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The Sky Below (Chapter Five)

In this chapter of The Sky Below a nurse tries to help the people in front of her and a lawyer makes the tough call. If you haven’t read chapters 1-4, don’t worry. You can download an eBook of the whole novella up to this point, or download individual chapters from this page.

Like what you’re reading or have a question about the physics of all of this? Be sure to post them in the comments!



Kammie was beginning to wonder if she was the only nurse still alive on the floor. She could hear the groans of maybe half a dozen patients, but nobody answered them except her. She’d gotten Margie stabilized for the moment, and with Grace’s help Kammie had been able to lay her out on one of the couches in the visitor’s lounge. After crying on Kammie’s shoulder for a couple of minutes, Grace had pulled herself together enough to actually be of some use, not that Kammie could be picky.

Kammie’s brain had given up trying to provide a wider context for what was going on, choosing instead to focus only on what was in front of her. Kammie felt a familiar tension at the base of her skull, a combination of sleep deprivation, stress and too much caffeine. Still, she was happy to find that several of the nearby vending machines had spilled their contents all over the ceiling. She grabbed a couple of diet sodas and tossed one to Grace before resuming her crawl to the next room.

‘There’s no such thing as too much caffeine,’ she thought to herself.

A rumble from behind her grabbed her attention and Grace blushed as she twisted the cap back on the bottle. “Must’ve been the building settling.”

Kammie’s smile lasted for the briefest of moments, vanishing completely as she opened the door to room five. A cheap hospital bed, like the ones used for patients receiving in-home care, weighs about 450 pounds. In a hospital like this one, the average bed could weigh upwards of 700 pounds. With the head tilted up and the railings raised, a patient might be trapped if the bed fell on top of them, but they wouldn’t be crushed. But if one of the railings was lowered, or if the bed tilted to the side as it fell, then even a fall of only a few feet could be deadly.

The depression in the back of the old woman’s skull indicated it had at least been quick. Grace had been hot on Kammie’s heels, eager to help in any way she could, but Kammie held out a hand to stop her before she could get to the door. Kammie did a five-second sweep of the room with her eyes to check for any visitors or nurses, and upon finding none, silently close the door and started toward room six.

The patient in room six had been in the bathroom when everything hit, and from the looks of him hadn’t had the chance to flush away the morning’s constitutional. This at least, was nothing new. Kammie sent Grace to the closet for a fresh gown and some towels. The man was in his fifties and kept insisting he could do it himself, despite the fact he’d probably been lying there for the better part of an hour. His right collar bone was obviously bruised or broken, as even a slight graze triggered a grimace of pain across his face.

When she’d gotten him as clean as she was able to, she sat him down in one of the chairs, figuring if gravity flipped again that the chair probably wouldn’t crush him. She pressed his skin gently asking him to rate his pain from 1-10 with each touch. The bone felt solid, but the tissue around it had been badly banged up.

“I’m afraid the best I can offer you is a sling at the moment,” Kammie said sympathetically, “Grace, can you take care of that while I check on room seven?”

Grace nodded and Kammie got back on her hands and knees, relaxing her face as soon as she was out of sight of the door. It was difficult enough to maintain a cheerful and professional demeanor after a long day without all of these added excitements. Kammie genuinely did want to help people, to care for them in some of the scariest moments of their lives. She tried to make the whole thing feel safe and comforting, like a stay at a luxury hotel where your every need and desire is met. But that level of charm takes energy, and she had very little in reserve.

This was why most of her time off was spent in silence; that and it’s a bit weird to carry on a conversation with your cat.

The thought of Alomar alone in the apartment caused a brief pang of guilt in Kammie. There was plenty of dry food, but all of the water had probably spilled out onto the floor. And it was going to be a while till Kammie could spoil her with tuna again, assuming she could even get home. On the other hand, Alomar probably had landed on her feet, unlike her master, and could be pretty resourceful when she wanted to be. Several times Kammie had to replace one of the neighbor’s fish when Alomar got the craving for raw sushi.

“Ow! Dammit!” Kammie swore as he slid her hand over something thin and sharp. She pulled back instinctively, but whatever it was had already dug in deep. In the flickering dull light she could see a thin shard of glass, maybe an inch on a side, sticking out from where it had embedded itself in the fatty part of her hand.

The muscles in her hand twitched uncontrollably, sending sharp pains down her fingers and into her wrist. She rolled over onto her side holding her hand above her head. She bit the bottom part of her lip and grabbed the shard carefully with two fingers, easing it out slowly so as not to make the cut any worse. The spasms seemed to trigger with every tiny movement, and she could feel every millimeter of the shard as it slid out. The last quarter-inch slid out quickly followed by a pulse of blood that began to run down her hand. She tossed the shard away angrily and began wrapping her hand with an ace bandage she’d found in room three.

The cut bled slowly. Somehow she’d managed to avoid the artery, but from the twitching she’d definitely done some muscular and possibly nerve damage. She looked in front of her to see dozens of tiny shards from one of the blown out ceiling lights. All things considered, Kammie was fortunate she’d only gotten stuck with one of them. Still, she was probably going to need stitches to properly close the wound, something she didn’t particularly want to do herself.

‘Where the hell are the other nurses?’

She stood tentatively, holding her throbbing hand above her chest to try to slow the bleeding. Each step was careful and deliberate, moving her past her original objective of room seven in favor of the nurses’ lounge just around the corner. Even if they’d been knocked unconscious by the fall, someone should be awake by now.

‘Maybe they just can’t get out,’ she thought.

It took an age to reach the door, and another to push up on the door handle and inch the door open. No sooner had she opened the door six inches when something tore the door out of her hand. Her face was struck by a cool breeze which kicked up the dust and debris around her in a low cloud.

The hospital had been surprisingly generous with its nursing staff. One of the few reasons Kammie spent any time in nurses’ lounge at all was the sky light and floor-to-ceiling windows which featured a great view of downtown. Glass was a funny thing. This building was built to withstand the worst tornadoes and snowy conditions with barely a scratch. But drop a half dozen chairs and a couch on that ceiling, and you’ve got yourself a big gaping hole.

Kammie stared at the hole blankly for a few seconds, then picked up a length of metal framing from the ceiling, bent the end into a hook using her thigh, and pulled the door closed.

* * *

“I have half a mind to sue this place,” Claudia said as she and Bethany dug through cabinets and drawers searching for a first aid kit. “I can understand not having the materials for a splint. I mean, who’s going to break their ankle making donuts, but I can’t even find a damn band-aid!”

Jared was still hazy. He obviously had some kind of a concussion but neither Bethany nor Claudia had any idea how to deal with it other than to try and keep him awake. This proved difficult as Jared seemed to be making every effort to disconnect from reality.

“There’s got to be something out in the mall,” Bethany offered. “They should have a first aid station somewhere.”

“You’re right, though if I remember correctly it’s on the first floor, which is a couple of levels above us now.”

The elevators, assuming they were even working at this point, were glass encased prisms with no floor. The escalators were out as well, unless Bethany could piton her way up through every groove. She vaguely remembered falling off halfway across the monkey bars as a kid. There the worst possible outcome was a few splinters. Here there was no telling how far she’d keep falling if she lost her grip.

Bethany shook her head, “Even if we could get up there, there’s no way we could get Jared up in his current state. What about service stairwells?”

Claudia shrugged, “Someone on the maintenance staff might know. Me, I go in and out the front door just like you. I don’t even use the employee parking, I take the RTA.”

Absently Bethany pressed the call button on her phone, hanging up and trying again as soon as she heard the three-tone alert message.

“You’re just going to drain the battery doing that. The system’ll probably be down for hours,” Claudia offered.

Even as she pressed the call button again, Bethany knew she was right. Why hadn’t she picked up the phone in the first place? What was so important about a damn cup of coffee?

Frustrated she slammed one of the cabinets shut, the force tearing the door off of one of its hinges, leaving it swinging loosely from the other. Claudia assessed the damage with a raised eyebrow.

“Good a solution as any I guess,” she said, tearing the rest of the door away from the cabinet. She put her foot on the seat of one of the plastic chairs and slammed the board down hard against the back. The board cracked and split, and after a couple more whacks broke into two roughly even pieces.

“Hand me some of those uniforms from the back closet over there. We’ll wrap these so Jared doesn’t get tetanus, and use whatever fabric we’ve got left to tie them together.”

The splint was crude but succeeded in keeping Jared’s leg straight, though Bethany had to snap some loose shards of wood so he could put his foot down on the floor.

“He’s still not going anywhere for a little while,” Claudia said. “We might as well see what else we can…”

The sound of gunfire is distinctive. Most lower caliber hand guns don’t set off the loud boom that everyone expects. The real noise is closer to a balloon popping, which in some ways is more frightening. Gunfire sounds more innocuous than it is.

“What the hell is going on out there?” Claudia whispered angrily.

The shots were soon followed by the sound of smashed glass and angry yelling.

“C’mon,” Claudia gestured, crouching low.

With the counter above them, the front of the store offered little in the way of cover. Their only real protection was the fact that a donut shop wasn’t usually the first on anyone’s list when it came to looting.

The shouting was clearly coming from their floor. Claudia and Bethany moved slowly across the aisle and up to the corner. If they were caught, Bethany didn’t have much of a plan beyond screaming, as running back to the donut shop offered fleeting safety at best.

Bethany leaned her head around the corner, then quickly pulled it back, burying her head as close to the wall as possible.

“What do you see?”

Bethany didn’t want to answer and just kept trying to bury herself in the wall. Claudia pushed her back gently and took her own quick look before pulling back as well.

Lying half out of the store window was a young man wearing a store manager’s uniform. He had a thick mustache and was wearing a tie and a whistle like the high-school coaches in movies from the 80‘s and 90‘s. His eyes were open and glassy. Most of his forehead and temples were covered in blood from a deluge of small cuts from the window, and one or several large blows to the head. His chest was dark crimson, the material too wet with blood to show any wound.

Bethany had regained some of her composure just as Claudia was losing hers, “Did you know him?”

Claudia brushed a tear away with her hand and spoke in a whisper, “Not really. I saw him around. He usually liked Boston creams, though who doesn’t like a bit of custard?”

Bethany shook her head, “Sporting goods store, that’s surprisingly smart for a mob mentality. That place has the climbing equipment to get out of the mall and to anywhere else you might need to go. From their attitude toward the store manager I doubt they’ll be too willing to share with us, though.”

“What do we do now?” Claudia asked.

“We’ve got to get out here before those goons start sweeping the rest of this floor. Maybe the emergency exits will work.”

“But what about Jared? There’s no way we can bring him with us,” Claudia said.

Often Bethany suspected that the people around her knew the answers to their own questions, but needed her to say the answer anyway. Her parents were getting a divorce, but they looked to her to make sure they were doing it right. Grace kept fighting with nurses and doctors, but all the while she was waiting for Bethany to say it was okay to let go.

“We have to leave him, at least for now,” Bethany said. “Maybe since he’s hurt they’ll leave him alone.”

Claudia clearly wanted to object. It was part of the social contract of being an uncaring heartless pragmatist that other people get to yell at you about it, before ultimately going along with your plan. Claudia seemed too drained at the moment to care.

“You’re probably right. We can come back down and check on him once we’ve found some supplies and these gangbangers have taken off.”

It was unlikely they were ever coming back to this store again, but if it helped the fiction of their reason for leaving, then that was alright.

Bethany dialed her sister one last time. When again she heard the three-tone message, she held the power button down to turn off the phone.


All text in The Sky Below is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.


Copyright © 2015 Ben Trube

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The Sky Below (Chapter Two)

What would you do if your world turned upside down?

Every other Thursday I’ll be presenting the next chapter in my serialized novella, The Sky Below. You can read the first chapter of the story here or you can download the up-to-date novella from the Internet Archive in a variety of tablet and eReader friendly formats.

Full Novella (Chapters 1-2) [MOBI, EPUB, PDF]

Chapter 1 [PDF]

Chapter 2 [PDF]

Comments and questions are always welcome. Enjoy!



Eddie fought the impulse to scramble for the edge of the dugout. Against all logic his mind was telling him that he would fall just like Alfonso if he went over that edge. The weightlessness had passed and gravity had reasserted itself, but in the wrong direction. This had to be some kind of sick dream. Maybe the last pitch hadn’t sailed by him after all.

Yeah, that was it. He’d been hit in the skull and this was just a concussion induced nightmare. Eddie shook his head wildly, trying to shake reality back into something sensible.

But the pain in his shoulder was real; it felt like he’d come down with his full weight. He swung his left arm across his body and rolled onto his belly. Something about burying his face in the cement ceiling made this all a little less surreal. Sub-consciously he knew the bench was somewhere above his head, but he was trying not to think about it. The open air over the edge taunted him just a few inches away, and against the protests of his body he nudged himself forward.

The wind nearly blew the cap off Eddie’s head as he inched his nose over the side. The ceiling was on a slight incline toward the back wall, so he was able to still any immediate thoughts of falling. He looked down cautiously, then snapped his head back violently at what he saw. The sky was maddeningly blue, the clouds moving perceptively but leisurely despite the gusting inside the stadium. It looked like any one of dozens of lazy summer afternoons spent lying on his back looking up; except now he was on his belly looking down.

Eddie eased backward, breathing out slowly as he moved. He rested his chin on his hands and looked across the stadium. The stands were mostly empty, though a few people were swinging precariously from railings or clinging to the backs of their seats. Most fell after a few seconds, falling quietly below his line of sight. A few were followed by a sickening thump, the sound of their bodies hitting the upper decks or the pavilion shell.

He watched helplessly as a mother reached out for her two children. The daughter had managed to weave herself through the bars at the edge of the field, but the son was too far away. In his right hand he wore a baseball glove and was trying to grip tightly to a chair, but Eddie could see his hand was slipping. He wanted to shout, to tell the kid to ditch the glove and get a better grip, but it was too late.

The glove slipped, and the kid’s right arm hung uselessly at his side. The effort of trying to hold himself up had probably exhausted him. He dangled loosely for another few seconds before his left hand gave out. The mother tried to reach for him but he was already gone. She turned to look across the field and for a brief instant her eyes met Eddie’s. Then, without a sound, she let go of the chair and dropped out of view.

Movement to his right drew Eddie’s attention, and he turned to see a young man trying to shove his way past a middle-aged man and his wife. The older man was heavy, but strong, and was not about to yield an inch of ground. Eddie closed his eyes, and when he heard the thump a few seconds later he didn’t look to see who’d won.

He buried his head in his hands and cried silently, not wanting to see any more.

“Eddie?” He felt a warm hand against his right calf. He bent his knees and rolled back onto his side. The speaker put a strong arm around his back and helped him toward the wall. The rear of the dugout was a mess, a pile of bats and helmets and other random bits of detritus.

Eddie opened his eyes to see his teammate, Manny, who up till this point hadn’t said a word to him in weeks. ‘Guess there’s no reason to worry about my slump rubbing off anymore,’ he thought.

“Are you alright?” Manny asked.

“I’m fine. I just hit my shoulder. You okay?”

Manny nodded, “Banged my shoulder pretty good too.”

The rest of the lineup were scattered against the back wall. Some hung their feet over the side, while others crouched down, pressing as close to the back wall as possible. The whole scene was playing out before them in panoramic view, but nobody wanted to look at it for very long, choosing instead to huddle together in groups of two or three.

Eddie looked over at Franklin, who was puking his guts out in the far corner. He’d been next at bat and would have been standing in the on deck circle if he hadn’t had to re-lace his shoes. Their coach had been standing at the end of the steps, leaning against the pads on the railing and making his wishes known to the base coaches. Eddie hadn’t seen him fall, but he didn’t see him here either. It was ridiculous the difference a couple of steps made.

“This isn’t some x-man thing, right?” Manny said, breaking the silence.

“Excuse me?” Eddie said.

“Like the end of that one movie. That magnetic dude picked up RFK stadium and dropped it next to the White House.”

“What’d he do that for?” Eddie asked, relieved for any kind of distraction.

Manny shook his head. “I’m not sure. I mean it’s impressive like, flying through the middle of DC carrying a big building. But then he just drops it to keep people out who might spoil his plans. If you need a wall, why don’t you just make one out of metal?”

“I don’t know,” Eddie said, “I’ve never seen that movie.”

“You think we’re flying, Eddie?”

“I don’t know.”

‘God I hope so,’ he thought. At least if some telepathic force was picking them up, it could put them down again.

His thoughts were broken by the sound of wrenching metal from somewhere below. He’d been able to tune out the individual screams, but the collective wail beneath his feet was impossible to ignore. He scooted up from his crouch and looked over the edge again.

Below, the solar pavilion had torn itself away from its moorings and was curving outward like a long ribbon. All along its ridged surface people clung desperately, trying to climb as the metal tore away faster and faster. One would lose their grip, and knock down the three below them. They were all fighting a losing battle.

The noise went on for countless minutes, the tear growing longer, twisting in the wind and bucking savagely. The stadium below the dugout shook and for a moment Eddie was afraid their tiny perch would be pulled down as well.

But then, just as quickly as the noise had begun, it stopped.

* * *

Kammie looked up at her feet and wondered where the hell she had put her shoes. The rest of her was covered in boxes, and she felt thin metal cutting dully into her back and shoulders. Her head rested on top of something that felt like thick cork board that cracked as she turned her head.

At first she thought she had lost her balance and knocked over one of the shelves. She groaned at the thought of all the noise she must have made. There was no way she was going to get this mess cleaned up before one of her supervisors found her.

But as her memory returned her brain offered up another suggestion; one neither of them was too happy about. She remembered floating for the briefest of moments, and could recall her feet leaving the floor. What she couldn’t remember was if she’d fallen back down again.

Suddenly Kammie was more thankful for the darkness than she had ever been in all those solitude seeking moments. Her back and shoulders were telling her that what she was laying on felt a lot more like the ceiling frame than the tile floor.

‘Alright,’ she thought, ‘the ceiling’s collapsed. The building’s only a few years old but maybe there were some material flaws.’

She slid one of the tiles aside with her hand and probed for the floor below, but instead felt textured metal. She wasn’t certain, but it felt like the plating above the ceiling. If the ceiling had fallen on her, then the plating would be sitting on top, or still be hanging from the ceiling.

So what was hanging above her?

Her senses were feeding her information in small pieces, knowing that she needed time to comprehend the full reality of the situation. She pushed down, the tiles bending under her weight until they met the plating. She put her arms behind her and slid backward, moving her legs down carefully from where they’d been elevated. The frame had collapsed to the plating around her head and upper back, but the rest was still about a foot and half in the air.

Kammie pulled her knees up under her chin and breathed in slowly. She polled her hearing for information next, trying to recall if there had been any kind of rumbling or shaking that might account for this upside down closet. Northeast Ohio had been getting some minor earthquakes lately, supposedly due to fracking in Pennsylvania, but the worst of that hadn’t registered above a 4 or a 5 on the Richter scale.

The floor, or ceiling, below her was perfectly level. If the building had collapsed or even toppled over she’d be on some kind of an angle. But the room had been flipped 180 degrees.

It was the sound of someone yelling that broke her out of her thoughts. Unless she was dreaming, and that was a real possibility, this room wasn’t likely to be the only one that had gone topsy-turvy. She grunted as she pulled herself onto her feet, assuring herself that some of the cracks she was hearing were coming from the tiles and not just her knees. She brushed off some of the accumulated dust, and ran a hand along her back where the metal had been pressing in. She felt no obvious cuts, at least where she could reach, though she was bruised in a couple of places.

She took a tentative first step, and nearly fell back onto her hands as the frame caught her below the knee. Most of the tiles had fallen out of the frame, but a few clung on stubbornly. It was almost like walking through a foot of snow. Sometimes the material was packed enough that Kammie could stand and pull herself forward, only for her next step to sink her down again. After a few minutes of this, Kammie reluctantly determined that the best way through was to crawl underneath the frame on her hands and knees.

After another couple of minutes of crawling like this, poking her head up every couple of feet to make sure she was still heading toward the door, Kammie reached the far wall. The handle of the door was a little above eye level. She reached up and pulled down, but the handle wouldn’t move. Panic seeped in for a few fleeting seconds as Kammie thought she might be trapped in this room.

She pushed up on the handle and the door swung open.

Kammie crawled over the doorframe, the ridged metal pushing into her stomach. She hung half-way through for a couple of seconds before falling back below the tiles, like a fish diving below the surface of the water. She stood angrily, breaking through the tiles above her head and plastering her hair with dust and cobwebs. She cupped a hand to her mouth and shouted, “Anybody alive out there?”

“Over here!” a faint woman’s shout came from about fifty feet down the hall. “I’ve got someone hurt!”

Kammie crouched down below the surface of the tiles, crawling for about thirty feet before bumping up against a wall. The voice was coming from the direction of the visitors lounge, and the ceiling abruptly changed to smooth, thick plaster. Kammie surfaced and crawled up slowly, spreading herself wide to distribute her weight evenly. She moved forward a few feet at a time by alternately kicking with her feet and pulling with her shoulders, like someone crawling across a frozen lake.

The young woman was leaning against a pillar and pressing her sleeve against the forehead of a woman in her fifties. The older woman’s face was obscured so that Kammie didn’t recognize who it was until she was right in front of her.

Margaret Benson had been one of the nursing staff who had first interviewed her, and had been the one who gave Kammie that nick-name. Her full name was Kamyra, and for most of her life she’d been insistent that others pronounce it fully and correctly. But whenever Margaret had called her Kammie it had sounded warm and affectionate. When Kammie had tentatively called her Margie for the first time she’d been treated to a smile so wide it nearly made her giggle.

Margie’s breathing was shallow, and she’d lost consciousness. Kammie felt for a pulse, but it was thin and weak.

She looked up to the young woman who was fighting back tears. She was cradling Margaret in her lap, her one arm pressing down, and the other lightly stroking her cheek. Kammie had remembered seeing the young woman around the floor for the past couple of weeks, mostly in room 3, mostly arguing with the other members of the nursing staff. It never ceased to amaze her how hard and how fervently people fought to control uncontrollable things.

“Can you lift your arm?” Kammie asked, putting a comforting hand on the woman’s shoulder. She nodded, and Kammie tore the sleeve off her scrubs. Margaret was going to need antibiotics either way for the infection, and getting the bleeding contained had to be the priority.

“What’s your name?” Kammie said as she started to work.

“Grace. I was trying to call my sister before…”

Kammie nodded, “I know. I’m not sure what to call it either.”

Grace shook her head, “No, it’s not that. My mother’s sick.”

Kammie tied off the dressing. The bleeding was starting to slow down, and Margie’s breathing seemed a little better, but Kammie was still concerned. She looked up to see that Grace had started to cry.

“I just wanted her to hear Bethany’s voice one last time,” Grace said.

Kammie put an arm around Grace’s shoulder, and the young woman buried her head in her chest.


All text in The Sky Below is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.


Copyright © 2015 Ben Trube

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Where My Character Lives

The campaign for Surreality ends November 14th 2015. Vote at the link below, and get a free copy if Kindle Press decides to publish it:



This morning I’m writing to you from the Einstein Bros in downtown Columbus. I’m on jury duty for the rest of the week, so it’s a bit of a change in routine for me. I’m not a giant fan of real rush hour traffic (I drive in the “opposite” direction for my regular job) so I’ve been getting down here pretty early, which gives me time to walk around and take in this city I’m trying to write about.

downtown commission

I’ve lived in Columbus for 23 years, since I was five years old, but in many ways the downtown is a mystery to me. Columbus is really three cities: downtown, OSU Campus, and the suburbs. Some of those suburbs are now the “exurbs”, a mixed conglomeration of municipalities and jurisdictions with no clear government to appeal to for services. OSU Campus culture bleeds into everywhere, as this is a town obsessed with college football. And the downtown area is going through a revival, with the Columbus Commons, Scioto Mile and potentially a new Vets Memorial, this is an exciting time to be living in this city.

I’ve placed my character in the Short North, an area between Campus and Downtown, the perfect blend of both cultures with the cosmopolitan hipster attitude on the one hand, and the arts, cheap bars, and good food of the other. Even getting him a good cup of coffee is tricky, as he’s decidedly not a “hipster” and yet he isn’t going to stoop to White Castle coffee. The more I write him, the more I wonder exactly why he’s living where he is, and yet it’s the “fish out of water” quality (even in his own home) that I think will help him be a good surrogate for the reader in getting to know “my city”.

Columbus is the state capitol, home of a nationally talked about (if not national championship playing) football team, and a world-class university. It’s got one of the largest Somali refugee populations of any American city, and is one of the more gay friendly cities, especially in the midwest. And Ohio’s a swing state in elections so we’re talked about nationally at least once every four years.

I started with writing Sci Fi, and I will continue to come back to it. But one of the joys of working on this mystery has been the excuse to research where I live, to really become a native as opposed to someone who just lives here. It’s a different kind of work. Instead of making everything up from scratch, I’m doing a lot of research, walking the streets with Google maps, looking up websites, and taking pictures wherever I can.

Every city has a story, every city has a culture. And I’m happy I’m setting my story here, and not in New York, Washington, LA or San Francisco. One day I might even write about Youngstown, which back in the day was Bombtown, USA. This is a territory mystery writers have been treading for a while, writing the city they know, giving readers an authentic view of their world. Hopefully, you’ll get some of that from me when you finally read Surreality.

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It’s Morning In Ohio

Dispatches from a battleground state:

– I sip my Canadian coffee and eat a maple donut and think, “this might not be so bad.”

– I miss the old days, when the Olentangy river used to catch fire. Maybe I’ll get to see them again.

– Someone on the phone asks me who I’m voting for and I answer in Klingon. I’ve either said “Your mother’s a targ” or “ahead warp factor one.”

– We’re the state that elected Jim Trafficant. You sure you want us picking the president?

– No matter who wins in January, our defensive coach is probably out of a job.

– A recent NPR news story says that for every hour spent sitting, your lifespan is shortened by as much as 22 minutes. That means not only did I lose 4.5 hours of my time to the debates, but an hour and a half of my life.

– We eat buckeyes here, but they’re made of chocolate and peanut butter. The real ones will kill you.

– You may be targeting white males with ads during our Buckeye game, but I’m gonna get a beer.

– Our secretary of state fought in-person early voting. He lost.

– We hope both of you pick up after yourselves after rallying so hearty these last couple of weeks.

– O-H

Have a good day America.

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