We recently released Jeremiah Israel’s Live On No Evil, a horror novel perfect for that weird conspiracy theorist who lives down the street from you. Imagine a mashup of Donnie Darko and American Gods, and you might start having an idea of what to expect.
Below we’ve shared the first chapter. Take a test-drive on it, and if you want to read more, why not purchase a copy?
CHAPTER I: JUDGMENT
Forest had no idea who was chopping the heads off of the grey geese who lived off the river behind the school, but that didn’t stop him from speculating. The fact that Officer Minsky and Principal Hall were convinced it was him only fueled his guesses, yet he felt himself sinking deeper into the projected blame he was becoming desperate to avoid.
“Or what about the football team, huh? Have you considered them?”
Principal Hall sat back in his padded chair, practically a throne, and Officer Minsky leaned against the front of the desk, his sleeves rolled and his furry forearms crossed over his puffed chest like some kind of bird-mammal.
“No, of course not,” said Forest. “No one ever considers the obvious. I know if I had to roll around in goose droppings while chasing a ball around, I’d probably want to go on a beheading rampage myself.”
“The football team reported this to us. Their practice was cancelled this morning because of the geese carcasses. Why would they want to destroy their own field?”
Principal Hall cocked his head with the question and Forest tossed up his arms, frustrated and tired with the circle of accusations.
“I don’t know. Why would anyone? Why go through the trouble of cutting off their heads? Why not poison them? Or better yet, chase them down and strangle them?” He threw his arms in the air. “I don’t have an answer for you.”
Officer Minsky pushed off from the table and gave a long and needlessly loud exhale. Forest cringed as the cop bent down, hands to his knees and face level with his.
“Do you own a sword, Forest?”
“Yes.” Forest let the wise ass grin he was known for out shamelessly. “Several. In fact, there’s one in my locker right now.”
Officer Minsky stood up and inhaled deeply and annoyingly before walking around Forest’s stiff backed wooden chair.
“Really?” he asked. “Because I didn’t see one in there last I checked. Number 117, right? Or do the titty-doodles belong in someone else’s locker?” Forest’s smirk died and was replaced with a snarl. “So those are yours, then? Nope, no sword in there, but I did find this silly Styrofoam thing wrapped in tape. That’s not what you’re talking about, is it? Because I could’ve sworn that was a pool toy.”
Forest rolled his eyes.
“No, I’m talking about a real sword. Two and a half to three feet long, inch and a half wide, sharp and slightly curved. You know anything about that kind of a sword?”
“First of all,” said Forest, “they aren’t ‘titty-doodles’. They’re illustrations of Monarchians, the highest order of the dark fairy species. Second, the type of sword you’re describing is a katana. A karate sword. Now, do I look like I practice karate to you, Officer?” Forest lowered his arms to his side, palms up. “No, my swords are medieval replicas. No Asian influence at all. Seems to me you’re looking in the wrong place. I hear the martial arts club practices with real weapons sometimes. You might want to do a little research before you start pointing any fingers.”
“Well, you can’t blame us now, can you?” said Principal Hall. “We heard about the Cooper incident. If this little fantasy game gets any more real, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble.”
“More trouble than you’re already in.”
“Cooper ran into a tree branch. That had nothing to do with our battle.”
“And the geese? Are tree branches magically cutting off their heads?”
Now the principal and officer were grinning and Forest could feel disgust rising and developing into a boiling rage. Sometimes he envisioned himself in full armor of sapphire, slicing the two trolls into pieces, their entrails slinging to stick against the white walls and then sliding slowly to the ground, leaving a red bloody stripe.
“I’m sure that’s exactly what happened. You’ve solved the mystery, Captain,” said Forest. “So can I go?”
Officer Minsky wiggled his nose as if to loosen constrictive boogers in his hairy nostrils.
Principal Hall sighed. “I’ve heard enough.”
“More than enough,” said Minsky. “I’d be real careful how I choose to spend my time if I were you.”
Forest stood up and slung his backpack strap over his head. “I spend my time creating while half the school smokes Trap. Maybe you should worry about how you spend your time.”
“I’ll be talking with your parents,” said Principal Hall.
“Parent. I only have one.”
“Parent. I want to let your parent know exactly what you’re involved with. You do know how serious this is, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, so I suggest you contact my lawyer next time instead of pulling me out of class to harass me.”
Forest turned around and his cloak spun with him. Embroidered on the back was his guild’s insignia. Ten swords standing on their handle’s tip with a body above, levitating with his back flat and hands crossed over his chest.
“My mom will be expecting your call.”
Forest didn’t look back as he returned into the long halls of Spectrum High North. Class was in session and he walked slowly into the elevator by the main entrance. It rose to the third floor, passing his second story history class. The doors slid open with a ‘ding’ and he exited as if class was still his destination.
The entrance to the rafters of the auditorium were only accessible by the third floor. Mr. Chambers, the theater and performance director was known by few to keep the door unlocked for frequent cigarette breaks.
Forest’s history teacher would assume he was still meeting with the principal and his last class of the day was math, which was well worth the risk of skipping.
He walked into the darkness of the scaffolding, closing his eyes to see by memory.
He heard music and once he was close enough to the ladder, he opened his eyes to find the light that illuminated the catwalk from below.
The song was typical: thumping and sassy. Another computer generated mess for some skin and bones actress to mime the words and hump the air to.
He had heard it somewhere before, though, and it bothered him, knowing their scheme worked. Whoever it was that was profiting off this shitty music was succeeding in imprinting it into the brains of everyone.
I’m a victim, thought Forest, with a song in my head.
“Worship me, slippery, dickory dock,” the song went, “you can be my wonderful wakeup call cock.”
Five girls danced feverishly to the beat in sweats and half shirts.
“Dip, Brandy!” Mr. Chambers yelled over the speakers. He was sitting in the middle of the empty audience with another male, his hands cupped around his mouth to project. “That’s a squat! You have to dip!”
The girls continued, throwing their arms, legs, heads and torsos at imagined goals and empty air.
“Don’t go lazy on us! The audience doesn’t care how tired you are!”
Forest broke himself from the trance of their movements and exposed skin. He continued over them until he was behind and above the curtain and then lowered himself down the two stories from a ladder out of view. He found his way through a clutter of stacked chairs and prop tables to the back exit. The door had already been propped up by a broomstick that prevented it from shutting and locking.
Forest smelled smoke. He must have just missed Mr. Chambers. He peeked through the crack—it was clear. He stepped out and recognized the girl immediately.
“Ooh, busted.” She took another drag on her cigarette, sitting in the corner where the building jutted out, her knees against her chest.
Forest froze. There was no one in the world he would rather address him. Jamie Price was it. The one and only.
“Well?” she said. “Are you smoking or what?” Her hair was up today with pins that kept her black and pink locks messily above her ears.
“No,” said Forest after a long internal debate. “Just ditching.”
“You should have one with me.” She reached between her legs for the pack on the ground.
Forest gulped. He knew not to hesitate in plain visibility and sunk in a plop down next to her.
“Shit. I forgot.” She searched her pack. “I only have one and it’s my lucky.” She showed him the cigarette with the tobacco end face-up and Forest waved it away.
“It’s okay. Don’t risk it.”
She looked at him and he had trouble keeping eye contact. “Here.” She handed him her half-smoked square. “Finish this. I’ll take the lucky one.”
Forest did obediently and Jamie lit up the fresh cigarette. He barely sucked in, and only into his mouth, hoping she wouldn’t notice.
“So,” she said, her voice so nice, so unique, “what’s with the cape?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean it’s like 78 degrees today.”
He followed her eyes down. She was wearing tight black jeans cut-off at the knees. Her feet were dirty and her toenails matched her purple lips. She wore a white wife beater and a black bra was visible underneath.
“You gotta be hot in that.”
“It’s not so bad inside.” He looked away as he pretended to drag on the smoke. There was a pause and Forest became anxious.
“So . . . ” said Jamie, “are you supposed to be a wizard or a knight or something?”
“No. I mean, we practice sword fighting and I do the recording.”
Jamie stared, waiting for him to explain.
“It’s like . . . another world or dimension, and we act in it through arranging battles and I record it all. In a story kind of.”
“So you’re writing a book?”
“Books, actually. There’s a lot.”
Forest was all smiles.
“So you do your battles or whatever and you just write them?”
“Yeah, but I’ve been writing ahead recently. This next month is going to be big.”
“Really. So what’s going to happen then?”
Forest flicked the cigarette as it reached for his fingers. “Everything,” he said. “Death, temperance, judgment.”
“That sounds serious.”
“It is serious,” he said and stood up. “That’s why I’m getting out of here. I’m finishing volume VI tonight.”
“Good luck,” she said looking up at him. “You should tell me more about it sometime.”
“You can come,” he said. “No one’s home at my place right now. I can show you.”
She gave him a look of suspicion as she squinted her eyes and cocked her head. Smoke climbed up her face from behind her bottom lip.
“Or whenever,” Forest said. He willed his body away from blushing at his too eager response.
“Thanks,” she said. “It’s just, I have art next and, no reason skipping the one class I like.”
“Next time,” he said and turned away with a grin. Damn, he thought, Jamie Price is a goddess.
He walked into the open and then down through the wetland path that led to the river. He bent through a gate he pulled up over himself and walked along the steep incline of concrete that led to the water below the bridge. He dodged ragged bedding that had been in the process of decay for years and noticed a charred metal frame. It had been a mattress and was now just the harsh remains of that which wouldn’t burn. Cars rumbled over the bridge and he realized the sound was soothing when heard from below, coupled with the rushing river water.
He came out the other side that connected to the park and walked along the fence that blocked the river foliage from the mowed and maintained fields. It was empty except for the playground ahead and he crossed through the scattered trees to exit through a backyard facing the park.
It was the only one out of the long row of houses that was up for sale. The fences were high and wooden with no gaps, which made getting out to the street less conspicuous. He noticed the gate was ajar only as he was reaching over to unlock it.
As he pulled it open an alarm sounded and he found himself staring down at a boy, looking at his watch. The boy pushed a button and the beeping pulse stopped. Forest thought to close the door and take the next cut, but the boy grabbed his wrist and pulled him in. He wore a baseball cap, blue with no insignia, and couldn’t be older than ten.
“Hi,” he said. His eyes were wide and tired and he was slightly hunched under the weight of a large orange backpack.
“Hi,” Forest repeated. He was surprised not only to see a person, but a kid. Usually, kids didn’t talk to him unless they were mocking his cloak. “What’s up?” he asked after an awkward pause.
The kid was in his way and wasn’t moving. He took off his hat and sighed before looking straight into Forest. “You have to stop.”
It didn’t come out as a threat or a warning, just simple statement of fact. “Okay. Stop what?”
Did the kid live here? Had he seen him cross through before?
The kid with the backpack sighed again. “I don’t know.”
Another pause and Forest stared confused. “I have to stop but you don’t know what?”
“Right,” said the boy, almost relieved as if Forest understood.
“Right,” repeated Forest. “Okay, well I’ll keep that in mind.” He walked around the kid and noticed he was sweating visibly and breathing heavy. “Are you okay? Have you been running?”
“Yeah,” said the boy. He was a chubby kid, but still in a healthy way for his age. “I’m okay. So you’ll do it then?”
“What am I stopping?”
“I told you!” This had obviously upset the boy and Forest looked him up and down as if to find the answer somewhere on his body. “I don’t know! Just stop! Whatever it is you’re supposed to. You should know. If anyone would know it would be you.”
“Great. I’ll consult myself then. Thanks for the advice.” Crazy kid, thought Forest as he walked on past him toward the front exit. What the hell kind of meds did his parents have him fucked up on?
Like a burn on the back of his neck he could feel the boy still staring at him and he turned back to see just that except he had turned his head and leaned to the side, viewing him upside down.
Forest picked up the pace and darted between a gap in traffic to get to the link of alleyways that would get him back to his house. And within minutes he was there. He didn’t usually run, but he wanted nothing more than to be inside, within the walls of his home and safe. He felt silly and convinced himself he was. The kid was crazy. He’d never seen him before but he never really paid attention to the neighborhood kids.
He sat on the couch in his living room waiting. He checked the clock. The delivery was set for 2:30 and it was almost time. He had figured the delivery man would leave the package outside and he would pick it up after school, but this way he could ensure that he received it safe and securely.
When the package did come, he signed the electronic pad and took it straight to his attic bedroom. It was long and heavy and he struggled to get it through the narrow stairway. He laid it flat to his bed and stared at the box. It was almost as long, just about five feet. He smiled. This was the biggest purchase he had ever made and it took since last year to save up enough to finally get it. He thought to open it, but stopped himself.
Something this important had to have an audience, an unveiling. Then again, he could just peek to make sure, but no. Things like this, special things, had to be treated ceremoniously. It was a rule that Forest followed faithfully, especially in concern to his guild’s recording.
He pulled the thick blind over his window and got to work lighting the many candles atop his writing desk. He double-checked the locks on his door. He slid open his closet and pulled out the mask, then sidestepped to the mirror and attached it to his face. He pulled his hood up and connected the cloak with a loop at the neck. He stared into his eyes, but not his face.
The mask was the only way he wrote in the volumes of his guild. It fit perfect to his face. His nose became a crooked protrusion. His chin extended as if the tail of a crest. His eyes became bags that drooped. With it on he could feel the power of age.
The mask hugged his cheeks so well he’d usually forget he was wearing it. It provided him with a renewed confidence and intense focus he hadn’t felt before.
The mask was essential, but it was the ritual that always got him started right. He sat down at his desk and chose his pen: a Micronium fine point with a 0.32mm line width and acid free archival ink. It prevented smearing on the lightly textured paper his hardbound leather burgundy notebook was filled with. The lines weren’t printed and so each stroke took meticulous care to keep not only the cursive text the same size, but also in a straight and even line.
Once he started, though, it was never issue and the story kept itself uniform. The notebook was laid in front of him and he placed his hand over his guild’s symbol he had stenciled into the front.
Forest closed his eyes and sighed.
“Beings above, below and beyond, use me as your magic wand. My hand, my heart, my mind, please fill, and through me now fulfill our will.”
Forest’s hand opened the binding to the page where the writing stopped and then uncapped the pen to continue. Smoothly, the pen fluttered through the pages, through the hours, until the volume completed.
Want to read more? Click here.