For the past month I’ve been working every night on The 12 Commandments (book two in the Defense of Reality series). I’ll be finished with the first draft next week. I’m hoping to publish the book in December. (Mencken and the Monsters, book one in the series is currently up on Amazon for pre-order. Click here to check it out.)
Just for fun, below is the rough draft of chapter 11 from The 12 Commandments. Enjoy!
It was too still and quiet. Jose didn’t like it. The clouds sat in the sky, hanging there like thick piles of whip cream on pumpkin pie. He could feel the silence. It was unsettling.
There was no wind in Midian. No breeze. No air movement of any kind. Jose didn’t realize how alive Reality was until he wasn’t there. Even the grass was different. It was harder, less comforting. Jose ran his hands across it. It reminded him of the wood chips on the playground where he used to go to school. He leaned back on his palms and gripped it tight. Back home blades would have torn from their roots and released into his hands, but not in Midian. If this world were to turn on its side, Jose believed he could climb this strange grass like a rock wall.
“You’re very relaxed,” Bashi said. “Most humans are jumpy in Midian. Especially their first time. They feel like they’re on fire. They can’t sit still.”
Jose shrugged. He rolled on his side and stared at the creature sitting next to him. Bashi didn’t return his gaze. “Are you a boy or a girl?” he asked.
Bashi laughed. “I’m a boy.”
“And you’re a Conculos?”
“That’s right,” Bashi said with a smile.
Jose sat up again and pulled his knees to his chest. He looked out over the valley below them. It was clouded by the ghosts of giant trees that existed in Reality, and filled with tents – thousands of tents. Moving around the camp like ants were thousands of monsters. All the races were represented. Azo’s army had decided to camp in Druid Hill Park, a large park on the west side of the city. “What’s it like?” Jose asked. “Living with other races of monsters? Is it weird?”
“I’ve never thought about it. It’s all I’ve known.”
They sat together in silence for another moment, watching the tents below them.
“What’s it like being a kid?” Bashi asked, breaking the silence.
“Never thought about it,” Jose replied with a grin. “It’s all I’ve known.”
Bashi laugh and nudged the boy with his arm. Jose fell over into the grass. Sitting back up he said, “And I’m not a kid. I’m twelve.”
“My apologies,” Bashi said with a smile. “I didn’t mean to offend.”
“How old are you?” Jose said looking at the creatures purple, crystal eyes.
“This round? Um. Well. I think I’ve lasted almost fifteen hundred years.”
“Wow,” Jose replied, his jaw hanging open. “You’re old.”
“Yep,” Bashi replied. “I’m old.”
“So you were born like this? Like, all grown up and stuff?”
“We’re not really born. Not like you’re thinking.”
“How do you know what I’m thinking?” Jose said with mock suspicion.
“There’s a pool of…stuff. And after I die, I emerge there.”
“Will you be the same?”
“In some ways. You keep some stuff. Other stuff is new. Sometimes you remember everything. Sometimes you don’t. It’s different every time.”
“Do you ever like, get old and die?”
“Nope,” Bashi said with a smile. “We don’t age. Death only comes in battle.”
“Hmm,” said Jose. They sat in silence again, watching Azo’s army move through the tents. A group of ghost looking people ran by them. Jose marveled at them as they passed. They were colorless, looked as if they were made of smoke, and were unusually large. “Is it weird walking around all these ghosts?” Jose asked.
“They’re not really ghosts,” Bashi said, moving his hand through the leg of a passersby. “They’re in Reality.”
“Yeah,” Jose said, trying to wrap his mind around the concept.
“We haven’t always seen your world in Midian. It’s only been this way for fifteen-hundred years or so. Just after the Great War. The Tinker did it somehow, merged our world and yours.”
A large ghost dog ran by, chasing the biggest Frisbee Jose had ever seen. “Why does Reality look bigger here?” Jose asked.
“Well,” Bashi said thinking. “I’m no Sinciput, but the way I understand it is Midian is actually bigger than Reality, so when you lay them on top of each other, Realty gets stretched to make them fit together. Does that make sense?”
“None of this makes sense,” Jose said, running his fingers over the stiff grass.
“Chris told me you’ve been training,” Bashi said. “You want to show me what you’ve learned.”
“Chris said I can’t. He told me not to show you anything.”
Bashi leaned back and looked at the boy in disbelief. “Why’s that?”
“He said you shouldn’t be trusted, and that I might have to put you down if you got out of line.”
Bashi laughed and faced forward again. “Did he tell you I saved his life once? Did he tell you that?”
“Yep, he told me the whole story. He said you probably only did that because you had too.”
Bashi snorted in disapproval. “I think I’m offended.”
“Nah. Don’t worry about. He doesn’t trust anybody.”
“But you do?”
“What about me? I’m not people.”
“How do you know?”
“I touched your hand when we crossed through the Veil. You’re fine.”
“You think you can trust me because I let you touch me?”
“I, um, I get feelings about people? And, um, monsters too I guess? If I touch you, I know you.”
“You didn’t know how old I was.”
“Not like that. I don’t know things about you. I just know what you’re like. It’s like a feeling. I get a word.”
“Oh. Well. What was my word?”
“Peace,” Jose said.
Bashi laughed. “I don’t exactly have a history of making peace.”
“It’s the word I got. It’s not that you are peaceful, more like you are at peace. You’re like a big kid. A really old kid, evidently. You like to play games. You’re silly. But you’re serious too. You just hide it. And you like your life. You know who you are and you’re at peace with yourself.”
“You’re a smart kid.”
“You love your partner too, and you’ll do anything for him, but you don’t know why. Sometimes that confuses you.”
“A really smart kid. You’re a really smart kid, and kind of scary.”
Jose smiled. “I’m like a ninja,” he said with a giggle.
“I’ve knew some ninjas.”
“Yep. Vikings too.”
“I want to know a Viking,” Jose said, his voice dripping with innocent jealousy.
“Sorry. You’re a few centuries to little.”
“I never get to do anything fun.”
“Did they really have huge breads?”
“Yes, but the horned helmets are complete bullshit.”
“Yeah, not really battle worthy now that I think about it.”
“Who needs horns coming out the side of their heads? That’s just stupid.”
“Egrats don’t think so.”
“You got me there,” Bashi said.
They watched the tents together again in silence.
“They’ve been gone a long time,” Jose said.
“Hyoi’s slow,” Bashi said. “He says it’s being ‘thorough.’ But I think he’s just slow.”
A bright light flickered from the east side of the camp. “That’s our signal,” Bashi said. He stood, and brushed himself off. Jose stood too.
“What are they after again?” Jose asked.
“Hyoli thinks he knows where Azo keeps his Lamina – those coins we use to cross over,” Bashi explained. “If we can steal them, then he can’t cross over.”
“So how are we going to get an entire army’s attention? Should I start jumping up and down, waving my arms or something?”
“Good idea,” Bashi said with a smile.
Jose shrugged. “Hey!” he yelled, jumping up and down, waving his arms. “Up here! Look up here! Hey! Morons! Look up here!”
“Well,” Bashi said. “That’s not really working. Why don’t we try this?” He removed from a small pocket in the front of his pants a black object. Jose thought it looked like a TV remote with a single red button on the top. Bashi smiled at Jose again. “You ready?”
“Yeah, okay,” Jose said.
Bashi held the remote up and pushed the red button. Seven large explosions went off on the west side of the camp. Each created a small mushroom cloud. Jose watched as the army below broke into chaos. Monsters ran everywhere, trying to understand what was happening. Horns rang out through the camp in strange rhythms, trying to call the troops to some kind of order. Lines of monsters formed at a nearby river, as the troops began racing to put the fires out.
“Nice,” said Jose.
“Planted them a few hours before you and Chris crossed over. Didn’t know when I’d use them. I just thought the chaos would be entertaining. Reality has the best toys. We don’t have anything like gun powder or explosives here. No reason to come up with quick ways to kill each other when you just reappear back home.”
Jose sat back down in the grass. “That was much more effective than me waving my arms.”
“I have my moments,” Bashi said, sitting next to Jose.
The army in the valley had formed bucket lines to all seven fires. Jose was impressed by the efficiency. The four of the blazes were already out, black smoke hanging in the air where the fires had been. The other three seemed to be almost extinguished as well.
“How long will that black smoke hang in the air like that?” Jose asked, watching the cloud gather and stand over the location of each fire.
“Forever,” Bashi said. “There’s no wind here. No weather, not like you have. Water comes up from the ground, not down from the sky, so clouds just sit.”
“So weird,” Jose said.
“No,” Bashi said. “Rain is weird.”
Things were calming down in the valley now. Monsters were beginning to mill around. Jose imagined the soldiers standing around, processing together what had just happened. Groups of twenty monsters were moving out of the camp to the west, searching for the saboteur.
“Do you think they got the Lamina?” Jose asked.
“We’ll find out in a little bit,” Bashi said.
They watched the search parties in silence. The groups slowly expanded a perimeter around the camp.
“What do they think they will find?” Jose asked.
“Like I said, we don’t use explosives, so they are probably completely confused. They have no idea what they are looking for. Azo will blame the Tinker. It will fire his leaders up to find the box.”
Jose paused in thought and then asked, “Why is Azo here? Why Baltimore? Why now?”
“Azo thinks the Tinker’s box is here. And he seems to think it’s what he needs to reignite the Great War and defeat the forces of Malacandria,” Bashi said.
“There’s so much about that sentence I don’t understand,” Jose said.
“If you really want to know, I’ll lay it all out for you, but it’s not a short story,” Bashi said.
“Maybe some other time,” Jose said. “Smoke that sits forever and grass that feels like sticks is about all the weirdness I can handle for one day.”
Bashi laughed. “You know what I like about Reality?” he said.
“What?” Jose said, watching the perimeter expand further from the camp.
“The smells. We don’t have smells like you do. You live among amazing smells.”
“Some of them.” Jose laughed at the thought of good smelling farts.
Bashi smiled. “I like you kid.”
Jose turned to face the creature. “I like you too.” Then he turned back to the valley.
Bashi sighed and pulled his knees to his chest. He counted the tents. Wandering how much longer the other two would take. Just then, Chris and Hyoi emerged from the ghost trees, fifty yards away. Chris clutched a small bag in his right hand.
“Looks like they found them,” Jose said. He stood, and walked to meet his partner and Hyoi.