Today is release day for a book I wrote called Beacon, book one of the Nation of Five series. The book is about young men and an impossible task they set before themselves. Well, I know a lot about impossible tasks. I’m a DID survivor who suffers from hallucinations. I have bipolar and Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder. Getting through a day where I make dinner, hang out with my kids, be a husband to my wife, and not end the day screaming, is the completion of an impossible task. Well, it may be an impossible task that’s undertaken in the book Beacon, but it’s only even considered because of the friendship between four boys. Four teenage boys attempt this daunting feat. Got me thinking about the boys and men in my life. And so today to celebrate the release of Beacon, I will be dropping upon you chapters from Reality of the Unreal Mind. These chapters are from the unreleased third volume, titled The Keep. I start at 7:30 in the evening on Friday, and will end at 9 at night on Sunday. So follow me now into the story of the men who made me possible.
But fun idiots. D and I had one hell of a summer between eighth and ninth grade. Let’s spend a little time there, but first hit the spring and the fishing trip. We will go into a few DnD games, then straight to my young lad.
D’s dad was a fisherman. A hunter, too, and he loved every minute of the outdoors. Took us fishing once, but neither one of us were interested.
The boat was big enough for three but barely. The morning was hell because we had stayed up all night playing. We stopped at a restaurant on the way out there and got a few delicious sandwiches. Sausage, egg, and bacon. They were super healthy, but what did we care? We were like fourteen. We hit the water, and though his dad was into the fishing, we just wanted to talk. We found a dam going up. A few beavers had chewed the bark off of a few branches, and when they do that, the branches get tough and damn near unbreakable. So we stole a few of them, one long one in particular. And with a boat filled with branches, we rode out into the Lake of the Ozarks to fish some more.
Me and D kept talking. We only had Dungeons and Dragons to talk about, and soon his dad could not take the talking any more. We found a little finger of stone coming off the shore and out into the water, and his dad dropped us off.
I don’t remember much about it. We talked, fought with the sticks a while, but I had been a backyard smith when I was young, and I was so good with a stick that after getting hit a few times, he quit. We hung out for a while, then I found the Demon Stick.
It came up to about my belly button, was clear of bark, had obviously been drift wood for a while until being washed up on this piece of land, and it had the vague impression of a dog’s head on the top. Not anything that a normal person would see, but Artist warped the head in my mind until this was a stick with a demon’s head on it.
“This stick holds a demon’s soul in it,” I told D.
“Look at it. This was struck by lightning when a demon was tossed out of heaven. The demon was trapped here, and now it is waiting to escape. It is days from escape. We need to trap it in here for good. We need to take this home with us. It is destined to be free.”
D was playing now.
“How do we trap it?”
“We need charms of love, charms that we can tie to the stick that mean something to us. We need to cage this thing and bind it up with every bit of magic we have.”
We took it with us, along with a few stolen beaver branches, and when D’s father dropped us off at the house, we had everything we needed for a blast of a night and one very hilarious, ridiculous moment.
See, D had a thing for thieves in the game. Loved to sneak up behind enemies, stab them unawares in the back for crippling damage, and move along. So he pulled out a few pieces of black clothing and called himself an assassin.
I remember he played NWA for me for the first time, and though I loved the songs, there was a skit about a couple of cops sexually assaulting a black woman that hurt to listen to. I heard Char in my head and I was off balance. I did not understand why, did not understand why these words had this effect on me.
I had brought a tape of my own. My favorite band at the time was Queensryche and I wanted to listen to it. D dismissed it right away, and after listening to NWA for a while, I wanted to get out of the house.
At a fair somewhere, D had bought a stick. It was a walking stick, but smooth and curved like a katana, and I found it and wanted to stick fight again. We went out into the night and I kicked D’s ass for a while. He had a six-foot-long staff and I kept getting under his wide swing and hitting him hard. After a few minutes of taking hit after hit, he shook his head and snarled.
“You’re too good at this, but if I could use stealth, you would be fucked,” he said.
“How would we even do that?”
“Well, all we would have to do is, I could dress in all black and sneak up on you. I would backstab you and you’re fucked.” His eyes lit up and he grinned. “Yeah, let’s do it. I can show you how unprepared you are for stealth.” He snapped his fingers. “I could so crush you with my thiefy skills.”
We talked about it for a while more, me telling him the scenario would be impossible to set up, him gathering steam as he plotted and planned, and this is what he came up with.
He dressed in all black. Long sleeves and gloves. Pants, socks, and a pair of black swimming shoes he had. They had a neon green disc on the side with the factory logo, and he took a black magic marker and colored it in as best he could. He had a hood on his jacket and he was ready.
“You walk around the house one time in the light, and I will sneak up behind you and stab you with this little branch we got today.”
“Alright,” I said with a laugh.
“But I have to be able to see you, and you can’t hide.” He grinned.
“I got it.”
He went to his closet and pulled out a few articles of clothing. “You dress in this.”
Well, it was white pants, white hoodie, white coat and white shoes. I pulled the hood up and it was like I was a beacon of light. This would never allow me to hide, and he tossed his six-foot-long staff at me.
“This is your staff. You are a traveling priest. You walk a circle around the house and I will come for you.”
Well, what could I do but agree? This is D and he is irrepressible. I donned my outfit and waited in the foyer. I gave him five minutes to get set up, then I opened the door and out I went.
We had agreed I would go at a slow pace so he could move up behind me, so I told him that my character would be old and wizen. I made my way across the front of the house, over to the side slab of concrete where the basketball hoop was, and along the back. I walked the back, then around the side and to the front of the house, and never once heard or saw any assassins or anything else.
“He took too long setting up.” I spoke to no one. “I’ll go around this fucking house as many times as it takes, but if I hear him, I am not holding back. I have a six-foot staff. He has a one-foot branch. If I hear him, I will beat the fuck out of him, in the most best friend way I can.”
This time slower around the house, the side by the basketball court, around the back, where I saw him laying on my path rolling around as if in pain.
“This is bullshit. I will stop to see if he is alright and he will spring on me. This is cheating.” But I walked it anyway, past the back of his house, and got halfway around the short little piece of the building where the skylight sat. I bent over him, and in my best wizen, old priest voice I said, “What is the problem, my lad?”
He groaned and cursed. “You gotta get me up. You gotta help me. Don’t tell my mom. This hurts so bad.”
See, not only had this idiot climbed the short little roof above the living room and waited for my first pass around the house, but when I made it, he had very, very quietly jumped off.
Wearing water shoes. Barely any soles and no cushion. He had landed flatfooted and nearly broken his feet. He was in agony and trying not to scream because he was not, under any circumstance, supposed to be on that roof. His parents would have killed him.
I helped him up, almost carrying him, and got him to the little patio not far from where he landed. He sat on the furniture and winced and cussed as quietly as he could. The living room was not far away, and his parents waited inside to come out and catch us.
When enough time had passed where he was not in agony anymore, he looked at me, pointed and laughed.
“What seems to be the problem my lad?” he said. “You’re an idiot. Who talks like that?”
I tried to tell him that wizen old men talked like that, but he was right. I was an idiot.
We went in the house and never played “stealth the priest” again. We played some more DnD. I flirted with his cute sister Precious, who might have been too young for me, when he wasn’t watching, and that night we were in his room when we had the conversation the first time. We would have this conversation about thirty times between the years of eighth grade in ’90 to 2000. A conversation that filled me with hope and dread. A conversation that gave me a chance and dashed every dream I had.
The lights went out. We laid in his king-sized bed and right before we fell asleep…
“How are we going to get this to the world?” he said.
“Get what to the world?”
“Your games.” He sighed. “We have to get these games out there. People need to hear them, to see them. You need to do this for a living.”
TSR was the DnD company at the time. “TSR puts on shows where people play. Kind of like a convention.” I felt no hope, though. “Anyone can run a game. If I do it good enough, I could travel with the convention maybe.”
“What do they pay, though? That probably pays for shit.”
“I could write modules.”
“What’s a module?”
“It’s a prepackaged game. The DM just reads it, follows the story line, and they have a game they can run for anyone.”
“No, fuck that!” he said. “You don’t need anyone else running your games. You don’t ever give that away. Those are yours. You have to play for money. Run games for cash. I bet you could get a good group, and I know they would pay good money to play your games.”
I thought about it for a while before seeing a problem. “If they pay good money, they will expect to win. They will want all of the most powerful magical items, and I can’t kill their character. All the drama would be ripped right out of the thing. If they don’t fear for their lives, then it’s not a game.”
We fell asleep after musing about it until dawn. See, there had to be a way for me to do this professionally. Had to be a way for me to run a game and get money for it. We had no idea how it would work, but we were obsessed with it. Every time I slept over, we talked about it. And every time, we dreamed of a way that I could get my stories to the world.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.