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Chapter One:  Warning Signs

            Five years, that’s all it was.  Most people wouldn’t think of five years as a long time, unless of course it’s spent waiting for something they just can’t be without.  When you know what it is that you’re missing it’s even worse, especially when you believe you might never see it again.  In that case five years is an eternity.  Couple that with an existence that grows more dangerous by the day and you might have some idea of what a day in hell is like.  What seemed to take ten years was only five, and what had once seemed like a normal life became anything but.  Reality and relativity, both became a royal pain in the ass.

            The shock of that news was bad enough, though the constant and disheartening need to remind myself of what went on those past five years simply adds insult to my injuries.  This alone has prompted me to begin this journal, an account of my memories and those with whom I’ve shared so much throughout my life.  It would be an insult as well as a danger to all those who don’t know what happened to remain silent.  Too many sacrifices were made during the last five years to allow them to fade into a history that no one will ever know of.  This is one of my tasks while I am here, in the civilized world. 

            Unfortunately my words alone won’t be enough to make the sole recipient of this tale fully understand what has happened, it won’t even come close.  This is truly more for my peace of mind than anything, to honor those who have placed their lives in my hands.  Even as I write this the memories are trying to fade, the attempt to hold onto them taxing me greatly.  It is a hell of sorts to know that with one slip, all that has taken place in my life can be erased so easily. 

            Writing seems to help, for even as I pen these words the horrid memories of what I’ve seen and done return in full force, though perhaps I can thank the view from the only window in my room.  To be quite honest I don’t know how to feel as I gaze out across the wide expanse of the Columbia River, the dividing force between my homeland and where I now sit.  As I was told earlier my stay in this place has lasted for the past eight weeks, during which the grievous injuries I’d incurred healed quite rapidly.  My home lies hidden away from even my eyes, covered in a gray blanket of mist that has been dubbed with many names.

            For the first three weeks of my stay within the Astoria Community Hospital I was in no shape to do anything but breathe through tubes as I’ve been told.  In truth I almost wasn’t allowed out of the ICU after the fourth week.  Doctors get a little freaked out and more than a little interested in a patient who suffers through what I did and then walks away under their own power.  The tally came to three broken ribs, a punctured lung, my right cheekbone being crushed, my left shoulder being dislocated and my right knee popped out of joint.  To tell you the truth I was lucky not to get my head shot off by some greenhorn soldier that was just antsy enough to fire a round close to my head before his commanding officer restrained him.

            The slew of tests they’ve run on me in the last few weeks have thankfully ceased, since whatever changes my body have undergone seem part chameleon in nature.  Simply put, the doctors can’t find anything abnormal with me save for the unexplained rapid healing I’ve undergone, to their reasoning minds I’m just a normal human being.  That’s almost funny really.

            Since being moved to a regular room, thankfully by myself, I’ve received a good many visitors, ranging from those I’d just as soon kick out to those I’ve not seen in more than the past five years.  Cops, government types and other such individuals, they’ve fallen into the former category.  I’ve been threatened with everything from incarceration to becoming a test subject for the rest of my life thank to my unwilling nature to discuss what went on during the last five years.  Strangely enough no one has made good on their threats however.  When confronted with such dire warnings I’ll admit I had to hold back a rather uncharacteristic bout of maniacal laughter, thinking that after five years of horror it was ludicrous to think that anyone human could give me any pause. 

            Somehow I think at least a couple of them picked up on my mirth, since they left with hardly a word.  Was it chemical related?  Was it a terrorist act? How many are still over there?  Are the aliens involved?  Is the government keeping you quiet?  Oh and then my favorite among all the inane questions: How did only you manage to escape?  A much as I wanted to laugh at the ridiculous plethora of questions posed to me by a continual parade of reporters and journalists I kept my head, knowing too well that words have a way of harming even when you think they mean nothing.  “Escape” would mean that I actually wanted to get out, that I had nothing to lose in leaving. 

            The GrayCap, as my home has apparently become known by, has raised some very mixed attention in the past five years.  Golly gee whiz, I might even get my picture in the paper or, heaven help me, on the television if I just cooperate.  Thank the Creator I have solid walls instead of the Plexiglas that was in the ICU.  As it is several reporters and opportunistic journalists have already managed to plaster my picture in their gossip rags.  My silence about what happened to me and the others has apparently been construed as “the horrors that left me too stunned to elaborate any further details.” 

            The Long Beach Peninsula, my home of the past twenty-four years, is currently lost to this world.  Of course, when I say this I mean that it is lost to all those who still live on this side of sanity.  I’ve thought of what I might say if I just let the reporters into my room, and a volatile mixture of laugher, sorrow and rage immediately wells up inside of me, threatening to break loose despite my best efforts.  Most likely I’d refuse to speak, giving them little of what they wanted.  They’d find their own words I’ve no doubt, not truth but still what the public would want to see.  The truth of what I’ve done and seen will best be put to this journal.  Here such deeds will be spoken, and here they’ll stay.

            Each time I see my doctors it’s almost too funny to see the continuing looks of perplexed wonder on their faces, as though I’m some sort of medical miracle.  Truthfully I guess I am, though for reasons I won’t even think of divulging to any of them.  From the massive amount of blood I lost they told me I should have passed on before they even got me off the bridge.  Of course, that’s their words along with the training they’ve undergone for their profession.  Strange, I used to take doctors a lot more seriously.

            Accelerated healing is only one of the new talents my body has developed in the past half decade, perhaps one of the most generous among them.  If anyone on this side of the river were to see my other talents I’d find myself no doubt locked in a lab for the rest of my life.  That doesn’t sound like my particular brand of tea, so to speak. 

            My eyes are growing heavy now as I continue to write, so this will end shortly.  Early on in my stay, when I was finally coherent enough to begin truly understanding where I was, both nurses and doctors tried their best to force me to rest, though even their best efforts were defeated.  Along with the rapid healing I’ve come to be fond of, my system no longer contains the capacity to be bogged down by any outside stimulants or depressants.  I will end this for the night, though there will be much more to come.  My friends, no my family, deserve this and more.

                                                *                      *                      *

Five years ago….

            Her world was changing.  Of course, that was the nature of this existence, always changing, never remaining the same from one moment to the next.  Since the first breath had escaped the lips of the Creator, change had been enacted upon the many spheres of influence that had been so abruptly created.  Life upon this world had begun not with bang, nor even with the molding of clay and the precious spark of life, but with the tipping of a force that no one, not even she, could truly understand.  The old ones had told her that to even try to grasp the true meaning of what they called the Balance would drive anyone, even the most powerful of the Creator’s children, into sheer and utter madness.

            She’d touched upon that pureness only once, finding that only a mere glimpse had been enough to send her mind reeling.  The sensation of what she’d found upon that quest still remained, tempering the once brightly burning flame of youth she’d possessed.  No longer a maiden, she’d passed into womanhood long ago, forsaking what her life might have been in order to carry out the final charge that had been lain down by her clan, the last of their kind. 

            That was what she was doing now, continuing the task set upon her shoulders so long ago.  For some time now it had been a weight upon her back, threatening at times to crush her into this world she had served for so long.  As she walked along the black ribbon that served as this town’s main road the grainy surface of the asphalt prickled at the bare soles of her feet, an altogether unpleasant sensation, but not an unbearable one.  The marvels that she’d seen humanity attain in their rise from cave dwellers to a civilized race were at times astounding, though still she knew better than to allow herself anything more than quiet admiration. 

            The black pools that were her eyes scanned about the area of the town she now stood in, taking in each detail.  To her left was a medium size, two story building, the Bank of The Pacific as the large blue and white sign proclaimed.  Just across the street, only fifty yards or so away, was one of the most attractive sites for tourists and even the local adolescents, the go-cart track.  The road that lay between the two areas ran west to east, beginning where it ended down on the beachfront and extending as far as the next road behind the town, the path known as Sandridge Road. 

            Casting her gaze to the west she could easily see the gray sands that were swept constantly back and forth along the coastline, closing her eyes as she listened to them silently grate against one another.  The roar of the ocean waves reached her ears as well, the song that lay beneath the white foam of the breakers a constant reminder of what this place had once been, and what it might be once more.  Opening her eyes she began to walk down the road, keeping her footing upon the yellow dividing line as she pondered the irony of the simple marking.  To either side lay the same road, though each path went a separate way.  As she continued onward the roar of the ocean began to grow louder in her ears, forcing her to focus upon what was here and now, and what must be done.

            Drawing her focus inward she continued walking, bringing to mind the nine faces of those whom she had already selected years ago.  These selected individuals, children all, would bring about the change within this world that was so rightfully needed.  Through them she would complete the task that had been given to her, a trust she had grown weary of long ago.  In truth she did not believe them fully ready for what would happen, but then, neither had she been ready for the burden she had been forced to bear. 

            They would have no choice in accepting this gift, a fact she lamented only a little.  She’d selected each of them carefully over the many years she’d watched them, finding only one that had given her any sort of pause.  Closing her eyes she pictured this individual within her mind, bringing his young face forward, past the others who would be his only true companions in the years to come.  The boy, nearly a man, stood out in her mind not unlike a mountain amidst the churning waves of her thoughts, his presence strong even though he slumbered miles from where she stood.

            A chill breeze caressed her ankles as she smiled gently, knowing that this was barely the beginning of what was to come.  Silver tendrils of mist curled around her feet as she kept her eyes firmly closed, focusing upon the youth she’d known from his birth would be the one she would ultimately pass the mantle of Champion to.  Prized among her kind, it was the only title that absolutely commanded respect, its dignified status among all others assuring its bearer that they would one day assume the burden she had accepted. 

            Mists the color of spun silver swirled around her in frenzied motions as they grew ever thicker, her thoughts centering upon the young boy soon to be a man.  Even at this moment she could feel him tossing in his sleep, a result of her touch upon his very soul as within his physical body, changes began to occur, changes that would mark him and the others she’d selected as those who would ultimately redeem their kind.  Her smile only widened as she felt him resist just a bit, his young mind registering her intrusion as little more than a bad dream. The others did not even stir as she reached out to them, altering their beings in such a way that they would be capable of withstanding the gifts she would bestow upon them. 

            “Sleep my children, sleep for now.  Tomorrow your lives shall change, and the Balance shall be yours to govern.  May the scales rest for now.”  As one she felt her new “children” awaken within their minds as the modifications she’d made took hold, altering their bodies in such ways that would take a matter of only days to discover.  As to her First among them all however, the young man who would soon become salvation, she could feel as he tossed fitfully in his sleep, wakening even as she attempted to lull him to slumber as the others.  His will was strong, proving that he was indeed the one she had been waiting on for so long. 

            Her smile was wide enough that she felt her lips stretch from end to end, almost wolfish in its appearance.  This one was indeed willful and would do well in the years to come.  She was sure of it.

            “Yes my Champion, you will prove to be very strong in the times to come.  Those who truly love you will stand by your side until whatever end may come.  Be at peace for now my young First, and…”

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