Chuck Wendig: Salvation, Chapter One

This week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge prompt is called To Behold The Divine.  The story is meant to be from the point of view of either a god, or someone who has to deal with a god.  I wrote about Arthur Edwards, a man who lives in a future where everyone who believed in God left Earth to go out into the rest of the solar system and left the nonbelievers behind.  Living on Earth, Arthur is an atheist but he had a dream about God and has decided to go out and preach the Gospel anyway.

I originally wrote this during NaNoWriMo in 2015.  It was going to be the first chapter in my NaNovel that year but I never took it any further, for a number of reasons.  I love the character and I hope to come back to him someday, either by continuing this idea, or in some other form.  Please to enjoy.


Arthur awoke.  He opened his eyes, the light shining into them through the open curtains.  He gasped as he remembered that the window was at the head of the bed, not the foot.  He awoke again, and opened his eyes.  It was dark.

He rolled over onto his chest.  He propped up on his elbows and looked out the window above him.  Yep.  Still dark.  The corners of his mouth turned up in a slight grin.  Now that, he thought, was a dream.  Hell of a dream.

He nudged Niecy, still sleeping beside him.  “Hey.”

She swatted feebly at him and mumbled random sleepy syllables.

He nudged her again.  “Hey.  Babe?”

One of her eyes opened just enough to show white in the moonlight.  More fuzzy mumblings.

“Wake up, Niecy, really.”

She groaned and sat up in bed.  She pushed the covers off and swung her legs over the side of the bed.  She stood and swayed uncertainly for a moment.  She straightened the nightshirt she was wearing and shuffled towards the door.  He started to talk, and she held up a hand.  Without turning to face him, she said, “If you are going to wake me up at—what time is it?”  When he didn’t speak, she gave a little “come on” gesture with her hand.

He grinned again.  Still propped on his elbows, he looked over at the screen.  “3:30,” he said.

She nodded.  “If you are going to wake me up at 3:30 a.m. in the morning, Arthur Edwards, you can damn well wait for me to pee before you tell me why.”  She walked out the door.

He watched her go, admiring the view.  Even now, after almost three years together, he loved to look at her.  He could hear her as she went about her business in the bathroom.  He rolled back over and sat up in the bed.  Before long she came back in.  He admired the view from this angle just as much as he had the other.

She saw him staring and wagged a finger at him.  “None of that,” she said.  “I know you didn’t get me up just so you could look at my boobs.”

“I might have,” he said, a pouty, defensive tone in his voice.

“Bull.  You’d let me sleep so you could get a better look.  You’ve done it before.  Tell me I’m wrong.”

He laughed.  “You know me so well.”

“It’s why you love me,” she said, and she climbed into bed and sat beside him.  “Now tell me why you really woke me up.”

He sighed.  “Do you believe in God?”

“God?  You mean…you mean God?  Like the Bible and angels and Jesus and all that?”  Arthur nodded.  “Of course not.  You don’t either.  No one does any more.  Everyone who believed in God left Earth a long time ago.”

“I had a dream about God,” Arthur said.  “There was music and light, and I think God was there.  There was so much more to it.  I’m not sure I can even describe it all.”

“You woke me up because you had a dream?”

“I can’t explain it, babe, I…” his voice trailed off.  “It felt so real.  Can I tell you about it?  Maybe that will help.”  She nodded.  He took a few second to collect his thoughts, then began.

“I was sitting on the porch watching a bird fly by overhead.  Suddenly the bird turned towards me and started getting bigger.  I thought it was falling out of the sky but then I realized it was a hoverbug and it was coming right down on top of me.

“It kept getting bigger and bigger, then it landed in the yard.  Right out back there in the clearing.  It was a twelve-seater.  The hatch opened up and this guy got out.  He was dressed in white and was playing some crazy notes on a trumpet.  I never heard anything like it.  He was spinning around and bopping all over the place, then three girls got out.  They were dressed in white, too.  They were singing.  No words, just sort of ‘ooo-ooo-ooo’ in this really weird harmony.  It was almost like it kept wanting to crash and burn, but it didn’t.  It blended with the trumpet and made a really cool sound.

“Then another guy got out.  He was wearing a grey suit that was really ragged, almost like it was falling apart.  He looked right at me and spoke, but I couldn’t understand.  It was like I was hearing a bunch of people talk at the same time and they were all speaking different languages.

“I shrugged.  ‘I don’t know what you’re saying,’ I said to him, except I didn’t say it in English.  I was speaking some language I had never heard before and suddenly, I could understand the other guy.

“‘You diggin’ it now?’ he asked me.

“‘I don’t have a shovel,’ I said.  I couldn’t help myself.  (Niecy punched him on the arm.  “You are so stupid,” she said.)

“‘You are so stupid,’ the guy told me (“Smart guy,” said Niecy).  ‘But I gotta know:  are you ready to see what’s next?’  All this time, the trumpet is still wailing and the ooo-ooo-ooo  girls are still doing their thing.

“So I decided to just go with it.  ‘Yeah, dog,’ I said.  ‘Lay it on me.  Bring it right down to Earth.’

“‘That’s what I thought you’d say,’ he said.  He pointed at the guy with the trumpet and suddenly the guy hit a note so high I thought the horn was going to break from the strain.  Two more guys came out of the hoverbug.  It might have only been one guy, but I think it was two, kinda blurred together.  It was hard to tell, because as they came out, a light shined into my eyes and I could hardly see.

“I caught a glimpse of a bright yellow suit and maybe a beard, but I’m not sure.  I held my hands up in front of my face and closed my eyes but it didn’t help.  That light just punched right through and hit me right in the brain.  Sounded like the light was singing too.

“The trumpet hit a note, and suddenly it sounded like a whole band was playing, and the girls were singing and there was suddenly a whole chorus of them, not just three.  And over it all I heard this booming voice saying, ‘CAN YOU DIG IT?’   I didn’t dare make another shovel joke.  I just nodded the best I could.

“The girls were singing ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ and the trumpet—band, whatever—was playing this crazy, funky, horn line, and through the light I could sort of see someone dancing.  A spin, a drop into a split, then back up.  It was too much.  I shouted.  I couldn’t hear myself.  I screamed.  The horns just got louder.  Then I heard laughter.  Rich, vibrant laughter.  ‘YOU’LL DO,’ the booming voice said.

“And the light got even brighter, and I woke up.  I opened my eyes, and I was looking out the window, but it was down there”—he pointed at the foot of the bed—“and it was like the light punched me in the eye.  I suddenly realized that the window was in the wrong place and it woke me up for real.”

“What a crazy dream,” said Niecy.  “And you think it was about God?”

“How well do you know the old Christian stuff?” asked Arthur.

“Not real well,” she said.  “I never bothered to learn any of it.”

“I learned a little bit,” he said.  “Enough to think that the guy with the trumpet was Gabriel, and the guy in the grey suit was the Holy Spirit, and he taught me some other language.  They say he could do that for people.”

“Who were the singers?”

“Just some angels, I guess.  And the guy in the yellow suit and the booming voice at the end was God himself, or Jesus, or both of them together.  I guess.”  He shrugged, then sat quietly for a few seconds, his eyes narrowed in concentration.

“Arthur,” said Niecy.  “You’re making me very, very nervous.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I was just thinking.  I think I know what the dream means.  I think I know what it’s saying.  They kept talking about ‘can you dig it’ and all that.  I think that means I’m supposed to build something.”

“You’re not a builder,” said Niecy.”

“I’m not supposed to build a building or anything like that,” said Arthur.  “Something else.  Something real.”

“Realer than a building?”

He nodded.

“What’s realer than a building?”

God,” said Arthur.  “I’m supposed to build God back up.  I’m supposed to dig God out of the hole we put him in all those years ago and rebuild him.”

Niecy closed her eyes and shook her head.  She reached up and rubbed her forehead, then stuck a finger in her ear.  She wiggled it around as if cleaning her ear out.  “Do what, now?”

“I have to bring God back,” said Arthur.

“You don’t believe in God,” she said.


“How can you bring back a god that you don’t believe in?”

“I don’t have to believe,” said Arthur.  “I just have to tell people about him.  They’ll hear it and some will believe it and eventually someone else can take over for me and I can come back home.”

Niecy stuck a finger into the other ear and wiggled it again.  “What do you mean, ‘come back home’?  Just where are you going?”

“How can I bring God back if I stay here, Niecy?”  His eyes were shining, now.  He was starting to feel it.  “We’re in a little house in the middle of nowhere.  Our net connection doesn’t even work half the time.  How can I talk to people from here?  I have to go out there.”  His hand swept toward the window.

“What are you talking about?” she asked.  “Do you think you’re suddenly going to be some great religious guy and get on a rocket to Titan or something?”  She crossed her arms and frowned.  “Arthur, I am not going to Titan, do you hear me?  There is methane in the atmosphere there.  I will not wear a filter.”

He laughed.  God, she was cute when she got indignant.  “No, Niecy, we are not going to Titan.  Why go to Titan?  They already know about God there.  I have to travel around here on Earth and tell people about him.  I don’t know, Niecy.”  He paused again.

“I still don’t know what you’re trying to tell me, Arthur.”

“I don’t either, but I really do think I have to go do something.”

“Because of the dream you had.”


“The dream about a hoverbug.”


“And a guy with a trumpet.”


“And another guy in a grey suit.”


“And ooo-ooo-ooo girls.”


“And bright lights and God dancing.”


“You’re tired, Arthur.  It’s almost 4 a.m. and I think you’re tired and you woke up out of a wild dream and you’re so caught up in it that you’ll believe anything.”

“I need to—”

She held up a hand.  “You need to go back to sleep.  I need to go back to sleep.  When we wake up, you might not even remember this dream.  Don’t change our lives just yet.  Sleep on it.  We’ll talk about it more tomorrow.”

“You’re right,” he said.  He leaned across the bed and gave her a hug.  “I shouldn’t have woke you up.  I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she said, and she gave him a gentle kiss.  “Just get some sleep.”

They lay down beside each other, and held each other’s hand as they always did in bed.  Niecy soon drifted back off to sleep.  Arthur never did.  He lay there thinking back over his dream, listening to the trumpet, the ooo-ooo-ooo girls, and the voice of God.


Welcome to 2017, Part the First

I have a tradition on my blog of writing posts around the beginning of the year in which I look back at the year past and review writing goals that I had set for the year past that I did not meet, and then look ahead into the new year and set goals that I will review a year later, having not met.

2016 is a unique case, in that it wasn’t a complete failure, only a partial one.  I rebooted my blog last January with the intention of kickstarting a writing habit that had gone slowly dormant over the previous few years.  For the most part, I was successful.  I wrote—and posted to the blog—a few short stories, inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Friday prompts.  Granted, there were more prompts I did not post an entry for than the ones that I did, but I did write new content, for the first time in quite a while.  I am proud of the effort that I made.

I also resolved to complete NaNoWriMo for the first time since 2011.  I had made a few unsuccessful stabs at it since then (see my last post for a review of my checkered history with NaNoWriMo), but I was determined to finish it this year.  I had an actual story idea for the first time since 2011 and I—heretofore rigidly entrenched discovery writer that I am—actually engaged in story prep!  During late October I sat down and worked out a rudimentary long-form outline for the first time since I wrote Mother’s Daughter in 2008.

And it worked!  I won NaNoWriMo, writing more than 76,000 words in November, which is by far the most productive NaNo I have ever completed.  November 17 saw me write more than 10,000 words in one day to go over the 50K mark at the earliest juncture ever.  My goal was to add count to the story every day and I did it.  I wrote something every day, even if it was only a sentence or two.  Most days I wrote about 90 minutes and added around 2,000 words.  That seems to be a fairly consistent pace for me.

Even with all those words, the story was still unfinished when November ended.  I plugged a couple of introductory chapters I had written several years ago onto the beginning and forged into December, which I dubbed with the hashtag #NaNoFinMo, for National Novel Finishing Month.  This is where the fail comes in.

#NaNoFinMo was a fiasco.  I only wrote a couple of days in December, and barely advanced the story.  With the introductory stuff and the little bit of writing I managed to do, the story currently stands at 86,325 as of December 12, the last time I wrote.  I spent November trying to write like a madman.  I wanted to get to 50K, then when I went over 50 so early I set my sights on 75, and I made it.  The problem is that I think I burned myself out.  The tsunami of enthusiasm I coasted through November on seemed to disappear on December 1, leaving the story as yet undone.

So what are my writing goals for 2017?  They are three-fold.  I want to say I am committing to these, but I know my history of not living up to commitments when it comes to my writing, so I’m not going to commit to anything.  I have no confidence in myself to see these through, but I am going to put them out there anyway.

  1. I want to finish my story. This story is already the longest piece I have ever written, and I want to say it is done.  I have no idea how much is really left to write, but I want to get it done in January.  #NaNoFinMo was a fiasco, so I am going to go ahead and dub January #NaNoFinMo2 and hope that the Quickening takes me and sails me through to the end of the tale. may consider me a winner for NaNo2016, but Sam’s Official Writing Canon will not consider it a win (and I won’t get myself a winner’s t-shirt) unless I actually complete the story.
  1. I want to post more story content on the blog. I have no idea if Chuck Wendig is going to continue with Flash Fiction Fridays in 2017, but even if he doesn’t I want to write stories and post them here.  If I complete a First Line prompt, I’ll post it (unless they accept it).  I can find prompts elsewhere, or maybe even generate ideas on my own (you know, as writers do).  I want to write words down and put them here for you to read.
  1. I want to blog more beyond just fiction. The very earliest days of my blog were me talking about my life and sharing memories.  It was epistolary and personal and I want to get back to that.  I have moved so much of that kind of stuff to Facebook, but surely there’s longer-form stuff I could come up with to post here.

So, writing goals for 2017:  complete #NaNoFinMo2 (the Quickening), post more fiction on the blog, and blog more often in general.  Three goals designed to increase my BICHOK; to get my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard.  Despite failing at similar goals year after year after year, I am putting them out there.  I want to do it this time.  I already talked about my history with commitment.  I’m not going there.  I promise to try, though.

You’ll know if I’m successful, because there will be new stuff here.  Please, keep coming back to see how I do.  If you do come back and see I haven’t posted in a while, call me on it.  Help me stay accountable for my goals.

Tomorrow, there should be a post.  I want to talk about some of my other, non-writing goals for the year.  I also want to get started back in on the story.  It will be an early test for my resolve to write more.  Wish me luck, and please support your local blogger.

Chuck Wendig: Snowflakes, Chapter 1

I already submitted a story for this week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge.  As I said in the other post, the challenge this week was to take one of ten reader-submitted first sentences and begin a story with it.  I decided to post a bonus story, because one of the reader-submitted sentences chosen for the challenge was submitted by me!

I used the sentence myself a couple of years ago and decided to post the story I wrote back then.  It was NaNoWrMo 2014.  I decided at the last minute to participate, and on November 1st, I wrote what you are about to read.  I never wrote another word, for a number of reasons, most of which boiled down to me being lazy.

This is, in theory, the opening chapter of my NaNoWriMo novel for 2014.  I never fleshed it out any more than what appears here.  This chapter was completely pantsed, and I never did any additional worldbuilding or plotting or anything.  I may come back to it someday, because I kind of like the concept.  It’s a high fantasy story set in a near-future cyberpunk world.  I think there are definite possibilities.  Check it out, and thanks for stopping by!  I hope you like it.


Snowflakes, Chapter 1

The bald man grinned and capered madly in the alley.  The air seemed to grow colder as he whirled and pranced and his breath steamed from his nostrils as he danced like a dervish beneath the glow of a streetlamp.  Snow was falling, fat flakes showing in the light from above.  They hissed as they struck the hot neon of the sign on the back wall of the bar.  Marco looked around, struck dumb by the snow.  It was August.  He was wearing shorts. What the…?

The bald man turned around and stuck his rear end out in Marco’s direction.  He reached back with both hands and drummed a tattoo on his cheeks as he shook his hips in time with a rhythm that didn’t come close to matching his drumming.  He turned around, still grinning, and stuck out his tongue, blowing a vibrant raspberry that echoed in the alley then cut off abruptly as a pebble-filled beanbag bounced off of his forehead and fell to the ground at his feet.  Shocked, he looked down and so missed seeing the second projectile, this one a fist sized stone, that hit him on top of the head.  He slumped, unconscious, to the pavement, blood seeping from a cut in his bald scalp.

“God, El,” Marco said, “I didn’t think he was that bad a dancer.”

“Dancer my ass,” said El, pushing her ginger bangs back out of her eyes as she emerged from behind the bins she had been using as cover.  “You were taking too long.  He was drunk and you were playing with him and letting him act the fool.  I want to get this over with.  It’s cold.  Get it, and let’s go.”

Marco nodded and moved carefully forward.  He thought the guy was out cold, but it paid to be careful.  He jerked a thumb back down the alley and El nodded, moving behind him and keeping an eye out for unwary intruders.

Marco brushed snow off the pavement and knelt beside the man.  He felt for a pulse.  Out, but alive, he thought, relieved.  He put a hand inside the man’s jacket pocket.  Empty.  He checked the other pocket.  Empty as well.  Inside pocket?  Didn’t have one.  Worried now, he checked pants pockets, inside socks, anywhere he could think of.  He didn’t want to strip the fellow naked in the alley in the snow, but he didn’t really have a choice.

El saw what he was doing and jogged over, her blue ponytail swinging.  He looked up at her.  “He doesn’t have it,” he said.

“What do you mean he doesn’t have it?”

“He’s naked, El.  Unless he has it inserted somewhere, it’s not here.”

“He’s cute, but I’m not going to be checking for insertions.”

“You see what I’m saying, then,” said Marco.  “Face it.  He doesn’t have it.”

“Joaquin’s gonna be pissed.”

“Joaquin is always pissed.  Look, take some pictures here, to show that we actually did try, and let’s get out of here.  That weird snow has stopped, but it’s still kind of chilly.”

El nodded, and pulled out her cell phone.  “This is not going to be on Instagram, okay?” Marco said, as she started taking pictures.

“Hashtag duh,” she muttered under her breath.
Marco dressed the bald guy again before they left.  No reason to be disrespectful, after all.


“Who the hell is this guy?” asked Joaquin.  He held El’s phone and was pointing at the picture on the screen.

“That’s the guy,” Marco said.  “Maeready.  We tried to get the artifact, but he didn’t have it on him.  I even stripped him and searched.”  He shifted his feet uncomfortably.  “It wasn’t inserted anywhere.”

“This isn’t Maeready,” Joaquin said, shaking the phone.  “This doesn’t even look like him.  Maeready has a goatee and a blond mullet.  This guy is bald and has three snowflakes tattooed under his right eye.”

“He has so got a mullet,” said Marco.  “Look!  It’s right there!”  He pointed at the picture.

Joaquin’s jaw dropped and he squinted at Marco.  “Do you even know what a mullet is?” he asked incredulously.

There was a sudden shout from across the room, interrupting them.  “Wait!  Wait!  Dammit, Joaquin, what did you say?  He has three what?”  A tall, gangly man wearing an augmented reality visor looked over at them from the computer console they had set up in the far corner.  His haptic gloves clattered as he flexed his fingers spasmodically.

“Three snowflakes,” said Joaquin, “tattooed on his face under his right eye.  Zoom in.”  He held up the phone so the man could see it.  The man reached out with his gloved fingers and spread them, making reality expand within his visor.

“Aw shit, Marco,” he said.  “Shitshitshit.  Shit!  You stupid son of a…”  He trailed off and swatted the air in front of himself, swiping reality back into its proper place.  He put his head in his hands.

“What is it?” asked El.

“Tech, what’s going on?” Joaquin asked, his voice tight, worried.

Tech looked up.  His forehead wrinkled as his eyebrows rose inside his visor.  He shook his head and ran his hands through his spiky hair.  “I told you to send me to do this, Joaquin.  Never send a ranger and a thief to do a wizard’s job.  I should have been the one to hit Maeready and you know it”

“You’re too noticeable with the visor, Tech,” said Joaquin.  It was an old disagreement between them.  “You know how I feel about this sort of thing.  Even with holograms to hide your gear, you stick out.  I needed stealth and supposedly these two are stealthy.”

“Stealthy, yes,” said Tech, “but you also needed to send someone with intelligence.”  He shook his head and laughed bitterly.  “Instead, you settled for these two.”

“So tell me what’s going on,” said Joaquin.  “Who is this guy?  Why do you care about his tattoo?”

“I’ll show you.”  Tech wiggled his fingers as he typed on a virtual keyboard only he could see.  A holographic projector came to life in the corner, and displayed El’s picture of the unconscious man on the air between Tech and the rest of the group.

“This is the poor unfortunate soul you baited, koshed, stripped, searched, and left laying in an alley,” said Tech.

“I dressed him again before we left,” muttered Marco.

“It’s good that you did,” said Tech as his fingers continued to dance.  “Maybe we can use that to show that you didn’t really mean him any harm.”  Joaquin began to ask a question.  “Shh!” hissed Tech, waving him to silence with one hand.  “Wait for it.”  He typed and gestured for a few more seconds, then grunted in satisfaction.  “Ah, here it is.”

The projected image changed.  El’s picture shrank, moving into the upper left corner of the display and another picture, this one a detailed shot of three snowflakes that looked like the bald man’s tattoo, appeared and dominated the image.  Tech’s fingers danced some more, and the second picture shrank and moved to bottom right.  In the middle, appeared six words.  Two in English, two in Russian, two more in English.

Three Snowflakes

Три снежинки

Tri Snezhinki

 “Oh, shit.”  It might have been any of the others who said it.  In reality, it was all three, speaking in unison.

“You understand our problem?” asked Tech.

“I understand it,” said Marco quietly.

“The Snezhinki are crazy,” said El.

“Yes, they are,” said Tech.  “I’m one of the most powerful wizards I know, and those guys make me look like a first-year apprentice, and they are the very embodiment of crazy.”

“Tri Snezhiki,” said Joaquin.  “Damn, Marco, you’d think the three snowflakes tattooed on the man’s face might have been a giveaway as to who he was!”

“I was looking at his mullet,” said Marco.  “You didn’t say anything about Maeready having tattoos so I wasn’t worried about it.”

El spoke up.  “Besides, you didn’t know what they meant, either, until Tech said something.”

Joaquin conceded the point.  “I don’t speak whatever language that is,” he said, pointing at the display, “but I’ve always heard of Tri Snezhinki.  We all have, I’m sure.  But I never knew it meant anything.  I thought it was just some crazy name they came up with!  I didn’t know about the tattoos, either.”

“Well, the tattoo is not real widely known as a symbol of the Snezhinki,” said Tech, “but if you know what their name means, it makes sense.”  Seeing their confusion, he walked over and pointed at the non-English characters.  “It’s Russian.  It’s a name that represents where they come from and what they believe in.”  He pointed at the bald man’s picture.  “If that guy knows who you are, and knows where to find you, it will be getting very cold here, very soon.”  He looked at Joaquin.  “We should go.”

“But the artifact–” began Marco.

“Forget the artifact,” said Tech.  “We won’t have another chance to look for Maeready tonight if the bloody Snezhinki are looking for us.”

Joaquin nodded.  “You’re right.”  He pointed at El and Marco.  “You two screwed up.  I don’t know how.  I don’t know how you could possibly think that guy was Maeready.  Somehow, though, you did, and if we don’t get out of sight fast, we could be done for.”

“We may be able to make another search for the artifact soon,” said Tech, as he took his gloves and visor off and began to pack his gear.  “We’ll see what the Snezhinki do.  Maybe they’ll stay frosty and we’ll be able to resurface in a day or two.”

“Let’s hope,” said El.

“You better hope,” said Joaquin.  “I’ll be pissed if we lose this commission because you two don’t know what the hell a mullet is.”