Will see where this takes me. This stems from an idea that I’ve been toying with for more than ten years now, but has only recently taken a more detailed form in the last year. Really, it’s a combination of two different ideas that have been sticking with me for a long time. Now it’s time to try this again. Wish me luck.
This is how the world finally ends.
Available on the October 14th, 2018
This was not his first funeral. He had flown to one with his family—mother, father, sister—when he was only seven years of age, maybe six, maybe younger. He remembered his dad gripping his mother’s hand, tears running down only one of her cheeks, as if the other eye had malfunctioned. Sara stood in front of him, her hair ruffling apart, folding over in a frigid breeze. The sun was luminous, a façade of warmth, and yet they were freezing. Caleb kept his hands clasped together between both thighs. The grass between his shoes was delicate and beige, the soil beneath a rigid, frosty base. Sara looked up to ask a question and Alex squeezed her shoulder, gently shushing. Caleb couldn’t recall who this funeral was for. He couldn’t remember where they were that afternoon, other than it was “out east” and involved airports, hotels. And as Caleb now stood, watching the canvass-wrapped corpse of Jeffery Gladstone rest on the muddy grass, he accepted that he would never know the details of these vague memories. Everyone who once possessed the answers to these questions had died years ago. Not that such details had any significance to Caleb’s life—he existed in a world where the past had been imperfectly, and yet almost entirely, erased. With so little to remain certain about, that funeral from his childhood meant nothing. A curious memory.
This, however, was real. Caleb could smell the rot from Jeffery’s body, unmistakable, unavoidable, no matter how many layers of cloth they had wrapped around the old man. He wanted to hold his hand to his nose but knew that it would be impolite. Like everyone else, he sneered from the vinegar twang of sour meat, sucked in breaths between his teeth. But he would not make a scene. Ada started coughing, teetering on gagging, and then muttered an apology. Steven was delivering the eulogy, his eyelids fluttering from the falling rain, refusing the umbrella that had been offered. He spoke of Jeffery as the founding father of Alexis Creek, someone dedicated to their small community, to the wellbeing of every person, every survivor. Caleb looked around to the others, their faces weary, tired, and impatient, waiting for Steven to finish and then skid the body into the bottom of the grimy pit, yearning to escape this putrid stench, almost gasping for fresh air. These were the same people who dared not enter Jeffery’s house for those final months. No one knew what it was that he had been dying from. No one possessed any semblance of medical training and the best they could do was draw upon anecdotal memories and then fill in the vast chasms of uncertainty with fear. Their greatest fears. What if it there was a contagion? What if it’s from radiation? What if this is just the beginning? Steven used the word “citizen” to describe the people in attendance—the citizens of Alexis Creek, the citizens of the new world—and Caleb found this a dishonest word. To him, this implied caring, responsibility, empathy. But as far as Caleb could tell, these supposed citizens let an old man die on his own, rationalizing that it was humane and just since Jeffery was “home,” in the same physical structure that he had lived in for almost half a century. He was comfortable there, they’d claim. Caleb would walk through the town at night, windows of homes flickering from candles, but in these last months, Jeffery’s were always dark, seemingly unoccupied. Caleb might sit on the front step and listen. Just the patter of rain, rustling tree tops, and then a hacking, scraping, feeble cough. He should be quarantined, people said with ashamed tones. Steven was the only person who might enter Jeffery’s home, always donning a facemask. They had gone into the nearest towns, looking through pharmacies at bottles of years’ expired medications for a cure to something they could not diagnose and would never understand. Even Steven was reluctant to stay in Jeffery’s home for more than a few minutes. He might see Caleb sitting outside, in the rain, and ask him what he was doing. Caleb would shrug and carry on, as if he had only stumbled upon Jeffery’s house in passing, by accident. In his final weeks, Jeffery never left the house. Caleb could only imagine what was happening inside. He sat on the hood of a car that had not moved in years, windows opaque, scattered with red needles. Jeffery Gladstone was the only survivor of the original Alexis Creek. Like everyone else, he endured the events of The Fourteenth of August thanks to dumb luck. The exact details did not matter. Caleb knew that Jeffery had a wife who did not make it, who was never found, but he decided to persevere. He met others and brought them to this town. They founded a new colony, what was meant to become a self-sufficient community. He was among the few that drove to Bella Coola and replied to the note. It was his handwriting. Against unimaginable odds, Jeffery Gladstone survived the near extinction of the human race only to end his life shitting in his bed, alone in the cold, the damp, and the dark, unable to move, no one coming to pay their respects until after he had perished, until after they could drag him out with gloves and masks, until after he had been sprayed down and then wrapped in thick layers of canvas that still failed to withhold the stench of his rotting carcass. This was the end that awaited Jeffery Gladstone, pioneer of this New World. And these were his “citizens,” Caleb thought, as they shoveled the first dense piles of mud on top of his body.
Ingrid gripped Caleb’s hand, squeezing his ring and index fingers together. “Are you okay?” she asked with eyes that were consoling, as if he’d been crying. He remembered when she had to look down at him, her irises a streaked hazel, like cracks in stone, he used to think. Back then, her hair dangled from either cheek, straight but erratic at the tips. Now her neck arched upwards, the bridge of her nose at the level of his lips. He wanted to ask Ingrid why all these people pretended to care so much about this one death. He knew that they were acting. How could those tears be authentic when they would not dare step foot in the dying man’s house for weeks, for months? How can this one funeral mean anything compared to what everyone had already experienced? Ingrid’s eyes were glazed; a pair of dark lines trailed down each cheek to her chin. Caleb looked into her expression and wanted to ask what was she crying about? Was it that Jeffery Gladstone died? Or for something else, something more profound: the fact that this man would have been better off should he have never survived the events of The Fourteenth. Stop crying, he wanted to tell Ingrid. But he nodded, his expression indifferent. She tugged at his arm to take him home, like he still needed to be walked, but he pulled his hand free and motioned towards the men shoveling. He helped them dig Jeffery’s grave. He would help them fill it back up. Remove any trace of his existence. “I’ll see you at home,” Ingrid said, intoned as if she sought confirmation. Caleb nodded, watching her turn and join the scattered procession of others strolling back along the street.
So, March the 14th. That’s the date that Book Two of How the World Ends will be available at Amazon.com, but you can pre-order it right now by clicking on this conveniently-hyperlinked sentence! I just got my confirmation from Kindle Scout that they will not be publishing my book, which is to be expected when considering that they didn’t publish the first, but hopefully all those people that nominated this book will take a look.
Don’t want to say too much about this book, other than it continues right after the events of Book One, but follows Hayden. The time frame is a little more elongated than before, with the plot spread out over a number of months, as opposed to a number of days. As with before, this is not meant to act as a stand-alone novel, but instead form the middle third of a complete story. However, there is a very definite ending. In fact, when I first thought of this story (which came from a dream of a movie that I was watching), the story concluded here, after this book. But what works in a dream and works in reality are fairly different, I tend to think.
Here’s the brief write-up from the Amazon page (taken from the Kindle-Scout page):
The world has already come to an end. Now Hayden and four others—who might very well be the last souls on Earth—must contend with the notion that it may not be possible to know what happened on the 14th of August, 2007. Regardless of reasons, and against astronomical odds, they survived. But can survival be a means unto itself? Because if not, the cruelest fate just might be their perseverance.
So, I’m going with the Kindle Scout thing again. Starting Sunday, January 14th, and for 30 days after that, How the World Ends (Book Two) will be in the running of a Kindle Press publication contract. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I ended up feeling quite positive about my previous attempt at using Kindle Scout. Although I’ve expressed some misgivings about the entire idea, I do believe it led to significantly higher numbers of readers discovering the first book. It connected me to some new fans and led to a noticeable bump in sales in the weeks afterwards. So, here we go again.
If it’s January 14th (or later), you can click through this link to get to the campaign page. From here, you can read a sample (roughly the first 10% of the novel) and vote to recommend the novel for publication.
Personally, I’m not sure if I want it to get published through Kindle Press. While I’d obviously appreciate the added exposure this would give, I like the idea of retaining full control of all my books. And, I’m not sure if I’ll still be able to release a paperback version of the novel. But, either way I’m happy.
And, if the book does not get selected for publication, I’m aiming for an early March release. After that, I bring my focus to revisions of Book Three, hoping for a late 2018 release…
So, The Most Boring Christmas Special Ever Written has been reviewed at Big Al’s Books and Pals. He gives it 4 stars. Pretty generous. That’s two reviews of my books in just over a month. I guess all the bribes I’ve been sending them are really starting to pay off.
Well, that was different.