Blood, Sweat and Runes
M. Howalt
(2 reviews)
Elliot Warren works in customer support as a “have you tried turning it off and on again?” guy. - ... Show More
Comedy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
magic, runes, vikings, cultural appropriation, diversity

A Pretty Fly Guy with a Nerdy Streak

I know how you feel about prologues, but trust me on this one. It’ll save me a ton of explaining later. So don’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s your own damn fault if you skip it. Besides, I’ve explained all this before, so it’ll be pretty quick. Mostly I’ve told it to shrinks and other curious people, but I usually leave out certain parts.

Allow me to whisk you back in time to a December day somewhere on the West Coast. Where exactly isn’t particularly important, so you know what, you can just conjure up your own picture of a small town on the West Coast not that far from Oregon. Perfect. Now add snow, a few Christmas trees and creepy, mechanically nodding Santa figures and you’re spot on. I had lived with my dad and my dad’s girlfriend and their kids for years already then. It felt like forever because it was for more than half of my very short, barely teenaged, life. Typically, I was on my own in the mall that day. People entered with snow thawing and dripping from their hair and noses, and I had been studying them from the table in the food court which I had occupied for a couple of hours with a coke and a book I’d bought on sale.

I wasn’t a particularly nerdy kid, not like the stereotype too fat or too skinny boy with thick glasses, greasy hair and a hopeless sweater that their mom knitted. I wasn’t like the stuttering kids in the back of the classroom who knew a lot more than they dared say because they would be teased to no end if they did. I liked sports, I didn’t like math and my English papers always came back with a plea from my teacher that I would dedicate myself to spell checking and reining in those run-on sentences.

But I had a secret, a guilty pleasure that no one was allowed to know about. Obscure, exciting books about mysteries and magic. My father once threatened to disown me if I believed in that sort of crap. He laughed when he said it, but he had that glint in his eye that I instantly associated with danger. So my love affair with strange books had made me think of myself as a pretty fly version of Bastian from The Neverending Story, and I secretly hoped that some of the stories would come to life someday. That I’d be sucked into another world and become the hero of a great, big story. I smuggled candles into my room and tried to do magic, but it really never worked. Sometimes it felt like it was just out of my reach, as if there was something out there, a magical fairy tale world that was just waiting for me to find the door to it. But I was pretty sure there wasn’t a Narnia in my closet because I’d checked like any other sensible kid would.

On that wintry day I had visited the little bookstore that looked like it was being physically pushed out of the mall by the bright clothing store with loud music next to it. The book I’d purchased was called Paranormal Paradoxes. I had no idea what a paradox was, but I thought it sounded pretty cool. And I did know what paranormal was. That had to do with ghosts and psychics. I had wanted to be a psychic for a while, and I had tried really hard to be, but it hadn’t worked at all. I also had never seen a ghost, but maybe it was only because there weren’t any around where I lived. I had made my own Ouija board and gone with my first impulse, but my mother had not talked to me or moved the stupid glass around. In any case, Paranormal Paradoxes claimed to be a collection of critical accounts of inexplicable events. It had pictures, too. Blowing bored bubbles into my Coke and waiting for my dad or my half brother to pick me up, I had made it through the first chapter, a discussion of historical events that included stories of fake mediums as well as what it called “real paranormal events”.

It wasn’t the first time my dad had forgotten me. Not permanently forgotten or in a amnesic kind of way of course. He had just momentarily not thought of a promise he had made to me. If it went like the other times, my dad would show up a couple of hours late and angrily tell me that he had been busy as if it was somehow my fault that he couldn’t keep track of time.

“Elliot?” a man’s voice cut through my thoughts.

When I looked up, someone who was not my father was standing next to me with shopping bags in his hands. “Hello, Mr Sorenson,” I replied, obediently. I pulled at my jacket on the table to hide the book. Mr Sorenson didn’t have any kids, only a grown up daughter who lived far away, so it wasn’t like everybody in school would know about my guilty pleasure, but he lived down the road from us, and who knew if he’d tell my father? That would be embarrassing.

“What are you doing here?” asked Mr Sorenson.

I shrugged. “Not much. I’m waiting for my dad.”

The man nodded in a way that suggested that he had an opinion about this matter. If he did, I never learned what it was. But I could make a qualified guess. And it was embarrassing as hell. “Was he supposed to be here by now?”

“Yeah, about an hour ago,” said I, glancing at my wrist watch. More like two hours.

“Tell you what, Elliot, I’m on my way home. I can give you a ride.”

I knew not to go with strangers, but Mr Sorenson wasn’t exactly strange. He was a pretty normal guy, and you could tell that he was wearing a knitted sweater, probably not made by his mom, but bought in a store, under his coat and had normal things like cabbage and milk in his shopping bags. “If it isn’t any trouble,” I said, skipping the usual lame story about my dad probably being on his way now and feeling only a little bit bad about not making excuses for him this time.

“Not at all. I’m going that way anyway,” Mr Sorenson said. “Pack up your things and come on.”

I guess neither of us really thought about the possibility of my dad being on his way and us missing each other. Or maybe we just didn’t care too much about it. It kind of would be his own fault anyway. I slung my school bag over my shoulder and followed the man out into the darkening parking lot, resisting the urge to run off and make a snowball. I decided to do it the next day in school and have a fierce snowball battle with the other kids.

Mr Sorenson asked me what we were doing in school and things like that as the car swung out into the road and its headlights illuminated a stretch of black asphalt in front of us. The snow came faster now. It covered the ground in the side of the road, inches of snow streaked with dirt from cars speeding along on the road, but the further they came, the more white patches began to appear on the road as well.

It was like a spaceship, I thought. Going across an alien planet in the night. Even then I kind of knew that it made no sense, but I wasn’t that into spaceships and how they worked anyway. Science fiction didn’t interest me all that much unless it was stuff like Star Wars where there was some mystery and magic involved and not just robots and time machines.

I was listening to the car radio and not minding that Mr Sorenson had run out of things to ask me in polite interest and was looking forward to being able to read about paranormal things and finding out what a paradox was in my room tonight after dinner. And I was not looking forward to my dad being upset with me for going home with Mr Sorenson instead of waiting although it was his own fault.

That was when the windshield suddenly was brightly illuminated. I didn’t see what it was, but I heard Mr Sorenson shout or scream and the wailing sound of a blaring horn and screeching tyres. I never remembered the crash itself.

Afterwards, I learned that a truck had come right at us, that Mr Sorenson had swerved to avoid it and that his quick reactions might have saved us from a much worse fate. But the slippery road had caused the car to spiral out of control, off the road and into the safety fence. To my knowledge, the car hadn’t caught fire and exploded like they usually did in the movies, but the scene had been closed off for an hour while pieces of the car were being picked off the road, and there had been police and ambulances and all sorts of things. But I didn’t see any of that.

The next thing I did see was a white ceiling above a hospital bed. I had tubes everywhere and a machine next to me that monitored my heart and would alert the staff if it stopped. It had been a week since the accident, and I had entirely missed Christmas.

 They told me I lost a lot of blood, that the doctors had struggled to save me, and that my heart actually had stopped while I was on the operating table. Everybody asks when I tell them the story, so I might as well say this right away: I don’t remember seeing light at the end of a tunnel or angels or anything like that. It would make more sense if I had seen or felt something, I think, but I didn’t. Not that I can recall.

Mr Sorenson had survived with a few broken bones, blamed himself for the accident although it was not really his fault, and everyone else I knew had all sorts of reactions. Even my dad was really relieved that I was alive and was going to get well again.

Oh, and it was after the accident that I discovered real magic.
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 6/1/2016 7:08:25 AM
  • Yashita Ghazi commented on :
    5/31/2017 10:02:06 PM
    i am miss yashita ghazi i have a proposal for you via at (
  • Oru commented on :
    8/29/2016 8:34:57 PM
    Elliot is very fun to read, and I enjoy his random observations thoroughly!
  • Oru commented on :
    8/29/2016 8:34:55 PM
    Elliot is very fun to read, and I enjoy his random observations thoroughly!
  • Oru commented on :
    8/29/2016 8:34:53 PM
    Elliot is very fun to read, and I enjoy his random observations thoroughly!
  • Oru commented on :
    8/29/2016 8:34:12 PM
    Elliot is very fun to read, and I enjoy his random observations thoroughly!
  • Oru commented on :
    8/29/2016 8:34:09 PM
    Elliot is very fun to read, and I enjoy his random observations thoroughly!
  • Oru commented on :
    8/29/2016 8:34:04 PM
    Elliot is very fun to read, and I enjoy his random observations thoroughly!
  • Corin Reyburn commented on :
    7/11/2016 9:14:10 PM
    M, I liked your conversational, playful tone right off the bat that includes the reader. The line about having a secret, guilty pleasure was great too, as it feels like ... Show More
    • M. Howalt Thanks a lot for checking out BS&R! :) I'm happy to hear that it worked for you. Conversational and playful is pretty much what I'm going for with Elliot's voice.
      7/14/2016 9:13:06 AM
  • A Clark-McGlenn commented on :
    7/7/2016 3:37:01 PM
    You're right M! I hate prologues! I'll keep reading though.
    • M. Howalt Haha! Lots of people do. I usually avoid writing them, but for this particular story, it felt right. Thank you and welcome on board! :)
      7/9/2016 9:49:06 AM
  • Deandre commented on :
    7/7/2016 2:25:12 PM
    Really interesting title. I found that the voice worked really well and was quite playful. Which I really enjoyed!
    • M. Howalt Hey, welcome on board. :) Thanks a lot for reading! I'm happy to hear that the title and Elliot's voice drew you in. Hope you'll enjoy his adventure. :)
      7/8/2016 1:50:37 PM
  • TP Keating commented on :
    7/6/2016 6:08:08 PM
    Best wishes for the Summer Writing Project 2016.
    • M. Howalt Thanks very much! :)
      7/7/2016 6:47:39 PM
  • TP Keating commented on :
    6/29/2016 6:26:17 PM
    Now that's an intriguing title! Along with a joyful first line and opening paragraph. It's seriously easy to like this story.
    • M. Howalt I'm super happy that you think so! Thank you! :) I'm going for a lighter mood here than my other JP serials, so it's great to hear that it works.
      6/30/2016 8:21:11 AM
  • Dean Moses commented on :
    6/15/2016 6:48:50 AM
    What a unique opener! I love the first line referencing prologues; it’s right on the nose in a fantastic way. This has all the makings of a great read: a lovable outcast, ... Show More
    • M. Howalt Ooh! I'm excited to see you here. :) And I'm happy that the prologue worked for you. I personally don't mind prologues if they're done right, but I know lot of people tend to skip them altogether, so Elliot needed to make a comment on that. Thank you for checking it out! I hope you'll return for more. :)
      6/15/2016 6:31:10 PM
  • Ryan Hash commented on :
    6/14/2016 3:26:34 PM
    Hey, M. Nice work! The voice is strong. I liked the reference to Neverending Story. Also, I like how you juxtaposed the 'paranormal' interests--which are often viewed as ... Show More
    • M. Howalt Hi Ryan! Thanks a lot for checking out BS&R and for leaving such great feedback! While this one is meant to be a light read (compared to other stories I've written), I absolutely want to have more layers in it than just a comedic one. I hope you'll like where it's going from here! :)
      6/15/2016 6:23:15 PM
  • Kevin Boyer commented on :
    6/12/2016 1:12:50 AM
    Sounds very much like an average American teenager and an extraordinary event. "And then I discovered real magic." Sweet
    • M. Howalt Thanks a lot for checking out BS&R! :D I'm happy to hear that the prologue comes across like that. And I hope you'll enjoy the next chapters as well. :)
      6/12/2016 10:34:39 AM
  • Steeven R. Orr commented on :
    6/8/2016 8:46:52 PM
    "Oh, and it was after the accident that I discovered real magic." - Nice. Great start! I'm on board.
    • M. Howalt Yay! Thanks so much! I'm happy you got to check this one out. :) And I hope you'll like where it's going.
      6/11/2016 7:30:10 AM
  • Isaac Parker commented on :
    6/8/2016 8:20:24 PM
    Alright, i'm hooked so far.
    • M. Howalt Thank you very much! I hope you'll continue to enjoy the story. :)
      6/10/2016 12:00:05 PM
  • Nate Ragolia commented on :
    6/8/2016 5:15:07 PM
    This is a great opening chapter. Elliott is a sturdy and defined narrator/protagonist. I like the pop culture references you drop in here and there, but never ... Show More
    • M. Howalt Ooh, thank you for dropping by BS&R! :D Glad to know that the references work for you. And yep, it's quite intentional. I actually struggled a bit in the beginning to allow him to ramble because I usually stick to a tighter narrative style, but this story needs Elliot's voice. Thanks again!
      6/9/2016 7:49:14 PM
  • K. R. Kampion commented on :
    6/5/2016 9:00:25 PM
    Love Elliot already! His voice is wonderful and I can 100% see him becoming the roguish reluctant hero who is way more my type than I'd like to admit XD
    • M. Howalt So happy to see you here! :D Thank you for reading. I hope he'll become exactly the type you can't help liking.
      6/8/2016 1:27:31 PM
  • VoA commented on :
    6/5/2016 2:35:16 PM
    Cheeky prologue ;) I like!
    • M. Howalt Cheeky is Elliot's middlename. ;) Thanks very much!
      6/8/2016 10:46:28 AM
  • Tonya Moore commented on :
    6/5/2016 1:24:39 PM
    Great prologue. I love the casual way the protagonist sort of builds up then story, then offhandedly gets to his point.
    • M. Howalt Thank you very much! I was hoping it would work like that, so it's great to hear that it does. :)
      6/8/2016 10:45:56 AM
  • Ryan Watt commented on :
    6/3/2016 8:42:27 PM
    Oh, and by the by... way to bury the lead, kid! - Great prologue (I always read prologues!), great personality already shining through for Elliot. You nailed the ... Show More
    • M. Howalt Haha, thanks. He did his best to play it cool. ;) So glad to hear I managed what I set out to. Yay!
      6/5/2016 12:45:15 PM
  • Jennifer Flath commented on :
    6/2/2016 9:25:58 PM
    Who hasn't checked for Narnia in their closet? I constantly tried to freeze things by sticking my fingers together like Evie on Out of this World. Constantly. I never ... Show More
    • M. Howalt For me, it was my grandmother's mysterious closet in the basement. :) Thank you for reading! Chapter one is already up and will answer your question. Partly, at least. :)
      6/3/2016 1:12:55 PM
    • Ryan Watt Evie! YES! - Also, I never checked closets for Narnia, just wardrobes.
      6/3/2016 8:38:51 PM
  • J.A. Waters commented on :
    6/3/2016 6:32:15 AM
    Haha. Very nice casual tone from the start and I enjoy the half-rambling banter approach Elliot has to telling this story. His gradual build up of what he's tried and the ... Show More
    • M. Howalt So happy to hear it's relatable! :) Half-rambling banter describes his style pretty well, I think. He's soooo much more wordy than any of my other narrators. (*cough* Hector *cought*). Thanks a lot for reading! :D
      6/3/2016 4:22:19 PM
  • Andre Clemons commented on :
    6/3/2016 2:28:16 AM
    All in all, great introduction to the character! Young man in love with magic, and eventually gets to know true magic. There's a Narnia influence, and even a bit of a Dr. ... Show More
    • M. Howalt Thanks a lot, Andre! I'm looking forward to your reaction to him as he grows up. :)
      6/3/2016 4:20:41 PM
  • A S commented on :
    6/2/2016 7:43:22 PM
    Oh, interesting... Fun origin story and happily less sinister than where I thought it was going so yay! I like it!
    • M. Howalt Yay, thank you for reading! This is (with the exception of a few MG stories) probably the least sinister story you will ever see me write. :) I hope you'll enjoy the crazy ride.
      6/3/2016 8:12:03 AM
  • Laura Morrison commented on :
    6/2/2016 7:34:50 PM
    Elliot's a fun narrator. I'm glad this is 1st person :D Very interesting start to this story--your writing is always so fun to read.
    • M. Howalt I'm happy you think so! My first draft started out 3rd person, but it didn't work for Elliot's voice at all. :) Double thanks for reading! ;)
      6/3/2016 8:10:55 AM