James avoided Shattered Land for three days.
The first day, he researched the authors Sara had mentioned, resorting to online plot summaries and debates to learn as much as he could.
The second day was his excursion with August, the whole thing sliding on rails, completely inevitable. Like coming full circle.
On the third day, he ran out of distractions and wound up stuck in reruns of Ryu; a failure, because every time he heard Kanade's voice singing the theme, he thought about things he was trying not to. He switched to The Darkest Heart, and when that ran out, he switched again to something else.
Afterward, he spent two hours writing ... or rather sitting at his computer staring into a corner of the room, producing nothing. Then he slept.
By the time he rolled back out of bed, it was almost noon on December 31st. He had to log in or regret it later.
His game phone was swollen with messages.
One was Donald: "New Year's Eve, man. Time to get fuckin wasted. Party's at my place if you're down."
One was Casey: "Hey hey! I'm makin a resolution for the new year. Got suggestions? Lemme know, 'cause like ... I got nothin."
There was even a text from Sara. Attached was a short video of the flying squirrel running around its cage. What should I do with it now? Sara wanted to know, and concluded with, I named it Valentine.
The last message was from Kanade. James stared at the phone for almost a minute before opening it up. A text, five words long.
It was a good dream.
What he was worried about was what came next.
James checked his list of contacts and saw that Kanade was online, as were Sara and Casey. Three choices. Casey seemed by far the most innocuous.
"Dude," she said. "Hit me with it!" James could actually hear her hair as she tossed her head. Exercising? Dance routines?
"With what? A New Year's resolution?"
"Yo yo!" Casey said, which James took for a yes.
"How about less use of dude, like and sweet?"
"Oh. Dude. Low blow."
"You don't need any resolutions. You're fine."
"Aww." Casey paused what she was doing to audibly blush. "Man, honestly, maybe you're right. I couldn't think of what I wanna change. I want my bro to come home safe, but like, that's not a resolution."
"In Japan, they make an offering at a shrine and make wishes instead of resolutions."
"Hey, sweet! Where's a shrine?"
In Texas, a Shinto shrine was probably going to be hard to come by. A Buddhist temple would work. Did they have those?
"Busy right now?" James asked.
"Naw, just dancin. Why?"
"Let's go to a shrine."
"Oh man, awesome! Where, where?"
"That's what I'm about to find out. Meet at the hill."
James clicked off. Now he had a good way to break the ice, but still stared at his contact list for another thirty seconds before actually making the call.
YOU ARE READING
No Life to LoseMystery / Thriller
James Kirkpatrick's difficult life leads him to take solace in virtual reality—a momentary peace soon shattered by mystery, intrigue, and unseen forces bent on plunging the world into chaos. An epic tale of love, loss, and the boundless influence of...