by Glen Gabel
Publication date: July 1st 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
★★Colin Devereaux is a teen in crisis. He’s an outcast at school, a target for bullies, and a helpless bystander as he watches his single mother wither from cancer. But those problems pale to the things he can’t explain – the dark creatures he’s spied lurking over his sleeping mother’s form, the strange old shopkeeper at the marina who seems to know Colin’s mind, and the mysterious puzzle box that the old man trades for Colin’s name. The line of reality blurs as the puzzle box opens, revealing a path to another world and a clue that may save his mother’s life. Stranded in a kingdom devastated by darkness and war, Colin joins a ragtag resistance against evil forces to find salvation for his mother and himself.★★
Colin and Balaam burst past the dark creatures, knocking them over, and raced back down the lane. The serpents coiled and chased after them.
“They’re following us!” Colin yelled as Balaam veered down a narrow alley of gravestones. The demons flung themselves around the tombs and closed in to pinch off their escape.
“They’re cutting us off! We’re dead!” Colin shrieked as he kicked at Balaam’s sides frantically.
“Yes, wonderful! Keep saying such helpful things!” Balaam yelled back and veered again, running up the sagging side of a crumbling tomb to its roof and hopping to the next one and the next like they were stones on the water. The serpents hissed and raced forward at the bases of the tombs, slithering parallel to the donkey’s course.
Colin clutched Balaam’s mane as he stared, wide-eyed, ahead. They were charging towards the cemetery’s wall, several inches higher than the tombs themselves.
“Wall! Wall! Wall!” Colin screamed and pulled back on Balaam’s mane.
“Let’s see them try this!” Balaam yelled back as he ran across the last roof and, with a mighty jump, hurled them into the air, barely missing the wall’s ledge and crashing into a thatch cart on the other side. Colin held tight as they smashed through the cart and onto the street. Guards nearby ran forward, brandishing spears. “Halt!”
“New problem!” Colin yelled as he clung to Balaam, who darted past the guards, knocking them over in his wake.
“Always!” Balaam snorted as he careened down an alley and onto another street, then veered again onto the King’s Way leading to the royal courtyard.
“Okay, slow down!” Colin called. “We lost them.”
Balaam slowed his pace as they entered the great market. Stands, overhangs, and shops were littered with random goods. Crowds of people moved about, and merchants carried baskets of wares. “Let me have control here. Subtlety is key,” Colin whispered to the donkey.
A group of guards on horseback turned onto the street before them. The captain’s face went sour. “You! Boy! Halt!”
“Oh shit,” Colin moaned.
“Wonderful leadership, very subtle,” Balaam said and rushed to the right, knocking over a cart and sending pottery flying.
“After him!” yelled the captain, and his men gave chase.
Colin spun his head around as Balaam charged down another street. The guards rushed closer and closer. One soldier grimly eyed Colin, pushing his mount ahead to match Balaam’s speed. He thrust his spear at Colin, and Colin grabbed it. The two struggled with it as they hurtled down the lane, their mounts neck and neck. The onlookers screamed and ran as the two riders knocked over merchant carts and crates between them.
Without warning, a merchant pushed a cart out from a side alley in front of Colin’s opponent. Both man and horse collided with it and fell away. Two other guards replaced him within seconds.
“Go faster!” Colin yelled as he kicked Balaam’s side.
“I’m a donkey! Not a race horse!” Balaam called back.
The lane split to the left and the right ahead. “Pick one, great leader!” Balaam demanded.
“Uh, right! No, left!” Colin screamed.
Balaam dashed ahead, down the left lane, and into a caravan of garments.
Reams of fabric went flying, covering both Colin and the donkey.
“I can’t see!” Balaam screamed.
An unending ream of silk covered Colin’s face. He could hear the guards’ horses behind as he fumbled with it. “Just keep going!”
Balaam flew past scattering crowds, past screaming merchants, and right through a thatched wall.
Glen Gabel learned to love storytelling at an early age, enlisting his friends in short films, plays, and anything he could jot down on paper. Later his passion turned to screenwriting and eventually into novels and short stories.
After graduating from The University of Southern California with a B.A. in Creative Writing and Film, Glen worked under Joss Whedon at Mutant Enemy/Fox as a production assistant before transitioning to education and earning an M.ed at Portland State University. He later accepted a lead instructor position in Pasadena, California, before moving on to professional copywriting.
Glen’s work includes selling his supernatural thriller screenplay, “The Harrow,” script doctoring on several independent films, and his latest YA fantasy novel, The Soothsayer. Glen’s most recent short story, “Where Light Has No Purchase” was shortlisted as a finalist in Reedsy’s Writing Contest in April 2022 and published in the 2022 Bardsy Character Anthology. He lives in Idaho with his wife and wonder-pup, Duke.
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