Sample Chapter of My Horror Novel, The Not

Chapter 1

Don’s life: a series of blessings that had been taken away — no wonder he was an atheist.

     Just after midnight, at the Holiday Inn in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, he worked his way through the glass doors and ignored a group of Disneyesque poor little rich kids that giggled in the corner. The boys resembled transvestites, and the girls, though wan, were gorgeous, trying to look like women.

     On the way from Chicago, along Historic Route 66, Don had chuckled at all the movies, TV shows and songs inspired by the highway. Still, it was awesome that one could drive from Illinois to California by following one road. He’d bet his gas money that a lot of musicians, actors and actresses had struck it rich by taking this highway to Hollywood, though a bigger percentage had probably become faces in the crowd, part of the growing homeless population.

     There’s a cheery thought. What do you know? Half-full. It could be worse.

     He strode up to the front desk, helping the many people over the years to wear out the carpet as the bright light of the chandelier cast him an eerie shadow. Typical — he had to wait in line.

     His thoughts returned to the large number of scary-ass motherfuckers that had littered the highway. He’d heard about this bunch from a co-worker who’d been a traveling man when he’d been young. Apparently, they made a living by offering “services” on the road, everything from window cleaning and selling junk to ho-bags offering blowjobs, a clusterfuck of wrinkled yellow-toothed degenerates looking just “fetching” in their way-past-rotting Goodwill dregs. Don had steered clear of them.           

      The token blonde in a snappy suit raised her eyes to him. “Room for one, sir?”

     “I’m afraid so.” Don handed her his credit card.

     A man with short cropped hair, a goatee and an average build stuffed into a black dress shirt and pants of a similar absence of color leaned on the counter. He was too close for Don’s comfort, and out of the corner of his eye, Don spotted the guy looking him up and down, probably sizing him up.

     The stranger said, “Pretty, ain’t she?”

     “She’s lovely,” Don answered.

     The man slammed his fist on the counter. “Not flirtin with my girl, are ya?”

     The blonde’s eyes snapped toward Don’s new “buddy.” “Butch, go away.” Her voice had dropped a couple of octaves.

     Don’s new life just kept getting better and better. Earlier, he’d stopped at a fast-food joint called Brave New Woof, and he’d been brave indeed — he’d tried an ostrich burger. Don couldn’t have been more disappointed when he’d seen an obvious Native-American teen with long hair black-as-pitch adorned in a Krisiun shirt (whomever Krisiun was), jeans and high top tennies hop out of a Camaro with a tanned blonde climbing out of the passenger side.

     No shortage of wampum there, Don had thought.

     Stopping at the restaurant proved to be a mistake.

     Don had nodded at the young man.“Whasup?”

     From the blonde, the stink eye.

     The Native American had chimed in with, “Fuck off, faggot.”   

     Wow, it’s nice to be wanted.

     Rage had brewed inside Don and it overflowed. He’d countered with, “I’m not gay, but if I was, what’s the big deal? Why do you have to be such a punk?” 

     The young man hissed as his girlfriend giggled, then it was their turn to order.

     When Don had sat down to eat, the ostrich-burger combo was the most delicious-but-joyless meal he’d ever had. Getting even hadn’t made him feel any better, just made him feel small. He’d stooped to the young man’s level.

     I hate to even think this since we stole their country, Don had thought, but it wasn’t me that took it: I wish that kid death.

     After the meal, Don had gotten back in his car and decided to seek out a hotel and quit while he was behind, ready for a good night’s sleep before his job interview in the morning. He’d driven for twenty-four hours, anxious to put the trip — along with the view of corn and beans turning into desert and fuck me — behind him.

      Jesus, how many assholes do you meet in your first night in New Mexico?

     Now, Butch sighed. “Go away, my ass,” he told his girl. “We’re goin to my place in ten minutes, remember?” He clapped Don on the back too hard. “You hear me, buddy? She’s goin home with me.”

     Don turned to Butch. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the Disneyesque kids gawking at the spectacle.

     I’m too tired, frustrated and angry to deal with this calmly right now.

     “Look, I’m just getting a room,” Don said. “I’d appreciate it if you’d leave me alone. No one’s trying to steal your girl. And back up a step or two, would you?”

     Butch threw his hands up. “Excuse me.” He motioned toward Don. “Go ahead. Get your room.” 

     The woman, whose name Don now read was “Louise,” handed him his credit card and his key card. She smiled, showing off immaculate teeth. “Here you go. You’re in two-oh-six.”

     Well, just broadcast it over the loudspeaker, why don’t you?

     Don forced himself to smile. “Thank you.” He tried to walk away with dignity.

     Butch kicked him in the ass, then acted as if he’d bumped into him. “Oh, sorry.”

     Don wheeled on him, trying his best to fork him the evil eye. He threw a punch, but Butch ducked.

     “Missed!” Butch said. 

     Don turned to Louise. “All right, I want to speak to the manager.”

     “Thanks a lot,” Louise said to Butch. She gritted her teeth and disappeared behind the counter.

     A young man with black glasses, short black hair and a slight body approached the desk. He smiled, and his nametag said he was Brick. “Can I help you?”

     Don pointed Butch out, though the latter had backed up a few steps. “I checked in, and this man, apparently Louise’s boyfriend, accused me of trying to steal her, then roughed me up. I’m about to ask for my money back and go to another hotel.”

     Butch snickered. 

     Brick said to Butch, “I’m going to ask you to leave once, then I’m calling the police.”

     Butch hissed and made for the door. “Whatever.”

     Brick said to Louise, “I’ve told you not to have your boyfriend here. Clock out and don’t come back.”

     Don thought that a little harsh, even after what he’d just been through. Louise wept and stomped to where the time clock waited.

     “I’m very sorry, sir,” Brick said. “It won’t happen again.”

     “Thank you,” Don answered. “But did you have to fire her?”

     Brick sighed. “This has happened over and over. I’ve tried to be patient with her, but she needs to learn to separate her love life from her work life. I apologize.”

     Don nodded and walked to his room.

     Poor girl. But why do babes always choose jerks? That guy’s lucky I didn’t kick his ass right in front of those poor little rich kids. I hope he gets in an auto accident and dies.

     He pushed the elevator button for the second floor. The gang of kids joined him in front of the elevator, waving. “Hi,” they said.

     Don smiled. “How are you?”

     Probably just great.

     “Fine,” they answered.

     The elevator binged. Don went inside with them. He took a deep breath while Muzak assailed his ears. The elevator stopped on his floor, and he was relieved when the kids ran off through the halls.

     Don thanked goodness his Dodge Shadow, a beater car that broke down too much, had made the trip without dying. Still, any car was better than no car. But his hopes had once again been crushed when he’d cruised through Laguna, formerly the Pueblo Reservation, according to the Internet. Don had looked it up on his smartphone.

     A country we stole from the American Indians — In God We Trust — yeah, right.  

     Instead of finding Injuns banging on tom-toms, he’d found the city of Old Laguna — powered by the fucking casino — and the modern suburbs of New Laguna. Don had suspected as much.

     He let himself into the room. The typical comfy bed, plush carpet, widescreen TV and desk stared back at him. He went into the bathroom to take a leak, and as he washed his hands, he glanced at his face in the mirror, not looking half as haggard as he’d expected. He smiled at his still-youthful look. He’d had buddies who’d lost their hair at thirty; Don’s short brown hair showed no grays, and his face had no wrinkles. His square jaw made him look as if he could handle himself.

     Now all I need is a dimpled chin. 

     Don wondered if he should get his hopes up this time. He’d found an opportunity with Intel’s testing division on a hot job website. The perks of working there were incredible: they had their own state-of-the-art fitness centers, including personal trainers; sports courts and fields, plus softball teams; indoor recreation amenities, including billiards, foosball and ping pong; massage services; cafes with free fruit, drinks and popcorn, plus discounted meals; family fun nights if he ever got married and had kids; and more. Tired of the cruel winters in Chicago, he’d heard of the dry heat in Arizona and figured New Mexico was close enough for rock ‘n’ roll. So, here he was, in Rio Rancho for yet another “opportunity.” He sure as hell hoped so. 

     Fuck it. Giving up is for losers. Lie to yourself, man.

     Don turned away from the mirror, walked into the room proper and lit a cigarette as he sat on the bed. The large expanse of desert had grated on his nerves on the way down here, but he’d loved the view of the mountains, a breathtaking sight. In Illinois, there were only hills. Don coughed because of the poisonous cigarette. He reflected on how he hadn’t needed to turn on the air conditioning since crossing the border to Arizona. The late-July sun and lack of humidity was just — smooch your fingers — perfect-o.  

     He found himself yawning, so he stubbed the “peace pipe” into the ash tray.

     A shower would be nice, but all I want is sleep.

     He stripped out of his polo shirt and khakis. He pulled the covers aside, then jumped underneath. At least he’d had one victory tonight, so Don was able to enjoy the silky sheets and the soft mattress that had beckoned within.

     After a half hour of some sort of lesbian fest upstairs — complete with banging on the ceiling — Don hopped out of bed and grabbed the remote, then flicked on the television. He watched a dirty movie and decided the take advantage of the mute button. He rubbed one out.

     That always helped him sleep. Tonight was no exception.


     As Don was getting dressed the next morning, he turned on the television. The newscaster reported of a horrible car accident in Rio Rancho the previous night. This tragedy just happened to involve a young Native-American man driving a Camaro into a pedestrian; the driver hadn’t seen him, then had run into a semi.

     The pictures that flashed on the screen were the long-haired kid in the Krisiun shirt and his blond girlfriend, along with Butch.  

     Oh, my God.

     Butch had been struck by the car, then run over. They’d found his limbs sticking out at all the wrong angles, and his face had caved in. The semi hit the long-haired young man on the driver’s side, and the Jaws of Life freed a bloody mess. The metalhead’s girlfriend was the only survivor, but she was in critical condition.

     “Police in Rio Rancho are warning against drunk driving after the incident,” the reporter went on, “saying if you’ve had a few drinks, don’t get behind the wheel. The laws are already tough, but some feel not tough enough — ”

     Don muted the sound and sat down on the bed. He didn’t know what to think. For a few minutes, his mind was blank. Then the wheels turned. Don remembered he’d wished Butch and the metalhead kid death.

     Who’s helping me? I’m an atheist.

     Don looked at his watch and realized he had to get ready for his interview. This train of thought would have to wait. He turned off the TV and finished dressing.

     A black crow landed on Don’s balcony with a bit of flesh in its mouth. Don wondered if that belonged to Butch or the metalhead kid. The sun glared in the sky like a pissed off ball of fire. He had to turn on the air-conditioning in the early morning.

     The TV clicked back on.

     “What the hell?” Don grabbed the remote to flick it off again.

     It’s probably some kind of technical malfunction.

     It was frozen on the pictures of Butch, the metalhead kid and the blonde. And it wouldn’t flick off.

     Am I losing my mind, or is someone trying to tell me something?

     He didn’t have time to freak out. The interview waited.

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