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Fractured: A Novel – Prologue

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Dear Reader,

This is the first book I really told myself to push through and finish.  Before this novel I had written many novels of various length, some almost getting to the last chapter before deciding the next shiny project would be better.  With this book I told myself that no matter how difficult I was going to see it through to the end.  I’m glad I did.  As my first novel it has some flaws, but I think it’s fun.  You might enjoy the process as I clean it up and post a chapter a week to the blog as I edit.  I’ve included a link to buy (coming soon) in case you want to show support for the project (or you aren’t a fan of waiting as I blog the book), but because it is an edit in progress I hope you will forgive some of the flaws.  If finished and completely edited novels are more your thing, that’s cool, you can check out Shadow Sport here.  Otherwise, sit back, kick up your feet and enjoy the yarn.

Ethan D. Cobb

Fractured Cover

Fractured: A Novel

WHO DO YOU TRUST IF YOU CAN’T TRUST YOURSELF?

As a psychologist, Sergio knows the signs, but he refuses to believe his father was a paranoid schizophrenic…especially now that Sergio has the same symptoms.  The alternative, however, is that living skeletons did kill his father and are now after him.  But when a werewolf comes to his office with answers, Sergio finds he might not be as crazy as he thinks.  At least he thinks so…probably.

Fractured is a fascinating journey between madness and clarity, where one doesn’t know who to trust, including their own mind.  An urban fantasy with a touch of humor, a little romance, and a driving psychological thrill.

Prologue:

Agoraphobia – An anxiety disorder characterized by an intense fear of leaving one’s home.

 

Richard Enger wanted to sleep, but the skeletons were keeping him awake. Polyrythmic bone clicks were just audible above the night’s silence, he thought. Often only the prickling on the back of his neck let him know they were there, but sometimes he heard them coming. The camera was tucked away in the dresser, or he could shake his sleeping wife away, but these were all ways he’d tried to prove their existence. They never worked. No one else ever seemed to see the walking bones.

The skeletons came as they often did, early in the morning. A squint through the blinds beside his bed revealed the jerking motion of the mobile body shell on the edge of the nearest streetlight’s glow. Richard looked closer and thought it odd he could make out two of the bone men. Never had there been more than one. Brown robes clung limply to the living corpses. They continued to search, like always. His eyes shifted to the doorway and back to the window. Outside, there was no movement. The street was again empty. He sighed.
Richard Enger was not insane. Not anymore at least. Or wouldn’t be very soon. The doctors agreed on that much. The medication continued to progress and soon the hallucinations would exist only as painful memories. A final clean bill of health held the key to stop being watched from the living and the dead. His wife was not intrusive and mostly kept the worry from her face, but still he noticed whenever she was near. He noticed whenever she thought he wasn’t looking how she would steal glances in his direction to make sure he wasn’t doing anything…crazy. Only in the darkness as she slumbered was he free from her constant watching.

In the silence of the dull, gray morning Richard moved his eyes a fraction and looked, without turning his head, at his sleeping wife. The satin covers rose in gentle, steady rhythms. Now he could work alone without worry etched across faces of family and friends. In the morning, he found solitude, away from the stares. Well, at least away from the stares of the living. Later he would return to bed with no one the wiser.

His foot slid from the sheets as he eased out. Slowly he shifted his weight without shaking the bed or making a single noise. He moved through the narrow hallway to his office avoiding the squeaky board near the doorway to the bathroom, and the deep groan that often came from the fourth step from the entrance to his son Sergio’s room.

The shadows merged into blackness with each object molding into a giant wall of darkness.
Richard could just make out the desk, bookshelf, and filing cabinet in his office. He moved to the desk and felt for the table lamp. The light turned on with a small click. He glanced over his shoulder and listened for a moment for squeaking boards or opening doors. Any other time he would not have been so paranoid, but tonight he couldn’t get caught. No one would understand. They would all think it was a relapse. But he had to be sure the page fragment was safe. He shuffled to the filing cabinet. Satisfied no one would barge in, he slid the drawer back and groped in the dark space for the delicate slip of paper, no bigger than a business card cut in two. In the soft glow he held the paper up, mesmerized. Thick ink bulged under his fingertips, and three Chinese characters were legible. The house groaned, and he froze. The floorboards remained silent. He turned to finish his work. They were after him, and the paper needed protection.

Richard emerged from the room, content to have found an acceptable place for the paper; away from light and with less likelihood of being damaged by metal edges, like on the cabinet. He moved down the stairs to the kitchen. He inhaled deeply, held it a moment, then breathed out. The place smelled like leftover pasta.

As his fingers pressed the toaster lever, Richard was certain that for just the briefest moment he saw movement in the front yard.  He leaned closer to the kitchen window. The sky was still dark, but the moon had receded behind the mountains causing a sterling incandescent backdrop; daylight was fast approaching. He blinked and brilliant ivory flashed against the darkness of the oak tree in the middle of the yard. His eyes swept the area, careful to search every shadow. Nothing moved. The moment had happened so fast he couldn’t be sure of what he saw. He took another deep breath, as he had been taught. Inhale, wait two seconds, exhale…inhale, wait two seconds, exhale.

The toast continued to brown, and he moved to get the butter. The cold tray slid on the counter beside the toaster, making a clatter. The sound reverberated around the kitchen. Richard’s eyes flinched. He listened for movement upstairs. Her eyes always watched unless she was asleep. Ideas of being guarded inside his own home annoyed him, but could he blame her?

He turned back to the window. Outside a figure stepped from behind the oak tree. Richard’s hands slapped the counter as he stuck his face to the window, leaving nose prints on the glass. Skeletons had darted in and out of his vision for months now, but none had ever been this close or remained stationary for this long. His breath caught as he waited for the apparition to disappear, but the skeleton remained. There was no denying it this time. They weren’t vanishing.

“The skeletons live!” he yelled. He was right! His face beamed. They had finally come to talk instead of run. Now that the fragment was safe, he was ready to talk.

He ran out of the kitchen to the front yard letting the door slam. The chill morning sliced through the thin pajamas, but Richard didn’t care. Grassy dew lathered his feet. In the dull light, the large oak blended with the background with only several gnarled branches poking out like claws.

He spun. The yard was empty.

“No, no, you can come out,” said Richard. “I saw you from the window. I’m not scared.”

The sound of wind ruffled through the leaves. Richard walked around the oak and saw nothing. A voice shot from the distance, but Richard could not be positive from which direction.

“Where do you get your power?”

“My power?”

“It calls to us.”

Richard could hear the voice more clearly. The voice spoke Chinese. He hadn’t noticed before because the language was natural for him.

“Join us and we can add to it,” said another voice. Richard could feel heat rising in his head. The voice penetrated and burrowed inside. He backed away.

“Who are you?” said Richard.

“Join. Become a servant of Ya Hui, and you may live. Your power is weak. What Tan Wu has done for you is nothing. His power is weak and will not protect you. Tell us where he is and you will live.”

Richard felt fire explode inside. The voice penetrated his brain with a feeling of something slithering inside. His limbs only half worked now, the functional half was trying to turn. Richard ran for the door, and stumbled in the yard. Robed figures emerged from the surrounding trees. One stepped forward and removed a hood. A skull loomed under the cloth.

“Tell us where Tan Wu is!”

Richard’s screams bounced through the walls. Several seconds later it was quiet again. Upstairs his wife bolted awake. His son slipped out of bed to see about the noise.

By the time they made it outside, Richard Enger was face down on the front lawn, dead.

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