Manifest the darkening t.., p.1

Manifest (The Darkening Trilogy), page 1

 

Manifest (The Darkening Trilogy)
 



Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font   Night Mode Off   Night Mode

Manifest (The Darkening Trilogy)


  MANIFEST

  THE DARKENING TRILOGY: BOOK I

  By: Jonathan R. Stanley

  -

  -For my parents and family-

  ©2013 Jonathan R. Stanley

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the email below, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator.”

  All Rights Reserved

  Stanley.jonathan.r@gmail.com

  Acknowledgements

  I would like to acknowledge my parents for their generous financial and emotional support which gave me the opportunity and freedom to pursue my passions. I would like to thank Debra and Rebecca for their unceasing moral support and for always helping me to remember who I am. I would like to thank Russ for all of the adventures and also for keeping me grounded and to Randy for reading my works and giving me the periodic kick in the butt I needed. I would also like to thank my second family, Kim, Stan, and Joanna for taking me in as their own, my grandfather Stanley for his mentorship and guidance and most of all Allison for her companionship, love, and for all the things she has done for me for which I am grateful in a way that words cannot express. Lastly, I would like to thank my faithful friends who supported my dream and found their way into these pages.

  “And men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil.” - John 3:19

  Prologue

  “Are you going to kill me?” I asked her. We had come to a stop at the entrance of a grimy old diner. A recent rain clung to the windows.

  She looked genuinely concerned. “Why on earth would I do that?”

  “You wouldn’t be the first to try tonight…”

  “I saved your life so you could live.”

  I put my hands in my pockets and looked sideways at the diner. “Why are we here? I’m not really hungry.” Not an hour ago, I was livestock for a sociopathic cannibal. The blue plate special with a side of newly-acquired-moral-vegetarianism didn’t sound very appetizing.

  “Coffee?”

  The thought nauseated me.

  “And we need to talk.”

  She held the door for me and I hugged my arms to my body as I passed. I had gained great insight into victimhood, violation and degradation. I felt vulnerable to everything around me, even to the air.

  “Why are you helping me?” I asked my strangely unassuming rescuer. “You are helping me right?”

  “Yes,” she nodded and we took a booth in the middle of the vacant seating area. “Have a seat before you fall down.”

  I slumped into the booth and the frayed seat cushion let out a long sigh. I stared at my quivering hands. They stared back for a moment before I leaned forward and buried my face in them. From the darkness they afforded me, I heard a menu get placed in front of me, a cup turn over and some coffee pour. I waited till the waitress had surely left and then snuck a peek between my fingers. “What happened to me tonight?”

  Sitting across from me, the woman, Alice, seemed completely dispassionate as she took off her thin suede gloves and pea coat and set them to her side. She had the air of a person conducting business with a client she didn’t need. I knew that look because I was a master at it. I had made my fortune with it.

  “I won’t lie to you…” She took a slurp of hot slurp of coffee, gave it an approving look, and then set down the mug. “Something terrible.” Yet when she looked at me next – made eye contact with me – her face was no longer cold and calculating, but discerning and kind. For a flash, her middle-aged features grew much older. I never knew my grandmother, but I suddenly felt as if I was looking at her and that she loved me. “Luckily,” – she dragged out the word while pulling out a napkin from the dispenser and dabbing carefully at her lipstick line – “it’s not the end.”

  She was stunning in that instant but I shook it off. “So what happens next? I can’t go back to my life.”

  “Mmm, that is true. But you do have choices.”

  “What choices?”

  “All of them, wouldn’t you think?” At that she cocked her head and she seemed twenty years younger. She looked like an actress taking on new personas, completely believably transforming herself at every move and yet still somehow the same. I blinked and it was gone.

  She was right, though. What else besides my sister, and my desire to remain alive, did I have to sway me? And yet somehow I didn’t feel particularly liberated. I had escaped the cannibal but my sister, Sabetha, had not. Then again, it seemed like Sabetha was more in danger of getting married, than becoming dinner. “I have to save my sister.”

  “And I can help you.”

  “Okay, but first tell me who you are,” I demanded weakly.

  “My name is Alice.” It was the first thing she had said to me when we met. Actually, then she had said Alice the sentiner.

  “I remember. But who is Alice the sentiner and why did she save me from a nightmare I’m still hoping to wake up from?”

  “Alice is someone with very powerful friends.”

  “I had very powerful friends.”

  “Not like these,” she countered quickly. “We can make sure you and your sister survive.”

  “How?”

  “Well, there’s a catch.”

  Negotiations? I was a master at negotiating. “Always.”

  “I need you to keep an open mind.” She reached across the table and created a dome over my hand with both of hers. Contact was a useful method to inspire trust.

  “That big, huh?”

  “A big payoff requires a big risk.” She said it like she was quoting me. Not very profound, kind of cliché actually, but it sounded like something I’d say when trying to sell someone. Not so fun when you’re the one being sold. My stomach quivered and I let out a breath. “Shoot.”

  “The world looks different to you now. Different than it did a week ago.”

  The statement was so simple but her voice was that of someone who saw what I did: no glass without grime, no street without filth, no person without hard years written all over his face, no happiness but the absence of grief, no sterile darkness, just horrors dimly lit...

  “You’re trying to reconcile the Viscount and his dungeon with what you know about humans and the laws of physics.”

  Also there were vampires.

  “You don’t have to decide on what you believe just yet. I only recommend you believe what you saw. It’s safer that way.”

  I tried to swallow but couldn’t.

  “I also recommend you decide on what you are willing to do to save your sister.”

  I wet my pallet with some boiling coffee and it scalded me into boldness. “Why can’t you save her like you saved me?”

  “I’m not allowed to interfere.”

  “With what? You interfered to save me.”

  “That’s different. I’m inducting you.”

  “Inducting? Into what exactly?”

  “The Hyperion.” Like that was a sufficient answer.

  “The what?”

  She continued anyways. “You can’t save her as you are. You need what we can offer you.”

  “What if I don’t want it?” You can’t just take the first deal you’re offered. You’ve got to find the angle, the fine print, the knife behind her back poised to sink into yours.

  “Then you will both die.”

  I looked around the diner. Still empty. Not even the waitress. “Why
are you doing this to me?”

  “Because I need you.”

  “For what?”

  “To do some good for this city.”

  “Fuck, Alice! If you want me to do some good, get me my job back! Let me climb the ranks of Cynthecorp. Let me change the governing policies--”

  She reached across the table and put her hand on my mouth. Her face was fraught with fear, her palm cool and soft against my stubble. I was frozen.

  “It doesn’t work that way,” she whispered and then sat back, her momentary lapse of composure replaced with fortified confidence.

  “Then how does it work?”

  “You can only see like you see now, once you’re out. And once you’re out you can’t go back in. That’s why there is no change.”

  “What do you mean no change? Things change…” but my own voice betrayed me.

  “There will be time for all of this later. What you need to know now is that I can offer you a way out.”

  “Out of the city?”

  “No, your current predicament. There is no way out of the city.”

  “No way out of the city? Pick a direction; there’s no wall... Wait, is there a wall?”

  “There will be time, later.”

  “Listen, sweetie. It doesn’t look like I have much of a choice, but I’m not going along without some answers. We discuss this now.”

  She looked at me pityingly, not like she didn’t want to argue but like there was some essential component to the equation missing. “We can’t.”

  “Why not?”

  “You’re not ready for it. If I told you, you couldn’t believe what I said. You’d run out of here and get yourself killed. For the time being, you need to trust in me.”

  I leveled my gaze at her. “Why can’t I leave the city?”

  “It won’t let you.”

  “Who won’t? Vampires? Cynthecorp? I used to work for them you know – not a subsidiary, Cynthecorp Tower, Neo Gothica.”

  She shook her head from side to side as it sank. “I wish you could just see that I am trying to help you.”

  I thought about what she was offering me. Immortality it sounded like. Some sort of deal with the devil? Or maybe an angel doing her best to guide a wayward soul. Either way there was Sabetha, still in the clutches of the Viscount. “What would you do in my situation?” I posed to Alice.

  She thought about it for a moment. “Probably what I know you’re about to do.”

  That put things in perspective. I leaned forward candidly. “I haven’t decided on much after getting a gun. Care to give me some insight into what I’m about to do?”

  She pulled out a small square pistol. It was mostly black plastic with little bumps on the grip and no hammer on the back. It looked stocky, like a stunted version of a real gun. I took it from her and hastily put it in my pocket. It felt small in my hand, yet powerful.

  “You’re about to save your sister.” From her other pocket she took out two silvery clips of ammunition. “I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”

  I smiled weakly. “That seems to be your thing.”

  I made my way to the door, no closer to answers than before I met Alice the sentiner, or whoever she really was.

  “Delano.” There was a tenderness in the way she said my name that I hadn’t expected. I stopped and turned. “Yeah?”

  “I’ll do what I can. And, hey. One last thing.”

  “Only?”

  “You can’t change Gothica. And you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.”

  Her words stung. “She’s my sister… What choice do I have? If I’m still alive in a few hours,” and I was feeling dangerously indifferent about that matter, “maybe we can talk again.”

  PART I: THE CITY OF GOTHICA

  {A thousand years later…}

  One

  “See him?” Sabetha asks, peering across the parking lot towards the movie theater.

  I’m looking at my wrist watch, lost in my own tiny, shadowy reflection staring back. “Not yet, but his show just let out,” I say. A single, tiny drop of water lands on the glass face. It won’t rain for another eleven and half minutes. I know this for certain but I instinctively look up at the sky. It’s cloudy, like it always is.

  “What odds do you give him?”

  “His death or his darkening?”

  She shrugs. “Both. Either.”

  “One or the other will happen tonight,” I assure her.

  But Sabetha persists, not satisfied. “Well then what do you think will get him if he dies?”

  I try to make my answer sound absentminded as I look into the crowds pouring out of the theatre. “I don’t know.”

  “Well focus, Delano. What are we in for tonight?”

  I know what she’s driving at. Chyldrin unanimously agree that there is nothing more thrilling, no high higher, than drinking the blood of a newly darkened ilk. Sabetha is hoping to live vicariously through tonight’s would-be predator, and wants to know if she shouldn’t get her hopes up.

  “Delano?”

  She still hasn’t taken the hint so I catch her eyes and speak very purposefully. “I think a vampire will get him.”

  She flinches at the word, but finally takes the hint: I’m not in the mood for the game. She pouts and looks back to the movie theatre.

  Tonight will be routine. Isaac will die and the world will go on as if he never existed. Hell, if I died tonight, the world would go on as if I never existed and I’m supposedly important. Self-important anyway. The only real difference between Isaac and me, as far as the world is concerned, is about our choices.

  As an ilk – a human – fifty-one years, four months, seventeen days, and nine hours old, he can’t distinguish between what he can do and what he should do – not the way I can. He doesn’t understand, as I do, that sometimes the strongest exercise in free will, is relinquishing it.

  Then again there is the chance, the very slim chance that Isaac won’t die. He might survive tonight. He might emerge from this ordeal to become a voice of reason, a paragon of justice, a selfless hero who breaks the city free of its curse of stagnation and ignorance. Anything’s possible…

  “There he is!” Sabetha hisses, her voice squeaking with excitement.

  “I see him.” My eyes look across the parking lot towards the glowing lights of the movie theatre. I peer deeply at Isaac. Despite the distance between us, I see everything about him – every fiber of his clothes, every pore on his body. His hair is upright and his eyes dilated as adrenaline surges through his blood stream. His darkening has begun.

  Sabetha puts on a pair of sunglasses, purely for the look, and coolly slips into the driver’s seat of our car. I let my eyes linger on Isaac as I enter on the passenger’s side. He is frantically fleeing the crowd of the forty-three people dispersing from the nine-twelve showing of Among Us, a controversial documentary, sensationalized by the rumors of its producers mysteriously disappearing. But this was only the spark in the powder keg, the straw on the camel’s back, pick your cliché; Isaac has been hurdling towards this event for some time; one might even say his entire life.

  Not long ago, Isaac was an average ilk. He paid his taxes to our conglomerate corporate government, Cynthecorp, had a daily routine which never varied, a wife and two kids, and he worked hard in the corporate sector with the false hope that one day he could retire comfortably. It was a good fit. But lately, Isaac has noticed gaps in the narrative. He’s come to see that there are a whole lot of effects in his world that don’t seem to have any causes.

  Drifting away from the crowd, we see Isaac rub his arms and chest, trying to shake off the spiders he feels crawling all over him. The corners of his mouth are drawn down and twitching and his dread-filled eyes dart about madly as he makes his way to a dilapidated ’87 Marquis hatchback. A few seconds later, we’re pursuing him on 612 Street.

  He runs his second red light when Sabetha turns on the radio, a slow, rhythmic gothic-industrial beat hissing with grainy reception. I
turn it off and she throws me an annoyed look. I ignore it and close my eyes, putting my hand delicately on her shoulder. I reach out with my mind and feel up ahead of us. By applying pressure to her shoulder, I let Sabetha know how to alter our speed. We have it down to a science, bordering on an empathic exchange of senses wherein we can fly through busy intersections missing cross traffic by no less than a foot.

  Sure, I could drive instead, but that argument was lost centuries ago.

  Ahead of us, Isaac cuts into the left lane and an oncoming ambulance swerves out of the way, the siren whining as it passes. As a momentary uninterrupted stretch opens up, I open my eyes and look to the sidewalks and alley ways, trying to see the city as Isaac sees it – for the first time. His mind is trying to decipher the new details of his old world.

  “He’s handling this part well,” I say, practically asking for Sabetha’s agreement.

  “Fifty he goes down in an hour,” she muses, turning on the wiper blades as a drizzle speckles the windshield.

  “I think Isaac is different…” Which is to say, I hope Isaac is different.

  “Does that mean you take the bet?” We jump the curb and scream down a sidewalk.

  “I don’t care about the money,” I reply.

  “Of course you don’t, all of it’s yours.”

  Normally I would give her the satisfaction of a chuckle or smile, but I am preoccupied – perhaps too preoccupied – with Isaac’s fate.

  Sabetha knows the answer to her own question, but out of sheer habit she asks anyway. “Delano? You okay?”

  I nod almost imperceptibly. I am, for some strange reason, reminded of my own darkening and the events following it… about Alice… and about leaving the realm of mortality to join the Hyperion and become an immortal sentiner. Isaac has no such prospects, if you could call Hyperion membership that, yet I still can’t help myself from empathizing with him. I thought that part of me was dead. “Poor guy.” The words just sort of slip out.

  “What?” Sabetha turns to face me, now positive that she has missed something.

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll