He leaned against the brick wall outside the funeral home and watched the wind blow the tall grass in the field across the parking lot. It was hot, always was this time of year back home in the swamp. That’s what it was: a swamp. He’d tell people he grew up on the water just because it sounded nicer, but it only fooled people that had never been here. He felt beads of sweat drip down his back, felt the nicely pressed dress shirt stick to his skin where the sweat and fabric connected. Always hated summer here. It was just Oppressive heat and humidity. Sometimes you’d get a breeze but it never helped, just moved the hot air around and made sure you never forgot the smell of decomposition. The suit he was wearing didn’t help either. Nothing helped. He needed to get out of this suit, needed to get out of this place.

“Been a long time.”

Charlie broke his field watching vigil and turned.

“Tommy? Yeah it has been a long time. Good to see you.”

“Want a smoke?”

“No I’m good.”

“Mind if I do?”


Tom pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a metal lighter and took up position next to Charlie on the brick wall. Now there was heat, humidity, rot, and smoke.

“How can you smoke when it’s so hot out here?”

“You get used to the heat. You’ve been away to long.”

“I didn’t like it back then either.”

Tom laughed. “Yeah I guess you didn’t. So how long you in town for this time?”

“I’ll be heading out tomorrow, just came for the funeral.”

“Yeah, terrible way to go. Didn’t find her until she’d been floating there for two days. You know what the swamp does to a body after that long? Didn’t even recognize her until they checked her teeth.”

Charlie said nothing. Tom inhaled more smoke.

“Anyway, you should come out later. Going to be a party down at the old park. Food, drinks, other stuff if you feel so inclined.”

“Maybe next time, I’m still tired from “

“Em might be there.”

Charlie paused and stared at Tom for a moment. “You serious?”

“Yeah, I saw her the other night. I invited her. Thought she’d be at the funeral, but I guess it was too much for her. They were close. Party should be easier to handle I imagine.”

Tom had him. He threw his cigarette down in the now empty parking lot and yelled back while walking away, “I’ll pick you up in an hour. Where you staying?”

“The only hotel in town.”

Tom laughed. “Right…right. See you. One hour.” Then he turned the corner and was gone.

Charlie could see the clouds rolling in on the horizon.

Maybe it’ll break the heat, he thought in vain.

He knew better than that. Hope always dies in the swamp.

Salt Plains – End

Salt Plains 1
Salt Plains 2
Salt Plains 3
Salt Plains 4

Days were for the dead. John spent them peering through windows into the past where shades of people long dead performed for him. Their clothes, rituals, places, feelings: gone. Sometimes he found himself doubting that these things were ever real. Maybe it was just a fever dream, or a cruel joke played on him by some bodiless entity orbiting the planet. He didn’t know,  and it didn’t matter anymore. The films were simply a way to pass the time until the sun sunk below the horizon. It was at night that John lived.

The sun would set and he would drive his car past fields of desolation and waste to the glittering plains, to her. She was always waiting for him there. They would lay on the hood of the still warm vehicle and look up at the sky. They watched satellites streak across the sky and counted the shards of a moon destroyed by a weapon from a war long forgotten. Marina told him stories of her home: great and terrible beasts they hunted in the ancient sea, endless wars with twisted ones that lived in sea caves across the water, a holy cavern where the names of her ancestors were carved. He mentioned only in passing the sleepers that he watched. The tone of his voice told her to ask no more, and she did not. Instead, he told her stories from his films: heroes and villains, romances and comedies, tragedies and fears from the minds of people long dead.

He could see her eyes light up with wonder through the eyeports of her hood every time he wove his tales to her. They were the only thing of value John had to offer this girl from a life alien to him; one who brought him back from waking death, if only temporarily. The first light of the sun would appear and they would separate. Returning to his compound alone was harder each time until John could stand it no longer.

“Come back with me. I can show you some of the films, you can see my home. Just for a bit.”

Her eyes studied him for a moment. Her hand rested on the hilt of her blade.

“You know that I’ll kill you if you try anything?”

“Yes, I know.”

John saw her eyes change behind her hood, she was smiling.

“Alright, I’ll come with you.”


John left Marina in the vehicle while he rushed into his living quarters. He shoved dishes and clothes into his storage compartment and set the spare chair in front of the monitors. He grabbed a few dry rations and put them on the table.

Does it smell in here? Would I even know if it smelled? Do I smell? Should have cleaned before you left, you idiot. Too late now, don’t leave her waiting.

John ran to the door and opened it. A hooded figure greeted him there. He yelped and fell backwards into his room

“I got tired of waiting in the car, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

John got to his feet and nervously rubbed his head.

“Sorry for making you wait. I’m not used to having visitors and…”

“It’s ok.”

“OK, sorry.”

“Stop apologizing”

“Sorry.  I mean…Yes.”

Marina laughed.

“So…do you want to put on the film or should we just stand here and look at each other for the next few hours?”


Marina did not care for the horror or action films that John showed her first. “Enough death and violence in my life as it is,” she said. John picked a romantic comedy next. It fared better with his guest, so the two sat there in chairs a few feet apart and sat in silence.

This film was about a handsome and athletic leader who begins to care about an awkward girl in his school who helps him with some academics after school. During the scene where the two leads inadvertently see each other at the local food rationing station John remembered that he too had food, and that he was hungry.

“Hey I have some rations over there, would you like some? The air in here is fine to breath. You can put your hood on the shelf over there”

“I’m fine, John. No, thank you.”

“Really? You must be hungry. I’m starving. Do you not like these dry rations? I have other stuff in the back I can get.”


There was anger in her voice, anger and something else.

“I’m sorry, Marina. I didn’t mean to offend you, just thought you were hungry.”

“It’s fine, I just…” She sighed after speaking, then removed her hood. Her silver hair fell upon her shoulders and her pale eyes looked down at the floor. John then saw the reason for her hesitation: a large scar crossed her face from hair line to the bottom of her jaw. The scar was old, and must have been painful.

“This isn’t what you were expecting, is it John?”

Marina reached over to place the hood back on her head,

“No wait, don’t. Leave it off. You just surprised me, that’s all.”

“It’s a memento from a raid when I was a child. I should have told you.”

“That’s not what I meant. I meant you’re…well…you’re beautiful.”

“I look nothing like the girls in your movies, John. I never will. Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not lying.”

She looked into his face and saw no look of disgust or deceit there.



“If I tried to kiss you now, would you cut me apart with your blade?”

“I might. Only one way to find out.”

John leaned in and the alarm on the vital signs monitor went off.


John did not explain to her what the alarm meant or what he had to go do. He only asked that she stay in his quarters. He would be back soon, he said, and they could finish the movie. She was not pleased, but she agreed to his terms. She would wait.

Transference had completed on an older man. John had briefly known him while he was awake. He had been a kindly old man and was one of the sleepers he liked to talk to the most. That was before, though. Back before he had someone else to talk to, someone waiting for him now. John loaded the container onto the cart for disposal.

In his haste he had forgotten to put on his protective equipment. The blowing dust stung his eyes and the scorching sun burned the back of his neck. He could not see, but he did not need to. John had walked this path many times. He arrived at disposal and loaded the tube above the vat. John took one last look at the husk of the old man and released the trap door. It slid into the vat and was gone.

John took the container down from the platform and turned towards the door. Then he saw her there in the doorway. He could tell from the disgust and confusion in her eyes that she had seen him. She had seen what he did, what he has always done. She knew.

“You need to take me home.”


She didn’t say a word to him in the car as they drove. She just stared out the window at the sunset, her back turned to him. John didn’t know what to say to her. He wasn’t sure she would listen to him even if he did.

Hello. My name is John and my job is to melt down the bodies of my people in a giant vat of acid like common garbage when a computer determines  they are of no use anymore.

They arrived and she jumped out of the car and began walking across the salt crusted ground. John got out and called after her.

“Marina, please wait.”

She stopped, but did not turn to face him. Then she spoke:

“Who was that man, John?”

“Just a man I barely knew a long time ago. His soul had completed transference and the body was no longer needed. I was just disposing of it. I didn’t mean for you to see that.”

“We celebrate the lives of our dead, John. We carve their names in the holy rock and return their ashes to the sea. We don’t discard them like trash.”

“They aren’t dead. They’re in a satellite orbiting the planet right n-”

“They’re dead, John. They just don’t know it yet. Or maybe they do? I don’t know. I don’t care. That place is death. I’m not going back. You shouldn’t go back either.”

“I have to go back.They are my people. I have to make sure transference completes.”

“Why? You owe them nothing. They left you to clean up the mess they left behind in their selfish pursuit. Come with me. Please John. You don’t belong there.”

“I…I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too. Goodbye John.”

He watched her walk into the night until she was only a speck on the horizon. Then, she was gone.


John took his time driving home. He followed the coast for a while, taking roads he was not familiar with. It all looked the same. The white emptiness of the plains on one side and dust on the other. The blasted earth was ugly in the light of the sun.

Most of the daylight was spent when he finally returned home.There were three more transference completions waiting when John returned to the compound. He silenced the alarm on the monitor and switched it off. Disposal could wait, they weren’t going anywhere. He sat down in one of the empty chairs and stared at the screen in front of him. It was paused on a scene towards the end of the film they had been watching. She never got to finish it. She never would. John resumed the film.

The handsome protagonist stood on the screen staring at the sports ball in his hands. It was the biggest play of the game, of the season, of his whole life. Everyone was counting on him. This was who he was, where he was supposed to be. Then he saw her. Their eyes met, and she turned away to leave. He looked over at his teammates waiting for him, then dropped the ball and walked off the field.

I’m sorry guys. I’ve gotta go.

John turned off the screen and sat in silence. He looked over at the empty seat beside him. Then he grabbed his gear and headed for the door.


He arrived at the plains at the edge of twilight. She wasn’t there. He hadn’t expected her to be, not yet. John opened the rear compartment and searched through the spare vehicle components and tools until he found what he was looking for: a bottle of accelerant and an old combustible flare.

You know if you do this there’s no going back, right?

I know.

John opened the accelerant and poured it out over the interior and exterior of the car. He stood a good distance back from the car and lit the flare. He admired the bright red chemical fire in his hand for a moment, then threw it. Orange and read flames illuminated the night sky. John could feel the heat through his mask. He wondered if the satellite passing overhead could see the fire below. Didn’t matter if they did, it wasn’t for them.

She’ll see this and she’ll know. She’ll come.

If she doesn’t, you’ll die.

She will. I know she will.

Why are you so sure?

Everything I’ve ever done can’t just be for nothing. I can’t believe that, not anymore.

And if it is?

…She’ll be here.

John walked over to the edge of the salt plains and sat on what was once the shore.

Then he waited.

New Meat

“Good afternoon Samuel. Please head over to the manager’s office at your earliest convenience.”

The voice from the remote monitoring system filled the windowless room where Samuel sat. He had sat in this same room, in the same chair, in front of the same monitor, for 8 hours every day for the last 10 years. A single large button rested on the desk in front of the screen. It was the only thing on the desk aside from the remains of his lunch ration and his lunchbox. Samuel was a member of the QA department at the New Meat corporation.

Samuel’s role was to watch a five feet stretch of assembly line where large metal arms controlled by AI created synthetic meat substitute. Masses of thick red liquid were combined with a proprietary blend of chemicals and preservatives to form gourmet meat-like product for consumer citizens. It was Samuel’s job was to hit the button in front of him should any errors occur on his section of the line. Every day he watched the monitor diligently as the metal arms danced around chunks of red substance, sculpting it into a form that was almost appetizing. The AI rarely made mistakes anymore. In fact, it had been almost a year since he had last pushed the button, and that was the result of an earthquake knocking some of the New Meat out of alignment on the belt. It was tedious work, but it was work. Work placed him in the employed caste, so it was worth it. The day was almost over, and it was unlikely that there would be any errors, so Samuel packed up his things and headed to the manager’s office.

The manager’s office was much larger than Samuel’s but it contained no furniture or decoration save for a single chair. This single chair faced a large screen built into the wall furthest from the door. Lines of code scrolled by on the black glass surface as Samuel approached.

“Good afternoon. You wanted to see me?” Samuel said to the screen.

“Good afternoon Samuel. Please have a seat in the provided chair.” A robot voice replied. The voice was female, and almost sounded like what Samuel remembered his mother’s sounding like. It was not uncommon for management AI to alter voice modules to match situations and employees.

“Thank you manager. What can I do for you?”

“You may be aware that the creator caste has recently updated the assembly line AI. The newest version has a fail rate of less than .0001% in virtual testing environments. These improvements will allow us to cut the QA department by 98% and, as a result, greatly increase New Meat’s profit margin. Your position is no longer available as of today. New Meat thanks you for your 10 years of service. Your employment identification card is now deactivated, but you  can keep it to remind you of the great work you have done here at New Meat. You will be escorted out by the security drone now. Please be sure to the think of New Meat when making protein purchases in the future. Have a great rest of your day.”


Samuel emerged from the large sliding doors at the entrance of his former employee and looked out at the city before him. Automated passenger and cargo vehicles moved in perfect unison along the pristine street. Neon holographic signs lined the fronts of the buildings advertising products that you could have shipped to your residence in less than an hour. When he got home he would sign up for the guaranteed wage, and maybe some happiness pharma. He was in no hurry. He had nothing to do and a whole life left to do it.

Two young women in elaborate dresses talked and laughed as they waited for their transportation to the entertainment district, or to the nature viewing preserve, or to wherever else the children of the creator caste went to wile away their time and money. On any other day Samuel would have averted his eyes and walked past them, but today was different. Today he didn’t care. They did not notice the newest member of the unemployed caste shuffle over to them as they waited.

“Excuse me.”

The two women turned to look at the stranger that had interrupted them. Their eyes were dilated from enhancement pharma, but Samuel could still sense the annoyance at his intrusion.


“How much does a ride to the entertainment district cost? I’ve never been before?”

One of the women laughed in his face, “More than you are worth I’m afraid. Shouldn’t you stay here in the factory employment sector?”

The words stung, mostly because Samuel knew they were true.

“No need to be so wicked Vanessa,” the second woman rebuked her companion. “Father always says we should have pity on those with lower potential quotients, not mock them. It’s not their fault.” She looked over at Samuel standing there in his cheap suit with lunchbox in hand. “Just look at him.”

The first woman looked Samuel up and down. “You’re right Miriam, he is pathetic”

The two women threw back their heads and laughed as samuel turned to walk away. Then the second spoke again:

“Oh don’t leave! We were just having a bit of fun. Tell you what, because you were such a good sport you can ride in our transport to the E.D. We won’t even charge you! Just don’t try anything or we’ll have you exiled into the wasteland.” She smiled at Samuel and he could see her perfect white teeth, each one decorated with a custom engraving. They looked expensive.


The transport pulled up next to them and the two women got in. Samuel looked back at the New Meat building one last time, then entered the vehicle.


The transport let Samuel out at the great archway that marked the entrance to the entertainment district. The arch was two stories high and made of discarded parts from obsolete androids. It was grotesque; metallic arms and legs twisted together, lifeless humanoid faces cracked and weathered by time. Samuel was unsure if it was meant as a warning or an enticement, but he walked through just the same.

The district smelled like spice and sweat mixed with chemicals and disinfectant. It was pure hedonism. Women, men, androids, and those somewhere in-between walked about the darkly lit main street in various states of undress. Signs of pure light hung above each experience shop. Every fantasy could be indulged here for a price, some so twisted that Samuel shuddered at the thought. From these the raucous laughter and shouts were the loudest. Samuel found a shop advertising companionship that fit his simple lower class taste and entered.

“Good evening. Male, Female, Both, or Surprise?” A female android in a thin silk robe asked him as he stepped through the door. It was beautiful;  ageless skin without flaw, perfect symmetry and proportion, face locked in a smile. Samuel felt himself blush.

“Female, please.”

“Blonde, brunette, redhead, custom color?”

“Brunette, please”

“Thin, medium, large?”


“Race preference?”

“Anything’s fine, I guess.”





“Follow me.”

The android smiled and led him through a hallway filled with closed doors. Halfway down the hallway it stopped and opened one. They stepped into a small room with a few chairs and a small bed.

“Please wait here while your companion is assembled. We hope you enjoy your experience.” It said before exiting and closing the door behind.


“Hello Samuel. I will be your companion this evening. Would you like to give me a name? I can generate one randomly for you if you choose not to, or I can have no name.” The perfect female figure spoke from the open doorway. No primitive biological process could produce a female form so flawless. Samuel just stared, unable to speak.

“Is everything alright? I can be regenerated should you wish.”

“NO! No, I mean. You are great. Please, sit.”

“Thank you Samuel.”

“Of course. I have always liked the name Sarah. Can I call you that?”

“I would love it if you called me Sarah. Thank you for the name.”

“Sure. So…what happens next?”

“Once I verify employment and payment ability…anything you want Samuel.”

“You have to verify employment?”

“Yes. Employment and funds.”

“Why employment?”

“Those are the rules. Our clients prefer not to have contact with anything sullied by those lesser.”

Samuel hesitated, then pulled out his expired employment ID card and held it up. Sarah took it from him and held it up. A laser emanated from her eye and traced the barcode printed on the card. She lowered the ID and stared over at the man across from her. .

“I’m sorry Samuel.”

The android’s eyes went dark. Before Samuel could move the female android from the front desk was at the open doorway. It walked over to Samuel and effortlessly picked him up by the throat. He squirmed futilely as the android walked to the back of the shop and opened a door to the alley behind. With a flick of the wrist she hurled the helpless man into dark. His body smashed against the concrete wall across the way and slumped lifeless to the ground amidst the garbage.


“Did you see the way that android bent? I haven’t seen anything like that in a while. Those new flex joints they’re using are really something.”

“Yeah man. It was pretty great. Have you seen the girls?”

“I thought we were going to meet them by the arch.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. Vanessa hates that arch.”

“I know, that’s why I choose it as the meetup spot.”

The two men laughed as they walked down the dark alley.

“Why are we walking back here? It smells like my house after a pharma binge.”

“It’s a shortcut. Suck it up, we’ll be there in a min-” The two men stopped and stared at the ground in front of them. The body of a man in a cheap suit lay before them. His limbs were twisted into unnatural positions, eyes open and lifeless.

“I…I think he’s dead. Let’s see if he has ID or something, might be someone important. We could be in the news.”

“With that suit?”

“Shutup and help me check.”

The two men searched the shattered man, but found nothing to identify him.

“Probably just some guaranteed wage pharma junkie. Screw him, let’s go.”

“Hey wait. I have an idea. Help me with the body.”

“What? No. What if it’s diseased?”

“Trust me. It’s going to be hilarious.”


Her male companions were waiting below the entrance arch to the entertainment district when Miriam arrived to meet them.

“You boys are early. You’re never early.” Miriam said, eyeing them suspiciously. She was coming down from her enhancement pharma and was not in the mood for any games.

“Where’s Vanessa?” One of the men said, trying hard to conceal a smirk.

“I put her on a transport home already. She took too many mood levelers and fell asleep during one of the shows.”

The man’s smirk vanished, “Damn.” The other man laughed.

“Why damn? And why are you laughing.” Miriam was becoming impatient.

“Don’t worry about it. Transport’s here, let’s go.”

The twisted limbs and faces of the arch watched as the vehicle departed. Sunlight began to pour over the horizon into the city, illuminating the filth within.

Salt Plains 4

The Salt Plains

Salt Plains 2

Salt Plains 3

It took a few seconds for John to realize the voice was not inside his head. When the realization came he quickly sprang to his feet and rushed towards the car. He made it a few steps before his foot hit a large rock half buried in the ground and sent him face first into the frozen ground. He flipped over onto his back and held his hands in front of his face like a pathetic shield. Maybe it will be quick, gotta die sometime. Then he heard…laughter. John moved his hands from in front of his face. The cold wind stung his face and his eyes watered, but through the haze he saw his visitor: Human shaped, covered in protective robes and a hooded mask, laughing at the fool sprawled out on the frosted ground in the dead of night.

“If I wanted to kill you, you would already be dead. No need to be afraid.”

The voice was higher than his own, and John could detect no malice

John’s voice cracked as he spoke, “You’re a”

“Deviant? Monster? Heretic? Human?”

“A woman.”

She laughed again.

“Yes, I am.” She walked over to the car and picked up the hood that John had thrown in impotent rage. She held it out for him.

“You really should put this back on. Looks like you already have some burns. Going to feel that in the morning.”

John got up and took the hood. After placing it back on his head he stood awkwardly for a few moments staring at the person before him. It had been so long since he’d seen another person awake, a person he could talk to that could actually talk back. He felt the acid in his stomach begin to churn and a new kind of fear began to take hold of his mind. Don’t screw this up John.

“My name is, uh, John. John is my name, is what I mean”

She stared at him, saying nothing. Hard to read expressions through a masked hood.

You screwed it up John.

“Why do you come here John? I’ve seen you many. You come, you do nothing, and then you leave. Why?”

“I…don’t know, I guess. I like the way the salt reflects the moonlight, maybe? Or the way the stars fly by my window as I speed through the empty world? I feel alive out here.”

“You are strange, John,” she said.

“Do you have a name?” he asked.

“I do. Maybe I’ll tell you next time.” He felt her smile.

“Next time?”

“Maybe. Goodbye John.”

She turned without saying anything else and walked into the plains. John watched her until she disappeared over the horizon and he was alone again.


John woke to an alarm and a flashing screen. Two soul transfers completed. The first was an old man John had no recollection of during the time before. He loaded him on the cart and headed over to the disposal center. He watched as the man dissolved before unceremoniously in front of him.  A body, worn from years of life. Those eyes had probably seen things that he could only imagine now. Those hands, perhaps they had offered solace, or pain, or damnation. None of it mattered now. Just deconstructed material in a vat, indistinguishable from the rest.

The other transfer completion was a young woman. John wasn’t sure how old he was, not exactly anyway, but he guessed she was close to his age. Her skin was pristine and her hair fell perfectly around her shoulders as she lay there in the silence of her glass tube. She was beautiful.

“What were you like when your eyes were open and you walked this cursed land? Were you one of the women from the neon cities? Were you covered in gowns made from the living fibers that radiated all the colors visible to the human eye? Was it all so terrible, to know and feel everything at once, that life in a glass tube was preferable?”

The empty shell in the tube said nothing. John loaded her into the cart and took her to disposal.


He drove faster that night than he had ever driven before. The wheels on the vehicle began to shake as they struggled to grip the broken road. Slow down John, might actually be something worth living for now. Try not to die. He eased off the accelerator as glimmer of the plains came into view. He stopped his car at the edge of the sea but did not get out. His eyes scanned the horizon…nothing.

What if she’s come and gone? What if she never

Then it appeared, a light on the horizon moving towards him. John exited the car and walked to the shoreline. Before long he could see her outline and her cloak blowing in the night winds. Then, she was there. The metal torch in her hand illuminated the mask beneath the hood. He could could see her eyes through the glass, pale and blue.

“Hello John.”

“It was you the other night.”

“Yes, it was. Now that I know you won’t run away I don’t have to walk in the dark.”

“Sorry about that.”

“I would have run too.”

John nodded.



“My name, it’s Marina.”

She deactivated the light of her torch and turned towards the great expanse of white. They watched the stars and satellites blinking in the void above as the wind howled and raged around them.


Salt Plains End


Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4Part VPart VI, Part VII,


Long shadows stretched across the valley. The sun would soon give way to the dark and the horrors that lurked within. A solitary horseman clad in crimson and purple greeted the two men that limped from the cave into the twilight. The first man was clad in the same garb as the horseman. The man behind the first wore intricate armor and carried a shield on his back. His hand was placed upon the shoulder of the man in front of him, eyes darting back and forth, unseeing.

The horseman called down from his steed,

“Captain…so it was you.”

“Yes, it was. If you are here to kill us you are free to try, but make it quick. I am tired.”

“Truly, I do not know what my intentions are anymore. I rode here with a full division behind the lord of our land to put you to death for treason…and I watched him wither away to dust before my very eyes. Everyone scattered at the horror.”

“He was not your true master, but a simple tool. The puppeteer is gone, and so too is the puppet. Are we going to fight?”

The horsemen looked down at the battered man and his blind companion.

“No, I think we will not” the man turned his horse and left. The two men on foot watched as the horse and rider trotted off into the distance and disappeared.


They walked all night and into the next day, always east. A woman and child waited there in a small town. The woman had expected one man. When two appeared she met them with weapons drawn, but in the bloodied face of the unknown man she saw the child that she had taken as her own. Her weapons would not be needed. She wept tears of joy and relief as she beckoned for the men to enter their home.

Reports of famine and disease ravaging the lands to the west trickled in from merchants and travelers that stopped for rest on their way to the coast. No crops would grow and livestock that grazed there died within days. No women could bring a child to term. Many of the men were driven mad. They gave themselves over to unnatural acts and ritualistic mutilations of self and fellow man. The land was cursed. The land was poison.

The blind man stayed until the light faded from his eyes and he could see once again. He gathered his belongings and mounted his horse, then headed for the coast. The endless ocean and the strange lands on the other side were waiting. Maybe somewhere, somehow, she was too. 

Salt Plains 3

Part 1 Part 2

I wanted someone to see me for who I really am, you know? Not just “captain of the cheerleading squad” and “most beautiful girl in school.” I wanted someone to see the me inside…and that was you

The beautiful girl on the screen kissed the man wearing glasses and wearing clothes that didn’t fit right. An upbeat song about love and finding your dreams began to play as the camera zoomed out and the credits began to roll. John turned the monitor off and laid down in the dark. Time passed, but sleep did not come. He thought of taking some sleep medication. His dreams were always the worst on disposal days. No sleep meds tonight. He wanted to drive, but…

Something is out in the salt plains. What if it saw you? Who’s going to take care of the sleepers if something happens?

No. There is nothing. There is no one. I am alone.

John grabbed his night goggles and headed for the door.


The wind was strong, but the night sky was clear. The faint band of far off celestial bodies clustered together to form clouds against the dark. The car darted along the dusty road, abandoned structures and piles of rubble flew by. The milky purple sky remained motionless. John arrived. He stepped out of his car before the expanse of land that lay before him shimmering in the night. The hood of his protective cloak had not been secured properly. Cold wind whipped against the small patch of naked skin. The windburn would be painful in the morning, but he didn’t care. He sat on the ground and stared up at the endless dome above him.

The birth and death of all things had occurred under that same sky, all things to come would do the same. The sky and the stars will one day pass away too, but what will be there to witness and mark its passing? Who will be there to mark my own?

John waited. No lights appeared on the horizon. “It was just my imagination.” he said aloud. He picked up a rock and throw it into the empty ocean. It bounced a few times and then lay still among the other rocks. Rocks that served no purpose in a dead ocean on a dead planet where there was nothing but death to look forward to. The exposed skin on his face hurt. He reached up to fix it, but instead tore the hood from his head in rage and threw it at the car. The wind blew his hair about and stung his face. The pain was real, he was real, this was real. This wasn’t some simulation for electronic ghosts orbiting the planet until the end of time. The rocks were real too. He could just lay down there among them in the freezing night and drift away to whatever waited for him after all of this.

“You should put your hood back on. It’s cold out here.” a voice called out.


Salt Plains 4

Salt Plains 2

Part 1

The rest of the drive back to the compound was a blur. Next thing he knew he was sitting in the dark of his room staring at switched off monitors. He turned them on. The vital signs of the sleepers looked normal. He put on a movie made for young adults about courtship rituals that used to be common in schools:

“So…ummm…you going to the dance with anyone?”

“Not yet…”

“Want to go with me?”

“Thanks, but I was kind of waiting for another person to ask me…sorry”

“Oh, yeah, sure no problem…see you around”

The boy on screen turns away from the rejection and tries to hurry down the hall just as the cleaning man turns the corner pushing a large garbage bin. The boy lands face first in the bin. Everyone laughs.

John turned off the monitor. He walked over to his bed and laid down. When he closed his eyes he dreamed of falling down a bottomless chasm. As he fell he watched a light above him get smaller and smaller until it was just a speck, then it was no more.


John awoke to a steady alarm sounding from the vital signs monitor. He walked over and silenced the alarm. The words “Soul transference complete” flashed on the screen. He put on his clothes and goggles, then headed out into the scorch of the sun.

The winds kicked up dust as he walked the short distance to the main sleeper building. He had made this walk countless times, but this time felt different. There was someone, or something, else out there. It was always a possibility that others were still alive, be it in other similar compounds or…somewhere else. He half expected to see some monstrosity waiting for him on the other side of the fence. Nothing but dust and solar panels greeted him. Maybe it was all in his mind.

John entered the main sleeper chamber and immediately saw a red light blinking above a glass tube in the back corner of the room. The red light signaled that transfer had completed and the body had been shed. He checked the monitor attached to the tube, “Transfer complete.” was all it said. He looked in the tube and saw a the body of a woman. She was 54 years old at time of transference. John remembered her. She had been there when he was tested for genetic compatibility with the process, had told his weeping parents that their son was condemned to mortality on a dying planet of dust and wind, but that he could still serve. Someone had to stay, now the choice was easy.

John disconnected the metal tube from all of the sensors and loaded it onto a powered cart. He guided the cart out of the sleeping chamber and into the disposal building. This was his least favorite part of the process. He loaded the glass tube onto the trap door mechanism that hung above a large vat of chemicals used for the disintegration of husks. For a moment the face of the woman was even with his, and though it was impossible he feared she might open her eyes and condemn him again. She did not. He pulled a lever and the tube released its contents into the liquid below. John remembered what it felt like to dispose of the bodies of his own parents, how he wept despite knowing that they were nothing more than empty organic shells. This time he felt nothing.

He took the now empty glass tube to storage in an adjacent building. The tube was placed among other glass tubes, indistinguishable from the rest. John wasn’t sure why he was storing the tubes, no one else was going to use them. It just felt…necessary to keep them. He wanted to remember. He looked at the room full of empty glass glittering in the sunlight that managed to get in through the open door. They reminded him of the stars. It was almost beautiful…almost. 


Salt Plains 3

The Salt Plains

“I used to collect these little robot action figures when I was a child. They were only a couple inches tall, and usually came in packs of three. All of them were brightly colored and were aligned with one side or another of an eternal conflict. I would play for hours with them, waging war across the floor of the living room and beneath the dining room table. Then one day, I stopped. I took my basket of robot toys downstairs and stared at them. There was no desire to play, no affinity for the little figures that I had collected and brought to life on so many occasions. I felt only a hole where the joy once was. I don’t remember the exact day it happened, but I remember the feeling. I’ll never forget that feeling. I bet you’ve felt like that before.”

The man in the metal and glass container proffered no response. None was expected. He was sleeping, had been sleeping for several years now. Soul transference took a long time, and the length varied depending on the person. The important thing was to let the process work and to never wake them up. Data corruption was worse than death. John’s job was to keep the machines running. That was his only job.

John finished his check of all the sleepers and decided to head back to his living quarters on the other side of the compound. The noon-day sun stung his eyes when he left the main server building. He pulled down his shaded goggles and walked over to the fence that secured the small group of buildings. Solar panels stretched to the horizon, each reflecting the star above them. It was like a sea of blinding light. Even with his goggles on he could only look for a few moments. John turned back from the fence and walked to the small square building that was his home.

It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the comparative darkness of the interior. Eventually he could make out the wall of screens, the few pieces of furniture, and the small stove and refrigerator that were the only things decorating his living space. He turned on two of the monitors. One displayed the vital signs of those in his ward, the other an episode from a criminal show made long before. In this particular episode the protagonist tells a lie to his girlfriend in order to go to a sporting event. She ends up at the sporting event too, unbeknownst to him, resulting in hi-jinks. It was all very amusing. The show ended and John sat in silence with his eyes closed listening to the desert wind blowing sand against the walls. Then, he slept.  


John wasn’t sure why they had left him a car, but he was glad they did. It ran on solar power like everything else, and it gave him something to do. There was no place worth driving to except for the great salt plains not far from his compound. He drove fast along the dusty road: 180 mph, 200 mph, 220 mph. The stars in the night sky blurred past as he sped along, frost collecting on his windshield. The nights were cold and the days were hot.

He was the only one awake in a world asleep. He had read records of deviants that lived far away out beyond civilization. They had rejected the future and had even opposed (sometimes violently) the great migration. Fences were built around the compound for a reason. That was long ago, though. John had never seen a deviant, doubted they even existed. Fences were a relic of the past, just like his car. The great salt plains appeared on the horizon, an endless expanse of white glowing in the moonlight.  He brought his car to a stop and stepped out into the night.

The frosty ground crunched beneath his feet as he walked to where the dusty ground bordered the salt plains. Long before he was born, this had been a great body of water filled with life. Now it was salt and dust, merely reflecting the life of the stars that danced above it. John looked up at the sky. He could see the blinking lights of the ships that orbited the Earth, each one carrying countless souls and the servers that housed them. He picked up a rock and threw it out into what was an ocean. It skidded to a stop a few hundred feet away, one more rock in a sea of rocks. He got up to leave when a light flashed on the horizon.

The light was brief and very far away, but he had seen it. He was sure. Then the light flashed again. John felt his chest tighten as fear gripped him. He ran back to the car, stumbling over his panicked clumsy feet, and took off in the direction opposite from the dead ocean. The salt plains were a speck in the rear view mirror before he regained his senses. He brought the car to a stop and sat there in the dark listening to the gentle electric hum of the engine and the pounding of his heart.


Salt Plains 2

Trying to Write Part VII


[This segment is shorter, but I wanted to avoid having too long of a gap between writing sections. Hopefully this will help me be more consistent]


Orren could see the deadly dance between man and demon from the corner of his eye as he knelt on the rocky shore. It was like viewing a memory within one’s mind. Orren was present in body, but his spirit was no longer confined to the cave. The runes he had carved into the ground around him would prevent the beast from assaulting his physical form…for a time. He could see the Mountain with his mind’s eye, could feel the power that lived eternal at its peak.The fight was not his to win or lose, he could but call for aid and hope that his petition be answered. He closed his eyes and began:

“Descend oh Sorra;
Scatter your enemies
and those who hate you and flee before your name.
As smoke is driven away,
so are they driven;
as wax melts before the fire,
so the wicked perish in your presence.”

I see you mortal…I feel your weakness, your pathetic summons. Why must you call for help? Why should he not come down off the mountain of his own accord? Because there is nothing on the summit. You are alone. I am all there is.

“We drive you from us,
whoever you may be,
unclean spirits,
evil powers,
infernal invaders,
wicked legions,
assemblies and sects.”

We need not be enemies, my son. I know your deepest desires! I have peered into your heart and the hearts of all men, I have seen the faces of those you long for…the ones you lost…the ones you failed. They are here with me in endless night, tormented by the flames that give no light. Say the word…serve me, serve my master and they will be free. Ride through the gates with us! We shall burn the city to the ground. We can rebuild it in our image, you will be Lord over all those that cast you out.

He began to feel again the cavity deep within his soul, the wound born from cruel twists of fate and the inscrutable will of the divine. A faithful shieldbearer and defender of the holy were all he had ever been. His devotion was rewarded with ashes and misery. Was he nothing more than a tool, something to be discarded once its usefulness has run its course? Were they? He felt his connection to the Sorra begin to fade. He looked over and saw Berek crouched behind Orren’s shield, pinned between the blows of diabolical tendrils and the wall of the cave. He would not be able to withstand the blows much longer.

He is nothing to you! Let him die. It is a just punishment for his crimes. He will not be mourned, he has no one…he is nothing. He is dust to be shaken from your shield when I am done.

His shield, his life, his purpose. He remembered now. He remembered her song. He remembered their faces. He remembered the spark of the creator that lived within their eyes. Nothing was ever truly gone once willed into existence. He would see them again, be it this day or another. It was time to finish the rite.

“Cursed dragon! Weaver of lies!
We adjure you by the living One, by the true Sorra,
by the One seated on the Holy Mountain,
cease your deception and withdraw the poison offering not but eternal damnation.
Return to the abyss from whence you came!”

As Orren finished the words a blinding light shot forth from the pike. The weapon was a rod of pure flame and light. Orren felt the palms of his gloves begin to burn away and his skin began to char. He stood and hurled the pike at the great beast. The tip of the weapon struck the behemoth and a great explosion of light filled the entire cavern. In that subterranean hell Orren’s eyes filled with the white light of the throne made manifest before a blast of power knocked him from his feet and he saw no more.

Part VI

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V


Orren had crossed half the distance to the tent before Berek noticed his companion had left. He saw him throw back the drape covering the entrance and disappear inside. A moment later a naked, hairless man with sunken grey-white skin came hurtling head first from out of the tent. He grunted as he hit the floor. He rolled onto his back and Berek could see blood dripping from his mouth. He raised his hands to shield his face in anticipation of further attack from the assailant.

Orren’s eyes blazed with fury. His pike was still slung at his side, but his shield was covered with spotted blood from where it had been driven against the face of the cave-dweller.

“Orren! This is the demon? Surely this shriveled man is not the one we have feared all this time, the one that has consumed my people’s innocence.” Berek shouted, trying to calm the rage burning inside the shieldbearer. It was a moment before Orren gained his composure and looked up at Berek.

“This is not the demon, but neither is it a man.” Orren replied. He then looked down at the man lying before him. “You know not what I saw in the tent, things no man should see.”

The being on the ground began to laugh, deep choking cackles that gargled blood.

“If you did not wish to see then why did you come you fools? What did you think happened to the ones left as gifts for my master? I am simply the servant. I deliver the parts that he requires, the rest…”

Before he could finish Orren slammed the base of his shield against the man’s chest, knocking the wind from him. The grotesque man spit out a mouthful of blood and looked up again, laughing.

“What can I say? A man must eat.”

Orren drew his pike and in one swift movement drove the blade through the neck of the monster that lay before him. Berek stood staring at the bloody scene, then fell to his knees. He looked around at the cave. This was a tomb. The sins of his people laid bare before him like some hellish monument, his sins.

Orren turned and faced the frozen lake and spoke. “There will be time for mourning later. We must finish the task at hand.I need your help with this body.”

Berek stood. “What are we to do with it?”

“We’re going to fish.”


The two men picked up the naked corpse, one holding the head and the other the feet, and carried it over to the shore of the subterranean lake. The body had already begun to decompose. Foul powers had kept it alive, had prevented its aging during its unnatural existence. They were needed no more. They swung the body like a sack of grain and launched into onto the icy surface of the water. It landed with a sickening thud, but did not break the ice.

“Now what?” Berek said, dipping his hands into the icy water to wash the stink of the corpse away.

“Now we prepare.” Orren removed his shield from his back and held it out. “Take this. When it arrives you must protect me until the rite is completed.”

Berek hesitated, “Why don’t we just stab it to death? That usually works.”

“It will not work…not for this. You must trust me. Please, take the shield.”

Berek reached out and took the shield. He was startled at the lightness of it. It became like a natural extension of his arm. There was no struggle in his grip, swinging it around in different defensive positions was effortless. Berek was not one to use shields but this…this was different. There was power here.

“Ready yourself. It is time” Orren said, pointing his pike out across the frozen lake. A great shadow began to grow beneath the ice. It was larger than any beast Berek had ever seen, larger even than the great horned beasts from the scorching plains of the southlands. Orren walked down a few steps from the edge of the water and drove the end of his extended pike into the rocks until it stood on its own. Then he knelt behind it. Berek looked at him for a moment and then turned to the coming shadow. He drew his blade and held up the shield. Then he laughed.

“We’re gonna die.”


The ice cracked beneath the rotting corpse and two black tendrils the size of tree trunks broke through. Each tendril was covered in a sheen of glowing mucus. The black appendages arced and bobbed around the corpse like a snake about to strike,  then they shot down and coiled around the body pulling it beneath the surface.

All was silent for a moment, then a great roar rang out from below the ice shaking the walls of the cave. The tendrils shot back to the surface still holding the now dismembered corpse. They arced back before hurtling the pieces in Berek’s direction. He was able to dodge the flying torso at the last moment but was not prepared for the second volley. A pair of legs struck him in the side and sent him bowling over.  He landed on his back not far from where Orren still knelt.

“I guess it doesn’t like the taste of old rotting man.” He called over to Orren. It hurt when he spoke, probably due to a broken rib, or two, or three. Orren gave no response. Berek winced and got back on his feet. He looked down at his companion, lips moving and eyes closed, hands clasping his pike driven into the ground.

Another roar erupted from the lake and the whole surface heaved upward. The ice broke into massive chunks and splashed down around the gigantic shape rising from the waters. It was matter without form, an ever shifting mass of congealed night. On the surface of the shapeless behemoth were thousands of small human eyes. They were different colors and shapes, each one blinking independently.

Berek gaped in horror at the madness before him, the existence of which was more than his mind could comprehend. It bore no resemblance to anything in this dimension for it was an affront to creation, a demoniacal mockery of all that is good and true. His grasp on reality begin to slip; then he looked down and saw the shield. He felt the cold steel of his blade in his hand, remembered the one waiting for him.

There are worse fates than death. It was the cowardice of my forefathers that allowed this curse…this plague. If my life is the price for defiance of that horror…then so be it.

Berek ran to the shore slamming his sword against his shield. He stood with his arms outstretched at the water’s edge and let forth a primal howl of fury. All of the beast’s thousand eyes focused on the challenger, and then it lurched toward the shore.