OFFICIAL RELEASE – BEGUILING WORDS

This is the official release date of Beguiling Words, the latest of the Glass Bottles storyline.  It’s been a great honor to be able to keep writing stories and I want to thank Paper Angel Press for their belief in the story, and Niki Lenhart for the fantastic cover!

To those of you who have read the previous volumes, thank you and I hope this story entertains you as much or more than the others.  See you in NaNoWriMo!  Just look for JDark, no spaces.  That’s me!

Redleg

This is a few opening pages to ‘Redleg’. comapred to ‘Skid Style’, it is darker and less light-hearted.

Archer ‘Archie’ Gunnison woke that morning to the strident buzzing of his watch. The cicada-like screech jolted him from sleep and his hands flailed about, seeking the offending noisemaker. His right hand finally caught up with his left and pressed the delay button, giving him a ten minute window to wake up and turn the alarm off for the day. Archie sat up in bed, letting the beige comforter droop into a pile on his lap. The dark blue curtains over the small bedroom window were closed, but the sharp, crisp air of autumn swirled through the open window, ruffling the cloth, and letting peeks of gray morning flit across the bed. He yawned, then stretched his arms and good leg for a moment, enjoying the sensation of muscles waking up. He turned in place, dropping the right leg over the edge, then leaned down and picked up his prosthetic left leg.

The leg was a marvel of engineering, fitted with self adjusting spring tensioners that adjusted to the weight he put on it. The covering for the prosthesis was something else again. Bright, fire-engine red painted scales covered it, like some monstrous creature from the Red Lagoon. There was no way to ignore it, which was the reason Archie had it decorated. No one would mistake it, or him, for anyone else. Archie gazed at the leg as he rubbed the stump of his left thigh. He’d been a marine. Hoooah! All the way. He was proud of his service, proud of his buddies, and proud, maybe a little envious of the ones who made it home in one piece. He left part of himself in a Hummer after an IED had blown it through one and a half revolutions before it had come crunching back to earth. He didn’t remember any of it. The medications he took kept him from screaming in his sleep and stopped the terrifying flashbacks that occurred when he got stressed.

Others kept the red-hot phantom pains at bay. There was no telling when they’d strike. The pain seemed to happen most when he tried to do something like dodging an obstacle without thinking. His leg would seize up and drop him screaming to the ground. He’d learned to think about the prosthesis before trying to do anything sudden. But the pain still caught him unawares. Finishing pulling the leg on, he strapped it in place, then bent over again to pull the blue jeans from the floor. He slid them over his prosthesis first, then his real leg.

A rumpled green t-shirt was next. he pulled it over his head, then stuck his arms through the sleeves. He looked down at the car-toon on the front. It was a coffin with a raised back, with two large tires on the rear and two small ones up front. The cab was black except for two yellow eyes and a toothy smile from inside the cab. A cigar clamped between the teeth, and the words ‘Coughin’ Coffin’ were spelled out in smoke behind it. Standing up, he clumped awkwardly to the small storage drawers that served as his dresser. Next to it were his ankle-high sneakers.

The black Converse were made of canvas, so they wore a little better around the fake foot, with just enough cushion to make walking feel like semi-natural. He laced up the sneakers, grabbed the belt off the top of the left stack of drawers, then finished sliding it through the loops. He finished up by grabbing the pack of cigarillos off the top right set, and sliding one out of the top. He grabbed the lighter, and lit the brown tube of tobacco. That first inhale centered him, and got him ready to face the day. He slid the pack in his back pocket, the lighter in the front left, and plucked his wallet off the drawer and shoved it into the left rear pocket. Another long inhale and exhale soothed the nicotine jitters and he was ready for breakfast.

Skid Style

Charlie ‘Skid’ Moore sat on the edge of the warehouse roof. To the north of Pier 17, a few areas were still unloading containers for transport. Boston Harbor never stopped, it just slowed down in the evenings. Charlie, in his bright red and blue costume, was impatient for something to happen, yet oddly comforted that nothing had.

I don’t think I’d have ever thought I’d be here. Charlie had always been fast. Fastest in his grade school, then in middle school, then in high school. There was talk of scholarships for college. Even though he was still a junior, recruiters had stopped by and talked to his folks. Then, a short while after the recruiting started, Charlie got fast.

It happened at a school crossing. Classes had just let out. The students were queuing to load up on buses. A line of primary students were crossing the street. As Charlie watched, a red sports car with a driver talking on a cellphone whizzed past him, and towards the line of children. He heard the car’s tires screech as the driver realized, too late, that there were children in her path. Charlie’s heart was in his throat as he started to run. I’m not going to make it! Those kids are dead!

The world blurred. Sharp images stretched and blended into a chaotic display of color. His ears were assaulted by a loud roaring like a jumbo jet taking off right next to him. An impact knocked the breath out of him. His eyes cleared at the sudden stop, everything returning to sharp focus. The red sports car spun wildly away, the right front side crumpled like cardboard, the right front tire blown and half off its rim. It skidded across the oncoming lanes and hit the curb, blowing both right tires. With a screech of grinding metal the car ground to a stop on the sidewalk. The children were untouched, the driver had fractured ribs, whiplash, and a concussion. Charlie had bruises, and a new life.

Overnight he went from promising athlete to something he’d barely ever thought about: super hero. He was no longer a candidate for a scholarship to college. Now, he was a metahuman. A person with power to change things. To stand up to those who used their power for terror and personal profit. Charlie, being the young, idealistic high-school student, and raised on morning cartoons, embraced his new life.

Saying Goodbye Part 4

The back window was actually a sliding glass door. It had stacks of paper all the way across the bottom that were as tall as my chin when I looked out. The curtains were a old brown color that reminded me of mom and dad’s linoleum floor back home. I could part the curtains and look out into a cement back yard with a strip of ground that was an amazing green color. All the grass in that strip was the same height, and a lush texture that didn’t look at all like the ground around mom and dad’s trailer.

The ground around the trailer was brown, mostly. Small single plants here and there poked up out of the dirt here and there, looking like grasping hands to me. I didn’t like the yard, and stayed inside when I could. Mom and dad would make me go outside when they want quiet time. Everything around the trailer, and the other broken down trailers made me think of animals crawling off to die. Which is what trailer parks remind me of whenever I drive by one. They’re not dead ends for broken dreams, there are many families that do well. It’s my own memories that create the image that I see whenever I pass by one.

The trailer park we lived in, the ‘Western Spur’, was truly the last refuge of broken dreams and wasted lives. I didn’t like it, but children can adapt, and I was able to make some friends, or make up others when the few other kids like me weren’t around. Being the youngest meant that I was always the last one to be able to do anything if I was in a group. That was, I think, what made me value time alone. I didn’t have to wait, and I didn’t have to do what the bigger kids wanted to.

I could go at my own pace, explore what interested me, and not what someone else decided was the thing to go do. It was kind of how mom and dad were after the scary man came by. They quit seeing friends, except for Uncle Soap, and kept the curtains pulled so there wasn’t any way to look outside. They still put me out to play, but it wasn’t the same. Most of the other kids had moved away, or were now in school, so there was no one to play with and I wasn’t enrolled in kindergarten. So that meant I spent most of my home time alone outdoors.

My days were of being pushed outside when my parents woke up, being given money to go to the little general store at the entrance of the park, buy a snack for lunch, and then stay outside until the afternoon, when mom and dad let me back in to play in the house, eat dinner, watch TV, and then go to sleep to do it all over again the next day.

This went on, until the day that next spring. Mom and dad dropped me off at Uncle Soap’s. I don’t know if it’s me looking back and trying to put some prescient thought into that day in my mind, or I did actually pick up that my parents were more excited than usual for a camping weekend.

Saying Goodbye part 1

Discography
Everlast – ‘What it’s like’
Kid Rock – ‘Only God Knows’
Uncle Kracker/Dobie Gray – ‘Drift Away’

Do you know how you’re going to say goodbye to someone? Is it going to be a loving embrace and a soft caress of their cheek before they go to the great beyond? Or, is it going to be heated words and a pistol stuck in their belly as they try to argue, or to plead with you, not to pull the trigger? Or is it simply a call in the night? A quick stop at the mortuary to look at a lump of flesh bloated with formaldehyde, because that’s the law? Or, will you, like me, wonder what happened when they just disappear? Here one day, and gone the next, and no clue where.

I remember, or think I do, the last time I saw Mom and Dad. They’d dropped me off at Uncle Soap’s apartment after packing the beat-up gold Ford Taurus for a camping trip. They often went camping alone at least twice a month, down in the Big Bend National Park. I remember him having on his red and black shirt he’d pulled the sleeves off. Mom always told him that was her favorite shirt of his. She’d wear it around the house sometimes to tease Dad. Not that they were all sweetness and love. More than once I heard them screaming back and forth about all sorts of things. Always it was mostly about drugs.

I didn’t understand then, but I think I do now. They argued the most just before they went camping, and were best together after they got back. As a child, I saw the change, and knew it had something to do with them going camping, but it really didn’t matter. Mom and Dad were happy. They paid attention to me, and bought me things like a new set of shoes, or a cool shirt. It’s funny that I remember the clothes but not their faces. I remember Dad always being skinny, and he had fuzz on his face. I don’t remember if it was a beard or mustache, both, or if he just didn’t shave every day. Mom was like Dad, skinny.

When they didn’t go camping, Dad stayed home nights with me while Mom went to work. She’d always dress up in baggy pants and a shirt, and carry lots of bright, flashy clothes that fit in a little carry bag to work. Dad would stay awake with me until I got tired, then I’d get tucked into bed on the couch at the far end of the trailer. I’d fall asleep listening to Dad watch television. Every so often, before I passed out, I’d watch him give himself a shot of ‘medicine’ in between his toes. I know he was shooting up now, but then I knew he was always more happy afterwards, so it seemed a good thing to me. I knew something was off, most four-year-olds can sense things. We’re not yet aware enough of how to lie to ourselves and avoid uncomfortable truths. Denial and delusion aren’t something that’s learned right away.

Mom dressed all the time in old clothes and dark colors. When we went out to the store, it was usually in the very early morning. Mom always told me that it was best, because there weren’t many people around and it made shopping easier. Looking back, I think it was because at those hours, hardly anyone she had met at her ‘job’ would be around. She table-danced, or stripped, whichever describes it best for you. Mom hated it, and came home crying a lot.

That would make Dad unhappy and those were when the biggest fights happened. About her job. About the money she brought home because dad couldn’t work. About him not working. They always fought. They didn’t pay much attention to me then. I learned to hide in my room when their voices started to get an edge. It meant that things were going to get broken, and a lot of slapping and throwing. It was better in my bedroom.

As I look at the memory of it, that room was my refuge. The one place I had some little privacy of my own. It wasn’t sacrosanct. Both mom and dad would come in to wake me up, or yell at some accident, or even hide from one another, either in play, or, you know. The not-fun-not-play stuff like fighting or yelling or crying. Dad did it a little more than mom. He’d charge in and slam the door, then lean against it. Mom would pound a few times, then go quiet. Dad watched me as he leaned on the door. He’d hold his first finger to his lips and go ‘shhhh’.

Science and Cyberpunk

Science continues to make amazing strides in technology creation and application.  Note this latest one.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180209170717.htm

Also, this arm seems to be almost cyberpunk-ready.

The force is strong: Amputee controls individual prosthetic fingers — ScienceDaily

These incremental steps are bringing us closer to mechanically replaceable limbs, and perhaps even a nervous system, which would be a way around diseases such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Skid Style part 3

Stumbling over a generator cable, he caught his balance, then was in the clear once again, until a few docks later when the process repeated. Four minutes and a good deal of dodging later, Charlie came to the north end of the dockyard. This was where the burglaries had happened. Skid slowed to a stop. The docks here were thinner than the south end, and older. The wooden planking was grey from weathering. The planks had cement poured next to them, building the dock area outwards to hold the larger loading equipment. The warehouses abutted the edge of the docks. Their wood and red brick walls and single story construction seemed to Skid like huge turtles that came ashore and died in place.

The break-in happened on the dock side of the northernmost building. The yellow police tape on the front door and huge loading dock next to it was a big clue. Charlie took a long look at the building as the sun baked the asphalt and concrete. And the air carried the smell of salt water and decaying fish to his nostrils. He looked towards the docks, which was no help. The last two piers had no ships, and no workers around to talk to. He turned to look back south. The nearest potential witness was about a hundred yards away, and there were a couple hundred servicing a pair of freighters. He could see the cranes on the pier moving large pallets of crates. The grey, blue, and yellow forklifts picked up smaller pallets off the large pallet, and like ants in a line, rolled back towards the warehouses to drop off their cargo.

He turned back towards the south. The sunlight glinting off the forklifts scuttling back and forth was mesmerizing. He blinked, then sighed, “What do I do now?”

Night settled down over the dockyard. While the sounds of traffic had slowly dissipated, the cacophony of the cranes and workers was still at full roar, and carried faintly to Skid, who had moved to the end of the old, weather-worn pier to watch for thieves coming back to break into the warehouse. They gotta return to the scene of the crime. This place is too easy not to pick over. Skid crossed his fingers, hoping he was right. All those comics and mysteries he loved so much said that bad guys always came back for more. I just have to wait, and I’ll catch them red-handed. He settled in for a night of watching, only to find out the rule every other cop has been on a stakeout figured out. The crooks will never appear when you’re awake or ready, if they show at all. This was Skid’s new experience. He kept himself awake by running down to the first active dock, then back again to the end of the old pier, with the predictable results of letting people know he was around.

It was eleven thirty at night when a heavyset figure drove up in a dark car. The vehivles lights were out as it purred to a stop next to the warehouse. This has got to be it! Skid thought excitedly. It was just like the comics. The crooks came back for more! He didn’t wait, but dashed up to the car, shouting “Freeze! You’re under arrest!” The car’s floodlight mounted on the right side of the car came on immediately and spun to illuminate him.

Skid blinked in the light as a voice said, “Jesus Christ! What the hell are you doing, kid! Trying ta give me a heart attack?!” The voice was familiar somehow. He decided to ignore it and confront them like the hero he was supposed to be. He ran quickly to the driver-side door, and gave it a hard yank. The interior light came on to illuminate the gate guard, sitting in the driver seat. Her face was pale in the glare of the harsh mercury lighting from the parking lot lamps. Skid felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment.

“>Uh, sorry. I didn’t think…I just didn’t think.” The stammered apology seemed to calm the guard, who managed a thin smile. She shifted in her seat. The door clicked as she pulled the inner lever and opened it, shifting her heavyset bulk out the door and into the muggy night air.

“I understand. It’s no big deal. I scared myself on my first evening doing guard work.” She paused a moment, then took a breath as she seemed to gather her thoughts. “It was six years ago I got hired. I’d just gotten out of college with a degree in Biology, only to find no one wanted a biologist without a masters, or a doctorate. I jumped on the job. The lead out here gave me the route to drive, what to check, and where to stamp the clock to prove I covered my route.”

Her eyes lit up with the remembered first night. “One thing that they forgot to tell me was that pier eight was a twenty-four hour pickup for priority loads. I drove past the gate, and found it open. At night, all the gates are supposed to be locked. This one was wide open and a pickup was sitting just inside. People were scurrying around flashing lights at the crates, then loading them onto the pickup. There were seven of them and just me with a mag lite and walkie talkie.”

“I called it in quietly, and you know what my lead said?” She chuckled. “He said ‘go check it out, rookie. Oh, and don’t get shot’, which didn’t help my paranoia at all. I walked in and announced myself, at which point there were a couple of screams. The guys dropped the small crate they were moving and seven flashlight swiveled onto me. ‘Jesus ma’am! What the hell are you giving us a heart attack for!? We called it in and I’ve got the papers for the pick up right here.”

I could hear frigging laughing coming over the walkie. I’d been so tense I’d held the transmit button on. My lead had set me up.” She chuckled again, then turned what was supposed to be a stern face at Skid, but her smile ruined the whole stern thing. He found himself grinning at the story. “So, did you get him back?”, he asked her. The guard, whose name was ‘Menendez’ according to her name badge just above her left chest pocket, smiled, and shook her head. “No, it doesn’t work that way. Though, I do seem to remember someone replace his sugar packets with salt once.” Skid chuckled, then looked around the parking lot again. “Is this you trying to tell me that I’m wasting my time?”

Prologues

Prologues are often used to create a scene ahead of the main story, or to impart information that the author sees as relevant to the story.  I’ve not used prologues in any stories so far, but that just means I haven’t set up a story that needed one.  I personally like prologues.  The information gets me ready for the story and gives me an insight I didn’t have prior to reading.  Here’s an example of a Prologue.  It is from the upcoming novel, “No Fury”, by R. Goodrum and L. Thorndyke.

The Solar Road of Spinset is a marvel of engineering unparalleled in history. This artificial structure links the polar regions of all three worlds (Lambent, Recondite, and Shadow) to an artificial structure which is always one standard hour away from each planet. This transportation system stretches and shrinks as the planets move. The central hub is always precisely in the center of the position of the worlds. Objects which are outside the road have no effect upon the road.

Meteoroids, asteroids, and comets have all made their way through the path of the road without affect. Even slow moving artificial objects pass through. Nothing outside the road has any ability to change what happens inside the road. This is even true of the sun. At times, the hub or spokes of the Solar Road pass through the sun: nothing happens to what is inside or outside the spokes and hub.

The three worlds travel about the sun at different intervals. Lambent is the innermost of the three having 304 cycles of light and dark, day, with a leap day every tenth orbit about the sun, year. Recondite has a longer orbit: 459 days with a leap day every 6 years. Shadow has the longest year at 560 days with two leap days every five years. The Solar Tribunal has established the tribunal year as 453 days with two leap days every ninth year. Even though each planet rotates at a different rate, the Tribunal has established a 20 hour local day for each world. Each hour is further divided into 100 minutes which are divided into 100 seconds.

Travel to or from the central hub takes one hour regardless of the planet from which one starts or ends their trip. Hence “uninterrupted travel between two planets is always exactly two hours. Most citizens who travel between planets choose to use Tribunal Standard Time rather than local time for their timepieces.

The central hub, also known as Triune, was designed to house and support one million individuals. The birth and death rates of Triune are rather low: births are in the range of 10,000 per year while deaths are below 5,000. This has resulted in a mandate that all persons born in Triune most choose a planet on which to reside after the age of 18. This is a permanent commitment. Thereafter, these individuals are allowed to return to Triune only one week per decade unless they can obtain permanent Triune citizenship.

Permanent citizenship is so valued that powerful people from the three planets vie for it. They are willing to become janitors, wait staff, garbage collectors, street sweepers, etc., for the right of permanent Triune citizenship. The bodies of every individual who has every spent at least one year in Triune has regenerated to the point of modest age: seeming to be between 30 and 40 tribunal years of age. There is no sickness or illness, disease or deformity among any individual who has lived in Triune for at least a year. Individuals who have had artificial body parts implanted much undergo surgery within nine month of arrival to have them removed lest the regeneration process force them out violently.

The Tribunal Ancients, also known as the Triumvirate, are the system authority. They are housed at the hub of the Solar Road. These leaders are chosen from the populace of each planet. Their appointment is permanent. The Ancients do not age even though they were once mortal like the rest of their kind. Now, immortal, they can only die through accident, murder or suicide. There has never been an ‘official’ suicide among the Ancients. Accidents which can kill an Ancient are very rare. In the history of Spinset, only two Ancients have died of accidental causes. Murder, on the other hand, has been far more common. Typically, one Ancient is assassinated each century.
On the occasion that a vacancy occurs, any individual may present themselves to one of the temporarily erected testing facilities which are under the direction of the lower officers of the Tribunal. The testing may result in one of three conditions being set: reject, tentative acceptance, or immediate acceptance. Immediate acceptance has only occurred once in history when it was granted to the ten year old, Jason Ardan Milson. Naturally, most individuals who present themselves, over 99.99999%, are rejected by the testing system. The remainder receive tentative acceptance. With time, those who were tentatively accepted are either rejected because a more acceptable candidate was identified or acknowledged as the best candidate. The longest time to confirm a replacement has been one hundred eighty days.

The transit time between worlds is linked to the number of living Ancients. As stated earlier, with all three of the Ancients imbued with the power of their office, the transit time is one hour to the hub and another hour to the destination. At times when one of the posts was vacant, the travel time grew about a minute per day during the vacancy. The longest vacancy resulted in four hours transit time between planets.

-from the Codex Trimvir – Passage 7836.

 

As you see, this spells out the location, some details of its unusual setting, and some background on what the story may focus on.  It primes you for the story, which is the purpose of a prologue.

The Jiminy part 30

‘I don’t make the rules, I just abide by them’ floated down the wall from the ceiling in block white letters.

“Ya don’t mind screwin’ around either, do ya?” Travis grumbled.

‘Perish the thought,’ came the dark blue letters from right to left. ‘I may be a little mischievous, but I am the soul of the work ethic. Everything for a reason and everything in it’s proper time and place.’

“Okay, so what got her here? I saw the botched burglary. What made her do it?” Travis felt this was important.

‘Oh it is important, and it is history, so sit down and I’ll lay the word upon your ears, Jiminy.’ The letters had that mocking attitude again, and the bright neon orange letters bursting on the wall screen made Travis eyes ache to look at.

‘Once upon a time,’ scrolled the letters in powder blue, ‘a little girl was born to a whore mother and a drug-addled gang-banger father. This little girl grew up in a house where neither parent looked after her, and only her drunken grandmother ever paid her attention beyond the occasional snarl and backhand from the girl’s parents. It was so, so, sad. The little girl went to school, with the other hard luck children from the desperately poor section of town, and found that the ‘normal’ kids had more everything than she did. Her juvenile delinquent friends showed her how easy it was to get ‘normal’ kids money from them, but she didn’t like beating people up. She found she liked learning things. This made her stay after school and ask questions about classes to her teachers. One day, the girl’s parents moved out, leaving her behind. She was a teenager, and didn’t have any way to support herself. She was all alone, the poor, poor thing. So, she found out that stealing was the only way to get food. She took from the supermarket, stuffing snacks in her pants, and waddling out of the store. Stealing money was easier, and her friends showed her how to sneak into a house *** and take valuable things to sell to fences or pawn shops. Oh, she was careful to case a place first, just like the big kids taught her. That way she could pick the best time to burgle a residence. It was easy. A little bit here, a little bit there was good enough for her, but not her new friends, who wanted more. So our larcenous little heroine took larger and larger risks to satisfy her ‘friends’ (the friends word was in dark red block letters) and they quit taking her money. Some time later, the friends decided that burgling a house wasn’t good enough. They felt ready for something…more. To keep her friends happy, she joined in. Her friend, Casey, drove to the liquor store they’d cased. Our heroine was the ‘new kid’, so she was chosen to be the first in through the door. She had picked up a cement block from a work site a few days ago for just such a opportunity. She threw the block hard at the window, and smashed it. A second throw carried away enough glass for her to wiggle in and start to search for anything valuable. She rolled over the counter, and started throwing cigarette cartons back outside for her friends to pick up. The cash register was locked, and she couldn’t pry it open. About this time she heard the car rev. It’s tires squealed and she was left in the store, frozen by their sudden disappearance. About this time a cop flashed a light into the dark store. Before he could call out she threw a metal can at the officer, catching him in the side of the head. He dropped to the ground. As she looked for an escape, the second officer spotted her in the store, and fired a taser gun. She was sent here to serve a year in juvenile detention for assaulting an officer. Oh the poor poor little poor bitch from gang-bangers. Who would have thought she’d sink so low to steal from a convenience store. Is there no shame in the world anymore? Why it’s hard to believe that any upright men and women actually exist.’