Month: October 2016

The Book

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There is a book. It is written not in English or Spanish, Greek or Latin, Hebrew or Arabic, but in the wordless language of Creation. It is a series of divine utterances, a wellspring of stars, energy and life.

Once, it was passed from one keeper to the next, an unbroken succession rooted not in blood or prestige, but honest merit. It was a cosmic secret to be guarded, and it was never to be opened. But thousands of years ago, the last keeper tried to violate this rule. He was slain, and the book went missing. Those who remembered it had children, grandchildren, then died. The book passed from memory to legend, and from legend it was forgotten.

Like an ocean swell, civilizations rose, civilizations fell. All the while, the book hid beyond the shadows, watching, waiting for its next keeper, someone worthy of its secrets, someone who would at last be allowed to open its dusty weather-worn pages, for it so longed to be read.

Now, it sits upon a humble library shelf.

Today it spies Garrett, a child of ten, who happens to be at the very same library. The book gazes down at him, peers into his soul, sees that he is worthy. It drops from the shelf into the boy’s backpack, and the boy, unknowing, carries it home with him. He does his homework. Watches TV. Eats dinner. Prepares for bed.

Meanwhile, the book finds its way onto Garrett’s mattress, and there it waits beneath the covers.

After Garrett climbs into bed, after the winds of sleep have begun to carry him away to secret lands, the book nudges his shoulder.

Garrett wakes.

Half asleep, he reaches out, taps the ancient leather spine with his fingers. He opens his eyes. Fully awake, he rises to a sitting position, reaches into the sheets and pulls the book out into the open. Where did this come from, he wonders. He opens it. A warm light shines on his face.

Garrett flips through empty weathered pages, and a universe springs to life.

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Labyrinth

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A thick fog surrounded Gerald, billowing like smoke. The world beyond the Labyrinth lay bare before him, pale and insubstantial, faded like an old photograph. He’d navigated the Labyrinth’s perilous depths for centuries, a towering ancient structure of stone, iron, and magic. All the while he’d labored under the promise that someday, when he’d reached the end, he would be released.

Now he knew the truth.

He could see the world outside, only it was a mute shadow of the place he’d known before he was captured. It would be forever out of reach.

His conquerors had said the Labyrinth was a Purgatory, that at the end he would find pardon and peace. But the Labyrinth was not a Purgatory, it was a Hell. Its purpose had not been to redeem him but to break him.

Head hung low, shoulders hunched in defeat, he turned to go back the way he’d come.

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Last Man Standing

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Amos sat in front of a plate of sizzling sisig. He gazed out the window of a tiny hole-in-the-wall resto, watched the erratic traffic patterns of the Philippines that were still so foreign to him even after all these years.

He sighed. It was a heavy, dusty sigh. A sigh of resignation. A sigh of loss.

Forced into hiding by a life-long enemy, he’d fled all the way to the other side of the world. He was all that was left of his line; the rest of his family was dead. A decade ago, he’d spent what was left of his life’s savings on a plane ticket, entered the country on a tourist visa and hadn’t been able to afford an extension. Now he was an illegal alien. If he tried to leave the country for some place new, the BI would detain him, fine him and deport him back to the States, where his life would be endangered again.

A shadow passed over his table, and he looked up. A figure stood at the entrance, a silhouette against the bloated late-afternoon sun. A man. Something about him tickled the periphery of Amos’s memory, but he couldn’t have said why. The man walked in, ordered the tapsilog and sat down at an empty table across from him.

Every now and then, Amos saw him casting furtive glances in his direction. It wasn’t unusual for foreigners in small towns to draw attention, so why did the man’s looks cause him so much anxiety?

As if replying to the unspoken question, a thought that was not his own hit him in the head like a dart.

He’s coming.

The man looked up once, peered into Amos’s eyes, held his gaze. Amos caught sight of the tattoo on his right upper arm, a coiled snake with its mouth open, baring two sharp fangs. The insignia of his enemy’s inner circle. He was certain the man had meant for him to see it.

Amos’s pulse quickened.

So, he’d been found. Amos wasn’t surprised. In fact, he’d never truly expected to get away, only to buy himself some extra time. He had nowhere to go, nowhere else to hide. It would be a showdown, then. Would he be the last man standing? He didn’t know, but he had nothing left to lose. What kind of life had he managed to enjoy, so far from home with none of his kith or kin, anyway?

Amos finished his sisig, pushed the metal plate aside and walked out into the humid afternoon.

It was time to prepare.

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