|Reviews for A Heavenly Calling|
| Mislav chapter 1 . 1/16
Such an amazing story. Thank you so much! The set up was executed very well, and you built up Matthew's character nicely. Good idea with starting at the end and giving out just enough details to get the reader interested, then going back to the beginning to explain it all. This was an awesome opening, and very much Lovecraftian in nature: "I found salvation anew in a baptism of rancid meat and warm blood. I was caked in the steaming entrails and mangled viscera of the Adversary's servants. Had I still been the squeamish, soft boy I'd once been. The room I stood in is consecrated in carnage, decorated in death. My trusty tools had a warm, metallic texture to them. I barely saw the scintillating characters on my arm, the catalyst that led to all this, beneath all the gore. The Lord may be all merciful, but I am only human. Alas, I was only too happy to arrange a meeting between them and their Maker." I got the chills. I liked the summary too: short but intriguing and to the point.
Good choice to have the mole/mark disappear and then appear again from time to time; it makes it more mysterious and establishes its significance right away. Nice use of humor here: "The moped came to life beneath my legs, just like another certain appendage I tried not to think about too much." Also, a good foreshadowing to the later themes and events explored in the story. I also liked how you had Matthew drive a Moped, I think it fits his character well. This was good too: "You should've become a priest, then!" Well, God had a different plan for Matthew.
Nice bit of foreshadowing here too: "I never needed to travel far from where I grew up, and I never had much reason to. I always, futilely, hoped this would change." Matthew wanted to leave the town for some time, but he didn't. He was destined to stay there, so he and Jada would meet when they were ready. Thank you.
Good detail with Matthew making up an excuse not to go to a bar (since he avoids drinking alcohol, or giving into a vice of any kind). And healthy breakfast too.
I especially liked how you had Matthew listen to the podcast about the Council of Nicaea in the first chapter. This part was pretty poignant: "The Romans persecuted Christians, and later tried to use Christianity as a tool of power. Such was the way of history, I supposed."
I also really liked the transition between Matthew thinking about Eckhart and then thinking about his grandfather, and his hero story from the WWII; it flowed quite well. And good touch with Matthew pondering how monotone his life is.
You captured mutual attraction and sexual tension between Matthew and Jada so well. The parts where they worked out together were pretty intense. I liked the way she flirted with him too; teasing and cheeky without being blatant or vulgar. Nice touch with them having matching dreams too. The one in the desert/oasis was quite erotic. I especially liked how you made the bad guy pose as a Reverend, having him manipulate people and and profit from the religion he didn't even believe in. False prophets are often the biggest threat. This part was spot-on: ""Not many," he said. "We sadly live in a superficial world, and the illusion of wealth is enough to draw in donations."" I liked how Matthew picked up on the incompatibility between Christianity and greed/hoarding wealth too, noting: "That was a lot of money for a religious man to bring in, but I supposed televangelists always found ways to turn God's word into cash. I recalled the one-time Christ became angry was when he saw the money changers in the temple. Even the Prince of Peace got pissed."
Good touch with Matthew feeling that there was something off about Nick right away. I didn't expect Greg to get killed, that really surprised me. That was a devious plan: approach the God's soldiers/Chosen Ones, offer them assistance/help, then have someone close to them killed so they would come running to you for help. The discovery that Matthew and Jada made at the end was truly horrifying; especially the part where Nick used child adoption program as a front for a human trafficking ring. I didn't expect the conspiracy to run so deep, but that only made it all the more terrifying. Nice clue with the safe deposit box combination being 23-1-2. I also liked the way you described Hell as: "a tumor between dimensions, consuming sentient beings across civilizations. It drew across dimensions to those who embodied the destructive, malignant urges it resonated with. Over eons, it corrupted, enslaved, and consumed realms, nations, and worlds into its eternally-growing ranks. Collaborators might live on as its appendages, pathetic, corrupt shells of anything they once stood for. It was the unrestrained urge, the ever-present call for more. Perhaps there was no Devil, no Satan atop a bloody throne, but instead the mind of this cancerous realm itself." Very chilling and thought-provoking. Good balance between Christian mythology and Lovecraftian lore. The description of that Apocalyptic hellscape from Matthew's dream was gruesome, disturbing and vivid.
I love the way the protagonists took out the bad guys: Matthew managed to break free from his bonds, overpower Carmichael and shoot him to death, while Jada sneaked up to Nick and decapitated him with her sword containing a carbon dioxide canister, causing him to explode. That weapon was especially badass. A good addition of humor here, as a neat reference to the Murphy's law: ""Greetings, Mr. Murphy," Nick said. "I guess if it can go wrong, it already has.""
It's wonderful how Matthew and Jada finally made love to each other at the end, determined to fight the evil in the world together. It was well-earned, after all that build-up and everything they had been through together. Matthew must have given her quite a ride LOL. My favorite parts were:
"She put her back down on the mat. I knelt between her strong legs, and she wrapped them around me. I thought I saw a tattoo on her left arm, a line of ink of a vein, but it was gone after I blinked. She pulled me in close, and I focused on the coming match. I'd done grappling a few times, but never with a woman before. Despite me being the bigger and stronger party, this would not be easy.
We nodded, and the match began. Almost immediately, I brought my elbows up to her knees. This felt awkward, in more ways than one. Yet, despite my inexperience, I had a vague sense of what to do. Just like that week of MMA lessons I had, I had to break the guard to get to a better position. I exploded upwards, but her legs locked around me like a vice.
I pressed my elbows into her thighs, and I saw her clench her teeth in pain. Despite me lifting her off the ground, she moved around me like a spider. I drove her back into the ground, trying to drop my body weight into escaping guard. I began overthinking it, trying to recall how to do chokes and joint locks from side-mount. I imagined myself stuck in an armbar or triangle, and I drew my hand back. I thought I saw the strange stain on my right arm, mirroring a similar symbol on her left.
I did not have to worry about passing guard. She jolted like a coiled spring, hooking both of my ankles while thrusting her hips. I went down like a felled tree, my size and strength helpless before surprise and experience. She moved into full mount, kneeling on top of my hips while I laid exposed on the ground. She dropped her chest onto my head, and her arms moved towards my neck. I pushed up, accidentally pressing her firm breasts, and I immediately stopped. This is as close I ever got to a non-related woman. She noticed I stopped resisting, and slipped her hands around my head. I tapped before she even applied the choke, although I half-remembered I was supposed to resist by pulling her hand away.
She immediately stood up, and she helped me too my feet. Half-embarrassed and very self-conscious, I waited for an awkward second. She broke the silence. "Construction worker, huh?" she asked. "I bet you can raise something real hard and fast."
It took me a splint second to get what she meant. By that time, she saw my reddened checks and moved towards her gym bag. She slipped me a business card, which I immediately pocketed. "I need a sparring partner," she said. "My next grappling lesson is Thursday."
"I'll be there," I said, unthinkingly. "What about tonight?"
"Women's self-defense class," she said. "It'll be a large class, so a big guy like you will take up a lot of room on the mat. No offense."
"None taken," I said. "Should I bring anything?"
"Loose clothes and protection," she said, winking.
I nodded without thinking. I was already out the door when I again realized what she was referring to. I gathered my things, as my clothes were sweaty and needed washing. I wanted to refit some piping, but I could finish it tomorrow. I saw a parade of women, all clad in gym clothing, heading into the martial arts studio. Still processing what happened, I read the name on the card: Jada Thompson, Personal Trainer and Self-Defense Instructor.
Before I left the basement, I quickly glanced back at the door. I saw Jada holding a rubber machete in hand. She waved to me. I waved back, and I hurried out into the night. This was the first time I'd been hit on so blatantly, or hit on at all. I typically kept to myself, so this was unfamiliar territory for me. I still felt unsure about what she said, and what she implied. I felt attraction, but I was curious about something else. I looked once more, and my mark returned. I recalled how she'd covered her arm before we grappled. I hoped it was more than hormones."
"That night, I dreamt of strange realms once more. This time, I walked across a ruin-laden landscape, a red Martian desert beneath thick, ominous clouds that rapidly fled something over the horizon. The half-buried structures that peeked from the red dust were of innumerable styles, architectures, and geometries. The corpses of a thousand worlds laid bare on that infinite plain, some embedded with a half-organic growth. Against my better judgment, I ran my hand against one.
I beheld a city of quinquangular, black basalt skyscrapers, connected above and beneath the water by a network of enclosed bridges. Organic, insatiable things chased the inhabitants through their former homes and residences, turning galleries into gore-filled houses. Their five-sided bodies and eyestalks aside, I felt a kinship with these creatures. Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn, or whatever they had been, they were people! Betrayed by things wrought by their own experiments, but they were people. All too fallible. Just like us. Just like me.
I found myself back on the nightmarish plain once more, feeling an indescribably chill run down my spine. I staggered forward, and I saw another building, a steel structure lying on its side. Curiously, there was no rust, but scouring and scorch marks covered it. The way it partially protruded from the ground suggested it had fallen, or crashed, from great heights. Carefully caressing it, I felt why.
I saw a man, or something that shared its form, in a suit of olive powered armor with a heavy gun in hand. Organic, gibbering creatures threw themselves at him, even as the starship crashed towards the surface below. Characters on battered armor, burnt as bright and clear as a supernova, ignited as the transhuman trooper blasted the demonic creatures. When his blast struck the gibbering, slavering abomination, it exploded in a shower of charred organs and searing light. The shape of those characters, that celestial writing, looked like my own.
I found myself once more on that hellish plain, and I was not alone. The ground beneath me grew moist and organic, like the soft tongue of a sleeping beast. The air grew rank and fetid, as though some immense abomination breathed beneath me. The third structure I saw was half-engulfed, embedded deeper than the spaceship had been. It was clearly a stone structure of some sort, although its ornate, runic carvings were nearly indecipherable from eons of erosion in this wasteland. With less hesitation, I touched it.
I beheld an immaculate realm of stone spires and interwoven towers. The city was a gossamer web of ceramics that looked halfway between grown and carved. Small stone platforms, ringed by large sapphires, levitated above the city, providing light and water. Having glimpsed the fate of this city, I grimly beheld its fall. A trio of robed figures, humans of varied skin colors, charged towards a tower wreathed in sickly red energy. They drew staves, and backed away slowly, but the energy grew more intense. Things, like those that had destroyed the first two cities, poured out and ripped them to shreds. The last of them had arms glowing with similar characters as the armored trooper, and lasted the longest against that infernal onslaught.
It was then I understood. This was Hell, or at least something effectively the same. It was a tumor between dimensions, consuming sentient beings across civilizations. It drew across dimensions to those who embodied the destructive, malignant urges it resonated with. Over eons, it corrupted, enslaved, and consumed realms, nations, and worlds into its eternally-growing ranks. Collaborators might live on as its appendages, pathetic, corrupt shells of anything they once stood for. It was the unrestrained urge, the ever-present call for more. Perhaps there was no Devil, no Satan atop a bloody throne, but instead the mind of this cancerous realm itself.
Yet there was hope. Those marked, those covered with the characters, were effective weapons against those creatures. Perhaps they were some sort of interdimensional immune response. Perhaps they were predators, and the forces of Hell were their prey. Their abilities, their urges, made them more effective at going on the offense. I saw examples that were too late. I recognized a kinship, of sorts, with them. They mastered their abilities, but I was a neophyte."
And a beautiful conclusion: ""There were ones like us worldwide," Jada said. "But they've been corrupted."
"And they have friends in high and low places," I said. "All working for Hell. All working to end the world."
"Nick was just a low-ranking member," Jada said, sighing. "And they'll notice he's gone."
"So, what are we going to do? Wait for the cops to sort this all out?" I asked. "These creeps own the police."
"And the underworld, too," Jada said. "But there's one thing I realized."
"They can bleed," I said.
Jada smiled wide.
"I'm going to need training," I said. "It's just us against the world."
Jada looked at me. "We're not alone. Can't you feel it?"
I nodded. "Yes," I said. "I feel something else, too."
Jada leaned into me. I felt her breath against mine. My hormones raced. "Are you alright with this?"
"Yes," I said.
She kissed me, and she mounted me. What followed was just as intense and pleasuring as any jiu-jitsu match. I thought I saw our sigils match each other in intensity, a sort of supernal synchronicity. I supposed it was fine, as long as you did things in moderation. Virtue finds and choses the mean. I just didn't want to end up like Nick. As Jada went down on me for the first time, I wondered what I'd been missing. The sounds we made became a true heavenly calling. That was how my mission started."
Keep up the great work. You are very talented. Thank you so much for writing this. I really enjoyed it. I wouldn't mind possibly reading a sequel at some point, but that is up to you of course. I wish you the best.