I Live!

You heard it here first, ladies and gents: I am alive.  And better than ever!  At least, that’s what the voices in my head tell me.

Welcome to my new, revamped, fancier web site.  I hope you enjoy it; I’ve worked hard to make it a reality, taking crucial time away from my writing to focus on (groan) marketing.  It’s a necessary component to the whole indie writer gig, but it’s not the most fun activity, nor does it come naturally for me.  So I work, and I screw up, and I learn, and I change my approach, and I work some more.  Carpe diem.

But how rude of me!  We may not have even met yet.  If you’re unfamiliar with my work, let me introduce myself:

My name is Luke J. Morris. (I include the ‘J’ to differentiate myself from all the other Luke Morrises in the world; there are more than you’d think.)  I write fiction in many genres, mostly with a creepy and/or tongue-in-cheek vibe.  I’m not a cynic, though.  I truly, deeply love a good story.  My personal favorites range from J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin to Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald, though I’ve probably been influenced a bit more by H.P. Lovecraft, Chuck Palahniuk, and Neil Gaiman.

Not that I rate myself in that illustrious company.  Not yet, anyway.  I have a lot to learn and years of practice to perform ere I earn a seat at the foot of their table.

But I’m working on it.

That’s where you come in.  You, my lovely reader, can help guide my pen and steer my career through the murky waters of indie publishing.  Through your reviews, comments, emails, suggestions, and (yes) buying habits I will learn what works, what doesn’t work, what I should pursue, what I must junk, and what I need to improve upon.

I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.  Send me an email and let me know what you’d like to read in this blog – be that book reviews, flash fiction, or my experiences as an indie author and human being.

Check out my podcast, Fun with Fiction, for my semi-professional opinions on the state of story today.  And if physical activity and personal development are your thing, take a look at Mind in the Martial Arts.  (I’m nothing if not eclectic…)

If you’re interested in the type of fiction I write, here’s a taste: a horrifying yarn from my short story collection, Tales from the Teeth (illustrations by Mo Simpson):

Java: A Cautionary Tale

The coffee nearly killed me. But first it killed a whole bunch of other people.

I’m sipping the last dregs from my last cup while my other hand covers the wound in my side. I’m pressing a towel there, but I’m not sure it’s helping – the blood seeps through, it’s dripping a purple puddle on the linoleum, and I gotta say I’m not so happy I woke up this morning.

***

I walked into work at five after eight, half-hungover from my fight with Jane last night, and the boss was already on my case. Just like any other Monday.

“You’re late.”

“I’ll work later.”

“You prepped for the Berger meeting yet?”

That meeting’s on Thursday, and we just set it last Friday. “No.”

“What? Why not? What else do you need?”

A vacation. New job. New life. “Nothing. I’ll have it all ready this afternoon.”

I sat down at my desk and forced myself to focus long enough to let Dick the dick finish his tirade and go bother someone else. Then I zoned out.

Half an hour later I caught myself dozing off. It wouldn’t do to get fired again, so I took a stroll to the cafeteria and put a bill in the coffee machine. No good; damn thing was out of order. And of course the company’s too cheap to spring for a coffee maker. I had to double-check the aisles were clear of spying eyes ere I left the building for more caffeinated pastures.

***

The towel is soaked useless now. I toss it aside and tear off my right pant leg to replace it. Shame, that. I paid a nice buck for these slacks. At least the blood is starting to clot. A good thing, too, since I’m getting dizzy. I hear scratching at the door.

Bastards. They’ll never take me alive.

Not that they want to.

***

The nearest franchise café is two blocks away. It would have been tough to make it there and back without Dick noticing my absence.

I struck luck, though, with the little Asian man right outside the door. He was pushing one of those street-vendor carts and peddling wake-up juice. I didn’t say a word before I had a tall, hot steel mug in my hand. I paid him and said thanks. He gave me one of those inscrutable Zen smiles that scrunched up his face like a kung fu movie stereotype, nodded, and rolled on down the street.

***

They’ll be through in a minute. I have my gun out now, but I only have three bullets left. I’m not sure how many are out there. Have to make each shot count.

Morning Jitters

***

I took a deep breath and a sip of coffee to calm my nerves and face the day. Damn, that drink tasted good. Dark, rich, and bittersweet, too hot to gulp, the perfect panacea for a brisk morning. The stuff went straight to my brain, and I swaggered back into the office feeling better than I had in a month.

That’s when shit got weird.

Everyone was wearing this demonic grin, their eyes were burned out and empty, and they were all looking my way. A few of them pointed at me and gave shrill, gurgling cackles. Security guards came in, the same expressions on their faces, howling mad, and drew their guns.

But the strangest thing was that everyone was moving so slow.

***

A loud thump, and a hinge pops loose. This restroom smells like bleach and old copper – a mixture of my blood and the freshly-cleaned floor. I aim at the door and steady my hand. God, I miss Jane. I was hoping for some good make-up sex tonight. Be tough to make that happen now.

***

I ambled across the room and reached the first guard before he had his gun halfway up. I gave his wrist a quick chop and heard a crack, took the weapon, grabbed his collar, and whirled him around to shield me from the other one. He took the second guard’s bullet for me, and I repaid the favor by popping his partner between the eyes.

My first time ever with a gun, and I was a crack shot. I liked it.

I dropped my shield and walked to the other guard, who still wore that hideous smile that clashed so stylishly with the hole in his head. I took his pistol and pocketed the other one, then turned to my coworkers. They were reaching my direction, but they were marching through molasses.

I kicked out the legs of the drone nearest me, who, judging by the glasses, must have been Phil from accounts payable. I brained big Bertha the secretary with the butt of the gun, knocked the teeth from Joe the janitor’s head with my coffee mug, and drove my knee through the sternum of Ralph from Finance.

Everyone else kept coming. “Get back!” I said, to no effect. Then I ran.

***

The door opens with a snapping sound, like a spine cracking. (That reminds me, I need to see my chiropractor; damn desk chairs are terrible on the lumbar.)

The first head comes through the door and seeks me out, raptor-like. It’s Mary, director of Purchasing. I’m tucked under the sink, so it takes her a minute to spot me. When she does, my first bullet takes off the top of her skull. She tumbles back against whoever was following her.

I used to have the hots for Mary, too. It’s a shame when a woman lets herself go.

***

It was stupid to run. They weren’t going to catch me, even if I crawled. I guess I panicked. But seriously, what are you supposed to do when your coworkers suddenly become what you always thought they were?

They were following me down the hall, but I had put a little space between us. I turned and fired as I ran, hoping to pile up some bodies as a protective wall. That’s why I didn’t see the broom handle sticking out of the janitor’s closet.

No way was I running that fast. It still doesn’t make sense. A normal, rounded wooden broom handle, with no more force applied than my light jog, shouldn’t have given me anything beyond a nifty bruise. How’d it punch a hole through my flesh and crack two ribs?

It also cost me that first gun. Not sure where I dropped it.

***

I pull myself to my feet. I’m not going out on a bathroom floor like some rest home retiree, I don’t care how much I bleed. They want me, they’ll get me standing.

Next guy through the door trips on Mary’s corpse, and I put a cavern in his chest. It’s Mr. Jameson, Vice President of Operations. I’m definitely fired now.

***

I staggered to the end of the hall, my right hand pulling out the other gun and my left clutching my coffee cup, my last link to sanity in a world gone… well, you know.

‘In Case of Fire, Use Stairs.’ I didn’t see any fire yet, but it seemed like good advice, so I pushed the stairway door open.

Too late – they were already there. The fifth-floor processing temps, the mailroom grunts from the basement, and everyone in between was crowding the landing. I put a slug in the nearest mail clerk, he fell against the door, and I let his body close and block it from the outside. I turned to my friends from the office.

They had reached me, and I was almost out of bullets. Clint from Human Relations tried to wrangle my neck, but I charged forward and bulldozed him into Angie the intern. I fell to the right and the women’s room door opened. Inside I slammed the door shut and locked it, fell to my knees, crawled across the floor, and slumped under the sink to finish my coffee.

Which brings me to now.

***

Jameson’s corpulent corpse atop of Mary makes an effective speed bump for the shuffle-foots behind them. Too bad it won’t work for long. I double-check the chamber. Yep. One bullet left. Time to think outside the box, innovate, shake things up, set a new paradigm, or whatever they’re calling it at business school these days.

I look around. My coffee mug and the gun might be useful as clubs, but I’ve little else to use as a weapon. The window’s too high up on the wall to reach with my busted side. Plus, we’re on the third floor. Getting eaten might be an ignoble way to die, but at least it’s unusual. Throwing oneself out an office window is totally passé.

A consultant stumbles in past Jameson. Can’t remember the guy’s name, but I’d never forget his mustache. As he lurches for me, I grab the nearest stall door and smash it in his face. He crumples to the tiles, but his fat ass blocks the stall door, and three more enter the room and come at me.

Mitch the Buyer eats my last lead slug. Susan from IT takes the butt of the pistol across the bridge of her crooked nose.

But they’ve driven me back. I’m at the counter now, reclined over it, feeling my back ache and hearing my blood drip into the sink beneath me. As Susan’s hawkish face becomes a pug’s, I scramble up ‘til I’m standing on the counter, and I reach for the window. I mean, hell with it, right? At least the pavement’s quick.

I’m halfway out when I feel a tug on my leg, which tears agony through my ribs. I look down into the manically dead eyes of ‘Buzzy’ Bixby, my office assistant. I used to like that little fucker. He worked hard. Now he’s working a little too hard to pull me back into the Ladies’, though, so I give him a left that leaves an imprint of his boyish features in my shiny new coffee mug.

Then I’m out the window, falling like a spitwad and laughing my ass off.

It takes me forever to hit bottom. I’d have thought three stories would move quicker. My whole life doesn’t flash before my eyes, thank god, but I still recall a few moments I’m not so fond of. The wind is whistling ‘We Will Rock You’ in my ears as I promise the sky and the trees and the passing windows that in the future I’m going to work as a busboy and lay off the caffeine. Then I land.

***

My everything hurts. Before I open my eyes I know for sure I’m broken, and I curse the injustice of a world that won’t let me die.

Then I lift my lids… to see the old man who sold me my coffee smiling down at me.

“How you feel?” he asks.

I groan.

“Ready to get up now?”

I groan again, louder.

“Good.” He reaches down and grabs my shirt with one hand, lifts me like a kitten and sets me on my feet. “Come.”

“Wait,” I rasp, putting a hand on his shoulder so I don’t fall over. “What…” I stop. Too many questions. No way to make sense of it, any of it. Like I’ve just had the world’s worst wet dream.

“You see Truth?” he asks.

Is that what you call that? I shrug.

He nods. “Good. We go now.”

We go. He hands me a cup of herbal tea from his cart as we walk down the street, and I sip it slowly. The world speeds back up, and it starts to rain.

Okay then. Days don’t get much worse. But now I know something I didn’t know before.

Anything could happen tomorrow.

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