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Paranormal Thriller!

The universe can be their playground...only if they learn who
they are in time to survive.

If you love Dean Koontz and Stephen King, you’ll love C. B. Hampton's Brothers of the Light!

Michael and Daniel St. James were abandoned at a California orphanage as
nameless infants. Now Michael writes books, hoping to understand their lives.
Daniel wanders the country seeking their true identities, because he says, "Money means nothing, if you don't know who you are or where you came from." Both brothers believe they’re normal. But when Daniel finally learns the truth, it lands him in a hospital in a baffling and eerie coma. Beautiful librarian Jessica Simms delivers the bad news about Daniel to Michael. They fall in love and Jessica joins him in his quest to save his brother. But now they have a new problem: how to survive a power-hungry mutant terrorist who wants to own the world and see them dead.

True love, puzzles galore, and bizarre attempts to murder Michael and
Jessica, plus exciting supernatural fireworks—all make Brothers of the Light an
exciting, fast-paced read for those who love science fiction, a good mystery and
the battle against evil.

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Novus Schola


Brothers of the Light


The Oddlings


Writing Great Stories


ONE

MICHAEL ST. JAMES stood at the edge of the cabin porch, lifted his arms toward the heavens and shouted, “Daniel, wherever you are, brother mine, hear me! Your book is finished! This is the one!”

A hundred yards below, moonlight rippled like streaks of gold on the surface of Lake Huisache. Michael drew cold air into his lungs and expelled it in a jet stream. Above him, the sky sparkled with a million diamonds, matching his own glowing exhilaration. After months of gruelingv work, Destiny, Be Damned, his fifth and best novel, was finished and near ready for submission. He would do a final detailed edit tomorrow and Friday, then drive home to the San Fernando Valley Friday night. He would laser print the manuscript over the weekend, and ship it to Nolly Stein, his New York literary agent on Monday. The timing of his two-week rental of the cabin had worked out perfectly.

Ten feet away, nosed into a termite-eaten hitching rail, his aging Ford Mustang waited patiently for him to pack up and head for home. Just two more days. On an impulse, he went inside and grabbed his last can of cold beer from a half-size fridge. Back outside, he hopped off the porch and headed down a winding footpath that led to the lake. The trail was dark, but here and there broad splotches of moonlight guided his steps like spotlights on a darkened stage. The pungent odor of rotting humus commingled with the freshness of living, breathing pines filled the air. It was the raw perfume of death and life, a reminder of the real world outside his writing.

At the base of the path, he stopped at an unpainted floating dock jutting thirty feet into the lake. A sign hanging on a chain blocking the entrance warned: “Danger! Unsafe. Do not enter!” He ducked under the chain and walked halfway out, his footsteps echoing in the night. Under his feet, the dock bounced rhythmically. Low wavelets lapped musically against the bottom of the wooden slats.

Michael took a deep breath, more at peace than he could ever recall. His gaze dwelled briefly on the yellow lights of other cabins dotting the lake’s rim. They were cheery beacons in the darkness of the mountains. He sighed deeply.

He loved this spot. During the past two weeks, whenever he needed inspiration, he came here to enjoy the view and the soothing motion of the dock. Now, though, it was almost time to go home, time to give Destiny, Be Damned the birthing it deserved!

He was immensely happy. The world was a wonderful place. He had the best brother possible and the best book ever written. Well, maybe not the best, but up there with the best.

Remembering his beer, he popped the tab. The beer hissed. He tilted his head and took a long pull, killing off a third of it. He suddenly had a powerful urge to celebrate, to get drunk, to climb a mountain and proclaim his joy to the universe. But he knew he wouldn’t, because he never did. Still, it would be great if Daniel could be there to celebrate with him.

With Daniel, he could relax and tell him what he had tried to do in the book, and how he had created his hero from a composite of both their personalities. He especially wanted Daniel to read the book’s last scene, in which Alex Dalton, the novel’s rags-to-riches hero, had stood atop a high-rise overlooking the glittering night lights of Los Angeles and had shouted triumphantly, “Fuck you, destiny! You’re mine!”

As he pictured the scene, his favorite daydream flashed into his thoughts. His book had become a runaway best seller. He was standing before a startled Daniel, holding out a mind-boggling, six-figure check and saying, “This doesn’t come close to repaying what I owe you, brother mine, so just consider it a down payment.” Then he was beaming and saying, “Now, if you must bum around the country seeking our roots, you can do it in style.”

Michael’s thumb automatically stroked the silver-gray, stainless-steel ring machined by a twelve-year old Daniel during a metalworking class at Marydale. Daniel had produced two of the rings, one for each of them. Michael smiled as he remembered how grave Daniel had been when he slipped chains holding the rings around their necks.

“These rings don’t fit us, now, Michael,” he had said, “but someday they will, and when they do, we’re never to take them off. We’re brothers and brothers must stick together. As long as we have these rings, we’ll always be there for each other. No one can ever conquer us.”

During their years at the orphanage, he and Daniel had spent endless hours, taking turns telling each other about their dreams: from him how someday he was going to be a great writer and earn huge sums money, so he could buy them a mansion with butlers and gorgeous maids with giant tits and a swimming pool; and from Daniel, how money didn’t count for shit, if a man didn’t know who he was, and how, someday, he was going to learn their true identities, so they could die honorably and have their real names on their tombstones.

It had taken years of soul-searching through his writing before Michael realized their goals were the same. Daniel was driven outward to roam the country in a quest to find their physical roots; Michael was driven inward, into the often dark recesses of his own mind, seeking another kind of identity. Jokingly, Daniel once dubbed himself Mr. Outside and Michael Mr. Inside.

Resisting tears brought on by the memory, Michael hoisted his can toward the stars in a toast. “Destiny, Be Damned is for you, brother,” he said, “for all the years you sacrificed to put me through school, for all the years you delayed your own life to help me. Now I’m going to repay that sacrifice, I swear it!”

In salute, he drained the can in one long pull, then sat it on the dock at his feet. He swung his gaze outward, absorbing the peaceful beauty and quietude of the evening.

Fifty yards out a bright red light caught his attention. He strained to bring it into focus. Had it been there all along? No. He would have seen it. It resembled a large red Christmas ornament drifting six feet above the water. A balloon? Or maybe an oriental lantern loose from its moorings? No, just a glowing ball.

Curiosity aroused, Michael walked further out onto the dock, causing waves to slap and slosh beneath the wooden slabs. The globe seemed to be moving toward him. Maybe fluorescent gas had oozed up from the lake bottom. Hadn’t he read somewhere about glowing marsh gases?

A reddish-white bolt of lightning stabbed from the sphere into the lake. Static electricity? The thing definitely was getting closer. Another bolt discharged into the black waters.

Michael looked back, checking his escape route. The thing probably was harmless. Still . . .

The sphere continued its slow approach, and then stopped to hover motionless a few yards from him. About three feet in diameter, it pulsed as if alive. Still curious, Michael reached toward it, but jerked his hand back as it morphed into a twisted likeness of Daniel’s face. The face glared angrily at him for two seconds, and then unleashed a lightning bolt straight at Michael’s head. Michael dodged. A section of railing exploded behind him.

“I’ll see you in hell, dear brother!” Daniel’s voice reverberated through Michael’s brain like an evil echo from a distant canyon.

He stared at his brother’s contorted image. The face spat red lightning again. Michael’s palm shot up to block it. The bolt struck and rebounded, hitting the floating apparition dead center. The thing flickered wildly for several seconds. Michael was amazed to see Daniel’s face become old and contorted with pain. Evil red eyes blazed pure hatred at him from cadaverous sockets. And then, as if someone had flipped a switch, it was gone.

“Daniel, wait!” Michael cried. His words echoed emptily across the lake.

He stared in disbelief at his right hand; an eerie blue-violet aura engulfed it. His legs trembled; weakness threatened to take him down. He dropped to his knees, fighting for control. What was that thing? The voice sounded like Daniel’s.

His brain rejected the idea. He had been thinking about Daniel and had hallucinated. Still, the sphere twice tried to kill him. Marsh gas didn’t do that. A quick scan of the lake revealed nothing. Only the cabin lights winked back at him. Trembling, he pushed up from the dock. As he straightened, his legs collapsed. He heard a thump as his head hit the dock. He felt his left hand hit cold lake water. The sense that Daniel was in desperate trouble was overwhelming. “Daniel, hang on! I’m coming. I’m—.”

His words were cut short. Pain stabbed through his head as though an ice pick had punctured a hole through his brain. He screamed and rolled onto his back. An even more excruciating pain drilled deep into his right shoulder.

“Ahhhhhgh!” he screamed. What was happening to him?

Suddenly all pain in his body vanished, and he was lifting at blistering speed into the night sky. The lake, the rim of dark trees, the cozy spots of orange cabin lights, shrank to mere specks in seconds.

“What the hell?” he yelled.

And then he was nowhere near the cabin; rather, he was encased in a bubble of softly glowing, phosphorescent blue-violet light, plummeting toward planet Earth at meteoric speed. Screaming like a roller-coaster rider, he slammed into the atmosphere, bounced once, twice, continued plunging toward the southeast coast of North America. Flames generated by the friction of high-speed passage through the ionosphere roared against the protection of his glowing shield. Rising heat threatened to roast him alive. I’ll die like a falling star.

“No! Stop!” he shouted. “This isn’t real.”

He stopped and looked down. He was floating motionless above a small town divided down the middle by a broad, tree-shaded avenue. On the avenue were stores, a café, a Fox movie theater, a bank. Branching out on both sides of the avenue were narrower streets rimmed with early twentieth-century residences. There was no motion anywhere. The town was asleep.

“This is stupid,” he said. “I’m dreaming.”

He looked down to examine himself. No legs, no arms, no body, hell, nothing. This had to be a dream.

Michael laughed at his predicament, half in fear, half in amusement. He had fallen, slammed his head against the dock. Maybe he had knocked himself cuckoo. Maybe this was a hallucination brought on by a concussion. Or maybe he was dead. No, he felt too alive. I’m just dazed, he thought. I’ll wake up soon.

He hoped.

TWO

ALMOST IMMEDIATELY, MICHAEL BEGAN TO DRIFT slowly downward, as if pulled gently by a magnet. His descent halted just above a sagging two-story home sitting back from a respectable, tree-lined street. The house, badly in need of paint, had a deep, fenced-in porch running across the front and down one side. In a narrow driveway next to the side porch, a white Honda Civic was parked under a trellis enshrouded by purple wisteria. A stream of yellow-orange light poured from an upstairs window.

Michael scanned the street. All the houses were of similar vintage, but only this one showed any sign of life. Was this his destination? Could a dreamer even have a destination?

“This is crazy!” he shouted. “Michael, wake up!”

He didn’t wake up. Instead, he drifted toward the window and through a dusty orange window shade; he halted six feet above the floor inside a large bedroom.

He laughed again, his fear dissipating completely, all thoughts of the strange events on the lake momentarily forgotten. Whatever this was, dream, hallucination or even death, it was fascinating. If he couldn’t wake himself, he might as well enjoy the ride, see where it led.

Lit by a single bulb screwed into a socket in the ceiling, the room was from another era. It was furnished simply with a dresser and mirror, a wardrobe, an iron-posted bed with covers turned down and a bedside table that had seen better days. A curved-neck lamp sat near the table’s edge to make room for a telephone and a wind-up alarm clock. A book rested on top of a large manila envelope lying face down across one corner of the table. The clock said one seventeen. This dream was becoming more bizarre by the second.

Michael tried to make out the cover of the book, but couldn’t. He drifted toward the bedside table. Within seconds he recognized it. It was a copy of his first novel, Brother, Mine. His own photograph, taken several years earlier, thoughtfully stared up at him from the back cover. He was hit suddenly by the pleasant memory of his and Daniel’s excitement when the book was published. He glanced around. Whose room was this?

He studied the bed. On it lay a pair of white bikini panties, a pair of pink pajamas, a hand mirror and a pink-handled hairbrush. On the floor at the foot of the bed lay a puddle of clothes, a crumpled pair of blue jeans, a white blouse, a pair of white socks. Beside the pile sat brown leather loafers. Obviously a woman’s room.

A door directly in front of Michael opened. In a panic he looked for a place to hide, but too late. The room’s owner stepped inside.

Michael soared swiftly to the ceiling. The woman ignored him, clearly unable to see him.

My God, she’s beautiful!

He gaped at the woman like a moonstruck adolescent. In four published novels, he had created five different women, all of whom in his imagination had been stunning for one reason or another, either brains or beauty or both. But never in his grandest imaginings, never in his finest prose, had he ever conceived a woman so strikingly lovely as the one now before him.

A large wet bath towel covered her from just above firm, but-not-overly-large breasts, down to the tops of her thighs. She walked unhurriedly to the bed and retrieved the hairbrush, turned, then changed her mind. She sat on the side of the bed and lifted his book and the envelope. Suddenly her eyes filled with tears. She wiped at them with her arm and put down the book. She studied the envelope. Her eyes grew even more worried and miserable. What about his book and the envelope could cause such a beautiful woman to feel such misery? The creature on the lake? No. Impossible. That was only a dream.

He had a sudden urge to hold her, to kiss away her tears. He used all his will to move toward her, but he was frozen in space and time.

“Who are you?” he screamed. “I want to help you!”

Nothing.

Finally, after a moment, she tossed the envelope on top of his novel, lifted the hair brush and walked to stand before the dresser where she began casually inspecting herself in the mirror.

Unable to take his eyes from her, Michael watched in fascination, trying to understand the power of her attraction. Looked at objectively, she seemed not at all extraordinary. Her body was youthful and lithe; her legs were shapely and appealing, but certainly would never be chosen for a magazine ad. Yet, never before had he been so sensually drawn to a woman. But was she really as stunning as his response indicated? Or was his reaction to her caused by something else, something he didn’t understand?

In her late twenties, she was, he guessed, about five-five or five-six. Her hair, thick, almost purple black and still damp, hung to her shoulders. Her face was thin, delicate; cheekbones, high; nose slightly upturned; lips, full, yet determined; her chin and neck and shoulders, definitely soft, white and lovely. Her beautiful dark-brown eyes, glistening with tears, were the most incredible part of all. They were eyes Michael had only dreamed existed, eyes any man could dedicate the rest of his life to making smile.

As he watched, the girl began brushing her hair in long even strokes, removing the tangles, making it gleam. He knew this was a dream, yet the girl seemed so real. She had to be real. He couldn’t be inventing all this. But if she was real, who was she? Where was this town? Somehow he had to find her again, but would he be able to after he woke? If he woke.

Of the two brothers, Michael had always been the bashful one around women, especially beautiful women. Daniel, on the other hand, had a light, carefree silliness about him that put girls at ease. As a result, he could be talking to them in seconds as if he had known them for years. The best Michael ever could manage was a stumbled, “Uh, how do you do? Uh…”

But with this girl, Michael felt like a raging bull. He wanted desperately to move to her, to approach her, to embrace her, to lose himself in her. He willed himself to move, but succeeded only in lowering himself a foot closer to the floor.

“Hey!” he called. “Look up here. My name is Michael. I want to know who you are. Where is this place?”

The woman turned and started toward the bed, undoing the tuck she had taken in the top of the towel.

“No, don’t! You’re not alone!”

He blushed. He was no voyeur. He didn’t want to see her like this, not while slinking around in a dream.

Helplessly he watched the towel slide to the floor like the grand unveiling of breathtaking beauty, a picture of glistening dark pubic hair against the whiteness of an incredibly sensuous body, a picture so lovely he wanted to cry for all he had missed in his life.

Then the towel hit the floor, and he was momentarily engulfed in a brilliant fireball that obliterated the scene before him. Frightened, confused, he struggled to orient himself, but to no avail. The fireball vanished, and once again he was in the glowing sphere, floating amid a vast universe of stars.

The bedroom, the town, the beautiful sensuous woman . . . gone.

—End of Sample—