Last time I showed you the prologues to The Medusa Coin. Opening with a glimpse of Loren’s world as well as Soriya’s always appealed to me from a story perspective. I was happy to keep up the “tradition.”
This sneak peek offers a glimpse at the other side of the equation in The Medusa Coin. The threats. Both seen and unseen. Enjoy!
A storm was coming. Rushing wind crashed, sending shutters slamming against the faded veneer of the old home. Neglected over the last few years, the Victorian-style domicile on the Upper East Side of Portents stood in complete shadow apart from the neighborhood. Overgrowth from trees surrounding the property kept it hidden from the world.
Perfect for Henry’s needs.
He coughed, blood mixing with spittle against his clenched fist. The candle, the only light down the long second floor hallway, shook in his grasp. He tried to find his balance, the blood and saliva mixture spreading against the wall from outstretched fingers. His vision blurred from the sweat dripping off his brow.
He was getting worse, the old feelings of pain and sickness filling him from head to toe. Time grew short. His world was collapsing and had been for the last three years, since his first fall.
It came at work. Long hours and intense study were the excuses of the day but it was more than that. He pressed on until his body demanded an answer to its screams. When he fell outside his office, there was little choice but to find out the truth.
Doctors poked and prodded. Appointments stretched weeks and months, tests never explained unless the questions were direct and thorough, something he prided himself on being, thankfully. Unfortunately, the answers didn’t work in his favor, joining the uncomfortable looks and apologies every time a health community member entered the room.
“Henry,” they would say, always staring at a computer screen or clipboard. Never catching his wary eyes. “I’m sorry to have to…”
Their apologies ended his listening. Apologies amounted to nothing but a waste of time. The test results spoke for themselves. They gave their statement on his life, on his existence culminating in a final diagnosis confirmed with a single word by dozens of professionals in lab coats.
The first time he heard it, Henry wept for a week straight. He had controlled every aspect of his life. His relationships. His professionalism. Every piece of his world was finely tuned, from his place of residence to his selection of careers. Everything lined up for him. He controlled it all and everything served the greater good; his legacy, his contributions to the world.
All washed away in a single word.
“How long?” Henry asked after a time, when emotions were lost and apologies faded behind cold, hard truth.
Each professional mumbled their reply, always looking away, their focus never on the patient before them. “There’s no way to know for certain. Some patients—”
“Six months. Maybe a year.”
Always the same response, with the disease so virulent throughout his system. He felt it with each breath, with each sudden movement, the striking pain rising up his legs and into his chest. He could have collapsed at the diagnosis, the timeline set by men seemingly smarter than him. For a time he did, all sense lost in that single word.
He dropped everything and left his job. He cut himself off from the world and devoted every waking moment to curing the illness within. Chemo left him weak, his body aging decades in only three short years, two and a half more than anyone predicted at the start. Pain, once sudden and sharp, became a way of life. Doctor appointments riddled his schedule, his own time little more than sleep on top of naps on top of light meals that ended up vacating one way or the other. His once controlled world was no longer his anymore.
Everything was taken from him.
All for nothing.
Treatments failed. One by one, all avenues toward any form of cure dissolved, evaporated with the middle-aged man’s every hope and dream. Holistic solutions came and went more than traditional methods, failing at every turn.
The less traveled roads became the only ones left. As a younger man, Henry learned of them all. He saw things uniquely, his mind open to different possibilities. He filled his waking hours, which were becoming fewer and fewer, with tomes seldom seen. He shopped on the Internet, spending every last cent earned over a lifetime of study and perseverance. Another thing lost—his financial security joining the rest of his life. All went toward one goal.
His need outweighed all sacrifices, fighting against all pain and the ravage waste that had become his body. All proving futile, the books and alternative solutions proving every bit as useless as the rest.
Until one presented itself.
Henry Erikson woke from a deep dream, one plaguing his thoughts for days. A woman in a blue dress with hair as black as night. She danced along his thoughts until her smile turned to screams.
The sudden shift startled him awake. Most nights this led to tossing and turning but tonight was different.
Something was waiting for him under the dim light of his nightstand lamp. A single sheet of paper and a round object resting upon it.
Confused and uncertain, Henry’s withered hand reached for it. It slipped between his fingers, jolting him awake with its touch. Shivers raced through his body, feeling and sensation long since abandoned due to the raging disease. His breathing did not cause sharp pains in his chest.
Creaking wood alerted him to another presence—a shadow in the doorway. Henry held up the coin, the ghoulish face on its front sneering at him.
“What is this?” he called into the darkness.
The shadow chuckled. “An opportunity.”
Henry understood it as something more. A miracle.
Overnight, blurred vision and failing function turned around. Henry rushed from his bed able to stand and walk and even dance as if the illness had been nothing more than a dream. A three-year nightmare that ripped the world from him. That took control from him.
“Full remission,” the doctors said, flummoxed. Henry held tight to the coin and smiled at each question the doctors asked. No answers would come their way, the same as they shared with him for so long. Except to their final inquiry before returning Henry to the world at large. “What are you going to do now?”
The truth of the coin unwrapped itself in the manuscripts accumulated during his frantic search. He used the knowledge to reclaim his old position, to start again, though his worldview had shifted. Still, the coin remained a priority. He took his time to study it, examining every last word, and every last instance of the coin in history.
Until time began to run out once more.
The initial effects, while staggering and life altering, began to fade. To lessen. To dissipate.
His illness was returning, the disease ripping through him even more fiercely.
Leading him to this moment.
The candle continued to flicker as he closed the door to his private study, tucked from view from the rest of the home. His bloodied hand ran along his side, staining his already discolored shirt. The room came to light from the thin flame. In the center was a circle, more candles placed around the chalk marring the floorboards.
It was time to reclaim his life, to fully control his destiny for the first time in years. And never relinquish it again. The coin sat in the center of the circle, the list of names beneath. Weeks of inquiry, of bribes with the last of his funds, had made the meaning behind the list clear.
As well as its purpose to what lay ahead.
Henry entered the circle and sat before the coin. He lit the candles around him then blew out the thin wick of the first. Slipping his hand into his pocket, it returned with a small knife. He took the coin into his other hand and nicked the end of his finger. Blood dropped on the coin’s surface, the sneering face obstructed.
Until the coin absorbed the blood.
Henry closed his eyes and breathed deep, pain filling his lungs. He recalled the words, studied them and recited them for days in preparation. He feared the result, the consequences of his actions, what would be unleashed by his request.
Survival won out.
“Σας καλούν. Λάβουν σοβαρά υπόψη την έκκλησή μου.”
The words were soft but carried along the wind, a growing maelstrom emulating the storm outside the Victorian style domicile. They grew in the telling, like the legend behind the coin, the power it held over the creature being summoned. The creature that would save Henry from fate, placing it back where it belonged: under his control. Forever.
“Σας καλούν. Λάβουν σοβαρά υπόψη την έκκλησή μου.” Louder now, the wind swirling in the study. The candles went out, dropping the room into darkness. More than that, the shadows appeared to grow in the corner. They gained shape and form, reaching from the darkness of some other space.
Announcing the arrival of the beast.
“Σας καλούν. Λάβουν σοβαρά υπόψη την έκκλησή μου.”
It exited the shadows, howling at the words, screeching at the coin in the man’s hand. Henry tried to look away, drawn to the sight of the monster. Black tangles of hair escaped the cloak covering most of its enlarged form. The hair cascaded over the beast’s desiccated face, unable to block the hollowed-out sockets where eyes once lay. Oversized arms protruded from the cloak, fingers of bone and sinew stretching out and ripping the air. Unable to penetrate the circle. Unable to fight against the coin held tight in Henry’s grasp.
The creature cowered before the coin. This was not the path Henry chose, not the one he wanted after a lifetime of study and hard work, of sacrifice and patience, of control. It was, however, life he was after. And life he would attain once more.
He held the list before the creature’s sightless face, the power of the coin pulsating through him. He knew what was to come, the price to be paid. A small price for the reward to come.
“There is work to be done.”
Something that has come up since the release of Signs of Portents is the seeming lack of depth from the villain’s perspective. And I completely agree. Nathaniel Evans was meant to be pure evil, wanting and taking everything he believed he deserved.
Henry, I hope, balances the scales a little bit, offering a more conflicted side to the villain’s role. I’m curious to know what you think.
ONLY ONE MORE WEEK!
Thanks for reading!