Saturday, February 10, 2018

We Thought We Were Safe

To keep us safe from the virus, my dad moved us to the farmlands of the eastern shore, away from the crowds of the city.

The researchers called it Konadai, a disease that turned people into mutated monsters. The virus killed thousands. It was said that those infected would come back hungry. I didn’t believe people actually reanimated from the dead and mutated into beasts. It’s not like I ever saw one.

After a year, I got used to our country home and dirt roads. Dad worked on the large sheep farm down the road while mom focused on giving my kid sister and I a proper education. She sucked as a teacher, but at least she tried to make it fun. My little sister, who was only ten years old at the time, loved having mom at the house all the time.

We were Pyro Dancers, people that could use fire magic. The powers were passed through my father’s bloodline so mom didn’t have a clue how to teach us about it. Dad was too busy to offer any advice. Mom didn’t want us using it anyway, saying we’d burn the house down. Since I couldn’t learn how to use my magic, I turned my attention to shooting. Dad kept a few guns in the back shed, claiming they were for hunting. He kept his favorite shotgun behind his bedroom door. I made him promise to take me out into the woods and teach me how to shoot, but he never did. My sister wanted to go too, but mom said guns were for us boys only.

Guns always interested me ever since I saw a group of soldiers in the back of a truck. I wanted to be like them, a hero to the people, protecting civilians from who knows what. If dad ever taught me to shoot or even how to use my fire powers, I could grow up and join the city’s guard.

When mom wasn’t paying much attention, my sister and I would pretend we were soldiers, using sticks as weapons. Somehow, she ended up being in charge. Whatever kept her from crying and tattling was fine with me.

My parents’ possessive fear of us getting sick left them paranoid. My sister and I never had any friends. We would speak to some of the other farm kids but that’s as far as it went. Some of the other boys my age would invite me to hang out, but I usually turned them down. Mom didn’t like me being away from home for too long.

One night, my mother got sick. No one knew where she caught the virus. It's still a mystery. Next thing I knew, I woke up to the sound of my sister screaming. I remember falling asleep while listening to dad in the other room reading her a story for the fourth time.

I threw back the covers with sweat building on my forehead. It could’ve been a bad dream. She had plenty of those since moving from the city. I’ve never heard her scream like that, though.

I crept out of my bedroom. The light in my parents’ room lit up their end of the hallway. They never slept with the lights on. Are they awake? I’m sure they heard the scream, yet neither of them appeared in the doorway. My stomach churned, twisting into knots. A strange feeling nudged at the back of my head telling me not to go into their room, but my feet kept dragging me forward.

After swallowing the lump in my throat, I tiptoed to their bedroom. The stench of blood slapped me in the face. Lying on the floor was my father, drenched in his own blood holding his hand to his mangled neck. He reached out to me with wide eyes, begging for help. I stumbled back, slamming into the doorframe. My heart pounded against my ribs. Each breath cut against my throat like knives. When I tried to hold it, the pain intensified. Helpless, I sat holding my chest, watching him choke on his blood.

Some weird growling sounds grasped my attention. I scrambled to my feet grabbing dad’s shotgun from behind the door. As I ran to my sister’s room, the growling turned to gargling. I stopped outside the door. In the darkness, an odd figure stood lumped over my sister’s bed. Her foot dangled off the side. Every ounce of me told me to run or cry or do something other than stand there shaking. Without thinking, I aimed the shotgun at the dark figure and squeezed the trigger. The kickback knocked me to the floor.

The humanoid thing cried out. Loud speeches echoed through the hall. It spun around flashing its sharp, pointed teeth. A long, thick tongue dripping with drool hangs from its mouth. I spin my head around, trying to find the shotgun. My hand lands on it just as the thing lunged forward, slashing at me. I shot it again before its long claws made contact with my face. I stood up and kicked the beast to make sure it was dead. Black blood oozed onto the hardwood floor. Its dark skin looked almost like rawhide.

The damn thing smelled of rotting flesh. I wondered how it even got in the house, but it didn’t matter. I rushed into my sister’s room hoping she was still alive. Part of me wished she had died before the beast started eating her.

I flipped on the light and almost puked at the scene. Blood soaked her bed. The monster tore off one of her arms while the other arm had chunks chewed out. Her tears mixed with the fresh blood on her face and I wanted to cry with her.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said taking a few steps toward her.

She turned her head toward me revealing a large gash in her neck.

“It hurts…so bad,” she cried.

There wasn’t anything I could do for her. The monster tore her up so bad she may as well had been a pile of ground meat. I brushed blood-stained hair out of her forehead and stepped back toward the door. “I’m sorry, Beth.”

Holding up the gun, I shot out two rounds. This time I was ready for the kick. One hits her in the head, the other dug into the wall.

I rushed back to my parents’ room wondering where mom could be. Did that thing eat her? Was she downstairs bleeding to death? Dad lay on the floor, his dead eyes staring at the ceiling. I remembered the stories about the Konadai virus. If the monsters bit you, you didn’t have long before you turned into one. Held up the shotgun and aimed at my father’s head. With my eyes shut I squeezed the trigger. The gun blast rung in my ears, but it suddenly felt natural. The recoil no longer bothered me.

I slouched against the doorframe with my arms wrapped around the gun. The farmlands were supposed to be safe. That thing took my family. How did that thing get inside?

For the rest of the night, I searched for my mom, not wanting to admit that she was the monster I killed. After searching through the house and around the one-acre property, I couldn’t find any sign of her. I slumped down onto the porch swing with the shotgun at my side. I became numb to it all, but there was no way I could sleep in that house. Not with the smell of my family’s blood ruining the air. Clutching the gun, I started walking. It didn’t matter where. The house, the blood, my dead family, it was all left behind. I had thought to torch the place and watch all my pain go up in flames, but then no one would believe what happened. I’d be an angry kid who murdered his family.

That night should’ve destroyed me, but instead, it gave me power. I vowed to destroy every last one of those things. One lesson was learned, the monsters do exist.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, it's an interesting read. I understood some of the 80s references, but a lot went over my head, sending me on a Google search spree. Personally, I would've been okay without all the 80s nostalgia. The writing wasn't award-worthy itself, but the plot made up for that. I'd say it was a FUN read. I'm giving it 3 stars. My personal opinion as I know a lot of others will and have rated it higher.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

NaNoWriMo - Chapter 5

Hiromi Kato

I dig my nails into my palms as a panicked voice calls over the intercom system.

“All personnel are to remain inside the building until further notice. This is not a drill. Please remain indoors.”

Two nurses—a male and female dressed in light blue scrubs—whisper to one another on the elevator as we descend to the lower levels of the hospital. Most of what they’re saying to one another is blocked out by the loud beeping at every floor, but from what I gather, they’re talking about the protest in the front parking lot.

“They’re throwing rocks now,” says the male. He cups his hand around his mouth as if that’ll keep me from hearing him in this small box.

“Don’t worry, the Eradication Squad will handle them,” the woman responds.

At least they decided to throw rocks instead of using their mahou. An angry group of Pyro Dancers could burn this place down in minutes. Rocks and furious chants won’t harm us. Luckily, Anette’s office is on the sixth floor and doesn’t have a window.

The elevator doors pull open and I step out into a bright corridor lit up by the sun shining through skylights. At least the cafeteria is business as usual. The soup lady smiles as I walk through her line. She’s wearing way too much red lipstick, as usual, but her spirit brightens my day.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

NaNoWriMo - Chapter 4

Kenji Higa

Good morning, Caara Island. Who am I kidding? It’s hardly ever a good morning here. Another day, another list of reported infections.

Sergeant Emika has us meet at the Eradication Squad base before heading out to our post. Check-in time was supposed to be at 7:00 AM, but she let us wait three hours. Good. I never pass up on extra hours of sleep.

My squad and I sit in a small classroom with two other small squads. We’re all dressed in the standard squad uniform: black combat pants and boots with a dark gray or black shirt under a black combat jacket. Most of the other squad members are women. One male soldier sticks out. He’s an Okamikiin, a wolf hybrid with pointed ears, fangs, and vertical pupils. I’m surprised they let him enlist—with their overactive temper—then again since we’re low on numbers the general probably wants all the able-bodied people that are willing to sign up. The metal suppression collar around his neck will keep his powers in check.

Tidus sits in the chair next to me. His gray eyes are focused on the blackboard in the front of the room, but he nudges my arm every few seconds as if he’s trying to get my attention.

“Any idea why we’re here?” he whispers.

I shrug. “Nope, but it’s better than being in the heat.”

Sunday, November 19, 2017

NaNoWriMo - Chapter 3

Hiromi Kato

My hands shake. Kenji should be here by now. I sit down on top of a concrete picnic table next to the playground and then scan the empty park for any sign of Kenji. The swing sets sit empty, slowly swaying in the breeze. No one’s outside laughing or chasing each other around the jungle gym. After the attack at the hospital, I’m sure most people would want to stay inside. As if concrete walls kept anyone safe from the virus. A few cars drive past on the main road outside of the park followed by a produce delivery truck. Despite the outbreak scare, we still need to eat.

I scan the deserted park once more. If it wasn’t for the bright green trees and pale pink sakura petals, this would make a perfect nightmare.

I shove my hands under my arms to keep them from shaking. If anyone were to see me, they’d probably think I was freezing by the way I’m sitting. It’s funny because I’m wearing a short sleeve tee shirt. Where is he? I wonder. The wind rustles the trees and for a short moment, I swear I smell death. Rotting flesh from over the large wall most likely.

Footsteps crunch on the gravel walkway. I spin around.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

NaNoWriMo - Chapter 2

Kenji Higa

Caara Island, one of the only inhabitable places remaining on this ruined planet. To think politicians were so stupid centuries ago, using nuclear warfare to solve their problems. Then again, are we any different?

The day I joined the Eradication Squad, I was promised a role in protecting the city. If I had known that included staring at a fifty-foot high brick wall all day, I would’ve become a researcher instead. Okay, maybe not a researcher—I don’t have the patience to stare at test tubes or listen to the scientific lingo. Waste management is probably more suitable for me. Being on the squad isn’t all bad, though. Most days we have to save the city from a rogue squirrel. Today, however, our main mission is to stand here, at the wall, all day. With half the city in a panic over the virus and the other half fleeing to the outskirts of the island, there’s not much happening.

The lonely streets are peaceful in a way. It gives me time to daydream about being a waste management supervisor and saving the city one trashcan at a time. It’s nearly silent, other than the occasional sound of a truck driving past or the construction workers drilling steel beams in the tall unfinished buildings. It’s as if the city officials held a meeting and said, People are dying from the incurable virus, so let’s build yet another useless building to block out the sun. I cringe thinking about it.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

NaNoWriMo - Chapter 1

Hiromi Kato

“If it can be created, it can be destroyed,” I mutter, staring at the data filling the holographic panel above my crowded desk. I’m sure the gods said the same thing about us.

The loud beep from the intercom snaps me out of my thoughts. The voice is calm, almost uninterested, as it pages one of the many doctors in the hospital. The small lab I work in sits on the sixth floor, away from the sick patients and buzzing medical staff. I prefer it this way. Cultivating a cure for the virus ravaging our island city is far less heartbreaking than watching people die from it. Especially people that I know.

As I settle back into studying the data on the panel, another sudden noise draws me back to reality. This time it’s from the door swinging open. Anette walks into the lab with a manila folder tucked under her arm. Her lab coat is unbuttoned revealing a red, button-down shirt underneath. The bright cloth clashes with her dark skin. As I straighten myself in my chair, she drops the folder on my desk. It’s another unwelcomed addition to the ever-growing mountain of assigned labor. My chest tightens as I glance down at the stack of papers. The work around here never ends. Blowing my bangs out of my face, I move the papers aside and grab my notebook from the drawer.

I tap a pen against my lips as I let out a long breath. It’s not until Annette reaches her desk that she speaks.