Hey everyone, hope you are having a great Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever holidays you celebrate this time of year. 2013 should be a very exciting year for me and my family. I have Zombie Kid coming out December 26th, Dark Memories coming out January, and Air Keep coming out February. Then in September, book two in the Case File 13 series, Making the Team will come out.
I've been releasing a chapter a month of Air Keep. Chapter 9 doesn't come out until January, but as my holiday gift to you, I am releasing it now.
Also, if you'd like to read part of Zombie Kid, you can see it here. Merry Christmas everyone!
Chapter 9 -- The Will Be
Marcus was in the hall again. “This way!” the little boy called, running deeper into the corridor. “It’s more fun the farther you go.”
Marcus followed the boy, noticing how the paintings he passed continued to go back in time. There one of him studying in his quarters. Him in the desert. He jogged past a couple of doors and stopped at a painting of Kyja, Riph Raph, and himself riding the motorcycle. He ran his fingers across the image, realizing just how much he missed Kyja, and looked at the closed door beside it.
“If I go in, I’ll be . . . ?”
“With the girl?” The little boy giggled. “As long as you want.”
“Back there, it ended,” Marcus said, remembering how everything had turned black inside the previous door.
The guide shook his head. “Didn’t end,” he said, closing his eyes and trying to touch the tip of his nose with his finger. “Memory just went away when th’other Marcus left. Have to stay with him if you want to stay in the memory.”
That made sense. If this was his past, he couldn’t see things he hadn’t experienced. A thought occurred to him. “How far back can I go?”
“How far do you want to go?”
“Could I see my . . .” Marcus rubbed a hand across his mouth. “When I was a baby?”
“Your parents?” The boy grinned as though he and Marcus had shared an especially good joke.
Marcus had never known his mother or his father. Even his name wasn’t real. Elder Ephraim had given it to him when he was discovered as a baby. Marcus, after a famous bishop. And Kanenas because it was the Greek word for nobody.
The boy held out his pint-sized fingers. “Pay me, and I’ll show them to you.”
Marcus gripped the coin, his hand trembling. This might be his only chance to discover who he really was. “If I go, I can come back?”
The guide’s smile faltered ever so slightly. “Won’t want to.”
He wasn’t sure he’d heard right. “Of course I would.”
“Nope.” The boy shook his head. “People who live in the past never want to leave it. The past is safe. It’s known. You can visit only the good parts. Skip the bad.”
For a moment, Marcus was tempted. If he stayed in the past, he could relive all the happiest experiences of his life. He could see his family. Maybe, even more importantly, the pressure of saving a world—something he was still struggling to even comprehend—would be removed from his shoulders. If he stayed here, he couldn’t fail.
“You can’t succeed either.” Kyja’s voice was so clear, Marcus looked around, sure she had to be somewhere nearby.
But it was only in his head. Yet the voice was right. If he stayed here, there was no chance he and Kyja could open the drift. He would be dooming them and their worlds to destruction. He couldn’t do that.
“Sorry, kid.” He tossed the coin, sending it rolling down the corridor. As the boy raced after it, Marcus turned and ran in the other direction.
At the end of the hallway, he thought he’d smash face-first into the yellow wall. Instead he found himself back in the icy pit. His hands were so numb he could hardly feel the last two coins in his palm. He turned the top one over and read, “Will be.”
* * *
Marcus floated in a swirling mist. Not the one from the pit. This was warm and slightly damp. He tried to wave it away, but his hands seemed as insubstantial as the fog around him. He looked at his arms and legs, realizing he could see right through them. Was he dead? A ghost?
“I give you this one chance to go back,” a soft voice said.
Marcus turned to see a man watching him. The face was lined, the blond hair thinning, but he recognized the boy from the Is and the Was. Like Marcus, he appeared to be little more than a spirit floating among clouds of dark smoke.
“Why would I turn back?” Marcus asked. The Is had been a dead end, forcing him to leave the monks. The Was, no more than memories disguised as reality. But, assuming this swirling smoke was the Will Be, he might actually be able to learn something here—to get a glimpse of his future.
The transparent guide frowned, his blue eyes stern in a way neither of his earlier selves had been—as if life had taught him things he would rather not know. “The future is a fickle thing, shifting and prone to change. But go any farther, and you lock it permanently in place.”
“That’s not possible,” Marcus said. “If I don’t like what I see, I’ll do something different. I’ll change the future.” His could feel his tongue and lips forming the words, his breath pushing them out of his mouth. But they were barely loud enough for him to hear.
The guide stared at him wordlessly.
Marcus squinted, trying to see through the fog. He could almost glimpse what was on the other side, but just as he started to focus, the images changed. He tried to chew on the tip of his thumb, but his teeth went right through it. Seeing even a small amount into the future might help him figure out a way out of his current mess. Besides, what was the worst that could happen?
“Take me to the Will Be,” he said.
The guide nodded.
Marcus found himself in a familiar room—Master Therapass’s study. It looked even more disorganized than usual. Marcus reached out to pick up a fallen book and only when his hand moved through it did he realize he was still a ghost.
“You are in a world yet to come,” the guide said. “Your presence is insubstantial.”
“Where is everyone?” Marcus asked.
The guide led him out of the room and down a hallway to a window. Marcus looked out and gasped. Terra ne Staric looked like it had been through a war. Huge chunks of the tower lay scattered on the ground. The outer wall was damaged almost everywhere, and the surrounding countryside was shredded, as if some giant dragon had raked its claws from one end to the other.
“What happened here?” he whispered.
The guide pressed his lips together. “The future.”
Outside the western gate, a large group of people gathered around something that glittered in the sun. If Marcus could get down to them, maybe he could find out what had happened and come up with a way to prevent it.
“What are they doing?” he asked.
In a blink, he and his guide were inside the crowd. Most of the people were crying or had been recently. Marcus recognized some of them.
“I can’t believe it,” sobbed Bella the cook, pressing a handkerchief to her mouth.
A one-armed man with a scraggly gray beard put his arm around the cook’s shoulders. “I don’t understand how this could have happened.”
Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all. Something terrible had happened. He moved forward to see what they were all looking at and passed a pair of children pressing their faces into their mother’s dress.
“Hush, my babies, hush,” the woman whispered, patting her children’s heads. But she was crying as hard as they were. It took Marcus a moment to recognize the mother as Char, the wife of Rhaidnan—the man who had given his life to save Marcus and Kyja from the Zentan.
Thinking of Kyja made Marcus realize he hadn’t seen her yet. “Where is she?” he tried to shout, but his voice barely made a peep. “Tell me Kyja’s all right.”
The guide took his arm and pulled him through the crowd. Suddenly, Marcus didn’t want to see whatever it was the people were crying over. “No,” he tried to say, tearing at the guide’s hand. But the word wouldn’t come, and the man’s grip was too strong.
They stood at the edge of an open hole. The leaders of the city surrounded a glittering glass box suspended above the hole. Master Therapass stood at the head of the group, looking older than Marcus had ever seen him. His eyes were dark red holes.
Marcus didn’t want to look at the box, but he couldn’t help himself. His gaze traveled from the gold handles carved like leaves to the white satin blanket inside. To still, pale arms inside. Black hair braided around a girl’s head with flowers. And finally, the face that he knew so well. The lips that had kissed him what felt like yesterday. Her eyes were closed, but that didn’t stop him from remembering what they looked like.
“No!” he screamed. “No. Take me back. I changed my mind.”
The guide only looked at him.
Kyja couldn’t be dead. She couldn’t. He wouldn’t let her be. He’d die himself before he let anything happen to her. He had to know how this had happened so he could stop whatever had done this to her. He had to stop it.
“Show me,” he sobbed, tears burning his cheeks.
Now they stood in a dark, foul-smelling dungeon, in front of a barred cell. Water dripped slowly from the ceiling in a steady pat, pat, pat.
A man knelt before the cell. It was Breslek Broomhead, the new High Lord of Terra ne Staric. “Did you do it?” the High Lord asked, his hands gripping the iron bars of the prison cell. “Did you kill her?”
A figure sat hunched in the back of the cell, head down, face lost in shadows. Marcus lunged toward the bars. He had to know who had done this. No matter what it took, he would see that this coward would never get anywhere near Kyja.
As Marcus reached the cell, the figure whispered, “Yes.” He looked up and Marcus fell backward.
“No,” he said, his mouth dry. It wasn’t possible. Of all the people who might harm Kyja this one couldn’t.
“I did it,” the person in the back of the cell said. “I murdered her.”
Marcus felt his mind snapping. The person who had killed Kyja—the one he had to stop—was himself.
The coin dropped from his numb fingers and rang on the dungeon floor.