The working title of the series is
The new series title has been decided! The Tanek Chronicles! Look for more updates to come soon, including more chapters in the first book: Warrior.
(Not so) Ancient History
The ground was flying up at me fast. I knew hitting would be painful, but I’d survive. Rolling over in mid-air, I looked back up at the behemoth that threw me off the roof. My Beretta was still in my hand, so I took aim and squeezed off a round. I learned early on that I was able to watch the trajectories of objects normal humans couldn’t. I could see a lot of things normal humans couldn’t, actually. Paths of fast objects were one; the giant on the roof was another. I was confident the bullet would connect. Whether or not it would slow down or, even better, stop this beast… that was as up in the air as I was. The bullet lodged itself deep into the flesh of the monster’s shoulder. It was designed to explode on impact, and because of that little improvement, the beast’s shoulder erupted up and backward. It roared, spraying the area with various bits of gore. as it staggered backwards. I imagined the thing thinking furiously about how this little two hundred pound human that’s not even a match in sheer force can cause so much pain and damage.
I slammed onto the top of a dumpster, bounced off and landed face down in the trash that didn’t quite make it in. I’m starting to get too old for this, I thought, as I pushed my pain-wracked body up off the refuse pile. The ground trembled beneath me. I slowly turned around and saw the monster standing in the middle of the alley, silhouetted by the street lights. Its dark form stood at least three stories up, dwarfing my six-foot stature. One of its arms hung dead at its side from where I shot him in the shoulder. I could hear its strained breathing as we stared across the minuscule expanse between us. Despite falling, okay, being thrown down fifteen stories, I had to smile. It didn’t matter what this creature could do to me, I’d bounce back.
You see, I’m an Immortal. Being an Immortal is more than simply not dying. Few people know that we have a responsibility to regular people. Since we are not affected the same by certain things, we have the unique opportunity to be saviors, or better, protectors. But because of the whole undead thing, people try to make some of us into monsters and others into romantic paramours.
I hope you’ll let me clear the air on a few things. I don’t drive a flashy car or make six figures a month. I don’t hang out with supermodels, and I’m not even that funny. I’m just an Average Joe. Matter of fact, that’s what you can call me. Joe.
The beast in front of me looked like he was about to charge. I steeled myself for the inevitable. Backup should be here by now. No matter. I can take this one down. After all, I know his weak spots. Suddenly, he charged with an inhuman howl of rage. I couldn’t help but smirk, ready for the challenge. I answered his bellow with one of my own and raced toward him, my guns at the ready….
Wait. Where are my manners? I should probably start at the beginning. I wasn’t always aware of being an Immortal. I was born to a regular mom and dad in sunny southern California. Now before you go all thinking, “Oh, how glamorous!” it wasn’t like that at all. It was the desert.
And it was sunny.
And that’s it.
I didn’t live too many other places that you could get sunburnt by just sitting on the couch. What got frustrating for me is that I loved to play outside. My parents would let me, but I was always by myself. Mom was allergic to the sun, and Dad was just an all-around bum. He never beat me or Mom, or anything like that. He just didn’t do anything. So for me to be able to play outside, Mom made me swear to put on sunscreen.
Okay, yeah. Wearing sunscreen is not that big a deal, right? It is when it’s something like SPF 1000! I swear this stuff would take the most tanned body in the world and turn it alabaster in a matter of seconds. But I can’t fault Mom. She was just trying to protect me. She didn’t know at that time that I didn’t need any protecting.
The first time anything weird happened was on my eighth birthday. I got my first bike. Mom had taken on a third job to get it for me. Surprisingly, Dad put the thing together. As soon as I saw the sleek black and chrome paint job with the custom-cushioned quilted-leather seat and, most importantly, lack of training wheels, I knew I was going to spend the day outside trying not to scrape my knees and elbows mastering the magnificent machine. Mom, of course, immediately tried to shellac me with her own special brew of sunscreen. We had used the store bought stuff before, but she said it was worthless. Instead, she used that as a base and created her own using Elmer’s glue, baking soda, baking powder, some kind of paint-like substance and several different types of body creams and lotions for that oh-so-smooth skin. I was able to bargain with her enough that she let me use just the lower SPF store stuff.
As soon as the dreaded application procedure was completed, which inexplicably involved me covering all those spots that don’t normally see the light of day, I leaped out the front door practically on the bike already. I mounted that glorious, two-wheeled vehicle as soon as my feet cleared the threshold and we hit the pavement moving at what felt like light speed. Pelting down the driveway, barely missing Mom’s ’78 Chrysler by millimeters, I streaked toward the street. As I hit that black river of asphalt, the heat from the day radiated up like the Fires of Hell. I was moving so fast, it was as if the heat, try as hard as it could, was not able to touch me.
I pedaled full out, completing the circuit of the neighborhood twice without braking or even thinking of slowing. As my house came back into sight, I realized that I was breathing pretty hard. I leaned toward the curb and the front door. We came to a smooth halt right up against the edge of the front stoop. I dismounted Inkjet, my newly christened bike, letting my hand linger along the handlebar. As I bounded up the steps and through the front door, Mom met me with the sunscreen in hand.
“I don’t know how you do this! You weren’t out there ten minutes and you already have a dark tan!” I struggled with her as she attempted to liberally reapply the sunscreen to my exposed skin. I couldn’t figure out how Mom could spot the skin-darkening effects of the sun so quickly. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised. I do come from a German-Irish gene pool, and fair skin is the main heirloom. But out of my whole family, I bronze nicely, which came in handy in my later years.
As soon as I was able to wriggle free of Mom’s grasp, I gulped down some ice cold water to help catch my breath. Standing in the kitchen, I heard Dad call from the dining area, “So, how’s the wheels, Joe?”
“I love ‘em, Dad! It goes faster than I would have thought!”
“You name it yet?”
“Inkjet,” I said with more than a little edge of pride.
“The way you took off out the door, we should probably get you some kind of helmet.” Mom always had the ability to inject those rare male-bonding moments with motherly concern.
“Katie, let the boy be.”
“I don’t see you doing anything to help!” And that’s how all their arguments started. Mom and Dad could go for hours. Dad would try to defend his status as a self-employed handyman that had serious marketing issues, while Mom would hurl missed opportunities after skipped appointments. It was like watching an All-Star outfielder up at bat against the League’s best pitcher. Dad got to be so good that he never really lost an argument. He just wore Mom down until they came to an agreement to disagree. Although the times he did win, it was huge. That’s how I got Inkjet.
While Mom and Dad had their verbal sparring match, I quietly slipped back outside to Inkjet. I held the front door as it closed so to minimize the clicking of the door latch. When I turned around, Craig was standing by Inkjet, eyeing the paint job with one hand on the handlebar.
Escape from Safety
“What are you doing“ I asked, nervously.
“Just admiring my new bike,” he said with a sneer. No kid on Smith Street would say no to Craig. Not that he ever gave any of them the chance. Craig was eleven going on forty-five. He was a full head and shoulders taller and had at least fifty pounds of pure muscle on me. There weren’t too many delinquents in our neighborhood that weren’t already in the State Penitentiary on the other side of town. Craig could make most of them blush.
“Do you like my new bike, Joe?” he jeered.
“That’s not yours.” Fear gripped me. I felt like ice crystals were forming in my gut.
“You’re wrong. This bike was just sitting here, with no one to ride it. It’s such a good looking bike, too. I figure since nobody wants it, I’ll take it.” Craig turned and smirked evilly, daring me to react, while he placed his other hand on the handlebar. The crystals grew into a fully formed glacier, and an intense anger made my face burn as if it was the blazing asphalt.
He started to swing his leg over the seat and I felt the two internal climates clash violently with each other somewhere around my heart. The sudden change made by bones feel like jelly and my muscles tense like overstretched rubber bands ready to lash out.
“Get off, Craig.” I envisioned lightning crackling in my eyes.
“Make me. Runt.” His smirk turned into a full-blown hatred-filled grin. His foot rested on the petal that not five minutes before had been under my foot.
I don’t remember my feet leaving the ground, only my limbs pummeling every surface that I could reach. Somehow during the melee I was able to dislodge Craig and grab hold of Inkjet before Craig hit the ground. I mounted the bike and took off faster than when I first left the front door. I swear I thought I saw some turf go flying in my wake; I spared Craig a backward glance as I turned behind Mom’s car. I knew I didn’t slow him down much. Rage poured out of his every pore as he stalked to his dirt bike. When he kick-started the engine, it sounded like the entire Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang roaring to life at once. I knew there was no way I could outrun him once he got onto the open road. Luckily, I knew the alleys and back roads better.
The houses in our neighborhood were close enough that on any given day, you could hear your neighbor’s conversation through the closed windows. Most of the space left between yards was barely big enough for two people to walk side by side. Despite the space restrictions, the Johnsons were known for their prize-winning garden. Mr. Johnson was out there almost every day, pruning or fertilizing or something. Today was no different. The Johnsons and Mrs. Hayworth shared a corner. Mrs. Hayworth was a dog fanatic. She has about eight small ones that she treated like children, all of which were as mean as spoiled brats can be.
I turned Inkjet sharply between the Johnson’s garden fence and Mrs. Hayworth‘s house. Mrs. Hayworth’s Chihuahua yipped at me from the kitchen window as I zipped by. Mr. Johnson stood and said something that vaguely sounded like, “Crazy hooligans.” I raced Inkjet along the length of the fence and since Craig and his dirt bike were too big to fit, that gave us a little breathing room to figure out the next move.
I knew Craig couldn’t be too far behind me, and he was smart enough to know he could cut me off. So I changed plans. Before we would reach the end of the fence, Mr. Kline’s separated garage would be on our left. And it had a back door. I slammed the brakes and skidded to a halt next to the small door, praying that Mr. Kline left it open. He did. Inkjet and I rushed inside. Mr. Kline was working on his ’69 Charger, like he always did on Saturdays.
“Hey, Joe. Craig again?” Mr. Kline didn’t have any problems with the local kids using his garage as a temporary safe haven when Craig was roaming loose. Actually, there was one time Mr. Kline covered for me and my cousin while we were being hunted. She was visiting for the summer and Craig was convinced she wanted to play house with him. Mr. Kline knew we were hiding in his garage and that Craig was looking for us. So he pretty much threatened Craig with trespassing and property damage if he didn’t leave us alone. But this time….
“Yeah,” I gasped.
“He tried to steal my bike, and… well, I didn’t let him.”
“Did you hit him?” Mr. Kline came around the car to inspect Inkjet with an approving eye.
I nodded. Now that adrenaline was starting to wear off, it felt like the glacier was winning the internal climate battle. Nobody would think of hitting Craig. Well, nobody that wanted to live for much longer. Inside Mr. Kline’s garage was safety, but I couldn’t stay there forever. Mr. Kline knew it too.
“I’d recommend going out the back. He’ll know that you’ve come in that way. He won’t expect you to leave the same way.” The sound of Craig’s dirt bike engine floated into the garage sounding like a swarm of angry bees being chased by wasps.
“I can’t keep running from this guy,” I said with more courage than I felt. “Tell my parents what happened to me….”
“Stop being so dramatic. You know Craig won’t dare do anything to you while you’re on my property.”
“Mr. Kline, I can’t keep using you as a shield. I’ve got to do something.”
“Now’s not the time though. You need to leave the back way.” The dirt bike’s engine was becoming a roar now. Mr. Kline started to push me and Inkjet out the back door.
“Come on out, you little rat thurd! I’m gonna rip your sthtinkin’ head off!” The sound of Craig’s voice carrying into the garage over the engine noise terrified me so much that it didn’t even register that he wasn’t talking clearly.
“Get going, Joe. I can handle this,” Mr. Kline whispered.
“No. It’s my fight. Thank you for all the help you’ve given me, but I’ve got to stand up to him.” I steeled myself for what was to come.
“Oh little Josheph! Where are you?” I could hear Craig taunting me from the drive way, the engine on his dirt bike still growling menacingly. This time, I could make out the slight lisp. I had hurt him! Nobody had ever done that before! My mind raced as I wondered what type of injury I had caused him.
Mr. Kline made to go talk to Craig. I wrenched Inkjet around to face the driveway. “What are you doing, Joe? I told you to leave. I’d handle this.”
“And I said not this time, Mr. Kline. I’ve hurt him once, I can do it again.” I mounted Inkjet and before Mr. Kline could stop me, raced out of the garage at top speed. Mrs. Kline’s van was partially blocking the view of the driveway, so I couldn’t exactly see where Craig was, but I did have the sound of his dirt bike to give me a good guess. I streaked from behind my cover and arrowed for Craig.
Alright, folks! There's the first couple of chapters. So.... What'cha think?!?! (Be gentle....)