Here’s a preview of "Waite on the Antichrist,"
the 6th novel in a 12 part series that inevitably draws our heroes into
"The Celestial Wars"
Chapter One: The Beginning of The End
Everything changed for Tom Horn when he was ten years old. His dangerously—some would say psychotically—religious parents ruled his life up to that point with a freely applied leather strap and plentiful prayers. But at ten, Tom came into his own power. It happened while he was half-listening to his mom rant about how sloppily he’d done his chores. Feeling the sick anticipation of what would come next, wishing she’d just shut up and get on with it, he heard his mom suddenly stop mid-sentence. Then, there was a horrible gurgling sound. Looking over, he saw that his mother had swallowed her tongue. It was bulging her throat, and the small, angular woman was turning blue.
Realizing he was about to lose her, he knew what he had to do. His mom had been sitting in a chair. He pushed her off and climbed on top. She struggled frantically against his weight as he straddled her waist and pushed her chest against the floor. Luckily his child’s hand would fit. Her thin lips were already parted wide in a silent scream. Making a fist, he jammed it into her mouth, and reaching down her throat with his fingers, curling them around the slippery mass as tightly as he could, he pulled her tongue back into place.
His mom hugged and hallelujahed him for saving her. It was only afterward that Tom started wondering. He experimented with the neighborhood’s tinier creatures. Dead birds and a stiff-frozen cat gave him a taste for what he could do. By the time his parents started becoming suspicious, Tom was ready to take control. Over the next few years, both learned not obeying their son’s whims meant pain—and plenty of it.
When his father tried to take the strap to him, Tom turned the man’s hand to strike his mother instead. When they cursed him as unholy, their bowels turned to water. Finally, when both parents, knowing they’d raised a devil, tried to murder him as he slept, they returned to consciousness, the knives they’d brought into his room buried in each other’s shoulders. Tom was sixteen when he figured out he could control their perceptions of reality, which changed everything again.
His mom and dad’s worlds devolved into living nightmares while he used them as guinea pigs, figuring out optimal methodologies for enslaving wills. High school had been a bore, but he entered college that same year and found a fertile playground for further experiments. After his parents died, Tom dedicated himself to perfecting his strange mix of powers. Mind control and energy manipulation, as well as teleportation, telekinesis, and telepathy—they were all his to use as he willed—but they all needed perfecting.
Tom Horn turned twenty-one on January 6th, 1993, and decided it was time for the young God he was fast becoming to begin his conquest of the world.
There was one situation he needed to address that had worried him for a long time. Also, testing his powers with a couple of larger-scale experiments seemed wise. First, he needed to put some distance between himself and his city. He thought the short drives to Houston and Victoria, Texas, would be pleasant and that those cities should work nicely. Tilda, his erstwhile girlfriend and sometimes playmate, went with him, but he gave her no clue what he was about. When he got back, he would figure out what to do about Waite Investigations and its super-powered inhabitants.
For the first time in years, Azra was back in Austin, playing a two-night gig at the Ritz on 6th Street. The first night Harmon and Molly had come to see him perform. They’d arrived early, looking very happy together. Before his stint in front of the microphone, they’d all ambled along Austin’s iconic 6th Street, enjoying the signs of ramping nightlife. They’d sat down to dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, where he’d eaten as excellent a bone-in rib eye as Azra could remember tasting.
His second night in Austin had been a bit different. He was about halfway through his set when he noticed a couple slow dancing. They were both just out of their teens. The young lady was a tall brunette beauty but slim as a rail. The man was taller and beefier than the girl, otherwise pretty nondescript. The girl’s aura was a mess, but the total lack of an aura around the man was what first drew his attention. He had to be hiding it the same way Azra hid his own angelic nature. The angel looked closer and saw a hint of darkness he didn’t like, but nothing definitive.
Focusing back on the girl, he read her story clearly. At seven years of age, her stepfather had started sexually abusing her. He hadn’t stopped until she was eleven. The damage to her sense of self had been permanent and profound. Between one note and the next, Azra decided the youngster deserved a chance at a normal life. He searched her memories, then took himself back to the first time she’d been raped.
Azra was a shadow in the corner of the room. On the floor in the center, a young girl was lying prone, watching TV, her butt stuck up in the air, elbows under her chin. Behind her, an overweight man with a heavy drinker’s rough features was sitting on the sofa, beer in one hand, regarding her backside intently with dark, predatory eyes. He seemed to come to a decision, set his beer down on the coffee table, then stood up. The room closed in around him at that same instant, and the man found his disembodied self hanging above a blue-lit underground cavern. In it, child-sized devils were buggering hundreds of thousands of men—one devil for every male in sight. The devil’s phalluses were huge and swollen. There was no pleasure involved in the anal penetrations the man witnessed, only a vast sea of rising and falling screams.
Beside him, the man heard a quiet voice say, “You will notice, no one is asking for mercy. The years wear out even hopeless hopes.”
There was no sense of motion when the man turned his head, no nausea, no physical sensation at all, but his eyes were working fine. He could see the incredible scene below and the other man hanging in the air next to him, looking around sadly. He asked in disbelief, “Is this a dream?”
“No, this is Hell. Specifically, this is the Hell reserved for pedophiles, those who abuse children and the innocent.”
A dawning horror on his face, the man closed his eyes to the abuse. Then he put his hands over his ears. It didn’t help. His arms dropping limply to his sides, he opened his eyes again, focusing on the other man. “Who are you, and why have you brought me here?”
The other man answered with a question. “What is your name?”
Angrily, the man muttered, “Richard Bauer.”
“Richard Bauer, I am Azrakiel, the Angel of Justice, and I have brought you to see your fate.”
The man tried to backpedal. His legs churned only empty air. “What do you mean? How can you know that?”
“I know it as surely as you know what you were about to do to that little girl.”
“Me, I wasn’t going to do anything to Tilda. She’s a sweetie pie. She’s my daughter. I wouldn’t hurt her for the world.”
“The rape of a child is an irredeemable act of desecration. You would have violated her hundreds of times after that first forbidden act. Your path was set.” Azrakiel spread his hands, encompassing the chamber.
Richard shrunk from the ultimate horror of that place and stuttered the truth, “But I hadn’t done anything yet. I was just going to love on her some. I won’t do any of the stuff I was thinking about if it’s so wrong.”
Azrakiel stared at the other man, judging him, and there was not the slightest chance of forgiveness lurking in his hard eyes. The angel said, “The same as you would have given her no choice, I provide you with none either. What has been is no longer true. The future is reset. The lives you would have destroyed are spared.”
Richard Bauer only half understood what the angel was saying. He stared mutely down on the scenes below, his eyes drawn to a big man hanging over a rock in limp defeat, being raped by a devil half his size. Helplessly, he asked, “You’re leaving me here, aren’t you?”
Azrakiel’s eyes lit like twin flaming swords. “I am an angel, and I serve justice in God’s name. I do not abandon anyone.” Azra swallowed his righteous anger, took another look around, then asked the man, “Do you wonder why the inhabitants of this particular Hell are all men?” Hope’s bright fireworks dazzling the darkest despair he had ever known—Richard mutely shook his head. As if directing, Azrakiel swayed a hand toward the man’s head. “A slight adjustment to your brain. The broadening of the central path and a few small tweaks—there and there. Richard Bauer, for the balance of your life, you shall perceive the world as a woman does.”
The man squeezed his eyes shut tight, feeling his thoughts twist and shift. When he opened them again, he started screaming and could not stop.
When Azra returned to himself, he concentrated on finishing the song. He could see the girl was gone. Her life had been moving in a different direction since age seven, so that was as it should be. The young man was standing alone on the dance floor. He spun around once in confusion. Then his eyes went directly to Azra. The knowledge in those eyes startled the archangel. Azra focused on the final notes, then took a break—heading out back for a smoke and to wait on the young man to come find him.
Tom stood before the lone singer and didn’t like what he felt. There was more to this man than met the eye. He was impressive enough, standing a couple of inches over six feet. And he was lean but with an impression of strength lurking under his well-traveled look. More than that, the man concealed his aura, probably the same way Tom hid his, which meant he was no ordinary man. Problem was, this stranger had somehow stolen his girlfriend from under his nose. Tom cared for Tilda no more than he did any other human, but the girl was his release. More than that, she was an extreme personality. She entertained him. More belligerently than he’d meant to, he asked, “Who are you?”
“Azra.” The stranger took a slow drag off his cigarette, then raised an eyebrow.
The young man flushed. Courtesy hadn’t been in the cards, but this stranger was affecting him. It should have been the other way around. “My name is Tom Horn.” The man who would rule the world bristled mentally and said, “Tell me what the hell you did with Tilda.”
The stranger took another drag. The command in and underlying his words should have elicited an immediate response, so Tom started to worry when the man replied almost negligently, “What makes you think I’ve done anything with her?”
There was something very wrong here. Tom decided on discretion. “You were eyeballing her. Then she walked away in the middle of the song. What am I supposed to think?”
Azra had touched Tilda’s memories, so he knew Tom Horn was bad news. When the youngster demanded Tilda’s whereabouts, the tug of energies as much as this quick turnaround in tone bothered the archangel. Once Tom walked away, and it looked like he was ready to do that, there’d be no easy way to track him. No easy feat—the fact that he’d figured out how to hide the window to his soul bespoke power. Azra decided there was more to know here. With one set to go, he looked thirty minutes into the future, saw no interruptions, took a moment in Tom’s space, and looped it. Then he went in to play. There’d be no encores tonight.
When he came back out, Tom was gone. Perplexed, Azra looked back in time. Seven minutes and some seconds before Tom Horn had broken free of the time loop. The youngster had shaken his head dizzily, looked angry, then disappeared. That should have been impossible. It was late now, but Azra knew he would see Harmon Waite on the morrow. Before he left town, he would give his nephew a heads up on this strange young man who felt like a threat.