IAmA MIB AMA

Yay for fiction! In this short piece, a man has a frightening encounter with a pair of bizarre government agents.

I’ve been trying to write something every night over the last little while. This idea just popped into my head a few nights ago as I lurked around reddit’s nosleep community. I’ll be cross-posting this there with a reddit account in the name of the fictional character, soren_latsky. It feels good to finish something, even something tiny like this.

If you’d prefer, you can download this story as an ebook. ePub version mobi version.

So, without further here is IAmA MIB AMA, ©2016 Bryce Beattie

cover

Let me tell you why I don’t feel safe at home anymore, and why you shouldn’t, either.

I work as a freelance graphic designer, making mostly book covers for independent authors. Because I work alone, I get often bored and lonely. To help ease the monotony, I’ll often work at coffee shops and other public places.

About two weeks ago, I went to spend a couple of hours around lunchtime at a local food truck park. I love the mixture of warm, savory smells and enjoy the strange mixture of professionals, tourists, and families that always show up.

It was the height of the lunch rush. Despite the gray skies and unseasonably cool temperature, it was still pretty busy. I sat at one of the little wire tables eating a messy Philly steak and cheese sandwich. My laptop was put away in a bag for the moment. After I finished eating I could pull it out and not feel like such a table hog.

All at once I heard a commotion coming from around the pizza truck.

I craned my neck to see what was going on.

A haggard man bounced like a human pinball from the crowd and collided with my table. “Help me.” He gasped for air and flung something at me.

I raised my hands to protect my face.

The object bounced off my chest and fell to the ground.

And just like that, the crazy man sprung back into the crowd, pushing people and calling for help.

I sat frozen in place for a confused few seconds. Eventually, I took a deep breath and realized that I clung to sandwich with my left hand. I sat it down and looked into the crowd, trying to catch sight of the wild man.

When I turned back, I saw two well dressed men walking confidently through the crowd.

They moved fast, but didn’t run. Neither did they even have to push. The crowd just seemed to part in front of them. Both wore suits of black that kind of shimmered like they were made of silk or plastic or something.

They stopped directly in front of me. One of them looked down at my sandwich, then back up at my face. At least, I assume that’s where he was looking. He wore dark glasses. For reasons I cannot put down, he made me feel nervous.

“Did that man speak to you?” He said in the flattest, most mechanical voice I’ve ever heard.

“Uh, he said, ‘Help me.’ and then he took off that way.”

“We may need to ask you more questions.”

I didn’t even get a chance to respond. They pivoted and walked in the direction the man had bolted.

And just like that, they were gone, leaving behind only a whiff of unbearable authority.

I decided to wait around a bit. After all, I had a sandwich to finish and the man said they might need to ask me a few more questions.

About the time I swallowed the last bite, I remembered the wild man throwing something at me. A quick glance at the ground below and I spotted a black thumb drive.

I picked it up and rolled it around in my fingers.

Did he just drop it? Was it an accident? Or did he just want to give it to someone?

I was waiting around anyway, so I pulled out my laptop and plugged in the drive.

Yes, I knew I probably shouldn’t have done that, but I just couldn’t help it.

I instantly felt nervous. What would the men in black do to me if they caught me with the fugitive’s drive in my machine? Could I be arrested? Maybe this was a bad idea.

Yes, it was a bad idea. But I also couldn’t just not know. So I pulled out the flash drive I keep on my keyring and plugged it in, too. I clicked and clicked and told the computer to copy everything.

I nervously tapped the side of my laptop while the files copied. Any moment I was sure one of those agents would drag me from my seat and throw me in prison for theft of evidence or something.

File names blinked by in the process window. Many of them had “Project Kendrick” in there somewhere. Also the words “torture” and “experiment.”

It took like 3 years for all the files to copy. I probably looked like a paranoid groundhog looking around and back down at my screen.

When it finally finished, I tore the drives out and slammed the lid down on my computer. It took at least ten minutes for my heart to stop racing.

Another half hour passed by with trucks packing up and customers heading back to work or home or wherever. No men in black returned.

At last I decided to head home.

A few minutes later, I pulled up at the one-level apartment building where I live. The place looked pretty barren, but that was normal for mid afternoon on a weekday. After all, I think they all work 9 to 5 type jobs. My little car was the only one in the parking lot. I am sure of that.

I unlocked the door, entered and hit the switch. The lights did not respond, and it felt a good deal colder than it usually did.

Something out of place caught my attention from the corner of my eye.

I spun and just about crapped my pants. The two strange agents dressed in black sat on my couch, hands on their knees. Their jackets were open in such a way as to display their holstered firearms.

My stomach dropped through the floor and I started to shake. How had I not noticed them when I first opened the door? How did they get in here? How did they know where I live?

I stood there like an idiot for at least thirty seconds.

My voice shook when I finally got up the courage to speak. “What are you doing in my apartment?”

The agent on the right turned his head slightly in my direction and spoke in monotone. “Hello Soren Latsky. We are investigating an incident that happened earlier today.”

“But in my… house? Don’t you need a-”

The agent on the right turned his head the rest of the way and said, “Investigating.”

In my heart, I knew what he really meant was, “Greetings, I am a Man in Black. Ask me nothing. I will do the asking.”

The agent on the left stared straight ahead again and said, “We have some questions for you.”

“Okay…”

“What happened at the food trucks?”

“With the guy, right?”

Silence. It felt like needles in my ears.

“Yeah, I, uh, was eating. And then this guy ran out of the crowd. He bumped into my table and said ‘help me’ and then ran away.”

“Did you help him?” Both agents spoke at once.

The metallic voices sounding together made my head feel fuzzy, like a punch to the back of the head.

“No, I just sat there. A second later, you showed up and then you took off after him.”

The left agent said, “Describe the man.”

“I just remember him looking messy and unshaven.”

The right agent said, “And that was your whole interaction?”

I felt the goosebumps spring up on my arm. “Yeah, I think so.”

Both agents made a “Hmmmm” sound and then their heads began moving side to side like one of those smooth gear sprinklers. It was a far more menacing movement than it had any right to be.

Were they scanning the room? Were they signaling “no,” like they didn’t believe me? I couldn’t tell.

Finally, their slow motion head shaking stopped, with one of them looking just to my right and the other at the wall to my far left.

The one on the right spoke again. “Can you get me a drink of water?”

“Um, sure.”

I went in the kitchen. As soon as I left the front room, it was much easier to breathe. I hadn’t even noticed how tight my chest had been. Just their presence had caused a pit of fear to well up in my gut.

When I returned to the front room, everything was the same, except the drawer of the lamp table had been removed and its contents emptied upon the floor. Even the agent’s heads were pointed in the same directions as they had been.

I looked at the mess on the floor and then back at the men in black suits. I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. I don’t know why.

I mean, I’m a man. I know my rights. I’ve been in my fair share of fights. And yet I found no strength to resist.

You may laugh at me now, but you weren’t there. You didn’t hear their sinister robotic voices. You didn’t see their cold demeanor. You didn’t feel their menacing gaze piercing straight through their dark sunglasses.

Well I did, and it shook me to my core.

I sheepishly extended the water to the agent on the right. The one on the left reached out, then snatched it. His head didn’t turn to look at it, mind you. He just grabbed it then dumped it right on the carpet as if to say, “We can do anything. You are powerless.”

Once the glass was empty, he dropped it, as if to punctuate his power over me.

The one on the right spoke again. “And the man gave you nothing?”

“No. I mean- n, no.” I backed away, not bothering to pick up the glass. “I mean, I did find a thumb drive on the ground after…”

Both agent’s heads snapped to face me. The movement was faster than I could even track. Less than a blink of the eye.

Again they spoke together. “What did you do with it?”

Again with the fuzzy mind. “It it it it’s in my pocket.”

“Did you look at its contents?”

“No!” It came out a lot louder than I intended. “Sorry. I was going to do that when I got home.”

In one motion, both agents stood.

“Surrender the evidence.” The agent on the left extended his hand.

I fumbled in my pocket and tried to not even think about my keyring. My hand shook like a rattlesnake as I gave it over.

The other held out his hand, too. “And the laptop in your bag.”

“But that’s-”

“THE LAPTOP.” His tone didn’t change, but it was loud as if spoken through a bullhorn.

A fresh bolt of fear shot up my spine. Will they know I copied the files? I couldn’t even look at the agents as I unzipped and handed over the computer.

The agent yanked the laptop away with his left hand and slapped me with his right.

The force of it knocked me back against the wall. Adrenaline pumped into my system and shouted at me to run away. Somehow my legs refused to move.

The two walked, almost gliding, to the door. Before leaving, one of them said, “Thank you for the inconvenience.”

And the other, “Let this be the end.”

It sounded like a threat.

The door slammed shut and my lights came back on.

I watched them through the window. They climbed into a shiny black sedan, a car I swear had not been there when I arrived. It made only a minor whirring sound as it pulled away.

And like that, the two most terrifying people I have ever seen were gone.

I stared at the window for a long time. Those agents could do anything they wanted. My home wasn’t safe. Nowhere is safe.

I’ve now spent twelve sleepless nights now just waiting for them to return. To tell me they know I have a copy of those files. To haul me to some abandoned warehouse where they torture me for information I don’t have.

Yesterday I bought a new cheap-o laptop. I don’t plan on doing design work on it. I only plan on looking at my flash drive. If I’m going to lose my freedom, I might as well know why. In fact, I have to know. And maybe I have to tell others.

I’m writing this from a public library. I have packed the essentials and I’ve submitted notice to my landlord. I won’t be sleeping in that apartment ever again. I’ll post this online so my friends and family know what has happened to me. Once that’s done, I’m going to find a quiet, internet-free place and I’m going to tear into those files.

Wish me luck.

Merry Christmas! Have a Bedtime Book.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

For Christmas I wrote my son a ridiculous bedtime book. Don’t tell him and ruin the surprise, please. I thought I’d go ahead and share it. Download a free pdf version by clicking the cover below.

Alexander Adam Astronaut

Alexander Adam Astronaut free pdf download. ~11mb

A paperback version is available on Amazon, too.

In other news, I think I’ve decided to stay on WordPress for a bit. I’ve been playing with a bunch of themes but can’t find one that does exactly what I want, and I’m working on a new theme.

The Donor Wife

Today J. Dane Tyler and I are doing a fiction swap. He wrote the story you’re about to read, and I wrote one that’s appearing on his blog today. He picked the theme that we both used, but you can see for yourself how close that kept the storylines. Also, I picked the silly title.

© 2012 J. Dane Tyler

There’s a chill in the air so I pull the hood over my head and nestle farther down into the backseat of my twelve year-old Caddy. The fog’s a bad influence on the night, has it under its arm, and is leading it toward trouble.

I scratch at the scar on my ribs. Took a knife cut a few weeks back and ended up in the emergency room. In hard-boiled detective novels, the dick is always faster with his fists than the bad guy, always a tough mug who gave more trimming than he took. Reality’s different. I ran afoul of a guy steppin’ out on his old lady and she didn’t like it none. Neither did her rich daddy and the trust fund he’d set up for her. I got the pix I needed and got paid, but he got me back for it.

Literally.

I spark a weed and the blue haze billows but not far. Too cold. Part of that blue-gray cloud’s my breath. I tuck my mitts into the pockets of my bomber and wait some more.

Most of bein’ a dick is waiting. Waiting for the mark to do something, incriminate themselves, get to a compromising position. I’m waitin’ for a doll to come out of the building where she lives with some hot-shot doc who keeps her in pearls, heels and body-tube dresses showing off her curves. He thinks she’s got more than just his wick in her honey pot and wants me to bag some pix so he can prove it in court.

Been tailin’ her for most of a week, and I’m finding her habits odd. She spends a fair amount of time at the hospital, talking to the front desk nurse and administration people. She likes the library a bunch too. Not exactly hot spots for romantic trysts, so I started thinkin’ maybe hubby’s paranoid. Off his tree. But then she meets up with some gorilla under a street lamp about two days ago. Guy’s the size of the Giants’s front five, and wears a suit.

So, maybe hubby knew more’n I thought.

I let the loving embrace of the worn seats offer me solace for long hours of waiting. I’m nursing a Thermos of coffee so I don’t have to piss too often. I got one of those gallon milk jugs waitin’ in case I gotta drain the main vein, you know? But when the door to the building opens up and she steps out into the cold night, I know I won’t need it.

Show time.

She’s a looker, no two ways about it. I wouldn’t pass it up if she threw it my way, rich hubby client or no. But I don’t want to get on the wrong side of this yet. I’ll just enjoy the view from behind her.

Tonight she’s in one of those curve-hugging tubes, and the wiggle in her walk is enticing. She’s draped with a cape sort of thing, but the tube only goes to just above her knees and the cape don’t go to the bottom of that. So I got a great shot of her walking away as she bustles down the car-lined street.

When I can’t hear the click-clack of her fashionable shoes on the sidewalk anymore, I get out of the car, and check her. She’s moving like she’s got someplace to be, headin’ down the street at a good clip. She disappears into black and fog, so I start after her.

Sneakers. I never knew why they called ‘em that until I started doin’ this for a living. She won’t hear me, and far as I can tell, she ain’t checking behind her for ghosts, so she don’t notice me.

She reappears in a puddle of light puked up by a slumping street lamp, and jiggles right on through to the murk on the other side. I pick up the pace a little to keep her in sight. Fog’s gettin’ thicker and I don’t want her to ditch me.

A neon sign buzzes over a set of stairs leading to cellar bar. She goes down, slowing up enough so she don’t break her neck on the stairs, one creamy white hand delicately gliding on the steel railing. A perverted flash goes through my head about how I got something else she can glide her fingers over, but I shake it off. There’s a burst of voices, glass and ice, and a tinkling piano when she opens the door, but not much light spills out. The noise tells me when the door shuts behind her, and I head down after her.

I have to hover by the door, a bit longer than I wanted to.

“Help you?” a voice rumbles behind me.

It’s a bouncer. He’s bald as a baby’s behind, and the dark brown skin on his bald head reflects the dim can lights embedded in the ceiling. Either a T-shirt or body paint is stretched over his bodybuilder muscles, and I guess him to be maybe six-six, about three c’s, and maybe three percent body fat.

“Just lettin’ my eyes adjust.” I try to sound cool.

“Better do that by the bar,” he say, and dips his head toward the long deco-style bar in the middle of the room. A bright, fluorescent kind of light shines cold on the slick-haired wiry young guy flippin’ bottles behind it. A couple of mooks are slumped over their drinks looking lost and forlorn.

“Thanks,” I say, and take the hint. I move away from the door but turn before I get too far into the middle of the room.

I ain’t going to the bar. It’s the only well-lit spot in the cave, and she’ll make me for sure if I do. Instead, I find a booth and slide into it. A tiny low-wattage lamp puts out just enough light for me to see the matches and papier-mâché coasters on the round table. It lights up too, but not so bright as the bar. I don’t want my face on a billboard so I tug the hood back over me again and lean back far as I can.

A knock-out brunette in something skimpy drifts my way, and her cherry-red lips and pale skin go good against her dark “uniform” — barely covering her best parts. The garters holding up the fishnets are a nice touch, but the kicker is the big fake rose tucked into her hair, showing one delicate ear.

“Getcha sumthin’?” she says, and I wish she hadn’t opened her mouth, because the nasally, smoke-choked voice kills it for me right then.

“Just a soda water,” I say, and she huffs and turns. I get the view of the rest of her as she floats away over the dense carpet.

I narrow my eyes and have a look around. I can make out most of the faces in the place, bein’ the tables and bar light up. Good for me, and bad for me. Some of the booths near the back are tough, but the place seems to be a single room. At the far right a big shiny grand sits, with some guy in a penguin suit plinking out something from the war, while a crooner warmly oozes from a sequin-dressed porcelain doll with every hair in place.

Then I catch her. She’s in back, near what I guess are the bathrooms and pay phones or whatnot. She’s talkin’ with her hands, wavin’ ‘em around and shaking her head. She drops her forehead onto her hand and then the wall across from her moves.

The guy she’s sittin’ with makes Tiny at the door look…well, tiny. He’s got his own zip code, and he’s wearing something Italian and expensive, with a turtleneck under it. I guess he’s a Made Man, but I can only see the Kansas-like expanse of his back. I’m debating grabbing my phone to snap a candid when she gets an upset look on her face, bolts out of the booth, and hustles through that back hallway.

A better glance at the door shows me the EXIT sign glowing softly over it.

Great.

The Mountain gets up and takes a look around. He fishes some bills out of a wad he pulls from his breast pocket, drops a few on the table they shared, and makes his way across the room behind the bar to the front door. Tiny doesn’t even look at him when he thuds his way out.

Interesting.

I missed my incriminating shot but the two never even made physical contact. Not that I saw, anyway. So I forget about that and decide to see what she’s up to now.

I move as cool as I can through the room, and when I get to the back, I take a look over my shoulder. I see Tiny and the Scarlett Letter — my waitress — exchanging words and glancing my way. I duck into the hallway and right away see the far door on the right has that same EXIT sign dripping green light from it. There’s a Men’s room and Ladies room there too, though. And along the wall on the left, across from the three doors, I see a bank of battered, ancient pay phones. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do and I don’t hear an alarm so I figure she either went into the Ladies room or there’s no fire alarm on the back door.

I’m debating ducking into the Ladies room but something gives me a shiver up my spine. I don’t know what it is, but something about the way Tiny and Scarlett were having a hushed convo and lookin’ my way don’t sit right. I move quick and see only of the phones has the handset, dial, and all the necessary cords still attached to it. I face it and pull the handset off, press it to my ear. Just a split-second later, Tiny’s frame fills the hallway entrance, blocking what little light there is.

“Uh-huh,” I say. “Yeah. Yeah, I know the place.” I pinch the handset between my ear and shoulder and dig out my pen and notebook. “Okay, yeah, I can be there.”

Tiny’s still hoverin’ back there, and so I stutter a couple of times and stammer like someone’s on the other end of the phone.

I see ‘im out of the corner of my eye, but he don’t move. Just stands there, blocking light for a minute, then like an eclipse, moves away. It feels like oxygen can get in again too, so I exhale a bit.

I really need to carry a gun. I really do. I wouldn’t have this scar on my side itchin’ if I carried a piece. That punk who cut me woulda thought twice about bringin’ a knife to a gun fight.

I keep waiting but she ain’t comin’ out, and I don’t want Tiny to start wonderin’ how much change I put into a pay phone next time he comes around, so I do what any dick would’ve done.

I go into the Ladies room.

It’s bright. Pretty clean, too. Nice padded little seat by the door. No urinals, o’course, but plenty of stalls. I get down so I can see under the doors, and there ain’t a set of feet anywhere.

I duck out, check one more time and see Tiny hasn’t come back yet, so I do the same in the Men’s room. It’s not nearly as big, and every door’s open. I can see into the stalls without even bending down, just checking the dirty mirror over the sinks.

No one.

Only one option left. I back up to the exit, watching for Tiny, and then notice there really isn’t an alarm on the back door. I figure that’s got to be some sort of fire code violation, but what the heck.

I open the door and the cool, crisp night air slaps me. I didn’t realize how sweaty I was until I got out there. Now I’m chilled, and wipe my face and forehead with a hand, drag it down my pants. I ain’t tryin’ to impress no one anyway.

I’m in an alley, and figure Tiny won’t be far behind me. There’s a fence with a pile of alley crap stacked against it to my right. To my left a cyclone fence blocks off some kind of courtyard for some lousy building or other.

So which way did my blond bombshell go?

I look again and see there’s no doors, but there is another alley to my left about thirty-five feet in. Not a lot of light here, and plenty of garbage and dumpsters, so I step over as much crap as I can and get to that other alley.

I peek around the corner and what do I see? My bombshell, pacing with a cell phone stuck to her ear, amazing legs and perfect derriere undulating as she steps in her expensive shoes over cracked concrete and broken glass. The sound of the grit under her feet is sexy in a weird way.

I pull back, trying to hear. I only get the sound of her voice, not what she’s saying.

In a minute, she jerks the phone down and slams it into her purse. She puts her hands on her hips and something burns in me, burns hard, wishing they were my hands instead of hers. She turns on a dime and fades into that second alley.

* * *

I’m hard on her heels, though, sneaking along. I hear the banging of another door and sprint ahead. A long, high wall is broken by some push-out windows high up, near the roof line, and a single door at the top of a short flight of cement steps rimmed by a steel tube railing painted a sissy blue.

I see the door slipping closed slow.

I sprint then, full-on, and launch myself up and over the railing, and just catch the door before it secures in the jamb.

A sudden stab of pain rips my side and I almost buckle from it. I clutch my ribs, trying not to groan, and go to one knee, trying to breathe through it.

Damn cut. Doc says it’s so deep there’s a nick in four of my ribs. Took a butt-load of stitches to close it, and a few staples too. Still hurts like sin when I do too much.

A second later, I’m able to stand again. I figure that’ll do and I need to keep on the mark, so I go through the door and shut it real quiet-like, so no one hears me. I realize how dumb and still new I am at this whole private-eye thing, because I don’t have a penlight. And even if I had one, should I turn it on? That’s like holding up a sign screaming “HERE I AM!”, ain’t it?

I don’t have a gun and I don’t have a flashlight, so I’m pretty well stuck waiting for my eyeballs to adjust here. Wish I ate more carrots.

Before long, I can see by the light spilling in through those high windows over head.

I’m in a narrow stair landing. I move up the stairs in front of me as quick as I can, but I don’t hear the mark’s shoes, so I don’t know how far ahead of me she got. Or if she got wise and took her shoes off. The stairs go up fairly high and I’m sweaty and out of breath when I get to the door at the top.

Lucky me, the door ain’t locked when I get there. I hit the latch bar and it swings open easy enough. I try to keep things quiet when I get in and have a look around.

I’m on the upper deck of a huge warehouse. Gigantic crates are stacked, some metal, some plastic, some wood. Low piles, high piles, a crane overhead dangling a cargo net full of ‘em. Big lakes of light spread out where the lights from outside rain through the row of windows at the top of the wall. A metal superstructure webs under the corrugated tin roof, and a massive fan lazily spins in its housing, moving the air above the rafters and sending dust motes on a long death spiral toward the concrete floor.

I see a flash below and notice the platinum blond coif of my mark as she jiggles and wiggles between a couple stacks of crates down there. She’s out of sight before I can move, and I can’t see everything down there, so I decide I better follow her.

She’d be expecting me to come from where I’m standing so I shake a leg and get to the far end of the deck, passing in front of the big picture windows in each of the office areas. At the far end of the platform, a set of metal stairs stretches into the dark. I grab the skinny metal rail and hot foot it down the grated treads. They make more racket than I want, so I have to take it slow.

I get to the bottom and just freeze, listen into the dark. I’m hopin’ to hear her click-clacking around out there on the floor. No such luck.

I recall about where she was heading and move in that direction, but down here, the light’s overhead and it’s harder to see. Massive towers of shadow shoot up from the dank floor, so I have one hand in front of me to make sure I don’t add a cracked nose to gouged ribs. Trying to move quiet and quick and careful all at the same time’s about as easy as tightrope walking while juggling, and a Flyin’ Wallenda I ain’t.

There’s almost a path emerging here and I round a corner. I’m in an opening in the crate stacks, like a clearing, ringed by walls of containers. At one end is the bombshell, leaning back on one of the cartons and staring at me, her head tipped on that swan neck o’ hers, those incredible sexy-smooth legs crossed at the ankles. One shoe’s dangling from her toes, bouncing lightly.

I pull up sharp when I see her, but then a huge wrenching sound screams and shatters the quiet, and I jolt so hard I figure I wet myself. I whip around and there’s Mountain, holdin’ the controls to the overhead crane, stepping into the same clearing of crates with me. He’s dropping the net of huge containers down behind him, so now there’s no way out of the little room formed by the walls of the cartons and packages.

I turn back to her, and one of her fine, delicate brows perks up.

“What…what’s goin’ on?” I say, but there’s no force in my voice. I’m sniveling and feel stupid here. I just got duped by this chick and her meat-wall and I figure I’m in for a trimmin’. Again.

I swear, I fall for this stuff like an amateur.

But that’s when it gets weird, ‘cause Mountain don’t come toward me to pulp me. Instead, he pulls out a dart gun, with a red feathered bolt in its channel. I freak and turn to rush her, take her as a shield, but Mountain fires first. I get maybe two steps before I can’t feel my legs no more, and my head’s swimming a moment later. I hit the concrete floor and can’t even stop my fall. It should hurt like hell, but it don’t. I can’t feel anything, actually.

Her gorgeous, fine featured face appears over me, her blond locks pulled tight into the sweep which tucks into itself at the back of her head reflecting the dim light, and her ruby lips pucker.

“Shh,” she coos, “don’t worry. Just relax. Don’t fight it.”

Everything’s swimmy and black before I can call her a nasty name.

* * *

When I blink open my eyes, I can’t focus.

At first, I see a blinding white light over me. I’m staring through bleary water though, so I can’t tell, but I’m either goin’ down that stupid long white tunnel o’ death, abducted by aliens and the anal probing’s about to start, or I’m lying under one o’ those lights like at the dentist’s office. Strong light so they can see clear what they’re doing.

I see the smoking hot blond and this time she’s not in that form-hugging dress, the only dress I envied and wanted to trade places with. No, now she’s wearing a nurse’s outfit, and the matronly polyester and stiff collar are just as hot as the dress somehow. Still has those ripe-cherry lips, though, and when she speaks, the whitest, straightest teeth I’ve ever seen are back there.

“You’re awake,” she says, and strokes my hair. I notice then I’m wearing a mask. I can’t move my arms or legs. I’m either restrained or still drugged.

“Don’t try to move,” she says, “you won’t be able to and will only get scared. Just relax.”

I want to speak but I can’t do that either. I want to know what’s going on, what the hell’s happening here, and I can’t even ask a question. I blink and my vision swims for a minute, then clarifies.

She’s still stroking my hair when I hear a man’s footsteps come into the makeshift room. I can’t turn my head, but I hear gidgets and gadgets beeping, hissing, whining and buzzing. I can see an IV drip and a steady flow of liquid moving down a tube into my arm. Or some orifice. I can’t move my head to find out. I’m paralyzed as well as speechless.

The man leans down over Bombshell’s shoulder, and he’s got a surgical cap, gown and mask on. His eyes wrinkle behind the mask and I know he’s smiling.

“Well! You’re awake!” he says. “Well, not for long. But I guess you’re wondering what’s happened, why you’re here.”

“It’s my fault, really,” she says, and pours herself over his shoulder and lays her head on him, full red lips pouting. “I’m sorry. Well…not really.” She giggles and it’s not sexy like I thought it would be. It’s a little evil.

“Oh, now, darling,” he says, and I get an icy stab of realization. “It’s not your fault, really. These things happen, and after all, you were doing it for me.” His eyes crinkle up again and he puts his head against hers.

Aren’t they a cute couple.

I want to scream, to vomit, to pound, to kick, something, anything. I can’t do jack.

“You see,” he says and steps out of my vision, “I’m very sick. I have a condition which, through no fault of my own, is destroying my liver.”

Oh no.

“I know how arbitrary this seems,” he goes on, “but it’s not, really.” He comes back into my view.

“We chose you,” she says, and pecks me on the lips. “You’re the One.”

“Yes,” he says, and moves the mask away from his face.

It’s him, and I get it all at once in a rush, I get the whole thing and he can shut up, but he don’t.

My client. The man who hired me.

“You came to the hospital that day, cut and bleeding, and my loving wife — who works at the hospital, you see — regularly checks incoming patients looking for a match. Even though I would be near the top of the donor list, I don’t have much time, you see. I have to have the organ now. So I have to move beyond the donor list.”

I can’t breathe, can’t even cry. I just lay there, a damn cadaver, and he puts the mask back on.

“We found out who you are, where you work, the kinds of jobs you accept…you were almost perfect. It was too good to be true, too good to pass up!” He tips his head back and thunders a huge laugh and for the first time, I’m sure I’ve crapped myself.

He leans over and when he comes back up, he’s got a scalpel in his hand. The edge catches the overhead light and glints in sinister glee, his webbed and wrinkled eyes smiling.

“I can’t tell you how grateful we are you came in that night,” he says and shakes his head. “All the necessary information was in your chart. Blood type, medical history, immunization records…all of it!”

“You’re the One,” she says again, and licks her lips.

“And you fell right into our laps!” He laughs again. “You were a Godsend, to be sure!”

The big man moves into my field of vision now, and takes the tube leading into me, and injects a long dose of something into the tube.

“But,” the doc says, “it’s time for you to sleep now. We have much to do before morning.”

“Don’t be afraid,” she says. “He might leave you part of your liver. Maybe.”

I can’t even panic through the drugs, but it doesn’t matter in a few seconds. Blackness takes me.


again, this was by J.Dane Tyler. Go check out his website.

Sneak Preview of The Jealousy Glass

This is a sneak peak at the working draft of The Jealousy Glass, an upcoming novel by author Gwen Perkins, whom I interviewed yesterday. The book is scheduled to be released in November of 2012 by Hydra Publications.

Chapter 1

“Death on the wind!” The cry came not from the crow’s nest but from the deck, almost buried by the winds howling over the prow of the ship. Asahel’s neck whipped around, dark hair brushing against his forehead as he looked for the source of the call. Then he heard an echo, this time from the ship’s mate as sailors rushed past him, thronging to the stern.

At first, he didn’t understand what they were staring at. He stumbled toward the crowd of men, the pitching of the vessel making his clumsy steps clumsier. It was the water that Asahel gazed into, dark waves churning white as they rose, then slapped against the helm of the Serenissma.

“Look up, Soames,” Felix murmured, using Asahel’s last name as address. Felix halted to stand besides the shorter man, his hand on the hilt of his sword.

Look up, Asahel did.

The Serenissma was passing through a mild fog, the mist so thin that pale tendrils of it snaked past. At first, the sight overhead was so starkly white itself that Asahel thought it just a shift in the weather. Then his vision adjusted and he saw that there were clear outlines of feathers and leg, leading downward to a pair of sharp golden talons.

“What is it?” he asked, his voice hoarse.

“I have no idea,” Felix said. His knuckles went white around the sword pommel. “Stay close to the center of the ship. Our magic won’t work here.” The ship lurched, sending a spray of foam up over the side of the deck. Asahel’s hand shot out, searching for something to balance himself with, as his boot slipped. Felix gripped his arm, the look on his face amused yet urgent as he steadied the other man. “Honestly, Soames.”

“Aye, I’m going.” He flushed red. The rest of his words were swallowed up by the white noise around them, the slow beating of enormous wings creating a gale of its own. Cold air pressed against his chest as Asahel stumbled back to stand by the wheel. The sailors were silent, staring up at the creature as the captain ran across the deck towards Asahel.

Zuane was not a small man. The boards creaked under him as he stood next to Asahel, balancing himself by shifting his weight slightly from one foot to the other with the ship’s rocking.

“What is it?” Asahel asked him. Zuane–unlike Felix–had spent a lifetime on the sea.

“A Rukh, sir,” Zuane said, skin ashen. “But we thought such beasts rumors, nothing more.” Asahel’s dark eyes returned to the sky, the rumble of air above prickling the skin on the back of his neck. Rukh was the name of a giant bird that he’d heard tales of only in childhood. According to those legends, the Rukh had been used by kings to tear apart cities, rending stone in their powerful golden talons. One had not been sighted near his home island of Cercia for generations.

But, Asahel thought. We’re not in Cercia anymore.

“What’ll we do?” The grizzled captain asked Asahel, his eyes troubled as they reflected the monster flying overhead. It had fallen back but was still watching, its head cocked as it stared at the figures on deck. Its eyes were black-green, as cold and brackish as dark, forgotten tidepools. The only sound Asahel could hear as he tried to think was the swooping of the beast’s ivory wings as it paced the Serenissma.

“Can we outrun it?” He asked quietly. His eyes counted the number of men on deck. Thirty at best and many of those gone stark still with fright.

Zuane’s laugh barked out, no humor in it.

“Aye, that’ll be a no then.” Asahel answered his own question. “How far are we from land?”

“A good half-day,” Zuane told him. “At least.”

“Don’t engage it in battle,” Asahel said. “Wait.” He swallowed, his throat chalky as he stared at the Rukh. It was half the ship’s length. One wing could easily destroy any one of Serenissma‘s three masts. The itch of protest was on Zuane’s face as he heard Asahel’s direction, lip twisted in anger.

“Can I have ’em prepare the cannons, sir? Just in case.”

The younger man nodded, watching as Zuane crossed the deck, barking orders that Asahel couldn’t hear clearly over the winds. The ship awakened slowly from fear as the crew fought free of their torpor, assuming their stations. Some of the seamen straddled the guns while others ran to the masts. Young boys pelted past Asahel, legs shaking as they carried shot and rounds towards the cannons. Gunpowder scent tainted the air as they passed, acrid and tangy in his nostrils. There were six cannons on the Serenissma. It was far too many guns for a simple merchant vessel but she was no merchant ship any longer.

Asahel turned. Felix had returned to his side, languid as he watched the hurried motions of the gunners.

“We came to stop a war before it came to Cercia.” Felix’s gaze rose, focusing on the Rukh’s eyes, staring at the creature like he could will it away. “And it seems the war has come to us.”

“You don’t know that,” Asahel said, his jaw clenched.

“No, I don’t.” Felix’s eyes dropped back down to Asahel, his gaze knowing as he looked into his face. “But there’s a great many things you don’t know either.”

The ship pitched under their feet again and Asahel grabbed onto the mast. Felix fell, his slender body offering little resistance to the force of the motion as he slid towards the bow. Water slopped up on the deck again as the Rukh opened its beak, a piercing shriek lancing the sailors’ eardrums. One of the boys running towards a cannon dropped his shell to slap his hands over his head. The black metal round rolled into the sea, the sound of impact washed away by the Rukh’s terrible cry.

It was then that Asahel saw a spark of light from starboard.

“No–” He opened his mouth but only part of his words came before the roaring of the cannon interrupted. White smoke billowed from the side of the Serenissma. The shot missed the Rukh, slamming hard into the tides. The ship rocked again in the choppy waves, caught in the backlash. Asahel stumbled, losing his footing. He remained standing by clenching the mast with both hands, fingers shredding oak as he fought the uneven motions of the rocking deck.

He saw Felix crouched at the starboard end of the ship. The other man mouthed ‘you idiot’ to the sailor who was standing next to the smoking cannon. Felix’s hand wrenched the gunner’s arm back, thrusting him away from the fuse as he shouted warnings.

Then the second cannon erupted into smoke and fire.

The white monster swooped down.

All that Asahel could see was the cloud of pale feathers as the Rukh lashed out at the cannon that had fired. Screams throbbed around him as the Rukh lifted, golden talons now rusted with blood. Broken bodies lay on the wood, ribs smashed by the weight of unearthly claws. The men were too distant for Asahel to put faces to as he fell to the deck, heart pounding at the sound of the wings beating once more.

The Rukh dove again, its beak rending the ship’s prow. The heavy timbers cracked like bones against the pressure. The slow tearing sound cut through the haze of chaos settling over the ship as panic took hold. Spice spilled out of the hold the beast had torn open. Pungent scents of oil and cedar clouded the air as chests smashed against the bow, breaking apart into the water below.

Asahel crawled on his knees towards the heart of the battle, his eyes stinging red from the spices in the air. The Rukh thrashed as another cannon fired its shot, black powder belching into the fading light. Angry cries from the monster above filled his ears as it lurched down, plucking a sailor off the deck and squeezing its talons tightly around the man’s midsection. Another series of screams began as the ship’s port side blazed into flames but he kept moving towards starboard, trying to reach the first cannon that had been fired.

“Zuane!” He called, hoping that the captain was near. When that failed, Asahel shouted out for others. “Felix! Nicolas!” His knee edged forward as he crawled, the coarse wool of his trousers suddenly damp. He looked down to see the blood of the fallen pooling in the cracks of the boards.

He was near the side of the Serenissma now. Asahel stood, crouching again each time the Rukh let out another shriek. Black smoke surrounded him, choking his lungs as he turned. Even the white beast had grown dim as the wall of fire lept up, flames feeding on the ship’s planking.

“Soames–” Asahel turned but saw no one who could have called him.

“Where are you?” He whispered, afraid to raise his voice. Then he saw a pair of hands gripping the railing. He reached out, his own strong fingers clutching them and pulling the man up. He could feel Felix shudder as he came up over the rail, his thin body battered. The older man began to cough almost immediately as Asahel helped him back to the deck, both of them staring through the flames at the carnage.

The Serenissma wrenched sharply to the right. The Rukh cawed as it rose, white wings blotting out what was left of the sun. Water was splashing across the wood, shooting up from the hold as the lower decks flooded.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” Asahel said.

“There’s no rafts,” Felix coughed, leaning back against the rail. His eyes were bright with a fear that the other man had never seen.

“Aye.” The fire was closer, near enough to warm them both. Which will it be​​​? Asahel thought. Burning or drowning?

“I can’t swim.”

“Sure, and now you tell me.” Asahel steadied his expression for Felix’s sake, more nervous than he let on. The Soames family were merchants and traders–unlike Felix, Asahel had been raised at water’s edge.

“I never expected it to come up.” Felix grimaced. “I know. We’re on a boat. Clearly, I was being an optimist.”

“Ship,” Asahel corrected gently, looking over his shoulder at the waves.

“Grave–if we don’t do something shortly.” Felix inhaled, his body clenched as he turned his back on the flames. The Serenissma was moving downwards rapidly. The sailors left were leaping from the deck, disappearing into the churning tides as they plummeted through the darkness. He looked over at Asahel, his mouth twisting into a crooked grin. “No time like the present.”

Felix climbed back up on the railing, sweat trickling down his forehead, his skin mottled with bruise and shadow. Asahel followed, his own ungainly body slower to the action. The two men looked at one another one last time, then back at the burning ship.

Then, with one breath, they jumped.

stockholm – excerpt

Another excerpt and a another author to check out. Here’s a little piece of stockholm, a romantic comedy in an unfree society. I’ll be posting an interview with Kian Kaul, the book’s author, in just a couple of minutes.

stockholm-cover

I was visited in my office by an outside lawyer, who explained the situation in a rehearsed voice, hurrying through long passages with short exhalations of breath; the reality show currently filming in our office was a cross-branding-promotion for Camp San Andreas, in the form of a new campaign to be directed by Jonathon. The format itself was also a backdoor pilot for a possible cable mid-season replacement show, working title, Office Politics“.Each prospective season the show would film in a different, real-life, workplace where employees would compete against each other for their current positions while working on projects for an appropriate corporate sponsor. I signed my contract, promising me six paid weeks through filming, two days for pickups and a compensation package upon completion.

“What’s Force Majeure?”

“It essentially means an unforeseeable, unavoidable disaster. Or an ‘Act of God’, if you will. Sign at the tabs.”

I hovered my pen over the line at the bottom. The lawyer narrowed his eyes and fingered his smartphone. “Sign at the indicated points, please.”

“Did you know that dotted lines were actually made up of tiny print, so infinitesimal it appears as a slightly broken line to the naked eye?”

“Look, dude…”

“Hey, I’m the crazy guy, right?” I slashed an ‘X’ along the line.

“You may believe that’s not a legally acceptable signature but it, in fact, is. I can initial it later, at my convenience.” He tugged the contract away from me.
“Hey, what about my cop—”

“Copies will be provided.” He slammed the door behind him.

On my way to the big kitchen Karen suddenly stood up from where she must have been leaning, appearing relaxed, at some assistant’s cube. I noticed two camera operators closing in, triangulating a completely spontaneous conversation with completely spontaneous over-the-shoulder coverage. Karen stepped toward me and then waited in place, looking at me but not speaking. In my peripheral vision I saw the operator on my right wave a hand. She suddenly activated, a brightness and clarity appearing in her eyes and cheeks.

“Carver, hey. What’s the haps?”

“You know, Hapsburg dynastic inbreeding, treachery and whatnot.” I looked around to see the small crowd of plebs who’d formed to watch the cameras watching us.

Karen just nodded, her pre-selected reaction regardless of what I’d said. “Yeah, totes. Hey, can I bend your ear for a few, in mine?”

“Yours?”

“My office.” Flatly.

“Sure.”

Neither of us moved. The light mounted on the camera framing me went out. The operators lowered and relaxed their stances.

“Why didn’t you go?”

“I thought you were leading the conversation. I didn’t want to upstage you.”

“Right. Well, I thought I was indicating for you to follow me.”

“You didn’t move, though.”

“It’s alright, they can probably just cut straight to inside my office.”

“Are we going into your office now?”

Karen twisted her upper torso and called out to someone further in the cube farm. “When’s lunch?” She turned back, looking past me.

A man’s voice drifted forward, “Half. You got time.”

“We need to pow-wow for a mo.”

“I didn’t really get any of that.”

“Yeah, so we’re kind of wondering why you haven’t congratulated Jonathon on the H&S campaign. I mean, it’s been long enough.”

“I did. At the party. You were at least three feet away, wearing a low-cut two-piece top and distressed jeans with sequins going up the—”

“No, that doesn’t mean shit to anyone. I mean why haven’t you been posting about Jonathon on your profile? Everyone else here is. How do you expect anyone to know you supposedly said something to him at a nightclub?”

“Well, I did congratulate him so…”

“No, you didn’t. You might wanna read your contract through again. You’re required to mention Jonathon three times a week through the end of shooting. He’s our creative director, mmmkay?”

Two and a Half Dead Men – Excerpt

Here’s chapter one from the paranormal crime thriller Two and a Half Dead Men by Jason Krumbine. Later today I’ll be posting an interview I had with Jason.

one

“What the hell?” the guy on the floor says, appropriately freaking out.

“I’m Thane,” the shorter man with the lighter, closely cropped hair says. He points to the guy standing next to him. “This is my brother Mort. Our last name is Grym. It’s funny, you won’t get it right away, but you will in a minute.”

“And you’re dead,” Mort points to the man on the floor impatiently.

Thane shakes his head. “Geez, Mort.”

Mort’s the younger of the two. He stands about two inches taller. He keeps his dark hair long and unruly, slicked back with oil and grease. He’s dressed in a pair of ratty jeans and a stained t-shirt. The brown overcoat that looks like it had been to Hell and back originally belonged to their father, with whom he shares the same dark brown eyes.

“What?” He holds up his wrist to show Thane the watch. “Do you see what time it is?”

Thane looks at the face of the watch and then at Mort. “Yeah. It’s a quarter past three.”

Mort’s face scrunches up. He checks the watch himself, tapping the faceplate with his other hand. He looks out the window as though to confirm it. It’s dark out and the moon is starting to rise.

“That’s not right,” he says.

“I know,” Thane replies. He stands straight, compared to his brother’s slouched posture. His clothes are clean and his jacket is stain free. He’s got his mother’s light blue eyes. “That watch hasn’t been able to tell the correct time ever since you got it.”

“It was Dad’s watch,” he says, like that was supposed to kill the argument.
“Which explains why he was always late.”

“Whatever,” he runs a hand through his dirty hair. “There’s a fight on in an hour. I don’t know want to miss it.”

“Of course,” Thane mutters.

“What?” Mort asks.

“Nothing,” Thane says aloud.

“Excuse me, but what the hell?” the guy on the floor asks again.

The brothers give the man on the floor their attention.

“You’re dead,” Mort repeats. “D-E-A-D,” and he tears off a bite from his foot long sandwich he had insisted on bringing up with him.

“Are you threatening me?” the guy on the floor asks.

“We’re not threatening you,” Thane says, trying to calm him down. “Do you have to eat that right now,” he asks Mort, pulling out the crumpled paperwork from his jacket pocket. “It doesn’t lend itself to a professional image.”

“Yes, Thane, I have to eat it right now,” he says between bites. “You never want to stop for dinner.”

“We eat when we’re not working,” Thane crouches down next to the guy on the floor. “Hi,” he says to him.

“Easy for you to say,” Mort says. “You weren’t blessed with Mom’s low blood sugar. Do you know when my last meal was?”

“No.”

“Neither do I,” Mort says. “That’s how much I had to drink last night. So forgive me for trying not to die of starvation.”

Thane rolls his eyes and checks the name on the paperwork. “Paulie?” he says to the man on the floor. “That’s your name, right? Paulie?”

The man’s eyes twitch back and forth between the two brothers. He’s confused and probably more than a little freaked out. His face glistens with sweat.

Mort sneezes and Paulie jumps a little.

Thane gently smacks Paulie’s cheek. “Hey, Paulie, I need you to focus.”

He looks back at Thane but his eyes are still glazed over.

“Your name’s Paulie, right?” Thane tries one more time. He likes to be sure.
He blinks, shaking his head. “Yeah. Yeah, I think,” he trails off. “What happened? I’m dead?”

“Yeah. You got yourself shot at point blank range with a double barrel shotgun,” Mort chimes in helpfully. “Boom. Instant death,” he pretends his sandwich is a gun and mimes shooting with it.

“For crying out loud,” Thane mutters again. “Do you mind?”

“Yes, I mind,” Mort says. “There’s a fight on in an hour. I don’t want to miss it. I promise to coddle the next one.”

“You’ll be lucky if I bring you along on the next one,” he says under his breath.

“What?”

“Just stand there,” Thane says aloud. “Just stand there and eat your stupid sandwich.”

“Gladly.”

The older brother shakes his head and turns back to Paulie “Do you remember what happened?”

Paulie’s face scrunches up. He’s clearly thinking real hard, but it’s not something he’s used to. His face almost looks like it’s mimicking someone else.

“I, uh,” he stutters and trails off.

“It’s okay,” Thane says. “Most people who suffer this kind of trauma tend to have temporary amnesia.”

“You’re saying I’m dead?” he asks again.

“Buddy,” Mort cuts in again, “you’ve got your legs violently separated from the rest of your body. I can see parts of your entrails on the fireplace. It is not possible for you to get any deader.”

Paulie’s eyes go wide and suddenly he seems to be aware of his surroundings.

It’s a middle-class suburban home, about six blocks from the A-Line. They’re in the living room and it’s in shambles. There was a fight with a clear winner and loser. And, sure enough, Paulie’s upper half is separated from his lower half.

And his entrails were definitely on the fireplace.

“What the-” Paulie broke down into a stream of obscenities as he twisted his neck around, trying to take it all in at once.

Thane lets him go on for a few seconds before clamping his hand down over Paulie’s mouth. He immediately regrets it. It’s like touching a thousand tiny ants all moving around together at the same time. He hates touching dead people.

Thane looks back at his brother. “Thank you.”

He tosses Thane the cuffs. “No problem. Can we please get going now?”
Thane catches the cuffs with his other hand. Paulie eyes them and they’re not making him any calmer.

Thane keeps his hand securely over his mouth. The tiny invisible ants squirm around, like they’re trying to burrow themselves into Thane’s hand.

“Okay, this isn’t what it looks like,” Thane tries one more time. “We aren’t who you think we are. And these,” he shakes the cuffs, “aren’t normal handcuffs,” he twists them around so Paulie could see his name, PAULIE, etched into the metal. “I would like to explain everything to you in a calm manner, but I can’t do that if you’re going to freak out and swear like a some diseased ridden prostitute that just got gypped out of her share by her pimp. So, do you promise to calm down?”

Paulie hesitates a moment but nods his head.

“Good, I’m going to remove my hand now,” Thane pulls his hand back and immediately feels better. He fights the urge to wipe it against his pants. Paulie keeps silent. “So, here’s what happened, Paulie. This place belongs to Steven Waldo. Mr. Waldo walked in on you trying to steal his priceless collection of porcelain Indian clowns. He subsequently shot you in self-defense.”

Paulie’s brow furrows. “I was stealing from this guy?” he asks.

“Yes.”

He thinks about it. “I don’t carry a gun? I don’t carry a gun,” he repeats it more definitively.

Thane checks the paperwork again. “No, you didn’t have any weapons on you.”

“Then how the hell does that count as self-defense?” he snaps.

“Dude,” Mort says, “totally raw deal. But you did try to steal from the guy.”

“He blew off my damn legs with a double barrel shotgun!” Paulie shrieks.

“I think it’s coming back to him,” Mort looks at his brother.

“Look, Paulie,” Thane starts, but Paulie has other ideas.

He starts shrieking and flopping around on the floor like a half eaten merman. One of his hands smacks Thane’s face.

Thane looks at Mort. He shrugs. “Not my fault. You’re the one that wanted to talk to him.”

Mort steps forward and sets a foot on Paulie’s chest, holding him in place. That stops him from bucking around, but he’s still shrieking. Thane clamps his hand back down over his mouth.

“Look, Paulie, we’re not unsympathetic to your plight,” Thane starts.

“I am,” Mort interrupts. “I have a fight I don’t want to miss.”

“As I was saying,” Thane resumes, “Your death was particularly traumatic and incapacitating. Even though you have no real physical body to speak of, subconsciously you’ve amended your soul body to match your physical body. Which means you have no legs to carry you to the afterlife. And that’s why we’re here,” Thane pulls out the dull brass badge from his pocket. “We’re dead soul collectors. Grim reapers for souls who can’t or won’t find their way to the afterlife. We’re here to escort you to the afterlife, but before we do that, I just want to give you the opportunity to share with us any good-byes you wanted to make or see if there are any unresolved issues that we could help you with before we send you on your way.”

“He keeps saying ‘we’,” Mort says with a full mouth, “But it’s all him. I have a fight to catch.”

Paulie seems to have calmed down again so Thane removes his hand.
“Unresolved issues?” he says. “I’ll give you unresolved issues. I’m dead over some stupid Indian clowns!” he shouts and his face turns bright red.

“Okay then,” Thane says. “Right to the afterlife.”

And then he slaps the cuffs on him.

The Death of Torberta Turchin–Snippet

If you missed yesterday’s interview with the author, Shannon Mawhiney, go check it out. Here’s a snippet from her book, The Death of Torberta Turchin.

Charlie was more than happy to help Torby out during her detentions. He told her stories to keep her entertained and from falling asleep, though he also had to be careful not to make her laugh or do anything else that would get her into more trouble. He’d given her a choice of topic today: either his meeting George Washington in 1947 or his trip to Australia in the same year. She’d heard both of them before, but she picked the George Washington story, then Australia if Washington didn’t take up enough time.

As soon as Torby sat down, Charlie first made a big deal of clearing his throat. “It was July of 1947,” he began, his voice coming from the floor beside her. Torby pictured him lying on his back with his arms crossed behind his head. “And it was sweltering hot, though I only knew that because all the living people were complaining about it every chance they got; I’d been dead for almost a decade by then and, of course, wasn’t affected by the heat. Anyway–”
Florian walked in the room, and Charlie stopped. Mr. Krangle indicated a seat, three desks away from Torby but still in the front row, and Florian sat down roughly, crossing his arms in front of him and staring hard at the blank dry-erase board.

Torby folded her arms on top of her desk and rested her chin on one forearm, staring at the floor in front of her.

“As I was saying,” Charlie continued. “Summer of ’47. I’d decided to go and see a jazz band perform at a bar in Los Angeles. I’d already been in the area for a little while, and a couple of guys I’d met at another bar highly recommended this band. So there I was, standing next to a wall near the stage of this nice but pretty run-down, smoky bar, waiting for the music to start, when in walks none other than the very first president of the United States of America. I recognized him from portraits I’d seen of him, in books and at the White House. And on money, I guess.

“I must’ve looked like a real idiot, staring at him like I was, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. We weren’t the sole dead guys in there though, and I wasn’t the only one who’d never met George Washington. I stayed where I was, but about every other ghost in the room crowded around the guy and started talking all at once, asking him if he really was who he was, if he’d really chopped down a cherry tree, all that kind of stuff. But what does he do? He keeps on walking, right through everyone, living and dead, like they weren’t even there. I’d imagine he was used to all that attention, and probably got annoyed by it too; but I have to give him credit for not snapping at them or glaring at them or anything. He just ignored them and just kept on going right until he reached the middle of the room, where he stopped and stood there, calm and watching the stage. Which was still void of any musicians at this point, I might add, and was starting to wear on my patience.

“Now, I didn’t want to embarrass myself and have old George catch me staring at him, so I went back to watching the empty stage myself. After a few minutes, most of Washington’s fans had stopped bugging him. Some of them obviously felt bad that he didn’t want to talk to them, some of them just looked confused, and a few were annoyed that he was ignoring them. But at least they were leaving him alone now. I can’t imagine, being bothered all the time like that.

“So, finally the band gets on stage and starts playing. I don’t remember exactly what their name was now. The… something-or-other. But they were hot, I tell you what. They had four members: a piano player, a drummer, a bass player, and a sax player, and I’m not exaggerating when I say they played like they were baring their souls through those instruments. It’s too bad their piano player died of a heart attack about a week later, because they would’ve been big.

“Anyway, so halfway through one of their faster, real toe-tapping songs, I look over at Mr. Washington again; because for awhile, I forgot he was even there, the music was that good. And what’s he doing? Tapping his hand on his thigh and bobbing his head to the beat. And he was smiling with his eyes all lit up, feeling that music, same as I was.

“After the song was over, I looked over at him again, and he looked over at me. And he was still smiling, and he gave me a nod, like he knew we were thinking the same thing: that we’d never felt so alive in all our afterlives.”

Charlie sighed happily. “After the show—”

A loud, harsh scream from the hallway got all of their attentions immediately.

If you enjoyed this sample, go check out the The Death of Torberta Turchin on Amazon.

The new new cover of Oasis.

After completing the new cover for Oasis, the artist contacted me and said he didn’t like to one he came up with, and so he wanted to do another one and let me choose which one I liked best. And I think I like the second one best, so I set it up on the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords listings.

Click for the big version.

Just a note – the ebook price is going to go back up on Friday, so if you want to get a hold of Oasis for only a buck, now is the time.

In other other news, next week I’m going to post a new trailer that I’m throwing together for Oasis.