Coincidental Circumstances (Part 6)

I redrafted the entire opening. I needed to sprinkle in the ingredients of an explosive beginning. Plus, I needed something to ground Miranda and establish the stakes. My fingertips danced off the keyboard.

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I nodded my head confidently. Now I was getting somewhere. I reached to take a last sip of my macchiato again. I had been nursing it like a cheapskate for over an hour. All writers do it. Some will go an entire day sucking the free Wi-Fi without blinking an eye. I actually thrived on the caffeine. It was time for another cup of inspiration to propel me to finish my James Bond-esque opening.


Coincidental Circumstances (Part 4)

For three days I toiled with the greatest case of writers block known to man. Maybe it was the girl in the red truck. Her hair. Her eyes. Her mysterious offer.

The killer robot was wreaking some serious plot issues. Where did it come from? What was its motive? Who was behind it? I first tried to replace it with a clown, but it seemed too similar to a recent hit movie, that was really a remake of another movie that was based on a book based on a common childhood nightmare. Scratch one. Imitation isn’t the best form of flattery; its a case of immovable writers block.

There was only one thing to do.

Desperate times called for desperate measures.

I had to go to another Starbucks. Not just any Starbucks though, I needed to hit this case really hard, right in the bullseye. That’s right. I was at the last stop.

I headed for a Starbucks within a Target. A literal riddle within a riddle.

This isn’t a place for any normal writer. This is only a place for the most bourgeois of writers. And it was a place with unlimited gum supply and selection of average people to watch.

My second idea was a straight cop-out. I’ll admit it. Creative writing doesn’t always spark ideas that make us feel like talented artists. I replaced the killer robot with a drone with hellfire missiles. It gave the story an espionage type feel. There were only like 37 movies in the last 5 years using drones. Where did the drones come from? I had no idea. I was already 5 sticks of gum in, and it made little sense why the drone would destroy the cops. I’m not a Tom Clancy ghost writer dammit. Government conspiracies are not my thing.

I went with it. I made up some tin foil Illuminati deep state conspiracy theory that went back to the founding of America. Yeah, there hasn’t been enough books on that. I didn’t want to quite pigeon hole the narrative into an established genre quite yet. I was free flowing. My keyboard needed to hear my lyrical rhymes.

But something still didn’t make sense.

What was Miranda’s backstory then? Where did the knife come from. Was she part of the Illuminati? Was she a double agent? How did she just so happen to be driving right by the tracks at the right time? Chills ran down my spine. Was her meeting with Zeek by happenstance or was it a covert operation? I needed to reach deeper, dig deeper, and travel to depths I’d never known.

I snapped my fingers and pointed at my macbook.

Maybe, just maybe, she needed a kick ass prologue.


Coincidental Circumstances (Part 3)

I slowly panned my view all around me as if I was in a Michael Bay film, hoping to spot my gum benefactor. This was no mere coincidence. In my moment of greatest need, she was there for me just like Miranda was there for Zeek.

Except she didn’t need a knife to save me as writer’s block barreled down toward me.

I slapped my macbook shut, unplugged the charger and darted out of Starbucks. Where was Miranda … I mean, the purple haired girl. Sometimes my mind mixes reality and my imagination. I can’t help it. I’m a writer. This is a bane and blessing rolled into one delicious mix.

Disappointingly, there wasn’t any purple hair in sight. I immediately scanned the parking lot for a befitting car but didn’t see a purple Prius hatchback. Damn. I stood on my toes and frantically looked for a hatchback of any color and couldn’t find a single one in the Starbucks lot. The astounding odds of this baffled me.

I walked past the green-umbrella protected islands of conversation and glanced at three tea-patrons sipping on their half empty drinks.

“Did you see a girl with purple hair walk past here?” I asked.

“Purple hair?” answered a guy with a red beard.

“Yes. She had a nose-ring too. Not too big though.”

The guy with a red beard glanced around. “No buddy. Can’t say that I did.”

“I’m serious. It was like thirty seconds ago.”

A skinny girl with straight, black hair chimed in, “Did she forget something?”

“No … well, I mean … maybe. She left me some gum.” This elicited only silence from the potential witnesses. Nobody understands life as a writer.

This would not be my denouement. I paced around the corner for a better view of cars on the other side.

Then I spotted her.

In a red truck. What? This made zero sense to me.

She was backing up and about to shift gears back into drive. I needed to get to her. I picked up speed and started to jog to her car but it was too late. She didn’t even glance in my direction. She exited the parking lot with a right turn.

Fate couldn’t even give me one long left turn at a busy intersection.




Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 38)


Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 7.05.37 PM.pngThen the silence ended. Somewhere in the distance an ocean crashed against rocks; salt carried on the air filled my mouth and birds swooped and dived above me crying like children to each other. The rose was lying on the ground at my feet, its petals already fading.

Touch the rose and you will be there

I was surrounded by miles and miles of gold that glinted in the sun as far as the horizon; corn or something like it, gently swaying in the warm/cold breeze. I should have been afraid but I wasn’t. Instead, for the first time since Lila had been taken from me and the whole crazy parade of people who weren’t people at all, killing and being killed, had thrown my life into chaos, I was calm.

There was no sign of Sinistrus though I sensed him in everything. Suddenly a voice I recognised as his spoke to me. Not a sound. A knowing. Sinistrus was speaking to me without words.

“Welcome, Caleb,” the knowing said for the second time.

“Welcome to where? Where is this?”

“A place of safety – for a while.”

“But where?”

“Another world. Very different from your own.”

“Not so different. The sky is blue.”

“If you say so. The sky is whatever you wish it to be. That is the power you possess. The power of the nanites. Growing stronger within you.”

“No they aren’t inside me, not anymore.”


“Okay. A few. Most of them have been removed.”


“So what about the brain cancer? What about…”

He interrupted me. “Everything you’ve been told, all you have ever believed about yourself, is a lie. Your whole life as you understand it is a fantastic invention to keep you from discovering who you really are until the moment comes when you are needed. You asked for peace, Caleb. I brought you here. To this peaceful world.”


“To allow you to fulfil your destiny.”

“And what is my destiny?”

“To save your species.”

“Save it from what?”

“From itself.”

“I’m lost, Sinistrus.”

He – whatever he was – whispered inside me. “Close your eyes. Close your eyes and dream, Caleb.”

I did as I was told. Gradually the ocean, the sea birds, the voice inside my head all faded and I was a boy again, on a beach with my parents. My father was talking to me, telling me things beyond my understanding. My mother stood behind him, smiling. Tears were running down her face. My father lifted me and started to walk. I buried myself against him, feeling his warmth. Perhaps I slept, but I woke on a bed with both my parents leaning over me. My mother fussed with my hair. “It’s alright, darling,” she said. “Daddy won’t hurt you.”

The images drifted and became smoke. Sinistrus returned. “You asked where you were, remember? I told you another world.”

“Where I would be safe.”

He sighed. “Just one more lie I’m afraid. You can never be safe. They will come after you. They are already coming. I can hear them tearing at the veil.”

“The veil?”

“The invisible wall that separates this world from your own.”

Other worlds. Veils. Clones. It was too much. I said, “But what do they want from me? Why am I so important to them? I would’ve been happy to spend my life with Lila.”

Sinistrus shook his head. ‘Lila was one of them.”

I reacted. “No! No! We were in love. Lila put the nanites in me.”

“Wrong again, Caleb. She didn’t put them in.”

“But her kisses…”

“She was trying to suck them out of you.”

He turned his red eye on me. “Listen,” he said. “There isn’t time to explain. They have broken through. I will tell you only what you must know. Nothing more. Your father was a great scientist and an even greater human being. He was the one who created the nanites using your blood. And they killed him for it.”

“My mother?”

“Your mother too.”

Sinistrus gave me a second to take in the murder of my parents.

“Your father was wise as well as brilliant. He foresaw his own death. But before they got to him, he planted – maybe I should say replanted since they were born of you – the nanites deep inside his son. Inside you.”

I stared at him unable to comprehend the fantastical things he was revealing.

“Nanites are the single most important creation in the history of mankind. Used well they can do anything. Anything. Think for a moment what that could mean. No more hunger. No more poverty or illness. No scarcity of any sort.”

He paused.

“No need for conflict. World peace. Can you imagine? A perfect life made possible.”


He guessed my question. “Not everyone wishes for peace. Hatred is a drug and there are those who are addicted. Dark forces that prefer the world as it is. Those people cannot be allowed to control the nanites. What they would do with them is beyond evil.”

He held up a hand and turned his head. “Can you hear them? Can you hear them, Caleb? The pretence to being human has been abandoned. When you see them again you will see them as they really are. Savage souls without disguise.”

Sinistrus led me towards the distant sound of the sea. “Are you ready?’ he said.

“Ready to do what?”

“Own the power in you. Or destroy it. There is no other choice.”

“How? Tell me what to do.”

“Assume the terrible responsibility given to you by your father. Become who you really are.”

I was close to tears. It was too much. I was going insane. “You talk in riddles, Sinistrus. Just say it. Say it out loud.”

“Be. Be … Caleb.”

The tears came; I couldn’t stop them and I didn’t want to.

“Be who? BE WHO?”

“The Master of the Nanites. The most powerful man in this or any world.”



Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 37)

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 3.17.13 AM.png“I need to think. I need a rest. I need peace.” I sauntered through the people orchard barely taking notice of the eyes that watched from the keeper’s shed nearby. I felt uneasy and sick at my stomach. Blood oozed from my nostrils.

“You’re getting soft on top of irrelevant. Can’t take a little crazy. Useless,” Not-quite-Caleb hammered my brain.

As I tried to make my way to the road, I again became aware of an eerie set of red eyes jeering at me from the gate house just ahead. My head hurt so bad I wanted to slit my own throat and end this existence.

“Go ahead. Slit your throat. I knew you were a coward.” Not-quite-Caleb kept badgering me. “None of this is real, except the pain. Your best decision is to end it all. Go ahead. You have a knife in your pocket.”

“I have what you seek.” The red eyes of the bulky stranger standing in the garden gate pierced into my mind. “You seek peace.”

“I warn you, If you are here to bust me up, it’ll be fight like you’ve never had before.”

“Good, there is still a lot of vibrant life in you. You’ll do fine.”

The bulky stranger, at first only a silhouette against the street lights, pivoted and walked toward me. What next? I don’t know if I can deal with much more macabre.

“Let me introduce myself. I am Sinistrus.” He removed the rose from his lapel and offered it to me. “Go ahead, take it. This will bring you peace. Just take it.”

I knew I was having another delusion. If I can get to the “place of beginnings” I know I can sort this out and clean up the mess I’ve made. I wiped the blood from my upper lip. Strangely, my pounding headache had subsided. A rose appeared in my hands. Energy and vitality filled my whole being. This is not a delusion.

“Ready to talk?” Sinistrus asked. “You and I have a lot to talk about.”

“Do I know you?” I asked.

“No, but I know you…and the clone.”

“What? How? Why?” I once again found myself in the midst of fate and all its machinations. “ Sinistrus was a bulky red eyed being with a cloak of what appeared to be scales from an enormous creature of some kind. He carried a staff with a curious crescent medallion at its apex. His feet were not covered by any shoes, but by a leather wrap, worn like a sock without bindings. My apprehension was the least of my concerns. I knew I had to get to the “place of beginnings,” which for me was a place of answers.

“Caleb, I know you seek the “place of beginnings.” Just touch the rose and you will be there.

This is more than nuts. I have truly lost my ever-lovin’ mind.

“Yup, idiot. You finally got it. You’ve lost your mind.” Not-quite-Caleb shouted into my skull.

“Silence.” Sinistrus

My mind went totally numb. A feeling I once dreaded, but sought with every fiber of my being. Somehow Not-quite-Caleb was silent. “How did you do that?” I asked Sinistrus. “What, where did you go?” I looked around and the people orchard was gone. The street lights gone. My headache gone. I looked around me and could only see that I was not anywhere I had ever been. The trees were different. The smells were alien. The wind was curiously warm and cold.

“Welcome,” Sinistrus said.


Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 36)

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I hoped it didn’t … truly. If that broadcast were real, there’d be heat on me in double-time. I ran pathetically, under the amber influence, into the deepest darkness I could find. The cemetery was perfect, and I braced myself against a stone mausoleum to catch my breath and to think.

My head was swimming; my thoughts erratic. I couldn’t be sure my Not-quite-Caleb just sitting in front of me hadn’t been sent to scare me right back to the wretched chaos I escaped.

Escape. What was I thinking? There would be no such thing. Those moments walking to find a bar comprised the most ‘freedom’ I had known since I saw my Lila become lifeless before me. I wanted to turn back time. Back to when Lila and I began. I could vaguely remember how new love felt, and wondered if I had taken it all for granted. After my diagnosis I lived life in a down-ward spiral but this whole fiasco revealed that even that was a construct for my illusion. I wanted to puke. To think that I had been a pawn in her double-life was blowing my mind as I also rationalized the risk she had taken to save me.

There was no one to save me now. The irony of the cemetery was not lost on me. Nothing would have suited my life more than leaving it, but I would prefer to fair better than Lila when death comes for me. I clutched my head as my thoughts dizzied me. I couldn’t decide anymore whether I loved or hated Lila. Any ‘freedom’ in thought was a liberty I no longer had. Not-quite-Caleb appearing out of the blue had made that painfully clear. Beyond that, any future I may have entertained was quite likely to go up in smoke at the hands of a thug. And where were those fucking nanites when I needed them? I couldn’t make sense of the bartender being pissed, and Not-quite-Caleb so elusive. My hands slid down the cold stone.

“Fuckkkkk!” The burns were killing me.

“You’re becoming so simple,” jeered Not-quite-Caleb

“And you’re becoming IRRELEVANT,” I groaned as I lunged at him.

My face hit the dirt. There was no one there. No one and nothing but the laughter … mocking me, goading me. I struggled to clear my head. He didn’t want anything from me, so he had told me in the bar. One thing was certain. The others who DID want something from me would not stop.

“You don’t get it yet, do you?” he had said. I hadn’t gotten very damned much about recent days but it didn’t matter I decided. My life … no, WAIT … I couldn’t call it that … my ‘existence’ had been scaled down to one element, the way I was seeing things; survival – moment to moment. I told myself it didn’t matter whether the bar existed. Fuck Not-quite-Caleb and his psycho-babble!

In the distance, sirens broke the silence. I had to keep on the move … but to where?


Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 35)

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It took 15 minutes to find a bar, but I was grateful to walk that instead of run or be led at gun point. As side streets led to more public sidewalks, I was aware of how much of the night I wore. Grime from the elevator shaft on my shirt. Bruises from two car wrecks on my cheeks. Burns from a blow torch fight on my hands.

“What can I get you, friend?” the bartender asked in perfect English. It was a lucky break with perfect timing.

“I don’t care as long as it’s strong,” I said on my way past.

I had the place to myself and shuffled to a booth in the back, dropping heavy onto the wooden bench. With my forehead on the cool table, I closed my eyes. I might have slept if the bartender didn’t bring my drink.

“Rough night?” he asked and set a glass of amber liquid in front of me, scotch by the smell of it.

“You have no idea,” I shook my head and drained it. Surprise hit his face before a sharp laugh.

“I’ll get you another,” he patted my shoulder and turned to go back to the bar. When he was gone, I closed my eyes again, keeping my head up this time as I rubbed my eyes. There was so much to process, I didn’t know where to start. So much to unpack from my brain, I’d be in nightmares for months. The most normal thing that happened in hours was finding my girlfriend murdered. Every layer underneath it got stranger. Forget the nanites still inside me, now enjoying their nice scotch bath. There were four sets of clones wreaking havoc in Zurich, some wearing my face. Whatever it took to deal with that, I was too tired and overwhelmed to start then. But what choice did I have?

“I’ve seen worse problems,” a familiar voice said across the booth, “but not many.”

It was hard to imagine more intimate things than a voice inside your head, but this buried it six feet deep. I recognized the voice because it was mine. Opening my eyes, I stared into my own smiling face.

“You didn’t think this would end so easy, did you?” he said.

“Please leave me alone,” I begged.

He squinted as if considering it but shook his head. “I think I’ll stay right here.”

“What do you want?”

“Me? Not a damn thing, but there are a lot of people who do. You know too much to just walk away.”

“I don’t know anything.”

The bartender came back and set down another glass of scotch.

“You know about underground labs and government puppet masters. You know about me, and that’s not good.”

“I’ve never seen him before in my life,” I told the bartender. “Even if he does look like me.”

The bartender gave me a strange look and stepped backward, never glancing to the other side of the booth. As strange as that seemed, stranger still was the breaking news on the television behind him. The sound was muted, but the pictures told enough. Someone blew up a hotel and wrecked a car a few blocks away. More recently, they’d burned a couple of warehouse workers to death. According to the passport photo on the screen, that someone was me. Luckily, I had a scapegoat nearby.

“It was him,” I jabbed a finger at my clone, eyes switching from the screen to the bartender.

“Who?” he asked and looked more than a little scared.

“You don’t get it yet, do you?” my clone asked.

“Shut up,” I told him.

“Get out,” the bartender said.

“I bet you didn’t know Swiss until a few minutes ago.”

“I don’t,” I shook my head. “He’s speaking English.”

“I’m calling the police,” the bartender ran behind the bar.

“I think those stray nanites are tinkering with your brain,” the clone smiled wide.

“You don’t exist,” I muttered and covered my face with my hands.

“Maybe not,” he said. “But the real question is ‘does the bar?’.”