Balance (The Divine, Book One)

BOOK: Balance (The Divine, Book One)
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BALANCE

The Divine, Book One

By M.R. Forbes

 

Text copyright © 2013
M.R. Forbes

All Rights Reserved

 

This book is a work of fiction. The characters,
incidents, and dialog are drawn from the author’s imagination and not to be construed
as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is
entirely coincidental.

 

To
My Angel,

For
always believing.

Thank
you.

 

Table of Contents

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
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30

Chapter
1

There
was something about the way she moved; the feline grace of her body, the
softness of her steps. The way her arms swayed languidly back and forth as she
sauntered past me. She had black hair that fell to her hips in a single silken
flow, blue eyes, olive skin, a pair of tights, a fitted red sweater, and a
something extra that put her at the top of the 'out-of-your-league' Christmas
wish list. What’s more, she was in a Museum! By herself! Yeah, I stared. No,
she didn't notice.

It
was my second week on the job at the Museum of Natural History, my first job
post-incarceration. It was a long story, but the short simple version had to do
with being a too-social computer geek and other people’s credit cards. I had
been lucky to get such cake work. Normally the Museum didn't hire ex-cons, but
they’d imported a special 'first time ever outside the Vatican, limited time
only!' exhibit of ancient Catholic relics, prompting them to beef up staff. The
nature of my crime hadn’t been violent or physical in any way, shape, or form,
so they were willing to look past it. My job was simple, stand around and make
sure nobody even tried to breathe funny on the artifacts.

Today,
I was guarding cups. Excuse me, chalices. One in particular, a simple wooden
one that sat at the end of the exhibit hall on a special pedestal surrounded by
a rope, ten feet of space, tamper-proof, bullet-proof glass, and surveilled by
every type of technology you could imagine. They said it was the cup Jesus
drank out of at the Last Supper, the Holy Grail. It looked like it had come
from 'The Last Crusade'. Lucas hadn't been off by much.

So
far, the job had been as boring as I had assumed it would be. Every day from
nine to twelve and one to close I would stand at the entrance to the exhibit
room, watch the people go in and out, and occasionally wander up and down the
aisles to make sure nobody got fingerprints on the glass enclosures. My
greatest adversaries in this new career were children. They liked to touch
things.

A
particularly ambitious offender caught the corner of my eye, and I was forced
to stop staring at the girl, who was approaching the wooden chalice at the end
of the room. She seemed really interested in it.
Very sexy.

Annoyed
by the interruption to my creepy stalking, I walked over to where the little
boy was standing, his hands and face pressed up against the glass. I peeked
down at the label,
Diamond Chalice, 771 A.D
. There was more, but I
didn't need to read it, I already had over a hundred times. It was a fancy
piece of work that had been gifted to the Pope by Charlemagne. It tended to be
a favorite with women, and even more so with kids. My guess was that the 'ooh
shiny' part of his underdeveloped mind had taken over.

"Excuse
me young sir," I said, kneeling down to get my face at a level with his.
"The rules clearly state there will be no touching of the glass."

He
looked at me, and I pointed my finger over at the 'DO NOT TOUCH’ sign. He
laughed and ran off to find his mother, who had moved on with little concern
for the location of her brood. I watched him go, skirting through the line of
adults and latching onto her hand. She looked down at him, and he pointed back
to where I was still crouching. She gave me a Medusa look and yanked the little
tattletale forward. What was with parents these days anyway? God forbid their
kids actually follow the rules. Wait... did I just say that?

I was
contemplating the human aging process and that weird phenomenon that occurs
when we somehow begin to turn into our parents, when a collective murmur caught
my attention. I stood and looked around for the source. Damn!

The
cutie with the black hair was inside the rope line! Not really that impressive
I know, but this was a major infraction in the Museum Guard handbook. At least
it would give me an excuse to talk to her. I began pushing my way through the
gathering crowd, who were complaining of course that she was obstructing their
view.

"Excuse
me, miss," I said to her back.

She
had reached the tamper-proof, bulletproof glass, and was standing there in a
very thoughtful pose, her left hand up to her chin, her right tapping on her
hip. She ignored me, which was about what I would expect from someone like her.
I picked up my radio and called for backup. I didn't have the authority to move
her. Only the senior guards could do that.

"Hey
Jimmy," I said. "I have a little situation over in the chalice
exhibit. There's a girl here who thinks she has exclusive viewing rights to the
Last Supper cup." There was a short silence before the reply.

"Chalice,
Landon. It’s a chalice. I'll be right there." He sounded like I had woken
him up. I probably had.

I
broke the rope barrier and approached the girl. She still didn't move.
"Miss, are you okay?" I asked.

Better
to play it sensitive. She didn't react at all to the sound of my voice. I
didn't expect much attention from someone like her, but to treat me like I
wasn't there? That was a little much. I flicked my eyes back towards the
entrance. It should only take Jimmy a minute to get over from the office. When
I looked back at the girl, she was cutting through the glass with her
fingertip.

"Uhh..."
My mind lost a step at the sight, tripping over itself and sending the rest of
my body into a spastic overload. Does not compute. I picked up the radio again.

"Jimmy,
where the hell are you," I yelled, my voice going up an octave. I looked
again. Her finger appeared more like a claw now, and it really was cutting
through the glass; the bulletproof, tamper-proof glass. The alarm started
ringing.

Jimmy
finally trundled into the exhibition hall, his breathing heavy as he pulled up
next to me. Old… check. Overweight… check. Out of shape… did you doubt? He was
your standard issue Museum guard.

"Geez
Landon," he said. "You didn't tell me she was hot." He reached
out and put his hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry miss but you’ll have to go
back behind the rope line.”

There
was a blur of red, and the next thing I knew, Jimmy was on the floor sans one
appendage. Chaos entered the building.

The
crowd that had gathered to watch the show began to scream. I began to scream
and backpedal as the girl turned and looked at me. Her eyes were yellow; her
teeth were elongated into fangs. It was straight out of an issue of Fangoria.
She growled, blasted the rest of the tamper-proof, bulletproof, glass into dust
with her fist, grabbed the Grail, and ran towards the spectators - all in the
space of three seconds.

Still
backpedaling, my legs hit the rope and I tumbled backwards. The last thing I
saw was the devil-girl dropping a package that looked all too familiar from any
number of action movies. There was a loud pop, and a lot of heat. As I felt my
life slipping away, I could hear the screams and smell the cooked flesh. I
wasn't the only one who died that day.

Chapter
2

I
came to, if you could call it that, with my face literally buried in the sand.
My head was pounding and my heart was racing. Wasn't I supposed to be dead? I
clearly recalled the white light, the fading away of my senses, and an
overwhelming sense of freedom.

I
picked my head up and looked around through the sand that was stuck to my
eyelashes. I was lying on a beach, wearing a pair of board shorts. I was alone.
If this was Heaven, it was going to be a lonely eternity.

Who
was she, I wondered, forgetting my predicament for a moment. The girl had
killed me, but I was still thinking about her. Did that make me crazy? I pushed
myself to my feet and began brushing off the more tenacious grains of sand,
then took a deep breath and tried to think. Okay, so I had just died in an
explosion, I was standing on a beach completely alone, and for some reason I
wasn't afraid. In fact, other than the headache, I felt pretty darn good.

"Landon
Hamilton." The voice was old, deep, and smooth as jazz. It scared the crap
out of me. I spun around.

The
man had appeared out of nowhere. He was a good six inches shorter than me,
middle-aged, gaunt but muscular, and bald. He had a short white goatee and pale
blue eyes. He was wearing a tailored black suit.

"Are
you God?" I asked.

He
gave me a 'you're an idiot' smile. "Thankfully, no. You can call me Mr.
Ross. I'm the Collector."

Oh.
"I am dead right?" I asked.

He
nodded.

"A
beach?"

"Look
around son," he said. "Earth, water, air, fire; the feel of sand
between your toes, cooling off in the water from the heat of the sun. The fresh
salt sea air… Where else does humanity so perfectly merge with the most basic
natural elements?"

It
made sense, in a nothing-is-really-making-sense sense. "Okay. So, I'm
pretty sure this isn't Hell, unless you're tricking me into thinking this isn't
Hell, and then it turns out it actually is. If this is Heaven, I don't know…
don't take this personally but, it’s kind of a bummer."

Mr.
Ross sighed. "You may not be much, but if you’re all we’ve got I guess
we’ll have to make a go of it. Now, please try to stop making a fool of
yourself. Let's go."

He
started walking. I followed behind.

"Wait
a second. Where are we going?" He didn't answer. "Mr. Ross!"
Nothing.

What
did he expect? Two minutes earlier I had seen a beautiful woman turn into some
kind of monster right before she blew me to smithereens. I was dead, but I was
standing on a beach with one of the Blues Brothers. It had left me a little
disoriented, confused, and giddy. I was finding it hard to calm down, so I was
getting a little stupid.

We
were walking, but I couldn't see where we were going. Ahead of us was a large
sand dune, over it the clear blue horizon. There still wasn't another soul
around, and Mr. Ross wouldn't say anything. He led. I followed. Until, for no
apparent reason, he stopped.

"It'll
be okay son," he said. "It happens to everyone. Just let it."

"What
happens?" I asked.

Then
it did. The reality. The crushing weight of what had actually occurred, the
cold realization that I was no longer part of the land of the living. That my
mother was going to be hearing from the police sometime soon that her son was a
casualty of some kind of terrorist attack, disgruntled employee, or major
nut-job. That I was never going to get married, have children, graduate
college, or travel to Europe. Heaven or Hell, I was out of the game.

That's
the simple description. The pain that ensued was a hundred times worse. Regret,
guilt, anger, envy, I think I went through every single human emotion in the
space of a couple of minutes. I curled up on the beach and cried my eyes out,
the maelstrom of feeling overwhelming my senses and leaving me there for ten
minutes, an hour,
a
month? There was no way to measure
it except through pain. It felt like it lasted another lifetime. Mr. Ross just
stood there while it happened, waiting for it to pass, as I was sure he had
done plenty of times before.

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