Thursday, December 15, 2011

One More Review!

Another review of The Cause. This time on A "Good Day To Read".

I'm really pleased with the response I've been getting for The Cause. I've had thoughts of writing a sequel, but I haven't decided anything yet.

For now, I'm going to be putting more time into "All For Owen". I'm planning on making some serious progress during the Christmas break.

Thank you for all your support. Again, check out the review and share it on Facebook and/or Twitter!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Words Of Encouragement

Yet another review, this time from an Australian blogger, has graced the internet with more insight on THE CAUSE.

As I read this review, I was really nervous. I'm always nervous when I read a review of my own work, but this time my gut was in slightly tighter knots. Not because this review was bigger or father reaching, but I could really tell she dug deep.

So how did it turn out? Great! She gave THE CAUSE 4 out of 5 stars, and said some really encouraging things like:

"The ability to raise questions is only one element of what I feel makes a great story, a story everyone should try reading at least once... The Cause, for me, was one of those books."

Yeah, pretty cool, right? This was possibly the high point of the article, though there was a lot of good stuff. Rather than filling you all in, I suggest you go check out the BOOKISH ARDOUR blog yourself. And to all you loyal readers, please, please, please share the link of Facebook and/or Twitter. It helps me a lot in my future writing endeavors.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sneak Peek

I have some new concept art for my next novel. My brother, Russell, made an awesome sketch for the cover and I've been playing around with several ideas. Nothing is set in stone - except for the title... Well, maybe not even that. I like the title so far, but I want to see if i still like it in a few months. Tell me what you think.


Ta-da! I thought it was pretty cool. Especially because it's very fitting to the story.

Now here's the really cool stuff. This is the original sketch Russell did.

In case you're wondering what the heck it is, it's a dude wearing an Italian plague doctor's mask. I don't want to give away too much of the story just yet, but I can say that it is also crucial to the story.

Next, I added some color and texture to make it look more realistic.

After sever hours of playing, I decided to go less real and more artsy. This is the cover so far.

I'm going to keep playing, so let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shout Out.

Feels like forever since I last posted. I guess the holidays and finals do that.

I've been thinking a lot about marketing my books lately. So far, I've had more success that I had actually expected, though I'm far from a best seller. I think a HUGE part of my success has been the book trailer that Jay Jensen did for me. Seriously, it's hard enough to write, publish and promote your own novel, but making everything look professional is another challenge altogether.

A big part of my marketing strategy has been to send free e-book copings to my friends and anybody else willing to blog or vlog about it. I believe this is where most of my success has come because my readers sell the books for me. Sweet deal huh? Well, nobody with a trusted opinion would read my book if it weren't for the trailer Jay did.

I like to troll the internet looking for book reviewers with big audiences. When I find them, I send them an email along with the book trailer. And that's when I have them. I always get a response that goes something like this.

"Wow! This book looks awesome! I can't wait to read it!"

I know they aren't getting that impression because I'm such a handsome guy. I don't send pictures after all. (Hmm... there's an idea) No, they are drooling over the novel because of the video trailer.

So here I go. I try not to do this took often, but here is my official endorsement for JJ Productions. I wouldn't have sold books without readers, I wouldn't have readers without reviewers, and I would have no reviewers if it hadn't been for the amazing book trailer.

If your thinking about going the ind-publishing rout, let me know! What are the best book trailers you've seen?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A REALLY Great Review!

Over the past 3 months, I have given out dozens of copies of "The Cause" to reviewers. I expected it to take awhile for reviews to start trickling in from the internet because people are busy and reviewers usually have several books they are reading all at one time.

I am please to announce that the wait is over.

Dottie Randazzo of "Reader Of Everything" has given "The Cause" a great video review. It's posted on and it should shortly make it's debut on her YouTube channel.

Usually, reviews make me a little nervous because I have no control over it. Reviewers can be harsh, as I experienced in my amateur music career. Apparently, the author of this blog didn't think highly of my singing and the record in general.

Since, I've become accustomed to big thumbs down, I've lost the fear of rejection. What's the worst that can happen right? Because every bad review only helps me get better. Not to mention the fact that good reviews are so much more special.

"The Cause" has made me really proud. I enjoyed writing it and now that reviews are starting to surface, I can see that my readers are genuinely enjoying it too.

Thanks for all your support. I'm going to take this adrenaline rush and put it to good use on my next book!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


A lot of my research lately has been looming around politics. It helps that I am taking a class right now that also wants me to stay caught up on all the latest in politics. I've been looking at it all from a very different perspective than I used to. For a lot of people, politics is about the issues and the parties. This makes sense because... well that's just how politics work now days. But, if you look at the politicians and how they talk about their issues, there are some interesting things to learn.

So what have I learned? Nothing, really. I can't put my finger on an exact problem or an exact solution, but by watching how politicians maneuver and coerce the public to agree. It's actually really fascinating. Some people (not just politicians) use scare tactics. They spell out these big hypothetical disasters that will inevitably occur if they don't get their way. It can be frightening because people put a lot of faith in these nay Sayers.

The thing that scares me, is the "boy who cries wolf" scenario. What if someone actually has a valid warning and the public doesn't pay heed because we are too used to it? This is all great stuff for my next book.

What do you think? What scare did you buy into? swine flu? Y2K? Anthrax?    

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Outlining my next great novel has been an absolute thrill up until I reached the ending.

The ending of a story is, in my opinion, the most important part of the story. Some people might say the beginning is the most important. Though I agree that the beginning is crucial to enticing an audience to read on, I don't think it's as important as the ending.

Have you ever watched a movie that really got you going right from the start only to have the ending pass you by? The credits start rolling and you think to yourself, "That was it?" Sometimes the ending is so disappointing that you actually sit through the credits hoping that the director pasted a clever little scene afterward that might clear everything up. Finally, when all other disappointing movie goers leave, and the lights are back on, and some zit-faced 15-year-old is sweeping up the carnage in the front row, you realize that you had indeed witnessed the ending. Now you feel like a sucker. The trailer and the acting and the mood, everything that once seemed purely awesome, is now one big joke.

I'll admit that I've read some stories that made me a little disappointed because the author took the story in a direction I wouldn't have gone, but the next day, after I've had time to contemplate the ending, I feel much better. Sometimes sad endings do that to me. But these endings can still be great. They leave you with a profound statement of some sort. The message is something you think about for quite a while.

Here are some examples of great ending:

"I Am Legend" (The book!) Yes, the main character dies in the end but I still feel satisfied with the ending because the twist. Robert Nevell realizes that he is the monster. He's the one killing the masses while they sleep, even though they happen to be vampires.

"Oceans 11" This was a great ending because you never see it coming. Not only do the protagonists pull-off the ultimate heist, but they do it in perfect style. This ending satisfies by giving the audience what they want plus some.

"The Village" I know I'm going to get some backlash for adding this to my list a great endings, but first let me defend my reasoning. The entire movie is based in a fantasy world, but in the end you find out that the village is really just a bunch of disenfranchised Americans trying to go back to the good old days when crime wasn't a problem. You also learn that nostalgia isn't really helpful. This is one of those endings that, at first, left me wanting more but after I thought about it, I felt better. The greatness of this ending is because of the message. I know many critics disagree, but they have different criteria for great endings than I do.

I don't have time to go through all the endings that I really enjoyed. I'm not saying these are the absolute best endings of all time, but they are endings I've admired.

What do you think? What movies or books have great endings?  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Things have been a little slow for me recently. Now I am feeling more free and motivated to continue working on my next novel. (Still no working title yet.)

I really want this book to be more of a thriller. Of course the story is set in a dystopian world, but I feel like I need more than just an awesome universe.

Many of the dystopian books I've read are interesting because of the unique scenarios characters are put in. But the writing can be slow moving so illustrate the authors literary agenda. I enjoy reading these books but I'm just not that kind of author. I like high stakes and fast action, so, I'm going to be doing some research into thriller novels to learn just how to bring some of that adrenaline into dystopia.

Any suggestions? What are some books you've read that get your heart pumping? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stop #2 On The Blog Tour

Today I am providing a giveaway for my second stop on my blog book tour. The blog is appropriately called "Candace's Book Blog".

The giveaway is being posted at 3PM PST, and it closes on October 14th, so I thought I'd give all my readers a heads-up.

THE CAUSE has been published for about two months now and I have been pleasantly surprised with how well it's been received. I've been making a steady incline toward the top 100 best sellers on I still have a ways to go, so tell everyone you know about THE CAUSE. Write a review, post the book trailer on Facebook, tell your friends about the giveaway. As an indi-author, I need all the help I can get.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Taking Your Ideas

In my last post I asked for suggestions on a name for the main character. After mulling over your wonderful suggestions, I've decided on names for all the characters in my next book.

The main character is going to be names Jason Ray.

I had a couple more suggestions which were excellent, but seemed to fit better for other characters. I have a key character who will be taking on the name of Sampson.

I'd love to tell you more about these characters but I don't want to give too much away, so this is where I change the subject before I spill the beans.

As of right now, I am outlining and doing some research. I have been studying different foods that people might eat when they are desperate.

Have any of you eaten, or know someone who has eaten, anything strange? Rodent? Cat? Weeds? Bugs? What did it taste like? What drove you to eat it? Go out and talk to your depression-era grannies about desperate times and desperate measures.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Break From Stories

I haven't been very good at writing new short stories, but it's not a bad thing. I've been spending time outlining and researching my next novel. I'm really excited about this one.


Lately I've been looking into the amazing success stories of Amanda Hocking and John Locke. They've been all over the internet for the past several months. Both are authors, and both are self-publishing millionaires. I would love to reach that kind of success for several reasons. First being the fact that I would love to make a living from writing books. But chances are it's not going to happen -- and I'm okay with that.

Hocking and Locke have a lot of things in common. They both write short novels, they both write fast, they both write series, and they both got lucky. I use the word luck only because there is no other word to describe that magic element that draws readers to one author over another of equal talent. I'm not saying their success was all luck. No. They both worked hard and made marketing plans and fought hard for attention just like every other serious author.

Why do I bring this up? Well I've been thinking about how I define success. For me, creating has always been something I need to do. I don't know why, but I always feel compelled to write another song, learn how to paint, or write another novel. I can't help it. Most of the time my creations are enjoyed only by me, but occasionally someone I don't even know finds my creations and falls in love. That is how I define success.

My goal for this next novel, is to write somebody's favorite book. Just one person. If I can achieve that, I'll count myself successful.

I'm having trouble coming up with a name for my main character. I need a strong male name that is not overused. Any ideas?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Stop on The Book Blog Tour.

Today I stopped at a little South African book blog called "All the days of". Check it out for a more in-depth look into the writing of The Cause.


Monday, September 5, 2011

The Cause Blog Tour

Starting tomorrow, I will be traveling the internet to promote The Cause. I'm feeling a little dubious because many of my blog stops will be for professional / semi-professional reviews. So, just to be safe, I'm expecting the worst.

Besides reviews, I have some interviews coming up. The first interview is scheduled to be published tomorrow. I'll keep you updated.

Speaking of book blogs -- I've noticed that most book bloggers are female. There isn't anything wrong with that, except that I don't write books for girls. I looked everywhere for some kind of man-blog for guys who like reading, but I've been coming up empty-handed. This is only making my marketing battle more difficult.

Besides my fears, I'm really excited to start really promoting The Cause. I'll keep this blog updated over the next several weeks so you all can follow me on my blog tour.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Cause by Clint Stoker

I am celebrating the release of my first novel today!

The Cause is available on and with ebooks going for $0.99 and paperbacks here for $7.49.

There are a couple of things I thought I'd mention. Anyone who reads this blog, knows I write short stories here. If you enjoy reading them, great! You'll notice, I like to add a twist to every short story I write. I like to add twists simply because the short stories I like to read have twists.

THE CAUSE is a full-length dystopian novel, so don't expect the same silliness that I implement in the short stories. Without giving away too much, I'd like to give you a little insight on THE CAUSE.

I love dystopian literature. It is, essentially, an experiment on human nature. A dystopian asks the question "what if..?" For example, 1984 by George Orwell is an experiment on privacy in the future. If 'Big Brother' really was always watching, what would you do?

A more recent example would be The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It asks, "What would happen if the government forced children to fight to the death live on TV?"

Following this same line of thinking, THE CAUSE asks the question, "what if you could live forever, but only at the expense of someone else?"

If this sounds like something you'd like to check out, let me know. I am giving out free ebooks to the first 20 people to message me. Act fast!

Monday, August 15, 2011

#8 The Freegan War

Gerald Goldman was an idealist. Commercialism and capitalism were his sworn enemies and waste was their weapon. Goldman had been living, almost entirely, outside the ‘system’ for three years. He didn’t buy any of the latest and greatest gadgets to grace the market. Gerald refused to buy hygiene products, choosing, instead, to only wash himself in the frequent Seattle rains. But Goldman’s lifestyle didn’t stop there.

Gerald was a Freegan.

A freegan avoids buying food at grocery stores. Since America’s capitalist system wastes so much extra food, Goldman lives off the discarded. To his friends, he describes himself as an ‘urban hunter-gatherer’.

Tolling the alleys behind grocery stores to look through dumpsters had been his most effective method of obtaining sustenance. He knew the locations of several fruit trees growing on public land and he would even harvest fresh dandelions for additional vitamins. Though his methods worked well, he still found himself stepping into a grocery store when food became scarce due to weather or competition.

Dirty Eddy wasn’t an idealist by any stretch of the imagination. He was a freeloader. Dumpster diving was a means to remain jobless. The freedom felt good but he also enjoyed power among the ranks of the homeless. His territory was well-known and rumor had it that Dirty Eddy had killed a man crossing the line.

When Dirty Eddy noticed Gerald snooping around one of his most prized bins, he decided he needed to protect his manna. After all, his reputation was all he had.

“You shouldn’t be here.” Dirty Eddy snarled like a sewer rat from the darkness.

Gerald jumped back – surprised anybody was watching.  “I’m just looking for something to eat.” He spoke back into the darkness.

“This is my dumpster! I don’t want to see you around here ever again.” Dirty Eddy stepped closer and gave a long scowl.

“I’m sorry?” Gerald stood firmly, remembering his morals. “There is food in this dumpster and it belongs just as much to me as it does to you. There is plenty for both of us.” Though he said it, he didn’t really believe it. Even after a long day of searching, he’d found nothing to eat. This was his last attempt to avoid succumbing to paying for food.

An uncontrollable insanity glazed over Dirty Eddy’s eyes. “This is my turf!” Spittle flung from his lips.

“Easy…” Gerald wasn’t about to start a fight over garbage. “It’s all yours.” With that concession, he left any spoils to Eddy.
It was getting dark and Gerald still had no booty to show for his efforts. Hungry and reluctant, he went through the automatic doors to the grocery store. He wandered down the rows of shelves to find something cheap. He went for the baked goods that had been marked down for their age. They would be thrown away in the morning where Dirty Eddy would claim them too.

Gerald picked up a loaf of bread when a terrible idea struck him. If Eddy was out of the picture, he could again have freedom to feed from the coveted dumpster.

He set the loaf back on its shelf and headed across the store to the non-food items. There in a yellow box sat his vindication. Rat poison.

Gerald carefully opened the box and removed several pellets. It was late enough for the store to be almost completely empty, so Gerald had no problem sneaking the stolen poison back to the bakery. After several glances across the store, he gained enough courage to complete his mission. With a quick jab, he inserted the poisonous pellets deep into the day-old bread. After a sigh of relief, he tied the wire around the bag and scooted it back onto the shelf. That should take care of Eddy.

The bakery must have severely misjudged the demand for wheat bread. The day-old rack was full of loafs. What if the pay-load never reached its intended target? Just to be safe, Gerald went back for more poison. He then filled each loaf with enough poison to down a moose.

Gerald left the store without buying a single item. He smiled to himself as he walked home.

Morning came. Gerald made his usual rounds, but by noon he was still empty handed. A local coffee shop looked a little more promising. As he approached a combination ash tray / garbage can, a man threw away a box with several donuts.

Gerald rushed to collect the continental breakfast. Glazed was his favorite.

He sat on a little bench to eat where he had a good view of a large television across the street. As he took his first bite, a news banner ran across the screen.


Gerald froze. He watched the news story unfold before him. The grocery store donated backed goods once a week to the orphanage. The children died. The autopsies confirm the deaths were due to rat poison.

Gerald dropped his donuts and ran as fast as he could to the grocery store. The building was closed. He ran around to the back where the dumpster resided. Policemen in uniforms and white gloves inspected the trash for evidence. Gerald could hardly believe it. What had he done?

Just then, Dirty Eddy made an appearance. The look on his face told the whole story. He was defeated. The dumpster had been apprehended, and his favorite spot was being exploited by the ‘man’.

“Hey!” Dirty Eddy screamed as he ran toward the policemen with a knife in hand. A craze took control of him.

In one quick reaction, a policeman drew his gun and shot Eddy twice in the chest.

As Eddy fell to the ground, a smiled made a surprise appearance on Gerald’s face. Eddy was dead. The investigation would be over in a few weeks and the dumpster would be a dining option again.

The rat poison turned out to be a good idea after all.

Monday, August 8, 2011

#7 The Cause: Chapter One

Chapter 1

     The rumbling elevator seemed to discourage Air from telling Napal what had been bothering him over the previous three weeks. That he didn’t want to kill anyone.
The rusted steel box screeched and moaned as it lowered them both deeper into the basement of the cleaning center.  The elevator box was made from grated steel. The diamond shaped holes showed layers of stone and steel braces lining the shaft.
Air looked official, dressed in a blue uniform and short-brimmed cap that matched his dark hair nicely. The 9mm revolver holstered on his hip was the finishing touch. It was unloaded, of course, but it symbolized what set them apart from the rest of the city.
     “I’ve never been this deep,” Air started. It felt weird to be hesitant around Napal. That day, everything felt weird.
     “What?” Napal grinned and cupped a hand around his ear. “You are going to have to speak up. This rickety piece of garbage gets really loud when we get down this deep.” Napal patted the elevator door endearingly with his palm. Jokes were never off-limits.
Air sighed and tried to ignore the anxiety. Whatever he said in the elevator would only be heard by Napal. And that’s what Air kept reminding himself. The others were in the basement already and it was impossible to hear anything over the elevator motor. It still felt weird to say anything.
“Is something wrong, Air?” Napal pressed.
“I’m fine,” Air lied.
“Something’s up. You have that look on your face again.”
“What look?”
“You look like you’re thinking too hard.” Napal tapped his temple. “You’re eyes get all big and you stare. If I didn’t already know you, I’d be a little freaked out. You always get that stupid look on your face when you’re trying to fix something that doesn’t need to be fixed.”
“I’m not trying to fix anything.”
“Come on, Air. What’s up? Something’s eating at you.” Refusing to let it go, Napal folded his arms. 
     “Okay, I think…” Air stopped to adjust the volume of his voice to avoid any more bantering. “I think I have been remembering something,” Air strained. Blood rushed into his cheeks, making it harder to hide his embarrassment. Suddenly, he appreciated the darkness.
     “Like what?”
     “I’m not sure exactly, but ever since I started rifle training, I’ve been having these flashes.  It’s like déjà vu, except more…” Air glanced down through the metal grate below to be sure they were still far from the bottom.
     “You mean you can see the future?” Napal lifted his pale red eyebrows jovially.
     “Don’t be an idiot.” Air shook his head, immediately regretting his attempt at a serious conversation with Napal. The light from the top of the shaft faded and they were slowly consumed by darkness. Chills crawled down Air’s neck and he stood quiet for a moment. He considered staying quiet, but the urgency of having Napal’s support nagged at him.
     “What I’m trying to say is, I think I’ve shot a rifle before,” Air pursued delicately. “There is something about it that I remember.”
     “You are a good shot, I agree,” Napal confessed, “however, there are a few problems with your theory.” Napal raised his voice to compete with the swelling crescendo of un-oiled pulley’s and thudding motors.
     “What problems?”
     “First problem, the administration would not transfer you from being a purger, who uses a rifle, to an office clerk, who sits at a desk all day, and then back to a purger again. It’s against the rules. Second, there is absolutely no way you can remember more than a couple hundred years at a time.” A single flame flickered to reveal Napal puffing the end of a cigarette.
     “You think I’m making this up?”
     “I hope you are. One thing you’ll learn from purging is that nostalgia doesn’t do anybody any good. Lying on the other hand…”
“I know it sounds crazy,” Air admitted, “but I really think this memory is old, really old. I think I’m remembering something from before the city.”
     Napal spit out a laugh like it jumped from his lips on surprise. “Now I know you’re full of it.”
Air sighed with frustration. Napal didn’t understand. Air genuinely believed Napal would understand. “Just forget it,” Air surrendered.
     “No, come on, Air. I’m being serious. I can prove you aren’t remembering things from that long ago.”
     A yellow light from beneath the grated floor illuminated Napal’s face demonically. His red beard glowed around his face. His blue eyes twinkled in a stupid expression. He seemed eager to make sure Air felt like a fool, only as a friend could. The conversation would have to end soon. Air wanted to keep this revelation away from the others, especially Dex.
     “We’ll do an experiment,” Napal continued, “Tell me what happens next.”
     “Never mind, Napal. Just forget it,” said Air.      
“I’m serious, Air. If you remember shooting a rifle, you must know what the rifle is for,” Napal pinched the cigarette between his lips and sucked the smoldering tobacco to a shorter length.
     “The rifle is for purging.” Air didn’t know why he was still playing along. Napal couldn’t help.
     “No, tell me something that we haven’t gone over in training,” Napal dropped the butt of his cigarette between the steel grates as if it were a game.
     “I don’t remember…”
     “See? The experiment worked.  You don’t remember. It’s just nerves. Everyone is anxious when they transfer careers,” Napal smiled and quickly adjusted his posture.
     “Very helpful, Napal, thanks,” Air nodded sarcastically.
     Air took a step back from Napal when he realized that he had unknowingly moved closer to Napal during the conversation. He glanced sideways and Napal pointed a single finger to his pursed lips to assure Air he’d stay quiet about his confession. He quickly dropped his hand just before the elevator screeched to a halt. Air took comfort in Napal’s gesture. At least he could be confident that Napal wouldn’t tell the others. They had a silent agreement to look out for each other since before either of them could remember. Air welcomed the transfer at first so he could work with Napal.
     “Did you drop something?” An incriminating voice echoed from below the grate. Pale fingers parted the steel elevator doors. The doors squeaked as they revealed the head and shoulders of Dex. He had dark hair and deep-set features that seemed as stiff as though they had been carved from wood. He had a way of changing the atmosphere in an instant. Even Napal seemed awkward around Dex. He tossed a cigarette at Napal’s feet and gave him one of his fabled disapproving glairs.
     “Sorry, Dex,” said Napal, “Just having a smoke. It’s a long ride down.”
     Dex immediately ignored the excuse and pushed the doors the rest of the way open. He stood on a dusty concrete floor a few feet lower than the elevator floor.
     “The elevator stopped short again.” With all the charm of a mortician, he walked out of view. 
     Air squatted at the edge of the elevator and dropped to the ground. Napal swung his short legs out and landed next to him. The purging floor seemed like the space under a rock where a reptile might hide. It was dim and strangely warm from geothermal heat. A single light bulb hung from a wire in what seemed like the center of a vacant warehouse. Blue suited men huddled beneath the light around a steel cart. Their shadows swayed in the light.
     “Air, I need a word.” Dex flicked two fingers.
     After half a second of preparation, Air followed Dex to an even darker corner of the chamber. “Yes?”
     “You’re about to be part of the most important process in the city. Do you understand?”
     “I don’t think you do.”
     Dex let out a little groan. “You aren’t really capable of handling this job. I think you should understand that this is all far beyond you. If it were up to me, you would be back behind a desk, somewhere across town, where your biggest fear is a paper cut.” He leaned in closer to make his point. “Down here, if you fail, the entire city fails. I want you to understand that if it were up to me, I’d reject your transfer and send you back to pushing paper. But it’s not up to me, so in a few minutes, you’re going to do your job. Now here’s where things get interesting. If you can’t do your job, there is no going back. There are no more transfers. At this point, you know too much. Do you understand what I’m talking about?”
     Air wanted to say something to defend himself. It was hard to think of a good come-back when he was being ambushed. He would have settled for a solid punch but that was out of the question. So he took the high road. It was the only option he really had. “I understand.”
     “I’ll be watching closely. If I see any sign of guilt or regret…” Dex shook his head. He was deadly serious.
     “Yes, sir” The phrase seemed to become more painful each time he said it.
     Dex waved Air off like an insect. “Go.”
     Air walked back through the darkness, giving Napal a look on his way. What a psycho.
     Napal nodded. He agreed. “Just follow me, I’ll show you how things work,” Napal whispered.
     They made their way to the rest of the purging team, Zeke, Alan, Helix, Terrance, Indigo and Talon. They stood with a reluctant reverence around the steel cart. It was good to see that everyone felt just as uncomfortable around Dex as Air did. Only one visible wall stood in the purging chamber. The weak light cascaded over its texture. It was made with red brick and sloppy mortar. The wall glistened with chips and pits too deep to be a product of normal wear. Large steel rings protruded from the center of the wall where most of the damaged tended to center. Brown stains spotted the floor below the wall.
     “Okay, there are eight purgers and eight rifles,” said Napal, “Here’s the catch, only one is loaded.”
     “Why only one?”
     “We purge guilt, right? But we need to take precautions to make sure none of us feel guilty. It would defeat the purpose,” Napal stepped up to the cart and motioned for Air to join him.
     “I don’t understand.” Air looked at the faces of the other purgers, hoping for some clarity. “Won’t whoever makes the shot feel guilty? We’ll all know who makes the shot.”
     “If you make the shot, it isn’t your fault. You didn’t load the gun Dex did. For all you know, you’re just going to dry-fire.”
“Won’t Dex feel guilty?”
“Why should he? He doesn’t pull the trigger.” Napal smiled. “Come on. We make a game out of it.” Napal cranked his neck to make sure there was plenty of space between them and Dex who seemed busy opening a metal crate as loud as possible.
     “Okay, gentlemen,” Napal spoke in a hushed voice, “you know the rules, but since this is Air’s first time we’ll have a little review.”
     Air’s throat dried out in an instant. He fought hard to appear willing. He swallowed to moisten his throat. It didn’t work.
 “Whoever makes the shot goes to celebration early tonight.” Napal glanced back toward Dex.
     Helix, a large-framed man, insisted he pick a rifle first. The purgers smothered their laughs. Helix had a reputation for never getting the shot. He justified his failures with the belief that the odds were in the favor of the first to pick.
     Air felt a nauseous gloom settle inside his stomach. He didn’t like being led into the unknown. He tried to recall the haunting memory that seemed to be warning him. The transfer seemed like a mistake. He was already missing his old desk. Silently, Air wished the whole thing was another one of Napal’s jokes.
Helix selected a rifle and the group deferred to Air to make the second choice.
     “I’ll pick last,” he said, “The odds aren’t any different.” Air willed a smile.
     One at a time the purgers selected their rifles and stood in a line facing the marred brick wall, until Air and Napal were the only purgers remaining unarmed.
     “Is there any way I can sit this first one out just to see how it’s done?” Immediately Air recoiled inside himself, surprised his excuse was the best he could come up with.
     “No chance,” Napal cringed, “Unless, of course, you want to see Dex ignite into flames.” Napal lifted a rifle and stepped backward into his position, shoulder to shoulder next to Helix.
     “Sure, I just thought Helix deserved better odds,” Air spoke under his breath to no one in particular.
     He gripped the remaining rifle by the cold black barrel. Immediately, he recognized it as an M14 bolt action rifle. He smoothed his fingers over the carbon-black stock. A significant upgrade from the .22 caliber he used in target practice. His organs reeled and he began to feel sick. The uniform, the rifle, and the darkness all seemed vaguely familiar. He took comfort only in the fact that he trusted Napal. This thought repressed the sickness until he heard sobs resonating from the void behind him.
     Two of Dex’s assistants scuffled around the firing line dragging a shackled and broken man between them. They hissed under their breath as they fought to pull him. Tears coated the man’s face as they dragged him closer to the brick wall. He twisted and drove his knees into the cement floor like a defiant animal. His cries grew louder and shot out in spurts separated by shallow breaths. He violently pulled back when they attached the chains to the metal loops in the wall. He pushed off the wall with his feet and leaned testing the stability of the chains.
     An image flashed in Air’s mind. Men cowering in fright. Explosions in the distance. Strong men, reduced to tears. Dead bodies heaped into mass graves. The stench of death. The memories tumbled over him all at once and only in a moment. Then he remembered shooting a man in the woods. Everything seemed to stop. He knew what came next, death. Air stood frozen. As the man in shackles pleaded for his life, Air realized the gravity of the situation. The man’s life was about to end. One rifle had a bullet and one purger would end life for the man. Life was not eternal as he believed it was for so long. He had forgotten about death entirely. Suddenly it seemed ridiculous to forget such an ominous future.
     “Ready,” Dex shouted.
     An impulse to run shook Air. He wanted to escape but he knew there was no way out. Not without looking guilty himself. He hoped his rifle didn’t contain the bullet. He tried to absorb any comfort coming from that hope. Chances were he’d dry fire.
     “Take Aim.”
     Air lifted his gun in unison with the purgers. He pressed himself to control his emotions. He couldn’t let the others know what he felt. Screams and sobs escalated until Dex shouted the command.
     A dissonant crack burst through the dimly-lit basement. The rifle butt drove against his shoulder, a blast shook through his bones like thunder and the man convulsed. The bullet penetrated though his right lung, ricocheted off his scapula and traced a rib around his chest. The man sucked one last gurgling gasp then he slunk foreword and drooled a stream of blood. His body hung from the brick wall as if he were a hunting trophy being displayed. Silent and dead.