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Keith Edward English, Wordsmith

Professional site for all Keith's writing adventures, misadventures, and generally whatever the hell he feels like blathering on about.

Month

December 2015

A Christmas present: Monolithic (Ch. 5, 6, & 7)

Welcome to the dream world. This is something that I feel contains some of my most creative work. Thinking up the dream world took some effort, but it was wildly fun to do. Reach chapter 6 and you’ll be transported to this new, otherworldly place. If you’ve come here prematurely, then take a few steps back to read, chapters 1 & 2, then 3 & 4.

5

 

Fal, Alitor, and Koe approached Vesik as the young man was checking his gear for what seemed like the hundredth time. Fal startled the man with a slap on the shoulder then said, “The big day! Finally eh?”

“Yeah. Hey, thanks guys. I don’t think I would still be here if you guys hadn’t helped me out that day.”

Koe shrugged and said, “It was nothing, friend.”

“To hell with that. Damn straight it was something. You owe me, buddy. Big time.” Fal stuck a finger in Vesik’s face.

Vesik was speechless. Had Fal been helping him out just so he could get something out of him?

Vesik’s doubts scattered away when Fal burst into laughter and clapped him on the shoulder many times over then said through his laughter, “Just twistin ‘em bud. We’re all still here so we all graduated.” Fal sucked in a deep breath. “Life is sweet.”

Alitor said maybe his only few words that day, “No doubt.”

Fal shot him a disbelieving look. “Talkative around strangers now? You’re letting your guard down, big guy.” He referred to the dozens of other men dressing and checking their gear around them.

Alitor just shrugged and grinned.

The group conversed for a few minutes before being called out to the mess hall for breakfast. No one talked as they ate their food as if it was going to scamper off the plate if they took too long.

Bors entered the hall and his voice boomed, “Get your asses up and out into the yard!” As one and without hesitation, the men and women were instantly up and moving. Vesik noticed as Bors suddenly began weaving through the throng of moving Sentries. He saw that Bors held his chin high and clenched his jaw, something Vesik had learned meant Bors was on edge.

Against all of Vesik’s silent hopes, Bors walked right up to him, grabbed his shoulder and guided him from the group. Fal, Koe, and Alitor threw Vesik an odd look before turning back around and marching away.

Something was wrong, Vesik knew. This wasn’t going to end well.

“Vesik, they wanted to pass you.” Bors looked straight into Vesik’s eyes and caused the latter to look away. Vesik knew that Bors was privy to terrible fits of anger, usually not directed at Vesik but he’d gotten tastes of it here and there. Bors was certainly a different man than Vesik had first met now that he was comfortable with his assistant. “I can’t let them do that.”

Throughout his weeks of training and from the friendship he’d found, Vesik had developed some confidence in himself. He was able to respond to Bors when normally he’d sit quietly and accept his downfall without qualms. “Bors, what are you talking about? I’m here today. Why would you stop me?”

Anger flashed across Bors face and he growled, “Because you aren’t good for the Watch, Vesik. You pass all the written exams with flying colors. You are conditioned enough to get through the physical training well. But you can’t handle the pressure of this job. What happens when you fail to protect someone? Or you fail to protect yourself even? I heard of what happened in the yard when you just stood there and would’ve been stabbed. That wasn’t even real and you couldn’t help but shit yourself! I won’t let you become a dead body for no reason. This isn’t for you. Go back to college. You’re a much better assistant than you will ever be as a Sentry.”

Vesik felt that cold and hot sweat building. He was sure he was floating like he always felt when he was being demeaned. But now he was able to plant his feet firmly on the ground again, accept the slamming thuds of his heart without becoming mute, and say, “But why would you wait so long to tell me this? I see you every day and you never said anything to me.”

“I thought you’d already been dismissed from the program.” Bors was growing increasingly angry as he spoke. Vesik knew that he wouldn’t get a lot of time with his boss until he snapped and left. His time was even shorter than he had thought it’d be as Bors said, “They didn’t want me to stop you but I know you. They should have tossed you out that very day. I’ve been around you for two months and I know exactly what you’re made of, Vesik. Now you’re going to make me late for the ceremony. Get whatever shit you have left here and get the fuck out before I decide to look for a new assistant. Is that clear?”

Vesik swallowed his anger and said, “Crystal, sir.” He turned and stalked away, back to the barracks that held his few items. He walked the lonely halls and thought of his parents sitting in the stands outside. Surely they’d be troubled when they didn’t see their son, but he couldn’t go to them now. Fires had started beneath Vesik’s skin, boiling his blood and melting his pride. He could kill something right now.

His rage failing, Vesik began to feel as though he’d begin sobbing. And for that, his anger reignited, so intensely that he needed to let it escape him. Without restraint, Vesik opened his mouth wide and screamed.

 

***

 

Three weeks had passed since Vesik was denied his title of Sentry. Since then, his job had become hell. Bors seemed to disdain him for failing to become a Sentry, although he himself was the only reason why Vesik hadn’t made it. He had told his parents what had happened the day after the ceremony. They showed nothing but admiration for their son. They were good parents.

After work, Vesik met up with Fal, Koe, and Alitor for the first time since the ceremony. He had run across Koe yesterday and the plans were set. Vesik no longer bunked with the sentries and had moved out of his parent’s house. He instead had his own small room within the station he worked at. He quickly learned that there were many rooms within the station that were vacant as only single staff of the Watch could live there. Families were not allowed to reside there and those who did, seemed married to their job, not to a wife or husband. Vesik was completely fine with making his job his only focus, although he hated it.

Vesik hadn’t been able to approach any of the guys since that day but now the hurt stung less; he could stomach their pitiful glances.

The group sat down at a table and Fal didn’t even wait until after he had ordered a beer to say, “Vesik, man, where the hell you been? You repay our kindness by dropping out after you graduate or what?”

“I didn’t graduate.” Vesik stared into Fal’s eyes.

“What do you mean? You were there with all of us that day. We thought that maybe Bors prevented you from attending the ceremony because he needed you for something.”

“No. Bors told me to go. That I didn’t cut it as a Sentry.”

Fal said, “Man, that’s some bullshit. So you froze up one time. But you’re still his assistant?”

Vesik nodded but kept his eyes down.

Fal sighed then turned his twinkling eyes towards Alitor. “Hey, Al, there any way this can be a good thing?”

Alitor thought for a moment. “Vesik, do you have access to Bors’ files, stuff like that?”

“Yeah. Bastard’s so lazy I’m surprised he doesn’t have me screwing his wife for him.”

Fal couldn’t contain a giggle and Koe smirked.

Nothing could shake the big guy when he was in thinking mode though. Alitor didn’t even twitch when their mugs arrived. “You could be our information source, Vesik. Anything you think we should know about, don’t hesitate. Details about jobs. Which ones we should push for and which ones to shy away from. Shit like that.”

“As long as I’m not doing anything illegal.”

Fal said, “Of course not, friend. Well, now that we have our mugs before us let’s shut the hell up and get drunk.”

The four raised their mugs at that then drank deep. Vesik drank quicker than the others.

 

6

 

He knew he was dreaming and the realization brought thousands of possibilities to the forefront of his mind. Only for a moment though.

Once his eyes drank in his surroundings, he could do nothing but gawk. Even if he had the control to create his dream in his own image, to sculpt this landscape would be impossible.

Vesik stood on something solid but he could not see it. All around him the ground boiled with thick fluffy clouds. Rocks and spires exploded from the puffy ground in random disarray except for in one place. Directly before him the rocks just barely pierced the veil of clouds and seemed to form the spine of a mountain.

Suddenly a splash of water leapt out of the blanket of clouds then fell back beneath it. As Vesik focused, he noticed many such splashes but oddly enough, the water made no sound.

He now believed that he was on an island but that thought immediately felt false to him. Especially considering the sky that stretched above him for what seemed like an eternity without sporting one single wisp of a cloud. This gave him the inclination to believe that he was standing at a level above the clouds themselves.

The sky before him was a light blue as it would be at noon. But as he tracked the sky upwards he noticed it rapidly darkening. Vesik was not allowed to turn around, something just forbid him from doing so, but at the top of his vision he saw the sky become almost as dark as night and flecked with brilliant stars.

The stars reminded Vesik of shards of metal warring with rays of light cast off from a smoldering sun. Not a sun, moon, or planet showed across the sky though.

Vesik reestablished the notion that he was standing on a mountaintop. But the splashes of water made little sense. He felt a deep pang to plunge his head beneath the clouds and discover what the truth of this landscape was.

As he focused his sight back to directly in front of him he saw a great pillar in the distance. Immediately he was overwhelmed by the presence of the thing and would have fallen to his knees had he been able to. He asked himself why he hadn’t seen it previously but the thought escaped him quickly for it did not matter. All that mattered now was that it was before him.

The monolith was made of stone. The pillar either vanished beneath the clouds or floated on top of them, Vesik could not tell.

The great stone column was so big and stolid that the air around it seemed to be dead, as if it was incapable of supporting life. Nothing moved on or around the monolith.

The pillar was omnipotent, demanding, glorious, godly, and much more. Vesik suddenly felt a want, no a need, to worship the stone column. It was god and he was its servant. He felt pangs to spill blood for it, his own and others, to sacrifice for it, to love it, and to fear it.

This mix of emotion became all too real and Vesik realized that he was not dreaming, that instead, this was a real thing. He felt as though his lips and chin were quivering. Terror seized him and he felt himself no longer breathing.

This world somehow managed to become even quieter than the silence that had dominated it before this moment.

Suddenly, a bolt of light exploded off the top of the monolith. It took a few seconds but surely enough a deep rumbling sound tore through the land and assaulted Vesik. The sound was so loud and so clear that his vision became blurry.

When the noise died away Vesik heard and felt a breath of air escape the throat of something and wash over his neck.

Supernatural fear cloaked him but he felt the freedom to move. He turned.

 

***

 

Vesik was staring at a bookshelf across the hall from him. After several moments he registered the screaming voice of senior officer Bors and a tight grip on his arm.

He gasped then turned his head to look at Bors’ wide mouth spitting a torrent of obscenities in his face, ” …you maggot fucking, worthless shit! Wake up and answer me!”

Vesik was flustered and still gripped by the odd emotions that plagued his soul but managed to stammer, “S …sir? I … am awake.”

Bors took a step back and surveyed the man then growled and slapped him. Sharp pain exploded across Vesik’s face but deep rooted anger exploded within his head. He spun back to the officer with clenched fists and a crazed visage but was able to arrest his rage.

Bors didn’t seem to notice. “I’ve been here for several godsdamn minutes trying to get you up! And don’t think that was the first time I hit you either! What the fuck are you doing sleeping on the job, shithead!?”

Vesik wanted nothing more than to become that monolith. To radiate power and eradicate weakness by his very presence but as hard as he tried and as much as he wanted to, he could not.

“I apologize, sir, it just … I’m not sure how it happened.” Vesik dipped his head. He could only vaguely remember coming to work, as if that part was the dream and the landscape he had just woken up from was reality.

Bors spit on Vesik’s boot, not bothering to wipe the spittle clinging to his lip before saying, “You pull this shit again and I’ll drag you out of here by your hair and make damn sure that you don’t find another job in this entire city. You got that?”

“Sir, yessir.”

“Good. Don’t expect to be out of here anytime soon today. Oh, and you’re working for free today. Get to work!”

Vesik nodded then sat down and with uneasy hands he began organizing paperwork and looking through journals. Bors entered his office then slammed the door. Vesik knew that next time he saw him, Bors would be drunk.

Anger burned through Vesik like a flame to dry grass. He felt anger that this man thought himself higher than Vesik, Anger that Bors treated him as though he could do nothing right.

Shame collided with the anger at the fact that Vesik could not stand up for himself and that even if he did, he knew that the end result would be very painful.

So he continued on with working for a man he despised, doing a job he scorned. His emotions marinated and waxed stronger with each passing minute.

 

***

 

“I really can’t stand this job, dad. Bors makes me so damn angry sometimes.” Vesik spoke into his mug as he and his father sat on the porch.

Erik looked at his son with surprise apparent in his eyes. He was not used to hearing curse words, especially from his son.

Erik said, “It may be hard now, son, but at this rate your boss is going to succumb to a heart attack soon enough.” Vesik didn’t even smirk because he truly hoped that would come to pass. “Things will get better. Bors will ease up on you eventually. Although it is hard mentally, at least your body is being saved some anguish.”

Vesik knew his father was referring to his own back’s injuries from farming the land.

Vesik sighed. “I know. I’m going to try to pass the training next semester. That’s only four months from now. I just have to hold on until then.”

“That sounds best.” Vesik knew his father and wasn’t surprised when the man left off the touchy subject quickly. “So how about life outside the office? Met any girls yet?” Erik smiled in anticipation.

Vesik did not return the smile. “No. I guess I haven’t really tried looking yet. I met some guys from training. They all graduated. We go out and have a couple of drinks every once in a while. Maybe I’ll talk to one of the girls at the taverns some time.”

Erik grimaced. “Well as long as your mother won’t lose it when you bring her by, then that sounds like a fine idea.” Erik said this for himself also. Vesik could tell his father wanted him to find a wholesome woman and those he might meet in a tavern might not be the most respected.

“Yeah.” Vesik felt a sense of comfort being at home with his family. This was a place where he was respected and didn’t have to worry about others potentially snapping at him. He enjoyed this feeling, wished that he could always feel this way.

 

7

 

That godly pillar pierced the blue sky many miles in the distance. The top shimmered for a moment as if light had just flared from it. An echo of a thunderous boom resounded throughout the valley. Vesik felt the breath of air caress his neck again but this time he did not turn.

He began walking forward, towards the spine of rock that stretched to the monolith. Although he felt himself moving, he wasn’t sure he was actually in his own body when he was in this dream world. He moved onto the spine and with uncanny balance, traversed the narrow way as if it were a flat valley floor.

Vesik risked a glance up and noticed the dark sky and shimmering stars had moved closer to the monolith. He felt as though the night itself was chasing him now. He moved quicker.

A splash of water struck the stone he walked on and a few stray drops landed where he guessed his feet would be. They burned and he almost tumbled off the side of the spine. The sensation of plummeting left him suddenly and he felt a pressure keep him from falling.

When he surveyed the land again, he felt as if the scene was wrong in some awful way. Nothing had visibly changed but he suddenly felt the urge to scream in frustration and fear at his surroundings.

The monolith looked much less inviting. The fear that Vesik had first felt was more akin to respect, but this new fear was borne from how the thing looked extremely imperfect now through his eyes. It was as if he knew some terribly damning secret about the monolith that lent him a reason to hate it. He wanted to take its evil core and wash it clean.

He tried to speak but nothing happened. He then contemplated turning around but recalled the result of that last time. Then he remembered the incident with his boss when he had awoken.

A loud crack sounded from the monolith. Vesik inaudibly gasped and tears immediately swam to his eyes as he looked at the pillar and saw it now jutting into the air at an angle.

A large piece fell from the top and began its slow descent to the ground. Vesik wanted nothing more than to fix his god. He tried to close his eyes but was incapable.

Moments before the chunk of rock reached the end of its fall, a pressure, like that of a friendly hand, fell onto Vesik’s shoulder. Something inhaled as if it was going to speak.

 

***

 

Vesik awoke in his bed and cried out. His breathing was ragged as he searched for the monolith. After several moments he collected himself then swung out of bed and began pacing around his room.

He looked at his bed as though it were a place of disgust and intrigue as his brain worked. He threw back a curtain and judged that he had a few hours before he was to report to Bors. He chewed his nail as he contemplated going back to his dream world.

He banished the idea for he might awake with Bors screaming in his face again. His one-room apartment had one corner occupied by his bed, another by an oak desk with a drawer on either side, and another bore his door. Three new outfits hung in his closet while the clothes he’d taken with him from his parents’ house sat in a chest on the floor. The short, thick blade he’d bought many months ago lay on the side of his bed opposite his door near a small table harboring a thick candle.

Vesik dressed then stepped out into the hallway of the officers building he both lived and worked in. It was too early for breakfast so Vesik made his way to a library across the street from the building.

He was one of the few people there and the only one who actually seemed awake. The others walked around in a dazed stupor, either from not having slept yet or just waking up, Vesik could not tell.

He approached a bookkeeper and asked, “Excuse me, do you have a book that gives descriptions about the gods?”

The woman yawned then gave him directions in a very monotone voice. Vesik thanked her and headed off.

Vesik weaved through a few shelves and finally came upon the bookcase he sought. He grabbed tomes off the shelf and sped to a desk where he flipped through them. There were many gods, each with several names and a rough physical description.

Nowhere did Vesik find any information about a monolith or anything that described the world he stumbled into when he slept. Desperate, he approached the bookkeeper again. He said, “Do you know of any books that have to deal with an enormous monolith? One that might have something to do with some god perhaps?”

“I don’t believe we do. At least I have never heard of any book like that nor a god that has anything to do with a monolith.” A look of intrigue crossed her face. “Why do you ask if you don’t mind?”

Vesik thought it best if he didn’t tell her anything too detailed but his mouth betrayed his thoughts. “I’ve had dreams with a giant stone pillar as the focus of them. I’m just trying to understand what it might be.”

“Oh, well you might have more luck at a temple.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

Vesik departed and head for the closest temple. It was a shrine of Malkor, a very well-known and respected god in Cavia. He had no more luck than at the library.

He cursed and decided that he would only get answers through his dreams. He needed to get to the monolith next time. Suddenly he felt troubled because he remembered a piece of the monolith breaking away from the whole and dreaded the possibility that the entire thing had shattered.

He craved sleep but warded off the obsession and went on about his day.

Sitting behind the desk before Bors’ office, Vesik heard many things about sentry duty. Today he paid careful attention when a senior chief came to Bors’ office. The carefree man left his door ajar and the voices of those arrogant men rang clear in Vesik’s head.

Bors said, “Chief, it’s good to see you. Have a seat. How are you?”

The man had a very gruff voice that escaped through a seemingly constant dry mouth. “I’m good, officer, and … um.” Vesik heard the sound of trickling liquid. “Bors, it’s barely first light, man.”

The pouring ceased and glasses banged together as Bors hastily cleared the alcohol from the table. “Um, yes, of course, sir. Just slipped my mind, how early it is.”

Vesik shook his head and barely contained a giggle.

Bors continued, “So for what reason do I owe the pleasure of your company today?”

Vesik could tell that the man tried not to sound condescending but it was a part of his nature.

The chief did not call any attention to Bors’ small transgression. Bors was known for such behavior. “We all know of the pull problem affecting Cavia. Thus far we’ve only been able to discover the small operations. But now, we have the whole damn thing. We know where they’re at.”

“That’s great news. How’d we figure it out?”

“This is a bit complex so pay attention. A Sentry was caught up sneaking a look at some secured files. He was questioned, and then his answers didn’t check out. We took it a little further and came to find a lot more than we had intended.”

Vesik was suddenly captured by the explanation. He listened a little harder and even leaned towards the open door. He was thankful that either man didn’t have the foresight to shut the door.

The chief continued speaking, “The gang we’re going after, they’re big. They don’t just run a pull operation, they have their hands in a lot of different pots. One of them, is extorting people with bad debts. So, this Sentry we caught, turns out he had racked up a lot of bad debt at the Serpent’s Eye. No logical man would stay the night at that inn unless his debts had been paid. Well, turns out that doing just that gets a man noticed by the gang. They operate the gambling that goes on there. Staying with a large debt is a sign that you mean to cut a deal, and he knew that. So his deal was to get it all wiped out for periodic information about our movements.”

Bors gasped and Vesik half smiled as he could tell it was a fake noise made to appease the chief.

“The gang reaches further than that even, has branches of it all through Cavia and contacts in Durthlem, Arnamos, and Nemere. Anyway, pull is their big thing. So, this is what we’ve come up with. The Sentry who was selling us out, isn’t going to be punished any further if he simply swaps sides. He’s given us the location of the hideout. Black and Moors.”

Bors said, “Where? I know Black Street but not that intersection.”

The chief said, “It’s a real small street, Moors is. And the intersection sits nestled against a bend. It’s easy to walk past. Unless you’re going to that intersection, it’s usually untraveled. And, let’s face it, it’s a shit part of town. Anyone over there won’t care about our protection and would probably take a shot at one of our guys if they thought they could get away. We’re keeping the whole thing quiet for now. But tomorrow, we roll through that place and cut the head off their organization. Sure, some of it will keep going. But we’ll take enough prisoners to give us the information to go after the whole godsdamn thing afterwards.”

Sincere interest dripped from Bors’ voice as he said, “Godsdammit, what a stroke of luck! Well that and someone doing their job right and pinning that fucker who had turned on us. Do they suspect anything coming from us?”

“Not a thing. Fish in a barrel.” The man paused, then, “Well not exactly. I believe that they’re going to do whatever they can to keep from getting locked up. It’s going to be a dangerous mission to say the least. We’re taking a lot of men so I just wanted you to be in the light about events. You’ll be coming with.”

Vesik could just imagine the look plastered on Bors’ face right now and a grin crept across his. “Me? But, sir, we have so many new recruits. Why not throw them the case? Ya know, get them some action in the field.”

“That’s the exact reason why you’re getting called in. I am heading this operation along with a few of my superiors and other chiefs. It seems as though the force will be broken into teams, each led by a senior officer. You’re leading a team in.” The chief’s tone changed to one of a nonchalant nature. “Come now, Bors, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten how to swing a sword.”

“No, of course not, sir. I completely understand the plan and agree with it. Those new guys need an example to follow. This will be a great experience for them.”

“Glad to have you on board, Bors. Well I’ll leave you to your business now, officer. You’ll hear from me soon.”

“Of course and thank you, chief.”

Vesik feigned disinterest as Bors walked the man to his door and bade him farewell. Bors stared at Vesik with anger in his eyes then retreated back into his office.

Vesik could just barely make out the sound of liquor filling a glass.

 

***

 

“Damn good work, friend, damn good.” Fal raised his glass as he slapped Vesik on the shoulder.

Alitor broke character for a moment to say, “Indeed, so we should steer clear of that one, eh?” He looked to Fal who was chugging his beer.

Fal set his mug down and said, “Something like that, yeah.”

Alitor nodded then took a long pull on his ale himself. Koe’s eyebrows perked up.

Koe looked to Vesik then said, “Hey weren’t you saying that you were going to charm one of these fine women one of these days? Well if you don’t do more than just talking, you’ll be on your deathbed with yourself being the only person to have ever touched your dick, man.”

Vesik shot him an odd look as Fal burst into laughter and Alitor pounded the table with his fist. Koe forcefully wiped the smile from his face then said, “I’m just saying that maybe you should stop talking and start doing.” He pointed to the bar.

Vesik glanced over and beheld an attractive woman sitting on a stool seemingly alone. She scanned the doors every few moments.

“Oh. But what should I say to her?”

Fal perked up and quieted his friends by raising his hands. With a smirk on his face he said, “I got it, I got it. Okay, so you have to approach her with a sad look in your eyes. Sit next to her then look into her eyes and say, ‘ya know, someone very close to me died today.’ Then she’ll say something along the lines of, ‘oh goodness, I am so sorry to hear that.’ You glance at the ground then say, ‘yeah, his name was My Dick,’ then look at her, ‘and I was wondering if I could bury him between your legs.'”

The entire group burst into laughter and even Vesik chuckled a bit. He took the situation seriously though for he had been working up the courage to talk to a woman for days now.

Vesik said, “I’m not sure if that will get me the response I want. Ya know what, I’ll just wing it.”

Koe raised his mug and said, “Good luck, buddy. Just charm her. Say whatever it is you think she wants to hear from you. Believe that you’re confident and she’ll believe you are too. Women like that shit.”

“Thanks for some actual advice, Koe.” Vesik shot Fal a deadly look.

Fal shrugged and feigned honesty. “What? I’m just trying to help. It works when I say it.”

Alitor shoved him as Vesik turned around. He heard Alitor say something about how with the right amount of coin any line will work on a whore.

Vesik drowned their voices away as he approached the woman. His heart threatened to carve a hole through his chest and he felt himself beginning to sweat. By the gods, why was this so difficult?

He reached her and almost didn’t speak, but as he sat down he forced the words out, “What’s a pretty girl like you doing sitting by yourself? If you don’t mind, I’d be honored to keep you company.”

Vesik thought to himself, what the hell was that? He was about ready to piss himself ten seconds before but his words made him sound like the most confident and smooth guy in the tavern. He marveled at his success thus far but paid attention to the girl.

She looked at him then back to the bar but a huge smile betrayed the effectiveness of Vesik’s words. She looked back to him as she said, “Um, well I was supposed to meet someone here but it seems as though he might have forgotten about me.”

“I apologize. Maybe I could take his place for tonight. My name is Vesik.”

Her smile grew, “I’m Aeris.”

“A beautiful name. It suits you perfectly. It is a pleasure to meet you, Aeris. Would you like a drink?” Vesik rejoiced inside, but another feeling began to overwhelm him. He couldn’t keep his mind from straying to the monolith and he felt just as powerful as that godly pillar. Dominance flooded throughout his body.

“You’re sweet, Vesik.” She bit her lip and he could tell that she was mulling something over. Finally she said, “But I should give my date some more time. I’m sorry. If he doesn’t show though then I would be more than happy to spend the evening with you. It’s just … well it would be a mess if he walked in and saw me with another guy.”

The dominance faded. He wrestled with several feelings at once and neither one could take precedence. “Of course, Aeris. I wouldn’t want to put you in a situation such as that. I’ll be sitting at that table there. Again, it was great to meet you.”

Her eyes sparkled. “Likewise.”

Vesik departed and felt her eyes on his back like hot daggers. His friends tried to keep straight faces, as if they hadn’t witnessed the interaction but they were like vultures on carrion the entire time the two talked.

When Vesik sat and had taken a drink, Koe said, “Wow, Vesik, you surprised the hell out of me, man. She’s thinkin about you. And hard too. Give it a few.”

Fal said, “Yeah, man, that was good. Hell you almost had me ready to take you up on that offer.” He giggled and the others just stared at him. He got uncomfortable. “I was just messin, ya fuckin idiots.”

Alitor said, “Guess what, Fal, so are we.” The group laughed and Fal made a very obscene gesture with his hand and waved it at the three.

When Vesik quieted, he said, “Man, I surprised myself even. Hell I’ll call that one a win. Just getting my feet wet and I didn’t do half bad. The game’s not even over yet. I still have a chance.”

Fal said, “Yeah well your number better come up quick. We’re not sticking around much longer. Gotta be up bright and early tomorrow.”

Vesik glanced out an open window. The night sky had just chased the sun away roughly half an hour past. “Oh, c’mon guys. You’re sounding like me now.”

Koe said, “A few more minutes then, just because we’re such nice guys.”

Fal pointed at Vesik and said, “Minutes, man, that’s all you get.”

Vesik accepted the offer then went back to his ale. A couple minutes of light banter passed and Vesik noticed that his friends had drained the last of their beer. Vesik silently cursed.

Fal rose and said, “Tough luck, friend. Try again next time, huh? C’mon guys.”

As the men rose and bade their farewells, a gentleman swiftly came through the doors. Vesik felt like stabbing the guy when he saw him head straight for Aeris.

Fal said, “Oh, just in time too.”

Vesik sighed and rose from his chair. He looked over at the two and saw Aeris with a perturbed expression. He said, “Goodnight, Aeris.”

She wiped her troubled look away and smiled at him. Vesik heard the guy whisper something to her low and quick.

The four made their way to the door but were stopped when Aeris’ date called after Vesik, “Hey, next time you come in here, I don’t want you talking to her. You got that?”

Aeris fussed at the man’s aggressiveness. “What’s wrong with you? He’s a nice guy. He backed off when I told him about you.”

Vesik turned and his friends did the same as he said, “Aeris, you probably don’t want me to hurt him so I won’t.” He looked at her date and felt the power that the monolith inspired in him grow. “If I had a woman like that waiting for me somewhere, I’d make sure to be on time. And I’d probably have a bouquet of flowers for her too.”

The man visibly took offense to that but Alitor cut him off, “Why do he get mad at you, friend? Is he bad person?” Alitor said this with a slur and heavy accent.

The guy didn’t take the bait. “You’re lucky you have your friends with you. I’d take you out otherwise.”

Vesik spoke without thinking, just like he had done with Aeris, “Let’s see how lucky you think I am after I beat you.” He looked at the guy but spoke to his friends, “Hey, guys, stay out of this one.”

Never before would Vesik have said something like that. The monolith had infected him with a sense of power and confidence.

The guy thought about it then decided he had to defend what he had said or be made to look like a coward. “Come on then.”

The barkeeper shouted, “Take it outside! You break anything in here then you’re paying for it.”

Aeris pleaded with her date to stand down but he followed Vesik outside. The Bar was located at an intersection and the street that the entrance to the bar was on was narrow. A moderate amount of traffic populated the area so this was going to turn into a show.

Vesik spun and walked backwards as he bade the man forward. As soon as the guy stepped onto the dirt road, Vesik put his fists up. He thought of them as boulders, extensions of the monolith.

The man rushed forward and attempted to tackle Vesik. Vesik spun out of the way and threw a right that missed. He pressed the man and landed a left jab then skipped back a step even before the man tried to counter.

And try he did. After the wild punch disturbed nothing but the air, Vesik sprang forward and landed a right cross that snapped the guy’s head back. He didn’t fall though.

Instead, as Vesik tried another jab, he rushed forward and got close to Vesik. He landed several short punches to Vesik’s midsection which caused him to drop his hands. Before Vesik even realized his folly, he ate a right hook and stumbled backwards.

Vesik barely kept his feet and tried keeping distance between himself and his attacker. As the man came in to finish the fight, Vesik lifted his foot and kicked at the man’s chest. He was still dizzy from the hook though and his foot only clipped the man’s side.

Vesik brought his hands up but the man assailed him with several quick punches that got the job done anyway. Vesik fell to the ground and was saved any further beating when Alitor grabbed the man and threw him to the side. “It’s over.” He said.

Fal and Koe flashed their sentry badges at the onlookers and shouted, “Break it up, we’ll take care of it.” Vesik was hauled away by his friends. He was conscious but his legs were too unsteady to be entrusted with his weight.

Alitor said, “Good try, Vesik. I didn’t think he was going to come back from that right. Not a bad showing.”

Koe added, “Yeah and if you would have landed that front kick, guy would’ve been too busy finding his air to hit you.”

Fal said, “It’s because you’re stuck behind a damn desk all day, man. Gotta get you back into fighting shape. Once you get out onto the streets with the Watch, you’ll tear up any shithead like that.”

Vesik wasn’t bleeding but his jaw was sore from that hook so it pained him to say, “Yeah, thanks guys.” Rage boiled inside him though. He knew that the monolith would crush any threat and he wanted that more than anything now. Vesik craved sleep right now.

A Christmas present: Monolithic (Ch. 3 & 4)

Hopefully you’ve already seen chapters 1 and 2 posted here and read the hell out of them. Actually, I really hope you read them when they first were published in my anthology. Either way, here is chapter 3 and 4 of Monolithic, the story that sets the stage for our antagonist from Thoughts of Steel. Enjoy.

3

 

The loneliness that plagued Vesik no longer mattered as he excelled at his job as an assistant and maintained his grades. The silver he’d received as payment for his duties was mostly put away in a locked chest hidden at home. He contemplated moving into his own apartment but decided against it. Lodging was available to him at the Watch station he worked at for a subsidized rate. But he couldn’t fathom the idea of leaving his parents.

Vesik’s parents would only take so much of the money he tried giving them, but he spent what he could for them without them knowing though. Now, as Vesik made his way through town to the college, the morning sun warming the back of his neck, a hefty amount of coins jingled in the purse tied to his waist. He planned on buying new tools for his parents once his class was over today.

Vesik daydreamed as he walked, smiling at the few people he passed as he caught their eyes. One man sneered at him and Vesik’s nerves jumped but he continued onward. An arm suddenly draped across his shoulders and he turned to see a homely woman leaning on him.

“Can you walk with me over here? I’m not feeling well and need to get out of the sun.” The woman’s eyes drooped and she staggered with each step, putting most of her weight into Vesik, guiding him to a place between a shed and a house. Beyond the house and shed was a field of green grass.

Vesik was nearly too uncomfortable with the touch of a woman to speak, but he said, “Yeah. Are you sick?” He certainly was too uncomfortable to think.

Shade from the two buildings fell over Vesik and the woman like a blanket. She suddenly seemed fine as she stepped away from Vesik and stood on her own. The man who had mugged Vesik earlier appeared from the road, brushed past the woman. Vesik knew that something was wrong but that was as far as his thinking took him. The man drove his fist into Vesik’s jaw. Surprise more than pain had Vesik on his backside, breathing heavily and trembling.

The woman walked behind Vesik as the man began speaking, “Give me that purse now.”

Not a single thought of resistance crossed Vesik’s mind, but he was too scared and surprised to act. He simply sat and looked up at the terrible man. Life felt as though it had frozen over, trapping Vesik in it. He wanted so badly to simply close his eyes and wish this whole confrontation away. This was so alien to Vesik that he felt as though it wasn’t real.

The man sighed in frustration and nodded to the woman now standing behind Vesik. She bent down, reached under Vesik’s arm and around his waist to grab the purse and yank it free. The string keeping it tied together snapped and then the two rogues took off at a jog out into the open field.

Tears swam in the corners of Vesik’s eyes. He didn’t think of the money he’d lost, but rather the reality of what had just happened. He was still trying to understand and accept it all when someone walking along the road caught a glimpse of Vesik and stopped.

It was a boy and he focused on Vesik’s mouth as he said, “Are you alright?”

Vesik finally broke himself from his paralysis and touched his fingers to his lips. They came back bloody but Vesik couldn’t feel any pain. He slowly got up and felt as though he’d continue ascending right through the clouds. He looked to the boy and nodded his head slightly, wiped his lip on his sleeve, then trekked back onto the road, aimed for home again.

 

***

 

Erik called Vesik out onto the porch of their small home and Vesik knew immediately what was on the agenda. Sure enough, two large mugs of ale were gripped in Erik’s hands. Vesik looked down at the porch in shame. Why couldn’t his father be toasting him for defending himself, beating his attackers, then taking them into a Watch station? Why was Erik instead showing pity for Vesik because he was too blind to see the robbery coming and too weak to do anything at all to prevent it?

After getting home, Vesik had hidden himself from his parents as long as he could. In that time, he thought about how he hated himself for not doing anything. Even throwing a single punch or refusing the thugs would have left him with a more intact sense of pride then playing the helpless victim role. His physical wound paled in comparison to his emotional hurt.

Vesik took the mug and sat down. The rest of the day had served him well to bread anger in him and he said, “I should have done something, anything at all would have been better.”

Erik nodded, took a pull of his ale, then said, “The money can be made up, son. Don’t let that –”

“It isn’t that. I couldn’t do anything at all. I could barely breathe. I was a perfect victim and didn’t do anything at all about it.” Tears rolled down Vesik’s cheeks and he felt more ashamed and angry because of it. He wanted to beat the mug he held against his temple. Instead, he lifted it to quivering lips and drained half of it.

Erik glanced at his son but was sympathetic enough to not stare at his son’s weakness.

Vesik knew a stronger man would have fought back. His father would have fought even with his injured back and old bones. He suddenly thought of his solitude in the real world, his alienation at the college that seemed to just naturally happen. He thought of how people were forced to interact with him when he served as Bors’ clerk. He made a decision then.

“Dad, I’m going to try to become a sentry. There should have been one there today to take those two in for what they did to me.”

“What about school? You haven’t finished yet, Vesik.”

“But it’s already served a good purpose. Bors won’t kick me out because of this, he’ll probably agree with my choice. I can go back later if I want to. It’s just, I don’t know. I just don’t think I can keep doing this. I want to be somewhere where people like me, and want me around.”

Vesik hadn’t told his father about his alienation at the college but he figured that Erik had surmised as much as he merely nodded without question. He then said, “You know you’ll have to make difficult choices as a Sentry. Even more difficult than the one you’ve just made, or ever have made before. Vesik, you might have to kill someone at some time. You think you can do that?”

“I don’t need to make those decisions now, dad. I can cross those bridges when I come to them.”

“And if you can’t get across them? What then, if you don’t make it?”

It was finally time for Vesik to unleash his anger. He knew what his father referred to; his weakness. It wasn’t easy for Vesik to raise his voice to his father but he couldn’t ever do so to any other person. He said, “You think I’m soft. You don’t think I’d make it through.”

Erik began to speak but Vesik wouldn’t hear any of it.

“All the stuff you’ve said to me about loving life and seeing the best in everything, that was all a mask to hide my weakness. I’m weak, I get it. You’ve known it. And that’s what you always meant.”

Erik slammed his mug onto the wooden planks, a wave of ale spilling over the lip. A hole must have opened in Vesik’s heel as his rage drained from him. He looked at his father and forgot all about his righteous anger.

“Vesik, don’t ever speak of your gift like it’s a curse. It is not a bane on you or anyone. You learn to love it and just know that it’ll only help you one day.” Erik looked at his son with sadness in his eyes. It was easy to see that he didn’t enjoy startling his son.

Erik continued, “Son, I just want you to tell me that you can make it through. If you do, then I’ll believe you and stand behind you completely. And you know your mother will too. So?”

An iota of zeal crept back into Vesik, he took a deep swallow of ale then said, “Yes, dad. I’ll make it through. This won’t tear me down.”

“Okay. And you know that your gift will help you. You’ll be able to take down the vile people in this city and help those who need it with passion. You won’t be led astray by the promise of power, money, anything. You’ll be the best Sentry any man can be, Vesik. You’ll do fine, kiddo.”

Unlike when Vesik had decided to attend college, he didn’t feel a foreboding fear creeping into him, infecting his bones, flesh and heart. He was driven this time by an angry fire. One that would only be snuffed out by the reclamation of his pride and the achievement of his goal. He’d become a Sentry and never again be a victim. He’d save innocent people from being victimized each day he breathed.

Vesik finished his ale, hugged his father, then went off to bed. He laid down and craved sleep, only because he wanted time to pass as quickly as possible. The current term was coming to an end in two weeks. He’d finish out with flying colors then apply for the Watch. Tomorrow though, he’d walk the streets of Cavia again with a pocket full of silver, then use that to purchase a strong blade.

Sleep came upon Vesik as he imagined the feel of steel in his hands and all the evil in Baronfall at the blade’s point.

 

4

 

Vesik was crammed between two other trainees for the Watch who were crowded by dozens more themselves. Not one made a noise as the instructor hastily described a drill. He pulled one man out of the crowd and positioned him between two junior instructors.

“This drill is meant to simulate a real encounter that you may come to face while on duty. The officer holding the weapon is the bad guy and the other officer is an innocent bystander,” barked the senior instructor.

He looked to the trainee he had pulled out of the crowd then handed him an unloaded crossbow. “Your job is to keep the bystander alive and to only shoot if you absolutely have to.”

The trainee nodded. He turned to the two junior officers and the drill began as the senior shouted an order.

The trainee immediately aimed the weapon at the man with the wooden blade. “On the floor, now! You take one step towards him and I’ll put a hole through you.” The officer with the blade grinned then rushed towards the man playing the innocent victim. He only got one step closer when a twang announced the firing of the crossbow.

“Good! Next!”

Another trainee shuffled out. He fired the weapon before the ‘criminal’ had a chance to make a move. “Too quick! You just killed a man without giving him a chance to cooperate. That’ll be some fun paperwork. Next!”

And so it went, until it was Vesik’s turn. He gripped the crossbow hard, tried to stay the shaking of his hands. The order was given and he leveled the weapon at the officer. “Get on the ground.” There was little zeal in Vesik’s voice and he felt cold sweat drip off him as his tension and apprehension swelled.

The officer lunged towards the would-be victim and surprise crossed his face. He poked the man with the sword and still Vesik stood there with an uneasy grip on the weapon. The officer with the weapon looked to the senior instructor then advanced on Vesik.

Cold fear stayed his hand. As he watched the man advance, he felt as though it was a real situation and that made his body go rigid. In the back of his mind he expected some other valiant person to step in and end this for him, just like that day twelve years ago.

But that didn’t happen.

The wooden sword poked Vesik in the chest and still no noise emitted from the crossbow. The man looked at Vesik as if he was crazy and Vesik then realized what he had done. If this was real then he would not only have let an innocent person be killed, but he would be dead as well.

“What kind of shit was that!?” Vesik gulped and turned to the senior instructor as the enraged man stomped towards him. “What’s your name?”

“Vesik, sir.”

“What is your problem, Vesik? You just let your city down then died like a pansy bitch! What if that ‘bystander’ had been one of the Watch? A disarmed man who placed his life in your hands? Even if you did manage to live through that by some miracle, what the fuck would you say to his family?”

Vesik stammered until the instructor cussed him back into the ranks. Once Vesik was lost in the sea of other trainees, the instructor said, “Been doing this drill for sixteen years now and never have I seen that! Next!”

Vesik dropped his eyes to the ground and felt the cold glowers of the people around him burrow into his back and pierce his very soul.

That night a few of the men who were witness to his blunder approached him. He prepared for a tongue lashing and maybe a few bruises.

One man said, “Vesik, right? Man you really screwed up today. We think we got you pegged though. You’re one of them guys that doesn’t like hurting things. Something psychological,” The big man next to the speaker seemed impressed as he shuffled his feet a bit, “that just won’t let you go through with it. Well we got something that might help; you gotta come with us though.”

Vesik spun the cogs that made up his brain in an attempt to discover any hidden motive behind the man’s offer. Nothing came to the forefront so he asked, “Why do you want to help me?”

The man rolled his eyes. “Contrary to what you might think, not everyone here wants to see you flounder around until you’re thrown out of this place on your ass. Also I’m bored, and so are my chaps.” The man flashed Vesik a cheesy smile. “What do ya say?”

Vesik came to a decision after only a few seconds of contemplation. Either this was going to be what got him through the last weeks of training or he would still be shit out of luck. “Alright. So what’s the plan?”

 

***

 

As the sun fell beneath the earth and dragged the blue sky away, the four men made their way to the forest, Vesik carrying a bow.

Vesik walked next to the man who had done all the talking. His name was Fal, short for Falantor. His name and accent suggested that he was from the regal east country of Dumen. And after inquiring about it, Vesik discovered that he indeed was.

Fal disdained his full name and normally beat any man who used it if not came close to doing so. Oddly enough though, that was exactly how he introduced himself. Vesik thought he had the guy figured out soon after meeting him.

Fal told everyone his background because he wanted to be an oddity; a diamond in the rough. He made damn sure to tell everyone he met that his name was a curse though because he could never identify with one of those ‘tight-ass, stuck-up, sons of bitches’, as he so elegantly put it.

The other two men weren’t quite as odd, but still made sure to angle themselves against the grain of normality.

The big, stupid one was named Alitor. Well actually, the last thing he could ever be rightfully deemed was stupid.

The man was a genius in many fields. Vesik discovered this when he asked Fal if the man was simple. Fal rolled his eyes then said to Alitor, “You don’t have to pretend around this one, Al, he’s the last guy you have to worry about stickin ya.”

Vesik raised an eyebrow as Alitor perked up and began speaking less like a brutish infant and more like a learned scholar. He explained to Vesik, “I enjoy playing the part of a simpleton because it makes people underestimate me. This one guy kept poking me in the head, so hard his nail cut me open. He was angry that I had bumped his pal and couldn’t apologize without sounding like a ‘fucking idiot’.”

Alitor rumbled out a deep laugh as Fal said, “Boy that poor fellow almost fell on his ass when Al came back with … ah you tell it, big guy.”

“I grabbed his finger then apologized with all these fancy bullshit words. Then I said, ‘How was that? If your pal didn’t understand me then I could reiterate my condolences in about seven different languages.’ The guy’s face was a truly heart-warming moment. I laughed the entire time I beat him.” Vesik couldn’t help but think the guy maybe had a few screws loose despite his apparent genius.

The final guy was really only special because of his skin. His complexion was very dark. For the most part he was a normal guy if not kinder than most. His native name was something unpronounceable so he just insisted people call him Koe, the first syllable of his name. He was from an island far south towards the end of the Endless Sea.

“You’ve seen it?” Vesik asked the small dark man. “The end? Well that’s a ridiculous name then!”

“Not completely. The sea does snake through the land it meets by way of rivers and what have you. The name is a bit over exaggerated though. It’s just a really big sea.”

Fal chimed in, “Hey, Al, why not come up with a name besides sea for the damn thing. That could be your impress on the world, or whatever.”

Alitor took on a very serious tone, “Impression. And that is far from what I desire to be known for. Any dullard can make a noise while screwing their mouth up then name something after it.”

Vesik discovered that he was the youngest of the group. Koe was closest to his age and the other two were only a few years older.

The distance passed quickly for the group as they conversed and joked and they nearly smacked right into the first trees of the forest. This was the part of the forest just west of the southwest gate. It was extremely close to the city and therefore held little if any game.

The sun had dipped below the horizon completely by now. Koe said, “Come on, Fal. We got maybe twenty minutes of light left, man. This is pointless.”

“Stuff it. We better put those twenty minutes to good use then. So, Vesik, my friend, you’ve never hunted?”

“Nope. I stayed home while my father went out.”

“Alright, but you agree that it’s okay to hunt for food, right?” Vesik nodded. “Okay, well, tonight you are going to kill every animal you see, then leave it. There is no reason for you to kill these animals. If you can do this then I think it might help you pull the trigger the next time someone tries to stick you.”

Vesik swallowed hard. He had already come to enjoy the company of these very different men but his instincts screamed at him not to go through with the plan. He forced himself to nod then stalked through the forest. Fal, Alitor, and Koe stayed behind.

Fifteen minutes and most of the remaining light fled before Vesik found an animal. It was a squirrel rapidly biting and pounding a hard-shelled nut. Vesik drew his bow and after almost a minute found the courage to release it.

The arrow flew faster than Vesik could see and when his eyes opened he saw the shaft of the arrow but not the tip … Which was because he had missed horribly.

The squirrel scampered away and Vesik pulled his arrow from the ground after steadying himself with a few deep breaths. He skulked back out of the forest.

Fal stared at him with interest apparent in his eyes. The other two seemed slightly uncaring. Vesik shook his head and Fal’s shoulders slumped.

“What happened?” asked Fal.

Koe guessed, “Probably couldn’t find anything, Fal.”

Fal feigned deafness to Koe’s voice. Vesik said, “No, I found one. A squirrel. I shot too, just missed him.”

Fal took it as a win. “Hey at least you had the balls to shoot. Al thought you were going to bitch out like earlier.” Fal clapped Vesik on the shoulder.

Alitor shrugged. “Guess I underestimated you, friend.” He winked.

Fal said, “Don’t think I’m gonna forget about the money you owe, Al. How about you pay me in ale? To a tavern then!” Fal laughed aloud as Alitor and Koe shook their heads. Vesik just smiled and trailed the trio, amazed that he was finally fit to be considered a friend by someone.

A Christmas present: Monolithic (Ch. 1 & 2)

In anticipation of my novel, Thoughts of Steel, releasing in early 2016, I give to all your thirsty eyes the story that started it all. Monolithic is the novella that explores Vesik as a human, and the things that result in his becoming the monster he is in Thoughts of Steel. Three unique characters find themselves in a terrible predicament as they attempt to use their power for selfish reasons.

Here are the first two chapters of Monolithic, that you could pay $$ for on Amazon and receive along with it 8 other awesome stories. I hope you dig it.

1

Cavia bathed in the soft, warm glow of the spring sun sitting above the horizon. Long shadows pulled away from buildings, people, animals, and fences as if they longed for freedom. A young man lead a horse along a path, taking as much pleasure in the gorgeous evening as he thought any happy person would. He wondered if the world he lived on, Zepzier, ever could experience such joyous evenings as this. Certainly life was better in every way in the country of Baronfall, and even more exquisite in Cavia.

Buildings were sparse along the path but the man knew that they’d end up smashed close together soon, once he got deeper into Cavia. The man held reins that guided a horse name Sugar through the city. He headed towards the square with a cart full of crops pulled behind the horse. He reached out and stroked her chestnut colored flank, then gave her a quick hug with one arm and continued on.

As he made his way onto the main road, a dear friend of his mother’s came into view. Merith pulled up beside him with her own cart. “Hello, Vesik. I swear every time we’ve ran into each other, you’ve grown a foot taller. How are your parents?”

It was true that Vesik was tall even at the age of eighteen. He had grown into a lanky young man. Very little muscle clung to his bones and even less fat. The tips of his black hair reached into his eyes but he kept them swept to one side.

Vesik took a moment to recall that he always loved the sound of Merith’s voice. She was growing older, the thin lines on her face a testament to that, but she was still pretty. Her high cheek bones gave way to roundness that accentuated her wide smile. Sparkling blue eyes looked out between long lashes. Regardless of her age, Vesik believed that men would be tripping over each other to get a look at her each time they heard her soothing voice.

Vesik said, “Managing. Father’s back is still causing him trouble but he’s stubborn as a log about getting his work done. Ma’s great though. I’m doing all the trips for her so she doesn’t work herself to death. We went through those terribly hot, dry summers for a few years. If the temperature hadn’t lightened up like it has then they would have worked themselves into the ground by now.”

“I don’t know why they haven’t moved out to the forest yet. It baffles me that no one else has caught on either. That’s people though. Sure, it can be tough managing around the roots and lack of sunlight but all anyone would have to do is find a workable place.” Merith flicked her hand at the air as she dismissed the idea. “Oh, have you met my son yet?”

“No, I haven’t. Ma told me that you conceived a couple of years ago right?”

“That’s right. He’s in here somewhere.” Merith rummaged through her cart until she came back with a squirming little boy. She placed him on the ground and took the carrot he had been chewing on from his hand. She shot him a wilting look but did not reprimand him then.

“Here he is. Honey, say hi to Vesik.”

The little boy looked into Vesik’s eyes with visible intensity. Vesik caught the boy’s gaze and thought that he was either a troublesome brat or a well-disciplined child. He decided on the latter as the kid said, “Hello, sir.” in a very respectful tone. Vesik could tell he was fierce though, with boundless energy waiting to break through his well-mannered character.

“Well go ahead and tell him your name too.”

“My name’s Phalax.”

Vesik crouched so that he was at Phalax’s eye level. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, young sir. How old are you now?”

“Five.” Phalax held up five fingers to accentuate his answer.

“So grown up already.” Merith and Vesik smiled at one another.

“I’m learning my sword skills already. Watch!” Phalax dove for a stick on the side of the road and flourished the piece of wood through the air with little skill or grace.

Merith said, “That’s not good form, Phalax. Show Vesik what daddy taught you.”

Phalax nodded forcefully then calmed down. He held the wooden blade before him in a guard position. He managed to stay perfectly still for three seconds – which was no small feat for a child his age – then cut the air with a controlled side chop.

Both Vesik and Merith clapped as Phalax brought the stick back up in front of him. He then dropped the stick and scampered to his mother’s side.

Vesik, Merith, and Phalax walked on together. The bold little boy even added some of his own interjections into Vesik’s and Merith’s conversation.

 

***

 

“He’s adorable, huh?”  Vesik’s mother, Elara, replied as he told her of his encounter with Merith.

“Yeah, he is.” His father, Erik, had remained quiet the entire time, his mouth mostly hidden beneath his bushy mustache although Vesik could tell he never once smiled at his tale. Erik sat at a table and stared into it as if he was watching a scene unfold between the grooves of wood. “How much work did you get done for the next crop, father?”

Erik slowly looked up at his son and Vesik got a sense that his father was going to tell him something that had nothing to do with the question he had asked. “Not enough. I was … preoccupied. Wandering mind.”

“About what?” Vesik saw his mother avert her gaze to the floor and knew that it was going to be something that he didn’t want to hear.

Erik looked hard into his son’s eyes. “You don’t mean to live here all of your life, do you?” Erik continued when he saw a confused look settle on Vesik’s face, “I mean, don’t you want more than this? You don’t have to be a farmer your entire life, son.”

“Well I haven’t ever thought about it. What else is there for me? I have a home and family right here. The farm is a part of my life. How would you two manage without me?”

“It’d be difficult but we’d find a way. I’m just saying that you only live once, son, and I don’t want you to look back and think that you wasted your entire life picking crops.”

Vesik thought hard about what he wanted to say. Somewhere within him he reveled in the thought of discovering new frontiers in this life but he also felt a fear of many things. “And if I don’t want to leave?”

Erik sighed as if he hoped not to have to say these next words. “You don’t have a choice. I’m sorry, son; I don’t want you thinking that we’re kicking you out. We just want your life to mean something to you. We want to help you though, as you have helped us. The college is accepting new students in a dozen days or so. The Watch is always accepting recruits. Just pick a direction and we’ll get you started.”

Vesik thought for a moment and decided that the feelings of pain and anger welling up inside him were immature. He honestly felt thankful as he said, “Well I’m not sure yet. Can I have a few days to think about this? I mean which path to choose.”

Erik smiled and Elara couldn’t help but hug her son with tears in her eyes. “Of course, son. We’re both very proud of you.”

That night Erik and Vesik stepped outside into the warm spring night and sat together on a bench with their backs to the wall of the house. Erik handed Vesik a mug of ale he had went and procured that very night.

“First I want to thank you, son. There have been many times in my life when I felt like the people in this world had no right to live. You know you are just like my father; you wear his name well.” He looked at his son. “You two almost have the exact same set of ideals and traits.”

“Thanks, dad. I think it’s because of how good you were to me and ma growing up.”

Erik shook his head. “Thank you, son, but that’s not it. I was the apple that fell far from the tree. I wasn’t like my father. I spent a lot of time as a young man depressed. I looked at Zepzier through cynical eyes. I always thought the worst of things. I don’t know how but you inherited this amazing ability to find love for all living things, just like my father. It skipped me somehow and I know I would have been much better off had it not. This whole world would be better off if people were more like you and my father. It’s a gift, son.”

Vesik nodded and drank deep of the bitter ale.

“Also, I am very proud of you for what you have done around here. You’ve been a godsend.” Erik paused and smiled at his son. “That being said, do you have any idea what you want to do?”

Vesik had been thinking about that all night and still was unsure. “Well it’ll either be college or the Watch.”

“I’m not here to tell you what I want from you, that isn’t my place. You’re a man now, Vesik. All I want you to know is that if you choose the Watch, it’ll be hard. Remember, one day you may have to hurt someone else, or even kill them. You’ll have to make hard choices but you’ll also be keeping people safe. I don’t know how much you care for academics though. This will be a tough decision for you.”

Warring thoughts clashed in Vesik’s mind. He forgot for a brief moment that he was holding a mug of ale until a drop landed on his boot. He had pondered a similar notion himself. He was scared of failing, of being a disappointment, of having to ever take charge of anything. Making this decision had been terrifying on its own. Now, faced with the reality of being a Sentry was enough to make him crawl into a shell and away from the world.

Mindlessly, Vesik brought the mug to his lips and sipped the ale. The tang and sour of the drink snapped his mind back to the present and he knew his answer. He wanted to be a Sentry, to be a hero and an accomplished man. But he wasn’t strong enough to handle such a responsibility yet.

“College, dad.” A thrill ran through Vesik as he made his choice, borne of fear for what lay ahead and his inability to commit to what he really wanted to aspire to. But then he reassured himself that he could attain that dream later, and he felt better on all fronts. He drank quicker.

Erik nodded then said, “We’ll go to the college tomorrow and get it all figured out. This will be a good thing for you, son.” Erik struggled to find words to say, Vesik could tell he was brooding. He finally said, “The gods know you weren’t going to pull a woman out of the ground here. Maybe you’ll find one somewhere in the city.”

They both shared a smirk and the tone of the conversation turned from serious to one of light banter. They finished their drinks together and went inside. Vesik felt a pang of trepidation as he lay down in his bed and knew that if not for the ale clouding his feelings and thoughts, he would have been up all night, staring into the darkness and fearing the future.

 

2

 

It turned out that Vesik took to academic subjects fairly well. He found himself excelling in matters that dealt with numbers and money without having to study much. He quickly decided that he’d search for a job dealing with money, perhaps as a lender’s assistant. Regardless of his professors’ qualms about the importance of a well-rounded education, Vesik took classes that only associated with numbers, money, policy, and writing.

Not even six months into his schooling did Vesik begin seeking a job, although out of necessity more than anything else. His father had stashed away some money but not much. The silver Erik had given the college was just enough to get him through his classes currently and now he wouldn’t have enough money to return next term.

After listening intently to a discussion from one of his professor’s on the economic reasoning behind lending money and the goal of interest, Vesik approached the man. He waited behind two other students, still running through the new information he’d been taught today and committing it to his memory. Finally, the professor said, “Yes, Vesik?”

“Professor, Illium, I was hoping you’d be able to provide me with some guidance.” Although Vesik had yet to actually ask anything of the man and he was not being scrutinized or forced into some responsibility, he felt as though he was beginning to float. The nervousness that came with just speaking to his professor was profound and frustrating. He tried and failed each time to battle his nerves when doing something so simple.

Vesik’s voice suddenly sounded small as he continued, “Um, what kind of work do you think I’d be … um … that I’d qualify for at this time?” His heart beat against his chest as if he were about to defend against a savage army of barbarians for his very life.

Professor Illium knew well of Vesik since he had taught him in several classes before. Vesik had mustered the courage to speak with the scholar several times before and so Vesik was comfortable that he knew enough about him to give him a solid answer. “Well, not much, Vesik. I’d say something such as beginning to lend money or even work for a lender would be beyond your scope now. But, I know you are versed in the skills required for basic mathematics and some assistant work. Perhaps you could serve as a good clerk for an office of some sort. One that didn’t require you have any responsibilities that dealt with any sizable sum of money. But why are you asking this? Do you plan on dropping out?”

Vesik shook his head then said, “No, sir. I just need to make money to cover my tuition here.” As was routine, Vesik’s nerves began to slowly calm as the two conversed at length.

“Good. I wouldn’t be pleased with you leaving so soon. I hope my advice helps, just don’t get in over your head somewhere; you need to focus on your schooling.”

“Of course. Thank you, professor.” With that, Vesik turned and left. He then went to the office of the school and spoke with a man at the desk. He asked if the school knew of any positions that needed filling as a clerk in Cavia as many employers came to the school to look for men and women to hire. The man told Vesik that he had not but took his name and promised to inform professor Illium if anything became available.

Vesik then left the school and headed home. Never had he went out with friends as he saw others do, primarily because he didn’t have any. Although he longed to be included in such activities, the stress of meeting people and being asked to do anything was too much for Vesik to overcome. He never once was approached by anyone in school as he absorbed the professor’s message then swiftly headed home, avoiding gazes and conversation. Although Vesik wished he was strong enough to be social and make friends with which to go drinking and carousing with, he was happy with his progress in school.

Just several weeks ago, professor Illium had come to Vesik’s home along with his wife to have dinner with Vesik and his parents. The professor had remarked on Vesik’s strong intellectual ability and Erik and Elara seemed as though they would pounce on him with hugs and praise. Thankfully, they saved all that until after Illium and his wife had left. Vesik quickly came back to his present and thought about what it would be like to work a real job as a person’s assistant.

 

***

 

Only three days had passed until professor Illium stopped Vesik after class one day. He said, “You have an interview with Captain Bors of the Watch. He is in need of a clerk to handle his appointments and whatnot. It’s today, now in fact. Do you have something better to wear than that?”

Vesik was so caught off guard and his mouth had gone so dry that he forgot how to speak. Truly, his stomach must be burrowing its way through the earth at this very moment, he thought. Finally he said, “Um, no.” Vesik looked down at his green tunic and the loose red leggings that flowed down his legs. He didn’t even have a belt to tie his tunic about his waist tightly and suddenly realized how shoddy he must look. Shame burned in him and he felt himself fluster.

Illium said, “No need to worry, Vesik. Come with me. The clothes I have for you may be a little big but they’ll do.”

Vesik wordlessly walked with his professor as the man spoke about what Vesik should be wary of during the interview. He absorbed this lecture as if he was in class, committing each point to memory as if a small man lived within his head and chiseled words onto his brain. Soon, they were at the man’s house, Vesik sitting awkwardly in a small living room waiting for his professor. The man quickly returned with black pantaloons, a red sash, and a white shirt with long sleeves and a collar. Vesik quickly stripped off his unworthy clothing as Illium retrieved a pair of brown, leather boots.

“Be quick, Vesik. You should get to the Watch house early rather than late. It’d look best that way.”

Illium’s words were law and Vesik hastily pulled the clothing on. All of it was slightly big but not as oversized as Vesik’s earlier outfit. He had no idea how to tie the sash correctly so Illium did it for him. He wished he had some flashy piece to show off, a bracelet, pin, or necklace to aid him. But he wouldn’t dare ask his professor for something so gracious. Vesik finally pulled the boots on, admiring them as they stopped a quarter of the way up his shin.

Professor Illium looked him over quickly then said, “It’s a good thing you don’t grow much facial hair yet or we’d need to give you a clean shave. Now, go to the Watch house near the square. You know the one I speak of?”

“Two blocks north of it?”

“That’s it. Move quickly but do not show up sweaty and flustered. I’ve sent along a good review of you and your ability in academics. I didn’t send any other students because I know you need this and that you’d do well. Let me know how everything goes in class tomorrow. Good luck, Vesik.”

Vesik fought the urge to hug the man, thanked him quickly, picked up his clothing, then hustled from the house.

 

***

 

Half of an excruciating hour spent obsessing over a fantasy of what the interview should be like passed all too quickly. Captain Bors himself walked from a hall, seemed to not even notice Vesik, then went behind an oak counter with a man seated behind it.

Captain Bors was a squat man with a wide build. His gut poked out from between his coat although he seemed to possess strong arms with thick muscle. A goatee circled his mouth and covered his chin. Bushy brows sat above dark eyes split by a pointy nose.

“Where is he?”

Vesik wanted to stand and introduce himself but was stuck to the bench he sat in. The clerk said, “Right there.” His pointed finger felt like a thousand prying eyes.

Bors looked at Vesik and seemed to take stock of his entire life. “Hello, Vesik. Illium said good things about you.”

Vesik used a mechanism that he discovered helped him often. He dipped his head as if nodding but really was just hiding that he was closing his eyes so that he could speak. “Captain Bors, it is nice to meet you.” When Vesik looked up again, Bors was throwing him an odd look. Vesik realized he had forgotten to look up the entire time he was speaking.

“Yes, well. Follow me.” Bors took off and Vesik quickly got up and began following.

Bors kept quiet as he led Vesik around a few corners and into his office. Vesik felt as though he was floating and that the air was hot and cold at the same time. He was sweating beneath his clothes.

A low, empty desk sat outside of the captain’s office, a polished chair behind it. Vesik could see himself there, rifling through the few drawers, filling them with important papers and items, doing calculations and setting appointments. He’d be someone that other people would have to request permission from. He’d have authority.

The pair moved past the desk and into Bors’ office. The room was small but not cramped. A desk sat towards the back of it, one bookcase butted against one of the side walls that sported only a dozen books and pamphlets, the chairs seated on either side of the desk were padded unlike the one outside the office, and on the sill of a window above Bors’ chair sat several bottles of amber colored liquids along with three glasses next to them.

Vesik lowered himself into his seat, and waited as Bors did the same. The captain said, “My last assistant was incompetent. He had to be let go. But, the college usually turns out good men and women. My last assistant wasn’t from the college. So, Vesik, tell me a little about yourself.”

Why did Vesik have to talk so soon? Why didn’t Bors just blather on while Vesik could get by with nods and fake smiles? “Um. I farmed growing up. My parents, they owned a farm. Well, they own the farm now too. Um. So, I helped them my whole life. I joined the college two terms ago. And … yeah.” He hated that he ended most of his responses that way when he was nervous.

Bors nodded his head and tapped his fingers against his desk rigorously. “So, just two terms? But you’re confident in your ability?”

Vesik nodded his head and then sat still, his eyes plastered to the captain’s judging gaze. Bors wasn’t speaking so Vesik said, “I’ve taken two classes in assisting.”

Something close to approval passed Bors face as he made one big slow nod. Vesik hoped he wasn’t sweating so much that Bors could tell. But then he felt a bead slide down his temple and his hopes were dashed.

“Why the Watch, Vesik? Why not a job somewhere else?”

Now is where Vesik’s answer mattered for a lot. He could tell that Bors was proud of the Watch, the badges and patches on his coat showed as much. But he also straightened up in his chair as he spoke about his beloved organization.

Channeling his best display of confidence, Vesik tried to straighten up to match Bors and hold his gaze. He somehow managed both as he said, “I’ve always admired the work that the Watch does.” He inwardly marveled at his steady voice. “Cavia wouldn’t work without the Watch. My father told me of a time where two Sentries save my mother and I from being killed by a rogue when I was just a boy. I’ve revered them ever since.”

The smile that crossed Bors’ face caused Vesik to smile back; he’d said the right thing. He’d somehow managed confidence. Bors said, “Vesik, do you have any more classes to take today?”

“Yes, sir. I have two more at the eleventh hour of day.”

Bors suddenly got up, turned around and looked outside. He then said, “It looks like it’s the tenth of day right now.” Vesik surmised that he must be looking at a sundial outside his window. The sun would begin falling behind the horizon in two hours. “Vesik,” he turned as he spoke, “what would you think of skipping those classes just for today? To begin working?”

A cold worm slithered through Vesik’s intestines. He’d gotten the job as Bors’ assistant! He was so excited that he felt the familiar flash of embarrassment and nervousness. “Of course, sir!”

Bors thick-fingered hand shot out and Vesik met it with his own. Vesik winced at the pressure of the squeeze and Bors smiled. “Glad to have you, Vesik. Now, let’s toast to this new partnership.”

W0ith practiced ease, Bors spun around, procured a bottle of dark red liquid and two glasses, then spun back to place it all on his desk. He filled each to a knuckle length deep and Vesik stared at the liquid as if it was a magical potion. He’d never had hard spirits before, just ale, and even that was rare. He prepared himself for the strong concoction, told himself that he mustn’t spit it out for any reason.

As Bors plugged the bottle with a stopper, Vesik thought of how his new employer was such a genuine man. Bors was a good-spirited sergeant with a love for his profession. Vesik knew that he’d enjoy his position with this pleasant man.

Bors lifted both glasses and proffered one to Vesik. The amber liquid within swirled as Vesik took it and he moved the glass back and forth to hide the trembling of his hand. Bors held his glass out and Vesik clacked his own against it softly. Bors said, “To your success as my assistant.”

It was nearly impossible for Vesik to take his drink as he smiled so wide. But Bors threw his drink back and Vesik had to follow suit. The liquid cascaded down his throat, seemed to get stuck, then began burning holes through his flesh. He nearly coughed the drink all over Bors but he forced the drink down, the contents of which were surely part acid. Tears came to Vesik’s eyes and he wiped them away as he heavily sighed and wished for the burning sensation to leave his throat.

Sparkling light seemed to leap from Bors’ eyes as he savored the horrid drink. “Strong, huh?”

Vesik vehemently nodded his head.

Bors slammed his glass down and said, “Right! Here, I have some work for you to get started on.” Vesik stood with his empty glass in his hands as Bors opened a drawer and pulled three folders stuffed with papers from them. He looked at the mass of paper and saw days of work within those folders. He wondered how long Bors had went without an assistant. Regardless though, Vesik was ecstatic. He couldn’t wait to run home to his parents to tell them of his success. For the first time in the world outside of his home and parents’ farm, he felt as though he’d won.

A glimpse of Hell

Meet Zeraskyr, the main antagonist of Thoughts of Steel.

Figures writhed beneath their chains. Hard, hot stone tore through what remained of their clothing and into their backs. Blood saturated the black stone. Their screams died mere feet from where they originated, drowned out by the roar of fire and clash of moving earth. Some of the figures didn’t move. They were dead: crop that would bear no fruit, altars of frustration. Some beings moved about the dark place freely. Fangs clicked and tongues hung from their mouths as they stared at the dead. But they did not dare ask for what they wanted, nor did they move toward the morsels.

Suddenly, thunder and lightning bellowed and crashed around the beings. They yelped and scampered away, turned their backs like they were supposed to. One being, supreme to all the others, sat upon a throne. Fire danced around him, licked his flesh. The being reveled in it, for the sights beyond those walls of flame disgusted him. He was the being who called down the lightning. He was Zeraskyr but he no longer felt the same. He, the most terrific power to ever set foot upon Zepzier, had suffered defeat at the hands of those that should have embraced their slavery. That would be the first and last time he was beaten.

A small creature with wings cautiously, ever so cautiously, crept across the walkway to the being drenched in flame. It stumbled to a halt when the flame, in its sporadic dance, parted just enough to reveal a face of rage. Eyes colder than steel and wrought with both ambition and anger speared the winged one to the ground it trembled upon.

It spoke hastily, and wouldn’t spend any more time in the supreme one’s presence than it had to. “Master, the vessels expire before they can be filled. Your subjects request they be eaten. So their disgrace is washed away from the Filling Grounds. Your subjects deem them affronts to you and to your master.”

“Remove them then. Devour every part of them for they are a disgrace to the Master. But keep away from the Filling Grounds thereafter. You and your pathetic ilk are not fit to see the filling,” Zeraskyr ordered.

The winged imp bowed several times as it backpedaled. “Your gratitude is appreciated a thousand times over, my lord.” It vanished.

A being with four arms wrenched the spoiled crop from their bonds, and threw them to the hungry ones. It then continued to transport living, screaming victims to vacant stones and chained them to the sharp, black rocks.

Zeraskyr, the Supreme Being, brooded. His master, or his inherited master, was not fulfilling his wishes. Most of the vessels expired before they were possessed by the souls of demons and transformed. He believed he knew why; he wasn’t a devout worshiper and Belok knew this. Since the defeat, he had promised Belok his soul and body but had not received a reply. Then, he had created a doctrine and forced his servants to obey it; they’d worship Belok and know him as their highest master. His remaining force was insufficient. At that rate he would be stuck there for years waiting for his ranks to be replenished. Why had Belok, the master, given up on his cause?

Thoughts of Steel Prologue

Hopefully you’ve been fiending for more tastes of Thoughts of Steel, my first, full-length novel to be published by Ravenswood in early 2016. Here is the prologue, and I’m confident it will quench your thirst, then leave you starving for more.

Prologue

 

Steel cut through the air, sunlight glinting off the razor edge, hungry to slice into Vesik’s skull. He ducked the strike, parried a backhand with his own blade, and then side-stepped a downward chop. Although his enemy—a ragged looking man dressed in a worn, black coat that brushed the stones beneath their feet—seemed nothing more than human, he moved with otherworldly speed. Still, though, Vesik was quicker, stronger, and more vicious. It was his time, after all.

A crooked grin flashed beneath the man’s hooked nose as he leapt forward to stab Vesik through the chest. Vesik allowed the blade to close on his flesh, feeling that his time was nearly through. He needed to end the confrontation right then, before the satisfaction was taken from him.

Red light flared at the point of contact where metal met flesh. It was far from blinding, clinging to Vesik as a second skin, shining through his own leather armor. Where the dim light touched steel, destruction occurred. Shards of gleaming metal shot to either side of Vesik, curving around his chest as the sword that sought his heart was obliterated from tip to hilt.

Disbelief claimed his enemy’s face, the opponent’s expression falling slack, his mouth hanging open, eyes wide with terror. Vesik brought his own blade up, and then rammed it through the man in the black coat, steel carving through flesh, shattering bone, piercing organs. One last glimpse of the dead man and he was gone, a maelstrom of red ripping him away and up toward the sun, as if he had been a puppet on the end of its string when the puppeteer decided to abruptly cease his play.

The weight of the small pin fixed to Vesik’s chest doubled, mirroring the badge in his pocket—the one proclaiming him to be a sentry of the Watch. He’d done his job like he never could before. In his mind, he’d just saved thousands of people, although such a thing wasn’t and never would be true. Pride still swelled in him.

The streets of Cavia gleamed in the light, displaying their broken glory. Vesik’s memory had begun to slip. He could see the world as it was presently. But he couldn’t recall how it had looked before, when he had lived in that place. When he had been human…He attempted anyway, constructing a city only half complete.

Anger claimed him, enough to burn his skin from his body. He roared, flames erupting from him in all directions. Once he calmed, there stood nothing around him but a desolate land of ash, smoldering embers, and walking corpses. He’d condemned these ones to die so that he could come back, the demon Zeraskyr’s doing. They haunted him always.

A small figure, swaddled in fine cloth now burnt to shreds, drew his eyes. It shined blue amidst the darkness and flame. The corpses screamed, gripping their skulls, pulling muscle from their fleshless bodies. They came for him. He needed to leave. But not before seeing her. He took a step forward and flashed to a spot just over the babe. Inside, the tatters of cloth still smoldering, he beheld a baby girl, perfect, alive. He looked into his daughter’s eyes, and then had to leave.

Suemaira wrapped her arms around his waist. The feeling was grand, but somehow unsatisfying. He knew the sensation wasn’t real. It never would be real again unless he obeyed Belok, the bastard god that bestowed upon him his power. He needed to complete the ritual with the blood of innocents and rule the world with hellfire and death. He banished those thoughts; they would take him soon enough.

Their small home was in pieces just as the streets of Cavia had been. He took in the small hints of the once vibrant scents, gripped her unfamiliar hands in his own, and struggled to put together the colors that made up the inside of his home. He turned to see her, and was horrified. She wasn’t anything like he remembered. He just couldn’t get it right. This was the woman as she was presently, the one he had left alone, devoid of a husband and daughter, not the one he had married nearly twenty years ago. This version of her had been broken by Vesik’s doing and hadn’t been the same since.

Vesik smiled anyway, taking at least some small amount of comfort as he kissed her forehead. He had to flee before this, too, was perverted further. His time was coming to its end. One last thing left to do…

The ale that slid down his throat tasted of air. The mug he held was only half there, the frothy liquid within suspended in midair. His three friends sat to his left, leaning their forearms against the bar. Koe, Alitor, and Fal sipped their drinks, much older now. Koe’s dark skin began to sag around his eyes, Alitor’s bald pate seemed an unhealthy hue, and one of Fal’s hands, devoid of fingers, was a mass of gnarled stumps, thick skin covering them.

They all looked at him with sadness in their eyes. They raised their mugs nonetheless, and Vesik managed a weak smile. He raised his own and found that his flesh was no longer his. Violet, so dark to nearly be black, stretched across bulging muscle. Thin tentacles, now sprouting from his back, wavered at the edge of his vision, swaying through the air of their own accord. He turned and beheld a polished vase sitting at the back of the bar. He saw his own face in the reflection, a head made up of a wide void of nothingness and a single slit below that, his mouth, a fanged mass hiding behind thin lips.

His time ended then. But not before he lived through it all once more.

Belok deceived him, stealing his humanity and his daughter, banishing him to some realm of nonexistence. His worried parents, suspicious friends, and completely unaware wife were left without him. It all swirled before him, reminding him.

Vesik awoke. He stood in his realm, a place without anything physical, the surroundings painted by crimson and dotted by shining motes of light. This time, as each time since the first, his stay was shorter, the sensations duller. The nothingness he stood upon mirrored his mood until he found himself staring at Zeraskyr.

The lithe demon stared back, twin horns sprouting from his forehead to twist up and backward, menacing eyes simple pools of white with a dot of black in the middle, red skin shining from the ambience, and a knowing smile on his lips. Vesik wanted to kill him right then, as he did more often than not. But he couldn’t. He needed Zeraskyr in order to return to his world, Zepzier, and to his life. He needed to play the monster he had become to reclaim it all.

Cold nothingness chewed its way into his stomach. He pondered his return to Zepzier, imagining the anguish on the faces of his loved ones as he reigned over them. He’d be merciful, but still they’d reject him. They’d hate him for what he had become, just as he hated himself. Still, he needed to return. He needed it back more than anything.

“Finish it, Zeraskyr. I want to go home,” he said, his voice a booming echo that seemed to resonate from everywhere.

The demon nodded, flames leaking from his mouth as he smiled. He disappeared, leaving Vesik to his solitude.

Fear gnawed at Vesik, the cold pit doubling in size. His anger flared, fire bursting from his skin, burning his flesh, satiating his self-hatred. The inferno blazed around him for a brief moment before disappearing, leaving smoke to billow from his unscathed body. The cold wouldn’t subside. It never did.

The beginning of all things to come …

Here, you will find posts about my writing. I’ll throw in excerpts from published stuff and that which is scheduled to be published.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have dreamed of having my own website one day when I began writing nine years ago. But then again, seeing as how one can have a website dedicated to anything (for example, one where the home page turns your cursor into a space-travelling squirrel with a laser gun) it shouldn’t really blow my mind all that much.

Well, I do hope you’ll stick around for the long haul (just a measly 70 more years or so, unless I get trampled by the roadrunner as he escapes the clutches of that goddamn coyote. Seriously though, just give up. You haven’t learned yet? What is wrong with you? Take a vacation! Get a real job! That’s it, your mother and I are kicking you out! And, we’re shutting off your cell phone! Well, you should have been taking the trash the past seven years! Whoa! No need to point that rocket at us, son … not like you’ll hit us anyway). Now that was a tangent.

I promise to try to be funny when I can and deliver amazing fiction for your little brain to gobble up, nourishing it until it grows into a big, happy brain. I look forward to hearing from all of you, whether that be one person or a thousand, I’ll be happy. And I hope you all are too.

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