JEHOVAH'S HITLIST (Chapter 1 excerpt)

Since Blogger decided "schedule" meant "post now," MSM part 2 was posted yesterday. Now, this being a journal and not a blog, I could totally go today without posting and that would be okay. But things are about to get busy for me at work. (Granted, it's a new department and from what I can see, their definition of busy isn't the same as my previous department's definition of busy. Time will tell on that one.) Given the pending absence of content as I fill the digital bookshelves with content that isn't mine (alas!), I thought I would do something I used to do much more frequently...AN EXCERPT CHAPTER!

My current WIP is almost a post-apocalpytic sci-fi but given the setting is so self-contained, it's hard to see it as post-apocalpytic or sci-fi. It is, though. Sort of. JEHOVAH'S HITLIST could be a YA novel if not for the guns and violence and drugs and profanity and sex... Like all my excerpts, this is a first draft. Comments and criticisms are still welcome.


Some say it was the industrial revolution. Some say it was the three-car garage. Some say it was this or that rigged election or this or that unsigned treaty. Some say it was the Reciprocity Act. But let me tell you, the day the first Dutchman showed up on the Ivory Coast with a bottle of whiskey was the day the world began to end.

All but for the want of shoes. Jehovah looked at the street ahead of him, trash strewn from either gutter and up the walls to his knees, greasy paper rolling with the wind like tumbleweeds. One broken bottle, one bent needle, and he would have to crawl back to Missouri Avenue before the jackals found him. He looked at his bare feet, the soles stained black from walking barefoot half-way across the Nation, all the way to Wyoming Avenue. He would have skipped this drop all together if someone hadn't stolen his shoes.

He looked up at the sky. The daylight array buzzed, clunked, and moved to third position, full light just after dawn. A permanent enumeration of passage of time, the array showed that it was eight in the morning. The center lamp, the sun lamp, shone so brightly as to color the sky yellow, but if Jehovah squinted just so, he could see the silver glint of the lamps in twenty-sixth position. That was how he knew where to go. That was why his family didn't starve.

The weekly drop always came on Sunday. Charity was a Christian duty, after all. But never at the same time and never in the same place. The boxes dropped at random times and from random locations to avoid territorial buildup of gangs near a designated drop zone.

Most people didn't look up. What was there to look up to? The sun lamp? One could hear it change position and did not actually need to look at it to know the time. The brightness of the sky? It was the same brightness every day of the year, half-brightness on days it rained. To know the weather? It rained six hours a day for three days in intervals of fifteen days. There was no reason to look up.

Which is why no one ever noticed that, if one squinted, one could see the array lamp pulled out of position on Sundays to allow for the drop. It took the drop boxes five minutes from launch to parachute deployment to touchdown. No one could travel across the Nation in that amount of time. Whoever was the closest to the drop got the best pick of the charity, food, clothes, medicine, machine parts. More than he could carry, but today he just wanted shoes.

Jehovah pushed junk to the side as he walked. He'd need a clear path to run through before the jackals made their way here. Paper, rotten food, dirty diapers, warped cans home to swarms of cockroaches. No glass, no syringes, no broken knife points, or hidden bear traps. He would grab the charity, run over to West Virginia Avenue, work his way up to Charleston Park and put on his shoes there. The jackals would head straight for Cheyenne Park where the charity would land. Put on his shoes, lay low, and once they passed, make his way back to Missouri as quick as a rat.

Park buildings were always the worst, burnt out shells from the charity riots of '77, piles of brick where the support beams had already given out, or asylums for the marginalized. It was a special sort of crazy that grew marginalized in the Nation. They sat up there and raped small children they stole off the streets or built sniper nests to wound people at the charity boxes and leave them for the jackals.

Jehovah stood at the end of the alley, Cheyenne park opening up in front of him, and looked up. The building on his left still had its roof. The gutters and been ripped off and repurposed by the tinkers long ago. The building on his right was an uneven curve of bricks. The building was falling in on itself.

He stuck his head out, counted out a full second, then pulled it back in. Enough time for any snipers in the area to notice him without the time needed to put a bullet in his head. He popped back out and immediately pulled back in and waited for the gunshot. Nothing. One more time for good measure, out and in. He waited, his back pressed up against the wall but not too firmly. Once he saw an entire building fall on top of someone that pressed too hard against a wall.

Still no gunshot. Jehovah stuck his head out and took a look. The windows were empty. No barrels sticking out. A smart sniper would keep his gun inside the building. Asylum squatters weren't smart, they were crazy. They wanted you to know they were there. They're own little cat and mouse game. Sick fucks.

The park was just as empty. Two square blocks of open concrete, ramps, rounds, benches and foundations for contraptions meant for children to play on. Metal contraptions, so long since picked clean and repurposed along with the metal sculptures of things called trees. Jehovah wasn't sure why anyone would space in a park for trees, but Old Hobbe said all parks had to have trees.

Cheyenne Park went all the way to the outer wall of the Nation. None that Jehovah knew had ever been out that far. He had no fancy to try. He was here for shoes and maybe some quick swag he could trade to the Mississippi Avenue boys. They'd had a hard time of it ever since the deputies strung up their leader, Pap. They'd give generous terms for dehydrated potatoes or Tang.

Jehovah debated whether he should find some place in the park to hide or make a run for it once the box dropped. It would be a longer run if he stayed here. Any Wyoming Avenue boys nearby might beat him to the charity. But if he went out there, every sniper about would know where he hid and wait for him to come back out.

Course, after all that back and forth, any of them paying attention knew where he was already. He should probably go an alley or two down and come on again from a different angle. He could make it to the first round, one of those half-bowl things in the park that Old Hobbe said were made for running. One runs in a circle and that's fun. Jehovah ran plenty in the Nation already, from deputies and jackals and the gangs from Kansas Avenue. He didn't see how running in a hole in the ground could be fun. About as useful as trees, he thought.

An air horn blew so loud as to make the dead crawl out of the crematoriums and come see what all the ruckus was about. Jehovah flinched despite the fact that he had been waiting for that horn. He looked up at the array. No need to squint now. The silver rim of the lamp that had brought him twenty-seven blocks across the Nation to Wyoming Avenue was gone and a big black rectangle made a hole in the sky.

He looked over his shoulder. No one there. Out to the park. No one there either. He fingered the holster on his thigh despite himself. The pistol was loaded, the strap buttoned over the grip so his weapon didn't fall out on the run. Old Hobbe said not to go around with a round chambered, but he hadn't been on the street since before Jehovah was born. He didn't know what it was like nowadays. Keep a round in the chamber or the other guy shoots first.

A second air horn. Jehovah didn't jump this time. That was the “okay, we gave you time to get out of the way; here it comes” horn. Something moved in the black hole in the sky. A gray box, fifteen by thirty, free-fell from the hole.

“One, two, three...” Jehovah knew he should keep quiet, but he lost track when he counted in his head. Counting out loud helped. Count to forty-five. If one didn't see a chute by forty-five, get the hell out of the way.

“Thirty-one, thirty—there you are.” The white parachute flooded open and the box stopped its plummet with a jerk. It floated down toward the park, rocking back and forth as it came.

Jehovah took a cautious step out. He jumped to the left, but no bullets came, no gunfire echoed across the concrete landscape. The parachute caught a high wind and drifted toward the west side of the park. It spun in a fast circle, tying the parachute into knots so the big white cloth grew smaller and smaller. The box began to fall faster and faster.

Cautious steps turned into a jog turned into a run. With a drop like that, anyone waiting to see where the box landed could guess well enough. He needed to get and get going.

He weaved around ramps covered with bits of dried, shredded leather and metal wheels so warped that not even the tinkers bothered with them. Old Hobbe said they were called bicycles. Jehovah had gotten a spoke through the foot three years back. If he hadn't got some medicine, the lockjaw would have broke his back. He stayed away from bicycles now, medicine or no. That wasn't a memory he was like to forget.

Still no gunshots. He had gotten lucky with the squatters. Lucky with the park, too. Nothing on the other side of Wyoming Avenue. The jackals only had one direction to come from. Not the usual crush when everyone comes from every which way. A ramp to his right was covered with the usual detritus, wrappers and boxes and the like but no bicycles. Jehovah ran up and spared a quick look behind.

His luck didn't last long. A casper ran from the south side of the park. Just one with his head sticking out a hole in a white bed sheet. It bunched up between his legs, making it hard to run, but he had shoes on. Between the two of them, they kept an even pace toward the west side of the park.

Jehovah didn't know caspers to go anywhere alone. If there was one, there were half a dozen more nearby. The Wyoming Avenue Ghosts always traveled in packs. He sprinted off the ramp and continued west. His head bobbed up and down, look at the path ahead, look at the box.

He had crossed most of the park. The outer wall rose up in front of him, the faded blue and brown of a manufactured horizon obviously faded on its brick surface. The wall stood at least a hundred feet with no noticeable means of ascending or passing through it. If the drop box landed on the opposite side, the charity wold be lost to the desolation beyond. It happened sometimes.

The drop box did not fall outside the city, but neither did it fall in. It landed jackknifed on the side of the wall. The doors burst open and the charity spilled down like rain.

Jehovah looked to his left. The casper was still a couple hundred feet away. Jehovah waded into the charity, doing his best to avoid the shrapnel from the damaged box or the remnants of the more fragile charity that broke when it struck the pavement. He grabbed a medicine pack when he saw one. The vials were packed in a secure foam that hopefully cushioned them on the fall. He grabbed a canister of ammunition. No reason to let someone else have that. Then he dove into the clothes.

Spools of thread, needs scattered all about, sheets of cotton, then the few pre-made items included as well. Reusable diapers for babies, wraps for toddlers to wear like a skirt while they grew so rapid as to make pants worthless. Then the shoes, boots mostly, six pair, enough to let him be choosy if he wanted.

Jehovah looked to the south and grabbed the first pair he could. The casper was too close to worry about—well that pair was obviously too small. He wouldn't fit in them even if he curled his toes. He tossed them back on the ground and began to rummage for a more suitable pair. He reached slow with his right hand and unbuttoned his holster.

Jehovah found a better pair. He held them up to his feet to be certain. Better still, they were stuffed full of socks. He couldn't remember the last time he had worn socks. He looked in a couple other pairs and took those socks too. Something share with the family.

“Stop!” The casper closed on him, slowing to a walk until only ten feet separated the two of them. He pointed a double-barrel shotgun right at Jehovah.

“Go on and put all that down,” he said.

“I got what I need. You're welcome to the rest,” Jehovah said. The ammunition sat between his feet with the medicine on top. The boots were in his left hand and he made no sign to set them down.

“Rightly I am. I'm welcome to it all.”

“We're all alone and all your jawjacking just gives the jackals time to get here and spoil your take,” Jehovah said. “First to the claim, first to pick. Nothing here says otherwise.”

“This here shotgun says otherwise.” The ghost turned his gun sideways and pushed it forward to make his point. Jehovah drew and fired. He put three rounds into the casper and the ghost went down. He ran over and put one more in his head. He grabbed the shotgun, tucked it under his arm, picked up the medicine and ammunition and ran.