Read Part of Nails Jane Through My Blog:
In an effort to keep this site going, advertise my work, and offer some form of reading enjoyment, I’ve been thinking of posting the first portion of Nails Jane to this blog over a lengthy span of time. I won’t post the entire book, but perhaps enough to wet your appetites.
Therefore, I will begin this endeavor with the book’s introduction and Chapter one.
by the Editor
The book you are holding was written out of a desire to create. Like the mythology presented within NAILS JANE, the creation story of this book has less to do with a benevolent Maker bestowing life upon unsuspecting People, and has more to do with the frustration of starting over.
Trista began penning her story many years before its publication, which is not unusual in the world of writing, but the fact demonstrates a commitment to perfection. Though she was never Certain that perfection could ever be achieved, one fact remained constant: an author should write what she or he wants to read.
Can a writer ever really achieve perfection? Beats me. Can a writer set goals and meet objectives? Definitely. The dreamers must be set apart from the artists. It is one thing to say you are a writer because you have good ideas, and quite another to say you are a writer because you have written them down. It’s a simple start that can lead anywhere.
So for Trista, the process for writing this book became a search for literature with particular characteristics: multiple narrators, supplemental side stories, and thematic illustrations. Rather than looking in libraries and bookstores, she looked at blank pages and blinking cursors. The final product is something engaging and imaginative.
Did Trista achieve perfection with her novel? Well, if the mythology of this story gives any indication, the only way to find out is to tear the book to shreds and begin again. Of course, that would be silly. Artists are fortunate enough to be gods who can start from scratch without offending previous creations.
At its core, NAILS JANE is rock & roll. The action is visceral, the interludes are beautiful, and each chapter offers a fresh perspective to the story. It delivers a cinematic pace without compromising the poetic details.
I hope you do not ever find yourself on a journey quite like Ati’s, but if you do, take time to marvel at and appreciate the wonders of the unknown. You may find it makes the journey less difficult.
“We could have saved the Earth, but we were too damned cheap.”
“You are Atlas,” said a voice.
I heard it in my dream. A voice was all around me, but I saw no one. My dream was hazy and confusing, full of bright images flashing in and out of focus. Like all dreams, everything became choppy nonsense, but the voice remained fluid above it all.
It called me Atlas.
“No,” I corrected. “My name is Ati.”
“You are Atlas,” it insisted. “You carry the world on your shoulders.”
“I carry my own agenda,” I replied.
There was a long silence.
“You won’t for long,” it said. “You carry the world with you. You will die.”
I hurried through the streets of Lansing, Michigan, aware that Gustav had targeted me. He was hard to miss, dressed in a wool vest and a long, black coat. His broad shoulders and massive torso towered over pedestrians. Behind him followed his daughter. She was also dressed in dated plain clothes. We loosely referred to Gustav’s people as Puritans because they reflected something from another century. Gustav clearly didn’t belong in the city, and that was not a good sign.
I need to find James…
I finally reached the rendezvous point at the northwest corner of Washington and Ottawa, and checked my watch. My hand was shaking. Shoving my hand into my pocket, I backed up against a brick wall. Pedestrians passed by, taking no particular notice of me. Laying low was an especially difficult task with Gustav in the area; he preyed on unassuming bystanders. But social immersion was necessary for avoiding Humanoids, who were just as deadly as the Puritans. Running short on time, I found myself in a dangerous dilemma.
Where the hell is James?
One hour until the shuttle left Earth. Gustav crossed the street, dragging the little girl behind him. He was headed right for me. I knew his background, but never met him face to face. His case file was packed with a history of terrorism, arsenal, murder – the list went on. I knew what to expect from Gustav, but I was not ready for him. My assignment for the week was already complete, but it looked like I didn’t have a choice. I had to pull an extra shift.
If James and I don’t get out of here, we could end up stranded…
Backslider ships arrive at certain places and times, and they don’t stay long. Miss the ship and they won’t come looking for you. I couldn’t risk that.
“You there!” yelled Gustav.
“Yes?” I turned, smiling politely. I did not let on that I knew who he was, or even that I was troubled. Puritans easily detect fear.
“I would like to invite you to a banquet! My people do not hold these festivities often, but the food is remarkable,” he said. As he spoke, his eye twitched and a pungent odor wafted from his mouth.
A banquet. That’s what they called it. He wore large rubber gloves and matching rubber boots. I assumed that was his clean-up gear. Banquets often got messy.
James hurry up…
I knew what Gustav planned to do if I refused his invite. He would likely attack me, then drag me off. The slightest hesitation on my part might have compelled him to strike me in public. However, Gustav was cautious, and he knew better than to make a scene. He dreaded the attention of Humanoids, just as much as any Backslider did.
“So how about it?” he grinned.
Behind him was the little girl, Nadia. She was a petite blonde – probably around four years old. I observed his son was not with them, and assumed the boy was with his mother, Jacqueline. She was one of Gustav’s many wives, and just as deranged.
“Is this your daughter?” I asked.
“Yes, yes. She and my son will be at the banquet, too. Forgive my insistence, but you see we are from a poor community. We are trying to raise funds for our new church,” he explained.
“Of course,” I said. I had to think quickly. If I refused, there was a chance he would try to apprehend me. Pushed to my limits, I would be forced to expose my Backslider allegiance. Gustav would be subdued, but all Humanoids in proximity would bear witness. He suspected I was not from Lansing, so I followed his lead to buy some time.
Looking exhausted, James appeared at the intersection in a stolen car. I ran out into the middle of the square, flagging him down. Spotting me, James swerved into a parking space. Gustav watched impatiently, gripping Nadia.
“Tom! Tom! It’s so great to see you!” I shouted at James, masking my fear.
He turned off the car and opened his door. Exhausted, he exited the vehicle slowly. James’ light brown hair caught a shimmer of sunlight, right before he nervously ran his fingers over the back of his head. He did not like surprises. Moving toward him, I distanced myself further from Gustav. James looked puzzled, furrowing his brow.
“Thomas! Oh my! You absolutely must join us for the banquet this fine gentleman has invited us to.”
I gripped his arm and whispered, “Follow my every lead. We are in some serious shit.”
“What?” he whispered back, aggravated.
“He’s a Puritan. Probably armed. Trust me,” I mumbled.
“A banquet? Sounds wonderful!” James yelled. He made certain Gustav heard him from across the street.
Meanwhile, Gustav motioned for us to follow him. He dragged Nadia down the busy sidewalk and turned a corner. I knew the building would be close by. Puritans did not stray far from their killing grounds. We followed.
“Pick up the pace,” I whispered to James. “We can’t waste a second once we’re inside. We have to think fast or we’re stranded.”
“Or dead,” he added.
I felt caught up in a sick joke. I was clueless as to what type of weapons Gustav carried. Despite their stereotype, Puritans packed more than a bible and a pitchfork. I was sure Gustav had the upper hand. Though I’d been assigned to study his congregation, my research wasn’t extensive. Having little time to wonder, we arrived at the banquet hall. Linked arm-in-arm, James and I entered through the doors. Then, I remembered Nadia.
“We should grab the girl. She’s harmless,” I whispered. James nodded. Approaching another Puritan, Gustav let go of Nadia. They scanned the hall with wide eyes, smiling at the size of the crowd. I pulled James over to where Nadia had wandered.
“We would love to sit by you!” I said, snatching her up by her little arms. She screamed as a noisy crowd bustled about the room. Gustav took no notice. Holding the girl, I looked around the banquet area. Long tables were set with empty dinner plates and empty wine glasses. Guests sat at each table, mumbling curiously.
Those people were not Puritans. No, they were chosen to die. Those people were unaware of the conflicts between Backsliders, Puritans, and Humanoids. They were innocent.
Near each corner of each table crowded Puritan men and women, dressed in customary garb. They had something twisted planned for the people. I waited, still gripping Nadia, to see what was about to unfold. Jacqueline appeared, standing with Gustav and their son, Beckett. She raised her chin and shouted above the crowd.
“Everyone, be silent!”
Voices reluctantly died down as two Puritan men closed the hall doors. Guests looked uncomfortable as the men visibly locked the exits. A few whispers begged an explanation, but no one stepped forward. Jacqueline cleared her throat and spoke again to the crowd.
“Thank you,” she said. “On behalf of my congregation, I would like to welcome you. But I regret to inform you that this banquet is a celebration of virtue, and you will be the offering. This is penance. Penance for those we have lost to The Disease.”
“She means the Marburg virus,” I whispered to James. “Killed hundreds of Puritans during the first evacuation. Versinon engineered it, but…”
“…but now they blame us,” James said.
At the end of each table, Gustav’s men drew syringes from their coats. Gasps filled the room, and guests began to clamor. Their worried mutters grew into shouting and crying. Gustav roared above them, ordering everyone to remain seated and silent. Then, as my grip on Nadia tightened, she wailed explosively, trying to free herself from my hands.
“Nadia, darling, don’t cry,” I said.
Gustav, having noticed his daughter, shouted, “I’ll have you bound and burned!”
James pulled out a handgun, aiming it at Beckett. He fired, but with no intent to kill. Beckett’s left knee blew out beneath him, causing him to collapse. Jacqueline frantically reached for the child as he flailed and screamed. During the commotion, I grabbed the syringe from her hand and pushed it against Nadia’s neck.
“Let these people go,” I ordered. “Your boy is already injured. If you wish to tend to his wounds and save Nadia from a painful death, release these people. Release us.”
Gustav howled angrily and lunged at me. Quick with his gun, James switched aim and fired again. Two bullets exploded from the side of Gustav’s head. The enormous man fell dead at my feet. An infected pool of blood poured from his skull to the floor. I stepped out of the way.
“Let them go!” I shouted, “Or I will inject this into your daughter.”
Jacqueline and I stared one another down.
“You witch!” she screamed. “Look what you have brought upon us! I know what you are! Backsliders! You brought The Disease with you!”
“Your husband is dead, Jacqueline,” I replied. “Keep it up and you will have no family left.”
“Let us go,” James ordered. He pointed his gun at Jacqueline.
Suddenly, a Puritan man grabbed a shaking guest from his table. The Puritan shouted, “Praise be to Jesus Christ, glory in his name…”
“No!” I objected. I moved as if to press the needle deeper into Nadia’s neck, but I could not bring myself to kill the child. The Puritan continued to speak as the poor man protested, twisting and writhing to get away.
“… glory to Him… in the highest.”
As the Puritan injected the poison, the innocent man cried out for help. But it was too late. James switched aim again and fired on the Puritan. He fell, dead on impact. The man squirmed, groaning on the floor. We watched him roll around in agony. James fired once more, ending the man’s pain.
“We will kill you,” I said, glaring at Jacqueline. She begged me to remove the needle from her daughter’s neck. “We aren’t alone. And we are trained to fight. So either let us go, or you will certainly lose your children.”
The Puritans slowly dropped their syringes, lifting their arms to indicate surrender. Meanwhile, the hostages sat at the tables wide-eyed and frightened, unable to move.
“Get out,” I ordered them. They stared back at me, motionless, in shock.
Attempting to snap them out of it, James pointed his gun to the ceiling and fired.
“Get the hell out of here! NOW!” he yelled.
One by one, hostages slowly rose to their feet. Their gradual movement quickly turned into a desperate scramble for the door. Shoving one another, they clawed their way to the exit.
I thrust Nadia into her mother’s arms.
“How did you know about us?” Jacqueline asked.
I hadn’t known. I knew about the Puritans and their war against the Council, but not about the banquet. I didn’t know they scheduled it to happen that day, and James and I never planned on crashing it. I was too proud to admit that to Jacqueline.
“I’ve been following you. You and your husband were the target of a long and tedious assignment,” I replied. “I guess we are officially enemies now. It didn’t have to be this way.”
I tossed the syringe to her feet. James and I hurried toward the door. He kept his gun pointed at the crowd of Puritans as we moved. Jacqueline stood, glaring at us. Tears streamed down her face. Blocking away the horror, Nadia buried her head into her mother’s long, wool skirt. Beckett remained in the corner, screaming and clutching his damaged knee. We left.
As we closed the doors behind us, James gave me a hard look.
“We can’t do it like this, Ati,” he said. “We had one job to do. In and out. You can’t wait at a street corner without getting into trouble!”
“I didn’t plan this!” I snapped.
James looked at me quizzically. I shrugged, throwing my hands in the air.
“So, you had no idea about this?”
“I didn’t know about this,” I insisted, pointing at the banquet hall.
A dirty, wooden plank poked out of a dumpster. Walking over, I grabbed it, and slid it through the handles of the door. Dusting my hands off, I sighed.
“We still have time to get to the ship. Let’s hurry,” said James. Leaving the alley, we hopped into James’ stolen car. As Lansing disappeared into the horizon behind me, I closed my eyes, reflecting on the events of those gruesome forty minutes – the end of what had already been a very difficult trip.
This was not a good day…
It’s complicated, just as my story is complicated. We are taught to believe in one thing, and question nothing else. We are taught to follow certain rules, and fight for what we think is just. But, we are sheep. Our flock scatters and starves. We eat each other. We run. If we go back, we fight. And most often, we die.
But I am dead already.
I am buried in ice.
If you’d like to finish Ati’s story, as well as have the artwork which is included in the official copy, you can purchase the full 25 chapters of Nails Jane via Amazon, lulu – digital, lulu – print, createspace, Barnes and Noble, or smashwords. Prices vary from vendor to vendor. Nails Jane is available in print and ebook format.