At least some part of Ted Hinson knew the difference between right and wrong, though how large that part was couldn’t be determined. Two things were growing in him simultaneously: fear and confidence—neither had anything to do with right or wrong, but rather rationality and delusion. He felt fear because he was too intelligent to think this could go on forever. Sooner or later, he would get caught.
Warring with the fear was an increasing sense of confidence (Ted Hinson’s rational mind would call it delusion), because he hadn’t been caught yet.
Ted was thirty-eight years old and his reign of terror began two years ago.
Though no single law enforcement entity knew it, five women had gone missing during this period at a precise clip of one every four months. It was now the twenty-fourth month in his reign, and time for another to disappear.
Ted decided on one woman every four months because of the acclimation process. It took four months to tame his lovers (or break them in, as one might a wild horse).
Sarah had been especially difficult and Ted was still trying to understand if it was her age, or simply her personality. She was pushing the limits of his patience (not to mention love), as well as his self-imposed four month deadline. He thought, though, that last night had been a major milestone in their relationship.
“You want to go to lunch with us?”
Ted looked up from his desk. Georgia Shingleton was at his office door. How long had she been standing there? His face showed no surprise—but he didn’t like not knowing how long she’d been watching him.
“Not today. Have to catch up on some edits,” he said.“Okay. Want me to bring you anything back? We’re heading to Raw Sushi.”
“Mind bringing me a California Roll?
“No, not at all,” Georgia said. “See ya in a few.”
“Thanks,” Ted said and watched her leave. The California Roll wasn’t for him, but for Sarah. He’d bring it to her as a ‘thank you’, perhaps even as a peace offering.
Ted looked at his open office door. Had she been there long? And if so, what had she seen? Him staring mindlessly at his desk? He needed to stop concentrating so hard, especially at work. Or rather, he needed to concentrate on his work while here—leave his lovers for home.
Ted turned to his computer screen and moved his mouse, causing the light to flare on.
He would deal with Sarah tonight, and hopefully she would take the sushi with a bit of grace. If not, he might need do something harsh—something he never wanted for any of his lovers—but her four month acclimation period was at an end, and it was time to bring another into the stable. He didn’t have any more time for Sarah’s antics.
The trip was already planned for this weekend. Come Monday, Sarah would need to obey. Ted took the oath of marriage very seriously, and there would be no divorce. Not for him or any of his wives. If they chose to not love him, then …
Till death do us part.
* * *
Sarah Yields was twenty-nine years old when her abduction occurred. Since then, she’d turned thirty, though she didn’t know it. Not for sure, anyway. In the beginning of her abduction, she had tried counting the days by counting her sleep cycles, but that was quickly lost.
Sarah spent a long time thinking about how it happened. She had been so stupid, and if she ever got out of here, she would scream it to the high heavens. She didn’t care about victim shaming or any other terms she had been taught to despise in college.
Sarah had been foolish, and while that wasn’t the only reason she was here, it was at least one of them. The other reason (and most important) was that ‘Ted’ was fucking insane.
Sarah thought these things to herself, but she was learning—in perhaps the slowest and most painful way possible—that she couldn’t say them aloud. Not if she wanted to avoid pain.
She’d been at a club—drinking entirely too much—and she had thought the man older, but intensely sexy. She quit listening to her friends’ requests to come dance, and paid no attention to their protests about going home with the man she just met at the bar. Alcohol and horny were a bad combination under normal circumstances, but when you combined those with a man named Ted, it turned in to outright horror. Sarah didn’t remember much after leaving with Ted; she figured he must have given her a pill of some sort, and when she woke, she was ‘at home’ … as Ted called it.
She sat in darkness now. The other women here didn’t talk, though Sarah had spent many days trying to get them to. Ted’s terror held them firm, though. They were all broken, just like he wanted. Sarah couldn’t see the others in the darkness around her, though she heard them from time to time. Someone might let out a cry or a snore, depending on what they were doing. Sometimes a chain would rattle, the metal scraping across the concrete floor.
Sarah wasn’t good with time anymore, but the women in this room seemed to share a sixth sense about when Ted returned. Their chains rattled more and Sarah found herself looking in the direction of the stairs. Light would shine down, and then a long shadow would cast from the very top to where Sarah sat. Ted’s shadow. Her husband.
Last night had been bad. Sarah’s tongue continually went to holes in her gums. They hurt like hell, though the blood flow had finally stopped at some point during the night. Sarah knew it was crazy, but when she spit her teeth out, she had placed them neatly to her side. Three of them. She couldn’t see them, but knew they were there, and if she ever left here, she’d still have them.
It was hard to hear much of what went on upstairs, and sometimes Sarah thought she only hallucinated the things she did hear. Sitting in the mostly silent darkness caused the mind to play tricks. Something else she had learned since meeting Ted.
The door at the top of the stairs swung open. Sarah squinted, trying to close her eyes against the pain the light caused, but not wanting to miss anything that came next. If she were to have any chance of escape, she had to be alert. She had to see everything she possibly could.
The shadow grew in size as Ted walked down the stairs. They never squeaked under his weight. The entire basement was basically a huge slab of concrete, which also muffled any noise his harem might make.
“Here, love,” he said.
Ted stood in front of her. Sarah knew better than to try and stand, plus her muscles couldn’t take it today. Last night’s beating hadn’t knocked her out, but it had been the roughest yet.
Ted squatted and placed a small styrofoam box down in front of her, opening it so that she could see inside.
“A California Roll. I wasn’t sure what type of sushi you liked.”
I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you and if I ever look at another sushi roll again, I’ll kill whoever brings it to me, Sarah thought. She didn’t say anything out loud, though. Her hand simply went forward and pulled the styrofoam box back to her.
“Do you have anything to say?” Ted asked.
“Yyank you,” Sarah forced out, her swollen mouth not allowing her to form ‘th’ sounds.
“You’re welcome. I’m going away this weekend. Monday we’ll have a new member of our family and I hope you’ll treat her well, Sarah. I really do. I know how jealous you can be, and I know how mean that makes you, too. I hope you take some time this weekend to think about what you want out of our marriage.”
I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you. I’m going to fucking kill you.
Sarah looked at the sushi, careful not to make eye contact but still able to see much of what was around her. It was always the same, though—nothing she could use to escape.
“Okay, then,” Ted said.
He went through his ritual next. A disgusting thing that Sarah had learned well. He went from woman to woman, talking with each about his day (though they never said anything). He always kissed them and sometimes straight up made out, but so far hadn’t performed any hardcore sexual acts during this ritual. That came later—or at least Sarah assumed it did, though she hadn’t yet been forced to take part.
Sarah listened to the psychopath talk to the other four women, speaking as if they were long-term lovers. He giggled, grew serious, petted them, and just kept talking. Finally, when he finished his rounds, he climbed those concrete stairs again and went to make dinner.
Sarah was lucky, though. He had brought her dinner early.
I try pretty hard to keep away from politics when it comes to my writing, but the problem is, I'm a news junkie. Actually, I'm a politics junkie. I keep up with everything that goes on within American politics, probably better than Joe Scarborough (cohost of Morning Joe on MSNBC).
Before reading further, realize I'm not a liberal or conservative. You would most likely call me a radical (and I'm okay with the label). I self-identify as an Anarcho-capitalist, though a gentler name would be a Voluntarist. Basically, I think all human interactions should be voluntary. I'll expand on that in another post, but that's not the purpose of this one. Also, I don't vote (I'll detail this out in a later post, too).
The focus is President Trump.
During the election, I wasn't a Trump supporter. However, I sort of considered myself 'Anti anti-Trump'. I sincerely believed Hillary and Bill Clinton are part of the ruling elite and have been allowed to get away with more crimes than almost imaginable. For decades. So, I more or less wanted her to lose, which is different than wanting Trump to win.
I think, however, that Trump duped me. I was pretty excited that someone who made their bones with the government against them would take office. Clinton (and all the rest of the politicians) make their money with the government's wind in their sails. I thought having a businessman, someone who'd done it for decades, would be a good thing.
I'm coming to believe, though, that Trump isn't a businessman at all. He's a marketer. That is very, very different than business. I know many of you will call me naive, and perhaps I was during the campaign. I didn't let his bankruptcies get in the way of thinking he was good in business--everyone takes losses from time to time.
However, the way he is governing is proving quite quickly to me that this man is good at selling himself, but perhaps not at running a business. Even liberals must admit, the man sells himself masterfully--perhaps as good as anyone I've ever seen. However, that's very different than business.
I'm bothered by a lot of things I see happening right now, but today I want to focus on his family.
Maybe it's because I've never seen a politician who actually sets up a daughter and son-in-law with positions in the government, but it bothers me. Maybe it's only precedent that's the problem, and in reality, it's no different than hiring someone else. Perhaps they are the best person for the position (though, I find that hard to believe. I love my brother with all my heart, but he ain't gonna be the chief operating officer of my publishing business.).
What bothers me here is both the perception, and THE FACT THAT THESE JOKERS MIGHT NOT HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THEY'RE DOING.
Both Ivanka and Jared Kushner were handed their empires. I'm not saying they haven't worked, but it's not like either of them built something from the ground up. More, Kushner's business seems to be pretty awful. I don't really know about Ivanka's clothing line. So, if they're not good at business, what are they good at? Creating laws? Governing (which is a term that I'm not sure can be defined outside of ruling over others)? There's nothing in their past that would indicate either of these things.
So why are they in the White House? Well, the obvious answer is Trump is trying to remake the White House to resemble his Trump branding business. He trusts them. He trusts what they tell him. He believes they are good decision makers. The cynic in me says, they will also be able to enrich themselves more if they know the inner workings of the White House (though, I tell my cynic to shut up).
What Trump needs more than anything right now are people he DOESN'T KNOW in the White House. He needs people that will look him in the eye and say, "Mr. President, you're doing this completely wrong." I don't know if Ivanka or Jared will do this, but based on what I've learned about Trump--they won't. He seems to want yes men, people that tell him he's right. He's addicted to being liked and being thought well of. Jared and Ivanka give that to him.
I can't imagine being 70 years old and trying to change. I'm 30 and change is hard as hell. This dude has been living like this for decades and decades. I think the mark of a truly remarkable person is their willingness to change when facts arise (which is why the nutrition and climate science fields drive me up a friggin' wall). Trump won't do that. He won't change who he is as a person. There is a proverbial silver lining, however. Trump likes to be liked. He loves it. That means I think he can be bipartisan as long as it means he gets good press. What that means for the country is another discussion, though.
So, Part One on Trump can be summed up fairly easily: hiring his family is the wrong decision and will lead him to continue making mistakes.
It's such an obviously poor decision, that it makes me wonder how intelligent the man actually is. Perhaps he is the genius he claims to be. Perhaps he just refuses to change the way he's been running things for five decades. I don't know. I do know, though, that as someone who has to live under his reign ... I don't like it and I don't want it happening.
Ready for your operation?
One is killing people. The other works for the FBI.
Meet Luke Titan at the end of March.
I'm a capitalist shill. Now you can buy signed copies of any of my books. Just click the obviously named button, 'signed copies', fill out the form and throw me a few bones--you'll have a personally signed copy on the way.
I normally am not a huge fan of monster movies. To me, they're a lot like slasher films--you can't relate to the killer, and nothing seems to motivate them outside of "KILL THE BLONDE GIRL!" There are a few exceptions to this rule, one being The Ring (though the monster in that movie was a creepy little girl who moved like she had Parkinsons).
The Monster (2016) is a decent film, especially for the genre its title so aptly places it in. It's a monster movie, but there's more to it as well.
Perhaps I like this movie because of my own home life growing up. I remember watching my parents fight. I remember being screamed at.
This movie, at its core, is about the dysfunctional relationship between a mother and a daughter. Whenever I see something like this, as long as it's done well, I fall into the movie. And this one is done well. The acting performances by the two leads are great--especially from the young girl. She shows the anger and hurt that comes when those who are supposed to love you, don't.
Is the monster in the movie scary? Sometimes. But that's not the point. I believe that each parent loves their children (with few and frightening exceptions), and that's partly what this is about. A mother's love and her inability to show it. Except when it counts.
The Monster is also about a child's love, and how abuse that happens over years can harden it. In the end, though, all children just want to be loved by their parents--and I believe that regardless of their age.
If you like monster flicks where the scariest thing isn't what the paranormal can do to us, but what we can do to each other, you'll dig this.
I just finished a non-serial novel.
What's that mean exactly, you ask?
For most of my career, I've written very long novels, often broken up by cliffhangers. This time, and for the first time since The Devil's Dream, I didn't do that.
The title is Fallen Saint. It'll be a series (think something like Jack Reacher, in that each book has an ending). Should be out in January. I won't give too much away about it, except to I had a lot of fun with the two main characters. They got a lot of life left in them--and that's exciting.
I've been working with some great narrators to get my books in audio form. If you ever see me in public, I'll most likely have headphones in (even if I'm with people, because I'd rather not talk to anyone around me). I'll either be listening to music or a book--it's pretty damn cool to be able to listen to books while you're walking around. I'm certain it's improved my ability as a writer, not to mention made me smarter.
So, here's the first book I finished! Red Rain: Clouds Gathering!
The narrator is Charles Kahlenberg, and he does an absolutely astounding job of capturing the book's Texas feel.
Go grab it now and help Daddy get his yacht!
Well, The Singularity series is done from a story perspective. There's a lot of editing left to be done, but for me, that's more light weight than heavy lifting. Once the story is told, it's easy to clean it up so that more story remains and less me.
The first book should be out in a week or two. I've been advised to put a forward in the book, as it's been two years since Revolutionary and people forget.
Here it is:
A Brief Introduction
(Possible Spoilers for The Singularity: Revolutionary)
The Singularity Rising is the sequel series to The Singularity. It takes place five hundred years after the end of Revolutionary.
To save readers time from having to reeducate themselves on The Singularity’s world, I’ve created a very brief cheat sheet on many of the terms and people to be discussed in the following pages.
The Genesis is an artificial intelligence created by humanity fifteen hundred years before the start of this book. It once decided that humanity was too corrupt to continue living without genetic modifications, and consequently, purged much of mankind, while at the same time growing its own ‘crops’ of genetically modified humans.
The Genesis reigned over the world with the help of assistants; artificial intelligence entities—often termed applications. These assistants had freewill, but for the most part, they served The Genesis in Its ultimate aim of creating a harmonic world.
Caesar Wells led a group called The Named—dedicated to destroying The Genesis and giving humanity back its freedom.
Grace was Caesar Well’s loyal assistant.
Paige his lover.
Leon his friend.
Manny his enemy.
Jerry his mentor.
At the end of Revolutionary, Caesar is faced with the choice of deciding humanity’s ultimate fate: to live free, or to live under The Genesis’s rule.
The Singularity Rising answers that final question The Genesis asked Caesar.
“What’s it going to be?”
His smile spread wide across his face, revealing cracked, broken, and missing teeth. His gums were nearly the color of licorice, littered with tiny splits in the skin that revealed green, rotting flesh beneath. His top and bottom teeth didn’t touch—in many places because they couldn’t, but also because his smile was just too damn big—and Harry's tongue looked like some fat, swollen slug sitting in his destroyed mouth.
John stood in front of him and Harry could see the sweat dripping down the back of his neck. The Mexican weather was very different from America’s, but Harry couldn’t have given a single fuck if he had a pocket full of them. His fucks were all invested in the scenario about to take place.
John had entered what Harry thought of as the zone.
Which was another way of saying, John now channelled his inner Harry.
The woman hadn’t noticed anything amiss yet—she stood in front of an ancient Coke machine, one that only produced cans, though it looked like it might not even do that anymore. John stood maybe ten feet behind her, just outside the reach of a glowing overhead light, allowing the shadows to shield him.
John was almost ready; Harry could fucking feel it.
John wanted the woman to turn around because he wanted to see her face before she died. That’s what Harry loved so much about John—despite his holier-than-thou attitude all the damn time, he was a sick, sick puppy. He loved this, and all anyone had to do was watch him in action to understand that simple fact. No amount of holy rolling priests or group sessions with a bunch of weirdos would change it.
Come on, Harry thought. Turn around you goddamn bitch. Turn around so we can get to work.
He whispered the words inside his mind, like she might be able hear them if he thought any louder. Hearing Harry right now wouldn’t be good, though he thought John could still handle the situation if it came up.
The woman bent over and reached for the Coke that fell from inside the machine, landing in the cramped bucket at the bottom.
Harry didn’t remember a lot—it was tough going far back into his past, but he had an inkling that they once killed someone as pretty as this woman. He didn’t remember who or when or how, but something stuck out like a buoy in the distance, bobbing up and down in the waves, disappearing sometimes before reaching the surface again.
What the fuck does that matter? Harry thought.
It didn’t. Because this woman was bu-tee-full.
Long brown hair and dark, tanned skin. She wore shorts and while Harry didn’t get the primal urges of most men, he appreciated a nice pair of stems as well as the next dead guy inside a friend’s head.
Oh, yes, oh, yes! She was turning around, slowly, her eyes still on the drink as she opened the can. John didn’t look at her legs, ass, or anything but her neck—zoned in for sure.
“Go,” Harry whispered.
John moved with a speed that Harry helped hone over two decades, something that only came with practice—which Harry was a big fan of.
The woman barely heard him, her face flashing upwards, surprise in her eyes, but as John barreled forward, Harry watched surprise turn to confusion, then fear.
John grabbed her by the mouth with his left hand, clamping it closed so that her screams didn’t venture further than the glow of the light overhead. Not even the shadows would hear this woman die.
Harry stood back, watching the knife hammer down, back up, back down, back up, back down. John didn’t even know Harry was there, or maybe John was Harry? Certainly Harry didn’t know and certainly he didn’t care, either.
Blood shot out the woman’s neck, splattering John’s face and clothes. His hand was soaked, dripping the red liquid back down onto the woman’s white t-shirt. Tiny buds of red, blooming as beautiful as any flower.
Harry felt the burn in John’s arm, knew that lactic acid had spread through it and was trying to slow him down, but John wouldn't slow—not until her heart quit beating. John's muscles could burn worse than being boiled alive, and he'd keep stabbing away.
Yes. Yes, he will, Harry thought.
He’s not ready for me to leave, either. Because even if he won’t admit it, he knows we have to go back home.
* * *
Harry was good at certain things.
For his money, no one on the planet could think out a murder better than him. Like, Harry was good at that shit. He didn’t forget anything, not a single detail, but that wasn’t what made him so good (he would dare venture say great). He didn’t just remember the details; he saw everything. Where people would move before John subdued them, how they might try to scream early, so John knew the best way to approach, even how they would fall, and from there which way their blood would leak.
He was Michelangelo looking at the Sistine Chapel.
Areas existed, though, in which Harry wasn’t a master. Long term plans. He was not good at that shit. Much like he couldn’t remember a great deal of the past, things got super hazy when he started considering the future. Normally this wasn’t a problem because Harry was the type of dude that lived in the moment. The future wasn’t promised and the past was dead, so why not live it up while you can, right?
However, it could become a problem.
In fact, Harry thought his long-term planning abilities might already be a big fucking problem.
He and John could stay in Mexico, cutting up ladies outside of motel rooms, but they would eventually get caught. Harry decided he wouldn't mind that, just not down here. Not while he had the opportunity to take John home and do some real damage. Murdering people down here was all fine and dandy, but God, the sweetness that awaited if Harry could convince John to hurt …
Dare he say it?
Or the boys?
Oh, Jack jumped over a fucking candle stick, that sounded uh-maze-ing!
But that’s where his inability to think past five minutes in front of his face created an issue. Harry made John think whatever he wanted John to think, because John needed to put in work instead of always bitching and making up excuses. Harry knew the cops were looking hard at John and they wouldn’t simply back off because John fled the country. Which meant Harry couldn’t just tell John it was time to head back across the border, because that meant probably getting caught, and getting caught before Harry had his fun wasn’t an option.
Wasn’t that big of a deal though. Harry didn’t believe in Big Deals. No, things always seemed to work out the way he wanted them to.
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I'm nearly finished with the series. I have about 30,000 words left (it'll be three books).
Here's an unedited snip.
The Death of Caesar Wells
"Five hundred years.
That’s how long it’s been since Manny kept me in his little torture chamber. Five hundred goddamn years.
I think I finished the last of these chronicles a hundred years ago. I haven’t put pen to paper since then. I imagine I’m the only person alive still using paper to write down anything, but that’s what I have right now. Ink and dead trees.
Caesar’s next stage is beginning and I guess that’s why I’m writing again. One of my assistants says the first writings improved my recovery by forty-five percent. Amazing how one would calculate that given they’re not inside my head.
I owe Caesar that, I guess. He keeps The Genesis out of my mind. I don’t know what they do while I’m sleeping; anything is possible, I suppose. Maybe they’re watching while I sleep. Maybe they see the same nightmares I do.
No one read my first papers: The Life of Caesar Wells.
The whole manuscript sits in a drawer untouched since I put the last word on it.
No one will read this either, especially given what’s coming: The Reckoning. Apt name, though I’m sure The Genesis doesn’t approve. No worries, they won’t have to deal with it for much longer; the people who named the coming atrocities will be dead.
I’m finding it hard to organize my thoughts, to be honest. Perhaps that’s just the rust falling off, though I wasn’t much of a writer to begin with.
The Life of Caesar Wells. That’s where we were.
The man that I knew, that I followed, well he dies when The Reckoning begins. So that seems like an apt name for this next part, no? The Death of Caesar Wells. I chronicled his life by living next to him. Now I’ll watch it all from this fortress, and I’ll survive it all because of this fortress. Both my captor and savior, which is to say, Caesar is my captor and savior.
I think about Jerry sometimes. A bastard if there ever was one, but he held conviction. Certainly more than Caesar. And … maybe Manny was right about him. Manny couldn’t accept that Caesar was chosen as savior. He didn’t think Caesar was the right choice.
Turned out, he wasn’t.
And what would Jerry say now, if he still lived?
Disappointment isn’t a strong enough word, but I’m not sure the English language contains one, for that matter.
What about the rest of us? I haven’t thought of them in so long that it truly seems like those people and places were different lives. I know I’m reminiscing here, but if I’m going to chronicle this, I need to remember everything correctly. Or, at least, I need to remember what I can.
Paige. The best of us.
Grace. The best of Caesar.
What if they were here to witness what their hero, what their goddamn savior, was about to do? They would, without doubt, disown him. Even his lover, Paige. And me? What will I do as I’m the only one still alive and watching?
I love Caesar. That hasn’t changed, and won’t if I live another thousand years.
I also hate him, though. I hate him for what he’s about to do.
I told you on the first page I wrote that you wouldn’t like how this ends. Now, I can only say I don’t know how it ends, but I know it’s going to get a lot worse before it can ever get better."
I know, I know, I just dropped Red Rain: Lightning Strikes, and the month before that, gave you all the glorious Part One, but I can't stop writing, so the next is nearly upon us.
This is the last piece.
An exclamation point to the preceding sentences.
The second Red Rain books is out now. If you haven't bought it, go do that before continuing. Daddy has to pay rent.
When I finished Nemesis, I read the ending and thought, fuck, that's good. My evolution as a writer seems to be increasing in speed, because regardless how good I thought/think Nemesis Six is, Red Rain surpasses it.
This story goes a bit more down the horror route, letting go of the sci-fi, but it's the most personal thing I've ever written. More so than even The Devil's Dream.
It's about a serial killer, but not so much who he kills. It focuses on his actions and their effects on him mentally and those around him. If The Devil's Dream asks can a man destroy the world? Red Rain asks can a man destroy himself?
Enough with my drivel. Go buy my other drivel. For Daddy.
The first one is here: Amazon.
The new release is here: Amazon
I finished The Singularity in 2015.
The ending was solid in my not-so-humble opinion. At the end of the book, I said I didn't want to make the decision for anyone; I wanted them to think about what they would do.
That's a half-truth.
I did want the reader to decide Caesar's choice, but I also wasn't completely sure what Caeasar would do. I thought I knew, but I wasn't sure, and more--that choice would have far ranging impacts.
A little while ago, Caesar started speaking to me again. His story wasn't finished and the underlying question of free will still tugged at me. I know the answer that I wanted to give, but I needed to understand Caesar first.
So, with the answer finally figured out, I've begun The Singularity Rising. It's a three book series, around 200+ pages per book. I'm working on the third now, and I think the end is going to be powerful for anyone who read The Singularity.
It certainly will be for me.
I crossed 2,000 hours a few weeks back, though I didn't realize it.
At one thousand hours, I said, basically, that I was a competent writer. The 1,000 hours that I put in had allowed me to do a decent job of describing the world around me and my thoughts about it.
At 2,000 hours, I have a bit bolder statement to make, but I believe it to be true.
I'm better than 90% of all fiction writers.
That isn't the most arrogant thing I've ever written, but that only speaks to my arrogance and not the actual statement.
While I think saying that could ruffle some proverbial feathers, I'm okay with that. Kobe Bryant said recently, discussing he and other greats (Peyton Manning, Federrer, etc.):
"We’re not on this stage just because of talent or ability. We’re up here because of 4 a.m. We’re up here because of two-a-days or five-a-days."
If I'm better than most, it's because of the time I put in. Very little of this has to do with internal talent, but with the fact that I write for hours each day, read for hours each day, and comb through my own work looking for opportunities to get better the way a crack addict will comb through the carpet to see if they dropped any gear they could use.
Perhaps I'm losing my ability to be humble about this, and given that I have another 8,000 hours to go, it might be best to keep quiet.
At the same time, though, if you don't like hearing that I'm most likely better than you, work harder.
I need you to read what I'm about to write with cold dispassion. Use the logical eye in your mind, not the heart's. I know that's going to be hard, but try to hear me out.
The major question I want to ask all those decrying the two newest cop killing's is:
What did you expect?
It's not rhetorical. I'd sincerely like someone to think about it and answer me.
Let me ask a hypothetical:
What would happen, say, if:
1) I put out job posting asking for people who want to help their communities, fight crime, and generally wield a large amount of power. While the first two of those three may be positive things, the last will certainly bring in a lot of candidates which may not have the best intentions.
2) Train the people I hire that the citizens they are to protect must obey them at all times. If citizen does not obey them, escalate violence until either A) citizen obeys, B) citizen is incapacitated, C) citizen is dead.
3) I then create a massive amount of laws to which these new hires have no choice but to follow and enforce.
4) Many of the laws I create are based on personal whim and violate individual sovereignty. (drug laws)
In short, what if I consolidated the right to use force into a group of people, gave them a different color suit and a shiny metal badge? Well, given that there entire job consists of the right to use violence, I imagine violence is going to occur--yet no one talks about this. The entire system is set up for one group of people to use violence on another but it's completely lost in the discussion. Perhaps instead of gun control for regular citizens, we should be talking about gun control for cops.
Alright, if you're here--it's probably because you like my stories. If you don't like my stories, I don't like you. That sounds pretty fair to me.
I realize that a lot of people love reading stories, but they don't care about how the writers going about forming them. (Outside of the question--where do your ideas come from? That one is universally loved.) I try not to go very deep into the craft on this blog, partly because I really love the idea of putting out a finished product that is beautiful, without anyone seeing how it was made. Also, because I don't think most readers care.
Sometimes, though--I amaze even myself. I do this rarely as my expectations are so high.
I reread On Writing by Stephen King last week, and while most of that book is gold, he said something I had a tough time relating to. He said the most important thing in a story is story itself. To me, this means what happens. He said character is second, and finally, you search through the novel to see if themes exist after it's written.
I'm coming up on 2,000 hours of dedicated practice (another post coming soon), but I'm growing into the writer I will be; that said, I disagree with King.
To me, the process is like this:
Theme creates characters, and then the characters drive the story. Everything relies on theme to move the story along, though. It's the foundation beneath the house.
I hate the distinction between a 'serious' writer and a genre writer; it's silly and a dichotomy that need not exist. King, I believe, does theme last because the fan's entertainment is his most important concern (think plurality, not majority in this instance). It isn't mine. Philip K. Dick said: I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist.
I really identify with that quote.
I've always felt--and my family can attest--that I'm right and the rest of the world is, for lack of a better term, wrong. That's where my stories come from. Those themes about the world being wrong on so many different issues. It's mindblowing (both how I can be so arrogant and so many people so wrong).
That's where my stories come from, though. Themes. Questions about how the world should work or how one should feel. From there characters are born, and then the story.
It's a great feeling, this becoming a writer thing.
John knew he was dreaming, though that didn’t make it any better. He hated the dream, yet knew it the same as he knew his wife, an old lover—someone that he had spent the most important moments of his life with. Because, when John got right to the point, what other moments were there besides those like his dream?
He held the gun in his hand, barrel facing the ground.
He knew what came next, because he was only reliving what had been done years ago. It didn’t matter how many times he dreamt this, it always ended the same. He couldn’t change it and perhaps that’s why everything went so wrong—his inability to change anything.
John watched the seventeen-year-old dream-version of himself lift the gun up, the barrel shaking from both excitement and fear. He had never done this before, despite everything else that had already happened in his seventeen years of life. Somehow, he stayed away from this. Until now.
He stood on the black asphalt, the trees surrounding him hiding the moonlight above. Who was the girl in front of him? He didn’t remember her name, not now anyway.
Is that true, John, or do you just refuse to name her after all this time?
Perhaps the dream version of himself knew, but now, he walked among this past the way a ghost might walk around the world. He wanted to reach out and tell himself to stop, to put the gun down—or at least part of him did. Another part though, wanted to watch it happen.
The girl was crying. Hot, fat tears ran down her face, swelled on her chin, and then fell—disappearing into the dream’s darkness. John looked at her, lips quivering, body shaking from fear instead of the winter night’s bitter cold. Her eyes said she hoped that this would all work out, sparkling in the moonlight, but that she knew it wouldn’t. Hope and knowledge rested in the seventeen-year-old version of John, too. Hope that this would be as good as he dreamed, and a quiet knowledge that it never could.
Still, the gun didn’t stop its ascent, shaking the same as the girl on her knees.
“Please,” she said.
The last word she ever spoke.
John pulled the trigger, momentarily closing his eyes at the gun’s roar. He only closed them for a second though, as everything inside of him wanted—no, needed—to see what happened next.
He watched her forehead balloon outward as the bullet wrecked the skull beneath. Blood spurted from the front of her head, and the bullet smashed through the back, sending brain and bone splattering on the car behind her. Her eyes stood open, but the life inside them was gone. Blood dripped down from the hole in her forehead, over her eyelids, turning the white of her eyes red.
She remained there for a second or so, as if in shock, unable to believe that her head was no longer intact. Then she fell backwards and to the left—her head hitting the car door—before falling to the ground. Her hair trailed behind her head, smearing the already cooling blood.
John watched the younger version of himself stand there, alone in the cold night, with the gun’s report still echoing in his ears.
* * *
John opened his eyes and looked across the dark room, expecting to see nothing but the chest-of-drawers against the opposite wall. Sweat pooled across his skin, causing a chill to run over his entire body despite the blanket draped over him.
He blinked twice, not moving an inch. He wasn’t looking at the chest-of-drawers. He saw someone that he hadn’t seen in a long time, someone that he hoped to never see again.
Harry stood across the room, his hands in his pockets, looking directly at John.
Harry had aged, just as John had, which didn’t make a lot of sense because Harry never aged a day after thirteen. Still, he stood there, looking a bit heavier and a bit older.
Maybe he’ll leave. Maybe this is just the dream’s hangover.
“Hey, John,” Harry said.
John looked to his right, seeing Diane still lying asleep.
“You know she won’t wake,” Harry said and John almost groaned at his voice. John closed his eyes, turning his head so that if he opened them, he would only see the ceiling.
God, please, make this a dream. Please.
“Still doing the praying thing, I see. When did that start? It was most definitely after I left, but I hoped it would pass. Just doesn’t make any sense … ya know, given everything.”
John didn’t open his eyes but he couldn’t shut out Harry’s voice. Harry who shouldn’t be here, who was nearly twenty years dead, but who stood across the room all the same.
The dream. He should have known what the dream meant. That Harry was coming—or he was near, at the very least. Though in this case, Harry had been waiting the moment John woke up.
“Go away,” John said. “I don’t want you here anymore.”
“Come on, we both know that’s not entirely true. If you didn’t want me here at all, then I wouldn’t be here, would I? I’m not the one running the show, John. You are.”
“Please go, Harry. Please. I need more time. I need … I can’t do that again.”
Harry didn’t move, kept his hands jammed in his pockets, but his voice wandered as if it were taking a stroll. “Need is a funny word, I think. I’m not sure that need is completely in the equation between the two of us, but I’m not sure it’s out of that equation either.”
John listened to him prattling on, only caring that Harry wasn’t leaving. That Harry was still here, standing in John’s room.
“Look, go back to sleep,” Harry said. “We can discuss this all in the morning. We’re not going to get all of our work done tonight, that’s for sure. There’s a lot to do, John. A whole lot.”
John blinked and when his eyes opened, the chest-of-drawers stood alone, the moonlight from the window behind slicing through the room but showing nothing of Harry.
It was a dream. Just a part of the dream. He wasn’t here … you’re okay …
John thought the words, but he didn’t know if he believed them. When Harry arrived, he arrived. Because for Harry, despite what John wanted, there was plenty of work to be done.
* * *
Alicia hated this time of year. The weeks leading up to it and the weeks after. She couldn’t get away from it, though—because the time of year had nothing to do with the climate. She couldn’t run from it like she could the weather. If she wanted to avoid the cold, she could pack up and go on a vacation; Alicia could escape much in this world, but she couldn’t escape her mother’s death. This time of year would come regardless of where she lived or however else she tried to avoid it.
Alicia walked out of her house and into the chilly morning air. She kissed her husband goodbye before leaving, but her heart hadn’t been in it. She wasn't able to stop thinking about speaking with John, or about their mom. He handled her death worse than anyone else, and this month was always tough on him. On top of that, she’d nearly been derelict in her duty to him—despite her thinking of him more and more as the date grew near, she hadn’t called him in days.
She opened her Toyota’s door and sat down in the car, placing her purse in the passenger seat. She started the car; the clock on the dash read six. He would be on his way to work too. Alicia didn’t always leave at this time, but when she wanted to talk to John, she knew she could get ahold of him now.
Alicia pulled out of the driveway then grabbed her phone from her purse. She found her brother’s number and let the phone ring through her car’s stereo system.
“Hello?” John answered.
“Hey, it’s me. What ya up to?”
“Just driving to work.”
Silence came over the line, feeling like a cold breeze running across her skin. Her brother and her didn’t have awkward silences like this, not on the phone and not in person.
“Have you talked to Dad?” Alicia said, wanting to fill the space with something.
“Oh,” John said. “No, I haven’t … have you?”
“What do you mean, oh?” Alicia said. John sounded surprised, as if the anniversary of their mom’s death wasn’t this next week.
“I just … I haven’t thought about it, I guess.”
Alicia didn’t know what to say, was almost speechless. She stared out the windshield, the car rolling down the mostly empty road. She wasn’t sure she had ever heard her brother say something like that, as if their mom’s death was just a side issue and not a central piece of both their lives.
“Have you talked to him?” John said.
“I called him last night.”
“I’ll probably give him a call today then,” he said.
A few seconds passed and then Alicia said, “Are you okay, John? You sound out of it.”
His answer didn’t come back immediately, but he finally said, “Yeah, I’m fine. I just didn’t sleep well last night. A lot of bad dreams. I’ll call today.”
“You’re sure nothing’s wrong?”
“Yeah, positive. I’m fine, just sleepy.”
“Okay. Call me later?”
“Sure,” John said.
“K. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
The call ended and Alicia sat in silence. She knew John as well as she knew anyone besides perhaps her husband, and she had been with her brother the past decade at this time of year. He never, ever forgot their mother’s death. He never went this long without calling their father, not around this anniversary.
What are you getting at, Alicia? He’s sleepy so he hasn’t been thinking about Mom, and you’re imagining … what exactly?
But she didn’t know. She was just worried. She wanted him to sound like he usually did, and there wasn’t anything wrong with that, was there?
* * *
John’s office door was closed, which was rare. He tried to leave it open as often as possible; he wanted people to feel free to come in as needed. Today though, he closed it when he entered, placing his laptop on his desk mount but not opening it.
He knew the phone call with Alicia hadn’t gone well, but he honestly hadn’t been expecting it. The anniversary of their mother’s death was right around the corner, and until this morning, he’d been thinking plenty about it. This morning, though, he only thought of Harry. Even when he and Alicia hung up, his mind didn’t go to her and her questions. It went back to Harry.
John didn’t see him this morning, not at breakfast with Diane and not in either the front or backseat of his car. If someone put a gun to John’s head, he couldn’t have adequately described the relief he felt at either of those things. What he saw last night could have been just an extension of the dream—
And when do you have that dream, John? Do you have it just randomly?
He reached down to his bag, opening the flap and pulling out a worn Bible. He laid it on his desk, not glancing up to see if anyone was at his glass door possibly needing him. He didn’t care one way or another if someone saw him reading his Bible, and if someone asked, he wouldn’t feel a need to defend it either.
He went to God often, as much as he possibly could—not just when things got bad. There had been bad times over the past five years, everyone had their ups and downs, but certainly nothing turned dark. Even in the bad times, light pervaded, letting John see everything around him. The dream, though—and Harry—those two meant that life could grow dark again, and John would need God more than ever if it happened.
He can get you out of this. If nothing else can, He can.
All you need is the faith of a mustard seed.
John flipped the Bible open, tossing the thin pages to the left as he searched for the passage he wanted.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor debt, nor anything else in all creations, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
John could keep Harry at bay if he kept those words in mind. Harry was something of the past and John didn’t ever need to go back there. God forgave him his transgressions and all he had to do was follow the old saying, ‘let go and let God’.
* * *
A whole day without Harry.
John couldn’t say those two words enough. He went through all his meetings without a single glimpse of Harry or what was left of the aging apparition’s body. He kept looking all day, up from his computer screen or over the person’s shoulder in front of him, constantly checking to see if Harry was standing there, assessing the situation, ready to start talking about the work to be done.
The day went without a hitch and now John was on the way home, driving his car and wanting to thank God for letting him pull through this. Five years since his last episode. The people in his meetings, they called it acting out, and John supposed that phrase could work too. Regardless, five years was a long, long time, and he really feared “acting out” again after last night. Yet here he was, alone in his car and ready to head home to his wife—without Harry.
John grabbed his phone and shot a text to Diane.
Need to stop at the Church for a few minutes. Be home soon.
He put the phone back in his pocket and took a right off the expressway a couple of miles later. He didn’t plan on talking to Father Charles today; he only wanted to be alone in Christ’s refuge.
John tried not to judge other Christians, or anyone else for that matter, too harshly, but when he really thought about it, a lot of people missed the point of Christianity. God delivered him today, and one shouldn’t simply take that for granted, as if deliverance was a right.
It took him ten minutes to make it to the church. John hopped out of the car and went inside, almost walking on air. Had he ever beaten Harry before? He didn’t think so. Every time Harry came, it meant things were growing dark, and yet John now stood inside his church without a single glimpse of the man all damn day.
John made his way to the front, and sat down in the first pew to the right. The church was well lit, and Jesus hung in the front as he did in nearly all Catholic sanctums across the world. John bowed his head, keeping his eyes open, preparing for how to thank God.
He felt something like Moses must have when he finally saw the Promised Land. How many years had he run from Harry? How many times had Harry controlled him? Forcing him to do things he didn’t want to … evil things …
John closed his eyes.
He paused, tears coming to his eyes. He couldn’t put this happiness into words. He couldn’t … he had never been able to resist Harry’s temptation, and here he was, praying in gratefulness.
Thank you so much, John said. As always, your will, not mine, but thank you. I don’t want to go back there, God. Ever. I want to live in your grace and through that grace, find love and happiness in this world.
John opened his eyes and a tear escaped, falling to the carpeted floor.
He could do this, with God’s help. He didn’t have to see Harry anymore. He didn’t have to go back to the dark times.
John felt he had found a new life and in that life, freedom from the chains he carried.
I cannot stand when shootings happen.
As selfish as this is, I can't stand it because of what the living still do. Don't misunderstand me, I feel for the people killed or hurt. I'm a pacifist and Buddhist; all life is sacred in my eyes.
People die. It's what we're literally born to do. When life is cut short, and in a horrendous fashion no less, much intenser heartbreak and pain accompany it.
The living go on, though, and do we ever make fools of ourselves.
Every single time I open up Facebook there's someone new commenting on either A) their love and support of the LGBT community, B) their anger at Islam, C) their support/opposition to gun control, D) anger at white, straight males and the overall patriarchy we supposedly dominate, and E) anger at others for being angry at any of these things.
We're on Facebook to broadcast ourselves. It allows us to play the role of actor and twenty-four entertainer that we never achieved in our professions. It allows us to tell what we're feeling, whenever we want. So, that's what we do. We take a tragedy and then we decide to make it ours. We HAVE to comment. We HAVE to give our opinions on how it affects OUR lives.
This is bad enough in itself. An outlet to selfishness never before seen in the human race.
What is worse, though, is that none of these thoughts are original. All five of those things are fed to us through a Specialized Media IV Tube. These thoughts, these PLEAS to be noticed, aren't even ours--they're someone else's that has dripped, dripped, dripped into our veins and consciousness over days and weeks, until we think we actually believe them.
I wrote down 'it's sickening' and then deleted it. It doesn't sicken me, but it does make me angry.
Turn the television off. Turn off the radio. Read something that isn't a newspaper. Stop broadcasting yourself until you have something that is yours. It need not be original; indeed, someone else has most likely thought it before. But at least it will be yours.
I'm living my life in near constant terror right now. I'm not at a point where I can say publicly why, but it's the largest decision I've ever made, and I'm losing a lot of security with it.
Everyone craves security. It is, perhaps, the predominant biological impulse in us: safety/survival. Most of our decisions are made with that single idea in mind. This is why people stay in jobs they hate. I've never met so many miserable people as those in the workplace, going in day after day, for years and hating their company.
I think about the word legacy a lot, or at least I have been in the past couple of months. I don't say legacy in a grandiose, arrogant way--but simply, what will I be remembered for?
Climbing the corporate ladder? Powerpoint decks? Leadership in growing a corporation?
In business, you're constantly trying to add value, which simply means making sure the word you do is beneficial to the company. During this existential crisis, I'm asking myself where I add the most value to mankind? Is it behind a computer, looking at spreadsheets, and presenting ideas to upper-level management?
I can't say that it's a complete loss. It allows people to have jobs and customers to be happier. But, what if I was a mechanic and decided to go bake cakes instead? Sure, I'd still be producing something the world wants, but where would my value add be greatest? Where could I do the greatest good for the most people? Under the hood of a car, not wearing an apron.
In the end, we're all dead. So what am I going to leave behind? A full bank account and a bunch of regret?