The Missing Page

Michael's Sojourn

Words have no power
to impress the mind without
the exquisite horror of their reality.

-Edgar Allen Poe

A.D. 2004 – Rhode Island

After I ended the threat from Pious Augustus and his Ancient, I began to feel a pull from the Tome of Eternal Darkness, as if the tome was incomplete. So in traveling the world in locating the areas of which the tome spoke of, I've met a family in Toronto, Canada. I was not surprised that they were waiting to give me a missing page. At the time, I didn't think much about it but the family's last name was Edwards. It was interesting when I returned to the Tome and found the correct place for it, right after the Chapter: Ashes to Ashes. It seemed that the story of the courageous firefighter, Michael Edwards, was not completed.

A.D. 1996 – Rhode Island

They were watching and following him in the deepest shadows of the night. Ever since he fell into that profound hole in the Middle East, Michael's eyes have been opened for the first time. Zombies, vampires, creatures of the darkness were thrown aside from today's world as superstition but Michael knew those creatures were based on facts. Those few who fought the Eternal Darkness saw these creatures of the night. Most died, some went insane and few have lived through the battles with both physical and mental scars to prove their violent encounters had occurred.

The street lamp felt very warm and welcoming to the firefighter. Few things kept the darkness away but their greatest enemy, light, they could not help to fight against. However, that fact comforted Michael only slightly. He knew that Pious had centuries of malice and ambition on his side. Manipulating the evil creatures—the bonethieves's physical anatomy—Pious manage to teach his pets to burrow into a human being's flesh and possess their bodies. Those creatures hid inside a human, protected by the shell of flesh and blood. They didn't fear the light.

It was time for Michael to move again, away from the protection of the light. He would've taken a step out from the street lamp if a shuffling out of the corner of his eye didn't catch his attention. Cursing himself for leaving his guns back at the hotel, Michael remained stationed. He thought that being rid of the Ancient artifact would free him of the Eternal Darkness. It was three in the morning, still six more hours to complete his sojourn. He had to take his chances. Michael ran.

Breaking the light, the darkness came, engulfing the firefighter in the bleakness of the shadows. Michael didn't see them, couldn't see them, yet he felt them following him. So he ran towards the next street light. However, the very moment he was about to dive towards the light, the bulb flickered and burnt out. His heart began to pound so much he felt the pulse in his throat. Sweat beaded down his brow and they were coming.

Fleeing once more, Michael knew he needed to find a permanent ally of light. Without his axe or guns, light was his only weapon. He needed to get indoors but in a simple town in Rhode Island at three in the morning, the firefighter didn't believe even a bar would be open. He ran and the darkness followed, gaining, always gaining.

All was quiet and dead in the deep winter night. Strays were the only living creatures roaming the alleys and not a single car drove the streets, which would've brought even the slightest light that he needed. Michael cursed himself again, leaving his flashlight as well in his hotel room. He was alone, running the streets he didn't know what unseen enemies on his heels. Why couldn't the Roivas family live in a large city in the States, like Los Angeles, New York or even Pittsburgh? Why did they settle in such a small place that slept at night?

The firefighter stopped those thoughts as they came. It wasn't his place to question fate that drew him into the battle with the Eternal Darkness. He knew his story was being written in the tome and someone, like you, was reading his story. What he didn't know was the ending; an ending which he hoped would be a happy one. He needed to survive until morning.

And so Michael did what he could only do. He ran on. The darkness continued to become thicker and the night showed no mercy either as the moon was new and the starlit sky barely helped him see. A sound that of footfall, emanated behind but the firefighter wouldn't dare slow his run, not for a moment to see what could be following him. If any creature of the night caught him in their gaze, they would trap him in a terrifying and mind numbing curse that could spell his doom.

Michael had to chance a turn in his escape, down an even darker alley. Such a move was foolhardy as the gloom was deeper and always a breeding ground for the fowl creatures of the night. But on he ran, tripping over something but he ignored it and found what he hoped would be in the alley, a fire escape. A simple, yet lifesaving devise against fires; stainless steel levels having ladders leading up to the next floor and down to the street. Normally the firefighter would only use it to help victims stuck inside a burning building get out and down to safety but Michael needed a breather and went up and away from the darkness.

It wasn't long until he reached the roof of the three floored building and collapsed in exhaustion. Even on the roof, the night seemed bleak and cold and now he felt trapped. It still baffled him on why they were following him, again. His heavy breathing burnt his lungs. Reaching back, Michael took off his huge pack and checked its contents. How wide his eyes went as a tube holding the Ancient's artifact fell out. The same artifact he thought he left back with Edward Roivas. It all began to make sense… what sense could be found when hunted by the darkness.

"Wha… argh!" a voice screamed from below but was silenced a moment later by a disturbing crush.

Michael had to glimpse over the roof's edge, to see what evil was down on the street. Though it was difficult to see, the firefighter almost ducked back at what he saw. What he tripped over was some poor homeless man and without regard for anyone but himself, Michael fled to the roof and now was forced to watch the man get his entrails torn apart by a zombie. Such creatures had animalistic intelligence and wouldn't begin to know how to climb up a fire escape to get the artifact. That thought led him back to the cursed item. Quickly removing his winter cap, the firefighter covered the glass and any further psychic waves sent out to any creatures of the darkness.

Michael was no fool though. They would continue to chase him so long as he held the artifact. He would take it back to the mansion where it belonged but he knew that wasn't an option. His mind played a cruel trick on him, thinking he gave the Ancient's Essence to the Professor when he must've given him something else. Or perhaps the meeting never really occurred. But now wasn't the time to deliberate what to do, just survive was his goal.

Leaving the undead creature to feast, the firefighter took to the opposite end of the roof, shimming down a drain pipe and back into the main road. On his feet he ran, running from the poor bum in the alley but more importantly, from the creature of the night. His sojourn was more important than one man's life, regardless on how cruel it sounded. All of humanity's existence rest in the balance of Michael's success and to end his life by going against the zombie without no weapons would surely mean his doom and more, that of the whole human race.

Onwards his flight resumed, fleeing from the darkness. This time, however, the Eternal Darkness presence began to wane. Michael could only guess that the artifact being double covered by his winter cap and his pack was confusing the creatures. It comforted him little. So he continued, passing each and every welcoming street lamp, praying that the dawn would come soon.

But unlike the creatures of the night, Michael was human and would tire quickly. Already in ten minutes into his run in the cool, crisp night air, the firefighter's lungs began to burn along with a dull ache in his legs. But still he ran… until a blinding light from a side street held him in place. It took the firefighter more than a few blinks to adjust his night vision and to better perceive what the light was coming from. Once he saw the building, Michael blinked some more, this time to keep his tears of joy from escaping his eyes. He found a sanctuary and ironically enough, a fire station.

Down the street he sprinted, focusing on the deep shadows in every corner. Indeed, he could rest some but Michael knew as long as he held the artifact, everyone around him would be in danger. Worse, the people who are blinded by there own comforts would be easy preying, for they would simply dismiss any creature of the darkness as a figment of their imagination until it was too late. It was a risky gamble. Michael didn't want to draw the demons to his brother firefighters but this was his only chance to get a little equipped before dawn. However, a critter crawled out of a sewer, stopping Michael in his tracks.

The creature began to scurry around blindly. It was not of this world for it was the size of a large rat yet it did not have any fur on its entire body and it moved with thin legs, that of a scorpion. The creature's head was coned shaped, wrapped in flesh without any signs of eyes or ears. On the back it carried its tail limply like a scorpion but without a stinger at the end. But Michael wasn't fooled.

This creature may not have eyes to see but somehow it did have some means to hear. The creature was called a trapper and though its extra member would not hurt him, it could, however, send out a pulse of energy to transport its victims to another dimension at the cost of the creature's life. A dimension, which Michael, who no longer held theTome of Eternal Darkness and the only key to exiting the dimension, would be trapped for all time. Such a creature he could not chance to sneak around.

Back the firefighter went to the main street where not too long ago he found a piece of garbage on the ground, a broken liquor bottle. It was the only thing he needed, knowing that the trapper's weakness was distance. If Michael could kill it from afar, which wouldn't be too difficult to do to the weak trapper, the firefighter could then reach the station.

But he fear missing the creature, having it run away from the shattering of glass and sending out its wave at him. Yet, there was no choice, he had to try. Inch by inch he advance to get close enough to have a clear shot but far enough not to be hit with the creature's wave. Michael barely breathed, difficult with the running in the cold all evening. Silence was his ally and his only hope to avoid being trapped. With a quick flick of his wrist, the firefighter let the projectile fly and ran as much as his legs could as far away as he could. A high pitch cry followed him but Michael didn't know if he hit the creature solidly or if it was readying an attack. Either way, it would soon die and Michael didn't want to return until he felt safe—as safe as one running from the Eternal Darkness—could.

A few heartbeats later, the firefighter returned and only hundreds of shards of glass littered the street. No trapper, not even any signs it ever existed, could be seen on the street. But Michael knew though others would call him crazy. The creature simply vanished, retuning to whatever hell spawned it. However, the way was now clear and Michael smiled for the first time in a very long time.

Entering the vast station, Michael finally felt like he came home. At that moment, he wondered about all of his fellow firefighters back in the huge city of Toronto, such a metropolitan could fit twenty of this town in it. And with the night life, the darkness would be hard press to catch him in his old city. Michael wanted to survive if only to see his family one more time. One step at a time.

"Hey there buddy, what can we do for you?" a firefighter said, taking notice of Michael.

There were four in total who seemed to not have had battled any fires in some time. The four were seated beside their fire truck, around a table playing poker. Still, even the town firefighters were dedicated to protecting lives; staying up at all hours of the night for fires were all unpredictable. Sitting in their yellow jumpsuits, they waited for Michael's response.

"Hey guys. I am Michael Edwards, Industrial Firefighter of Toronto. I know this might sound strange—"

"Michael Edwards! The same guy who took care of those raging oil well fires out in the Middle East?" another questioned. It took a few moments before the other two realized what their friend was saying and the poker game ended with Michael having their full attention.

"Not just me," Michael answered, turning his head. None of the other firefighters pushed him. Indeed, they nodded their heads for Michael's pain. In defeating the great fires, he lost five good men, heroes all.

"I'm sorry, we all are," the first apologized and his friends nodded again.

Michael was no longer listening. A strong, evil force was approaching, he could sense it. His fellow firefighters were in danger from the artifact he carried. He had to make this fast. With a sprint, Michael ran to the fire truck, removing an axe and a large wrench. Expecting to take the items and run was his plan; unfortunately, the Rhode Island firefighters were quicker than he expected and were already blocking his way out.

"What are you doing?" asked the third as he was slowly reaching for the weapon which Michael pulled it further away.

"You guys can't understand! Just let me leave… now! The darkness…" Michael trailed off as several runes appeared in the air and a demon dropped from nowhere, tearing into the fourth firefighter with its massive claws. "…comes."

Michael wasn't surprised by the actions the last three took. The first screamed and fled, getting far from the beast as possible while the second fainted from the sight of the monster and how it was killing his friend. The last simply stood, paralyzed, shaking his head and perhaps doing such an action would make the abomination no longer exist.

The demon towered close to nine feet with a bulky body and long arms similar to the figure of a gorilla. Hunch was its three heads, fighting over which one should have the most human flesh as it fed. The firefighter groaned weakly as his arm was ripped from its socket and one head tore into his inners. Still he groaned as the demon, the horror, continued to disembowel him, alive.

The sight was stomach retching but Michael had to take the opportunity to attack while it was distracted. Ignoring the broken man's whimpers, Michael charged in, slamming his axe right into the skull of the middle head, bathing both firefighters in sticky grey matter. The horror cried out in anguish, dropping its prey to the floor to face this new threat. Down came one of its massive arms, which the firefighter ducked easily, coming back up swinging to sever the right head. He connected; taking the head from its body, only to be slammed onto the fire truck by the horror's other claw. Such an attack left a huge imprint of Michael's body onto the truck as the firefighter crumpled to the ground.

The horror growled, perhaps trying to laugh, as it rose its foot to crush the foolish mortal. Down came the powerful foot which surely would've flattened the firefighter where he laid. Just a split second before it could connect, Michael managed to push himself off of his shoulder, rolling under the truck and to the other side. As he was rising to lean against the truck, feeling a couple of broken ribs from slamming into the truck, Michael flinched as he heard a sudden cracking sound. Knowing the demons as well as he did, he could imagine the solid, concrete floor splitting apart from the force of the creature's stomp.

A cry from one of the firefighter's had Michael moving. He would not let the darkness claim another innocent. Crawling into the truck, he began turning on the truck and in turn, the blaring siren. Out he came, axe swinging, at the disoriented creature as the loud sound drummed within its last head. The axe landed with a sickening crack, splitting the beast's skull wide open and ending its agony of the loud siren noise.

The creature weakly swung a few more times before falling to the ground, dead. Michael returned to the truck, turning the siren off and wasn't surprised to see that only the horror's work remained. The two firefighters, one who seemed to have wetted himself, continued to whimper and gawk at their dead friend. Michael would've stayed, to help his fellow firefighters but the horror didn't walk into the station, it was summoned. And that meant one thing. A gatekeeper.

Weapon in hand, Michael fled, leaving the station and several terrified and confused men behind. All Michael wished was that he would wake up. However, reality turned out to be more of a dream and he was more awake than ever before since he now knows of the darkness. If Michael was given the chance, he wished he could have one, just one, shot at the traitorous human turned liche, Pious Augustous. He was a damnable of a man. To live for, to serve the evil Ancient and to threaten the very existence of the human race was something the firefighter despised the most.

But Michael didn't believe the liche would have his way, that the long battle against the darkness, where the few of the light, himself included, would triumph in the end. However, many have lost their lives and grimly at that. Such an end Michael didn't want. He was still several hours away from dawn. He needed to survive.

Back into the thick darkness he fled, eyeing every corner, every shadow for the evil gatekeeper. Such a creature he didn't know if humanity ever recorded in dark stories. Perhaps no one lived long enough to write such a story. If his story would not end here in such a quiet city in Rhode Island, than Michael decided he would write about such demons, in fantasy of course. As the street continued to suffocate him in the unknown blackness of night, a pair of peering orbs glowing from the darkness, begging Michael to them.

The firefighter instantly turned away from the green orbs, knowing the damage the creature could do to his mind. The creature approached. Its body was a figure closely that of a skeleton, with thin flesh surrounding its bones and thin wings that wrapped themselves like a cloak around the gatekeeper. Though the wings looked paper thin, they were harder than titanium where even a gatling gun would do no good to pierce the living shield. Behind the creature and high above its head swung its scorpion like tail, as if it was a cobra ready to strike.

Michael knew the gatekeeper's true weapon was its ability to summon other creatures of darkness to this realm, just like the horror at the station. There was only two ways to harm such a demon. Either one needed to attack it from the back where the deadly tail was or attack its torso which was shielded with its wings. They were the worst creatures Michael had to fight within the Middle East but they were in their home, the pits of darkness but in civilization, these creatures were on his home turf. Michael's other advantage; he was ready for them, unlike his first encounter with the darkness.

The gatekeeper was slow moving and to advance to the dangerous enemy was suicide for Michael. Michael's only hope was to attack it at a distance but if he did have a gun with him, the gatekeeper would counter the distance problem with summoning another evil creature. The road was barren with the exception of houses and streetlamps. Michael was feeling trapped and to go one on one with a gatekeeper wasn't a pleasant thought. A saving grace came to him a split second later as his eyes landed on a potential weapon, a fire hydrant.

It was another one of his gambles. If the hydrant's water pressure was too high he knew he couldn't unbolt the nut but if the pressure was too low and not aligned with the beast, he would be wide open for an attack. But the choice was not his to make for there were no other options. The soft then hard footsteps came on, getting closer to the firefighter. One more turn and the nut blew free.

Out came the contained water, pounding the gatekeeper on impact. Its wings were indeed tough but the sharp sting of the water quickly spread its wings wide as it collided against a building. It growled, pinned as it was unable to shield itself, move its tail, or even summon a minion to its aid. The growl quickly became an inhumanly cry of pain as a curved blade of an axe embedded itself deep into its body.

The commotion had lights turning on all up and down the street. Many residents came out; still weary of the early hours, to see what the hell was happening. However, all they found was a fire hydrant, which the water was soon residing, that was opened and softly hitting the side of a dented wall. A wrench lay unmoved next to the hydrant while an axe was stuck against the wall. All wondered who was the crazed person to do such a random act and where could they have gone?

The last sprint and battle took a lot out of the firefighter. Exhaustion began taking its toll as Michael leaned on the back door in his new shelter. Turning on the back lights, Michael took in the newspaper area where a machine was already working full force to print out all of the today's news.

"Hey! Who are you?" a voice called on the other side of the printing machine.

"I'm sorry to intrude. My name is Michael Edwards, Toronto Industrial Firefighter," the firefighter said while moving around the printing machine.

"What the hell is an industrial firefighter from Canada doing here?" asked the man.

"This is a surprise inspection from OSHA to see if any of your equipments are in anyway a fire hazard and since no one from Rhode Island was qualified for this task, they sent me," Michael bluffed, pretending to check out the tables for short fuses.

"I see," the man said with a pause. "Hey guys, we're being inspected!"

The man was more than touched with time that Michael could see and his uniform showed he must be the editor of the newspaper. The building was larger than the firefighter could have imagined in the small city. It did, however, provided him with what he needed. A shelter, full of light, that would keep the darkness away and a moment to breath. Two other workers who showed signs of working the midnight oil came in a few minutes later, waiting the dawn for a different purpose, wanting to sleep.

The three were not too eager about the inspection but decided to cope with the firefighter's presences by showing him around. Not much was seen behind the workings of the mechanics of the newspaper. Showing Michael around and telling him the process of making the newspaper in such a monotone voice made the firefighter want to give into the comfort of sleep.

Half way into the building, Michael immediately awoke as one of the workers cold cocked him right in the face. If the firefighter was a weaker man, the unexpected blow would've sent him to the ground. However, Michael retaliated, coming back from the strike with a back elbow, crushing the man's nose. In his instant fury, Michael soon calmed as he saw the poor, broken man on the floor. But a second later, the man rose and with a shattered face, he didn't show any signs of pain.

Instincts alone had Michael ducking from the incoming punch from the editor. Soon the firefighter was running again, towards an open door to an office. The three followed in a slow walk as Michael slammed the door behind him, locking himself into the office. He knew his luck won't give him a moment's rest. Indeed, as if he could "feel" them approaching, Michael had no doubts that the darkness was coming for him again. They had to be the most evil creatures Michael knew of. Bonethieves.

Pushing the office desk against the door, the firefighter knew he could not last long in the close quarters of the office without a weapon. A jingling of keys from outside the door confirmed his suspicions that he was in the editor's office and thus, he barricaded the door. But he knew he could not hide and the desk offered weak protection against the likes of bonethieves. Michael had no choice.

Dropping his pack, the firefighter began unrolling his sleeping bag that rested on top of his backpack. A clank of metal followed as a magikal gladius fell to the floor, sparkling in the color of Pious's rivaling Ancient. Michael's goal would have to wait. Though he was not familiar with using such a weapon, the firefighter took it in hand, trusting in both the magik of the blade and in his own destiny.

Long ago Pious Augustus was human and a Roman centurion, full of pride and honor. However, a fateful day, many centuries ago he was summoned and guided to the Room of Balance where all the Ancient artifacts fed off of one another, imprisoning each creature against the others will. But the Ancient, Pious's Ancient, desired freedom more by tipping the scales in its favor, having the centurion touch its relic.

Much of the Tome of Eternal Darkness told what became of the once honorable man. He became nothing more than a shell of his former self, an undead puppet to the mighty Ancient. But few knew what happened after Pious touched the artifact and Michael was one of those few people. In a blinding light as the relic began corrupting Pious's soul, the rival Ancient's magic continued to assault the relic but it couldn't with the disruption of the human. Instead the rival's magic was absorbed into Pious's gladius, making the centurion's favored weapon his greatest bane. To prevent someone from using such a powerful weapon against him, the liche concealed it away from prying eyes.

Michael found the blade that he believed to be called the Sword of Light, even if it was infuse with the power of an Ancient. It was a blade that would cut through the darkness; to give those who fought a ray of hope. To finally end the centuries of war and terror that Pious and his Ancient threatened the world with. Michael would not die in this place; he had too much left to do. The blade would have to be used as the bonethief clerk unlocked the door and forced itself in. Humans were frail things and to kill a bonethief within the flesh and bone of its host, one would have to destroy the human body.

Never did Michael want to kill a human or a body possessed by one of the creatures of the damned. Such a vile act, though justified, still touched his sanity. The nights he slept were restless but not from visions of the evil creatures he fought but from the nightmares that haunted him were that of human faces, begging him not to kill them. He knew, once he let out his feral growl in a horizontal swing, that these three men would give him further nightmares. But he had to fight.

"Come on you body stealing beast!" Michael bellowed, cleaving the editor in half.

As to answer him, the bone thief leapt from the still standing torso and legs from the editor. The creature was thin, very thin, with hooked arms like that of a preying mantis. It was covered in blood and gore that oozed down its frame, promising Michael an equally disturbing fate.

It was the faster of the two, swinging is two extremely sharp hooks. Michael leapt back but was caught by a hook, tearing his shirt and flesh from his right shoulder to the firefighter's left hip. The creature stalked its prey but its eyes bulged a moment later, backing away, now feeling the part of the prey. Rage filled the firefighter's eyes and such anger fed the power of the magikal blade.

Swinging the sword horizontally again, the magik ate through the creature's flesh as if there was only air in the space it took up. It barely had time to cry out as its head was swiftly removed form its shoulders. The two remaining men stopped, truly afraid of the blade of darkness bane. They would've run but Michael was already on top of them, hacking and slashing both the men and the creatures buried deep inside, like a man possessed. Indeed, he was.

By the time Michael awoke from his trance like state, no enemy could be found and he was bathed in the blood of the two men he still straddled. He couldn't believe what he had done but like the whole cursed night he fled from, he didn't have time to feel anything but urgency. The sun was rising and the morning birds were singing their songs. He needed to run once more. Though he was freed of the darkness, his work of the poor souls around him would place him in prison or an asylum for the deeds he's done. He needed to now flee from the light, change clothes and finally complete his mission.

It only took an hour for Michael to rid himself of his bloody clothes and shower in his hotel room to rid of himself of what stench still hung to his skin before making it back across the rest of the small city to his destination. The post office. Though it was daylight out, the firefighter still looked over his shoulder and now he flinched whenever a siren of a vehicle blared. He knew eventually the bodies of this night's horrors would be found and he feared the police would connect the murders to him. And the evil he faced in the fire station and the sickening scene of his brother firefighter made him decide that he had to quit the force.

"Can I help you sir?" asked a male postal clerk with a smile.

Michael nodded but wouldn't, couldn't return that smile. Placing two packages down on the desk, Michael watched the clerk's reaction. It wasn't surprising that the clerk was confused by the address, that address just being across town at a famous mansion but the clerk decided to take them anyways.

"I need those kept in a vault or to be constantly shipped. It's top priority. They need to be at their destination on the evening of May fifth, two-thousand, exactly," Michael instructed in all seriousness.

"Yes, we can do that but the cost…"

"Is worth more than you can possibly imagine," Michael interrupted, placing a huge wad of cash on the counter before leaving. He thought he heard the clerk say something about the price was too much but the firefighter wouldn't pause.

Exiting the post office, Michael was blinded by the blessed golden rays of the sun. Though he felt, for the first real time, a huge weight has been lifted off his shoulders; he was not at ease, not at all. He knew he may have won this last battle but he would also carry scars for the rest of his days. The darkness of night would haunt him forever, for the night has become more than the terrors of the unknown to the firefighter, for he feared worst than the unknown. He feared the known. And now he couldn't return to his old life of firefighting. By night, nightmares forbad him to sleep and by day, he feared humanity locking him away for crimes he never truly committed. He knew he would never smile again, not with the terror of blackness he stared at for all this time.

Michael Edwards, former Industrial Firefighter of Toronto, Ontario, left Rhode Island, ending his final moments against the Eternal Darkness. The man now travels, unknown about the defeat of the Eternal Darkness, he is always on the move, never to find peace for the darkness—he believes in his mind's eye—was always coming.