[Short Story] The It [Excerpt]

flashfiction-e1391554057838

It’s still hard to believe that something so ugly and useless looking destroyed our town in just a matter of days. It turned everyone here into its slaves, and anyone who is immune to it gets killed. That disgusting thing made Karen kill her own husband of twenty years because he said it was controlling our thoughts and making us go insane. Karen loves this thing now like it’s her own kids.

[Short Story] Fantasy Fan Con Panic [Excerpt]

ohayocon-2012-dealers-room

Back inside, Jack and Crystal eyed the couple from the second story terrace overlooking the hotel lobby. They watched a crowd slowly form around their two targets while they swapped use of the Chem-Thermo goggles that had been provided for them.

Among the crowds of cosplayers interspersed with the banner advertisements and kiosks showcasing the newest trends in manga, anime, and fantasy there they stood among them all. Even dressed in costumes like the other con goers, it was frightening yet intriguing spectacle to see these kinds of predators blending in with the other humans down below.

The vampire looked no older than perhaps twenty as he spun his cape and flashed his fangs for the adoring fans that took photos of him and his poses. The young Dracula cosplay look that he was going for must have been some sort of meta-joke of his, or a blatant invitation for someone to stake him right then and there. Even so, he fit right into the costumed clientele of this particular convention. Crystal zoomed in on him, noticing his thin, smooth, innocent, and androgynous looking face with piercing, pale-blue eyes. Crystal raised an eyebrow as he pouted at one of the cameras that coaxed him for another photo. Under the therm-optic filter his body took on a greyish blue hue in a sea of deep red pedestrians that stood or passed him by.

The succubus — the vampire’s partner — was able to spoof her heat signature better among the crowd, but she also shared her undead boyfriend’s meta sense of humor. She was standing next to him with her bat wings and black horns on full display. They looked real, but could just as well be chalked up to being the product of well done prosthetic make up and accessories. Like the vampire, she had a conventional beauty and confidence in the way she carried herself. She wore armor, but nothing that could be considered practical. It reminded Crystal of Xenia the Warrior Princess, but with a shorter leather skirt. Not much left to the imagination. Jack and Crystal switched to the chemical tracer filter on the goggles and could see that she was already releasing pheromones into the crowd. People who

might have been uninterested in the impromptu photo shoot in the lobby, were now transfixed and slowly growing attached to this attractive couple posing together. On the surface, things looked innocent enough, but Jack and Crystal saw it for what it was: lambs being lead to slaughter in some anonymous hotel room later tonight.

As the crowd grew from a dozen to nearly twenty in a matter of minutes, Jack and Crystal got up from their table and began to walk down to the lobby area. They were dressed in post-apocalyptic duster jackets. A cosplay grab that fit with the eclectic dress code of the nerd convention. As they walked, they fingered the holstered, plastic-looking guns that were actually loaded with silver and holy relic tipped subsonic ammo. They were suppose to take this demon and vampire in alive, but if worse came to worse, the subsonic ammo and suppressors would quietly dispose of them. Jack and Crystal each put on their shades and pulled on their gas masks to counter the vampires hypnosis and the pheromones of the succubus.

Now in the lobby, they walked casually into what was now turning into a fan mob. Not a single person among the crowd of ninjas, transformers, and alien princesses noticed nor raised an eyebrow at the Mad Max cosplay couple making their way to the front to see the vampire and succubus “models” gaining attention.

When Jack and Crystal reached them, the two supernaturals noticed them, and momentarily paused their act. For a split second, it felt like a connection was made between the four of them. Fight or flight began to take hold. The vampire and succubus noticed the gas mask and shades Jack and Crystal were wearing and tensed up. The fear in their eyes seemed to surprise Jack momentarily before realizing that he had already put his hand on his gun.

[Novel] Spymancer Chapter 1, Part 2 [Excerpt]

Author’s note: if you want to see the previous part or other stories related to this project follow this link here and here for more!

I carried her body out of the room. My left hand holding the pistol I had hidden earlier as the rest of my arm propped up her legs. I made a jog back to the elevator, but I didn’t make it so far as a few meters before I saw an angel rounding the corner after us.

“Magus!” he shouted, before raising his wings to fire a barb of sliver feathers into my chest.

    Three sharp feathers pierced my body armor, nearly cutting into my heart. My growl echoed into the dark hallway. I gritted my teeth as I struggled to support the weight of Cassidy’s body. I stumbled for a moment, almost into a half-kneel, but I still managed to raise my longinus hand canon and squeeze off several pincer shots that pinned the angel to the wall. The angel scream was deafening with a wave of anger that nearly stopped me in my tracks. Not wanting to waste anymore time, I took a deep breath, held on tightly to Cassidy, and lifted off into a sprint around the corner. As I pasted the angel he continued to spit out a string of curses at me as he slowly died from his wounds. Finally, I made it to the elevator, and using the same enchantment once again, I transformed my hand into that of Agather’s and summoned the elevator via the palm print scanner. The elevator responded with banal, womanly approval in the lyrically brutal, ancient language of Sanctum-Lilim Orthodox. I looked behind me and saw that several portals within the corridor were forming down the hall as more angels warped to my location. I took cover with Cassidy behind one of the protruding walls.

“There’s no way out, James!” one of the angels called out to me, “you’re not going to make half a kilometer before we run you down! Give up Cassidy and we promise you a swift death.”

“Really good at negotiating, aren’t you?” I mumbled.

I switched my pistol to fully automatic and fired blindly from around my small corner as the elevator was in its last moments of descent. There was a moment of pause before I heard there counter offer.

“Say your prayers, half-blood whore!” one of them yelled back in my direction.

I pulled out another loginus grenade from inside my suit and activated the trigger.

“How original,” I said to myself.

Just as the elevator doors opened, I tossed the grenade towards the pack of angels and jumped into the elevator with Cassidy in my arms. I could feel several feathers piercing into my back like knives as I shielded her from the barrage. I could hear the shrapnel exploding behind us as the elevator doors closed and began its ascent up towards the surface to a shrill burst of torturous screams. I kneeled down, placing Cassidy gently down on the floor and pulling out one of the sharp, knife-like feathers from my back. I could feel myself bleeding under the layers of my clothes.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Cassidy slowly propped herself up and looked up at me. I could see that she was coming out of her fog, but her face told me that seeing me before her was a shock to her system.

“Is this a dream?” she asked.

“No, I’m getting you out of here.”

I smiled, but winced from the effort as I felt another sharp twinge of one of the feathers digging into me. Cassidy got up and held me by my head.

“Cassidy,” I said, gritting my teeth, “do the have the strength to heal me?”

“Yes,”

“We’re going to need to help each other out of this if we want to get out of here alive,” I told her, “there’s going to be more of them waiting for us on the surface.”

She paused.

“Cassidy?”

“I’m sorry James, but I’m not going to heal you.”

I looked up at her. My mouth was open, nearly slack jawed over what I was hearing.

“Cassidy, what the fuck are you doing?”

“I wanted to look into your eyes and see the man that left me for dead,” she said, before grabbing one of the feathers and shoving it into my heart.

I doubled over, falling on my back as she looked down on me. I could hear the elevator screeching, sparks started to fly, and a massive inferno erupted inside the box car. As the fire quickly engulfed us, Cassidy bent down and looked at me, a sadistic smile spreading across her lips. Her beautiful eyes melted and in their place were embers of fire that slowly cracked the skin of her face as if her head was made of pottery.

“Come and die with me, James,” her voice echoed in the flames as the fire consumed us, “die like the cowardly traitor you are.”

I could feel my body shaking, unable to look away from her as the fire became hotter and more intense. Somewhere, I heard someone screaming, the wail becoming louder and louder until that’s all I could hear.

[Novel] Spymancer: Chapter 1, Part 1 [Excerpt]

Once again, I found myself in the familiar position of being at least a kilometer underground This time, however, I was the buyer and not the product being sold inside this angel-controlled outpost of maximum security and imprisonment of my fellow mages. The spell that I had cast on myself was working so far. I had come in disguised as a well-dressed businessman. A respectable incubus looking to buy one of the several half-demon bred magi girls whose sole purpose or punishment was to have their essence drained. This ritual would be conducted through an act of sexual conquest that would provide a lifespan two-to-three times that compared to any normal human that fell victim to this routine act of life extension.

“Sir?”

I looked away from my corner of the elevator and towards the white-haired angel who stared back at me with unblinking, golden eyes. He had a face so pale that I almost thought he might be an underfed vampire. As an almost fitting bit of contrast to my black, three-piece suit, he wore a white blazer and tie, along with white leather shoes. In fact, it’d be easier to describe him as being white from head-to-toe, as if accentuating the purity of his supernatural lineage. He was holding a tablet in front of me with a stylus, the screen fixed on a set of digital paper work that needed to be co-signed. I smiled, hoping the horns on my head looked real enough to pass as an ancient looking demon who often made these sorts of transactions on a regular basis.

“Yes, of course,” I said, taking the stylus and signing the name of the old demon baron that I was impersonating before handing it back to him, “you didn’t expect to see me so soon, I suppose?”

“No,” said the angel, who sounded polite, but with a twinge of annoyance, “you’re back again much earlier than we had anticipated.”

I smiled apologetically and shrugged in an attempt at dispersing the cloud of suspicion that was beginning to form around me, but I could see that he was already trying to look into my mind. However, the additional spell that I had cast upon myself was just going to give him a series of memories that I had crafted based on ones I had pulled from the incubus in question. Most angels wouldn’t doubt my identity after doing this kind of cursory view of my mind, but this was no ordinary facility, and I wasn’t the first magus to try to break into such a place.

“Now the secondary audit,” droned the angel, as he glanced back at his tablet.

“Yes, let’s finish this,” I said, with perhaps too much eagerness.

“Your name?”

“Agather,”

“Your wife?”

“Genevieve”

“Your sister’s name?”

“Trick question: no siblings,”

“Private herd count and mistresses?”

“Three herd members, one mistress,”

“Their classifications?”

“Herd is human stock, the mistress is another succubus,”

“Genevieve would be a very sorry demoness if she knew your extramarital appetites,”

“False: she knows and accepts these lifestyle choices,”

“Your date of birth and place of birth?”

“Dis, 1648”

“Name three emotions from your childhood,”

“Fear, desire, and…” I paused for a moment, as did Agather from the countless video logs I managed to procure of these conversations in order to analyze his speech patterns, “…happiness.”

I waited as the angel finished whatever notes he was taking before he looking back up at me and handed the tablet back for another signature.

“Very good,” he said, “once again you passed, but then again I wouldn’t dream of some magus crazy enough at trying to disguise themselves as you anyway.”

“That would be a bit full hearty of them, wouldn’t it?” I answered back, as I concentrated on making Agather’s signature look as authentic as possible.

“What brings you back, Baron Agather?”

“Well,” I said, handing the tablet and stylus back to the angel, “a recent scare has prompted me to make another request for your services. I know this is one of the busier times of the year for people like yourself.”

“Yes,” the angel answered somberly as he looked down at the tablet, the lids of his eyes drooping a fraction, “you also requested a specific half-breed magus to source from, a Ms. Cassidy Wells?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“A little old, don’t you agree, Mr. Agather?”

“My proclivities are none of your business, angel,”

“True, but there are plenty of eighteen-year-olds you can harvest from if it’s simply life-extension you’re seeking. You do understand that there is a rate of diminishing returns as these magi get older.”

I bit my lower lip and wondered how this conversation would go if he knew who he was really talking to, or that I was packing — optically and magically camouflaged — “angel killer” equipped grenades and pistols inside my suit. I changed tactics in order the steer the conversation away from the current subject, but looking back, I realized then that this slight loose in composure would mark the beginning of a series of fatal blunders.

“My good friend Carmilla wants this one gone as quickly as possible,” I said, “this Cassidy did a lot of damage to my friend’s assets in Europe and in turn my own. I know she sold Cassidy to your organization, but this is also a personal favor from me to an old friend of mine. I get my allotment early and help tie up some loose ends.”

The additional name dropping of the infamous succubus, Camilla, added the weight I needed to expedite this process.

“Very well,” said the angel, reverting back to the dull professionalism he displayed earlier, “we’ll take you to her.”

When the elevator stopped, we were met by a small entourage of three other angels waiting to escort us down the dark, neon-blue lit cell block. One of these angels, a woman, greeted me with a slight bow.

“Mr. Agather,” she said, “so good to see you again!”

“And you as well, Abby,” I said, recalling her name and face in a dossier I looked over prior to coming here, “still purifying the wicked?”

“Only the ones that transgress the natural order,” she said with reverence.

“And what about me?” I asked, gesturing at myself with a half-cocked smile.

“Your kind were once angels too, you know,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “You exist because God allows it.”

“Hence why we’re all here today,” I mocked, as I clasped my hands and rubbed them together, “so, let’s see Ms. Wells, shall we?”

As we started our walk towards our destination, I continued to make conversation.

“I’ve noticed that the prices in magi essence and blood has spiked recently in the past month or so,” I continued, “I take it the commodities market has been favoring your recent change in live stock?”

“Oh yes,” said Abby, excited, “our investors are very happy. These magus farms of ours have seen an increase in business over the last year. Even vampires are ordering from us now.”

We rounded a corner and down another hallway.

“So I take it you get complaints from the Warlock Human Rights Organization everyday then?” I asked with a laugh.

“Those half-breed, spawns of whores at the W.H.R.O can send as many petitions as they want,” seethed Abby as we continued our stroll down the hall, “as long as they all stay in Geneva and Stockholm where they belong, it won’t hurt our bottom line.”

Our pace began to slow as we approached what I assumed to be Cassidy’s cell; a black cement rectangle of a door with no windows and a blue-neon keypad that kept it locked.

“Sometimes I wonder if a member of my herd birthed something like one of those mages, but didn’t tell me,” I mused, “it’s a scary thought.”

“Your kind still executes incubi who procreate with humans, don’t they?” asked Abby, as she started to punch in the code to unlock the cell.

“The laws are changing what with the business community lobbying to build more magus farms,” I answered, pulling the facts from reading business quarterly I remembered reading a month or so back, “but yes, that’s still a common practice.”

“That’s too bad,” said Abby somberly, as the cell doors slid open and a fog of cool mist greeted us from inside, “we’d make a killing with the profits that would bring.”

A shiver went down my spine as she said this to me and I became reacquainted with the fear I thought I’d left behind in a place like this.

Cassidy was strapped into a leather chair that protruded from the ceiling wrapped up with cords, and hooked into a virtual reality headset. The chair that Cassidy was sitting on looked like it had sprouted from the ceiling like a post-modern fungus of furniture and wires. Her clothes were basic, white inmate fatigues that had long since been yellowed and dirtied by years of neglect. Her hair was a blond mess that fell over her shoulders and chest as she remained slumped forward, tuned into whatever program the VR simulation was running. She appeared to be in a vegetative state as she drooled all over herself, lost in her world of forced media coma. I felt myself clearing my throat, trying to stifle the urge end this quickly and risk getting sloppy for just a few moments longer.

“Tell me something,” I asked the four angels in the room with me, “how long has she been in this state?”

The angels looked at each other confused.

“How is this relevant to…” one of them started to say, but I interrupted them.

“Indulge me,” I insisted, holding up a hand to counter their protests.

“Almost a year,” one of them finally answered, “we feed them well, of course, and keep them on a steady media diet so that they remain docile.”

“What kind of media diet are we talking about?” I asked. I could feel my jaw tightening as I struggled to maintain composure.

“Nothing that would violate any current treaties, I assure you,” answered Abby, her sales pitch straddling the border between offering a clean conscience and client happiness, “we can pull images from their mind. Previous lovers or crushes can be used to implant fantasies into them while they sleep. On the rare occasion that they are woken up, they often choose to go back into VR, but the fantasies themselves use digital actors. Approximations of their ideal man or woman that are tailored to their preferences.”

As she stated this, Abby got a better look at my face and paused mid lecture.

“I have to say, you of look like one of the men Cassidy fantasies about the most,” she said.

While Abby’s comment proved that my face and memory enchantment had worked further in disguising myself from her, I still felt the unconscious need to glance up at Cassidy in an attempt to avoid eye contact.

“And you’ll collect her soul…after I’m done with her?”

“After it’s husked, yes,” answered Abby, “tainted or not, it’s still a useful byproduct and can be refined later for us to use in our ongoing quest for eternal life.”

All this so a few can live forever, I thought.

    I could feel myself starting to sweat despite the chill within the dark chamber while the other angels watched me. My heart was pounding as the pressure began to mount. I remembered how this other mover sight proved to be another fatal error, but at the time I was too nervous knowing that my window of opportunity was starting to close.

“Do I hear….” it was the first male angel that I had met in the elevator, “your heart beating?”

I turned to him and smiled. The bastard had asked this knowing that Cassidy’s should be the only beating heart human in the room right now.

“Perhaps its my aura giving off palpitations of excitement?” I said hopefully.

“No, an incubus does not have a beating heart,” said the angel, his voice becoming more threatening.

I turned away from the angels and looked up a Cassidy. Worse case scenario I can at least say I made it this far. I took a breath and allowed myself to succumb to the anger festering within me.

“I know,” I responded softly, “but it’s not for lack of trying.”

Silence filled the room before the first one responded.

“Shit…”

As soon as the first angel swore, I was already crouching towards the floor to avoid the longinus shrapnel grenade that I had activated. The grenade’s cylindrical chassis popped up from the floor and fired a series of demonic-tipped knives that fired an even circle towards all targets. When I activated the grenade I made sure that I was low enough and Cassidy was high enough to avoid the blast arc as each pincer found their mark and turned the angels into combustible, blue embers of ash.

I snapped my fingers, which deactivated all of my enchantments that maintained my incubus disguise, and scrambled up the platform that Cassidy was hanging from. From here on out, I knew I was going to need every ounce of my energy if I was going to use magic to get her and myself out of here alive. I removed the wires wrapped around Cassidy and pulled the VR headset off of her. The pupils of her eyes looked like square, white cataracts of digital haze from hours of media bombardment as she slumped into my arms. I patted her cheek softly, trying to break her from her trance. I could already hear the alarm going off.

“Hey,” I whispered, “hey, hey! It’s James. Remember? I promised you. I’m getting you out.”

Cassidy’s eyes fluttered as she looked at me. “I don’t,” she moaned, “I can’t feel my legs.”

“I’ll help you, but we have to leave now.”

[Novel] Matriarch [Excerpt]

gregorio_lazzarini_-_orpheus_and_the_bacchantes_-_wga12527

It had been awhile since a male had made it outside of one of the reservations, they said. The news was frightening, but not uncommon. It had happened before. Reports had been coming in all morning in the form of retinal uploads onto several gestalts being run by those living near the “old world territory.”

Windell passively let the thoughts of excitement, fear, and curiosity among her friends and followers pass over her like the rise and receding tide of water over a shoreline. The thoughts would come to her in snippets before moving on to the next one.

Is he still alive?

Does he have a beard?

No, he’s clean shaven. Trying to pass as something non-binary.

Has a surveillance drone spotted him yet?

Windell, with a single thought, disconnected, and her implant chirped internally with efficient obedience. She moved on to another one of her default gestalts. More images started to flow in; some in the form of videos. The second batch seemed to be uploaded by those who were brave enough to get a closer look. No longer the one-hundred yard photo uploads from street corners or high-rise balconies. This man was not very smart.

Does he have a gun?

Are there still guns on the reservations?

No way. They’d exterminate the whole territory if they found any.

Has Civil Protection gotten to him yet?

No, but I want to see the cishet try to run.

I got a drone tailing him now if anyone wants to see him. I’m letting the feed go public access through my personal gate.

Windell disconnected again. This was boring to her. Civil Protection will have this supposedly “cis-male” by lunch time. Although, maybe not. A lot of these men were moved to the reservations prior to collective implantation. There was no way to track them in any meaningful way. Civil Protection was down to near-stone age tactics now in order to find him, which meant eye-witness accounts mostly. Same deal as before.

Reflexively, she opened her channels again to see if any new conversations had started.

I remember when I had to cross the street at night to avoid men like him.

He might be rapist of some kind. Do you remember that one victim that was living outside the Eastern Europe reservation?

If private gun ownership were still legal, I’d shoot him before he goes any farther.

Oh, please! You’d lock your door like everyone else.

Disconnect.

Were they seriously still talking about this guy?

Windell had forgotten how much older her friends were compared to her. They were around her age when binaries and non-binaries were still still living together. Before the catastrophe. She was so lucky they told her.

They shared their memories with her. Cities and cultures obliterated in the blink of an eye. The burning of their lungs as they trudged through the ruins of post-nuclear fire. The shaking and fear as strangers looked across the horizon at the kill zones waiting for them. The hunger, the disease, the rapes, the drugs, the helplessness, the numbness, the anger, the rage. All these feelings until there was a collective cry of enough. It was a torrent of atrocity and experiences that left Windell gasping for air after her screams of agony. It took months of psycho-surgery to minimize the world that she saw until it could become just another person’s memories in her head.

It was a Matriarch’s duty to share these horrors, so that the world knew what they had suffered. War, Patriarchy, and Toxic Masculinity had brought the world to the brink of annihilation. It was a more humane, much saner place now.

The world was better, no doubt; but Windell was tired of the past. All of these events had come and gone. Women could walk the streets at night alone. Women did not have to worry about a man abusing her, belittling her, making her inferior to him. Why dwell on what the world was? The Patriarchy was over.

Windell disconnected from the whole collective to be alone as she finished her coffee at the cafe. Full autistic mode. The stream of thoughts that were pouring into her head had stopped abruptly like water being cut off from a spigot. She was alone with her own thoughts, so others couldn’t hear.

There are other gestalts worth following, she thought. Time for newer, younger friends.

Maybe she’d start searching the collective this afternoon or tomorrow. There was nothing wrong with her current friends, but the past was just so depressing. Let them follow that living, breathing artifact. Let them follow him with that drone and watch Civil Protection catch, process, and release him. There were bigger problems, and bigger issues that the world was dealing with now.

The now is what’s important, she thought. Now and the future.

 

Austin By Night – Cassandra [Layer 12]

austin-at-night

Author’s Note: you can catch up on the rest of the series here.

It’s midnight and the water is pitch black, even with the infrared goggles on. I can hear my breathing in the scuba suit as I swim under the waters of Lake Austin towards the yacht floating in the middle of the river. A heavy bass, some kind of techno music is vibrating from the boat hit my body. I take more slow deliberate breathes.

As I surface I try not breathe out give away my position, but the music is so loud that it might not be an issue. As I peek over the side of the boat, I fire my first bullet at a man wearing sunglasses who spots me coming over the side. The gun recoils for a moment as the whisper quiet of the silencer makes my gun sound like muffled whap and his death a soft thud.

I catch the spare shell in my left palm and pocket it. The sky is dark, no lights, no sounds except the bass coming from the main cabin. I kill another man. Whap, thud, catch, pocket.

I see the white container on the bow of the yacht and I open it. Towels, these are what I’ll need. I open my hit kit and I see the lighter fluid. This will do just fine.

“Hey, Tom is that-“

Whap, thud, catch, pocket. I breathe deeply. I allow the let the medication take control. It’s better now. The voices inside me are no longer distracting me, but I still have nightmares. I wonder if there’s a pill that can keep me from dreaming.

I open the cabin. The heavy bass that I have been hearing is getting louder. A woman who I’ve seen before is surprised to find me here. She is the target and she knows it. Her eyes widen. Whap, thud…pocket. She tumbles down the stairs after the bullet exits her. The recoil is easier now. My body is not shaking anymore. More deep breathes.

It’s so bright inside the cabin that I have to remove my goggles. I hear a man screaming as the woman’s body rolls down the stairs and onto the floor. I sleuth down the railing of the narrow, white stair case and land in the cabin. I see a man digging into a drawer for something. His movements are slow and awkward. His face as he looks up at me seems to confirm something for him that I can’t understand. I fire at his chest twice and he falls to the ground.

I look in the drawer and see that he was going to grab a pistol. It looks bored sitting there. I look at the body in front of me as it flops around. I’m getting bored with this. I can’t feel anything anymore.

I watch him struggle. He rolls over and continues to bleed as he takes out his phone, but he drops it twice. He can’t even dial for help. A part of knows I should end him now, but I can’t help but be entranced by him and his struggle. His eyes are green. He has large green eyes. I can’t tell if it’s me or the medication that’s doing this to me. After about a minute of this, he movements start to get slower and slower until he finally stops. I then remember what I have to do. I soak the towel in lighter fluid and I light it on fire using the man’s zippo. I toss the flaming towel on his face and walk up the stairs.

It’s still pitch black outside. The lake is dark, the sky is dark, the coast and trees are dark. The white yacht rocks back and forth as I wait for the fire to spread to other parts of the boat. The light is all there is to see. I can’t help but find it fascinating: the fire growing larger and larger. I then get a phone call from my employer.

“Hello?” I answer.

“I saw your progress, tonight,” she tell me, “very impressive.”

“How were you watching me?” I ask, suddenly paranoid.

“Surveillance drone,” she answers, “the pharmaceutical branch within my company is liking the test data. They can use it to argue the medication’s military applications.”

“But, you wanted me to wipe out the competition here in Austin, right?” I ask her.

“Yes, that too,” she confirms, “as soon as you’re done, meet me back at the Austonian. We have other matters we need to discuss.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I tell her, “is it another competitor?”

“No, a possible employee,” she says, “have you heard of a man by the name of Logan Webb.”

“I’ve heard of him,” the name vaguely registers.

“We’ll need to do a background check on him,”

“Will do,” I answer back, “see you soon.”

I hang up the phone and continue to watch the fire engulf the yacht. I watch it until it sinks into the lake.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

[Short Story] Catherine and the Wasteland [Excerpt]

vampire8

It started with the sound of thunder, followed by an earthquake accompanied by what felt like a roaring explosion of deafening magnitude. The earth shook and the sounds of crashing steel and brick filled the small, underground room. It was these noises that woke up Catherine inside her small, stone encased, box of a bed that protected her. Inside her space, shrouded in pitch, black darkness she waited patiently for the noises and shaking to stop. She tried to count the time, but it was useless to measure anything beyond just mere minutes in her current state. Maybe hours passed. Perhaps days. Finally, things quieted down, but Catherine was unable to go back to sleep. She allowed herself to remain laying down until the slow creep of hunger began to over take her and force her out of her deep sleep.

When she emerged, Catherine was surprised to find so many people hiding in the labyrinth with her. Usually, no one was foolish enough to make their way this far down here, and that was the point. Still, she was awake, hungry and there these people were. Fresh blood for a fresh start. Most of the dozen or so people were shocked into hushed silence when she emerged from her place of rest; her bed was well disguised and hidden within a stone platform that doubled as an alter. However, as most of these situations tended to play out, this sense of awe did not last long as the people began to scream, cry, and pray as soon as she grabbed the first victim that was within arms reach and started draining them of their blood. After finishing him, Catherine lifted the dead body of the haggard man she had just bitten into and tossed him to the other end of the room. Despite her petite body, Catherine was pleased to find that her superhuman strength hadn’t left her while she slumbered. She looked down at the red and white sun dress she was wearing and remembered the hat that went with it. She turned back and rummaged around in her coffin and found the matching hat: it’s large rimmed frame and deep red color illuminated with the rest of her inside the darkness of the small, stone basement. Delicately, she placed it on her head, ignoring the soft, scared, whimpering noises of these new guests of hers. Finally, after adjusting her hat to a perfect tilt, Catherine looked at them a spoke:

“I need a mirror,”

A woman, who was wearing a black business suit that reminded Catherine of her late father spoke up. This woman looked liked she hadn’t bathed in awhile and her clothes looked slightly torn and dirt stained like the rest of the crowd.

“A mirror?” the woman stuttered, her voice trembling like the rest of her body: shaking like a wilted leaf.

“Yes,” said Catherine, “I need to see if my dress is stained. It was given to me by a well respected duke in his day, you know.”

The huddled crowd looked at each other, confused by what they had just heard.

“I don’t think anyone has a mirror here,” the woman answered back.

Catherine sighed and walked over to this woman and bent down to meet her at eye level. She squinted at her, getting a whiff of this woman’s odor and grimaced.

“I should have known,” Catherine groaned, her condescension becoming almost as palpable as the smells in the room, “you people look absolutely filthy. Does no one not take pride in their appearance anymore?”

Catherine rose up slightly to get a closer look at this woman, but the woman’s eyes widened in fear and she held up her hand to stop her.

“Wait!” the woman yelped, “wait! I have something, a phone.”

Catherine rolled her eyes.

“You have a phone that turns into a mirror?” Catherine asked, unconvinced.

The woman pulled out a white rectangular object from her pocket with a small glass eye and held it in front of her face with both hands. There was the sound of a snap, which caused Catherine to raise her eyebrows at this contraption, curious as to what the woman had done. The woman shakily turned the rectangle around and showed her.

“Here!” she held it up to Catherine, nearly dropping the object, “this is you!”

Catherine held the thing in her palms and looked at it. It took her a few moments to realize that this was a photo of her, probably the highest quality photo she had ever seen of herself. It was like looking at a living painting, she thought. It showed her in the sundress, along with her hat, her pale skin, blonde hair, and green eyes all in color. Never before had she seen herself like this and Catherine couldn’t help but feel moved by it.

“How lovely,” Catherine whispered, marveling at the device.

[Short Story] Our Vampire, Lenny [Excerpt]

vampire8

When Lenny the vampire heard the rumor about the incubus and succubus couple who had fallen on hard times, he made a point to be at the nightclub Radion so that he could bump into them. The transients from hell, and those who served it, whether they be vampire or demon, alike, was a small enough world once you narrowed it down to a single city. On this piece of sprawled urbanization, there were maybe less than a hundred vampires and demons living among the whole two million of human population. Lenny knew a younger succubus who was an acquaintance to the other. This mutuality assured camaraderie would be Lenny’s in. These new friendships between immortals was how it always started: acquaintances and introductions.

Lenny sat at the edge of the bar and looked on past the crowded dance floor as the loud synthwave beats blasted inside the warm, dark ambiance among an array or lasers and black light. He craned his neck above the other strangers – what his kind mockingly called prey – and watched as his young, she-demon, friend talked to the couple. All three demons were in human form; no horns or wings to see, unlike Lenny who simply had to look less pale than usual. He carefully observed the cordial mood between the three of them and the eventual turning to his general direction when Lenny’s succubus intermediary pointed the couple towards him. Lenny simply smiled and raised his drink. The incubus and succubus couple smiled back. The wheels were now turning.

The couple moved slowly but purposefully together, arm-and-arm around each others waist like two individual organisms who had just evolved into something symbiotic. Lenny watched their walk as they skirted just at the edge of the crowd and made their casual approach towards him. Lenny could see what they were doing. It was something that could barely be picked up by the human eye, but obvious for any preternatural or supernatural in the room. The pheromones that the two demons were emitting were like a hazy miasma that was spreading over the crowd. The humans with the weakest of constitutions got hit by it first and couldn’t help but turn and look at these two objects of human beauty that passed by them. Lenny saw what was in the eyes of the humans too overcomed by it to not stop and gaze at this man and woman. They were the kinds of looks that were all too familiar to Lenny: worship, awe, intrigue, and lust; emotions that would all eventually lead to obsession. Lenny could only sit and feel thankful that he was immune to the kinds of chemical controls used in the wheel-house of demonic persuasion.

The couple walked by Lenny, very nearly passing him at the bar before stopping and turning their heads to look at him.

“Can we get some privacy somewhere?” the incubus asked Lenny, his voice a sleepy, but honey-laced purr of an accent that carried itself gracefully over the noise of the club.

“Follow me,” said Lenny, smiling, as he got up from his seat, “allow me to introduce myself, I’m Lenard, my friends call me Lenny. I’m a friend of Kimberly’s.”

The succubus extended her arm and gently shook Lenny’s hand.

“Yes, she just told us about you earlier,” said the demoness, giving off a polite, erudite, tone that similarly commanded formidable volume over the loud sounds of the club, “My name is Lindsay and this is my partner Derreck.”

“Nice to meet both of you,” said Lenny, matching both of them among the crowd, “let’s step into my office shall we?”

Inside the quiet and red plush furniture of the privacy booth, all three were able to get a better look at each other. Lenny could see the model good looks of both of the demons sitting across from him. The woman was a thin and tanned redhead with freckles and a small diamond stud sticking out of her nose. She had high cheek bones and large green eyes that contained a twinkle that danced if you stared into them long enough. The man was of similar skin tone and hair, but with a well trimmed beard and a muscular, well cut body hiding under his T-shirt and vest. His eyes were a deep shade of blue that seemed to take in the world with a tired, but quietly non-judgmental sense of contentment. His smile was small, closed, and serene like a monk who just experienced transcendence. The woman’s smile was playfully haughty with an undertone of slyness that begged to be pushed through to find the mystery that was hidden beneath.

For some reason, the couple saw fit to dress like groupie hipsters in a matching red leather and gray cotton fabric color scheme that came off surprisingly fashionable.

“You two must get mistaken for models quite often,” said Lenny, breaking the ice.

The two smiled at each other and looked back at him.

“We did a few photo shoot tours in England and Italy for a few years off and on,” said the succubus with a shrug, her voice, in the quiet of the booth, was now slow, soft, and peppy in tone; but in the process of smoothly transitioning into something mature if not sensually husky “that is until both of their economies collapsed and we had to move here.”

“Well, the free city-states in this part of the world are much more stable,” assured Lenny, “I was around when this one successfully seceded from their homeland and it has been worth the effort so far. No bloodshed, total independence, and plenty of money flowing in and out.”

“Because you vampires control the banks supporting these enclaves, right?” asked the incubus.

Lenny grinned at the question.

“Well, not exactly,” said Lenny, “but my kind — through several intermediaries — handle the finances that maintain the economy here.”

“Kimberly told us you can help us with that,” said Lindsay, her tone was still polite, but had a sense of urgency that Lenny picked up on.

It was the kind of urgency that Lenny liked, and needed, in order for this to work.

“She said you work with moving money around,” continued Lindsay, “and you’ve help plenty of people, humans included, with jobs like that.”

“Well,” said Derreck raising his arm, “we had a go at attempting some investing, but it didn’t work out.”

“Oh no, what happened?” asked Lenny.

“We trusted the wrong person, unfortunately,” said Lindsay solemnly.

“Who did you trust?” asked Lenny.

“A freelance, financier, a warlock operating in Paris,” said Derreck shaking his head in anger, “defrauded us out of everything we had and then some.”

“Last we heard, he fled to Hong Kong, hiding behind the services of some vampire lawyer he hired,” cried Lindsay, “and he was a half-breed, too, can you believe that?”

“Appalling,” said Lenny, shaking his head, “Warlocks and sorceresses are a tricky, terrible group of people when not raised by fellow Kindred or Lilim, like ourselves.”

“I’d have his lifespan for dinner, if I knew he wouldn’t enjoy ever last second of it,” Lindsay said coldly.

“We could really use some help in the meantime,” said Derreck.

“Yes, I heard both of you were looking for some assistance,” said Lenny, “I’m sorry to not beat around the bush, but tell me, how much help were you two looking to get?”

“We’re…,” Lindsay’s voice trailed off.

There was a short silence.

“Over one-hundred-thousand in the hole,” said Derreck with a sigh.

“My Lilith…” said Lenny, for the first time, actually genuinely surprised by the debt, “that much?”

“It’s extremely embarrassing, I know,” said Lindsay, “we’ve been hiding it for months now.”

“So, what can you do for us?” asked Derreck.

“Well, here’s the thing: I actually wanted to come to you two with a business proposition,” said Lenny, choosing his words very carefully, “it’s not another loan or some kind of debt consolidation, it’s a job.”

“What kind of job?” asked Derreck.

“I’m a salesmen,” said Lenny, “I deal in all kinds of product and I could use two people such as yourselves to help me with my business.”

“What kind if business is that?” asked Lindsay.

Lenny looked down and smiled. It was one of his only tells that revealed any kind of reluctance on his part.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

Austin By Night – Art [Layer 6]

VvaUp0a

“I have to make a phone call,” says Molly, her voice in a panic as she continues to look at my screen and dial her phone. Her contact had disappeared off the grid right before our eyes and the chances that he might have been black bagged have become pretty real to us. Molly starts to pace in front of me in the parking lot, while I sit here with my laptop. We continue ignoring the cops that are nearly fifty yards away and she’s biting her nails.

“Ohhhh fuck…” she looks down at her phone, now thoroughly pissed off.

“What happened?” I ask.

“I can’t get to my other contact,” she yells at me, “he might be walking into a trap!”

“Where is he? I can pull him up using the IR system,”

“The Austonian,” she tells me.

I look up at the tall, blue and white lit, skyscraper that lords over the rest of the night skyline in its cylindrical brilliance. For a moment I start to wonder just how many more guys she has on call to do these kinds of jobs.

“Give me a sec’,” I tell her, and I make a few quick keystrokes to pull up the IR and CCTV cams within the building.

My laptop freezes for a moment as it processes the command (and reminds me to upgrade the processor) and I’m flooded by nearly a hundred digital windows full of live feeds that are monitoring the Austonian inside and out. The two-month-old backdoor that I had installed within the serves of the private security firm Grande International was starting to pay its dividends.

“Where is he?” I ask Molly.

“He’s inside one of the condos,” says Molly, “He’s trying to pull something from a PC.”

I type another set of keystrokes that organizes the feeds in a horizontal order and start rapidly swiping with my finger. I feels as if I’m flipping through physical files, one folder after another as each feed appears for a moment before folding itself back into the digital pile and moves to the left of the screen as I replace it with another swipe in my search for Molly’s second man.

“Stop!” she shouts.

We end up looking at a feed shoot from a surveillance camera perched on a high corner of a guy in a white and chrome furnished pent house condo with the lights off. He’s wearing all black and a ski mask as he types away trying to break a password on a desktop PC, via some laptop intrusion deck that he has hooked into the desktops tower.

“Holy shit,” Molly breathes out, “We need to get him out of there.”

“The phones not working?” I ask

“No, someone is blocking the signal,” she says, panicking again, “can we get sound on these things?”

“No, the feeds aren’t equipped with microphones,” I tell her, my pulse starting to race. I know that something bad is about to happen.

The man in the ski mask stops typing and looks up from his deck. He takes his hands off the keyboards, raises his hands and turns around. He then jerks back and falls over against the table, red mist exploding and staining the computers with his blood behind him. He gets shot once again, doubles over, and falls on the ground.

“Molly,” I ask, my voice trembling, “what the hell have you gotten us into?”

We watch the screen, stunned into silence as we see a woman walk into view of the camera. She’s a brunette and is wearing business clothes, black leather gloves and is carrying a silenced pistol. She fires one last shot at the guys head and looks at the body for a moment before bending down and looking through his pockets. We see her take out his phone and flip it open as she takes out a cord from her belt and plugs it into the phone: a tracer. We watch her dial a number using the man’s cell and my heart stops.

I look at the phone in Molly’s hand and we both freeze as it starts to ring. Phone number: unknown.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser