Thomas Pillar surfaces to stop a sword-wielding madman bent on igniting a demon apocalypse. Exit Us, Book 2 of The Pillar Saga by Ben Larken. Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, other fine eBook vendors and Gypsy Shadow Publishing at:
Shattered from the loss of his old life, Thomas Pillar hides, chilled by the past as much as the falling snow. Ross Medford, more media sensation than detective, knows his days as head of the Pillar taskforce are numbered. Both men have hit a standstill—but that’s about to change.
After a failed suicide attempt, Pillar finds himself in the condemned hotel Elysian Falls, living amongst Railston’s homeless. Vagrants are being picked off by a mercurial stranger wielding a sword, their bodies carved with an otherworldly message: EXIT US. No one knows what it means, but Pillar realizes the hunter is searching for something he possesses, a key that will open a doorway to another realm. As Ross and his team draw near, demonic forces clash and a trail of murder blazes through the city—a trail that leads straight to Pillar.
Can Pillar stop a madman obsessed with igniting a demon apocalypse? How can he defeat an opponent who knows more about his purpose than he does? One thing is certain. If Pillar fails, the world may never see another spring.
Word Count: 123700
Pages to Print: 410
Sunt lacrimae rerum
There are tears for things. Life is tragic.
Sunlight broke over the canyon wall, illuminating the wooden monolith in the center of the rocky plain. Thomas Pillar lay crumpled on his side, his forehead resting uncomfortably on a large stone, three feet from the upright rectangle. His eyes flickered open, unfocused. He stared blankly at the brown door, at its simple frame, at the rusty hinges. Pink light reflected off the knob’s tarnished silver. Everything was quiet here. The wind was a forgotten whisper. Animals were nonexistent. Just the sky and the ground and the door—a land of bare minimums. Sometimes that was comforting. There were times, coming with more frequency lately, when Pillar needed the solitude. He needed to pare away the unnecessary excess and clutter of the world. He needed a place as vast and empty as his soul.
Other times, like now, he longed for something else—when he caught himself wondering what would happen if he opened the door.
He sat up, his arms resting on his knees, facing the door. A single word sat at the edge of his tongue. It had wanted to be uttered for weeks, ever since the thought hit him, but he hadn’t been brave enough. The implications were too ominous. His eyes skipped over the barren crevices and withered walls. He knew it was time. He opened his mouth, trying to overcome the urge to hesitate.
His voice came out small, but he didn’t care. Volume didn’t matter much in this place. “Charlotte, are you in there?”
He waited. Regret seeped into the fringes of his mind. She wasn’t in there. Of course, she wasn’t. Why had he been stupid enough to think—?
His eyes widened. He scrambled towards the sound. Soon his hands were on the door’s chilly veneer. “Charlotte! I’m here.”
“Tom,” she said. “Oh Tom, where are you? I can’t see anything in here.”
“I’m right here, baby, on the other side of the door. Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
“God, Tom, where have you been? I’m scared.”
Pillar ran his fingers down the door, seeing her face in his mind. “I know you are. I am, too. I miss you bad.”
Something ran down the other side of the door—fingers. “Tom, let me out. I don’t want to be in the dark anymore.”
He turned his eyes to the old knob, the pink sunlight still beaming off it. His fingers drifted toward it and then stopped.
“Tom,” she whispered, right on the other side. “What’s wrong? Open the door.”
“I—I’m not supposed to.”
“What? Tom, I just want out. You can close the door behind me.”
He rested his forehead against the door, closing his glazed eyes. “If I do, bad things will happen.”
The voice came back wounded. “Do you not want me anymore?”
“Baby, no,” he said, a tear slipping down his cheek. “I want you so much, it hurts. I need you. I’m nothing without you. I’m nobody.”
“Then open the door,” she sobbed. “Let me hold you.”
His fingers drifted again. He looked down and saw them resting on the knob. His jaw clenched. Another tear broke free. “I don’t know what to do, Charlotte. What if something else gets out?”
“There’s nothing else here. But you have to hurry, because they’ll be back soon. Hurry and open the door. I want to feel you against me.”
He was silent, choking on his own emotions. His fingers grazed the knob. All he had to do was add a little more pressure. He could turn it quick, and she’d be here again. Charlotte would be back in his life. He—
“Damn it, Tom,” she cried. “Why won’t you open it? First you shoot me, next you trap me in here. Let me out already!”
He pulled his head back. One thought came to the forefront.
“You’re not Charlotte,” he whispered.
“Tom,” she pleaded, but her voice changed. The light, warm tone he knew so well shifted. It deepened. It gargled. It sounded horrible. “Tom, Tom, Tom,” the slimy voice croaked. “Fucking Tom. Fucking bastard Tom. I’m going to get out of here soon. And when I do, you will feed on your own excrement.”
“Go away,” he said, his voice dwindling. “Leave me alone.”
A raspy laugh came through the cracks. “We’ll never leave you alone, Pillar. Not until you open the door. Turn the knob already.” Something pounded the other side, making the dust fall from the frame and the hinges squeal. Then a second pounding came, booming through the canyon, and he leapt back as the door bent outward.
“OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR!”
Tom’s head jerked up and a cold spasm riveted his body. “No!” he cried, and the word bounced from every direction, sounding like a disapproving parent. For an instant, Tom thought he was still in the canyon. No, he was awake, lying alone in a darkened shower room. The cruel part was he couldn’t tell which place was worse.
He sat up, scrutinizing the shadows. The single grate mounted at the top of the wall across from him, a foot in length, normally remained shut to keep the winter draft out. He staggered to his feet and hobbled to it, opening the slats. Gray sunlight filtered in, reflecting off the intricate tile work. His face hovered close to the grate, basking in the achromatic light.
Everything’s okay. The canyon isn’t real. Only a dream, something constructed out of subconscious fears. The words ran through his head like a mantra. It was. He thought the same thing every morning.
He turned from the grate as another tear dripped to the floor. He touched his face, smearing the wet lines on his dusty cheeks. He had been crying again. His hand dropped to his side, and he straightened his back, glancing at the ten showerheads surrounding him like vultures. He stood in the center of them, ignoring the biting wind that flowed through the grate. A chill wrenched his insides, along with the realization that had circled every thought and emotion for weeks.
“I’m going to die,” he whispered, glancing at each of the showerheads like they might talk back. “I’m going to—find Charlotte.”