Chapter 1 of The Punishment Rock

A taste of what’s to come.

Somewhere above the Gulf of Mexico–

I was 42,000 feet in the air when I heard that awful, peculiar voice speak.

“What do you know of the real hierarchy?”

I opened my eyes, but my vision was foggy. My chest rose and fell in slow, shallow waves. The murmured hum that filled my ears made me question if I was underwater. I struggled to keep my eyes open.

Panic pulsed through my veins. I was either dying or already dead, and the soft light flooding my eyes was that of another world I couldn’t quite grasp. Nothingness enveloped me and I was suddenly filled with sorrow. I had an intuitive impression of who I’d been, but the details dripped away.

I was nobody.

My eyelids closed off the remaining light and I began to drift into oblivion.

“Daniel Bright, what do you know of real history?”

I heard the question echo in the vacuum of space between my temples. It was not my own voice, and in fact, what it really spoke were not those exact English words. It was a guttural dialect, but somehow I understood it. And this wasn’t the first time I’d heard it’s strange tongue. It was The Cataurix, and at that time, I had no idea what that name meant or how dangerous it could be.

“What do you know of the real spectrum of existence? Open your eyes.”

I felt motivation returning and I forced my eyelids apart. The soft light of my surroundings made it hard to focus on a man sitting five feet across from me. I managed a slight, audible grunt–it got his attention.

Surprised, he instantly leapt at me. I couldn’t resist as he grabbed my forehead, leaned my head back, and spread my right eyelid open. He laughed quietly as he inspected my pupil.

“That was a hefty dose of sedatives I gave you,” he muttered under his breath. “Either you have a good reserve of spunk, or quite a tolerance to narcotics.”

It’s probably both you fuck, I answered in my head.

He opened my mouth and I felt several drops of liquid hit my tongue.

“But,” he spoke again. “We can’t have you waking up just yet.“

I had no ability to withstand. The guy released his grip and then sat back in his seat. My head slumped forward and my shaggy brown hair resumed its messy position over my forehead.

With one final burst of willpower, I managed to lift my head and crack my right eye. A brief moment of clarity returned. I could see the blurred stranger cross his left leg over his right knee and clasp his hands together in his lap.

“I’m sorry we’ve done this to you,” he spoke calmly. “But you were the easiest to start with.”

He paused for a second, looked over his right shoulder, and then back to me. “A war is something not to be underestimated, and a war with this enemy is one you will not win. What you and your friends do not understand is–diamonds are forever, the human race is not! And since you do not recognize this–war is on its way!”

If he said anything else, I wouldn’t know. The new dose kicked in and I drifted into blackness, but not before that foreign voice spoke once more.

Will you accept?