i hide so much
it starts at work when
i talk about stories and art
and only empty eyes respond
because they’re not hiding anything
and my problem i think sometimes
is that i am so not empty
i overflow too much
with hurt for people’s pain
and hurt for people’s loss
and tears for war and precious children
and because we allow it to go on
and i have to hide it
because i can’t cry at work
but i have
and i clench my jaw
and stare sternly at my monitor
and absorb the tears back into my
eyes and pretend breathing is
easy and wish it didn’t hurt so much
and i hide how i
just want to create
and don’t want to climb the ladder
and i hide how
i wonder if i could
but i can’t and shouldn’t
and i should man up because this is my
duty and that feels ok
but then i hide when the beautiful song
comes on and i hide
my disappointment that nobody around me cares about that painting
or that sculpture
or that play
or that songwriter
or that actress
and i get to go home
and then i hide how relieving it is to be
because there’s no more hiding
i hide so much
Here’s a short story I wrote a year and a half ago. It’s kind of fun and will be part of the anthology I am working on.
It’s called Final Test.
Aaron needed a weapon.
He ducked left, but it was as if his opponent could see the future, because the enormous creature swung its gnarled tail in the same direction. Aaron’s muscles tensed, feeling the impact the moment before it landed.
Then he was flying, the entire left side of his body caved in, ribs pulverized, his hip bone screaming in sudden agony. He hit something large, flat, and hard that stopped his flight and he landed on the floor. Through the haze of pain, he finally understood the first thing about this episode: he was going to die.
He shook his head, sensing the juggernaut coming toward him at terrific speed. Thanking the gods of wherever he was that he had been raising his left arm when the club-like tail struck him, he used that hand to push up, then kicked off the wall of the small sunken arena and rolled, low and tight. Moving entirely on instinct, he stopped the roll and flattened himself to the dirt floor.
Air crackled above him as the creature’s next attack sailed high.
Aaron snagged a handful of dirt and forced away his awareness of the pain throbbing along his left side. Willing himself to focus, he took a precious half second to scan the area. The creature’s last attack had carried it several meters to Aaron’s right, but it was righting itself fast. The thing was massive, towering at least three meters above Aaron’s head, with at least ten appendages lining each side of an articulated body and a long, whipping cudgel for a tail. In the poor light, Aaron couldn’t make out the thing’s color.
The problem, Aaron thought, was that the thing moved fast and seemed intent on killing him. Another problem was that Aaron had no memory of how he’d gotten here and his quick scan of the space showed no door that he could get through to make his escape.
The ground shook and Aaron watched closely as the creature thundered toward him, rearing up, balanced on its six back legs and its tail. Thousands of tiny, milky-white cilia lined the monster’s underbody, keeping it moving fast. Its long arms extended, unfolding into meter-length, serrated blades.
“Are you kidding me?” Aaron dropped back, unnerved. He flung his handful of dirt toward what he hoped was the creature’s face. “What am I supposed to do here?”
He skittered back again, trying to keep away from the creature’s sword arms. The thing followed him fast, moving out from the wall and boxing him in. Was this thing smarter than him? How could such a brutal thing be out-thinking him?
And then it came to him. The creature was out-thinking him, somehow predicting each move he was going to make.
“I have to be unpredictable.”
He watched as the monster approached again, but didn’t wait until it got close. He ran at the thing, screaming his throat hoarse. At the final moment, Aaron feinted as if he were going to jump, pushing that thought to the forefront of his mind. But instead he dropped into a quarterback’s slide, feet first, aiming for the creature’s right side legs.
He felt a satisfying crunch, but didn’t wait to see the damage he’d inflicted. He reached up with both hands, grabbing the base of two razor-sharp appendages the moment before they sliced into his head. The monster lifted those limbs, carrying Aaron off his feet. Aaron frantically kicked at the monster’s middle. He ignored the throbbing pain along his left side and twisted. He planted a foot on one of the thing’s arms and shoved off.
He landed in a graceless roll, jarring his neck painfully.
The creature followed. Aaron felt and heard it land heavily on all of its arms or legs and knew what was coming. Instead of rolling backward though, he spun, took a moment to get his bearings and leapt at the creature.
Its tail attack swung under him, just missing his ankles.
Aaron hit the top of the creature. Ridges and leathery, rough skin scraped at Aaron. He fought for a handhold.
The creature rolled.
Too late, Aaron tried to get clear. The monster’s enormous weight landed on top of him, pinning him to the ground. Air exploded from Aaron’s lungs. His vision darkened.
The creature wriggled. The ridges on its back dug into Aaron’s stomach, chest, mid-section, and face, ripping his skin.
Aaron tried pushing the monster off with his right arm, his left being pinned under the monster. No good. His vision grew darker as he struggled for air. Pain burned all over his body.
He tried getting a leg free, but both were pinched between the ground and the now wildly wriggling creature. For a moment, he imagined he heard gleeful laughter coming from the monster. It had won. He was going to die.
So be it. I’m dead. But I’m not done yet.
Aaron snaked his one free arm around the creature’s torso and between two waving appendages. With the last of his strength, he grabbed a handful of cilia and yanked hard. They pulled free, warm fluid splashing across his fist.
The creature let out an earth-shaking screech and the pressure on Aaron was suddenly gone. He sucked in a painful breath. All of his ribs ached. Every bone in his body felt battered and bruised.
Aaron rolled to his knees, gasping. The creature’s club tail slammed into his left side again. He heard his ribs break. Felt the flame of agony erupt. He shoved this to the back of his mind.
He pushed to his feet, controlling his thoughts as well as he could. He didn’t know if the thing could read his mind or if it just knew how to fight humans. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to take any chances.
He thought of puppies, with their soft snouts and needle-sharp teeth. He jumped over the creature’s next tail attack, then pushed off the arena wall. He filled his mind with the plaintive whines of the hungry puppies as he kicked out at two of the creature’s legs, feeling the satisfying crunch with both impacts.
The tail swung again. Aaron accepted the blow to his thigh as he kicked at two more legs. Needy puppies with their sour breath and soft ears. Now he rolled to the side and dodged the next tail attack. “Come on, stand up!”
But the creature was too smart. He had found its weakness and wasn’t going to let him exploit it.
Kittens with their sandpaper tongues. Aaron jumped onto the creature’s back, landing on his feet, a lance of agony burning up his entire left side. He slammed into the creature’s back again, then again. Four of its legs, weakened by his kicks, crumpled.
Cat litter. Disgusting stuff. At least toilets flushed. Aaron dropped, wrapping both arms around one of the creature’s good appendages and wrenching it back. The joint popped and the creature snarled. But with only two good legs on one side and another appendage popped out of joint, it had no leverage and it couldn’t roll over.
Cleaning out those nuggets from cat litter had to be nastiest thing ever.
Aaron grabbed another appendage, yanked hard and felt its joint pop. But he wasn’t done. “Why would you ever have a cat, anyway?” His voice bounced off the arena walls. He jerked the appendage up, forcing the serrated edge to unfold. “Zero affection and they shed everywhere!”
He shoved the wildly squirming creature’s knife arm into its side. At first, tough skin resisted, but the blade finally burst through. Aaron shoved the knife arm all the way into the creature. It snarled and reared up.
He rolled off. Where was this thing’s heart?
On its back four legs, all of them good, its tail keeping it balanced, the creature unfolded four blades and spun. Each blade hummed wildly through the air. It skittered toward Aaron.
He stepped back. Dogs were better, of course, but they chewed everything. He spun and kicked at a blade arm. The agony in his side softened the kick, made it a little off, but he still connected. The blade sliced a bunch of the cilia off. Having any pet had to be like having a hairy, shedding kid that never grew up.
He leapt at the monster, grabbed the back of the blade arm he’d just kicked, and shoved with the last of his strength.
The blade met almost no resistance. It slide into its owner’s torso smoothly. Warm, slimy fluid poured out as the blade sliced a long opening. A disgusting smell, like rotten beans or eggs, assaulted him. Tubes and bits gushed out of the thing’s body.
It fell, twitched once, then died.
Aaron collapsed, making sure he did so on his right side. The throbbing pain along his left side felt like it was setting his hair on fire. He felt like a side of tenderized beef, with each bruise from the creature’s ridged back a knot of twitching agony.
He looked around, wary. Was there going to be another creature?
Nothing moved. The circular arena with its ten-meter tall stone walls was completely still and silent. Only darkness could be made out above the walls. He saw no doors, no cracks—nothing in the smooth arena walls.
The walls flickered. The body of the creature disappeared.
Aaron found himself sitting on the Senso-Resin floor of Wizzard’s test room. The pain in his body was gone. He stood, running his fingers down the smooth, black suit that covered every inch of his body. He took the light, comfortable mask off his face and dropped the hood off his head, letting the reality of the test room replace the simulated sensations of the Gamer Suit.
“So?” The voice came from speakers overhead.
Aaron swiveled and grinned at the developers in the observation room. “Yeah. It works.”
All right, Garrish Army. Gonna lead with this: the only way this works out is if you help. I need this from you:
- Nominate The Seer in its Kindle Scout campaign. Click here. If you have an Amazon account, you’ll probably have to log into the Kindle Scout site with your normal credentials, then you’re good to go
- Share the campaign with everyone you know. Please share it everywhere. Every share makes a difference.
That’s all I need from you. If that’s all you wanted to know, see you later and thank you for your help! (Just note that you can only have three books nominated for Kindle Scout at a time. Don’t knock The Seer off!)
But if you want to know how this all works, you can check out this page that details the Kindle Scout program. I’ll sum it up.
- Kindle Scout is Amazon’s publishing system. Not self-publishing- Amazon is the actual publisher. They market and everything. But they’re using the power of crowd interest to help them publish books that have a real market. You, your family and friends and enemies, and everyone else out there, are my market. Every. Single. Nomination. makes a huge difference.
- When you nominate The Seer, you essentially become a Scout for Kindle publishing. You can have three books nominated at a time- so you have to be careful not to remove The Seer from your nominated list!
- As a nominee of The Seer, when it wins its campaign and Amazon Kindle picks it up for publication, you get a free e-book! They’ll ask you to read and review it, but hey, pretty good deal right?
- When The Seer is picked up and published, Amazon Kindle’s publishing team will do another professional edit, typeset it, put together a marketing plan, and will get it in front of people who will buy and read it.
- Kindle Scout does not share how many nominations the book receives during its campaign. So I’m going to keep hammering on this and I thank you for doing the same. Let’s leave no doubt!
Sounds great, right?
Go nominate it and share. Help a brother out.