Revolt of the Rats: Book One

| July 9, 2016

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Revolt of the Rats: Book One

“Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.”

And Motomax is no exception.

Kahle Desireau spent his whole life haunted by the “black smoke” – the auras of the dead and dying. Until Bee Wasikowska’s glowing aura draws him like a moth to Motomax Plant #1, where he vies for her affections with the company’s savior: handsome, Gatsby-like CEO Wesley Brummert. But the Rust Belt has eaten through Motomax like a cancer, the rot pervasive, decades deep, buried in its murderous heart. If the turnaround doesn’t turn then Motomax is finished. And if he doesn’t find the source of the sickness, he could be its next victim.

Ten year-old Everett Steiner is a curious boy with a clock spring mind already as quick as an adult’s. He dreams of bigger places like the ones he’s read about in the library or heard in his father’s stories traveling across Europe as a soldier. But ill winds are howling across the plains, gripping their family farm in its fist. The fields are dry as bone. The banks have stopped lending. When his father falls ill with a crop to bring in, the privation of the Great Depression is the least of their worries.

Washing out, Spring 1973

With Noyce he dodged the screaming killdeer flying low overhead. Their white stomachs approached invisibility during strafing runs, blending into the light blue sky overhead. They banked and prepared for another pass, conspicuous with their brown speckled backs.

“Come on,” Noyce said.

He broke ahead and Kahle followed. Noyce’s long legs easily carried him along as Kahle struggled under an oversized sweatshirt. They sheltered beneath an expansive oak, the long branches promising respite from their attackers. Just beyond it a barbed wire fence flecked with rust separated their yard from the cornfields. Their border to the savage lands. No playing over there. Flying patrols circled wide, surveilling them for further movement.

“Got here first,” Noyce said. He loved games. Even games that involved running from maddened birds. Though they were fraternal twins, Noyce already towered over him. Many times those same legs had run to the house for his forgotten inhaler or carried Noyce between Kahle and the bad boys.

Kahle couldn’t catch his breath to reply, was bent over involuntarily whooping. The air avoided him as if the atmosphere were water instead. He fished in his pocket for his inhaler. It hung up on the edge of his jeans. He stood up too fast in order to free it and swooned.

Mars. He was on Mars where the air was thinner. He was Space Ghost. No, he was Buck Rogers. Another attempt and it came free with a fistful of dander. He jammed it in his mouth, depressed the plunger and the ache in his ribs began to subside. Spots of light danced, flitting on a breeze that was too cool for a spring day. Before he could think, he was mumbling.

“Tinkerbell.”

“What? You okay?” Noyce came closer and placed his hand on his brother’s back.

“I’m okay.”

He didn’t feel okay. In his ears a thread was pulling with each breath as if string connected them to his lungs. He sat heavily on the ground heedless of ants or spiders. His eyes were roving the yard behind them, watching the spring winds twist patterns in the grass. It passed through the still brown shoots with the consistency of a wave, turning in time to an unseen tune.

Something resembling black smoke caught at his eye. Sleepy. He felt so sleepy. He closed his eyes and reopened them. The image was still there. He got up like a sleepwalker, his arms and legs liquid or the flexible cartilage of sharks on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. The pain was still there but was pushed out by the new thing. Noyce was talking, the words passing him by, missing their mark.

The killdeer descended, their moving bodies surrounding him in a halo of feathers. He ignored their pointed beaks and keening cries, his original fear forgotten. Hidden in the grass twisted among the thin stalks, was a bird’s nest, the black smoke

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