Diana stared at herself in the mirror. She did that a lot. Maybe too much. No, definitely too much. But she didn’t have much else to do.
She hated her life. So boring.
Mainly because she was so lonely. Not that she was alone. She shared this big house with three men— grown men, sworn to protect her with their lives— but they weren’t friends. She could talk to them, as in have conversations, but couldn’t really talk to them about things that mattered. She chatted online all the time, but that wasn’t the same as having another flesh-and- blood fourteen- year- old girl in the same room.
But that flesh- and- blood girl wouldn’t stay long once she got a look at Diana’s eyes.
She stared at the reflection of those eyes now. With their black pupils, black irises, and black everything else, they looked like ebony marbles stuck in her sockets. Sometimes she wanted to rip them out. Yeah, she’d be blind, but at least then she could go to school instead of having tutors. And she’d have a true excuse for wearing wraparound sunglasses all the time instead of lying about a rare eye condition.
She guessed it wasn’t a lie. It was rare— only a few Oculi left around the globe— and it was definitely a condition.
So she was an Oculus. Big deal. These black eyes were supposed to allow her to see things regular eyes were blind to, warnings from Outside.
She’d yet to experience one.
Not that she was complaining. She’d seen her father when he’d received Alarms and it didn’t look pleasant. In fact, it looked awful.
Why was she thinking of Alarms to night? She hadn’t—
Something flashed to her right. She turned to look but it flashed again, still to her right. She realized it wasn’t in the room, but in her eye. A scintillating scotoma. She’d looked it up. The flashing lights always preceded her migraines. This wasn’t the sparkle she usually saw, more like wavy lines, but she knew the sooner she dug out her bottle of Imitrex and took one, the better.
And then the room tilted. For an instant she thought earthquake or tsunami, but then the pain stabbed through her head— much, much worse than a migraine— and the lights flashed brighter and longer and fused to blot out her room as her knees gave way and she dropped to the floor.
As she lay there shaking, shuddering, writhing with the pain that suffused her, a tunnel opened through the light, revealing . . .
. . . a man in a loincloth, standing on an old- fashioned scaffold and carving a huge block of stone more than twice his height into some sort of thick pillar or column . . . his hammer striking the chisel again and again but making no sound . . . all eerily silent . . .
. . . the same man carving strange symbols into the side of the pillar . . .
. . . and others . . .
. . . and carving a cavity, perhaps three feet across and five feet deep, into one end of the pillar . . .
. . . and suddenly she is grabbed from behind and bound hand and foot . . .
. . . forced into the cavity . . .
. . . sealed over with a stone plug, plunging her into darkness . . .
. . . as she struggles for air she feels the pillar tilt as it slides into a deep hole in the earth and is covered over . . .
. . . she thrashes in the small space until her air runs out and darkness claims her . . .
. . . and then . . . a spark in the distance . . . growing . . . swelling . . . to become a glowing egg . . .
. . . the egg fades and darkness regains control until a booming voice splits the silence . . .
IT HAS AWAKENED!
. . . and then the egg reappears and a spot of darkness materializes within it . . . growing . . . growing until . . .
. . . it bursts free . . .
. . . a strange, formless, flickering, alien being . . .
. . . and as it emerges, an odd word forms in her mind . . .
Fhinntmanchca . . . Fhinntmanchca . . . Fhinntmanchca . . .
The vision faded, and with it the pain, replaced by beckoning oblivion. Diana fought the draw of the temporary reprieve it promised and forced her eyes open. She pushed herself off the floor and staggered to her bedroom door. She had to tell them . . . she had to go to New York.
She had to tell the Heir. She had to find Jack. But where was he?
Excerpted from Ground Zero by F. Paul Wilson.
Copyright © 2009 by F. Paul Wilson.
Published in September 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.