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Anber: The Light in Darkness


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This is the first chapter of my WOP Novel. I honestly don't know how well everyone will like it, but any critiquing will be welcomed. Thanks.

Anber: The Light in Darkness

Chapter 1 : The Great Day

The darkness surrounded Nyol, embracing him with unseen arms of unending black. Those arms squeezed him as if he were wheat being ground into grain. Those arms caused pain, pain like fire burning through his flesh. Nyol screamed, letting out smoke from his mouth as if his very lungs were burning. And they did burn, or at least Nyol thought they did.

The pain ended suddenly, with light flooding into the black void. The strange thing was that the light did not hurt, though Nyol thought it should be too bright to see, a blinding bright light. And it embraced him.


Nyol awoke, breath fleeing from his burning lungs. It was just a dream, he thought to himself. The darkness, the light. Everything was a dream. The same one he had been having for a few weeks now. His lungs inflated with intoxicating air that seemed to clear his head.

He looked around, his vision clearing from the pain that had felt so real in his dream. Snapping into focus was his apartment, though there was not much to see. No one's apartment was special except for the Mindmen's, but they were not human anyway. Light raced from every corner of the box apartment – Mindmen contraptions placed just so so that the darkness could not creep in. Light even poured through the small window.

Nyol got up from his bed and strolled over to the window. It gave a great view of Anber, and of the walls surrounding Anber, the city which contained the only light in the world's everlasting darkness. Nyol shivered. If it were not for the stringed lights crisscrossing throughout the city, Anber would be completely black. And would have no hope of survival. Nyol closed his eyes, images of his dream flooding back into his mind, and took a deep breath.

It was only a dream, he thought, exhaling. My imagination running wild again. He smirked. I have been listening to Esol too much.

Nyol turned from the window with a sigh and went to his dresser. He opened the drawer revealing the workman's clothes he, and everyone other man, was assigned to wear. The clothes consisted of a pair of dark denim overalls that covered a light blue shirt. On the left strap of the overalls, stitched into the denim, was his name. Everyone had a name stitched into their overalls; Esol insisted it was because the Mindmen wanted an easy way to keep track of the humans, but Nyol did not agree. How else would the humans know everyone's name?

Nyol took the shirt out and pulled it over his head, ruffling his long dark brown hair. He shook his head and let the hair fall naturally around his neck. He knew he should comb it, but he did not feel motivated enough today because of the dreams. He then put on his overalls, making sure the name remained unwrinkled and easy to read. He moved over to his bed and got out his shoes.

Nyol put on his workman's shoes and exited his building, coming out upon a stone block roadway – the most common in Anber. He headed straight to his work – the fields that grew plants underneath high powered, purple lights.

People crowded the road going this way and that, hurrying off to do the Mindmen's work designated for them. Nyol's job consisted of working the fields, though others had jobs such as barkeepers or entertainers. Nyol followed the way of the Mindmen, but some thought the barkeepers or entertainers did not deserve respect. They did nothing to help the humans survive, so the detractors said. Nyol thought their jobs helped keep the humans happy and unstressed. He walked through the throng of people, flowing with them like the river that flowed through the city.

The walk was not grueling, though it put a pounding into Nyol's head. The ache did nothing but hurt, and put him in a dark mood. He frowned all the way to the fields, head pounding in rhythm with his step.

Arriving at the fields, Nyol saw the entrance guarded by two Mindmen. A smile formed on his face, and his head seemed to pound a little less at the sight of the Mindmen. He felt relieved to have their expertise on agriculture, for without the Mindmen the humans would surely be dead.

He turned and smiled at one of the intelligent creatures and took in a deep breath. Today could be great, he thought as he entered the fields, head no longer aching.

The fields themselves were a work of art to Nyol. Rows of plants grew as far as he could see, over rolling hills and into deep valleys. Poles stood about every twenty paces holding up special, purple lights over the fields. No one knew why the special lights were over the fields, but Nyol could tell that they were warmer than the lights on the streets.

Nyol stepped up to a locker and opened it, revealing the tools he would need for his shift on the fields. He grabbed his hoe and work gloves, along with a belt full of plant grower – the stuff smelled all the way to the black night, but Nyol had gotten used to it.

As he strapped on his belt, a hand clapped onto his shoulder. He turned to face a man who worked with him every day, Esol. Nyol's face lit up at the sight of his friend. It will be a great day, he thought.

“Esol,” Nyol said with a grin, holding out his hand for a shake. “It's great to see you.”

Esol shook his hand. “And you, my friend.” Nyol took his hand back and finished collecting his tools. He waited for Esol to gather his tools before they both set out onto the purple-tinted fields.

“What are you doing after your shift?” Esol asked.

Nyol shrugged. “I was planning on just going home.” He looked over to Esol. “I guess you could call that nothing.” Esol stood, eyes peering over the shoulder of Nyol at one of the Mindmen, but met Nyol's eyes quickly.

Esol nodded. “I am heading over to a bar. You know the one near the Dark Alleys?”

Nyol shivered and nodded. The Dark Alleys were not really dark, but the confines of the alleys made the light dim there. Everyone knew darkness is what killed the rest of the world. Nyol's mind meandered to his dream, and the shivers started again. He shook his head and took in a deep breath. Only a dream.

“I know the place,” Nyol answered.

“Good,” Esol said. “Come with me after our shifts and have a drink with me. It will be a great way to end a great day.”

Nyol could not help but smile as he said he would go. The way Esol phrased it made Nyol almost forget about his nightmare. A great day. He could have a few more of those.

The two of them entrenched themselves in their mundane physical labor for the day, and all the while Nyol had something to look forward to. A great day.

After his shift was over, he went to meet his friend Esol at the bar. The great day continued.


The great day ended an hour ago, as Nyol saw a dead man in front of him. Sure, he was not dead yet, but he would be when the Mindmen heard what Esol was saying about them. Nyol watched the alcohol drip from Esol's neatly trimmed black beard that framed his squarish face. Esol scowled at his mug, seeing that it had been drained of its contents, and Nyol cringed as Esol slammed his mug down on the counter with his muscular arms that he got from working in the fields. Esol was lucky the mug did not break. Nyol's friend was very angry and very drunk.

The bar they sat in shone brightly under the artificial lights positioned in the corners of the packed room. No darkness spilled across the floors or walls, except for the occasional shadow of a person. The perpetual darkness fled from the lights provided to the humans by the Mindmen, and for that Nyol was thankful. Looking around the room, Nyol felt secure knowing that not a drop of darkness was near him. The same could not be said for the conversation.

“Those Mindmen are all the same,” Esol said, waving for the barkeeper – his name was Elinol – to refill his mug. Nyol watched as Elinol hesitated on refilling the drunk man's mug. Surely Elinol contemplated the risk of keeping Esol drunk especially with what the drunk man said. Elinol must have been a risk taker for he refilled the mug. “All the same, and all evil.”

“You don't mean what you say,” Nyol said, putting all the soothing he could muster into his voice. “They protect us from the darkness.”

Esol took a swig from his mug then set it down gently, careful not to spill any of the alcohol. “They light up the streets with captured lightning in a glass contraption that looks like a flower bulb. Unnatural lightning at that! Who's to say that the darkness isn't friendly?” Every sentence Esol slurred, but his wit did not seem influenced by the alcohol.

Nyol shifted slightly at Esol's tone. His friend was drunk – something that Nyol had never seen before – and he felt uncomfortable about it. The conversation did not help the feeling depart, only inflaming it like a twisted ankle. It also did not help that Nyol knew the Mindmen were watching and could hear everything that was said.

“Who's to say the darkness is friendly, Esol?” asked Nyol, trying to keep the frown from his face. He waved for Elinol, ordering himself a water. His stomach could not take the alcohol. “The Mindmen could be right about the dangers of darkness.”

“Dangers?” Esol said, glaring at Nyol. “The dangers are only outside the city.”

“In the darkness outside the city,” Nyol said, watching Esol take a deep drink of the alcohol.

“And outside the walls, too. You think those thick walls with their Mindmen statues wouldn't hold out the dangers?”

“What of the eyes?” Nyol asked, taking a sip of his water. His stomach was growing nervous very fast and he hoped the water would calm it down.

Esol looked incredulous. “Have you ever seen the eyes inside the city?”

“There have been tales,” Nyol said, looking down into his water.

“Tales spread by lying Mindmen! And no proof to back it up!” Nyol looked up to see the barkeeper smirk.

“And you,” Elinol said, “have proof of the Mindmen lying?” Nyol glanced back at Esol who was glaring at the barkeeper. It was a wonder that Elinol had spoken at all, seeing as the topic was of the Mindmen.

Esol looked down into his mug as if searching for the answer in the alcohol. Maybe that was what he was trying to do tonight, get answers from the alcohol. The only answer Nyol could see him getting, though, was drunkenness.

Esol looked back to Elinol. “I have proof, though only my eyes have seen it.”

Nyol perked up at that. Proof? Esol had proof of the Mindmen being evil? Dangerous ground was being tread, and Nyol hoped his friend could get through it without being killed. Chances were slim now that he had said he had proof.

“Of course,” Elinol said. “Proof only you've seen. I can't imagine what that could be.” The sarcasm in his voice was palpable, even to Nyol who was not the target of the sarcasm. Esol's face grew a bright red with fury and alcohol. The contrast between the color of his beard and his face was grand. It made Nyol think of the signs outside some of the other bars in the area.

“Take my word or don't, barkeeper,” Esol said, slamming his fist on the bar. “I know what I have seen.” With that, Esol went back to drinking the alcohol, the conversation waning. A dog barked in the street, then howled as it was kicked. Still, Nyol thought he should try to get Esol to dig his way out of the grave he sat in. How could he though if all his friend wanted to do was bash the Mindmen? Maybe another topic of Mindmen control.

“What about them letting us grow our own food?” Nyol asked.

“Yes,” Esol replied. “They let us grow our own food only to take most of it for themselves and leave us to divide what's left between us. They leave us starving.”

“They take all the food?” asked Nyol.

“Where do you think all that food goes?”

“I assumed it went to those that most needed a good meal.”

Esol snorted. “How naive.” He drained his mug again and waved for it to be refilled again. Elinol smiled at Esol, a smile that made Nyol's skin crawl. Elinol refilled the mug and handed it back to Nyol's friend. What game was the barkeeper playing?

Nyol frowned, turning back to his friend. “Where does the food go then, Esol?”

Esol trained his eyes on Nyol. “I will not talk about it here. Not now. Some other time maybe, but not now.”

Elinol chuckled as if what Esol said with conviction was a joke to be told to children. Esol only shook his head at the barkeeper, seemingly too drunk to care what Elinol thought of him. Another bark came again, this time with a growl, which spurred Nyol into another question for his friend.

“What about letting us survive as a species?” Nyol saw a questioning look appear on Esol's face so he quickly explained. “Well, the Mindmen are the superior species and could annihilate us without so much as a yawn. But they let us persevere. Why do you think that is?”

“Are you talking about how the Mindmen breed us?”

“That's not the term I would use.”

Esol scowled again. “Soot and sorrow, Nyol. They breed us. Breed us! Are we no better than dogs?” A dog barked again as if to support Esol's claim. Nyol shook his head. Sure the building was called the Breeding Building, but everyone knew that it was there to keep the humans reproducing. If that did not happen, their race would die out as surely as the darkness faded when light shone.

It seemed to Nyol that Esol brought up valid points against the Mindmen – of course, Nyol would never admit to thinking that – but the man seemed too paranoid to be trustworthy. The Mindmen were just helping out the humans since the Age of Darkness descended. They had forewarned of the event, but the humans did not listen, or at least that's what the Mindmen claimed. And who was Nyol to say that the Mindmen were not truthful? He was just a field worker like many of the other men in Anber.

He shook his head again, trying to clear his jumbled thoughts into a pattern easily recognizable. Esol did not trust anyone it seemed, but he did have conviction in his voice about the Mindmen. Nyol only wished he could have the same conviction while he defended the Mindmen. He sighed. He had never been good with words, or with confrontation. He tried to stay clear of anything that would result in him being in trouble with the most powerful allies the humans had, the Mindmen.

The pesky dog barked again, and this time it kept barking, then went into a deep growl. Nyol's hair stood on end hearing that bark and growl. His hands started to shake, and sweat started forming on his neck. He looked around to see if anyone else had heard what he had. Elinol's face turned stark white, but Esol just kept drinking his alcohol. Everyone else had their eyes fixed on the door to the bar. Nyol turned towards the door. The barking could only mean one thing.

The handle rattled, sounding like bones scraping against each other. Then, bursting into the bar came the Mindmen, seven of them. Nyol stared into the leader's bulbous black eyes taking up half of it's face. All of them had those eyes, set into an enormous head that seemed too big for their thin bodies. They all had on their Mindmen robes that covered most of their greyish skin.

Nyol froze with terror. They were going to take Esol, of that he was sure. Esol was a dead man. The Mindmen had to have seen Esol's statements and came quickly to arrest him. All these thoughts flew through his mind before the Mindmen got even three steps into the bar, which had fallen silent.

“Esol,” the leader of the Mindmen said in a raspy voice like dead leaves being stepped upon. The leader stepped up to Nyol's friend, arm stretched towards him, but Esol did nothing except down the last of his alcohol.

Esol slowly stood. “Have you come to take me, liars?” He turned towards the Mindmen, face alight with fury. “Have you come, slaughterers, to kill another man who has found you out?” His voice came with a strength that Nyol had not heard out of Esol before. It was as if he were more confident staring down the Mindmen than he was backing up his claims of their lies.

“We have come,” the leader of the Mindmen said, slowly walking up to Esol, “to take you to trial.” The leader of the Mindmen grabbed Esol's arm and smoke slowly started to rise from his flesh. The room lightened a bit. Nyol watched in horror as Esol screamed in pain and seemed to pass out on the floor as the leader released him.

The head Mindman gestured for his fellow Mindmen, and they scurried towards the place where Esol lied. They grabbed him – this time Nyol saw no smoke – and took him out of the bar. The Mindmen exited, but the leader hesitated. He turned back towards the bar and the men in the bar.

“The trial will start tomorrow,” the leader said in his voice that made Nyol's spine tingle. “Everyone in the bar is excused from their shifts tomorrow to attend.” The leader of the Mindmen flourished his robe as he turned and exited the bar.

Nyol's mouth hung open. Excused? Only one other time Nyol could remember that people had been excused for a trial. That had been in his childhood. Was this really happening? His friend was about to die. Sure Nyol had thought Esol would die, but thinking it and it actually happening are two very different things.

He slowly got up and left the bar, heading for his apartment, mind spinning. It seemed his bad day would turn into a bad week. He walked with his head down, contemplating the events of the day. The cold air blew past his face and tugged on his clothes causing him to slip. He bumped into someone.

When he looked up, he saw a beautiful woman who was on the verge of falling. He quickly grabbed a hold of her and kept her on her feet.

“I'm sorry,” Nyol said, eyes wandering to her name stitched on her clothing. “Belon, I'm sorry.”

“It's alright, Nyol.” she said, looking him in the eyes.

“I've got to go,” Nyol said and shuffled away before she saw the pain seeping through him.

“Wait!” she said. “Where are you going?” He ignored her and kept going, mind on more important things than a beautiful woman.

Shortly he arrived at his apartment. He went into his apartment and changed for bed, though he wondered why he bothered since he knew he would not sleep that night. He crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling, replaying the events in his head, wondering whether he could have changed the outcome of the situations. Nothing came to him. Or at least nothing came to him that would save both Esol and Nyol.

Nyol rolled over and closed his eyes, hoping for sleep that would never come.

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Pretty nice little sample. You might want to consider rewording some of the passages, especially pretty early on, but that is just me saying I would have worded things differently.

I think a better term for when the dog was kicked would be "yelp." It is more sudden, where howling usually takes much longer and is not something from surprise.

I would say that it almost has a City of Ember feel. The way you are describing the city being lit and surrounded by darkness. Also, mindmen gave me the impression of graymen aliens. I don't know if that was intentional or will be explained further into the book though.

I am definately interested in reading further when you have it available.

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