Here’s a snippet of my first book Calling all Zombies.
Jacob pressed the phone to his ear, straining to hear the soft voice begging him to keep her secret.
“Please, Jake. I have to go but promise you won’t tell. Promise you’ll keep quiet. I won’t do it again. I swear. Pleeease?”
“Ok. I won’t tell. I promise. Just — just don’t do it again.” Jake blinked back tears. His voice cracked as it dropped down to his own pleading whisper. “Promise you won’t do anything. Sara? Promise me. Okay?” The silence on the other end seemed to last forever. Please, God. . .
“I promise Jake . . . Not today. Okay?”
“Okay. I’ll see you at school on Monday? Right?” Jake feared speaking too loud would shatter her promise.
“Yeah . . .” The faint voice was gone.
Jake rubbed his eyes. Am I doing the right thing? He rested his head in his hands, what do I do? Should I talk with mom? He closed his eyes for a moment.
“She’ll be okay. She promised.”
Jake opened his Algebra book, but her secret kept rolling over in his mind making it impossible to concentrate. A purring Jasper jumped up and promptly collapsed on top of his notebook. “Hey, brat cat, bet you want dinner . . .”
“What do I do Jazz?” Jake laid his head on Jasper’s side, comforted by its purring rumble.
“Jake,” his mother called. “Dinner time.”
Jasper jumped down and ran ahead, meowing. Jake left his room, unaware of the eyes that followed him.
* * *
Jala watched Jacob leave. He walked to the far side of the room and placed his hand on the wall. At his touch, blue light swirled like water. He stepped through the pulsing waves to stand outside, where he walked the perimeter of the house running his hand along the rough siding leaving a trail of light. It didn’t take him long to end up back at Jacob’s window. He placed both hands on the siding, and blue lines like laser beams traveled over the house to form a web. A bright shimmer in the cold air caught his attention as his partner Talen joined him.
“Jala, I bring word from the Ministry.” He said as he walked over and touched the pulsing strands of light. “We will need more prayer to strengthen this net,” he said as they walked through the wall to Jacob’s room. “Prince Rahzeem is calling the Council of Peers. The Black Citadel is moving closer.”
“They will send his demon,” Jala said as he glanced down the hallway. He could hear Jake in the dining room talking with his mother. His eyes narrowed as he stretched out his hand. A sword materialized as his fist closed around the hilt. Translucent flames clung to the blade like a vapor. He glanced at Talen. “We knew this was coming. It’s just a matter of time before they attack. Then —we fight.”
* * *
Judy Andrews watched as Jake played with his food.
“Jake, what’s bugging you? You haven’t eaten a bite.”
“I dunno,” Jake mumbled. “I promised her I wouldn’t talk about it.”
“Her?” Judy asked as she continued eating. “You’re talking about Sara?”
“And . . . ?”
Jake tried to calculate how much information he could share and still not break his promise. “She’s having some problems at school so I’m trying help if I can.” Jake looked away, knowing he was giving his mom a small part of the story.
Judy put her hand on Jake’s arm.
“I know it’s good to listen to your friends and help when you can. But some problems and promises can get too heavy to carry alone. I won’t pry since you promised Sara not to talk. I’m glad she can trust you. Since we’re on the subject of your friends, how is Calvin?” Judy dropped her voice to a whisper. “I haven’t seen Cal since the funeral. I’m sure it’s been hard with his dad gone.”
“It’s awkward. It’s like that elephant in the room kinda thing.” Jake shrugged. “I don’t know how to deal with it. His dad died, and mine left. He knows how I feel so it just never comes up. We talk about other things. It’s weird that we were so close for years, and now the three of us just — I don’t know — seem to be drifting apart.”
“Honey, life has a way of suddenly becoming complicated, especially when bad things happen. But I hope you know that I’m here for you —and your friends. As for Sara, if I can help, I hope she’ll let me.”
“Thanks, mom.” Jake quickly finished dinner and left the table before he broke his resolve. Jake sat at his desk struggling through his Algebra while fear gripped his mind doubting her promise. Later that evening Jake lay in his bed thinking of the what–if’s that kept him awake long into the night. He picked up his phone and sent a text. “Don’t forget your promise.”
Zareth slammed his fists on the table and jumped to his feet sending his chair crashing to the stone floor. Silence gripped the room as he stood in defiance. Twelve demon Lords of the Roh Jahat turned from him and looked at the head of the table. Zareth dared to lift his face and locked eyes with Prince Baal Rahzeem, who held him captive in a long icy stare. The unrelenting silence caused the Lords to shift in their seats while Zareth struggled, unable move, or breathe, trying to hide his growing panic. Fool! Beg for his mercy. His pride strangled the voice screaming in his head.
“I’ll deal with you later, Zareth.” Rahzeem’s voice sliced through the silence releasing Zareth to gasp for breath.
With a slight gesture, he hurled Zareth to the far end of the cavernous room where he managed to stand on shaking legs. Without a word or backward glance, he stormed out of the chamber, pushing open the massive doors with such force that he crushed whoever stood outside. Underlings scurried out of his way, bowing their heads and trembling as he passed.
Zareth burned with rage as the transport descended several levels beneath the Grand Chamber, away from the Lords, —and his humiliation. He stepped into an empty corridor where his large talons scraped against the black stone. The echo mocked him. He was only a Master, assigned to the lower levels.
He made his way outside and stood on the edge of a balcony as the Black Citadel hovered high above a sprawling city within its assigned territory. “I’m not a pawn to be played and tossed aside.” He said with his rage still smoldering. He looked outward, to the vast expanse, where a large nebula of brilliant colors swirled over the Earth. The courts of heaven were behind that ever-present rainbow. It was a constant reminder that he was Roh Jahat—fallen angel, an outcast. His lip curled in contempt that the God he once loved cast him out. He turned his focus on the land below and the hunting assignment he refused. I rule over city leaders and CEO’s, and they assign me an emergent Akuji? A thirteen-year-old boy! Rahzeem is a fool. Why do they want me on this assignment? Who is this boy?
Zareth continued walking, sometimes stomping, up and down the ledge mumbling with every step he took. The questions continued. He had a feeling that he was missing some piece of this puzzle, but he couldn’t begin to guess what it was. As the Black Citadel changed directions, its shadow of outer darkness swept over the land below. Zareth knew it was more than a mere shadow. The absolute black is the absence of God— a darkness that could be felt. He knew the power that lay hidden in its depths as he reached into his robe to touch the NimJadi — The ancient dagger he kept hidden. Its presence gave him a sense of purpose as he grasped the hilt and felt the power it held. I have harnessed the power of darkness and have fed on the despair of those I hunt. I am feared and have gained glory by scheming, deceiving, and banishing any who challenged me. For what? To play Rahzeem’s game? He resumed pacing. My own principality is within my grasp, now delayed by the Council of Peers. They are in on this. Each one is loyal to Rahzeem. But, loyalty has a price . . . Approaching footsteps intruded on his thoughts. Who dares disturb me? He spun around, ready to attack.
The Underling stood looking down at the stone floor holding a long crystal shard. The royal seal of Baal Rahzeem glowed as a pulsing red light. I knew this was coming. Zareth shuddered. His hand trembled as he snatched the large crystal to wave it casually as if the message inside was unimportant.
The Underling dared to look at Zareth’s face. “Record your official answer. He demands compliance — Sir.”
The words had barely left his lips when Zareth seized him by the throat lifting him to eye level.
“I only need to spare your worthless life long enough for you to deliver it. Remember that when you speak to me.”
He flung the demon to the floor and moved away to open the message. Prince Rahzeem’s voice thundered in his head making him grimace.
“You DARE defy me, Zareth? Yield to me, or challenge me. Either way, you WILL answer me!” Waves of pain forced Zareth to his knees. Rahzeem looked angelic at the council, but Zareth knew his true form and strength. I’m not strong enough to challenge him— yet. I have seen what happens to those he masters— it is a fate worse than the abyss. He remained on his knees waiting for the pain that he knew was coming. A spasm in his hand forced him to grasp the crystal unable to let go while his mind linked with Rahzeem. He felt the wrath of his Prince as torturous pain ran through his body. He also knew that Rahzeem could taste his torment. He is feeding on me! This thought alone caused fear to choke him as he felt his strength diminish. He broke into a sweat unable to stop the convulsions that left him lying face down on the floor. To be humiliated in front of the slave seared Zareth to his core. When the pain finally stopped, he held the crystal long enough to record the answer he was forced to give. He glanced at the Underling and noticed the contempt that flashed across its ugly face.
“Master Zareth, I m- must return with your answer,” he stammered, head bowed.
Zareth stood on shaking legs as he gathered his formal robes around him and walked over to the trembling slave.
“I yield!” He speared the crystal through the Underling’s outstretched hand. Zareth left the screaming demon with his answer as he made his preparations for the hunt.
* * *
Sara paced around her large bedroom to end up in her bathroom. I can’t believe Jake knows. What if he tells his mom? She leaned over the granite counter to stare at Other Sara in the mirror. Why did you promise Jake? Why? Other Sara remained silent. Sara put her hands on the mirror and leaned until her forehead rest on the glass. “Make me stop. Make them stop hurting me. Please. . . .” she whispered. Other Sara stared back with tears filling her eyes. Sara quickly went back to her room and kicked her clothes out of the way to carve a space to sit on the floor. The full moon shining through her window cast bluish shadows into the outer corners. Why did I promise? I’m so stupid. She rolled up her sleeve to reveal an arm that looked shocking in the cold light.
Jagged dark crimson lines crisscrossed her pale skin. She ran a finger over each thick scar noticing the ones that had faded, and those with scabs that itched when she touched them. Sara closed her eyes as self-loathing crashed like waves over her. The tears rolled down her face as she rocked back and forth in silence. Yes-No. Yes-No. Yes. Sara put her phone on the floor in front of her noticing the moon reflected on the screen. She opened the bottom drawer of her dresser and pulled out a small box, where her grandfather’s old razor with its four-inch blade glistened. Yes-No. Yes.
She spread an old towel over her lap, picked up the razor, and slowly brought the blade across her arm. She sat motionless, watching her blood seep out in little red pearls. She made another cut. Harder. Deeper. The pain distracted her from the deeper pain she could never reach.
Sara dropped the razor as shame mingled with the pain. In the light of the moon, her blood ran black as she began to hum and resumed swaying back and forth. As her life dripped down her arm, she closed her eyes and felt alive.
I am floating down the crimson river. Drifting out to sea, no one sees me. Down, down I go to drown . . . . Sara opened her eyes as a ringing sound intruded on her little jingle. Why is the moon in my room? Confused, she reached for it, but it was just beyond her fingertips. It was the moon that was ringing —the cold moon had started to vibrate.
Sara sat up suddenly alert to hot pain shooting down to her cold, numb fingers. Her phone chimed and vibrated with a text message alert, and in the reflection of the moon, Jake’s picture lit up the screen. The throbbing pain in her arm demanded her attention, and the seeping blood no longer fascinated her. She wrapped the towel around her arm and went to the bathroom to erase the evidence of her pain.
Sara watched the red water swirl down the drain, then meticulously attended to her wounds. Her hand trembled as she reached into an open drawer and pulled out strips of medical tape and gauze. After a few moments, she stood looking in the mirror, dressed in clean pajamas. “No one sees the pain that bleeds.” She whispered to Other Sara who looked back with haunted eyes. She threw the bloody pajamas in a laundry bag hidden in the closet. Climbing into bed, she hugged her phone close to her.
“I’m sorry, Jake, so sorry,” she whispered.