Taking care of you

I have found that the best way to begin to put control back into the things you do is to just do it. I know that sounds like I am making a joke of it, making it sound easy to do, but I am not. What I am saying is that it is often our own fault that we don’t make changes and allow the circumstances we are in to become our prison and to hold and control us.

I think the first thing to do is determine exactly what the problem is. Sometimes it isn’t so straight forward as it seems. You might say … “Well, I want to lose weight.” That’s it. Nothing more, but that is not really the problem itself, it is more like a solution to some other problem. Some other underlying thing that has you upset or depressed enough to start looking for solutions that may or may not solve the problem.

There are reasons to lose weight. Reasons that are serious and shouldn’t be ignored. As a nation we are overweight, we all know that, read or hear about it almost daily in social and news media. Heart Disease, Diabetes and a host of other medical problems are waiting to kick the crap out of our bodies if we don’t get them into shape. And if the reason you are going to lose weight is right there then you need to start reinforcing it in your head. You need to remind yourself daily that being overweight could kill you. Take you away from those that you love. That should be a strong motivator, but it isn’t always. And it isn’t always because very often the reasons behind wanting to lose weight have nothing at all to do with needing to lose weight.

Where does it come from: Weight gain is genetic to a degree, and evolutionary and biological on the other side. Social pressure also comes into play.

Genetics: Sometimes, for some people, there is a gap between what they eat and someone else eats and how that weight ends up on their body and doesn’t seem to on the other person. But maybe that simply isn’t true. In other words, for men and women, self worth is tied up in the way we view ourselves. Maybe to you I don’t look bad at all, but to me I’m a mess. Too heavy. Unattractive, and the list begins and goes from there.

The problem is that all of those pronouncements we make on ourselves and our bodies gets tied up in the judgments we are making about ourselves, our self worth. It isn’t necessarily true at all. It may be you could weigh yourself and that other person, who seems to be having an easier time than you are, and find there is no difference, maybe you would find there is. Whatever you do find, there are ways to deal with it. For some genetics may play a role. For some it is a simple matter of firing up their metabolism, eating less, being more active, but the fact that we tie it all up with our self worth makes it nearly impossible to get to the truth of it.

Evolution: I will say first that I am a christian, I am not knocking God or anything else, and I realize that evolution doesn’t exist for some people. Something some scientific types made up. So, possibly you may want to take a different view of it. Let’s call it pre-history. When you read the old testament you read about people living in caves. Being nomadic. They certainly didn’t have a 7 11 down the road or a supermarket. We lived a different kind of life. And because of that our bodies developed the ability to store fat for long periods of time and then release it when we need it. That worked pretty well. There were no super models or social pressures working at us to be skinny. I can not imagine a Cave Woman getting up and saying … “Dam, Trog! Does my butt look too big?” I’m sure she could have cared less and I’m sure Trog could have cared less. So we have this evolutionary thing. We store fat because our bodies think we may need it. Maybe in a few thousand years, if the human race lasts that long, we will breed that right out of ourselves. Of course if we did and then some world wide catastrophe occurred we would be done for. So, maybe we won’t lose that ability. Either way it is there. It’s a biological fact, and we have to acknowledge it as such.

Social: This is where it gets tricky. Are you fat? Or is someone making you feel like you are fat? Good question. Sometimes people make us feel that way because they want to put us in a little perfect mold that they created for us. It has nothing at all to do with us, it has to do with their own unhappiness. Unfortunately for us, that makes little difference. It hurts us and we react by saying we will get with the program and make ourselves into that person that this other person wants us to be. Never mind what we think. That isn’t important. Look at TV, the internet. Look at all of the skinny women and muscled men! That must be the way it is supposed to be.

Bull. It is something we tell ourselves and we even get to a place where we believe it is our own idea to look a certain way, and completely forget we are being manipulated by society or even our own loved ones. You are the only one that can look at this critically and make a decision about what you are doing or why. I would just say be honest with yourselves.

The problem with this societal pressure is that it gets completely tied up with our self worth, and that is also evolutionary. I suppose that the first person with blue eyes must have been looked at strangely. Or blonde hair. But if you turn on your television and look at a movie from the seventies, or sixties you will see women that had little bellies. What? My God! How could they! And, the men were not all cut up and heavily muscled either. That is what society was given as the model for man and woman. And that was that. Now you have Super Models who have about a 4 percent body fat content and therefore no belly, no hips, no too large butt, and they look great in those designer jeans and pretty soon the youth of society decides that is the look right there.

And that’s great when you are 15 or 19 or even into your very early 20’s but there comes a time where your body changes and in order to keep that look you will either have to become a gym rat or slip into some bad stuff to maintain that look. Bulimia, Anorexia, drug use, or maybe you will just sink into a deep depression and stay there. To Hell with the world I can’t be what they want so I quit.

And of course that is the problem. The real problem. Are you fat? Or, are you trying to be what you think societies idea of what you should be is?

Losing weight: The fact is that if you eat less calories than what you burn you will lose weight. If you do some sort of exercise everyday that will burn calories. Those two things are absolutes and do not change or bend to social pressure. So make sure you are doing this for the right reasons and then go from there. Set up a daily exercise routine. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or long, it only needs to be something you do on a daily basis. I would aim for a half hour at first just to get you started. What that will do is two things. First, it will kick start your metabolism. That is a big deal because that will determine what your body needs for calories, and you want that number to be high. The second thing this will do is what all physical exercise does, release endorphins.

Endorphins are designed to make you feel good. It is your bodies own little reward for doing well. It can help your mental attitude, change your physiology and help you to start to look at things differently. I have done this myself and it makes a huge difference in the first few weeks. It doesn’t immediately kick the weight loss into gear, but that does come along on it’s own.

Be Reasonable: Come back to self worth. How much is for you and how much is for that guy or girl that is unhappy with the way you are? Or is it just some unreasonable idea you have built in your mind and come to believe that you must attain? In my experience it is some of each. There is social pressure and even pressure from your significant other or even friends that are close to you. Society, or our own wishes sometime put us in these boxes and it is tough to get out of that. So be reasonable and have an honest conversation with yourself. Am I doing this because I want to? Or because I need to? Or am I pretty much happy with myself and others are making me feel as though I need to do this? Are you beautiful? When you think of yourself is that what you think or do you think you are ugly? You might be surprised at the answer, and not just women, but also men. We have our own warped view of what we are and how we stack up too.

I had a straight forward conversation with myself many years ago. This is what I decided:

One:  I am not the greatest looking man in the world but I’m not the worse. There is nothing I can do, that will be lasting, to attract a woman to me. Sure, I can change the way I dress, adjust my work schedule, smile more, yes, and even lose weight, become someone I am uncomfortable with and maybe that will attract more women to me. But I can not sustain it, so I should not entertain it because it will put too much pressure on me. Besides, do I really want to be with someone that is strictly interested in looks? Do I want to play that game? Share my life with someone I am really not compatible with at all? No.

Two: What do I really want? What is it that will make me happy in a partner? Should they be involved in the same social things I am involved in? Church? Bowling? Macrame? Writing? Yes. Incompatibility is something that I also can not sustain. It doesn’t mean we have to match in every area but enough so that I can compromise on the things that remain.

Three: Do I need a partner? Do I need someone that tells me how I should look? Act? What I should wear? What I should feel? How much I should weigh? And, maybe they don’t say these things with their words, maybe they only say them with their actions. I decided no. I don’t need that. I need someone that supports and encourages me.

Four: What does this have to do with losing weight? Dieting? … Everything. It comes right back to self worth. And maybe you are putting these pressures on yourself. Maybe your partner/friends are happy with you the way you are. Maybe it is you that has an unhealthy image of what you should be. But, I would bet that image was begun and fostered by the way men and women in your life treated you and the supposed societal norms you saw on TV.

That brings me full circle. Self worth. Love yourself and who you are. That isn’t just words. If you can do that it really doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say about it at all. You can allow that negativity to skip right over your head. It becomes meaningless. You cause it to lose it’s power, and that means you have that power now. So sit down and have that conversation with yourself. Take it from there.

From There: Set aside that time everyday that you need for you. Maybe it is first thing in the morning, maybe last thing at night. I chose first thing in the morning because as a writer the day may take me anywhere. The first part of the morning is still somewhat under my control. I get up and I have an hour set aside for me. Half of that is Oh My God I need some Coffee, and the Other half is Okay, I’m awake let’s get some exercise in.

That amounts to whatever I want it to amount to. There was a time where I dd intense workouts every day, twice a day, and I am heading back toward that. But, for the last few years I have let myself go and so I need to get back to that place.

There is no one in my life so I do what I do for me, and I would suggest that is the best approach. I would suggest that because people can let you down. Sometimes purposely, sometimes not, but a let down is a let down and if you have your self worth and getting better tied up in another person that is a bad idea. Tie it up in you, YOU be responsible for you and what you want. Set goals. Be realistic, but do it for you.

If you have children it may be tough to get time, but if you have someone in your life that is a true partner and helper for you, you should be able to ask for that time and get it. After all, parenthood is no longer just a woman’s job.

If you can not get the time that way, take it later at night. That might seem counter productive, spending even more time running around, but exercise rids your body of many toxins, releases endorphins as we discussed, so it will have it’s benefits for you.

I guess that is it for my point of view. Start somewhere. Eat right. Take at look at your reasons and then sit down and have that honest talk with yourself. I think you can attain your goals if you truly want them. But, better yet, I think you can maintain them if you have put the work into you and know your true motivations. Lindsey…

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Hashima Island

In the James Bond movie Skyfall, the abandoned Japanese island of Hashima serves as the secret headquarters of the Bond villain played by Javier Bardem.

In reality the island serves as a sobering reminder of industrialization, war, and the human toll it can exact. At the turn of the 20th century, was a bustling coal-mining town owned by the Mitsubishi Corporation.

In the panoramic shot of Bond approaching Hashima by boat, it’s clear to see why this island in the middle of the ocean with high-rise buildings sprouting from it has been nick-named “Battleship Island”. In fact, the island was actually torpedoed during World War II by American submarines.

At the dawn of World War II the Japanese turned the island into a forced labor camp for Chinese and Korean prisoners.

Modern buildings made up of apartments as small as 10-square meters with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, continued to sprout across the tiny island. Soon Hashima (also known as Gunkanjima) had over 30 concrete residential blocks, 25 shops, a school, two swimming pools, a hospital and a graveyard.

Copyright belongs to Gunkanjima Concierge. We have been granted full permission to use all photographs per them as long as we courtesy them. They are from various years, no photographer name.

Hashima Island came about as a result of the country’s rapid industrialization. Once a thriving coal-mining town owned by Mitsubishi, eventually it became home to more than 5,000 employees and their families. From 1887, Mitsubishi mined coal from the sea floor under Hashima and at its peak was producing more than 400,000 tons in the early 1940’s.

Mitsubishi illegally forced Korean and Chinese prisoners to mine coal 600 meters below sea level between 1943 and 1945.

Some 500 Koreans and 200 Chinese were brought over on Mitsubishi-owned boats known as “Hell-ships” that transported prisoners to their assigned destinations for forced labor. It is believed over one hundred forced laborers at Hashima died on the island.

By 1959 the island had the highest population density on Earth (139,100 per square kilometer) and living conditions were horrible. To put it in perspective, Hong Kong’s population density was recorded at 6,782 people per square km in 2010. Hashima residents were literally living on top of each other in prison-like conditions. In 1974, after more than a century, Mitsubishi closed the mine. The company offered alternate jobs to a small fraction of people: Within weeks, the most densely populated place ever recorded on earth was completely deserted. Today the island is remains completely abandoned and has been for more than 38 years.

For many years, visitation to the island was forbidden, punishable by deportation from Japan. But in 2002, Swedish filmmaker Thomas Nordanstad visited the island with a Japanese man named Dotokou, who grew up on Hashima. The occasion marked the first time that Dotokou had been on the island as an adult, and his experience was nothing short of harrowing. Throughout his visit, the former Hashima resident found memories from his childhood; the decorations his mother hung on their apartment walls, and remembering a deceased friend with whom he grown up on the island and who had remained behind, buried in the island cemetery. Nordanstad documented the trip in a film called Hashima, Japan, 2002. in 2008, as interest in the mysterious island grew, it was proposed that Hashima be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has yet to be designated, possibly due to the protests of South Korean authorities, who object on the grounds of the suffering incurred by Korean forced laborers during the war. Remaining survivors today have yet to be compensated by the Japanese government or Mitsubishi.

In 2009, Hashima was allowed to be re-opened to the public and can now be visited by tour groups. Many areas are unsafe and restricted and tour guides keep a strict eye on the visitors they bring.

For this reason, some of the more risky action scenarios set on the island with Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem and the Skyfall cast were likely filmed on a re-created set at the famous Pinewood Studios: Even so, you can’t mistake the film’s shots of the real island.

YouTube Videos:

One: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5kmKO_gGsc

Two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9w8APSmaRg

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Earth’s Survivors book nine: Alabama Island

Earth’s Survivors: Alabama Island; Dell Sweet

Book Nine: Alabama Island. The second time the fires had been out. Heat still came from the blackened shells, but the fires were dead. The moon was high in the sky, bloated, bright silver…


Get it:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-alabama-island/id1366776806?mt=11

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America The Dead on Amazon for the Kindle

Collections (At this time)

America The Dead Survivor Stories Five #Kindle The city is a refuge… Until they try to leave it. The trucks stopped a half mile away, and for several minutes there was absolute silence, then the first shots came… #Apocalypse #Preppers  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D3D9Z2S

America The Dead Survivor Stories Four #Kindle There were thousands of the living camped out in the park. She could smell them. They believed they were safe in their numbers and for a time that had been true, but no more… #Zombie #Horror https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5QNOKY

America The Dead Survivor Stories Three #Kindle The outside. This place overwhelmed me, that and having to kill a man, but it was worse for those who stayed behind. If they had not stayed the rest of us would have died… #Horror #Survival https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5Q9W0A

America The Dead Survivor Stories Two #Kindle Parts of the projects are burning. Jersey is burning. The sky is red-orange, everything across the river is on fire. No one has come… #ApocalypticFiction #Horror  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5Q9S36

America The Dead Survivors Stories one #Kindle #Apocalypse: Those that survive pick up the pieces, those that have died lay in their death sleep, but in their bodies a virus is mutating, setting the stage for a second catastrophe far worse than the first.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5PM49W


Individual books (At this present time, more are coming)

America The Dead: Begins The End #Kindle There had been two significant earthquakes, The first time he had nearly wrecked the truck. The truck had stopped rocking and he had pulled back onto the road careful of all the new devastation… #Apocalypse #SciFi https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D3G5JLR

America The Dead: Los Angeles #Kindle They had finally been stopped by the wreckage of three cars that had collided on the Quachita river bridge on 270. Together they had pushed the cars off the bridge and into the river. #Apocalypse #Kindle  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D3G437B

America The Dead: Manhattan #Kindle The doorman, an elderly white haired man, had been dead, lying in the doorway preventing the door from closing and locking. The dead had killed him but not turned him. Or at least he had not turned yet.  #Zombies #Horror https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D3QYB91



 

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Earth’s Survivors on Smashwords

Earth’s Survivors

Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse 

Series: Earth’s Survivors · Free eBooks. Price: Free! Words: 65,740. Language: English.Published: January 30, 2015 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General,Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic

(4.00)

Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. A meteorite that was supposed to miss the earth completely, hits and becomes the cap to a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. Hopes, dreams, tomorrows: All buried in a desperate struggle to survive. Small groups band together for safety, leaving the ravaged cities behind in search of a new future…

Earth’s Survivors Rising From The Ashes 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 75,960. Language: English.Published: January 13, 2013 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead,Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Earth’s Survivors Rising From The Ashes continues to follow the survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule. The small groups are growing, branching out in search of a new future. It chronicles their day to day struggles as well as their dreams as they search out new hope in their shattered world…

Earth’s Survivors: The Nation 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 68,580. Language: English.Published: February 9, 2013 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic,Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
This part of the story really concentrates on the formation of The Nation and the people who will build it and carry it forward, but it also brings along the side story of The Fold and the people who will build that haven. It gives a more complete picture of Adam and Cammy, and picks up the Tale of Billy and Beth, Mike and Candace, Conner and Katie as they work to sort out their lives.

Earth’s Survivors: Home In The Valley 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 62,310. Language: English. Published: April 7, 2013 byindependAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » EpicFiction » Horror » General
Home in the valley concentrates on the building of the first and most important settlement of The Nation. The valley settlement is where the people that run the Nation will come from. They will rise to leadership positions across the former United States. The first supply trip out for the Nation nearly turns to disaster, and more of the separate parties join and become one under the Nation Flag.

Earth’s Survivors: Plague 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 85,040. Language: English.Published: September 1, 2015 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopiasFiction » Horror » Undead
Plague outlines the sudden rise of the dead, chronicling the spread across the country. It follows Adam, Beth, Billy and Pearl as they head north looking for an antidote that can bring the plagues to end. It also sees the first babies born to the Nation, the formation of both the Fold and Alabama Island, and the loss of one of the founders of The Nation without whom the Nation may dissolve…

Earth’s Survivors: Watertown 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 96,200. Language: English.Published: February 17, 2016 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » ApocalypticFiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Major Weston read the report twice and then carefully set it back on his desk. Johns or Kohlson: One of the two had stolen samples of SS-V2765. It was not a question. No one else had the access, no one else the proximity or knowledge of where it was stored. Two of the virus, one each of the REX agents were missing. Enough to infect several million people, and that was just the initial infection…

Earth’s Survivors: World Order 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 83,710. Language: English. Published: May 1, 2016 byindependAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic,Fiction » Horror » Undead
This book steps back to the beginning to bring you the story of the Fold. Jessie Stone, why and how Snoqualmie settlement came to be. It begins in present day and then falls back in time to the beginning of the Apocalypse. The Fold becomes the biggest challenger to the Nations power. The community that can force the Nation into compromise, or bring a war that may destroy both societies.

Earth’s Survivors Box Set 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 745,740. Language: English.Published: September 11, 2016 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » ApocalypticFiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
Earth’s Survivors box set contains the entire Earth’s Survivors series in one volume. All seven books in one collection. Follow the survivors as they struggle to survive in a vastly changed world, where the living are just as likely to kill you as the dead are.  The release of this box set puts the series to an end. I have enjoyed writing it, I hope you have enjoyed reading it, Dell Sweet.

Earth’s Survivors: Knock 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 96,350. Language: English.Published: January 17, 2017 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic,Fiction » Horror » Undead
Frank and Jessie: Even though there were very few stalled vehicles on the thruway, the going was still slow, and it was close to noon when they by-passed Buffalo, and began to skirt Lake Erie, heading for the Pennsylvania border. As they drove, the destruction that had been wrought upon the Earth became more and more evident…

Earth’s Survivors: Alabama Island 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 92,230. Language: English. Published: March 30, 2018by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » ApocalypticFiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
His left leg was bad. Not broken, but cut badly, maybe sprung, after all he had lain with it twisted to one side for what he assumed was a very long time. He used part of his shirt to wrap his leg as he let his head clear. His head was worse. Pain inside every time he tried to move too fast. It felt like liquid sloshing around inside his head, his brain shifting with it, slamming into the bone…

Earth’s Survivors: Zombie Fall 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 65,990. Language: English. Published: April 22, 2018by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic,Fiction » Horror » Undead
Being dead took the killer out of you, at least at first it did. But then it came back. You forgot all the little things of the old life. You nearly forgot your name: Where you had lived; what you had done. And then it changed. Every day you got a little more back. It wasn’t exactly a memory, like a memory would be in the old days, like a breather would have. It was more like found knowledge…

Earth’s Survivors: Los Angeles 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 80,410. Language: English. Published: June 25, 2018by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Horror » UndeadFiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
Across the United States the governments in cities, large and small have crumbled. The military has ceased to exist. There is no government that rules the people any longer. There are no laws and there is no one coming to set things right, because things are just as bad or worse around the world. All that remains of society are scattered groups searching for one another, for hope, for a future…

Earth’s Survivors: The Fold 

Series: Earth’s Survivors. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 91,310. Language: English. Published: June 25, 2018by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Horror » UndeadFiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
The story of Jessie Stone who goes on to form The Fold, a rival to the Nation. This story starts in the city of Watertown and tells the tale as Jessie leaves and makes her way across the country with others, looking for whatever might remain of society or the old government. More often than not she finds corruption and strife as she teams up with others to reach safety…

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The Zombie Plagues Collection One Kindle Edition by Dell Sweet (Author) 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

The Zombie Plagues Collection One Kindle Edition

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Settlement Earth from W. W. Watson with Lindsey Rivers

Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth


Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth: Book One 

Series: Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 62,840. Language: English.Published: September 22, 2013 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » ApocalypticFiction » Horror » Undead

(3.50)

“It will kill you well enough,” Alice said as if reading his thoughts. “It’s a bad world. You need another shooter. Who knows what you’re going to run into between here and there.” She paused and then nodded at the pistol. “You can see I’m resourceful.” She met Johnny’s eyes when they swung suddenly up to her own. “I’m not dangerous unless someone is trying to hurt me,” she finished quietly…

Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth: Book Two 

Series: Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth, Book 2. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 93,310. Language: English.Published: September 22, 2013 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic,Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
The air lock cycled on and six soldiers stepped into the hall like space that was actually just an airlock between the control room, the autopsy room, the former patient ward and the outside world. Johns tensed, waiting for the door to their space to cycle on, but it didn’t. “You think they will outright kill us,” Kohlson asked after a few long minutes of silence. “Gabe… I think they will…”

Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth: Book Three 

Series: Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth, Book 3. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 89,390. Language: English.Published: September 22, 2013 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic,Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
A thin line of blood ran away from the wrist that had been encircled by the tie. Whether from the sharp metal she had used to escape the zip-tie, or the zip-tie itself she could not tell. A few more seconds of careful rubbing with the sharp metal edge and the other plastic cuff fell to the floor. She stood and rubbed feeling back into her hands…

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The Rocket series from Dell Sweet


A new navigator, the beautiful Petra starts Mike thinking about Star Cruising. Maybe the next few flights for Star Dancer will be her last and he and Petra can set their sights on bigger adventures out beyond the stars… #SciFi #SpaceOpera #eBooks  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/rocket-9


Base One: The world did not end. We think so highly of ourselves that we believe that the end of society means the end of the world and I guess it did mean the end of the Earth for us… some of us, but the end of the world? No. #SciFi #eBook https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/base-one



 

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Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth

Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth

Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth: Book One 

Series: Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth, Book 1. You set the price! Words: 62,850. Language: English.Published: September 22, 2013 by independAntwriters Publishing.

“It will kill you well enough,” Alice said as if reading his thoughts. “It’s a bad world. You need another shooter. Who knows what you’re going to run into between here and there.” She paused and then nodded at the pistol. “You can see I’m resourceful.” She met Johnny’s eyes when they swung suddenly up to her own. “I’m not dangerous unless someone is trying to hurt me,” she finished quietly…


Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth: Book Two 

Series: Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 93,310. Language: English.Published: September 22, 2013 by independAntwriters Publishing.
The air lock cycled on and six soldiers stepped into the hall like space that was actually just an airlock between the control room, the autopsy room, the former patient ward and the outside world. Johns tensed, waiting for the door to their space to cycle on, but it didn’t. “You think they will outright kill us,” Kohlson asked after a few long minutes of silence. “Gabe… I think they will…”

Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth: Book Three 

Series: Earth’s Survivors Settlement Earth, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 89,390. Language: English.Published: September 22, 2013 by independAntwriters Publishing.
A thin line of blood ran away from the wrist that had been encircled by the tie. Whether from the sharp metal she had used to escape the zip-tie, or the zip-tie itself she could not tell. A few more seconds of careful rubbing with the sharp metal edge and the other plastic cuff fell to the floor. She stood and rubbed feeling back into her hands…



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America The Dead: Begins The End

America The Dead: Begins The End

…There had been two significant earthquakes, The first time he had nearly wrecked the truck. The truck had stopped rocking and he had pulled back onto the road careful of all the new devastation…

AMERICA THE DEAD: BEGINS THE END

America The Dead: Begins The End is copyright © 2010 Dell Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

This excerpt is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This excerpt may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this with another person, please point them to this blog. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2018 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.


Route 81 rest-stop

Watertown New York

April 20th

1:00 am

A black truck pulled into the rest stop and two men climbed out; walking toward the rest rooms that sat in from the road. Concrete bunker looking buildings that had been built back in the early seventies. They had been closed for several years now. In fact the Open soon sign was bolted to the front of the building; rust streaked the sign surface. It seemed like some sort of joke to Mike Bliss who used the rest stop as a place to do light duty drug deals. Nothing big, but still that depended on your idea of big. Certainly nothing over a few thousand dollars. That was his break off point. Any higher than that, he often joked, you would have to talk to someone in Columbia… Or maybe Mexico, he told himself now as he sat waiting in his Lexus, but it seemed that since Rich Dean had got himself dead the deals just seemed to be getting larger and larger. And who knew how much longer that might last. He watched the two men make a bee line for the old rest rooms.

“Idiots,” he muttered to himself. He pushed the button, waited for the window to come down, leaned out the window and yelled. “What are you, stupid? They’re closed.” He motioned with one hand. “You can’t read the fuckin’ sign or what?”

Both men stopped and looked from him to the sign.

“Yeah, closed. You can read right? Closed. That’s what it says. Been closed for years. Go on into Watertown; buy a fuckin’ burger or something. Only way you’re getting a bathroom at this time of the morning.” He had lowered his voice for the last as he pulled his head back into the car, and turned the heater up a notch. The electric motor whined as the window climbed in its track. He looked down at his wrist for the time, 1:02 A.M., where the fuck was this dude. He was late, granted a few minutes, but late was late.

A sharp rap on the glass startled him. He had been about to dig out his own supply, a little pick-me-up. He looked up to see the guys from the truck standing outside his window. “Oh… Fucking lovely,” he muttered. He pushed the button and the window lowered into the door, the motor whining loudly, the cold air blew in.

“And what can I do for you two gentlemen,” He asked in his best smart ass voice.

The one in back stepped forward into the light. Military type, Mike told himself. Older, maybe a noncom. A little gray at the edges of his buzz cut. With the military base so close there were soldiers everywhere, after all Watertown was a military town. It was why he was in the business he was in. It was also why he succeeded at it.

“Did you call me stupid,” The man asked in a polite tone.

“Who, me? No. I didn’t call you stupid, I asked, what are you, stupid? Different thing. The fuckin’ place is closed… Just doing my good deed for the day… Helping you, really, so you don’t waste no time,” Mike told him.

“Really?” The man asked.

Mike chuckled. “Yeah really, tough guy. Really. Now, I did my good deed, why don’t you get the fuck out of here ’cause you wore out your welcome.” He opened his coat slightly so they could see the chrome 9 mm that sat in its holster.

“Really,” the first guy repeated.

“Okay, who are you guys, frick and frack? A couple of fucking wannabees? Well I am the real deal, don’t make me stick this gun in your fuckin’ face,” Mike told them. He didn’t like being a dick, but sometimes you had to be.

“You know what my mother always said about guns?” The second guy asked.

“Well, since I don’t know your mama it’s hard to say,” Mike told him. He didn’t like the way these two were acting. They weren’t cops, he knew all the locals. If it had been someone he had to worry about he would have handled this completely differently. These guys were nobodies. At least nobodies to him, and that made them nobodies to Watertown. If he had to put a bullet in… His thoughts broke off abruptly as the barrel of what looked like a .45 was jammed into his nose. It came from nowhere. He sucked in a deep breath. He could taste blood in his mouth where the gun had smashed his upper lip against his teeth.

“She said don’t threaten to pull a gun, never. Just pull it.”

“Mama had a point,” Mike allowed. His voice was nasally due to the gun that was jammed hallway up to his brain. “Smart lady.”

“Very,” the man allowed. “Kind of a hard ass to grow up with, but she taught me well.” He looked down at Mike. “So listen, this is what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna drive out of here right the fuck now. And that’s going to stop me from pulling this trigger. Lucky day for you, I think. Like getting a Get Out Of Jail Free card, right.”

“This is my business spot… You don’t understand,” Mike told them. “I… I’m waiting for someone.”

“Not tonight, Michael.”

“Yeah, but you don’t.” He stopped. “How do you know my name?” he asked. There was more than a nasal quality to his voice, now there was real fear. Maybe they were Feds. Maybe.

“Yeah, we know you. And we know you use this spot as a place to do your business. And I’m saying we couldn’t care less, but right now you gotta go, and I’m not going to tell you the deal again. You can leave or stay, but you ain’t gonna like staying,” The guy told him.

Listen… This is my town… If you guys are Feds you can’t do shit like this… This is my town. You guys are just…

The guy pulled the trigger and Mike jumped. He fell to the right, across the front seat. Both men stepped away from the car, eyes scanning the lonely rest stop from end to end, but there was no one anywhere. The silence returned with a ringing in their ears from the blast as it had echoed back out of the closed car interior. The shooter worked his jaw for a moment, swallowing until his ears popped. He lifted his wrist to his mouth. “Guess you saw that,” he said quietly.

“Got a cleaner crew on the way up. You’ll pass them in the elevators. The boss is waiting on you guys.“ The voice came through the implant in his inner ear. No one heard what was said except him.

He nodded for the cameras that were picking him up. “In case you didn’t hear it, someone is supposed to meet him here so your cleaner crew could have company.”

“Got that too… We’ll handle it.” He nodded once more, and then walked off toward the rest rooms as the other man followed.

Once in back of the unit they used a key in the old rusted handset. It only looked old and rusty, it was actually an interface for a state of the art digital system that would read his body chemistry, heat, and more. The key had dozens of micro pulse sensor implants that made sure the user was human, transmitted heartbeat, body chemistry, it could even tell male from female and match chemical profiles to known examples in its database. Above and to the sides of them several scanners mapped their bodies to those same known profiles. Bone composition, old fractures, density and more. All unique in every man or women. The shooter removed the key and slipped it into his pocket. A few seconds later a deep whining of machinery reached their ears, the door shuddered in its frame, and then slipped down into a pocket below the doorway.

A second later they stepped into the gutted restroom. Stainless steel doors took up most of the room; the elevator to the base below. They waited for the cleaner crew to come up, then took the elevator back down into the depths.

~

The Bluechip facility stretched for more than five miles underground. Most of that was not finished space, most of that was connector tunnels, and storage space bored from the rock. The facility itself was about three thousand feet under the city of Watertown in a section of old caves that had been enlarged, concrete lined and reinforced. The rest area was one of several entrances that led into the complex. An old farm on the other side of Watertown, an abandoned factory in the industrial park west of the city and a few other places, including direct connections from secure buildings on the nearby base.

John Pauls and Sammy Black had Alpha clearance. Both were ex-military, but most likely military clearance was no longer a real matter of concern this late in the game, Sammy thought as they made their way down the wide hallway. The word coming down from those in the know was that in the next twenty-four hours the human race would come very close to ceasing to exist at all. No confirmation from anyone official, but regular programming was off air, the news stations were tracking a meteor that may or may not hit the Earth. The best opinions said it didn’t matter if it hit or not, it would be a close enough pass that there would be massive damage. Maybe the human race would be facing extinction. The government was strangely silent on the subject. And that had made him worry even more. The pass was estimated to be right over the tip of south America. So maybe formalities like Alpha clearance weren’t all that important any longer. If only Mike Bliss had given that some thought before he had pissed him off.

The halls were silent, nearly empty. Gloss white panels eight feet high framed it. It had always reminded Black of a maze with its twists and turns. Here and there doors hung open. Empty now. Always closed any other time he had been down here. So it had come this far too, Black thought. He stopped at a door that looked like any other door and a split second later the door rose into the ceiling and Major Weston waved them in.

Alice, he had never learned her last name, sat at her desk, her eyes on them as they walked past her. One hand rested on the butt of a matte black .45 caliber pistol in a webbed shoulder holster that was far from Army issue, and Sammy had no doubt she would shoot them both before they could even react. Alice was etched into one of those name pins that the Army seemed to like so well, but oddly, just Alice, no last name, rank or anything else. She wore no uniform, just a black coverall. The kind with the elastic ankle and wrist cuffs. No insignia there either. He had noticed that months before. Her eyes remained flat and expressionless as they passed her desk.

“Alice,” Sammy said politely. She said nothing at all, but she never did.

“Sit down, boys,” Major Weston told them. He spoke around the cigar in his mouth: Dead, but they always were, and there was never the smell of tobacco in the office. They took the two chairs that fronted the desk.

The Major was looking over a large monitor on the opposite wall that showed the north American continent. This map showed small areas of red, including the northern section where they were. The rest of the map was covered with green. “Where we are, and where we need to be,“ he said as he pushed a button on his desk. The monitor went blank. He turned to face the two.

“So here is where we are. You know, as does most of the world, that we are expecting a near miss from DX2379R later on tonight.” He held their eyes.

John shrugged. “I’ve been doing a little job, must have missed that. It’s not gonna take us out is it?”

“Saw that on the news a few days back. Guess we dodged a bad one,” Sammy said.

“Right… Right,” Weston said quietly. “But that cover was nothing but bullshit.”

“It’s going to hit us?” John asked.

“Maybe… The fact is that we don’t know. One group says this, another group says that, but it doesn’t matter because it will probably kill us off anyway. Direct hit, near miss, it is going to tip over an already bad situation with the Yellowstone Caldera.” He raised his eyes, “Familiar with that?”

“Yellowstone park?” Sammy said.

John nodded in agreement.

Weston laughed. “Put simply, yes. Yellowstone has always been an anomaly to us. Back in 1930 the Army did an exploratory survey of that area. What we came up with was that there was a section of the Rocky Mountains missing. Looked at from the top of Mount Washburn it was easy for the team to see that the largest crater of an extinct volcano known to exist lay before them.”

“I guess that’s about what I thought,” Sammy agreed.

“Yeah. We all think that. Except it is not true at all because the Yellowstone caldera is not extinct, it is active. Active and about to pop. There have been several warnings, but we took the recording stations off line quite some time ago, so there has been no mention of it in the news. Budget cuts,” he shrugged. “So everyone is focused on this meteor that may or may not hit us and instead this volcanic event is going to blow up and when that happens the rest won’t matter at all.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor came to life. “All the red areas are spots where the surface pressure has increased. There was, at one time, many active volcanoes on the north American continent.” He clicked a button and the map changed to a view of the European continent with many of the same red shaded areas.

“All over the Earth… Higher pressures. Up until a few days ago the brainiacs were still arguing over whether this could even happen.” He laughed. “It is happening and they are arguing over whether it can happen. Well, we had our little debates and then we realized that history shows clearly that this has happened before. Several times. Call it the Earth’s way of cleansing itself.”

“But it’s not an absolute, right?”Sammy asked.

“Don’t start sounding like the scientists.” He reached below his desk and came up with six small silver cartridges. Each had a red button mounted on the top with a protective cap over the button itself. He clicked a button on his desk, and a picture of destruction appeared on the screens. It was obviously an aerial shot, looking down at a chain of islands. Smoke hung over the chain, reaching as high as the plane itself. As the plane dropped lower, rivers of red appeared. “That picture is an hour old. That is… Was, the Hawaiian chain.”

Sammy twisted further to the side, staring at the monitor. “How can that be… I mean everyone would know about it.” He turned back to Weston.

Weston nodded. “And that would be true except the satellites are out because of the asteroid. Shut down to avoid damage. That is the official word.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor went dead once more. “I started this out saying that none of it matters and that is true. The Yellowstone caldera is going to erupt sometime in the next few days. Not a maybe, not an educated guess: If the satellites were up you would know that the park is closed. It has already started. We have had a few small quakes, but the big stuff is on the way. He rolled the cartridges across the desktop; Sammy and John caught them.

“Super volcanoes… Earthquakes that modern civilization has never seen… The last super eruption was responsible for killing off the human population some seventy-four thousand years ago. Reduced it to a few thousand. And that is not the biggest one we have evidence of.” He lifted his palms and spread them open, sighing as he did. “So it is a double whammy. If we survive the meteor the volcanoes get us, or the earthquakes because of them, or we’ll die from injuries. And I think those of us who die outright will be lucky. The rest of us will have a hard time of it… Staying alive with nothing… We will probably all starve to death.” He paused in the silence.

“Those cartridges are a compound developed right here in this complex for the armed forces. Project Super Soldier. SS for short. That kept people from looking too deep, they assumed it was something to do with the Nazi youth movement here and abroad. We let that misconception hold.” He waited a second for his words to sink in. “SS is designed to prolong life past the normal point of termination. It allows a soldier to survive longer without food and more importantly without water. Does something to the cells of the host, I don’t pretend to know what. What I do know is that the people above me made the decision to release this…” He picked up a mug of coffee from the desk and sipped deeply. His eyes were red road maps, Sammy noticed now. Like he hadn’t slept in a few days.

“So this is it for us. I guess you realize that you probably won’t get paid for this. No money is going to show up in your account. I will run it through before I pull the plug, but I truly believe the machinery will be dead by the time payday rolls around. So this is something I’m asking you to do.” He pointed to the cartridges that both men were looking over. Sammy held his as though it might bite him.

“Those babies are really all we have to hope with. Most people will die outright. They will never make it past the quakes, eruptions, and the resulting ash clouds and gases. Up here we should be okay as far as gases go, eruptions, but there are fault lines that crisscross this area. This whole facility is bored from limestone caverns. Probably won’t make it through the quakes, although it is a good eighty miles from the closest line,” he shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. My point is there should be a good chance for survivors here.”

“So we do what with these? Can they harm us?” John asked.

“Harm you, kill you? No, but you will be infected the minute you push that button. It will protect you the same as anyone else. There is enough in a single cartridge to infect about five hundred million people,” Weston said quietly.

“Whoa,” Sammy whistled. “Why infect… Why not inoculate? And why six cartridges… Three Billion people?”

“Minimum, three billion. That is before those infected pass it along themselves: After a while it won’t matter. As to the question of infected, this is a designer virus. You catch it just like the flu. We infected whole platoons by releasing it in the air over them. Eighty-Nine point seven percent infection rate, but that doesn’t really matter because it infects people close to you and those people will infect you… Sneezing, waste, sex, water, food, it gets into and on everything. And once it is in you, either orally or via bloodstream you will be infected. The human body has nothing to fight it, no reason to be alarmed or believe it’s anything more than a virus. And that same response will help to carry it to every area of the body as your own defenses manufacture white blood cells to fight it. So you may as well say a one hundred percent infection rate.” He paused and rubbed at his temples.

“Be glad they decided on this. They have some others that will kill everybody in the world in a matter of days.” Weston nodded at the raised eyebrows that greeted his remarks. “I don’t doubt that the merits of which way to go were hotly debated,” he finished gravely.

“The virus is designed to live within the host, but it can live outside of the host. It can stay alive in a dead body for days, even if the body is frozen. In fact that just freezes the virus too, once the body is thawed it will infect any living person that comes along. So those,” he pointed to the silver cartridges, “are overkill. Same stuff is being released across the globe. Great Briton… Germany… Australia… West coast just a few hours ago. Manhattan has already been done, all the East Coast in fact. I want the two of you to head out from here. One vial here, then one of you head west, the other south. Go for the bigger cities… Water supplies… Reservoirs… Release it in the air or water, it doesn’t matter. There are men heading out from the south, the west coast. The Air Force will be dispersing the same stuff via cargo planes tomorrow or the next day… As long as they can fly, if we can even make it that long, and that isn’t looking really good right now…” He rose from the desk. “I’ll see you out.” He turned to Alice. “Alice… Pack us up.” Alice nodded as Sammy and John got to their feet, but her hand remained on the butt of the pistol. Rubber grips, Sammy noticed as he passed her.

“Alice,” he said.

“Um hmm,” Alice murmured.

Sammy nearly stopped in his tracks, but managed to hide his surprise as he passed by into the hallway. The Major fished two sets of keys from his pocket. “Parked in the back lot. A couple of plain Jane Dodge four-bys. Drive ’em like you stole ’em. Leave ’em where you finish up. Hell, keep ’em if you want ’em. Nobody is going to care.”

The three stood in the hallway for a few seconds longer. Sammy’s eyes locked with the Major’s own, and he nodded. The major walked back into his office, and the door rose from its pocket behind him. Quiet, except the slight buzzing from the fluorescent lights.

John shrugged as his eyes met Sammy’s, waiting.

Sammy sighed. “You heard the man… West or south?”

“Flip for it?” John asked. His mouth seemed overly dry and he licked his lips nervously.

Sammy pulled a quarter from his pocket and flipped it into the air. “Call it, Johnny.”

“Tails,” John said just before the quarter hit the carpet.

Sammy bent forward. “Tails it is. You got it, Johnny.”

John looked down at the carpet. “West, I guess.” John said.

Sammy nodded, looked down once more at the quarter and then both men turned and walked away toward the elevator that would take them back to the surface.

Watertown Center New York

Shop and Save Convenience store:

Haley Mae

1:30 AM

“Last one,” Neil said.

Neil was a detective for the sheriffs’ department. It was closing in on 2:00 AM and he and his partner Don had just come back from six hours of sleep to get a jump on the day. Yesterday one of the checkout girls had disappeared between the Shop And Save, a small mini mart on the western outskirts of the city, and home. Earlier this morning she had turned up dead in a ditch just a quarter mile from the front door. The techs were still processing the scene, but it was looking personal. Stabbed to death, multiple wounds, no defense wounds, at least none that he or Don had been able to see, and fully clothed. Her purse had been found nearby, wallet and cash inside. No ID, but her store ID had still been clipped to her shirt. They would know more in a few days once the coroner did her magic. It all pointed to someone she knew, and they had no known boyfriend. The trailer park where she lived had turned up nothing, they had questioned some people at the convenience store, but some had been off shift, so here they were back at the store questioning the other employees.

They had commandeered the night manager’s office which was barely larger than a broom closet, but at least it was a place to sit with enough space left over to call in the workers and ask their questions. Free coffee via the same night manager, who had still not gone home, was taking a little of the six hours of sleep sting off, but to Neil free coffee in a convenience store was like a whore offering a free shot of penicillin to the first twenty five customers.

“Who’s next?” Don asked.

The last half hour they had been interviewing the people who worked the same shifts as Amber Kneeland.

“Haley Mae,” Neil said.

Don looked up and stopped writing in his little notebook.  “How do you,” spell her name, he had meant to ask Neil, but she was right in front of him.

“EM. A. E,” she said with a smile.

“Vietnamese?” Don asked. She was obviously mixed race, African American and Asian, he questioned himself.

“Japanese,” she told him.

“Nice name,” Neil said, “Haley.”

Beautiful girl, Don thought. “Did you know Amber Kneeland?  Sometimes works this shift?” he asked.

“Not really,” she answered. “I mean, I met her, but only in passing… I just started here myself.”

She really is beautiful, Don thought. “You wouldn’t know if she had a boyfriend… Other friends?” he asked.

Haley shook her head. “Sorry,” she said… “What has she done?”

“Nothing,” Neil supplied.

“She went missing last night,” Don said. “Turned up dead this morning.”

Haley shook her head. “Oh my God. That’s horrible. She was such a nice girl… Quiet.”

Neil nodded his head. “So maybe you did know her a little better than you thought?”

“I just started here a few weeks back, and like I said, I don’t really know her… But it might be a girlfriend not a boyfriend.”

Don looked at her. “You wouldn’t know who?”

“No. It’s just a rumor. Someone said it to me… I don’t even remember who… But I’ve never seen her with a guy, and I have seen her with other girls… Maybe also the way she looked at me a few times…”

“Go out with her?” Don asked.

“No… Never… I…”

“Don’t swing that way?” Don added.

Haley frowned slightly before she answered. “I work. I don’t swing any way. But if I did she wasn’t my type. She never asked me out, I never asked her out.”

“Didn’t mean to offend you,” Don said. He shrugged. “She’s dead.”

“She would probably do the same for you,” Neil said.

Haley nodded. “That really is all I know. I hope you find who did it though. She seemed like a nice girl,” Haley said.

“You don’t seem the type for this… Bagging groceries at 2:00 am,” Don said, changing the subject. “You aren’t local or I’d know you… This city really is small despite the base.”

Haley smiled. “Came here a year back with a boyfriend, Army. He left, forgot all about me, I guess. I had this idea of modeling… Tough to get a foot in a door though.”

“Wow, if he left you behind he must be a fucking idiot… Any good?” Neil asked.

Haley laughed.

“Excuse mister smooth there,” Don told her. Neil feigned a hurt look and Haley laughed again. “He meant, have you done anything? I know somebody… Might be interested.”

Haley arched her eyebrows. “I can model. I did a You Jeans ad back in Georgia a few years ago. I just need to prove it to the right person.”

“Escorting? Maybe dancing. It’s strictly escorting or dancing, no funny stuff. Dance clubs… Clothing modeling,” Neil said.

“Probably start out escorting… Dance a little… Then if he likes you he’ll put you into the modeling end of things. He owns a lot of shit… Several car dealerships across the state… Some of the biggest dance clubs, clothing outlets, those bargain places, but still, modeling is modeling, right? Not the big name stuff, but it is a foot in the door,” Don added.

“I can do that,” she said slowly.

Neil passed her a white business card with his own name scrawled across the back. “Tell him I sent you… That’s my name on the back.”

“Jimmy Vincioni,” Haley asked.

“Just V… Jimmy V, good guy,” Neil said.

Haley nodded and tucked the card into her front jean pocket. “I’ll call him… Thanks. Look…” Her voice dropped to a near whisper. “I’m pretty sure she had a girlfriend here… I just don’t know who,” Haley added quietly.

Don finished writing in his notebook, nodded once he met her eyes and then shook the hand she offered. She walked away.

“Beautiful,” Neil said.

“Absolutely,” Don agreed. “You ain’t getting none of that though.”

“Yeah? But if Jimmy V hires her? It’ll be the next best thing.”

Don shook his head, but smiled. His eyes rose and watched as Haley walked away. “Guess I’ll have to have a few drinks at the club if that happens.”

Neil chuckled low. “You and me both,” he agreed.


ONE

March 1st

Watertown New York

Off Factory Square: Joel Morrison

5:00 PM

Joel sat at the bar and watched football on one of the big screen TV’s Mort had put in. It was a slow game, he was tired, and his mind kept turning to other things. He couldn’t concentrate. Part of the allure of the Rusty Nail was the quiet. After a 12 hour shift at the mill with the constant noise from the huge machinery, the quiet had been nice. But that had all changed once the bar had become popular with the nearby base. He needed to go home. The crowd in the bar was starting to build and the noise was giving him the beginnings of a headache. He caught Mort’s eye and went back to his thoughts as he waited.

The Rusty Nail had always been a locals only bar up until a few years back when the economy had taken a nose dive. The nail was wedged up a side street off Factory square. Not exactly easy to find, and that had hurt business too as the old people left and the new people came in.

Mort, Mortimer to anybody that felt like being tossed out on their ass, had nearly lost the small bar and the building above it to the bank. The building above it had six small apartments that Mort had purposely left empty when he had bought the building fresh out of the service thirty years back. Who wanted to deal with tenants, he had said then. But times changed, and so he had sold his house, moved himself into one of the apartments, and then sold the bank on remortgaging the whole building as well as renovating the other five apartments. The bank had come up with a loan that took all of that into account and added a second income source from the apartments that could pay the monthly mortgage and put a good chunk of change into his pocket too.

He had signed on the x, taken their money, renovated the building, moved in the tenants and then taken a hard look at the Rusty Nail. He had decided to completely gut the bar and do it over. He had dumped far too much into the renovations though, including being closed for nearly a full month, and then opened it to find that the economy had taken an even deeper nose dive during those nearly thirty days. The third month into the new mortgage and he had found that he was maybe in a bad spot already.

Joel remembered now that he had sat right at the end of the bar when Mort had talked it over with some others, Moon Calloway, Johnny Barnes, Jim Tibbets, Joel had been welcome to include his two cents which he had declined to do.

“Well, what you do is put the word out to those cab drivers. Believe me, I’ve seen it. They will have them soldiers down here in no time, even if you are off the beaten path,” Jim had said. Jim was a school bus driver for the north side district and less than a year away from a fatal car accident on the interstate. Jeff Brown, who had been a local football star, was doing ten years up at Clinton Correctional for hitting Jim’s car head on drunk and killing him. But that night Jim had still been alive and had wanted to be a part of the New Rusty Nail that Mort had in mind. Something a little more modern. Modern bought the soldiers, but more importantly it also bought women.

“I’m not paying a cab driver to bring me G.I.’s,” Mort had said. “And I know your game. You’re just hoping to get laid out of it.”

They had all laughed at that, except Jim who had turned red. But after a few seconds he had laughed too, and the conversation had plodded forward the way bar conversations do.

“Well, you ain’t got to pay them exactly, give them a couple beers,” Moon threw in.

“Jesus Christ,” Mort exclaimed. “That’s why you boys ain’t in business. You think the beer is free.”

“I know it ain’t free, Mort,” Jim said. “But it don’t cost you that much. You get it wholesale.”

“Wholesale? I drive right out to that wholesale club and buy it by the case most of the time just like everybody else. Cheaper than them beer guys, except draft, of course. That ain’t free. You got to pay the yearly club fee. You got to pay them taxes to the feds. You got a lot you got to pay for. Some fuck crushes your can you’re fucked for that nickle. Jesus… wholesale my ass. It ain’t no bargain.”

“Yeah? … Let’s see,” Moon starting writing in the air with his finger. You get it for let’s say six bucks a case, I know that cause that’s what I pay out there too. So six bucks divided by 24 is,” he drew in the air for a few moments, erased it, and then started over. “How the fuck do you do that, Joey… The six goes into the twenty-four? Or times the twenty-four?” Moon asked.

“Uh, it’s a quarter a can,” I had supplied.

The argument had raged on from there. Once Moon found out he was paying a buck fifty for a can of beer that only cost a quarter he was pissed off.

In the end Mort had talked to a couple of cab drivers. Free draft beer one night a week if they bought soldiers by all week long and told as many others as possible about the place. Within two weeks Joel hadn’t recognized the place when he had come by after shift to have a couple of beers. The soldiers drank a lot of beer, the bank mortgage got paid, and life was fine. Except for the fights, Joel thought, but you can’t load young guys up on alcohol and not expect trouble. Especially when those young men were just waiting on the word to go and maybe die in another battle that remained undeclared as a war. High stress levels meant heavy duty unloading. The M.P.’s got to know the place as well as the soldiers did.

“Joel, you ready?” Mort asked now.

Joel smiled. “I was thinking back…” He had to shout to be heard. Tomorrow his voice would be hoarse. “This place was empty! … Yeah… One more then I gotta go,” Joel agreed.

Mort leaned closer. “Gov’ment tit. I know it, but screw it. It’s all the Gov’ment tit. Road and Bridge projects. Job centers. One way or the other it comes out the same. Even them subsidies so the paper mills can still run. It’s all the Gov’ment tit, ain’t it, Joel?”

“Its is,” Joel shouted. He nodded. It was. This town would have dried up years ago without it. Mort left and then came back a few moments later with a fresh beer.

“Vacation?” Mort yelled.

Joel nodded. “Two weeks of silence,” He shook his head at the irony and Mort’s laughing agreement was drowned out by the noise.

“If I don’t see you, have a good one,” Mort said leaning close.

Joel nodded. “I will.” He raised his glass and then tossed off half of it. A few moments later he was outside on the relatively quiet sidewalk punching numbers into his phone, calling for a cab. The night was cold, but the cold sobered him up. It seemed nearly capable of washing away the smoke and noise from inside the bar. He stood in the shadows beside the door waiting for the phone to ring on the other end. The door bumped open and Johnny Barnes stepped out.

“You ain’t calling for a cab, are you?” Johnny asked when he spotted him.

Joel laughed and ended the still ringing call. “Not if I can get a free ride from you.” Joel told him.

“Yeah, you were always a cheap prick,” Johnny agreed. “Hey, I heard you’re heading into the southern tier tomorrow?”

“Two weeks,” Joel agreed as he levered the door handle on Johnny’s truck and climbed inside. His breath came in clouds of steam. “Get some heat in here, Johnny.”

“Coming,” Johnny agreed. “Man, I wish I was you.”

“Me too,” Joel agreed.

Johnny laughed. “Asshole, but seriously, man. Have a good time. You gonna hunt?”

“Nothing in season… Maybe snare some rabbits. Not gonna be a lot this time of year.” Joel said.

“Maybe deer,” Johnny offered. He dropped the truck in drive just as the heat began to come from the vents.

“Probably, but they’ll be out of season. Rabbit, and I got freeze dried stuff. Trucks packed, which is why I didn’t drive it down here.”

The truck drove slowly through the darkening streets as the street lights began to pop on around the small city: The two men laughing and exchanging small talk.

Public Square

Pearl (Pearly) Bloodworth

6:20 PM

The streets were clogged with snow, but the sidewalks were impassable, so she had no choice but to walk in the street.

She made her way carefully, slipping and sliding as she went. It was just before 6:30 P.M. and she might make it to work on time if she could make the next two blocks without incident.

She had been working at the downtown mission for the last several months: The night shift for the last two months. The mission night shift was an easy shift. Everything was closed down. Those who had made the curfew were locked in for the night. Occasionally there would be a little trouble between residents, but that was rare. Watertown was small, as a consequence the homeless population was small. And trouble, when it came, was usually settled long before her shift. Her shift amounted to catching up on paperwork, dispensing an aspirin or two, and being there if there was an emergency of any kind. At 4:00 A.M. The kitchen staff would be there to start their day. Shortly after that the rest of the day-shift would be in. At 6:00 A.M. The mission doors would open and the homeless would take to the streets. She would have an hour of quiet at the end of her shift, sitting and listening to the bustle from the kitchen as they cleaned up after breakfast and began to prepare for lunch.

She heard the approaching vehicle as she was stepping around a mound of melting snow and ice. It was late and there had been no traffic on this side street when she had stepped into the street at the cross walk three blocks down. The alternative was the foot deep snow and ice thrown onto the sidewalk from the plows. She would never get through that and make it to the mission on time.

The Mission was on upper Franklin street, a short walk in a straight line, or even if you had to walk around the square and start up, as she usually did, but tonight the square was packed with traffic and so she had chosen the shortcut instead. Unfortunately it was not well lit: A four block wasteland of parking lots and alleyways.

She had almost turned completely around to make sure the car had seen her when the horn blared and startled her. A second later she finished the turn, hand clasped to her throat, and watched as the car skidded to a stop and three men piled out of the back seat slipping and sliding in the slush, laughing.

“What’s up, bitch,” one asked as he found his feet and stood staring her down. The laughter died away.

“Nice ass,” another said as he moved toward her.

She turned to the second man, the one who had just spoken, as she shrugged her purse from her shoulder, caught the bottom of it in one hand, and slipped her other hand inside. The third man, really just a boy, looked frightened as his eyes slipped from his two companions and then flitted to her. The driver leaned out the window,

“What the fuck! Get the bitch!” He was looking over the roof-line, sitting on the windowsill of the driver’s door, a smirk on his too-white face.

“Yeah… How about a ride, baby,” the nearest one said. The other had finally found his feet, stopped slipping, and was skidding his feet across the slush heading in her direction. She pulled her hand from her pocket and aimed the mace canister at them. They both skidded to a stop.

The closer one, the one that had made the remark about her ass, cocked his head sideways, shrugged his shoulders and then pulled a gun from his waist band. “Yeah… Kind of changes the whole situation, don’t it?” He asked.

“Roux! Don’t shoot the bitch. She’s no good to us dead!” This from the man-boy leaning out the window of the car.

The boy, Roux, turned to the driver and nodded. He looked back at Pearl. His gun was aimed at the ground, close to her feet. She had only a split second to decide. He was less than five feet away, the gun rising from the ground, when she pushed the trigger and watched the stream leap at him. His face went from a sarcastic smirk to alarm just before the stream of mace hit his nose and splattered across his face and into his eyes. A second later he was screaming. She had just turned to aim at the second guy when the world turned upside down.

She found herself tumbling sideways. Somewhere, close by, a roar began and rose in pitch as the ground below her feet began to jump and shake. She found her knees after she fell and skidded across the roadway as she tried to hold herself, but the shaking was just too hard. She collapsed back to the roadway and the relative softness of the slush and snow, her body jumping and shaking as she seemed almost to bounce across the short expanse and into the snowbank on the opposite side of the road.

The roar went on for what seemed like minutes as she tried to catch her breath and steady herself at the same time. Both seemed impossible to do, but almost as soon as she had the thought the trembling of the earth became less and a split second after that the roaring stopped. There was no silence. The sound of breaking glass, tumbling brick, blaring horns and screams in the dark night replaced the roar. Sounds that had probably been there, she decided, she had just been unable to hear them.

Pearl made her feet and stared back down the street where the car had been. The car was still there, the nose tilted upward, the back seemingly buried in the street itself. She blinked, but nothing changed. She noted the broken asphalt and churned up dirt, and realized the car had broken through the street. There was no sign of the men, including the driver that had been hanging halfway out of the window.

She drew a breath, another, and suddenly the noise and smells of the world rushed back in completely. The screams became louder. Horns blared. The ground trembled under her feet as if restless. She could smell sewage on the air. Broken lines below the pavement her mind reasoned. She swayed on her feet as the earth trembled once more, lurching as it did. She waited, but the tremble was not repeated. She sucked in another deep breath and then began to walk, slipping on the broken pavement and slush as she did.

Franklin street appeared untouched as she lurched from the side street, slipping over the broken pavement, and retching from the overpowering smell of sewer gas. She collapsed to the icy pavement, skidding on her knees and was surprise to hear herself crying as she struggled to get back on her feet.

She nearly made it to her feet before the next tremor hit, this one much harder than the last one. She bounced sideways, knees slamming into the ground, crying out as they did, but unaware of her own cries. Just as the trembling stopped she made her feet again and stood, hand clasped to her knees to steady herself, breathing hard, holding herself rigidly, wondering what was coming next. When the shaking stopped and silence flooded in she was shocked.

She finally opened her eyes, she had no idea when she had closed them, straightened from the bent posture she had found herself in, quieted her sobbing and looked around.

Forty feet away, the gray stone of the mission that had rose just past the sidewalk was no more: Churned earth had replaced it. The sidewalk was still intact, as though some weird sort of urban renewal had occurred in a matter of seconds. Her eyes swept the street and now they took in the sections where the sidewalk was missing. The entire side of the street was gone for blocks. What was in evidence was an old house several hundred feet away, perched on the edge of a ravine. Beyond that, houses and streets continued. She was on the opposite side of complete destruction, and there appeared no way to reach that side.

She turned and looked back at the side street she had come from. Churned earth, tilted pavement, the car was now gone. Farther down the short hillside that had appeared the public square seemed completely destroyed. Water had formed in the middle of the square and ran away to the north, probably toward the Black river, Pearl thought. To the west everything appeared to be intact, to the east, Franklin street stretched away untouched toward the park in the distance. Close by someone began to scream, calling for help. She took a few more calming breaths and then began to walk toward the screams: The west, angling toward the opposite end of the square.

The screams cut off all at once, and a second after that the sound of a motor straining came to her. Cycling up and then dropping. She paused in the middle of the road, listening, wondering where the sound came from. As she stood something ran into her eye, stinging,  clouding her vision, she reached one hand up and swiped at it and the back of her hand came back stained with a smear of blood.

She stared at it for a second. The ground seemed to lurch, shift suddenly, and she reached her hands to her knees to brace herself once more, expecting the shaking to start again, but her hands slipped past her knees and she found herself falling, her legs buckling under her. The ground seemed to rise to meet her and she found herself staring down the length of the roadway, her face flush with the asphalt. The coldness of the ice and slush felt good against her skin: As if she were overheated; ice wrapped inside of a dishrag at the base of her neck on a hot day. She blinked, blinked again, and then her world went dark…


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