Happy Halloween 2018, & Nanowrimo Wishes

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

While I understand this post is coming out after Halloween has ended for most people, I wanted to get my well-wishes out there all the same. Halloween is quickly becoming one of my favorite holidays. I got to celebrate with family this evening (which is why this post is coming out so late).

I’m also going to do Nanowrimo again this year. It’s a chance for me to get back into writing every day. I also intend to publish my daily output here. For everyone else who is participating this year, I wish you the best of luck as November arrives. Fifty thousand words is a fairly substantial goal for anyone to attain. Although people do try to win it, just trying it can be a reward unto itself.

So, Happy Halloween to all, and to you Wrimos out there, good luck and best wishes!

Anarki – Chapter 3

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Staci Blevins sat in her favorite chair at her kitchen table. She was painting her nails Midnight Purple, idly listening to the morning news from the TV in the living room. The reporter was going on about some arrests downtown.
Every morning seemed to be like that these days. Her hand slipped, and some polish streaked past her cuticle. “Oh, darn,” Staci sighed.

There was a knock at the door behind her, followed by the creaking of the old wooden frame on its hinges. Without bothering to see who it was, Staci said, “Morning, Miranda.” She grabbed the bottle of acetone.

“Morning, Staci,” said Miranda.

“Coffee’s warm,” said Staci. She stuck a cotton swab in the acetone and brought it to her nail. Most of the polish got cleaned up, but her hand wasn’t steady enough. A tiny sliver of polish came off the nail, too.

“I’m not here for long,” said Miranda. “Just here to pick up Jack for school.”

“You sure?” asked Staci, turning to look at her friend. Miranda never turned down coffee, especially on cold January days. “I could put some in a thermos if you like.”

Miranda shoved her hands into her parka. “Uh, sure, thanks,” she said. “Say, you haven’t had time to think about what we talked about on the phone, have you?”

“Not really sure what you were going on about,” Staci replied. She went to the cupboard for an old stainless steel thermos. The lid took a minute to twist off, but she managed to get it open and the coffee inside without spilling any. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Miranda biting her lip. “Is everything okay?” she asked.

“Yeah. Fine, really,” said Miranda. “I was going to ask you the same thing, actually. You know you can talk to me, right?”

Finished with the thermos, Staci grabbed another one and filled it for her son. On the table, her cellphone buzzed, letting her know she had a new text message. She handed the thermos to Miranda and went to check the message. It said:

::She knows.::

Staci dropped her phone, knocking over the bottle of acetone. “Oh my god,” she muttered.

“I can help with that,” said Miranda, grabbing a towel. She wiped up some of the acetone while Staci rescued her phone.

“I’m so clumsy,” she said, shoving her phone in her back pocket. “I have to go upstairs real quick. If Jack comes down, his lunch is on the counter there.” She pointed to a paper bag next to the fridge.

“Sure,” said Miranda.

“Thanks,” said Staci, who marched up her house’s narrow steps to the second floor. They led to a narrow hall, past Jack’s room and then her room, ending with her bathroom. Loud music came from Jack’s room. It gave Staci a headache. She went past it to the bathroom and closed the door behind her. She got out her phone and typed with trembling hands:

::Who’s this?::

The reply came less than a second later:

::Cops will arrive ten minutes.::

Then, she received a picture of a large police van flanked by two squad cars. She recognized the highway they were on. It was just a few miles away from her house. Staci stammered out another text:


This time, the reply took a little longer:

::We are people who can help. If you want it, you will need to leave now.::

Staci wiped cold sweat from her forehead. She couldn’t stop from shaking now. Her breath came in panicked bits. Was this what Miranda wanted to talk about? “No use worrying about it now,” she told herself. Reaching for the mirror, she swung it open and searched the bottles. She found the right bottle hidden where she left it and pulled it out. By now her shakes prevented her from handling the cap – she squeezed the bottle and top went flying.

She looked for a stone bowl and glass straw she kept in the cabinet, but decided that she didn’t have enough time to worry about them. Staci took two of the pills and chased them down with water from the faucet. The rest got dumped in a plastic bag that she stuffed into her jeans along with her phone. She ran some water over her face, trying hard not to look too out of sorts. It would take a few minutes for the pills to kick in, and she’d have to put on a brave face for Miranda.

With her best face on, Staci left the bathroom and walked past her son’s door. A lump caught in her throat, and she could only bring herself to touch the wooden frame. Holding back a tear, she went slowly down the stairs, where she found Miranda standing in the door, waiting. “How much longer is he going to be?” she asked.

“Not long,” said Staci, who went to the kitchen table to grab her car keys. “I – I have to go to the grocer real quick to pick up dinner for tonight. Will you be okay waiting here for Jack?”

Miranda fidgeted underneath her parka. She bit her lip and said, “Yeah. You won’t be gone long, will you?”

“Not long at all,” said Staci, putting on her coat and scarf. She headed for the door but stopped and said, “Oh, I forgot to put a note in Jack’s lunch.” She went to a drawer and pulled out a lined notepad with a purple pen. In light purple ink she wrote, “I will always love you, baby.” She dotted the “i” with a heart and folded the note, slipping it into the brown bag.

“Thanks,” said Staci, and stepped outside into the cold winter morning. She got in her car, and backed out of the driveway. In her rear view mirror, she saw Miranda on the phone. Staci’s phone buzzed with a text a few seconds later:

::Police notified you are on the move. Go to convenience store at corner of Lawson and Wallace. Further instructions to follow.::

Other Chapters:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Anarki – Chapter 2

Image Author: Micha Niskin.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Reprinted under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

9 months earlier

In an early January morning, a U.S. Army Humvee turned north along a back road in southeast Turkey. The Humvee slowed down to pass a ten-foot crater made by an errant artillery shell. It rolled off the shoulder between the wreckage of a pickup truck and a military transport, and then continued its slow journey.

Inside the Humvee, Barnie sweated in dusty fatigues and scratched his wrists underneath his handcuffs. His legs were sore, but leg irons prevented him from moving them much. Up front, the driver and passenger Military Police were arguing over a football game, ignoring the squawk coming from the radio. Sitting to Barnie’s left, an officer from the Trial Defense Service droned on in legalese. The only thing Barnie considered in his favor was the hood over his head. It blocked out the morning sun, and just might help him get a nap in.

That thought ended when the officer yanked his hood off. “What was that for?” Barnie muttered, shielding his eyes with his cuffed hands.

“You need to pay attention to my advice,” said Lieutenant Colonel Mike Tanner. The guy was clean cut and looked like dirt was afraid to touch him. He continued, “Someone has a giant hard-on for you. We’ve got our own plane waiting on a dirt strip to haul you directly to Gitmo.”

Barnie blinked. He said, “Can they do that?”

Tanner sighed and flipped his file to the cover sheet. He said, “In a nutshell, they’re saying you’re a terrorist piece of shit that killed twenty U.S. military personnel. The ‘terrorist’ part lets them do whatever they want.”

“I didn’t kill anyone,” Barnie offered meekly. He stared out the window at the rocky terrain, wondering how close he’d got to the Syrian border. “But you’re not here to care about that, are you?”

“Surprisingly smart for a dead man,” said Tanner. “I got handed this case file and put on a plane out here at the last minute. Whoever wants your ass is also making sure none of your rights get violated. Go figure.” Tanner shrugged.

“So you’re here to represent me then,” said Barnie.

“Not exactly,” said the military lawyer. “I’m here to let you know how fucked you really are. There’s a recording of the patrol that got ambushed. They asked for help, and you didn’t give it to them. You abandoned your post. Next thing anyone knows, you’re thousands of miles away trying to hotfoot it to Syria. How’d you get off post and slip through the roadblocks? Did one of your terrorist buddies pick you up?”

The Humvee jerked around another obstruction, a twisted pile of metal that was probably a car. Barnie saw the familiar signs of a missile strike. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the piece of a child’s car seat impaled on the car’s aluminum frame. He sighed and said, “If what you’re saying is true, nobody is going to care how I got out.”

“You’re right,” said Tanner, flicking some lint off his uniform. “Either way, you’re getting tortured. It’s just one fewer question they’re going to ask you.” He looked out the window. Off to the west, there was a C-130 with four propellers spinning. Tanner said, “Your chariot awaits. Oh, and before you leave, I want you to know one of those guys you killed was my step-brother. He didn’t deserve what he got.”

Their Humvee pulled up to the back of the plane, whose cargo bay door had already been lowered. Inside, two men in matching black windbreakers and khaki pants stepped out. One had a satellite phone to his ear. Tanner said, “Those guys look like CIA. They might get to work on you a little early.”

One man waved to the Humvee, signalling the MP’s and Tanner to get out while he took Barnie into custody. Barnie hobbled along as best he could, guided at the elbow by his new escort. On the other side of the vehicle, the man on the satellite phone lowered it and walked up to Tanner. He pointed at Barnie and asked, “Is that Haskell?” Tanner nodded.

In less than a second, Barnie watched the man drop his phone and pull out a pistol. Holding it in two hands, the man shot Tanner in the head twice. Neither MP had enough time to fully register what happened. The first stood there, jaw open, and watched the man squeeze off two rounds into his chest. The second, scared into complete panic, started to run towards Barnie.

Barnie watched in shock as the man with the gun take aim and squeeze another two rounds through the second MP’s chest. The bullets exited in fountains of blood that spattered over Barnie’s face. He felt the urge to empty his bladder, but collapsed to his knees instead. Sand mixed with the blood on his face, and he watched the MP’s chest heave as it tried in vain to get him oxygen.

Behind him, Barnie’s escort let go of his elbow and went to the MP. He took off a set of keys and went to unlock Barnie’s chains. Taking out a handkerchief, he wiped Barnie clean and helped him to his feet. “This way, sir,” he said.

The other agent had recovered his phone and extended it to Barnie. “Mr. Haskell, this is for you,” he said.

Without any further explanation, Barnie took the phone and held it to his ear. “Y-Yes?” he asked.

“Mister Haskell, we don’t have much time,” said the voice on the other end. Barnie could only tell that it was a woman. She said, “We’ve taken over this plane, but we only have a short window to fly you to safety.”


“Who are we?” the woman asked. “We’re an organization dedicated to peace and global prosperity. This is your chance to join us. Normally we’d give you more time to think it over. We need your answer right now.”

The phone shook in Barnie’s hand. None of this made any sense to him, even considering everything that had happened to him the previous week. Under better circumstances, he might have thought of his options more clearly. He asked, “What if I say no?”

The other end of the line was quiet for a few seconds. She said, “Your government knows where you are, and they will know within a few hours that you are missing. To be blunt, you need us if you want any hope of being a free man.”

Looking down at his hand, Barnie saw a splotch of blood and sand stuck between his thumb and forefinger. His mind couldn’t hold onto anything right now, except for the knowledge that he’d just watched three people get shot in front of him. Would the two gunmen he was with actually let him leave? Would he be able to get far enough before getting picked up again?

“I’ll join you,” said Barnie, staring at his hand and the last stain of a person’s life. “I just want to be clear. I’m not killing anyone. I’ve left that life behind.”

“We understand,” said the woman. “Welcome to Anarki. Please board the plane, and keep this phone with you. Further instructions will be provided when you arrive at your destination.” The line went dead.

“This way,” said the man who’d helped him out of his cuffs. He guided Barnie onto the plane, and then went to help the other man move the bodies. The C-130’s engines hummed louder, and the plane lurched forward to begin taking off. Barnie found a seat and strapped himself in.

He held the phone in his hands, next to the splotch of blood, and stared at them both for the entire flight.

Links to other chapters:
Chapter 1

Anarki & Other Stories – A Belated Preface

I figured before I continue writing any of my other fiction here to note that it’s all getting written extemporaneously. As such, there’s going to be a higher likelihood of mistakes, and less time I’ll have for editing. Right now the stories I’ve been publishing here are exercises to keep me writing.

Perhaps people reading my work here might not care if I spend more time on a story. I’m not sure. But I’ve found that I’d rather publish something I haven’t been able to work on very much than not write and publish anything at all. In that regard, writing for me is something I need to do publicly in order to keep myself honest.

Still, I am happy if any of these stories I write give any joy or positive feeling to readers. I think that the act of creating something is completed when it has resounded in the heart of another. Failing that, practice is something useful in its own right. At any rate, I am always grateful to everyone who chooses to spend time reading.

Anarki – Chapter 1

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Barnard Haskell fishtailed his old jeep into a dried up riverbed going about forty miles an hour, and jammed the gas pedal to the floor as soon as he righted himself. He was heading west out of Utah, or maybe he was already in Nevada. It didn’t matter. The place he was going to wasn’t on a map, and it’s not like his phone was working enough to let him get his GPS position. All he had was a faded U.S. Army map butterfly clipped to the dashboard, with the wobbly scrawling of an old geezer in red ink pointing the way.

Ahead, the riverbed forked. Barnie took the left one and launched the jeep up a small dirt hill, going fast enough to get some air time. The landing made the shocks protest again, along with a loose spring in the seat poking his thigh through his khaki shorts. “Shit,” Barnie muttered, driving with one hand on the wheel and the other digging the spring out. His jeep hit uneven terrain, and he was now on two wheels. “Fuck,” he said, laying off the gas and putting both hands back on the wheel.

Through blind luck – Barnie didn’t know how to stunt drive – he twisted the wheel and the jeep went back on all fours. He hit the gas again, and the jeep gained speed. Checking his watch, he saw the little cartoon mouse pointing at four and five. There’d be just enough time.

Barnie heard his jeep’s fender hit a rock, followed by the gushing sound of fluid pouring out the radiator. “No,” Barnie whined. He kept his sandal on the gas, but about a hundred yards later the engine quit on him. Steam billowed out from under the hood. His jeep rolled on for a few more yards and then stopped in a sandy bank.

With no choice to continue in the jeep, Barnie rummaged around the back seat for a plastic trash bag. He found it in the floorboard, and fished inside for his boots. They were there, along with some water, fresh socks, and a spare t-shirt. Barnie considered putting it on, but the gaudy red and pink Hawaiian shirt he had on was a tad warmer. He grabbed the socks and boots and put them on as fast as he could, then hopped out with the bag slung over his shoulder.

He started on foot, but went back to unclip his map. Barnie looked around a bit, and decided he still might have enough time. If he was right, he was next to the wobbly circle on his map. It had a note just to the right which read: Stop at the arrowhead rock before you hit the fence.

Off to the west, Barnie heard the sound of air raid sirens like in the old 50’s movies.

Barnie kicked off into a light jog. The sun was going to set in an hour or so, and it blurred his vision through his designer sunglasses. That didn’t exactly matter, since he could just follow the sound of the sirens. His destination had to be reasonably close. At least, as long as sound didn’t carry too far out in the middle of a desert nowhere.

Half a mile later, Barnie climbed out of the riverbed and ascended a rise covered by sagebrush that swiped at his calves. The air was a bit dry, so he pulled out a half-liter bottle of water and sucked it down. He looked for a recycling bin, and then started laughing. “Not like anyone’s going to collect out here,” he said to himself. Barnie had the brief urge to just throw the bottle back into the riverbed, but he decided to put it back in the bag.

Then, when he held his arm up against the sun to get his bearings, Barnie saw a pointed rock just in his path. Marching up to it, he saw that up close it looked just like an old arrowhead he’d find in his backyard growing up. “You got to be kidding me,” he breathed. A couple steps to the left, and Barnie saw a crack in the bottom of the rock, along with a note painted in yellow spray paint. It read: Go this way. There was an arrow pointing off to the west. The little dot over the “i” was in the shape of a heart.

Down in the fissure, Barnie pulled out a plastic shopping bag they gave out at most convenience stores. It had one of those stupid smiley face logos along with “HAVE A NICE DAY” written three times. Barnie thought it was a sick joke, but he reached in and pulled out something he’d been promised. In small yellow envelope inside, there was a security card, small wire cutters, and a ring of keys with labels on them.

Everything he’d need to get into a high security army base.

The air raid sirens blared their warnings again, and Barnie stuffed the contents back into the envelope. He held up his arm and looked off in the direction of the arrow on the rock. About a mile away, he saw a chain link fence with old barbed wire coiled over the top. It was exactly where he was promised it would be. And if the person who told him about the place was right, it was the place where he had a last chance to stop the world from ending.