Wednesday, July 25, 2018

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/24/18: Escaping the Fire Escape Dimension

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It was another minute before Julio was done with the bring-home device. It was a long minute.

“Hurry up, Dr, Julio!” I said, adding: “I can smell them on the other side of the bunker!”

“DONE!” Julio yelled as I tore apart the door leading back into the building and ran inside with Julio following me. Suddenly sparks flew as Conva bullets slammed into me. I motioned for Julio to turn around. “Can’t get out that way!”

“This way!” He yelled, I turned as more sparks flew off of the armor I’d generated for my back and followed him into something that looked like a closet but turned out to be something that looked more like a hospital room. I saw symbols on medicine bottles that looked like things from Earth. The red plus sign was everywhere. The text was almost our own alphabet.

Then I heard a gurgling moan. I looked toward one of the beds and saw a wounded Conva soldier just short of the bed. It looked like I’d torn his arm off just inside of his shoulder.

“Oh, damn, Little Jacob, you really messed that dude up.”

Anxiety filled up my insides. I imagined what he felt like and I knew I could not just leave him there. “We gotta find another way out of here.”

As I looked at the windows I could see the lights dimming again. 

“No no no no,” I started saying under my breath. The door Julio had barricaded with big Conva chairs and the big Conva-sized bed was now starting to shudder under gunfire.

“Do something, Super Jake!”

I was trying hard to fight the lights dimming and turned to see a large desk. I approached it, lifted it up and threw it at the windows. They shattered instantly.

I looked out and down and saw the desk rolling down the purple mountain.

I ran back to the wounded Conva and heaved him up onto my shoulder sending a good amount of his purple blood across my self-generated plates of armor. I walked over to the window and climbed up onto the sill. I reach out and above the window and jammed my right claw into the wall above the window.

“Come on! Grab onto me!” I growled. Julio looked petrified, but managed to get a grip on my other shoulder. I could see the door give way to more Conva soldiers who were shoving the furniture out of the way.

I pulled up and amazingly, I was able to pull my weight and the weight of the wounded Conva and Julio. I pulled up with my right claw and reached my left as far as it would go and then jammed it into the wall.  I pulled up with my left claw and had to push the poor wounded Conva’s head against the wall to stop it from sliding off my left shoulder and then repeated this process. Just as I got my right foot claw jammed into the wall, I felt the left foot, which was still in the window begin to tingle.  I assumed that was from bullets hitting it. 

After a moment we were all out of the way of direct fire and heading up to the windows of the hub.  I was so tall that in moments I had hauled us up to said windows. There was about six inches of concrete (?) in between each window, so I was able to jam a claw into there and hold us up.

“Almost!” I said. I could hear the Conva guy on my shoulder groaning still. 

“Hang in there, buddy!” I snarled. “I’m gonna do my best to make it up to you! Almost there!”

“Ok, now what? How do we get through the windows?!” Julio yelled.  I started pounding on the, what I assumed was, glass.  I couldn't get up enough strength to actually break it.

"I can't get through--not with you guys." 

“Ohhhh, Little Jacob—behind us!” Julio said patting me on the head. 

“What is it? I can't see!"

"I think they're Conva ships.  They look like gunships to me."

"Perfect!" I growled confidently.  "Get between me and the wall!"

He did and I pulled the Conva's one arm and slid him mostly off of my shoulder, in front of me, so he was also in between me and the wall.  Then, gunfire erupted, shattering both windows. 

"I can make it!" Julio yelled as he leapt from me through the window to my right.  As gunfire continued to bounce off of me (thought I could feel it through my back plates), I managed to get my right foot through the broken window, where my foot claws grasped the bottom of the window frame, allowing me to pull myself and the Conva guy to the window.  I was then able to  pull my claw from the concrete and quickly grab onto the edge of the window frame and pull us through and back into the hub.   Once I hit the ground, I was saw Julio waving me to follow him.

"This way!" He was guiding me through the Fire Escapes, but I was almost too big to fit.  
Luckily I made it back to where we were.  Then it hit me--I had lost track of the Accessory back when I morphed into to Super Me.  "Wait! Where's the Accessory?"

Julio turned to me and looked worried.  Then he reached behind him and pulled my black draw string backpack off of his back and pulled out the Accessory.  "I grabbed this when you lost it."

"Whew!" I growled.  I snatched the Accessory from him and activated it.  Just as we stepped into the Fire Escape, I saw more Conva rising from the barracks.  Luckily, they were gone before they spotted us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/23/18: Out of Control Morphing

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"You are?  Oh, crap." I could hear him say as the darkness blocked out my view completely.  
The next thing I was aware of was being covered in what, I was pretty sure was alien blood. It was purple and slick and disturbing. I looked forward and saw Conva body parts everywhere. The floor was a biological debris field. I started to feel nauseous but then I realized I was still Super Me. I was big—six or seven feet tall. My skin had scales the size of poker chips. Some were shattered with bruised gray skin underneath. My fingers were elongated and thick, with my nails extended and tough—perfect claws. My hands hurt—like I’d held onto a rope too tightly while sliding down it in gym class. I turned, and looked behind me to see Julio holding a mean looking rifle, his face spattered with purple, with the white of his eyes looking up at me with great hesitation. That hesitation made me feel shame, out of control, and I felt nauseous again. I turned away from Julio and tried to vomit, letting the urge have free reign but something was literally stopping me. I stuck two of my clawed fingers down my throat and tried to encourage myself.

“Little Jacob, that won’t work,” Hu said.

“What do you mean,” I growled, completely unintentionally. Julio cleared his throat nervously. “During the fight you generated a abdominal plate that must be anchored to your skeleton in a way that is stopping you from bending enough to allowed you to—“

Before he could finish, vomit exploded out of my mouth, around fangs I only then noticed. I looked over at Julio who had managed to back out of the way of any of it splattering. He looked up at me with an awkwardly embarrassed and grossed-out face. 

“Sorry...” I growled. Apparently, at that moment I was incapable of speaking without growling.

Definitely bringing a towel next time,” Hu said, quickly adding: “We’ve got to get outside to take the readings your sister wanted.”

“I don’t think they were for my sister...” I started clearing my throat, hoping that it would 
somehow get rid of the growl a bit.

“Are you OK?” Hu asked.

“Yeah, I just wish I could stop growling! It’s really annoying!”

“It’s OK but let’s do the science stuff and get out of here!”

Jill had given us two devices to use in the FED. One was to take general readings on the spot and the other we were to leave powered on and in active mode so it would take readings until we come back for it.

From the barracks we were able to find an exit out onto the purple mountain. As I stepped outside, a blast of wind hit me in the face and if I hadn’t known better, I’d be sure I was on the side of a mountain back on Earth. Well, my Earth. Not this weird purple-tinted planet. I stepped forward and felt the purple grass between my toes. Yep, my shoes were shredded. 

“Good. They have dirt here,” Julio said from his knees digging a hole for the leave-behind device by the wall.

“Why don’t you morph back to normal?”

“My clothes are gone.” 

“Oh yeah, right. Well say the word and I will say the words to help you wind back down.”

“Yeah, don’t do that yet.”

Julio was already using the bring-home device to gather data. 

“That’s for Dr. Green by the way.”

“Huh?”

“The data we’re getting with those devices, man. It’s not for my sister.”

“Oh yeah—the doctor whose name can’t be mentioned.”

“Have you heard it?”

“No. No one will say it for me.”

“Ask her. She’ll say it for you. I bet she misses hearing it.”

“You know I’m a doctor.”

“You are?”

“Is that your surprised growl? It’s true—I went to school for it and everything.”

“Now you sound surprised in yourself.” He smiled with pride. I tried to smile myself but based on Julio’s reaction to it, I was not successful. “Sorry—did that not look like a smile?”

“Uh, no. Might want to practice that in front of a mirror a bit before you try again.”

“Doctor Julio, huh? That’s kinda cool.”

“Almost done with the bring-home device.”

I nodded and looked out over the slope and the purple ocean and the purple city. I felt that wind again and couldn’t help but take a deep breath. As I did I got such a high off of it. It was like every cell in my body took a huge hit off of an oxygen joint. 

“So much oxygen in this atmosphere,” I said. 

“You can smell it?”

“I guess I can.” I inhaled again and I could tell the air had been changed slightly. I tried to focus on what was different. What had been added to it? I inhaled again and the difference scent was stronger. “Hey Hu, we may need to go.”

“Almost done.”

I suddenly recognized what the change was—I had a flash of a scent I’d smelled on that Conva ship. “They’re coming!”

Monday, July 23, 2018

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/22/18: Into the Fire Escape Dimension!

Just a quick reminder: pretty much everything you're going to read on this blog or its PDFs is an absolute first draft.  In most cases, you're reading these pages before even I do as I write them and post them without even checking for typos.  The whole point is to write every day and worry about editing later.  If you want to read something from me that has been proofread and edited (WOW!), please check out manfromzero.com and buy my most recent novel.  It's good and takes place in the same story universe as Fire Escape--just way in the futrure.  In the meantime, if you want to make it easier for me to write, why not support me on Patreon? Just go here: patreon.com/petenicholls. Don't want to commit to Patreon?  Then buy me a cup of coffee!  Or hay, just let me know that you like my stuff.  That means so much, too. Find me on TwitterIG, or FB.

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The main thing about the reconnaissance mission was that we needed as few people to go as possible. Julio had been able to round out Jim’s simulation of the hub with the facts he knew. Turns out that while he was working for M, he’d been in contact and even worked with some Conva. In the interest of diplomatic relations, for a time, Julio and the Double-Oes (as he continued to call them) shared information and even did military exercises with them on both sides of the Fire Escape. It also turned out that the Conva could open Fire Escapes with their mind. I’d seen a Conva pilot do exactly that when I was taken back into their custody. 

Julio and I stepped into the center of Jill’s lab and chose the chronologically most recent entry for the hub on the Accessory and we were gone. 

When we came out of the Fire Escape on the other side, we found ourselves in a familiar corner of the hub. It was the same area we left just as Julio was getting attacked by those Conva that one time, but it must have been a different time. Then again, there were a lot if landmarks in the hub. It was more about recognizing how far we were from the walls and where the pillars were. Ultimately, it was hard to be sure. The only problem was that we were far from that door in the floor that led to what we assumed were the Conva barracks. 
We the bulk of the hub stretched out in front of us with those faint blue flashes popping off in the distance. The door in the floor was about midway toward the other side of the massive hall and all the way to the right. 

Julio had informed us that there were specific channels designed to allow safe passage through the hub should the need arise. The reason was that this hub was a place for “connection flights” effectively. Get in the way of someone passing from one to the other and you could both end up someplace you don’t want to be.

So I let Julio lead me down those channels, avoiding the areas set aside for the actual work of the hub. It was an odd path that seemed to vary between right-angle turns and wide curves I tried to picture in my mind but lost track before I had any real picture in my head.

When we reached the the far right wall, I noticed the floor door was already beneath my feet. Despite that we were far away from it according to Jim’s sim. I looked down and saw the floor door there. It was more octagonal that it was in the sim. I looked around and saw Julio standing on another octagonal floor door looking down at it.

“There’s an access port here,” Julio said pointing at a small control box. “I’m going to see if we can make happen by messing with it.”

Believe it or not, this was part of the plan. He was the tech expert here I was just the guy who know how to work my sister’s interface.  I kept looking around, keeping an eye out for any Conva but the coast was pretty clear. I glanced out the window to see a sky clear of those big box things. Did that mean it was night time in the Fire Escape Dimension? I kept looking out the window as Julio kept messing with the control box. I looked down and saw a massive, well, what looked like an ocean of like a purple liquid. This dimension liked it’s purple.  On the shore of this ocean at the very bottom of a very steep and long and purple slope was a village or town. It seemed like this facility was either on top of a mountain or was built in a massive tunnel through the mountain. 

Just then sparks flew from Julio’s control box, the door beneath his feet opened, and he fell through it.  I looked down to see Julio scrambling to his feet and looking around--I could tell he was spotting potential threats.  I dropped to my knees and looked craned my neck so I could see what he was looking at.  I saw several Conva soldiers, in various states of dress turning and approaching him. Then, the lights started to dim--only, I knew that's not what was really happening.  

"Uncle Julio--watch out--I'm changing!"

Sunday, July 22, 2018

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/21/18: Looking at Jill in a completely different way.

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The next time I saw Jill, I couldn't help but think of her differently--not in a bad way.  She wasn't suddenly a victim.  Well, not in the way most people think of being a victim.  We're all victims of our own lives, aren't we? Some things we choose in life and other things choose us.  I suppose if Jill had been a "good girl" and not gone up on the roof, nothing would have happened to her.  But then, if she had stayed in her room all those times she had gone up to the roof or creeped around the basement or if we hadn't gotten curious about Julio's business and snuck in, she would have been miserable with her life.  We had nothing else to do but get into trouble. When Julio came along in our lives, it was the best thing that could have happened to us. We had a place to stay out of trouble.  A place that was pretty safe, the vast majority of the time.  It was also away from the constant strife of our parents. It was so much good for us.  Who knows how much worse it would have been for both of us without Julio in our lives.  

So, when I say I saw Jill differently after that, it was out of understanding.  That she is the way she is because of many different things happening to her.  But that night, that hunt for the lady in yellow and the violence it led her into the hands of... that shaped her as much as anything in her life, I think.  Suddenly, all of the things I was "putting up with" as far as her behavior went, seemed like much less of a big deal to me.  I saw her less as my annoying, aloof, disconnected sister and more like a layered adult human being--a sovereign being, as Dr. Green described all people.  In turn, that helped me view all people more like that.  Sure, my instinct to judge people as this or that still kick in every once in a while when I'm tired, or drunk, or under pressure, but most of the time, I can take that step back and remember that it's very possible that every person I see on the street might have a night like that one Jill had in their own past.  

That next time I saw her I wanted to talk to her about everything.  I wanted to be warm with her.  I wanted to be open with her.  I wanted to be close with her.  Like we had been when we were kids--hiding from our parents, hiding from our troubles, and just relying on each other for our own strength.

I did give her a hug.  A big one.  It was pretty awkward because we were having a meeting in the kitchen over some food Jim had 3-D printed (don't ask, it was pretty gross) and we were talking about the plan.  I knew I couldn't expect her to be warm to me back but I wasn't going to let that stop me from being warm to her.  

The nice thing about that hug--the really nice thing about that hug--was that she hugged me back just as hard as I was hugging her and when I let go, she held on for a few seconds more.

Sure, as I pulled away there wasn't so much as a smile on her face or a twinkle in her eye, but that hug...

"Alright, Jacob.  Have a seat,". she said, all business.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/20/18: Jake remembers what he remembered from that one horrible night when he and Jill were teens

I'd just like to give a mild trigger warning here.  There's no graphically described violence in today's post but as someone who has been through some heavy things in his life, I know that just the suggestion of one of those events can inspire anxiety in me.  So, if you ever went through something even lightly traumatic, know that I think you can handle this, but I wanted to give you a heads-up, regardless.  Like I said, it's not graphic, but there is something horrible that happened to a major character in FIRE ESCAPE.

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Over the next couple of days, I just couldn't get those flashes of memory out of my head.  I felt like if I kept focusing on them, I could remember more.  Several times I would sneak off to the bathroom or my bedroom for a break from prepping for our reconnaissance mission and try to push myself into those memories.  

As it turned out, it worked--and what I remembered was not pleasant.  

It was our last summer in Washington Heights and our last summer working for Uncle Julio and in The Trade.  Early on, I stumbled across a journal, or a diary, I guess.  I just assumed it was Jills and being the annoying little brother I was, I opened it.  It was not Jill's handwriting but it contained all of these notes and amazing drawings.  This wasn't a comic book but more like Leonardo Da Vinci's sketchbook or something. Sketches of devices, vehicles, phenomena, circuitry, schematics, math equations, it was incredible and way over my 14 year-old head.  When Jill came into her room (OK, so I stumbled across it while sneaking in her room), she yelled at me for 1) being in her room and 2) looking at "Jenny's book."

"Who's Jenny?" I demanded.

Friday, July 20, 2018

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/19/18: The Lady in Yellow and the Flashes of Memory

Big long post coming tomorrow!  Watch for it!  It was a pretty intense little chapter that I wrote in one sitting because I didn't want to stop or interrupt the flow in any way.  

Just a quick reminder: pretty much everything you're going to read on this blog or its PDFs is an absolute first draft.  In most cases, you're reading these pages before even I do as I write them and post them without even checking for typos.  The whole point is to write every day and worry about editing later.  If you want to read something from me that has been proofread and edited (WOW!), please check out manfromzero.com and buy my most recent novel.  It's good and takes place in the same story universe as Fire Escape--just way in the futrure.  In the meantime, if you want to make it easier for me to write, why not support me on Patreon? Just go here: patreon.com/petenicholls. Don't want to commit to Patreon?  Then buy me a cup of coffee!  Or hay, just let me know that you like my stuff.  That means so much, too. Find me on TwitterIG, or FB.

Get the most recent draft here:

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After that, the tension was, for the most part, pretty defused.  Or diffused. Whichever.  When we left Jill took my arm by the elbow and hugged as we walked out to our ride share and again, when we got in the car.  I had a flashback of when we were kids and she would do this.  I couldn't remember why she did it but the feelings of love and stability passing through me were pretty wonderful.  I knew those feelings, along with her physical affections, would not last for long. By the time we got to the CCTV camera dead zone, and got out of the car, she was back to her normal, cold self.  Her mind always miles away, possibly dimensional rifts away, she once again came across as though she had a thousand things on her mind, all of them more important than you.

But hey, I was used to the status quo. However, she did have one more surprise up her sleeve. As we walked from the ride share to the dead zone, Jill said to me without looking at me: "Do you remember the Lady in Yellow?"

Once again, I felt the pull of my past but this wasn't a full-on flash backward to my teenage years.  Instead, it was just a few fleeting flashes of memories, incomplete but still clear enough to get a flavor of the full moments they were part of. The first flash was of Jill running away from me in the tank top and sweat pants she'd wear to bed.  The second was me looking at her as we sat on a fire escape--an actual fire escape-- outside of our NYC apartment hanging our legs off the side.  We had done this a lot whenever there was a fire escape for us to escape to.  The third was of me climbing a fire escape, looking up, I could see I was following Jill. The final flash was barely a glimpse of a woman in a yellow dress.  Or really, not even the woman but just her lower left leg and the lower right corner yellow dress as she ran out of view.  Then, I remember darkness.  

"Yeah, I think I do remember her.  Why?"

Jill sighed and shrugged.  "Ask me again some time.  I don't think I'm up to telling you that store today."

"OK," I said smiling.  As I held out the Accessory, something did seem a little different.  Jill seemed a little bit more relaxed--just a little bit, though.  I think only I could notice the difference.  And who knows? It could have been me that had changed from visiting our mom that day.  I really hoped it was her, too, though.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/18/18: Finally something good from visiting home! (Seriously!)

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“So where are you going, Mom?” I asked.

“I don’t know if you remember Sally from when I went back to get my masters at Hunter?”

“Oh you mean when you tried to go back to Hunter for your masters?” Jill said with contempt in her voice.

“You’re not even trying, are you?!?” I yelled at her. “Come on! Just be positive! Why is this so hard for us?”

Jill barely took a breath, replying immediately with: “Maybe it’s because we all hate each other?! Maybe its because Mom and Dad never taught us what love looks like? Maybe it’s because Dad hated us so much he smoked and died just so he could get out of this family! What kind of Puerto Rican parents name their firstborn daughter ‘Jill’ anyway?”

Her outburst was so unexpected I swear it was like a white hot flash of angry light overtook my vision. In hindsight, I’m glad/lucky that wasn’t a sign I was morphing into Super Alien DNA Jacob.

I was just coming back to reality when my instincts kicked in and I spoke. “This is not at all how I wanted this to go. So, I’m just going to say this.”

I glanced over to Jill and then back to Mom. “Mom, Jill and I are involved in something big with the government.”

Mom’s face changed from stone to an expression of worry as I continued. “We are trying help stop something big and bad and dangerous from happening and I wanted us all to meet one last time before what ever happens next might... might, I don’t know... maybe the worst will happen.”

“You two might die?”

“Yes, Mom, yes. We’re doing incredibly important work that may save thousands, maybe m-m-millions of lives,” Jill said.

Several emotions flowed across Mom’s face.  At first she looked like she didn't believe Jill's words, but that quickly changed to a look that, to me, suggested she was experiencing the urge to believe we were serious.  Then she looked terrified.  Next, she looked proud.  Finally she looked resigned with a bit of sad mixed in.

"Thank you for visiting me.  I'm... I'm sorry I haven't treated you better."

I smiled softly at her.  "It's ok, Mom. We just showed up out of the blue--that really put you on the spot."

"No, I mean for everything.  Your dad and I we just... we did not...  I'd like to blame my parents and your dad's parents, but it's us who did this to you.  I have no idea if I can believe what you are saying," Mom said, hesitating as Jill's face looked like it was on fire.  

"Jill!" I said, putting my hand up, palm facing her. I nodded to Mom to continue.

"But it's clear that you believe it.  And you believe the danger is real.  I can see it in your eyes and hear it in your voices. I know you both. You're my babies." She began to tear up.  

"So, you go do what you need to do."

I stood up and hugged her, whispering in her ear "Thanks, Mom!  Now, go hug Jill!"
Mom pulled away from me, and sat down next to Jill. They sat there for a moment and Mom spoke. "You know, it's OK if you want to hate me forever.  Just so long as you keep loving me."

I covered my mouth trying to fight back tears as they stared at each other awkwardly finally, they both moved to hug each other at the same time.

It was the most beautiful hug I'd ever seen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

FIRE ESCAPE First Draft Update for 7/17/18: Oh you CAN go home again...

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“It’s good that you came, randomly,” Mom said.

“Why?” Jill asked.

“Because...” I said pointing to the boxes lining the two hallways leading from either side of the living room we were now standing in. It was then that I noticed that there was nothing on the walls while they had several bad paintings hung on them when I was here for Dad’s funeral. These were the kind of paintings you’d expect to see in cheap motels. 

“You’re moving,” Jill said.

“You finally decided?” I asked.

“The only reason we stayed here as long as we did was because he was suffering. And as soon as that was all over I just wanted to go.”

“But why? This seems like a nice—a p-p-perfect house for you.”

“I hate it!” she said sitting down in one of two easy chairs facing the TV. The other chair was Dad’s. “Everything I see reminds me of him.”

“But don’t you want to remember Dad?”

“No!” she said with a level of bitterness in her voice that surprised me.

“Mom,” I said.  

“Not the way he was for the last three-four years he was alive. I... saw him in a way that no loved one should ever see him. He died slowly and it really was not pleasant to watch.  I was in denial until it hit me like a ton of bricks that he wasn't going to make it. And you two?  You two were off doing your own things.  I didn't want to bother you.”

"Mom, bother us with Dad dying?  Why didn't you ask for help?" I asked--shocked and scared she went through all of that alone without us really knowing what was going on.

"Because I didn't want to share my suffering with you. Or his.  It was really not good, not good."

I sat down on the love seat facing the fire place. I remember Mom telling me when they first moved in to that house that they’d bought that love seat so they could cuddle and smooch. At the time I just didn’t believe her because I have very few memories of them ever seeming in love with each other. I was hopeful at the time because I wanted to believe my parents were actually happy together but they were not.  I looked at the loveseat and it still looked brand new. I imagined that if I gave one of the cushions a good swat I’d send up a cloud of 4 years of dust.

"So selfish, you two.  So selfish."

"We, or at least, I thought you were OK.  You both had this house, it had the extras to help Dad and you with his issues.  Everything seemed fine when I would visit."

"He was dying of cancer.  Did you really need an invitation?"

"But I came.  I just didn't want to force myself on you. I know how you both like to do things your own ways."

"We do, or we did, it's true.  But you still should have helped. I'm sorry but that's true, too."

"No, you're right," I said softly, wiping tears from my eyes.

“It’s a real shame, too, because we loved this house—three bedrooms so you and Jill could visit any time you wanted and even bring your husbands.” She said “husbands” while looking at me, making me feel like I was supposed to be please she accepted me as me.

The sad thing?  I was.

FROM SPACE 1st Draft Update for 9/20/18: So, about that light show...

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