Physiognomy Prologue

So I'll be posting the prologue and a few chapters of my book-in-progress over the next couple weeks. Message me if you'd like to pre-order the whole thing!

Notice: All text is subject to revision and omission in the final copy. These posts are to be considered second drafts and not complete works.


There were always two. Occasionally, one should count the quantity as great as four. Rarely did the number diminish to one, and only once was it recorded on zero. But today, at this particular division of time, he claimed two in his possession. Granted, the vastly accepted sum should not exceed one, but this discrepancy should not mark him immediately as a deviant. This disillusioned man simply preferred to maintain a diverse pool of options, as well as a self-sustaining safety net.
     Over the years, he had transitioned from a micromanaging system of upholding his assets individually and separately to a broader policy: should one fall to ruin, granted the collective is overall pleased, he considered the situation controlled. This cold distancing allowed him to see a greater picture, and manage his resources accordingly. He was not by any means unsympathetic – he truly acted in the best interest of all in all actions, save the existence of each girl’s counter.
     He did have favorites, but past experiences urged him to disregard these preferences, for the favorite invariably was first to leave. The resulting heartbreak was suppressed. If he allowed himself to feel the cleansing sting, his kingdom of choices would realize weakness in its godlike king, and he was a god.
     He walked carefully through the shade of the brunette’s room, tactfully sliding under the stained purple satin. At a quick glance, he noticed her glassy hazel eyes had not opened. The man wished they had; he wished to be embraced by that penetrating stare she could not control – the damning accusation to any passerby victim: she knows. Whether or not she is truly aware of some crime is irrelevant; she knows. The stranger could have come direct from a Christmas service, dressed in a fine black leisure suit, well-groomed with his strawberry blonde hair in a tonsure, and her mythic eyes would see him with equal scorn as one sees a convicted child molester. Regardless, her glossed glare was completely involuntary, and it was unlikely that she truly felt her victim deserving of this condemnation.
     Her eyes also yielded a cleansing effect for Nick. When he was graced by her emerald mirrors, he had that blessed moment to silently repent for the previous late night. He knew she was completely oblivious to this display, her mind always aloof – she probably saw his euphoric stare as a sign of affection.
     But tonight, he was denied her eyes. The only figure clearly visible was the scarlet glow of the digital clock-radio he gave her on her twenty-second birthday with an engraving of some loving epitaph scratched into the corner of the clock face, illuminating the word “Forever” among others in a neon shine. Nick resisted an overwhelming temptation to stroke her dark brown – almost black – hair and wake her, but the stabbing light from the clock reminded him of the ungodly early hour.
     An upright mirror stood brooding in the corner, proving the darkness tangible by reflecting a darker aura than the surrounding void. Charity’s corduroy jeans were draped atop this mirror, concealing only the upper-left corner, lifeless and dull. Nick hated the mirror for some unknown inclination – possibly the teak frame which was stained in an uneven coat of cherry red, which seemed to peel with increasing frequency. Or maybe because of the floral design that had been painted around the border in some black ink which had since faded into illegible smudges one could mistake for archaic text; a terrifying view in waking light.
     Nick laid dazed in the state somewhere between sleep and consciousness, replaying the day’s images in his mind, the broken sprinkler outside his office building which seemed hyper-pressurized at times, drilling a muddy hole into the ground then failing to spray altogether. He remembered the day he joined the ranks of the Omega Fashions sales department managerial staff, how that sprinkler functioned with perfect precision…
     “Hey,” a weak voice interrupted his recollections, almost trembling as if she had woken from a terror. “How long have you been up?”
     “I was just thinking,” Nick replied in a rush, oblivious to Charity’s inquiry.
     “You think too much, love,” her voice became bolder, regaining its enchanting harmonious tone.
     “Do I?”
     “And if you can’t get a night’s worth of sleep, how am I supposed to keep you awake?” Charity’s voice now fully alert, her intended undertones carefully arranged for her god’s pleasure.
He lost all his innocence through those eyes.


     Rainforests of Thailand are host to legions of black insects, idly marching from one task to another, granted their queen’s scent dictates the reorganization. They move with such haste that half of their ranks are expected – expected, not likely to – die daily. The dead and dying are replaced at an exponentially higher rate than the death toll, often forcing the work of sterile female ants, denied reproduction in favor of labor, onto equally corrupted children, fresh out of the eggs of their incestuous monarch. The young are not exempt from the death toll, accounting for a fair representation of the collective. Their average natural lifespan in the staggering heat of the tropics: several years. Unnatural, by means of accident or fatigue: one day.
     The men exist solely to breed with their queen, accepting a lesser rank than their female commandants despite a successful career in prostitution. The women work their lifespan, socially higher than the breeders yet still forced lower than the gluttonous ruler. Their segregated society demands an absolute cooperation, total blind acceptance of the state of their government, until the queen is ultimately killed in some flash flood of bathwater.
In these mortality figures, not all deaths are the result of overwork and fatigue. Some fortunate ants are infected by a Death-Grip Fungus. Their bodies writhe as acid flows in their exoskeleton, and they are overcome with an urge to climb above the ground level which so many of their comrades deem desirable. They aspire for the undersides of leaves, and dig their pincers permanently into the green bed. Here they die, and provided the queen is unable to direct her minions to remove the undesirable quickly, an earth-tone spire launches from her head. Within varying spans of three days to a week, the disfigurement will bloom into a mushroom cap, and at the end of its reproductive cycle spores will launch in formation against the commune, infecting as many as will gaze at the spectacle in awe, breaking their ranks for that blessed minute as the green cloud clears their eyes.
     Nick Klein stared across the street from PubliTrans Station 29, attempting to find meaning in the mud-colored pattern in the bricks of a support beam for some barren warehouse’s balcony. Sometimes when he was sufficiently exhausted, he could make out the faces of deceased presidents, or some unintelligible design vaguely resembling the paper dolls that a little girl would create in poverty to amuse herself, while her cheerful friends flaunted their shiny new baby dolls – complete with self-wetting diapers. He remembered politely asking the girl to see her creation, then attempting to improve by his own design. He remembered the look of utter submission in her face, the sound of a lone sob developing deep within her chest as her children were beheaded. He felt the same degree of convulsion in his own lungs; less a sob than a chuckle.
     The predatory growl of a diesel engine pierced through Nick’s thoughts. The sweltering light of the sun burned his eyes as he averted his attention eastward, toward the looming beast. Nick stood, panicked for a moment as he searched for the black leather-bound briefcase that provided host for Omega Clothing’s bloodline, found it on the opposite side of the decrepit oak bench he remembered placing it, and stood ready. The metallic Gorgon halted at his feet and opened her eyelids in direct challenge for the hero.
     Nick faced the evil unafraid; she had been conquered routinely as far back as he cared to remember. He lunged direct into her eye and used the Magic Coin of Silver to puncture a slot conveniently placed for immediate access to the observant warrior. The day his, he turned to face the vanquished foes of the unhallowed beast: men dressed as he, and women in stark imitation all lined in organized rows, eagerly awaiting digestion.
     “You alright today, Nick?” asked the man in neat uniform who apparently led the legion of fallen.
     Nick stuttered out a “yeah, I’m fine” and turned to join their numbers. He found his empty seat on stage left, four from the far back. As the bus sluggishly pulled away from the PubliTrans station, he again inspected his briefcase. He investigated the gold-plated locking mechanism, both sides reading the factory-issue 0-0-0 as he last left it. The combination varied on the individual seals, left 7-2-3 right 5-0-4.
Only some P.I. could get through that save brute force.
“Watson, what can you deduce from this display?”
“Well, it seems to be some sort of shiny metal array of digits.”
“Correct as you are, examine closer; the order of operation must be their birthdays.”  
“7-2-3 and 5-0-4?”
“He is the type to only recall a quantity if it holds another importance.”
“Damn it, Holmes! You must be mistaken.”
“Push the buttons harder! This unhallowed heat must have melted the pins!”
Jesus Christ, it’s hot. Why won’t it open?
     Nick regained the panic he felt at the station. This was surely the same leather briefcase, the same midnight-black, the same stitching around the edges. He pushed the buttons on either side with such force that he must have bruised his thumb tips. If the dress code for the executive branch of a corporation dedicated to selling anti-conformity slogans on cheap polyester t-shirts was anything short of long-sleeve dress shirts and a solid, lifeless tie, Nick could have thought clearer.
     Again examining the numbered gears, he noticed that the second number on the right lock was stuck in the grey area between 9 and 0. Nick was certain this atrocity was the result of his frenzied attacks on the case; regardless, he again attempted the lock. The godsend click produced a hearty chuckle from the lowest reaches of his torso, a half-second utterance which caused the middle-to-late-middle-aged woman in the seat opposite Nick – whose fading hay-colored hair done up in a bun added to her novelty-sized tortoiseshell glasses gave her the appearance of an owl – to divert from her daily cryptogram and regard the pretentious man’s look of deliverance for yet another half-second before returning to the mortal task of decoding a quotation from some lazy philosopher she would never study.
     Rifling through the documents revealed inside the leather box, Nick accounted for every printout, every notepad detailing the latest trends in the teenage “underground,” all from deceased grunge singers to the occult. A stack of Polaroid photos had dispersed across the base of the standardized paperwork, divided between opposite color schemes. Charity’s silk hair occupied the colder tones of indigo and violet, heralding those eyes. The others, garnished in official eggshells and off-whites, had an overbearing presence that seemed out of place. To a greater contrast, the focus of these photographs was a vivid smudge of red, a few shades lighter than blood, dotted by two sky-blue spheres begging a moment’s attention.
     Nick noticed his left hand reaching for the gloss paper and forced his mind to become coherent. He quickly gathered up the pictures into separate bundles and positioned either stack on opposite corners of the rectangular prison, ordered the datasheets in their proper authority concealing the atrocities, then placed his hand behind the black lid and slowly drew it toward his body.
     The bus’s aisle grew definitively louder as a menagerie of college students joined at Station 31. Nick observed their clothing; all wore high-end jeans, but the genders diversified. The boys adorned their sports jerseys which made them easily identifiable from a distance, provided one knew their number. The girls wore either their respective boy’s designer t-shirt as a reminder of the night before, or a solid tank top. For the last year, Nick had utilized this group of eight to discover some way to bring angst to those considered ‘in’. Actually, the public relations campaign he convinced Michael to undertake for the previous three months was the result of number 98’s comment that he was “sick of seeing so many faggots trying to look cool in black because Daddy didn’t touch them enough”. Nick single-handedly developed the ingenious idea to paste the slogan “Cool kids wear black.” on the backs of ghost-white hooded sweatshirts. Overall sales leaped 3 percent in one quarter and Michael was promoted to a secluded office on the floor above Nick’s.
     Nick remembered the pack mentality associated with popular life. It had only been three years since he graduated from the University of Nevada’s College of Business, and he could still recall the exact moments as he journeyed from the dorms without air conditioning to his Sociology lecture where he was reminded that he was not now, nor would ever be mentionable in the same breath as the untouchables. Once he made the mistake of trekking between two slanted wooden boxes with six inch circular openings in their upper-mid sections. As he casually glanced right, he witnessed a miniature canvas sack fly in an arc just over his head. Tracking it with his gaze, it landed a foot from one of the boxes.
A well-built gentleman who bore a vague resemblance to the man in commercials for immediate weight loss pyramid scams shouted at him to leave. Nick was far from scrawny, but still held to pacifist values when faced with an opponent who could at very least inconvenience him, and he was late to hear a shiny-headed professor in tweed ramble about human behavior in free markets. He immediately regained his bearings and fled.
     A jolt swept through Nick’s body as the bus took a curb three miles too fast. He looked around his position once more, acknowledging the owl-lady’s intermittent stare with a smile and a nod, as any professional should.
Go ahead; let your guard down, girl. I won’t rip out your earrings today. Just please have the courtesy, more the decency to make those half-empty sandbags face the other direction. Honestly, don’t be scared.
Some twenty minutes elapsed while Nick dreamed, and the bus came to its next stop at Station 32. He limped out of his seat on a dozing right leg and exited without acknowledging the driver’s “thanks, have a nice day!” Nick heard the effeminate dismissal from the weightlifting driver, but had never returned it. Still, the Betty persisted to no avail.
     He trekked the next block-and-a-half in silence, separated from the natural sounds of birds nesting in the Elm trees by the sidewalk, from the sprinkler’s tck-tck-tck-tck as it struggled to life. He barely regarded the friendly faces of first-shift security officers as they recognized him and pressed the hidden buttons to cause a horrid buzz to emanate from some unseen speaker, the doors snapping open.


The sudden assault of artificial light left Nick momentarily blind as he exited the stairwell through the door marked with a large yellow “3” next to an arrangement of dots which were believed to be the same number in Braille. He had not come across anyone who would need this assistance in either of his years at Omega, and it was debatable whether or not such a being existed in the outskirts of any district in Nevada. After a moment’s pause to allow his eyes to adjust, Nick noticed the unhallowed hum of fluorescent lighting which seemed to drown out every thought that had previously crossed his mind.
He steadied himself on the cubicle wall immediately to his right and deliberately walked the four steps to the end of this row and turned into the aisle that permitted entry to the various holes. Most were completely infested with insects chirping wildly through some piece of headgear by this point, as it was now 10:15 a.m. The hapless bus driver had forced Nick to arrive fifteen minutes after he was scheduled to log in and join the cacophonous chorus.
Paying little attention to the balding man with a loosened cyan necktie who was approaching him with some vigor to spite his apparent lack of stamina, Nick ducked into the fifth cubicle on his left and quickly stroked a memorized pattern on a keyboard to cause the computer monitor to flicker to life with a “Welcome!” written in friendly Courier New font over an otherwise blank screen. Not to be so easily avoided, the haggard man quickly reached the entrance to Nick’s cubicle and stood blocking almost half of the exit, careful to allow his prey an illusion of escape to avoid triggering the fight mechanism.
“Nick?” he challenged, “Could I speak with you for a moment?”
Nick turned in his chair with a noticeable squeak of rusted wheels and acknowledged his boss with a gaze.
“I’m not in the mood for that look, Man.”
Man. I’m not your Man. I’ve avoided that title for twenty-five years and you just had to break my streak. “Sorry, Mike.”
The middle-aged Man quickly looked to the window at the end of the aisle as if contemplating a stray Robin for a moment before returning his glazed eyes to the weakling in the box. “Hey,” he began hesitantly, “I was wondering if you could do me a relatively quick favor this weekend.” Mike trailed off at the end of the sentence as if he were unsure whether or not his task was worth the risk of requesting. Seeing nothing but another empty gaze from Nick, he pressed: “Look, I know it’s been hard for you since Sue went missing, but I really think you should get out more. There’s a new bar opening up mid-district this Thursday, and I’m pretty sure they’re exempt from the whole modified prohibition business.”
Nick was tempted by the thought of a legal alcohol despite the inevitable fact that it would have a concentration lower than required to properly intoxicate any man with less than an entire forty-ounce bottle. He was about to accept the offer before he remembered his plans for that very weekend. Sue. With a courteous refusal and a request to be given the space to catch up on the week’s electronic messages, Mike withdrew with a sunken face to the stairwell, cursing the architect with every step for not budgeting properly for an elevator.
And so another day of his life was spent mindlessly attempting to keep the monarch happy with figures of increase in certain markets and slightly-doctored reports of no change in others.
Shit! I forgot that briefcase! No one can get into it unless they break the locks, so I should be safe. It’s probably still on the bus. Worst case, I’ll have to pick it up from the police station and explain away those pictures. Charity’s easy, but Sue. Her face is all over the news already…
A telephone meeting was scheduled for the forty-five minutes when he was meant to have lunch and it lasted a little more than an hour and a half as one advertiser spat across the line to a supervisor who expected Nick to produce a larger sum of agreement from a non-existent budget.
Okay, so I’m called a pervert and they take the pictures. None of them are illegal; I just have to live without them until I can take more. At least those are from before she went missing. Easy enough.
As the clock neared 5:00 p.m. on his computer screen, Nick was too eager to waste unnecessary minutes behind its glow. At 4:50 p.m., Nick repeated the same pattern of keystrokes to achieve the opposite effect and slowly crawled from his cubicle a broken man.
 He had forgotten the lights’ hum until he exited the air-conditioned building and faced the sun again. The lack of a thought-sedative gave Nick a moment of clarity to breathe polluted air very deeply as the liberating fumes returned control to his senses. The bus was not scheduled to be at the nearest stop for another twenty minutes, so he took his time to walk leisurely down the new sidewalk without checking his wristwatch to ensure that he was early. As he crossed the ramped curb on the perimeter of a vacant parking lot, a yellow Ford Hybrid was inconvenienced for a moment by the pedestrian blocking its turn.
The driver, a relatively young female with ironed brunette hair, was hardly disturbed by the obstacle; she was presented with a moment to check her miniature telephone for an update on a friend’s pregnancy scare despite how that friend had already overreacted to a late period twice before. Upon observing a notice of zero new messages, she looked up again and saw that the halfwit was standing in the center of the curb with apparently no intention of moving. She waited a few seconds more then applied pressure to the center of the car’s steering wheel to blast a loud horn. He was already facing her, but she noticed his eyes seemed to look past her rather than at the Hybrid.
Nick fell to his knees clutching his stomach with both hands to make it stop. Unfortunately for this victim, he required the use of one of his hands to brace himself from the ground. There was a sharp pain all throughout his body as his left arm jerked forward to the black pavement on the side of the road. Nick saw the dark blood on his previously spotless sleeve and felt compelled to vomit more red on the spot. He quickly lost his peripheral vision and his bracing arm gave out suddenly, causing the Man to collapse onto his side then back. He heard a car door slam and footsteps which sounded like they were running away despite how his eyes told him she was approaching rather than fleeing.
There was a scream when she saw the blood, followed by a panicked dialing on her phone. The operator couldn’t make out exactly what was being said through a choking voice, but it was evident that this was a serious emergency. Two divisions of police were immediately dispatched to the stretch of Ninth Street between Roberts and Juniper, followed closely by a fleet of ambulances expecting nothing short of a successful attack by some group of radical anarchists and at least three corpses and a dozen wounded. They found one dead and another in advanced shock.


  1. Good luck dude, and you're story looks great!

  2. Pretty interesting man, admiring your perserverance.

  3. good luck, writing a book sounds like a great goal, again the best of luck, followed.

  4. i've only read the first paragraph and i'm intrigued; i promise i'll read the rest when i have time and give some constructive feedback


  5. Good luck! I admire what you're doing here.

  6. I'll definitely check this out.