Excerpt from PARADOX: The Ming Realities Book Two
A small hunchbacked creature sniffed the air as it scrabbled around on the slab of rock that served as the doorstep in front of The Great Gates. It called itself Bile, although it felt sure it had possessed a different name once upon a time. Occasionally, it tried to remember what it was. But doing that usually made its head ache.
Clever-fingered with beady eyes, it had a long nose that twitched when it smelled something interesting. As it snuffled along the stones, it made a sweeping motion back and forth leaving nothing unexplored in this place where silence reigned, marred only by the occasional plop and hollow echo of dripping water.
It wasn’t supposed to be there. Technically, no one was allowed past The Great Gates, even though there was nothing particularly special about the place. It was just a dank, gloomy spot surrounded by rocks and loneliness. But for some reason, even after the uncountable centuries Bile had spent in the Darkness, it had never stopped feeling drawn to the edge of it: this boundary that marked the cessation of hope and the commencement of despair.
Bile knew all about despair. Living a completely pointless existence produced nothing but. A valid existence was one in which you could recall happier times; times that had been lived with good intentions.
If there had been happier times in Bile’s life, it couldn’t remember any. All it knew was that, in this particular span of its pathetic (and seemingly endless) existence, it was hungry, and sometimes there were tantalizing tidbits left on the brink. Now and then, the souls that put up a fight as they fell out of time dropped things at the last moment. Bile had found that even the tears of the dead still held the flavor of the living, when they were fresh.
Its long, black tongue darted out, furtively seeking anything that might in some way nourish it. But it seemed there was nothing to find and it was about to turn back, when a breath of foul air caused its nose to quiver. Terrified, it uttered a small shriek as it felt something poke its side.
A tiny demon with bilious green skin appeared, leering at Bile.
“Spleen! You nearly scared me to death.”
This statement caused them both to gibber with mirth.
Spleen sucked in its breath and held it, quivering with anticipation. Then it blurted out, “You should go! We should go.” Its eyes glowed red as it licked the tips of its fingers nervously. “Word is that something is coming.” Placing its mouth close to Bile’s ear, it hissed, “One of the Big Ones has fallen.”
Bile’s eyes widened. “Is it alone? Or is fresh meat falling with it?”
Before Spleen could answer, they felt it. Vile mortal matter was approaching, followed by a terrifying cluster of emptiness.
As the wind rushed and roared, they fled without turning to look at whatever it was that caused a resounding crash, before the silence oozed ominously back ...