The Unlit Candle
Part One: Prologue
By Chris Rivera
Note: The short story, "The
Unlit Candle," is an epilogue to Raymond
Benson's novel The Facts of Death. References are made to his original
story, and my story is intended to be
original except for the references to
Benson's novel. There is no intent to plagiarize, and any conflicts will be
met with complete cooperation. ***
Waves of deep indigo licked at the dark
shoreline as the sea breathed a cool, misty breath over the island. Wispy cottony puffs lazily drifted in the
moonlit sky. A multitude of stars
sparkled radiantly as jewels. Beneath
the still night sky, the island slept.
The only movement was the tropical jungle trees which all swayed in
unison to the soft breeze.
Further inland, some of the underbrush
suddenly parted, and two anonymous figures cloaked in tight black emerged
unseen. They continued walking steadily through the thick forest for several
minutes until they reached a break from the trees and foliage. Night-vision goggles covered the eyes of
both, and they slowly scanned the area.
One of them let out a small gasp in surprise, and the other turned to
In the small clearing, a black helicopter
waited, which was odd; civilization wasn't for several more miles inland on
this side of the island, and the region was predominantly occupied by Cuban
jungle. Apparently, the forest hosted
Both were secret agents working for the
British Secret Service. They had been
dispatched here to Cuba on a reconnaissance mission to investigate unconfirmed
reports of a massive illegal substance stash.
Each crouched down and simultaneously
pulled out a semiautomatic pistol and fitted it with a silencer. Both inspected their weapons as the female
pulled out another small device. They
then moved in close, face-to-face.
The night-vision goggles quietly came into
contact with each other. They both
grinned and pulled them off, revealing their full faces. The moonlight faintly highlighted the faces
of each. The male had thick black hair
and a recently clean-shaven face. His
eyes were chocolate colored, and they were calm and determined. His slender companion was beautiful; her
smooth, flowing hair waved with the breeze, and her eyes and face seemed to
glow. He stroked her cheek and gave her
a passionate, gentle kiss. They forgot
about the mission for this moment, and they smiled and looked into each other's
eyes. Hand in hand, they finally rose
and took in a deep breath of the crisp, fragrant air.
"I'm ready," the female
stated. She was determined as her
partner, and she focused on the area ahead of them.
The team put on their goggles once more
and cautiously advanced with their weapons drawn. The female approached the helicopter and attached the small device,
a tracker bug, to an inconspicuous corner of the aircraft. Peering into a window, she was able to
identify several items as wooden crates hidden in the blackness.
They decided to wait for a moment and
returned to the edge of the forest.
After about ten minutes, two unidentifiable men exited the forest,
entered the craft, and the engine started.
The rotor blades began to revolve and pick up speed, and the helicopter
finally roared to life. The surrounding
area was blasted with the intense wind as it steadily rose to the air and sped
off away from the island. Within a half
minute, the drone of the blades had died down to a whisper.
The man found the partly hidden wooden
doorway, from which the two men probably exited, built into the slanting ground
amidst the foliage, and he held it open for his partner to enter. They descended the stone steps together with
their guns pointed forward.
The steps were cleanly cut, as if they had
been built within the past few years, and the walls were fairly smooth. The light was dim, and it seemed like the
cold, black earth was swallowing them; an aura of uncertainty emanated from the
ebony. The night-vision opticals,
however, displayed their environment clearly.
After about twenty steps, the passage leveled. The agents slowly passed the area in complete silence. They could even hear the deep breaths each
took as they walked along. Finally they
had traveled past the halfway point in the narrow corridor. The air had become much colder and drier
than before, and they could now just barely detect a vague orange glow eerily
seeping into the passageway ahead. It
appeared as a bright white blur to both with the goggles on, so they turned
down the amplification.
At last, they entered the chamber at the
end with their guns drawn and with full alertness. A set of flickering candles in the center of the room bathed it
with fiery light. There wasn't any
furniture or carpeting in this hole cut out of the earth except for wooden
crates that lined the perimeter of the small area. Shadows danced wildly against the walls like spirits or ghosts.
The man stepped toward the candles, then
froze in realization of what he had just found.
curiously came to his side and looked at the candles. She too became transfixed with the shock of their discovery. Their eyes went wide behind their goggles.
Set upon ten four-foot brass intricate
candle stands were large red candles which formed an equilateral triangle, in
the formation of bowling pins. All the
candles burned furiously except for one at one of the triangle's points. It had been lit at an earlier time, for the
wick was blackened. The candles seemed
to have been maintained well because their sides were smooth.
Perhaps they had
been placed there within the past day.
Such a formation- ten points forming an equilateral triangle- was the
sign or "logo," in a sense, of the Decada. What was this here, and why?
Was the Decada alive?
Both secret agents had been informed of
the terrorist actions of the Decada, which took place a few months
earlier. They were based on the Greek
island of Chios. Thanks to the heroic
effort of James Bond, the elite group of ten had been eliminated and their final
strike was halted- a nuclear missile attack on Turkey that would plunge much of
Europe into chaos. The Decada believed
that ten was the number of perfection, and their conspiracy would be complete
after successfully performing their tenth, final, and most devastating strike. Their first nine attacks generally consisted
of assassinations using chemical and biological warfare. Apparently, the original Decada had been
replaced, for all the events had occurred much earlier, but the items found in
the room seemed to have been placed there recently. Most likely the new organization was all Decada loyalties who
were not originally official members.
Each candle on the triangle represented a
successful strike if it was lit. The
extinguished flame was what frightened the two agents. When would a flame burn upon its wick once
"Good Lord. Remarkable," the man said under his breath. His partner heard it though, and detected a
hint of excitement and apprehension that she too felt.
He jumped to life with his gun ready, not
trusting anything. Gently, he removed
the wooden lid from one of the crates and was once again captivated by what he
saw. He stood still as shadows leapt
around the two alone in the room. His
eyes were fixed on several metal briefcases that were neatly packed inside the
crate. It was the same type that the
chemical and biological weapons were stored in for transportation. He was all too certain of what he would find
The Decada had been sleeping. Soon, they would inevitably awaken.
Meanwhile, his partner had flipped open a
modified Ericsson Q-Branch cellular phone, revealing a small, glowing blue
screen on which she now wrote on with an electronic pen. She would look up every few seconds, ready
to fire if she saw an intruder. She
felt all too sure that whoever inhabited this place thought the same way. After writing, she took several pictures of
the room and candles with an electric eye on the device. She went over to her partner and put her arm
around him, and she too saw the metal briefcases; her hold tightened as she
also realized the meaning of the discovery.
She resumed her writing and picture taking of the contents of some of
the crates. With a press of a button,
she sent the information as an e-mail to the MI6 in London. She warily looked around the room to see if
they were both safe, and she curiously crouched behind one of the larger crates
to inspect its side for writing or markings.
The man suddenly stiffened. Something was pressed firmly into his back. Another man had coincidentally entered the
room from another entrance at the opposite side of the passageway at the same
time the female had crouched behind the crate.
An oddly shaped pistol was grasped in the hands of the assassin
pointblank to his target. The woman
rose from the crate but instantly went back down. However, she had managed to lock eyes with her dear
companion. His eyes had sadness from
the realization of his most probable fate.
His eyes were also full of love and told her to stay down. He wanted her to live, and he would gladly
sacrifice himself to make sure that she did.
He didn't want her to live solely out of care for her, but their mission
had drastically changed to eliminating a potential worldwide threat. At times like that, it was the mission, not
your friends or loved ones. His eyes
had revealed the pain of that sacrifice as well, and his companion understood
with deep sadness.
She felt a rush of adrenaline surge
through her; she was captivated by fear and concern for her beloved partner,
who now was at the point of death! She
prepared to make her move.
She was ready.
She lunged out from behind her cover and
rolled on the ground to a firm shooting position. The assassin involuntarily lost concentration as she had hoped,
and his intended victim spun around and hit him forcefully with a high
jump-kick to the sternum. However, his
position prevented his attack from reaching maximum power, and the assailant
merely fell to the ground rather than breaking that vital bone in his chest. At the same instant as he was knocked backward,
the female fired, but her shot crumbled bits of stone off the wall
instead. Hopefully, her silencer had
muffled the shot enough to prevent calling more attackers into the room. She fired once more and the shot caught the
unknown man in the chest, who fell back against the wall. His gun was still pointed at his target,
however, and as the man's arm became limp, his finger squeezed the trigger.
A deafening shot pierced the air. The bullet had hit the woman's friend right
below the neck. He now stood motionless
for a few seconds. For his companion,
it was an eternity. The man slowly
leaned back and lifelessly collapsed onto his back. Only the two dead men, the woman, and the dancing shadows
remained. The woman just stared blankly
at them both. Her eyes showed no sign
of emotion yet. She barely had even
realized what had happened.
It gradually became apparent to her what
had just occurred, and tears began to appear under her beautiful eyes. She helplessly crawled over to her dear
friend and took his hand. She stroked
his cheek, removed her night-vision goggles and bent over to kiss him as he did
The resounding sounds of footsteps
suddenly poured into the room from the dark hallway, thankfully not the one by
which she and he had entered. She was
rendered motionless and hopeless as her emotions exploded to the surface. Simultaneously, loud beeps sliced into the
air. The footsteps were no more than
several yards away from the room now.
Her instinct forced her to her feet and pointed her to the passage from
whence she came. The air was now filled
with emotion, footsteps, and the high-pitched beeps that were becoming
overwhelming. The shadows dancing in the
room seemed to be mercilessly tormenting her now. She glanced at her dead friend one last time and raced toward the
passageway. Several men burst into the
room with AK-47s blasting fiercely. At
that moment, the explosives that they had armed in the room came to life.
The woman fought back tears and ran for
her life as fire and sound tore across the area. She was thrust forward a few feet and tumbled across the ground
and into one of the walls on her side.
A surge of heat swept over her.
She willed herself to get up, but the physical and emotional pain was
simply unbearable. Fiery orange
illuminated the hall and rapidly consumed the area behind her. At last, she found the stairs. The light had died to darkness once more,
and the sound turned to silence. She
despairingly stumbled up the stairs.
Without the aid of her night-vision opticals, she managed to find her
way to the open door.
The cool, peaceful island landscape
outside was a cruel mask of the real world.