Book One of the Endgame Trilogy
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For Dante Smith, a young man struggling to come to peace with his past while fi nding the courage to face his future, nothing is what it seems. When he was four, he lost his father in an odd series of events—which were immediately covered up by those involved. His mother then raised him to believe he was special.

Now an adult with a family of his own, Dante suddenly fi nds himself enduring a series of near-crippling visions that begin to tear his life apart. A man from his father’s past then sets Dante upon a strange path, forcing him to choose to leave his wife and join the fight against an extraterrestrial foe—but can Dante trust what he’s been told?

Dante must now attempt to become the type of hero his father had believed he could be, while still somehow holding his family together. He has been told so many lies that he starts to doubt his own sanity or perspective. Even though he doesn’t know who to trust or who the true enemies are, there is one thing he knows for a fact: he is the only one who can fi gure it all out.

“The time is coming, and things will never be the same again. This is not a dream. Everything you see and feel will be quite real, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. The end is inevitable.” * * * “John, it happened again. I’m worried. It’s the same thing every day. He is normal one moment, and the next his eyes roll back and he collapses,” Gwen said into the phone. “Wait, I think I hear him coming, so I should let you go. I really think you should come out here and check on him, though…soon.” Gwen hung up the phone and walked towards the bedroom, where minutes earlier she had watched her husband collapse on the bed. She watched as Dante slowly picked himself up out of bed, nodded in her direction and crept to the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. She tried to remember what their lives were like before he started having these problems, but it was getting increasingly difficult. Dante came out of the bathroom and walked towards her. The glimmer was gone from his light blue eyes. The smile and laugh that had played a part in her attraction to him was now replaced with a worried, and sometimes pained, expression. Before he could speak, she reached up, standing on her tiptoes, and kissed him softly on the lips. He looked down, reading the expression on her face, and gave her the biggest smile he could manage. “Gwen, I know you’re worried. Honestly, I am, too. I just…I don’t know what’s happening to me. The visions are tearing me apart inside. They’re always intense, but this time…this time was different,” Dante Smith said. “This time I heard a voice. Maybe I’m…what if I’m going crazy?” Dante pulled away from Gwen and turned around, visibly shaken. He ran his hand through his black hair, and then along his goatee, which was something he always did while thinking. His mind was racing with the images from the visions. He hadn’t shared those visions with anyone, not even Gwen. He had mentioned that he had been having intense dreams during the periods he was unconscious, but he hadn’t gotten specific. Even more than everyone questioning his sanity, Dante worried that talking about them would make everything seem more real. There had always been the faint hope at the edge of his mind that ignoring it would make it go away, but that hope grew dimmer and dimmer with each passing day. “Gwen, I think I’m ready to tell you everything that’s been happening to me,” Dante said, as he walked back to her and ran his fingers through her silky blonde hair. “You need to sit down, though.” Dante watched as a mixture of love, worry, and even fear passed over Gwen’s face as he spoke. In the five years they’d been married, he’d never once questioned her desire to stay with him through sickness and health and insane, head-pounding visions and dreams, but he often questioned why she still desired it. By anyone’s standards, she was a beautiful woman, young, blonde, and she kept in shape. He loved that she wasn’t obsessed with her looks or always looking to the next diet fad to reach some obscene level of skinniness. She had always been supportive through dating and school, through career changes, and even through all of this, but part of him wished for her sake that she would grow to be fed up and leave him to his misery and find the happiness he was currently unable to give her. Still, that wasn’t the woman he married, and he was certain how this conversation would go. “I’m ready, honey. We can work through this together. Everything will be all right,” Gwen said. Gwen…I don’t love you anymore. Leave. Maybe if he were stronger, he could bring himself to speak those lies to her and save her, but every part of him knew that he needed her to be there. “I think it will be easier if I just get right to the point. In the visions, I see…I…I see…the moon…” Dante’s confession was interrupted by another vision. He slammed his hands onto the sides of his head and screamed. As he started to lose consciousness, he could see the look of fear on Gwen’s face as his eyes once again rolled back, and he collapsed on the bed. His consciousness had already been ripped away from him by the time she leaped to the phone and quickly dialed 911. Within a few moments, the blaring sound of sirens broke through the usually quiet neighborhood and up the street. If he had been aware, Dante would have tried to stop Gwen from the call she immediately made, but he was so far gone this time that even the sensation of her lovingly holding his hand in the back of an ambulance meant nothing to him.

Jeff Ackenback is a youth pastor who holds a master’s degree in creative writing from Ball State University. A former news reporter, he has published several short stories and articles. He is single and lives in West Chester, Ohio.


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