Hey, everyone, check out this list of fictional fights. (The reblog isn’t completely altruistic; I contributed #4). But enjoy it anyway!
Hey, everyone, check out this list of fictional fights. (The reblog isn’t completely altruistic; I contributed #4). But enjoy it anyway!
Truth time. How many of you out there are voracious readers? Further, how many of you are voracious readers of amateur fiction? My advice for this post may seem a little off, but hear me out.
If you’re not already, I think you should be reading at least a chapter a day of something that hasn’t been published.
I know what you’re thinking, “Man, he’s just trying to con me into reading his crap.” Boy do I wish the answer were that simple. The truth is this post was inspired by a writer friend of mine. I asked him, “What are you reading currently.” To which I got the response: “I don’t have time to read. I’m a writer.”
I’ll let you catch your breath.
First, one cannot be a writer without being a reader. I don’t care who disagrees. The first person to comment here that’s had a book published and tells me they don’t read anything because they’re a writer wins a prize. Second, writers should not only be writing their own fiction, but they should be helping others discover the power, beauty, and fun of words. Whether that means helping someone learn to read or learn to write is sort of moot. It all blends together.
Now, why am I suggesting you read non-published works? There are a few reasons: (1) If you’ve found someone like my friend, this will teach you how not to write. [Which is actually very important.] (2) You can more readily see where common mistakes are occuring. (3) And most important, you can begin to network with these other writers. No matter what kinds of errors they’re making, they can teach you something, and you can teach them.
Folks, it takes a village to write a novel.
So I’ve finally hit two hundred followers! Thank you all for joining me on what’s proving to be a remarkably more complicated endeavor than I wanted it to be. You may have noticed I was absent for a bit; hopefully this will be rectified in the coming months.
First order of business:
I really, really wanted to stage a haiku contest in honor of my two hundredth follower. Honestly. I had the thought while I was at work. Then much to my surprise I gained a few followers during my day to day. So since I wasn’t able to launch any sort of absurd treasure hunt, I’m just going to post the link to my two hundredth follower’s blog:
Thank you just.like.mine for being one of my newest fans! (I’m also rather enjoying your blog as well.) So you should visit her. Just because we’re nothing if not an army of readers.
Second order of business:
My goal of bi-weekly updates has proven itself impossible. I don’t think this is sheer laziness, but the percentage is probably somewhere in the upper eighties and I’d really rather not think about it. The other issues are in order of appearance:
I figure I can fix a lot of these with my newest plea. I will still be posting new material, but I thought in this ever-evolving world it would be a great idea if I put out some feelers for feedback. I’d like to know what readers out there like about the story. I’d also like to know what they don’t like. Seriously.
But I don’t just beg without offering something in return. If any of you would like some eyes on specific sections of your own work, I’d be more than happy to take a look. I do edit for a living after all. I’m also available for editorial queries because (1) I like answering them and (2) they’d make great blog post fodder.
So fire away. And keep reading! (And also thank you.)
Kind of. (I started writing a whole blog about why I was gone but then I realized no one would care about that. And really, why should I make penance for being lazy. This is a blog not a diary.)
I’ll keep this a brief because I feel like it would be better to visit a bunch of other blogs than ask you all what you’ve been doing. I’m nice like that sometimes.
But one request: If anyone out there has read anything good, I’d appreciate a few recommendations!
I’m very pleased to say that I’ve received two separate nominations for the Liebster Award. First from Miss Zoe at A Bookworm’s Opinion and second from Norman LaVelle. I have to say that I love getting these because (1) it gives me an excuse for a blog post and (2) it really does help us bloggers connect. These are coming at a perfect time! So thank you both. Seriously.
• Post eleven facts about yourself
• Answer the questions posed by your nominator
• Pass the award on to eleven new recipients
• Post eleven new questions to your recipients
• Post a copy of the badge on your blog (type “Liebster Award” into Google images; you’ll find plenty to choose from). Notify nominees and include links to the originating blog, as well as the new recipients.
(Note: Since I received this nomination twice, I will answer both sets of questions, but I thought it redundant to come up with 22 things about me and 22 people to send to! But I don’t want to have to choose which questions to answer. I thought that would be tacky! Plus I like answering questions…)
Facts about Me:
1. My favorite band is Destroyer.
2. I once went as Ricky Martin for Halloween.
3. I have had two houses burn down.
4. When I was in high school, I wanted to be an astrophysicist.
5. My birthday is 9/9
6. One of my favorite memories is playing Frisbee on the Mediterranean.
7. My mom’s name is Star
8. I prefer cats to dogs.
9. I drive a Ford (I’m getting desperate.)
10. It’s a Focus (Really, really desperate.)
11. I love prime numbers.
Okay, now to the juicy bit. The questions!
First, I’ll do Zoe’s; please check out her site. The link is above.
1. If you knew today was your last day on Earth, how would you spend it and why?
I’d be booking it to Maccu Picchu. I don’t want to not see it before I die.
2. Who is your number 1 role model?
3. If you could marry one celebrity who would it be?
Zac Efron. Haven’t you seen Hairspray. I mean he’s dreamy.
4. What is your number 1 favorite TV show of all time? (doesn’t have to be on the air anymore)
5. If you could travel back in time for one day, where would you go?
I would really like to have dinner with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so anytime he’s eating. (Preferably after he started writing the Holmes stories.)
6. If you could meet any three people (alive, dead or fictional) who would it be?
Sherlock Holmes, Bea Arthur, Superman
7. If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?
8. If you could only say one sentence for the rest of your life what would it be?
What was that again?
9. What animal would you be if you had to choose and why?
A cat. They seem to have a pretty chill life.
10.If you could have only 3 electrical appliances in your house, what would they be and why?
A computer. A wireless router. A television. (I’ll worry about food later.)
11.If you could get rid of all the songs from a particular singer, whose would you delete?
Imogen Heap. I just really, really can’t stand it. Like irrationally can’t stand it. (To be fair to any Imogen Heap fans, I’m not really a music expert or anything.)
Alright, now Norman’s, and again, please visit his site as well. These award things don’t work if we don’t help the cause!
1. What’s your big project right now?
This blog. Or more specifically the novel associated with this blog.
2. What is the best memory you have of your childhood?
My week in France. That one won’t be beat for a while.
3. At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Good question. I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to tell stories. But I’m not sure if I ever decided, hey, I want to be a writer. But I do remember thinking that in 8th grade, so maybe around 15?
4. What is the destination of your dream vacation?
Anywhere near a large body of water.
5. What is your primary goal in life?
To be healthy, happy, and entertaining. (Preferably in that order.)
6. If you could be a super hero, who would it be and why?
Superman, because, really, he’s awesome.
7. If you could donate $15,000 to any charity who would you choose?
I’m not sure of one specifically, but probably something to do with literacy. I’d have to research before I sent any money. I just have not yet had cause to research. (I would also consider giving it to my public library because they do wonderful work.)
8. What do you feel the most import part of writing? i.e. research, outline, rewriting, proofing
Ummm. The writing? I guess that probably went without saying, huh? Then definitely the editing. That’ll make or break you.
9. What inspires you to write?
Ambiguity and absurdity.
10. What is your favorite blog to read and why?
There are too many right now just to pick one. I’ve been trying to go around to a lot of fellow writers sites to see how they’re doing it. I find that helpful.
11. E-Reader or Actual Book?
Actual book. Always.
Okay! Now it’s your turn:
7. Note to Self
Alright, for those of you eleven brave enough, here are your questions:
1. Coffee or Tea?
2. What’s your favorite color?
3. What’s your favorite animal?
4. If you combine the answers to 2 and 3 and made an animal of that color, is it awesome?
5. Who are you currently reading?
6. Who is your celebrity crush? If you don’t have one, lighten up a little.
7. What’s your sign?
8. Apple or Microsoft?
9. If you could title your memoirs right now, what would you call them?
10. Do you prefer the city or the country?
11. Do you write longhand or solely by computer?
That’s it. Thanks again to Zoe and Norman for nominating me. I love filling these out! Hope everyone has a great week. Oh and shameless plug: Chapter 4 is brand new. There’s still time to catch up!
So here’s chapter 4. I should be able to start posting regularly again for any of you who have missed me!
PDF will be available in just a few minutes.
The Diary of Amanda Katherine Madison—Entry 1
Let me start at the beginning. My name is Amanda Katherine Madison, and my mom and dad just moved me to the middle of nowhere.
Two months ago, I was sitting in my room in a nice suburb of Chicago, and now I’m sitting at a desk in what might as well be the middle of a corn field. When my mom told me that we had to move, I rebelled.
“I’m not going,” I said.
“They’ve got vampires,” she said.
I’ll give her points. I’m a huge fan of the Dusk series. That is to say I’m a huge closet fan. I wouldn’t be caught dead reading one in public, but who doesn’t want to fall in love with a gorgeous guy who’s going to live forever and cater only to your every need? That said I’m not an idiot. I realize vampires aren’t real.
“No matter how much I’d like to believe otherwise vampires aren’t real,” I told her.
“Oh well. You won’t be needing these then,” she said. She laid a paper-clipped packet down on my bed and left without saying anything else.
“I’m still not going!” I yelled, more for effect than any sort of real threat. I’m barely sixteen. I mean I can drive around, but—and I say this with so much regret—there’s no way I could live out of my car.
The packet and I had a standoff for a while, but they won eventually, as my mother knew they would. When I scanned the first page, I laughed a little because they were printouts from a website. My mother, the Betty Crocker who can barely work a cellphone, managed to go online and print information from about six different websites. Color me impressed.
Once I had thrown away all the pages that were just Web ads, I started to read the bulk of the material. Apparently we were moving to a town called Terrace Park. Terrace Park, Indiana. A few of the more detail-oriented pages included a map for those of us who don’t know what Google Earth is. Terrace Park, Indiana, is located in Knox county about twenty minutes from the Illinois border to the west and about an hour and a half from the Kentucky border to the south. And it has a vampire.
Or so the legend goes.
I’ll try and give you the abbreviated version. In the 1800s, a village in southern Indiana had a series of unexplained deaths. Each victim was found completely exsanguinated—drained of blood, definitely had to look that one up. At first wolves got the blame for the attacks, but according to legend, the true answer was more devious. Indiana had a vampire problem. Well, one anyway. The villagers called him Ivaylo—the Wolf. Then in 1843 the legend takes a decidedly literary turn. An earthquake struck. This village, which is now Terrace Park, was decimated. The earthquake’s intensity even caused the White River to split. The village of Terrace Park was now situated in between two branches of the same river. Popular lore states that a vampire cannot cross running water. This was a problem for both the surviving villagers and Ivaylo. The remaining few couldn’t leave; the river was too high. The vampire couldn’t leave. Ever. Apparently a village elder struck a deal with the Wolf and the decision was this: the villagers would feed the vampire if he promised to harm no one who lived in between the rivers. Blah, blah, blah, a hundred and so years later the promise is still kept.
So that’s pretty cool. I mean Ivaylo’s no Ambrose Singleton—the vampire from Dusk in case you live under a rock. What are the odds that an old vampire nicknamed the Wolf is going to want to pamper me with poetry and angst? Nil. But my mom still scores points for trying.
Then she lost all of her points.
The events leading up to the move aren’t particularly noteworthy, so I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say we made it to Terrace Park in one piece. I figured I’d ride out the next few days before I had to restart school. I asked mom why we couldn’t wait until after Christmas, but I guess my dad was in high demand. How was my dad in high demand in the middle of nowhere, you ask? Corn. Across the river from where I’m now living, they have this grain plant that turns corn into alcohol or something. Basically our dependence on foreign oil is responsible for my life being turned around.
But back to just hanging out in my room. That first night, the very first night we’re there, Dad tells me we have to go have dinner with his boss and asks me to please look respectable. I wore the lowest cut top I own. I mean, hey, it looks good, and if I can embarrass my dad in the process, well that might just go a little way toward us being even. Spoiler Alert: This plan backfires.
First of all, my dad’s boss’s husband is apparently my new science teacher. First thing he says to me: “Aren’t you cold?”
Coming up with no suitable retort I said, “No, sir,” and continued into the house, my parents making excuses for my behavior already. I kept walking in because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, and then I run straight into the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever seen in real life. I mean I don’t want to sound like a complete fangirl here, but we’re talking Ambrose Singleton’s werewolf nemesis, Isaac Sable. Aside from the boy standing in front of me not being any part Indiana—and I doubt werewolf either—he looked just like what I imagined Isaac would look like. Tall, dark, athletic, he definitely had it all.
“Oh good. You’re home,” Jane Adams, my father’s new boss, addressed her son. “Amanda—”
“Maddie,” I interrupted.
“Sorry, Maddie, this is my son, Isaac.”
“No shit!” Yes. I cursed right in front of my dad’s new boss. I managed to almost recover, explaining that I had been trying to guess his name before she told me and I got a little overzealous when I found out I was right. And boy does it get worse.
The eating part of dinner went okay, but after we all stopped chowing down, the trouble began.
“So Maddie,” Mr. Adams said, “Your mother tells me you’re a fan of Dusk.”
I must have looked mortified, and if I didn’t look mortified then, I did when I saw Isaac looking at me with this grin. (Sure it was a cute grin, but I really, really didn’t want to blush any more.) I just nodded, hoping that I gave a sufficient evil eye to my mother.
“Well, which are you then, Team Ambrose or Team Isaac?” The man just wouldn’t quit.
To my credit, I finally caught a break by saying, “I’d be on board with either of them.” In fact, I got quite a laugh out of that line, and if I wasn’t mistaken, I think I even got a wink from Isaac. Maddie: 1; Awkward Dinner: 50.
Mr. Adams then told me about this group called “The Consortium of the Curious.” (I know, lame name, but bear with me.) He said that if I liked vampires I should go to their next meeting. Apparently they were going after Ivaylo.
“When’s the meeting?” I asked.
“This Friday,” Mr. Adams said.
“But I don’t start school until Monday.”
“They have the meeting in my room. I’ll introduce you.”
Really the only other thing to note about that dinner is that afterward, before I left, Isaac cornered me on the way out and said, “You really shouldn’t go to that thing. It’s just a few nerds. You should come out with me. There’s a party on Friday. I have a feeling you’d rather me introduce you to people than my dad.”
He may have had a point, so I told him I’d think about it.
I guess a hundred years from now if you’re reading this you’d probably want to know a little about me because here I am on the verge of committing social suicide. You’d probably be asking yourself whether or not I actually am a nerd. At my old school, I was a jock. Sort of. I play soccer. But my old school was huge. I was popular; don’t get me wrong, but I still had a small group of friends. Bottom line: I am a nerd, but I like sports too. You can see my dilemma already.
Well, as I told you before, it gets worse.
Because I did decide to go to that meeting and no one showed. There I am in Mr. Adams room, and it’s empty. I panicked for a second because I thought maybe I just had the wrong room. I started to leave when Mr. Adams comes running in. He’s out of breath, and I can tell something is wrong.
“Maddie, there’s been an accident. I completely forgot you were going to come with all the commotion.”
Then he told me that the leader of the group, a boy named Michael, slipped into some kind of coma. He was in the hospital. He offered to drive me over. He said that the whole group—I sort of wish they’d stop calling themselves a group because when one of them is down for the count it’s really just a trio—was over in Michael’s room.
I declined. I mean that’s weird, right? Hey, I’m Maddie. Sorry about your friend.
He changed my mind. “Listen, I know this is a strange position for you to be in,” he said, “but the thing is, they don’t have a lot of friends here at school. I’m not going to twist your arm or anything, but I really think you should go. I’m going to swing by on my way home. You could follow me in your car. I’ll introduce you.” He paused. Thought about something for a moment and said, “To be honest, they could use someone like you.”
Of course I asked what that meant.
“Someone who knows how to be comfortable being who she is,” he said.
And flattery got him everywhere.
When we arrived at the hospital, only two people were in Michael’s room. The boy was slightly chubby, but in that football linebacker kinda way; the girl was cute, but you could tell she didn’t notice. And at some point, we’ll have to do something about that skirt. It’s not ugly or anything, but I’ll let her wear it again when she’s forty. I learned that this was Tyler and Karen. Half of the Consortium. Ben, who Karen had said in a defensive but not unfriendly way was her boyfriend, had taken Michael’s parents to the cafeteria. Apparently eating hadn’t been on the agenda.
Mr. Adams made the introductions and left; Karen eyed me suspiciously; and Tyler eyed me. Don’t worry. It was cuter than it was creepy. And at that moment, I had no idea what I was doing there.
In my haste to be polite, and to be perfectly frank ignore the elephant in the room, I hadn’t even looked at the ringleader yet. And maybe I shouldn’t have. Lying there in that hospital bed was Ambrose Singleton or how I imagined him to be—slightly tall, fair-skinned but not in that sickly way, dark brown hair, and skinny, but again the healthy kind. I imagined his blue eyes trapped behind his eyelids, begging to open. This wasn’t love at first sight; I think that takes two, and it wasn’t lust as I’m not sure my hormones are ready for that sort of hyperdrive just yet. This was good old infatuation. I like to think of it as one-sided puppy love at first sight, but that’s a mouthful. My heart sank when I saw the flowers by his bed. I made small talk with the other two, while as stealthfully as possible walking toward them.
I couldn’t tell if the name on the card belonged to a relative or a friend.
“Who’s Japheth?” I asked.
Then Tyler said the words that made my heart sink lower: “His boyfriend.” Karen punched him on the arm. It must have been a secret.
Wouldn’t it figure? Ambrose in the flesh and he’s eternally queer. Not only that, his boyfriend must be the sweetest boy ever because the card had a poem. I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget what it said:
Roses are blue.
Violets are red.
I heard you passed out.
I’m glad you’re not dead.
At the moment, “Is he out of the closet?” began to escape my lips, a groan came from the bed. I decided to go with, “I think he’s waking up.”
Tyler got up from the chair and came up to the bed. “Mikey? Mikey? Can you hear me? Karen, go get his mom!”
Karen ran out of the room.
I felt weird just standing there. I felt weirder because this was like some reverse Sleeping Beauty. Once the thought of leaning over and kissing him to complete the wake up process entered my mind I asked Tyler, “Do you think I should leave?”
Before he could say anything Michael had his eyes open. He looked straight at me and said, “Who’s she?”
My heart did one of those verbs that are used to describe bird’s wings. Take your pick. I couldn’t say anything. Tyler answered for me.
And then the strangest thing happened. Michael said he needed me, and I couldn’t help but feel that the feeling was mutual.
So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and a lot of this thinking is taking place in my car.
As an experiment, I’ve turned my car stereo into a library. The rationale being that I can listen to the cadence of books during my commute. I know a lot of you out there–myself included–use music as inspiration while you write. Now I hope none of you are writing in your notebook while your driving, so I can assume you have a free ear. My challenge, therefore, is for all of you writery types out there to use your car stereos as writing coaches.
(If you don’t have a car stereo, I guess this post really isn’t for you, but perhaps you can come up with an analogous scenario.)
I’m approaching my month with this tactic and show no signs of slowing.
One word of caution:
I highly recommend listening to books that are not in the genre you’re choosing to write in. While this certainly isn’t a requirement, I find it immensely helpful. You, after all, don’t want to steal someone’s voice no matter how subconscious the theft might be. Furthermore, you don’t really run the risk of turning your cozy mystery into a hard-boiled thriller just by listening.
Oh and there’s more. I do have two suggestions for audio books.
Suggestion the first:
Make sure to get the one narrated by Eric Conger; I can’t speak to any others.
This is a spinoff of John Sanford’s “Prey” series. If you like realistic settings, quirky characters, and a little bit of dark mystery, then this is totally for you.
Suggestion the second:
Make sure to get the one narrated by Christina Moore; again, I can’t speak to any others.
If you like completely unrealistic dialogue (but in a great way), quirky characters, and light mystery, then this is definitely for you. Also, I read the first three books and listened to the fourth on audio. I’ve not read any others since. The narrator is that good. In fact, I went back and started the series again solely by CD this time.
So that’s the challenge. Take it or leave it. But whatever you do, I’m going to continue because this is one challenge that is so easy it feels like I should have been doing this all of my life.
If you already do this, please offer some suggestions!
If you don’t and decide to try, please let me know how it goes!
And that’s the news from Lake Wobegone.
Let me first say that the image has nothing to do with the chapter other than that the chapter title itself is an homage to John Dickson Carr.
If you’ve never read him before, you should give him a try!
And without further delay, here is chapter three. (As always a .pdf will be available on the main menu for those who prefer.)
The Hollow Man
They picked Ben up at the tennis courts.
“What’s the big deal?” he said. Karen had texted him from the car and asked him to wait. He got into the backseat with Karen. His arms glistened with sweat. The car seemed, all at once, to smell better. An Adidas cologne lingered in the air, but only a hint. Ben wasn’t one to make the common mistake of over spraying.
“You always smell this good after practice?” Tyler asked.
“Only when I’m meeting up with a pretty girl afterward,” he said and then tucked some of Karen’s stray hair behind her ears.
“Shucks,” Tyler said. “I didn’t know you thought I was pretty.”
Michael handed Ben the newspaper clipping Karen had brought and asked Ben, “Have you ever seen this guy before?”
Ben took the clipping and studied the face. “No, should I know him?”
Michael said no and then told Ben everything that had been unsaid about Lucky Point up until that moment.
“Let me get this straight,” Ben said. “You guys think that whatever happened to the cow happened to this guy in the paper. You’re basing that off of a vision Michael and Tyler saw in the woods when we were fourteen?” Everyone nodded, and had they been standing they all would have collectively bowed their heads and kicked imaginary cans. “Cool,” he said finally. “It’s at least better than going to those haunted houses Mikey finds. Those weirdos are nuts. How are we going to find the body?”
“We have to make a stop first,” Michael said, and Tyler started driving.
“Where are we going?” Ben asked.
“I’ve got a guy,” Michael said.
“Japheth’s,” Karen responded.
“He’s real?” Ben asked.
Michael gave Tyler directions to Japheth’s house. Japheth lived out on rural route 450—the opposite side of town from the Willis farm, though the terrain all looked the same. Once outside of Terrace Park all one was likely to see was corn, soy beans, or pasture. The house sat right off the road. Michael had only been there once, and the house itself was not anything like what he would have imagined. It was small, and sad.
Michael figured that Japheth would live in some sort of mystery manor paid for by Barnabas’s fortune. Japheth had explained that when his mother died, his father didn’t want to leave the house and his grandfather had insisted on moving in. The situation led to three men living in a two bedroom house. That sort of thing worked for sitcoms; in real life, however, it just wasn’t that funny.
When Tyler had pulled into the driveway, he shut off the car and asked, “What now? The house looks pretty dark.”
“He said he’d—”
A finger tapped the passenger side window. No one screamed, but everyone tensed up. Michael rolled down the window and a black-clad Japheth stuck his head in. “You didn’t tell me you were bringing backup.”
“Why are you dressed like a cat burglar?” Karen asked.
“Just came back from the morgue, darling,” Japheth said. He smiled and then a strange look appeared on his face, not unlike the kind cops get on TV shows when they realize that someone very dangerous has infiltrated a group. “I’m going to need to speak with Micky alone.” Japheth opened the passenger door, grabbed Michael by the arm, and escorted him out of the car. As Michael kicked the door shut with his foot, he heard Ben ask, “Did he just call him Micky?”
Japheth led Michael to the back of his house. A pair of motion-sensored lights illuminated the backyard. Michael felt like an escaped con. “Did you just call me Micky?” Michael asked.
“Yeah. Sounds better,” Japheth said and hurried Michael around a shed. The flood lights left a large shadow and Japheth pushed Michael into it. “Listen, we’re friends and all, but I gotta say, you’re starting to waltz into my territory. You handle ghosts and aliens. I take the criminals. That’s the deal.” Michael hadn’t been aware of any deal.
“Jape, this one might just cross over.”
“You know I don’t believe in that stuff, right?”
He continued, “I’ve got pictures of the body. I can give you those.”
“We need to see it,” Michael said.
Michael wasn’t sure how much he should tell Japheth. He liked him and didn’t want Japheth to think he was invading his turf. So he lied. “We’re teenagers. There’s a dead body. We want to see it. Plus there’s a legend that says it’s easier to communicate with the spirit of a person who was killed violently.”
“You want to hold a séance in the morgue?”
“Just a small one.”
“Will it be loud?”
“We’ll be quiet as morgue mice.”
Japheth considered the request. “And you really aren’t trying to solve the crime?”
“I thought he was attacked by an animal?”
The interrogation had flipped, and Michael knew that he had gained the upper hand. He’d never seen Japheth this territorial over anything. In fact, Michael wouldn’t have even thought Japheth capable of jealousy.
“That’s classified,” Japheth said. He then tried deflecting. “Okay, listen, I can get you into the morgue, but if you’re caught, you can’t implicate me. This never happened.”
Japheth handed Michael a cigarette and outlined the inner workings of Terrace Park General. “Shift change at the hospital is at eleven thirty. You’ll want to get there around midnight. There’s only one security guard on the weeknights, and he pretty much stays near the ER. There’s a side door where nurses go outside to smoke. It requires a keycard.”
“Where am I—”
Japheth handed him a small plastic rectangle the size of a credit card. “This will get you in that door. Once inside, make a left and you’ll be in the lobby. There will be a night nurse on duty. She’s your only obstacle because the elevator to the morgue is right behind her desk and to the left. I’m not even going to suggest you do what me and my grandpa did to get by that person because I don’t think it would work again in a million years. Let’s just say if the hospital catches someone else trying to let a dozen cats in the lobby, they’ll know something’s up. You’ll have to figure something out.”
“Where’d you get a dozen cats?” Michael asked.
“Barney got them. I didn’t ask. I’m not sure I want to know.”
“So you’ve seen the body?”
Japheth took a long drag on his cigarette and exhaled. “Yeah. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Was he hollowed out?”
“How’d you know that?”
Michael paused, relishing the moment where he knew more about something than Japheth. “Listen. I really appreciate what you’re doing for me, so let me do something for you.” Michael told Japheth about the cow and where to find it. “I don’t know if the two are connected, but I’d be willing to bet they are. Your dad’s not likely to hear about the cow because Mr. Willis keeps to himself, and I’m sure this isn’t his first dead cow. You know how it is out in the country; they aren’t likely to report that kind of thing. They’ll just tell each other and keep rifles on the porch.”
“Alright, Barney and I will check it out.”
Michael turned to leave, but Japheth stopped him. “You wanna meet behind the armory tomorrow and compare notes?”
Michael said sure, and then for the hell of it said, “Farewell.”
On the way back to the car, Michael realized he smelled like smoke. He had always taken great care to not smoke at any time before he was going to see one of his friends. They didn’t know he’d picked up the habit, and he really wanted it to stay that way. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a stick of gum for just such an emergency. He could blame the smell of his clothes on Japheth, but he wasn’t too keen on pinning the smell on his breath to the same culprit.
As he got into Tyler’s car he said, “You guys ready to do this?”
Terrace Park General boasted itself as the largest hospital in the county. At eight stories, it was the second-largest building in the city. The first was a bank on main. It was also the second-widest compound in the city at just over three blocks. The first was Terrace Park High thanks to the basketball gym built in the twenties. The other thing that TPG held second place for was healthcare. The general consensus was if you were going to get sick, you better do it across the river.
The Consortium held its impromptu meeting in the visitor’s parking lot on the south side of what the nurses were fond of calling “the Campus.” The parking lot sat behind the hospital, opposite the emergency room. Michael laid out the plan, explained about the keycard, and made sure everyone had alibis. The group as a whole hadn’t snuck out together since the night Karen and Ben disappeared. Michael and Ben told their parents they were going to be at Tyler’s house working on a school project. Tyler’s mom had promised to run interference as long as they brought back a picture. Karen told them she was covered but hedged when they tried to ask her how.
After a few minutes, they let it go, and Michael explained the kink in the plan. “The only problem is,” he said, “is that there’s some sort of desk clerk in the main lobby. That main doors are closed, but they still have someone monitor the phone and help family members that have to stay overnight. Japheth said the elevator to the morgue is right behind the desk. I thought maybe one of us could call and distract whoever it is.”
“That means one of us won’t get to go,” Tyler said.
“He’s right,” Karen said. “One of us should go in and make small talk, pretend like we have family in the ER or something, and then we get lost looking for the bathroom.”
“Did Japheth say who was going to be there?” Ben asked.
“No,” Michael said. “All he said was that shift change was at eleven thirty.” He glanced at the car’s dash. “Which is right about now.”
That’s when they saw her.
A girl in her mid-twenties cat-walked up the steps of Terrace Park General. She had in ear buds, and she marched right along.
“Oh my god! It’s Handy Candy.” Tyler yelled.
Candy Anderson, nicknamed “Handy” by some cruel, though not inaccurate seniors, graduated from Terrace Park High six years earlier. Her nickname, like everything else about her, was a double entendre. The G-rated version involved her always handing out personal belongings to help those less fortunate than herself. Essentially she was a people person. The non-Disney version still involved her being a people person, but it largely went unsaid.
Candy had wanted to be a nurse, and after graduating, selected a community college in nearby Vincennes. She flunked out her first semester. Not wanting to completely back down on her dreams, she decided she could still help people and work at the hospital. Now she pointed people where they needed to go and answered the phone.
“Well,” Michael said, “The distraction part won’t be too hard, but who’s going to do it.”
“Ben,” Tyler said.
“Me?” Ben asked. The words barely audible over Karen’s “Him?”
“Sure,” Tyler said, “Ben’s the one with the biceps. Surely I’m not the only one who’s noticed Ben’s abnormally large biceps?”
“I do not have overly large biceps,” Ben said.
“For a teenager,” Tyler corrected. “You’re sixteen and look like you just came out of a frat house.”
Ben lifted his arm and inspected the muscle. Ben pretended he’d never noticed, as if his arms surprised him. Michael had noticed one afternoon when Karen draped one of her arm’s through Ben’s. Her arm looked petite in comparison. In fact, Michael had thought at the time that Karen’s arms looked much like his own—skinny and pale. He had his dad buy him some weights that night.
“Fine,” Ben said after inspecting his physique, “I’ll do it, but you guys better wait down there for me. I didn’t come all this way just to flirt with Terrace Park’s easiest girl.”
Karen glared at Ben, but didn’t say anything.
The four of them got out of the car and walked up to a side entrance. Michael held the keycard up to a black rectangle next the door, and a clicking sound snapped somewhere inside the frame. Michael eased the door open slowly. The secondary entrance was set back across the lobby from the main entrance. Most of the lights in the foyer were out, but a few remained on for anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in a hospital lobby at midnight.
Candy sat pecking at a computer, ear buds still in, oblivious to the opening door.
“Okay,” Michael whispered, “Ben, you make your way around the lobby so it looks like you’re coming from the inside. We’ll wait here until you distract her. Whenever you can get free, meet us downstairs. Japheth said we won’t have any company once we’re on the basement floor.”
Ben nodded and crept off. The remainder of the group watched as Ben made it successfully around the lobby and then started heading back toward the reception area. Halfway to his destination he yelled, “Candy! Is that you?”
From where they were standing they couldn’t hear her response, but Michael thought that it may have been because she responded in one of those wavelengths that were so high-pitched only dogs could hear them. After the introductions were finished, Candy and Ben talked at a much more reasonable level, but nothing could be heard. All they could see was the flashing of pearly white smiles from both parties.
After about a minute, Candy got up from her seat and began to approach Ben. She gave him a hug, which was lasting a beat too long, and caused Karen to blush. Michael worried what was going to happen next and was surprised to discover Karen grabbing his hand, interlacing her fingers with his, and saying, “Come on.”
He followed willingly. Tyler was not far behind.
As they passed the two huggers, Karen shot Ben a look that no boy wants to be on the receiving end of, no matter how big his biceps are. Ben made matters worse by gripping Candy tighter, but the look on his face indicated that he was only doing it so she couldn’t turn around. There was a smile on his face that said, “Tyler made me.”
Tyler not being hindered by handholding, and oblivious to the emotional scene playing before him, arrived at the wall of elevators first and pushed the down key. They waited thirty seconds and no one showed up.
Once safely tucked into the metal box, Karen let go of Michael’s hand and a guttural noise escaped her mouth like it had been trapped there for months, though she didn’t actually say anything. Neither boy could think of anything to say.
The door opened onto a hallway that looked like it belonged in a slasher pic and not a hospital. The overhead lights hadn’t been changed since the seventies, and they hummed with the cadence of a bug zapper. At intervals that were not quite regular, one would flicker like it had caught a fat mosquito. There lingered in the air a scent of lemon disinfectant tinged with dirty mop water. Across the hall, they could see their destination. There wasn’t a giant sign that said, “Welcome to the Morgue,” but there was a bank of walls with small doors to push the dead into.
Or so they’d seen on TV.
The hurried off the elevator, the atmosphere having no effect on the excitement of seeing their first dead body. Michael and Karen had already been touched by death before. For Karen, it was her parents. They’d died in a car accident an hour after a New Year’s Eve party. The funeral was held, and the caskets were never opened.
Michael had a brother who died of cancer. He wouldn’t look at the body.
“How do we know which one he’s in?” Karen asked quietly.
“I guess we have to open them all; can’t be too many dead bodies,” Michael said.
“Allow me,” Tyler said, and walked over to the wall. He found the body on his second try.
As silently as they could, they pulled the cart out of the wall. There was a sheet over the body. Michael rhetorically asked, “Ready?” and gently pulled the sheet off the head. It was the man from the woods. Michael stood there wanting desperately to continue pulling to see if the body was missing its organs like the vision he and Tyler shared, but he froze, waiting for the body to talk.
Suddenly, a noise came from the hall and they all automatically crouched though they hid behind nothing. They waited there hunched over until they were sure it was clear. Then Ben appeared at the door. They didn’t say anything, but Tyler motioned for Ben to come over and see.
As Michael stood back up to remove the rest of the sheet, the corpse turned its head, opened its eyes, and said, “Hey there, Tyger.”
Michael’s vision began to tunnel, and the last thing he remembered before he went away was Ben saying, “What’s wrong with him?”
Michael woke up on the sandbar at Lucky Point. His head hurting, and his pulse racing. Confused, he picked himself up off the ground, shook loose some of the grains trapped in the wrinkles of his clothes, and looked up at the sky. Immediately he knew something was wrong. He couldn’t remember the hospital, the hollow man, Handy Candy, any of it, but something bothered him about the sky. He stared, willing the answer to come to him.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” The voice was behind him. The question sounded innocent, but the intonation was off as if the thing he were looking at wasn’t beautiful at all.
“Why is everything orange?” Michael asked. He turned around, but no one was behind him. He looked back to the sky and realized what was bothering him. The sky itself burned orange like it does at sunset. Only in every direction he could see the dome above was the color of a dreamsicle.
“Because,” the voice said answering his original question, “This is where we come to see.”
Michael turned around again. An old woman stood on the other end of the sandbar, nearer to the river than Michael. Her wiry gray hair sprung out of her head at wild angles. Michael thought of Medusa, and then tried hard not to think of Medusa. “See what?” He asked.
“Everything,” she said, and the heavens burst. A million points of light streaked across the sky. The woman pointed and as she did a large meteor hovered overhead. She said, “Moros is coming.”
Michael asked quickly, “What is Moros?”
The old woman dropped her arm and watched him for a minute. “The bringer of fate,” she said. She walked closer to him, and Michael could see that her eyes were a pale blue. She must be blind, Michael thought and the thought made him feel safe; it made him feel as though he could hide from her if he needed to. His sudden courage shattered when she reached out and grabbed his wrist as if she knew right where he was. “Do you know what the other boy did when I told him about Moros?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “He cried. The two of you are cowards. You call yourself an ‘archivist’ and yet you don’t know Moros?” She laughed again, a mad cackling sound.
“I’m not an archivist,” Michael said.
She reached a finger out, poked Michael’s stomach, and said, “I’m looking forward to opening you up and seeing what I can see.” She released Michael’s wrist and reached into a pouch that was hanging off of her shoulders. She pulled out a long-bladed knife and plunged it into Michael’s chest. He started to scream, but no sound would come; he wanted to pass out from the pain, and realized nothing hurt.
She pushed him down to the ground and continued to draw the knife toward his belly button.
“As I thought,” she said. “The four will fail.”
Glancing up for a moment to be sure he heard her correctly, he saw that she had split him open as if performing an autopsy. He saw something red in her hands, and at that point, he did pass out.
Michael existed in a period of darkness, only hearing words. “Moros is coming,” “bringer of fate,” and “the four will fail.” He thought about his friends. Wondered where they were. He remembered Karen saying the old woman she’d seen had warned that they couldn’t stop her, and now this, “the four will fail.” Amidst his brain earnestly trying to find out what all of it meant, he became aware of new voices:
“I think he’s waking up.”
“Karen, go get his mom.”
“Do you think I should leave?”
The final voice was new. He didn’t recognize it.
Slowly he opened his eyes. The dim lights of the hospital room still seared his retinas. But he could see Tyler standing at the foot of his bed. There was a girl next to him. A small blonde girl.
“Who’s that?” Michael asked.
Skipping any pleasantries Tyler went straight to the point, “Mickey, meet the Consortium’s newest member. Her name’s Maddie.” He said the last part as if he were proud of remembering.
New member? Michael thought. He wasn’t sure what was happening. He wasn’t even sure he was really awake, but the thought of having five members overshadowed all other questions that danced in his mind. He said, “Good, we need you,” and fell back asleep.
While no one has specifically asked me for my qualifications, I figure I should at least give you the best recommendation I have:
I was a Dishonorable Mention in the 2012 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. This contest awards people for so-bad-they’re-good first lines of fake novels.
By the way, this isn’t just a plug for me. If–somehow–you’re not already familiar with the contest, first check out the 2012 winners here: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2012win.html You’ll find me under D. M. Dunn in the category of Romance. (I know, right?) Then you should check out the other winners (trust me; it’s worth it) and submit for 2013. It’s a lot of fun; you can submit as many times as you want; and it’s free.
And, as an added bonus, you’ll hopefully get all of those awful sentences out of your system.