The Maze: Chapter 2

Evan could tell immediately that the older man intended to broach some topic of considerable magnitude. Probably something related to this morning’s sales presentation.

Today’s clients—the attorneys of the law firm Rich, Litchfield, and Baker, were a stodgy, hard-to-please lot. Hugh had made the preliminary sales call by himself and had reported as much.

The accounting software packages that Merlesoft sold were expensive, and required a client company to reconfigure a considerable portion of their internal accounting procedures. The sales process was therefore a multistep one—usually beginning with an exploratory sales call, followed by several quotations, and multiple customer consultations over the phone.

They had been going through this back-and-forth with Rich, Litchfield, and Baker for the better part of four months. Evan had yet to visit the clients’ office; but he had talked to several of the law firm people over the phone.

Today would be the final dog-and-pony show, which would hopefully result in a purchase order from the law firm. Amanda, Hugh, and Evan would make a PowerPoint presentation and answer any remaining customer questions. This was the whole purpose of making the two-hour drive from Cincinnati to Columbus today. It was “do or die” now, in the typically hyperbolic language of corporate culture. Continue reading “The Maze: Chapter 2”

The Maze: Chapter 1

Evan Daley would later reflect that he should have known better than to enter the Maze. After all, his coworker and sort-of mentor, Hugh Jackson, had tried to tell him about the Maze, and Hugh had tried to tell him that the Maze was probably dangerous.

But how do you take seriously a warning issued in a McDonald’s on a bright, warm, September morning?

Besides, before Evan saw the Maze, he would have sworn that he dreaded nothing so much as Amanda Kearns, his boss.

Evan and Hugh occupied a table in one corner of the McDonald’s dining room. The McDonald’s was located just off I-71—the interstate that would take them to this morning’s sales presentation. The restaurant was filled to near capacity this late in the morning—mostly with truck drivers and other business travelers.

Evan was digging into his Big Breakfast with Hotcakes. He felt a little guilty, eating this artery-clogger in front of Hugh. Hugh was contenting himself with a low-fat, sensible bowl of Fruit and Maple Oatmeal.

As Evan forked a mouthful of pancake, he noticed Hugh staring down jealously at his syrup-smeared Styrofoam plate.

“Sorry,” Evan said. “I’m eating a mountain of delicious fat and cholesterol here, and you’ve got to eat that bowlful of grain and berries—or whatever that stuff is.”

Hugh Jackson had a hereditary heart condition. Evan didn’t know the details, but Hugh had told him that his father had died while still in his mid-fifties. Hugh was already close to that territory himself. He therefore had to count his daily fat and cholesterol intake in milligrams.

The older man smiled back at Evan, though. “Just because I’ve got a bum ticker, it doesn’t mean that you have to suffer along with me,”

Amanda’s coffee sat steaming in front of her empty chair. Amanda was out in the children’s playground area, talking intensely into her cell phone, her outrage visible. Evan could see her from where he sat: Her long, slender body was leant against a plastic blue slide. The slide was topped with a dome fashioned to resemble a McDonald’s hamburger.

Evan discretely gestured toward Amanda. “She talking to Oscar, you think?”

Hugh nodded ominously. “It would appear so.”

Amanda had sat down with them initially. Within a few minutes, though, her cell phone had rung. After a clipped, moody hello into the phone, she had immediately stood and headed outside, where she could talk privately.   

They both knew that Oscar was Amanda’s boyfriend. They also knew that the relationship had been less than harmonious of late. Continue reading “The Maze: Chapter 1”

The Maze: an i-sekai novel

The Maze is an i-sekai novel.

Before I tell you about The Maze, let me tell you about i-sekai novels in general.

I-sekai(異世界)is a Japanese compound word that means “other world”.

As a genre of fiction, i-sekai is also called “portal fantasy”. The basic setup is this: A character (or characters) from our everyday reality enters a parallel world through a magical portal.

On the other side they have various adventures—and face deadly perils.

***

This is not a newfangled story concept. Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is a portal fantasy.  So is C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Portal fantasy is very popular in Japanese novels and anime. Some of these translated Japanese tales have recently found an audience in the English-speaking world. Hence the wide usage of the Japanese term, i-sekai.

But whether you say “portal fantasy” or you say “i-sekai”, you’re essentially talking about the same thing.

***

Now let’s talk about The Maze.

The Maze is the story of three corporate salespeople–Amanda, Hugh, and Evan—who enter another world through the portal of a seemingly normal office complex called Lakeview Towers.

But, of course, Lakeview Towers is anything but normal. Lakeview Towers hides an interdimensional realm of killer robots, man-wolves, and other creatures.

Oh, and some interesting and deadly people, too.

The Maze is a dark portal fantasy for fans of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.

To follow the The Maze, visit the novel’s main page on this site.