Chapter 1:

Chapter 1 Planetary Alligment

Ian Gray: Door to Another World

‘Dad always said safety first, and never once I forget those words,’ Ian Gray remembered those words as he buckled his seatbelt.

“Hmm, let’s see here. Which one should I choose?” His finger fiddled with his smartphone screen, going through a list of songs. It was his usual routine of driving back home, and with the usual heavy traffic he was expecting, the songs were his only way of killing his boredom.

“Found it,” he smiled. The tune filled the car as Ian pedaled down the throttle. The wheels rolled down the asphalt, while he lip-synced along with the song. It was a classic, ‘Sunday Morning’ by Maroon Five, just listening to it brought back those memories of when he was in middle school.

It was a time where it was simpler than where he was now. There were no bills to pay, no bosses to cater to, and the best of all, there was no stress for the unseen future. At times he wished he could go back to those times.

“Hmm?” The song suddenly stopped. He took a few peeks at his phone on the phone holder, and saw the unknown number on the screen.

Ian glanced at the road first and with traffic coming to a halt, it was safe for him to use his phone. He answered, and put the phone on loudspeaker.

“Hello?” he asked.

“Ian!” his name blared through the car speakers. He grimaced by the loud noise and judging by the tone he kinda recognized that voice a bit.

‘It can’t be,’ he was getting a bad hunch, and he hoped he was wrong.

“Jack?” Ian timidly asked.

“That’s my man. I knew you would recognize my voice,” Jack said.

“But how?” Ian was lost for words. He had a history with this man and it was a history he didn’t want to encounter again.

“Dude, I’m disappointed. I can’t believe you forgot to tell me that you change your number,” Jack said.

Ian didn’t know what to say. He changed it precisely because of Jack.

“It’s okay, man. I understand. You’re a busy man and you’re probably don’t have the time to send a text to me. But boy did I went through a lot of people to get this number of yours. You’ll be surprised how many I asked,” from the sound of it, Jack was a very persistent man, and also an oblivious one at that.

On the other hand, Ian felt the shivers. His body was riddled with goosebumps. He thought he escaped the clutches of this madman, but to his despair, Jack was always right behind his tail.

“Huh,” Ian sighed. “I’m kinda busy right now, Jack. So–”

“Hear me out. There’s a tournament in the 19th, a team match, and you know who’s first in my list?” Ian could sense the excitement in Jack’s voice. In his book, whenever Jack was excited it wasn’t a good thing for him.

“Jack, my hands are tie right now, I can’t–”

“Yup, it’s you, man. You’re the first on my list, and you’re my best chance of showing the country how great krav maga is,” Jack wasn’t listening. It was one of his traits that Ian hated, and one of the reasons Ian didn’t want to meet with him ever again.

The man who just got off work shook his head. His usual stress-free drive back home was disturbed by an oblivious man who was fanatical about fighting.

“Ian, you know this better than anyone. Even the instructor said you’re a natural in this. You got the talent, man. Your moves are unbeatable. Now the tournament is at Kezar Pavilion, I need–” Jack’s voice suddenly gone as the car turned quiet once more.

Peace had returned as Ian took the best course of action. He hung up.

“Huh,” he exhaled slowly, getting his body back to a state of relaxation.

“Should I file a restraining order on him?” he thought about it in the past, but knowing it would be a hassle dampened down his motivation in doing it.

“Like always, he’s crazy, and I still don’t understand why there’s a need to promote krav maga. Isn’t it already famous?” Ian couldn’t wrap his head around Jack’s reason.

To his knowledge, krav maga was already heavily utilized in the military, and so that motive of Jack to spread krav maga throughout the country was rather pointless in a way.

“Well, who cares. As long as he doesn’t bother me anymore, I don’t give a shit about what he’s trying to do,” Ian turned his phone to airplane mode and turned back the music to his car. The song danced in his ears as he smiled.

After going through heavy traffic and stopping by a drive-through for dinner, he finally got back home.

“Home sweet home,” he said, staring at his single-story house with delight. There was nothing better than getting back home after a hard day at work.

He got inside and flipped on the switch. The darkness that encroached every nook and cranny went away replaced by the warm light. His feet shuffled straight to his living room as he threw his bag on the floor along with his tie and jacket. Yet he didn’t stop there. Before long, he was just in his undies, sitting down on his comfy old couch with the TV turned on.

He was downright relaxing to the fullest, and how could he not? This was one of the perks of living alone, where he could practically do anything he wanted, except for killing. That kind of thing was only reserved for those who were psychopaths.

Ian munched down his double cheeseburger, savoring the beef patties. The healthy dose of cheddar cheese made it better. The burger was to die for, and In-N-Out was undeniably the best. But the shows for tonight were pretty boring to accompany his dinner. He switched the channels until he stopped.

“This looks interesting,” he said. It was the news. Something he would never open, not until he accidentally read the headline.

Eva Rivera, the newscaster for ABC 8 o’clock News brought up a surprising story.

“Good evening, and thank you for joining us. Tonight, we bring news straight from NASA of an unprecedented event that was unlikely to happen in the twenty-first century,” the screen changed to a clip of the sun planetary system.

“From the Nobel prize winner, Professor Fritz Ackermann, the leading man who discovered the event said, I quote, ‘What will happen in the next hour would be our one and only chance of witnessing the Planetary Alignment. An event when all the planets in our planetary system will align perfectly in a straight line.’” Said Eva.

The news showed a video, showing how the planets moved in their orbits until they aligned perfectly. Beginning from the sun to the farthest planet, Neptune.

“That’s pretty cool,” Ian said. He took another bite at his cheeseburger as his eyes were glued to the screen. Astronomy wasn’t his kind of thing, but the once-in-a-lifetime tag really reeled him in.

“We have more good news for the night, Professor Fritz Ackermann spares some time to say a few words regarding the Planet Alignment live on ABC News,” Eva passed over to Professor Fritz as the screen changed.

A gray-haired man in a mismatched outfit, from the bizarre-looking tie to the oversized plaid blazer, Fritz’s fashion sense was no doubt terrible. But Ian doubted an astrophile like Fritz would care about clothes.

“He looks awkward,” Ian watched Fritz live on TV who was awkwardly sitting in his chair not knowing where to look. Fritz even gestured with his hands asking the journalist on which camera to look.

“The second one? You sure? You told me I should face the camera that has the red light, and all three of them have red lights,” Fritz spoke as if not caring whether the broadcast was live or not.

Ian grinned seeing the broadcast mistake. He thought the journalist over there was probably having a breakdown seeing how clueless Fritz was.

“For goodness sake, you could have been more specific in your words,” Fritz said to someone behind the camera before adjusted his blazer and sat more comfortably.

“As you viewers have been briefed, the Planetary Alignment will occur at exactly four a.m in Coordinated Universal Time,” Fritz sighed.

Unlike what Ian imagined, he thought the professor would be more zealous about the phenomenon. But the face of the man in his mid-fifties seemed oddly concerned. It made Ian wondered.

‘Is there something wrong?’ he thought as he subconsciously took another bite.

“For us who live in this time, this rare celestial event is something we should appreciate with the best of our intellect,” Fritz took a deep breath.

“But to be fair, this accidental finding was something we did not expect. Based on our past calculation, the last time such occasion happened was in the year 949 AD, and future calculation determines that any possible planetary alignment could possibly happen after the year 2490,” while Fritz elaborated on the event, shouts from a distance echoed in the background. Something was happening, but Fritz was unperturbed. The old man kept on talking.

“I cannot deny that there’s a possibility that our calculation might be wrong. However, I have confidence in my numbers, and frankly speaking, this astral phenomenon isn’t just possible,” the news cut back to Eva in the newsroom. The change happened way too abruptly, and Ian swore he heard someone shouted about cutting Fritz off.

“Wow, didn’t know news nowadays could be so dynamic,” he shrugged the whole thing off. For Ian, whether the planetary alignment happened or not wasn't his concern.

Some may saw it as something important. Yet for the general populace like him, the event was just a passing matter.

‘Honestly speaking, I think a meteor shower would be more impressive since we can see it. But on second thought, can we actually see the planets align?’ Ian had never thought about it. Perhaps it was possible to see the alignment of the planets through the naked eye.

The sudden surge of curiosity brought him to the backyard right after wearing a hoodie and some sweatpants. The night air got a bit chilly these days since it was close to autumn. He didn’t want to catch a cold since it was still in the middle of the weekdays, and working while having a runny nose was not the most pleasant experience.

Ian stood in the middle of the dark backyard. His eyes stared at the sky with his right hand holding what was left of his soda while his left hand tucked warmly in his hoodie pocket.

‘Hmm, I can’t even see the moon. The clouds are probably too fluffy for the night,’ he couldn’t see a thing, not even a speck of star.

‘This is odd, I don’t hear any crickets,’ Ian took a quick scan around his backyard. Usually, there would be insects buzzing around. But tonight was different. It was a quiet night, perhaps too quiet.

‘Okay. This is getting weird, I better get back inside,’ with the air getting cold, Ian went back to his home.

The man who had work for tomorrow played a few games on his computer. Nothing beat stress than killing a few strangers in a battle royal shooting game. Ian wasn’t that bad. He got some skill with that hand flick of his. Enough to enjoy it rather than stressing about it.

But then the lights went out.

“What the,” his fingers stopped. The sudden blackness caught him off guard as if someone shut his eyes.

“Shit,” his hands scrambled over the table searching for his smartphone. He swore he left it on the table as he couldn’t see shit in this darkness.

“Found it,” but luck was on his side. Ian’s finger slid on the screen, and he quickly turned on the flashlight on his phone.

“Man, this is a hassle,” He scratched his head, troubled by the sudden power outage. Shaking his head, he had no other choice. Ian walked down the hallway guided by the light of his phone. He made way down to the kitchen with his head kept shifting around like a meerkat.

Before he moved in here, he heard a few things about this house. Things that weren’t good for the heart. But the rent was within his budget and his lack of financial stability made him took the plunge. So, he had been living here for the past ten months. At first, his imagination did gave him a few scares here and there, but after a while, it was just like any house on the block.

Yet for some reason, tonight was different. The lack of sounds gave off a sense of unearthly. Usually, there would be crickets chirping or the neighbors’ dogs barking, and the occasional lover’s quarrel of his left side neighbor, the Dunphy. However tonight it was awfully silent. Everything around him felt cold and quiet.

‘What was that?’ he suddenly turned. His eyes were wide as he stared at the opened door of his bathroom.

Ian stood there like a statue. Flashing the light of his phone at the door for a full minute. He didn’t know whether he imagined it, but he swore he saw something moving at the corner of his eyes.

He thought about blurting who’s there, but a reasonable thought held him back from doing so.

Only fools would do such a thing, like characters in horror films. Those kinds of people did the dumbest things leading to their own death, and Ian wasn’t going to be like that.

‘Probably my imagination,’ he skirted around the problem through sheer ignorance. Walking away, Ian finally reached the kitchen. But now came the hard part.

He stood in front of a door. The door that led to the basement. A basement where all the bad things he heard about this house happened there. Yet he couldn’t find a shred of factual evidence that could relate to this house. From what he heard, all of it was just words of mouth. Rumors that kept jumping around until it blew up out of proportion.

‘Damn it, why the hell did I just remember about the rumor of a whole family being butchered down there,’ just the thought of it made his skin crawled with goosebumps.

He eyed the door from top to bottom, wishing he didn’t need to go down there. But unfortunately, the circuit breaker was down there, and Ian had no other choice.

His hand grabbed the doorknob, but he paused. He let go as he was reminded of something.

‘Almost forgot, safety first,’ the words of his father echoed in his mind. He rummaged through the kitchen drawers and picked up a cooking knife. It was something he knew that wouldn’t work against ghastly beings. But hey, just having it in his hand made him felt safer.

“Fuh,” he breathed out slowly.

The time was now, and he opened it.

He flashed the light down the stairs and yet darkness reigned more supreme. Other than the stairs he couldn’t see anything else.

Ian swallowed a mouthful. It wasn’t like he feared the dark. The man just didn’t like confronting something that couldn’t be killed.

Before he went down, Ian flipped the switch for the basement’s light. It was preparation when he turned on the breaker.

Slowly, he went down the flight of stairs. The wooden treads creaked each time he moved. In the silence within the dark, the sound only made it worse.

Taking his sweet time, he finally reached the basement.

‘This doesn’t feel so good. I better get this over with,’ he hastened his steps, crossing the floor where the breaker was.

But out of nowhere.

Something creaked.

‘What was that?’ he turned quickly, flashing his light at the other end of the basement.

There he saw the door.

It was half open, a door that led to the unused storage room.

‘Fuck, fuck, fuck,’ that word was the only thing Ian could say in his mind.

The door he was staring at, shouldn’t be open. He knew better than anyone that door had never been open since his first spring cleaning after moving here.

‘Calm down, Ian. It’s probably the lock loose or something,’ he tried to convince himself. Yet the rumors and the eerie darkness around him weren’t making it easier for him.

‘Think logically, Ian. Just flip on the switch and everything will turn back to normal,’ despite his positive reinforcement, the way he moved betrayed his mindset. The sole of his shoes never left the ground. His feet shuffled closer to the breaker while his eyes remained on the open door.

The end of his shoe bumped against the wall and Ian’s knife hand scrambled over the wall searching for the breaker. But without seeing it, he couldn’t find it.

‘Damn it, I don’t want to look away, but do I have a choice? I still need to see which switch to pull,’ gritting his teeth, Ian made his choice.

He turned towards the breaker with the flashlight guiding his eyes. His eyes scattered on the wall and found the switch. Ian grabbed it and without hesitation, he flipped it.

The lights turned on as he winced. Ian smiled as there was nothing better than the warm light of a bulb. Yet while his eyes adjusted to the light, his ears perked. He heard it again.

The door creaked.

His eyes were adjusting as he kept his sight at the door. It was a bit of a blur but he could definitely see the door was opening.

Then, something came out.

‘A kid?’ Ian still saw a blur. But he could see a vague outline of a figure no different than a child.

His mind was in a mess right now. There shouldn’t be a kid there. He lived here alone, and he always made sure to lock his doors. Unless it wasn’t really a kid.

Again, he felt his whole body ran cold. To think a ghost would appear even under the bright light. It seemed ghosts these days didn’t mind appearing in the open.

Yet he heard a cackle.

It was a strange noise coming from a ghost boy. But as his vision returned to normal, the ‘boy’ suddenly rushed at him.

“What the?” he saw it clearly of who this boy was. However, he didn’t know what the ‘boy’ was.

The ‘boy’ charged forward with his maddening battle cry. He looked nothing like a boy nor like a man. He was grotesque and bald, and his skin was unlike Ian had ever seen pale green in complexion.

Yet now wasn’t the time to observe as Ian braced for a confrontation.

The ‘boy’ leaped at him, baring his dull yellowish claws. But Ian dodged to the side as the ‘boy’ smacked his head against the wall.

‘He’s hurt?’ Ian saw the ‘boy’ shaking his head. That alone was a sign. A sign that this ‘boy’ wasn’t a ghost.

The ‘boy’ regained his bearing and stood back up. He faced Ian and frowned with its disgusting set of teeth. The ‘boy’ wasn’t done yet. He took his step one by one, swinging his claws at empty air, a show of intimidation.

“Hey, I need you to calm down,” Ian tried to communicate. “Let’s talk things through. There’s no need to do it like this. I can let it all be bygone if you just–”

“Ki!” the ‘boy’ shrieked at him and went for the attack. He lunged at Ian.

Yet Ian reacted. He launched his feet up in the air and gave a vertical front kick right at the boy’s solar plexus.

The ‘boy’ went flying as he dropped on the floor. He stayed down while clenching his stomach in pain.

Ian stood there, maintaining his sight at the pitiful ‘boy’. He heard the ‘boy’ retched a few times, but now wasn’t the time to show pity.

‘Shit, was it too much?’ he worried, but it didn’t last long.

The ‘boy’ stood back up, glaring at Ian with his yellow eyes. His cheeks were twitching as if boiling in anger. The little man had a steel of will, rushing at Ian once more without a care.

“Stand down!” Ian shouted, fearing that things would get uglier.

But the ‘boy’ didn’t listen. As if learning his lesson, it stayed close to the ground and attacked.

“Fuck it, this is self-defense,” Ian rotated his waist and sent out a low kick from the side. He hit him, but it wasn’t like before.

“Argh!” Ian shouted in pain.

To his surprise, the ‘boy’ did the unexpected. It latched on Ian’s leg and bit him in the calf.

“Let go!” Ian retaliated. He bent his knee that was being bitten and pinned his weight on the ‘boy’ to the ground. But the pain didn’t stop. The ‘boy’ wasn’t letting go.

“Let go, damn it!” He punched the ‘boy’ in the face. Yet it was futile.

The ‘boy’ clamped even tighter and Ian countered with his fists. He rained down punch after punch, smacking the living daylight out of this ‘boy’.

“I said stop it!” Ian shouted. He wanted nothing more than for this ‘boy’ to let go. But the ‘boy’ wasn’t giving up. It bit harder, and the pain made Ian mad.

“Stop it!” Ian burst. He finally used the kitchen knife in his hand and stabbed the ‘boy’ right in the eye. Gritting his teeth, Ian pushed it deeper. The ‘boy’ flailed like a mad man for a few seconds then he stopped.

There was no more pain, but the ending wasn’t what Ian wanted. He stood back up and stared at the corpse of an ugly ‘boy’ with a knife jutting in its eye socket.

‘What have I done?’ his hands trembled as if trying to deny what happened. Yet what he saw was the truth.

He killed someone.

Ian Gray killed a ‘boy’ in cold blood.

But then, something appeared.

[You have killed a goblin.]

[Bestowment in process.]

[Calibrating laws between two dimensions.]

[Syncing user’s body to new laws.]

[Complete. Congratulation. You have level up.]

[You are now level 1.] 

Joe Gold