Friday, July 27, 2012

Web of Fate Book I: Brookhaven

This is a sample chapter from my upcoming novel, Brookhaven, due out this fall. If you like it, feel free to share it...just give credit to JC Eggleton, of course. This will be my first novel and is being published through Abbott Press. First, a little backstory...

“It’s a terrible world we live
in… I would sooner eat my
children than raise them in a
place like this. So much senseless
death and destruction! There’s
... no purpose in it!”

Thanks to the words of a mad god, Brookhaven, Alabama, is
collapsing into a state of anarchy. Each day, more residents find
themselves with no choice but to obey the voices. As a cook
suffers the violent consequences of telling his boss to shove it, a
small man attempts to become larger than life with the help of a
hunting rifle. When a local priest is brutally slain, police officer
Marcus Dodd sets off to find a ruthless killer who leaves no trail.
As the body count rises, Officer Dodd is pushed beyond the brink
of insanity into a world of demons and lunatic gods. In his search
for justice, Dodd is unwittingly immersed in an unforgettable
battle between good and evil.
In this gripping tale, one man must confront a city gone mad
without succumbing to his own insanity. But only one is laughing
as the darkness threatens to consume them all.
And now for the sample. I hope you enjoy.

Chapter I: Black Dog
“Frederick Mathers.”
His tongue felt thick and unwieldy, barely able to wrap around the syllables of such a name. It had been a long time since he had heard the name, let alone spoken it aloud. It was the name of a madman.
“Frederick Mathers.”
It sounded so alien to him, but the nostalgia of speaking the name was amazing. It had been so long since his mouth had spoken much of anything without the slur of alcohol or the giggling of a diseased brain.
“Frederick Mathers.”
In the years of insanity, he had even forgotten his own name.
Lost amidst the throbbing chaos of day to day existence, Fred wandered without any understanding of what happened to him. It began with the voices. He remembered that clearer than anything before it. It seemed like they had been the beginning of his new life.
They had been discrete at first and always when he had been alone. The chittering of some alien insect he could never find. Distant laughter that he seemed to barely be able to hear. He had tried to ignore it, pretend it wasn’t happening. Then he had seen the black man.
Black wasn’t speaking of his skin color. Not really. Those people were brown. This man seemed to be a statue chiseled from black glass. He had been like a living shadow launched off the wall like a giant shark in a crappy 3-D movie Fred had seen that year. It had hurt his head to look at the man, but there was nothing he could have done to make him go away.
It was those damn eyes that always got him. They were glowing yellow and always staring. Always watching, never blinking. There were no pupils, no whites to those eyes. Just yellow Christmas lights shining from the living dark.
After that, he could hear the voices more clearly. Sometimes they just laughed and laughed, slipping into songs that both delighted and terrified him. They sang about love and loss, about funny men in top hats, about ripping their own skin off. Other times they held conversations with themselves. Sometimes they tried to hold conversations with him.
And sometimes they told him to do things.
Bad things.
The Black Man was always there, even when he wasn’t. Fred could always almost see him just outside his range of vision, standing at the edges. He never spoke. Not like the ghosts…or aliens…or elves. He had never seen where the voices in his head came from, but he had his reasons to doubt that the speakers were human.
But all of that seemed like a nightmare forty years long. There was too much to forget, but unreality had already set in. The newfound silence was smothering and he felt so lonely.
He didn’t know what the decades had done to the world, but they must have been pretty rough.
The city was abandoned.
He wandered the streets, not daring to speak. The buildings around him gave off an aura of foreboding, dark and looming over the cracked and vacant sidewalks. Shadows had grown longer and seemed to shift when he wasn’t looking. They made the back of his eyes itch. Yet there was no blessed insanity to fall back on. Not anymore.
He looked up into the sky to try to figure out what direction he was headed. He vaguely remembered being able to do that when he was younger. But that seemed to have changed too. The sun was going to go down soon and he’d lose what little precious light he had.
He hadn’t paid attention to sunsets in a long time, but he was pretty sure that the sky turned yellow when they happened. The sky was yellow alright, but try as he might, he couldn’t find the sun. He spun in all directions, wondering if it was hiding behind a building.
Where the hell is the sun?
In his daze, he almost missed the man sitting in the outdoor cafĂ©. He was dressed in an overcoat and fedora, like a spy in a 1950’s movie. Also like a spy, he seemed to be hiding his face behind a newspaper, pretending to read…or maybe he was actually reading. No point in sensationalizing the mundane. Government spies were crazy talk and Fred had had his fair share of that! Yes sir!
He approached the figure, trying to be quiet and not to disturb his reading. You never scare spies. They could have guns hidden anywhere, ready to go off at the first sign of trouble. He hoped the guy didn’t shoot him. If the guy had a gun, Fred was screwed. He stood silent by the side of the table, waiting for the spy to notice him.
“You stink,” the man said without moving his paper.
Fred looked down at his own stained and torn clothes, his filthy bare feet. It kind of hurt his feelings, but the potential-spy was right. He had spent the past few decades shitting in trash cans after searching them for food. He didn’t stink, he outright reeked! The odor of old sweat and piss surrounded him like Charlie Brown‘s friend, Pigpen.
“Sorry about that. I’m getting better, I swear.”
The man nodded behind his newspaper, turning the page. The headline on the front page read: Travis Conrad awaiting sentence for war crimes.
“Indeed. I must apologize my rudeness, but I’ve been reading the news and it’s made me quite cynical. What’s your name, friend?” His voice was oddly musical, rising and falling like a stage performer. It was so…smooth…
Fred grinned proudly as he announced “Frederick Mathers.” It made quite a difference to say it to someone besides himself, as though cemented it in reality. Even if that someone may or may not be a spy. He held out his hand to the stranger.
He didn’t take it. Just turned the page.
“A pleasure. Have you read the news lately?”
The stupid grin faded from Fred’s cracked lips.
“I, um…I don’t think I remember how to read.”
The man laughed from behind his paper. It wasn’t the restrained laugh of a sane man, but the liberated cackle Fred always heard in his tortured dreams. Fred didn’t feel disturbed. He felt comforted, as though he had met an old friend. The manic laughter echoed down the empty streets, giving the illusion of a live studio audience filled with drug addicts.
“Why, Fred! You never truly forget how to read! It’s just like riding a bike!”
Don’t remember how to do that either…
“It’s a terrible world we live in. You seem to have missed out on the highlights, my friend, but trust your dear pal. I would sooner eat my children than raise them in a place like this. So much senseless death and destruction! There’s no purpose in it! Fat men call themselves heroes while they send strong, courageous, nameless young men to die for them and call it war. These same fat men steal from each other and call it economics. They dare to call themselves “self-made men” after plundering the riches of the poor! And the drugs! Everyone is burning their souls away with drugs to expand their minds and their empty husks wander the streets! You know a thing or two about that, I’m sure…”
He lowered his paper just enough to tip Fred a wink before quickly hiding again. There was only a flash of his face, but-
Hair. Too much hair for a spy! Too much for a man! Get out of here! He’s bad, he’s evil, he wants to hurt you! Run away! Now!
Fred stayed put. That wink had seemed to pull the heat from the air around him. Cold sweat ran down his lower back and made him shiver. He felt light headed, almost like he was high. The spy rambled on.
“Something has to give! Somebody has to show this world that what they’re doing is wrong! If nobody stands up to these monsters, they’re going to keep on stomping and biting until the entire planet is just a bunch of cosmic dust…and that’s where you come in. Fred…I want to give you the greatest gift a man can receive. I’m going to give your life a purpose. Would you like to change the world, Fred? Would you like to be something more than you are?”
Fred felt something inside dissolve and pour acid onto his guts. A voice six miles gone informed him that he had pissed himself. The shakes had gotten worse, he could barely stand. There was something here, a static charge in the air. He didn’t want to run anymore. He wanted to die, just be swallowed up by the earth. Energy was building around them, like he was watching an invisible thunderstorm build up behind that damn newspaper.
Something was about to give.
“You’re not gonna kill me, are you?” He couldn’t hide the hope that climbed into his voice. He felt so pathetic, like he were standing before Jesus Christ himself. This was no man, he was something more. He was standing in front of the most powerful thing on earth with piss running down his own leg. Tears burned lines into the grime on his face and he crumbled to his knees. All that happiness at finally being lucid again, it had all been an illusion. What would he do with his life? He had wasted the worthless thing and traded it for a life of the lost and damned.
“I want to fix this fucked-up world, but…I can’t!” Desperation had crept into Fred’s voice, a voice that was rising into a scream. “I can try to help you, but I don’t see how I can! I’m only one man and a useless one at that! If I had shoes, I probably couldn‘t even tie the laces!”
The god-thing’s body seemed to relax, but his grip on the paper didn’t. His voice dropped into an oily purr. “Fred…Fred…” he soothed, “don’t you have any faith in yourself? One man? Men have shaped this entire world! Alexander the Great changed the world by cutting a knot in half! Albert Einstein went against the norm, turned the way you see the world on its head! You’re not an ant or a dog, you‘re a man! Now act like one!”
Fred’s head was beginning to hurt. The pressure in the air was trying to crush him, but still he plodded on. Exasperated, he cried “But those men were great! They had talent! Power! Intelligence! I don’t have any of that!”
The newspaper fell away and everything inside Frederick Mathers died. His eyes bulged at the face of God. A part of him wanted to say it looked like a black dog, but that wouldn’t be right. He had seen dogs with fur as black as ink before, but dogs have lips. This god-man seemed to grin from ear to ear, dagger-like teeth bulging from its head. It looked more like an unholy hybrid of dog and great white shark.
The fedora hid the eyes, but Fred was willing to bet they were yellow.
“Talent? Power? Intelligence? Why, I have those! Let us begin…”
Feathers. The beating of a thousand wings. The world was lost in a storm of black feathers and Fred woke up.
There was no gradual slope from dreaming to consciousness. All at once, the voices came back. He could hear them all: the insects, the laughter, the screaming, the singing. It was like breaking the surface of the water and finding himself in the middle of a pool party.
His back hurt. He had been sleeping wrong on a bench in the park and was paying for it. He twisted under the newspaper he had been using for cover and looked up at the night sky. The stars seemed to swim and dance, flickering out, returning to life, then burning out again. Did they normally do that? Probably. Stars are like Jesus in that way. That was why people used to worship them as angels…wait, was that right? His mind was swimmy after his brief stint with sanity. Memory and delusion blended into one.
There was only one thing from the dream that was lingering, that flapping.
He choked on his breath as countless birds began to scream at once. The roar was unbearable and he threw his hands to his ears. He could see them now, thousands of them. They swarmed like locusts in the air above him. He saw flashes of black and navy as their feathers glinted in the dim light above him.
A light weight settled on his chest and feathers tickled the sides of his face. He looked up into a pair of yellow eyes that glittered with intelligence. It lunged forward, two quick stabs and he saw no more. The world fell apart into pain and darkness.

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