Nathan flipped the black card over again and again not believing what he was seeing. He thought it a fake, but the company’s silver moon shined brightly against the card’s background. And if it had been a prank then there was the disturbing thought someone had been in his house; the very idea sent shivers down his side. Bringing it closer to his eyes he could just make out a phone number scrawled in blood-red ink.
Sitting on his bed he turned to stare at the overturned picture of him and Alice. If this was a prank why would they put it in her dresser? He thought. The entire thing was strange, there was no sign of a break-in and no thief would go through the trouble of getting in and not taking anything. From what he remembered Alice had no connection with the company, whenever he brought it up she’d nod along, uninterested.
There were, of course, things he didn’t know about her. Even after so many years of being together, he felt he only scratched her surface. At the very end of their relationship when Alice began to unravel she’d disappear for hours and come back home disoriented and moody. She’d start fights, days long arguments over money or jewels and at the very end, she’d just mutter to herself for days on end, at that point he couldn’t even get her to eat. And now looking at the card he wondered if they had any answers for him.
Without thinking long about it Nathan grabbed his phone and dialed the number. He reasoned there was really nothing to lose from calling. The phone only rang once as if the person on the other end had been expecting him.
“Good afternoon, Nathan,”
Nathan jumped, nearly dropping the phone. He had only heard the voice once before on television but he immediately recognized Joseph Crane’s cool distinct voice. It sounded as if he was talking to a friend even though they had never talked.
“M-Mr. Crane?” He stumbled. His mouth had gone dry, their interview wasn’t for another month, why was the leader of Umbra waiting for him to call.
“Please Nathan, call me Joseph,” he said with a slight laugh. “We have much to discuss and so little time.”
“Mr. Crane, I don’t quite understand. Is this about the interv-”
“Someone will be at your house within two hours to pick you up,” Joseph said cutting Nathan off. “There’s no need to change, you’ll find we’re quite an easygoing company. I can’t wait for you to get here.”
“Wait what I-” Nathan began but before he could protest further Joseph was gone. He sat staring at his phone for a long time. The events that had just transpired didn’t seem real, he had just spoken with Joseph Crane and now someone from Umbra was coming to pick him up.
Shaking his head he threw down his phone and dashed to his dresser. He didn’t care what Joseph said, Emily would never let him hear the end of it if he looked shabby in front of such an important person. Without many options, he pulled on his best black dress shirt and a pair of jeans.
After an hour and forty minutes passed Nathan had taken to pacing his living room. Joseph hadn’t contacted him again, and there wasn’t much time left now. After lapping his path thrice more he collapsed into a chair with his head in his hands. He felt stupid for changing; he realized no one was coming to get him. The whole thing must have been someone’s sick idea of a joke.
But that was definitely his voice on the phone! A voice in his head reasoned. He shook his head though. It was perfectly possible someone had just mimicked his voice. Hell, Oliver could have arranged the entire thing. It seemed like something he’d do.
A sharp knock at the door interrupted his thoughts. He jumped up quickly, and nearly tripped as he ran to the door.
He threw it open to the sight of three burly men wearing suits. Each of them looked grim and surly, he was almost sorry he answered the door.
“A-are you from Um-” Nathan began.
“You Nathan?” One of the men demanded.
“Yeah…” Nathan answered quietly.
“Quickly then.” The man said with a nod to the others.
Before Nathan could react the three barged their way into the house. The largest of the three grabbed his arm and pinned it against his back. His shoulder ached and creaked as pain surged through his arm. He was helpless as the man forced him against the wall.
“What are you doi-” Nathan began as he attempted to claw his captive.
Before he could finish another man clamped his hand around his jaw. The man’s grip was so strong Nathan feared he might shatter his jaw. Pinned and muzzled he could only shake and whimper as he watched the third man produce a burlap sack from beneath his suit jacket.
Fear turned into full-blown terror as the sack was tied over his head. The first man released his grip slightly but only to grab Nathan’s other arm and pin them together. He could feel his arms being bound as he roughly kicked blindly at his assailants. Suddenly he was knocked over and fell to the ground hard, his legs were grabbed and tied, he could no longer move at all.
His breathing roughened; his head felt dizzy. As he was on the edge of passing out he felt rough hands grab him around his waist. Desperate he wriggled and writhed knowing it wouldn’t do any good.
“Stop now or we’ll have to hurt you!” A man yelled.
Nathan stopped at once but couldn’t control his shivers. He was about to be killed, tortured, he didn’t know what. Cool air licked his skin as the men carried him outside. It was dark out when the men came so he was sure no one would see them; his only hope was Sammy. He prayed the old man was around even if it was late in the day. His hopes were quickly dashed as he was thrown onto soft fabric he assumed to be a car seat. Three doors opened and one of the men got in with him, all three doors shut in unison.
His stomach threatened to come up as the car came to life and sped off. This isn’t happening! This isn’t real, I fell asleep waiting for the people from Umbra, this is all just a bad dream. He tried to convince himself. There was no reason he should have been targeted, he kept his head low and never bothered anyone. The most scathing articles he’d ever written were all about the hook killer, but they had disappeared years prior.
An idea struck him as the ride progressed. If someone saw him they were certain to call the police. Gathering what courage he had left he propped his body up and wriggled frantically hoping desperately someone might see him.
“We warned you!” One of the men yelled.
Nathan gagged and struggled as the man’s hand tightened around his throat and slammed him into the seat. The world faded out a little.
As he was starting to come back around, the car went down a steep slope and came to a complete halt. This is it… Nathan realized. His mind couldn’t process what was to happen to him. At the very least he hoped it would be quick and relatively painless.
The car doors flew open and once again Nathan was grabbed around his waist. He heard a series of doors open and slam until they stopped moving completely. Then he heard the distinct ding of an elevator and they all climbed in. His heart felt like it would give before his detainers would get the chance to kill him. The elevator glided down quickly for what felt like an hour, he didn’t know how far underground they had gone. Finally, the elevator dinged again and they were once again on the move.
“Hey, you got him! Did he give you any trouble?” Someone called.
“Not too much, little devil only tried to escape once,” One of Nathan’s captors responded with a laugh.
They’re talking as if this is normal for them! Nathan thought as his dread mounted. Th-they must be slavers! I think Nancy wrote an article about human traffickers in the city but why me!
The time for him to get answers was approaching quickly as he was haphazardly thrown to the ground. He spent what he thought to be his last moments thrashing against the floor hoping to annoy his captives if nothing else.
“Woah, Woah, Woah! Why’s he tied up? This isn’t how we treat guests at Umbra!” Joseph thundered.
Nathan stopped thrashing at once as confusion set in. Surely he hadn’t just heard Joseph’s voice again. He must have misheard.
“Sorry boss,” One of the men said. His tone turned to that of a child being chided. “He wouldn’t come peacefully so we had to stop him.”
He wanted desperately to protest this lie but decided to keep calm while they decided what to do with him.
“Well don’t just stand there! Untie him!” said Joseph.
This time there was no mistaking the voice he heard. There were a few mumbled apologies and then Nathan felt cold metal against his hands and feet as his bindings were sliced. The sack was removed from his head; he squinted his eyes expecting bright light but it never came. The room he was in was dimly lit, with a cinnabar tint to it.
His captives came into view surly as when they appeared at his doorstep. A moment of madness crossed him where he considered attacking the men and fleeing for his life. The moment passed though as the biggest of them flexed his muscles that showed even beneath his suit.
“I’m sorry about my staff’s rudeness. I told them to be gentle but apparently, they can’t follow simple instructions.” Joseph said with an edge in his voice. The three men shrank back a little.
Nathan slowly turned to Joseph. He was just as he saw him on tv; tall, skinny, and boyish with wild unkempt sandy hair. Behind his dark tinted glasses he saw his eyes were sharp like a cat; He was wearing a suit that didn’t exude the true wealth the man had. Some claimed he would be among the richest in the world within a decade. As skinny as Joseph was he understood why his men slinked back. Standing in front of him was awe-inspiring, a million questions rushed to him only a few having to do with his captivity.
“Mr. Bauer?” Joseph said with a snap of his fingers.
With a quick shake of his head, Nathan was back to the space around him. “Y-yes?” He said feebly.
“I asked if you would like a seat? We’ve prepared snacks for your arrival.” Said Joseph gesturing to a small desk in the middle of the room with a charcuterie board upon it. “You three are of course dismissed.” He added looking to the three men. They left quickly without another look towards Nathan or their boss.
With his mind still racing Nathan took a seat at the desk. Something in him told him not to eat the food but he thought it best to play along for the time being. Joseph took a seat opposite him and interlaced his fingers apparently content with watching him eat.
Nathan took his time eating to get a better look at the room. The room was vast, he couldn’t see where it ended even past Joseph. The red light emanated from something he could barely make out from the far end of the room. He couldn’t see it but he felt no desire to know what it was. Scientists carrying clipboards or carrying large machinery passed the table every so often apparently noninterested with Joseph or Nathan.
“Sorry about the mess,” Joseph chuckled. “This room hasn’t been used for a long time, I truly thought we’d be ready before your arrival.”
“That’s fine,” Nathan said apprehensively. “But can I ask what I’m doing here? And what was with the kidnapping?”
Joseph smiled, there was a small fire behind his eyes. “I was hoping you’d ask that,” he said rising from the desk. “If you’d follow me.”
He did as Joseph asked and was led deeper into the room. “That card… Exactly how did it get into Alice’s dresser?” Nathan asked as they walked.
“We worked extensively with your wife, Mr. Bauer,” Joseph answered. “It’s possible she left it there before her ‘incident’.”
Bullshit. Nathan thought. Alice didn’t keep much in the drawer to begin with and he knew there was never any card. Not wanting to antagonize such a powerful person, he took a breath and said, “What exactly did Alice do for the company? She never mentioned working here.”
“Patience is a virtue, Mr. Bauer!” Joseph said excitedly. “Fortunately for you though Umbra isn’t in the business of virtues.”
He said no more as the room began to narrow. The red pulse grew faster the deeper they went like an ominous heartbeat. Nathan felt his own heart resonating with the light; beating harder the closer they got.
Joseph stopped just in front of a grand gateway built into a wall. The gate itself looked to be made of monstrous umber colored leather, with a mysterious keyhole at its center. For a fleeting moment, Nathan thought he saw the gate expand as if it were breathing. The red aura that filled the room came from the arch that surrounded the gate; it was designed with runic letters that seemed faintly Latin.
“Well, what do you think?” Joseph asked expectantly.
“I don’t know…” Nathan said clutching his stomach. He felt queasy again although this time he didn’t know why. “What am I looking at exactly?”
“You’re looking at the fruit of generations of research, over a century of mankind’s lust for the unknown!” Joseph said.
Nathan raised an eyebrow. I didn’t take him for the sentimental type. He thought.
“I thought you’d be a little more excited…” Joseph said after Nathan didn’t speak again. “This door is the answer to every unanswerable question humanity has ever asked! The reason why we haven’t found aliens? Where did we come from? Are any of the world’s religions actually correct?” By the way his cool blue eyes bulged Nathan could tell he was getting to the point. “This brilliant door can take us to those who can answer those questions!”
“Um, Mr. Crane I’m afraid I don’t understand. Is this a joke? Cause if it is it’s not funny.” Nathan said starting to get annoyed. The nutcase had dragged him out of his house to talk about strange theories.
Joseph dragged his hand across his face apparently annoyed with Nathan’s lack of understanding. When he spoke again his voice was much calmer, almost dispirited. “Are you aware of the idea of there being a multiverse Nathan?” He asked.
He nodded having spent his younger years reading many comic books.
“And what would you say if I told you this door connected to various other worlds. Worlds where gods rule, magic is real, and heaven itself is one of these worlds?”
“I’d refer you to a psychiatrist.” Nathan said automatically. His annoyance was starting to turn to rage.
“You’d know all about psychiatrists wouldn’t you Nathan? How is the missus by the by?” Joseph chuckled. Nathan felt a strong urge to deck him. “No, you’ll find I’m very sane. And in time you’ll want to join me in my adventures across the multiverse.”
“If all this is true then why are you still here?” Nathan barked. “If your door is oh so magnificent why haven’t you left to your world of gods.”
“Finally, I hoped you might get to asking that on your own.” Said, Joseph. He clapped his hands twice and Nathan spun to see a woman walking towards them holding a pillow like a ring bearer. The pillow was draped in a purple satin fabric but he could just make out a shape beneath it. Joseph took the pillow and unceremoniously ripped the fabric off.
Nathan gasped and put his hand to his throat. Sitting upon the pillow was the infamous weapon of the hook killer. The blade glistened in the light of the door making it look just as wicked as its history. He had only seen the weapon once when it was within police custody; a friend of his inside the department allowed him an unofficial look shortly before it went missing again. Even though they recovered the blade the killer themselves had never been caught.
“Now then Nathan take a gander at the lock on the door,” Joseph said. Nathan had to will himself to peel his eyes away from the dagger, but he managed it. Looking now he saw the lock was the perfect shape to fit the dagger as if lock and key were together once again. “You understand now, the door is locked. And the key won’t work without being powered.”
“And, what powers the key…” Nathan said quietly already suspecting Joseph’s answer.
“Human life. Seven of them to be exact. And they must all be done by the same hand. You see why we hit a snag here?”
It was if Nathan was thrown into a trance by the dagger’s appearance. His every thought begged him to run from the room even if he wouldn’t get far yet he stood there. “So the murders four years ago… That was… That was you?”
Joseph laughed. “No, not me. The dagger has certain effects on your mental capacity and I, of course, need to stay whole. I believe we both know who last wielded the dagger my boy…”
The trance was broken. “SHE WOULD NEVER!” Nathan raged. “You’re lying! I don’t know why you knew her or what she had to do with this… This insanity, but Alice could never harm a fly!”
“With the right motivations you can bend anyone to your will. Human desire is a wonderful thing.”
“I-I’m done listening to this!” Nathan said. “I’m calling the police! Kidnapping, mass murder, funneling money to this- this bunker! Any other crimes you want to admit to!”
Joseph wasn’t bothered by this proclamation, he smiled even. “We’ve been doing this longer than you can imagine Nathan. No amount of police in the world will stand in our way. We’re not asking for a lot, we just want you to take the dagger home and take it for a test drive.”
“T-Take it! Me- I” Nathan stuttered. Before he could continue Joseph placed the pillow down and clapped three times. Nathan felt a hand clasp around his shoulder. He looked behind him to see Joseph’s goons had reappeared; he hadn’t even heard them approach. One of them held new pairs of rope while another had another sack. Fear settled upon him again as he realized how he would be leaving the company.
He was tied up once again but before the sack was placed over his head he saw Joseph hand the dagger off to one of the men.
“We do hope you enjoyed your stay at Umbra Nathan,” Joseph said bowing. “I do hope you’ll give my proposition more thought. Until then you know how to contact us.”
The sack was then tied around his head and Nathan was grabbed.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~And that’s a wrap on the third chapter! I’ve decided to try out a new schedule. These new chapters will be coming out Thursday and Friday while Poems and any other extra stuff will come out on the weekend, otherwise it will take forever to get these out.
I don’t really have much else to say it’s my birthday today so I’m a bit hazed from drinking.
Hope you enjoyed the chapter if you did leave a like, leave a comment and if you want more consider subscribing! ~ Hisaxia.