The following is the first chapter of the first novel of my science fiction trilogy entitled Enigma Black. As of right now, I'm in my fourth--or maybe, fifth--set of revisions for the book after having received my first rejection from an agent on a full manuscript request. I now know what the expression the first cut is the deepest means because ouch! I can't say as I blame her as the manuscript really did need more work and it is most certainly receiving it now.
Enigma Black, although science fiction, has dystopian as well as romantic elements. Because I'm sick of doing queries at the moment, I'm going to spare the synopsis and just say "here you go":
To add insult to injury, the dreadful apparatuses were also specially constructed to tie in perfectly with the ultra-annoying beach theme of the Flamingo Resort and Casino. When he and his son first arrived at the resort earlier that day, he couldn’t resist tapping him on the shoulder to whisper something about a flamingo throwing up after an acid trip. This jab had instantly changed his son’s expression from one of horror to one of sheer amusement. His wife--needless to say--had not been amused.
Aside from its attempts at depicting a cutesy family-themed vibe, it was still a casino with the same droll neon signs marketing poker, black jack, and craps all while using the potential of various monetary jackpots to lure the masses in hook, line and sinker. Like fish with torn mouths, they always took the bait coming back for punishment time and time again.
It was his wife’s idea, coming to Atlantic City. Had it been up to him, he never would have set foot in the place. For his wife it was the perfect culmination of her love of the ocean and machines that flashed and clanged--or so he suspected--that had lured her here. None of what this eye sore had to offer held any interest to him. If he had his way, they would have vacationed somewhere sunny, warm and somewhat educational such as the Alamo or the Mayan ruins. Unfortunately though, as she so often did, his wife had won the argument meaning that he and their teenage son were once again forced to endure yet another one-sided vacation.
After a half an hour of strolling aimlessly on the casino floor, he decided he’d rather not endure a migraine on top of his persistent insomnia choosing, instead, to catch some air on the boardwalk. Within seconds of stepping outside it became immediately apparent to him that the casino may be the lesser of two evils. The frigid December winds caught him off guard, assaulting him with everything they had. Ignoring the stabbing cold, he walked across the deck where he noticed a solitary figure looming in the darkness. The sharp contrasts of man’s face were revealed slightly by the small flame of the cigarette between his lips. As he drew nearer the man began to speak.
"It’s enough to freeze your cojones off out here," the stranger spoke. "If it weren’t for this damn addiction I’d be curled up in bed snuggled up nice and warm next to the saucy redhead I picked up earlier."
He smirked at the man’s vulgarity. Unsure of what to say but not really wanting to engage him in conversation, he offered up a quick retort, "What are you waiting for then? Put that thing out and get back there."
The figure chuckled, flicking away ash from the end of his cigarette. Preferring to be alone he, walked down the stairs leading out to the boardwalk with the weathered wooden steps creaking violently under the weight of each of his footsteps. Pausing under a light post, he put his hands in his pockets for warmth watching the ocean as it became one with the night sky on the horizon. As another blast of wind cut through his skin, he laughed at the irony of the moment. In that instant, his surroundings matched the mood that had hung over him like a dark cloud for the last several years.
He loved his wife dearly but was confused as to whether this love was coming from his heart or from the feeling of indebtedness he harbored for her having supported him during a prolonged battle with prostate cancer. He'd been diagnosed shortly after the birth of their son. The cancer had struck him unmercifully, wreaking havoc on his body until there was virtually nothing left of it.
Miraculously, after several grueling rounds of chemotherapy and an extensive amount of recovery time, the disease went into remission. However, in its wake, he’d been rendered a frail shell of a man with the disease not only having robbed him of his dignity but also stripping him of his manhood as well. Being unable to produce anymore biological children with his young wife robbed her of her dream of having a big family. Since they had neither the resources nor the interest in adoption it’d all rested upon his shoulders and he felt as though he'd somehow failed her.
Despite his illness and her unspoken disappointment with the path her life had taken, her devotion to him never wavered. So it was, on a day nearly fourteen years ago, that he made a promise to give his wife the world in exchange for the life he was unable to physically deliver to her. Years later, this promise felt more like a life sentence. Lately, he was beginning to feel as though his debt to her had been paid in full with inflated interest and that their son, Ian, was the only thing keeping him tied to her anymore.
Ian, oh how his young son was the spitting image of him. They looked alike, spoke alike, and even possessed some of the same mannerisms--such as the propensity to breakout in laughter at the most unusual of times. His son was the miniature version of him in every conceivable way and it was all his wife could do to keep from pulling her hair out because of it. It was yet another way he reminded her that he’d been nothing but a disappointment to her.
He stood in placid contemplation staring into the black hole unfolding in front of him. Wind swept around him with more ferocity thoroughly chilling his body to the bone; the lone figure on the illuminated boardwalk. Removing his hand from his pocket, he looked at his watch. It was nearly three o’clock in the morning. Figuring he should return to thaw out and attempt to rejoin his family, he walked back toward the steps to the deck of the casino.
A shudder overcame him as the casino came back into view, but it wasn’t due to the cold. It was a shudder emitted from the mere site of the garish pink neon flamingos whose animatronics seemingly made them dance around the entryway. Why did I let her talk me into this, he thought to himself as he opened the door where he was greeted by a rush of heat and a synthetic palm tree leaf straight to the face.
The gaming floor was eerily quiet being as it was relatively deserted. However, even in the tranquility of this moment a sense of impending doom overcame him. Invading his thoughts, it followed with each step he took on the gaming floor, persisting throughout his walk across casino toward the guest rooms. On the news he’d heard about a string of attacks taking place recently. These attacks, in the form of bombings, appeared to be occurring at random and without any clear purpose other than for pure shock value and the sick, homicidal amusement of their perpetrator. Such attacks had prompted him to suggest to his wife that they reschedule their vacation until the world returned to normal again, but she wouldn’t hear of it. She’d accused him of backing out on her causing him to concede defeat immediately. Besides, out of the multitude of potential targets out there why would The Flamingo Casino and Resort be anywhere near the top of the hit-list?
With a sigh and a shake of his head, he turned around to appease his sudden uneasiness by doing a quick sweep of the gaming floor and the remaining people on it. Not surprisingly, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary in either respect. Oh great, I must be losing my mind along with my sleep, he thought to himself. Satisfied with his survey of the room, he hypothesized that his sleep deprivation was causing pure paranoia to take over his mind.
"Get a grip," he mumbled under his breath as he turned back around to walk down the hallway.
Then it came. A violent, deafening commotion erupted from behind him instantaneously throwing him to the floor. In stunned confusion, he looked up from the pink and green palm tree-etched carpeting in time to see, to his horror, a wall of fire steadily overtaking everything and everyone in its path moving steadily towards him.
The casino’s plastic ambiances melted in the scorching heat as did its organic patronages, going up like dry kindling in a tidal wave of flame. Any screams escaping the mouths of the few in the path of the devastation were quieted by the fire’s wrath. There wasn’t any time for him to take evasive action and he knew that any effort to do so would be nothing short of suicide. Putting his faith in the hands of another, he laid on the floor shielding his head with his arms as the flames consumed him.