Book Editors Take Bribes…

ADVANCE COPY – NOT FOR PUBLISHING – ROUGH DRAFT

Dictation begins at 0:03:17

Right. I’ve got to write a review for this new book. And it’s got to be a good review, too. What did Lombardo say to me in that letter that came with the copy? I’ve got it somewhere, here… ah, here it is.

“So glowing that it hurts to look at the paper.” Right. Has he even read any of my reviews? I’m known for being scathing, not for making anything seem like it “glows” in my eyes. Gah, my readers are going to see right through this ruse. So much for any claim to my credibility as a book critic. Continue reading

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The Fog in the Park

It’s a feeling that I don’t think I can put into words. Maybe the word for this feeling hasn’t been invented yet.

Bending down to tie my laces, I have to fight back a yawn. The yawns always come when I drag myself out of bed. It’s not that I’m tired, that I don’t get enough sleep (although that’s definitely a perennial problem of mine). I think that my body knows that the rest of the world is asleep right now, and it wants to join the sea of other dreamers in slumber.

Sometimes, it’s almost overwhelmingly tempting. It would be so easy. I could just crawl back into bed, back into that warm spot under the covers, close my eyes and drift immediately back into my half-broken dreams. No one would ever know if I skipped a day.

Still, I resist. I go through a few stretches, feeling the tightness of spending hours lying in the same position. I shake out my arms, listen to the rustling of the fabric of my jogging shorts. I tie my laces, re-check them to make sure that they aren’t going to work loose once I’m outside. Continue reading

The Blob

Oh god. Oh my god, I’ve got cancer or something. I’m dying.

I don’t feel sick, but staring at this… this thing, in front of me, I’m pretty sure that I’ve got some sort of disease. Healthy people usually don’t vomit at all, unless they’ve been drinking or something. I haven’t been drinking, so I can’t use that as my excuse.

And even if I had been drinking before now, I wouldn’t vomit up this pink ball of…

Is it moving?

I think I’m going to be sick again. Continue reading

The Battlefield Bar

I stumbled in, mud dripping off my boots, my jacket… well, pretty much everywhere, including a few places that I would rather not share with anyone else. “Faugh!” I declared, spitting on the straw covering the floor around the entrance.

Behind me, Young Henry followed on my heels, although he forewent my exclamation. He’d stuck close, practically my shadow as a round of artillery fell only meters from our position.

“Relax,” I told him, glancing back over my shoulder. “We’re on neutral ground now, lad. Take it easy.” Continue reading

Retirement, Part 4

Continued from Part 3, here.

Garrick didn’t need anything, but of course, that didn’t stop him from finding some way for me to help him out.

I grunted as I bent down, struggling to keep my fingers under the heavy box without them getting crushed.  “And all of these need to be moved from the storage area out into the back of the kitchen?”

“That’s right,” he nodded, watching me through slitted lids as he picked at the dirt under his fingernails with a little shard of metal.  We weren’t supposed to have actual knives, of course, since the Company felt that this would pose an unnecessary danger to the inmates – er, workers – but that didn’t stop most folks who wanted a knife.  Most of them, like Garrick, found a bit of metal and used a grinder to sharpen down one side to hold an edge.

Bam, instant knife. Continue reading

Retirement, Part 3

Continued from Part 2, here.

The next morning, one thought stuck with me from my nightmares, the night before: Lyman hadn’t been the only one down there, ghostly, ghastly, grinning under the waves.  There’d been other faces, faces of other men I’d come to know during my contract here, men who finished before me and headed home to their families.

Had they all made it home safe?  Or were they in somebody’s stomach, just like most of poor Lyman?

I did my best to make my inquiries discreetly.  I knew who some of those former guys had been friends with, who they’d been most likely to contact after they got back home.  I dropped by those guys, reminisced about old times, tried to figure out if they’d heard anything from their buddies since their departures. Continue reading

Retirement, Part 2

Continued from Part 1, here.

I bided my time, sitting in the mess hall and watching the others eat.  I didn’t have much of an appetite, not when images of that severed hand, the flesh all full of water and flaking away, kept on popping into my head.  I managed to shoved in some of the slop, telling myself that I needed the calories, but a few bites was all that I could keep down.

I waited for a lull in the conversation.  It took a while, but I knew what I wanted to ask.

“Say, anyone heard from Lyman since he left?” I asked, once that opportunity finally arrived.

I tried my best to keep the question casual, but it still attracted a few curious glances.  “Lyman?  Mister Optimistic, off to marry his girl?” asked Gonzales, pulling back his teeth in that curious version of a smirk that he liked to flash around.  I guessed that he did so because it highlighted his gold tooth.  He claimed that he lost it in a gang tussle, but most of us suspected he was full of it.  “Why, you missing your bedroom partner?” Continue reading

Retirement, Part 1

It’s weird how, in the last few seconds of your life, everything becomes strangely, almost absurdly clear.

For me, that clarity brought with it the realization that all of this, everything that happened, came about because I ignored orders and went for a hike.

And that hike, in turn, happened because of my father.

Not that my father was a bad man, you understand.  No, he was a normal, hardworking, blue-collar sort of guy.  We didn’t have much money, which meant that we didn’t have much in the way of entertainment, and the rabbit-ears balanced on top of the television never seemed to pick up a good signal, no matter how much tinfoil my mother wrapped around them.  So instead of plopping down with Junior and watching the Sunday football game, my father instead took me out on walks.

We might not have had much in the way of digital entertainment, but at least we had some good views.  Not that I appreciated them at the time, being a snotty-nosed brat who felt enviously that my buddy Blake, whose dad sank all his bonus money into a fifty-inch flatscreen with digital HD hookups, had all his luck and most of mine as well.  My dad would bring me up to the bluffs, brushing aside the leaves on the wide-branched trees to make it easier for me.  He’d gesture out at the cliffs, the sky on fire from the setting sun, and he’d ask me what I thought.

Mainly, I thought that I’d much rather be watching football at home, feet propped up on our ratty old couch.

I never told the old man, though.  Why ruin his idea that he was doing his son a solid by bringing him out into the wilderness?  And besides, I picked up a few tricks: how to tell direction from the moss and by cutting chips into the tree trunks, how to move silently enough to sneak up on the gamey rabbits that hopped to and fro, how to follow the trails of animals, how to keep an eye on vegetation and figure out the best route to a nearby water source.  Useful knowledge, not that I knew it at the time.

Although now that I’m thinking back on it, with that newfound clarity that I mentioned earlier, I might have been better off if I’d never learned a single damn thing about the outdoors. Continue reading

Please read, please try to remember!

Okay, I think I type here. I hope this works. Forgive me, this is my first time using this blog site, so I don’t really understand much of it. My graduate student left his account logged in, I guess. Sorry, Sam. Perhaps posting as you will throw them off my trail.

I’m not sure quite what to write here. I guess I could just write it, right? But that wouldn’t make any sense, and they’d probably just delete it. I could maybe use some sort of code, but they’re clever, oh, they’re devilishly clever. Let me think…

Forgive me if I ramble a bit. I’ve been awake for… about thirty hours, now. I think that the caffeine is starting to wear off. I’d better drink another one of these Red Bulls. My graduate student swears by them, but they’re just making my head spin. And I’m still feeling tired, which is bad. Tiredness is the enemy. I need to stay awake. I just need to share this story.  Maybe some of you will even remember it… Continue reading

The Uplander Woman, Part 3

For a few minutes, all my focus was on moving through the terrain as silently as possible.

That would be easier, a little part of my mind insisted on pointing out, if I could just leave Eliza behind.

The woman might have moved silently inside my house, but she had no sense of coordination for getting through the outdoors! She half-stumbled, half-trampled along like a boar in heat, crashing through dry twigs and leaving destruction in her wake. She had speed, at least, but that seemed to be the only point in her favor.

I very nearly left her behind. I wasn’t a part of her world, whatever she was caught up in, and I didn’t need to get dragged into her schemes. Let her be the one to face the Peacekeepers.

Face them, and the metal darts from those white weapons that they carried… Continue reading