A Shadow’s Light
Copyright © 2011 J.M. Pierce
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
This book is dedicated to all who long for an escape from the everyday worries and stresses of life. It is my sincere hope that you find it within these pages.
As Test left the ground, he intentionally chose not to look back. Leaving Lincoln was the only way that he could protect anyone from further harm. He saw that as a fact. With tears in his eyes, he streaked through the sky feeling numb and hopeless.
The black clouds of the storm that had just ravaged Lincoln loomed before him, ominous and filled with a turmoil that rivaled his own. To his left, he noticed a black speck on the horizon. He squinted through the wind, and quickly realized that it was a helicopter. Suddenly the single speck seemed to multiply. One by one more fanned out from behind the leader to form a line. He glanced back to the storm ahead, and when he looked back to the line of metal birds, they had cut their distance from him in half.
“Leave me alone!” he screamed as he threw a pulse in their direction.
The distance was too great for the pulse to have any effect. He was tired of fighting and tired of running, but those were his only options. He looked into the storm and knew that the helicopters could not follow. With determination, he catapulted himself into the wall of black, leaving those that hunted him behind.
The wind was furious, and the lightning blinding. He could feel himself being pulled in every direction. A bolt of lightning erupted next to him, the energy of which sent him rolling sideways through the air. He fell helplessly, the push and pull of the wind rocking him violently. He gathered himself and released pulse after pulse, but couldn’t discern up from down.
His fear had taken over. His eyes burned from the wind and his body began to feel increasingly hot. With a steady pressure building inside of him, he struggled to remain focused and composed. The lightning had temporarily subsided and against the backdrop of darkness, he looked to his arms and was blinded by the brilliant, solid blue light coming from them. He looked to his torso and was met by the same intensity of color. The pressure inside of him continued to build, the pain causing him to fold himself into a fetal position. Now more streamlined, he began to fall like a rock. Steadily, the pressure built until he felt as if his chest was going to explode. Suddenly feeling the need, he thrust his arms and legs out, dramatically slowing his descent. He opened his eyes and squinted against the rain drops that fell with him from the sky. He rolled himself over, and the sight of the ground racing toward him took his breath. The air around him burst with shards of lightning, and he felt a surge of power rush through him. With a final glance to the ground, he was brought to a crushing stop by an involuntary release of energy from within.
His sight stolen by the brilliance of his own light, he felt himself begin to fall once more. Facing his palms toward the earth, he released a series of pulses to slow him. They felt weak; too weak to avoid impact. The speed of his fall increasing, he desperately scanned the horizon. The sight of water a short distance away, gave him his target.
He struggled with the wind to right himself and leaned towards the body of water. He had no way to gauge how large or how deep it might be. It didn’t matter, it was his only option. He released pulse after pulse, but they came unevenly, and each with a decreased potency. He angled his body in a manner that caught the wind in hopes that it might gain him a few precious feet.
The water raced towards him, and the realization that he was going to make it brought him a hint of relief. The relief quickly disappeared as his body slammed into the water. He skipped across the top; somersaulting and cart wheeling through the water until he collided with the earth that framed the pond.
He lay on his back gasping for air, the wind knocked from him. He rolled to his stomach and dug his fingers into the mud, straining against the pain resulting from the impact. Incrementally, and in short bursts, he sucked in the precious ozone filled air and relaxed his grip on the earth. Returning to his back, he lay motionless and looked at the sky above. The black clouds were giving way to a gentle blue backdrop. He could see a faint light in the west from the recently set sun, and the first stars began to reveal themselves. His world had suddenly become silent. He knew it wouldn’t last.
He had been staying in Wyoming since the week after the tornado in Lincoln. Eleven months had passed, and Test was now a member of a small construction crew in the town of Saratoga. Most of his days were spent in the forest building cabins for wealthy tourists that wanted to ‘rough it’ in the mountains.
He missed the simplicity of what his life had once been; the everyday worries of a high school senior seemed so trivial now. Time had not been kind to Test. His face was no longer an accurate reflection of his age, and the scar on his cheek, normally the focal point to most who didn’t know him, had become secondary to the bags under his eyes and his perpetual lack of a smile. His hair hung long to his shoulders, and now that he was working manual labor, he’d developed a new physique. Hoisting lumber, shingles, and sheet rock for eight to ten hours a day had broadened his shoulders and sculpted his body. He was no longer the lightly built, narrow shouldered teen that he had once been. A birthday had come and gone, making him now eighteen years old, but to his co-workers he was a twenty-two year old named Chance Johnston.
Upon arriving in Saratoga, he had originally been living like a hermit in the Silvan Motel, a small motel that was renting rooms by the week. The first couple of weeks after his arrival, of course with no job, he had to find a way to pay the rent. The truth of what Test had become in that period of time was difficult for him to come to terms with. He could remember being in high school and filling out a pre-college survey to find out what job would suit him best. A thief was definitely not on that list. He was not proud of it and that is why, at the first opportunity, he took another road.
In responding to a ‘Now Hiring’ sign that he had seen as he walked down a back street, he had been forced to make the final decision and risk being discovered. Luck, for a change, found him on that day.
He was lucky in two regards. First of all, the crew that he was hired onto was a small crew of only six men with no requirements to get hired other than a hand shake. Second was the fact that he was even able to find a job at all.
Saratoga was a logging town, and with the closing of the mill a few years earlier, it now had a very high unemployment rate. The owner of the small construction company’s name was Enrique Franco. He was a short and muscular Hispanic man that spoke very good English. He was also extremely kind hearted.
On the day that Test walked into his small office, his frazzled appearance had made Enrique think of his own son. At age twenty, Marc Franco died of a drug overdose, and while he didn’t know if Test was a drug user or not, it was obvious that the young man was in a bad run. He felt compelled to help him, and had partially made up his mind before the two of them had even talked. Standing in front of Enrique was a dirty and broken looking figure that appeared as though he had lived one hundred years worth of life in the last week. At the time, Test’s hair was just beginning to get long and his face was covered with a scraggly, un-kept beard.
Enrique had asked Test his name and in a timid voice, Test replied. “Chance, sir; my name is Chance.”
“Chance? That’s kind of an odd name. What’s your last name?” asked Enrique.
“I suppose it is,” replied Test, mildly embarrassed. “My last name is Johnston, and I really need a job, sir. I will work hard, I can promise you that.”
“Where are you from, Mr. Johnston?” asked Enrique.
Test’s heart began to beat fast. He’d thought of an alias, but hadn’t really thought much farther than that.
“I’m from Kansas, sir,” replied Test.
“I didn’t think you were from around these parts. What brings you here?” asked Enrique.
“Just wanted to be in the mountains, sir,” replied Test as he stared at the floor.
“Well then, you will like this job because the mountains are where you’ll be all day long,” replied Enrique. “Okay. I’ll hire you, but I have three rules you have to follow at all times. Number one is no drugs, on or off the clock. Number two is being honest. If you break a tool, own up to it. If you miss work because you drank too much the night before, tell me. Number three is don’t miss work. Just be here, be clean, and be honest; pretty simple.”
Enrique held out his hand for Test to shake. Test looked at his hand, fearful that with his pulse racing the glow from within him would be present. He had spent the last couple of weeks practicing control over his gift, but hadn’t been in a real life situation to challenge it. Overcoming his hesitation, he took Enrique’s hand and shook it firmly. With that, he had a job.
Test had no friends to speak of and really didn’t have the desire to make any. He had chosen the name Chance as a mode of amusement, and in a twisted way, a punishment for himself. He had not spoken a single word of truth to anyone since Lincoln. It bothered him deeply that his only chance at survival was lying, even though he knew there was no way around it. His new last name was in honor of his good friend that he had left behind in Lincoln; Clifford Johnston. He missed Cliff a great deal and spent much of his time wondering what had become of the old man that had been so kind to him. Every night he waited for Cliff to appear in a dream, telling Test that he was on his way, or something to that effect, but it never happened.
The news media had finally begun to let him disappear as the coverage had dwindled to the point where he could actually watch some television again. Maury of course had an episode that tried to explain where he had gone. The most popular explanation was that his mother ship had returned to take him home. This did put a small smile on Test’s face, but it was hard for him to laugh. His depression was deep and he had a hard time seeing a way out of it. He yearned for his mother. Knowing that she was alive, but not knowing where she was, had eaten at him daily. It had killed what hope was left in his heart. He felt miserably alone, and tragically lost.
The morning’s sunrise was lost in the shadows of the forest. Beams of light danced through the canopy, but it seemed as though they were forbidden to set foot on the forest floor below. It was a beautiful, yet depressing display; much like his life had been for the past nine months. Test drew the parallel between the magnificence of his power and the fact that it was this very power that forced him into hiding. Most every morning brought the same thing; a long ride into the mountains on a narrow, winding dirt road, through a forest that seemed to lead to no where.
Riding in the back of a white late eighties Chevy truck, he couldn’t force himself to see past the day. He stared through the network of trees as the truck bounced down the road. As they flashed by, his eyes couldn’t focus on them so he allowed them to blur. It felt good to let go and not try to make things clear. He wished he could do that with other areas of his life.