Legacy

( 1 )

Overview

Throughout time, man has been an unwitting pawn in the battle waged between heaven and hell. The seductive wiles of evil threaten to consume humanity's inherently good nature, with one soul hanging in the balance, a soul that could tip the scales to either side in this eternal combat. Luke Masterson, loving father and devoted husband, is that man. Made in God's image, yet birthed from politics and spawned in the very fires of purgatory, his is a grand destiny, a fate that would bring damnation to mankind and hell...
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Overview

Throughout time, man has been an unwitting pawn in the battle waged between heaven and hell. The seductive wiles of evil threaten to consume humanity's inherently good nature, with one soul hanging in the balance, a soul that could tip the scales to either side in this eternal combat. Luke Masterson, loving father and devoted husband, is that man. Made in God's image, yet birthed from politics and spawned in the very fires of purgatory, his is a grand destiny, a fate that would bring damnation to mankind and hell to this earth. With the final battle drawing near, Luke must determine to which side his allegiances lie, with his deceptive father, or with the aging minister who reaches out to him to draw him to the light. Can he change his destiny and rage against his very nature, or is he cursed to succumb to it? Every trial, every series of events in his life has been a test to prepare him for this moment, where the outcome of the war is in his hands alone. Is the intrinsic gift of free will enough to sway him from ruination and defy his predestined ascension to the demonic throne? Perhaps ... but hell's not taking any chances?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554041633
  • Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/8/2004
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Snowflakes swirled beneath the amber glow of the pole lights surrounding the outdoor rink, choking the thin halogen rays back into a spotted, clogged halo about the bulb like so many moths drawn to a flame. The screaming wind blew sideways, battering the rapidly thinning crowd, chasing them, huddled and harried, back to their snow-coated cars parked along the side of Walnut Street, a seemingly insurmountable distance from the frozen pond. Red-faced children dragged their hockey sticks through the accumulation behind them, their arms immobilized by the parkas ill-fitted to be worn over the protective padding beneath their jerseys. Only the referee remained on the quickly vanishing ice. Finishing his scorecard, he crammed it into his black duffel, yanking free his jacket and frantically shoving his arms into the crisply frozen sleeves and dreaming of the heater in his old Cougar blowing scalding desert air straight into his face from the dashboard. Skating to the mounded snow that rimmed the glazed ice, he hopped over the pile and fixed his eyes upon his car, nearly buried beneath the fresh layer of snow and ice. Running towards it on his blades, he knew that each step brought him just that much closer to the warmth he so desperately craved. In his mind he could already feel it, that dry heat pulsing in waves across his chafed hands as he rubbed them in front of his bright red nose, a frozen droplet of mucus clinging to the tip of his nose from chapped and peeling nostrils.

Without so much as a glance at the thinned mob of people clambering into their vehicles, hidden within a shroud of their own pluming exhaust, he slipped between a pair of packedminivans, nearly identical white mottled turquoise, and thrust the key into the door. With one fluid motion, he pinned the gas to the floor and cranked the ignition. A gray plume accosted the sky from the tailpipe, only to be ripped from the rusted tube and bent to the will of the wind, disappearing into the night along with the storm clouds that rolled just overhead, racing across the blackened sky.

The referee sank into the driver's seat, a smile tearing through his tattered, disintegrating lips as he cranked the blower to life and just sat there, waiting. A cold breeze gusted from the vents, but only for a moment before transforming into the scalding, arid flumes that he knew lurked somewhere just out of reach. The engine sputtered and coughed, simultaneously spewing a radiant wave of warmth across his painfully reddened face, and, with a shudder, a cloud of carbon monoxide into the air behind him.

"Jesus Christ, Ray," the woman standing behind the ref's roaring Cougar choked. She waved her gloved hands in front of her face in a futile attempt to fan the fumes that blasted mercilessly from the tailpipe of the old Mercury.

"The quicker we get everything loaded," the burly man next to her said, "the quicker we can both get out of here."

"It's not my job to load up all of this crap--"

"It is if you want to get out of the snow," he said with a quick glance and a curled smile, though it was hard to tell through the monstrous black, frosted beard that appeared to live symbiotically atop his face rather then merely growing from it. He tugged his ski cap down past the ridge of his thickly hewn eyebrows to the point that his icy lashes slapped at the cotton fabric with every unconscious attempt to bat the snowflakes from his watering eyes.

"I don't see why I can't just sit in the car and wait," she said, stamping her boot into the snow and dropping the case she had lifted from the ground into the back of the van.

"If you break any of this stuff, Kimmy, I'll have no choice but to kill you," he said, slipping past her to slide the metal rimmed case into the back.

"First of all, I'm the talent, and you had sure as hell better not forget that!" she barked, pointing the damp tip of her gloved forefinger right into his chubby face. "And second, my name is Kimberly! Got that! Kimberly Chalmers. Not Kim, not Kimmy. Kimberly." Her shrill voice dropped to nothing more than a whisper, hardly discernible from the curious wind. "And if you ever so much as think of threatening me again, you'll find death far more merciful than my wrath."

Ray looked her up and down; his eyes shimmering from beneath narrowed lids. Tufts of steam vented from her nostrils like a cartoon bull, her shoulders heaving violently. Her hands curled into fists at her sides, and he could only imagine her perfectly manicured nails digging straight through the fabric and into her palms. Snow had begun to accumulate atop her blonde hair, held perfectly still and in place by the can of hair spray she had used so liberally on the drive up that he had feared the scent might never fade. Her bright blue eyes burned icily, her red lips curled back from her inhumanly white teeth. She wore a navy blue pant suit with a flaming red scarf tied neatly around her neck and tucked beneath her camel hair overcoat. Petite yet curvaceous, she had certainly been everybody's favorite intern. Finally, his eyes settled back on her face, mascara dripping down the side of her cheek from the far too thick application -- and laughed.

His entire face turned an even brighter shade of red, as if a moment prior that had even been possible. He reared back and issued a chorus of guffaws straight up into the night sky. Wrapping his arms around his bouncing belly, he had to stabilize himself before he slipped and wound up flat on his ass.

"You're such a jerk, Ray!" she shouted, whirling back to the van and hopping up onto the fender. "I should have you fired."

"Pardon me, Your Highness," he said, feigning a bow. " 'Twas never my intent to offend thee, Oh High Queen Fellatio--"

"I earned this goddamn job, you piece of shit!"

"Settle down, settle down," he said, patting the air in front of her and stifling the urge to explode into laughter once again.

"No!"

"Please."

"Look, I know that's what all of you guys think. It's not like I haven't heard that one a thousand times."

"Relax, princess. I'm just having a little fun at your expense. No harm done. Besides, it's colder than shit out here and we should probably just get everything packed so we can get on the road before the storm gets worse."

"You load it!"

"Fine!" Ray said, picking up case after case and tossing them into the truck. His lips pursed and his eyes narrowed to dark slits.

Kimberly just stared past him as the last of the cars vanished from the roadside, leaving them alone on the barren street while the lights above the pond switched off one by one with a loud thwack.

"It's not my fault the damned guy just up and split," Ray said, heaving a large silver case onto the lip of the bed and sliding it in.

"I know." A half-smile crept across her lips and she just shook her head. "It was a shit assignment from the start."

Ray chuckled.

"Drive two hours through a blizzard to get ten seconds of footage of a Senator watching his grandson play hockey, hope for a three second sound byte. And then he just goes and pulls the kid out of the game and they leave without a word."

"I've been on worse, believe you me," Ray said, resting a hand on her shoulder and plopping down next to her.

"Worse than this?" She threw her hands up to the sky.

"You ever see that story on banning dogs in the city parks?"

She shook her head.

"I followed all these dogs through the park all day long doing nothing more than waiting for them to squat so I could film it."

"Really?" she giggled.

"Why would I make that up?"

Kimberly climbed down from the fender and nodded, her eyes stretching across the darkened field where the ice rink was hidden somewhere beneath the shadows and piling snow. A lone light faded in and out of the swirling storm, a distant beacon in the all-consuming blackness. As she watched, the light flickered, a candle caught in a draft, and then extinguished.

The ground trembled beneath her feet and she reached out with both hands to stabilize herself.

"Did you feel that?" she gasped, turning to Ray, who was already clambering down from the van and peering concertedly off toward the invisible horizon.

"Yeah, felt almost like a quake--"

He walked towards her, standing at her hip, his squinting eyes scouring the darkness.

A flash of light appeared, and then another, growing and fluttering where that lone distant beacon had once been.

"Grab your camera," Kimberly said, taking a step forward. "Now, Ray! Grab your camera!"

"Yeah," Ray stammered. "I think maybe I will."

Slowly turning, his eyes still locked onto the growing glare, the first tendrils of black smoke crept along the wind into his nostrils.

"Hurry!" Kimberly shouted. Her frozen legs stumbled over the curb and into the foot-deep carpet of snow that covered the field. "Ray?"

"Right behind you."

Fumbling with the latches on the silver case, he produced a large video camera and tucked it under his arm like a football.

"Get us a live feed!" Kimberly shouted back over her shoulder, her legs churning as she fought to run. "Now!"

The flashing lights grew brighter, blazing across the field, growing taller and taller, reaching up into the base of the clouds that looked to be no more than thirty feet from the frozen earth.

Without further thought or even a glance back, Kimberly honed in on the distant blaze, the smoke thickening to the point that it was like breathing ash, the unrequited flames seeming to re-ignite deep within her chest.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the gap began to shrink. The muscles in her legs ached ferociously. The frozen wind tore through the brittle flesh on her face, ripping the teardrops from her eyes and onto her cheeks.

Flames reached from the sloped roof of the silhouetted building, angrily shredding the rafters and chasing a towering funnel of billowing smoke into the sky. Those lapping flames grew larger, engulfing the entire upper half of the building in a brilliant yellow and orange embrace. She was now no more than twenty yards from the growing fire, the falling snow melting to drizzle and slapping at her skin.

Hitting the slope of the small hill leading up to the building at full tilt, her gloved hands shot straight into the snow, clawing at the earth, dragging her upward with the tips of her boots carving into the frozen ground beneath. Lurching over the crest, she stood between a pair of ancient spruces, their blue tinted needles buried beneath a cone of white, staring at the structure while the fire consumed it.

The arched front doors of the tan bricked building stood wide, buckled backward on tattered hinges, a singular tunnel of smoke exploding from the flickering darkness within. Small juniper bushes burned to either side of the entrance, the snow sizzling and popping while the crackling foliage turned to charcoal.

Above the door, cast of shining bronze, a three-dimensional rendering of Christ, reaching with open arms for his flock, jutted from the brick, his palms held toward the sky. Lifelike in both size and rendition, the falling drizzle steamed off the superheated form. Melting snowfall dripped from between His spread fingers, the fire imbuing it with shimmering crimson, His hollow eyes searching the heavens. A lone cross, no more than a single foot in height, graced the center of the peaked roof, a mere shadow against the rapidly growing flames.

"Is there anyone in there?" Kimberly shouted over the roar of the blaze.

Slowly, she eased forward, the heat burning her chafed skin, melting the tears frozen to her cheeks. One step at a time, she eased from the line of trees and into the parking lot, stumbling through the deep tire tracks left in the otherwise virgin parking lot.

"They're ready--" Ray wheezed, choking back a lump of phlegm in his throat, "whenever we are."

"Get that camera rolling!" Kimberly snapped. Her eyes fixed on the glimmer of flame through the smoke-clogged entrance.

"Mike?"

She snatched the microphone from his extended hand and took up the slack from the cord. Pawing at her hair with a gloved hand, she took a deep breath and counted back down from five, replacing the two and one with a deep breath.

Ray fought with the focus, trying to bring out her features, the flames threatening to wash her out of the shot.

"This is Kimberly Chalmers coming to you live from Hillside, Colorado for NewsStation 4. I'm standing outside of--" She cast a look over her shoulder at the remaining letters that adorned the front of the church beneath the statue bursting from the bricks, "The First Church of Christ, where, as you can see, fire threatens to consume this entire building."

Sirens called from the distance, intertwining with the howl of the wind.

"Follow me inside," she said, locking her eyes onto Ray's through the camera.

Focusing past her turned back and into the mouth of the blaze, Ray slugged through the snowy lot and onto the curb, the spectral vision in front of him disappearing into the haze.

"Kimberly?" he called, lifting the collar of his jacket over his mouth in an attempt to breathe through the thick smoke.

"We are the first here on the scene and right now are trying to see if there is anyone trapped inside, anyone in need of assist--"

Her voice trailed off into nothingness as the camera fought for focus, peeling back the smoke to latch onto anything, anything at all.

"Can you see that?" Kimberly asked, her voice hoarse and grainy. "Ray? Can you get a shot of that?"

Her form flirted through the smoke and into sight, her outstretched arm pointing with a lone finger toward an enormous stained glass window, the majority of which lie shattered on the floor in a mass of colored shards.

"Jesus Christ--" Ray whispered, his trembling grip shaking the whole camera. "I -- I--"

"Hold it together, Ray!" she snapped. "I don't know if you folks at home can see this or not, but that appears to be a person up there. My God! Help me get him down!"

Ray zoomed through the swirling smoke that slipped out through the shattered window and onto the dark shape blotting out the mass of color. A gasp choked in his throat and the camera fell from his already tenuous grip, clattering to the floor at his feet.

"Ray! Pick up the camera! Ray!"

He staggered backward, his gaze sucked into the vision from which he could neither look away, nor directly at it. Everything just went out of focus in his own eyes as he stumbled backward toward the door.

"Ray!"

"No -- for the love of God, no--"

"Ray!"

The beams overhead crackled and groaned, dropping piles of fiery embers onto the charcoaled floor.

"Ray!"

Retching dryly, Kimberly tugged the collar of her blouse over her mouth, gripping it tightly between her teeth and dashed toward the fallen camera while a stark-faced Ray backed into the doorway. His eyelids were peeled so far back that those glistening orbs looked to be free to roll straight out of the sockets. Mouthing something incomprehensible through the thickening smoke, the silhouetted form of her cameraman backed out into the dancing light of the overhead blaze, tripping a hasty retreat over the curb and into the parking lot. He whirled without a sound and disappeared from view.

Snatching the heavy video camera from the floor, Kimberly pinned it atop her shoulder and peered through the viewfinder, clipping the microphone to the side of it. A small green light flashed in the upper right hand corner, the center of her vision framed in smoke induced black and white by a small transparent square. Kimberly fought against the sheer weight of the equipment and tried to focus on the form in the middle of the shattered design of angels trumpeting over a cross-laden landscape.

"I hope this is still transmitting," she sputtered through the fabric wedged in her mouth. Her black rimmed nostrils were packed so tightly with dried and jagged mucous that she had to break from speaking to wheeze through her silk blouse. "I don't know if you can see this, but it appears to be a man, an adult human male. God, I don't even know how to describe to you what I'm seeing."

Her words trailed into a rugged cough, her lungs burning and tightening, the stale and smothering smoke was transforming her lungs into iron, rusted and decrepit. Fighting with the focus ring, she overrode the automatic sensors that zoomed in and out on the tufts of curling black smoke that drifted in front of the window before being ripped out into the night.

To either side of the stained glass, mounted just beneath the slanting roof, was an angel, a golden statuette of a cherub caught mid-flight. Tiny wings crested from chubby shoulders flowing down to where the windswept gown culminated just above the bare feet. One pudgy hand wrestled with a trumpet destined to be brought to the open mouth, the other held high in the air like a showcase model at a car show. Their eyes stared upward into the collapsing ceiling.

Red velvet curtains, the plush surface crisping in the heat, lined the wall behind them, more decorative than functional. Those angels were mounted directly to the wall through the fabric, pinning it there in a somewhat awkward interruption of the natural folds in the drapes. The bottom edges, flagged inward by the suction created by the fire, slowly came to life with the flames creeping from the burning ashes that littered the floor into the cloth.

Kimberly zoomed in on the angel to the left of the window, rising from the feet to the inside hand, the one raised to the heavens as though meant to demonstrate the glory of on high, but instead, now curled around a disjointed and swollen thumb. The camera followed the thumb to the hand, lined with small rivers of black blood that dripped from the rounded edge of the palm and rolled down the bare forearm and to the tattered edge of the shredded shirt. The shoulders had been pulled from their sockets to allow enough extension to be able to reach to either side of the six foot window, the arms pulled taut so as to run parallel to the floor in an iron cross formation. The man's head lolled forward against his chest, his smoke stained hair falling over his forehead and dancing in front of his only half-opened eyes. His bulbous, swollen tongue had pushed from between his teeth, a bleeding mass of tissue spewing black, syrupy liquid out over his chin and dripping onto the floor. Slowly, drop by drop, like a faucet that had once been left on, but now only released its flow a single sphere of fluid at a time, splattering onto the ground.

A squawk buzzed electrically from somewhere on the camera, the studio's attempt at communication, but Kimberly could no more move an appendage to try to track down the receiver than she could steer her gaze from the tortured remnants of the form in front of her.

Following the line of blood that dangled from the mouth, clinging in mid-air to a strand that hung from his lip before finally dissociating and falling to the floor, she followed the bulging neck down to the chest. Shredded fabric from the shirt flagged in the thin breeze. There was something, something in the middle of the chest that she just couldn't discern. It looked -- it looked as though--

"Jesus Christ!" Kimberly choked, stumbling backward over the smoldering remnants of a hardwood pew. A scream dried in her parched throat, her trembling hands fighting desperately to keep the camera atop her shoulder. Closing her eyes, she turned the lens, turned to look at something else -- anything else -- for what she saw would be forever burned into the backs of her retinas, there to be permanently emblazoned into her mind. The skin from the man's chest had been peeled back from the ribs and stretched out beneath the spread arms like the thin, fleshy wings of a bat. It was crispy and ragged, or as she would describe it later, like pork rinds. The cracked and jagged ends of the snapped ribcage jutted outward around a bloody mess of what looked like a jumble of muscles and organs all mashed together beneath a thin veil of glistening fluid. And there was a long coil, like a dangling length of rope, just hanging there over the top of the man's pants from his gutted bowels.

"Somebody has to find help," Kimberly said, her voice very level and dry. "Somebody out there -- help."

She inched forward on stilted and trembling legs, easing down the center aisle of the hardwood floor between row after row of blackened pews topped with dancing flames. Straight ahead was the altar, lying on its front on the three short stairs coming down from the stage. A large golden cross, tarnished and darkened from the smoke, leaned awkwardly against the wall, having fallen from its perch on the now smoldering black plaster. Two large palms, formerly potted in large golden urns, one to either side of the stage, had toppled onto their sides, their roots, balled in dried soil, resting on the burning floor. Their leaves were curled and blackened, their trunks burning like logs in a fireplace. A golden candlestick, nearly six feet in height, lie across the stage, the thick white candle, melted oddly in half, had tumbled a few feet from its housing, the wick still burning in a puddle of shimmering wax.

A pulsing torch of blue and yellow flame fired from a hole in the wall where the coiled heater had once been, the remnants of its metal shell now mere shrapnel imbedded in the stage and ceiling. To the right side, mounted to the wall next to the scorched outline of where the cross had once been, the paint on a large sheet of plywood bubbled. A hand drawn thermometer, used to illustrate the level of money raised through some fund raiser or other, reached the top, right next to the half burnt words "We did it!"

And in the center of the stage, a pair of torsos rested atop the burning carpet, black and fried, unidentifiable were it not for the crisped appendages strewn about the stage. A single skull, the skin shredded back from the charcoal bone, the hair having burnt back to the root, rested on its side just off to the left, framed by a bent arm, the hand curled into a pained claw.

"The horror," Kimberly whispered. "If you can see this -- it -- it appears to be two more people. Two more of the dead."

Sirens wailed outside, the flashing red and blue lights swirling through the smoke from the open front door.

"Once again," Kimberly said, pausing to moisten her dry mouth, the blouse falling free from her lips. Her whole body trembled from shock. Her mind, hardly able to form comprehensible thought, let alone speech, struggled to resume some semblance of control. This was her opportunity, her big break. If she had a live feed, then everyone would be watching. Everyone would be watching her. And if she couldn't dig down deep and find a way to make some magic right here and now, then all of those nights, all of those dirty, degrading nights with sweaty men, both bald and fat, and their promises of promotion -- so long as their wives never became involved -- would be for naught. She couldn't go back there. She wouldn't go back there. "Once again this is Kimberly Chalmers coming to you live from inside the First Church of Christ in Hillside where, as you can see, the entire building is on fire. But that's the least disturbing of what we've seen here tonight. We have found at least three corpses entombed within these fiery walls, three lives that will never again draw breath outside of this church."

Whirling with the camera, she walked past the right row of pews, focusing momentarily on an opened door leading from the stage into a hallway, filled with flames. Red velvet dangled from the gray wall, burnt halfway up to the ceiling.

There was a loud crack overhead, a singular sound audible over the roar of the blaze, the precursor to the large chunk of the ceiling that fell to the ground with a crash and a shower of embers that plumed into the air.

"This building is coming down," she said, her renewed voice miraculously superfluous through her painfully dry throat. "But I, Kimberly Chalmers, and the rest of the news crew at Channel 4, will persevere to bring you the story in its entirety as it unfolds. And remember, 'You saw it here fir--' "

She stopped in her tracks and lowered the camera to the floor. There, beneath the smoking remnants of a ceiling beam, a lone flame licking at the smoldering surface, something caught her eye. A reflection, a sudden shining of mirrored fire, nearly blinded her, momentarily causing the camera to shift out of focus.

"I think," she said, her own hand appearing in front of the camera, pushing back a small cluster of debris. "I think it's another body. Yes. Can you see this?"

She zoomed in further on the object that had caught her eye. It was a watch, a silver watch, the glass shattered and the hands immobile. And wrapped within it was a wrist, the arm hairs crisped back to the blackened skin, the hand lying limply on the floor.

"It appears as though the fire has claimed its fourth victim. A man, another poor soul -- Wait! Oh my God! Somebody help me! Help! In here!"

Ripping the camera down from her shoulder and setting it on the floor next to her, she lunged for the pile.

"Somebody! Please! Help me! Someone's still alive in here!"

Copyright © 2004 by Michael McBride

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2005

    A fun and fast paced Horror Novel

    I will start by saying that I loved Brian's other novel Species so I was expecting great things from The Legacy. I was not let down at all. The Legacy had me in suspense from the first page. It starts fast and doesn't let up. I found myself engrossed in the story. It asks the question. 'What would you do if you found out you were the Antichrist'. I thought the story was really interesting, and had real depth. It sucked me in, and didn't let go. I liked how he gave real detail to the settings and situations. He put you in that world. You feel like you are there witnessing it first hand. I also thought the characters had real depth. They weren't wooden at all. I really connected with the main character Luke. He jump out of the page. There is also a real nice twist at the end. It really shocked me. My jaw literally dropped when I read it. I recommend The Legacy to anyone who is looking for a good Horror Tale. I really enjoyed the story and characters. It moves really fast, and the ending in incredible.

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