Group: +Gold Member
RM Skill: Masterful
Hey there, RMers! Those who follow what I do (what am I kidding -- I'm not famous around here) will probably have noticed that I haven't been very active at all for the last few months, except for popping in and putting Legionwood 2 on hiatus. So, who wants to know why?
It's because I've been busy launching my first novel. Sun Bleached Winter is a post-apocalyptic psychological horror story about a protagonist who slowly descends into madness after having to do horrible things to survive in a violent, eternally frozen wasteland. It is published by Damnation Books LLC, a small horror press in California, and was released on December 1st in ebook and paperback editions.
If you're interested, please check it out. You can read the first 1000 words for free at my website! I appreciate your support. You've all helped a lot over the years with my games, and hopefully this project will do well also.
For those who don't want to click the links, you can read the book's intro here. Please note that like my One Night games, this book is quite dark and there is a lot of violence and some obscene language. It's definitely for mature audiences only.
If they see me, I’m dead. What meager possessions I have left will be taken, and I’ll be discarded on the side of the path, shot like an animal. That much is certain.
I’m lying prone in the shadow of a fallen log, hoping that the armed men in the clearing ahead don’t see me. As they come closer, I catch snatches of their conversation. They argue over the bag of supplies their leader carries in his left hand. Then they laugh when their conversation turns to the person they took it from, reminiscing about murdering a man as if it were just day-to-day business.
I watch them come closer, wondering if any of them will spot the small lump by the log in the shadowy twilight and have the initiative to investigate. All three of them are armed with rifles that hang casually over their shoulders. If they saw me, it would only take them seconds to raise their weapons and fire. I have no doubt that they are experienced hunters. If their bullet doesn’t kill me, I’ll be left, paralyzed and bleeding, in the snow to die. My hand slowly moves to my belt and I grasp the hilt of the survival knife tucked into it, but I know it won’t be enough to save me.
I can only hope that the coming darkness is enough to hide me. It’s easy to stay out of sight at this time of the day – the blackening sky above blankets the entire world in shadow and this, combined with the endless expanse of ashy snow and dead trees around me seems to reduce everything to abstract shapes and unknowns. As long as I don’t move, I should be safe. If the men stay away, if nobody comes close enough to make me out, I should be just another random piece of debris on the side of the road.
They’re getting closer now, only meters away. I can just discern their faces – savage and bestial- on the very edge of my vision. Their skin pales with sickness and their eyes are bloodshot with fatigue. They’re desperate, broken men. They’re fighting to stay alive, and I know from experience that they’ll think nothing of killing me just to stave off their own inevitable deaths a while longer.
Their voices break the silence of the falling night like a death knoll.
“What a waste. How are we meant to last the week on half a can of soup? Not to mention that everything in that first aid kit we got’s expired.” “Don’t worry, stop screwing around and keep your eyes open. We’ll find someone soon. We always do. Just make sure you aim properly this time and we’ll be just fine.”
I have to stop myself shaking from the cold, and maybe from fear as well. This isn’t the first time I’ve come close to death in the months past, but it’s an experience that you never really grow accustomed to.
The men are passing me now, their heavy footfalls making crunching noises on the snow. Any second now, they’ll find me and then it’s all over. The leader’s gaze begins to linger on the edges of the road. He’s checking for anyone like me who’s stupid enough to think the darkness alone is enough to conceal them. Somehow, I’m certain that he’ll find me. All it will take is a shiver of fear, an involuntary spasm for him to glimpse or a single, drawn out breath, lingering on the air, for him to hear. My heart is beating loudly in my ears. I’m going to slip up; I’m deathly still, but it’s cold and I can’t stay still for much longer. I’m about to die.
The gunman’s boot presses into the snow, inches away from my nose. It stops for a second. I hear its owner take a deep, sighing breath and stop to stretch. I hear him yawn and then I listen to his deep breathing as he scans the trail one last time for anyone hidden. He coughs, and in spite of myself, I flinch from the sound. The boot swivels on the spot to face me, as if somehow it’s witnessed my tiny movement, and there it lingers, staring at me, daring me to move again. I curse myself silently. Don’t see me! Please don’t see me!
“Screw it, nobody’s here,” his gruff voice says bitterly. “We’d better find some place to camp for the night before we freeze to death out here. Nobody’s stupid enough to be out in this cold, and if they are, they’re just as hungry as we are.”
The footfalls recede into the distance, and relief surges through me as I watch the men slowly become silhouettes, then disappear into the darkness. I’m still alive. For now.
I wait until the only thing I can hear is the wind, to be sure that I’m alone once again. Still not quite sure that a bullet won’t fly out from the shroud and splatter my brain matter all over the ground the moment I move, I stand up. I take a second to make sure I still have what I came out here for, what I risked my life to retrieve. I swing my backpack around to my chest and tear it open, fishing out what’s inside: a blank, leather-bound book, a journal of some kind, just waiting to be written in, and a black fountain pen. I went through a lot to get them, but it’s worth it.
I’ll start writing everything down tonight. As soon I get back to shelter.
I carefully zip up the backpack and return it to its place on my shoulder. I shudder from the cold. It’s freezing. I shouldn’t be out during the night, not if I want to stay alive. I take a moment to orient myself and determine which way leads back to the safe house I’ve decided to hole up in for tonight. It’s only forty minutes away. If I’m lucky, I can make it back in time. I grab the edges of my coat, pull it tighter around myself to block out the cold, and set off at a run into the blackness.