The Question is: Do I Even Care?

Last week I released a new book, my first printed novel, “The Good Teacher.” As expected, I’ve sold 0 copies so far. But what do I expect. I posted only two or three notices about it and otherwise I have been quiet.

While I am tempted to blame everyone around me, I found myself asked Do I even care? Apparently I do not.

Simply put: books do not get discovered purely on chance. There are many that have had strange meteoric rising, but I would be shocked to be shown an example of a book that sells 0 copies to suddenly millions without a single peep. The point is, as a writer, I need to get people to read what I write. This doesn’t happen through osmosis. Once a book is on the market some ratio of people don’t suddenly flock to it and read it.

What keeps people away from reading? It is simple: knowledge. If someone doesn’t even know about the existence of the book there would be no chance of choice being put into the equation.

That is why I ask the question of whether or not I even care. How can anyone else care if I show no effort into showing that I have something for people to read?

The cover makes no difference.

The blurb makes no difference.

Nothing makes a difference if there is no one that even knows that it is available to read. It is the deathstroke to a new writer: not speaking about the book.

Everything else after that can be argued down to aesthetics such as is the cover catchy? Does the blurb pique interest? Is the title good?

I need to prove my question wrong and talk about my books. I need to show I care. Once that happens… well then I can figure out why I am still selling 0 copies.

Now Batting…

Now Batting…

a short story by Jeremy C Kester

All of the noise appeared to simply disappear as his foot first kicked the dirt in front of him.  For so many years, Lucas developed the ability to adhere his focus to the pitcher when he was at the plate.  This time was no different.  This time would be his last.  His brow furrowed.  His teeth clenched. Around the bat, his fingers tightened against the weight of it.  A few slow, deliberate swings adjusted all of his muscles into place.

Surrounding him, the roars of the crowds deafened the ballpark.  A feeling of excitement grew within them.  It was the final inning of the game and he was the first up to the plate.  A legend was before them for the last time.

The pitcher nodded as he received the sign from the catcher.  Lucas expected a fastball low and inside.  It was the pitch that tempted him most, but often he only felt air against the end of his bat.

“I’m ready,” Lucas muttered under his breath.

“You ready, old timer?” the catcher taunted.

Lucas ignored it.  The pitcher reared back.  Lucas caught a glimpse of the arm’s speed and angle.  Fastball.  He swung.

Change-up, low and outside.

“FOUL BALL!” the umpire yelled.

Lucas adjusted his helmet.  It hadn’t been what he expected.  Cheering wildly, the crowd recovered quickly from the brief letdown of a foul.  He glanced around allowing the energy to breathe into his lungs.  He stepped back into the box and performed the few slow, deliberate swings again.

Change-up again, high and outside.  Swinging again, only air met the bat.

“STRIKE!” the umpire yelled.

Two strikes.  Fading into his own mind, he closed his eyes again.  The crowd had gone silent once more in his mind.  Years of the game collected into a single dream before him.  When he opened his eyes, he saw her.

Somehow, through the sea of unrecognizable faces, her’s stood out. All that he was thinking disappeared as he forgot for the moment where he even was.  Her hands rested right below her chin with the look of worry, of hope directed at him.

When had been the last time he saw her?  When had she talked to him last?

“You playing, son? C’mon,” urged the umpire somewhat impatiently.  The catcher said something snide, but Lucas couldn’t hear it.  He shook his head and looked again, not believing for a moment that she would have been watching, that she would be there.  Indeed, she stood there, her eyes now closed appearing as though she was praying.

Repeating his usual swings, he found that there was nothing suddenly routine.  Memories flooded his mind and he couldn’t shake it.  All that he saw was her face.

Leaning forward at the ready, the pitcher nodded once more to the catcher.  He went from the stretch…

Fastball.  Low and inside.

All that Lucas saw was her as he swung.

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Now Batting… by Jeremy C Kester is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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Of Earth and Ice – Episode 6

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial by Jeremy C Kester

Edited by Beth Townsend-Smith

6: The Run

Gerald arrived to find Evie standing perfectly still on her one leg.  It was quiet.  Only the hum of the generators made any sound, though both women had tuned them out for the moment.

Most of the colony was asleep, except for a crew of slushers out on evening waste removal and the guards who patrolled the corridors.  Gerald discovered this was an ideal time to visit Evie each night, foregoing her own rest.  Few were around to stop or acknowledge her existence, and even fewer would dare question her motives if they had.

“How long have you been at it today?”

Evie’s eyes opened as Gerald moved into the room and sat on the same chair she always sat in.

“Does it matter?”  Evie snidely replied.  She squatted down and pushed herself off the ground trying to jump.  Once she landed, she slipped onto the ground with a loud thud.  “Damn it!”  She pounded her fist on the floor.

Gerald ran over to Evie with a look of concern. She worried that Evie was trying too hard and may hurt herself even more.  She worried there was a chance Evie would still fail.

“Don’t help me up,” Evie said, trying to brush Gerald away.

Ignoring her, Gerald gripped Evie’s arm and supported her as she got back up.  “You need to take it easy.  You are going to make it worse.”  Her voice, though always authoritative, betrayed her dismay.  “What were you even trying to do?”

“I need to be able to jump without both my legs,” Evie answered matter-of-factly.

“You don’t need to do that,” Gerald shot back as she helped Evie hop over to her cot.  

Evie now roomed in a standard officer’s quarters. The walls were more robustly insulated and were actually painted a less-dull hue of white making the room a little brighter. The furnishings, though, matched her caste and were a dull grey and brown, torn, and in general disrepair. It was a fair balance, Evie had thought.  She felt lucky enough just to have her own room, rather than have to share space with a few dozen others from her caste.

It hadn’t taken long it to be determine that the room inside the medical sector was too valuable to be taken up by her.  She was given the prosthesis, instructed on what supplies she would need, shown how to change her dressings, and been sent on her way.  Gerald had lobbied as much as she believed she could to extend Evie’s stay there, but social norms and practices had won out.

What Evie did manage to keep was far more than any caste below the first four would have been allowed.

Evie looked earnestly at Gerald.  “I told you, I need to be able to work without that leg.  It’s only a matter of time before they take that, too.” She looked at the fake leg sitting in the corner. It was dramatically more clean than it had been when it was first given to her. The activity had taken her days of scraping as there was no water allowed to her to soften any of the grime that had been left on it.

“They won’t take it.  I won’t let them.”

“Just because you’re the Commander doesn’t mean they’ll excuse your support for me.  If they found out about us, I’d be sent out to freeze and you would be exiled.”

Gerald remained still, contemplative.  Though she had once executed others for that kind of infraction, she had never considered what that meant in relation to her own actions.  She felt immediately hypocritical.  Falling in love with Evie was the last thing she’d expected when they met.  At the time, Evie wouldn’t even talk to Gerald, due to her caste.  Their initial discussions about becoming an officer had been done through a mediary, as was the standard.  Now, Gerald felt a deepening rift between her principles and her heart.

“I won’t let that happen,” she finally said, dismissing her sudden worries.  The statement sounded as unsure as her feelings.

Evie shook her head as she pulled herself away from Gerald. She leaned over to reach the prosthesis.  Gerald saw it for the first time since Evie has been dismissed from the medical sector.  It had been heavily modified since then.  Nothing was truly recognizable from the original.

Gerald watched Evie adjust the straps.  Where Evie had gotten any of the components to do what she had done to it was a mystery to Gerald.  She’d never had to forage for anything.  Being in the highest caste made it easy to get anything she wanted.  And as Colonial Commander, Gerald had far more privilege than any of her counterparts.

Once secured, Evie stood up and took steps towards the door.  Aside from the hint of a limp, Gerald saw a woman who had fully relearned how to walk.

“Where are you going?” Gerald asked.

“I’m going for a run.”

“A run?  Now?”


Gerald looked perturbed.  “Are you avoiding me?”

Evie turned, realizing what she meant.  She smiled as she looked at her lover.  Walking over, she reached out and gently touched Gerald’s chin, lifting it just enough to give her a soft kiss on the lips.  Gerald smiled back, closing her eyes.  “I will never avoid you.  It’s just easier to run with the halls empty.”

“I can’t argue with a kiss like that,” Gerald smirked.  “I’ll just let myself out and see you tomorrow then.”

Evie grinned and turned to leave.

The brisk air of the hallway greeted her sharply as she walked out the door.  The common areas were not kept nearly as warm as any of the personal quarters, even for those of her caste.  It was an effort to conserve as much energy as possible.  Envigorated by the cold, she began a short jog, stumbling a little with each step.  Though she was proficient in walking with her new leg, running was still a challenge, and she needed to be even faster than she was before if she was going to be personally satisfied with her recovery.

It didn’t take long before she had left the officer’s sector and entered the markets. It was a small zone where all trading was permitted, outside of the rationing distribution centers.

The whole colony was once the underbelly of Chicago. Now they were nearly 1,000 feet under the ice that had moved through the area, decimating the statuesque skyline that preceded them. It looked nothing like it once had, having evolved into the honeycomb system that it was now.

The colony was divided into multiple sectors, two of which circumscribed the rest. The outermost ring was occupied by the Iradiles, with general militia and defense systems the next circle in.

Inside these two rings, the remaining 5 castes were organized, interspersed with common areas.  The council quarters and council chambers were the most insulated, being at the core, and surrounded by the officers stations, which provided another layer of defense.  Directly outside the officer’s chambers were several stations, manned each night to monitor the traffic going in and out of all sectors.

Evie passed through with ease, as they were now used to her new nightly ritual.  She typically left for her runs after she and Gerald parted ways, but tonight was different in that she felt even more eager to master her abilities.

The sounds of her off-balance steps echoed in the empty corridors as she jogged lightly.  Each time that her replacement limb hit the pavement, she felt as though she were going to topple over.  Her heart leapt forward each time until she settled into the rhythm.  It was the same each night: she would begin her run unsure and unbalanced, but eventually find her stride.

She passed the markets and the trading zones.  Each place was empty, save for those of her caste moving waste from the area.  They made no contact, thinking that she had abandoned them.  She didn’t blame them.  She could only hope that her actions, that her success would one day drive change.  It was why she always pushed forward.  Maybe in proving her own value, the value of others could be more easily discovered.

As she turned down a long hallway that led to the first living zone, she was surprised by an abrupt, heavy hit to the back of the head.  Her body fell forward, propelled by her prosthetic leg.

The attacker was dressed all in black, their face covered by a mask.  It was an eerie mask, reminiscent of a rabid dog guise some child might wear during those old harvest celebrations.  Evie yelped as she hit the floor.

The suddenness of the attack threw her off her guard, but despite the hit she was able to spin around to grab the attacker.

The masked individual was fast and strong.  Using what once was her dominant leg, she tried unsuccessfully to kick the attacker off.

A knife slashed back and forth.  Evie fought furiously to parry each swipe, only to end up with a slice across her forearm and shoulder.  She screamed, pulling one hand around to punch the attacker in the side of the head. The attacker grunted before rolling off to the side clutching their ear, the knife fell and skid away out of reach. Amateur, Evie found herself briefly thinking seeing the attacker lose their weapon. She focused though trying not to let her ego get in the way. Evie saw blood trickle from the between the person’s fingers.  Earrings, Evie thought as she tried to stand.  In the moment, her mind went immediately into patterns of training and instinct instead of considering her injury, and she lost her balance, falling down again.

The attacker saw this as an opportunity and lunged forward once more, pulling out the small club that was used to begin the attack, and swung a direct hit.

As she lost consciousness, Evie heard the attacker hiss, “If you don’t stop, you pathetic pissant, next time we’ll kill you.”


Previous Episode – 5: A Casual Meeting | Next Episode coming October 1st 2015

Of Earth and Ice – Episode 5

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial by Jeremy C Kester

5: A Casual Meeting

“I am concerned that your pursuit of this matter is compromising your judgement.” Chairwoman Urbina sipped a warm cup of tea as she sat across from Gerald. A few hours after the council meeting, Urbina had summoned the Colonial Commander to voice her own concerns privately.

Her office was located near the center of the colony just a few dozen feet from the central council chamber. Like much of the area surrounding them it was ornate, clean, and well maintained. A small computer that looked new by the colony’s standards sat upon the desk and a wall of monitors was too the side. Some flickered with graphs depicting the conditions both inside and outside the colony, energy usage in the different zones, as well as other data that interested the councilwoman. The amount of data was dizzying to Gerald as she looked at it, in part as she had never the stomach to review data at nauseum.

Gerald quietly contemplated her response before saying, “nothing in my actions are for anything other than for the benefit of the colony.”

“That’s the response that I was expecting that you’d tender,” Urbina said as though it were a long exasperated sigh. She paused for a moment and drummed her fingers on her desk. Her eyebrows raised as she asked “do you understand why we have six castes?”

“I’ve never bothered to study the specifics, councilwoman,” Gerald answered honestly. Despite the education afforded to her in the colony, it never included much on the history of why the caste system was set up other than mild allusions to there being a need for segregation to organize the colony based on skill sets. Such information never fit much into her logic, but she ignored those thoughts and never questioned it. Responsibility dictated that she never questioned the reasons offered.

“That’s a shame that you were never given more than whatever nonsense we fill everyone’s head with,” the councilwoman stated. “I would have assumed that your position should warrant such entitlements.” Urbina’s tone was turning almost playful in its exercise of words.

The admission though worried Gerald. Was there something that she wasn’t aware of? What else were they hiding from her?

She opted to reply as unknowing as possible without admitting that she read further into the statement than was intended. “Unfortunately our education is fairly propagandist in that vein, councilwoman.”

Urbina lifted her cup and looked at it disappointingly at it’s lack of liquid. Gerald was sure that the woman wanted to task her with refilling it but thought better of it.

“Very true,” Urbina stated as she walked over to a small container off to the side of the office. She gently picked up the container as though it were a precious, fragile child. She brought the container over to her desk where a small cup sat. The cup was a faint pink with hues of blue that resembled what one might assume to have once been flowers. The cup looked old and worn. Urbina slowly opened a spout from the container and poured a hot liquid from the container before reversing her movements to put the container back onto the shelf on the side of the room.

When the woman sat back down, she inspected her cup by placing both hands around the cylinder and breathing the vapors deeply.

“It is quite a shame that we guard these things so much,” she continued, “but one cannot truly say too much about the true reasons for our excessive layering else we might find ourselves in a predicament.”

“Go on,” Gerald said impatiently. Her eyes narrowed at the woman sitting in the room.

“Well the reason that we placed so many layers was something of a distraction to the other castes. Each group only focuses on the one directly above and the one directly below. We in the Ariledite caste can easily cause discourse among the others with simple actions such as letting an Iradile become an officer.”

Gerald forced herself not to react. She knew that she had to remain as numb as possible to what the councilwoman had just implicated. Did this mean that Evie was simply being used to create discourse within the colony? The scenarios ran through Gerald’s mind in an instant and she knew that it was true.

The desire to leap across the desk and strangle Urbina was overwhelming. How could she put Evie in danger like that? Gerald struggled to remain relaxed. Any display of tension could inadvertently expose Gerald’s feelings for the young girl. Such admissions would wreck her career and likely end her life. She struggled to remain calm. Quakes of struggle rumbled through her body as she fought against it.

But she remained stoic. “I understand the council’s reasons for placing her into that position, but my choice in doing so was as a reward for her duties and a result of displayed attributes. I cannot run the militia in the same manner as the colony. Thusly I need those of skill in certain positions regardless of their standing in our social strata. This is how I choose to separate these two worlds.”

“Wise words,” Urbina said, her eyes narrowing just enough for Gerald to take note. She was searching for anything from the commander, but ultimately found nothing. Urbina placed the cup on the table and leaned back on her chair. “But we cannot separate them as you appear to be able to, and our ability to bank on this scenario is beginning to falter. We are losing support across the Ariledites, Geraldine. This iradile’s predicament has compromised her standing.and eroded the support she once had.” There was a brief pause as the woman sat contemplatively chewing over her words. She licked her lips once and it reminded Gerald of a stray cat enjoying it’s meal.

Urbina continued with an almost gleeful change to her tone’s inflection. “I was going to ask you to discontinue your support for the young lady to save your career and to save the face of the council, but I think it might prove an even better spot for us were you to throw your full weight into it.”

Gerald while continuing to avoid any other posture narrowed her eyes inquisitively. “I am not sure that I am following any longer.”

“What do you think would happen if we were successful in allowing her to retain her rank?”

Gerald knew what the answer was. Having a disabled officer who was an Iradile would undoubtedly cause even further dissent within the castes. Evie would become a target undoubtedly being murdered for being nothing more than a capable young lady. The murder would allow for the Urbina and the council to force further restrictions on the rest of the colony as a result.

It meant placing Evie into danger.

Gerald cursed herself that she hadn’t seen it before. Had she not defended Evie in the first place and solely recommended some honorable discharge as recognition for her service, none of this would be in play. Evie would have become a neutral component of the colony, no longer a threat to anyone involved. Now, no matter what scenario would come to fruition, Evie was going to suffer.

Gerald focused on her breath trying to expel any urge to react to the assumption. But she needed to get control of the conversation. Though she answered to the council as a whole, she was supposed to be the single most powerful political figure in the colony. The realization was that she needed to appear that she was in control.

And that this was her own plan all along.

The words almost spill out of her effortlessly. “The unrest will deepen. They won’t focus on a soldier having earned her position. They will see a crippled Iradile who had been given a rank she shouldn’t have. She’ll become the target, the scapegoat for the other castes’ lack of power. It’ll leave them vulnerable to our own plans.”

Watching Urbina she allowed a small smirk to show on her face. It was a lie, but the effect is what fed it. “And that’s what my intention was, Councilwoman,” she said letting the bitter taste of her words flow like sweet sugar. “It’s what I’ve been planning for.”

Now more than ever she had to convince Evie to quit.


Previous Episode – 4: Decision | Next Episode – 6: The Run

Of Earth and Ice – Episode 4

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial by Jeremy C Kester

Edited by Beth Townsend-Smith

4: Decision

“Why do you have such an interest in this girl?”

The question was unceremoniously blunt, but Gerald was prepared.  Calmly, she stared straight ahead and answered, “She is a soldier on unquestionable skill and unwavering determination.  Despite being Iradile, she has proven remarkable capabilities.  I cannot afford to lose that.”

“Even though she’s crippled now?  I worry about you growing an attachment to this scum.”  The councilman’s words were dribbling out slow and thick like blood from the tooth of a feral dog feasting on a carcass.  Gerald sat still and tried to remain completely emotionless, to explain to the council in the most logical of terms why someone in Evie’s caste should continue to be afforded rehabilitation, never mind retain an officer’s rank. “Do you understand the repercussions that we continue to face given what we’ve already given this blight?”

“I cannot commit to saying that she is anything less than an officer in the militia.  Her rank defines her now,” Gerald stated dryly ensuring that her eyes were emotionally dead as she glared at the councilman. “And as such, she has been one of the most decorated and successful in recent memory.  I agree that those of her kind should not be encouraged to follow the same path, but we cannot be so foolish as to deny her better treatment after what she has done for this colony.”

“Yes, yes, Geraldine,” a woman cut in.  It was councilwoman Urbina, an Ariledite and chairperson of the council.  She, along with Gerald, was one of the two highest ranking individuals in the colony.  Though Urbina was also a working co-member of the council, she carried the group as a leader and instructed them.  Gerald was the Colonial Commander, the highest military official and executor of the colony.  It was a form of presidency, but the position remained under council directive.

Urbina had been the one deciding vote that originally granted Evie her officership.  It passed 6 to 5, with only 1 dissenting vote from another Ariledite member of the council.  Each member of the other 4 castes voted against an Iradile gaining any rank.

“You know that I fully support this young lady’s position, but, considering this defeat as well as her injuries, I cannot say that the same level of confidence I had in her before endures.”

“Madam,” Gerald said, “she was the highest ranking survivor of that mission.  Actually, her squad was the only one that survived━”

“A squad she left to die!”  The first councilman angrily interjected.  As in every conference previously, councilman Torrence did not support Evie in any manner.

“Her squad says differently,” was Gerald’s poised rebuke.

“Commander,” the Xepes delegate cut in, “we all read the mission reports.  Every squad member, of course, spoke very highly of your Evie, as has been the case countless times before.  The fact remains, she is still an Iradile.  Any concessions we gave her before are void.  She is a cripple and useless to us.  She should join the rest of her caste now and be left to die.”

“The Iradiles are the only thing that keep your kind’s bellies off of the ground, councilman,” Gerald shot back.  A few of the higher caste members chuckled and coughed.

“Let’s keep this on task,” Urbina urged the group.

Gerald composed herself and faced forward again.  “Council, until Evie can be evaluated on the field, we need to abstain from a decision.  I agree, it is difficult to support a continuance of her position in her current state, but even after being deprived of the same treatments as an Ariledite, she has persevered and continues to improve.  She is a tough soldier and I insist that we recess until I can decide whether she could be cleared for combat again. If she cannot be reasonably cleared, then I will relent my opinion on this matter and defer to the council’s wishes.”

“I think that we can agree to that, at least,” Urbina said.

Most of the council nodded in agreement, though the two who protested continued to do so.  This minority grew increasingly quiet in their defeat, however, as the remaining members sided with Urbina.

“Don’t make us regret this decision, Gerald,” Urbina instructed.  “I don’t want to have to find a new Colonial Commander.  You and your officer will continue to be under heavy scrutiny.  Tread softly.”


Previous Episode – 3: Steadied | Next Episode – 5: A Casual Meeting

Of Earth and Ice – Episode 3

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial by Jeremy C Kester

Edited by Beth Townsend-Smith

3: Steadied

Evie steadied herself.  This was her first time attempting to walk since waking up in the clinic.  She’d never imagined having to adjust to using a prosthetic limb, but given the circumstances she was eager to try anything that would allow her to prove herself.

She was in a strange position.  Being the only member of her caste ever awarded an officer’s rank, she felt vulnerable.  She was a target.  Everyone wanted her to fail.  Even her own caste wanted her to renounce her rank and fall back in line.

Only Gerald was anxious for Evie’s success.  

The prosthesis was uncomfortable.  It was ill-fitted but long enough to replace the bottom half of her leg. She had lost it up to the knee. Given the limited resources, there weren’t many alternatives for her.  Her legs quivered as she placed her weight firmly on the ground.

“Take your time,” her therapist, Jo, urged. Although he tried to sound compassionate, his tone did not translate. “This isn’t going to happen quickly for you.”

Evie ignored him.  She had no interest in listening to anything that she felt might encourage her to give in.  The hard socket chafed against the soft padding of the gauze.  Though it had been weeks now since losing her limb, the wounds all felt fresh. She winced as she shifted forward, trying to take the step.  Before she knew it, she felt herself falling.

Jo rushed over to his patient, who was now on the floor cursing loudly.  “It’s alright,” he tried to say reassuringly, before getting hit with an elbow as the young woman threw her arms back in an attempt to recover her balance.

Unable to get up, she instead spun around and sat down on the ground.  She unbuckled the straps from around her thigh and threw the prosthesis across the room.  “FUCK YOU!” she screamed. “FUCK YOU!”

Hand on his face, Jo looked exasperatedly at the young girl.  For weeks he had been working with her just to reach this point.  He knew that Evie was stubborn, but he had hoped that she would understand the painful and slow reality of the process of learning to walk again.

Only two castes above Evie’s own, Jo, like most of the people in the colony, remained steadfast in their dislike for Evie’s kind.  He reasoned that she should feel damn lucky for an Iradile .  Any other of her caste would have been left out in the cold.  Why does this scum get treated any different?  She should know her place.

He wanted to take her in for the blow to his jaw, but such accusations wouldn’t work against an officer.  Militia rules superseded social law.  But Iradiles were not supposed to be officers.

“You need to take your time.  It will not happen on the first try.”  Jo’s voice was stern and angry.

“I don’t need to take any goddamn time!  I need to walk!” she yelled, commandingly.  “Help me or leave, but don’t you dare hold me back!”  She glared at him.  Jo could only focus on the tattoo above her eye.  The mark of the Iradile.  It made him angrier.

Not saying a word, Jo turned and walked out of the room.  It was as Evie expected, though it hurt her the same.

Alone, Evie began to cry.  It was the first time in a long while that she felt comfortable enough to do so.  She let the tears drop onto the floor, leaving perfect little circles of moisture. She watched them carefully as she regained her focus.  She allowed herself to feel pity for only a moment.  No one else besides Gerald would do so, and she was not going to allow herself to be swallowed by it.

She wiped the tears away, her hands shaking.  They were still bandaged, as well, save the fingers she had remaining.  As they grazed past her eyes, she saw them.  The tips of her fingernails were white, something that she had never noticed before. She never was able to get them that clean before.  The grime that usually coated her nail beds had previously left them almost permanently black.

Shaking herself, she crawled over to the bed and pulled herself up as best as she could.  She grunted and hissed from the seething pain.  The wounds were not healed enough and she was no longer allowed any medication for the pain.  Such comforts had been allotted to her only briefly and swiftly taken away.  She swore that, if they could have, they’d have somehow harvested back what they had put into her body.  It was only her rank that had graced her with the bare minimum of relief.

Once on her foot, she pushed herself away from the support of the bed and simply stood.  She didn’t move; she just stood, letting her mind focus on the pain and the quiet of the room.

She could hear the hum of the reactors through the thick concrete of the colony.  It was where the warmth was generated from.  Evie was used to the cold, though, or at least she was used to less heat. She wavered a little as she forgot that she was concentrating on balancing.  Already her leg was beginning to quake from standing.  She wasn’t strong enough, but she knew that if she wasn’t able to make it happen, she was doomed.

Previous Episode – 2: A Good Slusher | Next Episode – 4: Decision

Of Earth and Ice – Episode 2

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial by Jeremy C Kester

Edited by Beth Townsend-Smith

2: A Good Slusher

Evie stared down at the empty space where the lower half of her leg once was.  Despite recovering the environmental unit on her suit, frostbite had taken hold of her. She’d lost 2 more toes, 3 fingers, and suffered terrible scarring across her back and limbs.

Letting out a deep sigh, she leaned back against the pillow in her colony’s clinic. Her eyes blinked tightly before resuming their focus on the ceiling.  It was a repeated cycle.  Each time she would look down expecting her leg to be in its proper place.  Not once had it changed, but she continued the ritual as she tried to recall how she arrived back at the colony.

She was draped in a pristine, white gown with wires and tubes protruding from random parts of her body.  She was clean for the first time in nearly 2 months.  It felt strange.  It always felt strange to be clean.  Despite the ice that surrounded them, harvesting water took energy, energy they could not afford to waste.

Water was vital to the health of the colony and personal bathing was one of the uses that was heavily rationed.  Just like water used to clean up waste, it had to be filtered and recycled or else disposed of.  Neither was an easy option to manage.  It was just easier to use less.  Drink what was needed; ration the rest.  Evie didn’t mind not bathing.  She had been used to it since she was a kid.  In the midst of how busy she normally kept herself, she’d never really thought much of it.

“I see that you’re awake finally?”

Evie heard a familiar voice suddenly at her side.  She turned her head to see her commander followed by the doctor and a nurse.  Gerald was a tall, slender woman only a few years older than Evie.  She had a worn look in her eyes, while otherwise having a smooth, clean appearance.

Gerald kept her pale blonde hair short in what would have been described once as a pixie cut. Her eyes were light brown and carried the years of hardship that she had endured as the colony’s leader.  Her body was lean and strong, the mark of a person in a high caste.  Food was more readily available to those of greater social status allowing them to sustain a healthy lifestyle if they so chose to do. She dressed in her military dress code: well pressed slacks with a perfectly starched button down blazer over an equally dark shirt. On her shoulders she wore the green emblem rank of Colonial Commander with no other adornments anywhere to be seen. Gerald disliked the other markings that other officers were forced to wear, including their caste’s symbol. She felt that with her rank, she was free to set her own dress protocol and did so with no protest.

Evie, in stark contrast, was dark hair, dark skin, and was from the lowest caste.  The few years of life that she had endured already etched trenches of hardship into her skin. Her eyes were drawn and always kept with them a sense of quiet exhaustion. Despite being a high ranking officer in the colony’s militia, Evie found herself held back by her unfortunate birthright.

Still feeling groggy, Evie raised a heavily bandaged hand to salute her superior.  Evie’s eyes widened in surprise as she realized the missing fingers for the first time.  Gerald returned the courtesy.  Evie held her hand up for a few moments trying to determine just how badly injured her hands were.

“It could’ve been a lot worse, you know,” Gerald remarked, as she pulled a small chair alongside the bed and sat down.

The doctor walked around the bed, barely acknowledging Evie’s commander.  Evie automatically noted his markings indicating her caste.

“How long was I gone, ma’am?” Evie asked.  Her voice was ragged and meek.  To her own ears, she sounded drunk.  She thought of the extensive amounts of drugs that must’ve been employed on her.

“We lost contact with you and your squad for a few hours.  The remaining troops found you after the rest of the was area cleared out,” Gerald explained, her tone steady and unemotional.  “You’ve been unconscious for a few days.”

The doctor shook his head disapprovingly.  Normally, their caste never spoke to someone of the highest caste, that which Gerald belonged.  Even the doctor had to use the nurse, who was a member of a middle caste, as a mediary to speak to Gerald.  

Besides Evie, no officers in the colony’s militia were of the low castes.  She was a rare, the only, exception to that rule.

Overall, the colony was divided into 6 separate castes.  The only ones considered to truly matter were the two lowest and the one highest.  The high caste, or the Ariledites, were the governing caste.  They were the only people allowed to sit on the high council save three seats.  They had full, unrestricted access to any supplies they felt it necessary to have.

The next three castes, the Yuotiphers, Giridites, and Rephers respectively, were all allowed one representative each to sit on the council as a voting member.  Their supplies were also rationed, but to a much lesser extent. Each had rights successively removed.

The low castes, Xepes and Iradiles, were all non-voting members of the colony.  Most were employed by the colony in some form of heavy labor or defense.  They could hold higher positions in the society’s labor force, although such waivers were heavily regulated.  Those who showed great skill, such as the doctor, were given caste waivers and allowed to pursue a more venerable job.  Despite this allowance, they remained locked into their social status.  Iradiles were the least regarded and not permitted to even speak directly to Ariledites or Yuotiphers.

Each caste was distinguished by tattoos given at birth.  Ariledites were marked on their forearm leaving their face clean and untouched. Iradiles’ tattoos were above their left eye. The remaining castes had their symbol tattooed visibly on their left cheekbone.

No one now living was alive during the initial setup of their colony’s government and caste system.  It was just accepted protocol; it was normal.

Since Evie had attained the rank of officer, she was permitted to speak to anyone, but only if spoken to first.  Over time she and Gerald had formed a friendship, an anomaly that was never allowed.  In spite of this, not wanting to ever feel as though she were taking advantage of her privilege, Evie most often chose to simply follow the rules of social convention and courtesy.

“Her vitals are looking good,” the doctor told the nurse.  Gerald heard this and patiently waited for the nurse to walk over and repeat it.  Once the nurse did so, Gerald resumed her conversation with Evie.

She noticed a sadness in the young woman’s eyes.  “You’ll be fine,” Gerald said, trying to reassure her soldier.

“I’m a mess, ma’am,” Evie replied, bluntly.  “I wouldn’t even make a good slusher.”

Slusher was the nickname given to those who handled all waste generated by the colony. It was a job no one wanted and only Iradiles had.

The pair were silent for a little while. Gerald sat keeping herself poised and stoic. The doctor and attending nurse finished examining the various devices and attachments monitoring Evie’s condition. When they changed her bandages, Evie quietly closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, refusing to look or give in to the pain. Gerald, however, watched with grim curiosity.

When their tasks were complete, Gerald instructed that they left the room leaving her and Evie alone. Evie steadily held her gaze forward as Gerald watched the door close and listened for the latch. Gerald waited a few minutes before she stood up, walked over to the door, and cracked it open.

The hall was fairly busy, but it appeared that no one was waiting outside or were much aware of the room.

Quietly, Gerald closed and latched the door again. For good measure, she grabbed her chair and carried it toward the doorway wedging it so that it could not be opened unexpectedly.

“We can’t keep doing this anymore, Gerry,” Evie said, as she kept focusing straight ahead.  “My privileges won’t excuse this.  They’ll kill us both.”

Gerald continued in silence, wedging the chair firmly against the door and checking it until she was sure that no one could open it.  Feeling confident this was done, she walked back to the bed and climbed up, kissing Evie while gently holding her face with both hands.

“I thought you were dead,” Gerald said, her eyes welling with tears completely releasing the stone-like presence she was holding earlier.

Evie said nothing.  She accepted the kiss of her lover and began to cry softly.  She had survived by sheer luck, but she suddenly felt her luck expiring.

Previous Episode: 1: Failure Imminent | Next Epsiode –  3: Steadied

Of Earth and Ice

Of Earth and Ice

a sci-fi web-serial by Jeremy C Kester

Edited by Beth Townsend-Smith

1: Failure Imminent

Evie needed time to think; she didn’t have the time to think.

The assault on the supply convoy had been a bitter disaster.  The importance of this mission had been paramount, since so few of these convoys make it through as it is.  Procuring one meant sustaining life in the colony.  Such ventures were often far less dangerous and certainly more successful than scavenging and hunting.  Animals and plants were so sparse now.

As far as Evie was aware, she was the only survivor.  Having sustained heavy damage to her environmental suit, she couldn’t communicate with anyone to confirm this, and she was quickly losing the warmth that her body so desperately needed.

The Heads-Up Display (HUD) in her helmet flashed: ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL FAILURE.  INTERNAL TEMPERATURE AT CRITICAL LOW.  COMMUNICATION FAILURE.  Gauges all confirmed the warnings.  Her eyes followed each nervously, trying to assess herself.

Stumbling, she found a small crack in the ice.  She struggled inside, barely fitting through the entrance.  It would help make finding her nearly impossible.  Good if an enemy was on the hunt, bad if she was being sought by allies.  But, she needed the security, at least until she could assess just what damage there was.


Feeling as protected as she could for the moment, Evie placed her rifle on the ground and began to examine the extent of the damage and whether repairs could be made.  She was already shivering.  The additional layers that she always insisted on wearing, despite their discomfort, were failing.  It was cold.  It was terribly cold.

It had been over 200 years since the last great ice age made Earth uninhabitable.  The other planets in the solar system had already been populated, leaving homes available to those who could afford to leave Earth behind as the ice and cold quickly choked out life.

Over 5 billion people were initially left on Earth, the vast majority of them impoverished even before this disaster.  Most of them died off before long.  The only poor to make it off of the planet allowed themselves to be enslaved or indentured, just to ensure that they would have plenty of food to survive.  

There were only 3 million people left fighting to survive the cold on Earth before long.

Temperatures plummeted below -50⁰C as soon as the ice pushed forward.  The northern cities fell under the advance of the ice, while the southern cities quickly became havens for the world populations’ desperate attempts to escape the cold.  Sixteen billion people were condensed into ⅓ of the space that humanity was accustomed to.  As the population began to fall off, those who could left willingly and abundantly.

Water supplies froze over, livestock died off, insects perished, plants vanished.  Great amounts of wildlife disappeared.  Only pockets of warmth existed and, when discovered, they were destroyed by humans looking for any way to survive.  Only those animals most adapted to cold climates survived, if at all.

The cold continued to move both southward and northward from the southern hemisphere.  No one could figure out what brought it.  Those left behind only concerned themselves with survival.  Those who fled no longer cared.

Small clusters of humanity found communal shelters in underground urban centers.  Subway tunnels and sewers became the centers of human habitation.  Such areas were ideal structures beneath the glaciers, as they provided insulation, protection from the hostile environment outside.

As she feared, the environmental regulators on her suit were were obliterated.  None of the additional armor had worked in guarding the unit, only her life. Now, it appeared that it may have been in vain.

Only a complete replacement of the unit would solve the problem.  Installation would be simple, even while losing motor control, if she had another intact unit to use.  A closer examination revealed that the connections were still intact.  Evie needed a new unit, though.  That was the more pressing matter.  She would likely freeze to death long before finding another one.

That was why she was getting colder.  The environmental unit usually regulated her body’s temperature against the staggering cold outside.  Very few could survive it.  All she had to protect her was her own body’s heat and what little insulation the suit alone provided, which wasn’t enough.

That was already a major concern, even before considering the breech in her leg. The blood that had managed to escape was already frozen solid. Crystallized crimson.

Her hands were quaking as she drew back from checking the suit.

Evie looked around on the chance there was anything, other than ice, nearby that could help her.  There was nothing.  Her choices were limited.  That limitation brought to her a surprising calm.

Instead of sitting and freezing to death, Evie decided to risk searching for her unit.  Somebody, anybody who might be dead or alive, though she preferred them dead.  That way, she wouldn’t be stealing someone else’s provisions.  Perhaps she could make the repairs to her suit if the enemy didn’t find her first.

Slowly, she pulled herself out of the crevasse, dragging her rifle behind her.  Each movement of her body gave her just a little more warmth.  But the pain and stiffness of her joints beginning to feel the effects of the cold were making themselves apparent.  She had to keep moving.  Through movement, Evie could hope to ease the soreness and maybe extend her life just long enough to find salvation.

Looking around, she saw nothing.  She couldn’t remember how far she had traveled from the fray.  She knew only the direction she had come from.  Going that way, as much as it may have meant death if she encountered the enemy, it was her greatest chance of life.


Stumbling as she pulled herself to her feet, Evie struggled onward.  She was shivering, quaking with every step.  Only her mental push was making her move forward.  Every movement was excruciating, but she could feel herself fighting against freezing.  The movement was staving off death.

After what felt like an eternity, Evie noticed a couple of the bodies of her fallen comrades.  A small flame of hope suddenly spiked her adrenaline.

Shaking violently, she fell alongside one body.  The bitter cold was beginning to sting her every sense.  Somehow, though, she found the adrenaline to roll it over, seeking an intact regulator unit.  Fortunately, she was barely able to get it off of her comrade and onto her own suit before passing out from the cold.


Evie’s view turned black.

Next Episode – 2: A Good Slusher

“The Good Teacher” released!


I feel a moment of relief as I just did something awesome this week (in my opinion):

“The Good Teacher” is now available on Amazon!

Here are the links and prices:

This book is actually the 2nd completed novel I have ever written and the 1st full novel I have published. It is my 5th piece of published work overall.

I wrote this book over 12 years ago. Since then, it has hung around in my to-do list to finish off and publish. At one point I had teased the idea of submitting it to the traditional publishing houses, but eventually it just fell off as I wanted to write other things (mainly sci-fi, which this book markedly is not).

Recently I resurrected it to help practice a few points of my self-publishing endeavors (blurbs, cover design, interior design, etc) and to get something out there as I haven’t done much else in nearly 3 years. Is it a good book? I think so, but you will have to decide.

What’s great about this is that it marks a major project that I have gotten out of my backlog. I still have a lot of items that are backlogged, but now there is one less. For 12 years I suffered this story debating on whether or not to even consider it publishable, but now it is out there in the world and off of my chest. I can move on.

I have another that should be out in a few weeks. I am waiting on the artwork for a short story called “Into Fire’s Den,” a fantasy action-adventure set in a world where dragons are a fierce problem that has kept humanity contained. It should be ready in October.

Now my focus will be on 3 projects for the near-term:

  1. Complete the second draft of Gravity book 3. Goal is a November release, although that will likely be pushed back due to numerous factors. That one’s been sitting in my project list since finishing it nearly 1 ½ years ago. Time to get it done so everyone can find out what is happening with Haden and Adrianna.
  2. Complete the second draft of “The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle.” I have no completion goals on this one other than soon. 1st draft was done 2 or 3 months ago. I’ve been sitting on it since then.
  3. Write the 1st draft of “Mazzy,” a stand-alone YA action-adventure novel.

In the meantime I will also be writing other things in order to keep juices flowing in case I stall anywhere else and rebuilding my websites which were destroyed by my own idiocy (read here). Stay tuned!

And I’m Back

So I had a bit of an issue…

Basically my sites got suspended for what they called “malware” but were really outdated files that could be used to hack my sites. Unfortunately I had not had the adequate time to look into this and so they axed me. After fixing the issue, there started some other errors.  I ended up just causing a complete meltdown of my site from my lack of paying enough attention and trying to rush through things.

Now I have to start over.

Not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of my site. I have mostly everything ever on there saved. But I find myself not caring that I have anything saved. I want to just start fresh again. That’s what I am going to do: start over.

Welcome back to the site and over the coming weeks you will see it be rebuilt. Sorry if you even cared.

A site about this guy who writes stuff