Guess where I am right now?
If you guessed Barnes & Noble, then you win the prize. (Spoiler alert: There is no prize)
I am sitting in the cafe with a sign on my computer inviting people to ask about my book if they have the time. And when they do ask, I hand them a packet with information about the Support Hellbound Initiative. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Shame on you! You can either click that link or click back to the post before this one. It will give you all the info you need to know. The next couple posts are probably going to be more of the same. I don’t have a lot of blog followers so I need to spread the word as much as possible. Of course if you have already signed a card for me, I am so grateful. But I demand more!
Remember, the cards look like this:
If you’re interested in signing one, all you have to do is send an email with your name and address to WriteRightWithBex@gmail.com. That’s it. There will be absolutely no cost to you, aside from a few minutes of your time and some pen ink. I will pay for all postage; the SASE in the envelope will already have a stamp on it.
Below I am going to post my excerpt of Hellbound again. Remember, if you like what you read you can request a card. Every tenth person to request one is going to get an extra surprise inside their envelope. (Spoiler alert: These prizes are real and will really happen)
Here it is:
A quiet night in September finds a pair of bloodied hands drawing occult symbols in a secluded plot of dirt. Not a sound can be heard except for erratic, frenzied breathing.
Nervous thoughts compete for attention.
This is so wrong.
It won’t even work.
It’s a school night.
I should be sleeping.
But it could make everything better. There must have been a reason for finding this book. It was meant to be.
The symbols are complete. What next?
Smudged fingers hover over the yellowed pages.
The pentacle…on the forehead. Sweat mixes with blood and dirt as it is drawn.
The hands drop. Waiting.
The pages are consulted again. It should have worked.
Silence. Pressing silence.
It didn’t work. Of course it didn’t work. It was ridiculous to think it would.
“You have freed me. In exchange I am required to offer you one service.”
The voice sends a jolt down the spine; it came out of nowhere. In the middle of all the symbols on the ground is now a tall, dark figure. A living shadow. Its cavernous eyes are cast down on the quivering human before it, waiting. Expectant.
Quickly, the pages are consulted again. The required response. The contract must be completed!
“I…I understand my part in this. I accept your boon with gratitude.”
The creature gives the slightest of nods.
Dry lips are licked.
“This is what I need you to do…”
Aiden woke up to the sound of screams, as usual. They sounded more outraged than normal, which he knew meant bad news for him. He blinked and stretched, stood up and shook himself. It was dark, and he had no idea what time it was. Clocks were hard to come by in Hell. Working clocks even harder. Without the need for a light source, he found his way to his dresser, pulled out clothes, put them on.
It was the same old routine. Strangely enough, he knew something was going to break up the monotony of his life very soon, and it was that fact that made him dread leaving his room. So he did what any normal teenage boy would do – he stalled. Running his fingers through his light brown hair, he looked absently around his room for a mirror before he remembered he didn’t have one.
He stooped to look under his bed as he called his friend’s name again.
“I know you’re here, Kairn. Quit dicking around.”
The expressions of the twenty-first century were fairly new to him, but he had to admit he liked them. If there was one good thing about the constant influx of souls in Hell, it was that he was able to keep up with the times by listening to their various speech patterns.
A large, red gecko with black spots skittered down from the ceiling and turned its black eyes on Aiden’s back. Its footprints glowed in the pitch darkness, creating enough light to catch Aiden’s attention.
“There you are,” he said, standing. “I need a mirror.”
The lizard cocked its head at him. Aiden scoffed.
“I don’t owe you a reason. Maybe I just want to remind myself of what I look like today.”
Kairn raised his shoulders in a shrug and turned into a small, round mirror with an ornate gold frame that was encrusted with rubies.
“Dude, come on,” Aiden moaned. “I’m not exactly in the mood.”
A head appeared out of the top of the mirror to look questioningly at Aiden.
“I’m going to get a new assignment today,” he grumbled. “Now could you give me a less girly mirror, please?”
It wasn’t that he didn’t want this assignment – he always craved the brief periods of time when he was allowed to go to Earth – but it was starting to weigh on him. It was so hard to go to Earth, a place that held so much more promise than Hell, only to have it ripped away from him time and time again.
Kairn made a kind of sympathetic clicking noise and then quickly rearranged himself until he was a full-length mirror with a simple, black frame.
Aiden stood in front of the mirror and looked at himself. He did that for about fifteen minutes, standing as still as a statue, so nervous that he found himself holding his breath. His reflection stared back at him with his own golden yellow eyes.
After another five minutes had passed, someone knocked on Aiden’s door so hard that it jostled bits and pieces loose from the stalactites on the ceiling.
“What?” he called.
“You know what,” came a bored, female voice with an unmistakable Irish accent. “Your father’s waiting for you on the other side of the Infinite Cavern. Get your butt up there within the next thirty seconds or I’ll lock you in one of the serial killer cages and watch the carnage unfold while I eat my breakfast.”
Aiden didn’t respond. He wasn’t sure if he didn’t actually prefer that threat to whatever his father had in store for him.
“Move!” the voice on the other side of the door barked.
Aiden sighed at Kairn, who was back to being a giant gecko, and walked out of his room. He didn’t expect anyone to be outside when he got there, and he wasn’t disappointed. The woman on the other side of the door had already flitted away to her next errand.
The dull roar of screams that he had managed to block from his mind until that point rose into a crescendo of rage again. They had sensed his presence and were shouting their disapproval already.
Much as he hated to admit it, Aiden felt for the souls incarcerated in Tor. They wanted to be on Earth as desperately as he did, but whenever one of them was summoned from its cell by a desperate human, it was his job to bring them back. And they loathed him for it. Even though only a select few entered into such pacts, they all knew he was responsible for destroying their chance at freedom.
Aiden took on his true form before he stepped into the Infinite Cavern. The Res-du-Tor were never allowed to show their human faces to the souls, in case one escaped. If the escapee were able to recognize the Re-du-Tor’s human form, it would know exactly who to run from.
Transformation complete, Aiden closed his eyes and took a deep breath before stepping through the archway at the end of the hall. The noise in the Infinite Cavern was deafening, as always. The place was home to hundreds of thousands of souls, or rather, the physical manifestations of people’s worse sides. All the good halves of people’s essence went to Lux, leaving Aiden and Tor to deal with the incarnations of pure evil.
The Infinite Cavern consisted of two walls that were infinitely tall, hence its name. Dug into the walls were large pits that were closed off with metal bars. Inside these cages were the souls. They were forced to stay there until it was time for them to be mixed with one of their good counterparts and reborn.
This process was all Tor’s and Lux’s jurisdiction, though. They were the ones who mixed the good and bad souls together in human babies. The new soul would have no memory of its past lives, and it would be neither good nor bad, since babies had no concept of right or wrong. As the baby grew up, it would develop or diminish the good and bad sides of its soul according to the way it was raised. Aiden’s job had nothing to do with soul production, though; his line of work was in soul retrieval.
Tor had taken to making Aiden cross the Infinite Cavern to receive his assignments. It was supposed to act as a reminder of the consequences that could result from him not doing his job; letting a powerful, evil soul run amok on Earth could, and would, have disastrous results. People could die. The balance of Good and Evil in the world could be tipped. Or worse, humans could find out what really lay beyond Death’s door. The information could drive them crazy, make them commit suicide, make them kill others, stop caring about life.
This didn’t stop Aiden from avoiding his job. It wasn’t like he cared about the humans who were endangered by the soul’s presence.
Aiden tried to look straight ahead and ignore the souls, but they refused to ignore him. Long, boneless arms reached out through the bars of their cages to swipe at his legs, his neck, his wings, anything they thought they could reach. He was safe, though. Part of the magic of the Infinite Cavern made it so they could never reach. No matter how long their limbs got, they would always be just a few inches too short to grab hold of anyone or anything on the outside.
“Going topside again, are you, boy?”
Aiden turned towards what seemed to be the only creature in Hell that wasn’t attempting to strangle him. Interesting that it was talking to him. They didn’t usually bother doing that. Most of them couldn’t, since they hadn’t retained much of their humanity. The shadowy figure sat in the back of his cell, black eyes and unsettlingly toothless grin turned in his direction. Aiden felt like he was staring at a demonic Cheshire cat.
“Don’t get too attached to the fresh air, mind,” the gravelly voice continued as Aiden shook his head and walked on. Its voice followed him as he finished crossing the Infinite Cavern. “No matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise, you’re still a prisoner here just like the rest of us. You’re no freer than I am.”
Aiden tried to push the soul’s voice out of his mind. Of course it knew exactly how to push his buttons. It was evil, after all.
He stepped through the doorway at the end of the cavern and followed the curve of the tunnel, past the Door, all the way to where it dead-ended in a large alcove. Then, safely out of sight of the souls, he turned back into a human. His father was waiting for him, his face red with frustration, while some minor servants danced around him trying to get him to sign various forms. Tor’s work was never done. Most of his time was spent approving souls to be reborn on Earth and monitoring the souls’ activity to make sure that no escapes had been made without his noticing.
“You’re trying my patience, Re-du-Tor,” the Devil gritted out. “You have a job to do and I expect you to do it.”
“Yes, Tor,” Aiden sneered. “What will it be this time, Tor?”
“I like that tone. You remind me of your mother. Keep it up.”
He turned to one of his servants and signed yet another form, which disappeared a second later.
“Your new assignment,” he began, “is in the United States. You will find the idiotic human who invoked the Rit-du-Malos, extract the soul, and bring it back. Promptly.”
Aiden couldn’t help but feel intrigued at the prospect of going to the United States. His last assignment had been in…Europe? France maybe. They all tended to blend together. At any rate, he hadn’t seen anything of modern-day America, and it sounded like he could waste some truly glorious time there.
“How long do I have?” he asked.
Tor sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Get rid of that hopeful glint in your eye. I’m giving you a month. One. Month. Just get up there, do your job, and come back. Please. For once.”
“That’s not fair,” Aiden grumbled. “One month isn’t even enough time to stretch my legs.”
“One month is generous,” Tor countered. “I could have given you half that time, but I thought you might want to avoid Luther for once.”
Aiden shuddered. His run-ins with the Re-du-Lux – his counterpart in Heaven, whose job it was to keep Aiden on schedule – were never fun, or painless.
“I just want to get a chance to live a real life,” he pleaded, knowing it would do no good. Tor had heard all his best arguments a million times. “I want to…I don’t know, see movies. Watch TV. Go to school, hang out with kids my age.”
“Your age? Kids your age?” Tor paused to bark out a laugh. “There are no kids your age. You’re three hundred and seventy-five years old!”
“Three seventy-six, dad. You missed my last birthday.”
“The point is, you cannot hope to lead a normal life among mortals, Aiden. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this before it sinks in. You will never be like them. You have powers they can’t even dream of.” Aiden was a little taken aback. Tor’s tone had become almost…fatherly. Before he could think that his father had turned over a new leaf, however, Tor continued what he was saying. “And you have a deadline. One month. No leeway on this one, Aiden. I will have Luther rip your wings off if you’re not back in time.”
“Yes, father,” Aiden said, bowing.
He knew there was no point in arguing further. He also knew he wasn’t going to let Luther, Tor, or any stupid soul land him back in Tor in just one measly month.