Authors: Morgan Bell
HELL BENT PRESS
Published by Hell Bent Press
Published in Cooperation with Create Space
First Print Edition
Copyright 2015 by Morgan Bell
Cover art Copyright 2015 Morgan Bell
Cover design by Dmitry Yakhovsky
Interior book design by Alisha Mehra
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To my wife, the kids and all of the students that have survived my classes.
Yes, I really always was thinking of something else..
As always Sejr, I think of you.
In Memoriam Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, July 18, 2013
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incident are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To Cliff Michaels and his wife Angela Stamm for hauling out the supplies and the equipment to put up the yurt. To Jill Peters for helping us run the solar panels and wire the place. To Richard Williams for getting me the gig at the college and special thanks to Myra Tweed, for only letting us have two of the puppies; Chubs and Pony. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t look out across the valley and think of all of you.
yle Rehnquist sat down to his morning cup of coffee with his wife Ashkah in their New Haven, Connecticut home. It was their morning ritual and went all the way back to when they had first moved out of the city to start their family. They had always treasured these moments together, silently enjoying one another’s company. After their daughter and son had gone off to college and then on to their careers, Lyle and Ashkah had continued this quiet time together in the morning before Lyle would set out for his commute and Ashkah would spend the day in her home office running her intellectual property firm. Without a word, as was their custom, they cleaned up after themselves, put away the dishes and gave each other a hug and a kiss. Then Lyle left the house to start his morning commute.
It was a slightly chilly day and under other circumstances Lyle would have taken the people’s transport hydrogen bus to the terminal. But the walk was short enough and he was approaching fifty, at an age where he knew he needed to stretch his legs if he didn’t want to simply cave in on himself and rot in a few years. So he walked at a brisk pace. When he arrived at the terminal there was the usual line for the screener stations where HDMP officers stood, looking hectoring and never, in more than two decades, ever cracking a smile or acknowledging that any of the commuters were known to them. Even the dogs, that stood sentry near the screener stations, growled at people they’d watched day in and day out for more than half a decade. Lyle sometimes wondered how Homeland managed to keep those animals in such a permanent state of hostile readiness.
Lyle stepped from his shoes onto the screen platform, felt the familiar blast of air, heard the chemoreceptors and suction fans, watched the red light flash as the radio scanner passed across him. Then he saw the green light flash, stepped out of the screener and retrieved his shoes from the conveyor belt where they and his attaché case had been x-rayed, scanned and run through a standard chemical assessment. Lyle slipped his shoes back on, picked up his attaché case and walked down the platform to the benches where morning commuters waited for the train to New York to arrive.
Commuters, like the HDMP and sentry dogs, no longer acknowledged one another or made small talk. There had been too many incidents in the last decade where someone people “knew” from the commute, had been caught engaged in seditious and terroristic acts. If you ever smiled at them, inclined your head or otherwise were recorded as acknowledging them, HDMP would visit you at your home and your work, usually with the aid of a “no knock” entry party and “non-lethal suppression tech.” For that reason commuters read data files, reports, and news broadcasts on any device they could carry that would allow them to ignore one another. Lyle was reading the data on share values and volumes from the EU when a message flashed. The message was a notice that his sister Margret was sending him a message. Lyle sighed, touched the screen to accept the message, and began to read.
The message, which to Lyle appeared to be his sister’s normal salutation, began with a long, rambling and unpunctuated sentence that complained about Lyle’s having not called or messaged her in the last forty-eight hours. Lyle felt his collar tighten and a slight pressure in his temples. The message went on to complain about their parent, who had retired to New Mexico, and the fact that he and Ashkah were so successful, healthy and not doing anything for her and John, her husband, who after all were having a hard time since the agency was reorganizing John’s department and she hadn’t been able to work for the last decade with all the stress associated with looking after her twenty-two and twenty-three year old sons who were now living in Oregon, but if she worked she wouldn’t be available to be there for them when they tried to reach her; which neither of the ungrateful brats had bothered to do in the last four months. Lyle adjusted his collar and felt the pressure in his neck increase. He tried to turn off the message, to stop the flow of inane complaints and adolescent petulance that his forty-three year old sister was sending to him; but the message continued and he could not avert his eyes.
Why hadn’t he and Ashkah visited last month, when she and John were celebrating their anniversary and didn’t he know that Ashkah hated Margret? The train arrived and Lyle boarded, taking his seat near the window and he continued to read, despite the urge to throw the device across the car and risk being arrested on suspicion of a terroristic act. But he couldn’t stop reading and he could not let go of the device. His sister was now, in a three paragraph long, unpunctuated diatribe, complaining about Ashkah’s mother who she felt snubbed by at the last family get together. She felt that Ashkah’s mother had monopolized their parent’s time and didn’t she know that their parents didn’t really like her that much? Lyle’s heart was racing and the muscles in his neck and upper back were squeezing tightly as he felt the urge to run, to kill, to scream. Margret continued on to talk about a time seven years ago when she had a fight with Ashkah while they were at the wine festival in upstate New York, where their parents had rented a cabin for everyone to share and hadn’t their parents been manipulative and cheap for renting that cabin when they could have put everyone up in their own hotel rooms someplace else and did Lyle remember the argument that Margret had with their mother because their mother had offered to take the boys into town and Margret decided that they were too young to go?
Lyle could not breathe. Air was no longer making it into his lungs which had become constricted and felt like burning masses.
Its like everyone is treating me like an asshole and all I do is the best I can to get along with people who treat me like shit and I never complain about any of it and I just keep getting dumped on by mom who I had a fight with because she was being such a bitch to John ru telling mom about this I h8 wen ppl r h8r n 303 is like FYL n I’m like gysr bo but 303 dnt g8 it so its all BOHICA. .
That was the final moment of Lyle Rehnquist’s life, reading the rambling, vulgar, angry, adolescent, temper tantrum strewn message that repeated, degenerated and repeated once again. A message sent to him by his forty-three year old sister, a message that had killed him before his morning commute had even gotten him to Milford. It would be the last morning that he would be alive to share coffee with his wife, to enjoy the walk to the station, to muse on the nature of his relationship with Homeland officers, dogs and fellow commuters. Lyle Rehnquist was motionless in his seat, his heart stopped, his brain dead, his eyes staring unseeing, his hands still clutching the device that had delivered the message that had killed him. Then the train arrived in Milford. Lyle Rehnquist began to move, he began to mutter, he began to type a message, a long message, an angry message. Lyle Rehnquist would go to work that day, he would go home that night and he would continue with every one of his normal activities and no one would notice that he was dead.
Esmé Edeson was riding the express from London to Paris, beginning what was to be a three day assignment at the Paris office auditing the transactions for the EU accounts. It meant leaving her husband Jenson alone for the midweek. But they had their usual arrangements and he would join her at the end of the week so that they could spend the following week together in Bordeaux.
Esmé was watching the in transit programs on her tablet when she saw an urgent message notice flash. It was a message from her brother, Tobias. She paused the program and brought up the message. It began in very stilted language. It started off as a grievance against Jenson. He didn’t like Tobias, or so the note said, despite Tobias making every effort to get on with her husband. Esmé paused to check the routing and service on the message. It was, by all indications, a legitimate message from her brother. She continued to read and it went on about Jenson, calling him an alcoholic, womanizer and a bastard of the worst sort. Tobias went on to write about their daughter, Lyra, and how she was no good and would end up pregnant, on drugs, on the dole and dead in the fullness of time. Esmé’s face turned red, the veins in her long, slender neck were bulging, the letter descended further into the most unseemly and vulgar attack on her, her family, their parents, friends and associates. Esmé wanted to stop reading. She wanted to shut her eyes. But she could not. A red haze descended over her and through it she could only see the words and feel a horrible pounding in her skull that was climbing in intensity and pitch.
Esmé Edeson died five minutes west of Paris. Ten minutes after her death she arrived at the company’s Paris office, started her EU audit, sent fifty messages to family members and checked into her hotel room that night.
In his office in Nagaoka, Japan, Akio Satou was reviewing performance reports and product chain compliance when his desk panel signaled a message. It was from his brother, Hiraku. The message was odd and he checked to see if it came from his brother’s account. The encryption was such that it could only have been from his brother. Akio continued to read. The message informed Akio that their father hated Hiraku and that their mother hated both of them and had tried, several times to kill them. She and her sister, Mariko, had plotted to kill Akio and Hiraku after the boys had started school. The car accident which had injured their mother had been an attempt on their lives that the sisters had planned. That was why Mariko had gone away and died shortly after the accident. Their father had poisoned her and had their mother institutionalized.
Akio tried to stop reading. He tried to force himself to stop the message, to delete the message. But he was paralyzed. His eyes followed the message, the words, horrifying, vulgar and without any basis in reality, and each of them tormented him. Small vessels around his eyes burst. His teeth clamped hard, threatening to crack the enamel and a red, dull and angry hazy enveloped Akio Satou’s brain.
Akio Satou, recently deceased, flushed his blood shot eyes with water, straightened his tie, retrieved his files and gave a ten thirty report to his superiors on the supply chain status. Three hours later he sent over one hundred messages to members of his family, including his brother Hiraku.