Thursday, December 9, 2010

December writing group

I belong to a monthly writing group where one person brings a prompt and we all try (and generally succeed) at writing a complete-ish story in thirty minutes. I've never been much of a short story writer, so it's a bit of a challenge for me, but it's fun, and it gets the writing gears turning (especially on those bad months when I haven't been writing much).

In the vein of my Nano postings, and since I'm not all that sure of what to do with this blog, here's my unedited super-short thirty minute story.

* * *

James steered the boat out into the water, back to his route. The route he repeated every hour. He flicked a switch on the console that started the tour announcements. As long as he made the bridge by the end of the French language section, he was set for thirty minutes.

The woman's recorded voice discussed the old oak tree on the left bank. It was a nice oak tree, but what the woman was saying wasn't true. It was only forty years old, not two hundred and fifty, and was planted by the city with a number of other oaks, most of which died from disease. It was the oldest tree in view, but it wasn't the first tree planted in the city by John Remington, the city's founder.

This was pointed out to him by an older man last year. The old man was traveling by himself and was apparently a scholar of old oak trees, or maybe John Remington, or maybe just being a pain in the ass. He was right, but nobody cared, as evidenced by the fact that nobody bothered to change the recorded tour.

Last trip had a birthday party. What a nightmare. It was like watching a headache build. The kids were all well behaved at first, but by the ten minute mark they were bored and running around like rabid monkeys. The parents, either oblivious, or to tired to care, did nothing. For a moment he thought they were in trouble. All of the kids ran to one side of the boat to see the toymaker's house (it wasn't the toymaker's house, that burned down in the 70's). Unfortunately this was also the side that many of the parents had chosen to sit on. The boat got very close to capsizing, which would have been a big problem. While James was licensed to pilot the boat, and he was trained in what to do in case of emergencies, he didn't really pay much attention to that part, and it was a long time ago. Fortunately the boat didn't capsize and the kids went back to their random running around, rebalancing the boat, providing more reinforcement of his general isolationist philosophy of letting things just take care of themselves.

The shadow of the bridge passed over the boat, the recording of the man speaking French cut out. Perfect. He leaned back, one hand resting lazily on the steering wheel.

A man and woman started arguing near him. An advantage of this job was that he was basically invisible. People paid him no attention, and rarely thought of him when talking to each other. He learned intimate pieces of people's lives during the trip. They even tipped him at the end.

This couple was no different, they pulled their quiet argument back away form the other tourists, towards him. He listened to both sides of the argument, carefully weighing their facts. Some trips brought couples together, and some pushed them apart. This trip was the latter for this couple.

James had a knack for predicting the future of couples' relationships. More accurately, he had a knack for predicting doom, which, honestly, was more fun. People that stayed together weren't as fun to listen to on the boat.

The couple reached a temporary agreement and went back to the side to try and catch up on what they missed. They were just passing the half size Big Ben replica. Little Big Ben. For this section, the recording in English had a british accent.

James scanned across the customers. A frown here, a snubbed conversation there, over in the corner an icy silent treatment was being partially ignored. These people were all doomed in their relationships. Another boat full of them. It was like the opposite of the Love Boat.

He pulled the boat up to dock near Little Big Ben, flipping another switch that started the recordings to tell people how to safely get off the boat.

He jumped onto the dock and tied up the boat, then let people off near the giant plastic frog with the sign "Tips are Great".

He smiled at them as they got off the boat, the poor, doomed souls, then prepared for the next group.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The end

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading my little experiment. Obviously there's more to the story, and I'm forging on through a zero draft of the second book now. It's intimidating to start from scratch again, but I have to keep in mind that that's how I started the first book: a rough beginning, a rough ending, and very little in between.
I'm using the name Water Hazard for the first book, and you can find a synopsis and table of contents on the new Water Hazard page.
As you have experienced, Water Hazard needs a lot of editing, but I've decided to continue forward on to the next part of the story for two reasons. 1 - I'm excited to continue the story and want to write it while I'm still excited about it, and 2 - I want to get a good understanding of the complete story so that the choices I make when I go back to edit Water Hazard make sense with regard to the bigger picture.
Once I do go back and get Water Hazard in decent shape, I will need some beta readers. If you are interested in being a beta reader for this story, please contact me.

Thanks for reading!

Nano 2010 - Day 26

(written 11/27/2010 - total words 64,455)

Stan sat up in bed.

“Stan?” his wife asked, her voice slurred with sleep. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” he said. “I just remembered something. Go back to sleep.”

Stan swung his legs out of the bed, stepped into his slippers, and hurried to the study.

Door locked, he sat back in his chair and massaged his temples. He could feel it. The portal had been closed. Without it, he didn’t have the power to continue his work. He’d use up most of his power just stitching the veil back together into something that people would accept.

He sat forward with a grimace, a low grade headache already stabbing into the base of his skull. He dropped his face into his hands and started the work. It was painful and exhausting, but he had now choice. If he couldn’t fix the veil, all of his work would be lost.

* * *

Cal dropped Oscar off, then drove home. He took some time parking to make sure the mustang was in the same parked position he left it, then snuck inside. All was quiet. He put the keys back in the drawer and put the drawer back in its place.

He unloaded his keys and phone into the bowl in the kitchen and headed downstairs. His legs complained with every step. He only made it to the bottom by promising his body that his bed was at the bottom.

He opened the door and smirked. He never left his light on. It just showed how far out of sorts he was.

The smell of home and sight of his bed brought a warm feeling to his body.

He was slammed into the wall, his head bouncing off of the sheetrock. He yelped in pain as his arm was wrenched behind him and the side of his face was ground into the wall.

“Where’s my car?” Rob asked from behind him.

He pulled Cal’s arm up a bit further for emphasis.

“It’s in the driveway,” Cal spoke around the wall in his face. “It’s fine. I didn’t touch it.”

Cal gritted his teeth against the pain, but the real torture was being so close to his bed but so far from relaxing.

“Let’s go see,” Rob said letting go of Cal.

Cal turned around, rubbing his shoulder. Rob’s face was red, and his brow was drawn down to a furious stare. He inclined his head towards the open door and gave Cal a rough shove as Cal passed him.

They were outside for a good hour, Rob going over every detail of the car to make sure Cal hadn’t damaged anything. They even took a test drive to make sure the engine was okay.

“See?” Cal said as they pulled back into the driveway. “It’s fine. It’s a great car.”

Cal was hoping the compliment would help his case some.

“Yes it is,” Rob said cutting the engine off. “And it’s mine, not yours.”

He punctuated that sentence with a painful finger jab to Cal’s ribs.

“Get out of my car.”

They got out and stood at the front of the car.

Rob crossed his arms, frowning. The court of Rob was open, honorable judge Rob presiding. Cal tried to come up with some way to diffuse the situation, mostly so he could haul his carcass back inside and to bed, but his brain was far too spent to be of any use.

“Touch my car again and I’ll kick your ass,” Rob said. This was the opening statement of his verdict. “I’m not kidding around.”

He paused, looking at his car.

“In fact, I should kick your ass now,” he continued. “But I think we can work out a different agreement.”

“First,” he said, holding up a finger. “You’re going to wash my car tomorrow afternoon. Completely, in and out. And wax it.”

Cal nodded. There went his Sunday.

“Second.” Rob held up a second finger. In light of Cal’s mental state, the visible aids were actually somewhat helpful.

“I’ve been needing to do some work on the engine. I need about 500 bucks more to do it.”

Rob smiled.

“You’re going to give me that 200 bucks more.”

Cal started to argue. That was a lot of money.

Rob’s smile dropped and he shook his head.

“That’s the deal. That, or I kick your ass for the rest of the week.”

Cal nodded. In that light, 200 bucks didn’t seem like such a bad option.

“You want a cheap ride,” Rob said. “Next time call a cab.”

Rob walked over and rubbed at a spot on the hood. Cal stood in exhausted silence.

“Why’d you take my car, Cal?” Rob asked.

Cal was surprised by the hurt he heard in Rob’s voice.

“My scooter got towed,” he said. “At school. And I had to go see Angel.”

Rob laughed, shaking his head.

“Your girlfriend?” he asked.

Cal nodded, hoping his blushing face wasn’t so obvious in the dark night. He wasn’t really used to that term being used in reference to him.

“She’s a cutie,” Rob said. “Not really my style. A little too, I don’t know.”

Smart? Cal thought.

“Weird,” Rob said waving his hand at his face.

“But Jesus,” he continued. “You discover girls and within a week, it’s grand theft Cal.”

Rob walked over and put a hand on Cal’s shoulder, leading him back inside.

“You need to take be smart with women” Rob said. “Don’t let them screw with you.”

That began a half hour lecture on how to manage relationships and keep the upper hand. They sat on the stairs outside of Cal’s room. Cal could see his bed through the open door, taunting him, but he sat and listened to Rob, accepting his punishment. As far as the advice, even he knew it was laughably bad. All he had to do was look at Rob’s results to see that.

Finally with a clap on the back, Cal was released.

He shuffled into his room, shut the door, and fell into bed.

That was his last thought for seven beautiful hours.

* * *

Stan took in a deep, shuddering breath. He’d done it. The veil held, though it was much less complex than it had been before. He was safe for now. He shut his eyes tightly against the pain in his head. Well, he was safe as long as his body held out. It was overtaxed as well. Fortunately he had no option now but to sit back and wait. It would be months before he’d be able to do anything. He flexed his hands, trying to get the feeling back in them. Certainly long enough to get his body cooperating again.

In the far-reaching effects of the veil, he’d seen enough to know what happened. It was the three kids. They broke the binding of the portal guardian and were somehow able to corrupt the portal.

Cannon made sense because of his father, though he’d never shown any inclination of following in his fathers path. Martinez made some sense as well, as he and Cannon were rarely apart. Massenberg still bothered him. There was a bigger play in motion and he needed to understand it before he was able to continue with his work. He would need some help with that.

Without the portal, he could do little but blindly call out for help, broadcasting to whoever was listening. Hopefully whoever responded would be friendly and able to help him.

Once he got the portal reestablished, Cannon, Martinez, and Massenberg would pay.

A sharp stab of pain shot through his temples.

He rustled through his drawers for his medication. Hopefully he didn’t push it too far tonight.

* * *

The door alarm bleeped as Cal, Angel, and Oscar entered Comic Conclave. Dennis looked up briefly from the computer at the counter, then went back to whatever he was doing.

They passed the counter and went into the back room where game night was in full effect. Jason and Bazrak were arguing over variations in dwarven dialects.

“We did it,” Cal said.

The conversation at the gaming table stopped.

“What did you do?” Jason asked. His gaze lingered on Oscar’s cast.

“The portal,” Cal said. “We closed it.”

He put his backpack down on the floor and pulled out the coin he’d taken from the lake.

Jason stood up and took the coin from Cal.

“This is from one of the FBI guys?” Jason asked, looking at the coin.

Bazrak came over to look as well.

“No,” Cal said rummaging through his backpack.

He pulled out one of the agent’s coins.

“This is from the last agent,” he said. “The coin you have is from the lake bed. It was part of the portal.”

Jason looked at Bazrak. Bazrak shrugged.

“I guess it could have been part of the portal,” Jason said. “This looks like another binding, though.”

With the help of Angel and Oscar, Cal recounted their last evening at the golf course.

Jason nodded, pulling on his beard thoughtfully.

“I think this was a binding,” he said holding up the coin. “I think they had a portal guardian.”

“I thought the thing in the lake was coming through the portal?” Angel asked.

“If the portal was that permeable, we’d be in a lot of trouble,” Bazrak said. “There’d be all sorts of nasty critters running around here. No, there was a guardian bound to the portal to help protect it.”

“How did you close the portal?” Jason asked.

“Chlorine,” Angel said.

“We dumped a bunch of Chloro-Shock into the lake,” Oscar said.

“Interesting,” Jason said. “And that closed it?”

“I thought removing the coin closed it,” Cal said. “But we also put the chlorine in. Whatever did it, it worked. I haven’t had the bad dreams since that night.”

Jason looked at Bazrak who shrugged again.

“Sure,” Jason said. “Whatever worked. Maybe the chlorine disrupted the nature of the water, or killed some required component. I don’t know.”

“Is it temporary or permanent?” Oscar asked.

“I have no idea,” Jason said. “I think it would depend on how the portal was set up. If it was a natural portal, then it’s probably temporary. If it was something that somebody created, then it’s probably permanent. Until somebody tries it again, that is. So who was doing all of this stuff?”

“The agents,” Cal said. “But they’re all gone now. People don’t remember them at all.”

“No,” Jason said. “The agents, the guardian, the portal. That’s all the work of somebody.”

Cal had a sinking feeling. He shared looks with Angel and Oscar. They didn’t look too happy either.

“There’s somebody else?” Angel asked.

“Probably,” Jason said. “A ring leader of sorts. The guy who summoned all of these things across and put them to work.”

“We haven’t run into anybody like that,” Oscar said.

“That could be a problem,” Jason said. “This guy - or girl,” he nodded at Angel, “had all of these things here working for him for a reason, and now you guys have gone and screwed up whatever plan he had.”

“That means,” Jason continued. “That he’s going to need to summon more across.”

“Different things,” Bazrak added.

“Yeah,” Jason said. “Maybe the same things, or maybe different things. Regardless, he was working behind the scenes before. Now he’s got to go on the offensive. He has to make sure you guys don’t interfere again.”

That sounded really bad.

* * *

Cal, was annoyed. Not only were Angel and his mom trouncing him at Spades, but Oscar, who was not a game player by any means, was picking it up as well. Cal felt completely betrayed.

Oscar came along to help explain the situation to Cal’s mom, but she didn’t seem to need an explanation now. The self-correcting reality, as Angel called it, apparently extended to their parents. Cal’s mom seemed to remember setting up a night to play games, and she seemed a little wary around Angel, but she seemed to have forgotten the calls from the FBI and the sheriff. They weren’t about to bring it up to see if she could remember.

The doorbell rang. Cal was happy for the excuse to get away from the game.

Cal flipped on the porch light and answered the door.

The man on the doorstep was dressed nicely, but casually. He was middle aged and had a bit of a paunch to show it. Cal recognized him immediately. It didn’t hurt that he was holding a giant sign with his face on it that said “Re-elect Mayor Grant.”

“Mayor Grant,” Cal said, clearing his throat. “What can I do for you?”

“Well,” the mayor said. “I’ve been working hard to get out and see the people of Aberdeen, to make sure I can and I noticed somebody vandalized the sign in your yard. I wanted to replace it with a new one, unless you prefer me with the mustache and horns that is.”

He laughed.

“No,” Cal replied laughing, trying to hide his embarrassment. “I don’t know when that happened. Go ahead and put the new one up.”

“Thanks, son,” the mayor said. “I’m sorry, what’s your name?”

“Cal Cannon,” Cal replied.

“Cannon?” the mayor asked. “Are you Dan Cannon’s son?”

“Yes, sir,” Cal replied.

“That was a terrible tragedy,” the mayor said, a sad, serious look coming over his jovial features. “A great loss to the community.”

“Thank you,” Cal said feeling a catch of sadness in his throat.

“Well, thank you for your support, Cal Cannon,” the mayor said putting his hand out. “I hope to continue to improve the safety of our city so that we don’t have situations like what happened with your dad.”

“Sure thing Mayor Grant,” Cal said reaching out.

“Please, Cal. You can call me Stan,” the mayor replied, giving Cal a strong, confident handshake.


THE END

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nano 2010 - Day 25

(written 11/26/2010 - total words 62,147)

A cold splash. The sound and light muted around Cal. There was a warm haze from his right, like the beginnings of dawn only without a horizon. Opposite that, to his left, was pure darkness. He floated between them, drifting along the star speckled continuum towards the darkness.

He still had the shovel in his hand, the metal of the blade reacted with the otherness of where he was and cast off a faint white glow.

He noticed he wasn’t floating freely. There were black tendrils wrapped around him still, pulling with gentle pressure towards the darkness.

He swung the shovel at the tendrils. There was resistance to just moving the shovel. He could feel the space itself reacting to the metal, pushing against any movement. The metal tore through the space with a sound that reminded Cal of unrolling duct tape, only much louder. It resonated in the empty space.

The metal severed the tendrils as it touched them, each stub snapping back towards the darkness, leaving little pieces of inert shadow floating around like pieces of silk blowing in the wind.

The deep sound of his dreams was back. He grit his teeth as the non-words blasted through the space. More tendrils snaked out from the darkness and grabbed him. He cut each one, the tearing sound barely audible over the non-words. For each he cut another seemed to reach out, keeping him moving towards the darkness.

He tried yelling out, but his voice was muffled and distorted as if underwater. He couldn’t even understand his own words.

More tendrils came out, wrapping around the shovel and pulling it. It was trying to get the shovel out of his hands. In his confusion, one thing was clear. If he lost the shovel, he would not make it out of here.

He pulled himself toward the shovel and twisted in the zero gravity environment. He dragged the shovel around, severing the tendrils holding it, but still more came. They wrapped around the shovel, and around him. What started as a gentle pressure grew more intense as the tendrils pulled him in one direction and the shovel in the other. His grip slipped down the shaft of the shovel to the handle and he held that with both arms. He was completely extended now.

His fingers ached as the pressure increased. He tried pulling himself toward the shovel again, but he couldn’t move. He was screwed. It was only a matter of time before his grip gave out and he lost the shovel. The non-words continued to boom in the void. Cal tried to scream, but couldn’t.

His grip failed. The shovel slipped from his grasp.

The booming sound reverberated light laughter, but then suddenly cut out.

Cal heard a sharp hissing noise behind him. He looked towards the noise and saw that the dawn light had grown in intensity. Cracks like lightning came from it, working through the expanse of stars.

The black tendrils faded from inky black to a transparent gray in the growing light. They started to weaken and Cal strained against them. He was able to pry one off of wrist and reached out for the shovel, but it was too far away.

He looked behind again and saw that the glowing light was spreading, the cracks criss crossing across the stars.

He looked back to the darkness and saw eyes. Hundreds of eyes coming from the darkness and the tendrils pulling him down to them. He could feel the cold radiating off of it. His nose filled with a harsh chemical scent. He was close.

He looked over at the shovel, but it had drifted even further away, back toward the light.

He looked back to the light which seemed further away. He was too close to the darkness. He had a sudden realization that he wasn’t going to make it. He wasn’t going to see his friends or his family again. He wasn’t going to kiss Angel again.

Something shifted in the darkness. A mouth opening maybe? Black teeth reaching out for him. His arms and legs were numb from the cold.

Suddenly he jerked to a stop, the tendrils around his body yanking taut.

The sounds of the world shifted. Less bass. More splashing water and screaming. He looked up from the surface of the lake. Angel had him by the shirt.

“God dammit,” Angel screamed, then dropped him, falling back and swinging his shovel at something dark.

He splashed back down into the void. The darkness closing in around him, eclipsing the dawn. There was something glinting at the bottom of the black hole yawning in front of him. Almost like -

He jerked up to the surface again. Angel was shaking him.

“Stand up,” she screamed at him.

Oscar swung his bat at something behind her. Cal heard the ping of the bat striking something solid. Something wrapped around Angel’s face and she was yanked backwards, dropping the shovel and Cal.

He fell under the surface again. Everything was blackness now, and cold. He saw the glimmer in front of him again.

He closed his eyes.

Mind games, he told himself. These are mind games. I’m in the lake.

He reached down with his hand and could imagine the cold, sticky mud beneath him, even though he was accelerating towards that black maw. The mismatch of the two gave him a tickle of vertigo in his belly.

He convinced himself that he was on the lake bed, that the star field was imaginary, and the shovel was just off to his right. He reached out, grabbing for the shovel. His fingers wrapped around the wooden handle. He opened his eyes, focusing on the glimmering object, memorizing where it was in space in front of him.

Pulling his feet under him, he stood up, water and star field dripping off of him. Lunging forward, he drove the shovel down into the water where the glimmering object had been. He slipped in the muck, falling onto the shovel. It sunk into the muck and stopped with a satisfying clank.

He slipped off of the shovel and onto his side, struggling to keep his head out of the water.

The splashing around him died down and the night grew quiet. He heard the sound of crying.

Flipping over he dug under the water in the mud around the shovel. He jammed his finger on a solid, cold object. Pushing the shovel out of the way, he dug with both hands. His fingers found an edge and he pulled. With a slurping noise, it came loose of the muck.

Cal held it up and wiped the mud off of it. A large, thick coin.

He heard somebody walking up behind him and turned, standing. Oscar stopped, holding his hands up.

“It’s me,” Oscar said.

He was soaking wet and breathing hard. One arm of his coat was ripped. He dragged the bat behind him.

“Is it over?” he asked Cal.

Cal nodded and held the coin out.

“I think so,” he said.

“The bat doesn’t work as well as your shovel,” Oscar said. “Still better than nothing, I guess.”

Cal smiled down at his shovel.

“You gotta stick with what works, I guess,” Cal said.

Oscar nodded.

Cal looked around.

“Where’s Angel?” he asked, a worry creeping into his exhaustion.

“I don’t know,” he said looking over his shoulder. “Things were getting pretty crazy there.”

“Angel?” Cal yelled.

No response.

“I thought she was right here,” Cal said. “I saw her the last time I surfaced.”

“Angel?” Cal yelled again, panic edging into his voice.

He stepped forward, scanning around the lake for her.

Oscar called out as well, going in the other direction.

Cal saw her in the water, a dark form sprawled out, pale face turned up to the sky.

“Here,” he called to Oscar as he ran to her and knelt.

He pulled her head and shoulders up onto his lap, out of the water. Oscar splashed over to them.

“Is she okay?” he asked, his voice high and clipped.

Cal put a hand on her chest and leaned over to listen. He could feel and hear a shallow breath.

“She’s breathing,” he said.

She coughed, her whole body spasming, and turned into Cal, putting an arm around him.

“Let’s get out of here before we’re caught,” Oscar said pointing across to the bouncing light of a security patrol.

“Angel?” Cal asked, brushing her hair out of her face.

She looked up at him.

“Can you stand and walk?” he asked. “We need to get moving.”

She nodded and he pulled her up to standing as he stood.

“I saw it,” she said to him dreamily. “In the water. The stars and the darkness.”

Cal held her face in his hands and stared into her eyes.

“Did you go into the darkness?” he asked.

“No, no,” she said with a drunken smile. “You were there. You stopped it.”

“Let’s go, guys,” Oscar said from the edge of the water. “They’re heading this way.”

Cal and Angel splashed through the muck and water and joined Oscar. They chose a direct route straight up the hill and back to the car. They weren’t unconcerned about getting caught, they were just more concerned with getting out of there.

* * *

Cal sat in the backseat with Angel again. She was curled up against him. The car was silent.

“Uh-oh,” Oscar said, slowing the car.

“What,” Cal said looking up.

There were two sheriff’s cars outside of Angel’s house. The black SUV, however, Cal noted, was not there.

“You can’t stop here,” Angel said, sitting forward. “They’ve already seen us. Just pull over like normal.

Oscar pulled over and Cal and Angel got out. Oscar stayed in the car and tried not to attract attention, a difficult task in a classic muscle car with yellow lightning bolts painted on the sides.

There was a locksmith working on the front door as Cal and Angel passed. They heard some talking from the kitchen.

Angel’s mom, Curtis, and another sheriff deputy were sitting at the kitchen table.

“Oh, thank God,” Maureen said.

She stood up quickly, knocking over her chair and ran over to hug Angel.

“Somebody broke into the house tonight,” she said, voice shaky. “I didn’t know if you were here or not. Thank God you were out with Cal.”

Maureen pushed Angel back to look at her.

“What have you kids been doing?” she asked looking at Call as well.

“And why didn’t you answer me when I called?” she asked Angel.

“Sorry, mom,” Angel said. “My phone died.”

The two sheriffs deputies stood up, chairs pushing noisily back on the kitchen floor.

“I think we’ve got all we need,” Curtis said. “Just fill out the reports and drop them by tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Maureen said, looking over her shoulder.

“The locksmith should be done soon,” Curtis said. “We’ll wait outside til he’s gone. Just let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

“Calvin,” Curtis said with a nod as he passed.

Cal decided to try a theory.

“Deputy Curtis?” he asked.

The two deputies stopped.

“What’s the name of the FBI officer in your office?” he asked.

The two deputies glanced at each other.

“Who told you there’s an FBI agent in our office?” Curtis asked.

“Oh,” Cal replied. “Some kids at school mentioned it. They said there was some FBI agent here working on some gang stuff. Last name was Benson, or something like that.

Curtis scratched his head.

“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” he said, looking at the other deputy who shrugged.

“Dammit,” Cal said, looking at Angel. “I knew those kids were screwing with us.”

Curtis shook his head and the two deputies left.

Cal watched Maureen hold Angel for a bit, feeling uncomfortable but stuck there.

“Well,” he said. “I should probably get going.”

“Oh, yes,” Maureen said, releasing Angel.

Maureen patted Cal on the shoulder then went back to the table and the pile of paperwork she had to go through.

Angel led Cal back to the front door, but they stopped in the hallway as the locksmith was still working on the door.

Angel embraced Cal and gave him a long kiss.

“I thought we lost you,” she said. He could hear the beginnings of tears in her voice.

“It was scary on the lake,” she continued. “The images in my head and the things attacking us, but nothing was as frightening as the feeling of losing you.”

Cal stroked her cheek with a finger.

“Thanks for saving me,” he said. “You’re my hero.”

She laughed through her sniffling tears and gave him another kiss.

“I have to get The Cannon back and hope Rob didn’t notice it missing,” Cal said.

“Good luck with that,” Angel said.

They held hands for a moment, looking into each others eyes in the dark hallway, then Cal left.

He got in the front seat with Oscar.

“You want to drive?” Oscar asked.

“No,” Cal said. “You go ahead.”

Oscar shrugged and started the car.

“It’s a nice car,” he said.

“I asked the deputies about the FBI agents,” Cal said.

“And?”

“And, they didn’t know what I was talking about.”

Oscar stopped the car.

“What does that mean?” he asked.

“I think it means that we broke the spell,” Cal said. “We got them all.”

Oscar started driving again, shaking his head.

“I hope so,” he said. “Maybe we should check in with Jason?”

“Yeah,” Cal said. “That’s probably a good idea, but later. I just want to sleep now.”

“I hear that,” Oscar said.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Nano 2010 - Day 24

(written 11/25/2010 - total words 58,367)
An inky blackness covered the star field. Cal felt a cool presence in the dark. A distorted bass sound echoed around him. It sounded like a question, but he couldn’t understand it as a voice.

The eyes blinked back, one at a time, and the sound came again, more insistent. Definitely a question, but the sound was still not recognizable as a language. It wasn’t even recognizable as a voice.

The darkness between the eyes had a form to it, he could feel it slipping by him, through him, pulling at his mind, trying to convince him of something.

“We’re here,” Oscar said.

Cal opened his eyes and saw Oscar looking at him over the seat backs.

“What’s the plan?” Oscar said.

A plan. Cal rubbed his eyes. Angel moved off of him, sitting forward.

“We’ve got four heavy bags of Chloro Shock and one shovel,” Cal said, hoping Angel and Cal could put a plan together out of those details.

“And a bat,” Oscar said pointing down at the floor.

Cal looked down and saw an aluminum bat.

“And a bat,” he echoed, picking it up and handing it to Oscar.

They looked at each other for a moment.

“So we need to get the chlorine to the lake,” Cal said. “And kill whatever tries to stop us.”

“All of the agents are dead,” Oscar said. “Aren’t they?”

“I’ve seen three coins,” Cal said looking at Angel.

She nodded.

“But according to Jason, somebody summoned the agents, right?” Cal asked. “Who knows what else they’ve brought through to defend the lake.”

“There were some really weird things at my house,” Angel said.

Cal nodded.

“Though those went away as soon as the agent died,” he said.

“True,” Angel said. “You think they were just the agent’s doing.”

Cal shrugged.

“Okay,” Oscar said. “Then we get the bags and the weapons and head for the ditch.”

“What about the fence?” Angel asked.

“What about it?” Oscar replied.

“The fear spell?” she said. “Remember how hard it was to get through last time?”

“Oh, right,” Oscar said.

“Let’s get out of the car and check it out,” Cal said, growing tired of sitting around playing guessing games.

They got out of the car and walked down to the ditch.

“I don’t feel anything weird,” Cal said.

Oscar nodded

“Yeah, I don’t either,” he said looking at Angel.

“Okay, let’s get the stuff then,” Cal said climbing back up out of the ditch.

Oscar popped the trunk open and took two bags. Cal grabbed the other two bags. Angel looked at them, then picked up the shovel and closed the trunk. She walked around to the side of the car and pulled Oscar’s bat out as well.

“I guess I’m the weapon girl,” she said, putting the shovel over one shoulder and the bat over the other.

“You’re the one with the merit badge in kicking butt,” Oscar replied.

They laughed nervously as they climbed down into the ditch and ducked under the fence.

* * *

The hike up to the lake was difficult. They kept to the trees as much as they could and had to ducking into the underbrush when they saw security patrols coming.

“Looks like they’ve upped their security,” Angel said as they were crouching behind a tree for the second time.

“I guess it’s easier than summoning more demons,” Cal whispered.

The golf card whirred by, searchlight flashing across the trees.

Cal’s sense of unease grew as they crested the hill and looked down on the lake. It looked perfectly normal, but Cal could feel that it wasn’t. He could almost hear the deep, rumbling non-language from his dream. He remembered the pulling from the dream and imagined it pulling him toward the water.

“Okay, what now?” Oscar asked, shaking Cal from his trance.

“You hear anything?” Cal asked.

Both Angel and Oscar shook their heads.

“Do you hear anything?” Oscar asked.

Cal could hear the beginnings of fear in Oscar’s voice.

“No,” Cal said. “Just curious.”

Cal looked back down at the lake. He wished they would’ve grabbed Angel’s backpack before leaving her house. It’d be nice to know if anything weird was going on down there.

“Cut around to the left and circle back to the maintenance shed again?” Angel suggested.

“Yeah,” Cal said. “Keep an eye out for the security guards.” He pointed across the lake at a little beam of light bouncing in the distance.

* * *

They made it to the shed without incident. Cal was starting to get really worried. Angel kept an eye on the clubhouse to see if she could see anybody inside or anybody heading their way.

Cal heard the shuffling noise and froze. He looked out towards the sounds, but saw only darkness

“What?” Oscar asked in a shocked voice.

“Nothing,” Cal said, trying to keep Oscar calm.

“Why’d you say that?” Oscar asked.

Cal looked at Oscar. Oscar and Angel were both looking at him, frightened. Cal was confused.

“What are you talking about?” Cal asked.

“You just said that we’re all going to die,” Oscar said. “Why did you say that?”

A chill ran down Cal’s back.

“I didn’t say that,” Cal said. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Yes you did,” Oscar said. “It was very clear.”

Angel was looking at them with a concerned look.

“Did you hear him, Angel?” Oscar asked.

“Yeah,” she answered.

“Guys,” Cal said holding his hands up. “I promise you I didn’t say anything.”

“Then who-”, Oscar started.

Lub-dub.

Cal saw Oscar wince and stagger. Angel fell to her knees.

The imagery was different this time for Cal. He saw the eyes, and felt the energy pulsing out of the lake like riding a wave in the ocean. It pushed him up on his toes, then pulled him back, retreating toward the lake. He stumbled and caught himself against the building.

Green light painted the backside of the shed in darkness.

Cal felt the pull and stepped around the shed, into the light. He heard Angel yelling his name and a warmth spread up his right arm. The green tentacles were swirling under the water, creating a whirlpool. Where the tentacles broke the surface, they became black shadow.

He felt pulled in two directions, the lake pulling him down, and another force resisting it, pulling on his right arm. The second force won out and he fell back behind the shed and into Angel and Oscar. He knocked them down, landing in Angel’s lap.

“What are you doing?” Oscar yelled.

“I don’t know,” Cal said. “I just wanted to see what was going on.”

“Well, don’t,” Oscar said. “We need to get the chlorine-”

Angel screamed, eyes wide.

Cal followed her line of sight and saw the shadow of a man standing over them.

Lub-dub.

The pressure again pulled on Cal. He scrambled up to his feet, looking for the shovel.

A hand gripped Cal’s shoulder and yanked him into the wall of the shed, knocking him senseless. He stumbled backward and fell, landing on top of the shovel.

Oscar yelled something.

Cal rolled to his side and picked up his shovel. He pushed himself up in time to see the shadowy man knock Oscar back.

Cal growled and swung his shovel through the air. The shadow from vanished as the shovel touched it.

He helped Angel to her feet.

A screeching sound filled the air around them, grating on Cal’s nerves. Cal picked up one of the bags of Chloro Shock.

“We have to get the chlorine into the lake,” Cal shouted as Oscar stood up.

Cal saw a shadow flicker to his left, then felt something wrap around his torso. He coughed as it squeezed the air out of him, then it dragged him away from the shed. The plastic bag in his hand tore spilling the Chloro Shock kits on the ground. Angel screamed his name and ran towards him.

“Chlorine,” Cal wheezed pointing at the ground as he was dragged towards the lake.

Angel stopped and picked up a kit, anguish on her face.

Lub-dub

The green light pulsed and Angel dropped to a knee.

Cal looked down and saw the thing around him was a black tentacle, coming from the lake. He was being squeezed so hard that he could feel his heart pounding in his brain. He stabbed at the inky blackness with his shovel. The tentacle vanished and Cal dropped to the ground.

He gasped a few breaths in and started to stand up.

“Get the chlorine,” he shouted towards Angel and Oscar.

Oscar came around the corner of the shed with an open Chloro Shock kit in each hand. He slowed when he looked past Cal.

Cal turned and saw dozens of black tentacles in the air, all reaching down for him. He pulled back the shovel to take a swing, but the tentacles lashed out, grabbing his wrists and arms. He was yanked up in the air and into the water.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Nano 2010 - Day 23

(written 11/24/2010 - total words 58,367)

Angel’s house was dark and quiet. In fact the whole neighborhood seemed to be. The front door had been forced open, as evidenced by the shattered door jamb an the dead bolt protruding from the open door.

Cal crept down the short hallway to the kitchen trying to remember the layout of the house and where any tripping hazards might be. Worry crept into his mind. Was he too late? The SUV was still outside, but the house felt empty and dead. There was a familiar fear in the house, though. His heard was pounding in his chest. His nerves were keyed up enough to pick up the slightest noise or movement. But there was a blanket of cold, desperate fear that he recognized from the golf course. The agent was still here.

There was a muffled crash coming from a room to the left of the kitchen. The area that Angel hand’t shown Cal. Back where her bedroom must be. There was a panting and the noise of padded feet running and dragging something. The sound came into the kitchen from the right and gone to the left. Did he see a shadow move? He didn’t recall Angel having a dog.

The kitchen was quiet again.

This was when Cal realized he had no weapon and no plan.

He looked to his right and saw the knife block on the kitchen counter. He pulled out the biggest, longest knife there was and held it in his hand. His palms were slick with a nervous sweat. It felt like the knife would turn in his hand the second it touched anything. He switched grips a few times, trying to figure out the best way to hold it to defend himself. Unfortunately all he knew what to do with a knife like this was chop vegetables. His only knowledge of the fighting applications of a knife was “pointy end out”. He wasn’t excited about using the knife, but it was better than dying. Better than dying without a fight, at least.

There was a shuffling noise behind him, he turned quickly, getting the point end of his knife between him and the noise. It was hard to see anything in the dark, but it looked like he was alone in the kitchen. He could’ve sworn he’d heard something right there though. He took a step forward. Nothing.

He needed to move, go on the offensive, instead of sitting in the kitchen freaking out over any little noise. There was another bump back by Angel’s bedroom. He made his way over to the doorway the noises were coming from. There was a short hallway that ended in what looked like a bathroom. To the right of the bathroom door was another door, which must have been Angel’s bedroom. The only light in the house was coming from there.

He could hear more noise from the room now. Sounded like somebody was trashing it. He took a cautious step forward, hoping the floor wouldn’t creak.

The shuffling noise was behind him again. As he turned, it passed by him, heading for Angel’s room, raising the hairs on his neck. He looked back towards her room, but could see nothing.

The noises from the room stopped.

Cal’s heart stopped.

The light coming from the room blotted out as a figure emerged to stand in the hallway.

“Cannon?” the voice boomed, more statement than question.

Cal backed out of the hallway and into the kitchen, holding the knife up, feeling weaker than ever. The figure came forward slowly. Shadows played games around his legs. There was a dragging sound following him.

Cal continued to back up until he was stopped by the refrigerator. The figure came into the kitchen and stopped. It was clearly an agent. The last agent.

Cal gritted his teeth as the agent looked at him. But then the agent looked away, as if scanning the room for something.

The dragging noise behind the agent stopped and Cal heard a sniffling noise then a whine.

“I know you’re here Cannon,” the agent said. “Come to save little Ms. Messenberg?”

Cal held his breath, confused.

“Hiding only helps you if I don’t already know you’re here,” the agent continued.

Shadows flowed into the room, and with them small noises, whispers, shuffles.

“I will find you,” he said. “You’re a fool for coming here, boy. How much more obvious of a trap could we lay for you?”

Cal took a shallow breath, trying to be silent, pressed up against the fridge, knife pointing at the agent. The room was growing darker as the shadows continued to spill into it.

“You’re in a fight you can’t win,” the agent continued. “Caught in a battle between foes more ancient and powerful than you can imagine. There’s no hope for you.”

A dragging sound approached Cal, and with it was the sniffling. He heard a whine and a tentacle of shadow reach out past his foot. He shuffled away from it. The tentacle snapped over to his foot and he jerked away from the intense cold.

“Ah,” the agent said. “There you are. When you know it’s there, an area of nothing is just as obvious as an area of something.”

Shadows in the room converged on Cal as the agent walked towards him. Cal shrunk away, crouching down. He was out of options.

The agent reached out for him.

Cal lunged forward, burying the knife into the agent’s chest.

The agent looked down and stopped. Time seemed to stand still.

“That’s not going to work,” the agent said, grabbing the hilt of the knife and Cal’s hand with it.

The agent struck Cal across the face, knocking him to the floor. Holding on to Cal’s hand, the agent pulled Cal back up. A strong, cool hand grabbed Cal’s neck and pressed him against the refrigerator. Cal swallowed painfully around the pressure on his throat. It was getting hard to breath.

“Where is it?” the agent asked.

Cal almost laughed at the concept of being interrogated while being choked, but laughing requires air as well.a

There was a dull thump. Cal felt the agent lean into him a bit more then back off.

“Ms. Messenberg,” the agent said over his shoulder. “You decided to stop hiding.”

His voice altered with another thump.

Cal fell to the ground as the agent dropped him and turned around. Cal took a deep breath and coughed. He could breathe, but it felt like the hand had permanently damaged his throat.

“Get away from him,” he heard Angel scream, and another thump.

Cal looked up and saw Angel swinging something at the agent. It landed with another thump.

The agent struck her in the face. Her weapon fell to the kitchen tile with a loud clang, and she crumpled down to the floor with a whimper, hands on her face. She started making a quiet keening sound.

The agent stood over her. She looked up, starting to sob. Her nose was bloodied.

“Angel, don’t,” Cal shouted as she made eye contact with the agent.

Her eyes grew wide and she started shrieking and kicking away from the agent. He continued to advance on her retreat until she was backed into a corner of cabinets. She pressed hard into the corner, her screams echoing around the kitchen.

Cal closed his eyes against the tormented sounds. He couldn’t let it go on. He reached over and grabbed the weapon that Angel had dropped. It was cold and heavy. It felt like a fire iron.

Metal.

He wound up, took a step, and swung at the agent’s body. The agent folded over and stumbled backwards across the kitchen. Angels anguished screams changed to sobbing.

The agent pushed himself back up. Cal grit his teeth, wound up, and took a step and another swing. The agent put his arm up to block it, but the arc of the fire iron cut through his arm and knocked his head to the side. He stumbled back again, but again pushed back up to his feet. Cal took another step forward and swung the heavy metal rod with a scream of rage.

The swing came up the side and connected solidly with the agent’s head. A clang rang out, vibrating the fire iron out of Cal’s hands. An object flew out of the agents head and clanged against the metal stove.

The agent stood still for a moment, then exploded into ash.

Cal walked over to the stove, breathing hard and choking on the ash. There it was at the foot of the stove. A large, thick coin. He picked it up, then stared down at the pile of ash.

Angel’s crying shook him out of his enraged trance. He ran across the kitchen, putting the coin in his pocket and dropped to his knees. She was curled up in a fetal position, hands around her head. Her whole body shook with sobs. He wasn’t sure what to do.

“Hey, Angel,” he said softly, putting a hand on her hip. “It’s okay.”

She continued to sob. He started worrying that he’d gotten here too late.

“Angel,” he repeated, leaning down close to her and moving his hand up to her shoulder. “He’s gone, it’s okay.”

She still did not respond. He sat down next to her and brushed her hair out of her face. He leaned down and kissed her on the temple and put his arm around her back.

“Angel,” he whispered into her ear. “You’re safe now. It’s okay.”

Her bloodshot eyes cracked open and she turned to look up at him.

“Cal?” she asked between sobs.

“Yeah,” he whispered with a smile. “It’s okay.”

She reached up and pulled him down to her in a hug, continuing to cry softly into his shoulder.

“Get me out of here,” she said in a whimper.

He nodded and pulled her up to her feet.

He guided her out to the car and they got in the front. She laid down across the bench seat and put her head in his lap. Cal stroked her hair, trying to calm her down.

Cal flipped his phone open and called Oscar.

“Cal?” Oscar answered.

“We’re doing it tonight,” Cal said.

Oscar paused. Cal needed Oscar. He hoped Oscar was up to it.

“Okay,” Oscar said. “What about the chlorine?”

“Home Depot,” Cal said starting the Mustang. “We’ll be at your house in five minutes.”

“I’ll be outside,” Oscar said.

Cal closed the phone, pulled around the black SUV, and headed for Oscar’s.

* * *

Home Depot was as confusing as it always was. After being sent to all corners of the store, they finally found the right section with the pool and spa chemicals. Fortunately all of that traveling took them through the home and garden section which had a whole section of shovels.

This time Cal was going to come prepared. He caught a few stares as he swung the shovels around, feeling their weight, and finally settled on a short, round-pointed shovel with a handle on the end. It was also blue, which he didn’t think really mattered, but he liked it. No more relying on luck to get a piece of metal in his hands.

Oscar and Cal got back to the Mustang and filled up the trunk with pool shock kits. Cal laid his new shovel across the top and shut the trunk.

“You’re driving,” Cal told Oscar.

Oscar held his hand up and caught the keys.

Cal got in the backseat where Angel was lying under his jacket. She sat up and leaned against him, hugging his arm.

“Are you going to be okay?” Cal asked.

“Jesus,” she said, her voice still shaky. “That was so awful.”

Cal reached over and stroked her cheek. Oscar started the Mustang. He looked at Cal in the rearview mirror. Cal saw uncertainty in his eye.

“We can drop you off at my house if you like,” Cal said to Angel.

“No,” she said sitting up and wiping a tear from her eye. “I want to be there to shut these bastards down.”

Cal looked at her until she looked back.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “I have no idea what we might run into out there.”

She grabbed his hand in hers and squeezed.

“I know,” she said looking at his hand. “But I told you that I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”

She gave him a weak smile.

He caught Oscar’s eye in the rearview.

“What about you?” he asked. “You going to be okay with this?”

“I’m scared,” Oscar said. “I can tell you that. And I’m tired of being scared. I want to end this thing.”

“Okay,” Cal said. “Let’s go then.”

Oscar threw the Mustang into gear and they sped off towards the golf course.

The excitement and adrenaline were wearing off. Exhaustion and common sense were starting to set in. A pit was formed in Cal’s stomach as they drove. Could they really pull this off? Would they survive it?

He laid his head back on the seat, anxiety and caution battling in his head. Angel nuzzled up against him.

He fell asleep.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nano 2010 - Day 22

(written 11/23/2010 - total words 56,168)

Cal survived the next two classes of the school day. Biology wasn’t a problem. He was slowly getting back into Mr. Tule’s good graces. PreCalc was another story. He was going to have to do some serious studying to make it through that class. He was behind now, and nothing was making any sense. Just letters and numbers flowing across the board. He felt jealous at the rest of the class that seemed to understand everything just fine.

He met up with Angel and Oscar coming out of Chemistry.

“We used the lab time to figure out how much chlorine to get,” Angel said.

“It’s a lot,” Oscar said. “I don’t think my parents keep that much around.”

“I guess we’ll have to buy some,” Cal said. “How much does it cost?”

Oscar shrugged.

They flowed along with the students eager to get out of school and enjoy a few hours of freedom. Cal didn’t feel that luxury. There was no freedom left in his days.

There was a traffic jam at the side door where everybody funneled into the double doors. A stairwell dropped another flow of students into the mix, slowing everybody down. Some students mooed. Cal thought he heard somebody say “Vampira”, but when he looked, nobody was looking back.

Oscar’s mom was waiting in her car at the curb. Oscar jumped in and Cal leaned down to say hi to Mrs. Martinez. Angel hung back. Mrs. Martinez still seemed suspicious of her.

They drove off, leaving Cal and Angel alone. They sat together on a bench on the sidewalk.

“Mom’s late again,” Angel said. “I don’t know how she got through grad school. She’s so disorganized.”

She leaned her head on Cal’s shoulder.

“You’re a sweet guy, Cal,” she said.

He was drifting down into the void.

“Hey,” she said, making him jump.

She turned to look at him with a frown.

“Were you asleep?” she asked.

He rubbed his face.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe.”

She reached up and rubbed his shoulder.

“Are you okay to ride your scooter?” she asked. “I can have mom give you a ride home.”

“No,” he said. “I’ll be fine. The cold air will wake me up.”

“Maybe you should go home and get some sleep,” she said.

He started to argue, but she grabbed his hands and jumped up, pulling him to standing.

“Go home,” she said. “Get some rest. We’ll talk later.”

She was making persuasive arguments, and he didn’t need much convincing. They hugged and she gave him a quick, little kiss. He reluctantly left her on the bench and trudged off to his scooter.

He felt like a zombie, shuffling along. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to ride home.

Cal became very confused when he reached the parking lot. It was empty. It was amazing how quickly the school emptied out after that last bell. The confusing part was that his scooter was gone too.

He walked up to the spot where he had parked it, staring at the ground. He looked around. Had he parked it somewhere else? He tried to remember the morning. It seemed like an eternity ago, plus it blended with every other morning of the past few months. He always parked here. There was no reason to park elsewhere. It must have been stolen.

He walked over to the side door of the school, but found the doors locked. He banged on them a few times and looked through the small windows, but nobody was there to help him out.

He started waking up on the long walk around to the front of the school. Part of it was the light drizzle that had started, and part of it was his anger at somebody stealing his scooter.

The woman at the main office looked up as he came in. She seemed surprised to see a student at this hour.

“Somebody stole my scooter,” he said.

“Hold on a minute,” she said, typing something into her computer.

Cal leaned on the counter, exhausted. The woman continued to type. He looked around, but there was nobody else in the office.

“Okay, dear,” the woman said coming up to the counter. “Where was your scooter parked?”

“In the south lot,” Cal answered. “By the side doors.”

“And you’re sure that’s where you parked it?” she asked.

“Yes,” Cal said. “I park in the same spot every day.”

“Is it a legal spot?” she asked.

“I think so,” Cal said. He was pretty sure it wasn’t.

“Campus security has been cracking down on illegally parked vehicles,” she said. “They issued warnings last week. Did you get a warning?”

Cal thought about the little pink slips that he had assumed were a flyer for something.

“No,” he said. “I didn’t get any warnings.”

“Hold on,” she said going back to her desk and typing into her computer.

“What’s the color, make, and license plate number?” she asked.

She held a finger to her computer screen and nodded as he told her.

“Yes,” she said. “That vehicle was towed this afternoon.”

She looked at Cal with no empathy.

“It was parked illegally,” she said. “And it says here you got several warnings last week.”

Cal closed his eyes and rubbed his face with his hands to stop himself from screaming at the woman. The unspoken scream echoed in his skull. When he opened his eyes, the woman was at the counter again with an admonishing eyebrow arched up. She had slid a piece of paper across to him.

“This tells you how to reclaim your vehicle,” she said.

“Thanks,” Cal said, unable to keep the frustration coming out in a sarcastic tone.

She gave him a disgusted look and went back to her desk. He snatched the paper off of the counter and stormed out of the office, banging the door open as he left. He cringed as he crossed to the main doors of the school, half expecting her to come after him for banging the door, but he got out of the school in peace.

He stood on the steps, dreading the walk home in the rain, then remembered Angel. He jogged around to the north side of the school and stopped when he saw the empty bench on the sidewalk. The whole street was completely deserted.

He clenched his fists and swore at the sky. He had enough problems without the entire world turning against him. He flipped his hood up over his head and resigned himself to the long walk home.

* * *

He got home late. The gray sky was already growing dark, but the street lights hadn’t come on yet. His scooter jacket kept his body dry, but his head was soaking wet. His legs were cold and numb.

He fumbled the keys a few times trying to get in the door, his cursing growing with each jingling drop. He was surprised to not find Rob sitting in the kitchen ready to harass Cal some more.

Throwing his backpack on the kitchen table, Cal slammed his phone down on the counter. He grabbed a Cup O Noodles, filled it with water and shoved it in the microwave. He stared at the cup rotating in the dim light, waiting for the timer to go off.

His phone rang first.

He reached behind him and grabbed the phone off the counter, answering it while still watching the microwave. It was probably some damn -

“Cal.” Angel’s voice in a harsh, frantic whisper.

“Angel?” Cal took the phone from his ear and looked at the caller ID. It was Angel.

“-here,” she said as he put the phone back to his ear.

There was something wrong. He could hear quick breaths. She was whispering but her voice was shaky.

“What’s wrong?” Cal asked.

“He’s here. He’s here. He’s here,” she whispered. “Wilson is here.”

Cal’s stomach dropped. The microwave timer went off. He had to get to Angel.

“Can you get to the 7-11?” He asked.

“No,” she whispered, almost whined. “There’s something in the back yard.”

Cal could hear some commotion in the background.

“I’m on my way,” he said. “Just stay put.”

There were more noises on the phone as Cal put his jacket and backpack back on.

The call ended.

Cal was out the door and in the driveway before he remembered that he didn’t have a scooter.

“No,” he yelled, frustration boiling out of him.

He wanted to kill something. He paced back and forth trying to figure out options. It would take too long to run there. It would take too long for Oscar to come get him first. Oscar didn’t have a car right now.

Then his eyes fell on Rob’s car.

He needed The Cannon.

Cal ran back inside and up the stairs to the kitchen. He yanked a drawer out and placed it on the counter, rummaging through the odds and ends until he found it. Rob’s spare key. Sorry, Rob.

He ran back out and jumped in the car. He turned the ignition and it roared to life. It was ready for action.

Unused to the car, his backing out and roaring down the street had less finesse than Rob’s had, but it go the job done.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

nano 2010 - Day 21

(written 11/22/2010 - total words 54,624)

Bigby. After almost two years, why would he come back, and why wasn’t he protected better?

Stan looked up at Benson, then down at Wilson’s binding on his desk. Bigby knew enough to take out Wilson, but not enough to keep himself alive.

He traced the engravings in the metal with his finger, remembering coming up with the design, and the excruciating pain of activating it. He wasn’t looking forward to having to do that again.

Bigby had to know that he would die if he came back, so why come back?

“It must have been Bigby at the golf course then?” Stan asked.

“That is unclear,” Benson responded. “The problem with surrounding the portal with a golf course is all of the people you have walking around it. It makes it impossible to find any individual tracks.”

“Yes, yes,” Stan said. As if he’d had any choice in the matter.

“Of course, Bigby would know enough to cover his tracks,” Benson added.

“He does know that,” Stan said. “And how to pass the fence, and how to break a binding.”

“I think we’ve answered our mystery,” Stan said.

Benson sat still. Stan wasn’t sold on his hypothesis and was hoping the agent would share its insight. He should know better.

“What did you find out about Bigby?” Stan asked. “Where was he hiding? How did he sneak in?”

“We know nothing,” Benson said. “He had nothing on his person that would allow him to hide so well. He just showed up, set of alarms and we killed him.”

“Where did he show up?” Stan asked.

“A parking lot to the north of town,” Benson replied.

“He passed it off,” Stan said more to himself to Benson.

“What would it look like?” Stan asked.

Stan had no experience with Bigby’s sponsor. No way of knowing how things would work on that side. Benson should have some idea.

“Metal,” Benson replied. “Triangular. Not too large. They tend to be very light weight, but powerful.”

That would be nice. Everything Stan had to deal with was large and heavy. He fingered Wilson’s binding again.

“Likely a raven on it somehow,” Benson continued. “That’s a favored creature.”

Stan smirked. The Lemolos. But he’d taken care of the Lemolos. The Lemolos would have killed Bigby faster than Stan had.

Which circled back to the question of why Bigby would return to certain death.

“He brought something else,” Stan said.

“Like what?” Benson asked.

“I don’t know, but he was a messenger,” Stan said. “He delivered something. Find out who he met with. Whoever he gave that item to would have disappeared.”

“It was Cannon,” Benson said.

Stan frowned at him. How long had he had that information.

“Cannon has been hard to fix since Bigby showed up,” Benson said.

Stan steepled his fingers and sat back.

“Then we need to know what else Cannon got from Bigby,” he said. “But you won’t be able to do anything to him if he’s got protection, especially if Bigby has explained things to him.”

“Correct,” Benson replied.

Stan had a brilliant idea. He sat forward and smiled with excitement.

“But Ms. Massenberg does not,” he said. “You’ve already roughed up Martinez. If we target his friends he will cooperate. Or, if not, he will at least be isolated.”

“Hit Massenberg hard,” he said.

“Can I kill her?” Benson asked.

Stan held the agent’s gaze. He needed to keep him on a tight leash, but he also needed results.

“If you must,” he said, hoping he wouldn’t regret it.

He released the agent and returned to his office. His phone was ringing, but he ignored it. Benson was a goner. He’d have to pull in more support, but that would take a long time. He wouldn’t have the strength or the opportunity until at least spring.

If he could get his hands on Bigby’s items that could change things though.

Finally things were going his way.

* * *

Sunday mornings at Denny’s are the worst. First it’s completely dead. Completely boring. Cal did some sprayer olympics, shooting water down from the top of the counter to see which piece of toast would reach the disposal first.

Then churches started getting out and everything went crazy. It was wall to wall dishes from then until the end of his shift at 4pm. After the first few hours of boredom it was usually a welcome change, but the physical nature of the work was getting to Cal.

Everything hurt. He stopped keeping track of where he had picked up different bruises and scrapes. In general his body just ached. Every movement caused complaints from some muscle that felt it was doing more than its fair share.

All he wanted to do was to sit in a hot bath and get a moment of relaxation. The problem is he’d probably fall asleep, and that wouldn’t be relaxing at all. He would have thought his dreams from falling into the lake would have gone away by now, but they were still there. Every time he fell asleep. And every morning he awoke feeling like he was drowning, completely unrested.

Cal did the best he could, but the dirty dishes were piling up. The bus boy kept coming in and complaining to him. First they were out of bread plates, then it was forks, then it was glasses.

Before he knew it, Cal was sitting in the locker room. Another shift behind him. Another six and a half hours of his life literally down the drain. The locker room was quiet, though it felt cold. Being in a room with Bessie was like being in a sauna. After a shift in there, everywhere felt a little chilly.

The relative quiet was nice, though. He tried to catch the whirlwind of thoughts blowing through his head and put them in some kind of order.

What was he going to do?

Thanks to Rob, Cal had been talked into trying to play freshman football. In the one training session he’d gone to, the coach repeated a saying: “How do you eat a elephant?”. He’d heard Rob use it before. It was a standard of the football team. It was a call and response in the Church of Jock. The players would all call out the answer “One bite at a time.” Much like the rest of football, or any sport really, it never made any sense to him. He got hung up on the metaphor. Why would he ever want to eat an elephant?

Well, he had an elephant to eat now. Which bite was first?

He reached up and grabbed his phone from the shelf in the locker. He had a text message from Oscar.

COME OVER AFTER WORK? Oscar had texted.

SURE, Cal texted back.

There was a bite of elephant he could work on. He thought about inviting Angel, but decided that maybe Oscar would want some one-on-one time. He finished getting changed and headed out to his scooter.

* * *

Mrs. Martinez seemed much happier to see him today. He hoped it had less to do with Angel’s absence than he thought it did.

The stairs to Oscar’s room were yet another burden he had to push himself through. There was no bounding up these stairs. Each one was work. Each one tried to stop him.

Oscar’s face was more normal looking today, though the bruising was darker. He had a pretty bad black eye.

“Where’s Angel?” Oscar asked.

Cal shrugged.

“Not sure,” he said. “Did you text her?”

“No,” Oscar replied. “I figured you’d bring her. I have some questions with our chemistry homework.”

Cal shook his head. Would he ever escape Chemistry?

“How are you feeling?” Cal asked.

“About as bad as I look.”

“That bad?”

Oscar nodded.

“Can you close the door?” Oscar asked.

“Sure,” Cal said, walking over and shutting the door.

Oscar pulled himself out of bed and shuffled over to his desk chair. Cal sat on the foot of the bed.

“I’m really confused,” Oscar said to Cal.

Oscar looked really worried.

“I know what happened in the accident,” Oscar said. “I remember it clearly.”

Cal felt a wave of relief.

“But,” Oscar continued. “I can’t shake the image of that thing crushing my arm.”

“Wait,” Cal said shaking his head. Now he was confused. “Back up there. What do you mean you know what happened in the accident? What happened?”

“I lost control of the car,” Oscar said slowly, purposefully. “I hit the guard rail, and the car spun around. My arm got pinned between the car and the guard rail.”

“That’s not what happened, Oscar,” Cal said.

“How do you know?” Oscar said. His eyes were scared, pleading for Cal to explain things.

“I know because I was there,” Cal said. “Angel too. It was a hit and run accident. I assume it was an agent, but I didn’t really see the other car. It was big, though.”

Oscar frowned at him.

“We decided that Angel and I should leave,” Cal said. “We’d lied to our parents about having to work last night. We didn’t go to work, we went to talk with Jason and his friends. We got hit on the way back. If Angel and I had been there, our cover story would have been blown, so we left.”

Oscar looked down at the floor, nodding.

“That all sounds right,” he said. “But I can’t reconcile it in my brain. It just doesn’t fit.”

Cal looked at Oscar, considering if he should share what he and Angel had found out, trying to determine if Oscar was trustworthy.

Oscar looked up, questioning the silence.

“Can I trust you?” Cal asked.

“What does that mean?” Oscar asked. “Why wouldn’t you be able to trust me?”

“They got to you, Oscar.” Cal said. “The agents got to you, but I don’t know what they did.”

Oscar looked down at his cast.

“You can trust me, Cal,” Oscar said looking back up at Cal. “I’m confused, but you can trust me.”

“Do you remember what we were going to do?” Cal asked.

“Of course,” Oscar said.

“What?”

“We’re going to chlorinate the lake,” he said.

“You think that’s a good idea?” Cal asked.

“I think it’s the only idea we’ve got,” Oscar said.

Cal nodded. That sounded like Oscar.

“These agents,” Cal said. “They do stuff to people’s minds. It’s some kind of manipulation. They make people think certain things. They’re doing it to the whole town. I think they did it to you, too, but it’s not sticking very well for whatever reason.”

“How do you know this?” Oscar asked.

“I ran into Cesar Bigby.”

“No,” Oscar said, astonished. “You ran into Bigby? Where? Didn’t he just get killed?”

Cal filled him in on what details they had.

“Bigby,” Oscar said shaking his head. “Man. I’m sorry, Cal.”

“It’s just more reason to figure this stuff out,” Cal said. “More reason to follow through with our plan.”

“Yeah,” Oscar said, turning and rummaging through the papers on his desk. “I pretty much just sat in bed yesterday, so I did some calculations to see how much chlorine we would need to shock the lake.”

“Shock the lake?” Cal asked.

“It’s a burst of chlorine that you do the first time to wipe out everything,” Oscar said.

He found a note pad and flipped through it, then paused reading.

“Uhm,” he said looking up at Cal. “Let me run through these again. Maybe those pain meds were stronger than I remember.”

Cal was going to offer to help, but it seemed awfully close to chemistry.

There was a knock at the door and Mrs. Martinez came in.

“It’s time for your medication, Oscar,” she said.

Oscar winced as he stood up and hobbled back to his bed.

“You need to rest up for school tomorrow,” she said.

Cal got the message.

“I should get going,” he said. “I could use some sleep myself. I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow.”

Oscar nodded.

“You kids are always so busy,” Mrs. Martinez said, looking at Cal as he was leaving. “You need your sleep. It’s important for your brains.”

“I agree,” said Cal with a smile.

Mrs. Martinez waved him off, and Cal headed back out to his scooter.

* * *

Cal didn’t get much rest. He was trying to stay awake in fourth period, but it was tough. The teacher’s lecture on the French Revolution wasn’t helping. The eyes that watched him when he slept did, though.

Finally the bell rang. There was some mercy left in the universe.

Oscar showed up early, so Cal didn’t get any alone time with Angel. Cal guessed it was better as they needed the time to plan, but was still somewhat disappointed. He realized that he’d neglected to tell Oscar anything about how things were developing with Angel. They were holding hands as they walked across the school lawn. If Oscar had noticed this change, he didn’t bring it up. It didn’t seem to bother him.

They got their sandwiches and sat at a table in the corner.

“You look awful,” Angel said to Oscar. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah,” Oscar said. “Things hurt less, but ache more.”

Angel grabbed Cal’s hand. She had a concerned look on her face. Oscar did too.

“Are you okay?” she asked Cal.

“I’m okay,” Cal said slowly, not understanding their sudden concern. “Why?”

“You just passed out,” Oscar said. “Just sitting there with your eyes closed.”

Cal looked at him, then to Angel.

“Really?” he said.

She nodded.

“Did you get any sleep last night?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Cal said. “I went to bed really early.”

“You don’t look like it,” she said.

“I don’t sleep very well these days,” he said. “I keep seeing stuff from the lake.”

“That was over a week ago,” Angel said.

“That’s still going on?” Oscar asked.

“Yeah,” Cal said, not sure how much he wanted to divulge. “It’s been pretty consistent.”

Angel squeezed Cal’s hand.

“What did Jason say about you contacting the thing in the lake?” she asked. “Something about remembering you?”

“Yeah,” Cal said, his memory fuzzy. “Something like that.”

“Is it talking to you?” she asked.

That wasn’t a pleasant idea.

“You mean like when we were at the golf course?” he asked.

“Maybe,” she said. “I don’t know. Is it the same?”

He thought about it. He didn’t recall the violent imagery, just the eyes. There was a familiar feel to it, though.

“It’s not that same imagery,” he said. “But it’s a similar feel.”

“We need to stop it,” she said. “Break the connection.”

“That’s the plan,” Cal said.

“No,” she said. “You look horrible. People go crazy without sleep. We need to stop this thing now.”

“Yeah,” Cal said. “I’d certainly vote for sooner rather than later. I guess there’s no reason to wait, really. We can dump chlorine in at any time.”

“No,” Oscar said. “It does matter. Maybe you can kill one of these agents and everybody forgets them and goes about their business, but we’re going to be vandalizing the country club.”

“We shut down the portal and the agents go away,” Oscar continued. “And we’re still the kids who vandalized the koi pond. I’d like to avoid that responsibility if we can.”

“If it even works,” Cal said.

“Well if it doesn’t work,” Oscar said. “I certainly don’t want to get caught.”

“Are there actually koi in that pond?” Angel asked.

“I didn’t see any,” Cal said, wondering if the millions of eyes were actually koi.

“SUV,” Oscar said, nodding towards the parking lot.

Cal followed Oscar’s nod, and found that there was indeed a black SUV passing by outside the diner.

“Lunch is over,” Angel said.

They bussed their table, then hurried back to school.

Cal hung back with Angel as they entered the school. Oscar seemed to get the hint and excused himself to get to class early.

“Are you going to make it through the day?” Angel asked, looking worried.

“I’m going to be okay,” he said. “But I want you to take something.”

He reached into his shirt and pulled out the raven’s totem.

“Bigby said you should leave that on,” Angel said, shaking her head.

“He told me that it would protect me,” Cal said.

“Then you should keep it,” she said.

“No, I want you to keep it,” he said. “I don’t have SUVs sitting outside of my house. I don’t want you to be in danger.”

“All of us are in danger,” Angel said.

“Remember Parson, before I killed him? He was after you. Not me, and certainly not Oscar. He just knocked us out of the way and went right for you.”

She nodded.

“I don’t want that to happen again,” he said starting to lift the necklace.

“No,” Angel said, pushing his hands down. “You’re sleep deprived and being a dope. You need to keep that necklace on.”

“I couldn’t deal with it if you got hurt,” he told her.

“Well I couldn’t deal with it if you got hurt because of some stupid chauvinistic stunt,” she snapped.

He started to argue

She kissed him.

“They gave it to you for a reason,” she said. “Stop being stupid.”

The bell rang.

She kissed him again, then went to her class.