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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Preview: Diary of a Second Life - More Frakked-Up Shit

Time's about here.  My next novel (more horror than scifi, I guess) will be published very soon, but I thought you'd appreciate another look or two at it.  (If you missed the first chapter I posted, click here.)

You'll be introduced to the main character, Wess, and then you'll get a better idea what those nails are for.

Spoilers after the JUMP!

2 October

Hello, Diary.  My name is Wess Marin.  I'm 14 and I live in Lee.  There are almost one hundred people in Lee.  Most of them are my cousins, of course.

My mother's name is Leigh, she's a farmer, and my father's name is Patton, he's a watcher.  I have three younger siblings and their names are Colt, Sarah and Moss.  We're all healthy except for Moss; he has lots of breathing problems.  I would have six siblings, but two died when they were still babies and one while he was still in my mom.  My mom is pregnant again and I've heard her talking to Dad because she's worried about this baby, too.

Four days a week, we have classes and those are my favorite days.  I like reading stories and learning how to do math and science. 

The other days I have to help with chores, like cleaning and farming.  Sometimes I like going outside in the fresh air and sun and seeing all the trees and fields, but I always come back so hungry.  It takes a long time to feel normal again.

When I'm not working and going to class, I like to read the books I've found and explore the old buildings.  That's why I have you now, Diary.  I was looking in one of the buildings a few days ago and I found a whole box of blank books.  I found lots of other books, too, but I couldn't carry them all at once.  I'll go back another time soon.

I had the idea to start a diary of my own because I found a really old book last year called The Diary of a Young Girl.  It was falling apart and some pages were gone, but I never forgot the book.

Well, I've got nothing else to say.  I guess I'll write again when I do.


20 January

There was a knock on the door early this morning and I heard Dad open his locker and go answer it.  I had been just lying in mine so I went ahead and got up. 

It was the general.  "Patton, General Jeffers didn't open his locker this morning."

I looked at my dad and he blew air out through his nose loudly.  "It's still early."

The general said Jeffers' wife said he was always awake before sunrise and that he didn't answer any knocks on his locker.  Dad went and got dressed.  The general saw me and smiled.  "Sorry to wake you, son."

I said I was already awake and he said I should come along, too.

My father was buckling his belt and he looked at me.  "Get dressed."

General Emry was older than just about everyone, of course, but I knew that General Jeffers was general before Emry.  He had to have been really old.  Sixty something.  Dad was carrying his sword and I was behind the general while we walked.  I asked how old Jeffers was and Emry said seventy-two.  Seventy-two … it doesn't seem possible.

We got to their room and the wife was waiting for us.  She was crying and said she had been knocking on the locker but she still hadn't opened it.  General Emry hugged her and asked her to wait in the hall.  Us three went inside and over to the two big lockers in the side room.

They looked the same as my Mom and Dad's.  Dad took off his tool belt and set it on the table.  The general pulled a length of rope from his belt and wound it around his wrists and fingers.  I saw them getting ready and I asked what I could do.

"Just stay back and watch," Dad said.

Dad was holding his sword ready and he stepped on the outside pedal at the bottom of the door.  The general used a cane to push the lever at the top.  When both clicked, the general threw the door open.

It creaked and then banged so loud that it scared me.  I expected him to come out but he didn't.  Dad was holding the sword up and pointed it at Jeffers head.  The general said he was going to grab him.

General Emry still had rope around his wrist and he reached into the locker and quickly pulled the old man out.  I jumped again when the general's body hit the floor.  He just flopped onto the rug and didn't move.  It was so strange.

General Emry was fast, though.  He grabbed Jeffers' arms and tied them quickly behind his back.  Dad put away his sword and went to the tool belt on the table.

The general took his hand off the man's throat and said, "It's only been a few hours, Patton."

Dad nodded and looked at me, "No rush, then."  He waved me over and I slowly walked beside him.  Emry was now unrolling a large mat and laid it under Jeffers' head.

I had never seen a dead person before.  Not a dead adult, anyway.

Dad knelt beside the general and Emry put his hand on my shoulder.  He said something like, "This is the most important thing we watchers do.  We make sure that our family and friends can't hurt us once they've left."

"Should I let him do it?" my father asked.  General Emry said sure.

Dad handed me one of the nails.  It was long, like six inches.  And thick; as big around as my little finger.  The metal was shiny and the top was a wide circle.  So heavy.  That surprised me, for some reason.  I pressed my thumb on the point and realized just how sharp it was.

"Take your finger," my dad said, "and run it against his skull around the top of his ear to the back side."  I hesitated and he patted my arm.  "Don't worry.  He won't go terminal until tomorrow."

I put my finger in front of General Jeffers' ear and sort of moved it in a circle over the top of his ear and around to the back.  The skin was cold and the tiny hair prickled me as I moved it.  My stomach tightened up and then Dad took my wrist.

"Press harder.  You have to feel the surface of the skull."  He moved my finger and then pushed it onto his head harder.  "Feel that bony ridge just before it drops off?"  I didn't say anything.  "Right there."  My fingertip fell off that ridge and onto a flat part of the skull before it tapered toward his neck.  "Take the point of the nail and put it there."

I took in a deep breath and General Emry smiled, "You're doing fine.  Take your time."

When I put the nail on his skin, I saw my hand was shaking.  I lifted it again and put the point back on his head.  I felt it on the skull ridge and then moved it up.  The side of the nail rested against the back of the earlobe.  I exhaled slowly.

"Should I hammer?"  I nodded quickly and Dad said, "Keep it still and straight.  Back up a little."
I leaned away and tried to hold the nail steady.  I felt Dad adjust it a little with his own hand and then he rested the mallet on the top.  I breathed in again deeply when he raised it up.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, really.  I thought I might hear the metal of the nail ding in the room loudly.  I thought my hand might vibrate from the hit.  I guess that's about it.

When Dad brought the hammer down, it glanced off and hit my wrist.  That hurt moments later but that's not what I noticed first. 

There was a small metal clink when the hammer hit the top of the metal nail.  But then there was a loud crack.  I mean, … so loud.  And the sound itself was like a piece of wood being snapped.  It took me a bit to realize that was the sound of his skull being broken.

Then there was the movement.  He wasn't going to be terminal until the next day, but his legs and arms jerked and his mouth flew open.  I jumped across the room and held my wrist.  General Emry waved me back.  "That's normal.  Don't worry about it.  We hit the motor center of his brain."

Blood was now seeping from around the nail and dripping down his neck to the mat.  Dad hammered again and the nail sunk almost all the way through.  He moved it around a little and got ready to hit it again.  General Emry then held Jeffers' head still and Dad hit it once more.  There was another crack; not as loud as the first.  Emry turned the head around and I saw the point of the nail on the other side.  Blood was coming out of there, too.

"Good.  Straight.  One will be fine."  He pointed to the top of the ear and looked at me.  "Usually we use two nails.  The second goes in about a knuckle up from the top of the ear.  That's the sensory center."
Dad took a sack from his belt and began to put it around the general's head.  I came a little closer and that's when the smell hit me.  It was like an unclean hole but there was something different, too.  Something like metal.

"The smell?" Emry asked.  I nodded and he said, "When you die, the body usually expels whatever waste is still in you.  If they didn't already, nailing them usually makes it happen."

I covered my nose and backed away a little and asked about the other smell.  The general stood up and saw the blood on his hand.  He sniffed it and nodded.  "Blood."

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply for several moments.  Then, my dad called me.  When I looked, he had already finished tying off the sack on General Jeffers' head and unrolled the mat under the rest of his body.  Emry pulled the edges of the mat up and then over the body.  Dad went to the door and called Mrs. Jeffers back in.  She had been crying and she slowly moved into the room.  She stood over the general's body for a minute and shook her head.  She bent over and patted the top of the mat.  "I'll always love you, Will."

"The weather should be clear tonight, Cara," General Emry said.  "We can do it after the sunset."

She nodded and then hugged Emry.  When she pulled herself off his shoulder, she asked, "Did it go well?"

Emry smiled a little and said, "Nice and clean, Cara."

"Good."  She looked down again and put her hand to her mouth.  "You have everything you need?"

"We do," my father said.  "Wess, gather my tools."  I picked up the hammer and the extra nails and put them back in their appropriate pouches.  I got his sword from the wall, too. 

General Emry and Dad gathered the mat on each end of Jeffers' body and then lifted him up.  They walked out of the room and into the tunnel.  I looked back and saw Mrs. Jeffers sit at her table and begin to cry.  We took the body to a watcher station on the far end of the tunnel underneath the northeastern wall.  It stayed there for the rest of the day.

At night, I went with Dad and the other watchers as they sat around the box that held General Jeffers' body.  They had put an old flag on top of the box.  It may have once been white, but it faded to a pale yellow a long time ago.  There were some blue pictures in the middle I didn't recognize and a pink or red line near the bottom.  When it was time for the service, the watchers carefully folded up the flag and put it away.

They took the box up to the watcher post and we all walked across the grass to the people who were waiting near the western wall.  Just about everyone was there.  General Emry spoke for a while but I kept looking over the wall into the trees on the other side.  The trees were so close and you couldn't see anything beyond the first few.  

When the general finished speaking, some of the watchers took the box over to a pile of wood and then set it on fire.  Many of the people got up and began to head back down to the compound but the watchers all stayed and watched the flames take it.

Diary of a Second Life will go live tomorrow.  My Facebook 'likers' will get it sooner ... and they'll get a coupon code, too.

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