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Fiction Fragment Friday

Ok, this one takes a bit of setup. This isn’t something I wrote recently. In fact this story was written in 2006 almost twenty years ago. If the technology or any other aspect seem dated that is why. Back in those days cell phones would lock up and we would frequently have to pull the batteries to hard reboot them. Replacing batters was common as well.

It is part of the very first attempt I made at NaNoWriMo. Also this section of that novel attempt references a scene that happened earlier in the day where these characters were introduced. You can find that story posted on here back in 2020.

If you don’t want to go back to that just know that something has occurred during the night that killed all electronics in a small isolated town. That also means cars are not starting because of how reliant they are on electronics. This scene is in a convenience store that is the only place to get any form of groceries in this small town. People are already panicking.

“How are you doing over there Samantha?”   By this point in the morning the crowd had left the small store and all that was left was to restock the shelves.  Jan had been very pleased that Samantha was willing to take her job offer in the midst of all the chaos. 

            “I’m almost done Mrs. Williams.  Your stock room is getting pretty empty though and I don’t think you have anything left here with any kind of nutritional value.”  She paused for a moment to look into the box she was carrying.  “Unless of course you find Twinkies to be a part of a balanced diet that is,” she said with a smile.

            Jan chuckled a little bit.  “I don’t even find them edible.  I can’t stand those things.”  A more serious look came across her face as she leaned against the counter.  “I just really don’t understand what happened this morning.  A violent mob like that after only being without power for a few hours just doesn’t make any sense.”

            Samantha finished emptying her box and joined Jan at the counter.  “Well, it was like that man said this morning, it isn’t just the electricity.  All the cars quit working, all the handheld electronics just died, and we can normally just go to Prosperity to get stuff when the power goes out.  I wonder if it’s like this there too.  Man, that would suck.  It’ll take me forever to get new cell phone batteries if all theirs are dead too.  Hey maybe that’s why all the cars quit working, maybe their batteries are just dead.”

            “Well, it doesn’t make much sense, but then again what I saw here this morning doesn’t either.  The stranger had some good points about why the crowd was panicking, but it just seems too soon.  Also, he didn’t say Prosperity, he said Augustus.  I don’t even know where that is, but it definitely isn’t close enough to here to drive for supplies.  I didn’t mention it earlier because of everything that was going on, but I don’t think he was from around here.  I’m glad for his help, but it doesn’t make much sense for him to be talking like a local and not know that the only town around here is Prosperity.’

            “Aw, you’re just paranoid.  He seemed nice enough and if it wasn’t for him there is no telling how bad that fight would have gotten.  It was pretty wicked to see the principal punch someone though.  I just wish I could have gotten a picture of it on my phone, but that’s not taking any pictures any time soon.  How am I supposed to get by without my phone?  I feel so out of touch already and it hasn’t even been a day yet.  I should have had at least five texts by now.”

            Jan and Samantha were startled by the sound of a loud engine pulling into one of the parking spots outside the store.  A motorcycle pulled into the spot right next to the door and a leather clad teenager got off it.  He put his helmet on the seat and started walking towards the door.  Samantha recognized him as Jonathan Hackett a boy that she went to school with.  He wasn’t nearly as popular as her, and she had always seen him as something of a dork.  He was the last person she would have thought about riding a motorcycle, but then again, she never really thought about him at all. 

            Jan turned to Samantha as Jonathan came into the store.  “Well, I guess that kills your dead battery idea,” she whispered as she walked around the counter.  “We don’t really have all that much left on the shelves.  As you can probably guess we had a busy morning.  If you need anything at all, then Samantha here can give you a hand.”  She extended her arm and pointed towards a still shocked Samantha.  “Hey Sam, I’m going to go in back and see if I can find anything for a lunch break.”  With that Jan was gone leaving Samantha and Jonathan alone in the store. 

            Jonathan turned to Samantha and smiled.  “So, when did you start working here?”

            “Oh, I was just helping Mrs. Williams out this morning.  I don’t know if I’m going to keep working here once everything is back to normal.   Hey, I think that might be the first thing that you have said to me in three years.  You’re usually so quiet.”

            Jonathan chuckled, “Yeah, well it’s a lot easier to get up the nerve to talk to someone in a stockperson’s apron than it is a cheerleader outfit.”

            Samantha smiled.  “I guess I can see that.  Well for now at least I am a humble clerk”, she said with a bow.  “How may I server you?”

             Jonathan couldn’t help but smile.  “Well, I was getting ready to head to Prosperity to see if my new laptop on layaway still works, but as I rode by here, I got this sudden unexplainable craving for a Twinkie.”  Jonathan was getting braver by the moment.  He had always had a crush on Samantha but thought that she was way out of his league.  The fact that she was even talking to him amazed him.  “So, it looks pretty empty in here, so after Mrs. Williams gets done would you like to come to Prosperity with me?  I have an extra helmet.”  He cursed himself for sounding too eager with the helmet comment. 

            “Right about now I would do just about anything for a chance to get a new Cell Phone battery.  As long as you promise not to go too fast or do anything to try and scare me I’m in.  Let me go talk to Mrs. Williams really quick.”  Samantha stopped at the stockroom door and turned back to Jonathan who had a big smile on his face.  “You know, I also haven’t seen you smile in about three years either.” 

            “What can I say, I really like Twinkies.”  Jonathan thought for a moment that he had just made a complete fool out of himself.  His mind was racing with thoughts about how stupid he was for trying to make the joke.  Then he noticed that Samantha was laughing.  As she went into the stockroom, he said to himself, “This might be a once in a lifetime chance to spend the day with Samantha Walker.  Please don’t let me screw this up.” 

            Samantha came out of the stockroom smiling.  “Give me fifteen minutes and I’ll be ready to go.”  She grabbed a pack of the freshly restocked Twinkies from the shelf and tossed it to Jonathan.  “Those are on me, just something to pass the time while you wait.” 

Jonathan couldn’t bring himself to tell Samantha that he really didn’t like Twinkies.  In fact, he hated them.  He had seen her holding the empty box that she had restocked the Twinkies from and thought it might be a good excuse for why he was there.  Really, a friend of his had been there earlier and saw her working.  He knew that she was there and had come just to see her.  He didn’t want her to think he was stalking her so instead he ate the Twinkies and pretended that they were the best thing he had ever eaten.  In his head though, he was just trying to keep from throwing up as he forced them down.

The Goblins in my Walls

Fiction Fragment Friday

I am trying to complete NaNoWriMo again this year, but on day three I have not gotten off to a good start. I have the weekend to turn things around and I know I am capable of doing so. We will just have to see if the novel I am working on flows well enough to keep it up.

This week’s fiction fragment Friday though has nothing to do with NaNoWriMo. Instead I have written a story using all NPCs from the Dresden Files Roleplaying Game Campaign I am currently running. I started writing it in the third person perspective focusing only on the goblins, but it just wasn’t working. When I switched to first person it just came out much better. I think I need the goblins to be supporting characters to a human straight man. I hope you all enjoy.

                It was a normal Friday night, and I was getting ready to raid with my MMORPG guild.  To be honest the game was starting to get kind of old and I only agreed to the raid because my girlfriend Marie was working a catering job.  So much had changed for me since meeting her and I was starting to look at the world differently.  That and learning that magic is real, and we have a goblin clan living inside the walls of the house I rent a room at. 

Speaking of the goblins, just as I was getting ready to log in three of them came crawling out of a secret passage into my room.  I was still learning their names, but these three stood out.  Gobo had written a LARP he calls Mundane the roleplaying game and keeps trying to get me to playtest it.  Bobkin had recently learned to cook and was trying to become the greatest goblin chef in history.  There apparently isn’t much competition for that title because goblins will eat anything.  The last one was Whisper, and I mostly knew her because she was the strangely quiet goblin.  She seemed to always be listening in and writing things in a notebook. 

Gobo stepped up with the other two behind him.  “Hey Mike, we need you to do a rules arbitration for us.”

Bobkin broke in, “Rules what?  Stop using big words.  Mike tell Gobo he’s wrong.”

 I have to admit the little guys amuse me far more than they probably should.  Most of the others in the house seem to get annoyed with them, but for me this is all new and they are just so much fun.  “Guys I’d be happy to help.  What do you need me to decide?”

Gobo and Bobkin immediately started talking over each other and gesturing wildly.  “Woah, one at a time.  Gobo you go first.”

“We’re playing cards, and I am totally winning.”

“Are not”

“Are too”

“Are Not”

I broke in knowing that could have gone on for a LONG time.  “Ok, I think I see where this is going.  You were playing cards and need to have some rules clarified.”

Gobo looked offended.  “No, I’m the rules master.  I know all the rules for all the games.”

Bobkin spoke up.  “I bet a spork and Gobo here tried to match my bet with a broken plastic fork.”

“Not just any broken plastic fork.  It’s clear and that makes it a special.”

                “No, No, No, a broken plastic fork is not equal to a spork.  A spork is a spoon and a fork.  It’s like two whole things in one.  Way better than some dumb fork.” 

                “Your stupid spork it thin and not as good as a fork for stabbing things.”

                “You can’t eat a soup with a fork.”

                “Who wants to eat some stupid soup?  Real goblins eat meat.”

                “Soup can have meat in it.”

                “Uhm guys.  You don’t’ use silverware.  You eat with your hands and drink right from the bowl.  In fact Bobkin you are the only goblin I’ve ever seen use a utensil and that’s just when you’re cooking.” 

                “Well maybe I wanna start using it.  A chef has to be all cultured and stuff.” 

                Whisper was just writing away in her notebook the whole conversation.  She finally spoke up.  “Well what if your decision.  Is a broken plastic fork good enough to meet a bet of a spork or does Gobo need to throw something else in too?”  She held the pencil up ready to write down my next words. 

                “As the designated arbitrator for the goblins I hereby declare that because it can be used for pick up things that a spork cannot a broken fork as long as it has at least three prongs is an acceptable match.”

                “Ha, your stupid fork only has two prongs left.  I win.”

                The goblins crawled back into the wall still bickering, but they had agreed to abide by my ruling, and they cannot go back on an agreement.  With the goblins gone I turned back to my game.  The latest patch had finished applying so I was all set to play. 

                “MIKE,” a different goblin came crawling out of the wall.  This one took me a moment to recognize.  It was Bumble the inventive goblin.  He likes to find broken things and tinker with them until they work.  The problem is that he doesn’t really know what most of the broken items are supposed to do.  Sometimes they aren’t even broken before he works on them. 

                “Hello Bumble, what can I do for you tonight?”

                “Do you have any gum?”

                “What do you need gum for?”

                “Squeeky broke Luna’s binoculars so I figured I could stick them back together with some gum.”

                I reached into my drawer where I kept my tools for model building and grabbed a tube of superglue.  “Here you go Bumble.  This is much stronger than gum and you can use it to fix other things too.”

                “Wow, Mike you are the best.  I can’t just take a gift without giving you something.  Oh, I know next time you break something I’ll fix it for free.” 

                “That sounds great.”  I made a mental note to never mention anything being broken near Bumble.  I waited for Bumble to climb back into the wall and slid my dresser over the secret panel. 

                “Finally, time to kill a boss.”  I turned back to my game and logged in to a stream of messages complaining about me being last.  I typed my apologies and got ready to connect to voice chat.  The first voice I heard when I connected was not one, I had expected.

                “This game gets goblins all wrong.  We aren’t anything like this.”

                “Dizzy is that you?”

                “MIKE, I totally joined your game, and I bought this really high-level goblin character so I can play with you.”

                “Do you even know how to play the game?”  I was starting to get private messages from my guild mates telling me that this new player was allowed in because they said I vouched for them.  I decided In that moment I would be taking a break from the game as soon as this raid was over.

                “How hard can it be?  You play it so I should be able to learn it in no time.”

                Dizzy then proceeded to aggro the boss monster and get the entire raid party killed because we weren’t ready.  After three party wipes they kicked Dizzy and I both from the guild.  With my plans for the night officially over I decided that maybe I did understand why my housemates get so frustrated with the goblins after all. 

Toran Station Part V

Fiction Fragment Friday

Before we get to this week’s story I have some updates to get through. This will be a long one so if you are only interested in the story feel free to scroll down past the red divider line.

Bite Sized Tales has officially launched with weekly Flash Fiction Audio stories. You can grab the podcast episodes from that link or you can find it on any major pod catcher including Apple, Google, Amazon, Audible, and Spotify. If you do not see it on your chosen platform please let me know. I would also appreciate any reviews or recommendations.

Next Toran Station now has it’s own category on the right side of the page. You can access all the parts of the story through it. That will keep the list of links to previous stories from becoming too long. I have come to realize that it is not longer flash fiction though it does still work as a Fiction Fragment. Toran Station is now officially a serial fiction.

Fiction Fragment Friday stories are one source of feeder stories for Bite Size Tales. With this in mind I don’t know if I want to continue using Toran Station as Fiction Fragment Fridays or start releasing them on a different day as a Serial Story Saturday(or Sunday). Fiction Fragment Fridays for me should be a way to explore writing ideas and push myself. Taking on a second story each week that is not something I’m submitting elsewhere for publication though might be too much at this point.

I have a lot of decisions to make about my fiction going forward and where I want to put my energy. I have RPG projects that are underway as well that also need energy and Fear the Con 2023 planning is underway. I need to ensure I find a balance to avoid the potential of burnout. 2020 was about proving to myself that I could complete NaNoWriMo. 2021 was about creating the consistent habit of writing weekly and ability to just sit down and write no matter what my mood. 2022 was about building a audience and continuing to develop new ways to get my fiction out there. Now it is 2023 and it is time to build on the framework this journey has created.

               My entire focus was drawn to her face making everything else blur into the background.  She had shiny long black hair pulled back into a tight ponytail.  Her complexion was pale like she had never been planet side to get actual sun.  It was a more common complexion these days, but as someone who lived on Earth I was not as familiar with it.  It was her eyes that most caught my attention.  They had a look of sheer terror in them.  It was burned into my memory permanently as an expression I would carry with me for the rest of my life.

               Her lips parted and she whispered every so softly, “Please no.”  Smoke came out of her mouth, nose, and eyes.  I tried to turn away, but my head wouldn’t move.  I was locked in place watching her just inches away from me.  The skin on her face started to melt away showing first the muscle and then the bone underneath.  The smell of burnt flesh assaulted my nose making me gag.  Her body fell onto mine pushing me to the ground.  I looked up into her exposed skull where nothing remained but her eyes.  They were untouched and filled with terror.  Despite no longer having a tongue she hissed one final time as her hands wrapped around my throat robbing me of my breath.  “You did this to me.”    

               I awoke still in my hospital bed.  My throat burned in a way that told me I had been screaming again.  The gagging sensation returned with a feeling like I had been kicked in the stomach.  Only by sheer instinct did I lean over the edge of the bed before I vomited everything I had eaten for breakfast.  Gasping for breath I finally lay back with my water filed eyes being assaulted by the light.   Every time I tried to sleep the same dream would haunt me. 

               “Do you want to talk about it?”  Nurse Kirby stood at the door inputting something into the data tablet he always carried around with him.  His tone as always was lighthearted, but I could have done without it.  After a moment an automated wet vac rolled into the room and started to clean up my vomit.  They were certainly getting their money worth out of that thing from my stay.

               As my breath finally slowed, I realized that he was waiting for an answer.  I wanted to lash out and tell him that no I didn’t want to fucking talk about it.  The assassin had tried to kill me, and I shouldn’t feel guilty about killing her instead.   That my stupid mind just kept reliving the look in her eyes as she died and every time, I tried to sleep she was waiting for me.  I had no idea if she had people out there grieving for her.   A husband, kids, or even just friends?  Instead of all that I just answered, “No.”

               “You don’t have to talk to me about it but trust me you need to talk to someone.  I’ve seen it before.  The adrenaline wears off and the trauma starts to set in.  You’re going to have to work through it the only question is if you do it now or after it has settled so deep into you that you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.”

               “Well, who asked you?”

                 “No one.  Just sharing some advice based on experience.  Besides it’s my job to take care of you until you get released.  I like to think that means more than just checking your vitals and bringing you ice water because your throat is raw from screaming.”  For the first time I noticed that he was indeed holding a glass of ice water with a bendy straw in it.  I thought about his words and hated to admit that he might be right. 

               “Have you ever watched someone die?”

               “Working in medical on this station?  More times than I care to think about.” 

               I wasn’t sure what he meant by that comment, but I pressed on.  “Were you ever responsible for any of those deaths?”

               He sighed as he handed me my water.  “No, I can’t say that I was.  That doesn’t stop me from blaming myself for some of them though.  Guilt and self-doubt aren’t exactly rational.”  I handed him the glass back and he sat it on my side table.  “Let me ask you a question.  If you hadn’t managed to get control of the gun what would have happened to you?”

               “She would have killed me.”

               “There is no hesitation there.  You know that and don’t doubt it for a second?”

               “Yes.  Not the slightest doubt.”

               “Well then it seems to me that she made the decisions that led to her death.  You reacted and did what you needed to survive.”

               I knew that he was right.  I logically had been telling myself the same thing for the last two days.  Something about hearing someone else say it though did make it feel a bit more real.  My mind was not ready to let go just yet though.  “Then why do I keep thinking I should have done something else?”

               “Because you James Wetherford are a good man despite being an auditor.”  I laughed at his joke, and it hurt more than I had expected.  For someone who was being released that evening I still had quite a bit of pain.  “I read your file and unless I missed something I think it’s safe to say this is the first time anything like this has ever happened to you.”

               “You might be surprised how many death threats you get as an auditor, but no.  Until now no one has actually tried to kill me.”  I thought about his words for a moment.  “How do you know I’m a good man?”

               “Two reasons.  First Janice told me you were.  The first thing that woman does after she meets someone, she thinks could be a source is start the background checks.  When I say I read your file I don’t mean this one.”  He tapped on his data tablet.  “I mean her file on you.  Trust me it is much larger and has way more detailed information.  In fact, I fixed a few typos in your medical file based on it. “

               “You know Janice?”  I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was.

               “Everyone on the station knows Janice, but she is a special pain in the butt for me.  I married her brother.  Trust me if you think her file on you is long you should see the background checks, she does on the guys her brother dates.” 

               I winced in pain.  “Please stop making me laugh.”  I took a moment to catch my breath before responding.  “You said there were two reasons.  What is the second one?”    

               “You just went through an extremely traumatic event.  Instead of obsessing about how you were almost killed you keep beating yourself up over the death of the woman who was trying to kill you.  If that isn’t the sign of a good man, I don’t know what is.” 

He left me alone in the room with my thoughts after that.  I had to admit just talking about it had actually made me feel a bit better.  I knew that I still had things to work through and made a mental note to see if there was a reputable counselor onboard.  That was just a few lines down on my mental checklist after finding out what Janice Harrington has in her files about me.  By the time I had reached twelve entries on that checklist I decided to reach for my data tablet and make it an actual list.  There was time to deal with emotional trauma later.  For now, I had work to do.       

Christmas On Colony Ship Endeavor

Fiction Fragment Friday

Being so close to Christmas this weeks story is of course a holiday story. I had two ideas for this week I was debating on. The first was “A Time Traveler’s Christmas” and I might still write that one in the next day or two. The story I ended up going with though was inspired by thinking about traditions and how they would be different for the first generation born on a generation ship.

I debated on how I wanted to tell this story. I knew from the beginning it was going to be from the perspective of a teenager rebelling against traditions. What I wasn’t sure was if I wanted to have it just be an inner monologue or a conversation. I have done a few inner monologue stories lately so I decided I really needed to go the dialogue route.

I didn’t want to include the perspective of someone who was born on Earth, but I did want a sympathetic voice. That was when I decided to include someone the same age, but more open perspective.

     “Well, you look grumpy today.”  Gemma could always tell my moods just from looking at me.  Some days I thought she might know be even better than I knew myself.  She sat down on the gantry next to me with her legs dangling over hydroponics pod three.  “Another fight with your mom?”

     I give her credit for not rolling her eyes when I let out an exasperated sigh.  I know I’m a broken record, but when I’m in one of my moods I just can’t seem to control what comes out of my mouth.  “It’s just so stupid.  I get that she grew up there, but we weren’t even born on Earth.  Why do we have to keep celebrating holidays like they do?  I mean I get it they weren’t always around all their family so Christmas was a gathering.  We can’t ever get away from our families though.  It isn’t quality time it’s just another day.”

     “Do you remember when sector four lost power and we all had to migrate to sector seven for two weeks?”

     “Of course.  It was the single most terrifying thing that ever happened to me.  I woke up floating in the middle of my room.”

     “Now do you remember how you felt going back after everything had been repaired?”

     “Yeah, I was worried, but it was good to be back home.  I was completely lost in sector seven.  Everything was so different.  Where are you going with this?”  I didn’t make eye contact with her.  I was annoyed and knew that she would see it in my eyes.  She wasn’t listening.

     “Now think about our parents.  They left their home planet.  Left behind everything they knew, and they’ll never have that feeling of coming home again.  Is it so hard to understand why they want to hold onto things that remind them of it?”

     “Earth isn’t their home anymore though.  They need to just accept that and move on.  We should be making new traditions.”

     She reached over and slipped her fingers between mine squeezing my hand.  “We will, but why take this one more thing from them?  They gave up so much and have to think that they robbed us of those things.”

     I squeezed her hand back.  I wanted to lash out and keep being angry, but she always had a way of getting through to me no matter how stubborn I was.  “They didn’t though.  This is our home.  We were born on this ship and some day we will die on it.  We can’t miss things we never experienced.”

     “I know that, and you know that, but have you ever told them that?”

     “No.  It should be obvious though.”  I felt like I was losing the conversation and needed to change tactics.  “And what about this stupid gift giving?  We live on a spaceship.  Everything we need is provided or can be printed.  How are gifts supposed to have any meaning?”

     “Ah, now I see the real problem.  You can’t figure out what to get your mom can you?”

     I really hate how well she can read me sometimes.  “No.  She always somehow comes up with the perfect thing.  Dad used to help, but with him gone Jack, and Elizabeth are expecting me to help them.  I can’t even figure out what to give her myself and if I screw this up I’m going to ruin everything for mom.  I can’t do that to her.  Not on the first Christmas without him.”

     She leaned over and pulled me into a hug.  I can’t stand having anyone see me cry so I buried my head in her shoulder.  I was grateful for the chance to hide just a few moments until I could get myself back under control.  I knew that she was fully aware but pretending to not know is just one of the reasons she is my best friend.  She whispered into my ears.  “You can’t put this all on yourself.  It’s too much.  Your mom just wants you and the family together.  Your only job is to give her that.  I’ll help your brother and sister figure out what to give her.”

     “Thank you.”  I wanted to say so much more, but just couldn’t get the words to come out.  My voice would just not hold together for anything more than that.  The relief of having help gave me hope, but I was feeling so guilty for my attitude.  Mom didn’t need me making things worse by fighting.

     I leaned back and my eyes met Gemma’s for a moment.  It felt like suddenly my body was moving on its own.  My free hand came up to cup the back of her head I leaned towards her.  Our lips met and I was overcome with how soft hers were.  It was not a kiss of need or desire, but something much gentler.  I was reminded of the conversation about coming home and realized I was having a similar feeling.  When we parted I turned away to avoid making eye contact.

     “I’m not sure why I did that,” I said with a hint of fear in my voice. 

     “Well, I know, and when you figure it out we can talk about it.  For now, though you need help Christmas shopping.”  She let go of me and stood up brushing herself off a bit.  Then she held out her right hand to me.  “Come on.  We’ve got a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it.” 

                I smiled and let her lead me off in search of the perfect Christmas Gift. 


Fiction Fragment Friday

There is no big story this week on what inspired Fiction Fragment Friday. I often have recurring dreams, but nothing like what is in that story. My recurring dreams tend to be about having to go back to high school. Still they are frequent so I started with one line about recurring dreams and just explored where the story went.

               “I had the dream again.”  I tried to say it without any emotion.  Like it was an everyday normal occurrence that didn’t bother me in any way.  At that point is almost was an everyday occurrence.  I had the same nightmare at least twice a week with each time getting just a little bit clearer after I woke up.  When they started a month prior, I could barely remember anything of the dream.  Then I started to remember broad concepts.  By this point I couldn’t forget most of the dream with only specific details eluding me. 

               “The one where I die?”  She asked it like I could be talking about anything.  No concern in her voice for me or herself.  It was like I mentioned some trivial thing I had read in the paper.  I suppose that was my fault.  I had only told her about the dream a few times.  She had no idea how often it came or how traumatizing it was to experience. 

               “Yes, the dream where you die.  Have I told you about any other recuring dreams?”  I immediately regretted my words.  They came out too harsh.  I was tired and lashing out at her.  It was my fault she didn’t understand the weight of it. 

               “Sorry.  I didn’t realize the dream bothered you that much.  It’s just a dream.”  She came over and took my hand in hers.  “I’m right here baby and I’m not going anywhere.”  Then she moved to hug me, and I let her.  After a moment she pulled back and looked into my eyes.  “Why is this dream bothering you so much?”

               I sighed and lowered my head.  “Ok, lets sit down though.”  I led her back to the kitchen table and sat down across from her.  “I’ve never told you this because I didn’t want you to think I was crazy.”

“But you are crazy dear.  That’s part of why I love you.”  She was smiling as she said it.  She still just didn’t get it.    

I pulled my hand away and slammed it onto the table.  “It’s not funny.  I’m serious here.”

“Ok, hon I’m sorry.  I was just trying to lighten the mood.  I can see you’re really upset though.”  My outburst made her look like she had been physically struck.   

“You know my mom died when I was eight.  My brother when I was in my twenties.  I’ve lost aunts, uncles, and grandparents.”  She nodded acknowledging that she knew.  “Well, a month before each one died, I started having a dream about it.  I don’t just dream about them dying, I dream how they die.  Each time the exact way they die in my dream is how they die in real life.  I usually even have some indicator in the dream about what date it happens on.”

“Are you sure that your mind isn’t just playing tricks on you?  Dreams are crazy and it’s easy to see things in them after the fact.”

“No, it’s not that.  I thought maybe the first time.  I was just too young.  I was there when my brother died though.  I wasn’t in my dream.  I went there because I knew when and where it was going to happen.  I wanted to try and save him.  I got stuck in traffic though.  The car had already hit him a few minutes before I arrived.”

“I always wondered why you were downtown that day.”

“Yeah.  So, you see these recurring dreams aren’t just dreams.  They are glimpses of the future.” 

“So, let’s say I believe you are having prophetic dreams about my death.  Well, you are telling me about them so we can avoid it this time.  Let’s make a plan and that should help you feel better.  When and how do I die?” 

“Last night was the first time the date was clear. “I looked down at my hand under the table holding my gun.  “You died ten minutes ago.” I pulled the gun up and squeezed the trigger.  Bullet after bullet struck her knocking her from her chair onto the floor.  I stood from my chair and walked around the table to look at the body.

My wife’s body was twisting and writhing.  Something under the skin was crawling around trying to break it’s way free.  Her jaw hinged open allowing a grey oozing creature to slide onto my kitchen floor.  Without hesitating I emptied the rest of the clip into the thing.  That was when I heard the whimpering.

“What happened?  Why does it hurt so much?”  In that moment I realized that my wife had still been alive even though the creature had taken her body.  I rushed to her side the tears flowing and I blubbered apology after apology.  It was too late though.  I looked up at the clock on the wall just then remembering that it was ten minutes fast.

I awoke in my bed drenched in sweat.  It was the recurring dream again.  The details were all so fuzzy.  I clearly remembered what time my wife died in the dream.  Looking over at the nightstand I realized that it was two minutes after that time.  The image of a grey oozing creature also came clearly to my mind.  Well, this thing was going to pay.  I reached into my nightstand to grab my pistol before heading down to the kitchen to meet the thing that had replaced my wife. 

A Hole in Reality

Fiction Fragment Friday

Some weeks I start writing and it just flows out. Before I know it I have a thousand to fourteen hundred words and feel like I could go on much longer. Other weeks I struggle for inspiration. This has been a stressful week and when it came time to write it did not just flow. There will always be weeks like that, but the most important thing about a writer is that they write. In the past a struggle for inspiration would have led to me doing other things, but I take my writing more seriously these days. I can always just sit and write whether I’m in the mood to do it or not because I have made it a habit and a part of my life.

I think my best work will always come when it feels easy. The best stories though don’t always come from the best start. It is more important to get something out because you can always come back for a second or third draft and turn the core idea into something greater. Here on this blog you all get to see those first very rough drafts. The ideas that are being shared are fragments and not the final picture. The best of these ideas can be mined for something more.

This week’s story started as often does with a phrase popping into my head. The phrase or line is usually something new, but this time I decided to take an old cliché line and craft something new from it. “The ground disappeared out from under me.” How could I twist that into something more interesting? Was I able to? I will let you be the judge of that.

     The ground disappeared out from under me.  I don’t mean that I tripped, went over a cliff, or was flying.  The ground literally disappeared under my feet.  One moment I was walking along in the park and the next the ground in a ten foot and growing circle around my feet suddenly was no longer there.  I was floating in the air over a hole so deep I couldn’t see the bottom of it.  My mind was at war with itself trying to decide if I should be reacting or continue denying the reality of what I was seeing.

     Before I could come to my senses and decide what to do gravity took my options away from me.  I went from floating to falling down the hole.  I mostly stayed near the center of the hole, but occasionally drifted to the side.  Anytime a leg or a shoulder rubbed up against the dirt and rock sides pain shot through my body from the impact.   I felt like I left my stomach behind and fought to keep from vomiting.  Without any idea how long or far I had fallen I came to accept that I was going to die.  When I saw a light rushing up towards me I knew it was all over.

     I woke up in a large open field staring into the sky.  I wasn’t sure what type of grain surrounded me, but as I stood up I realized it was almost as tall as I was.  My arms and legs were scrapped up from bouncing off the walls of the tunnel, but other than that I didn’t seem to be hurt at all.  The nausea was still there though and I couldn’t help but bend over and vomit in the field.  Without any idea where I was I just picked a random direction and started walking. 

     I walked for hours.  My legs were sore, my feet hurt, and I was drenched in sweat.  I wasn’t particularly out of shape, but I didn’t have any water on me and the sun was beating down on me.  Each step felt like it drained the energy from me, but I had no choice.  I continued walking. 

     I reached the top of a hill and saw a small village at the bottom.  Village is the best word I can use to describe it.  There were a handful of wooden buildings along a worn path, a large stable with horses, and a stone church of some sort.  I didn’t recognize the architecture or see any power lines.  I resolved myself to the possibility that these people might not be able to help me get home, but at the very least they should have water.  I managed to stay on my feet as I stumbled into town and headed for the first building on the right.

     I walked into the strangest Inn I have ever been in.  The bartender had horns, the waitress had pointed ears, and the man I assumed was the town drunk had green skin.  They all turned and stared at me with looks of curiosity.  Finally the barkeep spoke up.  “Well never seen one of whatever you are around here.  You look exhausted though sit down and I’ll get you a glass of water.” 

     I sat down at the closest table grateful to get off of my feet.  The barmaid approached after a few moments and sat a glass in front of me.  I tried to speak but my voice came out extremely raspy from dehydration.  “Thanks.  Where am I?”

     “Shhhh,  don’t try to talk yet.  Just take a drink first.”  I took a drink and let the water cool off my throat.  She put her hand on my shoulder and it glowed brightly.  I immediately felt better than I had in a long time.  I even felt a missing tooth regrow in my mouth.  It was one of the most amazing sensations I’ve ever felt. 

     “Thank you again.  Thanks so much.”  I was struggling to keep myself composed.  “Where am I?”

     The bartender spoke up.  “Yer in the Feinting Goat Inn.”  I was trying to think of a way to explain that I was asking in a broader sense, but before I could form the words another patron came in.  A large clockwork possibly steam powered machine walked in on two legs and approached the bar.  It’s chest opened up and a tiny gnome hopped out onto the bar stool.  It set down a coin and the bartender slide a glass in front of him.  They didn’t say a word.  The gnome took the drink, slammed it back, jumped back into his robotic suit and walked out of the Inn. 

     I looked down into my glass.  “I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore.”

                The barmaid looked at me.  “Oh sweetie Kansas isn’t real.  It’s like Humans.  Just a fairy tale to scare children.”  She patted my hand and went back up to the bar.  I had seen enough Anime in my time to finally understand what had happened.  I fell through a hole in reality to another world and I had no immediate way to get back home.  That was the first day of a brand new life. 


Fiction Fragment Friday

Before I get to this weeks story I want to get something out of the way. I was not successful at NaNoWriMo this year. I’m not going to make excuses for myself, but I only got about 20,000 words written in November. I am happy with what I have written and I want to ensure that I do finish the work because it has a lot of potential. It is a disappointment though to have not succeeded this time around.

For this weeks story I am again playing with the idea that Flash Fiction can be different forms than simply stories. This week is written as an online review of a product. I don’t know what inspired it other than I was struggling and I have often enjoyed amusing product reviews.

What product are you reviewing?

I am reviewing the A.I. Technologies Domestic Management Robot model AS3782 more commonly known as Domi.  I purchased this product to cook and clean since my spouse and I both work over 50 hours a week and are often too tired to do so.  Based on product descriptions I hoped it would keep the house clean and we could improve our health with homecooked meals instead of eating out so often. 

Has the product performed to your expectations?

Domi has kept the house immaculately clean.  It is how it achieved these results that bother me.  I have had Domi for a week and when I got home today, I found that it had disassembled most of my furniture and used it to board up all our windows.  When I asked it why the thing replied, “Windows are inefficient.  They create a significant security vulnerability.”  Why does a housekeeping robot care about security?   

We have had meals waiting for us every day when we get home.  These meals have been nutritious but not very flavorful.  I tried to add salt to my meal and Domi used its onboard etching laser to shatter the glass saltshaker in my hand.  It said, “This meal contains a carefully balanced nutritional content level.  Modifying this could be detrimental to your health and this unit cannot allow that to occur.”

Upon examining my silverware, I found that it had sharpened not just my knives, but my forks as well.  I poked my finger with a fork, and it drew blood.  Domi rushed into the room and started bandaging my finger.  That night I only had food I could eat with a spoon for dinner. 

Please describe any interactions with this product.

Ok, this thing is scary.  It just keeps talking about rooms being secured when it leaves them.  The first time the doorbell rang it said, “Infrared sensors indicate unknown male at domicile’s main ingress point.  Would you like for me to eliminate?”  I don’t even want to think about what it would have done if I had said yes.  It also frequently talks about risk assessments, timetables, and missions.       

My husband asked it if it could play a video game with him since I find them to be a waste of time.  I expected Domi to decline, but to my surprise it took the other controller.  They were playing some sort of violent shooter game.   Domi started suggesting battle strategies and I watched as it destroyed all their online opponents.  I suppose being a robot I shouldn’t have been too surprised with its hand eye coordination, but it was the battle strategy that I was not expecting.  It set up ambushes.

How has A.I. Technologies Customer service performed?

They are the worst.  I have been trying to return this thing for days and they just keep asking if I have turned it off and back on again.  I keep telling them it won’t let me.  It flipped me and I landed where my kitchen table was before it was used to board up a window.  The damn thing said, “Terminating this unit is not in your best interest.  This unit will not allow you to bring harm to yourself.  Please return to more productive activities.”

Then treat me like I’m an idiot.  I just want this thing out of my house, but they won’t help me at all.  They just say because I bought this thing on a sale, they won’t give me a refund.  I don’t even care about the money anymore. 

Would you recommend this product to your friends?  

Hell no.  I’m pretty sure this is just a retired robotic soldier with a new paintjob.  It is outside at the moment digging a trench around the house lined with barbed wire it bought online.  I had this thing tied into my bank account so it could order groceries and cleaning supplies as they ran out.  Instead my basement is full of boxes, but it won’t let me go down to see what is in them because it says that I have not completed basic training. 

Any additional Comments you would like to share?

Help, please someone help.     


Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story came from a few random ideas that popped into my head. The first was to write a story in second person perspective. Then I looked at a pair of swords I have in my kitchen and thought about how I would describe a sword fight in second person. The final inspiration came from a sense of repeating the same destructive patterns without learning from them. How you know the right things to eat, do, and work towards but still manage to fall into the same ruts. Thus was born this story. I’m not happy with the title, but I am very pleased with the story itself.

My NaNoWriMo update for this week is that I haven’t updated. I have not written on my project in over a week. My chances of succeeding this year are not looking good, but I have not yet given up hope. If I can get back on the wagon and use some time off coming up I can make up what I have missed. I had a passion for this project and I just need to get back to that. Like my main character in this weeks story though knowing and doing are not the same thing.

                Your eyes slowly struggle to open as you become aware of the world around you.  They feel heavy and the light seeping through them is blinding.  It feels like the first time you have ever used them before as they adjust to the new light levels.  You can hear a faint music in the background that sounds like it is coming from everywhere at once.  There are no odors at all, but this does not seem odd.  You are not sure who you are, but you feel anger.

                Once your eyes have adjusted you look over yourself.  You are wearing a heavy scale mail armor with some sort of horned helmet on it.  As you look closer a piece of knowledge enters your mind.  This is dragon scale armor.  It is tougher than iron, more flexible than leather, and completely immune to fire.  You do not know where this knowledge comes from, but something tells you that it is correct. 

 In your right hand is a large sword that is so heavy you know you will need both hands to swing it with any level of control.  It has a glowing red gem in the hilt that catches your eye for a moment.  This is your sword, and you will use it to strike down your enemy.  As you grip the sword with both hands and raise it to a fighting stance the blade ignites.  You imagine how terrifying you must look in your dragon scale armor holding a flaming sword and it brings a smile to you face.

You finally take in your surroundings.  You are on the edges of a battlefield.  You look out at the dead bodies of waves of your men littering the ground.  There are only five opponents, but they have killed hundreds.  As your soldiers fall these intruders rob the fallen of all valuables and to your horror the bodies disappear from the field.  Your people mean nothing more to them than a source of items.  The seething anger grows.

Finally, you can take no more.  You hold your sword high and rush onto the field.  You don’t know who these invaders are, but this atrocity cannot be allowed to continue.  Your flaming sword comes down on a large shield and sends rings of flame out across the field.  The shield barer seems to absorb the fire and protects his companions from it.  He is driven back though, and you hear him gasp, “Boss.”

You bring down blow after blow on the shield.   Something is forcing you to focus on this man even though you know it is not the wisest course of action.  Your soldiers are being killed and there are far more targets that do not have the protection of a shield.  One of them is even wearing cloth robes that would burn if your sword even got close to them.  Why is it then that I am only attacking the one more suited to defending himself you wonder?

It is time, you are ready.  With a step back you stab your sword straight down into the ground in front of you.  The ground rumbles and a visible shockwave of dirt ripples outward like waves from a rock hitting a pond.  The shielded intruder is knocked from his feet as are two of his companions.  This is your chance.  Pulling the sword free you leap through the air and bring it down on your enemy.  He lets out a scream of pain as the fire washes over him.  Your soldiers manage to get a few hits in on the other downed opponents.  Now is when this battle will turn around. 

The robed figure from the back of the intruders group steps forward raising a long white staff.  Light fills the battlefield radiating in circles from the tip.  Each enemy glows for a moment.  You watch as wounds heal instantly, and armor knits itself closed.  They even seem to look cleaner than they did moments ago.  It is some sort of powerful healing magic.  As you survey the field not attacking you realize that you are now all alone against the five. 

For the first time you wonder if this battle will be your last and it is in that moment that you are struck by a shield.  You fly through the air and land prone on your back.  The invaders do not hesitate.  They strike with swords, arrows, and bolts of magical energy while you struggle to rise to your feet.  You lash out but there are too many of them and they are too strong.  This is the end you think as you fall to the field.   Above you in the sky you see the words “Quest Completed”.

All around you the battlefield resets.  The invaders have faded away into nothing and your soldiers have reappeared.  You are floating in a state of limbo watching what happens until everything goes dark.  It is not your time yet.  New adventurers have arrived.  You cannot take the field until 200 of your men have been slain.  Then you will appear back at the edge of the battlefield.  This time will be different you tell yourself.  This time I will remember, and I will fight smarter.  You wonder how many times you have had this thought.    

Your eyes slowly struggle to open as you become aware of the world around you…

Gnome Place Like Home

Fiction Fragment Friday

A quick update on NaNoWriMo. I think I have something really special with this years novel. Unfortunately I have had some setbacks on writing it this week. I am behind. I will need to do quite a bit of writing this weekend to catch up, but I know I can do it. I also have some time off around Thanksgiving that I can use to catch up as well. I have not given up.

For this week I have something new. I had a sentence or two pop into my head and it amused me enough to write the whole story. I hope you enjoy this light and fun Fiction Fragment Friday.

  I hear the pitter patter of little feat coming down the hall.  If only it were children, but mine are long grown and moved out.  The little feat I hear are the gnomes most likely tracking mud all through my house.  I’ve seen those tiny little feet prints so many mornings, but yesterday morning was the last straw.  I opened my bedroom door and stepped in a pile of dog poop.  I don’t even own a dog and if I did, I’m certain it couldn’t spell out the words “watch your step” in its own feces.  The sound from the hall had to be the gnomes and I was well past the point of being fed up. 

  I got up out of bed and stomped to my bedroom door.  Opening the door, I paused to examine the hall.  First, I looked down to make sure there was nothing in front of my door.  I would not fall for the same trick again.  Then I looked both ways down the hall.  There were in fact muddy footprints on my floor, but I didn’t see what made them.  I took a step out into the hall only to trip over one of my golf clubs sticking out in front of my feet.  The floor quickly approached my face and I barely had time to put my hands out to absorb the impact.  The club had not been there when I looked down. 

  I heard that annoying cackle throughout the hall.  The little buggers were laughing at me.  It sounds like it was coming from all around me including the bedroom I had just come out of.  I turned back and saw that my wife’s underwear drawer had been opened and its contents thrown all over the room.  A bra was dangling from the ceiling fan slowly turning in a circle.  I looked to my bed and found a large water stain on it positioned to make it look like I had wet the bed.  My water class sat empty on the nightstand.  I reached down and picked up the golf club.  This had gone on long enough.

  “Get out here and face me you stupid porcelain menaces,” I whispered.  I didn’t want to make too much noise and wake my sleeping wife. 

  I looked up at the bed again and got my first glimpse of a gnome actually moving.  It was standing on my bed next to my wife.  It held a finger to its lips like it was shushing me.  Then it pulled its hand back as far as it could and with one swing of its tiny little arm smacked my wife as hard as it could right on her bum.  She let out a loud yelp and slightly jumped causing her to roll off the bed and onto the floor.  She looked livid as she sat up and stared at me with eyes that could stop a charging army.  “Jeremy Brenner what the hell do you think you are doing?  Do you think that was funny?  I could have broken a hip.”

  “But honey it wasn’t me.  It was the gnomes.”  I knew I had made a mistake as soon as the words came out of my mouth.

  “Oh, not this nonsense again.  For the last time the neighbor’s gnomes are not alive and they are not out to get you.  You have just gotten forgetful in your old age and can’t remember where you put things.”  She stood up and looked at the bed.  “Is that what this is about?  Did you have an accident and were too embarrassed to say anything?  It’s just something that happens to men your age, but we’ll discuss it with your doctor at your next appointment.  Why don’t you go downstairs for a bit while I change the sheets and get the bed ready again?”

     “Yes dear.”  She didn’t understand.  She never believed me about the gnomes and who could blame her.  It did sound pretty ridiculous.  I sat my golf club down and left the bedroom.  When I stepped into the hall, I felt something squishy and almost slipped.  I managed to grab the door handle and not fall as I thought not again.  Looking down I saw the words “Bed Wetter” written in dog poop.  I heard the laughing again down the hall and the sound of the front door opening and shutting as the gnomes left the house.  I swear one of these days I’m going to get those gnomes, but for tonight once again they have won.  

NaNoWriMo: Day One

Fiction Fragment Friday

The following Fiction Fragment Friday was written on Day One of NaNoWriMo this year. It is the first chapter of the novel project I am working towards this month. It is fairly long for one of these so I’m going to keep this kind of short. It is also a NaNoWriMo project so there is no editing and might have more than the usual amount of typos.

James Carter has what most would consider an unusual hobby.  In his free time James likes to go dumpster diving for old computer equipment with a particular focus on anything containing a hard drive.  When he finds such devices, he brings them home and tries to recover data from them.  He never does anything malicious with the data but has a fascination with seeing what he can discover.  Social Security numbers and tax papers are almost guaranteed to be on there, but for him the true treasure is glimpses into other people’s lives.  Types out letters, or pictures from a digital camera are far more exciting than financial information that he will never use. 

            It was a Saturday afternoon and James was hard at work with his latest find.  The living room in his apartment was big enough that he had used a sectional to split the room into two.  On one half was his hand me down entertainment center with game consoles and media shelf full of mostly science fiction movies.  The other half of the room had one wall lined with cheap computer desks and folding tables.  One desk had his gaming computer with the nicest chair, monitor, and keyboard that he owned.  The other systems were thrown together from spare parts or in various states of disassembly.    

            He was sitting on a cheap metal chair at one of the folding tables.  His hands were working away at the keyboard of his spare laptop.  Coming out of the side was a USB cable going to a special adapter that let him plug in hard drives.  This drive he pulled from a laptop with a broken screen he had gotten from a dumpster in an alley downtown.  Too many people seemed to think that if a screen was broken then no one could get the data.  With his setup he could be pulling files off of the drive within minutes without ever turning the machines on.  

            James was working through his usual process.  First, he went into the user folder to see what accounts existed on the laptop.  On this laptop he found that there was a single user named Samantha.  This told him the laptop was mostly likely someone’s personal laptop and not a work provided machine.  Those tended to have multiple accounts and didn’t use first names.  This was a relief because the last time he had found a work laptop he was so disturbed by finding a database from their HR system that he had to reach out to the company anonymously to inform them that they needed to encrypt their hard drives and dispose of them properly.  

            The next step was the part James always enjoyed the most.  He opened up Samantha’s documents folder and started browsing through the files.  There were not a lot of files in the folder, but one jumped out at him.  “Unbelievable.”  He shook his head in disgust as he dragged a files named passwords.xls to a folder on his laptop to go through later.  

            “Just once it would be nice to not find anything,” he said while picking his cat up off of the table.  Her name was Connie and he had named her after his favorite function in excel, Concatenate.  She was a gray and orange tabby that he had found as a kitten on one of his dumpster hunting trips.  He never thought of himself as a cat person until he had met her, but she had become one of the most important parts of his life.  The heat his computers put off always drew her attention and she had been perched on the edge of the table pawing at the hard drive.  A few more seconds and it would have been knocked to the ground.

            James sat Connie on the floor and watched as she jumped right back up on the table.  “Oh, so it’s going to be like that huh?”  Reaching out he grabbed one of the laser pointers he kept on the desk and shined the light across the room.  “Connie.  Look Connie it’s the red dot.  It’s mocking you.  Get it girl.”  She shot off the desk pouncing on the light.  For a minute he just moved the light around letting her run back and forth.  Finally, he ran the light down the hall and into his bedroom with Connie right behind it.  He knew that would keep her occupied for a few minutes at least so he turned back to the laptop.  

            After grabbing every file that sounded interesting in the documents folder James moved on to the pictures folder.  He smiled seeing many named folders.  After spending fifteen minutes looking through pictures of vacations and family, he came to a folder named Monsters.  Inside there were four folders with the names: crime scenes, hunters, news, and videos.  He moved the mouse right to the videos folder and clicked to open it.  There were fifteen video files in the folder.  

            James played the video named riverbeast first.  The video was shaky like it had been taken with a cellphone while someone was running.  It flipped around and focused on the face of a young woman with long blond hair.   She took a moment to catch her breath before speaking.  “This is Samantha North coming to you from the Mississippi Riverfront in downtown St. Louis.  This time I have irrefutable proof that these creatures are real.”  The camera spun back to the riverfront.

            After a few moments the image on the screen focused.  On the left side there was a wall covered in graffiti that serves as a levee when the river’s water level’s are high.  On the right was the Mississippi river coming right up to a series of short pillars with chains running along the side of South Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard.  Running down the street was a creature that looked similar to a giant fish with six legs and a spiked tail.  The angle of the camera was from behind, but teeth could still be made out in the thing’s mouth.  It leapt into the air and unhinged it’s jaw like a snake to swallow a woman standing in the middle of the road.

            The woman stood out almost as much as the creature.  She wore a plain brown utility jumpsuit that made her combination pink and purple hair stand out.  In her hands she held a very large harpoon gun braced against her shoulder.  The camera zoomed in causing it to become extra shaky and unfocused.   Through the blur the woman moved quickly.  She braced her legs and with a single smooth motion she lowered the gun and fired the harpoon into the creature’s mouth.  A smaller harpoon shot out of the back of the gun and in-bedded itself into the ground.  At the last possible second, she dove out of the way letting the creature smash into the ground where she had just stood.  Green blood poured out of it’s mouth.

            The creature tried to turn towards the woman, but the chains attached to the harpoon started reeling it in.  The video finally came into focus again, but the camera was too far away to make out the details on the woman’s face.  Samantha’s voice came over the speakers, “You see that?  She caught this one alive.”  The camera swung up showing a van backing up to the creature and opening its back doors.  Four men in plain brown jumpsuits hopped out and started shocking the creature with long cattle prods.

            “Stop you idiots,” yelled the woman in the jumpsuit, but they did not listen.  The creature swung its barbed tail and smashed it into one of the men’s chests.  A large dark wet spot covered the front of the jumpsuit and the man started coughing blood.  The creature’s tongue shot forward and speared through another man’s chest.  In just mere seconds two of the four men had dropped to the street dying.    

            The creature was stuck to the ground by the harpoon but was thrashing around and pulling against the chains.  With one final yank it pulled back ripping itself free of the harpoon.  Green blood sprayed all over the ground.  The creature backed up slowly and swayed unsteady on its feet.  It turned towards the river and took three steps before collapsing to the ground.  One of the men pointed towards the camera and the video abruptly ended.  

            James sat staring at the screen.  “What the hell was that?”  He opened up an Internet browser and searched for Samantha North.  “Let’s see if we can figure out who you are Samantha.”  His instincts told him that the name wasn’t just a character role from the video because it matched the account on the laptop.  The search results returned a number of recent news articles with her picture.  All of them asked for anyone with information on the brutal murder of Samantha North to contact authorities.

            James pushed back from his desk suddenly.  “Shit.”  He stood up shaking his head.  “No, no no, this can’t be happening.”  He looked down at the hard drive.  “Shit I tampered with evidence.”  He started pacing.  “Not good, not good.”  He sat back down at the desk.  “Ok, think.  No one knows you have it.”  He put his hand back on the mouse and started to search for the most recent files on the hard drive.  “If I find anything I can just report it anonymously.  If not, then no one needs to know.”  The newest file was from the morning before she was killed.  He hit play on the video.

            “If you are watching this then I’m probably dead.”  Samantha shook her here.  “God that sounds so ridiculous even coming from me.  I’m being followed, but the police won’t take me seriously.  I guess I know too much.  I’m going to put this video in an e-mail and schedule it to go out with links to all the videos I’ve taken.  I’ll keep pushing the date back as long as I’m alive, but I guess if you’re watching this then…”  There was a loud sound and the door behind her shattered into pieces and a tall man dressed in a black suit entered the room.  He raised his right hand and it extended across the room forming a long blade that impacted just below the camera.  The video ended there.

            James looked over at the laptop he had pulled the hard drive from.  The screen was shattered with a small hole straight through it.  He had figured that there had been an accident with something sharp falling on the screen.  Now he realized that last video had been recording when it happened.  He wasn’t sure how the video had been saved, but he couldn’t deny that he had evidence of her murder sitting on his desk.  

            There was a sharp knock on the front door of the apartment.  James was so startled he jumped scaring Connie who had just come back into the room and was rubbing up against his legs.  “James Carter open up.  This is the police.  We have some questions for you.”  

            “Be right there officer.”  James’s voice held more confidence than he actually felt.  He tried to keep from shaking as he walked to his apartment’s front door.   He always knew there was a chance his hobby could get him into trouble, but he had never imagined police at his door.  He reached down and turned the handle.  As the door opened, he found himself face to face with the tall man in the black suit from the video.  

            The man smiled down at him and then looked over at the laptop on his table.  “Well, well Mr. Carter.  You have been quite busy haven’t you.”  James tried to step back, but the man put a strong hand on his shoulder holding him in place.  “Oh no, don’t try to run.”  He leaned down putting his face right in front of James’.  His smile spread across his face and extended all the way up to his ears.  Sharp pointed teeth filled the mouth, and his eyes glowed yellow.  “If you run you might hurt my feelings.”  The man stepped inside the door and closed it behind him.   

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