Remeon's Quest (A Realms of Chaos Novel)

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Editor: Denise Baker

remeon’s Quest Copyright © 2019 J.W. Garrett All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please write to the publisher. This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published by BHC Press Library of Congress Control Number: 2018959723 ISBN: 978-1-948540-89-6 (Hardcover) ISBN: 978-1-948540-50-6 (Softcover) ISBN: 978-1-948540-51-3 (Ebook) For information, write: BHC Press 885 Penniman #5505 Plymouth, MI 48170 Visit the publisher at:

Dedicated to my mother, my mentor and most ardent fan. Thanks for your belief in me through every step of life’s journey.

It was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair. — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

chapter 1


ACK LIVINGSTON PULLED his thin, baggy jacket tighter around himself as a barrier to Utah’s February chill. He shivered, the cold reaching into his bones. Although the coat was buttoned, the loose fit offered little protection from the wind. He wrapped his wool scarf around his nose, mouth and neck, secured it under his coat and set a brisk pace toward the mine. A nod sufficed as a Good morning to those who passed by as he stopped at the general store to peruse the headlines. Ever since that awful day last year when the stock market fell to pieces, he vowed to stay informed; his mother now depended on him. Jack scanned the headlines, reading quickly for the few minutes he had before the shopkeeper would find him and chase him from his store. He locked gazes with the owner and flashed a quick smile as he returned the newspaper to the rack and continued on his way. Who knew what to call it—this panic affecting everyone— almost like a sickness. People depressed and killing themselves. I’d say they were more far gone than depressed. How about the death of life as you know it or the loss of innocence maybe? Those would be more accurate descriptions. Many had it far worse than him; that’s a fact. At least he wasn’t alone. He had his mom, even if not his dad. When Jack had left home at the end of last year, he had vowed not to waste time pretending that his dad would return. Hope was silly. The past few

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months had taught him that, and all the horrors he had seen since that day had driven it home. Jack shook his head, releasing a frustrated sigh punctuated by his fists aching to be set free beside him. That evening in October of 1929 when his father came home from work, he pretended—no, he lied—telling them everything would stabilize and return to normal. What did he know? The next day he left early for his job at the bank and never returned. They hadn’t seen him since. Jack closed his eyes, shielding them for a few seconds from the wind. A stray tear fell down his cheek, and he brushed it away. Dead or alive, the outcome was the same. His father had been weak. He had broken their family. Jack’s job now was to fix it. Jack loosened his scarf as he approached the mine. His walk in had warmed him if nothing else. He nodded to Gene, the general manager, as he barked orders to the men in the yard preparing to go down. Personally, Jack got along fine with the man. They had an agreement. Jack would do what Gene asked of him, and his boss would lie on the books about his age. Every miner here was eighteen or older “officially.” But all the men knew Jack was only a few weeks shy of his seventeenth birthday. Jack pushed through the doors of the mining office and headed to the back to change. The now-familiar scent of the mine assaulted his senses. The mixture of dust, dirt and gas commingled with the rotten egg smell produced a stench that never failed to make him queasy. He knew it would eventually pass. He took a deep breath as he pulled on his cotton shirt, overalls and hard hat. A wooden bin held his belongings. A change of clothes mostly. Ah, here’s where I left it. Jack pulled out the book and opened the cover as he glanced at the time clock. Damn. No time. Inside the book he flipped to the second page and reread the inscription he knew so well. Forget your stupid dream of becoming a soldier. You are destined for great things, and war isn’t one of them. Love, Sam. The corners of his mouth turned up, forming a grin. Sam, he meant well. Reluctantly he returned his copy

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of All Quiet on the Western Front to his bin and headed for the door, stooping by the basket on his way out for a day-old piece of bread. He chewed quickly, groaning with pleasure as the bread worked its way down his throat and into his empty stomach. Jack stowed an additional piece of bread in his pants pocket, then clocked in for the day. He meandered into the mine’s entrance. Not slow exactly, more of a pensive stride. Each day he had to prepare himself to go down into the mine’s depths. He wasn’t afraid; Jack just had to adjust his thoughts. The men below depended on him. Jack was a gopher of sorts; he was their lifeline aboveground. Three times a day he would go down to their location, determine any immediate needs, run and get those items, and return to the miners. This way the workers had ongoing communication during the day, through Jack, their intermediary. The temperature dropped noticeably as Jack traveled deeper into the recesses of the tunnel, on his way toward his transport, the cage. His thoughts lingered only a few seconds each time he stepped into the latticework metal cage, wondering if it might be his last journey down, to be eternally entombed in the mine shaft with whoever was unlucky enough to be working below. It was the chance he and other men took daily. He couldn’t dwell on it. So he let the rampant thoughts roam only upon the initial descent into the cavity, as the rattling cage swung from side to side and the darkness swallowed him whole. Next year when he turned eighteen, this would be his life for ten to twelve hours a day. There was no choice, no other jobs; his mother needed him. Jack would die before he let her down, and each and every day he was reminded that his underlying fear was a very real possibility. Finally the cage reached its destination with a jarring thud. Jack adjusted the light on his hard hat and followed the dim trail of illumination through the mine shaft that would take him to the small group where Sam worked. First one step, then another. With each

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successive stride, his confidence increased. The damp was pervasive now and had permeated his system. He felt the black dust cling to his face as he made his way through the maze of tunnels, stooping through the structure when it narrowed too far to permit easy passage. When Jack heard the chisels and hammers clanging repetitively ahead, he knew he was close. Moments later Jack found his way into the niche where the men worked. He had to duck his head to fit into the space but, once inside, stood again at his full height of six foot one. First one man recognized him, then another, and finally Sam laid down his chisel, then greeted Jack with a hug, sending circles of coal dust in puffs around their faces. “Been wondering when you’d make it down. You were sleeping like a babe when I left you early this morning.” Sam laughed good-naturedly, then patted him solidly on the back, sending new wisps of dust up into the air to resettle once again on the same surface in the stale air. Jack smiled back at Sam, aware that only his teeth and eyes were visible in the darkness, just as from each man facing him. So he exaggerated the movements of both facial features, bringing laughs, then coughing, from the small work team. “And I thank you for leaving me so, old man,” Jack responded. At those words of endearment the men laughed, aware that Sam was hardly only twelve years his senior. Although work in the mines aged a man, Sam Scott was hardly an old man at age twenty-nine. Marty came alongside Jack and handed him a basket full of empty canteens. Then discussion began over the supplies crucial for the next few hours of work, after which the men would resurface for their lunch break. After haggling back and forth over the additional items that would fit into the basket, Jack turned to leave. “Be back in jiffy. You won’t even miss me.” “You’re wrong there,” George piped up, a worker closer to Jack’s age at nineteen. “I’ve got a horrible thirst. Double time it, would ya?”

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“You got it,” Jack said, crashing into a dim low-swinging lamp in his haste to exit. He paused momentarily to right the light and gave one last glimpse of a toothy grin to the gathered men before heading back the way he came.

THE FEBRUARY DAY had warmed up nicely, unseasonably so to a balmy fifty degrees. Jack waited patiently as he read under a leafless sycamore tree with the supper pail that he and Sam shared beside him, the food within untouched. Occasionally Jack glanced up from his book in anticipation of Sam coming his way. His second descent of the day into the mine had been uneventful, completing his delivery of supplies and water to the men, along with the additional daily mundane tasks assigned to him while in the depths of the mine. The afternoon would bring more delivery trips and loading coal into shuttle cars for carting aboveground. “There you are,” Sam said, as a cloud of coal dust followed him while he situated himself on the ground beside Jack. Jack blew the dust from the page, then carefully closed the cover, protecting its pages. “Yes, I am here, patiently waiting, not eating all the food within my reach.” Jack sifted through the pail and pulled out two tin cups and filled them with water, while Sam divided the bread, honey and bits of cheese between them. Sam took a bite of bread liberally doused with honey, then licked his coal-smeared fingers, eliminating the sticky excess. “How’s that book? Still think soldiering is the life for you?” Jack readjusted his position against the tree. “Still think mining is the life for you?” “You got me there, Start-Up.” One corner of Jack’s mouth turned up, forming a lopsided grin at the mention of the nickname given to him by Sam. He had christened Jack “Start-Up” from their first meeting when Jack had

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told Sam how he would clean his clothes in exchange for food. Sam had looked him up and down, and said Jack was in no condition to start up a conversation about working for Sam when Jack could barely put one foot in front of the other and was on the verge of starvation. Sam had taken him in that night, fed him, insisted on a bath, then had given him a place to sleep. And, as each successive day passed, Sam’s role as Jack’s mentor grew steadily stronger, each drawing benefit from the relationship. These days, unless one of them was in the mine, you rarely saw one without the other. “Do you ever think of going back? You know? Joining the service again?” “No, I don’t, ever. How far along are you in that book? You still sound like you’re chomping at the bit.” Jack grabbed the book and opened it to his bookmarked page. “Let’s see. I’m on…page seventy-five.” “If I remember correctly, that’s far enough. The stuff between those pages is real. I lived it.” “So you’ve said. Learning how to shoot your gun isn’t enough for me. I want the real thing. This—this is what I want,” Jack said as he slammed shut the book and shook it at his friend. “Jesus, cool it, Start-Up. No one wants war. That’s your pain talking. I’ve spoken to kids younger than you, all gung ho, then their leg or arm gets shot all to hell. Who do you think they want then? Well, I’ll tell you—their mama. So just calm down, all right? There’s no rush. Plenty of time for that later, if you choose it when you’re eighteen and if you’ve finished that book.” “Oh, I’ll finish. Probably tomorrow or, for sure, the next day.” “Always in a hurry. Take your time. My home is your home. Right?” Jack took a deep exaggerated breath, then exhaled loudly. “Right, okay.”

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Sam smirked. “Besides, it’s not time for you to grow up yet. Go do what other guys your age are doing. Find a girl, make out. Heck, go to second base, if she’ll let you. Be a kid for now. Just don’t get anyone pregnant.” “Yeah, girls really go for this sooty-face look,” Jack said as he animatedly pointed at his face. “Can’t you tell? I’m fighting them off with sticks.” Sam half tackled, half grabbed him in a giant bear hug, then tousled his hair as the horn blew, signaling the lunch break was over. “Meet you here after the shift. And don’t be late, Start-Up. I’m taking you out on the town tonight. There are gals just itching to be found who will find you irresistible. Just wait and see.” “Yeah, right,” Jack said to Sam’s retreating back. “You maybe, not me.” “Oh, and the book stays home,” Sam yelled back. Sam disappeared into the mine. No maybe about it. It was a fact. Women did find Sam attractive. He was the only one in their circle of friends taller than Jack. And if it was Sam’s combination of blond hair and green eyes that made women throw themselves at him, well Jack was outta luck. While Sam wasn’t serious about anybody currently, when the two of them went out together, one or two women always ended up hanging all over Sam. But it was only seldom he didn’t make it home for the night. People were drawn to him. Sam’s different than most. He cares. Jack focused on work, loading coal for the duration of the afternoon. Exhausted from the day, and feeling permanently bent over, he changed out of his sooty coal-covered grime, back into his everyday grime, chugged some water, grabbed his book and headed toward the entrance. He had decided. He was beat and filthy dirty to boot. He didn’t want to go anywhere but to bed. Sam would have to go out on the town alone. Jack took a step toward the entrance, then the floor rumbled underneath him, followed by yelling, then screams that chilled Jack to the bone.

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Gene almost ran him over. “Get outta here, kid! The whole place might collapse. Go!” Jack turned back toward the mine, and the scene altered as if in slow motion. Sam. Jack hurtled toward the mine shaft and was instantly trampled by the deluge of injured pouring from the opening leading to the cage. Gene jerked him back and yelled through the chaos. “Stay clear, kid. You’re getting in the way. Move! Let the men through.”

JACK PACED OUTSIDE the mine entrance. The flood of men had slowed. They were coming in sets of two, individually or assisted. He scanned them, covered in filth and blood, some only recognizable by their eyes, all the while hoping to find Sam or someone from his work team so Jack could get some news. A smaller secondary explosion jarred Jack from his stunned state, and, armed with the only aid he had, water, he moved toward the growing mass of men. The stench increased as he neared the group. He recognized the gas smell. It was part of working in a mine, but he had never been around it with this degree of concentration. His throat constricted, and he coughed. They must be covered in it. Jack paused, grabbed his bandanna from around his neck and pulled it over his nose and mouth, and tightened the knot. The gas still permeated his senses. He gagged and fought to control the unrest in the pit of his stomach as others vomited around him. Jack made his way through the small gathering of miners. He overheard Gene say thirty-five miners had been below when the explosion occurred. Jack kept a mental tally as he moved among the men, offering water and inquiring about Sam. “Jack? Is that you?” Jack turned his head to the familiar voice, then breathed a sigh of relief.

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“Marty, are you all right? You look okay,” Jack said as he patted his friend’s arm and briefly checked him over. “Just a few cuts, burns. I’ll be fine. But, Jack, it’s bad.” Jack’s gaze shifted uneasily toward Marty’s face. “Marty, where’s Sam? I can’t find him.” Marty looked down at his sooty bloodstained hands and wrung them together. “Well…” he stammered. “He’s…still below.” Jack’s eyes bulged, and he pulled Marty closer by the collar. “What? And you left him?” “Jack,” he started, his voice almost a whisper. “He’s trapped. We couldn’t reach him.” “Oh, God.” Jack slid to ground. “He’s still down there…” Marty met his gaze and nodded slowly. “Six of them are.” Jack scrambled unsteadily to his feet, then felt a strong hand jerk him swiftly back to the ground. “You can’t,” Marty said. “Sure I can. My family…is down there,” he said as he choked back a sob. “A search-and-rescue team is already below. Besides, Sam said to keep you safe, aboveground.” Jack gasped. “You talked to him? After?” “Yeah.” Marty cleared his throat. “We were separated. The rest of our group, except me and George here, went aboveground after the explosion. I had to help him, so I volunteered to stay and wait.” Jack scrunched his brows together. “Wait for what?” “For these,” he said, reaching inside his jacket. Marty pulled free several crumpled pieces of paper. Scribbled bits of writing showed through the soot-covered notes. “You’ll have to look through them. I don’t know which is his. Not sure you’ll even be able to decipher the handwriting.” Jack automatically clutched his own chest, where, had he been wearing his mining attire, individual pieces of paper and a pencil

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stub resided, just in case of an emergency, if a quick note was ever necessary. Jack felt a tear escape and fall down his cheek as he accepted the last written words of his friends. “I’ll hang on to them for now,” he said, his voice hoarse, and shoved them into his pocket. “Why weren’t you two with the group? And you said George was with you. Where is he?” “Yes. That’s right. We were working in the tunnel beside the main anteroom when the explosion happened.” Marty shrugged, then tears fell down his face, leaving a grimy trail among the soot and ash. “I guess you’d call George and me the lucky ones.” “Where is George?” Jack repeated, looking into the faces of the men beside him. “He’s right here behind me. He’s injured. Not too bad I don’t think. But he wanted to lie down.” Jack thought back on Sam’s words. With George’s parents dead years ago in a fire, Sam had said Marty looked after George like he was his own son. Ever since he turned eighteen and began working at the mine, Marty had been there for him. He had trained George— looked out for him; they never strayed too far from one another. Jack pushed through the men crouched behind Marty. The injuries he witnessed spanned the gamut from superficial to life threatening. Moaning and crying replaced words as there were none appropriate for the horrors they were experiencing. Jack tapped Marty on the shoulder. “Come with me.” Jack helped Marty to stand, and they navigated the few feet between the men until they came to George. Jack squatted by his head. “Marty, you need to see.” Marty gasped. “No—it can’t be. He talked to me on the way up—said he was fine.” Jack took one more glimpse at the lifeless eyes still gazing at the sky, then slowly closed them. Marty bent over the body and took it

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in his arms and swayed back and forth, humming under his breath to a tune Jack didn’t recognize. “Can I have your attention?” Marty and Jack glanced up toward Gene addressing the growing crowd of miners and now their families as word had quickly spread. “If any wounded are in need of care or assistance getting to the hospital, raise your hand, and someone will come and help you. Alternatively a makeshift morgue is off to the far right in the field. If you are looking for a loved one, please come see me as I have a list of the confirmed dead, missing, those who are still trapped below and those known to be alive.” He paused as he appeared to struggle with his next words. “We are praying for all. God rest their souls.” Afterward Gene made his way through the crowd with an unfamiliar man at his side, clipboard at the ready, writing as Gene gave him instructions. The sun hung low in the sky. How long have we been here, waiting? Jack moved to intercept Gene. “Any news on the six men trapped?” Gene cleared his throat. “No, sorry, son. Not yet. We are switching out the rescue teams and sending another group down. The explosions have weakened the surrounding structure. We’re hoping to make it to the men before another collapse. If that happens, well, we may have to pull out altogether.” “What? And then? What about the men?” “Now, son, I know this is difficult to hear. But those men are likely dead already. To send more men to their deaths to search for those that the firedamp has already killed, well, that’s not reasonable.” “Send me down. I’m off the books. I got nobody looking for me. Let me go.” Gene met his gaze and spoke softly. “No, son. I can’t do that. Take Marty and go to that wagon over there. See it? You both should

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get checked out at the hospital.” Gene pointed to Marty. “He needs you now. See if you can get him to go with you.” “I’ll take him. Then I’m coming back for word on Sam.” “Suit yourself. But we may never recover his body, son. I know it’s hard, but you need to face the truth.” “The truth? Don’t you think you need to find out the truth? This—it shouldn’t have happened,” Jack said, pointing to the destruction surrounding them. “All this blood and death, it’s on your hands. And stop talking like Sam’s already dead. You don’t know shit!” The clipboard man opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again like a fish out of water. “Let him be,” Gene said. “Let him be.” Jack leaned down to grab Marty’s attention. “Marty, let’s get you to the hospital. Someone should look you over.” Marty nodded his head silently as he sat with George, one of his limp hands covered by both of Marty’s. “Can you take him? Over there?” he asked, pointing to the area where the dead lay. “I don’t want some stranger to throw George out like he’s trash.” Jack patted Marty’s back as fresh sobs convulsed his body. “You go on to the hospital. I’ll take care of George and meet you later.” Marty’s shoulders slumped in resignation as he turned toward the direction of those gathering for the trip to the hospital. “Thank you, son. Sam would be proud of you.” Jack pulled George’s limp body over his shoulder and plodded slowly along in the direction of the makeshift morgue. As he got closer, the stench of death and gas fumes mixed with coal dust overcame him. He slowed and yanked the bandanna back over his mouth and nose. He knew he had to continue. He had to know without a doubt that Sam wasn’t among the confirmed dead. It was difficult to see, even with the fires that now illuminated the perimeter defining the morgue. Shadows danced among the

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flames, giving the bodies the cruel illusion of movement in death that they used to have so freely in life. As visions of ghosts formed like echoes of the soul through the fire and ash, Jack shuddered. Then overcome with the stench and his grief, he fell to his knees and vomited. He rose to a shaky stand, then, covered in his dead friend’s blood, sweat and his own tears, he set to the grim task of ensuring that the one man he loved in the world was not among the dead.

IT WAS LATE into the night when Jack found his way back toward the gathering at the mouth of the mine. Some slept while others waited anxiously for word of the trapped miners. Jack searched those remaining for Gene, hoping for an update. “Jesus, kid, you look like shit. Go take the wagon to the hospital,” Gene said, pointing off in the distance. “There’s nothing you can do here.” “Any word on the trapped miners?” Gene shook his head. “They’re dead, Jack. No way they survived this long. The gas would have killed them by now, even if they didn’t have an injury from the collapse.” Jack yanked Gene by his jacket and threw him against the nearest tree. “There’s no body,” Jack hissed. “I just spent the last hour sifting through blood and guts, and he’s not there. So, until you find him, I’d really appreciate it if you’d not call my best friend dead.” “Let me go, Jack,” Gene said as he grabbed the hand that held him immobile against the tree. “This isn’t helping anyone. I’m not the enemy.” “No? Well, right now you’re close enough,” Jack said, loosening his grip.

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Gene pulled free. “Go and check up on your friends at the hospital. As I said before, there’s nothing more for you here.” Jack took a half step back and stood erect, hovering over Gene at his full six-foot-plus height. Jack had been hunched over, bent or stooping for the past several hours. Every muscle in his body hurt. He was just too scared to notice. Their gazes met. “I think you’re right. I’m done here,” Jack said. And silently he turned and walked toward the waiting wagon. The farther Jack walked from the scene behind him, the better he felt. He breathed deeply, and, for the first time in hours, his lungs filled with fresh air instead of soot, ashes and the remnants of death. He came to a standstill several feet from the wagon, closed his eyes and let the February wind wash over him. He breathed in, held it, exhaled, then repeated. That’s it, Start-Up. You can do it. “What?” Jack’s eyes startled opened. “I said, are you getting on?” Jack glanced at the driver. “Last trip in tonight most likely. You don’t look so good. Need help?” “Nah. I’m fine. Just give me a minute to climb in.” The passengers swayed back and forth, and Jack along with them. Between the motion of the wagon and Jack’s exhaustion, he fell asleep within minutes. Even through the bumpy ride, Jack slept, his dreams haunting him, continuing the horror from the day into his nightmares as his psyche struggled for peace and closure. Suddenly the motion stopped, and Jack’s eyes shot open. He recognized the horde of people filling the hospital. Fear was evident on their faces; he heard the desperation come through in the tone of their voices. There was still a chance. There had to be. Maybe, just maybe, Marty was wrong—he had somehow missed Sam in the

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confusion, and Sam got out. If so, he might be unconscious at the hospital. Jack had to find out for himself. Jack surveyed the waiting room. He yanked at his filthy shirt, pulling it loose and giving him more room to move and breathe, then maneuvered through the pockets of people, eventually making it to the nurse passing the unmanned check-in desk. “Hello, could you…” The nurse continued walking along with not so much as a “Get lost.” “Excuse me…” Same thing. Jack threw up his arms in frustration. The next hospital worker who passed him, Jack grabbed by the arm. “Stop. You need to listen to me. I need help.” The man pulled away and turned breathlessly toward Jack, scanning him from head to toe. “Are you hurt?” “No, but I need information on my friend. He might be here.” The hospital worker shook his head while continuing his forward motion. “If you’re not family, I can’t give you many details. And we’re in the middle of a crisis. You’ll need to wait with the others,” he said, pointing to the packed waiting area. “Wait,” Jack said as he watched the retreating back continue down the hall. “His name is Sam. And he’s the most important person in the world to me,” Jack finished, his voice now only a whisper. A tremor began in his legs, and, as he watched, the shaking continued as if his body parts were not his own. He eyed the bench a few steps away and clumsily walked several steps before plopping hard next to a sleeping old man with a child in his lap. Jack wriggled from his jacket and threw it over his knees, hiding the strange wobbling that he couldn’t control. His coat started to slide, and he caught it, snatching it before it hit the ground. Crumpled bits of paper fell from the inside pocket, swaying softly through the air until they landed just out of his grasp. The notes—he had completely forgotten. How could he? Jack retrieved

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the stray paper pieces, scrunching them between his fingers before settling back into his tiny allotted space. He flipped through them, looking for the distinctive script that he knew to be Sam’s. At the third note he froze. It was written to him. It was confirmed. Sam was trapped and probably dead. Jack forced his gaze to focus on the words written before him, but his eyes brimmed with tears, clouding his vision. Jack, if I don’t get out, go. We had plans—keep them. Send Mom wages. Take what need. Go. Love. Jack read through the cryptic message again and again, imagining the different possible meanings of the one-syllable words. One part was clear. Sam wanted Jack to leave. How could he? Sam was here. Jack read the note once more, then shoved it in his pocket. The remaining notes were still clutched in his other hand. A familiar voice rang out from across the room. Jack singled out the supervisor, then willing his frame forward, he stood once again face-to-face with Gene. “You don’t look so good,” Gene said, giving him a cursory glance, still fully concentrating on the clipboard in front of him. His voice quivered. “Well, that fits. Take these. Find the family members and get these notes to them.” “Sure, Jack,” he said, flattening out the pieces of paper and clipping them to the board in front of him. “Go get some rest.” Jack nodded. Then something within him snapped; he turned back toward the bench, paused and swung his head around to square off in front of Gene again, only inches from his face. “Rest? Do you think I can sleep? These pictures pop into my head every time I close my eyes, of my friends struggling to breathe, crushed and suffocating. All because of you.” “Now, Jack, have a seat. You’re exhausted and hungry. We can fix that.” “Fix it?” Jack shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

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Jack heard a loud beating sound, then looked through the gathering crowd, attempting to find its source. People mouthed animatedly at him, but Jack heard no voice, just a thumpy kerthump, thump, thump that raced forward, sounding like rapidly beating drums. Seconds later Jack unleashed the first blow. Through the steady din he heard the crunch of bone shattering. Even as his fist burned in pain, he punched with his alternate fist, landing a hit square on Gene’s left eye. It felt good. Energized, Jack unloaded three more punches in succession as a spray of blood hit his cheek. Stunned, he stopped. Three men pulled him back, jarring him once again to conscious thought. Jack glanced at Gene moaning on the ground, his face covered in blood and then back to the men who restrained him. His own hands reached up to his chest where his heart raced, threatening to burst. “I have to go,” Jack mumbled. A familiar voice rang out. “Go where, son?” “Anywhere else.” Jack struggled free and staggered momentarily, swaying as he attempted focused movements, heading for the main entrance and freedom from the cloud of pain that hovered in the waiting area. Blood trickled down the side of his face, or was it tears? He wiped at the wetness, clearing his eyes and his way forward. “Wait.” The tone of the voice made him look backward. Jack’s breath came in deep heaving gulps. He licked his cracked lips and panted to catch his breath. Marty reached him first. “I’m here, son.” Jack grabbed Marty’s shoulders and leaned heavily on him for support. Finally catching up to him, a hospital staff member administered a sedative. Jack slid to the floor. His eyelids fluttered as Marty held his hand. “It’s gonna be okay. We’ll all be all right. Time will heal you and me. It’ll heal all of us.”

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Jack chuckled and attempted to speak through the mental fog of his brain. “We… we… were leaving, to make our fortune. Sam and me. Now… never… be.” “Rest. I’ll be here when you wake.” Jack opened his mouth to speak, but a deep guttural wail poured from him instead. Strong arms wrapped around him, and finally he fell silent in a restless, tormented sleep.

about the author J.W. Garrett has been writing in one form or another since she was a teenager. She currently writes from the sunny beaches of Jacksonville, Florida where she lives with her family, but loves the mountains of Virginia where she was born. Her writings include young adult fantasy as well as poetry and short stories. Since putting the final touches on Remeon’s Quest, she has been hard at work on the next book in her Realms of Chaos series. When she’s not hanging out with her characters, her favorite activities are reading, running and spending time with family. Visit the author at: and

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