Medal of Defiance: Chapter 8



I wandered that afternoon. I knew it would get dark soon, but I had no clue where I was in relation to where I had been earlier.

“Hey you!” I heard a voice call out.

I stopped and turned toward the sound. Then, I pointed at myself when I spied an older man a few houses away.

“Yeah you!” he called out again. “You look lost!”

The accent registered with me and I nodded. I felt numb.

“I am,” I tried to shout back in my best interpretation of the local accent. “My house…” I said motioning behind me and swallowing hard.

“You caught in the quake, lad?”

I merely nodded feeling so tired.

“You need a bunk?” the man called out to me still.

“That would be lovely,” I replied walking toward him.

“My wife, Evelyn, will have supper done soon now. Fill your belly and we can make up the couch. The name’s Foster, Foster Pembrooke,” he stated holding his hand out.

I took the offered hand and gave it a firm shake. “I would appreciate that so much,” I breathed. “I am Winthorpe…James.”

“Nice to meet you, lad. Come on in, rest a little.”

It was such a relief to be welcomed by someone. After many hours of walking, he was the one to extend his hospitality. There was a light in his blue eyes that I took an immediate liking to. He was a good man and I would be off the streets for the night.

“So you say there’s a problem with your house?” he asked me as we ventured inside his humble home.

“There is nothing left, I’m afraid,” I replied. “I saw men get buried in the wreckage out there and knew the remnants of my home were not safe. I just started walking…”

“You poor dear!” Evelyn exclaimed bringing a pot of fresh tea into the front room.

I liked their home. It smelled like a home should. Like bread.

“I appreciate your hospitality,” I rambled taking a seat in a rocking chair next to the window.

“You are welcome as long as you need a place to stay, laddie,” Foster said quietly. “You look like you’ve had a rough few days of it.”

I chuckled and rocked the chair methodically. “You could say that.” My head fell back against the wood of the chair and I sighed.

I thought about Jack and his meaningless death and I had to wonder if my decision caused him to be taken so early from this world. Now, I was not a religious man by any definition, but it did make me wonder. Did Jack die so I could succeed? Was there another force that knew he would be mutilated until he “talked”? My friend died a swift and merciful death, if there is such a thing…I took comfort in that.

“We are ready to eat now, Mr. James,” Evelyn said resting her hand on my shoulder and speaking softly as to not startle me.

I sat upright and looked around and smiled. I followed the missus into their meager dining area and took a seat at the empty plate that was set.

Evelyn sat at the table to my right, Foster right in front of me.

“We rarely have company, it is a nice change,” she smiled shyly.

Evelyn reminded me of the perfect wife. She was quiet, demur, and kind. I could imagine them sitting in this very room together with a gaggle of kids, everyone making conversation and laughing together.

I smiled in response to her remark.

“Shall we ask a blessing?” Foster asked without meaning to be answered.

As if it were routine, he reached out and took his wife’s hand and she bowed her head. Her left hand snaked out from her lap to take mine and Foster reached over the table to take my other. I obliged and bowed my head as Evelyn had.

The sound of Foster’s soft spoken voice filled the room and my ears, lifting a sense of hope in my chest. I admired the love he emitted for God and wondered briefly how anyone could possibly love someone they didn’t even know existed for sure. That feeling, that electrical feeling that passed through me at that moment almost made me envy the man.

The food was simple, cold meat sandwiches and roasted potatoes with a glass of frothy milk. It felt like their milk was much thicker than what I was used to. It stuck to my lips and coated my throat. The bread was fluffy and soft, but still warm from coming out of the oven. The sliced meats were salty and full of flavor. The potatoes were swimming in butter with their shining red skins. It was the best meal I’d eaten in a very long time and I went back for more.

“I can show you where you can sleep when you are done there, Winthorpe,” Foster said taking his plate into the kitchen beyond.

I stopped chewing long enough to look up and nod. I did feel better, but I was so tired.

Evelyn was already tucking sheets under the cushions of the weathered old couch in the front room when Foster and I emerged from eating. She fluffed a giant pillow and threw a blanket over the top and I nearly swooned with the pleasure of comfort extended to me by strangers.

“Would you care to wash before you sleep?” Evelyn asked as she worried her hands a bit.

I stared at the bedding like a wolf stares at a sheep and shook my head to the negative. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to just crawl in and rest,” I replied.

She laughed a merry sound. “I don’t blame you. But let me show you where the loo is if you need it in the night.”

Motioning me to follow her, I trudged along just thinking about those crisp sheets and soft pillow. Just down the hall and to my right was the bathroom, or the loo. It was a very tight room, quite small compared to the community shower I was used to at the base. There was literally a toilet, a sink and a tub. I could turn on the water of the sink and wash my hands while sitting on the toilet if I so wanted to, they were that close together. My knees, I imagined, would smack against the side of the tub across from the toilet if I dared sit on the seat. I suppose small was an understatement.

“It’s old…” Evelyn said quietly.

“It’s lovely, Mrs. Pembrooke. Thank you for letting me stay with you,” I smiled. I was pretty sure they were tired of hearing my statements of gratitude, but I didn’t care. That was what I felt at the moment. I was comfortable and safe with friends.

I waited until Foster took his wife in their bedroom before I took out my flat tab and plugged my ear buds into the jack. Quickly I opened up the program that was an all frequency radio and clicked through each station in hopes of hearing any communication about Jack…or myself.

A thick British accent hit my ears and my finger stilled a moment. I listened with intent as words like “monarchy”, “money”, “food”, and “resistance” filled my ears. The voices changed from time to time as different people spoke their mind.

“We must take matters into our own hands, boys! We got families to feed! If the monarchy won’t help us, we had better take it ourselves! I say we plan a time at the change of the guard. Some sort of distraction should lure them all there and we take the gates. Kill anyone who gets in our way, I say! Even if it is the king himself.”

“What if we take the princess with us? Show her a little something about what we are going through?”

“Wouldn’t be a bad idea there, my friend. I’m tired of being hungry and not having but one bottle of water a day. I want a place to sleep where I’m not on the bloody ground! My kids won’t be quiet and my baby is sick now. Perhaps stealing the princess is the thing to do. Maybe it would wake up that king who lies comfortable in his bed tonight.”

“When are we doing this?”

“I think we could manage on Sunday. We should be there by ten in the morning. Then, when the change takes place, we set off some firecrackers down the street. When the guards investigate right at the 11:30 time, we break through the gates. Get all our friends together. All of us are suffering right now and the castle don’t care about us at all. What do you say, boys?”

“Sounds like we have a plan, boss.”

“Naw…I’m no boss. We are a team. A team of citizens under the protection of a crown full of holes and now we are getting rained on.”

There were cries of agreement coming through and I knew this was bad. I had to get to the castle to warn the family of the danger lurking. Surely they weren’t the only ones planning an attack of some kind. Perhaps the king didn’t know just how angry his people were. One thing I knew, they would not take what I had worked so hard to find. Paige.

I abandoned the search of frequencies and tucked my belongings away in the satchel. Then, I allowed myself to drift off into a deep sleep where dreams held color and the sound of rebellion rang in my ears.

My eyes fluttered open early, as I was used to. The house was quiet and it took me a moment to remember where, and who, I was. The weak light was just beginning to filter through the picture window across from me. Although the heavy drapes had been pulled shut the night before, I could see its brilliance finding the crack between the panels and glowing against the darkness of the living room.

I needed to get to London. It was just that simple. I had to warn the royal family of the impending attack on them.

I sat up on the couch and rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands. Why did I care so much? Why was I willing to risk my very life to just marry this princess, much less show up to defend her family?

There was no way I could answer my own questions.

Slipping my feet into those fancy shoes, I grabbed my satchel. I had no toiletries at all so using the washroom held little interest to me except to use the loo. It felt funny even thinking that word. To me, it was one of those words that made no sense at all and it made me feel like laughing.

So nature’s call won out and I slipped into the tiny washroom and emptied my bladder. When I flushed, an awful noise rang out. It was like it came from under the house and was like a ship being crushed in the mighty weight of ocean waters. Quickly, I washed my hands and took no time to dry them. I had to get on my way, no Evelyn to talk me into staying longer.

Opening the door when I had finished, water still dripping from my hands, I ran into her. Evelyn. Her warm smile that morning made me freeze in my tracks.

“I’m getting breakfast on, Winthorpe. It will be just a few minutes, I swear,” she said kindly.

“What in the world was that noise?” I blurted out.

She laughed. “Sorry ‘bout that. We forgot to warn you that our plumbing screams. Especially in the morning.” Then she motioned me back in the washroom. “Shower, and dress. You will feel a little better.”

Feeling a tad defeated, I complied and retreated back into the cramped room that looked like something out of the classic Alice in Wonderland. I had to ask myself, “When did I eat the cookie?”

But I quickly stripped and started the bath pouring. I could smell toasting bread teasing my senses. My mouth watered.

It was odd, using a small bathtub. I couldn’t remember ever being in a tub in my life. Maybe a spa tub, but not a regular old bathtub. The thought of how many germs were actually invading my body as I sat in that water made my skin crawl. So I quickly soaped my hair and rinsed, using the bar of soap in the corner to wash my body. It came to rest over the tender area of my wrist. My alteration was healing nicely, but was still pretty angry.

My mind wandered to the real Winthorpe and if I had been found out yet. I drew a deep breath and had to believe I covered my tracks the best I could. But I also knew I had to put enough distance between myself and the RA so they couldn’t track me down. But if they did figure out what I did, I would be stuck in this country for the rest of my life, living low and sticking to the shadows.

When I could no longer stand it, I jumped out of the water and quickly dried. I did feel better being clean. I hated to put on the same clothes again, but I did. I had no choice.

I opened the washroom door one more time, looking both ways down the short corridor before I emerged.

“Breakfast is ready!” Evelyn called out.

I made my way back to the table where I had most enjoyed myself the night before. There was toast, a small stack of it, eggs that looked light and fluffy, sausages that were browned just so, and more of that delightfully thick milk.

Foster sat in the same place as before and appeared alert and excited. We prayed over the food once again and I felt that strange tingling sensation one more time.

“Did I wake you this morning?” I asked them, referring to flushing their toilet.

They both laughed. “No, not at all. We had been awake for a while before you woke. We just wanted you to sleep as you could get it. Sounded like you had a rough night.”

“It did?” I asked and dropped my fork a notch, eggs wiggling as my hand shook ever so slightly.

“It was a night of nightmares it sounded like. Crying about dead bodies and falling stones then yelling to Jack that there were guns at the castle,” Foster shook his head as he smiled at me. “Must have been a hell of a night for you!”

I poked my fork inside my mouth. I had said Jack’s name. Out loud.

“I never knew I talked in my sleep,” I grinned in response. “This has been an awful time for me.”

There was no way I was going to talk about Jack and who he was to me.

Evelyn’s hands fluttered to her chest in sympathy. “I can only imagine. I thank the Lord each day that the quake spared us.”

“You are most lucky. It is a war zone down there,” I said trying to be mindful of the information I had found before I went to sleep. My expression sobered and I pointed my fork right at the both of them. “Please listen to me…I know there are many who are devastated. Who knows what these poor victims will do when they have had enough. Please promise me that good people like yourselves will not offer lodging to any more strangers until conditions get better. I don’t want to watch the telly and see that you were hurt in any way. Promise?”

I was rather proud of my very British reference to the television.

But Foster and Evelyn stared at me as though it were my funeral and nodded their agreement.

“Just be careful,” I mumbled and continued to shove food in my mouth.

We ate the rest of the meal silently.

Medal of Defiance- Chapter 7




I redid my chapters to be smaller, so we are on chapter 7 now. Still at the same place in the story though.

Chapter 7


Are you kidding me? I screamed at myself. Winthorpe? I could have sworn I saw a man named that one time on a really old movie…How would I ever get used to hearing my name being Winthorpe?

Briefly I scanned my history that I should know…My parents’ names, my siblings, and my date of birth. As soon as I thought I could remember Annie James, Henry James, and Matilda James, I clicked off my flat tab and shoved it in my coat.

This was it. I was on my way down the corridor, everything dear to me was packed in my pockets so that was not saying much about my pathetic life. I was about to embark on a new future. One that I hoped would change the world for the better.

Jack was waiting for me and looked nervous to me. I cursed under my breath at his rigid demeanor. That could alert someone that there was something going on. These people were very good at reading body language. So I quickened my pace to get him out of the courtyard.

I was handed a backpack for the day. I figured I could get away with taking the water and perhaps my rations that were inside.

“You need to relax, man,” I said as I approached Jack.

“I am relaxed! I’m just anxious to see what you got done last night! I just sat there in bed wondering how you would pull this off,” he laughed and clapped me on the shoulder.

“Your lack of sleep has you standing like a robot. Take a deep breath and let’s go.”

We took off for our post, once again heading for Ladymeade Parkway. We were silent until sure we were out of surveillance at the base.

“So, how did you do it?” Jack asked.

I laughed out loud at his eagerness. I stopped walking and he followed suit as I dug in my pockets. Drawing out my new prints, I took one out of the sleeve to show him.

“Here it is…I just have to glue it to my finger. It is clear, it works, and I only have to use it when I know I will need to be scanned,” I said.

“That is amazing, Wes. Truly amazing. I would never have thought to do that. What did you use?”

I gave him the run down of the night in the supplies closet and showed him my altered ID. It was angry and red when I drew up my sleeve but I knew it would heal in time.

We started walking again.

“My name is Winthorpe,” I snorted.

Jack just laughed until he had tears dripping from his eyes.

“Okay, that’s enough I think. Maybe I could just go by Thor for short. He is a legend from another place in the universe who fights to change his world. Do you think he would mind if I shared his name?” I chuckled.

Jack broke out into a new bout of laughter. “I don’t think he would mind at all. But I think Marvel would probably hate you.”

“Most likely,” I replied.

We stopped a spell at the house Jack was working on.

“Been nice working with you, Winthorpe,” Jack said struggling to control his laughter.

“Yeah, take care of that wife and kids back home. I’m glad I met you, Jack.”

Jack just waved to me and started climbing in the rubble. I took a mental picture of him before I turned and headed the distance to the house that would change my existence.

The ground started to rumble under my feet. I felt dizzy, like I couldn’t keep my footing. I could hear matter falling all around me and a scream rent the stillness of the air.

“Jack!” I called out.

Nausea gripped me and when the shaking stopped, I got back to my feet and sprinted to where I had last seen my comrade. I could feel my hands shaking, my breathing was ragged and I thought for sure I would pass out.

I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t hear him. It was like the destruction had just swallowed my friend up. “No, no! Don’t let it take Jack!” I mumbled as I made my way through the large stones and bricks that lie on the ground.

I could hear the dust settling as it fell through the piles of wood and stone, like rain on a metal roof. “Jack!” I yelled out picking up debris and throwing it into the street.

It felt like it took me forever to wade through the aftermath of the small quake. But there, not even too far beneath, was my comrade. My accomplice in this whole charade. He had been crushed, his bones badly broken and his head leaking colors I never knew existed in the human body.

I threw up and the tears came unbidden to my eyes. There was a moment when I didn’t think I could even breathe. This man was a father, a husband, a son…and my friend.

I knew I couldn’t touch him. But I fell to my knees and cried.

When I felt hollow and spent, I replaced the pieces of rock that used to be part of that home…the ones that most likely did Jack in.

Once I gathered myself up a bit and dried my eyes, I realized that my time had come. No one could know about any plan since the only one involved had just died. I scrambled down and ran. I ran fast and hard until I made it to where we had placed the man I would replace in this world.

With every limb of my body shaking, I slipped into what remained of Winthorpe’s home. Frantically I searched for clothes and at long last, I found most of a closet left standing. I stripped my body of my soldier’s clothes and slid my body into the soft fabrics of clothing of quality. If I had been more aware, I would probably have reveled in the feel of them.

There was a bag, a man’s leather satchel that I snagged and tossed all of my paraphernalia in it. Hurrying back to dead Winthorpe’s corpse, I set about the task of dressing him in my filthy uniform. I could smell the rotten smell of decay coming from his bloated figure and I fought back the vomit that threatened to escape me again. I had to exercise control over myself. I didn’t know how much time I really had.

Knowing that the dead man would more than likely fall apart if I dared to drag him, I picked him up and carried him to where I had dug him out.

“I’m sorry about this, chap,” I said with sincerity before dropping him back in the hole and filling it in with the rubble.

It was time to hide. Staying in the house would not be safe, not if another aftershock came through. I could be buried in there. So, I took the satchel and left, not looking back. As I passed around the back of the house, something shone at me in the dusty light. I bent and picked it up.

Carefully I opened up the leather folder that sported a silver insignia. It was Winthorpe’s wallet. I had the man’s wallet. How it ended up back there, I have no idea. But all I could keep thinking was that this was a plan from a higher power. This was my destiny. No matter how humans tried to control the outcome of anything, Fate would always step in and steer people in the right direction…down their path. There was no other explanation.

Medal of Defiance Chapter 2-NaNo 2013

Chapter 2


The train moved quickly, high speeds of over 200 miles per hour. It is really hard to get a glimpse of much when you are moving that fast along the ground. But we could tell that life here was anything but normal. There was rubble and debris everywhere you looked.

I could feel the train slowing and was glad to finally be doing something. I felt bored and full of anticipation and dread all at once. I was always the jump now, think later type of guy so I just wanted to get started.

We stopped at the station in Surrey, near Guildford, and our doors opened. As we hit the ground, a backpack was thrust into our hands, as promised. I knew it would be heavy, but I hadn’t really thought it would weigh as much as I did. But I slung it over my back and slipped my arms through the padded straps.

I took that moment to survey the area of decimation. Homes were torn into pieces, store fronts were leveled. Smoke curled into the sky intermittently. I could hear screams of pain and terror, babies crying for their lost parents, and a complete lack of wildlife. No birds could be heard singing and no dogs were barking their warnings. It sounded like listening to the ocean in a seashell. It was strange and muted, disjointed from the rest of the world.

“Fall in, men!” DeVry shouted.

We all did as we were told, Jack sticking very close to me. Perhaps this was what being an older brother felt like…the weaker attaching himself to me and happy to just follow where I went. An odd feeling of watching over him hit me and a slight smirk twitched the corners of my mouth.

“This is Field Commander Jones and Field Commander Wilson. We will do this the easy way. The left side of this group will go with Jones,” DeVry called out motioning to a man about ten bodies in and swooshing outwards with his arms. “The right side will go with Wilson. You left here in the center will come with me. Jones, take the waterfront areas, Wilson, take the north end of the area, we will cover the rest. We meet back here at 1900 hours. Do you understand?”

We all told him we did with one chant in unison. The Field Commanders shouted to their ranks and started walking. Jack and I were staying with DeVry.

“Time to go! Pick it up!” he called out to us and we fell into step beside him.

The longer we were out there with no trees upright and no buildings to shade us, we got hot. I had spent my career to this point in a temperature controlled area, not out in the heat with a 150 pound pack on my back. Where I came from, we trained, but not simulated a crisis.

It wasn’t far to where we were working that day, perhaps a mile from the station. Most of the guys were all puffing and red faced once we had a second to rest. DeVry pulled out a map and unrolled it in the dirt, setting a rock on each corner to keep it flat.

“This is our area. Team up with someone and we will take sections. Got your buddy? Okay. Line up.”

Jonas gave us our orders, of course Jack tailed along with me. I suppose I could have gotten a worse partner for this project. We were to take the northeast section of the city of Guildford. From looking at the map, I felt confident we could find it as long as street signs or landmarks were still in the general area.

Jack and I took off in a trot at my hand signal to come along. Before we could get to our assigned area, we had people running to us and grabbing at our packs in desperation. We helped each other fend off the victims of this atrocity and kept moving but offered apologies to the people as we went.

We ran up Woodbridge Road until we hit our barrier of Ladymead Parkway. Jack and I agreed that starting at the back of our threshold and working our way back would be most productive. It was as I would imagine a war zone. Just piles and piles of stone and concrete littered the roadways so that we had to climb in places just to reach our destination.

“You start here, I will go just next door. If we are both working every other house, we will cover more ground!” I hollered at Jack. His nod told me he understood what I said.

It was as if we entered a whole new world. It was eerily silent except for the sound of my boots against the rocks and chunks of debris. The home I stood before looked like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle…the old fashioned kind that came in boxes of a thousand pieces. About a quarter of the home was still standing, three floors high, with only a few items of furniture out of place. The rest of the home lay in jagged bits like the puzzle pieces waiting to be locked into place.

“Hello?!?” I called out. Closing my eyes, I bowed my head slightly in an effort to concentrate on the task at hand. I wanted desperately to hear a plea for help but there was none.

I could faintly hear Jack the next house over throwing boulders of concrete against others. With a deep breath, I took off my pack and began to dig through what was out there.

In an hour’s time, I reached a smashed television and what used to be a bowl of popcorn. Someone was here.

“Hello?” I called out again and kept digging.

Stumbling across a sign of life made me realize that this was real. This was no exercise. Someone’s mother or father could be in this mess. Someone’s child could be too hurt to cry out. It made me hurry even faster.

The sun was sinking low in the sky when I heard a whoop come from Jack. I was tired and sweating from the mild temperatures that felt so hot since I was engaged in such physical activity.

“You find someone?” I yelled out on the still air.

“Yep! No vitals though!” he hollered back.

I let out a quiet growl. “You’ve got to be here!” I whispered.

Darkness was closing in and I knew it was time to head in for the day. I threw out one last stone with the thoughts that I could be burying those I was looking for in my newly formed pile. I felt defeated. Tears of shame stung my eyes and I fought to control them. A sigh rushed from my chest and I glanced down at my boots, dusty and filthy. I also saw what looked like a hand.

“Jack! It’s almost time to head back and I found someone! I called out. “Come help me quick!”

I worked feverishly to unbury what appeared to be a man, a young man. I could hear the footfalls of my comrade as I uncovered the man’s head and part of his torso. Together, we were able to pull him out and lay him on the ground. I crossed his arms over his chest. He was terribly broken. We looked for signs of life, but I called him as being dead.

We removed his right shoe and sock, placing a red tag around his big toe to show the cleanup crews that he was gone. Letting go of that tag was probably the hardest thing for me to do. It meant that a life had expired, that he would never rise and walk again, that his parents- if alive- would grieve his loss. He was no older than me, I speculated.

A lump of sadness grew in my throat, to my surprise. I couldn’t understand why I was so emotional…I was not an emotional person.

“Can you give me a minute, Jack?” I asked, my voice sounding raspy and strained.

“Sure Wes. You okay?”

All I could do was nod and I knelt beside my victim. I heard the crunch of earth beneath Jack’s boots as he walked away from me.

“I’m sorry you died, chap. That is what you call each other here, right? Chap? I hope you can sleep peacefully, my friend,” I said to him and patted his hand.

I heard a tinkling of metal on rock and looked for the item that had slid out of place. It was his medallion which slid off of his neck and onto the asphalt below him. I picked it up to put it back on him and I chanced a glance at it. Instant familiarity hit me and I sat still a moment, my mind searching its memories to recall this exact shape.

I gasped when it came flooding forward. This was the medallion that matched the princess. The Princess Paige of the royal family. She would have no mate.

Without giving it another thought, I quickly swapped mine for his.

The ID number! Panic made my heart thunder in my ears and my breathing came faster than I could handle. I had to disfigure that number on the man’s wrist. Digging in my bag I came away with a pair of scissors that I ran across the numbers. I could barely believe I was doing this. I could be killed for deviating from the path. I was committing a crime…or was I? I would be responsible for the Europe Nation’s royal family to continue on. But if I was ever found out, I would be in some serious trouble.

My scissors left a nice gash through the tattoo. Satisfied that no one could piece it together again, I felt a wave of shame run over me. I just desecrated a dead body for a reason I didn’t even understand. It wasn’t like I loved the princess. Maybe I admired her, but I definitely didn’t know her.

There was still time…I could put the medallion back. I could continue on as a nameless, faceless soldier here to dig the dead out of their graves so they could just be buried again. I froze. Something kept me from going back to who I had been my whole life. This was a medal I could wear proudly. It was a medal of defiance meant to snub the very ones who thought to control the world and how people felt about each other. This medal would change my fate.

“You ready to head back?” Jack’s voice startled me.

I spun on him, my new medallion making noise against the buttons down the front of my jacket. I’m sure my eyes looked wild and the quickened breathing gave me away. I saw his eyes look at the medallion and knowing dawned over his face.

“What do you think you are doing, Wes?” he freaked out at me but kept his voice down.

I just put my index finger over my lips to hush him. Then I bent down to grab my pack and threw it over my back. “I’ll explain later, Jack.”

My mind was whirling with so many different thoughts. I would have to do a really good job of covering this up if it was going to work. In the forefront of my mind was how to change the number on my body? I knew it was impossible to involve anyone else. I had to figure out how to alter it on my own.

And what was I going to tell Jack? I had no idea why I did it in the first place. How in the world could I explain this? Subconsciously, I slipped the medallion within my jacket. If asked why, I would simply tell them it was in my way while digging. That would buy me a little time.

There was just an error, I justified to myself. If anyone says a word about my identity, I would merely shrug it off as an error. We are, after all, only human. Errors are made all the time.

“You know that you will have to fake your own death, right?” Jack announced.

“Why would I have to do that?” I asked him, casting him a sideways glance.

Jack looked far ahead down the road.

“You can’t win, Wes. They will still find out whether it is by DNA or thumb scans. You have to find his body again and keep samples of his hair and blood. You will have to disappear, man. They would never believe that an orphan from Chicago could be matched with a person in Europe,” he chuckled.

“Let’s go back and hide his body until I can figure out who he is and what I’m going to do. Come on! Help me!” I cried out and we both ran back to where the dead guy was lying on the ground.

I yanked the tag from his toe and we carried him behind a pile of debris.

“She isn’t just anyone, Jack. She is Princess Paige. That’s who matches this medallion,” I told him as we once again headed back.

“You lucky bastard!” Jack hissed. “I’d probably do the same thing if I were you.”

“How in the world am I going to pull this off?” I asked aloud although it was more for myself.

“It’s not too late to go back, Wes.”

“I feel like I was meant to find this, Jack. Twisted or not, I feel that this gives me some purpose. Something I have lacked all my life,” I smiled feeling invigorated.

Jack shrugged his shoulders. “I will help you as much as I can. But if I get outed, I’m squealing to save my own neck!”

“I don’t blame you one bit,” I replied.

Once back with the rest of our troop, we headed back on the train for what knew as base. We were sent straight to dinner and then had the opportunity to shower and relax a while before “lights out”. This was when most men wrote to their families of which I had none. I did feel a pang of jealousy and desire as the guys pulled out their flat tabs, as they were called, and composed emails to send to their parents or even their wife and children. I wished that Jack was in my room instead of these two yahoos. At least then we could start a game of dice.

I took my flat tab out of my bag and turned on the power. It glowed brightly and I glanced over the top of it to make sure my roomies were otherwise engaged. Then, I opened my browsing window and searched for tattoo ink, where to buy it, what kind the hospitals use and how to apply it. It was unlawful to tattoo the body these days due to an epidemic that began and was traced back to contaminated inks in tattoo parlors clear back in 2098. Shops were shut down and artists were then placed in hospitals to brand babies as they were born.

I sighed and allowed my small machine to rest over my chest. Closing my eyes to think, I must have drifted off for I woke to one of my comrades whisking it off my chest, laughing as he waved it around and then turned it around to look at it.

“What’s Cam been up to? Writing his mommy and daddy back home? Is that why he never talks? He can’t live without his mommy?” the man taunted and pressed the power button.

I panicked. If he saw what I was up to, I would be discovered. I had to get it back!

“Here, let me see,” the second roommate chimed in.

I grabbed at the flat tab and they kept it out of my reach.

“Oh, he has it locked!” they whined and tried to breach my security defenses.

I’d had enough. My temper flared and there was no way I could allow them to see what I had been looking at. I balled my fists and let them fly, solidly connecting with the one holding my machine. It fell to the ground and landed beside the one that had been holding it, but now he was holding his ruddy face where I struck him.

The man who started the situation threw his hands up and backed away. “Whoa, man. No offense…I wasn’t trying to cause trouble, just having a little fun with you.”

I threw him a dirty look and stooped to pick up the flat tab that was blaring the search results I had been looking at. The fall to the floor must have disengaged my lock. Quickly, I took it into my possession and appeared to be inspecting it for damage, casually passing my finger over the history erase button and that got rid of any evidence.

“Don’t touch my stuff. I don’t touch yours, stay away from me,” I glowered and sat back down on my bed, stuffing my tablet into my bag. I pulled my shirt over my head and spread out my body over the thin mattress. I just begged for the lights to go out before anyone noticed that my tattoo did not match my medallion.

“What’s his problem?” the smacked down guy whined.

“Don’t worry about him, Seth. Just leave him alone,” the second guy said.

I could hear the squeaks of the two beds as they hunkered down for the night. It was then that the lights went out but I didn’t fall asleep. My mind raced.

How would I change my identity? How would I create my own death so I could be reborn as another person? Ideas filtered in and out of my crowded head and settled on Paige. Was it possible I felt a twinge of feelings for a woman I had never met before? Was that my motivation for breaking nearly every law there ever was?

My pulse hastened involuntarily when thinking of the consequences of my actions. I just couldn’t do it. I made up my mind to go back in the morning and switch the medallions back. There was just no way. Even if I could alter my tattoo, passing the DNA and fingerprint checks would be a disaster. It wasn’t worth the stress.

Morning came more quickly than I had expected. I felt unrested and irritable from my lousy night’s sleep. No one in my room said a word and my roommates left for breakfast before I did.

Digging through my bag for clean pants, I stuck my finger in something sticky. I didn’t remember packing anything like that, so I pulled it out to find that it was a putty to hang things on the wall. A chuckle of insanity escaped me and I tossed my head to look at the ceiling, pocketing the putty.

New ideas sprang to life and I began to rethink swapping my necklace again.

“Heard you laid out Seth last night,” Jack laughed when I caught up to him at the buffet.

“He had my flat tab and wouldn’t give it back. So I showed him I meant business. I was freaking out, dude!” I replied and lowered my voice to a whisper, “I was searching tattoo information on there. If he had seen it, I would be so done for!”

Jack’s mouth dropped open and his eyes grew wide. “Are you kidding me? Oh, man! You were lucky! But punching him in the face makes people wonder what you are hiding, you know? You have to tone it down a little bit.”

“I know, I know. I had decided to take back my medallion as I fell asleep last night. But I woke up this morning and came across this,” I whispered holding out my hand with the putty in it.

“What’s this for?” he asked me.

“For making a mold of the guy’s thumb print. Look,” I said and squished my thumb into the soft substance. Pulling my finger away, it left a perfect imprint of my thumb.

“Wow! You are a genius, dude!” Jack squeaked out in excitement.

Quickly, I hid the putty away. “See, Jack? Every time I decide not to go for it, something else pops up to make it possible! This is my fate. I am supposed to follow this path and not the one the monarchy made me choose!”

“I envy you so much. You aren’t afraid to step out and be your own person. I hope that one day I can do the same,” Jack told me.

“So do it,” I replied shoving eggs in my mouth. “We can figure it out together.”

“Naw, man. I’m just too chicken. Not my style. But I will help you as much as I can.”

“I still have a really long way to go, Jack. But I do feel I can do this,” I said and shoveled more food in.

My roommates called out across the room, “Looks like we have conspirators in our midst, boys! Cam and Allen over there are probably spies from another nation to bring us down from the inside! Probably from the Russian Nation or something!”

There were many snickers that went around the room. I wanted to kill these two fools. So I stood up to stare them down. “That’s why I talk with such a thick accent, you morons! You should be careful who you are calling out, guys. I heard what you had to say in your sleep, Seth! But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me…until you make me mad!”

The room erupted into laughter and Seth bowed his red head in embarrassment. I could hear Jack giggling like a little girl, trying to hold back. I sat back down and finished my breakfast. It worried me a little, becoming something of a celebrity meant it would be more difficult to disappear.

I was befriended by several guys in the unit between the buffet and returning to our site. Backpacks were distributed once again and we took off for Ladymeade Parkway. I felt light as air and it hit me that any reputation I gained would be lost when I took another man’s identity. But if I could hold my own against my military unit, I was positive that I could pave my own way as a member of the royal family.

The first thing we did was verify that the man’s body was still there where we left him. He was. Being unsure of how long he would stay supple, I took out the putty and smoothed it the best I could. Then I pressed it securely against his thumb, pulling it away and revealing a perfect mold for a print.

I studied the man’s face and wondered what his name was. He didn’t look all that different from me in that he had a sandy colored head of hair, just a tad darker than mine. His was a little longer in length and able to be combed neatly at the part. It looked as though he hadn’t taken the time to shave for a few days as the light sprinkling of facial hair dotted his chin and upper lip. I pried his partially open lids further apart to reveal blue eyes behind them. Mine were close, but held a bit more green to them than blue.

“You are going to have to swap him clothes, you know. He can’t be you if he isn’t wearing your uniform,” Jack pointed out. He was right.

“How do I get back to base without my blues?” I asked.

“You just gotta make the break, man. You do it and don’t look back. Let’s search the house for clothes. Then, tomorrow, you can make the switch and disappear,” he replied.

I sighed deeply. “I’m a little worried that I have no plan, Jack. I have some specifics, but I need time.”

“You don’t have time. This body will start rotting more each day making it more impossible to pass him off as you.”

“I know you are right, but…”

“Here. Get your prints made tonight. All you have to do after that is learn his history. You can take his hair and leave yours on his body. More than likely they will take hair that appears to be sticking up. Just leave a few and some on his clothes. You know, he will need your prints as well, man. Then swap clothes and hide his body back under the rubble. I will report that you had a part of the house fall on you and killed you. From the looks of it, you will be the sole survivor of this family and the real you dies off. Stay in areas of this house until you can find a camp of victims. Sounds like a great plan and you could get it done tomorrow,” Jack said thoughtfully.

“But if you tell them I was buried and killed, they will dig me up and find out that the body has been dead longer than I supposedly was. No, better to return after working tomorrow and tell them I was missing when you came to find me. It might take them longer at that point to figure out where I was, giving me a chance to decompose enough,” I added.

“Good point. See? You have it all figured out just fine. It is a matter of actually doing it now.”

I nodded in agreement feeling numb. I knew he was right.

That evening felt strange to me. We had our meal and sat around just talking…like chums. The more I learned about Jack, the less I wanted to make the break. She was just a girl. I didn’t even know her, but I knew Jack. I could do my work and return to my normal life and still visit this new friend from time to time like normal people did.

I did stop to wonder for a moment if people felt anything close to what I did when they were dying of an illness. Did they feel as detached as I did? Logically, the only difference was, I could choose not to die. I could simply take back my medallion and forget all of this nonsense. Then, my life wouldn’t end.

But, if I didn’t do this, who would? When would this Noah’s Ark approach be broken and people free to do as they wished where love was concerned? I could be a hero, the first to fool their system into thinking I was someone very different.

Could I keep my secret? Even from a woman I might marry? What sort of union could be built upon a lie? These thoughts disturbed me greatly and I frowned.

“Hey,” Jack said in a serious tone, “don’t forget me. When I come looking for you, you had better acknowledge me.”

He took me off guard for I didn’t know our friendship meant anything to him at all. “Of course, Jack. We will always be buds, right?”

He smiled and drank deeply of his cup. “Just feels weird that you are gonna be gone, is all. That’s the way my life has been. I get close to someone, they die or they leave. I wake up each day wondering if my wife will be there when I get home. Rotten way to live.”

“You shouldn’t have to live that way. I give you my promise that I will always be here for you. Give me your electronic address and I will write you when I can,” I replied sliding a scrap of napkin his way.

He gave me a chuckle and pulled out a pen from his pocket, scribbling down the information.

“I need to go find some materials, Jack. Do not follow me. I don’t want you implicated if I am caught. Please say nothing if anyone asks about my actions. Think of your wife and kids,” I pleaded.

Jack nodded his agreement and I left him sitting alone at a table to slink the halls and find what I was after.

Finding a supplies closet, I took a peek around to be sure I was alone in the corridor. Then, I carefully turned the knob and stepped inside, palming my small flashlight as I closed the door behind me. Clicking on the light, I made quick work of looking for something to transfer prints.

I took down a can of liquid latex, one that we used that sometimes for waterproofing our gear. My heart thundered in my chest as I held that small can in my hands. I knew it would dry clear to be unnoticeable. Perhaps some clear glue to affix it, I thought.

Skimming the shelves once more, I did find a tube of glue, strong glue, that I knew would work until I could figure out something else. My breathing came fast and I started to sweat. This was it.

Hastily I set the latex down and opened it, praying it didn’t smell too strongly to attract any attention. I had to work fast. I removed that putty from my pocket. After picking the fuzz from the print, very carefully in fact, I dipped my finger in the latex and smoothed it over the print. I could feel it drying on my skin as I spread it evenly.

The putty sat in my shaking hands and I waited for the liquid to set up, just staring at it and watched it change slightly in color, the gloss slightly turning matte. The edges started to lift so I carefully pinched a spot and pulled gently. It came off easily and I inspected the copied print in the bright light. It was perfect.

A smile spread over my lips and I felt a moment where I wanted to laugh with relief. I set that prototype on a shelf and went about making several copies. I knew one would not last forever. As the putty prints were drying, I filled my time making copies of my own print. That man out there would need my identification.

When satisfied that I had made enough, I found a blade and cut just around the edge to remove the excess. Not wanting the newly made prints to bend in my pocket, I found a small plastic sleeve to slip them into…one for his and one for mine. The tube of glue made its way into my pocket as well and I prayed that it wasn’t so obvious that someone asked about it.

My next task was more difficult. I had to alter my code. A temporary fix was not practical. I had to do it right. From what I read with my searching, I should be able to use a pen.

With hands still shaking, I took apart a pen I happened to find on a clipboard. We didn’t have much need for writing pens these days. In efforts to save our planet, or rather the people on it, our society went paperless in every way possible. That implemented the thumb scans. It became our personal digital signature. Pens of all kinds ended up in storerooms like this one. I suppose you could say that I hadn’t ever been so happy about finding a pen in my life.

I used the razor blade to snip off the end of the plastic tube that held the ink. Nervously, I licked my lips and could feel the perspiration accumulating on my brow and upper lip.

I took a steadying breath and removed one of my officer’s pins from my jacket. Dipping the tip of the pin into the tube of ink, I then laid my arm out on a shelf. I went about altering my number: 11593104 to the number on the new amulet: 71608109.

I didn’t care if it were perfect. I had grown since I had been given my number and it had stretched and distorted a bit. No, perfect edges were not of necessity. I just needed it to pass.

Into the skin, into the ink. Into the skin, into the ink. Again and again, changing that 1 into a 7 with just a few pokes. Morphing the 5 into a 6. Hoping the 9 looked enough like an 0. And turning a 3 into an 8, then making the 4 appear a 9. Little droplets of blood oozed where I had pushed the ink under my skin.

Sure, I had read that pen ink could cause infections, it could make me sick, but I had little choice. The only people who had access to the right ink for marking were in the hospitals. They wouldn’t take kindly to someone just walking in asking them to break the law and alter their ID number. No, I was doing all I knew.

Tapping into the first aid kit, I ran a swab of alcohol over the blood spots and dabbed on a germ killing salve. I was not about to bandage it and draw attention to myself so I clicked off my flashlight and sat quietly, hoping no one needed supplies.

Several minutes later, I turned my light back on and wiped my wrist with some gauze before putting new salve on my irritated, raised skin. Satisfied, I pocketed the tube of salve as well. The light went out and I listened intently at the door.

Silently, I cracked open the door and slipped back out into the corridor. It was done. I had no choice now. My number was different, my medallion matched my number. I had my new identity. At this point, if they scanned my thumb, I would see the inside of a prison cell. I was beyond the point of no return.

“Where have you been?” the guys asked when I made it back to our room.

“What are you talking about?” I mumbled back at them and flopped down on my bed.

“Dinner ended hours ago. They just called for lights out about fifteen minutes ago. We were just about to turn in when you snuck in.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize it was that late already. I was just sitting outside in the courtyard,” I lied.

“We didn’t see you, Cam. They had a fire out there tonight and toasted mallows and had beer.”

My heart leapt into my throat. “Well, that’s because I just wanted to be alone a while. Just missing home, I suppose.”

There was an awkward silence. The lights went out and I rolled onto my side wishing my brain to shut down so I had some chance at sleeping. It wasn’t long after that I could hear my comrades snoring.

I really can’t say that I slept at all that night. I could only imagine that was what prison escapees would feel as well. It was the moment of my rebirth.

But who was I? I had no idea who this new man was, who his family was. Yet I didn’t dare to turn on my flat tab. If the guys woke up, my plan would be spoiled.

The wake up call came as the sun was just beginning to lighten the sky that morning. When Seth and Turner left to shower, I pulled out my flat tab and turned it on, finding the identification site. I could find anyone’s identity by scanning their thumb on this website put out by the Chamber. It was the moment of truth.

I took out one of the prints from the dead man and set it on the square that was highlighted on my screen. I pressed my thumb over it, allowing the heat of my skin to activate the search of the database.

The screen blinked at me and blue lines faded in and out over the blackness it had left behind. When the screen returned, it had a name on it and it wasn’t mine. Just to be certain, I checked the ID number. This was who I was. Winthorpe Goldman James.

Medal of Defiance-NaNo 2013-Chapter 1


Chapter 1


I can remember the days that brought me to where I am now. Just a young man in the Corps of Humanity, I was content. It was almost like I was programmed to do the same thing each day and I did it because…well, that’s what we do. We conform.

After I graduated from my studies at the local Chapters of Education, I joined the Corps. I was given a choice to serve my fellow men or work in a career chosen for me in a lottery. In all truth, the monarchy tried to match a person with their talents and genetics in efforts to avoid conflict and suicides from happening. My fear was that I would be chosen to bake bread for the storehouse so I chose the one way I could make a decision for myself. Now, I help others in times of need. I believe a higher power directed me to make that choice for my life would be completely different if I hadn’t.

I remember getting up at 4:00am. My clothes neatly hung in the washroom, freshly pressed. I would step into my steaming shower at 4:35am and step out at 4:50am. I would comb my hair and brush my teeth and roll deodorant in my underarms. At 5:00am I would cook me three eggs, scrambled but cooked soft and add three slices of bacon to my plate. I would sit at my stool at 5:20am and eat my meal of protein, topping it off with a piece of fruit and a cup of hot lemon water. At 5:40am I would shrug into my jacket of navy blue and red patches on the shoulders, the flag of my nation, the American Nation on the right side just beneath the shoulder. I would slide my flat topped hat over my close cropped hair and clip the holster holding my stun laser at my waist. At 5:50am, I walked out my door to catch the tram at 6:00am that would take me to base. After six stops through the city, I would step off the tram at 6:45am for the short walk to Chicago’s military base and check in with a thumb scan at 7:00am. I would eat lunch at 11:00am and scan out at 6:00pm for the tram ride home. I would sit in the terminal until 6:30pm and wait patiently for passengers to disembark and step on until I arrived at my stop at 7:15pm and make the short walk home, unlocking my door at 7:25pm. I would call for the lights and remove my cap and jacket, hanging the holster for the next day. At 7:30pm, I enjoy a meal of hot chicken and mixed green vegetables, a cold glass of water making my glass sweat and my throat cool. At 8:00pm I would step into the shower and be in bed by 8:30pm. That was my day…everyday. There was no deviating from my schedule.

There were two days I didn’t have to report to base and on those days I would work out my body and send electronic mail to my loved ones. My parents were long gone, being lost in the Resistance wars. I was raised by a couple who was barren and could not have a family of their own. Lucy loved me as her own child and Trenton taught me how to be a man and conform to what would keep the masses safe. As a child, one always has thoughts of how to improve the monarchy, but Trent would kindly reel me back to toe the line.

The Resistance days were difficult, akin to what I have read in history books of World War II. So many lives were lost, so many sons and daughters buried, and those who lived through it were careful not to take their new leadership for granted. Trent was one of those who loved his nation and would not stand for rebel influence to change his way of life. I was not allowed to have an opinion, I was to do as I was told…and I did.

I lost Trent and Lucy in a freak storm that manufactured a tornado four years ago, just months after I chose my path once school had ended. He was so proud of me and that I wanted to serve my king and my people. I still write him and Lucy letters every week.

I had a handful of friends that moved to different areas of the city and outlying areas when they chose their careers. I write to them as well to keep up on what they are all doing with their lives. Most have found their matches and have a child that cries day and night, driving them insane. They envy my life, they say when they return my predictable, mundane messages and I envy theirs.

Sometimes I would wonder, “If I were gone, would anyone realize it?” And then just as quickly as I think it, life happens and the thought passes. I slip into my robot mode and allow my work to consume me.

Rarely did I travel, rarely did I meet up with my pals from the base for a seltzer, and never did I waste my funds on things like movies or simulations. The fact was, I felt alone and felt destined to be that way. I had no desire to search for “her”, the one who held the matching medallion to mine, the one who had the same identification number tattooed on her right left wrist: 11593104. No, somewhere in the world would sit a lonely spinster of a woman, bitter about her match never finding her and thus condemning her to a life of utter loneliness. At 23 years old, I didn’t care.

It was a call that came in the year of 2124 that changed my life and direction I had chosen to tread.

That sexy woman’s voice woke me up at 3:27am, “Incoming call from Ruger…Would you like to answer, sir?”

I rolled over and drew my leg back up on the mattress, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. My voice was low and scratchy as I answered with a sigh, “Yes, Rachel.”

The sound of panic in my commander’s voice hit me. He was distraught and commenced telling me of the disaster that had taken place thousands of miles away in the Europe Nation. “It is bad, Cam. So many lives were lost today in that quake. I am assembling a team of my men to head over there and lend the Relief Alliance some help when they deploy. You are one of my best and I am sending you on that plane. Be packed and ready to depart on the train to New York at 2100 hours.”

I sat up in bed trying to digest this order. I was leaving, but not just my home, I was leaving my nation as well. This was what I signed on for, to be of help to others as a humanitarian aid in relief situations. I swallowed hard and answered with a feeble, “Yes sir.”

“Don’t come to base this morning. Get your things packed, only necessities, and check in with me at 1930. You are limited to one pack so make the most of it. Take only what you cannot find over there, soldier,” Ruger replied.

“Wha-Will there be places to buy supplies over there? Where exactly did it hit?” I remember asking in bewilderment.

“Necessities, Cam. Nothing more. The quake obliterated the Southern Europe region. I have no other information to give you before you make it to base later this evening. Don’t tell a soul. Most don’t know about this disaster yet and we don’t need pandemonium on our hands. Other units on the coast are preparing for tsunami activity. It is up to the rest of the units to send help their way. Ruger out.”

I just sat there numb. “Lights on,” I stated and there was light.

A long sigh rushed from my lungs and I debated on rising or going back to sleep. I would be exhausted for the flight if I got out of bed at that time. Granted, it was only a half hour before I would normally wake, but my night was not going to end at 8:30 this time.

I let out a small growl of frustration. A change in routine never went over well with my personality. “Lights off.”

My room became black once again and I flopped back on my pillows. I don’t remember falling asleep, just tossing and turning as thoughts of dying people and piles of rubble ran through my mind. I envisioned myself pulling bodies from the destruction and wrapping wounds on the living. When I could no longer take it, I did get out of bed and summoned the television to spring to life.

The glossy panel on the wall opposite my bed burst into color, searing my eyes. I took a moment to allow them to adjust before looking back. “World News,” I called out and the channel flipped.

There was now coverage of the horrific event in the Europe Nation. So much for keeping it quiet, I thought and stared in horror at the utter desolation of the land and homes and people. There were wounded people crying and running toward the camera holding parts of their body that were oozing blood. There were corpses littering the roadways and strewn over toppled homes and buildings. Medics were on the scene in many footage shots, trying to calm the injured and clear away the dead. A ticker in the corner of my screen said it was estimated at that moment to have 3,000 souls confirmed dead.

I ran a hand through my hair. I did not want to go into that. I think it was a lot of fear bubbling up when I normally felt secure and that bothered me.

The screen switched to show an old clip of the royal family in London standing on the very famous stone balcony. King Alexander stood tall and proud with his family. The camera zoomed in on their faces, one, two, three, and four that were one happy family unit. Lady Caroline with her long, dark hair swept up, the little boy baby, and Princess Paige who had been in the news recently after finishing her schooling and starting her own crisis center for troubled teens. She looked amazingly like her mother. It was strange to see the young woman as a normal person, a casual skirt and blouse draped her body and her hair was curled like I remembered the girls in school. She was very ordinary and yet I had to respect that.

The words on the screen blared out that the royal family was very distressed about the damage done to their nation. The newscaster told their audience that the royal family had not been seen at all since the quake shook their part of the world. I wondered if they were still in the palace or if they had left seeking safety until it was declared a safe area once again. I snorted and thought the very worst of them. I called them cowards.

Feeling resentful of having to give up my life to travel thousands of miles and help people who would not appreciate it nor would I make any difference at all in such a horrific ordeal, I strode into my gaping closet where I grabbed my blue duffle and threw it with all my might at my bed. It slapped sharply against the blanket and flopped rebelliously to the ground.

Once I had packed my bag as tight as it would go, I had my meal of eggs and bacon, wondering when I would be back. I knew the food would go bad before I returned and irritation puckered my expression. All my rations would get thrown away.

As I chewed the salty slices of the pork, I came to the resolution that I would take what I had to a young family in my building. I was sure they could use it. It was better than tossing it into the compactor.

Once I had showered and changed into my blues, I spent the day preparing for my departure by paying my bills that would be due and packing the perishables that I would donate. I was grateful that I didn’t have a family to leave behind for it was hard enough to leave just my home. I couldn’t imagine a small child pulling on my leg, begging me not to leave them.

I then simply sat on the sofa and stared at footage of the disaster even as night fell upon them in the nation of Europe. The ending of the first day of terror was nigh and even as I knew I would step aboard a plane in a matter of hours and possibly close my eyes against life, it was unlikely all those souls in Europe would do the same. They would live the misery reigned down upon them for weeks and soon, yet soon I would join them. It would be my terror as well. My normal life would cease, my mundane job would become one that raced time, and I was just one person; just one in a sea of many. I was no miracle worker. And by the time I was walking out the door for the tram, I was annoyed.

I made it through to my commander’s office to be briefed before making the train to New York.

“Commander Ruger,” I saluted when I entered and stood stiffly at attention.

“At ease, Sergeant,” Ruger replied sounding bored.

I dropped my bag beside a chair and sank my body into it.

There was a moment of silence between us. Finally, Ruger met my eyes and sighed. He was tired and I could sense his stress. “I’m sure you have been watching the news all day, Weston. We tried to keep the media contained but it didn’t happen that way. The cat is out of the bag and we really don’t know what we are sending you men into over there. The atmosphere is panicked, of course. Your responsibility is only to help the RA by recovering bodies, identifying them, and clearing the affected areas. The wounded should be sent to the hospital immediately. There are shuttles in all areas that provide transportation only to medical centers all over Europe Nation. They are apprised of what centers can accommodate those people. It is not up to you to play hero and escort them yourself. Put them on a shuttle and get back to work. Understood?”

“Yes sir,” was my only reply. Then I swallowed hard. This was going to be ugly.

“I don’t care how many tears they cry at you, how scared they are, or if they become your best friend, Weston. I meant it. You are to stick to your order given by me,” Ruger reiterated firmly.

I winced at his scolding for I had never deliberately strayed from his orders as other had in the past. “Yes sir,” was all I could say. My breathing accelerated and my heart began to pound. Perhaps I could just not fathom how bad it would really be.

Satisfied with my response, he gave me a stern nod of his head and handed me the tickets I would need to travel abroad. I stood and saluted him once more, just to be dismissed.

The ride to New York was a comfortable two hours from the base in Chicago. I then boarded the small plane for military personnel at midnight. We were encouraged to sleep and would arrive in London, Europe Nation in roughly seven hours. It was said that when we got to London, our day would begin with dropping our bags and grabbing a shower at our Embassy. Then, we would get to work until we were told to stop for the day. If we didn’t sleep on the flight, we would still work through the day.

I hunkered down with the small pillow and blanket given to me and reclined my seat. My mind was racing and I had never flown before so my nerves were jumpy. I closed my eyes and stared right at the back of my eyelids until I fell into sleep.

London was teeming with people of all walks when we arrived at their noon hour. There was a smell of brine in the air and more humidity than I had expected. However, for May it was a mild temperature, although I had nothing to compare it to for I hadn’t ever been to London in my life. From what I gathered, it was one of the most gloomy areas of the world. But the day I arrived, it was a glistening paradise beneath the rays of the sun, the buildings full of history, the smell of pastries in the air, and the sound of the Big Ben clock chiming out the twelve o’clock hour for the city to take note.

I stayed close to the group of men wearing my same jacket and soon after stepping out onto the sidewalks, a very muscular man with no hair and black visors over his eyes strode up to the group.

“I am Jonah DeVry and I will be taking you to your quarters on behalf of the RA. Once you throw your bags in the room, you will report to the mess club for a bite and then we will throw you to the wolves out here. Understood?” the man said in his loud, military style voice.

We all answered with a stout “yes sir” and he spun on his heel leading the way to a stone building that reeked of days past. We were shown to rooms like closets with one latrine in the corner, three beds per room. There were footlockers at the end of each bunk for our things, something I hadn’t ever even thought about.

It was true. I was spoiled. I lived within my means, yet I hadn’t ever been forced to share housing with anyone. My closet in my apartment was larger than this entire room. I wasn’t used to sharing a latrine with other men nor was I expected to shower under a community sprinkling of water. I had the luxury of a duvet on my bed, not this thin woven fabric.

“Come on! Bags down, let’s go!” Jonah yelled out, clapping his hands impatiently.

The distinct sound of duffles hitting the floors or squeaking mattresses was heard and then the thundering of heavy footsteps as we all filed out into the hallway. We followed DeVry’s dark head of hair through tight corridors with missing tiles on the floor in places. Our guide finally stepped aside and ushered us into a large room, the smell of mystery food wafting on the air.

It was like a true “club” from home, there was music playing louder than we could talk, the tinkling of forks and spoons against glass plates filled more of the void, and buzzing voices and ringing laughter filled the rest. The lighting was dimmed to create a lazy, relaxing sort of experience and there were men puffing on vapor cigarettes.

I could feel a smile dance over my face as I took it all in. We saw empty tables and we sat in them, not being invited by any waitstaff since there was none. When we were all in a seat, DeVry stood at the buffet bar and called out his instructions on respect for others in the room and eating until satisfied but not full. He numbered the tables, each seating six men, and in order, we advanced on the bar of food feeling starved.

There were some foods I expected to see, but some I was afraid to try. Being one who ate a very clean diet due to rations, these foods were enough to make my stomach rebel. I filled my plate with roast beef and no gravy, roasted potatoes and carrots, and three fried eggs, steering clear of breads and pastries. At the end of the line, tall glasses of tap water were waiting.

It made me nervous to drink water that I didn’t know what it contained. I had heard rumors that drinking water in the southern American Nation could make your stomach sick. I took a glass anyway and trusted that the RA would not put my health in any danger by giving me contaminated water.

“It’s clean water, soldier,” DeVry stated dryly as I passed him by.

“Thank you, sir,” I mumbled back, preoccupied with worry. I must have been giving the glass a serious stare down for my commander to notice.

Lunch tasted wonderful to my hungry belly and close to an hour later, we all headed outside in a courtyard for a briefing. We all sat upon stone benches that circled the grassy clearing in the middle of four buildings, much like the one we were bunking in.

As my comrades from all over my nation sat, I studied the grey stone of these buildings with fancy columns and carvings, tall windows framed with shutters of red and a roof of black. I doubted very highly that it was all original from the time it was first built and I tried to envision it back in the day when architecture was an art of true proportions.

“Where are you from?” a young voice asked at my left side.

I whipped my head in his direction and regarded him rather coolly, I think. “Chicago,” I answered him.

“Never been there,” he replied. “I’m from Idaho.”

I chuckled at the kid. “I thought you guys all spoke with a cowboy accent. Where is your base in Idaho?”

The kid joined with me in merriment. “I’m stationed at the Boise base. I suppose some of us have our own sort of accent out there, but these days, most have transplanted from all over the nation. I don’t think I know a single native there. Then again, I don’t get out much.”

“So where did you transplant from if you don’t have an Idaho accent?” I grinned razzing him just a little more.

The kid grew pretty quiet and somber for a moment. “I don’t know,” he answered.

I reeled back as though he punched me in the face. “How can you not know?” I asked callously.

He shifted his gaze to his hands that were folded before him, his elbows resting on his knees. “My file says there was some sort of accident that killed my parents in Vegas. I was sent to a family who adopted me when I was two and I have no idea what my parents even looked like. I can’t recall anything from that long ago.” He gave a weak laugh that signaled vulnerability. “It chases me, those shadowy thoughts. I think that most of the time I invent my own history just so I can stop thinking about it.”

“That’s rough. I’m sure sorry,” I replied feeling foolish.

“No worries. We all have our ghosts, I suppose,” he said looking back at me, the haunted look that had washed over him was gone. “What’s your story?”

I threaded my fingers behind my neck and stretched my back with a sigh. “I don’t really have one. I wake up, go to the base, and go home. My parents are dead, my adopted parents are dead and I have no ties to anyone,” I answered him.

“Ah, so no matches have come up for you then?” he asked giving my medallion a flick of his finger making it sway to and fro on the chain.

I looked away from him. “Nope.”

“Yeah, me either. At least not yet. Kinda thankful that I don’t have those ties, you know? Doing this job would really stink then,” he stated.

“I think the whole idea stinks. But that is just me. I don’t want the ties. I don’t want to pretend to care for an individual I have never met before. Just isn’t natural,” I replied. I felt that I needed to gather my wits again. Talking to others never led to anything good.

“You have a name?” the kid asked me changing the subject.

“Weston. Weston Cam. You?”

“Jack Allen.”

“Nice to meet you, Jack. Anyone ever harass you about having two first names?” I laughed making light of the conversation.

He laughed back. “Yep. All the time. Nice to meet you Weston. Sounds like you will fit in nicely here with the Foxbouroughs and the Ashton Brookehouses of this area.”

“I just need a dinner jacket and a vapor pipe and a glass of wine. Maybe a top hat on my head. They would never know,” I said through my laughter and wiping my eyes.

“If you girls are done over there, I will continue,” Jonas boomed.

I sobered immediately, the attack from my commander feeling slightly personal.

“As I was saying, we will convoy to the station where we will take the train being held specifically for us. Each of you will be given a backpack that will contain clean water and first aid supplies. There will be some MREs in there that are to distribute to victims, men. These are not to be eaten by the likes of you! Is that understood?” DeVry bellowed as he paced back and forth through the circle of grass.

“Yes sir!” we all called out in one unified voice.

“The water is for you to drink, distribute as you see fit and clean wounds for temporary dressings. There isn’t a lot so use it wisely. Each night, when you return to your rooms, a cart will be sent around to collect the packs and ready them for the next day. It is lights out at 2200 and wake up call at 0500. We try to get you back here at dusk, before the sun sets, as a safety precaution. However, we will use every bit of daylight to help these people. Any man found sitting while on shift will be reprimanded severely. You are not here to be pansy boys, you are not here to dilly dally, you are here to make a difference! If you choose to be a nancy boy, you will not be well received here. Wear your uniforms proudly and do your duty to the people in need of your training, your services. For many of you, it is the first time being out in the field. This is not an excuse for failing to do your job! If you question yourself, it isn’t right. If you question yourself again, it’s probably pretty wrong. If you act on something that I would question myself on, you will be severely reprimanded! Do I make myself clear?” DeVry shouted.

Our chanted affirmation led him to nod his head.

“If you find that you need to speak with me about anything you might see, please make an appointment with our liaison, Drake. He will be scheduling my time and I will be limited, but I am here if you need me to lend an ear to your troubles. You will see some horrible stuff out there, men. It is not uncommon to need to unload those thoughts on someone else. Get it out of your head so you can move on and do your job. You are soldiers, not robots. I get this. Do not bottle it up inside. That is an order. Now get up! We have work to do!” Jonas stood up tall and slipped a hat over his head.

A train was being held for our group of supports of the RA and we all scrambled aboard, not unused to the procedure, as a bunch of individuals, not a team of men on a mission of relative compassion. Few of us spoke to each other on the short ride to the south end of Europe Nation. Jack sat beside me again but we stayed silent. It was my thought that everyone on that train was thinking the same things. We were all imagining the worst, many of us wondering what a real dead body looked like, felt like and smelled like.

We all sat together somber and brooding, as if we were all on our way to a funeral.

Medal of Defiance- NaNoWriMo 2013-Prologue







Okay, I am posting these chapters as I write them. Most likely, I will post about half of what I do get done in case I publish. This story was something my stepson and I worked out. I told him I would write it just for him. Well, being a NaNo project, I have made the time to finish with him in mind. Remember, these are rough drafts. If you have suggestions, comments are always welcome as long as they are constructive. I really do appreciate you reading my work!




“It’s the year 2124 and the world is a much different place than it was for my ancestors. Gone are the days of trust. Gone are the days of compassion. Today is the day of control. Control by those who put themselves in power and who play God to the rest of the world.

Today we see nations run by kings and administrations that control the masses. We are matched at birth and allowed two births per couple. We are branded like the victims of the Holocaust and denied the quest for true love.

There are rules and guidelines to follow, more so than any other time on this planet. Because freedom and Democracy failed the public, our rights have been disbanded and we are left shallow, hollow people.

I suppose to those who lived in the early “2000” years, our world would seem perfect. Yet like our ancestors, we yearn for yesteryear when things were lighthearted, music was racy and wild, people could carry guns to defend themselves, and owning a car or a home was convenient.

In my time, all homes are owned by the monarchies and cars were collected from the people to reduce emissions into our fast depleting Ozone layer. They were all recycled and melted down to use for military weapons support, making our carbon footprint smaller for the life of our world. We now run strictly on electric trams that run through cities and then relying on the popular rickshaw to maneuver the empty streets. If you are smart, you live where you can just walk anywhere you need to go.

Airplanes are used only from continent to continent travel as the high speed trains are nearly as fast to get from one city to another without the costs of fuel that would further damage our world. Vessels out on the water run strictly on solar energy as weather patterns have changed in the last century so that we see the brilliance of the sun more often than not.

Along with that change, our ice caps have melted, the last glacier disappearing in 2115. For a time, many coastlines were under water, but the more years that go by with more sunshine than rain, the oceans seem to be receding. Areas that used to be known as California, Florida, and Louisiana are once again coming into view, the rooftops of homes peeking above the waves more each day.

We are not without moments of misery. By banning GMO foods, we fight the ever changing climate to grow adequate amounts of food that we can buy from storehouses where it is rationed to the people by the monarchies. The weather can change from warm to freezing in moments and a dash for cover is required. These strange weather patterns confuse the atmosphere and create other natural disasters that cannot be determined, they happen so quickly. Humans are tracked by a chip inserted at birth, but also by their fingerprint and DNA. There is no way to deviate from the straight and narrow path set forth by the rulers of the world.

The world. How it has changed. There is no government aside from the World Human Affairs Chamber that works directly below the different monarchies of the continents. There are seven nations that govern the people. Borders were removed, governments were replaced, many world leaders were tried for their heinous crimes against their people. But all were brought to justice and removed. The Chamber was created by those who led the resistance armies and thwarted the evil that is politics. These were very intelligent men and women who saw a better life for us. The Chamber then chose leaders to begin the journey as kings for the nations: Europe, American, African, Arab, Asian, Russian, and Hispanic. This created a sense of contentment, once they realized that one head of state was better than the turmoil of democracy. The children of these leaders and their generation were referred to as the Genesis Generation. They were responsible for evolving into what we are today; a simple people with a rigid structure.

My parents were a part of the Genesis Generation. It was an effort to rebuild life, to structure it for the benefit of humanity. For too long had the people lived unruly and poisoned lives. Now, their fate is decided and they are a healthier people for it. The tales of old passed down from one family member to the next has taught me that it is our responsibility, Generation Renaissance’s responsibility to continue our parents’ hard work to restore order and glory to the planet. We are Gen R and the fate of all humans rests in our hands.”

NaNoWriMo (from 2012) LOL!




So I have had some people asking me about working more on my NaNo from last year. It was my first stab at something more contemporary for adults/young adults and I was really enjoying writing it! But alas, I didn’t make it to the finish line last year and hadn’t picked it back up until just recently. I released the newest book of The Aspen Series and just needed to work on something different and out came the zombie story that sat unfinished on my laptop. Earlier posts would catch you up as I had posted chapters 1-6. Here is number 7! Happy reading! 😀

Chapter 7

August 4th, 2016

It felt as though she had contracted the flu. Natalie’s body ached, her head hurt and she thought she might throw up.

“I must be dehydrated,” she muttered to herself and took a water out of her pack. It was the last of her water, besides what was up in the pan in the closet. The water felt cold running down her parched throat. She drank deeply and sank back down onto the pillows and blankets, but was afraid to sleep anymore. Afraid of what she did not understand. Afraid he would come for her again while she was vulnerable. Even more afraid that maybe the same fate had befallen her friend. The image that had been burned into her mind scarred her. She could not imagine Derek as a monster.

When Natalie started awake again, it was almost noon by her watch. A groan escaped her as the room swam before her eyes when she tried to sit up. The pounding in her chest was proof she was still alive, but she felt dead. Or at least among those close to death.

She let out a cry of pain when she moved to get up. Instinctively, she grabbed at her leg and bit down on her lip reflexively.  Pulling her blankets aside, she could feel the heat coming from her wound. This could not be good.

The swelling that had come on overnight had filled in the leg of her pants so they felt tight. Quickly she shimmied out of them and donned a pair of shorts. It was her last clean pair of anything.

Removing the elastic bandage, she gasped in surprise at how bad the bite had become just in the few hours she had been sleeping. The gaze was stuck to the outline, where the teeth had penetrated the skin and she found she just had to pull it off. She shrieked in pain and tried to catch her breath.

The swollen mess of skin was double the size it had been, easily, than when she went to bed. Finding some ibuprofen, she downed four tablets. She had to get out of there, find a doctor, and get home. She redressed the bite with gauze and ointment before she closed up her bags. Finding it difficult to walk, she made it to the door hoping the man was not out there waiting for her.

Carefully cracking the door, she peered out into the gloom of the basement and saw no one. She sighed and opened the door so she could get through. With one glance back at the message on the wall, she made her way to the stairs. The thought of dragging herself up that flight of steps about made her want to cry.

She hefted her bags as far up as she could and then crawled to them, repeating that to the top when one bag fell to the floor under her. It was the one with her money. A cry of frustration escaped her and she dropped her forehead to the edge of the step feeling her chin tremble.

“I have to go back,” she said aloud. “I need my money.”

So she turned around and sat, then scooted herself down all those stairs. The closer she got to the bottom, the more she smelled the damp and mildew scent. It hadn’t occurred to her that it was starting to mold down there, but it made sense.

Hobbling to the bag, she flung it over her shoulder and returned to the foot of the stairs. Keeping it hooked with her arm, she made it back to the point where she was almost free.

The man had moved the door to come inside, but he hadn’t put it back. But she could tell that it was a hot, yet overcast day. Climbing out of the hole, the gray light from the clouds hurt her eyes. It almost looked foggy all around her, as if she had entered another world completely. Nothing around her looked familiar anymore.

Down the road she went, the pain in her leg was almost too much to bear. It was a hard sensation to explain, she tried thinking of ways to let a doctor know what she was feeling. It was slow progress, and she tired easily. Her bags seemed like they weighed 50 pounds each!  The stopping to rest every so often was the best thing she could do in order to keep going.

As she dragged herself along, she kept her eyes open for anyone else. It was so desolate. Not even any evidence that there were others among her, alive or dead.

The light in the mid-afternoon was overcast and gloomy. It would be the perfect scene for a vampire movie or some horror flick. Natalie swept her eyes from side to side over the road and her ears open for any sounds of movement. But all she could hear was the sound of her step and drag motion, her heavy breathing in her ears. It was another humid day, yet not as hot. But then again, maybe being stuffed in a little room would make any ventilation impossible, but would heat up with her in it…like a lobster in a pot slowly cooking to death.

The road ended abruptly, disappearing into the ocean before her. Using her hand like a visor, she scanned her surroundings for another path and caught a glimpse of the newer hospital that had been completed a few months earlier that stood proud on the edge of a small mountain in the distance. It looked like the only way to get there would be to find her way through the brush and trees. The roads all pointed to the valley that no longer existed.

It smelled strongly of fish and seaweed, the heady scent of a salty brine tickling her nose. The steeple of the church appeared to have all but been swallowed by the unforgiving sea. Out in the distance, she could see a few logs floating, bobbing like buoys in the waves.

“I wonder if those are people out there,” she whispered. “I don’t understand where the aid is. They must know we are in trouble. They would have to!”

It was still a long way to get over to the hospital, it would probably take her until nightfall to get there, she supposed. So, she squared her aching shoulders and stepped forward on her good leg, the pain in her bad leg let her know it was not doing so great.

Natalie ventured off the road and into the vegetation growing all along the side of the hill she was on. The tall trees loomed ever nearer with every step, gaining height and the fear that there would be more people in the trees where she couldn’t see them grabbing at her. She tried to put that thought out of her head. Perhaps that man was a chance meeting. Maybe he was the only one like that.

One tree to her right, three to her left and she was enclosed within the canopy of forest that could help her or hinder her journey. She found a felled branch a handful of steps into the forested area. It was strong and would support her weight. Holding it at her right side, she used it almost like a crutch and walked a bit easier but her bag kept sliding off of her shoulder when her bag would smack against the pole. After hobbling along like that for an hour or perhaps a little more, she took the bag and hung it where a twig had broken off. It was not the best solution to her problem, but it took pressure off of her body. She slipped her arms through the loops of her backpack so she was wearing it over her back, feeling weightless.

A horrid stench invaded her nostrils. It was a smell that she had only known once. The gruesome smell of death. She looked carefully before each step not knowing what she would encounter. It all hit her like a wall, like when you come upon trash that has been sitting in the sun for days, maybe even weeks and she vomited.

Memories flooded her with nothing to stop the assault.

Natalie heard it coming but she had been paralyzed with fear. Her brain told her to get down into the cellar, to wake the others in the house so they could get to safety, but her feet were firmly planted in front of the window and her eyes were transfixed on the fury of twisting wind coming her way. She tried to call out to them, she opened her mouth but nothing came out. As the funnel cloud reached her, the screeching wind and rumbling ground told her she was going to die. It screamed it at her. But all she could do was stand there.

It ripped her house apart, debris flying through the air. She did scream then. Her arms flew up instinctively to shield her face. Her efforts to protect herself failed and the last thing she remembered was a board coming at her just before her head exploded into pain and everything went dark.

Having no idea how long she had been unconscious, Natalie woke and had forgotten everything that happened. She carefully scrambled to her feet and felt the world swim before her.

Looking out over what was left from the house, she felt deflated and lost. Slowly, she took it all in. The destroyed chair next to the sofa that was not damaged at all, the walls that were torn apart on her left side and in tact on the right. It was insanity how Mother Nature could just destroy one thing and leave another.

Stepping over boards and torn up carpet, she knew she needed to get some help. Her roommates had been in the area of the house that had been destroyed. She could see that many houses had suffered the same fate.

It felt hard to breathe after that first encounter with a tornado. Neighbors began popping out of the rubble, some crying hysterically, some in shock just like her. Walking to person after person, she begged for help to find her friends but no one seemed to see her or hear her, they just kept staring at their property and mumbling to themselves.

“I need your help! Please help me find my roommates. I have three of them. They may be buried at my house and needing help to get out!” she screamed at a police officer who had materialized to keep people calm and to keep unaffected people out.

“Ma’am, you need to take a few deep breaths. Come sit over here and drink some water,” he said with a kind voice.

“I don’t need water, I need to find my roommates! One of them is my boyfriend!” she yelled batting the officer’s hand away when he reached for her shoulder.

“Look, sweetheart, we will get to you. There are a lot of people hurt. We can’t do anything about the ones who are dead. We should look at your head. You are bleeding pretty good there,” the officer said.

Tears sprang to her eyes. She felt so small. So insignificant.

“I will go help them myself,” she replied wiping the tears off of her cheeks.

Natalie spent the next few days calling her friends’ names while she moved beams and boards, shingles and doors. She scavenged for what food she could find and the Red Cross finally arrived with some canned goods and clothing for the people in her neighborhood. Most of them were college students peppered with a few home owners. At that point it didn’t matter, none of them had a place to go.

“It is all my fault,” she told herself.

With no word having been said about the people missing, she could only assume they were dead. But, she hadn’t found their bodies so there was still hope. Later that day, she found Anne and Malcom’s bodies beneath a bunch of mangled wood. Three days of digging and she found them. But Thad was nowhere to be found.

She sat there and cried, mourned her friends’ deaths. All she had to do was yell for them and she didn’t. They were gone because she was weak, afraid, and pathetic. By nightfall that evening, she had her two dead friends out of the mess and onto the road. They smelled pretty bad. Like cleaning out the fridge and finding a bowl of moldy surprise waiting for you, they had been lying in wait for her to uncover them.

Two days later, she could smell something that made her stomach turn. It invaded her nose and wouldn’t leave no matter how far away she walked. It gagged her and made her feel queasy.

She went for a walk, one of many, to try to clear her sinuses. She was a few hundred feet from her house when she saw a hand sticking out of a nest of clothing and some furniture. Uncovering the body, she found Thad. He looked like he had been beaten in a rough fight and left for dead. Well, he was dead. The smell of him got to her, the sight of the insects crawling over him made her sick, but the grief was enough to kill her.

“No, no, no!” she moaned through her sobs as she brushed him off and took his face in her hands. “I’m here, Thad! Wake up now!”

She thought of the times they had dreamed about getting married after graduating school, the talk of children while they were studying late into the night, the conversations of opening their own law firm together and passing it down. He was her whole life. There was nothing else in Oklahoma that mattered to her. Her life seemed to drain out of her body the longer she held his face and tried to talk him into coming back to her.

When there was nothing left inside, she stood up and took Thad by his arms dragging him back to the house. By the time she got back, she was dry heaving from the rancid smell of rotten meat.

It was the insensitive burial by the clean up crew that really got her. She didn’t really feel like she said goodbye to him. But then again, how do you say goodbye to the one person you loved with all your heart? How do you move on with life when you invest everything you have within in another person and they are just gone one day?

She struggled to concentrate through her classes once they resumed. None of it really mattered to her anymore.

Holy Cow! It Has Been A Month Since I Last Posted!

Cast Dungeon

When I started my blog, I swore I would never let mine go and become outdated. And here I am, ignoring the fact that it has been a whole month since I last posted here. Sheesh.

What have I been up to??

Well, I have been mapping out an audio show, where I bring my work to the world one chapter at a time. Think of your favorite television series…you go back to that show each week to keep up, don’t you? If you have the ability, you record it to watch later, right?

Ok! So when I get my show posted on and iTunes, you will be able to download my show and listen to one chapter at a time. Then, come back the next week and download the continuing story! I am very excited and I don’t have to rely on other people’s money to get the job done. It is a lot of work, but I am at it each day (that I am not at work) trying to work the bugs out and read with passion and feeling! Sometimes I feel that I sound monotone and boring because I am trying not to mess up. lol

We purposely put a podcast plugin on my website to be able to stream my work there also. I will update with the places to go for downloading.

In the meantime, if any of you authors are interested in having your books read on my show or would like to have me spread the word for you to increase traffic, please let me know! I want this to benefit everyone from small businesses to authors and everything in between.

And now, you ask… How is the Benevolent Light coming along? Ahem…not so well. But I am working on it, I promise.

And… What about my unfinished NaNo project? Well, I did have a reader tweet to me that she wants me to finish it. That was so sweet! I love to get feedback from readers, and positive is even better!

Ok, so what about the Anthology? Well, not so sure. The group I have been involved with is not staying in touch very well. I am not sure who is participating and who isn’t anymore. Doesn’t help that I don’t work where they do anymore. I suppose that promises of staying in touch and being friends still are just words. lol I miss them but I don’t ever hear from anyone. On the flip side, I don’t want to feel like I am bugging them, so I leave them alone too.

Well, now you know what has been going on in my world. I appreciate readers, fans, and friends. Please share me with those you know! 🙂


NaNoWriMo Chapter 6

Chapter 6

August 3, 2016

Natalie blinked her eyes until they had adjusted to the light pouring in the windows. She felt hot and sweaty, the air humid and thick with moisture. Groaning, she sat up and stretched her painfully stiff muscles from sleeping on the hard table top.

Derek, please save me. Be the Prince Charming I always wanted you to be and save me when I need you the most, she said a million times in her head, pleading and calling out to her best friend with every ounce of feeling and raw emotion that she never knew she possessed. When she felt her chin tremble, she opened her eyes and forced herself to focus on what was before her. Survival.

Feeling sorry for herself, she forced her body out of bed and to get dressed.

On the other side of the door, she thought she heard a shuffling noise. It was very unfamiliar to her, the noise. A mouse? Possibly some other rodent? It seemed heavier…more…human.

Natalie’s heart thundered in her chest and she held her breath listening at the door. Licking her lips did no good as her mouth had run dry. She hoped that whatever it was would find its way back out of the basement.

And then, it occurred to her. Derek was there…just on the other side of that piece of wood. She was going home! Hope filled her to overflowing and tears of relief clouded her eyes. She reached for the knob as it began to turn on its own accord. There was no touching involved on her part.

She snapped her hand back and took a step backward, nearly brushing her bed with her rear. She could hear breathing. Ragged breathing as the door cracked open. It sounded as though the being sniffed and moaned, pushing the door open and revealing himself to her.

A gasp emitted from her mouth, of complete surprise as she made eye contact with what looked like what used to be a man. She saw in those eyes fear, greater than the fear she had known. She saw pain, excruciating pain. And she saw hunger, a primal look of starvation. He was sweating profusely. He had deep open wounds over his face that shocked and disgusted her. So deep in the tissue, his mandible and teeth were visible, his eye was drooping. And the blood…he had it all over his face. It was bright red that transitioned into patches and droplets of deep black.

Natalie cried out, all thoughts of Derek vanished as she backed into the table top, no where to go but down. Scrambling and afraid, she grabbed beneath the blankets for her bag, the emergency pack that had come out of the closet.

The man took two steps forward, limping noticeably as he came, arms stretched out for her. He opened his mouth like he was trying to say something.

“Please, please leave me alone!” Natalie screamed out at him and kicked her legs, her hands searching…searching.

The man grew agitated, he smelled terrible and made grunting noises at her because he could no longer form words with half of a mouth, literally. He touched her. Felt the warmth of her leg against the roughness of his hand. She kicked all the harder, desperately rummaging through the pack until it all spilled over her bedding, packages of food slipping over the blankets and falling to the floor. But, she found it.

His grip was relentless. It was enough to make her fear for her life, he held her leg so tight. She could imagine those hands over her neck, strangling her with hardly an effort on his part.

“Let go of me!” she spat, followed by a blood-curdling howl of pain as he bit down on her tender, healthy flesh. Twisting around, onto her back, she pointed her Glock 9mm and shot. No aiming, just adrenaline coursing through her in the fight or flight reflex programmed into her body.

The creature reared back and made a squealing noise, instinctively grabbing at his shoulder. Natalie could see blood running from the bullet induced wound. She pulled her legs back and put the bed between the man and herself, the gun still pointed at him, her hands shaking and her breathing ragged.

“Get out!” she screamed and shot again. The sound was deafening in the small enclosed room.

The man made another lunge at her, his dirty, torn clothes brushing over her blankets. He sniffed again. She figured he could smell her food. He was hungry enough that a gun was not going to stop him.

A third shot rang out and she hit him in the hand, the hand that held the wounded shoulder. That was enough incentive for him to depart. Appearing panicked, he looked for a way out. Slowly, he shuffled his feet accommodating the limp and left her standing there, shaking and hardly breathing.

With her mind reeling, she stood there processing what had just happened to her with the gun still pointed at the place where the odd man had stood just minutes earlier.

It wasn’t until she watched the creature disappear that she lowered her weapon and realized she was dripping sweat. It was already hot at 11:00 am. That was not a good sign. She had to leave even if Derek was on his way.

Sitting on the edge of the makeshift bed, she allowed her forehead to fall into her hands and she caught her breath. A tickling sensation on her left calf made her take a swipe at it with her hand. It felt like a bug crawling over her skin, but her hand came away with blood streaks over her palm.

Alarms instantly went off in her head.

“Christ!” she swore in a whisper.

Taking a towel and her bottle of water, she cleaned the wound it wasn’t very deep, just traumatized. The beginnings of a bruise began to manifest itself around the edges of the lopsided circle the man had bitten on the skin. Gingerly, she wrapped her leg in gauze and then with an elastic bandage to hold it all in place.

She took a moment to pick up the scattered bits and food items that had scattered over the floor in her struggle. Hastily, she stuffed her pack again, thankful it hadn’t been her money that had blown all over the place. Keeping out one granola bar, she partook and sipped her water. Not feeling full, but better than before, she wiped her face with a blanket and slung a bag over each shoulder. She was getting out of there!

The door she had placed over the opening of the basement was gone, pushed aside. She could see bright skies that were glazed with low white clouds. But when she got to the top of the stairs, she could see a blackness toward the west and the wind was blowing hard enough to make her hair stand on end.

Natalie walked about seven steps away and found she was exhausted.

“I can’t do this,” she said to herself.

So she returned to her hole in the ground, making certain the strange man hadn’t come back with a vengeance. She would try again tomorrow.

There was little to do to occupy her time but listen to the angry sea batter the side of the mountain. She tried to find a channel on the radio again, to no avail. She might as well have been marooned on a desert island, she was that alone. Well, besides the near dead guy that had just tried to eat her leg!

She decided to use the corner of her radio to carve a message for Derek in case he showed up after she had left. But thinking realistically, he would have been there by now if he could.

She scratched and scratched at the paint on the wall until she was happy with the finished product that read, ‘Derek- I’m headed home on foot.’ Surely, it should not have taken that long, but the sheetrock beneath had become soft and the paint was like rubber. She really had to get angry with it for cooperation.

Standing from her project she could not believe how much her leg hurt. It hadn’t bothered her at all until that point. Limping over to the bed, she unwrapped her wound finding it very bruised, hot and still bleeding. He really did a job on her!

Rummaging through her pack, she came across the anti-bacterial ointment, shed the current dressings and slathered the jelly over the bite, wincing when she had to touch her skin to smooth it all out. Then, she applied fresh white gauze and secured it again with the elastic bandage. She wished there was access to some ice, or maybe the salt water would help. She felt so tired that the thought of climbing the stairs did not appeal to her and glancing at the time, daylight was about gone up there. No, she was much better off sleeping, regaining her strength for the start of her journey tomorrow.

The sounds are muffled to me. I hear the ocean, taste its spray, feel its power. I am on my mountain and nothing else is around. No house, no debris, no weather. I turn in circles as though I don’t know where I am, taking it all in. At the foot of the mountain, the westerly side, sits the house I grew up in. Wisconsin was here in Stowe. How can that be? I hear a new noise. My heart races and my ears grow warmer than comfortable. Goose bumps rise on my skin as I turn to see a figure coming to me. His skin hangs from his body in tatters. I can see his bones in the light of the day. His muscles bunch and flex as he moves closer, hardly a scrap of clothing shielded his body from the world. I can reach out and touch him, although I am paralyzed with fear. I have no weapon, no gun, I am his prey. He stands there looking at me and my eyes meet his. I recognize that gaze staring at me. I know him. Derek! I move to speak as he opens his mouth, it opens to an enormous size and comes at my face…

Natalie bolted upright, sweat streaming down her body. She felt strange. Sick.

NaNoWriMo Chapter 5

Chapter 5

August 2, 2016

Natalie woke the next morning just after nine. It surprised her to have slept so long and she felt drained of energy and very thirsty. Pulling her bottle of water from her pack, she allowed herself to drink deeply knowing she had rain water and plenty of it.

She broke down and opened one of her rations packets and let it sit a moment. If anyone had told her she would be eating this…this cluster of something…just to keep up her strength, she would have laughed out loud at them. Yet, here she was getting ready to nibble the square of food that would give her something to burn throughout the day.

Feeling brave, she took some time to survey the damage that had been inflicted on her through the night. The water had risen, lapping against the frames of the couches like lake water kissing a dock. It would probably almost reach her knees. That was it. She had to leave.

Once she had finished her breakfast, Natalie shoved her feet back into her wet shoes. She rolled her pants to her knees and stepped down into the standing water. It was colder than she had expected being that it was summer, but it was tolerable. The door felt heavy as she tried to swing it open through the water. More water came rushing in as though the door had been a dam just letting it leak in slowly through the night.

Droplets clung to the edges of the stairs just to fall helplessly into the pool below. However, there was no longer any water rushing in. Perhaps the worst was over. Wading over to the staircase, she pulled herself from the collection of water in the basement to the freedom of the stairs. She knew she couldn’t take on anymore water and stay comfortable at all.

The tarp was gone, that she had figured on throughout the night. Hoping it had gotten caught in something nearby, she headed out of the hole in the ground.

The scene before her was like nothing she had ever witnessed before. She now stood upon beach front property, waves rolling in like the ocean just below the area that had once supported her deck overlooking the town.

The town. There was no town any longer. The only evidence was the occasional chimney poking up high enough to be noticed and the steeple of the quaint little church in town rose up like a pointed sword, a beacon to all that there was still hope. Cars floated like inner tubes on a lake and debris rocked from side to side with the motion of the sea. But she didn’t see anyone. Dead or alive.

Natalie found that she could do nothing but stare, falling to the slab that used to be her garage. It was unbelievable. Something you would see in a movie. Slowly she crept to a place where she could touch the water, dipped her hand in and tasted it for freshness. It was salty and no good.

A thought occurred to her…What if Derek knows I didn’t make it because I got stuck here? What if he is coming for me right now? He wouldn’t find me if I don’t stay put. There isn’t anyone else here, it is just me. Maybe I will give him a couple more days to find me. If he doesn’t make it, I will have to get out of here. Please Derek, please find me!

So with the new coastline being at her back door, quite literally, and hoping Derek would make it to her with his car, she figured she would try to clear out some water. Soon, all the moisture in there would start to cause a problem.

Taking any bowl, bucket or pan she could come up with, she went to the fourth stair from the bottom of the basement and started filling them all with water. Then, she would take them up above and dump it over the edge of the hill and into the new ocean. All day she did this, thinking of every cause for the ocean to make it so far inland. Her chin would tremble every time she thought of the countless lives that had to have been lost down in the valley. She wondered if the whole east coast had suffered as they had. And thoughts of her parents being consumed by lava occupied the blank spaces in her mind. Her head was full to overflowing with thoughts and feelings. Many of which she hadn’t ever really experienced before in such a dramatic capacity.

The wind started to pick up as the sun began to descend in the sky. It whipped at her hair causing it to sting as it hit her skin. The water in the basement was more like a deep puddle but much better than the swimming pool she had woken up to.

Natalie knew she would need something to protect her from anymore rain. The tarp had not helped much at all. She hiked around her old neighborhood looking for a large piece of wood she could carry. Just down the street on the more westerly side of the mountain, she found that the Sorenson’s home was still there, although it was in pieces and rubble scattered over the ground. Finding part of a door, she felt satisfied and maneuvered it upon her back. Walking about six steps, she had to set it down for it made her shoulders scream in pain.

A noise behind her startled her and she almost dropped the door. Quickly she set it down and peeked around it, scanning the mountainside for any sign of life. Seeing nothing, she picked the door back up and continued on.

Although it could have been the wind shifting debris around, she couldn’t help but feel that she wasn’t as alone as she had once thought. Perhaps someone had been watching her these last days and knew what she had…She had more than most. It made her very nervous to say the least. It hadn’t really occurred to her that there might be other people around still because she hadn’t seen any evidence of them.

The sound of the surf pounding the ground grew louder until she could see the opening to her hole. There was no more moisture, just wind. Placing the door over that opening, it almost covered it all the way. It was heavy, well, more heavy than the tarp. She still worried about it being blown around if the wind kept up or became worse. The rocks were still piled around the edge of the empty space as though they were pinning an invisible covering so Natalie took them and weighted the base of the door, afraid to compromise the integrity of the wood. As the last few beams of sunshine lit the blanket of clouds over her head, she slipped down a couple of steps and paused to pull the door over the gap. It took her a moment to adjust her eyes, the tiny windows putting off very little light. Slinking down the steps, the carpet squished beneath her hands, drops dripping to the floor below making a distinct splat.

Finding her way across the spacious room, she found her door more by memory than by touch. She had left the door open in hopes that room would dry some. Natalie didn’t really feel that is was warm enough to evaporate anything but perhaps the wind would help. But before she would close the door, she clicked on the flashlight and looked in every nook and cranny for signs of a stranger.

Satisfied that there were no strange people hanging out in her absence, she shut the door tight and slid the ottoman in front of it…it made her feel better. Then, she just laid down over the pool table and closed her eyes against the disaster. She was exhausted, yet she felt good about what had been accomplished throughout the day.

Some time later, Natalie woke, her body shivering with cold. It was hard to understand how it could be the middle of the summer and be so frigid. Visions of the new ocean, her basement full of water, and scavenging the door from the neighbors’ flooded back. She was so cold because she was still soaked from hauling water out of the basement.

Her brain told her to get up, to change clothes and get warm. Her body said ‘no way! I’m not moving’. A deep sigh escaped her and she fought with herself. Finally, she mustered up the strength to sit upright. The fabric of her clothes felt like sandpaper against her skin. Her hands and legs felt like cement, heavy and stiff.

Sluggishly she changed her clothes in the light of the flashlight, no energy left in her tired muscles. It felt as though time had slowed down and it took twice as long to do the simplest of things. The water from a bottle felt cool going down her throat and she just didn’t feel hungry, so she decided to try sleeping. She was so tired.

It was quiet. No rain, no wind, just the muffled sound of the waves crashing against the rocks outside. That and silence.

NaNoWriMo Chapter 4

Chapter 4

It sounded like a Banshee was howling all around her, ready to take her to the afterlife when Natalie was woken from her sleep. It took her a moment to gain her bearings, where she was and why. Laying there in the pitch black she listened to the very eerie sounds of the wind above her. She could hear a sound, muted by the wind, that sounded far away and like a plastic bag being traumatized by the weather. And then there was the rain. It was relentless and was pounding the ground. Briefly, Natalie wondered who else was a victim of the elements as she was. She wondered how many had lost their lives.

Natalie had no idea what time it was. She felt like she had slept a long time. It could be morning or even the next afternoon, she didn’t know. She sat up and clicked on the flashlight to look at the time on her watch. 2:36 am. Wow. It felt like more time had passed than that.

She heard her stomach growl before she felt it. It had been a while since she had eaten, that was true. But with very limited food, she needed to ignore her stomach’s cries and wait until morning came. Once again, she covered her head up with the blankets and fell asleep listening to the dripping water beyond her door.

A narrow beam of light made its way into the small window giving the room a dank and haunted feel. Natalie woke after her very poor night’s sleep feeling spent and groggy. Emotionally, she felt numb and like her brain would not come together and function. It was almost the feeling of waking up after taking strong cold medicine before bed. Her watch claimed it was 10:22 am.

Swinging her legs around, she rested her feet on the very cold floor to find it wet. Quickly, she pulled them back up onto the couch and looked around. There was a skiff of standing water in her room. Not enough to reach the couch, but enough to soak the carpet and have some water sitting on top. Grumbling a few curses under her breath, she craned herself around to figure out how to get to the closet without freezing her feet in the water. She couldn’t do it. However, she did worry about how many of her things were suffering within her bags. There was no way to judge when all the rain penetrated her defenses. Was it all night? Was it in the last couple of hours? Unreal. Just unreal.

She slipped off her socks and rolled up the pants she was wearing. Then, she squished her way 15 steps to the closet and opened it to reveal very little water had made it over the metal rail that had been screwed to the floor. She knew nothing about construction, but was happy that her bags were fairly dry. Natalie drew one bag over her shoulder and tossed the other one onto the couch. Turning back, she hopped through the freezing water and onto the pile of blankets there waiting for her.

It was still warm in the mound of fabric, well warmer than her feet were. So she buried herself back in them and unzipped her emergency bag. Taking out a granola bar and a bottle of water, she ripped open the foil wrapper and had to tell herself to eat slowly. Just small bites…just in case, little sips of water, just enough to sate her thirst. She had a feeling that things were not about to get better soon.

“If I would have left and not messed with the television, I would be warm right now,” she remarked to no one in particular. It was a strange sound to hear her own voice talking in the hollow room, above the sound of the steady pat of rainfall against the small window.

To be in the ground during a flooding storm was not wise. She hadn’t thought this one out. Natalie thought that she could get her shoes on and see if she could find a house that was empty and not destroyed, one that wasn’t filling with water as the hours ticked by.

Pulling a two way radio from the bag, she turned it and prayed that the batteries still worked. It had been a long time since she had changed them. Switching it from the communication capabilities to the radio function, the gadget whizzed to life with screeching and static. Searching and searching for an information station that was still functioning, she swore loud as none were being found.

Finally, she heard a man’s voice. It was broken and full of noise, but she could make out parts of what he was saying.

“If you have…ones on the Eastern Seaboard…Natalie has struck…underwater, whole communities…new type of storm…strength, headed north. She…Canada’s coast, stronger than…Tsunami warnings have…every coastal area…The west is pummeled…eruptions…world.”

Natalie drew her shoes out from under the blanket and slipped into her socks before stuffing them in her light summer running shoes. She covered her bags with her blankets and ventured out of her safe area, sure to close the door behind her.

The rain was coming in despite the makeshift cover that was over the opening at the stairs. Heavy winds had torn the edges from the rocks that held it secure. It was bulging downward through the spaces between the boards she had set beneath the tarp. She was about to get wet.

Gently, she lifted the black plastic away to be pelted by raindrops. She blinked rapidly to clear the drops from her eyes. There would be no dry wood for a fire, no dry anything to make a fire. Her pan was full of water, well, overflowing as it continued to try collecting the rain for her. She grabbed it by the handle and took it inside, setting it on the shelf in the top of the closet in an attempt to keep from getting anything in it or even spilling.

She had to get back to Wisconsin. Even if she walked, she had to make it.

Natalie spent hours scavenging for bits and pieces from her home, things she could use to survive and sentimental artifacts that held meaning for her. She happened upon her college graduation photo with her parents on either side of her.

Rubbing the dirt and water from the glass surface, tears sprang unbidden to her eyes. Where were her mom and dad now? Were they safe? Were they thinking of her? Had they heard the news and turned back in time? She hugged the frame to her chest shed a few tears over her predicament. Then, she resumed her search. In another day or so, she could hopefully start her journey home.

Several hours more passed and Natalie’s belly growled a menacing sound. The light was beginning to fade and she had found little that was not broken or missing parts. The rain had not let up and was beginning to intensify, the wind whipping at her clothes. Standing straight up, she looked beyond her little hill that she was on. The Stowe she knew was taking on water. The streets looked like they had an accumulation down there. The homes on either side of her appeared to be abandoned, yet they were disheveled and not able to use as a refuge. She swore again, under her breath, and then immediately apologized to God. It would be dark soon. It was going to get cold again. She needed to prepare.

Leaving the few buckets and pans she had found outside to catch water, she folded the plastic sheeting over the hole in the ground and placed the rocks on it as she had the night before. That cast the basement in shadow. Only the very weak gray light filtering in through the small windows lit her way.

There was a lot of water down there. Almost over her shoes. The couch was bound to be wet now.

She eyed the pool table lying pathetically in the corner where it had ended up after the tornado. It was like the tornado had tried to suck it right up the stairwell, but lost. Carefully, Natalie lifted the corner that touched the ground, the one with the missing leg. Pushing all of her body weight against it, she found that it moved fairly easily. She scooted it across the watery floor to the doorway of her room. It was too wide.

A loud growl escaped her. Twisting the table more on its side, she kicked at the legs protruding from the top until the remaining three were removed. Satisfied with the amount of frustration she had expelled, she slid the table top on its side into the room. She had to work quickly if she was going to keep the top from getting too wet. That would mean a very uncomfortable night’s sleep.

Sloshing through the water, Natalie moved the ottoman out of the way and pressed the two couches together, seat cushions facing each other. Then, she rested the pool table top on the arms of the couches, using them as a base to keep her relatively dry and off the floor. Flinging the ottoman open, she threw every blanket and pillow in the confines upon the pool table. She would be fine here one more night. Tomorrow, she would find someone out there to help her get out of here.

Climbing atop the table top, Natalie removed her shoes and socks that were soaking wet and tucked the blankets tightly around her feet that were cold from all the water. She turned on the radio hoping to catch some insight to what was going on in the world. Carefully munching on another granola bar, she scanned the channels hearing only static. No one was out there. She was alone.

A moment of panic attacked her. It became hard to breathe as she processed those thoughts for a while. The rain sounded louder, the walls began to shrink on her, the plastic rustled restlessly. Every part of her body felt something as though she had been electrocuted or had suddenly been brought back to life. She even thought she could hear the ocean, for crying out loud!

Thunder boomed somewhere in the distance and what light was left faded leaving her in complete darkness. Absolutely vulnerable. Every few seconds, a violent flash of lightning would strobe through the windows rendering her all the more blind. She figured the only logical thing to do was to sleep through it the best she could. Clicking on the flashlight, she studied her watch. 8:30pm. It was late enough.

The crunching of the tarp being harassed by the wind got her attention. Natalie felt as though she had been asleep all night already. It was still dark, however, so she knew it wasn’t morning yet.

With her heart racing after being pulled from sleep, she laid there listening. She could hear water running, like a waterfall and then the noise of the tarp stopped. Natalie closed her eyes and sighed, knowing she was no longer sheltered at all from the elements. The wind howled through the opening in the ground and water spilled in. She curled up in a ball and pulled the covers over her head. Tears of fear spilled over her lids and streaked her face with sorrow. She whispered a prayer to God that she would be able to make it home.