The ride into Steelhead was a quiet affair with both Jeremiah and the horse trotting along in silence.
The horse was getting used to its new rider; although he had long ago ceased to be surprised if a new rider had fur, horns or wings he was confused as to why his mistress addressed this rider with the same name as the man who used to scratch his ears and bring him biscuits. Still, if being a horse had taught him anything, it was that if you waited long enough the answers either came or didn’t matter so he just plodded along and slowly got used to this new rider’s little ways.
For his part Jeremiah was almost oblivious to the horse beneath him (which could be seen as a testament to the horse’s skill) lost, as he was, in deep thought. What would he find when he reached his son’s lab? What dangerous things had the lad been up to? What dangerous things had *he* been upto? And most importantly of all, where the hell was everyone? Steelhead was deserted!
He rode down several empty streets and alleyways, past houses and businesses and all, without exception, were empty. His calls went unanswered, his passing unnoticed. He was beginning to think the worst when he saw a small kiosk by the roadside proclaiming that today was a special day in which the whole town was taking part in a relay race of some kind. With a small sigh of relief, he flicked the reins and started the horse back on the path for Mason Labs in Port Harbour.
As he drew closer to the rear of the squat black building, the horse became jittery and skittered about, not wanting to approach.
Jeremiah looked at his son’s laboratory and felt a chill run through him too – something in the silhouette cast by the smoking chimneys unnerved him, making him think of a monstrous black beetle squatting on a log. With a shake of his head, he led the horse to a small patch of grass nearby and tied him to a tree. The horse seemed happy enough to left here, so Jeremiah set off to investigate his son’s one time home.
At the front, heavy stone steps led up to the strange doorway, a round aperture framed by a large cog from some colossal machine. There was no door, but the space between outside and in was as black as pitch and criss-crossed with a fine filigree of glowing fibres. Jeremiah walked slowly up the steps and gingerly extended his right hand towards the web, inch by inch until his fingertips touched one. He tensed, expecting something but not knowing what, but nothing happened, not even a flash of light or crackle of energy. Instead his hand passed through and into the blackness. He pulled it back quickly and it was fine, not one single strand of fur singed or out of place. He took a deep breath and stepped through…
… and missed his footing on the other side and fell face first into the room beyond. For long seconds he lay winded on the cold, hard floor before he dared move. He hurt, but nothing seemed broken – what a bloody silly place for a step he cursed as he rose to his feet and looked around. What he saw chilled him to the marrow
Just the right of the entrance a hospital gurney stood in pools of dried blood. Surrounding it were various contraptions and anatomical drawings as if the area had been used for emergency surgery.
Away from the steps and to the left at the back of the room was a strange machine that purported to be for capturing and storing lightning bolts – everything crackled and sparked with his slightest touch.
But over in the far corner, hidden away from the casual observer (not that he imagined such a person had ever found their way into there four walls), was the most shocking discovery of all. Etched into the stone floor and glowing with some ungodly power was a large red pentacle that make his skin tingle all over just to look at it.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” said a voice from behind him…
To be continued…
All the “Lost & Found” posts can be read here