Monthly Archives: June 2014

New story live..JC the Ski Bum

Issue Two of Fantasy Scroll Magazine is out, and with it….one of my stories!

Enjoy. I had fun writing it, and it’s based on a throwaway line that happened during one of the epic Welches Ski Nights from a few years back. 😉

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So it’s been a week. But mostly Mocha.

I’ve had some sort of low-level stomach bug that leaves me incapable of doing much thinking–other than a few short writing sessions, not much on that front’s been getting done. But hey, I’ve done some pressing housework stuff, and been getting out to the barn to exercise horse, and am just kind of pressing on, pushing on through. I’m hoping the fatigue eases off after I’ve had enough time to decompress from work, get over the bug, and get fit myself. Mocha is getting into shape more quickly than I am.

Ah, Mocha. I’ve posted two big updates on Facebook, but the upshot is that The Girl is coming back into work with a vengeance. A week and a half ago, twelve trot laps (between sets of walk work focusing on bending and flexing) left her winded. Today, she roared through twenty trot laps plus six canter laps, and not only wasn’t breathing hard, but I felt like I still had enough horse to do more afterward. Granted, this was after a day’s rest, but she’s had six works in that time and she’s letting me know that she’s ready to go, go, go.

You know how some days with some horses under saddle make you feel like Alec Ramsay on the Black Stallion? Yeah. Today Mocha could have given the Black a run for his money. When the husband went to take her out of the stall, she was keyed up, ready to go, and then acted more skittery and hot-blooded in the cross-ties than her normal sensible cowhorse self. I started throwing in a couple of extra laps of trot at the beginning because she was just so much on the muscle, so edgy, so lookee-lookee at Things To Spook At. I figured she needed more time at a no-nonsense long trot, and as edgy as she felt, I wasn’t gonna two-point it. Twenty laps of posting trot and she was flying for most of it. I finally put her into a canter and she started pitching a little tantrum because I had a tight wrap on her and she wanted to run harder. Nope, one of us has to be the brains, and it was way too soon for that. But she settled down after that canter.

Then we went down the road for a short hack. She still remembered the spook from the Evil Horse-Eating Paint Gelding from Friday, so she was on her toes the whole way. But she was a good girl for the most part.

Not going to get into any pattern work until mid-July, and even then I’m going to be careful with it. But it’s pretty darn clear that horsie has made up her mind that she’s ready to get back into work, and I guess I’d better listen.

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Back to training


So The Girl is now back to a regular shoe, which means regular conditioning and training…with mindfulness because she’s somehow managed to bruise the sole of the other forefoot. In spite of stall rest. In spite of limited work. Somehow she bruised it. Not badly, but enough for the farrier to comment on it.

But. She’s now in conditioning mode. Yesterday, I lunged her because I didn’t want her to take off running and hurt herself. I clucked her up to a trot, she automatically responded, and….halfway around the circle, you could suddenly see the realization strike–“Hey! I’M NOT WALKING! THAT SHOE’S GONE!” She tossed her head, launched into a big jump, landed, prepared to rocket off—

And I hollered out “Eaaasy, there, eaaasy now, girl.”

She settled back into a bigger trot, but there were several more incidents of head-tossing and leaping, and a little bit of loping along with a few strides of gallop. Fortunately, between her own good sense, the mild ouchiness of the sore foot, and her conditioned training responses, she never got crazy. Gotta love a good-minded horse. The mare of my youth would have been dancing all over the arena walls long before now. Sparkle never was one for being patient. I learned a lot from her, but damn, I sure wouldn’t want one like her back in my life now. I appreciate Mocha’s sense and good mind.

So today, we had a taste of conditioning time. She’s back in the English tack for early stage conditioning because it’s lighter weight than the Western tack and it’ll fit for now (I may borrow some shims from Gregg to see if I can address the one fit issue–OTOH, previous issues came along as we did higher level schooling and we can go back to Western by that point. It’s pretty clear by now that we do better working higher level stuff in Western, but I’ll save the English tack for conditioning and light hacking). I cleaned and conditioned the English boots and saddle yesterday, and stopped by Glisan Street Saddlery to buy a couple of inexpensive secondhand britches. I’m pretty happy with what I found, one pair for $20, the other for $10. Good enough for schooling even in summer, and in good enough shape to wear to a show. Plus the $20 pair were Ariat full seat britches, which I wore.


We didn’t have any capers today, and she went for twelve full arena circuits at the trot (mixed in with walk schooling, not all at once–essentially, six circuits in each direction). I’m planning a slow build on conditioning. For one thing, I’m mostly up in the irons in two-point at the trot, off of her back until she gets into shape, so that she doesn’t get sore in either her back or her hocks. For another, as she tires at the trot, she wants to drop her head and pound around on her forehand, and That Just Can’t Happen. And for a third, what happens when she wants to drop her head and pound around on her forehand is that her hind end starts churning and stringing out behind, and no, That Just Can’t Happen. Churning and stringing out behind is what leads to her Bad Canter, which means she needs to build strength.

Luckily, I don’t think it will take much to address that issue, especially if I’m schooling her a lot in the English saddle. We did a lot of lateral work and backing work in the bareback pad at a walk to keep things somewhat in tone, so if I insist on correct working and extended trot work at two-point, then build up to posting and then sitting, she’ll be ready to canter in a few weeks.

As it were, with just that little bit of trot work, Mocha was swaggering around happily at the end of our ride. No more of that coiled frustration underneath me. No annoyed grunts and complaints. Just a happy horse with a free-swinging, relaxed back. All’s right in Mocha’s world now.

To make things better, she got to go into turnout today. I know she’s missed being in turnout due to her shoe–the wistful whicker she’d give when I’d show up at the barn when most of the other horses were turned out, with only the injured on stall rest left inside, spoke eons about her state of mind. She didn’t go out with the mare herd, just into one of the small pens (but it wasn’t small enough for safe turnout when she had the bar shoe). So she gets to amble around the pen, roll, and crop grass. Back to working life for her–and I think she heartily approves.


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Work in progress

Very rough, but from a short story I’m working on….


Of course. I always get stuck with construction jobs. All because she had opposable thumbs. Twenty-Four bowed politely to her mother, just enough to hide her anger.

I’m going to find a way to earn my own station and name through this negotiation, she resolved.

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Ah. June. And my last week.

We had a little bit of sun this morning before the clouds blew in. I ran around watering everything outside, and will soon be watering the houseplants. Meanwhile, despite the coolness of the morning, I’ve got the house open and I’m enjoying the weather. Summer, Oregon-style.

It’s also helpful that I’ve gotten the office and bedroom cleaned out and organized into what should be its final form until we move to Farpoint. It’s now a working home office. I’m going to miss it, and will do my best to structure the Farpoint office to be very similar.


I was able to find a good setting for my Welches plate.


So now I have an image of what and where I’m going to be working.

The garden is also doing well. We’ve been harvesting green onions; in fact I had to advise the hubby that we need to save some green onions to grow into big onions (I have about 25 more sets to plant as we use up the greenies, so no big deal). The sugar pod peas should be producing their first crop, and the apple trees have maintained a good crop of apples despite the June drop. What remains is turning into good big apples, though apparently I didn’t clear the grass around the Gravenstein trunk soon enough to keep the scab away. Oh well.

The cabbages, cauliflower, and broccoli are growing quite happily. So are the green beans. The tomatoes are starting to flower.  It’s looking like we will have a lovely harvest this year, if everything proceeds as it should. I may even get ambitious next week and put in some starts for fall and overwintering crops.

And today is my last Monday at work. The last Monday I need to look at work e-mail. The last Monday where I look at the time and realize that I need to get moving, because the clock is ticking toward the moment when I have to get my butt to the car because I’m on a schedule.


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Ambitious day today

Most of it was housework and housecleaning. I thoroughly dunged out the dust bunnies in the bedroom, doing a deep cleaning, and sorted my summer clothes into the drawers and closet. Had to change my shirt after, it was so dusty. But the room is clean!

Then I hung covers over three of the four skylights. I love the skylights, but not when the sun is at this angle.

After that, I buckled down and did the Big Reorganization and Muckout of my office. I’ve brought home most of the big office supply stuff from work, so all of the little filing things I’ve purchased over the years to manage paper and office supplies at work came home. I also brought my office chair home. I’d bought it five years ago, when the work chair hurt my back, and budgets were so tight that I didn’t even bother asking for a new one. It works so much better than the one I’d bought for home at the same time. I am quite happy with that.

I also brought home all my filing trays. I collect filing trays like a crazy woman, and most of these trays go back to my first home office setups over twenty years ago. The wire bookshelf I bought to hold my binders and worksheets, I’ve converted into a set of supply and filing shelves.

Finally, I moved chairs and backstock books around. I have to figure something out for books, but not the basement here. Basement in Enterprise, yes, once we’ve finished remodeling.

Ultimately, I got rid of almost all the piles of paper and junk. There are clutter catchers which should help keep paper and clutter sorted, and now that I won’t be driving two hours a day, I should be able to stay on top of keeping the work space within a reasonable state of order (I am glad my aide S. probably isn’t reading this; she’d be howling with laughter. She’s spent ten years keeping after me as well as the kids). However, I don’t really have any excuses. I should have time.

I also found a safe place to display my Welches plate.

But still, I’m coming hard up against the reality that man, I have a lot of gewgaws I need to dispose of. I’m just not sure where…yet. Or else I will have revolving displays. That means a much better job of storing stuff needs to happen.

For now, the office and bedroom are clean. And I am gonna go shower, because that’s enough retirement/prep for total freelance life nesting for now.

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Memories of Jay Lake


Jay in my lap at Norwescon 2013, with Kelly (Jude-Marie) Green in the background

My brain keeps nibbling at the fact that Jay is gone. I knew, we all knew, that this was coming. No one gets out alive and all that stuff, and Jay’s diagnosis meant that his time was coming like a lightly loaded freight train on a downhill track. But the brain still keeps kicking up thoughts and remarks and…well, all the stuff that comes up when you think of someone who’s been an important part of your life.

Not closely personal. Jay and I never went there; for one thing I’m quite married, and for another, despite his hugely wonderful and welcoming self, we were two very different people in areas which were important to both of us. I’m outdoorsy, active, and I play with guns. Jay and I talked about that quite a bit, but those differences would have been a huge difference between us. Also, even though I’ve currently walked away from faith, I still have an underpinning belief in Something out there which Jay lacked. Nonetheless, we had a delightfully fun and scintillating ongoing conversation about life, writing, and politics.

Actually, a discussion about faith was part of our first meeting. While I’m sure I encountered Jay in the con world before, it wasn’t until Potlatch 2007 that he and I sat down and became friends. I had decided to resume my off-again, on-again writing career and had at least one story burning through my fingers. The old Orycon concom crew was running Potlatch that year and brought me in as a minor volunteer. I’d heard of Jay before–a year or so earlier, I’d read Rocket Science in the capacity of an Endeavour Award first reader. We chatted, he politely propositioned me, I politely refused, and we continued to talk, late into the night. There was quite a cluster of us up in the top floor bar those two nights.

From there, I ended up joining Fireside Writers in its heyday at the Fireside coffee place on Powell. Nearly every Tuesday, I joined Jay and a pack of other writing people to pound away on our stories. After a certain period of writing time had passed, we moved on to dinner, usually at the Barley Mill but sometimes other places. Lots of talking about writing, career planning, more writing, and other stuff. Jay frequently took possession of a large, comfortable recliner. He cranked out words to the degree that the chair was somehow viewed as magical, and when he wasn’t there, we vied for the choice of the Chair of Many Words. One day, while working on what became “In the Forests of the Night,” he started asking who wanted to be in a story. One of the other writers volunteered and he wrote her in. A few paragraphs later, he asked for a second volunteer, and I stepped up. So I got written in as Ward, in the opening pages.

That’s what life was like writing around Jay. I learned how to write in a coffee shop by writing with him. Before then, I really wasn’t that great at writing in noisy, public settings. But by following his example, I got better at it and now, well. I grab moments in coffee shops, especially with my current work commute and all. Working at the same time, in the same place, with Jay was an education in and of itself in the nature of writing. There was focus–but we could also stop to discuss a challenge with the work. Above all else, we got infused with the spirit of the man’s psychotic persistence.

Psychotic persistence was Jay’s own term for his writing success, and when you look back over his career, it rings not just in his writing but in his battle with cancer. Cancer may have ravaged and attacked Jay, but by god, he turned around and battled it right back with the same spirit of psychotic persistence that propelled him to his stand in the speculative fiction writing world. It stands to reason, I guess, that he was felled by the sort of cancer that equaled him in psychotic persistence, something that was extremely aggressive and intractable. Even though most of us hoped that Jay would prevail, well, the big C won this one. But it was a no-holds-barred, all-out war.

That doesn’t mean the man didn’t have fun and didn’t bring fun to the people around him. The pranks we pulled at Radcon during the Radcon Bob era, including the cycle of pranking between Jay and Bob, were epic.

When I heard of Jay’s death on Sunday, I commented that the world is much smaller now. That is so very true. At the 2014 Norwescon, in the bar, we kept anticipating Jay’s arrival, even though we knew he wasn’t going to be there. I suspect that there will be many, many Orycons where we will keep thinking of and looking for Jay as well.

Jay kept giving. One of his last public appearances was a speaking engagement to my reading intervention classes. I’d had the kids read and respond to one of his posts about kindness. So he came up and shared with the kids. It is always hard to tell about kids as to whether the impact someone makes is large or not, but I think it stuck.

There is a Jay-sized hole in the world now. Eventually, those memories will ebb and the loss will feel less severe. But it is a loss, nonetheless. I am pissed at losing yet another friend to cancer, and I’m pissed that I won’t have more time to talk about writing, politics, and everything else with Jay.

Before we moved due to the closure of the Fireside, Jay was working on both Kalimpura and wrapping up the Clockwork trilogy. He was beginning to talk about Sunspin and the challenges of going off of a contract to write it. At the last JayCon, some of the cover poster boards made up for the Clockwork and Green books were raffled off. Thanks to Bob, I won the boards for Endurance and Kalimpura. I gave Endurance to Bob but, despite Mike Moscoe’s attempt to persuade me to trade for Green, I hung onto Kalimpura. At first I thought it was just because I liked the subject, but now I realize I wanted that poster because…well…it represents something that was part of my early writing life and the role Jay played in this latest manifestation of my writing life.


Goddamn it, Jay, I’m going to miss you. Shine on. You will be remembered.

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In memory: Jay Lake and the Ski Bum Zombies

I wrote this story for the first Jay Lake cancer anthology, Jay Lake: Intelligently Redesigned. Copyright 2008

Rest in peace, Jay.


Jay Lake and the Ski Bum Zombies


Joyce Reynolds-Ward

(with help and advice from Andrew G, Jeff A, Michael M, and others)


It was one of those paradoxically clear, sunny February days that caused the snow to dazzle on Mt. Hood. By all rights, even though it was the midweek before President’s Day, Highway 35 should have been crowded with skiers and snowboarders making their way to Mount Hood Meadows. Instead, it was strangely quiet, with not even the faint sound of snowmelt water gurgling down the pavement that was, for once, clear of snow and ice, a faint ribbon of concrete between two huge walls of packed snow. No wind whispered through the white pines and Douglas fir that lined the highway, no ravens croaked nor did the faint whoosh of their wings stir the still air, no tell-tale “whump” of clumps of snow from the latest storm falling off the heavy-laden tree branches sounded. The forest, and the road, were preternaturally still and quiet.

Except for one thing. That one thing moved along the road, staggering along in the northbound lane. It looked vaguely human, even with the way its arms hung at its sides, the shards of a pink and brown plaid snowpants and parka ensemble dangling from its body. Blood dripped down the arms of the humanoid creature and off of its fingertips onto the road in tiny droplets, the driblets slowing as it walked. Long blond hair with blue and purple dye peeked from under a blue wool hat, and the remnants of earbud cords dangled from her ears, with no sign of whatever she’d been listening to. But she, too, was preternaturally quiet, no groans escaping her lips, the only sound coming from the soft squish, squish of her snowboard boots as she walked—or, rather, stumbled and staggered monotonously on her way north.

A faint noise began to echo from behind her, the distant roar of a car slowing as it approached the curves in the road above her. At first, she didn’t seem to react, until the car sounds came closer. Then she began to look around jerkily, eyes scanning the snowbanks taller than her head, looking for an escape route. Finding none, she threw herself at one snowbank, clawing and tearing at it in an attempt to pull herself up.

Her efforts failed, and she fell back onto the pavement, still silent, as a red convertible with the license plate GENRE rounded the corner and screeched to a stop just six feet short of her.

“Oh, shit,” the driver swore as he climbed out of the car, throwing back his long graying hair. “Are you all right?”

The woman flinched back from him, eyes staring as she tried to frantically scramble away. She fell back down to the pavement.

“Fine—I’m fine, I’m fine,” she mumbled. “Just fine.”

The man rolled his eyes. “No. You’re not fine. Come on. I’ll take you to help. The ski resort is just back there.”

“No!” she screamed, finding her feet and starting to run away.

The man groaned and followed her at an easy jog, overtaking her and standing in her way.

“Look,” he said. “There’s medical help back up at the ski resort.”

“No!” she insisted, trying to push past him. He grabbed her arms gently and carefully.

“It’s a long ways to Hood River,” he cautioned. “You can get help faster back there. What happened? Did you get lost?”

“No ski area,” she whispered, still straining against his hands. “They’re there.”


“Zombies,” she breathed, still staring wide-eyed at him. “Ski bum zombies.”

The man heaved a giant sigh, and began to coax her back to his car.

“Shit,” he said again, tiredly. “I wonder just who the hell set me up for this one? Got my suspicions about this.”

He eased her into the passenger seat of the car. She held herself stiffly, and he noticed she was starting to tremble. Muttering to himself, he went around to his trunk and returned with a blanket. He took note of the drying blood on her arms, the scratches and gouges that just avoided the big blood vessels of her arms and legs, and hesitated.

“No,” he said aloud. “They’re clotting. Won’t mess with that.”

He inclined the seat back as far as it would go before wrapping the woman—girl, he decided to himself, noting the lineless face—in the blanket and fastening the seat belt over her. He couldn’t elevate her feet any higher in the limited space of the front seat and he decided firmly she shouldn’t be in the back seat, where he couldn’t see what she was doing. That’s straight out of a cheap monster movie. I want her where I can see her—not just for her own safety but for mine.

“Just my luck I’m driving to Radcon on my own this time,” he growled to himself, as he started up the car, thinking about what he knew of this route to Hood River. He glanced over at the girl in the passenger seat. “Hold on, we’ll be there as fast as I can get you there.”

She didn’t answer, huddling deep inside the blanket. The man drove on, thinking through the possibilities.

Zombies, he thought. Zombie ski bums.

Despite his knowledge of the genre, he hadn’t the faintest clue what to do about that particular zombie manifestation.

Too bad I don’t have a ski pole or two handy.

Then again, maybe incantations would be called for. He didn’t know any of those—yet—but he could certainly think up a few.

Let’s see. What are some of the big phrases those ski bum types use?

Given who and what he was, any chance he’d have against an attack of ski bum zombies would have to come from his command of words.


Three turns later, he stomped on the brakes as a ragged line of staring, dull-eyed people in tattered ski clothes spread across the road. The girl shrank back in her seat.

“It’s them,” she moaned. “All of them.”

The man hesitated, until the people started moving in the characteristic, stiff-legged, zombie shuffle. Then he revved up the engine, and floorboarded the gas pedal. As he’d expected, the zombies held their position, and he simply mowed down the ones in his way. Splatters of blood and rotting flesh covered his car, and he winced as something hit the convertible’s soft top, but the top held firm and whatever body part it was bounced off.

Damn, that’s gonna be a big mess to clean up, he thought. But at least it doesn’t appear that any of them hitched a ride.

So was escaping the zombies going to be as easy as this?

He didn’t think so. Not even Hollywood would cut him that much slack.

Besides, the growing feverish glaze in the eyes of the girl in the passenger seat was beginning to worry him.

If it fits a classic plot structure, I’ve got two more obstacles to overcome before I’m home free. And one of them might be her.

“What’s your name?” he asked. Best to keep her talking.

“K-Katie,” she stammered.

“I’m Jay. Jay Lake. Where are you from, Katie?”

“The Mountain,” she said, so firmly that he could hear the capital M in Mountain.

Jay nodded to himself. Yeah, he’d heard that usage before, from the woman who’d told him this was a nice drive. I am so going to get her at Radcon.

That is, if she hadn’t already fallen prey to the zombies. She wasn’t leaving for the Tri-Cities yet, due to her work at a school up on the other side of the Mountain. At this point, he realized that he was considering the threat to be real rather than a very elaborate practical joke. That particular possibility had passed when he’d accepted that the line of people marching toward him were, in fact, the genuine zombie article.

On the other hand, this could be one hell of a dream. If it were, they’d really improved the post-surgery meds—but no, he was pretty damned sure this wasn’t a dream, the surgery had been almost nine months ago. Not a dream, then.

“What the—?” he began as they rounded yet another corner to encounter a somewhat smaller line of zombies.

The second attack. True to form. He wasn’t sure, but it seemed as if this was the same crew as the first group, only smaller in number due to the ones he’d taken out with his car. Well, a car had taken out one group; it could take out more of these guys. He accelerated, then jerked the car into a turn as he spotted the beater pickup parked crossways in the road, managing to spin his own car around and missing the stalled pickup by inches.

Fortunately, he also managed to miss the snowbanks, and ended up with the front end of his car pointed in the other direction. He gunned it and spun out, heading back the way they came, thinking hard.

They’re learning and thinking too damned fast.

He was not up against the typical Hollywood zombie.

How are they managing to transport themselves so fast? Where did that truck come from?

The girl yelped and shrank away from the side of the car. He glanced over where she was pointing, on top of the snowbank next to the car. He could see rippling motion, as a flotilla of skiers and snowboarders paralleled his car’s movements. The zombies. He glanced to his other side, and saw the pickup—ghostly in form, he realized now—roaring along on top of the snowbank as well, the zombies gesturing at him from it.

This is so not real. He accelerated, but the rusty pickup matched his speed, then put on another burst, and popped off of the snowbank and onto the road in front of him.

Violation of story rules, he thought. Shouldn’t be having more than one element to suspend disbelief. Zombies were bad enough, but the behavior of this pickup?

As he half-expected, the truck skidded sideways to block him. This time he had to stop, and his car stalled. Before he could start the car and turn around, the zombies surrounded them. Jay tried to start the car again but it growled at him, then sighed. Nothing. Jay yielded to fate and climbed out of the car, knowing it was a stupid plot trick thing to do. On the other hand, he didn’t want to be stuck in the car when the zombies got closer, and he didn’t have time to check out what was wrong with it.

“Give her to us,” a tall blond zombie droned. “Katie is ours.”

“You dudes are really sick,” Jay growled back.

The zombies laughed at him. Katie scowled at him.

“Dude, you are such a gaper,” she sneered.

Gaper didn’t sound that good, he decided. What else could he use as a weapon? These—things—might be zombies, but they had clearly been athletic and fit when they were still human. Weapons. Weapons. Don’t have any guns, of course. No baseball bat. No tire iron—gotta use something from my own weaponry. Okay. What props do I have on hand for Radcon?

He wasn’t wearing any of his Hawaiian shirts, though he didn’t think they’d have an effect on this crowd, anyway.

Books. He had books. How many of this crowd ever read much in the first place, much less any of his slipstream science fiction and fantasy writings? He reached sideways into the back seat to grab the Advance Reading Copy of Green.

“This ARC,” he intoned, “has power over you.”

“A book, man,” someone drawled. “He’s got a book against us.”

“Ah yes,” Jay said, “but it’s a book you haven’t read yet. A long book.”

“So?” the tall blond snarled.

Fire. Fire worked against zombies. And he had books, plenty of books in the back seat. And matches—oh yeah, someone’d left a lighter in the car. Wincing, Jay tore a chunk off of the ARC, hefty enough to throw. He ducked into the car and found the lighter in the central console. Held the flame to the book until it ignited—then threw it.

Score. The zombie hit by the book went up in flames. It managed to ignite a couple of more as it ran around. Jay ripped off another chunk and lit it. Another zombie flared up like a torch, taking away some more. Another chunk.

This one landed in the pickup, which caught in flames, then whooshed out of existence, along with the rest of the zombies. Jay looked around, breathing heavily, one last chunk of the ARC in his hand.

“Now that was anticlimactic,” he commented. “Interesting plot device, but almost too easy.”

Unless—He still had one chunk of book left. He looked inside the car. Where was Katie?

The faint swish-swish of snowboard boots on the pavement warned him. Jay whirled, spotted Katie approaching him stiff-legged, the zombie glaze in her eyes. Slowly, carefully, he lit the last chunk of the ARC. Katie stopped at the sight of the flame in his hand. Sighing, Jay tossed it at her.

Katie went up in flames, then winked out.

Jay stood alone. He could hear the faint stir of wind in the trees around him, and then a raven cawed. He sighed, and went back to the car. It started up just fine this time, of course. He let it run for a moment while he checked the passenger seat for any odd traces of Katie. Nothing. Then he turned the car around, heading back north, musing.

Should he turn back and check things out at the ski resort?

Best to leave things alone for now, and see what’s what when I get to Hood River.

As he drove, the world seemed to come back to life around him. By the time he got to Parkdale, he’d met other cars going the other direction, and had been passed by a couple more. Hood River looked normal, and there appeared to be no zombie characteristics about the gas station attendants or cashiers there—or at least no more dull, blank glances than he’d expect.

“Have you heard about anything—uh—weird—happening up on Hood or around the ski resorts today?” he asked the blank-faced cashier chomping on her gum as he paid her.

She shrugged. “Skiers and snowboarders.   They’re all weird. Not as weird as the climbers, but they’re all weird, anyway. Haven’t heard anything out of the usual.”

He gave the girl a careful look, but she had already turned away and was talking eagerly on the phone with someone else, the blank look gone as they talked about plans for that night.

Jay walked out of the gas station’s convenience store, scratching his head.

I wonder just what the hell it was that happened to me?

Whatever it was, he was for certain going to so get that person who’d sent him that route. He climbed into the Genre car, and headed out, now even more eager to get to Pasco and the sanity of Radcon.

The nukes ought to keep any zombies at bay there.

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