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Challenges of the Gods by C. Hofsetz

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  • Challenges of the Gods 1

    After Mike goes through a gut-wrenching betrayal by his fiancée, he finds himself in what he thinks might be the afterlife. But this is no heaven. The gods made a mistake and created another Earth in a parallel universe, putting both universes in peril. They need someone from his planet to destroy the alternate, and Mike is randomly selected for the job.

    Trapped in an impossible choice, Mike accepts his mission and is returned to an Earth—and a body—so unlike his own. There, he meets Jane, who is—unbeknownst to him—the secret leader of an organization bent on tracking down Earth's saboteur. In the face of her passion for humanity, Mike's resolve falters. If Mike won't complete his mission, the gods will.

    Rating: Sensual
    Page Count: 374
    Word Count: 94705
    978-1-5092-2432-6 Paperback
    978-1-5092-2433-3 Digital

    Excerpt

    Chapter 1

    Heaven

     

    The first thing that comes to mind is that the afterlife is overrated. Even after death, everything I am, everything I went through, remains. The sadness, the hopelessness—the betrayal. No matter where I go, it’ll always be there.

    My last hours are fuzzy. I remember going somewhere, numb, just after I learned about my fiancée’s affair with my best friend. What a cliché. A story that’s been written over and over again. I thought my relationship was special. I should’ve paid attention to the statistics.

    A bright yellow sky hangs over me where I lie, surrounded by odd diamond-shaped grass. My stomach feels lighter. I’m half-naked, wearing a hospital gown in an alien world. The situation is so bizarre it makes me smile. This cannot be real. And yet, everything is somewhat familiar.

    As I stand up, I almost lose my balance. Gravity in the afterlife must be less than Earth’s. The furry grass tickles my feet as I stumble through the field, squashing the fuzzy leaves. Spreading my arms wide, I touch everything, concentrating on the texture of the foliage, taking my time.

    Someone definitely did a good job here. The level of detail is impressive. The wind, the air, the ridges, the trees—they all seem flawless, except for the pulsating purple trunks. Still, my mind is stuck on the fact that this is not real, that I am, in fact, dead. Whatever made this world—this place—is crafty. It looks perfect, but it doesn’t feel real. It’s as if the air is filled with electricity, connecting me to the ground, the vegetation, the surrounding area. It’s uncanny.

    Movement catches my attention, and I peer through the tall, skinny trees. In the distance, a dark-haired woman runs through the forest, making a lot of noise. She wears a pair of long, faded blue pants. Her white shirt is joined in the middle of her chest by small, disk-like objects in several equally spaced points, and I could swear she has a belt of some kind. It’s an odd outfit. Really odd.

    The forest floor is littered with dead lianas—or maybe vines—that were once attached to the trees, and the long, thick, black branches crack like fireworks as she steps on them. They should make running almost impossible, but she manages to do it all the same. A black man wearing a blue soccer jersey—I hate that team—and a blonde woman in a trendy one-piece tracksuit chase after her, though they’re having trouble keeping pace.

    The blonde stops running, crouches, and shoots several times, but misses. Great, I’m in a first-person shooter game without a weapon. This is not at all what I expected from Heaven. In fact, I didn’t even believe in it.

    Up above, in the sky, a flash of motion catches my attention. It’s hard to see them through the trees, but two people circle us from above, observing the action unfolding below. How interesting. If we can fly in this place, why are the others running?

    The sharp crack of a branch breaking brings my gaze back to the fleeing woman. She’s running toward me now. And it’s too late to do anything. We make eye contact as she gets close, and she moves her arms up, as if protecting herself, trying to stop. But her momentum keeps her going and her foot is trapped by the vines. She crashes to the ground, face first, her body cushioned by the leaves.

    I suppress a chuckle, but I can’t hide a half-smirk. She notices it, frowning. I suspect I’m not making friends today. Maybe I should help her up.

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Challenges of the Gods

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