Unintentional Snippeting, The Final Scene

I’m not a Halloween guy.  I never have been.  Even as a kid, I wasn’t one of those folks who put hours and hours of thought and effort into a costume.  Nope, instead I was one of those guys who just threw together whatever I could at the last minute…

That hasn’t really changed.

One of the few times of late that I’ve done something for Halloween was last year’s 0.5K* Zombie Doughnut Crawl at the brewery.  Halloween just doesn’t matter to me, other than as a milestone on the trip to that holiday I really do get into: Christmas.

*Yes, you read that right, half a kilometer!

At any rate, today is Halloween and damn if I can be bothered to write a…you know…Halloween post.  It would probably help if I wrote horror or suspense stuff, but I don’t.  I write sci-fi and fantasy. So, unless you want a Halloween story about elves battling invading aliens, we’ll just skip the story idea for today…

It’s been a while since I did a post focused on writing, so I’ll jump back to that.  Plus, I can cheat and make this a music post, too…and I do love to cheat!

I’ve talked more than once about how music affects my writing.  Here is a recent post about how what I listen to helps to create the “soundtrack” for a particular scene.  What I haven’t delved too deeply into is how music impacts the creation of the story itself, how it can help to inspire not just the story, but also the characters and tone.

It’s hard to explain, so I’ll go back to my old “standby” of using my work-in-progress series as a concrete example…

I didn’t start off with a soundtrack, of course.  I started off with a couple of characters, and a setting, and that was about it.  I knew the boys’ backstories, and their current situation, but not much more.  It was those two characters, by the way, who forced me to keep working on the story.  I fell in love with them, and I couldn’t step away, no matter how much I “wanted” to work on another story at the time.

I need three things in order to start really planning and writing a story: characters I believe in, something to say, and the final scene.  Look, I know just how weird it sounds, but until I have that final scene, I don’t have the beginning of the story…and I certainly don’t have the tone or feeling of it.  For me, that final scene helps to make everything real.

I was stuck, then.  I had two stories — one I “wanted” to write, and one demanding to be written — but I couldn’t make progress on either.  I couldn’t make progress until…

…until…

…until I found the “soundtrack.”  Until I found that one key song that encapsulates what the story is.  It was quite by accident, by the way, that I found that one song…the one that led me to my final scene, and to what eventually became Somewhere Peaceful to Die:

Ah, hell…I wasn’t gonna do this, but when have I ever really stuck with my “plan” for a post?  Err…never, to be honest.  A bit of unplanned snippeting for you: the final scene to Somewhere Peaceful, written roughly nine months before I got the story to the point where it actually needed a final scene:

It was a heavy hatch, rusted and decrepit.  Just like the rest of Dockside.  Outside the compartment, there in the lowest levels, the air was fetid and foul.  The slime farm was considered one of the worst places you could go Dockside.  No one went there if they could at all avoid it, even the workers whose domain it was.  It was the perfect place for two boys, two ikiryo, to use as their hideaway.

The stench of mold and rot was overpowering.  The hatch was old, dating all the way back to the days when Dockside had just been cargo-cans full of the equipment and belongings to colonize a new star system.  That hatch squealed in rusty protest at Connor’s frantic efforts, resisted any movement.

Nothing, however, would slow him down.

He wasn’t sure he believed Sonthi, or the note.  He didn’t want to believe.  Oz was the strongest person he’d ever known; he kept Connor going, not the other way around.  Never alone, that had been their promise to each other.  And Connor had failed that.  Spin it however he wanted, color it with whatever guise of doing right he could fool himself into, he still had left Oz to face the consequences alone.

Connor’s arms surged and the seals popped.  He would not fail, not this time.

Inside was a tangled forest of massive tanks, convoluted piping and heaving pumps.  All were bubbling and gurgling as the life-giving algae — Dockside’s main air filter — was cultivated and cared for inside.  It was all automated, of course, all monitored from afar.  No one wanted to work down there.

The slime tanks made it hard to see, and the piping created a chaos of background noise that almost drowned thought itself.  Just a step inside and Connor was lost in that maze-like tangle.  He knew the compartment’s layout — he and Oz would come here to laugh and drink, come for the closest thing either had to privacy, and to quiet — but still he could barely see, could barely move.

A look around and he shuddered with dread.  There was barely any light.  The vast compartment was all shadows and shapes.  Kazuo’s goons could be inches away and he would never know…until they put a bullet into his head.

His breath was ragged and heaving.  He slowed: step, listen…step, listen.  He couldn’t hear shit, and could see even less, but he tried anyway.

Was that a sound?  A breath?

He pushed his head around a three-foot-wide pipe and looked.  There was a shadow huddled at the base of one of the massive tanks.  A small shadow.

Oz.

“Oh fuck…” Connor moaned.

Hard-won caution was lost.  Thought and concern were lost.  A single glance and he knew, that was his brother laying there on the ground.  Alone.

He sprinted through the cramped compartment, blind to everything but that small shadow.  He moved as fast as he could.  In a blink, he slammed to his knees and was turning that body onto its back.

The first thing that registered was the blood.  The blood was everywhere.

Oz’s face was pale, and his body almost cold.  Connor screamed in wordless rage and pain.

Those eyes opened — the eyes so often the source of the strength and comfort Connor needed when life was at its worst — and a blood-soaked hand reached up to touch his face.

A knife on the ground, covered in blood.  A fucking knife.  Oz hadn’t wanted a clean death, Connor realized.  He’d wanted to suffer, to pay the price for everything he’d done.

A dull clatter as Connor threw that knife away.  He tore off his shirt and gathered his friend into his arms, tried futilely to stop the flow from Oz’s wrists.  He could feel his brother’s life ebbing away.  A stifled sob and he managed to speak through the block in his throat, “What the fuck are you doing in here alone, bozu?  This ain’t what we always talked about.”

Oz was so cold, so pale.  Connor couldn’t stop the sob.  “Fuck…please hold on, Oz…don’t leave me.”

Oz pulled one hand free from Connor’s efforts, reached to touch his face again.  The stream of blood from his wrist was slowing.  “Spog?  No, Spog…go…get out, run…they’ll find you.”  The tears on Oz’s face were washing away the blood.

As small as he was, Oz had always been vibrantly alive, always full of energy and life.  What Connor held in his arms was cold and lethargic, barely recognizable as his friend.  “Alone is worse…” he whispered, choked.  “I’m sorry I’m late.”

“I’m sorry,” Oz said, his voice barely a whisper.  Too much blood had fled, too much life had ebbed.  “I fucked you over and you never knew.  I’m sorry.”

“I knew, Oz.  I knew…and I don’t give a damn.  Please hold on.  Who’s gonna keep me from fucking up if you leave?  Don’t go away…please.  We were gonna get off this shit heap, we were gonna find that peaceful place together.  I can’t do it alone, bozu.”

The body was so light in his arms, the face so grey.  Connor knew his friend had no time left.  The light in those eyes was already flickering, fading away.  With every faltering heartbeat he became more the ghost people named him than ever he had been in life.

Oz’s voice was almost inaudible.  “I’ll hold…I’ll hold as long as I have to, just as long as you promise we’ll be okay.”

“You dumb son of a bitch!  We’re okay…of course we’re alright.”  Connor could barely manage the words as he held his friend ever more tightly.  “Nothing you can do will fuck that up.”

Oz shuddered and grabbed at Connor’s shoulder even as his eyes closed.  “I fucked up…I’m sorry,” he mumbled.  “You never saw how fucked up I was.  You always thought I was just like you.  I’m sorry.”

“Just stay with me, Oz.  I don’t give a damn what you did, or what happened.  If you go, I got nothin’.  Don’t leave!”

“Go…run…get out.  They know where I am, you idiot,” Oz’s voice was the ghost of a whisper.  Then, even softer, fading, “Promise we’re alright, Connor.  Oh shit, why is it so dark?”

The hatch behind was still half-open.  Even over the pipes and pumps, Connor could hear noise, could hear the price he would pay coming nearer.

Connor tightened his arms and held Oz to him.  He stroked his friend’s hair and whispered, “We’re alright, goddammit.”  His shirt was already blood-soaked, had done nothing to help.  The flow of life from Oz’s wrists had slowed to the barest trickle.  He was almost gone.  “You’re scaring the shit out of me, Oz.  Please stay with me.”

“I love you, Connor.  It’s getting light again…so damned cold…I’m sorry I fucked up again…I didn’t want to die alone…oh, shit…”

The commotion was close now.

Connor held tight, offered what comfort he could.  Through the tears, “You moron, you fucking moron…you’re not alone…”

That slight body was still.  The blood stopped.

The hollow echo of boots on the metal deck.

Connor moaned, aware of nothing but pain and loss.  He rocked slowly back and forth with Oz’s body cradled close, remembering a friendship beyond thought and word.  It dominated everything in his mind, a friendship like no other from the day they had met.  The day when Oz had saved him from the life of pain and degradation that Oz himself had never escaped.  Through times both the best and worst, Oz had been his only family.

Connor screamed.

Voices barking…shouts…the squeal of the hatch.  He had no idea what was happening, and he didn’t give a damn.  His best friend, his brother, was dead.

The echo of boots…then a hand grabbed Connor’s shoulder, the grip painful and harsh.

By the way — on the topic of soundtracks — I have one in my head, as I’ve mentioned, for the scenes I write.  Weirdly, the soundtrack for the scene above is NOT “Ghosts That We Knew”, it is a song called “Be Still”:

Snippet: The Birth of a Scene

A few housekeeping things before I get to today’s post itself:

1) Yes, I know I didn’t post on Wednesday.  *sigh*  The reality is, I’m doing some outside, temporary, non-writing work, and it snatched away my time and energy.

2) Err…I messed up the renewal on my WordPress plan, which is why my regular seatatthe.bar address is, err, not-addressing.  Hey, I spent years mastering the arts of procrastination and slacking, why would I ignore those valuable skills now?!  I should, however, have it fixed in the next few days…

Okay, now for the post itself…

I’ve talked before about how music influences my writing.  Sometimes it is merely a thing of tone and mood, helping me to nail the frenetic stress of a battle, or the intimacy of a love scene, etc…  Other times, however, the music plays a role in the very imagination and creation of a scene.

That process is as important as it is valuable to me, so I figured I would use today’s post for a bit of illustration.

First, what I am going to do is link the song itself that helped give rise the scene.  Listen to it first, then read the following snippets, and see if you can see where it played into things…

The song is called Halloween, by Gaslight Anthem (off their Get Hurt album).

Now, I do another thing for certain scenes, and for important characters.  It’s an idea I stole from Roger Zelazny — I write a piece about the scene from another (important) character’s POV in order to flesh out thoughts and impressions.  This is doubly important in the DockRat series because the the stories are 100% from my protagonist’s limited POV.

This is the background piece I wrote, from the perspective of his (ex) love interest…keep in mind, the writing for these background scenes is a one-off.  I do not revise or edit them because they will never (ahem) appear anywhere except my background notes:

Nat laughed at Eric’s story, could picture to herself the events he was describing. She was about to reply when some inner alarm told her all was not right.

Someone was standing near, that feeling said, and was studying her. In a house full of yet another of the endless parades of drones and sycophants that existed only suck up to her mother, she had no desire to be ‘studied’ by anyone.

She turned her head, an acid comment on the tip of her tongue.

She turned, and everything stopped. The comment stopped. The room stopped. The entire world stopped.

She was staring at a ghost, at the face of Miseries Past. The last time she had seen that face, it had left her alone with men as likely to kill her as say hello. And the last she had thought about the owner of that face, he had been headed off to begin a long sentence.

“Connor Spogelse, as I live and breathe,” she said, her controlled voice at odds with the emotions boiling up inside. “What are you doing here?”

Her muscles clenched, then, at the sight of him. His blond hair had grown back, almost to his collar, and his eyes were still that same intense, royal blue that almost seemed to glow. Part of her wanted to laugh, and to welcome him with a hug and warm words. Most of her, however, knew him for what he was: a liar and a criminal. A drug addict and a thief so lost to hope and honesty that he had chosen prison over her.

She had tried to save him, once. Now, she just wanted to hurt him. It was just as he had once told her, there was always a price to pay. She had paid, that day in the bowels of Dockside, and now it was his turn.

She turned, then, and looked again at Eric. If he lacked Connor’s knowledge and experience — let alone Connor’s charm and intelligence — at least he was hers. Eric, she didn’t have to share. And that mattered. It mattered a great deal.

Her voice was confident and imperious when she ordered, “Call the cops, this piece of shit escaped from prison.”

From the corner of her eye she saw Connor pause. The hurt in his eyes was almost palpable, but so was the cold, ruthless set of his expression. The coldness he wore as armor, she knew, but he’d damned well earned the hurt.

“Wait…Natalie…what the…?” Eric stuttered.

She only looked back to Eric for a heartbeat, just long enough to see the paralyzing confusion on his face. When she turned again to watch Connor suffer, however, he was already gone. A look around the entire room, then, and she still could not find him. How did he do that?

“Who the hell was that?” Eric asked, the confusion on his face turning to irritation.

Nat put a hand on Eric’s arm and squeezed gently, warmly. Her voice, however, still had that note of imperious command; never again would she let someone else take charge over her. “Never mind, Eric. I was just kidding. That guy is just someone I used to know. He used to screw up a lot, so I was surprised to see him here. He belongs somewhere…” a wave of her hand, vaguely indicating anything and everything that was not-Redux, “…else. Somewhere where his screw-ups won’t hurt real people.”

A dark suit at her shoulder, then, and Nat turned with a look of impatient contempt. It was Collins, of course, her mother’s top aide. The head of the line in the endless parade of sycophants worshipping at the altar of her mother’s power.

“Excuse me, Natalie, but your mother needs you. She’s about to make her speech, and she’d like you with her when she does,” the drone droned.

Nat dismissed Collins with words that were vague and disinterested. According to her mother, an ass-wiping errand-boy wasn’t worth any more than that. A twinge, then, as Nat realized Connor would very likely have been of the very same opinion.

No, she decided in a flash, she wouldn’t tell her mother. Not yet. If she told her mother, Connor would be back in prison inside of a day.

Nat didn’t quite understand why, but she wasn’t ready to do that to him. She didn’t love him, not anymore, but he still mattered…in ways she couldn’t understand, he still mattered to her.

Okay…now to being it all together.  Below is the (basic) scene itself.  Keep in mind, this is still a rough second-ish draft, so revising and editing are still to come:

Connor wandered the rooms of the house and nursed his drink. Everywhere he turned, there were familiar faces. Faces familiar not as friends, but as kamo, as marks to be manipulated and worked. He was surrounded not by those he wanted to be with, but by his co-workers at MDC. And every single one of them was almost as strained, and almost as false, as was he.

The conversations in that house consisted mainly of office politics and all the snide, insincere banalities that defined office relationships. And, underneath it all, was a feeling of tense anticipation. The feeling of a storm waiting to break, of something coming that could very well affect their comfortable existence.

Connor was used to that feeling, was used to the sense of impending disaster and doom, but the pampered and protected others? Every jerky move, every cackled laugh, every too-eager gulp at strong drinks, told of their tension and fear. Every face bore the stress and emotion he could so easily use to build a scam. Just as every face told the story of its owner’s hopes and fears. Those faces told the stories, but Connor had no desire to work.

No, all wanted was to be out of that house. A full day he’d had already, a day of wearing the mask that was Connor Torlae, and he was exhausted. He wanted nothing more than to decompress. To listen to music, or — better — to sit in silence and listen to…nothing.

An employee mixer, they called evenings like the one through which he was suffering. A chance to relax and mingle and form friendships, they said. Another sip of the wine in his hand, and Connor silently sighed. Do I really have to do this? he asked, not sure he actually wanted to know the answer.

Something’s coming, Spog. You can feel it. Hell, even these baka can feel it. You have to know what that something is, or you’ll get run over by it.

Connor’s drink was empty, and still he felt nothing. A few steps, to the bar, and he had already ordered a double whiskey before remembering that Connor Torlae didn’t drink whiskey. Connor Torlae was a good boy. Connor Torlae didn’t lie, cheat or steal, and he certainly didn’t down at one gulp a glass full of strong liquor.

Connor cursed himself, then, for carelessness, and for making stupid, dangerous mistakes. That mask he was so tired of wearing, it was starting to slip. Losing control like that was bad. It was very bad. When his control slipped Dockside, he had always had the chance of a sprinting escape into the farthest, darkest reaches of the res-holds. But here, on a planet, just where the hell was he going to run?

He began to slip through the room, then, all his old skills at ghosting through any crowd coming strongly to the fore. No one noticed him, no one thought anything of him. He was just another junior employee looking to escape from somewhere he didn’t want to be.

Oh, shit…

Once, in younger — better — days, Connor had loved parties. He’d loved long nights of booze and friends and music. Long nights with those he loved. In his universe, however, those he loved could be counted on one hand. But Oz was dead, a ghost now in Connor’s mind, and Nat was…

Nat was across the room.

He almost didn’t recognize her.

Oh shit, was she beautiful. He could still see in her face the same girl who had hidden in Dockside’s depths with him. The girl who had held and comforted him as he recovered from the worst beating of his life. But that girl had grown. Nat had changed. Maybe more, even, than Connor himself had, and that was something he would not have thought possible.

It wasn’t the first time he had seen her, of course, but it was the first time he had been that close. Seeing wasn’t enough, however, not in that place, not at that time. She was the last link to his past, to everything he’d lost. If he left that house without talking to her, he knew, the opportunity would never come again. He still loved her, and he had to try and salvage that love from the wreck he had made of his life. He had to salvage it. If it, too, disappeared, he really would have nothing.

A pause, then, to grab a new drink from a passing waiter and he took a sip…a very long sip. The booze offered that bit of warmth he needed to take the tension from his muscles. Everyone else in that house was a ghost to him, then. A ghost in the worst Dockside sense of that word: they weren’t real, they didn’t matter, not to him.

He couldn’t see or hear anything except the pretty, dark haired girl across the room. The girl with enough of a grip on his soul to push caution and care from his mind. The girl he had failed. The girl he had, in the end, abandoned.

It wasn’t Redux, not in that moment. It was Dockside rising up around him again. The smells, the claustrophobia, the danger…and the lost. Two places at once, one memory and one reality, and he wasn’t sure what was true anymore.

Was he in the spacious house on Redux, or back at The Beat? Hell, he wasn’t sure who he was anymore, either. Was he the corporate spy making a mockery of the planet’s best security, or the ikiryo expecting death at any instant?

He stepped through the crowd without any conscious decision. He pushed his way through, really. A few moments, and he was standing silently behind Nat’s shoulder. She was chatting with a group of friends, a small knot of people all about the same age. Connor’s own age, in fact, even if they did look impossibly young and naive. She laughed at something one of the guys said.

Her back was to him, and Connor reached out a hand, hesitated. What the hell was he going to say? He wasn’t ready for this.

He dropped his hand and began slowly to turn away when Nat turned her head, looked right at him. That she recognized him, in spite of a year’s worth of changes, was evident. She stopped and stared, her face momentarily blank with confusion.

It made her look younger, that expression. Made her look like she had a year ago. A lifetime ago.

Dockside’s accent was back, thick once again on Connor’s tongue as he lost control of the vital, hard-won habits of survival on Redux. “Hi, Nat. I’ve missed you.”

A moment of silence, of shock and emotion on her face, then everything closed down. Cold, that face became, and hostile. “Connor Spogelse, as I live and breathe. What are you doing here?”

Her look shifted to the guy next to her, the one she had been talking to, and her voice became commanding. “Call the cops, this piece of shit escaped from prison.”

There were just over a hundred people gathered in that house, yet only three had heard those horrible words. Among those three, the reactions were very different. The guy looked confused, Nat looked angry, and Connor…Connor looked desperately for escape.

There was no time for words, not if he wanted to get out with his skin intact. A heartbeat to look — to look, and to commit to memory the last he would ever see of Nat’s face — then it was time to go. A turn, and a few steps, and he was moving through the crowd with all of the skill at his command. A sidestep here, a dodge there, and he was into another room all-but unseen by those around him. He had put dozens of clueless coworkers between him and Nat, but that wasn’t enough. He had to get out of the house entirely.

The buzzing of the crowd had changed. Even as Connor slid past the knots of conversation, he could sense the change in tone, could hear rumors and hints of what was to come. Words like merger and buyout danced and fought with — and ultimately surrendered to — phrases like cost-savings and reductions-in-force.

It was important information to be gathered, information vital to his true purpose at that party, but Connor couldn’t stop to insert himself into any of those little groups. He could feel Nat’s emotional gravity pulling at him, could feel the tugs and twitches of memory and desire, and he had to get away from the danger of that. Even more could he feel the danger of her words, however, and of the reality of Connor Spogelse. That reality threatened to overwhelm the protection offered by Connor Torlae, and to take away everything he had gained, so he continued to move through the rooms, and to seek escape.

He slipped toward the very back of the house, then, and a door he had found in his earlier wanderings. He carefully worked his fingers over the ‘screen in his pocket as he moved, readying one of his secret, safe idents. As soon as he was out that back door, he would issue the final command and slip on another mask, become someone else. Again.

The buzz of conversation changed, became too much to ignore. Connor stopped and turned, look back at what had caused the disturbance. His coworkers had changed clothes for the party, were wearing what passed for casual outfits among the young, corporate professionals. The disturbance, however, was centered on dark suits. Several dark suits. A swirl of people, then, and the suits parted to reveal who stood at their center.

Amanda Hendricks…and Nat.

Amanda was talking to one of the suits, issuing orders, based on their expressions. She hadn’t yet looked his way, hadn’t noticed him.

Nat, on the other, was staring right at him.

Two steps and Connor was out the back door. He started to run.

And that is one of the (greatly simplified) ways in which scenes and stories come together in my little universe.  Now go listen to the song again, after you’ve read the scene itself, and listen (again) for the echoes…

Snippet: Doin’ Time

IMG_0384Okay, so I got distracted and didn’t do a post on Wednesday. Harrumph.

You know what’s worse? I’m not feeling all that “post-y” today, either. And, no, I don’t have my usual plethora of already-written drafts ready and waiting for me to hit the “publish” button. Crap, I don’t even have the handful of half-written “oh shit” ideas I keep around for emergencies…

Nope, I have to fly completely off-the-cuff this morning. Dammit.

Aww, screw it…time for my ol’ slacker stand-by: a story snippet. I haven’t posted one of these since January, so what the hell. Oh, but first, the various reminders and warnings I always give:

The snippets I have been posting over the past year are all unedited first drafts, they are a long, long way from a finished product. These scenes are all from a current work-in-progress tentatively titled The Silence That Never Comes. The snippet below is the fourth scene in that story, and is a direct follow-on to the one I posted a few months ago (find it here, if you’re interested).

Oh, one last warning: I use a decent bit of foreign slang, along with, umm, one or two curse words. I used Japanese and Thai in the previous story, but this one uses Czech and Polish.  Hey, I love languages, and I like to cuss, sue me. A guy’s gotta do…well, you know.

So, here goes:

Impatience and anger were all too easy for Connor. Impatience for the petty kecas that governed life as a prisoner, and anger at the bullshit attitude from someone he would gladly have robbed of everything had they met Dockside.

Still, giving in to impatience and anger meant giving the screaming bastard exactly what he wanted: an excuse to truly fuck with Connor. No, he would not give this svine the satisfaction. That loss of control would grant someone else power over him, and that Connor would not do.

Besides, the snarkier part of himself decided, passive-aggressive resistance could be fun, if only to test just how angry he could make this bachu, this guard. To test, in reality, just how much control and power he could manipulate away from someone ostensibly in control.

He could hear similar noise and chaos from the cell nextdoor. Could hear the guards yelling, and the prisoners screaming and cursing, as the bachu started to toss belongings outside.

Connor nodded to the guard in silence, his face controlled and calm. The guard very obviously wanted to get a rise out of him, and that calm would frustrate the shit out of the man. And that was just the start…

“Fuckin’ Christ, hurry the fuck up!” the young bachu screamed.

Connor took his time, made every move slow and considered as he very carefully laid his guitar on the upper bunk.

Only two guards were inside the cell, the younger man, the screamer, and an older sergeant Connor had talked to many times over the past year. Three more waited outside, their normal grey uniforms covered in black armor and their heads and faces hidden inside heavy helmets.

Armor, for fuck’s sake. Did they think Connor had a gun tucked inside his guitar? Fucking crazy dirtsiders. Even the newest, stupidest Dockside mappo — the closest thing this miserable, edge-of-nowhere system had to ‘real’ cops — would’ve laughed at the pseudo-military bullshit.

“Easy, Pavel,” the sergeant said, a touch of indulgent humor in his voice. “We got all the time in the world. I don’t clock out for another three hours. I don’t give a damn how long this takes.”

As often as Connor mocked those in uniform — and mock he did, as relentless as he was merciless — he actually liked old cops. Old cops knew the score. Old cops didn’t have the time or patience for petty bullshit. Just like the criminals and prisoners who were their ostensible foes, they realized just how crooked and fucked-up was the entire system. All those old cops wanted was to do their time and get home to their loved ones. Just like the inmates.

Connor owed his life to one such old cop. Owed, more importantly, his chance to say goodbye to Oz before…

No, not now. Those demons couldn’t get free now.

The sergeant put a friendly hand on Connor’s shoulder, and offered a knowing wink. “Let’s move it a bit, Connor, huh? We got shit to do, and you are slowin’ us down.”

With three inside, the cell was very crowded. Connor could see beads of sweat on the young bachu’s forehead, and he toyed with delaying even longer his cooperation. Crowding and claustrophobia did strange things to some people, and part of him wanted to see just how far he could push this aho.

Still, the sergeant was right…especially his unspoken warning about pushing too far.

A grimace for the young bastard, and a shrug and knowing grin for the sergeant, and Connor took the two steps necessary to stand on the walkway outside his cell.

The bachu began his search, aggressively tossing and tearing at everything. Shit, the bastard even squeezed the toothpaste out of its tube. Baka…Connor stopped himself, forced his mind away from the easy paths of old habit. It wasn’t baka anymore, it was debil now. The local slang had to become natural to him, and that meant thinking it as much as speaking. No more Dockside, not in word or thought.

While the young one was tearing through Connor’s few clothes with wild abandon, the sergeant took the guitar and checked it gently. Connor was grateful when the older man held on to that one precious thing while his partner thoroughly demolished everything else.

Control was all well and good, but Connor knew would not have been able to hold back had the bachu gone after that instrument. The flexible ‘screens were all-but indestructible, so who cared if the bastard tossed it over the railing and onto the dayroom floor fifteen feet below? But the guitar? Connor didn’t think it would have survived similar treatment.

Only when the simple sheet and blanket covering his cheap mattress were torn aside did Connor really wince. He was fairly certain this wasn’t going to end well…and editing his prison record yet again was not the safest thing in the world.

The bachu began to lift the mattress — the wrong end, thankfully — when the sergeant interrupted, “This is takin’ too long, Pavel. We’re done. Time to move on.”

The younger man, hunched beneath the top bunk, looked back with a mix of surprise and suspicion.

A sigh, then, and the older man answered that look with a voice stern and serious, “Lad, this kid grew up Dockside. You know what that means. If he wanted to hide shit, he’d do something a lot smarter than stuff it in his mattress.”

Connor had to fight very hard not to laugh.  He didn’t think the anonymous, armored guards around him would appreciate the irony just then. All those jokes and conversations with the sergeant were paying off, however.

The look from the young bachu as he left the cell was frustrated and angry. Connor knew he would have problems with that guard in the future, if only so the asshole could reassure himself of his own superiority.

A few steps and the armored guards were taking up positions a few doors down the walkway. The young guard moved around them to stand by the door. A touch of the controls to open it and he started to scream again the curses and threats. Debil.

A touch on Connor’s shoulder and he turned, received his guitar with a grateful nod for the sergeant.

“Kid…Connor, don’t push Pavel too much,” the man said quietly, his expression easy and knowing. “He’s stupid as shit, but he can fuck with you, and you don’t need that.”

Connor was just turning to go back into his cell, sighing at the effort it would take to put right the mess the younger guard had made, when the sergeant caught his arm. There was a crooked half-grin on the man’s face as he nodded towards the disheveled bed, “You owe me a drink for that, by the way.”

Listening to the Rain

87FF5970-0CF7-4BF5-84CE-E6E59E143C91I sat there, the other day, listening to the rain. Not doing anything…not writing, not planning, not thinking about anything at all…just listening to the rain.

It’s one of my favorite sounds, the rain. A bit of thunder, and the constant patter of drops on the roof? There’s a hypnotic quality to that, a quality that encourages a certain detachment, and a certain blanking of all the things that have such a tendency — and so much power — to overwhelm our minds and our thoughts.

I was asked once, by my sister, if I could sit and meditate. If I could sit in silence and hear…nothing. No worries, no thoughts, no emotions…just sit in silence, and in peace.

Yes, I can.

I have to, it helps keep me sane.

And, no, I’m not going to dive into everything that goes into that statement. Mostly because, as honest as I usually am on this blog, the majority of my thoughts and my troubles are mine alone.  Sorry if that sounds harsh, but the need for privacy is an important part of my make-up.

There are, however, examples I can give…examples that matter. They matter to me as a writer, and (hopefully) to you folks as insight into how someone else deals with everything that goes with that life.

I just finished editing a story. It was far too long of a process — longer than it should have been, to be honest, because of my foray into other projects…and because of my six months living in the wilderness.

It is a story intensely personal to me. It is a story I believe in, and one I felt deeply as I wrote it. It also is a story I let languish in the process because, well, it was hard to go back to. But I had to finish it. I had to finish it for commercial reasons (yes, I DO like to get paid for this stuff, you know!), but more importantly I had to finish it for personal reasons.

And I did.

I don’t know about you, but when I write, I feel. I feel my characters, I feel my story, and I feel what I want my readers to feel. Probably more intensely than I should, all things considered. To abuse an old writing rule: I write what I know. More than that, however, I write what I feel…and that can be difficult.  Very difficult, sometimes.

So, I finished this particular journey of writing and editing and revising…

And I was drained. Completely.

Now, I’m an introvert at the best of times, but when I get done with an intense writing or creative session, you can multiply that by a thousand. It takes me a while to get my head back above water. I’m generally a couple of hundred feet down when I’m into my characters and my stories, and — as anyone who scuba dives will tell you — it takes time to come back up.

So I sat there, listening to the rain. The rumble of thunder, the fall of the drops…nothing in my mind except silence and peace. I needed that silence to come up from the depths. I needed that silence to regain a semblance of balance.

I still need that silence…everyday, in fact, is a quest in some way for that silence.

There is a reason why my next story is titled The Silence That Never Comes