Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Dead Man is REBORN

The "second season" finale of THE DEAD MAN, the series of action/adventure/horror novels that William Rabkin and I began two years ago, premieres on January 21st with REBORN, an action-packed, six-part Kindle Serial written by Kate Danley, Phoef Sutton and Lisa Klink. This story is big in every sense of the word... and if it succeeds, then THE DEAD MAN will most likely return in the Kindle Serial format for it's "third season." 
Here's the story:
Tanis Archer is facing a miserable 25th birthday. She's a part-time barista in her sixth year at Dallas Community College. Her life is going nowhere, fast.
Because on her way to work, she loses control of her car and is killed in a horrific crash. That should have been the tragic end of her story. But days later, she wakes up on a cold morgue slab...and soon learns that miraculous resurrections have brutal side effects. For starters, there are people around her who look as if they are decomposing from the inside-out, victims of their rotting souls. Even worse, it's no illusion. What she is seeing is real, a shadowy part of the world  where the bloody battle between good and evil is being fought every day by Matt Cahill, an ax-wielding "dead man" and his rag-tag army of supernatural freaks.
And she’s being asked to join him. 
Obviously that's not how Tanis wants to spend her after-life--she'd rather party with her new-found abilities--but an unimaginable horror is rising from the Black Sea, and she might just be the only person who can save humanity from an agonizing, never-ending nightmare...
 REBORN features a fresh, colorful heroine in an action-packed, darkly funny tale of adventure and terror told by an incredible dream team of award-winning, widely-acclaimed writers: USA Today bestselling author Kate Danley (The Woodcutter), Emmy Award winning screenwriter and novelist Phoef Sutton (Cheers, Boston Legal),  TV writer/producer and author Lisa Klink (Star Trek Voyager, Painkiller Jane)New York Times bestselling author and TV producer Lee Goldberg (The Heist, King City), and two-time Edgar-Award nominated writer William Rabkin (Monk, Psych).
 About six month ago, Lee Goldberg gathered all the authors at his house and they broke the story the way Lee & Bill Rabkin would in a TV series "writers' room." Like Bill and Lee, Phoef and Lisa are professional television writers...but this was a new way of working for Kate, but we think she liked it. We had a white board up on the wall, plenty of junk food, and only a general sense of where we wanted to go narratively. And then we brainstormed. By the end of the day, we had a story, which we divvied up into thirds for Kate, Phoef and Lisa to write. A couple of months later, when the three parts came in, Bill and Lee tied them together and smoothed out the rough edges, as we've done many times before on scripts on the various TV series we've produced.
We think REBORN send THE DEAD MAN series in an exciting new direction....and we hope fans of the series will agree!

Friday, November 29, 2013


0881 Lee Goldberg TDMS_STREETS OF BLOODStella Green showed Dead Man co-creator Lee Goldberg the manuscript for her novel Awakening Snakes. The book was great, and her voice was so strong and self-assured, that Lee couldn't believe it was her first novel. So it was a no-brainer for Lee & William Rabkin to offer her an assignment writing the 21st  Dead Man novel. Her novel,  The Rising Dead, has just been released by Amazon's 47North imprint...and is the final "regular" installment in the bi-monthly series before the series returns with REBORN, a big Dead Man Amazon Kindle Serial that's coming in early 2014.  Today we've invited Stella to talk about her experience writing The Rising Dead...

When Lee asked if I wanted to write a Dead Man book, I wasn't sure I could write an action book, but I certainly wanted to try. Who doesn't like stories with tortured characters battling evil, especially when the bad guys are rotting from the inside out? My biggest hurdle came quickly -- the plot.

A detailed outline was something new for me. Of course, this type of planning is absolutely necessary in a book series with multiple authors. Unfortunately for me, the group of fine writers that proceeded me had already put Matt Cahill through many varieties of Hell. Most of my ideas were shot down because they were similar to those of other writers who were in different stages of finishing their books. Some of my other inspirations were, well, let's just say Lee wasn't feeling them -- especially the ones with pirates.

Working with someone else's characters is quite different than working with your own. You have to respect the world they've created. After a few weeks of flailing, I wondered if I was ever going to get it right, but Lee didn't give up on me. Eventually something better came along: the Stranger.

I liked the idea of a character who had lived a dark and difficult life -- like Matt Cahill's -- for hundreds of years. A person would either go mad or become extremely hard. During drives through the desert between Los Angeles and Phoenix I've seen dangerous looking drifters. They make me remember to lock my car doors; they also make me wonder what their stories are. I began calling my character the Stranger because I hadn't decided on a name. Later, I realized he had worked hard to isolate himself and become the unknown, so I let him stay The Stranger.

Lee and Bill were open to a new character, and with their help, I finally had that detailed outline. The actual writing flowed. Now I understand the value of all that prep work.

So I think I've finally got an angle on those pirates that Lee is really going to love...

In the mean time, here's more on my novel The Rising Dead. I hope you like it!
Matt Cahill was an ordinary man leading a simple life until a shocking accident changed everything. Now he can see a nightmarish netherworld that exists within our own. Now he's on a dangerous quest for the answers to who he is and what he has become…and engaged in an epic battle to save us, and his soul, from the clutches of pure evil. 
In the blasted hell of the Arizona desert, Matt hitches a ride with a young couple who meets a terrible fate that he's powerless to stop. The bloody encounter leads him to a mysterious stranger with a terrifying history…who may know the reason for Matt's resurrection and hold the key to finally ending his lonely quest. But first they must survive in an unforgiving wasteland to do battle with a gang of heavily armed smugglers who trade in human flesh.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two New Kindle Words DEAD MAN Novels!

We're thrilled to announce that there are two more new, Dead Man Kindle Worlds novels available on Amazon -- both by Leigh Grayson! They are The Dead Man: Halfway to Dead and The Dead Man: The Black Nexus.

You can write a Dead Man novel, too. Find out more at the Dead Man Kindle Worlds Home Page.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Amazon Launches The Dead Man Kindle World

We're thrilled to announce that THE DEAD MAN has joined the Amazon Kindle World program. This means that now anyone can write a DEAD MAN short story or novel..and have it published, publicized and sold by Amazon, absolutely free.

If you are unfamiliar with Kindle Worlds, it gives authors the opportunity to write stories, novellas, and books in scores of different "universes" (including Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars) and get significant royalties from the sales of their work. 

The first DEAD MAN Kindle Worlds Tale has just been released... it's Joe Nassise's EATER OF SOULS. Here's the skinny:

Matt receives a cryptic warning of an impending school shooting from a fellow subway passenger just seconds before the man steps in front of a speeding train. The incident has Mr. Dark's hallmarks all over it. Can Matt find the shooter in time to stop a horrific massacre?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Contest Winner's DEAD MAN Novel Now Available!

The winner of our 2012 "You Can Write a DEAD MAN Novel" contest was Barry Napier, and his winning entry, DEAD MAN #18: STREETS OF BLOOD, has just been published Amazon's 47North imprint. We think once you sample the first chapter you'll understand why the judges picked his manuscript from among the 100s of entries we received.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What I Learned Writing STREETS OF BLOOD

From Barry Napier's blog...

Most of you know that I won Amazon’s You Can Write a Dead Man Novel contest last year. The months between October – January were spent writing and editing it. If I’m being honest, I learned a lot from writing it, some of which I think most writers can either relate to or need to know.

First, Lee Goldberg and co. were very kind about pointing out a few of my flaws…flaws that have plagued me since writing my first short story at the age of 14. Among them…I’m too wordy. I tend to wax poetic when it’s not called for. I try to create back story that serves as a story in and of itself (this one, I will argue to my last breath, is often necessary and pivotal for longer works). When I try to write about someone collecting information or being smacked by insight, I tend to come off as too passive.

The great thing is that I have had these things pointed out by editors in the past. But with The Dead Man #18: Streets of Blood, these things were not only pointed out, but highlighted with blood and gore. Writing this book was perhaps my biggest lesson in reigning myself in when I wanted to get too wordy or experimental when it wasn’t called for. This book was equally odd to write because of its content. It’s one of the bloodier things I have written in a while. When you consider the fact that I was writing a faith-based suspense novel at the same time, it was a very challenging and eye-opening few months.

So, while researching parts of scripture for the faith-based novel, I was also having to research old morbid nursery rhymes for my Dead Man book.

I’m not going to lie…it was sort of fun.

So again, a big thanks to Lee Goldberg for helping me through the process. It was an intensive course in writing short novels while helping me to further cripple some of the mistakes that I still wrestle with in my writing.

The Dead Man #18: Streets of Blood will be released sometime in May.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Plotting Death and Destruction

0609 Lee Goldberg ebook V4 TDMS_5A half-dozen authors spent the day together plotting a DEAD MAN novel...not just any book, but our biggest tale yet, both in page count and ambition. The story will be published next fall as a Kindle Serial (six to eight, 10,000 word "episodes" that will add up to one, cohesive novel). The project is being written by Phoef Sutton, Lisa Klink and Kate Danley from a shared outline. So series co-creator William Rabkin and I (Lee Goldberg), along with DEAD MAN author David Tully (THE KILLING FLOOR), got together with them and we all spent the day cracking the story in a "writer's room" setting.

Bill, Phoef, Lisa andI are experienced TV writer/producers so we are very comfortable with the "writer's room" process of hashing out the story as a group, analyzing every character motivation and story beat until we come up with all the moves of the story, which we layout on a white, dry erase board. It was a new experience for Kate and, to a lesser extent, for David, who has been part of a writer's room on some television projects in Germany (where his wife was a network executive).

The writer's room process is wonderful because not only do you benefit from the creativity of everybody in the room, but it also forces you to really explore, analyze and figure out all the angles of your plot and the motivations of your characters.

The group experience also forces you not to give in to the easy, lazy or cliche way of resolving plot and character go further and dig deeper. It means there are some inevitable frustration or disagreements, but it's all positive...because you end up with a much stronger, more-thought-out story.
It's my favorite part of the TV writing experience...spending hours, days and weeks in a room full of smart, clever, outrageously creative writers...all working to together to tell the best possible story.

Our writers room session for THE DEAD MAN went great. We first discussed character and our over-arching, creative goals for the book. Then we started talking broad plot points. Then we drilled down to the novel equivalent of the eternal TV question: "what do we want our act breaks to be?" (Or, in this case, the "cliff hanger" moment at the end of our six "episodes") And once we had that, we got into the nitty-gritty of the specific beats of each "act."

That's where the real work was. We hashed it out in spirited debates while eating lots of food (and, occasionally, diverging into discussions of lame plot points in SKYFALL and the last BATMAN movie. Do you realize Bond failed at *everything* he did in SKYFALL? He didn't do anything right. Still a great movie, though).

We got started at 10:30 am and by the time we finished around 5:30 pm, we'd plotted out the novel and felt great about what we'd come up with.  Or, as one person in the room put it, we accomplished in one day what it would take an author by himself a month or two to figure out. It's going to be a kick-ass, standalone DEAD MAN novel that requires no previous knowledge of the series to enjoy...but that will also satisfy our loyal fans with a game-changing story that acknowledges past events, answers some long-standing questions, sends Matt Cahill in an exciting, new direction.

Now everybody is writing up their portion of the outline, which Bill and I will cobble together into one document and submit to our editors at Amazon Publishing's 47North imprint for their notes. Once we have their input, the authors will start writing.

I wish I had a writers room for my novels...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Streets of Blood Cover

We're excited to share the cover for THE DEAD MAN: STREETS OF BLOOD (formerly known as DREAMLAND), Barry Napier's award-winning entry in our "You Can Write a Dead Man Novel" contest last year. The book will be out this spring.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How COLDER THAN HELL Made Me a Better Writer

Anthony Neil Smith on writing COLDER THAN HELL, out this week on Amazon...

Look, I don’t do supernatural. I just flat out thought that was beyond me. I write crime novels about people doing awful things to each other, no ghosts or monsters or demons in sight. But this Dead Man thing, I was watching it grow with awe. Several friends of mine, also crime writers, got caught up in the fervor and churned out some great horror pulp. And I was jealous. Really jealous. But…I couldn’t do that sort of thing, could I? And not that they would ever ask me, anyway.

But then I got an email from Bill Rabkin—co-creator of The Dead Man series along with Lee Goldberg—who I had met via Tod Goldberg and who was writing a screenplay adaptation of my novel Yellow Medicine. That magical, unlikely email asked me to write a Dead Man novella. Yep, one o’ them spooky, supernatural, knock-em-out, fists and axes and evil spirits sort of books.

I was thinking, There is no fucking way I can do this.

But what I said was, “Yes. Yes. Yes. Fucking yes.”

And then I told them I’d get to work in May, probably have it in a couple of months.

At which point I fell off a writing cliff and had to drag my ass back up the sheer rock face inch by inch.
No idea what happened. I had recently finished a short, punchy third entry in my Billy Lafitte series. I was riding high off some nice reviews and decent sales of All the Young Warriors. But then it was as if words and me stopped getting along. In fact, those goddamn words were bullying me. Taunting me. And I didn’t know what to write.

But I was under contract for Dead Man. I had to write it. I wanted to. It ended up helping me break the drought and get back to the normal flow of things. But it didn’t take two months. It took nearly five, and I even went over the deadline by a week.

The story came to me more easily than I had expected.  At least some of it. If I had to pitch it, it would come across as “The Shining, but on a frozen interstate.” One of the most frightening things I’ve come across while living up north is the idea of being trapped in your car on an interstate or highway due to snow and ice. You’re surrounded by hundreds of others in the same boat, but you’re all little islands of loneliness, seems to me. So what if some horrible virus or spirit or [INSERT SUPERNATURAL THING HERE] was loosed on top of that?

Fine, fine, the guys in charge liked the idea. They just didn’t get the cause of it all. Something wasn’t clicking. Two reasons for that: 1) I was trying to be a bit too ambitious by tying some ancient evil from a previous Dead Man into this one, hoping to cement a place in the “mythology”, and 2) Again, I don’t do supernatural.

Anthony Neil Smith
But I wrote it, including an old 18th Century diary, some Scandinavian settles in North Dakota who met up with evil Native Americans from The Dead Man #5: The Blood Mesa who had some more ancient evil that was older than Mr. Dark’s evil, and so there was a killer on the loose and an Indian golum, and and and…

What the hell was I thinking?

I finally finished it, turned it in, and waited to be told how bad it was.

Now, the thing I discovered about Lee during the outline process is that he is one tough son of a bitch when it comes to ideas. He was shooting them down all night long. I could imagine his Grinch-like sneer as my emails came in, rubbing his hands in glee as he printed them out for the sole purpose of watching them burn.

But after I turned in the draft, something remarkable happened. His heart grew three sizes…for the first half of the novella, anyway. All the other historical/mythology stuff? I had truly wasted my (and his) time. As bad as I thought it was. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to save it. Of course I did. That was a month’s work! But it came down to Lee telling me, “Rewrite the second half. You’ve got a month.”

And I was all like, “But how do I…what should I…Can’t you tell me…?”

Why come I hadn’t thought of that? So I was learning a lot about how this sort of story works, what’s expected, how to subvert what’s expected and still deliver a good fright. And best of all, I had to write about fifty pages in a month.

In a good week, I can maybe get fifteen pages done. I hadn’t been having good weeks. But still, fifty pages was within my window of doable.

Five weeks later, I turned it in again. And this time the damn thing worked.  We went through a few edits, not so hard at all, and then Jeroen ten Berge put together a killer cover for it. This was actually happening! I was a Dead Man author! Not only that, but the turnaround on this book was a few months—it would be out by the end of January. That, of course, continued to shore up my already good impression of Amazon Publishing. They knew exactly what they were doing.

Once Dead Man #16: Colder Than Hell was out of my hands, my head was spinning with new ideas—how to fix the stalled novel, how to get a couple of other ideas I had into bed together for yet another novel. I was thinking much more like a pulp writer—write the damned story. Faster. Think through the first two drafts in your head, put the third one down as the first. Hey, I did it once, I could do it again.

All in all, this was a tremendous experience. I’m glad Lee and Bill let me play in the Dead Man toy box, and I look forward to trying it again one day, maybe. In the meantime, there’s not an hour I sit at the typewriter when I don’t think about how my writing process has changed for the better after Dead Man.

Hope you’ll check it out. And if you do happen to have travel plans through North Dakota in the winter, make sure to bring extra layers, some gloves, a thick blanket, and a last will and testament. Just in case.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Celebrate Halloween with Black Death

The fourteenth terrifying DEAD MAN tale, THE BLACK DEATH by Aric Davis, is now available, just in time for Halloween. Davis is the author of the innovative, widely-acclaimed horror novel, A GOOD AND USEFUL HURT. 

In THE BLACK DEATH, Matt Cahill is stranded in small, Indiana town in the grip of a horrible plague…not a disease, but a deadly new form of crystal meth that is turning its users into black-eyed, blood-crazed monsters and that could be even more virulently evil than the touch of Mr. Dark. So Matt embarks on a harrowing quest, a journey into darkness and depravity, to find the source of the black death and destroy its makers before the drug, and the homicidal madness it creates, can spread to the entire nation.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Dark Side of Love and Loyalty

Author Christa Faust shares her experience writing THE DEATH MATCH in a blog post on Amazon's Kindle Daily Post. She says, in part:

One of the things that appealed to me about the Dead Man series was that it wasn't just empty meaningless gore. Sure it's violent, but it also explores the psychological repercussions of that violence, delving into the darker side of love, loyalty, and friendship. With that in mind, I wanted to use my own uniquely female perspective to highlight the complex emotional depth in the character of Matt Cahill without sacrificing the kind of gripping action that the series is also known for. And combining emotion with action has always been at the heart of my own hardboiled crime fiction. It was a perfect fit.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

News from the DEAD

Lots of exciting things are happening in the world of THE DEAD MAN...

Our 13th tale, THE DEATH MATCH, by Christa Faust was published on Sept. 18th and is one of our fastest selling books yet. Readers are gobbling this one up, and for good r
eason...not only does it reveal new levels to our mythology, tying together events from several previous DEAD MAN novels, it's also full of Christa's trademark brand of dark noir that made her novels CHOKE HOLD and MONEY SHOT such widely acclaimed successes.

In October, just in time for Halloween, comes Aric Davis' exciting DEAD MAN tale THE BLACK DEATH, which pits Matt against Mr. Dark, the Hillbilly mafia, and a new evil that could sweep the nation. It's a bloody thrill-ride. But you can get a taste of Aric's unique brand of horror now in his bestseller A GOOD AND USEFUL HURT.

In November, we're releasing our fourth compilation, which contains FREAKS MUST DIE, THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL and SLAVES TO EVIL (the audiobook will follow soon).

And in December, screenwriter David Tully makes his literary debut with his DEAD MAN tale THE KILLING FLOOR, which features Mr. Dark big time...and in a way we've never seen one of the most thrilling, and darkly humorous, books in the series.

The new year will bring exciting new DEAD MAN novels from Lisa Klink, Anthony Neil Smith, Barry Napier, Chris La Tray, and Stant Litore, among others, that will deepen the DEAD MAN mythology, solve some of the mysteries, and reveal startling new aspects to Matt, Mr. Dark, and their strange relationship. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Runner Up Wins, Too

The judges in the "You Can Write a DEAD MAN Novel" contest liked the runner-up's entry so much that we've decided to award him a publishing contract, too. So look for THE DEAD MAN: COYOTE BLOOD by Chris La Tray in early 2013. But in the mean time, you can catch La Tray's work in the latest issue of BLOOD & TACOS., which is edited by author Johnny Shaw, who will also be writing a DEAD MAN novel in the coming year.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Playing Santa Claus

DEAD MAN co-creator Lee Goldberg had the pleasure of calling writer Barry Napier to let him know that he'd won the "You Can Write a DEAD MAN Novel" contest. Today, he writes on the Kindle Daily Post about the call and his reaction to the news. Here's an excerpt:

I was stopped at a red light on a Thursday afternoon at a busy intersection with my family. As a mini-meltdown from my son in the back seat rose to a thundering level, my phone rings.


 “Hi,” comes an unfamiliar voice on the other end. “This is Lee Goldberg and I’m calling to let you know that you’ve won the Write a Dead Man contest!”

I paused for a minute. My son kept screaming. With the look of shock on my face, I think my wife must have thought there was bad news on the other end.

“Oh, hi,” I said rather stupidly.

For the next thirty seconds, Lee went through some details, most of which I only caught fragments of.  Feeling like an idiot, I could hardly speak when he was done. The light turned green. A good thing, too; it’s likely the only thing that unfroze me from the amazing news that I had yet to digest.

We're looking forward to working with him on his DEAD MAN tale, which will be published in early 2013.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Winner of the You Can Write a DEAD MAN Novel Contest

We are pleased to announce that BARRY NAPIER has won the "You Can Write a DEAD MAN Novel" Contest, snagging a publishing contract for his DEAD MAN tale DREAMLAND, a $500 advance, and a $500 gift card.

Barry has published more than 40 short stories and poems in print and online. He is the author of the Everything Theory series, The Hollows, The Masks of Our Fathers, and Broken Nightlights, a short story collection. He has also had work published thought various small presses, including his novel The Bleeding Room, and two poetry collections. He has served as guest poetry editor of Inkspill Magazine and has recently completed compiling and editing the poetry anthology I Know What I Saw: poems of the unexplained.

You'll be seeing his book in the DEAD MAN series in early 2013. But you can get a sneak peek right now. His winning chapter is below.

Thanks again to everyone who entered the contest.


            She’d been in bed for so long that it seemed unnatural to be standing again.  Her old aching knees seemed fifty years younger and the lungs that had hindered her lifestyle for the last five years seemed reinvigorated, breathing in the crisp air of the afternoon.  When she breathed the clean air in it made her body feel plump, a far cry from the frail state she had last seen herself in.
            She was standing in the middle of an ancient dirt road, the ditches to each side so worn and faded that she could imagine the finger of God etching them shortly after Eden.  The dirt track wound away to both sides, bending to the right ahead of her where it eventually merged into the distant forest.  In the other direction, the path sketched itself through an impossibly green field where it then narrowed to a pencil point on the horizon of greens and blues.
            A butterfly passed by her, circled back around her head and perched on her shoulder.  It seemed to be directing her eyes slightly to the left where a long forgotten white house stood untouched by human hands for countless years.  A once-white porch sat crumbling and gray.  A porch swing hung from a single chain with its fallen twin curled up in a rusted loop on the porch boards.
            She knew this all; she had been here before and she knew that something was missing.  She looked beyond the house and saw a fence, the majority of it cracked and fallen.  She waited for a human shadow to fall across its weak posts but there was nothing.  The sun blazed down fat and bright but there was nothing behind the fence to cast a shadow, not a man, not an animal, not so much as a tree.
            She frowned and waited.  She knew that she wouldn’t be here long; she could already feel the weight of reality tugging at her, pulling her towards a world where her knees still flared with pain, where her now delicate fingers were callused and weathered.
            She looked back to the wooden fence, its rails splintered and cracked, waiting for that figure to appear.  But the blue country sky on the other side of the fence and the golden fields that rolled out beyond them were all there was to see.
And as beautiful as this all seemed, she was still slightly disappointed; the man that should be standing there by the fence post was not coming.
            In this to-good-to-be-true place, she felt a tear forming in the corner of her eye.  It was the sweetest relief imaginable, the most normal thing her body had done in weeks.  And with that sign of human frailty, that other place stopped tugging at her and simply claimed her.
            She let out a gasp and tried desperately to feel the warmth of the tear on her cheek before she was taken.

            She opened her weary eyes to a white ceiling, dreary walls and poor light.  She felt something on her shoulder, wondering if she had somehow brought the butterfly back from that country road.  But when she lolled her head to the side, she saw what perched there and it was not a butterfly.
A plastic tube brushed against her shoulder where a small patch of her dry skin was exposed by the yellow hospital gown that she wore.  The tube traveled upwards, into her nose and then, in the opposite direction, over the side of the bed and into some machine that hummed patiently.
            “Momma, you’re awake…”
            She looked over and saw Chester.  His graying hair was frazzled and the poor boy looked as if he hadn’t slept in ages.  Calling him a boy seemed foolish; the amount of life lived and the knowledge acquired from it was evident in his eyes.  But she had held him inside of her for nine months, had breastfed him, had clothed him and sent him to college, had nurtured him through his first broken heart, his first experience with death…fifty-five years old or not, Chester would always be her little boy.
            “Yeah,” she said in a shaky hoarse voice.  “Haven’t gone anywhere yet.”  
            She looked into his eyes, made tiny behind the lenses of his glasses, and was reminded of the man she had not seen by the fence.
            “You were smiling in your sleep,” Chester said.  He grinned at her when he said it, not voicing the fact that it pleased him to know that whatever dream she had been having could very well be her last, and that he was glad it had made her happy.
            The machine that she was plugged into made a persistent beep-beep sound, like a metronome for the life she had left to live.  But she did not hear it.  These days, it was hard to hear anything past the rattle in her chest when she breathed.
            There was a fleeting moment when she knew that she needed to tell Chester something, but she couldn’t remember what.  She knew that he would like to know about the house she had seen, the failing fence and the winding country road.  But that wasn’t it…there was something more.
            Her eyes were growing heavy and she felt the ghost traces of pain begin to tickle her at the knees.  She felt her eyelids fluttering and was vaguely aware that her boy was reaching out, grasping her hand lovingly.
            “Chester,” she said, so softly that she didn’t know if he had heard her.  “The man at the fence…so handsome…please stay away from the man at the fence…”
            But before her son could respond, she was gone again.

            She wore a sundress and smelled of jasmine.  The smell was pushed out ahead of her by the country breeze at her back, making it so that she walked into her own scent as she made her way over the gentle rise of an impossibly green hill.  There was a man walking with her, his eyes glued to her.  He usually wore a hat but, in those times when chivalry wasn’t quite dead just yet, he held it in his hands.  His dark brown hair stood up in several directions as a result.
            “Do you not love me?” he asked.  “Is that it?”
            “Of course it’s not,” she said.  “Nothing is ever so simple that it can be blamed on love.  Do all men think women are that stupid?”
            He grinned and looked down to his feet.  “No, I suppose not,” he said.
            She looked to him quickly, out of the corner of her eye, and repressed a smile.  There was the slightest trace of grass stains along the elbows of his shirt sleeve from where they had been rolling in the grass, kissing. Yet when his hands had found the waistband of her skirt, she had pushed him playfully away, stood up and began walking.  It was not the first time she had done this.
            “Are you waiting on marriage, then?” he asked.  “If that’s the case, I think you know I would marry you.”
            She smiled at him and stopped for a moment.  “Not all women are that stupid, either,” she said and then started walking again.
            She glanced down the hill and saw the dirt track that would lead her home.  The sunset cast out shades of subtle gold that seemed to be sewn into the ditches along the track.  God, it was such a beautiful day.  Had she had a few more glasses of wine with her lunch earlier, perhaps she would have given him what he had been seeking from her for nearly a year.  The thought made her tremble inside and she felt an anxiousness in that place that her mother told her was supposed to only be for the man she married.
            As they neared the dirt road, her male companion tensed up a bit because he knew this is where they parted ways.  “Do you want me to walk you home?” he asked.
            “I’m a big girl,” she said.  “I think I’ll be okay.”
            He nodded, leaned in and kissed her on the mouth.  He tasted like salt and she knew that the taste of wine was still lingering on her own lips.  When their tongues touched, she felt that creeping need once again.  She broke the kiss and smiled at him.
            “Can I see you tomorrow?” he asked.
            She nodded and gave him another kiss, this one on the cheek, and turned away from him.
            A few steps down the road, she paused.  Up ahead she could see the framing of a fence, like a giant crooked spine springing from the ground.  She felt the slightest bit of uncertainty and the fear caused her to turn back towards her boyfriend.
            He was headed down the road, his shoulder hunched like a defeated man and his hat once again on his head.  She smiled briefly at him, considered going to him and then thought better of it.  She watched him go until he was nothing more than a silhouette and then she started walking again.
In a blur of motion that only exists in dreams, she found herself standing by the fence. The man she has been expecting is standing there as if he had been there all along.  He wore torn blue overalls and a straw hat on his head, but she somehow knows that this is not what he wears most of the time.
“How do?” she said.  
            The man grinned and adjusted the straw hat.  He looked as if he might be a bit uncomfortable, but he never took his eyes off of her.  He didn’t speak to her, only looked her up and down.
            She stared right back, cocking her head to the side and studying him as best as she could.  She felt her heart pulling in two directions, one wanting to retreat back down the dirt trail, the other wanting to stay here with this man, to venture into that old abandoned white farmhouse with him and learn his secrets.
            Without a word, the man removed his hat in a sign of chivalry.  The gesture made no sense to her, but she instantly felt an irrational fear spreading through her. 
            And then the smell of it hit her.
            Something dead…the smell of a gutted animal left the rot in the woods in the summer.  The smell was overpowering and she thought that it might be coming from the man at the fence—a man that was very familiar to her. 
            “Why are you here?” she asked him.  “I know this is just a dream. I know I am old and dying in the real world. Why are you, of all people, here?”
            When he opened his mouth to speak, she saw his teeth.  They were misshapen, slightly yellowed.  Sharp.
            “The same as before,” he said, his voice like a spring breeze.  “To let you know it is almost time.”
“I don’t understand.”
“We’re coming,” he said to her with a smile.
            Then a scream rose up in her throat (her dreaming throat and her real one) and she opened her eyes to the hospital room.
            She saw Chester again, confused and crying.  She saw the bright lights overhead and a muted television on the wall.  And for just a fleeting moment, she saw his shape there in the room with her.  Seeing this, she screamed again.  She kept screaming until two nurses came into the room and gave her an injection which calmed her almost immediately.
            As she rest her head back onto the pillow, she looked to Chester and shook her head in defeat.
“Don’t let him in,” she told her son.  “Keep him out…he’s coming…”