Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Waking the Dead

I recently saw a picture of a unique headstone.  The epitaph engraved in the stone got the gears in my mind whirring.  While I haven't done a zombie story before, I thought I might give one a try.  Sort of.

There was no way of knowing anything like this would happen.  Although, looking back, it should have been kind of obvious.  I had gone in for my annual employee-mandated physical.  The doctor declared me alive and fit enough to continue working.  All of my vital signs were good and the tests they ran on my blood all came back just fine.

The company paid for a catered lunch for everyone.  It was largely a bribe to make sure we all showed up for our physicals.  It was also a chance for the company to have a captive audience while someone read off all the announcements they wanted to make us aware of.  Of course, hardly anyone paid any attention.  We had already received these important announcements in emails, through notices in the break room, and in our weekly meetings with our supervisors.  Everyone just kept on eating and talking to each other while some poor soul droned on about safety initiatives and corporate goals achieved.  In more than 15 years with the company, I can gladly say I don't think I ever heard a single word that was said by the announcer at these lunches.

This year something new finally happened.  The corporate speaker said the doctor's office that had just finished with us had a request to make.  A young and attractive nurse walked up to the stage at the front of the conference room where the lunch had been served.  She said that a research lab had recently been approved to test a new flu vaccine on humans.  Since all of our basic health statistics was now on file, the doctor was offering $200 to anyone that wanted to be a test subject for this vaccine.  I figured I would go for it.  I just had to get a small needle in my arm and I would have plenty of money for beer at the bar without my wife complaining about me dipping into our grocery fund.  Why not, what could go wrong?

For the first few days, everything was fine.  I didn't feel any different.  Just my normal self with the normal aches and pains of a normal life.  Until the day I woke up in the morning with pain in my toes.  It almost felt like my toenails were trying to slice into my toes themselves.  At the same time, my toe bones were trying to press themselves out from the inside.  Fortunately, this lasted less than two minutes.  At first, I figured it was just a cramp or something.

Over the next couple of weeks, the pain spread from my toes and up through my body.  It was enough to wake me up each morning, but didn't last long enough to have any impact on my day.  My wife kept urging me to go see our doctor.  As long as I could keep working and hanging out at the bar after my shift, I wasn't going to bother.  What harm could a little bit of pain do anyway?

My wife finally got her way and I went to see a doctor when the pain reached the top of my legs.  For about three minutes I just laid in bed.  I probably could have moved my legs, but I didn't want to because of the sheer amount of pain coming from them.  Every muscle was irritated by the skin around it and the bones underneath it.  The bones were being squeezed and compressed by my muscles.  My skin seemed to be outraged by everything and wanted to let me know about it.

Even though I had called my family doctor, not the corporate one that did my physical, right away, his first appointment wasn't until three that afternoon.  Just like all the other days, the pain had faded shortly after I woke up.  There was nothing for my doctor to detect.  He still gave me a full examination to be sure.

A few days after that, I woke up with pain from my shoulders down. I carefully rolled over to look for support from my wife.  She wasn't there.  She had called the doctor before I would wake up.  He was coming into my room as I laid there, curled up in the fetal position.  Every part of my chest screamed in agony at me.  The doctor did as much of an examination as he could with me in a tight little ball.  He did manage to draw some blood despite my immobility.  After a few moments, like every other day, the pain faded and I was able to continue with my day.

The day after that was the most painful morning of my life, literally.  Every part of my body was screaming in pain.  My hair trapped between my head and the pillow was quivering in agony.  My earlobes burned with the sound of my very heartbeat.  My eyes burned as though I was staring at the sun, even with them closed.  I would have screamed but my lungs hurt too much to expel the air necessary.

My wife called an ambulance and our doctor.  She came into the bedroom in a worrying fit as I was about to pass out from the pain.  I barely managed to roll over and look at her.  As my mind started to retreat into darkness to escape the extreme agony, I managed a slight grin and whispered to her, "Wake me if anything interesting happens."

Unfortunately, the ambulance didn't arrive before my escape into the darkness became a complete retreat.  They declared me dead.  A funeral was held a couple of weeks later.  I can only guess it was a beautiful ceremony since I wasn't exactly in a position to see it myself.  Per our agreement before we were married, my wife had my final words to her engraved on my headstone.  It is probably one of the more unique phrases in that particular cemetery.  It is much more memorable than the typical "Beloved son and father." or "Loved by all."

I have no way of knowing how long I was in the coffin.  I just know that I was suddenly awake and aware.  None of the progressively expanding pain that had plagued me near the end of my life.  Just a sudden sense of being awake and in darkness.  A lot of darkness.

I felt above me and pushed against the lid of my coffin without realizing I was in one.  I sat up and looked around.  I should have been in a panic and freaking out about waking up in a coffin above the ground of a cemetery.  I was a little surprised at how calm I was feeling about it all.  I realized two things at about the same time.  First was that my body was oddly intact for someone that was in a coffin.  The second was that I couldn't tell if it was early morning or late afternoon since both horizons glowed as though the sun was just out of view.  Apparently something very interesting had just happened.

Zombies have been the mindless villains of so many stories, why not have one as a hero?  On a side note, is there a unique phrase or quote you want on your headstone?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Night Walkers

Finishing up NaNoWriMo and entering the holiday season ended up being more of a one-two punch than expected this year.  I managed to achieve the 50,000 word goal for November, but there is still a lot of story to tell.  With this in mind, I needed to clear a little space in my head after my daily walks brought me by a nearly abandoned church.  The crooked bell and weather-worn walls lit a spark in my head that grew as I considered what teh building may be used for and why.

The irony of the situation is not lost on me. Here I am. The son of a preacher, excommunicated from his father's religion for a multitude of sins, cowering in a church. I am huddled in a corner of the fellowship hall seeking a night of safety and sanctuary. All I want is a night of peaceful rest without fear. Without having to worry about what is going to kill me before the sun rises in the morning. Is that really too much to ask? These days, it seems so.

Nobody knows exactly when the beasts first appeared or where they came from. Some say they are a failed experiment from Area 51. Others say they have been here since humanity was young, just lurking in the shadows until the time was right. Still others say the beasts are the result of people consuming too many GMO foods and artificial flavorings. Regardless of where they came from, these damn vampires have gotten completely out of control.

None of the books or movies had it right. At least, not as far as this reality is concerned. These vampires didn't live in remote castles kidnapping beautiful women to add to their harem. They don't have secret societies that work with governments to rule the world. They most certainly don't sparkle in the sunlight. Forget about Holy ground. Cemeteries don't even slow these vampires down and churches are just as good for hiding in as any other building with doors and solid walls.

Sunlight is another thing they books and movies got wrong. These vampires don't burn to ash when walking around in the daylight. They will sunburn faster than a nerdy redhead on a Bahama beach, but it's not as lethal as the stories used to say. Crosses are completely useless and garlic only makes their breath smell bad. Honestly, since these suckers eat the flesh and meat of living people, the garlic might actually make their breath smell better. Finally, wooden stakes. Driving one through a vampire's heart is definitely lethal, but only because it would kill any complex living being. If you wanted to, you could use a metal stake, a plastic one, or even a long bone sharpened enough. The hard part was finding the heart. I nearly died five times before out they have their heart more to the right side and behind other organs in their chest, as opposed to human's anyway. Fortunately, stabbing them enough times in the chest is still lethal, if you can survive the fight long enough.

While the old information about vampires and their weaknesses may have been wrong, there is one thing that is correct. Their appetite. A single vampire will attack with its claws and teeth, going for the throat first. If successful, the beast will drink up as much of the blood as it can while its victim thrashes around. Once the blood stops flowing, the vampire will begin eating into the flesh and muscle. It is easy enough to fight off a single vampire's attack. Maybe even possible to survive two or three. It's the packs of five or six, or more, that are impossible to survive. That many teeth and claws all attacking at once make a person into a gory mess rather quickly.

The sun set a couple of hours ago. While the vampires can survive the daylight, their sensitivity tends to cause them to move at night. Entire packs will leave whatever cave or house they have sheltered in and roam around in the pale moonlight. Despite the number of walls between me and the outside and the lack of windows in this hall, I'm pretty sure I can hear a small pack moving around right now. It may only be a figment of my imagination, but it is enough for the hairs on my neck to stand on end as I tuck myself further into the corner.

So, here I sit. A man that had been kicked out of a church for drinking, doing drugs, frequenting brothels, and busted in a child pornography ring, hiding in a church from legendary monsters that don't fit the legends. A member of the species once considered the very top of the food chain trying to avoid being eaten by horrid, ravaging monsters by cowering in a peaceful house of worship. All I want is to wake up from a good night's sleep.

Did that sound like the front doors opening to anyone else?

Have you ever spent time in an abandoned building?  What kind of place was it and what did you do there?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Novel Demons

National Novel Writing Month is in full swing.  This year I am doing a story based on an idea that has been in my mind for a very long time.  I have even written a few blog posts about it.  This year's book takes place in a world where Demons have emerged and special individuals, Hunters, try and protect humanity.  A number of aspects have changed since I first came up with the idea.  Today's post is an excerpt from the work in progress.

Demon from Hell. You have come unbidden to this Earth. Your presence in this town and on this plane of existence is undesirable. I have come to banish you and end the pain you and your kind have brought forth.”

The Demon just laughs. The sound lacks anything close to mirth as far as SonHunter knows it. The sound of the Demon's joy echoing off the walls of the hall fills SonHunter with dread. The sense of evil in that simple noise is enough to bring most people to their knees. It is a something SonHunter had heard before, but still causes him the same emotional pain as it did the first time.

The ember on the end of the Demon's cigarette glows more brightly as it takes a drag. Then it speaks with a voice that sounds like rocks tumbling in a deep grave. “You silly humans and your rituals. Weekly gatherings where you read from some dusty old tome. Phrases are said and replied to. None of it does any good, really. Candles, robes, all that fancy d├ęcor. And all of it asking for favors from some deity that may or may not be listening.

“Is it really any wonder so many of you follow my kind when we make our offers? You will believe in anything, even if you know it's wrong to do so. Just give you a tempting enough offer from someone in front of you, and you will give up on generations of worship.”

The Omega Demon takes another drag off its cigarette and lift one hand straight out. It snaps its fingers and the shades drawn over the hall's windows all fly up. The room is filled with light. All of the seated shadows are now revealed to be the residents of the town. They all sit still as statues, their eyes tracking the Demon as it strolls back and forth across the stage.

SonHunter can now clearly see the Demon. Its skin is as red as blood. This particular Omega has the body of an athlete and is naked from head to toe and almost six feet tall, minus the horns. Every Omega Demon looks the same, except for the horns. This Demon's horns curve back from high on its forehead. The seem to lay across the beast's bald head. The black horns come to sharp points near the back of its head.

SonHunter grabs two crystals from his pocket. He selects, by touch, two of the larger ones to allow for a quicker capture of the Demon once he gets close enough. He grips the crystals tightly, one in each hand. “Demon, hear me and answer me true. What have you done to these people? Why have you trapped them in this place?”

“I have done nothing to them. They have done it to themselves. I just came to town and made each of them an offer. Those that accepted, now sit here. Those that didn't spread word of my legend to other towns and villages.”

As the Demon speaks, SonHunter gets a closer look at his cigarette. He realizes it isn't a bundle of tobacco wrapped in paper. It is a small, burning bone. He can't tell what part of the body it may be from, or if it is even a human bone. All that is clear is that the Demon is breathing in on one end of a bone as the other end smolders. The Demon takes another drag as he continues to smile and taunt SonHunter.

“These people are just sitting here, waiting for me to make up my mind. I haven't decided if I want to make them kill themselves or go out and kill others as my bloody army. Either way, they are only doing what they chose to do by accepting my deal.”

This is still a very raw first draft.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cereal Killer

Getting ready for this year's National Novel Writing Month kind of threw my timing off.  Starting a new novel caused me to forget that yesterday was due for a new blog post.  With that in mind, I have snagged a recent Reddit writing prompt I responded to.  I hope you enjoy it.

The familiar crinkle of plastic inside cardboard. The shuffle of crispy O's sliding against each other. The signature clink as those hearty circles impact the glass bowl. The tone changing as the bowl fills with round pieces of cereal. The wonderful music that is the start of my day.
Suddenly, the morning symphony is struck by a sour note. A heavier impact into the gathered collection of loops. I suddenly look down and discover an odd red form mixed in with the light brown regular shapes. As I watched, more of them fall from the box into my bowl. The thin slices mixing in with the puffed circles. Their coloring and shape causing me to suddenly realize what I was seeing. Strawberries. Preserved pieces of real strawberries in my morning breakfast.
I am not sure what to think as I pour the creamy white milk into the dry mixture. The liquid slosh signaling the final movement by the orchestra in my bowl. The final note being the metallic ring of my metal spoon hitting the bottom of the bowl. With a small degree of anticipation and some nervousness, I lifted the spoon full of the mixture to my mouth.
The expected flavors hit my tongue. Only now, a new sweetness and texture is present. A softness amid the usual gentle crunch. A fruity hint to the milky smoothness. All told, a pleasant addition to the start of the day.

For the rest of November I will be working on a new novel.  Future blog posts will probably excerpts of the work in progress.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In The Mind

As much as we may wish, or even need, it to be so, not everything in life is bright and shiny.  There are many dark aspects of the human psyche and condition.  People that wish harm on others and have no fear regarding the consequences of their actions.  They treat others as mere objects because that is their view of existence.  For some reason, the urge to write about the views from the inner mind of a psychopath has risen in me.  I have started a file of notes and a few sentences to clear the clutter from my own mind.

I sit here watching all of these figures passing me by. Going here and there on their usual daily tasks. A man in jeans and a torn shirt yammering away on his phone. A woman in a pantsuit walking quickly in the direction of the business district. A couple strolling hand-in-hand as they enter the coffee shop. A father pushing twins in a double stroller towards the park, glancing between his watch and the sidewalk in front of him. So many going from place to place, living their tiny lives. All of them beneath me. All of them merely fodder for me to use or not as I see fit. Soon I will be choosing which of them live and which will die.

I need to find someone of a type I haven't experienced before. I need to continue expanding my knowledge of the human condition. In order to do that, I need a broader variety of humans on which to perform my tests. I have a good idea on how much pain most people can withstand before passing out. Maybe I should find myself a more athletic type of person. Perhaps the additional muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness may extend their endurance. It is also possible their conditioning has increased the sensitivity of their nervous system, causing them to succumb to the pain more quickly. I do think a number of athletic subjects will be required to test this theory. It will take a number of months to determine if there is any difference between someone that is simply fit and a bulkier bodybuilder type of physique when it comes to pain tolerance.

 Of course, the additional bulk may make disposing of the wastes after my tests are done more difficult. I will keep this in mind as I choose the methods of introducing the pain and how it is administered to the subject's body.  My usual disposal sites still had some room left.  However, I may have to do something to minimize the bulk of the waste in order to keep the sites tucked away.  If my waste sites are eventually discovered, there is nothing in them that would lead any investigators to me.  I just really don't like having to find new places to dispose of the trash after my experiments are done.

I've never tried a mystery or thriller story before.  If I develop this further, I may have each chapter alternate between the killer's point of view and a narrative about the police investigation.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Off The Wall

Nursery rhymes have been around as long as parents have been putting children to bed.  The stories of Mother Goose and the Brothers Grimm to send the little ones off to dreamland.  For the most part, unchanged for generations upon generations.

When I put my sons to bed, I tell them these classic tales.  With a little twist of my own.  The other night I did this very thing with Humpty Dumpty.  This time, he was pushed.  Sort of.

Once upon a time there was a kind and intelligent accountant.  He had a round face and figure.  Some would call his shape a dumpty one.  With his pale complexion, many people thought of him as closely resembling an egg.  This didn't prevent many of them from trying to get him to crack under the pressure of keeping their complicated accounts and transactions straight.

What none of his clients or friends realized, was a secret he kept tucked away in his inner core.  He guarded it like a mother hen guards her young.  He only practiced his dream hobby in the darkness of his basement.  Nobody else could see him.  Nobody else could hear him.  This is how he practiced his dream.  This is where he would rap.  His used his hip-gyrating moves and beat to give himself a nickname, Humpty.

His outer existence as a quiet accountant and his hidden life as a rapper remained utterly separate.  Until he had a few too many free samples as a citywide Oktoberfest beer party.  With such small amounts from each brewer served in the tiny cup, he didn't realize how much he had consumed until he was standing unsteadily on the wall next to the main stage.  A microphone in his hand and every eye of the festival on him.  With all the liquid courage in him, Humpty Dumpty decided to make his private hobby public.

Humpty laid down his best rhymes.  He whipped out his best moves.  He let the beats flow like water over Niagara Falls. Everyone at the party watched him in stunned silence.  Finally, as Humpty was catching his breath for a moment, someone else climbed onto the wall.  It took Humpty a minute to recognize the face of the infamously famous King of Hip-Hop.  At the base of the wall we his entourage.  His friends were affectionately called The King's Men, while his bodyguards were called The King's Horses.  Humpty now faced the most elite crew in the country.  It was at that moment The King challenged Humpty to a rap battle.

Words flew back and forth.  Each contestant stepped closer to the other as their rhymes collided over the heads of everyone in the crowd.  Subtle comments and outrageous insults slashed into the ego of each one of them.  The audience cheered when one side or the other dropped a line that cut particularly deep.  They booed and hissed when a verbal attack was so weak it was shrugged off with a grimace.

The competitors finally met in the middle of the wall face-to-face.  Humpty threw some words that hit The King directly.  The King struck back so fiercely that Humpty was physically knocked back.  The King kept flinging phrases that forced Humpty to step further and further back.  The King unleashed one final rhyme that literally knocked Humpty off of his feet.  Humpty fell from the wall.

He landed in a heap on the ground.  His arms bent in an unnatural angle.  His legs bent in ways no human should be capable of bending any of their appendages.  The King's Horses and Men rushed to offer some First Aid.  Unfortunately, none of them knew anything about anatomy or treating wounds.  They were unable to help Humpty with any of his broken bones.  All of them tried, but none of them was able to assist.  Finally, an EMT crew arrived and loaded Humpty Dumpty on a stretcher.

After months of healing and time spent rehabilitating, Humpty went back to work at his accounting firm.  His rap equipment left collecting dust in the basement.  He now spent too much time handling the accounts and transactions for the one and only King of Hip-Hop.  He let the numbers flow and the balances rhyme on the sheets.  He was finally happy with the combination of his public face and formerly private hobby.

I have always wondered one thing about the Humpty Dumpty nursery tale.  Who ever said Humpty was an egg in the first place?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Demons Rising

For an eternity, I've been meaning to write the story about a world in which Demons are hunted and contained.  Ideas for this story crop up at random moments.  During work.  While eating dinner.  Laying down for a quiet evening.  Driving down the highway.  Rarely at a time I have the tools at hand to put words on the page.  Now I think it's time to try to advance the tale a little further.

It's been a decade since the first hole to Hell opened in the farmer's field.  Other portals have appeared in other locations.  All of them on the ground, but not all of them in areas as open as the first.  School children celebrated as their school fell into a chasm, then ran in fear as beasts began to emerge.  City traffic, an entire freeway, had to be diverted when a support for an overpass fell below the surface of the Earth.

In all, 182 gaping portals opened between the Earth and whatever world the Demons came from.  13 gigantic chasms in various locations around the world with 13 smaller holes around each one.  From constant monitoring it was revealed that size did matter.  Smaller demonic imps and figures crawled from the smaller holes, while titanic, horrific, monstrous beasts erupted from the larger holes.

Over the decade that passed, many technologies were lost.  The Demons tore down cell towers in their rampages.  Power plants were irreparably damaged.  Corporate headquarters fell to the ground as the office buildings that housed them were toppled by demonic claws and extreme strength.  Humanity was pushed back nearly to the Iron Age of civilization.

However, at the same time a new "technology" was developed.  It was discovered by accident that the Demons were susceptible to certain minerals placed in a specific lattice structure.  Crystals.  The Demons could be fought and trapped in crystals.  In this aspect, size didn't matter.  A demon of any size could be captured in a crystal small enough to fit in the palm of a person's hand.  All that was required was someone brave and strong enough to get close enough to a Demon to touch them with the crystal.  This was easily accomplished where the smaller imps were concerned.  Trapping one of the larger Demons was much more difficult.  This is how the Hunters came to be.

What do you think a side effect of approaching the Demons could be?  Should the Hunters have extra abilities or just be gutsier than an average person?  Comment and let me know.