FIRST TWO CHAPTERS

This is a SNEAK PREVIEW of Peter Thomas and the 5 Realms
Copyright Joshua D.Walton 2018

Peter Thomas and the 5 Realms is a series of books suitable for an age group ranging from Young Adults to CEO's.
Josh dictates the storyline, and the transcription service delivers the text to his writing partner, author/editor C.K.Gurin, who is flat-out wild about Josh's tales and says they'd make phenomenal movies.

 

CHAPTER 1

A solitary figure in light blue and white leather attempted to remain unseen as he climbed through the snow, ascending the cloud-shrouded mountain. He paused to catch his breath. Looking upward toward the summit he saw ice covered rocks, and jagged peaks treacherously blanketed in snow. He inhaled deeply, quickening his pace, gasping in the altitude’s thin air. He was almost there. Dusk had already begun turning to dark and stars were beginning to glitter in the distant heavens. It was still light enough to make out the ruins of Guylin Temple. Its stone stairway was no more than 100 yards distant.

A sound from lower down the mountain captured his attention. The click of a rock, accidentally dislodged by a careless footfall. He was being followed. Pursued would be a better word. He shivered slightly beneath his long cloak. He was running out of time.

A band of armed men briefly emerged from the cloud cover, following the trail he was inadvertently blazing for them. They faded back into the cloud but he knew they were there. He knew they were coming. For him. And for what he had taken from the Bellus Guild.  

He quickened his pace. He could see that part of Guylin Temple's staircase was missing. A section of mountain had given way at some point in the distant past and taken a large portion of the stone steps with it. The remainder of the stone staircase was visible across a deep gorge, the base of which was littered with a jumble of broken stones and icy boulders.

There was moonlight now, enough illumination for him to see that the remainder of the stone staircase led directly into the side of the temple which sat on the other side of the gorge. Desperate, he could hear the footsteps of his pursuers. He glanced around. No way to climb and an impossible jump to cross the gorge.

No. Not impossible. The climber took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and exhaled long and slow.

And jumped.

It was a rough four point landing on stone steps on the far side of the gorge, causing him to stumble before managing to regain his balance. He took the stairs at a dead run, crossing the snow covered courtyard, slowing only when he saw stone statues, suddenly imbued with life, temple guardians, armed with stone spears and swords, blocking his entry to the temple.

The newly animated statues, armored and vaguely humanoid in form, had begun dismounting from their pedestals. The stone statue’s eyes, now trained directly upon him as the intruder, were filled with a piercing white light.

What strange magic was this? Who cast these spells? Instinctively he knew.

The climber, himself a sorcerer, slowly raised his right hand, signaling for them to halt, while allowing a bluish-white light to begin to glow in his palm. It was a signal to the temple’s stone guardians that he meant no harm.

The stone guardians assessed the intruder who bore the light of truth, only briefly hesitating before lowering their weapons and returning to their pedestals. They understood that this stranger could be trusted.

The climber made his way into the main hall of the temple with its soaring, arched ceilings. Although much of the structure was in ruins, a semblance of the temple’s former beauty was easily discernable. He paused in front of a massive stone gargoyle. The statue measured ten feet tall as the creature lay in repose on a low stone slab. The gargoyle had four eyes, deep set in the face of the cold stone body. The statue was unlike the image of any gargoyle he had ever seen, yet in the back of his mind the creature's face looked vaguely familiar.

Quickly he swept puzzlement from his mind. Realizing that he was almost out of time, he issued a command to the stone gargoyle. "You have new orders. You must protect him at all costs.” The creature would understand to whom the climber was referring.

The climber paused for a moment before delivering a second instruction. “You will deliver a message from me to the Order on Nevis. You will tell them that Guylin Temple has fallen. They will understand." The climber's words animated the stone gargoyle. All four of the gargoyle's eyes suddenly lit with a blue-white glow and then blinked with comprehension. The gargoyle nodded its understanding.

"Go. Now!" the climber commanded, pointing to the night sky beyond the temple's entrance. The massive stone creature arose from its centuries-long crouch on the low stone pedestal and slowly stretched. Giving its wings a quick shake, the huge gargoyle obediently lumbered toward the temple entrance.

The gargoyle hurled itself off the cliff, briefly disappearing from sight. Within seconds the shadow of its massive wings blocked out the stars as the newly animated gargoyle soared upward and smoothly began gliding away to execute the tasks it had just been given.

The climber moved further into the temple, heading toward a large chamber with heavy wooden doors.

"The Guild is coming!" the climber called, the sound of his voice carrying the warning throughout the temple. He now spoke directly to the temple guardian statues which had blocked his path. "Protect the temple at all costs," he shouted to them.

Turning toward the rugged pair of doors leading to a darkened chamber, the climber shouldered them open then quickly turned and threw his weight against them to close the pair. He lowered a massive wooden bar into place across the middle, then shoved the door’s carved stone bolts into slots drilled into both the floor and ceiling.

“Seal this room!" he commanded the chamber. He might not be able to stop his attackers, but he could slow them down. Every second counted.

No sooner had the climber spoken, than a massive slab of marble materialized and slammed down behind the doors, completely sealing off the room. As soon as the thick marble slab hit the floor, temple-wide, all of the torches burst into flame, as did the two massive fireplaces, one at each end of the chamber. Ice remaining in the chamber in which he had barricaded himself, instantly melted as the temperature warmed, replacing the freezing night air which had permeated the temple ruins.

The climber quickly glanced about. The floor of the chamber was littered with debris. Long since abandoned, random sections of walls and ceiling had fallen. Broken rocks, the remnants of miscellaneous furnishings, and the dust of ages, lay scattered throughout the room. He knew exactly what he was searching for, the reason he had come to this place. It didn’t take long to find it.

The climber spied a very plain stone fountain, largely obscured from view, partially buried by rubble and litter. Slightly smaller than a summer garden bird bath, it was a fixture so ordinary for a chamber such as this, that it would be unlikely for anyone to look twice at it.  The climber hurriedly crossed to the fountain, carefully shoved aside the larger pieces of debris and knelt beside the fountain. He reached into his cloak, removed an ancient book from a hidden pocket and gently set the book on the floor. The climber then cupped his hands to collect a trickle of newly unfrozen water from the fountain and began whispering softly to it. As he did so, the water he held began to shimmer and glow a luminous blue-white. The more he spoke, the brighter the water’s glow became. When he finished speaking he held his cupped hands over the basin and opened them, carefully returning every drop of the now-glowing water to the fountain. Nothing must go to waste.

The water in the fountain began to take on the same shimmering blue-white glow and when it did, the climber called for the flames to be magically extinguished in both of the room’s big fireplaces, leaving only the wall torches burning. The temperature in the chamber rapidly began to drop as he turned his attention back to the fountain.  He waited until the water returned to its initial appearance. Waited until no one would suspect what he had just carefully hidden there; All of his magical knowledge, and a whisper of his memories.  Within moments, the fountain had once again frozen solid. Taking a deep breath, the climber rose to his feet, and again concealed the fountain beneath the debris he’d earlier moved.

With a sigh, he began to mentally prepare himself for the impending battle. The muffled sound of violence told him that conflict was taking place in the main hall. As he began to turn toward the sound, he heard the heavy outer-doors to the chamber give way and he sprinted toward the center of the room. Seconds later the protective marble barrier also shattered, causing a storm of marble shards to explode into the chamber. Along with the marble debris, one of the now animated stone guardians was also roughly propelled into the chamber. The statue skidded across the floor, the chipped and battered form landing at the climber's feet.

The damaged statue struggled to stand erect, and in the process one of its stone arms fell off, loudly crashing to the floor. Still the stone guardian persevered, its one remaining arm wielding a stone sword against the horde of red-cloaked soldiers. The attackers had poured through the shattered marble opening, quickly surrounding the climber and the temple's stone guardian.

Three sorcerers brought up the rear, confidently striding into the chamber to watch the action. Hooded black cloaks defined their elevated status. The stone guardian violently hurled its sword toward the man in the center, the leader. His name was General Kainnes and he raised a blackened hand, instantly conjuring an impenetrable wall of fire upon which the stone sword shattered.

Shouting angrily, the man with the black hand then gestured toward the stone guardian. The wall of fire obeyed, quickly changing to a weapon of offense. The fire raced across the room, exploding against what remained of the statue. Red-cloaked soldiers surrounding the climber and the stone guardian had fallen back to avoid a hailstorm of stone shrapnel. The floor was now littered with fragmented debris.

The climber raised his arm heavenward, magically causing remnants of the fire and pieces of statue to combine into a whirlwind of blue-white light, intended to surround and protect him. But he wasn't fast enough.

He became aware of an icy pain in his abdomen where a jagged shard of marble had penetrated it. The wound was bleeding heavily. Suddenly aware that the ancient book he had placed on the floor next to the fountain was no longer in his possession, he frantically glanced about him. The book had been accidentally kicked halfway across the room. One of the red-cloaked soldiers caught sight of the book and ran toward it. The climber raised one hand, magically froze the man in mid-air then tossed him across the room. With his other hand the climber then summoned the book. It flew across the room into his waiting hand.

Having disposed of the red-cloaked soldier, the climber used his newly freed hand to protect the book. With a twist of his wrist he opened a small black hole in mid-air. A portal. Quickly tossing the book inside the black hole, with another twist of his wrist the hole disappeared from view.

The dust settled and the chamber descended into a heavy silence. Stunned red-cloaked soldiers froze in place, awaiting instructions. With the realization that the ancient book was lost to them forever, the white-hot rage of the three sorcerers was palpable. One after another the three black-cloaked men silently lowered their hoods, and their movement caught the attention of the climber. He knew who these three were.

The man to the far left was Ehrbis. He was thin enough to be described as nearly skeletal, and bald with a badly battle-scarred face. He was a clever sorcerer, and an astute battle tactician, but above all, he was a man consumed by hate.

The man on the right, otherwise human in form, was Vladis. Wisps of gray smoke seeped from dual indentations in his skull where a pair of eyes would ordinarily have been. A wreath of gray smoke encircled his head like a blindfold. Although he was without human eyes, the sorcerer Vladis could see perfectly, and this sorcerer was particularly adept at transfiguration. He had the ability to disguise himself as various birds and bats, and he could even turn himself into a terrifying swarm of insects.

In the center, towering over both Ehrbis and Vladis, General Kainnes had a commanding presence. He might once have been thought of as handsome, had it not been for the aura of evil surrounding him. It was a level of evil that filled his soul-less being, long since eradicating any physical appeal.

One of the General’s hands was as black as Onyx. A parting gift, a curse from a powerful sorcerer that Kainnes had sought to vanquish. The curse survived. The sorcerer who cast it had not. The General’s given name was rarely used by those who feared him. He was simply known as The Black Hand, or The Hand of Death.

General Kainnes reminded the climber of a cat toying with a mouse soon to be killed. In a mocking tone, Kainnes spoke to the climber, "You have achieved nothing by stealing the book, Gawain. In running to this temple the only thing you've done is to ensure yourself a painful death. The Guild will take this world along with all the other realms. We will destroy your paradise and nothing can stop it."

Gawain, the climber, replied calmly, "If I have slowed you down, General Kainnes, then I will have achieved everything that I needed to do. Someone else will stop you."

Annoyed, General Kainnes nodded at his red-cloaked soldiers. "We'll see about that," he snarled. "Take him!" he commanded his men. Before the charging red-cloaks could obey the order, Gawain, still in the center of the room, dropped to one knee and placed his gloved hand flat on the temple floor. Roaring a command, Gawain’s magic produced a powerful blue-white orb which exploded with energy; violently flinging the red-cloaked oppressors through the air, crumpling their bodies against the chamber’s walls.

General Kainnes smiled mockingly. "I would love to have fought you when you were fresh, Gawain, but the climb has undoubtedly tired you, and I have more important matters to attend to. Pity." He gave a small nod, silently instructing his two black-cloaked companions to end this. The battle-scarred man took a step forward, as did the man whose eyes were smoke. The two murmured magical incantations. Each brought forth glowing red balls of light, from which they formed razor sharp sabers and compact shields as they approached Gawain.

Gawain, taking a defensive stance, called forth yet another bluish-white orb and from it formed a heavy bo staff, a weapon equal to his height, which was favored by sorcerers who also practiced martial arts.

When fresh, Gawain had superior strength and skill, but General Kainnes had been right. What remained of Gawain’s stamina had begun to wane rapidly. He could feel his magical powers draining away. Trying to outsmart his foes and conserve his energy, as he fought he maneuvered the two black-clad sorcerers to the exterior of the temple. Light from torches threw outsized shadows of their battle against stone walls and added a touch of the macabre to the snow-covered battle scene. Gawain dodged the bodies of red-caped swordsmen and leapt over stone debris from the broken statues. The guardians had done their best to protect the temple but, it wasn't enough.

Vladis, the sorcerer without eyes charged at Gawain, his sword narrowly missing its mark. Gawain whirled and with the bo staff, whipped the man's legs out from under him. The same smooth maneuver caught his opponent's weapon in mid-air, knocking it over the side of the mountain.

Gawain drew an 80 pound boulder toward his hand and magically propelled it toward Ehrbis, the stealthily approaching second sorcerer. The battle-scarred killer was already breathing heavily with exertion when Gawain's boulder hit him squarely in the chest, pinning him to the ground.

The skeleton-thin Ehrbis was stronger than he looked. He gasped and struggled as he attempted to roll on his side to dislodge the eighty pound boulder. Gawain called two more boulders to him, each bigger this time, and magically heaved them, one after another at Ehrbis, snapping his spine and pinning him under the weight of the stones.

General Kainnes rushed from the temple in time to witness this stage of the battle. He quickly conjured a glowing red orb and from it created a vicious looking sword. In touching the sword his black hand suddenly seemed to change form. Although it continued to function normally, the appearance of the black hand became almost transparent, as if composed of a powdery black dust. Kainnes angrily swung the sword in Gawain's direction but missed.

Sensing the opportunity to gain advantage with height, Gawain darted toward exterior stone steps which led to the top of the temple. Vladis and General Kainnes pursued him.

The closer of the two, Vladis, the man with no eyes, launched an aggressive attack, but Gawain had the benefit of surprise. He whirled and charged, once again using the bo to knock the attacker off his feet. The eyeless attacker slipped and rolled headfirst across a low stone wall, managing only a tenuous grasp on the stone as he desperately tried to right himself and keep from plunging over the side of the mountain. As his grip began to fail, Vladis magically transfigured himself into a swarm of red locusts that flew toward the upper steps of the temple, forming the shape of a man before Vladis resumed his human form.  

Gawain was surrounded. The eyeless attacker now stood behind him on a higher step, while General Kainnes, the black-cloaked leader was rapidly closing from the lower steps. Forced to fight opponents on each side, Gawain was no longer safe. Still bleeding profusely from the wound in his abdomen, Gawain could feel his power waning and the magic of the powerful bo staff began to flicker.

Suddenly General Kainnes charged and brought his sword down with ferocious force. Gawain attempted to block the blow just as his bo staff flickered again. The magical staff gave way beneath the strike. Just then the attacker lodged a mortal blow. General Kainnes’ sword pierced Gawain's chest, slicing it open. Before Gawain could even react to the first blow, Kainnes cruelly thrust his sword into Gawain's right leg.

General Kainnes grabbed Gawain's shoulder with his free hand, spun him around and thrust the murderous black hand deep into his chest. Gawain gasped. Although completely immobilized, with his life blood slipping away, he fought against showing pain.

The vicious killer with the hand of death leaned closer to Gawain and spoke softly, cruelly taunting him. "I look forward to burning down your paradise, Gawain. I look forward to destroying everyone you love. When I'm done, no one will ever remember you."

General Kainnes abruptly jerked his murderous black hand out of Gawain's chest and Gawain no longer felt any pain. A black hole appeared in his chest, the massive wound cauterized by magical fire. From the wound outward, Gawain's body steadily began to disintegrate.

"You will never see your paradise again," General Kainnes whispered sadistically, just before roughly thrusting Gawain off the side of the mountain.

As Gawain's body tumbled through the air it completed its transformation, disintegrating into dust. Gawain’s whirling, swirling remains, gently carried aloft by the winds, soon lay scattered over a nearby valley.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

 CHAPTER 2

 

The pain in his chest was unbearable. Breathing was next to impossible. He sat bolt upright in bed, clutching his chest, screaming in agony.

 

The moment passed, but the memory of the ghastly pain was still there. With one hand still massaging his chest, he shook his head, trying to clear the nightmare away. Glancing around his one-room studio apartment, he attempted to get his bearings.

 

He swung around and put his feet on the floor, simultaneously reaching over to the night stand in search of a bottle. Any bottle. It didn't matter. Just something to deaden the pain. Unable to find a bottle that wasn't empty within arm's reach, he stood and shuffled unsteadily to a table across the room, where he managed to put his hands on a small bottle with a bit of amber liquid still remaining in the bottom. He raised it to his lips and emptied it. Pausing, he looked around him. The apartment hadn't been cleaned in a very long time. The walls were covered with reminder notes and post-its and an eternity of photographs of a beautiful young woman. One woman. Just her. Only her.

 

The pain of her loss was far worse than the pain in his chest. He absent-mindedly rubbed his chest again. It had been an unusually vivid dream. And strange. Very strange.

 

He shook his head again, trying to clear away the cobwebs. He wobbled his way into the bathroom, stepped up to the sink and opened the medicine cabinet in search of something stronger than the last swallow in that bottle he had just found. Without bothering to read the labels he opened one, shook out a few pills and swallowed them. It no longer mattered to him. Nothing mattered, really.

Closing the medicine cabinet door he paused to look at himself in the mirror. He was physically repulsed by the vision. He saw a face that reminded him of homeless street people. One of the drunk and deranged who sleep on the sidewalks and ambush drivers at traffic lights, demanding money for cleaning automobile windshields with their spit and a filthy rag.


To the world, however, this man presented a different picture. His face is gaunt, his cheeks hollow. There is a heavy growth of stubble, since he has forgotten to shave for at least a week. His hair is ragged and unkempt. He hasn't had a haircut in a while either. But it is his eyes, his haunted eyes, those windows to the soul that command your attention and leave you wondering; What in God's name happened to this poor man?


His name is Peter.


He turned the water on, scooped a little liquid into his hand to help wash the pills down, then splashed his face. Grabbing a toothbrush, he squeezed the last vestige of paste from an otherwise empty tube onto the bristles and began brushing his teeth. With his spare hand he flipped the medicine cabinet open again, rooted through multiple bottles of prescription medications before finding the one he was searching for and grabbing it. Glancing at the label, his thought was "A Good Night's Sleep" my ass. What a load of crap. In disgust he tossed the bottle toward the nearly overflowing wastebasket.

He shut the medicine cabinet, rinsed his mouth, washed his face again, then carefully dried his hands. There was a photograph taped to the wall next to the medicine cabinet. Her picture. He stood there gazing at it in silence, then reached out to touch it, as if he were gently cupping her face to say Good Morning. I love you.

He closed his eyes and struggled to hold back tears, then took a deep breath. I have things to do. Do I have time to shave? he wondered. He glanced at his watch. No. Not enough time. I'm already late.

Quickly dressing, he pulled on his work uniform, dusted off his shoes, grabbed his keys and his ID badge, and headed for the door. As he went through the drill of opening multiple locks simply to get out of his apartment, he paused one last time. There was another picture hanging next to the door. A picture of her. He placed one hand on the image. God, I miss you, baby. I love you so much, he whispered softly.

He took another deep breath before opening the door, mentally steeling himself for the day. He opened the door to find an obnoxious neighbor in a bathrobe and hair curlers waiting in ambush. She clutched a brown plastic hairbrush, wielding it as if it were a defensive weapon.

Dear God, what now? he wondered, as she began angrily berating him.

"What are you doing making those noises at all hours of the night? You have no respect for anybody. People around here need to sleep and you're up all hours of the night yelling and banging those bottles around. Don't think I don't know what you're doing in that apartment," she accused him. Her eyes began to take on the glaze of a religious zealot.

Peter looked at her blankly and replied, "I have no idea what you're talking about." Turning, he gave her his back while he locked his door.

It didn't stop her. "You know exactly what I'm talking about," she shrieked.

He turned and headed down the stairs, trying to ignore her. She leaned over the rail to watch him descend. Her voice rose as she continued to yell after him. "You lousy drunk! It's people like you that have ruined this building. I'll be talking to the landlord about getting rid of you, I can promise you that!" Peter glanced up at her as he was rounding a landing and caught sight of an elderly man watching him descend the stairs.

The neighbor continued her angry diatribe, oblivious to the disturbance she herself was causing.  Her ear-piercing condemnation followed him all the way down four flights of stairs, her voice only getting louder as he descended. Well, there's the morning show for the neighbors, he sighed to himself.

His apartment building had good access to public transportation. There was a bus stop no more than 100 yards away. As he headed there, a homeless man sitting on the curb, his feet in the gutter yelled out to him, "Hey Peter, is there any way you can help me out with lunch today, man?"

Peter put a hand in his right pocket, found three bucks and handed it to the homeless man. "Thanks, Peter," came the grateful reply to his generosity. "You're a life saver, my friend."

Peter acknowledged the comment with a wave and continued toward the bus stop. He could hear the bus as it made a turn off in the distance.

As he approached the bus stop he couldn't help but notice a couple sitting on the bench, holding hands. That they were in love was obvious. The young man pulled his companion's hand to his lips and gently kissed it. The young woman smiled shyly and inclined her head affectionately toward his shoulder, giving it a quick nuzzle. Peter had a hard time witnessing it. He turned his head away to watch for the bus instead, and saw it rounding the corner. The squeaky old bus must be at least a dozen years old by now, he mused as it pulled up with a whoosh, the air brakes squealing. The door opened and Peter stood back to allow others to climb on the bus ahead of him. Just as it was his turn to step aboard he experienced another pain deep in his chest.

Unconsciously massaging his chest, he climbed the steps and paid the fare. The driver, noticing the movement, looked at Peter, and with genuine concern asked him, "You all right, Peter?" Slightly embarrassed by the attention, Peter looked at the driver and gave a slight nod. "I just had a really rough night, Fred. Some bad dreams, but I'm fine, thanks," he replied. Peter inhaled deeply and  headed off down the aisle. He spied a seat that had just been vacated and sat down heavily.

The bus pulled away from the curb and continued on its regular route, with a steady trail of people getting on and off. Several stops later as the bus swung toward the curb to pick up more passengers, Peter glanced out the window. One of the waiting passengers was the old man he'd seen in his building hallway this morning, as he was being screamed at by his unpleasant neighbor. Idly wondering how the old man had managed to get all the way over to this bus stop, he watched with curiosity as passengers filed on. The old man stepped on board but didn't bother to pay the fare. The driver didn't challenge the old guy for not paying, which struck Peter as odd. Fred was always a stickler for that kind of thing. Peter watched the old man make his way down the aisle and take a side-facing seat next to an older, heavy-set black lady. She wore a moderately annoyed expression. The old man turned his head and stared directly at Peter.

Peter assumed that the old man recognized him from the unpleasant scene this morning, but the constant gaze left him feeling self-conscious and slightly irritated, so he shifted slightly in his seat and directed his gaze out the window. The old man's reflection was visible in the window however, and he continued to stare directly at Peter. It was disconcerting.

Multiple stops later the driver pulled up to an empty bench and put the bus in Park. After a few seconds the driver looked in the rearview mirror and yelled back "Hey Peter! You getting off today or what, buddy?" It abruptly broke his reverie. Quickly recovering his bearings and realizing that this was indeed his stop, Peter stood and began walking towards the door, passing the old man as he did. The man was still staring.

Suddenly Peter felt annoyed. He paused in the aisle and demanded of the old man "Do I know you?" The old man simply continued to stare without replying. Peter repeated himself, slightly louder this time. "I SAID, do I KNOW you?"

The older black lady frowned and fixed Peter with an annoyed, no-nonsense glare. "Who you talkin' to? I KNOW you're not talkin' to me," she said sarcastically.

Startled by the woman's comment, Peter replied apologetically, "No, ma'am, I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to him," he said, nodding at her seat mate. With great drama, the lady turned to look at the seat next to her. With an incredulous expression on her face, she looked at Peter, then back at the seat next to her, then at Peter again, sarcastically demanding, "Him? Him WHO?" Confused, Peter just blinked.

"Son, you crazy," the lady announced disdainfully, which immediately drew the undivided attention of the remaining passengers as well as the driver.

The bus driver looked at the scene through the rear-view mirror. "Peter, you all right, son?" Peter nodded slowly while looking directly at the old man. "Yeah, Fred," he answered.

"There's no problems here, right?" he asked, now speaking to the increasingly wary lady who raised an eyebrow and leveled a warning glance at Peter. "There's about to BE a problem if you don't get away from me."

Peter looked at her, looked again at the old man, then silently turned and walked towards the door at the front of the bus. As he stepped off and began to walk away, the driver called after him, "Have a good day, Peter. You take it easy guy, ya hear?" Peter acknowledged the good wishes with a friendly wave of his hand as the bus pulled away, thinking to himself, This is going to be a long day. He was already dreading it.

Peter looked up from the sidewalk to see his place of work, one of the oldest community colleges in the nation. Not long ago the school had become one of the first of its type to offer a Bachelors Degree, and it was the only one to offer a B.Math degree. Peter liked academically progressive thinking.

He took a deep breath and headed toward the back of the college. As he walked through the campus, he overheard a couple of the students talking about him in undertones, referring to him as a drunk. He ignored them and continued on his way. When he reached the back of the building he was heading for, he entered a door marked Maintenance, and found his boss standing there waiting for him. He inwardly winced at the fully deserved tongue-lashing.

"Are you kidding me? You're 45 minutes late!" his boss shouted, not caring who overheard him. Peter grabbed his timecard and punched in, "I overslept," he said simply, without apologizing. That brought on another outburst. "The last time you overslept I said I'd dock your pay if this ever happened again, and that was four times ago. Consider yourself docked as of this moment!"

Peter barely looked at his boss, shrugged and murmured "Okay," as he continued on his way, grabbing a wheeled janitorial cart and pausing only to fill the mop bucket with soapy water. His boss dogged his footsteps, still shouting. "Do you know what your problem is, man? You have no values. You don't care about anything. You take pride in nothing."

Peter still didn't reply, which pissed his boss off even further. "You know what?" he yelled, "You're on bathroom duty today. I want ALL the bathrooms cleaned." Peter just nodded. Still feeling particularly hostile toward Peter, his boss tossed a final punishment in his direction. "And that includes the gym bathrooms as well." Oh, Lord, Peter thought to himself, knowing how much work that was going to entail. The gym bathrooms were a total pig-sty.

His boss walked away, heading for his office by way of a quick stop in the open floor-plan break area, where multiple maintenance guys sat drinking coffee, stuffing their faces with donuts and making jokes at Peter's expense. "You want some donuts, Sleeping Beauty?" one of them called, prompting a round of laughter. Peter simply shook his head no, and made his way toward the first bathroom on his list.

After a long day's worth of work, Peter finally finished up and was on his way back to maintenance when his boss called him over the radio. "300 to Peter. 300 to Peter." Peter grabbed the walkie-talkie from his belt and keyed the mic, "Peter here. Go."


"Jimmy called out. I need you to take care of the Math building," his boss instructed. "Dump the trash, mop the floors, and then you can get out of here." Peter sighed and glanced at his watch before replying. "I'm going to miss the bus."

"Like I should care?" his boss shot back sarcastically. "Get it done or you don't have a job tomorrow."

"10-4," Peter replied without emotion, and re-holstered the walkie-talkie as he headed for the Math building. It was after hours and all the classroom doors were closed so he planned to take the rooms in order. Upon opening the first door, however, he realized that he'd accidentally interrupted a conference between two instructors who had been discussing a student. He quickly realized his mistake and began to back out of the room.

"Excuse me, Dr. Lindheimer," he murmured. "I thought the room was empty. I'll come back." The professor shook his head, "No, no, no, Peter. It's all right. Come on in, we were already finished." Peter nodded and began dumping the trash into the refuse bin on the janitorial cart.

"Now that I think about it," the professor began, setting a nearly full cup of coffee aside on a lectern, exchanging it for a piece of paper, "I'm glad you're here. Perfect. Could you take a quick look at something for me and give me your opinion?" he asked, holding out a piece of paper. Mentally sighing, "Oh, Lord," again, Peter abandoned his cart and wiped his hands on his pants before accepting the proffered piece of paper. Glancing down at it for no more than a matter of seconds, he looked back up at the professor and returned the paper, "What about it?" he asked.

"Is there an error?" the professor asked.

"No, the computations are correct," Peter replied. "But it's a blatant rip-off." The professor blinked, confused. "Rip-off?" he inquired, clearly confused.

"Yes. That's Dr. Thomas's theorem." The professor's eyes grew wide and the blood drained from his face. His companion's face mirrored the pair's shock and fury at learning they had a cheating student on their hands. Unfortunately the student was from a politically well-connected family, which was going to temporarily make life difficult, not just for them, but for the college itself. Peter registered the looks on their faces and apologized for having been the bearer of bad tidings.

As he turned to walk away, Professor Lindheimer quickly called him back. "Peter, forgive my rudeness, please let me introduce you. This is Dr. Arthur Samuels. He'll be helping out for a while." The two shook hands "It's very nice to meet you, Pete," Samuels said.

Peter instantly corrected him before turning and getting back to work,

"It's Peter, sir," he said quietly.

The two professors gathered their things and had just walked out the classroom door when Peter noticed that Lindheimer had forgotten his coffee. Peter picked it up and opened the classroom door just in time to overhear Dr Samuels question. "Why on earth would you have asked the janitor about a student's paper?"

Lindheimer sighed, "Before he became the town drunk, he ranked among the world's leading mathematicians. He had his hands on government contracts, he lectured worldwide, he was also teaching. Everyone wanted him."

Samuels frowned in confusion. "What happened to him?"

Dr. Lindheimer shook his head sadly. "He and his wife, Dr. Diana Thomas, God, she was a truly beautiful young woman, and nice as could be, one of our own instructors as well, were involved in an automobile accident. I think they might have been on vacation at the time, I'm not sure. At any rate, she didn't survive it."

Samuels sighed and shook his head to hear it. "Ah damn, that's horrible. What happened?"

Lindheimer shook his head. "We never heard the details and I didn't want to pry. Peter was devastated."

"Well, if he's an alcoholic, the logical assumption would be that he was driving drunk, and he killed her," Samuels guessed.

Peter closed his eyes for a moment before audibly clearing his throat and stepping forward with the coffee cup. "Excuse me, Professor," he called out. "You forgot your cup," he said, walking over and handing it to the professor. Both instructors had the good grace to blush. Peter politely conducted himself as if he hadn't heard a word of their conversation, and simply walked away. The two professors stood there looking at each other, both thinking, "Ouch."

Peter went back to cleaning and when he finished the one classroom, he grabbed the rolling janitorial cart, and tugged it out into the hallway. Startled, he saw the old man from his apartment complex and the morning bus standing at the end of the hallway. Peter looked at him and yelped, "Hey! You're not supposed to be in here!" Peter began walking toward him. As he did, the old man turned and began walking away. Turning loose of the cart, Peter sprinted after him. When he reached the end of the T-shaped hall, he looked both ways, but saw nothing. The old man had disappeared from view.

Peter shook his head and again felt a sharp pain. Grabbing his chest and wincing, he began walking back to the janitorial cart.

Peter finally finished up the rest of his shift, and as he went to punch out, he looked up at the big wall clock. He checked his pockets but he already knew the answer. He knew that the buses had already stopped running for the evening, he didn't have enough money for a cab, and he had a long walk ahead of him. As he started to leave the campus it began to sprinkle and Peter realized that he had left home without a coat this morning. Laughing ruefully, he spoke out loud. "Yep. It figures." Taking another deep breath and shaking his head in amazement at the kind of day it had been so far, with no other options available, he turned up his collar and trudged on.

He was sopping wet and within a block and a half of home, when Peter looked across the street and saw the same old man that he'd already seen three times that day, standing there staring at him. Peter stopped right where he was on the rain-drenched sidewalk, looked at the old man and angrily yelled at him, demanding "Who are you? What do you want with me?" and then Peter stepped into the street with no more than a cursory glance at traffic.

A taxi abruptly slammed on its brakes, the driver's horn blaring. In the pitch dark, rain slicked roadway, the vehicle skidded sideways and just barely managed to swerve around him. The taxi paused just long enough for the cabbie to roll down his window and punctuate his expletive laden commentary with an assortment of creative hand gestures.

For an eternity, which lasted an astoundingly long six seconds, Peter had worn a genuine deer in the headlights expression. He looked across the street to where he remembered the old man standing. The sidewalk was empty. The streetlamp dimly illuminated the spot where he'd stood, but the old man was definitely gone. Peter was left standing in the middle of the road, thoroughly confused, and wondering if he had finally lost his mind.

Frustrated, still the recipient of blasting horns as he carefully made his way back to the safety of the sidewalk, he continued to walk towards his apartment complex. He passed the spot where the homeless guy had hit him up for a few bucks earlier today. The guy was still there, wrapped in a poncho tonight, huddled under a dripping awning. "Peter! You're out late, man. Hey Pete, is there any way…?" and before the homeless guy could finish, Peter had already grabbed the last two bucks from his pocket and handed it to the old man. He barely slowed his pace. Just held it out and turned it loose. It wouldn't have been enough to pay for a taxi to avoid tonight's rain anyway, Peter rationalized. Better somebody in worse shape than I am uses it for a hot cup of soup.

"Thanks, Peter. You're a good man," the grateful homeless guy called after him.

The rain was picking up and Peter just kept on walking. By the time he reached his apartment complex the main door was locked. Grabbing his keys he began thumbing his way through them in the dim yellow porch light. After finally identifying the right key, he still had to spend a good five minutes fighting the recalcitrant lock. Stepping into the vestibule, his rain-soaked clothing leaving puddles on the floor, out of frustration he closed the front door with a little more vigor than it actually required, which naturally awakened the local shrew. He mentally kicked himself for not being more quiet.

He stealthily made his way up the stairs, which at this hour seemed to magnify the sound of his weight on the treads. He mentally cringed with every creak and crackle, knowing what the likely result would be by the time he reached the fourth floor landing.

His neighbor was already there. "You've got to be kidding me," she said disdainfully, looking down her nose at him. "Already with the noise? I was actually enjoying a nice quiet evening up until now."

Peter chose not to respond. It just wasn't worth it. He walked past her and fumbled for his door key. She still hammered at him. "I'm not going to stop until you're out of here," she snarled. "I can't stand you. You don't need to be my neighbor. You don't need to be in this building."

Peter ignored her and struggled to get his key into the lock. Not only was the key giving him a hard time tonight, the door itself was sticking. He turned the knob again and this time shouldered it open with a hard shove. The in-your-face neighbor was still standing at his now open door, yammering and trash-talking. It was getting old. Politely but firmly he closed the door in her face and engaged the downward array of locks.

He pulled up a vinyl covered kitchen chair and sat down to take his shoes off, listening to the muffled diatribe that remained audible through the door. He could hear her finally wind down, return to her own apartment and slam the door. Whoof, he went, expelling a tired breath of air. Standing, he headed for the bathroom, stripped off his wet clothes, and climbed in a hot shower. He stood under the spray until his body was no longer shivering and he had finally begun to wind down. After toweling off he pulled on comfortable dry clothes and made his way to the kitchen to see if there was anything left to eat. Apparently not. There were nothing but small plastic condiment packages in the refrigerator, and the kitchen counter was littered with empty fast-food bags. Slightly irritated, he meandered over to the table, found another small alcoholic drink, knocked it back, then headed for the medicine cabinet looking for something to help him sleep. He swallowed that too.


Peter flipped the lid down and sat on the toilet for a few seconds to catch his breath. His chest was hurting again and he wondered what was going on. The pain level had increased until it became nearly unbearable. Shakily he struggled to his feet, and using what little furniture there was as randomly placed crutches, he dragged himself over to the bed and tumbled into it. The room was spinning slightly but he'd not ingested enough liquor or pain pills to have caused this sensation.


After a while the spinning sensation lessened enough to allow him to reflect upon the strange day he'd just experienced; his angry neighbor, the curiously offended woman on the bus, the people who were talking about him on campus, the professors' comments outside the classroom this evening, and the strange old man who appeared to have been following him all over town the entire day.

Like a carnival carousel ride, the same thoughts kept circling around and around in his weary head, until he eventually passed out from sheer exhaustion.

 

 

 

This was a SNEAK PREVIEW of Peter Thomas and the 5 Realms
Copyright Joshua D.Walton 2018

Peter Thomas and the 5 Realms is a series of books suitable for an age group ranging from Young Adults to CEO's.
Josh dictates the storyline, and the transcription service delivers the text to his writing partner, author/editor C.K.Gurin, who is flat out wild about Josh's tales and says they'd make phenomenal movies. Scroll down to learn more about Josh.

ABOUT THE ABOVE SKETCHES:

Gabriel Vines:
Inspiration for character's physical appearance: Jerome Flynn as Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, a fictional character in the A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin, and its television adaptation Game of Thrones.

Peter Thomas:
Inspiration for character's physical appearance: Stephen Jones , the 35 year old homeless man who helped save injured children after a bomb exploded at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England in 2017. In an interview with ITV News, he detailed the aftermath of the deadly attack.

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Meet Josh Walton. He's a pretty unusual guy. Not much scares him. By day he's a large animal handler. By night he's occasionally a bouncer, so that's pretty much the same line of work.

A brilliant story-teller with a photographic memory and a winsome smile, 38 year old Josh Walton is a Renaissance man. You might just hear him quote Shakespeare with an adoring white tiger sitting on his lap. Josh has gone from construction to the martial arts; from professional chef to talented artist; and from large predator handler/trainer to author. Affectionately nown as The Alligator Author, Josh Walton handles big gators. Some, very big. One he handles regularly weighs close to 250 pounds, another, a thirteen foot long gator named Barney, tips the scales at 400 pounds.

Although Josh was diagnosed as severely dyslexic as a kid, he refused to let that challenge prevent him from graduating in the top ten percent of his high school class.

A whip smart chess player, classical music aficionado, Josh is the talented author of a wildly exciting series of Fantasy Novels currently in the process of being transcribed and converted to books. Josh dictates the storyline, and the transcription service delivers the text to his writing partner, author/editor C.K.Gurin, who is flat out wild about Josh's tales and says they'd make phenomenal movies.

As a loving husband, and a great dad to two daughters, one of whom is battling juvenile diabetes, Josh could use your help to get this great series into book form. They're REALLY GOOD.

If you'd care to share the first two chapters of "Peter Thomas And The Five Realms" they are accessible from this page: http://www.the-office.com/pt5

Want to read more? Anything you choose to donate will help us get more of Josh's stories to you even faster.

Status Report 10/04/18:

Book 1 - Editing is complete, Beta-readers have the manuscript, and we're interviewing cover artists.
Book 2 is ready for editing.
Book 3 is already in process.

Here's feedback samples from beta readers:

"This was AWESOME! I loved it! When's the next book going to be ready?"

"Fantastic descriptions, really compelling story, loved the BETA version. Thanks for allowing me to review it."
-SW

"Wow! He's really got talent, Cynthia! The chapters that you sent were enthralling, wonderfully descriptive and pulling the reader along...right to academia! The illustrated faces are also very well done." - NV
NOW AS A BETA READER: Peter Thomas was absolutely delightful and intriguing! I am totally amazed at the talent required by fiction writers as I cannot comprehend the brilliance and imagination that are necessary to bring a story to life. Josh has managed to bring the characters to life not only through vivid physical descriptions but also with a particular human warmth of personality that made everything real to me. Thank you for the sneak peak. - NV

BETA READER: Not the type of book I normally read but I was surprised. This was well-written, fun to read, it had a good ending, and I really liked the book. It will make a good movie! - BG

BETA READER: I'm currently on page 206 and I'm thoroughly enjoying the story, especially the unique characters/creatures. I like toads, so I would particularly like to see a prog. -DMK

RETURN TO INDEX PAGE OR GO DIRECTLY TO JOSH WALTON'S GO FUND ME CAMPAIGN PAGE

Questions? Just ask.


Josh Walton is also a talented artist.











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