Tag Archives: K. M. Alexander

Rue From Ruin – Part 3

If you are wondering where to find the beginning of the story, see Part 1 or Part 2.

This one was difficult because there reveals, and I don’t want to give away too much.

Yet.

I had some amazing help from my friend Pablo Orozco on the European Spanish. Also, Meri, Drew, and K.M. all helped me work out some issues I was having and assisted the removal of the stiffness from my writing. Without these fine folks, Part 3 would not be what it is. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! What an incredible learning experience.

This story is a labor of love. Check out the inspiration if you have time.

Rue From Ruin – Part 3

ancientWell

Tincture

So damn close!

The sun is a melted tangerine sinking toward the horizon.

Melted tangerine probably isn’t a thing, the finicky thought follows immediately.

I’ve been running all day in this stupid chaffing overall I grabbed from a hook in some abandoned barn, and I’m tired. Can’t remember the last time my muscles felt this exhausted. He’s got to be somewhere near. As an urgent reminder, the tincture materials swing at my neck. There isn’t much time.

Maybe I’ll just let the change happen, and then catch up with the Professeur and rip his lying throat out.

It’s so tempting. But no.

My wife Marilyn and little Kara deserve answers. It’s his fault, what I did to them. And he can’t keep running forever.

Eventually, he will fall asleep on a train, or in a hostel, or under a bridge. He will have to rest. No one can stay awake forever. Even the cursed must sleep – I would know. It hits me then just how tired I am. I’ve been up for thirty-six hours minus that short rest at dawn. I’m so worn down it feels like I’m going to collapse.

If I don’t drink my tincture tonight – what will happen? Will “the beast” take over and decide to lay down for a nap? Something tells me it won’t. I would probably just die of exhaustion in the morning like a horse flogged to gallop all day in the desert. Inexplicably, Another One Bites The Dust by Queen is now playing in my head. I start to contemplate the level of impropriety my brain is capable of and halt refocusing on the immediate need.

The sun has now sunk to the point of touching the horizon. It’s ruddy, and the optical illusion of its line of light is expanding across the western horizon.

I’m going to wolf-out soon if I don’t take action. It’s now or never.

Running to a vantage point at the top of a nearby knoll, I see several buildings. There are barely ten of them huddled tightly to form a village. Most of the structures are built of the pale stone common in the region. Looking south, I can see the shadowy forms of the Pyrenees Mountains in the distance. I’d been focused on my search for signs of his passage on the ground, and I’d almost missed the proverbial forest for the trees. Focusing my search, I look for water to mix with my tincture because swallowing the vomit-inducing liquid straight isn’t in my repertoire. I spy an ancient looking rock-rimmed well. It could be right out of a storybook. Jogging down toward it, I keep an eye out for locals but don’t notice any. Hopefully, the reservoir isn’t dry; a relic of days gone by, but never removed, just capped.

Reaching the short structure, I see that there is a bucket. I can smell the dampness of deeper water. Luck. Finally. I drop the wide, rusted iron receptacle into the depths. I barely remember to catch its recently attached, and still crunchy, nylon rope. The tincture pouch has to come off my neck. I grab and yank.

It doesn’t break. Frustrated, I wait to hear the bucket splashdown; it does, and I breathe a sigh of relief. There is water.

In a huff, I begin yanking it back up. The sun sinks further as I hand-over-hand the rope frantically. Only a quarter of the fiery globe is still visible. The horizon has faded to a rich red as the purpling of twilight sets into the east.

The decrepit container clanks up over the edge, catching the lip slightly. I slam it down on the brink of the well with a dull clang. Reaching for the strap around my neck, I lift it up and over my head. My frantic fingers fumble for the cord tied around the mouth of the pouch.

Finally, it’s open! With only a sliver of sun left, I pull out the tiny bottle of tincture, spin off the lid and shakily deposit a single drop into the bucket of water. I replace the lid and hope like hell it isn’t too diluted. Then, I raise the nearly full bucket to my lips and drink.

With my hands this close to my nose, I can smell the blood still crusted under my fingernails. This morning’s quick splashdown wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.

I gulp down four huge swallows in seconds.

Then it happens. I feel the cold metal of a firearm pressing into the back of my neck. The pressure is uneven, with the top edge of the barrel biting deeper into my flesh. “Tranqui,” a low yet feminine voice says. My Spanish is even worse than my French. Without a pocket translator, there’s no way I can say exactly what she said, but the meaning is clear. I slowly set down the bucket and raise my hands above my head, careful to clutch the pouch of tincture in one closed fist.

“¿Qué estás haciendo aquí?” she says. I just shake my head. The next statement is under her breath, but I hear it because… yeah, “Capullo estúpido.” Then louder, “Parlez-vous français?”

I shake my head slowly and say, “Pas vraiment.” Not really.

“American?” she replies with a mild accent. “Makes the sense.”

I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or not, so I decided to err on the side of not. I was the one drinking madly from her well after all.

“Yes, American,” I said. “How’s your English?”

“Much better than your French,” her rich contralto reply. “You are the second man I’ve caught on my property this day. Am I holding some fiesta I wasn’t to know about?”

I understand that word, “No, no party señora,” I reply, hoping to ease the tension by using what little Spanish I think I can speak. Total backfire.

“Turn around! And keep your hands up!” she says. I oblige, as I do for all women holding me at gunpoint. My eyes are greeted by something unexpected. A tall, dark-haired Spanish girl, probably only in her mid-teens. She considers me and asks, “Do I look like la señora to you, señor scruffy-man?”

“No,” my heart goes out to this girl who’s discovered two intruders here today. Strange indeed. I want to comfort her, but by the agate-hard look in her eyes, she doesn’t want to hear it. As if to prove my thought, she nudges my ribs with the high-gauge shotgun she’s holding.

“We’re going to go to have the talk with the police now, scruffy-man. After you,” she says.

The scattershot loaded in her gun won’t keep me down for long. But I don’t want strange stories to circulate about me. That’s the last thing I want for so many reasons. Could I even get away as tired as I am? We walk into the rough square of buildings, and I observe a red-smeared hypodermic needle in plain sight. The blood looks fresh. It has to be a sign of his passage. Confirming my suspicion, the Spanish girl doesn’t notice it at all.

At least I haven’t lost the trail.

Continue the story in Rue From Ruin – Part 4.

Rue From Ruin – Part 2

Well hi there! I hope you, my three readers, enjoy this next part of my Serial Story. You may have heard it has a title now: Rue From Ruin.

Special thanks to K. M. Alexander and J. Rushing for helping me nail down a name I really like. If you want to know more about the title, shoot me a comment here or a question on Twitter. Extra special thanks to Drew Gerken and my wife Meri for all the proofing/editing help on short notice. I owe you all!

Writers: if you don’t have a writing support group as delightful as these fine people, then your writing will probably be worse than mine. Did I write that? Obviously no one proofed this intro.

If you are wondering: WHAT IS THIS SERIAL STORY THING? GAAAAHH! Please refer to Part 1. There, you will find a beginning. You may also wish to note: Part 2 is not the end. If you only enjoy stories if they end as soon as you read them, come back when Rue From Ruin is done. Without further ado…

Rue From Ruin – Part 2

six-thirty-am

6:30 AM

I scrunch up my face. It’s a futile attempt to keep a single, dust-filled ray of sunlight from playing directly across my eyes. The air must be filled with pollen and particles. I can smell the hay. Out of reflex, I brace myself to stifle a non-existent sneeze, even though allergies no longer plague me as they once did. I open my eyes a crack to glare at the offending gap in the wall of whatever building I’m in.

Apparently a huge mistake. The sun is low on the horizon. It is waiting there to greet me, and I regret my decision instantly. I flop over, clamping my eyelids down again and feel the sharp poke of what can only be more miserable hay digging into my bare skin. Something gives way beneath me, and I fall a short distance with a thump. Dull pain begins to pulse through my shoulder and hip.

“Ow!” I say. I hear a nearby horse snort and immediately regret the noise I’ve made. If I know anything, I know being discovered naked on someone else’s property won’t win friends or influence people no matter what country you are in. Unless you are trying to influence them to bring out a pitchfork or a shotgun. I lie very still listening for anything and notice only the thumping of my own heart and the sound of birdsong somewhere outside. My ears are much keener than they once were, and they aren’t picking up much until an abrupt electrical buzz like a cattle prod startles me.

Time spent on Grandad’s farm quickly informs me that this is only the sound of a controller for a wired electrical fence. The device is cycling its pulses of power. I remember my older cousins taunting me into touching a live wire. The event spawned a deep appreciation for the way the device cycles so that grabbing hold didn’t cause my muscles to convulse, unable to let go as I slowly electrocuted.

I focus on breathing, forcing myself to relax, and open my eyes.

Immediately, I remember to check my neck, and I am relieved to find the leather strap and pouch containing the ingredients for my tincture are still there. Looking down at my unclothed form, I feel a pang of sadness and regret. There is blood covering my fingers and hands. It speckles my forearms, abdomen, and chest. No doubt my face is covered as well; as I focus, I feel it cracked and dry around my mouth and inhale the strong metallic scent. I grab some hay, trying without success to wipe the blood from my mouth. My senses reach out, frantic, searching for a trail of trauma and find it with ease. The body must be close.

Don’t lead to a farmer or a kid, or some other person, I thought. Let it be HIS blood. Just this once, let luck be on my side.

Cautiously, I follow the trail down the steps from the hayloft where I had been sleeping. I note the horse I heard a moment before in one of the stalls is a black Mérens stud. He rolls his eyes at me and shuffles in his stall but is otherwise quiet. I don’t smell death coming from the stalls and say a silent prayer that it isn’t coming from the house. I silently pad across the dirt floor to the building’s only exit. The few tiny pebbles on the ground don’t bother my feet as much as the clinging layer of filth sticking to their sweaty, calloused bottoms.

Once, I braved the dangers of a Lego-strewn floors with those feet; I would give anything to trip, cursing at the plastic caltrops of parental doom again. A tear finds its way out of my eye and courses down among the dried blood on my face as I remember why I’ll never be swearing at building blocks again.

The electrical fence controller buzzes again, but I’m expecting it now.

Peering out of the slightly ajar barn entrance – I again rely on my heightened senses. There doesn’t seem to be anyone nearby, and people are easy to pick out by smell. A sickly sweet scent is coming from the right of the door, away from the small french-styled rock cottage. I ease the door open and sprint to the edge of the barn, looking over my shoulder as I go. Hoping no one takes notice of the pale, naked, and blood-drenched man running through the barnyard, I dodge around the side of the large outbuilding. The scent of copper is stronger here, mixed with the foulness of something disemboweled. There, farther down the side of the weather-worn barn is the remains of something black and hairy, but not quite so large as a man. I think it’s… a goat?

I breathe a huge sigh; relieved Bordeaux did not pay too dearly for my decision last night. There must have been a reason I came here instead of returning to my clothes.

Right. Clothes… and a bath. Probably not in that order.

Those problems need to be sorted out before picking up the trail. I can’t delay or risk being run-in to a French jail on indécence charges. My window of time is brief. Losing the trail of the Professeur again is not an option.

Finally able to focus, I can see a sign of his passage. The hunt is on.

Continue the story in Rue From Ruin – Part 3.