Tag Archives: The Afflicted


The Afflicted

410 words for Wendy’s #WOW555 prompt this week:

* * *

Long ago, Quentin told me that time flow is relative to each person. Its speed doesn’t remain constant throughout a life. I never understood what he meant by that, but I started to when we were on assignment in Germany. He would use himself as the example when I asked him. He’d sometimes tell me that time slowed down drastically for him in the 80s, but sped up in the 90s.

This, he said, was because he lost his sense of purpose, only to find it not long before we were paired. I never asked him for the details, to ask would’ve gone against the most sacred rules a soldier must obey – not that anyone ever sat me down and told me this rule, I had to learn it the hard way. Besides, why would I ask about the past? Soldiers must live in the present, each day divided into minutes and seconds. Those thin slices of time are what we care about.

This particular second is just a piece of the greater minutes I’ve been staring through my scope, hidden from time eternal, waiting for my next tango. His words seem to haunt me. They were, like many of the things he told me, the absolute, undeniable truth. I find myself in one of those slow-times right now. Time has not only slowed, it seems to stop with me perched on a roof staring down an unmarked door in a nondescript building. This time dilation seems to leave me with too much time to reminisce on the past. I try to ignore it, after all, as a soldier, I must live in the now…

I’m not alone, trapped in timelessness. Looking through my scope, I see that it’s in a state of timeless meandering, just a tiny part of an unending and unchanging cycle. Wars are still fought with entire nations trapped in a cycle of poverty. The world constructed a cage long ago and has been trapped in it ever since. I’ve become trapped in the same cage. Barless, brickless, even timeless. Death is my only escape.

Since Quentin left, I’ve been called a lone wolf. I am a wolf. The most basic instincts rule over me: the urge to hunt and the urge to be independent. Each time I carry out the hunt, I eliminate my target with precision, but I still wait for the favor to be reciprocated.

To be freed from my cage…

A Million Birthdays

The Afflicted

I tried writing this yesterday to the Inspiration Monday prompt, but it wasn’t coming together. After a rewrite, it started solidifying, and I think it’s ready to be posted. Here’s 500 more words for The Afflicted:

* * *

Ashlee woke with a shutter. She glances around the woodland clearing, her eyes focusing first to Mitchell and then to Kelvin.

“What did you hear?” she asks with a sigh, wiping the sweat from her forehead, and peering into the darkness to find the bound form of Dr. Monroe.

Kelvin looks away, but Mitchell fixes her with an icy stare. “How many of us have you killed?”

Ashlee took a breath, preparing to respond, but Kelvin interjects. “Red here, she doesn’t kill the Afflicted.”

Mitchell’s eyes narrow. “Is that so?”

Ashlee spreads her hands wide. “I’ve ended a million birthdays.”

“What-“ Mitchel starts to say, but Kelvin interrupts.

“Red’s a stone cold killer,” he raises his eyebrows as if to emphasize the next part. “She only hunts humans.”

“I am human,” Mitchell retorts.

Kelvin rolls his eyes. “You know what I mean.”

Ashlee stands and walks to the doctor. Her sweat has plastered her red hair against her cheeks and neck.

“So,” Mitchell asks, trying to remain casual. “A million birthdays? What are you, some kind of apocalyptic bounty hunter?”

Ashlee doesn’t respond. She walks into the underbrush.

She doesn’t need to respond, Kelvin thinks with a detached understanding. People like Ashlee reject labels the same way they reject people. Independence is a way of life. Relying on, or allowing people to rely on you is a fast track to disaster. When it’s you against the world, decisions are easy: complete the mission at any cost. But stop being a lone wolf, and you’re asking to be let down, or let someone else down.

That kind of pressure, self imposed or otherwise is a hard thing to handle. When someone else relies on you, then there’s more at stake. It’s easy to see how ugly the post-afflicted world really is. Ashlee has the almost hopeless task of calculating and even foreseeing the terrible things that can and will happen. Her outlook defaults to pessimism. And who wants to be responsible for leading people who depend on her into that glimpsed future?

It’s not that she’s a coward; on the contrary, it’s a twisted leap of logic; of hope. Isolation leads to the inability to harm those around you. Was it Frankenstein’s wish that his monster be reviled and hated? Just like the good doctor, Ashlee just wants to do her duty.
Continue reading

The Wait

The Afflicted

Here are 500 words for the #WOW555 prompt this week:

* * *

Ashlee leaps over a slight depression in the snow. When she lands, her foot sinks and she tries flailing her arms to maintain balance and forward momentum. Flailing wasn’t an option, however, she hugs a CheyTac M-200 tight against her chest, cursing herself for being in a situation best left to amateurs. This was a race across a field of white, but in this race, the loser dies.

“Damn it, cue ball, where’s my air support?” Ashlee yells.

The static in her ear reminds her that she’s far out of her operational authority. There’s a delay in Quentin’s response – a response she doesn’t hear as branches of a pine tree shudder and drop their accumulated snow. The crack of a rifle soon follows.

“If I survive this mission, cue ball,” she hisses as she flops into a snow bank, “we gonna have a conversation about intelligence gathering.”

She feels the impact on her body armor before hearing the shot. The ChayTac is torn from her grip as opposing forces spin her body. She lands, and slides on her stomach down a soft slope.

“I’ve got.” She breathes in deep, trying to compartmentalize the pain.

“Eyes on the.” Another stab of pain, following a terse intake of mountain air.

“Target,” she finishes with a grunt as she lands after launching off a mogul.

Her right arm is numb from fingertip to shoulder. I’ll need to finish this with my off hand, she thinks as her target stares, mouth agape at the madwoman sliding toward him.

Her right shoulder impacts the man in the mouth, droplets of blood staining the packed snow. Fueled by training and reflex, she brings her knees up and they land with her crouched on his chest.

She reaches across her body for her KA-BAR, but the sheath is positioned for right-handed retrieval. The man slams both his fists on the sides of her head.

Everything goes quiet as Ashlee staggers back from the impact. Quentin is saying something, but she only feels the vibration from her earpiece. His excited chattering means nothing in her sensory-deprived state.

She crabwalks back and staggers to her feet. The man is built like a heavyweight boxer – all arms and shoulders. His face and ears pink from frigid exposure. His eyes focus on her as he draws a pistol and aims.

Ashlee watches helplessly as she senses the slight depression of a trigger. Despite the ringing in her ears, she hears the bark of a pistol. It’s familiar, like the embrace of a lover.

The man falls back, rapidly expanding red just below his hairline. Ashlee looks down to her right hand and sees her Beretta, gasses escaping the end of its barrel.

She still can’t hear Quentin, but she speaks aloud anyway. “Tango down. Get me the fuck outta here.”

She walks to a clearing and sits on the powdery ground, awaiting extraction. Her right hand still grips her Beretta, fatigue threatening to supplant consciousness, and she waits.

Next: A Million Birthdays

Free Anthology and Other Happenings.

Stories on the Go

I’ll start out with the free anthology. Stories on the Go is an anthology of 101 flash fiction stories by 101 authors. Although I don’t rank top billing, my story is number ten on the list and some of the other authors include Hugh Howey & Lisa Grace. Andrew Ashling and the rest of the volunteer crew did an amazing job editing and producing this anthology. Go get it now!

* * *


Champion Standing will be out in 14 days. The electronic book will be an Amazon exclusive for at least the first 90 days. The paperback will be available on launch day, January 2nd. There will be different covers for the electronic and the dead tree versions. This weekend I plan to redo the book trailer with larger text. Depending on the popularity of Champion Standing, I may look into doing some sort of audiobook, but that’s further along the pipeline. You can preorder Champion Standing now.


16Sunsets has already reached the 30k point. I expect you all to see another 10k or so of the vomit draft on this blog before the end of the first quarter of 2015. I’ll figure out some sort of schedule and if the stars align, I hope to have it done before February. When the blog version is done, there will be a very limited printing available to select fans and contributors of the entire story from the blog before the rewrite gets it above the magic 50k and the long editing process begins.

The Afflicted

For the rest of 2015, I expect to finish The Afflicted and if Saturn is in retrograde, Soul Smith. I also hope to put a serious dent in the Body Rentals sequel and/or Champion Rising. Victorious Maiden, Technophobia, Eve’s Story and a sequel to Escape won’t even be close to completion until 2016.

The Afflicted – Samantha

The Afflicted

#FFC52 I wasn’t going to continue with The Afflicted, but the prompt begged for a little humor to be injected into the story. Here’s another 507 words bringing the running total to 12,548:

* * *

Nurse Mitchell checked Matt Siebert’s pulse with her gloved hand. “He’s dead, Jim.”

Doctor James Monroe looked up from his desk in the isolation lab, frowned, and walked beside Mitchell. He placed his own gloved fingers on Siebert’s wrist. “Damn it,” he muttered after a count of sixty. He tapped a button on a machine and spoke aloud. “Time of death…” He placed both hands on his isolation hood and pressed his face against the plastic. “Zero nine seventeen.” He returned to his desk, consulted some notes and continued. “Estimated life cycle of pathogen seven five romeo niner, was one thousand seven hundred sixty nine days.” He tapped the button on the machine again and sat at his desk. “We kept him alive for almost five years.”

Mitchell nodded and went about the task of shutting down all the machines surrounding the patient. When she was sure Doctor Monroe wasn’t looking, she secreted the syringe he had previously injected Matt Siebert with between the body and the sheet.

While the doctor puttered around his desk examining sheaves of printouts and muttering to himself, Mitchell had partially disassembled the gurney and was zipping up the integrated body bag when the doctor exclaimed, “what the hell?”

Doctor Monroe looked up from his desk and Mitchell took a step back.

“What have you done?” He yelled, his mask fogging up.

He leapt up waving a printout, the neat folds unraveling as he stormed around the desk. “He was stable until this morning!”

Mitchell responded by removing her gloves and reaching for the Velcro that covered the zipper to her mask. “I did what I had to do.”

The doctor staggered back against his desk, papers abandoned and fluttering to the ground. Mitchell stepped towards him, mask in hand and the doctor recoiled in horror. “You’ve killed us all!” He screamed, eyes wide.

Quietly, she replied, “It was already too late for us.” She returned to prepping the body for transport.
Continue reading

The Afflicted – Escort

The Afflicted

I’ve added these 1014 words to the existing 11,034. I’m not too far away from the current word count on 16Sunsets, but The Afflicted is definitely ‘less done.’ The Afflicted will need hella more work, since there are varying points of view, disparate stories, etc. I’ll be going back and cleaning up old The Afflicted posts that got broken in the blog migration. Check out older The Afflicted stuff and enjoy this addition:

* * *

Nurse Mitchell rubbed her eyes and stared into the mirror over the spartan sink in her lavatory. She turned her head to one side and pressed up on her chin with the back of her hand. She frowned at the reflection in the mirror.

There’s a full-length mirror in the bedroom, she thought and turned away from the mirror. She couldn’t shake the feeling of dread the reflection that stared back.

She came upon the mirror she was searching for and stared at her reflection. She lifted her undershirt and got a good look at her hips and belly. Turning sideways to view her profile, she cursed softly.

Sprinting back to the lavatory, she rummaged around in the cabinet under the sink until she found what she was looking for. Standing and catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror again, she turned her attention to the utilitarian scale in her hands. Flipping it over, she read the instructions on how to ‘zero out’ the scale.

After performing the required steps and verifying the scale read zero, she placed it gently on the floor and stepped on it gingerly. The digital numbers varied as she shifted her weight, but it quickly came to a consensus and the figures at her toes blinked. She gasped at the digits, stepped off the scale and stepped on again. The results were the same: 116 pounds.

She couldn’t remember the last time she weighed only 116 pounds. She knew it was likely somewhere in her medical file, but she suspected it was her freshman year of high school. Her last physical checkup was six months ago and she recalled being embarrassed when the scale read 155 pounds. She knew her weight was high for her age and height, but the facility’s gymnasium hardly got used.

Almost forty pounds in two days, she thought. What the hell am I gonna do?

Before the outbreak she had agonized over her weight. Fad diets and exercise routines attempted and abandoned. She could swing three to five pounds and squeeze herself into a pair of pants if she wanted, but ‘uncomfortable’ was an understatement. She had wished for more weight on top and less on the bottom.
Continue reading

The Afflicted – Isolation

The Afflicted

With all the Ebola craziness happening now, it’s interesting that I envisioned this scene more than a year ago. I think I’ve said some of this in one of the three story arcs already written and I think my tenses are wonky, but that’s what editing is for, right? Between Hallowe’en, Ebola and my comparative religion class, now is apparently the perfect time to tell the origin of The Afflicted religion. Here’s the beginning at 1000 words:

* * *

Nurse Mitchell unwound the tape sealing her gloves to the sleeves of her isolation suit. She scowled as water and inert chemicals dripped from her sleeve into her glove.

What a pain in the ass! She thought.

It wasn’t that she thought the isolation suits or chemical wash-down after breaching the airlock between the treatment room and the research lab wasn’t necessary, she just wished she didn’t have to endure it every time the doctor had some new hair-brained scheme to cure the patient. Her shift was almost over for the day and she was looking forward to enjoying a weekend with no responsibilities. She cussed as her undershirt got stuck in her zippered pants.

“Kelvin, give me a hand here.”

A nervous tech peeked over a monitor at his station. “Is it safe?”

Mitchell frowned. “How long have you been here?”

“My shift started at zero-seven-hundred, Ma’am.”

“No, not your shift.” Mitchell sighed. “How long have you been at this facility?”

“Oh.” Kelvin paused. “Three weeks.”

“You aren’t an American, right?”

“No, Ma’am.” Kelvin beamed. “I requested assignment here as soon as I graduated from medical corps.”

Mitchell furrowed her brow and chewed on the inside of her cheek. “Why the hell would you volunteer to come here?”

“Outside of this research facility, North America is in ruins.”

Mitchell shuddered recalling the newscasts of planes plunging into the ocean after countries refused to allow possibly infected planes to land. She had a friend on a plane en route to the Philippines, when China declared the plane an enemy combatant and scrambled jets to shoot it down.

“But,” she asked, “why come to the hot zone?”
Continue reading

The Afflicted – Patient Zero

The Afflicted

Wow. It’s been so long since I’ve written anything for The Afflicted. June 13th and February 8th to be exact. Each time I saw the beautiful cover for it, I was sad that I wasn’t finishing the story. Like many professional writers down here in the dregs, I have many unfinished stories rattling around. As one of my favorite “new” authors, Chuck Wendig, has said again and again and again, “Finish your shit, yo!”

Well, I may be misquoting him, but it’s what I’ve synthesized from him. It’s fitting that the prompt today from terribleminds works in nicely with The Afflicted. I was actually pissed that I had to stop at 1000 words on the nose, but I’d rather this be a slow burn instead of a flare-out. I may wrestle another from The Afflicted this weekend. Hey, Matt! Hey, #fridayflash!

* * *

Matt opened one eye. He closed it and forced them both to open. The room was fuzzy on the edges, but he at least had a small field of clear vision. He blinked a few times and the image retained more focus.

I’m in a hospital, he thought, followed by, I’m hungry.

Matt couldn’t remember the last time he was so hungry. He tried to swallow, but something made his throat hurt. He reached to feel his throat, but a pair of hands gently held his.

“Please don’t move, Mister Siebert.”

The face of a woman in her early twenties shifted into focus, hovering above him. Even though his vision had mostly cleared from the haze, her face was still blurry. It took Matt a few heartbeats to comprehend what his eyes were telling him: The nurse was wearing an isolation suit.

He could hear a soft whir coming from what he could only assume was a rebreather. Flares of condensation appeared on her mask as she breathed steadily. “I’m going to remove a tube from your mouth. On the count of three, I need you to breathe out as hard as you can.” She smiled a blurry smile. “Blink twice so I know you understand me.”

Matt’s world became nothing, a black void of gnawing hunger, twice in quick succession.

The nurse smiled again and started the count down. When she reached ‘three,’ Matt forced air from his lungs. The pitiful wheeze startled him, but the insatiable hunger overpowered his fear.


“Don’t talk yet, Mister Siebert. I’ll get you some water.” She placed a plastic cup to his lips and he drank greedily. “Not so fast, there’s plenty of water.” She produced another cup and he drained it immediately.

Matt coughed and he felt his entire body shudder. Pain radiated from everywhere, but that pain was nothing compared to the hunger that dominated him. He reached up to rub his throat, but realized it wasn’t the nurse’s hand that kept him from moving but a strap across his wrist. Matt struggled to lift his head, to take in his situation, but it was also strapped down.

“What’s going on?” he whispered.

“I’m sorry, Mister Siebert, I’m not supposed to be talking to you.”
Continue reading

Rambling Pen


I received a shipment of my books to be distributed to a local indie bookstore. If you are in Prescott, Arizona, drop by Peregrine Books and pick up a dead tree version of Forlorn Hope or Body Rentals. Arranging a book signing there for Champion Standing is on my “to do” list, but I’m just so busy with everything. I also autographed a few books for people who have supported various projects I’m working on. The progress on The Afflicted and Champion Rising has stalled so I can work on 16Sunsets. I had originally planned on writing sixteen 1,600-word chapters, but I suspect it’ll end up being longer. I haven’t talked to Telly lately about Soulsmith, so I can’t let you know much on that project. Champion Standing is off for the final edit. I’m expecting it to be published in January instead of February, with advance reading copies available in October or November. I’d like to launch with a bunch of reviews, so those of you interested in an ARC for a review, let me know. I expect inks from Joel for 16Sunsets by the end of the week, perhaps the following week. I’m lazily working on the Paradox audiobook. I’m finding it difficult to maintain focus on it. It’ll still get done, I’m just not sure when. Technophobia is super difficult to work on since I’m chained to antique technology to produce it. It’s much easier to pull my phone out of my pocket and tap out a few sentences. Finally, updated print versions of Forlorn Hope and Body Rentals will hit the distribution channels on Monday. Electronic versions will be up on Amazon sometime tonight. Kobo and B&N have been the worst for purchases – I’m not sure if those platforms are even viable any more.

Enough rambling for today, so I’ll just close the post with this: B.J., I got pages for you to look at tomorrow and welcome to the blog.

Begging and stuff


For Champion Rising, I knocked out about 600 words or so last night. Today I wrote about 2100 words. When I’ve written in the past, my daily goal was about 1000 words. With family, work and everything else going on, I suspect I may only get around 500 words written a day with the exception of Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. I figure 2000 words on those days is a worthy goal. If I can pull off 6000 a week, then I should have the vomit draft of Champion Rising done in about two months. Of course that can vary radically based on the aforementioned obstacles. I still want to put a serious dent into The Afflicted. Moscow Mule has me excited about it again. I still want to start the audiobook for Paradox as well. You know the eBook is free on Amazon right now, right?

I feel like an Emergency room doctor. Dividing my limited time between multiple patients, assessing their worth and spending the time on whichever seems the most important. Like many authors, I yearn for the day when I can do this writing thing full time and it pays my rent, groceries, etc.

Speaking of money, I’m sure you’ve not noticed all my posts, banners and begging my friends to blog, tweet and facebook my Kickstarter campaign. Kick a buck my way. Make it a fiver and you will get an advance copy of Champion Standing. Feeling sassy? There are rewards all the way up to $250.

::sad anime eyes:: Please?