Prologue

Every 1000 years, a human is born that has the potential to rend the foundations of Earth into a billion pieces. And somewhere on Earth, there lies a "keyhole" for that person’s soul…The point where the shock could begin…

The Clock on her wall had stopped. Stopped, completely, right before the giant numeral XII that lay near the top of it. Elle Baron, a British girl of 12, sat at a small, polished table in the dining room of her grand mansion, sketching out the schematic of her dream home. She grinned in a childish manner at her drawing, and then leaped horribly as she heard footsteps in the hall outside of the kitchen.

A long shadow appeared in the doorway, and a man with a dark demeanor entered the room. He passed over to the table with an eerie quiet that made him appear to glide, rather than walk, and he bent close to the girl, and whispered an incantation into the her ear. She suddenly turned pale, and her pupils dilated. The man laughed a mirthless, empty laugh. The girl was dead.

The hooded figure strode with a gleeful determination across the smooth stone floor of the vaulted shrine. He grinned, as he turned over in his hands a small orb of pure, opalescent white substance, and drew out a small map as he went. The torches he had just lit on the walls flickered a little, but he paid no heed. He had a task to accomplish.

He moved silently across the floor, and reached its center, in which lay a large, translucent obelisk. He reached his thin hands around the obelisk and found a small round depression. He slipped the pearly orb into the depression, and a great rumbling echoed off the walls of the chamber, rebounding endlessly in the half darkness. Then the floor began to move.

The floor slid in a few places to reveal a mechanism rather like the shutter on a common camera. Then a large hole appeared, and the obelisk sank down into it. The hooded man quickly jumped onto the polished top of the structure, and descended into a lower floor. The shutter of the floor began to close above him, and the man jumped off of the top of the obelisk. In haste, he dashed over to the center of the new room. All across the floor were laced patterns of magical symbols. The center contained a large pentacle, encircling a large painting of Earth.

The man did not waste time with precaution, and ran shoulder forward towards the edge of the pentacle. His shoulder made contact with something, and the paint of the pentacle on the floor dissolved and spread into a circle around the painting of Earth. He paused, rubbed his shoulder to check for injury, and then walked, this time more cautiously, toward the center of the circle.

He smiled. The painting of Earth began to spin, and it bulged upward from the floor. It soon became a three-dimensional, perfectly accurate model. The man put his fingers to it, and it rose into the air. The man knew that the moment he had been waiting for had come, after thousands of years of searching for the Key. He knew what he had to do. He drew a curved, Arabian blade out from the depths of his cloak, and with a relish, thrust it into the very heart of the twirling sphere.

Sometimes an earthquake can only be felt by a select few, because it is so weak, but the aftershock can level whole cities. At the very moment the hooded man stabbed the Earth, that first quake was felt. At that very moment, five people scattered across the globe, simultaneously keeled over in pain, grasping their chests. They were to be the only ones to escape.

Arcanum, Hannah, Warren, Celena, and Gabe, all woke up on the 6th of June 2012, with an odd feeling clinging to the air around them. The wind carried a hint of smoke on it, but there were no fires. As though through some strange instinct, they all began to head for the center of the Pacific Ocean: Hawaii.

The hooded figure exited the shrine, and strode out into the open air. The epicenter will be here… The man leaped nimbly down the ledges of rock, skirting large precipices. The hope of the people will never save them now. The sky began to grow dark. The man finally reached a narrow ledge where a small helicopter lay waiting. The wind was rising, whipping the man’s hair in front of his face. His cold, dark laughter was lost in the sudden gale that whipped his clothes in a thousand directions. The storm had begun. The man boarded the helicopter, and began his journey. Finally, the dark figure was poised to jump. He fell through the air like a heron plummeting to retrieve a fish from the depths of the sea. But he was no heron.

The man held out a hand to the water below and it rippled in all directions. Then, a hole appeared, ripping the seas in two. The man’s dark figure dropped into the void and then a laugh echoed across the world. The man was gone.

 

Chapter 1: The Outset

Arcanum, a youth of 17, dashed along the narrow streets of Hilo. The sky was growing darker, and he feared that a storm was brewing. Storms these days tend to turn into hurricanes… no small cloud is safe any more…

Lightning forked across the skies, and people began to run for cover. Arcanum dashed into a side street, his long, blonde hair whipping behind him, as the rain began to fall. As he turned another corner, he ran straight into a girl huddled against a wall. "Ouch! Watch where you’re going! You could’ve--"

Arcanum grabbed the girl’s hand and yelled over the din of falling rain, "No time for that! We’ve gotta find shelter, or we’ll die for sure! This is the biggest storm on Hawaii since hurricane Iniki!" The pair dashed through the deluge, glancing desperately around for an open shop.

"Over there!" shouted the girl, and they dashed towards the door of the last shop open. Once inside, Arcanum shook himself dry, and sat down against a wall. A large crash echoed outside as one of the other shops was struck by lightning. Rubble lined the street outside. Arcanum looked up at the girl.

"You shouldn’t be out in a storm this big… by the way, what’s your name?"

"I’m Hannah, and you?"

"Arcanum…"

A silence fell in the shop. Arcanum tapped his feet in agitation, and touched a switch on the wall. A radio crackled into life:

In a hasty voice, the reporter exclaimed:

"…Hurricane suddenly appears over the big island, 2782 unaccounted for. That’s it for the weather report… This is an emergency announcement: Repeat: This is an emergency announcement: In Britain, France, Spain, China, and several other major nations have experienced coup situations. Crime in their major cities is at its highest in recorded world history. Political stability still remains throughout the Americas however. Wait, this just in: Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas have vani----AAGGHH!"

The radio suddenly switched off as a huge gust of wind knocked down a power-line outside. Arcanum and Hannah gasped in horror as they saw what was coming. That was when all hell broke loose.

A wall of water rose into the sky, blotting out the remaining light… the screams of the people weren’t heard as the huge wave loomed above the island. Arcanum suddenly keeled over, grasping his ears, and a blast of pure light erupted outward from 3 different locations on the island. The wave crested and hit a solid wall, a barrier. Hannah suddenly felt the same pulse of energy as Arcanum had, and she fell to the floor gasping. The pulse grew stronger…

Arcanum felt his head spinning, and with the remainder of his strength, he lifted his head in time to see that Hannah had fallen unconscious. His vision clouded, and the last thing he saw before his consciousness slipped away was an open box with a single ray of light inside. His hand reached forward in his last effort to stay conscious, but the light receded, and he fell into darkness…

I am Arcanum.

I have always noticed some one else lurking just beneath the surface… but until now, he has remained dormant…

Who is he? And why is he there?

My life before today had been simple, with problems coming to me very rarely… I was an orphan, but I lived an easy life on the streets of the cities in Hawaii. But recently, I had begun working to bring in a little food. Today was when I found myself in the middle of the storm, when I thought I was going to die…

But I met this girl, and I believe us being together saved both of our lives…

But the enigma inside of my soul had been released… And I am beginning to feel a power growing inside of me…

And that power somehow involves that girl… Hannah Revosa…

 

 

Arcanum’s eyes shot open. He glanced around. Where’s that shop I was in? And what’s all this mist?

"I will show you. You will know in due time… but now, you must go to the centerpiece, Arcanum. This is where knowledge lies…"

The voice echoed through the mists, reverberating off of unseen walls. The landscape was dark, like the sun had gone out, but that the stars still provided light, and full of grave-covered hills.

Must be some kind of graveyard… but for whom?

Arcanum walked slowly through the mists of the graveyard, examining each gravestone. On each lay inscriptions in many languages of earth, and on some, there were languages Arcanum had never seen before. Why are these gravestones here? The names of the people buried here aren’t common names at all…

Arcanum began climbing a hill, and the mist began to thicken. The sky began to darken. Arcanum glanced to the side, and thought he saw something moving. It faded as soon as he glanced in its direction, disappearing into the haze… He ignored it and kept climbing…

5 hours had passed, and the air had begun to thin. Arcanum felt the ground grow slippery as he continued the long ascent. Panting, he finally made the summit. And 4 others arrived with him…

The enigma within me had been released.

And it pushed strongly on the edges of my active mind, stretching its capacity. And it began to become stronger as I approached the 4 others who found themselves on the summit of this hill with me.

The sky had cleared, and the company of seven found them selves deep in conversation about what had happened to them.

A wise looking, strongly built, German man with white hair and a black beard and moustache stepped forward first, along with an Australian youth with a shaved head and all black clothing stepped forward together. The German man spoke first: "I am Warren, once a strategist for the army that went into Iraq 8 years ago… And this young man here, a friend of my nephew…"

"I’m Gabe…"

The next to step up was an Indian girl with a shy look about her.

"I’m Celena, Pleased to make your acquaintance..."

Finally, a girl who had been enveloped in shadow before stepped out of the darkness.

"Hannah!" Arcanum whispered… "How did she get here?"

After everyone had been introduced, the newly formed group noticed simultaneously that something was different. All of them whirled around, and glanced towards the center of the hill. Something was there…

 

Chapter 2: Memories

The outline of a grave was forming… but one different from the others Arcanum had seen while going to the top of the hill. It had a three-meter spire protruding from the top of its stone structure, and it shimmered and wavered in the starlight, seeming to shift back and forth between several dimensions. After a few minutes, it became fully solid, and calligraphy letters began to write themselves on the gravestone…

Here lies the planet EARTH

Rest in Peace

 

Something then clicked in Arcanum’s mind. He realized what had happened on the day of that storm. He realized what the announcer on the news had said, before he had died. He realized what the place where they were was. He realized the truth…

All of his friends, his foster family, they were all dead. Everyone in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australia was dead. The world had ended. They were the only ones left.

Sobs and moans filled the air as the five mourned the death of their loved ones. Arcanum too mourned the loss of his friends… but when he glanced up at the grave, it began to shimmer again as their tears fell to the ground.

"Look! Look at the gravestone… something is happening to it…"

As they looked on, the stone began to turn transparent, once again, not quite there…

And so Earth wasn’t truly dead…

After the last tears of the five had fallen, a hole opened in the sky above them. A gaping darkness seemed to devour the pinpoints of light that crisscrossed the sky, and a single dark object dropped out of the void. The whirr of a machine followed afterwards, and the group all turned their heads toward the direction it had fallen.

"Maybe we aren’t the only ones left…" Warren breathed. With that hope Arcanum and company dashed down the hill, mist streaming off their shoulders. The sky began to redden…

As they reached the bottom, the sky had become the color of blood, and the earth beneath their feet began to quake. A silhouette of a man lifted itself from the ground in the distance, and the man began to run…

"Wait, who are you?" Hannah yelled after the man, but he did not reply. He only kept running… And the 5 began to follow suit, their feet flying against crumbling earth… the planet which they were on was beginning to become undone.

And then, the mist cleared… the sky they gazed upon then was a brilliant blue… And they found themselves upon a landscape of sparkling silver sands and unearthly trees that swayed in an extra-terrestrial wind. And upon those sands stood the figure after which they had followed. The man turned slowly towards the group, and glared with an icy gaze straight at Arcanum.

A single utterance left the man’s lips: "You will see what it’s like to die…" and in a haze of darkness, the man disappeared…

After a few hours, the light on the mysterious world they were on began to fade, and finally, the prospect of rest after the first day at the ends of the earth came to their minds.

Hannah sat down beneath one of the other world’s trees, and closed her eyes, but immediately, thoughts of her jaded past entered her mind. She shuddered in anticipation of the vision she had seen for the past 7 years of her life. She then remembered:

A hooded man descended a staircase in the rain, the droplets glancing off of his cloak to form a strange misty aura. Two figures stooped under an umbrella in the rainy alleyway, keeping each other warm in a loving embrace… They glanced up at the man and the woman muttered something under her breath. The man descended upon them, and in the next instant, the scream of two people dying filled the atmosphere. The rain soon escalated and drowned out their cry. The diluted blood ran down the sidewalk, and turned into a serpent… and then she saw a small cradle, and heard the cry of an infant girl…

Hannah awoke from the vision with a start. "NO!!!" she cried, and the cry echoed into the distance…My parents had just disappeared, they hadn’t died that way… but she began to have a feeling that her vision was truer than she realized. The man who threatened Arcanum with death bore a striking resemblance to the figure in her vision.

She walked along the sand of the beach in solitude. The rest of the group had disappeared somewhere, to explore their surroundings, she figured. In her sleep, she hadn’t noticed the gradual approach of nightfall. The trees of that world curled up in anticipation, it seemed, of the impending darkness.

The shadows lengthened. Damn, I’m lost… on this strange world away from home… And finally, the glowing disc in the sky sank below the horizon. It was night…

The end of the earth had many effects on the surrounding universe… Especially the wave of death it sent reeling in all directions, a pulsing light that consumed all in its path. The small world, which held closely the five remaining representatives of the earth, was to be soon engulfed by the painless hell that swallowed all. However, one of the most prominent characteristics of life is its persistence at remaining, clinging to the universe, and continuing to live after the worst of experiences.

The sudden end of the world had left Warren wondering about the existence of God…a prospect that most of us consider at one point or another in our lives. If there were a god, why would they be chosen as the only remaining ones by him or her? It constantly nagged at his mind as the night fell, and then, he realized, he had gotten separated from the others…

His long, studded coat flowed out behind him as he looked into the wind on a small bluff, searching out the rest of the group. He began to remember his war days, the days when he fought for a cause that the world hated. He thought back to when he was stationed in Baghdad… Eight years previous…

The battle was fierce. A group of insurgents had cornered the last of Warren’s battalion, and had driven them into a small mosque. A few of the soldiers glanced around, and muttered in whispers that this would be another Alamo. The men outside hammered the door with fists and old, outdated weaponry, still trying to enter the mosque. Warren sat on the floor, trying to find an order to give the soldiers that would give them some hope of surviving. He finally spotted a window, around which there were no guards. He ordered his men through it one by one, and after all of them had safely exited Warren assembled them. That was when they noticed the eerie quiet… They skirted the building, and one scout peered around the front. He gasped in fear, and reported a huge pool of blood filled with bones and glistening organs. He immediately fell unconscious from sheer disgust. The troop plugged their noses, and edged quietly around the building, Warren waiting behind. That was when he saw what would haunt his nightmares forever. A dark figure fell from the sky, a scythe in hand, swinging in an arc of death like a pendulum tolling out the hour of catastrophe. Blood spattered the old walls of the mosque.

"Never again… no… Not by my hand will I let anyone die again that way, while I stand by! This I swear!" Warren breathed. The wind calmed, and he went out in search of the others…

(to be continued…)