Sarah Died: Chapter 3: The Language of Death
The Language of Death
“You know, Sarah dies.”
“Sorry- can I have my coffee?”
Sarah paid for her drink, wondering what the man had meant. Sarah dies? Had he known her name, or was it just a strange coincidence? Perhaps it was a reference to something in a movie or something. She didn’t know, but she thought it was pretty accurate for her. Sarah gets up every day, and dies every day. Of course, there was no way that the man could have known this. Not even she really understood it. Somehow, she still woke every morning with this expectation that Jared would knock on her door to take her for coffee. And then he didn’t. It wasn’t something that ruled her life anymore, but it was always in the back of her mind, reminding her of death. Sarah dies.
She sipped her coffee and wrapped the scarf back snuggly around her neck. It was a chilly August day, the perfect time to reintroduce coffee and scarves to the world. Everyone seemed to have caught on to the fashion trend and even most men she passed on the street had a knitted noose around their neck. It probably wasn’t very safe. Still, it was comfy, and Sarah was all for comfort. The wind picked up and pushed through the crowd of bustling people, seeming to make them move faster. Someone lost their scarf and it went fluttering and flying through the air like a freed bird, or a sign of surrender. Landing at Sarah’s feet, she bent down to pick it up and found it ripped from her hands and flying through the air once more. She stopped for a moment to watch it, partially contemplating running to catch it. Taking another sip of her coffee, she realized there was little to know chance that she would catch it and its owner was nowhere to be found- so what would the point be? She shrugged in response to her own question and turned around to continue her original path.
Turning a corner, Sarah quickened her pace. This was a part of town in which no one wished to linger, and yet she chose to walk through it every day. She wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t a death wish, but more like a life wish. She trusted God to care for her and she hoped it was a chance to witness. Be different from the rest of the world and all that. Still, she clutched her keys in a deadly manner and kept her hand in her purse, very near the can of mace. Today, like yesterday, and the day before, nothing happened. She let go a sigh of relief that she didn’t know she had been holding as she exited the territory of a particularly vile gang and walked back into a crowd of business people.
She merged back in with the flow of the world. The walked forward now, much less stylish and much more sophisticated, headed to boring jobs in boring buildings with boring bosses and boring pay. Perhaps one or two of them were the boring bosses or received a slightly interesting pay, but Sarah’s job was much more interesting. With an experienced and well-practiced motion, she stepped to the side and into a small crevice, partially hidden in the side of a building. She searched through her key ring for the right one and inserted the green tipped key into the handle of a completely hidden door. She loved the mystery and the secrecy of the door. It, by itself, was much more interesting than anything she walked past each day. It was so boring, but held such promise underneath.
The door gave and swung open noiselessly. Sarah dropped her purse onto the thick and fuzzy rug on the floor, kicking her shoes off and into some dark corner to the side. She finished the final sip of her coffee and tossed it expertly into a trashcan somewhere beyond sight. Satisfied by the plunk of a basket, she tapped the lights on and made a cup of coffee in one deft motion. The coffee maker groaned into life, annoyed at its rude awakening but obedient to her commands. It took only a few seconds for a perfect cup to brew and a sip of flavored creamer to be added. Sarah inhaled the smell and picked up the cup, sipping of her own special blend of flavors as she looked around her studio.
It was, in many respects, unconventional. This studio was, indeed, a studio as defined by nearly anyone. However, usually one thinks of a studio with only one focus. Or perhaps two. Maybe a studio would belong to a writer, and it would be filled with books and papers and computers and TVs and junk foods. Or maybe it belonged to a musician and was fairly organized despite the multiple scribble papers tossed around the room in frustration, probably having landed on one of the million instruments placed around the room. Or maybe it belonged to an interior designer and it was extremely tidy, but not unbearably so, and was divided into sections based on projects. Or perhaps it belonged to a painter and there would be a million different colors scattered through the air and on the walls and floors. This studio was everything.
There were canvases across the room with paintings finished or partially incomplete plastered onto their surfaces and the floor around. In one corner there was a large television installed into the wall and a computer for writing. There were stacks upon stacks of papers and books beside that desk. There was a corner of the room in which designs for all types of rooms were neatly arranged on the walls. But perhaps the most extensive section was the area that made no sense. In the largest corner of the room, the walls and floors and even ceiling were covered with numbers and letters and symbols that seemed to make no sense.
It seemed Sarah’s hobbies were more important than her work. And yet, it was he designs for certain libraries along with her paintings of rain and her novels which provided the money for such a large and expensive room. Nonetheless, she often spent much more effort on her code breaking than any real work. Sarah liked to tell people that it was just a part of her creative process. It did seem to help her think, but it wasn’t the reason. No, every time she solved a code she felt like she had found an answer in a world of questions. That was what she did all day. Her novels always left without a happily-ever-after, her paintings were always thought evoking, and designs always baffled with their complexity. They all asked questions. When she broke a code, Sarah finally found the answer. And then it was gone- just another fact floating in the sky. So she started again, and again, and again until most of what she did all day was sit and stare at meaningless things, trying to understand them. There had to be an answer.
There was a large window across the length of the one wall, but even it was hidden from the outside world. When walking past on the street, none from the outside in, only the inside out. It made Sarah think that perhaps it had been intended for hiding. She kind of liked that. It left her undisturbed, but able to watch and help if anyone needed her. She stood up after several hours of trying to break a new code and simply watched the world walk by. There were few people in the streets at this time, so there wasn’t much to watch but the wind. That was enough. Sarah inhaled deeply the scent of her sixth cup of coffee and closed her eyes. In her mind she saw a perfect image of the street, only it was moving like a Van Gogh with the freedom and the truth of a Monet. The wind blew, and blue circled those who walked past, whipping around ankles, biting toes, and slapping faces. While the wind itself was blue, everything it touched was red and burned with the intensity of the sun. Yet it was not as fluid or as exaggerated. Instead, it was understated and explained through its lack of explanation. It had no beginning and no end, but the sun bursting through the clouds sent the wind running in circles as it tried to escape its servitude to the whims of the sky. It could not succeed and knew this before it began. Still, it ran away.
Sarah opened her eyes and saw only the street in front of her. The wind blew, but could not be seen. The sun shone, but hid its power. The red that grew around the wind would perhaps have been seen if there was anything to see it on, but the street was completely bare.
Sighing, Sarah turned and took the final sip of her final cup of coffee for the day, savoring the taste and the rush of the caffeine. She then wrapped her scarf back around her neck and picked up her purse. She stuffed a few papers from beside the computer desk to work on at home and searched for her shoes. She had thrown them a bit further than she had thought and found herself on her knees reaching under a shelf of books for the left shoe which had flown underneath. She couldn’t see it clearly, but knew it was there and groped around in the dim lighting for her shoe. Stretching further, she heard something behind her and jerked her head up in a start. It banged against the shelf and she yelped in pain. Fortunately, she had come away from her ordeal with two shoes which she promptly slipped on her feet.
Locking the door behind her, Sarah stepped discreetly out into the street and began to walk home. Today, she decided to take a different path. Instead of cutting through the worst part of town, she decided to cut through the best part of town. She walked past white picket fences and perfect houses with perfect French Poodles and perfect lawns with perfect benches and perfect pools and perfect little blonde children. It almost felt like she was walking through a perfect world. This only succeeded to depress her even more than she already was. If this was the world’s definition of perfection, being the same as everyone else, Sarah wanted nothing to do with it. That wasn’t living. That was giving up.
She shuddered and remembered the other reason she usually didn’t travel this way. Still, she walked on and tried not to look to her left or right. She stared at her feet as they move awkwardly down the street. The metal one creaked and groaned today, acting up due to the weather. From a distance one would not be able to tell that it wasn’t a leg of flesh. It was perfectly colored and shaped. Still, there was something about the stiffness and lifelessness of metal that pointed a red arrow at Sarah’s defect. Her flaw. Her problem. Her hole.
She was so focused on the creaking of her own leg that Sarah didn’t notice the second set of footprints behind her. If she had taken her normal path, she would have been paying more attention to her surroundings. It was necessary for survival to know what was going on around you. But in a community of mimicry, nothing bad could happen. The footsteps sped up behind her, and she finally noticed that someone with a hat pulled down over their face was walking in her shadow.
Suddenly fearful, Sarah tensed and ran through actions in her mind. Mace? No, that wouldn’t be good in a picket-fence community. More than likely it was just someone late to work or out for a walk and she would probably get sued for blinding him/her. Keys? No, that would be worse. Scarring- much more sue-able. What then? She decided to take a much less committed approach. She slowed her walking so that her follower could catch up, whether they wanted to or not. It work, and she was about to confront them when the follower spoke first.
“Well look who it is.”
“Who else? What are you doing round here?”
“I could ask you the same thing. I mean, you live nowhere near here.”
“I’ve got a few friends who live here.”
“Okay, so maybe they’re Jacob’s friends. I mean, they’re cool and all, but they’re kind of stuck up.”
“I know what you mean. The world of eternal conformity. ‘You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.’”
“Exactly. It’s like getting sucked into some alien spaceship or something. I just popped out for a walk while they argued toilet paper: ‘Is one ply or two better for the environment?’”
The girls laughed and locked arms as they walked down the street together. Sarah decided to take a detour and keep Sasha occupied instead of going straight home, so they walked in circles laughing and talking for a while. They passed a few houses that were empty, and Sarah wondered if the neighbors were upset by an absence of people. It did seem to ruin their conformity. Sasha stopped outside the one house on the street with a black door. All the rest were green.
“Well, they thought I was just going for a short walk. I’d better get back in.”
“Yeah, I should probably go home now.”
“What’re you doing tonight?”
Sarah knew she had said the wrong thing because Sasha’s eyes narrowed with determination and hopefulness. She grabbed Sarah’s arm and dragged her towards the black door. Sarah tried vaguely to struggle, but she didn’t really dread conformed company as much as Sasha did, so she was quickly overcome by Sasha’s insistence and pushed through the door into the pristine home.
“Look who I found wandering around in the cold!”
“Hey Sarah! What were you doing out of your studio? Aaron, Tricia, this is Sasha’s best friend Sarah. Sarah, these are my friends Aaron and Tricia Greene.”
Sarah nearly chocked. It seemed these people were not as conformed as they looked. Their name was green, but their door was black. It was like a hidden effort to rebel while living in the midst of chameleons. Aaron and Tricia stood in the middle of an overly clean home which set Sarah’s interior design instinct into a raging fire of insanity and outrage. Perfection is overrated, but this house was perfect. Aaron had on a perfectly fitted blue polo shirt and wore perfect shoes that looked like they had never seen a minute of wear before this day. Tricia wore a black dress and high heels which Sarah didn’t know the name for, but knew she had seen tip-tapping past her studio. Her face held the perfect amount of makeup so that she didn’t look completely artificial, but not quite natural either. Her red hair was cut, styled, and layered neatly so that it fell neatly on her shoulders like a pile of Autumn leaves. At their feet played two perfect little blond children who played quietly with some game that could not be seen past their hunched backs and their perfectly curled blonde hair. It was a bit of a strange scene because it fit so well with the house and the houses around them, but their door hinted at a different life. It was like they were trying a bit too hard to infiltrate the chameleons but were afraid of being stuck forever. They were clinging to a single color of normalcy which defied the green of revolting “perfection”.
“Nice to meet you.”
Tricia extended a dainty hand, although Sarah could not decide if she wanted it to be kissed or shook. Perhaps neither. Perhaps both? She wasn’t sure, so she opted for a squeeze and slight shake. Tricia retracted her hand quickly and went to another part of the house as if retreating from an attack. Aaron was much more purposeful in shaking her hand, but he too seemed to draw back immediately and pull Jacob aside to another part of the room so their discussion could not be heard. If Sasha was to be believed, then it wasn’t anything she wanted to hear. This left Sasha and Sarah alone to talk together for a while, while the children played at their feet. Eventually, Tricia came back to put the children to bed, reminding Sarah of the time. She tried to politely excuse herself and leave before it got dark, but Aaron and Tricia were suddenly at her side insisting that she stay a little while longer. Sasha’s puppy-dog eyes were ridiculous, but Sarah gave her a barely visible consent and stayed.
“So, Sarah,” Tricia had reappeared and joined in on their conversation while holding a glass of Champaign, “you’re an artist?”
“Jacob mentioned a studio. What kind?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand your question.”
“Well, what kind of artist are you. Are you a musician, a painter, a writer, an inventor, or something else that I haven’t heard of?”
“Kind of all of the above.”
“Really? How interesting.”
“Well, except for the inventor one. And the musician one. I can play the piano, and the violin, and the guitar but I’ve never really done anything with it.”
“So, how can you be a writer and a painter at the same time?”
“I have a lot of free time.”
“Oh dear! How funny you are! Do tell me more.”
Sarah gave a detailed explanation of her career choices while Tricia’s mask slipped. Before, she had thought that it might be possible she had just imagined the hidden meaning behind the door, but it seemed to be confirmed as Tricia drank more Champaign. The more she drank, the more forced and awkward her act sounded. She didn’t belong with the chameleons and her rehearsed speech was beginning to prove it.
“Do you have any hobbies? Any other than your work, I mean.”
“Sort of. I like to toy with code breaking a bit. It’s not really a serious thing though. It’s just kind of something to occupy my mind and get it working through thoughts for my other works.”
“Really, how interesting.”
Aaron had joined in on the conversation at some point and now had his hand on his wife’s shoulder. If Sarah didn’t know better, she would have thought he was warning her to stop. What was so bad about hobbies? Maybe he had noticed her mask slipping, and was gently trying to slip it back into place. Still, he seemed almost panicked as he hurriedly said they needed to check on the children and led Tricia away. Her returned a bit later without Tricia and said she had a headache and needed to sit down for a moment. Jacob took this as an unofficial cue and ushered Sasha and Sarah slowly out the door. The door was closed the moment they had passed the threshold and even Jacob commented that it was strange of them to act so rude.
The night was dark and engulfing like the depths of the sea. Even the stars could not be seen that night, so Sarah felt even more alone than usual. Sasha seemed to sense this and hugged her tight as they walked to her car. Jacob and Sasha gave Sarah a ride home and then drove off to their own house as Sarah waved from her front porch. In the end, she had a good time. It may have been awkward and strange, but it was a happy distraction from the trials of living, to be around someone who had it worse. Sure, they had each other, but Tricia and Aaron didn’t seem to even have themselves. They were hiding amongst their own enemies and hoping they wouldn’t be found, so they got rid of themselves to save their lives. It was sad really. So sad.
But her sadness didn’t last long. She turned to enter her parent’s home, but found herself falling into oblivion instead. Her mind searched for an explanation as it struggled not to shut off. It didn’t work and she lost all awareness as she looked up at someone she didn’t know. Her last thought was- “How nice of him to catch me.”
Sarah woke up slowly, but not painfully. Her mind had cleared enough to know she had been drugged or knocked out or something, but she felt no pain. That probably meant she had been out for a while. Strangely, there were no restraints and no captors. As she sat up and cleared her head of drowsiness, her first thought was that this was the exact opposite of the Greene’s home. While their house had been neat to a fault, this room was messy to a fault. She was sitting on the only clear surface in the entire room. Couches and chairs and tables took up the floor space, but on top of them were stacked papers and computers and odd devices that resembled items from a MARVEL movie.
She stood and searched for a door. Strangely, there was none. She figured that explained the lack of restraints or captors. They didn’t need anyone to watch her because she couldn’t get out. And then she saw it, and her theory was trashed. The door had no handle; it simply slid back into the wall. It was also partially behind a bookshelf and a couch with a statue on it, making it nearly impossible to spot. Her first thought was that the door must be locked from the outside, but it wouldn’t hurt to try opening it. So she did. It opened with a grating and a roar that she winced at, knowing it would alert whoever kidnapped her. Strangely, the thought of being kidnapped didn’t frighten her all that much, but staying kidnapped was very inconvenient.
She stepped out of the room and into an empty hallway. Sounds of warfare rushed too her ears as the building shook and it felt like bombs were landing all around. People shouted in the distance and sirens screamed through the walls with the pain of attack. They were screaming for help. It was like something from a movie. She almost, for just a second, thought she was standing in a bunker during WWII as her home was destroyed. Of course, even her extreme imagination could not make her transport back that far in time, so she made her feet move and walked away from the noise. She started to run as she regained the ability to think past the noise and unsteadily dodged walls as they shook and seemed to crumble around her.
Up ahead she thought she saw an exit. Racing faster, she moved towards the circular door at the end of the hall and prayed it led to the real world, not WWII. She ran up to the door and into it. Sarah’s strength could not budge the door, so she looked for a button, a handle, or anything to get her out. What she found was a small hole in the wall. She tried to see through, but nothing could be seen. She guessed it was probably some kind of keyhole, but she couldn’t find any key. She pounded on the door for a short time before giving up and sitting down.
Holding her hands up to her head, Sarah felt as if her mind was about to explode from all the shaking and screaming around her. Finally she could take it no more and, standing shakily, walked slowly back the way she had come. That was when she heard a rumbling behind her and the door rolled open. Without a second thought, she rushed back and dove through the opening.
Once on the other side, Sarah wasn’t sure it the constant noise had disturbed her more than the silence that now engulfed everything. It was as if there was simply nothing in the room which she stood in. The white walls were layered and slanted in opposite directions. There was nothing in the room, and the floor seemed to be made of several layers of mesh. To Sarah, it seemed an awful lot like something from TV like that one room which was specially designed to block out all noise. They said those rooms often made people go crazy. At the moment, this seemed more than true. Sarah had only been standing there for a few moments but the contrast between the silence and the never-ending noise was so startling that it amplified the maddening effects of the lack of noise. She had to find a way out.
Another door opened from the wall in front of her and Sarah ran through to the world beyond. She was so preoccupied with getting away from her previous locations that she wasn’t even thinking about the possibility that someone was waiting for her or at least waiting for someone. Fact is, everyone was waiting for her. A crowd of people, some with masks and some without, stood in front of her. One in particular stepped forward. Jacob stepped forward.
“Hey. Sorry about all that. Can you stand?”
Sarah hadn’t even realized that she wasn’t on her feet. She had probably collapsed from all the pressure as soon as she exited the barrage of noise and silence. She stood shakily and found it harder than she expected to stay up.
“No thanks. Where’s Sasha? This was her idea, right? Only she could come up with something so weird and think it would be funny.”
“I’m afraid she has no idea about this, and it’s not a game.”
“So you’re like, what- Robin Hood and his band of merry men? What’s going on here?”
“Can we walk as we talk? Thanatos wants to talk to you.”
“Yes. Can we please move along while we talk?”
“Not until you explain to me why my best friend’s husband and his friends decided to kidnap me.”
“It’s not for me to explain. And besides, we didn’t really kidnap you, and I didn’t know about it until a few minutes ago.”
“What do you call knocking a person out and dragging them away to who-knows-where and locking her up? I’d call that kidnapping.”
“Well, yeah. But you’re free to go at any time.”
“Good, then where’s the exit?”
“Come on Sarah, all he wants to do is talk to you. We need your help.”
“Saving the world?”
“Are you sure? ‘Cause it doesn’t sound like you’re very sure of that answer.”
“Well, I’m sure. But it’s better if he explains it. Can we please go now?”
Sarah was a bit intimidated by all the guns, and she was just a bit curious about the whole thing. Why had they left her alone in an unlocked room? What was the hallway she had come from with the noise and sirens? Who would even have something like that? Why didn’t someone just come and get her, instead of letting her find her way out slowly. It would be much more efficient. And what was the deal with Jacob. He was a good guy, a strong Christian. So, what was he doing working with a bunch of kidnappers. Or whatever they were.
“So, who’s this Thanatos dude?”
“Don’t you ever watch the news?”
“You’ve got that huge TV! Haven’t you ever even glanced at a news channel? Read a newspaper? Talked to anyone in society?”
“Well, I’m talking to you, aren’t I? But no, I don’t usually keep up on anything in the world but whatever’s going on in the White House. Why, is he on TV much?”
“Personally? No. But he is mentioned a lot. Ever heard of the Order of the Dragon?”
“Yeah, who hasn’t?”
“You, apparently. Thanatos is the dragon.”
“You’re a part of a cult?! Does Sasha even know about this?”
“Well, sort of. She’s technically even a part of the order. But we’re not really a cult.”
Sarah wasn’t sure what to think of all that was moving past her. She had trusted Sasha and Jacob, but now she found out they were a part of a cult group and they had been lying to her about everything. Of course, it wasn’t as if she had ever asked them if they were a part of the order. Still, she felt more than a bit betrayed. Not as much by Jacob, because she didn’t really know him well enough to call him a close friend. But Sasha was her best friend, and she had once more hidden something huge from Sarah. She was starting to wonder if she could trust Sasha with anything.
They walked through twisted hallways and past many open doors from which men and women stared at her strangely. They also passed several closed doors that looked very important. One was labeled Tech Lab. Another was called the Code Room. This one in particular drew her gaze. She wondered what was beyond those doors. Of course, nothing could be seen but the wood that barred her view, so she moved on beside Jacob. She noted the gun in his hands and thought how awkward it seemed. Jacob was an engineer, so one would usually find a pencil and paper in his hands. Now, he had a gun- completely different.
One of the rooms which they passed stood with the door open to reveal a large arsenal of expensive and top quality guns. Sarah had done a study of guns for a book two years before and, while not considered an expert on the topic, knew enough to understand that these guns could only have been stolen from the military. Nowhere else could one find such a large amount of good weapons. The door was shut quickly when someone caught her looking in and she walked on.
They came to a door near the end of a hallway and the crow which had been following them seemed to disappear. Jacob knocked on the door and waited for a response. Silence greeted them, and Sarah was about to ask to be taken home when someone knocked in a clear rhythmical pattern from the other side of the door. Pointing towards the door with a look of reverence or fear in his eyes, Jacob indicated that Sarah should go in.
Not sure what to expect, Sarah pushed the door open and stepped into a dark room. Jacob pulled the door quickly shut behind her and she was alone. She groped around in the dark for a light switch or something. Instead, she found another door in front of her. It was sealed extremely tight so that no light could possibly escape if there even was light on the other side. She heard a clicking noise from inside the door and then the sound of something falling into place. The door gave and she pushed it open.
Inside the dragon’s lair there was a steady flow of light, but it was red and fairly dim. Standing with his back to her, a tall man, presumably Thanatos, gazed at images projected on the wall. He took out a marker and sketched a few markers then stood back and stared intently at the diagram in front of him. To Sarah, it looked like a floor plan for some big office building. She stepped closer as one room in particular caught her eye. She recognized it as a government office building nearby her studio. As all of the buildings around her studio looked pretty much exactly the same, one would think it was impossible for her to make this assumption. However, the floor plan included furniture placement and she recognized her own work in one room. She had definitely designed this layout, and she remembered when.
Thanatos turned to her, his and still stroking his chin as he seemed to think deeply about the problem before him. He looked at her with a critical eye, so she judged him back. Sarah had to admit, he wasn’t ugly. He wasn’t necessarily handsome either. He was unusually tall and thin, giving him a strangely starved look, and his hair was extremely thick and dark. His eyes were a simple brown and his nose extended quite a ways from the rest of his face. Thanatos had the fingers of a pianist, as they were long and thin and never seemed to stop twitching and moving with ideas. Overall, he was good looking, but not necessarily handsome. Not especially inspiring or leaderly either.
“Sarah Mitchel? You’re Jacob’s friend?”
“Yeah, I guess. I hear you’re the guy in charge.”
“I am.” Something about the way Thanatos said this gave the impression that he was trying to convince himself. But he was the leader, so that was crazy.
“So, I guess you’re the guy who can tell me why I was kidnapped?”
“Yes. I apologize for that. Not all went as planned. To put it simply, we need your help.”
“And why would I help you? I don’t like the idea of being hunted by the government or identifying myself with a cult.”
“Well then, I suppose it’s a good thing that both of those are rumors or plain lies- whichever you wish to believe.”
“Then the public hunt for you and your order is just a hoax?”
“Basically, yes. It’s a bit of a front for something deeper.”
“Okay, why do you need my help?”
“Before I explain the particulars, I must ask you to never speak of anything you are about to hear. Do you understand.”
“Yeah, well I may not approve of your order, but I won’t go telling anyone about this or anything. Sasha and Jacob are still my friends.”
“Thank you. Now, where were we?”
“Why you need my help.”
“Right, well, to tell that I have to clear away a few cobwebs of misunderstanding. To begin with, we are not hunted by the government.”
“You already said that.”
“Right. We actually work for the government.”
“So, you’re breaking into government buildings and stealing government information from the government on the orders of the government?”
“Sort of. It’s really more complex than that, but I am not at liberty to give you the particulars. Also, I honestly don’t know yet if we can trust you at all, so I will leave it at that.”
“Okay, so why do you need me then?”
“Wait. The other lie is that we are a cult. Indeed, on the contrary we are more like a branch of the CIA made up of civilians. Of course, it’s all unofficial, but that’s basically how it works. We pull people into the group based on their strengths and their usefulness as well as their likelihood for understanding.”
“I’m still not sure why you need me. I’m just an artist and a writer. That’s not something I could see you needing the next time you rob your bosses.”
“Not exactly. That’s partly because we don’t need you for your artwork.”
“Then what? My discernment and deductive skills?”
“No, we need your ability to break codes.”
“Wha...” Sarah trailed off into somewhat confused silence, “I’m not a code breaker. You don’t want me.”
“Am I wrong in my understanding that you enjoy breaking codes?”
“Well, not exactly. But that’s just a hobby. I don’t do it professionally. I’m sure that whole government that you supposedly work for could get fifty people much more qualified to help you.”
“Yes, you would think so. Unfortunately, we need someone who is close enough to the main base to come and go swiftly and without suspicion. On top of that, we require trustworthiness and preferably no boyfriends, fiancés, or husbands. This is not a strict rule, but is preferable as it removes the problem of lying to someone so close. On top of that, we needed someone with a few other specific skill sets to increase the chance of success, and you were the only person nearby who matched all the criteria. Plus, it helped that we already had members involved in your life.”
“Okay, so, what other skills could you possibly need that I have?”
“Well, for one thing, your research has led to some in depth research on self-defense. Is this correct?”
“Yeah, but that can’t be all.”
“Then what was it that made me the only option?”
“Why don’t you come with me to see the code. I think you’ll understand.”
Thantos, who had not moved more than an inch through this entire conversation, suddenly walked past Sarah and to the door. He flipped a switch and the lights gradually came on in the room they were in and the room outside. When they went through the door, with Thantos leading grandly, Sarah saw that the dark room she had come through was really little more than a closet. They stepped out into the hallway beyond and felt the hush fill the entire area and Thanatos walked among his followers. This seemed very cult-ish to Sarah, but the people who watched them in silence almost seemed more resentful than awes by Thantos’s presence. IT was as if they were keeping quiet out of necessity, but not trust. Should she trust him? She wasn’t sure yet. He led her back through the hallways to the room she had passed before labeled Code Room. She had wondered what was inside, and now she was going to see it.
“Before we go in” Thantos paused at the door, “I think you should know something about this code.”
“Yeah. We’re calling it the Death Language. The name fits.”