it though, he liked William. William was the type of kid that would tell you when the adults or elders were coming. Micheal thought that was the best quality to have in a friend.
“Yeah I am good. It is damn dark down here though.” Micheal said as he dug through his pack. “William, could you toss down the torch.”
The thud that the torch made echoed and bounced off the menacing darkness. “It is huge down here!” Micheal called up. One quick flick of the flint and the torch sprung to life. The little circle of light on the bottom of the cave grew with the added light of the fire but Micheal still could not see the walls of the cave. Micheal slipped the flint back into his bag, and pulled out his uncle’s knife. Better safe then sorry he thought.
“See anything down there?”
“No not really. The ground looks like sea-mont.” Micheal said peering into the darkness.
“Sea-mont? Really? Like the stuff in the stories about the old people? Aw man be careful down there.”
Of course Baby Bobby. Micheal thought, but instead he said “Ya.”
Micheal walked around the small circle of light on the sea-mont trying to catch the glimpse of anything. It would be really boring if this cave was only full of sea-mont, he thought. Maybe there would be some sort of treasure down here. Maybe just maybe, he thought as his pacing circle grew wider and wider.
The sea-mont was like a road Micheal soon found out. It was as wide as two oxen carts and on either side were rows of dirt. Hanging from the roof of the cave by what appeared to be thin webs of iron above the rows of dirt were thin tubes. Micheal looked at some of these tubes, which must have fallen into the dirt in some age passed, and noted that they were too big for his pack.
“I’m gonna go look around a bit” Micheal said up to Baby Bobby, not waiting for the undoubtedly negative worrisome, all-in-all kill-joy response that was sure to follow. The beam of light cutting through the darkness would be an obvious marker, Micheal thought as he headed in the direction the tubes pointed down the path of sea-mont.
The darkness flickered in the light of the torch. It wasn’t a lot of light, but there really wasn’t much to see. All around Micheal was darkness, sea-mont and the tubes. A minute after Micheal left the circle of light, he made his first big discovery.
“Whoa.” managed to from escape Micheal’s mouth.
On the right side of the path laid a metal table on wheels. The table was covered in smaller metal objects. The bright orange of the of the flame mixed with the cool blue of the objects. Micheal could make out what looked like a pair of shears, some tongs, and a knife. All of them found their ways right into his pack. But there was something else that stole Micheal’s attention.
Laying on the dirt to the right of the sea-mont path was a beautiful black tube. The flames of the torch danced around it but the smooth black surface seemed to absorb them. Micheal almost missed it when he had glanced over the table. But the very end of the tube was shiny like the table. Micheal slipped his uncle’s knife into his pack, and bent over to examine the tube.
The tube was a perfectly round tube. It got wider on the shiny end, and had a bump on it with a little rectangle on it. Micheal picked it up. It was heavier then it looked. But it felt good in his hands. It felt right he thought. With all the determination in his young body, Micheal pushed the little rectangle in the only direction it would move.
“Yawaa!” he screamed as he dropped the tube and the torch on the the dirt path. He held his hands to his burning eyes. The sudden movement and collision with the dirt sent a cloud of dust into the air. The torch sputtered and died leaving Micheal in the immense all encompassing darkness. Not that the physical darkness had effected Micheal. Micheal thought that he had blinded himself. All he could see was a series of circles floating through his sight. They didn’t go away even when he closed his eyes.
“Are you ok? Whats wrong? I am gonna go get the Elders!” William cried down to Micheal.
“No! I am ok I think.” Micheal called back up to the boy in the sky. If the Elders found out that the boys were down here, there would be real hell to pay.
Slowly Micheal’s vision started to come back to him. He opened his eyes and noticed that the tube in the dirt was shooting a beam of light as bright as the sun through the darkness. That is where I felt that before, Micheal thought, looking at the sun. He reached down and held his hand over the tube. The tube wasn’t hot with the light he noticed. Grabbing it he scanned the cave quickly.
The pattern of sea-mont, dirt ,sea-mont, dirt, continued to Micheal’s left and right as far as he could see. But there was an end to the cave straight ahead maybe another one hundred strides. Right in front of him was a door in the cave side.
He started towards the door. “Get back here Micheal!” Baby Bobby called out.
More distress then normal in his voice. Ok. Maybe I’ve gone far enough today Micheal thought as he scooped up the torch again. “Coming!” Micheal shout back. Shining the tube into his pack, Micheal found the flint and re-lit the torch. He slid the rectangle on the tube back to the resting position and the light from the tube disappeared. Amazing he thought.
Micheal scrambled to hide the tube with the other loot in his pack. Damn the cut in his arm burned. “Hurry up!” Baby Bobby called out. Now slightly more hushed then the last time. Micheal started back towards the circle of light from the hole in the roof and the hanging rope. “Some one is coming.”
“Shit” Micheal muttered and started to run back to the rope.
“What are you doing out here Will” a girl’s voice asked.
“Nothing.” Will said.
“Whats that you are standing in front of.” another girl asked.
“Nothing.” Will said again.
“Well then, why are you standing out in the middle of Mr. Robinson’s field if you ain’t doing nothing?” the first girl asked.
“Cause.” Will said.
Micheal stopped just outside the circle of light from the hole. Dammit they are gonna find out that I am down here, he thought. Then they will go straight to the Elders.
“What’s that rope there for Will?” the second girl asked. Micheal dropped his torch and put it out just in case the girls decided to look into the small hole.
“None of your damn business!” Will shouted with a near ferocity that Micheal had never heard in his voice before.
“William Johnson! How dare you speak to us lady-folk that way!” Micheal heard the girls say as they retreated. In a much fainter and more dignified voice he heard them say “We are going to go tell Mr. Robinson about you being in his field! And we are going to tell Elder Erikson about you swearing at us!” Micheal waited a full minute before calling up.
“Are you ok William?”
“Yeah just get up here. I am gonna catch hell.”
Micheal just finished tying the rope around his waist William started to pull him up. The ride up was not half as exhilarating as the ride down. Micheal thought. But it did give Micheal some time to think about his amazing loot. By the time he reached the hole he had already decided what to do with it.
A few minutes later as the boys were walking back into town William had finally regained his breath. The forty feet of rope secured in a pack on his back he asked “So why did you scream down there?”
“Oh, I saw a skeleton. I think it might have been one of the Old People.” Micheal said.
“Really? Thats horrible!” Bobby said. “Did you see anything else down there?”
“No it was just a big cave with a skeleton. I want to go back tomorrow maybe and look around some more. “ Micheal replied. It was partially true, he supposed. He did want to go back and look through the cave some more. Maybe even open that door.
That night after dinner there was a knock on the door of Micheal’s house. After dinner guests were a rarity in Handover, unless of course they were bringing bad news with them. Micheal could hear the voice of the High Elder of Handover, Mikkel and his father speaking briefly. He knew that it wouldn’t be long before his father would drag him out of his room to stand before the Elders. That bastard William must have told them everything.
As predicted, Micheal was standing infront of the High Elder Mikkel and the Junior Elder Erikson within the minute. Erikson had the charge of the young adults and children in the town. So he was the one who spoke to Micheal.
“Micheal. Your friend William said that you were in Mr. Robinson’s field with him today.”
“Did you see a hole in the ground there.”
“Yes I did”
“What did you do to the hole?”
“We dropped rocks into it to see how deep it was.” Micheal said. Mikkel made a disapproving face at Junior Elder Erikson.
“The girls only saw William and they said that they saw a rope going into the hole. Did you go into the hole Micheal?” There it was. It was a sin beyond all other sins to lie to an Elder. Without the Elders the town would be in darkness and remain there without their knowledge.
Micheal answered the question with complete silence. “Micheal, my boy. You are young, but you must know the stories of the Old People. Correct?” Mikkel asked through his white beard.
“You understand that the Old People nearly brought the devils down from the sky above? That they tried to harvest the power of the sun in their fish-on.”
“Yes Elder.” Micheal said. “It was the will of God that we were able to avoid death.”
“Aye.” Erikson agreed. “But He used their own fish-on against them. He turned all the Old People into Newtants, and cursed all of their artifacts.”
“Yes Elder Erikson, I understand the stories.” Micheal said.
“Johnathan leave us.” Mikkel said, and Micheal’s father went back into the house.
“Micheal we know that you were in the hole in Mr. Robinson’s field. Your friend William told us that much. We need to know what was down there.” Mikkel said.
Silence again was the answer.
“Boy listen. We are not interested in getting you in trouble. We are only seeking out any artifacts of the Old People. We cannot allow the Old People’s curse to spread through the village.” Mikkel placed a bandaged hand upon Micheal’s shoulder. “Do you know why Micheal?”
“No sir.” Micheal’s thoughts jumped right to the tube he had in his room. Everything else could be explained he thought, but the tube of light would be damning to him and his family. He knew the Elders could search his room if they wanted to and he didn’t want it to come to that.
“The curse of the old people spreads quickly. It causes severe illness and boils to form. People end up dying painful deaths. But we need to know if you were down in the hole and what you saw.” Erikson said.
“Sea-mont. There was Sea-mont, dirt, hanging tubes, and a cart.” Micheal told the Elders. “There were a few more tubes on the ground and a door.” He continued.
“Was there anything else boy?” Mikkel asked.
Micheal hesitated. “Some tools on a cart.”
“No skeleton?” Mikkel asked. “William told us that you had mentioned a skeleton, not a cart.”
“I lied to him. I didn’t want him going down there without me.”
“Hmmm.” Erikson said. “Did you take anything from the cave?”
Erikson sighed. “Ok boy, hand them all over.”
Micheal’s shoulders sank. He turned and walked back into the house, flanked by the two Elders. When Micheal reached his room, he bent down and grabbed his adventure pack.
“Boy” Mikkel began “Do you know why our hands are bandaged?”
“Aye.” Erikson sighed. “Perhaps later Mikkel. Micheal please bring the bag, and anything else that was in the cave with you. Your clothes, your shoes, anything that was with you.
Micheal waited outside with Elder Erikson as Elder Mikkel spoke to Micheal’s father. Erikson was responsible for teaching all the children in the village. Micheal had known him for five years now.
“What is going to happen to the tools I found.” Micheal asked.
“Do not worry much about them.” Erikson replied. Micheal knew that Erikson was annoyed with him. So he stood there in silence until Mikkel reappeared.
That night in the High Church Micheal was examined. His clothes were stripped off of him. Elder Jamison conducted a brutal but short physical examiniation of the boy. It was the first time that Micheal had ever seen an Elder without his hands bandaged, and they looked like the claws of a monster. Red and raw, some parts burnt black. He flinched when he felt the slimy coldness of them over his flesh.
“Where did you get this?” Jamison asked pointing to the cut in Micheal’s arm.
“I got it playing.” Micheal responded.
“Before or after contamination?”
“Before or after you were in the hole boy?” Jamison corrected.
“Before.” Micheal supposed this was the most correct answer given his choices.
“Aye.” Jamison said.
That day and the following night Micheal was placed in a locked room in the High Church of Hanover. He slept most of the day and sat on the bed looking over the rest of the room for the periods he was awake. Around lunch time Elder Erikson came into the room with a few pieces of bread and a chunk of beef. It was all very salty, and made Micheal thirsty, but there was no water. Elder Erikson did not bother making conversation. Elder Jamison and Mikkel followed shortly after.
“Take off your robe.” Jamison said and Micheal listened, standing naked in front of the three men.
Mikkel stepped forward and began to look the boy over. “This cut, were you bleeding in the cave Micheal?
“Yes sir.” Micheal said. His spirit was completely broken. He only wanted to go home.
“Put your robes back on.” Mikkel said. Micheal began to wrap himself back into the medical robe which Jamison handed over. “I asked you last night if you knew why the Elders wrap their hands.” Micheal shivered thinking of the slimy hands poking and prodding him. “Judging from your reaction you have seen Jamison’s hands.”
Mikkel handed Micheal a cup of water, which he greedily drank down after eating that salty beef. It was a godsend he thought.
“I think we owe you an explanation.” Erikson said. “The Elders are in charge of tracking down the Old People’s artifacts.” Micheal nodded, he knew that much already. “The only way to ensure that we do not get sick is to burn anything that comes into contact with the artifacts.” Erikson continued.
“Aye.” Micheal said.
“Tonight we will be burning the tools you found, the light tube, your clothing —” Erikson continued.
“And your body.” Mikkel interrupted. “Your blood was exposed to the contamination.”
Micheal began to speak but he was unable to open his mouth. The world began to spin around him.
“The water which you drank was actually a poison. I am truly sorry, but we cannot risk the town because of one curious boy.” Mikkel continued.
Micheal tried to hold himself up as his knees began to give way.
“This is the least painful way we could think of.” Mikkel finished.
Micheal tried to force his mouth open but he had lost all control of his body. His eyes began to spin around the room looking for something to lock onto. They caught the light coming in from the window, and followed it up past the three men standing in front of the window. The three silhouettes standing before the light.
His irises opened as the poison reached his heart. The sun burned brighter then ever before.
The light cut through the darkness.