New Fiction – “Number Four” (and excerpt)

Cover image for the novel Number Four

I’m glad to finally announce that my second book, Number Four, is now available for Kindle.  Other formats are on their way.  If you’ve been keeping pace with my progress on MOROCCO, here it is at last.

And now, time for an excerpt:

* * * * *

Lin broke from a space-out session when the trucks pulled to a lurching halt. She’d been thinking about the orientation she was missing. Dorm room assignments. How the cafeteria account worked. That kind of stuff.

The soldiers keeping guard over them hopped out of the transport and gestured for them to do the same. Another pit stop.

What a shitty way to spend a Saturday.

Stops came infrequently, probably four or more hours apart. Time was hard to judge when she didn’t have a watch and all there was to do was stare at the metal floor of the transport, out the back of the vehicle at the endless spread of bright sand and rock. Or daydream. She hadn’t dared take Apollo out of her backpack for fear they’d take him. Each stop was a welcome chance to walk and stretch. Her butt hurt from hours on a hard bench and her back was sore from no support. Long sleeve shirt in hand, she shuffled along the bench to the back.

When she jumped out, she judged her exit from the truck a bit wrong. Her tank top caught on a bolt that protruded from the frame and tore.

Paul stood stretching a few steps away. Lin poked a finger through the hole in her favorite purple shirt and the flap of fabric that still remained. The shirt itself was old and faded and wasn’t fit for much other than the mall or hanging out around the house, so it wasn’t a great loss. Might even still be wearable—comfort was no slave to fashion.

As she came up next to Paul, she realized that she couldn’t even say where the nearest mall was. A hundred miles away? A thousand? Clothing stores and pretzel stands were another world away. If she hadn’t been so hell-bent on rocking the boat of life, she might have even been at the mall right then, spending early birthday money. Hell.

No chance yet to talk to Paul about tomorrow. Poor guy had looked so depressed in the last village that she couldn’t bring herself to mention it. A little late to say anything now. Pity would only make it worse.

The sun slipped lower in the sky. Bright blue began to fade to purple and red around the edges of the horizon. Looking at the sand was no longer excruciating due to glare, and so she stared down at the sand and rock beneath her feet. If she closed her eyes, she could almost pretend she was at the beach, if it weren’t for the state of her body and the foreign shouts of the men around her. Strange how sand could be the same so far away.

A breeze picked up, rippling goosebumps along her skin. She ignored the idea that the goosebumps were partly due to the vast emptiness that engulfed them. They were surrounded by nothing, but it hid them all the same. How would anyone ever find them out here?

She pulled her long sleeve shirt on. Earlier in the day, the shirt was protection against the sun that beat down relentlessly. As day slipped into evening, it was protection against the chill breezes that picked up. It’d also help cover the hole in her shirt.

The wad of rolled-up bills and Paul’s memory card were an itchy, sweaty mess between her breasts, but she dared not reach in to adjust them. She followed Paul’s gaze to a spot on the horizon but saw nothing. Maybe he wasn’t even actually looking.

A guard called to her and gestured. She followed.

Another reason for the stops were restroom breaks. If that was what they could be called. One guard would take her somewhere out of sight, then turn around while she dropped her pants and squatted as best as possible. There wasn’t too much need, considering the little they had to drink, but her body managed to produce some kind of moisture each time.

Lin was in the middle of just such a thing for the second time that day, more just in case than any real need—not like she could call out for a stop at the next highway exit—when she looked down and saw the tear in her shirt.

She didn’t have breadcrumbs, but she could leave something.

Her guard still had his back turned. Her current predicament probably meant he wouldn’t turn around until she signaled she was through. Still, she had to be careful. One hand grabbed the little flap of torn fabric, and with the other she grabbed the rest of her shirt. With a fit of fake coughing to hopefully provide some cover, she tore.

A quick toss sent the scrap flying into a nearby shrub. The faded purple fabric looked completely out of place and pretty pathetic, resting as it was in a snarl of brush twigs two inches above the sand, but at least it was something. Any victory was a victory, no matter how small.

She finished up and signaled the guard. Shirt crumbs had little use out here, especially when the first one started in the middle of nowhere, but hope was all she had, and as she climbed back into the truck, it felt good to have done something.

At each stop, she added another scrap.

* * * * *

Number Four

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