The first chapter in my post-apocalyptic sci-fi series “The Burntown Chronicles” is FREE on Kindle until Saturday =)

From today until Saturday, you can get the first part of my monthly post-apocalyptic science fiction serial The Burntown Chronicles free for your Kindle here =) Get it fast, I’ll be putting out the second part very soon!


July, 2021. When the small rural town of Kentsburg, Mississippi finds itself cut off from the rest of the outside world following a terrible thunderstorm one evening, no one thinks much of it, although several teens can recall seeing flashing red lights on the horizon just before the power went out. The next morning, even stranger things begin to happen.

Nobody’s car will start, clocks are frozen, and all cell phones are mysteriously dead. Then come the circular drones that some farmers have started digging up in their fields–heavy devices which house a plethora of deadly weapons to kill anyone who interferes with them.

In the days following the aftermath of what many refer to as “The Shock”, an unlikely young antihero named Markus Huxley rises, eventually declaring himself de facto leader of a place henceforth known as “Burntown”. Influenced only by his haunted past and an unusual penchant for fire, the future of those who remain in Kentsburg under his reign seems uncertain.

With the town’s older residents dying off, the younger teens soon turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope. And so the parties rage on, even as the world has seen fit to end in fire…


To The Prince of Cavarice.

To you has passed the cup of a great hardship in the era of your reign.

I understand that few must call you by name, for it is said that you were born with none. Your title is stolen, so let us dispense with any necessity that we must converse in so proper a manner. To do so would insult the memory of he whom you took it from, much as a thief in the night, yes?

I was your right hand man for over a decade, so unlike the rest of the populus, I will not pretend to defend your honor. There is little left for you in these days, my good friend. I assume that even you must be aware of this, even now as you sit at the end of your long table with a crystal goblet in one hand and your scepter in the other, no doubt ready to strike down any who defy you.

You may not remember the reason for which you sent me on this great pilgrimage, though I suppose that much is to be expected; it has been over ten years since you dispatched me, of course. Did you really assume that I was dead? I did tell you that I would come back unscathed. There is no monster in the hills, and I think that you and I both know that, just as we both are aware that you did not send me out there to slay any dragon. Those days are over, as are the years of your glory that so oft slipped away from your forebears.

I feel I must inform you that you did not come from your own land, though I believe you must have some knowledge of this as well. In case you were wondering, no connections to your ancestors turned up during my journey. For now, your throne is safe.

For now, let us speak of things as they unfold before you. The nature of this conquest was never one to be taken lightly, of course. The people are convinced that you have struck down a god, that you alone are worthy of the throne. I think I need not inform you that the history of mixing men and gods to justify mass bloodshed is a rather dark one. Everyone in the olden days wished to associate themselves with the royalty of the heavens beyond; however behind this veil lurks a certain fabric woven from the silk of the Tigris’ whiskers, or as they used to say, “an excuse for everything and the king who shields them”.

I never thought you capable of such deceit. Not that you have fallen into it by any means—I know you much better than that. Or at least I should hope so.

Anyway, as I said…there is no monster. There is, however, the shadow of one that looms in the north. A currency is growing in these foreign lands from which I write, a currency rich with exploitation, a new coin of Denari that has been bathed in the blood of the children. They are all slaves out here, it seems…penniless, wasted, malnourished, dirty. I can scarcely contain my eyes to look at them, should one cross my path. One would be lucky to count how often this happens; they mostly work below in the mining colony of a place called Fort Rives. Their vacant stares are one of a disturbed nature, the sort that rubs off from the abuse inflicted upon them by their masters, no doubt.

At night there are howls beneath the earth, as if the very grounds I walk upon are crying out to me not to take another step. It hurts them, as I have come to learn. I effect what little changes I can, mostly small. The planting of a new seed here or there, tending to my garden, giving back to the soil that which I’ve stolen in my weary steps that are so far removed from the suffering I’ve seen in the poorer classes out here. Tourism has been the main driving force of this land, and it has grown into an evermore profitable venture for anyone proud enough to look the other way. As with any refined society of the Older World, the rich make a killing. I mean this in literal terms, of course. You always were of the fundamentalist attitude.

Unfortunately, I am not so certain what you wish of me anymore, my Prince. You did instruct me before my departure that I was not to interfere in any culture I might encounter, lest I start a war that you would be forced to finish. I suppose now that you can rest assured that I have been safe all these years and am doing quite fine, trading and buying amongst other merchants in my craft. I must, however, admit that I am currently facing the throes of a moral dilemma of how I should proceed up here in the norlands.

The Denarus of Kuldör is gaining quite a footing up here, and the more that travelers make their payments in this crimson-soaked coin, it seems the more children I can see just out of the corner bit of my left eye. Forgive me for not making you aware before, but my right has since been cut out of me in the middle of the night due to a failed agreement some time ago with my first landlord over the hill. He would not accept my payments in our own bills and coins, which up until this point I was convinced was an acceptable currency in all of Vaalbara.

Therefore, I feel that as your once loved and most trusted friend, I ought to encourage you to consider the threat present in this new currency, for it is not only the culture of Kuldör that began its change long before I arrived. The islands of Humont are in danger as well, and it should be noted that this is the very place from whence the myth of the great “monster” referred to in our oldest texts first emerged. Ah…not “ours” I suppose, but that of the land known as Cavarice. And beware, my friend, that the savagery you once so courageously fought against back home has also taken up a new residence not far from this land. He whom you exiled is here, it seems…not quite by name, or at least not the same as before. But he is here, and I can sense him even as I write these words.

Perhaps beneath the earth, he reigns. No commoners are permitted in the mines beneath, which is also where the Denari are forged. Superstitions have emerged in the months I have rented my own rooms and constructed my own storehouse…great myths of the Old World, of the way things used to be. They say it will be the same again; bloodshed, all of it. Those who are not yet infected by the great Plague of Alabaster Bay shall fall to it soon enough, if not to the blood currency.

A monster, you asked…a monster capable of great and terrible things, a fiery horned dragon rearing its ugly snout, breathing fire, smashing the cities to bits with a mere swing of its clubbed tail…this is what you wished me to find, is it not?

Then of course, the answer is no. Such creatures—apart from the fairytale books your mother once read you as a child—do not exist. No, my friend. All that exists is man. The man who will do nothing, the man with a crown of thorns who only changes minds, or the man bent on conquest. Neither is befitting of a human soul to me anymore, and were I with you right now, I would knock the golden laurel leaves from straight off your head! Being that I am not, however, I leave this choice up to you.

For if you do wish to keep such a trinket that in all the realms of infinity will eventually come to mean nothing whatsoever, then you may just have to go to war. If not for the people, then for your land. And I therefore implore you, I urge you…no…I beg of you to do what you know in your heart is right, for if you shall see something of yourself in these poor children as I once saw in you when you were but a boy yourself, then I know you will do the right thing.

So as I’m sure they will say some amount of a million years in the future, the likes of which my eyes have been so blessed to see in my dreams back home…”the ball is in your court”. It is your move, my old friend.

Until we meet again, if ever.


Roberus Maximun ArchillĂĄs

One Coffee, Cream and Equal.

Two coffee rings were staining the table, but only two. They did not bleed into each other. They did not intersect, tangle, or make a Venn diagram; that would imply that there was some solution to be found. And what was more curious, one was a fading shade of black whilst the other had clearly been infused with cream. This was also the circle surrounded by sugar.

No, not sugar…sucralose. A candy-coated lie, a sweet taste that when dissolved in the mouth leaves the putrid flavor of happiness turned sour. Still, he preferred this over drinking his coffee bitter because he would rather feel surrounded by the illusion of comfort. Pillows, warmth, sweetness, that sort of thing.

And then there was black. Just black, nothing else. A shadow that had been, a reminder of what remained. A dark, empty, cold thing. Had the two rings of their morning ritual formed a sort of diagram, hers would easily have eclipsed him. As it was, the black ring was bigger. Fully formed. Independent. Stronger.

He still needed the comfort of sweetness to hold him in place. Perhaps that’s just the way it was. He had come out of his maker no different, having been brewed with just the right blend of courage, tenderness, love. But when his maker broke, that’s when he found himself turning to sugar. No, not sugar…that damn dreaded sucralose.

In many respects, this is what had increased the divide. He had been aware of the bitterness at first, though it came in subtle doses. The gradual increments of something new in the mix, a change of taste, the adding of clouds like magical swirls to cover the treachery of angry skies and black, soulless depths. Eventually, he had withdrawn from the way he used to prefer it: Real. Independent. Strong.

Of course he would make the excuse that it wasn’t the same sort of bitterness, this sucralose habit. There was something there. Something that just hit the right spot. Perhaps it was the tamer shade, the gentler side of things that kept him going for a while and masked the sour pain of it all, and the only thing that reminded him of its existence was the horrid aftertaste. Just a hint, that’s all. Nothing to be scared of.

“I like my coffee with cream and Equal just fine, thank you very much.”

But the truth of it was that these two coffee rings in their composition could not have been any more different, and this is what he had secretly feared. That somehow, that sour bite of bitterness was waiting to attack him at just the right moment. It was still there, after all. The evidence was conclusive, and he also knew this because of the morning he had grown desperate. A dark morning, a morning independent from the rest of the summer season. A Thursday morning. This morning.

It was the same morning he just so happened to have run out of decaf, excuses, Equal, and clean coffee mugs. All the same, she had run out of patience, resolve, sick days, and caffeinated blends. In haste, he had woken up only ten minutes prior to her alarm going off before realizing they were out, so he quickly drove to the nearest convenience store and came home to create quite the destructive brew. Cleaned two mugs. One bigger, one smaller. He gave her the former.

That’s when he remembered there was no Equal left. Drove to the store again. She would be late for work, but he needed it. Craved the comfort. Had to have it or else. It was the sort of sweetness he expected. He could deal with the false notion of aftertaste, the brand of bitter that was acceptable. Better than her brand of morning bitterness, anyway.

Returned home. Coffee was cold, but the strength was still there. No, not his strength…her strength. Bittersweet, codependent.

And just like that—without a word nor a whisper—she angrily grabbed up her mug from the table, poured the decaffeinated brew out in the sink, snatched the keys from his hand, and smartly slammed the door behind her.

That morning, he drank his coffee cold. Cold as their hearts, cold as the snow that now fell from the clouds, colder than comfort had ever been. But at least he had his sucralose.

He smirked at the rings a moment before wiping them away and picked up the phone to call his father.