Get ready for The Road to Nowhere book 3!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Life




It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Everything has sort of been placed on hold, as far as my writing goes. I was recently hired as a Fire Dispatcher. This is something I’ve been wanting to do—since I left my job as a fire-fighter with the military.
Over the past several years, my wife and I have lived at various places, enjoying nature, and sight-seeing. We were fortunate enough to not have to go to work. I took a few side jobs just for the heck of it here and there, but that was about it. We slept in and stood up late, laughed, and had a wonderful time raising our daughter, who is now eight years old. You could call it retirement at a young age. We went on hikes, trips to lakes, enjoyed cabin living, long scenic walks for hours in the woods and loved every minute of it. I couldn’t imagine us doing this when we reach 60 years old lol, as I’m already beginning to feel worn.
For now I’ve returned back to the workforce. We’re going to be purchasing a new house for Christmas, and will be visiting Thailand sometime next year, during my two week vacation. I’m currently working four ten hour shifts, and then I have three days off a week. I’m loving what I’m doing. It almost feels odd putting on a uniform for work. I suppose I’m feeling nostalgic this morning, and grateful. When you put things into perspective, life is beautiful.
I met my  current wife (Jenny) eight years ago, while in the military. We were both going through difficulties. My ex-wife had cheated on me, I was in the process of getting divorced, and couldn’t have felt more broken. Jenny was having issues with her co-workers, and was depressed. Two of the females she worked with were constantly harassing her—throwing chairs- screaming. When my wife threatened to take it to IG, her sergeant threatened her, since he knew he was wrong for not stopping what had been going on at the office. Military life is sometimes-- much like being imprisoned and stuck in situations you have no control of. My wife tried to transfer to another unit, but she was told she couldn’t. (She was also going through other things at the same time.)
I can’t say my experience in the military was anything like that. I loved everything about the military. I met so many amazing people who I have much respect for. My wife was just given a bad hand of cards.
I met her at a hospital outside of Ft. Polk, while I was picking up my medication for my depression as well as getting bloodwork for out processing. She was there, in a gown. She had overdosed and attempted suicide through another method, which is probably too graphic to discuss. One word, one smile—I was drawn. We kept in touch and I visited her while she was in recovery at a clinic. She left a voicemail on my cell the day she began her long drive back home, from Louisiana to California. I thought I’d never see her again. Two months later, when I was on my way home to Washington, I decided to drop by. Her family was very welcoming. They allowed me to stay until I found somewhere to rent. I knew I would never find anyone like the woman I’d fallen for, so I rented a place a few blocks away from where she was staying, deciding to stay in California. We barely knew each other but we got married within a few months, and have been together since.
All relationships have up and downs, but I’ve never wanted to be a better person. Jenny sort of brings that out in people. She’s fun, crazy, has a free spirit, she's kind, and if I did believe in fate, I’d say we went through what we did in order for us to meet.
As many of you know, writing has always been a hobby of mine. She’s the woman who found my writings tucked away. She’s more computer savvy than I am, so she launched and designed this blog for me (I know quite a few of you were asking me who did the html and scripting for my blog), she uploaded my books, and then Permuted Press picked me up as one of their authors. I’m hoping to get back to writing later this year.
I don’t usually share much about my personal life. My wife and I like to keep things very private. Having to take 911 calls on the job, and dispatch help, has me feeling grateful that our family is still here.  I don’t know how many confirmed deaths I have dealt with this month, but its been quite a few. We each have our own journey. We don’t know if we’ll be alive tomorrow or if today is the last day you’ll see the ones you love. Be safe. Be smart. Love hard. I’ve gone off topic J
Once The Road to Nowhere 3 is published, I’ll probably take a break from writing. Thank you to all the loyal fans that have patiently waited for book three. I promise you the wait will be worth it.
Take care.
“Paths meet for a reason. Our journeys aren’t always easy, but when you get to where you’re supposed to be, it all makes sense.”
-Lee Argus


Thursday, February 4, 2016

CHAPTER 2- LOST AND FOUND (The Road to Nowhere: Vanishing)

CHAPTER 2- LOST AND FOUND


My first impulse is to run. What makes me hesitate is the fact that if a Kuru saw me, I would be hearing it by now.
Trying to move as little as possible, I stare hard into the building. The small storefront’s window is smashed inward, leaving an opening big enough for two or three Kurus.
The wind suddenly drops to nothing. In the sudden quiet, I hear several cans falling off a shelf. I quickly grab my pistol, struggling to stay still.
Adrenaline pumping and heart racing, my hand shakes. Nothing else moves. I hear only the heartbeat thrumming in my chest. I take a tentative step to one side.
The motion startled what had been hiding in the store. Despite the impossible distance, the shape leaps at me through the open window.
The first sign of movement causes me to stumble backwards, nearly dropping me onto the sidewalk.
One arm instinctively covers my face as a black shadow flashes over me. Before I can squeeze off a shot, my head turns to follow the crow. It caws angrily before banking once and disappears over a building.
I look from the gun to where the crow disappeared, and feel a rush of blood reach my cheeks. Putting the safety back on, I pocket the pistol to keep it dry.
Taking in a deep breath and shaking my head, I continue forward.
It’s bad enough being on edge all the time, but I can deal with being startled by a crow easier than being attacked by Kurus.
 A few blocks pass before I regain composure. Paranoia is now another tool of survival. It has saved my life more than once.
Hurrying down the sidewalk, I try to remain unnoticed. I focus on walking quietly, and keeping as far from the buildings as possible.
The last thing I want is to be seen. A general outcry could bring dozens, if not hundreds out to hunt or protect their territory.
Passing an old bakery, my eyes are drawn to the window display. What might have once been a cake is now covered in mold. Its shape is sunken inward, in a disturbing mess of colors that I’d grown to associate with spoiled food.
The thought brought a bitter taste forming on the back of my throat. My stomach feels sour and empty.
Focusing on getting to the nearest hospital, I grit my teeth and hope I’m on the right track. It seems as though there are more streets blocked by abandoned vehicles than clear. If there is a faster way to get through, I’d have taken it, but I still haven’t found one.
Necessity forces me to walk through several ankle high pools of stagnant water in between each city block.
Hood pulled low, my jacket is the only thing keeping rain from soaking into my hair. It’s another five minutes before I finally catch sight of the nearest hospital.
The building is over a block away, but I can still make out its exterior. The sight makes me string together several random curses under my breath.
The building in front of me is too small to be the right hospital. Instead of the high-rise structure I expect, this building is only two stories.
I do my best to shrug off the setback, and continue forward. Little seemed to be going right during this trip. It would be irrational to assume finding the right hospital would be any different.
Only thinking about moving forward, I search for a dry place to pull out my map.
A bus stop ahead is the closest spot I could see that would work. It’s roofed, and would give me enough protection from the weather.
The solid steel benches look less than inviting, but it would be comfortable enough for what I had in mind.
I did a light jog to close the remaining distance. When I finally sit on the hard seats, they make me realize how much weight pressed down on my aching legs and feet. 
The relief makes me want to find someplace to rest for the night. I hadn’t been sleeping well and the drive had only exhausted me further.
Only my promise to Simon and Tara, that I would return in a few days, keeps me on track.
Unfolding the map, I try to remember the name of the street where Rachael and Stephanie’s house had been. It would be a good place to try and back track from.
It had been nearly two years since we’d left the city. Trying to recall the names of old places I’d been to was harder than I thought. I hadn’t been thinking about street names, only trying to survive.
I keep my attention focused on the hospitals directly adjacent to the strip. Pouring over the small details of the map, it becomes clear that there are only two hospitals that are close enough to be possibilities. One’s several miles away to the East, while the other was only a few blocks opposite from my position.
I fold up the worn paper and slipped it into its Ziploc bag before standing back up on my sore feet.
Going around the hospital would add more time to my trip, so I decide to cut through its sprawling parking lot. Unlike most of the parking lots I’d seen, almost every parking spot was taken. It took a moment before I understood what had happened.
Anyone who actually made it to the hospital after the initial infection wouldn’t have left. Many had been parked haphazardly in their owner’s frantic attempt to reach medical aid.
As with everywhere else, I saw obvious signs of struggle and looting. A few of the cars had been set on fire, leaving only a charred blackened shell remaining.
Walking past the vehicles, I glance into the interior of a white Ford Torus. It didn’t appear vandalized, which might have something to do with the large amount of religious icons I could see.
A large cross on a beaded necklace hung on the rear view mirror. Below were several small figurines. Their colors had sun faded away from anything bright or warm to washed-out pastels.
A small Virgin Mary seemed to forlornly stare out from where it stood on dark colored vinyl.
Past the statuary were several suitcases and a small cardboard box. I was curious as to what was inside, but satisfying my curiosity wasn’t worth the noise braking a window would make.
I walk past a conversion van, when something on the ground catches my attention. Stepping back, I see a nightstick lying on the pavement, just past the rear bumper. The black ABS plastic clearly showed against the light gray pavement.
I have my pistol and sword, but a police baton might come in handy. It would be easier to break a window or skull, and less awkward than pulling out a sword. More than that, something about the nightstick jogs my memory.
The space between the conversion van and the black convertible next to it is narrow, but I should be able to squeeze past, even with my backpack.
Almost past the van, a sound makes me freeze in place. Heart constricting in my chest, my head quickly turns back and forth, in search of where it came from. The sound echoed on nearby buildings, which making it impossible to pinpoint.
When no further sounds came, I dismiss it as my imagination, or maybe another bird. It wouldn’t be the first time I imagined hearing something.
Just as I was about to turn back, I hear it repeat twice more.
It sounds like a dog barking, but I haven’t seen a dog roaming alone in months. There’d been several feral packs I’d come across, but those were only in smaller towns. Places with a high pre-epidemic population meant too many hungry Kurus for them to survive.
The sound came again, this time much closer, almost like it’s behind me. Turning sharply, my backpack hits a sports car’s passenger mirror.
Before I can register what had happened, the Acura’s alarm goes off.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is a rough draft of Chapter two. The final version of book three is currently going through edits.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Chapter 1-- The Road to Nowhere: Vanishing (Book 3)


1- NOW
A drizzle of heavy rain begins to fall on the windshield.
In less than a minute, the dry road darkened under the steady downpour of water. The further I drove down the interstate, the more difficult it was to see. 
The car’s worn windshield wipers rubbed fitfully against the window. Each stroke smeared the water as much as it cleared my view of the way ahead. 
Visibility of the road worsened, causing me to slow the car.
When I’d first left Barstow, the sky was clear. Weather had grown steadily worse in the two days since. A few scattered clouds grew until the horizon was covered by thick storm fronts.
My attempt at planning the route beforehand was based on a map I’d found. What it couldn’t have taken into account were sections of freeway blocked by abandoned cars.
Neither of my previous traveling companions had been familiar with the route I planned on taking. Tara had come from the opposite direction, and Simon had driven East, from somewhere near Los Angeles. 
With nothing else to go on, my only choice was to go blindly, hoping for the best.
After I’d first woken up at the hospital in Las Vegas, I drove from there to California. My route was hundreds of miles farther north. Backtracking the same way would have added days, if not weeks on the road.
The way I took was littered with abandoned cars, but there was always enough room to weave the compact Toyota Yaris through the lanes. The closer I came to reaching Las Vegas, the more difficult it was to squeeze around the congestion. 
Another few miles, the curtain of rain recedes, leaving only gray skies and wet roads. 
After I pass Calico Road, which detoured to parallel the interstate, the windows start fogging over. Cranking up the heater all the way and setting it to defrost doesn’t do much. 
Leaning forward, I rub my jacket sleeve against the glass. Distracted, I nearly crash into a black sedan blocking the freeway ahead of me. 
As slow as I was driving, my wheels still slide five or ten feet along the wet pavement before bringing me to a halt. Another few moments and I would have broadsided the car ahead of me.

My hands shake slightly as they let go of the wheel. It wasn’t like me to make mistakes like this. I wouldn’t have survived so long being reckless.
I sit back in the car’s seat before rolling the window down and looking outside.
Past the sedan, more vehicles blocked the road, their doors left open. I notice that a few trunks were left partly open as well, with their contents lying scattered on the surface of the ground.
I could make out the remains of suitcases and soiled clothing. Weather had taken a heavy toll on the unprotected items, and any dust that had still clung to the vehicles was now a thin layer of mud.
It was obvious that there would be no way through, but a sense of almost morbid curiosity drew me nearer. 
Pulling forward and round, I stop the Yaris just short of the last car. Common sense told me to turn around and keep driving, but I’d been crammed into the tiny car for hours. My back and legs feel stiff and painful.
Putting the car into park, I turn off the ignition and climb out to stretch. The muscles in my back ache appreciatively, despite the chill morning air.
Purposefully, I make my way toward the abandoned cars to see if there’s anything useful to take. There’s still food and water in my backseat, but you never know what you can come across.
Walking closer, one vehicle in particular catches my attention. There’s several holes in its windshield. Getting right up to the glass, I can see that the driver had been left to decay in the car. 
The body still sat in the seat, but its head lulled unnaturally to one side. I couldn’t see much more than the long tangles of auburn hair draped downwards, obscuring its face. 
I’d seen bodies before, but never this well preserved. Kurus would have striped most of the meat from its bones.
The thought of Kurus made me start looking around more closely, focusing on any shadowed places they could be hiding from the light. They were more desperate for food, and more dangerous than ever. 
Kurus had been people, before becoming infected. They were now as close to being people as cats were to tigers. Their ferocity, heightened senses and instincts only fueled my constant paranoia.
Forcing my eyes away, the other cars seemed to stretch out for a mile into the distance, if not farther. A few of the more daring drivers had attempted to drive around the road. Their wheels were dug into deep ruts, trapped in the earth. The uneven terrain was unforgiving to anything with less than four-wheel drive. My small car wouldn’t have a chance.
I went to peer inside several more cars, but none had anything worth taking. Clothes, shoes, and sentimental items were the predominate objects to be found. I must have come across thousands of photo albums by now.
Aware of the time I was wasting, I turn back to head towards the car. Rain had soaked into my jeans, but the Jacket was keeping most of me dry.
For a brief moment, my eyes drift up to sky. The gray clouds overhead were noticeably thinner. With any luck, the sky would fully clear by this afternoon.
Quickly walking around puddles and trash, I climb back into the warm car. Drops of water cling to the waterproof jacket. This unexpected weather was going to slow me down.
After starting the vehicle’s engine, I backtrack my way to the off-ramp. It was surprisingly clear of cars, considering its close proximity to the interstate. 
There might have been few cars, but the condition of the road had severely deteriorated. Cracks ran long furrows down the faded asphalt. My wheels shook each time I drove over one, but it was more bearable than the random potholes that threatened to pop a tire. 
Pulling onto Yermo road, I take a left. According to the map, the thin line representing Yermo would parallel the interstate before merging back. I hope it would get me past the blocked road. If not, I’d have to try driving another way or continuing on foot.
Caution made me glance at the vehicle’s gas gauge, even though I’d checked it less than half an hour ago. It was enough to get to Vegas, but I would need to re-fuel for the ride back.
If I did make it back.
Traveling alone was more hard than I’d expected. The silence got on my nerves. There was no more broadcast radio, and the car I chose had a broken CD player. The noise might’ve helped, but was no substitute for other people in the car.
Simon, Tara, and Katie had accompanied me nearly everywhere since Michael and Rachael had left. Tara had offered to join me, but I’d turned her down. Driving back was something I had to do on my own. 
When the location of my pre-amnesia home had returned to me, it had been just over two months ago. My first impulse had been to tell the others, but once my initial excitement faded, it was clear that traveling to Vegas as a group would be impossible.
Traveling with an infant was one of the main reasons why we decided to settle in Barstow. It was safer than staying in a large city. Keeping her quiet, especially when we didn’t know where we could stop or where was safe, had been too much of a risk. A cry at the wrong moment could bring a whole pack of Kurus down on us. 
For now, I was alone, but that was only temporary. I wasn’t sure what I’d find in the house I used to live in, but I hoped to return to Barstow within a week. I figured Simon and Tara would be able to take care of themselves for that long. 
Driving through the intermittent rain, I kept thinking of Stephanie, my wife, daughter, Rosie, and Phil and Bernice. The memories of those who died had often crossed my mind. It was hard not to think about those I’d come to know as close friends and family, but it seemed a feeling of regret always made itself known when I was alone. 
I continued forward until I was able to merge back onto the interstate. It looked as though I’d be able to continue without much delay. As far as I could see, the road was bare, other than a small stream of water that swiftly rushed along the emergency lane.
I kept the drive to a slow crawl in case a situation arose where I’d need to come to a fast stop. 
For the remainder of the drive on the highway, there had only been a few cars that were left abandoned. These appeared just as weathered as any of the others, but I wondered if they had belonged to fellow survivors. They might’ve attempted to enter or leave Las Vegas, only to have had the misfortune to break down or run out of gas at the wrong moment.
When I approached closer to Nevada, communities far off the freeway seemed in almost in pristine condition. It could have been a different story up close, but I didn’t have the time to spend sight-seeing.
A few large casinos sat alone, a few dozen miles past the city limits. I could see cars left in the large parking lots, but they were too far away to make out any details. 
It wasn’t until Las Vegas was in sight that a mild feeling of relief came over me. Even if I wouldn’t be able to find my house right away, there was still time. Things appeared different enough to make me wonder if my memories would even help to lead me home.
The vehicles I could see were layered with the same mud that covered the roads. From my view on the Freeway, trash and debris had blown down the streets, only to be pilling against buildings. Weeds forcing their way up between the cracks on the pavement and sidewalks added to its abandoned feel. 
If anything, Las Vegas had lost what little luster that had clung to it.              
At the edge of the city, a tour bus and semi-trailer had overturned, leaving no room for the Yaris to squeeze through. Broken glass and parts of the twisted wreckage littered the wide expanse of the road. 
From there, I saw no end to the vehicles that stretched out before me.
Putting off getting out of the comfortable car, I twist in my seat to grab the well-worn sword behind me. There hadn’t been a sheath when I’d taken the katana from the wall of Las Vegas’s Planet Hollywood. 
I’d had to put something together on the fly. It was a black PVC plastic tube that I’d capped on one end and fitted with a strap that slung across my body from shoulder to hip. It only rattled if I was running, and by then any noise I made didn’t matter. 
After grabbing the sword, I reach for my supplies. I had fit a small amount of survival gear, food, and water into a small hiking backpack. Its frame loosely pressed into the sheath, but it was more aggravating than uncomfortable.
The pistol sat within easy reach on the passenger seat. Picking the weapon up, I habitually check that the rounds in the gun and two spare clips were still fully loaded.
Twenty-five bullets against the vast, empty city.
A few loose rounds sat at the bottom of my backpack, but they would take too long to get to if I really needed them. 
I take a moment to make sure that I wasn’t forgetting anything, grab the map out of the glove box, and put it into my jacket’s inside pocket.
It was too late to turn back, so I pressed forward through the drizzle.
I was being careful, quietly walking between row upon row of congested cars. The city was soundless. Nothing, aside from occasional drops of rain could be heard. 
Overhead, a layer of thin and patchy light-gray clouds block the sky. The horizon was much darker. 
I wonder if the weather will clear up, or if the distant storm front is pushing its way in.
Looking both left and right, I take in my surroundings. Old planters, where flowers once grew, are now only showing a few shriveled twigs. The red clay pots had filled with mud, overflowing onto the sidewalk. My eyes follow the water that gently rushed off the curb and into the gutters.
After hesitating, I continue walking until passing a small, unfamiliar pawnshop. Unsure if I was going in the right direction, I take shelter from the drizzle under an awning, looking over the map I’d brought.
The small lines and words are difficult to decipher. What’s worse is that there are no landmarks visible from where I stood.
From my few memories, I didn’t live too far from a hospital. On my morning pit stop, just before work, I remember sitting in traffic and always passing nearby the front entrance. The memory of the building was clear enough, but I couldn’t remember the words written across it.
Every minute spent here was one I couldn’t afford. The sun would set in a few hours, and cities are one of the most dangerous places to be, after dark. 
I need to avoid the strip, and detour more towards the outskirts. My last on foot trip through the heart of the city taught me to leave the dark buildings full of Kurus well enough alone.
The hospitals marked on the map were scattered across the city. I would need to find transportation if I didn’t want to spend hours on foot, slowly searching the areas around each marked location. I figure if I can locate the right one, maybe I’d be able to find my way home.
If Rachael hadn’t left with Michael, I would have more answers than questions. She would be able to tell me, more or less, where the hospital was, or at least where we had crossed paths. Being from Las Vegas, she could have helped me narrow down my search. 
The memory of her leaving with Michael made me grit my teeth and seethe before I could push it away. They were idiots to leave on their own, but it was their decision. Focusing on what was important, I continue down the abandoned street.
Work boots kept my feet from being completely soaked, but my jeans let the drizzle trickle down into my socks. Tempted as I was to put on another pair, they would only keep me dry for a few minutes. I’d have to wait until I found someplace to hole up for the night.
A distant rumble of thunder didn’t bode well. Wanting to get out of the rain, I hurry towards a neighboring street. The road is more compact, and there’s several residential motels, ranging from cheap to decrepit. 
The Motel Six appeared to have been less maintained and more vandalized in comparison to the two others budget chains. Its exterior paint was weathered, and several of the windows were missing panes of glass. Most of the doors to the first-floor rooms stood ajar. Many had been smashed inwards, some completely knocked down, others hanging by a single hinge. 
A few of the upper level doors still stood, but the whole place gave me an uneasy feeling. The two vending machines near the front office had been tilted over. Black steel cages had kept the soda and junk food from being taken by looters. 
The front office had been boarded up. Over the wooden boards, large bold graffiti spray-painted in black read, “KEEP OUT!
Only a few vehicles remained within each parking lot, making me think that both tourists and travelers decided not to stay.
Unlike most of the streets I passed, the road in front of the motels is left surprisingly bare, with the exception of a few abandoned cars. I wonder if the street would remain clear farther down, or if road congestion blocked this area in.
I second guess each decision I make. A single mistake could cost me my life.
Reaching the end of the road, I see that the intersecting streets are choked with vehicles, but if I could find something comparable to a Yaris or Mini, I’d be able to weave through on sidewalks and alleyways.
Since my chances of finding something small, containing fuel, a working battery, and the keys already in the ignition was just over nonexistent, I didn’t bother searching. Instead, I continued on foot.
As I walk, several of the street names seem familiar, as though I should know where I am.
After spending a few seconds thinking, it was clear that as much as I wanted them to, none of my memories told me where I was.
If it hadn’t been for the map reference, I might’ve wandered aimlessly for days without finding anything. There are over a dozen locations marked as hospitals.  
Assuming I’m reading the map correctly, I wasn’t too far from the nearest one. There’s a few city blocks between where I stood and my destination. 
Carefully folding the map up and putting it back into a plastic bag, I slip it securely back into my jacket pocket. 
I pass various shops, as well as a dental clinic. Most had closed their steel shutters, but almost every other store had windows either damaged or missing.
Crossing the storefront of a 7-Eleven, I see a indistinct shape twitch from the corner of my eye.

 NOTES:
 Hope you enjoy this week's chapter. I've brought my writing's tensing to present, which hopefully didn't throw anyone off. Book 1 and 2 were more reflection, this is as it happens. I find it more tense and compelling of a read.

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