No, you didn’t misread. I have decided to share the first edited subchapter of Into the Realm with y’all. I’m really proud of it. If you’d like to compare the two versions, the edit is below, and the original is here.
Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I
Let me tell you a story. My name is Carter Blake. I live in southwest Baltimore in a row house smack in the center of a shitty neighborhood. I’m fourteen and a junior at Johns-Hopkins University. I had skipped grades a few times. Not the easiest way to live, but my options were limited. I’d either be pummeled daily for being a total geek in high school or I’d be a pariah in college. I chose the latter. Funny thing: what used to get me beat up almost every day – intelligence – got me a lot of respect in the university.
I arrived home after a series of lectures on String theory and particle physics. The professor, Dr. Kevin Rosenthal, had interesting ideas on their applications in the area of cold fusion. I got some amusement out of seeing most of the older classmates staring slack-jawed after one of Professor Rosenthal’s more abstract lectures. They had stunned looks on their faces when he delved into his own hypotheses regarding Perturbation theory. The non-befuddled ones would simply struggle to stay awake due to their all night cram sessions. The Prof frowns on sleeping in class and will use a slumbering student as target practice with a chalk-laden eraser. Unlike my other professors, he preferred chalk boards to dry erase ones. For those three of us still tuned in, his lectures are as stimulating to the mind as a Penthouse centerfold is to the body.
I threw my jacket over the banister, just inside the back door, and trudged up the stairs to my bedroom. With a satisfying thud and a sigh of relief, I dropped the load of books from my back to the floor. I collapsed in front of my computer, flicked in on, grabbed a soda from a mini-fridge nearby and waited for the system to start up. Afternoons were when I indulged in my favorite role-playing game, BattleHammer. It’s a swords and sorcery, hack-and-slash, dungeon crawler type RPG. I played the tabletop version on the weekends, but this was my fix between sessions. As the computer came on, I hit a button on the stereo remote. Seconds later, the first notes from an Imagine Dragons album began to pound from the speakers. I cranked up the volume and spun back to the monitor.
I loaded my current favorite BattleHammer avatar, a dark dwarf fighter named Drago the Clanless. I used him on the weekend in the table version, too. He was Clanless because Mordecai, the Rakshasha wizard had wiped them out as he patrolled the Utterdark. Upon his return, Drago vowed on his dead clans’ souls he’d wear Mordecai’s guts for garters and his skull for a cap. While I waited for him to load, I received a message from another gamer with the screen name of “Gandalf.” I rolled my eyes at that, and clicked to check his profile. I laughed when I noticed the character he was controlling was one of a race called “treebeard” named “Pippin”.
I played for a few hours, then logged off. I spun in my chair, and flipped open the mini-fridge. I scowled at its bare shelves. ‘Remember to restock,’ I thought.
I clicked off the stereo, went downstairs to get another soda and considered making dinner. Mom wasn’t due home for an hour. Father disappeared around the time I turned three. I didn’t have many memories of him, only a vague short film memory of a seemingly powerful yet shadowy person. I wasn’t too fond of him for what he did, though I desperately, and secretly, desired to meet him.
I grabbed steaks from the refrigerator and tossed them on the counter. Stepping out the back door, I quickly ignited the grill. I wanted it warming up while I marinated the beef in a glass baking pan. I poured vodka over the beautiful meat (I am an avowed steak lover), adding spices and some extra virgin olive oil. I could not wrap my mind around the idea of the so-called “marbled” beef. To me, the fat veins just got in the way. They would get tough and stringy, making the meat difficult to eat. I stuck the pan of steaks in the fridge and stood there; debating what else to make. My cell rang and I answered without looking at the id.
“This is Carter.”
“It’s Daphne,” came the melodious reply.
Daphne Sinclaire is 24, and the most gorgeous lab partner a guy would want. She stands at 167.6 cm, and weighs in at 83.9 kilos of firm athleticism. She has coppery red hair, sea-foam green eyes and an awesome 40-32-42 body. How do I know her measurements? Simple: I asked. At the start of the semester I won a bet with her. We’d been randomly paired for a science expo which had a cash prize of $5,000 each and, better yet, a write-up in Scientific American. Daphne wasn’t too pleased, especially when she learned that not only could she not trade partners, but this project would also affect our final marks. She made it perfectly clear that she didn’t want her grade to depend on, as she put it, “A little kid.” To attempt to placate her, I declared we’d win. She scoffed. I challenged her to place a wager. The terms were simple: if she won (by our losing), I’d be her personal servant for three years, no task refused. If I won (by being naturally right about the outcome), I would be able to ask her five questions that she had to answer. Confident that we’d lose, she agreed.
Not only did our exhibition of sustainable cold fusion win, we were invited to demonstrate it to all sorts of government officials. Once we’d won, my first question was what her measurements were. So far, it was the only one after two years. She’s since become a lot friendlier.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“I’m hoping you’d be willing to assist me with my psych assignment,” she replied.
“Certainly. Have you had dinner?”
“You’re welcome join Mom and me. We’re having steak and…something. No decisions on what else, yet.”
She laughed, causing a rush of heat to the pit of my stomach. “Alright. What time should I arrive?”
“How about…,” I paused.
“Well?” she prompted.
Daphne laughed again, “Roger. Wilco,” then disconnected. I enjoyed hearing the military jargon from her. She’d picked it up from her dad, an Army sergeant.
My heart flipped. A female was about to be a guest of mine for the first time! To ask if I was excited would be like asking if a bear shit in the woods. A major understatement. Usually, I went over to her apartment on campus. I grabbed three hefty potatoes from the bin, washed them, wrapped them in foil with a dash of salt and E.V.O.O. and slung them in the oven. I raced upstairs to shower. I arrived in my room before I remembered I had left the blasted thing off. Slapping my forehead in frustration, I hurried down and set it for 350 degrees. I ran back up, stripped and jumped into the shower.
While tying my sneakers, I heard a knock at the front door. I scampered downstairs and swung it open. The sight of her took my breath away. Daphne wore a light green tank top that accentuated her red hair and emerald eyes, and a black denim mini-skirt that accentuated my interest. She had enough make up on to emphasize her looks. On her left wrist, she had on a gold hoop bracelet and an antique Mickey Mouse wristwatch. Her feet were in black flats.
I stood back and waved her in. She smiled and entered, turning with her right hand positioned so I couldn’t tell what she was carrying. After a few moments, she presented a bottle of Pinot Noir with a flourish. I chuckled at the expression on her face which seemed to say, “Check out what I did.”
“Why are you staring?” she asked with a smile.
“Carter,” she said with a rise in inflection at the end. “Don’t.”
I raised my hands in surrender. “Relax. I’m not making another pass. The last attempt and subsequent shooting down was enough of a lesson.”
I took the wine from her, opened the bottle so it could breathe, and placed it on the counter. “Can you think of anything else we should have? Potatoes are baking in the oven?” I gestured at the refrigerator.
Daphne shrugged and opened the doors of the fridge. As she searched, I pulled the steaks out and took them over to the grill. They were just beginning to sizzle when my mom’s car rolled up in the alley. She strolled through the back gate and waved. Mom was wearing her usual office uniform: blue jeans, a white blouse and black tennis shoes. Her auburn hair pulled into a bun. Her laptop was slung over her right shoulder as always. Mom is one of the few women I know who didn’t carry a purse. Her brown eyes sparkled as she met my green ones. She walked over and pulled me down for a forehead kiss. She had to stand on tiptoes to do so; she’s 165.1 centimeters, and I’m 185.42. Yeah, I’m an overachiever in everything.
“Hey, baby,” she said. “How was school?”
“Informative,” I replied, “as always.”
Mom chuckled. “I noticed Daphne’s car parked out front. Is she staying for dinner?”
“Yes’m. She brought red wine for the two of you. Sounds like she’s making a salad.”
“I wish you wouldn’t ask our guests to assist with meals,” Mom complained.
“Ordinarily, I probably would not. However, she has asked for homework assistance, don’t you think it’s fair I be compensated for my time?”
Mom shook her head with a laugh and went into the house. I saw her greet my study partner through the back window. Twenty minutes after I started, the steaks were done.