Empty Sky Chapter 12 – Shem

A dog and his boy

Read Empty Sky Chapter 11 – Dr. Lupicen and Ann

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Two men, one shaved bald, tall, thin and quick like a whip and the other a fireplug on legs with a jet black ponytail halfway down his broad back, both in tailored, navy-blue pinstripe suits and wearing hand-made, alligator-skin shoes so polished they reflected the lights marking the aisle, made their way from the locomotive through the tender to the back of the train. The whip would walk a few long, waspish steps, wait, then spin the gold and diamond pinky ring on his right hand until the fireplug caught up. When the fireplug reached him the whip would walk a few more long, waspish steps, wait and spin his ring again.

The fireplug strolled, his hands clasped in front of his chest as if in prayer, his eyes skimming over his knuckles as they evaluated, the bands of the two turquoise rings he wore — one on each ring finger — clicking sometimes as he walked. He passed no one without reaching out to their carotid and checking for a pulse; conductors, stewards, clerks, passengers. It didn’t matter.

The fireplug’s slow methodicity and attention to detail frustrated the whip who released his frustration by aiming a small but powerful ruby laser into the lens of the security cameras while he waited for his partner to catch up.

“Christ, look at this place. What did Pangiosi use again?”

“Ambien. That’s what he had us dump in the food service trucks. It makes you sleep and wake up without feeling groggy. ‘Far as everyone on the train is concerned, they’ll all think they probably had too much to drink.”

“Do you have to test every mother’s son?” The whip broke protocol and used names in an attempt to make the fireplug move faster. “We’re supposed to get McPherson to Pangiosi before morning, you know.”

The fireplug stopped and stared at the whip who turned away before the fireplug answered. “We have plenty of time. Besides, we find one dead person, we got trouble.”

“Didn’t you tell me once something about your grandfather teaching you to help people die?”

The fireplug nodded as he worked. “Not exactly. He taught me to sing them from this world to the next, to carry the souls of the dead so they’d find peace.”

“Happy hunting ground stuff?”

“Something like that.”

“You believe in that stuff?”

“I don’t believe in much of anything anymore.”

“Yeah. Ditto that.”

The fireplug continued his slow inspection. The whip tapped his foot at the rear door to the car.

The fireplug stopped and looked up. “I wonder if these people dream.”

The whip broke protocol a second time. “John, who gives a shit. Pangiosi gave us an order. We carry it out.”

John stopped. His arms folded over an expansive chest.

The whip looked out a window and spun his gold and diamond pinky ring. “Sorry.”

John’s prayerful hands went back to work.

Shem twitched himself awake. His head rose up and he sniffed the air. A scent, something from deep dog memory, canine memory, canid memory, canis memory. He leapt off the bunk and growled. A door opened in the bedroom suite, a door only dogs, only canines, only the line that first walked before man then behind then beside could see, sworn under the first full moon to watch for such doors because humans, the canids knew, would grow to forget.

The door closed. Whatever had been there had been warned away by flashing eyes, by baring teeth.

He jumped back on the bunk. As he circled to lay down he remembered the Little Master had gone. He looked across the suite to the other cot. The Great Master snored lazily like an old Alpha in the tall grass on a hot summer day.

Shem scratched his ear with a hind paw then sniffed his genitals. He rested his head over his paws, flopped to his side and stretched on the mattress. The entire bed was his!

Glorious His!

A few minutes later he, like the Great Master, snored like an Alpha in the tall grass.

***
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Velda the Fox

Patience in all things. Especially when things are hesitant.

We have friends.

They are gracious and loving, never overstaying their welcome.

Some are unsure of their welcome, though.

We do what we can to let them know our joy at their presence, our happiness at their arrival.

But their history with others…flavors their relationship with us.

We don’t blame them. If enough Italians hurt you, you become wary of Italians. If enough Londoners hurt you, you become wary of Londoners. Doesn’t really matter if it’s Chinese, Germans, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Aboriginals, doctors, lawyers, teachers, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, …

So The Foxen are wary of us.

We give them time.

A chance to learn our voices, our scents, our ways.

We endeavor to be to them as we wish them to be to us; giving, sharing, caring, loving.

Slowly, they learn that we, at least, are not like others who look like us.

Wish all things could be that way.

Rox Burkey Thinks I’m Hot!

Okay, she thinks The Augmented Man is hot. Okay, she thinks the book is hot.

Award winning Enigma Series Co-Author Rox Burkey wrote an amazing review of The Augmented Man a while back (THANKS, ROX!) and recently followed it up with an interview for IndieBeacon Radio.

You can read Rox’s review on her blog.

You can watch the interview on YouTube and Facebook.

You can listen on Spreaker and SoundCloud.

Enjoy.

Then go buy the book.

While you’re at it, buy my other books, too. You wouldn’t want The Augmented Man to get lonely, would you?

A Win-Win #GiveAway for @DannyKean

(with thanks to @foxspiritbooks who gave me permission to use the idea)

Adjective: win-win
1. Describing a situation or outcome that benefits two parties, or that has two possible outcomes that are both good

 
I’m offering a win-win #GiveAway and the rules are simple:

  1. Go through my list of #twitter #followers
  2. Find an #author whose books you’ll like
  3. Write a review (Amazon, Goodreads, Blog posts, Facebook, …, wherever)
  4. Tweet me a link to the review
  5. You’ll get an tshirt of your choice (examples)
    AND
    We’ll donate $10 in your name to the @DannyKean – The Traveling Piano man
    AND
    You’ll get a shoutout in my blog and through my social networks.

First ten to tweet me their reviews win.

Starts noonET Tuesday, 6 Aug 2019 Ends noonET Tuesday, 3 Sept 2019

And feel free to donate to @DannyKean on your own. He won’t mind.

The Backstory

 
@DannyKean, aka The Traveling Piano Man, recently followed me on Twitter.

My habit is to reach out to people who Like, Retweet, and/or Follow me. I tweet something about them, usually copying their Twitter profile text, retweeting something from their stream, finding something interesting on their site and sharing it.

@DannyKean‘s story?

Piano Man on Truck Synchronistically Creating Music for People to Discover Worldwide for Fun Friendship and Respect. Contribute: http://paypal.me/dannykean

The guy’s got 26k followers. Sure, why not. I’ll count myself among the musical many. Maybe he’ll buy a box of biscuits for his dog.

 
Now here’s what you got to know; I figured I’d be adding a drop in the bucket. I mean, 26k followers? I’m thinking @DannyKean‘s got a home in Vail, an Upper West Side apartment in NYC, a place on The Keys, …

@DannyKean sent me an email:

Hi Joseph,
Thanks for you $10.00 contribution towards my work. Together we can keep it going. You may find this difficult to believe… In all my years on Twitter and with 25,000 followers… You are the first ever to make a contribution! That must change quick, lol. Thanks again…
Danny Kean

I read that and went WTF!?!?!?

So I emailed for clarification. @DannyKean responded:

I’ll appreciate anything you can do to help Joseph. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you help me, lol! Fact is, I am one month away from being homeless so I must start actively fundraising again which I am so burnt out of but… whatever. What is needed is sustained monthly contribution more than anything else through a subscription on my website so there is no need to constantly hit people up. Right now my total income is $136 and that is all from subscriptions, just a few people actually.
Thanks!
Danny Kean

Just to make sure, here’s @DannyKean‘s website – http://www.travelingpiano.com/.

You want to make the world a better place? How about doing it $1/month at a time?

There have been times in my life when $5 might as well have been $5MM.

So now I do what I can when I can. People on Twitter may know I often respond “My Pleasure. We’re here for each other.” when I do something for them. Something simple. Like sharing their info because they Like, Retweet, and/or Follow me.

How about you?

Empty Sky Chapter 11 – Dr. Lupicen and Ann

We have children so we can admire ourselves in someone else.

Read Empty Sky Chapter 10 – The Arctic Night


Dr. Capoçek Lupicen sat at his desk in the dark, an oversize computer screen’s dim afterglow lighting his face. His left hand arched over the keyboard, his long, thin fingers resting on a large red trackball. A switching panel stood to the right of the screen, its red lights reflecting off his glasses making it appear that an ovoid headed demon with large red eyes stared at him from his computer. Other labs had virtual displays and keyboards. Dr. Lupicen preferred the human touch keyboards, screens, and trackballs afforded him..

A small, old, worn, black and white photograph of two boys — one about ten years older than the other and with similar features — in a silver frame held pride of place, standing between his keyboard and screen. He’d check something on his screen then look at the two boys smiling out of the photograph, gently tap the older boy’s face, smile then return his gaze to the computer screen, as if confirming the screen’s information with the boy in the picture before continuing.

He cupped his narrow chin in his right hand and reread what he’d entered in his journal, evaluating every sentence, every thought. He’d release his chin and cup his ear, letting his fingers beat a mindless staccato on his short gray hair as words were considered, phrases whispered, accuracy determined. When a passage dissatisfied him he’d lift his glasses from underneath and massage his sharply etched pince-nez. Often he would adjust himself on his seat as if a slightly different position clarified his thoughts. The sharp citrus and pine aromas of laboratory cleaning solvents tinctured his nose and he’d exhale sharply. Sometimes the scent of the stronger, industrial solvents would waft through his lab and he’d pull back, hurry to pull a handkerchief out of his pants pocket before he sneezed, wipe his nose, absently return the handkerchief to his pocket and continue writing and editing.

Each night he came here to enter the day’s events into his journal. Each night, after all the postdocs and grad students and assorted degree candidates and research associates had left and the sun had set, he quietly unlocked the door and tiptoed in as if he had no right to enter the lab his research funded. He would look right then left then right again, looking first through then over his glasses as if the clear vision they granted might prove a lie. He never turned on a light, all old habits from an even older part of the world, from a place and time when silence and stealth were the secrets to life itself.

Satisfied with his entry, he sat back and put his hands in his lap.

Footsteps approached in the hall. That would be Mr. William Murphy — the janitor the students referred to as “Wild Bill” because he was often slightly drunk, dressed like a woodsman regardless of season or weather, and sang to himself quietly but offkey — working slowly, methodically, intentionally, all things Dr. Lupicen admired and approved of. Sometimes, when he’d finished making his entries early, he would invite Mr. Murphy in to chat, to sit and share some tea. Mr. Murphy was a good listener, smiled and nodded at things he couldn’t understand, then said thank you, cleaned, dried and replace his cup on the shelf above the sink, shook hands and went about his ways.

Lupicen appreciated the quiet friendship.

But not tonight. Dr. Lupicen sat motionless until the casters under Wild Bill’s wringer bucket, the sloshing water, swishing mop, and Wild Bill’s own nasally singsong voice and the sharp smells of his cleansing chemicals echoed away.

Lupicen turned his chair to look out his lab’s western facing windows. His lab was the largest in Vail Hall, in the last cluster of academic buildings on the north side of the Dartmouth campus, and occupied the entire west side of the second floor.

A few cars could be seen under the lights of the parking lot behind the building. Trees created a small woods extending past the parking lot down several hundred yards past some roads and eventually to the Connecticut River. Across the river he saw the glow of Norwich and Thetford, Vermont, and beyond them the eastern faces of the central Green Mountains.

The faces were lit by the moon rising over in the east. On the night his staff worked late he would take a moment from observing the people sleeping in the chambers he’d designed to watch the moon slide down behind those mountains.

The moon in the mountains.

Turning back to his computer, he tapped the trackball and the screen flickered to life. He logged out of his PC then toggled a switch on the panel beside the monitor. Its connection, along with the connections to the trackball and keyboard, went from the PC to the APS System 70v3 computer, resting like a plexus between the sleep chambers, its cables like the webbing of a fat, dark spider in the center of his lab.

His fingers moved the trackball as if he were cracking a safe. The screen lit up and a blue door appeared centered in a deep ocean background. He opened a drawer and pulled out a HUVRSA, a Heads Up Virtual Reality Sensory Accumulators helmet, two cybergloves and a cybersuit. He undressed and slid his mantis-thin body into the tight fitting head-to-toe cybersuit. His cybergloved left hand made a knocking motion in the air. On the computer screen his knocking became a cartoon balloon with the word “knock” repeated three times on the surface of the door.

“Ann? May I come in, dear girl? Hmm? May I come in?”

Nothing happened. He looked at the ’70’s dark display, then spoke directly into the HUVRSA’s voicelink. “Are you awake, Ann?”

***
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