It Came from the Multiplex: 80s Midnight Chillers

Welcome to tonight’s feature presentation, brought to you by an unholy alliance of our spellcasters at Hex Publishers and movie-mages at the Colorado Festival of Horror. Please be advised that all emergency exits have been locked for this special nostalgia-curdled premiere of death. From crinkling celluloid to ferocious flesh—from the silver screen to your hammering heart—behold as a swarm of werewolves, serial killers, Satanists, Elder Gods, aliens, ghosts, and unclassifiable monsters are loosed upon your auditorium. Relax, and allow our ushers to help with your buckets of popcorn—and blood; your ticket stubs—and severed limbs; your comfort candy—and body bags. Kick back and scream as you settle into a fate worse than Hell. Tonight’s director’s cut is guaranteed to slash you apart.…”

And awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay we go!

Last year while attending the annual Starfest Convention in Denver, Kevin and I were delighted to receive an invitation from Josh Viola at Hex Publishers along with our good friend of many, many conventions Bret Smith to contribute a story to a new anthology Josh was cooking up.

Our challenge: write a story set in the 1980s, with our inspiration the sorts of horror films which were all over the place all through that fanficul decade. How in the underworld could we possibly say no? As we both came of age during that time, many of our favorite movies are from that era. So far as horror goes, Kevin is perhaps the most knowledgable dude I know when it comes to the Halloween movies. Meanwhile, I’m more a fan of the Friday the 13th flicks. On the other hand, our mutual love of such films as The Return of the Living DeadThe ThingHouse, Fright NightCreepshow, and so many others knows no bounds.

Writing something set during the 80s has long been a Bucket List item for both of us, so the idea to lean into that fondly remembered decade (at least so far as movies and some TV goes) was something we couldn’t refuse. The result of our endeavor is “Helluloid,” just one of 14 stories cramming the pages of It Came From the Multiplex: 80s Midnight Chillers.

Kevin and I are thrilled to share a table of contents with this list of amazing word pushers:

Mario Acevedo
Kevin J. Anderson
Paul Campion
K. Nicole Davis
Sean Eads
Keith Ferrell
Orrin Grey
Warren Hammond
Angie Hoddap
Gary Jonas
Stephen Graham Jones
Betty Rocksteady
Bret & Jeannie Smith
Steve Rasnic Tem
Josh Viola
Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

In addition to having a total blast writing our story, Kevin and I realized the setting we created – the Vogue, a rundown and very haunted movie theater in a small town – was the perfect setting for all sorts of shenanigans which might unfold in future tales. We shall see!

Meanwhile, Kevin and I extend our sincere appreciation to Josh, Bret, and the crew at Hex for inviting us to come jam with them for a bit. Kevin and I had tremendous fun with this story and we hope to revisit the Vogue again one day, whether it’s with Hex or via other means.

You’re already buying copies for you and all your friends, right?

Pangaea Book III: Redemption

PangaeaIII-coverThe super-continent Pangaea, on which mankind has lived its entire life as a species, has become a dangerous and unpredictable place. The ancient oppressors known as the Aristai are tearing civilization apart in order to rebuilt it in their image.

If the nations of the world are to weather the storm of death and destruction, they will need heroes–not just leaders and lawmen, but also saviors from the unlikeliest of places. A bodyguard who’s lost his way in the wilderness. A chef who knows the value of keeping everything in its place. A truck driver carrying more than what’s in his truck. A professor who’s unlocked the greatest secret of the super-continent.

To guide you on your journey through the lonely mountain peaks, the wide, wild plains, and the teeming seacoasts of Pangaea, we’ve enlisted the talents of a distinguished fellowship of science fiction luminaries–Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Ilsa J. Bick, Michael A. Burstein, Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Kevin Dilmore, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Dan Hernandez, Paul Kupperberg, Ron Marz, Aaron Rosenberg, Lawrence M. Schoen, Geoffrey Thorne, Marie Vibbert, and Dayton Ward.

In this, the final volume of the Pangaea series, see who will rise, who will fall…and who will be left to pick up the pieces. Continue reading “Pangaea Book III: Redemption”

Predator: If It Bleeds

Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (from Predator, 1987)

predator-antho-coverOver the centuries, extraterrestrial hunters of the Yautja race—also known as the Predators—have encountered (and stalked) humans on Earth and in the depths of space. Offered here are sixteen all-new stories of such hunts, written by many of today’s most extraordinary authors:

Kevin J. Anderson
Jennifer Brozek
Larry Correia
Mira Grant
Tim Lebbon
Jonathan Maberry
Andrew Mayne
Weston Ochse
S. D. Perry
Steve Perry
Jeremy Robinson
John Shirley
Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Holly Roberds
Peter J. Wacks and David Boop
Wendy N. Wagner
Dayton Ward

Inspired by the events of the original Predator movies, graphic novels, and novels, these adventures pit hunter against prey in life-and-death struggles where there can be only one victor.

Awwwwwwwww, yeah.

I still remember when editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt reached out to me, gauging my interest in contributing a short story to this anthology he was assembling. The invitation came at just the right time, as I was in sore need of a pick-me-up to help combat various personal and family issues during that time. The original Predator is one of my all-time favorite 80s films, and thirty years later I think it still holds its own against most of the action movies which have come along since it was first on theater screens.

As for If It Bleeds? I am thoroughly jazzed to be sharing a table of contents with this roster of word pushers, which includes several people I’m proud to call friend. The stories run the gamut and span centuries from the distant past to the far future. My story, “Recon,” takes place in 1968 and is set in Vietnam.

If you can’t obtain a copy of this bee-yoo-tiful tome via your local independent bookseller, there’s always the online merchant option, so let me hit you with some link action:

Trade Paperback, Kindle e-Book, and Audiobook from
Trade Paperback, Nook e-Book, and Audiobook from Barnes & Noble
Trade Paperback, Various e-Book formats, and Audiobook from Books-A-Million

In addition to providing a permanent home for links to find and order the book, this entry also will serve as our book’s “official” Q&A thread. Those of you who want to chat about the book, feel free to post your questions/etc. to the comments section. For those of you who’ve found this page and perhaps not yet read the book, BEWARE THAT SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

Maximum Velocity

maximum-velocity-front-coverThe Best of Full-Throttle Space Tales

The Full-Throttle Space Tales series collected action-packed, high octane science fiction stories across the full potential of the genre. Here, the original editors have teamed up to pick the very best of Full-Throttle Space Tales, eighteen stories collected here for the first time.

Stories by David Boop, C.J. Henderson, W.A. Hoffman, Julia Phillips, David Lee Summers, Carol Hightshoe, Irene Radford, Bob Brown, Scott Pearson, Alan L. Lickiss, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Dayton Ward, Anna Paradox, Ivan Ewert, Erik Scott de Bie, Shannon Page, Mark Ferrari, Gene Mederos, Jean Johnson, Mike Resnick, and Brad R. Torgersen

Buckle up, because we’re accelerating to Maximum Velocity!

Trade Paperback from
Kindle e-Book from
Nook e-Book from Barnes & Noble
Multiple e-Book formats from Smashwords
Kobo e-Book


Back in 2009, I edited an anthology of military science fiction stories, Space Grunts, the third installment of Full-Throttle Space Tales, a series of pulpy SF short fiction with each volume centering around a particular theme. There ultimately were six collections, all published by David Rozansky and Flying Pen Press:

spacegrunts-coverSpace Pirates – edited by David Lee Summers
Space Sirens – edited by Carol Hightshoe
Space Grunts – edited by moi
Space Horrors – edited by David Lee Summers
Space Tramps – edited by Jennifer Brozek
Space Battles – edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

A few years ago, Flying Pen got away from publishing fiction, and all of the original anthologies are out of print. The rights to the individual stories have reverted back to their original authors, and few have even republished their tales in other anthologies or markets.

Then, in early 2014, David Lee Summers broached the idea of finding a way to reprint the original FTST anthologies, perhaps with an eye toward one day reviving the series. After the idea lay dormant for a bit, until the summer of 2015 when fate so fit to bring me to a convention with David and Jennifer Brozek. We revisited the notion and decided it still had merit, but finding a home for six collections of short stories felt to us like a daunting if not impossible task. So, the idea of creating a “Best of” anthology was hatched, while retaining the hope of this perhaps kick-starting a FTST revival.

David, with the help of original FTST contributor David Boop, took our idea to best-selling and award-winning author/editor Kevin J. Anderson, who happens to have his own independent publishing company, WordFire Press. Kevin was enthusiastic about hosting our little anthology, so with that in our pocket, we five editors got to work figuring out what would go in it.

The idea was simple: Each editor selected three to five stories from one of the anthologies for consideration by the other editors. To keep things as impartial as possible, we decided to reread the anthology that came before ours in the sequence (with David pulling double duty since he’d edited two). For example, I went through the stories collected in the second anthology, Space Sirens, and made my recommendations. At long last, the result of all our deliberations is this shiny new tome, Maximum Velocity.

Many thanks to Kevin J. Anderson and the team at WordFire Press for giving us our new home. Thanks also to the other editors and most especially to the other authors, without whom this entire endeavor wouldn’t even have been possible.

Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone

Sixteen brand-new adventures
set in the world of the original Planet of the Apes!

POTA-ForbiddenZoneThe 1968 Planet of the Apes film has inspired generations of authors. Now a who’s who of modern writers produces sixteen all-new tales, exclusive to this volume, set in the world of the original films and television series.

Dan Abnett • Kevin J. Anderson • Jim Beard • Nancy Collins • Greg Cox • Andrew E.C. Gaska • Robert Greenberger • Rich Handley • Greg Keyes • Sam Knight • Paul Kupperberg • Jonathan Maberry • Bob Mayer • John Jackson Miller • Ty Templeton • Will Murray • Dayton Ward

Each explores a different drama within the post-apocalyptic world, treating readers to unique visions and nonstop action.

Oh. Yeah.

Planet of the Apes, along with the original Star Trek and The Six Million Dollar Man, is at the top of my childhood TV and movie jam list. I was too young to catch the original films in theaters, but I did watch the initial CBS broadcast of the first couple of movies before they went ahead and greenlit a weekly television series based on the Apes concept. The show was cancelled after a half season, and if we’re being honest then it’s easy to see why that decision was made. On the other hand, that TV show, warts and all, has always been one of my favorite aspects of the Apes franchise. With the series gone from the airwaves, the fates of wayward astronauts Alan Virdon and Peter Burke and their chimpanzee companion, Galen, were left untold.

So, when editors Jim Beard and Rich Handley came calling, asking me if I wanted to write a story for this new anthology and knowing of my love for all things Apes, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: a story featuring wayward Virdon, Burke, and Galen set after the events of the TV series, and perhaps a chance to explore one of the show’s precious few dangling plot threads. Thankfully, Jim and Rich indulged me, and the result is “Message In A Bottle,” just one of 16 brand-new tales set at various points along the entire 2,000-or so year Planet of the Apes storytelling tapestry. Here’s hoping you dig all of them.


Meanwhile, I am absolutely thrilled to be sharing a table of contents with the other writers who’ve contributed stories to this volume, including several scribes I’m proud to call friend. Y’all need to be getting your stinking paws on this new book, yo. If you can’t obtain a copy via your local independent bookseller, there’s always the online merchant option, so let me hit you with some link action:

Trade Paperback and Kindle e-Book from
Trade Paperback and Nook e-Book from Barnes & Noble
Trade Paperback and Various e-Book formats from Books-A-Million

Given the amp’d up attention to all things Apes this year with the forthcoming film War for the Planet of the Apes, and next year marking the 50th anniversary of the original 1968 film, if sales of this first book are strong enough, we may well see a second set of Tales from the Forbidden Zone. Keep those digits crossed!

In addition to providing a permanent home for links to find and order the book, this entry also will serve as our book’s “official” Q&A thread. Those of you who want to chat about the book, feel free to post your questions/etc. to the comments section. For those of you who’ve found this page and perhaps not yet read the book, BEWARE THAT SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush


The music of Rush, one of the most successful bands in history, is filled with fantastic stories, evocative images, and thought-provoking futures and pasts. In this anthology, notable, bestselling, and award-winning writers each chose a Rush song as the spark for a new story, drawing inspiration from the visionary trio that is Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart.

Enduring stark dystopian struggles or testing the limits of the human spirit, the characters populating 2113 find strength while searching for hope in a world that is repressive, dangerous, or just debilitatingly bland. Most of these tales are science fiction, but some are fantasies, thrillers, even edgy mainstream. Many of Rush’s big hits are represented, as well as deeper cuts . . . with wonderful results. This anthology also includes the seminal stories that inspired the Rush classics “Red Barchetta” and “Roll the Bones,” as well as Kevin J. Anderson’s novella sequel to the groundbreaking Rush album 2112.

2113 contains stories by New York Times bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Z. Williamson, David Mack, David Farland, Dayton Ward, and Mercedes Lackey; award winners Fritz Leiber, Steven Savile, Brad R. Torgersen, Ron Collins, David Niall Wilson, and more.

It’s been over a year since author Kevin J. Anderson first asked me if I was interested in writing a story for a Rush-inspired anthology he was putting together.

I think my actual reply was somewhat more composed than that, but I can’t guarantee it.

Anyway, here we are and the book is finally out. The author roster is insane, and includes some top names in their respective fields. Moreover, I’m thrilled that I get to share yet another table of contents with my bud and frequent partner in literary mischief, David Mack.
This post will act as the book’s official “Q&A” thread, so feel free to drop any questions in the comments section. Because of that, folks should be aware that spoilers are a definite possibility from this point forward. You’ve been warned!

Pangaea, edited by Michael Jan Friedman: Now Available!

pangaea-coverAfter a rather accelerated gestation cycle following its successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign, Pangaea is now available!

Edited by veteran author and friend Michael Jan Friedman, Pangaea posits an alternate reality where Earth’s landmasses did not drift apart following their most recent joining, and humanity’s evolution differed in numerous ways. Some things are familiar, others are kind of familiar if you squint, and still others are colored in varying shades of “WTF?”

Today, editor Mike finally decreed that the book is officially “in the wild,” making said announcement over on his own website:

MichaelJanFriedman.Net: Pangaea Awaits!

Here’s the book’s back cover copy:

At least four times in Earth’s history, the continents have come sliding together to form a single mass—a super-continent. Geologists have dubbed the most recent such formation Pangaea.

Of course, Pangaea broke up a long time ago, and because it did, different portions of mankind developed in drastically different climes and circumstances. But what if we were living on one of the super-continents? What if all of humanity was confined to a single landmass . . . and had been so confined for all of our recorded history?

To explore this different world, we’ve harnessed the imaginations of some of science fiction’s most inventive writers—Michael A. Burstein, Adam-Troy Castro, Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, Kevin Dilmore, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Paul Kupperberg, Kelly Meding, Aaron Rosenberg, Lawrence M. Schoen, Geoffrey Thorne, and Dayton Ward.

So come with us . . . and discover a world like none you’ve seen before.

Discover Pangaea.

Pretty cool, right?

Take a look at that author line-up. That’s a pretty nifty roster, if you ask me. How I ended up there, I have no idea. Plus, get this: the story Kevin and I wrote, “The Ardent,” is actually the middle of a three-part arc that’s spread through the book, beginning with Mike’s lead-off story, “The Breaking,” and capped off by the tale that closes out the volume, Peter David’s “The Lying and the Dead.” Mike asked us to write that middle piece, so I for one was pretty damned flattered.

Sweetening the deal were a pair of Kickstarter backers, Lynda Martinez Foley and another fan who goes by the moniker “Revek.” They both pledged $100 each to be “Tuckerized,” or have their names used as characters in our story. That’s some serious commitment, right there.

The process was fast and furious, but also fun. It was the first time I got to work with Mike on anything, and he’s as benevolent an editor as rumors would have us believe. No, seriously. The whip marks on my back are healing rather nicely.

Anyway, for those of you who’d like to see how well we hold our own when straying from the familiar confines of the Star Trek sandbox, go give Pangaea a look-see:

Order Pangaea from Mike’s website

“Absent Friends” – a story for Memorial Day.

I wrote this story back in 2004, and it was published in a regional magazine, Kansas City Voices. One of the submission requirements at the time was that your story had to take place somewhere in the KC area, and I opted to set this piece in Union Station, my favorite building in the city. I’ve been fascinated with it since my first visit, and get back over there as often as I’m able. I actually wrote most of this story sitting at one of the tables of the cafe I describe.

A few years later, I wrote another story tying to this one, “See You When It’s Over,” that’s set in the past and fleshes out some of the things described by one of the original story’s characters. At the time, I had intended the two stories to act as “bookends” for a potential collection of tales all set in and around Union Station, and that’s still an idea which still might happen one of these days.

For now, though, here’s the original piece:

“Absent Friends”
Dayton Ward

Turning to his right, Mark Devlin adjusted the focus on his camera and the old man came into sharp relief at the precise instant he brought a flask to his lips.

“There’s something you don’t see everyday,” Mark muttered to himself, smiling as he snapped the picture and captured the other man’s illicit act for posterity.

In truth, the behavior was nowhere near the most bizarre Mark had seen, even in the time since he had taken to photographing locations and people around Kansas City. Still, it was decidedly out of place for the normally tranquil environs of Union Station, the city’s once-bustling railway hub. After enduring years of neglect as railway traffic dwindled almost to a standstill, the station had in recent years enjoyed a renaissance of sorts. A near-total restoration had turned the formerly condemned structure into an historical landmark and tourist attraction as well as a social gathering point for all manner of local residents.

Definitely not part of the corks and forks crowd, Mark mused as he continued to study his subject, thinking of the wine and food tasting festivals that occasionally took place in the station’s plaza area. The man, at least eighty years of age, sat alone at one of the outlying tables encircling the café at the center of the Grand Hall, though he seemed oblivious to the other patrons occupying tables around him.

Instead, his attention appeared to be riveted on the huge clock hanging high above the floor on the hall’s north side, which Mark knew had been one of the station’s most prominent features since its opening in 1914. Mark watched him drink from the flask without moving his eyes from the clock, but as he peered through his camera’s viewfinder this time, however, he also saw a single tear rolling down the man’s left cheek.

Was he remembering a lost love? Had he received troubling or tragic news? Could he be planning to do something drastic, perhaps even right here in the station? At once both intrigued and concerned, Mark failed to realize he had even moved from his own seat near the Station Master gift shop until he was standing just to the right of the man’s table.

The man’s deeply-lined features darkened into a scowl, and it was obvious that Mark’s approach had startled him.

“What?” he asked, making no effort to disguise his annoyance at the interruption. His voice was raspy and weak, another sign of his advancing years.

“Are you all right, sir?” Mark asked, holding up the camera. “I was taking pictures and couldn’t help noticing that you seemed upset.” Looking down at the table, he saw that the man’s left hand rested atop what appeared to be an old photograph.

The man’s expression softened a bit, though his eyes remained intense as he seemed to inspect Mark, his gaze scrutinizing him from head to foot. Finally, he lifted a weathered hand and pointed to the camera bag slung over Mark’s left shoulder. “Did you serve?”

Looking down, Mark realized the man had seen the luggage tag attached to one of his bag’s straps. A holdover from his military career, the plastic card bore a camouflage pattern and the word “Marines” in yellow block letters. He returned his attention to the older man and nodded in confirmation. “Yes, sir, though I’ve been out for a while now.”

The man seemed to weigh this for another moment before nodding more to himself than to Mark and indicating one of the empty chairs flanking his table. “Have a seat, if you like.”

Unsure why he was doing so, Mark accepted the offer and settled into the chair on the man’s left. Extending his right hand, he offered a more formal greeting. “Mark Devlin.”

“Donald Gibson,” the man replied as he shook the proffered hand. Pointing to Mark’s camera, he asked. “You a reporter or something?”

Mark shook his head. “No, sir. It’s a hobby I’ve picked up in the last few months. I’ve been taking pictures of various places around town, and I realized the other day I hadn’t been here since the reopening.”

“I’ve been coming here as long as I can remember,” Gibson said. “For a lot of years, this was the way to get anywhere, you know. Then everybody started flying.” Frowning, he added, “Not me, though. I just never seemed to be in as much of a damned hurry as everybody else. Besides, there’s just something elegant about traveling by train.”

Mark could not help the smile Gibson’s comment elicited. Though his own experiences were confined to the cattle car mentality of subway transit while living in Chicago, he saw no need to refute the older man’s fonder memories.

Bringing the flask to his lips once more, Gibson took another sip, and this time the distinctive odor of Tennessee whiskey teased Mark’s nostrils. As he swallowed the alcohol, Gibson held the flask before him. “If my doctor knew I was drinking this, he’d have my scalp.” Shrugging, he added, “But, I figure once a year won’t kill me, no matter what he says.”

“Special occasion?” Mark asked, regretting the words the instant they left his mouth. Remembering his first sight of the man, he was reluctant to say anything else.

Gibson seemed unperturbed by the question, however. “Depends on how you look at it, I guess.” Setting the flask down on the table, he reached for the faded photograph and handed it to Mark.

Cracked and wrinkled, the photo’s once white border had long ago yellowed with age. The picture itself depicted six young men, each sporting muscular physiques that Mark supposed would be a common sight for the rural, farm-based communities that would have formed much of Kansas City’s surrounding areas decades ago.

“From left to right,” Gibson said after a moment, “that’s Jimmy and Jake Rosemont, Stan Crossfield, Marty Douglas, Lee Ashton, and me. We grew up together, played football together, and eventually joined up for the war together. Summer of ’42, right after graduating high school.”

It was a familiar story, Mark realized, variations of which he had read about in numerous history books. In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, thousands of young men were drafted or volunteered for service as the United States finally entered the massive war already raging in Europe while at the same time turning its sights on the equally vast conflict building in the Pacific.

Pointing to something over Mark’s shoulder, Gibson said, “The last time all of us were together was over there, under the clock. That’s where we said our goodbyes before heading off to boot camp. We even made one of those silly pacts for after the war was over, promising to meet back here every year on the anniversary of our heading out. Swore on it and everything.” His eyes seemed to brighten and a smile creased his wizened face. “Jake snuck a bottle of his daddy’s whiskey, and we all shared it. I remember being drunk as a skunk when I got on my train, and pretty much slept all the way to San Diego.”

Mark laughed at the image that evoked. He had done something similar on the eve of his own departure to recruit training. The resulting hangover had caused him no small amount of pain, especially upon his arrival at Parris Island and his introduction to Marine Corps life at the hands of loud and irate drill instructors intent on making his life miserable for the ensuing eleven weeks.

“Me, Jimmy, Stan and Lee joined the Army,” Gibson continued, “while Jake and Marty went into the Marines. Jimmy, Stan and me ended up in the First Infantry Division, and were at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Lee was always the crazy idiot, so it was no surprise when he volunteered for the paratroopers. Only me and Lee made it home, and it wasn’t until the first year after the war was over, when we met Jake here, that we found out Marty died on Okinawa.”

Pausing to clear his throat, he added, “We hadn’t thought about a promise to drink a toast to those who didn’t make it back. It just sort of happened that first time.” As he spoke, Gibson’s attention seemed to drift so that he was no longer facing Mark, but instead seemed to be studying with longing something that only he could see. Unwilling to disturb the man’s ruminations, Mark instead remained silent, allowing Gibson to proceed at his own pace.

“And that’s the way it went for a few years,” the man said after a moment. “Just the three of us, drinking whiskey and toasting our friends once a year. Only Lee stayed in the service after the war, and he was killed in Korea in ‘52.” Shaking his head, he added, “It was just Jake and me after that, and we kept it up. It didn’t matter where a job might take us or how many kids and grandkids we had. Every year, we found a way to meet here.”

Now thoroughly engrossed by the older man’s tale, Mark asked, “What about the years the station was condemned?”

Smiling mischievously, Gibson replied, “We found a way in.” He pointed toward the station’s ornate, arched ceiling, ninety-five feet above the floor. “Damn near got ourselves killed one time, when some of the plaster fell from the ceiling.”

Unable to stifle a chuckle, Mark shook his head at the other man’s gentle humor. It was not enough, however, to keep him from pondering the one question that had yet to be answered.

As if reading his mind, Gibson said, “Jake died in ’94. Heart attack.” Indicating the vast chamber around them, he added, “Good thing they got around to fixing this place up. It was getting to be a tricky thing, sneaking in here by myself. Now I just walk in like the good old days, pay my respects, and go home.” He shook his head, and a wistful expression seemed to grace his features. “In all those years, you’re the first person to ever walk up and ask what the hell was going on.”

“Then it’s my good fortune, I think,” Mark said, his voice heavy with genuine admiration. “And their loss.” He had spoken to many veterans over the years, including a few from the Second World War. Of course, nothing Mark had gleaned from those conversations would ever provide him with the kind of visceral memories harbored by men like Donald Gibson. He at least was one of the survivors of that war, unlike the staggering numbers who had died before truly having the chance to live.

Smiling, Gibson said, “Well, thanks for indulging an old man. I don’t get to talk to someone your age all that often, you know.”

“The pleasure was all mine, sir,” Mark replied, sensing that the appropriate time for him to take his leave had arrived. Rising from his seat, he extended his hand once more. “Thanks for your time.”

Ignoring the gesture, the man waved him back to his chair, adopting a thoughtful, mentoring manner which Mark suddenly realized reminded him so much of his late grandfather. “Tell me, son,” Gibson said, “did you ever see battle?”

“No, sir,” Mark replied. “I was in combat services support during the Gulf War, but they didn’t send me to Saudi Arabia.”

“But you had friends who did, right?” the other man asked. “Buddies who died over there, or even for some other reason?”

His own expression sobering, Mark nodded in confirmation.  It was something he had not thought about in a long time, after all. “Yes, I certainly did.”

Retrieving the flask from the table, Gibson offered it to Mark. “Here, then. Let’s drink to them.”

Mark smiled as he took the flask. “Only if you promise to meet me here next year.”

Copyright © 2004 by Dayton Ward. All Rights Reserved.


Check it out, yo! It’s Halloween! Again!

In years past, I’ve posted a new story that I hope is at least somewhat suitable for the evening. Due to other stuff going on, I wasn’t able to write something for last year, but I think I’m kind of back in the saddle this time around.

Be advised that the story contains strong language.

And with the preliminaries out of the way…….

Dayton Ward

Continue reading ““Transcript””

“Opening Night”

June 9, 1989

There sure are a lot of empty seats.

That was the first thought to enter Peter’s mind as he followed his friend Alan into the auditorium and down the aisle. Finding a decent spot in which to enjoy the movie was definitely not going to be a problem.

“Wow,” Alan said, selecting an empty row and heading for its center. “Opening night, no line to get in, and look at all the seats. Not a good sign.”

From over Peter’s left shoulder, their friend George replied, “I warned you guys, but do you listen? Nooooooo.” Having selected the row behind the one Alan had chosen, he dropped his ponderous bulk into the center seat.

“I heard you, man,” Peter countered as he took his own seat, leaving open the one between him and Alan. “I just don’t care. I’ve been waiting for this movie all year. I made opening night for the first four, and there’s no way I was gonna miss this one.” He watched as the fourth member of their group, Leo, collapsed into the seat next to George, his eyes closing as he promptly fell asleep.

Ignoring Leo, George shrugged. “It’s gonna suck, trust me. And when it ends up sucking, you owe me $3.50.”

Continue reading ““Opening Night””