Saturday, September 30, 2017
The Watchful Eye
HOTOVI INC., was one of the largest medical research and pharmaceutical companies in the world. But the glass building, consisting of 36 floors, was anything but fragile. It housed genetic research labs, testing facilities, as well as an HR, accounting, legal and IT department. But it also contained a quarantine zone on the 15th floor, which held some of the deadliest pathogens in the world and only a select number of scientists had access to that area.
It was in this isolated testing area that a Garrison prisoner, who had been known as Hanu in his former life, was strapped to a gurney while scientists conducted a top secret genetic experiment, which if successful, would mean the annihilation of his entire resistance movement.
At the very center of the building was the executive office of Elaina Hayes, who sat on a crest back designed throne behind a mahogany desk. She was in essence the cold beating heart of Hotovi Inc.
From here, she coordinated her staff as well as the network of moles that took years to create. There was a flat screen monitor the size of a wall, a few feet in front of her desk. The monitor was digitally split into several screens and they displayed key locations of the city that offered strategic interest to both herself and the Coalition.
She had been busy typing up an email on her desktop computer when her secretary called in on the intercom and announced the arrival of her son. Elaina loved Kayden dearly, but she had become quite flustered by the Coalition’s failure to acquire the location of Joshua Westcrow and the founding members of the resistance movement within the tribe. Although she hated the Taulsekans in general, it was Inteus Westcrow and his followers who were responsible for the death of her beloved husband. Now that Inteus was dead, she intended to seek revenge against his children, but she never anticipated that her idiot son would fall in love with one of them.
Elaina ran her fingers through her dyed light blonde hairdo, which fell just below the jaw line and included shorter fringes around the face and side-swept bangs, just as Kayden walked in.
“Mother,” he said, with nervousness in his tone even as she got up to greet him with a kiss.
She stood with certitude, despite the fact that Kayden was about a foot and half taller than she was. Her prominent chin was raised as she looked into her son’s hazel eyes.
She smiled slightly and said, “You have your father’s eyes.” As he relaxed and smiled, she pointed to the seat on the other side of her desk and said, “Come. Have a seat and tell me what brought you here.”
He sat and waited for his mother to take her seat in her corporate throne before explaining the purpose of his visit.
“There’s a woman at the police station who’s been investigating us, me especially. You might remember her.”
“Captain Covington,” Elaina declared, and it seemed to amaze her son. “You seem surprised. I thought that you would have realized by now that I know everything,” she said, pointing a finger towards her multi-screen wall monitor behind him. “My window to the universe, as I like to call it, shows me everything I need to know, and even things that my son keeps from me.”
“Such as?” Kayden asked, as if daring her to tell him.
“Such as… the location of one of our targets, Alex Westcrow.”
Kayden’s eyes widened with terror. He knew the danger that Alex faced now that his mother knew where he was. Oh God, he thought.
“How long have you known?”
She smirked and replied, “The cameras inside Saint Matthew’s Memorial Hospital showed me. Then of course, there’s my mole or have you forgotten that I own that hospital?” The desperation in her son’s eyes bothered her because she would ultimately have to send someone to exterminate Alex Westcrow. But she also knew what it would do to her son and hurting him was the last thing she wanted.
“He’s a Westcrow, Kayden. You know what has to be done,” she said forcefully, but not without sympathy in her voice.
Kayden was in tears. “He is nothing like Inteus or his brother, Joshua. Even as a child, he opposed his father’s xenophobic views. It’s why Inteus would repeatedly whip him with his belt. It’s why he ran into my arms every chance he got… so that I would keep him safe.” He walked over and knelt next to his mother in sheer panic. Then he grabbed her hands, kissed them and pleaded for his lover’s life. “He was the only good thing I had after you left the tribe. I never would have survived the loneliness without him and it’s been the sheer hope of reuniting with him someday that has kept me going. Don’t take that away from me!”
She swept her hand across the side of his face tenderly and shook her head. “Oh my son, he’s too close to all of this. If he were to get wind of what we’re trying to do and how we plan to exterminate his father’s followers, he’ll try and stop us. It’s in his nature.”
Kayden continued to beg even as tears ran down his face. “I can take him away from here. He and I will go to New York, thousands of miles away from all of this. I’ve already put the idea in his head. By the time you exact your revenge, there won’t be anything he can do about it. Mother, please.”
Elaina seemed reluctant, but the pain in her son’s eyes forced her to reconsider killing Alex Westcrow, despite her better judgment.
“Alright. I’ll spare him.” Just as Kayden laughed with relief and happiness, she added, “But first there’s something you must do for me.”
“Name it,” he said with renewed loyalty.
“Go back to the Fort and take charge of the Coalition,” she said.
“But Ishara… she’s…”
“I don’t like the way she’s running things down there,” Elaina said curtly. “I need you to spearhead the search for the founders of the Garrison movement. The sooner we find Joshua Westcrow and the others, the sooner this will all be over. Then you can have that life you want in New York with your…” With distaste she finished saying, “… lover.”
Kayden nodded as he stood. “I won’t fail you. I promise.”
She smiled as her son was about to head for the door. Then she said, “I’m curious. Does Alex know the real reason you were in the tribe when he returned? Or does he think you’ve been living there all this time?” As he turned to face her with a pensive look, she added, “I wonder if he’d still be with you if he knew...(writer's note: Spoilers! ;-)”
Kayden was visibly disturbed by what she’d just said. “Why are you telling me this?” he asked.
She placed her elbows on the armrest of her throne and intertwined her fingers. “I merely want you to consider the possibility that what you want may not be possible to hold on to.”
Kayden gave her a nervous glance.
“You might be right, but I can’t give up on him.” Determined, he added, “I won’t.”
“Then go,” said Elaina. “And be careful.”
“What about Covington?”
She smirked and said, “I’ll take care of her.” Then she returned her attention to her computer terminal.
Kayden strutted out of his mother’s office, determined to complete his mission for the sake of his love.
Saturday, September 23, 2017
THE Garrison, a group of rebel insurgents from the Taulsekan Tribe, were told that the invasion of the white man’s world would be easy, but their leaders, Inteus and Joshua Westcrow were wrong.
The Coalition were unlike any foe they’d ever faced, and if angels did exist, then these were Angels of Death. In fact, they may very well have been the closest thing to pure evil in the world, and there was no way of stopping them.
All that the Garrison soldiers could do was fight the good fight until the Coalition troops exterminated every last one of them.
Then there would be no defense against the storm, and the Coalition would find their leaders and put an end to their cause forever.
IN the distance, down an unnamed street in Chester’s Field, the infrared detectors embedded in the Coalition’s helmet visors picked up the heat signatures of several potential targets.
There were two vehicles, and based on their silhouettes, they appeared to be pick-up trucks parked parallel to each other. The figures seemed to be loading and unloading wooden crates from one vehicle to another.
One of the crates fell and broke on impact as the three Coalition troops continued to monitor and advance stealthily towards the Garrison on foot.
NERENI was irritated! She had never been the kind of leader to lose her temper, but these weren’t regular circumstances. They were only a mile away from the nearest Garrison outpost.
It was the middle of the night, and the FBI, CIA, and even local law enforcement were looking for them. If that weren’t bad enough, the Coalition, an army with technologically enhanced, and seemingly impenetrable armor was hunting them down too.
The last thing they needed was an idiot like Butterfingers dropping a box of armaments on his foot. Of course that wasn’t his real name. It was more of a code name because he was clumsy as an ox.
“Will you be careful with that?” Nereni demanded in her native tongue.
Butterfingers just winked at her and picked up the crate. Idiot, she thought. He always tried putting the moves on her. Not that she could blame him. At 29, she was sexy as hell. Long black hair, brown eyes, and a great figure, her only regret was that she had to wear on a hideous camouflage jumpsuit whenever they were out on a mission.
She was about to tell him where to stick it when she noticed three pairs of boots augmented with an unusually ribbed armor. Nereni looked up, rather suddenly and saw three tall figures in full body armor standing in front of her.
She felt fear in the pit of her stomach at the sight of the Coalition Troops. But she fought her paralysis, leaned her head towards her people and announced, “We have company!”
Caught off guard, the others fumbled for the semi-automatics on their holsters, but no one opened fire.
The Coalition triad just stood there, quietly, faceless, terrifying.
“What do you want?” Nereni demanded.
“The location of your base,” said the Coalition team leader.
It was a man’s voice that responded, but it was masked behind some kind of speaker that made his voice sound cold and electronic.
She shook her head, took out a small black device from her right ear and showed it to her enemies. “You see this? I opened a channel to our outpost. They know you’re here. Kill us if you want. But there’ll be more of us in minutes and they will stop you.”
The body armored troops looked at each other as if conferring with one another, but she hadn’t heard anything that remotely sounded like voices coming from them. Then the Coalition team leader returned his attention to Nereni and said, “Your reinforcements aren’t coming. They’re dead already.”
In the background, she heard Butterfingers trying to reach their outpost through his earpiece, but no one seemed to be answering him back. It suddenly dawned on her that she, and her comrades might die tonight.
“Say we believed you,” Nereni challenged while trying to keep the shakiness out of her voice. “If you’ve killed them, then why were you asking about the location of our base?”
“You misunderstood,” said the man with the cold electronic voice. “We want the location of Joshua Westcrow and the other council members from your cause.”
She felt a chill run down her spine. It was a feeling that the other seven felt simultaneously. Then she straightened her shoulders with prideful defiance and said, “You’ll never find them.”
In response to her bravado, the Coalition team leader reached for the base of her chin and the back of her head. Then he swiftly snapped her neck with his own two hands.
“Nooooo!” Butterfingers shouted in anger.
But like a battle cry, it made the other Garrison soldiers grab their guns and even the AK47 rifles from one of the opened crates. Then they used the weapons to hammer the Coalition troops with bullets.
The troops were shoved back by the force of the multiple impacts, but they didn’t fall. The bullets hadn’t penetrated their armor either. They simply bounced off of them like they’d hit some invulnerable superhero in a comic book.
Then the stunned Garrison soldiers dove for cover behind the pickup trucks as the Coalition troops grabbed their weapons and began firing.
Butterfingers was the first to get hit by a bullet square in the back. He squirmed, which meant that he was still alive... for now.
The Coalition troops watched as three of their targets tried retrieving their wounded comrade, which was exactly what they were counting on. Within seconds, the micro detonator within the bullet went off, taking Butterfingers and his three friends with it.
Now the Coalition went after the remaining Garrison soldiers who tried to flee on foot, until they met the same explosive fate as the others.
The area, which had been like a noisy warzone only moments earlier, was now silent. The Coalition troops used the infrared scanners on their helmet visors to detect any other heat signatures other than their own.
There were none.
So they walked back to their motorcycles, hopped on and sped off, peeling rubber on the pavement as they accelerated towards their next target.
Buy Hunter's Vendetta: Shockwave on Amazon.com to find out what happens next.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
You can get it here: https://goo.gl/bEzn7d
I'll also be posting one or two sample chapters to entice you! So be on the lookout and enjoy!
Thursday, April 20, 2017
THE COAL burned bright red in the fire pit at the center of the antechamber. The flames kept the interior lit with an eerie orange shimmer, which were reflected on the walls. Smoke escaped through a narrow hole in the clay roof above them. Alex sat with his legs crisscrossed near the fire. His hands were planted firmly on the sandy ground. From there he watched impatiently as his grandfather walked clockwise around the room pouring cornmeal from a velvet bag. He kept chanting mystical words in his native language until the circle he made had completely enclosed them both.
Then Alokai put the bag down on the ground and sat beside him. He took out an ugly mush-room colored root with thin tendrils from his pocket and offered it to Alex.
“What’s this for?” Alex asked.
“It’s a Makta herb which our people cultivate for the purpose of this ceremony. It will help you to find the answers you need.”
Alex’s eyes watered. “What’s this going to do for me? Give me a vision? Will it help me find the killer? Will it give me the chance to make peace with my father’s spirit?”
Alokai calmly replied, “Perhaps and more.”
“No, it won’t,” said Alex. Defiantly, he stood up and spoke as his grandfather looked up at him. “I don’t believe in any of this stuff. What I need are answers! Who killed my father? Why did he do it?” Then Alex shouted, his fist shaking in the air, “Where is he hiding so I can find him and kill him?!”
“Sit down!” Alokai ordered but his grandson did not comply. “Please,” he begged.
Reluctantly, Alex sat down again.
Alokai stared into the fire. He was disturbed by the rage he saw in him. “Alex, there is a terrible battle ahead of you. It is one that I have seen in my visions much to my horror.” He sank his head down for a moment to try to push the images from his mind. “It started with your father’s death. Now events have gone into motion. You must arm yourself with knowledge.”
Alokai’s words left Alex paralyzed with fear. A battle… The gunfire and explosions in my nightmares, he thought to himself. But they’re just dreams! Nothing more! “What caused this?” he asked alarmed.
“Your father did,” said Alokai.
There was distress in Alex’s eyes as he asked, “My father caused this?” He shook his head and said, “No! That’s not true. It can’t be. He was just angry and misguided.”
“It takes only a moment,” said Alokai. “A single act and the loss of a single life can irreparably alter one’s destiny and those of others.”
“Grandpa, you’re scaring me. I need to know more.”
“Take the Makta herb and you will find all the answers you seek.”
Alex could smell the stench of ten-day-old cow manure coming from the Makta herb. He cringed at the notion of eating that nasty little root. He took it from his grandfather’s hand and placed it in his mouth. The bitterness that poisoned his gums, tongue and throat was nearly intolerable. It took a great deal of effort to continue chewing on it. His stomach contracted a few times and he thought he was going to heave. Then the nausea went away and was replaced by a feeling of increasing warmth. The fact that the temperature in the antechamber was already hot and humid didn’t help matters either. Sweat burst though the pores of his forehead and neck. His heart began to pound fiercely in his chest. The room began to spin. Alex’s breathing grew heavy and his temples tingled and pulsed.
He gasped. He wanted to call for help but he had no strength left to talk. Alex shut his eyes as they rolled to the back of his head. He laid back against the earth in resignation and waited for the disorientation to pass.
Then, as quickly as the maddening symptoms had started, they ceased. The heat was gone. No more dizziness. No more pain in his temples. Alex let out a huge sigh of relief and allowed his eyes to open.
“Grandpa?” he called to him, but the old man never replied. He tilted his head to both sides, thinking he’d focus on the humid walls of the antechamber, but they weren’t there, neither was Alokai. Everything was replaced with a white cool mist and darkness. He looked up, expecting to see the antechamber’s smoke hole, but instead he saw hundreds of intertwining leafless branches. The wind made it look like the trees surrounding him were about to swoop down and claw him to death.
It took some effort, but he managed to sit up planting both hands on the ground to support his upper body. The soil felt like desert sand under his palms and fingers. Alex rose to his feet and looked around for anything that could tell him where he was. Ahead of him were mazes of dried lifeless tree trunks that seemed to extend into virtual darkness. He turned around and saw an eerie purple sky swirling with swiftly moving white clouds. Lightning flashed and illuminated the earth. In that brief moment, Alex saw a cornfield in the distance. Beyond that, his family’s home looked so tiny. Alex gasped, realizing he was standing at the mouth of the Void.
He heard whispers coming from within the abyss. He turned around. There was an almost painful sensation to the fear that crept up his skin.
“Hello?” he called.
And from the multitude of growing whispers, a single voice, one that he immediately re-cognized, called to him.
Without warning, a tendril from within the darkness whipped towards Alex and wrapped itself around his right leg. Horrified, he planted his fingers into the soil to try to keep himself from getting pulled in, but it was no use. His fingernails were nearly ripped apart as the tendril dragged him deeper into the Void at heart pounding speeds. His body repeatedly slammed against the unforgiving terrain. His skull was about to split open from the continuous pounding abuse. His chest and back burned considerably from the friction, but the force doing this to him had no mercy. The desperation was slowly driving Alex to the point of madness as he let out an agonizing scream.
Then suddenly, the tendril released its hold on him.
Alex crashed against a tree trunk. He was dazed. His shirt was tattered and bloody. He felt terrible pressure whenever he took a breath, and when he coughed, the pain in his lungs was excruciating. Blood oozed out of his mouth and onto the ground. He didn’t think it would stop. He was convinced he was going to die here, alone. Then the coughing and gagging stopped, much to his relief.
He tried to stand. There was a sharp pain coming from his knees. He looked down at them. Blood seeped through the fabric of his jeans. His eyes welled as he took one painful step after another. Alex breathed deeply and tried to ignore the pain. His entire body trembled.
His pony tail band suddenly snapped and his long, dirt-soiled hair started to rest on his shoulders. The wind kept sending strands into his face. Alex swept his hair back behind his ears and noticed, much to his horror, that his fingertips were moistened with blood. He touched his fore-head and felt a sting from yet another wound. He wanted to call for help but he was alone in this desolate realm.
He looked around at the millions of dried logs and towering dead trees that seemed to touch the turbulent atmosphere. There was no beauty or life as far as the eye could see. Alex lifted his head upward with great effort, and at that exact moment, an intense brilliant light streaked across the sky. His eyes involuntarily closed. A second later, there was an incredible crashing roar. He cupped his ears in agony. The sound nearly deafened him.
When Alex opened his eyes, he was startled to find a trembling old man, clothed in traditional Taulsekan garbs, crouched by his feet. His wrinkled old eyes were shut tight as he whimpered in pain. Alex tried to ignore his own pain and knelt down. He tapped the poor soul on the shoulder and when his eyes opened, they were filled with fear and more. The old man recognized him, but more surprisingly was the fact that Alex recognized him.
“Dad?” he exclaimed.
Alex couldn’t believe it. His father was there, with him, alive, but scared to death. It looked like he was trying to talk to Alex, but all he could do was whimper like a frightened puppy.
The old man’s face, chest and back had the same injuries that his son had sustained. His clothes were smeared with mud and he was lying in a pool of his own blood. Alex fought hard to ignore the regurgitating sensation in his stomach and the anger in his heart.
Through teary eyes, Alex asked, “Who did this to you?”
The old man did not respond. Instead, he shut his eyes and retreated into the numbing darkness of his mind.
“Dad! It’s me, your son. Talk to me, please.”
As Alex burst into tears, someone else spoke.
“He’s too far gone.”
The voice was male, but hollow like an echo.
Alex looked around, startled. Someone was out there in the woods watching him, but he couldn’t see who it was in the dark, not at first anyway. Then, in the distance, between two trees, he saw a silhouette of a man standing in a white misty background. Behind him, another silhouette, not fully defined but feminine. His father became agitated by their presence. Alex stood up too quickly. His knees thanked him with more stabbing pain. He began to limp towards the strangers in a very confrontational way, but as he got closer, the silhouettes vanished. He looked around. The shadows reappeared somewhere else and further away this time.
“Did you do this to him?” Alex asked loudly. “Did you murder my father?”
The silhouettes did not respond.
“Tell me!” demanded Alex. Then angrily, he shouted, “Dammit! When I find you, I’ll kill you for this!”
As if responding to his threat, the environment around Alex took on a terrible change. Lightning and thunder crackled. The winds began to increase. His father opened his eyes, widened with terror. He managed to scream his son’s name one last time before a lightning strike enveloped him. Alex recoiled from the brightness. By the time he reopened his eyes, his father was gone. His entire face creased in anger and pain.
“No!” he screamed wildly.
Alex’s cries echoed through the Void, but no one could hear him. Suddenly, another root tendril snaked out of the abyss of dead trees. There was no warning as it wrapped itself around his legs and dragged him back the way he came at an alarming pace. Alex screamed as his body was battered harder and harder against the ground. It felt like a never ending roller coaster ride with saw blades cushioning each impact. Then, with no warning, the tendril flung Alex in-to the air and released him in mid-flight.
He slid face first onto a concrete floor. Staring at him were the rubber soles of a pair of black combat boots. He was dazed at first. The air rumbled with the sounds of armored trucks and motorcycles accompanied by explosions and gunfire. The battle, he thought. He tried to muster up enough strength in his crippled body to raise his head up and see what he was up against.
The ground was littered with the bodies of soldiers in heavy black armor and Taulsekan men and women. Alex saw that one of his people, a man with short hair was lying next to him. His lifeless brown eyes stared at Alex. His hand was still clutching to a grenade. Alex wasn’t sure how, but he knew that this grenade was meant for him. He struggled to move his arm and reach for it. There was a sharp pain in his lower abdomen. It was different from his other injuries. This felt more internal as if he had been stabbed. Alex began to cough again. More blood oozed out.
“It didn’t have to be like this,” said a voice from someone standing behind him, getting ready to grab him. It was the voice of one of the silhouettes, but there was something else, some-thing vaguely familiar about the intonation that wasn’t there when he heard it in the Void. He tried to turn around to see the identity of the killer, but darkness fell upon Alex.
So close, he thought to himself. I almost had him.
Buy Hunter's Vendetta: Silent Kill on Amazon.com or Lulu.com to find out what happens next. Then, buy the sequel, Hunter's Vendetta: Shockwave, currently available on Lulu.com. An Amazon purchase option will be available in a few weeks. Also, a preview of Shockwave's first chapter is coming real soon.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
FOR the past few nights, Alex Westcrow woke up screaming in terror. Last night had been no different. Cold sweat dripped from his long black hair, down his face, neck and chest. His moist tanned skin glimmered against the moon-light that beamed across his bedroom window. His breathing was heavy as though a part of his soul had remained stuck in the hellish nightmare he encountered night after night.
Each dream was the same. Alex was in-undated with images of a conflict that began with gunfire and ended with an explosion that killed all those he loved. The carnage haunted him even when he was awake. “They’re only dreams,” he told himself.
A part of him never truly believed that.
“Al, watch out!” Jason shouted.
His best friend’s urgent warning snapped Alex out of his thoughts just in time to see a deer walking straight into the path of his white Bronco. He made a hard swerve away from the narrow road and inadvertently headed onto the path of a nearby tree.
“Aw shit!” he cried as he tried to veer the vehicle away before impact.
The tires screeched against the rough gravel. Then, in a violent jolt, the front tire ripped itself apart and sent the Bronco on a tailspin. The vehicle stopped within a hairline of two huge trees and then tilted to the side slightly.
Smoke rose from the shredded wheel and silver axle.
Inside the Bronco, Alex’s head was pressed against the door’s window. Jason had been leaning over the dashboard when he suddenly sat up! He clasped the back of his neck and moaned from the sharp stabbing pain. Then, as he looked over towards Alex, he grew alarmed by his friend’s stillness.
“Al!” he called.
Jason shook Alex’s shoulder, but he didn’t wake up.
Jason stepped out of the Bronco and went around to open the driver’s side door. The hinges cracked but the door wouldn’t budge. Jason checked to see what was blocking the door. It was the metal frame above the tire, which was pressing against the hinges. Jason struggled frantically until he finally pulled the door open. Slowly and carefully, Jason held his friend in place with one hand until he had completely opened the door with the other.
Alex’s head slumped onto Jason’s shoulder, which made his heart pound with concern for his friend. He swept away the long strands of black hair from Alex’s forehead and checked for signs of injury. There weren’t any. Not even a bump on the forehead. He called his friend’s name a few times.
Then Alex opened his eyes.
With relief, Jason shouted, “Al, are you okay?”
Alex scrunched his forehead. The glaring sunlight in his eyes and the massive headache he had, made it painful to form words. So he nodded yes instead. Jason wasted no time helping him out of the vehicle. Alex tried to stand on his own, but his knees buckled. He leaned back against the Bronco for support and accidentally smacked his head with the frame of the door.
“Fuck!” Alex shouted. Still disoriented, he asked, “What the hell happened?”
Jason pointed to the axle.
“Aw man!” Alex groaned.
“Don’t worry, Al. Just rest here while I go change the tire.”
A sudden look of dread spread across Alex’s face.
“What’s wrong?” Jason asked.
Alex replied sheepishly, “I don’t have a spare tire.”
Jason ran his fingers tensely through his gel spiked hair. “Well, that’s just great! So how are we going to get to the reservation without a vehicle?”
Alex smirked and said, “We’re going hiking.”
Jason stared into what seemed to be an endless abyss at the center of the road. “How far are we from the tribe?”
“Well, if I remember correctly, we should be about ten miles away.” Before Jason could pro-test, Alex walked to the back of the Bronco and opened the rear door. He dug in and then grab-bed the backpacks. “Don’t worry, Chinaman! Native Americans have guided travelers for centuries. You’re lucky to have me as a friend.”
“Oh yeah?” asked Jason with a sarcastic tone. “Where was your keen sense of direction that time you got us lost while heading to the mall?”
Alex bolted out of the Bronco and threw the beige backpack in the air. It hit Jason right in the chest.
Jason gasped as he grabbed the bag before it fell on the ground. “Hey! A little warning would have been nice!”
Alex approached him, carrying his own backpack. He looked absolutely furious, and as he passed him, he pointed a finger at Jason and shouted, “Asshole!”
Jason was baffled. “What did I do now?”
Alex didn’t answer. So Jason caught up to him. He didn’t say anything to him right away either.
Twelve years ago, Alex had convinced him to cut class to go to the arcades at the Stonestown Galleria mall in San Francisco where they lived. Jason agreed to go. The mall wasn’t too far from Lowell High School where they attended. So Jason was a bit surprised that they had been walking for over two hours and had not gotten there yet. He suggested that they turn around or ask for directions, but Alex insisted that they were going the right way. It wasn’t until they had reached the Presidio that Alex was finally able to admit that they were lost. Jason had never allowed him to forget that day. After years of being teased about it, Alex finally forced his friend to let it go, which he had until today.
“Al, I’m sorry. It just slipped out.”
Alex kept on walking, but he slowed down long enough to tie his hair up in a ponytail. Then he stopped and turned to face Jason. “For the record, Chinaman, your sense of direction isn’t so fine tuned either.”
Jason gawked at him. “Name one time I ever got us lost!”
“The Grand Canyon.”
The men continued to argue as they walked through the road that led to the Taulsekan Tribe. They had no way of knowing that their intrusion, much like a stone tossed into a lake, sent an alarming ripple through nature that had alerted the inhabitants of their presence.
The heat was intense. It felt like 130 degrees even under the shade that the trees produced over the path. There wasn’t even a breeze blowing through. Their faces and shirts were sweaty and their legs tired from the long hike. Four hours had passed since they began their trek through the forest, but the reservation was nowhere in sight. The men knew that their chances of making it to the tribe before nightfall grew dim with each passing minute. Once the sunlight was gone, they’d be completely in the dark in a large, intimidating forest with little resources to survive.
Finally, Jason concluded, “We’re lost. Aren’t we?”
Alex stopped and turned. There was a look of resignation in his eyes as he admitted what his friend had already figured out. “Yeah. We are.”
“We shouldn’t have taken that shortcut through those trees. If we had stayed on the road we would have been there, Chief!”
Alex sighed. “It’s a dirt road, Jase, not the yellow brick road. We could have stayed on it and still gotten lost.” It didn’t take him long to realize how stupid that sounded. “Okay, I admit that we would probably be closer to the reservation if we had stayed on the road. But try not to be so pessimistic.”
Jason frowned. “I’m tired. I’m hungry. I’m dirty. So I can be pessimistic if I want to.”
“Stop being such a little bitch!” said Alex. He stretched his hands up to the sky where the tree tops acted like pillars. He pointed to the leaves and branches that blocked the diminishing sunlight and said, “Don’t you find the sunlight piercing through the trees beautiful? It’s almost like the leaves have their own natural glow.”
Jason rolled his almond-shaped eyes in irritation. “Staring at trees is all I’ve done for the past few hours. I’m tired of trees. I just want to take a nice shower, have a warm dinner and go to sleep. You think we might get that tonight?”
“I’m trying here,” said Alex as he checked the compass in his hand. “This damn thing isn’t working.” He made a 90-degree turn until he realized that the compass was useless. “Damn it!” He raised his arm back and hurled the object through some trees. It landed moments later in a bed of shrubs.
“Good distance,” Jason teased, but his friend didn’t say a word. His attention seemed to drift off somewhere in the distance. “Al? You okay?”
“Yeah,” he replied. His eyes still fixed on what he was originally looking at.
Jason walked up behind him and asked, “What’s up?”
Alex pointed to the shimmering reflecting surface of a nearby body of water. “We’re close. Let’s stop and rest by that lake first.”
Crisp, long grasses stuck to their blue jeans as they wearily walked through the trees and bushes. They finally arrived at the marshy ground that surrounded the broad lake.
A couple of wooden logs littered the shore. Jason headed for one of them. His walk was that of a hundred-year-old man. He felt the blood rushing back into his legs as soon as he sat on the log.
Alex took a seat next to him. He bent down and squeezed his worn beige boots with one hand. “I must have over a million blisters on my feet.”
“You and me both,” said Jason.
Alex was parched so he slipped off his back-pack and looked for his water bottle. He couldn’t wait until he felt that refreshing gush of water soothe the dryness in his mouth. He took the cap off and pulled his head back to take a sip. Nothing came out of the bottle except for two drops.
“Shit!” he screamed.
Jason laughed. “Relax. You’ve got a lake full of water in front of you.”
The concept made Alex nauseous. “Are you kidding me? Think of all the animals that took a shit in that lake!”
Jason cringed. “I could have done without that bit of tourist info.”
“I’d rather drink water in Mexico.”
“Take my water bottle,” Jason offered. “Go on. I drank from it a while back. I’m not thirsty.”
“What are friends for?” Jason asked rhetorically.
“Who the hell knows?” Alex replied anyway.
Jason frowned while Alex loosened the straps on his backpack and dug his hand in to find the water bottle. Alex finally grabbed it, unscrewed the lid and gulped down what was left of the water.
Then Jason stood up and began to walk to-wards the edge of the lake. There was beauty as far as the eye could see. The mountains in the horizon dwarfed the labyrinth of trees that surrounded the lake. He took in a deep breath and allowed a welcoming breeze to caress his face.
“This place is so serene,” said Jason. Then suddenly, he had a realization. “Wait a minute!” he said to Alex. “This lake wouldn’t happen to be where you and your childhood crush did the nasty, would it?”
Alex simply smirked.
“Ugh!” Jason recoiled in disgust. “Now I see why you don’t want to drink from there.”
For a moment, Alex felt the present fall away, and in its place, two young lovers made out at the center of the lake. An ocean of sadness overwhelmed him as he recalled the last time he had been with Kayden.
AT the center of the crystal clear lake, two lovers stood together for the last time. The sky above them was slowly turning orange as the sun began to set beyond the mountains in the horizon.
For the last twelve months, eighteen-year-old Kayden Hayes and his lover Alex Westcrow, who was a year younger than him, had secretly pursued a relationship, but that was about to end, and it was all Inteus Westcrow’s fault.
Unfortunately for Alex, Inteus was his father.
Inteus was considered an insurgent and before long, his activities caught the tribal council’s attention. His wife, Alex’s mother, feared for the safety of her children and decided to leave the tribe as soon as her divorce from Inteus was finalized.
There wasn’t much time left. Twenty four little hours just weren’t enough to say goodbye. Kayden rocked Alex soothingly in his toned arms as he tried to keep himself from crying. The thought of never holding him again was impossible to fathom.
“I’ll miss you,” Alex whimpered. His head remained pressed against his lover’s chest, which was white as a ghost with just a hint of tiny blonde hairs.
Don’t cry, Kayden thought to himself as he said, “I’ll come visit you in San Francisco just as soon as I can.”
Alex’s puppy dog brown eyes locked with Kayden’s beautiful hazel eyes. “How will you get there without a car?” he asked innocently.
Kayden’s lips parted with a smile. “I’ll find a way,” he promised while passing his fingers across Alex’s tanned forehead. Then he stuck his hand underwater and brought Alex’s hand to the surface. Kayden removed the silver ring with the Mobius emblem, a symbol of eternity, from his finger and placed it on Alex’s ring finger.
“As long as you wear this, I’ll always be with you.”
Once again Alex leaned his head against his lover’s chest and cried. “I don’t want to go.”
“Alex,” Kayden started to say, but he choked with emotion. Fuck, he thought and then he began to cry too.
“AL, are you okay?”
And just like that, Alex snapped out of his memory and saw that Jason had sat back down next to him on the log. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he answered as he blinked the tears away.
Jason kindly offered his friend some reassurance. “Maybe you’ll run into him.”
“I doubt that,” said Alex. “He hated the tribe. He probably left years ago.”
“You never know.”
Alex smiled. “If he is here he shouldn’t be too difficult to find.”
“Well, because he’s the only one in the tribe that looks like a white man.”
“What? You never told me he was…” Jason was suddenly interrupted by a crunching sound coming from the woods behind them. He turned his head back. His eyes searched the woods for another traveler, a Native American, or an animal, but the sunlight was almost gone. It was difficult to see through the thick trees, but the noises continued. “There it is again. It sounded like footsteps.”
Alex strained to hear the noise. “I don’t hear anything,” he said.
Jason stood up, moving his head from left to right as his eyes continued to search for the source of the noise. Then, he turned back to his friend with a perplexed look and said, “I know I heard something out there.”
Alex looked skeptical. “Don’t get paranoid on me, Chinaman.”
“I’m not!” Jason shouted. “There’s someone out there.”
“Well maybe it’s a deer or a bear.”
“Maybe we should get out of here,” Jason suggested. “I’m not looking forward to be-coming snack food for a bear.”
Alex protested. “Look at you! You're a 2nd degree black belt and a Kung-Fu Instructor! Why are you acting like a pussy over a wild animal?”
Jason slapped the back of his friend’s neck with the palm of his hand.
Alex reacted. “Hey! What‘s your problem?” A few strands of hair loosened from the elastic band holding his ponytail together. He was compulsive about keeping his hair neatly tied back. He stood up and was ready to tackle Jason. Then he heard the sound of footsteps invading the marshy ground.
Jason tensed. “I’m guessing you heard it this time.”
As the duo took a cautious step towards the woods, a group of shadowy forms emerged from behind the trees. The shapes weren’t fully defined, but they looked like people and they were multiplying.
“Shit! How many of them are there?” Jason asked.
“Don’t know. Don’t care. Let’s just get out of here.”
They began to walk to the left, parallel to the lake’s shore, but the forms followed, never once leaving the camouflage of the trees to reveal themselves. Then Jason and Alex changed directions, walking the opposite way, but the shadow figures followed.
Angrily, Jason took a few steps forward.
Stunned by his friend’s action, Alex asked, “What are you doing, Jase?”
Jason signaled his friend to stay behind him. Then to the strangers, he shouted, “We see you! We know you see us! We don’t want any trouble! So show yourselves and state your business or be on your way!”
No one moved or made a sound for six long seconds. Then, the shadows marched towards them. There was no time to react and nothing Jason or Alex could do. They were surrounded and there was no way out!