Monday, October 31, 2011

The Do Over (a short story)

    Smith’s last mortal act was murder.  Now, prowling the dark places, she wonders about karma and redemption. And what a really good pastrami sandwich would taste like.
    It had been one of those flawless September days with blue skies and benevolent sunshine that lie about what’s coming.  Smith was on a crowded 7th Avenue train with her Ipod cranked so that when the madman had slashed his way through the screaming herd, she was completely taken by surprise.  Even more surprising was watching the knife rip into the expensive new top she’d bought for today’s job interview.  She was never going to be able to get the blood out of this.
    It’s hard to piece the rest of what happened together and, believe me, Smith is still trying. There was a hard lurch as the train stopped.  The lights went out and came on again.  There was blood everywhere and, incredibly, Smith’s earbuds stayed put so she had an Abba soundtrack to the slow motion slashing.  Then there was Someone. (Some thing?)  Regal and ruined, he casually snapped the neck of the knife guy and scooped Smith up like she was a little kid.
    They were outside the train. Smith felt kind of high, but cold and like she was about to be really scared.  There seemed to be some climbing involved.  Then he was bent over her and two extremely odd things happened at the same time: something cold and sharp latched onto her throat and a length of his opened arm was shoved against her mouth. A circuit was completed and wet electricity pulsed between the two. Whatever was happening, Smith wanted more of it and sucked hard, feeling stronger and wide, wide awake for the first time ever.
    For his part, Tall Dark and Dead seemed determined to empty Smith, driving her to pull his blood into her all the faster. That is, if this was blood. It wasn’t metallic like blood, but dirty; old dirt where groves of ancient trees still kept out the sky.
    Gee that was poetic. Smith was hearing and seeing everything differently.  It wasn’t so dark anymore and, in spite of the din of an approaching train, she could hear footsteps coming closer. So could her dance partner who dropped her unceremoniously and swung around.
    “Hey, you. Police! Put your hands up and stop moving!” The voice came from behind a swaying flashlight beam.
    Smith, like the rest of the cattle, had spent her life occasionally bumping into something good. Today she had bumped into something else all together and, in a brilliant burst of triple-firing neurons, she knew what was about to happen and what she had to do about it.
    Fluidly, inexorably, she took her savior/attacker by the neck and flung him into the path of the Number 1 train screeching just below them.  Boy, he did not see that coming. Evading the police turned out to be child’s play as soon as Smith put it together that they couldn’t see and she could. As much fun as fucking with them would have been, Smith had more pressing matters to attend to.
    It was revolting in the way of all births. Wet, messy and painful as hell.  Smith’s body rid itself of useless internal organs because, from now on, The Blood would take care of all that.  She wouldn’t need to breathe or eat or shit.  Opening herself, organs splashed out onto the dirty, abandoned subway platform. Slabs and stringy bits were wrung out, leaving Smith exhausted. From now on, there would only be one need: to control The Blood.
    Smith adapted quickly to the new way of things. At first she stayed down in the tunnels where she had all the advantages.  Who knew there was so much to kill down here?  There was a perfect balance she could achieve for some two to three days after draining some poor loser. But after a couple of days she could feel The Blood eating her from the inside out.  Early on, before she got good at this, there had been some close calls.  Once, in her blind desperation to do something about the horrible burning, she killed a track worker.  Think villagers with pitchforks and torches on subway tracks. Not good.
    Eventually she returned to the surface. It was easier than she’d expected and it was fun to be out on the streets, jostled on all sides by the walking dead as each hurried off to a tiny personal hell. Smith remembered what that was like and, even as the first tickles of another firestorm kicked up, she could flex something that was a lot like gratitude.
    Time wasn’t measured by the cycles of day and night but by the need to keep The Blood quiet and, in this way, whole generations of mortals lived and died while Smith fought back against the corrosion.  Over time she developed preferences and a philosophy of who deserved to die.  She liked killing big, strong men because they were always so surprised. For awhile she focused on criminals and putting the homeless out of their misery.  In spite of how they fought, she could see in their eyes that the armed robbers and thugs knew they were only getting what they deserved.  Oddly enough, the homeless fought more fiercely to hang onto their wretched, pointless lives.  After awhile though, that got boring.
    Preying on the successful coming out of their gleaming board rooms kept Smith entertained for a decade or so.  She’d rotate off to the club crowd and, for awhile, checked out the suburban situation.  In time, though, it all got stale. The old euphoria of the kill wasn’t there. It was just another job.
    One night she stalked a hedge fund rockstar and his piece of arm candy. Feeling playful, she tied him up using the terrified blonde’s silk stockings and let him watch before gorging herself on him, too.  She helped herself to the sleek Jaguar parked around the corner from where the couple would be found the next day.  Draining two bodies made her sluggish, but happy in a doped out kind of way and driving out of the city at first light brought back a vague sense of excitement. 
    Chewing a wide swathe through the Midwest, Smith quit wondering, quit worrying and just kept The Blood at bay.  There was no point in getting all existential about it.  In time she went international and found that blood was blood.  She’d harbored a low, quiet hope that she’d find some super blood and get a break from all this killing.  It wasn’t that she had any moral compunction, it just took up too much time and effort and there were other things she’d like to do. She’d love to climb Everest or cross the Antarctic, but without a steady supply of bodies to empty, the risk was too great. Even exploring the Amazon basin, in spite of the proliferation of things filled with blood, would just be too much work.
    Sitting up in the branches of a tree near the edge of one of the last great forests, watching the sun rise, Smith sighed.  There was that damned tickle and before long her insides would begin to twitch and burn.  Suddenly the effort required to get back to the small city she’d been terrorizing seemed too much.  Moving deeper into the woods, she was scouting out a place to go to ground. How bad could this get anyway, this burning?  Would it kill her?  Wow!  Why hadn’t she thought of this before?
    Deep in the forest, along a ravine cut by a creek, Smith found a series of caverns.  The burn was getting bad and there was a moment when she almost changed course, but wouldn’t it be great if she really could die?
    Tucking herself into the crease between a pile of fallen boulders and the still, solid bulk of the earth, Smith hunkered down for the worst. It took awhile and there was a point where panic almost won, but just the thought of starting the whole damned tiresome cycle again was enough to keep her pinned to the ground. The burn built and then hit a flash point where she was engulfed and there was no longer any sense of Smith. Somewhere, in a small kernel of consciousness behind her sizzling, popping eyeballs, a light that should be about to go out got stronger.
    We both should have known better.  She couldn’t have believed that throwing me under a train was going to do it and I, well I’ve been around awhile and really should have gone right after her.  In my defense, she was just so damned entertaining.  In hers…there is no defense. That was just sloppy.
    We all hit the point she did when she went off to that cave, but not many of us follow through. I sure as hell wouldn’t. What? Are you kidding? By the time I got to her, there wasn’t much left.  Enough though.  I’ve worked with less and it was worth it to see how pissed off she was when I brought her back.
    Maybe she’ll put it together about my little trick, but she’d better make damned sure she kills whatever she shares The Blood with right away. For my part, it’s good to know a second cycling through of this vile stuff in my veins is enough to hold me for another year or so.  I’ve got a book tour coming up and don’t need the hassle of having to keep killing and killing. Just so tedious!
    Ah, right. So why didn’t I kill her this time? Like I said, she’s just so damned entertaining. I can’t wait to see what she does next!
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Read at the Writing Cage, New York City, 4 Nov 2011.

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click on images to enlarge

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Seamless" ~ the book . . . the trailer.

Click HERE  
to watch on YouTube.

Click HERE to purchase a copy of the Limited Edition.