Thursday, July 17, 2014

"The Greater Darkness" by Eldon Murphy

The Greater Darkness
(A Reflections Novel)
by Eldon Murphy

The Greater Darkness is part of the Reflections series. Also available: A Darkness Mirrored and Driven. You can also check out the other books in the Reflections series by Dean Murray.

Something powerful is stirring in the darkness. Something so ancient that even creatures who've been alive for hundreds of years have long since discounted this new threat as nothing more than myth.
Geoffrey knows even less than most about this rising menace. His memories were all violently ripped away from him, leaving nothing of his past but dreams containing haunting glimpses of a beautiful girl.
A chance encounter offers up a possible link to his past, but forces beyond his control are threatening to push him into the middle of a conflict that could sweep away everything, and everyone he’s been fighting so hard to protect.
This time, saving the girl may very well cost Geoffrey his soul.

Chapter 1
Geoffrey's legs were starting to cramp up from remaining motionless for so long. It was to the point now where the pain exceeded even the hunger that had been present for as long as he could remember. Still, he was reluctant to move. His memories were no longer able to guide him, so feelings had taken on greater importance. Remaining motionless felt important.
Finally the agony became too much, and Geoffrey steadied himself on the handrail as he slowly shifted positions. This fire escape, like most in the poor sections of the city, had long since started to rust in the humid New York summers. Some landlord, no doubt looking to cut costs, had ordered the metal painted over without first having it scoured clean. Of course the paint had continued to flake off over the years, requiring yet more coats. The latest coat had been applied fairly recently, resulting in something that felt smooth, despite an underlying texture of decay.
Geoffrey suppressed a shiver as he stroked the pitted metal and whispered silently to himself. "So you woke up in a bare room with no memories of your past. A knowledge of how to remain undetected while watching someone doesn't have to mean that you're a cold-blooded assassin. Just because Imastious says something is so, doesn't necessarily mean it's the truth."
It was a conversation he'd had with himself several times, but he couldn't escape the feeling that there was some truth to the other man's cold, casual allegations. If so, then his amnesia was nothing more than a thin finish that hid a corroded soul.
The longer Geoffrey sat pondering in the darkness, the more the night took on an oppressive, heavy feeling. Most of the streetlights in this section of town had long since stopped working, leaving only the harsh light of neon signs in the storefront shops below to wage a losing war against the darkness.
The feeling that he was somehow exposed, that someone was watching him as intently as he was watching the dark window before him, had grown so powerful that Geoffrey was having difficulty not looking over his shoulder. Finally a faint sound from the other side of the glass signaled the return of the apartment's tenant.
Sliding carefully back out of sight, Geoffrey breathed a sigh of relief as the barely-visible front door swung open and the lights came on.
The twenty-something black man who swung the door shut behind him matched the picture that Imastious had given Geoffrey. Every detail was perfect, right down to the heavy gold jewelry and eyes that seemed to say that he no longer blinked at doing the kinds of things that would give most people nightmares.
A wave of something that felt like anticipation crept through Geoffrey, flushing his body with strength at the same time that it sickened him. The mind had forgotten, but apparently the body still remembered what to do in these types of circumstances.
Geoffrey's abrupt decision not to act, to put off the execution for at least a few more hours, calmed his mind but not his body. He was shaking as he quietly climbed down to the bottom of the fire escape, dropped to the ground and disappeared into the night.
Geoffrey covered several blocks in a slow walk before he realized why he kept looking reflexively over his shoulder. Apparently even the habit of looking for someone following him had become instinctive to whoever or whatever he had been. Suddenly the meandering routes he had picked over the last few days made more sense too. What better way could there be to tell whether or not someone was tailing you than to turn a corner and just see who followed?
Carefully steering clear of a large pile of garbage that left his nose burning, Geoffrey ended up a few inches from what had to be one of the cleaner windows in that part of the city. Pausing before the storefront, Geoffrey examined the reflection peering back at him through the protective bars.
The dark-haired young man who stared back was someone he would have called unremarkable other than the fact that he was hard-pressed to put an age to himself. It was a youthful face, but one that could have belonged to a late teen or even someone in their late twenties.
A casual perusal of the billboards and posters that seemed to populate every visually prominent piece of real estate in the city showed a male ideal that fluctuated between massively over-muscled and nearly effeminate. Given that, there was a chance that the high cheekbones and slender frame in the window's reflection would be considered handsome. The real question, though, was what exactly the troubled depths of his eyes concealed.
The seemingly ever-present hunger pulled Geoffrey's thoughts back to more mundane things. Most of the restaurants had closed hours ago. There was a chance one of the small corner stores would still be open, but he didn't hold out much hope. Even if he found someplace to buy food, so far eating hadn't actually done anything to calm the hunger.
Concentrating as he was on finding something to eat, Geoffrey almost ignored the faint sounds coming from the alley he was passing. Something tugged him towards the noise though, so he turned and crept into the near darkness of the alley. Geoffrey's heart sped up when he got far enough around the large dumpster to see two sloppily-dressed teens who had cornered a trembling, middle-aged Latina against a chain-link fence. Geoffrey was still trying to decide what to do next when one of the boys backhanded the woman, knocking her to the ground.
The other teen reached down and opened up the woman's purse only to start swearing as he found it nearly empty. Before either boy could contemplate further action, Geoffrey made up his mind and ghosted between them and their victim.
"Leave her." The words came out with such a cold indifference that a part of Geoffrey was startled, but the numbness actually matched perfectly with how he felt.
The two teenagers seemed startled by the inhuman feel to his voice. They stood motionless for several seconds and then sprang into action, as Geoffrey had somehow known they would.
The attacker behind Geoffrey lashed out with a wild-looking punch that, for all of its inelegance, still probably would have hurt whoever happened to be on the receiving end. Only it never landed. Geoffrey's body seemed almost to react on its own, throwing his right leg back and up, driving his heel into the teen's ribs with a grating crunch that flung the mugger backwards.
The second teenager threw a slightly more controlled punch a split second before his friend crashed into the building's brick wall. Again Geoffrey reacted without thinking, reaching up with his left hand to pluck the approaching fist out of the air.
A sharp tug on the captured wrist pulled the second youth off balance and brought him stumbling towards Geoffrey. Before the attacker could recover, Geoffrey's right hand darted out and clamped over the teen's throat, picking him up and slamming him into the wall opposite his fallen friend.
The force of the blow was sufficient to cause the boy's head to rebound off of the wall with a hollow thud. For a split second Geoffrey worried that he'd killed the would-be mugger, but the steady pulse surging through the carotid artery, just beneath his right index finger, said otherwise.
Geoffrey meant to turn and check on the woman. Instead he found himself unable to look away from the still figure pinned against the wall. The boy hung limply, motionless save for the rise and fall of his chest, and the almost imperceptible movement of the blood just beneath Geoffrey's finger.
Geoffrey was pretty sure he couldn't actually see the boy's pulse, but for all that it had to be nothing more than his imagination, he couldn't seem to see anything but that now-erratic motion.
The hunger felt like it was taking on a life of its own, causing Geoffrey's hand to tighten ever so slightly. The teen's pulse seemed to become more powerful as the pressure increased. The hunger seemed to demand more, to demand that Geoffrey clamp down harder. He squeezed harder and harder until suddenly he realized he had cut off the supply of blood to the kid's brain.
The pulse beneath Geoffrey's finger hammered away wildly as the heavily beating heart tried to force blood past his hand and up to the oxygen-starved brain. Geoffrey felt his trembling upper lip curl away from his teeth as he was nearly overcome by the desire to sink his canines into the teen's throat.
Nausea suddenly crashed through Geoffrey's body, leaving him feeling cold and filthy as he realized what he had wanted to do. What kind of person would do something so savage?
Shaking slightly, Geoffrey slowly lowered the teen until the unconscious body was resting motionless on the concrete.
Thoughts of running, of fleeing the scene, suddenly seemed distant as the physical effects of alternate waves of desire and disgust fully caught up with Geoffrey, and he collapsed to the ground. Even worse, the hunger, only slightly muted by Geoffrey's revulsion, had acquired a new eagerness.
The sudden urge to empty his stomach was too much. Shaking as badly as he was, he barely managed to lean over far enough to avoid soiling himself as heaves racked his body.
Geoffrey couldn't have said how long he sat there, all but kneeling in a pool of his own vomit, but a tentative touch on his shoulder pulled him back to the present.
Reflexes Geoffrey didn't remember training once again took over, causing him to pull the woman's hand downwards as his right hand swept up in what he would later realize was a killing blow to the throat.
A terrified voice pierced the haze surrounding his mind just soon enough for him to pull the blow.
"Lo siento, lo siento, nada mas queria saber si estaba bien."
Geoffrey looked into her eyes and saw the fear he'd been expecting, but not the revulsion. It seemed impossible. Surely she understood just how abhorrent his actions had nearly been.
A wave of dizziness crashed through Geoffrey's body. As he released the poor woman's hand, he collapsed onto the concrete again.
The fear was still foremost on the Latina's face as she once again cautiously approached Geoffrey, but there was also something that looked like concern.
"Esta bien?"
When Geoffrey responded with nothing more than a blank look, the woman tried again.
"You are okay?"
Geoffrey opened his mouth to respond and realized his eyes were being drawn to the pleasantly dark skin of the woman's neck, skin that was stretched tautly over the muscles and veins to form the most delicate of protective barriers.
Geoffrey's gorge rose once again as he followed his thoughts to their logical conclusion, and he weakly waved the woman away. "I'm fine, please leave me alone."
The woman straightened up, but remained where she was. Suddenly Geoffrey was angry. Didn't she understand what he could do to her? It was all he could do to control himself, to ignore the hunger, and she just sat there like she actually wanted to be killed.
Swatting feebly at the woman, Geoffrey finally lost his temper. "Go away or I'll kill you!"
The concerned eyes that had been staring at Geoffrey widened; he realized he'd been shouting, but before he could decide whether or not to apologize, the woman turned and ran away.
The rest of the trip back to the apartment where he'd first awakened was little more than a blur. The hunger hadn't left, and Geoffrey sensed that it was somehow vital he get off of the streets as soon as possible.
After stumbling up the stairwell and finally arriving at his door, it took Geoffrey three tries to get his pair of locks open. Unfortunately, the place he'd hoped would serve as a kind of refuge was already occupied.
Imastious sat casually on the sofa, dressed as always in black, featureless clothes that sported a high, tight collar. Once again, Geoffrey wondered why Imastious' appearance made him think of churches and sermons. He still couldn't place the resemblance, but it almost felt like Imastious' clothing was the predecessor to something else that Geoffrey hadn't quite managed to place.
The gaunt face looking up at Geoffrey was relaxed. It combined with Imastious' bearing to convey the picture of a man at ease, but the illusion failed for anyone who looked closely enough at his eyes. The half-closed eyes examining Geoffrey seemed to be windows to a soul that was completely amoral, utterly willing to sacrifice anyone or anything in the pursuit of basic self-interest.
Try as he might, Geoffrey couldn't point to any one reason why Imastious seemed old, ancient even. Maybe it was the eyes. It seemed impossible for a young person to have lived long enough to sink to those kinds of levels. That required depraved experience almost beyond understanding.
Those cold eyes measured Geoffrey now, taking in both the slight shaking of his body and his vomit-stained clothes.
"You've not yet completed the task you were given."
Geoffrey thought about lying, claiming that he had indeed killed his target, but before he'd even had a chance to decide one way or another Imastious cut him off.
"Don't bother denying your failure, or rather, your lack of attempt. I already know that he's still alive."
For a split second Geoffrey wondered if Imastious was bluffing, but the emotionless eyes staring back at him seemed impossibly all-knowing. Instead of making the useless protest he'd been considering, he simply remained silent.
Imastious shook his head. "Like it or not, you will learn that I am to be obeyed. You have nowhere else to go, no one else who can protect you if your true nature is revealed."
Imastious struck without warning. Springing to his feet, he grabbed Geoffrey by the throat and slammed him against the wall, exactly as Geoffrey had done to the mugger a short time before.
Geoffrey tried to fight back, lashing out with a largely ineffectual kick, but Imastious' slender limbs and emaciated frame possessed such incredible strength it was like trying to fight back against a vise.
Still moving almost faster than Geoffrey could follow, Imastious grabbed Geoffrey's left wrist, snapping something closed over it and then spinning the younger man around violently and doing the same thing to his right wrist. By the time Geoffrey realized he'd been handcuffed, Imastious had thrown him to the floor and manacled his feet.
A strange sense of pressure was building inside Geoffrey's mind, clouding his thoughts, making it difficult to reason or respond to what was happening. As the pressure grew, it was as though Geoffrey lost time. One moment he was bound and gagged on the cold floor, the next thing he knew he was in excruciating pain, his back and arms seemingly on fire. It seemed now that a knife traced an erratic, bloody path down his body, starting at his cheek, near his right eye, and then moving in fits and starts down to his right hand.
When the knife started working its way around the thumb on Geoffrey's right hand he finally passed out.

Featured Review
This book starts with Geoffrey not remembering who or what he is. To start with, I wondered if Oblivion had paid him a visit but then quickly squelched that idea as Geoffrey is a vampire, not wolf. From that perspective this book is wonderful. For the first time we are reading about the wolves' natural enemy, the vampire. But they are fighting their natural enemy, the werewolf. Things are getting very interesting. Throw into the mix the fact that Geoffrey, although his memory muscle is that of an assassin, actually seems to have grown a conscience and a sense of right and wrong whilst losing his normal memory of the past however many years.
Melody provides an interesting story within all the vampires and I can't wait to see if she will pop up again, however unlikely it may seem at the moment.
Venice was hard to like at the beginning but as the story went on, my feelings for her changed, in the same way as Geoffrey's did. I was hoping that she was 'redeemable'. Whether she was or not or whether she betrayed Geoffrey, I'll leave for you to find out when you read the book.
This is definitely darker than the Reflections series but that in no way detracts from the story. I liked it for that reason and also as it was a different viewpoint. I love Dean Murray's/Eldon Murphy's books because they have not yet disappointed, I know I am always in for a good story and the viewpoint is always superb. Recommended.

About the Author
Eldon Murphy is a pseudonym of Dean Murray, a prolific author who has released 20 titles in the last two years across multiple pen names. Dean has more than 250,000 copies of his work currently in circulation and shows no signs of slowing down.
Dean started reading seriously in the second grade due to a competition and has spent most of the subsequent three decades lost in other people's worlds. After reading several local libraries more or less dry of sci-fi and fantasy, he started spending more time wandering around worlds of his own creation to avoid the boredom of the "real" world.
Things worsened, or improved depending on your point of view, when he first started experimenting with writing while finishing up his accounting degree. These days Dean has a wonderful wife and two lovely daughters to keep him rather more grounded, but the idea of bringing others along with him as he meets interesting new people in universes nobody else has ever seen tends to drag him back to his computer on a fairly regular basis.