- 2000 - 2010 -
Towards end of my three-and-a-half years at the university in Nashville, one of my writing professors assigned us a reflection paper about our literary influences and early writings. We could write about how we thought we’d grown as writers, or about the people who’d inspired our craft along the way.
Since I didn’t feel like writing another paper on Tolkein or Lewis, I went digging through an old trunk in my room that contained some of my oldest treasures. An array of different things had found their ways in there over the years: photos, home run balls, notes, awards, essays…and at the bottom, under stacks of posters, I found some old “books” I’d written in elementary school.
Together, they made up a series I called “Colors” –– stories about real people (my friends and me) set in a completely fictional universe, where the world comes under threat and the main characters obtain special powers to save it. I leafed through the pages, sometimes laughing, sometimes cringing at the poor grammar and word choice. But I couldn’t help psychoanalyze the protagonist –– the boy my creative 10-year-old self had created as a means to an ideal life. It seemed strange, but suddenly I came in direct contact with my adolescent thoughts and motivations about the world I lived in and the world I wanted.
I did my best to summarize them here:
Meet Blake. His favorite sport is basketball and he never has any trouble making friends.
He has eight of them, to be exact –– Jordan, Shorty, Josh, Hall, Shane, Taylor, Thomas, and Clay.
He knows Clay from elementary school, but the other seven friends he meets during his first adventure to a state park in the Rocky Mountains. Before they are to be classmates at a new middle school in the Fall, fate introduces them to each other early, it seems, with a small purple light. A glowing orb rouses each from their respective bunks and leads them together into a hidden cave.
There, they meet a mysterious dog figure named P.W., who with his last efforts to save his home planet from extinction, charges the boys with a mission: find the Stones of Chaos and, using their power, defeat P.W.’s corrupt and power-thirsty brother, the Grim.
Before breaking his connection, P.W. grants the boys elementary power that they use to search for the Stones, which were formed during the creation of the world and scattered throughout it. With his final words to them, P.W. gives a warning: “Beware the Grim! He shifts his shape and may appear as a person you love dearly!”
So the boys set out, using their summer vacation to formulate a strategy to defeat the infamous Grim. Blake leads the charge.
Along with the ability to fly, each of the boys receives a unique ability corresponding to a certain color granted them by P.W. Blake is given dominion over the color Blue, and with it, power over anything in the water. Once he discovers his Stone, his powers increase, and he gains the ability to morph into various creatures of the sea.
After locating every Stone of Chaos, the boys finally face the Grim, who seems to have inhabited the body of Blake’s father. Now forced to face his dad, Blake loses much of his nerve, but is aided by his friends. Using their powers in tandem, they defeat the Grim and return home.
The strangest parts of the first story were the guys I chose to cast as my closest friends; they were people I was only barely getting to know at the time.
I received so much attention from my friends about the book, I decided to write a sequel a year later. Both were written during my adventures into Greek Mythology, long before converting to Christianity. It shocked me a bit when Mark, the first friend I showed the book to once I’d finished, opened the first page and remarked, “It starts off like the Bible.”
In the beginning, the world was empty. Empty, except for the Great Snake Ophion, who roamed the surface of the void like an angry wind. Discontented and alone, the Great Snake’s anger grew hotter until a corner of the Earth caught fire. From the flames sprang life and element, and as they swept across time and space to fill it all up, tiny clusters and collisions occurred and elements hardened, creating dense Stones, capable of lending incredible power to those who possessed them.
Blake wakes from a dream about P.W. and catches his bus in time for the first day of Middle School. The place is almost as intimidating as facing the Grim.
He finds his friends inside the doors; the group has been inseparable since their adventure. The school is full of rumors, however, about the eight boys who went missing over summer break and about what might have happened to them while they were gone. They try to ignore it all.
The most concerned is Clay, who despite being a close friend of all the guys, wasn’t on the trip when they received their powers. The boys don’t know how best to go about telling him, fearful that he might be skeptical or jealous.
In the end, he finds out himself. After a strange fire springs up in one of the classrooms, Clay catches the boys using their Stones to save the school, and is welcomed excitedly into the group after hearing the full story.
As the school year progresses, more incidents trouble the boys until they begin to suspect that something is amiss. Strange dreams haunt them, and eventually, some of the friends are visited by hooded figures who try to corner and kill them. Their attempts to contact P.W. for help and guidance are all in vain.
Finally, on Josh’s birthday, the troupe camps out in some woods outside of town and a familiar purple light wakes them (that is, all except Clay). They follow it through the brush to a weeping willow, and there find the faded image of their beloved mentor. But he’s in bad shape.
He warns the boys against the return of the Grim. He fears that the villain is closer to power than they know, and P.W.’s own has weakened significantly in contrast. He begs for help and then disappears.
The boys return to their tent to discover that Clay has had a strange experience of his own. After waking and finding himself alone, he describes how he stepped outside the tent and found himself face to face with a great cloudy snake, who told him that he would soon have to make a choice determining the fate of the entire world.
Puzzled by this news, the boys try to keep a closer eye on the strange happenings in the school. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. One day just before Christmas break, Blake witnesses Clay, with a strange look on his face, pulling Shane’s unconscious body into a janitor’s supply closet during class. When he follows, he finds that behind a messy pile of mops and buckets, a staircase has been carved out and covered by a cloth. He pulls the cloth aside and takes the stairs down underneath the school.
When he arrives at the bottom, he finds all of his friends, as well as P.W., in bonds on the floor of a large stone chamber. All are out cold. He rushes to the dog and unties the ropes binding him until a voice –– one he recognizes as the Grim’s –– commands him to stop.
Blake turns. Standing in the doorframe is his social studies teacher, and beside him, Clay. Blake immediately recognizes the blank expressions on their faces: they are possessed.
Smiling, the teacher holds out his palm and reveals a handful of stones.
“Those are my friends’. Where did you get those?” Blake asks.
“I took them,” responds Clay robotically. Then, for a moment, he seems to regain control of himself enough to say, “I’m sorry!” and then quickly glazes over once more.
They advance. Blake tries to combat them, but is hesitant to injure Clay. And since the teacher still has hold of all the boys’ Stones, Blake is outmatched. But the commotion has caused the others to stir. P.W., now free from his bonds, comes to Blake’s aid, tackling the teacher to the ground.
Clay stands aside in confusion. He seems to be fighting the Grim’s control.
The teacher, now wrestling P.W. on the floor, points to a hole in the stone wall, which begins to glow with a strange light, as if the summer sun were shining through it from the other side. Suddenly, Blake can see trees and other vegetation through the gap.
With a jerk, the teacher casts the Stones into the strange forest.
“No!” P.W. yells, stomping on the teacher’s arm before he can close the portal. “You must retrieve them!” He calls to Blake and the other boys, who have all awoken now. “Get to the middle of the forest! To the tower! Go through the portal! GO!”
So the boys, minus Clay, go.
Presently they find themselves in the midst of a jungle landscape, powerless. Because of the thick vegetation, Shorty must climb a tree to locate the tower P.W. had mentioned before they start towards it.
But an argument breaks out: some in the group think that the main priority must be retrieving their Stones in the jungle, so that they’re not still powerless once they reach the tower. The others hold fast to P.W.’s orders, intending to make it to the structure as quickly as possible, regardless of the Stones. Blame gets thrown around about Clay until Jordan, whom Blake considered his very best friend, throws an angry punch and storms off. Half the group follows; half stay with Blake.
Flustered and unsure which route the others chose to take, Blake makes for the tower with haste. Rain starts to fall. Thunder shatters the sky. They take off at a run.
Just as the storm reaches a frightening climax, Blake’s group stumbles upon a clearing and finds all the other boys there, having decided to take a route to the tower as well.
Blake and Jordan exchange sorrowful glances.
But before any reconciliation can be made, a crack breaks through the clamor of rain, a lightning bolt flashes, and a great tree ahead begins to fall.
Blake realizes first: Jordan stands square in the way of the tree’s collision course with the ground. Unable to use his powers, Blake charges his friend on foot, pushes him out of the way, and disappears under the weight of the falling giant. The boys gather around his body, but nothing can be done. He is dead.
The next thing Blake becomes aware of is a bright light glowing ahead of him, as if at the end of a tunnel. He starts towards it, and then reconsiders.
“No, I don’t think so,” he tells the light, and turns aside into blackness. A voice greets him there.
“You’ve passed the test.”
“What test?” he responds.
The voice doesn’t explain, but instead, tells Blake that by dying in order to save a friend, he’s reached a new plane of enlightenment, and will be rewarded.
The scene changes and Blake finds himself standing in a dry, barren wasteland. The planes are cracked and colorless for miles. Only a ring of grass encircles him.
Then, in the distance, he sees what at first looks like a tornado on the earth. It’s really the Snake, great and winding, made of cloud, speaking in a deep voice that shakes the sky.
“The power doesn’t come from the Stone, it comes from you,” it says.
Blake is told to turn around, and comes face to face with Clay, who looks himself. He realizes that while the Grim has control of his friend’s body, the conscious part of Clay came to this place –– to the strange barren waste between living and dying.
A smile spreads across Clay’s face, and after he tells Blake that he’s been waiting for him, extends his hand and reveals what Blake recognizes as a Stone of Chaos –– though this one is a color he’s never seen before. In fact, it’s a color no one’s ever seen before. It’s a color lost to the human eye since the beginning of the world.
As he takes it, he feels a new power rush over him.
Blake awakes on the ground beside the fallen tree. His friends are gone. He floats into the air and disappears.
At the top of the tower in the middle of the jungle, the Grim has managed once again to imprison every one of the boys, as well as P.W. Just when he’s about to execute them, Blake arrives on the scene and stops the attack. The others look upon him “as if he were a god.”
Still hovering in the air, he uses his power to split his new Stone into several pieces, one for each of his companions, including Clay, who is still presently under control. Together, they defeat the Grim for good, and celebrate with P.W. The villain releases his grip on Clay.
But not without permanent damage.
After suffering mercilessly under the control of the Grim, Clay’s mind remains fuzzy, and in the very last lines of the book he announces that he no longer wishes to go along with the group of guys, but must avenge his fallen master. He disappears and the book ends.
I’m not sure whether Clay ever read the series –– I hope against it. A friend of mine told me afterwards that she thought I should change the ending so that I wouldn’t upset him. I naively refused, worried about my creative freedoms being infringed upon.
At the very end of the books, I found a short “afterword” that I’d tacked on probably in an ill-contrived attempt to seem mysterious. It ended up being mysterious indeed (as mentioned previously, I had hardly any knowledge of Christianity at this time): it depicts Blake walking into a library, and removing from its shelves a Bible. He turns to the 23rd Psalm and reads the first line: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
“That sounds familiar,” Blake says. He puts the book down and walks out of the room.