Monday, March 23, 2015
Awakened (Book 1 of Paragons) by C. Steven Manley
Release date: February 27, 2015
Subgenre: Genetic engineering, superheroes
Israel Trent and Erin Simms awake in a modern day dungeon and are thrust into a world of shadowy government agencies, secret societies, and fringe sciences. To survive in this secret world, they must come to grips with not only doomsday cultists and the monsters they create but the unearthly power locked deep within their own DNA.
He grasped the curtain in a tight fist, gave Erin a quick nod, and pulled it fully open. His eyes took in the scene almost instantly and he took a weak step back as the breath caught in his throat. Behind him he heard Erin stifle something between a scream and a sob.
They stood at the top of a ramp that led down into a large, circular chamber of rough-hewn stone and sand. At the bottom of the ramp in the bowl of the room there were ten stretchers with ten bodies, each of them naked and with their torsos opened from navel to neck. They were arranged in a broken circle around a center table of stone that seemed to be carved directly from the bedrock. Black but slightly luminous mist trailed from the bodies to the figure that was strapped spread-eagled on the center table.
The strange mist swirled around the table and rolled up from the stone to settle into the gaping wound that split the man down the center. From this wound protruded black, oily tentacles that stretched and slapped at the air, trailing mist like something frozen brought into a humid room. There were dozens of them - thin and thick, long and short - and they writhed at the air before suddenly growing still and straight like soldiers snapping to attention.
Opalescent light flooded from the base of the tentacles at the victim’s chest line and popped through the room like a camera flash going off. Israel felt the light hit him, his mind only dimly noting that you weren’t supposed to feel light, and he staggered back, dazed. A second later, he gathered his wits and looked again.
The light was gone and the black tentacles were once again slapping about the room. For the first time, he noticed the figures at the back of the room, hunched down and greedily clawing at something bulky on the floor in front of them. Their heads moved and he realized they were looking his way. They rose slowly, moving into the dim light and Israel finally saw them clearly.
They looked much like the black gelled bodies they had seen in the hall- normally dressed people of average height and weight with black armbands. That, however, is where the resemblance to anything human ended. Tentacles, three-foot twins to the ones at the center of the room, protruded and writhed from their heads. The black substance that comprised them covered their heads and faces in thick lines that ran into their mouths, nostrils, and eyes. The eyes themselves were fully black with only the slightest hint of a violet glow. Slick, wet gore covered their lips, chins, and cheeks. Israel realized that the shapes they had been crouched over were corpses.
The three monsters started moving toward them slowly. Israel wanted to move- tried to move- but felt crippled and weak. The impossibility of what he saw had frozen his mind and rooted him in place. Still, the monsters kept moving toward him at a slow, deliberate pace.
A rough hand grabbed his shoulder and yanked him backwards. A man stepped past him and Israel heard rapid explosions as the newcomer fired two shots that were answered by a scream very much like the one Israel had heard upon waking.
The man whirled on Israel and Erin.
C. Steven Manley has spent his life collecting experiences and other things that spark his imagination. He's had a few different careers but through it all was always writing. He lives somewhere in the Southeastern United States with his wife, children, dogs, cat, and well stocked liquor cabinet.