Category Archives: Excerpts

An excerpt from The Pigeon King

The following is an excerpt from The Pigeon King, my new short story (at 7,500 words it’s more of a novelette) now available on Amazon.

Chapter 1: A Little Too Quiet

It was move in day and my new condo was far from furnished, save for a coffee table and a floor full of boxes. Still I couldn’t wait to test the acoustics. I had tried to record a podcast in my previous basement apartment, but every passing car, barking mutt, and hooting frat boy had me pressing PAUSE. Recordings that should’ve taken minutes took days.

That’s why I persuaded my parents to invest in a top floor unit, high above the street corner brawlers, bus stop freestylers, and dissonant dive bars.

My new building was made for peace and quiet. It had glass fiber insulation, triple pane windows, and concrete walls. It had two security officers, cameras in every corridor, and a lease specifically stating: no parties whatsoever.

No longer would I wake up to a gaggle of giggling gals, flooding out of the stairwell in stiletto heels. No longer would I be a captive audience to a domestic dispute and no longer would I have to hear the makeup sex that came after.

I could sleep comfortably knowing the only thing waking me up in the middle of the night would be my own bladder.

The condo was like something out of a dream. When I stood in the center of the living room all I heard was the ringing of my own eardrums. I couldn’t believe this was mine, Daniel J. Cameron’s Casa de Heaven.

I shut off all of my electronics, except for the computer, turned down the furnace, and flicked off the lights. I dumped my journalism texts out and taped the box over the window. I even draped a blanket across the balcony doors just to be safe.

With the exterior of the space taken care of I pinned a roll of duct tape to a desk lamp, stretched a sock around it, and positioned it in front of my microphone. Voilà: I had a homemade pop filter to catch those stray P and B sounds before they could taint my audio with artifacts.

It was finally time to open the decibel meter on my phone. A whisper quiet library sits at 35 decibels. A bedroom at night rests at 30. I’d managed to get this place down to 25.

I sat cross-legged at the coffee table, loaded the script for my podcast, slid my headphones on, and clicked RECORD on the computer.

“According to the Washington Post, it’s estimated that 25,000 American prisoners are spending time in solitary confinement, many in cells not much larger than pool tables. Their every movement is watched. Their toilets and showers are controlled by remote. They rely on food trays to keep track of time.”

I scrolled down the page.

“Psychiatric professionals say solitary confinement does permanent psychological damage, increasing an inmate’s likelihood to reoffend, and for those with mental illness, it increases the odds that they will commit suicide upon release.”

There was a faint shrieking sound in my headphones.

I hit PAUSE, unplugged the microphone, and checked for knots in the wires. All the soundproofing in the world wasn’t going to help a damaged cord. When I was satisfied I’d smoothed the problem out I plugged the cord back in and hit RECORD.

“A special investigator for the United Nations classified any stay in solitaire in excess of 15 days as torture. We are social animals. We’re not made to endure such conditions. This problem with our prison system is a worthy topic, but the one I’ll be addressing is the effect of isolation on human beings, and why so many Japanese men have chosen a solitary confinement of their own making.”

The shrieking flared up again. It sounded more like chatter, like a dozen shrill voices trying to cut each other off.

I hit PAUSE and unplugged the microphone cable. It was possible that the cord wasn’t grounded and that it was picking up a radio signal. I coiled it up, set it on the coffee table, and hit RECORD again.

“They’re called the Hikikomori, or the withdrawn, reclusive young adults who find a quiet dignity in detachment. They get their social interactions vicariously through entertainment. Every culture has its escapism, but the Japanese have a term for people who dive so deep into fantasy they get lost: the otaku. Many Japanese high school students drop out to live vicariously through characters in manga, anime, and video games.”

There was another shriek, another surge of what had to be radio chatter. I took a deep breath and soldiered on.

“According to one epidemiological study a quarter of a million individuals are living as hikikomori right now. Many have been in self-imposed solitaire for twenty years or more. Japanese social services are so concerned with what happens when the parents of the hikikomori die they’ve dubbed the situation ‘The 2030 Problem.’ The real question is: what would compel so many members of a generation to wall themselves in?”

The shrieking came back. This time it didn’t dissipate. I dug my nails into the coffee table and scratched four furious lines into the finish. I hit PAUSE and strangled the microphone until I was certain the sound wasn’t interference but something it was picking up from the environment.

The cord dangled between my legs as I waved the microphone around the living room. The levels stayed flat as I passed over the refrigerator, the toilet, and the vents. The levels spiked when I got to the balcony doors. That’s when I peeled the blanket back and saw the source of my torment.

There were pigeons, a flock of twenty, bobbing their crooked little beaks, grunting and cooing. A pair of them teetered on their claws, circled one another, and rustled their feathers. They lunged forward, entwined their necks, and pecked at each other’s eyes. Their plumage was pocked and matted. Brawling was clearly part of their daily routine.

The other pigeons seemed oblivious to the fight. They dragged their fat bellies along the planks, walked in circles, and pecked at the cracks.

They didn’t see me until I threw the sliding doors open, but when I did all of those demon doves twisted their necks around.

I clapped. “Shoo, shoo, vamanos!”

The pigeons cocked their heads. They recognized the tone, but not the tongue. I shook a broom at them. It took several swipes before they got the good sense to heave their chubby little bodies over the railing and fly on.

Satisfied, I went back to the coffee table, tapped my phone, and checked the decibel level: 40, 35, 30, and 25. When the flapping of pigeon wings faded I put my headphones back on, brought the script back up, and hit RECORD.

“Depression will affect one in every four people on earth, but few regions will find so many resorting to total isolation as Japan. The hikikomori are a byproduct of a culture that values the prosperity of the group over the happiness of the individual.”

I paused, just in case there were any stragglers out there.

“Conformity is so ingrained in Japanese society that many students wear the same uniforms their parents did. They walk the same well-trodden paths, because they know that if they step out of line everyone will notice.”

A breeze flowed through the blanket. I turned toward the balcony, and listened. When I heard nothing I scrolled down and kept reading.

“In Japan, there’s so much pressure to go with the status quo that failure can prove traumatizing. Young men convert their bedrooms into fallout shelters. So many pressures reinforce their fear of the outside world: the pressure to prove themselves to their parents, the pressure to live up to the expectations of the opposite sex, and the pressure to mold themselves into model employees.”

I took a deep breath just as the cooing sounds returned.

That’s when I lost my shit and started strangling the microphone. “Other pressures include the pressure to pay back my student loans, to break into broadcasting, and to record a fucking podcast without being interrupted!” I’d gone off script.

The cooing seeped through the cracks in the sliding door, the blanket, and settled in my eardrums.

I hadn’t heard any birds while I was unpacking, but there with the microphone on, my headphones sounded like a pair of pigeon coops. I flung them off, tore the blanket down, and found the first flock had made some new friends. Now there were forty of those avian vermin, lining the railing, pecking the wood, and shitting on everything.

I reached for something on the mantel. This was one of my few prized possessions: a replica of the wand wielded by the infamous boy who lived himself.

I opened the door. The flock twisted their necks and fixed their orange eyes on me.

I waved the wand. “Relinquo.”

The pigeons merely pecked at the space where I’d pointed. When they realized I hadn’t thrown any breadcrumbs, they resumed their discordant song.

I waved the wand again. “Repulso.”

A few pigeons cocked their heads, but the charm was lost on them.

I slid the door open further, stepped out onto the deck, and poked the wand right into the flock.


I rarely uttered the explosive curse, even in jest. Nevertheless, it didn’t work. The pigeons hopped out of the way, but they were oblivious to the magic of the stick.

“Fine. I’m going to go put a kettle on and when I come back I’ll make it rain.”

I’m guessing that some retiree, with too much time and too much bread, had conditioned these birds not to fear the hand of man.

I’d have to reeducate them.


CLICK HERE to find out what happens next.

Why I Pulled You Over

Officer Drew is on the scene
Officer Drew is on the scene

When a highway patrol officer asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over,” they’re inviting you to incriminate yourself. This is not the case with the state trooper in this story, he has his own reasons, ones that turn out to be pretty insane.

Like my previous short Headbleed this excerpt is another peek at a dark work in progress. It stands on its own as a fun dialogue driven exchange.

Why I Pulled You Over

Cameron leaned out the window to feel the summer breeze against her skin. It smelt of wheatgrass and wildflowers. The air freshener had nothing on it. Giving up on a radio signal, she embraced the steady whooshing of the wind. There was something surreal about the view, the sheer flatness of the plain. With the clouds touching the horizon, it felt like she was driving into a painting.

Checking her reflection in the side mirror, Cameron watched her jet black ends flow from the bandana concealing her blond roots. The sun made the Beetle’s orange paint job glow. The additions she’d made to the bonnet flapped with each gust, more distractions than hazards.

Cameron shift her gaze to the rearview mirror. Nothing but prairie in both directions. Reaching into her purse, she dug out her phone, setting it on the horn.

The lock screen was filled with a rainbow coalition of alert icons: the Snapchat spook, the Reddit robot, and the Twitter turtle dove. With her hand up at two, Cameron unlocked the screen with her thumb. The mail icon’s notifications were in the triple digits, it would have to be priority number one.

She held down the home button until she heard a chime. Cameron said, “Read my last e-mail.”

The phone’s monotone modulation said, “On June 1st, Kat Carey sent you an email about A Guest Blog Opportunity.

Dear Cam,

I discovered your blog through a comment on a piece I wrote on eliminating exposition by modeling scenes after movies. Turns out you beat me to the punch by several months. You showed up early in the same dress, and by all accounts, wore it better. Jealous as I was, I’ve been lurking on your site ever since. My page reaches twenty-thousand readers a day, and your snark to wit ratio is exactly what I’m looking for.

I have an opening for Monday the thirtieth. I’d love for you to contribute.

Kat Cedar”

Catching a billboard of an ultrasound out of the corner of her eye, Cameron chose to ignore its text, and the vehicle beneath it.

Pressing the home button until it chimed, Cameron said, “Reply to this email. Thank you for thinking of me, period. I’m covering an art car festival until the end of the month, period. We’ll see if I can get a moment to write something clever for you, comma, and a good enough signal to upload it, period. I’ll let you know by the end of the week, period. New Paragraph, Your consultant in crime, comma, Cameron Mandex. Send.”

Watching the grass sway along the highway, Cameron imagined herself floating above the road, with no wheels or engine, wishing this stretch of highway was her workspace. She saw herself coming back this way, far from the thumping speakers, the bickering couples, and the howling frat boys, she’d switch on cruise control and just let go. She’d finish her thesis out here.

The thought passed at the sight of the blue and red lights flashing in the rearview mirror.

2. Glasses Refelection

Rolling down the window, Cameron held her license and registration at ten and two.

The highway patrol officer took his time ambling to the door. Through the mirror, Cameron watched him crack his neck from side to side, roll his shoulders, and stretch one arm across the other, a boxer preparing for a fight.

Standing in front of the sun, he snatched up her license. “Where’s the ball, Cinderella?”

Cameron squint, “I wasn’t speeding.”

The officer craned his head to take in the green stem atop the orange Volkswagen Beetle. “Can you think of another reason why I might have pulled you over?”

“Because you have a quota?” Cameron said flatly.

He rolled his eyes. “Try another?”

Biting her lip, Cameron sighed. “My tabs are current, my tires are full, my lights are in perfect working order.” She tilt her head back, “And even with the addition to my roof, the car is only eight feet tall, which is five less than the state maximum.”

“Can you think of any other reason?” The officer cocked his chin toward the raised teeth, framing the Jack-O-Lantern paint job beneath the windshield. “Maybe something obstructing your vision?”

Cameron glanced at the crooked smile just past her dashboard. She shrugged. “What do you want, an artist’s statement?”

Taking her piece in, the officer shook his head. “I wouldn’t go so far as to call this rig an ‘art car.’ With all this crap hanging off, it’s more of a mutant vehicle.”

Lowering his sunglasses, he peaked inside. “Christ, even the upholstery is orange? That’s dedication.”

He leaned over the window. “Are there any weapons in the… pumpkin, I should know about?”

Cameron looked to the long tube of pepper spray dangling from the ignition. “Nope.”

The officer rolled his head from shoulder to shoulder. The motion carried from one raised eyebrow to the other. “If I were to check the glove compartment, I wouldn’t find anything interesting?”

Cameron felt the sweat pooling beneath her bandana. She glared at the officer. “You mean, if you had a warrant to check it?”

Shaking his head, he waved the notion away. “I’ve got to run an inventory if you want to get your stuff back.”

Looking back and forth, Cameron processed this statement. “Get my stuff back? No no no, you’re not towing me.”

The officer threw his hands up. “This rig isn’t exactly street legal. Suppose the stem breaks off and hits another motorist.”

Cameron dug her nails into the wheel. “Suppose an eighteen wheeler pops a tire and the rim goes flying.”

3. Lecture

The officer rapped his knuckles down the frame. “Suppose these papier-mâché teeth come unglued from the hood.”

Cameron snapped at him. “First of all, they’re silicone, not papier-mâché. Second, they’re caulked on, not glued, and third, this is a Beetle. That’s not the hood, it’s the trunk.”

The officer shook his head at the road. “I’m sorry, but semantics don’t make it safe. I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the vehicle.”

Cameron mouthed a vulgarity with no breath behind it. Slinging her purse over her shoulder, she reached for her keys.

The officer smirked. “Leave the pepper spray, I’ll get it for you.”

Stepping out of her pumpkin carriage, Cameron took it in one last time. Raising her phone, she positioned her modest creation into the frame; months of planning reduced to a single snapshot. Who knows how much of it she’d get back.

She remembered how she justified the investment to her parents, “People don’t open up to bystanders like they do to participants.”

She could already hear her father’s reaction to this development. “This is fate redirecting you to a path with a future at the end.”

Pausing at the patrol car, she got an odd feeling. There was something off about the coloring. Something foreign about the font for “STATE TROOPER.” She pointed to the text beneath it. “You’re a little ways outside of your jurisdiction.”

Opening the back door, the officer tipped his hat, “We cover every street statewide.”

Cameron froze. “Is there a Humboldt County in this state?”

Putting his sunglasses on, the officer cocked his head. “Sounds like your speech is slurring. You sure you haven’t had anything to drink?”

4. Baton Boy

Opening the driver’s side door, he fished a breathalyzer out of the compartment.

Cameron squint, “No, and you never asked me if–”

He cut her off, “Better breathalyze to be on the safe side.”

The officer shoved the device in Cameron’s mouth. It happened so fast she didn’t have time to consent. She had to tilt her head back just to avoid chipping her teeth.

The playful tone fell out of the officer’s voice. “I’m going to need you to take a deep breath, then I’m going to tell you to exhale.” He squeezed the breathalyzer, “Alright inhale.”

Cameron flared her nostrils. An oder came off the device: the head smelt sweet, the body stunk of alcohol, and the tail was pure antiseptic.

The officer looked beyond the breathalyzer, locking eyes with Cameron. His lips shrunk in. Somehow she knew, he was gritting his teeth beneath them.

He tilt the breathalyzer. The odor intensified into a taste, industrial soap spilling down Cameron’s tongue. It overpowered her senses, the sound of wind faded, the sun dimmed. She felt weightless.

Woozy, Cameron teetered away from the breathalyzer. Lowering it, the officer ignored the results. Stepping forward, he positioned himself to catch her. Throwing a punch, Cameron found she hadn’t the strength to sustain her fist through the motion. It felt like it broke off her wrist and flew away.

Falling into the officer’s arms, the world fell out from under her.

5. Helmet

Someone is abducting college students, yet no one knows they’re even missing. That’s because they’re still posting status updates, Tweeting trending hashtags, and snapping selfies. Their friends and family don’t see the guns barrels just outside the frame.

Cameron wakes up in a town that’s all but abandoned, apart for the stables filled with captive residents. She needs to figure out what her fellow prisoners have in common, and what their abductors plan on doing with them, while she’s forced participate in their social media schemes.

More to come.

Headbleed: an information age horror story

Headbleed Messy

Are you afraid of someone accessing your passwords? What if they got access to your person? The Heartbleed bug isn’t the most vulnerable part of your online identity, you are. Forget about someone hijacking your accounts. What if someone used your online profiles to replace you in the real world?

There’s more than one way to steal your identity.

If someone vague-booked on your behalf, would your friends know it wasn’t you? If someone took control of your tweets, would your followers realize you’ve been compromised? If someone commandeered your Instagram feed, would your friends notice a change in your point of view?

This story takes those questions to a whole new level. This is a preview of my work in progress, a millennial mystery, a social media thriller, a cautionary tale for those with a high connectivity clout score.

Something about seeing this icons dripping with blood just feels right
Something about seeing this icons dripping with blood just feels right

Continue reading Headbleed: an information age horror story

The Men Behind the Curtain: Part 2

Teddy’s pod hurdled down the conveyer belt. The momentum pushed him into the chrome. His nub tail receded into his body. The stuffing churned in his belly. He hooked his paws around the bars. Orbs whizzed by in his peripheral. These were the other pods, micro prison cells just like his own. There were peeps all around. Teddy wondered if the sound was grease on the track until he realized the peeps were coming from inside those pods. He caught glimpses of silhouettes recoiling with hands over their faces. Teddy made the connection. The sound had been screams all along. Continue reading The Men Behind the Curtain: Part 2

The Men Behind the Curtain: Part 1

The following is an excerpt from something I’ve been working on for the last year. I’ve been eager to show people what I’ve been up to, so I’ve decided to share a few chapters. Out of context, these chapters serve as excellent short stories. Since this first chapter is over five thousand words, I’ve decided to break it down into bite sized little scenes. This will be the first. Please forgive it’s rough shape. I never edit while I’m writing.

This piece is from my novel The Dark Parliament (name pending). It’s an R-rated tail where the imagination of an orphan day-dreamer is pitted against the nightmares of adults. So without any further ado here’s:

The Men Behind the Curtain: PART 1 Continue reading The Men Behind the Curtain: Part 1