I’m changing things up this week. As I said, I would post the first few chapters of the book I offered for free the previous Friday for #freebookfriday but since I’ve offered this book so many times before, I think it may have become over saturated, so what I’m doing this week is putting up the first chapter of each part of the book. Just trying this out. Enjoy!
My name is Jake Corba and I spent my twenty-fifth birthday baking away along Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California. I wasn’t homeless, as such, but it was a lot more pleasant for me to camp out along the street than be at home, which was nothing more than a glamorized roach motel which enjoyed frequent visits from bill collectors and repo men. My creditors had become aggressive in their attempts to squeeze the last bit of blood from my veins and I didn’t want to make their job easier by being a stationary target.
I sat along the street and begged for change when the mood struck me, but mostly I just sat there and thought. I tried to keep my thoughts away from the past. I realize many people reflect fondly on their histories, but I’ve never found any comfort in mine. I never could see any point in dredging up a painful life in order to figure out exactly where it all went wrong, when I already knew. I could pinpoint my first and biggest mistake to the day I was born.
I didn’t remember much about my parents, as they didn’t last very long. There was a fire in the church on the night of my baptism. A fire, I have come to understand, that I started after I was possessed by some otherworldly force. A demon to be exact.
A demon had infiltrated my small, fragile body and I was filled with its power. I didn’t know what I was doing and I don’t recall much of the experience, but apparently I caused the death of my parents and nearly every single soul in that church. That’s about all I can remember from my childhood. I have flashes of growing up, being tossed from one foster home to another. I didn’t have many good memories to hold onto so I never tried.
Over time, I learned to control the demon on my own. It became a part of me and I learned that I was a lot better off on my own than with any family. No one could possibly understand who I was or what I had become. The demon inside me gave me strength. It helped me to survive on the street.
I saw a wealthy looking woman approaching me on her way to one of the boutiques along the boulevard. I looked up and mumbled a request for some spare coins. I expected her to just walk by but to my surprise she stopped and dug out some coins from her purse. She dropped them into my backpack and hurried on her way. When I was sure she was out of earshot, I rifled through my bag and found the money; a couple quarters and a penny. I shoved the coins into my pocket to join the others I had collected that morning. I almost had enough for a small cup of coffee. Happy birthday to me.
The day dragged on. I sat and watched the usual parade of life pass by. I walked along the block and mingled with my fellow street people. Once you get past the crazy, they have some real interesting stories to share. As I was heading back to my usual spot, I stopped in my tracks. I could see him across the street.
There was a very weird looking dude who seemed to have gotten into the habit of stalking me. He was a big guy too. Built like a brick wall. I had seen him staring at me a couple times over the past few months. At first, I just thought he was a local. I’ve seen a lot of people more than once around here. It wasn’t that unusual, but when I realized every time I saw him, he was looking at me, I began to worry. His gaze was penetrating. It was as though he were expecting me to do a trick or something. I turned away from him. When I looked up, he was gone. I was rather surprised by my reaction. I’m not the kind of guy to scare easy. I wasn’t sure why this freak was making me feel so uneasy.
I decided then was as good a time to pack it in. I could feel my skin burning, but I didn’t mind. The demon inside of me helped to keep me healthy and well. Any wounds I suffered, it would heal. Any ailments I had, it would cure. The voices in my head were a small price to pay for that kind of coverage.
I could tell it was getting late. Nearly time to eat but I didn’t have enough to get anything. I went over to a nearby trashcan and did a quick scan of its contents in case someone had tossed some leftovers or a half full soda cup. Nothing, but I had a theory that I did have some stale potato chips in my pantry back at my dump. I grabbed my bag and threw it over my shoulder and headed down the street.
The next day I came out at my usual time and camped out as always. It was a bit cooler and I was able to stake a claim on some sidewalk that had some good shadow coverage. I sat just watching for a few minutes, but I got bored. I went to my bag and pulled out a pen and paper. I started to write. Nothing deep or profound. I would sometimes just write down what came into my head. I wasn’t always sure if it was coming from my head, of course, but that wasn’t the point. It also helped to have something to focus on other than myself. It really helped pass the time.
I was tearing through the pages for what seemed like only a few minutes, but when I finally came up for air, I saw three hours had passed. I felt my stomach begin to rumble loudly. The potato chips from last night weren’t quite as filling as I had hoped they’d be. I set the paper down and considered my options. It wasn’t even noon yet, and the foot traffic was unbearably light, so I didn’t have much more than the money I had collected yesterday. I double-checked my bag in case I missed something. I then decided to drown my hunger in my writing. I grabbed the paper and went back to my words.
The shade I had been luxuriating in for most of the morning was fading and I could feel the heat spreading. My forehead was moist with sweat. As I was starting a new line on the paper, I thought about taking a break to find a new spot when suddenly, the shade returned. I looked up and the brick wall freak was standing right over me. He had never gotten so close before. I could smell something coming off of him. Either his cologne or soap. It was subtle at first but soon it was all I could smell. Some sort of mix of animal musk and Old Spice.
“Hello.” His voice was like thunder. I snagged my bag and tried to slide away as slowly as possible.
“Hi.” I said.
“Jake Corba?” I felt a shock come over me. It had been so long since I had heard someone say my name. It almost seemed like hearing a foreign language. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I had made ducking creditors into an art form, but I wasn’t getting that kind of vibe from the guy.
“Yeah.” I said as I got to my feet. I began inching away, just in case.
“It is you, isn’t it?” He sounded relieved somehow. A smile, or what I thought was a smile, began to form on his lips.
“It’s me all right. Do I know you?”
“My name is Ivar.”
“Ivar? Ivar what?”
“For now, just Ivar. I have come a long way to meet you, sir.”
“I am what some might call a student of the universe. I have traveled the world studying from the greatest religious and Philosophical minds on Earth. Holy men from every corner of the globe.”
“Okay, that’s great. Your passport’s full. Congrats. Can I go?”
“I’ve come here to study from you.” His tone was so sincere, I nearly believed him.
“From me? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a holy man. I don’t even go to church.”
“But you are a Corba.”
“The day you were to be baptized, you were taken by a demon that still dwells in your soul to this day.”
“How do you know that?”
“I have insight.”
“That’s great,” I had thought he was creepy when he was just looking at me, but hearing what he had to say raised his creep factor by a million. By the look in his eyes, I could tell he really believed it all. I knew I had to get out of there and fast. “This has been interesting, but I think I need to get home now. Bye.” I said and turned away.
I took the long way home but as I was walking, I could sense someone behind me. I turned and saw that Ivar was following me. He wasn’t chasing me, but keeping pace with me. Clearly asking him to leave me alone wasn’t going to work. I turned a corner onto a small street a few blocks from my apartment and spun around to face Ivar as he approached.
“What is your problem, man? I don’t want to talk to you! I don’t know how you know so much about my life, but it doesn’t impress me. Just leave me alone! I’ll go to the cops if I have to.”
“I realize how strange this may seem to you. I have come to learn from you because I feel my teachings have become limited. It doesn’t matter how many religious leaders and figures I speak with. They are just devices chosen to deliver a message, but you are as close to the very essence of the living energy of this universe as any living thing can get. You are not a representative of a higher spirituality. You are a part of it. You have experienced a higher plane of existence and became one with it. You have knowledge that I could never hope to attain. I want to know all I can learn from you. I want to know how you came to be and why and…”
“Hold on there, dude. You want to learn about me from when? When I was born?”
“Well, you know about as much as I do. After that church thing, it’s all a blank until my first day at my first foster family.”
“Surely, you have more information than that. Your soul is bonded to a demon. Your family has been hunted and persecuted by demons for centuries. You are a perfect example of the functionally cursed.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t you know about your family?”
“No, I don’t. I never really cared to look into the whole family tree. Being stuck with the demon has been bad enough.”
“You don’t know the story?”
“Don’t know it. Don’t care to.”
“Come with me then. I will share with you what I have learned.”
“Thanks, but no thanks. I never knew my family, and that’s been a fine arrangement so far. They seem to be too much trouble. Especially if they’re cursed. This has been freaky and disturbing and I think you need to go. Now.” I said and turned away from Ivar and continued on my way home.
“Don’t you even want to know why you live under this curse?” He barked at me as I got further from him.
“Even if I can help you cure yourself.” I stopped. The world stopped. His words echoed in my head. I had heard the word cure thrown around carelessly. Before I learned to control the demon, I tried to expel it. I talked to everyone I could about it. A few offered hope and promised they could save me, but they were all wrong. I decided it was better to just live with the damn thing and close the door on any hope of being cured. I wanted to turn back to Ivar and agree. I wanted him to show me some miraculous procedure or remedy that all the others had overlooked. The one silver bullet that would finally free me forever, but before I could utter a word, I remembered the disappointment I felt each time one of those saviors had let me down. I couldn’t do it again. I wouldn’t. I braced myself and continued on down the street without a word. I could hear Ivar behind me, begging me to come back, but I kept forward.