Author Archives: T.J. Salazar

About T.J. Salazar

T.J. enjoys reading and writing Young Adult novels with a supernatural bent. His first novel, Dead Winter, is currently unpublished and awaiting a loving agent that shares his vision. He lives with his wife and their three children in the shadow of Chicago, the world's greatest city.

A brief description of my new project (06/17)

It’s been a long time since I thought I’d tackle a new novel, but with Dead Winter soon to be on its way, I thought the time was right to jump into a new story, meet some new characters and explore a whole new world.

For those of you who know me, and are familiar with my work, you know I favor YA horror, fantasy and urban fantasy. With this project, I’ll be stepping out of my comfort zone and doing an adult book. Yeah, you heard me right, I’m finally growing up a bit, but a lot of the themes and content I want to do are most definitely not YA. So this is going to be a bit of a challenge for me.

Do you want to hear the premise? Of course you do! You wouldn’t be here otherwise, right? Let’s jump right into it, okay?

Ten years ago, humanity discovered they shared their world with a race designated Homo Nocturnis, vampires. Since that revelation, they’ve done everything in their power to exterminate what they see as a threat to mankind’s greatness. To do this, they’ve trained groups of people in each city to hunt and eradicate the beasts. These so-called Slayers are armed with powerful weapons made of silver with which to execute their grisly duty.

Autumn Rize took an intern position in the mighty Slayer division under the assumption that once she was done with college, she’d be promoted to a desk job helping to hunt the world’s greatest threat, vampires.  When a mandatory training assignment turns violent, Autumn gets to see how far the Slayers must go to protect humanity. Her resolve shaken, she shuffled through class after class at the university, until she meets Cece Joiner and realizes a horrible secret, Cece might just be one of them. 

Can Autumn move past the hate, propaganda and fear long enough to learn about her new friend and her race or will she use that relationship to further the Slayer cause and take a vicious gang of killers off the streets? Whatever fate has in store, she will never be the same again. Sometimes, as the saying goes, ignorance is truly bliss…

So, let me know what you think. If you’d like to know the general themes or motivations behind the book, let me know and I’ll share them. Please hit the Like button if if I piqued your interest and visit me on Facebook or Twitter for more information on upcoming stories, news or just general, occasional rants. Thanks for reading!


Amazing character/setting birthdays

Okay, so I realized something today that had me both kinda freaked, but also crazy excited at the same time. For those who know me, you know I’m an avid tabletop role player as well as a fiction writer, and have been doing both for a very long time (approximately 30 years).  While enjoying my cup of coffee and obnoxious nicotine habit this morning I was thinking of my next writing project, intersped with random ideas for the game I’m currently running with my wife, and the weirdest thing happened, I realized I’ve been using the same characters for almost a decade. That set off yet another series of random light bulbs flaring to life in my skull.

Holy crap! My fantasy world, the one I created through blood, sweat and tears (along with zillions of character deaths), was almost thirty years old! Hayven ( the aforementioned world) was the first setting I ever made, and while it has grown over the years, it has never really changed.  Like a child, it has matured along with me and adapted to my peculiar tastes. I’ve watched kingdoms rise, petty dictators exiled or killed, whole lines of families march to the beat of time in this tiny little piece of my imagination, and it’s glorious!

Another if my creations, The Asoriason vampires, are almost a decade and running.  I have a series of short stories written about this, the most powerful vampire family, (maybe I can post them if anyone is interested), but mostly they have been for my tabletop games. I’ve watched this collection of characters struggle to find their place in this world for so long and fight to keep their family together by any means necessary, that it becomes physically painful to say good bye to them when it’s time to pack up the game.

What I’m trying to get at here, before this gets overlong and crazy, is this: take a minute to really look back and remember to enjoy these people and places you create. Celebrate their accomplishments and offer a kind shoulder to cry on when they are miserable or hurting. You are their outlet, their friend, their mother or father. Nurture them as you would you’re own family.

If anyone is interested in seeing some of my work posted here, let me know. It could be fun to share these guys and gals with an eager audience. If you have any questions as to what I write or the games I play, contact me through this site, Twitter or Facebook.

Until next time.


Maybe published?

It has been a long time since I’ve updated this site or wrote anything for that matter.  The truth is I fell into that lovely routine of life, you know the one, living day to day devoid of any real creative thought.  That’s where I’ve been.  I escaped the suburbs of Chicago and fled to Southern Illinois where life is infinitely different, but with odd similarities.  Between the job hunting and the relative newness, not including the vast amount of stress a move like that brings, I somehow forgot the simple joy of just writing to write.  Now that everything is settled, the itch to create is beginning to reemerge and with it the need to get my stuff out in front of people.

My first novel, Dead Winter, may very well be on its way to being published as I write this. I decided to go with Page Publishing, a hybrid self publisher, in order to test the waters.  I’m actually a lot more excited about it than I thought I’d be, while still having a kernel of the hated reluctance at trying something new.  I’ve weighed all the pros and cons, done my due diligence until I’ve bled, and I think this is the right fit for this novel.

So with that out of the way comes the next hard part, starting a new journey with a new project.  Dead Winter means so many different things to me, I’m not sure if I can top it.  That, in its own way, seems to be stalling my ability to write.  Weird how something you love can strangle you like a jealous lover, right?

As it stands now, I have several ideas that shine through the miasma of doubts and insecurities and scream to be put to paper, I’m just not sure which one is loudest or most insistent.  I’d like to write a sequel to Dead Winter, seeming as I feel things were left in a way to encourage more to the story, but a series is a difficult and daunting proposition to undertake…and rewarding as well.

I’m going to end this before it gets overlong.  Writing, I’ve found, is just like life.  In life there are bursts of happiness, punctuated with soaring elation, frustration bordering on insanity, and real opportunities to see what exactly you are made of.  Like any great ride, it’s fun as hell, but sometimes you need to take a break in order to build up the excitement once more.  I’ve taken several of those, mostly due to insecurities and fear of success, but I’m ready to ride again.

Let the fun begin.

Well, that happened.

So I’ve been away from things lately. You know how it is when you bang your head on a wall, trying to gain perspective? Of course you do!

Anyway. I’ve took a mini-vacation awhile back to review my work, where it was going and how I could possibly get it all together into a coherent less-mess. I shelved a couple of projects (The Gray and Seraphim) and lagged on getting Dead Winter in front of agents.


What I’m unsuccessfully trying to say is I’ve finally gone back to work. After the mini-vacation, I started a new project. It’s something I’ve been dying to write for a long time and just said, “Screw it. I’m doing it.”

Thank you, thank you. Please hold your applause until the end. The new project, which I’m well on my way to finishing, is called Legacy. It will be a Young Adult, sci-fi series about a group of people with odd powers and the weird things they do with them. The first book, Awakening, is almost complete and features the core characters for the series coming to grips with their abilities, while trying to stop one of their own from destroying all life on earth.

I was originally going to use this blog as a “what I did and thought while writing” sort of thing, but since I’m pretty far along, I figured I’d just start by letting everyone know it was out there. You can see most of the first draft here. Just go to my portfolio on the page and Awakening will be on the top.

For now, I’m going to keep this blog as an update of sorts. Awakening has a variety of characters in it and kind of breaks the “main character” archetype because it has several characters to really look at. My hope was that everyone would be able to identify with one character or another and read through it to see what happens to their character. It sounds odd, but you have to read it to see what I’m talking about. I felt this might be an interesting way to go because it’s a format you don’t see all that often. Mostly, you get a book and center in on one character and follow his or her story. I really wanted to see what would happen if I challenged that.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s been done before, I’m not Lewis and Clark or anything, but I’ve never done it.

If this sounds at all interesting, check it out. You can go here and click on the Portfolio tab. If you want to know more, Twitter me. You can do that from the widget on the right. See? Right there. Yup! Or leave me a message, smoke signal, Morse code or carrier pigeon. Well … maybe not carrier pigeon. That would just be wrong.

Anyway. That’s the bare bones and I’ll be getting back to you more on my bizarre writing experiences or muses.


Seraphim, Part Three: The Beginning is the End


Reese’s clawed hand struck Steven’s neck. The power of the slash knocked him from his feet and he crashed to the ground in a rolling skid.
“Yeah! How’d you like that, fucker? Did ya see that, sweetheart? Your boyfriend’ll be breathing from a tube now.” He leered over his shoulder at Wendy, who shrank against the bar and held her hand to her mouth.
Steven came to a stop and reached up to his neck. Tiny drops of blood dotted his fingers and the wound stung, but was nowhere near as fatal as it should have been. He grinned to himself and pushed to his feet. “You missed.”
Reese whirled around and stared slack-jawed at Steven. “That ain’t possible. I got you good.”
The astonished look brought a tiny laugh from Steven. “Apparently not.
Reese roared and sprang at Steven. They collided with a sharp slap of flesh on flesh. Reese buried his shoulder into Steven’s chest, lifted the smaller man and rushed him into the far wall. The cheap, panelled wall cracked with the impact and Steven’s head bounced back. The blow left him reeling as Reese sliced his chest and face repeatedly like a panicked beast. Each swipe had Steven sucking in a pained breath and he fought to block or counterattack, but Reese was a man possessed, like trying to hold a whirling buzz saw.
“No smart-ass words now, bastard? Huh? I can’t hear ya,” Reese growled. Steven lifted his knee into Reese’s balls. The large man folded forward, cradling his manhood and let out a groan. Steven landed a solid punch to his jaw and the big man staggered back. He pushed off the wall and tackled Reese. The two of them rolled around the floor, fighting for position, scoring minor punches or scratches and snarling at each other.
“Stop it. You’ll kill each other. Stop!” Wendy grabbed Steven by the shoulders and yanked him up.
“Let go!” Steven yelled.
The momentary respite allowed Reese to land a hard punch. Steven rocked back and both Wendy and him toppled into the bar. Wendy screamed. A wash of hot liquid sprayed over Steven’s face and blinded him.
“Wendy? Are you okay?” He ran a hand over his face, smearing the sticky fluid, but still he couldn’t see. “Answer me. Are you alright?”
“Don’t worry, Romeo. She’ll follow you,” Reese said from behind him. A savage kick clacked Steven’s jaw closed and he hit the ground dazed. Reese dropped onto him and bashed him in the head with a thick piece of wood. The blow sent fiery waves of pain from his skull to his spine. The world started to spin away. A burning, intense pulse of energy shot from his heart, through his shoulders and burst from his hands. A bright, golden light broke through his near-blindness.
Reese let out an agonized yell and flew off of Steven. Distantly, Steven heard the crash of splintered wood and the thump of something heavy hitting the ground.
“Wendy?” he croaked. Exhaustion pulled him down and he fought to crawl to his hands and knees. “Wendy? Talk to me.” Through the miasma of pain and thick dust, he saw a small, crumpled body against the bar. His arms and legs shook violently and he collapsed to the floor, raising a cloud of gritty dirt and ash. His eyes slipped closed even as his fingers reached for the love of his life.


One Year Later

Dawn Ericson, host of Late Talk Chicago, smoothed imaginary wrinkles on her blue blouse. She paced restlessly; fighting nerves and stomach-roiling nausea. As she passed her dressing room’s small vanity, she glanced at the stack of question cards she had memorized. Tonight’s guest, renowned bio-geneticist, Doctor Rolland Pierce, creeped her out. It wasn’t his skeletal frame or badly tailored suits with a wide assortment of bow-ties. No. It had everything to do with the eerie way he talked and the way he stared straight through her. After meeting him she felt the immediate need for a scalding shower and a large glass of wine.
“Two more minutes, Dawnie,” Brad-her current assistant-said through the door.
She paused and took a deep, calming breath. “Thanks, Brad.” She flipped through the question cards one more time, not really seeing them, but taking comfort in their familiar, smooth feel. The first question, What are they? stood out in the pile.
“One whole year and we still aren’t any closer to figuring out who or what the Seraphim are,” she muttered. Supposedly, Doctor Pierce had all the answers, but if he did, were they worth knowing? She shuddered and replaced the cards on the vanity. She stared at herself for a long moment in the mirror, tried to control her breathing and practiced her patent, open smile. “This is going to suck.”


Doctor Rolland Pierce adjusted his bow-tie and checked his phone for the tenth time. Still no word. He pocketed the slim mobile and rubbed his hands together. The security alert went off in the Alpha Complex twenty minutes ago and none of the security team had gotten back to him yet. The stress was starting to kill him. Attacks from Seraphim weren’t unheard of, but something about the timing had his stomach churning.
The Alpha Complex held all of his most promising research and the location was supposedly a secret, but the damn freaks kept finding it. There would be hell to pay if any of those incompetent guards screwed something up. The shit would really hit the fan if it was a false alarm and no one told him.
“Still nothing?” Beckham asked from his position against the dressing room’s beige wall. The ex-soldier-turned mercenary-made Pierce nervous. He understood the need for a bodyguard, but he wished the company would have picked someone a little less intimidating. The man stood close to seven feet and was built like a wall. Add to that his perpetual scowl and the scar slashed diagonally across his lips, and the man screamed menace.
“No, nothing. Your men are prepared for everything, right?” Pierce tried to hide the biting sarcasm in his voice, but the fear and panic made that a pipe dream.
Beckham raised one bushy eyebrow, but said nothing. Pierce stared at him for an uncomfortable moment before looking away.
One point to Beckham.
A knock at the door made Pierce jump and Beckham smirked. “Nervous, Doctor?”
“Shut up,” Pierce responded. “Yes?” he said to the door.
“Two more minutes, Doctor,” came the muffled response.
“Fine. Thank you.” All of this going on and I’m trapped here doing an inane talk show. He fumbled out his phone and stared at it, willing it to give him an update.

Seraphim, Part Two


“Wendy! Where are you?” Steven groped blindly ahead of him and shuffled his feet. The dust hadn’t settled, but it no longer stung his eyes. He glimpsed shadow-like, lumbering shapes in the thick haze and what might have been broken buildings looming over him. The acrid taste and smell of smoke and charred flesh gagged him with every breath. Screams of rage and pain filtered through the nightmare landscape, sending chills down Steven’s spine and encouraging him to quicken his pace.
“Wendy, please, answer me.” His muscles spasmed. The pain brought him to his knees and he gurgled as wave after wave of torment lashed over him. He stared down at his body, a frame he barely recognized, and whimpered. The flesh rolled and expanded. The sinew ripped apart and just as quickly reformed; thicker and stronger. The process had Steven screaming in pain. He punched the ground over and over again in mindless agony, until the transformation ended. He slumped, sucking in mouthfuls of gritty air. “Why is this happening? What is this?” He ran blistered and bleeding fingers across his new musculature. The compact, tight tissue was a foreign feeling and he drew back his hands.
“Steven? Steven, help me,” Wendy’s cry echoed through the chaos.
“Wendy? Where are you?” Steven whirled in circles.
“I don’t know. I can’t see anything. Oh God, what is that noise? What’s going on?” She let loose a ragged cough.
“Honey, calm down. Keep talking so I can find you. Can you do that, baby?” Steven continued to twist around, craning his head to catch the slightest sound.
“You calm down, Steven. Don’t fucking tell me to calm down. Help me.”
“That’s it, baby. Just keep talking. I’m coming, okay? Just keep talking.” He decided on a direction and set off.
“Please hurry. I’m scared. What’s happening?
“It’s okay. I’m going to find you. I’m coming.”
“Okay. What’s wrong with me. Something’s happening to me. Hurry, Steven. I want to go home. Is that you? Oh thank God.”
Steven looked around. He didn’t see Wendy through the dust cloud, but maybe she had seen him? He continued, fueled by the thought that he was close. The pavement was cracked and pitted in places and several times he stumbled over debris. “Wendy? Keep talking, honey.”
“Oh Steven…NO. Steven! Help me.”
Her scream tore through him and he gave up on his cautious pace and shot into a run. Panic gave him increased agility; his feet flew over the wrecked street and obstacles seemed to move from his path. He came upon a shadowed building. A garish, wooden sign half-hung over the eave. Buck’s Tavern, in peeling red paint, decorated the plank. Wendy screamed again. Definitely in there. Steven charged up the creaky stairs and shouldered the door off the hinges. He staggered, shocked by the ease with which it detonated.
The dust-fog was less prominent in the tavern. The place came out of the disaster with very little damage. Wooden tables and chairs cluttered the main area. A strange, musty scent dominated the air; mixed with the reek of stale beer and cigarette smoke. Three men surrounded Wendy, who huddled against the bar. The men were big and odd-looking. A pair of shadowy wings fluttered on one of the men’s back. Another had glowing golden eyes, just like the man who attacked Steven in the street. His fists shimmered with the same color as he flexed them in and out of fists. The last man stood nearly seven feet tall. Long, curved claws extended from his fingers.
All four of them stared at Steven framed in the doorway. “Steven!” Wendy sobbed.
“Wendy! Get away from her,” Steven yelled, balling his hands into fists.
Steven. Wendy,” the large man with claws said in a whiny, mocking tone. “Don’t just stand there, dip-shits. Get him.”
The two men peeled off the bar and stalked towards Steven without a word. Steven sized each man up. He had been in his fair share of fights in the past, but he preferred to talk first. These men looked dangerous and completely unwilling to be reasoned with. The large man raked his claws through Wendy’s hair and grinned. She whimpered and fought to get away from him. Steven’s new muscles bulged and anger blurred his sight. The man with the wings raced forward. Steven met him half-way, ramming his shoulder into the smaller man’s gut and lifted him. The winged man gurgled out a groan and Steven smiled before slamming him onto a table. The table shattered with the impact and the winged man crashed onto the floor in a cloud of dust and broken wood.
Steven whirled on his other opponent, who stood watching with wide eyes. Steven took advantage of the man’s surprise and launched himself into a headlong leap. The man threw his hands outward and a blast of honey colored light shot from his palms. The light crashed into Steven’s chest like a runaway train and sent him hurtling across the tavern. He hit the ground in a roll, scattering tables and chairs in his wake, and ended in a heap against the far wall.
“Holy shit! Did ya see that, Reese? I blasted that little crapper back to the stone age. This is freaking amazing. I feel like a god.”
“Calm the hell down, Tyler. Make sure he’s down before you celebrate and wake that piece of crap, Grainger up while you’re at it,” Reese said, drawing a claw down Wendy’s cheek. “How about you, sweetheart? Any new upgrades I should know about?”
Wendy cringed away from him. “What are you talking about? What did he do to Steven?”
“Not sure yet, darlin’, but I aim to find out. Wanna come along and see what a real man is like?”
“Stop it. Steven! Help me.”
Steven’s eyes fluttered open. His chest ached and every breath came in a short, sharp gasp. What the hell was that? He heard Wendy’s cry for help and tasted blood in his mouth. The man with the glowing hands, Tyler, was bent over Grainger, slapping the winged man and yelling at him. Steven snaked out his hand and grasped a chair leg. He sat up and threw it in one smooth motion. It sailed across the bar and struck Tyler in the head. The man’s head snapped back and he spun to the ground with a shout of surprise and pain. Steven leapt to his feet and rushed Tyler.
“Watch out you freaking idiot. He’s comin’ straight for ya,” Reese yelled. Tyler, who had crawled to his knees, flicked a glance at Steven. Blood dripped in thick ribbons from his nose and dribbled off his chin. He held his hands out and the glow intensified.
“Gonna blast you good,” Tyler said.
“Not this time,” Steven replied. He dropped into a slide and the burst of golden light passed over his head. Steven struck out with both feet as he slid into Tyler. The kick cracked something in Tyler’s chest and he hit the ground roaring in pain. Steven floated over the screaming Tyler, using one hand to pin the man’s wrists and the other to land a punch. Tyler’s eyes rolled back in his head and he went limp.
Grainger wrapped his arm around Steven’s neck from behind and hauled him to his feet. The man’s forearm dug into Steven’s windpipe. No matter how hard he fought he couldn’t draw a breath.
“That’s it. You got ‘im,Grainger. Choke the bastard out,” Reese said. Steven jerked forward, lifting the smaller Grainger from his feet and flung himself backward to the ground. Grainger expelled a gasp, but clung to Steven’s neck, ratcheting the hold tighter.
Steven twisted and bucked, but couldn’t loosen Grainger’s chokehold. Pressure built behind his eyes and black dots popped in his vision. His lungs burned and panic tightened his stomach. That cold, electric energy burst through him and fastened his hands to Grainger’s forearm.
Grainger screamed as his life-force was torn from him. His body took on the consistency of sand and whole pieces of it sifted through Steven’s hands. Steven sucked in huge gulps of air as Grainger’s body fully disintegrated.
The bar fell silent, aside from Steven’s labored breathing. He glanced up to see Tyler and Reese’s shocked faces. Neither of them moved. His eyes flicked to Wendy and his heart plummeted to his gut. The girl he loved more than anything else in the world, looked at him like he was a monster. Revulsion and horror swam across her face as she shrank against Reese.
“Wendy?” Steven held his hand out to her, but she turned away in fright. “No. Wendy. It’s okay. I’m okay. I had to. You saw it. He would have killed me.” He crawled toward her and tears pooled in his eyes. He hated what he had done, but a part of him enjoyed it and he knew Wendy could see it in him. The thought tore at him. If I could just get to her, hold her, it would be okay.
“You damn freak. What did you do to him?” Tyler yelled as he bunched his fists and stumbled to his feet. He ran at Steven, rage twisting his features into a feral mask. He aimed a kick at Steven’s head, who acted on instinct and grabbed the man’s leg. As soon as contact was made, the life-stealing energy roared through Steven’s arms and entwined Tyler’s soul. Tyler had enough time to let out a high-pitched wail before flaking away to dust.
The burst of energy invigorated Steven. Every cell in his body sang with strength and vitality. He wiped his hands on his jeans and stood, staring down Reese. It happened so much quicker this time and the release…God what has happened to me?
He forced every bit of mock assurance he could into his posture and eyes and took a single step forward. “Let her go or your next.”
Reese flinched and pulled Wendy close. She glanced up from the big man’s shoulder and screamed.
“It’s okay, Wendy. He can’t hurt you anymore,” Steven said.
“What happened to your eyes? What the hell are you?”
The terror in her voice stopped him and he looked to the dirty bar’s mirror. Twin glowing golden orbs stared back at him. Two shadowy wings sprouted from his back and his hands had a golden, crackling nimbus sparking along his fingers and palm. He had lost his shirt somewhere and the increased muscle mass made him look like a chiseled Greek statue. He saw nothing of himself in his reflection, only a nightmare creature wearing a bad facsimile of his face. “What is this?” He ran an illuminated hand over his cheeks and jaw line.
“NO!” Wendy’s voice broke the spell over him and he snapped his head up just in time to see Reese, claws extended, swipe for his throat.

Seraphim, Chapter One

Hello, everyone. I’m starting a weekly series of stories called Seraphim. This series is an urban fantasy following protagonist Steven Wainwright, whose life is changed by a cataclysmic event while on vacation with his girlfriend, Wendy. The event, a shower of comets that hit the planet, affects the world in a major way, causing massive changes in seemingly normal people.
I hope to see you back again each week as I debut another chapter.
As always, have fun and let me know what you think.

“I can’t believe you dragged me all the way out to the middle of nowhere for a vacation,” Wendy said with a fake pout. “Are you sure we aren’t lost?”
Steven glanced at her and shrugged. “Maybe.” He turned to look out the windshield, trying to hide his smile. They were driving along a dark, desert road in New Mexico. Nothing but sand and the odd cactus for miles around. He wasn’t worried, though they should have reached San Pablo hours ago. It had been ten years since the last time he came to the small town with his dad on one of their infamous cross-country drives and he was sure it hadn’t taken them this long to get there. He checked the GPS again, but San Pablo still hadn’t been mapped out yet and the device showed only empty space.
“We aren’t lost, are we?” Wendy asked, pushing a lock of her caramel colored hair from her face.
“Of course not. Wainwright men don’t know how to get lost. Part of the charm,” he said with a wink. “It’s just up ahead, I swear. They have the most…”
“Beautiful old church. I know, sweetie. You’ve told me a million times. It’s just I was hoping to see it before midnight, y’know?” She nudged him in the ribs and gave him a smile.
“It means a lot to me that you agreed to do this with me. Dad always said we’d go one more time and since he passed away…”
“I know,” she said, twining her fingers through his. “Hey! I think I see lights up ahead.”
Steven peered through the windshield and breathed a small sigh of relief. “I told you it was just up ahead. I can’t wait for you to see this place.” He accelerated as excitement surged through him. After this, we go to San Francisco. His thoughts drifted to the little box he had tucked away in his suitcase and from there, to the future.


The town was set up in a typical cross formation. Main Street ran East and West, while Home Street ran North and South. The town grew along the crossroads, forming four equal quadrants. Antiquated businesses started from Town Square and stretched in either direction. Every one of them were dusty and sun-bleached and none of them bore a resemblance to the big name retailers. They all had names like, Hal’s Hardware and Tucker’s Inn. San Pablo had no claim to fame. It was just another town that sprang up like a mushroom one day and went bankrupt when the Hoover’s highway system became the acceptable route.
Steven parked the car in front of Tucker’s Inn. “This is it.”
Wendy eyed the building with something akin to dread. “This is where we’re staying? Honey, it doesn’t even look like it’s open.”
“What did I say? Part of the charm. Come on, I’ll check us in.” He leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips, before getting out and stretching.
“You are so lucky that I love you,” Wendy grumbled as she opened her door and stepped out.
A cool, desert breeze trickled through town and Steven stopped mid-stretch to admire how Wendy’s hair swirled around her face.
“What?” Wendy asked, self-consciously tucking her hair behind her ears.
“Nothing,” he replied. “I just forget how beautiful you are sometimes.”
She looked away and a shy smile played about her lips. “You’re nuts.”
“Maybe.” He walked around the car and took her into his arms. He stared into her eyes, eyes that had been etched into his mind and heart. He moved closer to her and his lips whispered over her’s.
A glaringly bright light interrupted their kiss. Steven blinked and pulled away from her, searching out the source of the illumination.
A huge golden comet streaked from the heavens. Its passage parted the clouds and threw out a horrendous shrieking noise.
“Oh my fucking God. Wendy, Run!” He pushed her ahead of him, but she only stared as the golden giant slammed into Town Square. The shock-wave knocked Steven from his feet. There was a moment of weightlessness as he twisted through the air and darkness as he struck the ground.


Hot, piercing pain stabbed Steven’s body. His eyes flew open and he sucked in a choking, dust-filled breath and coughed viciously. A heavy, cloud of gritty sand hung in the air; obscuring his sight. He writhed in excruciating agony and his fingers scrabbled in the dirt, searching for Wendy. He tried to sputter out her name, but gagged on the thickness of his tongue.
A high-pitched, inhuman scream cut through Steven’s hell. He squinted, fighting to see through the haze. A shape materialized. A man spasmed and another bellow of torment echoed over the wasteland. As Steven watched, the man morphed and grew. His muscles bulged and swelled to impossible proportions. His eyes glowed a bright gold, like headlights on bright. The man surged forward; roaring and grunting.
Steven forgot his pain and scrambled backwards.
The man scooped Steven up as if he weighed nothing and began to squeeze him with his oversized hands. “Help me!” The man screamed. “God, help me.”
Steven grabbed the man’s arms. “Stop! You’re killing me,” he gasped. A shocking, cold energy from deep within him rose up. It spilled from his fingers into the man’s arms. The power rushed through the big man and hooked something inside him. Sharp, red-hot pain lanced Steven’s arms as the energy recoiled and tore through the man.
The big man screamed and dropped Steven, but his arms were glued to the man. He tried to yank away, but his hands wouldn’t budge. The big man howled in pain and his flesh began to disintegrate all at once. The skin disappeared into the dust, followed by the man’s skeleton.
Silence descended around Steven. “Oh my God. What the hell just happened? Somebody help me!” His muscles twitched and began to bulk up. “No. No!” He hit his knees and screamed as his body grew.