85 Posse

As soon as the sun peeks over the edge of the desert land, the Heaven Seven are awake and ready to explore the cave. Seneca is gone. We pick up our backpacks, grab a torch, wet it with the liquid sulfur and lime mixture left at the cave’s opening, and head into the darkness.

I lead the team as training has taught me. We have some supplies, but not as many as we should to explore a cave. My hope is that we will find the things we need as we venture forward. If Liam is right that this cave hasn’t been disturbed, then the wall chests might have all the supplies we’ll need.

The walk is quiet. It takes most of our focus to descend and climb up the roller-coaster pattern of this tunnel. It’s cold inside, but not extreme enough to require coats and gloves. There are symbols drawn on walls, but according to Seiko nothing earth-shattering has been found. An hour in, we arrive to a tall opening in the cave. Water falls from a break in the rocks. There are stools here and some cooking gear. It looks like this area was used for conversation. We spread out to look around.

In one metal box, Kimmy finds smoking pipes and some dried plants. “Well, I guess the practice of smoking peace pipes expanded over all generations.” She giggles.

Sterling doesn’t hear what she says because he’s staring into the water stream falling from above. “Are you a big fan of waterfalls?” I ask.

“Not really, but this one has my attention. Stand where I’m standing and tell me what you see.”

I move into his spot. He steps right behind me. “I see falling water.”

“Keep staring.” I’m a bit annoyed by his little game, but suddenly see a blue aura on the wall behind the falling water.

“Did you see a blue light?”

“Yes. I thought it was just my eyes playing games with me.”

“Let’s check it out.”

We walk around the waterfall and slide into the small eighteen-inch space between the falling water and the cave wall. From here, the blue light is even more evident. It shines from behind and covers most of the space we see. I run my hands over the wall—it’s warm to the touch. “Seiko, we need you over here.”

The entire team comes to where we are standing. Seiko runs her torch over the wall. She doesn’t find any markings. However, there is the Hebrew word for tools on the wall just west of the waterfall.  We all pick up sharp rocks and dig at the dirt and clay. It pulls off easily in chunks. We find a hollow wall space. Inside are shovels, picks, pitchforks.

“Amazing,” I say. “Grab a tool, everyone. Let’s open up the wall behind the waterfall to find the source of this blue light.” We start to dig again and stop when we hear a ping! from Liam’s pick.

We all move to where Liam is working and help him remove the clay and dirt. Underneath is a wall made of hardened clay brick. Only the two picks we have work on the bricks and the process of removing them is slow. Once we open a space enough for a head and torch to pass through, I pull myself up to see what is inside. The blue light is shining all around the small room we discovered on the other side of the brick wall. I run my torch around and stop with a gasp at the halfway point. I stare in disbelief. There in front of me, is the Ark of the Covenant.

“I see it,” I say. “It’s amazing. Let’s get this wall down.”

An hour later, I take a sledgehammer to the last brick. The passageway the team has been working on is now wide enough for four men to carry the Ark through without scraping it on the way out. I wipe the sweat from my brow. “That should do it.” The team lets out a shout of praise.

“Now, we need to figure out the source of the blue aura surrounding the Ark before we approach it. My two thoughts are energy field or reflection caused by the metals in the walls reacting to the ones on the Ark. Does anyone else have thoughts?”

“We have plenty of thoughts on removing the Ark. They all include removing you first.”

I turn to see a hideous creature behind me. It’s at least six feet tall with the visible scaling of a reptile. It has the voice of a woman, but has no hair, and very little body fat. A poncho covers its trunk area but leaves the dirt-encrusted legs and arms in full view.

“We will be taking the Ark now. Step aside.”

I move in front of my team. “I don’t know who ‘we’ is, but no one is taking this Ark out of here except us, so you need to step aside.”

“I am Zeke—I was sent by Lucifer. You want to know who we are? Look around you.” Six more demons step out of the shadows and open their yellow eyes. They encircle us like a pack of wolves—silently and strategically. All are tall females who are bald, filthy, and emaciated. They have animal-like fangs and are armed with three-pronged rustic spears. Their arrival brings an overwhelming stench. To me, it smells like a mixture of charred flesh and sulfur. The demons advance upon the team, poking us with the edges of their weapons. They corral us into a dark corner of the cave.

I have to come up with a plan—fast. I rule out hand-to-hand combat because we don’t have weapons. A second later, an idea comes to me: we may not have weapons, but we do have tools that could be used as weapons. I signal Liam, who vanishes and then reappears on the opposite side of the cave using his shape-shifting invisibility. He picks up the sledgehammer. I teleport and move myself to where he stands. I grab the pick and shovel.

I toss the shovel to Sterling over the heads of the confused demons. At the same time, Seiko lifts her hands and begins to levitate. She joins in the action by arming herself with our iron cutting blade. In one swift move, she pierces the abdomen of the demon who lunges at her. The demon falls to the floor and stops moving. The other team members take advantage of the chaos to rush the remaining demons.

Even with Michael’s training, the demons are out-performing our team with their hand-to-hand combat. Their height gives them an advantage we can’t overcome. After several minutes, Tova and Kimmy are captured. The demons hold them from behind—wrapping hands around their necks and pressing long fingernails into their windpipes. Our team members are gasping for air.

“Stop!” I yell and toss the sledgehammer to the floor. “Let them go and we’ll drop our weapons!”

Zeke raises her hand to stop the fighting. “That’s a very generous offer, Grayson, but we’re not bargaining for lives. We’re here for the Ark of the Covenant. We will release your team once we have the keys.”

I ponder my options. I don’t have experience negotiating with evil, but know I must do something. “Hold them if you must but take your hands off their necks and allow them to breathe. Once they are out of danger, the rest of us will stand down.”

Zeke surveys the group to assess her level of risk. She nods to the demons holding our team members to tell them to loosen their grip. “The seven of you will move to the other side of the Ark—away from the cave exit.” The seven of us huddle together in the small inlet on the south side of the Ark. “If one of you moves as much as a finger, the deal is off. If one of you uses your superpower, not only is the deal off, but we will also kill your weakest team member. Do we understand each other?”

I speak for the team. “We understand.”

Zeke turns her attention away from us and gives the demons instructions for moving the Ark. “Two of you—guard Almighty’s freaks. The rest of you take a corner of the Ark. I will count you down to lift together.” The demons get into position. “On the count of three, lift and rotate the Ark so it can fit through the opening.”

On the count of three, the demons reach for the Ark. As soon as their fingers touch, they suddenly scream out in pain and drop to the ground. Zeke, and the remaining two demons stare in disbelief. I see the opportunity to subdue them and I move on it. “Go!” I shout. As the Heaven Seven rushes forward, the three remaining demons spin around in quick circles and disappear into thin air.

I turn to look at the team. “Could this Mission get any weirder?”

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Triple Digit TOC by K.M. Sheridan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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