Lou’s Diary – Entry 15 (text version)

I left the fire tower this morning to visit my pile of body parts.  After reading the first half of Floyd’s journal, I realized my pile deserved a name just as much as his.  Why should it be forced to spend its days and nights freezing in the woods without a name?  That isn’t fair.

And yes, dear diary, I have lost my mind.  I cannot stop thinking about that stupid pile of mangled bones and rotting flesh.  I needed it.  It needed me.

So, my pile of body parts needed a name.  The only problem was I couldn’t remember what the right hand looked like.  Was it a man’s hand, a woman’s hand or did my stack of assorted limbs and feet and joints have the hands of a child?  Did I have a junior in my midst?

My pile was waiting for me just past the tree line.  I approached it feeling almost giddy.  I couldn’t wait to give it a name.  I peered through the spaces between the collection of severed body parts, looking for the hands.  Muscle, skin, fur, and innards seemingly clung to each other for warmth.  It was so, so cold.

A few minutes of intense looking went by until I finally spotted a hand.  And I was in luck, it was the right hand.  It was wedged in tight between some bones.  I couldn’t  see it clearly enough to make out if it was a man, woman or child, so I found a stick nearby and worked it in between the carefully placed gore.

A rush of warm air hit me in the face.  I pulled the stick back and nearly fell to the ground.  I inserted the stick again and the stream of air returned.  The pile was breathing on me.

I pulled the stick back out, steadied my nerves and hurriedly stuck the stick back in the pile and desperately tried to uncover the debris around the hand so I could identify it.  I had to name my pile.  It deserved a name.

I cleared away enough to see a fingernail.  It had a spot of faded pink nail polish.  It was a female.  I almost jumped for joy.  A female!  A girlfriend.  My own ghoulish pile of meat and bones girlfriend.  I knew right away what to name her. Valerie.  I had her back.  I had my Valerie back.

I felt a smile form on my face and was about to go back to the fire tower when something clicked in my head.  The hand – it was familiar.  I looked closer, my face even brushing up against a clump of hair stuck to piece of flesh on the pile.  It startled me enough that I reared back.  When I did, a flash of memory came to me.  That hand.  I knew that hand.     I’d seen it before, holding a knife in my face.

It was Fury’s hand.  This wasn’t my pile at all.  This was a new pile.  I scanned up the mound of various parts and saw the severed head of Pain camouflaged by dirt and dried blood.  His eyes opened.

Lou’s Diary – Entry 14 (text version)

I couldn’t bring myself to read Floyd’s diary today.  I’m tired of his obsession with the Gore.  And that’s exactly what it is, an obsession.  He writes over and over again of being drawn to the piles of body parts.  He needed them.  They needed him.  He described being away from them as a little pinch in his brain.  The longer he was away the more severe the pain.

He went back to the aquarium a dozen times in two days at one point.  He couldn’t even explain it.  He knew it was stupid.  He came closer and closer to not being able to leave each time.  He really knew he was losing it when he started naming the piles of body parts.

The piles were made up parts from both animals and humans.  Each pile had enough parts that, if assembled, would make a complete two-legged creature.  They were mismatched parts that had no business being together.  One pile would have a horse’s leg, a man’s left foot, a bear’s torso, etc.  The next pile would be different creatures, but the same types of body parts: feet, legs, torso, arms, head.  The only parts each pile had that were the same were the hands.   Every pile had two human hands.

A lot of times it was obvious that the hands didn’t come from the same person.  Floyd identified each pile by the right hand.  Most of the time he could determine if it was a man’s hand or a woman’s.  Based on that, he gave the piles names matching their genders.  Children’s hands made it tough.  If he found one with a child’s right hand, he’d go by the left hand.  If both hands belonged to children, he just called it Junior.  Luckily, he’d only come across that once.

That was the pile he was most drawn to.  He always found himself standing in front of Junior, waiting for it to speak, to tell him what to do.  Junior had a cow’s head, so he wasn’t sure if it was even possible for the pile to speak.

He figured out at some point that Junior did not like the hands it was saddled with.  They were small and fairly useless.  He didn’t know if Junior had told him this or not.  Not using its cow head with its cow tongue to tell him, but by using some kind of mental mind trick.  Junior was saddened by its pathetic hands.  The other piles didn’t respect Junior. They taunted Junior.  They were cruel to Junior.

Floyd felt badly for Junior. He left the aquarium one day and went to the kitchen of a nearby restaurant and searched until he found a very large and very sharp knife.  He set the knife on a table in the dining area of the restaurant and promptly forgot why he had been looking for it.  An image of Junior’s cow head flashed through his mind and he remembered why.

Floyd wanted to give Junior a new set of hands.  His own.

He went outside, ran to the riverbank and tossed the knife into the water.

My sex video

I just finished a new manuscript for a book titled Whiskey Man.  It’s a hillbilly story about moonshiners and meth dealers.  It is not for young adults.  It’s full of violence and… SEX.  Believe it or not, I didn’t intend for there to be any sex in this book.  But, as a writer you look for ways for your characters to grow through various challenges, and sex was the perfect obstacle for the main character.

The problem is that I now have a branding problem. I am known in certain circles for writing a young adult series called the Oz Chronicles, but as an artist, I like to explore different categories and genres.  The question:Do I damage my brand by writing about sex in my non-young adult titles? Am I allowed to write about sex?

Lou’s Diary – Entry 13 (text version)

The body parts are alive or at least they wanted to be alive.  That’s what I learned in Floyd Templeton’s diary.  Days went by before he could bring himself to go back to the aquarium.  He wasn’t sure why he felt the need to go back, but something was driving him, nudging him to walk back into that putrid place and find out more about the pile of body parts.

He inched his way up the stairs to the second level, walking as softly as he could.  He had been practicing how to breathe quietly in order to make as little noise as possible, but once he reached the top step and saw the rows and rows of the piles, the fear took over.  His quiet breathing turned into short hacking breaths that he was sure could be heard in every corner of the aquarium.

He was struck by a stale odor and realized that he wasn’t just looking at dead body parts.  The air itself was dead.  He wrote;

It’s hard to describe, but I felt as if the living angered the space I was entering.  There was an overwhelming sense of envy. Those piles of body parts were jealous that I brought a beating heart into their habitat.  And that’s exactly what it was, a habitat.  These things were dead, but I could feel their desire to be alive.  They hated me for being what they couldn’t be.  It sounds crazy, I know, but anyone walking into their dwelling would feel the same way.  There’s no way to deny it.

I don’t know why, but he didn’t leave.  He talked about being drawn to the place.  It was more than having to know what was happening.  He felt the need to be among the piles of body parts.  Before he knew it, he had walked more than half the length of the upper corridor.  The piles stretched out in front of him and behind him.  The “calling” as he named it, to be among the body parts had vanished.  Suddenly, he didn’t want to be there.  He didn’t want to know why the piles were there.  He had made a huge mistake.  He said;

I wasn’t there to find out about them.  I was brought there so they could find out about me.  They were inspecting me.  I had been called so they could size me up.  Each pile was deciding which of my body parts would suit them.

He turned to leave, but stopped when he saw that the staircase had been blocked by a pile that had not been there before.  In a panic, he turned and ran.  Each step of the way seemed to produce more and more piles with the distance between them growing smaller and smaller.  He couldn’t say for sure, but it almost appeared as if they were moving.

Rounding the corner, he saw an emergency exit and headed for it.  Reaching it, he stopped, looked back and saw a disembodied adult human arm attach itself to what looked like the torso of a large dog.  A child’s hand jumped off the pile and scooted across the floor to the awkward pairing and attaches itself to the wrist of the adult arm.  The small hand reached into the nearby pile and pulled down another arm and continued the gruesome assembly.

Floyd exited before he saw anymore.  He ended his entry with this;

They are piles of hungry gore.

An update on Megan Sharpton’s murder investigation

Help bring Megan Sharpton’s killer/killers to justice.

A short time ago I wrote about the gruesome murder of one of my high school classmate’s daughter, Megan Sharpton.  There’s no reason to repeat the details of this heinous crime, but there is an unfortunate update to the story.  The investigation has moved along to the point where the police and TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) have an undisclosed number of suspects.  They are in the process of gathering evidence and waiting on lab results.  That’s all good and hopeful.

The unfortunate part is one of the suspects is now threatening Megan’s family.  He approached a member of the family at a Tullahoma High School football game and made hostile remarks.  He (and perhaps his accomplices) may have even resorted to firing gunshots at Megan’s grandmother’s home. The district attorney in the case has been slow to take action either because his hands are tied by the nature of the legal system or because of other reasons beyond my comprehension.

As you can imagine, Megan’s mother, Kelly Sharpton, is frightened for the safety of her family and for the community.  This individual is at large and may be even brazenly stocking and intimidating those closest to Megan.  I’m guessing he is unhappy that the family is offering a reward for any information that leads to an arrest.  If he is the killer, he’s putting his freedom at peril by manifesting his fear of discovery into such loathsome and repulsive behavior on a very public level.

He should know that the discovery he fears is inevitable.  He will be caught.  There are others who know what he did.  There’s an entire community on his heels. The police have him on their radar, maybe even under surveillance. There’s an army of online watchdogs digging for information on him. He may even be his own worst enemy.  I imagine he gets drunk or high frequently.  He’s probably talked openly about what he did.  He thinks people are afraid to talk, or perhaps he thinks he’s only told people he considers confidants.  But they’ve talked.  In an inebriated state, they’ve confided in others what they know about him.  The whispers of his deed are spreading.  There is a growing web of informants eager to tell someone what they know.  Every person he sees has the potential of being the one to bring him down.  Every person.  There is no one he can trust in his world.  Deep down, he knows it, too. His only logical move at this point is to turn himself in because the longer he waits the longer he has to endure the unbearable stress of looming discovery. It’s the only way he’ll find even a shard of peace.

To the people of Tullahoma, help keep the Sharptons and your community safe.  Don’t put yourselves in harm’s way, but report any suspicious activity or any information (no matter how insignificant you think it may be) to the local authorities.

Tullahoma Police Department – 931-455-0530

Franklin County Sheriff’s Office – 931-967-2331

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation – 1-800-TBI-FIND

9-11 from a Georgia highway

A reprint of where I was on 09-11-2001

I was in my car when it happened, on my way to Milledgeville, Georgia from Charleston, South Carolina.  I sat in misery as I drove down a backwoods highway.  I was 34-years-old, and I hated my job.  Worse than that, I couldn’t remember a job I liked since I quit my gig as a dishwasher in a hospital at the age of seventeen. I had lived an entire lifetime since dreading the concept of waking up on a weekday and dressing for a job that would slowly suck the life out of me.   Professional fulfillment was something that eluded me so thoroughly I was convinced that I was hardwired to hate working.  Not the physical effort just the emotional investment.

Howard Stern was on the radio.  He is the one who told me what happened that morning, and because of that I am indelibly linked to the shock jock.  I like Howard.  It’s not his fart jokes and sophomoric ramblings about the female form that draws me to his show.  It’s his pure unadulterated love for his job.  It was a feeling I couldn’t relate to at the time.  As foreign as the concept was to me, I still longed for it and Howard exuded it.  You could hear it in the timber of his voice.  And it wasn’t just him. It was everyone in the studio with him.  They all loved their jobs.  Listening to them, I was sucked into their world and for the time I listened, I enjoyed a workday morning.

That morning they were talking about Pamela Anderson.  Howard had gone to a club with her, and she kissed him.  The crew was stunned and envious.  They wanted every detail, and Howard was more than happy to oblige.  He let the facts drip out in masterful story-like fashion.  My mouth agape, I gripped the steering wheel tighter and bent in closer to the radio.   He was teasing everyone with insignificant side-bars mixed in with outrageous claims, and then there was a misplaced pause.  I can still hear the void left by that pause.

“What is that?” Howard asked.  “One of the towers is on fire.”  The confusion crackled through the dying signal on my radio.  I slowed down to hold onto the signal for as long as I could.  I wanted him to get back to the story.  But scattered details came in about the fire.  “It was a small plane.”  Someone said.  “I don’t know how that doesn’t happen more often,” someone else said.  They talked about the air traffic around Manhattan.  The planes fly much too low.  Another misplaced pause.

“The other building’s on fire,” Howard said calmly but puzzled.  A panicked voice followed from someone else in the room.  “It was another plane!  Another plane flew into the other building!”  My heart pounded against my chest.  The static on the radio began to drown out their voices.  I fiddled with the tuner.  I couldn’t lose the signal.  Not now.  Just before I went completely beyond the signals range, I thought I heard the question, “Are we under attack?”

I looked at the car to my left on Highway 95.  The driver was stooped over and fiddling with his radio, too.  The driver of the car in front of me was doing the same.  I sat back, breathed deeply and spotted a sign for a state of Georgia visitor’s center.  From my frequent trips along this road, doing a job I hated, I knew the visitor’s center had a lounge with a TV.

The parking area for the visitor’s center was crowded.  Cars, RVs, trucks, motorcycles, nearly took up every square inch of pavement.  I squeezed my car into a spot near the back of the lot and parked.  I gave the radio one last try before I exited.  Nothing.  Not even a local station.  Outside of the car, I noticed that the air was unusually still.  Something was missing.  When I turned to the highway, I realized what it was.  There were no cars passing the visitor’s center.  The hum of rubber passing over the road was notably absent, as notable as Howard’s first misplaced pause.  The void had returned.  Looking back, the day was filled with eerily quiet moments.   Pauses that didn’t belong caused by an avalanche of confusion and anger and fear.

I walked into the visitor’s center, looked to the right and was amazed to see no one standing inside.  Given the number of cars in the parking lot, the place should have been packed with people.  I turned to my left and quickly unraveled the mystery.  Everyone had jammed themselves into the lounge.  A sea of people stood staring up at the TV.  Not a word was exchanged between anyone in the crowd.  They watched in silence as smoke billowed from the World Trade Center buildings.   Occasionally, I heard sniffles and stifled wails.  A scan of the room revealed a lot of tears and strained gazes.

Finally, someone next to me answered the question asked by the unidentified person on the radio.  “We’re under attack.”

Me hating my job suddenly seemed like such a small and insignificant thing.

Lou’s Diary – Entry 12 (text)

I’m not the only who keeps a diary.  I was cleaning up the fire tower, which included shoveling some blood soaked snow off the deck, and I found a notebook that was used as a journal.  The first page read as follows:

This is the diary of Floyd Templeton.  He lives among the dead. He wishes it was the other way around.

It didn’t occur to me until I had read a few pages of the diary that Floyd Templeton is FT.  The man who warned me about the Gore.  The man who left me clothes and food.  If it wasn’t for Floyd Templeton I’d still be wondering in the blinding snow, freezing and starving to death without ever dying.

The first part of the journal is just filled with stories about his life before the end of the world.  He was a chef in Charleston, South Carolina.  He had just opened his own restaurant when everything fell apart.  Délons were the first of the destroyers to show up.  Everyone thought it was an alien invasion.  Within a week of the first Délon sighting, Charleston was a ghost town. He wrote:

The Market, King Street, the hospitals, the ports, nobody is anywhere.  I am the only one left.

He holed up in St. Philips Episcopal Church for awhile thinking that if any other survivors were left they’d surely come to a church to pray.  After all, that’s what people do when the world ends, isn’t it?  Pray?  He spent three months looking for others on the streets during the day, and sleeping in the church at night.  Every day, he’d come across at least one dead body.

He started noticing something strange about the bodies.  He hadn’t given it much thought at first, but the more bodies he saw the more apparent it became.  They were all missing a part and it was never the same part.  Even the dead animals he’d come across were missing something.

He kept log of the missing parts.  His diary was filled with things like: Cat – left eye, Woman – left arm, boy – head. It was a gruesome list of the mangled dead.  There were so many entries of the dead and their missing parts, I stopped reading them.  It was just too horrible.

I read his diary until it was too dark to see.  The last thing I read before I couldn’t read anymore was this:

I went to the aquarium today.  I had been avoiding it because I could smell the stench of dead fish and animals from Francis Marion Square, but I ran out of places to look for other people, so I went.  I wish now I hadn’t.  The tanks were filthy and the fish were dead and floating lifeless in the murky water.  Their eyes were bulging, milky white orbs.  Their bodies were bloated.  Some even had exploded bellies with guts dangling in the water.  But that wasn’t the worst part.  The worst part was what was on the second level.  Those body parts I’ve been tracking were there.  All of them, stacked in neat piles taller than me.  There were dozens of piles with hundreds of body parts.  I couldn’t move when I realized what I was looking at.  I stood there wanting to throw up, scream, run, cry – but I couldn’t do anything. That is not until I saw a head; a man’s.  It was bald with a thin strip of gray hair just above the ears.  Its eyes were closed; were closed.  As impossible as it sounds, they opened.  I would have thought it was just a natural occurrence.  Dead bodies do that sometimes.  They move when the muscles stiffen.  But then they blinked.  I ran.