3676 words (14 minute read)

Prologue

The Knightmares Prologue: What came before. What paved the way.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA. JUNE 1752

Did anybody ask Benjamin Franklin why he tied a key at the end of his famous Lightning and Kite experiment? Sure, it was metal and it conducted electricity, but why a key? Nobody ever questions genius. When Albert Einstein came up with the theory of relativity, nobody with a common brain ever sat there and said ​prove it​, and anybody with a scientific brain wouldn’t dare to question it. I mean, shoot, it’s fricken’ Einstein. Nobody ever goes around saying “Way to go Max Planck,” when sarcastically ribbing someone for their lack of genius. No, they say “Way to go Einstein” and the message is clear.

Of course Ben Franklin used a metal key. Metal being key, if I may be allowed to pun, but why a key? Was it just an easy object to tie a piece of wire to? Or was there a deeper significance? To answer that question, it was a significant significance. Significantly significant!

Ben wasn’t an old man, but he had definitely seen the better days of youth. He had accomplished so many things and would be known as a household name for his part in American history for centuries to come. His famous bifocal spectacles slipped low upon the bridge of his long nose, and the approaching storm began to dampen the growing bald spot on the top of his head. It was a warm day in June, a fateful day which had suddenly gone from hot and humid on the cobblestone streets of Philadelphia, to a windy overcast one with the threat of fury coming just over the horizon. A deep gray storm cloud was rising up into the sky, ominous with impending doom. He was in a rush, and his plump frame was not handling the stresses of hustling through the busy city streets as it once did while people began to rush for cover and hurriedly finished up their business before the fierce rain began to soak them. The thunder rolling in seemed to cascade in overlapping rhythms, one giant strike of lightning into the next, followed by explosive percussive blasts that shook the ground and lit up the sky with a purple glow.

After the last, most vicious strike, Ben looked up at the impending storm with skeptical eyes. If he didn’t know any better, the storm seemed unnatural, or more precisely, ​paranormal​.

“Ben?” asked a young man with chestnut brown hair and a blue overcoat, which was much too hot to wear in the current weather, but still, it was the proper dress at the time. He stood a few inches taller than Ben, and seemed much less worried than his much older friend. “Mr. Franklin, sir?” he asked again, hoping to get Ben’s attention, which seemed to be completely focused on the strange weather.

Benjamin Franklin was not paying attention. He was beginning to suspect that if he didn’t act soon, all would be lost. He had planned for this, much to his wife’s dismay, with an experiment he had tested over and over again inside the comfort of his own home. It was the only way to be secretive enough. If anyone knew his secret life, he would be laughed at, locked up, and he didn’t have the time to try and explain himself. All he had was a handful of his closest supporters, and those supporters were exposed to this mad world a few weeks earlier, a night he wouldn’t soon forget if he lived to be another half a century old.

THREE WEEKS AGO...

Ben had just settled down for the evening in his comfortable chair by the fireplace, basking in the glow of his wife’s cooking. 

What did he have to eat? 

What does that matter? 

I get hungry when I’m being told a story. 

Mexican. His wife cooked him a burrito. 

Mexico wasn’t exactly established before the United States. We are talking mid 1700’s here, Mr. Storyteller.

Ugh. It’s not important what he had for dinner. Just order a pizza or something so I can finish telling the story, OK?

Fine.

Fine. Good. Where was I? Right. Ben had just settled down into his favorite chair by the fireplace, and it was much too hot for a fire, but still, being in his favorite chair with the dim lamp light burning off in the corner provided him a certain amount of comfort. Some nights he would pull out some parchment and impart words of wisdom that he hoped would someday become the sequel to Poor Richard’s Almanac. Afterall, “a penny saved is a penny earned” was only the beginning to his grand scheme. He had intentions to create a series of self help books aimed at turning the less fortunate from rags to riches. True story. Ben was always looking out for those less fortunate, and on this night, that philanthropy would invite him into a world that only existed in deepest regions of his nightmares. A place he began to drift off to as the waning moments of the evening wore on into the night. Soon he was sound asleep, as the oil in his lamp continued to burn out to blackness.

“Help!” screamed a woman from out on the street below. Ben’s home was located on one of the busiest streets within the city, but it was a rare occurrence that anyone would be out this late in the middle of the night, after all, this was the colonial days. Back when Old City, Philadelphia was​ all of Philadelphia​ and they had maybe only one or two night clubs. Three, tops. His eyes snapped open, and his brow was covered in a salty sweat that ran down his face and neck and settled into a quilt his wife had thrown on him before she scurried off to bed. He had no recollection of his dreams, but only recalled a vision of crackling lightning. Purple lightning that raged on and on in a place where daylight had ceased to exist. It was rare that he had nightmares, the last one coming some ten years earlier when he had the idea for the flexible urinary catheter. To say that was not a comfortable dream was like saying Swedish Fish are good.

They’re not just good, they’re fucking awesome. 

Right. Exactly. Well, dreams were always an inspiration for invention, and nightmares seemed to provide extra motivation at times. Specifically where the catheter was concerned.

Still, the nightmare ended with a scream. A scream he barely heard if it were not for the follow up scream which seemed to pierce his ears and sent a shrill trembling down his back. Ben stood up, still believing he was dreaming, and stumbled his way to the window and opened it up with a firm yank that creaked and squealed loudly into the empty city street below. There was no one there. Nothing. Just silence.

As his nerves relaxed, Ben took a giant breath of fresh air and exhaled into the night. Relieved, he turned to head back to his chair, angry at his silly nightmare for scaring the crap out of him.

“HELP ME! PLEASE! SOMEBODY!” the woman’s voice shrieked again. This time, Ben knew it wasn’t his imagination. Someone needed his help, and he was a man of civic duty, of principle and morality. It was his obligation.

Flying through the front room, and down the narrow stairway to the front door, he burst out into the warm night, keeping his ears open to the woman’s call.

“Hello?” he yelled out, hoping for some kind of response. Maybe the woman was lost? Or maybe she had twisted her ankle on the uneven cobblestone? It could be anything, he surmised.

“Help...” he heard her one last time, muffled, but close. Ben took off as fast as his nobby legs would take him, confident the whole way that this was nothing more than a simple heroes run. He’d help the damsel in distress and be about his way, feeling good about himself and resting soundly knowing the woman was safe and sound. He’d accept no reward, because he was a man of honor.

The wind blew a foul stench his way, like the smell of a ripe mouse caught in a trap for too long before being discarded. It got stronger the further north he travelled along 4th Street, filling his nostrils with stink and causing his stomach to tighten.

There was movement. Something in the shadows just up ahead. There were no street lamps in this area, just the silvery luminescence of the moon to help him see.

“Who’s there?” he asked with a firm voice, the idea of this being an simple hero’s errand was beginning to escape him after traveling more than a city block, chasing the terrified voice further away from the heart of the burgeoning city. Without notice or warning, everything became still. The light breeze coming from the west as it usually did, ceased. The lovely cricket chirping abruptly halted.

Lovely cricket chirping? 

Maybe Ben thought it was lovely? I don’t know. I needed an adjective.

Well I adject! Heh, get it? I adject? Object? Heh... 

Oh look, the crickets are back!

Hah, good one, Mike. 

Jeeeeezus. We should just let him tell the damn story already and get it over with. 

Anyway. This cloaked figure was dragging the woman behind him into the bushes. And... 

Uh oh... 

Was she an attractive gal? 

I bet she was being ​DRUG​ into the ​BUSHES​.

Ha!

Ground Control to Gavin, you’ve gone completely off course. 

You guys are so gross. 

Can I finish the story, please!? 

Yes.

Yeah. 

Fine.

 ...alright. 

Thank you! So Ben runs in after her, and she was bleeding from her head. The creepy cloaked dude bopped her one on the noggin.

You know when you stop trying to be so damn descriptive, it quickly turns into a comedy.

I like comedies.

Yeah, me too.

So, this girl sees Ben and pleads for him to help her while this cloaked dude has uncovered something in the dirt. Something pretty deep down. He turns and sees Ben and comes after him. Not knowing what to do, Ben swats the thing with his cane.

Cane? You never mentioned anything about him having a cane.

Fine, I forgot that bit. Before he rushed out the door he grabbed his trusty cane. So, he swats the sucker right across the noggin, and its hood falls back showing this mucousy slimey face melty creepazoid.

Creepazoids, aren’t we all?

I don’t know if I want to eat pizza anymore. Perhaps something less greasy... 

The woman, finally able to get to her feet, cracks him upside the head with a branch she found on the ground beside her.

Upside the head! Ha!

“What’s your name?” Ben asks her. Her corset is brimming over with ample bosom, and good ole’ B­-Franks is playing the whole higher-­road kinda a thing, looking at her hair and forehead and avoiding anything lower than her eyebrows.

“Elizabeth. Elizabeth Ravu,” she replies with a strange accent. 

Whoa. It’s all starting to make sense now.

No shit.

Heh, he said B-­Franks...

“Elizabeth, I’ll not waste any time on pleasantries. We must get you away from here before that oozy man comes around,” he replies to her.

Oozy. Now I could’ve come up with something better than that. 

Shut up, Deed. When’s that pizza coming? 

How the hell should I know? 

You said you were going to order it. 

Right, I said “let’s get a pizza.” I ordered you guys to get me a pizza. 

Somebody grab me so I don’t choke a bitch. 

Calm down, calm down. I got it. No need to bitch choke anybody. 

Thanks, Chris. 

So, just as they try to leave, the creature jumps up, grabs hold of Elizabeth and dives into the pit he dug. There’s a bright flash of purple lightning, an electromagnetic burst so powerful it ripped his metal knobbed cane from his hand, and made his hair stand on end. When he got to the end of the pit, they were gone.

Hah, he said nobbed... 

Yeah, he’s saying a lot, alright.

Where’d they go? 

See, that’s the thing. Nobody knows. Ben climbed down into the pit and found a hard stone slab with carvings all over it, and in the center there was a hole that had this old stone key fitted into it.

What did the carvings say?

They were ancient. Older than old. Not even the local Native American tribes had any idea what put that there. The only thing he was able to read was a newer inscription around the outside in Latin​.

Wait, that’s impossible. Latin? An extinct pre­-European language was found carved into a slab of rock underground on a continent that laid undiscovered until well after said extinction? 

Yes. Ben translated it into his journal. It said, “Keep the door locked. The great land was split to hide it. Keep the door locked.” 

Wait. The great land? 

Yeah. Ben thought it referred to the splitting of Pangea. 

Pangea? 

The super continent all the land on earth belonged to, before it separated over time into the present day continents we now know. North America, South America, Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia, Antartica.

Oh.

Right. Later Ben found that the slab rested along the gateway to an ancient Ley Line. A ley line is believed to be points along the earth that connect to one another. These points have great power. What kind of power is unknown.

So what happened next?

Well, Mr. Franklin was the Grand Master of the Philadephia Free Masons, the well known secret society that exists to this day, but even amongst a secret society, he knew he had to keep everything a secret. He found himself knocking on the door of one of the youngest members of the society, a Mr. Thomas Redner, who had assisted Ben numerous times with his experiments since Tom was just a boy. Ben brought Tom to the site and told him what had happened, and before the sun had risen that morning, the two of them, along with a few other trusted friends, had dug up the stone slab and taken it to the Mason Lodge for safe keeping, where they concocted a plan.

BACK TO THREE WEEKS LATER...WHERE WE STARTED

So, here we are, three weeks later and... 

So why is this story being told out of order? 

I don’t know. For dramatic effect?

Dramatic effect? Dude, that’s kinda douchey. 

Yeah, I guess so. Sorry, I’m trying not to bore you guys. I wanted to make it all interesting.

Keep it linear, dude.

Okay, okay.

Pizza’s here!

FINALLY!

I’m starved. 

Save me a slice of the mushroom and sausage. 

Will do! 

Why’d we get mushroom and sausage? Gross. Waste of perfectly good pizza. 

Alright, so three weeks later, there were several reported incidents of young men disappearing. After each one, there was a violent thunderstorm that swept in, marking each sinister abduction. But that wasn’t the only strange thing. Elizabeth Ravu was alive and well, and nobody had any idea anything had happened to her. Ben had his people keep an eye on her, watching as she went on strange errands, always carrying an umbrella to shield herself from the sun, which wasn’t all that abnormal except that she seemed to have a great deal of fear for the light. Overall, she was a very attractive young woman, so it was easy to keep tabs on her.

What type of strange errands?

Well, she was spotted at the docks a lot, pretending to flirt with the men unloading the cargo so she could get a closer look. It was like she was waiting for something. She was also spotted at night hanging outside of local theaters and bars like a prostitute.

What’s so fishy about that? The girl liked to get some play.

She was from a very wealthy family. Old rich. The kind that goes back hundreds of years. She was trained from the moment she was born to be a lady. This wasn’t a case of youthful rebellion.

Youthful rebellion? Sounds like a cool band.

She had no reason to sell her body. Many of the missing person reports spoke of the young men leaving for a night on the town and never coming home. Whatever she was doing with them, they just disappeared. No trace. No bodies.

So what did Ben do? I mean, he got to the bottom of it, right?

Yeah, he did. After countless experiments, Ben was ready. That night, he took the stone key from the door, and molded a metal replica. Whatever power had opened the door, it was based on electricity. A powerful electromagnetic field.

The flash! The moment Elizabeth and the Creepazoid disappeared! It was a flash of lightning!

Yeah! Hence all the purple! Electromagnetism falls just past purple on the color spectrum. That’s what opened the door!

Right!

Damn, we’re pretty good at this.

Yeah!

So there was Ben, standing outside on the street, noticing this menacing thunderhead moving in over the horizon. Violent flashes of purple lightning, and he knew he had to act.

“Tom, it’s time,” he said to his friend dressed in his dark blue overcoat. “It’s happening.”

“Do you think it will work?” Tom asked his mentor.

“Yes. In fact, I have a feeling we might face some opposition tonight. Arm yourself,” he responded cooly.

Tom went and retrieved the stone, and brought it with a small band of loyal fighters to the sight of the ley line where they had found it. Ben showed up with a kite, a long spool of wire, and a metal key.

They must’ve looked at him like “whaaaa?” 

Definitely. The storm began to blow in, while Tom and the others laid the slab down onto the ground right over where it came, and as Ben got his experiment working, when she showed up.

Elizabeth?

Exactly. Only Ben doesn’t believe it was really her. Whoever she was, she was no longer Elizabeth. And, she wasn’t alone.

GASP!

Dude, I don’t think people actually say gasp.

Oh well, I blew it.

No, Elizabeth wasn’t alone. She was surrounded by all the young men she had abducted. They were dressed in heavy dark cloaks and their skin was melting off their bodies. She was angry, and apparently half naked, according to what Ben had written.

Nice!

She attacked, as the storm, the biggest one yet, amassed over their heads with heavy rain and lightning flashing all about. Tom ordered the men to fight, and fight they did, but Elizabeth’s minions were too much for them.

Ben had had his kite in the air and was fastening the key to the end of the wire when Elizabeth approached him.

“Silly man. This is much larger than you. You can’t stop me,” she said, smiling pretty at him.

“Perhaps I can’t stop you, but maybe I can contain you until someone comes along who can,” he said. Ben shoved the key into the key hole in the stone slab as a bolt of pure electromagnetic lightning hit his kite.

“FRICK!” Elizabeth growled as the great slab of stone opened as if on a hinge, revealing a cold black nothing beyond the threshold.

Wow, even when he quotes other people he doesn’t curse.

We all have our quirks.

A force began to grip hold of her, pulling her towards the door while unaffecting Ben or any of his men. The force was too strong for her, and she was sucked in, along with her minions, but not before dragging with her the closest person she could find.

Who?

Not B-­Franks!?

If Ben was sucked in, how would we have a journal detailing what happened?

Point taken, and duly noted. Did we get a bottle of pop too?

Pop? SODA! It’s soda! For the last time, it’s soda!

OK, jeez. Did we get a bottle of soda?

Oh man, I knew I forgot something.

Don’t worry about it, like, I’ll just deal, kay?

Uh...kay...

Thomas. Elizabeth took Thomas.

Shocker.

Once they had all be sucked in the slab slammed shut and cracked into thirteen pieces.

Wow.

Benjamin Franklin was the first. He had no idea what was out there, and had even less of an idea on how to stop the supernatural. So he started something larger than himself. He set forth plans that over the next two hundred and fifty years would come to fruition. His diplomacy and connections, his science and his wisdom, all of it was done not just for the good of this country, but to organize and professionalize a way to protect the world from the paranormal. We are sitting just a mere hundred feet or so from the landing of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The exact site of his run in with dark forces from another plane of existence. That’s how our story began. This is the legacy we are now a part of.

Damn. That’s deep shit right there.

Indeed it is.