Chapter 2

"Simon, Simon, wake up! I need you!" Simon can hear a female voice yelling in his ear, and something pulling at his arm, but mostly it feels as if the top of his head is sitting on a hot stove. He opens his eyes and sits up. "Oh, thank God. You're okay!"

Recognition slowly returns to Simon as he looks around the dark, gloomy basement.

"Crap! What happened?" He looks around and sees pieces of wood and random objects everywhere, and light trickling from the base of the stairs. He checks himself for injuries, and finds none, just a lot of dust and plaster. He looks at Tiffany "You okay?"

"Ya, I'm alright. They are too," she points at the rest of the group sitting around talking softly. "Something must have hit you in the head, for a while there we were worried, and you just wouldn't wake up." She looked okay, just covered in a fine layer of dust, so did everyone else. Hearing them speaking, the group looks over; sighs and smiles of relief come over them. "Finally you wake up, and you call me lazy." Tyler calls over.

"No, you admit that yourself freely, dumbass!" Kyle starts laughing at him.

Tyler nods "True." Simon gets up and stretches himself out. "So what happened?"

George speaks up "House collapsed. We're lucky, my dad and Todd, they…they didn't make it. Me and Mike cleared a way out of the basement, after that it was easy to get out. It doesn't look good out there." George keeps a straight face, but Jerome hides his face and stays silent. Mike pats Jerome on the shoulder and helps him up.

"I'm sorry…" Simon replied.

George nods his head. "I just need a minute…" he walks off toward the stairs.

"What now? Do we just sit and wait for the military, or the cops, or something…?" David asked.

"No point," Mike answered with a shake of his head. "They're gonna be busy with the Russians, they wont have time for civilians for a few days. After all it took almost half a week to get water to the Superdome."

"Crap, well then what?" Tyler asked.

Everyone just seemed to look around, lost in thought. This was a situation that no one had foreseen. In their heads they were all thinking of what happened to their own families and other friends.

Simon took a look around; TV's had fallen, video game systems were on the ground, game cases scattered everywhere. Stuff littered the ground around him, and a coat of dust and dirt was on everything. Pop cans were spilled all over, and food sat on the ground in it. He looked at his cell phone; it was about 9am, no service. That isn't a surprise; no one gets service out in the boonies here. He walks over to the stairway, pats George on the shoulder and looks up, where a roof should have been, the sky had taken its place. But not a natural sky, it was a deep gray, the sun only a ball of light behind the haze. The stairway had pieces of wood and other debris pushed to either side. He walked back over to the group; they were still sitting in a semi-circle staring blankly, except Mike. Mike stared at Simon the whole time, waiting for something. Simon looked at Mike, and nodded his head. Mike taking this as his moment spoke out. "Alright, let's get moving, no use just sitting here."

"Where?" David asked, "The freakin country got nuked!"

At this Mike frowned, he didn't know that answer.

"Ya, that's what I thought, it sounds good to get up and try to do something, but after all that? We'd probably get radiation poisoning! And who knows what's out there, it might have turned into Fallout 3 out there! We wouldn't last a minute out there!"

"Well we have to do something! We'll get radiation poisoning anyway if we just sit here."

"Ya, sure, skip the radiation, and get ripped apart and eaten by 6 foot tall mutated spiders!" At this everyone started laughing, except Tyler he shudders as if from a cold chill; he hates spiders with a passion. "So alright guys," he picks up his Mountain Dew, and lifts it up. "Here's to trying… rhymes with dying.

Tucker throws a air hockey puck at him, and nails the can as he's drinking. The effect being, he drops the can, which spills all over him, and he spews out what was in his mouth all over Kyle. "Booyah! I got a two for one!" Tucker yells out.

"Ahhh…Son of a mother!" Kyle exclaims standing up, trying to wipe off his shirt.

Everyone is cracking up laughing, even Kyle now.

"Alright guys, we do need to move out. Mike's right we can't just sit here." Simons voice booms. "Grab your bags that you brought stuff in, and any bags you can find. Then take out the stuff we don't need, and fill it with stuff we do. Flashlights, batteries, bottled water, the essentials." At this everyone stares blankly for a second, then gets up and starts at it. Simon walks over and rolls up his sleeping bag, and stows it in his carrying bag with his pillow. He smiles at Tiffany as she starts getting her stuff together. He takes his game stuff out of his bags and starts looking for anything useful, he finds a bunch of batteries, and starts removing the batteries from the game controllers as well. He stashes his laptop in his book bag, and continues his search of the basement. He sees Mike and George ascend the stairs, and hears them say they want to search what's left of the upstairs. When they return, they bring a bagful of things: 3 flashlights, 10 bottled waters, some canned Chef Boyardee, some batteries, a few knives, some bandages, and a 9mm handgun with about 5 clips worth of ammo. This we combined with what we found downstairs: batteries, cans of soda, 2 bottles of water, a pocket knife, and a flashlight. They split it among each other evenly. Mike gets the 9mm, since he has most combat experience. They also take what blankets they can, and toilet paper. As they're getting ready they hear someone coming down the stairs. Everyone freezes, Mike cocks the 9mm and aims at the stairway. And out of it walks Todd. "Todd!" everyone yells and runs over. George hugs him tightly. Todd is George and Jerome's white half brother, when their father remarried. Todd is 5'10, 17, with a slim build, brown short hair, and a grin on his face most of the time. He's wearing a plain grey T-shirt and blue jean shorts. He has a cut on his head, and he's limping. Mike checks his injuries, "He's alright, just a little banged up." Mike uses one of the bandages they had found on Todd's head.

"Geesh Todd, always getting yourself in trouble! Now you had a house fall on you!" Jerome says jokingly. A few people laugh at that. Todd grins.

"Alright guys lets go." Simon speaks up.

"Where?" David asks.

"The spider's lair of course! No, were goin to Kingston, most of our houses are there, and we should probably find out what's goin on."

"True." David says.

"I agree, this is the best thing to do" Mike agrees.

One by one, the group agrees.

"So, how do we get there? All our car's all got tossed like Hotwheels cars!" George asks.

"Good question my dear Watson," Simon grins as he says "There's a little thing they invented, it's called walking."

Almost everyone groans at this. "Unless we find a working car, that hasn't been taken yet." At this everyone smiles, and looks at George.

"Stop lookin at me like that guys. Just because I'm black doesn't mean I can jack a car." George grins.

"That makes you a disgrace to our community George." Jerome laughs.

"Shut up, Jerome. You're not black, you're Mocha." George laughs back.

Everyone laughs.

They all ascend the stairs, and walk out onto the front lawn. Simon looks around, all he sees is destruction. The cars were flipped, and are about a hundred yards away. Houses are collapsed. Trees bent over at the base of the trunk. Even the sky itself seemed to mirror the carnage; it was a dismal grey, with the sun barely seen through the haze, and a light coming from where Chillicothe was. Anyone with half a brain could tell that the town was burning.

"Hopefully Kingston doesn't look like that." Mike says.

Everyone nods and looks around.

"Alright guys lets get moving, we'll take Marietta Rd, to the highway then we can follow that. Who knows, maybe we'll find someone along the way? But I want to stop by my place firs…" Simon starts.

"Nuh-uh, we aint goin all the way out to your house Simon. There is probably nuthin' left anyway, your house was closer to Chillicothe than ours was." Jerome counters.

"We're going. That's final." Simon glares over, and then his face slumps and he lowers his eyes. "At least to know what happened. I need to know." He looks back up and into the eyes of the group.

"Fine, "Jerome starts to smile "but you've got to carry me."

"A dump truck couldn't carry you!" Kyle laughs. And Jerome grins at him "Funny, funny, Kyle."

The group starts off down the road. Simon, Tiffany, and George leading, everyone else following in a big pack. Mike adjusts his air soft gun holster with the 9mm onto his hip.

As they walk they encounter the remains of houses and vehicles. They scavenge everything they can. "Technically this is stealing, but since the U.S. just got screwed by Russia, I don't think they'll mind us taking a few things." Kyle jokes.

Tyler looks over "Dude they'll blame George and Jerome anyway, they're black."

George laughs "It'll be night soon, so they can't see me unless I smile! And I'm not carrying any TV's!"

Mike breaks in" Shush. I heard somethin." He looks over to a broken house to the left of the road. It was a one story house that was sky blue. The roof had blown off and windows blown out, but surprisingly the rest of the house was intact. As everyone turns toward the house and quiets, the noise stops. Mike calls out "Hey is anyone in there?" Mike puts his hand on the 9mm, and starts to pull it out, while switching off the safety.

Muttering can be heard from inside, then a wining. Slowly a small boy comes out of the house with a dog. While the boy looks about 13, and unassuming, the dog was huge! All black with a gray stripe down its back. It barred its teeth at the group, and everyone took a step back. The boy calmed the dog with a pat and walked over, the dog one step behind.

He walks up to Simon," I'm Johnny Ricken! And this is my dog Rex!" the boy grins up at Simon and holds out his hand. He is small for his age, maybe 5' at most. But he's not a midget, just tiny. His eyes and hair are brown; his hair is shoulder length and ruffled. He's wearing a bright orange shirt and bright blue silk shorts. The odd part was his belt; it was heavy duty leather, which was bright green, with about 6 bulging cloth pouches tied to it. He had a large brown backpack and a gun holster with a slingshot in it. Crafted onto it was a small pouch bulging with small objects, probably rocks. Hanging around his neck was a necklace with a few different objects: a whistle, a cross, a mini flashlight, a ruby, and a locket. Upon closer inspection he had blue Chuck Talors, and bright blue socks pulled up halfway to his knees. Simon smiles at the boy and shakes his hand "Nice to meet you John, I'm Simon and these are my friends. What are you doing out here? Where are your parents?"

David's still smiling and says "I live here! As for my parents, I dunno. I woke up from the big bang, put my clothes on and grabbed my stuff and looked around, and…well isn't this cool? Everything is all neat lookin!" Johnny looks around and smiles at his surroundings. He looks over at Mike and his eyes grow wide "Wow! Cool gun! Can I see? Where are my manners! My name is Johnny Ricken, nice to meet you!" And he holds out his hand.

Mike turns the safety back on and gives John a hard look "No, kids shouldn't mess with guns. My name is Michael."

Johnny gives a sour look and continues to look around the group. He walks through the entire group introducing himself, in his odd way. All the while, Simon sees the boy's hands constantly moving between handshakes and his pouches. "So Johnny…" He interrupts the boy introducing himself to George, "What are in those pou…"

Johnny looks over and glares "It is rude of you to interrupt my conversation!" Johnny sees Simon pointing at his pouches "Oh these!..." apparently he had forgotten about his meet and greet. "These are my belongings of interesting stuff I find!" At this he plops himself down on the ground and starts upending the pouches on the ground. Out falls a collection of items, ranging from a diamond ring to a bent paperclip. As he dumps things out he starts telling each items personal history and story. He picks up the paperclip then and launches into another tale. "I found this when my family went scuba diving, and my dad said that you could find buried treasure on the ocean floor, or at least a pearl in an oyster and those where worth a ton! So after looking all day and not finding anything, I found an oyster! We brought it back on the boat and used some tool to open it, and out popped this! I had never heard of oysters making paperclips! Apparently in order to fit in with the current world it started making office supplies! I wonder what regul…." And off he went on another story and ended up picking up some random object and switching the story to it.

"Hey! I recognize that knife! That's mine!" Mike bent down and picked it up and flicked it out and closed it back checking it. He then scowled down at Johnny sitting cross-legged on the ground surrounded by his 'treasures'. Johnny looked up with surprise. "Looks like all we've found is a thief."

"Oh is that yours?" His face turns into a smile "Good thing I found it for you! I just found it hanging on someone's coat, I thought it was going to fall off and get left behind, good thing I grabbed it for you!" Johnny's face literally glowed with joy, but disappointed in loosing his treasure.

Mike looked down at him with confusion. "Found it? You stole it!"

Johnny's face instantly changed to shock and hurt. "Stole? I would never steal! That's just wrong. I would have you know that I live by very strict morals! I thing thieves should be locked up! And their lock picks taken away!" Strangely enough, he looked serious. Something was very odd about this boy, Simon thought. He looked down at the pile and noticed that he had also taken 3 batteries, a clip of ammo for the 9mm, a flashlight with a Iron-man keychain attached to the bottom, a set of car/house keys "Hey!" Simon reached down and picked them up and inspected them.
"Oh was that yours, you must have dropped it! Good thing I found them!" Johnny smiled.

Simon looked around and grabbed what his group owned and gave the items back to the right people. "Now Johnny, stealing is wrong, you shouldn't be taking things from people."

"I agree 100 percent! Stealing is a horrible crime; I'll be on the lookout for any thieves!"

Johnny exclaimed.

"But you stole this stuff right out of our pockets!"

Johnny's eyes grew even wider, "I did not! You must have dropped that," pointing at the keys Simon was counting. His tone became accusing. "You must not have thought those were very important, if you just dropped them like that, good thing I picked them up! You should all be thanking me!"

Everyone was completely dumbfounded at this and just stared at Johnny, and/or slapped themselves in the forehead. At seeing almost half the group doing this, Johnny slapped himself in the head and tried to look as confused as possible. "That wasn't very fun, why are we hitting ourselves?"

Mike pulls Simon aside, "This kid's nuts! Lets leave….now."

Simon looked at Mike and said "We cant just leave him, you know that. So what if he's a little odd…"He looked over at Johnny who was putting his things back in his pouches. "But as long as we keep an eye on him,….and our belongings, we should be fine."

"Fine…."

Simon walks back over to Johnny, "Hey, do you want to come with us? We're headed to Kingston to find out what happened."

At this Johnny smiles and jumps up. "Sure! Awesome, my first big adventure! Well I'm ready." He slings his stuff back on and pats his leg, the dog walks over to his side.

"Fantastic! Now we've got a 2 year old with us with a dinosaur for a pet." Kyle jokes

"Alright guys, lets head out." Mike calls out.

As the group resumes their walk down the road, Johnny takes his place with his dog in the middle of the group, constantly talking to those around him.

Their trip remains uneventful until that night. The group takes shelter in the remains of a house on the side of the road. Everyone begins to pull out their blankets and things to get ready to go to sleep. The wind is starting to pick up, trees start swaying.

"Ok, if it rains, I'm blaming Jerome." Kyle says.

"What'd I do?" Jerome answers in a higher pitch with a smile.

"What didn't you do? I'll just hide under your fro like an umbrella." Kyle retorts.

"Shut up Kyle," George says.

"Really! Your hair acts like an umbrella! Can I see? I've seen people with umbrella hats, but never umbrella hair!" Johnny exclaims.

"Geesh, you're such a doorknob!" David says.

"Doorknob…..what? Where'd that come from?" Mike asks.

"I dunno, "David answers.

"Guys seriously, we need to get some sleep." George groans from his blanket.

Simon lay down next to Tiffany, kissed her on the cheek and whispered good night. She answered in kind. And he put his arm around her and closed his eyes to drift into sleep.

"Simon….."

"Simon….. wake up….."

"Simon."

Simon opened his eyes to the voice to discover no one there. He looks around; the moon is bright even behind the smog, so it's probably full. Everyone else is asleep, some snoring.

"Simon…"

At this Simon disengages himself from Tiffany and slides out of the blankets quietly.

"Who's there?" He whispers loudly. At this the Rex perks up and looks at Simon.

Definitely not the dog, Simon thinks.

"Simon… Follow my voice…trust me"

Simon slips his shoes on and starts walking away from the house and the road toward the tree line of the woods. He comes to a stop at the first tree he comes to, debating whether or not to go.

"Simon…trust me"

He walks into the woods. Although many trees had been blown over or damaged from the bombs, these trees were strangely perfectly intact. Animals skirted along the ground and through the branches of the trees. He walked until he came to a pond. Water tumbled over some rocks and fell in a small but steady waterfall from a creek into the pond. Simon looked around and didn't see anything.

"Hello there." A gruff voice called over.

Simon turned toward the voice, and spotted the source. A man in fishing attire standing not ten yards away on the opposite bank, how could I have not seen him, Simon thought. He's wearing a big yellow hat! And he was just standing there fishing.

"Ummm…hello. Was that you who was calling me?" Simon called.

"Nope. Just wait." He answered.

Time started to drift by; Simon had sat down and just watched the waterfall. He looked up and the fisherman was gone. Simon jumped up, I should have heard him leave! Where'd he go?

"Simon…"

"Who's there?"

"Simon…I am here…"

And then he saw her. She was standing on the pond, yet not standing on it, as if hovering between the pond and the air. She looked young and pale, but very beautiful, and she was ethereal, Simon could almost see completely through her. Her arms rose toward Simon.

"Simon Majere, I have need of you"

"Where'd the other guy go? And who are you" Simon was barely able to talk, his voice quivering.

"His name is Owain Glyndwr. He is in my service. I am the Lady. I am the Light. I am the voice of the Word. I have need of you. Will you embrace me?" Her voice was low and compelling, but yet large and all encompassing. Simon could feel the power that radiated from this being, and fell to his knees and he couldn't take his eyes off of her.

"Amazing….how can this be?"

"Do you believe? Will you embrace me? Embrace the Word?" Her arms remained outstretched.

"I do, but it's so much…so fast."

"You lack enough reason to believe, but you will believe soon. When you enter my service, your very existence will change. Your soul will be transformed; you will become for me my knight and champion. The world's light in the darkness. A Knight of the Word and something more. Now stand my Knight." Her voice compelled him to stand.

"Will you embrace me?"

Somehow Simon was walking toward this being of light, and then the next moment he was in her arms. He saw his future. He was standing on a cliff overlooking a castle. He was robed in black, with his hands outstretched, in one hand he held a black staff wreathed in flame. His other hand was outstretched and also wreathed in flame, but in a blue flame.

Simon opened his eyes to the Lady looking down at him from about 5 yards away.

"Continue on your journey, I send my messenger to you. He will give you your staff, your mark of office. He also bears information and answers for you. For you are different from my other Knights."

"There are others?"

"Yes, but there are not many left. You will be different in that when they receive the staff they start fresh, and must learn how to use the staff. You will be given some training by my messenger. Also, you something the other Knights don't have,….Magic!"
"Magic?...What do you mean?"

"All beings have the capacity for magic, but a select few have a gift for it, and can manipulate it in many ways. Your bloodline has the gift. Even without the staff, you are a very powerful person, but your magic has lain dormant. I have re-awakened it. Your mission is very different from my other knights, but similar in that humanity hangs in the balance."

"What's my mission?"

"You shall soon find out, but for now….rest my knight."

And at that there was a brief flash of light and she disappeared. Simon stood motionless trying to absorb his thoughts. His eyelids grew heavy, his limbs difficult to move. His vision fading…..

"Simon, wake up love." Tiffany whispers in his ear, and gently pokes him in the back.

Simon slowly opens his eyes to find himself back in his sleeping bag.

Was that just a dream? It….it doesn't….it couldn't have been real. I mean seriously….a ghost that gave me magic powers? HA! Definitely a dream.

He climbs out of the bag, but feels dampness on his feet and looks down. He slept in his shoes, and their soaked. His eyes widen.

It wasn't a dream. Then that means…..

"Simon, are you all right? You look like you just seen a ghost?" Tiffany massages his shoulder.

"I'm all right. Just a dream. We….we should get moving."

"Um hum" She nods.

As he looks around everyone is getting ready….except Tyler and George….figures.

He walks up to George and prods him in the side with his foot, "Hey lazy, time to get up."

George raises his arm and waves Simon off, and drifts off again.

"Oh, no you don't. Get up we've gotta go. Don't make me get David, I'm sure he would love to wake you up!"

At this George talked into his pillow "Phinne, I'll get upf"

"What was that?"

He lifted his head, "I said I'm getting up."

"Ahhh thought you were having an aneurism. Was gonna have someone rub Aloe Vera on your neck" Simon starts laughing, and so does George….into his pillow.

George starts getting up and getting ready.

Simon looks over at Tyler, still asleep.

Hmmm gonna have to use the big guns.

"Hey Johnny!"

David perks his head up from looking through George's bag with an excited look.

"Hey can you wake up Tyler for me?"

As Johnny was about to say "sure" Tyler sits up and stares at Simon, "Not cool."

"I thought it was hilarious" Kyle interjects. "Time to get up Fatass."

"Yeah, yeah. I'm trying at least." Tyler admits.

Simon gets the rest of his stuff together and starts to sling his book bag on his arm, when Michael walks up.

"Where'd you go last night?"

Simon looked Michael in the eyes. "Something happened."

"What?"

"I met someone, she told me to continue on and we would meet someone. And he would help."

Michael thought it over.

"Who was she?"

"She didn't say a name, just a title. And a vague one at that."

"What 'bout the guy?

"No idea, all she said was he has info and a 'package' for me"

"Did she say what?"

"No, that's what makes it so confusing." He lies.

"When's he showing? And where?"

"No idea." That was the truth.

"Kay, then I guess we'd better get going." Mike throws his stuff on his shoulder, readjusts his gun and knife, and starts walking.

"Well I guess that means were goin." He walks over to Tiffany, kisses her, takes her hand, and starts walking toward Mike, toward home.