Photographs: Chapter 1

Russell looked down at the photograph in his hand.  The image was old, yellowed, and wrinkled.  He looked up again.  In the photo, the building had been a bar, with sign of active light.  The colors were faded, and it had been uninhabited for probably a decade.  Yet it was the same building.  The angle of the mountain behind it was right, and the trim around the windows was dingy and battered but recognizable.  At some point, over twenty years ago, his father had stood in this very same spot.

Carefully, he tucked the photograph away and took another look around.  The coffee shop on the other corner was clearly of newer construction, but the bookstore across the street looked like it has been there for centuries.  He took a deep breath, and headed over.

He was pulling his phrase book from his pocket when the man behind the counter gave him an annoyed look.  “I speak English.”  His accent was thick, but the words were intelligible.

“Thank you.”  Russell smiled.  He hesitated a moment, then pointed.  “Do you know anything about the bar that used to be just across there?”

The man gave him a considering look.  “It closed five years ago, after the fire.  Why?”

A fire.  Naturally.  The first real lead he had, and it caught fire.  Russell exhaled.  “My father visited this area before I was born.  He liked the bar enough to have some photos of it.”  Russell shrugged.  “Thought I’d stop in for a drink while I was in the area.”

Something briefly flickered across the man’s face, and he gave Russell another look.  “This is a bit off the path for tourists.”

Alright, the guy was willing to chat a bit.  Or maybe he was bored.  The shop was otherwise as empty as the street.  “Yeah.  I had a hard time finding it on the map.  I, uh…”  He swallowed.  “My father, he uh, he died.”  At least that was the assumption.  “When I was ten.  I thought I’d retrace his footsteps, see…”

“Finding a connection.”  The man’s face warmed a little, and he offered his hand.  “Otto.”

“Russell.”  He accepted the handshake.  “Yeah, that’s the intention.  Can you, uh…”  He smiled.  “What made the bar special?”

Otto twitched his shoulder.  “Beer was good.  But uh…”  Otto took a deep breath, then brushed an imaginary speck of dust off his counter.  “Mostly it catered to a particular sort of crowd.”

“What kind of crowd?”  Russell raised an eyebrow.  His mother said his father had been a soldier once.  “Military?”

“Some, but uh…”  Otto shifted his feet a little awkwardly.  “It attracted those of a certain persuasion.”


The other man gave him an annoyed look.  “Men with preferences.”

“Prefer…”  The wheels clicked in his mind, and he felt himself start to blush.  “Oh.”  He winced.  “Oh.”

“Mmm.”  Otto nodded.

“I don’t suppose you know anyone that…”  He winced again.

“That sort tended to want to go unnoticed.”  Otto shook his head.  Then he frowned.  “Though the landlord that rented it to the bar is still around.  Not sure what you’re looking for, exactly, but he might be able to let you in to take a look if you ask politely.”  He started looking around the counter, then after a moment produced a business card.

“Thank you.”  Russell accepted it.  “Uh…”  He looked around.  “If you’ve got a book on the history of the area…”

“It’s not in English.”  Otto smiled as he led Russell to a shelf.

“I’ve got google translate.”  Russell accepted the tome and paid.  Then he tucked the book away before heading back to his vehicle.



Awaakan – June 30th, 2012

11:04 AM

Lyle walked along the side of the bluff, singing to himself and occasionally kicking a rock to tumble down below. The bottle swinging carelessly from his hand was about two-thirds empty. He was happily mangling a Beatles song when he caught sight of someone laying near the abandoned storage facility.

He swigged another gulp, then started walking over to get a better look. As he came down the path, the bottle fell from his fingers and rolled down, coming to rest by a hubcap. He stumbled over and dropped to his knees, feeling for a pulse. He placed his hands to start doing compressions before realization penetrated his fogged mind. He fumbled his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed.

“911, what is your emergency?”

“She’s dead,” he babbled. “She’s dead she’s really dead.”

“Lyle? Is that you?”

“At Mel’s storage. She’s dead. Send somebody, she’s dead she’s really dead,” he kept repeating.


Awaakan : Prologue

Ice coated blades of grass crunched beneath his bare feet as he ran.  He kept the moon on his left, praying that if he kept going in the same direction he’d eventually run into a road or trail that would take him to safety.  Isaac stumbled to a halt, catching himself on a tree.  Thankfully, it wasn’t far below freezing, though the air was cold enough to stab at his lungs.  Barefoot and wearing nothing but tattered jeans, he needed to find shelter.

Unfortunately, that was the least of his problems.  Isaac surveyed the darkness behind him.  The moonlight reflected off the icy ground.  He wasn’t sure if it were April, or still March.  He looked down, and let out a few curses.  The frozen ground had opened cuts on his feet, and he was leaving a trail of bloody footprints.

A twig snapped.  Isaac shook his head as he grimaced and started moving again.  The twig had snapped for no reason other than his pursuer wanted Isaac to know he was there.

There, ahead, lights.  A thorn cut a shallow gash in his arm as Isaac pushed his way through the brush.  His feet nearly slid out from under him as he stumbled onto the icy concrete of the parking lot.  The lights were headlights.  A security vehicle.

“What the…?”  An older man in a guard uniform was coming toward him.  The guard started drawing a sidearm.  “Are you alright?”

“Please…”  Isaac kept moving.  He’d made it three steps out of the woods when a hand came down on his shoulder and halted his progress.  He tried to twist away, and was yanked back.  Another hand wrapped around his head and clamped down over his mouth.  The hand on his shoulder shifted to grab his wrist and twist his arm up behind him.

The guard blinked in confusion.  “Sir?”  The sidearm was still half draw.

“Just a trespasser.”  His captor’s voice was calm.  Isaac began struggling in the man’s grip.

“A tress –” The guard started shaking his head.

“A trespasser.”  The man’s voice was firm.  “Just a trespasser getting what trespassers deserves.  Don’t worry about it.”

Isaac’s eyes widened in terror as the guard gave a blank nod before sliding the sidearm back into its holster.  “Don’t worry about it.  Just a trespasser getting what trespassers deserve.”

He thrashed in the man’s iron grip and tried shouting protests through the hand clamped over his mouth as he was dragged back into the woods.