Friday, November 22, 2013

First Look -- God School

Recently I teased the existence of my next novel with a crudely-drawn (hey, I'm nothing if not honest) world map. Well, now I'm taking the lid off the book. It's entitled God School, and it's exactly what it sounds like. It has nothing to do with my previous novels; it's an all-new world filled with all-new characters.

Eighteen-year-old Ev Bannen goes to Seraphim City to tour a potential college. However, his whole world is turned upside-down when he's attacked by an otherworldly creature called a refghast. A mysterious college professor saves Ev and reveals a startling secret--the man is really a god! He thinks Ev has what it takes to become a deity, so he invites him to come attend the Kami Dios Academy, a school for training gods. With fallen gods on his trail (and with dreams of great power), Ev has no choice but to go to this school and major in very real divinity. But does he even have what it takes to become a god?

Chapter I: Invitations

Ev Bannen stood among the crowd in Millennium Square waiting for New Birth to begin. Seraphim City, the economic center of the crescent-shaped continent of Morovia, was the place to be when it came time to ring in the new year. And right now, Ev wasn’t about to argue with that. With rocking music, people wearing festive masks, and street vendors dishing out food to the thousands of people in attendance, this was one bitchin’ party.
            The event itself was born out of the millennia-old belief that the current universe was created from the rebirth of a phoenix rising from the ashes of the previous world. Also, no two universes were exactly the same. In fact, Morovians believed each world to be drastically different from the one that came before it. Ev didn’t know about that; frankly speaking, he wasn’t really sure what to believe. Nevertheless, he loved a good party, and so here he was.
            He looked at his watch. It was almost midnight. After another minute, the crowd around him began counting down as the van-sized paper machete phoenix atop the Nephilim Building in the center of Millenium Square was gradually lowered on a pole.
            Once the phoenix reached the roof, a sea of cheers roared across the city as the mythical effigy was launched back up to the top of the pole amid an explosion of pyrotechnic flames. The symbolism was now complete.
            Ev took it all in. The first month, Myrdon, had now begun, and the eighteen-year-old looked forward to what the new year had in store.

* * *

As he walked back to the hotel, he mentally went over his itinerary for the next day. Attending the New Birth bash wasn’t the official reason he had come to Seraphim City. In truth, he had come here to visit Seraphim City University. He had recently graduated from high school, and now he needed to find a college. He was considering a law degree. He wanted to uphold justice throughout Morovia, and he felt that was the best way to do it. He would defend the innocent and punish the guilty.
            While he thought about this, he suddenly realized he was alone on a dark street. That made him nervous; Seraphim City, for all its splendor, had a high crime rate. He feared he might become its next victim.
            He passed an alley. Without warning, a raspy voice whispered, “Ev Bannen.”
           Ev stopped, frozen. Had someone in the alley just called his name? “Is someone there?” he said weakly.
            For a moment there was dead silence. Then, “Ev Bannen.”
            “W-What do you want?”
            He couldn’t explain why, but he felt compelled to obey the voice. He walked into the alley. Only a dim bulb above a backdoor provided any illumination. He was terrified, but found himself unable to stop.
            When he finally stopped deep into the alley, he detected faint movement in front of him. It looked like a dark swarm of things. He stood transfixed. Every instinct he had told him to run like a maniac, yet he couldn’t get his legs to obey him.
            The swarm soon coalesced into a vaguely human shape. “Vaguely” was definitely the applicable term; the proportions were all wrong. It had huge bulbous arms, toothpick-thin legs and disk-shaped head. Ev couldn’t make out any more than that because of the lack of light, but he didn’t want to.
            It reached out and stroked his face with its oversize hand—or maybe it was a claw. Ev wanted to cry out in terror, even though that wouldn’t have been very manly. “
            It reached out and stroked his face with its oversize hand—or maybe it was a claw. Ev wanted to cry out in terror, even though that wouldn’t have been very manly. “Yes,” it wheezed. This is it, he thought. I’m going to die here, before I even have a chance to do anything with my life.
            However, from somewhere above him, a radiant orange glow appeared. The…thing…jumped back, raising a massive hand in front of its face. It was then that Ev got a better look at it. The whole creature was black as midnight, and its skin—assuming that was skin—looked oily, like a snake. But the worst part was the face; it had none. It might as well have been a black hole.
            Ev thought the scene couldn’t get any more surreal. He was wrong. Another figure came out of the air and landed in front of him. It was a man dressed like a college professor, with a dark suit and short cropped hair of a muddy hue.
            “Not fair,” the creature hissed. Ev had no idea how the thing was talking with no mouth.
            The man raised a fist. No, not just a fist—a flaming fist. He swiftly rammed it into the thing’s chest. It let out an ear-splitting howl before emitting an orange glow and turning to ash.
            Before tonight, Ev had no idea how much he had taken reality for granted. He realized, now, that it was a precious anchor, keeping you in the world you know, a predictable world full of rules, rules that all living things had to abide by. But this world he now found himself in, it had no rules. Anything could happen, and that was the truly terrifying thing about it.
            The man turned around to face Ev. He looked to be in his forties, with hard features lining his face. Yet there was also compassion there. “Are you all right?”
            All right? No, Ev was far from all right. He had been shaken to his core, and he honestly didn’t know how his bodily fluids had stayed inside him this whole time. In truth, he had experienced the terror of realizing he didn’t know anything about the world he lived in.
            The man gave him a cursory examination. “Good; it didn’t hurt you. If it did, you’d damn sure know it.”
            Finally, Ev managed to form a sentence. “What…what the hell was that?” He stared at the smoking remains.
            The man eyed it with disgust. “A refghast. Low-level monsters. They feed on humans.”
            Ev shook his head in disbelief. “I didn’t want to come in here, but I did anyway.”
            “The refghasts emit a hypnotic signal that compels people to obey them,” he explained.
            “But you didn’t obey. You…punched it with a flaming fist!”
            He grinned. “One of the perks of being a god.”
            Ev blinked. He could not possibly have heard that right. “A…god,” he said in disbelief.
            “Yes, Ev. I’m a god.”
            He shook his head vigorously. “No way. That can’t be true. Wait—how do you know my name?”
            The man said, “We’ve been watching you, Ev. We think you have what it takes to become a god yourself.”
            “Who’s ‘we’?”
            “The Kami Dios Academy. We train young people like yourself to become divine beings who watch over mankind.”
            Ev had to sit down. “This is too much. I mean, monsters that attack you in the night? Gods? A school for training gods? I must be losing it.”
            But the man assured him, “No, Ev. You’re perfectly sane. It’s just your knowledge that has changed. You’ve been invited to step into the world as it really is.”
            That wasn’t quite how Ev would have put it. “Dragged is more like it. I didn’t ask for this. Can’t I just go back to being blissfully ignorant?”
            “I’m afraid it’s too late for that. They’ve targeted you, and they’ll keep coming until they have you.”
            Ev got back to his feet. “Who’s ‘they’? What do they want with me?”
            The main replied, “They are gods like myself, only they’ve fallen low. Very low. They send out their refghasts to harvests humans with latent divine energy.”
            Ev still didn’t know what to think. “Divine energy? What are you talking about?”
            The man looked at his watch. “It’s getting late, and I think I’ve hurt your brain enough for one night. I’m staying in the same hotel as you. I’ll be there for another twenty-four hours. If you want to learn more, come to room 312. I’ll be waiting.”
            “Uh…OK.” Ev started to leave the alley. He turned around and said, “Thanks for saving me, I guess.” He felt he should say that, though he still didn’t really understand what was going on.”

            “Don’t mention it. I’m Brandon, by the way. Brandon Strong.

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