Thursday, March 31, 2011

Messengers - 19


“Sure, I have to blame somebody, right? They sent me a message that I was going to kill Bobby Sinclair. I know they say that what the angels say doesn’t have to be, and I guess that’s probably true. But when I got that message it felt…inevitable. It felt like gravity. It was easier to just fall than to fight. So I didn’t.

I wish I could tell you it was hard. But it wasn’t. It would have been harder not to. You know about Bobby Sinclair?”

“After his body was found, they were able to connect him to more than thirty rapes. All of them were teenagers.”

“Thirty six. That were reported. God knows how many more that weren’t. He’d been at it for more than a decade. Poor girls, girls from the street. He figured no one would care enough to look very hard. He was right. If I didn’t know it before, I knew it when nobody found about Carcetti.

You know what I learned being a homicide detective? That most of us are smart. Most of us care. Most of us want to get the killers. And most of the time, it’s not that hard. Most of the time we find a husband with a bloody knife over his dead wife or we find some gangbanger killed by a guy who brags all over town. But if it’s not obvious, if it’s not someone that society cares about? We don’t get them. You know about the first forty eight right?”


“That’s not because there’s something special about those first two days. It’s because if you can’t find the evidence you need that fast, you probably never will. Nobody cared about Carcetti. Nobody cared about those girls.”

“You did.”

“I guess so. But that didn’t change anything for them, anymore than it changed things for Amanda Carcetti. The angels weren’t helpful enough to tell me which Bobby Sinclair I was supposed to murder, so I needed to do some legwork myself. I narrowed it down to likely suspects.

The Bobby Sinclair I was looking for had been arrested once, back when he was in college. He was accused of raping a girl. There wasn’t any hard evidence. She was a townie, too young to be drinking. He didn’t deny sleeping with her, but they were both drunk and he was young and pretty and he walked.

He must have learned from that. He was smarter about it after. We never even had any idea that he even existed. But I was suspicious, you know? Something felt wrong.”

“So you broke into his house.”

“Sure. I mean, it’s not like I needed evidence for court. I just needed to know why I was supposed to kill this man. So I broke into his house and found all the reasons that I would ever need.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Messengers - 18

“Because of the angels,” Dylan said. She nodded.

“Before I got involved, he was restrained. He was still a monster, still someone who should never be allowed near children, much less allowed to have one of his own, but he wasn’t hurting her physically.

That’s not much of a consolation for a little girl forced to stand on top of a cooler for hours, or made to sleep in the attic when her behavior wasn’t perfect like daddy wanted, but she’d have been alive.

But when I showed up? He thought she’d been talking to someone. He started beating her because she betrayed him. He actually tried to justify himself to me. Can you believe that?”

She stopped. No expression but the anger almost dripped from her.


“Excuse me?” Dylan said.

“I keep thinking if. What if I’d never gotten that first message? What if I hadn’t done anything? What if I’d done more? If.”

She rubbed at her wrists, looked away.

“Carcetti was an accident.”

“An accident?”

“Maybe accident is the wrong word. I’m pretty sure it was. But I didn’t go there planning to kill him. I didn’t even plan to kill him when I pulled the trigger. I didn’t think about it. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I put the gun against his forehead and he begged and he pleaded and he tried to explain and I pulled the trigger. And then he was gone. As simple as that.”

“That doesn’t sound simple.”

“I guess it doesn’t. He was dead before I realized what had happened. Do you know that was the first time I’d ever fired my weapon off the range? Of course you do, that’s in the record. Something that simple, that quick, it changes everything.”

“So why the rest of them?”

“Now, that is not a simple thing. Even after I killed Carcetti, I didn’t plan on doing anything like that. You know what my first instinct was? To run. To get out of there, to get as much space between me and what…between me and him. So I could forget about it. Can you imagine that?”

This time Dylan looked away. He could imagine that. Very well.

“I got lucky. Nobody saw me coming or going. Nobody ever considered me a serious suspect. Truth is, Carcetti was a piece of shit and no one was inclined to look too hard at what happened to him. But I knew. What started to worry me was the angels.

There are no secrets anymore. I mean, I don’t have to tell you that. Eventually, the angels always tell the truth. I knew it was only a matter of time before somebody found out about me.”

“And you decided to take the law into your own hands? Pardon the cliché.”

“I’ll pardon you if you pardon me,” she said with a smile, “No I didn’t decide to start killing them. The angels decided it that for me.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Messengers - 17

She stopped, looked away. He was staring at the window but Dylan didn’t think she was seeing it. It seemed like she should be crying, but her eyes were dry. She’d just..stopped.

“Do you need a minute?”

“I’m fine.”


“I’m fine. I got the second message about seven months later. It was simple, like they always are. It told me Amanda Carcetti was going to die. I have to tell you, that’s a hell of a thing to find in your newspaper while you’re eating a bagel. I went over to Carcetti’s house, but it was too late. Amanda was dead. He was crying, saying he was sorry. Maybe I should have done something different. Maybe I should have called the ambulance. Maybe I should have just done my and arrested him.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No, I didn’t. I tasered him and stuck one of his own socks in his mouth. There was no helping Amanda. She was still warm when I picked her up, but she was gone. I’d like to tell you that you don’t get used to seeing dead children, but that isn’t true. I’d seen enough dead kids and enough dead people to know that the only thing I could do for her was to offer some measure of justice.”

“You think what you did to Carcetti was justice?”

“You don’t?”

“Well, I’m interested in what you think?”

“You sound like the psychiatrists they have me talk to in here.”

“Sorry, next time I’ll try to bring a couch in with me.”

Rodgers smiled a real smile, laughed a little. It was a cliché to say she didn’t look like a killer, but it was true. She just looked like a person. Dylan wondered what it was like. He wondered what it took to actually pull the trigger. He realized she was staring at him.

“Do you need a minute?” she said.

“No. Sorry, just got distracted. So, you think killing those people was justice?”

“I did then.”

“You don’t now?”

“I’m not sure that I believe in justice at all. I know I used to. It was why I joined the police, back when I was younger and dumber. They say the job makes you cynical, and I can’t argue with that, but some part of me always believed. That while you couldn’t always make things better, you could still make things right.

Do you know that I talked to Carcetti. Before I did it. I needed to know why he would do something like that. I need to know how. How he could do that to a little girl. You know what he told me? He told me it was because of me.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Messengers - 16


“Don’t know what to say to that?”


She laughed again, but her smile was warm again.

“Do you know why I’m against the death penalty?” she said.

“I didn’t know you were.”

“I am. Or at least I was. I don’t have a problem with the idea that some people need to die for the things they’ve done. Obviously. There are people in this world that can never be fixed, can never be helped and they’re a cancer on the rest of us. I think they were probably born wrong. These people can’t and shouldn’t be left to mix with the rest of us.

The problem is that most people, even most criminals, aren’t like that. If you have a policy that advocates killing them, you’re going to end getting innocent people caught in the net. I couldn’t, can’t, live with that. When you kill someone, there’s no taking it back. There’s no chance at ever making it right. So I don’t think that we should be in the business of taking people’s lives. One is too many.”

She paused. Looked at Dylan.

“Does that sound to much like a speech?” she said.

“It sounds like you given it some thought.”

“Thoughts are what I have, you know?”

“So, it’s not all right for the government to kill people, but it’s alright for you?”

“It’s not alright for me, either.”

“Then why did you do it?”

“Because it needed to be done. The first guy, Carcetti, do you know anything about him.”

“Not much.”

“He had a daughter, Amanda. She six seven when I first met her. She was beautiful. The first message I got said that he was going to put her in the hospital. It wasn’t my area, you know, I was homicide, but nobody is going to just let that go. So I went to his house and talked to him. Looked for any signs that he was abusing her. He was an asshole, sure, but there was nothing there.

Two days later, she’s in the hospital. Broken leg, bruises all over. And you know what this assholes says? He says she fell down the stairs. Which was true, I guess, except what it doesn’t tell you is that he through her down the stairs. He admitted that later, before…well, before.

I got social services on it, of course. I even told them about the message. They investigated, they watched, but there was nothing they could do. Amanda said she fell, and there was no evidence that it was anything but an accident.”

“But you knew it wasn’t”

“Of course I fucking knew. The hospital knew. The social workers knew. But what could we do. A message isn’t enough. We couldn’t protect her. I couldn’t protect her. I knew, I fucking knew, what was going to happen to Amanda Carcetti, and I didn’t do anything. It was a mistake. I just didn’t realize how big until it was too late.”

Monday Update

Another monday, another update.

This week:

Messengers - Continues. Nope, still not finished. It's definitely going over ten thousand words, and fifteen probably isn't out of the question.

Red Teeth - Another chapter will be up this week, probably in and around Friday.

Ticker - I'm going to finish this sometime this week. There's maybe a thousand words left, so it won't take long and I'll have that particular monkey off my back.

Someone asked me about stuff that was a little less horrifying, so it's not a bad idea to recap what the finished stories here and what you can expect:

The Tragic Deaths of Young Celebrities - No horror, unless you count Justin Bieber or the cast of the Jersey Shore. Which I do.

Kill Phil - Actually a comedy story. No horror unless you're afraid of groundhogs.

Sweetmeats - Straight up horror.

The Bean King - Another fairly straight horror story.

Puncher - It does involve zombies, but I don't know that I would actully call it horror. It more action with the added risk of being devoured.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Messengers - 15

“Thank you for agreeing to see me,” Dylan said.

She smiled and shrugged. She looked remarkably at ease, considering the situation.

“Well, it’s not like I have anything but time.”

She extended her hands and gave him a brief two handed shake. She didn’t have much choice, since her hands were shackled together. Dylan didn’t think that was really necessary, but the prison rules demanded it. She didn’t look threatening.

Carolyn Rodgers was 42 years old, pretty if pale from months in solitary confinement. In other circumstances, the first thing that would have popped into Dylan’s mind would have been soccer mom. Even in prison orange, she looked like she’d have been more at home in a minivan. She didn’t look like a homicide detective, which she’d once been. She definitely didn’t look someone who had murdered five people.

“I’d offer you some coffee or tea, but…”

She held up her hands as best the waist chain would let her.

“I’m fine,” Dylan said, which was at least partly true.

Rodgers leaned back in her chair as Dylan prepared his equipment. He was a little distracted, partially due to the prison environment. Rodgers seemed entirely satisfied. She might actually have been the calmest person Dylan had ever met. It was like being in the presence of a more attractive than usual Buddha. Her eyes twinkled.

“Not what you expected?” she said.

“Is that obvious?”

“I’m a trained observer.”

“I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting you to look so…well, at ease.”

“That’s the inner peace at work. I spend 23 hours a day in a shoebox. If I weren’t at ease, I would probably go crazy.”

“There are a lot of people who don’t think that’s fair.”

“Fair doesn’t factor into it. If I were out in general population, I’d be at risk. Women might be less violent than men, but being a cop in prison isn’t a recipe for long term survival in any case.”

“What I meant was that a lot of people don’t think you should be in prison at all.”

She laughed, a sudden giddy bark that made Dylan smile.

“Well,” she said, “those people are full of shit. Pardon my French.”

“So you think you deserve to be here.”

“Of course I deserve to be here. I knew where I was going to end up before I did what I did. I’m a cop. I knew what I was doing. Between the angels and the fact that my coworkers weren’t actually total idiots, it was only a matter of time.”

“So you don’t regret what you did.”

She looked away, looked out at pale winter sun coming in through a tiny window into the visitation area.

“Regret. I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my husband. I regret that I never got around to having a kid. I regret the fact that my partner ended up having his career wrecked because of me.”

She looked at him and her smiled turned into a grin and for a second Dylan wished he were anywhere else.

“But mostly,” she said “I regret that I got caught before I could kill more of those assholes.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Messengers - 14

Which was the issue, of course, and one that, after everything happened, that Dylan never could get off his mind. The problem with the inexplicable and the inscrutable was it was inexplicable and inscrutable. The angels told you things, all sort of things, but they didn’t answer questions.

So no, it was proved pretty definitely that what angels said would happen would not necessarily come to pass. But there was no good way to work with that knowledge. As Major Figard discovered, running from your fate more often than not lead to you running straight into it.

Dylan, in his darker moments, thought this was further evidence that this whole thing was some kind of cosmic joke. Most people didn’t get the joke, he figured. Most people just took what the messages told them and did what they did with them. But if you knew that what they said didn’t have to be true, it changed everything.

Imagine that you get a death message. Most people assume that what it says will happen is what is going to happen, and for most people, it is. But when you know that the angels can be wrong, then you begin to worry. Is it inaction that brings your fate to you? Is it action? It’s paralyzing, something Dylan understood in abstract but eventually came to know maddeningly well.

The first people to really get it were the police. If you were a detective, getting messages about your cases, it seemed like a godsend. At first. Until you realized how cryptic the messages were. You flat out didn’t have the time to try and run all the leads that you got down.

It wasn’t too bad, when they gave you some insight into cases that you thought were already cold. That could make the difference between an open case and a closed case. You could take what they told you and use it to spark new ideas and make new inroads into them.

What you couldn’t do was use the messages themselves as evidence. The courts eventually ruled that while using messages to point you in the right direction was fine, but since the messages might happen or might not happen, they weren’t evidence. Most cops didn’t even mention the messages in their final reports, because the whole thing was a pain in the ass. The courts generally allowed it, but any case where the messages were used generally ended being appeal fodder for lawyers.

The real problem was when the case hadn’t happened yet. What did you do when you get a message that somebody is about to be killed, or robbed, or whatever? How did you act on that knowledge? You couldn’t just sit on the knowledge and there weren’t enough man hours in the world to allow you to try and run them all down. Knowing the future was one thing, stopping it from happening was something else entirely.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Messengers - 13

Dylan had to laugh at that.

“You get a message like, it chills your bones, you know? I felt like I was fucking paralyzed. And then I thought about that story my English had us read and I was like, fuck it. I know you’ve heard stories about people who get a death message and then ran right into it trying to escape it.”

“I have. Too many times.”

“Well I decided that wasn’t going to be me. So I did nothing at all.”

“You ignored it.”

“I wouldn’t say that ignored it is the right word. I mean, how do you not think about something like that. It was on my mind all that weekend. That’s why I posted about it, I guess. I wanted to put some of that weight on fucking friends. I know that’s probably selfish, but I thought I was about to die, you know? I could worry about the guilt shit later.”

“So you believed it.”

“Shit. Yeah. I believed. I spent the first day having panic attacks. I thought for a while my heart might give out, that maybe that was how I was gonna go. But then I started forcing myself to do all the shit I usually do. If I was gonna kick it, I wasn’t going to do it by doing some stupid shit and getting my ass killed.”

“So how did you not die?”

“Fuck if I know, man. I know that’s not what you probably want to hear. I wish I had a cool story about all this shit that almost happened, like I almost got ran over but the message made me look twice or maybe I almost choked on a chicken bone. But that isn’t how it happened, you know? Fuck, man, it was probably the most exciting weekend of my life, but nothing happened.”


“Well, not nothing. I mean, you tell all your friends you got a death message, you get some reaction. So what I mostly spend my weekend doing was avoiding the phone and not answering my door. Which was fine, until my sister got her fucking gorilla of a boyfriend to knock my door down. So it wasn’t totally without excitement.”

He took another drink of coffee, shrugged, looked apologetic.

“But other than the annoyance and the constant feeling of seriously impending doom, it was uneventful. Like I said, I’m stubborn. I tried to make it as normal of a weekend as I could, all things considered. Tried to live like I always lived. I did that and I woke up Monday morning. Not a good story, but that’s how it happened.”

“So what do you think was supposed to happen?”

“Fuck if I know. I think I was supposed to run or try something stupid or some other shit. I don’t know. Hell, I don’t even think supposed is the right word. The only thing I know is that despite whatever the fucking angels say, the future isn’t set.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Messengers - 12

“They react in a lot of different ways. Most of them aren’t like you. Most of them haven’t had their death day come and go. Most people that have had that happen don’t make for a very good interview. But the people that haven’t had their day come up?” Dylan said, “They have a lot of different reactions.”

“Like what?”

Dylan took a long drink of coffee before he answered, a little timeout so he could think about how to put it. He wanted Johnny’s reactions to be true, not tainted by what other people thought. He was a writer. He did most of his thinking with his fingers, so he needed time to get it right.

“Honestly, most of them? They ignore it. We all live with the knowledge that we’re going to die, all the time. Unless the date of dying is within a year or so, it doesn’t change much. Whatever people use to cope with it, religion, denial, lots of pie, that works when you have a definite date. It doesn’t change anything at all.”

“Really? That’s fucking disappointing.”

“I though so too, at first. But you know, it’s kind of reassuring. People get this news, this important news, the biggest news that they’re ever going to get, and what happens? They go back to their jobs and get right back to their lives. It’s the same way with the angels, you know? Look how fast we got used to it.”

Johnny seemed to think about it for a while. He frowned.

“I guess, but fuck, you’d think it’d change something. You’d think that people would do something with their lives if they knew it was ending.”

“Some do. A couple of the people I interview, the people without a lot of time left. Some of them left their wives, some of them sold their houses, some of them did the things they always wanted to do. I interview one woman, a mom, forty five years old, who had just gotten full sleeve tattoos. She always wanted to, she said, but she was afraid of what people would think. That it wasn’t her. But when she read the news paper and saw she’d be dead in ten months? That changed everything.”

“Did she?”

“Did she what?”

“Did she die?”

“Yeah. Car accident.”

“Well, that fucking sucks?”

“So why didn’t you?”

“Why did I what?”

“Why didn’t you die?”

Johnny leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. Grinned like a chesire cat.

“Because I’m seriously fucking stubborn.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Red Teeth - Chapter Three

Chapter Three

“Would you shut that thing up?” Ed Defibaigh said. “Please?”

Becky’s so called dog was howling which, as far as Ed could recall, it had never done before. It was some kind of small puff of fur that cost them a bunch of money, more than Ed could have ever imagined spending on a damn dog. Pound for pound, the dog was probably worth more than gold.

Ed was neither here nor there on animals in general. He’d had a dog as kid, as most kids did, and he loved it. As an adult, he’d never felt the urge to have a pet, although the farm itself did attract a fair number of cats who basically ignored Ed, who generally returned the favor. He was even nice to the cows.

He did, however, really hate that dog. It wasn’t the money. Yeah, Ed had only agreed to buy it to try and placate Becky after one of their bigger go rounds and so spent a lot more than he otherwise would have. And yeah, the thing required a ridiculous amount of upkeep at the vets and the groomers, all of which was expensive.

No, Ed hated the dog because the dog hated him, and it wasn’t shy about letting him know about it. There’s a special kind of hate that only putting on your shoes to find they’re full of dog urine can bring.

The dog had started howling and scratching at the door an hour or so ago, despite all of Becky’s attempts to get it to shut up. She’d tried cooing to it, holding it and giving it treats, and the best that she’d gotten out of it was that it had actually snapped at her. The dog seemed to love Becky as much as it hated Ed, so this was pretty much unprecedented.

“You don’t have to be a jerk about it.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“Daisy is not a thing.”

“I know. I said I was sorry. Do you want me to give her a kiss.”

Becky and Ed both turned to look at Daisy. The little dog was standing near the door, looking out the glass door. Its hair stood and its tail was low. Becky walked towards it, again, and it turned and gave her a low growl. Becky stepped back.

“I think something is out there.”

Ed rubbed his face. He’d been married to Becky for twenty years, since right after high school, and he still couldn’t take that look in her eye. She was worried, and she wanted him to do something about it. Which meant that he was going to do something about it.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Just go check the barn. Make sure everything is alright so Daisy will calm down.”

Ed looked out the door. He couldn’t see the barn from here for the snow. He definitely didn’t want to go outside, especially since he was in no way convinced that Daisy had the reasoning powers to be reassured by him going out there. But it would make Becky feel better.

He pulled on his boots and his heavy jacket. Becky handed him a toboggan.

“Don’t catch cold.”

“Well, you could go out.”

“I need to stay here with Daisy, she’s scared.”

“Of course, well, I’ll just head out into the blizzard then.”

She gave him a peck on the cheek. The things he did. He grabbed the double barreled shotgun that he kept near the door, popped it open and dropped two shells in it, stuffed a couple more in his pocket. Flashlight. He looked down at Daisy. She was staring at something he couldn’t see.

She didn’t look afraid, although he wasn’t going to tell Becky that. She looked like she was waiting for something. Ed stepped outside into the snow.

He couldn’t believe how deep the snow had gotten already. It’d been a pretty dry winter up until then, so there’d been just a dusting of snow on the ground this morning. It was up past his ankles now, and he couldn’t see a damn thing through the snow falling to the ground. He was glad that he’d moved the cows into the barn for the night.

He wasn’t really a farmer. Well, yeah, he lived on a farm. He had cows and chickens and goats, in addition to Daisy. But he was a mechanic and Becky was a teacher. The farm was just a hobby, more or less, a way to keep in touch with his roots. The family farm had been the family farm for five generations of Defibaugh’s. He enjoyed having it and sometimes wished he really was a farmer.

This was not one of those times. Even with the flashlight, all he could really see was white. In the distance he could just barely make out the polelight beside the barn. Or at least, that’s what he hoped it was. In this shit, he could be walking towards town for all he knew.

He looked an awful lot like a snow man by the time he got to the barn. He slid open the door and stepped inside, shivered off some snow. The barn was warm, close with the heat of animal bodies. He flicked on the light switch.

He dropped the flashlight.

“What the fuck?”

He had twelve head of cattle. A manageable number, and their beef provided them with all the meat they could handle.

They were all dead.

The inside of the barn was painted red with blood, and Ed’s dinner rose up in his throat. He’d been in slaughterhouses before, and he didn’t mind the sight of blood and guts. But this was something else entirely.

He took a deep breath, held it, and blew it out slowly. He picked up the flashlight and turned it back on, keeping the shotgun balanced on his forearm. There were lights in the barn, but there was still plenty of darkness, and places that he couldn’t see.

He heard a dull, wet slapping, a queasy noise that would have given him chills if he weren’t half frozen to begin with. He bit his lip and moved forward. Steam rolled off the carcasses he could see. They hadn’t been dead long. He wondered if Becky heard the shotgun. Inside a barn, inside a house, through all this. Probably not.

He saw it crouched over one of the cows. His flashlight reflected off red eyes and he had no idea what he was looking at. For the split second he could see it, he saw something big. Red teeth and black claws. He thought, for a second, that it might have been a bear but then it looked at him. It wasn’t a bear.

It slammed into him hard and the shotgun went sliding across the floor, the flashlight spinning. Ed grabbed at its neck, tried to keep it back. It raised a clawed hand and swiped and everything went white for Ed.


Daisy kept scratching at the door, and Becky felt a lump of worry in her stomach. She looked at the little Pomeranian and cracked her knuckles. She knew that she was being ridiculous. There was no good reason for a give pound lump of fur to make her nervous, but she was. The dread felt heavy in her chest and she wondered where her husband was. Even in this, Ed shouldn’t have been gone this long.

A hundred different possibilities ran through her mind. Maybe there was something in the barn. Maybe, more likely, he’d fallen down in this crap. Ed was a big man and if he fell and reinjured his knee she was going to have a problem getting him back into the house. She wasn’t sure what she should do. She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered.

Daisy kept scratching at the door.

“Hey, girl, do you see something? Is it Daddy?”

Becky looked out the door. She squinted. She couldn’t see but five damn feet in the snow, but she saw Ed coming, a big shape in the darkness. She step forward to open the door and Daisy snapped at her.


The Pom took a step back and shivered. She looked up at Becky and for a second, she looked normal, or as normal as she ever did. Becky wrapped her sweater tighter around herself and opened the door.

“Is everything alright?”

Daisy darted out the door, cutting a path through snow that was more than shoulder height to her. She hopped like a grasshopper.

“Daisy! Ed, get her.”

Beck started slipping her feet into the old ratty boots she kept by the door for when Daisy needed to go out. The little dog stopped in the snow in front of Ed.

She saw a glint of light, something reflecting red light, the way a cat’s eyes shined. She heard something like a grunt. That wasn’t Ed. She heard Daisy growl and she barked, attacking. Daisy was lifted into the air and Beck saw a flash of teeth in the snow.

Something warm splashed against her face. She was frozen for a second, soaked in blood. She felt her body go numb with fear. She couldn’t think and her breath caught in her chest. She couldn’t move. It made a noise. It sounded almost like laughter.

Becky slammed the door shut as it surged forward on toward. It slammed into the door, through the door, black furred and massive, crashing onto the floor, the glass door shattering.

Becky grabbed at the knife block on the island, turned and slashed with the knife as it cleared the distance between them. She opened a deep red wound in its chest and she turned and ran. She screamed as claws slid down her back, blood splashing. She stumbled, but she was still a step ahead and she ran into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

She didn’t have time to lock it, but it didn’t matter anyway. The door went to splinters as it came through. She fell, pushed herself across the cold tile floor until she was against the washer. She held the knife out in front of her like a talisman, like a spear.

The thing stopped. It dropped into a squat and Becky’s bladder let go. She was crying. It reached out and took the knife by the blade, pulled it from her hands.

“Please, please, please.”

It bared teeth stained red with gore. They looked like shark teeth. It looked like nothing she’d ever seen. She closed her eyes. It leaned in and when it bit her it was almost like a lover’s kiss.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Messengers - 11

But text messages were another matter entirely. There was no good way to vet them unless what they said had come to pass. The problem was when they didn’t come to pass. There was no particular way to tell where they had come from. They didn’t list a seller but with digital stuff, that was easy enough to fake.

Normally this would mean that Johnny’s story wouldn’t have been one that Dylan was interested in. But Johnny had posted that he had gotten a message when it happened, so there was some way to verify, or at least verify that he was planning a hoax that far back.

The other reason that Dylan was interested was that it was one of those stories where the angels were specific enough that you could say one of their messages actually didn’t come to pass. There were lots of people with stories about stuff that hadn’t happened yet, and lots of people with stories of stuff that did happen. But people who manage to avoid their fate, if you wanted to call it fate, where fairly thin on the ground. So he decided to take Johnny at his word. All he would be out was time if he was wrong. He had plenty of that.

“You didn’t think maybe somebody was trying to prank you?” Dylan asked.

“I did, but, man, you know what it feels like with those messages, right. I know you get them. Everyone does. You can feel that’s real. There’s nothing really like it. So, yeah, it crossed my mind that one of those assholes I hang with might have decided that was funny, but I knew better.”

Johnny slurped his coffee, his fifth cup even though they’d been there maybe fifteen minutes, and thumped his foot against the ground. Dylan didn’t think it was the coffee; he had a feeling that Johnny was just like that. Even sitting still, or mostly still, he had the look of barely contained energy.

“So you got this message and then what?”

“Well, the first think I did was think about that story. The second thing I did was threw up. Barely made it to the fucking shitter, man. I could be embarrassed about that, I guess, but I figure that I was lucky I didn’t shit myself. It’s a hell of a fucking thing, being told that you’re going to die and die soon, you know?”

“I bet.”

“How do the other people you’ve talked to react?”

Dylan wasn’t sure he wanted to answer that. He didn’t want to influence the story anymore than he already would. On the other hand, he had a feeling that Johnny wasn’t going to keep talking if Dylan didn’t keep talking.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Messengers - 10

He didn’t think that it was simply because the angels had told her to. As she had put it, if you were given a message like that, you had to check it out, didn’t you? But that didn’t mean that if Dylan had turned out to be an alcoholic with an explosive, violent temper, that she had to marry him. Unless he was really hot or rich. She was joking about that last part. He hoped.

But the whole notion of angel marriage spun right back around to the same question that Dylan always came back to. Did these things happen because the angels said they would or were they just reporting? Were they predicting the future or creating it?


“Those fuckers were wrong,” he said.

He, in this case, was Johnny Maxwell, who was twenty years old, heavily tattooed and had a weird sort of foul mouthed charm. That he seemed completely unawed by the angels was just a side bonus.

Johnny pulled out his cellphone and fiddled a bit with it, slid it across the table to Dylan.

“You ever read a story called An Appointment in Samara?” Johnny said.


“Yeah, I had to read in AP English. I figure my teacher wanted me to read the fucking thing because of the messages. It was the first fucking thing I thought of when I got that shit on my phone. And they say you’ll never use that shit once you get out of school.”

Johnny laughed and took a drink of coffee. They were sitting at the same table that Dylan and Molly met at. Dylan still sat there, even though things weren’t going the best with her. He tried not to think about it, and the irony of trying not to think about it while sitting at this particular table was not lost on him. He looked at the text messages on Johnny’s phone.

“Jonathan Maxwell will die at 9:47 on January 7, 2011”

Dylan had vetted Johnny pretty thoroughly before he decided to interview him. Not surprisingly, there were lots of crazy people that claimed they got messages from the angels, and a lot of people that were simply looking to be famous, and that was aside from the legitimate people that wanted to tell him their stories. He didn’t have time to talk to everyone, so he did his damndest to make sure that the people

This was easier when the people had voice messages recorded. The angels had a very distinct sound, one that didn’t lend itself to easy replication. If someone had a recording like that, the odds were good that they weren’t faking. Not impossible, but you had to balance the amount of time spent vetting versus the time it would take to interview them.

Newspapers were another easy indicator. It was possible to fake a newspaper with a message in it, but it was difficult. Dylan had actually had four people that had tried to do just that, taking the time to try and mock up a newspaper.

These had varied from laughably transparent, cutting out letters and gluing them to the newspaper, to sophisticated, where an entire fake newspaper was printed. That last one might have worked if it weren’t for some stories taking place that occurred after the newspapers were printed. The angels might have the ability to predict the future, but he was pretty sure that beat reporters didn’t.

Monday Update

Well, let's see.

Red Teeth - Chapter Three should be up sometime this week, possibly today.

Messengers - Still writing, so I wouldn't count on it finishing this week

The Life and Times of the Dead - Zombie story, set in the Puncherverse. Next short after Messengers

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Red Teeth - Chapter Two

Coyle was beginning to get concerned about the snow. He’d grown up in Pennsylvania, so it wasn’t that he was unfamiliar with driving in bad weather. But this had the look of something that was going to overwhelm the plows. He’d only passed one PennDOT truck on his way here from the bank, and that was a bad sign.

The town he’d passed through hadn’t much help. One red light, one grocery store, two gas stations, three bars and precisely zero places to spend the night. He’d familiarized himself with the area when he was planning this job, and he knew that he was a good forty miles from a hotel. Not a big deal in and of itself, that was less than an hour’s drive, normally. Tonight, though, that could end up taking until dawn, at best.

Coyle was in no particular hurry. He knew that getting impatient meant making mistakes, and mistakes meant getting caught. Coyle didn’t have a criminal record at all, even under his real name, and he intended to keep it that way. So he was keeping well within the safe range of speed for this kind of weather, even thought that meant he was perilously close to driving at a walking pace.

He saw a pair of headlights, pinpoints in white, way out ahead of him. He’d barely seen any traffic so far. People out in the sticks generally had the good sense to stay inside when the weather got bad. These headlights, though, were definitely getting too close, too fast. Coyle frowned.

In the distance beyond them, he saw flashing lights. He was concerned, but he kept it steady. The odds were better that some podunk cop was trying to pull over the truck heading towards him rather coming for him, but he’d just have to wait and see.

The blue truck started to slide. It was going faster than it should have been, but that didn’t mean that it was going fast, so Coyle had plenty of time to hit the brakes. He was slowing down fast when the truck ended up going broadside into a spin. Coyle didn’t see much choice, so he jerked his wheel to the side.

He started to slide sideways himself, and there was a dull crunch as the cars hit. He spun some more and ended up off the road. Shit.

He was just stepping out of the car when the police blazer slowed and stopped. He felt the weight of the gun in his pocket and put a concerned look on his face. The door of the blazer and Podunk got out.

“You all right?” the cop said.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Gimme a second, okay?”

The cop was big, wide thick shoulders and a belly going soft. Uniform shirt but a Carhart jacket and worn jeans. Town cop, Coyle figured, but he couldn’t read what the blazer said in the dark. The cop went over to the truck and opened up the door

The driver of the truck very nearly slid out into the snow. He clearly wasn’t sober enough to drive. Coyle didn’t think that the little man was sober enough to walk. The big cop grabbed the man by the collar of his Carharrt, stopped him from falling. He sat him down, not ungently, on the truck bed.

“Jesus Christ, Johnny,” the big cop said.

“Emm, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, Johnny, I know.”

The little man seemed like he was pretty close to the edge of tears. Coyle knew a sloppy drunk when he saw one. Coyle considered the situation while Podunk was busy with the drunk.

His car looked like it was out of commission. Coyle walked over and squatted by the wheel. The damage didn’t, at a glance, look too bad, but that was decepitive. Coyle ran his hand over the wheel until it hit metal. The wheel was jammed into the wheel well, which meant the frame was bent. The car was totaled.

Which was not, in and of itself, a problem. It wasn’t his car and he didn’t give a shit whether it got fixed. But it meant that he was stuck, and that was a problem. If the cop decided to run the VIN on the car, he might eventually realize that Cameron Coyle didn’t exist.

He watched the big man try to sort the drunk out. The little man was less than half the cop’s size, and the cop was holding practically holding him up while he tried to get the man sorted out.

The cop was smart. He could see it in the way he’d sized Coyle up, and with the kind efficiency he was giving the drunk asshole. There was a better than average chance that he was going to ask the wrong questions. So the right question for Coyle was whether it made more sense for him to shoot him and take the blazer or whether he should take his chances with the questions.

The weather was the deciding factor. Even for the couple of minutes that he’d been standing in the snow he’d turned into a snow man. It was still driveable, but the only people that were likely to be out in it were emergency services and drunks. And thieves apparently.

Coyle held out a hand and watched the snow drop onto his glove. He smiled to himself and came to a decision.


Johnny Mattingly saved Em’s life. Not on purpose, but there wasn’t any denying it. There was no point in making Johnny do a sobriety test. He was way too drunk to have any chance at passing even if it was a clear day. In a foot of snow, Em had his doubts about whether or not it would even be admissible. Frankly, he decided that the sooner they got out of this slop, the better. Procedure be damned.

But he still needed to make sure that Johnny hadn’t managed to hurt himself. The way the snow was going, if Em took him to the station, it wouldn’t be long until they wouldn’t be able to make it to the medical center, let alone the hospital.

“Jesus Christ, Johnny.”

“Emm, I’m sorry,” Johnny slurred.

“Yeah, Johnny, I know.”

He just about poured himself on to the ground. Em grabbed him by the coat, held him up. Johnny was a small man, Em figured he didn’t weigh more than a buck thirty in winter clothes, but he was pretty close to dead weight. Em grunted.

“Johnny, get yourself together. It’s too cold and my joints are acting up like crazy and if I have to carry your drunk butt, things are not going to go well for you.”


“And stop saying that. I know you’re sorry. You’ve been sorry the whole time I’ve known you.”


Johnny managed to pull himself together, more or less, and Em took a long look at him. No blood, no obvious bruises, no sign of broken bones. Aside from his blood being at least sixty proof by volume, Johnny Mattingly seemed to be okay.

“Johnny. Johnny, focus.”


“Christ, I know. You’re wearing on my good temper now, so pay attention. Are you hurt? If you’re hurt I need to take you to the hospital, so are you hurt?”

Johnny blinked, bleary, and took a long time to think about it.


“Terrific. How about I give you a ride into town?”

Em just needed to get Johnny sorted and then see about the stranger he managed to suck into his foolishness. Em figured that car wasn’t going anywhere, but the guy seemed fine, and Em wanted to get Johnny locked up in the Blazer before he decided to take a runner and ended up freezing to death in this slop.

Johnny slipped. Em had a loose grip on his collar, but the sudden shift in weight was enough to jerk him down. The first bullet sailed right through where his head should have been, and it was only dumb luck that his head wasn’t there.

The second bullet was right on top of the first, missed him by a few inches. The third went through his coat. Em jerked to the side and spun. The stranger was just a couple of feet back. Em kicked out, his knee cracking, his foot smashing into the man’s shin.

“Shit,” the man said, and slipped in the snow. He fired off two more rounds, but they were wild. He was trying to aim while he tried to keep his feet, and wasn’t doing well at either one.

Em surged forward, coming up out of a crouch like a football player coming off the line. The stranger was big, two hundred pounds or so and hard as oak, but he was giving up at least forty pounds to Em and his footing was unsure. Em hit him like a freight train.

The impact lifted him up and off the ground, slammed him back into the car hard. He let out a woof of air as he hit. He lost the gun, and it disappeared into the drifting snow.

Em’s boot slipped, and the stranger dropped an elbow, hard, right into his neck. Em hit the snow face first. The stranger moved fast to where his gun went, dropped to his knees and stuck his hands in the snow. Em pushed himself up, adrenaline pumping. No pain. Not even fear. Just the thunder of his heart in his ears.

He clawed the snow off his face, flipped to his side. He cleared his gun. He thumbed back the hammer and the click was just about the loudest thing he ever heard.


Coyle couldn’t find the damn gun. He was, apparently, living in a Coen brothers movie, because he managed to miss a giant fucking town cop from four feet away, and now he was looking for a gun in a snow drift. If he’d had time to think about it, it might even have been funny.

He heard the click of a hammer being cocked. He heard it a thousand times before, probably, but never on this side of it. He raised his hands, slowly. There was no point in anything else. Even if he’d been able to find his fucking gun, which he hadn’t, there was no way he was going to be able to turn and shoot fast enough. He was fast, but nobody was that fast.

“Hands behind your head”

Coyle obeyed. The cop was big and he was strong; that tackle felt like it was going to knock Coyle’s spine out through his chest, but there was only one of him. He would need to get close to Coyle to put the cuffs on him, and there might be a chance there.

Which might have worked, except Podunk kicked Coyle in the back, jamming him into the snow. Coyle almost had enough time to put his hands out to stop his fall, but the cop leaned in on him with a knee. Coyle’s ribs already hurt, but between the cops and being facedown in the fucking snow, he felt like he could breath.

The big cop yanked his arm back and Coyle heard a smaller click, not nearly so distinct as the hammer. The big cop moved Coyle’s other arm and handcuffed him, lifted him with a grunt from the snow. It was over.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Messengers - 9

Dylan was shocked, SHOCKED, to find out that when people married and tried to live together without ever getting to know each other, it tended to end badly. Even arranged marriages usually had the parents looking at prospective husband and wife material to try and make a match. The angel marriages were randomness in action. What was surprising wasn’t that it rarely worked out. What was surprising was that it ever worked out at all.

He’d interviewed a few people who had had angel marriages and had seemed to make it work. Granted, the oldest of them was at best five years old, but they seemed happy and in synch. Dylan didn’t think this was any kind of evidence that there marriages were in any special; it’s just that if you throw enough darts, some of them are going to hit the target.

Molly, as it turned out, was probably the happiest person he’d ever known. When he first realized it, he worried that she was this way because of the messages. They worked that way on some people, giving them a sense that there was order and meaning to the world. But as it turns out, she was just that way. Some people are just born happy.

Dylan was not one of those people. He wasn’t unhappy, but he did tend towards the grouchy. Looking in from the outside, you might expect that someone like Molly would be a bad match for him. Hell, even he wouldn’t have expected to fall in love with someone happy go lucky. But he did. The thing was, he suspected, that Molly was happy in a way that didn’t come across as someone who was trying to be happy. She just was.

He married her because of that. Actually, he married her because she hummed. He woke up one morning, early, before the sun was really even out of bed, and she wasn’t there beside him. He walked out to the kitchen and she was getting a bowl of cereal ready.

She was wearing one of his tee shirts and her panties and socks pulled up the knees and she was humming a song that Dylan never did recognize. She was all alone at the crack of dawn, bopping up and down like this was the best morning she’d ever had and Dylan realized that he loved her so much that he nearly cried. He decided then and there that he was going to marry her.

Like most marriages, there was more to it than just her tendency towards humming. On the more base level, she was sexy as all get out. Like being happy, she didn’t try to be. She wore whatever the hell she wanted and if she was aware of outside fashion, it didn’t show. Her hair color tended to change from week to week. She didn’t care about being sexy but she was.

She was also, and this was at least as important to Dylan and he’d liked to have thought more important, the smartest person he ever met. She was almost always two or three steps ahead of Dylan, and he’d like to think he wasn’t a moron. She read everything she could get her hands on, from philosophy to Harlequin romance, and he was pretty sure she remembered every word. He had yet to come up with a subject that she wasn’t at least a little familiar with. That and a million other things were the reason that he proposed to her on a warm day in the park. He wasn’t sure why she said yes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Messengers - 8

Causality was the big question for Dylan, for lots of people, and the angel marriages were just the pop culture version of the question. It was especially common among religious types which, unfortunately, there were a lot more of since the appearance of the angels.

There was a part of Dylan that actually wanted to do his next book on them, but he wasn’t sure how he felt about the comparisons to his own marriage that would inevitably bring. He had a reputation, not undeserved, for being prickly, and it could manifest at inopportune times.

He didn’t necessarily have a problem with people getting married because the angels said they would. His marriage, while very definitely not an “angel marriage” was also undeniably a result of the messages that he and his wife had received. He wasn’t against a little light hypocrisy now and again, but trying to act like that wasn’t the case would be a step or five too far.

What bothered him was the notion that the angels wanted these people to get married, and that they were destined by god to be together. The notion that they were special, that their union was made, quiet literally, in the heavens. This was an entirely different animal, to Dylan’s mind, than meeting someone because of the message and then it happening to work out, which was the case with Dylan and Molly.

For one thing, Dylan had complied thousands of messages from hundreds of people, and there was nothing in that entire mass of information that indicated that the angels cared about people. Some of the information they send couldn’t be acted on, and much of it was things that people would probably be better off not knowing. Dylan wasn’t convinced that there was an intelligence at all behind them, necessarily, and certainly not one that cared about people.

But it was the notion that they were special that he found particularly grating. The angels sent messages all the time, to everyone. They sent messages about significant life events and things that didn’t matter at all. The truth was that if you were in a position where you could receive messages from the angels and you were going to get married, they would almost certainly tell you about it. It was, in fact, the exact opposite of special.

Not surprisingly, the angel marriages didn’t work out all that often. They worked better with people who had a solid religious upbringing prior to the angels coming and were willing to work on it. But for people whose conversion to religion, often their own cobbled together versions of religions that bore about as much resemblance to the real things as a cubist painting to the subject, they often did not.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Messengers - 7

Theirs was not an “angel marriage”. Dylan made that point rather pointedly every time that it came up. Dylan and Molly’s friends learned quickly not to mention it, and they mostly weren’t the kind of people that would. But he got a lot of it when he did press for the book.

Part of this was Molly’s fault, he thought. When the first thing you say to someone that you actually do end up marrying is that they are supposed to marry you, well, it just brings up those kinds of thoughts.

Molly was not a hardcore evangelical type, but she was one of the people who’d come to religion because of the angels. She believed, whole heartedly, that there was a message that could be pulled from what the angels said, and that figuring it out was the path to happiness and fulfillment.

She wasn’t alone, and that had led to the whole phenomenon of angel marriages. One of the things that angels fairly commonly revealed was that you were going to meet a certain person on a certain date and that you would marry them.

Sometimes this was vague, like what Dylan heard, and sometimes they were specific, giving you the full name of the other person. Like anything else, it wasn’t predictable. But it had lead to people getting married specifically because the angels “told them to”.

Which was bullshit. For one thing, the angels destroyed at least as many marriages as they created, and probably more. A lot of marriages had a hard time weathering messages from entities unknown telling you exactly where you spouse was and what they were doing.

That actually lead to an interesting phenomenon, one that didn’t get nearly the play that the angel marriages did, where more people were cheating rather than less. You would think that, like war, people would do a lot less of it if they knew that at any time they could be exposed.

But there was a high rate of noise to signal involved. What the angels told you wasn’t always some profound message, even though people thought they were. If you were the kind of person inclined to cheat, the fact that the angels hadn’t revealed that you were going to meant that it was a good way to prove that you weren’t. It made people fearless.

That was before you considered the people that found out their husband or wife was already cheating and decided to go for it, and people that started cheating because the angels said they would. That last one particularly amused Dylan, because you almost never heard about angel affairs.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Messengers - 6

She had a great smile, wide and honest, a slightly crooked canine tooth that actually made her look more appealing. She was young. At least ten years younger than him, he thought. As he would find out later that day, thanks to a particularly amusing text message from his editor and the angels, that she was eleven years to the day younger than him.

Pretty, with wild red hair that was a shade never seen in nature, stuffed under a knit hat. She had the kind of style that made her look like a slightly chicer than usual bag lady, and it made it impossible to get any kind of idea what her body looked like but told you a lot about her.

Her name was Molly, and despite the wide smile, she looked nervous. He smiled back, raised an eyebrow.

“Hi” she said, a little sheepish, “I think I’m supposed to marry you.”

Dylan blinked, froze. There wasn’t a lot you could say about that. She started to look like she was about to panic, and that unfroze him. He put down the paper and looked at his watch. It was 10:57. He didn’t need to look at the paper to know it was Thursday.

He smiled at her and pushed out a chair.

“Why don’t you sit down?” he said.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Messengers - 5

Dylan knew he was going to meet his second wife a good six months before he ever laid eyes on her. He was watching the morning news when one of the angel’s voices blared at him from the screen that he would meet his wife at 10:57 on a Thursday morning.

Dylan knew that he’d met his first wife in a philosophy class on a Monday afternoon, so they definitely weren’t talking about her. They were entirely vague on the subject of what Thursday this was supposed to happen, so Dylan made a note of it and put it in his personal file.

There were a couple of problems that went into interpreting the messages the angels sent. The big one was that they phrased everything as something that was going to happen, but they were not necessarily predicting future events.

One of Dylan’s early messages was the exact time and date of his mother’s death. Specifically, it said that Ellen Hobble will die on January 14th at 12:23 am. Which was entirely true. The thing was that Dylan’s mom had died when he was a senior in high school, a good fifteen years before he got the message.

So unless the angels were predicting something that you knew hadn’t happened yet, it could be hard to place them. A lot of the media accounts put a disproportionate amount of coverage into the death messages, because if a person was told they were going to die, it was pretty easy to say that it hadn’t happened.

They were inconsistent with what they told you about the when of things, too. Some messages gave you an exact date. Some didn’t. Like so many other things, the angels didn’t give a reason. Dylan, for his part, figured it was evidence that they were secretly just fucking with us to see what would happen, something he had thus far kept to himself, since he didn’t think his readers would appreciate it.

He was reading a newspaper at a local coffee shop and considering the number of things that had to have happened for this particular newspaper, which contained a message about the sales of his book, to have gotten into his hands, when she appeared.

Dylan squinted up at her. He was outside, sitting at his favorite table, one that got just enough sun to be pleasant but not so much that he’d feel like he was being set on fire. It was the shadow he noticed first. He assumed, at first, that someone was looking inside to see the line but the shadow stayed there a lot longer than was necessary. Finally, he put down the paper and turned to look.

She smiled at him.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Update

Another Monday, another update. Let's see, what we'll see this week:

Messengers - This should be finished this week. Whether or not it'll all be posted is another matter. Depends on whether I hit the word count I'm aiming for.

Red Teeth - Chapter Two will probably be posted at some point this week. With any luck. Maybe. Probably.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Messengers - 4

The war was a tricky subject. For one thing, it was hard to say whether or not it was one war or a lot of wars. Any number of small time thugs around the war got messages that they interpreted as meaning that it was their chance to seize power and went for it.

The US and China almost went to war, when the angels revealed that China had been intentionally trying to destabilize the US as an economic power. There was a lot of saber rattling, and even some troop mobilization, but it ultimately didn’t go anywhere.

Dylan still wasn’t sure why that was, although he had a couple of theories. One, and there was certainly some support in messages that had gone public, was that something that the angels said led them to conclude that if they went to war, everyone would die.

The other theory, the one that Dylan actually hoped was true, was that once the secrets were out in the open and that everyone knew them, once they found out that subterfuge and manipulation were no longer viable options, there was just no point in them going to war.

He didn’t think that the sort of existential despair experienced by the Colonel had much to do with it. Most people didn’t believe that their fates were set, even if all the evidence seemed to point that way. But things did change. Having no secrets and a sneak peek at the future will do that to a world.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Messengers - 3

“Well, the problem for me was that the angels kept telling my men things they probably would have been better off not knowing” said Colonel Bloom.

“Like what?” Dylan asked.

“One of the Majors that worked under me, a guy named Figard, got a message that he was going to be killed in three days. He tried to desert, and ended up getting captured and killed by enemy combatants. If he hadn’t got that message he wouldn’t have been there.”

Dylan nodded. That wasn’t an uncommon comment, in these interviews, and it was the main reason that he was interested in listening to people. He didn’t see much chance of them figuring out what the angels were, but he found the idea of what we do when we know the future to be fascinating.

The Colonel took a long drag off a short cigar. Dylan didn’t smoke, did care for smoking, but the Colonel seemed to need it. The man rubbed his face and considered his next words.

“We found the boys that killed him. That’s what they were, too, boys. The oldest one was seventeen. And you know what they told me?” the Colonel said.

Dylan didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to.

“They said that the angels told them that they would do it. That’s why they did it. They knew it was right and holy. I….well, shit, what do you do with that? He wouldn’t have been there if the fucking angels hadn’t spooked him and they wouldn’t have done it if they angels hadn’t told them. What the fuck do you do with that?”

“It was chaos. Half the time they surrendered because the angels said they would, and half the time they tried to kill us for the same reason. Forget tactics and forget strategy, do you have any idea what that does to morale.?

“It’s not just that we were constantly being bombarded with information and trying to work around it. That’s a fucking nightmare, sure, but that’s something for people above my paygrade to worry about. But, you know, the angels didn’t just tell you battle stuff. They’d tell you about babies going to be born, about wives stepping out, about whether or not you’d get that fucking Mustang you wanted.”

The Colonel smiled at that, the first time since he’d sat down. Dylan got the impression he was a man who smiled a lot, once.

“That was a real message, too. My exo got it. First thing he did when he got back was buy a Mustang. Said it was fate. Maybe it was.”

“What did they tell you, Colonel?”

The Colonel took a long drag, and looked at Dylan with clear blue eyes, out of place in a face that was tanned and weathered. He looked away from Dylan.

“They told me I was going to betray my country,” he said, “and I did.”


“For the same reason the wars stopped, eventually. For the same reason that they drummed me out instead of throwing me in prison or just shooting me. Because it became pretty fucking clear that there was no point. Do you believe in angels, Mr. Hobble?”

It took Dylan a second to switch gears. He wasn’t expecting the question.

“I think the evidence would be pretty hard to dispute at this—“

“No, I don’t mean that. Do you believe that they are messengers from God?”

“I suppose I don’t.”

The Colonel considered this for a moment.

“Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. I don’t know if they are angels like the Bible said or fucking space aliens or whatever the new theory is. But what they said always came to pass. Always the truth. Always. What’s the point in fighting when you know the outcome. I realized that there was no point. It didn’t matter what I did. It didn’t matter what any of us did. So I opted the fuck out.”

Post Mortem - The Tragic Deaths of Young Celebrities

This story needs a post mortem more than most, I think.

There is a natural tendency for people to assume that the views in the story are the views of the author, so I'd like to state right out that I don't actually want to kill the Jersey Shore cast, Lindsay Lohan or Justin Bieber.

Well, okay, maybe Justin Bieber.

I don't actually mind the way celebrity culture has come to make people famous for, basically, being loathsome in an arguably entertaining way. As I write this, Charlie Sheen is right in the middle of what is clearly a very public and very amusing meltdown, and I am just as amused by his antics as anyone else.

The inspiration for this was in the violent reaction some people do have to that sort of thing. I know a couple of people who get really riled up about this sort of thing, and I started to wonder what would happen if someone really tried to do something about it.

As ideas often do, this ran into Randy Quaid's "Starwhacker" idea and became, well, this. Someone who decided to kill celebrities because he felt they didn't deserve to be famous when he was still a nobody.

There's a subcurrent there that's probably going to be labelled misogyny, but I don't think it is. Johnny's original crime unfolds the way it does because the victim is a woman, but it doesn't happen because she's a woman. He's deeply misanthopic and egomanical, but it's not directed to anyone in particular.

From a writery wank point of view, the tricky part was that our point of view character is falling apart mentally as the story goes on. He ends up in a sort of (to his mind) messianic place. Getting there without it seeming too fast or too obvious was tricky. I think it turned put reasonably well, but we'll see when I go for a revision.

This also indulges one of the tendencies I have when I write prose, which is to tell and not show. Yes, I do indeed know that this is against the rules, but I'm okay with it. The style fits the story, or at least I think it does and I like it.

So, pbbbbth.