It was early.
The stars shone coldly from the black velvet of the sky, a bright half-moon illuminating the empty streets. There was a light layer of snow across the ground, encrusted with a sheet of ice. A few leaves clung to the almost bare trees, flapping uselessly in the frozen wind. It was early December, and everything was as dead as it could possibly get. Nevertheless, January was still to come. Januaries, being equally dead, were much colder than any December.
Below the morning sky and in the harsh environment of dark houses was a single figure walking through the bleak and empty streets of his small town. Had it been an hour and half later, he would have looked like another student heading to the high school. He was clad in nothing special; blue jeans, a gray T-shirt, and a navy-blue Starter coat. He had dark brown, slightly messy hair, stood about five foot nine, with pale white skin. He hunched over as the cold wind blew across the silent landscape. His name was Richard Daw.
Each step he took crunched loudly through the thin layer of ice over the snow. The street descended down a hill, and as it leveled out a church slowly came into view. It had a tan brick façade, and a forty-foot steeple in front. It was about a block away, and he could see one of the many dark windows illuminated. Someone had already beaten him there.
He was LDS, and attended early morning seminary. All of the students raced the church to see who could get there the earliest, and he usually got there first; but not always. He glanced up and down the street, listening for the sound of an engine before he stepped onto the asphalt. He headed for the back door, since it was closer, and meant that he'd be out of the cold sooner. The wind picked up again, and he pulled his coat around him tighter.
Richard quickly ran across the deserted street, and pulled out a small silver key. The other door was of course unlocked, but if he had a key, then he'd usually come this way. He slipped the key into the lock, twisted it, and the door came open. The hall was pitch black, but as he proceeded light began to pour in from the main room on the far south side.
Stepping into the light of the room, he saw their teacher, Angela Olson, writing something on the chalkboard. Sure enough, Jon was already sitting at the main table in the middle of the room, his bible open in front of him. There were actually six separate tables, but the students pushed them altogether for everyone to sit around at once. Angela glanced over her shoulder and smiled, "Hello, Richard."
Jon looked up at him, pushing his wire-rimmed glasses farther up his nose. "Hi!"
Jonathan Tree Top was a very good friend of Richard's. He had shaggy, black hair that was in need of a good trimming, and was rather short, barely coming up to Richard's shoulder. Although his stature was nothing new to the gang, they still poked a bit of fun at his height. The little Native American wore dark blue jeans and a green T-shirt, his usual boxer jacket hung on the coat hanger by the door.
"Revelations?" Richard asked, staring at the page number beneath Jon's arm.
"Heck yeah! Particularly the parts on the second coming," Jon replied, grinning. "The part where everything ends."
"Ah, the apocalypse…"
Richard pulled out his Book of Mormon, and began flipping through it while Jon continued to read.
"Did you know that there'll be silence in the heavens for half an hour during the second coming…?" Jon said, looking up again. "When the seventh seal is opened."
"Yep, and we're in the seventh seal," said Richard.
"What? I thought we were still in the first."
"No, no, no…seals are divided by millenniums."
"Oh, so we're in the seventh millennium?"
"Well, actually we're in the sixth millennium…but it's the seventh period…I think."
"What…?" Jon said disbelieving.
"Look at it this way…the second coming is supposed to happen fairly soon, so it has to be the seventh seal."
"But I thought the seventh seal was after the second coming."
"It can't be, because there are supposed to be a lot of disasters."
"No, the disasters are supposed to take place during the sixth seal."
The argument was halted shortly, the engine of a small car accelerating up the nearby Church Street hill. Metal scraped the cement of the southern parking lot, barely audible over the sound of a loud, bass beat. The engine idled for a moment before it died, the squeaky door opening and slamming closed again. Richard and Jon smiled at each other.
"Kenzi…" They said simultaneously. Seconds later, the side door creaked open slowly. Kenzi wandered into the well-lit room, her light-brown hair tucked behind her ears. Shorter than Jon by nearly three inches, her favorite light-washed blue jeans and a navy-blue, long-sleeved sweater graced her body for the cold morning. Her black coat was pulled closed to block out the blustery wind. "Hey, guys…"
"Right on cue." Richard said.
"Huh?" Kenzi asked, arching her eyebrow. "What are you guys…Dude! Revelations!" She quickly grabbed her own bible and plopped down across from Jon. The Book of Revelations, of course, spoke of events related to the end of the world, so naturally it was both Jon and Kenzi's favorite book of scripture. The three sat in silence, reading their slightly tattered and well worn bibles. A few seconds later, another engine was heard in the southern parking lot. Two more seminary members walked through the door.
Kaitlin Strang was the oldest member of their group. At seventeen, she held the seniority status; her mature personality and wise silence held the respect of the other members. Black, shiny hair curled around her shoulders, her light skin matching Kenzi's. Her big brown eyes matched her sweater, her light khaki pants helping to shield her legs from the cold. She smiled at the group, hanging her orange-pink coat next to Jon's. Right behind her was Brian Donahue.
Standing several inches over every one else in the group, his rather shaggy hair cut casting his blond bangs into his eyes, Brian pushed his glassed higher up on his nose. He was an interesting person, alright. Whenever a debate over anything erupted, he remained neutral. He had a strong case of kleptomania, and often found humor in other's misfortunes. Some considered his view of reality warped, but he was generally level with everyone…usually.
Kaitlin slipped into the chair next to Kenzi's, while Brian wandered around the far edge of the table near the room divider. He fiddled around with the handle while watching the others.
"I'll be back in a few minutes," Angela said heading towards the door. "I'm just getting the TV..."
"Richard, have you ever heard about the comet Wormwood?" Jon said, looking up from his bible abruptly.
"Of course I have. I did take New Testament last year. Doesn't it contaminate one third of the water, or something like that?"
"Killing off a third part of the population," Kenzi added in, grinning.
"One third?" Jon said, his mouth dropping open.
"Yep, and…" She began counting heads in the room. "You're lucky number three!"
Jon's face turned slightly red, and he stood up, glaring across the table at Kenzi.
"Jon…" Richard said, pulling gently at his arm to have him sit back down. Brian laughed, still pressing the tab on the divider.
"What's with you, Brian?" Richard said, glancing oddly at him.
"Nothing. Just watching," he said, slightly laughing.
He leaned back against the divider again, and continued to push the tab on the handle, the magnet inside sliding back and forth with an audible click. Richard turned back in time to see Kenzi poke Jon right on the back of his neck. Jon nearly flew out of his chair, and began twitching. "Stop that!" He yelled.
Kenzi laughed and went back to her seat on the other side of the table. Jon sat back down, but quickly picked up his bible, and readied to fling it at her. Kenzi picked up hers in defense, and managed to block the blow, still grinning at Jon playfully. Both her and Kaitlin began cracking up as Jon glared at them. Brian chuckled continuing to watch, still fumbling with the handle until it finally opened.
The room they were in split in half by the divider, with the seminary class held in the eastern half, near the main door. When Brian finally pulled the handle down, there was a massive shock wave like a bomb had gone off, only with opposite effects. Instead of being blown in all directions, the air was sucked out of the room through the small crack in the door. The force pulled the divider back slowly, revealing a complete abyss of darkness where the other half of the room should have been.
Brian and Richard were right next to the door when opened, and were thus instantly sucked in, lost completely from sight. Jon managed to grab onto the edge of the tables, and held on for dear life. Kaitlin and Kenzi had grabbed hold of their chairs, but it was clear that the force pulling them in was beginning to win.
Kenzi desperately tried to reach for the table, but her hand slipped, and she hit a box of seminary supplies knocking everything out. A Book of Mormon flew out of the box and hit Jon in the face. He instantly let go, and was sucked in too. Both Kaitlin and Kenzi held on for a few more seconds, but soon lost their grip and were pulled into the black abyss.
As they passed into the darkness, the mysterious force began to cease, and the door slowly closed. Just as the pressure returned to normal, Angela came walking in pushing a TV-cart in front of her. She pushed it into the corner, but stopped in her tracks. She looked around, staring at the deserted and slightly disorganized room.
"Kenzi…? Where did you guys go?" She looked from the scattered supplies to the tipped over chairs. "What did you kids do?"
Richard groaned, his back sore from the landing. He gazed up at the blue sky, the full force of what had happened yet to strike him.
A dull thud sounded close by, a little cloud of dust blowing gently into Richards skyward view. "Oww! What the heck!" Brian moaned.
Richard sat up slowly, patting away dirt from his clothing, and looked around. They were outside, and it was no longer dark. In fact, it looked like midday. He surveyed the landscape, and realized that it wasn't even winter anymore for that matter. The land was filled with massive hills that rose at least a hundred feet above the valley they were in, and were each covered by jungle forest. The valley itself was empty, several hundred yards across, and surrounded by jungle. The grass they were sitting in was far too green for South Dakota, and didn't even look native to North America.
"Whoa…" Brian was sitting up too, and had taken in the landscape.
The two stood up, gazing around their environment, still shocked by their new setting. Suddenly there was another loud sonic boom, and Kaitlin, Kenzi, and Jon fell to the ground from some unseen place in mid air. Kenzi and Kaitlin fell near each other, coughing slightly at the dust raised by their fall, both groaning in pain. Richard turned back to see Brian just staring at Jon. Jon hadn't been so lucky.
He was lying face down in what appeared to be a large pile of some animal's droppings. Brian stood motionless, a grin beginning to creep across his face, and then full-out laughing. He leaned over, gripping, holding onto his sides as he continued to laugh.
"Jon…I think you just landed in a huge pile of crap!"
Jon slowly surfaced, his face tinted darker than the usual tan, and looked over at Brian with the utmost look of contempt. He was completely covered with it from head to toe. "Shut up, Brian!"
Kenzi and Kaitlin had both sat up, and were now laughing too. Jon stood up completely, and began shaking with anger. He looked over at Brian, and almost charged at him, but instantly stopped. It took a second, but as everyone realized Jon wasn't reacting, the laughter slowly died into silence as the rest of the group listened.
In the distance, a faint echo could be heard. At first no one understood what it was, but the second time it could be heard quite clearly. It sounded almost like a horn or a trumpet, but not with the same clarity a normal horn gave. Everyone turned their heads towards the direction of the sound and almost froze, trying to hear more. No further sound followed the echo, and everyone began to breathe again.
"Where are we?" Kaitlin said, finally taking in their unusual surroundings.
"And more importantly," Richard replied, "how did we get here?"
"So like you to jump to that, Richard," Kenzi said, trying to make light of the situation.
Brian glanced around, wandering towards the escalating edge of the valley, not paying attention to the Gang's inquiries to their recent skip in seasons and location.
"I don't care how we got here; I just want to know how to get back." Jon said, wiping off his face with the back of his hand.
Brian finally turned back to face the others. "Oh yeah, let's just jump back through that door, and appear back in seminary! How the heck—"
There was a twang sound from somewhere nearby, and an arrow came flying from out of the jungle. It flew with unnerving accuracy, and hit Brian directly in the forehead. Blood spurt from the wound, gushing down his face as his eyes rolled back into his head, and both Kaitlin and Kenzi screamed as his body went limp, his knees buckling beneath him as he fell forward. Soon more arrows came flying through the air, hitting the ground very near to where each of them were standing.
Richard slammed his body to the ground, and lay perfectly still. He felt a tap at his shoulder, looking over to where Jon lay near his left arm. "Come on! We need to get out of here!"
They scuttled forward on their hands and knees, jumping slightly as two arrows hit the ground right in front of them. Directly ahead, Kenzi and Kaitlin were lying near Brian's body, their hands over their heads. The arrows began landing away from their general area briefly, and the sound of the horn could be heard again. It was now much closer and more frequent.
"Time to go!" Jon shouted, grabbing both Kaitlin and Kenzi's hands.
Richard quickly looked around, and pointed to his right where the nearest edge of the jungle was. Jon nodded, and pulled them to their feet. With several yards to the jungle line, they all took off running. Arrows rained down around them, just barely missing each time.
They ran into the jungle, and began plowing through the under foliage, dodging rocks, spider webs, and arrows that managed to stray in their path. About a minute later they all slowed to a walk, and Kaitlin came to a complete stop, leaning against a large tree trunk.
"Hold on…we…can we…stop…for a bit...?" She asked, panting heavily.
Kenzi leaned back against the tree next to Kaitlin, resting her hands on her knees, her breathing labored. Richard lay on his back on the ground, dust swirling calmly around his arms. Jon actually managed to stand, adrenaline pumping through his body. The horn sounded distantly with the cries of the warriors. But it was deeper into the jungle now, traveling farther away from the Gang.
"What…happened?" Kenzi had managed to catch her breath.
Kaitlin suddenly looked up. "Brian! Where's Brian?"
"Didn't you see?" Jon suddenly shouted, gesturing his hands dramatically. "He's dead! Brian-is-dead! There is an arrow in his forehead! See! There's his blood!" He pointed to a bloodstain on her pants.
"Wait…!" Kenzi began shivering. "We need to go back…he might be alive…he might need our help...maybe the arrow didn't hit deeply...maybe he could…be…saved…" Realizing what she was saying, she slid her back down the tree slowly, her elbows catching on her knees, hiding her hands in her face as she began to sob.
Jon, his rush gone, was now leaning against a tree for support. Kaitlin looked as though she was going to pass out too, still leaning against the tree as well.
"Where are we…?" Richard asked gravely, glancing up at the sky.
A bright light suddenly passed over his face. He blinked several times, lifting his hand to shield his watering eyes. The rest of the Gang looked up. An orb of light began descending from the trees, and floated down to where they all sat. Everyone froze in fear as it continued to descend, drifting only a few feet above the ground.