Archive for April, 2012

Fiction Soon…

Posted: April 28, 2012 in Announcements / General

Sorry for the couple-week-long drought. Spring Break took a toll (daughter at home all week and I still had to meet work deadlines) and then last week followed that up with a bunch of work-related things I needed to complete. New fiction should be along by early in the week if not this weekend.

Title of this story comes courtesy of a line from Moby’s song “Southside,” though I doubt the overall lyrics themselves did much to inspire the story

She was hugging him fiercely, gratitude seeming to ooze from every pore of her body—and he hated it.

Don’t touch me! he screamed in his head, visions of thrusting her away brutally and yelling down at her prone form filling his mind. But he forced it all down. She’s a victim, and I saved her. She was scared and is now safe. She is probably still just this side of being a teenager. Either that or barely on the other side.

Any one of those factors should be enough to keep him from feeling the angry revulsion at a human presence close to him. But they weren’t—not even all three together. On the other hand, any one of them alone was enough to keep him from acting on his impulses.

He pushed her away gently, nodded curtly and stepped back before she could hug him again. He saw her step fractionally forward and he stiffened, one of his arms jerking just a little. She stopped, sensing the tension.

Then the blessed salvation of screeching sirens and the whirling illumination of red and blue lights, and he could finally leave the scene secure in the knowledge that she would be safe. Could finally escape her as he tried to escape all lingering contact with all people.

She waved tentatively and he thought he saw some hint of disappointment and even anguish in her eyes that he didn’t accept her gratitude with some hint of gratitude in return.

Fuck you, he thought silently and savagely, and then shoved the anger back down where it belonged.

Where it belonged for the moment, at least.

Aggressive impulses were for the lawbreakers and evildoers. All the fury inside him from dealing with the world in general and having to endure fellow members of humanity was stored up for those who harmed others or took from them what was not theirs to take. All the densely packed anger that built up from morning to evening was unleashed on those people instead of the innocent and relatively guiltless.

And that is why those who prowl the night fear me. That is why High Impact is a name spoken in hushed tones.

* * *

“Don’t do it; it won’t solve anything,” she pleaded.

“He hurt you, Deb” Carl said as he entered in the combination for the small, locked box. “he has to pay.”

“It won’t fix things. It won’t fix me. It won’t fix us,” Deborah responded, a hitch in her voice. “Time can do that. Patience can do it. A gun won’t.”

Carl paused, and then opened the box anyway, lifting out the pistol and then the clip, sliding the ammo in slowly, almost sensually, and feeling very satisfied when it clicked into position.

“The police are useless. They questioned him; they let him go right back to work. A long time ago. The D.A. isn’t going to press charges. They told us that more than once. As far as they’re concerned, it didn’t happen; and if it did, it was all consensual, and you’re just a woman with regrets and I’m the angry cuckolded boyfriend you live with. There won’t be any justice if I don’t do it.”

“I don’t want justice,” Deborah said in a near whisper. “I want to move on.”

“Do you think he won’t find a way to come back into our lives directly? Up close again? It’s not as if my parents believe us any more than the authorities do. Do you think there will ever be a holiday dinner he won’t be at, waiting to drop hints to us both that he got what he wanted and got away with it? There haven’t been any like that so far.”

She hung her head—not convinced but unable to form a convincing counterargument.

“It’s been nearly two years now, and you still aren’t yourself—not even close,” Carl continued. “Neither am I. It’s because he’s still there letting us know he won. After this long, it’s proof enough there’s only one cure that might work for us. It’s also time enough that no one is likely to think I did it. After all, we’ve been so good about letting that little ‘misunderstanding’ drop, haven’t we? Just like we were told to. We’ve had to act like it never happened, knowing it did.”

“What he did was…was…but death?” Deborah asked. “Killing him?”

“It wasn’t just the one time, Deb. Every time he sees us, he does it again to you with his eyes and his words. So many times that it’s like he’s raped you a dozen times over. He won’t ever stop, and if you think he won’t try again some—“

“—you’re not going to consider any other plan, are you?”

Carl looked at the gun in his hand—unregistered and soon enough to be wiped down and tossed into the Long Island Sound inside a weighted bag. “No,” he said as he left, and wondered whether she’d let him back in when he returned.

* * *

High Impact heard the gunshot. Close by. To the East.

Unlike such cities as Marksburgh, New Judah was still a place where—despite a plethora of criminals and crime—most people never had to deal with gunshots on a regular basis. And in this part of town, anyone who heard the hollow popping sound would be unlikely to think: gun. After all, the movies had trained people to think bullets cracked and roared like miniature bombs.

His Acro and Brute powers together made the journey down from the roof and over to the source of the gunshot easy and quick. From one fire escape to another to a lamppost to a flagpole to an awning and so on until he dropped into the dark parking lot.

One man on the ground with a bullet through one thigh, high up—it made him wonder if the shooter had been aiming for a very personal place.

Nearby, the shooter stood, startled at the new arrival,but his gun still trained on the victim.

“You can put down the gun or I can take it from you,” High Impact said, his Eastern European upbringing obvious and heavy in his tones—making his words more ominous-sounding in concert with his otherwise perfect inflections of the English language. “The choice you make will determine how much I hurt you.”

The man made no movement—neither to take his aim off the man on the ground nor to drop the weapon. He only turned his head enough to look High Impact in the face without taking his gaze off his victim.  Or, if not his face, at least the smooth gray and white tactical mask that protected and disguised it while the back half of his head was clad in heavy black cloth—less protected but more well-ventilated.

“He deserves it,” Carl said. “He deserves to die.”

“I’m not interested in a debate, asshole,” High Impact said. “And you have three—“

“—he raped my girlfriend. He beat her and raped her and hit her some more and raped her again.”

“Ever consider your girlfriend likes it rough and it went too far and she didn’t want you to know? Ever consider she might have lied? I don’t care how much you hurt. People lie and you don’t know he’s guilty. You shot him, and that’s not your job. One…two…”

“He made me watch it all,” Carl said. “He hit me and handcuffed me to the radiator and waited until I had my wits back before he started on her.”

High Impact paused. He understood hate, but he also upheld the law. “Then you should file charges once you make bail, and your girlfriend should—”

“—we did. They didn’t believe us. He had an alibi set up already. And we couldn’t trust a rape kit. He told people I’d been talking about getting rough with her. He let everyone—even our parents—think I beat her up. They’ve always believed him; never me. Always. You’d think they’d love and trust us equally, wouldn’t you?”

The man on the ground had shifted position, and High Impact could see him better now.

He wore exactly the same face as the man who had shot him.

The man on the ground opened his mouth, and then shut it, choosing smug silence as he watched and waited for High Impact to save him.

“It’s funny,” Carl said. “The liar was the one who became a cop; the one who always told the truth went to jail twice for the other one’s crimes. Thank God both time were misdemeanors, huh, Dave? I only had less than a year total in your place.”

“As fucked up as all that is, we don’t get the choice of life over death—we shouldn’t anyway,” High Impact interrupted Carl. “Punishment, yes, but even I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve made some of them wish they were dead—I’ve left a few of them with barely enough life to survive the trip to the hospital and recover enough to face justice. But I’ve never killed. I don’t even think that I have the right to make that choice. And I hate people in general.”

“Maybe that’s why you don’t kill; you know you have a bias. You know you want to,” Carl said. “And you’re smart enough not to trust yourself with that option. But can you think of anyone on the planet who has more a right to judge whether he should live or die? Anyone who knows him better?” Carl asked as he leveled the gunsight squarely in the center of his brother’s head.

Shit. This is why I’m a misanthrope, High Impact thought. People never make things easier; only more complicated. Always.

“It’s still against the law,” High Impact noted, the tone of his voice changing.

Carl noted the change as well. “You never finished counting to three.”

“I know.”

“Are you going to stop me?”

“No. But I also won’t let you go unpunished.”

“Wait! What the fuck…” Dave sputtered.

“I can live with that,” Carl said.

The gunshot was far louder and sharper up close than the first had been. High Impact knew it would be. He’d been closer than that before to a firing gun. It still didn’t sound anything like in the action movies.

This one did, however, the vigilante considered, have the distinct ring of justice in it.

“Three,” High Impact said, and did what he had promised to.

I’m a bit later than I planned on for my latest Doctor Holiday story. Then again, one could argue it’s early. Passover and Easter are already pretty much done with this year, but the story below takes place in 2011, when both occurred later in the month. So, I’ll just say I’m technically early and pat myself on the back.

A rabbi stood up in the conference room, at the end of the table, standing before a trio of other rabbis, several Christians pastors—two Catholic and four others from various Protestant faiths—a nun, two Muslim imams, a Buddhist cleric and a Wiccan priestess.

“I appreciate you all coming to this meeting on such short notice,” said Abraham Sandler, more commonly known to his congregation as Rabbi Abe, by way of introduction. He was the current chairman of this inter-faith community group, dubbed Faith@Work, and he would rather have been anyplace else right now—preferably across an ocean. “I know several other of our members couldn’t be here but I’m sure between the—let’s see—15 of us, we can make sure they’re up to speed.”

He paused, and took a deep breath.

“Doctor Holiday has been spotted in New Judah,” he said heavily, and saw the uneasy stirrings around the table. “Earlier today, someone saw what was on his chest display, and it doesn’t bode well. Rather, it doesn’t bode well for certain of us, so I understand if a few of you might leave this meeting early since it’s not likely to affect you directly.”

With a pained look on his face, Father Daniel Calvecchio of St. Cecelia’s Catholic Church—who often did double-duty at these meetings sitting in for the bishop of the New Judah Diocese in addition to representing his own church—lifted his head and looked soberly into Abe’s eyes. “It’s April 17th today—is it Easter or Passover that has him coming here?”

Abe nodded. You usually are the quickest and sharpest of us in this group, he thought.

“Unfortunately, both,” Abe replied, and paused as the silence of most of those sitting around the table somehow deepened. “His display is split, with a Passover countdown on one side and a message of the upcoming Easter holiday on the other half. I’ve done some quick research; this has never happened before. In the decade since Doctor Holiday appeared, he’s ‘celebrated’ Easter six times and Passover three times but never in the same year—this tenth April seasonal showing is the only time both have factored into his activities. Also, unless he leaves the city before Passover begins, this appearance will give the city of New Judah the dubious distinction of being the only community he’s visited for a holiday more than once—and only five months after that Thanksgiving appearance, no less. I hope that doesn’t mean he’s setting up residence here.”

“Well, at least that was a relatively harmless visit in November,” noted Siraj Al-Qazwini, a relatively young imam who was heading up the new Islamic Society of New Judah mosque that had been constructed eight months earlier. It had replaced the original mosque that had been destroyed—and many of its members killed, as well—some two years earlier by a trio of white supremacist transhumans. “He spent a peaceful Thanksgiving dinner in a poor family’s home but the only person it seems he harmed was a drug dealer earlier in the day—unfortunate, of course, no great loss there. Perhaps this visit will be similarly peaceful.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure…” Daniel said with heavy resignation, and then just stopped, sighing and staring at some random point in the air.

Abe decided to take it up from there, since he knew what his Catholic friend and colleague was thinking, and it had great personal weight for the man.

“I think we need to remember what happened last year, Siraj,” Abe noted. “The Easter Slaughter. Mafia Catholics vs. Russian Jewish mob.”

The DeCavalcante crime family had been sparring for more than two years already with a mostly Jewish organized crime group with links to Russia over the rapidly dwindling piece of the pie that old-school mobsters even got to enjoy these days as they competed with street gangs and transhumans in the criminal sphere, Abe silently recalled. The DeCavalcantes had killed one of the Russian mob’s leaders, nicknamed Tsar Alexi, on his way to celebrate the Passover Seder with his family. Then the Russians responded by murdering the entire immediate family of Joey Colombo—the third-in-command of the DeCavalcante criminal operations—while the 10 of them were enjoying Easter dinner and Joey was finishing some business elsewhere with his boss Michael DeCavalcante. What followed was several weeks of vicious retaliations volleyed between them before things calmed down again.

One of those revenge attacks killed three of Father Calvecchio’s cousins, Abe recalled as he glanced at the still-brooding priest, and only one of them was even involved in mob activities.

In the aftermath, the only ones who benefitted were those criminal leaders not directly involved in the ruckus, most notably among them Irish mob boss Murphy Walsh.

“Passover begins in two days,” Abe said. “Easter is five days after that. Pretty much an entire week that the Judeo-Christian community might end up dealing with Doctor Holiday in some way, shape or form. Like I said, this doesn’t affect all of you, but most of us need to make some plans to see that this holy season doesn’t end up bloody—at least not beyond the symbolic blood involved for Jews and Christians.”

No one left the meeting early.

But when everyone was finished up, that sense of camaraderie did little to dull the dread that each took home with himself or herself.

* * *

Joey Colombo toweled himself off, steam still filling much of the master bathroom. He took his time about it; his emotions were still raw from several days now of memories from last year’s massacre flooding back. Thoughts of Anna and his kids and even his first grandson dead all around the Easter table when he got home.

He wasn’t without children this year, for what that was worth. He’d made an “honest woman” of his years-long mistress two months ago and both her daughter and her son, five and three, respectively, were of his loins—and now legally and publicly his children

In some ways, that made it all the harder for him to get trough this “anniversary.” They were all a reminder that he’d replaced his dead family with a backup one.

As he opened the door of his bathroom to enter the bedroom and greet his wife, he stopped cold, and thought his heart would stop as well. Looming there was Doctor Holiday, the left-hand side of his digital chest display saying “Passover is here!” and the other side running a countdown to Easter, now a little less than five days distant.

Joey could see Margie on the bed in the background, clutching the sheets to her scantily clad body and staring in his direction, face ashen and panicked.

“You may not be Jewish, Mr. Colombo,” Doctor Holiday said. “But I thought you would find it worth knowing that the Angel of Death passed over your house tonight, even without lamb’s blood on your door.”

Without another word or gesture, Doctor Holiday left.

Being a good Catholic boy from long back—always getting high marks in his religious classes—Joey knew about the Old Testament Exodus all too well. What had begun it and what had led to the Passover celebration among Jews. The killing of the first-born Egyptian children by the Angel of Death—the final plague visited upon Pharaoh and his people by God to force the release of the Jewish slaves.

When he said “passed over,” did he mean in the good way or that…?

Joey ran to his daughter’s bedroom—the eldest child—and then to his son’s.

Both of them were alive, but very confused about why he was waking them out of a sound slumber and hugging them so fiercely with tears in his eyes.

Though overwhelmed with relief, somewhere in the back of his mind Joey wondered, Who didn’t get passed over, and what does any of this have to do with me?

* * *

Twenty-seven minutes later, Doctor Holiday slipped from the shadows to block “The Fixer,” otherwise known as Murphy Walsh or the Emerald Godfather, as the man stepped out from one of his nightclubs and headed for his limo.

“A plague visits your home tonight,” Doctor Holiday intoned. “Partial payment for your sins.”

As quickly as he appeared, the transhuman retreated and Murphy was left perplexed.

But awareness—and with it panic—quickly replaced the confusion.


When he got there, Murphy found his wife alive and well, and the children all seemed fine. Until…

All his family alive except for 15-year-old Patrick, his only son. Dead in his bed with no signs of injury or trauma. As peaceful-looking as if he’d just drifted into dreams.

Murphy’s firstborn child.

The mob boss hadn’t shed a tear for any of the four lieutenants he’d lost in apparently unrelated incidents—one heart attack, one apparent accident, one apparent suicide and one apparent murder—in the past couple weeks, but he wept openly over this death.

And Doctor Holiday had said this was only partial payment, Murphy reminded himself.

* * *

On April 20th, Murphy saw the first zombie.

It wasn’t that he believed in the undead.

But it was hard to mistake a corpse for much of anything else, and they weren’t supposed to stand around, much less stumble across the street to stop on the sidewalk and stare at him with lifeless, oozing, muck-filled pits where eyes were supposed to be.

Murphy pulled his gun, but the zombie never approached him. It simply raised one arm and pointed at him accusingly.

It wasn’t until several hours later that Murphy realized the corpse wasn’t a stranger. The features would have been hard to place after numerous days of swelling and rot, not to mention having taken a the impact of a city bus before death, but the suit was very familiar.

One of his four recently deceased lieutenants: Kevin Clarke.

* * *

The next night, there were two zombies—Kevin again, looking a little the worse for wear, and the colleague who’d apparently committed suicide: Oliver Beckett, who hadn’t decomposed all that much around the face yet, probably in part because it hadn’t met the front end of a speeding vehicle like Kevin’s.

They were on the lawn of his backyard, and it had already taken everything Murphy had to write off the previous late-afternoon sighting of Kevin as some hallucination. After convincing himself it had all been a dream, now he had two dead mean trespassing.

They each raised an arm to point at him, and at that point, the Emerald Godfather lost it. He pulled his gun and fired two rounds into Kevin, one of them striking him perfectly in the center of the forehead.

The dead man continued to stand there, pointing, and it seemed like his undead comrade was laughing some silent laugh at Murphy.

Fuck you! You’re supposed to go down with a headshot! That’s what happens in the books and movies!

Murphy retreated back into his house, locking every window and door.

He considered calling up his men for some help. But then he wondered at the reality of all this. Transhuman heroes and villains and other such superpowered humans existed, sure. That was odd enough and society was still getting used to that after 40 years. But the walking dead? Genetic mutations were one thing, but rising from the grave was quite another.

Murphy realized he might very well be losing his mind, and the last thing he needed was to call someone over and discover that they didn’t see any zombies at all. He’d worked too hard to pull ahead of the Italians and those Russian Jews—he was known as The Fixer, after all; now wasn’t the time for anyone in his operation to see him losing it.

He’d hastily sent his wife and three surviving children away for a long trip to Ireland after the first zombie appeared, hoping he’d had things sorted out before they returned, and he was even more grateful that they weren’t here to see him losing his mind.

There was no sleep for Murphy that night, even after he looked down at one point to see the pair of zombies shuffling off toward his back gate and away from the house.

* * *

Kevin and Oliver brought along a third recruit with them the morning of April 22nd, as Murphy gazed out his kitchen window.

Seeing Joe O’Toole along with the other guys made Murphy choke on the smoke of his cigarette and gag up half his breakfast and coffee. When he finally achieve some sort of composure, Murphy slugged down half his cup of brew in one gulp to replace some of the emptied contents of his stomach, as well as to shock himself awake, he hoped. The scalding pain of coffee searing his throat centered him as well.

None of the zombies disappeared, though. They just stood by the side of his house. After a few minutes, they slowly approached the kitchen window, and the Emerald Godfather wondered if he needed to shed his Fixer nickname, because he had no idea how to game this situation or solve the predicament he was in, now that the murder victim among his recently deceased men had joined the other two.

When they got to the window, they pressed their faces against it.

No, Murphy thought, not their faces. Their mouths. They’re giving my window a long three-way oozing kiss from each of their mouths.

Then they backed away to point at him in silent accusation.

Murphy managed to keep his shit together for about a minute before he screamed and then backed into a corner to curl into a ball.

When he got up, they were gone, and he knew what tomorrow would bring, even if he didn’t know the time of the arrival. Heart attack victim Teddy Washbombe—the most recently deceased of his men—would join the other three.

* * *

Murphy wasn’t wrong, and the Emerald Godfather watched as the quartet danced an Irish folk jig to the musical accompaniment of crickets in the grass late at night on the 23rd in his backyard. Then the accusing fingers—four of them this time—followed by four jaunty salutes.

The Fixer had no idea whether the synchronized salute was a farewell gesture or one to signify: See you later.

* * *

No more of his men had died recently, so Murphy convinced himself that Easter Day would bring no more zombies to his doorstep. There was no fifth undead thing to add and, after all, hadn’t that been the pattern?

Except my son, but he doesn’t fit the pattern, right? And he’s in a locked crypt.

Or maybe I went a little crazy, he thought, and there were no dead men harassing me. I’ve worked out my problems now. No more seeing dead people. Just a day of missing my absent family on Easter.

He got through the day without hassle, including Easter Mass services with his parents and grandparents and then an early Easter dinner with them and a bunch of aunts, uncles and cousins later in the day. He checked out his clubs that night, and got in a couple blowjobs from two of his hottest ladies at the strip club before he returned home at 10:15 and got ready to call it a night.

Murphy hadn’t been in bed more than 10 minutes before he heard the doorbell ring.

He ignored the incessant sound for another 10 minutes.

Then the phone rang, and he picked it up hesitantly.

“Answer the door, or we come in to drag you out, Fixer,” said a gravelly voice. It didn’t sound like Kevin, Ted, Joe or Oliver. But then again, Murphy didn’t know what a zombie sounded like. Not a goddamn one of them should even have cell phones to call him with.

Mustering all his will, Murphy said solidly—even bravely—“I’ll be down in 15 minutes, when I’ve had a chance to get dressed and splash some water on my face. You fuckin’ try a goddamn thing and I’ll make you wish you’d never crawled outta your graves, any one of you.”

Once he was ready, and packing three pistols—not to mention a sawed-off shotgun inside his trench coat—the Emerald Godfather went to his front door. A quick look through the peephole showed Kevin standing across the street, pointing.

But this time, he wasn’t pointing at Murphy. He was pointing down the street.

Murphy stepped out, looking in the direction of the outstretched arm and saw nothing of interest. So he walked in that direction for a couple minutes until he saw Oliver standing on a corner, undead as could be, pointing down another street.

Murphy had the idea now, and kept walking until he saw Joe some 12 minutes later.

He headed in the direction of that zombie’s pointing finger and reached Teddy eight minutes after that. Murphy could see clearly what Ted was pointing at, and had no confusion about the ultimate destination.

It was the cemetery he had buried his son Patrick in a few days earlier.

* * *

Near the family crypt where Patrick had been laid to rest stood Doctor Holiday. Knowing how dangerous the transhuman was, Murphy resisted the urge to brandish any of his weapons. He simply met the tall man’s eyes and waited.

“Was it worth it to you, Fixer?” Doctor Holiday finally said, and in that gravelly tone Murphy recognized the voice of the caller earlier in the evening.

Not a zombie calling me after all, the mob boss thought with some small satisfaction.

“Was what worth it?” the Emerald Godfather asked.

“Arranging to make it look like the DeCavalcante Family had taken out Tsar Alexi, and then getting someone to plant the bright idea that it would be an excellent idea to act even more batshit violently crazy than Russian mobsters were already known for and kill all of Joey Colombo’s family while they ate Easter ham.”

“You aren’t really Doctor Holiday, are you?” Murphy said, his voice getting deeper and gaining strength as he looked at the cloth-bandaged face and the grim eyes behind the wrappings.

“What makes you think that?”

“You sound too sane. Too together. That ain’t like any Doctor Holiday I’ve heard about,” the Emerald Godfather responded.

“You haven’t been paying much attention, then, Fixer,” Doctor Holiday said. “Plenty of people who’ve encountered me have met very level-headed and relatively sane versions of me. I’ll ask again: Was it worth it?”

“Every goddamn hour, day, week and month spent planning it. Every million dollars extra it brought to me when I picked up the pieces after the Russian kikes and the dagos were done killing each other.”

“You killed a man’s family during one of their holiest days, Fixer,” Doctor Holiday. “Ten innocents—most of them women and children. That’s inexcusable.”

“Oh, and you killing my boy—who wasn’t even out of high school yet—is the height of honor?”

“He died painlessly in his sleep,” Doctor Holiday said, “and payback’s a bitch. But as a matter of scale, it doesn’t compare to what you did. Not by a longshot. You created a bloodbath that spanned weeks beyond the death of Colombo’s family.”

“And I’d do it again,” Murphy said, pulling out the shotgun. “Now I’m gonna fucking kill your unarmed ass. You ain’t Doctor Holiday, and those zombies are some kind of trick. Guys in costumes, I’ll bet. Fucking with me. Hope it was worth it to you because it’s the last trick you’re gonna pull.”

“Lazarus, come forth!” Doctor Holiday bellowed, and one stone wall of the crypt squealed, shrieked and quickly shattered, spraying the Emerald Godfather with a hail of stone chips. The mobster shouted in pain, dropped his gun and stumbled. “Or perhaps I should have yelled ‘Patrick come forth!’,” Doctor Holiday said.

As Murphy regained his bearings, he looked up to see the corpse of his son standing there, and then stepping slowly and jerkily toward him.

“Oh, I’m the real Doctor Holiday, Fixer. I guess it’s just that my subconscious decided to wake up Passover morning and set me up with a specially designed Murph-o-gram in religious holiday mode. My brain decided you needed some Tales from the Crypt-style vengeance. Complete with a weird Interfacer ability to animate corpses. I’m like the puppeteer to the dead, among a few other talents. The son has risen on the third day! Oh, look! Sonny boy wants a hug.”

Patrick’s dead arms were outstretched as he approached Murphy. The man let out a strangled gurgle, torn between grief and rage at the defilement of his son’s grave and the renewed pain of seeing him dead, and the feeling of utter terror that a corpse was reaching for him, animated by a madman.

Murphy pulled out one of the pistols he had brought, and unloaded it into his dead son. It didn’t stop the boy, nor did the next pistol’s worth of bullets. Patrick’s steady gait remained unchanged, while Murphy’s emotional pain grew as he watched the body torn small piece by small piece apart by his own hand, now firing with the last pistol.

Risen from the grave on Easter night, and I’m killing him all over again.

He dropped that empty weapon and scrabbled for the shotgun. When he found it, he fired it—and took off one of Patrick’s legs, ending the horrid advance.

By that time, though, the four dead men who’d guided him to the crypt came upon him from behind. They dragged him screaming into the crypt, as Patrick slowly crawled after them.

* * *

Dawn washed away the man whom Doctor Holiday had briefly been, and the tall, muscled body walked onward with surer steps than any of the corpses he had animated, but with barely any more awareness of his surroundings than even they had possessed.

Doctor Holiday walked from a crypt where six recently dead men remained still, one of them locked in the strangling embrace of his son.

Every one of them was smiling.

Except for Murphy.

And except for Doctor Holiday, marching onward, a display on his chest counting down the days until Memorial Day 2011.


Image of Doctor Holiday adapted from a drawing of the Unknown Soldier; character copyright DC Comics.

A vision of lacy, frilly, girly splendor in the darkness. A pale blur against the backdrop of small night-shadowed park spaces and commercial buildings. A lithe, springing, satin-winged form running and skipping in the moonlight.

The night was her time. The time of sleep and the time when the Tooth Fairy wandered. Even before she had existed, it had been a time for the mythical tooth fairies that left money in return for baby teeth.

Night. A time of monsters and financially generous fae folk, she thought with a giggle in her head.

Her movements were somehow joyous in a childlike fashion while also suggesting something predatory.

But tonight she wasn’t hunting for random trouble—or random teeth. She didn’t have a scheme or plan to carry out to satisfy her sadistic urges or her greedy ones.

Tonight she was trying to figure out who was following her and why.

Eluding a pursuer while secretly hunting that pursuer. Playing at being unwitting prey so that she could strike.

Tooth Fairy smiled as she jogged and skipped and moved in and out of the dark places. Smiled and let her mouth be home to a wide assortment of different types of fangs, changing over and over as they glistened and sparkled in the moonlight and glow of the streetlamps.

* * *

Another shape in the night, moving quickly but stealthily and avoiding the open spaces and the light as much as possible.

Another shape whose back also bore wings—though these were darker, smaller and shaped like a butterfly. Unlike Tooth Fairy’s more articulated wings, these ones didn’t flap realistically as the skulking form moved and pursued Tooth Fairy.

They were pretty, but static. Rigid. Fixed.

A perfect complement to someone who felt stuck. Who felt awkward. Who need direction.

Catching up with Tooth Fairy was the beginning of solving all of that.

* * *

From above—from a fire escape on the side of a shuttered department store—came a snarling voice.

“Who are you, what the hell do you want and which body part should I start chomping on first?” Tooth Fairy queried and challenged from her shadowy perch. “I’ve known you were behind me a long time; might as well come out and play.”

A woman stepped just barely into view. Pale skin and hair, but a short gauzy dress of deepest black, and her butterfly-shaped wings affixed to the back of it, colored mostly in purple, indigo and charcoal. Her mask was a simple black domino-style one, with a pair of butterfly antennae extending from the sides of it.

The Tooth Fairy being shadowed by a butterfly fairy, thought the woman poised above and licking her teeth which she morphed from sharp fangs back to her natural dentition. That’s a novel change of pace.

“I’m Night Fae,” the woman said from below.

“I don’t know if there’s room for more than one fairy in New Judah,” Tooth Fairy warned. “So, you got the short straw this month, eh?”

“What do you mean?” Night Fae asked, scrunching her blue eyes as she warily and curiously observed the woman watching her from above.

“Seems like every month, give or take, some half-assed hero finds me and tries to take me down. I had thought handing them their asses and keeping parts of some of their bodies as trophies might have sent a message by now,” Tooth Fairy said in a half-snarl, half-purr. “Do I have to start killing all of you to make it more clear?”

“I’m not here to take you in or take you down,” Night Fae said. “I’m no hero. I want to be something, but not that. I want to be like you. I really admire you, Tooth Fairy.”

Mouth wide and filled with jagged teeth like broken white chisel tips, Tooth Fairy dropped to the pavement and fixed her eyes on Night Fae’s.

“I don’t need your admiration,” Tooth Fairy snapped. “I don’t fucking want it.”

“And I like the idea of your apprenticeship even more repulsive,” she added as she pounced, the carefully designed white wings on her back flapping furiously as she launched herself forward.

* * *

The third time that Night Fae evaded one of Tooth Fairy’s attacks, the aggressor skipped backward and stopped, feet together in something almost like a ballerina’s stance, and swayed back and forth, almost seductively, for a few moments as she assessed her former pursuer.

“Better moves than the last guy who tussled with me,” Tooth Fairy noted. “Aggravating, really. I wasn’t looking for a workout tonight. I just cleaned this outfit and I don’t want pit stains or crotch sweat. I might force my estranged husband to have disturbing sex with me tonight and I had fragrant things in mind much more exotic and unsettling than sweat. That’s three times you’ve slipped away. That’s three teeth I’ll claim.”

Then Tooth Fairy struck again, and Night Fae dodged a flurry of attacks again, putting distance between her and the woman she emulated.

“I’m not your enemy,” she said. “Even so-called villains could use allies and friends.”

“I have more allies than I ever wanted, and Janus had to pay me a lot of money to accept them into my world at all,” Tooth Fairy said. “That’s four teeth I’ll have from your mouth now.”

“If you’re that dead-set against having anything to do with me, I’ll leave then,” Night Fae said, breathing heavily—clearly unused to prolonged combat maneuvers.

“Not until I have the teeth you owe for putting me out.”

“God you’re so fucking eerie and menacing and self-assured and independent,” Night Fae effused.

“Stop with the fucking reverence, bitch!” Tooth Fairy snapped. “I don’t want your adoration and I don’t want to be a mentor to anyone but my child.”

“You’re better than me; I know that. In so many ways,” Night Fae said. “That’s why I hoped I could learn from you. But one thing I can do really well is stay away from you. I’ve stolen so many security videos and even a couple news recordings of you in action. I know all your moves.”

That’s what’s so unnervingly familiar and that’s what’s annoying me more and more as this goes on, Tooth Fairy realized. She has my moves.

“You’re a Mimic,” Tooth Fairy growled. “Can you do voices, too?” she sneered. “Go ahead, imitate my voice. I want a new reason to dislike you and add a fifth tooth to your debt.”

“I don’t mimic voices,” Night Fae said. “I can do movements, though. I can copy moves and I learn enough from what I see to fill in a lot of the blanks. Plus add my own touches. I’ve got other powers, too, like the ones that helped me find and follow you. I could be a great help to you. I swear!”

“I don’t want an attention whore sidekick either, you needy bitch!” Tooth Fairy shrieked, and rushed forward again.

This time, though, she abandoned all those martial arts classes she had taken over the years, especially the ones she’d taken up as her powers began to emerge. Instead, she thought of her years with her husband—before she’d become a transhuman; before she’d made herself thus to hopefully ensure her unborn child could grow into powers as well one day. She thought about the college wrestling moves he’d playfully taught her and that she’d seen when he’d coach wrestling camps in the summers for the high school boys. She abandoned everything that had worked in battles since she’d taken up crime, mayhem and torture as her career and went after Night Fae like she’d in the past sometimes gone after Will playfully in the bedroom to pin him and fuck him.

Night Fae hadn’t been ready for any of that, and she grunted as Tooth Fairy slammed into her, hugged her tight, and wrestled her to the ground. Legs wrapped around her prey’s torso now, Tooth Fairy used her Morph powers to extend two long, razor-like prongs from her forearm instead of altering her teeth, and let the sharp, bony tips of those organic blades hover at the throat of Night Fae.

As the women recovered her senses, she tried to struggle out of Tooth Fairy’s grip and failed, then noticed the deadly predicament at her neck. She settled down, and smiled.

“You have enough real enemies out there without killing me. If you don’t want me, at least let me be bad like you’ve been able to be,” Night Fae said. “Reject me if you must; but this is still a man’s world. It needs more women like us. Let me live to be a bad girl like you did.”

“I dislike you on general principles,” Tooth Fairy said. “But you make a good case for a sorority of villainy. If you move or try to get away from me, I’ll kill you. If you cooperate, you live. I might even warm to mentoring one day—long in the future—if you can follow those simple instructions.”

Night Fae nodded and the deadly protrusions retreated back into Tooth Fairy’s skeletal system as she traded them in for the gold-plated pair of pliers she carried in a small, silky white fanny pack under her wing assembly.

“This will only hurt  a lot,” Tooth Fairy whispered eagerly.

* * *

Tooth Fairy walked slowly and contemplatively as she worked her way back to her lair.

In a Ziploc bag in her fanny pack were four teeth—payment in full. Out of kindness, she’d taken the woman’s four rearmost molars so as not to ruin her smile. She felt enough sympathy to hope Night Fae had dental insurance to get some dental implants as replacements.

Along with those teeth, a small slip of paper with Night Fae’s phone numbers and email address.

I don’t want an apprentice or a sidekick, but I might teach her a thing or two, Tooth Fairy thought. More importantly, I will be taking my child more and more often to have time with her away from Will, and a bad girl’s gotta work even on visitation weekends.

Good nannies were hard to find.

Especially ones who could appreciate the need for a mother to go out and sow pain that wasn’t deserved and reap treasures that weren’t hers.

Deadlines have kept me from all my fiction writing this past week as we work to close the April issue of the magazine that pays my bills until someone discovers how much they need to give me a multiple-book publishing deal. However, in between work I haven’t been entirely idle.

As you’ve likely noticed if you’ve either been with me since the start of this superheroic blog venture…or have come later to the party and diligently read all the older stuff here…I’ve started adding images to my posts. In fact, I will be working to add them in retroactively to all of my stories posted thus far (in fact, I’ve already started the process with the first 10 chapters of “The Gathering Storm”).

I’ll keep you posted on that front, but the thing is that, clearly, I’ve been going through the many, many images I have on my hard drive (most of which I don’t even know where they came from anymore) and fiddling with them in Photoshop to make them more appropriate to my various characters.

I’ve run into some problems, of course, that can only be solved by finding some student artists who need to fill their portfolios by working for free (or for pizza and beer) for me…or finding a really generous professional artist or two or three who will take pity on me. I mean, let’s face it: I’m never gonna find anything online for Crazy Jane. A woman whose face is entirely tattooed with a combination of friendly and horrid imagery and still looks attractive? Hah! I can’t even find an image of a hideous woman online with that kind of ink. Likewise, aside from the headshot I have for Mad Dash in costume, I will never find an image that even suggests (much less does justice to) his outrageous attire. There are some other characters, too, who pose similar problems, but you don’t need a litany.

Anyway, there is a character who’s been mentioned in passing a couple times in “The Gathering Storm” named Good War. I’ve actually found some semi-promising images in my collection, but would like to enlist your aid in assessing them and picking one for him. Or two. I mean, several of my characters have multiple costume styles, because who wants to be in the same outfit all the time while fighting crime? Not to mention the fact that what works in cold-weather months might lead to heat exhaustion in the summer.

Good War is a character somewhat in the mold of Captain America, at least insofar as he is patriotically themed and has a World War II connection (however tenuous). His look has been described in the first chapter where he was mentioned as a WWII infantry soldier uniform with red, white and blue coloration (or something along those lines). Here are my candidates so far. Please chime in via the comments section for this post to let me know your thoughts.

This one is actually based on a photo of an action figure. Captain America, in fact, envisioned in some early garb during his World War II days. I posterized it and did some cutting and pasting to hide the articulation as much as possible so it wouldn't look like an action figure.

I think this guy is some character related to Marvel Comics' Captain America mythos. Much like with the previous image, I cropped out the shield because Good War doesn't carry one, and I replaced the star on his chest with a stylized U.S. flag.

This one is interesting. Based on the original file name, I think it was supposed to depict a Chinese soldier, but the slightly abstract nature made it a pretty much "every soldier" look. With three utility packs on his torso, I had the perfect venue for the red, white and blue, and the bandana over his eyes gave me a another place to put the U.S. colors.

There you have it, folks. Opinions?

Numbers Game

Posted: April 2, 2012 in Ruminations

I’ve had to rethink various things in the Whethermen universe as I’ve gone along. For example, I’ve had to revise Query’s age slightly and his entrance onto the scene (historically speaking) in New Judah for things to make more sense. Also, I’ve gone back and altered just how long he’s been without sleep to have things seem more logical…at least as logical as they can be in a world of superheroes and supervillains.

Also, I’ve softened my stance on powers that are “impossible” and have either identified creative ways they might be made more plausible or have decided that as with so many things, there will always be exceptions to the rule. It’s just there won’t be very many and those who are the exceptions might never be known to be so to anyone else, meaning the world will continue to think such powers impossible.

But one thing that continues to haunt me is whether I have too many transhumans in the world. Or perhaps, more accurately, do I have too many with highly significant levels of power or overdone power sets (i.e. too many different kinds of powers)?

Given that I have most of my action take place in the fictional Connecticut city of New Judah just across the Long Island Sound from New York City (with occasional stops in fictional Marksburgh, PA; the very real Philadelphia, PA; and eventually fictional Gryphon, NV…and probably New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles someday), we’ll start there and use its 5 million residents as a starting point.

I’ve posited in the info pages on this blog that perhaps 10% of humans have active transhuman genes. By the way, the correlation with that number and the traditionally held opinion of the percentage of humans who are gay/lesbian is no accident. Nor is it an accident that it’s not much smaller than the percentage of the U.S. population that is black. To some extent, my stories are allegorical and metaphorical.

Anyway, if that number is accurate, then some 500,000 people are transhuman in New Judah alone. Now, that doesn’t mean much yet. Transhuman powers could be as slight as being a Morph who can only change his or her hair color or a Brute who just has slightly more strength than would be expected for a person of his or her height/weight/build.

Let’s just say that 10% of those transhumans have reasonably significant powers. So, 50,000 folks that might have one or two transhuman power sets, but still nothing extreme. People who could fly under the radar easily and still live normal lives, and who wouldn’t be suited to being superheroes or supervillains even if they wanted to do so. Some of them might use their powers such, if they had other training or skills, but the vast majority wouldn’t.

Now let’s drill down again, using 10% again as an arbitrary but reasonably conservative benchmark. Maybe 10% of those 50,000 have some serious powers, whether that just means several of them or a very potent one or two powers, or even several very potent powers. That’s 5,000. Of those, many would likely use their powers for gain, but not necessarily in an evil way or even a heroic one. Some would, of course. It probably would be easy to imagine somewhere between 800 and 2,500 of that group being police, thugs, military folks or highly placed consultants (among other possible roles), depending on their powers.

And what of the 10% of that 5,000? We’ll call these people the extreme cases. High levels of power, which likely would also mean more prominent psychological differences as is seen among transhumans. That’s 500 people who would be very drawn to be flamboyant and in the public eye (or creeping the shadows at night as vigilantes) and who could really do some damage (literally or figuratively) as well as elude police and/or escape imprisonment fairly easily. Would all of them give in the lure to put on a costume or otherwise put their powers to extreme use?


But I could see between 20% and 30% of them easily doing so. Add to their ranks some of the less powerful but more ambitious or deranged people from the previous group of 5,000 and I’d say that even if I ended up with 200 or 300 really committed costumed folks (even if they didn’t spend a lot of their time in costume), I wouldn’t be out of the realm of reality.

And that’s just in New Judah…

If we extrapolated that out to the entire nation of the United States alone, you’d have maybe 14,000 or 15,000 costumed (or plainly clad and adventurous) characters, I guess. Not sure if that’s excessive or not. A good chunk of them would probably be jailed for one reason or another, without any good way to escape. Also, having several hundred at least in a big city might be more a function of bigger cities attracting such individuals, so the overall national numbers might not match city numbers.

Even beyond the costume factor in places where there is a tradition of comics books and/or action shows with superheroes before the emergence of transhumanity visibly in the 1970s, I think we could see where certain nations (non-Caucasian ones where the trend toward transhuman powers is more pronounced) might be considered potential threats for being able to potentially field transhuman battalions or small armies of them.

I don’t know…what do you think?