Solomon's Grave is now available for Pre-Order! Click here to order your copy now!
copyright 2009 by Daniel G. Keohane
Paperback: 304 pages Publisher: Dragon Moon Press (March 2009) Language: English ISBN-10: 189694499X ISBN-13: 978-1896944999
With my debut novel's release date set for this month, I'm offering everyone a preview of the novel, the opening chapters released each week. Feel free to share, spread the word, but keep in mind, this work in English is (c) 2009 by me, Daniel G. Keohane, and though you may reproduce / forward it in order to spread the word, no language/wording may be changed in any way, and all must be attributed to me (by always including the "by Daniel G. Keohane" line). If you like what you read, spread the word!
If you're new to this blog, Click Here to read the Prologue first. if you'd like, then scroll down and read:
The sky above the desert glowed deep red, almost maroon. Toward the horizon, it became brighter, lightening to a thin yellow where sand met sky. Nathan didn’t know which direction this was, whether he was seeing sunrise or sunset. He prayed he was facing east, for then the dancing colors would imply the sun would soon rise and with it, the comfort of day.
Desert stretched around him as far as he could see, but he was not hot. No shimmering of heat danced over the ground. The sand under his sneaker felt real when he kicked it. When he looked up again, his stomach tightened—a thin, acidic fear creeping through his body, filling his arms and legs with lead.
Where once there was only an eternal stretch of sand before him, a building now stood. Even from this distance, he could tell it was massive; two hundred feet high, maybe more. No definite delineation existed of floor or stories. It could have been a pyramid—its base wide, slowly tapering to a narrow girth at the top—or an Incan temple the likes of which he’d seen in old National Geographic magazines.
He was dreaming, a realization as familiar as the dream itself. As before, with the introduction of the temple came the people marching past. They formed a long line on either side of him, hooded, cloaks bathed in red hues of the surreal sky above. They marched in the sand like penitent monks, toward the temple. Nathan did not want to follow. He wanted to run away, or wake up, or do whatever he could to escape. The sand pulled him forward like an undertow. He tried to maintain his footing. The sand did feel hot, piling over his socks and sneakers. He tried to lean back, pull against the force.
Then he was in the air, flying without effort toward the temple. He passed over the hooded figures as they trudged along the landscape toward hundreds of steps leading up the building’s face toward a single, massive door. In the crowd that raced past below him, one face—just a quick glimpse—rang familiar before being lost in the ruddy shadows of its hood. The face eluded his memory, his thoughts occupied now on what lay ahead.
The doors of the temple swung inward. What remained was only a black square waiting to swallow him. Nathan spun, looked behind him to search under the cowls to glean any features of a friendly face. Someone to beg help from.
Nothing but lonesome darkness under each. If there had been someone he knew in the line of penitents, that person was lost forever. The twin formations faded into the distance. He was moving backwards, toward the open doors of the temple. Nathan ineffectually kicked his feet, tried to swim away in the hot, dry air. He remained caught in the undertow, sensing a heavy presence in the doorway behind him. He didn’t want to turn around, didn’t want to go inside. He closed his eyes, curled himself into a tight ball, tried to scream, tried to wake up, but his voice was mute.
“You are the sacrifice tonight,” said a voice. It was the voice one would imagine belonging to God, but turned inside out, dark and amused. From everywhere and nowhere a hundred arms grabbed him, squeezed his skin, pulled him inside.
The desert faded to a square floating in darkness, growing smaller as he fell further inside the temple. Nathan thrashed in their grip. They pulled harder, hurting, drawing him down and ripping at his flesh. Another sensation now, an odor, something burning—
“Hey! Hey, pal!”
Nathan found his voice at that moment and screamed one long, desperate wail. He struck out, found his arms no longer pinned.
A large, burly man leaned across the aisle and gripped his shoulder. Despite the man’s size, he seemed afraid to touch Nathan. “It’s OK, man. You awake yet or what?” He pulled his hand away and leaned back into his own seat.
Nathan looked around. The steady vibration of the bus, rolling along the dark highway outside. The bus. He’d fallen asleep on the ride. Nathan checked his watch, pressing a small button to illuminate the dial. Two-thirty in the morning.
He took in a deep breath and exhaled. “I’m OK. Sorry. Bad dream, I think. I didn’t hit you or anything, did I?”
The other man’s body sagged with relief, and he nodded, moving his large frame back to the window seat where he’d apparently been sitting before coming across to pull Nathan from the nightmare. “It’s OK,” he mumbled, keeping a sideways glance trained on him. “Didn’t hurt. Sounded like a bad one. I couldn’t wake you up.” He made this last statement almost to himself.
Nathan began to explain, but already the images and details were hard to remember, washed away in the real-life sensations of the bus’s dimly-lit interior. Besides, the guy probably didn’t want the details. He was being polite.
“I don’t remember much of it, not really. Thanks, though.” Three other heads were looking over the backs of the seats from scattered locations in front of him. Another advantage of taking such a late-traveling bus—aside from getting to Massachusetts quicker and without traffic—there were far fewer passengers spooked by his outburst. Nathan wondered absently if he really had screamed, or if that had been part of the dream. He didn’t want to know, and didn’t ask.
The man across the aisle extinguished the small overhead reading lamp, obviously trying to get back to sleep.
Nathan’s left shoulder ached. The guy must have shaken him hard. Seeing nothing else to hold their interest, the observing heads moved out of sight behind the seats. Nathan was alone again.
He looked at his dim reflection in the bus window, broken occasionally by a passing headlight or street lamp along the edge of Interstate 95. He tried to capture some details of the dream, hoping to retain more of it this time. It was his second nightmare this week. Some details felt familiar this time around, as if he’d experienced them before. Same dream, probably. The temple was most vivid, so alien to his consciousness. Maybe he’d seen it in a book, once, but couldn’t remember. Its setting had a biblical flavor. Nathan had already checked the three versions of the Bible he owned and didn’t see any illustration coming close.
This time, there had been a familiar face in the dream, or at least he thought so. His father, maybe? Other details, the red sky, the desert-scape, but again he returned to the quick glimpse of Art Dinneck—if that’s who it was—walking along, hooded, lost. Almost reverent. That part almost made sense. Homecoming jitters. In a few more hours, he’d arrive in Worcester. Then a cab ride to the small town of Hillcrest fifteen minutes north. Not to the house of his childhood, though he would pay a visit to his parents later.
Tomorrow morning—this morning, he realized—Nathan Dinneck would step into Hillcrest First Baptist Church not as a parishioner returning to the fold, but as its new pastor. The prodigal son returning, as his mother enjoyed saying (and saying, and saying) since he’d first phoned with the news. Only the second minister to serve in the small church’s thirty-year history. His new job broke so many rules of a parish choosing a pastor, he half-expected a large “April Fool’s” sign taped to the door. Five months late for such a thing, granted, but a nagging uncertainty remained.
Maybe if he were older, more experienced, then his new assignment wouldn’t seem so unlikely. But Jesus’ words—that a prophet is never welcomed in his home town—weighed on his thoughts. In fact, those words were often a standard by which church elders based many a decision. Until now, it seemed.
But, Reverend Hayden himself had invited Nathan to interview. The old man had been looking forward to a long overdue retirement. His failing eyesight and chronic arthritis had finally won out. Being the head of the search committee, he’d made the initial call. Nathan was serving as associate pastor in a large parish just outside of Orlando, a far cry from Hillcrest’s smaller, more intimate congregation. Unlike the south, the Christian population in New England, especially Massachusetts, was predominately Catholic and Congregational. Many of his boyhood friends went to Saint Malachy’s in the center of town, if they attended church at all.
Perhaps that would be an advantage. Running a small parish in such a sleepy town meant he could get his feet wet as pastor a bit more leisurely. From his own experience, nothing much exciting ever happened at home.
God had a plan for him, and that plan involved coming home. He closed his eyes, feeling the tug of sleep returning, and wondered if Elizabeth O’Brien still lived in town. If she did, he doubted she’d speak to him, big time pastor or not.
He did fall asleep, and did not dream. At least not that he could recall in the light of morning as the bus pulled into the Worcester depot.
* * *
copyright 2009 by Daniel G. Keohane
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Dragon Moon Press (March 2009)
Language: English ISBN-10: 189694499X