Friday, 22 May 2015

The Green: A Tale of the Sasquatch Apocalypse

For your reading pleasure, I present the first three chapters of my upcoming novel, The Green. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

Dog barked at the worst possible moment.
Heather lowered her night vision binoculars and looked towards him in disbelief. “What in the world?” she muttered. Dog rarely barked and never when Heather had made it clear that it was time to be still.  In the dim light she could see his face was turned away from her, pointed down the side of the forested slope. His body was rigid. Heather clicked on her head lamp and looked back up at the forest, shadows jumping from tree to tree as she moved her head. The owl she had spent all night tracking was nowhere to be seen. Just before Dog had made his uncharacteristic yap she had seen her target, a Boreal Owl. It had something in its mouth, probably a vole, and the fact that it had food meant it was headed back to its nest. Her attention returned to her dog, who still peered down into the forest below.
“What is it buddy? A mountain lion?” The big cats could be found in these woods, along with black bears and wolves. Her annoyance was tinged with a touch of concern. If it was dangerous enough to make Dog lose his famous cool she should probably be worried.
“Might as well call it a night then,” she said.
Owls were hard to track, being heard more than being seen. She had spent hours following the bird’s “to, to, to” sound up and down and across the slope trying to lay eyes on its nest cavity. It was surely spooked now.
            “Come on you big weirdo. It’s probably nothing we can’t handle,” she told her companion as she tied a piece of orange ribbon around the nearest tree and began to pick her way down the mountain.
            Dog gave her a funny, pleading look and then began to follow. Despite his short legs and his long body he had always done well in the forest. The slope in this particular slice of Montana made it easy to move about. The old growth fir and spruce were spaced far apart, each claiming its own fertile piece of mountainside. It was this same old growth forest that had brought Heather here, as the owls she was studying for her PhD only nested in old growth trees at high elevations.
            Dawn seeped into the forest as Heather made quick work of the decent to her temporary camp at the bottom of the slope. Dog continued to look around, not straying far from her side.
“What is up with you?” she asked him. Dog just looked at her, his friendly mutt face now impossible to read.
            Heather thought about when she had first seen those big brown eyes. She had been camped on a tiny island in the Florida everglades, studying the mating habits of a giant invasive rodent called the Gambian Pouched Rat. Someone had decided to release half a dozen into the wild and now there were thousands of these housecat sized rats roaming the swamp. Heather had chosen this animal for her master’s thesis, with the thought that by better understanding the animal they might be better able to control it.
            She had been peering through a pair of binoculars, watching two rats fulfill their biological imperative when she heard a whimper. Floating by on a small homemade boat was a tiny, and from the look of him, almost dead, puppy. Heather managed to snag the boat with a stick and bring it to shore. The puppy had looked up at her with weak eyes and her heart had melted. It had been a rare moment of happiness for her. Once nursed back to health Dog was her constant companion, forever loyal and very intelligent. He did as he was told. Which made his outburst and present state all the more concerning.
            Large for a woman and well muscled by years of martial arts training there wasn’t much that Heather was afraid of. Dog had also proven himself as a ferocious protector when needed, so she tried to ignore the animal as she went about making breakfast/supper. When presented with his share of the grub Dog ate furtively, looking over his shoulder every other gulp
            Heather yawned and prepared her tent for sleeping. As she lay down, Dog curled up close to her, Heather thought about the owl. Tonight for sure, she would find the nest and add another much needed data point to her study. It was getting late in the year and she only had another month before the fall snows forced her out of the mountains and back to her lab at the University of Montana. Back to the real world with all its noise and people and complications. Determined to enjoy the solitude while she could she scooted closer to Dog’s warmth and closed her eyes.
She never got to sleep. Her eyes popped open before slumber found her. She began to share Dog’s concern. Crawling out of her tent she tried to pin down the source of her growing unease.
            Something was wrong. Everything looked normal though. The forest stretched away on all sides, bright and green and alive. What was going on? Then it dawned on her. It felt like someone had just been in her camp. This wasn’t impossible she concluded. If she had hiked in here anyone else with enough motivation could do the same. She had heard stories about the odd person deciding they had had enough with civilization and moving out here full time. Years ago someone had even kidnapped a young girl and brought her deep into this wilderness before finally being shot by rangers on horseback. The idea of another human worried her much more than mountain lions or wolves.
            Something like an electric shock suddenly went through her body. Every hair stood on end. A voice spoke to her, seeming to come from everywhere at once.
Ice cold water poured into Heather’s brain. The word echoed between her ears. More than just words the feeling of a greeting was present. It felt tinged with excitement and curiosity and …fear? Heather froze in place, feeling her heartbeats through her shirt. The forest was quiet around her. Dog let loose a slow continuous whine from his place at her feet. The feeling of shock ricocheted around her body. What had just happened?
Heather slowly turned in place, hoping she was asleep and dreaming.
“Hello?” she asked the forest.
The shock of connection came again, no less alarming the second time. Feelings and words poured themselves into her head.
I requesting communicate with you,” said the message.
Heather stood in the forest and tried to keep breathing. Her heartbeat was racing away from her. It felt like the voice wasn’t reaching her through her ears but instead broadcasting directly into her head.
“What is this?” burst from her lips.
A feeling of resignation pulsed into Heather’s brain as a large shape stepped out from behind a tree in front of her. Heather tried to register what she was seeing. A large fur covered thing stood before her. Long limbs. Black shiny eyes. Even as some part of her rational brain said Holy Fuck, that’s a Mother Fucking Sasquatch, her body was already calling the shots. Heather turned and ran with all the considerable power her long legs could provide. She sprinted through the forest, vaulting fallen trees like a track star, her blond ponytail flying behind her. Dog followed, the two of them moving as fast as they could. Branches clawed at her face and the forest became a blur. Heather and Dog ran.

            Breath tearing from her lungs, Heather eventually had to slow. Bright spots danced in her vision. She thought she might pass out. Dog looked at her as if she was crazy, as if saying, “See! That’s what I was trying to tell you! Now let’s keep freaking running!” Heather had to slow or she really would pass out. She continued to jog through the forest as fast as her body would allow. Raw panic slowly gave way to confusion and doubt.
Did that really just happen? she wondered. Having never touched hard drugs the possibility of a flashback was out of the question. Could she be having some kind of medical event? A stoke or aneurism?  Heather continued to look over her shoulder as she made her way through the forest. She was glad to see she had instinctively run down the valley, towards her van and the forest service road that would bring her back to civilization. What about my tent and supplies? Oh, my god, what about my notes?! she thought. Still she continued on. A summer’s worth of data or not there was no way she was going back to that campsite without some serious back-up. Armed back-up. Oh crap, now I’m going to be one of those crazy people with a Sasquatch story! she realized.
Heather had heard the occasional person swear up and down that they had seen something in the woods but she had always brushed it off as over active imaginations or drugs or both. Although she had never heard of a Sasquatch talking to someone. Her heartbeat eventually lowered and feeling returned to her limbs. Heather focused on her breathing and tried to stay calm. She concentrated on moving as fast as she could away from whatever it was she had seen.
            Maybe I was still dreaming and sleepwalking, she thought when the voice connected again.
I need communicate with you.
Heather stopped dead in her tracks, her heart like a rock in her chest. She could feel the urgent need in the voice. The forest was silent, the only sound her and Dog’s breathing. Heather waited, frozen in place.
I not hurt you.
It was like nothing she had ever experienced. Like her own inner voice, but not her voice, something from the outside. It made her brain tingle. On some level, through the panic, she knew the voice was telling the truth.
            “Leave me alone,” she shouted. Tears whelmed up in her eyes. Heather felt a sob build in her chest as she was overcome by the unreality of what was happening. She closed her eyes and tried to wake up from this nightmare.
            The forest was still. Minutes ticked by as Heather retreated inside her mind. Then, the shock of connection again, words and feelings mixing together, forcing themselves inside her head. An urgency under laid the message.
I sorry Heather Hudson. Please believe, I do not wish to hurt you. I do not mean any harm. I need to communicate with you. I picked you because you are scientist human, rational being. Now. You must to calm down and when you are ready to communicate with me, I be here.
With that the connection broke and Heather was left with nothing but her own congested snuffles. What was going on? I must be losing my mind, she thought. She stood there, bewildered and unsure of what to do. Keep moving, she ordered herself. Get to the van, get to a bar, get drunk and then go to the hospital. If there is nothing wrong with me I can always pass it off as a drunken hallucination. That would not nearly be as embarrassing as a sober one.
            She continued her rush through the forest. Numb from panic she focused solely on putting one foot in front of the other. It was five hours from her camp to her van.
Heather marched and tried not the think. She barely saw the forest around her as she moved forward. Her brain bubbled and burped with indigestion. It was almost a physical pain. She couldn’t not think. Deep underneath her fear another voice slowly started to talk, yelling until it was impossible to ignore.
What are you doing? You really want to just drive away from this and not know what is going on? You’re a scientist for goodness sakes. Cow Girl up. What would Natalya do in this situation?
            That thought finally got her to stop. She took some long deep breaths, trying to master herself. She shook her head, feeling numb and worn out. She was still a long way from her van. She took one last long breath.
“Who are you?” she demanded to the air. “What are you?”
            The connection came immediately. Heather felt urgency and relief in the words. “I am what humans would call a Sasquatch. I not have a name like you do. My name is the feeling of my voice in your head. Yes, I talking to you telepathically, that is how we communicate. I need your help.
            Please god let me be going crazy, thought Heather.
            “You are not going crazy,” said the voice. “I promise this is real. What I do to make this better?
            “Leave me alone,” Heather whispered.
            “I cannot do that. There not enough time. I need your help.
            Heather didn’t know what to do. She could feel the emotion underlying the message. If this was real, if she wasn’t losing her mind, then the voice was telling the truth. Her mind tried to retreat again but she brought it back to the present with a force of will.
Burying a stab of fear she said, “alright. Here I am. Talk damn it.”
Would be better if you could see my physical form again?
            “No,” Heather ordered the air. “Just tell me what you want.”
            “I need your help. We need make contact with the humans.
            Heather tried to process this. The words and implications were too much in her present state. The connection returned. Could she be getting used to it?
            “I going to show my body to you again. I real. We cannot proceed until you accept.
            Heather did not reply. Instead she waited, feeling on the edge of panic as she questioned her sanity. With barely any noise the creature stepped into view, about twenty feet from her. Heather fought the urge to run, her stomach rolled dangerously. Dog began to growl deep in the back of his throat.
The Sasquatch turned its deep, black eyes towards the dog. He made a strange squeak sound and then stopped growling. He looked up at Heather waiting to see what she would do.
            It was big. About eight feet tall, covered in dark brown fur except for a wrinkled face. Long arms dangled almost to its knees. Its eyes were the most alarming thing, dark and piercing with intelligence. They were staring right at her.

Chapter 2

Heather felt like her body was made of stone. Her stomach threatened to return her breakfast. She turned towards the creature, ready to fight or resume running.  Not that she felt like fighting would accomplish anything. The creature was huge. Its shape seemed to fill the forest.
            “I not sure where to begin” said the voice in Heather’s head. She could feel its confusion and excitement. The face of the Sasquatch remained still while these words poured into her brain.
            “So we exist. Sasquatches. What humans would call Big Foot,” the voice continued. “We an ancient people. We watch the rise of humans, learning early that it best to avoid you. We telepathic and can hear your thoughts from far away. About ten miles by human method of measuring distance. This let us avoid you for the most part. I have been sent as … emissary to announce our existence to humans and am asking you to help me. We…” at this the Sasquatch paused, “… have been having hard time. We need humans to make changes. Give us some room to breathe. Something about what humans been doing to the planet been making us sick and we need your help.
            Heather’s brain tried unsuccessfully to process everything the shape had just said and felt. Just the reality of the creature standing across from her was too much to process. She remained silent.
            “You must have lot of questions. How about you try to think of one question to ask?” said the strange inside/outside voice in her head.
            Heathers mind was blank. A large portion of her brain was still telling her to turn heel and run. Her rational mind, the part of her that had managed to stop running in the first place, the part that had a Masters in Biology as a Mammalogist, piped up again. “What genus do you belong to?” she thought, not realizing she hadn’t spoken aloud.
            “The closest relative in your fossil record would be what you call Gigantopithecus. We have gone great lengths to hide our bones from humans.
            At this answer Heather tilted her head back and stared into the forest canopy. No owls. She felt like screaming. This was too weird. She was having a silent conversation with a Big Foot in the middle of nowhere.
“Can you move your mouth when you speak? Do something. You’re freaking me out by being so still!” Heather said. A moment passed then the Sasquatch began to shuffle back and forth, opening and closing its mouth. It looked like a white guy with bad sinuses trying to dance.
Better?” asked the voice.
            “Not really,” said Heather. She closed her eyes, trying to get her shit together. “How can you know about our fossil record if you live out here in the wilderness hiding from us?”
            “We listen to human thoughts as they pass. Many of the people who seek the deep woods very knowledgeable about one thing. We have own scientists as well and have been merging our knowledge with yours for millennia. In particular, understanding of physics and math has grown alongside your own. I have listened to many humans thinking. It is first time trying to talk in English. Sorry if I not perfect.
            “Ok, if you understand physics why don’t you have cars and guns and lights like we do?” Heather asked.
            “Well, those things would made it harder to hide from you. But mostly we happy with what we had.
            Heather took a deep breath. She began to feel angry. “I can’t be your guide, or whatever it is you need. I’ve got a paper due in three months and besides I’ve got some stuff in my past that isn’t exactly media friendly. And besides THAT,” Heather began to yell, “how in the hell do you plan to ‘announce’ yourself anyway? You think we can just stroll into a TV station and request some air time? As soon as we get out of the woods some redneck is going to blast you full of holes. Pretty much everyone around here has a gun. And if not a redneck a cop! I can only imagine the shit storm that would be. And BESIDES THAT, the government would probably swoop in and take you away to Area 51 or some shit and dissect you and probably lock me up for the rest of my life just for kicks!” Heather’s voice was rough again, her breath short.
            “This why I need you. To help avoid all that,” said the Sasquatch as it jumbled back and forth and opened and closed its silent mouth.
            “You can stop doing that, it’s not helping,” said Heather. The being went back to looking like a furry statue.
            Heather plunked down to the forest floor. Dog put his head in her lap, looking up at her in concern. She put her head between her hands. What to do? How do you reveal a secret ancient race of humanoids to the world without getting shot or locked away by the government? Was she even considering helping this creature? She knew though. Deep down in her guts she knew that she was going to try and help this thing do what it was asking. She could feel it was telling the truth. A great mix of emotions swirled around in her mind each time it spoke. The creature felt excited and nervous and urgent but not deceitful. She must be going crazy. She knew she was going to try to help, she just didn’t know how to go about doing it.
            “Thank-you.” The creature’s relief was palatable.
“Holy crap! Can you get out of my head for a minute! I’m trying to think,” she yelled. No response from the voice. “Can you hear everything I think?” she thought, raising her gaze to the Sasquatch.
Is there answer to that question which not result in my getting yelled at again?” asked the voice.
Heather sighed, returning her eyes to the blackness of her palms. What to do? What to do?  How does one announce a Sasquatch to the world? Heather’s mind was blank at the enormity of the task before her.
“Well,” she finally said, “we’ve got hours to think about it before we reach my van. First things first, I need to go back and grab my gear.”
Heather stood up and began to walk back to her camp, passing close to the Sasquatch as she returned the way she had come. Still frightened but no longer fully terrified she looked at its thick fur, much like a bear’s, and breathed in its musky, earthy smell. Tingles of fear swept up her spine. Black eyes followed her as she walked away.
Heather marveled at the malleability of the human brain. Part of her still felt like she was in a waking dream but another part of her knew that this was really happening. Just put one foot in front of the other, she told herself, beginning to hum the old song from the Christmas special.
The Sasquatch was nowhere to be seen as she hiked back up to her camp. Dog followed along, also seeming to have accepted their new fate. She felt like she was looking at a problem out of the corner of her eye, knowing it was too bright to stare at directly. Packing up her camp (and field notes!) she returned the way she had come. Looking at her watch, she figured she could make it to the van before dark.
“You still there?” she said aloud.
Yes,” said the voice, a little bit fainter than before. The shock of the mind-connection was becoming more and more familiar.
“I wasn’t sure since you’re being so quiet.”
I thought I give you some time to think. I ask if you have a plan but I already know the answer to question.
I have absolutely no idea what to do,” thought Heather.
When she got back to the spot where she had stopped running the Sasquatch was still there, only now it was sitting against a large Ponderosa Pine. It made Heather glad to see it doing something besides standing like a furry monolith. Still scary in its alien-ness but becoming familiar too.
“Are you sure I haven’t lost my mind and you are a hallucination?” she asked.
I do not feel like a hallucination.
“Yeah, me neither. I keep hoping this is a dream I’m going to wake up from.”
Heather felt something like impatience from the Sasquatch. “I thought we had established I was real.
“Yes. It looks like you are. This is just too much. Too much.”
Heather took a deep breath, still trying to come to terms with this new reality before her. She thought again about what Natalya would do in this situation. She steeled herself and decided to move forward as if this was really happening. If it all turned out to be a dream or she was having some kind of mental health event, well then, she would deal with that when the time came.
“I need something I can call you,” she said.
I told you I not have a name.
“Are you a male or a female?”
By human’s way of thinking, I am female.
“Right. How would you feel about the name Sally?” said Heather.
…that would be acceptable,” thought the Sasquatch with a pinch of what felt like pleasure.
“Ok Sally, let’s make some tracks.” And with that Heather continued down the valley. She could hear the faint noise of the creature rising and following her. Part of her continued to wonder if she was losing her mind, going from sheer terror to acceptance so quickly. When it came down to it she simply didn’t know what else to do, so she put one foot in front of the other and made her way down the valley, humming the whole way.

Chapter 3

They reached her van an hour before sunset. Sally had remained quiet since her naming and Dog had gone back to his happy-go-lucky self. He had even taken a few good whiffs of Sally when he got the chance. The van, an old camper that Heather had jacked up herself, was parked in a dirt roundabout, just big enough for a forest service truck to turn around in. Heather looked at the creature. Now that she was back at her van the unreality of her day and the hard reality of her real life came clashing together. She felt exhausted and a little queasy.
            “Any ideas on what we do now?” she asked, silently hoping the creature would give up and she could have her life back.
            “Could you take me to the President of the United States?” asked the Sasquatch.
            “Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
            “Why not?
            “I don’t have the gas money to make it to Washington.”
            The Sasquatch was silent at this. It seemed to be processing.
            “Well, I do have enough money to make it home. I’ll bring you there,” said Heather.

            Once stuffed into the back of the van on top of a double mattress Sally looked like a can of freshly opened sardines. If sardines were furry and smelled like stray dogs.
            “Comfortable?” asked Heather, from behind the wheel.
            “No,” replied the voice of the Sasquatch.
            “Don’t worry, it’s only five hours to Missoula.” Heather put the van in gear and began slowly making her way down the winding and rough forest service road. At the first pothole the van bottomed out and the engine raced as the tires tried to move the vehicle forward.
            “This is not going to work. At least not on this part of the road” said Heather. “Do you think you could get out and walk until we get to some pavement?”
            “That would be good.”
            “Will you be able to keep up?” asked Heather, once they had Sally untangled from the van.
            “Do not worry about me. I meet you where the earth stops” replied Sally as she silently disappeared into the darkening forest.
            Heather got back in her van and rolled down her windows before continuing along the road. She breathed the clean mountain air, soaking in the last of the light. Dog curled up on the passenger seat and promptly fell asleep. As they slowly moved along, headlights bobbing with the ruts and holes, Heather thought about her day. Did that really happen? The lingering smell of Sally answered her question. She tried to put it out of her mind. Every time she thought about the Sasquatch she felt a little nauseous. Instead she tried to enjoy the sights and smells of the old growth forest while she could. She pretended that nothing out of the ordinary had happened and she was on her way back home from a successful field trip. Eventually the forest service road merged with another, still dirt but better maintained, and then after another hour the dirt became pavement.
            The road stretched away into the night, illuminated by her headlights. Heather had always thought of this spot as where the wilderness ended and civilization began.
I could just floor it right now, she thought. I’ll drive away and never come back and never speak of this to anyone.
But something kept her foot off the gas and instead she put the vehicle in park. Heather got out and stretched. Her legs were sore from the terror filled sprint of that morning.
            With the slightest of rustles Sally stepped into the road. Massive and impossible but still undeniably there. Heather buried a stab of panic deep in her guts. Without a word, she opened the back doors of the van, Sally squeezed into the space, still looking uncomfortable but slightly better than before. Heather closed the doors, got back in and drove out into the world.

            Forest crowded in on both sides of the narrow road. To her left, lay the 1.3 million acres of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness Area, to her right the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness Area. Together they made 5 million acres of protected wilderness, all separated by this one small road. With the clean air blowing in through her window and the forest rolling away on either side Heather felt in somewhat in control for the first time all day. In the back Sally shifted and the van rocked. Heather took deep breaths trying to clear the sick feeling from her stomach. A new feeling began to mix with her unease. Was it excitement? Sally shifted a second time and the van shook on its suspension.
            “Are you ok?” asked Heather silently. “Do you need anything?
            “Does this vehicle play music? I have always wanted to listen to your music. Sometimes people sing to themselves. It is enjoyable.
            Heather reached over to the glove compartment and then popped the classic Dixie Chicks album Not Ready to Make Nice into the CD player. The van filled with funky bluegrass and she began to quietly sing along when the lyrics began: “My friends from high schoool, married their high school boy friends…”  The album continued to play as they reached Highway 93 and turned north.

            “I need to stop for gas soon,” Heather said, turning down the music.
Sally seemed lost in the music, her telepathic voice was quiet. “So beautiful, she seems sad though.
            “It’s my favorite album to sing along with,” said Heather, seeing lights up ahead. “I need to stop here.”
Heather turned into a gas station a minute later. They were passing through Darby, Montana, population 3000. Heather peered into the back of the van. She didn’t think anyone would be able to see anything unless they shined a flashlight back there.
            “Stay quiet and hidden,” she thought as she got out of the van and began to pump gas. The station was empty with no other cars filling up. Inside, under the too bright florescent lights, she could see a woman behind the cash register, tapping away on a large phone.
I’m going to go in,” she thought towards the van. There was no response from Sally.
            Heather walked in to pay for the gas, grabbing a giant coffee and a few chocolate bars as well. The newspaper rack next to the counter held an image of the new Tea Party president ramming his hand down on a podium. Heather sighed to herself. Back to the real world and all of its real problems.
The cashier dipped the phone and looked at her with concern. “Are you alright dear?” she asked in a gentle Montanan twang. “You look like you’ve been through the ringer.”
            “I’m fine,” replied Heather, forcing a smile and thinking about her appearance for the first time in weeks. “Just spent some time in the woods is all. Do you have a bathroom I could use?”
            The cashier pointed towards the back of the store. Heather looked out at the pumps. All quiet on the western front. Was there really a Big Foot in the back of her van? Heather felt a twinge of the fear from the morning return. What in the world am I doing? she thought as she walked to the back of the store.
Once in the bathroom she could see why the cashier was so concerned. Her hair, normally contained in a tight ponytail, was falling every which way and her face was dirty and held several bloody scratches. Tying her hair back she did her best to wash her face of the dirt and blood. She didn’t own any makeup, as it was included in a long list of things she considered bullshit. She studied her freshly washed face. Plain Jane, said the insecure 12-year-old inside her. Shut the fuck up insecure 12-year-old, Heather told herself.
            She left the bathroom and gathered up her coffee and snacks. As she turned to walk out the door her heart skipped. Out at the pumps a state trooper was staring at her van with interest.  Heather forced another smile onto her face as she stepped outside.
“Good evening officer!” she said, trying to sound cheery. He turned towards her, his young face failing to look tough behind a thick mustache.
            “You’re riding awfully low on your shocks there miss” said the officer in a friendly but concerned tone. “What’d you got in there?”
            Heather’s brain whirled. “Rock samples,” she said. “I’m a geology student at University of Montana. Been up here all day collecting samples from the Pleistocene Period.” Heather had no idea if that made any sense and hoped the young trooper wasn’t an amateur rock hound.
            The trooper gave the van another hard look. “Well, ok then. You be careful on your drive back,” he said and then waited, as if trying to figure out something else to say.
Heather broke the silence. “Good night officer,” she said, as she hurried into her vehicle, leaving him standing there. In her side mirror she could see him watching as she drove off.
            The wide highway opened up before them. “That male wanted to mate with you,” said Sally, breaking the silence. A mix of relief and excitement and curiosity under laid her words.
            “Is that what that was? I swear, I will never understand men.”
            “What does ‘Plain Jane’ mean?” asked Sally.
            “Holy crap, you really need to stay out of people’s heads sometimes!”
            “I am sorry” said the Sasquatch, genuinely remorseful.
            Heather watched the dark road fall away under her wheels. “It’s ok Sally,” she said. Heather felt warm relief from the back of the van followed up sudden panicked alarm.
            Blue and red flashing lights appeared in her mirrors. “Fuck a duck,” Heather muttered as she pulled over. “Be very quiet,” she told the Sasquatch in the back of her van.
            “Let me handle this,” thought Sally. The trooper had stopped and was getting out of his car.
            “Are you insane?” Heather whispered.
Switching to her thoughts as the trooper was almost at her open window. “How in the world are you going to handle it?
            “Hello again!” said the tropper as he swaggered up to her window flashing a smile.
            Not a bad looking man, thought Heather as she smiled back at him. “What can I do for you officer?”
            The trooper leaned in the window. “I realized I never got your name,” he said.
            “Heather. Heather Hudson.”
            “And you’re a student at U of M huh? How’s that going for you?”
            “Just fine,” replied Heather, wondering where this was going.
             The trooper took a breath, leaned in a little more. “Listen, I know this is a bit strange. You don’t know me, I don’t know you. But I thought we had a moment back there at the gas station and was wondering if I could buy you dinner sometime?”
            It all came together in Heather’s brain. Ah. She forced another smile, trying to hide the flicker of anger she was feeling. “Sure officer, do you have something I can write my number on for you?” she said, fully intending to give this douche a fake.
            He casually produced a note book and Heather wrote down the number of her favorite pizza place.
            “This human is bad Heather.
            “You know,” continued the officer, flashing a smile, “I don’t see any reason why we can’t start getting to know each other better tonight.”
            “This human is bad Heather. He thinks you want to mate with him right now!” Sally warned.
            Anger and worry rushed through Heather. The trooper continued to leer at her, taking one of his hands and letting the fingers stoke her left forearm. She felt herself go cold. To her right, Dog stirred in his sleep.
            “You got a mattress in the back or it is covered with rocks?” the trooper asked.
            Heather looked at him with a fresh lens, wondering if she could take him. He was big but not massive, probably had some basic law enforcement style training. The gun was the real problem.
            “Invite him in the back,” thought Sally.
            Heather considered this. Trying to hide her outrage she reached out and touched the trooper on the arm. “I think there is still some room back there,” she said, hoping she sounded sweet as she opened her door. As she walked towards the back of the van she could feel the man right behind her, something hard poked her in the bum.
            “After you,” she told the officer gesturing towards the doors as she backed up a step. He looked at her with a hungry gleam and went to open the back doors. He was still staring at her when he lifted the latch and both doors shot open like a cannon. The trooper was caught full force in the chest and flew into the air, landing in his own car’s windshield with a crunch. He lay there crumpled, blood tricked from one nostril. Everything went quiet.
            Sally disentangled herself from the back, looking at the trooper and then at Heather. “Does this sort of thing happen a lot?” she asked.
            “Not to me thank god,” replied Heather as they both stared at the man lying in his windshield.
            The officer began to moan and stir, one hand groping towards his gun. Heather rushed over, reached in and unclasped the holster, sliding the heavy gun out and away. “What are we going to do?” she asked. “Somebody could drive by at any moment.”
The Sasquatch moved over and extricated the man from the windshield. His eyes opened as Sally lay him gently down on the ground. He remained as still as a stone, frozen either from fear or his injuries. Sally turned to Heather.
            “Can you turn off the lights?
Heather reached into the cab and turned off the patrol car. Its headlights and flashers went dark.
Sally walked over to the side of the car facing the road. “Stand back,” she ordered and then squatted next to the vehicle. Hooking her hands under the car, she stood up in one smooth motion, flipping it onto its side. Taking a step back she then kicked the underside of the car. Metal squealed against rock as it slid over the embankment and into a deep ditch.
            From the way they had come, the glow of approaching headlights. Heather turned to warn Sally but both she and the officer had disappeared. Heather jumped into the front seat of the van before the other car got too close. It didn’t even slow as it sped by. She tucked the trooper’s gun under her seat.
            Heather waited. Shuddering when she remembered the trooper touching her. Still, it didn’t mean she wanted him dead. The shocks compressed as Sally climbed into the back. “What did you do with him?” Heather queried as she got out to close the doors.
            “Moved him into woods,” the Sasquatch replied. “With injuries it should take hours for him to make it back to the road.
            “Alright then,” said Heather while trying to force the newly warped doors to shut. She pondered the implications of this new development as she pushed and shoved at the metal. After some encouragement the doors finally clicked shut. One of the windows was spider webbed. Would she be wanted by the police in a few hours? she wondered. She had given the cop her real name. He knew her face.
Heather got back into the driver’s seat, trying not to think about what this meant for her future. She tamped down the growing panic that wanted to overwhelm her. One thing at a time, she told herself. Heather pulled back onto the deserted highway and continued north.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Patient

"I just don’t see the point doctor.”

The man sat hunched on the couch. He looked like he hadn’t shaved in a week. Small bits of dried up food clung to the front of his sweater. Across from him a therapist sat in a wooden chair and scribbled notes on a clipboard.

“Now, we’ve talked about this. It’s all about perspective. We have to shift your lens,” the doctor said. He was as clean as the patient was disheveled. A perfectly trimmed grey goatee surrounded a kind smile. “Now, tell me the best thing and the worst thing that happened to you yesterday.”

The man reached up and scratched his stubble. “The best thing and the worst thing,” he muttered, seeming to think about the question. “Well, the worst thing was the moment I woke up. It felt like a black pit waited for me if I opened my eyes. I just knew the day would be … horrible and that I would spend all my time thinking about doing…. It.”

The doctor raised his eyebrows. “What do you mean by ‘It’?”

“You know. End it. Punch my ticket.”

The doctor leaned forward in his chair. “And how do you think you would do It.”

“I don’t know. Pills I guess. I have some of Susan’s old medications. I would just take them all. That should do it.”

“Sounds like it would be pretty painless,” said the doctor.


“And then you would finally be at peace.”


The doctor glanced at his watch. Across from him the man had his face buried deep in his palms and was crying. The doctor stood up and watched the man weep. “Well, I think that’s all the time we have for today. I really hope you feel better soon.”

The man didn’t move. He said something that was muffled by his hands.

“What was that?” asked the doctor.

The man took his palms away from his face. “I said, I didn’t tell you about the best thing that happened to me yesterday.”

“Oh, we can deal with that next time.”

The man looked up at the doctor. His eyes were dry.

“I really need to tell you about it.”

The goateed man sat back down in his chair. “Fine, but make it quick. I have another appointment.”

The patient sat forward. “The best thing that happened to me yesterday was when I followed you home.”

“What did you just say?”

“I followed you home and then, when you went to the rub and tug, like you do every Wednesday evening, I broke into your house and went through your files.”

The doctor’s kind face was turning redder by the moment. “Young man, I can assure you that you are in a lot of trouble. Not only is this session and relationship at an end but I am going to have to call the police. Now, I demand that you leave.” The man was shouting now as he pointed at the door.

The patient stood up and took a step towards the exit but then turned around. He straightened his back and looked down at the other man.

“Yes, I think it is time we called the police. What do you think of that Hans?”

The doctor’s face did an amazing shift from red to grey. Like a chameleon trying to camouflage itself.

“What did you just say?”

“I called you by your birth name. Hans. Hans Meier. Born in Hamburg in 1948. Quite the record you’ve got there Hans. Just how many of your patients have committed suicide? My count has it at 32. What’s your number? I bet you know the names of every. Single. One.”

The patient had been slowly walking towards the doctor. The smaller man stood up from his chair and was forced backwards until he bumped into the window.

He spoke but his voice was quiet. “You’re crazy. Delusional. I demand you leave my office.”

The man leaned into him. “I’m Peter Osmond’s brother.”

The doctor’s face turned an even grayer shade of ash. He slid to the floor.

The man put his arms behind his back and began to slowly pace the room. “I was devastated when Peter killed himself. He was my best friend you know. The more I thought about it the more it seemed wrong. I began to look into it. I found you and after some digging saw that an alarmingly high number of your patients seem to commit suicide. I wasn’t sure until I went through your files last night. You’ve had to move around quite a bit to cover your tracks. You couldn't help but keep the files of course. And then there was today. How low can you go? You practically put the pills into my hand. You’re a fucking scum bag.”

The large man had his back to the doctor and didn’t see him rise up off the floor. Didn’t see the small knife in his fist. The doctor rushed across the floor like a snake and buried the knife into the man’s ribs.

The man turned around and grabbed the doctor by the neck. “Funny thing. You’ve been attacked by two of your patients. Both times with a knife. Both times you were forced to defend yourself.” The man opened up his shirt with his free hand. “Kevlar.”

The doctor’s face was turning yet another color. Purple. He squirmed but was held in place by the man’s powerful hands.

“Here’s how this is going to go Hans. Tonight, you are going to hang yourself. You are going to hang yourself until you are dead.”

The man brought Han’s face inches from his own. “And if you’re not dead when the sun rises tomorrow. I am going to pay you a visit. And believe me, you're not the only one in the room who knows a thing or two about killing.”

The man dropped the doctor at his feet and walked to the door. He opened it but turned around before leaving.

“I really enjoyed our talk today doctor. I hope we get to talk again soon.”

He left the door open as he walked away.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Substitute

Today's prompt:

A substitute teacher falls in love with the absent teacher from their notes.

My reply:

Susan glanced down at the notes the regular teacher had left her. She had finally gotten the children to quiet and they were all reading their copies of Lord of the Flies. She was proud of the fact that she had gotten them to settle so quickly. It was no easy feat for a substitute to enter a classroom and gain respect. It took a special blend of humor and a look of “Do Not Fuck With Me” to bend a group of ten-year olds to your will. Susan imagined it was similar to someone’s first day in prison. Minus the fist fight in the cafeteria of course. After a final skim of the tops of her student’s heads she turned her attention to the notes of their regular teacher. One Mr. Jim House.

Hello fellow educator. Welcome to room 312! A few notes to make your day easier:

1. Do NOT use the bathroom in the teacher’s lounge after recess.  I don’t know what Bob Jenkins eats for breakfast every day but I don’t think it contains much fiber. I’m not a doctor but that man needs to see one.

2. If you are looking for a good conversation during lunch sit with Edna Cooper. She will be the steely haired woman sitting by the window. Ask her about Alaska. You won’t be disappointed.

3. Andy Taylor has been having a hard time (he is the red headed boy sitting in the back). He might act up at some point but please be gentle with him. He is not the type of kid who learns in this environment. If he gets upset ask him to draw you a picture of a horse fighting something. He really is very talented. I also think something is going on with him at home. He comes in with odd bruises some times. He really is a great kid. Remember. Horses!

4. There are some candy bars at the bottom of the desk, feel free to help yourself. I sometimes use them as rewards but mostly eat one whenever I feel like jumping out the window.

Take good care of my kids,

Jim House

Susan smiled to herself and re-read the note. She liked this Jim House already and found herself wondering what he looked like. Men with both a sense of humor and beautiful handwriting were hard to come by nowadays.

The morning passed as well as could be expected when dealing with modern ten-year olds. Andy Taylor did indeed have a mini-meltdown when faced with a math problem he couldn’t understand. Susan whispered her long unfilled dream of seeing a horse fighting a wizard. He immediately calmed and got to work. She was amazed at the result. The evil wizard gave her a chill.

At recess she made sure to stay clear of the bathroom after a large pale man exited. He was sweating slightly from his efforts. Mr. Jenkins I presume. She made a mental note to thank Jim House for the warning.

At lunch she met the acquaintance of one Edna Cooper. The woman was gruff and strong but happily recounted her adventures as a crab fisher in the seventies. When Susan asked what Jim was like the woman immediately softened. She smiled a knowing smile and produced her phone, bringing up a picture of a brown haired young man. He had kind eyes and needed a haircut. Susan felt her heart skip a beat as she stared at the picture. Edna Cooper gave her a look and took Susan’s hand.

“If I was thirty years younger I would be on him like a fat kid on an orange crush.”

Throughout the afternoon Susan found herself thinking about Jim House’s eyes and re-reading his note. This was crazy. She knew that. She hadn’t even met the guy and was already imaging what their children would look like. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before.  Despite her best efforts she couldn’t shake the feeling that Jim House was the man she would marry. By the end of the day she felt flushed and light headed.

After the final bell she made her way back to the teacher’s lounge with the intention of asking Edna Cooper for Jim’s number. The room was unusually quiet. Teachers stood in clusters whispering to each other. Susan approached Edna, who was quietly crying into a tissue.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

Edna turned to her. Her normally sturdy face melted by grief.

“Oh. Oh my. My dear girl. It’s Jim. He went to a student’s house today. A kid named Andy Taylor. He confronted the father or something. He’s been shot!”

The woman buried her sobbing head into Susan’s blouse. Susan felt the world do a slow spin. She was very heavy all of a sudden. She began to fall but Edna caught her.

“Susan? Susan!...” was all she heard before the world went gray.


Jim House put one weary foot in front of the other and continued to climb the stairs. He didn’t know how long he had been climbing but it felt like a long long time. He couldn’t remember how he had gotten here or where he was going. He just felt an urgent need to go up. The stairs obliged.

It was dark. Light came sporadically from sputtering torches. The stairs themselves were of a roughly hewn stone that kept trying to catch his loafers. Once in a while he thought he heard voices. They seemed to echo down from above.

His side hurt like a mother fucker. He kept putting his hand to his ribs, expecting to see blood when he took it away but finding nothing. He had taken to clutching himself as he focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

He didn’t even see the wall before he walked into it. His head banged into the stone and he almost fell backwards. He caught his balance and felt a stab of fear at the idea of falling backwards. If he fell he knew it would be forever.

Jim reached up and felt the wall. It was made of the same stone as the stairs. He pushed against it… and thought he felt it move. Which seemed weird for a solid stone wall. And did it seem lighter here? Jim could swear the wall was giving off a slight glow. He braced himself and pushed against the wall again. Yup, it had definitely budged. Weird.

And was that voices? Yes! It was. Jim could hear people talking on the other side of the wall. They sounded excited.

“Hey! I’m down here!” He screamed at the wall. The voices responded by yelling what sounded like encouragement. Jim went to work. He hit and kicked and shoved at the wall. It would budge each time but not give way. Jim fought the wall until he was near exhaustion. He plunked down on the steps to take a break. He was sweating and his mouth was dry as a bone.

From this new point of view Jim could see a tiny slit at the base of the stone. As soon as he noticed it a folded piece of paper was pushed through. Jim opened up the paper. Well, look at that. It was one of Andy Taylor’s horse drawings. Jim smiled to himself. Good kid that Andy. He had drawn Jim sitting on a horse in full knights armor. That’s nice, thought Jim, as he closed his eyes for a moment.

When he opened his eyes he was surprised to see that the hands holding the paper were now gauntleted. He looked down at himself and saw he was wearing the armor from the drawing. Well, isn’t that something. Jim got back to his feet and assessed the wall anew. He drew back one fist and struck the wall as hard as he cold. A chunk of stone broke away. The voices on the other side began to shout their encouragement again. Jim punched away at the wall, breaking off pieces after piece with each strike. The voices got louder and built towards a cacophony. With each blow the light coming from the wall got brighter and brighter. With one final haymaker Jim’s arm broke through. Bright sunlight streamed through the opening.

Jim opened his eyes. It was dark and quiet. The only noise was a rhythmic beep, beep, beep. It smelled like floor cleaner. He was lying in a bed. His side still hurt. You’re in the hospital dummy, he told himself. Jim tried to raise his head but his side stabbed in protest.

“Hello,” he said. His voice sounded weak.

From the corner someone stirred in a chair. A woman Jim had never seen before sat up and looked at him. She stood and walked over to his bedside. She was the most beautiful woman Jim had ever seen. He felt his heart pounding in his chest. The beep, beep, beep sound got faster. The woman was smiling and had tears in her eyes.

“Hi Jim,” she said.

Jim looked up at the woman. Her voice sounded familiar.

“Who are you?” he asked in amazement.

The woman smiled and grasped his hand. Jim felt a jolt of electricity at her touch.

“My name is Susan. I’m your substitute.”


They fell madly in love of course and became inseparable. Susan continued to teach Jim’s class while he recuperated at home. They made love every night, gently at first, being careful not to open Jim’s stitches, and then with more urgency as time went on. Neither could explain it. They both felt like the other had always been there, just waiting to be discovered.

Andy Taylor’s father went to jail and the boy blossomed without him in the picture. Jim and Susan would sometimes give his mother a break and take him to the park.

Before the year was out they were married. Edna Cooper gave a toast and told the story of the day she met Susan, how she could tell right away that Jim was the right man for her. Everyone agreed it was a wonderful story. No one at the wedding knew that there was already a little one on the way. Susan carried around a wine glass full of apple juice all night to avoid any questions.

The following fall Jim took back his normal class while Susan was given a room of her own. Everyone marveled at how well they got along, both working and living together. For Jim and Susan there was never any question.

They both felt like home.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Conversation between my 24 year old self and my 34 year old self

(Note: I feel like I should mention that when I wrote this I was in a fairly dark place. Camp life tends to do that to you. Still, it's a good snapshot of where I was that morning. Hope you enjoy.)

I work in Alberta’s Oil Sands.  Like thousands of Canadians I fly in and out of a remote work camp, working fourteen ten-hour days before flying home for a week of rest. In honour of this new turn in my life I’ve been granted an interview with my 24 Year Old Self. For those who didn’t know me then, at 24 I was a recent university grad on a mission to save the world. I literally believed that this was my responsibility. It felt like time was running out and the world was on the edge of disaster. Maybe it still is. I don’t know anymore.

Adam34: Hey there 24 Year Old Adam. The gods of space and time have given us the ability to have a short conversation about your future.

Adam24: What? Holy Crap! This is awesome! Wait, won’t we be messing with the space/time continuum and all that?

Adam34: Well, you won’t have any memory of the conversation, so you’ll continue on the path that leads you to this moment when you’re 34.

Adam24: Woah. Alrighty then. So, what’s going on? Are you happy? Are you back in Newfoundland living on an off the grid eco-farm like we planned? How did the film turn out? I imagine the world ten years from now must be a pretty messed up place! How is the apocalypse?

Adam34: Well, I’m still in Vancouver. I recently became a journeyman electrician. I’m committed to a wonderful woman. I can honestly say that I’m happy. The film? Our grand opus on Capitalism? That didn’t really work out. And the world?  It’s still ticking along buddy. The war and injustice has shifted around a little bit but it’s as messed up as ever.

Adam24: What?! What happened to the film? Are you still trying to save the world? What about our promise to God?

(Note: On September 11, 2001 I made a deal with God that I would spend the rest of my life trying to save the world and he, in return, wouldn’t let another event like 9/11 happen. This promise consumed and directed the next eight years of my life.)

Adam34: Oh boy. Where do I start? Well, the film never really got going. At one point we were close and had $16,000 in funding put together but zigged when we should have zagged and the money got spent on development and writing rather than production. As for our promise to God? Well, that was part of problem. You see, I’ve done a lot of soul searching about that day. For starters, I don’t think that God, if she even exists, is the kind of entity that would hold you to the promise you made. Second, that promise was made in a place of fear and guilt. Everything that came from that moment was driven by those feelings. I’ve learned that intention is so important when you’re working towards something. And, I know that this is hard to hear, but your intentions were in the wrong place. You were being driven by a poisonous mix of fear and guilt with an unhealthy dose of ‘wanting to be famous’ mixed in. Eventually it made us deeply unhappy but we were so committed to the idea we couldn’t see it. One day (May 12, 2008) we got up and looked in the mirror and something inside us finally snapped. I let go of ‘the promise.’ The feeling of relief was incredible. I walked outside and felt the sun for the first time in years.

Adam24: …. I don’t know what to say. You mean everything I’m working towards will be for naught? I’m just wasting my time dedicating my life to saving the world?

Adam34: Well, you’re not wasting your time. Everyone should try and fuck shit up in their twenties. Also, my past failures are the most valuable thing I own. I learned a lot about myself, how I think and how my brain works. I learned a tremendous amount about project management and teamwork. You’re a creative guy Adam. Right now, as always, I have about half a dozen different ideas cooking in the back of my brain. The only difference between me and you is present day Adam has a better idea of what motivates him and what he can actually finish. For example, we recently finished a first draft of a novel. I found the whole experience incredibly enjoyable.

Adam24: Fuck me that’s a lot to absorb…. What’s the novel about?

Adam34: It’s about a High School chemistry teacher who starts to cook Meth once he gets diagnosed with lung cancer.

Adam24: Wow, that’s a great idea!

Adam34: I know. I’m glad I thought of it before anyone else.

Adam24: What do we do for money? You said you’re an electrician?

Adam34: So, brace yourself, but I work for Exxon Mobil now.

Adam24: WHAT! Are you fucking kidding me? I cannot imagine any future where I end up working for Exxon. Exxon is the worst. They embody everything we hate about Capitalism and Corporations!

Adam34: Well, when you spend most of your twenties ‘trying to save the world’ and buying the things you need to ‘save the world’ with credit cards you have to make some hard choices in your thirties. And I don’t work for Exxon directly. I work for a company that works for a company that works for a company that works for the Canadian branch of Exxon. Three weeks out of the month I live in a remote work camp in Northern Alberta with 6000 other workers. It is an insane place and not unlike a prison.

Adam24: Fuck you 34 Year Old Adam. You’re a sell out!

Adam34: So angry! Fuck you too you righteous little prick. I just spent the past five years paying for your adventures. You think you’re better than me? I remember that feeling. It feels so good to know you're better then everyone. To have ‘The Answer’. Well, guess what kiddo, the world is not a black and white place. The problem with your activism is that it was really about your own insecurity. It made you feel better to judge others and ‘be in the right.’ Well, life is more complicated than that. No one is better than anyone else. We’re all just imperfect humans trying to get by. You want to make the world a better place? Get a real job and take care of yourself first. It’s hard to make positive change when you’re always worried about rent.

Adam24: Dang bro… did it have to be Exxon?

Adam34: I know. It’s particularly ironic. Sorry if I was harsh there, but I have some feelings of anger towards you. Just so you know, I am still trying to make the world a better place. I just go about it in smaller ways. And that doesn’t mean I can’t go back to larger ideas in the future. I just have to make sure I’m paying the bills at the same time.

Adam24: I wish I could remember this conservation and save myself years of grief.

Adam34: I wish you could too dude. I wince when I think about the years you’re about to spend pursuing an idea you’re not genuinely interested in. I guess it works out in the end. Oh, the gods of time and space are giving me the times up signal.

Adam24: Don’t forget about me future Adam! Stay righteous!

Adam 34: Will do past Adam, you take it easy ok. Maybe don’t spend so much time on ideas you come up with while you’re high.

Adam24: Copy that. See you in ten years.