Hello everyone! Today I am so excited to welcome the fabulous Michael Chulsky to Joyfully Jay! I met Michael at GRL this year and we hit it off right away. Michael is working on publishing his first m/m romance, but in the meantime, I thought I’d invite him along to share more about his current YA novel, The Descending Darkness. Michael has brought a great excerpt, as well as a copy to give away to one lucky reader! So please join me in giving Michael a big welcome!
P.S. I couldn’t resist throwing in this picture of us from the GRL costume party. Michael is on the left and his fiancé Nick is on the right. Yes, they look like giants next to shorty me! (click to make the pic bigger)
After going from demon hunter to babysitter, seventeen-year-old SHADOW has truly hit rock bottom. One week he’s slaughtering demons, and the next he has ten super-powered teenagers in his care. Shadow needs them, because without them he can’t hope to defeat his new foe. But he’s never dealt with other teenagers before. He never had a real childhood. He’s always been a loner. Hell, he’s tried the whole having-a-pet thing. It died.
Shadow’s mission: save the world and ensure his entire team survives the potential apocalypse. If MAEDARA, self-proclaimed fashionista and Queen of Evil, wasn’t trying to rule the world, it’d be cake. Now, not only does Shadow have to deal with teens more concerned with going to the mall than fighting evil, but also a villain who, in his opinion, makes Lady Gaga look like Mother Theresa.
Background: Shadow and Ellie are on a mission to recruit another young teen with special powers for their team.
“Wait,” Shadow said, grabbing her hand. “Okay, listen. I sense that the kid is beyond this door, as well as our two psycho friends. We must be careful – and quiet. We don’t want them to know that we’re here just yet. Okay?”
Nodding, Ellie pushed open the door.
They both slipped through and closed it behind them, careful not to make the slightest sound. The room they entered was like a Grecian temple. Large, white stone pillars held up the ceiling, and the pews were carved from solid marble. Hearing voices coming from a short distance ahead, they darted behind a pillar.
“Finally, today, the day of cleansing is upon us, Leon,” a woman said. She was wearing bright white robes, and her hair was wrapped tightly in a bun. “The unholy child will be lifted into God’s graces, and his foul stench of evil shall be eradicated!”
Leon, standing next to her, was wearing dark green robes the color of poison. He shifted some bottles around and looked down at a large surgical table they were both standing over.
Ellie peered from behind the pillar to take a look at what was on the table. When she saw what it was, she placed her hands over her mouth to mask a scream.
Shadow, having improved senses, heard her muffled cry and knew that something had upset her. He too looked out from behind the pillar, and despite seeing as much pain, death, and violence as he had in his life, what he saw caused his stomach to wrench.
Lying face up on the table, a young boy could be seen. His skin was light tan, like coffee with too much cream. He had light brown eyes, which seemed to shine like liquid amber. His hair was short and dark b rown, just a shade lighter than jet-black, contrasting beautifully with his eyes. Dried tears could be seen on his cheeks, and new ones were quickly forming.
His shirt was ripped open down the middle. Holes could be seen in his pants and the areas of his shirt that weren’t already torn. It was as if somebody had taken a lighter to his clothes and skin. Burn marks covered his chest and legs.
With Shadow’s keen eyesight, he could see fresh scars on the boy and a cross-shaped burn on the area of skin right above his heart. “Oh, my God.”
“This can’t be real,” Ellie whispered, on the verge of tears. “Nobody’s this cruel. Nobody could ever be.”
“Ellie, we’ll do something about this, I promise.” Shadow whispered. “We’ll wait and then–”
Suddenly, a scream rang out, echoing all around the room. The scream had come from the young boy lying on the table. Smoke was rising from his chest.
The woman held a small bottle of liquid in her hand; she had been pouring something onto him. “Now, now, now, Cameryn, don’t you scream. You know that you’re evil, and you must be cleansed,” she said, caressing the side of his face. “A person like you is against God, and you need to be punished in order to be saved. You must be cleansed.”
“Get on with it, Mary,” Leon said. “We don’t have time. We need to finish this now. The day of cleansing is almost at an end.”
Mary nodded. “Forgive me. I almost forgot myself. I don’t know why I keep trying to talk to it like it will see reason.
“Cameryn, this is all your fault. I don’t know why I let you get to me like this.” She poured more of the strange liquid onto the boy’s chest. His scream was powerful. The scabbed flesh on his chest was burned away by the liquid. It became raw and red and started to bleed again.
“Enough!” Shadow yelled, jumping out into the open.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?” Mary exclaimed. “Nobody is permitted inside this building once the rites have begun.”
Shadow laughed coldly. “I don’t care. But if you touch that kid again, I promise, it will be the last thing either of you ever do.”
Leon glared. “Don’t threaten us, heathen. This is a holy sanctuary; certainly not a place for the likes of you. Filthy scum, I can smell the impurity within you.”
“What do you mean, you can smell my impurity?” Shadow asked, raising an eyebrow.
“The goddess gives me grand insight. You’re a vampire. What guts you must have to come in here. Your very presence defiles our sacred ground.” Leon picked up an athame from the table. “Pray for forgiveness, and perhaps we’ll have mercy on you both.”
Ellie rolled her eyes and walked up onto the platform. “Hey, preacher, how about you pray that I won’t kick your ass up and down this aisle? Who knows? It may not happen if you close your eyes and believe.”
“You dare defile the goddess’s house of worship with your foul tongue?!” Leon asked in disbelief.
“Have you no respect, wench?”
Shadow shrugged. “Oh, we dare. Idiots like you need to remember that respect isn’t given. It’s earned.”
“Really, now?” Leon replied thoughtfully, rubbing the dull side of the athame with his fingers.
“Well, Mary, why don’t you give them something they can… respect.”
Mary looked at him for a few moments, then nodded when comprehension dawned on her. “Perhaps you’re right,” she said, a smile curling on her lips. “I agree, these kids need to learn a lesson in obedience. Maybe a small demonstration is in order.”
“What are you two wackos going on about?” Shadow asked. He felt, more than saw, the woman moving, and his eyes flickered over in time to see her pour some of the liquid onto Cameryn’s legs. The places where the liquid hit melted away more of his flesh, and a loud scream escaped his lips.
Ellie let out a shriek of pure frustration. The air around her became thick and dense as her power flowed from her body and lashed out. The pillars in the room covered with frost. “Don’t you dare touch him, ever again!”
Cameryn turned to face Ellie as he struggled to retain consciousness. “H-h-help. . .m-me. . .p-plea..” he stammered before his eyes closed and his body went limp.
“Is he…?” Ellie asked. She feared the worst, though silently she begged, hoped, and prayed that he wasn’t dead. She’d have given up almost anything in that one moment for the boy to still be alive.
Mary lazily placed her hands on Cameryn’s neck. Far from gentle, she moved it up and down, searching for a specific spot. Finding it at last, she placed two fingers there for a few seconds and then sighed, moving her hand away. “The child lives. We’ll just have to try harder in the future.”
“Let me tell you, you’re making way too many assumptions,” Shadow began. “You’re assuming that he’ll still be around for you to hurt. You’re also assuming that you’ll both still be alive after I get through with you. Seems to me like you two are putting a whole lot on chance.”
“You smug little brat!” Mary shouted, her face flushed. “That boy is our son, shameful as it is to admit it, and we will raise him as we see fit.”
Shadow’s face hardened. “Is this what you call raising a child?” he asked as he took a few steps forward, unsheathing his sword. “Torture, food deprivation, and mental abuse? Feral animals would make better parents than you two.”
Mary spat on the ground in Shadow’s direction. “You disgusting creature, how dare you talk down to me?” she said, eyes wild. “You have no idea what I’ve done, the pain and suffering I have endured.
“Leon and I were the leaders of these people, the purest. Then suddenly, one day I was pregnant, and we were both overjoyed. We loved him and treated him with respect and care, as good as any parents out there. Then, when he became a teenager, his true disgusting nature came out. He started acting differently. He was reclusive. He wouldn’t talk to us or his friends. He wasn’t even interested in dating the local girls. Then we found out why our perfect son was acting so strangely. He was a freak.”
Shadow frowned, but he didn’t respond. He couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that people like them actually existed, people who would hate their child just for being different.
Ellie was shaking. “Parents are supposed to love their kids no matter what…no matter what,” she said, tears rolling down her face. “How can you two live with yourselves?”
“Are you a parent?” Mary asked.
“Well, no,” Ellie admitted.
“Then don’t you preach to me about what a parent should and shouldn’t be. You have no idea what it’s like trying to raise a child who refuses to change for the better. We told him countless times that if he would just try to make a change, perhaps we could love him again. We cannot and will not love him if he continues to live in this lifestyle.”
Ellie shook her head. “You’re wrong, wrong in so many ways. I may not be a parent, but I know that if you’re a parent, you are supposed to love your kids, no matter what. Not only that, but you’re supposed to support them and care about them, even if they make decisions that you personally disagree with.
“It’s not about having the perfect child; it’s about loving that child with all your heart. It doesn’t matter if the child loves sports and you don’t, or plays games and you don’t, or if the child is gay, straight, lesbian, transgendered, has powers or doesn’t, or is an alien from Mars. What matters is that you love them.”
“It’s pretty to think that way, little girl, but we cannot support somebody who chooses to be so disgusting,” Mary said.
“It’s not a choice. He can’t control it!” Shadow retorted indignantly. “You can’t choose to be what you are or who you are. You’re born with it!”
“Know what is a choice?” Ellie asked, wiping her tears away. “Hating and being ignorant. You can choose to hate somebody for something they cannot control. You can also choose to be ignorant.”
Michael has brought a copy of The Descending Darkness to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Tuesday, February 18th at 11:59 pm EST.
U.S. residents are eligible to win a paper copy of the book, or else choose an electronic copy. International readers can win an ebook copy. Thanks!
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