So, I can’t find where I originally posted part one. A long disturbing discussion put an image in my head of an author being hung over a barrel, being bled dry. The following story is part one of the story in my mind that resulted.
Due to deep personal beliefs in not creeping out your internet authors, I would like to assure you that this story in no way endorses a belief in torturing authors, and also, that any similarities to the author known as Stormy are completely coincidental. Really. I promise.
Lena “Thunder” McMillan skipped gaily into the hotel lobby. A four star hotel, real bellhops, red velvet carpets, it had everything she ever dreamed the famous people got to have. There was even a table near the entrance covered in danish! Grabbing a cheese danish, she started munching on the flaky pastry, then noticed a small sign tucked amongst the blueberry and apple fritters. White thick card stock with a gold filigree border, in dark letters and fancy font, “Welcome Thunder” danced across the surface. She reached out and stroked her name.
The word escaped her mouth, half between a sigh and a whispered prayer. Shaking her head, reality snapped back, and the stars mostly left her eyes. She walked on to the front desk, more regally this time, with a mien she felt befit a writer.
“No, an author!”, She thought proudly to herself.
Stepping up to the front counter, light oak inlaid with teak stained a deep red brown, she put her id and printed confirmation on the counter. A name plate carved from some mottled green stone proclaimed with a bronze plaque the blond behind the desk to be “Tracy”.
With more bravado then she felt, suddenly wobbly again, faced with a person who likely had no clue who she was beyond another check in, she stated, “Lena McMillan. Room for one.”
The uniformed blond, her hair and makeup as much a static mask of officialdom as her pressed blue pantsuit and starched collar, broke into a very unofficial squeal.
“Ohh my gosh, YOU’RE THUNDER? I’m such a huge fan, my god. You have no clue how many favors I pulled to be working today, hoping I’d get to check you in!” She grabbed the paperwork, and started tapping away at her computer hidden under the desk. She looked left and right suddenly, and leaning over conspiratorially, whispered “I’ve got you upgraded a level, most I could do, but you’ve got a corner suite, so it gives you some more privacy, and a jacuzzi tub. ”
Thunder stood in shock, mouth working, but no sound coming out. Finally, a squeak erupted, followed by broken syllables. “I… uhh.. you.. than… key.. you… ” She stopped, swallowed while closing her eyes momentarily, and started again. “Thank you!”
“Oh, my pleasure, anything for you. We were so happy to have you at the convention. ”
Thunder looked around, suddenly realizing a lack that hadn’t occurred to her before. “Speaking of DarkCon, where is everyone?”
Tracy giggled. “Oh, DarkCon isn’t HERE. Management would never let them here, mores the shame. It’s set up at a Marriott center, about half a mile down the street, closer to the airport. They’re putting the guests up in different hotels, for safety and privacy. My boyfriend is on the selection committee, so I pulled a string or three. We have a shuttle in the morning to the con for you though!” She leaned close again, a few stray golden wisps escaping her tightly coiffed hair. “So, you can tell me. Does Lars ever get to sleep with her?”
Thunder grinned. “That’s for me to know, and you to find out. In about a month.”
Tracy squealed again, and clapped excitedly, her face shining in rapture, before gathering herself again. She looked around to make sure her break in decorum hadn’t been noticed. “I knew it! By the way, several of us were wondering… well, we have a little reception set up for you tonight, and were wondering if you would be willing to come by and do a reading for us? Free drinks and snacks…”
Her face looked like a puppy begging for a snack. Thunder flushed with pleasure, her first direct interaction with a fan feeding her ego, and perhaps clouding her judgment a little. “Certainly! In fact, I finished up the next update on the plane. It doesn’t go up until Monday, but for such great fans, maybe.. a.. sneak… peek?”
She trailed off, as the puppy grin on Tracy’s face transformed to a look of wolfish hunger. Tracy’s eyes seemed to widen, to take in every aspect of her and desire every line, yet still look through her as if she wasn’t there, just meat on a plate. It reminded her uncomfortably of the first time she stripped naked for a boy. Suddenly, the spell was broken, and Tracy was the prim and proper front desk attendant again. “That would be wonderful! Anyways, here’s your keycard. You’re on the fifth floor, and if you need ANYTHING, dial 0 and I will attend to you personally. ”
Thunder headed for the elevator, then detoured backwards, grabbing her bag by the pastry table where she had left it, and another cheese danish for good measure. The entire time, she tried her hardest not to look back at Tracy, ignoring the feeling on the back of her neck, like eyes were boring into her from behind. The feeling faded as she stepped into the elevator, finger stabbing repeatedly at five.
The bubbles stopped abruptly. The surface of the water foamed and frothed, fine white bubbles popping, to join into larger bubbles with their neighbors, again and again, before finally popping into nothingness, leaving empty space behind. A hollow tube slowly came to view as the foam around it faded, yellow plastic an inch across, twitching slightly back and forth as steam rose from the water around it. As the foam started to fade away, leaving a filmy layer over the water, it rose suddenly, water cracking around it as a head broke the surface, the tube firmly clamped in its mouth.
Thunder sat up against the back of the roman tub, cracking her back against the porcelain and stretching a bare leg almost daintily out of the water, foam dripping from her heel and outstretched toes back into the water. “AAAAHHHH. Now THATS how to relax. ” Running a hand over her leg, she debated whether to shave or stave it off another day or two, when a sharp, authoritative rap on the door broke her reverie.
“Umm…. ONE MINUTE!”
She threw on a terrycloth robe that hung from a hook next to the tub, and padded gingerly through the bedroom and into the forward room of the suite. She stopped for a moment and looked in the full length mirror by door to make sure nothing stuck out inappropriately, then cracked the door and stuck her head around it. “Yeeesss?”
A uniformed bellhop held out an envelope to her, starkly plain white in contrast to all the finery of the stationary she had seen here before. “Meal Tickets for you, Miss McMillan. Complements of the chef, you’ve been invited to join us in the dining room for a complimentary lunch. Chef Johan asked me to tell you that among our normal fare, he is serving bacon and cucumber sandwiches. ” As Thunder took the envelope, the arm snaked back and the bellhop again stood ramrod straight. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Miss McMillan?”
“Very good. Then enjoy your rest, and thank you for staying with us.”
With that, the bellhop disappeared down the hall, and Thunder slowly shut the door. Opening the envelope, there were four tickets, labeled “Chef Invite”. Two stated they were for Dinner service, two for lunch or breakfast. There was also a handwritten note, on the back of a service ticket.
“Thunder, big fan, hope you join us for a meal or two while you are here. Johan. ”
Staring at the tickets, Thunder weighed options. On one had, free food is free food. On another, this was a fancy place. What would she wear? Would she be expected to make conversation with people? And… bacon and cucumber. Blech.
Thus it was that twenty minutes later, she found herself walking into the lounge adjoining the hotel restaurant. A central table had been set up buffet style with platters and chafing dishes, silver and chrome against a verdant red table cloth and red draped pillars, holding dishes at different heights. Several people crowded around the bar, a couple or two had claimed seating around the edge of the room, and an elderly woman dished up some unidentified gray substance onto a plate while reading from a small leather-bound book. Thunder watched a moment, amazed at her ability to accurately shovel one handed while not watching the motions of the spatula. Thunder walked up to the buffet, snagging a warm plate from the pile, and looked sideways at the old lady.
“Anything particularly good?”
Thunder watched in amazement as the withered woman aimed one eye at her for a moment, the other still glued to the page, moving across the lines. “Its all good honey. Roberto cooks with the best of ideas, the creme of the crop, as it were. I’m a fan of his gravy, myself,” she said, waving with the spatula at the grey goo she was ladling over some small piece of meat. Looking at the sign, fine calligraphy on thick creamy stock, it was labeled “Catcher in the rye gravy”.
Personal stories are the best, the ideas they had as a child, distilled in essence. Roberto knows how to make it… sizzle.” With that, the old lady sniffed her plate, breaking eye contact with her book for the first time. The look of hunger that twisted the wrinkled old face shocked Thunder, but was gone before she was even sure what she was seeing. Her face turned wistful, as she looked up, directly into Thunder’s eyes. “But… old ideas, even presented in new ways, may sustain, but they do not nourish. You understand, don’t you?”
With, that, her eyes returned to her book and she shuffled off to sit by herself at a small table. Thunder started to put things on her plate, noticing the literary theme continuing in the names of dishes, with about as much creativity, or lack of it. She paused a moment over a platter of triangular sandwiches, pale green and dark red fillings peeking out. The platter was labeled Sally’s Cucumber Bacon tricut sandwiches. She shook her head, and moved to grab a Dharma Bun barbecue sandwich.
“Not going to have a Sally’s?”, a deep voice rumbled from behind. She jumped, and watched as food tumbled back onto her plate, mostly landing from where it had left. She whirled, to see a tall black man in a white uniform and chef hat.
“You must be… Roberto?”
The man chuckled, a not unpleasant laugh, though a bit throaty. “You’ve been talking to Adelle. She’s the only one that calls me Roberto. Chef Robert Johan.” With this, he stood ramrod straight and bowed, one hand at his breast, one behind his back. “And you are Thunder McMillan, an artist of some talent in satisfying hungers as well.” The man smiled, teeth shining as white as his uniform.
“Ahh, I uhh, that is, uhh.” Thunder stopped, closed her eyes, mentally counted to ten in Japanese, and opened her eyes back up. “Thank you Chef, for the kind words, and the sandwiches. Honestly though, they were something an ex of mine used to make all the time, and I needed a random food item for the character. I can’t stand them myself.”
Johan smacked his hand against his forehead with an audible thump, pushing his classic chef hat back from his forehead. “That explains it! No matter how I tried to codify the sauce, reading and rereading, condensing the ideas, it came through with a bit of bitterness. ” He shook his head, a half smile on his face. “Ah well, they still sustain. ”
“I would think any bitterness would be too much salt.” Thunder gave the chef a strange look.
“The salt of tears, my dear. Every story has its flavor, if you but know how to present it. But, I hear that you might be giving us a reading later?” The hungry look she had seen previously on other faces that day crept across his as well, the feeling of being a piece of meat, being diced and prepared for others to eat, crept up her spine. She shivered involuntarily, not wanting to meet his eyes, but unable to break her gaze away from the blue orbs, black pupils boring into her skull.
Again, as fast as it appeared, the look faded, leaving a smiling chef. ” Per… perhaps. Anyways, I’m coming to the party later, I agreed to that much. ”
“Good! I look forward to it. Well, I must continue cooking. So much to do. Enjoy your meal Thunder.”
She sat down at an empty booth, eating bits and pieces. She pulled out her phone, browsing Twitter, but soon forgot it. The food in her mouth was good, but not that good. Yet somehow each forkful drew her attention. Emotions, thoughts, ideas all drew themselves from her mind, danced around, and took a bow on her tounge. A forkful of Fabio’s angel hair pasta with cream sauce took her breath away, then faded. A second bite was interrupted mere moments from her lip as a swinging bin took the edge of her phone, knocking it from the table.
The bin clattered to the table behind her with a crash, and the bus boy hold it flushed and flustered. “I’m so sorry, I”
Thunder and the bus boy both bent for the phone at the same time. Heads clonked, and both ricocheted up straight, hands on heads.
They stared at each other, rubbing their heads, then broke out laughing together. The bus boy bent down and retrieved the phone.
“Here you go, not a scratch.” Thunder reached out to take the phone, her fingers brushing across his hand. She involuntarily closed her hand over his, dragging her fingertips across him as she took the phone, enjoying the warmth for a moment.
The day of compliments and ego boosting worked their magic, and Thunder smiled at him.
He smiled back. “I’m such a clutz, so sorry, miss?” He trailed off as she slipped the phone into her bra with a quick motion. She blushed slightly as his gaze followed the phone, lingering a moment before whipping back to her face. She stuck the hand back out at him.
“I, I’m Lena.”
“John. Again, so sorry…” He took her hand gently, turning it sideways. For a moment her breath caught as she pictured him bringing her hand to his lips, but he changed his grip, pumping once in a handshake.
“Don’t worry about it John. I’m just relaxing a bit before the reading later.”
John made a face. “Oh, you’re here for the con.”
Lena felt her face grow slack, and heard her voice grow cold. “Not a fan of books?”
John stood up straight, beet red blossoms on his cheeks, “I am, but, sorry. I didn’t mean to be offensive, but some people take it waaaay to seriously. And half the hotel staff is going nuts over this Lightning woman.”
“Thunder, you mean?”
“Yeah, her. I mean, she’s a writer, she’s making it big online, breaking all the rules, I get it. But I’ve heard so much about how great she is, and Tracy, uhh, she’s at the front desk, goes on about how hot her sex scenes are. “
At this, Lena wondered if her own cheeks were blooming in red. “So, you’ve never read her stuff?”
John shook his head. “Naw. I’m a fan of superhero stuff myself, or a good mystery. You ever read Flyover City? That’s more my speed. “ He self consciously drug his hand through his hair, the precocious young man in trouble, thought Lena. “I’m sorry, though. Didn’t mean to insult. To each their own, right?”
His face was so earnest and guilty, Lena found herslef warring inside. Something about his eyes made her stomach churn against the undigested literary fare. Her normal awkwardness fought tooth and nail with her desire, and suddenly a stalemate was reached.
“Well, ifyouwannamakeituptomeyoucangotothereadinglater?” She paused to catch a breath, counting to herself backwards from five in German. “Uhh, I mean, if you aren’t busy?”
“Well, I, uhh. Hmm. “ His eyes took the quick tour south and back, returning to her eyes. “Sure, least I could do, give Thunder a chance, right? Want to get a bite to eat lafter? Maybe some desert? There’s a great ice cream bar down the street.”
“Yeah, okay. That sounds like fun. “
John smiled wide, “Great, what room are you in? I get off at 7:30, I’ll change and come escort you to the reading!”
Lena told him, and he quickly grabbed his forgot pan of dishes, and went back to work clearing dishes. Watching him walk away, she thought to herself, “7:30, then maybe 10:30, again at midnight, maybe the morning…” Realizing her train of thought, she stood, shocked at herself, and, deciding she’d had enough for the moment, headed for the elevators towards her room.
Settling into a large leather chair in her room, Lena tried to reread her chapter for the reading that night. She found herself rewriting it in her head, throwing the main characters together much faster than she’d planned. Somehow Lars kept transforming from his normal large chested, raven haired self to a skinny, awkward bus boy. Her Kindle dropped to the floor, forgotten, as her fingers crept slowly beneath her shirt, into her shorts. Eyes closed, she found herself imagining his scent in her nose, his pale, shining blue eyes gazing into hers as his hands worked their magic on her body, their naked flesh warm against each other. Her breath caught as she slipped a finger between her lips, slowly teasing the quickly moistening flesh inside.
Realizing what she was doing, her eyes opened briefly, and she saw herself in the mirror across the room. She turned her face into the side of the chair, thrusting away visions of herself as Al from Married with Children, and imagined her face pressed hard against his chest, her fingers at work slowly, then more quickly, her breath ragged. She came once, and the Lars of her fantasy kissed her as she did, bringing another orgasm from her shortly. Her breath quickly returned to normal, and instead of being keyed up, she found herself drowsy, and quickly drifted off to sleep.
Lena found herself sitting in a familiar place. Looking around, she quickly identified it as the cafeteria from her high school, not seen in person for nearly a decade. Minor differences stuck at the edge of her mind, but the oddest thing was her plate, piled high with slices and chunks of books.
No, she corrected herself, the second oddest thing. She looked around again, at the lack of color, the red tinge. “Sepia tone,” she mused aloud to herself. “This, Watson, must be a dream.”
“Quite correct!” Lena turned to see Chef Johan standing straight as an arrow next to her, hands folded in front of him. “Dreams are food for the soul, for the mind.” He ladled something into a bowl in front of her, steam rising from the silver pot hanging from a handle in his other hand. “Eat, eat, you need your strength. “
She dug a spoon into the fog, and came up with an apple. A perfectly formed apple, the size of a grape. She looked at Johan for answers, and he smiled, his black teeth like a shadow against albino white skin. “Why Thunder, you may actually have gathered the, gravity, of the situation.
Lena’s attention was drawn to a slurping sound nearby. Turning again, she saw the old woman from earlier at a table like hers. In front of her, on the table, were several marble busts. Lena recognized Shakespeare and Plato, but not the other two. The woman reached into the busts, drawing forth shimmering clouds one at a time. Some showed scenes of war, a floating tv screen. Others held faces, colors, scenery. One at a time the old woman slurped them up, and they spun through the air into her perfectly round mouth, shrinking away. She looked Lena in the eye. “Delicious! Doesn’t get better than straight from the mind!” With that statement, gnarled white knuckles bunched together, knocking on the top of William’s head with a dull thud.
Tap Tap Tap. Tap Tap Tap. Tap Thud Thud. Thud Thud Thud.
Lena sat bolt upright, the tapping on marble changed to knocking on wood.
“Lena, are you there? It’s John.”
She glanced over at the clock. 7:45. She’d slept for a few hours.
“Yeah, I’m here, umm, give me just a minute. She pulled her half asleep hand from her crotch where it still rested, shaking her head at her lack of control. She flung open her suitcase, and quickly changed her panties, picking a thong she’d packed, “just in case”. A quick wash of her hands, and she scooped her kindle up from the ground, checking the charge before walking out the door.
John smiled at her. “Thought maybe you’d changed your mind.” He knodded at the kindle in her hand. “Going to get your e-reader signed?”
Lena smiled back. “Something like that. Shall we?”
She made a hook of her arm, and thrilled at the sensation as he looped his own into it, and the pair walked towards the hotel conference room.
The conference room in question was jam packed, Lena could see through the open door. Tracy stood outside the door, looking anxious. As they came closer and she spotted the pair, her face broke in a wide grin.
“Finally! We were getting worried. John, thank you for escorting our guest of honor!”
John looked at Tracy in confusion, then Lena, then back to Tracy. Lena started to walk in, held back by an unmoving John. She slid her arm out and snagged his hand.
“C’mon. You promised to listen, remember?”
He followed her, silent and glowering, as the audience cheered as she entered. A mixed crowd, young and old, every race she could think of, represented in a small smattering of people. John disengaged his hand, and stood in a corner of the room off to the side of the chair obviously set up for her. She gave him a smile and a wink. John folded his arms, obviously not pleased, but he allowed a small smile back to her.
“Thank you all for coming. As you seem to know, I’m Lena “Thunder” McMillan. I’m here to read you the next update to Silicon Mind, in the 10 GOTO 20 series.” She waited for the latest round of cheering to subside, and turned on her ereader.
“Sally held her blade steady. “You expect me to believe that? That Jack is part of this. He’s part of the Equinox? Why the hell should I believe you?”
Stanley held his hand towards her, palm up. A bright red flash and familiar sound of a replication beam created a small transmitter in his hand. “Because I’m an officer, like you? And I know what that computer chip in your head means for a lot of people.””
Lena looked around the room as she read. Everyone she’d seen today was there, from Tracy to the old lady, the chef, the bellhop. They hung on every word. They hungered for it, she could see. She could almost feel their desire, a hot pulsing behind her eyes. It scared her, a little, but the need, that they needed HER, was ambrosia to her mind. She felt buoyed, empowered by the attention of the crowd. Too soon for her to bear, she reached the end of the file, what she had tapped away during the flight.
Eyes closed, she continued the story. The characters sang in her mind as they hadn’t since she had first crafted them. Dialogue flowed free, and she recited faster and faster. Ideas came unbidden to the front of her mind, and she walked through plot points, added small easter eggs, and foreshadowed plot, all things she often added after the first write through. The feeling exhilarated her, and exhausted her. Eventually the flow of thought stopped. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she may have just recited the next month worth of story.
The room remained silent, except a soft drip, drip sound.
“Um, Lena?” John’s voice broke through her reverie. Her eyes opened, and she felt wetness on her hand. She looked down to see a small pool of blood on the screen of her Kindle, as two drops joined it, falling from her nose. She swooned, swaying back on her chair. John was there, behind her, waiting, and caught her shoulders, held her upright. One hand brushed across her temple, and she couldn’t see, but for a moment it looked like he put a finger in his mouth, before reaching into his pocket.
He held out tissue to her, which she took, wiping at the screen before pushing the paper to her nose.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I, um. Must be the altitude change.”
Lena looked again out at the crowd. Few were even paying attention to her, talking amongst themselves, or filling out. Many rubbed their temples, in a way that oddly reminded her of someone rubbing their belly after a third trip to the buffet line.
She pinched her nose and leaned her head back.
“No, forward, not back. Don’t want to drink it!” John tilted her head down, and his hand on her cheek thrilled her more than before.
“I’ll be okay. Just give me a minute. So, what did you think?” Lena was privately happy for the forward tilt, as it hid the blush on her face.
“Well, I can see why Tracy loves it, you’re good. Just, you know, not my style. Not enough capes.”
Lena stole a glance upwards, happy to see him still smiling. “So, you still buying me ice cream?”
So, I can’t find where I originally posted part one. A long disturbing discussion put an image in my head of an author being hung over a barrel, being bled dry. The following story is part one of the story in my mind that resulted.