Welcome once again. House of Darkness Publishing presents to you the next chapters of our novel, Ageless. Please enjoy chapters 4 and 5.
Book One: Lazarus
Lyle knew he’d been working all night and well into the early morning hours. He’d been absorbed in his work, as always. Things were beginning to fall into place now. The modified serum he’d been developing was showing real promise, finally. He didn’t want to get his hopes up just yet. There had been too many dead end paths he’d been led down over the years to let that happen. He recalled the despair of one of the few people he’d allowed himself to become close to when he told him the formula was not working and that his wife would not survive her battle with this damned plague. He remembered the look of agonizing, soul-crushing helplessness that had come over Darin’s face at the news. Oh yes, he was intimately familiar with that pain. It had been a year or more ago already, it was hard to remember exactly how much time had gone by but he knew it had to be over a year because Mary had passed during a particularly cold week in the middle of winter and another winter had come since. And now the last of the cold winds were fading as yet another spring season re-awakened the sleeping Earth. An apt time for a new beginning he thought to himself. He knew his friend (and occasional lab partner) Darin would be stopping by this morning. He also knew they had a difficult decision to make about what Darin wanted to do regarding his own coming trial. His work overnight had turned on a few more lights in his long dark search for answers so perhaps the decision wouldn’t be quite so difficult after all.
Darin West opened his eye. It was still pretty dark outside. The threadbare piece of material that passed for a curtain moved slightly as a cool breeze of air passed by. He did not want to get out of bed yet but knew he should. He sat up slowly. Everything seemed to move a little slower nowadays. Especially since a few days ago when he found out about what was causing the pain in his back. Right now the pain was just a dull ache so, he was thankful for that. He readied himself to get up out of the bed and stood up. He shuffled across the room and found his robe that his wife had made years ago and tied it around his waist. It fit a bit tighter than it used to but it was still comfortable and comforting. Wearing it brought back fond memories of Mary, his wife, and partner for over thirty years. He lost her just over a year ago now. The plague had made a stop through the little community of Newgreen where they made their home and Mary had succumbed to its vile caress leaving him behind. His eye began to tear up just a bit at the thought of his Mary.
“Enough of that,” he declared and wiped his eye with his hand. He didn’t have to worry about his left eye ever tearing. He lost it many years ago in an accident involving a freight wagon. Darin willed himself to move into his small kitchen area and stoked the wood stove back to life. He took his pot and pumped enough water in it for two cups of tea. He set the pot onto the top of the stove to boil. He and Mary had always had a cup of tea each morning and he wanted to keep that habit going. Darin would make Mary’s tea just how she’d always liked it and place it across from where he sat. Some days he’d quietly sip his tea and just think about her sitting across from him, other mornings he’d talk aloud as though she was still there, telling her about the day ahead, just in case she was listening. The water soon boiled and Darin dutifully made the two cups of tea, sat down and decided to do a little talking this morning.
“Well Mary, I have some news to tell you. You remember how I told you a few weeks back that I felt, ah, well…just kinda’ crummy, you know, achy, tired, weak, run-down, that kind of thing. Well, my love, I finally told Doc Lyle about all that and he checked me out and found out what was making me feel so lousy. The news is not good, my dear. Dr. Lyle told me I got the cancer. That’s a fine howdy-do isn’t it? Now, I know the Doc’s got that cure he made up way back when but he told me he’s not sure of what effect it’ll have on me. He said he was very confident that his treatment would get rid of the cancer it was the other thing, the thing that happened to him, the not dying part he wasn’t sure of. Isn’t that something? A medicine that would cure ya’ and keep ya’ goin’ maybe even forever! I got to thinkin’ ‘bout what he was sayin’ and I don’t know as I want to keep goin’ without ya,’ Mary.” Darin focused on the steaming cup of tea in front of the empty chair. He could feel another tear start to run down his cheek.
“I got a whole lot of thinkin’ to do that’s fer sure. I guess that’s about it, Darlin’ that’s my big news, sorry it ain’t somethin’ better. I’m gonna’ get ready to head over to Doc Lyle’s place now, Mary. We’ll have more tea tomorrow, just like always.” The hot tea had lost much of its initial heat and had nearly stopped steaming. The chair remained empty. Darin sighed despondently and slowly pushed away from the table.
He made his way back into the bedroom to get dressed and get ready for the day. He looked in the small mirror and placed his hand up to his missing eye. Ever since Doc Lyle had fixed him up from the near fatal accident some thirty years ago, he’d become very close to the good doctor. Darin West was well known for his fierce sense of loyalty and honesty. He had earned the trust of Dr. Lyle Stewart, so much so that Lyle had told Darin the whole, true story of his life. Darin had accepted his friend’s explanation without question. That was over twenty years ago now. When Mary became ill, Doc Lyle (as she knew him) had tried everything at his disposal to help but it just wasn’t enough and after a few feverish days, she had passed. Darin had told her the Doc’s secret in her final hours and she whispered to Darin that she felt so sorry for him, that his loneliness must be almost unbearable. At first, Darin did not understand until she explained further.
“Oh, Darin, Doc Lyle stays while all those who mean so much to him go on. He is left behind, alone. We are only meant to be here for a little while then we move on. Poor Doc Lyle can’t do that, such a shame. I hope the man can find peace one day.”
Darin remembered that day like it was yesterday. He looked away from the mirror and began to get dressed. It was early spring season and the long winter’s cold embrace stubbornly refused to completely move on so he’d want to make sure to dress warmly again today. The sun was now almost above the horizon and some welcome sunshine began to illuminate the room.
“Now, where did I put that hat of mine?”
*Copyright 2016, House of Darkness Publishing, All Rights Reserved
Book One: Lazarus
Corrine Westahoff was running slightly behind schedule this morning. Her son Arlen had been coughing most of the night and she was worried. When she worried she didn’t sleep well. Arlen had finally settled down and fallen asleep sometime in the small hours of the morning which, in turn, allowed Corrine to finally doze off. It seemed like it was only a few minutes before she was awakened by the wisps of light that were beginning to shine into her small window. The angle was such that the morning light shone directly into her face but she really didn’t mind. She had always enjoyed seeing a new day dawn, plus she had a busy day ahead, so all was well. She quickly dressed and checked in on Arlen who was still sound asleep. Corrine smiled and quietly headed toward the tiny kitchen. She stirred the embers of the cookstove’s firebox until they began to glow red then added some wood to get the fire going again for the morning. She prepared some sassafras tea and cooked some oatmeal, long a breakfast staple for the Westahoff household. As she sat down to her breakfast she first offered a silent prayer before partaking. Corrine was a member of the Growers Guild and food and drink were never consumed before the prayer of thanks was given. Her family had always been in the Guild, Corrine knew no other life. Her family had throughly trained and prepared her for a quiet life of service to the earth and its inhabitants. She and her husband had been assigned to this region a few years back by the Guild Council. All was good for the Westahoff’s, for a while. Corrine found herself looking over where her husband’s coat and hat still hung from the rack, just like he’d always placed them. Although it had been nearly three years ago, the sight still brought the sad memories of his death.
George Westahoff had been a hard-working, steady man who believed in the Guild’s mission with all his being. Their marriage had been one of the traditional “arranged” ones. Both families agreed that their coupling would be of benefit the Guild and its mission and enhance the status of both families within the Guild. Although neither George or Corrine had not initially been attracted to each other, they did both accept their duties and obligations to their families and the Guild and did grow to find some level of affection between them. George had died doing what he loved most, working. Farming was certainly not risk-free and such accidents were expected now and then but George’s loss was a painful setback for the family and the Guild. Their son had also been involved in the accident and had suffered a very serious injury but fortunately, this community had a doctor within their midst and Arlen was spared thanks to his skill and Corrine’s prayers. Corrine looked away back toward the cookstove and sipped her tea. Remembering George and the accident made her think of the doctor, a man she found herself thinking about quite a bit since that time. Doc Lyle tended to keep to himself and rarely ventured into the little community except in times of need (like when George was injured) or on an occasional supply run. She had spoken with him a few times since George passed and thought him to be quite pleasant and charming, a man she might be interested in getting to know better. He appeared to be about fiftyish, healthy, fit and alone. The people in the community had told her the Doc had no wife or children as far as they knew. He’d settled in about twelve years before, mostly kept to himself but was always available to help out in times of sickness or injury and was quite the healer.
Corrine knew that having a relationship with a person outside the Guild could be difficult. Her own aunt had done just such a thing. Now, while it was not outright forbidden for members of the Guild to get involved with outsiders, the practice was frowned upon and culturally discouraged. The outsiders had, after all, been the cause of the woe the world found itself in and the First Guild Council had determined that in order to remain true to its mission of healing the much-abused Mother of Life, and to make an honest appeal to the Father of Creation, Guild members should strive to separate themselves from those outside the Guild to the greatest extent possible. This was followed much more strictly in the past but the practical aspect of that policy was one of the Guild’s weak points. There were simply not enough Guild members in the world to continue building Mother Earth back up by themselves so in the end the decree was relaxed but culturally still not widely accepted. Corrine was never one to shy away from what she felt was right and hoped she would run into the doctor very soon.
She noticed the light in the little kitchen was actually quite bright now, the sun had fully risen now and she would have to move quickly to be out at the barns in time to meet the day’s work crew. They would be working in the greenhouses today and she wanted to make sure the beds were properly prepared for the seedlings. She drank the rest of her now cool tea and placed the bowl and cup in the basin. She then went to Arlen’s room and gently woke him out of his slumber.
“Arlen, wake up,” she said gently.
Her son opened his eyes. “Is it time to get up already?”
Corrine smiled. “Yes, it is. Get dressed and eat the rest of the oatmeal I made then get down to the barns. Your cough seems like it is better now, how do you feel?”
“Better, not perfect but better. I might feel all better if I could sleep for a while more, though.” Arlen smiled as he said this.
“I see,” Corrine said, “perhaps a whole day off would be even better?”
Arlen’s eyes widened in surprise. “Really, mom? Do you mean it?”
“Please! I will make sure to go early tomorrow!”
“Okay, I suppose it would be better for you to rest for the day, your cough was pretty bad last night. Maybe I should talk to Doc Lyle about it. I’ll send word to him, maybe he can see you tonight.” Corrine secretly hoped the doctor would come and not just to check on her son.
“Thanks, mom! I will have the evening meal ready when you get home.”
“You are a good boy, Arlen my son. I must be going, be careful and make sure you rest, understand?”
“Yes, mother I will.”
Corrine gave her son a quick peck on his cheek, returned to the kitchen where she grabbed an overcoat and bonnet then hurried along to the barns. It turns out she didn’t have to send word to Doc Lyle after all. He came into the town that very afternoon.
*Copyright 2016, House of Darkness Publishing, All Rights Reserved