I've been slacking on posting excerpts on some of the books that I've written. So (and I searched for a previous excerpt, but did not see this one) I'm putting up an excerpt for Kill Writer. This is a novelette, or short novella about a man in a very elite unit in the military. The link to the story is available to the side and it is a very good piece of writing, with a good, if tough, ending.
The plane lurched to the right as it took off. The winds were gusting up to thirty-five miles an hour. Jim held a doggy bag and leaned forward. He was strapped to a flimsy canvas and metal seat inside the hollowed out plane. He hated flying, and he especially hated stomach-churning flights like these.
There was a mission to think about, but his mind fluttered above the conversation he had with his oldest son several days ago, Stateside. It was inane to think about family at a time like this, but he couldn't help it.
His son had interrupted him right as he was getting comfortable with his wife. Last minute coitus before this last minute mission.
Yes, son? He shifted away from his wife, not naked, but in no condition to let his son under the covers.
I can't sleep.
Well lie down and count to a hundred, you'll be asleep before you know it. Jim said.
Jason, his son, stood in place, squirming. His dirty blue eyes and blonde hair bounced back and forth.
I was thinking about something.
What? Jim asked. He was supposed to make these moments with his family better. Too much snapping, the Chaplin warned him, wasn't good.
What about school?
The teacher... Mr. Cotter...
The teacher what? Jim asked. Jason never had issues with teachers. In fact, he was one of the best students in his class. Made Jim proud.
He said the Army was killing people.
Jim paused, took a breath.
Who? he asked.
Jim hadn't met any of Jason's teachers this year. Or any of his other son's teachers, but he should have known that such a subject would come up. He just hoped that this teacher wasn't too liberal. After all, the Army killed plenty of people, but it was for a greater good.
What did he say?
That our government was killing people.
Well. Jim paused. What did the teacher mean by "people"? It was a word with a broad definition. How was Jim to word a view of the world, its tougher parts, so that a child could understand? We only kill our enemies, Jim finally said.
He said we didn't know for certain.
Jim felt his anger rising. The teacher must have known that he had a class full of soldiers' kids. What was he doing saying such things? Jim took a deep breath. He felt that his son should have some idea about how hard they tried to be sure that their intelligence was, and how much they tried to make certain that they didn't kill innocents. He knew he was fighting an uphill battle; it was the media that twisted the war to look like something it was not.
Listen, son, you should know that we don't just kill anyone. We kill the bad guys. And if we didn't fight them there, the war would come home. It would be right here. Jim pointed to the floor as he spoke. He stared into his son's eyes. Jason didn't look away; he never looked away. It was a characteristic that perturbed Jim, and also made him proud. Understood?
We only kill bad people.
That's right, and if we didn't, more innocent people would die. Americans.
Jim stared at the stripped-out inside of the plane thinking about the conversation. His son understood and it was important to Jim that he did. When he bid them goodbye, he was certain that he saw a strong pride in his son's eyes. That made what he did, the sacrifices, that much more worthwhile.
Now for the mission, Jim thought. He had to make sure his mind was right. The plane lurched again, and Jim took in deep gulps of air to calm his nerves down.
The green light came on and Jim stepped forward, shifting his weight. The Commander had entrusted him with his first lone mission; he had to do well tonight. The polyester material from his pack grated against his thigh. He looked at the jumpmaster standing next to him as the wind howled from the back of the open plane. The smell of cold steel hung on his lips, made him want to spit. The jumpmaster was yelling, his mouth open like a hooked fish, and giving the thumbs up.
Jim did not like heights. But it was better if he didn't think about it, so he stole a last look at the pack between his legs and hobbled to the edge. The peaks of mountains crested like waves of a hardened sea and the clouds wisped by, round, dream-like. The air was cold, biting at his exposed skin. He leaned forward and fell over.
As he dropped, he tried to maintain proper posture: legs and arms stiff, pushing down on the torrents of air racing past him. A beep went off, he pulled his cord and the chute opened up. He came through some clouds and looked around to orient himself.
Suddenly, to his left, a cliff swung at him, he pulled his toggles and turned hard, his boots scraping the rock. Having not expected it, he felt his knee shear from the impact.
“Damn!” he said through his teeth, as the sharp turn caused him to oscillate until he was almost parallel to the ground. He was in a ravine with a cliff face on each side. How the hell did he end up so low? His chute was to have been pulled where he would be just above the peaks, with enough time to know where he was and pick a proper landing place.
From this height there was nothing to differentiate this ravine from the thousands of others nestled in this mountain range. Down below there was nothing to see but blackness. All he could hear was his chute cutting through the air; the smell of rocks, dust penetrated his nose.
Ahead, a light twinkled, then another. He was heading to some mountain village. This could end his mission. Here in the sky, he would be an easy target.
Just then a gust yanked him to one side. He grabbed his toggles and tried to turn, but he lost control. The chute twisted and he saw it catch the cliff face and collapse; he went into free fall and braced himself for the impact.
Crack! The collision punched the air out of his lungs. He felt like all his joints shifted. Jim looked up; the chute gripped the rocks. The wind was still blowing, but only in intervals. Air blew under the chute and he felt himself shift down. And to think, only a few hours ago he was in a warm and cozy room. And a few days before that he was with his family back in the States.
He looked for someplace to grip the rock and saw two choices. With his left foot, he reached for one and barely got the tip of his boot on it. Relieved, he shifted some weight on the foot and felt that he could trust the hold. He reached out to the second niche with his left hand and grabbed it with his fingers.
As Jim gripped the holds, another gust blew under the chute and he watched as it flew loose of the rock. Just as suddenly, the wind stopped. With his right hand, he pulled the chute in with circular motions, until he had it all in his grasp. The black ravine blew another gale up and Jim shielded the chute. He could feel his left leg and fingers start to weaken, there wasn't much time. When the wind died down, he unfurled the chute below him; it spread out like the tongue of a monster.
He looked down and felt nauseous. His left forearm and leg started slipping from their holds. Don't think, he reminded himself. With his legs coiled in a squatting position, he fell backwards and as soon as his head was level with his feet he jumped away from the cliff face, as hard as he could. He felt his stomach turn and he saw the sky, other cliff, the bottom of the ravine, the chute. He closed his eyes. It was as if his mind, heart, guts, and balls had been twisted into one ball.
The chute caught and he felt the shock. He grabbed his toggles. The ravine’s dark mouth invited him ahead. He looked behind, the lights of the village still twinkled. No wind. The sound of rushing water flowed by him and he landed on a riverbank.
He pulled out his two weapons: a sniper rifle and a pistol. They were both loaded. After another look around, he ran into an opening between two rocks. For five minutes he heard nothing but water gurgling. The smell of animal feces filled the air. This must be a great hunting area. He thought of his hunting trip that he had cancelled to come here. He was supposed to teach his son how to hunt.
He pulled out his GPS and waited to get a signal.
There would be another time to teach his son the steps of becoming a man.
He looked at his GPS and was happy to get a grid. He grabbed his map and, using his night vision goggles, checked to see where he was.
He wasn’t far, one ravine over. It meant, however, a eight thousand foot hike up the ravine and seven thousand feet down. All in one night. He knew himself as a beast, had always been the kind of guy who excelled at physical feats, but even this would be pushing his limits. With his radio, he did a quick check with the base. No signal, he would have to try later.
Jim hiked as quickly as he could. It took several hours and blisters to get out of the ravine. His lungs could barely absorb the thin air.
When he arrived at his designated spot, there was only a small section of the pass that he could see. He had to have a good view of the entire pass for this mission to be a success. An outcrop of rocks blocked his line of sight. He moved on to another area, still no view of the pass.
Twenty minutes left.
Thoughts of failure crashed into his mind and his throat turned dry. Above him there was a ledge that seemed to be the perfect way to look over the outcrop of rocks. He climbed up and, when he pulled himself up, turned to see the pass. He pulled out his binoculars and looked. The sun would be rising soon and he had just settled in time to take the shot. He kneeled down and listened for anything out of the ordinary. There was nothing but the wind whistling through the rocks and the odor of fecal-dirt wafting through the air. Sweat chilled him and he remembered to drink water.
Liked it? You can buy the rest at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Diesel, iTunes, & Sony.
Have a great day!