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Devourer, Dreamless One, He that stands against Man—these are a few of the names uttered in the darkened hours. And Twilight grows ever closer. Day upon day, night upon night, the cycle continues. An endless power sleeps, flowing and bending, morphing and shaping. Never let it wake.

 

 

Days had grown longer in this wintry season. Bare branches stretched out beyond trunks for miles, yet the tufts of green offset their morbid look John had noticed. Few of the leaving trees still had sprigs of color remaining. They would soon fall. The wind chilled across his nose and face, and he stood solid, gazing across the endless expanse of wooded glory behind his house. The sun hadn't quite peaked above the tree's horizon. The dim glow of orange seemed like a fire, blazing and growing until its fierceness took over the sky. He loved this area. A smile perched upon his face. Its peace and stillness always helped center him. Though, he knew that life always scurried beyond the undergrowth.

Cycle upon cycle, year after year, the seasons came and went. And he often wondered about the intricacies of it all. How it meshed together, how it came to be, and why it worked so fluidly without a hiccup? He laughed at his musings. But one thing did bother him—it all seemed to be disappearing. And his insomnia became worse every day. The thought mulled in his mind once or twice more as he breathed in the fresh morning air.

"Bah, what do I know," he uttered to himself. His head hurt from all the pondering. He pinched the sides of his nose, rubbing them gently in small circular motions, turned from the landscape, and walked back inside his cabin. The massive oaken desk inside held every book he had borrowed, bought, and read through over the past two months. A cup on the nearest edge steamed with hot water, his teabag inside it still steeping—chamomile. He'd hoped it would at least let him doze for a few hours before the sun rose noon in the sky. The last book he had perused through still notched in his reader fluttered from the breeze that had slipped in—Mystic and Mythological Entities. He'd developed a fascination for folklore and tales of creatures and beings that might inhabit the land he lived on, especially since his departure from the military. Several piqued his interest more so than others. They dealt with sleep, nightmares, and the dreaming world.

Pure fancy, he told himself, but it did allow him to dull his senses into boredom enough to at least get four to five hours sometimes. He pulled the teabag out, tossed it in the trashcan, and he reached for the small fridge aside his desk that held his almond milk. He dabbled a few drops in the liquid for a little added sweetness.

"Perfect," he sipped the delicate mixture into his mouth, tasting its flavor. Time to sleep, he thought. I might be able to dream for once. He strode over to his couch, sat, and downed another mouthful of his tea. The room grew silent after he remotely shut the door and blinds. He stretched out, letting his head rest upon the pillow he'd torn from his bed.

Resting on the couch in his study was where he usually got his shuteye, especially after a night of nothing. The soft billowy headrest wrapped up over his ears, then sagged slightly. The cup he placed on the floor and reached for his sleep mask and earmuffs, resting on the arm at his head. The blanket draped over the back of the couch, he tugged, and it fell, coating his torso. His arms snaked underneath, snuggling the fabric up to his neck. Soon, he drifted, the tea calming him into a state of rest. As his breathing steadied and became rhythmic, the void reached out and took him in.

#

John's body jerked awake. A noise had clamored through his house. He didn't know how long he'd rested 'til the clock on the wall donged three times. Damn, have I slept past noon? He felt a slight bit groggy. That tea must've been laced with something else, he wondered. He stood. The cup fell over, spilling the last few drops it had. The noise in the house resounded once more.

"What the hell is that?" John asked himself quietly. He slipped over to his desk. The clock on the corner glared 3:02 A.M. Holy fuck! I slept all day! John couldn't believe it. Usually, he'd be up after three or four hours max. He hadn't gotten this much shuteye since his military days after a bout of flu. He slid open the desk drawer. His hunting knife and Colt rested inside. He grabbed the Colt, moved around the desk, and toward the door to the hall.

Something or someone was in the house. John felt sure of that. A thudding of something hard kept hitting the wood floor. A cane or staff, maybe? The distinct tap of wooded on wood arose his suspicion he’d heard something like this before. It sounded like his grandfather’s walking stick. He slid the door open. Just enough to peek out. A brilliant soft glow of white light shone in the living room. Then, something dark and flowing shifted alongside the light. John slipped into the hall. The Colt's safety stayed on as he kept it down before him as he slid along the wall.

Straining his vision to see through the light, it suddenly dimmed, and long robes from a tall being draped against a lanky-looking figure emerged. John could barely grasp what he was looking at. Its face appeared human, yet white, almost gleaming like dull silver. The forearms exposed from the shifting sleeves showed much the same silvery sheen. He slid back, trying to stay in the shadow of the wall. But whatever this figure was seemed to notice his presence.

"Hello, John." The deep, calm, yet slightly tenor voice trailed out. "It would be nice if you'd put the gun away." How did it know? He hadn’t even brought it forth yet. He thought about doing as it asked, but fear arrested his thoughts for a moment. He didn't know this manner of beast, though it seemed familiar.

"You need to leave," John spoke from the safety of his shadow, choking down the unsettling feeling drawing into his chest.

"I can not, my boy. I came for you." The dark-robed entity pointed toward him. John finally noticed the trailing shimmers the robe cast in itself. It was like glitter, but he swore he saw comets and planets swirling in the void of it, like a space scene moving over the tapestry. A substance seemed to flow from the being's hand—sand. Glittering sand. It beckoned to his senses.

"I can show you rest." The being's voice got deeper, soothing, and lulling. John shook himself. Wisps of sand floated about the room like mist. What manner of demon is this? His mind asked as his eyes grew heavy. No, I can't go out like this. He brought his gun up and fired—one shot. It brushed past the being's head. No, that's not what happened. John had seen the figure move. Impossible!?

John fired three more rounds, coming out of the shadow to close the distance with each squeeze of the trigger. The being swayed and danced, shifting like a balloon in the wind—the bullets trailed by with no contact.

"I didn't come to harm you, boy." He heard it say before it slipped through the backdoor—the light of its staff pulsed as it moved through the solid wood. John stood motionless a second, then tore off after the entity. It couldn't be. His thoughts raced as he chased the figure toward the woods behind his home. A flitter of light whirled through the brush and trees lining his lot. Could it really be? He thought as he collided with the bush to his right, glancing off and barreling toward the motion of it moving away. She wouldn't believe him, he thought. Maybe if he could get a piece of this thing, he could prove it to her.

"Damn, this bastard moves fast." What is it anyway? He wondered. The description in the books almost fits. But is it really him? John didn't care anymore; he was getting proof this time. Insomnia or not.

The woods held more mystery than he ever knew this night. The light he followed glided along several meters before him, always beyond the trees. Its motion was taking him there—the center, the clearing—where the archway of trees grew. These were his woods. He knew that spot well. It had mystified him when he first found it. It seemed strange that this being had drawn him there. Why? There was no need for such drama.

John breathed heavily. He hadn't run like this for a month—too many days of non-rest. The staff's glow trailed, and a far-off voice beckoned. "This way." Limbs and bushes had plagued John's progress—some tearing at his clothing of boxers and a t-shirt, others scrapping his arms and legs. He endured knowing he needed a piece of this creature to show his psychiatrist.

He'd been telling her he'd seen something moving through his house at night, peeking into his bedroom, and generaling just creeping him out. Too many nights of watching ghost stories on the internet made him think of a haunting. But he didn't believe in the supernatural. Most of those videos were proven false, with many downright blatant in their setups.

"Yeah, I'll show her," he huffed as he strutted along—half running to stay behind the demon he was tracking. At least he believed it to be a demon. Then, into the clearing, he stumbled—a root nearly throwing him down. The arched trees stood as always, bent and twisted, wrapped at the branches into an intricate web of Celtic design. In the dark, runes lay alight on the rim of the limbs. Some he knew. Others were not so recognizable. The staff he’d followed hung in the air just before its opening, pulsing and enticing him to take it. But the robed being materialized before he got his chance. 

“You can rest there.” It pointed to the shining brilliance beginning to form between the two intertwined oaks.

“But I want to rest here,” John replied, heated at this entity—his gun still gripped in his hand.

“Go. Learn. Become. Rest awaits, there and here.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Submitted: January 09, 2022

© Copyright 2023 A.K.Taylor. All rights reserved.

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llywrch

A good start to your work, although there's no hook--if you subscribe to the theory a book needs to start with one.

A bit of mystery about the protagonist: who he is, why he is where he is, why he has trouble sleeping. I don't know if these questions need to be addressed so early in the novel, but it is something to keep in mind.

I'm guessing the spectral visitor is Death. Not to say that he/it is, but that's my expectation. Make of that what you will.

Sun, January 16th, 2022 1:31am

Author
Reply

I don't believe every story needs a super strong hook to draw you in. Sometimes, it can be more subtle. In this case, I'm trying to use the quote up top to build a level of intrigue before diving into the actual narrative. If I had to say what my hook is here, it would be the lore itself. Probably not the best approach, but it's worth a try given the scope of depth I intend to dive into later.

By making the lore the hook, I can draw a person in bit by bit and surround them in my world. I may adjust it, but this is why I posted it here to get some extra feedback on this approach.

The spectral visitor isn't Death, but I can see the resemblance with how I've portray it.

Thanks for the read, IIywrch.

Sat, January 15th, 2022 6:40pm

llywrch

My comment about "no hook" was meant tongue-in-cheek. Some insist on this, but IMHO as long as the opening is strong & confident there should be no problem.

Mon, January 17th, 2022 7:52am

FromBlackToViloet

Once Ive been reading a bit with a writer’s writing style I tend to pick up on things. What I noticed you really good at is subtle imagery, it’s like a everything the character is doing is showing throughout its movements. Already, could detect the main character I can detect is an introvert with a sense of a biting retort in the tone of the story. I like the premise with the foreshadowing of the book, like you have subtle clues John ain’t going to be having a peaceful night soon. I always love sitting in my room with a Starbucks coffe or boba tea in my hand and just quietly reading.
I am curious about this creature I almost thought for a moment is it figment of his imagination bc he seems to struggle sleeping. Dreams tend to interesting things. Of course this creature can be real of course! I did laugh at John’s witty commentary throughout the encounter first a bit afraid and then just annoyance of this creatures antics. I also the methaphors you put in here. Nicely done, you have a good start with the premise here. It was to the point, didn’t drag and got right into the nitty gritty of the story

Tue, January 18th, 2022 6:05am

Author
Reply

Generally, V, every writer should be telling a story by showing the actions. I used to be exposition heavy with my stories, but I've managed to back it off to about 20-30% of my stories if possible.

This particular chapter is a re-imagining of a previous novel that I finished on Booksie but no longer is available. I'm currently rewriting it at the suggestion of a beta reader I have. A lot of elements to that novel are being enhanced and developed further, especially since the novel is being split into 2 novels now.

I'm testing the waters here with this new rendition. Critical feedback for this one is being weighed against the previous beginning.

Thanks for the read and comment.

Tue, January 18th, 2022 2:52pm

G.P.Sharp

I'm loving the beginning of this; the intrigue and mysticism of the antagonist, the excellent cosmic and dream-like imagery, and the fast pace of the story are all hitting those flags for a fun fantasy adventure.
I am curious about the setting of this world right away (as he mentions the military and a Colt, I'm assuming this is an alternate Earth), and the lore quotes are one of favorite troupes of the genre when done well, and you definitely did well with it.
I will say that the villain conveniently being the same, or perhaps the same, as a character from a book that John just recently began reading feels a bit on the nose (it seems like it would feel less sudden, and more purposeful, if it were a book he had for while, perhaps childhood), but I can't necessarily say that it is unsatisfying without seeing where you take the story from here (particularly how you handle John's connection to it; if it turns out it is only taking this form because he read it recently, then it would feel satisfying. However, I think if this creature had been waiting for John specifically for a long time, and John just barely read about what it might be, it would feel a bit. Any other complexity would also change my opinion, so I'll just have to wait and see.)
Other than that, I do have one question: in this world, is magic common knowledge? While I'm sure it will come up relatively soon, I am asking because of a specific thought John had when sizing up his potential burglar. He automatically guesses a cane, which makes sense, but then he also guesses a staff, which would be a weird assumption for him to make if either (a) magic is not known, or (b) if staves are at least not a common weapon for people to use (I suppose it would also just make sense if, in the military, he just often came across a multitude of weaponry, but it just seems odd that anyone, in a gun-toting age, would assume a home intruder is using a martial arts weapon. Seems like the equivalent of assuming nun-chucks or pike instead of assuming a knife or a baseball bat). A small gripe, I know, but for some reason the line really caught my eye.
Overall, I quite enjoy this story's setup, especially the villain. A classic, robed mystical figure with unclear intentions and some powerful, and competent characterizing dialogue. Send me a shout if you post chapter 2 on here!

Wed, January 19th, 2022 2:26am

Author
Reply

You must of read this just before or while I was doing some line editing to it, G.P.

I like this beginning too. That's why I did it this way as it allows me to setup a deeper, richer lore to a story I've already done before. You can think of it as an alternate Earth, but I'm actually basing this first setting as our Earth, early to mid eighties. There's going to be a strong connection between this realm and the realm John is being directed toward.

The lore quote is going to be intrinsically tied to the lore of this first novel, and possibly carried over in portion to the next series of novels I plan to follow up with. Think of the Wheel Of Time but shorter and faster paced, but with almost as much detail.

The book description and the villain, as you've put it, are not going to be the same if I do this right, but it will make you think for a while. I can say this--it is not Death.

Magic is not common knowledge to everyone, especially on Earth, and John is just experiencing his first taste of it here.

The cane or staff situation. I made John guess both, because he's well-versed in a particular skill as well as his military training. Batons, staves, and cane were all options here. I did that to show his level of intelligence and his keen hearing. I just need to polish that portion up so it's a bit more obvious to the reader how he guesses that.

I've already done the base work in another novel. This is the better telling of it, I hope. I might just post a chapter 2 or 3. Stay tuned.

P.S. The title is a working title just in case I haven't clarified that in the summary box.

Tue, January 18th, 2022 7:00pm

Archia

You had a great start. There was just enough information to make me want to know more but it didn't overdo it. I liked that there's a lot of hints about John and his past and whatever this creature is, but it's still very elusive. It gives just enough information to make me curious to want to know what is going on. It seems like they've meet at some point in the past, or something has happened in the past that I want to know about. I think you've developed John's character really well. Even though there's a lot I still don't know about it, I get the sense that you do and those extra things will be revealed to me. I have to say though, I cannot think of anything more disgusting than drinking chamomile tea with milk.
That aside, your start was great. It gave just enough information to make it intriguing without giving away too much.

Sun, March 20th, 2022 5:53am

Author
Reply

Hi Archia, first of all, thanks for the read and the comment.

Without giving away too much, this interaction is the first time John has met this entity. The entity knows John because of its past and how it affected John's world centuries before. Nuff said about that.

As for the chamomile tea and milk, I wouldn't know about the flavor combination there since I've never drunk chamomile tea. I am aware there are some combinations that might be enhanced from the milk, and I'm aware some people do add it as a thickener and flavor enhancer. More so for coffee than tea but it is done by some people. Strange, I know. I'll have to do a bit more research on that aspect to see if it's a possible flavor enhancer or destroyer for that specific tea.
(I've wanted to try some of the different flavored teas just to see if I'd like any of them. Sadly, I've only drank black sweet iced tea for most of my life.)

You're possibly the second or third person that has mentioned the intrigue level of this start. I seem to have nailed this delivery approach. That's pretty sweet considering I'm still learning my style and ability to write good stories. Thanks again.

Sun, March 20th, 2022 9:15am

zilka.44

The first paragraph reeled me in. The rest of it followed nicely.

Mon, September 19th, 2022 4:33pm

Author
Reply

Thanks for the read, zilka, and the comment.

Mon, September 19th, 2022 4:05pm

projectTJ

I'm not much of a book reviewer, obviously. But, this was a very fun chapter to read through. I really liked the little blurb about The Devourer, a cool way to introduce someone to the story.

Sun, October 16th, 2022 11:52pm

Author
Reply

When it comes to books, especially on this site, it's best to think of the separate chapters as individual short stories when reviewing or commenting. At least that's the way I tend to look at them. It helps to focus on the issues that arise in the narrative you are reading at that moment and look for the flaws or the awesome elements that speak to you. If you're good at remembering details, you can then piece together the plot and consistency issues that may or may not arise throughout the story.

The blurb is a nice little classic approach I've seen in several fantasy novels to help establish a tone, atmosphere, or an element of lore which I tried to do all three with this one. It also provides a level of intrigue and mystery if it's done vague enough which a few people have said I've pulled off quite well here.

I think it's cool too. Appreciate the read and the comment. Hope you continue with this one. This is my biggest project as it's intended to be an epic fantasy. 4-6 books possibly.

Mon, October 17th, 2022 1:44pm

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