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FAQ: Will there be a sequel?

In case you didn’t notice… I HAVE A BOOK OUT AAAAAAAAAAA

And a lot of wonderful, intelligent, incredibly good-looking people with impeccable taste have been asking me if there will be a sequel. And the answer is… YES!

As a matter of fact, funny story, but I literally typed “THE END” on the rough draft for the sequel two days after Hunger Makes the Wolf was released in the US. I am in the process of editing it right now. MAYBE EVEN AS YOU READ THIS VERY POST.

I can’t tell you much more about it than that at the moment because I don’t want to get turned into a shuriken pincushion by the Angry Robot MechaNinja Squad(TM), but I can assure you of the following:

  • You will find out what the Bone Collector’s deal is
  • You will find out more about what the fuck is up with this weird-ass planet anyway
  • There is more Mag, more Hob, and a lot more swearing
  • Things will get blown up

If you’d like to get the updates as they come, hey, I have a mailing list!

I appreciate all the support and kind things y’all have had to say about my sweary space witch biker lady friendship book so far. It’s meant a lot to me! And if I can ask one more favor… if you enjoyed it enough that you want a sequel, pretty please go at least rate the book on Goodreads if you do that, Amazon, or wherever you happened to buy it from. That really, really does help. Reviews are like unexpected unbirthday presents! Also, if you have a card at your local library, consider asking them to get the book so other people can enjoy it. 

(All of the above are amazing gifts to give any author whose work you enjoy.)

And if you haven’t read the book yet, now’s your chance! You know I’m not going to leave you hanging sequel-less. And look, people have been saying all kinds of super nice things about Hunger Makes the Wolf:

“It has a wonderful weird west vibe and some of the phrasing is simply delicious. Hob is a wonderful character to follow – hers is a solid journey and I got a bit choked up when Hob stood up for what she wanted. Alex crafts a host of fascinating characters here – the Weathermen, the Bone Collector – and I reckon you’re going to love their adventures.”
E Catherine Tobler, author of the Folley & Mallory Adventures and The Kraken Sea

“This thing drips with tension – between characters, within the story itself – that makes it impossible to put down. I needed to know what would happen next, what would Hob do. Tanegawa’s World may be a desolate and uninviting terrain, but it provides fertile ground for the characters,who truly blossom on the page.”
– Shana DuBois for B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog

“It’s a science fiction Western thriller, and it is great, and I’m really, intensely, eagerly looking forward to the sequel. This is the sort of thing I really like. UP WITH THIS SORT OF THING.”
– Liz Bourke, for Tor.com

“The story is a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat space opera, tied together with the characters’ struggles, adventures, and mishaps. If you’ve ever thought, “You know what Dune needed more of? More magic and a biker gang!” then this book was written for you.”
The Canary Review

“I was expecting a fun, quick space adventure read, but this story is so much more than that.”
Helen Lindley

“This one definitely makes it into my ‘Highly Recommended’ stack. I’d pick this one up for sure if you’re looking for a fun action romp with some unique and amazing female characters.”
All Booked Up Blog

“I’m always excited when I find a new book that makes me stay up all night reading because I simply can’t put it down. I’m doubly excited when that book is the first in a brand new series. Hunger Makes the Wolf is both those things. Needless to say that I’m absolutely in love.”
Elena Linville’s Tower of Winds

“This is a very cool novel. Hunger Makes the Wolf is a fun, fast, gripping read.”
– The Irresponsible Reader

Hunger Makes the Wolf is an entrancing addition to any science-fiction lover’s collection. The clever prose alone is enough to grab your attention, but what really makes this novel shine is how immersive it is. The worldbuilding is meticulous, the characters are multifaceted and original, and the present themes are timely and inspiring.”
RT Book Reviews

“I have to commend Alex Wells, this book was a genuine pleasure. Just goes to prove, irrespective of genre, you can’t go wrong with well-rounded characters and a plot that zips along at a good pace.”
The Eloquent Page

“Grab any science fiction book and you’ll see they all have the exact same thing in common: the plots and devices of the stories are all predictable and never stray out of bounds. They hardly even push the envelope and, with great joy, I’m glad the author never got that memo. Here’s why: Wells adds magic to the mix. It’s a stroke of genius I’ve been waiting for Peter F Hamilton or Alastair Reynolds to pull off to no avail.”
The Splattergeist

“It’s a well-conceived, smartly plotted, enthusiastically fast-paced sci-fi adventure with some cool ideas and a couple of excellent lead characters who’ve got plenty growing still to do in future books.”
SF Bluestocking

“This is one gem of a story you shouldn’t miss out on.”
Smorgasbord Fantasia

“I will be picking up future volumes.”
James Nicoll Reviews

“Sharp, honed, and brilliant.”
Skiffy & Fanty

“Obvious parallels to Frank Herbert’s Dune will draw readers into this action-packed tale of tyranny and rebellion, but Wells’s character developments take the plot in new directions, leaving the possibility of a sequel.”
Library Journal

Hunger Makes the Wolf is a great bit of sci-fi with a dash of fantasy, all cleverly disguised as a brutal, kick-ass western. I want more!”
Michael Patrick Hicks

“Angry Robot has really upped its game lately; this is one of their best recent releases. Strong debut and I hope for a sequel to start answering a few more of my questions.”
Fantasy Review Barn

Thank you, everyone. Keep reading!

PS: Slightly-less-FAQ answer: Why yes, Coyote and Dambala are totally banging. They’re basically shitbag murderhusbands.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

Things I remember from the strike

I grew up in a union house. My dad was a chief steward in the CWA (local 7750). I remember there being one strike (and the threat of others) when I was growing up. Looking at the CWA history, I’m pretty sure this is what I remember:

1986: Post Divestiture Bargaining

1986 presented CWA with its first negotiations with the post-divestiture telephone industry. Twelve years after CWA had achieved national bargaining, the union was forced back to the old multiple table way of bargaining. CWA had to bargain not only with AT&T, but with the independent RBOCs and their subsidiaries. National bargaining had been replaced by 48 different bargaining tables.

In the AT&T negotiations, the company attempted to take back health care benefits, lower clerical wages, and eliminate cost of living adjustments obtained in earlier contracts. CWA had no choice but to strike. The strike lasted 26 days and AT&T agreed to provide wage and employment security improvements and retain the health care benefits intact. Although the negotiations with the RBOCs were also difficult, they were less contentious than those with AT&T. Strikes were necessary against some of these operating companies, but none lasted more than a few days.

So I was five going on six at the time. Needless to say, my memories aren’t that sharp or specific. But things I do remember?

  • Going with my dad to where the everyone met and getting food for our house. Also getting my fingernails and toenails painted because I was wearing sandals. I’m pretty sure this is from the strike, but don’t quote me.
  • Learning what “scabs” are, and that they’re bad. Well, of course they’re bad, I thought. Scabs are pretty gross, and you pick them off and flick them away, and then whats underneath is all gross and oozy. Why would you want to be like a scab?
  • My parents not wanting to buy things or spend money because they didn’t know how long the strike would last.
  • Having a play picket line with my older brother outside our house, because we saw dad with his sign for the picket line. My brother had a sign on a stick. I had a little sandwich board sign made with poster board and string.

That’s honestly it. When you’re that young, things don’t impact you the same way. And I think my parents worked hard to make sure we didn’t really know what the financial situation was like… because you try to keep your kids out of those worries until they’re too big to hide.

I was a member of the CWA for the just shy of six years that I worked for AT&T, later. There was one time when we had a strike vote–I voted yes, but at the time a lot of my coworkers argued with me, because they thought the union was pointless and what they were going after wasn’t worth a strike. I had my doubts at the time (I was young and stupid and that’s a whole other blog post – and I also didn’t have much of a strike fund saved up, so that was scary too) but I was glad about being union later when I needed my rep to sit in a couple meetings between me and my supervisor. And I was weirdly glad that because of the union, I knew when my job was on the layoff chopping block, because I was low on the seniority list. I’d rather get let go for that than because I didn’t suck up to my boss sufficiently.

Anyway.

This post brought to you by me taking a break from writing about the Ludlow Massacre and feeling angry. And because the WGA West has asked its membership for strike authorization and I’m already seeing people (who aren’t writers) bitching about it because they don’t want their TV shows interrupted when the world is a fiery political hell pit.

People don’t strike because it’s fun. It disrupts your life in ways you can’t imagine and can fuck you over financially even if you win in the end. People strike because the companies never stop trying to push workers further down the hole. Because it’s the only way the workers have to defend themselves from a line getting crossed. So I’m sorry if it inconveniences you, but the writers (or communications workers, or electricians, or truckers, or grocery store workers or…) aren’t the ones you should bitch at. The bosses trying to kill them by inches are.

It’s not greedy to want a decent life for yourself and your loved ones, and it’s not out of line to want your labor (and writing is labor, fuck off) to be respected. If you already have that good of a life, don’t shit on people trying to get to that level. And if you don’t have what they do, why the fuck are you shitting on them for wanting better, and why aren’t you fighting for better for yourself?

In 1886, during the Great Southwest Railroad Strike, Jay Gould (owner of the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific Railroads) famously said: “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half.”

Whose side are you on?

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

The subtitle on Stamped From the Beginning is “The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.” And Ibram X. Kendi is not fucking around on this one. This book took me an unusually long time to read—not because it was unpleasant, or even overly dense (as sometimes history books are), but because there’s a lot there, and the subject matter is extremely challenging.

I’m really glad I read it. Really, really glad. I encourage you to take the time to read and digest and mull it over as well. Buy the book, check it out from the library like I did, but go get it.

I’m going to think out loud on a couple of the points Kendi made that drew the most blood from me. But my mulling things over out loud should not be in any way a replacement for reading the book and getting Kendi’s thoughts first hand. Goodness knows I’m missing nuance and have my own major blind spots.

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

It’s book day!

Hey, so I don’t know if you heard about this, but I kind of wrote this little book called Hunger Makes the Wolf and TODAY IT WAS RELEASED IN THE US AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

I mean my goodness, isn’t that beautiful? ISN’T THAT BADASS? And it’s a dead tree book, too! I’ve held it in my hands! I’ve listened in mingled horror and awe as my housemate read a book it took me six years to write in four and a half hours! IT’S REAL.

In my extremely humble opinion, you should go out immediately and buy a copy, which you will give to your best friend. Then buy another copy. You know. To spread the love. You can get the book at ACTUAL FOR REAL BRICK AND MORTAR BOOK STORES as well asAmazon and Barnes and Noble. Also! If you want your ebook to be of the DRM-free variety, head to the Angry Robot site.

Oh, and did I mention? IT’S AN AUDIO BOOK TOO!

AAAAAAAAAAA this is the most exciting day ever.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

Open Letter to Governor Hickenlooper

I sent this to the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper today, after seeing the AP story about a Trump administration draft memo regarding mobilization of the National Guard to be used to round up undocumented immigrants. Yes, I am aware that we’re talking a draft, but I find it seriously horrifying that this is even being talked about as an option, however off-handedly or unseriously. This is not a thing you fucking joke about.

Anyway, that prompted me to write and send the following message today. I’m sharing it in the hope that others will feel encouraged to send similar messages.

#

Dear Governor Hickenlooper:

Per the Associated Press today, a draft memo from the Trump Administration showed they’re thinking about using the National Guard to round up undocumented immigrants. Considering the absolutely tragic and shameful history of our own state when it comes to the National Guard being mobilized against our citizens and residents (i.e.: the Ludlow Massacre), this calls on us all to speak firmly against this notion before it can gather steam.

Beyond that, undocumented immigrants are a vital part of Colorado society. It would be far better if they could have a path to legal citizenship or permanent residency, but lack of national will does not change the enormous contributions they make to Colorado daily. We should be respecting and protecting all of our residents, whether they have papers or not.

I urge you to speak out in strong support of undocumented Coloradans, and do everything in your power to keep their families from being torn apart by these unfair and racist policies we keep seeing from Washington DC. Make us a sanctuary state; while I know we can’t stop ICE, we can refuse to aide and abet the destruction of families and the victimization of innocent people who are integral to the fabric of Colorado.

With a lack of national will, it falls to us to step up and show our strength of spirit and compassion. I know Colorado is better than what our national government is currently trying to become.

Thank you.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

50 Shades of Nuh-uh.

All right, I’m flinging up my hands on this. I’ve poked at the 50 Shades Darker fundraiser repeatedly, and I think I’m basically shouting into the overwhelming roar of THE WORLD BEING ON FUCKING FIRE, so I don’t feel that bad, really. Also, the few responses I’ve gotten at all to trying to fundraise off the oncoming Valentine’s shitshow were, “No honey, I can’t do that to you.”

I love you too, guys, though I did volunteer for this gig. But I can’t say I’m sad that I’m not going to have to have yet more pop ballads ruined for me forever. (Seriously. Every time one of the songs that got used in 50 Shades of Gray comes on, I attempt to rip my radio out of my car to make it stop because I still remember that fucking awful movie.) I’m also imagining all of the disposable donation money is currently being flung at worthy causes like the ACLU and Standing Rock and the NAACP and CAIR because, again, THE WORLD IS ON FUCKING FIRE, so I can’t begrudge anyone that. We all have limited resources.

I guess my question is to you, people who enjoy listening to me rant about fucking awful movies I watched while drunk, is this moment over? Should I find a different way to humiliate myself in public to get people to fling money at charity? (And wait to do it until the world is no longer ON FUCKING FIRE?) Should I attempt this shindig one more time when the next Transformers movie comes out, because at least it will be less sexually disgusting okay well maybe, I mean we are talking about the franchise in which dudes metaphorically pissing on each other’s legs over the virginity of an underage girl was a major plot point?

What say you?

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

Today I met another refugee from the oil industry. This happens so often it’s like work is one giant reunion. Probably because construction is an industry where there’s a lot of crossover in skill sets, and it’s booming, so there are actually jobs. If you were a geologist, you can find a second life as a dirt guy. If you were an engineer, you can translate that over pretty easily to pipeline projects and the like.

“Oh yeah,” he told me. “They got me two years ago when the price per barrel hit $50. Day after that happened, me and all the other old timers were gone.” Then he laughed bitterly.

Yeah, I know the feeling, I said. I made it through two rounds of cuts and then they canned me in March 2016 because nothing had improved.

I have conversations like this every. fucking. day.

And you want to know why so many of us lost our jobs? I’ll give you a hint: it has fucking nothing to do with regulations, environmental or otherwise, on the petroleum industry. What got us all was the global price-per-barrel of crude oil. Here, if you want to see how dependent we are on that price, just take a look at measures like rig-count versus oil price in recent days.

At the time I got made redundant, there were a lot of pet theories floating around about why the oil price tanked. I don’t know if it’s now been clearly established, because frankly, I stopped caring as soon as I put the rubber to the road and got the fuck out of Houston. I do know that the favored pet theory of everyone I talked to back then was that OPEC opened the spigots because they were trying to drive all the foreign oil companies out of the Middle East.

But I can tell you what exactly NO ONE blamed the drop in price on: industry regulation.

And this? THIS IS TOTAL BULLSHIT.

The problem with the oil industry, the reason so many of us lost our jobs, is entirely on the supply side. There’s too much fucking supply versus demand, so the price drops. This is macro economics 101. This is not complicated. Deregulating the industry to make it easier for people to drill and produce is not going to solve this problem, because it will add more supply. At the absolute most, maybe it’ll produce a few short-term field jobs while the super cheap leases are getting developed just enough to hold on to them. Maybe it’ll keep a few struggling companies afloat longer and save a few jobs that currently exist by making production a little more economical until there’s so much of a glut that the bottom falls out again.

But it’s not going to bring my job back. It’s not going to bring any of our jobs permanently back. And what it’ll cost in environmental damage, in the loss of our common treasure as Americans, is far too high a price for very little actual benefit.

But this was never about me, or about people like me, or even people like my lovely ex Mike, who is still clinging to his job in Houston by the skin of his teeth. It was never about us and our lost jobs and severely depressed wages as we fled to other industries and our pensions that we will never see.

It. Was. Never. About. Us.

You know who this bullshit will help? Companies big enough that they can hunker down through these bust cycles and snatch up land for pennies on the dollar. Companies so big they can produce just enough to keep their leases going and eat the fact that it’s not profitable. Well, those companies and their major stockholders, I suppose.

People like, I don’t know, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state. Just throwing that out there.

Every time this bullshit comes up, I get so angry I can’t see straight. Because it is literally me and people like my fellow geologists and former roughnecks who are barely scraping by on jobs that pay us less than half of what we used to make–while many of us are still struggling to pay back our student loans we took out under the promise that we were heading into good, lifelong careers–being used as a shield by rich motherfuckers. It’s me and the other oil industry refugees that I see on construction sites every goddamn day getting used as a shield behind which our public lands will get looted and our public waterways will get polluted and we’ll all be left holding the tab for the cleanup because we’ll have even fewer ways to hold these companies accountable. It’s us who they’re trying to shift the blame to when people see black tides rolling into their back yards get really angry–I mean, it was for us to get jobs, right?

This was never and has never and will never be about the regular assholes like me who worked outside boardrooms and collected paychecks instead of massive stock options. And I’m done with it. I’m fucking done with it.

Please feel free to link anyone who actually believes this disingenuous bullshit to this page. Please print out one hundred copies and then roll them up into a paper nightstick you can use to beat people who don’t get this point over the head.

STOP LYING.

WE ARE NOT YOUR SHIELD.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

[Movie] Moana

I’m not that big of an animation person any more, but I’ve been excited to see this movie ever since I heard the Lin-Manuel Miranda was involved in the music. And I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, though not without reservation.

In Moana, the titular character is the daughter of her village’s chieftain, so will follow in his place as chief. There’s a blight that’s spread to their island, thanks to the mischievous demigod Maui having stolen the heart of the goddess Te Fiti. Moana embarks on a journey to find Maui and make him fix his mistake, and in so doing, takes her people back out onto the open ocean.

In all honesty, the main bits of this movie I wasn’t utterly charmed by involved Maui. The character felt very off, going from egotistical trickster to suddenly having a sort of angsty backstory to… justify him being a jerk, I guess. I make no claims to know how accurate or inaccurate he is to his legends (though I get the impression after some googling that he is upsettingly inaccurate), but he came across as a very standard sort of bully boy character who eventually makes good more because the script says so than because his character development makes that much sense.

There were also things I was puzzled about, like the Kakamora–evil little animated coconuts, as far as I could tell–showing up in a rig that looked like a homage to Mad Max: Fury Road. My only guess is it was a sequence created to justify a line of toys, because it really didn’t to anything in the movie. Though I actually did find them less offensive than the random troll things in Frozen, perhaps because they still somehow made more sense.

But aside from Maui (and that’s a big aside considering he’s the main supporting character to Moana), there is so much about the movie that I loved. I loved that Moana’s story doesn’t pivot on romance, but rather a quest to discover who she is, who her people are, and to save their way of life. I loved that Moana is a gorgeous brown girl that my nieces (who are also gorgeous brown girls) got to watch saving the day. Moana is truly their princess. I loved that Moana’s grandmother is a independent and happily odd old lady, who is her granddaughter’s spiritual guide. Grandma was the MVP of the film and tied with Moana for being my favorite character.

And then there was this:

Not ashamed to admit it: this song made me cry. Not because I was sad, but because I was so awed by the sheer ingenuity and beauty of humanity. This song is about the Polynesians traveling vast distances between islands in their voyaging canoes, which is one of those historic wonders that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. And reading more about this wonder lead me to find out about the Hōkūle’a Voyaging Canoe, which is a modern recreation of those ancient voyages.

I’m not too big into animated movies any more, but this was a good one and worth watching. If you want to read a bit further about the history of the Polynesian voyages (among other things), this was a good place to start: How does the story of Moana and Maui holds up against cultural truths?

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

[Movie] Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed is utterly, delightfully bonkers as a movie. It’s really damning the movie with faint praise to say it’s probably the best video game film I’ve ever seen, but that’s one statement that it feels very fair to make.

In Assassin’s Creed, Michael Fassbender plays a being of pure manpain named Cal, who after being executed for murder finds that it was all a massive fake-out. He’s now prisoner in a facility run by the Templars, an organization so secretive that they put their logo on everything, including the outside of the giant building they own in Spain. The Templars also really hate the fact that humans have free will. Templar scientist Sofia (Marion Cotillard) uses Cal to search for the free-will McGuffin “the Apple of Eden” by using his “genetic memory” to make him relive the life of his ancestor Aguilar from 500 years ago and sticking him on the end of a giant mechanical arm that shakes him around like a ragdoll.

The concept of the film is quite stupid. I think, honestly, it’s meant to be stupid. You either nope out of the film because your disbelief can’t handle this level of suspension after the first ten minutes, or get over the stupidness threshold of the plot. At which point you are free to enjoy the absolutely batshit ride that involves Michael Fassbender being flung around at the end of a mechanical arem while loudly singing, or very memorably, stripping off his shirt for a protracted sequence for no reason other than he presumably knew I would be watching the movie. (Thank you Mr. Fassbender, by the way.)

And it’s a very pretty batshit ride, by the way. There’s an excellent contrast in the cool pallet of colors used in the “modern” sequences versus the warm in the memories. All of the assassin parkour nonsense is a pleasure to watch. This is a film that’s easy to enjoy on purely aesthetic levels, particularly when those aesthetic levels keep you from screaming every time the nonsensical genetic memory thing gets brought up.

I haven’t played the Assassin’s Creed games myself, though now I’m a bit tempted to try. The friends I saw the movie with reported that they were very pleased that the movie used the mythos but had its own story rather than trying to directly rehash one of the games. They were also happy to report that the modern-time sequences that insisted on punctuating the lengthy sequences of Michael Fassbender and Ariane Labed free running through fake medieval Spain were at least less boring than the ones in the game. So good for that.

Looking back on the movie, I’m pretty sure that it passes the Bechdel-Wallace test handily, thanks to a couple of the villains having a chat about their plans for humanity. I was actually pretty surprised just how many women there were in the movie. The apparent head of the evil organization is an older woman; Sofia is in charge of the project that’s using Cal and the other descendants of assassins. Maria (Labed) is a joy to watch, and I’d like to know when we’re going to get her movie. Michelle H. Lin gets a pretty significant chunk of screen time in the modern-day bits of the movie. The cast also wasn’t entirely Wonderbread white, and I want to call on Michael K. Williams as Moussa as a particular favorite.

It’s not a good movie, but it’s definitely a fun movie, and in its own way felt less soulless than a lot of scifi action movies I’ve watched lately. It is beautifully and unabashedly what it is.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

[Story] Silver Fish

This story was originally published in Lakeside Circus in 2016. As the Lakeside Circus website seems to be down long-term, I’m going to go ahead and repost is here on my blog so it’s still available to be read.

Note that this is the original as-submitted version of the story. I think there were a few edits made to it before it was published, but I seem to have lost that file.

Silver Fish

Josh wiggled his fingers in the moonlight, pale and graceful, and imagined them as fingerlings in the river, sliding through the currents. Under his bed, something buzzed like an angry bee.

Silvery fish flowed in through the open window, large as dobermans, blue moonlight glittering from flat eyes and scaled, underslung jaws.

Josh pulled his quilt up over his nose, afraid to breathe, heart thumping in his chest. Fish had no ears, right? They had teeth; he saw them, glittering triangles. Their fins waved slowly like the air had become water, too thick for lungs to hold.

The buzz sounded again from under his bed, like a cell phone vibrating over carpet but much lower, an angry growl.

It had to be the box.

The night before he had woken from a dream of running, running down a mountainside like Indiana Jones, a carved wooden box tucked under one arm, stolen from a temple where sylphs danced and men with long beards and longer knives scattered sand in great handfuls.

The box stayed in his arms when he woke, a creaky puzzle of mahogany that read like a story under his fingertips. He smashed it open with a hammer when he couldn’t decipher its knots and whorls, overeager to find within it the content of his dreams. The inside was lined with midnight blue velvet, cradling the silver shard of a mirror that twisted rather than reflected his face, showing his nose eating his cheeks one second and shrunk to a pinpoint the next.

Josh had shoved the mirror back into the gaping hole of the box’s lid, then rolled the mess up in a tattered green army surplus blanket normally reserved for picnics and hidden it under his bed like a shameful secret. He’d hidden other secrets there before, the results of pranks: stolen pencil cases and Lana Douglas’s pigtail, cut off with a pen knife.

From under the bed, the box snarled, insistent and angry.

Startled, the fish whipped in the air, flicking their fins and streaming back out into the night.

snap and crash and slam, doors up an down the block opened. “What the hell are those?” a man shouted. More people screamed in a wordless cacophony, high and discordant and then crunch. One less scream.

He knew that crunch. He’d hit Jeffery’s little sister’s bunny with his go cart, and accident, and it had made that sound. It had made him sick. He never wanted to hear that sound again, but it still echoed in his ears.

The cool night air gnawed his bare legs as he twisted free of his quilt. Josh’s shaking fingers found the rough blanket and he pulled the box from under his bed. Shards of wood scattered across the floor, too complex a puzzle to be solved with the roll of duct tape his father kept next to the hammer.

Josh reached for the warped mirror, and saw the way it twisted his fingers into lithe silver fish in the moonlight. That had to be the answer, then; the mirror turned what it saw into a monster. He grabbed the Louisville slugger next to his bed and drove it into the glass again and again, crack and crash and smash, until the mirror was little more than powder.

The silvery dust smeared across the floor made him a distorted, fuzzy shadow. The back of his throat tasted metallic with fear, like he’d licked up some of that shattered mirror. Dreams can’t be destroyed; they can only be contained. The words of his third grade teacher echoed up from his memory. When she’d said that, it had been a hopeful message. No one can hurt your dreams, they can only try to cage them up. You want to be a baseball player, a race car driver, a brain surgeon? No one can stop you. Smash the locks, open the cages, ignore the doubts, let your dreams be free.

But nightmares, Josh felt with the clarity of a bone needle dragging down his spine, like the teeth of the silver fish, were dreams as well. Nightmares were just a different direction for reality to twist, down into the dark.

At his window something growled, the low rumble of distant thunder, of some ancient beast freed from the shards of a broken prison. Josh’s hands tightened on his slugger as he turned. It was his dream, his nightmare, and he should be able to beat it, right? Dreams – nightmares – couldn’t be bigger, stronger, than the people who dreamed them, right?

Only he’s learned in school about I have a dream, and about I am become Death.

Hot, dank breath rolled through the room as Josh howled into the face of a reflection shattered past all recognition.

crunch

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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