Kindle Edition $3.99!
Publisher Solstice Horizons
Kindle Edition $3.99!
Reincarnation is real
When Walter Cavanaugh decides to take his own life, his body is usurped by an ancient evil know only as the Other that, through reincarnation, has leap-frogged across time on its quest to enslave the world. Now, the warriors of an equally ancient order called the Sojourners unite to stop the creature masquerading as Walter Cavanaugh before it reaches Washington on its quest to murder and usurp the body of the Secretary of State.
Aaron Stiles was in hell.
He was naked and every hair on his body had been burned away. His skin was a dark, blood red and it seemed to boil as blisters formed, burst and formed again, putrescence oozing from the open sores running in yellow rivulets down his arms, legs and torso.
He was walking, or rather staggering along the furnace blasted banks of a molten river of fire, from which arose a thick, foul smelling steam that hung like a poisonous cloud over everything, so that Aaron could not see so much as a yard in front of his blackened feet. His eyes watered furiously and mucous ran in thick globs from his nostrils, choking him. Every breath was a tortured wheeze and never fully realized and his brain was screaming with a fevered pain that made the very fact of his consciousness an anathema.
He could hear nothing save the sounds of the river of fire as it roiled and bubbled red-hot magma, venting huge pillars of the sulfurous steam hundreds of feet in to the soot filled atmosphere. The roar of it made his ears bleed.
All around him were the shapes of people, writhing in mute agony, their featureless faces burnt masks of flesh stretched tightly across their skulls, their eyes deep, black sockets from which billowed smoke and ash.
And there were other shapes as well, alien shapes, configurations obviously not human, some taking on reptilian appearance, others simian, and still others too alien and too far removed from humanity to describe.
It seemed he had been walking for days, weeks and approaching a month, now, staggering blindly through Hades. Ever since the tattooed man had grabbed him in the lunchroom at Broughton.
Since arriving in the back seat of Carl and Betty’s Chrysler and being admitted to Broughton Hospital, a state run psychiatric facility in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Aaron had been systematically drugged and sedated to the point that his lucidity had failed him. In desperation, his parents had signed over control of their only child to the hospital and the doctors there that assured them he would be given the most careful attention. As soon as Betty and Carl were gone, Aaron was taken to his housing unit and placed in a waiting area with two other patients, all three under guard.
The guard was a big black man with a shaved head and a no-nonsense attitude written all over his broad face, pocked with deep acne scars that bespoke a stressful teen hood. He kept a steady gaze on the room at all times, his hands behind his back, his white uniform and tennis shoes glowing in the florescence.
Aaron, still semi-lucid at this time, took in his surroundings. The room was ten by ten, with chairs along one wall, two doors, the entrance and a split door closet, the top half open revealing white shelves with pale blue clothing, toiletry kits and shower shoes.
The guard stood at the back of the room. There were no tables, no television, no magazines, not even so much as a carpet for decoration. The sterile white walls were bare and the fluorescent tubes in the middle of the ceiling buzzed under their plastic shell.
Aaron looked at the guard and said, “Can’t we at least have some Muzak? I’m dieing to hear The Girl from Ipanema right now.”
The guard’s mouth twitched at the corner in a mirthless smirk.
“There’s no talking.”
That was taken as a challenge.
“What are we waiting for?”
Next to him, one of the other patients in the room, a rail thin man in his thirties with a missing tooth and a scraggly growth of patchy blonde beard, said, “We waitin' for the nurse t’come and give us our britches and shoes.”
This elicited a loud laugh from the third man in the room, a small disheveled white man in his forties with thick, black rimmed glasses and jet black five o’clock shadow. The laugh was quickly suppressed with the back of his hairy hand and his eyes darted from Aaron to the guard and back again as he attempted to stifle his mirth.
Aaron smiled with genuine amusement at the pair and asked the blonde man, “How do you know that?”
In a loud voice the guard answered, “Because this is his third time being here in two years and if you ever want to get out you’ll shut up. No talking.”
Aaron simply stared back at him, quietly, expressionless and tried to pry into the man’s mind with his brain, tried to will the man to wet himself, to vomit, anything to bring him down, to humiliate him. The guard stood straight up, arms behind his back and stared right back at Aaron, the smirk in the corner of his mouth increasing, the gleam in his eyes defiant. He had obviously been stared at before.
The staring contest lasted five more minutes, then the door opened and a nurse came in, a pretty young woman with dyed blonde hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, her nurse’s pill-box hat bobby pinned securely in place. Her white nylons swished against the skirt of her uniform as she walked across the room to the closet.
“Good morning, Gerald,” she greeted the guard as she opened the closet door.
“Miss Sheppard. How are you this morning?”
Nurse Sheppard smiled a toothy white smile at Gerald the security guard and sing-songed, “Just peachy, thanks!”
The small talk was killing Aaron.
In a lull between platitudes, he said, “Jesus. You guys are making me sick.”
The nurse stopped cold and looked at Aaron. He could see her making a mental note, filing his face away for future reference.
“I beg your pardon?” she asked matter-of-factly, her perfectly penciled in eyebrows rising up on her forehead.
“How long do I have to wait here? Where’s my doctor?”
Gerald the security guard made a movement toward Aaron and the nurse stopped him with an upraised hand.
“And who are you?” she asked.
“Stiles. Aaron Stiles. I want to see my doctor, please. Now.”
Nurse Sheppard checked the clipboard she carried, scrolling down the list with her pencil. She stopped and tapped the list lightly about half way down.
“Ah! Mr. Stiles.” She peered up at him briefly then read aloud from the chart on her clip board.
“Paranoid schizophrenic. Delusional. Committed by Mr. and Mrs. Carl Stiles this morning. Your parents?”
“No, two complete strangers with my last name had me committed against my will.”
Nurse Sheppard smiled indulgently. “They must be very proud.”
She turned her back on him and entered the closet, closing the door behind her. Turning back, she met Aaron’s gaze with a deceptively pleasant smile and said, “And there’s no talking.”
Aaron and his two compatriots were issued clothing and toiletries from the storage closet then herded out of the room and into a changing room right next door. There they were relieved of their private possessions, thoroughly searched for contraband and then made to dress in the blue jumpsuits and white shower shoes Nurse Sheppard had provided them. As each procedure was completed, Aaron’s resolve grew weaker, his depression deeper. He felt trapped, imprisoned without trial or jury and he saw no way out. He had been abandoned by his only means of support, by his own flesh and blood, in order to be rid of the stigma he brought with him, to this desolate, sterile purgatory, waiting to be processed like an inmate, which in fact he was, an inmate in an asylum for those who “may present a danger to themselves or others.” The idea made him sick.
Dressed and searched, he was taken, along with his two companions, whose names he had learned were Leonard (who had been the first to speak) and Melvin, who was constantly in conversation with himself, mumbling under his breath. An occasional nervous giggle punctuated these conversations, the sound like a ten year old finding a hidden stash of Hustlers in his uncle’s garage.
They were led by Gerald the security guard to a dormitory with a large common room and five three person rooms. Aaron, Leonard and Melvin were directed toward the farthest room on the right.
As they crossed the common room, Aaron could see several other men of varying descriptions seated around a table playing cards, and a couple more parked on a sofa in front of a television set suspended in the corner, Days of Our Lives droning from the tiny speakers.
There were three book shelves in the common room with a few books and board games in them and two other tables, round like the one the card game was being played on, each with various magazines and paper with pencils for drawing or letter writing.
As the little triumvirate passed by, a few curious heads raised and turned in their direction, sizing them up, taking stock. Aaron returned a few of the gazes, and as he scanned the room, his eyes locked on an Asian man, slight of build, sitting tailor-fashion on the carpeted floor, his hands resting lightly on his knees. He was covered in tattoos, tribal images and symbols decorating the flesh of his arms and face. Aaron supposed the ink was distributed over the rest of the small man’s body as well, a living, walking work of art. Their eyes locked for only a moment, but the charge of energy Aaron felt from the contact was real enough that he took notice of it. He couldn’t decipher it’s meaning, but he knew that what he felt was real and very strong and it scared him. The little Asian man closed his eyes and returned to his meditation as Aaron reached his room.
The room contained three single beds, three dresser drawers, a closet with no hangars and an adjoining rest room and shower. Inside the dressers were more jumpsuits, underwear and socks. There was one window that opened onto a small courtyard, with a basketball hoop, a volleyball court and four concrete tables with benches. Two large cigarette urns sat at either end of each table.
Gerald the security guard ushered them into the room and then gave them instructions.
“Ok, Listen up. This is yall’s room, so keep it clean. No writing on the walls in here or in the bathroom. Keep your clothes either in the laundry bin or the dressers, not on your beds or on the floor. Breakfast is every morning at eight A.M., lunch at noon and dinner at six thirty. If we call you for a meal and you miss it, you go hungry. There is no food allowed in this dormitory. Periodically, your name may be called for doctor visits or other reasons. When your name is called, you are not to shout out. You are to report to the nurse’s station right outside that door,” he pointed to a door at the opposite side of the room from where they had entered, “and give them your name. From there someone will escort you to wherever you need to go.”
Gerald paused for a second, trying to make sure he covered his entire agenda. Having found his place, his continued.
“Your medications will be distributed to you according to your doctor’s instructions. Do not ask the nurses for additional doses. They will not give them to you. Visitors are allowed twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays. Mail will come every day.”
Gerald checked his watch. “It is now eleven o’clock. Lunch begins in half an hour, then after lunch, your afternoon group session begins here in the dorm.”
His required speech given, Gerald’s voice changed from bureaucratic to administrative.
“My name is Gerald Watkins and I am the head of security for this dormitory. I’ll make it real simple for you. You get along with everybody else, you’ll get along with me. You make a ruckus, and we have a problem. You become too much of a problem,” and here he looked straight at Aaron, “you go to isolation.”
Eyeing the big man narrowly, Aaron said, “Um, can I just go to isolation now?”
Leonard and Melvin looked at Aaron with unabashed awe. Melvin barked his maniacal laugh. Aaron, for his part, was in earnest. He in no way wanted to be around these people, around crazy people, around little tattooed Asian men with black eyes.
The burly security guard took a step closer to Aaron, who instinctively shrank away from the nearness of the man as his personal space was invaded. He looked squarely in Aaron’s eyes.
“I have no doubt, Mr. Stiles, that you’ll end up there soon enough.” He stepped back and again addressed all three roommates. “Now, you three choose your bunks and get ready for lunch.”
Over the next two weeks, the routine was established. Wake up at seven in the morning and get ready for breakfast. After breakfast, an hour in the courtyard, weather permitting. Next, the morning group session with all the dorm inhabitants gathered in a semicircle around the nurse on duty, Gerald the security guard or another guard on Gerald’s days off hovering in the background.
Here the day’s agenda was laid out and the mail was delivered. This lasted about forty five minutes to an hour, after which was free time until lunch at noon. After lunch came the afternoon group session where each patient was encouraged to share with the group. Aaron had little use for these sessions and though he was obliged to attend, steadfastly refused to participate.
Following the afternoon session, another yard session, this time two hours usually from three to five, then back inside to get ready for dinner. After dinner, free time until nine o’clock, when the television went off and the lights went out. During the night, a security officer made hourly patrols, shining his flashlight in through the tiny windows in the door on each bunk and checking the locks.
And so it went, day after day, with a few monotonously boring meetings with social workers and doctors. On visiting days Betty came, but Aaron never greeted her with much enthusiasm. He hated his parents for what he perceived as their abandonment of him in this prison and after the first two weeks refused to see her when she came.
He was prescribed Prozac and lithium for his mood swings and delusions and Nuerontin, a seizure medication that also worked as a treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome and other nerve disorders. The combination made him groggy and lightheaded and when he complained, the time of his dosage was changed from AM to PM, so that he would sleep through the side effects. The result was that he spent all of his free time in his bed asleep, constantly having to be awakened for meals and appointments.
Eventually, a rule was made that prohibited patients from being in their bunks except during the night time hours from nine to eight in the morning. Aaron adjusted quickly. He slept with his head on one of the common room tables, away from everyone else, away from the crazy talk and the psycho babble and especially away from the little Asian man with the tattoos.
Everyone seemed to want to stay away from the tattooed man. He was always by himself, seated cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, head tilted back, lost in meditation. He, like Aaron, never spoke in group or volunteered any information about himself at all, and this was perfectly okay with everyone there, including the staff. Not once was his name called, not once was he reprimanded or even referred to. It was like he wasn’t really there at all. Aaron began to wonder of anyone else even saw him.
Soon, the tattooed man began to become an obsession for Aaron. He forwent sleep to keep tabs on the little man, watching him while he meditated, while he sat quietly at group, while he ate in the big cafeteria. The enigma had become a riddle, the riddle a conundrum and now the conundrum was a full blown curiosity that ate at Aaron like a cancer. He must find out who this man was; he must. Where had he come from? Why was he here?
For his part, except for that initial contact on Aaron’s first day, the Asian man completely ignored Aaron. He never returned Aaron’s stares, never even looked his way, keeping his eyes straight forward, never blinking, never talking, only meditating for hours every day, his legs crossed, his hands resting on his knees, his head rock solid still, face staring straight ahead.
Aaron then began to notice for the first time with any specificity the enigmatic Asian’s tattoos. The colors were vibrant; stark electric blues and reds, bright yellows and greens. There were Cyrillic symbols, Japanese characters and Celtic designs in different configurations on his neck and face; each arm had a dagger running up from the back of the hand, entwined by serpents, the hilts ending on the ropy biceps, the veins standing up in relief along his forearms. On the back of his bald head was stenciled a pentagram, the north and south points running from front to back. This was done in black, and each cell of the pentagram contained a different rune in blood red. In the middle of the pentagram, an open eye, lidless, engulfed in blue flame stared unceasingly into the heavens.
On the first Monday of the third week, Aaron’s obsession reached a boiling point. The energy surge he had felt coupled with the man’s complete dismissal of him since that first, brief encounter, had festered in Aaron until he could no longer stand it. His apprehension concerning the man was over powered by the spell that had obviously been cast through that furtive glance three weeks earlier, and so Aaron approached the man during lunch on that Monday.
The tattooed man was sitting alone, as usual, quietly consuming a salad when Aaron came in from the serving line and spotted him. Aaron walked straight to the man’s table and sat directly across from him, dropping his tray loudly enough to sufficiently announce his presence.
The man gave no outward sign that Aaron even existed. Aaron leaned forward across the table and cleared his throat.
“Hey there,” he said to no response. He waved his hand in front of the man’s nose.
“Yo, tattoo man! Anyone home? Yoo-hoo!” The Asian was unmoved. Nonplussed, Aaron pressed the issue.
He reached across the table, grabbed the tray in front of the Asian man and started to pull it towards his side of the table. Suddenly, with one lightning quick movement, the little man grabbed Aaron by the wrist.
Instantly, pain shot up Aaron’s arm and into his chest, depriving him of breath. Convulsing and gasping for air, he jerked back on his arm, but the little man’s grip was like a vice, his fingers digging into the flesh of Aaron’s wrist, pressing the nerves against the bone. The pain was like a bright light, engulfing him and in that bright light,
Aaron saw the little Asian man as he really was, his aura uncovered by the pulsing, wracking pain that now permeated Aaron’s entire body.
The man was awash in a blue-black flame, like the one surrounding the eye on his shaven pate, and he laughed evilly at Aaron, his mouth full of pointed teeth, his tongue slithering out between them, forked and dripping saliva. The runes and symbols etched into his skin glowed darkly, emanating a nebulous energy which rose in a vapor from their outlines. The serpents entwined around the daggers on the man’s forearms writhed, lifting their hooded heads from his flesh and hissing at Aaron, droplets of venom falling from their gleaming fangs. His eyes glowed redly, like coals from a fire, black and pitted. Aaron tried to look away, to extract himself from this horror, but he could not. All he could do was stare into those burning orbs of brimstone and as he stared, as he felt his soul being blasted from the inside, the grinning horror of a mouth moved, the lips forming a single word in a language Aaron recognized as Latin, and then the man released Aaron and walked away from the table.
For a second, Aaron believed he was dead. Then he found his voice and the scream that came from his throat chilled the blood of everyone within earshot. He ran shrieking around the cafeteria, overturning tables and chairs. That little spark was all it took to set off a conflagration. A full-scale riot ensued. For twenty minutes, chaos reigned in the cafeteria. Then, suddenly, it was all over as security from every corner of the facility arrived and restored order. Aaron was the last to be subdued.
It took four guards fifteen minutes to finally wrestle him to the floor and apply restraints. He was taken to an isolation room and strapped to a gurney, where he struggled and screamed and fought until a nurse arrived and administered a sedative. As the drugs began to take effect and Aaron swam down into oblivion, that word, that one word the tattooed man had spoken to him through the mouth of a dragon, followed him down and bound him securely in the hell through which he now staggered blindly, lost to the world and lost to himself.
The word echoed in his head:
Join BookDaily now and receive featured titles to sample for free by email.
Reading a book excerpt is the best way to evaluate it before you spend your time or money.
Just enter your email address and password below to get started:
Instant Bonus: Get immediate access to a daily updated listing of free ebooks from Amazon when you confirm your account!
William Fripp is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina and currently resides in Lincolnton, NC with his wife Valerie and two cats. William has been writing as a hobby since the age of nine. After nearly three decades in the restaurant business, he has turned his passion for storytelling into a full time job.