StoryGraph is a great alternative to Amazon and Goodreads. I’ll be a part of their first ever giveaway that’s kicking off on September 19th. A total of 10 paperbacks and 5 hardcovers will be given away in mid-October. There will be bonus material included for the winners of my new release – Bedtime Stories for the Criminally Insane (and poetry).
A cool wind brushes my face today and I realize, with a surreal clarity, that today is the first day of Autumn. Maybe that’s not what the calender says, but I know this breeze is the first of its kind this year. A refreshing harbinger of seasonal change and nature’s yearly metamorphosis, the wave of air nudges me slightly, inviting me to be a part of a cycle that has run its course for millions of years.
I close my eyes for a moment and a nostalgia-undefined bathes me in a memory that, though it swallows me whole and I float momentarily in its comfortable bliss, does not lend itself wholly to me but rather reaches out to slight me with its dreamlike tendrils and then fades completely, leaving behind only a whisper of pleasant recollections lost to time.
The swath of wind continues its path around me like a gelatinous parcel of time, plucked from Mother Nature herself just for me, and reforms itself behind me as it mingles with its airy brethren to continue on a never-ending journey.
Though my eyes are closed, I can see. I can see the crimson, water-colored maples sliced in half by the power lines next to our house. The acrylic yellow oaks placed carefully at intervals by a hand more knowing than our own, intermittently scattered to balance a picturesque landscape weighted heavily with evergreens who appear oblivious to Autumn’s protocol. The dry crunch underfoot as small feet wade through ankle high leaves on their way to all the neighbor’s houses with sweet expectations. The blur of color through the backseat car window, the bright canopies mixing together like a spinning color wheel. The orange peel horizon bleeding to a dark red, and then purple, matching the freshly painted forest, tree tops outlining a jagged graph of nature herself as the colored leaves and woods meld into one giant, charcoal landscape, as if the Universe itself had punctured the atmosphere and leaked its heavenly ink down on our world, all the while filtering the stars and keeping them above, something to focus on when the world turns dark. The glassy, upside down reflection of ocher and scarlet leaves on a clam, early morning lake, still sleeping under a blanket of mist, yet to stir.
I have stood in place, feet planted firmly like a statue, and traveled through the mountains of my hometown, the forests of my past, the streets of my childhood on Halloween, the wayside tapestries of youthful road trips, and the colorful horizons of lakes and rivers.
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Carlee and Gavin had been fighting for ten straight minutes. Where to eat, who had to sit in what seat in the back, who was taking a shower first when we got home, who called who a butthole – you name it and they were fighting about it. My wife Melissa had not taken her medicine today, left it back at the house this morning, and it was showing. The definition of malcontent. She was staring out the side window, her mind in some other place far from here.
I told them to please hush for the fifteenth time and then threatened to ground them both when Carlee hit Gavin and he called her the B word. Melissa was ignoring the whole thing, me included when I nudged her on the leg to get her to help. When she finally did swing around, it was to ask what they were fighting about. She hadn’t even been listening and now they both launched into simultaneous tirades concerning the last fifteen minutes of arguments.
I was getting a headache and my back was tensing up. I asked Melissa for four Ibuprofen and she was too busy ignoring the kids’ heated and unruly answers to pay attention to me.
“Jesus Dad, I’m freakin’ starvin’,” Carlee whined.
“Yeah, food would be nice right about now,” Gavin agreed. Then went back to texting.
But they had both agreed and that was like the planets aligning during an eclipse. That’s when I saw the Chinese restaurant down the street behind Kellerton Mills. As far as I could remember, that old place had been abandoned since I was a kid. It had been an ice cream shop, the kind that would slop a big gob of ice cream right in your Coca-Cola. I made a U-turn and headed back. It held a nostalgic attraction.
Nobody was paying attention as we drove up, but when Melissa looked up and saw the brightly colored green and yellow neon sign, she looked around like she was lost, crinkled her brow, and said, “Yea. Chinese.”
The name of the place was New China. We got out and noticed a green VW was the only other car in the small parking lot. It had flowers painted on the side. It made me smile until Gavin slugged his sister in the arm, a little harder than necessary, and claimed, “Punch bug, can’t punch back!” Carlee chased him through the doors, cussing him every step of the way. Melissa rolled her eyes and jerked the door open like she was a hostage.
“I want the pot-stickers and the lobster seafood stuff,” Gavin demanded.
“If he gets that, then I want the cream cheese thingys and the shrimp platter,” Carlee grumbled.
“I’m not eating here,” my wife said, finding another window to stare through while we were here.
I noticed that the Chinese lady at the counter had been watching us all very close ever since we entered. She didn’t seem annoyed, just mildly curious with a poker face of sorts.
“Um, hi,” I offered with a smile. She smiled back. The first smile I had received back that day if I remember correctly. “I’ll have the Lobster, number 8 there, and some wantons and… um, the shrimp platter, number 4 that is, and um… let’s see… how about some Kung Pao chicken, and then a Dr. Pepper, sweet tea, and a Coke with no ice. Thanks.”
She smiled back but did not make a move to record my order. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, perhaps only on my side, and then she looked over at my table. Carlee kicking Gavin underneath the table and Gavin threatening her with bodily harm. Melissa was parking lot catatonic.
“Happy family,” said the Chinese lady with a slight smile.
“Oh, uh, well,” I fumbled. Was she making fun? “We have our days, you know.” I tried to smile.
“No. You try Happy Family.” She pointed above her head without looking up. “Number 11. You lucky number today.”
“Oh, gosh no. Trying to the keep the kids, you know, happy,” I said. I was gesticulating now and for some reason felt like I was apologizing, why I don’t know.
“You like Happy Family,” she stated plainly.
I was tired. “Really… just the original order’s good, I think.”
“You like Happy Family. If you don’t like Happy Family, you no charge.”
I just didn’t feel like arguing any more and this lady wasn’t understanding at all. I could have walked out and told her never mind, but that would have led to even more ruckus in the car.
I shook my head in resignation. “You know what? Sounds fine. Let’s try it.”
“Good man make wise choice,” she said. Then she broke into a smile wider than I’ve ever seen. Her teeth were perfect and white and her eyes seemed, now that I was closer to the counter, dilated like she had been to the eye doctor. I had a very strange sensation on the back of my neck, like I had just walked through a spider web backwards. I reached for my wallet and it wasn’t in my front pocket.
“Sorry. I left my wallet in the car. Be right back.”
I went to the car to retrieve my wallet, noticing on my way out a small women coming out of the bathroom. She smiled at me as she walked to the counter to get her food. My second smile of the day. Upon reentering the restaurant, I noticed that there were other people in there I hadn’t seen before. My table was empty. As I handed the Chinese lady my credit card, I turned to watch two Oriental children quietly doing their homework at a nearby table. My crew must be in the bathrooms, I thought.
There was a very attractive Asian lady picking up some napkins from the front. Must be their mother. As she turned to me, I noticed just how amazingly gorgeous she was.
“Duck sauce, babe,” she asked? She smiled. Smile number three. And a little mischievously I might add.
“Come again?” I said.
The Chinese lady at the counter caught my attention and said, “Sign here please.”
I was still looking at the beautiful Asian woman who had obviously misspoke when I grabbed the pen.
“Oww!” I meant to holler, but felt like I was at the bottom of a dream well. My ‘Oww’ came out softly and without conviction. I looked down at the receipt. It was such an odd looking receipt, this receipt that the blood from my finger was oozing down on. How clumsy of the lady to hand me such a sharp pen. I signed my name with quite the flourish. It was unlike me to do so, but it felt good just the same. I was feeling giddy.
“Duck sauce is good, honey,” I told my smiling wife. I grabbed our meal from the nice lady and my children, Yang and Wei, started helping each other get their books together. I smiled back at the most gracious Chinese lady as a cook pushed through the swinging doors that revealed the kitchen. As I glanced into the kitchen, it for some reason reminded me of a glorious painting by Hieronymus Bosch.
As my Happy Family and I left New China, I smiled at the VW lady who for some reason did not look to be enjoying her Pu Pu Platter.
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Josh Pilsner awoke to the unsettling drone of a drill. What type of drill, he could not discern through the fog that enveloped his consciousness. His eyes slowly opened and quickly snapped shut again. A blinding light from above penetrated his eyelids. He was in a seated position. That much he knew, but little else. His head was throbbing. Everything was thick and cloudy. That horrible drill whizzing again somewhere to his left. He tried to open his eyes once more, and finally managed to do so, very slowly.
There was a woman to his left. Was he in a hospital? There was that hospital smell; a gagging mix of sterilization and death. The nurse had her back to him, preparing something. Had he been in a wreck? What was the last thing – Ah! He remembered now. He was at a restaurant. Did he drink too much? Get behind the wheel? Oh my God! What if I hurt someone else? His neck muscles protested with dull shards of pain as he turned his head to survey the hospital room. He emitted an involuntary groan as he did so. Bright lights, a hospital bed, shelves of medical supplies, tubing running from the wall, maybe oxygen or something, a stainless steel tray next to him with surgical instruments, a very bright light stabbing him in the eyes from above, and – wait a sec – . Surgical instruments? What the –
The nurse was standing in front of him now, looking down at him like a curious bystander who is checking on a bicyclist who’s been hit by a car.
“Hey there, sweet lips,” she said with a cheery expression that didn’t match the tone of her voice. “Looks like I didn’t give you enough anesthesia.”
“What happened,” he mumbled. “Did I get in a wreck?”
The nurse was turning around to grab something, and that was when he noticed two things. One, there was a peculiar feel to his mouth, a swelling numbness and a strange vacancy of texture he felt when speaking. Two, the nurse in front of him, clad in black, had wings. He moved his tongue around some more and realized what was missing. A tooth. A front tooth at that. He pushed his tongue through the space over and over, unable to yield to the fact that one of his front teeth was no more. The nurse with dragonfly wings turned back around. She was holding a very large wrench. Not the kind of large wrench you would use for turning a nut on a 4×4 truck, but the kind of very large wrench you might use to turn a propeller on a cruise ship. The comically-oversized kind. A strange juxtaposition between the small framed nurse with wings and the shiny wrench that must have weighed 50 lbs.
“Sorry about that sport. I’ll use a little more anesthesia this time. K?” She made an apologetic face that offered no real sympathy and then raised the huge wrench like it was a small umbrella.
Josh noticed something on her wrists and hands as she did so. It was blood. He peered down at his white tank-top. Blood was everywhere. He looked back up at her (and he hated to admit this, considering the circumstances) rather angelic face and saw an expression that could be considered bored amusement.
Josh whimpered, “Is that my anesthesia?”
The nurse’s answer was matter-of-fact. “Cheapest there is. I need you to count backward from a hundred.”
Josh made an attempt to block the blow. That’s when he realized his hands were tied behind him.
“Ninety – . . . “
Josh Pilsner awoke to screaming. At first, he thought it was himself, but then realized he was too groggy to move, much less gather the power to scream. His head was moving back and forth and not of his own volition. The pain was now unbearable. His mouth was wet with something, and he felt like he was drowning. He began to gag and fight for breath, but it wasn’t much of a fight. His head stopped moving. There was a slurping sound as something foreign was inserted into his mouth. He managed to open his eyes in time to see the winged nurse remove what looked like a handheld vacuum cleaner. He blinked through tears to catch the nurse as a smeared, tangled image.
“Don’t worry. It’s a Dyson.”
She sat it back down on the table and Josh could already feel his mouth filling back up with blood. The nurse grabbed something from his right and placed her tiny hands on his head. Her fingers clamped like a vice grip. Something metal, scraping his teeth. A sickening sound. A probing, alien object in his mouth, searching, then finding purchase and a tug. A shooting pain that forced his eyes shut. Now he found the strength to scream. He stopped screaming and for a moment was completely disoriented as the sound continued. But after a few anxious seconds, he realized the screams were emanating from another room. Another room? My God. What kind of place am I in?
“Rere ayum eeyeh?” he garbled. How many teeth am I missing?
The cute (how could he continue along that line of thought?) nurse with wings put her hands on her hips in mock exasperation. Then she picked up the wrench again.
“Your body doesn’t react very well to the anesthesia.”
Crimson spittle flew from his mouth as he screamed, “Ahht’s behawse ihs hotah fuyeeng anehethya. Ihs a gohamn weench!”
She stared at him without saying anything for a moment. Josh had the nagging impression that accosting a 95 lb girl who picked up 50 lb wrenches was not the best protocol in a situation like this. He wasn’t sure what the word ‘protocol’ meant, but it sounded right. While still holding the huge wrench out to her side with one hand, she uttered a question in threatening monotone.
“Do you want me to get the really big wrench?”
She stared at him, waiting. He stared back wide-eyed, unable to answer. He thought of what a bigger wrench might do if she used it as anesthesia. “No, ayam,” he replied as courteously as possible.
“A tough guy, huh. No an uh steesi ah, huh.”
She played with the words, mocking his inability to enunciate properly under said conditions. No bedside manner at all, he thought, and kept it to himself.
“Ruut appened?” he asked, red drool cascading from the corner of his mouth. He felt weak. Sluggish.
“Speed dating,” she answered. “Anesthesia hasn’t worn off yet, I guess. Friend introduced me to it. Definitely a quick way to get the most numbers. Best ROI.”
“Awr Oh Eyah,” he mumbled, silently cheering as she put down Anesthesia.
“Return on investment, duh.” She gazed at him searchingly for a moment. “You’re not really an investment broker are you? I knew you were lying!” she blurted out.
“Oh arah oooh,” he countered and immediately wished he could take it back.
“Fair enough,” she said, grabbing a large set of bloody pliers to his right. His head lolled away from the sight as he grew faint. “But a girl’s got to make a living, ya know?” The nurse with wings leaned in, pressing her knee into his groin to hold him in place.
“AAAAIIIIIITTTTTEE!” Josh screamed. She stepped back, perturbed.
“What, Bleedy Gonzales?” She shrugged with one dainty hand on her hip and one holding the pliers above her shoulder. She was hot in a Gothic kind of way.
“Ooh ayah ooh?” he garbled.
“Who am I? Well . . . you know what? You’re not going to remember any of this anyway, so who cares? My name is Flora Ide. I used to work for the Preternatural Calcium Recycling Corporation. Very high volume. Very competitive with a commission-only based salary. Do you have any idea how many people just throw away their teeth when they fall out? Do you have any idea how many people don’t even believe in us?” She stared at Josh, searching for some semblance of understanding.
Josh wanted to be on her side at this point. He really, really did. He shook his head in the affirmative. Satisfied, she continued.
The only real money is in the pre-pubescent, middle-class division. But I kept getting assigned to the elderly division in Russia. Graveyard shift. Ever tried to dig up a coffin that’s under six feet of frozen tundra? Didn’t think so. And then when you’re down there, freezing your wings off (so she does have wings), boom! You’re liable to find that grandma has an empty grill. Is ‘grill’ the right word nowadays?” she asked.
Josh shook his head emphatically. He did know what that word meant. And as long as she was talking, she wasn’t pulling. His eyes were still watering. Whatever was clamping his hands together behind his back was slicing into the wrist. He was trying to remember how many quarts of blood was in the human body, and then attempting to compare it with the total amount on his clothes and the floor, all the while making very sure to give this nurse his full attention.
“Urah ooph aree?” he asked.
“A non-believer?” she said with disbelief. “Even after all this?” She bowed up, her shoulders swelling, and inhaling deeply, was suddenly airborne, flitting around the room with awe-inspiring speed and agility. Her wings but a blur. Then she landed in front of him hard enough to crack the concrete beneath the linoleum. She grinned ear to ear, the buzzing of her wings subsiding. There was a piercing shrill from the next room.
“Anyway, there was a huge layoff a few years ago,” and as she spoke, she flitted suddenly forward with no warning and he felt a slight jerk, then more blood filled his mouth. She had plucked out a tooth, by hand, in under a second. “Did you catch that? That’s skill. That’s professional workmanship. But they laid me off anyway. So now, “she explained, turning back to the pliers, “I’m with a group of freelancers in a little, out-of-the-way building. We’re a little more proactive, but we pull in a lot more money. Say, would you like some pulp fiction to read while I continue?”
She looked serious. How could he pretend to read right now . . . to make her happy somehow, so that maybe she would . . . and then she busted out laughing.
“Get it? Pulp fiction?” she looked him directly in the eyes, askance.
Josh tried to smile, his puffy lips spreading wide over his bruised and battered face, a gaping, bloody maw dotted with a few lingering vestiges of teeth. Insecurity and fear spreading equally over his countenance like a tidal wave of terror.
In a dark corner of the room, where the overhead light wasn’t working, Josh finally made out the blob where it looked like part of the ceiling had collapsed. What looked like crumbling bits of drywall was actually a humongous pile of teeth. She said, “Out of the way place,” he thought. Somewhere you could torture screaming people with complete disregard for the noise, or the fact that you had wings growing out of your back. He tried to push the thought from his mind, but could not. As her knee pressed deep into his chest, he ventured one more question.
“Ere ayar ee?”
She stared at him for a moment in awkward silence. A dripping set of pliers hovering over his puppy-dog eyes, begging for mercy that he knew would not come. She was deciding whether or not to tell him. As they were poised there, the wolf and the lamb, frozen in time, the door to the room flashed open and a man stood in the doorway. A man on the top half of his body anyway. He was holding a really big wrench.
“Do you need this?” his guttural voice boomed, echoing like a tsunami of despair in the tiny space.
Josh answered for her.
Day 135 . . .
. . . or something like that. I’m not keeping exact count anymore. Kind of like when you get a new car and you’re all like, hey don’t bring that bottled water in here, it could spill. And then a couple months later, you’re licking the chocolate from a candy bar wrapper before chunking it in the floorboard.
That’s what publishing has been like for me, anyway. I was manic at first. Someone I don’t know must buy it. I must get a hundred or so downloads a week for it to be even mildly successful. And I have to have at least 30 or 40 five star reviews. My e-book no longer has that new book smell, that 0 to 60 feel, that ego boosting kick from parking it in the driveway for the first time. (Confession: I’ve never bought a new car and probably never will. I have no pride in knowing I’m paying someone else a shitload of interest over a five year period just so I can stroke my fragile ego. Four years old with decent mileage for me.) I’m not saying Sorry, Charlie is a yard car just yet. I’m saying that reality is sinking in.
So what’s the status quo? It’s about to hit month 5, and I have sold, at the most, about 10 or so per month. During a KDP Select promotion, I gave away almost a thousand. I received two good reviews. This month, I sold nothing on Amazon.com and the only blokes who saved me from a literary skunk were the UK site. They bought one. Thanks blokes.
So I’m trailing off to nothingness. How do I handle this? What’s the plan of action? Do I go networking crazy or hatch some more marketing schemes for a 115 page novella?
No. I’m going to write. Write. Write. Write.
One thing I’ve learned about readers is that they feel more comfortable when a writer has a stash of books to choose from. It makes sense, psychologically. Here’s a guy with five or ten books behind him. He must be a writer for real. And if I like his works, there’s more to choose from. It’s a comfort level thing that doesn’t get much attention because I think it all happens in our subconscious in about a tenth of a millisecond. So, I need to put another out there. Together, the two books can support each other, an online symbiosis. Then a third, a fourth, and so on . . .
Another thing I’ve learned is that although self-publishing is fun and rewarding, as is with most DIY projects, it’s also very tough. Not the getting-the-book-out-there part, anybody can do that, and a lot of people are. It’s what comes next that’s hard. Getting seen. There’s only so many things you can do to get noticed in a flooded market. That’s when having the big guns are helpful. Publishers already have a set process, a network, and a tried and true workflow. I don’t. So one of the next few books I put out needs to be a book worthy of the big guns. The more I write, the better each one gets. At least, I hope so. And so furthers my chances of getting noticed.
And then there’s the books themselves. I don’t write life-changing works of art. Not yet, anyway. And I haven’t put in my 10,000 hours yet either. I believe that when I do, that when anybody does, they will reap the rewards. So my goal then, as it has always been, has remained virtually unchanged by all this.
Write a lot and get better with each iteration.
For the month of March, I sold 4 copies and there was one borrowed. Borrowed means that someone got it on their Kindle and then loaned it to someone else for free. I still get a small cut of the Kindle Select money pot for that month. Of course, most of the buyers were people I know. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, it’s just that as an author, you kind of feel like it doesn’t really count until strangers buy the book. Anonymous, cloud-surfing people who happen upon your page through some mysterious search engine algorithm and like the first chapter enough to click the buy button.
From this, I made $13.22. I consider this a win. A small win, but a win nonetheless.
For April, I have sold 7 copies. If you ignore the blatantly obvious, miniscule figures, and use math to make it sound better, that’s a 75% increase. I think. I can never remember how to figure percent increases. Correct me if I’m wrong. You could also round the 7 to an 8 and say that it’s the start of a geometrical progression, meaning that come December of this year, I will have sold 2048 copies that month. That would be a . . . really big % increase. I would pull in over $5,000 that month. A really good Christmas-recovery check. By next year, millionaire. I prefer to stay positive.
For the month of April (so far), as part of a promotional tool for those of us enrolled in KDP Select, I have given away 535 copies on Amazon, 190 in the UK, 9 in Denmark, 1 in France, 2 in Spain, and none in Italy. That’s a total of 737 digital copies that I have given away. I think it’s really cool that someone in Denmark may be reading my book. I’m international, dude. And after giving away almost a 1000 copies, I finally got 1 feedback.
I realize that a lot of people, from what I’ve heard on the Internet, download a crap-load of freebies and don’t always read them. Or maybe they couldn’t get past chapter 2. Who knows? But I did learn something from the one feedback. The review title read ‘not bad.’ The pessimist in me notes that they didn’t say it was good, just not bad. Like it’s stuck in limbo somewhere in between. A kind of literary purgatory. The optimist in me noticed they said they really enjoyed it. It got 3 stars. I think I could have pulled out another star, but they didn’t like the price. Point taken.
It was $3.99. Before I put the original price on it, I thought to myself, what would I pay for it? Well, I’m a cheap guy. I probably wouldn’t pay over .99 for it. So then, why did I set it at 4 bucks? Because like all people, I have trouble coming to grips with reality. I know that since this is my first book and I am an unknown author, I can’t command a decent price. I know this. I just can’t accept this. That’s because the book is worth more to me than it is to the reader. I sliced my word-veins and bled all over the pages. Why in the world, my tender ego acclaimed, would someone not part with 4 bucks for such a work of art?
Also, anything set less than $2.99 on Amazon will only bring 35% commission instead of 70%. So the other reason for my pricey price is, well . . . greed. But I did take note and lowered it a dollar to $2.99. I can’t bring myself to go less. For now, anyway. But after my 90 days in Kindle Select is over, which should be at the end of May, I’m thinking it’s going to 99 cents. I’m coming to my senses, slowly. I know it would be better to sell a hundred at a buck and get some decent feedback than to sit stubbornly at 5 or 10 a month because of greed. I would make more money and have a much better chance of getting enough sales to edge my way into the top 100, even if only for a couple of days. It’s not that hard to do if you sell a bunch at one time.
But I do appreciate the feedback, whether it’s positive, like this one, or negative. The more the better. So, this Friday, April 27, 2012, I’m having another Promo where everyone can get the book for free! That’s a dollar cheaper than the .99! To me, it’s a path to feedback. So if you get it this weekend, and if you take the time to read it, I’ll go ahead and say thanks. And if you give me some feedback, I’ll give you double thanks, no matter what you said.
On another note, I finally got the proof of my print version from Createspace and accepted it. So now Sorry, Charlie is available on Amazon and Createspace in print form. For some reason, it’s a little harder to find than the Kindle version. The Kindle version shows right away, but you have to search for the paperback version in the horror section to find the printed copy. Weird. You would think it would show right under the digital copy in search results. I’m still figuring this one out.
Again, if you have something you want to put out there, do it. It’s not that hard. If I can do it, anyone can. Good luck.
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to get up in the middle of a book store and just stab someone repeatedly in the windpipe? No? Well, never mind. Back to what I was saying.
My name is Chris. That’s not my real name. I could tell you my real name, but then I would have to kill you. That’s not cliché. It’s the truth. That’s kind of what I do. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s sanctioned where I come from. The land of Id. The land of blood and daisies. Of tricky window Saturdays.
What? You’ve never heard of – that’s right, never mind. I forgot for a second. You guys think this is all made up? Right? Fine, whatever. You asked. I’m telling. You want the whole thing at once or do you want to pull off at a rest stop?
Okay. Then. Tricky window Saturdays. There’s the crews, all colors, all brands, you know, and they take the hoppers to the burnouts and – hoppers? There the fidgety ones wanna hop from place to place. They always think the grass is greener, you know? But borders are borders for a reason, right? So they – oh, yeah the crews. They’re the ones with the most guns or the most food or the most water, depending on where you are. Course, most guns usually equals most food, you know?
The burnouts? Buildings man. Just buildings that are burned out. Black with death and plague and soot and canker and you name it and there it is, cluttering the floor with human detritus, draped over the bombed out remains of walls like a Louisiana coffee house, smoldering like a dead turkey on thanksgiving. Bad, bad mojo. Gotta watch the stairs in burnouts. One-two-three-four-five- One-two-three-four-five- One-two-three-four-five One-two – boom! You’re a beauty-school drop-out. Five stories to the wet floor. Maybe a Wiley Coyote brick on your head to boot.
And they take ‘em in the buildings and light some fires at midnight and everybody stands down on the streets and looks down the blocks and waits. Yeah. They just wait. And then they hand out guns, sometimes one, sometimes 50, and they cock ‘em and wait. There’s these cooking grills, grated little splices of crisscross metal, rusted and clamped to the underside of the window. Got the wood underneath and burning white. The grill’s all red. The people are silent. Guns raised.
And then they make you wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.
I seen people piss themselves without moving the gun an inch. Didn’t want to miss, you know. And then out of the blue, they shoot out from the windows like flying fish. Hands always tied behind their backs, and the guns fire away, concrete chunks flying, embers disintegrating, Hoppers flailing or going limp, the crews shooting off fireworks and the music bumping, sometimes country or something jazzy for contrast, and a few always make it, landing on the molten grate, skin sticking to it, with their teeth clamping down wildly on a bone or flank and reeling all awkward to their knees before launching backward, food in jowls, to disappear and fall back inside the burnout’s window.
Can I have a glass of water? What are they after? Food, dude. There’s not a lot of it, you know? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you really don’t. What year did you say it was? Huh. Yeah, right. Right. Are you with Chris? Yeah, the Church of Chris. I don’t think so brother. The crews speak the word and the word is. I’m not letting a letter take me down. Right?
Thanks. I’m really thirsty. Holy Chris, this is clear. Where’d you get this? Really? What year did you say it was again? Wow. Okay. So what else, man. Wait a minute, you guys ain’t crew. That just hit me, man. You guys can’t be crew. Crew knows everything about everybody. Scourge of the data. You guys, you guys look confused, man.
Hey. Is it really 2015? Oh. Okay. What?
Yeah. I’ll state it as clear as I did the first time. My name is not Chris and I’m a carrier in the Hot Zone.
The year? Yeah . . . 8256.
I already told you. Carrier’s carry. Pestilence incarnate. We deal in specific deaths. Mine is unique.
Can’t say, less you want me kill you two and everybody listening? Then it wouldn’t do much good to know, now would it? Yes, sir. Even the ones behind the listening glass. Say, you ever just wonder what it would be like to drive head on into a car on the other side of the lane? No? Well, okay, where were we?
The Hot Zone is where everything’s on fire. No reference points. Boiling, scattering, flaying, Napoleons.
How are you losing me? We’ve been over this already. Are the recorders not working? Do you people have those? Okay.
About here and now? All the books were rewritten by Chris in 6000. So not much. Just a little worrisome though. What? Well . . . suppose you’re telling me the truth? And? And it’s been about 6000 years since now in my Now. And it don’t seem like a lot has changed, that’s all. Just more fire and less green. Something doesn’t seem right with it. And how’d you say you found me again? Passed out in a church? On fire, yeah, that’s right, on fire. No, I didn’t set it. I’m not a Burner. Carrier. I told you already. Fire is not my specialty. Are you serious? I don’t think you really want to do this. I know your partner’s outside the room and behind the window, but that doesn’t mean he’s safe. All witnesses go, it spreads like that. You observe it and the wave function – it spreads, non-local, distance means nothing.
Locked up? Why? I didn’t set it on fire. What? For how long?
This is bullshit. Okay then. What’s the chain cycle? I mean you’re watching me, here, now, and whoever’s watching us on the other side of the window, that’s second level, and then whoever’s watching them, like a tree you see? Where does the tree stop? So that’s it? Three of you? Fine.
What are you afraid of? I said, what are you afraid of? Mice? You’re lying. I bit my tongue. Why? To get the blood, you need blood for everything. No, really. Mizion Seuzye paktche. Huh? Just a key. Like encryption stuff. Bloriddin pluragrir. You guys encrypt things here? Code? What’s that? Noriem jzestifer munhywella. It’s really not that funny. Krystoun vhallestia. That’s okay. See, I knew you were lying. I can tell by now just from talking to most people for a few minutes. Yeah. They’re real to you guys. Ever see snakes that fast? Spiders that small? Can’t stop it, not now. No. I just can’t. So, shoot me. Try to shoot all of them. Won’t do any good. If you’ll stop panicking, you might can get to the door. They’re not biting me because they came from me. You don’t bite the hand – no, begging is just – you’re just feeding it by begging and whatever you do, don’t pray. Do that and they find the path inside your head and file in. they’ll close it up and you’ll never get there.
Chris, this is boring. Chained to a desk 6000 years ago. No one around but Deads.
What happened? You’re all dead now. Yes you are. Look at your skin. Screaming won’t help. Well, I told you it wasn’t that funny. Fix it? I don’t know. We could go back to where you found me and see if we can get back in? In the Hot Zone. I must have slipped out somehow. Well, you can walk around dead here or walk around dead there, doesn’t matter to me.
Okay. Let’s go.
Welcome to the bailey daily.