Monthly Archives: May 2013

Day 31: 30 Days 30 Stories

My mouth was dry and my tongue was stuck to the side of my cheek. On top of that wonderful sensation I realized the left side of my forehead was throbbing and even though I distinctly remembered putting on shoes that morning my toes were cold. I blinked my eyes open and was greeted with a slanted view of the world around me, literally. The aching in my temple was caused by the car window pressed against it and judging by the cracks in the safety glass it wasn’t any better off.

Looking down I found my right shoe was missing and my left foot was trapped underneath the brake pedal. That one wasn’t cold it was numb and possibly bleeding. I wiggled my toes on my left foot but didn’t feel any squishing which was a good sign. Absently I began to wonder where the other person in the accident was, not that car crashes were old hat to me but I was pretty sure someone should have been along exchange insurance or something. My right hand fumbled for the keys in the ignition and switched them into the off position and blinked my eyes again to try jumpstart my brain.

The windshield was a field of cracked green glass blocking out most of the world beyond and the passenger side window was a bit too far out of my vision. I began to realize that something was wrong and the memory of recent days started to flood back to me. The past few hours leading up to the accident came into crystal sharp focus, every minute, every scream, every staggering blood corpse hungering for the flesh of the living and now here I was stuck in a wrecked car.

My hands went to the seatbelt latch and once released I slumped against the door near the steering wheel which was covered in a deflated airbag. The view outside my window was the side of another car; I got the distinct impression that if exchanging insurance was in order this would have been a pretty big claim to process. Tucking myself into a ball I could feel the pins and needles setting in on my left foot. I counted myself lucky for it not being still attached and intact. A flitting thought of taking off that shoe to match made me smile but instead I decided to look for missing footwear.

I used the steering wheel as leverage and was able to pull myself to a standing positioned stretched out across the front seat. There was another stroke of luck when I found my errant shoe wedged in the headrest for the passenger seat and I took a moment to put it on even though my sock was still missing. I had heard about people getting hit by cars and having articles of clothing fall off but I had never thought it would happen inside a car too.

To be honest I was getting a little worried about my streak of luck running out once I got out of the car, presuming that happened. Now that I was stretched out across the seat and had both shoes I realized there was the front end of another car resting on the passenger door stopping just short of the window. There was no way I was going to be able to open it and I was beginning to curse myself for getting automatic windows.

In a moment of inspiration I slipped the keys back into the ignition and tried the starter. Not even a clicking sound greeted me. The battery was dead and refused to return, selfish bastard. Nothing in my car was worth keeping beyond the keys, in a desperate time they could work as a weapon and if nothing else I decided to hold onto them to get back into my apartment. First things first I needed to get out of this car, figure out where the hell I was and then go from there. If my luck held I would be able to get a look at my surroundings once I was free.

Up front there wasn’t any hope for an exit so I crawled over into the backseat and felt the car shift a bit. I was glad I turned off the car, if it was still in drive I probably would have found out quickly how much weight the frame could take. Those high tech crumble panels the dealer had flaunted didn’t really make me feel safe now. The rear driver window is blocked as well but I can see the passenger side is clear. Propping myself up using the back of the front seat as a brace I tried the handle and pushed it open just enough to slip an arm through before hitting the bumper of the other car.

My only option now is to try to break a window. As I shifted to look out the passenger side window a bit better I slipped. Arms flailing my left hand hooked a strap as I recovered my balance and a muscle running from the palm of my hand all the way to my elbow feels like it was just twanged like a guitar string but the curses I’m about to let loose dry out in my already parched mouth. Another wonderful selling point the dealership pushed about this lovely automobile was the fold down backseats with access to the trunk. I switched to my right hand and yanked the correct direction on the strap, there is a quiet click and the seat begins to fold down.

I never thought the inside of a car trunk would look so amazing. Bracing my hands on the sides of the inviting portal a sharp pain in my left forearm almost made me fall again. I shifted more weight onto my right hand and began to pull myself through. My trunk was mostly empty with only a few scattered items that wouldn’t help me in a normal emergency let alone a world shattering one. The one thing I did retrieve was the tire iron which had made me think of the trunk in the first place. Now all I had to do was open it. 

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Today is the final day of the challenge. Or it was yesterday, I’m not really clear on that BUT what I am clear on is that thanks to this event I have written roughly 30 short -very short in some cases- stories. It has helped me rekindle my love of writing and I’ve even gained enough confidence to start submitting short stories to magazines.

I plan on continuing to write & post, though slightly longer pieces. Maybe a series, possibly a side project for fun.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy.

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Day 29: 30 Days 30 Stories

His landline woke him. No one called him on the cell after midnight and the old number was one only a few people knew. After the third ring he pulled himself from the tangle of the covers to trudge downstairs to the kitchen.

“What?”

“It’s Rick, you still play medic?”

“It’ll cost you,” he fumbled at lightswitch nearby. “What needs patching?”

“A couple of cracks, some knicks, and a hole.”

“Where and when?”

“Starlight Hotel, room sixteen,” there was a pause. “Haul it. Use the old code so I don’t get itchy.”

“When did you start packin’?”

“It’s a keepsake.”

“The old crew didn’t fare too well, eh?”

“Higgs,” Rick sighed. “You’re the only one who hasn’t tried to kill me. Yet.”

“Wait ’til you get my bill.”

He hung up the phone and went about the task of finding clothes to wear that weren’t soiled from his day job. After that he simply had to find his tool kit and work gloves before heading out. The thirty-eight tucked in his waistband wasn’t anything personal. Rick just tended to attract all sorts of trouble and if things sounded as bad as they were a little preparation would pay off in the long run.

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Iron Druid by Kevin Hearne – A Series Review

The Iron Druid Series by Kevin Hearne starts with ‘Hounded’ and introduces the main character of Atticus and his faithful hound Oberon. I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum.

Atticus is the last druid walking the Earth and is laying low in Arizona after swiping a mystical sword & ticking off a lot of Fae. I won’t say more about the story of the first book other than that. As for the characters, I found them funny, refreshing, and almost witty. There are a lot of pop culture references; which don’t hurt, but don’t do much to further the story. Oberon, the dog is linked telepathically to Atticus so a lot of their conversations are funny but kind of buff the word-count and get some jokes in. I heartily enjoyed the first book and sought out the second.

The second book in the series ‘Hexed’ is more of the same. This time it’s Atticus versus evil Witches with some cameos tossed in and side plots for good measure. It’s well written, it flows nicely, and more than once my wife had to really try to get my attention while i was caught-up reading.

The third book ‘Hammered’ is where I start to get a little iffy with the series. The story is how Atticus and a group of conspirators get together to kill the Norse Thunder God Thor. I can understand this is fiction, I can understand a writer will adjust things to fit the story but this felt a bit hollow. My religious designation is Heathen, which means I’m kind of familiar with Nordic Legends. I found the portrayal of Thor and most of the pantheon in this book to be rather off, borderline insulting. I get it, Marvel has a comic with Thor in it so it had to be different but making him an all-out super douche was kind of a bit much.

To be honest, I skipped a go portion of this book because it was too hard to read. However, this didn’t stop me from enjoying the series of seeking out the next two books.

The fourth book in the series ‘Tricked’ has Atticus dealing with Coyote and the backlash of his trip to Asgard. It was good, not outstanding, just good.

The fifth book in the series ‘Trapped’ has Atticus continuing to deal with the fallout of certain choices he has made through the entire series. With this book there is a feeling of finality to the plot. With one more book announced in the series it looks like it is the last. There were a few issues I had with this book, mainly that it deals with the Norse Pantheon more and does so in a way that just doesn’t make sense. Other than that personal influence the interaction between Atticus and Oberon were a bit tired, the pop-culture stuff is out of place with the heavier tone, and it is a bit rushed toward the end. My biggest issue comes late in the book with the mention of ‘Odinsleep’. This idea was the invention of Marvel Comics and has no basis in Norse Lore. It pretty much kicked me out of the entire book and I had to put it down.

Over the course of the books I’ve enjoyed the characters and the interpretations of supernatural beings but upon seeing this one word it make me question the entire series. I had thought the author was well researched but tossing in something made up in the 70’s by desperate comic writers. It has made me want to see exactly how bad this series really is. on the research front. Now I see that’s it’s just Urban Fantasy. Good Urban Fantasy but still just Urban Fantasy.

I get it, this is Urban Fantasy not Nation Geographic and to date it has the best version of Jesus Christ I’ve seen in modern fiction. Seriously, when Jesus, or The Virgin Mary, shows up in the series they are handled nicely. As it stands I’m not going to give up on the series and if Mr. Hearne comes out with another book, I’ll probably pick it up. His books provide a fun, quick read that are worth the price of admission.

Some reviews compare him to Neil Gaiman and those would be inaccurate. Hearne is the really BBQ joint downtown while Gaiman is the sit-down restaurant you take a date to for a good impression. I don’t really enjoy his characterization of the Nordic Gods but I understand it’s just fiction, it’s not like he’s violating the Hávamál by writing it.

Verdict: Read it, definitely buy the first two and go from there.

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Day 28: 30 Days 30 Stories

Gus parked his car in the farthest spot from the door and checked to make sure the coast was clear before getting out. He pulled his hat down low while maintaining a slow arch along the walkway. The first store was a nail salon, the second an accountant, and the third, his destination, was a gaming store but not the usual sort he frequented, for this didn’t sell sporting goods or apparel.

His slow decent into nerd-dom had happened innocently enough with fantasy football, then fantasy baseball, and even a harmless game of Arkham Horror because no one was interested in fantasy soccer. Now, he couldn’t believe it, but he was actually interested in purchasing something else entirely. He had driven across town to make sure no one recognized him.

Arkham Horror

Arkham Horror (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The door was emblazoned with the likeness of Spider-Man but when he opened the door the sound of a horn played. Gus looked around but the parking lot was still empty. Once inside he looked around and found the place looked like a book store but had a couple of display cases along the far wall and there were a few tables in the middle of the space. The guy behind the counter didn’t look too different from any other clerk; he was dressed in jeans and a baggy red T-shirt with a logo on it that Gus didn’t recognize.

“Hey,” Gus stammered as he walked up to the guy. “I’m looking for a pick-up game.”

“A PUG?” The clerk hooked a finger to a corkboard caddy-corner to him. “We’ve got listings up there for games in the store and others LFG.”

“LFG?”

“Looking for group,” the clerk shook his head. “Let me guess, it’s your first time?”

“That obvious?”

“Painfully,” the clerk picked out a business card and wrote a date and time on it. “Come back here at this time and ask for James. Do not ask for Derrick, he’s a dick.”

“Thanks, what’s your name?”

“Stan.”

“Thanks, Stan.”

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Day 27: 30 Days 30 Stories

The blood from the gunshot wound on his right shoulder wasn’t bleeding very fast, which meant that it either missed the artery or he had lost too much blood already. He dipped the tip of his left index finger into the small pool of fluid at his elbow and wiped it along his jeans leaving a dark smear. His vision was going blurry, he knew the door in front of him was the right hotel room but the six was starting to look like an eight.

His bloody fingers slipped on the knob on the first attempt but he was successful on the second try at opening the door. Along with the gunshot on his shoulder he was pretty sure he had a couple of broken ribs and most likely a concussion just to top it off. The sound of a hammer being cocked back into place made him sigh.

“Sit down,” a voice commanded from within.

He closed the door behind him and then stumbled over to the one chair in the cheap room.

“You’ll want to turn on the TV,” he closed his eyes. “This isn’t the best neighborhood but a gunshot will still attract attention.”

He smiled as he heard the TV click on, “I knew this place would be the death of me.”

“You should of stayed away, Rick,” the chill in her voice threatened to turn her brown eyes blue.

“Should have,” he held up a lazy finger to correct her. “Just because you look like white trash doesn’t mean you have to sound like it.”

She stood, crossed the room, and pressed the gun to his forehead, “smart ass Ricky is going to get his smart mouth shot off.” Her laugh was akin to a dog choking. “Ricky the Wrecker, best muscle money can buy, got a brain on him too. A big thinking man who takes your word as bond, screw you, Wrecky.”

He opened his eyes and looked back at her, “I have always hated that nickname.”

For a moment they stayed like that; her with the gun pressed against his forehead and him simply staring back.

“I don’t know if you realize this but I’ve had my ass kicked today,” he laughed. “The only reason I haven’t made you eat that gun is the fact that this chair is really comfortable.” He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “Pull the trigger or get out.”

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Day 26: 30 Days 30 Stories… I missed a day

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Martin tapped the screen waking up the system.

“One simple test run,” his partner, Jules smiled. “What’s the fun of time travel without being able to actually travel?”

“But we aren’t ready yet.”

“We’ve got the adaptive gastronomy system in order, the spatial presence has been addressed, and the translation program is up to date back to the 1720,” he ticked off each issue on his fingers. “I’m not going into a warzone and even if I was, our armor-weave can stand up to cannon fire.”

“But,” Martin groped desperately for an argument. “What about the ripple effect?”

“Any changes I make, and I’m not going to make any, would be microscopic in the grand scheme of things,” he sighed. “I’m not going back in time to kill Hitler and even if I was, we know that wouldn’t work. Someone else would step in his place and all that would achieve was maybe a slight alteration while leaving the timeline intact.”

“Promise you won’t kill your grandfather just to see what happens?”

“Pappy?” Jules looked at Martin for a moment. “Why would you say that?”

“You… I… uh,” he closed his eyes and turned to face the screen. “Available connections are August 14th 1704.”

“For present location?”

“I assumed.”

“What about connections to the Eifel Tower?” Jules watched from over his friends shoulder. “Oh, that one.”

“1886?”

“Sure,” he laughed. “I’ll buy Van Gogh a drink.”

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Day 25: 30 Days 30 Stories

The engine to the lawnmower died. It didn’t sputter, cough, or protest, it simply died. She let go of the throttle and turned it on its side. It was hard enough to find a summer job that wasn’t babysitting without the machinery breaking down. Luckily the older ladies outside of town didn’t care too much who cut the grass as long as it got done. She had three yards on today and two more tomorrow along the same road. At ten dollars a pop her entire take was fifty bucks per weekend, something she could probably get per night if she wanted to change diapers and deal with kids.

She pulled a flat-head screwdriver from her pocket and popped the cover to the engine. Thirty to sixty dollars a night that was what her sister racked in for her sitter jobs. But then, her sister had a car, and didn’t require the truck to haul around supplies.

Teri sighed as she looked at the motor. There wasn’t anything wrong with the damn thing. The wires were still connected, the choke wasn’t engaged, and it was practically pristine considering. She put the mower down and gave the cord a yank. Nothing happened. She tried a few more times but the engine didn’t even sputter.

“Mrs. Hamrid,” she called walking up to the back door. “I need to call my dad. I think the mower finally died.”

She knocked on the door and waited, Mrs. Hamrid wasn’t the type of lady to bring lemonade on a hot day. The old lady would eye the back yard and pay her without a word.

No answer.

Teri tried the handle and found it unlocked.

“Mrs. Hamrid, it’s me, Teri,” she yelled into the house.

Her eyes adjusted to the dim light inside. It took her a moment to realize none of the lights were on even though all the shades were drawn.

“I just need to use your phone,” she stepped tentatively inside looking for the old woman.

After her eyes adjusted, she saw she was in the kitchen. She noted that the clock on the oven had gone blank but didn’t think anything of it once she saw the landline on the wall. Taking small, quick steps she crossed to the phone and picked it up.

There wasn’t a dial tone.

The unmistakable sound of a shotgun slide made her drop the phone and spin toward the door. There stood Mrs. Manrid, all six feet of her. In her hands was the biggest shotgun Teri had ever seen, but then she had never looked down the barrel of one before.

“I didn’t say you could come in,” the old lady growled, literally.

“The mower died, I needed to call my dad, I knocked,” Teri held up her hands.

“Trespassers will be shot,” the woman pulled the trigger.

Teri closed her eyes but instead of a loud boom followed by a white light there was only the sound of a click. Not questioning her luck, Teri rushed out the back door and out to the street desperate to flag down someone with a phone. She saw a car not far off already pulled to the shoulder and the person had a cell phone out.

“I’m fourteen,” she said as she ran over. “I work. I need a cell phone.”

As she got closer she saw that the driver was woman dressed for the office. She was looking disgusted at her phone.

“Hey,” Teri yelled as she got closer. “Can I use that?”

“Sorry, kid,” the woman wheeled to look at her. “The phone and the car are dead.”

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