Curiosity – Short Story

“Have you ever killed a man?”
The question sat in the air between the two men on either side of the Plexiglas pane that separated them. The man that posed the question held onto the sturdy telephone headset. He adjusted himself on the steel chair beneath him.
 
The reporter on the other side of the glass stared at the prisoner. The convicted murderer.
 
“I figured you haven’t. You write a lot about people who do but you’ve never actually done it yourself. How can you truly understand what was going through my mind if you’ve never been in my shoes?” The man in orange asked.
The reporter tapped his pen on his notebook. He tried to formulate an answer. Nothing came to him. He was normally the one who asked questions.
 
“I guess that’s why I’m here.” The reporter replied.
The prisoner smirked.
“So you wanna know why I killed that man.” Prisoner 5281 sat back in his chair.
 
The reporter didn’t respond.
 
“I should start from the beginning then, huh?”
 
“If that’s where you want to start.” The reporter adjusted himself to take notes.
 
“Alright.” The prisoner rubbed his forehead. He squinted at the reporter.
 
“My father. He used to take me out to the woods behind my grandmother’s every year to hunt. We’d pack up our rifles, hike out to a clearing in the trees, and then wait. It always felt like an eternity,” his eyes glassed over as he relived the memories in his head. “We’d wait for a buck to show up. And sure enough, one would always come around. But you never immediately shot him. Even if you had the clearest shot in the world, you’d wait.”
 
The reporter cocked his head to question “Why?”
 
“My father taught me to take that moment and study the buck. Learn his movements so you could anticipate the next. I always used that moment for admiration, though. Thinking about the fact that this animal woke up today without once considering that he wouldn’t be waking up again. That’s the same thing I did to Felix.”
 
“You admired him?”
 
“I did. I was on the subway and saw him on his last morning. I decided to skip work and follow him. I wanted to study him. Anticipate his next moves. But I also wanted to see what it was like not knowing today was your last.”
 
“But why him?”
 
“That’s funny. He asked the same thing. When he was laying on the ground looking up at me. All he could manage to ask was ‘why?’” He zoned out as he thought back.
 
“And?” The reporter pushed.
 
“I told him I did it for the same reason that he kept asking ‘why.’”
 
“What?”
 
“When your readers flock to your article to read about me. They’re reading about me for the same reason I killed Felix: Curiosity. Curiosity is what killed Felix. I always wondered what it would be like to take a man’s life. To feel his dying breath leave his body. To watch the light fade from his eyes. I was curious about it all…”
 
The reporter stopped taking notes. He caught his jaw from dropping.
 
“You killed a man for no reason other than to see what it would be like?”
 
“You drove all the way out to the middle of nowhere to sit with a man on death row to see what it was like to kill another man?” The prisoner replied.
 
“Yeah, but I won’t be spending my last days behind bars…” The reporter quickly replied, taking offense to the prisoner’s comment.
“True. But you’ll never actually know what it feels like. You’ll know what it felt like for other men to take a life. You’ll keep asking more guys like me, never satisfying that itch,” He leaned forward in his chair, “It is truly enlightening, killing a man. Even if I’m stuck behind these bars, I know that I experienced life in the rawest form. You should try it sometime. You’ll sleep better than you ever had before,” He said as he smiled, “How many men can say they answered the questions that keep them up at night?” He leaned back in his chair again, glancing up at the clock. A guard knocked at the door on the prisoner’s side.
 
“Well, Jonathan. It’s time for me to go. But I think I’ll be seeing you around. I’m sure you’ll be curious to know more.” The prisoner hung the phone back on its receiver. He stood and locked eyes with the reporter. The guard stepped into the room and secured shackles on the prisoner’s wrists and ankles.
 
After the guard pulled the prisoner out of the room, Jonathan looked down to read his notes. He stared at the last word on the page. The word that would keep him coming back for more. The word that led to a man’s death.
Curiosity.
Chicken

Chicken

The gravel made a rough grinding sound as the heavy black tire crunched its way along the dirt parking lot. The car came to a stop outside the biker bar. The establishment was old and beat up. The wood siding had seen better days. But, the line of motorcycles out front kept the bar in business even when nobody else would visit the old joint anymore. Today, Derrick was here for a visit. He was here to see a man about a girl.

He brought the muscle car to a halt. The solid steel slid open. A heavy leather boot hit the dirt. Then, a sunglass laden face emerged from the vehicle. He slammed the door shut with a satisfying K-thunk. Before leaving his car, Derrick made a stop by the trunk. He reached in and pulled out one item. A Louisville slugger. Shutting the trunk, he turned to the bar and walked swiftly. He rocked the bat back and forth to relearn its balance.

Derrick watched as a pulled-down blind was released behind the front window, the peephole that was being held open by a finger sprang back into its rightful position. The front door to the bar opened.

A large, bald man, easily twice the size of Derrick stepped out. His leather biker vest clued Derrick into his affiliation.

“You better turn around and go back where you came…”

Slam

The bouncer never had a chance to finish his sentence. His instantly-bruised face slammed into the doorframe and his massive body slumped to the ground.

As Derrick continued his march forward, he heard a ruckus stirring up inside the bar. He took a step inside and saw a dozen men scrambling to ready themselves for a fight. Derrick allowed his eyes to adjust to the dark, hazy environment inside the bar. A neon light in the back flickered and slowed his eye’s progress.

“I’m looking for Birch. Anybody know where I can find him?” Derrick said with a firm voice. The bar was silent. Everybody anticipating an attack. A smaller man closer to the bar noticeably shifted his eyes. He looked towards the man that stood closest to the jukebox. Birch. Derrick pointed the tip of his slugger towards him.

“I warned you not to touch Maeve again,” Derrick said.

He took a step forward towards Birch. In his peripheral vision, he caught a glimpse of a punch being thrown his way. Derrick pulled the bottom of his bat back. The knob connected with the attacker’s nose. Before the fist ever reached Derrick, the man crumpled into a bloody mess on the floor. The next attacker came from Derrick’s flank as well. This time a beer bottle was being swung at his head. Derrick twisted the bat upright, as if he was bunting, and let the bat take the brunt of the bottle. The glass shattered and beer covered Derrick’s chest. But the failed attack gave Derrick the moment he needed to jam the Louisville Slugger into the man’s throat. A guttural gurgle emanated from the biker’s mouth as he clutched at his throat for air.

Derrick pulled the bat away from the man’s throat and swung it into the chest of an approaching attacker. The hit forced all the air from the man’s lungs. His arms dropped to his stomach, allowing a clear shot to the man’s head. Another target down.

A jab landed into Derrick’s back. Instinctively, he spun around bringing the full force of his momentum through his bat and into the surprise-puncher’s face.

A beer bottle flew past his head. Derrick swung his bat through a table of bottles. The glass shards flew into another biker’s face. He screamed out in agony.

As he continued to hold the bat in his left hand, Derrick grabbed a bottle off a nearby table by the neck and threw it at the skinny man behind the bar that was rushing for a shotgun located under the counter. The bottle impacted his left temple and the bartender fell behind the counter.

With half the room cleared within seconds, Derrick was feeling better about his odds of winning the fight.

Another three bikers ended up in a pile on the floor after Derrick shifted the bat between man-one’s knee, man-two’s chest, man-three’s head, then man-two’s head, and finally bringing the bat down onto man-one’s head.

There was a pause in the fight.

Derrick turned towards two smaller men that were standing between him and the doorway. They glanced at each other and back to Derrick. One of them began to reach for a heavy glass on the table.

“Really?” Derrick asked.

The man froze his hand before grabbing the glass.

Pulling the slugger up into a batter’s position, Derrick took a step forward.

The man pulled his frail hand away from the glass.

As Derrick took another step towards them, the two men made the ultimate decision of flight rather than fight.

Derrick relaxed and turned his attention to the corner of the bar that was next to the jukebox. Huddled on an old cloth couch was the man named Birch. A decorative sign above his head read ‘Chicken’.

How fitting, Derrick thought.

“Just you and me now, Birch,” Derrick said as his boots stomped toward the huddled man. A whimper came from the couch.

“Please, man. I didn’t mean to…” Birch began.

“Didn’t mean to?” Derrick asked, anger in his question.

Birch turned his hidden face to Derrick. Fear was the only expression on his face that was hidden behind raised hands. Derrick now stood over him. A light on the wall to his right lit up face like a kid prepping to tell a story by holding a flashlight beneath his chin. The shadows cast by the light stretched upward and hid his eyes. Even when hidden, Birch could still see the rage contained within Derrick’s eyes.

“I guess I didn’t mean to do this either,” Derrick said as he brought the bat down onto Birch.

Flint: Part One

Flint: Part One

The first book from Alex Johnson!

A missing girl. A dead mobster. A private eye. Four million light-years from home.

Read the gripping first part of the new sci-fi series written by Alex Johnson: FLINT.

Humanity has spread across the stars. In the far reaches of space, a new colony is being built by Terragon Industries. The planet known as New Haven is planned to be a designer colony where the rich can settle and thrive. For now, the planet is mostly uninhabitable except for the large dome that covers a city the size of New York City.

Inside the dome, Aaron Flint is a private investigator who escaped his dark past on Earth. His expert set of skills has earned him the reputation of being a “fixer” – A man that can get any job done. So long as the price is right. . .

Today, Aaron Flint has a new client. A working girl has lost her sister to the dark underground of New Haven. Can Flint find her in time and reunite these separated sisters?

Find out in Part One of FLINT!

How I treated my first book as a startup

How I treated my first book as a startup

Every time I hit another bout of writer’s block, I would minimize the chapter that I was currently working on and pull up a new tab on Safari or Chrome and skim articles about how to stay motivated while writing. In time, I realized that I was reading more about staying motivated about writing than I was actually writing.

Most of the articles that I read sounded more like venting sessions about people not being able to write and less about actual tips to keep writing. So, I ventured away from these articles and found a huge treasure trove of articles that were actually motivating: tips for startup companies.

You probably saw an article about it while scrolling through Medium to find this article. Some entrepreneur out there talking about his or her tips on how to finally break free from your 9–5 grind and startup your own business.

But, I didn’t want to start a business. I wanted to write a book.

The funny thing is: I didn’t realize how much they are one in the same.

So, I did what every good startup company does (and accomplished a ton of procrastination in the process!):

-Started sketching ideas on a whiteboard

  • Think about every startup you’ve ever seen online. They all have amazing whiteboard setups!

-Cleaned my desk and made it as minimal as possible

  • This made me feel better while typing for hours on end and helped to minimize distractions.

-Dedicated a chunk of my free time every day before and/or after work and school to developing my ideas

  • Citing to hundreds of articles that talk about using a chunk of your day to slowly grow your startup, enabling you to quit your day-job.

-Collaboration

  • It’s simple. If I got stuck on an idea, I would pick the brains of a select group of my friends and family to see where they think the story should go. They may not always have the right answers but they help you broaden your viewpoint and find creative ideas.

After I stopped falling into the same slump day-in and day-out of being the woeful writer who couldn’t figure out the next chapter, I learned that if I focused on being productive and keeping organized the writing was that much easier.

I chugged along every night until I had a finished product that I was satisfied with. All while working a job and attending law school.

So, if your ever catch another case of writer’s block. Step back from the writing and look around. Design your writing environment to help you focus on your work, don’t worry about whether a reader will like how your story is currently going (somebody out there will), and focus on being productive.

The words will flow.

Your mind will be at ease.

And, lo and behold: Your first book is done!

Flint: Part One Preview

 

 

 

FLINT: Part One

Chapter One

Humanity has spread across the stars. In the far reaches of space, a new colony is being built by Terragon Industries. The planet known as New Haven is planned to be a designer colony where the rich can settle and thrive. For now, the planet is mostly uninhabitable except for the large dome that covers a city the size of New York City.

Inside the dome, Aaron Flint is a private eye who has escaped his dark past on Earth. His expert set of skills has earned him the reputation of being a “fixer” — A man that can get any job done. So long as the price is right. . .

Frank’s Pub was an old brick and mortar building amongst the sprawling steel and glass metropolis that was New Haven. The neon sign outside flickered incessantly and the bricks hadn’t been cleaned in ages. Yet every day the usuals showed up. The crowd was a mixture of cops and crooks. Some patrons held both titles. The beer was cheap. The liquor was weak. But none of that mattered. The old brick building reminded everyone inside of the home they once lived on: Earth. Frank only had one rule. Any talk of justice or villainy was off-limits. There was an exception. Aaron Flint was one of the regulars at Frank’s Pub. Today, he wasn’t here for just a drink.

Flint creaked open the glass door and listened to the little bell ding. Nobody took notice except for Frank the Barkeep. Flint made his way across the room and took a seat at the bar. Waving a finger up in the air, he ordered his usual. Frank snagged a bottle of cheap whiskey and popped some ice cubes in a small tumbler. He laid the glass in front of Flint and poured a sip of the drink.

“Mornin’, Flint” Frank grumbled.

The sky outside was dark. Stars filled the black void that swallowed the planet. Even though it was the smallest of details, just looking at the night sky felt alien. The stars weren’t in their right places. It was bound to happen when you live several million light years from home. The small clock that sat behind Frank’s bar ticked to 3:10 in the morning. Flint took a long sip from the glass and let the drink burn in his mouth. It felt clean. He swallowed the sip with a sneer.

“You got anything for me today, Frank?” Flint asked with his gravel voice.

Frank looked back to Flint while cleaning a glass that had just been returned and nodded.

“As a matter of fact, I do.” Frank said.

He set the glass down in the steel sink and gestured to a woman sitting in an old, red leather booth at the back of the pub. The dim light above her head cast heavy circles under her eyes making it hard for Flint to tell if it was just the lighting or if the woman was beyond exhausted.

“Special request just for you. Whoever she is, clearly wants the job done right.” Frank said with a chuckle.

Flint finished his drink with a sharp swallow and pulled a twenty from the money clip in his pocket. He tossed it down on the counter and got up to walk over to his potential client.

As he made his way across the bar, Flint took note of certain details about the client. She was probably in her late-30s. She looked as if, had life treated her differently, she would have been beautiful. Blonde hair, blue eyes, a tight body. But life was vengeful to even the best of people living in New Haven. As he neared her, he noticed the heavy set creases in her face, the eyes that were sunken into her skull, and the distant gaze of a woman who’s seen far too much in her life.

Sitting down opposite the woman, Flint pulled out a small notebook and pen from his jacket pocket. He flipped to the first empty page and clicked the pen open.

“What’s your name?” Flint asked.

“My name is Annette.” She responded.

“Annette…?” Flint asked, waving his hand through the air to signal for her last name.

“Just Annette.” She replied firmly.

Flint jotted the name down in his notebook while nodding.

“Okay. So, what can I do for you?” Flint asked, getting right to business.

“It’s my sister.” Annette replied. Flint waited to see if she would say anything more.

Nothing.

He made a mental note of just how verbose his new client was.

“What about your sister?” Flint pressed on.

“Her name’s Miranda. She’s been missing for several days. That is strange for her. Normally, we talk almost every other day. The last time I talked to her was Monday.”

Flint paused his writing and squinted. He thought about what today was. The past few years were all a blur to Flint. Tuesday.

“Last Monday, I take it?” Flint made sure.

“Of course last Monday.” Annette scoffed.

Flint made another mental note that his new client also had a temper. Understandable for a missing person case.

“Why can’t you just go to the police?” Flint inquired.

Annette looked around the room at the dozens of badges that sat in tables adjacent to their conversation.

“Don’t worry about them. They won’t listen. House rules.” Flint paid no attention to the police sitting in the tables around them, “Now, why can’t you go to the police?”

“Because… Well…,” Annette still nervously eyed the cops, “I was trying to get my sister smuggled onto Haven.” She finally managed, looking as if she unloaded a thousand pounds off her shoulders.

“Ah. Tell me more.” Flint said while adjusting to write faster in his notebook.

“Five years ago, I left my sister to come to New Haven. It was our dream to always come here and I finally saved up enough money to make the trip. But there wasn’t enough for both of us to come at the same time. So, I promised her that I would do whatever it took to get her on-planet with me. Ever since then, I’ve been sleeping with the scum of the planet trying to make enough to get my sister here. And I finally did it.” The tough facade that Annette previously wore now faded. Her eyes started to water.

“As you know,” she continued “a few months ago, the government decided to start closing off the ports and limiting people on planet because of the resource cutbacks. Well, my sister was denied access to the planet by the bastards at customs. So, I took matters into my own hands. I knew a guy from my work that could get people on planet. He smuggles girls. So, I found him and paid him everything that I’ve been saving ever since I got on this damn planet. I told him to bring my sister to me.”

Flint nodded. Giving all the money upfront? Rookie mistake.

“And your sister never made it even after you paid him, right?” Flint asked.

“Exactly.” Annette answered, returning to her terse tone.

“So, who is this guy you hired to get your sister here?” Flint probed.

Annette reached into her bag and pulled out a business card. It was high-class. Thick material that shimmered in the dim lighting of Frank’s Pub. Annette slid it across the table to Flint who placed it into his notebook after reading the name. Jinkou Shang.

“I’ll see what I can do, Annette.” Flint responded while flicking the elastic band around his leather notebook to keep it secured shut. “But it will cost you.”

“I know that Mr. Flint. And when you find out what this man did to my sister, I beg of you to take my money back from that filth and you keep it. It’s everything that I had.”

Flint let out a long breath. He hated working for jobs that didn’t have money upfront. But work had been slow lately. He stood up. Before leaving the table, she outstretched her hand. It held onto a small picture. Flint grabbed it and examined it. The woman was a beautiful blonde. An idea of what Annette looked like before the underworld of New Haven chewed her up and spit her out.

“That’s Miranda. Please, Mr. Flint. Find her.”

Flint just nodded. He made sure to never promise clients anything. He turned away from the table.

As Flint made his way to the front door, he heard Frank call out from behind.

“Hey Flint,” Frank yelled, “be careful with this one. I don’t have a good feeling about it.”

Flint continued out the door.

“You never do, Frank.” Flint replied. He was greeted by the pitter patter of a heavy rain that was just starting. He pulled his keys out of his jacket pocket and looked at the address on the card he took from Annette.