A Case of Mistaken Identity: Revised Part 6

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As I mentioned in my last post, I was going back through previously written installments to fix inconsistencies and to improve the story. I’ve finished editing part 6, concluding this round of revision. Starting next week, I’ll continue the series with new material. Thank you very much for your patience, and I hope you’ve enjoyed A Case of Mistaken Identity so far!

Please note that this installment was significantly altered. You can read the revised part 6 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity: An Update

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted the last installment. I’d like to explain why. As I was going through previous posts and sharing them with others, I was discovering that a lot of what I’d written was inconsistent and needed substantial revision. I’ve taken the time to do so, and have finished editing parts 1-5.

I’m going to revise part 6 next week, and then I’ll continue on with part 7 the following week. Thank you so much for your patience, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the story.

Here are links to the revised chapters:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 6

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You can read part 5 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

Needless to say, my experience in that house was wretched.

My true mother never did come to rescue me. Neither did mirror-Eugene return to tell me it had all been a cruel joke. I held onto this foolish hope for three or four days, staying up late into the night, staring at the inside of my new closet with the door wide open, waiting for the door on the other side to reappear.

A week later, I’d resigned myself to my fate, realizing that I would never see my home again.

I wondered what my double was up to. Was he happy with his new mom? Mom. My mom. I missed her so much my chest ached. I can’t begin to describe the despair and the torment I experienced when I realized she was lost to me forever.

My new mom was just as bad as mirror-Eugene had described and worse. Every morning, I donned torn and weathered hand-me-down clothes; whiled away the hours in my room alone, laying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling; ate a bare-bones breakfast and didn’t dine again until dinner. My two meals per day consisted of meager helpings of burnt toast or leftover stew that did little to nourish my listless body, and each day I would feel the painful teeth of hunger chomp down inside my stomach.

I wasn’t allowed to see other parts of the house, and only ever caught glimpses when someone came by to feed me or when my new brother came to see me. Each time, I regretted it. It was just enough like my own house that I ended up homesick, and just different enough that I would be left feeling dizzy and disoriented.

My new brother was a demon loosed from Hell. He would find me in my room each night before I went to bed, the corners of his wicked grin catching broken shards of moonlight from the window in the dark. He would squeeze my neck in his arms like a vice until I became light headed, or hit various parts of my body until I bruised like an overripe banana.

I would cry out to my new mom in desperation, and each time, she would come to my room in a huff. She would behold her eldest, who beamed up at her, face adorned in an immaculate smile, then turn to me, dripping venom, demand that I keep my goddamn mouth shut and slam the door. I don’t know if she knew what my brother was up to. I didn’t think she would care if she did.

My true older brother and I had always gotten along fairly well. There’d always been the occasional fight, but there’d never been any true malice, not like that between my new older brother and I. The first few nights I protested and demanded to know what I’d ever done to him. For all I knew, mirror-Eugene had brought it on himself. But Tom would only stare at me in silence, a knowing twinkle in his eye, then continue with his gruesome work.

The weight on my soul’s shoulders was too much for me to bear. It crushed me on the inside, so that I could hardly speak, eat, or sleep. My new mother never asked if I was all right. If anything, she seemed relieved when I’d at last discovered the virtue of silence.

I put up with this for three weeks.

It wasn’t until a particularly brutal fraternal beating that left blood spurting from my nose and my right eye swollen shut that my will to survive at last overtook the shock that had come over me since crossing over into mirror-Eugene’s world. I lay on my back that night and made my decision.

I was going to escape.

Read part 7 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 5

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You can read part 4 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

Panic seized my chest, and I grew short of breath. I clawed and scratched and pounded at the wall that had only recently been a door, begging mirror-Eugene to let me back through to the other side.

I don’t know how long I’d been banging and shouting, but at some point I heard the door to the room burst open. I turned just in time to watch the knob smash into the wall.

“Eugene! What’s gotten into you? Stop that banging now.”

Mom!

Mom had come to rescue me. Somehow, she’d learned about my twin (or perhaps she’d known all along, a superpower that all mothers seem to have in common.)

“Mom!” I cried, basking in the familiar shape of her face. I ran to her, ready to grab hold of her and to never let go again.

“Eugene,” she snapped. She stared down at me as I attached myself to her leg. “Get off. Eugene, what kind of game are you playing? This isn’t funny.”

The frosty contemptuous tone in her voice stopped me short. I pulled away and examined her face more closely. Suddenly, I felt hopelessly and desperately disoriented. It was like gazing at my mom through a fun house mirror. Some of the features were the same, but there were extreme differences. Whereas the mom I remembered had long brown hair that ran down the sides of her face in curls, this one had short bright red hair that stuck up in uneven bunches. Whereas the mom I remembered possessed flawless alabaster skin, this one had skin that reminded me of the surface of the moon, full of pocks, divots and craters.

She was an aberration, a twisted half-truth that wrenched my stomach and made me feel like throwing up.

“Mom?” Once again, my chest tightened and it was difficult to breathe. “Take me home. Please.”

She glared at me, drilled into my skull with her eyes. I beheld nothing but malice in her features, and something inside me withered, a part of my soul that’s remained lifeless ever since.

Her face flushed, and before I knew what was happening, her right hand flashed before me and I was knocked backward through the air. I peeled myself off the floor a moment later, head swimming, and looked up dazedly to find her standing before me.

Horrified, I reached up to feel the cheek she’d struck. It burned.

I remembered what mirror-Eugene had told me about his own mom, how she locked him in his room every day and wouldn’t let him out except to eat. But I couldn’t believe this was that woman. Despite the differences, she still looked so much like my own mom that I refused to believe she could be anyone else.

God, I want to go home.

Would I ever find my way back home again? With a ferocity I couldn’t possibly articulate, I wanted my mom to reach out to me, to tell me that she loved me, that she would rescue me from this terrible place and take me home. I wanted her to tell me that everything would be okay. More than anything, I just wanted her to tell me everything would be okay.

I cried.

“Oh, stop it with the waterworks, Eugene. It won’t work. Not any more.”

“Mom?” called a sleepy voice from the doorway. It seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. “What’s going on?”

I watched through blurred vision as a shape emerged behind her.

“It’s your brother,” she spat. “He’s acting up again.”

The shape behind her moved closer, and as it came into focus my breath caught inside my throat. He looked older, and his voice was deeper, but I recognized my deceased brother despite the difference in years.

“Tom,” I whispered, half in awe, half in disbelief. “But, you’re dead. How did you –” I stopped. Vertigo engulfed me, and it was all I could do just to stand.

He looked down at me, seemingly impassive, but there was a sparkle in his eyes that sent a chill down my spine. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s another one of his games,” she said, pointing to me as if I were a venomous snake.

“Are you playing games?” asked my brother, stepping up to my hands, which were spread out on the floor. He pressed down on them with his left shoe until I cried out in surprise.

“Careful,” he warned, smiling. “Play too many games and someone might get hurt.”

He gazed down at me a moment longer, as if he might have more to say, then suddenly wheeled around and headed back the way he’d come.

“Goodnight, Tom,” said the woman before me, looking back at him beatifically, as if he were the only thing right in her whole world. Then she turned back to me and her smile vanished. “As for you,” she said, following in her older son’s footsteps, “I don’t want to hear another peep. You hear me? Go to sleep. Now. Don’t make me come back here.” Then she too left the room, slamming the door behind her.

But I didn’t go to sleep, and I didn’t sleep again for a long time.

Read Part 6 here.

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“The Others,” Coming to an E-Bookstore Near You

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UPDATE: This has been published. You can read the first three chapters for free by clicking here.

I’m interrupting your regularly scheduled programming to update you regarding the publication of my soon-to-be-released middle grade fantasy, The Others. A Case of Mistaken Identity will resume next week.

As I mentioned back in April, I’ve been working on this book since 2013. Here’s a working (and very rough) synopsis, to give you an idea of what the story’s about:

Jason is your average eleven year-old boy. He likes TV. He has a babysitter he could do without. His little sister Janie is his archnemesis. He also happens to have a passion for magic.

Not real magic, of course. Jason has devoted himself to the study of illusion and sleight-of-hand since the age of five, when his dad showed him his first magic trick. But everything Jason thinks he knows about the world and how it works is suddenly called into question the day he runs off after a fight with his little sister. He visits a small magic shop that’s recently opened near his house and meets the owner, an older man named Hruby. In response to Jason’s skeptical attitude regarding the authenticity of true magic, he offers Jason a very special item, a wand that he says has the power to make things disappear.

Jason is doubtful of its abilities. But when he abruptly makes his sister disappear after a heated argument, he quickly learns that there’s more to the world than its rational, well-understood surface, and in a panic, he races back to the store, hoping to enlist the aid of the only person who will believe him.

But Janie’s lost in a very dangerous place, and she isn’t alone…

It’s been a long and winding road, filled with copious revisions, all of which resulted from the input I received from my writing group and intrepid alpha readers. Now, a year later, I’m finally preparing The Others for publication.

I just received a heavily marked-up copy of the manuscript from my developmental editor, and will be spending the next three months revising per her feedback. When that’s complete, I’ll send it off to beta readers for more feedback, revise again, submit the manuscript for line and copy editing, complete any outstanding revisions and finally release it to the world sometime between April and June, 2015.

Golly, that sounds swell! Where can I get more information?

I’m glad you asked! I send out regular monthly updates to my mailing list. It’s the best way I have to connect one-on-one with my friends and fans. If you’d like to be a part of the fun, you can join by clicking here. As usual, you’ll receive a free copy of my short story, The Sign. And if you sign up between now and December 31, 2014, I’ll also send you a free copy of The Others as soon as it’s released in the format of your choice.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 4

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You can read part 3 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

I can show you how. My twin’s words reverberated inside my head.

He’d said he could show me another world. I wanted desperately to explore. I would often pretend that I was an astronaut or an adventurer. In the past, I’d had access to a host of secret worlds whose only keys lay within the confines of my imagination. Now, the adventure would be real.

“What do I have to do?” I asked, heart jackhammering inside my chest.

The jack-o-lantern smile that adorned his face should have been a red flag. But I was too eager, too excited, and that excitement made me stupid.

“Not much,” he assured me. “I’ll do all the work. Come on.” He walked to the other side of the room and gestured for me to follow.

We stopped in front of my closet.

“In there?” I asked, pointing at the door.

“Yes,” he said, back turned to me. He gazed up at it, focused and intent. “This is where I came from. The world here is still soft. It’s easier to bend.”

I stood dumbfounded as my twin looked at the door. I queried him a couple more times for additional information, but each time he held up his right hand to shush me and said, “Hold on. I’m trying to concentrate.”

I wondered what was happening, if he just needed time to think or if he was actually doing something I couldn’t see. A few weeks ago, I would have told you that magic outside the imagination was impossible. Now, it was as ordinary as breathing air.

After a while, his face slackened, and a few moments later he turned back to face me, weary but triumphant. “There, it’s done.”

“What’s done?”

“Open the door,” said mirror-Eugene, and his mouth spread into a smug smile. He seemed pleased with himself.

I sidled up to the door, examining it with a thoughtful eye. The last time I’d checked the closet, there’d been nothing there, just a bunch of clothes and old junk. And yet my twin had somehow passed through it from his own world into mine, and had continued to do so every night for the past few weeks.

My forehead throbbed with blood, and my hands broke out into a sweat. I reached for the knob. Turned it. Opened the door.

I gasped.

Beyond the variously colored t-shirts and jeans that hung from wire hooks was a much wider space, one that could not have possibly fit within the confines of a simple closet. The visage was incomplete, a kaleidoscope of broken shapes and textures only partially glimpsed behind the clothes, but it was enough for me to realize I was peering into another world. Mirror-Eugene’s world.

“Awesome,” I whispered.

“Go on.”

I took a moment to catch my breath before going forward. I glanced back. He urged me on. I took one hesitant step forward and turned again.

“Are you coming with me?”

“I have to stay here to keep it open.”

“Oh.” I was scared to go alone, but it wasn’t long before excitement overcame the cautious side of my nature. I brushed past shirts and pants, casting them aside like they were broad hanging leaves in a tropical jungle. A moment later, I passed through a second doorway and found myself in mirror-Eugene’s room.

Mostly, it was the same. But despite the dark I could see that there were differences. For one, the room was mostly empty, save for a tiny single bed propped up against the wall with nothing but a bare mattress and a flat pillow. There were no pictures on the walls. The floor was wood instead of carpet.

I heard my twin speak suddenly from beyond the closet. “Sorry.”

“What?” I turned around just in time to see the door on the other side swing shut.

“Eugene?” I called. I lunged for the closet, hoping to make it through before the door had closed completely, but by the time I got there there it had slammed and there was nothing left but a thick plaster wall.

“No,” I breathed. “Eugene! Come back!”

Nothing.

I banged and clawed at the wall, desperation driving me further down the road of hopeless futility.

An unexpected voice spoke up from somewhere else in the house. “What’s that racket?” It sounded like my mom.

A moment later, I heard footsteps.

Read Part 5 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 3

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You can read part 2 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

For the next few weeks, my double visited me in my room at night. He was the identical twin brother I never had. We hung around in the dark until the small hours of the morning, talking about random things.

We often swapped stories of our families. I was fascinated to learn that he had an older brother. I too once had an older brother, three years my senior. Unfortunately, he’d died in a car crash along with my dad when I was five. I wondered if my brother had looked the same as his, if perhaps his own mirror double would have visited in the middle of the night like mine.

In so many ways we were the same. His name was also Eugene.  We laughed at the same jokes. We had similar personalities.

But the reflection was distorted, imperfect.

My otherworldly counterpart had a dark side. For example, during our geneological tales, I learned that whereas I loved my mom and trusted her completely, my twin loathed his own. He would dream up scenarios in which she burned to death in a fire or fell out of his family’s second story window. His eyes would burn with opalescent fire whenever he told such stories, and I would always be struck by the sudden urge to draw the duvet tighter around my shoulders.

But despite this disturbing trait, we became fast friends. He was the brother I’d always wanted, the brother I thought I’d lost all those years ago. I should have known better than to trust him.

“Why do you hate your mom so much?” I asked on the last night I would spend in my own bed.

Mirror-Eugene looked down, averting his eyes. I couldn’t tell if he was sad, angry or both. “Because my mom hates me. She locks me in my room and never lets me out, not even for dinner.”

“Why?” I asked, shocked.

But my twin wouldn’t answer. Instead, he turned to stare out the window, as if contemplating the darkness on the outside.

I decided to change the subject. “What’s it like, going from your world to mine. Is it hard?”

My twin’s head whipped back to me, eyes narrow. “No,” he said. “It’s easy. You just have to know what you’re doing. Why?”

“No reason. I just wish I could see your world.” I dreamed of a universe that was a warped reflection of my own. “That would be so cool.”

My double grew quiet and still. He looked around the room, as if unsure of something. (Later, I would think that maybe he’d been conflicted, that perhaps he’d felt a pang of guilt over what he’d been about to do.)

“You can,” he said finally, “If you want to.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” he whispered, grinning. “I can show you how.”

Read Part 4 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 2

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Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

My mirror double stared down at me, and once again I wondered if this was all a dream. I thought that if only I kept calm, if I could give myself time to wake up, the strange apparition would disappear. But that alter ego of mine never wavered.

“Don’t scream.”

I gazed into his eyes, dumbfounded, too stunned to make a sound. All thoughts of monsters abandoned my head and I found myself grappling with an entirely different proposition. My twin. He had to be my twin. But I had none, at least not as far as I knew.

He looked down at me a moment longer, eyes searching, as if he were struggling to make a decision. Finally, he removed his hand from my mouth and said, “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.”

After that, he was silent. He regarded me with a curious expression, and took a seat next to me at the side of the bed.

“You can’t tell anyone about me. Promise you’ll keep me a secret.”

I didn’t reply.

Questions were buzzing around in my head like angry bees. Why didn’t my parents tell me I had a twin, and how could they have kept him a secret for so long? Had he been locked away in the basement, like those horror movies I sometimes watched on TV when my parents thought I was asleep? And if so, why had it taken him so long to find me?

Then a sinister thought wormed its way into my brain like a parasite. What if he was my evil twin? People had evil twins all the time on TV. I instinctively drew the covers tighter around my waist.

“Hey,” he said. “I’m talking to you.”

“What” I started. “Who”  A pause. Then, “Don’t hurt me.”

“Relax. I already said I wouldn’t.” He sighed. “I’m sorry if I scared you. I had to sneak away at night, because it’s the only time my mom isn’t paying attention.”

Hesitantly, I asked, “Are we twins?”

My double’s eyes sparkled, glittering in the moonlight like stars. “I guess so, yeah. In a way.”

“How come I didn’t know about you until today?”

He just shrugged.

“Where did you come from? The basement?”

“No,” said my twin, smirking. A moment later he laughed. “Definitely not the basement.”

“Then where?”

He smiled, then pointed at my closet. “There.”

“You live in my closet? How come I’ve never seen you before?”

“No,” said my twin, folding his arms. “I came through your closet. I live in another world.”

Another world. I thought again of TV. There were shows where scientists had discovered methods of visiting other realities very much like our own. “You mean like an alternate universe?”

He nodded his head, looking pleased with himself. “Yes. There are many other worlds,” he explained, extending his arms for emphasis. “Mostly they’re the same, but there are differences.”

Suddenly, my room, the house, the world, even the stars in the sky, paled when held up to the blinding light of a cosmos much richer than I could ever have imagined. Another world.

“But how? You’re just a kid like me.”

My twin rolled his eyes. “Magic. Duh.”

I stayed silent for a while, lost in a timeless moment of intense contemplation. Finally, I asked,”What do you want?”

He smiled, his face suddenly made sinister in the moonlight. “I want to play.”

Read Part 3 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 1

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By the time you read this, I’ll be dead.

After 27 long and painful years, I can hardly believe I’ve reached the end. You always think you’ll live forever, that no matter what happens, something will save you from your own personal end of days. But death catches us all by surprise, especially those of us who expect it the most.

Sometimes, I can hardly believe my life at all. It’s been so strange, so surreal, that I’ll often wake up on the cold stone floor after a restless slumber, whimpering in the dark, and in that eternally present moment suspended between sleep and consciousness, I’ll wonder which of those two universes I’m about to enter.

I don’t belong here. I’m not referring to the prison (though I don’t belong there either) but this place, this world.

My mom used to tell me when I was little that there was nothing in my room that could hurt me, that I would always be safe tucked into my bed at night. She would bend down to kiss my forehead and whisper that she loved me, that she would always protect me.

I believed her lie. I’m sure she believed it herself. But in the end, promises weren’t enough to save me.


He came when I was eight, or maybe it was nine. It’s so hard to remember. All the years preceding my abduction are a hazy blur, an unintelligible smear of colors, textures and sounds. My former life is so far removed from who I am today that it’s barely a shadow of a memory, like an old movie you might have watched years ago, only you weren’t paying attention, and you find when you try to recall the details that you might as well have never watched it at all.

But the abduction itself, that I recall in vivid detail, though I’ve tried very hard to forget. For years, I attempted to convince myself it was a delusion, that in the heat of boyhood fancies and dreams I’d imagined it. But in the end I can’t deny it happened, whatever I would prefer to believe, and when the eyes inside my head aren’t catching reruns, the eyes inside my dreams are preparing to watch it again in the private theater of my subconscious.

I have to tell my story, if only to come to terms with it myself. Perhaps if I possess a written account of what I experienced, indelibly marked in jet black ink, if I can at last snatch it up from the ether inside my head, if I can make it tangible and concrete, then at last I’ll be able to embrace it as the truth. Or not. Either way, tomorrow I’ll be dead.

Where should I begin? I’m not very good at this sort of thing. Writing was never a strength of mine, and I never did have much of an imagination. My abduction. I’ll start with that, since it’s as far back as I can remember anyway.

My name if Eugene Peter Carver. This is my story.


I was laying in bed, burrowed beneath a billowing white duvet. My eyes were closed. I was hovering just above the periphery of sleep, ready to penetrate its somnolent shell, when there was a crash and a clatter inside my closet.

Monster. There’s a monster in my closet.

My eyes popped open. My heart skipped. My chest compressed. I clutched the covers with white-knuckled hands, like a wild animal who’d been cornered in the dark by an unseen predator. I waited, a moment that could have either been a thousand years or a second.

When the sound didn’t repeat, when either minutes or hours had passed and I was forced to conclude that I was alone, I decided it must’ve been a dream. I relaxed. Closed my eyes. Drifted. Sleep returned.

Thud.

I jerked to life once more. It was true. There was a monster in my closet. Convinced by the logic of childhood that the covers represented an impenetrable boundary, I dove beneath the duvet, certain that if I only lay there long enough, whatever was in my room would eventually go away.

Thud.

Then the sound of something pounding on the floor.

Fear paralyzed me. I waited in the dark, rooted to the mattress like the trunk of an ancient tree. Through a crack in the covers, I bore witness to sinister shapes on the walls cast by moonbeams and shadows. That was when the knob on my closet door began to turn.

A swarm of wild locusts vibrated inside my chest. I wanted to scream, but my vocal cords refused to obey.

I lay in the dark, helpless as the knob rotated. As the crack between the door and the threshold began to widen. As a searing white light burst out from the inside. As a man poked his head through the door, trailing sinister shadows like a cloak woven in black. Turned his head. Locked eyes with me from across the room. Padded silently across the floor, a beast in search of prey.

The paralysis that bound me evaporated. I opened my mouth to wail, to produce a tone so shrill and piercing that my mom would be there in seconds. But just as the sound began to bubble up from beneath my lips, a hand flashed in the moonlight and clamped down over my mouth so that I couldn’t breathe.

“Shh…” whispered the man with a finger to his lips. He was smiling.

A cloud outside scudded across the sky. Shadow yielded to the light, and at last, hovering above me, I could see his face fully. I gasped. He wasn’t a man at all, but a boy.

A boy who looked like me.

Read Part 2 here.

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Times, They Are A Changin’

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Nothing stays the same forever.

This is true of life, and it’s also true for my blog. As of next week, the format will change. You’ll be seeing a lot less of my thoughts about life and a lot more original fiction.

It was always my intention to post more stories, but the perfectionist in me always got in the way. I thought that if I wanted to share my writing, I would have to make it perfect. I’d have to go through the same kind of lengthy editorial process that’s required for books and magazines, because otherwise it wouldn’t be good enough. I became so trapped in this way of thinking that I only managed to post a single flash fiction story in all of the ten months that I’ve had this blog.

Then I realized that…this is a blog. It’s expected that my writing here will be a little rough around the edges, because blogs are like that. I decided that I had to let go, that I had to embrace imperfection. So I’m going to close my eyes, take a deep breath and jump.

What kinds of stories will I share in the coming weeks?

I’m going to start with a single modern fantasy serial that I’ll update once a week through the natural life of the story. When that tale comes to an end, I’ll start something new and continue the cycle. As I find more time in-between work and life obligations, I’ll try to launch more stories in parallel, with each serial continuing on a different day of the week.

I’ll also try to periodically post stand-alone flash fictions.

If you enjoy the current format, don’t worry.

While my focus will be on posting more fiction, I still plan to occasionally write the same kinds of essays about life, purpose and everyday magic that you’ve come to know for the past ten months.

My first modern fantasy serial begins next Monday. Stay tuned!

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