At least I HOPE this segment is intense. The truth is, the time draws closer and closer for the release of the next "Tennis Shoes" volume, entitled Drums of Desolation. It's a big deal to me. I can only hope it's a big deal for others. I haven't posted any new segments in a while, so I thought I might include a fun portion from Chapter 2. I hope it's gladly received, although that "cliffhanger" aspect of my postings seems incurable. This is a portion of Chapter Two. Publishing the whole chapter would be just too over-the-top and shocking to the system of many readers. I'm sure I'd risk vigorous litigation from some fans for causing heart palpitations and a suppressing the ability to breathe if I posted more. So...I'll print what I can...and then I'll wait'll next week to post the remainder of the chapter. Trust me. It's something I must do for the readers' own health and safety. :)
Honestly, I've been procrastinating so I might be able to announce to readers the cost for pre-ordering the book and audio CD set through FrostCave, but we just finished the final edit and the audio is still being recorded, so prices are not yet available (although I DO presume the audio CDs will be $39.95, like the previous two volumes on CD, so those who want to pre-order the first copies of the newest audio CD set hot off the presses can do so if they wish. "But Chris," some might mourn, "NOBODY orders audio CDs anymore! Do you live in the dark ages??? We DOWNLOAD our audio books!" I'm perfectly aware of this flaw, folks, and I apologize for the long delay of the LDS market in getting their act together in this regard. I've been told that Deseret Book is unveiling a new app by year's end that will allow customers to download LDS audio books in a protected format, but...well...I've been told that stuff before and...I'll believe it when I see it. The LDS market is so sadly behind the world's current technologies that my faith in LDS storytelling via audio downloads has been somewhat strained.
In any case, I've been informed that the anticipated release date for the book and audio of Drums of Desolation is October 1st. I'll post the next segment of Chapter 2 as soon as I get the scoop on the book's final price. I never have more fun than receiving pre-orders from long-time (and new!) customers and then rushing to the publisher the very day it gets delivered from across country by truck, seizing my boxes, and then shipping out to my loyal customers as fast as humanly possible, generally before bookstores can get them on their shelves. Until then, readers must content themselves with simple previews like the one that follows here. Remember, the portion of storyline that takes place just prior to this segment has already been posted on this blog as part of Chapter One if you want to read what happened mere seconds before this part begins. Another important segment from the book can be found here. Or just plunge right into the middle of the saga and have fun!
Hamira lunged forward, away from the stone where she’d been sitting. She was grabbing the back of her thigh, just above the knee joint, as she spun around to look for the thing that had attacked her.
I heard the telltale sound before I saw the thing that caused it. Oddly, the sound reminded me of the peaceful, musical hum of a tropical rainstick. This illusion was accentuated by the cavern’s echo. Then all sounds were drowned out by the echo of Hamira’s shriek.
I peered into the shadows between the stones where Hamira had been sitting. Something slithered into a tight crevice that my torchlight couldn’t illuminate. But I caught a glimpse of the black rattle, vibrating like a child’s toy. The snake was gone, although the rattling sound persisted.
“It bit me!” Hamira screeched. “It burns!” She spun around again, as if she might move those boulders with a superhuman surge of adrenaline and strangle that scrawny reptile. She staggered, and I caught her in my arms.
“Calm!” I said. “Be calm!”
I helped her lie softly upon the ground and turned her onto her side so I could see the wound. There were two punctures, about an inch apart, blood red and swelling before my eyes. Fury raged inside me. I felt angry at nature. Wasn’t a rattlesnake supposed to warn you with its rattle before it struck? This creature had offered no warning. It just sank its fangs into her flesh and slithered off. I wanted to follow through on Hamira’s impulse and gouge the blunt end of my torch—or even the flaming end!—into the narrow space where it had disappeared in hopes of exacting revenge, but I couldn’t leave Hamira’s side.“Cut it!” she commanded. “Bleed it. Drain out the poison.”
I used my dagger. My hands were shaking as I tried to cut two small X’s into the back of her thigh, one for each puncture. You’d think living in ancient times for so long I’d have heard some kind of official instructions for how to deal with a snake bite. I’d learned no such procedures. The general consensus among the Nephites was that anyone bitten by a serpent was dead. It was God’s will. Somewhere in the distant memory of my youth, I’d heard that one should suck the poison and spit. As Hamira clenched her jaw to stop wailing in pain, I set my lips against the places where I’d cut the X’s and sucked her wounds like a vampire. I tasted blood and immediately spat it away. I sucked and spit again, and then again.
Finally, I did what I should’ve been doing all along. I prayed for help. I prayed as I worked, sucking and spitting. I paused and looked again at the wound. Hamira was writhing in anguish. She bit the collar of her mantle for all she was worth, trying to squelch her sobs. The wound was turning purple. If I received any inspiration at all, it was to stop what I was doing. These actions weren’t helping one little bit.Another consequence came from all my sucking and spitting. My mouth was tingling. I felt like an imbecile. Over the last several days I’d been punched, thrown, beaten, and bruised over virtually every inch of my body. There was a cut on my lip and several cuts inside my mouth that had turned into canker sores. I was feeling nauseous. It occurred to me that in my effort to save Hamira, I’d envenomated myself!.
“What should I do?” I asked aloud. I couldn’t say if it was a prayer or if I was asking Hamira for advice. Tears were streaming down her face. If she’d understood the question, she wasn’t willing to stop biting her mantle long enough to answer. I heard voices. Hamira’s screams hadn’t gone unnoticed. Our presence had been revealed, undoubtedly to the forces of Nimrah and the sons of Mizerath. The echo of scrambling footsteps and shouts was drawing closer. What was happening? I didn’t understand. We’d been following the directions provided by the Liahona. Why was this happening to us?
And then I heard the laughter. Surprise, surprise. It was the sword of Akish.
Poor Joshua. Poor, naive, silly, ignorant Joshua. I tried to warn you, and what did you do? Nothing! You ignored me. You ignored everything I tried to tell you. Now my advice is spent. I have nothing more to offer. This is the price you must pay. The cost of misguided faith. All I can now advise is that you sit and wait for your enemies. Any other action is futile and will not change your fate. And it certainly won’t change the fate of your sweetheart.
“Shut up!” I said aloud. “Heavenly Father, make it shut up!”
“We have to keep moving,” I told Hamira. “I’ll carry you.”
She shook her head, as if nobly refusing my offer. It was insanity. I ignored the gesture. Hamira had dropped her torch as soon as she was bitten. The flame would have to be abandoned. I set down my own torch momentarily and heaved Hamira over both shoulders, careful not to skewer her with the sword of Akish. She was trembling, eyes pinched shut, jaw still clamped. Honestly, she felt as light as a feather; I had no trouble bending down to raise my torch again. I did have some difficulty seeing the top of the Liahona. I maneuvered her body out of way. The pointers still indicated a clear direction. I drew a deep breath, shaking off my own nausea and lightheadedness, and tromped toward a passage beyond the dusty shafts of sunlight, at the far end of the room.
The voices may not have been as close as I thought. Or they may have entered the chamber with shafts of light seconds after Hamira and I departed. The sores burned inside my mouth; I wasn’t thinking as straight as I should’ve been. I ignored this and fought my way through the passages. Instead of fading into the background, the voices seemed closer than ever. Was I carrying Hamira in a circle? No, that couldn’t happen. I was following the Liahona! I was on the correct path.
I staggered once and had to lean against the wall to catch my breath.
“Joshua,” said Hamira. “What’s wrong?”
She could tell I wasn’t operating at full capacity. Still, I denied it.
“Nothing,” I said. “Just needed to catch my wind.”
“I’m s-so cold,” she half-whispered. “Water. I need t-to drink.”
I untied the water skin from her belt and set it against her lips. I caught another glimpse of her bitten leg. Holy mackerel! It had swollen to almost twice its normal size. Panic engulfed me. What should I do? What would my father do? He’d use the Priesthood. He’d anoint her and bless her. I didn’t have the Priesthood. I’d never been worthy to receive the Priesthood. I could only pray. So pray I did, with all my might. The sword interrupted.
Leave her, it said. With her you have zero chance. Without her your chances remain slim. But with her you’re a dead man for certain.
“You’re a liar,” I said under my breath. I repeated the word like it was a chant. “You lie and you lie. You lie and you lie again. A moment ago it was futile. I had no chance at all.”
You’ll have to pardon me. I was gloating. I was angry that you felt I had nothing to offer. The truth is . . . I do. I have far more to offer than that cold metallic sphere on your hip. Your God has abandoned Hamira, Captain Josh—just as I told you He would. Yet He still wants you to rescue that obscene sack of Gold Plates. That’s the irony. He cares more about those plates than He cares about you. And I think you already know that He cares nothing for Hamira. I tried to tell you.
“I told you to shut up! Why aren’t you shutting up?”
Ask yourself that question? Maybe I don’t have to shut up. Maybe I never had to. Consider your own state of mind. You’re desperate, Captain Josh. You’d do anything to save Hamira. Anything to save yourself. And . . . curiously . . . anything to save that sack of metal. Why, I think you’d finally accept a bit of advice from me.
“Not on your life. Heavenly Father, please! Please shut it up!”
Copyright @ July 2014 by Chris Heimerdinger