• Phoenix Ward

Oddstar Excerpt: Part One

This is an unedited, unpolished excerpt from Chapter 1 of Oddstar: A Which Where Novel.


The moon orbits the Earth. The Earth orbits the Sun. Like all stars, it orbits the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, which in turn circles the middle of the known universe. But what does the universe revolve around? There are many people who believe it’s themselves, but such people are about as remarkable as an ice cube in an ocean.

Is it possible the universe churns around something larger, something that defies the definition of space? Is it locked in an eternal conga line with a trillion other universes, or are they all stacked ontop of each other in thin layers like some kind of cosmic lasagna?

Wouldn’t you like to know?

In such a “multiverse”—where every conceivable variation of everything exists—what makes a person significant? Can anyone become important, or is it something they have to be born into? Philosophers and physicists could agonize over these questions and many more for millennia and they’d still be unable to know the answers for certain.

There are beings who do know, of course. I know—but don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil the meaning of existence for you. No, I’m here to tell you a story that transcends the barriers between universes—between alternate realities. It’s the tale of my family, a race of Masters as old as the multiverse itself. It’s the recounting of a game that uses mortal beings like pawns on a chessboard. First and foremost, though, this is the story of a man.

Will Redeker was an insignificant man of insignificant means from an insignificant planet called Earth. He was unaware of the multiverse’s plans for him, and frankly, he didn’t care. All he was concerned with was the job at hand, and how it would serve to drain the sea of debt that threatened to swallow him.

Will’s arm started to fall asleep as it propped up the binoculars. The grass underneath him grew colder with every passing minute as the night transitioned into morning, the darkness sinking ever further. Soon, dew would be collecting on the ground, but he hoped to be out of there long before then.

In the glass house down the hill, the journalist kicked back another shot of tequila. The man’s bearded face grimaced as the liquor slid down his throat. Will could see every square inch of the journalist’s house from where he lay. Almost all of the walls were made of enormous windows, putting the man’s excessive lifestyle on display for the whole neighborhood. Fortunately, the rest of the street was occupied by similar houses. Nershberg’s place was no unique spectacle.

Rich people, Will thought. They’d put themselves into an oubliette if they thought it would flaunt their status and wealth.

Will sighed heavily, feeling his elbows start to fall asleep. He watched the journalist bend down and inhale a pencil-thick line of cocaine. Nershberg’s face was frozen like he’d been immersed in ice as he tilted back his head. Plugging up his nostrils, he unscrewed the top of his bottle and poured another shot into his little glass.

Better be the last one of the night, buddy. You’re gonna have more than a hangover when you wake up tomorrow.

As if the journalist could read the hidden thief’s thoughts, he put the bottle back in its cupboard and took the shot. After a bit of tongue flailing, he set the glass in the sink and scooped up his snorting paraphernalia. He staggered a bit, his housecoat falling open to reveal his Spider-Man underwear. With a few sloppy steps, the drunk man made his way down the stairs and into his subterranean bedroom. Will saw the light come on as the door closed behind Nershberg. Then it shut off.

Lights out. With a smirk, Will grabbed his bag and started to make his way down the hill. Some dew had started to collect on the grass blades, so he had to stop himself from slipping a few times. That’s okay. He wanted to make sure the journalist was asleep before he got to the door, anyway. Each delay only helped him achieve that.

He waited a few extra minutes, scanning the neighborhood and confirming that no one else stirred. It was finally time to spring into action.

Will pulled the little tablet from his bag and connected it to the house’s security system, just on the front porch. He set his pack down on one of the patio chairs and went to work.

The program did most of the hard calculations and guesswork, but it still took an expert to navigate it through even the most basic security systems. Thankfully, Will had a lot of experience with the device; he had coded the program himself. A tradesman is only as good as his tools.

While the program was closing in on the last number of the code that would deactivate the alarm, Will gazed into the foyer. He couldn’t see well from his angle, but could still make out the paw of a German Shepherd guard dog, asleep in a big doggie bed.

He held his breath as the program finally finished and the front door cracked open. He waited and stared at the dog’s paw, waiting to see if it moved. Nothing happened.

Will sighed under his breath, feeling the cold prickles of fear receding. It had been tricky getting the sedative into the dog’s auto-feeding water bowl, but it apparently paid off. This was the only time he’d ever had to drug a guard dog before, and he prayed he didn’t ever have to do it again.

He moved millimeters at a time, pushing open the front door and listening to the air within. In the distance, a floor below, the hard inhales of drunk snoring drifted up to him. A sweeter sound he’d never heard. Some of the tension in his shoulders melted away.

So far, so good...

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