Today I am thrilled to be hosting Michael Offutt as part of his Oculus Virtual Book Tour.
Autumn has arrived in New York, and Jordan Pendragon attends his first classes as a freshman at Cornell. Born with a brilliant mathematical mind, he balances life as a research assistant with that of a student athlete.
But Jordan also has a quest. He must find the Black Tower, a monolithic edifice housing a thing that defines the very structure of the universe. Jordan believes it is buried somewhere in Antarctica under miles of prehistoric ice.
October finds Jordan earning a starting position with the Cornell hockey team. But a dark cloud gathers over his rookie season. Unexplained deaths, whispers of a cannibal cult, a prophecy, and a stone known only as the Oculus, cast a shadow over his athletic ambitions. It is the start of a terrifying journey down a path of mystery, murder, and to a confrontation with an Evil more ancient than the stars.
“Pendragon, go in for Reedy,” Coach Miller said.
Jordan skated out and almost immediately grabbed the puck from a rebound shot. He took two whacks at it; the second went wide. Over the next minute, the Wildcats did a great job making the Cornell defense move out of its box set. But they also failed to get the puck to the open spaces after they went to all that trouble.
Nine minutes to go.
Castro passed the puck to Barker who took a shot at the New Hampshire goal; Cox blocked and tipped it out of play. Grego flashed Jordan a grin. Andy winked.
A shadow in Jordan’s peripheral vision. Falna again.
Whack! The defenseman knocked Grego down.
Andy, you’re too close. STOP! Jordan didn’t have time to yell the words.
In the next instant, Jordan watched with horror as Andy, not aware that Grego had fallen down, skated over his wrist.
Blood gushed over the ice.
Jordan dropped to his teammate’s side, but didn’t move him, and blood spattered over the front of his sweater and across his face. Grego’s lips twisted in agony, whistles blew, and the Athletic Trainer skated out with a towel as emergency staff rushed to help Grego off the ice. Blood pooled everywhere with Grego trying to stop the flow with his fingers. As they got the large man to his feet, Jordan trailed slightly behind, staring at the huge and numerous blood drops left in his wake.
Jordan heard gunshots in his mind. He recalled shattering glass. So much blood. I’m not on Avalon, I’m on Earth. These aren’t the Scorchers.
Andy skated over. “I didn’t fucking see him.” His face had blanched white. His eyes looked watery, emotional.
“It’s not your fault,” Jordan said, voice desperate. “He got knocked down and—” He shrugged helplessly, feeling his throat tighten.
“I’m feeling dizzy,” Andy said. “I can handle a little blood, but this is making me sick.”
Jordan held him. Andy’s eyes brimmed with tears of frustration.
The crowd in Lynah Rink dropped to a whisper. Flashbulbs fired off from behind the glass. Then the Athletic Trainers and Coaches whisked Joe off to the locker room and another emergency team that stood by to assist.
Jordan stared in awe at the massive amount of blood that lay in red pools over the surface of the white ice. Red and white—Cornell colors, only seeing it like this was awful. Then he heard an eerie whispering in his mind. He did not understand the words, but it left him feeling chilled.
“There’s so much blood,” Andy murmured, blinking and in shock.
A moment later, skaters appeared carrying jugs which they used to apply yellow disinfectant. The color created a huge puddle of orange-red that seemed to grow wider by the second as they pushed it around, not really knowing what to do about it.
“It looks like a crime scene,” Paul stated, joining them. Melancholy layered thick upon his tone. “Like someone gutted a pig.”
Jordan swallowed, unable to pull his eyes away.
“Do you think he’s going to be okay?” Andy asked him. Jordan saw his friend was hurting, feeling bad.
Jordan tried to focus and squeezed Andy’s shoulder reassuringly. “Yeah. He’ll be fine. It wasn’t your fault.”
Townley skated over. “Just spoke with the refs. They’re trying to get the ice cleaned up to resume play. Just sit tight and don’t worry about Joe. He’s a really tough guy. And don’t lose morale either, men. We’re keeping the pressure on the Wildcats, and I think we can pull this out,” he said. “It’s been fucking rough out there—I know, especially with what just happened. No one wants to see a puddle of blood on the ice, but we all get hurt. Hockey’s a rough sport.” He looked at Jordan. “Good job rookie, but go change your jersey and wash your face. You’ve got blood all over you.”
Jordan looked down at himself and skated off to the locker room to grab another sweater from the Equipment Director. When he returned, they were still cleaning the ice—the stain covered fully half of one side of the rink now.
Jordan’s fingers trembled. He kept his hands balled into a fist so no one would notice.
“Blood has a lot of color in it,” Klaes remarked.
Jordan nodded, thinking the same thing.
“A video of this is already on YouTube,” Paul said with a misplaced laugh. “Want to take a look? Andy, you look like you’re gonna cry in it.” He offered Andy his smartphone with a snicker, but Andy didn’t take it. Jordan took a seat next to his friend and said nothing. But he did glare at Paul.
For a free short story that's a lead-in to this book series, click here.
About the Author:
Michael Offutt writes speculative fiction books that have science fiction, LGBT, and paranormal elements. His first book, "Slipstream" has received some critical acclaim and was published by Double Dragon in the spring. The sequel, "Oculus" came out in November 2012. He has one brother, no pets, and a few roots that keep his tree of life sufficiently watered. By day, he works for the State of Utah as a Technical Specialist. By night, he watches lots of t.v., writes, draws, and sometimes dreams of chocolate.
Michael Offutt graduated from the University of Idaho in 1994 with a Bachelor's degree in English.
He keeps a blog and would appreciate a visit or two even if all you want to do is say hi.
Thank you, Michael and Roxanne over at Bewitching Book Tours. I shall be adding Oculus to my wishlist.