Disturbed Fate by Kia Zi Shiru: Another Stop on the Book Release Blog Tour

I’m pleased to announce Kia Zi Shiru’s newest book release: “Disturbed Fate” to both my readers!

My blog is one of many stops for Shiru’s Blog Tour. Of course, if you want to purchase Disturbed Fate, or any other of her books, you need only skip to the bottom of this post. But who want’s to skip to the end?

What is Disturbed Fate?

Disturbed Fate is the first in the “Otherkin Spirits” series. There are vampires, LGBT themes, and, as always, great storytelling.

Book Blurb:

Marc, a small pet shop owner and seer, needs help with his store, but his new
employee, Galen, brings with him more trouble than expected. Marc tries to keep their
relationship professional even if Galen seems insistent on taking it to the next level. And then
there is the problem of Galen’s past.

Keiran, a hard working medical student and Marc’s best friend, has a small problem, a
stalker. One night he confronts the guy and finds in his stalker vampire, Devlan, is too
alluring to turn down. But Devlan isn’t who he seems to be.

When the four men meet up for a night out their lives fall apart. Marc’s premonitions
are wrong and everything points towards one autumn night a couple of years ago. Now they
need to figure out what happened that night, before someone dies, again.

Time is running out. The visions might be false, but they don’t paint a pretty picture,
not about their futures and, especially, not about their pasts. They need to reverse the change
before it is too late.

Don’t know who Kia Zi Shiru is? (Shame on you! I’ve posted about her countless times!)

Kia Zi Shiru is a Dutch girl who did her bachelor studying English and Creative Writing in the UK but
has now returned to the Netherlands to do her masters. Her writing and reading habits include books with
Young Adults, gay themes, strong female or minority characters and fantasy elements (more often
than not all at the same time).

I love her take on gay themes, willingness not to soften adult themes for the YA and New Adult audience while not going over the top, and her ability to crank out great YA and New Adult novels with the speed most can only hope to aspire. Please take a look at her work. You will not be disappointed.

Buy via any of these links. Do it or puppies in Zimbabwe will die (OK, not really. Just give it a go and buy a copy!)
Amazon.com (U.S.)
Amazon.com (U.K.)
Amazon.com (Canada)

Black Sheep: Fighting for a Future: BOOK RELEASE TOUR

Today marks the beginning of Kia Zi Shiru’s blog tour for the release of her third novel in her Black Sheep Trilogy. I’m honored to present Shiru and her third YA novel: “Black Sheep: Fighting for a Future.” Below, Shiru speaks about Black Sheep and it’s reach across the typical LGBT genre fiction. She also talks about a serious subject that her books deal with: self harming and its effects.

“Today I’ll be talking about something that Rene and also other reviewers brought to my attention, Black Sheep as a story not just for teens but also other people.

“I wrote the Black Sheep Trilogy with teenagers in mind. I started the story, now about 6 years ago, when I myself was the same age as Vic, 18. Back then I didn’t think about much apart from wanting to write this story about these great characters that had so much pain and love in them. Jack and Vic are teens and Anne and Adam are 20/21, just slightly older than teenagers.

“I never thought anyone but teens might be interested in the story and that has been my focus until the end. Sure, I had a couple of mature readers but for me they felt more exception than the rule. I then published the first book of the trilogy back in December.

“What happened after that I couldn’t have imagined. Sure, I’m not selling as well as I would like, but honestly, in a niche genre of a niche genre as Black Sheep is that doesn’t surprise me.

“What did surprise me were replies to some of the guest posts I wrote and the reviews of both Rene and some others. There was a group of people out there that I had never intended to write for, I had never thought about them, but they seemed interested in the story anyway.

“They were adults, and not just adults, adults who know teens, adults who work with teens, adults who are parents to teens.

“Black Sheep seemed to fill a void I didn’t know actually existed. Black Sheep was no longer about a gay guy with a dark past. Black Sheep became a story about struggle, about teenagers, about growing up while at the same time being held back by awful things of the past.

“The first time I heard that it might appeal to a different group from the two that I had been dealing with in the past (teens and people who love dark gay fiction) I smiled in disbelieve and shook my head. But it didn’t stop there. It happened a couple of more times and I realised I had been looking at Black Sheep with a very limited view.

“I hadn’t realised that because most of the things that happen to Vic, Jack and others are taken from real life situations it would appeal to those same people. I realised I had always seen Black Sheep as being about a gay teen with a dark past, which seemed to appeal a lot to teens. What I forgot in all this was that the reason it appealed to them wasn’t because they were gay, maybe it would for the first book, with some of the kissing and groping scenes but the later books weren’t about that any more. They were about struggle, pain and depression.

“I had taken the story out of the original context and pulled it into a realm where gender and sexuality no longer mattered, they became characters in their own right.

“They suddenly were identifiable with not just for teens who liked gay stories but with a broader audience that was looking for something else. Something darker and that didn’t judge. Something that could bring up memories of times that we thought we outgrew but that influence us still in daily life.

“And looking at the story it doesn’t just stop there, it can also give handles to people who are dealing with teens who struggle. Not because Black Sheep gives a guide on how to do that but by giving a voice to people who might not be able to explain themselves.

“One of the big subjects in Black Sheep is the struggle of stopping self harming. Most places can tell you that people need love, they need understanding, they need you not to put too much negative pressure on the person. What it fails to explain is the addictive nature of it, the struggle to stay clean when it seems harming is the last thing they feel. Those people don’t need just love and a shoulder to cry on. They need to also understand that it isn’t easy, that there is no quick way and that they will struggle for a long time after they’re clean. And it doesn’t stop with them, those around them, those dealing with them on a daily base? They need to understand that too.

“Sure, there are a lot of other themes in Black Sheep that I’ve tried to deal with the same way. I didn’t try to fix them, I didn’t try to explain. I tried to explore the emotions of both sufferers and loved ones.

“I think the strength of Black Sheep lies in that and that that is why at first I didn’t think it would interest other people. I never thought about whether other people then those struggling with the same things as Vic, Jack, Adam, Anne and all the other cast would be interested in the story. Not because I didn’t care for them but because they weren’t people I had dealt with in the past. I never thought that my experiencing and emotional way of writing would not just be a comfort for people who struggled but might also give insights to other people into the mind of struggling people.

“This was probably one of the biggest things I hadn’t thought about before I published the trilogy.”
Kia Zi Shiru is a Dutch girl studying English and Creative Writing in the UK. Amongst her interests she finds writing, reading, doing research and learning different languages (including but not limited to: English, Dutch, French, German, HTML, Java, PHP and Assembly). Her writing and reading habits include books with Young Adults, gay themes, strong female or minority characters and fantasy elements (more often than not all at the same time).

You can find Kia Zi Shiru at:

Twitter: @kiazishiru 

Facebook: KiaShiru 

And if you want to keep up to date you can sign up for my newsletter here.

You’ve heard about it. Now own the books!

Haruki Murakami

Three and three quarters of his books later, I believe I’ve finally ascertained the draw I feel toward Haruki Murakami’s writing.

All along I’ve known it was not his stories. I’m not one for surrealist novels or run of the mill boy-meets-girl stories. I’m more of a gory, scare you to death novel reader or a political social commentary novel reader. When the two collude, as they do for Jose Saramago in Blindness and Seeing, my knees weaken. 
Murakami does none of this, not directly anyway.Instead, his stories include seemingly mundane main characters that end up in rather fantastical situations as his novels progress. If you’re of the Western Hemisphere and never been introduced the Murakami, essentially, his stories start as Bob Ross without his easel and transition into Anime of the weirdest nature. One of the strangest parts is that he does this so subtly that even realists such as myself begin to believe anything is possible.
But this still isn’t what keeps coming back to Murakami. 
What makes me return again and again to his writing is the way it makes me feel. And I mean really feel. 
Occasionally we’ve all read that one book that scares the daylights out of you. Once in a great while you might even read a book that, after you’ve finished reading it, sits with you like a Big Mac and large fry does. The best of these leave you questioning your beliefs and reconsidering life. Many of the classics do that. That’s why they are classics. The problem is, Murakami’s books do something different. Sure, if you pull them apart like some Literature major, you’ll find you do question life and civilization in totality. But if you read Murakami for the sheer pleasure of a story, you will still set the book down, at any point in the book, and feel something. You don’t just feel for the character, you feel the character in the bones. 
Today, I believe I’ve figured out exactly how he does it.
It’s the voice he uses. Though the vast majority of his stories are written in third person, the voice is subtle. It took over 1200 pages of stories to figure it out. 
All his writing reads like a quiet storyteller’s voice. The voice you hear when movies provide quick back story, the voice I can only assume real storytellers used to have when there was no TV or radio. It reads quiet, calm, with a distinct rhythm that pulls you in while lulling you into a trance.

While in that trance, the effects of which remain long after the book is placed on the nightstand, you are left with a sensation only describable as the very sensations the main character was feeling right before you set the book down. You don’t sit there questioning life or thinking anything deep. You simply sit there with that certain lingering feeling that you can neither shake nor explain. *I love it!*

Now that I know the secret, I’m sorely disappointed. There is no way I’ll be able to master these techniques  I’m not a storyteller. Likewise, I have no rhythm. All I can hope to do is cheaply imitate like those Sugar Coated Frosty O’s you buy at half the price of Froot Loops. Cheap and looks the same, but it just doesn’t have the same flavor.

Twitter, Explained

My wife, Melanie, explained Twitter to a non-native English speaking student today. Twas classic.

The question was “What does ‘retweet’ mean? Does it mean copy?”
Melanie: It’s a Twitter term
Student: What’s Twitter? Is it like Facebook?
Melanie: Kinda….. It’s a massive text message conversation between you and no one in particular…kinda like you’re talking to yourself except other people can hear you. And since they can hear you, they sometimes talk back. Or sometimes, they like your conversation with yourself, so they ‘retweet’ you.

Oh, the awesomeness of current social networking technologies. How I love thee.

Rewriting the Argument into the Un-contestable Argument

It’s interesting the way people are able to rephrase an argument in such a way as to detract from the true nature of their argument. The most interesting part is that they do so with arguments that are either not incorrect or are immoral/unpatriotic to argue against.

For instance: Laws in Florida that were recently partially overturned, are a great example. The argument from apologists is that laws must be enacted to reduce voter fraud. When those arguing against the law suggest race, ethnicity, or struggles for political power are the root cause for the law and not deleting voter fraud, apologists simply restate their claim: Laws must be enacted to reduce voter fraud.

Responses to accusations of limiting democracy or outright racism in voter laws attack the accusers as simply looking for things that are not there and/or that the accusers want rampant voter fraud.

Therein lies the problem. The apologist argument here, that voter fraud is bad and requires laws to suppress, is accurate, laudable, and necessary in any well-functioning democracy. But this is not the true nature of the reason for the law. Yes, it is true that the law is written and advertised as voter fraud fixer upper. Therefore, no one can argue contrarily without arguing against democracy. Which, as we all know, in a democracy, is grounds for treason and burning at the stake. Ero, the Un-contestable Argument is born and never dies.

Similar arguments are made on a regular basis. Many revolve around voter rights, free speech rights, marriage rights, gay rights, reproductive rights, and the like. The above example was just that…a single example.

Among Others: 19th Chapter

NaNoWriMo 2011 is little more than a day away from completion. I was about 12k away from making the 50k finish line this morning. Today alone I’ve written three chapters so far. That’s 3,500 words today.

Needing a break from writing, I’m doing this…writing a blog post ^_^

But, it’s back to the grindstone.

Among Others: Chapter 19:

Nobody spoke until nightfall. The old man wearing overalls and the woman with knotted red hair sat watching the television with tears in their eyes, holding each other’s hands like two elderly people watching Death himself walk up to them to take their lives one by one. The fat man and young man with the broken face had moved to the tiny kitchenette to gorge themselves on different canned meats in a victory celebration feast. Collins locked herself in her bathroom perfecting her concealer mask she neglected the last twenty four hours while they waited for news reports of their despicable act.

Coming out of her bathroom, she directed everyone to put on their makeup and present themselves for approval. The fat man never moved so quickly, before or since his current condition. The young man with the broken face followed a short distance behind. They elbowed each other for a spot in the cramped bathroom to view their progress in the studio apartment’s only mirror.

“I don’t like this any more than you do,” Collins added at the old man wearing overalls as she sensed animosity. “Desperate times.”
“I will not kill again.”
“Nobody is asking you to kill anymore. Now we just need to let others know they have support. We need to provide them with understanding of how they can help the cause, how they can help their own cause.”
By this time, the woman with knotted red hair had meandered about ending up behind the old man. He crossed his legs and laid his hands on top of each other crossing at their wrists. The woman with knotted red hair placed a shaking hand on the old man’s shoulder, then added, “I can not do this.”
“You have to,” Collins snapped back.
“No, she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do.”
The woman nodded in agreement.
“You could always take your chances out there. Normals will happily make sure you don’t suffer in this world much longer.”
The woman drew back.
“That’s not fair and you know it,” said the old man as he uncrossed his arms.
“There’s no room for people not willing to fight.”
“There’s always room. If they want to kill me for who I am, I can live with that. I answer only to God.”
Collins and the old man stared each other down until the fat man and young man with the broken face barged in for inspection. The fat man was beaming with pride. The young man with the broken face stood in his most dangerous gangster stance.
“You know what,” Collins finally said, slamming her chair into the table with enough force to rattle the woman with knotted red hair. “You are right. Not everyone has to do the same thing. But,” she searched the apartment for a ‘but’ to add, “But, if you want to stay here where it’s safe, you will have to earn your keep.”
“Fair,” the old man nodded.
“Okay,” she said, still looking around for something the old man and woman with knotted red hair could accomplish while the rest of their team was out risking their lives.
“We are running out of food and concealer. Here is some money. Get as much as you can fit in my cart.” She threw her debit card at them. “The PIN is 1105.”
“We will do that. Right after we register ourselves.”
“Are you insane,” Collins jumped.
“We have to. It’s the law. And it will protect us while we are out in public.”
“You will compromise this whole safe house I have created for you just so you can feel a little safer among them? They do not have your best interests in mind. I do.”
“That may be at least half true. But we do not have to give this address.”
“And which address do you propose,” she asked, truly interested.
“Our real addresses. I lived alone before coming here. I can give my real address.”
“They will use your new ID to track you.”
“Maybe. But it is our duty. It’s the law.”
Collins stepped away and walked around in a circle several minutes scratching her head. Then, as if an epiphany fell from somewhere above, she darted back to the group, which did not take much in such a small room.
“That’s not a bad idea. We will all go register. But in shifts. That way nobody knows that we live together. We can’t be seen together.” The old man smiled. The woman with knotted red hair squeezed his shoulder in relief. The fat man and young man with the broken face looked sorely disappointed.
Collins looked at her phone for a time check. Half past five in the morning. Suddenly she was aware of the dull red hue peeking in through the kitchen window curtains.
“It’s too late now,” speaking to the two deflated men once eager for action. “But you two,” pointing to the old man and woman with knotted red hair, “Get makeup on and grab a face mask. You have provisions to purchase. After you register, of course.”
“It’s illegal to hide our identity now,” the old man interjected.
“Fine. Just. Go make sure you do not have any concealer on. Then go register. You still have my card.”
The old man stood slowly, creaking as any old man would after sitting too long in one position without shifting enough to keep his joints well oiled. He walked off toward the bathroom with the woman with knotted red hair in tow. After they disappeared behind a closed bathroom door, the fat man sank his fat head into his fatter chest. Collins moved in close to him and his partner in crime.
“I have something else for you two.”
Their eyes began to light up again behind their caked on war paint.
“This is a list of all the Council Members. Their names and addresses.” She handed the young man with the broken face a printed copy of addresses from a website. It contained eight names, phone numbers and addresses.
Scanning the list, “One has a line on it. Did we kill him?”
“No,” her hands shook, “That person is off limits. You are not to go there.”
Both men looked at Collins like she started speaking a language they did not understand.
“He is on my side. Our side.”
“He is one of us,” wondered the young man.
“Not that I am aware of. He is a friend of mine. You are not to go to his house or harm him in any way. Is that clear?”
They both nodded.
“Good. It’s too late now. But tonight, you have your orders. Do not tell them,” Collins pointed at the closed bathroom door, “about any of this. Understand?”
Both nodded again.
“Good. Put that away. Tonight, when night falls again, you two will move out.”
They were so pleased with their mission and what it entailed it cracked their concealer creating smiles that split from ear to ear. They shuffled off to watch more television in relative silence. The bathroom door opened pulling Collins’ attention away from her two obedient minions.
“You look,” she struggled for an appropriate word, “normal.” All three would have smiled if her comment was not so accurate.
Blue veins mapped out around the faces of both the woman with knotted red hair and old man. Neither looked happy but Collins did not know if their sadness drained from what they looked like now without concealer or that they were no longer satisfied with the position they felt forced into as of late.
The woman with knotted red hair tried to smile but it sputtered away. Unsure where to stand or what to do, she stood fiddling slowly with her hands. Her older partner sat back in his chair at the small kitchen table. He gasped slowly for air like a fish out of water taking its last two struggling breaths. Age and lack of oxygen was clearly taking its toll on his wiry frame.
“We will go first,” the old man Signed at last. “We do not know how long it will take or what will happen down at the, um,” he was unsure of the correct Sign.
“Police station,” Collins assisted.
“Yes, thank you. When we are done there, we will go shopping for food and concealer if we can get it. It’s illegal to conceal ourselves now. But I think I can convince anyone asking that she is my daughter and just wants to look Normal at home.”
“Great idea,” Collins added. Irritated she did not think of such a well thought out plan. Everyone’s eyes struggled to find something acceptable to look at without causing discomfort to anyone else. Instead all eyes bounced around avoiding each other until the old man managed enough energy to wave the woman with knotted red hair to follow him out.
As they left, Collins tapped the old man’s shoulder.
“You need this,” handing him her only key to the apartment. “If you find a place, buy another one. This is my only copy. You can probably justify one extra. We will make it work somehow.”
He took her key, nodded, and left with his female counterpart trailing close.

Among Others: 7th Chapter

Chapter 7 of “among Others” is one of a two part situation that tests Dr. Collins’ will.

Enjoy “among Others” Chapter 7. Remember, of course, that this is a NaNoWriMo rough draft (2nd draft edit 12/29/11):

Two more days passed. Not having spoken to Miller since their last encounter in her office, she texted him requesting they meet at the coffee shop around lunch. Before she placed her phone back in her pocket, a response came through.

“I can be there at 1. Can we meet then?”

She responded with a ‘See you then’, closed her phone and dropped it back in her pocket.
Not able to read her research, she struggled to find an outlet for her awkward feelings and rambling mind. Research meant normalcy. That’s all she really wanted: normalcy. Tearing into a raw chicken neck, she resigned herself to waiting until noon before heading out to see Miller.
Cleaning up after her meal, she stumbled off to shower off yesterday’s concealer. So embarrassed about her complexion, she now wore it to bed. Not even her hands touched her face anymore, at least not without  dollops of pasty concealer on them. The game of pretend exhausted her.
The water warmed her cheeks and nose as the concealer melted away in the stream. She slumped down onto the floor of her bathtub and hugged her bare legs, her blue-veined face perched on equally blue knees. Behind closed doors, in a shower, nobody hears or sees the crying face of the silent voice. Or cares.

Satisfied with her replaced mask, she pulled on her coat, being careful to not rub against her face or neck. She locked the door behind her.

Several protest groups gathered at different ends of the same street. Each hollering about the same thing to the same wandering pale passersby. None of the passersby acted violently. It was as if the pale beings did not react to the yelling at all. She wanted more than anything to intervene. To ask these angry people what it was about these infected individuals that angered them so much. Yet none of them understood Sign. Fewer still would see past her own condition. One screaming person would see past her concealer, call her out for what she was, and probably end her worries where she stood with their bats and fists.
Collins walked on as fast as her cold feet took her to ensure she looked as normal as possible. She chose to walk passed trying to pretend she saw no violence, trying to hide from herself that she was the very object of their disdain.
It was not until she came up on the only coffee shop on campus that she even blinked, focusing on moving at a normal rate of speed of an uninfected person.
Lunchtime isn’t even over and already they were outside tormenting their pale prey.
Collins pointed out a small coffee cup to the petite barista and handed her a debit card. With coffee in hand, she found an empty seat at the back of the crowded shop.  It felt like no time at all passed before Miller swished over and sat across from Collins.
“Um,” he stumbled into Sign, “Where have you been? I have been worried sick, Helen.” Miller’s fingers darted around so fast her stunted eye moment hardly kept up with him.
“I’m okay,” she replied.
Hand to mouth, finger shaking at Collins’ pale hands, “You. You. You,” Miller stuttered out loud. She took one look at her hands. All this time, it never occurred to her to hide her pale hands. Suddenly her stomach twisted. Gloves. She needed gloves before she went back outside.
Miller was still stuttering the same word when Collins remembered where she was. She was never so glad to know Sign than in that loud coffee shop filled with normal people.
“Oh, my God, Helen. Are you OK? How do you feel? What’s it like? Who have you eaten? How did you get passed CAUZ? What are you going to do? Where are you going to stay? Are you gonna eat me?”
Collins watched with pity as Miller rambled out a million questions, some of concern, most out of pure curiosity but meaning no disrespect, for sure. She knew he was not that sort of person.
“I have not eaten anyone,” she Signed as fast as her cold hands let her. “And I am not going to eat you. Although I am getting hungry.” Miller snapped backward knocking the chair behind him but garnering no response from the person sitting there.
“I’m kidding.”
“But the reports. They say, um, the undead, well, um, you, have to eat flesh.”
“Lots of steak.” She tried to smile but the dried on concealer cemented to her face refused to allow it.
“You can’t be seen, Helen. People are scared. I am scared.”
“You said we could meet here.”
“You need some gloves. And maybe, um, a mask.”
From his coat pocket he pulled a ball of masks. A half used tissue fell to the floor.
“Here,” he said aloud, “You’ll want this when you leave here.”
Collins took a sip of her coffee. It tasted so bitter she set it aside.
“I just wanted to get out of that apartment. Talk to someone. Maybe I will go to the library, take out a few books.”
“Trust me, Helen,” Miller’s face reddened, his combover stood ruffled, “You are not safe here, or, um, anywhere.”
“Fine,” she gave in, “I won’t go to the library. I’ll go straight back and lock myself in that cage of mine. That’s all I am, right? An animal?”
“I do not think that at all,” his eyes welled, “But, um, others will hurt you. People are scared.”
“Are the reports true,” she asked as her Sign softened somewhat, “Is it true infected people have attacked other people?”
“What,” he asked, taken aback from the conversation switch, “Um, I do not know. I have not seen footage. I’m sure they would show it if footage existed.”
“I thought as much.” She leaned back in her chair, relieved.
“Please, Helen. Go home. Stay out of sight. At least until this blows over.”
“Spoken like a true soldier.” Collins did not know what possessed her to say something so biting but she felt no inclination to apologize. As caustic as it was, she meant it. Miller felt an urge to adjust his combover while his face darkened further, beads of sweat gathered. His hands shook. It looked like he wanted to say something but would not or could not.
Collecting her things, Collins said, “Spit it out before I go back to my cage.”
“I may not buck the system. But, um, you’re the one hiding behind that mask, Helen.”
Miller was correct. Neither of them wanted any trouble.
She hoped to shove Miller aside as she worked her way toward the exit, but he swished sideways to let her through. She passed unencumbered. Before she was a full arm’s length away, she spotted a flyer on the coffee shop wall. Collins tore it down with almost normal speed and turned to Miller.
“What is this,” she demanded.
He did not answer at first.
“Answer me, Chris.” Usually she tried not to use his Signed name but felt no pity today, just anger.
“It is, um…”
“Just say it.”
“There is a, um, city council meeting the end of the week.” When not Signing, he was wringing his hands fervently.
“But why?”
“Public outcry. They want government to stop spending money on well, um…”
“You know you want to say it. Undead? Zombies? Abominations?” If her face could change color it certainly would have done so even under that mask.
“No.” Tears flowed down his face. Already looking like a coy balding child, now he just looked pathetic. “I hate those terms. I just do not know what to call them, you, I mean it, or this.”
Her anger washed away by her friend’s sincere good nature. Collins’ body temperature may be significantly lower due to her infection but she still had a warm heart hidden somewhere underneath that blue-veined pale skin.
“I’m sorry.”
“Me too,” Miller wiped away tears between sniffles.
“Can anyone speak?”
“I assume so. It is a public meeting. Why?”
“And it is at six?”
“Yes. Why?”
“Saturday night? And today is what?”
“Um, Tuesday. Why do you keep asking?” Then like a light bulb popped in his eyes, “Wait. You are not considering? No.”
“You can’t.”
“I will.”
“You can’t even talk. And nobody on the Council speaks Sign. You know that.”
“But you do.”
The light bulb in Miller’s eyes went dim again.
“You’re going to translate. Hell, you’re on the damn Council!”
As Miller interjected, Collins waved at him, “See you there at six on Saturday.”
She walked toward the exit.
“Helen,” Miller yelled aloud. When she turned back, he pointed at his mouth, then back to her. Flustered she had yet another mask to wear, she swung back toward the door and stormed out.

In the campus courtyard, the same protesters stood with the same angry signs, but now there were more of them. What was once three had now become more than a dozen. She remembered who she was, tucked a tuft of hair behind her ear, ducked into her jacket collar, and buried her hands in her pockets. It was cold. Perhaps the protesters believed her ruse. Looking around, there were no pale bodies wandering around the courtyard. Her mind wandered to the beatings she witnessed previously. Had they rid the town of all of them?
Then she realized she that meant she was the only infected person in view. She doubled her pace to appear normal.
Please don’t notice me. Don’t see me. Just let me get home.
She did. For whatever reason, her ruse or their interest in seeking out more obvious prey, they left her alone. Locking her studio apartment door behind her, she dropped to the hardwood floor bursting into an uncontrollable flood of silent tears.