The Dark Place sucked me in. Fire peeled back my flesh until my skin melted away. Then muscles scorched, enveloping me in a sickening stench. Heat bent my bones, shattering them into a thousand shards. Only my hysterical thoughts remained. Songs of demons wailed in my consciousness, and I wondered if this time I'd go permanently insane. Maybe I already was.
"Not real," I chanted, clinging to sanity through the hellish pain. "Not real, not real."
The tattooed runes that circled both my wrists itched worse than a million spider bites. Clouds of nightmares scudded away from hideous fairytale trolls, giant two-headed snakes, and a three-headed dog. They all fled from an enormous demon I thought might be Satan himself. He strode on cloven hooves through a landscape of fire and crystal and inside-out structures that couldn't possibly exist, where up was down and down was up, but none of that mattered because the creatures inhabiting the space simply ignored gravity.
"Not real. Survive. Done it before, do it again," I whispered as I streaked through the aberrant landscape.
After what seemed eternity, another onslaught of blinding silver glitter whirled around me. Like a kaleidoscope being twisted, the glitter showed first a late autumn pasture, then a dark, rain-swept alley, followed by an apocalyptic cityscape, all soot-covered ruins. One of them was real; the others not. Which one?
"Please let it be the pasture," I prayed. "I like cows. Cows are nice."
A bruising thump against my chest signaled the return of sanity. It could have been worse—I could have landed on the asphalt of the rainy alley instead of the garbage pile. Cannon blasts of pain throbbed through my head, a trickle of blood ran from my nose, and my heart raced. I waited. Right on cue, my stomach arrived, twisting in contortions that made me retch.
I rolled over on a mountain of garbage-stuffed plastic bags surrounding an overflowing dumpster that backed up against a two-story brick building, typical of the style in Centralia's older downtown district. Yep, garbage collectors out on strike again. Lucky me. The rain turned to sleet, and I shivered, my toes and fingers aching from the chill. Despite the cold and the need to get up, I lay there unmoving, too exhausted to make the effort.
Down the alley to the west, a single light above a door marked Soo Ling's Chinese Take-away struggled valiantly against the darkness, and I took stock, just to reassure myself that I was intact. Two feet, long toes. Two scrawny white legs none the worse for wear. Hip bones jutting against skin, stark ribs you could play a tune on. Thin arms, dark blue wrist tattoos still itching like mad. Male body parts intact, not that I had any chance with girls. What woman would date a psychotic schizophrenic who woke up naked in alleys wondering where he was and how he'd gotten there?
Light bulbs talk to River Madden; God doesn't. When the homeless schizophrenic unintentionally fractures a dimensional barrier and accidentally steals a gym bag containing a million dollars, everyone from the multiverse police to the local crime boss—and an eight-foot tall demon—are after him. Can he dodge them long enough to correct his mistakes and prevent the destruction of three separate dimensions? If he succeeds, will the light bulbs stop singing off-key?
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Genre – Contemporary, Urban fantasy
Rating – R
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