Excerpt for Close of the Age by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Close of the Age

By Michael Rodriguez

Published by Michael Rodriguez at Smashwords

Copyright © 2017 Michael Rodriguez

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Lightning lit up the blackness over what seemed to be a letter T over a hill. The area shaded again for a few seconds. Another bolt brightened a bloodied and heavily bruised face with his arms hanging on a patibulum by the wrist. Blood dripped black through open wounds on his body that hung like ribbons of flesh. A low cry of agony cracked through his swollen mouth. A deep thunder mumbled into the night followed by a soft exhale after it faded.

Yet another strike of brightness in the sky and an angel flashed down dragging a great blazing chain and tackled a dark figure that leaped towards the crucified man. The figure roared like the sound of seven dragons as he was plunged at great speed down a dark abyss until a glow of magma began to lighten the deep. The figure had six horns on his head. Two inwardly curved horns on the head with the left larger than the right. Two straight horns on each side of the head and two inwardly curved horns like fangs hanging down from its wide upper lips. The nose was like a giant tumor and oval eyes glowed with the brightness of electricity. Four large horns formed a breastplate over his torso resembling a snake’s fangs. Its skin was charred. It extended its finger to draw its sharp claw into the center of my right eye.

Joseph Michaels jumped from his sleep with deep gasps of air like he’d been close to suffocating to death. A slight burning sensation of a scratch in his eye irritated him and he grabbed his wife’s arm.

“What’s wrong baby?” Mary asked, as she turned around to face her husband.

“I saw the devil!”

Delicate hands cradled Joseph’s chin and gently laid his head over her armpit. “It’s okay my love. Shhh. It was just a dream.”

“No. It was a vision!”

“Stop rubbing your eyes honey. I’ll go make you some tea.”

Joseph felt around on the bedside table for the TV remote to muffle his fright with the sound of breaking news.

“It is time for all Muslims to unite and attack all Jews and Christians and all infidels wherever we find them in the name of allah!” said an Arabian man with a serious, bold face who seemed to have absolutely no patience about anything whatsoever.

“This world is going to hell,” Joseph whispered to himself.

Joseph rubbed his fingers over his eyelids wide and the pain went away. He changed to the channel to sautéed tenderloin steaks with wine sauce. The chef lifted the glass cover from the sauce pan to show the steak sizzling in olive oil. The steam must’ve escaped the screen and carried the smell into his nose.

“Now that’s more like it.”

He got up and made his way barefoot throughout his luxury Manhattan Beach house, hurrying to sip a hot cup of Earl Grey. The dawning sun glowed on the curtains of the bay windows, giving a warm comforting feel but he wasn’t relaxed at all, convinced that there was something important about that dream. Images from it flashed in and out of his head. He needed to wake up and focus.

Facing the sink, Mary tilted her neck as she held the steaming cup in her hand, waiting for Joseph to complete the ritual of giving her waist a tight hug from behind and kissing her neck before taking the cup and saying, thank you baby, a routine yet to break.

“Is it steaming hot?” asked Joseph.

“Yes, my love. Just how you like it,” Mary said and then smiled and turned on the cold water on the sink waiting for Joseph to splash some tap water into the tea. He always wants it hot just to cool it down enough for him to drink which actually always ended up more lukewarm than everything else. Mary always got a kick out of it. She knew him like clockwork.

“It’s been a while since you’ve had a revelation,” said Mary. “Maybe God is trying to tell you something?”

“I know where you’re going with that sweetheart and you know how I feel about that.”

“It’s just church.”

“That’s how it begins, a tender greeting at the door and next thing you know they’re running your life all sorts of ways from Sunday. No, I’m not consulting with any parishioners, mediums, witches or sorcerers.”

Mary opened her eyes in amazement.

Joseph often compared anyone with a psychic ability as the same kind of people. It all started from a terrible experience since he was raised in a Pentecostal Church of the Living God in West Virginia. It was an unexpected heartbreak when he found out that the youth vice president he was dating and in love with suddenly ended up with the cool, handsome drummer and the church accepted and protected it because, according to Joseph, it was backlash from his constant disagreements with their teachings and position on the nature of Jesus. He claimed all churches were a modern day version of Old Testament Israel in their rebellious years. In Joseph’s eyes it was personal and the bible or God had absolutely nothing to do with the mandates of the church.

Mary sighed.

“Good news. I’m having a book signing at 1pm today at the Barnes and Noble. The one in the Grove. I’m sure they’d love to meet you.”

Mary’s lips smiled behind her cup of coffee but her eyes gave a threatening, piercing look. In all the other book signings, Joseph took over talking about his idea that, with Mary’s writing skills, became the best seller of the year, Through the Exoverse. He was about thirteen when it came to him, the idea that the whole universe, as big as it is, is contained within a sphere with portals on a wall of intense blackness. These would then lead to the outside of the sphere to the place God believers would call heaven. It’d be filled with white space and having celestial bodies occupying it all around the universe which would be no longer visible because its surface would be something of a planetary mass furnished with gardens and mountains and oceans. Joseph proposed the theory all throughout his career to be dismissed with boastful laughter from every scientific community, but was a cool idea to his students at the University of California, where he serves as professor of Astrophysics and of course, to all of Mary Michaels sci-fi book lovers. But the look on Mary’s face referred to his extra charming dialogues with office secretary half plump-breasted type of female groupies that seemed to be way too fascinated by his ideas for her taste.

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