Monday, June 24, 2013

The Triangle: Excerpt # 4

Excerpt #4 Copyright 2013
by Stephen Reid Andrews
All rights reserved in the author

I am in a graveyard. I know I’m in a graveyard because there are headstones of various shapes and sizes, and there are people dressed in black all around me. Although the graveyard should be gloomy, the surrounding colors are radiant and bright, and my presence here feels surreal and subconscious as if no one in the graveyard can see me. I am in a modest hospital gown, but I am not embarrassed of my lack of appropriate clothing because no one seems to be aware of me.

I look around at the people in the graveyard. I don’t recognize any of them. Most of the people are sad, but one or two of them appear pleased that the graveyard is full to its capacity. I study the man closest to me. He is walking around between the headstones with a pen and notebook in his hand. As he looks at each headstone, he checks something off in his notebook. The man is wearing a black hat and sunglasses, but I can tell, even with the obstruction, that the man is intense. His face is rough with a five-o’clock shadow, his jaw is pointed, and he sports a deep scar that runs down the side of his face from his eyebrow to the bottom of his ear. The man’s aura is threatening, so I direct my attention elsewhere.

As the chill of death brushes by, I draw my head down to the headstones. Surveying the ground, I am aware, without counting, that there are exactly twenty-two headstones. I look back to the headstone directly in front of me. I am standing only feet away from it and can read the name clearly: Geneveve Blackmore. The headstone is frail and old, with several cracks, and the corners of the stone are chipped. At first look, this stone appears older than the other stones in its immediate vicinity, but I have not yet looked closely at the other stones and might be mistaken.

I suddenly have a desire to read the names on all of the remaining stones. Without delay, I move to the next stone. This stone is about half the size of the first, is in much better condition, and, if a stone can look younger, looks younger than the first stone by at least twenty years. The name on this headstone sticks out in raised letters. Tamara James.

Moving from this stone, I look at the next stones in sequence: the third is a dark grey almost black stone approximately the age of the one immediately before it with the name John E. Farley; the next is a smaller headstone with the name Nathan Farley; the next is a headstone that appears almost glaring white, with a chip in the center and the name Sara Farley (I assume the Farleys must be related to one another).

The sixth headstone catches my eye enough that I examine it closer, a foggy mist is encircling the stone, but I am able to wave the fog away with my hand revealing the name Ronald Pierce. The name is blood red, and, once the fog is fully dissipated, I see that this headstone sticks out as compared to the others – as if this headstone should be my focus. Regardless of the appearance of this headstone, my curiosity forces me to move on to the other stones.

Moving rapidly because I plan to return to the stone with the blood-red letters, I bring myself in front of the other stones one by one, reading the names: James T. Fitzgerald; Allison Mitchell; Whitney Ann Warren; Julia Keiley; Isabel Stuart; Thomas L. Brandt; Paul Shreyer; Victor Daniels; and Nora Hahn Foreman. I have looked at sixteen of the twenty-two stones – only six remain.

The seventeenth stone is set apart from the others, but I can see it clearly. The name on the stone sends a chill down my spine that makes me wonder if this is reality because I have never felt such strong emotion in a dream. I stare at the name, wanting to cry, but I can’t. Jennifer Roberts Palmer. Roberts was the maiden name of my wife. The headstone represents Jennifer – I am sure of it.

I fall on my knees to bring myself directly on level with the stone, my plan to return to the stone with the blood-red letters pushed to the side. My head swirls, and I want to collapse. The hurt I feel for Jennifer is overwhelming, but involuntarily, my legs force me to a standing position and draw me to look at the final five stones. The five stones vary in appearance and size in the same manner that the first seventeen varied. The difference with these stones is that a name doesn’t appear on any of them. They are blank and smooth, waiting for a name to be written upon them.

In the shadows, behind the blank headstones, a figure eerily moves from one side of the graveyard until it arrives just a few feet in front of me. The presence inexplicably fills me with terror. The dark figure begins to shake back and forth, and it becomes apparent that the person to whom the shadow belongs is laughing maniacally. As the figure shudders with delight, its face moves into the light just enough for me to see the side of a face. It is the man with the sunglasses, and his scar is prominently visible.

In disbelief, I stare at the man but am interrupted as I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around to see my brother, Trevor, sitting in a chair near one of the headstones. He is holding a Sports Illustrated magazine with LeBron James on the Cover and looks up at me with a concerned look. He looks older now, as if he had aged more than a year since I last saw him.

“You gave me a scare there bro. We thought you might not wake up again,” he says as he stands up.

I try to reply, but, as the vision ends, I can’t speak.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Visions of David Palmer: The Triangle -- Excerpt #3

Excerpt #3 Copyright 2013
by Stephen Reid Andrews
All rights reserved in the author

“He's finishing another one,” a distant foreign voice breaks through the confusion as my body jerks back and forth. My muscles are still tense and the shaking is prevalent, but whatever is controlling me and causing my involuntary actions is beginning to weaken. As the wrenching and trembling decrease, my body unwinds, and I can feel my limbs. I shut my eyes and am calmed as my body becomes completely still. The room is peaceful enough that I can hear myself breathing along with the decelerating beep of a nearby heart monitor.

I reopen my eyes. The light is blinding as I stretch my eyelids. At first, I am unable to make sense of my surroundings, but I am reassured as I adjust to the light and begin to focus. I am lying on my back, in a bed, and I can hear multiple footsteps coming near me. One set of feet is traveling faster than a second set.

The first person to approach is a short woman. Surprisingly, the woman does not come all the way to me but stops near my side. “He’s stable,” she says.

Initially the woman was a blur, but the outline of her features has somewhat separated from her surroundings. Her colorfully patterned shirt is blinding but, at the same time, is welcoming and leads me to believe the woman is friendly.

I want to raise my fists to my eyes so I can rub my face for a better focus, but I can’t move my arms. My hands are tied down by something. My feet are also immovable. As I continue to adjust to my surroundings without any help from my fists, the second set of feet, also belonging to a colorfully dressed woman, stop on the other side of the bed across from the first woman. Iron bars of a hospital bed are on either side of my body, and, as my gaze darts around the room, I am able to confirm that I am in a solitary hospital room.

“He’s awake!” the first woman says with some mild surprise as if this event which naturally occurs every morning is for some reason exciting to her.

“I’ll call Dr. Jensen,” the second woman says as she turns to leave the room as hastily as she entered.

I move my neck a little to watch the second woman exit the room. My neck is stiff – like I have been sleeping on a bad pillow for several nights in a row.

The first woman, who remains by my side, is plain, a little chubby, and definitely not as pretty as Jennifer.

Jennifer, I think.

My visit with Jennifer in the white room must have been a dream. The dream seemed so real, but it is obvious that I have been lying in this bed for a long time – days at least.

“Jen,” I say through dry lips. My throat is parched, and I feel like I have not used my mouth for days.

“No,” the plain woman says. “I’m Nurse Tony,” she says nonchalantly, making it evident that she has no idea who my wife is.

I study the room and notice that I am covered in a hospital blanket with an IV stuck in my right arm. I hate needles, and, at the sight of the needle, my arm aches.

“Where’s Jennifer,” I repeat, this time with more conviction as if I am the only sane person in the room.

“I don’t know any nurses named Jennifer,” the plain woman replies. “Well maybe one, but she’s down on the first floor.”

“No,” I say frustrated. “Jennifer is my wife.”

The woman has suddenly gone as pale as a ghost with some flush redness in her cheeks as if she is extremely embarrassed. At my announcement, she has become extremely nervous and her hand starts to shake while she finishes her surveillance of the hospital monitors.

“Oh,” is the only thing she says as she nervously turns to walk out of the room, fleeing what has become for her an awkward and uncomfortable situation.

A little alarmed and a lot confused, I call to the woman as she passes under the threshold of the door. “Where’s my wife!”

The woman does not reply but continues to move away at an even more rapid pace.

I panic. Why is my wife not in this room? I ask myself.

In answer to my question, I remember the most likely cause of my being in this bed. The shooting. Before I closed my eyes to the scene in the mall, I saw my wife lying on the ground. The medical staff must be taking care of her in another room, or maybe a bullet only grazed her, and she has already been released. She is probably getting a candy bar from the vending machines. She loves chocolate.

The second woman, who I assume is also a nurse, reenters the room and comes to my other side between me and the window, casting a dark shadow over her face. The second nurse is slender and taller than the first. Her expression is particularly serious as she comes over to me with a thermometer. Having comforted myself with the thought of my wife retrieving candy from the vending machine, I have temporarily dispelled any anxiety and, instead, draw my attention to my present circumstances.

“Why are my hands and feet tied down?” I ask as the saliva moistening the inside of my mouth makes speaking easier.

In response, the slender nurse timidly looks at me as if she has been forbidden to speak to me. She must see the concern on my face because she brings herself to say something, although the words escape her hesitantly. “It’s okay,” she says gently as she smiles awkwardly. “The doctor will be here in a moment, and he’ll answer all your questions. We’re glad to see you awake.” She nervously repositions herself and straightens her back. “Can I get you anything?”

I look down at my strapped wrists and tell her with my gaze that I would like the straps removed. Because her shoulders relax and because her smile becomes more genuine, I can see that she understands what I am telling her through my expression. Some of the tension in the room has been relieved as the nurse recognizes that I have no intention to lash out at her.

The nurse moves closer, putting her hand gently on my shoulder in an attempt to comfort me. “Don’t worry. As soon as the doctor gets here, I’m sure he’ll let us take the straps off. But, we have to wait for him – it’s hospital policy you know.” She taps her fingers on my shoulder and lifts her hand. “In the meantime, can I turn on the TV or get you anything?” The nurse seems much more relaxed as if an unpleasant tension has just passed.

As I allow myself to settle down, my circumstances slowly resemble a routine hospital visit rather than an odd experiment. Obviously these nurses are simply doing their job, and I have nothing to worry about. When I was twelve, I was in the hospital to get my tonsils removed, and, except for the straps that bind my legs around the ankles, my arms around the wrists, and my torso around the waist and except for the fact that I am much older than I was when I got my tonsils removed, my environment seems similar, which gives me a sense of security.

My thoughts return to my wife. “Where’s my wife,” I ask again, this time with less urgency.

The slender nurse looks at me as if she didn’t hear the question. I conclude that she must be new at the hospital, or that she is filling in for the regular nurse. This must not be the regular shift for either of the nurses as the short plain nurse also seemed to have no idea who Jennifer was.

In a strangely compassionate voice, the slender nurse speaks as she turns back to me. “We’ve called your brother. He said he’ll be here as fast as he can – ‘twenty minutes at most,’ he said.”

I am surprised by this statement because I have not seen my brother for at least six months. Why would he be the one to come? “Trevor?” I ask. “Why did you call Trevor?”

“He’s listed as your nearest relative and point of contact should you wake up,” the nurse responds and then continues as she walks out the door, apparently to meet the doctor that has just arrived at the opening to my room. The nurse promptly shuts the door behind her in an obvious attempt to keep her conversation with the doctor concealed from me.

Why is my brother listed as the closest relative? I think to myself. I must be in a downtown Chicago hospital, and he’s a seventeen-year-old senior in high school who lives with my parents. Why would they call him and not Jennifer?

My heart tears as I realize the horror of the situation. I feel like I am going to vomit. Something must have happened to Jennifer. She must also be in a bed somewhere in the hospital, her injuries must have been worse than I thought. I hope she’s okay. I hope she is not in any pain. I have to get these straps off so I can go to her. Testing the straps, I wiggle my arms and legs, but the restraints are too tight.

Interrupting my struggles, the doctor enters the room with a smile that seems to me oddly misplaced given my recent experience with the nurses and my fear that something has happened to Jennifer.

“Hi David, I’m Dr. Jensen.”

Before allowing Dr. Jensen to go on with his bland introduction, I interrupt. “Can I see my wife?”

Dr. Jensen looks at me with the same confusion the nurses had when I asked them about Jennifer. I am now getting annoyed and angry.

“David, just let me check your vitals,” Dr. Jensen says visibly avoiding the responsibility of providing me with a direct answer to my question.

“Is she okay?”

Dr. Jensen doesn’t respond, and I feel as if I am speaking to the walls.

As a result of the doctor’s secrecy, I can sense my blood boiling with frustration, and I manage to raise my voice, which is not my natural disposition. “Where’s my wife!” I almost yell as I feel the veins on my neck and arms surfacing. Given the fact that I have yet to receive a straight answer about my wife and given the fact that I am still strapped to this stiff bed, I believe I am entitled to some liberty with my emotions.

As my muscles tense again and my heart beats faster with excitement, I lose the sensation in my limbs. I am aware that my eyes are glazing over as my vision blurs and my arms and legs start to twitch.

“He’s seizing up again,” I hear Dr. Jensen say as I am abandoned by my senses. This is the last thing I hear before I lose awareness of my surroundings and slip into an unconscious state.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Visions of David Palmer: The Triangle -- Excerpt 2

Excerpt #2

Copyright 2013
by Stephen Reid Andrews
All rights reserved in the author

Chapter 1
I must be dead because I no longer feel pain. Slowly my eyelids flicker, and I awake to the most brilliant white I have ever witnessed. I’m standing in a large room with a uniform white ceiling, white walls, and a white floor. The brightness of the room is complete and appears to have no imperfection. As far as I can see in front of me, the room is empty, and the whiteness of the walls merging with the whiteness of the floor and ceiling provide the sensation that the length of the room stretches on with no end.

As I assess my surroundings, I wonder if I am not dead but only dreaming. The images are surreal like a dream, and I seem more like a spectator than an actual participant, although I know I am an intricate part of the scene. Because this is not how I pictured death, I decide that I must be dreaming.

I notice other things that lead me to believe I am dreaming. For one thing, I look down and realize that I am in my normal causal clothes – a polo shirt, loose fit jeans, and tennis shoes. I can’t imagine that angels wear such cheap shoes – unless, of course, I’m in hell.

Whether in a dream or a spiritual state, I know somehow that I am having a very real experience and am completely at peace.

"David," I hear a woman's gentle voice behind me speak my name.

Turning to see the speaker, I am calmed by the sight of who is standing in front of me. Jennifer, my wife, is near me in the room. From her posture, it’s obvious she was quietly watching me examine myself and my new environment.

She looks as beautiful as the day I married her. Her soft skin is radiant, her sandy brown hair is freshly curled and flows over her shoulders like soft feathers floating in the air. Her blue eyes are bright and happy. She's dressed in white, and she is not in pain. I am relieved because the last I saw of her, she was laying on the floor of the mall. She is the most beautiful person or thing I have ever seen. I want to reach out to her and embrace her, but I am unable to move my arms towards her.

Jennifer smiles at me, like she usually does when she's happy to see me, her delicate pink lips stretching her mouth. However, from her expression, I can tell that there is something more behind her smile. Her expression foretells that she has something serious and important to tell me.

I try to speak to her, but I can’t form any words. Without a sound from me, she raises her hand as if she was anticipating my question and puts her finger to her lips in a motion to kindly silence me. I obey and stop making any effort to speak.

In Jennifer’s other hand is a small box that is wrapped like a wedding present in slick white wrapping paper with a gold ribbon tied in a bow. Jennifer lowers her finger from her mouth so she can grab the small box with both hands.

I want to hold her, but I can’t move towards her. There is an angelic glow about her that seems to operate like a shield which I can’t penetrate. My inability to reach out and touch her is the worst imaginable torture.

When I was lying on the mall floor, I thought she might be dead, but here she is, in front of me and offering me a gift. Maybe she is dead – maybe both of us are dead. Suddenly, I am overcome with the hope that we are dead and that we will be able to stay in this beautiful dream world together forever.

Jennifer alertly looks around like she has been startled or like she has somewhere to go or is expecting someone to interrupt our meeting.

“David. I don’t have any more time. Here, you have to accept this,” she says.

My arms are able to move but only enough to reach out to take the gift. Without touching me, she gently places the gift in my open hands.

As she retracts from the gift and moves back three steps from me, she shares her parting words. “David. You can’t waste time mourning for me. You have to use this gift.”

Mourning for you? I think to myself as she continues to back away from me. I don’t need to mourn for you. You’re right here. I say in my mind although I am trying to say the words aloud.

As Jennifer backs away from me, her image blurs and tears apart like a static-riddled picture on a TV screen. I am afraid that, if she leaves me now, I may never see her again. I want to reach out to prevent her from leaving, but, with my hands tightly gripped to the gift in obedience to Jennifer’s command, I remain unable to move. The static image of Jennifer slowly finishes tearing apart in front of me as I lose control of my thoughts.

     Briefly, I see darkness like someone turned off a light using a switch. Then, a split second later everything is bright, as if the light was switched back on. As the brightness penetrates through my eyes, I am aware that my body is uncontrollably shaking. Even though I am shaking, my muscles are tense and frozen. I can’t stop my body from quaking, and I can do nothing to relax my muscles. Because I can still think, I suppose that I must still be alive even though I can’t feel or control any part of my body. I’m scared, but not as scared as I was when Jennifer’s image was backing away from me or as scared as I was lying on the mall floor believing that Jennifer was dead.

The Triangle Free on Kindle.

For the rest of the day today, The Visions of David Palmer: The Triangle is listed as free on Kindle. Don't miss this chance to accompany David Palmer on this first volume of his adventures.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Countdown to the Visions of David Palmer: Recoil (Volume II of the series)

In anticipation of the release of the second book in The Visions of David Palmer series, titled Recoil, I will be posting a section/excerpt of the first book "The Triangle" once a week until the release of the second book.  Recoil is scheduled for Release December 1, 2013.

Here is this week's post.

Excerpt #1

The Visions of David Palmer: The Triangle

By Stephen Reid Andrews
Copyright 2013
All rights reserved in the author

Blood covers the side of my face, and, because I am uncomfortably lying over an object with my head tilted towards the floor, the blood is dripping towards the top of my head with gravity. I can barely see out of my left eye, and my right eye is obscured with blood. The pain in the back of my head is intense, but the shock with which I am laying on the mall’s floor has numbed me to the full intensity of the sting. Presently, I have no feeling in my limbs.

Everything happened so suddenly that I don’t have any idea what actually caused my injuries. There were several loud bangs which I believe were gunshots. After the bangs, but before I could react or look around to assess the situation, I collapsed and found myself on the ground.

Through the pain and shock, I hear more loud bangs and screaming around me, and I conclude that whatever happened to me is happening to others.

Assuming that I have been shot, I turn my head to the side where I see other people lying on the ground through the forest of chair and table legs in the mall’s food court. Moving my head caused excruciating pain that I had not anticipated, and I resolve not to move any more. When I was younger, I fell and hit my head on the cement playing basketball in the driveway. My head feels like it has been slammed against the cement at least a hundred times, and I can feel myself slipping out of consciousness. I want to lose consciousness to make all the pain go away.

I close my eyes in reaction to the deafening sound of the gunshots still snapping around me. Although I have never been in the military, I imagine that this must be what a war zone with a crossfire sounds like. Within seconds, the gunshots completely stop, and there is only the sound of a baby crying at least thirty feet from me.

Lying motionless on the mall’s floor, I anticipate that I will soon die.

Jennifer! The thought screams through my head just before I let myself slip away. Horrified, I remember why I was at the mall and who I was with. Without moving, I panic as I realize the blood I am laying in may not all be my own. My heart skips with fear as I open my eyes as wide as they will open and scan my surroundings without shifting the position of my head. My greatest fear is realized as, near my waist, I see that I am partially lying over a motionless body. The motionless body is my wife’s. There is a single gunshot wound in the side of her forehead. I want to scream as I realize there is nothing I can do for her. The love of my life is not moving, even to breathe.

I want to hold her, but I can’t move. My body succumbs to shock as the squelching sound of terrified people fills the silence of the mall’s food court. In the far distance I hear a man’s flustered voice calling 911, and I hear the groans of other people who must either be dying or mourning for someone who is dead.

I close my eyes to the nightmare around me as I think to myself. Please God, don't make me live. Please take me.

All is black.