The Next Big Thing!

Today I am taking part in the networked blog interview, The Next Big Thing. I was nominated last week by Joe Mynhardt, a gifted editor at Crystal Lake Publishing. A preview of the novel that my agent (Paula Munier at Talcott Notch Literary Agency) and I are shopping, Disintegration, can be read below:

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Disintegration

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

After writing my first book, Transubstantiate, I wanted to write something that was not nearly as complicated. So a first-person, linear story was what I wanted to do. I knew that I wanted to tap into some of my personal fears and the worst possible situation that I could imagine was losing my family, seeing them die in front of me. That was the inception for this story. It’s basically Dexter meets Falling Down.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

I call it a neo-noir, transgressive thriller.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’ve always been drawn to Viggo Mortenson as an actor, he’s intense. I’m also a big fan of Christian Bale, he’d be perfect, I think. This is for the unnamed protagonist, the man who falls apart.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When a man sees his family die in a horrible car accident he quickly falls apart, disintegrates, into a life of vengeful crime and dark deeds.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My agent is shopping it now. I think it’s only a matter of time.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I wrote the first half over six months in my first semester at Murray State University, under Lynn Pruett, as part of my MFA. I later wrote the second half in one week on a massive purge between freelance art direction gigs the following year.

8)8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Well, obviously the Darkly Dreaming Dexter series, as well as work by Dennis Lehane, Will Christopher Baer, Craig Clevenger, Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Tremblay. Maybe American Psycho.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The original push came from Christopher Dwyer, who wanted to see something neo-noir but simplified. And I wanted to honor my family, if that’s possible, by “killing them off” in this book.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s a tragedy, for sure. There is a lot of misery in this book, but there’s also love, hope, sex, drugs, violence, redemption, and vengeance. I think it works on several levels—as a fun, fast read, as a layered, dense, immersive cautionary tale, and also as a literary work filled with metaphor and imagery. Hopefully you won’t see the ending coming. I didn’t.

FOR A ROUGH DRAFT OF THE FIRST CHAPTER GO HERE!

Up NOW, December 5th, is Nik Korpon, Caleb J. Ross, Simon West-Bulford, David James Keaton, and Monica Drake.

I’ve finally landed a literary agent! Paula Munier at Talcott Notch.

I’m thrilled to announce that I have finally secured a literary agent—Paula Munier at Talcott Notch Literary Agency. Paula has over twenty years of experience in the business and has been a real pleasure to talk to as we discussed my second novel, the neo-noir, transgressive thriller Disintegration.

I can’t explain how exciting it is to talk to an agent who understands my  work—my voice, the settings, the plot—and can see a place for this novel (and other projects down the road) at major publishing houses. So not only do we want to land a big press, but we have also been talking about film rights and foreign book sales as well.

Keep your eyes and ears open, and I hope to have more great news for you all real soon. Thank you all for your support, everyone who has read and critiqued and supported this book, Disintegration, as well as all of my writer friends who have been so instrumental in helping me to get my work published. My success is contingent of a tight-knit community of writers, friends and family, and I’m happy to welcome Paula into my  literary family.

My interview is up at The Cult

Inspired me with Fight Club

My in depth interview about Transubstantiate, my work, and life as a struggling author (by talented writer Brandon Tietz) is now live at The Cult

So many people at The Cult have been supportive of my work – from the intensives with Craig Clevenger, Monica Drake and Max Barry to the people that run the show (Mirka, Mark, Dennis and Kirk) to the entire workshop and all of the people that make me laugh and distract me with pictures, videos, books and randomness.

Thanks Cult. And thanks Chuck Palahniuk for inspiring me back when Fight Club came out.

Peace,
Richard

Cover art for Transubstantiate

Pre-order 4.1.10 - Release 6.18.10

Pre-order 4.1.10 - Release 6.18.10

Well, I’m finally able to post up the artwork for the covers of Transubstantiate. Thanks Jamie for the great work, and everyone at OWP for letting me be a part of this process.

Pre-orders start on 4.1.10 for the signed, limited of 100 hardcovers with extras like a bonus chapter, extended interview and audio cd with several short stories, as well as the paperback. Release date is 6.18.10. You can also come join the Facebook Group to stay in the loop. 700 members and growing.

“Released” is now live at Outsider Writers Collective

Released

My troublesome child “Released” is now live at Outsider Writers Collective.

“Released”

FROM THE EDITOR:
“Released” by Richard Thomas
by Pela Via

“I lie on the soft floor, arms numb, darkness wrapping around me like a tight jacket.”

This story gives a good taste of Richard’s longer work—it’s concentrated, dense and visual, and it’s eerily smart. There are layers to his stories, something to gratify and disturb every part of one’s brain. Masterful insanity in prose that charms, I’d fear him if he wasn’t so goddamn likable.

Transubstantiate, the debut novel by Richard Thomas – 06-18-2010

RICHARD THOMAS SIGNS WITH OTHERWORLD PUBLICATIONS

IT’S OFFICIAL
My debut novel, a neo-noir thriller called Transubstantiate, will be out in June of this year. I’m really excited that OWP wanted to launch their company on the back of my book. They are a husband and wife team, very smart, connected, and energetic. They love my book and are behind it 100%. It’s a risk I know, new small press, but I’m optimistic and pumped up.

There will be 100 signed/limited hardcovers, as well as a much larger print run of paperbacks. I’ll be talking about this everywhere, so I apologize in advance for the constant whoring of myself and this book all over the internet.

What can you do for me? If you’re here, it means you’ve read my work, most likely, or are here to do that very thing. If you like what I’m doing, do whatever you can – buy a copy, promote it on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, book clubs, other forums – whatever you’ve got.

I think this is a really great book. It won’t change the world or cure cancer, but I think it’s a fun book, wild and sexy, fast paced and interesting. You’ll get action, violence, sex, a bit of the surreal, the horrific, the fantastic, and the gritty noir that I’ve loved reading from the trio here.

There is a synopsis and the first chapter over there ——————————–>
under novel excerpts.

Thanks again, and wish me luck.

Peace,
Richard

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT: http://www.otherworldpublications

Complete List of Online Stories

This is a Table of Contents for all of my current, LIVE fiction that is available online for FREE. Below are each of the stories, a brief synopsis, and a link to the site that hosts them. They are in reverse chronological order.

What do all of these stories have in common? I tend to write about the darker aspects of life, and am fascinated by what happens when things fall apart, how we handle life when it throws us a curve ball, the dysfunction in everyday life, how we rebel against the rules of society, and what goes on in the middle of the night.

Last Updated: April 2, 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

“Tinkering With the Moon”
GOREYESQUE
SYNOPSIS: When a little boy misses his father, he’d do anything to reunite with him.
TINKERING WITH THE MOON

“Bury Me Deep”
THE BIG ADIOS
SYNOPSIS: Out in the wild west, there lurk shadows and dark deeds, all done under the blazing sun for God and all to witness.
BURY ME DEEP

“Love Letters”
CEASE, COWS
SYNOPSIS: The things we do for love are often very destructive.
LOVE LETTERS

“Wicker Park Pause
REVOLT DAILY
SYNOPSIS: What exactly is her mother doing at night, the scratch marks at the back door provide a clue.
WICKER PARK PAUSE

“Flowers for Jessica”
MAYDAY MAGAZINE
SYNOPSIS: How far would you go to bring your loved one back from the dead?
FLOWERS FOR JESSICA

“Vision Quest”
PARABLE PRESS
SYNOPSIS: When a violent car accident takes his family, one man starts having visions.
VISION QUEST

“Divining”
REVOLT DAILY
SYNOPSIS: Sometimes, no matter how much our alarm bells go off, we still pursue somebody that we know is bad for us.
DIVINING

“Fix-It Man”
BLACK HEART MAGAZINE
SYNOPSIS: When a man falls apart, disconnects from his wife and son, what gesture can he make as he disintegrates?
FIX-IT MAN

“Kiss Off”
PARABLE PRESS
SYNOPSIS: Based on a Violent Femmes song of the same name, a man falls apart in ten fractured moments.
KISS OFF

“Ten Steps”
THE DYING GOOSE
SYNOPSIS: How many steps does it take to turn an innocent soul into a serial killer? For some, it takes ten steps.
TEN STEPS

“Something’s Broken”
FLYWHEEL MAGAZINE
SYNOPSIS: You fix it if you can, whatever’s broken. Because once somebody else picks the pieces up, once somebody else fixes it—it’s no longer yours.
SOMETHING’S BROKEN

“On a Bent Nail Head”
NOVA PARADE (anthology from Solarcide)
SYNOPSIS: A husband and wife trying to have a baby make a deal—no matter what happens when they die, they will stay together.
ON A BENT NAIL HEAD

“Bringing In the Sheaves”
BEAT THE DUST
SYNOPSIS: Are we born flawed, sinners in our hearts, or does the world just beat us into submission?
BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES 

“Vision Quest”
SURREAL GROTESQUE
SYNOPSIS: When a violent car accident takes his family, one man starts having visions.
VISION QUEST (ISSUU direct)

“Charlotte Sometimes”
ZOUCH
SYNOPSIS: Charlotte needs to escape sometimes.
CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES
[Sixth place winner of the Zouch Lit Bits Fiction contest]

“Dyer”
BEAT TO A PULP
SYNOPSIS: Four perspectives on the same evening, truth and lies mingling in the shadows.
DYER

“Jimmy Five Ways”
PUNCHNEL’S
SYNOPSIS: A wife, a son, a mistress, a partner and a man named Jimmy—five ways.
JIMMY FIVE WAYS
[One of the five winners of the Punchnel's Hard-Boiled Down Noir Fiction contest]

“The Handyman”
CONJECTURAL FIGMENTS
SYNOPSIS: What makes us human and what makes us inhuman?
THE HANDYMAN

“Misty”
MANARCHY
SYNOPSIS: The woman that shows up at my apartment door is not everything that she seems. She is less, and more.
MISTY

“Death Knell”
THUNDERDOME
SYNOPSIS: A companion piece to “Say Yes to Pleasure” which was in the Warmed and Bound anthology, this story shows the opposite side of the coin, the POV of the victim, and how she dealt with the tragedy that descended upon her.
DEATH KNELL

“Twenty Reasons to Stay and One to Leave”
METAZEN
SYNOPSIS: When something tragic happens, do you stay or do you leave? Sometimes you stay for a long time, only to realize that leaving would be less cruel.
TWENTY REASONS TO LEAVE AND ONE TO STAY
[Nominated for a Pushcart Prize.]

“Love Letters”
CANNOLI PIE
EXCERPT: “It started with the paper, tearing it apart into little pieces, pressing it into tiny balls and popping the crumpled words into her mouth.”
LOVE LETTERS

“Seeing Red”
CRIME FACTORY
SYNOPSIS: When you drive around town like the world owes you, sometimes that payment comes home to rest. When you see red, that’s blood my friend.
SEEING RED

“Daybreak”
STEPAWAY MAGAZINE
SYNOPSIS: Sometimes you walk away from it all. Or maybe you’re walking towards something. Either way, be complete in your transformation.
DAYBREAK

“After She Has Gone”
SHOTGUN HONEY
SYNOPSIS: When she takes it all, and you’re left with nothing but despair, what do you do? Suicide is an option—and as you wander the woods in search of a tomb, the darkness speaks to you the truth.
AFTER SHE HAS GONE

“Ten Steps”
CHIZINE (THE CHIAROSCURO)
SYNOPSIS: How many steps does it take to turn an innocent soul into a serial killer? For some, it takes ten steps.
[TEMPORARY/GONE]

“Victimized”
Amazon and Smashwords (.99 cents)
SYNOPSIS: IIn the near future, Annabelle lives a fractured life, haunted by the shadows of her past, dark moments of abuse and freedom at the hands of her own kin. She has the opportunity to get into a boxing ring and fight her oppressor, to face the man that altered her, to beat him down with all of her rage. This is the way things are now, society given the chance to take on the murderers, the rapists, those that have tainted their lives, hurt their family, destroyed what was innocent and pure. Preparing to go to battle, Belle taps into her true identity, and changes, a warrior entering battle, unwilling to hesitate, ready to kill.
To buy at the Amazon Kindle Store, click here.
To buy at Smashwords, click here (Nook and all other formats).

“Splintered”
PANK
SYNOPSIS: In real life, there are paths to take, sometimes you have a choice, some times you do not. In this adult “choose-your-own” ending adventure it’s up to you whether or not to be parnoid or to trust, to be innocent, or just a fool.
SPLINTERED

“Released”
OUTSIDER WRITERS COLLECTIVE
SYNOPSIS: We often question who we are, and in our minds, we are many people. We are fathers, sons, and brothers, we are friends, lovers and enemies, we are farmers, pastors, and teachers. Sometimes it gets a bit crowded in there.
RELEASED

“Stephen King Ate My Brain”
NEFARIOUS MUSE
SYNOPSIS: I was out east in Bangor, Maine when I ran into the King. No, not Elvis, Stephen King. He offered me a deal, a once in a lifetime deal. So I took it.
STEPHEN KING ATE MY BRAIN

“Everything is Beautiful” – Part Two
TROUBADOUR 21
SYNOPSIS: We continue, stepping off the bus at a small house. Everything is beautiful, normal, except for the dome. People are beaming across the universe, and they don’t always get there.
EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL – Part Two

“Condemned”
CHERRY BLEEDS – JAN/FEB 2010
SYNOPSIS: Two souls continue to seek each other out over time regardless of the tragic outcome of each encounter.
CONDEMNED

“Honor”
COLORED CHALK #10 – Ten Commandments
SYNOPSIS: When you think of honoring thy mother and father I’m sure this isn’t what comes to mind.
HONOR

“Everything is Beautiful” – Part One
TROUBADOUR 21
SYNOPSIS: Revenge is a dish best served cold. At the end of the universe some strange things are happening. In the shadow of a mysterious tower John Harrison tries to figure out a riddle, but he has help.
EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL – Part One

“Interview”
TROUBADOUR 21
SYNOPSIS: Sometimes living in the suburbs you find yourself neglected, bored and in search of a new hobby. When one man discovers that his wife is no longer interested in him, he turns his eye towards the nearby high school. Is he just gardening or is something more sinister happening to the babysitters?
INTERVIEW

“Your Enemies Will Devour You”
THE ODDVILLE PRESS
SYNOPSIS: Based on the seven deadly sins, and more specifically the sins of the father, we see how one man deals with a variety of challenges.
YOUR ENEMIES WILL DEVOUR YOU

“Paying Up”
COLORED CHALK #8 – Broken Clocks
SYNOPSIS: Visiting a strip club a man has a hard time dealing with guilt and the moment. In the end, we see why.
PAYING UP

“A Bird in the Hand”
3:AM MAGAZINE
SYNOPSIS: You know the old saying – a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Well, that can mean a lot of things, and when his mistress comes knocking, ohw does one man deal with this intrusion?
A BIRD IN THE HAND

“Three Mistakes”
WORD RIOT
SYNOPSIS: Sometimes that’s all it takes, three mistakes to fall from grace, to lose it all, and maybe realize too late, that you had a pretty good life.
THREE MISTAKES

“Maker of Flight”
CHIZINE
WINNER of the 2009 “Enter the World of Filaria” contest
SYNOPSIS: In this contest, we were given the challenge of adding to the vivid and futuristic world that Brent Hayward created. In 1000 words, you were to find a way to insert a short piece of fiction that could stand alone, and also add to the world of Filaria. In Brent’s words:“That was a really nice piece you wrote, and in my head now it’s somehow forever tangled up in Filaria.”
MAKER OF FLIGHT

“Twenty Dollar Bill”
COLORED CHALK #7 – MacGuffins for Hire
SYNOPSIS: I’ve been fascinated by the idea of following something to see where it goes, how it effects those it comes in contact with, such as a kiss, money, a disease, an act of random kindness. A bit of an homage to the movie TWENTY BUCKS, we see where a twenty dollar bill goes when it changes hands.
TWENTY DOLLAR BILL

“Freedom”
NEFARIOUS MUSE
SYNOPSIS: This was a contest and I came in second place. Didn’t have enough resources I guess! :-) What is that line? “Freedom’s just another word for, nothing left to lose.” I think that was Janis wasn’t it?
FREEDOM

“Unzipped”
DOGMATIKA
SYNOPSIS: What happens when you find a girl that lives up to all of your sexual fantasies? Good times, right? Maybe for awhile. In the end, if that’s all there is, what was once a depraved heaven quickly descends into a tortuous hell.
UNZIPPED

“Amazement” -
COLORED CHALK #5 – Sins of the Father
SYNOPSIS: They are often visited on the son.
AMAZEMENT

“Fringe”
COLORED CHALK #4 – Big Brother in My Pocket
SYNOPSIS: It’s only paranoia if it isn’t true.
FRINGE

“Fallible” -
COLORED CHALK #3 – After the Fire
SYNOPSIS: Fire, in the right hands it can do wonders. But in the wrong hands, of an irresponsible and lazy man, sometimes the worst possible thing can happen.
FALLIBLE

“Committed”
COLORED CHALK #2 – Cockroaches Ate the Ending
SYNOPSIS: You don’t always have to wrap a story up in a bow and end it. Sometimes you can lead the audience right up to the edge and walk away. Committed can mean several things – it can mean you are focused on doing something, your chipc are all in, or it can also mean you have been put away due to mental illness. Why not both?
COMMITTED

“Steel-Toed Boots”
COLORED CHALK #1 – Two Guys Enter a Bar, One Leaves
SYNOPSIS: The theme of the debut issue of CC kind of says it all.
STEEL-TOED BOOTS

“Animal Magnetism”
OPIUM MAGAZINE
SYNOPSIS: My first published short story. I don’t often try my hand at bizarro, but this was a fun story to write. So, you have a small penis and want something bigger and better to satisfy your girlfriend with. An elephant dick sounds like the solution? But why stop there?
ANIMAL MAGNETISM

Disintegration

(rough early draft)

SYNOPSIS: A neo-noir transgressive thriller about a man who has taken himself off the grid and punishes those that the law has overlooked or failed to prosecute. Altered and breaking apart, he follows orders while questioning the reality and motivation of those people that are in his life. A dark past filled with tragedy looms over him while he tries to embrace the ghost of Holly, his only female connection, under orders from Vlad, while taking care of his bedraggled cat, Luscious. At what point does he just end it all? Or does he stay in his role as judge, jury and executioner for the rest of his life?

[ INTRODUCTION ]

There is no past. My heart was ripped from me in a rush of flashing lights and sticky, yellow tape. There is no future. Vision would require hope, and that stealthy whore eludes me at every turn. So I float in the ether, pasty skin crawling with regret, eyes gouged out by my own shaking hands.

[ 1. ]

The manila envelope slides under my apartment door, like the wrinkled skin of a rattlesnake, shed in a hurry. I don’t even turn to look, although my clenched fists are shaking, my eyes pressed shut. Sitting in the living room, darkness around me like an flea-infested blanket, my forearms rest on the mahogany table, my ass trembling in the high backed leather chair. I am full again, about to overflow, and I’ve been waiting for that envelope for hours.

Days.

Weeks.

I don’t know. I don’t know what day it is. I grit my teeth and take a deep breath. The muscles in my lower back are tightly coiled springs, ropes with knots tied that I’ll never get undone.

I know the bottles sit in the medicine cabinet. I know those tiny black bottles are sitting there. Much like Vlad slides the envelope under my door, my next assignment, much like he provides for me this luxurious squalor within which to disintegrate, he is also my pusher. He also provides my escape. Or maintenance, depending on how you look at it. Two very average, very normal bottles. They could be aspirin, or acetaminophen, or naproxen. But they are not. They are two dark tunnels, bottomless pits, and I stand at the openings breathing in the musty air, rich with soil and rotting bones.

The masking tape he rubbed on them with his filthy thumb and forefinger is slowly losing its tack. With a black Sharpie he writes two words, and every time I look at them I see Alice dropping down the rabbit hole. And I want to join her.

One says: Happy.

The other: Sad.

It’s time for a bus ride. Soon.

I stand up slowly and open my eyes. The streetlights outside push in pale light, the blinds glowing as if the desert sun waits just outside then. My bare feet on the hardwood floor grounds me again. It’s why I keep them clean. A faint whiff of lemon and orange, oils that reek of naked flesh and release. I need to touch things, sometimes. I breathe again, brushing the wrinkles out of my jeans, running my hands down my thighs, again and again. It relaxes me. Shirtless, I run my hands over my bare chest, back and forth, to make the blood flow again.

There are only three choices. The French doors to my bedroom. The manila envelope that rests by the door, a door that leads out to the hallway of this six-flat. And the opening to the kitchen. The lone window in the kitchen is cracked open, and a soft, cool breeze pushes the blind aside. A flash, and bare tree branches. A glimmer and the telephone lines. A gust and wrought iron, green feline eyes and a blur of fur. My stalker. She won’t stay, I know that much. I will myself forward to the open space of the kitchen. A sawhorse sits in the middle of the room. A two-by-four lies on top of it, nailed into it by tall, grey nails. I pick up the hammer, an old friend from a different life, and the weight in my hands is comforting. A dozen metal heads poke out of the mangled piece of wood, riddled with holes, and dents. In quick succession I pound them flat.

A skittering on the back porch as my friend runs away. My bicep flex, forearms tight as I bring the silver hammer head down again and again. It is louder than the peace I just disturbed, but surprisingly muffled by the old apartment walls. A sheen of sweat breaks out on my forehead as I make them disappear. The retort echoes off the gunmetal walls, my feet growing colder on the faded tile floor. The floor is the color of a sidewalk covered with grime the day after the snow melts, littered with debris, scratched and ignored. It meets the walls like an ocean floor, and I feel myself going under. I grunt in the dark room, raising the hammer over my head slamming it down with a sharp bang, fighting the currents, wincing in the night. And they are gone.

I drop the hammer on the floor, out of breath, chest rising. With a snap of my neck I turn to the slice of yellow that purrs to me from the other room. My enabler, my cure.

#

His name isn’t really Vlad. I just call him that. Tall and gangly, hawkish nose, and an eastern accent, the buzzcut came up to me at Nick’s Package Liquors. They open early. That’s about the only nice thing I can say about them. And two blocks away on Division Street, it’s easy. Down sixty-four steps, out the front door, up Milwaukee a block and turn left.

Just past the Polish diner, meaty perogies, for when I can actually keep food down, with applesauce and sour cream. Past the Taqueria with burritos as big as your head. They sell cigarettes too. Sometimes I can’t make it across Ashland, it’s just too much – screaming metal flying by, streams of mannequins stomping past, some place to be, as fast as they can, and I can barely walk.

I try not to be a regular, any place. But Nick’s is as bad as I get. Sometimes the fridge of beer doesn’t make it to the next day. When you drink your dinner you don’t do it half-assed. So sometimes I end up at Nick’s.

“Comrade, how are you,” he says, the first time we meet.

Hunched over a pint of swill, this gaping wound carved out of the store, this long piece of wood that props up many a liver, it isn’t really a bar. It’s an extension. It’s ten feet away, a place to stumble to.

“Fuck off,” I mumble.

“My friend, I understand. You are busy. I am busy man too. I have a proposition for you.”

I turn my eyes up to him, bloodshot and bleary, pushing down the liquid that is my only sustenance.

“I’m not like that, Vlad. Move it on down the bar.”

“Ha…Vlad. I like that. No sir. Not like that. Just a little legwork. A little muscle.”

I have $14 in my pocket. I’d been living on the street, shelters, stealing, the last of my 401k now gone.

“Real simple like. Take a package, bring a package.”

“Drugs,” I say.

“No. Not quite. Lets just say an acquired taste.”

“And why would I want to help you, Vlad? For a few lousy bucks.”

“I just have a feeling about you. And I have an apartment, a place you can stay. I see you are committed to the drink. At least you are committed to something.”

I hold the pint in my left hand, and reach over for the shot with my right. This liquid, this numbing.

“You think about it, my friend. I’ll be down here at the end of this lovely bar. But the offer won’t last for long. Just until I finish my vodka and am out that door.”

#

I kept the answering machine. It sits on the shelf in the stone wasteland that is my kitchen. And I press the button. Way too often. I press the button when I am drunk out of my head. When I’m bouncing off the walls, tearing at my skin. I press it and become a marble statue, completely still, eternally cold, and empty inside. I stand next to the sawhorse, with its mangled bits of wood and metal shards sticking out of it and I press it again.

“Hey baby, I guess you’re working late again…”

I should be dehydrated by now, but I’m not. It’s been three years. I ache as if I’ve been punched in the gut, my head swimming. It’s like she’s right there. Just up the street. Be home in a minute. And I see the house in the suburbs, the green grass, the red mailbox flag sticking straight up, the blue siding a calming presence.

I head to the bathroom. Happy is calling.

#

I don’t know what it is. It could be speed, crystal meth, ecstacy, LSD, Special K, or all of the above. I opt for the latter. I can’t talk about Sad right now. I’m too fluid.

Completely naked now, I lay on the hardwood floor, fully erect, as if I could slide it between the slats. One cheek is pressed against the ground, my eyes counting the individual fibers in the yellow, manila envelope. It isn’t really yellow really. More like a rust. A burnt sienna, peach, tangerine, a bit of sandalwood, tan, beige, it keeps changing in the light. I run my tongue over the edge of it, the corner, slowly, very slowly as it creases my flesh. I can feel the tiny capillaries, each one a skyscraper in my mouth. I close my mouth and swallow, the copper gliding down, the paper thin cut a grand canyon, gaping wide for the world to see. I smack my lips, and run my tongue over my lips. They are parchment, flaky and dry, now moist and plump. I wish that Holly was here to kiss me, to slide her perfect pink bit of flesh in my mouth.

Holly is not my wife. She is my guardian angel. She lies in my bed with me, running her fingers over the tattoos on my arms, my chest, my wrists, my back. She says she can save me. I have no phone, no television set, no computer, and no mail comes to me. I have a key. And I close my eyes and summon her. I want to see her perfect face, the pale sharp angles, the short black bob, the frosty skin with the creamy filling. She could show up at any time, any minute. I drift off into a black hole, I become one with the gaps in the ancient hardwood, my cells merging into the swirls and grooves and as I go, I kill again. I see the bodies stacked to the ceiling, broken bones, bullet holes, dented skulls and bruised necks. Knife wounds and thumbprints and a baseball bat with long black strands of hair glued to the end by a sticky red syrup. I whimper and go over.

#

I’m warm and dry and her moist breath is on my neck. I don’t feel the world around us, we are floating on a cloud, her body pressed up against my back, her every curve etched into my memory. Her heat is soft against my shoulders, my arms, and I can feel the soft fur of her decadence pressed up against the curve of my ass. Her hand reaches around me, her tiny hand and long fingers grabbing a hold of my turgid erection. Her touch makes me cry and as the tears run down my face, as she rubs up and down, her tongue in my ear. She whispers to me, says all the things I need to hear, her musk and sweet perfume intoxicating. I feel her other hand busy between her legs and she is a machine, pistons pumping, her hot gasps filling my ear, and the sky parts, erupting in sunshine and white light, an explosion of white scattered against the black felt, her body pressed against mine, trembling in unison, and I am filled with her. I am overloaded. My circuits shut down and I go blank.

#

A cat yowls outside, waking me up. My friend, the stalker. She gets jealous, and yet, still plays hard to get. I roll over to stare at my naughty elf, but she is not there. On the nightstand sits a solitary tube of lipstick. She has left me a memento, a purplish red tint called Bruise. I stare at it in wonder, but I am light today. I am a feather. I float for a moment, the darkness pushed to the edges, the clouds only fringed in gray.

But I know what they day holds.

Death.

Transubstantiate

SYNOPSIS:

“They say Jimmy made it out. But the postcards we get, well, they don’t seem…real.”

When an experiment with population control works too well, and the planet is decimated, seven broken people are united by a supernatural bond in a modern day Eden. Most on the island are fully aware of this prison disguised as an oasis. Unfortunately, Jimmy is on the mainland, desperate to get back, in a post-apocalyptic stand-off, fighting for his survival and that of his unborn child. Back on the island, Jacob stares at the ocean through his telescope and plots his escape, reluctant to aid the cause. Marcy tries to hide from her past, sexual escapades that may be her saving grace. X sits in his compound, a quiet, massive presence, trapped in his body by ancient utterings and yet free in spirit to visit other places and times. Roland, the angry, bitter son of Marcy is determined to leave, and sets out on his own. Watching over it all is Assigned, the ghost in the machine. And coming for them, to exact revenge, and finish the job that the virus started, is Gordon. He just landed on the island and he has help.

Transubstantiate is a neo-noir thriller, filled with uncertainty at every portal, and jungles overflowing with The Darkness. Vivid settings, lyrical language, and a slow reveal of plot, motivation, past crimes and future hope collide in a final showdown that keeps you guessing until the final haunting words.

Transubstantiate: to change from one substance into another.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

CHAPTER ONE
May 12, 2024

1. JACOB

They say Jimmy made it out. But the postcards we get, well, they don’t seem…real. Wish you were here, and all that. Wherever here is. New York City? Really? So I play along and wait for my break.

Sometimes I’m the shopkeeper, sometimes I’m a priest. But I’ve never been it. Not sure if I want to be it, but on the days it rains and oil is in short supply, the corn running out, I wonder what is really out there. I wonder what is true, and what is speculation.

Walking down the streets of Libertyville, the fall leaves changing color, you can scan the horizon, and it seems endless. I’ve only been down the highway that one time. They just turn you back. I jangle the keys and insert one into the storefront. Time to open shop. New guy coming today. He doesn’t know the ropes and it’s our job to teach him. Not everything mind you, but enough so he doesn’t get himself killed. Sorry, I mean relocated. I miss Jimmy, but he wanted out. And he worked hard to get there. Nobody can say he didn’t work hard.

To the left and to the right I see the other shopkeepers opening up. Coffeehouse. Dry cleaner. Jewelry store. Movie house. We all nod, and grimace, as we open these doors. I wouldn’t call them jail cells, but they are.

I ease into the musty bookstore, and shut the door behind me. With a dull thud, the ringing of brass bells fills my ears and I rest my head on the pane of glass.

New kid coming today. Gotta put my game face on.

2. MARCY

“Can somebody do Jimmy for me? I can never get the handwriting down. Alphonso? You’ve got a knack for him. I need another postcard. Doesn’t have to be New York, can be someplace else. Just keep it vague.”

Pushing that damn lock of hair out of my eyes, I survey the cramped quarters, flush from the stress of it all, but happy as a squirrel with a nut.

“Sure Marcy, you have one there you want me to use?” Alphonso runs a black pick with a muscled fist at one end through his quickly expanding afro.

“No, go ahead and grab something out of the bin. You can handle the stamp and all that too, right?I showed you how?”

“Certainly did. No problem. I’ll get right on that. Can I finish that letter to Mrs. Mayberry first?You know she’ll be all distraught if something doesn’t show up from Chester today. It’s been a week, and personally, her crying is getting on my nerves.”

“Sure, just hop to it.”

The shutters let in a hint of dusty light. Watching the six members of PS1 as they hunch over stacks of mail, an assortment of pens and pencils scattered across the folding table, I don’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt at setting Jimmy up. He wanted out. And he got out.

A smile crosses my face as I unbutton one more ivory disc on my crisp, white blouse. The tan cleavage goes from subtle femininity to holy-cow, what-do-we-have-here? I smooth out the nonexistent wrinkles in the seat of my tan capris for the hundredth time. Fascinated with my ass today. A subtle tingle vibrates through my body, anticipation fueled by secrets.

Meeting later.

3. JIMMY

Racing down the alley, the stench of the garbage is overwhelming. I usually avoid any sort of enclosed area, especially where the decomposition is bad, but there is no time. A hint of orange light floats down the dark side street as the sun sets fast across the buildings. In my jeans and leather jacket, I blend into my surroundings. Smoke covered shells of former apartment buildings squat next to rusted husks of what used to be cars. When the gas started to run out most people realized they wanted heat over transportation. And with the acceleration of the drug dealing, most people stayed inside anyway.

Pausing at the edge of the chipped brick complex, I peek around the corner. Maybe they moved on. The Blisterheads must have found something more interesting to occupy their simple minds. It’s one thing to shave your head and spout racist white-power sentiments about anarchy and revolution. It’s another to pour gasoline over your head and set yourself on fire. Shaking my head, and catching my breath, I adjust the straps on my backpack as they dig into my shoulders. I am sick of corned beef hash, but canned goods are canned goods. She is waiting for me, and I have to get back. The Magnum revolver is more than she needs, but I always get uneasy as the sun goes down. I can’t confirm all of the rumors. But I’ve seen enough weirdness that I can’t just dismiss the stories outright. The Blisterheads are real. Cranked up on meth and PCP their strength comes from the drugs, but the radioactivity and other strangeness paired with the hybrid pills and powders that are floating around have created some unimaginable freaks.

Taking a deep breath, I prepare myself for the final leg of today’s journey. Back home. I pull the 9mm Glock out of my jacket, and count to three.

“1…….2…….”

“THEREHEIS!”

“Fuck.”

The thundering of boots echoes down the alley, as Ming and his boys set their sights on my hide. I fire two shots into the crowd, winging one thug who spins to the asphalt, and buzzing Ming’s skull with the other. They hesitate, some hitting the ground, some diving into the overflowing dumpsters. I’m off in a second, my destination known, my path already planned. They’ll never catch me. I’ve been charting the tunnels, the sewers and the buildings that were still structurally sound for months. I have mountain bikes hidden in front of every Starbucks. There are motorcycles and compact sports cars stashed in garages all over downtown St. Louis. They’ll never get me.

Good thing I got out.

4. X

This old typewriter never fails to give me a rush of excitement. In this time of advanced technology and immediate satisfaction it relaxes me to pound away slowly on this ancient Remington Quietwriter. Its squat black metal sits on my desk with a toothy grin. Today I’m gonna bang her like a two dollar hooker, until my fingers ache.

I fear that the fallout from the mainland may reach us, but I’ve been told not to worry. It seems that every day I question aspects of this experiment and why we still cling to its obsolete and meaningless systems of order. Usually I’m told to shut up and keep my comments to myself. It is unwise of them to continue to treat me like this. This last bastion of order, this oasis, this Eden compared to the outside world could easily crumble with the flick of my wrist. They obviously like playing with matches. But sometimes you get burned.

If it wasn’t for the flowers, I think I’d go mad. The Irises are pushing through the earth, and the Goldenrod continues to shine. Every morning I go out to the patio to see if the Hibiscus has another surprise and am invariably rewarded with an eager blushing bloom.
The spot of red in this monotone setting brings a moment of peace to
my shackled existence.

Marcy is coming today. That should be interesting. I don’t know if it is true love, or that she simply wants a child. Either way I think I have to make the best of it. A little slap and tickle never hurt anyone. Well, that’s not true, but it’s what I’m telling myself.

New guy today. Lots of excitement. Hard to believe that in the midst of this chaos they continue to send us new citizens. It’s on some sort of autopilot that we can’t seem to shut off. Much like the way we free our captives. Freedom. Funny word. Was it Janis Joplin that said “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose?” I think so. And at this point I have nothing left to lose myself. Except everything.

Time for the regime. Up to 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups now. Thrice a day. It gives me a Zen focus when I can shift my gaze to my physical being and the strain of torn muscles. It takes me out of my head for just a little bit. But you know, I can always feel the hamster wheels turning in the background, no matter what I’m doing. That poor guy needs a break. Maybe I’ll head over to the Opium fields today and restock. Plenty of mushrooms left, but the Poppies have run low and the Cannabis is diminishing. Always something to do on my tiny farm here at the edge of the world. God’s work.

5. GORDON

“Wake up, newbie. Time to get to work.”

I push my lids open and the harsh sunlight shatters my skull. I grab both sides of my head, lean forward, and vomit violently onto the deck of the ship.

“Damnit Rodney, you gave him too much.”

“Not my fault he’s a lightweight, I did it according to height and weight like we always do.”

“Figures. Couldn’t get some good day labor, just another weak and useless pawn. Well, buddy here’s your first job. You get to swab the deck, matey.” A wet, filthy mop lands by my head, splashing fetid water in my face, the handle clacking to the deck.

“We’ll be on the shore waiting…what’s his name Rodney?”

“I don’t know man, look at the sheet.”

“Seriously, what good are you?”

“Here we go…Madison, Jamal, Vanity12, John…you a John?No, John’s a 2-cybernetic, we’d know if that was you,”he laughed, cackling in the hot sun. “Gordon, here it is. Human98, caucasian100, male100, straight84, six foot two inches, 160 pounds, emaciated with an IQ of 160. That looks like you, brother. Another skinny geek that can’t hold his meds.”

Lifting my head to stare at the strange man, I memorize his face. Blue eyes. Brown beard. Under six foot, say 5’10”. Fat, say 220. Left handed, with a mole on his right ear. Zeke. How I’d forgotten that face. He’s a dead man. His buddy, not sure yet. I squint into the blinding light. They think I’ve forgotten everything. Forgotten where I came from, and forgotten why I am here. They’re wrong. In time I’ll snap his neck, and feed his flabby ass to the fishes. They’ll eat you down here, not just the Piranhas and the Oscars. The hybrids. The Garshark, the Black Eel. I grin at him, make a gun out of my right hand index finger and thumb and point it at him.

“Bam.”

6. ASSIGNED

//
Reboot
12349+34234_12
check
check
123…123…123…is there anybody out there

Reboot
//:www.unitedstatesgovernment.gov/fbi/blackops/code4/island/check
//:www.unitedstatesgovernment.gov/cia/silent/open/prison12/check
//:www.unionofthesovietrepublic.gov/militIa/project2112/check
//:www.germanrepublic.gov/secretservice/archived/open/check
//:www.southkorea.nationstate/split/army/division2/new/open/check

……………………audio
……………………………………………………….video
………………….upload…………………………..upload…………………complete

plaksjd jf-098aierm ;lksmdf PIJASOEF;LKMAS DF

Reboot
//
///
////
////nogo
/1
//2
///3
////4
allsytemsgo

Good morning. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen…it was a pleasure to burn…the man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed…we were somewhere
around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold…deleted. DELETE. DELETED.

LibraRy intact.

Good morning. At your service.
//

7. ROLAND

Running through the fields of tall grass, the paths wind up and down, beaten to dust by my faded Nike Air Jordans, ladybugs and grasshoppers springing into flight, out of breath, approaching the village. I have to tell mom, have to let her know what I’ve seen. She doesn’t want to know, she doesn’t want to see any more, she told me that. I know. But I have to tell somebody. Max wouldn’t be able to handle it. He puked at the sight of that rotting German shepherd. It wasn’t that bad.

I have to get home before lunch, before everyone sits down, because then it will be too late, too much going on, too many people watching. I have to catch mom before she takes the loaves of bread out of the stone oven, before she makes the trek to the communal table.

T-shirt in my hand, stained with blood that isn’t mine, dirty rivulets of sweat run down my back, an excruciating river of itchy salt. Bug bites and grass cuts fight for my attention. But my burning lungs are winning. It’s too far, I can’t run any further. The clearing is coming to an end and I have to think. What to say. She won’t believe me. I have to show her. How will I get her away from work? Water. We’ll make a trip to the Artesian well. We always need more water, we all do. She’ll think it’s a good idea, that I’ve come around finally, that I’m chipping in, helping again. Then I’ll take her to the cave. Show her the body. Bodies. And the bones. The stack of bones, piled high to the ceiling. What does it mean? Are we safe?

Stopping at the edge of the high grass, hands on knees, chest heaving, a strand of drool hangs to the ground. In and out the hot air moves, my face flushed, bloodied knees like lipstick kisses. Regaining composure will be tough, but there is no time. Just a sip of water, then inside.