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Authors: Ray Blackston

A Pagan's Nightmare

BOOK: A Pagan's Nightmare
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Copyright

Copyright © 2006 by Charles “Ray” Blackston

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including
information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may
quote brief passages in a review.

This book is a parody, and any similarity in names to real titles, corporations, or products is intended solely for the purpose
of spoofing and is not intended to be taken literally or to imply any sort of endorsement, authorization, or sponsorship.

Warner Books, Inc.

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com

First eBook Edition: November 2009

Warner Faith and the “W” logo are trademarks of Time Warner Inc. or an affiliated company. Used under license by Hachette
Book Group USA, which is not affiliated with Time Warner Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-446-56997-2

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie,

and worshiped and served created things

rather than the creator.
… “

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Special thanks to Beth Jusino for finding a home for this project, and to my editors, Anne Goldsmith and Chip MacGregor, for
their keen insight and advice.

The voyage at sea was influenced by the author’s reading of
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists,
by Gideon Defoe.

Assistance with the (admittedly few) Spanish words courtesy of Susanne Leland and Ana Mejai.

Early test reads handled by the talented Annie McCarthy.

With apologies to Sister Sledge, ABBA, the Bee Gees,
the Beatles, R.E.M., the Who, KC and the Sunshine Band,
Wild Cherry,
the Dave Mathews Band, and anyone else
who has ever produced original music.

Larry Hutch—all lanky, six-feet-three of him—bounded into my downtown Atlanta office at 10:45 Monday morning and dropped a
screenplay on my desk.
Thwack.

“This is it?” I asked.

Larry folded his arms, pressed his lips together in a kind of triumphant smirk, and nodded. “Done.”

He looked as if he’d run across Georgia to get there; he was sweating through his madras shirt onto my best chair. This was
August, however, so I kept my composure and read his title page. Larry looked on, silent and self-assured.

I thumbed the inch-high stack of paper—thicker than the average screenplay—and felt a tiny breeze tickle my nostrils. “This
is what you said I just had to read… your best yet?”

“Done,” he repeated. Larry sat sprawled in the guest chair and gazed out of my 22nd-story window. “I still may tweak the ending
a bit, Ned. And it’s not a screenplay. I wrote it in novel form.”

I thumbed the pages a second time and noted the coffee stains on chapter one. “Does it have drama?”

He nodded. “By the boatload.”

“Adventure?”

“Gobs.”

“Romance?”

“Of the highest quality.”

I read the first page with my usual dose of skepticism. “You have got to be—”

“Nuts?”

“Completely.”

Larry interlocked his fingers behind his head and smiled the confident smile of a creative. “After you sell the movie rights,
we’ll get the book deal. We’ll do this in reverse.”

And just like that, Confident Larry rose from his chair and
departed. He left my door ajar, and seconds later I heard his muffled voice from down the hall.

“Just read the first ten pages, Ned, then go visit a McDonald’s.” His booming laugh followed, a laugh more appropriate for
a Halloween gig than an agent/writer meeting.

Nine years earlier, Larry had graduated from film school. Twenty-two years earlier, I had graduated from the University of
Tennessee—which is why so many of my shirts were orange. Larry called me Agent Orange, most likely because I killed his previous
idea, which was terrible. Aliens invaded a Billy Graham crusade and, well, I’ll spare you the rest.

I spent the afternoon on other business. Calls to other authors. Ten other manuscripts to skim through and reject. I badly
needed to sell something.

Around 5:30 p.m., just before I left the office, I read Larry’s title page again, shook my head in bewilderment, and stuffed
his inch-high stack into my briefcase.

It was August 14th, a sunny afternoon as I walked to my car. My Saab sat next to a city park; I remember that clearly. I also
remember jingling my keys, unlocking the door, and recoiling when I touched the hot blue paint.

I climbed in and buckled my seatbelt. Traffic was horrendous in all directions, so I figured the thing to do was to stay put,
to climb back out and go sit in the park and read Larry’s stuff. Like unearthing something rare and unexpected in your backyard,
I had that feeling of discovery, the urge to dig further. A shaded bench looked welcoming beneath a burly magnolia, so I hurried
over and took a seat and began reading.

A half hour later, I had coined a new phrase for my profession. In my small circle of agent friends, a manuscript that we
cannot put down is now known as a “bencher.” This is one that keeps you glued to a park bench and causes your spouse to question
your whereabouts.

In my learned opinion, Larry had written a bencher. Or at least the beginnings of one. And by the time I had finished his
third chapter
and darkness was descending on muggy Atlanta, I was experimenting with the term “double bencher.” That’s when you employ a
flashlight and end up spending the night.

Oh, I should also mention that I was married, that Larry was single, and that my wife, Angie, was a devout Baptist.

Contents

Copyright

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

LARRY HUTCH’S READING GROUP GUIDE

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WHO’S EVER HEARD OF A REVERSE RAPTURE?

1

S
UFFICE IT TO SAY
that a certain people—some would call them the fortunate ones—took over.

Well,
took over
is too strong a phrase. Actually it was more like an inheritance. No, actually it was more like they were sitting at a very
long table with many strangers, and in mid-course all the strangers left without finishing their strawberry cheesecake, so
the fortunate ones just helped themselves.

How shameless—helping oneself to the early departeds’ dessert. The gall!

Lanny Hooch will be our hero, or anti-hero—or perhaps an innocent bystander—depending on your perspective. You see, Lanny
was in the right place at the right time: in a church, in northwest Atlanta, on a Monday morning, on his knees, atop hardwood
floors, facing a baptismal.

He’d been here once before—the previous Friday—and on that morning he’d assumed a similar posture.

And you think Lanny was repentant?

Repentant?
Hah!

Lanny owned Hooch Contracting, and on this day he was on his knees with his trusty Craftsman cordless drill, removing rusty
wood screws from a ruined baseboard. The baptismal had sprung a leak, and the Baptists had summoned Lanny. He was a good worker.
Punctual, with reasonable rates. Sometimes he cursed loudly if he hit his thumb with his hammer, and by 10:00 a.m. he had
done this twice. He was alone in the sanctuary however, so no one heard him.

Or did they? During his break he visited the men’s room. He washed his hands at the sink, reached for a paper towel, and spotted
a sign next to the dispenser.
SOMEONE ALWAYS HEARS,
it
read. The blue lettering was still wet, and Lanny returned to his work, wondering who had painted the sign.

Perhaps it was because Lanny was on his knees, down front in an empty sanctuary on a Monday morning in August, that he was
picked. Though at this point he was thinking only about lunch, and of course the forty-mile drive to his next work site, an
elementary school on the south side of Atlanta.

After he finished the repairs to the Baptist baseboard, Lanny climbed into his sage green Nissan Xterra and headed for the
school, where he was to install a kiddie commode, the kind that force adults to sit all squished, with their knees up to their
chins. But first Lanny had to stop for gas, so he took exit 57 and turned into a BP station. He stopped at this BP often;
they usually had the lowest price.

In a hurry, he paid no attention to the price as he filled his twenty-gallon tank. For several minutes he stood staring out
at the traffic, thinking about Miranda and sniffing the fumes. Miranda was his girlfriend. She was twenty-nine, and her flight
back from Orlando was due in at 1:30. She had gone to visit her parents and had taken Monday as a vacation day. Lanny could
not wait to see her again.

After he replaced his fuel cap, Lanny blinked his confusion as he finally read the sign above the pumps:

UNLEADED: $0.12 PER GALLON FOR THE REDEEMED
$6.66 PER GALLON FOR EVERYONE ELSE

“No way!” Lanny shouted to the pump. He looked around to see if someone were holding a camera, filming him as part of a joke.

He saw no one. At that moment, he was the only one pumping gas.

Surely someone is messing with my head. But what if they’re not?

To Lanny, such price gouging seemed positively satanic, not to mention awfully unfair. This pit stop was also his first warning
that something—he thought the air smelled funny, never mind the fumes—might be different about this particular Monday. But
what could he do? He chalked it up to a practical joke and kept his composure.
And composure was a trait he needed, since he had to hurry to south Atlanta to install the kiddie commode.

Lanny had only thirty-two dollars in his wallet, so he walked inside and asked the clerk in the Nike hat what the real price
of gas was today.

“For you it’s $6.66 per gallon,” said the clerk, blank-faced.

“But that’s outrageous.” Lanny pushed away from the counter. “I won’t pay it.”

The clerk shrugged and pointed to the hidden camera mounted in the corner. “We have you on tape, and the gas is already in
your truck. Don’t make us call the authorities.”

“Then I’ll siphon the gas back out into your storage tank.”

“We cannot take it back, sir. The gas is now tainted.”

In no mood to deal with the police, a frustrated Lanny wrote out a check for $126.54.

Intelligent persons might pause here and say, “Wait, that does not compute! Twenty gallons times $6.66 equals $133.20.”

Intelligent persons would be mistaken. Even blue collars like Lanny know not to drive till their tank is empty. He still had
one gallon left in his Xterra.

Hungry and feeling ripped off, he drove across the street to a McDonald’s. Everyone behind the counter was smiling the pasted-on
smiles of those who have endured fast-food training but are still uncomfortable greeting the customers. Yet Lanny was confused
by the uniforms, which, though still the basic red and yellow, possessed no golden arches but instead golden crosses—one on
each sleeve.

Perhaps this was Lanny’s second warning. But he was hungry and still mad over the satanic gas gouging, so he ordered a cheeseburger,
a fish sandwich, large fries, and a Coke.

He hoped that the smiling blonde cashier girl would not tell him that his total was $6.66, and he felt relieved when she said,
“That’ll be seven dollars and thirteen cents.”

BOOK: A Pagan's Nightmare
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ads

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