An introduction to a fantasy novel, includes Chapter 1.
|“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” - Albert Einstein quoted in H. Eves Mathematical Circles Adieu (Boston 1977).
As the rain fell the darkness grew thick, the protesters mourned and clustered like cattle, the smell of the city drew a pungent picture, and a perception of perfection upon man was shattered. A trench coat pulled by an urging of wind thrashed behind a man in black and steam arose from him that morn, as was the power he held back. He watched the gates across the street, picturing his desire, and knew that War, rotten and dour, will corrode Mankind’s latest hour.
Marcus moved through the ignorant sheep, who stepped back in surprise, his presence issued an aura that could not be denied. Their sub-conscious took notice the power he possessed and some longed to flee, but denied the reasons for it. He grasped the gates like a prison cell, a bar gripped in each hand, a second’s warning the gate guard had until the guard was in Death’s hands. Windows shattered, road torn asunder, and protesters tossed aside – a thunderous boom roared forth from him and no more, his power, denied.
Silent in death the protesters were, staring blindly to the sky, but Marcus calmly, bred by hate, moved onto the White House lawn. Thunder roared from the sky as a reddish hue appeared, against the clouds a glowing rose, as large as an eighteen-wheeler. The Rose marked a moment when, to all those who could see, the definition of our world changed drastically.
Green sparks fell in man-sized cascades and from their depths they came: tall and short, old and young, they were followers of the wicked one. Security teams were cut down by forces, until that day unseen, but by those in fairy tales and epic fantasies. The screams hit a crescendo, a symphony of pain, but Marcus ignored the suffering and made to move again. He faded from view in a shower of sparks and in the White House appeared, he stood beside the entourage, and there secured their fear.
Not a word was spoken; no time did he give, as the heads of all but the President slid, and onto the floor in a cadence tap was the masquerade unwrapped. A folder secured and the President plead, knowing his penchant for mercy, and by those ends a great defeat, an end he’ll never meet. Howling in agony and body aflame was the President trapped for eternity – to remind Mankind, and those opposed, that the mind is a dangerous thing.
****************************** ***************************************** *********************************
Logunese watched as dust motes danced playfully in the morning sun; swished around by one irate Zaxian Robere. It was honestly a pleasant autumn morning: crystal clear, warm, and full of mirth at Zaxian's expense. The news had spread around the campus rather quickly, as humorous news usually does, which had amplified his good friend’s embarrassment. Highly intoxicated at Alpha Psi Omega’s party, Zaxian passed out, and when he awoke he found himself tied naked to a light pole with his own clothes. Needless to say, he was not in a very good mood.
Zaxian definitely had some insecurity issues, and Log feared that, secretly, Zaxian used him as a comparison. Z was admittedly chubby with sharp features and Log was tall and frequented the gym; so he feared his best friend harbored a dislike. That or Zaxian's insecurities were rubbing off on him.
“Those ignorant, backstabbing, saucy bastards ought to watch out who they’re messing with!”
“Saucy, Z? Who uses that word?”
His pacing stopped. Fists clenched he turned toward Logunese, “The campus rent a cops walked right past. Oh God, and then there was this group of girls! They laughed - the hookers!”
“Z, you really need to stop worrying about what other people say, think, or do. It will add years to your life, trust me."
“I bet you’re having a good laugh.”
Log decided the best answer was no answer, and luckily, at that precise moment, the light of the world walked into his rock-poster infested hole. Susan was the most beautiful woman in the world, and he was lucky enough to have nabbed her. Luscious waves of dark brown hair with mousy brown, almost imperceptible, highlights; deep brown eyes that shone with intellect, and rather robust breasts. The latter being a staple of bragging rights, if he ever chose. Her features were curvaceous and inviting, a natural born model, and she loved him. Go figure, who'd have thought it?
Zaxian's reaction was unexpected, with an exaggerated finger thrust at Susan: “You!”
“What?” said Susan and Log simultaneously.
“You walked past, last night, I saw you! I know it was you!”
Susan calmly placed her handbag on the kitchen counter and moved toward the sink. After washing her hands, she put her fists on her hips and glared at Zaxian.
“I do not intend to placate your insecurities today, Z."
“Fine: you're overweight, French, and inhospitable. Now go cry on your fluorescent orange chair like some deranged crack addict, and stop trying to make a scene.”
Z cracked a smile, “You’re prejudice!”
Log found his attention wandering-it was always a contest between those two. He glanced out the window at a green across the way and found a rather interesting scene: two dark figures in black hooded robes had their heads together in the middle of the green. They looked like monks or something. Intriguing as it was, Log decided it may have been an arts project of one of the city’s many schools and lost interest. The moment he tried to pull his eyes away; however, a pain like he’d never experienced raged through his skull like a hot soldering iron.
He couldn’t see; his eyes were watering like he’d just been punched in the face. What the hell was that? Log moved to sit up and discovered Susan holding him to the floor.
“Z, call the God damn hospital, now!”
“I can't find the phone under all this shit!”
“Whoa, guys, just let me up. I'm okay.”
He just noticed that Susan was crying, “Are you sure? You screamed and collapsed, I was so afraid; I think you should go to the hospital.”
“Yeah, I'm fine. Just let me up and I'll prove it to you.”
Z’s face was paler than his ghostly norm, “Hey man, I think Susan’s right. You collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut.”
“I'll get it checked out after history, happy?”
Susan offered him an arm. Internally he was very grateful because standing was a lot harder than he assumed it would be. He decided a visit after class wasn't such a bad idea after all.
“Speaking of class, we'd better get moving!” Z tapped his wrist watch.
**** ** ****** ** * ****
As they opened the doors to the classroom they stopped dead in their tracks. Nothing seemed amiss with the room itself, a normal descending forum contoured with desks, but the atmosphere was – askew. The entire class was fixed on the television mounted on the wall above Professor Trent’s desk. A class of college kids paying attention? Intriguing, but then he caught the mood. The room had a pall of fear; all eyes were fixed on the television, a feeling so potent that it almost overwhelmed them. The Professor motioned Log and Zaxian to seats in the front, the only options left.
After sitting down Log asked, “What’s going on?”
Professor Trent turned toward the TV, “There was an attack on the White House, a bloody, horrifying attack.”
Zaxian whistled, “That’s crazy.”
Further down the row someone said, “They’ve assassinated the President.”
Just as shock registered a girl down the row said, “They’re using a technology we don’t understand. Just watch, they’ll show it again.”
As soon as she finished speaking the news flashed a clip of a man walking through a crowd. He was tall and pale wearing a black trench coat, black combat boots, and black pants. The man walked confidently through a crowd of protestors and leaned against a black, wrought iron gate. Suddenly the clip ended.
It switched to a commentator. –“We believe the same technology is employed in both cases: the explosions and their sudden appearance,” states Dr. Phil Rosenberg of a weapons R&D team for the Department of Defense. Here is the video feed provided to the Associated Press earlier this morning. –
The video was a security feed scanning the lawn of the White House; a single man was standing amongst debris when suddenly flames burst sporadically across the lawn. When the flames faded people were standing there, hooded and cloaked, like a scene from a fantasy movie. Log’s memory tugged at him, but he shrugged it off. One of the figures raised its hand and something hurled off the screen to the noticeable effect of an explosion. The clip ended.
-Once again, for those viewers just joining in, the White House has been attacked earlier this morning. At the moment, no word has been released on the condition of the President or his staff. Most of the video footage has been cut due to graphic content. Our condolences and prayers go out to those injured in what many are referring to as an attempted assassination.-
Professor Trent opened the DVD player and inserted a disk, “I’ve been following this closely since this morning. If any of you have a weak stomach it may be best if you wait outside.”
No one moved.
“This first video is the man walking through the crowd without the explosion being clipped out. I want you all to watch this video very closely.”
It was clearly a feed pirated off the internet from a camera across the street. The man in black walked through the crowd and leaned against the gate. Log noticed the man was not anxious on blending in, given the waist-length black hair and black trench coat. The guard seemed to say something but the man just stood there until a horrific explosion launched everything away. The video ended with a blank screen that read: ‘signal lost.’
“Did any of you notice?”
A girl in the back ran out of the classroom and would have received snickering under normal circumstances, but there were some men feeling about the same by the looks of them. The footage was full-color. The explosion first pulled the crowd toward the man and then launched them like rag-dolls in every direction. This version cutout no gore, no violence – it was the real deal.
Zaxian murmured, “The explosion was centered on him.”
“Correct, Mr. Robere!”
The sudden shout caused more than a few people to jump. Professor Trent didn’t seem to notice as he continued. Hitting the back button he slowed down the action just before the explosion.
“Watch closely, everyone.”
He hit the forward button a few frames. The closest protestors were leaning toward the man in black as if an invisible force were pulling them toward him. The man still had not moved a muscle but those protestors must’ve noticed something at that moment. A few more frames and, yes, everything explodes away from him. A crater tossed debris from around him, but the spot on which he stood remained unscathed. The windows visibly shatter in series down the street away from the man until it hits the camera and the signal drops; more than enough evidence to support the claim.
“What’s that prove?” asked another girl.
“It provides guided questions, Ms. Anderson, for instance: what varieties of technology both destroy and protect, and on such a massive scale? What nation on this earth would have the finances capable of researching such an instrument? Why would it be beneficial to use it in this manner, to reveal it so openly before the world?”
Zaxian broke in, “Attacking the White House is a pretty big gig, Professor.”
“True, but if one’s objective is fear they do not have to succeed in destroying anything at all. All they’d have to do is successfully execute the mission. As long as there was an attack on the White House there would have been fear.”
Log’s head had begun to throb again – this time a lot slower than before. Now it felt as if the soldering iron were slowly penetrating his frontal lobes. He tried to nudge Z, but his friend was too captivated to notice.
Zaxian countered, “That’s cool Professor, but a dead President adds chaos to the stew.”
A black-haired kid reasoned, “If the president was dead they would’ve said so by now.”
“What and cause more of a panic? Give these guys the upper hand so soon? I don’t think so.”
Professor Trent raised his hands in the air to ward off an endless debate, “Silence! Please be quiet,” it took a few moments for the class to obey, “Here is the second tape in full version. Please leave if you do not want to witness anymore of this atrocity.”
No one moved, yet Log was sure there were many who considered it. He massaged his temples. The headache was so bad now that he wasn’t sure if he was feeling anything at all. Was he going to die like an idiot in his history class?
The second feed came to life presenting the lawn of the White House. It gave full view of more than thirty men with mean-looking weapons firing with no hesitation at this one man. Nothing bothered him; it didn’t even slow him down. He just strolled to about the center of the screen and stood there like he was bored, hips canted, as if thirty men with machine guns were merely an inconvenience. Suddenly, and violently, the men were torn apart in the most disturbing display of human desecration Logunese had ever witnessed. All of them, blood and fluid flying everywhere with machine guns falling uselessly to the ground, were killed in a matter of seconds. Log realized to his horror that the debris, what he had thought was debris, was in fact human remains. Watching the human body become a shredded waste, he decided, was the worst possible thing to witness.
After all movement on the screen stopped Professor Trent paused the playback. He told the class to watch closely again as he forwarded the tape. Log was having a hard time concentrating, but he didn’t want to miss anything so he squinted with all his might. Bit by bit nothing changed until small green dots lit up across the screen. A few more frames later and the sparks could have been torsos. A few more and they looked like giant green flames easily large enough for a human being. He hit the button once more and the sparks, not flames, started to fall revealing the cloaked figures beneath.
Zaxian was transfixed, “Teleportation?”
The room was dead quiet.
“You tell me Mr. Robere. Do you believe these technologies are connected?”
“Dunno. This is surreal, like a video game come to life,” Z turned his head and his eyes widened, “Are you okay, Log?”
Professor Trent was there in a heartbeat, “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“I, oh – erm” Log fell out of his chair. The pain was excruciating but it seemed to have hit its limit. Yes, it was beginning to fade.
Z was under his shoulder, supporting his left-side. They were stumbling toward the door. Z said something unintelligible. There was a sound – like a whistle echoing through the wind. Of screaming? Terrifyingly everything sharpened at once. The door closed behind them and Z, laboring to keep him upright, had him in a loose fireman’s carry. The sound quickly sharpened to the bustle of the city of Pittsburgh. Everything came back into view.
“Stop, Z, it faded again.”
Zaxian plopped to the ground, nearly toppling Logunese in his haste, “Thank God!”
Log was worried. Whatever caused this couldn’t be good – nothing that messes with the head was a good thing. He looked up and crossing the street were the two hooded figures from before who looked eerily familiar.
He tackled his friend in haste as a WHOOSH of hot air tugged at them and an ear-splitting CRACK tossed brick and wreckage in all directions. A thick, grey cloud of dust filled the air, filled their noses; causing Log to cough and hack as he pulled his friend up as quickly as he could. He didn’t know if they were after him or Z, they pointed right at them moments before the explosion, and he didn’t desire to find the answer. He tried to take stock through the fog of mortar dust.
He grabbed his friend and pulled him close. His urgent whisper quelling Z’s resistance, “We have to move!”
“What’s goin –?”
BOOM! They both plunged as brick fell all around them. One hit Log on the head, stirring his headache anew. They – HAD – to book it. Without another word he grabbed Z’s collar and ran straight ahead. Zaxian, thankfully, didn’t need much more convincing. They ran as fast they could down the street as sirens approached from all sides. Horns were honking, sirens blaring, people shouting, Z was coughing from the dust, and screams were coming from behind. It smelled like dust and burnt hair. It was chaos. Why the in the hell are those people after them - two meaningless college students?!
Zaxian suddenly changed direction, pulling Log into an alley behind a dumpster, coming to a rest. They were both panting desperately for that next breath. Sweat burned his eyes and when he wiped his hand across his forehead, it was black from soot. He tried to get his mind back to the task at hand, but it wouldn’t focus.
“What – the – hell?” Zaxian attempted through great breaths.
“I think they’re after us, Z.”
“Yeah – I saw him,” he took a knee, “point.”
“We need to get someplace public – flag the police.”
As if fate were a heartless sow, a blinding flash preceded a police cruiser slamming into the mouth of their alleyway. Both of them gunned for the other side. As they emerged a great ball of utter darkness consumed the top-half of the building across the street. A leg landed in front of them. The woman it belonged to was wearing black heels. Log felt like he was going to be sick. What the hell is GOING ON?!
He grabbed Z’s arm and gunned to the left heedless of direction. Crossing a major intersection they were nearly creamed by a truck. Log pulled Zaxian into a nook under some emergency stairs. Another explosion! Horns and sirens were clawing for supremacy while the churning of helicopter rotors could be perceived fast approaching. They were both breathing heavily and Log felt like his skin was on fire. A coppery taste was in his mouth and he couldn’t tell if it was from all the running or an injury and, at the moment, didn’t care.
He looked his friend in the eyes, “Do you know where we are?”
Gulping, Zaxian Robere said, “Consol Energy is right past that parking garage.”
“We’re heading there. Maybe we can find cops who can get us out of here.”
Z’s nod gave one succinct impression: I don’t believe you.
The two friends moved around the towering garage without incident – and found themselves facing an enormous parking lot filled with cars and people. The crowds were all looking their way – pointing off into the distance. He didn’t need to know what they saw back there because soon enough it’ll be right here. They weaved and pushed through the crowd desperate to find an officer of the law; someone, anyone, who could get them the hell out of this wretched place!
As that thought completed itself a black van with tinted windows screeched to a halt in front of them. Catching them short, they stumbled into a sliding door that was already opening. NO! Not like this! Zaxian tried to kick the door shut, but slipped and fell, smacking his face off of the rear tire. He stopped moving. A huge dark man reached out to grab Log, but he found a fist instead. The guy was knocked back which gave Log the chance to grab Z.
As he reached for Zaxian he realized his arms weren’t working correctly. Numbly he tried to move closer to his friend, but instead fell flat on his face.
Slowly and inexorably darkness consumed him.