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Messenger Saga – Draft, Day 2

Bishop Hollingsworth rubbed his temples as the two women continued to yell at each other. He didn’t even remember what the initial argument had been about. He put a smile on his face and stood up from the kitchen table. He put one hand on the shoulder of each woman and patted them until the combatants stopped yelling.

“Ladies, ladies,” he said in a soothing, even tone. “I’m sure Susan never meant to say those things to Richard. It was just stress, that’s all.”

The woman on the left crossed her arms and glared at the woman on his right. The woman on the right sighed, shook her head, and said, “You’re right, Father. It’s just a stupid TV show.”

The woman on the left wanted to say something else, but looked at Hollingsworth instead. She must have seen the frustration in his eyes, so she took a deep breath and shook her head as well.

“Good, good,” Hollingsworth said. “Who wants tea?”

The woman on the right waved to the woman on the left. “Let’s go. I think the latest batch of sun tea is cold now.”

“Sure, why not?” said the woman on the left.

They turned and left without another word. Peace restored. Hollingsworth sighed and shook his head at the ceiling. He sat back down at the table with a grunt.

Whoever thought this was a vital assignment is going to pay dearly, he thought. He got his phone out of his jacket and selected the note taking app. He began to type a stern letter to his superior at the diocese, jamming the screen with his angry fingers.

“Father?” a female voice said.

Hollingsworth looked up and saw a young woman clutching a Bible in a pink cover standing over him.

Hollingsworth groaned inwardly, but smiled just the same. “Yes, my child?”

The woman smiled back, nervous. “Hi, I’m Gracelyn.” She stuck her arm out, straight as a rail, in a quick, mildly aggressive movement.

Hollingsworth shook her hand, noting her strong grip. “What can I do for you, Gracelyn?”

Gracelyn slid into the chair next to him and looked him right in the eye. “I think I’m having a bit of a crisis of faith, Father.”

“I’m actually a Bishop, my dear,” Hollingsworth said. “But, what seems to be the problem?”

Gracelyn looked at the table for a moment, then back up. “I think someone is trying to… send me a message. From above.”

This is new, thought Hollingsworth. Out loud he said, “A message? Really? What kind of message?”

Gracelyn smiled thinly. “Something is coming. An event I can’t explain, yet, but I know it’s soon. The dreams say so.”

Hollingsworth put his hand on Gracelyn’s. “Pregnancy can be hard, I know. It’s a sad fact, but hormones can do strange things to the body and the emotions. You shouldn’t read too much into fevered dreams. You all seem to be having them…”

“No,” Gracelyn said firmly. She pulled her hand away. “This is different. This is real. None of the others have had dreams like this. I checked.”

Hollingsworth resisted the urge to shake his head. “What kind of dreams, dear?”

Gracelyn looked down again, then back up. “They scare me, Father.”

“Call me Bishop,” Hollingsworth said. “Tell me, then what’s scaring you.”

Gracelyn leaned forward. “It’s just like in the Bible. First, a great purple star fell from Heaven, and blighted the Earth with a great purple cloud. There was nothing left, Bishop. Nothing. The stars were blotted out, and the Sun was black, and the Moon was red…” Gracelyn choked in fear.

“Well, that sounds like the Book of Revelation. Have you read that far?” Hollingsworth said.

Gracelyn looked at him sharply. “I’ve read it all, cover to cover. I have most of it memorized, of course.”

“Of course,” Hollingsworth said soothingly. “What I’m saying is, you’re dreaming about Revelations, which could mean that you are feeling stressed about the pregnancy, that’s all. Fearing that it’s the end of something, when in fact it’s a beginning. A new life for you, and this child.”

Gracelyn puckered her eyebrows. “Maybe…” she said in a low voice.

“It’s perfectly natural, given the nature of this pregnancy, to have hidden fears.”

“How do we know?” asked Gracelyn. “Given the nature of these pregnancies, how can we know anything is natural?”

“The doctors assure me that everything is going according to plan. Nothing out of the ordinary is happening.”

Gracelyn shook her head. “These children weren’t created by God, but by Man’s science. How can we know anything? What have they told you?”

Gracelyn’s paranoia was starting to make Hollingsworth uncomfortable. “They told me the same thing they told you… these embryos were created through gene therapies to be stronger, more intelligent, tougher soldiers.”

Gracelyn nodded. “Super soldiers. To defend our country. Then why do I keep having these dreams?”

“I don’t know,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s probably just hormone induced stress, like I said.”

Hollingsworth’s phone rang. “I really need to take this.” He stood up and walked quickly away.

Gracelyn was waiting for him outside his office when he arrived the next morning.

“Sleep well?” he said. “Gracelyn, wasn’t it?”

Gracelyn stood ramrod straight, clutching her Bible. “No, not at all. The dream was worse last night.”

Hollingsworth unlocked his door and gestured for her to enter first. Gracelyn practically ran inside and planted herself in the chair opposite his desk. Hollingsworth put his briefcase down and sat at his desk. He could tell by looking at her that she hadn’t slept the night before. She was a bundle of nerves, wound up tight. She didn’t look at him, but she kept staring at the crucifix by the window. Hollingsworth felt a twinge of pity.

“Tell me,” he said in a quiet voice.

“More based on Revelations. But, Bishop, it was the Whore of Babylon I saw this time. Seducing and killing all these men. She enjoyed it! She knew I was watching, and… she enjoyed it. She invited me, like I was a whore too…” Gracelyn put her face in her free hand. She gripped the Bible like a life preserver.

“You’re not a whore,” Hollingworth said firmly. He got up and sat beside her. “You’re not. You’re doing a great service to your country, and for medical science. There’s no sin in that.”

“The marks…” Gracelyn moaned. “The marks on their foreheads, just like the Bible. Everything just like the Bible said.”

Hollingsworth put his arm around her shoulders. “Listen to me. You are being of service, there’s no sin in that. You can turn down the money if you choose.”

“My… my ministry…” Gracelyn groaned.

“God provides, my child. Rest assured of that,” Hollingsworth said.

“That doesn’t explain the monsters,” Gracelyn said. “The dream about all the monsters fighting in the great war. The war for the Earth. What does it all mean?” She looked at him in desperation.

“You are afraid the child you carry is a monster,” he said. He glanced at his appointment book.

“I have an appointment to inspect the lab today, to make sure nothing illegal or unethical is happening there. Join me, and you’ll see that there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s all rather boring, to be honest.” He smiled at Gracelyn.

Gracelyn managed a small smile. “Sure, God wants us to confront our fears, right?”

“Exactly,” Hollingsworth said. “The appointment is a 9 am. I have a few calls to make beforehand. You can stay if you want until then.”

Gracelyn relaxed. “I’ll just read until then.”

Hollingsworth nodded and returned to his desk. He picked up his phone and dialed.

9 am came, and Hollingsworth led Gracelyn to the lab building beyond the main house. He had spoken to the project head Dr. Knipprath earlier, so Gracelyn was cleared to enter with him. The inspection tour took the tone of a school field trip. A technician led them through a maze of tables filled with all kinds of equipment and computer stations. The dizzying array of medical and technical terms went mostly over Hollingsworth’s head, but Gracelyn seemed genuinely interested in everything. Hollingsworth was gratified to see Gracelyn’s fear gradually replaced by curiosity and respect.

They were passing by one of several clean rooms, when Gracelyn froze. The curiosity on her face turned to amazement, then amazement became fear.

Hollingsworth stood beside her. “What’s wrong, my dear?”

Gracelyn pointed to something in the room, her finger jabbed the thick glass. “That,” she said in a flat voice.

A large clear box was standing in the middle of the room. In the box was what appeared to be a large fragment of purple crystal.

“An amethyst,” Hollingsworth said. “A big one, by the looks of it. I don’t know much about…”

Gracelyn cut him off. “The purple star,” she said. “That’s part of the star that fell to Earth. The marked ones had that in their foreheads, too!” Her voice was raspy and low. “It’s here!”

The lab tech, who had overheard everything, stuck his thumb in the direction of the exit. “Well, that concludes the tour…”

Hollingworth looked at him. The man looked anxious, and kept gesturing for them to leave. Hollingsworth grew alarmed.

“What is that?” he asked the tech.

The man jerked. “Nothing. Just some amethyst, like you said. Nothing to see here, folks.”

“Bullshit!” Gracelyn snarled. “That’s the purple star, idiot. Why is it here? What have you done?” Gracelyn was nearly shouting.

Techs and other personnel were looking at them with growing alarm. “Get them out of here!” yelled a senior tech.

Gracelyn advanced on their unfortunate guide. “What have you done? It’s the End Times! You’ve brought it upon us! Fool!”

Hollingsworth grabbed Gracelyn by the shoulders and steered her out of the lab building. She resisted, but Hollingsworth didn’t let her go until they were back in the main house.

Gracelyn went to the nearest bathroom to calm herself. Hollingsworth sat down on one of the couches with a heavy sigh.

A heavy-set woman sat in a chair nearby and was eating ice cream from a carton. “What’s her problem?” she asked.

Hollingsworth shrugged. “Hormones.”

The woman grunted and looked back at the television.

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NaNoWriMo, Day 2

Day 2 is done, and my word count for the day was 1709. I’m still finding it hard to be enthusiastic at the start of my writing time. But, I got through it thanks to ’30 Days in the Word Mines’ by Chuck Wendig. This book is helpful, motivational, and funny. Love it. Two days down, and I’m still ahead in my word count. And, I managed to throw a twist in that I didn’t originally envision. Good stuff. You can read it in my next post.

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Messenger Saga – Original Sin – Draft, Day 1

Kathy watched the small digital clock change from 3:45 am to 3:46 am. A scream down the hall caused her to kick her blanket off.

Well, she thought, I’m not sleeping anyway, better get up.

Kathy got out of bed and stretched, then put on the plain blue robe provided for her. She opened the door to her room and stood in the doorway. A few more women were standing in their doorways, too, looking with mild apprehension down the hall. A nurse and an orderly pushing a small wire cart rushed past Kathy’s room. She got a sickening whiff of hospital disinfectant as they went by.

“Can’t sleep either?” asked Eileen, whose room was across from Kathy’s.

“Nah,” Kathy replied. “Think I’m going to raid the fridge.”

Eileen yawned. She rubbed her messy brown hair. “I think I’ll go back to bed. Nothing to see here.”

“Sleep tight.” Kathy said.

Eileen snorted, then shut her door behind her.

Kathy passed the women standing in their doorways with a small nod to each. She reached the room of the unfortunate screamer, and looked inside. Lila, a small redhead, usually quiet as a mouse, sat up in her bed and hugged the nurse. She babbled and cried as the nurse rocked her.

“Nothing to see here, ma’am,” said the orderly. He blocked Kathy’s view of the room.

“Nope.” said Kathy. “Another bad dream. We all seem to get them these days.”

“Yup.” said the orderly. His tone was light, but the look in his eyes was cold, analytical.

Kathy yawned. “Raiding the fridge, want anything?”, she said.

“No, thanks,” the orderly’s attitude changed to almost casual.

Kathy walked on without comment. She passed through the ranch’s massive living area and looked out the window. It was pitch black outside except for a few light poles that illuminated the few other buildings and the main cattle pen. The dark shadow of an armed guard passed through the orange cast on the side of the barn. The sight made Kathy uneasy, even after 6 weeks here.

Kathy passed through the double doors to the kitchen, and found Valerie sitting at the main island. She had a cupcake on a plate in front of her, and a lighted birthday candle stuck in it. Kathy shuffled up, and Valerie smiled, almost embarrassed.

“Hey,” Kathy said. “What’s the occasion?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” Valerie said. “So I thought I’d get a jump on celebrating.”

“Yeah? Celebrate what?” Kathy was genuinely curious.

“I’m 10 years sober today,” Valerie said with pride.

Kathy smiled. “That’s great! Good for you.”

“Thanks,” Valerie said. “Not many of the ladies around here would understand.”

“Hey, you’re off the stuff, and bettering your life, step by step. That’s all that really matters, in my book.” Kathy said.

Valerie nodded. She blew out the candle and put it aside. As she peeled off the wrapper, Kathy went to the fridge and peeked inside. Nothing caught her eye, or interested her stomach, so she closed it again.

She took a slow circle of the kitchen, trying to wear herself out.

“Something wrong?” Valerie asked through a mouthful of cupcake.

Kathy giggled. “Not really. Another screamer. Can’t sleep, either.”

Valerie nodded. She finished off the dessert, then took a drink of water from a glass she had nearby. “Me neither. It’s those damn dreams.”

Kathy leaned on the counter. “You get them, too? Wow.”

“Yeah, it’s weird. Ever since we hit the first month, nothing but strange dreams, almost like nightmares.”

“I don’t get it.” Kathy said. “Why would we all start having weird dreams all at the same time?”

“Who knows? We’re all carrying secret government experimental babies. We knew it was going to be weird when we signed up, right?” Valerie said.

Kathy shrugged. “Yeah. I guess you’re right.”

“Um-hmm. It doesn’t pay to ask too many questions.”

Kathy grunted. “Nope. It sure doesn’t.”

Valerie was quiet for a moment. Kathy sensed her hesitation.

“Yeah?” Kathy asked.

“Oh, I was just curious. I mean, I know why I’m here – the money. It’s a good nest egg to start over with. I’m wondering… why are you here?”

“Oh. The money, too, I guess. I want to go to college, but I’m from a poor family in a tiny, poor town. My folks sent my sister through college all the way to a PHD. No money left for me.”

“Oh, sorry to hear that.”

“Nah, it’s OK. I’d rather do it on my own anyway. The money was good, and it’s like you get a year’s vacation from life, you know?”

“Yeah, exactly. What do you want to study?”

Kathy blushed. “It’s going to sound… silly, I guess.”

“No, really, what?” asked Valerie.

“Library Science. I want to be a librarian.” Kathy said, looking down.

“That’s cool.” Valerie said. “No, really. I think that’s awesome. I’ve always loved libraries. Somebody needs to save them.”

“Yeah, and literacy, too.” Kathy said. “We don’t want to devolve into nothing but text-speak and memes.”

“Amen to that, sister.” Valerie said.

Kathy stood up and stretched. Valerie yawned loud.

“I think I’ll head back,” Valerie said.

“Me, too,” Kathy said. “Hopefully, everybody’s settled down.”

“Yeah, see you later today,” Valerie said.

“See you,” Kathy said.

Kathy got some rest, but no real sleep. She got up at 8:30 am and went to get some coffee to start her day. Then she remembered: she was scheduled for blood work that morning.

“Crap,” she mumbled.

She dragged herself to the hospital wing of the big ranch house. The day nurse – was it Ray or Tommy – welcomed her and took a few tubes of blood. Kathy’s stomach growled halfway through the procedure. The nurse barely cracked a smile.

Jeez, thought Kathy, only 8 more months of Mr. Congeniality to go.

Kathy went straight to the kitchen and finally had a cup of coffee. She finished breakfast and joined Valerie, and another woman, Gwen, on a short walk around the ranch. Gwen was African-American, and was good, although quiet, company. They stopped by the main cattle enclosure and watched the ranch manager wrangle some cows.

Gwen reached down and grabbed something out of the dust. She put it immediately to her nose and took a big sniff. She sighed. “Too old, nothing left.”

Kathy looked closer and saw that Gwen had picked up a cigarette butt. Kathy smiled. “Bummer that.”

“You’re not kidding,” Gwen replied. “I should’ve quit before I got here.”

“Yeah, you should’ve,” said a deep male voice.

Kathy and the others turned to find Bud Weaver, the ranch manager, standing at the rail with a coil of rope slung over one shoulder. He was the epitome of what a cowboy should be. Older, with squinty eyes that see everything, dusty clothes and a crusty persona.

“Just don’t get caught smoking around here,” Bud continued.

Gwen dropped the butt and wiped her hands on her pants. “I don’t intend to,” she said. “The money’s too good.”

Bud grunted, noncommittally. “It may already be too late.” He looked behind them and tipped his hat to someone. Then, he moved away.

Kathy turned and saw the garish pink alligator book cover before anything else.

“Oh, crap,” Valerie groaned. “Here comes the hall monitor.”

“Hi, Gracelyn,” Kathy said with false cheer.

Gracelyn was a blonde of average height, dressed in her best yuppie sweater set, with a grim look on her face. She flounced up to the women and surveyed them with keen displeasure. The only thing that kept Kathy from actually being afraid of Gracelyn was the fact that she always carried her Bible with her encased in a bubble gum pink faux alligator skin book cover. Kathy could not fear someone capable of such a silly fashion mistake. Although Kathy had to admit, the alligator skin matched her personality perfectly.

Gracelyn zeroed in on Gwen. “You know that smoking is strictly forbidden by your contract, ma’am,” she said in an arched, superior tone.

“Yes, I know that,” Gwen replied, exasperated. “I wasn’t smoking, only wishing I was.”

Gracelyn didn’t believe her, it seemed. “You can explain it to the doctors, and may the Lord have mercy on you.”

Valerie groaned and rolled her eyes. Gracelyn looked at her sharply, then at Kathy, expecting a fight. Kathy shrugged. “She wasn’t smoking. Really.”

Gracelyn puffed herself up. “I’m reporting this.”

She turned on her heel and marched back to the house.

“Well, better report for my ass whupping,” Gwen said. She sighed.

“No,” Valerie said. “Let’s finish our walk first. Let them wait, for a change. I’m sick of Ms. Holier-Than-Thou’s crap.”

“I agree, let’s go,” Gwen said.

“Yeah, I’m in,” Kathy said.

It took them 15 minutes to get back to the ranch house. Kathy wanted to go back to her room and try to get some more sleep, but an orderly told her that Dr. Arden wanted to see her. Kathy felt a twinge of alarm, but she shook it off.

Dr. Arden was a smart-looking woman with an easy smile and approachable manner. Kathy actually like her. Kathy sat  opposite Dr. Arden in her office, which was arranged like a small living room.

“So, how’s it going, Kathy?” Dr. Arden asked.

“Fine. My sleep’s still off a bit,” she replied.

Dr. Arden nodded in sympathy. “Sorry about that. I think we’ve found a sleep med that can help, and not affect the pregnancy. Would you like to try it?”

Relieved, Kathy said, “Absolutely. Just as long as I don’t dream, that’ll be great.”

Dr. Arden frowned. “You too, huh? What’s with these dreams?”

“Oh, I don’t know. They’re kinda freaky, some of them.”

“Freaky, how?”

Kathy fidgeted.

Dr. Arden leaned close and put her hand on Kathy’s arm. “It’s Ok. You don’t have to worry; everything’s fine. I’m only curious.”

Kathy took a deep breath. “There’s all this purple light,” she began. “It feels safe, at first. Then, there’s falling, being thrown around. Heat. Terrible heat. I’m so scared, but I’m helpless. Then, a bright flash and horrible pain… and I wake up, covered in sweat. That was the first one.”

Dr. Arden scribbled in her notes. “Um-hmm. There’s another one?”

Kathy nodded. “Yeah, the second one makes even less sense. It’s more about sensations – trapped, wet, pain, anger, dark, can’t breathe…and sadness. So, so sad.”

“Sadness?” Dr. Arden said. “That’s different.” She scribbled more notes.

“Weird, huh?” Kathy said. She tried to smile.

Dr. Arden closed her notebook. “Yeah, weird. Nothing to worry about, though. Hormones, you know.” She gave Kathy a genuine smile.

Kathy managed to smile back. “So, when can I expect those sleep meds?”

“Tonight,” Dr. Arden replied. “Take it easy today.”

Kathy was a bit disappointed. “OK, then.”

Dr. Arden led Kathy to the door. “Oh, and I almost forgot: no smoking, OK?”

“Neither I nor anybody I know is smoking,” Kathy said. She put her hand over her heart. “Cross my heart and everything.”

Dr. Arden laughed. “Got it. See you later.”

Kathy left feeling better.

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NaNoWriMo, Day 1

So, November 1st and I’m back at it. I started my first draft today. Reluctantly. I was really hesitating on getting started. Then, with a little reading on plotting and motivation, I dove in. It’s going pretty good so far. I’ll post my first day’s work in the next post. 1849 words the first day! Not bad.

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What’s up, blog? I’m back!

Hey, it’s been over a year since I posted in this blog, so I thought I would catch up a little. I’ve been doing sculpture. Yup. Art in real life. But, I haven’t forgotten about my writing. This year’s election (don’t get me started) has given me insights into a story I’ve been kicking around in my head. It’s called ‘The Messenger Saga’, about aliens who use the Catholic Church to try to take over the Earth. Deep stuff. So, I decided to try NaNoWriMo again and draft the first part of a 5 part series. I know, I know. I haven’t been able to keep myself motivated enough to do anything for 30 days straight in the past. But, I think I can do better now. I feel better about myself now than I ever have, and I think turning my feelings over the election into fodder for fiction is much healthier than running through the streets screaming “Have you lost your freakin’ mind, America??” But, I digress. LOL

Nano starts next week, and I have my rough outline and character work done. I’m not going to over-plan this in order to keep myself interested. And, I’ve decided to use my love of art and creativity to study graphic design, with an eye towards possibly becoming a freelancer sometime next year. My main motivation there is, of course, money. I don’t have enough, and it sucks. (Of course, nowadays, who does?) Anyway, I think I can make it work. But for now, I’m going to write a first draft, take a free course in graphic design, keep making sculptures, and keep my head down until the election, and the drama to follow, is over.

I’m going to post my daily writing here to keep myself motivated and have a goal. Hopefully. We’ll see, won’t we? Peace out until then.

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Well, Back to Writing

Step one of any publishing adventure is to have something to publish. With that in mind, I’ve decided to publish a short ‘chapbook’ or collection of poetry on Kindle early next year. I have 10 poems that have been critiqued and need revision for my collection I’m calling ‘Ordinary Horrors’. It’s about things in life that try to strike you down. Or, something like that. I’ll have to think about what that title means to me more before I write the selling description for my ebook.

I’ll need at least 10 more poems to make a decent chapbook. So, I’ve decided to do Writer’s Digest’s Poem A Day Challenge in November instead of trying (and failing) to do NaNoWriMo again. It’s on the Writer’s Digest website and all you do is get a prompt every day and write a poem from it. They recommend you have a theme for the month and try to make your daily poems match that theme. I do have a theme, so I’m ready to go.

I’ve even been writing a poem a day since the beginning of October, to get myself in the mode of writing poems. I call it my One Bad Poem A Day practice. They’re mainly what’s been going on in my life at the moment, but hey, I write nearly every day. I’ve only missed one day so far. My poetic muscles are stretching, getting ready for the challenge.

Wish me luck, and hopefully I’ll post here about my further adventures.