Archive for category Fiction

I Wrote a Thing

I wrote previously about just jumping into the writing process if you’re feeling stymied by much of the popular advice regarding screenwriting (namely: don’t even start writing unless you have a very detailed outline to work from).

Well, I managed to follow my own advice and very recently finished my own ~120-page feature script. Here’s what helped me get it done:

– I wrote it with the help of a couple friends who were there to keep me on task and provide guidance and feedback. I think this is pretty key. Writing is pretty lonely otherwise.

– Each week, I would write 5 pages, due by end of day Wednesday. We’d discuss the pages on Friday, and then the cycle would begin all over again. Having it be a regular schedule, but not a strenuous one, was useful. It ensured I never hit burnout and that regularly I would go into the next week eager to write down what was still kicking around from the week before.

– I specifically made it a point to never review prior sections. I did absolutely no editing as I wrote and this was a crucial part of the process. If I had stopped to correct errors, I never would have finished. Now, what is finished is a piece of garbage, but it is finished. And now I can get to work crafting a second draft.

That was basically it. Have support, write regularly and don’t look back until you are done. You’ve probably seen that advice all over. There is a reason why.

What now? Well, now I’ll be making an outline.

Now that I have finished writing a script, I can see why everyone says to write an outline first. I found myself lost in the weeds quite a bit while writing this script and an outline would have stopped that before it even started.

I set out to make a Hollywood script. Not that I necessarily intended to ever try and market this script (I mean, among many other reasons, it’s my first script, which means it was always destined for the file cabinet), but I didn’t intend to write anything but a by-the-numbers Hollywood script. And now I can’t watch a by-the-numbers Hollywood film (Bad Boys, The Rock, ummmm… really anything Michael Bay has touched is what is coming to mind [which is not a dig on Michael Bay, even if you want it to be]) without going “Dammit. I don’t have that part in there.”

I’m missing strong B-plots. I don’t get into the personal lives of the heroes. I have no “Save the Cat” moment. I don’t have call-backs. There’s no real thematic goal. I don’t think I’ve made enough room for large action set-pieces. I lack catchphrases! Oh, and the plot doesn’t really make, as they say in the biz, “any sense at all”.

Suffice it to say, I have a lot that needs to be done.

To help with my outline, I plan to look at my script and break each major scene or plot element into a notecard. Sort those notecards by act and then decide what needs to stay and what needs to go. I’m going to steal heavily from Blake Snyder, whose Save the Cat was just as gimmicky as I expected but also broke things down in a way that really gelled with me, and a bit from Edgar Wright. Specifically, this. (Yes, yes, I know this is just Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, but something about seeing how it actually gets applied made more sense to me than reading that entire damn book.)

No Comments

Friday Fiction: Changeling, Part 2

Continued from here

It became easier once I became an adult. I didn’t have so much growth and change to simulate. I could take a photograph and sequester myself for a week. It didn’t matter who, but I always picked someone that I imagined qualified as handsome in a way that was subtle. I would post the photo near a mirror and study it. I would imagine how people would react to this man and how he would respond. I would map crow’s feet and furrowed brow lines. Then I would turn to the mirror and it would be time to sculpt. It’s not a process I’ve discovered a way to make more efficient.

Aging is still troublesome, but it’s simpler to achieve for an adult. A trip to the supermarket and a bit of hair dye and suddenly you’re graying at the temples and you’ve picked up a few years in age with minimal effort. Growing old, however, is quite different from aging. It’s a bridge I’ll have to cross when I reach it. I’m not entirely positive how long I’m expected to live. That should make for a surprise.

I suspect that my later years will be remarkably similar to my early years. I’ll have less of a sense of myself as others perceive me. My world will draw in upon itself and my appearance will be more a factor of my moods and situation than of surroundings and outside influences. Finding someone to help care for me once I’m unable to do so for myself is a concern I find myself continually trying to ignore. When I was infant, I was largely happy: a textbook perfect child. My appearance was uniform, barring small changes chalked up to the capriciousness of development. As a toddler, though, I was a terror, and my body reflected this. Features would arch, my hair darkened. I became an expression of frustration and will. That middling age is marked by extremes and during happy times it was as if I was a different child, physically and emotionally. My parents told me the first time I came out to see them, happy with a toy I had found shortly after a particularly brutal tantrum, that they had assumed that once again they had been robbed of their child and presented with an imposter. I pray that those golden years I spend waiting out whatever hereafter awaits me are not ones marked by similar moodswings. I know that I would be terrified of an old man that quite literally darkens with rage when he doesn’t get the second helping of pudding he wants.

As a child, the changes were a matter of mood and pure instinct. Reflex and nothing more. When I was in grade school, I thought it was a game and didn’t really believe my parents that not everyone could do what I could do. It only took one terrified classmate and a very long meeting with a school principal to relegate me to homeschooling. I tried to fight the decision once I reached the age for high school, but it was a losing battle from the start. I clearly have a similar life progression to a regular human. I was not immune to the horrors of teenage life and hormones wreaked havoc for me. No longer was changing reflexive or recreational, it became involuntary, like a tic.

These unwelcome spurts of change only served to deepen my resentment. I lived in a world that was by contrast almost entirely static. My parents normal in every way, my home as standard as any other. I rarely went outside, first as a mandate and later out of a sense that I didn’t need anything other than myself. It was exactly the wrong time to be brought to the realization that my parents had never really gotten to the point of understanding me, not in the way that I had expected that they should.

How could they? I didn’t understand myself, and judging others on their ability to do the same was stupid. But at the time it didn’t matter in the slightest that they were doing the best they could. It’s taken a few years of what may not quite qualify as hard living, but certainly lonely living, for me to realize that they probably did understand a part of me very well, as well as any parent understands a child. But I changed.

No Comments

Friday Fiction: Changeling, Part 1

Depressingly, I am now starkly aware that the largest barrier to my fiction is that structure and I do not see eye to eye. So, I’d like to say that I know where this is going, but I’m not 100% positive. I actually wrote an outline for this one, so hopefully it won’t go the way of “20th”, which I really must do post-mortem on one of these days, but I’m not 100% on if what I’m crafting up will be a satisfying story in any real way. At any rate, I’ve tried for a bit too long now to offer up excuses if you don’t like how this starts off.

The Changeling

I have never known my true face.

There are no portraits or photographs made by a doting mother and father and hung above a mantelpiece, lit by the warm caress of lamplight and the glow of parental affection. The man and woman I could most accurately call parents have long been quit of me. They raised me as far as they felt was necessary. They couldn’t bear to be associated with “my kind”. I remember laughing at that. They knew what I was as well as I did, which is to say that they had only the faintest inklings. It was about all we had in common.

I envy the orphaned. They have either the certainty of a love lost or the wistful dream of a noble and grand lineage. I can suffer no such illusions. I was abandoned. Worse still, I was abandoned in place of a human child stolen from under the noses of my adoptive parents. The man and woman who raised me are decent people by all definitions, but were unfit for my circumstances and I knew that I was always a poor substitute to the child they created together like gods in their own universe. I don’t need any more details about those who created me to frame a clear enough portrait. They were the sort of parents that leave their children mewling in the bassinets of mankind, lost to the world that they were born to.

When I was very small my parents never noticed anything unique about me. They knew that I was not their child of course. They also were not the sort of people to abandon a helpless infant to fate in spite of a sadness that I know was inconsolable, in spite of the concession they were left with. I was a baby in every way that they had wanted one. I cooed and drooled and had eensy toes that I would put into my mouth. The malleability of youth. Were it not so regular I would call it a portent.

The appearance of an infant changes—in comparison to an adult human—with frightening speed. I do not mean false cosmetic change. Applying makeup or changing a hairstyle doesn’t effect a fundamental change. Babies and toddlers, though, change rapidly and surprisingly. Blues to brown eyes. Blonde hair to black hair at the core. Blemishes fade, marks surface. Body shape forms and shifts. Bones fuse and vanish. It’s no surprise I’m most comfortable around children. It’s not because of shared ancestry.

I was just past two years old that they finally decided something was “amiss”. Much is made of outright insults and slurs. I don’t understand the impact. They are a telegraph of emotion. You know how the wielder of an epithet feels about you. They’ve made it plain as day. Wipe them clean from your life.

Something amiss. And said with a smile and eyes that expected commiseration. I don’t ever expect to wash that away. They both asked for hugs after we had that talk and I could see in their stance that they felt some great weight had been lifted from them. They had been absolved and by confronting this issue head-on, they had graduated to mature adults who were proud of the burden they had to bear. I was to recognize them as noble guardians for their acceptance of my strangeness. They embraced me as if I was their new brother in solidarity and I embraced them to say goodbye. I didn’t leave for several years, but I was homeless from that point on.

No Comments

Friday Fiction: The Worst Thing, plus previews!

The first thing for today is just a little funky exercise. I was trying to think of something to write and having a tough time. And so… this came out as a sort of “just keep writing until you have something”.

This has got to be the worst thing I’ve ever written. No joke. I’m not a fan of a lot of the crap I churn out, but this takes the cake. The crap cake.

What the hell was I thinking?

It’s like a million monkeys with typewriters, but they all have goatees and stupid little ponytails and they want you to read this screenplay that they wrote about redemption. Is there anything worse than pretentious monkeys?

This. This is worse than one million pretentious monkeys. How do you even tell if a monkey has a goatee? It’s not like they’re normally running to the store to see just how many blades you can fit onto a single Schick. Nice imagery there, ace.

What inspired this? I don’t even have the crutch of drugs or alcohol to fall back on with this one. Wouldn’t it be nice if when people read this I could laugh and wink knowingly and say to them, “Crystal meth, you know how it is.” And then they would laugh and pat me on the back and nod because they do know what it’s like. Who doesn’t succumb to a good meth-bender from time to time?

It’s even breaking the fourth wall. There’s not even a wall to break; it’s a theater term. That’s how awful this is. Who am I talking to? The guy next to me at the coffee shop playing World of Warcraft on his laptop? He’s not listening. He has a headset on and keeps bitching that someone needs to “just pick a target, dammit”. He’s busy.

What, are people going to clap me on the back and tell me how very clever it is of me to write something about how I’m writing something and about how that something is so very bad which both manages to absolve its inherent shittiness and make me charming and witty and attractive to all peoples. Through the magic of metaphysical prose I will find success. Oh god. It’s not getting any better the longer it goes.

Do I keep writing and hope that somehow I can meander my way out of this deathtrap? Literary quicksand. You keep wriggling about hoping that you’ll be able to reach that vine over there, the one being dangled by the orangutan, but all you’re doing is increasing the vacuum sucking you closer to inexorable, gritty doom. And that orangutan’s not helping. He is a dick. He’s probably got a goatee and a ponytail.

It’s all pretty fruitless, I mean, it says right at the top that this is the worst thing I’ve ever written. How do you escape from that? It’s right there on the page; you can’t change that.

Well, you can’t change it. You’re either reading it on a webpage or printed out. You can close the window or cross it out with pen (why did you print this? Don’t you know how expensive printer ink is?), but it’s there, man. Sure, I could change it to say “This is the best thing I’ve ever written”, but, come on, let’s be honest with ourselves.

These next two items are a couple of previews for other items I’m working on and hope to have posted up in the coming weeks.

The Changeling

I have never known my true face.

There are no portraits or photographs made by a doting mother and father and hung above a mantelpiece, lit by the warm caress of lamplight and the glow of parental affection. The man and woman I could most accurately call parents have long been quit of me. They raised me as long as they felt was necessary; they couldn’t bear to be associated with “my kind”. I laughed when they started to use that phrase. They knew what I was as well as I did, which is to say that they had only the faintest inklings. It was about all we had in common.

Saga of the Techno-Viking

The world was forged of the defeated corpse of Ymir. It is tribute to the power and foresight of Odin, who would indeed spend his eons contemplating his fate in Ragnarök, that the defeat of a great foe could become the means through which our world would be born. The blood of Ymir became the rivers and seas, his bones the mountains and his skin the earth itself. The heart of Ymir was set aside for a special purpose.

Many of you may already know the glory that is the Techno-Viking. If you do not, you may educate yourself here. He dispenses his justice about 40 seconds in.

1 Comment

TMNT: Double Damage and Writing for Games

This is Friday Fiction after a fashion.

Please to direct your web browsers to this rather ungainly URL. This is the latest offering from Urbansquall Games and it features a story “written” by yours truly. Why the quotes? Well, that’s the topic of today’s post.

For starters, it was awesome to get to work on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles project. I was a fan of the movies, the cartoons and the original Eastman and Laird comics. Good stuff all around. However, writing for a video game, writing for a flash video game and writing for an established and lucrative license are all very different from writing in general.

There’s a pretty broad range of eras of TMNT to choose from. The early comics work has a different feel and different characters from the early cartoons, which are different from the early movies, which are different from the later cartoons, which are different from the latest movies, which are different from the latest cartoons. At the outset, I wasn’t given any directive at all in terms of the story. So, I crafted up a couple Turtle story concepts I thought would be fun to tell. Baxter Stockman is trying to recreate the ooze that transformed the Turtles, Bebop and Rocksteady engineer a mass breakout from the local zoo to create an army of animal mutants, Shredder is evil and kidnaps April—that sort of thing. Classic Turtle escapades from the early cartoon era.

Well, matters immediately become more complex when you factor in that you’re not always going to have an artist who has nothing to do all day long but draw the ideas you want to appear in your video game, especially at small companies. The mandate came in from the lead designer that I had 4 areas to work with that our artist would be able to manage on top of creating all the enemy and character graphics that I was going to be asking for: city streets, rooftops, warehouse and—a pressure-release section—a techno-lair for the final bad guy.

[What do I mean by pressure-release section? This is a portion of the project that can be jettisoned if time doesn’t permit. Since a chunk of levels can be forfeited, you need to ensure the story can survive without those levels as well.]

So, the story became a very basic one. April discovers a warehouse in the city with Foot soldiers everywhere. They trail her and just after she alerts the Turtles, she’s kidnapped. The Turtles rush to her location and give chase through city streets and across city rooftops, eventually following the Foot back to their warehouse where it is discovered that Baxter Stockman is trying to create serum for super soldiers. After he is defeated, the Turtles continue their quest to track Shredder to his hi-tech HQ, where they ultimately defeat him and save the day.

So far, so good. Basic. I’m not exactly wowing myself with my story prowess, but its certainly functional and the color can come in the details.

But then we submit this idea as part of the overall game design to the client… and they shoot it full of holes. Turns out they’re looking for a different era of Turtles than we were providing and there are a few details their licensing people want tweaked. Easy enough to handle, but embarrassing to have had your hands slapped by a major client. As a rule, do not expect that when you have questions about items you consider critical to your work that a major client will respond quickly so you can do you job. More often than not, they’ll be silent until you’re forced to just do SOMEthing before deadline, and then they’ll be mad you didn’t do what they expected you to just assume they wanted. 100% of my experience with major game firms shows this to be true (yes, yes, 100% means I’m only 2 for 2, but still, 100%).

Story is approved at last! Time to write? Not yet. How is the story going to be told? Scripted scenes with in-game animation? Ideally: yes. Practically speaking: only if you have the time. Telling story like that is the most integrated with gameplay itself, and it requires a lot of code adjustment and tweaks that your coders might not have the time for. After all, at the end of the day, the game needs to be fun more than it needs to have some brief story elements. Their time will very likely not be devoted to your requests.

So then do you just have little markers in the level that when the player walks over them they see a dialogue box? Nah. It’s clunky for story… plus that’s how tutorial elements for gameplay are delivered.

What do you do then? In our case, we found another artist who could do animated comic-book style pages for us. However, the project has a tight timeline and the artist was only given enough time for about four to six pages of work. Now it’s time for me to try and break the story into comic-book ready blocks of action, something I’d never thought about before. I tried to keep action high and dialogue minimal and to communicate as much story as possible in broad strokes to ensure that the artist had enough time to make something quickly and have it communicated in the equivalent of 12 to 18 comic panels. It’s trickier than you might think to imply broad swaths of action and progress with virtually no dialogue.

This goes well… but then it’s clear the pressure valve needs to be applied and we lose 5 levels and this changes the comic situation. Two pages are cut. We’re now missing a boss character, and his absence happens to change the logic of the story overall. Now the evil goal of the Foot clan is vague. They kidnap April for finding their mysterious warehouse, the Turtles find the warehouse and rescue April and battle Shredder twice in the process. They defeat him… but what was he trying to do in the first place? Well, hopefully you won’t think too hard about that because it’s too late to add new pages now.

Aaand now it’s done. So, similar to, but on a smaller scale than tales of screenwriters with their films that hit the Hollywood grinder and emerge looking nothing like how they started, writing a video game title for major client is barely something that can be called your own work. It’s more commonly a collaboration between the writer, the artist and the lead designer for the game with the client throwing as many wrenches at you as they can.

We pulled it off and I think I’m happy with the product, but I’m not sure I can say I’m proud of it from a story perspective. I’m proud of the accomplishment, and happy for the experience. I really liked trying to craft instructions for an artist for comic panels, too. It’s a uniquely collaborative writing exercise. Trying to envision your words in a fashion clear enough so that someone else can make them concrete is a pretty neat task. It’s hard for me to feel too much ownership on an end product that has very little of my words and ideas of mine that were heavily augmented by a large corporate third party. I’m not trying to say I’m emo bitter kid about this, but I do want to communicate that projects like this are almost never your baby when they’re completed. They become “the job” and they’re really kind of everyone’s success more than they are yours.

No Comments

Fiction: The Snow’s Shadow – part 2

Those were the lost years for Shiro. His peers graduated from the school that no one would ever know existed and walked the world in shadow, practicing their many arts. Some were pleased to know that Shiro had vanished. Others were crestfallen that he was never able to learn to be like his brothers and sisters. In time, nearly all forgot about the young shinobi who was fated to fail.

Fukurō thought otherwise. Careful study of the tales reveal that Shiro had been sent by his master to train in isolation. As wise as Fukurō was, he could not teach Shiro what was needed. Fukurō was himself a creature of the shadow, and he knew he could only walk beside Shiro for a short distance before Shiro must find a new path without the old man’s guidance.

The tales all say that Shiro was not seen for many years, but this is foolish. No shinobi is ever seen that does not wish to be seen. To say the shinobi were not seen is to say that this world is vast. It is the kind of statement that is not worth the breath it would cost. Shiro had been told to seek the way of the light and it was there that he could be found if any knew the secrets to watch for. He spoke with the sun and the sky. He walked among reflections and lived in the open world. As other shinobi greeted the dusk, Shiro greeted the dawn.

Seven years passed before Shiro returned to history. Seven years after his student’s departure, Fukurō was taken from his school. There existed only a very small number of schools in Nihon. As time passed, the shinobi began to seek more glory, to become more visible. They fought for reputation in a way that was unknown to their forefathers, who only needed approval of the many kami that governed all things. This new generation looked for the approval of the Nihonjin and the pleasures their money and favor could grant them. So it began that schools would fight amongst themselves. They would perform elaborate feats to claim their dominance. The kidnapping of the famed master Fukurō was seen as particularly daring display.

He was taken to Fuyō-hō, the most majestic peak in all of Nihon. It was surely Fukurō’s wish that his students and his school would absorb his teachings and respond in the grand tradition of the shinobi, with patience, precision and stealth. His students, though, were clearly lost without the strength of his presence. They reacted with the rashness of youth and organized immediate and foolish rescue ventures. Many students were lost during the attempts to scale Fuyō-hō. The fortress Fukurō had been taken to was near the mountain’s peak, which meant that any attempt to approach was difficult to hide, the distance to traverse being so great.

Distance is typically no concern for the shinobi. Stealth, when executed properly, has no end. Picturesque Fuyō-hō is known for the majesty of its snow-capped peak. The techniques of the shinobi were of little use upon the vast stretches of pure white snow. Even the cover of darkest night did little to disguise their ebon movements against the fields of ivory.

Attempts to return Fukurō from his captivity continued to meet with failure and soon they became less and less frequent. When they had stopped altogether, Fukurō’s captors declared their victory. It was at this time that Shiro enters the tales once more.

Shiro understood that to conquer his rivals, he must first tame Fuyō-hō and so his journey up the mountain was slow. He moved during the day, melding with the light and learning the secrets of the mountain. Breaching the fortress would only be half of his journey. Once he had retrieved his master, he had to ensure he would be able to return with him and Shiro understood that this was not a task that his master, wise and skilled as he may be, could accomplish on his own.

As he advanced, Shiro would take note of every available shadow and create shelters where there were lapses. He spoke to the mountain and asked it to shift the snows. He coaxed the growth of the trees and bushes. He made a home of the mountain and learned its secrets and only then did he know the time was right. During the day he moved through snow as blinding white as the cloth that covered his skin. At night he buried himself, becoming as much a part of this new home as he could.

This was the lesson that Fukurō passed down to his student. Shiro had learned to live in and be a part of the world. He had taught himself to adapt and to forge pathways where none existed. While his fellow students had learned their craft well, they had not learned to find their own way and were limited in ways that Shiro was not, for all the many freedoms they seemed to have earned above the Nihonjin. The shinobi trusted in their teachings, but Shiro had learned to trust in himself.

After weeks of scouting and preparation, Shiro was finally ready to rescue his master. He approached the fortress atop Fuyō-hō at the peak of the sun’s domain over the world, knowing that this is when it would guarded least. The shinobi would only be expecting what shinobi know, the tricks of their forefathers and the tricks of the Nihonjin.

Providence smiled upon Shiro’s infiltration, as there was not a cloud in all of the sky over Nihon that day. The snow upon the ground was a blazing white and Shiro moved gracefully through the light, whispering to the snow as he went, and it gladly covered his footfalls as he proceeded, happy to have the company and to be flattered by his respectful nature.

Whereas the shinobi would sink into the darkness surrounding a fortress wall and swim up its depths to the parapets, Shiro found another path. The darkness ignored him as stoically as it always had. He paid it no heed as he strode ably up a sunbeam to enter the fortress. He then began his quest for the center of the fortress, which was surely where Fukurō was being held.

To the guards scattered atop Fuyō-hō, Shiro was nothing more than the light reflecting off the snow, the artifacts of vision after closing one’s eyelids, a strange reflection in a pool of water. He was invisible to them in a way that none of their other brethren had ever been. And so he reached the center of the fortress.

When he opened the door to Fukurō’s cell, it is said the old Owl stood and addressed his pupil. “I am proud of you, Yuki Kage.” Shiro was confused by this, and was concerned that perhaps his master had been mistreated and that his mind had wandered during his captivity. “I am your faithful student Shiro, Master.”

At this, it is said that Fukurō laughed. “You are Yuki Kage. You are the Snow’s Shadow. Bright as daylight itself and invisible as the unseen. And I am no longer your master.” Before Shiro could protest this unprecedented statement, Fukurō put his arm around his former pupil and said, “Now, Master, will you teach me the wisdom you have learned in your travels? Fuyō-hō is grand and I fear I will not be able to return without your guidance.”

Shiro’s heart swelled at this praise and he turned back to the cell door and stepped out with his former master into the light of legend.

I had intended this to be a cute little fairy tale take on the Ugly Duckling, but with less of a “It’s cool, you’ll grow up and be beautiful automatically, so don’t worry about it” and more of a “You are unique and this is your strength if you can discover it”. I had planned on it being a very light and fluffy piece. And then I decided that I didn’t want to say “ninja”, I wanted to use a more traditional term like “shinobi” and from there I decided I wanted to use the proper terms for Japan and its people (“Nihon” and “Nihonjin”) and then from there I realized that I was writing an entirely different story than I had intended to. The core is the same, but almost nothing else is as I had envisioned it. So… I guess this is a fun example of writing guiding itself, which is one of those things that when I read articles where authors say it I just want to smack them in the face for being all smug about their craft: “Oh yeah, the words just write themselves”.

1 Comment

Friday Fiction: The Snow’s Shadow – part 1

Here’s part one of a story I’ve been working on. Part 2 of 2 should be coming up next Friday. Forgive me if I have butchered any Japanese, I haven’t run it all by my favorite translator yet.

The Snow’s Shadow

In a land that the people call Nihon and in a city that was once called Edo, there was a school that no one knew existed. Describing the area surrounding this school would be a fruitless exercise, for it cannot be seen. Listing for you the steps to reach its doors would be a folly, for your feet will never tread upon its grounds. Suffice it to say, the school existed, though the Nihonjin know as little of it as the rest of the vast world.

From this invisible school issued forth invisible students. They could be seen, but only as it suited their purposes, so they were called invisible. The students were called shinobi. In some years hence, they will also be called oniwaban, which has a more savory aura, and they will not be so invisible then. That is for other tales.

There were mature, expert shinobi in this school, walking unseen among the Nihonjin, but this tale does not concern them, except as corollary. This tale tells of the chibi sasuke and chibi kunoichi: the little ones.

If the concept of little shinobi is amusing, think of the tiger cub learning to stalk or of the falcon’s chick spreading her wings for the first time. Deadly things learn their deadly arts when they are smallest. So it is with the shinobi.

The garb of the shinobi is their skin. By tradition, they are swaddled in clothes as black as night. Their eyes are all that is left visible. This is for the benefit of the young shinobi as well as their parents. Tiny shinobi in garb the color of night are difficult to locate.

It is said that as shinobi grow, their second skin grows with them and becomes a part of them, as they become a part of the shadows. This may seem outlandish, but this is the first failing of most Nihonjin when it comes to the shinobi. The laws of this world are suggestions to the shinobi. It is also said that only fools speak to the wind, but the shinobi have learned much in this manner. To borrow the words of one of the poets of the western world, there are more secrets in this world and the one beyond it than the nihonjin will permit themselves to recognize.

Over time, the little shinobi are taught to breath in the light and exhale shadow. They are taught to exist as a perception, to live as an inkling. They stand astride the wall separating this world from the next. They learn the language of this plane and the ones that surround it. They also learn a great many deadly arts.

The world of the shinobi is vast, but it is by necessity rigid. Secrecy is delicate. This is why the shinobi who was called Shiro did not have a life that mirrored that of his peers. When he was an infant, he was swaddled by his parents in a white cloth that was so pure it was blinding. They offered him no explanations or apologies.

There is a special cruelty wielded by youth. It cuts more sharply in a place of rules and structure, where tradition can lend credence to any number of otherwise outlandish taunts. While his peers busied themselves with matters of the darkness, Shiro had a very different matter to contend with. The shadows spurned him. He was welcomed only in the light, and even there he was hard to look upon. Being hard to look upon is a very different thing than being hard to see. One cannot help but be aware of something that challenges a gaze, rather than redirects it.

The little shinobi were merciless with Shiro. This is unsurprising as they are trained to be fearless in all things. They cursed his name and mocked his parents for what they were sure must be a legendary display of foolishness or cruelty. Why else would a young boy be subjected to such bizarre conditions? He was beaten and abused by the more violent of his peers, who were convinced that his very presence was a threat to the existence of the shinobi. He existed outside of the order of the world, they claimed, which was in violation of the principle law adhered to by the shinobi. He was told that his master would only tolerate him for so long, and that one day he would be wiped from this plane like any other abomination.

Shiro was largely impervious to these taunts and took the beatings as a matter of course. He was, after all, undergoing the same stoic training as his counterparts. The notion that his master would disapprove of him was something that gnawed at him. The parents of a shinobi supplied little beyond an origin. The master became the entirety of existence for the young warriors. He was the source of all wisdom and praise, as well as the final judge in all matters.

The master, known to all as Fukurō, the Owl, but never addressed as anything but Master, was in fact entirely unperturbed by Shiro. Was a difficult student any less of a student? What use is a teacher who can only instruct the simplest of pupils? The Owl saw to it that Shiro was given instruction the same as all his peers. He must learn the principles and methods of the shinobi. To separate him entirely would be an injustice, and would only reinforce the words of the other students, that he was different, that he needed to be sequestered.

It seemed to Shiro that he was not performing well. Devoted as he was, it could not be denied that the teachings of stealth could not be applied in the same way for Shiro as for the rest of the shinobi. The techniques he knew well, but their application was lost to him. Fukurō, however, withheld any criticisms. The other students took this to be the definitive sign of his shame at such an unacceptable pupil. Shiro took this to mean that he must strive harder to please his master.

When Shiro was almost of age, when all shinobi emerge from the school to seek their way in the worlds, Fukurō asked for Shiro’s presence after his normal lessons had ended. There was much whispering about this event, as it was the old Owl’s most overt gesture towards a student who had led a most tumultuous life in all other aspects.

The details of this meeting are a matter of conjecture. Shiro never spoke of it and Fukurō was famous for his secrecy. What is known is that after their discussion, which stories say lasted from a few short moments to days on end, Shiro walked out of the school and into the world and it was assumed that he would never be seen again.

1 Comment

From the Vault: The Case of that Guy with the Wife

I’m dipping into the archive here. This is something I wrote my sophomore year of college, if I remember correctly. It’s also probably one of the only things that I wrote during college that I can think back on and not cringe. It’s a bit awkward in parts, but I enjoy the spirit of it very much. Matt Rake is a ludicrous and reactionary character and I think I’m going to feature him in something new soon. Soooo… for now, please to enjoy this look at some old school work from me.

It has what I think is my favorite descriptive phrase I’ve ever written: “They garnished the room like heavily armed parsley.” So there’s that at least.

It was a dark and stormy night that enveloped my building like a wet paper bag around a soggy, depressing sandwich. Not a good sandwich, not peanut butter and jelly. No, this sandwich was olive loaf. A depressing, sad olive loaf. I had been keeping late hours in my office—located on the third floor of my damp bag building. Another late night meeting with my friend Jack. We go way back, me and Mr. Daniels. He helps me think.

I could see myself reflected back in the glass as I stared out at the rain: square jaw, hard flint eyes, strangely attractive, rogue-ish face. There I was, Matt Rake, Private Dick, just like the glass on the door said. From here though, it said, “ekaR ttaM”. That’s me.

I wondered: What is it that makes Matt Rake so sexy? And Matt Rake, well he stared right back at me and he said to me, “Matt, it’s because the ladies love your gentle, yet unhinged personality. You give them flowers and you give them adventure. You’re a private dick, but you’ve got a heart of gold. Are you hard-boiled? Not a bit. You’re over-easy, just the way the ladies like it.” I just nodded my head, when Matt was right, he was right.

I had gotten into this business after 10 years walking the beat as a cop, promoted all the way up to detective. My partner and I, we were trying to solve a series of gangland murders. One hit right after another. We traced it back to one man, Cesar Mendoza; thought we had him nailed. The cards were all stacked on the other foot, it was only a matter of time. We followed him back to his building one night, had him cornered; there was no way out. We’d brought him down. Sure, maybe the only charge we could get on him was tax evasion, but we could take him down anyway. Before we could nail him, though, he pulled a gun from an ankle holster, killed my partner, then started to run. That’s when an untied shoelace stopped him in his tracks. He ended up dancing cheek to cheek with a dumpster that was about ten feet away. Hit it like a big, fat sack of copper monkeys. Some people say it was blind luck that got me that arrest. I say it was something more, some innate super-sense that only I, Matt Rake, possess. Mendoza could feel the heat that I was bringing his way, he could tell that with Rake on the case, he wouldn’t last for long. It was subconscious really. He tripped because he wanted to get caught. Wanted to end the charade that would have been his flight from my steely justice. Either way, I couldn’t stay on the force after that, I saw my partner in every other cop on the force. So I came here. Detective work was in my blood. I started my own practice.

I started to get upset thinking about Mendoza all those years ago, but Jack had some comforting words for me. His first argument wasn’t convincing. So I made him toss three more my way. The last one was a good one. I began to feel a little better.

Suddenly, my door burst open like the bottom falling off a wet paper bag and then there she was in the doorway, blonde hair nicely framing her face in waves of perfection in spite of the moist air, blue eyes sparkling with the intensity of a community pool in the summertime, flecked with spots of green that reminded me of elderly couples during adult swim time. Her dress was a blue, full-length number that was slit nice and high up the right side. She had a pair of gams on her that made me want to stand up and do the can-can. And I would have, had I the proper musical accompaniment.

“Mr. Rake?”

“I am if you want me to be, dollface.”

“You’ve got to help me, Mr. Rake, you’ve just gotta!”

“Dames. It always had to be a dame. A hysterical dame, at that.”


“Did I say that out loud?”

Silence hung in the air like a hummingbird, but much bigger than that. It hung like a fat, huge, mutant hummingbird. Without the humming.

I could tell she wanted me.

“Listen sugartits, why don’t we discuss your business here so we can get down to business here.”

“Oh, Matt. You’re so strong and forward. You must take me!”

“Wait. What? Really?”

“Yes, yes! Take me! Take me now! “

“This is all working a little too well for me. You, uhh, wouldn’t by any chance be planning something nefarious, would you?”

I took a good look at her. She pulled out the puppy-dog eyes act on me. I kept my gaze as steely as a fork. No dice. Next she tried the old push-up bra defense. She leaned forward, pushing her arms together in towards her chest to accentuate her, well, chest.

“But Matt, surely bodacious hooters like these bad boys can’t belong to someone with evil intentions, how could I possibly plan on using you for anything. Anything, that is, other than sex.”

She had a good point there.

“You have a good point there.”

The fat, silent hummingbird puttered around the room again as I gazed into her chlorinated, old people filled pool eyes and she fingered something she was hiding in her Beretta-shaped purse.

“Alright honeycheeks, what is it that Matt Rake can do for you?”

“I need you to find someone for me, Matt.”

“I’m right here.”

“No, no. I need you to find someone ‘comma’ Matt. Not ‘period’ Matt.”

“Oh. Right. Who is that you need found candyass?”

“I need you to find my husband, Mr. Rake.”

“Husband, eh? Yet you seem to be strangely drawn to my devilish good looks. That a problem for you?”

“Does it seem like it?”

She had a good point.

“You have a good point. I’ll take the case.”

“What’ll it cost me, Mr. Private Dick, sir?”

Seven minutes later I was on the street, prowling my territory. I owned the soggy night. She had told me, in between three-minute marathons of love, that I could start looking for her husband at a room he’d been renting at the Ritz Hotel.

It had stopped raining now. The night felt wet still, like the counter in a bathroom after a too long hot shower when the windows were all closed up. In the bathroom it leads to a sticky build-up. Out here, it leads to soap scum of the soul. The kind of scum you just can’t get out. I had a tub ring all around my soul and I didn’t like it.

Twenty minutes later, I started to wonder why I hadn’t just taken my car, but I got over it when a nickel on the ground caught my attention. It was shiny. I bent down to grab that sparkly circle of wonder that some folks just call a nickel when a pair of burgundy pants stepped into my line of sight.

“Good evening, sir.”

“Whoa, whoa! Back up there, commie boy!”


“You heard me, Chairman. Take your pinko pants and keep on walking, Trotsky.”

“I, uh, it’s just my uniform sir. I’m just the bellhop. Umm… welcome to the Ritz?”

“Right. Right. Uniform. Right. Well, can’t be too careful these days. Red menace, you know.”

“Sir, communism’s been dead for years.”

“Yet it seems to live on in those fancy pants of yours. Now watch yourself boy before I get Senator McCarthy to come down her and clean your clock. Get out of my way.”

I’d never seen anyone open a door for me that fast since, well, since the last time I came here and was accosted by a damn commie that I had to set straight. I strolled right on through that lobby like it was a large open area and went straight for the maitre’d.

“Hey! You. Yeah, you. Garçon. Get over here.”

“I think you mean, concierge, sir.”

“Whoa, whoa there, Vichy-boy. I don’t want Belgium or anything. I’m just looking for some information.”

“I’m from Vermont.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. So you gonna talk or what?”


“Look, don’t play your little French word games with me. Sacred language my ass. Just because you guys managed to steal all the consonants that no one needs doesn’t mean you get a medal. Now let’s make with the info, alright?”

“I would be more than happy to oblige you, if you would first ask me a question.”

“I see your game and I’ll play along. Where is he?”


“You find this amusing. Perhaps I need to grease the wheels a bit.”

It killed me to part with it, but I slid my shiny little five-cent friend across the counter. Everybody’s got a price.

“Again, sir, I would be happy to oblige you if I could only give a more specific request.”

“I’m looking for, you know, the guy… with the wife. She’s blonde. With the hooters. You know, that guy.”

“You’re looking for the guy, with the wife with the blonde hair and, I’m assuming two, breasts?”

“You’re damn right I am.”

“Room 304. Second elevator around the corner.”

That’s how you have to get things done in this town. It’s not pretty, but sometimes you’ve just got to get vague on somebody. If you can’t hack it, then this just isn’t the town for you.

The gaping maw of the elevator opened up like some mouth that opens really wide. I got on and pressed the button for the third floor. After a few gloriously musical moments with that ode to the piña colada, I got off to go and find my mark.

The hotel suite door was open, which I hadn’t expected, but hey, never look a gift horse in the mouth. I tiptoed inside. The room was as black with my eyes open as it was with my eyes shut. Both ways I got those little lights dancing in front of my eyes. The ones that don’t actually light anything up. I love those things.

Suddenly, everything flashed a bright white, I fell to the ground, pawing at my damaged eyes, screaming for sweet mercy before I heard a familiar voice say, “You’re not blind, Matt. I turned the lights on.”

I knew that.

“I knew that.”

I turned around. It was the blonde. You know, the one with the hooters and the husband, from before. At the start. That one. She was pointing her Beretta shaped purse at me.

“Why are you pointing your purse at me?”

“It’s not the purse. It’s the Beretta I was hiding in the purse!”


“Enough, Matt. I brought you here to kill you.”

“With a gun?”

“Yes… why?”

“Just checking.”

“Yes Matt, I’m going to shoot you because you put my husband in jail 10 years ago.”

“Really? Isn’t he out? How else could he have checked into the hotel?”

“No, I did that. I just needed to get you here to the hotel. It was a trick.”

“Right… I got it now. That’s a good one. So… who’s your husband?”

“Cesar Mendoza. You locked him up and now I’m here to put you away for good.”

“Isn’t it kind of a long time after the fact, though?”

“I wanted to wait so I could savor my moment of revenge. Now, Mr. Rake, you die.”

As her finger squeezed the trigger there was a sound like a huge window shattering off to my right. I spun my head towards the sound and, sure enough, the huge window off to my right had shattered. Glass sprayed the room like the snot from a giant, glass-nosed ogre. The dame screamed her fool dame head off as four men in black suits leapt through the window’s frame, rappelling in from the roof attached to thick ropes. They garnished the room like heavily armed parsley. One stopped right in front of me, with the others in a semi-circle behind him. I stayed on the ground right where I was, choosing to enjoy the subtle, damp warmth spreading through the crotch of my pants rather than moving around and making things worse than they already were.

One of the men came up to me. He was wearing an all-black outfit. Black pants, black turtleneck, black mask with eyeholes and a mouth-hole cut out of it, black boots, black gun. A large black gun. That’s what bothered me the most, even more than the turtleneck, the gun.

“You! On your feet. Move!”

I got up slowly, using the bed for support. The man looked me right in the eye. Then he looked down at my pants.

“Hey, hey, hey, bucko. Eyes where I can see them.”

“What kind of man are you that wets your pants at the sign of danger?”

He jabbed me in the stomach with the barrel of his gun. I giggled and swatted at him. He turned to the other men and laughed, saying, “Mira este maricón, amigos.”

“Amigos, eh? Your game is up you dirty Finnish bastards. Just wait until I notify your country’s consulate. We’ll nuke you commie sons of bitches back into the stone age. Just you wait. Oh, yes. You are certainly going to regret your little soiree on this private dick’s homeland turf.”

“Finnish? Finnish! You son of a motherless goat, we are not from any Finland. We are from Colombia! Somos Colombianos! You would do well to remember this thing, puto. Especially after we seize your precious stock exchange.”

“Pluto, eh? Well, your knowledge of beloved Walt Disney characters won’t save you here, gringo. I don’t think any of you boys will be seizing my stock anytime soon. We don’t take kindly to foreigners around these parts.”

“In New York? But what of your Statue of Liberty and her message of welcome to all peoples? What of that, stupid puto?”

“Hey, just because that French hussie out there is claiming an international toga party doesn’t mean that that’s how Uncle Sam intended it. Now I wager it’s about time someone put a stop to all these shenanigans, and I wager that person is me.”

“What are you going to do, cabrón, piss all over us?”

With that, the three of them howled with laughter just like a pack of third graders. Well, that just tore it. I never could stand third-graders. I knew it was time to introduce these knuckle-heads to someone very close to my heart, a little down and to the left, to be more specific.

“Hey, gringos. You’re all foreigners, right?”

“Sí, puto.”

“Allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine. He’s foreign, too. Might be able to convince you to get the hell out of this country.”

“You think this? What is the name of your little friend?”

“Him? Oh, you can just call him Glock.”

I welcomed my friend into our little party. He made four very profound statements and then went silent. Each of the foreigners jumped and ducked and danced around the room, but none of them went down. I must have missed each and every one of them. They must have all been ninjas as well. Diabolical!

They all started to laugh their stupid, not-American laughs one more time. Powered by rage at being bested by a bunch of dirty Latin ninjas I took my Glock and threw it right at the one who had been speaking to me. I hit him right in the face.

Caught by surprise in mid-laugh, the gun slammed into his face and knocked him backwards, towards the window. He stumbled back three steps, slipped on some glass and fell out of the window. As he fell, he threw out a hand and grabbed the closest life-line he could, which just so happened to be the rappelling line of the man on the farthest left end of the semi-circle of thugs. The jolt of having this line pulled knocked that man into the middle man in the formation, who was close enough to the window to get knocked back through it as well. As the middle man fell, he grabbed the man who hit him and dragged him out the window. The fourth and final man did not look happy with me. He raised his gun and was about to fire when suddenly he was yanked out into space with the others as they grabbed hold of his line in a futile attempt to counteract my brilliant offensive strategy.

“Oh Matt! You’re my hero.”

“Sweet fancy Moses! You scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know you were still here.” The dame hadn’t left yet. I looked her up and down. She hadn’t been hurt.

“Where would I have gone?”

“Well, I don’t know but you hadn’t said anything for such a damned long amount of time. How am I supposed to keep track of where are you? Christ, woman.”

She ran the five feet over to me, wrapped her arms around my neck and began smothering me with kisses.

“Didn’t you want to kill me about five minutes ago?”

“Matt, how could I kill an international hero like you?”

“Well, it’d probably involve that gun you have in your hand there.”



“Just shut up and kiss me.”

So I did. I put a hand around her waist, pulled her tight to me, dipped her back and then planted one on her. After a few seconds I pulled back and she stared deep into my eyes and said, “You wet yourself before, didn’t you?”

No Comments

Serial – Episode 7 of “20th”

“Let’s find her? And how exactly do you intend to track down a girl that I haven’t seen for twelve years? That the police couldn’t find. The FBI couldn’t find.”

Dave shrugged.

Tim nodded his head. “Right. Of course.” He threw himself backwards onto his mattress, rubbing his hands across his face.

“That’s it, then?”

“That’s it? Yeah that’s it. Janet is gone, has been gone, for a long time. I don’t think she just materialized out of nowhere this morning and spoke to me. This isn’t The Ring.”

Dave started to laugh at that. A chuckle that grew into a hearty guffaw. Tim sat up, preparing to snap back at whatever Dave was going to follow his laughter up with.

“You do hear what you say, right Tim? You run it through your brain sometimes? The boy with the weird curse that affects him every year on his birthday is pretty sure that weird crap like in the movies doesn’t happen in real life.”

“Do you think she was really here?”

“Shit, I don’t know, man. I’m not some kind of expert. But today would be the day for it, right?”

“Today would be the day.” Tim thought for a moment and groaned a bit. “But not with anyone else.”

“I’m dismissed as usual.”

“I might be fine getting you killed after this morning, but I don’t even know those people out there. And Lynn? I’d prefer she be around a bit longer.”

“Why does it always have to be death with you, man?”

“Can you think of a worse thing that can happen today to someone? You think that both my parents dying or having tragic accidents on my birthday isn’t enough to make me a little phobic.”

Dave stood up and began pacing. Time for some pontification.

“People die every day, Tim. Every minute. How many people you think died when I said that? One hundred? One thousand? You think the worst thing that can happen is that someone might die on your birthday and it will be your fault. A couple hundred thousand people will die today, so how many are you going to claim?”

“Dave, that’s not the same.”

“Nah, shut it, man. If you’re going to send me home I’m getting my say. The thing that’s worth than dying is being so afraid of it. You’re worried that today something bad might happen, so you ignore that something amazing could happen today. You could save someone’s life. You could find buried treasure, I don’t know. This is the time for adventure because this is when the crazy shit happens.”

“It’s just not worth the risk. I don’t want to lose any more of you. I can’t have any more of it be my fault. You don’t know the guilt that comes with this.”

“Nope. And I never will. But it’s all you’ve got. Go ahead and sit in your room or backpack out to the woods or whatever depressing crap you had planned for today. I’m heading off to do something fun.”

Tim ran a hand through his hair, scratching at the back of his scalp in a nervous tic. He didn’t enjoy being alone, today or any day. Dave had to know him well enough to be aware of that.

“You’re not going to blame me if you get hit by a bus?”

Dave stopped, his hand on the doorknob, and Tim could almost sense his grin. “If I get hit by a bus, man, I should have looked both ways before crossing the street.”

“And if it’s a bus that comes crashing into a mall because the guy driving it just had an aneurism?”

“I’m not going to lie, that’s a pretty awesome way to go out.”

Tim got to his feet. “You think you can keep the Crew occupied for a few minutes. I need to fill Lynn on about twenty-nine years of things that are hard to believe.”

Dave turned to him and pulled him into a hug. “You take the time you need man. I’ve been waiting for years for this. We’re going to go on an adventure.”

Thus endeth part 1 of this little serial experiment. I considered just calling this the end, but that felt like too much of a cop out. I think there’s a lot of story to deal with here, and I haven’t been giving it the time it deserves. Between day-job and other tasks (including my other blog posts), I haven’t been taking the time to outline this story properly, and what has resulted is a seat of my pants “write each section in about 90 minutes” rush.

Long story short, 20th is going on a Friday Fiction hiatus for a bit while I try out some other shorter pieces and take the time to do some proper planning on this one.

No Comments

Serial – Episode 6 of “20th”

Lynn hung back from him, letting her arm be carried along in his hand, but keeping her feet planted. It struck Tim as an odd time to be reticent. As far as Lynn should have been concerned, she is dealing with a boyfriend who is mourning the loss of two parents who wants to discuss something important.

“I’m not trying to be funny or anything. We have things we need to talk about.”

“Oh, I know. And I want to talk to you about whatever it is. But I don’t want to keep them waiting too long.”


Tim was taking enough of a risk bringing Lynn into things. He couldn’t think of anyone else that he would consider wanting to have around. But he could think of someonewho would jump at the chance to be around and not have it be his fault.

“Dave,” he said. He shook his head. Dave had been asking for years if he could accompany Tim around on one of his birthdays, as if it was a road trip he was going to be taking and he was leaving Dave out of the fun. He had never attempted to crash before, presumably because it would be difficult to follow Tim around if he didn’t want to have a shadow. But today would be different. Dave was invited, and by Lynn. Which meant that he could play innocent and invite as many people as he could, making it harder and harder for Tim to just ditch him and take off on his own.

And he knew it wouldn’t just be Dave.

Lynn turned back to the door and pulled it open. From outside, Tim heard Dave call out. “Is it now? Are we yelling surprise now? Did I screw it up?” A smattering of confused yells of “Surprise!” followed. As Tim had suspected, Dave had brought the Crew.

Dave was a far more active individual than Tim had ever been. He exercised. He ran. He hiked and climbed and played after-work sports. He karted and paintballed and bungeed. In the pursuit of these myriad activities, he picked up a fairly odd assortment of companions. Tim never had much cause to be exposed to them. They were mostly present for activities that he had no interest in taking part of. The few times he was surrounded by them at parties he found them both enthusiastic and abrasive. Features he expected frequently went hand-in-hand.

Dave peeked his head around the door jamb a few seconds later, looking impish, though clearly of the mind that this was his sheepish face. Tim wanted to slap him.

“Surprise,” Lynn said, distracting Tim from his anger with Dave. She was of course picking up the vibe that he was not pleased.

“Did you bring the Crew?”

“Just a couple people, it’s cool,” Dave said, hands already out and placating.

“A couple?”

“Like five.”

From outside: “Did we say it loud enough?” “Say it louder this time.” “Surprise!”

“Will you give us a second?” Tim asked to Lynn. He grabbed Dave’s arm and pulled him inside the house, still wearing the grin he was convinced said that he was sorry, and towards his bedroom. Tim gave the door a bit of a slam and regretted it immediately, but just for a moment.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Happy birthday.”

“Why would you think being cute would suddenly make the slightest bit of difference to me?”

“Just take it easy, everything will be cool.”

Tim pointed to the sheet of paper on the back of his door. Dave groaned.

“Man, you bust that thing out every year before your birthday. It’s so morbid. Why do you bother? You’ve got all that shit memorized anyway. Like you should want to remember it anyway.”

“That shit on there is my life. It’s my family and friends dead and gone.”

“Yeah and it’s winning the lottery and picking up a chick and getting cash and prizes. You only talk about the sad stuff.”

“The sad stuff?”

Dave nodded at his sage wisdom, eyeballing Tim meaningfully.

“You brought the Adventure Crew.”

“I did.”

“So which one of them would you be comfortable having die today? Anyone you’re not fond of? Or maybe you’ve decided you’ve had enough running around, is that it? Would this make you an accessory to manslaughter?”

Dave waved his hand in dismissal. “That’s all melodrama, man. You never know what will happen each year, you just expect it to be death. Sometimes it’s amazing stuff.”

“Why did you bring them here? Why did you come?”

“Amazing stuff, man. I ask every year and I got tired of hearing no. And the Crew came because they’re kind of your groupies now.”

“What did you tell them Dave? Did you tell them? I swear to you—“

“Relax. I didn’t tell them shit. I told them you were struck by lightning once and you won the lottery and then made up a bunch of stories about cool shit you’d done before. They ate it up. I convinced them that adventure follows you and, being the Adventure Crew, they demanded to ride on your coattails.”

“This is so stupid.”

“We’ll talk tomorrow about how stupid it all is.”

Tim sat on his bed and ran his hands through his hair. He was heaping stress on top of his stress and was already beginning to feel the fatigue from his lack of sleep.

“I saw Janet this morning.”

Dave made the universal hands-in-the-air gesture for “so what”, and then followed Tim’s eyes as he stared at the list on the back of the door.

“Oh! Oh. Heavy.” He sat down next to the bed with Tim. “We all go a little crazy sometimes, man. You’ve had to put up with more shit than most, and you’ve got this weird curse going. Look, I’m sorry I crashed your day and I’m sorry I brought the Crew. I just figured you shouldn’t always be alone all the time. It’s not good for you and I thought if I showed you a good time today maybe things would change.”

Crazy. Dave had kept talking, but that word hovered around Tim’s ears and kept him from absorbing much else. He hadn’t really stopped to consider that possibility. He’d finally snapped. Visions. Paranoia. Maybe today would be the day that he would be committed to the asylum.

“It was so real, though. She told me that I could find her.”

Dave clapped him on the shoulder and leaned in close.

“Well then let’s find her, man.”

No Comments