Latest review for HATCHED

Just read a great review for my novel Hatched…

“The book Hatched is the first in a series about the zombie apocalypse. There are a ton, dare I say WAY TOO DAMN MANY, zombie things out there. Luckily for us, this is unlike any you have ever read.” – James Amthor

You can read the rest of the review at:

You can read Hatched for free on Kindle Unlimited:

Throwback Thursday – Looking back at Hatched…

Here’s the first chapter of “Hatched.” Looking back, I had a lot of fun promoting this book, but my favorite was meeting up with none other than Svengoolie and give him some new reading material.

Free on Kindle Unlimited


“This is the Screamin’ Demon heading westbound on I-80. I need a bacon check, come back,” Bruce said into his radio. The road seemed clear ahead of him, but it was a dark night, hard to see past the overpasses where there might be a pig hiding back in its sty waiting to write him up on some paper. The last thing he needed on this last leg would be a damned ticket. He had already been on the road steady for thirteen straight days and was ready to take a hot shower and sleep in his own bed. He had four days off coming up on his return leg and was itching to spend almost all that time in his own bed. His icebox had been acting up for the last couple days, costing him a lot of time with having to make additional stops to check on his load. A couple times, he had to work on the unit to make sure it stayed cool and kept the meat he was hauling from going bad.

His CB crackled to life. “Hey, Demon. This is the Cat Scratch Express just coming from that way. You’re all clear to exit 93. Smooth sailing.”

“10-4, Cat Scratch. Keep an eye out as there is a bear sitting in that rest stop just past 112. He’s perched and ready to pounce.”

“10-4. Put the hammer down and catch you on the flip side.”

“Stay safe.”

“Same. Cat Scratch out.”

Well, at least the road would be clear. That was one less thing to weigh on his mind. He would be able to make his way into that little truck stop outside of Ottawa, fill his tank and bed in for the night. Come morning, he would carry on south toward Bloomington-Normal. By mid-day, he would be home.

Something in the sleeper area started to smell. There was that locker room smell of old gym socks that had been growing stronger throughout the cab, but something else also reeked back there. He would have to clean out the whole truck to find out just what it was. He should have washed his clothes along the way, but he was itching to get home, see his wife, and maybe even have a tea party with his little girl. His wife had told him about how his little girl had thrown a tea party the other day for her and her stuffed animals. He missed it, just like he missed other things, but he hoped he could still get some of that special time.

Maybe over the weekend, he would get the energy to pull himself out of bed and take her to Build-A-Bear. It wasn’t a special occasion, but he wanted to make it special. After all, this was his last long haul. After this run, he was officially done with his contract. He would now be driving only five days a week and be home every night. His truck was now paid for. It was his. That meant his life was back in his hands again. No more big companies pulling his strings.

He let out a yawn and scanned the road ahead of him. Nothing had changed. A long stretch of interstate lay in the glow of the headlights as the road stretched off endlessly into darkness. His eyelids were heavy and his body was growing stiff.

These long hauls, the cross-country runs, were nice at first, got him out to see much of the countryside, allowed him to see places that he otherwise probably would have never seen. He had traveled from the Grand Canyon up to Maine and every mountain road in between. There wasn’t much to the great U.S. that he hadn’t seen, so he decided it was time to hang up the saddle. His ride was over, or at least this part of it. Hell, it had been fun when he was a new driver, but that had been over ten years ago. He wasn’t that young man anymore. He had a family and they missed him as much as he missed them. He needed to get home.

Two weeks after his contract ended, he would start up with another company based out of his hometown. Smaller company, pay wasn’t as much, but he would be home every night and his weekends would be free and clear. He would be with his own truck, and if it didn’t work out, he could always go somewhere else. His contract was over. He was no longer tied by the shackles of a lease. He was free and, as he tried to wipe the sleep out of his eyes, he couldn’t think of anything better. There wasn’t anything he wanted more.

Up ahead, he could see the one-mile warning for exit 98. The Clock Tower… That was it. That was the name of the damned place at the exit. The diner was in a truck stop that was open twenty-four hours. He would be able to pull off, get some chow for his food tank and get some diesel for his fuel tank Then he’d settle in for a nice, long shower in one of their stalls.

Tomorrow, he would deliver the load, then hightail it to freedom. Free to drive the remaining hundred miles to home. He would be able to drop the the load at around two in the afternoon, so he would be pulling into his own driveway in time for supper.

As his blinker shouted in its rhythmic tick-tock tone, he started to ease his rig into the exit lane. He already felt the anticipation of getting home and sleeping in his own damn bed.

He looked over at the parking lot of the Clock Tower. The lot was full, but the little diner looked nearly empty. Most of the trucks were probably just idling, their inhabitants either asleep or occupied with some lot lizards.

Bruce nestled his rig midway to the back. He didn’t want everyone thinking he wanted some action, but he didn’t want too many people around him in the morning, waking him up before he was ready. He always preferred to sleep in, miss the morning traffic, and drive later than most other drivers.

Soon, he would be home. He just needed to drop off the trailer, take a short stint through a couple small towns, then he would pull into his own driveway. Bruce reached for the door. A Grand Slam sampler sounded good, and he was ready to shovel it down.

A small spider started to crawl down the inside of the window. It was just a small little thing, harmless, but Bruce still stopped and backed away. He never did like spiders. As a kid, anytime one would bite him, he would always break out in a rash. On more than one occasion, he had to be rushed to the hospital because of a bad reaction to the venom. His airways would close up and he would nearly pass out.

A small little spider, but he knew that little creature could kill him if he gave it a chance. He didn’t have one of his little pink pills with him to toss down, if needed.

Bruce looked around the cabin. In his passenger seat, there was a case for an audio book he had been listening to earlier. He was sure the person who lent it to him wasn’t going to like spider guts on the back of the case, but he grabbed it anyway.

He slammed the case against the window and slid it down, making sure the spider was thoroughly smashed, its insides making a smeared trail along his window. It was dead, guts splattered over the large name, Stephen King, and smeared across the image of a dome.

Bruce tossed the case back into the passenger seat and climbed out of the cab. “Damn, I hate spiders,” he mumbled under his breath.

* * * *

John didn’t know what woke him. He lay there, the little light from the streetlight outside giving him just enough illumination to make out dark shadows in his room. With the lights off, no one, other than himself, would ever be able to find anything as it was all just heaps of dark shapes at odd angles. In the little light, tree branch fingers danced across the walls. If he didn’t know better, he could imagine large shadow hands reaching across his room, looking through his stuff.

Yeah, like they would ever find anything worth a damn, he thought. All he had of value was his stash, the large bag he had just brought back from little Chicago, which was tucked nicely away in his closet under a pair of soiled undies that would turn anybody away.

The bud was safe. Ah, yes. The bud was safe.

“Precious sweet bud, let you ripen so fine. Precious sweet bud, I’ll make you mine,” John said in the small, dark bedroom of his apartment. A slight smile crept across his lips as he thought about the bag. He had tried to grow his own before, but it never dried right. He wasted a lot of seed and, in the end, taught himself it was just too much damn work when all he had to do was take a small little drive to Little Chi-Town and he would come back happy.

John felt a slight tingle on the hairs of his nose and rubbed at his upper lip. He turned his head, breaking free from his daze, to look at the envelope sitting on his dresser top. He could just see it, slightly hanging over the edge. Damn bitch probably put itching powder in the shit, he thought. When he had opened the envelope, the only thing written inside had been “Enjoy”. Now there were just faint traces of the white powder left.

And he had. He had never been a big fan of the “nose candy”, but was never one to turn away a good high when it came his way. He was just surprised to see it coming from Miss Psycho Queen. He guessed she still wasn’t going to take his “get lost” for an answer. Damn, why did he have to date the crazy ones. The ones who would never go away no matter how hard he tried.

He pushed himself up, sitting, placing his feet on the hardwood floor. It was cool against his skin, which felt good in the warm, stuffy heat of his place. He wished like hell he could afford a damn air conditioner, and thought about possibly stealing one from somebody’s window. He reached over and fumbled to turn on his basketball lamp. He had to fight with the little switch to get it to turn on, grumbling with himself as he fought with it. On his third attempt, the lamp finally clicked on, the light flooding the space.

Out of the corner of his eye, he swore he saw little black things scurrying out of sight. They had been at the corner of his vision, which made it hard for him to be sure. By the time he turned his head, any traces were gone. Probably figments of my imagination, he thought, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He didn’t have the cleanest of places, but at least it had never been one known for roaches. Still, he could have sworn he had seen something, but then it was gone, probably buried deep in one of the different piles of dirty clothes littering the floor of the small room. Well, if they had gone in there, they were surely dead by now.

Ugh, why the hell was he up in the middle of the damn night. He leaned forward and pulled himself up from the mattresses on the floor. His bedroom had the barest of essentials and the mess stretched wide. The mattresses on the floor, his clothes thrown about, trash littering the floor in the general direction of the kitchen area. He had a heavily worn, badly tattered couch that had stuffing coming out at various seems along the back edges. Across from it was his television. The only thing in his apartment worth a damn was his 37” flat-panel television that he was currently renting-to-own.

He looked through the open door of his bedroom, toward the living room. Still on, but in sleep mode, the television cast a soft glow. It was always the centerpiece of the apartment. The only thing that wasn’t old, tattered, and a piece of crap.

John stumbled across the room, walking over the piles of clothes as he made his way to the front hallway. His eyelids were heavy, and as he stumbled, he wondered why the hell he was even trying to make his way to the bathroom. The heavy pain in his stomach and the burning sensation coming from his bowels reminded him why as he stepped into the little bathroom and clicked on the light. It flashed a few times before coming to life.

He barely caught a glimpse of his pale reflection in the mirror as he stepped past it to the toilet. The seat was up—ah, the life of a bachelor—and he didn’t even worry about closing the door behind him. Keeping his eyes closed, he listened to the sound of water on water, feeling the easing release of the pressure that had been building up. Sometimes there was no greater joy.

As he finished and opened his eyes to flush, he noticed the red of the toilet water. It was dark crimson, similar to the life force coursing through his veins. That had better not be coming from him. He looked at it, studied it, trying to see if there were any way it could have come from the water itself. He reached forward and flushed. As the red liquid went spiraling down to unknown locations of the sewer, fresh, clear water replaced it.

“Ah, fuck me,” he said to himself. Last thing he wanted was to be pissing blood again.

John groggily stepped over to the sink to wash his hands. He wasn’t the most sanitary of persons, but he had been taught to do so as a child and it was one habit he had never broken.

However, he was stopped by the pale reflection looking back at him with deep bloodshot eyes and dark circles under them. His hair was greasier and more ruffled than usual. His lips, his face without a glimpse of color to them. He was never one to focus on himself, but he was sure that if he looked that way when he had gone to bed, he would have noticed. He looked like a dead man walking. How the hell could he have missed it?

Then there was the dried blood under his nose. Just a little stream of it coming from his right nostril. It was so tiny, as though he had a start to a nose bleed. However, before it had really progressed, it had stopped and now was scabbed over.

John leaned forward so he could get a better look into his nostril. He had a sudden itch, forcing him to quickly start rubbing his nose. The itching grew stronger, a tickle becoming like fire and nearly bringing tears to his eyes as he rubbed both inside and out of the nostrils. He tried to wipe the sleep from his eyes as he peered through the darkness.

He could barely make out what looked like a hair sticking out of his nose. It was a long, black hair that stuck out at an odd angle. He reached up, readying himself to pluck it out and the sharp pain that would follow.

As he prepared to grip the hair, it twitched and started to move. He pulled his hand away and watched it pull itself back into his nose, disappearing into the darkness of his nostril.

“What the…?” John whispered as he leaned closer to the glass. The itching sensation grew so unbearable, he wished he could just rub it until it bled and the skin was raw, peeling away.

He was tired. He just wanted to get back to his mattress and the model who had been sexually assaulting his dreams.

John let a smile start to spread across his face as he pulled himself back from the mirror. He reached down and flushed the toilet. As he got ready to turn out the light, he glanced in the mirror, seeing the hair had reappeared, longer this time. It moved, shifting, then pulled itself back into his nostril.

Then the owner of the hair emerged. A small spider crawled out of his nose. John stood there, watching, his hand hovering just above the light switch. He was too afraid to move or pull his hand back as the spider perched on his upper lip.

John stopped watching it through the mirror and tried to look down at his upper lip. His eyes burned from the strain of focusing on an object so close, and all he could make out was the large black shape.

How had the thing been in his damn nose? How long was it up there? How had it survived when he had been squeezing and rubbing his nose when it itched? Ugh, even worse, what would have happened had he squashed the damned thing while it was in there? His stomach turned at the thought of it and he had to stifle a gag.

Keeping his eyes focused on the spider, John lowered his hand away from the light switch and moved back to the mirror. He could feel the spider’s legs on his upper lip. It shuddered as he moved, as though it were trying to surf him like a wave.

John looked back at the mirror, the black shape still sitting on his upper lip. A fucking spider. He could barely fathom how it had come out of his nose. He leaned over the sink, figuring it was time to try and knock the thing off and wash it down the drain.

He turned on the faucet and fumbled for the stopper so the sink would slowly fill with water. He didn’t turn the water on too fast because he didn’t want the sound of it to be too loud and scare the spider. With his luck, it would start crawling all over his face. However, so far, it seemed to be content with just sitting there.

John started to raise his hand, getting ready to shake his head and knock it off at the same time. He rocked back and forth briefly to get himself prepared, then swung.

The spider quickly ran back into his nose. It was again on fire with the itching sensation. However, this time, he could actually feel it moving around in his head. It ran deeper into his nose, and he could feel it forcing its way back into his airway.

John coughed, the lump moving up and down his throat. He gagged, trying to get it out. He put his finger down his throat to try and force himself to throw up, but the spider fought against him. It kept running around his throat. Tears came to his eyes as he tried to cough as hard as he could. His throat burned and became raw, but still nothing.

John dropped down to his knees in front of his toilet and reached his arms out, as though he had been drinking and was now praying to the porcelain gods. He tried to heave, but nothing came up. He could barely breathe and couldn’t make himself gag anymore.

Leaning onto the toilet, he wanted to cry. His body felt like it was burning up. He imagined he could feel the heat emanating off him. He was too hot. He looked at his arm, expecting it to be red. It was still pasty and pale.

He thought about the pot he had smoked earlier in the night. Damn, he hoped someone hadn’t laced his shit. The last thing he wanted to worry about was that.

Please, he thought to himself, let it just be one hell of a motherfucking bad trip.

A lump formed under his arm near his elbow. It just seemed to appear from nowhere, but protruded out grotesquely. It was nearly three-quarters of an inch in diameter and a half-inch tall, pulling the skin tight and making it red.

Suddenly, the lump broke through the skin. Another spider appeared, crawling its way out of the skin and onto his arm. Blood dripped from the hole as the spider started to run down his arm. John quickly started to claw at the spider with his other hand, trying to kill it. He nearly got it a couple times, but it was quick and kept dodging his attempts. It turned around and quickly ran back into the hole it had made in his arm.

He clawed at the hole, trying to tear away at the skin and get the spider out. His long, dirty nails pulled at his arm, but the spider continued to run underneath his skin and toward his hand. When it made it to his wrist, John quickly felt around above the sink, trying to find his razor. His arm, blood running down from his efforts to claw out the spider, was draped over the toilet.

He could barely see above the ceramic porcelain of the sink to see where he was reaching, but he heard things falling as he felt around—his toothbrush, the large heavy sound of the shaving cream splashing into the water filling the sink.

John finally felt his hand clench around the plastic handle of the razor. It was a cheap dollar shaver, but he hoped that if he dug enough, he would get the damned spider out. Damn the things. He wanted them out. He hated spiders. More than anything else, he hated spiders.

He brought the razor to his wrist and was about to start tearing away at the flesh when he noticed there were no longer any lumps, anything moving. His skin was clear. An unhealthy pale cast to it, but it was clear of anything hiding beneath it. He still had blood trickling down his arm, but the spider seemed to be gone. Same with the spider in his throat. He didn’t feel as though something was blocking his airway.

He reached out to the sink and used it to help him stand.

He still didn’t feel quite sure of himself and felt like he might still be trapped in a nightmare somehow. That he never truly woke up or he might just be caught on a bad acid trip.

He looked at himself in the mirror. He still looked like death warmed over. He was tired and wanted to go back to bed. It was calling for him, like a siren song reeling him in.

His ear tickled. As he reached up to pick at it, he felt the familiar sensation of the spider’s legs on his skin. He shook his head, trying to get at it as he felt it starting to crawl toward his face, its legs leaving small stinging sensations along the unshaven roughness of his skin. Then, after one big shake, he felt its release and saw it land on the floor.

It just lay there. Before it could regain itself, John quickly stomped down on the cursed thing. Strangely, he expected it to squish between his toes, as he was still barefoot. Instead, he barely felt anything. He pulled his foot away, seeing black dust where the remains of the spider should have been.

“Psychosis, Spiders and Zombies, Oh My!” – 5 Star Review for Hatched

“I was interested in this book based on the cover art and title alone, and they do not disappoint. ‘Hatched’ is a unique take on a parasitic invasion that affects humans in ways that are horrifying and hard to predict. I read a lot of content in this genre and I’m always on the hunt for a unique take on a cliche – this is the one for zombie lore. I’ve consumed an absurd amount of this kind of content and there is nothing out there like this that I’ve found. If you like horror, have a fear spiders and enjoy a thrilling, spine tingling (literally) adventure, then ‘Hatched’ is the story for you! Darren Marlar gives a stellar performance.” -Simone K (

Hatched is available in print, audiobook, and on Kindle.

If you live in the Wausau area, please request the book from Jankes’ Book Store.

Book Review: Video Night by Adam Cesare

Ready Player One of the horror genre…

Billy and Tom and been long friends and every Friday they have a tradition. They find horror films from the local video store and watch them. Sounds simple, but its a tradition, something they have been doing since Billy’s dad first bought one of the town’s first VHS machines. This Friday is different. This Friday, the horror they are accustomed to watching has become a reality around them as an alien invasion has started during their video night. Now they must fight to survive as their town burns down around them.

I’m going to start by saying that I really loved this book. The plot was a piece of well crafted simplicity that didn’t try to do too much, and because of that it was a lot of fun to read. The characters were fun and being a horror nerd myself, easy to relate to. While the book and the characters did fall into tropes much of the time, but when it comes to a 80’s nostalgia (this book is set in the 80’s) I feel that works for it. The 80s’ were the golden age for horror movies and this book is that love letter you have wanted. I just wish the characters went more into horror trivia mode and really played up their love for the genre.

I know that is a bad negative to a book, but I really enjoyed this one. If you’re a fan of creature feature horror films and live horror fiction, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Available today at both and

My Rating 5/5

Book Review: Deadfall Hotel

Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave…”

Richard has lost his wife and in his grief, has accepted a job offer at a very unique hotel. It is one of mysteries and wonder, and where the dead can walk the halls with the living. It is a place where dreams can take shape and pets can mutate into monsters.

This book is an interesting read with some odd directions, and for the most part, I found it highly enjoyable. Now I’ll say that with the caveat that I do not feel like many others will like this book. It has an odd detached tone to it while things are happening and it leaves the reader like you are never fully brought into the secrets of the hotel. I enjoyed that because our main character often never feels like he has fully been brought into the fold.

It also does not have a straight central story line where it leads to a massive climax that gets resolved. Instead, the book introduces us to the main character, we have a few adventures with him and his daughter and then the story is over and we are left saying goodbye. I’m okay with that, however the end isn’t fully explained and we’re left not fully understanding what changed. It is the ending that keeps me from rating this book higher.

I did listen to this as an audiobook and the narrator did a fantastic job. In fact, the next audiobook I am going to listen to, by pure coincidence, is also narrated by him and I am looking forward to it.

Rating 4/5


Purchase your copy today. Available in your local book store or on Amazon.
If in Wausau, WI, please make sure to buy your copy from Janke Books Store

Space Truckin’: Free Fall

“Hey, Dad. When are you coming home? It’s been forever since we’ve had a chance to hang out, and I know I was away at camp last time. Mom sent me there, and when I got home, you were already gone. We miss… I miss you. Come home, Dad.”

Will reached a hand out to the computer screen, slightly touching it, as he watched his daughter do the same. He was trying to keep the torrent of tears at bay. He had told himself he wasn’t going to cry and, damn it, he was going to keep that promise.

Her tears came first. From the glow of her lamp behind her computer, he could see the little glint. He couldn’t see the lamp, but watched it twinkle off the little tear creeping down her cheek. Then another one came down the other side of her sweet, innocent face, and he heard her sniffle. He knew it would just be a second before she would pull her hand away from the screen to wipe her nose, then she did.

That was all it took, although his tears didn’t flow down his face. In just half a G of constant acceleration, the tears hung at the edges until more formed, then the little drops of saltwater floated around the cabin. Eventually, they would hit something, or he would drift into them and the wetness might actually reach his cheeks. Right then, he longed to feel their touch. It would allow him to share in what his daughter was feeling…that moisture, those tears, that hurt as she looked at the screen. Her tears were coming faster, and he watched as her chest heaved in sobs.

“I love you, Dad,” she said, quickly reaching forward, grabbing her laptop. Then his screen went dark.

He didn’t reach as quickly for his own. There was no reason for him to hurry. It wasn’t a live communication as he was out of range and anything that would be fast enough for them to talk without any kind of unbearable delay, so it was just easier to send the video messages. This one was her latest as she had just gotten home from camp, realized he was already gone again, and knew it would be at least another six months before she would see him.

It had already been two months since he left. He was ready to get back and stay home the full time this time. As it was, he could have stayed home and been there when Angie got back from camp. Had he known she would have been home, he probably would have. If her mom hadn’t been such a pain in his…

            Don’t let yourself get worked up thinking of her. It won’t do you any good. Don’t go down that road. Just calm yourself, take deep breaths. Deep breaths.

            Her mother, that selfish woman he had been married to for nine years, had lied to him, allowing him to believe Angie had been sent away to school. That cocksucker of a new boyfriend of hers had money, and Wendy got most of his, so he had little way to verify what they told him. It wasn’t like he was home all that often. He had no way to research or look into it. How would he have known Angie was only away at camp? She was supposed to be overseas doing some kind of school internship.

He could have spent some time with his daughter before coming back out here. He didn’t have to hurry. He had plenty of time to use. He could have stayed home, seen her, spent time with her. Instead, he had taken that woman at her word, allowed her to tell him his daughter was gone.

            And if you continue to just sit here and allow yourself to get pulled further into thinking about it, you are only going to make it worse. Your daughter’s home, she is safe with the beast, and you are now almost a million miles away from Earth, driving your rig to Mars. If you start thinking about it too much now, you’re just going to continue thinking about it, then you’ll be falling back into depression again. Space is the last place you want to be suffering from that. It isn’t like you can just pull into a truck stop, like the old days, and start talking to someone.

And it wasn’t like he could just pull into a truck stop to “find” someone for a little “me” time, even though he’d never done that before. He hadn’t been one of those drivers who found comfort in another woman’s arms when he was out on the road. He knew many other drivers who did, but he stayed faithful, even though she never believed he did.

He reached forward and clicked “Save” on the message. He knew he would probably never watch it again. It would get stored in the internal storage of the on-board computer system and just sit in his personal folder. It would get lost in the depths of family photos, music he had made sure to download for the journey, some TV shows he had been behind on from his last trip out, and whatever movies he could sneak off the net before he had launched back out.  Yes, it was illegal and, sure, it wasn’t right, but when you were gone from Earth for eight months at a time, there was a lot to catch up on. There was just no way to pay for it all before he left.

William was one of the few in the fleet of “truckers” who were now on the space highway hauling ice and whatever else was needed for the terraforming efforts taking place on Mars. Few meaning there were only about a hundred or so, but it wasn’t a job in high demand right now. Not too many people wanted to take on the risk or could deal with the isolation. After all, this whole project was not like what sci-fi books or movies portrayed. This was a corporate run, which meant everyone was in it for a profit, and profits meant being on the cheap.

N.P.T.H. Tech, the subsidiary of the larger search company that started it all, tried to run things as cheaply as possible. They cared more about their computers and its self-driving capabilities than the human component. He was more of a hindrance in their machine than actually a help. Sure, he was knowledgeable about fixing things on his rig here and there, but he wasn’t a true pilot or “driver”. He was just a passenger, only there to allow them to get government approval…not that they really needed it.

It was well-known that N.P.T.H. could have easily launched the whole project from any country, and the laws were kind of lax with it being a space-borne project. He launched up to an orbiting station, the Alpha, at which his rig would dock. His load looked more like a train. The lead car housed his living quarters, followed by a row of ice blocks or shipping containers linked together, and ending in the “caboose”.

On Earth, the whole system would be a mess with cars trying to slip in and out, nothing able to keep them from going all over once the thrust was applied, but this system was developed for lower gravity. The propulsion came from the caboose, the propellant converted from excess ice in the rear car, and the links kept straight by cables along the corners of each car. The cables could pull in or extend a little, depending on how everything needed to adjust while the rig was in motion

N.P.T.H., or even their parent company, was a business. Astronauts cost money, and since their self-driving system, which would be nearly legal on the highways across the United States, was such a good system on roads, why not use it in space? And if the system could drive itself, why pay for an astronaut or scientist? They weren’t used to the isolation, have a higher education, and might cause ripples. Worse yet, they might look at the technology under the hood and steal it for a competitor. Why bring on those people when there are cheaper alternatives?

Will was not sure when or how someone started to look at truck drivers to become these “space truckers”. Maybe it was when one of the high-priced execs was stuck in traffic one day, sitting behind an eighteen-wheeler, and started thinking about that driver sitting behind that wheel all day. Maybe he looked into it and found that these people drove fourteen-hour days, stayed out on the road for months at a time, and were locked up in their own self-imposed isolation away from wives and kids.

They realized they wouldn’t need scientists. They just needed gear jammers, someone to sit in the seat and be a passenger as this behemoth drove itself.

It was an interesting system. He would haul the loads to the station on Mars, drop off his load, hook up to the empty containers, and bring them back to Earth. In a way, it wasn’t any different than his trucking job had been. He would be out for the eight months it would take for a round trip, then he’d get four months off before he would go back out.

This last time, however, he had only been home a month. In that time, he had nearly gotten himself locked up, fought his ex many times, and had a couple of bar fights and an all-night drinking binge. The whole mess had him on such a downward spiral, he felt as if he needed to go back out again. Being home wasn’t doing him any good if he couldn’t see his little girl. Burn and turn, make some extra money, and when he got back the next time, they would be able to do something really nice with his four months.

But he could have stayed. He could have been home longer.

A light flashed on his console. He had another incoming message, but unlike the message from his little girl, this one had the standard tag on it. It was from his dispatcher, Audrey. She was a nice girl, but she needed to learn it wasn’t necessary to check in with him every day.

He touched the screen, sniffling in the last of the tears as he did. They kind of clung in the back of his throat, not having the force to really pour out of him like they should. In a second, a young woman, blond hair cut short in a bob that he was surprised to find out was coming back in style, appeared on the screen.

“Hey, Will. Just checking in. You’re halfway there. Yeah!” He watched as she did a little happy dance in her seat, and he couldn’t stop the side his mouth from curving into a small smile. It was funny how these young pups seemed to be the ones behind the screens now. The computer world was for the young. He would always be the gear jammer, just going where this younger generation sent him. Although it made him happy to think that his daughter would soon be one of these young people running things. “Everything is right on track. You don’t need to send me a reply or anything, unless you need to talk. I’m always here. You know that. You guys out there… You are all amazing, and I’m just amazed at how you keep those rigs running so safely. We’ve been two hundred and ten days without an accident. Safety is all over how astonishing that is. We have now set a record, and so now everyone’s worried about when the shoe will drop and something will happen. Don’t let it be you. I’d hate for it to be one of my drivers to break the record. You be safe out there.”

The communication cut off as she gave a little wave, then stopped the recording. He continued to look at the blank screen for a moment before his little smile wavered and the silence of the room around him closed in.

He knew she would be sending that message out to the others, as well. She had about eighteen people she coordinated. Each one was a few days behind the one in front of them, all on their own trajectory to meet Mars orbiting around the sun, and running in a continuous loop. With how Mars had an elliptical orbit, it was somewhat funny how one of them would leave after another driver, but be able to get home first just by how their launch window was.

Well, it was time for him to start his day. He’d been sitting there long enough listening to messages. It was time to get something done.

He spent the next five minutes checking, seeing all the systems were running fine. There were no anomalies. He was on course. Everything was the same as usual. All the automated systems were running as they should. Everything was normal.

The propulsion system was converting ice to fuel, just like it should. The flow was optimal. There was nothing he needed to do but sit there.

Damn, this is going to be another long day.

He unfastened his seat belt, feeling that artificial sensation of gravity give way as nothing held him. He was left to just hover, his body floating above the grav chair. It was always so disconcerting to no longer feel his weight against the chair, even though he had never truly felt it. It had only been the pressure of the strap that had kept him there, not his actual weight.

He had to find something to do. There was the aft propulsion he should check on. It would only be another day before the caboose ended its long burn and the cab would fire its engines.

He was never at a constant speed, but at a state of constant acceleration.  It gave him the little gravity he did have, but meant he was either accelerating or decelerating.  There was never a time when the rockets weren’t burning, so tomorrow, when the accelerating rockets cut out, the decelerating rockets would fire, starting the two months of constant deceleration. There would be a sudden jolt and a wicked twist, then his stomach would feel like it was upside down.

There were still plenty of system checks he should perform. They were mandatory, just like doing the logs every day. Check this and that, make sure this system was a go, that this valve was regulating properly. He made sure to check them every week. It wasn’t a big deal if they didn’t get checked daily. However, now that the big burn was going to shift, he really should look more into it, make sure it was all good to go.

It always was, just like everything else on this damn automated rattrap. He didn’t know why he even bothered.

He reached out the on-board tablet mounted on the console and unfastened it from its dock. The screen immediately lit up, requesting his passcode. Why the hell he needed to enter a passcode on a rig where he was the only person made just as much sense as why there were EVA suits for five people stored in the maintenance lockers. Just another of the many mysteries of wasting money.

He typed in the eight digits that made up his daughter’s birthday, then cursed under his breath when the screen flashed “invalid”. It was never easy typing in the damn thing when gravity was loose around him. He took a deep breath and slowly retyped it, making sure each number registered correctly.

Before he could finish, a light flashed on the console, indicating a message. This time, it wasn’t a delayed video message, but a live audio message. He pressed the box on the screen, letting the table float near his head as he reached out to pull himself back into the grav chair.

“Hey, Space Cowboy. This is the Young Duck. Comeback.” A very young and excited voice filled the small room. He quickly reached to turn down the volume. There was always something odd with how the live audio feeds came in at such a higher volume than the recorded messages. Someone once said it had something to do with compressing something else, but it didn’t matter to him. All of that was all over his head.

It was always good when he was able to hear another voice. It often occurred when a return driver just happened to be within a relatively close range. It didn’t always happen, and when it did, they typically had maybe an hour or two before they’d lose the ability to talk in near real time. After that, they would drift far enough apart where the delay would make communication harder and harder until it would grow unbearable.

Truthfully, it wasn’t usually the delay that stopped the conversations. Will didn’t know how it was with other drivers, but he wasn’t the most talkative. He liked the chance to talk for a little bit, but two hours was a stretch. Any longer than that, he just didn’t think he had in him.

“This is the Space Cowboy. You on your deadhead?” He knew the other driver must be, but it was just as good of an icebreaker as any.

“Sure ‘nough. Already kicking in the reverse burn and we’re almost home. It is going to feel good. Damn, I can’t wait to get that paycheck and those four months off.”

So much energy, so much fire. Young Duck was probably just that. Some young pup who was probably doing his first solo run.


“Yeah. I got a passenger heading back. One of the locals from the station who needed to get home and couldn’t wait for the next rotation.”


“Yeah. She’s got it bad. They have me keeping her in restraints.”

Coffer was what some of them got when they had been out there too long. It was a form of cabin fever. That confined feeling when someone couldn’t get out, just staring at the same walls all day. It drove some of them to a form of mental breakdown.

One of the first cases had been pretty bad. The man had been locked in his room on the station, lying in the dark. He was convinced he was dead and in a coffin. Somehow, that coffin feeling, being trapped in the darkness of space, that claustrophobia of being in a small box, had come to be known as Coffer Syndrome.

Sadly, it wasn’t all that uncommon. Many times, it set in quickly, usually with the new shuttle jockeys. Young Duck would be a perfect candidate as it often happened to those who were the most energetic and new to driving.

“Yeah, well, keep those restraints on her. They can get dangerous if she gets free.”

“I am. Keeping the meds in her, too.”


“How long you been out?”

“I start my reverse burn tomorrow.”

“Ahh, damn. Sucks man. Still got another six months. How ya doing with it?”

“Just another day.”

“Really? How long you been doing this?”

“Six years now.” Six long years, and getting longer. This job wasn’t getting any easier.

“Damn. I don’t know if I could do this for six years. Though it’s gotta be nice. Hell, the mad pay… You gotta be rolling in the dough.”

Will didn’t want to be the one to break it to the kid. When drivers headed out, nobody told them they had to pay for all the prepackaged food and stuff they sent off with them. When they got back after eight months, they deducted all those expenses, as well as anything he may have damaged in flight, and took that off the paycheck. It was another one of the ways they got a person out there, making it so he had to stay. Sure, he got four months off when he got home, but his cell phone would be turned off and he’d lose his apartment while he was out. It was hard to find places that supported renting to someone for just four months.

He might make a decent paycheck, but it never seemed to add enough to get him out of the hole he always seemed to dig himself into.

“Yeah, just keep raking it in. So, any word from the station? Any news?”

“There’s talk. The Martians are all up in arms about the robots. They need new parts, but aren’t getting them from Earth. Plus, they’re all bitchin’ about their rotation being so damn long. Man, there is this one hot MILF there. Next time I get back, we’re going to-”

When the radio started to hiss and break up, Will wasn’t too worried about it. The kid was probably on a trajectory farther out than Will had originally thought. It wasn’t the worst thing, though. The kid was somewhat annoying.

Young pups… Why was the energy and excitement for things always wasted on the youth? Was he ever truly that young?

He let his head fall back to the headrest, feeling a little moisture touching the edge of his eye. His chest had that little ache, and each breath was pulled in with effort.

He already knew what was going to happen to the kid. He would get back to Earth, expecting to get some huge paycheck that would turn out to be a third of what he thought. He would say it was still more than he would have made if he continued to be a gear jammer back on Earth, and he could still have a lot of fun with four months off.

Then the kid would get home and his parents would be older. If he had a girlfriend, she would have run off with someone else. Of course, he had been sending her messages. When she didn’t respond, he just thought she was really busy with work. If she did respond, her responses would be short and sporadic. He would go home, if he still had a home, and find all her stuff gone from the apartment. Or he would go to her place and the door would be locked, and when he knocked, a man would answer, asking who the hell he was.

The kid was in for one hell of a shock when he got home. Will almost felt sorry for him, but it was the nature of the beast. If the kid was going to make it, he would have to learn that they were gone for eight months at a time and things didn’t wait around for them. Life moved on, and they were now just tourists to Earth.

“Fly safe,” he said into the silence, knowing the kid would never hear it. With any luck, the kid would be okay.

He made sure the timer was set to wake him an hour before the burn, then he keyed the lights and undid the safety harness before floating back to the sleeping compartment. As the timer on the light counted down, he made his way to the bed, then secured the safety net around him. When the timer hit “0”, everything other than a few emergency lights turned off.

Tomorrow would be a new day, another day closer to getting home.


Enjoying this story? You can read the rest of it free on your kindle with Kindle Unlimited.

Or would you like to listen? Purchase on Audible.

New 5 Star Review for HATCHED

“Ziggy Stardust ain’t got nothing on this tale. This story should really be a page from the great 90’s RPG All Flesh Must be Eaten. That game took and added zombied to different genres. It also came up with some brilliant alternate reasons for zombies to have come about, and this book adds Arachnaphobia with All Flesh. It works on a lot of different levels, and the creep factor really digs deep under your skin. If you have an aversion to creepy crawlies then this book isn’t for you. You won’t be able to sleep afterward; just because of the thoughts it will implant in your head.

If I had my guess, this would be the start of a series, or at least a part of a series of books, just because somethings aren’t tied up so neatly as you’d expect and if that is the case I am excited, because this was a great story.

Marlar does a great job with the narration. There are a lot of characters in this story, and he doesn’t make you guess which is in the lead at the time. He is easy to follow and he keeps your attention.

Fans of zombies, voodoo, and arachnids will really enjoy this book, but then so will any horror junkie.

READ IT NOW!!!” – Ray Johnson posted to

Hatched is free to read with Kindle Unlimited or to listen with an audible subscription.

When The Demon’s Know Your Name

Now in audio!

The audiobook for WTDKYN is now available, and narrated by Rick Gregory!

CLICK HERE to be taken to Audible

The story can be read on Kindle or for free on, but here is your chance to hear it performed. Listen now and enjoy!

When the Demon’s Know Your Name
By Jason R. Davis and narrated by Rick Gregory

Jason can’t sleep. Every night, the monster in his closet wants to eat him, but he is always rescued by his parents. However, his parents are getting annoyed with the late-night wake-up calls to come to his aid. When his father learns that the monster that is coming for him is one from his father’s own horror films, he decides to take Jason to the studio to face his fear.

Inside the Mirrors (segment)

Posted below is a segment from my first novel, INSIDE THE MIRRORS. I am posting this in honor of my father, Don Davis as he was the inspiration

Posted below is a segment from my first novel, INSIDE THE MIRRORS. I am posting this in honor of my father, Don Davis as he was the inspiration for this chapter.

INSIDE THE MIRRORS is available for sale in Print, Kindle, and Audible






Published by

Breaking Fate Publishing
© 2013 by Jason R. Davis 

All Rights Reserved.  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law.  Please purchase only authorized electronic and print editions, and do not participate in or encourage any form of piracy of copyrighted materials.  Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Please visit us online at

Cover Illustration by: SnS-Photo (Jim Sorfleet)
Cover Model: Kat McGill Mayer
Cover Design by: Willy Adkins


Rob watched as the street in front of his new house went from a quiet small town dead-end street with hardly any traffic, to being filled with cars trying to find an open spot.  Cars were even parking in other people’s driveways; the street was packed bumper to bumper.

Then there were the motorcycles.  They were all parked in the neighbor’s front yard and at last count there were over fifteen.

Robyn was in the bathroom, putting on her makeup and getting dressed up.  Rob figured that she would be another hour before she was ready to go next door.  Only God knows why she was bothering, he thought to himself as he watched the people going to the party next door, no one arriving was dressed up.


Rob turned away from the window and saw Robyn as she bounced down the stairs.  She had her make up on, but to his surprise, she wasn’t overdressed.  She wore a simple top with just a plain pair of blue jeans.  She looked great, and he couldn’t help himself and a smile crossed his face as he watched her.

“Jake knows we’ll be next door, right?”

“He’s already over there.  He was playing in the backyard when some kids came, and he went over to play with them.”

Rob reached for the door and opened it for Robyn who was behind him.

“Do you have my inhaler?”

“Yes, it’s in my pocket,” he said as he followed her out, shutting the door behind her.

They hurried across the grass, and stepped into their neighbor’s backyard.  Like theirs, the yard was huge, and easily accommodated the large group of people that were scattered about.  In the far back was the fire pit with the trash can of stew cooking, around which, was a group of people already waiting with plates, ready to eat.  In the corner of the yard was the methodic clank of metal on metal, there was a large group of people playing horseshoes.  In the center of the yard were a couple of guys sitting on the top of a picnic table, both with guitars.  They were currently just talking with people milling around them, but Rob thought he had heard music just minutes ago, and guessed they would be starting back up again soon.

Near the house there was a large tub filled with ice and there were two kegs of beer in it.  Rob made his way there first and saw that Erika was behind the tubs talking to what looked like another twenty something girl.  They were both laughing and chatting away, but stopped when Erika saw him walk up to the keg.  Rob was already reaching for a couple of cups when Erika turned.

“Hey, you guys made it.”

“Yeah,” Robyn said as she made her way from Rob’s shadow.

Erika nodded at the two guys with the guitars.

“The one on the left is my dad.”

Rob nodded and after filling a plastic cup, he left Robyn to talk, and headed in the direction of the picnic table.  He could already hear Robyn laughing as he walked away.

Rob approached the two men.  A woman had brought both of them a full beer, and they were accepting them from her as Rob stepped up.

“Thank you my dear.” The man on the left was saying.  He noticed Rob and gave a quick nod in his direction.

“Hey, glad you could make it,” the man said.

“Glad to have the invite.” Rob replied.

“So how was the drive?”

“We walked.”

“Walked?  You live in town here?”

“Yeah, we just moved into the house next door.”

The man paused for a second, and then his face lit up and he straightened his back so that he was no longer slouching over his guitar.  The realization of who Rob was had caught up to him and he was quick to reach out his hand.

“Ah, yeah you’re the new neighbor.  Glad you could make it.  I’m Todd; you’ve met my daughter I heard.  Thanks by the way, don’t know what happened yesterday.  And then this here,” Todd said, as he nodded his glass toward the woman standing next to him, “This here is my wife Bonnie. And this hillbilly with a guitar next to me here is Steve.”

“Hey Brother,” the other man with a guitar said as he reached his hand out to Rob.  Rob took it while he examined him. .  The man’s hair was dirty and matted; his beard was long and had not been cleaned up in a long time.  His clothes were well worn, with dirt and fish gut remains wiped on his thighs.

“Okay, well, I’m going to go check on the stew, see if we need to add some more water,” Bonnie said as she stepped away from the group, and heading the direction of the fire.

“Hey Hon, I got a song for you!” Todd called after her as she was walking away.  Todd didn’t miss a beat as he sang, following behind with the guitar.


“Always marry an Ugly Girl,

That’s the only kind.

They’ll never ever leave you,

And if she does you won’t mind”


Rob nearly lost his beer through his nose as Todd sang.  He quickly turned to see how Bonnie was going to react, and was surprised to find her laughing, as she walked away.  Both of her middle fingers were raised high in the air as she walked backwards.  Todd smiled as he turned to Rob and gave him a cheerful nod.

“What the hell had they gotten themselves into?” Rob thought, as he turned and tried to find Robyn in the crowd.  There were more people filing into the backyard, and it was getting harder and harder to see through the pack.

A thundering roar tore through the chattering crowd of people talking throughout the yard.  It vibrated in the wind, rumbling and shaking the windows in the panes both of their house and their neighbor’s.  Everyone turned to look where it was coming from, but with the echo along the street, the sound reverberated, and made it hard to tell.

Then suddenly a bike exploded into view from the side of the house.  It was a small Harley Davidson Roadster with a large burly man leaned back and comfortable in the saddle.  He zigzagged his way through the crowd, skidding back and forth in the grass, and tearing up large chunks.  His large dark sunglasses clung to his face as he looked around the crowd running to get out of his way.  He had a large toothy smile on his face, and a big cigar hung out of the side of his mouth.  The way he was racing around the yard, it wouldn’t be long before someone was hurt.

Rob was quick to react.  Well, he was quick to try to react.  As he turned to run and catch the bike, his leg buckled, and he leaned heavily onto his good leg, reaching out to the picnic table to keep himself upright.  Trying not to lose stride, he pushed off of the picnic table and quickly limped in the direction of the bike, trying to keep ahead of it so he could cut it off.  Out of instinct, he reached behind his back to pull out his back up revolver, only to find it not there.  He was no longer a Chicago Street Officer, no matter how hard it would be for him to get used to that damn fact.

Rob looked around at the crowd in chaos as they scattered, and he calculated the bike’s path so he could plan another tactic, and he saw Bonnie rush at the bike.  She was waving her hands back and forth, trying to get the driver’s attention; however, Rob didn’t think it was working as the bike was not slowing.

“Get out of the way!” Rob called out to Bonnie.  Pain was shooting down his right leg like electric shock, and he could barely keep his eyes open.  The pain ripped through his spine, and made its way up to his skull, where it grabbed the nerves behind his eyes and pulled them back into their sockets.

His legs were fighting against him, starting to buckle.

“Watch out!”

Bonnie heard him call out to her and turned to look just as the bike neared her.  It didn’t show any sign of slowing, though she had stopped, and now her eyes were locked on Rob like a deer caught in the headlights.

Rob’s legs finally gave out. In a flash, a scorching pain went through his entire back and his legs gave under him.  His vision blurred, and then went to black as he landed on the soft ground.  The last thing he remembered hearing was the roar of the motorcycle, and screams.  The screams had seemed to be getting closer, but yet they also seemed to be getting farther away.  He realized it wasn’t them getting farther away; it was him moving deeper into unconsciousness.


* * * *


“Do you need an ambulance?”  Rob heard someone ask.  His head felt like a brick and his entire body felt like it was locked in position.  He didn’t think he could move.  All his senses were numb, yet he could feel something cool against his back.

Damn it, he thought to himself.  The coolness on his back, made him sure he was back in the hospital.  The whole time he thought he had gotten out, the whole last twenty four hours suddenly seemed like a dream.  The beautiful house, everything, just a dream that he had conjured up.

A twinge of pain shot down his back, making his toes curl.

His eyes fluttered open.  The light was bright, and at first all he could see were shapes hovering over him.  Their colors ran together.

Slowly, his eyes adjusted, and he could see his wife was one of the people standing over him.

“No. Hell no. No more doctors.  I’m fine.”  Rob said.  He tried to move, but his body was stiff.  He was barely able to move his head, but after resituating himself, he was able to turn and see that he was no longer lying on the ground.  He had probably fallen hard, but someone or a group of someone’s, must have picked him up and carried him to the picnic table.  The wood was refreshingly cool against his skin, but was rough on his back.  Above him, Robyn and Bonnie were both over him, with half of the party all gathered around.

“Are you alright?” Bonnie was saying.  A ringing started in his ears and it sounded like she was at the back of an auditorium yelling to him.

Rob eased himself to a sitting position carefully, as his back tried to fight against him.  His body creaked as he moved, and he could feel everyone’s hands on him, helping him, which was probably a good thing, since the world had begun to feel like it was on a spindle and swirling around him.  He thought he might pass out again; he could feel his lunch moving through him quickly, and everything wanted to fade out on him again.

Then he was up and sitting.  The unease was passing and he again focused on everyone around him.

“I’m fine. Really.”

“Damn that was the craziest thing I think I ever saw,” said a guy at the back of the group.  And with that, the group broke up around him.

“What the hell was all that with the bike about? Rob said, looking up at Bonnie, who was rattled, but said she was okay as well.

“That was Roach.  He’s one of Todd’s friends from the Hell’s Angels.”

Rob’s eyebrows perked up of the mention of the Angels and the color seemed to fade from his face.  He remembered having an issue a couple of times with some Angels in Chicago.  They were not people that a person wanted to mess with.

“No, no,” Bonnie started saying, seeing Rob’s reaction, “They’re not all that bad, not all of them.  A lot of them do good things for the community.   But, some of them can get rowdy.  Roach, he’s always been one to make an entrance, but he’s getting older, so his entrances often come across more and more as desperate cries for attention.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that, Hon,” said a big burly man dressed mostly in black and sporting a biker’s vest.  Rob couldn’t see the back of it, but he was sure that if he could, it would have the large emblem of the Hell’s Angels on it.  The man looked down at where Rob was sitting.

“I’m Roach,” the man said, as he walked up to Rob, holding out his hand for Rob to shake.  Rob waited a long time, his heart racing, and his whole body filled with heat and anger, and he wanted nothing more than to hit this man for the agony he had caused.

Rob wasn’t sure where this new found anger was coming from, as he had been a peacemaker for a long time, and proud of the fact that he was always the one to keep a calm head while he was on the force.  Yet now, there he was, and if he’d been able, he would have run his fist through that smile and left the man a bloodied mess.

After an uncomfortable amount of time, Rob reached out and took the man’s hand and shook it.  Bonnie had been talking to Roach; Rob finally paid attention to what she was saying.

“I can’t believe you did that.  You sure as hell know there are kids here.  You could have seriously hurt someone! What the hell were you thinking?”

Roach turned his attention to Rob, and looking like a scared little mouse huddling into himself as he backed away from this woman, that was half his size.

“I’m sorry Bon-Bon, it won’t happen again.”

“It sure as hell won’t!”


* * * *


Roach backed away from them, and Bonnie turned to look down at Rob.  Robyn sat down next to him, and put her arm around him.  He suddenly felt hemmed in.  This was made worse by the fact that they both wanted to mother him.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Robyn asked, as she nuzzled his shoulder.

With a long sigh, he turned and looked her in the eye.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

Todd, who had stood silently behind Bonnie, finally stepped up and patted Rob on the back.  He said, “Yeah, he’ll be fine, we just need to give him some room and stop babying the poor man.  First time at our house and we’re trying to smother him.”

Todd walked back to the picnic table where Steve was waiting to hand him his guitar.

“You son of a bitch!” was heard loudly throughout the party before Todd could strum his first cord.  Everyone turned, and was just in time to catch a small, thin, black haired woman slap a slightly taller, silver haired man.

Bonnie quickly turned back to Rob and Robyn.

“I gotta take care of this.  I’ll be right back to check on you.”

Bonnie hurried over to the couple, the man now struggling with, the woman, and he had both of her arms in his hands, holding her by the wrists.

Rob was out of ear shot, but he watched as Bonnie walked up to them and separated them both.  He was be amazed by how this woman handled things.  She had taken charge of everything so far, and her husband for the most part, stayed on a picnic table, making fun of everything with his friends, as they played their music.  They didn’t care about any of what was going on; Bonnie, however, was in the middle of all of it.

She was talking to the couple, and the woman was very upset, screaming at the man.  Then they were done.  Rob could tell that the tension was dying, their shoulders slumped, and some kind of resolution seemed to have been reached.  The woman turned away, and stalked out of the backyard, heading to the next house over down the street.

“Shit, please don’t tell me that kind of crazy is one of our neighbors.” Rob said under his breath.

Bonnie was talking to the man, who kept shrugging his shoulders.  Rob watched him intently, trying to get a read on him.  He could tell even from across the yard that the man was putting on an act.  His stance was all wrong, and he was playing the part over the top, trying to gain Bonnies sympathy, hoping she’d take his side.  Rob’s days as a Chicago cop had trained him well to spot the truth or deceit.  The way the man moved, and how he stood, said far more than the words he was saying to Bonnie.

But why would he care, why would he try so eagerly to get Bonnie to sympathize with him?  Usually a man only does that when he cares deeply about what someone thinks about them.  He obviously had feelings for Bonnie.

Damn, Rob hoped they didn’t just move themselves into an episode of Melrose Place or some day time soap opera.

The man suddenly turned and looked over at Rob, sending a painful shiver through his body.  He could feel Robyn’s eyes on him, and wanted to turn and look at her, to let her know he was fine, but his eyes were locked with those of the other man, who just stood there, smiling, no longer paying attention to Bonnie as she continued to talk to him.  He just watched Rob, with a large tooth filled smile.  Rob recognized that smile.  It was the broad smile of the man who had been staring back at him in the mirror.

Rob’s skin became hot, as though liquid fire engulfed him.

Bonnie walked back to them, and Rob turned to watch, finally able to break his gaze from the man. “Sorry about that,” she smiled.

“This is becoming quiet an interesting party.  Are they always like this?” Robyn asked.  She had rubbed Rob’s shoulders and he wondered if she had felt the heat as well.

“No, typically there’s more blood.  Just kidding, typically we never have any problems until everyone leaves; which probably won’t be until late tomorrow for some of these people.  They’ll just crash where they can find soft earth.  Its funny how this is my birthday party, but they’re all Todd’s friends.”

“They going to be okay?” Robyn asked, nodding toward the couple that had stormed off to their own house.

“The Pacifico’s?  Yeah, they’ll be fine.  In all the years I’ve   seen them together, that is the first fight I’ve ever seen them have.  They’re your stereotypical perfect couple, always the happy ones.  Ron and Terry are usually inseparable, and to see them fight like that surprises me.  Who knows what’s going on?  Maybe Terry got laid off, I don’t know, but she was all in a huff, screaming that he’s gone all the time now, and she thinks he’s having an affair.  Money trouble can turn a normally loving couple into a pair of vultures fighting over the same piece of meat.”

Rob thought about how the man, Ron, had been looking at Bonnie.  There had been some deep connection there and he wondered if maybe there was some truth to Terry’s worries.  Something was up between those two.

Todd was starting a new song, and Bonnie looked over at him disapprovingly.  Todd didn’t care as he belted it out.


“She’s gone, gone, gone,

Gone, gone, gone,

Crying won’t get her back.”


“Hey Hon,” Bonnie called out, “I got one for you.  Bonnie then yelled out over Todd’s singing,


“Were you born an Asshole?

Or did you work at it your whole life?

Either way it works out fine,

Because you’re an Asshole tonight!”


Robyn couldn’t contain herself and buried her face into Rob’s shoulder to keep from laughing. Rob couldn’t help himself either, and let out a small laugh along with a large smile.  Where the hell did they move to? He couldn’t help but wonder as he shook his head?  Where the hell did they move to?


* * * *


A gunshot echoed through the night, and Rob sat up, quickly wide awake.  It was an automatic reaction; he reacted even before he even heard the sound. A cold sweat streamed down his face and he could feel its chill.  He’d completely soaked through the sheets again, and he was surprised that Robyn hadn’t wakened to complain.

Rob looked around the dark room, searching for some sign of where the shot had come from.  His eyes seemed sharp and his senses were on edge, just as when he’d been in the fiery depths of that hallway,.  He could almost smell the smoke, but wasn’t sure if he was imagining it or if it was just traces of the nightmare.

His breath was quick, and his chest heaving with excitement.  He tried to calm down, to let the tension flow away, and calm his breathing.  He just couldn’t do it, his upper back hurt from the tension, and his shoulder blades wouldn’t release, no matter how hard he tried to relax.

He looked over at Robyn; she still slept peacefully beside him.  The last thing he wanted was wake her up; she deserved a good night’s sleep.

Rob pulled himself out of bed and navigated the room, planning to go downstairs and maybe sit and relax on the couch.  He was starting to get used to the feel of the place, and that made it a lot easier to navigate through what was left of the boxes.  Robyn had done well getting everything unpacked and situated. The house was already beginning to feel like a home instead of the empty shell they’d moved into.

Rob stepped into the hallway and had the feeling that he was no longer the only one awake in the house.  He took a quick look back into the bedroom, but Robyn was still asleep.  She looked so peaceful as she slept, in the quiet, dark room.  The little light in the room from the street light outside made her skin glisten. .  He didn’t see anyone but he still couldn’t shake the feeling someone was there.

Rob eased the door shut behind him, gently settling the door into its frame so that it barely made a sound in the silence.  The only thing he could hear was his own breathing, but he felt he was being watched from somewhere.

He turned and looked toward Jake’s room.  The door was open a crack, but Rob could see that Jake was till in his bed asleep, his nightlight shining from its home in the wall.

Rob crept down the hallway, walking lightly to prevent himself from waking up the household.  Maybe the comfort of the couch down in the living room would release some of his tension, and he might be able to drift off to sleep.

He was halfway down the hall, when the cool night air went sour.  A strong odor quickly began to fill the narrow hallway and the room turned instantly hot.  Smoke billowed out of vents, streaming around him.  He could barely breathe, as sulfur and the smoke weighted the air, and with every breath, he fought a coughing spasm. .  He could taste smoke and soot covering the back of his throat.

It quickly filled the hallway, burning and filling his eyes with tears.  It came at him from all directions, till he couldn’t even see the white walls around him.  He was forced to drop to the floor, searching for breathable air.  The smoke moved toward him, and when he looked up, it felt like the grey cloud it was reaching down and grab him.  Rob looked around, trying to see where the fire and smoke were coming from.  His eyes were burning and he could barely breathe, but below the smoke, he could see clearly.  At the end of the hallway, where Jake’s room was, where just moments before the door had been slightly open, it was now closed, and smoke poured from the space below.


Rob quickly stood and ran as fast as he could, ignoring the pain that jolted down his leg.  He made it to the door and without any thought to his training, reached for the handle and ripped it open.

Flames shot out, surrounding him as he stood there, but he was no longer in his son’s room.  He was no longer in his own house.  He was back in Chicago, at 4000 N. Milwaukee, in the sleazy confines of a hotel room that had been used as a Meth lab, and flames were everywhere.  He could hear the screams from the people that had been working in the lab as well as the rest of the people who’d been just hanging out and getting high off the process.  They were all just victims now, screaming and dying in the flames.

Rob fell to the floor, sure that the flames were finally going to take him and he’d never see his wife and son again.  The last two months had all been just a dream brought on by smoke inhalation poisoning,. There was no house, no new job, just this.  He was living his last moments, all in a fire.

Rob looked up into the flames, his eyes burning, and the last of their moisture evaporating from them; to see that the skull faced man was there.  He was standing in the fire, but though the flames danced around him, they never actually touched him. His smile was as broad as ever, dirty teeth exposed while he watched Rob.  His eyes reflected the fire’s flames, looking straight into Rob, and he could feel the intensity of them more than the fire burning around him.  They reached into his head, burning in his mind.  Rob had to close his eyes; the pain was excruciating.

“Kill them all, kill them all and make the pain go away.  KILL THEM ALL and make the pain go away.  KILL THEM ALL AND MAKE THE PAIN GO AWAY!”  The voice inside Rob’s head spoke directly to him.  It was a dry rasp, pushing at his skull and his head felt like it was exploding.

And then the pain was gone.

The heat and the smoke disappeared.

He could breathe the air again, and he took it in, in large gasps, trying to catch his breath.

He opened his eyes and found that he was no longer in the meth lab.  He was back in his house, back in Jake’s room.

He looked around, and saw Jake in his bed, his throat cut.  Blood was throughout the room, covering everything.  The bed was a red mess with a puddle at its center.  On the wall, written in blood was, “Kill them all and make the pain go away.”  It was written on every wall, throughout the room.  It repeated, both in large and small lettering.  The only place untouched was the mirror on top of Jake’s dresser; not a drop marred its surface.

Rob heard a scream pierce the silence, waking him from his shock filled daze.  He turned to find Robyn behind him, her face pale and ghostlike.  She stood, in the hallway, staring first into Jake’s room, and then at Rob.  Her eyes reflected something he had never seen before. She looked at him, truly terrified.  She shook her head, whispering “no” as she slowly backed away toward the stairway.  Rob reached out to grab her, to catch her before she fell down the stairs.  He reached to pull her to him, to comfort her, to save her, but stopped dead, when he saw his hands.

In Rob’s right hand, he saw the knife, a large butcher knife, covered in blood.  Both of his hands were covered as well, and when he looked down at his clothes, he discovered they were completely drenched in it.

He looked up in shock, and saw the horror in Robyn’s eyes as she looked at him.  She continued to back away from him though he tried again to reach out to her.

Then suddenly, without even knowing what he was doing, he lunged, plunging the knife deep into Robyn’s stomach.  The shock in her eyes turned to horror as she looked down at the knife.  She looked back up at Rob as the pain reached her, and slumped against him.

Slowly she fell to the floor, sliding off the knife as Rob stood frozen in place.

Rob turned to look at the mirror, at the skull faced man who stood where Rob‘s reflection should have been.  .  He was there, holding the knife, and he was laughing.