Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Demons Circling: A Scene from RISING FROM ASHES

I know I haven't been the most clear about the release for Rising From Ashes: Empire of Blood Book Three... So first I'd like to clear things up a bit. The book will finally be fully released everywhere in eBook, trade paperback, and hardcover on November 24th.

That established... Going over some scenes from Rising From Ashes this morning, I came upon this one and was compelled to share it with you all. Even if you haven't read either Shining in Crimson or Fading in Darkness, this scene is completely spoiler free. This is the first scene of Chapter 16 which is titled Demons Circling:

***Editorial note: this is still in unfinished draft form, so there are some typos etc.*** 
The thick musty stench of death floated just below Alexandria's nostrils as she sat there on her knees in the back yard of the home she'd grown up in. Dry dirt caked her arms up to her elbows and loose strands of hair hung down in tandem from a large tangled bun at the top of her head. Her eyes were red from having cried for two days straight. But now they were nearly as dry as the dirt on her arms. Before her, beneath piles of sticks and branches, lay her father's body in the shallow grave she had dug out with her own bare hands.
Somewhere in the abyss of the house, a shovel hid and eluded her, but as time had ticked away, it soon became obvious she wasn't in any state of mind to be able to find it and Dad's body wasn't going to get up and take care of itself. Just the thought of that had torn through her like a jack hammer, but nothing could change that now. There was no one on her side and nowhere she could run. No adult to take care of the hard things that adults had always taken care of in her life. Now she was the adult and the world had landed on her back in the blink of an eye and the blast of a rifle.
The walls she had glued together in her own emotional well were threatening to crack again and she snapped out of the long trance she had fallen into. She would have to cover him over now. Her hands slid at her sides in fresh dirt, accumulating the stuff in her forearms, wishing it was fire she could sweep up into balls and send hurling toward the soldiers who were now standing at the corner of the street watching her and whispering to each other. Her hands gripped deep into the dirt and her fingernails found her palm and started to pierce into the flesh slowly, biting and tearing and focusing her hatred. She gritted her teeth with the pain and the imaginary black poison in her chest waiting to spew out and destroy them.
As the dirt fell over his pale decaying face--a face she couldn't help remember smiling and crying and laughing and yelling and screaming and now it just stared at nothing without emotion or recognition or anything that would give it even the slightest resemblance of being alive--the well cracked open and her tears flooded down again mixing with the dry dirt on her face and becoming an odd sort of mud. Her arms moved of their own accord then, flinging dirt down over that face and working restlessly to cover it and make it go away. And yet she didn't want her last time seeing his face to go away so quickly and so horribly but the choice was no longer hers as her arms shoved forward large piles of dirt and within a few minutes she lay there nearly out of breath over the grave now fully covered. And all she wanted to do was lie there with him forever and never get up.
Rudy's soft and terrified voice crept up over the chirping of insects and the faraway droning of traffic. "Alex?"
The need to sob caught in her throat then and with a great and forced effort she swallowed it, its fire burning her esophogus all the way down. She sat up, pretending the fire enfulfing her stomach wasn't there and in a comforting and steady voice she replied, "Yeah, Rudy, what is it? You okay, buddy?"
Her little brother stood, dirty face and bare feet sticking out of the cracked back porch screen door. "Jeremy said it was Daddy's fault the Emper sojers killed him--that he's gon' go to hell and burn because he didn't believe in the Emper and..." His face screwed up with tears and wailing and the burning in Alexandria's heart stoked with a boiling anguish and hatred.
"Come on, come here, Rudy." Rudy ran out to her, the porch door slamming behind him. When he landed sobbing into Alexandria's arms she hugged him tightly and caressed the top of his head cooing and whispering to him. "Jeremy doesn't know any better, Rudy. He's wrong. The Emperor's not any god that Daddy should have believed in. And it wasn't Daddy's fault those bad men shot him, it's the Emperor's. And if there's a hell, you know just as well as I do, our Daddy doesn't belong there."
When Rudy finally calmed down, she brought him inside the house and had a long talk with Jeremy and when they were done, the three of them came outside and Alexandria took the metal can in her hands, lifted it awkwardly over the bare patch of dirt that covered her father's lifeless body, and began to splash the dry ground with wet oily gasoline. When the bulge of dirt was covered in channels of flowing yellowish red liquid, she set the can aside and started throwing the leaves and grass she had collected over the spot and the two boys began to do the same and within a few minutes it was covered entirely. She took out the small book of matches she had found in a kitchen drawer and pulled one out. Then she kissed her palm and blew the kiss down at the makeshift grave as new tears ran streaming down both sides of her face. And before she had a chance to stop herself she'd lit the match and dropped it.
The whole thing went up in a woosh and a bright flash lighting the dying dusk evening with glowing waves of yellow and orange. Flames danced in Alexandria's moist eyes as she watched the soldiers through the tongues of fire reaching up at random for the sky in crackling cries of spitting spark and thick burning heat. And in the rising smoke of the crude makeshift pyre, Alexandria and her brothers said goodbye to Jamie Ridgemont, the best father they could have ever asked for.

I hope you enjoyed this scene. Keep an eye out for more updates and sneak peeks from Rising from Ashes!