The Next Story Will Be...

...I'm not actually sure, but per Christina's request, it will somehow incorporate a spaceship, butterflies, grizzly bears, sprinklers, and grapes. Or... at least four out of the six. We'll see.

You guys may remember Christina from her previous request, which gave y'all this gem.

I'm pretty sure the next story will have considerably less rodents. But then again, maybe not. We'll see in a couple of weeks.


Open for Suggestions!

I was hoping to get one more story in by the end of the month, but as I said, January is a rather busy month for me, and I'm still a bit under the weather. So, whatever I choose off this suggestion will likely go up the first full week of Febtober or whatever month is coming up next.

I didn't get a big turnout on the last suggestion blog, so maybe this time I'll choose a suggestion from past ones. Or maybe not. That is to say... feel free to keep making suggestions. I'm gonna see if I can't get that army of cat-eared marshmallow men to sort through them in the wee hours of Sunday morning.


Author's Notes on the Last Story

While I do reserve some space before the stories on my blog for comments, I tend to steer away from using that space to comment or critique my work. And believe me, I do plenty of self-critiquing. But I like to stay quiet about it until after people have read it. This is for two reasons.

First off, I don't want to color anyone's opinion of my work with my own opinion of it. If I post a story and preclude it with, "This piece is kind of meh," then some of my kind readers are likely to respond with, "Oh, no, it's not! It's far better than anything I could come up with!"* while other readers are going to find themselves nitpicking for "meh." Likewise, if I post that I'm really happy with a piece I've done, some people are going to pat me on the head when I don't deserve head-pats, and others are going to dedicate themselves to looking for flaws. But I want people to read my stuff on its own merit, without any worry of pre-conceived thoughts on how they should approach it.

The second reason is because I want to make sure I can accurately gauge my own work myself. As demonstrated above, posting my opinions of my own work prior to allowing people to read it skews the feedback I get, which is ultimately unhelpful when I'm trying to get a feel for how other people are interacting with my story. However, if I don't have a good gauge of my own talents, even the best feedback isn't necessarily going to help me fix the flaws. So I try to stay on top of that.

And while this blog itself stays pretty quiet in the comments section, I do receive feedback via other sources fairly frequently.

So... this last story.

True horror is one of those genres that I never quite manage to get into. I find many horror movies to be TERRIBLY cheesy, even if they are considered good by market standards or manage to successfully creep me out for the next few days. So, if I want to get into horror, it has to be mixed with something else such that the horror is coincidental to the situation rather than the point of the story. For instance, the Alien franchise may be technically a monster movie, but much of it is wrapped in a story of mystery, action, and space exploration that just happens to go terribly wrong because xenomorphs are terrifying by human standards. (I'm sure they find each other to be somewhat charming.) Every time a movie in the franchise succumbs to going, "BLARGH!!! WE ARE ALIENS FEAR US!!!" I find myself raising an eyebrow and yawning.

Of course, this opinion of horror comes up in my writing. Neither of the two "horror stories" I did last year are truly horrifying in my opinion, but instead they simply have strong dark undercurrents. But if someone were to ask me what the best horror story is currently on this blog, I'd probably direct them to the one I labeled "dark fantasy."

Such is my relationship with horror.

So, when I sat down to write this last story, which was always intended to be a more pure form of horror, I had to figure out how to approach it. And I decided the premise reminded me of nothing so much as a plot to one of those terrible horror movies of the late 90's that is built with a target audience aged 12-17. And so that's what I tried to write.

Of course, most of my audience is decidedly not aged 12-17. Which means I kind of expect most of them to react with abject horror not at the premise of the story so much as at the horrible text speak that a few of the characters use. And, based on the feedback I'm getting, that's prettymuch exactly how you guys are reacting. As for overall liking or disliking the story... well, YMMV, as they say. Though I imagine it correlate how much you like terrible horror movies from the late 90's.

*I am strongly of the opinion that some of the least helpful feedback anyone can provide on a work of art is, "It's better than anything I could do," and secretly harbor desires to smack people when they tell me this, even if it's true.


Story 2

While most people take one look at their pocketbooks in January and decide they're just going to relax and be broke for the month, I usually find my Januaries to be only slightly less busy than my Decembers. It's not all bad, but it can make it hard to do anything else. Like, for instance, be sick.

Yes, my body decided it was high time we got over this being healthy through the winter nonsense and decided to pick up The Plague as a sort of late Christmas present or something. It was not pretty. So, I ended up spending about a week and a half somewhere in between playing copious amounts of video games and doing copious amounts of sleeping (especially the latter), and not feeling bad about either (even though my general state of being definitely included feeling bad).

But I did complete a story. This story, to be precise, which also turned out to be an exercise in formatting text in HTML:



Amy: I still <3 u n I'll alwayz b here 4 u

Kevin shrugged and slid the phone back across the table to Mike. “So your crazy ex-girlfriend texted you,” he said. “At least she's not showing up at your apartment and trying to break down your door at 2 A.M. anymore.”

Mike picked up the phone and read the message again.“Yeah,” he said. “Maybe I should've gotten that restraining order.”

“Ya think?” Kevin took another bite of his hamburger. “You've always had terrible taste in women, but Amy was very special kind of terrible.”

Mike deleted the message and slid the phone back into his pocket. “Gee, thanks. Though could you not mention that when you meet Jess?”

“Wait, you're dating Jess?”

“Yeah,” said Mike. “It just sort of happened yesterday. We're having our first official date tonight.”

“Well, well.” Kevin washed down the mouthful of burger with a long slurp of soda. “Jess actually seems halfway sane. Good luck to ya.”

“Thanks.” Mike's phone vibrated. He picked it up and looked at the message, then frowned.

“Don't tell me Jess just canceled on ya.”

“No,” said Mike. He looked around the burger joint, then slid the phone across the table to Kevin. Kevin picked it up and looked at the display.

Amy: Whos Jess?

“Well, that's a creepy coincidence,” said Kevin.

Mike lowered his voice. “Do you think she's spying on us?”

“Maybe?” said Kevin. “Amy was a woman obsessed, after all. But I don't see her anywhere around here, do you?”


“Like I said, creepy coincidence.” Kevin handed Mike the phone and shoved the last of the hamburger in his mouth. “If she keeps it up, though, maybe you should rethink about that restraining order.”

Mike scooped up his tray and dumped his own half-eaten burger in the trash. “I dunno. It sounds like a lot of paperwork.”

Kevin shrugged. “It's your call, man. But when mostly-normal girl Jess leaves you 'cause you're still getting texts from your crazy ex-girlfriend, don't say I didn't warn ya.”

The afternoon dragged on as Mike counted down the hours to his date with Jess. It wasn't like he was new to the dating scene, but the first date always made him nervous. And the second one. And the... well, most dates made him nervous. There were so many things that could go wrong, even with girls who seemed nice and funny. Like Jess.

Amy had been nice and funny at the beginning, too.

He pushed those thoughts away. He wasn't going to worry about Amy. After lunch he had deleted her message and removed her number from his phone. That way, if Amy did text him again, at least he could claim it was a wrong number.

He pulled up to Jess's house promptly at six. He wasn't sure if Jess was a stickler for being on time, but it never hurt. He got out of the car, walked up to the door, and rang the bell.

There was no answer. Maybe that was a good sign. If she was still getting ready, then maybe she really wanted to look nice for the date. He tugged on his shirt to straighten it and ran his fingers through his hair. He hoped he looked nice enough. They were just going to the local Chinese food place for dinner, then maybe a movie. He hadn't exactly thought to dress up.

He checked the time on his phone. 6:04. He rang the bell again. There was still no answer.

Maybe she forgot? He felt a pang of worry go through his chest. Why would she forget their date? Had she just been toying with him when she agreed to go out with him? Had she met someone else? Jess didn't seem the type, but then, he didn't know her very well. Yet. What if he had read things wrong?

His phone buzzed and he fished it out of his pocket.

New Text Message

That had to be her. Of course. She was running late from work or something. He unlocked the phone and opened the message.

Amy: I'll always b here 4 u.

“What?” Mike deleted the message in disgust and shoved the phone back in his pocket. It buzzed again and he immediately pulled it back out.

Amy: I said I'll always b here 4 u. :)

Mike sighed. He deleted the message, searched for Amy's listing in his phone book, and deleted it. He checked the time again before shoving the phone back in his pocket. 6:09. He rang the doorbell, then knocked on the door.

The door opened suddenly. Jess stood there in sweat pants and a t-shirt. Her eyes were dark circles of smudged make-up and anger. “What?” she said.

Mike shifted under her gaze, unsure what to make of the figure before him. “Are you... ready to go to dinner?”

Her eyes flashed and she slammed the door.

“I can come back later if you're not ready,” Mike called through the door. “Or... did something happen? We don't have to go out tonight. We can just stay in, or I can get something and bring it back.”

“Just go away, you jerk!” Jess's voice came muffled through the door.

“Wait, what happened?” He pressed his ear against the door, trying to hear her better. “What did I do?”

The door opened again, dumping him on the ground. “Really, Mike?” said Jess. “Didn't we talk about this enough already?”

“Talk about what?”

“I thought you liked me, Mike. I thought you were different.”

Mike slowly pulled himself up from the floor, his brain racing. This was certainly not how he had expected things to go. “But I do like you,” he answered weakly. “Why would you think I didn't like you?”

“Really, Mike?” Tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Yeah, really,” said Mike, then wondered what he was really agreeing to. “I really like you, and I really want to go out with you. That's why I said I wanted to go out with you. That's why I'm here right now.”

“Then why'd you send me all those messages?”

“What messages?”

“All the texts you sent me this afternoon! There were like twenty of them, saying the date was off and that you didn't like me... calling me fat, and ugly, and... and....”

“I didn't send you any messages this afternoon,” said Mike. Had he accidentally messaged her without realizing it? “I was too nervous. I wouldn't have known what to say! Here....” He pulled out his phone.

New Text Message

He skipped the new message and went straight to his sent box. “Look, see? The last message I sent was at 1:15 P.M. to my friend Kevin reminding him that he owed me money for lunch.”

He held up the display for her to see. She frowned and wiped her eye, smudging her make-up further. She stalked out of the room and came back a moment later, phone in hand.

“Mike, 1:28 P.M.” she read. “It's off Jess. It's over. I never really liked you.”


“Mike, 1:37 P.M. I'm serious. Delete my number and don't talk to me ever again. Mike: 1:51 P.M. Go away, you stupid fat whore. I don't want you in my life.”

“What? I didn't send any of that!”

Jess held up the phone in front of him. Its display was covered with messages going back and forth between her and him. The ones from him were not very nice. “It's got to be a different Mike or something,” he said. “Do you know any other Mikes? Is it from my phone number?”

Jess tapped the display. It was his number all right. He looked at his phone. “Maybe my phone got hacked.” He looked back at Jess. Tears were rolling down her cheeks again. “I'm sorry,” he said. “I don't know how this happened. I would never say those things about you.”

“Just go away for now, huh, Mike?” said Jess. “I've got to think some things through.”

“Ok.” His heart sank, but what else could he say? He walked slowly back to his car and rested his head on the steering wheel. This made no sense. His phone must have been hacked somehow. That happened, right?

He pulled the phone back out of his pocket.

New Text Message

He unlocked the phone and opened the message.

Amy: She's obviously crazy. U should leave her.

“Dammit, I don't need this right now!”

Amy: :( I'll b right here waiting 4 wen u do.

Mike turned the phone off and tossed it in the glove box.

Mike got home and flopped down on the couch. He didn't move for hours. It was too much work. How had this happened? He and Jess had hit it off so well last night, and now some crazy phone hacker had to go and mess everything up. He pulled his phone back out of his pocket and turned it on. Surely they had some sort of warranty policy if your phone got hacked. He'd just need to talk to his service provider and get this whole thing sorted out. And hope Jess would still talk to him afterward.

New Text Message

Mike sat up. Maybe it was Jess. That was stupid of him to turn off his phone. What if she still wanted to have dinner together.

Amy: Hi again. :)

“You have got to be kidding me,” he muttered.

Amy: U don't seem happy 2 see me. :(

“Of course I'm not,” Mike told the phone. “We broke up two months ago.”

Amy: I no u didnt mean it. :) I'll b here 4 u 4eva <3

Mike slowly lowered the phone and looked around the room. He hadn't sent a message back, and he was sure he had deleted Amy's number from his phone. Had she bugged his apartment? Had she hacked his phone? That was crazy. Amy wasn't exactly the most tech-savvy girl. Or maybe she was and he hadn't figured it out. After all, he had also thought she was normal at first, hadn't he? He signed and hit reply.

Me: Did u hack my phone?

Amy: No

Me: Did u get someone 2 hack my phone?

Amy: I don't think its hacking really......

Me: What?

Amy: I'll alwayz b here 4 u <3

Me: No. We're done. I'm seeing Jess now.

Amy: I thought she broke up w/ u

Me: That's none of your bzness. Stop spying on me.

Amy: We'll alwayz b 2getha <3

Mike threw his phone across the room. It hit the wall with a loud crack and fell to the floor. He buried his face in the couch.

“Hey, Mike!” Kevin came up behind him in line and patted him hard on the back. “I wasn't sure you'd show up today. I texted you, but you never replied.”

“Yeah, I kind of broke my phone last night,” said Mike.

“That sucks,” said Kevin. “Unless you broke it doing something interesting.”


“What do you mean, what? I'm asking how your hot date last night went.”

“It... uh, didn't,” said Mike.

“Really? Geez, the one time you try to date a non-crazy girl, and you had to go and ruin it, huh?”

Mike sighed. “Look, I really don't want to talk about it.”

“Fine, fine.”

They ordered their food and sat down to eat.

“Oh, by the way,” said Kevin in between mouthfuls, “I think your phone got hacked or something.”

Mike slowly lowered his sandwich. “What makes you say that?”

“You were getting messages from Amy yesterday, right?”


Kevin swallowed and took a long drink from his soda. “Well, I thought I'd try and get ahold of her last night. Tell her to get off your case or else. Turns out she killed herself two days ago. Apparently she surrounded herself with candles and stuff in the basement and they just found her there the next morning, dead. Weird, huh?”

“But she and I were just texting last night!”

Kevin raised an eyebrow. “You were trying to text Amy when you were supposed to be out with Jess?”

“She texted me first! I was just trying to get her to go away!”

“Look, she couldn't have texted you last night. She died the day before that. Your phone just got hacked or something.”

Mike poked at his sandwich. “Yeah, I guess you're right. I guess it's a good thing I broke it, then.”

Three days later, Mike received his new cell phone. He pulled it out of the box, turned it on and set it up. It would take a bit to get all his contacts and such sorted out, since the other one was busted, but after three days without a cell phone, Mike was just glad he could contact the outside world again.

He was just figuring out how the internet worked when his phone gave a polite series of dings.

New Text Message

He opened it.

Amy: U can't get rid of me that easy. I told u we'll always be 2getha. Foreva. <3 <3 <3


The Next Story Will Be...

...about a guy whose cell phone is possessed by the ghost of his ex-girlfriend, as suggested by Guy.

Guy actually threw a few suggestions at me, but this one has a lot of humor potential, I think, and it's been a while since I wrote some cheesy horror. We'll see what comes of it.


Open for Suggestions!

Usually I'm a bit quicker to request these. I'm not sure why it took me longer this time. Anyway, feel free to leave your suggestions (or if you know of a previous suggestion that I skipped, feel free to throw that one my way again).

If you are new here and don't know what I'm talking about, this might clear things up a bit.

On a completely unrelated note, I was mucking about on Google Maps and came across the following... a satellite image of the Afgan Pamirs (the northwestern branch of the Himalayas) in both summer and winter.

View Larger Map


Story 1

Yeah, I'm gonna start back from 1 this year instead of making this Story 9, even though it's the ninth story on the blog. We'll see if I can get further this time before I get knee-deep in crazy life things again.

Immortality is a topic I have rather mixed opinions on. That plus a few words from a friend of mine upon finding out the subject of this story made writing it FAR more difficult than I initially expected. I scrapped the first few pages three times before settling on the current version, which I don't think ended up being quite so much about immortality as I originally intended.


The Crumbling of the Mountain

“So, here's where you've been hiding, old man.” Sam pushed open the door to the study of the late Nicholas Weatherby. Peter looked up from the rifle he was examining and gave him a small smile.

“Looks like you found me,” he said. He spun the rifle and traded it for a glass of scotch that sat on the desk behind him. “I was just... saying goodbye.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, I don't know if we'll ever get used to not having him here. He's done a lot for the League. Him and you both. I mean, you were there at the beginning, right?”

“Yeah, we were.”

Sam chuckled. “I still can't wrap my head around that. Couldn't figure out why a smart-ass like you was allowed so much authority when I could barely move a finger without someone getting after me for it. But I guess Nick knew a lot of things I didn't.”

“He always had a keen mind.”

“Yeah.” Sam ran his fingers along a bookshelf and flicked the dust off his fingers. Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Kant and Machiavelli, ArsenĂ© Lupin and Sherlock Holmes. His eyes wandered over to the overstuffed filing cabinets of case files and police reports. “Did he actually find the time to read all these, or did he just keep them around for decoration?”

Peter shrugged and took a long sip from his glass. Sam grunted and tapped on the filing cabinets. They had been trying to get Nick to let them digitize them for years, but the old man had always refused. It would be quite a project going through them all. But that could wait. Now wasn't the time, and the League wasn't a business in the traditional step. Nothing would fall apart if they left things where they were for a few weeks, or a few months, or however long it took for the loss to fully sink in.

His eyes went to the rifle on the desk, and he carefully picked it up. “Was this his? I never figured ol' Nick for a gun man.”

“He wasn't,” said Peter. “His brother was, though, and gave him that one year. To keep him safe, he said.”

Sam turned it over carefully. Outwardly, at least, the gun's craftsmanship was excellent, if a bit old-fashioned. He would have loved to take it to the range and see what it was made of. “Seems in good condition.”

“Yeah,” said Peter. “Nicholas might not have been a gun man, but he knew how to care for one and how to use one. He and I took that thing out the shooting range a few times. I tell you, he could shoot a cherry off of William Tell's apple.”

Sam laughed and sighted down the barrel. “And here I always thought he was all brains and you were all the brawn. Did he really use this thing without a scope?”

“Maybe you're right in my case,” said Peter. He gestured toward the rifle with his glass. “Be careful with that thing.”

“Aw, common, gramps,” said Sam. “My specialty may be in literally turning up the heat, but I know how to handle one of these things. I'm not gonna go breaking ol' Nick's stuff.”

Peter gulped down a mouthful of scotch. “That's not what I meant,” he said. “It's loaded, and that thing could punch through the walls of this room like a hot knife through butter.”

“Even the filing cabinets?” But Sam lowered the gun. He checked the safety and flicked it on. “Damn, I should've checked that first. So much for knowing how to handle one of these things.” He placed the gun back on the desk with a gentle pat. “I guess I'll leave it to you to put it back wherever he kept it, since you....”

His words trailed off. He looked hard at Peter, but the other's gaze was absorbed in the glass of scotch. “I'll take care of it,” said Peter.

“The hell you will,” said Sam.

Peter closed his eyes and sighed deeply. “Can't you leave an old man to grieve the last of his oldest friends in peace?”

“When I came in here, you were looking straight down the barrel of that thing,” said Sam. “Were you grieving ol' Nick, or looking to join him?”

Peter met his gaze then, his eyes full of a defiance that made him look even younger. “What do you know of the grievances of your elders, Sammy?”

“The Great Depression and three major wars under your belt,” said Sam, “and this is the thing that is finally going to make Peter 'The Mountain' Montana crumble. What would ol' Nick say?”

Peter swirled the ice in his glass. “He'd understand, Sammy boy,” he said, “in a way a younger man could never hope to.”

Sam lunged at Peter, grabbing for his lapels. Whether out of habit or defiance, Peter sidestepped him and brought a fist solidly into his stomach. Sam collapsed on the ground, wind knocked out of him. He tried to force air back into his lungs as he turned back toward Peter.

Peter had picked up the rifle from the desk. “Please, Samson,” he said, “try to understand. The Great Depression and three major wars, you say? Try five, though one was before the League was started, and we destroyed all record of involvement in the other one. I've lost track of how many 'old friends' I've lost. Many fell before you were ever born.”

“That comes with war,” he gasped, “and with being part of the League.”

“Yes, yes it does. But not all of those losses were on a battlefield.”

“They say the only things that are certain are death and taxes.”

“Is death really so certain in these days?”


Peter gave him a small smile. “Look at me, Sammy. The man who is also a Mountain. Immovable. Indestructible. Even Time can barely leave his mark on this body. Would you honestly say death is an inevitability for me?”

Sam paused. When he had been recruited to the League, Sam had assumed Peter was only a few years older than him. Now he knew better. These days, most people would have guessed Sam was the older of the two. He doubted Peter had aged a day since they had first met, and probably for much, much longer.

Peter turned from him and headed for the door, rifle still in hand. Sam lifted a hand and pointed at the space in between Peter and the door. Heat emanated from his finger, creating a ripple in the air between Peter and the door. He would have to be careful. If the old man truly wanted to see his plan through, he could do worse than pick a fight with Sammy “the Sun God” Sonnen.

Peter stopped. “What is it, Sam?”

“All those things haven't put a scratch in the Mountain, and you think a little rifle's gonna do the trick?”

“I know my weak points, even if no one else does. Or are you making an offer?”

“Nice try,” said Sam. He nodded toward the shimmer of heat. “That might be enough to leave a mark even on you, tough guy, but I doubt it will kill you.” He waved his fingers slowly and the shimmer moved closer to Peter. “Of course,” he continued, “I could just get rid of all the oxygen around you. You'd survive that, too, but you can't keep hold of that rifle if you're unconscious.”

“Or you could just burn the rifle and leave the cartridge intact. What's your point?”

“Maybe I'm not going to stop you at all. But I didn't actually come here to talk about how terrible it is that you're still cheating death.”

Peter took a step forward. “I'm done playing games, Sammy.”

“Mari's pregnant,” said Sam. “She just told me this morning.”

“Congratulations. I'm afraid I won't be able to play godfather, if that's what you're asking.”

“Dammit, this isn't about you, old man!” said Peter. His hand faltered and the shimmer faded a bit. “It's about... Mari's pregnant. What am I supposed to do?”

“Marry her, I guess. Don't worry, I'm sure you'll be an excellent father.”

“But that's just it,” said Sam. “What if I can't?”

“Nonsense,” said Peter. “You've already proven that you can look after others to the point of annoyance, and Mari seems to be quite fond of you....”

“That's not what I'm talking about!” said Sam. His concentration broke and the heat wave between Peter and the door dissipated. Peter turned back toward him. “What if I can't?” repeated Sam. “Me and Mari, we're both part of the League. I mean, she'll drop out to take care of the kid, I'm sure, but....”

“Perhaps you should follow her lead.”

“I can't do that, either,” said Sam. “Not yet, anyway. I mean, I want to protect her and the kid, but I don't think I can do that.” He looked at his hands and concentrated, feeling the temperature above them raise. “This is the first place I felt I belonged, that I was actually doing any good with what I'd become. This is my home. Even if I left formally, I doubt I could stop myself from vigilante work. It just... needs to be done.”

“There are others who can do it,” said Peter. “After all, that's part of why the League exists.”

“But what if... something happens to me? I know I'm not as tough as you or some of the others. Hell, if what you say is true, even you can be killed. We're all cheating death when we go out on cases. That's the nature of the League. We do it because our odds are slightly higher than most people's.” He clenched his fists and let the heat around them die. “What if my number comes up?”

Peter huffed. “We all die someday,” he said. He patted the rifle in his hands. “Or, rather, most of us do.” He turned back toward the door.

“But what about the kid?” said Sam. “Both Mari and I are superhumans. There's a good chance he will be, too. What if he hates superhumans because his daddy's always away with the League? What if he hates me because something happens and I don't come back? But what if I drop out of the League, and he thinks his dad's a coward and a lowlife for not doing what I could to protect others?”

“Sam, you can't hold yourself responsible for everything someone else thinks about you.”

“But it's my kid!” said Sam. “It's my kid. What good is it if everyone else sees me as a hero and my own kid hates me? And don't tell me I just have to 'do my best.' What if I'm not there to do anything, best or worst or whatever?”

Peter tapped the rifle against the palm of his hand. “Well, Sammy,” he said, “I guess you'll just have to do what everyone else does and trust all that to God and the people around you.” He tossed the gun to Sam. “Put that away for me, will you? Nicholas kept it in a safe behind that picture over there. The code is 4382.”

Sam gave Peter a questioning look, but got up and went over to the picture.

“I always told Nicholas that it was immensely impractical for him to keep that thing locked up in a safe,” Peter continued. “By the time he fished it out, any real threat would have already done away with him. But he used to tell me, 'That's what I keep all you freaks around for. If you all do your job, I won't ever have to fish that thing out in the first place.'”

Sam tugged the door to the safe open and placed the rifle inside. “You sure you won't be needing this, old man?” he said. “Is there somewhere else I should send a clean-up crew in a few hours?”

“Not today, I think,” said Peter. He sighed, and for just a moment Sam thought he could see the weight of all the years on those youthful shoulders. The next moment it was gone, and Peter moved with his ever-present sense of determination to the overstuffed filing cabinets. “I think I shall simply retire in a more traditional way for now,” he said. “I'm not as good with paperwork as Nicholas was, but maybe I can add some sense to all his archives.” He laid a hand on a cabinet. “Someone has to remember things the way they truly were, even when there is no one else left alive to talk about it. Otherwise, the young might forget the great deeds of their fathers.”

He looked at Sam, and Sam nodded.

“Yeah,” he said. “I think you've earned a change of pace, old man. Though it'll be hard to lose you from the field teams.”

“The same goes for you, Sammy,” said Peter. He turned back to the filing cabinet and opened the top drawer. “But if you guys will endure it for the sake of the future, I suppose I can, too. After all, I am the Mountain, and mountains stay standing no matter the weather.”

“I'll leave you to it, then,” said Sam, and he turned for the door. “I suppose I had better let the others know.”


“Oh, and...thanks, old man. From me and my kid.”

“You're welcome.”