THE SLATE OF VALE PART 21

CHAPTER 21

ZONE-3

Flashes of lightning brightened the dark smoky atmosphere and the drizzling of the rain, cloaked with the sooth that suspended in the moist air. There were distant screams of pain and anguish. The whole place was desolate and the heat of the burning buildings was not affected by the lightning or the drizzling rain.

Jeff coughed himself up to a sitting position, his head was throbbing like a steam engine and his body aches all over. The metallic taste of blood in his mouth made him lick his dry lips; he needed no mirror to tell that his lips were swollen. Despite the pulsing headache, his eyes seemed to be the only thing that was not hurting at the moment.

Where am I? He asked himself as his blurred vision came to settle on the floor that was covered with wet sooth. He could tell the floor was made of wood from the cracking sound it whined under his weight and the way it picks up flame.

He was in a room, about the size of his room back in the hero’s city, he couldn’t tell for sure if he was actually in his room because everything was ablaze and engrossed with total destruction. The roof of the room tongues inward, paving way for the nails of rains and stones of sooth that came floating down.

Jeff coughed again and stood up quizzically, everything in the room seemed to be rotating and it took him a while to regain his bearing. He made to move amide the pain all over his body. It was a struggle to keep his wobbling legs steady but he managed to walk out of the room, into the burning, empty hallway.

Smokes fog the air around, making him cough again but a bit longer this time. The dryness of the cough and the pain on both sides of his lungs, made him wish he knew where he was. He could feel the smoke in his lungs and its dryness he could taste. There must be an exist somewhere, he said to himself as he covered his nose with his elbow and walked to a bend in the hallway, just where the heating of the building wasn’t too intense.

There was no one. He was alone here, no friends, no enemies, no family. Just him and the sooth, the burning buildings, the rain and the lightning.

What is this place, where is everybody and what happened here? Jeff asked himself again as he rounded another bend. The footfalls of his boots could have echoed throughout, but the noise of the blazing flames engrossed it. The emptiness of the hallway clothed with the emptiness in his stomach, was turning to a knot and the pain of loneliness was unbearable.

At the end of the hallway he saw an open door and hanging on the top was a rubber pane that reads ‘EXIT’.

Jeff walked out of the house into an open street. The street where he stood now was in ruin, stalls were broken and what was left from their windows was hanging in total waste, with glasses in shreds. Any building that was not burning has either collapsed or was collapsing.

It must be the apocalypse, Jeff concluded. He was able to think clearly now because his throbbing headache was ebbing away.

The frizzling noise of burning buildings filled his ear, but the piecing cry of somebody, made the marrow in his bone to jump with fright.

Goose bump cloaked his skin with cold as he walked towards the direction to which the cry seemed to have emanated. His heart was beating faster and his breathing was stressful, he made to swallow but realized that there was no fluid in his mouth. Even the blood he once tasted on his lips seemed to have dried up.

Jeff’s walk was met with a pause when something at the back of his mind told him to look behind.

The surrounding environment, the buildings from the point where he stood and behind, was no longer burning. They were now new and beautiful, nothing to suggest that they were once lying in ruin. The sun blaze with adoring radiance and the petals of the flowers, planted besides each building on the two sides of the street, blossom with beautiful colors.

Jeff was confused by the change; everything ahead of him was still desolate, with the unwelcoming feeling of emptiness. It was as if he is a bridge between two worlds. Light and darkness.

The whole place vibrated with an intense shock wave and ahead of him, just besides a collapsed building, was a hooded shadow, forcefully holding a woman on the nape of her neck.

The hooded shadow was strange, and even from the oversized night hood it wore – which made it difficult to distinguish the body size from the hood – Jeff could see that the shadow was about the height of any average man.

The woman on its grapes was familiar. Jeff could see that from the light of the burning building, those smooth dark skin and coppery eyes that glint with the same radiance as the lightning. He knows this woman; she is Annabel Peters…His…His mother.

My God what is she doing here and who is that holding her, why is she dressed in this tattered dress?

Jeff stared with horror as the hooded figured lifted its head. He tried to meet the gaze of the person behind the hood but was met with an endless darkness; it was like falling into void.

“Protect yourself” Jeff heard his mother sobbed. He saw tears streaming down her cheeks, or so he thought, because the sooth and the rain made it difficult to differentiate.

The noise of the rain was intense, the fizzling and sizzling sounds of burning were increasing, but none of it was as agonizing as the cry of Annabel Peters when the hooded shadow raised a dagger and stabbed her in the chest.

Her cry chimed in Jeff’s ear like a church bell. Everything seemed to slow as Jeff ran broken hearted with all his might towards the direction of his mother.

“No!!!” Jeff exclaimed and woke up.

“Relax” someone said

Jeff was in a sitting position and was breathing faster with heart racing; he could feel his adrenal gland pushing his whole body with emergency. His vein, arteries and all his body system longs to save his dying mother. Sweat cloaked his whole body and almost convinced him that he was still sleeping. His head was aching and his body painful, but he was not covered with sooth or rain as the ceiling was attached and solid.

The bright light that lined the stone ceiling was nothing compared to the brightness of the sun he had seen in his sleep. He turned his aching head and jumped with fear when his eyes adored the beautiful face of a girl, staring down at him with bright silver eyes.

“Relax, you were talking gibberish in your sleep” The girl smiled flashing perfect dentition that matched her glittering eyes. Her hair was brown and short making her features appear like a female singer.

“Where am I” Jeff asked when he found his voice. He remembered flying the Hoverbird, and chasing…the people who had kidnapped Ema.

Jeff jerked away frightfully as quickly as he could. Out of reflex he made to draw his laser sword but realized just then that he was almost naked, save for the pants he wore. Jeff flushed with embarrassment and covered his body with the blanket he had been sleeping with. He swallowed uneasily; the people who had kidnapped Ema must have abducted him when he fell.

He glanced dubiously at the girl who was about his age and was staring at him, bemused by his attitude.

“You look as if you just saw a ghost; it’s funny but I’m happy you are awake. It’s been three days now.” The girl said still smiling.

“Oh my God, three days? You mean I have been asleep for three days” Jeff asked unsure if the girl was telling the truth.

If he had been at sleep for three days that means that going back to the school would be by only one means, going to report to the central city, the Heroes city. Going to the Heroes city would require series of process, and questions would be raised. He might be expelled afterwards.

No, I won’t do that, I will escape first, find Ema and the so-called Zone-3, if they exist. God I pray they do exist.

“In a coma to be precise and you were lucky my daddy found you earlier, it’s a miracle you got no traumas” the girl said and leaned away from his direction.

Jeff hands found mind of their own as they rubbed his brow, the headache was still there and the pain in moving his arms surfaced. He found his world spinning but held himself by leaning on the wall, least he falls.

“Teresa said I should give you this” The girl said coming over to the edge of the bed where Jeff was. In her palms was a plastic container with a red cap, and a ceramic cup whose content was steaming. “Says it would help with the headache and the pains.”

Jeff stared at the multiple images of the girl and the content in her hand. All of it was blur and cut in half. Her voice too had echoed a million times in his ear making the multiple image pulsing. He shook his head and watched as the multiple images all merged to form a whole. The girl’s smile was still there and enticing, but Jeff, noticing how close she was, jerked away from her to the other side, with the blanket still round his waist.

“Where am I?” he flickered his eyes all over the room. The room was empty save for the bed, a table beside it and the light bulb.

“It’s not in my place to disclose our location, but you shouldn’t worry, you are in safe hands” the girl’s smile widened when she noticed Jeff was staring at the exits which was made of stone and was ajar. “My name is Vanessa and I want you to calm down, dad is on his way to see you. He would explain everything.”

Vanessa dropped the steaming cup and the plastic container on the table. She smiled again and made for the exit but was obstructed by somebody.

“Nessa dear, how is our hero doing?” the person who had obstructed her asked. It was a man no doubt, with a deep voice that sounded familiar to Jeff.

“I think he is okay dad, but he looks shaking.” Vanessa said. She gave enough room for the man she had called dad to walk in and stopped at the door to watch the outcome of the meeting.

The vest perching on the man’s body was small compared to the bulging muscles and the hefty chest which could never go unnoticed at a first glance. His head which balanced on a flat neck was a desert of hair and his skull was traced with lines made by veins. His eyes glint with happiness, reflecting on the friendly smile Jeff was familiar with. But for the smile, Jeff doubt he could have recognized who the man was.

He looked different from the last time they last met.

“Hello Jeff, how are you holding up?” the man asked and sat down on the bed, facing Jeff.

Jeff felt his muscles relaxing, even though he had too many questions, he was glad for the familiarity.

“I think am doing good Mr. William.” Jeff said and sat down on the edge of the bed beside the older man. “Thanks for your hospitality but do you mind if I know where I am.”

“Oh, you mean this hole?” Mr. William asked, still smiling. “This is our home Jeff, Raz and Leonard must have told you about this place. This is Zone-3”

Jeff was dumbfounded and stared at the man with wide mouth. “You mean this is Zone-3?” He asked still not believing his ears.

“Yes Jeff, we have other code names, but Zone-3 is the code name used by our family in the academy.

Take your drugs and rest up, I know you have questions, but don’t worry, I will try and answer them afterwards.” Mr. William said patting Jeff on the shoulders. He stood up still smiling and walked out the door with Vanessa, leaving Jeff to the mercy of the drug and the steaming cup.

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