Category Archives: writing

The Storm

Author’s note: I wrote this short story a few years ago and it has been collecting virtual dust on my computer ever since. With this current storm brewing on the east coast, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share it. Enjoy.

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Kevin whistled as he walked to work. He loved his job, he was good at it, and there was always a sense of anticipation.
Perhaps today will be the day, he grinned.
He sighed with contentment, as he walked over to a small desk in the middle of the circular room, and touched a button. Instantly, the walls were covered with the most detailed weather map ever seen. He could zoom in as close as he wanted on any location…
Google would be envious, he smiled.
Kevin picked up his clipboard and went straight to work. He checked down the list of priorities, then leafed through the pages. Next, he zoomed in on the central United States, pulled a pen out of his pocket, drew a few clouds, darkened them in, then stepped back to admire his work. Within a few minutes, Peoria Illinois got an extra half inch of rain, just like the clipboard had requested.
He moved to the next item, erased three clouds over Egypt. Again, within minutes, what would have been a refreshing shower, never happened. He continued down the list…
Hail in Russia.
Rain in China.
Sunny in Venezuela.
Hours later, when his list was complete, he sat back to take a break. He watched the swirls and eddies of the world, admiring the simple beauty of it. He knew exactly where every El Nino and La Nina started. He knew the cause and eventual effects of each hurricane, including their names, before they were a gust of breeze. Very little surprised Kevin when it came to the weather, but every once in a while…
It wasn’t even a breeze, yet somehow Kevin sensed it. Somewhere over the Pacific, a bird dipped to avoid a predator, leaving an eddy of wind current in its wake. He could see it in his mind’s eye…
This eddy of wind is just about to die when it meets with a small updraft, which sustains it. The two move along until another breeze adds to their strength. A low flying airplane adds speed to it. It forms a cloud or two and continues to build, now a strong rainstorm. Another storm comes up from the south and joins with this one. Together they build into the most massively destructive force the world has ever seen.
It marches around the world, causing destruction and death on a biblical scale. Buildings are destroyed, entire forests wiped out, islands and beaches disappear. Tidal waves measure hundreds of feet tall cover miles of dry land. The death toll rises like the counter on a video game, as governments try to battle this force of nature. The storm changes seismic stresses, causing dormant volcanoes to erupt. Earthquakes shake the foundation of the world. The Richter scale is rendered moot, as each quake sets a new record. Continents shear away from each other.
Astronauts in the space station record the event, watching in horror as the world tears itself apart, knowing that they will die in the remorseless cold of space. Beneath them, the storm rages on.
Cloud cover, debris, and volcanic ash combine to block out the sun. As the temperature of the planet drops, the polar ice caps grow. Humanity has been reduced to a mere million quivering souls, trying to stay warm enough to survive.
It is a much different planet now, more akin to colonizing another world than surviving on the tattered remains of their former home. A two hundred mile wide temperate zone around the equator is all that keeps the earth from being totally encased in ice. Within ten years, humanity will be extinct. Because of the violence of the storm, and its aftermath, the Earth is thrown off its axis. Within a few hundred years, it will crash into Mars, destroying both planets.
Kevin blinked hard, bringing himself back to reality. He picked up his clipboard, and double checked it.
“Not on today’s schedule,” he sighed.
He erased the small eddy of wind, and the massive storm disappeared. He set down the clipboard, returned the screen to normal, and headed for the door.
“Maybe tomorrow,” he said.
He started home, whistling as he went.

 

The end?

 

 

I hope you enjoyed my story. If you liked it, please read some of my other stories. You may enjoy them as well.

 

The Journey: Chapter 6

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear, Collection‘.
“Instant Serial”
Smoke poured from the superheated barrels of his powerful handguns. Brass casings covered the floor, laying in pools of blood. Dead bodies lay here and there, littering the room like trash at a rock concert. The man slowly lowered the empty weapons, sighed deeply, and calmly walked out the door.

One down. He thought with a twisted grin, as he reloaded.  He stepped over bodies, and headed toward the main hallway, but found the door locked.

“Hmmm … ” He turned back into the room, searching for something, leaned down and took the keys from a guard’s lifeless body.

“Thanks, Leonard,” he said to the corpse.

He unlocked the door, and glanced into the hallway, first shooting out the security cameras as he had done before.  Walking down the hallway, he unlocked another door, into a room full of people in orange clothes. The guns opened up, time slowed, bodies fell.  The thump of bullets slamming into flesh and bone, and the horrified screaming, satisfied him immensely.

He went diligently from cell to cell, making sure he didn’t miss anyone, even checking under bunks. When he was sure that no living person remained, he reloaded and moved on to the next room. On he went with his possessed rampage, leaving a bloody trail behind him.

Finally satisfied with his macabre tour de force, he holstered his weapons and climbed up to the escape hatch.  He slipped into the shadows, leaving behind him no reason for the carnage.  His thoughts now were only on escape.  He stood at the edge of the roof, trying to find a way down, when one policeman saw him, then another.  They pointed their guns at him and started yelling.  Then, with a flash, he was jolted awake.

Larry Brahm opened his eyes in shock. He was momentarily disoriented, and couldn’t recall where he was. Remembering his bedroom, and the dream he’d just had, he thought,

Wow!  That seemed so real!

Looking over at the clock, he realized he had overslept. It was time to get ready for work.

“Back to the grind again,” he said, almost disappointed that his grim fantasy had been only that.

The people he had to deal with at his job had become his main source of stress. Try as he might, it just wouldn’t go away. His counselor had told him not to let the job bother him, but how could he? The incredibly vile things those people had done? They deserved to be punished, and not the justice system ‘punishment’, but something more real, more permanent.

As he drove to work, he turned up his favorite song ‘Jeremy’ by Pearl Jam and screamed the lyrics at the top of his lungs as the CD played.

He rounded the corner to the main entrance and was met by a sight that he would never have guessed.

No!  No, this can’t be!

Ambulances lined the front walkway. Police cars surrounded the building. The prison itself was alive with activity, with emergency workers going in and out like bees in a hive.

As he pulled into his parking spot, he could see bodies laying on the ground, neatly placed in rows, like they were being set out for spring cleaning. Each one was covered head to toe by a black plastic bag, but a few had an arm or a leg sticking out enough to see a blood stained orange inmate uniform or a gray officer’s uniform.

He walked up to a policeman.

“Excuse me, I work here, what happened?”  but the officer was too busy, and just ignored him.

He noticed some Corrections Officers from another shift standing, watching it all go on. He tried to talk to them, but they were in shock and didn’t say anything.

“Hey, you!”  a tall, good looking officer yelled to him.  “The Boss wanted me to get somebody, and go inside to see how bad the cops are messing things up.”

“All right,”  Larry said slowly.

They made their way inside. It was beyond his worst nightmare. Everywhere he looked were shell casings, bodies, bloody floors, and bullet holes.

“Wow!  What a mess!” the officer said.

The crime lab photographer, who was still taking pictures of everything, aimed right at him and snapped a picture.

“Hey!  What was that for?”  he said, as he started after her.

The officer grabbed his arm, “Don’t worry about it, she’s just doing her job.”

He looked suspiciously at her, but walked away, as she continued taking pictures as though he wasn’t there. They walked into the control unit, where blood and bullet holes littered the control panels. Suddenly he had a vision of his hand holding the gun, blasting the holes in the panels, and the officer that had been posted there.

He blinked his eyes and the vision passed, but he was now breathing hard.

“Sometimes a scene like this will do that to you,” said the officer.

“Do what?”

“Knock the wind out of you, from the shock.”

Larry eyed the officer with suspicion.

“I don’t think I ever got your name, and I don’t recognize you.”

“Oh, I’ve been here for a while,” the officer said with a cryptic smile. “You just didn’t notice me until recently.  My name isn‘t important right now.”

They walked down a long hallway, with the occasional blood splatter and chipped concrete from a bullet ricochet.  Everywhere Larry looked, he got the feeling of déjà vu. Each room he entered, seemed like he a picture in his mind of exactly what it would look like, down to the position of the shell casings on the floor.

Twice he caught the officer looking at him with an expression he would best describe as amusement. But the look would quickly disappear as soon as Larry spotted it.

There was so much blood on the floors that the investigators, EMTs, and police had to be very careful where they stepped. In these rooms, they had laid down several plastic tarps to use as walkways, so they didn’t slip or track the blood all over the building.

They entered a cell and Larry looked at the broken body of a young man he knew from the street, who was only in jail for a misdemeanor and nearly broke down.

“What kind of person does this sort of thing?”  Larry asked.

“Lots of people think about doing it. Correcting the world’s injustices is usually how they see it. Most of them lack the conviction, the final push over the edge, to make them act on it,” the officer said.

“You almost sound like you admire this monster.”

The officer looked at Larry with a gleam on his eye.

“You find monsters in the strangest places. Sometimes they don’t even know they’re doing anything wrong, almost like it’s a dream.”

Larry’s face went pale.

“I need to get some air,” he said.

“Sure,” said the officer, “let’s go up on the roof.”

There were two sentries posted near the roof hatch. They just ignored the officers coming out of the hatch. Larry and the officer walked to the far end of the roof. Larry hesitated when he saw yet another body.  For some reason this one was different. The officer called to him.

“Come on over.  You have to see this.”

“I’ve seen enough,” Larry said.

The officer’s voice changed, it lowered and became menacing.

“No, you must see this!”

Without realizing he was doing it, Larry walked over and looked down at the body. His own lifeless eyes stared up at him. Larry stumbled back.

“No!  This can’t be … ”

The officer smiled a mirthless smile.

“Can’t be what?  Real?” His maniacal laugh sounded like many voices at once.

“You so-called ‘Good Citizens’ are all alike. You love denial. You can deny anything. You denied the truth of this place the whole time we were walking through it. Did any of it seem the least bit familiar to you? Like … oh, I don’t know… maybe a dream?”

Larry’s eyes grew wide with realization. The officer laughed again.

“You don’t seem to realize that you made this happen. You, ‘Mr. Good Citizen’, who should have shown these people compassion at a time in their lives when they needed it most. Instead, you treated them with disdain and hatred,” he smiled. “I am so proud of you. You held on to your hate so tightly that it drove you to this.”

“I didn’t … I couldn’t … It was just a dream,” Larry stammered.

“There’s that wonderful denial again. Have you even thought about guessing my name?”

“I don’t know who you are, I’ve never seen you before.”

“I have had many names, some better known than the others.  One of my favorites that you might recognize is ‘Lucifer.’”

The name hung in the air like an acrid smoke on a calm night. Larry’s eyes and mouth grew wide with fear.

He stammered, not being able to form any coherent sound.  Slowly he worked until his mind forced his mouth to utter a single word.

“Why?”

“Don‘t ask me, you made it happen. Your hate, rage, and contempt for these people was felt and returned. That made it grow like a weed in your mind until you just couldn’t contain it. I live off of hate, so I didn’t mind it one bit, maybe even gave a little nudge here and there, to keep it going. Had you been a real ‘Good Citizen‘, you might have seen what your actions were heading toward and stopped. But your ’high and mighty’ attitude only made people hate you, which made you hate them.”

“A vicious cycle,” Larry said, finally realizing the truth. “So what happens now?”

“Now?” Lucifer said. “A few of your friends are going to take you on a little trip.”

Instantly, every one of the inmates and officers that Larry had brutally murdered, appeared and grabbed him. He tried to get away, but there were too many.

Larry felt as though the roof of the prison had turned to quicksand, as they dragged him further and further down. He looked up through a long tunnel, as he continued his rapid descent. Lucifer was looking down at him, laughing.

“Enjoy the company!” he shouted. “You’re going to be together for a very long time.”

***

 

 

The Journey: Chapter 1

The Journey: Chapter 2

The Journey: Chapter 3

The Journey: Chapter 4

The Journey: Chapter 5

The Journey: Chapter 5

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear, Collection’

 

Emily stood alone in the darkness. Her only source of light was an antique, gas powered, street lamp. She couldn’t remember how long she had stood there or why. Somewhere deep in her mind, she knew she had no choice.

What is this place?  

The lamp had become important to her, it was her only companion, in fact, it was the only light in this desolate place. It was her protector, her shining knight, holding the horrid creatures at bay that she imagined lived in this darkness. This place seemed familiar, like some half remembered nightmare from long ago. Emily was sure she had been here before and the thought still gave her chills.

The light also provided her sound, the occasional flicker of the flame burning the wick and subtle hiss of gas was all she heard in the deafening silence. There were no night sounds in this place. No crickets chirped, no owls hooted, no distant mournful wail of a wolf. The thundering of her heart and the rushing wind of her breathing were all she heard, until …

What was that?

She frantically searched the darkness looking for the source of this new sound.

A train?

Finally, a pinprick of light emerged, getting stronger. Soon she could hear the ‘chuff, chuff’ of the approaching engine. She knew it was coming for her.

All at once, she felt the excitement, the exhilaration of a trip to the unknown. Just as quickly, fear settled into her mind. What new horrors would the train hold? But most of all she didn’t want to leave her lamp, her protector, and friend. As the train slowed, the massive engine lumbered by, followed by the first few cars. She had fought with herself and decided to stay at the station.

And no one will change my mind.

The train came to a stop as she stood, arms folded, resolute. She refused to leave. As the engine blew off its excess steam, a strange wind whipped around the platform. It grabbed the steam and carried it toward the lamp, smothering the flame, and casting everything into darkness. Emily’s heart leaped into her throat. It was all she could do not to scream. Panic washed over her like an ocean wave. Just when she thought she couldn’t stand it, a light appeared.

She was so overjoyed, she ran to it. Any light had to be better than this soul-crushing darkness. She approached this new light with a sense of dread. Some tall, thin old man in a uniform was holding up a lantern. She was drawn to it, like a moth to a flame. She paused when she reached him, but he held out his hand and said,
“Come along now, child.”

He sounded so much like her grandfather that she took his hand without hesitation and followed him into the train. He led her to an empty seat, punched her ticket, and turned to leave.

“Excuse me,” Emily said, making him pause. “You seem familiar, do I know you?”

“That’s quite possible young lady. You seem somewhat familiar to me as well.”

“Could I trouble you for your name?” she said.

“No trouble at all,” he said. “My name is … ”

But his words were drowned out by the blowing whistle as the train lurched forward, starting down the rails again.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have other passengers to attend to,” the conductor said, then continued punching tickets.

After his duty had been done, the conductor sat in a room that seemed much larger than the size of a train car. There were no decorations, no windows, only book shelves. Floor to ceiling, the walls were covered with book shelves. On the shelves were thousands of large books, each one looked identical to the other. There were no markings on them, no title, no author, only a number.

The conductor sat at his desk, writing the latest story in his newest edition. He finished, then sat back to review his work. He was restless, and he knew exactly why. The last passenger, Emily, was one of ‘those’ passengers. Every once in a while he would get one. He knew them immediately, even though they had no idea that they were different. He tried to treat them no differently than any other fare, but personal feelings sometimes crept in.

He made a mental note to treat her the same, but a subtle feeling was crawling around in the back of his mind. It wasn’t quite fear, but maybe trepidation. She had done it to him before, and even though he was certain he had her this time, doubt clawed at him like a hungry predator. Needing to clear his mind, he put away the current book and pulled out one that seemed much more worn than the others. It automatically fell open to a certain page, as it had innumerable times before. He sat back in his chair and re-read his favorite tale.

 

 

The Journey, Chapter 1

The Journey, Chapter 2

The Journey, Chapter 3

The Journey, Chapter 4

 

Last chance

My newest shory story is free on Amazon for one more day.

I have to say I was rather shocked at having offered my story for free and only having 6 people take me up on my offer.

I feel like one of those poor unfortunate souls who is hired by a restaurant to stand on a busy street corner, dressed like a giant hot dog, and hand out flyers that no one takes or reads.

So once again, I’ll put on the suit, stand on this particular street corner and offer people my story.

I thought up my Mr. Smiley series a few years ago as a way to introduce my short stories. He has developed quite a bit and taken on some unique and interesting challenges.

If you like the Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt, you’ll like Mr. Smiley. Give it a try. I’ll be standing here, waiting.

Writer’s rant

Read the fine print.

I know as a writer that sometimes things can get a bit desperate. I know that sometimes it seems like I’ll never see my name in print. Fortunately, I love what I do. But I see many online sites that feed on the desperate. I’m not talking about the obvious shysters that are easily recognizable, I’m talking about those who look professional and even credible.

I just got done reading a submission guideline for a publication that offered a payment of $5-$20 for stories from 3,000 up to 20,000 words. That’s not great in itself, but they demanded that those unlucky authors sign away exclusive worldwide rights for two years!

$20 for two years! That’s not just insulting, it’s borderline criminal.

I don’t know how long other authors take to write their stories, but I don’t have a lot of time to work on them. With the available time I have it could take me a week to a month to create a 20,000 word story. And then I go into edit mode, followed by more edit mode, followed by sudden death edit mode, followed by ‘I suck as an author’ edit mode. Until I’m done, I’ve put dozens if not hundreds of man-hours into making my story the best it can be. Locking my work up for two years for the paltry sum of $20 just ain’t happening.

I realize this makes me look like a selfish SOB, but I have a terrible problem. I like to eat and so does my family. I understand that sometimes it’s necessary to get my name out there by submitting to markets that can’t or don’t pay, but that’s not the same as saying ‘I’m going to pay you a paltry sum just to make it legal to do whatever I want to with your story. ‘

If I placed an ad in the paper for someone to come dig ditches for me but told them I could only pay them $20 for two years of work and while working for me they couldn’t work for anyone else, I don’t imagine I’d get too many applicants.

Bottom line, always read the submission guidelines … always.

 

Is Twitter a dead end?

I was recently given a bit of advice by a successful author. She told me to follow the 80/20 ratio of posting on Twitter. Eighty percent of the time I should be focusing on others (liking, retweeting, commenting) and twenty percent on myself (posting about my book).

I tried this and it was immensely successful. I gained followers at a regular rate (around 100 per month) made connections, built trust with several of my followers, and generally enjoyed the increased visibility that I perceived I was receiving. However, after a month, I started to notice a disturbing trend. I was getting plenty of impressions, but very little actual interaction.

I logged this away as an anomaly and continued on my happy Twitter way. Shortly thereafter, I became more active on WordPress. Being an author who is trying to build his ‘Platform’, I posted each of my blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Tumblr, and Google+. My hope was that they would have a cumulative effect and increase my visibility. However, during all that time, I hung my hopes on Twitter. Having built a following of over 1,500, I felt that Twitter was the best chance of increased traffic to my blog and my site.

Then I read an article saying that Twitter was changing its algorithm, and traffic was going to become much harder to come by if you didn’t pay for Twitter ads. This was not something I had in my budget. Having to work a fifty hour a week job just to put food on the table makes Twitter ads a low priority.

I tried to go on with my Twitter life, but the seed of doubt had been planted. It was further watered when I read another blog post saying that twitter was less than useful, it actually took time away that could be used for other things.

I was now in full on doubt mode. I did a little research for myself and was shocked at what I found.

I started posting to WordPress in early June. During that time, I had 62 views, 48 visitors, and 34 likes. Each of my 14 blog posts, I had also posted to twitter, with a link to my WordPress blog.

During that same time, I had 16,000 impressions (views) total on Twitter. Of those 16,000, 1,729 were impressions that came from tweets of my blog posts. Here are the numbers.

Out of 1729 impressions, I received 5 retweets, 5 detail expands, 4 likes,

And a grand total of (drumroll please)

1 Link click

So, out of one thousand, seven hundred, and twenty-nine times tweets about my blog were seen, only one time was anyone interested enough to click over to WordPress and actually read the blog.

An entire month of posting for one click.

Was it worth it? For the numbers alone, no. However, I did make a few contacts, and even had a few people follow me who had over a hundred thousand followers. Several prominent authors followed me and a couple liked and retweeted my tweets.

Was that awesome? Yes. Will it help me out in some way? I don’t know. I would like to believe that making connections is always a good idea, especially with those who have already been successful.

Bottom line, is Twitter worth the time and effort I’ve been putting into it? I’d say a resounding no. Will I continue to have a presence and interact with my followers? Yes, but not nearly as much as over the last few months.