“Knee Deep” Horror ebook Now Available Free

I’ve started polishing/converting my horror short stories to ebook format and I’ve set up an author page on Smashwords where you can find them. Currently, you’ll find Knee Deep is available for all ebook readers and for the time being, completely free. Blowing Smoke should be coming soon. I’ve got between 100 and 150 pages worth of horror shorts that share locations and characters, so my goal is to ultimately collect them into one anthology and release that as an ebook as well. Here is a preview of the first two ebook covers and a small snippet from Knee Deep:

 

 

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Jeremy’s childhood tormentors still loomed over the old man’s lawn, daring him to approach. The abuse they’d suffered themselves over the past thirty years had only added to their menace. The old tire swing continued to bob and slosh at the end of its frayed rope, a dangling noose beneath the ancient oak aptly nicknamed “Black and Blue.” The jungle-gym still cast its long shadow across the yard, a grim reminder of fractured bones and chipped teeth. The derelict fort still clung to B&B’s thickest limbs; it had always been the go-to refuge from dad when he got into one of his moods, but inevitably where dad would corner his prey. Jeremy, also feeling the thirty years, couldn’t comprehend his father’s reluctance to finally rid himself of all this junk. Each time Jeremy made one of his occasional visits, he’d come away with new ideas on how to find less occasions to visit. He and father had both said enough for a lifetime. So why the panicked call? Why now? The old man’s probably got cancer.

He couldn’t remember the doorbell ever working, in fact most people on Horne’s Hill had known each other so long, they just knocked and entered. He did the same.

“Dad?”

“Jer, come on in. But do it slowly.” It sounded like Dad was in the kitchen.

“What’s going on?”

“There’s something in here you need to see.”

Jeremy’s father boasted he’d survived a war, two military conflicts, and “a couple of ugly skirmishes” without so much as a fungal infection. The old man would probably be fit enough to serve even now if he got the call. But something about his tone this morning had sounded off. Rattled. And here it was again.

The hardwood complained beneath Jeremy’s boots; that same squeak had conspired with his virginity the first night he’d tried to sneak Genie Dwyer into the house under the old man’s watch.

“Dad?”

“In here. Quiet.”

Peering into the snapshot-seventies kitchen, Jeremy spotted his father. Dad cowered against the fridge, eyes feral, wielding a claw hammer like a tiny club. Something crawled along the edge of Jeremy’s vision as he entered the room.

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Read the rest of  Knee Deep for free.

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New (Old) Project: Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs

So, it’s been announced and I can finally tell you I’m currently co-writing Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs. Madness. I can’t say *anything* about it other than what you can already find online and I’m smart, so don’t try to trick me into leaking anything unless there’s a lot of vodka involved. However, I can now link the crazy things we’ve shown at E3 2012.

You’re going to hear a lot from our team soon, I’m sure.

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My Wife The Artist

So Julie’s been doing incredible work lately, just from out of nowhere, she started doing all these crazy vector designs like she’d been doing this her whole life. Up until recently, she’d had no artistic training, just took an interest and dove in. For example –  the Game of Thrones “Speak Three Names” t-shirt on the left there. If you’ve been following the series, it’s a reference George R. R. R. R. Martin’s Jaqen H’ghar the Faceless Man. She’s got it up on her Zazzle store and she will likely have several more cool pop culture shirts and myriad other zazzle gizmos and somesuches up soon (sometimes it can take a few hours for new products to show up when she submits them, but they work through the direct link). I tried to vector some of my own stuff and failed horribly. Turns out nobody wants “squirthday party” decorations. They all want owls for their birthdays, not squirrels. See … I don’t have the market know-how. Julie’s also got another store full of cuter vectory things, like birthday owls (grumble grumble).

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The Knobbly Crook

I realize it’s been a bit radio silent here lately, but as usual, I’ve been busy with other things… this time, it’s the Knobbly Crook. Growing up playing point and click adventure games (primarily) by Sierra and LucasArts, I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am to see the big names returning to the genre. Tim Schafer? Ron Gilbert? Al Lowe? Jane Jenson? The Two Guys from Andromeda??? I feel like I’ve been flushed through a Chrono-John! Coincidentally, I just happen to be working on revisiting my old “demo room” of O’Sirus the Snip in the Knobbly Crook and got sucked right back in there. I actually do have a WIP playable demo if you’re interested. While the post you’re currently reading is devoid of the usual humor, you’ll find plenty over at the Knobbly Crook development blog.

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Gettin’ Angry with Angry Birds

Bad Pig.

Bad Pig.

We’ve been letting Sarah have 15 mins with the iPad before bed on certain nights. It’s amazing the games she’s able to play at four years old and how well she does at them, but imagine my surprise when I see her playing world five in Angry Birds and actually doing pretty well. She won’t go to bed without finishing the level she’s on, so I give it a try, ready to show off and … fail. And fail again. And fail again. I guess she read the frustration on my face.  She says,

“Those stupid pigs. They should leave us alone and go back to their fuckin’ home.”

“Yeah! I mean … HEY!?!”

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Erotic Autocorrection

So this week Julie managed to pick up one of those ultra-rare fire sale HP Touchpads, which is basically an iPad without any support and a very small user base. With that said, it’s $99 (if you can find one) for a way to screw around on the internet while you’re spending some away-from-the-computer time with your kids, it lets you play Flash games, and it has Angry Birds, which, for most of us, is the only real App you need. It’s an ebook reader, a camera, calculator, a music and movie player, a browser, a joker, a smoker, a midnight toker, and all sorts of other things. For $99. People. Buy one of these (if you can find one). $100 is about my price cap for technology I don’t think I want, but for $99, I want pretty much anything.  The best feature, though? The autocorrect on its memo pad.

This morning, while crammed up against a window on the bus, I had a moment of quick inspiration. I whipped out my not-an-iPad-but-I-paid-1/5-of-what-you-did-sucker and began to type away. We have a character in the script who we’ll call Jones because my NDA prevents me from slightly altering those letters to spell out his real name, but it is a simple name like Jones. HP’s autocorrect decided that his name is Jitsu and forced the name change on him. I deleted it and tried again. Jones. No, Jitsu. Jones. No, Jitsu. Then I realized there was a tiny underline beneath Jitsu, clicked on it, and there was Jones again. Ah. So I continue with my story and a few lines later, Jones makes a reappearance. Soon after, so does Jitsu. I look up and my previously mandated Jones has also reverted to Jitsu.

Fine. For this morning, he’s Jitsu. And he’s also a man with I’ll intent. No, not I’ll intent. I’ll intent. Damnit. No underline, can’t force it back. As far as I can tell, there’s physically no way to process “ill” intent. We’re talking about technology that has the entire internet stored (I’m told there are tubes involved) in a 9.7″ flat screen on my lap but is also randomly removing words from the English dictionary.

So I continue with Jitsu’s I’ll intent, but soon my flat fingers hit the wrong punctuation button and I get the strangest correction yet. Let me sideline here a second. Does anybody else have this problem? I don’t really have points on the ends of my fingers. There’s no tapered fleshpad that’s going to magically connect with the surface of the touchpad. In fact, the little vortex animation that shows where I pressed the screen often appears off to one side of my finger. It’s not an Touchpad problem either, it’s just that the vortex graphic finally explains why I have such a hard time selecting icons on the iPad. Sometimes I actually use my pinky when I want precision, but that’s just fancy and I don’t want to give the wrong impression in public.

Anyway, so I make that punctuation typo – and it autocorrects my mangled version of “can’t” into “Fabio.” Fabio?! Really? It has Fabio but not Jones? And why not jump to can’t first, I mean can’t is such a plain* word and Fabio is well … Fabio. Let’s start with the more likely possibilities before we start fishing the ether for megahunks, please.

*I feel like I didn’t give “can’t” a fair shake. It’s not a plain word. It’s a powerful word. Can’t is one of the saddest words in the English language. Can’t implies want, doesn’t it? You know who else wants? Fabio. Just look at his face up there. Now it’s all starting to make sense. Or I need to get some sleep.

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Art Dump IV: More Avatars!

I’ve started doing these again and have had the expected odd requests. Here they are so far:


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Poor Man’s Energon / ROTF Superion Maximus Mod

I take no shame (maybe a little shame) in the fact that I’m 35 and still playing with toy robots. My biggest obsession? Toy robots that stick together and form bigger toy robots. There is no way that the end result is not badass. Or so I thought. Somehow the very robot gurus who claimed so much of my childhood allowance still manage to fuck it up once in a while. Their new line? Hideous. The line a couple lines before it?  They decided that hands and feet were no longer important. Here’s a prime example of the horror you will find:

Pretty bad, huh? But there’s something here. I mean, other than the pink leg with the red toenail polish and the junkyard appendages, the central robot feels like the ones we grew up with – even a bit better. A really talented (read: superior to Hasbro) group of customizers has put out several nice pieces and they did make an Aerial Team Appendage Add-On Kit (eww) for Superion. The downside? It’s now $200+, assuming you can even find the damn thing.

I have good news. If you can find Universe Ultra Onslaught (he should be relatively cheap, even know), you can do some harmless surgery and give real arms on the cheap to your Aerialbot commander. That’s right – no damage to either one of the figures in case you ever want to revert. Why?!

You’ll end up with something like this:

Hey, that’s not so bad! The color actually seems to match. It’s hard to tell there’s anything unnatural there, isn’t it? How does it work? Taking the arms off Onslaught is pretty easy. You really only need to take out one side screw to open up the “wrist” end. You may have to loosen the other screw as well if you need more wiggle room. You’ll need to be careful with the gun arm (the gun arm! How cool is that on Sups?!) because it has two springs in it. If they pop out, they are easy to get back in. Nothing complex. Even if you lose a spring, the arm still works, you just won’t have the nifty pop-spring action.

Well look at that! Between the two halves, we have a little bar. A bar *just* the right size to slide through one of the little jet hands. It’s like those crazy Hulk glove toys, but for your Aerialbots! Simply slide that through the hand (you may have to apply a little force to squeak it through the hole – heh – but it does fit without any damage). Simply put the screws back in and there you go – arms that actually look roboty! And you didn’t pay $200!

I know some people are picky about the components fitting into the robot design. The good news is the hands do fold up into the wrists and look kind of like cargo crates. Can a jet fly with a cargo crate dangling below? Fuck if I know. The riot shield still attaches too! You can even use the uh… energy fingers (?) as some sort of riot cattle prod if you want.

He holds a lot of stuff! These are the two extra guns that came with Fansproject’s Bruticus upgrade kit. Hell yeah. You’re probably wondering if it’s too floppy to hold them up. Yes. Yes, it is. However … if you pull out the landing gear on the jets, the arms sit nicely against them, giving you a lot of extra support for posing. If anybody finds a gun that feels much more Superion and works with these hands – let me know!

Finally, this is what I did with the other arm (only one can hold the Onslaught extension, after all. I folded the feet up to make shoulder blades at the top and tucked the arm out of the way where the leg used to be. I do tend to prefer the shape of this Superion modification a LOT more than the Fansproject one, even if it’s a lot lower tech and nowhere near as impressive.

One final note – I checked the hands on my Energon Bruticus figures (at least the helicopter guys) and the same trick works for them. If you weren’t able to pick up the Fansproject kit for old Brutey (you really should – it is jaw-dropping in its perfection), you might be able to find a nice look for him as well. Devastator? No idea. He was just too ugly for me to even consider. I’ll stick to my G1 since it looks infinitely better!

If you are not a fan of Transformers and read through this whole thing anyway, I am so, so sorry.

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Why you should try the Allods Free MMORPG

AllodsI have a bit of an obsession about trying every MMO I can, and that means hours and hours of the absolute worst grind-fests that even haunted Asian internet cafes. I’ve created basically the same character and look (hell, most only give you 5 choices of “hair” and “face”) in 20-some-odd Korean MMOs only to delete them minutes later. Fear not, there are some rare F2P (Free to Play) gems out there. Very rare. Allods is the shiniest of them all, as far as I’m concerned. It’s obvious that they’ve borrowed from Warcraft’s look and design (or stolen, if you’re one of those people who believes Blizzard didn’t lift their style from Warhammer). Is this a bad thing? Not in this case. What works here is that we’re seeing the stylish visuals and humor most of us love, but in a different universe. A universe filled with Russian orcs in military garb, elves forced to strip for the same military police who crack down on elf pornography, undead Egyptian space robots, and the first player character I have ever seen that is actually three little people controlled at once. It oozes charm as well as quality despite the slow start. Once it picks up, it is glorious. I should mention it’s made by a Russian development team. This is a good thing. My orc screams out what must be crazy Russian vulgarities in combat. The city is covered in foreign writing and the humor is just oddball enough to feel like something new. The immersion level is high.

I’m going to show you a couple of screenshots. If they don’t send you at least to the Allods page to check the game out, you’re never going to be happy with any F2P MMORPG, IMHO.

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The Rug Cutters – Prologue & Chapter One

I already mentioned somewhere that I am working on my first novel. It’s called The Rug Cutters and it’s a weird one. I’ll probably post at least the first few chapters here in the upcoming days and I’d appreciate any feedback you’ve got (feel free to use the contact form if you’d prefer not to leave comments on the blog). It’s my first serious attempt at writing a full manuscript rather than shorts or video game scripts, so it’s both an exciting and worrisome process. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the book and pushing right along to get it finished, then the real fun begins. Keep in mind this is first draft material that will likely be revised:

PROLOGUE

It was a middle finger, all right. A fat one. The crooked “O” tattooed in blue above the swollen knuckle clearly marked it as Chop’s left saluter. Together, his clenched fists had had once spelled out Rock and Roll, but somebody had made some rough edits. Chop had loved waving the thing when he was alive so it made sense that it was all he’d left behind. A final fuck you very much, I’m outta here.

The finger curled around the top of a chain link fence; the rest of its body taken. It looked like something had plucked Chop right off the wire, ending what must have been a desperate scramble for escape. Any trace of blood had been removed from the crime scene and replaced with a foul, black spatter. We’d seen the same bubbling goop puddles on our way up, belching out fumes that smelled like cheese-covered rust. The stink of it should have incited a feeding frenzy, but there were no bugs around, not even the gang of flies that had roughed us up for the past couple of miles.  We understood why. We’d felt this before–the presence of something otherworldly.

We stood there staring at the rogue digit for a good minute before anyone had the balls to comment. Not due to any sympathy for the poor bastard, not even due to the shock of the scene—and it was shocking—but because our guts were prophesying. We were being hunted.

CHAPTER ONE: IMMIGRATION

My name is Shit. I’m sorry if that’s abrasive for you to read, but Downlucks stink at nicknames. Downlucks is what we call ourselves because it has the truest ring to it. The folks I run with aren’t big on the booze, so it’s unfair to call us winos. Tramp, hobo, rapscallion—these are names that evoke dirty clowns shoulder-slinging sticks with checkered sacks at the ends, what we call bum luggage. We’re not that quaint.

Most people tend to call us beggars, but they only see what we want them to see. We’re performers, the best of them. I like to think when somebody gives me a buck, it’s a tip. You’re welcome to think of it however you want, but I know I earn my money. Contrary to what we want you to believe, we’re not all drunks, loonies, or handicapped. Most of us are sharper now than we were when we slept in beds and did the old nine-ta-five. We have to be. The minute you believe I’m capable of “getting a damn job,” it’s over. I’m not getting anything from you. So your job is to try to pretend you don’t see me, or justify why you don’t have to acknowledge me, and my job is to force you to see me, to interrupt your thought process before you can say no. Unfortunately for you, I’m pretty good at it.

I choose my targets carefully. Most single guys … forget it. They’ve got nothing to gain. Single women have an innate ability to blur me out, even when I’m right up in their blinkers. Couples … well, that’s risky. I have to judge the woman before I can predict the man. If she’s a “dirty girl,” he’s going to be working hard to tame her. Most times he’ll throw me a bone just to morally one-up his lady. If she’s a “nice girl,” things get risky. Eleven times out of ten her beau’s going to be showing off. If I’m lucky, he’ll tell me what a worthless shit I am and move on. Sometimes they spit and sometimes that’s getting off easy.

Tourists. Don’t we all love tourists? Big tips. Problem is, they enter our city as moving targets and they’ve got all guns aimed at them. They learn the game real fast. I’d say tourists give an average of two handouts before it all turns to frowns and “sorries.” That’s why you’ll find a lot of the newer guys working near the bus station. They think they can get it while it’s hot. You have to put extra work into your signs, too, if you want to hook these fish. If you get a laugh out of them, they’re going to stop. Personally, I don’t go for the tearjerkers–I have better luck with “Like Obama, I want change too,” than “Lung cancer, can’t afford surgery.”

Older Downlucks know that there’s more to be made with the slow and steady income than the risky big scores. You get your repeat customers each day on their trudge to work and you’ve got it made. If the handouts stop, disappear for a few days. Make them wonder. When you show up again, you may be surprised to find some extra guilt-gratuity.

So where do I look for the rare bird that’s going to flash me some plumage? I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I look for the weak, the nervous. Those who don’t want to make a scene or are afraid I’m going to touch them. These days it’s too easy for people to live in their own little bubble and they’re often willing to part with their coins to keep you out of it. I know how to spot them because I was once one of them.

The day I snapped and made the biggest change of my life, I didn’t bring along any bum luggage; if I had, it would have been wrapped up in a cashmere sweater tied to the end of a 3-iron. I showed up fresh from the grind, tie still dangling like a severed noose, pants uncreased, hair swept sharp over the expanding barrens on top of my head.  I had been a salesmen and damn good with people in general, so my first plan of action was to get out there and meet my new neighbors.

I wasn’t picky. I found my first pack of Downlucks tucked into an alley alcove right in the heart of downtown. A haphazard wind, smelling sharp with incense, elbowed its way between two buildings and hit me square in the face. I sought out the source. The passages were overrun with garbage and alley vermin had gutted most of the plastic bags, spilling their rotten entrails onto the pavement. I ignored the crunches and pops beneath my polished work shoes—out here, it probably was worse than it sounded. Ahead, an orange glow fussed. I crept forward.

Three men sat cross-legged around a pile of burning boxes and beneath them the alley floor was covered wall to wall with a collage of colorful rectangles. Some were rugs tattooed with complex, spiraling designs but most were simple, puffy swatches of ugly house carpet. Though their clothes marked them as homeless, these men seemed more important—magicians. Shamans, maybe.

“Jesus, Tongue! Where didya find these? My nose is burning,” said a miniscule man whose enormous glasses dwarfed any other features. He pinched his nose with one grubby, olive hand and waved P.U. with the other.

“I acquired this delicious incense at the New Age store near Dobson. We are now experiencing the new ‘Fen Whisper’ incense. Boxes of it just tossed out the back—I can’t imagine why!” Tongue curtsied. “Apparently it didn’t tickle anybody’s fancy there, so I, in my infinite generosity, have returned with the silent swampy smells to celebrate the birth of another evening.”

“Death of another day.”  Glasses again.

“It stinks, T.” The third man said. All three of them needed to shave, but this man’s beard was the longest and winter-white. He wore too much clothing for the humid summer—a tank top over a t-shirt, over long underwear, hiding even more layers beneath, all restrained by oversized overalls.

“I try to do my best for you, gentlemen, but your expectations are too high.”

“We don’t expect nothing. It’s you who’s always trying to be all fancy,” said the old man.

“At least I’m not overdressed for the occasion.”

“Hey, you know I–”

“Not you … him.” Tongue faced me and became a stick-man silhouette before the fragrant blaze.

I put my hands up, palms forward. “Listen, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you, I just…”

Glasses was on his feet. He waddled over to me and squinted through his impressive lenses. “What is this? You a cop?”

“No, I–”

“Reporter?”

“What? I just–”

“Too slow to be a reporter. You lost?”

“Heh … maybe. Do you mean physically or mentally?”

“Easy, Beamer. He’s done nothing wrong yet.” Tongue flashed a smile at me. “You’ll have to forgive my bespectacled friend; we’ve never had a guest before.”

“Listen, I know it doesn’t look like it, but I’m one of you now.”

All three of them laughed.

“Is Candid Camera still around? This feels like Candid Camera,” said the old man.

“No. I’m serious. I’m done with that,” I swept my arm out to indicate the city, “Out there. Everything. I don’t want to be a part of it … at least for a while.”

“You have money?” asked Beamer.

“No, well … technically, yes … but I don’t want it anymore.”

“Can we have it?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Listen. I disappeared. If I show up at an ATM and take out my money, I didn’t disappear–I ran. I need to be gone. Untraceable.”

“Can we crash at your place?”

“You want to be arrested? Investigated for my disappearance?”

“So you’re a worthless shit.”

“Beamer, please! Let’s not scare the man away.” Tongue wrapped his wiry arm around me and pulled me towards the camp.

I dug out my wallet and thumbed it open. I was able to fish out three bills. “Listen. I’ve got sixty. It’s all yours if you let me crash here.”

“How long?” asked the old man.

Tongue shot up his a wait-a-minute finger. “Does it matter, Crutch?”

“Hell yes it does. Sixty will get him a room at the Slumber Lodge or three nights at one of the red-lights. Our pad ain’t no hotel, but I figure sixty buys him a week, max.”

“Two weeks, but you throw in your credit cards,” suggested Beamer.

“You’re not even listening to me. Here’s what I need to do with these cards…” I fished them out and dumped them into the pyre. I grinned as my debt melted away.

“Well that was a shitty thing to do,” said Crutch.

“Twenty each. How about it? You let me stay a couple of nights and I’ll pull my weight. I promise. A week from now you’ll be begging me to stay.”

“A week from now you’ll still be a worthless shit,” said Beamer, “But money is money. What do you think, Tongue?”

Tongue pounded a boney fist to his forehead, smiled, then reached out his hands. “I say welcome to the Rug Cutters, Worthless Shit.”

“Rug Cutters… I get it.”

“Get what?” asked Crutch.

“Well … all the rugs on the ground … and the pun.”

“What pun?” Several awkward seconds passed. A dog yelped somewhere in the concrete maze.

“You don’t dance?”

Tongue shot me a conspirator’s wink. “We dance, my good man! Not another tribe in the city who can keep up with us.”

“Call it dancing if you want. I call it slobber-knocking.” Crutch punched the palm of his left hand.

“Wait … you guys fight?”

“When we have to. How do you think we got such prime real estate?” asked Beamer.

“Let’s not get into that right now, nobody’s fighting tonight,” said Tongue. “It’s late. We should get WS situated and turn in.”

“You’re loaning me one of these carpets, right?”

“None of mine,” said Crutch. He started to pull on the rugs around him, a massive child hoarding his toys.

“You can get your own tomorrow; we’ll take you to the place. We’re a bit possessive of what little we have, you see.” said Tongue.

“He can sleep in Swarma’s spot,” said Beamer.

“Where’s Swarma?” I asked.

“Dead. Heart finally gave up last month.” Crutch cradled his head in one meaty hand.

“I’m sorry.” I hesitated, struggling to find the right words. “She didn’t die … here … did she?”

“Don’t worry, cops took her away before she went too sour,” said Beamer.

“Fantastic. Well … feet first, I guess. Here.” I passed out the bills.

“Some rules,” said Crutch. “Walk down the alley and turn three times before you piss. Four times if you’re going to pinch one. You hear or see anything suspicious, you wake everyone up. If it’s a dog—a big, black motherfucker, you yell at the top of your lungs. We’ll join you. Jackknife’s a mean cuss, but he scares easily.”

“Alright. I’ll do that.”

My first night on the streets was a rough one. I must have laid there awake on the dead woman’s rug for at least an hour before I finally curled up into a ball and dozed off. As the midnight chill crept over me, I pulled another patch of carpet across my body. It wasn’t the Slumber Lodge, but I managed to make myself comfortable.

In the dead-time, the hours between night owls and early birds, I awoke to fingers teasing my hair. A body slid beneath my makeshift blanket and pushed against my back. Half-awake and horrified, I tried to roll away. An arm claimed me–a woman’s arm with a withered hand at the end of it. I yelped like a startled alley dog.

I broke free and stumbled to my feet, stepping on Beamer and nearly falling on my ass. “Who are you?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“Swaaarma.” She wheezed.

Seconds later, I was gone. Halfway down the alley and with no plans to even glance back, heavy laughter stopped me. Slowly, head bowed and a genuine grin emerging, I returned to the alcove.

“You’re not dead … are you?” It was a statement.

“Dead? No. You’re a warm one though, shweetheart. Come back to bed.”

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