WRITER'S NOTE: This portion of the story can get pretty long at times, and I tried writing as concisely as I could while retaining attention to detail.
OCTOBER 1, 1989
SOMEWHERE IN MIDDLE NEW ENGLAND
There was no doubting that Anon was now infatuated with Sibella, despite their interrupted moment together in the mansion’s library. He was bolting down the trail on his bicycle, listening to his most recent purchase from the music shop. “Red Rain” was probably the most relaxing song he had listened to lately--so relaxing in fact that he almost lost control on a soft sandy patch. The song was halfway done when Anon noticed something in the distance. As he approached, it turned out to be a roadblock guarded by two of the cadets from the nearby military school. “HALT!” one of them commanded. Anon skidded to a stop as one of the cadets, clad in a blue field uniform and kepi, stepped forward.
“Are you Anon?” he asked in a sort of ‘I’m-the-commanding-officer-here’ tone.
“Yeah,” Anon said, “Why’s the trail blocked?” The cadet looked over at his comrade, exchanged the same worried look to one another, and then he turned to face Anon.
“The Colonel’s been expecting you,” he said as he stepped to the side, “don’t keep him waiting. Proceed with caution.” Anon did as he was told, and pedaled off down the trail. He didn’t understand why the cadets were so worried, and why their colonel wanted to see him so badly. But when he wheeled into the next clearing, his curiosities were replaced with a sudden knot in his stomach.
The mansion was half destroyed. Cadets were scrambling in and out of the structure carrying various equipment. Anon dismounted his bike and sprinted up the walkway and up the stairs. He was in such a rush that he ran into one of the cadets, knocking him to the ground. He was a blond fellow--perhaps a year or two younger than Anon--and wore the double chevron of a Corporal on his rolled-up sleeve.
“Sorry,” Anon said as he helping the cadet up. “It’s fine,” he said, brushing his mussed hair out of his eyes. He then shook Anon’s hand. “Tug Roper, unit Corporal. The Colonel’s been waiting for you.” With that, Roper turned on his boot heel and strode inside with Anon following behind.
“Look, what happened here?” Anon said, or rather shouted over the din inside the main hall. "The school took a hard hit," Roper pushing open the first door on the left of the corridor--the old faculty break room, "and the ghouls are gone." Anon had no tome to process this, for when he walked into the room, he saw something that made his heard drop.
Lying on a stretcher surrounded by two medical orderlies was Miss Grimwood. Her face was various degrees of bruised, and her lip was split. Her cape was shredded and her dress was tattered and dirty. Anon couldn't believe what he was seeing. “Oh god,” Anon murmured as he strode over to the stretcher, “please be alive. Please!” He almost broke down right then and there. “She’s stable for now.” a deep voice came from behind Anon. He looked around and saw a tall, middle-aged man in the same blue uniform as the cadets. His face was solemn, despite his comically villain-like mustache. He wore the silver eagle on the left side of his jacket, indicating clearly that this was a senior officer. “Glad you’re here, Anon,” he said, extending his hand which Anon shook, “I’m Colonel Calloway.”
“What happened here?” Anon asked. Calloway sat down in a chair nearby the stretcher. “At about 1100 hours, an anomaly struck this area with enough power to demolish a small office complex,” he explained, “ miraculously, most of this place survived.” Calloway was cut off by a young black cadet who peered in the doorway.
“We’ve covered the entire school grounds, sir. We can’t find the ghouls anywhere. Calloway cast his glance downward. “Thank You, Williams,” he said in a low tone, “good work.” He turned to Anon, but said nothing. The silence was broken by a recognizable voice groaning “...rrrvoltuuuhhhh... rrrvoltuuuhhhh...” Calloway stood up immediately and went over to the stretcher.
“What are you saying, dear?” he said softly, “What is it?” Anon stood in anticipation for Miss Grimwood’s response. After several groans and labored breaths, she managed to utter one clear word:
Revolta: Some mean ol’ witch who lives up this ol’ volcano--but don’t worry, it’s been inactive for a little while--and she once tried to make the girls her servants, or somethin’.
...at least, that’s how she was described by Private Grunt to Anon in between mouthfuls of doughnut, spewing crumbs left and right as he spoke. They were driving down a rough road in an old willys jeep that had certainly seen better days; the engine coughed and sputtered and almost gave out completely during the journey. A small convoy of troop trucks and another jeep containing the Colonel thundered close behind. Anon sat baffled in the back seat. He marveled at the thought of a volcano in his region. The only other volcano in New England that he knew of was one in the Ossipee Mountains of middle New Hampshire. Despite these wondrous thoughts, Anon kept himself on task--he needed to help the cadets find the ghouls and stop whoever was holding them captive. Over the din of the roaring engines, the cadets in one of the troop trucks broke out into song: “WHEN HE’S FOUND WHO HE’S LOOKING FOR, LISTEN IN AWE AND YOU’LL HEAR HIM -- ARRROOOOOO! -- BARK AT THE MOON!” Into which the other cadets joined. Anon didn’t bother.
After several hours of driving though swampy marshes and having to listen to the bespectacled Specialist complaining about how they should have taken an amphibious vehicle, they finally stopped. It was getting dark, but it was light enough to see the trail ascending an eroded hillside; the remains of what once was a mountain. It grew rougher and steeper and at the summit was a flat mass of molten rock, now frozen by the cold hands of time. Col. Calloway stepped out of his jeep and approached Anon’s.
“Sinclair,” he asked the Specialist, “are you sure this is the right place?” The Specialist opened a paper that was folded in his jacket’s breast pocket and scrutinized it in the dimming light. “Uhhhmmm, the coordinates are smudged here, but geographically, it matches the description! This is it!” he said adjusting his glasses. “Are you sure?” Calloway persisted. “Yes, I’m sure!” the long-suffering Specialist said.
Just then, something caught Anon’s eye; a glowing white speck that was softly pulsating near the mountaintop.
“Colonel, lemme see your binoculars.” he said. Calloway handed him the big binoculars that were around his neck. Looking through them, Anon could see that the speck was actually an undulating light that seemed to grow a little every second. “What do you see up there?” Calloway asked.
“I don’t... know,” said anon quietly as he continued to look at the object. Suddenly, the rate at which the light grew increased. Anon lowered the binoculars--it was coming closer and faster, and straight at them! “TAKE COVER!” bellowed Calloway. Several cadets scrambled towards the brush line, but Anon crouched behind his Jeep with Grunt and the driver.
A column of fire shot into the air, followed by smoldering bits of rock and twisted metal; Calloway’s jeep had taken a direct hit from the anomaly, just barely missing cadets Baxter and Miguel. It was clear to all that Revolta knew they were there.
“Miguel, Baxter, put that fire out! Move!” yelled Cpl. Roper over the shouting of several cadets. Anon stood up from behind the jeep and dusted himself off. The other jeep that had been hit was now a heap of smoking metal and glass. As the fire extinguisher engulfed the scrap pile with ABE powder, Anon looked over to the mountain; three more tiny white orbs appeared near the mountaintop. The Colonel seemed to notice them too, as he had announced
“We need to act fast, cadets! We are clearly within the enemy’s line of sight, and we need to break contact now. Your orders are to move up the trail, going from cover to cover. One squad will go.”
“What will you do?” asked Miguel.
“You will stay with me and set up the comms station.” Calloway replied. “As for you,” he said, indicating Anon, “you have a special connection with our captured allies. I wouldn’t normally do this but In light of recent events, you will go alongside the squads. Are you willing to do this?” Anon, nervous though he was, stepped forward. “I’d be more than happy to go with the cadets, Colonel.” Calloway smiled. “Glad to hear it.”
Pry-bars wedged open crates of M1As and munitions, which were passed around among a group of cadets that would make up the squad.
"I didn't think you guys had access to this stuff," Anon said, agog. "Oh sure," replied a cadet as he loaded a magazine, "we train with these sometimes, but they're kept elsewhere--away from school grounds." He charged the rifle's bolt. "We don't need anybody potentially doing the Gomer Pyle bit." He went into formation with the rest of the group.
The squad, lead by Cpl. Roper, were now ready to move. Anon stood rigid, his bag slung over his shoulder and his heart quaking, at the rear of the line. The command was given, and the unit marched forward. The trail was dotted with large mounds of stone with open areas every so often; it was darkening fast, and mobilizing without getting noticed was becoming tedious.
“This is why I wished I listened to my parents and played that violin.” one chubby cadet groused. “You wouldn’t have been good at it anyway,” snorted another scrawny cadet. “your one-ton arm alone would have made the bow saw through--” “Keep it down back there!” barked Roper at the front of the line. The two cadets immediately silenced.
“For a nice guy, he must have some mighty respect if he can shut people up with one shout,” mumbled Anon to no one in particular. “Oh yeah,” Baxter whispered hoarsely into Anon’s ear, “that’s why he‘s adored by that classy vampire girl--I think she likes being commanded!”
“Don’t think I can’t hear you back there, Baxter!” Roper snarled; several cadets laughed. “Yessir, Roper, sir!” Baxter retorted.
Anon’s heart sank. Sibella’s involved with Roper?
The unit was past the halfway point on the trail and the summit was in sight. The dark red stone on the hillside, as was noted by the cadets, seemed to take the rough shape of a building’s exterior structure. As they drew closer they saw six pillars about ten feet high carved into the stone, backlit by the light of three bright torches; some cadets within the squad breathed sighs of relief, knowing now that the lights were not another volley of mystical artillery. “Get low, everyone,” Roper hoarsely whispered, and every one stooped down.
“I’m going to look for points of entry.” Pulling a pair of binoculars from one of his belt’s many pouches, Roper cautiously made his way to the cover of a mound of rubble. The ranks tittered uneasily in the twilight as Roper scanned past the temple-like facade of the structure. Anon kept a close eye on the torchlights in the event that more balls of fire were lobbed their way.
Roughly ten minutes later, Roper hastened back to the group with his report. “Alright, at the base of the pillar to the far right is a small fault in a half-wall barrier between it and the hill. The fault is just enough to fit trough in single file. Beyond that is a lit corridor which may bring us directly to the girls and--”
From within the structure came the ear-piercing sound of countless inhuman screams. The squad, now fully alert, turned to the source of the noise just in time to see a light blue mist emit from the side of the hill. It accumulated into a thicker fog, and hovered in the night sky a bit, undulating like a cloud of blue ink in water, and then violently shot forward towards the squad. Anon only had a scant few seconds to notice the distorted features of vile humanoid faces before gunshots cut through the din. Anon immediately ducked down.
Four or five of the cadets were firing at the ghostly cloud; bolts cycled and shell casings ejected, but their attempts at fending the entity off with conventional weapons were in vain. Suddenly, the cloud dispersed into several spectral beings; they began viciously attacking the cadets, carrying some off and tossing them into small trees or throwing them into the air. Two specters struggled mightily lifting the heavyset cadet off his feet, then decided to torment the little spindly Baxter instead. They grabbed him by his ankles and dangled him in mid-air. It was complete chaos.
“EVERYONE FALL BACK TO COVER, NOW!” Yelled Roper, and many of the remaining cadets ambled back down the hill. Those who were injured or were still being attacked either crawled or limped behind a rock or a grove of trees. The cloud of specters had reformed and was now encircling the clearing like the eye of a hurricane, letting loose with a deafening screech.
As the ordeal occurred, Anon could see the break in the structure that Roper had pointed out while he scouted. ‘I’m either really brave or really stupid,” Anon thought to himself as he got to his feet. On the ground, he saw a cadet’s two-way radio lying in a tuft of dried grass; he picked it up and stuffed it in his breast pocket, figuring it would be helpful in some way other than communicating with Calloway and the cadets. Anon drew in a deep breath.
Back on the trail, the bedraggled members of the squad were patching one another up; they suffered mild abrasions and bruises. They all figured they would be maimed in some way worse then they had gone through. Roper was pacing back and forth among the cadets.
“Head count!” he called, “Is everyone accounted for?” Many heads nodded and affirmative replies murmured in the ranks. “Hey,” Baxter said as he fumbled with his bandages, “that other guy is gone!” Roper knew exactly whom he meant. “Everyone stay here,” he said as he sprinted up the trail. The blue mist had somewhat dispersed, but Roper took to cover behind a tree anyway. Peering behind the trunk and looking toward the hillside, he caught a glimpse of a figure climbing over the stone barrier and into the shadows of the stone.
TO BE CONTINUED