Authors: Winston Emerson
Copyright © 2012 Winston Emerson
All rights reserved.
Title: The Object: Book One
This is a work of fiction. All names, places, and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the prior written consent of the author.
Published in the
by Winston Emerson,
Cover art Copyright © 2012 Justin Comley
The author wishes to thank the following people for helping make
French, author J. Eric Laing, Erin King, author John Doe, author Anthony Ryan, Nancy Rich, Sandra Brothers, Michael Rainer, Shelby Haun, Linda Trzos, Wes Manakee, Damon Miles Barnes, Sean Wyatt, Emilia Fuks,
Chris Lindsey, John Yoakam, Lynn Morris Parmer,
Bruce England, John Kirwan, Gayan Hutchinson, Katy Cecil, Hugh Blair, Michelle Emerson, Stephanie Gillis, John Wynn, Thomas K., Faye Heindel, Bastian Hellmann, Amber Staples, Josh Feggett, Emily Lamers, Jessica Rupert, Amanda Hawk, Dane DeWitt, Steven Wheeler, Jerica Gant, Laurie Jenkins, Mike Crate, Chris Shaw, Abigail Williamson, Matthew Nicklies, Adam Whitcomb, Adam Simon, Michael Schindler, Lisa Peacock, and Mary Sparr
The author also wishes to thank the city of
, with apologies for fictitiously tearing it to pieces.
Finally, the author wishes to thank his wife, Kylie, the best beta reader in the world.
A Note About
began as a free online serial novel at
A collaborative effort between author Winston Emerson, musician Matthew Wayne Stillwell, and artist Justin Comley, our goal was to offer a compelling reading experience to a
audience and beyond, complete with stunning illustrations and original scores appropriate to the atmosphere of the story.
If you enjoy
in this three-part series, come visit us at the website, where in May 2013 you'll be able to join everyone to read the free serialization of
our second and much larger chapter in the story:
episodes will be returned to the blog at that time, and you'll be able to see all the cool illustrations and musical scores you might have missed.
We also host lots of fun contests, book giveaways, author interviews, and more, and will soon be unveiling a brand new dynamic to the experience of
Thanks for reading
Hiding the Sun
When Lillia crossed
, a young man staggered out of the Mag Bar and began to trail her up
. Before she reached
she knew he was following her. To be certain, she cut over to
for two blocks, then turned right onto St. Catherine. She glanced back as she crossed the
intersection. He was still there.
A college student, she surmised. He wore a dirty gray hoody with U of L lettering. He held a cell phone up to his unshaven face, either texting someone or pretending to, and he was grinning, mumbling to himself, making eye-contact with her each time she rounded a turn and glanced back at him.
She quickened her pace as she made a left onto South Brooks, where up ahead her foster home sat in the shadow of the interstate. Traffic was minimal here. Even if someone did drive past and she called out for help, they were unlikely to stop. Not in a poor neighborhood. The streets and sidewalks cracked and broken like a deadpan field in a drought, windows either barred or boarded shut, dark alleyways between the three and four story houses, most chopped up into apartments. The constant roar of interstate traffic.
As she neared her house the man called after her.
"Hey cutie," he said. She didn't turn, but he said, "Whatcha lookin' at? What's your name, anyway? I'm Mike. Is that your house?"
It occurred to her Mrs. Wilkins wouldn't be home until five. The only boy in the house was Drake, and he was just ten years old. This scruffy-looking college guy Mike was drunk enough to follow her home--was he drunk enough to try to break inside?
She continued on where the sidewalk darkened under the overpass. Then she ran.
Most days when she came home from school she would check on the kids--Drake, Cindy, Kate, and Audrey--to make sure they had made it home. She would feed them a snack, talk for a bit with Drake and Kate, and then send them all to do their homework.
With Cindy and Audrey this sometimes took a while. They were Mrs. Wilkins's biological children--something they seldom neglected to mention--and though Mrs. Wilkins had charged Lillia with the task of babysitting, Cindy and Audrey believed they were exempt from her authority. Indeed, if Lillia argued with either girl long enough, the two would throw a fit, retreat to their shared bedroom, and conspire to get Lillia in trouble. "She hit us," they would tell Mrs. Wilkins, or, "We did our homework and she's just lying," and one time, "She had a
That time Lillia didn't see the sunlight for a week, except when she snuck out her bedroom window, which was painted black--all the windows were painted black, to prevent Peeping Toms--to sit on a small section of rooftop only accessible from the room she shared with Drake and Kate.
On days when she didn't have to waste an hour arguing with Cindy and Audrey, Lillia would slip out the door and head to a weedy vacant lot on the other side of the interstate, where she practiced throwing rocks at rusty tin cans and glass bottles. She'd once seen a western with a young girl who effectively protected herself this way. That was a long time ago, when she had had a foster mother who allowed movies and television. Mrs. Jenny was a nice woman, until her husband divorced her; after that, she gave Lillia back to the state without even saying goodbye.
As she entered the vacant lot, Lillia leaned over and scooped up a rock the size of her fist and then ran to the vine-draped wooden fence dividing this lot from an old mechanic's garage. Here she ducked behind the rusted park bench where she mounted cans and bottles to use as targets. Broken glass crunched under her sneakers. One hand gripped the iron bench; the other held the rock like a baseball.
Mike stalked towards her, swaying, crunching gravel and glass. All over the city the three o'clock church bells began to chime.
"I can see you," he said. "Come on out from there and talk to me."
Lillia shifted her weight from her right foot to her left. She rested the hand with the rock between her legs, in fear that he could see up her skirt. His shadow was long against the low autumn sun and when it first darkened the bench Lillia sprang up from behind it, took aim, and hurled the rock into the golden sunlight.
~ ~ ~ ~
Distracted by the prospect of losing her job due to repeated absence and tardiness, a young waitress named Staci McKenzie barely noticed she was seconds from passing her exit. When she swerved into the right lane without looking, the back end of her car clipped the front bumper of a Bootleg Barbeque catering van. The car jerked violently, spun broadside, and then flipped three times in midair before colliding with the pavement in an explosion of glass and debris that shot all across Watterson Expressway, then flipped twice more before landing upside down and sliding to a stop in the middle of the
The driver of the catering van pulled over to the emergency lane and dialed 911 with his company cell phone. He reported the accident and the location and then hung up. No other traffic was disturbed, except for the other vehicles exiting the expressway, but there was still plenty of room to navigate around either side of Staci's mangled Ford Focus, which lay there clicking and smoking and leaking fluid.
No one stopped. Everyone assumed someone else would.
Roger Lansing peeked out the passenger window of his van to get a look at the wreckage. All he could see was blonde hair whipping and lashing back and forth in the driver's seat, where a rather large girl hung suspended by her seatbelt. The girl was alive, but she was crying hysterically and calling for help.
"You've done all you can do," he said. He turned on the radio to drown out her screams.
~ ~ ~ ~
Danny Roberts had one bar of battery life left on his cell phone and no more prospects for a ride home in his contacts.
He was sitting at a table in front of Cafe 360, watching the cars roll by on
, watching couples and groups stroll past, laughing and discussing unimportant things at unnecessary volumes. This was the
, after all--a place where people didn't have conversations but rather took turns delivering monologues. Politics, pop culture, and the smell of overpriced food in the air.
Danny loved the area but only at night, when alcohol and music finally shut people up. This was the first time he'd ever seen
in the daytime. He wasn't even sure how he'd ended up in this situation: alone, abandoned by his friends, an hour away from home.
The last thing he remembered from last night was being pushed out the door of Phoenix Hill Tavern by two bouncers. Why they had kicked him out escaped him. He didn't know what happened to his friends, whether or not they'd come looking for him. The only thing he knew for certain was he had broken something--the shrill explosion of glass echoed in his last night's memory. He also knew he'd vomited but only because the evidence was still caked to the right sleeve of his jacket. Two hours ago he'd woken up stretched out on the back porch of a house behind Phoenix Hill's parking lot, cell phone on his chest, puke-smeared. When he climbed to his feet, a dog started yapping on the other side of the back door, so he ran.
His back was still stiff and this metal chair wasn't helping. He also noticed a soreness in his right hand--another piece of last night's puzzle? The knuckles on his index and middle finger were raw and peppered with dark red flakes of dried blood.
A waitress came out the door and approached him with a menu. She had streaks of blue, green, and pink in her hair and her entire left arm was sleeved in tattoos. She didn't even make eye contact with him as she pulled out her order pad and clicked the button on her pen.
"I need to take your order now," she said. "We're really busy."
Danny could see right through the glass on the door. The place was all but empty. In the ten minutes he'd been sitting here no one had come or gone.
"I'll take a water," he said. He wanted something caffeinated, but he didn't have any money.
The waitress sighed. "What do you want to
He glanced up at her and her eyes darted away. He picked up the menu and nervously scanned through it. She'd make him leave if he didn't order something, and he was most definitely hungry. Still, the money problem remained--or rather the fact that he'd lost his wallet along with his friends.
The waitress was fidgeting, tapping her foot. She sighed deliberately.
"You know what," Danny said, smiling and nodding. "Give me a chicken quesadilla. And a bacon cheeseburger with fries. And a cup of coffee."
The waitress scribbled quickly. "Still want the water?"
"Is that all?"
"And a hookah."
"I need your ID."
"I don't have it on me."
"You can't get a hookah without an ID."
Danny raised his chin and ran his fingers through his thick beard. "Can't you tell I'm over eighteen?"
The waitress leaned in close and waved her pen like a conductor's baton as she spoke. "You can't. Get a hookah. Unless you have an ID. We keep it at the bar until you pay. Now is there anything else?"
"No," Danny said, and as she stomped up the steps, he added, "Sorry you're having such a bad day."
"I'm not," she said without turning. Then she was through the door.
"Well," Danny said, "the day is young."
~ ~ ~ ~
saying hello to every passerby and hitching his pants every couple of steps. The button on the waistline had popped off weeks ago when two CNG boys robbed him in the pouring rain and threw him over a cyclone fence out near 28th and
. He knew he had no business out on the west side. CNG used to be known as Badd Newz, until a big LMPD sting operation put a bunch of those boys in prison, forcing the rest to cloak themselves in a new name--but everybody knew who they were. Maybe not Louisville Metro, but half the time Louisville Metro pretended gang activity didn't exist--notwithstanding the nightly gunfire, the stabbings, the robberies, the rape.
For two days following the incident with the CNG boys--neither of them a day over fifteen--Sherman had to walk around holding his pants up, until finally an old white lady in front of city hall gave him a safety pin and a five dollar bill. "Everybody needs pants," she said. "They're only two dollars at the Goodwill."
Today was Friday, and in the crook of
's arm a small bundle of gauze was secured with two pieces of surgical tape, forming an X. Wednesdays and Fridays
walked all the way from the Wayside men's shelter to the plasma clinic, both on
but eighteen blocks apart--a good mile and a half. At the plasma clinic he would lie in a chair while a machine extracted his blood, separated the plasma from the blood cells, and then returned the blood cells to his body, a two-hour ordeal that put twenty-five bucks in his pocket on Wednesdays, thirty-five on Fridays.
When people returned his hello or offered a wave,
would spin around and walk backwards and say, "Any chance you'd spare a couple bucks for a brotha in need?"
He kept count of his daily solicitations and rate of return. On plasma days he only begged casually. Thirty-five bucks would carry him through the weekend: a half-gallon of vodka, a pack of smokes, a couple of dollar hamburgers, a few bucks left over. Monday was always tough, but today wasn't Monday.
"Three of ten, still not bad, not bad," he said when a woman in a business suit ignored him. She was coming down the steps in front of the
and averted her eyes the moment he spoke. "Thank you anyways, ma'am."
He almost hadn't bothered. White women were the easiest to differentiate, in terms of their willingness to speak to a black man.
He waited for the woman to pass by and then he hopped up on the steps to pick up a "partial," as he referred to them: a half-smoked and discarded cigarette. He collected them in a worn and scuffed tin case he'd found two years ago on the riverfront. This one was fresh, so he put it between his cracked lips and lit it with a fifty-cent lighter he'd bought that morning at a gas station.
"Nervous day in
, ladies and gentlemen. I'm pickin' up partials all over the place." Indeed he had. He'd filled his case on the way to the clinic; on the way back, he'd supplanted some of the shorter partials with longer ones. The shorter ones he put in his back pocket until he passed a trash bin--he prided himself on making an effort not to litter.
jogged back down to the sidewalk just as the bells started clanging--the closest one a Presbyterian church down near Fourth Street Live: a cluster of bars, restaurants, and comedy clubs where the young people gathered to drink and dance.