Years ago a simple idea intrigued me. If over-population ever became a serious problem, what could be done about it? Limit births? No-brainer. Forced sterilization? Okay. Euthanizing old people? Hmm. Unlikely yes, but interesting never the less. Thus, the simple premise for Windigo Soul was born. Everybody dies on their 60th birthday.
When I self-published Windigo Soul in early 2012 I didn't really know what to expect. I thought it was good, but like a parent with a really ugly kid, you never know how the rest of the world sees your baby unless they tell you.
As of this writing, I've got 251 reviews on Amazon. 101 five stars and 102 four stars. Despite what the eight people who wrote one star reviews might think, I never begged, bribed, or forced anybody to leave me a good review and out of those 203 people I personally know maybe 20. The rest are complete strangers who have no reason to spare my feeling.
Since February of 2012, I've sold and given away a little over 63,000 copies of Windigo Soul. I've made a few bucks, a good number of friends, and hopefully provided a little distraction and entertainment to a good number of people.
Although I'm proud of how well this book has done, I continue to feel guilty about it. As I work on other projects and books, every time I see that birthday candle staring at me, it's a constant reminder of what I feel is unfinished business that could have been so much more.
W.S. barely clocks in at 35,000 words and is considered a novella. It's short because I ran out of steam, grew tired of it, and just wanted to be done already. I left out a lot of what I originally had planned for the story and I think it shows with the rushed ending. One comment I continually get in reviews (besides Soylent Green comparisons. Ug.) are requests for a sequel. People want to know what happens next. They want to know more about the world Hank, Peg, John, and Sara live in.
When I clicked the publish button I never intended to write a sequel. I was so sick of that manuscript I never wanted to enter that world again. It's time to jump back in.
Instead of writing and releasing a sequel, I'm planning on re-writing Windigo Soul, adding 20,000 to 30,000 words, and publishing it as a second edition. Why? Because it should have been a full length novel to begin with and I've developed some Mad Skillz since writing the original. Perhaps I've got George Lucas syndrome, but I feel I can write the story again and make it better. As a nice bonus, anybody who bought the original will be able to download the updated version for free. What's up Lucas? I seem to recall having to pay to hear Jar Jar yell "We'sah free!" at the end of Jedi.
I'm not sure what's in store for the Reed and Sanderson families yet, but I'm going to enjoy getting to know them again and join in on their adventures. Expect the new and improved Windigo Soul before the end of the year. Until then, here's a taste:
His left eye was completely swollen shut and it would only take a few more blows for his right to follow. After everything he’d been through, that was the most terrifying thought of the day – not being able to see what was coming next. Funny how quickly the concept of day and night had already become obscure. He had no idea which it was, locked in the windowless room as the hours melted into one another. The merciful escape of sleep was kept from him like everything else since they’d taken him in for questioning.
He turned his head, wincing at the pain in his neck and spit more blood on the floor, adding to the mess already there. He carefully removed the red soaked rag from his hand the last goon had tossed at him before leaving, right after his ring finger hit the floor. He held up his hand to the light, trying not to move his remaining two fingers as it just made the pain worse. At least the bleeding had slowed.
The last guy didn’t even ask him any questions. Never said a word. He simply took a few laps around the chair before picking up the bolt cutters leaning against the wall and cut off another digit. They had his hands bound so tightly behind him on the chair he couldn’t so much as wiggle his fingers, a commodity that were quickly diminishing in numbers. He didn’t know which sound was worse, the snap of the bone from the steel teeth or his finger bouncing off the concrete floor. He was able to hear both of them last time only because his throat was so dry and sore his scream barely made a sound.
At least his hands were free for the time being. Only his ankles were bound to the metal chair, but it didn’t matter much. At this point he was so weak he doubted if he could even stand on his own.
He caught himself as his head dipped and he snapped to attention, fighting the strong urge to let sleep overcome him. By now he’d learned the routine. He knew they were watching him, always watching, waiting for him to doze for just a minute before storming in and starting all over again. He knew if he could just stay awake he’d earn himself a few extra minutes of peace.
The door opened and he recoiled out of reflex, a pathetic squeak escaping from his throat. It was too soon. They were changing the rules of the game, taking it up a notch and it wasn’t fair. Wasn’t fair at all.
“Jesus Christ,” the voice at the door hissed. “For the love of…Hey! Somebody get me some water.” Voices in the hallway. Shuffling of feet.
The door closed and the man approached. A hand rested gently on his shoulder. “Those bastards,” he whispered. “Reaper. Can you hear me, son?”
He opened his good eye, taking in a pair of expensive looking wing tips in front of him. The hand still rested on his shoulder squeezed.
Carter. It was the first time any of them had used his name. Probably a new tactic. Something one of the Psy Ops bastards on the other side of the glass suggested to earn his paycheck.
“Carter, it’s me, Victor. Have some water.”
He finally looked up and saw the first friendly face in what felt like weeks. Victor Young held out of glass of water and carefully guided it to his shaking hands. The cold water burned like fire going down, cramping his stomach and almost coming back up. He drained the glass and almost dropped it before Victor caught it and set it on the table. He dragged a chair from the corner of the room and sat directly in front of him.
“Those bastards,” Young said again. “I can’t believe they’re treating you like this. Trust me, when all of this nonsense is over, heads are going to roll.”
Carter struggled for words, overcome with emotion at the sight of his supervisor. “Brother,” he finally managed. “Please help me. Tell them I don’t know anything. It’ll mean something coming from you.”
“Shhh,” Young patted his knee. “I’m doing everything thing I can. We’ll get this mess sorted out, trust me.” He took a handkerchief out of his breast pocket and offered it to Carter, motioning at his bloody finger stumps.
Young glanced at the one way mirror at the far end of the room and leaned forward. “Listen, if I’m going to be able to help you I have to know everything, Carter. I can’t pull any strings unless I know every angle, every detail. It’s not too late to recover from this, but they have to know where your loyalties lie. Do you honestly think he’d suffer through all this for you if the roles were reversed? What are you holding out for?”
Carter groaned. “Goddammit, Victor. I keep telling them and I’m telling you, I don’t know anything. I haven’t seen John for weeks. He never told me anything, why can’t they just believe that?”
“Carter, it’s me. Enough with the lies. Think of how it looks from their prospective. You’ve worked with Sanderson for over ten years and it’s well documented you two are friends outside of the agency. How can you think for a second they’d believe you don’t know anything? Sanderson just woke up that morning and decided to go rogue, just like that? Operators simply do not jeopardize their lives and their career on a whim. Especially not John.”
Carter hung his head, trying to ignore the searing pain going up his entire arm. “He was going through a rough patch with his wife but I swear, that’s the last thing we talked about. I didn’t even know his father in law was still alive until they brought me in here.”
He lift his head and looked Young in the eye. “I just want to go home now. Denise must be worried sick. Just let me go home and I’ll help with the investigation any way I can, I swear. My loyalties lie with the State. You know that, Brother.”
Young sighed and nodded. “You really don’t know anything, do you? You’re being completely honest?”
“Of course,” Carter smiled.
Young rose to his feet and nodded at the mirror. A moment later the door opened and two men entered, one holding a syringe.
“What’s going on?” Carter looked to his supervisor for answers.
“I’m sorry to see you go, Reaper. You’re a good operator with big shoes to fill. Take solace in the fact they decided to let you fulfill your final patriotic duty to the State.”
Carter barely noticed as one of the men stood behind him and placed his hands on his shoulders, preparing for resistance. He barely felt the prick of the needle as it pierced his skin. Tears silently fell down his cheeks, finding their way into the many cuts and fissures on his face. The pain barely registered.
“Denise,” he said. “Keep an eye out for her, would you? Make sure she’s okay.”
Young put his hand on Carter’s shoulder again. “Don’t worry, Brother. She’s fine. As a matter of fact, she’s in another room just down the hall.”
The edges of Carter's vision grew dark and his hearing start to fade as the drug flowed through his system. “What?”
“I just spoke to Denise before I came to see you,” Young said, his warm smile gone. “I can’t make any promises, but I think I’ll be able to get you two assigned to the same boiler room. Maybe your pod will be right next to hers.”
Carter tried to lunge at Young. The man behind grabbed him and slammed him back into the chair. “You bastard,” he said, fighting to stay awake and resisting the overwhelming urge to let the sedative take him under. “You’re not here to help me at all. You’re just another part of game.”
Young crouched down so he was face to face with Carter. “Don’t take it so personal, Brother. As you know, tradition says operators are cremated straight away after retirement as a show of respect. But in your case we needed to make an exception. Thanks to the little stunt Razorback and his new friends pulled at Windigo, the FDR needs warm bodies more than ever.”
Carter found his anger was slipping away as Young stood and went for the door, mentioning something to the other two men in the room but he didn’t hear it. It wasn’t so bad. His pain was gone and a pleasant numbness washed over him. The game was over, and he allowed himself to close his good eye and let the warm darkness take him.
Young closed the door behind him, surprised to see Rebecca Devlin waiting for him in the corridor. He’d only seen the director of the agency in person twice in his twenty year career, the last time over five years ago when he was promoted to sector three supervisor. Devlin was one of the most powerful people in the UFN, part of the handful that reported directly to the Father, and therefore excused her from retirement. Devlin would be allowed to serve the State until her natural death, something that wasn’t too far off, judging by her appearance.
“Victor.” She smiled, revealing unnaturally white teeth. “So good to see you again.”
“Sister Devlin, what a surprise to see you, Ma’am.” He pointed to the door behind him. “I was just finishing up with one of the men connected to the traitor.”
“Yes, I watched the whole thing from the next room. Good job in there. Just as I would have handled it myself.” Devlin erupted in a coughing attack, covering her mouth with one hand, holding up her index finger with the another. The coughing tapered off and she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “Let’s sit down for a moment, Victor. Have a little chat.” She motioned at the door to the interrogation room across the hall.
“With all due respect, I think we’d be more comfortable in my office, Sister. It’s just on the other side of the building.” Young turned around and realized the interrogator who cut off Reaper’s fingers was standing behind him.
“More comfortable, perhaps. But I think this particular room is a more appropriate setting.” Devlin entered the room and the goon behind Young placed a hand on his back, guiding him through the entry before closing the door.