Perhaps it was the fact that Gale Merrick never regarded herself as special that led her to her choice of careers. To be sure, her desire to stand out from all her peers, to be exceptional as marked by achievement, brought her to Africa. Gale had felt driven to excel, to be noted as someone of particular and unique value, something she had never allowed herself to feel in and of itself. It was not enough to be a singular human being, rare for that fact alone. She had to be better than the rest, more than they were. In the last few hours she had come to realize the folly of that desire.
How ironic, then, that she, out of the billions of people living on planet Earth, out of the quadrillions of sentient beings in the populated universe, would be the one chosen to bear witness to the last climactic struggle of Darkness against Light.
When the wave of shadow engulfed her, Gale felt frozen, dead. Yet she lived. She could still feel the soul-numbing cold of the void. She could still hear the sound of Brian
Alderman’s voice. And, as she concentrated on the sound, she came to see him. Brian looked as though he were bathed in black light, his skin now pale as alabaster and his dark hair turned a deep blue. More striking still, the bizarre glow seemed to have brought to sight what had before been hidden. Every exposed inch of Brian Alderman’s flesh now bore elaborate tattooing, intricate and beautiful patterns that flashed like quicksilver. They, in that instant, reminded Gale of the designs she had seen amongst Maori tribesmen, once on a trip to New Zealand while in college. But instead of ink, these markings were carved in lightning.
Her thoughts of Brian lasted but a heartbeat. What she saw revealed from the perfect blackness surrounding him drove all conscious thought from her mind. Lit by the radiance emanating from Brian Alderman, Gale saw the true face of the Darkness. She sensed her sanity crumbling like brittle ice underfoot.
“Don’t look at it!”
Gale did not recognize the voice, but she clung to it as she would a lifeline. She turned, looking up to see a strange man, or at least the impression of a man, reaching out to her. He looked to be made of cobwebs dusted with phosphorous, translucent as milk. Yet she could see his face and form well enough. He smiled at her, and she reached for his hand.
“The name’s Dave,” the apparition said. “I’m a buddy of Brian’s.”
“D-d-did you s-see?!” Gale fought to retain control of her mind, to drive the nightmare image she had witnessed from her.
“Don’t look back,” Dave said. His hands felt warm on her skin.
“Who are you?” Gale managed.
“Dave,” he repeated. “I’m going to guide you back, okay? We can’t survive much longer, this close to it.”
“But what about Brian?” Gale couldn’t resist. She looked back. She saw the hideous face. Her heart threatened to stop. She opened her mouth to scream her last breath. But before she could make a sound, she saw Brian slam his fist into that face. Gale shielded her eyes against an explosion of silver-blue light.
“Yee-ha!” she heard the apparition next to her exclaim. “Don’t take shit off it, Champ! Kick its ass!”
She looked, blinking, as the Darkness hit back. She heard, at least in her mind, Brian cry out in pain. Then a bolt of blue lightning struck her, erupting from Brian’s body to pass straight through her abdomen. For the briefest instant, Gale felt the power of the first Creation, what she had been taught to call the “Big Bang,” surge through her body and her soul. She tried to scream. Then she neither saw nor felt anything at all.