DragonLance Chronicles 1: Dragons of Autumn Twilight Really Delivers

The world of Krynn has been a part of the fantasy genre in both roll playing and fiction for almost four decades. The first in the series Dragons of Autumn Twilight first appeared on shelves in 1984, and the world it brought forth has grown in ways no one could have envisioned.

I first discovered this book when there were only two in the series that now has more books than I would have ever envisioned (there is a list of them on my blog if you poke around).

This opening volume starts in the Inn of the Last Home, a very important place in this world, with a seemingly simple barmaid cleaning up. But the tension in this world leaps off the page from these very first paragraphs, and we are instantly sucked in knowing that something more is going on than just wiping down tables.

The authors of this book are amazingly efficient at their character introduction. It gives the reader enough to understand a character’s motivation without beating us over the head with background story. The backstory gets filled in along the way as it fits the story, and with the talent of this duo is done in a way that just flows seamlessly into the building the tension of the moment as it happens.

We find our story starting with a reunion of sorts. A group of companions decided to split apart for a few years to see if they could determine if the rumors from different parts of the world were true about rumblings of war, and various changes taking place in different corners of this world.

Even after this five-year absence it is apparent that it is obvious the companions are very comfortable with one another and have a long history we don’t know yet but will be revealed over time.

The characters do not fall flat on the page, they come complete with phobias, wants, needs, desires, obsessions, even ambitions.

The authors even give us excellent foreshadowing after a quick need to run they notice that some constellations are missing from the sky, constellations missing Gods of different beliefs or alignments, neutral, evil and good.

The other thing that leaps out at me is that some authors get bogged down in shocking levels of detail *cough* George RR Martin when he takes 4 pages to describe a fish dinner *cough* but give you enough to envision the world.

The story is complete with troublemakers in the form of a fun loving, fearless Kender, a very serious knight, elves, half elves, humans, dwarves, you name it we have it.

The emotion of the situation throughout the book just jumps off the page. You can feel the characters heart racing as they go into battle, and your heart races as well.

Although every character is special there are two that stand out in my opinion, that deserve discussion.

The first is Raistlin, the mage. You can see from these earliest pages he is going to play a key role. He is thirsty for power, he is loyal (or is he?), he knows how to get ahead in his mission of becoming a more powerful mage and will not let anything stand in his way.

There is Tasslehoff, the fearless Kender, who mysteriously finds other people’s property in his pack all the time, unsure of how it really got there. Although he does just come along on adventures to satisfy his curiosity and need for fun I believe he really is the brains of the operation.

Basically, whatever you are looking for in a fantasy novel, this thing has it, and promises us that the series that follows will as well. It has young love, old love, characters that evolve and turn from barmaids into something much much more. Yes, it is an adventure story, but it is equal parts action and character driven which is key to keeping my attention.

It even remembers to bring the funny from time to time. Not everything goes perfectly according to plan, but in the end, the characters grow and turn into something greater.

This opening to the new world of Krynn does not disappoint. I read it every few years and it never fails to deliver.

List of DragonLance Books

I have been looking into how many of the DragonLance books I have read. Just as a note I started with the series when only two of these had been published.

This post is a cry for help. Is there anything missing from my list? Is there anything that isn’t accurate?

Tell me where I can make a more complete and accurate listing!

The Columns are Series, Title and publication year.

Chronicles Dragons of Autumn Twilight 1984
Chronicles Dragons of Winter Night 1985
Chronicles Dragons of Spring Dawning 1985
Chronicles Dragons of Summer Flame 1995

Legends Time of the Twins 1986
Legends War of the Twins 1986
Legends Test of the Twins 1986

Tales I The Magic of Krynn 1987
Tales I Kender, Gully Dwarves, and Gnomes 1987
Tales I Love and War: Tales Volume III 1987

Tales II The Reign of Istar 1992
Tales II The Cataclysm 1992
Tales II The War of the Lance 1992

Heros The Legend of Huma 1988
Heros Stormblade 1988
Heros Weasel’s Luck 1988

Heroes II Kaz the Minotaur 1990
Heroes II The Gates of Thorbardin 1990
Heroes II Galen Beknighted 1990

Dwarven Nations The Covenant of the Forge 1993
Dwarven Nations Hammer and Axe 1993
Dwarven Nations The Swordsheath Scroll 1993

The Second Generation The Second Generation 1995

Lost Histories Books The Kagonesti 1995
Lost Histories Books The Irda 1995
Lost Histories Books The Dargonesti 1995
Lost Histories Books Land of the Minotaurs 1995
Lost Histories Books The Dragons 1996
Lost Histories Books The Gully Dwarves 1996

Kang’s Regiment The Doom Brigade 1996
Kang’s Regiment Draconian Measures 2000

Dragonlance Classics Murder in Tarsis 1996
Dragonlance Classics Dalamar the Dark 2000
Dragonlance Classics The Citadel 2000
Dragonlance Classics The Inheritance 2001

Dragons of a New Age The Dawning of a New Age 1996
Dragons of a New Age The Day of the Tempest 1997
Dragons of a New Age The Eve of the Maelstrom 1997

Lost Legends Fistandantilus Reborn 1997
Lost Legends Vinas Solamnus 1997
Lost Legends Tales of Uncle Trapspringer 1997

Raistlin Books The Soulforge 1998
Raistlin Books Brothers in Arms 1999

Takes of the Fifth Age Relics and Omens 1998
Takes of the Fifth Age Heroes and Fools 1999
Takes of the Fifth Age Rebels and Tyrants 2000

Chaos War The Doom Brigade 1996
Chaos War The Last Thane 1998
Chaos War Tears of the Night Sky 1998
Chaos War Seeds of Chaos 1998
Chaos War The Puppet King 1999
Chaos War Reavers of the Blood Sea 1999
Chaos War The Siege of Mt. Nevermind 1999
Chaos War The Chaos Spawn 1999

Bridges of Time Legacy of Steel 1998
Bridges of Time Spirit of the Wind 1998
Bridges of Time The Silver Stair 1999
Bridges of Time The Rose and the Skull 1999
Bridges of Time Dezra’s Quest 1999

The War of Souls Dragons of Fallen Sun 2000
The War of Souls Dragons of a Lost Star 2001
The War of Souls Dragons of a Vanished Moon 2002

Tales From the War of Souls The Search for Magic 2001
Tales From the War of Souls The Players of Gilean 2003
Tales From the War of Souls The Search for Power 2004

Crossroads Books The Clandestine Circle 2000
Crossroads Books The Thieves’ Guild 2000
Crossroads Books Dragon’s Bluff 2001
Crossroads Books The Dragon Isles 2002
Crossroads Books The Middle of Nowhere 2003

Dhamon Saga Downfall 2000
Dhamon Saga Betrayal 2001
Dhamon Saga Redemption 2002

Kingpriest Books Chosen of the Gods 2001
Kingpriest Books Divine Hammer 2002
Kingpriest Books Sacred Fire 2003

The Age of Mortals Conundrum 2001
The Age of Mortals The Lioness 2002
The Age of Mortals Dark Thane 2003
The Age of Mortals Prisoner of Haven 2004
The Age of Mortals Wizards’ Conclave 2004
The Age of Mortals The Lake of Death 2004

Chronicles (YA) Books A Rumor of Dragons 1984
Chronicles (YA) Books Night of the Dragons 1984
Chronicles (YA) Books A Dawn of Dragons 1985
Chronicles (YA) Books To the Gates of Palanthas 1985
Chronicles (YA) Books The Nightmare Lands 1985
Chronicles (YA) Books Hope’s Flame 1989

Linsha Books City of the Lost 2003
Linsha Books Flight of the Fallen 2004
Linsha Books Return of the Exile 2005

Minotaur Wars Books Night of Blood 2003
Minotaur Wars Books Tides of Blood 2003
Minotaur Wars Books Empire of Blood 2005

The Dark Disciple Amber and Ashes 2004
The Dark Disciple Amber and Iron 2005
The Dark Disciple Amber and Blood 2008

The New Adventures Temple of the Dragonslayer 2004
The New Adventures The Dying Kingdom 2004
The New Adventures The Dragon Well 2004
The New Adventures Return of the Sorceress 2004
The New Adventures Dragon Sword 2005
The New Adventures Dragon Day 2005
The New Adventures Dragon Knight 2005
The New Adventures Dragon Spell 2005

Taladas Books Blades of the Tiger 2005
Taladas Books Trail of the Black Wyrm 2006
Taladas Books Shadow of the Flame 2007

Ogre Titan Black Talon 2007
Ogre Titan The Fire Rose 2008
Ogre Titan The Gargoyle King 2009

The Stonetellers The Rebellion 2007
The Stonetellers Death March 2008
The Stonetellers Goblin Nation 2009

The Anvil of Time The Sellsword 2008
The Anvil of Time The Survivors 2008
The Anvil of Time Renegade Wizards 2009
The Anvil of Time The Forest King 2009

Graphic Novels Dragons of Aumtumn Twilight 2006
Graphic Novels Dragonlance Anthology Collection 2009

The New Adventures: Trinistyr Books Wizard’s Curse 2005
The New Adventures: Trinistyr Books Wizard’s Betrayal 2006
The New Adventures: Trinistyr Books Wizard’s Return 2006

The Warriors Books Knight of the Crown 1995
The Warriors Books Maquesta Kar-Thon 1995
The Warriors Books Knights of the Rose 1995
The Warriors Books Knights of the Sword 1995
The Warriors Books Theros Ironfeld 1996
The Warriors Books Lord Soth 1996
The Warriors Books The Wayward Knights 1997

Preludes Kendermore 1989
Preludes Darkness and Light 1989
Preludes Brothers Majere 1989
Preludes Riverwind the Plainsman 1990
Preludes Tanis, the Shadow Years 1990
Preludes Flint the King 1990

Meetings Sextet Wanderlust 1991
Meetings Sextet Kindred Spirits 1991
Meetings Sextet Dark Heart 1992
Meetings Sextet Steel and Stone 1992
Meetings Sextet The Companions 1993
Meetings Sextet The Oath and the Measure 1993

Barbarians Children of the Plains 2000
Barbarians Brotehr of the Dragon 2001
Barbarians Sister of the Sword 2002

Icewall Winterheim 1992
Icewall The Golden Orb 2002
Icewall The Messenger 2012

Ergoth Books A Warrior’s Journey 2003
Ergoth Books The Wizard’s Fate 2004
Ergoth Books A Hero’s Justice 2004

The New Adventures: Elidor Books Crown of Thieves 2005
The New Adventures: Elidor Books The Crystal Chalice 2006
The New Adventures: Elidor Books City of Fortune 2008

Elven Exiles Sanctuary 2005
Elven Exiles Alliances 2006
Elven Exiles Destiny 2007

Rise of Solamnia Lord of the Rose 2005
Rise of Solamnia The Crown and the Sword 2006
Rise of Solamnia The Measure and the Truth 2007

The New Adventures: Goodlund Books Warrior’s Heart 2006
The New Adventures: Goodlund Books Warrior’s Blood 2007
The New Adventures: Goodlund Books Warrior’s Bones 2007

The New Adventures: Suncatcher Books The Wayward Wizards 2006
The New Adventures: Suncatcher Books The Ebony Eye 2007
The New Adventures: Suncatcher Books The Stolen Sun 2007

Champions Saving Solace 2006
Champions The Alien Sea 2006
Champions The Great White Wyrm 2007
Champions Protecting Palanthas 2007

Dragons The Dragons of Krynn 1994
Dragons The Dragons at War 1996
Dragons The Dragons of Chaos 1997
Dragons Worlds Afire 2006
Dragons Dragons of Time 2007

Reader’s Companion Books The Odyssey of Gilanthus 1999

Elven Nations Firstborn 1991
Elven Nations The Qualinesti 1991
Elven Nations The Kinslayer Wars 1991

Villains Before The Mask 1993
Villains The Black Wing 1993
Villains Emperor of Ansalon 1993
Villains Hederick the Theocrat 1994
Villains Lord Toede 1994
Villains The Dark Queen 1994

Leaves From the Inn of the Last Home Leaves From the Inn of the Last Home 1993
Leaves From the Inn of the Last Home More Leaves from the Inn of the Last Home 2000
Leaves From the Inn of the Last Home Lost Leaves from the Inn of the Last Home 2007

Defenders of Magic Night of the Eye 1994
Defenders of Magic The Medusa Plague 1994
Defenders of Magic The Seventh Sentinel 1995

Bertrem’s Guide Bertrem’s Guide to the Age of Mortals 2000
Bertrem’s Guide Bertrem’s Guide to the War of Souls Volume One 2001
Bertrem’s Guide Bertrem’s Guide to the War of Souls Volume Two 2002

Dwarf Home The Secret of Pax Tharkas 2007
Dwarf Home The Heir of Kayolin 2008
Dwarf Home The Fate of Thorbardin 2010

The Chronicles: The Lost Chronicles Trilogy Dragons of the Dwarven Depths 2006
The Chronicles: The Lost Chronicles Trilogy Dargons of the Highlord Skies 2007
The Chronicles: The Lost Chronicles Trilogy Dragons of the Hourglass Mage 2009

Elements Pillar of Flame 2007
Elements Queen of the Sea 2007
Elements Tempest’s Vow 2008

Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Despair 1984
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Flame 1984
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Hope 1984
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Desolation 1984
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Ice 1985
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of War 1985
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Light 1985
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Deceit 1985
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Dreams 1985
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Glory 1986
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Truth 1986
Dragonlance Modules Dragons of Triumph 1986
Dragonlance Modules World of Krynn 1988

Heroes in Hell – Janet Morris

Recently I have been going through a ton of old paperbacks and re-reading some stuff with a sort of nostalgic eye for a variety of reasons.

I came across the Hell series by Janet Morris which is a collection of short stories across a number of titles in the series. They are kind of fun to read honestly. Short, keep your attention, and a unique look at what hell might be like.

It isn’t demons ripping flesh from bodies it is much more…creative in ways. But torture all the same.

I really did enjoy the read, and I will read the second in the series soon. I did a quick video talking a bit about it this time and may do that for more titles in the future

Warbots, The Classic Science Fiction Series

I first discovered the Warbots series in 1988 when there were only two books on the market. The world has become a place where the United States fights its war with robots on the battlefield instead of humans. These warbots are completely controlled by humans, but they never ever miss and have made combat relatively risk free.
The series follows Curt Carson and his soldiers into a world where the military discovers that you can’t win every fight with just bots on the battlefield. They can’t do everything a human can, so…the US Army gets thrown back on the battlefield with humans at risk once again.

As someone who would eventually become a physicist, I have always intrigued by topics such as this, even when presented fictionally. I thought long and hard about it the contents of the series. At the time it seemed like it was impossible. I mean robots doing our fighting for us? Nevertheless, G. Harry Stine hooked me in and made me surrender to each of the twelve books that would ultimately make up the series.

He did it by bringing to light in a page-turner kind of way several topics we now take for granted.

Would the military ever really allow itself to become dependent upon robots? I thought it would never happen. Robots were simple things at this point in time, banks still had tellers, and we all used dial up internet – if we used internet at all.

Artificial Intelligence was not a new topic, but mostly it was something we saw in movies, and used to scare us. The Hal-9000 decided that it knew best, Terminators came back in time to kill, and our imaginations ran wild.

That was then.

This is now.

We do indeed depend upon robots, only we call them drones.

Some of them are even armed.

There is even a murmur of a human (at least for Americans) free battlefield.

Would it surprise you to learn that the drones flying around the Middle East today are flown by pilots near Las Vegas? It is true.

Would it surprise you to learn that object recognition, and facial recognition are now common commodity items for the AI community? Probably not. Those technologies are now off the shelf and used on our mobile phones to check our bank balance.

When these books were written they were speculative, but dang if G. Harry Stine didn’t get close to what is going on now, thirty years later.

But wait, there’s more!

What about these Middle East terrorists who were dumb enough to take on a massively superior military? Surely no one would be that dumb, using weapons so many generations behind those of the United States that they couldn’t possibly win a war. Or would they?

Yes, he got that one right also. He gave us a fictional version of something close to what we see today. In my opinion he’s still half a generation in front of where we are now, and in time he may be proven absolutely correct. Only time will tell.

I wanted to read these books again as a potential influence for some of my own fiction writing, and when I found out I couldn’t get new copies of these books (as mine were long gone) I was upset. I wanted to read them again. I poured into my favorite used book websites and found they were actually even hard to find there. So, I went on a quest. To find out who had the rights. It took a bit of work, but I found it. Bill Stine, the son of G. Harry, who has followed his father into the model rocketry world, was the answer, and thankfully supportive.

I am proud to be part of getting these books back out on the market, and I want to thank Bill Stine for allowing it.

I think the contents of these books will stick in reader’s brains and if they don’t they will certainly make you think. I hope you enjoy them as much today as I did 30 years ago.

Sample Chapter from The Last World War Volume 2

After a shockingly long break (7ish years?) part two of the Last World War is so close to being done. So, as I finish the last two chapters and take one more editing pass here is Chapter 1 from the upcoming book.

Book 1 is currently on Amazon and can be found on this website on the Books page.

As Matt pulled up in front of Shelly’s house, he couldn’t get over the fact that it had been a year since they’d gotten serious about their relationship. They had known each other for years, growing up in a relatively small town made that just a natural part of life, but they had started dating at the end of their junior year of high school. As graduation approached it was hard to believe all that had happened in that relatively short period of time, and how it had forever altered their lives.

They watched together as the most recent in a long list of wars unfolded on television. It was a driving factor in the series of events that made them grow emotionally closer more quickly and deeply than either of them had anticipated. Even though multiple nuclear weapons had been detonated on American soil the bulk of the fighting had taken place overseas. Yes, the nuclear attack was inside the U.S., but those bombs had hit far from their small town, making it abstract, in some ways, but hit home in others. They had personally felt safe, but it was strange to watch. At times it had seemed like it was a work of fiction.

Wars were things that happened elsewhere in the world. They didn’t result in the complete devastation of American cities. That was the way it had been for so long that almost nothing but black and white photos existed of the last military attack to cause any damage on American soil. Those ancient events served to pull the United States into World War 2. It was considered unthinkable for any military to be able to hit the American Homeland given the achievement in technology the United States had developed since that ancient attack in Hawaii.

That was, until these recent attacks, but at least there had been no follow-on invasion of troops. Everyone had feared that was inevitable at the time.

Most people could remember the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC that marked the start of an active war on terror, but this had been different. Those attacks had tragically destroyed some massive office buildings and killed more than twenty-five hundred people, but that was small-time by comparison to this new insanity.

Nukes going off on U.S. soil had always been a threat, many petty dictators loved to make public claims that they would one day do such a thing, but the threat had always seemed empty. It was they kind of thing they used to fill airtime on a slow news day. Petty dictators were known to say they were going to do something like that when trying to get attention, but it was never supposed happened. No rational person even considered it a real possibility since the issue involving Cuba way back in the 1960s.

Watching the news coverage of the attacks, with all the dead and injured civilians had changed their young world forever. It made it all that much worse considering Matt had lost his brother in one of those hellish fireballs. At first it was abstract, like his brother was away on vacation, or on a semester abroad. It took a little bit of time, but reality finally set in.

It had made him angry in ways he had never experienced, and even angrier that his brother had insisted on a University so far from home. If he had stayed closer, like Matt had wanted him to do, he would most likely still be alive.

Now it was Matt’s turn to get ready to go to college. Shelly and he were going to attend the same University. The idea came about because of all they had watched unfold, after all that the world had been through they were sure that this love they shared was the one and only love they needed for the rest of their lives, and they didn’t want to be apart for four years. That would seem like an eternity. They intended to use this past year of loss, danger, and recovery as the basis for a lifetime they intended to spend together. That long-term plan was their secret for the moment, because they knew their parents, and even their friends would be against it. They would all say they were too young.

Matt felt he owed Shelly his life. She had saved him.

After the loss of Matt’s brother, Chad, in the attack on Detroit Shelly had helped him as he mourned the loss. That support meant a lot to him. He would miss his brother for the rest of his life, but the thought of Shelly in his life made it easier to cope with the loss. Matt had been on the verge of trying some very foolish things to dull the pain when she came along and stopped him.

Despite the challenges, the United States had fought back and quickly won the War. The other side had suffered staggering military losses. Unlike the sneak attacking assholes, the US military made every attempt to spare their civilian populations any hardship whenever possible. Ultimately the enemy had unconditionally surrendered.

Matt had thrown a party to celebrate the victory. With that victory it was like he could claim his brother had died for a reason. Now, perhaps, there could be decades of peace in the world, and terrorist attacks as well as the resulting wars could become a subject for historians to ponder.

That promise of long-term peace was what all the politicians had said was what the future would hold once the international peace agreements had been signed.

Matt got out of the car and headed for the door. Shelly came bounding out of the house before he was halfway up the walkway.

She threw her arms around his neck, “A year, can you believe it?” she asked, with here eyes closed and a huge smile.

Matt took a step back to look at the young woman he loved. Her blonde hair was shining in the evening light, her athletic build, and tonight of all nights, wearing her “comfy jeans” as she always called her favorite pair of threadbare cutoffs. They were accompanied by a bare midriff t-shirt that may as well have been custom designed to shift his teenage hormones into overdrive.

“So much has happened. I feel like I have known you my whole life. You somehow managed to keep me sane through it all. I have a special surprise planned to celebrate our anniversary. You ready to go?” he asked with a devilish grin.

“Oh, I like surprises,” she said with a flirtatious smile, and a wiggle of her eyebrows.

While hiking with some friends Matt found an excellent spot where they could park, take a walk in the woods and watch the airplanes take off out of Bangor airport on their way to someplace better than the middle of nowhere Maine. Seasonal tourists might love this place for the scenery, and the two of them enjoyed that as much as anyone but growing up here made it not seem all that special. However, all of the leaf covered scenery would offer some privacy for a romantic night, and that was what they both really wanted.

Matt always loved it when his dad let him borrow the convertible. There weren’t a lot of months that option was useful in Maine, but he enjoyed it given the rare opportunity. With the top down Shelly’s long hair was blowing in the wind. It made her look even sexier than normal.

Once they made it to the surprise destination, they parked the car and headed into the woods for their walk, hand in hand.

Matt had managed to time things perfectly. Just as they were finishing their walk, the sun was just starting to disappear over the horizon.

They got into the backseat. They were sitting side by side talking about graduation while doing nothing more than holding hands.

Slowly their talking stopped, and the kissing began. Matt didn’t know when, and didn’t really care how, but Shelly wound up straddling his waist and he felt like he was about to explode. The hormones were raging, and he wasn’t sure he could keep his bodily functions under control long enough to get to the finish line he hoped they were both thinking about.

Shelly abruptly stopped. Matt was confused.

She eagerly looked down at him, knowing this break in activity was a total tease, and slowly removed her shirt, then her bra, exposing herself. The sight of her in this position, and in a state of undress was what he had been looking forward to all day.

Matt had been so distracted by the sight of her bare breasts that he failed to notice the man in jeans and a black t-shirt with military gear strapped to his body coming out of the tree line.

The bastard grabbed Shelly by the hair and dragged her from the car as she screamed wildly, as much from pain as surprise, shock and fear.

Matt watched in disbelief as the man threw her to the ground and kicked her in the stomach as he shouted in guttural tones.

Matt launched himself at the man.

“Who the fuck are you?” he shouted and got no answer he could understand.

The man had two partners who grabbed Matt by the arms and brutally dragged him down onto the dirt road. He landed hard on his back with a huge rock digging into his spine as the three men started to kick him in the face, back, chest, in any exposed area until his head was spinning from pain.

He felt as some bones cracked in his chest. The favorite target of their savage assaults.

It was all Matt could do to get out a few words between blows, “Shelly, RUN!”

Matt was on the ground half naked and bleeding from more places than he could count. Blood had run into his eyes and mouth. Finally, the kicks stopped. Every time he tried to move there was a searing pain in his chest, left arm and right leg.

He made a huge mistake by looking at his arm, then realized it probably would have been better to not know. It looked like a white stick was poking out of his forearm. Blood was streaming down his arm to finally fall to the ground when it got to his fingertips. It took a minute for him to realize that the “stick” was his own bone coming through the skin. At first, he couldn’t believe it, and then he panicked and was certain he was going to die…then he thought of Shelly and regained focus.

He watched helplessly as the largest of them stalked back to where Shelly was trying to crawl away, screaming hysterically. The men laughed as one of them grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled her head back as the young woman kicked and screamed. The man started working her around to the front of the car.

The largest of the assholes picked her up and threw her onto the hood of the car hard enough to dent the thing into a rumpled outline of her body. Another one of them pulled a huge knife that had been dangling from his belt and cut her pants until he could easily rip them off, throwing them to the side. Shelly kept screaming, “Help! Help!”

The shouts grew louder and more desperate as the cold metallic blade slid along the skin of her legs and stomach.

Matt wanted to help, but every time he tried to move his vision got fuzzy and it felt like he was going to lose consciousness.

The largest of them unbuckled his pants as the other two moved to the sides of the car to hold her down on the hood. Knowing what was about to happen, Shelly bucked wildly trying to break free from their vice-like grips. She did not want him to put that thing sticking out from the massive mound of bushy black hair into her, at least not without a struggle.

They were too strong for her. She was quickly becoming exhausted by the struggle, but she continued to kick, getting weaker and weaker with each attempt at striking or breaking free from her attackers. With a little luck, she managed to get an arm free and connect with some soft part of one of the men. He let out a surprised howl. She had no idea where she hit him, but the yelp of pain gave her some semblance of hope.

She redoubled her efforts, lashing out even more furiously, with renewed energy. The injured man stumbled back and fell to the ground. One of the others laughed and grabbed a handful of her hair, then beat her head against the hood of the car a few times until blood ran from multiple cuts to the back of her head and she stopped struggling.

They shoved her to the center of the car hood. Two of the men took up proper position and held her left arm straight out. The third asshole, who had finally recovered from the lucky shot, kicked the elbow, causing bones to shatter and the joint to dislocate. In the process he rendered her arm completely useless as a weapon.

The man who had fallen to the ground after Shelly kicked him picked up a large rock and returned to the struggling young woman. He bashed her in the leg with the rock making her leg emit a snapping sound as the knee bent backward, becoming dislocated, likely breaking ligaments free from where they were once connected.

Shelly lay, barely conscious across the hood of the car.

They kept shouting in a language Matt didn’t understand. He vowed to someday learn what they were saying and find a way to make them pay for what they were doing, if he lived through this.

Their words, in whatever language it was, would be burned into his brain forever. Death would be too easy for them. He wanted them to suffer.

The largest of the attackers flipped Shelly over, so she was face down. With no consideration, he pulled his dick out and shoved it into a body part that was designed for an entirely different purpose.

Shelly could no longer offer resistance. She could barely manage painful groans as she tried to cling to consciousness. From what Matt could see from his vantage point it seemed like every inch of her body was bruised or bleeding. Blood seeped out of cuts as she silently cried as the brutalization continued. She finally managed to turn her head to look at Matt and could see that even with his leg bent the wrong way and his arm obviously broken, he was trying to make his way to her.

She saw him stop crawling, vomit blood, and collapse to the ground. It was impossible to tell if he was alive or dead, it could have gone either way.

It was at that moment she began to realize she may die. She also knew she didn’t want to go down without a fight.

The largest of the attackers picked her up and flipped her over again. He shoved her down on her back, denting hood of the car further.

She let out a primal scream.

With the little strength she had left she spat blood into his eye and yelled, “Fuck you, you goddamn pig!”

He reached down to the ground to pick something up.

In a fit of violent lust he forced his dick into her, then bashed her face in with a rock so large that took two hands to lift. All three men laughed as her skull splintered, and dark, thick fluid came oozing out in every direction. Strange pieces of shredded tissue littered the windshield as her body went into death spasms.

Matt was in and out of consciousness, and could only watch in horror as this unfolded, not exactly understanding or believing what he was seeing.

Through his blurred vision Matt saw what he thought were grains of rice on the ground, but then realized it was her teeth, making him even angrier and more scared than he had been before.

He vomited more blood. Matt could barely move, there was just too much pain. He had to lay there and watch as all three of them ravaged her lifeless body. She was dead and would feel no pain, but Matt’s rage boiled. He was twenty feet away and could do nothing. He had done effectively nothing as the love of his life was killed. His ribs sent lightning bolts of pain through his chest every time he moved.

The men, having finished with the girl, walked back towards Matt’s prone body. One last blow to the head was in order, and everything turned black.

***

Matt faded in and out. He was only half aware he was being sodomized. His mind was still trying to process everything.

He slowly became aware of the sounds of multiple large truck engines starting. He heard a large group of people moving around somewhere down the hill. Apparently, this was not a couple of random guys wandering through the woods. Through the fog Matt’s brain guessed that the war wasn’t as over as people thought.

***

Matt wasn’t sure of the exact time he passed out, or what time it was when he woke up, but he knew that he had to stand up, had to move, and above all, he had to find some help. He looked around the area, and realized his dad’s car was gone. He was on his own, with a broken body and no transportation in an isolated area. The grand slam of trouble.

Slowly the memory of what happened came back, bit by horrifying bit. He searched the area for Shelly, hoping it had all been a dream. He found where her body had been. The outline in the dirt was unmistakable. There were some large paw prints and a blood trail. Some animal must of have taken her body off into the woods as a meal.

Matt couldn’t believe any of this had happened.

Was he dreaming?

No, this was real.

Was the love of his life really being digested by some furry woodland creature at this very moment?

It was too much to think about. Hopefully he was wrong, and she was alive someplace. Hopefully she had crawled away and found help. He knew that was not likely, but he needed to believe in something. He needed a reason to endure the suffering that moving down the path on his quest for help would cause. Walking caused more pain than he ever thought he possible to endure, and he knew he had at least a mile to go.

He moved his feet, slowly, carefully. He had to get out of the area. He had to let someone know what happened. He needed someone to help look for her.

Who would believe him? Who would believe it wasn’t just some delusional rambling of an injured kid?

This sort of thing just didn’t happen here, not in the United States, and certainly not in Maine. This was where people went on vacation, there was nothing of strategic military importance here, or anywhere within a hundred miles.

Three guys, come out of nowhere and brutally attack two teenagers, probably killing one and leaving the other for dead?

It just wasn’t something that happened, it shouldn’t happen.

How could this happen?

Why did this happen?

Why did it happen to them?

Matt started moving as fast as he could which was a slow shuffle but at least he was on his feet and moving forward. He was making his way back to the road by remote control. Making matters worse, his shoes were missing. He was still bleeding from multiple wounds but had to find someone and tell them what happened. He had to convince people, no matter what. The alarm had to go out.

No matter how much he wanted to lay down on the ground and sleep, Matt knew he could not. His injuries could wait. Someone had to know what was going on out here before someone else suffered like Shelly.

Someone had to help find her. She had to still be alive out there somewhere in the woods, just unconscious and in desperate need of help.

Barefoot and bleeding, with stunted unsteady steps, he kept making his way down the dirt road. He took no notice of the sharp pricks of the rocks and broken glass cutting into his abused feet. He was beyond feeling pain.

An hour later Matt was slowly limping his way up a country road. He was near exhaustion. He hoped someone would come along and stop. Then he hoped when it happened that it was the right person. There was no way he could survive another attack.

***

Sgt. Greg Spoker and Sgt. Aaron Little had received the call to mount up into an armored Hummer and head off to a remote part of the countryside. Once there they were to patrol and report any unusual activity. As they drove along the country road, they talked about how they were glad that at least it was not another trip to Afghanistan or Iraq. Both had done several tours over there and did not relish the idea of going back.

Little had just popped open a soda can and was about to light up a smoke when something moving on the side of the road caught his attention.

“Hey, Sergeant Spoker,” Little said, “slow down and load up. I see something up ahead about five hundred yards up on the right.”

The Sergeant slowed the vehicle to a crawl two hundred and fifty yards out from what looked like a zombie slowly shuffling along the road. Both men raised their weapons to the ready with their fingers off the trigger, but not far away resting on the trigger guard. As they scanned for threats they sarcastically hoped the zombie wasn’t a real one.

They figured the whole thing had to be part of a training exercise, and this was one of the participants playing a role of some kind. It was the kind of thing that happened when you were trying to prep for a type of attack that only exists in the mind of some Army training “expert.”

As they neared the person, zombie, or whatever it was, the one arm of the zombie-person began to weakly wave them down. The other arm did not look right from a distance, but it looked different from the other.

“Stop where you are,” Little shouted at the whatever it was, wondering what the hell was going on.

Sergeant Spokers got on the radio to call in the “unusual activity.”

Sergeant Little looked through his rifle scope as he worked his way in closer to the potential threat and saw the frightening image of Matt, “GET THE MED KIT, AND CALL A DAMN AMBULANCE!” he screamed.

“Aaron,” Greg said, “What the fuck is it?”

“It’s some kid. He is seriously messed up. Someone worked him over just like the Iraqis used to do to uncooperative local prisoners.”

Sergeant Little grabbed the medical kit and ran to Matt. Sergeant Spoker was frantically talking on the radio looking for help, “Headhunter Base, this is Ghostrider three Alpha, Over.”

“Ghostrider three Alpha, this is Headhunter Base, go ahead, over.”

“Base, three Alpha, we need casualty evac at,” looking over at the GPS on the dash he read the coordinates.

“Casualty is a teenage male, severe blunt trauma, broken bones and bleeding. First Aid initiated, but he will need higher care before we move him, over.”

“Three Alpha, this is Headhunter six, say again your last. Do I understand you have a casualty, over?” Came the confused reply.

“Six, this is three Alpha. Roger on last. One civilian casualty, priority evacuation is needed. First aid is started, but the kid has massive blunt force trauma, open fractures, and looks like he may lose a leg if you don’t get that evac, preferably air evac, here right now, over.”

There was a short pause before the reply.

“Air evac is on the way. Secure the area, treat casualty to the best of your ability. Keep whoever it is alive, we need to know what the hell is going on. Intelligence reports coming our way from all over are confused at best, and contradictory at worst, over.”

“Six, Three, roger, out.”

Sergeant Little slid to a stop as he ripped open a medical kit. Sergeant Spoker was moving the truck forward to shine more light on the scene so they could work on the injuries more easily.

“Shit, where the fuck is Doc when you need him? This kid is messed up. I can stop most of the bleeding, and he has so many broken bones I don’t know where to start,” Little said to no one in particular. He had already bandaged some of the head wounds and was working his way down the body trying to prioritize the worst injuries first. Looking at the open fracture, he just immobilized the arm as much as possible and moved on. Matt was such a mess it was hard to tell active bleeders from injuries that had managed to clot and still had blood flowing across them from elsewhere.

Sergeant Spoker was moving around, sweeping the area with his weapon at the ready, looking for any source of potential trouble when he saw the dragged footmarks Matt had left on the side of the road. Kneeling down, he flipped on his tactical light and discovered the trail of blood.

“Aaron,” he called out, “check the kid’s feet and see if they are bleeding.”

Little moved to Matt’s feet and recoiled in horror. He had seen people, friends as well as enemies blown up. Never in his life had he seen as much damage done to a human body part still attached to someone that had just been moving under their own power. The only thing his mind could think of was how much they resembled ground beef. The same kind of stuff he had made into burgers on the weekend countless times.

There were bits of twigs sticking out of Matt’s feet. His heels were down to the bone in multiple places. There was torn flesh just dangling off in all directions. One toe was missing from what appeared to be the result of Matt dragging that foot behind him, like it had been sandpapered off.

He put tight bandages over both feet as fast as he could and said, “Just save your energy man, stop trying to talk. We have more help on the way. You are massively dehydrated on top of everything else. I am going to start an IV drip and try to get your fluid levels back up.”

Sergeant Spoker kept patrolling the area while Sergeant Little worked on Matt. They could hear sirens in the distance, and a large helicopter thumping its way towards their position.

“I think we can say this isn’t a training exercise,” the Sgt Little said, vocalizing for the first time what they both knew.

What the hell had happened?

The War was supposed to be over.

AP NEWS FLASH: There are unconfirmed reports of a foreign military invasion in the state of Maine. These reports are scattered and varied. There is no video, photographic, or audio evidence of these claims. The Governor of Maine has activated the National Guard, who are currently patrolling the regions of these reports looking for unusual activity. Residents in that part of the country are instructed to call local authorities if they see anything suspicious, but for their own safety they are urged to let first responders or National Guard deal with any threats.

AP ECONOMIC NEWS FLASH: Upon initial, unconfirmed reports of an military invasion in the United States prices for oil and other commodities were driven much higher. Given that this event occurred on Saturday afternoon, and the US markets are closed, it is expected these rumors can be put to rest before the markets open on Monday and will have little to no impact on the overall market averages.

Re-Read of DragonLance Chronicles

I first discovered DragonLance around the time the second of the Chronicles books came out. It was the mid 1980s, handing out at the mall was still cool (they had arcades) but they also had book stores. Yes plural.

I came across these two books by TSR whose games I was familiar with but I had never seen a book by them. Let’s just say I wasn’t the most popular kid in the 80s and nerds were not the heroes they are today. Some would say I was ahead of my time in that regard I would say I was just a teenager who didn’t fit in (like all the others but I didn’t know it then).

So, I found these two books. My only experience in fantasy books was The Lord of the Rings trilogy and these didn’t seem as….heavy as those. These seemed more cool.

I bought the two of them.

I had never in my life taken books home and finished one of the two the same weekend I bought them (got them on a Saturday I’m sure).

I had also never brought home a book my dad wanted to read. These for some reason he picked up the first one and after Chapter 1 was hooked.

I tore through them, I was annoyed that I had to wait for the third, and subsequent trilogies.

I read probably the first ten or twelve of the books, then followed the authors over to the DarkSword trilogy and then…I graduated. I went off to other things and reading for pleasure kind of (sadly) left my life for a few years. Once I got back into it DragonLance was basically forgotten.

Fast forward to 2020 and one of my sons is now ten years old. He wanted to read something that involved “dragons.” So, I downloaded a copy of Chronicles 1 on Kindle and he and I read it together.

Honestly the books not only hold up but there is more depth to the story than my teenage self realized. The stories are very well written, the characters have depth, the fantasy world is well thought out and it just works.

I posted something about it on Twitter and tagged Margaret Weis who answered! Several times.

Now, as a guy who is during the day job a research scientist (Physicist) and as a lark started writing fiction a few years ago this was a treat for me. I appreciate all the hard work she did on these probably more now that I have published my own fiction that when I was just a reader. The amount of talent, dedication, and sweat that went into these and her other books is apparent.

If you have never read these, please do, you won’t regret it.

Editing is the “fun” part of writing

Around 7 years ago I embarked to write a fiction novel. I did.

I then wrote a few more.

But that first one was intended to be part of a series, I just never finished the second one. I have now gone back to that original story-line and written the second. I am deep into the editing phase.

Editing, if you are an aspiring writer, is where the whole thing becomes an entertaining story. The first (and seventh) draft is not where you can expect to have a nicely crafted and entertaining story. It just isn’t.

I have read enough books in my life I can tell those that spent a ton of time (with a decent editor) in the editing phase from those that different.

Wanna know the difference? I get fully engrossed in the stories that are well edited.

That isn’t to say all well edited stories are entertaining, far far from it. However, I have never found a circumstance where a poorly edited story is actually one that I want to read.

Ok, my rant hath ended, and really all I’m doing is procrastinating 😉

Thanks for reading, and I am so humbled that people have enjoyed my creations.

A new book – Chapter 1

I finished a book, got it on the market, so it is time to move on to the next project.

Here is Chapter 1, still in need of a little editing.

Chapter One

Father Frank Santini approached the front row of pews in his ornately decorated Catholic Church.

There were a few other parishioners saying prayers, but they were not his concern at the moment. He needed a silent moment to talk to God.

He performed the sign of the crossed and knelt in silent prayer.

Heavenly Father, I have pondered long and hard the question of how to make a difference in the world You have so graciously gifted to mankind. I am absolutely certain You have a plan. However, I am now of the belief that the number of people worthy of being welcomed into Your heavenly presence is rapidly shrinking.

I believe that mankind is failing You. I can’t allow that to continue.

I would never be so arrogant as to question Your plan, or Your implementation of it. However, I can no longer agree with the bishops, cardinals or even the Pope himself in their opinion that my part of the plan is to wait and observe as it evolves…that I am to merely sit and wait for people to enter the parish doors seeking Your words.

We must go out and bring people in.

We must seek ways to get people to come through those doors and hear Your Scripture.

We must not just sit and wait for them to wonder in accidentally.

I am certain that we priests are part of Your plan to restore society to its former glory. We can help bring peace to all mankind.

Perhaps it is we who have interpreted Your plan incorrectly.

This society has decayed beyond a condition You deserve. It did so very slowly at first but now it decays more and more every single day. The pace is now so rapid that I feel I must make a change in my behavior.

I must actively seek to stop this devolution.

This society clearly no longer represents Your glory. No part of me believes that it does. You deserve better. The Church no longer is part of the lives of an overwhelming number of people. The Church, Your Church, has been transformed into a passive participant in this society…a society that is desperately in need of spiritual guidance, now more than ever before.

I must take actions to bring back Your glory, by any means necessary. Business as usually in the modern Church is just not working.

I am merely taking a lesson from history. In centuries long past, we servants of Yours were far more active in bringing Your Word to those who did not bother themselves to come through those doors into Your light. Gone, for the most part, are the days of the missionaries. Now those on missions are merely vacationers under a different name.

I am not saying this should be done by force, although history has shown cases when that has happened. There may be modern examples of when we should protect Your followers by force. There are precious few, and they should be protected just as a mother bear protects her cub.

We should expand Your influence by doing more good deeds, and not just within our own congregation. What form those good deeds take on may vary depending on the situation, but we can do it by living our lives more publicly so others can see for themselves what the result of following Your teaching can be.

It is becoming increasingly challenging for me to sit and wait for people to come in the Church seeking Your Glory. I have been idle for too long. We must take it to the people where they are. If parishes around the world do what must be done for their local community to accurately represent Your Will this world will become a much better place. It will properly reflect Your glory.

If it were not for my being called into Your service, I know I would have ended up dead or in prison by this point in my life.

Now, thankfully, I am a man of peace. I give You thanks for helping me to realize that one man can, indeed, make a difference. I am sure I am part of Your greater plan. I must be more active in bringing people into Your light and protect those already here.

I have huge concerns for those who refuse to repent for their sins. Their numbers are growing. They sometimes come into confession to ‘repent’ for the same sins over and over.

They are not repentant.

I have yet to determine just how to handle these people. I can’t possibly offer them absolution. Someday, perhaps, it will become clear to me how to deal with those undeserving of the gifts You have presented to mankind.

I know You did not form countries. The nation of earth are merely formations of people…of men and women that you DID create. As the nations of the world to continue to bear witness to the devolution of morals, a reduction in ethics, an absolute pummeling in the standards of interaction with one another, does that not directly impact Your followers.

I know You are not going to send me a personal message. That is not Your way. Someday I hope to be able to fully understand Your plan. Until then I will continue to be Your humble servant to the best of my meager ability.

Amen.

He performed the sign of the cross in what was the traditional “bookend” to Catholic prayers.

As he got to his feet he was unaware of the beads of sweat covering his forehead. They were present despite the chill in the Church. This far into New England, this late in the year, at certain times of day, a chill was just unavoidable. This Church was an outstanding example of one such building.

He slowly, reverently, made his way over to his place of duty in the confessional. This was all part of his normal Friday afternoon routine.

His Parrish offered confession seven days a week. He always took Friday afternoon duty for this task. He always said a prayer to clear his mind before offering others absolution for their sins.

Immediately after he had settled into the confessional an older woman entered the confessor area and knelt. The priest slid the divider out of the way to find the woman had removed the privacy screen on her side so the two could look upon one another.

Father Frank preferred confessions done in this more intimate style. It showed no desire by the confessor to hide anything.

It also allowed him to see their eyes. Once he became a priest and began hearing confessions on a regular basis, he had come to understand that the eyes offer a window to the soul. In his mind, the soul was all that mattered.

“Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been one week since my last confession,” Sister Mary Anne Margaret said. She was one of a dwindling number of nuns faithfully serving the Catholic Church.

“Sister, I hear your confession every week. May I say something before you begin?” inquired the priest.

“Of course you may,” replied the old woman.

“You have worked as a volunteer nurse for what, three decades?” he asked rhetorically.

“In addition to healing the sick, you have worked tirelessly to help the homeless and educate the adolescents. You are a superb example of a woman of faith and one of the most dedicated nuns I have ever met. While I know you will continue to come here every week seeking forgiveness, and I will continue to offer it, I must say you are, in general, being too hard on yourself. In the past some of what you have confessed I would not consider a sin. In some cases, these things would barely be considered a concern. I beg of you to stop being so hard on yourself. If you feel bad about that fifty dollars you took off me during the poker game, please forget about it. You had the better hand,” explained Father Frank Santini.

“Father, you, perhaps more than most, know that we all have sins. Humans are flawed beings. Now, may I continue,” asked the nun.

“Continue if you must,” he waved his had dismissively and silently wished that a large number of confessors and the public at large possessed even a few of the character traits of this woman.

“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been one week since my last confession,” she repeated herself.

“While I would not consider taking fifty dollars from a silly priest who bets with far too much confidence on a pair of jacks a sin, he should know I donated his money to the International Red Cross. I do, however, consider intolerance and attempted violence a sin. I have, unfortunately, been guilty of these things,” she said.

He could not imagine this woman committing a violent act. He could not believe it was in her to do anything that would physically harm anyone, at least not without some amazing set of external circumstance.

She took a deep breath before continuing, “I was amazingly rude to a man while working at the hospital. I had just come from nine straight hours of treating the same teenage boy, his son, who was brought into the Emergency Room overdosing on some drug. We never could determine what it was, or how much of it he had taken.”

Her voice quivered as she continued, “In the end we were unable to save him, and he died. It was a horrible, painful death. The drug was obviously not what he thought it was. He coughed up so much blood I knew he would pass-on and hour before his body finally gave up the fight.

“I took the unfortunate duty of informing his father of the boy’s passing. I just could not cope with the man’s response to the news,” her voice became more resolute with each word.

“What was the man’s response?” he asked. He was still having problems envisioning this woman treating anyone rudely must less physically assaulting them. He was starting to understand that she had been under serious stress.

He suddenly realized that he had moved forward on his seat and was completely caught up in the woman’s far from routine confession.

So far, this confession was not even in his top ten worst, but considering the source, he was caught up in it.

He wondered if he was caught up in this as part of his desire to be more involved in changing the world for the better, to more accurately reflect His glory.

Perhaps it had spawned from his childhood, and more specifically from his teen years when he got in a lot of trouble. He wanted to help this woman, but he wanted to be active, his soul was tired of being passive. God must have wanted an active priest, why else would he be here wearing these robes?

“He told me,” she made air quotes with her fingers, “that ‘I have been telling him to get out of the crap he was into. Services his dumb ass right.’ Father, such disregard for human life, for his own son, I snapped. I could not help myself. I shouted such things at the man. I am ashamed of myself. I screamed obscenities. I tried to physically attack him. If there had not been an Orderly holding me back, I swear I would have. The man was completely devoid of human emotion. He just stood there as I was screaming and shrugged his shoulders.”

Father Frank felt as though a switch had been thrown in his head. He could finally envision this woman behaving in such an uncharacteristic way. He wondered how he would have reacted in the same situation. Probably the same as she had, if not worse.

He wanted to help this woman. He did not want to just offer absolution but also let her know what she had done was exactly the right thing, and not a sin in the eyes of God. Clergy are meant to protect people from evil.

“From the sound of it, as we used to say when I was a kid down in Quincy, that the man needed a beatin’. I am sure that if virtually anyone else on the planet had been there it would have been far worse for him,” Father Frank said.

He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts, “I think the Lord above will understand your actions. I also believe He would like you to learn more patience,” he said.

He couldn’t believe with one ounce of his being that this woman needed forgiveness. He didn’t consider her response anything other than a human reaction, and certainly not a sin.

“Perhaps your actions stirred something in him. Perhaps, in the long run, your actions will save him from eternal damnation,” he said attempting to put her at ease.

“Sister, in all the time I have known you I have seen you do a great deal to spread the Catholic Faith. However, it occurs to me that I have never once heard of you doing any work with the youngest of His followers, for example, with children in the kindergarten or first grade age groups. Do I have that correct?” he asked.

“You are correct. I have never worked with children that young unless they came into the hospital in need of treatment,” she clarified.

“In order to be absolved of your sin you must learn patience. I want you to spend all week working mornings with our new kindergarten teacher. She needs as much help as she can early in the day. That is when the children are at their most rambunctious. They have just woken up and in many cases their parents have filled them full of sugary cereals. As a result of the bad nutritional choices these kids are really bouncin’ off the walls and you must be patient with them,” he instructed her.

He suddenly realized he was letting his rarely heard Boston accent make an appearance. He sometimes slipped into the less formal verbal style on those occasions when he felt it was necessary to remove stress from a situation.

“Now, please, go, do what you normally do after coming here. Go to the hospital and volunteer for the hectic Friday night shift in the emergency room,” he finished.

“Thank you, Father,” she said as she left the confessional.

Last Friday, while hearing confessions, there had been a line of people waiting to confess their sins. This week was difference. There were scarce few parishioners, Fridays were like that.

He sat in silence, lost in thought for a few moments before the indicator light came on signaling someone had entered the confessional to his right. He slid aside the wooden divider. On the confessor side he saw a woman who, like the nun, had removed the privacy screen.

The confessor was even more unusual than merely removing the privacy device. She was on the younger side of forty, amazingly physically fit, and was looking at him directly in the eyes This behavior is extremely rare among confessors.

She did not speak for a moment. Perhaps it had been some time since she had confessed, if ever, and just didn’t understand, or remember, the traditional process.

He knew from experience how to get the ball rolling when this sort of thing happened.

“How may I help you my dear?” he asked the woman whom he had seen at Sunday Services, but had never spoken with directly.

“Father, I have been bad. Sinned, I guess you would say. I have not admitted that in many years,” she said maintaining constant eye contact.

A smirk crossed her face. Father Frank found himself annoyed by this. Typically, at this point, confessors who initially looked up had cast their eyes downward in shame.

Did this woman have no shame? No remorse for her sins? Was he just misreading her?

Surely remorse was in there somewhere and she was just that rare person who made eye contact no matter what the situation.

“Please, continue. You should have no fear of your statements being known outside the confessional,” he felt he must be misreading her. That had to be it.

He was glad to have a confessor who had returned after what appeared to be a long absence from the confessional. Returning people usually indicated someone search for help, or even better, an awakening of the soul.

He found himself happy about the fact that she was here making an attempt, albeit an odd one.

Despite her non-traditional approach to confession he was sure he could help her just as he had absolved so many others of their sins. Through his fifteen years of experience hearing confessions he had developed what he considered to be a flawless methods of determining who needed to do some work before peace with God could be achieved, and who was at some level ready to be forgiven.

“Oh, it isn’t fear. I am not afraid, and I am really happy with the person that I am. I am just searching for the best way to explain this. I guess I will just start from the beginning, as it is a little complicated,” she said.

She took a very deep breath before continuing, “I am married. My husband and I are very happy, for the most part. He is my emotional soul mate, if you believe in that sort of thing,” she paused for a moment.

Her eyes cast momentarily downward at the mention of her husband. Then just as quickly as she had looked down, she went right back to her direct contact.

“He is a very talented engineer, and I am a housewife. We have no kids. We tried to for a while and eventually discovered we can’t for medical reasons. That’s fine, I have no internal angst over it. If we weren’t meant to reproduce then we weren’t meant to.”

“Life as a housewife is just so boring that I began looking for ways to make my day-to-day life more exciting. You see Father, I have always loved adrenaline. I like a little danger in my life, thanks to that feeling, that rush I get through my veins. It is amazing,” she explained.

He preferred to let people confess in their own way at their own speed if time permitted. It helped him understand the person, and their motivation behind their sins a little better. Once he understood the motivating factors, he could determine their worthiness to receive absolution. This woman was certainly taking her time, getting to the actual sins in a roundabout way.

“Over a decade ago, I started finding ways to fill that adrenaline need by taking mixed martial arts classes. I love them. They help me to stay sexy which I like, and for a long time made me feel good by offering that hint of danger I was lacking in my life. My trouble all started when I got pretty good at it. As a result of my skill level increasing, the rush I got out of it declined, and my need for adrenaline was no longer being met.”

Father Santini was listening intently as she spoke. So far this was the most unusual confession he had hear in some years. He was still not clear what, if anything, her sin had been. Perhaps his concern about her lack of remorse was because she had nothing to feel remorseful about. Perhaps she was just looking for someone to talk to and that was the only real reason she came in. That sort of thing happened from time to time.

She continued to look him directly in the eyes, “I also love sex I just can’t get enough of it. My husband and I probably have the best love life any married couple can expect.”

“About a year ago my martial arts classes really stopped providing me any kind of rush. So, I started looking for ways to fulfill my adrenaline need, so I decided to combine the two things. I asked my husband to try some new things with me, sexually. Bondage, that sort of thing. He tried for a while but none of it really worked for me. He wasn’t really all that into it. The whole thing was just awkward. It wasn’t in him to do it right.”

“After that, I slept with the man who lives next door. I did it in such a way we could have easily been caught. We didn’t get caught, but I also didn’t get a rush out of it at all. I tried a couple of times in riskier and riskier ways for tit work for me, but it failed. Then, recently, I gave up on that useless idea and decided to try something else. So, I started hiring myself out as a prostitute,” she said almost proudly.

She was still staring him directly in the eyes with no sign of shame or remorse at all. At her final sentence Father Frank involuntarily jolted. This was perhaps the worst sin of betrayal he had heard in his many years on this side of the confessional. The covenant with her husband had been violated in ways he could not yet think of words to describe. Her oath before God during the marriage ceremony had not just been violate…it had been shattered.

She continued before he could bring himself to utter a sound, “Father, it fulfills my needs. It filled it VERY well. I know what I am doing is dangerous. I know I could get hurt or even killed but knowing that just adds to the rush. I know I should probably stop, but I also know nothing else will ever give me this kind of rush. So, what choice do I have? I have to keep on doing it.”

“The problem is that I just feel a little bad about what I am doing. I don’t want my husband to find out. At the same time, I don’t want to stop. The situation just makes me feel a little guilty. Now, all of that ‘feeling bad’ stuff will go away if you can just forgive me in the eyes of the Lord. Once you do that, I can keep doing what I am doing, and everything will be juuuusssstttt fine.”

The priest was simultaneously glad this woman had come to confession and aghast at her behavior not to mention her request. He thanked God for sending this woman here as a test of his abilities.

Perhaps his prayers for new challenges was being answered? But this?

“My dear…that Lord will forgive many things, but you first most do everything I ask of you,” he said.

“I will do anything,” she said matter of factly.

“You must STOP! Immediately. You must not behave in this fashion any longer. You must seek help from a professional psychologist. They will help you find a way to feel fulfilled without violation any of the promises you made to your husband in the eyes of our Lord. When you were married you promised to forsake all others. Have you forgotten this?” he looked at her for any sign of regret and found none. He hoped his words would get through. He very much wanted to save her from eternal damnation, but he had to see some signal from her she was ready to be saved, if one was in there.

“Once you have done that, come back here to the Church, and in your own words, say a private prayer. Explain to our Lord that you have changed your ways and how you plan to be a better wife going forward. Do these things and I am sure you will be forgiven. Through His forgiveness you will, ultimately, be welcomed into Heaven. Without taking these steps, I have no way of knowing what God has in store for your eternal soul. However, I feel confident in saying it will not be pleasant,” he said.

He was trying to be direct with her, hoping against hope that she would listen. He knew, long term, these would be just the first steps on the long road to redemption.

“Father, wait, didn’t God create us in his image? Because of that isn’t He responsible for my having these urges. It has to be His fault. It can’t possibly be mine. I don’t want to stop. I can’t stop. I just want this guilty feeling to go away. Is there not some prayer I can say? Perhaps some volunteer work I can do? Then God forgive me, and my life will be in balance. The good I would be doing would be balancing out the bad,” she replied still staring him unwaveringly in her direct eye contact.

He hoped she did not take note of his frustration. He knew this type of “I can do anything I want” attitude was growing societally, but this was the worst possible manifestation of it he could have imagined.

“My child, that isn’t how this works. This isn’t a traffic court you go to when you had one too many speeding tickets. In order to be forgiven for our sins we must actually be sorry for committing them. This is very clear in Scripture. Premeditatedly committing them, knowing they are wrong really only makes matters worse. You must stop! I beg of you!” He hoped his insistence would help this woman see the folly of her ways.

He hoped her soul was not already gone. He also hoped no one outside the confessional could hear him yell at her, as his volume was certainly rising.

“Well, thanks anyway. I just can’t do that. All I really wanted was to not feel guilty. I guess I can just go out and do it more often. I guess then I will be so busy I won’t have time to think about it. That could solve the problem,” she sat back from her kneeling position and prepared to depart the confessional.

“Father, perhaps someday you and the rest of the clergy will understand where everyone else is coming from. Keeping one’s physical self-satisfied is the modern way. Is it, in reality, the most important part of life. I don’t want to tell you how to do your job but if God really did create us in his image it must be ok. Maybe you should study some more. I am sure all this is in Scripture somewhere. Try Googling it.”

“Besides there is a huge event in the theater district tomorrow night, and I can’t miss the fun,” she left the confessional with the Priest sitting alone and confused.

Father Frank could not understand how anyone could attempt to pervert Holy Scripture in this fashion. How could she interpret Catholic teachings in such a way as to justify this behavior?

He sat and listened to confessions for the next hour. He could not help fuming at himself over his lack of ability to help that woman. Perhaps she was beyond any help other than what the Old Testament taught. He felt perhaps this woman was one of those people who could not be dealt with passively. She needed a boost.

This could be a person who did not deserve to live in the world God had so graciously gifted to mankind.

How could he, a man of peace, a man of God, protect the innocent from such evil?

Lucifer himself must have sent his woman to earth. God surely had guided her into the Church, but she could not be His creation. She must be a challenge sent here to test a mere clergyman.

The innocent people such as this woman’s husband must be protected from the evil within her. She must be sent from Satan to infiltrate the world and draw people into the evil pathways that only lead to eternal damnation.

There must be a way to protect the innocent from such evil. There must be.

He must find a way to offer that protection.

Perhaps it was too late for this woman.

Her soul must be lost. He had to think. What was it that he was meant to do in this case?

A chapter from an upcoming book

This new project is a bit of a departure from my other work, but dang is it fun for me. I hope when it is finished I can make it come out on the page like I see it in my head.

This is a little rough, but here we go! Another Chapter from this one, and this may be the last that I post until the novel is done.

They were everywhere. Slowly walking through the crisp night air. Earlier in the day he decided that he just had to find her. He had to, find a way, no matter what, stop her poorly chosen course of action. He must protect her innocent husband. He had to protect the innocents she was harming with her choices.

As a priest he was the sword and the shield of God. There was far more at stake than just her husband. He had to take this small step. He had to protect mankind from this evil, by any means necessary.

He was having difficulty keeping his eyes on the road while trying to locate her. He said a silent prayer of thanks for the lack of rainfall. The full moon was also helping make this Saturday night brighter than most.

Many of the streetlights did not work these days due to some budget cutback or other. The government continued to make many of these cuts in as many highly visible ways as possible. The more visible the cutback the better, for political reasons. Every layer of government called it a time of fiscal crisis. They did this all the while they continued to increase the salaries of the highest-ranking government employees by enormous percentages every year.

Apparently light bulbs were too expensive, but the enormous salaries for the ones that decided not to keep the lights working were perfectly acceptable. To Father Frank it was just another example of the rapid decay of morals and ethics finding ways into all portions of life.

He could see them, they were mixed in with the normal pedestrians who were on their way to dinner, or perhaps a show. He saw them, the original peddlers of sin. They were walking around advertising their primal services. They were mixed in with the crowd and moved around mostly unnoticed due to how many of them there were.

Maybe she had already found a customer and he was too late. He had to find her. He could not lose faith, his search had to be successful. God wanted him to find her.

As he continued through what remained of the more upscale part of the Boston Theater District, he saw many more of them. These would be the expensive ones. These women had to be the prostitutes that parishioners came in and confessed to being with. He always saw just how bad people’s emotional lives got after giving into this kind of temptation. He saw them as the aftermath, as good people tried to make peace with giving in to temptation. He helped them deal with that guilt.

The women were walking the streets like they had a destination in mind. In a manner of speaking he supposed they did.

They all had their own way of showing off their “product.” Most were doing this by wearing clothing with as little fabric as humanly possible without exposing the last few vital patches of skin. It was an impressive thing really, especially given the cold night air.

Then he saw her. The one he was looking for. He saw her first from behind. She had a shapely 5’8” frame, and brown hair down to the center of her back. Her real name was Lisa, but who knew what she used out here. He knew most women in this “profession” would use a fake name. His misspent youth had given him some experience in this area. When he thought about that part of his life now it seemed like someone else had done these things.

Maybe he was wrong, maybe this one used her real name. It didn’t matter, this was the woman he sought.

That was her, it was definitely her, she was the one that did this, not out of financial necessity, but out of her lust for danger, her desire for danger and sex. He still wondered how she could od this and still think of herself as committed to her marriage. It was pure evil that enabled her to behave in this fashion. In their marriage they had plenty of money, plenty of love. At least in one direction. She had no real need other than her perverted lust for danger and carnal pleasure.

He slowed the Jeep that had been his since before becoming a priest and lowered the window. “Excuse me. Can I talk to you for a minute?”

Father Frank hoped he could remember the entire pretense he had decided on that he hoped would get her in the vehicle. He hoped his story would be believable. It did have the ring of truth to it; at least he believed he did.

She strutted over to the car in her high-heeled boots, short red skirt and ludicrously low-cut shirt revealing as much cleavage as she was physically able. She had attempted to disguise her identity through heavy makeup, but this was definitely the woman he sought.

He would never forget the unique shade of blue in her eyes. He felt that looking at them in the confessional offered him a view into her twisted and evil soul. Here on the street he saw that same evil. Nothing had changed since he spoken with her. It was actually worse than he originally thought. Now that he saw her out here, he felt that perhaps it was too late for her.

“Sure. Hey, I know you. What is a Holy Man like you doing out here? Wait, did you come out here to try to talk me out of this?” she asked.

“Would it do any good if I tried?” he asked. The grimace that went along with his statement was something he practiced in the mirror hoping it would persuade her to believe his story.

“None at all,” she said flatly and without hesitation.

“Look, I will be blunt. Even men in my more rarified profession get stressed and have certain needs. Pressure builds up. Normally I can handle things myself, in a manner of speaking. Right now, I am in desperate need of some major relief. I have not been able to get you off my mind since we spoke,” that much was absolutely true.

“I am, after all, human. I think you are the one type of woman whom can help me with the problem I am struggling with, and I think both of us can get something out of this,” he said, hoping it didn’t sound too rehearsed or desperate. He thought he may have rambled on a little too long.

There was zero hesitation as she opened the door. “This will be a first. I can legitimately claim this is one thing even I never dreamed of doing. I don’t know if I should call this kinky or just bizarre. Either way, I am in,” she said as she climbed into the car.

“How much?” he asked as he quickly pulled away from the curb worrying that he might sound too nervous. It didn’t matter, he was going to stop her tonight, one way or the other.

“For you?!? All things considered, if you will answer one question for me, I will do you for free. To whom will you confess this sin?” she asked flirtatiously, not caring about the answer.

He let out a genuine laugh, “Any other priest can hear my confession.” It was the last thing he expected her to ask.

As they drove to the motel where he had already taken a room for the night, he hoped the inane chitchat would not give away his nervousness. He still wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do, but he was taking steps.

He was firm in his belief that the Savior would once again return to walk amongst mankind. Father Frank believed that the moral state of a world eternally at war that the Savior was needed more now than it had been in a long time. Lacking the return of THE Savior, perhaps a messenger of his would serve for the moment. Perhaps he was the messenger who could put the world on a road back toward the light. Perhaps that process could start with this woman.

Driving around looking for this woman, looking at the deviant underside of society had solidified Father Frank’s belief that the world was in urgent need of His return. The Priest was more confident than ever that the actions he intended to take this night would be the first steps on the road back toward the light for the world. It would all start with this woman.

The half-truths/half-lies he told this woman would serve the greater good. Yes, he was deceiving her but that was necessary to serve the greater good. Frank believed in old world justice, old world values. Scripture was very clear in its message of God being the ultimate authority on justice. The Priest believed those who served him on the worldly plane of existence were meant to help in delivering people to the Lord for justice.

She saw his mind drifting and shifted his focus back to the situation immediately at hand.

“At this point I would usually ask what it is you want. In this case I am going to guess you don’t have too many ideas. Should I offer up a few suggestions?” she asked while gently running a finger around her ample breast, slightly exposing a nipple in the process. It was a well-practiced move.

“I do have something in mind. You know, just because I am a man of God doesn’t mean that I have neither understanding of, nor fantasies about the pleasures of the flesh. Besides, in the confessional, people tell me all kinds of things. Some parishioners like to describe their sins with loads and loads of detail. Normally the things they confess sexually are things that they have done with someone other than their spouse. Every once in a while, I start to think that some people come in so they can brag instead of confess,” he said.

This admission of his was accurate. He had decided to tell her the absolute truth whenever practical. He had no worries about her believing his story. God must be helping him. Surely, he had Diving protection. Why wouldn’t he? At least he could stop her on this night.

“What is it you want to do to me?” she asked.

“I want to bind you to the bed. Your hands and feet will be spread to the four corners. Then I will cut the clothes from your body, then move my tongue from your breasts slowly down to your womanhood. Finally, when I am convinced you are exhausted by orgasm after orgasm. I will thrust my manhood inside you. When I climax, I will spread my seed across your lovely breasts,” he said. Perhaps this night would bring the Return of the Lord through this woman.

“My, my, you are a naughty boy. Normally I am not a big fan of being tied up, because I like to be able to move around. For you, I will let that rule slide,” she said as they arrived at the hotel. She could not wait to have this man inside her. She was pleased they had arrived quickly. Her heart was beating quickly in anticipation. This was not a sensation she experienced often, but she was finding enjoyable.

He opened the door and they entered the non-descript, inexpensive motel room. She had noticed while on the way that they were not in a good part of town, and far from where she called home. In fact, it was a fairly bad part of town, but she was used to that. Perhaps not this bad, but not far from it. Many of her customers, even the very wealthy, preferred parts of town where no one would ask questions. The room certainly had everything they needed for the next few hours.

He pushed her to the bed in what he hoped would be a playful fashion. He reached into the nightstand drawer where he had pre-placed some long strips of leather. He used them to tie her to the bed.

Her heard began beating faster.

The further things progress, the calmer he became.

She winced in pain as he tightened them more than someone doing this sort of thing normally would. She ignored the pain, merely attributing it to his inexperience in sexual play, besides the pain excited her.

He pulled out an eight-inch, razor sharp hunting knife from the drawer. He swiftly cut the clothes from her body. She moaned in apparent pleasure. He was unsure if it was part of a show for him, or if she was really enjoying this, not that it mattered. He wondered what clothing she planned on wearing home. He supposed that in time her clothing, or lack of it, would be irrelevant.

Finally, he pulled a gag from the drawer. He shoved it in her mouth and tied the strap behind her head. Her eyes grew wide as she moaned again. Now he was certain that this evil woman was enjoying this bizarre situation.

With her fully prepared he looked upon her naked body. He could not help but admire the primitive nature of her curves. The raw, animalistic lust it must invoke in most men was obvious in point of origin.

It didn’t matter. His frustration with being unable to fix the world around him in the eyes of God was now boiling over.

No doubt about one thing, she was the epitome of attractive woman. Original sin had come from another attractive woman, and she had been dealt with.

He prayed silently. He was sure God could hear.

My Lord, you know of my love for You. I want nothing more than for this world to once again reflect Your image. Humans, such as the one before me, are obviously under Lucifer’s influence, and to him they must be sent. I pray for her trip to the afterlife to be sift so that she may face Your justice. Amen.

He finished the prayer and stood over the bed with the knife still clenched in his right hand. He saw her look to his crotch and notice his lack of physical excitement. Her eyes then quickly moved to meet his. Her expression of excitement replaced by one of confusion.

Perhaps, in addition to his lack of erection, his still being fully clothed led her to understand this was something other than the sexual tryst she was led to believe. She looked back to the knife in his hand and noticed he had on latex gloves. She hadn’t seen that before, and the look in her eyes grew wide with panic. She was no longer confused. She pulled on the leather holding her to the bed, attempting to free herself.

He thrust the knife at her chest. She rocked her mid-section to one side. She was very flexible.

The knife missed its mark. He had wanted to stab her in the heart. All he managed was to leave a long, deep cut across her torso. Blood began to flow and leave a red pool on the bed sheets.

She let out a noise that was far from the sounds she had uttered in many other cheap motel rooms. This one sounded like a wounded cat.

The leather straps were too strong to be broken. She managed to pull one arm hard enough that a part of the bed broke, and she suddenly had one arm free.

She punched him in the solar plexus.

She freed her other extremities and made her way to the side of the room where the Priest was trying to stand or even take a deep breath.

A much-practiced knee to the face sent him tumbling across the room. He had lost all ability to get his feet under him. Blood was flowing from his nose and down his face.

He managed somehow to stagger to one foot and a knee. He brandished the knife hoping to keep her back while he regrouped for a second try at her heart.

A small grin crossed her face despite the pulsating pain in her side. The Priest had no way of knowing that she had mastered disarming a knife wielding assailant years before.

He lunged at her in an attempt to have the blade find her heart. He missed completely as she spun out of the way. In the process she grabbed his arm, throwing him to the ground as the knife flew across the room in the opposite direction, and well out of his reach. Certain that he wasn’t an immediate threat she went for the knife.

He found himself confused and on the floor. His rattled brain was telling him to stay down and figure out how to stop the pain.

A voice in his head told him to get up. He fought the urge to vomit and instead pulled a gun from the inner pocket of his jacket. He had thought this night through, complete with backup plan.

From the outset he thought the knife would be the optimal silent solution. A gun would have to do.

He fired twice, once in her chest, once in the head.

She fell to the floor with her head making a very disturbing, wet, squishy sound. He thought it sounded a bit too much like an overly wet sponge falling onto a tile floor. The second bullet had taken a portion of her brain and scattered the grey sticky substance with thick bloody streaks on the walls behind her. It started to slowly work its way down the wall. Some pieces of her skull littered the floor. Portions of it had shattered as the bullet exited her head and left rice sized pieces of bone on the floor.

It had been so easy. It was easier than he thought it would have been to release her twisted soul from the physical body.

He quickly gathered his things and left the room. He was now very glad he kept the German made pistol his grandfather had brought back as a memento from his time in Europe during World War II. It was the only thing left to him in his beloved grandfather’s last will and testament.

He knew in this neighborhood the police would see the scene for what it was. A murdered prostitute. No major investigation would be launched.

He climbed back into his Jeep, took off the gloves, and wiped his forehead free of sweat. He cleaned the blood from his face on the towel he had taken from the room and pulled out of the parking lot.

He wanted to make his way back to the Church and pray.

His opening salvo in the Holy War to reclaim God’s Earth had been fired.

His position of honor in Heaven would be certain.

COVID, the Holidays and Depression

This time of year is full of all kinds of stress in a normal year. Seasonal depression is a real thing, especially for parents, people distant from family and friends, you name it there is a reason for people to be bummed out between now and the end of the year.

This year is especially weird. We have seasonal depression/anxiety, COVID stresses, election anxiety, a year of protests, political division, kids stuck inside, distance learning, distance working, massive unemployment numbers, the list goes on and on.

While I as a mere technical guy who also writes books on occasion can’t solve any of these things I can use what voice I have to urge anyone suffering from these problems to call someone. Family, friend, a hotline, the guy who used to hangout at the local bar when that was allowed…someone. Don’t try to get through it alone.

If you are stuck in a rut it only gets worse. Give something new a try and perhaps turn off the news once in a while. It may help.