Mr. C. takes a deep breath and spits it out. "It is Stephanie. She's here. We found her."
Time seems to stand still as Stephanie's name rang through my eardrums. My heart rate increases.
"She…Stephanie's here? Well, where is she? When can I see her?" I head toward the door.
"She's safe." Maxwell halts me. "She's being detained in one of the fifth floor containment units where she will be under close surveillance. She is not to come out until we have assured our own safety."
My voice cracks. "What do you mean detained? Is Stephanie considered a threat?"
"She was picked up by one of our scout teams in the northeast. We think she may be involved in witchcraft."
I lean back in my chair, snickering. "Witchcraft? Come on. You've got to be kidding me, right?"
"We would certainly hope not," he warns, not sounding the least bit confident. "But there is only one way to be sure. We have to put her through the Purge."
"No," I scream, as my heart pounds against my chest wall.
"It's the only way to be sure, son." Mr. C. places his hand on my shoulder.
I drop my head, struggling to hold back the tears welling up in my eyelids. "Can I see her?"
"No!" Maxwell's tone scorches my ears. "Unequivocally—no! Not under any circumstances. She must go through the Purge first. Then there will be time to visit her. If she survives, that is."
I storm to the window and look down at the cross. My mind drifts to thoughts of freedom, away from this place: just me and Stephanie, all alone. This is what I came here for—to free her. My hands fist at my sides. She can't go through the Purge. All I want is for things to go right for once in my life. But it hasn't and never will if I don't start dictating back. I didn't want any of this for her. I didn't ask for my family to be torn apart. I didn't ask to be born an orphan. Yet, for some reason, I continue to be a doormat.
I want more than this!
"Ziv," Mr. C. says.
If only I could see her again. Her eyes would tell me the truth.
"Dr. Ethridge will be conducting the interrogation. She will be in the best care. You have my word on that."
A surge of heat pours through my stomach and I ask, "Is that the complete truth?"
"Yes," Maxwell warns, "and don't question the authority at hand. Be mindful to stay in your place."
"Fifth floor, huh?" The words spill from my mouth.
I face Mr. C. and Maxwell, who stand blocking the door. A heap of air gusts from my mouth and I shout, "Sit Down!"
My voice, covered in thunder, explodes throughout the room and bounces off the walls. A small vase on the table shatters, sending ceramic shards everywhere. Mr. C. and Maxwell tremble and collapse to the floor, landing on their backsides before crossing their legs.
I storm past them.
Maxwell reaches out a hand and sarcastically utters, "Nice…technique!"
Breaking to the back corridors, I run to avoid guards. I know I only have a few seconds to spare before Maxwell and Mr. C. are back on their feet. The elevators would be too slow, so I take the stairs, skipping multiple steps as I float down, using the handrails to propel me. The jolts of my knee joints are barely noticeable as I land and quickly pounce to the next level below. As I reach level five, the alarm blares overhead, along with an unfamiliar announcement about some code that I haven't invested enough time in to recognize. I race past a crowd of onlookers before they can identify me, bumping a young man off his feet as I turn the corner and head toward the detainment room.
I fling the doors open, where a pack of burly built men stand waiting for me. They are unarmed, but more than husky enough to take me out with one or two well-placed punches.
Then I would not see her again, wasting this adrenaline filled romp.
"Stand down sir," one of the men yells, pointing a weighty fist at me.
The air is pregnant with potential. I bite down on my bottom lip, straining to hide a smile.
Steady, the words pour out, "Don't you mean," and I shout, "Sit Down!"
All five men stagger and fall to the ground, one at a time like dominoes. I step over them, lifting the set of keys from one of their hands, while I whistle. Pressing forward, I reach the room and insert the key. The swooshes in my chest have suddenly merged, creating one large rhythmic pulsation as I anticipate seeing Stephanie again. I open the door and there she sits, alone on a bench with her head in her hands.
She looks up at me and asks, "Ziv, is that you?"
Her mouth seems to move in slow motion and her voice travels through the air in asynchronous fashion.
"Yes, it's me!" I slam the door behind me.
Thoughts of hugging her transform my brisk walk into a run as I pull her close. The softness of her body is pure kryptonite to me and I melt away like ice. Time stands still as my heart stops and my emotions freeze. I'm not quite sure if it's the safe or something else at work, but my fear and doubt have completely left me. Nothing else matters at this moment—nothing but Stephanie. All those words of truth and trust have been cast aside as well. And it's going to take a miracle to bring them back.
Multi-Award-Wining Author Braxton A. Cosby is a dreamer who evolved from concepts on pen and paper to pixels and keyboards. He tells stories that evoke emotions and stimulate thought. Protostar: Book 1 The Star-Crossed Saga and The School of Ministry: The Windgate are currently two Young Adult series he created. Braxton lives in Georgia with his wife, three children and a troop of crazy African Cichlids