Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Getting the Cover and Blurb Right: SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES

I just finished up blurb and cover forms for my upcoming novel, SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES, which is a gay romance with an alien abduction hook. Dreamspinner Press, my publisher, always does a beautiful job with both the cover and the blurb, but it's forever a chore to wrestle my thoughts down to make them coherent and useful for the blurb writer. Below is my suggested blurb for the book (which should be out next summer), and attached are some of the pictures I sent to inspire my cover artist.

TENTATIVE BLURB What if your first love is abducted, presumed dead, and then returns twenty years later?
For Cole Weston, that’s the dilemma he faces. Now happily married to Tommy D’Amico, he’s suddenly thrown into a sense of the surreal as his first love, Rory Schneidmiller, returns. Where has Rory been all this time? What happened to him the night, two decades ago, when a strange mass appeared in the night sky and he felt himself being sucked upward? Even Rory has no memory of those years. For him, it’s only as though a day or two has passed.
Rory still loves Cole with a passion unique to young first love. Cole has never forgotten Rory, yet Tommy has been his rock, with him since Rory disappeared so long ago.
Cole is forced to choose between an idealized and passionate first love and the comfort of a long-term marriage. How can he decide? Who faces this kind of quandary, anyway? The answers lie within the pages of SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES…and, perhaps, within the stars themselves.
Look for SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES, summer 2018.





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

When a Reviewer "Gets" You: M4M


I just love it when a reviewer "gets" a book. Such is the case with reviewer, Michael, at Diverse Reader on my latest, M4M: 

"Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret. This is, perhaps, the worst kept secret in all of human existence. Every man, woman, and child know it, but rarely, if ever, talks about it. As if discussing it will open Pandora’s Box and hasten its inevitable arrival.
That secret is this: We all get older.
Now, how each of us deals with this varies from person to person, culture to culture, community to community. Some cultures, like the Japanese, revere the generations that came before, while others would rather pretend they don’t exist.
Something happens within the gay community after your thirties that you never saw coming while you were in your twenties. Your priorities change. Life is no longer about saving money for bar nights or going out until the wee hours of the morning, getting up with three hours of sleep, and going into work. Nor is it about finding “The One”, or even “The One For The Night.” Life is about making the mortgage or rent payment, putting food on the table, and figuring out what to watch on television. Because of this shift, the friends you had in your twenties and thirties, the ones you thought you would have throughout your life, may disappear. Eventually, unless you’re partnered up, you can end up feeling alone. There’s a sense of irrelevance, and you look back at your life and wonder how you got here, what you could have done differently. It’s not something that happens on purpose, or even with your knowledge until you finally notice.

Now, As a newly single gay man in his forties, Ethan, the main protagonist, is feeling his irrelevance. He’s been alone for so long that that sense of loneliness has become a second skin that he would live to shed. But how do you meet someone when you don’t go to the bars anymore?" 

Read the rest of the review here: https://diversereader.blogspot.com/2017/07/release-day-review-m4m-by-rick-r-reed.html 

BLURB
Finding and keeping love can be a challenge in the modern world of blogging, social media, and online dating, as one man will learn in this trilogy.

VGL Male Seeks Same
Poor Ethan Schwartz. At forty-two, he’s alone, his bed is empty, and his HDTV is overworked. He’s tried bars and other places where gay men are supposed to find each other, but it never works out. Maybe he should get a cat?

But his life is about to change…

NEG UB2
Poor Ethan. He’s received the most shocking news a gay man can get—he’s HIV positive. Until today his life was perfect, with a job he loves and Brian, who could be “the one.” The one to complete him and fill his lonely life with laughter, hot sex, and romance.

But Ethan’s in for another shock. Could Brian have infected him?

STATUS UPDATES
Alone again, Ethan wonders if life is worth living, even with a cat. When an old nemesis sends a Facebook friend request, Ethan is suspicious but intrigued. It seems this old acquaintance has turned his life around, and the changes might hold the key to Ethan getting a new lease on life… and love.


BUY

Monday, July 10, 2017

It's Release Day and M4M is Now OUT!


So excited to announce that my romantic trilogy, M4M, is now available wherever books are sold. If you've read the original version of M4M, published by Amber Quill Press, please know that this version has not only been extensively revised, but also includes a whole new one-third of the book, "Status Updates" that completes the love and life journey of our romantic underdog, Ethan Schwartz. I hope you'll pick up a copy!

BLURB
Finding and keeping love can be a challenge in the modern world of blogging, social media, and online dating, as one man will learn in this trilogy.

VGL Male Seeks Same
Poor Ethan Schwartz. At forty-two, he’s alone, his bed is empty, and his HDTV is overworked. He’s tried bars and other places where gay men are supposed to find each other, but it never works out. Maybe he should get a cat?

But his life is about to change…

NEG UB2
Poor Ethan. He’s received the most shocking news a gay man can get—he’s HIV positive. Until today his life was perfect, with a job he loves and Brian, who could be “the one.” The one to complete him and fill his lonely life with laughter, hot sex, and romance.

But Ethan’s in for another shock. Could Brian have infected him?

STATUS UPDATES
Alone again, Ethan wonders if life is worth living, even with a cat. When an old nemesis sends a Facebook friend request, Ethan is suspicious but intrigued. It seems this old acquaintance has turned his life around, and the changes might hold the key to Ethan getting a new lease on life… and love.


BUY


Friday, July 7, 2017

Catfishing and M4M


Ever been tempted to be someone else online? It’s easy, all you need to do is make up an alluring profile, grab some pics off the Internet, and voila! You can be the person you always dreamed of being.

Or at least that’s what the hero of my latest book, M4M, thinks….

Read on for a sample of my latest, a romance told in the form of three separate-but-connected-stories that chronicle, over the years, the journey toward love and happiness of one man, Ethan Schwartz. Hopefully, your interest will be piqued as you read this passage from the first installment in the trilogy, VGL Male Seeks Same.

See how Ethan’s venture into online dating could land him either in the arms of a hunky stud…or in very hot water…in M4M.

BLURB
Finding and keeping love can be a challenge in the modern world of blogging, social media, and online dating, as one man will learn in this trilogy.

VGL Male Seeks Same
Poor Ethan Schwartz. At forty-two, he’s alone, his bed is empty, and his HDTV is overworked. He’s tried bars and other places where gay men are supposed to find each other, but it never works out. Maybe he should get a cat?

But his life is about to change…

NEG UB2
Poor Ethan. He’s received the most shocking news a gay man can get—he’s HIV positive. Until today his life was perfect, with a job he loves and Brian, who could be “the one.” The one to complete him and fill his lonely life with laughter, hot sex, and romance.

But Ethan’s in for another shock. Could Brian have infected him?

STATUS UPDATES

Alone again, Ethan wonders if life is worth living, even with a cat. When an old nemesis sends a Facebook friend request, Ethan is suspicious but intrigued. It seems this old acquaintance has turned his life around, and the changes might hold the key to Ethan getting a new lease on life… and love.

EXCERPT
Ah, but in cyber space one could do something that one could not in the real world…and that was to be someone else. Ethan glanced around his little studio apartment, almost as if someone was hiding and able to read his mind and to see what he was contemplating. Don’t go there, Ethan…

He glanced at the screen of Chicago men in front of him and their manly, athletic faces and bodies, and knew he could never compete. A little voice in the back of his mind, one that sounded suspiciously like his dear departed mother, told him, “Stop being so hard on yourself, boy. Your self-esteem is lower than a snake’s belly. Why, if no one is talking to you, you just have to get up some gumption and make the first move. Show some initiative!”

Ethan had never listened to his mother, even when she was alive, and saw no good reason to start now. What good would actually writing to some of these guys do him? If they answered at all, they probably would tell him, with varying degrees of politeness, to get lost. It was the same thing that had happened to him in the bars, over and over, if he’d ever had the audacity to try and strike up a conversation with a stranger.

The thought kept returning, nagging at him like a mischievous little boy. Why not? Why not just create a whole new persona? Have some fun! Be the man you always dreamed you could be…and then see who you reel in. Of course, you’ll never actually meet any of these people, but the responses might be amusing, at least more amusing than watching DVR-recorded episodes of Judge Judy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire. What would be the harm?

And just like that, Ethan put fingers to keyboard and conception, like a sperm penetrating the walls of an egg, began on Ethan’s new persona. He snickered to himself as he typed in the URL for Hot or Not, where he knew the face of his new persona was just waiting for him to come along, click on it, save it to his pictures file, and take the first step in becoming a whole new man.

This was going to be fun! And again, Ethan thought, what harm could possibly come from it?

BUY



-->

Thursday, June 29, 2017

DEAD END STREET


I am extremely pleased to announce that Dead End Street, my young adult horror novel, is now back on the market and available in the Amazon Kindle store for only $2.99. It went missing for a while when its original publisher, Amber Quill Press, sadly went out of business.

BLURB
The old house at the end of a dead-end street is more of a dead end than anyone realizes...

They are five misfit kids who have banded together in their small Ohio River town. Over the years, they had organized various clubs, and now they've formed the Halloween Horror Club. The premise is simple: each week, each teen spins a horrifying tale, and at the end of five weeks, the scariest story wins a prize. The twist: the stories have to be told in the infamous and abandoned Tuttle house, where, fifteen years earlier, nearly an entire family had been murdered in their beds.

The idea of the club seems like a good one, until the kids begin to realize they may not be alone in the Tuttle house, which backs up against the woods. There seems to be someone - or something - watching them. Is it Paul Tuttle, the son who, while still in his teens, disappeared the night his parents and sister were killed? Or is it someone even more sinister?

With each story (each a completed short, original horror tale that stands on its own), the tension mounts... and so does the anger of the house's mysterious inhabitant. He is enraged at having his space violated, and his rage could mean a real dead end for those who dare to invade his home...

BUY
Amazon Kindle (FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited)
Audible audiobook. Listen to a sample. (Just click on the button beneath the audiobook cover art).




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Friday, June 23, 2017

FIRST LINES FRIDAYS: Obsessed

First lines Friday: On the long drive from Seattle to Palm Springs, I heard Duran Duran's song "Hungry Like the Wolf" on the radio. It reminded me of a lot of things, but most of all, it made me think of my first novel, OBSESSED, published in 1991 by Dell and reissued by Untreed Reads in its current ebook format. These first lines explain why Duran Duran and OBSESSED, a book about a serial killer terrorizing Chicago, mash up:

Joe MacAree had just murdered a woman, and all the things he felt when he killed the other four he was feeling right now. How would he describe it? In his journal, he might call his feelings an “elevation of the senses” or “an ethereal quality bringing the world into sharp focus.”

After each killing the reaction was the same. There was a moment of sharp pain right behind his left eye, an instant where the pain was so intense as to block out the act he had just committed, the blood and the ripped flesh…then a moment where brilliant flecks of silver light swam before him, and he could not keep his eyes from rolling, trying to follow the patterns the stars made.

And then the clarity.

As he guided his light blue Honda Accord along Harlem Avenue just south of Chicago, everything seemed more alive, as if to contrast the death he had just brought about. He noticed things he never noticed: the shifting red, amber, and turquoise of the reflections the stoplights made on the rain-slicked pavement. He noticed how the color spread, muted, over the slick black roadway. Even his radio, usually sounding tinny tuned to WLS, seemed more vibrant. He heard the different instruments in “Hungry Like the Wolf” as if Duran Duran were in the car with him, playing.

BLURB
I kill, therefore I am…

Voices slam through the corridor of his wounded mind. The words of his dead sister cry out. His parents' taunts fill the silent room where he sits and waits--waits for the murderous rage, filling him with strength, driving him to kill, to touch the cold flesh, taste the warm blood--to feel alive again… A witness has seen him, but his killing only turns her on and now she wants to protect him. His wife suspects him, but the private detective she hired cannot stop him. Joe MacAree fears nothing--except that he may no longer be human. The thirst that drives him is relentless, moving deeper and deeper into his own shattering, private realm, where each murder is a delicious new gift of life, where revulsion is beauty, and the obsession will never let him go.

"A harrowing ride through cutting-edge psychological horror, this one's got a vicious bite. Rick R. Reed's Obsessed is a twisted nightmare." - Douglas Clegg, bestselling author

Buy OBSESSED (for only $2.51!) here.

Listen to Duran Duran singing "Hungry Like the Wolf" here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

My Seat-of-the-Pants Writing Process



Writer friends, does the following resonate? This seemed like such an apt description of my own creative process (from Dennis Lehane's SINCE WE FELL): 

There seemed to be little rhyme or reason as to why one day snatching the correct words from the ether was like opening a faucet and other days it was like opening a vein, but she began to suspect both the good and the bad parts of the process were connected to the fact that she was writing without a map. No plan at all, really. She fell quite naturally, it seemed, into a more free-flowing approach than she ever would have allowed herself as a journalist and gave herself over to something she didn’t quite understand, something that, at the moment, spoke in cadence more than structure.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Writing About Love...and Food


Writing About Love...and Food

Shakespeare said, “If music be the food of love, play on…” I agree with him, except I would paraphrase him “If food be the music of love, cook on…”

People ask why I marry food with love in so many of my stories. One, I believe that food and love, next to air and water, are two very essential things for a happy life. 

Dinner at Jack’s shows how food bridges the gap between love and memory and how providing the care and comfort of good food can solidify a relationship. That’s not just something I believe as a writer, but as a human being.

In the excerpt below, you get a ‘taste’ of the kind of comfort food you’ll find in Dinner at Jack’s and get an insider view into the tenuous relationship between our two lovers, Beau and Jack and how a simple pasta dish begin to forge a spark of recognition and tenderness….


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT (and a recipe!)
Beau neared the bed. He set the tray down not on Jack’s lap, but next to him.

“I have a feeling you’re going to love this,” Beau said softly, staring into Jack’s eyes.

Jack allowed himself, for only a second or two, to stare back, noticing the rich green of Beau’s eyes, which were the color of moss. He tore his gaze away. Something told him it wasn’t right to stare into another man’s eyes that way. There was something shameful in it.

Instead he looked down at the tray. On it was a white bowl filled with little pillows of pasta he remembered were called gnocchi. They glistened with olive oil, dotted here and there with flakes of red pepper. The tang of the cheese, although barely visible on the pasta, rose up to Jack’s nostrils to remind him it was there. Next to the pasta was a plate upon which was piled a mound of greens, it too glistening with a light dressing. Jack could smell the lemon in it, acidic, tangy, making his mouth water.

He gripped his fists together so tightly he could see his knuckles whiten in his mind’s eye. A sudden urge, powerful, rose up, to push the tray very gently, and while smiling all the while—off the edge of the bed.

No! Why did he want to do such a thing?

He couldn’t bring himself to say anything, especially not anything like “This smells amazing” or “Oh my God, this looks so good.” But he could fight the impulse to fling the food, a gift really, to the floor. Or at least he thought he could….

He looked at Beau, then away quickly, to level a glance at his mother, who was all expectancy and hope. Her hands were clasped together, almost as though she were praying. And maybe she was.
Staring down at the tray at last, he lifted it up and onto his lap. He grabbed the paper towel on its surface and tucked it into his collar. Finally he lifted the bowl up and took in a gnocchi.

The flavors danced, truly danced, on his tongue, an explosion of savory heat. He closed his eyes and reveled in how this simple bite of food transported him, made him one with his body in delight… and again, weirdly, nostalgia. He forced the latter away and continued eating, without realizing right away he was also keeping his eyes closed.

When it dawned on him that he was sitting there, gobbling his food down with his eyes shut, his eyelids snapped up. His mother hovered over him, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. Beau stood in the background, wearing a subtle but visible smile of triumph.

Those two ignited a tiny flame of rage within Jack. He glared at them. “Do you think a guy could eat in privacy?” he asked.

“Of course,” Beau said. He grabbed Maisie’s hand and led her from the room. They closed the door softly behind themselves.

And Jack found himself eating every bite. And wanting more….

Damn Beau!

Jackson’s Spicy Gnocchi
(Serves 4)

You Need:
8 oz. potato gnocchi
¼ cup good olive oil, more or less
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovy filets
1 t red pepper flakes, more or less
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
¼ cup pasta cooking water
Salt and pepper to taste (seriously—to taste! With the salty anchovies and the red pepper, you may not need either)

To Make:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add plenty of salt when you first see bubbles appear.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in olive oil and allow it to get warmed up, a couple of minutes. Throw in your minced garlic and lower the heat. Allow the garlic to simmer and become aromatic, but be careful that it doesn’t begin to brown—you don’t want that bitterness. Add in the anchovy filets and cook for a couple more minutes. You should be able to break up the filets with a wooden spoon, and they should magically vanish into the garlic-flavored oil. Trust me, this will not taste fishy. Throw in your red pepper flakes.
Add gnocchi to boiling water and cook until they rise to the surface of the water. Do not overcook! This will only take a couple of minutes. Remove from water with a strainer and set aside. Reserve ¼ cup of the water you cooked the gnocchi in.
At this point, you can dump the gnocchi in the pan with the seasoned olive oil. Toss pasta to coat with the oil and add your Parmesan. Toss some more, so every gnocchi is coated.
Add in your reserved pasta water a little at a time. You want to loosen up the sauce a bit with this, make it creamier. Your eye will guide you when to stop adding water. You won’t need the whole ¼ cup.
Serve hot.

BLURB
Personal chef Beau St. Clair, recently divorced from his cheating husband, has returned to the small Ohio River town where he grew up to lick his wounds. Jack Rogers lives with his mother Maisie in that same small town, angry at and frightened of the world. Jack has a gap in his memory that hides something he dares not face, and he’s probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Maisie, seeking relief from her housebound and often surly son, hires Beau to cook for Jack, hoping the change might help bring Jack, once a handsome and vibrant attorney, back to his former self. But can a new face and comfort food compensate for the terror lurking in Jack’s past?

Slowly, the two men begin a dance of revelation and healing. Food and compassion build a bridge between Beau and Jack, a bridge that might lead to love.

But will Jack’s demons allow it? Jack’s history harbors secrets that could just as easily rip them apart as bring them together.

BUY
eBook
Paperback
Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

LOVE: Defined



"Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident." 

(Louis de Bernières in Corelli’s Mandolin)


Friday, June 2, 2017

NEW RELEASE! FEEL-GOOD TRUE ROMANCE, A Bundle of Four of My Best Gay Romance Titles


Happy to announce my new release!

BLURB
Delve into some of Rick R. Reed’s classic feel-good romances with this bundle. In Chaser, self-proclaimed chubby chaser Caden DeSarro finds in the perfect man in stocky, bearded Kevin Dodge, and a one-night stand leads into the relationship they’ve both dreamed off. But when Caden returns from a business trip to find Kevin with a new body makeover, is this really the same man he fell in love with? In Hungry for Love, Nate Tippie’s curious sister Hannah and kooky best friend Marilyn set up an online profile on a gay dating site, with Nate as the model. When Brandon Wilde falls in love with the man he’s been chatting with, Nate and Brandon just might have a chance at the love they’ve been searching for—if they can find their way out of the mess Hannah and Marilyn have made!

When the state of Washington finally makes gay marriage legal, Duncan Taylor proposes to his boyfriend, and doesn’t get the answer he’d been hoping for, in Legally Wed. Giving up on love, Duncan determines to marry gay-man-loving Marilyn instead, but wedding planner Peter Dalrymple may be just the solution Duncan has been yearning for. And in Dinner at Fiorello’s, Henry Appleby’s family has his life all planned out for him, but he takes a chance at living a bit of his dream with a summer job at Fiorello’s. Vito Carelli, a chef at Fiorello’s, has a tragic past, but when these two cooks collide in the kitchen, they might just find what they need to break free.

BUY:
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon Kindle


Thursday, May 25, 2017

New Submission: SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES

Just submitted my latest novel, SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES (a love story with science-fiction overtones) to Dreamspinner Press. Wish me luck! Here's a little taste from the first chapter:

EXCERPT
If he couldn’t sleep, he might as well take the opportunity to go outside, enjoy the warm breezes and what appeared to be a deserted beachfront.

He dressed quickly and silently—even though he knew he needn’t have bothered since Cole was beyond waking—in a pair of cut-offs and a Dr. Who T-shirt. He slid his feet into flip-flops, grabbed his keys off the dresser, and headed for the front door.

Other than the steady whoosh of traffic on Sheridan Road to the west, the night was quiet. Rory wished he’d checked the time before heading out, but judging from the silence all around him, he’d guess it was the wee small hours of the morning, maybe two or three a.m. This was Chicago, after all, there was usually someone stumbling around, even in blackest night.

But his street was empty. The tree branches and their leaves cast shadows on the silvery pavement beneath his feet because of the moon’s brightness. His footsteps, even in flip-flops, sounded extra-loud as he headed east, toward the beach.

At the end of the street, there was a cul-de-sac where cars could turn around, and beyond this, a set of stone steps that led down to the sand. Rory stood at the top of the steps looking out at the sand and water, the pile of boulders just off-shore, that Cole promised he’d swim out to the next day with Rory. A white lifeguard chair, empty, sat crookedly in the sand, leaning as it sunk to the left. The moon shone brilliantly on the water, laying a swath of golden light upon its gently undulating surface. If Rory looked at this light just right, perhaps squinting a bit behind his glasses, he could almost imagine the light rising up, like an illuminated fountain, from the water’s surface.

He took the steps quickly and was on the sand in seconds. He kicked off his flip-flops and sighed when he felt the cool sand squishing up between his toes. He looked around himself once more, paying particular attention to the concrete that bordered the beach, to assure himself he had the gift of a city beach all to himself.

And he did! He did.

He tore off his shirt, set it down, and then removed his glasses, placing them on top of the T-shirt. With a little cry, he dashed toward the water, a small laugh escaping his lips. He stopped briefly at its edge, gasping at the icy cold of the waves, even this late in the summer, as they ran up to meet him, lapping and biting at his toes. And then he took a deep breath, waded in up to his knees, and paused to consider if he really wanted to go whole hog.

What the hell?

He waded in a little farther, until the bottom dropped out from under him suddenly and instead of the water reaching just to the top of his thighs, hit him just above his belly button. It was freezing! And Rory knew there was only one solution: get full immersion over as quickly as possible.

He raised his hands over his head and dove as a wave rolled in toward him. The world went silent as he went under, the murky depths of the water almost black. He held his breath as long as he could, swimming outward. His mother’s voice erupted in his head, scolding, telling him to go back to shore, because it was late and there was no one around. What if he, God forbid, got a cramp?

Rory shushed his mother and continued to swim toward Michigan or whatever was directly opposite, hundreds of miles away. He swam until he felt his lungs would burst.

And then he surfaced, shaking the water from his hair. The first thing he noticed was how full immersion had done the trick—he wasn’t exactly warm, but the water temperature was at least bearable.

The second was the light on the water. It had changed to a strange pale radiance, a shifting, silvery opalescence that, in addition to his recent underwater swimming, left him nearly breathless.

He trod water and hazarded a glimpse up at the sky, expecting to see the moon and perhaps that bank of clouds that had managed to elude him earlier.

But the moon was gone. Or at least hidden.

Is this real?

Rory couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He actually slipped under for a helpless moment because both his arms and feet stopped moving. He came back up quickly, sputtering and spitting out lake water, gaze fixed on the sky. “What the fuck?” he whispered.

Was what he saw natural? Like, as in a natural phenomenon? What was above him appeared almost like some membrane, formed from gray smoky clouds, but alive. It rose up, mountainous, into the night sky. As he peered closer at the form, it seemed to almost breathe, to expand in and out. And within the gray smoke or fog, figures seemed to be spinning. They were black and amorphous, almost like shadows brought to life. The fact that the cloud—or whatever it was—had an otherworldly silvery light from below didn’t make the figures any more distinctive.

This can’t be real, Rory thought. I’m back at the apartment right now, sound asleep next to Cole. That pizza really did a number on me. Rory knew his notions were simply wishful thinking.

The membrane or cloud or whatever one wanted to call it was as real as the moon had been above him.

The black figures, spinning, began, one-by-one, to drop. They were too far distant for Rory to hear any splashes, but he could plainly see that some of them were disconnecting from the membrane-or-cloud-or-whatever-one-wanted-to-call-it and plopping down onto the placid surface of Lake Michigan.

Because of its immensity, Rory was unable to determine if the thing above him was close by or distant. It could have been hovering directly overhead. Or it may have been as far away as downtown or even the western edge of Indiana. Perhaps it was some industrial disaster thrown up by the city of Gary? Perhaps it was a military experiment, a new kind of aircraft?

And, of course, Rory, ever the science fiction geek, came to the last supposition almost reluctantly, because it terrified him—perhaps it was some sort of alien vessel, a UFO in everyday parlance. The kind of thing Rory had both dreaded and hoped to bear witness to almost all of his young life.
He stared at it in wonder, lost for a moment in time. He hoped that he would gain more clarity on what the thing was, but the longer he stared, the more confusing it became. Was it some freak of nature? Some hitherto unseen cloud formation? Was it really a spaceship beyond his or anyone’s really wildest imagination?

Whatever it was, he was certain it was heating up the water around him, which led him to the conclusion that it must have some powerful energy to heat up a body of water as large as Lake Michigan. What had been cold now felt almost as warm as bathwater.

And that scared Rory just as much as this monstrously huge thing in the sky above him. What if the water continued to heat up? What if it reached some boiling point and he would be poached alive in it?

What if the black, shadowy beings he witnessed spinning within the mist meant him harm as they dropped from the cloud? What if they were, right now, swimming toward him, all bulbous heads and soulless gray eyes?

He shuddered, in spite of the warmth of the water around him. He leveled himself out, lowered his face to the water, and began the fastest crawl he could manage to shore, which suddenly seemed almost impossibly far way.

And a new fear seized him as he paddled, panting, through the dark water—what if something as prosaic as drowning claimed him? Would they ever find him?

What would Cole do when he woke at last, to find himself in bed and alone? What would he do as the sun rose, lighting up their little love nest, and there was no Rory?

Rory didn’t want to see the thing anymore. Just looking at it induced in him a feeling of dread so powerful, it nauseated him. So he kept his face in the water, only turning his head to the side every few strokes, to grab a breath of air, until he neared the shore. He squatted low, panting hard, in the shallows and at last hazarded a glance up at the sky.

It was empty.

Save for a muted orange glow from light pollution and the moon, now distant, there was nothing in the sky. Rory crawled from the water and plopped down on the damp sand at the lake’s edge.