The following is an excerpt from my new work in progress, “Locke Hart,” a Christian fantasy series. These are the opening five or so pages, so it’s not a long read, I promise. I thought I’d put it out here and see what you guys think. Enjoy! (Legal stuff: this story is mine, don’t steal it.)
Locke wanted to fight when he learned the monsters were real. Until then, they had only been costumes on TV. When he saw one up close, fantasy crumbled and two truths scorched themselves into Locke’s brain: there was evil in the world, and somebody had to stop it.
He remembered every detail about that day: the color of the monster’s rust skin and matted fur, which door they’d used to enter the mall, and the white freckles that covered the sky.
“Snowdrops,” Locke had called them when he was little. Flakes of cloud, tumbling down from Heaven to make winter. He knew better now, of course. He was eight, all grown-up and wise, but he still liked the name “snowdrops,” and he stamped through great big piles of the stuff all the way from the car to the mall doors.
Locke liked the mall at Christmastime. Prickly green hung across the mall’s rafters, there were red baubles on every countertop, Famous Barr had a great big Christmas tree with gold trimmings, and Cinnabons never smelled sweeter than when Burl Ives sang “Holly Jolly Christmas” in the background.
Dad said it was too busy and noisy, but he also said he was proud of Locke for deciding to buy his best friend a present all on his own. Sam had cried at Thanksgiving again; her family was always mean to her. And they’d do it again at Christmas, so he was going to get her a good present to cheer her up.
So they weaved through the holiday traffic, two peas in a pod with inky black hair on skin white with cold, save for their rosy cheeks and noses. Locke knew the way to the toy store by heart, as every child does. He led his father down the aisle of action figures and stopped at the collection based around his and Sam’s favorite TV show.
Locke picked up a green figure. “This one! Sam likes the green one because he uses Earth magic. His weapon is a staff.”
“I’m surprised they still have any,” Dad said, pressing against the near-bare shelves to let a mom and three kids pass by.
Locke said, “Nah, everybody wants the red Magic Ranger because he’s the leader; nobody likes the others except me and Sam.”
“Which one do you like?”
Locke’s face colored a little. “Well…I know the yellow ranger is a girl…but she uses lightning magic like Mom did.”
“Your mom used all kinds of magic.”
“Yeah, but you said lightning was her favorite.” Locke looked at the plastic, yellow figure hanging on the rack. He’d never actually seen his mom use magic. It made him feel sad, let down even.
“You miss her?” Dad guessed. Dad always knew.
“Yeah. I miss Connor, too.”
A hand on his back. “Me too, son.”
It had been a long time. Locke didn’t feel the need to cry much anymore, but it still hurt sometimes. Locke picked up another toy in the same line and showed it to his dad. “You’d like the Silver Friend. He was a bad guy, and they called him Silver Fiend, but now he’s a good guy, so they changed his name.”
“Why would I like him?”
“Because he doesn’t use magic, just like you.”
Dad smiled and flexed his arm. “Who needs magic when you’re awesome?” Locke grabbed his dad’s biceps with both arms and Dad picked him right off the ground. Even through a heavy coat, Locke could feel the thick muscle, harder than steel or diamonds.
“Okay,” Dad said, setting him down, “how much money do you have to spend on Sam?”
“Fifteen bucks!” Locke said with his chest puffed out. Every penny was saved from the allowance he earned.
“How much is the toy?”
Locke looked at the price tag. “Nine-ninety-five.”
“Let’s say sales tax is…oh…eighty cents. How much change should you get?”
Locke ran the numbers through his head. “A quarter and…four dollars!”
“Nice.” Dad high-fived him. “What are you going to buy with the rest?” Locke just shrugged. He hadn’t thought that far ahead.
But then, there was light. Dark, shimmering red, almost right outside the toy store. A strange symbol shone on the floor with black writing, but Locke couldn’t read it. People edged away, afraid of the light. Locke didn’t know why, but he was scared, too.
Dad hurried to the door and put his hand on the frame. “No, no, no!”
Locke grabbed his father’s pant leg. Nothing scared Dad. “What is it?”
Dad took him aside, behind a stack of video game systems. “Bad magic. Locke, I need you to stay right here and don’t come out until I tell you, okay?”
“Where are you going?”
“To do my job.” There was a scream, then a dozen screams, then the sound of people running, like an earthquake or a train. Dad put his hands on Locke’s cheeks. “Don’t worry about me. I’m the Silver Friend, remember? Who needs magic when you’re awesome?” A kiss on the head, then Dad ran out the door and hid behind a jewelry kiosk.
Locke looked over the stack of Game Cubes, out the window. The light was dimming, but there something stood in the middle of it, something horrifying that made Locke tremble. A tall, broad beast with two heads. One head was a lion, the other a bull. It had eagle’s wings and great, thick legs with hooves. Its tail was a great big snake, hissing at everything and everyone.
He’d seen something like this on the Magic Rangers: a chimera. But that one had looked like rubber and spouted witty catchphrases. This one had real skin, meaty flesh with black fur, and Locke didn’t think it could talk.
But it could roar, both the lion and the bull bellowed loud enough to drown out the screams of the panicked mob. People ran by so fast, Locke could hardly see his dad, still behind the necklaces and earrings. Locke squeezed the green ranger toy, wishing it would come to life and make a hole in the earth, right under the chimera’s feet.
Suddenly, Dad ran straight for the chimera, while its head was turned, and its great big fist smashed a popcorn stand, sending yellow flakes into the air. Locke gasped as Dad reached out and grabbed the snake tail in both hands. The chimera roared and turned around, but Dad moved with it, staying behind the monster. Then he twisted his hands and the monster roared even louder.
Dad let go of the snake, but it fell to the tile, like it was dead. Dad ran up the monster’s back before it could turn around, scrambling past the wings. He wrapped both arms around the lion’s great mane, his hands holding its muzzle shut. His feet kept the bull’s horns away. The chimera tried to grab him, but Dad twisted the lion left, then right, and the bull screamed and thrashed.
Dad released the lion head and it drooped. The bull was raving, careening right towards the Yankee Candle shop. It shoulder smashed the window. Dad grabbed a broken piece of the glass and drew it across the bull’s throat. It grunted and groaned, and bled horribly. Then the chimera fell on its face. Dad rolled off the limp right wing.
It was over. In mere seconds, the monster was dead. The screams became quieter, and people poked their heads out of the stores. Dad dropped the piece of broken glass and wiped his red hand on his coat. Locke stared across the mall, cup overflowing with awe and wonder.
Mall security came, and then police. Questions were asked, thanks were given, and a man was taken away with handcuffs, but Locke didn’t quite understand why. Dad kept Locke by his side while dozens and of people tried to talk to him. Some kept shaking his hand and saying “Thank you.” Everybody was smiling. Locke stared up at his father, something new bubbling inside of him. It felt like “Wow.”
When they finally returned to the toy store, the shop owner gave Locke the green Magic Ranger for free. When he asked if Locke wanted anything else, Locke took the yellow ranger and the Silver Friend action figures, too.
At long last, Locke’s dad pulled him aside to a bench and said, “Let’s pray.”
“Why? You already beat the monster.”
“You don’t just pray when you want something. You also pray when you’re thankful. Hands in.” Dad held out a hand and Locke put his littler one on top. “God, thank you so much for the victory today. Lord, you saw this coming and put your servant in a place to stop it before it even began. Thank you for the years of training to prepare me for today. But most of all, thank you for keeping my boy out of harm.”
They both said amen and Dad stood up, taller and more impressive than ever. “Dad, can you teach me to fight monsters?”
Dad cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. “Well…that depends on your reason. There are a lot of people who like to fight for bad reasons. I only want you to fight for good reasons. So tell me, why do you want to learn how to fight?”
Locke pondered his answer. He didn’t know if it was good or bad. It sounded good, and Dad was good at pointing out lies, so he just said it. “Because I want to be like you.”
His dad smiled a great grin that only stretched across the right side of his face. “Well…I can’t really deny you that, can I? All right, if you really want. I’ll teach you everything I know.”
QUESTION: What did you think? Thanks for reading!