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Posted on January 17, 2016

I am excited for my new series, Here is Where I . . .

Below are the first two chapters of Book 1: Hero with a Big Sword.

Chapter 1
Here is Where I . . . Illustrate How Insignificant I am Compared to One Scott Holloway

He's the hero, the guy darting across the rocks and neatly avoiding getting his feet wet in the small creek he just forded with Norwegian flair. A genuine world-class savior if the last month of my extensive skulking and eavesdropping is to be believed.

If I'm caught trailing him, it's not going to be good for me. Called out as a stalker by the coolest, hippest, trendiest, Instagramiest (Is that even a word?) student at Woodcott High will obliterate what little social standing I have.

Despite standing at the edge of popularity quicksand, I'm downright excited. This is the night. Scott Holloway and his crew have been meddling with dire forces. And I don't mean texting in Mr. Lordalmighty's (not his real name) class. It's all coming to a head here tonight. Major craziness.

I'm talking something out of a big budget Hollywood movie or at least a premium channel show with a decent effects budget.

Scott and his entourage stick their noses into magic. Like the Scooby Gang but better dressed and groomed.

I'm serious. This is not me hero worshipping the guy who's hands down Division One material in at least three sports and yet kind to all woodland creatures and geeky underclassman alike. He's got popularity and hasn't let it go to his head, which, by the way, sports the best hair in all of south Florida, including Miami.

Of course, being ignored and off the radar is my forte. Forgettable and overlooked are my wheelhouse.

Me, I'm a nobody. I'm Gideon Thump, self-appointed and unsanctioned chronicler of covert magical happenings in the small town of Piedmont. Beats locking myself in my room and playing Destiny every waking moment.

I've been listening in on his conversations in class. Howie covertly hacked into his group chat so I could read all their back and forth. In Gym, which he has with Mason and Bri, two of the headliners in his little magical band, I've caught dribs and drabs of their goings-on when I've been on their team for volleyball and such. No clue what a were-wasp or a Harvestspawn are, but they were apparently the recent capers the group foiled.

From my snooping around, Scott and his three associates lead a crusade against dark rampaging creatures intent on the enslavement of humanity. I don't have any concrete evidence that this is so. For all I know, their hush-hush conversations of taking down orcs in the library and slaying cafeteria dragons several midnights back could just be the vivid accounting of some silly game they play together, but several factors have me thinking otherwise.

One, Scott Holloway's eyes glow a bright orange whenever he executes his almost otherworldly moves on the court, and Howie told me he thinks they spared one of the dragons they fought recently and have it holed up in Scott's garage attic. Haven't confirmed or denied the dragon detail as I'm still working through some lockpick tutorials online before hazarding a B and E.

I cross the stream a full minute after Scott. Good thing as I slip twice and my splashing is quite noticeable. No worries as Scott's already pulled pretty far ahead. His track coach would be so proud.

I hike up the leafy incline, dropping to my knees at least four times. When I crest the hill, expansive wet patches on my pants draw attention to my knobby knees.

Scott's flashlight sweeps side to side only two hundred yards down and to my right, panning across an expanse of wire fencing.

Something is off about this expedition. The text he sent his gang two hours ago had set the start time of their operation at ten o'clock sharp and clear across town at an abandoned barn. Something about flushing out a mob of husk fiends. So why is he out here on the Coleman property at a little past eight?

It's not like Scott to dupe others. He always does the right thing.

Even back in seventh grade when big, bad, held-back-twice Morris Gunder had threatened to bust him up if he told the teachers on Gunder's extortion practices in C Lunch, Scott had exposed the truth. I felt a connection from that. I had been one of Morris's victims, giving him my lunch money in favor of keeping my nose properly configured in the center of my face. Bad enough I had such horrible acne. Adding a warped proboscis to my look would've made me one of the Untouchables.

He scales the fence, the hood of his winter coat snagging on the top. He pulls it free and continues on. So strange. It's the middle of summer and at least in the eighties. I'm sweltering in jeans and a t-shirt. Why's he running around in pretty much a parka and snow boots?

I make it to the fence and size it up. Scott had made climbing it look to be a breeze. He'd even done so without having to drop his flashlight.

I listen carefully, fearing he's doubling back and about to catch me red-handed.

Nothing. I have to get a move on if I hope to keep up.

I roll my eyes and claw my way to the top. I awkwardly straddle the fence, my crotch regretting the move almost immediately.

I shove off the fence, swinging my legs wide in the hope that the pokey, stabby portions of the fencing don't plunge through my denim.

I land on my side and grunt. I grab at my left leg and bite my tongue. A gash along my inner thigh is already bleeding. Thanks for protecting me, blue jeans. I stand and fiddle with the frayed opening in my pants. Guess I'll be needing a story to tell Mom why my second best jeans are out of commission. Or I can simply tuck them in the garbage on Trash Day. No one the wiser.

I hear cursing ahead of me and know that he's close. You kiss your girlfriend with that mouth, Scott? Of course, he probably has a good reason to use such colorful language. Maybe he's squaring off with a frost giant or a really big mutant caterpillar or something?

A part of me hesitates. Do I really want to see what's happening? Do I want to make all my wild imaginings real? Isn't ignorance bliss? I mean, the rest of my class seems perfectly content to go along with their lives unaware that there's magic trying to storm the gates, that Hell and all its demonic ilk are just a hop, skip, and a jump from ransacking our peaceful planet?

Maybe it's wiser to hang back, just listen to his exploits tomorrow when he walks into homeroom as if he didn't just save all of reality but rather spent a night in working out or reading poems. Or working out while reading poetry.

I take a step back, suddenly feeling no need to witness whatever this is firsthand. I'm reasonably sure he'll text about it.

"This sucks," says someone behind me.

I spin around to stare into Scott Holloway's eyes.

They're glowing the brightest orange ever and not in a good way.

Chapter 2
Here is Where I . . . Urge Scott Not to Do Anything Rash

His flashlight's turned off. Not much need for it what with the glow his peepers are currently putting out.

"Uh, Hi, Scott. Nice night for a stroll."

His eyes narrow. Twin death rays slicing through me seems like a horrible way to die. No way he's going to do that. He's the hero.

He rubs the back of his head, and his eyes dim, letting the moonlight do most of the heavylifting of setting the lighting mood. "You shouldn't be here."

"Absolutely. Sorry my little walkabout crossed yours. What are the odds?"

He turns away from me. "You followed me."

"Okay, yes, I'll have to cop to that." I didn't know what else to say. Definitely sharing that I knew all about his magical missions wasn't going to earn me any points.

He points vaguely to a spot in the woods ahead. It seems impossibly dark there. "I've already started. I don't have time to send you away. It's going to open any second now."

"What's that?"

"The gateway I spelled into being."

"Oh." Really pictured myself more eloquent when I finally confronted Scott about his exploits.

"You're a smart one, Gideon. Why are you so nosy?"

"What? No, I just―"

"You don't think I notice you tuning into my conversations with Bri, Mason, and Roman?"

Maybe fessing up to a teensy bit of spying at school is in order. I don't have to confess to reading their texts, right? "Well, I have to admit to finding some of your topics rather off the beaten path. I just assumed you guys were playing some sort of game."

"It's not a game."

A muffled thunderclap erupts from the dark part of the forest where Scott expects a gateway to appear. The spot no longer is in shadow. There's a faint green light coming from beyond the thickest wall of shrubbery I've ever seen.

"No, not a game." I grin. "Sure seems like flashlight tag, though. Little effort to recapture your lost childhood? Trying to recreate fond camp memories?"

"Shut the hell up, Gideon. You have no idea."

I stiffen and then relax. This is my opening. "You're right. I don't. Something strange is going on with you and your friends. All kidding aside now." I draw in a breath. "You guys are mixed up in magic. You save the world."

He looks at me, his eyes no longer glowing. Just those inescapable baby blues that make the girls swoon and swear allegiance to Scott's Twitter feed. "Worlds. We save a lot more than one."

"I stand corrected."

He grabs my hand and pulls me along with him. We run toward the green radiance ahead. "Can't leave you here. The wind mummy that lives nearby is sure to come investigate my gate. She finds you and you're toast or at the very least become her thrall."

"Can't say becoming anyone's thrall is one of my life goals." My left shoulder crashes into a spindly tree, but I keep going. Not that I have much choice. Scott isn't letting go.

The breeze around us kicks up, buffeting us from all sides. Weird. Not sure that's how the physics of air flow is supposed to work.

Scott glares at me again. Not a fan of how many harsh looks he's given me. He's normally so gregarious and generous with the smiles and warm grins of acceptance. "Try not to throw up. Dimension hopping is never easy the first time."

We burst through the thick shrubs into a small clearing. The wind is sweeping into a five-foot-wide hole hanging in the air. The edges of the portal are coursing with probing tendrils of green energy.

Scott stops and halts my progress with a flat hand to my chest. "Make your jump clean. Don't toucvh the gate's aura."

"The green stuff?"

"Yeah, the green stuff."

He grabs me by the shoulders and moves behind me. He's going to push me through.

"Hands out and be ready to land and roll. Hope it's just ground on the other side and not an ocean."

"Wait, shouldn't we poke our heads through and have a looksee first? If we spot waves, maybe you call up another gate."

A moan came from our left.

Scott looks at me. "She's almost here. I didn't go through the protocols to be on her territory. She's not going to be happy."

Even greatly unhinged, I know he's referring to the wind mummy he mentioned earlier. I'm just an attention-to-detail kind of guy. "Will she come after us?"

"No, the curse keeps her confined to the earthly plane." He tenses his arms. "No let's go."

"Aye-aye." With that, I stumble forward, a good deal of my momentum courtesy of the hard shove Scott employs.

I jump into the air, ducking my head and pulling my feet up to avoid the portal's aura. I slide through the gate, praying that the other side grants us solid ground.

Hanging with Scott Holloway opens doors.


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