Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A free short story- Fourth and Inches

There hasn’t been a whole lot to write about lately, still plugging away at The Blood Plague War. I am over 80,000 words now with a few chapters left to go, the next chapter is going to be a real hard one, then it should be smooth sailing.
Anyway since I haven’t posted anything in awhile I thought I would put up a short story. It is kind of a strange one. It was written for a shoot out, with the theme of “bugs”. I decided to write about an alien invasion and how sports teams in America were conscripted to fight against them, yeah a little weird.
The "bugs" in my story were the team, the "Spiders" which I thought was a fun way to make the topic my own. Some of the other participants didn't seem to get that part so I guess I went a little too far outside the box. Anyway here is what I wrote with 1 week to plot, write, and edit. Please excuse any typos, I have not been back through this one to edit so I am guessing it might be a little rough.

Fourth and Inches
By Alva J Roberts

September 16, 2015
0856 Hours

The air was filled with a thick, choking dust that made it hard to see and even harder to breathe. The dust mixed with the sweat that ran down his forehead and dripped off his chin, and filled his nostrils with the thick earthy smell of mud. John Peterson clenched his assault rifle close to his chest; he had never held a gun before and it felt a little heavier than he expected, but the weight of the weapon did nothing to calm his fears as he and the other men wandered through Hell.

It had to be Hell.

What else could it be?

The signs they passed said it was Chicago but that was impossible. Chicago was a city, not ruined wasteland of shattered concrete and broken bodies. In the distance, a gigantic skyscraper gave up its eternal struggle with gravity and collapsed to the ground.

Somehow the building seemed important, as if John was somehow linked to it, or that it was an omen of things to come. The whole thing made him feel like he was going to be sick.

He didn’t belong here, but he did his best to play along; at least the guys were here with him. He took comfort from the spider emblazoned across the back of his friends’ uniforms and on their helmets. The Spiders were marching to war; it was on odd thought, one that kept darting and dancing around his mind, never quite landing. It was just too unbelievable to be real.

“Raider One, move into position,” a voice crackled through the two way communicator on his helmet.

“Okay, boys. We got our orders. Let’s head in,” Sergeant Rivers said. John nodded to the officer. Was that how you were supposed to acknowledge an order? Or was he supposed to say “yes sir” or something?

John had no idea. His “military training” had consisted of a five minute lecture on how to use his gun and ten minute lecture on what happened if he tried to run away. He was no soldier.

He was a just a semi-pro football player. He shouldn’t have been fighting aliens. Heck, he was barely a football player. He was a kicker. He had never really been that into sports but a couple of year ago, Coach, God rest his soul, had seen him messing around with a football in the park. The thirty thousand a year salary that the Spiders offered was better than what he was making at McDonald’s.

John shook his head and jogged after Sergeant Rivers. It was strange how many random things kept popping into his mind. There was a very slim chance he was going to survive this but keeping a clear head and sticking close to the only real soldier seemed like a good idea.

He tried not to look at the tortured city as he ran. If he looked to close, he could see that buildings were not the only broken things in what had once been Chicago. When he first entered the city he had seen a little blonde girl, maybe five years old, the poor girl looked like some kind of broken doll, cast away by a child who had gotten too old for such things. The image bounced around inside John’s head along with the rest of his jumbled thoughts.

“They’re coming!” Henderson shouted. Sergeant Rivers crouched down in the rubble; John quickly followed suit.

“Wait for it…wait…” Rivers whispered. He held his hand in the air, making a kind of calming gesture. John knew that the man couldn’t have wanted to be there anymore than he did, but despite the fact he was leading a group of civilian “volunteers” the man was calm. His face showed no emotion. John did his best to mimic his stoicism.

“Now!" Sergeant Rivers screamed.

The men jumped to their feet. The sound of fifty-four assault rifles firing at once engulfed the street corner in manmade thunder. John screamed as he fired his eyes barely able to take in the scene in front of him.

They were monsters.

Really, really big monsters.

With tentacles.

From outer space.

It sounded like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, but it was all too real. The huge black glistening bodies moved forward in an unrelenting wave. The things were the size of compact cars, their bodies looked slimy. Their octopus-like tentacles varied in length, the largest were as big around as John’s waist.

John jerked a grenade off of his vest and threw it into the advancing horde. Thick green blood spewed through the air. The explosion tossed one of the monsters backward to land on its comrades. John bared his teeth, in a half smile, half grimace.

He jerked his rifle back up and began firing again. The bullets tore into the monsters, but for each one that dropped another took its place. Despite their huge size, the monsters had no problem crawling over the fallen bodies of their compatriots.

John glanced over at Rivers just in time to see the veteran soldier turn and run. John spit out a curse. The sergeant was the only one of them who hadn’t been fitted with collar. Apparently there was a reason Rivers survived when most of the military was already gone, and why he seemed so calm. He hadn’t planned on fighting.

“Coward!” John screamed after him.

“Come on, Spiders. We got this, this ain’t nothing,” Henderson shouted a few seconds later. The guys responded like it was the most stirring speech they’d ever heard. They always did; that was one of Henderson’s gifts.

John kept firing and took a step backward. The shock collar around his neck gave him a little jolt. Just a warning. The real army couldn’t have them running away. A few more steps backward and the thing would send 10,000 volts through him. He grunted.

He couldn’t go backward. He threw another grenade. Chunks of rubble and green sticky blood rained down on him. The things were getting too close; he needed some room.

“Davidson, onsides left!” John commanded. The men around John jumped to do what he said. En mass he and his men ran to the left, just as they had done a dozen times or more in football practice. Their guns barked loud and clear. Clouds of smoke joined the choking dust in the air.

John looked back to see that Henderson had his men lined up in the spread offense. Hamar, a veteran linebacker and defensive captain, had his men set up in a 3-4 defense alignment. John almost laughed out loud. The playbook was implanted in their brains. There was no doubt they would have made it to the championship this year.

This was the not time to think about football. The assault rifle jumped in his hands as he fired bullet after bullet. The slimy alien creatures fell one by one. John’s heart hammered in his chest, terror wrapping its ungentle fingers around his heart. The image of the broken little girl suddenly came to the forefront of John’s mind; he gritted his teeth, thrusting his fear away. The bastards needed to pay for what they did to Chicago and the rest of the country, but no matter how many of them died, it would never be enough to pay for that one ruined little body lying forgotten in the rubble.

“Some of the flyers are coming!” Eric Carlson shouted. Carlson was a second string corner back, and part of John’s special teams unit.

John felt a stab of guilt when a huge tentacle slammed down onto Eric’s head. The sickening pop of shattered bone triggered John’s gag reflex. Another tentacle crashed into Benjamin Lions. Lions was a veteran defensive end, regulated to special teams for the last few years of his career. He deserved better. An even larger wave of guilt washed over John; he was the special teams captain and these men were his responsibility.

“Fall back, fall back!” John shouted. They had a few dozen yards they could run before the shock collars kicked in, then maybe another hundred or so before they were killed, but that was it. In that small radius there was a lot of wreckage; maybe they could find somewhere to hide or something. John had no clue what to do, but if they kept fighting, they would all be dead in just a few minutes.

John tossed another grenade towards the monsters before running for cover. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Henderson doing the same. The quarterback wore a look of determination, like he was in the playoffs. The monsters were closing in behind Henderson and the offense as they ran. There was no way they were going to get away and there were too many of the aliens between John and the offensive team to help.

“Run for it! We’ll hold ‘em!” Hamar screamed. What was left of the Spiders’ defense sprinted forward between the retreating men and the aliens. The men were screaming like banshees. Huge tentacles slammed into them, flinging the massive linemen around like children.

“Bastards!” John heard himself scream. He jerked his rifle up to his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. There was a click and then nothing. Out of ammo. How the hell did you reload the thing?

John flipped the gun over to look at where the clip went in. That had to come out and a new one went in, but was there some kind of lever or something to do that?

Something big and gooey pounded into John. He flew through the air, his rifle flying from his hands. He crashed into the unforgiving rubble headfirst. Pain blossomed across his forehead and down his shoulder. The world was spinning around him.

He tried to get up, but fell back into the rubble. Blood was running down his face into his eyes, making it even harder to see. He reached down to his hip and tried to pull out the gun holstered there, the police issued “glock”. But his fingers fumbled across the snap holding the gun in place.

A nearby explosion rocked the ground around him and suddenly he was soaring through the air again…

September 16, 2015
1201 Hours

John moaned as his eyes flicked open. His whole body ached and throbbed like it was one giant bruise, but the pain that ran though his left arm nearly drowned out all the other aches. He had no doubt it was broken.

He went to reach for it but stopped himself. The monsters might still be around. He peered around carefully, the aliens were gone. So was the rest of the team. The only people he saw were a few unmoving bodies. By his count only ten of the fifty-three man squad was down, but where was everyone else?

“Henderson? Hamar?” he called out hesitantly as he sat up, his right hand cupping his injured left arm. Flakes of blood fell off his face as he spoke, but he could still feel an itchy mask of the stuff covering his forehead and most of the right side of his face.

“Peterson,” a voice called out hesitantly. A small figure seemed to appear from the nearby rubble.

“Phillips? What are you doing?” John asked. Ryan Phillips, a running back, was one of the few guys on the team smaller than John. In fact, John, at an even six feet tall, towered over the man known more for his blazing speed and his ability to scurry around defenders than for toughness or strength.

“I took cover. I would have hauled you in but I thought everyone who was still here was dead.”

“Still here? Where is everybody?”

“Henderson and the rest of the offense took off somewhere. The special teams and the D got taken by those things.”

“Taken where?” John asked.

“Phillips, Peterson? Is that you?” Henderson’s booming voice called out in a loud confident tone.

“Keep it down. We don’t know if those things are still around,” John replied as Henderson and what was left of the offense climbed over some rubble. They looked dirty and grungy, their clothes torn, but a determine game day look was still plastered across their faces.

“We know where they are. We followed them flyers to the base. We were hoping that the army had sent some back up or something. They turned off the shock collars, but our radios are out. We don’t have that many guys, and there’s a big alien there. Humongous. It’s got to be a queen or something. The others are all bringing it food and cleaning its back.”

John didn’t know what to say. A queen. He had heard the few real soldiers still alive talk about it when the team first got drafted. Back when all the pro and semi pro sports teams in America were still in shock about being “volunteered for service”. The idea made sense; the athletes were well conditioned, and already had a kind of brotherhood. But what had really sold the idea was the damn Detroit Lions.

The perennial underdogs, the “losingest” pro football team of the last decade, had been in New York for a preseason exhibition game, but once the US army was defeated. The Lions held off a horde of aliens for hours. They died to the last man, the pampered pro athletes laying down their lives to buy the people of New York valuable time to flee.

"Well," Henderson, began his trade mark smile and vacant blue eyes gleaming, "it looks like it fourth and inches, boys. Do we punt and head back to base or do we go for it?" Henderson shouted the last few words. The players cheered. John cringed; he hated this kind of stuff.

"Maybe we should go for a fake punt?" John suggested, an idea coming to him. Henderson was a great guy and a good friend but he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, if John was going to risk his life trying to save the rest of the team, he wasn't going to let a man with an IQ of eighty two plan the mission. Besides, killing the an alien queen would be a good start on paying them back for the tiny broken child that haunted the corners of his mind.

September 16, 2015
1602 Hours

John held his breath and tried to be as quiet as possible as he crawled closer and closer to what they were now calling The Nest. His injured arm was in a sling and he had a glock in his right hand and another holstered on his hip. There was no way he could hold a rifle steady with one hand or reload. Between both guns, he had thirty-two shots.

If he really needed it, he had a large duffle bag across his back with ten more rifles and a dozen hand guns, and all the grenades they had left. The bag was a tiny little mobile armory, one he prayed he would never need to touch. The weapons were for the rest of the team.

John's plan was a simple one. Henderson and the guys would attack and he would rush down and free everyone, give them the guns, and then he and the captured team members would kill the queen. Once the queen was dead, they'd make a run for it.

Henderson should be leading the men in soon. Then it would John’s turn to act. There was a lot of pressure resting on his shoulders. He took it all in stride and tried to stay calm. He was known for his calm on the football field, but his secret had always been not caring if they won or lost. That just wouldn't work here. He couldn't help but care if he lived or died. And no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t let go of that that dead little girl. If he got out of this alive, he would go back and bury her. She deserved that.

"Get 'em!" Henderson's voice thundered through the air. The sound of gunfire and the smell of smoke soon followed. John watched and kept still.

The aliens rushed in to protect the queen, shielding the huge gelatinous creature with their own bodies. Syrupy green alien blood formed a mist in the air and pooled beneath the monsters.

Enormous tentacles whipped out towards Henderson and the rest of the offense. Most of them dodged to the side, but a few of the bigger guys were smashed to the ground. Bright red blood flowed down the mound of rubble to join the pool of green ichor, but the men never stopped shooting.

The aliens changed positions to better protect the queen, and suddenly, he had a clear view of the rest of the team lying on the ground. Thick fluorescent cords wound their way around them, but they were alive and most of them were jerking at their bindings. He had an opening. John took in another deep breath and ran.

“Don’t break your ankle,” John whispered to himself as he sprinted down the hill of uneven rubble. That was the last thing he needed. A broken limb as he rushed in like some kind of hero from a bad sci-fi story.

Across from him, he could see Phillips running down to the men, too. John had doubled up on the number of men running down, that way there was twice the chance of getting the men free. In retrospect, he probably should have chosen someone other than himself. There were guys a lot faster than him on the team.

But no one was faster than Phillips.

The running back was already cutting through the odd rope that bound their teammates before John had even made it half way down the slope. John gritted his teeth and pushed himself harder, feeling a tight burning sensation in his huge quadriceps muscles.

“Here...take…this,” John shouted as he sucked in huge lung full’s of air. One of the players who had been tied up began passing out the weapons from John’s duffle bag. He was a rookie, and John couldn’t quite remember his name.

There was a roaring sound. John’s head jerked up. The aliens had spotted them.

“Fire! Shoot those damn things!” John screamed.

He raised the glock and began to fire. The handgun wouldn’t do much, but it was something. The rest of the team opened fire, the sound of their assault rifles splitting the air.

Some of the aliens turned to attack John and his men. They weren’t trying to capture them alive like they did in the last battle. Apparently the Spiders were now too dangerous to be food.

The men struck by the tentacles were broken. There was no other word for it. They looked like they had been pushed off a building. John tried not to look, tried not to see the blood splattering through the air as the aliens pounded his friends into nothing more than piles of raw meat.

His glock clicked as it ran out of bullets. He tossed the weapon to the side and pulled out the other one. He unloaded the weapon in the nearest alien, and then threw the empty gun at it for good measure. The jellylike beast, already riddled with bullets, collapsed to the ground.

John looked around, feeling helpless. He didn’t have anything to fight with. He bent down to scoop up a rock and spotted the duffle bag. He tossed aside the rock and ran forward. He needed a gun.

There were no guns left, but there were grenades, a bunch of them, maybe twenty. John’s eyes jerked up to look at the queen, his thoughts racing.

“Phillips, the queen is the goal! We gotta run Yellow Twenty-Nine!” John shouted. It was a trick play, one they never really planned on running during a game but it was fun in practice. A fake punt was a rare thing, and a fake punt with a twist was even rarer.

“Got it,” Phillips yelled his voice cracking.

“Hike,” John screamed. He sprinted forward. His legs already burned like it was the first day of training camp, but he forced them to move. A tentacle came thrusting towards him. He jumped to the side, barely avoiding the strike. Pieces of rubble were thrown into the air, a fist-sized chunk just missing John’s face.

John glanced over his shoulder; Phillips was still there. The running back looked frustrated by the relatively slow pace. But John couldn’t run any faster. He jumped over another alien appendage, and stiff-armed another smaller one out of the way.

Suddenly, the sun seemed to disappear completely. John looked up to see a colossal tentacle coming down towards him. There was no time to jump out of the way. He spun around and tossed the duffle towards Phillips; it was awkward with one hand, but the bag sailed through the air in a perfect lateral pass.

Then John’s world became a thing of pain. Utter and total pain. His vision flashed red and then black. His whole body felt like it was in a vise. The world spun in an out of focus.

His vision came back into focus just in time to see the duffle bag of grenades sail through the air to strike the queen. The explosion shook the ground. Phillips was thrown backward by the blast; chunks of alien queen flew through the air and bright green blood fell like rain.

The other aliens howled. An image, clear as day, of a little girl suddenly appeared in front of him. She smiled and waved thanks. John tried to wave back but his arms didn’t seem to work. A low grunt escaped his lips. Blonde hair tickled his forehead as the girl bent down to kiss it. Warmth flooded through John, fighting back the chill creeping though his body. Then the girl was gone.

John let his head fall to the ground. He was tired; god, he had never been so tired. He would just rest his eyes for a minute.

October 18, 2015
1037 Hours

“Peterson, you still in bed?” Phillip’s voice pulled John from his dreams. The running back still had some bandages over his burns, but he was looking better. “The general wants to talk to the whole team. They made a special trip just so us guys in the infirmary could hear what he had to say.”

“Let’s go then,” John said. The other players in the infirmary made a line behind John. It was an odd kind of procession; there were a couple of guys from some Portland soccer team, a few minor league baseball guys, and a guy from the new US Olympic Gymnastics/Special Forces team.

They filtered outside quietly. The general was already talking.

“…have done more for this country than anyone could have asked. You are to be commended. The last queen died yesterday,” a cheer rose up, but the general cut them off, “but the fight is not done. The ships are still orbiting the planet. It seems that creatures they dropped down were not the actual aliens--”

“What do you mean they weren’t aliens?” one of the soccer players asked. He was a tall man sporting a number thirty three on his green jersey.

The general looked taken aback for a moment but then seemed to remember that he was not speaking to trained soldiers. “They were monsters from another planet, but they were not the beings who initiated the attack. It would be like if we went to another planet and dropped a cargo ship full of rabid wolves or lions. The monsters we fought were just a tool. There are still some very intelligent aliens orbiting Earth who want to destroy us. Their first plan failed, but you can be sure they have something else up their sleeve. I need some volunteers to go into orbit and deal with this threat to our planet.”

John and Phillips locked eyes. Phillps’ expression was unreadable.

“You boys ready for the kick-off?” Henderson asked, his round innocent face appearing from the crowd around them.

“Looks like its game time,” John answered.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Little Flare (Up)

There was some good news and some bad news for me today—The bad news: Today my stomach hurts, I am running a fever, my brain feels cloudy, my muscles ache, my joints are swollen, stiff and arthritic, and I can barely stay awake. The good news: I feel ten times better than I did yesterday and a hundred times better than I felt on Wednesday. Yes it was a lupus flare up, and was quite a big one, at least for me.

I have no doubt that my minor case of discoid lupus has become systemic lupus erythematosus as the doctors had told me it might. Of course, like an idiot, I didn’t go to the doctor to be sure. The only thing I felt like doing on Wednesday was sleeping, and the last two days I went to work despite feeling awful. (I am trying to save up sick days for when the twins are born). So there is no diagnosis for sure, I am going to have to force myself to go to the doctor next time I have a flare up.

I guess I can always be grateful that this flare up only lasted a couple of days, and that, judging from that last few years of discoid lupus, they will be rare. (Crossing my fingers)

I ended up breaking my new year’s resolution to write at least 400 words a day. Yesterday my knuckles were so swollen I couldn’t type, but it was leap day so I am not sure if I have to count it. I mean it isn’t like its really a day. Its kind of a pretend day that a bunch of super smart math guys added to the calender so that we wouldn't have christmas in June. Anyway, despite this set back I am growing closer to the end of Blood Plague aka Blood Plague War aka Chronicles of the Blood Plague aka the book I can’t seem. It was super annoying to take a day off when the end is in sight.

Of course I did get a chance to watch most of Season 3 of The League, so it wasn’t all a waste. I found a website online where I could watch it for free, which kind of sounds shady to me, but I figure the network would sue and get them to take it off line if they were really upset about it. Hopefully if it is an illegal site they will take pity on the poor lupus stricken writer who couldn’t type and not arrest me.

This season of the show doesn’t have much fantasy football but it does have “vinegar strokes”, and “zipper fairies” every episode seems to be more about sex than fantasy football, but it is still funny. It just seems to have lost a little bit of its focus, a problem that I have no doubt they will fix before the season is over. The writers of the show are a little crude, and sometimes they like to beat you over the head with the plot, but they are pretty good writers.