[Here is a brief, first-draft scene from my upcoming novel in the Shattering series and the Above series, BARANAK: STORMING THE GATES. I'll leave it at that and let it speak for itself. Hope you enjoy. --Van]
Scarcely had I passed through the opening of the cave before complete darkness surrounded me and swallowed me up. The entrance itself didn't entirely vanish, but it seemed to recede to the point that it was now far away in the distance, as though it would take quite a bit of a walk to reach it and leave the cave. This made me feel extremely uncomfortable and I turned, facing back in that direction. I contemplated leaving immediately.
Then a warm breeze blew past me, gravel crunched, and voice echoed out of the void at my back: "Greetings."
"Who's there?" I called, turning. My pistol was out and in my hand.
Only darkness, all about me.
"Who are you?" I demanded. "What do you want?"
"You have a strange manner," the voice said after a few seconds. It was smooth and low, deep and rich, and it held an unmistakable edge of menace. "You come uninvited into my home and seek to interrogate me. Is this what passes for civilized behavior among your kind?"
The warm air wafted by again, as from the bellows of some mighty forge. It smelled sour. I began to suspect that it might be breath.
"You are quite right," I said, still searching the darkness, hoping my eyes would adjust faster and give me any indication of who--or what--I was dealing with. "My apologies. I did not intend to intrude or trespass."
"Then why came you here, if not intentionally?"
"I was directed here by a--by an acquaintance," I said. "I was told I might find answers."
"Ah," the voice said. "Yes. That is entirely possible. Or," it added after a brief pause, "you might find something else. Other things entirely."
"Perhaps I am supposed to ask you my questions?" I said after a brief silence.
The warm air again, pungent and moist. My nose wrinkled involuntarily and I turned my head slightly to one side, seeking to avoid breathing it in.
"You could," the voice said. "I would not object in principle." A pause, and then, "Of course, understand that if I do not like your questions, you will not be leaving my domain, my world. You will be consumed."
This took me aback. Not the threat--that seemed almost de rigeur. But--"Your world? This world I've come to--it belongs to you?"
"This world. Here. This pocket universe, I believe the Dyonari call it. It is my world."
I had no idea what any of that meant. I looked around and could see nothing but darkness. Even the cave mouth had now vanished. "Ah, yes." I nodded, and I'm afraid the sarcasm was clear in my voice as I added, "And a lovely world it is."
"Talk like that will lead to the consumption I referenced in my previous utterance."
"Yes, yes. Now--the questions, eh? I will allow... two, to start. More if I feel so inclined after those. And if you have not yet been consumed."
What was this creature? How could it possibly answer the questions that plagued me? It all seemed ludicrous. And yet, so did everything else that had occurred in the time since I'd taken Comet and ridden into the night. Again--what had I to lose?
I nodded in the darkness. "Very well." I kept the blast pistol ready as I searched my mind for the most efficient single question I could ask. For a moment my thoughts were a jumble, and I could hear impatient-sounding gravel-crunching from a short distance away. Then my thoughts snapped almost miraculously into clear focus. I said, "Why was my father killed?"
I anticipated counter-questions such as, "Who exactly was your father?" or "How the hell should I know? I'm just a creature living in a cave slash pocket universe." But the voice uttered neither of those things. Instead it issued no sounds whatsoever, for a time long enough that I began to suspect it had slinked back into the depths of its cave--its mini-universe, if it was to be believed. I was just about to give up and begin walking in the direction I hoped led back to the entrance, when: "I cannot say with absolute certainty, but in all likelihood it was because he might have actually succeeded."
I might have taken an involuntary step backwards; certainly my jaw dropped open. Blinking rapidly, I closed my mouth and sought words. At last I found a few.
"Succeeded in what?"
The creature--if creature it was--issued a sort of groan. "Are you sure you want that to be your second question? Because I find it boring, and it will probably be your last."
"No--no, not at all," I said quickly. "I was simply musing out loud. I have a better second question, of course."
And then I faltered and mentally cast about--for of course at that moment my mind became a blank canvas and I an artist bereft of all paints and brushes.
That was a brief scene from the upcoming BARANAK: STORMING THE GATES.
If you enjoyed it, you will probably very much like the novel to which it is a sort of prequel: LUCIAN: DARK GOD'S HOMECOMING. Many, many readers have enjoyed it.
You can find it here, in paperback and on Kindle:
Thanks for reading. (BARANAK should be along later this year.)