Gavin had no idea what was going on. The last few hours he remembered were non-stop movement and panic. He kept getting put to sleep by some strange smelling liquid, and when he was awake, there was usually a bag over his head. He had several captors, he knew for sure, but they never talked to him, and whenever he made a noise they put him back to sleep.
The last thing he remembered was the beach. His family had gone on vacation. He was on the beach playing with a shiny little hermit crab and someone threw a bag over his head and grabbed him. He had no idea how long ago that was, even.
Now Gavin could tell he was in the back of a van, still in the clothes he was wearing at the beach: cargo shorts, a long sleeve shirt and sandals. He had woken up, but he stayed as still as possible so his kidnappers wouldn’t put him back to sleep, so he just listened. It was a bumpy ride, and he couldn’t hear the sound of other vehicles. No one was talking, but Gavin could sense there were three or four other people and that it was very tense in the van. They drove for about a half hour longer on this rough road before the van started to slow down.
When the van came to a stop, it was more sudden than Gavin was anticipating, and he slid off his seat, flailing to keep balance. A man sitting next to him grabbed his arm, but Gavin managed to use his other hand to pull the bag off his head. There were three adults in the car, two men and the driver was a woman. All were wearing dark clothes and stoic expressions as they converged on him.
“What do you want with me?!” Gavin yelled, struggling. But the three adults easily overpowered him and got the bag over his head before he could look out a window. The scratchy fabric had the tiniest tear this time, so Gavin could kind of see what was going on.
Gavin kept waiting to smell whatever chemical that kept putting him to sleep, but it never came. Instead they had opened the door and were dragging him out of the van. They weren’t hurting him, but their grip was firm. Through his slit Gavin could see green, he could hear birds and rustling of wind through leaves, and it was significantly cooler here than at the coast. He was in a forest, probably far inland.
Although he could barely see anything, Gavin could tell others had been waiting. He felt the presence of a crowd, but he couldn’t tell how many. What he could hear is other people struggling, making him think that he wasn’t the only one these people had collected. But what were they collecting for, and why him?
The whole group started walking; Gavin and his captors were toward the back of the group. Gavin let his captors lead him where they were going, and found that if he positioned his head down just at the right angle, he could see clearly through the slit in his bag where he was walking. They walked along some faded forest trail until it turned very rocky. It then shifted from rock to smooth stone, obviously man made but very old. He looked up to try and see in front of him, but all he could get was a hint of what looked like a stone wall, and very tall. They walked through a gap in the wall and Gavin could sort of see a castle. They turned in its direction and went up some stairs. At the top he heard the sound of a creaky door opening and their parade walked in.
Gavin could sense they were reaching the end of their journey. Fear inhibited his ability to walk and his captors had to hold him up more. His breath and his heart started racing as he could see the light of a big fire ahead of him. His captors stopped him right in front of the fire and forced him down on his knees, each let go of his arms but put a hand on his shoulders to hold him firmly down.
Gavin’s mind was still racing as a figure walked slowly in front of him, their light steps echoing loudly through the stone room, and he could see their silhouette in the fire’s light. They walked back and forth across him three times and stopped before the bag was finally removed from Gavin’s head.
The first thing Gavin noticed was he was kneeling in front of a huge altar. It was circular, and appeared to be chiseled out of one big stone. In the center was a fire maybe six feet across, the blaze easily reaching seven feet high. The heat it gave off was intense, even though Gavin was still well away from it. The stone room was huge, at least four stories high. Holes in the roof let the smoke out, and windows high on the walls allowed natural light, but the fire was plenty bright enough.
The next thing Gavin noticed was the person one step above them on the altar. It was a man, maybe in his mid to late twenties. He wore regal clothes of silver and gold. His bald head shone in the fire’s light. He walked to the middle of the altar and stood firmly in front of the group.
“Welcome,” he said calmly to Gavin and the other captives. “I’d like to first apologize for the manner in which you were brought here, but it was all necessary.”
“Necessary!?” a girl to Gavin’s right repeated. She looked to be Gavin’s age, a thin girl with red hair reaching the middle of her back. “Who are you and what do you want with me?!” she demanded.
“We mean none of you any harm,” the man answered her, remaining calm. “My name is David, and at one time I was where you all are right now, feeling exactly how you feel,” he explained. “Rebecca,” he indicated to the red headed girl, “Gavin,” to him, “and Jade,” to the other girl with dark brown skin and black hair on Gavin’s left side, “you are here for your protection, because all three of you are Spiriters.”
“Spiriters?” Gavin repeated. “What makes you think we’re Spiriters? I’ve never seen a spirit before.”
David acknowledged Gavin, and then pointed to the fire behind him. “Do all of you see the fire?” All of them nodded, confused. “Look closer,” he insisted.
Gavin turned to the fire, which looked completely normal until he noticed the bottom of it. There was no source of the fire, no wood, no pile of hot coals, not even a basin. It didn’t even appear that the stone itself was burning. It was like the fire was just there. “What is it?” Tanya asked first.
“A spirit, and a very old one at that,” David answered. “When it was discovered to be a spirit, this castle was built around it. Most people can’t see it; all they would see is the stone altar, and they’d walk right through it and feel nothing. Most spirits in this world are like this; most don’t see them, but for those of us who can, they look like wisps of smoke in the air, or a plant or animal that is just odd enough to not be a true physical being. The three of you have seen spirits your whole life, but you just didn’t know it was spirits you were seeing.”
Rebecca shook off her guards’ hands and stood up. “You still haven’t said why we’re here and why you had to kidnap us,” she pointed out.
Suddenly the fire flared up, and a deep voice echoed across the room. “You are here because you are needed here,” the fire said. “The energy of the world is about to shift into a new age. Spirits and humans will both be affected, and the survival of both has fallen to you three.” The spirit fire said nothing more and shrunk down to its original size.
Everyone paused for a minute, waiting to see if it would speak again. Gavin was just amazed that it spoke, and in his mind that was all the proof he needed that he was a Spiriter. To his left and right, it seemed that the girls came to the same conclusion.