Since I gave you all a brief taste of Mark Red a few days ago, I decided to give you a little tidbit from The Chasm and the Collision: Chapter 2, for you peruse. To give you a little background, in the first chapter, Alex Hinton and his friend Simon Belmont, two middle school students, are coming home from school, and Alex thinks he sees something moving in his house, even though no-one should be home. Simon, who is a bit of an anxious young man, thinks they should call for adult help before going inside, but Alex is a bit more reckless, and much to his friend’s consternation, he goes inside and runs through his house, inviting any prowlers to show themselves. Of course, he encounters no-one, but he smells a wonderful smell in the dining room. There, in a fruit bowl on the table, he and Simon find some unusual-but-delicious fruit, apparently put there by Alex’s mother. They share it with their mutual friend Meghan Tewes (on whom Alex has a crush) and end up eating it all (Alex eating far more than the others do).
The rest of the afternoon passes more or less without incident, and then, that night, Alex begins to have a rather unusual dream. And thus begins the except:
Soon Alex found himself drifting in a slowly-developing but vivid dream. In it, he found himself rising from the ground and floating into a clear, twilit sky. He experienced a very pleasant warmth spreading from his center out to his limbs and up to his head. As the sensation reached his eyes, the scene beneath and around him began to change. The blue-gray sky gradually shifted in color, taking on a reddish-orange hue, almost like that of a very vivid sunset, but the light spread more broadly and diffusely than seemed normal. For one thing, the redness of the sky was not localized toward one horizon, but was spread across the entire sky. There were many wisps of cloud, all with a reddish-purple hue that was rather similar to the color of the berries Alex had eaten earlier.
In his dream, Alex blinked as he realized that he was seeing more than one image at the same time. He could see the normal twilight with which the dream began, gradually darkening into a starry night…but he found that he could, at the same time, still see the sunset-colored sky, superimposed on the normal one. What’s more, he found that he could focus on one or the other as he chose. It was rather like looking at one of those flat “Necker cube” images, or one of the optical illusion drawings that sometimes looked like a young woman and sometimes looked like an old woman depending on how one looked at it.
Alex turned his gaze downward, and beneath him he saw another overlapping set of images. One part was his house, yard and the surrounding neighborhood, stretching out as expected to the rest of the city. It was nighttime, so the scene was only by street lamps, but it was clearly visible, more so than Alex would have thought usual at night. However, behind or beneath that tableau was a much less regular landscape, some of which was colored with a blue-green vegetation, other regions consisting of rocky, craggy ground, only a bit browner and darker than the color of the other sky.
Looking off now into the distance, Alex saw that the landscape—the unfamiliar one—suddenly came to an end, dropping off into the unseen at a precipitous edge, like the rim of a mind-bogglingly gigantic canyon. He could discern no far side to the chasm, and even at a distance he could make out no hint of a bottom to it either. There was only more sky, going down as far as the eye could see, but with a somewhat brighter light farther down.
Alex realized that he was moving, and soon found himself floating toward—and then along—the edge of the immense cliff. Even from along the edge there was no sign of a bottom, only the red-orange color going on to infinity, as if this cliff were somehow a place where the edge of the world had broken off, leaving nothing beyond but sky. Ahead, in the distance, far along the drop-off, he began to make out what at first looked like a bizarre outcropping of rock. As he moved along, however, getting slowly but steadily closer, Alex realized that he must have been a very long way away from the shape indeed…and as it grew in his sight, he understood that it was not merely an outcropping or a projection from the cliff, but was in fact a gigantic—titanic—fortress, somehow carved from rock that matched the color of the ground. Alex was further , astounded to see that the shape appeared to be connected to the main cliff face only by a single, narrow strip of rock, like a bridge, and was otherwise hanging in the air above the precipice, to which there was still no discernible bottom.
As Alex continued to approach the edifice, he realized that it must be bigger than any normal building he had ever seen. In fact, it was bigger than a city block…no, it was bigger than most cities of which he knew. It had spires and turrets and more bizarrely shaped projections and protrusions, as well as numerous scattered portals and windows. Below, extending from the bottom of the gigantic structure, was what appeared to be a very large inverted tower. At the lowest end of that was attached a cylindrical structure, more than twice as wide as the building to which it was attached. This appeared to be the lowest point of the entire gigantic shape. It was, however, soon lost from Alex’s sight, for as he floated forward he began to rise above the megalith and could only see it from the top.
It was irregular and multi-layered, like a city built on and around a high mountain-top, with spikes and towers that looked more like natural rock formations than works of craft. Roughly in the middle of the whole expanse was a sharp, tall tower with a balcony and courtyard protruding from its edge near the top.
The balcony at first appeared small, but suddenly Alex began to swoop down toward it at what he could tell was tremendous speed…faster than any normal falling velocity…and the balcony only slowly grew larger. As it did, Alex realized that the seemingly small projection must have been larger than the entire grounds of his middle school.
Alex plummeted ever faster toward the balcony. He saw that in its center was a circular cultivated area, a garden of sorts, with many bushes and trees and flowers arranged throughout it. In the center there was a raised pedestal from which grew a large bush, or small tree. It was toward this pedestal and the plant growing on it that Alex accelerated. As he raced downward, he got close enough to the tower and the balcony for perspective and sound to make him truly feel the effects of his descent, and he finally began to experience a surge of fear. The ground on the balcony below him got closer and closer, rushing toward him more and more quickly.
He passed the tallest of the nearby spires.
The circle in the center of the garden now filled his vision, and he could all but feel the sensation on the surface of his skin that he was about to rush into it with an impact that would surely shatter every bone in his body.
The tree was only a few feet away. There was no avoiding it…
…and suddenly, Alex woke up.
Despite the cliché, Alex didn’t actually sit bolt upright in bed. Instead his eyes popped open wide and he stared around himself in the dark of his own bedroom. It seemed perhaps a little brighter than usual, as though it were nearly dawn, but when he looked over at his clock Alex saw that the time was only about 2:30 in the morning.
“Whoa,” Alex muttered to himself, “that was a strange dream…”
Before he could begin to clear his head and try to go back to sleep, Alex’s puzzled thoughts were interrupted by a very strange sound coming from outside. It was something between a croak and a shriek…hoarse, and lower than any bird sound or other local animal that Alex could recall hearing, and it seemed to be quite some distance away. It lasted for several seconds, and then it stopped. Then, another few seconds later it started again, and this time it seemed louder than before, and the volume increased as the sound persisted. Whatever was making the noise was quickly coming closer.
Now Alex did sit up in bed, wondering what in the world the sound was, and what was making it. He didn’t know why he thought this, but he felt that the sound carried a strange undertone of pain…and, he also thought, of hunger. It was very unnerving to have such thoughts about such a strange noise…and more than a bit frightening.
Rising from bed, Alex headed to his window. He almost always left the drapes open, and tonight was no exception. After walking the few steps to the portal, Alex looked outside, though he was far from sure that he really wanted to see that the cause of the noise was. Still, he was unable to resist looking.
The ground below was brightly lit, though the moon was only about a quarter full. In his own yard, Alex could make out only the usual well-tended grass and the few flowers in his mother’s small garden by the garage.
The noise started again, and seemed significantly closer, again lasting several seconds and then stopping. More disquieting than that fact, however, was Alex’s realization that it was coming not from anywhere on the ground below Alex’s second-story room level, but from above…like something flying.
Alex’s mind flashed back to his recent dream experience, and with the combination of the memory and the sound, he almost felt like he was still moving through the air himself.
Turning his gaze upward, Alex was at least relieved to see only the normal sky, bluish-black and sprinkled with stars, the small moon lowering toward the tree line and a few minor wisps of cloud. Alex scanned all that he could see above, but could make out nothing unusual. What could be making that noise?
As if in response to Alex’s wondering, the sound came again abruptly, much louder than before…and this time it seemed to be coming from almost directly above him. Alex actually flinched and ducked when he heard the noise drop in pitch as it passed overhead. Then, looking out his window again, he saw something that made him reel back from the window.
A huge shadow, bigger than any bird Alex had ever heard of, had just passed over his house. It was shaped almost like a manta ray—he had seen pictures of the gigantic ocean creatures, and those were what immediately sprang to his mind. But this shape was in the sky.
It had wings that spread from its entire length, but they were somewhat squared off at the ends, not triangular like a ray’s would have been, and it had a long tail that tapered out behind it as it flew directly over Alex and out away from his house. It couldn’t have been more than a hundred feet in the air, and though Alex wasn’t sure exactly how big it was, it was certainly very large.
Was this still a dream? Alex looked quickly but intently at his surroundings. Though fear seemed to make everything sharper and clearer than usual, everything looked normal. The only alien presence was the monstrous thing in the sky.
Watching the trailing form, Alex was astonished and horrified to see that, before it went very far, it began to turn. He couldn’t make out any real features, but Alex thought that he saw a claw of some kind stretching out to the side underneath it as it banked. Alex somehow knew, from the way it was arcing and the sharpness of its curve, that the creature was about to head back in the direction from which it had come…directly toward Alex’s house. He wasn’t sure if it was just a coincidence, but some part of Alex felt as if the thing was looking for him…hunting for him. Of course, he was also quite certain that he did NOT want the thing to find him.
Alex rushed to pull his curtains closed before the thing in the sky could complete its turnaround. He barely made it in time, and half imagined he could see a horrifying face coming into view on the front of the creature before it was cut off from his sight by the thin cloth. Once the drapes were closed, Alex actually ducked down onto the floor below the window level, not quite trusting the fragile curtains to hide him.
The sound ripped forth again, higher in pitch now and louder, headed back toward the house. Alex clamped his eyes shut as though warding off a nightmare, half-expecting the sky-borne creature to come crashing through both window and wall, straight into his bedroom.
It did not do so, however, but instead the noise went passing overhead again. Alex was only too happy to hear its sound drop in pitch again as it receded, then paused and repeated, shrinking and finally fading completely from his hearing.
Well, what in the world was that? If you want to find out, you’ll have to read the book (of course)! Please check it out. You can get Chapter 1 here, and of course I recently published Chapter 5 as well. All the chapters in between are also available, each for only 99 cents, with new chapters to be published more-or-less monthly.
Remember, 50% of all royalties go to literacy charities such as RIF, so you’ll not only be able to enjoy a modern, serialized, fantasy adventure, you’ll also be helping to share the joy of reading with people who might not otherwise be able to experience it.
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