I have reached the apex of my confusion. While I diligently worked to get as many of my books into print as possible (17 now) I slacked on proper marketing. After all, how does one successfully run campaigns on SO MANY books at once? Beats me, and because of my ignorance, sales have suffered. My favorite story- one I wrote while assigned to the 18th Field Artillery Brigade back in the mid 90s as a young private sitting at my desk in my barracks room- has been published but gained no traction. That injustice will not stand….man.
This week I would like to present to you: Tomorrow’s Demise. A book so long my publisher almost blew a gasket and forced me to cut in half (GRRR). I mean, its not that long. A mere 175 thousand words. Tomorrow’s Demise takes place on a desert planet, involves mercenaries, space armies, genetically created monsters, a host of aliens, and one lone man from upstate NY who is way out of his league. Did I mention pirate vessels floating over a lake of molten lava???
I present to you: Tomorrow’s Demise Book I: The Extinction Campaign
Aradias Kane sat atop the lone boulder watching Helscape’s twin suns set. Most of the other village children were out playing now that the heat was finally subsiding. A barren desert stretched out before him. Barren but far from empty. The Wastelands of Helscape were unfriendly for young and old alike. Villagers struggled to etch a meager living farming or making random trinkets and goods for those rare, passing caravans still venturing this far into the sands.
His village was comprised of mostly mud huts and reinforced tents. The weather was brutal most days, conspiring against them with punishing heat during the day and near frigid temperatures at night. Both paled in comparison to the darkness lurking just beneath the surface. A menace unlike any other hunted the local population, killing without reason. Or mercy.
Everyone in the Wastes knew the stories. An ancient horror that lurked beneath the shifting sand dunes, patiently waiting for the moment when exquisite violence could be unleashed. Most people had lost friends and family to this horror. It was a fact of life. Men named them Berserkers. Strange and powerful beasts from the most vivid nightmares. They had been a plague on humanity for so long few, if any, remembered where they came from. Prayers were whispered for safety and deliverance though such contrivances seldom worked. There was no safe haven from the Berserkers.
Aradias’s father often told him stories of lone warriors named Slayers who roamed the deserts in search of the darkness. He filled the boy’s head with tales of grand heroes who willingly sacrificed all for the sake of others. Aradias wasted too many hours pretending to be a Slayer while the other children mocked him, treated him like an outsider. He didn’t care. Aradias knew what his life held in store and dreamt the nights away hoping for the day when he might prove his worth.
Eyes closed, he tilted his head back to enjoy the last rays of sunlight on his face. The sound of children playing drifted lazily past him and into the village. Leather winged argots, the great carrion birds of the desert, floated across the near horizon. Aradias opened his eyes and watched with envy as they disappeared in a collage of gold, red, and orange.
His silver eyes were cold, emotionless. At seven years old he was already feeling lost.
The dinner bell rang from the village square. Some children stopped playing to run home for a meal generally consisting of fried cactus and zorinth meat. Meager feedings, but nutritious. The rest of the children ended their games and hurried home before the sun dropped. Aradias tried his best to ignore them, finding their fear of the night boring, contrite. Life in the tiny village of Rivide was often without imagination. Or so he believed.
“Come on, Aradias. Stay out here any longer and the monsters will get you!” Barsh, one of the older boys taunted as he loped back to the village proper.
Sighing, Aradias reluctantly jumped down from the rock. He’d only taken a few steps when he thought he felt the ground move. He froze. The old one whispered of intense quakes in the moments before the monsters came. Aradias scanned his surroundings but there was only rock and sand. Kicking a small stone, he turned away from the sounds. He’d let his imagination get the better of him and felt the fool for it. The critical look in his father’s eyes when he returned home confirmed as much.
“Where have you been, son? I could have used your help in the field.”
Aradias slumped, feeling weight press down. He’s forgotten. Submissively, he lowered his eyes. “Nowhere, father.”
His father grunted. “Probably out on that damned rock again. I just don’t understand why you won’t play with the other children.”
“Leave him be. He’s just a child,” his mother scolded.
Aradias was about to speak up when a blood curdling scream tore across the edge of dusk. His heart leapt. His father was already on his feet and reaching for the rifle he always kept behind the front door. The floor timbers creaked menacingly with each footstep. Aradias knew he’d remember the look on his father’s face for the rest of his life. A mix of mind numbing fear and the sudden realization that they were about to die filled his heart. The crisp metallic sound of the rifle being cocked filled the small home.
“Berserkers,” his mother breathed.
“Get to your room now, both of you! Aradias, help your mother,” father whispered.
“I can help you,” Aradias whispered back. He ran to the cupboard and pulled out the old dagger they kept stashed there. It might as well been a sword in his tiny grasp.
Father snapped. “No. You cannot stand against this.”
The front door burst apart in a ragged storm of splinters moments after Aradias and his mother secured the metal door to his bedroom. They heard his father’s screams. Smelled the fetid combination of blood and urine. Aradias shook uncontrollably. He didn’t want to die. Heavy footsteps padded closer. His grip on the dagger tightened. A sob escaped his mother. Just one. Fists and feet began beating his door down. One blow at a time the monsters were getting closer.
Aradias Kane bolted up from his bedroll. Time weathered hands snatched his rifle up. He scowled. Sixty years worth of nightmares remained as vivid as that night his parents were murdered. Kane groaned and climbed to his feet. The predawn air of the Wastelands was chilled, pitch black. Kane didn’t mind. He found the solitude oddly comforting. A lifetime spent patrolling the deserts in search of the monsters responsible for killing his family were not lost. He felt alive out here. More alive than being trapped in any of the larger, better protected cities to the east and south.
This morning was but another on the hunt. A short distance away his horse snorted. It was the only form of good morning Kane ever heard. Alone as a man could get, Kane began the well rehearsed drill of packing, eating, and getting ready to ride. Somewhere out there, near yet still far enough to confound him, was a pack of Berserkers in need of justice. He was that sword. An unbreakable force unleashed upon his enemies until there were none left. Kane climbed into the saddle and headed out.