A Sneak Peek at Threads, the Sequel to Small Things

Here’s the prologue to Threads. Please excuse any typos, they will of course be cleaned up before the book hits the presses.

Prologue

Halloween, 11:47 PM

 Elminster the Large knew that he would bite the big one someday, but never in a million years had he imagined that it would end quite like this.

Skittering around the corner of a deserted convenience store, his robe flowing behind him, he ran down the length of the dark alley and straight into a metal trashcan. He spun as the hem of his robe caught the edge of the can, pulling it over with a thunderous clang that echoed through the street. He stumbled, feet going out from under him, landing with another loud crash against the corrugated tin container. He watched helplessly as his glasses tumbled from his face to disappear somewhere in the darkness.

It was all supposed to be a joke, just something to impress the Goth girl from their D&D group and get Jason laid. Now they were both dead, their blood spattered all through Jason’s apartment, and he was going to be next.

Elminster wasn’t his real name, of course, just the name of the half-troll wizard he’d been playing for nearly three years in his weekly gaming group. If he were really Elminster the Large, he would call lightning down from the heavens and burn the demon alive. And then he’d raise Jason and the girl from the dead, and everything would be normal again.

He rose on shaking legs, heart hammering, squinting, looking for a way out. But there was nowhere to go. He was trapped. He’d run through the streets of Chicago like a madman, screaming for help – but tonight was Halloween, and no one took him seriously. Nothing was chasing him, they said. He must be drunk, stoned, or worse.

He ran until his sides were in stitches and he thought his lungs would burst, but still the thing pursued him, it’s fetid breath hot on his neck. It was toying with him. The thing was seven feet tall and covered in yellow, oozing lesions, its face an open maw of needle-sharp teeth that dripped green venom and blood.

“For the love of God, somebody freaking help me!” he rasped, his throat raw from screaming. But still no one came. Every muscle in his body ached, and his hands and feet were freezing. He was sure he’d been running for hours, though some rational part of his brain told him it had only been fifteen minutes at best.

He heard the demon’s footsteps, echoing against the building. If he could just – there! He wedged himself behind the rusty dumpster at the back of the store. If he held his breath, held on for a few more minutes, maybe the thing would think he’d escaped.

The street lights around him suddenly went out with a loud pop, and that was when he knew it was over. The night turned pitch black, but he could make out an unearthly red glow coming from the other side of the dumpster. The light grew closer, throwing dancing shadows against the side of the building. And then the dumpster was gone, thrown aside like a toy, and he stood face-to-face with the demon he had inadvertently called up from hell.

“You know what they say,” a voice bubbled from somewhere within the oozing monstrosity. “Play with fire…”

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” he screamed, biting down hard on his tongue. Blood was everywhere. He turned to the wall, frantically clawing and scratching, trying to scale the smooth tin siding. Something touched his shoulder…

Ethereal met earthly and the demon fell apart, collapsing in on itself in a rain of green and yellow ichor. The oozing liquid flooded the little alleyway for the briefest of moments before drying to a near-transparent dust and then vanishing into the night, blown this way and that by the fierce Chicago winds.

The tall, blonde man in the black robes turned around, licking the tangy red blood from his lips. He smiled. He was alone in the alley. He looked up into the night and could just make out the outline of the full moon behind the clouds, reflecting light down upon him.

“…and you get burned,” he said, marveling at the way his breath turned to frost as it hit the cold night air. He stripped off the robes, finding a faded pair of blue jeans and a University of Chicago sweatshirt beneath. He crumpled the costume into a ball and casually tossed it aside.

He took a deep breath, filling his nostrils, enjoying the feel of the frigid night air pouring into his lungs. It’d been decades since he had tasted the wind. He stared up into the sky, watching as the moon finally found its way out from behind the clouds. Truly, it was going to be a beautiful night.

Reaching a hand under his sweatshirt, he pulled a silver pentagram up and over his head, the silver chain wrapping around his wrist as he freed it from his long blonde hair. He held the star tight in his fist, moved his hand to his mouth, and whispered something into the silver. Brilliant blue sparks shot out from between his fingers, brightening the alley for an instant in a blinding display of fireworks, and then all was dark again.

He dropped to his knees, placing the object on the dirty cement pavement. Touching a finger to his bleeding mouth, he used the red fluid to draw a small pentagram around the necklace, enclosing it within a perfect circle. He rose to his feet and waved a hand over the drawing, moving his fingers in an intricate pattern as he whispered indecipherable words of power into the night. The necklace began to glow, blinked once, faded, and then was gone.

“And so it begins,” he smiled, breaking the circle with his foot. He walked through the alley and out into the night without so much as a glance behind him.

About Joe

Joe lives in Rogers, Arkansas with his wife Andee, his son Fletcher, and their cats Milo, Lucky, and Archer.
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