Through the breaking ice, in a vortex of brilliant light, energy, and sound, Jeremy plunges into a dangerous and mysterious new world.
It is a world where music is absolutely prohibited—on pain of death. And Jeremy breaks that law when he arrives in Persus Am in a swirling cloud of light and music. A stranger in a strange land, he does not know why he has been sent here. But it soon becomes clear that he must risk everything to help his new friends in this weary and war-torn world.
From the vast Gray Desert to the jeweled palace of Persus Am, the forbidding Rock of Calad to the fabled land of Caladria, Jeremy finds himself in the midst of horrifying evil and heroic goodness. As he searches for an answer to why he is here, he must face the truth that is written on his own heart.
Anne skated away from me and headed toward the light at the edge of the frozen lake. I was left alone in the darkness to regret everything I had said to her.
I glided off in the opposite direction from her, toward the darkest, most secluded corner of the lake. This area was supposed to be off-limits because the park could not guarantee that the ice was safe. But I knew that the park rangers were always too cautious. The entire lake had been frozen solid for days. Besides, the solidityof the ice was not my biggest concern at the moment. I needed to be alone to think.
I had brought Anne, my almost-fiancée, to the lake because it had always been our favorite place to come for serious talks. We could glide around in the vast silence without any distractions. We often wandered off into what we considered our own private alcove, one of those “unsafe” areas where we had never been caught.
On most trips here we had been able to talk things through until they were resolved, but this night was different. I told Anne that earlier that day, against her fervent wishes, I had quit my job at the bank.
I could not explain to her why I quit, or at least I couldn’t put together any coherent explanation that sounded like anything more than a weak excuse, even to myself. To Anne my job at the bank was a respectable, reasonably position that, in addition to her own income, would allow us to afford getting married and starting a home. I had been at the bank since graduating from college—nearly a year—and my bosses encouraged me with promises of a bright future in the organization.
I could not explain to Anne what the job was doing to me. I could not describe the mind-crushing boredom of it, the way time seemed stretched out of all proportion there, my legs vibrating restlessly under the desk as I glanced at the clock repeatedly and thought, Still seven more hours to go, still six hours and fifty-seven minutes to go . . .
I hardly seemed to breathe while I was at the bank; I just kept quiet and tried to endure the endless passage of time, tried not to let anyone see my frustration, tried to keep my pen moving on the page, tried not to run desperately out the door and into the sunshine. There had to be something besides this. Some of the people around me seemed to thrive on the work, but it was killing me. This I could not explain to Anne. She, and just about everybody else, would simply say, “Oh, everybody gets bored with their job sometimes. It will pick up.”
Though Anne was angry that I had suddenly quit my job, she was even more upset about what I had decided to do while I looked for another job.
In college, before I met Anne, I had been a member of a band that played in college bars on the weekends. I had quit after graduation, but my best friend Will had kept the band going, and a few weeks before I quit the bank, he asked me to come back to the group. I told him maybe. It was only part-time, and it wouldn’t pay enough that I could afford not to work somewhere else, but I felt a strange need to do it, a powerful hunger for the music
Anne immediately jumped on the band and the sinister influence of Will as the real reasons I was quitting my job.
“You’re going back to your old life,” she said.
“No,” I said. “I’m just going to play with the band. Weekends mostly. Just playing with the band.”
“No, it’s not just the band. It’s all that goes with it. You’re going back to your old life, and it’s a place you know I’ll never fit.”
• • •
Anne and Will were the two people closest to me, but they distrusted each other completely. I kept them separate from each other, like two warring sides of my own personality.
To Anne, Will was a dangerous force drawing me back to my self-destructive past. To Will, Anne was responsible for what he saw as my weird embrac of her Christian beliefs. He viewed my Christianity as an unfortunate side effect of my relationship with Anne, and he thought my faith would fade was soon as my passion for her cooled. He never said that in so many words, but I knew him too well not to figure it out. I could not explain my Christianity to Will because he did not even want to discuss the subject. I could not explain to Will the intensity of the Spirit that burned inside me. I could not explain the months of raging in my soul, the questions and doubts, the struggle with the Spirit that led to my becoming a Christian. He could believe in the spiritual power of our music, which we had talked about many times, but he scorned the idea that the power in the music was only a shadow of the power of the Spirit. He patiently waited for my “Christian phase” to end.
Anne could not understand why my friendship with Will stayed so strong and why I felt such a need to get back to the music. To her Will was cynical and aimless. She did not see the side of him that I saw. She did not see the friend who was full of life, totally accepting, expecting nothing more from me than to be there in the band and have a good time. He wanted only to feel that music, to sense the pleasure of the crowd.
• • •
I hardly knew where I was skating. The moon was gone. It was very dark. Nothing looked familiar. I wished Anne were still beside me. I need to reach her, to make her understand.
Going back to the “old life,” if that is what I was doing, certainly did not mean leaving Anne behind. I loved her more than I had ever loved anyone, and the changes she had brought about in my life could never be undone.
I had met Anne during our final semester in college. From the night we were introduced at a friend’s house, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. The first time we went out alone we went to the skate park, the same one where I now skated alone in the dark. But that day was warm and sunny, and we walked to the waterfall on the river that cuts through the park. We stood arm in arm in the stream looking at the waterfall crashing down from twenty feet above us. Anne’s face was wrapped in the spray of it, her black hair gradually getting wet, her brown eyes sparkling. I knew I loved her in that moment, if I hadn’t known it already. We found a place along the edge of the fall where we could climb up.
She climbed ahead of me, the water drenching her, sometimes pushing her hard against me. For some reason the water made her laugh so hard that I was afraid she would fall. I tried to steady her with my arms. “Don’t laugh,” I said, but she couldn’t help it. When we finally got to the top, she ran along the smooth rock, splashing water into the air with her feet. Before long she was ready to climb back down.
When we got to the bottom, she pulled me right into the corner of the spray, so powerful it nearly washed the blouse off her shoulders. She screamed and laughed. I held onto her as tight as I could until the force of the water knocked us into the cool pool below.
• • •
I decided to try to skate back to Anne, but I had wandered so far out that I wasn’t quite sure of the direction. So dark. I glided off toward where I thought she must be. This area just didn’t look right. The ice didn’t feel right.
During our argument Anne had said that quitting my job was just one more way of drifting back toward self-destructive patterns and that before it was over I would drift away from my faith and away from her too. What I could not get her to see—what I could barely believe myself—was that quitting the bank was an act of faith, a desperate plea to the Lord to show me where He wanted me to go. I did not seem capable of finding Him in a simpler way like other people did, through quiet reflection or prayer.
I skated out of an alcove and onto a broader part of the lake. I was pretty sure I was skating in the right direction finally, and I was relieved when I saw a figure—and then two figures—up ahead, and distant lights on the bank. I would skate toward the light. No problem.
I hoped that one of the figures was Anne, but soon I could tell that they were both men. None of this looked right. I heard nothing but a squeaking noise under my feet. The light on the bank must have been where Anne was, I thought, but it looked different. What part of the lake was I on?
I might have been headed toward the wrong bank, but at least it was a bank, and, I reasoned, the ice must be better over there than here. I didn’t get much farther before the front tip of my right blade caught on something and I fell on one knee. “Dear Lord, protect me.” My knee smashed through the ice. I felt the frigid water surround it. I lost my balance for a moment, but then I jerked myself up and plunged forward again. The two men saw me. They waved their arms.
Everything around me seemed to be cracking. The entire lake seemed to be falling into a huge abyss, sinking, and ice upon ice. I fell again, my legs in the wetness turning into weights that dragged me down. As water covered me, I turned to cold, hopeless stone. Anne’s face flashed in my brain. My father’s face. I felt myself thrashing, heard my voice try to scream for Anne, but she was nowhere.I could not breathe. Dear Jesus. Anne.
Not knowing whether I was dead or alive, I did not stop falling until I crashed through what I can only describe as a blackness, a door. When I woke up, if waking up is what I should call it, nothing would ever be the same.
About The Author
Joseph Bentz's books span a variety of genres, including a fantasy novel, three contemporary novels, four non-fiction books on Christian living, and one book/DVD package. Bentz is a frequent speaker at writers conferences, churches, and other venues. He is a professor of English at Azusa Pacific University. He earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in American literature from Purdue University and a B.A. in English from Olivet Nazarene University. He lives with his wife and two children in Southern California. More information on his writing and speaking is available at his website, www.josephbentz.com. His blog, Life of the Mind and Soul, also appears at that site.
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