Musings of a Pacific Northwest writer…
Here are excerpts from a selection of my works
Trail of Blood: An Agent Valor Adventure
Agent Valor stood outside the Montesano regional office for the Dept of Fish and Wildlife, waiting for the Officers to finish briefing their Director. It seemed someone had finally taken an interest in their investigation. Agent Menon would be meeting them shortly, she had run some errands while the Officers were busy. Once she returned, they would all head to their next round of interviews.
The morning was apparently typical for late summer here, overcast. It was beginning to heat up and was feeling humid as hell. It reminded him of a mild day in New York.
The place was in the boonies, especially for a regional office of a government department. He observed the trees that grew randomly around the building. Birds flitted in and out, singing happily. The road there was visible but not frequently traveled. He felt landlocked.
After a few minutes, a lone vehicle slowly crept down the road. An oxidized red Volkswagen van turned into the office’s driveway, slowly creeping towards the entrance. The thing was dented and patched, various colors of moss colonizing numerous regions giving mottled textures. It rolled to a stop in front of him. The door opened and an odd-looking man jumped out onto the ground. He was a lanky, slender, and his dreaded ginger hair was pulled into a half ponytail. Rose-colored Lennon glasses perched atop his sharp nose. His exceptionally high cheekbones contrasted against his gaunt mouth. Agent Valor imagined the Pink Panther song would go perfect with his laid-back gait.
The man approached him cautiously, his Hawaiian shirt flapping in the humid morning breeze against his stained undershirt. He had a hemp bracelet and necklace, both ears pierced with small silver hoops. One visible tattoo on his left arm looked like some Grateful Dead reference.
“Hey man,” the guy began, looking around cautiously. “Do you know where I can find an Agent Valor?”
“Yeah, I’m him,” Agent Valor offered a hand for a handshake. “How can I help you?”
“Really? Aw man, that’s just great man, hey thanks,” the guy smiled, eyes bloodshot. He shook the Agent’s hand firmly, swayed slightly, smiling happily.
Agent Valor waited. When he didn’t say anything further, he asked, “Was there something I could help you with?”
“Oh yeah, man,” the guy smiled. “So, like, I live in the woods, man, and I think I might have some info you might need. The soldiers, man, the soldiers, they’re the ones to look out for. Nobody else will listen to me,” he said.
“Have you given your statement to the Sherriff yet?” Agent Valor asked.
“No, man, I tried, they won’t believe me, man,” he said.
“Well, first of all, what’s your name?” Agent Valor asked.
“Aw, shit, man,” he laughed. “I forgot, man. My name’s Dwayne Shatrock. I live in the woods. I saw those soldiers kill those ladies and kidnap the Dame ‘Squatch.”
Agent Valor paused for a minute. Was this guy serious? The story hadn’t hit the social medias yet, as far as he was aware. “What do you mean?”
“I see the Dame ‘Squatch all the time, she helps people, she was just trying to warn those hikers when the soldiers started shooting. I saw it all, man. It was gnarly,” he said quietly. “It was horrible, man. All that senseless killing. No wonder the Sire was so enraged, man.”
“Wait, what?” Agent Valor was trying to keep up. “I think we should have you come inside and give a statement. I’ll certainly listen to you. Do you wanna park your van in a spot and go in?”
“Yeah, man, that sounds-”
The van exploded with such force it knocked them both back against the wall of the building. Agent Valor’s ears rang, and he couldn’t hear anything else. He saw stars and didn’t know where he was for a moment. Adrenaline kicked in and he was up assessing the threat. The van was engulfed in flames, black smoke rising in a fat plume in the early sky. Dwayne lay supine, eyes open and unblinking. Agent Valor ran over to him to perform battle triage. Dwayne was bleeding out his ears, but his chest rose in breath and his pulse was strong. He finally blinked.
Muffled sound slowly began to return to Agent Valor’s ears.
“Man…” Dwayne said, staring at his van. “That sucks.”
The Officers and other people ran out the door, someone had a fire extinguisher. Sirens announced the fire and police departments and they were both assessed. No major injuries, only hearing loss and a few bruises. It all seemed to be a blur to Agent Valor.
Once the fire was extinguished, the van was inspected. One of the firefighters approached Agent Valor as he sat on the curb, still trying to slow his heart rate. “Take a look at this, come here,” he said, leading him to the van. He pointed to a melted bundle of wires with a jagged edge of metal attached. “Further testing is needed to confirm, but that really resembles part of an unexploded incendiary device… We’re lucky it’s still intact. Arson is highly suspected.”
“Someone tried to kill the hippie?” Agent Valor asked.
The firefighter shrugged.
“If this had happened up in the woods where he lives, no one would have known,” Agent Valor said more to himself than to the firefighter.
“Thank you,” Agent Valor said and found both Officers with their Director. “It was intentional, likely arson. Someone tried to kill a witness, Dwayne Shatrock.”
The Officer Evans gasped while Officer McGregor scowled.
“Wait, who?” Officer Evans asked.
“We need to get his statement,” Agent Valor said pointing to the figure dressed in a Hawaiian shirt sitting on the curb, rocking back and forth. “This hippie in a van, that was a van,” he said, indicating the scorched carcass still smoldering, “pulled up, told me he knows the sasquatches, and he witnessed the killing of the hikers. He says, ‘soldiers did it’, who’s soldiers, I don’t know.”
I tried to recall the details of ancient history, as far back as I knew. About 200 winters ago, the Great Famine that sparked The Annihilation War was finally ended. The discovery of seeds that didn’t hold the mutations allowed humans the chance to grow food again. By that time, however, it was almost too late, humans as a species were nearly wiped out. The world was scavenged, billions of people dead, those who survived were scattered and lost across the lands that were still hospitable. People fought over resources, struggling to grow plants before others came to kill and take them. Families like mine caught in the crossfire fled to safe locations, like the bunkers that became Claytonia’s Clutch, my home. Potatoes became the plant that saved us. They grew below ground, so not visible to the thieves’ eye. They loved the sandy soil of our Island, did not require much care, and were easy to grow. The potatoes flourished and so did we. We were then strong enough to form a small, peaceful community, one of a few that began to sprout up in the slowly recovering land. These became known as “clutches”. I’m not sure how the name originally started; I’ve heard some say everyone was desperate and “clutching” together for safety and hope.
Others say our nest of safety is little more than a “clutch” of unprotected eggs, just asking to be raided, since we refuse to fight. The Freedom Fighters, say that, or their children do when they stop by our Clutch to rest up after a fight. I still remember the way that Freedom girl stared at me, head shaved to red stubble to prevent the enemy from grasping her head, violet eyes piercing me like the bayonetted rifle she held at her side. She was barely taller than the thing, but already knew several deadly ways to use it, while I was still learning how butterflies began as caterpillars, hid inside a chrysalis, then emerged with beautiful wings. She was my age, but far older in many ways.
She was standing in a group of loud Freedom children, all warriors before the age of six winters. She was the only quiet one. Their parents were resupplying with food, trading news and pelts of animals they trapped on the road. The Freedom Fighters would head out the next morning, giving their children rare idle time. They chose to spend their time by taunting us, my fellow pupils and myself as we learned from Claytonia and my father.
The nasty children chanted, “Clutchy, wutchy, wuther, where is my mother? I can’t fight, so I hide behind ‘er!”
Some mimed crying and wiping their faces while others hid behind, feigning fear. They flexed their muscles and brandished their knives and guns at us. The girl just stood there, staring at me with her violet vision. I stared back at her, not in animosity, but because she seemed so much different from me.
Claytonia and my father urged us not to fight, they were the ones with the problem, just concentrate on the lesson, ignore them. They were hard to ignore. I held the husk of the recently emerged butterfly, unable to look away from the shaved girl’s eyes saying – no, yelling, “Learning about baby things? Why not do some real work and fight!” But I didn’t, we didn’t. We lived in our own community, refusing to fight unless provoked, then only defensive measures. We hid. That was our way. The coward’s out. But those who criticize our peaceful lifestyle, those Fighters, are the same ones being killed and kidnapped by the Nomads, and never heard from again.
A few winters later, I saw her again, that girl with the shaved head when a group of Nomads attacked our Clutch. We all hid as practiced and expected. I watched from my hiding place under my secret bramble tunnel. She was captured, on a long line of chains with other captured women, headed to wherever the Nomads took their spoils. I hadn’t recognized her at first, her hair had grown out to matted, red cap, and eyes were no longer piercing. A flat, barely sentient look replaced it. But her eyes, those strange violet irises, stuck straight ahead as the forward momentum carried her on in line with the other women and girls. I knew it was her. There were a few boys mixed in, those too young to hold a rife. One boy next to her, his hazel eyes and deep dimples. I remember feeling like his eyes met mine, pleading through the barrier, our paths cross. The others around him were mostly silent, some wept. I watched as the Nomads searched our locked-down fortress. Finding only a few stray chickens and a fist-full of carrots ripped from our decoy garden, they eventually wandered off. I knew I most likely would never see that girl or that boy ever again. I never knew their names.
Inside my hiding spot, an empty butterfly’s chrysalis clung to a thorny vine next to my peeping hole. If only the girl could crawl from her skin and grow wings to fly far, far away.
I wished I could grow wings and fly far, far away.
Fading in and out I lost consciousness again.
My body ached in defense of the poison slowly moving through my blood. I could feel my bones throbbing, the wounds on my face tingling and burning. The pain smothered all else, even my thirst. Wincing with the pain caused more pain, an endless cycle. I had to force myself to lay still and bear it.
My Name is Dysphoria My name is dysphoria I am the keening of grief The deep pit of sorrow When everything seems most bleak That stab of heartache And suffering collapse Brings long sleepless nights And tortured days of woe So alone in the dark Covered with my heavy blanket Of despondent dwelling You know I love company My confidant is anxiety Beckoning you in self-torment Makes help seem so impossible The voice that asks, "What's the point?" What I don't want you to know: You are worthy You are worth it You do deserve to be happy Reach for the light Friends are waiting You can be free Help is available anytime 800-273-8255 Suicide Prevention Hotline K.01092021
If I Had A Magic Wand If I had a magic wand I’d give my friends, my family everything they deserve The confidence to pursue the things they desire The drive to complete unfinished tasks The compassion to treat themselves with love If I had a magic wand I’d give my community everything it yearns Funding to help those in destitution Love to wrap in a warm embrace Food to fill empty bodies If I had a magic wand I’d give the world everything it lacks Peace within broken hearts Love to calm wounded minds Understanding to quell fears But… I have no magic wand. All I have is this ink, this paper To write these words And maybe one day Heal the world And myself K.11142019 Autumn Leaves of fall Waning life, waning number Waxing thought Autumn colors Yellow then orange Red as fire, simmering to gold Crunching under step Little deaths Evergreens same Sturdy and firm, on and on Haven perennial Sun fading Woodsmoke warming Preparing time, busy gather Long sits, book, and drink Warming cheeks, hearts The long dark Bearable K.10272019