When it comes to sample chapters, this one was a hard one to choose from. Out of an entire manuscript, I usually have a good idea of what I want for a sample chapter. Barring that, I have two candidates, and I usually keep the runner-up for something like a change in schedule, or if a cover artist can’t make the deadline for some reason.
This time around, though, I found FOUR POSSIBLE CANDIDATES! I might even post the other three if I think they’re worth it. Right now, though, I finally decided on a sample chapter, and I’m posting it here for all of your viewing pleasure.
DISCLAIMER: the following text comes from my second draft. Upon publication, it is very likely that the version of this chapter that appears in the final product may not be exactly like, or ANYTHING like the chapter featured here. Also note that, since this is the second draft, there are probably some typos I haven’t gotten around to cleaning up just yet. It isn’t perfect, but for those wondering what’s in store, this should give you a good idea.
COPYRIGHT THOMAS J. BLACK, 2018, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
It came as no surprise to me that the lights had been cut off. Grandfather was deceased: deceased people have no use for lights. I had hoped that he’d gotten the bills paid for at least one more month, or even one more week, but it turned out that this was asking for too much.
Dan and Hamburger turned their cell phones’ flashlights on, and proceeded with caution from that point onward. They pointed them every which way as they investigated. I wasn’t entirely certain what the two were looking for, but it was clear to me right out the gate these guys knew what they were doing. They talked about that Satannic cult like it was all part of the job, whatever that might be.
We looked through the kitchen, but all we found was that the refrigerator and cubbards had been emptied. Hamburger made a remark about ordering pizza as they continued their search. The living room seemed okay. The bedrooms, both upstairs and on the ground floor, seemed fine. The study was okay, despite a few books being scattered about the place. It wasn’t until we checked the basement, though, when we found something.
My grandfather really only had two major rules in his house: no pets, and stay out of the basement. I wasn’t sure why, but assumed he had his reasons. Uncle Roy, tactless and vulgar as he could be after a couple beers, assumed Grandfather Klein kept his pornography in the basement. I didn’t believe him, but I didn’t exactly dispute this claim, either, figuring it wasn’t impossible.
Sadly, what we found was far worse than pornography. Really, putting aside my prudishness, pornography wouldn’t have been all that bad. Especially compared to what we ended up finding down there.
The basement seemed darker than normal. Even taking into account that it was pretty much evening, the basement had no windows, and the electricity had been cut, it seemed dark. Like somehow, the darkness was an entity unto itself that somehow made it even darker.
Also, there was a smell. An overpowering oder that threatened to make me wretch my guts out wofted through the basement. Suggesting that something died might not have been out of the realm of impossibility.
“Yip,” said Hamburger, shining the flashlight around. “This is definitely the source of it all. If we were using torches right now, the dark would’ve snuffed them out the moment we hit the bottom step, I reckon.”
“What have we got?” Dan asked.
Hamburger shined his light around. The walls were stone, gray, and dull compared to the more vibrant colors upstairs. Something caught my eye, though, and it caught Hamburger’s as well.
Throughout the basement, someone had apparently drawn on the walls with chalk. It didn’t take a detective’s sharp vision to figure out what had been drawn. Whoever had been down here, doodling on the walls, they’d drawn large rectangles on several spots. They started at the floor, and went way up over my head.
“Oh boy,” said Hamburger, dreadfully. “Looks like someone’s been experimenting with doorways.”
“Doorways?” I asked.
“We’ll explain later,” Dan said before Hamburger could answer. “We need to finish looking around here first. How many doors are…”
“Oh shit,” Hamburger interrupted. “We got a blood door.”
Dan and I walked over to where Hamburger was standing. He was shining his flashlight on another rectangle drawn on the wall. Unlike the others, though, it wasn’t drawn in chalk. If I had to guess, it was drawn in red paint.
“This just got serious,” said Dan.
“Oh golly jeepers gee fucking whiz, you think?” Hamburger replied, more concerned than anything else. “You don’t fuck around with the kind of things that can use blood doors, you know.”
“Oh I know,” said Dan.
“Bad enough he was making chalk doors,” Hamburger mumbled. “If it were up to me, nobody would be fucking around with that sort of magic either, but at least with chalk doors, nothing especially nasty can pass through it. Best case scenario, he probably just used these things to visit friends who live in other parts of the country.”
“And the worst case?” I found myself asking.
“Worst case scenario, he punched a hole into an alternate reality. But even then, it’s one of the safer alternate realities. Well, unless the reality where Benito Mussolini’s Italy became the world’s greatest superpower after World War II counts as safe, but that’s probably a matter of perspective. In any case, that’s the worst of the chalk doorways. The blood doorway…”
A loud, inhuman shriek of a noise cut him off, and demanded our immediate attention. We all spun around, and Hamburger pointed his light at what had so clearly made that horrible sound.
It looked like a man, but no one I’d met before. He wore a suit and tie that was caked with filth and blood. The moment he came into view, the smell of death became significantly more overwhelming than before. The light from Hamburger’s flashlight was at odds with the humanoid’s red glowing eyes.
“Get back!” Dan shouted.
Before either of us could do as we were told, he took aim with his shotgun, fired off a shot, and reduced the creature’s head to a myst of putrescence. The creature didn’t have blood, per say. Rather, a sort of black ooze and a swarm of maggots seemed to spray out from the shotgun blast.
I was already having a difficult time trying not to vomit from the smell alone. The creature’s exploding head, and the contents that spraid outward was enough to see to it that I’d lose that struggle. Suffice to say, Burger King doesn’t taste as good coming up as it does going down.
“Sorry,” I said afterward, wiping my mouth off on my forearm.
“Honestly, said Dan, “I’d have been shocked if a normy like you didn’t puke after something like that.”
I found myself immediately full of emotions and thoughts that demanded the floor, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Feelings of terror, and thoughts of what other unspeakable things lurked down here. feelings of confusion as well as betrayal, and thoughts of what sort of reason Grandfather could’ve possibly had for keeping such things down here. It left me in a cold sweat.
“We need to go upstairs right now,” Hamburger ordered.
We practically ran upstairs after that, slamming the door behind us for good measure. The next thing I knew, Hamburger grabbed me by the wrist, dragged me into the living room, and practically shoved me onto the couch. I landed rear first on the throw pillow, giving him a look that couldn’t begin to properly convey my perplexity at this sudden aggression.
“What the fuck is your family doing?” Hamburger demanded, loudly.
“Whoa, calm down, Burger,” said Dan.
Hamburger’s head whipped around to look at Dan. “Shut up, Dan!” he shouted. He whipped back around to look at me, and it was then I realized how dead serious he was. The jovial tone that accompanied his every sentence since the moment I’d first met the man was long gone now, and in its place was a fury I wasn’t prepared to deal with.
“What the hell has your family been doing?” he repeated, more angrily than before if such a thing were possible.
“I… I don’t know!” I replied, startled. “I just thought that was where grandfather kept his pornography or something!”
Hamburger laughed. “Whatever perverted shit your grand dad was in to goes well beyond gawking at naked ladies. You don’t fuck around with the sort of shit we saw down there. We haven’t even been here an hour, and I’ve already found out your grand dad not only necromanced a guy, but he also turned his basement into a transdimensional nexus of horrors!”
“We don’t know where those chalk doors lead,” Dan interjected.
Hamburger looked back over to his companion. “Maybe not,” he replied, “but that blood door is the kind of thing that says you mean business! This ain’t no frat boy Ouija board party: this here’s some appocolyptic bullshit!”
Dan shrugged. “Fair enough,” he conceded. “That blood door is definitely cause for concern.”
“None of this makes sense!” I protested. “My grandfather isn’t some sort of necromancer.”
Hamburger laughed again. “Your grand pappy’s well past necromancer at this point,” he said. “Pretty sure somewhere down the line, he officially graduated to doomsday cult status. And I don’t mean one of them Heaven’s Gate cults, neither. I mean real life Cthulhu worshipper level doomsday cult.”
“I… But… What do we do now?” Was all I could stammer out.
Hamburger looked at Dan. “Yeah, fearless leader,” he said, the anger in his voice finally beginning to subside. “What do we do?”
Dan pulled out his cell phone. “First thing’s first,” he said. “We get the electricity turned back on, and we get the fridge stocked back up. Looks like we have our next assignment.”
“you seriously don’t think the two of us can fix all this,” said Hamburger.
“No, dipshit,” said Dan. “I’m calling in the cavalry. We’re going to need all the help we can get on this one.”