Sample Sunday: Out of the Shadows–Chapter 13

For today’s writing sample, I’m including a pivotal scene from my second novel, The Elysian Chronicles: Out of the Shadows.

A few things to note:

  • Out of the Shadows (and A Prophecy Forgotten) take place in two dimensions. In this scene, I give the reader insight into what is happening in both. Writing it so it made sense was a point of view nightmare. If you haven’t read Out of the Shadows, you might get confused with the POV changes. Just remember that Tom and his friends are humans in our dimension and Gabriella and her friends are cherubians (guardian angels) in a separate dimension.
  • Setting: Tom and his friends are midshipmen (i.e. students) at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.
  • If you aren’t familiar with my writing, my mornachts are like demons, and this shows a unique idea of what demon possession might look like from an angel’s point of view.

Chapter 13: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World

…Soon, Jake pointed just past Celestial Beans toward a restaurant with a crab-shaped, blue neon sign. “Crabby Jack’s. Best crab cakes on this side of the Chesapeake. Maybe we can get some coffee at Celestial Beans after we eat.”

Tom stared at Jake out of the corner of his eye. Jake never drank coffee in King Hall. Why would he have a hankering for it now?

Marco tapped Tom on the arm. “Your new friend is watching you.” He pointed to Celestial Beans, where Matt leaned against the door, sipping coffee and watching people pass.

“Matt’s fine, guys.”

“I think he’s a crackpot,” said Marco.

“And I think you’re paranoid, Batelli,” said Tom.

Marco laughed. “Did you just call me paranoid, O’Connor?”

“Shut up.”

“Are you two done, yet?” snapped Jake. He opened the door to Crabby Jack’s and waved Tom and Jake inside.

Marco glanced inside. “Hey, Larsen’s here.” He winced. “Ooh, his date looks like a horse.”

Tom and Jake saw Larsen sitting in a booth across from a girl with bobbed hair that accentuated her eyes, which were too far apart, and a nose and chin that protruded farther than normal.

“Batelli’s right,” whispered Jake. “She does resemble a horse.”

“Forget Larsen’s girl,” said Marco. “Check out the rest.” He straightened his uniform, stuck out his chest, and sauntered inside.

Jake rolled his eyes, watching Marco smile at a group of girls in a nearby booth. “Attention ladies,” he whispered to Tom. “Marco Batelli has just entered the building.”

Tom stepped inside, but the moment his foot hit the dark wood floor he stopped. His smile disappeared. He shivered, feeling the familiar, indescribable feeling that make him panic.

“Cold?” asked Jake.

“No, Smithy. I…” Tom stepped back. “It’s not right in here.”

“Are you sure?”

Tom nodded.

Marco stopped flirting with the girls and beckoned to Tom and Jake.

Tom shook his head and waved Marco out.

Marco frowned. “Will you excuse me, ladies?” He marched to Jake and Tom. “Is O’Connor having another one of his I-feel-evil moments?”

“Yeah,” said Jake, “but I think—”

“For crying out loud,” muttered Marco. He grabbed Tom’s arm. “This is Crabby Jack’s—not some seedy bar with murderers and drug pushers.” He pointed to two families enjoying crab cakes and lobster. “No five-year-old is going to blow this place up. You’re coming inside, and you’re going to enjoy it.”

“Batelli, I think we should—” Jake stopped and helplessly watched Marco drag Tom through the door.

*****

“Does Tom feel something again?” Barner asked.

“Over there,” said Gabriella. She pointed to an unshaven man with matted gray hair sitting alone in a booth near the restaurant entrance. He sucked the meat off a crab leg. His bloodshot eyes gazed wildly around the restaurant. He rocked back and forth, and each time he did, Gabriella saw the dim outline of a mornacht surface outside of him and disappear into him. A second mornacht attached itself to the man’s back, clasping his chest and hissing in his ear.

“He’s infested with two. One’s a resident. The other’s a rider.”

Allison shivered. “Marco, get your hands off Tom!”

Gabriella saw the man finger something in his pocket. “He may have a weapon. Get Marco off him, Allison, or I swear I’ll interfere!”

*****

Tom needed none of Gabriella’s interference. He slapped Marco’s hands away, pulled him outside, and shoved him against a wall. “Something evil is in there! Don’t try to make me go in!”

Marco pushed Tom off and straightened his collar. “You are crazy. If you want to go sulk somewhere, O’Connor, that’s fine, but Jake and I are going in. Come on, Smithy.” He opened the door for Jake.

Jake took a step back. “Uh, I, um. I think I’ll stay out here.”

“You’re the one who suggested this place!” said Marco. “What’s with you?”

Jake looked at his feet, refusing to answer.

“Fine,” said Marco. “You two find something more your speed—like an ice cream shop. But there’s chicks in there, and I’m going in.” He turned and walked inside.

Tom watched Marco enter and sighed. A cold autumn breeze blew through his uniform, making him shiver. His eyes fell on a nearby window where a dirty man with bloodshot eyes sat in a booth. The man smiled at Tom and winked. Tom gasped and backed away. He missed the curb and fell into the street.

Jake grabbed Tom and pulled him away from an oncoming car. “You okay?”

“Just fine,” said Tom. He glanced at the window and saw the man laugh. Should he go inside, grab Marco, and drag him out? And what about Larsen? They were Naval Academy midshipmen. They knew a thing or two about protecting themselves—more than most of the customers in the restaurant, anyway. He turned back to Jake. “Thanks for pulling me out of the way.”

Tom thrust his hands in his pockets and trudged down the street with Jake, remembering how awkward he used to feel as a child. Tiny Tommy Crybaby, that horrible nickname the boys at school called him, echoed inside his head.

“You all right?” asked Jake.

“Why are you out here instead of in there, Smithy? Hanging out with me isn’t going to make anyone like you.”

“It’s not about being liked. You said you felt something evil in there. I believe you.” Jake’s eyes wandered to the Celestial Beans sign. “Want some coffee?”

“Sure,” said Tom, wishing he felt like less of an outsider.

Inside, Tom stared at the pictures of soldiers with backless armor, wondering how Matt drew something that matched his dream perfectly. They meandered to the bar, and Tom’s eyes fell on the picture of the old man in blue robes. He turned to Jake. “Wait a minute. You chose Crabby Jack’s because you wanted to come back in here, didn’t you?”

“I had something I wanted to check out.”

Matt smiled at the two of them. “Hey, buddy,” he said to Tom.

Tom nodded back. “Hey.”

“Where’s your dark-haired friend.”

“He’s an idiot,” said Jake.

“I saw him try to force you into Crabby’s. So why didn’t you two go in?”

Tom shrugged. “Didn’t feel right in there.”

Matt raised an eyebrow. “It didn’t feel right?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” mumbled Tom. With Marco’s mouth, word of what happened would spread across the Yard by Monday. Soon even his company would stop talking to him. Would Jake still stick by him then?

“Tom can feel evil better than most people,” explained Jake. “If he tells you something feels weird, it’s best to listen to him.”

Matt poured steaming milk into a mug of espresso. “Really?” He handed the mug to Jake.

“Really,” said Jake, lowering his voice. “Most people don’t believe him. That’s why he’s quiet about it.” Jake raised his mug to his lips and stopped. “Hey, that’s a three leaf clover,” he said, pointing to the swirls of white and brown milk foam that formed a shamrock.

“Yep,” said Matt. “I can make hearts, too, but I save those for the ladies. I’ll get your coffee right up for you,” he added to Tom.

Jake pointed to the painting of the white-haired man in the blue robe. “Actually, I’ve been meaning to ask you about that picture. Who drew it?”

“I did, man,” said Matt.

“Have you seen—? How did you know what—? I mean—”

Before Matt could answer, several loud bangs rang outside, followed by screams.

Jake, Matt, and Tom whipped around and saw people pouring out of Crabby Jack’s in panic. Jake’s mug fell from his hands, shattering on the hardwood floor. “Get down!” Tom yelled to Matt. Matt ducked behind the counter, and Tom ran out the door with Jake right behind him.

Tom and Jake forced their way to Crabby Jack’s, pushing through crowds of screaming people.

Tom heard three more gunshots inside. I should never have let Marco stay.

Tom searched Crabby Jack’s for Marco. Several people lay on the ground. Some of them moaned. Others cried. Many of them bled. Marco, Larsen, and Larsen’s girlfriend crouched under a table in the back.

Tom shivered. Something in the restaurant still gave him chills, but he ignored the feeling and pushed his way toward Marco.

“Look out!” yelled Jake. He dove on top of Tom as more shots rang out.

Tom’s hip hit the hard floor. He turned just in time to see a flash of matted hair run to the restaurant’s back room. “I see him,” he whispered to Jake. He pushed Jake off and prepared to chase after the man. He paused—blood covered his hand. That’s funny, he thought. He felt no pain. Then he saw the source of the blood.

Jake lay on the floor, pressing his hands into his shoulder, blood spilling between his fingers.

Chapter 14: The Medal of Honor

Tom dragged Jake under the table with Marco and the rest. Larsen grabbed Marco’s hands and shoved them on Jake’s shoulder. “Put pressure on it.”

Marco pressed on his shoulder, and Jake groaned.

Tom turned to Larsen. “What happened?”

“Gunman. Some crazy guy with—”

“Wild gray hair and bloodshot eyes, who hasn’t shaved in a few days, right?”

Larsen nodded. “Stood up and started shooting.”

“He just stood up. He just stood up,” said Marco, rambling. “Stood up and started shooting for no reason, and—how’d you know, O’Con—?”

“I know where he is,” said Tom. “Watch Smithy for me.” Tom crawled out from under the table.

“No you don’t, O’Connor,” said Larsen. He tried to grab Tom’s leg, but Tom was out of reach.

More shots rang out. Everyone ducked.

“Come back, O’Connor!” Marco whispered. “You don’t know where he is. You just—”

“Quiet!” Tom leaned against a wall next to the back room. “I can’t feel him with you talking.” He felt it pulsing behind him. “He’s right behind the wall,” Tom mouthed. He felt it move. “He’s coming around.” Tom crawled along the base of the wall, following the ripples until he reached the end of it. He crouched low, concentrating on what he felt.

*****

Gabriella dropped in front of Tom, intending to morph into a human in order to block any shots fired. Her breastplate might not block the bullet, but Tom needed to live. She pulled her sword.

“You can’t, Gabby,” said Allison. “The peace accords won’t let us attack a mornacht that’s breathing into a hardened human.”

“I’m making myself a target. If it attacks me, then I can kill it. So say High King Salla’s peace accords.” She spat the words High King Salla out of her mouth like stale honeywine.

The gunman stepped into the room. Tom tackled and disarmed him and pinned the man to the floor.

The mornacht rider that had whispered in the gunman’s ear drew its sword and snarled at Gabriella. “I’ll have him hardened by daybreak after I free him of you,” it hissed, and it jumped at her.

Barner, Allison, and half the other cherubian guards in the restaurant converged on the mornacht. It had violated a peace accord, and all of them wanted a chance to enact their frustration on it. It fell before reaching Gabriella.

“Brace yourselves for the one inside!” yelled Barner.

The cherubians aimed their weapons at the gunman, waiting for the mornacht inside him to bolt out in fury.

Gabriella stared in the gunman’s eyes. “It won’t come out. Self-preserving little… All the humans in here who aren’t dead are too soft. It’ll wait until he’s in a jail cell with other hardened humans—or humans who are about to harden.”

“That’s why we should kill it now,” said Barner.

“We can’t!” said Gabriella. “It will shut down the human’s nervous system if we force it out!”

“I don’t care,” said Barner, pulling his sword. “He shot my Jake.”

Gabriella grabbed Barner’s wrist. “Let Tommy deal with it.”

*****

The gunman growled at Tom, baring his teeth. He wrenched out of Tom’s grip with more strength than Tom had ever felt from anyone and raced out of the building. Tom followed, tackling him on the sidewalk in front of Celestial Beans. In two moves, Tom forced the man on the ground, twisting his elbow and pinning it behind his back. Larsen jumped beside Tom and helped hold the gunman down. Two police officers joined them.

The gunman stopped struggling and turned his bloodshot eyes in Tom’s direction. “So, you know,” he hissed.

“Know what?” asked Tom.

“Why didn’t you come inside earlier? Were you afraid of us?”

Tom could feel it—pulsing, writhing, and it was talking to him. He shoved the gunman’s face to the ground. “I didn’t like your smell.”

The gunman laughed. “Hurt the human some more—he won’t remember. But I will. I will; I will; I will,” the gunman sang. “I’ll remember you, little soldier.”

The hairs on the back of Tom’s neck stood straight. He tried to conceal his fear with a snarl, putting his face close to the gunman’s. “That’s midshipman.”

The gunman’s eyes twinkled, and he laughed. Tom winced. His breath smelled rotten.

“I feel your fear,” continued the gunman. “So you do know us. You can feel us.” Each time he said “us,” he sounded like a snake. “We’ll be watching you, little soldier. Watching, watching, watching….”

Larsen’s fist collided with the vagabond’s temple.

“It’s okay!” said Tom. He pushed Larsen back, and held the firstie tight while Larsen shouted insults at the vagrant.

The man laughed and continued singing until the cops dragged him into a waiting police car.

“Do you know this guy?” asked one of the officers.

Tom shook his head. “Never seen him before in my life.”

“Figures. Probably some nutcase high on something.” He pushed the gunman, who continued singing, into the patrol car. “You two don’t wander off. I’ll need your statements.”

“I’ve got a shot friend in there,” said Tom, pointing inside.

Larsen ran back into the building. Tom turned to follow when someone grabbed his shoulder.

“Can you really feel them?” asked Matt. His hands trembled.

“Them?”

“Can you feel them? Do you get a sense of dread—of evil, when they’re around? Is that what your friend was talking about?”

“What do you mean them?”

Matt pushed a card into Tom’s hand. “You’ve got to call me.”

…to be continued in The Elysian Chronicles: Out of the Shadows.

Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.

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About M. B. Weston

M. B. Weston is an award-winning fantasy, pulp, young adult, steampunk, and paranormal author. Her attention to procedure and detail gives her works an authentic gritty, military feel that takes an adventure tale to the level of a true page-turner. Weston’s writing attracts both fantasy and non-fantasy readers, and her audience ranges from upper-elementary students to adults. A gifted orator, Weston has been invited as a guest speaker to numerous writing and science fiction/fantasy panels at conventions across the US, including DragonCon, BabelCon, NecronomiCon, and Alabama Phoenix Festival. She has served on panels with such authors as Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. F. Lewis, Todd McCaffrey, and Jonathan Maberry. Weston has spoken to thousands of students and adults about the craft of writing and has been invited as the keynote speaker at youth camps and at several schools throughout the US.
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