This is a blog about comics, books, movies and politics that will be updated whenever I damn well feel like it. My writing website is here. Visit it. Or not.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Taste of Tomorrow

Just to whet your appetite for the new site, here's a taste of the opening chapter of Until Tomorrow.

There are some things man was not meant to know. That's where I come in. My name is Tom F. Sure and I'm starting to hate my job.

I was huddled in bar that's never been all that kind to me, trying hard to forget. A wheezing radiator huffed away along the far wall, barely keeping the bitter cold at bay. Sleet hammered the One Eye In's oak door and a shrieking wind rattled the dirty windows in their frames.

The radiator in the corner of the In changed to a syncopated beat, like a drummer experiencing a severely altered consciousness. Every few minutes, the beat of the radiator synchronized with the sleet pelting the windows. The fluid sound faded too quickly into a discordant mess, pretty much typical of my life.

An empty glass sat on the scarred bar surface in front of me. Something small and black with an odd number of legs scuttled unsteadily away from the amber droplet running down the outside of the glass. I made introductions. Bug, thumb. Thumb, bug.

"Fill it again, One Eye." I reached under the bar and scraped my thumbnail clean.

My last job had ended badly. Too much blood and too many broken wet things had littered the ground during the last couple of days. I needed time to forget, to unclench my brain from around the bloody dagger of the past week.

In my damaged state I could only think of one place to go, so I crawled to the One Eye In. Even though he's a successful bar owner now, One Eye never could spell worth a damn. He could have meant it as a pun, but I don't see One Eye as being quite that subtle. He bought the place a couple of decades ago after I convinced him to sell his recipe for long pork to a national fast-food conglomerate.

Of course, One Eye defined success a little differently than most. He's got a place to go when he's not sleeping, a roof to sleep under and, if he's lucky, the occasional obnoxious drunk to bounce around.

One-Eye looked up from the magazine he'd been reading at the other end of the bar and glared at me. Having only the one eye in the middle of his forehead makes his face hard to read for some people. Not me, though. I've had a lot of practice. He wasn't happy.

He stood up and rolled his shoulders. Stiff, black hair poked through the mesh undershirt he wore. At some point, the shirt had been white. Probably. One-Eye's long strides ate up the distance between us in under a second. Along the way, his hairy hand snagged a suspect bottle of whiskey from in front of the mirror. At seven-foot-six-inches, he's shrunk a bit over the years, but he still towered over me by a good two feet.

Looming's one of the things One-Eye is best at, so he practiced in front of me. I did my best to give him a good looming under, but, as always, it never quite worked. That sour smell that rose from his pores always drove me back before I could get off a good loom.

"You an old friend, Tom," he growled. His breath washed over me, garlic and rotten onions and things best not guessed at, and it was all I could do to keep from flinching "So I not thump you this time. My name is Phemus. Use dat name."

I tapped the glass in front of me in what I hoped was a significant manner. I knew I shouldn't, but I had to follow up. It's my nature. I waved a hand in the general direction of the front door and the sign hanging down over the other side of said door, not even bothering to gesture about the green neon eye blazing in the window.

"Hey, if you didn't want people to call you One Eye, why'd you pick that name for your place?"

He shrugged his massive shoulders and scratched at his one eyebrow.

"Is for advertising purpose," he said. "And dat only. Name recogniz... recog –nit –shun."

Since he chose that moment to slop some of the alleged Jim Beam into my glass, I let it go. It wasn't worth the effort.

One Eye nodded as if that made everything clear and thumped back to the latest issue of _Jugs_, a pottery magazine he'd left on the bar. I held the whiskey up to the light and marveled that I could almost see all the way through.

That was when I got the call.

The top of the whiskey burst into flame, flickering blue light through the cracked crystal of the glass. Now, that wasn't something that happened every day. I get most of my jobs over the phone or in my rat-hole of an office. Still, knowing the sort of showoff I sometimes work for, I wasn't surprised.

One Eye looked up from his magazine, longing and maybe just a little hope plastered across his ugly mug.

"Sorry," I said and lowered the glass back to the bar. "It's for me."


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