07:55:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 819 words  
Categories: Announcements, Old Ventures: Refuge

ANNOUNCEMENT: NaNoWriMo 2018, Old Venture: Refuge

I'm sorry. I know, no man is an island, but I've had trouble even being one drop of rain in a river. It's difficult, these days, not to feel like the very foundations of sanity are shaking loose. And I have struggled under my burdens, as I know many of you do. I only yesterday finished last year's NaNo (which I'll be uploading soon to the blog) and I'm going to try and publish one chapter a day this NaNo. It's going to be a rough election cycle this year, and I'm hoping we can get through it together. But if you retain none of the words before or after this, remember these: you are not alone. Amidst all the chaos, and pain, and dehumanizing horror, you are known, you are cared about, you are loved. And so long as we continue to have each other, and to hold one another in our hearts, we have hope. Below is an excerpt, a preview of a chapter I realized was important enough to write and publish out of order, where it might still have some impact. As always, check back daily for updates, on this as well as on older projects that I got behind in posting publicly. And in the meantime, may you and yours stay safe and close in these trying times.

* * *

Jack stepped out onto the stage, and for a moment was blinded by the house lights, and then the chorus of flashbulbs from the media. "I'm happier than I can say to welcome a true American hero onto this stage," the man said, flashing a wide smile.

Jack shook his hand stiffly, then waited for him to clear the stage before speaking. "I'm not comfortable being here," Jack said, "and I'm sure that shows."

The audience chuckled nervously. "That's okay. You're laughing with me," he paused, "I think."

"But I've never been comfortable using my... celebrity, I guess, like this. I've marched, with John Lewis, Martin Luther King, for many varied human rights on many different occasions. You could say I've never been apolitical... but I've always attempted to keep who I am as a man separate from who I was as a symbol. I never wanted to trade on the good I've done, and even today, that's not my goal.

"But I can no longer abide my prior silence. This is not the usual push and pull of politics. This is the rise of something far more sinister, an enemy we fought a world war against, an enemy I hoped we vanquished for good. Maybe that was naïve of me. Maybe my generation failed to keep the flames of vigilance lit.

"I didn't decide to speak until last week. I waited, hoping that sanity would return, that someone, anyone, would be able to show the Republican candidate that he's not just trying to be the leader of conservative America, or scared America, that he'll need to lead all of us. He'll need to represent the will of all of us. He'll need to represent the hopes, as well as the fears, of all of us. And their convention convinced me that realization will forever evade him. At his core, he is a divisive and spiteful man. He doesn't like the idea of an America united, unless he can force us to unite behind him, not as a good and changed man, but as he is, angry, scared and lashing out.

"And with each passing day, the parallels with the fascist rise- a rise that cost our world millions of lives- become stronger, and harder to ignore. Every day, more language about how everyone but America is the problem is used, while more narrowly defining what counts as America. I have seen this ugliness before, I have seen what it does to good men and women caught up in its throes, and I have seen what they in turn do to those they deem unworthy of sharing soil with. I wish I could be here for any other reason, truly. But we do not get to choose our burdens, only how we rise to meet them.


"So please, vote. Not just for Democrats, but for democracy itself, for a return to normalcy, to respecting our differences, and the rights of others. For returning this country to an ideal for the rest of the world to envy. For a world where our most vulnerable are cared for, protected, and safe. For America as we want her to be, and need her to be, not what she was. Because viewing who she was through rose-tinted glasses can't erase those who were left behind or excluded in that past, and we know better, now, and we have to do better. The only hope I have to leave you with is this: we can do better. I've seen it. And I pray I'll live to see it again. Thank you."

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08/18/11

  07:55:12 am, by Nic Wilson   , 248 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 27: 40

I baked a cupcake. I?d put in a requisition for mix, and frosting, but they didn?t make it in time for our resupply on Monday, and I?d given both up for a lost cause. Then yesterday, it arrived; Orange Cat talked supply into making a special delivery run. It was nice of him to do. 

 

I frosted it, then scratched the number ?40? into the top with a matchstick; I hadn?t thought to ask for decorations or a candle, so I stabbed the matchstick into the top of the cake, and lit it with a second match. Then I blew it out.

 

I didn?t know what to wish for. I was happy enough in the job- and it felt like work in need of doing. I guess maybe I wanted to hear from my mom; I wondered if she?d sent a card and it was being held up as the military scrutinized it for anthrax and secret terrorist code words.

 

I hadn?t spoken to her in seven years, unless you counted Mother?s Day cards with nothing but a signature in them- and her reciprocal birthday cards, though the chances of them seemed about one year in three.

 

We differed on why we didn?t speak; she?d been an alcoholic long before I went into the Army to fight ?racist wars?, so I thought I had the better claim. But I suspect it went deeper than that; I suppose some mothers just don?t like their sons.

08/17/11

  06:40:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 13 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: The Sting

The new Barren Mind, and the conclusion of the chiropractor arc: The Sting.

08/16/11

  05:01:25 am, by Nic Wilson   , 488 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 26: Ismail

I put Ismail in the cell overnight; it seemed cruel, but his docs okayed it.

 

When I came in the next morning to start his interrogation he was an entirely different man. Now that he wasn?t suffering from head trauma or doped up, he was like Khalid, that same, cartoony fucking hatred smoldering in his eyes. My paternal instincts told me I should get a switch and show him how to respect his damn elders, which made me wonder just how old my paternal instincts actually were- and whether or not they dated back to the Great Depression.

 

The Gates interrogators were at least professional enough to CC me their report, which gave me a starting point. ?I understand you tried to take credit for the bombing. And for killing Mahmoud. And you may have cooked and eaten the Easter Bunny.? He glared at me. ?Now most of this document requires clearance, but I don?t think there?s any harm in reading one note they wrote, about you: unreliable. You couldn?t fool the Gates interrogators. Why do you think it would fool me? Are you protecting someone??

 

?Fuck you,? he told me.

 

I could see where this is going. ?Look, if you?re bound and determined to obfuscate at least promise me you aren?t going to throw shit. The last guy in here threw shit, and I made him stay in here with it until he cleaned it up. We can do this whole power thing, if you want, but please, I?m only now getting the smell of feces out of my nostrils. For the sake of comity, please, just shit in the toilet.?

 

The whole thing mostly went over his head, and I was about to leave when he asked me, ?Why do you treat me differently than the others??

 

?You were a kid. And honestly? It?s pretty fucking sad. At twelve, I wasn?t equipped to wrestle with the abstract idea of terrorism- let alone exist in its world.?

 

?I?m not a terrorist.?

 

?Call it jihad, call it mowing down civilians with a fucking AK; but son, it?s not for kiddies.?

?I?m not a child, either.?

 

?Maybe not, now- you?re the grown-ass age of nineteen. But when you were first snatched up in Iraq. You were, what, twelve, thirteen? That?s about the age when American kids are officially allowed to see boobs in movies- and even then only light comedy boobs. And we?re pretty strict about letting them kill until they turn 18. And I?m not sure where I fall on the whole nature and nurture thing, but the fact that anyone even gave you the option at that age- it?s fucked up. So you want a couple days to simmer, fine, go the fuck ahead. I got time. And I?m 90 to 95% sure you?re full of shit, and had dick to do with anything. But we can get to that later.?

08/15/11

  04:55:55 am, by Nic Wilson   , 215 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 25: Release

I didn?t like leaving town the same morning I let Khalid out of his cage, but Ismail was finally lucid. I didn?t think he was going anywhere- but I also didn?t think the interrogators at Fort Gates would completely adhere to the agreement, either.

 

Sure enough, there were a couple of them, ?just chatting? with him while he ate oatmeal. Thankfully, he had been smart enough to mostly ignore them, and focus on picking raisins out of it.

 

?You two can leave, now.?

 

?Of course,? the one who seemed to have won their tightest and highest buzz-cut competition said.

I stopped him as he tried to push past me. ?You know that old adage about too many cooks in the kitchen? Well I?d appreciate it, as a professional courtesy, if you stopped pissing in my soufflé.?

 

At first he grinned, but when I didn?t smile back, he cocked his head to the side, then shrugged, and pantomimed zipping up.

 

?Feel like heading back home?? I asked Ismail.

 

?I?m not sure I?m well enough, yet,? he said, overacting out a fake cough.

 

?You realize that I?ve already talked to your doctor, and he cleared you to leave, right? Also, head injuries don?t make you cough.?

 

?Shit,? he said.

08/11/11

  07:43:44 am, by Nic Wilson   , 681 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 24: Flinging Shit

When I brought him his breakfast, I found Khalid had taken a protest dump on the floor of the holding cell. He actually seemed proud of it, and expected I was going to clean it up- get on my hands and knees in front of him to pick up his shit. Given another questionable spot on the floor, I suspect he jerked off to the idea.

 

He even smiled at me, the first time I?ve seen a toothy smile out of him- and it disappeared when I told him, ?You?re cleaning that up.?

 

He stood, resolute, and crossed his arms. I shrugged, and headed for the door. ?Wait. You can?t leave me like this. It?s inhumane.?

 

?Do you want me to get you some cleaning supplies so you can clean it up?? He was stunned. ?I?m not your maid. You want to act like a chimp in a zoo, that?s fine, but I?m not your monkey handler. You?ll clean this shit up or you can stay in here with it. Makes no nevermind to me. I?ll still bring you your three hots, so whenever you feel like cleaning up your mess, just say so, and I?ll bring you in the cleaning supplies. And as a magnanimous gesture, this one time only, if you tell me right now you?ll clean it up,

 

I?ll throw in a pair of gloves. Going once?? His eyes narrowed. ?Going twice? And fuck it, Khalid, I?m done being nice. See you at lunch.?

 

I think he?d been planning on mutually assured destruction, but I closed the door to the cell, and put a towel underneath. I still couldn?t eat in my office without feeling like I needed to go wash my hands again, but it kept most of the stank in.

 

At lunch, he actually tried to throw the shit at me, but I blocked it with his food tray, in the process spilling most of his corn. I slid his Salisbury and shit steak under the hole in the bars for him.

I decided after that not to take my chances anymore. So I started using the food slot through the wall; it was mostly there for used dishes, but it worked here, too. I still cracked the door, and asked Khalid if he wanted to clean up, and got the same answer. This worked for several days, until he got the idea (or had saved up enough excrement) to jam shit in the slot. Of course, that meant the next time I went to feed him, shit got all over his food. It was hard to square this petulant child with his reputation as a mastermind.  

 

After a few more days of partially eaten and mostly shitty food, he relented. I didn?t gloat; in fact, I let him clean alone. I was a little worried I?d come in and find a half-assed job, but I think he was tired of playing games, too. The floor was clean enough to eat off of- not that I was ever going to do that, knowing it was at least sometimes one man?s toilet.

 

I opened up the cell door, and he handed me the bucket with the rag I?d given him without even an attempt to splash the filthy water on my shoes. ?Now may I go home?? he asked.

 

?You aren?t here for throwing shit- at least not in a literal sense. I still need you to answer my questions. Did you kill Mahmoud?? His eyes got meaner again. ?I enjoy our little tet a tet, but I do still have a job to do. I just want to be able to keep people safe. Did you do it, or do you know anything that might help me keep your fellow citizens from killing each other??

?No.? It about killed him to give me that answer. 

 

?Okay. Then barring anything exciting coming out of the forensics, you?re free to go.?

 

He hesitated, and I almost thought he might thank me- but instead he just glared.

08/10/11

  09:40:35 am, by Nic Wilson   , 13 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: Honey Pot

A brand, spanking (optional, for an additional fee) new Barren Mind: Honey Pot.

08/09/11

  09:33:41 am, by Nic Wilson   , 248 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 23: Orange Cat

I opened the door to the TOC. It was way more mellow than I imagined, no wall-spanning LCD touch screens, no pointless but futuristic feeling light sources. It looked just like any other room in the facility, with four computer desks, some phones and radios scattered around, and a coffee maker at the center, as if it were their deity. ?Orange cat??

 

The only man in the room stopped playing solitaire. ?Holy shit, blue dog??

 

?My cherubs all snug in their beds??

 

He shrunk down solitaire and pulled up the GPS map. ?Well, snug in their homes. Tariq?s pacing the floor of his kitchen. Khalid?s in his cell- or is that your cell? I don?t? know.?

 

?Anybody else who?s having trouble resting? Guilty conscience, or overactive worrying??

 

?Not that I can tell from the blips on the map.?

 

?Well that?s too bad. How?s the coffee??

 

?Lousy, but Army strong.? I fixed myself a cup. ?Odd,? he said, hesitating, ?having a face to go along with the voice.?

 

?Would have thought you had my picture,? I said, and poured some of the coffee onto my tongue; it tasted like it was brewed through a jock-strap.

 

?Shitloads of them. But that?s not the same as you being in here, alive, breathing, talking.? He was having trouble hiding his nervousness.

 

?It?s weirding you out, isn?t it??

 

?Shitloads, yeah.?

 

?I?ll go, then. Talk to you later.?

 

?Yeah. Cool. Later.?

08/06/11

08/04/11

  09:32:17 am, by Nic Wilson   , 448 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 22: The Suit

I didn?t make it far outside of Ismail?s room before I was met by a Captain from the Colonel?s staff. He was escorting a man in a suit expensive enough that he had to be a lawyer, but with enough of a stick up his butt in his walk that he had to be Army, also. ?This is Lieutenant Gordon, technically our liaison with the state department.?

 

?I was hoping you had a moment to discuss the, uh, altercation. Specifically, you shot out a vehicle?s tire, causing it to roll.?

 

?Absolutely,? I said.

 

?Why? Fort Gates is heavily armed. He would never have been able to get through it. And if you?re worried about the vehicle going off-road, we have more than sufficient air and vehicular power to track it down. Particularly since the GPS tracker in the car was never discovered.?

 

?Because that?s my job,? I replied, already annoyed.

 

?Pardon me, if this comes off as confrontational, but isn?t your job to prevent them from escaping at all.?

 

?Where possible. But it isn?t, always. And it looks better, to everyone else in the BMC, if I?m the one who stops him. Makes them think twice about a similar escape.?

 

?But you knowingly shot out the tire of an accelerating vehicle with a propensity to roll. You could have killed him.?

 

?You would have.?

 

?Likely. The guards would have shot that truck up. But that?s a combat death. But because you caused his accident, if he hadn?t pulled through, Uncle Sam could have been on the hook for millions in a wrongful death suit.?

 

?And you think I should care more about the suit than his life.?

 

?I understand these are unique circumstances, and that you have to walk around all John Wayne out there in the BMC, but here, you?re on American soil- and I represent her government. This is a big pond, and you?re still a very small fish. And it may not be pretty, it may not feel patriotic, but five million dollars in the hands of a terrorist?s family, that?s five million dollars we aren?t using to pay down the debt, or put kids through school, or hell, pay for this facility; I?d put decent odds that it?s five million dollars that goes to fund more terrorism. It doesn?t get more American and apple pie than that. So do your job. Just next time, do it a little more fucking carefully. Understand??

?Crystal,? I said, and turned and walked away. I couldn?t tell if I wanted to punch him solely because he was a lawyer, or also because he was a dickhead.  

08/03/11

  09:54:53 am, by Nic Wilson   , 5 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: And Switch

New Barren Mind: And Switch.

08/02/11

  08:23:57 am, by Nic Wilson   , 555 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 21: Infirmity

Ismail woke up. ?Aw, fuck.?

 

?Yeah. That?s what I said, too- just looking at you hurts.? His head was on a spring, and when he tried to lean forward to see who was talking, he nearly did a Greg Louganis off the bed. I shoved him as gently as I could back to a resting position.

 

?Where, are?

 

I didn?t have the half-hour to wait for him to finish the sentence. ?Fort Gates, the infirmary. You crashed my truck.?

 

I don?t think he was clear-headed enough to realize it was me until that moment. ?Oh shit.?

 

?I don?t suppose you have a reason for doing a runner the day I have a murder and a bomb plot.?

?Day, after.? He tried to smile, but then he made another face, because it must have hurt like hell to try and smile. Warmed cockles. 

 

?Don?t get cute with me. At the moment I?ve decided to take all this with humor, but you jerk me around, and I might decide this was personal, and you were kicking me and my authority in the metaphorical crotch.?

He straightened up a little. There?s one thing terrorists know from, and it?s respect; we?re all mutts in cages- a fact society papers over with talk about rights and equality; but his kind spends most of their day biting each others? flanks, jostling for position. It means they see through the veneer a little more often.  

 

But before I could get anything useful out of him, his attending came into the room. ?How bad am I?? Ismail asked. ?Could I see a mirror.?

I butted in, trying to reassert my authority. ?Your face looks like an eggplant a fat man?s been having sex with. You want a mirror, you can have one. But it?s not going to tell you anything more than that.? Then I turned my attention to the doctor. ?Could you step out? I was trying to ask him questions.?  

 

?He?s on so much medication I?m surprised he can form complete sentences. And that trauma- you should hold onto your questions.? I was anxious- I didn?t like the idea of leaving a suspect in a hospital before I had answers, and the doctor noticed it. ?This isn?t some civilian facility. He?s in the heart of the most expensive terrorist mousetrap money could buy. And this isn?t an episode of 24. He?s not leaving our custody. As soon as he?s well enough to interrogate we?ll let you know.?

 

?And no one?s going to try and interrogate him before I get back??

?That?s above my paygrade, but it would sort of violate the agreement, wouldn?t it? You can put in a word with the colonel, if you like, but this time of morning he?s likely to be crankier than usual.?

 

I realized it was best to let sleeping dogs lie. But I did lean in close to Ismail, to give him a bit of friendly advice. I gestured to the guards, one at each side of his room. ?You think you?re bruised up now, you can?t imagine the misshapen blob these fine young men will make of you if you try to run again. Be good, Ismail. Trust me on this. Now is not the time for you to fuck with Uncle Sam.?

07/30/11

07/28/11

  08:36:29 am, by Nic Wilson   , 6 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: Fate

There's a new Barren Mind: Fate.

07/27/11

  08:45:50 am, by Nic Wilson   , 13 words  
Categories: Survival

Survival Page 91

The latest page of Survival is now live (or undead, if you prefer).

07/26/11

  09:22:39 am, by Nic Wilson   , 494 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 20: Run!

I woke to the sound of an engine. I?d been dreaming badly, so I wasn?t far from wakefulness, anyway. I knew what it was even before my feet hit the cold concrete.

 

The engine roared, then receded. I unlocked my gun safe, and took out the rifle.

 

My radio chirped. ?Blue dog? We got a rabbit. Past the electronic fence and moving too fast to be on foot.?

 

?Yup, it?s wabbit season,? I said, opening the door. It was fucking cold out there, but I was warm enough from anger that it barely registered. I rested the butt of the gun against my shoulder, and aimed it down the long stretch of road out of town.

 

My truck was far enough I wasn?t going to get a shot at the driver, but I didn?t need to. It was picking up speed fast, and I knew what a blow-out with that kind of velocity would do.

 

I fired, and the back tire shattered.

 

The truck spun halfway around, and if the driver hadn?t been such an utter moron and overcorrected it would have just stopped, but he flicked the wheel too hard in the opposite direction, and the Bronco rolled. First onto its side, then onto its roof. The plastic cover over the back cracked under the pressure then gave in.

 

I walked to the truck, careful to have a modicum of decorum since people were poking their heads out of their doors and I was walking down the city street in my underpants with a rifle on my shoulder- less than a full day after we?d found a bomb and a body in town.

 

?Uh, blue dog, we got your response team ready. Blue dog, you copy??

 

?Standby.?

 

I could see the driver, trying to get the door open. He managed to, and crawled out on all fours at my feet. He tried to get up, clawing at me. I smacked him with the butt of the gun.

 

?Blue dog. Your rabbit stopped running.?

 

?He?s in the bag.?

 

?So you don?t need the response team??

 

?That?s a negative. Everything is code 4.?

 

Ramzi had run out as far as the edge of the electronic fence; he wasn?t supposed to know exactly how long his leash was, but apparently he did. ?Is he all right?? Ramzi asked. I glared at him, and started dragging Ismail away from the truck.

I wanted to throw him directly into the concrete cell, but there was a hell of a lot of blood. ?On second thought, orange cat, I am going to need some assistance. You better send a medical team to extract the bunny. And the Bronco?s torched- though that can wait for the morning.?  

 

?Shit, if I have to be up at this time, no reason those lazy motor pool shits can?t be working.?

 

?I hear that,? I said.

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