Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Tuesday Tease - The Last True Demon by Michael Brookes

For this week's Tuesday Tease we have the opening chapter for my next book - 'The Last True Demon'. Details on the book can be found after the excerpt:

THE LAST TRUE DEMON
by Michael Brookes

Chapter 1
Finding the Impossible


The Garden of Eden had seen better days.

Where a paradise once existed now I saw a churned battlefield, reminiscent of the blood-soaked fields of France during World War I. Unlike the tragedy of the human conflict, this war had raged for longer than the span of human existence. In the process the war ruined the splendour of the Garden which had once been the jewel of creation. Hemal, the Friar and Hammond waited for me to act; fortunately the sheer scale of Eden enabled us to appear far from the current fighting.

Or so I hoped at any rate.

During my incarceration within the monastery wall, the conversations with the angels provided me with some warning of what to expect. Despite that I still felt somewhat shell-shocked by the experience. The transformation from a living human into an immortal soul wasn’t an easy or pleasant one.

The Friar and Hammond suffered an even greater trauma. Both refused to speak, or even acknowledge my presence. They retained the same physical appearance as they had in life. I assumed that I had too. The Friar was the taller of the two, although not by much. Hammond, the ex-marine bulked much heavier.

I’d first met them both in prison. Hammond had been one of the guards and the Friar replaced the chaplain I’d scared away. Unbeknownst to me at the time they were both members of the Dominican order and my particular talents were of great interest to them.

They had talents of their own of course, but they relied upon their framework of faith. I preferred to be more flexible and that helped me through the transition between life and death. I’d also received some warning of what the process entailed, they found everything they believed in life ruined like the Garden around them. Only the angel Hemal seemed aware of my presence and she looked almost dead from her battle with that traitorous bastard Venet.

When I last encountered him he’d distracted me while the Antichrist prepared for my sacrifice. The moment when he’d torn Lazarus’ miracle of immortality from my body had been one of infinite agony. In the same moment I had died — something I’d thought impossible after stealing the miracle from Lazarus.

I’d learnt that we all possessed an immortal soul. A construct created by God which existed in planes of being higher than our own. It followed us throughout our lives recording our choices and thoughts. When we died it transformed our consciousness into a new being able to inhabit the same plane as the angels.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Like all pleasant-sounding things, it came with a catch. In the instant of transformation you experienced every living second of your life. More than just memories, you also discovered every truth about yourself and what you might have been. Every choice you ever made was laid bare and the consequences of your actions, or failure to act, made clear.

In effect you didn’t just relive the life you had; you followed every life you could have led. Imagine all the ways in which your life might have differed. Now live them all at once in the same instant. It created an information overload even for someone used to walking the paths of the mind like me.

I knew what to expect and still struggled to comprehend the experience. Hammond and Friar Francis looked like they had been fried by theirs.

From far in the distance came the sound of conflict. The eternal war had already lasted longer than the universe. A few thousand years ago humanity joined the war as cannon fodder for both sides, the loyalists and the fallen. One of the loyalists sat in front of me now. Lucifer and Michael had put a plan in action to end humanity’s existence and our involvement in the war.

When I first met Hemal I’d almost been seduced by her ethereal beauty. That fair art had been ruined by Venet. She had suffered so much damage I caught glimpses of her true form boiling beneath the human-shaped disguise she wore for our benefit.

She’d once warned me that seeing her true form would be too much for my mind to handle. I wondered if that still held true, or if the transformation somehow protected me. I guessed it would. After all, if it didn’t then the growing rebellion from the human souls would have been crushed by now.

Her true form reminded me of the coiling mass which once protected Lazarus’s mind. No, at first glance it might have seemed similar, but upon closer inspection they stretched deeper. I followed the twists inwards …

“Hey! You can admire me later when I’m back to my usual self.”

Her words brought me back. I didn’t understand why I’d lost myself so easily. Something with my mind didn’t seem right; my usual precision had somehow slid off-kilter.

I glanced again at the Friar and Hammond. They looked the same as they had back in the physical universe. Again my concentration slipped — why was I so easily distracted all of a sudden?

Another memory intruded. Something more recent.

“You said that we still had a chance to stop Lucifer and Michael’s plan. You said we needed to find the last true demon. I thought you’d hunted them all down?”

This was one of the secrets I’d learned while in my cafe beside the abyss: demons weren’t part of creation. Somehow they were invisible to God. This had frightened the angels and they’d hunted down and destroyed all of them.

Or so they’d claimed.

“That’s what we thought, but I’ve heard rumours over the centuries.” Her voice strained from the effort of talking. “Strange occurrences which might indicate one still exists.”

“How is this possible?”

“I’m not sure, and we don’t have time to speak of this now. Others will have sensed your arrival and you’re still a valuable prize. We must get out of here and quickly.”

“Where to?”

“Anywhere for now. I’m too weak to fight even a human soul in my current condition.”

“All right, let me get Hammond and Friar Francis together.”

She nodded.

I moved over to the Friar and looked into his eyes. He didn’t respond to my presence. I saw nothing in his eyes, just a stare which reached out forever.

“Friar, we have to move. I realise this is all seems strange and isn’t what you expected, but Hemal says we cannot stay here.”

Still no sign of life. I touched his arm. I’m not one for physical contact. I much prefer to delve into people’s thoughts, but I hoped it would get through to him — a silly idea I know, but I’d experienced all manner of odd notions since I first met these two men.

Again my mind wandered so I forced my focus back to the Friar.

“C’mon Friar, we need to get out of here. Snap out of it.”

Still no response. I tried shaking him but, once again, nothing. I only had one choice left, so I cast out my thoughts and dived into his mind.

Well that had been the plan; instead nothing happened. The first time we’d met his abilities had blocked my own, but this was something worse — my will didn’t even leave my head. For the first time since an early age I couldn’t project my will beyond my own body.

I tried again with the same result.

I didn’t panic until my third attempt failed. I grabbed the Friar again, this time with creeping desperation and hoping physical contact would provide a bridge. When it didn’t I really started to fear. I released the Friar and turned to Hammond.

The Friar had blocked me before, although since training me he hadn’t been able to do that. A small part of me had already understood that I wasn’t being blocked, not by the Friar. The greater and weaker part needed even the flimsiest of straws to clutch at.

I tried to cast my mind out once more.

It failed to leave the prison of my skull. Hammond didn’t even look at me. He’d always been so secure in himself that he never raised any barriers; in fact he’d welcomed me straight in the first time we’d met. Now he stared past me, not registering my panic or even the wreckage of the Garden around him.

In that moment I experienced fear. Not for the first time I’ll grant you, but this time proved different. This wasn’t as simple as a fear of dying, or being beaten. This fear struck at the core of who I had been for so long. I reacted as I had before and retreated inside myself.

The relief when I slipped into the fabric of my own mind thrilled me. Was it really still my body even though I no longer had a physical body?

It was a distracting question and not one I should take the time to dwell on. I faced an existential concern: something which had defined me for most of my life had vanished. I felt lessened by the knowledge.

Deep inside I discovered a small sanctuary. It buoyed me that at least I had a place to retreat to. The knowledge restored my faith in myself. Not completely of course but enough to keep me retreating into the same state that Hammond and the Friar already had.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

The Last True Demon is the concluding book in The Third Path trilogy.

Stealing Lazarus’ miracle granted me immortality. Unfortunately, as I discovered upon a cold slab of stone, it didn’t make me indestructible. According to a dark prophecy I should have been the one who could stop the Antichrist bringing his Father to the Earth.

I learned the hard way as he ripped the miracle from my flesh. Now I’ve passed over and I’m in the ruins of the Garden of Eden with the Friar, Hammond, and Venet, a wounded angel. There’s a slim chance we can save humanity. All we have to do is find God and convince him to intervene and save us all.

The only problem?

He doesn’t believe that we exist…


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