The Color of Houm: White Flag Burning on Sale!

Book Two of my ‘Color of Houm’ series is available for preorder right now, available to read this Saturday the 12th! Find it on Amazon right here.

The once silent defiance finds itself unable to hold back any longer. Both sides head towards an emboldened opposition, victories both small and large piling up, yet neither side is willing to make concession. Book Two in the Color of Houm series: White Flag Burning

The startling and triumphant attack by the Sanguine Tears in Akresh City crippled the Moon’s infrastructure and means of commerce. The inhabitants of the city are forced to rely on the Nest Corporation’s Security forces to offer a sense of safety and a hopeful return to normalcy. After receiving a threat and a promise of future action from the rebel group, authorities on Houm as well as the Corporation are forced to decide how they will proceed, rehashing the debate between Houm’s self-determination versus The Nest Corporation’s humanitarian efforts.

Those who carried out the attack hide out still in Akresh, planning their next move while the city remains under the strict control of the security forces. Their focus remains on Veema, who gave herself up to Nest just before the attack, creating a loose end for both sides. Her father, Major Corbin Skye of Nest Security, can’t help but blame himself for her senseless actions. Despite his efforts to reconnect with his daughter, the reticent girl all but refuses to divulge any information about the organization that had enraptured her into their movement.

When the Corporation delivers to the system more forces to secure Houm and its Moon, the division between the local populace and the offworlders deepens, pulling at the seams of the already strained society.

If you haven’t checked out book one yet, you can get it for free right now as well. Click here to get it now!

Clothes Make the Man

Clothes make the man, he thinks to himself.

The little man at the front of the bus has to wear the little blue hat and tight little blue suit because he drives it.  Or does he get to drive it because he wears those things?

The blue-suited man tells them they have to get off, it’s the end of the line.  There’s one other passenger, a young woman, wearing tight, pleasing clothes, who hadn’t dared look at him for the entire ride.

The clothes making him that day were old and certainly out of style, very nearly exactly ten years so.  No wonder the woman didn’t want to look at him.  They weren’t even nice when he wore them the last time he was a free man, but at least they fit.

The only other thing on him was a wallet, full of cards long expired, the stub of a one-way ticket, now served its purpose, and lastly the one thing provided to him out of the kindness of the judicial process.  A prepaid visa for one hundred dollars, to get him back on his feet, they said.

His feet, though, are just as well covered, and suit him just fine.  And so carrying that card of finite subsistence, he finds his way from the bus station to the counter of a fast food restaurant, where the people there are made out of red and yellow stripes and grease and uniformity.  

Then next door, taking however much was left on that card, and subtracting the pack of cigarettes at the convenience store, the workers more smoke and petrol fumes and old coins than most.

They, the cigarettes, were much more expensive than he remembers but certainly a trade more fair than bartering for bathroom supplies, extra food, or unmentionables.  The people behind him in line, regardless of their components, make his gaze turn back repeatedly, but that feeling will go away in time, he tells himself.  The thing to take his mind off of the sensation involves dressing himself in the fresh smoke and fumes, inside and out.

Now, if the ten years had been kind, he would have a place to shed his old layers and fix himself anew.  But the ten years changed more than him.  That old block of houses, stripped down and dressed up into condos.  

Condos with women and their torn jeans and little purses and chihuahuas on limp leashes and men with shiny sunglasses resting in their tight vnecks instead of on their faces, nothing like the friend who was there, more loose and old-fashioned.  Doesn’t matter where they are now, he tells himself.  He is on his own, on his feet, and ain’t nothing wrong with that.

The rest of the card, or what is likely enough to push the balance against the red, is spent on a motel room. One night.  And despite the shower and the remotely clean sheets, he is back into the same clothes the next day, feet back into the old shoes, and back to square one.  But he is himself.

A week on the streets means there’s more than just the young women avoiding turning his way, but just about everyone else as well.  He can’t decide if the cold is from their singular glances or the turning weather, but bundles of newspapers inside the sweatshirt he finds on a bench help stave off the feeling.  

Suddenly those shoes– the socks underneath as well– aren’t as fine as they seemed, and it’s not just the cold eating at his toes, but the moisture.  He finds someone willing to toss their socks his way from a gym bag, and he wears both because it would be a waste otherwise.  

A second jacket comes his way after a fight and a calling of the police, and the person who used it now gets a nice warm cell for however long the dark blue ones decide.

Someone knitted hats and left them out on fence posts, not for people like him, but he figures he and his cold, painful ears would look made up in one.

People throw away plenty of things, things that don’t deserve it, he makes sense of the dumpster.  Those behind stores are full of things like that, which means the contents get taken away unless people like him choose to save them.  Sleeves cut away from a proper, good coat because it couldn’t be sold.  But just those sleeves serve their purpose nevertheless, stretched over the other layers he has on.

When the rains come, and eventually the snow, it’s about all he can do to stay dry.  Plastic bags do the trick, as noisy as they are, but he would never be considered a quiet person either way.

The winter wind will push its way through everything else regardless.  When he can do nothing but conserve heat and energy, the plates of discarded cardboard make him a set of armor, protecting him from the cold ground and frigid air.

Clothes make the man, but none of the layers seem to make him the man that others want to see in any place they would be.  And so the men in dark blue come.  And they tug and pull.  But when they begin to pull back the layers, they find that there is nothing but more and more layers of clothes all the way down.

An Actual Blog Post

As in, this is non-fiction. So if you want to stop reading right there, that’s okay with me. More stories eventually.

I can’t remember the last time I did one of these. Hmm.

The thought of doing this just popped into my head. It’s the last day of a huge heat wave here. It was about 110f all this week, with the highest being 113– that’s about 45 celsius if my ability to roughly translate the two still exists from my time in France. If you ever watched one of my vlogs in the past, you may know that my house is poorly insulated and with no central air. That means trying to not go crazy when the internal temperature goes up to 91f (32c????). Heat that makes just sitting around watching YouTube videos barely bearable. But enough complaining!

Did you enjoy Impasse? It was my Camp NaNoWriMo story this July you might have guessed. It’s seemed to have done good numbers both here and on Inkitt so far. Speaking of Inkitt, it may be easier to read my stories from there, in regard to readability and ease of navigating through the chapters. I don’t mind if you go there to do your reading, and new chapters are uploaded simultaneously here and there.

I don’t know what my next story may be right now, but as always, I have ideas hanging about. The big thing next to look out for is the second book in The Color of Houm series. Look for a sneak peek of it soon? Hopefully, I won’t get too caught up in Minecraft again and let the editing process drag on much longer.

In final news, if you want to call it that: I disabled my contact form here on the website! It was actually getting a lot of use, but… only by spammers! Nope, I don’t want your questionable SEO services or your explicit pics and/or viruses. I was slightly worried that the spammers were the ones pumping up my traffic here, but in fact, them no longer having an exclusive forum in my domain here has done nothing for the page hits and likes I’m getting. Thank you, real people, for your engagement as always!

I’m going to finish off the night here with some hard seltzer and go to sleep knowing that I won’t wake up tomorrow morning covered in sweat. Cheers!

-Sandwich Sean

The End of It All

Impasse – Chapter Twelve [Final]

“Jess called us,” the chief explained as Farva returned to relative consciousness in the back of the ambulance, the warmth burning his digits.

“She…”

“You don’t deserve that woman, Farve,” the chief muttered, shaking his head. “If I called my wife in the middle of the night, expecting her to pick up, I’d get home to a bowl of soggy cereal to eat, leftovers from the kid.”

Farva draped his hand across his face, blocking out the light from the ceiling of the boxy vehicle. “I… don’t. You wouldn’t… know…”

Schultz snuffled and sat back against the wall, his body shuffling up and down with the bumps. “When we picked you up tonight… at the motel on the edge of town… you know what goes on there, right?”

“I know very well, chief. But… it’s already too late for that.”

Schultz stroked his mustache, shaking his head slowly in thought. “You need to make things right with her. Whatever that means for the two of you. Before the ambulance here showed up, we made sure to call her back. I imagine she’ll be at the hospital to meet us.”

“I’ve… had the time to think about… what I imagine her saying. What I’ll say, too.”

Schultz sighed slowly. “I can at least tell here what you did, the good and proper part. What convinced you to head off down the tracks in the middle of the night in the freezing cold, instead of listening to my orders?”

Farva looked up at the ceiling shaking his head. “The train wasn’t the answer. It was… me.”

“You?” The chief scoffed, looking down at him.

“No, never mind. Sometimes, you just need to retrace your steps, find out what went wrong. And even if you can’t… fix it, you can make it up the best you can.”

Schultz chuckled. “Sorry, I shouldn’t laugh at a time like this. But for the records, I’ll have to repeat the stuff coming out of your mouth right about now. We’ll be at the hospital soon enough, just to make sure the cold didn’t bite you too hard.”

Farva shuffled slightly, feeling the blanket on his chest shift about. He found his hands somewhere under the covers, pulling them out before his face. His fingers were restrained under bands of gauze, leaving the sensation of circulation uncertain. He finally allowed his arms to relax and drop his hands back down by his sides. “What about… those people?”

“Well, they’re all fine thanks to you,” Schultz smirked. “The cold didn’t hit them too bad compared to you. We got them back to the train, those who were still there. The others who went off searching were found farther down the line just a little while ago, too. They’ll set off soon enough. There was a con artist, they said, onboard— pulled a fire alarm, had them evacuate, then started up the train when everyone was off. Stole a bunch of valuables, then ditched the train.”

“I told you so…” Farva mumbled.

“Did you?” The chief shook his head. “No way, Detective. Hey, we’re here.”

The chief shifted side to side as the boxy vehicle stopped roughly. The doors open soon after and the detective’s stretcher was yanked down, its wheels folding out to meet with the ground. As it was wheeled up and towards the front of the hospital and its florescent lights, Farva caught sight of the dark-haired woman by the door, hands tucked into her heavy jacket.

Jess caught up to the medics rolling him in. “I’m the wife. I’m here, Robert.”

“He’s stable, Mrs. Farva,” the EMT noted. “But we’ll need to get him in to assess his condition further.”

“I see that. Can I at least talk to him?”

“Of course.”

“Jess—“ The detective sat up slightly.

Her hand found his shoulder as they rounded one last corner and into the observation room. “We’ll have someone in here soon enough to take your vitals, sir. Hold tight.”

Jess had her arms folded at the side of the bed as the employee exited the room. She shook her head slightly, the corners of her eyes moist.

Farva looked down at his toes poking up past the heavy blanket. “I understand if you don’t want to have anything to do with me after this.”

Jess shook her head and ran her fingers through his hair. “This is something we can get through together. You can explain everything when you’re feeling better.”

“But… but I saw… it must have been a dream… you disappearing from… my life.”

“Well, right now… I am going nowhere.”

<– Previous Chapter

Through Darkness

Impasse – Chapter Eleven

Detective Farva found his stride over the wooden stringers, the light in his hands directed forward into the falling snow. He alternated the trajectory of the beam between the steps ahead and those still far in the distance, looking for anything out of the ordinary. It wasn’t long before the strobing police lights disappeared out of his peripheral vision.

The wind tugged at him, sucking the warmth out of his body even through the waxed canvas of the jacket. Like a gash cutting the town in two, the rails continued, fenced off on either side, with bits of old infrastructure and family-run businesses beyond the chain links. Signs protruded from the ground, final warnings for the train operators to slow before entering the city limits and encountering the crossings. Taking a moment, Farva shined the light back, examining the reflective surfaces with markings he couldn’t immediately decipher. I have to keep going, even if this doesn’t make sense. Before the chief or the others find out I’m not inside the train.

The detective’s free hand worked its way into his pants pocket, fishing around for the folded cell phone. The screen inside lit up and offered him the time – 3:13 A.M. I should call now. Before it’s too late. In case something happens. Nothing will happen. I’m solving this. But… she needs to know.

Farva’s eyes darted back and forth between the phone’s keypad and the void of darkness at the furthest reaches of the beam. He could barely feel the buttons with the cold skin of his thumb, but he managed to dial the number nonetheless, the one belonging to the landline back home.

The ring reverberated in his ear, finally cutting off and replaying the message he himself had recorded, way back when he and Jess had moved in together. You’ve reached the home of Robert and —her voice cut in, simply to speak her name— Jess Farva. Say what you want to say after the beep.

He found his breath as the tone played in his ear. “Babe, I know you can hear this, but please… don’t pick up. Please let me say what I need to say. I… wasn’t at home tonight, not because… of the bar, or work, or any of that. All I can say is… I’ve messed up. You’re a smart woman. Don’t… make me say it. And… it wasn’t my first time, either. But… I love you, I love you still. Nothing will change that. And that’s why… I can’t put you in this position. I think…“ Beep.

Damn it. He yanked the phone from his ear and watched the call end, the answering machine having accepted as much as it would allow. His finger shook while pressing the redial button. The phone rang, offering him time to find the next words, but the time in his own mind was cut short.

“Robert,” Jess answered first.

“Don’t do this to me, Jess.”

“I won’t say anymore,” she said softly. “Let it out, and I will listen.”

Farva shook his head, blinking into the darkness, his footsteps slowing across the ground, glowing slick. “It was one night, at the bar. I got too drunk. I ended up with another woman, in the car. And it could have, it should have stopped there. I should have told you. That’s about the time we brought up again… thoughts about starting a family. You started talking about a family. I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you then. You remember when my schedule changed not long after?”

“…yeah.”

“I put in a request to have my schedule changed. So… so I could avoid those talks, avoid your advances. If… I had caught something, I didn’t want to give it to you. If I went to the clinic to get tested… it would have gotten to you. You know how word travels in this town.

I’ve… paid for other women since then, telling myself it didn’t count. That using protection with them would be enough to keep me, keep them safe. They don’t stay in town for long, those sorts. But… I think I’ve messed up this time. Slept with someone who gave me something worse. And there’s… there’s only so long I can go on lying to you, avoiding you…”

“Robert…” the voice cracked, eaten away at by the poor signal. “I… there’s… no one else…”

Farva pulled the phone away from his ear and glanced at the signal bars on the screen, wavering between little and none. He sucked in a quick breath and shoved the speaker back to his ear, feet planted in place. “Listen. Listen, please. I want to fix this. But I don’t know if—“

The signal went dead, the screen showing off the ending call before the pixels on the screen hid themselves away. The detective’s bare hands could barely move in the cold, one on the flashlight and the other phone. Shoving the device back in his pocket, he rubbed at his knuckles the best he could, attempting to find any last signs of circulation. The beam of light still glowed outward, tracing the parallel tracks. To his rear was only blackness, the final stretches of the city limits.

There’s no turning back now. What am I going to find out here? I’ve come this far, turning back would make no sense. What am I saying? How long does this rail go? Damn, it’s so cold.

The detective’s feet began to act before his mind could make a decision. Though slippery, he planted his boots on the wooden stringers, one after another, the beam of the flashlight bobbing in his hand. The flakes of snow streaked across his line of sight, gathered on his shoulders and hair, and found their way into his collar to melt and trickle down his neck.

Farva’s hands shook, each taking turns in the cold to hold the heavy light while the other hid away in his jacket pocket. A low cry sounded out from the dark. For the first time since setting out on the tracks, he allowed the beam to stray from the metal rails and find the edges of the berm. The dry grass left over from the previous seasons had all but been matted down by the winter weather, leaving only a few slender, bent stalks to poke out from the otherwise barren ground. Thick metal stakes held rough stretches of wire fences bordering county land or property owned by those who despised the thought of neighbors and the decencies required with the sort.

Another cry, high-pitched and tormented, whispered out from beyond the reach of the light. Farva jerked back and pointed himself to the opposite side of the tracks, imagining finding the glowing eyes of a coyote or a mountain lion, only to find more of the same desiccated wild. The rocks under his heel shifted and settled, causing his legs to tense. In the stillness, he felt the skin all over his body tingle in the cold, the wind sucking away what little energy he had left. The cry echoed through the night once more, just near enough in the darkness.

Gripping tight on the flashlight, Farva picked up the pace, praying that his body could continue despite the cold and fatigue, able to reach the sound in the distance. The beam bobbed up and down and the tracks continued, the pattern of rocks and wooden stringers and perfectly straight rails repeated over and over endlessly.

The cry came once again, louder, longer, nearer. In the weak stretches of the beam there laid a hump in the center of the rails, shifting, crying, and as he moved closer, there was a low shushing heard between the intermittent cries of an infant.

“Hello?” Farva called out, rushing forward, the beam held steady as he could. “Do you need help? Are you from the train? I can help you.”

The detective hobbled over the tracks and attempted to round the figure hunched there in the middle, the light finding the blanket-draped woman, decorated with melting snowflakes, codding a small child in her arms. The woman’s eyes traveled up past her bangs, her face identical to the woman who was asleep back in the detective’s home. “Jess? No, you can’t be here. You’re… she’s…”

The ground shifted under Farva’s feet. Down far off in the distance, the horn of a train sounded out in a low, long blast. He dropped the flashlight lightly and jumped for the woman and her child. “You need to get off the tracks, there’s something coming. This… this isn’t safe. You’ll be hit, killed.”

Despite his words and his yanking against the woman’s blanket and her clothes and her arm, her body didn’t move, nor did her eyes shift, her grasp on the bundle of a child tight and unyielding. The light of the train cut through the night and the falling snow. Its whistle blew. Like a ghastly face, it tore through the night screaming and offering no sign of stopping. His cold fingers failing, Farva fell back, his grasp leaving the woman on the tracks.

The engine roared and the countless wheels clacked and whined and the gravel rumbled and the wind tore at his hair and clothes. It was only a matter of seconds before it was all over, the sounds of the train absent from the air completely, not even a sign that it had been there ever. Farva stumbled and reached for the light, still aglow, and pointed it to where the woman had been, his breath imprisoned in his chest. But nothing remained, as if she were never there to begin with.

“Hello? Is someone there?” The voice carried on the low wind from somewhere down the track. “I saw a light. Hello?”

The detective found his footing and shined the light further down the tracks, his ear to the wind to attempt to catch the voice again.

“We’re this way! Stranded! Can you hear us?”

Farva’s eyes readjusted to the dark after the blinding light of the train. The flashlight held in his nearly frozen hand continued to shine along the rail, his feet crunching over the rocky edge of the tracks. The beam finally came to land upon a figure in the dark, then two. Blinded by the light, those in the beam remained still, whispering among each other.

The detective continued to march forward, eyes locked to the first figure. He shined the light in the man’s face who cowered from the brightness and stumbled back. He scanned further, finding a group of others, cowered and huddled together in a group further down the berm, several blankets shared unequally among them. “Is he here to help us? Why isn’t he answering?”

Farva reached his hand up, finding the texture of the first man’s clothing. “What are you doing out here?”

“I should be asking you the same question,” the man said lowly, arms held tightly to his chest.

“I’m… with the police force… but…”

“Oh thank god.”

“But…” Farva bit his lip and pulled the phone from his pocket. It displayed a desperate flashing line in the corner of the screen, constantly seeking out a signal. “I’m not supposed to be out here…”

“What’s that supposed to mean, buddy? None of us, either.”

“The conductor woke us up in the middle of the night and had us evacuate, then he took off without us. We’ve been in the cold nearly an hour.”

“We’ve got kids here!”

“Some went off already, the other way. You’re saying we’re within walking distance of a proper town?”

Farva hunched over, his body cold. “I… don’t know how long I’ve been walking. It’s… too cold.”

“We’re screwed out here!”

“We’ll just wait for the morning.”

“The snow is getting worse.”

“Other lights—“

The detective breathed heavily, the flashlight just barely in his grasp. Tugging on his collar, he turned back just enough to look in the direction he had come. The bright high beams of the oncoming vehicle lit up either side of the tracks. The heavy crunching of tires came next, stopping as their lights met with the group of people. “Farva!” the chief called as he shoved the door open.

“Schultz…” The detective failed to force himself up, the breath cold in his chest. The men from the group rushed forward, their voices bombarding the officer.

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