Monday, December 10, 2012

Working the Writing Deals



With 15 or 16 magazines being published at White Cat Publications now that Sam's Dot Publishing and White Cat are merging operations, I realized that it's been a month since I blogged and am now one of those bloggers trying to explain where they've been for an extended period of time.

The thing is that there are a lot of people committing a lot of time and good faith to White Cat's success, and I very much appreciate their trust.

So I'll be spending a lot less time blogging and a lot more on making sure that White Cat's growth trajectory is such that writer's have more places to submit their stories than ever before and readers can discover a new home for genre stories.

Happy Holidays to anyone I don't talk to before next Spring!  By then the company should be well on its way.

Also, I'm looking about for another small press publisher to acquire.  If you know anyone out their who might be looking for a new home for their publishing efforts, let me know, will you?  I hate seeing good magazines or book publishers fold just because they can't carry on.

Monday, November 05, 2012

White Cat Announces "Blue Shift"



White Cat Publications, LLC. is pleased to announce that Byran Thomas Schmidt has joined White Cat Publications, LLC. as editor for our new science fiction magazine Blue Shift, due out mid-2013. We’re proud to have Bryan on staff. Here’s his bio:

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press, headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, a Ray Gun Revival Best Of Collection for Every Day Publishing and World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, all forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Introducing Ives Hovanessian & "Dark Intent"





White Cat Publications, LLC. is proud to announce the development of its new mystery magazine, "Dark Intent," which while premier in June 2013 and be edited by Ives Hovanessian. Submission guidelines will be released soon by our Editor-in-Chief, Charles P. Zaglanis.

Ives Hovanessian is a screenwriter and author of noir, uncanny and horror fiction. Her prose work appears in anthologies from Aetherial Publishing and Obsolescent Press. Her first screenplay, Trendsetters, was optioned by Colossal Entertainment. A debut collection of short stories, "I Am Death," Cried The Vulture, will be released in the summer of 2013. She is also a contributing columnist for The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Conjurings & Bartholomew Klick





Over at White Cat Publications, we’re proud to announce our new fantasy magazine Conjurings will be coming out next spring, and that we have selected Bartholomew Klick as editor for this new publication.

Bart studies English and Chinese at Pittsburgh State University in Kansas, where he also lives under a bridge, guarding the last remaining portal to the fairy lands. He plays flute and writes short fiction, some of which is occasionally published. He makes a web comic at ramen-empire.com, proofreads for Nightmare Magazine, and now edits Conjurings.

Please give Bart a warm welcome- he has a big job ahead of him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

White Cat's New Mystery Magazine




White Cat. LLC. will be making announcements soon for upcoming new magazines including a fantasy magazine, science fiction magazine, and a mystery magazine.  I'm going to be editing the mystery magazine myself and leaving the others to the new editors we'll be announcing in the near future.

Keep your eye on White Cat Publications website to see what's coming up.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Insatiable is Now for Sale




Insatiable: the Magazine of Paranormal Desire is now available over at White Cat Publications.  It's loaded up with stories by Nicki Elson, Ellen Denton, Diane Arrelle, Gary McNully, Lillian Csernica, Timothy Friend, Alexis A. Hunter, Jude Marie-Green and E. Catherine Tobler. Book reviews by Erica Cassell and Christina Rundle. The Author Spotlight this issue includes an interview with Zoe Winters by our own Christina Rundle.

Head on over when you can and get a copy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Starving Writers



A Little Donation Can Feed
A Lot of Kids


See that kid in the picture?

He's hungry.  Lots of kids are hungry these days and so are a lot of adults.  

Don't wait til the holidays to help out.

White Cat Publications, LLC. has partnered with Gleaners Community Food Banks.  Why?  Because writers and artists aren't the only people who starve.  Click on the picture of the kid and you'll go to the website we've set up together so you can make your donations.  It all goes to Gleaners.  And 96 cents goes to food and only 6 cents to overhead.  

So if you can help, click on the kid and done some bread.  No pun intended.  Well, maybe a little one.



Thursday, October 11, 2012

Insatiable





For the next 10 days we'll all be hustling to produce the first issue of Insatiable: the Magazine of Paranormal Desires.

The first issue has wonderful stories, book reviews and author interviews, which is why we ordered a pallet of coffee for the office and set up a line of credit with the local pizzeria.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Episode 32- The Kill List




Voices.

Voices filtered through dark cotton as I drifted back and forth between dreams and the beginnings of consciousness. Pervasive dread prowled my reveries;  hungry night wraiths growled and salivated as they hunted me.  I pressed hard against the veil between sleep and waking, but could not break through.

"How much do we tell him, Ian?"  said a rough-edged voice.

"It's dangerous to leave anything out,"  said someone else.

"He threw himself across Sissy to save her life,"  said another.  It was Mark, I knew that voice.  "I say we tell him whatever he wants to know."

"Hate to burst your bubble," said the first man, "but he landed on her after bouncing off the floor. That's why he was stretched out across her legs.  You ought to have figured that out, cousin."

Drifting, drifting.  Desperately trying to return.  Terrible phantasms slithered through my torpidity.

"People have to know what's happening," said the second voice.  "To defend themselves."

"With what?" said the first voice.  "Besides, the government will seal this place off in a heartbeat if they know what's under their feet.  They're running all over topside right now.  If they weren't so damned blind, there wouldn't be anything left to hide.  We're the ones doing the hiding from everyone.  For their own good."

They were quiet for a moment and I panicked.  I struggled toward consciousness.

"You know the drill, Enid," said Mark.  "Government would lock this place down so they could weaponize everything they find.  But what's down there needs to stay down there.  Messing with that is liking trying to pick the locks on the gates to hell."

"And you two think if this writer writes down everything that happened we can get it out to everyone without the government shutting it down?  You remember what happened in the Middle East?  Who do you think really controls the Internet?  Ebook, print book, it won't make any difference."

"Maybe," said the one named Ian.  "But we have to take the chance.  People have to know.  This guy writes it up, publishes it and then we see what we see."

"Why don't you do that yourself?" askd Enid.

I opened my eyes to a room filled with blurry lights and shapes just as the other gave his answer.

"Because," he said, "I'd like to stay alive. Whoever writes this up will be on a kill list from day one."


Saturday, October 06, 2012

White Cat Magazine Issue 6 is Available!





White Cat Magazine Issue is available for purchase as a pdf with print and mobi/epub versions to follow soon.
Our Fall issue presents stories by John Shirley, John Claude Smith, Christie Maurer, Jamie Mason, and Charles P. Zaglanis, Ferrel D. Moore
Interviews featuring Jason Sizemore and Tom Piccirilli
Reviews by Blu Gilliand and George Beremov
Cover art by William Roberts
Brought to you by White Cat Publications, LLC.
www.whitecatpublications.com





Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Episode 31- The Door to Hell



In my unconscious state, I dreamed uneasy dreams.  I dreamed a door of stretched alien skin.  It permeated the air with the smell of burnt sulfur and bubbling green blood.

Whisperings.

Strange whisperings crawled up my back and into my brain. 

In my fever, I walked through that door as though it were not there.  Sissy was terrified of what waited deep below the tunnels and caves of Townsend Mountain.  It was an instinctive fear magnified by a dark, subconscious knowledge.  I felt it too as my wandering consciousness stepped through that membranous door.  Something disturbingly alien lay hidden behind it.

I stepped into a giant cavern where the air itself was alive with a pale neon blue light.  I saw rows and rows of automatons topped with the glass domes Sissy had described.  Red brass mechanical men stiff and upright with arms veined by cables and jointed fingers that shone like infrared fire.  They were connected by a network of glassine tubes that pulsed with an eerie white energy.  They stood at attention, connected by these tubules to a monstrosity that hung at the sheer rock face at the back of the cavern.  It was suspended twenty feet in the air like a giant spider between two metal pylons by the web of glassine tubules that were affixed to each soldier.

There was no defense against my inner compulsion to comprehend this mystery.  I had to see it.  Had to stare into the face of madness itself.

The air in the cavern, though itself alive with energy that fluoresced the vast empty space with light, seemed undisturbed by any presence for a very long time.  There was no noise in the room save for a soft electrical buzz.  Suddenly the back wall began to glow faintly with a viridian light, which quickly darkened into a purple-black incarnadine emittance so repulsive I felt the desire to turn and bolt for my life.

But my body lay unconscious on the rock floor of a dark tunnel somewhere else.

In my inchoate dream, I instead moved forward, walking through the rows of hulking automatonic soldiers, too anxious to look upward to see the dead souls twisting beneath their crystal domes. The sheer number of these mechanisms filled me with trepidation.  The unreasoning fear that one of them might come to life and recognize me as an intruder, then wake the others.

I kept my eyes on their metal feet, walking up the rows, getting closer to the thing in the center of this evil architecture.  I could not think of who built this army.  The age of their construction was indeterminate.  The fact of these hideous mechanical soldiers was chilling.  But it was the strange creature in the web of tubular light that pushed me too close to the edge of sanity.

Closer.

A moment of weakness.

I looked up at an automaton.  Saw the crystal dome and the fluid wisps that moved beneath it like lost aethyric spirits searching for surcease.  A translucent face, then another writhing within the domes as though twisted by invisible fingers.  Eyes glazed in gauzy effulgence peering back at me.

I screamed.  I ran.

I felt the floor tremor.  Saw the back wall flash raging scarlet  then subside.

I stopped and looked up.  I was only twenty feet from the suspended monstrosity.

It was a lifeless man with a ragged beard down to his chest and wild, frayed hair that hung past his shoulder.   He wore a disintegrating Confederate Civil War uniform of rock washed gray.

His head lolled to one side.  His eyelids closed as though he had been forever asleep.

To my horror, I saw that his legs had been cut off at the knees and both his arms severed at the elbows.  The pulsing glassine tubules attached  to these stumps as though his suspended form was the hideous heart of this network of glassine arteries and veins connecting the mechanical soldiers.

How long his mutilated body had hung there I cannot say.  Who had done this to him and how long ago they had so savagely murdered him I would never know.

I could not imagine his agonizing death, but hoped for his sake it had been mercilessly quick.

My nerves had reached their limit.  It was time to leave.

At just that moment his eyelids popped open and I saw that his eyes were silver slits of bright metal, as though someone long ago had dug them out and replaced them with platinum silver crescents.

He opened his mouth and screamed shattering fusillades of fury.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Horror Zine Reviews "Tainted Blood"




Tainted Blood got a  great review from "The Horror Zine" today in their Halloween issue.  It's always a weird feeling to know a magazine is going to review your book.  When you read the review, its like listening around the corner when people are talking about you.

On the other hand, when it's positive, it's worth eavesdropping!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Episode 30- Death by Disintegration





It was the only smart thing I did that night.

I ran with my hand along the side of the tunnel to keep from smashing into rock when we came to a bend.  That's what I say now.  But I know better.  I needed to touch something that night to steady me against the black chaos of the pursuit as we went further down into the underground abyss.  We were running for our lives.  The sound of the creature's roars of rage echoed around us as the tunnel narrowed.

My lungs were hot with pain.  My legs were numb with exhaustion.

The fear of death drove me like a whip.

The monster bellowed.  It was farther back than I expected, but I ran harder.  When it bellowed again, I could sense its helpless hatred.  The sound was much further behind us.

I could hear its frothing frustration as it continued.  Further and further back still.

"Sissy," I shouted.

From somewhere up ahead, she yelled for me to shut up and keep running.

The monster's screams were getting farther and farther behind us.

"I think it's stuck," I said.

We both slowed down and then reluctantly stopped.  I leaned over with my hands on my knees.  The creature continued to bellow its frustration and rage while I tried to catch my breath.  I felt Sissy's hand on my shoulder and it startled me.  But enveloped in total blackness with a terrifying creature somewhere behind us bent on ripping us to pieces, her touch was the best thing that could have happened to me.

"You think it's really stuck?" she said.

"Maybe,"  I said.

"I hope so," she said.

It howled with manic frenzy.  I could imagine it writhing in a narrow passage, insane with the desire to break free of the rock walls that trapped it.

"It's sounds pissed off,"  I said.

"Good," she said.  "I hope it gets so mad it blows itself up."

"Not likely,"  I said.

At that moment, from far back the way we had come, a bright blue-white starburst of light exploded like an overheated transformer.  The pressure wave knocked us both backward and I caught a brief glimpse of Sissy tumbling head over heels before I hit my head on the rock floor and blacked out.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Episode 29- The Depths of Darkness




I had just turned to run when I heard Sissy fire the first shot. 

"Don't shoot, run,"  I yelled over my shoulder.

When I turned to look and see if she was following, I saw her fire another round.  An enraged, ear-busting roar came from the creature in the breach.

Another shot.  She stood straight, with her feet apart and her arms raised and locked into position like a life-size GI Jane.

One of the creatures eyes was now a liquid red pulp.  I saw a tiny hole above the other eye.

She fired again.  Again.

I saw its entire head protrude through the energy breach.  Then a thick scaly neck.  The breach widened and a giant pair of clawed hands came through followed by arms the color of copper cable.

Sissy sent a bullet straight through one of its nostrils.  It opened its mouth and screamed.

I grabbed her by the collar and pulled her back through the door.  She slammed me backward with the butt of her rifle, knocking me to the ground, then dropped to one knee and kept firing as the entire creature came through.  The floor trembled under its weight.

Sissy fired one last shot.

The creature reared up and back to its full height.  In the eerie red sparkle lights, it glowed with dark energy.  Sissy dropped the rifle and ran past me through the door and into the darkness beyond.

"Hurry up," she yelled back at me.

The beast was over twenty feet tall.  If it wasn't for the domed ceiling, it couldn't have stood up.  It was six or seven feet wide and I realized at that instant it couldn't follow me out through the door.

But first I had to make it to the door.

I started scooting backward slowly as the creature eyed me with its one good eye.  It took a step forward.  The floor shook.  I panicked, scrambled back to my feet and bolted through the door faster than I knew I could run.

A small light clicked on and I brought my hand up to protect my eyes.  Sissy now had a small halogen lamp strapped to her head.  She had me by the sleeve and was pulling me down the corridor, her camper's lamp lighting the way.   We slowed in front of a door and she reached for the handle.

There was a crash behind us and we turned in time to see the entire wall explode into pieces that bounced off the tunnel wall like defective shrapnel.  The beast's grotesque head stuck out into the hallway.  It turned away from us, then turned back, fixing on our light.

Sissy reached for the handle again.

"No," I shouted.  "Run."

She got the point.  If the monster could knock down one wall, it could knock down another.

The sound of claws raking over stone and loud, slithering rasps.  The thudding impact of its weight with each step.  We tore down the hallway like we were on fire and looking for water.

"Isn't there any place the tunnels aren't so wide?"  I shouted in between heaving gulps of air.

We came to an intersection of three tunnels.  Sissy's head swung back and forth for a moment, trying to make up her mind.

"This one,"  she said as she turned left.

The tunnel began to slant downward.

We were going from bad to worse.

Sissy slipped and went down.  I doubled back, lifted her to her feet and pulled her behind me.  She resisted and tried to turn back.

"No," I said.  "It's still back there.  Can't you hear it?"

"My rifle's back there, you idiot.  I dropped it."

The air shook with a roaring rage.

No time to go back for the rifle.

We turned and starting running.  Sissy's light went out.  The darkness descended on us again.  I could hear the creature's claws raking the rocks behind us.

A new terror suddenly seized me.  It was the complete and inexplicable conviction that no matter how horrifying the creature behind us, there was something ahead much worse worse, and I knew that it could see us coming.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Episode 28- The Breach




"Sissy,"  I said softly, "where are you?"

The malignant darkness pressed against me.   Absolute silence, cold and menacing.

"Sissy?"

"Shut up," she hissed from somewhere to my left.

I moved a step toward where I'd heard her voice.  Her fear hit me full force, the fear of being alone in a strange dark place.  It matched my own growing sense of terror.

"You feel that?"  I whispered.

"Shut up."

"The air- it's moving."

It was more than that.  It felt like the room was breathing.

Something grabbed my shirt sleeve and I almost screamed.

"That's you, isn't it?"  I asked.

"Who else?" she said in a tight voice.  "We're the only people here."

"I don't think so.  This doesn't feel right," I said.

The room grew colder, and once again I smelled ozone.  All around us, tiny pinpoints of red light began to sparkle like electrified snowflakes.  I looked toward Sissy, and could see by the light of the tiny sparks that her lips were clamped shut to keep from screaming.

In the corner of the room farthest from us, a tiny ring of angry red-purple light appeared and began to distend and widen.  Within its center I saw an undulating deeper depth of darkness.  A blast of distorted static crackled from it.  I remembered the eerie, twisted lights that had preceded the terrifying creature in the forest.  I held my breath.

"Oh shit."

"What?"

"We've got to get out of here," I said as I grabbed her arm and pulled her behind me.

"Let go of me," she said.

I kept pulling at her.

"We'll die if we don't get out of here," I said.

"There's nowhere to go except down and I ain't going down."

"What's coming out of that hole is going to be really, really bad, Sissy.  So get moving."

I'd pulled her three or four steps behind me when she dug in her heels.

"No.  Not til you tell me what's going on."

"Oh shit," I said, looking past her.

Sissy turned and saw it, too.

Beyond the angry sparkles of light, a hideous face glared at us from within the twisting oval of purple-red light.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Episode 27- Mechanical Soldiers, Part Two




"You've seen them?"  I asked.  "Hundreds of mechanical soldiers underground?"

"You think I'd make up something like that?  I ain't seen them myself, but I read the journals.  And it has what I said about being able to look in their domed glass heads and the the faces of the dead."

Sissy's pale, freckled face looked even younger than I had first thought.  She seemed almost desperate for me to believe her.

"You can think what you want," she said. "I ain't crazy."

"I never said you were," I said.  "I just wanted to know if you'd actually seen them."

"We don't go down there- women that is.  It's not safe.  Not if you want to have kids."

We were back in the room where we were supposed to meet Mark.  It was the highest point you could go in the tunnels and caves that networked beneath Townsend Mountain.  It was the size of a two car garage, with a domed, shiny metal ceiling.  There were two gun metal gray desks and four chairs.  The floor looked like linoleum salvaged from a nineteen fifties kitchen.  The room was lit by indirect lighting that ringed the base of the domed ceiling.  It was like being in an underground high school counselor's office.  We sat looking at each other across one of the desks.

"I don't get it.  You're saying that going down to wherever these automatons are could make a woman sterile or something like that?  Is that it?"

"Worse than that," she said.  "A lot worse than that."

"Like what?"

"I already told you too much," she said.  "Nobody's supposed to know.  It's just so weird down here.  It's hard to think right.  I was never here by myself til daddy had me come wait for you.  He couldn't come himself.  He had to be back at the house in case the black suits showed up looking for you.  So he sent me.  Now I went and told you too much.  This place gives me the creeps."

"Were you scared?"  I asked.  "Waiting by yourself?"

Sissy's eyes widened.

"You have that gun," I added.

"Rifle," she said.

"Okay, you have that rifle.  It's enough to scare anybody'd who try to bother you."

"I'm not afraid of anybody in these parts," she said.

"Well, then, you'd be safe from bears or wolves or whatever is in the woods at night."

"You're ignorant," she said.

"I'm sorry, I-"

"You haven't listened to a word I've said, have you?"

The lights dimmed, and I smelled the sharp odor of ozone and then heard an ominous electrical crackle.

"What was that?" I asked.

She ignored my question.

"I'm not afraid of anything outside this place," she said.

"What happened to the power?" I asked.  "Why are the lights flickering?"

"The only things I'm afraid of are down there," she whispered, pointing her rifle at the floor and what lay below.

The lights dimmed until they were little more than a soft blue glow around the edge of the room's ceiling.

"Maybe there's a short in the wiring," I said nervously.

My skin felt abraded.  My mouth was dry and the skin on the back of my neck tightened with fear.

"Daddy says it happens when they dream."

"Who?" I asked.

"Up top of where we're at is the family cemetery.  Only ones buried there are the ones die down here."

"Is your dad coming soon?"  I asked.

"I don't want to die down here," she said.

The lights disappeared into a sudden, terrifying darkness.  I reached for where I had last seen her hand, but it was no longer there.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Episode 26- Mecahnical Soldiers, Part One




"What is this place?"  I asked.

I'd slept for twenty four hours.  Showered and put on clean clothes Sissy'd given me.  They were dirt-brown overalls like maintenance men wore and came complete with a utility belt but no tools.

"You're inside Townsend Mountain,"  said Sissy.  "Creepiest place in the whole USA.  Home to everyone at one time or another from from gold diggers to Civil War refugees, bootleggers, secret government scientists and underground UFO chasers.  They all came and went is what my daddy says.  Too scary to stay in for too long."

Three days ago I would have said she was crazy, but after what I'd seen in that time I was ready to believe anything.

"You want to explain that?"

"No,"  she said.  "You got to ask my dad about that.

She'd said earlier that the inside of Townsend Mountain was honeycombed with miles and miles of tunnels.  She didn't know where they all went.  Not even her Daddy Mark knew that.  What she'd made completely clear, however, was that some tunnels were safe, and some were dangerous.  Some tunnels people could go in, as she said, but they never came out.

She'd shown me eight or ten rooms that fit the description of abandoned government laboratories and offices.  The desks were still in place with papers scattered around the room like everyone left in a hurry.

"If the government was one of the groups that used to be here, aren't you afraid they'll come looking for us?  Looked like they were SWAT-teaming the whole forest when the helicopters started coming in."

Sissy shook her head.

"They long since forgot about this place. And they'd never get past the AI.  Besides, we won't be here that long.  Daddy will come and get us."

"How can you be sure the government doesn't have records of this place they can pull up on computers?"

"They haven't been here since World War II.  Whatever they were doing down here didn't turn out too well, according to daddy.  They left so quick they left everything here.  Sealed up the shaft they thought was the only way in.  Daddy says not all of them made it out alive."

"How could he know that?"  I asked.

"Daddy knows a lot," she said.

"Yeah, but how does he know so much?"

I watched her carefully.  She didn't hesitate at all before answering.  She spoke with the easy innocence of total conviction.

"'Cause he's a Mozer.  Mozer's been guarding Townsend Mountain's secrets since the Civil War."

She was sitting propped on a dull green government issue desk.  Had her legs crossed and was wearing ripped jeans that looked like they'd been a tight squeeze to put on.  Flannel shirt tied in front at the bottom and a khaki jacket thrown over one shoulder.  It it wasn't for the rifle she'd have looked safe enough.

"What secrets?"  I persisted.

"Wouldn't be secrets if I told you, now would they?"

"Fair enough.  When's your dad coming?"

"A while," she said.

"What do we do in the meantime?" I asked.  "Go exploring?"

Sissy stiffened.

"No.  That we will not do.  There's tunnels and cave that don't need anybody walking in them.  And there's doors, big strange doors made out of peculiar metals.  Nobody should ever open them.  Another thing, there's round hole some places in the tunnel that if you ain't careful you could drop right in."

"How deep are they?" I asked nervously.

"Don't know.  Nobody ever went after anyone that fell in."

"Why not?"

She was looking past me when she answered, staring at a memory she wished she could forget.

"Cause they might lead down to where they are."

"They?" I asked.

"The mechanical soldiers,"  she said.  "There's hundreds of them.  If you look in through their crystal heads you can see the dead people trapped inside."

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Episode 25- Woman with a Gun




I stepped back and jerked my good hand up to protect my eyes.  But before the bright light clocked my pupils, I'd seen the rifle pointing my way.

"Nice and slow, Homer," said the woman.

My eyes adjusted to the brighter light after a few painful blinks.  I couldn't see much except the gun barrel.  She was standing in front of a bank of lights, so it was difficult to see much except her silhouette and the rifle.  She kept the gun steady.

"Who are you?" I asked.


"Brandy says you're good to go, but I like to see things for myself."

"Brandy?"

"The AI."

"AI?"

"The computer system that runs this place," she said.

She had a young voice.  As my eyes became still more adjusted to the light, I could see that she wore a wide brimmed floppy hunter's hat.  Caramel colored hair stuck out from beneath it.  She seemed pretty, but the steel circle at the end of the rifle seemed more important at that moment.

"I've got to sit down before I fall,"  I said.

"Yeah, you look like shit.  Come on, follow me."

She jerked her rifle to tell me to get walking.

"Who are you?"  I asked again.  "Do you know Mark?"

I could see her more clearly by then.  She couldn't have been more than eighteen or nineteen.

"He's my dad.  He said to wait for you here and if you didn't show up to go looking for you.  You being from the city and all we figured you'd find some way to get lost."

"Everything's on fire out there,"  I said.  "Government helicopters circling.  A ship crashed."

There are moments of clarity, even in total exhaustion.  I had one at that moment and realized I was on the edge of babbling.  I was in an underground bunker with a teen-aged girl still pointing a rifle at me.  The world outside was burning.  The government was on the scene, no doubt looking for the crashed UFO and would be more than happy to lock me up and weld the cell door shut during the process. 

"I know I sound crazy," I said, "but I'm not.  And could you point that rifle somewhere else?  I'm not dangerous."

"Mister, you don't look like you can stand up long enough to be dangerous.  And you might need a change of clothes before you go on TV."

"What?"

She lowered the rifle.

"Come on," she said.  "Follow me and stay close.  We got a place you can bunk til this is over.  We don't get a lot of visitors down here."

"What's your name?"  I asked as I followed her down a long tunnel that twisted and turned like an underground Mobius strip.

"Sissy," she said.

"I'm-"

"Garret.  I know.  Daddy already told me and I don't forget names.  Not too much farther to go."

"I don't think I can make it much farther, Sissy.  I'm not used to all this activity.  I'm a writer.  Usually I sit down a lot."

The air was cool and the tunnel dimly lit by overhead bulbs housed in thick glad domes.  I'd lost track of whether we were going upward or downward.  I just wanted to go to sleep.

"For a writer," she said, "you sure know how to stir things up.  I've been watching things from the control room.  Not too often we see UFOs, monsters, forest fires and the Feds coming down on this mountain all in one night."

We came to a metal door inset into rock.  She waved her hand in front of something I couldn't see and the metal door pulled back to reveal what looked like a combination high school chemistry lab and an armory.

"Wow," I said.

"This ain't nothing," she said.  "Wait til you see the rest."

"Wait a minute.  Did you say something back there about me going on television?"

She smiled and I knew things were about to get a lot worse.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Episode 24- The Guardian





Through the door and into Wonderland.

The door grated closed behind me as I stared in shock at the back wall of the next room.  It was a ten feet tall and twenty foot wide holographic screen of a square-edged tunnel covered with zeroes and ones narrowing to an image of a beautiful woman.

I'd had all I could handle by that point.

On the run from the government, dropped in the middle of nowhere by a Kentucky survivalist, reduced to following a locating device blindly through a dark forest, then forced to witness a horrific battle between dark monstrosities ended by a UFO crash.  The forest bursting into flames as the crash disintegrated.  Running to stay ahead of the flames while following the electronic beacon to this cave while government helicopters circled overhead.

The sliding rock wall, stepping through the door with a flashing skull and crossbones into a room backstopped by a beautiful hologram.  Too much.  Too much for one night.

My mind slipped into cognitive dissonance.

"Welcome," said the image.

All I could do was stare.

Where the hell was I?  What was this place?

"Come closer," she said.

No way.  I was thinking it might be safer to go back and stand in the burning forest.

"Please come closer so that I may further identify you."

My legs were so tired they were shaking.  I felt hot and wondered if my brain was overheating.  That would explain a lot.

I took three steps forward and stopped.  Maybe it was a stupid idea, but there's something about a beautiful woman- even a holographic one- asking you to step forward that can get a guy in motion.

Soft blue light moved over my body.  My skin tingled.  I was afraid to move.

Had I stumbled into a secret government facility?  Had Mark's locating device sent me to the wrong place?  Or was he working with the government?

None of it made sense.

"Come closer," said the image.  "You are approved to enter."

"What  am I entering?" I asked nervously.

"Walk through me and find out," said the image.

I closed my eyes as I walked through the electronic looking glass, terrified of what I would find on the other side.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Episode 23- Secrets



Outside the cave, the entire forest seemed to be in flames.  I could not understand how the fire had spread so quickly through the rain-soaked woods unless it was caused by the extreme heat generated by the alien ship's destruction.

Smoke rolled through the night.  Acrid, smoldering fumes floated into the cave.

There was nowhere else to go.

When  the  back wall of the cave slide to one side with a soft, grating noise, I stepped into the opening.  Seconds, later, it closed behind me, sealing me in.  I was alone in the dark in a four foot by four foot cube.  The screen of my hand held locating device faded to a soft green glow.

I aimed in different directions, hoping to see a tunnel leading to safety, but all I could see were four walls and a rock ceiling.

"Hello?" I called.

Someone had to have activated the rock door.  I knew better, but it was important to feel like I wasn't alone.  It made more sense that the locating device caused the wall to slide open and close after I entered.

"Anybody there?"

I leaned against the rock wall and waited.

Only two nights ago I'd been sitting in Emily's living room, talking to the old woman about the alien artifacts.  I remembered feeling as though I was balanced on the edge of a great mystery, where a sudden move could plunge me into depths of darkness beyond what I could imagine.  Now, leaning against the wall of a solid rock cage, I realized that I was trapped.  If I died where I stood, no one would ever know.

Somewhere outside, the forest fire raged and the United States military was closing in on the alien crash site.  The flames and scourging heat were burning any evidence I'd been there to charred embers.  Even if I wanted them to find me, there would be no trace.  With the military scouring the area, chances of Mark getting through to me were virtually zero.  And they could be examining the forest for weeks, months, maybe even years.  An alien craft had crashed there, so the prize was worth it.  If any part of the ship survived the fire, the burned out forest would turn into the most important square mile in Kentucky.

"Can you hear me?" I yelled.

If anyone did hear me, they ignored me.

I needed sleep, I needed food and water, clean clothes and most of all I needed the hell out of there.

Using the fading light of the locating device, I scanned the walls for secret levers, buttons or handles but couldn't find any.  Who built sliding doors in a cave, anyway?  Why would anyone do that?  I couldn't imagine Mark doing it.  Maybe I could, but it would take a lot of money and contractors to do the work and he couldn't live with that unless he killed them after the job was done to keep the secret.

Dead men tell no tales, I thought.  Pirates of Kentucky.

I knew I was losing it, but it wasn't like I didn't have good reason.

The only thing I was sure of was that it couldn't get any weirder or worse.

I changed my mind when a skull and crossbones symbol flared on the back wall of the rock cage and a section of it began to swing inward like a door.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Episode 22- The Cave




Running hard.

The woods behind me crackling and burning.  I glanced over my shoulder and saw flames leap to life with terrifying hunger.  They were angry-bright fire demons filled with the lust to consume.

The sky was darkness lit into orange gray by the inferno.  Cones of light shot down and I could make out the dark forms of helicopters above the flames.  The government had arrived, drawn by the crash of the alien ship.  Soon there would be more helicopters, more men, more searchlights.  I could feel them closing in and the thought of it terrified me. 

Branches slapped my face and arms, but I ran faster.  I slipped in the mud, got to my feet and kept going.  Smoke filled the night air.  I drew in deep breaths of it as I ran.  I gagged and choked but didn't stop.

Twice I dropped my electronic tracker.  Twice I pulled it out of the mud, wiped it off and found the blinking green dot again.  If I could just make it to the cave, I might have a chance.  I could hide out and wait for Mark.  He'd said he'd meet me there in two days, but surely to God with the alien ship crash, the raging fire and the arrival of the Feds he would come earlier than that.

I had no idea how long had passed from the moment Mark forced me out of the car and abandoned me with nothing more than a tracking device.  All I could do was to keep running toward the cave.

My legs ached as the elevation increased.  The ground was less mud and more rocks.  The blinking green light was bigger and flashed faster than before as though I was getting closer.  I collapsed on a boulder the size of a Smart car.  I hung onto its slippery, wet smoothness like a drowning man clinging to a wind-tossed reef.  At that moment I was so exhausted and in so much pain that I didn't care if the government finally caught me as long as they gave me a clean, dry cell.

The night roared with fire, jets streaked across the sky and helicopters flashed their searchlights.  The rain and wind grew violent.  I could not understand how anything could burn in such a storm.  My clothes and hair were so wet I felt like I'd crawled out of a lake.

I pulled myself off the rock, straightened up into the storm and started walking.  I was too exhausted to run.  I didn't look back.  My mind couldn't take any more.  I just followed the green blinking light of the locating device.

By the time I found the cave, I was too worn out to worry if it was filled with snakes or bats or bears.  I just shuffled mindlessly forward one painful step at a time, ready to lay down on the rock floor and fall asleep.

I'd walked fifteen feet or so into the darkness when the locating device screen turned solid bright green.  My hand looked like I'd borrowed it from a muddy green goblin, but it was the only light I had so I aimed the device around the emptiness.  I saw rocks and dried, dead wood that looked suspiciously like small bones.

When I aimed the device toward the back of the cave, I saw only a wall of lumpy rock.  The whole cave was only twenty feet deep and four feet wide.  There was nothing to hide behind.  No cracks or crevices to conceal myself in.  If the Feds found the cave, they'd find me.

I opened my mouth to swear just as the back wall of the cave slid aside.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Episode 21- Fire





I got to my feet, still clutching the locating device and nursing my right hand.   My clothes were covered with sloppy, wet mud.  The crashed ship's glow began to fade.  Electrical charges spidered across its surface.  A swath of trees lay cut down behind it.  The night was filled with a soft buzzing sound.  If it had a pilot, it must have died in the crash.  The gargoyle-like creature was buried beneath the mud and rock.  There was no sign of the beast that had hobbled away.

Using my thumb, I swiped away as much mud as I could from the screen of the locating device and saw the green dot still blinking.  I would have to walk past the crashed ship to get to my destination.

Alone in the middle of nowhere on a rainy night, I couldn't see another choice.  I had no supplies and the only way Mark could find me was if I made it to the cave.  The rain came down a little harder.  I could feel the mud washing away from my face and hands.  I looked at the ship.  No way anything inside could have survived that impact, so I started walking.

You'd think as a writer I would have noticed the details, but I walked past the ship without so much as a second look.  I listened for noises, like a hatch opening or something mechanical coming to life.  My only interest was getting to the cave alive.  Five ships in two days was five too many to see.

I was twenty feet past it when I heard the sound.  White noise so loud I could hear it above the rain.  I stopped and looked over my shoulder.  The ship was surrounded by a faint green light.  It grew brighter and I started walking again.  Faster this time.  I didn't know what was going on, but I didn't want to be there to find out.

The sound grew louder, more frantic.  I looked back again and saw that the ship's glow was a painfully bright yellow.  I began to panic.  Green.  Yellow.  I knew what was coming next and began to run for my life, holding the locating device before me to keep on track and to keep a branch from sticking me in the eye.

Even though I knew I shouldn't, I risked a glance over my shoulder again and saw a bright red.  I ran faster, slipping and sliding but somehow not falling.

The night roared and flared about me like an angry god who knocked me flat with a concussive blast of air.  I scrambled and slid to my feet.   This time a new terror drove me maniacally forward.

The woods were on fire.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tainted Blood Review




In between episodes of "The Alien Diaries," I thought I'd take a minute and share this excerpt of a review of my book "Tainted Blood" from the popular dark fiction review site She Never Slept.  The reviewer was their Columnist & Associate Editor Marc Nacerino.

*****

"When I was asked to review Tainted Blood, by Ferrel D. Moore, all I knew was that there was a werewolf on the cover. I hope there aren’t sparkly vampires too, was my first thought.
I am happy to report that not only were there no sparkly vampires, but the werewolf action was intensely violent and satisfying. Here was a very interesting twist on the werewolf legend, but one that kept all the ferocity and carnivorous lethality that I have been craving in a shapeshifter story. No hokey “ancient bloodline” melodrama, no romanticized “Gaia’s warrior” baloney, and definitely no “team Jacob” treacle.
Not being one for spoilers, I will keep this brief.
The story follows Sveta, a Russian mercenary, on a blood-soaked romp through, and under, the streets of Chicago that involves Russian Special Forces, the Red Mafia, old-school Cold War spy games, and a very unlikely werewolf.
The action begins immediately, thrusting the reader into a black-op assassination attempt. We meet some of the major players here: Hauck, the spymaster who calls the shots remotely; Evgeny, the sniper who never misses; Yuri the tech wizard, and Sveta, the “new girl” on the team. The hit goes horribly wrong when the team is confronted by the patently impossible — their target, Drogol, either is protected by, or is himself, a werewolf.
This book was fantastic. Ferrel D. Moore paints a portrait of Chicago awash in blood with his vivid descriptions, terse dialog, believable settings (for the most part), and layered characterizations. All of this is woven into a rich tapestry of Russian history and alt-history, dating back to the time of the Tsars and the infamous Rasputin."
*****
 
You can read the full review at She Never Slept
 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Episode 20- To the Death




The night exploded with sound and light.

From the bizarre twisting luminescence, the gargoyle creature leaped out and onto the other's back.  I could see its hideous teeth snapping at the dark ape's head.  Its claws ripped at the beast's shoulders and I heard an enraged howl as they tore away strips of flesh.  The awful purple and green light transformed the attack into a violent nightmare.

I stood transfixed as though bolted to the forest floor.

The gargoyle's tongue slapped back and forth while its elongated jaws kept snapping at the ape-creature's head.  Its back claws cut the earth and its front claws dug frantically at the beast's flesh.

The snarling beast jerked its body to one side and slammed the gargoyle ferociously against a tree trunk.  A shower of wet leaves shook loose from the tree and came down like an angry colony of bats.  Both creatures snarled and hissed at each other.  The inside of the gargoyle's mouth glowed a hideous frothy yellow as it tried to bite off chunks of the beast's face.  In a mind bending Hulk Hogan parallel I saw the infuriated dark ape respond by swinging its arms upward in a double hammer fist and then slam them down onto the gargoyle's head, knocking it down so hard I thought its flailing legs would break.

The gargoyle regained its footing and hissed at the beast.  Drops of its saliva sprayed out and I saw smoke rise from where it landed on the ape's long hair.  It howled in pain and leaped at the gargoyle again. The two rolled back and forth across the forest floor like monstrous wrestlers in a death match.

I forgot that I was on the run from the government.  I forgot Emily and her alien artifacts.  I forgot I'd been dumped in the middle of nowhere with no food or water.

The greatest story of my life was playing out before my eyes in those brooding Kentucky hills.  Standing in a primeval fight ring of mud and monsters, I was witnessing something no writer had ever before been gifted to see.  It dawned on me in the midst of my horror that I could only write the story if I survived the night.

Suddenly the gargoyle creature reared back and opened its jaws. The struggle was almost over.

But something astonishing changed that.

From overhead, a haunting, high-pitched sound so sharp it hurt my ears to listen caused me to look up in terror.  It was a familiar whirling silver disk hurtling directly at us.  I looked back at the raging battle in time to see the ape-creature claw its way onto the gargoyle's back and try to snap its neck.  But the gargoyle dug its claws into the beast's leg, causing it to howl in pain and let go.

But instead of attacking the beast at that critical moment, the gargoyle looked up to the sky and saw the careening silver disc coming right at us.  The beast saw it and quickly backed away.  I started running,  but kept glancing over my shoulder.  The trees lit up with as unearthly white light, that entirely washed away the purple-green rift that the creature had burst through.

The gargoyle seemed mesmerized by it.  The craft wasn't just descending, it was out of control hurtling at us like an incoming missile.

Too close, so close I dropped to the ground and covered my head with my forearms.  Trees snapped one after the other like machine gun fire as it mowed down the forest and slammed into the ground.

The impact rumbled the forest floor like an earthquake and showers of light shot skyward.

It crashed into the exact spot where the gargoyle had stood looking skyward.

Crackling, hissing, arcing sounds took the place of the former monstrous howls.  I slithered behind the thickest tree trunk I could find.  The ground was so wet and muddy from the continuing rain that it slathered my pants and chest.  I clutched the locating device Mark had given me in my one good hand.

I held up my injured hand like a cap visor to protect my eyes from the rain.  Smoldering fumes came from the spacecraft. The smell of curdled milk and burning chrome filled my nostrils.

Nothing.

No sign of movement or life.

I'd forgotten momentarily about the dark ape creature.  Then I saw it limping away from the crashed saucer as fast as its injuries allowed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Episode 19- The Creature




I started to run.  My heart was beating so fast I thought it would rupture.

The rain came down harder.  Branches slapped my face and chest.  Vines tangled my arms and feet and I pitched forward.  As I hit the ground something sharp cut through my palm.  I swore and grabbed it with the other.  The sharp end of a pointed stick protruded a half inch through the top of my hand.  I could feel blood running down my wrist mixed with  rain.  From somewhere off to my left I heard a high pitched rough chatter like that of an angry monkey.

I clenched my teeth together hard and pulled on the long end of the stick with my good hand and the other direction with the other.  I saw bursts of white light from the pain and vomited.

A series of sharp wood knocks closer than before.  I wiped my mouth with my coat sleeve.  The smell was nauseating but I had to get moving.

It was then I realized I'd dropped the small device that told me which way to go.

My hand throbbed with pain and I cursed Mark.  He'd left me alone to die.  I swore I'd strangle him if I ever saw him again.

I reached out with my good hand and began feeling around for the device.  My fingers touched wet grass, clumps of mud and branches, but nothing else.  Something wet and slimy slid along my palm and I knew I'd stuck my hand in my own puke.

A sudden wind rushed through the woods.  I shivered and manically wiped my hand over wet leaves.  I almost ignored it when I felt something the size of a cell phone beneath my fingers.  My hand was shaking so badly when I picked it up I almost dropped it again, but fear tightened my grip.  A little red light flashed on the dirty screen.  I stood up, took a step first to my left and then to my right.  The light finally turned green and I started walking.

I wanted to run as fast as I could to get away from whatever had made the angry chattering noises, but I forced myself to walk so that I wouldn't fall again.  One hand held out before me, the other stuffed deep in my pocket.  The pain grew worse but I kept my mind on following the green dot.

The wind kicked up again as I was trying to remember how long Mark said it would take to get to the cave. A few hours?  A few days.  A fresh burst of lightning splintered the darkness.   Thunder cracked like a whip against sheet metal.

I prayed while I walked.  I didn't know exactly for what, but I kept walking and kept praying.

Kept following the green dot.

It was impossible to say where I was or what direction I was going.  All I could do was follow the green dot.  If it turned orange or red I adjusted my course.  For the last twenty steps I'd been moving in a straight line.

Stay on the line, I thought.

Another flash of lightning.

I looked up to see where I was going.

That's when I saw it.

A gigantic dark shape.  Easily twice my height.

I stopped.  I was frozen where I stood.  Rain coming down hard enough I could feel it squish between my toes.

Behind the creature, the woods suddenly came alive with a purple-green light that seemed to blur and twist the air.  Something hideous burst from that awful radiance and shot toward the thing in front of me.

I watched in mute horror at what happened next.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Episode 18- Dark Noises

ed



Mark was driving.  I'd worn out five miles after we hit the Ohio border.  The stress was too much.  I'd slept until the last good road, which ran out just after dusk.  By the time a cup of coffee cleared up my brain, we were deep into hill country with its sloping, twisting roads and cool night air.

Thermal vision lit the windshield as the night was replaced with heat signatures so we could drive without headlights.  It occurred to me that either Mark had a hell of a lot of money of his own or someone was paying his bills.

"How much further?" I asked.

"You ever wonder what they think you know that they want?" he said.

"I'm so stressed out I have a hard time thinking about it.  And I don't really know that much for them to be coming after me like this.  Maybe they want to know what Emily told me.  Maybe there's something in that letter taped to the picture.  Maybe they think I'm somebody else."

"Might be."

"You going to tell me how much further?"

"You sound like a kid," he said.

I wanted to know what was in the letter he'd found taped to the back of the picture.  One tiny alien floating in blue fluid like it was a biology specimen.  Or a Photoshop freak show clipped off the Internet and turned into a Polaroid photo by a Web Warrior who didn't want to clean his or her room.

"Ever since Emily gave me the alien artifacts my life has turned to shit," I said.  "I'm on the run one day and I'm already so tired of it I could punch myself in the head.  I hate this.  I'm glad you saved my ass by coming to get me, but I feel like I need to be doing something other than running.  And I want to know what's in that letter.  It will give me something to think about.  Something to analyze so I can figure out what to do next."

The van slowed and finally stopped.

"We're here," he said.

His stubbled face glowed orange-green in the light from the windshield.

"I don't see anything," I said.

"That's the plan," said Mark, and he reached inside his jacket and pulled out a gun.

"Why are you pointing that at me?" I asked.

"Time for you to get out?"  he said.

"You're kidding, right?"

"No hillbilly humor tonight, friend.  I'm dead serious.  I'll send somebody for you when I know it's safe.  I got a wife to think of before I worry about you.  Now open the glove box and grab the thing that looks like a cellphone."

"Why are you doing this?" I asked.

"Told you already.  I've got a wife to protect.  She'd do the same for me.  So you just push the button on that thing and turn it on.  You see that little green light near the top of the screen?  You start walking that direction.  Whichever way that dot moves on the screen, that's the way you go.  Long as you do that you'll be alive come morning."

We parked somewhere in the middle of the Kentucky hill country on a moonless night and he was dumping me there.

"What am I supposed to do for food and water?"

Mark raised the gun a little higher.

"Get out now or I'll shoot you and leave you for the bobcats to eat."

I didn't move.

"Last warning," he said.

I opened the van door and noticed the dome light didn't come on.  I realized then he'd planned all along to dump me in the middle of nowhere.  It was so dark outside that I could hardly see the ground.  Something wet hit my cheek.  Then another.  High overhead, the night rumbled.

"It's starting to rain.  You can't leave me out here in the rain."

"Go where the green dot takes you.  Shouldn't take you more than two or three hours to get to the cave.  Keep your hands up and in front of you so branches don't poke your eyes out."

"You're an asshole."

"But I'm an asshole with a gun and you're a federal fugitive.  Now get going and close the door."

I closed the door like he said and he drove away.  He said he'd send someone for me in three days.  I wondered if anyone would show up.

Standing on the middle of a dark highway was a bad idea.  I walked to the side of the road and heard a soft, annoying beep.  The green dot on the screen of the cellphone thing was now angry red.  When I walked toward the other side of the road, it turned a friendly shade of green.

The rain was coming down quicker.  I needed to find shelter.  So I walked the direction that made the locator device happy.  Wet weeds slapped against my pants and I could feel but not see things crunching under my feet.

From somewhere to my left, I heard the solid impact of wood against wood.

A streak of lightning lit the dark sky and turned the forest an electric neon blue-white. I saw that I was surrounded by trees and vines so thick they looked like zoo snakes.  As the  light faded, a dark shape moved across the edge of my vision.

The night closed in.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Episode 17- The Uninvited, Part II





"Is that a rocket launcher?"  I asked nervously.

In the confined space of the van, it looked like a shoulder mounted cannon.  I pressed my cheekbone hard against the driver's side door because my head was too close to where he was aiming.

"Combination of things," he said.  "Controlled pulse cannon, virus insertion tool, software cancer in a tube.  You name it, it does it."

"Okay.  But what does all that mean?"

"No time for that, time to dial.  But don't worry, we're not going to blow anyone up."

With the big-tube contraption balanced on his shoulder, he used his free hand to hand me a piece of stiff paper with a number written on it.  I looked up to ask him what the number was for and noticed him attaching two co-axial cables from his unit to the roof of the van.

"What do I do with this?" I said, holding up the card.

"We don't want government jerk-offs to track our location with all their expensive toys, so you call that number first and listen for three beeps.  When you hear that, you dial the lab's number.  Then you power down the phone, throw it in here and close the lid."

Mark slid an open briefcase toward me with the toe of his shoe.

"Is it lead lined or something?"  I asked.

"Something like that.  Now do it.  Longer you wait, the better prepared they get."

I hesitated for a second, then did what he said.  Got the three beeps then dialed the lab number.  Asked for the head scientist.  His voice seemed odd.   He was too happy.  Right up until I told him to bring the alien artifacts and meet me at the restaurant Mark and I had picked out.

"Right now?"

"Now," I said.

"I might need... hold on."

Permission.

It was the word he almost said.  I could imagine five or six men and women dressed in government issued hush-hush suits hovering over him.

"No, actually I'm good to leave right now,"  he said.  "It will be good to see you again."

The little bastard was rebelling against the machine.  We'd never met.  We'd talked on line and over the phone, but never met.  I'd UPS'd the artifacts to him so no one could ever place me at the lab.  Just in case.  And now, here was my very own scientist trying to warn me off.

After I'd punched the END button, threw the phone in the briefcase and told Mark about what the scientist said.

"They'll put his head in a microwave oven and set it to explode for that," he said.

"Seriously?"

"Get ready to drive when I say go.  Be smooth about it.  Don't draw attention to us.  Don't act like Harrison Ford in the Fugitive.  Just drive down Farmington Road til we hit I-96 and head East til we get to I-75 then head south.

"What are you going to do with that cannon thing?"

"I'm going to lock onto their communications system and follow it up the food chain.  First agent I can sight, I aim, pull and we're connected to their network.  Agent calls into their superior, our software goes with that call and monitors the superior's call to his superior.  The calls will be quick and go straight up the line about this one.  So we stay with them.  We record each conversation so we get a better idea of what's going on and so you can hear it for yourself.  It's good to know what the enemy's thinking.."

"Is that possible?"  I asked.

He grinned and rubbed the back of one hand across the stubble on his chin.

"They'll be loud and clear through this blue-tooth,"  he said, pointing to his ear.  "And lookey here- I'd say you've got some uninvited guests."

I saw the helicopter coming over the top of an office complex.  There were men attached to the runners.

"Ready, aim, communicate," Mark said.  "Now get gone, brother.  Drive like we're on the way to the bowling alley."

"Are they coming for me?" I said.  "This is insane."

"Shut up and drive.  Their black sedans will be here in three or four minutes and when they find out we gaslighted them they'll be closing down traffic.  We want to be in Toledo, Ohio by then."

I was officially on the run.  Emily was dead and the government had the alien artifacts.  There went my story.  Nothing left but to hide out in the hills and pray they never found me.  I couldn't believe it was happening to me.

Mark disengaged himself from his electronic cannon and hung it on a hook that stuck out from the side of the van.  He sat down in the passenger side front seat and buckled up. 

Six black cars passed us before we got to I-96.  I felt physically ill.  I wanted to pull over, get out of the van and throw up on the side of the road.

"So far so good," he said.  "Where's that Bible with the picture of the alien?"

That picture was the only thing I had left.  In today's world, pictures were so easy to fake, it was useless as evidence. Without evidence, I didn't stand a chance of getting my life back.

"Under my seat," I said.  I'll get it."

I found it and handed it over to him without taking my eyes off the road.  I couldn't afford a traffic accident.  I couldn't afford to make any mistakes at all anymore.  I was a federal fugitive.

"It's a Polaroid," he said.  "Haven't seen one of these instant pictures in a long time."

"Does it look real?"

"Anybody can fake anything anymore.  Short answer  is who the hell knows.  We'll run it through the lab and see what we can see.  It's this sheet of paper with writing on the back that's more interesting to me just now."

"What sheet of paper?"  I asked.

"The one with your name on it," he said.

"Give it to me," I said.

"Keep your eyes on the road, ace.  We have to get out of this state before they find us.  You should hear what they're saying about you."

He was pointing to his bluetooth.

"What?" I asked.

"Not now.  Later you can hear it for yourself.  But just so you know, you're lucky you don't have a wife and kids."

"Why?"

"Because they'd be feeding them to the pigs by now."

Behind me, I heard the big Rottweiler get comfortable for the long drive ahead.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Episode 16- The Uninvited, Part I




If you have the cash to spare to help us out with the Alien Diaries Anthology, head on over to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1078742786/the-alien-diaries-translation-project and donate will you?

*****

The van seemed to get smaller.

I was looking straight ahead at the women on the tennis court, realizing for the first time that Mark was probably crazy.  It was a safe bet that he had at least one gun under his coat and the fact that his trained Rottweiler was lying on the bench seat behind me made me nervous.

But I had to ask the question, so I finally did.

"Why?"

"Why what?" he said.

"Why would a computer program decide I should be killed?"

"You still got that second phone, don't you?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"I know you think I'm a moonshine swigging hyped-up hillbilly who thinks The X-Files and Warehouse 13 are documentaries, but I'm going to let you get a look at a different world so you'll have a better chance of staying alive.  Now where's the lab you got the artifacts at?"

His train of thought was confusing, but I told him that the lab doing the testing on the artifacts was in Livonia. He brought up a map on the dashboard interface and asked for the exact address.

"Now what we need is a restaurant in a strip mall," he said.  "Like a Coney Island.  Best case it should be ten to twenty minutes from where the lab is and there's got be a shopping center or another strip mall across the street.  We want a busy area with no construction.  This van will have to blend in but be able to get out quick.  No easy throttle points and plenty of traffic."

We scrolled through the map, found out what we were looking for and then Mark kicked the view up to 3-D and looked at the intersection from different angles.

"What you have to remember," he said, "is that the government has military technology in your home town.  Once you get by that, you'll start to understand how deep a hole you're in."

I heard springs creak behind me.  In the rearview mirror I saw the Rottweiler named Patriot was standing up for a stretch.

"Does he have to go the bathroom?" I asked.

"Patriot, sit your ass down," Mark said.  "And according to our on-board computer we're about twenty-five minutes from the strip mall that's near the lab.  That track with you?"

"What?  Sure that's about right, depending on the time of day.  Rush hour it's thirty-five to forty-five minutes from here."

"But it ain't rush hour, is it?"

"Well, no, not yet."

"Then let's make tracks.  When I tell you to, you dial up your friend on that second pre-paid phone you got.  You tell him to meet you at the restaurant we're going to stake out and to bring the alien artifacts with him.  We won't be there. We'll be in the parking lot across the street counting how many feds show up to take you down."

"Do we have to do this?" I asked.

I was already nervous and headed toward meltdown.  UFO's and aliens were bad enough.  Being hunted by the government wasn't something I wanted to think about more than I had to.

"Yep, let's roll."

As I pulled out of the parking lot and left the women in tennis outfits, the picnic tables and the trees behind, I couldn't get the idea of the Secret Enemy out of my mind.  The image of an eye rimmed with barbed wire was too weird to let go of.  I had to find out more.

"What is this Secret Enemy?"  I asked.  "is it  a Secret Society?  Like the Illuminati or the Masons if they were armed and dangerous.  It sounds sort of like Fu Manchu pulling the strings on the New World Order.  Is it something like that?"

The dashboard computer pointed out we should turn left.  That irritated me.  I hated being stuck half-way in evolving technological worlds.  Why bother telling me I need to turn?  I knew cars could turn themselves, accelerate, brake, open and close the doors for us.  Ten more years, twenty more years and nobody would need a Driver's License anymore except the cars that drove them.  If technology would move a little quicker, I wouldn't need some dashboard harpy telling me it was time to turn.  I had enough stress as it was.

"Let's talk evolution," said Mark.

Patriot snuffled like a pig and I almost laughed, but checked myself when I realized it wasn't a good idea to laugh at a two hundred pound Rottweiler when she was only two feet behind me in a van that suddenly seemed smaller still.

"What's evolution got to do with it?"

"Watch how fast you're going.  We don't need to get pulled over for speeding.  Better.  Just try to stay three or five miles below the speed limit.  Now think about this- how much have the birds and bees and dogs and monkeys and human beings evolved in the last two hundred years?"

I thought about it, trying to guess where he was going before answering.   I hated set-up questions.  Always had.  Finally I gave up.

"Not too much,"  I said.  "But the evolutionary process is slow.  Two hundred years isn't anything when you're talking evolution."

"Is that so?  How much have machines evolved in the last two hundred years?  Computer hardware?  Computer software?"

"A lot, I guess.  But what's that got to do with the Secret Enemy?  Are you saying computers are the Secret Enemy?  Like in The Terminator where they are self-aware or something?"

He lifted his thermos bottle up, unscrewed the lid and poured himself a cup of coffee.  The smell hit me the right way at the right time.

"Styrofoam okay for you?" he asked, and reached behind the seat to get a short stack of cups.

"Definitely," I said.

Mark poured me a cup, then passed it over.

"It's still hot," he said.  "Picked it up at the Detroiter truckstop just before I showed up to get you."

"Thanks, I needed this."

"Things aren't like what you're thinking,"  he said.  "There's no grand conspiracy going on.  The Secret Enemy is you and me and what we do and how we do it.  The way we're always building better roads to drive over the edge into deeper and deeper holes.  Machines don't need to think.  There's no artificial intelligence mastermind behind the software decision that you needed to die.  It's just that we're always killing ourselves by bad decisions based on good ideas.   Then they get out of control and turn into good decisions based on bad ideas.  And we get more and more efficient at it by passing it over to software that can't question what we're instructing it to do.  It can't really say, Wait a minute, is this a good idea?

"So when government drones put together their ever evolving event-handling protocols and tell the software what kind of decisions need to be made, eventually the software takes over making sure these protocols are followed.  Computers move along a lot faster than we do, friend.  So the software was making the decision it was programmed to by ordering your death.  Part of the extra terrestrial meets civilian contact module.  You think I'm nuts, I know, but they have event modules for every contingency.  They're always tinkering with them and making up new ones."

"That sounds kind of paranoid," I said.

"Did you know sixteen percent of the people on Facebook aren't real?  They're artificial intelligence modules in place to establish civilian control.  You think that Arab Spring Twitter and Facebook stuff came from real people?  You're just not getting it.  Did you see that Curiosity has a Twitter following?  You know, Curiosity- the robot ship that we landed on Mars.  Think about that.  The government can activate an army of artificial Facebook people to shift opinion when they want people's thinking to go a certain way.  Same way they do with Twitter."

"How do you know that for sure?" I said. "How do you know there really is a software program for handling things like what to do when someone discovers evidence of alien intervention?"

"You have arrived," said the dashboard computer.

"You're about to find out.  Going to see a whole lot of people you didn't invite show up at that restaurant.   Park over there," he told me.  "Where that cluster of vans are.  Be the one on the outside two spaces apart from the rest.  We don't want anyone looking in at what we're carrying."

"They've seen dogs before," I said.

Mark was up and in the back of the van, breaking open cases and making noise.  Every time I turned my head to see what he was doing he told me to keep my eyes on the place across the street.

"Okay, time to make that call to your scientist friend," he said.

I turned to see what he'd put together.

"Is that a rocket launcher?" I asked nervously.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Episode 15- The Secret Enemy



If you have the cash to spare to help us out with the Alien Diaries Anthology, head on over to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1078742786/the-alien-diaries-translation-project and donate will you?

*****

I drove.

I'd gotten two hours sleep in a mall parking lot before heading to the Bob Evan's restaurant where I would meet Mark.  The prepaid cell phone was supposed to be my alarm clock, but I didn't need. it.  The sun was heading up high and the driver's seat was so uncomfortable I couldn't have made it another hour.

"Turn there, at the entrance to the park," Mark said.

He'd thrown a rock at the window of where I was sitting at Bob Evan's.  I got the idea and headed out to meet him.  He didn't want anyone at the restaurant to remember him.

His black van had something lettered on a magnetic sign about "Books for the Blind."  The back seat was stacked with plastic cases, a tripod and a medical kit the size of a briefcase.  On the middle short bench rested a black and tan Rottweiler.

"Nice dog," I said.

"Not hardly," said Mark.

"What's his name?"

"Her."

"Sorry, her.  What's her name?"

"Patriot," he said as he unbuckled his coat and got in the passenger side.

"Sure you want me to drive?"

"Get in or I'll tell Patriot you're a commie."

We drove around and I told him everything I could remember since the day Emily contacted me.

"Keep your eyes on the road," he said.

Re-telling the most intense days of my life made it hard to be a good driver.

By the time we got to the park, I was mentally exhausted.  Even with Mark and his dog as reinforcements, I couldn't see any way things could end except with me in a secret government prison or on the run for the rest of my life.  We pulled over to the painted yellow lines that defined the curbside parking and left the engine running.

"Why are we sitting in the park looking at the tennis courts?"  I asked.

"There's good looking women in tennis outfits playing tennis.  Unless my van's on the radar, nobody's going to bother us.  They'll figure we're normal."

The sun was yellow as a happy face button, but a mass of dark gray clouds were sneaking up on it to ruin its day.  A scattering of people wandered the park, feeding the ducks or geese or whatever they were.

"We should have brought french fries to feed the birds," I said.  "We'd fit right in."

He hit a button on the dashboard and the on-board computer screen came to life.  Rows of numbers and then the image of an eye ringed with barbed wire appeared.  It flashed green before disappearing.

"New GPS?"  I asked nervously.

"Here's the deal," he said, turning to face me.  "If that picture would have flashed red, you would have spent the night in a tank of nitric acid and nothing would have been left of you by morning."

My stomach went weak.  I was wrong thinking I couldn't get any more afraid than I already was.

He let it sink in.  Waited until I calmed down a little.

"I'm not going to kill you," he said.

It felt like my heart would never quit beating too fast.

"Thanks," I said.

"But the Feds will if they catch you," he said.

"What was that picture?"  I asked.  I was trying not to think about what he'd just said.  "Is it supposed to be the Feds?"

It was a stupid question.  I just couldn't think of anything else to say.

"One brother to another?"

"Do I have to say the Masonic oath?  If I do, don't kill me because I can't.  I forgot how it goes.  You don't have to tell me what the picture on the screen stands for."

He frowned and stroked the stubble on his chin.

"If anybody needs to know, it's you," he said.

"Okay, what is it?"

"It's our symbol for the Secret Enemy."

"And what is the Secret Enemy?"

"It's the software program," he said, "that ordered your death."


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