News and updates about Gordon's fiction, available at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, courtesy of Oghma Creative Media.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Signal to Noise (an excerpt of a work in progress)

I've finished the first draft of my current novel, Signal to Noise, which I hope to release by October 1.  Here's an excerpt from the middle of the story - involving the Chief of Police, Dale Blodgett, and the hapless zoologist Tyler Vaughan, who have found themselves investigating a series of disappearances in the little town of Crooked Creek, Oregon.

Signal to Noise will be available as an e-book from Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes&Noble (Nook).

***************

Dale left Dorrie’s Bar and Grill a little before seven-thirty, and drove off in the dusk up toward the shadowy bulk of the Three Sisters. By the time he got to Tyler’s trailer, the light was fading fast. He pulled into the weed-overgrown gravel driveway and crunched to a stop, and then sat there for a moment, looking at the light streaming out from inside.

A hand pushed aside curtains, and Tyler’s face appeared in the window, and then disappeared. A moment later, as Dale was climbing out of his car, the front door opened, and a wiry-haired mutt the size of a calf came bounding down the front steps and out into the yard. Two enormous paws were planted in the middle of his chest, and Dale, despite his weight, went over backwards like a bowling pin, right through the still-open car door, smacking the back of his head on the roof on the way down. He heard Tyler calling, frantically, “Goddammit, Ahab! Bad dog! You’re not supposed to assault a police officer!”

Dale felt the pressure on his chest suddenly lessen, and sat up, wiping the dog slobber off his face with one hand and rubbing the back of his head with the other. Tyler had Ahab by the collar and had dragged him a little way off. Tyler was leaning over, yelling right into Ahab’s face, “One of these days, you’re really going to hurt someone! You are such a big oaf!” The dog, Dale observed, was still wagging happily. “Now, sit!” Tyler yelled, and Ahab sat, his tail sweeping the ground with unabated good cheer.

“Jesus, Dale, I’m sorry,” Tyler said, coming over and helping Dale to his feet. “He’s not dangerous, he’s just dumb.”

“No harm,” Dale said. “I’m okay.”

“What brings you here tonight?”

“I just thought it might be smart to keep an eye on you, after what happened to Rainey. Judy Kahn told me you have the last copy of the photograph from your camera – I don’t want you to disappear because of it.”

Tyler patted the pocket of his jeans. “On a flash drive, right here,” he said. “I’m not taking any chances.”

“It’s not smart to carry it around everywhere,” Dale warned. “If you disappear, so does it.”

“I’m not going to disappear,” Tyler said.   “You don't have to worry about me."

"Judy told me that your computer reappeared.”

“That was just bizarre,” Tyler said. “I still haven’t figured that part out. Why would Slender Man return my computer?”

“I have no idea,” Dale said. “Unless he was just being considerate, it’s hard to explain.”

“So, is that why you came by to see me? Because if so, I have to tell you that don’t know anything more now than I did this afternoon.”

“No, it’s not that.” Dale gave Tyler a thoughtful look. “Judy told me she thought you were likely to go charging in and try to rescue Rainey.”

“She told you that?”

“Yeah.”

Tyler considered. “Honestly, I probably would, if I knew where to charge in to.”

“That’s what Judy said.”

“I’ve been pondering all day if there’s a way to figure out where she’s being held. I don’t have any clue.”

“Good, and I plan on keeping it that way.”

Tyler’s eyebrows went up. “You have an idea about where she is?”

Dale scowled. “I am not gonna tell you.”

“You do know!” Tyler said triumphantly.

“How do you know that?”

“Well, otherwise, why would you have said that you’re not gonna tell me where to go?”

“Look, Tyler,” Dale said, in an exasperated tone of voice, “you just sit tight here. Play with your dog, watch a movie, then go to bed. Put that flash drive somewhere safe. Don’t forget to lock your doors. You’re not gonna play detective, not on my watch.”

“But Dale, Rainey’s…”

Dale held up a hand. “No.”

Tyler looked deflated, and said, “All right. I’ll chill.”

And Dale thought, Man, he IS like a golden lab.


After leaving Tyler’s, Dale drove back down to the village, and did a slow circuit of the streets. He deliberately drove past Kevin Torgeson’s house, then Kathleen Standish’s, then Phil Collette’s. All of the houses were lit from within, but showed no particular sign of activity. At around nine-thirty he decided to make one more pass by Tyler’s house, and as he drove up he was relieved to see Tyler’s rusty blue Civic still parked next to the trailer, and the living room light still on.  

Awesome. He’s still here. I’m gonna check in with him, then maybe give a quick run up to the Three Sisters Lodge, although what the hell I’ll say to Maureen if I see her, I don’t know. Then I’m gonna go home and go to bed – he’ll have to look after himself for the rest of the evening.

Dale got out of his car, and walked up the steps to the door, and knocked.

There were three deep-throated woofs from the other side, then silence.

No one answered the door, so he knocked again. This elicited a prolonged volley of barking, but no human sounds at all.

Frowning, Dale reached down and twisted the door handle. It was unlocked. This time, he was ready for the canine assault, and he opened the door and quickly stepped aside. Ahab launched himself out, barking merrily, and ambled about the front yard for a while. He finally came up to Dale, sniffed his pant leg in an experimental fashion, and then wagged. Dale reached down and scratched him behind the ears.

“Tyler, you home?” Dale called, and then stepped inside.

There wasn’t much to the trailer – a living room, disorderly and cluttered with books and papers, a little bedroom, and an even smaller kitchen, where the remnants of several previous meals still sat in the sink. Ahab walked up to the bin of dog food, and looked from it to Dale with hope in his eyes.

Dale ignored the attempted canine telepathy. He gave one more call.

“Tyler, you here?”

No one answered. Nothing in the trailer looked amiss – but Tyler Vaughan was gone.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Trajectory


A dark poem for a dark, windy day.

*******************

Trajectory

When I was ten I killed a sparrow.
A single well-aimed rock from a slingshot
Follows its smooth, deadly arc, cleaves the air,
And the bird tumbles to the earth, stunned and dying.
I go to it, kneel on the damp ground near where it fell,
And watch it flex its crisp wings as the world around it fades.
I try to say I didn't mean to -
I wasn't trying to kill -
But there is no reproach in its dimming gaze,
Only a kind of dull acknowledgement that the world is so made
That such a thing can happen.
No explanation is demanded; none is given.
It is only we who seem to need reasons;
Some justification to explain life's trajectory, downward into night.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Landscape

My wife is an artist.  Her pieces are micrography -- the lines in her drawings aren't lines at all, but very, very tiny (but legible!) writing.  (Check out her website if you want to be amazed!)  Recently she participated in a project that had as its theme "Imaginary Lands" -- so she created a beautiful piece which was a detailed map of a fictional country.  She asked me to write the text for the piece -- the following poem was the result.

**********************

Landscape

Snow falls on the high mountain
That the men below call Carthain; in my language
That no men know
The mountain has no name,
No words; only the silent speech of peaks and ridges
Where the rocky bones stick through the skin,
Where no soft soil sits, no grass grows.
The ice in layers lies for centuries, building up
Like the rings of trees, each line marking a year,
Until weighted, it flows, carrying it downward,
Carving out valleys.  You follow it.

In the summer the valleys fill with light,
And hold it where the wind cannot reach;
And the edges of the glaciers melt,
Streams tumbling between the stones, all blue and white,
Finding the fastest way downhill.
Little flowers bloom where the water touches,
Quickly when the ground warms; for in only a few weeks
The snow will fall again, and the valleys will once more
Know only cold and wind and silence.
You leave before the flowers fall.

The streams join. Water pours off the mountain face,
Rushing downward. Grasses and small flowers give way
To wind-writhen firs, then dark forests.  Elk graze there,
Raising their long, foolish faces to watch as you descend, following the river downward.
Small birds sing high in the branches.  Men come here sometimes,
Hunters, taking the elk if they can, to have food for the winter;
For you are still high up, halfway between the mountain’s top and the sea,
And the winters here are long and bitter.  Further down,
Little towns cling to the river’s edge, no more than huts and barns
And a few dirt roads.  People give them names; that is what people do.
Mill Falls, Moor’s Edge, Black Ridge.  You pass them and drop.

Where the river joins another, then bends to the south,
There a city lies.  Its people call it Torlessit, which meant something
Once, and now none can remember what.  Ox-carts draw wood through the rutted streets.
The smithies ring with hammers.  Draft horses pull plows,
The points gouging grooves in the soil, turning up rocks that a thousand years ago
Were part of the mountain.  Here crops will grow, but winter still comes early,
And the river will freeze in January so that the wolves can cross.
Then the men of Torlessit bring their sheep into the barns
And their children into their houses,
And count the weeks until spring comes.

And when it does, the ice will thaw, and the river will roll once more
Down the hills, past fertile fields, through glades with maple and oak
Past other cities, past stone castles and tall cathedrals;
Warming and slowing as it goes.  It carries you along, no longer tumbling,
But gliding soundlessly in its course.

Broad farms lie here.  Wide fields roll away into the hazy distance.
The summer heat rises from the land, sweat drips from faces tanned
Like leather.
At the height of the day, nothing moves; a fly buzzes, then is silent.
But the silence here is not as the mountain’s silence.
There all is emptiness; here even the air is full and heavy and humid.
The river moves on, between cottonwoods and willows,
Who drop their yellowed leaves, to float along like fallen flakes of sunlight.

The trees rise, close in.  Shadows deepen.
Tendrils of mist curl up from the water’s surface.
Bare trunks reach high, to a canopy shut like a roof.
Downward hang bright flowers and dangling vines,
Hairy and furred with moss.
Birds and butterflies dart jewel-like, just out of reach,
As you slip along, following. The water here is caramel-brown,
The air redolent with spice and honey.  In the forests
The people reach up and take the bounty offered them.
No need for barns and ox-carts and plows,
No need to till;
But only to give thanks for the fruit and fish and the dappled sunlight on naked skin.

The river here is languid, in no rush to finish its journey,
But the end comes eventually;
There is a heavy thunder, distant at first,
Then closer; salt in the air, the cry of sea-birds.  The brown river
Enters the green sea, flowing together, mingling like lovers in a perpetual embrace.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: Gabriel's Redemption

I'm not normally a fan of space epics,  nor military fiction.  It was therefore with some hesitancy that I began reading Steve Umstead's first novel, Gabriel's Redemption.  (Available here.)

My reluctance was unfounded, and I discovered that pretty much right from page 1.  Umstead has created here a tight, self-consistent universe -- the story, set in the year 2179, comes complete with a history of the previous 170-some-odd years.  The background and historical events weave themselves seamlessly into the plot, and he thus avoids the pitfall that traps a lot of writers in this genre -- the need to have someone around asking clumsy questions so that the relevant parts of the backstory can come out.  Everything we need to know -- the colonization of Mars, discovery of wormholes (and their subsequent use in space travel), the Shanghai meteorite collision -- comes up naturally, and as we learn about the history, we move nicely in the present.

The story itself revolves around the disgraced military officer Evan Gabriel, who has been given a one-time-only-special-offer to redeem himself by breaking up an illicit drug ring on another planet.  To give away any more of the plot details would be unforgivable, so I will only say that if you think that this story is going to be a tidy, straight-line journey from point A to point B, you are mistaken.  As someone who considers himself a specialist in plot twists, I have to doff my hat to Umstead for catching me completely off guard not once, nor twice, but three times.

My only criticism of Gabriel's Redemption is pacing -- it moves really quickly.  I wanted to know the characters more deeply than I did by the end.  You spend the majority of the story in Gabriel's head, which is fine, but I wanted to find out more about the other crew members -- learn some of their quirks, watch them interact, hear them talking about matters other than plot points.  There was some of that, but only teasers -- we find out that St. Laurent wants to quit the military after this mission and run a vineyard, that Takahashi gets terrible motion sickness, that Jimenez plays the guitar.  A little more time in developing these characters would have made us even more invested in their survival, and the success of their mission.

Even so, I really enjoyed this book.  If you are a fan of military science fiction, you should definitely put it on your list.  If not -- give it a look anyhow.  It's a quick, fast-paced, and engaging read, and a hell of a first novel from an author we're sure to hear more about.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nocturne for Mrs. Scott

My great-great grandmother, Harriet (Kent) Scott, committed suicide.  No one in my family knew about this until I happened upon a newspaper clipping from the late 19th century -- an obituary describing how she had become despondent over taking care of her bedridden husband, who suffered from "shaking palsy" (Parkinson's disease) and had poisoned herself.  The clipping said she was a "fine woman" who had "suffered greatly and finally had a mental collapse."

Her husband only outlived her by two months.

Back then, a suicide in a family was shameful -- her granddaughter, who was my grandmother, knew nothing about the tragedy.  I found it an incredibly sad story, and was inspired to write the following poem.

******************************

Nocturne for Mrs. Scott

Her husband watches her from the bed they share,
Watery eyes following her deft movements,
The cleaning and tidying, done with no conscious thought.
Take his empty water glass, put away the medicine the doctor left.
Straighten the lace on the bedside table, pull back the curtains.
She will not meet his eyes.
Her mind is caught in a web of remembering,
Trapped like a dying moth waiting for the sting, the poison, and oblivion.

She sees a time when this weak and withered man
Whose thin limbs and creaking voice she despises,
Was a laughing farm boy with chestnut hair and powerful arms,
And she remembers the chase, and wanting to be caught,
His arm looping around her waist,
Catching her up, twirling, spinning, kissing,
And falling to the ground together.

She despises him more because it wasn't always as it is now,
The dying old man fading and failing on the linen sheets,
Leaving her still in the midst of her strength,
Still in the depth of her own needs.

There is a brown glass bottle in the cabinet, near his medicine.
The paper label is gashed with crimson lettering.
Each time she pours the medicine, thick and dark, into a cup for him to drink from,
Her eyes brush across the label with a touch like snow on bare skin,
And she wonders how long it would take, and how she would feel, free.
Then she sees the laughing boy he once was,
And she leans against the counter
And weeps for her own weakness and wickedness and foolishness.

One summer morning, after the cleaning and tidying and straightening and pulling back of curtains,
The brown glass bottle with the crimson lettering
Fell from her numb fingers to shatter on the tile floor of the kitchen,
A trickle of dark fluid staining the jagged fragments.
And upstairs, the creaking voice, weak from need, weak from not wanting to need,
Still calls for her.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fighting invisibility

I'm having one of those days where I feel like to be an aspiring writer is to be doomed to failure.  (And to anyone who replies with a Yoda-like, "There is no aspiring, you are a writer!" you may want to be warned that in the mood I'm in, you're very likely to be given a recommendation for a diverting, but probably anatomically impossible, solo activity.)

The problem is how to become visible.  The much-touted e-book market, which takes away the roadblocks of finding agents and publishers, fails on the level that those roadblocks kept out a lot of writers whose work was simply not ready for publication.  Now, anyone with a computer and a modicum of technical ability can upload something to the big e-book sellers.  So instead of having your query letters swimming in a sea of millions, your e-books are swimming in a sea of millions.  How do you get seen?

Well, I'd like to say I have the answers, but I'm still trying to figure all of this out myself.  In the interest of honesty, I have to say that my sales record thus far at Amazon and Barnes&Noble does not give me much confidence in my likelihood of retiring early.  Now, that's not to say that I'm giving up, or am sorry that I took this route; as I've commented before, I've had thirty or so more people read my work than I would have if it had remained sitting in my desk, so what have I lost?

Nothing, of course.  And I have along the way gleaned a few lessons from my experience and the experience of others, and that's all to the good.  If you are a writer, here are a few things to keep in mind from one who, like you, is fighting invisibility.

1)  Make sure your manuscript is really ready.  Get people to read it, and not just your parents and your significant other.  Find someone with a keen eye who isn't afraid to tell you what, and where, the problems are, and when they tell you, listen.  And, for cryin' out loud, be careful about grammar and spelling.  I still remember getting a link from a writing hopeful (with a plaintive request to repost it), and when I looked at his online excerpt, he'd misspelled the word "fluorescent" in the first line.  Use your spellchecker, and ask said keen-eyed friend to look for words that the spellchecker would miss -- than/then, their/there, too/to, etc.  It's not that we don't all sometimes make those simple types of errors, but that's one negative impression you can easily avoid making.

2)  Network.  Word of mouth is incredibly important; if you're going the agentless route, it's the only game in town.  An excellent way to start: join Twitter, and then look for other writers.  Follow their blogs, be generous with your responses to their work, and be free with your "retweets."  However, be careful of overusing posts on sites like Facebook.  The intent of Twitter is to link people with common interests, who presumably are expecting you to be promoting your work just as they do theirs.  Facebook is a different entity, and your family, friends, and coworkers will probably be understandably annoyed if every time they get online they're inundated with sales pitches.

3)  Keep writing.  I had to be reminded of this one just today.  My almost-completed work-in-progress, Signal to Noise, is at the stage of waiting for feedback from a few of my above-mentioned keen-eyed readers, and so I've spent the last couple of weeks not writing much except on my blogs.  The result: a bad case of post-partum depression.  The best way to become a writer is to write.  Write daily, and don't let the mechanics of sales and promotion ruin the experience of writing for you.  (Feel free to remind me of this one the next time you see me weeping despondently into my beer over my week's sales figures.)

4)  Try some new angles.  I mostly write novel and novella-length stories, and have had fun lately entering flash fiction contests.  It's a tremendous challenge, when you're used to having 250+ pages to work with, to tell a story in a hundred words!  Break out of your mold; it can be rejuvenating.  Try poetry.  Try a different genre.  Try using an unfamiliar point-of-view.  Frustration can come out of stagnation.

Mostly, just keep at it -- writing, promotion, and all.  It sounds trite to say that victory goes to the persistent, but so often that seems to be the case.  Work to perfect your craft, have fun, find some like-minded people to connect with, and then go for it.  Truly, what do you have to lose?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fiction writing as an act of public nudity

A writer friend and I have been in an interesting dialogue about the private (and public) side of writing.

The topic arose because she's just finished the first draft of a wonderful novel, a coming-of-age story about a girl making the transition between high school and college.  Knowing my friend as well as I do, it is easy to see that she shares some personality traits with her main character.  My friend worries that if people read her novel -- which I hope they will, some day -- readers will become convinced that the story is, at least on some level, autobiographical, and will judge her based on the actions of the character she created.

My reply was that there will be this label that says "Fiction" on the spine of the book, so anyone who doesn't notice that or doesn't know the definition of the word deserves everything they get.  But on a deeper level, her question is a profound one.  Because in some sense, all fiction writing is autobiographical, isn't it?

I can say, without exception, that every protagonist I've ever written -- and more than one of the antagonists and minor characters -- is, in a way, me.  You can't write what you don't know, and that extends just as much to characters as it does to setting, time period, and plot.  None of them are intended to actually be me, of course; all of them have traits, quirks, and personal history that is different from my own.  But in a very real sense, if you want to find out who I am, read my fiction.

This gives a serious spin to my friend's question, because to be read means to be known, on a fundamental level.  It's a scary proposition.  I've already closed my eyes and leapt off that high diving board by publishing my novels in e-book format on Amazon and Barnes&Noble.  But truly, it still terrifies me in a lot of ways, and it's not just getting the "your writing sucks" reviews that all authors dread; part of it comes from the fact of exposing your soul in public.  There's something about having people read your work that's a little like walking out into the middle of the road, bare-ass naked.

And there's no doubt that it can backfire sometimes.  I still recall, with some pain, when I let a (former) friend read the first three chapters of a work-in-progress, and her critique began with a smirk: "What's wrong with this story is like a system error on a computer; it's a problem that makes the whole thing crash."  How that was supposed to be helpful, I don't know, and in fact with the perspective of time (this incident happened about fifteen years ago) I now find myself wondering whether it was supposed to be helpful.  The critic in question was herself an off-again-on-again writer who had never completed a manuscript, and I suspect that the viciousness of the critique had at least something to do with jealousy.  At the time, however, her response so derailed my confidence that it was years before I actually picked up (and eventually completed) that novel.  (If you're curious, the novel is The Hand of the Hunter -- which is still one of my personal favorites of the stories I've written.)

So, in a way, all writing is personal, and all writers have a narcissistic streak.  We wouldn't write about something we didn't care about; our personalities shape our stories, and therefore our stories are reflections of who we are as people.  It is an act of bravery to put what we create out on public display, whether that display is on the level of sending it out to a few friends or publishing it for international purchase.  We are actually selling little portraits of our own spirits, and hoping and praying that the ones who look at them won't say, "Wow, what an ugly little picture that is."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Greenland Colony 1375

When the Little Ice Age began, back in the 14th century, it closed off shipping routes in the North Atlantic, and the villages in Greenland that had been settled back in the 11th century were suddenly cut off.  Gradually, the villagers died out, from the effects of the cold, isolation, and decreasing food supplies, and by 1400 the settlements were nothing but empty ruins.  When I read about this, I thought:  what would it have been like to be the last one left alive?  The question generated this poem.

********************************

Greenland Colony 1375

He goes down to the sea each day and walks the shore.
Each day the gray sea ice is closer, and fewer gulls come.
He wanders up toward the village, past the empty and ruined rectory.
The churchyard behind it has stone cairns.  His wife lies beneath one,
And there is one for Thórvald, his son,
Though Thórvald's bones do not rest there; he and three others
Were gathered ten years ago in the sea's net
And came not home.

Since building his son's cairn,
He had buried one by one the last four villagers.
Each time he prayed in the in the stone church on Sunday
That he would be next,
And not left alone to watch the ice closing in.

In his father's time ships had come.  The last one came
Fifty years ago.
Storms and ice made it easy for captains to forget
The village existed.  For a time he prayed each Sunday
For a ship to come and take him to Iceland or Norway or anywhere.
None came.  Ship-prayers died with the last villager,
Three years ago.  He still prayed in the stone church on Sunday,
For other things; until last winter,
When the church roof collapsed in a storm.
The next Sunday he stayed home and prayed for other things there.

Now even the gulls are going,
Riding the thin winds to other shores.  Soon they will all be gone.
He will walk the shore, looking out to sea for ships that will never come,
And see only the gray sea ice, closer each day.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Silence Descending

I was on my way to the store this weekend when suddenly my car radio went silent.  I turned it off, and then back on, and it started working again, but not before I had a moment's thought of What if it's not the radio that's malfunctioning, but the entire world?  (Yes, I do think that way sometimes.)  The question inspired the following piece of flash fiction.

***********************************

The first hint Trevor Williamson had that something was wrong was when his car radio stopped working.

He was on his way to the grocery store when it happened.  "Going to the grocery store" was a significant excursion for him; he lived in a two hundred year old farmhouse out in the hill country of southwestern Pennsylvania, and a trip into the nearest village (a little hole-in-the-road called Wind Ridge) meant a sixty-mile round trip.  Trevor loved the solitude - he was a writer, and the tranquility was conducive to his art.  The country life did have its downsides, however, and the long drive to get anywhere was definitely one of them.

He was only about a third of the way there when his satellite radio suddenly went quiet, right in the middle of Adele's cut-crystal voice wailing on "Rolling in the Deep."  At first, he didn't react.  Out in the hills, sometimes the satellite signal got lost for a moment.

Trevor waited for a moment.  Nothing happened.

He switched to another station; silence.  Then he switched from satellite radio to the ordinary FM station.  There, all he got was static.

"Shit," Trevor said, under his breath, and turned the radio off.  Music was a necessary companion on the infrequent, but long, drives into town.  He'd need to get the radio fixed or replaced, which would mean yet another drive, this time all the way to Waynesburg.

He was nearing Wind Ridge when he noticed a second odd thing; since shortly after leaving home, he had not passed a single other car coming in the opposite direction.  The realization came slowly; first, a thought of, wow, the roads are quiet today.  Then, I haven't seen another car for the last five miles.  Then, with increasing desperation, he started looking for them; each crest of a hill, waiting to see a flicker of movement in the distance, that would finally resolve into the familiar shape of a car.

None came.

The feelings of unease deepened into fear as he approached the village.  While not a booming metropolis, Wind Ridge was a busy little place -- it was near enough to Waynesburg that a lot of people lived in the village and commuted into Waynesburg for work.  On a Thursday morning, there should be cars, people, noise.

The streets were empty.  The sidewalks were empty.  The parking lot of the A-Number-One Groceries was empty.  Feeling dazed, Trevor pulled his car into a parking space, turned off the motor, and opened the door.  The silence was frightful; even out where he lived, there never was a complete absence of human noise.  Now, there was nothing; no hums of motors, growls of airplanes overhead, buzzing of electrical contacts in the transformers.

He got out, and slowly approached the store front.  The lights in the little grocery store were off, and the automatic door didn't move as Trevor stepped in front of it.  He reached out and pushed the door, and it easily slid back, giving a dull thunk as it hit the end of the rollers.

"Hello?" Trevor said, and his voice sounded impossibly loud in his own ears.

He stood in the threshold, looking into the shadowed interior of the store, and suddenly his nerve broke.  He backed up, and then ran out into the parking lot, looking around him wildly.

"Where is everyone?" he shouted up into the empty sky.

The sky had no answer.