Get Your Copy Of “Almanecer” Today!

There are two options for buying a physical copy of Almanecer – the basic print copy & the autographed copy, signed by Michael Troy Knedel.

Almanecer – Print copy ($14.99)

Almanecer – Autographed copy ($19.99)

Almanecer is also available for the Kindle, iPad, & Nook. We have the links below (link to Sony E-Reader coming soon):

  

Come To The “Almanecer” Release Party 8/13/2011!!!

We are proud to announce the release of Almanecer and, along with it, the official book release party on August 13th, 2011, in Altadena, California!  Here is the official blurb from the Almanecer Facebook page:

Almanecer Signing/Release Party- 2 open bars, DJ, Catering provided by Rounds Burgers from 6 until 9. Pre-purchasers of the book will enjoy unlimited food and alcohol for them and a guest. Books purchased the day of will receive a voucher for a free Rounds burger and fries as well as 3 alcoholic beverage vouchers. Live music throughout the evening. DJ will finish out the night in style! This is one summer event you don’t want to miss. For book purchasing information visit: http://almanecer.com/

If you have not already received an invite and would like to go, please send an e-mail to info@almanecer.com, and don’t forget, it’s still not too late to pre-order the book!  Click here to do so if you haven’t already.  Thank you and I am looking forward to seeing you all on August 13th!

Click the image below to go to the Facebook event page for the Almanecer book release party.

What Is Almanecer?

The book takes place, for the most part, in the future and so it kind of qualifies as a science fiction novel by default.  However, fun things like flying cars, skyways, and the cellular implants (that’s right, implants) that have replaced cell phones are just the icing on the cake.  The story centers around a man, Calvin Dunn, who lost it all in life – his home, his wife, his father – and is on the brink of self-destruction when he agrees to take part in a unique science experiment, where he will be frozen for twelve years with a sort of organic antifreeze. Things go awry and Calvin wakes up twenty-two years later, in a world that has changed more rapidly and profoundly than he could have ever imagined.

How, you ask?

Calvin finds himself in a world nearly devoid of organized religion.  A nuclear blast detonated in Jerusalem comes to be viewed by the world as an ultimate debunking of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as the holy land all three religions centers around has now become a radioactive wasteland.  The ever-faithful Calvin finds this hard to accept, and comes to feel like an outcast in the future, left behind by the world’s advancements and innovations, uncertain of his own abilities to catch up.

Is that all?

Certainly not.  For the second time in his life, Calvin finds himself at the brink of self-destruction, when he discovers that he may be the one who holds the key to an incredible secret that affects every single human being on Earth.

The Cover Of “Almanecer” Plus Sneak Preview Of Chapter 1!!!

1

 

Calvin slowly opened his eyes.  He found his bedroom ceiling in view, illuminated by morning light which spilled in through a sliding glass door.  The light was aggravating, and he contemplated getting up to shut his blinds.  Instead, he rolled onto his right side and pointed his vision away from the glass door.  Before he shut his eyes again, he briefly glimpsed the disarray of his bedroom – clothes strewn about the floor, papers stacked on every piece of furniture, plates with nothing on them but crumbs and blotches of sauce.  A plastic cup that was filled to the rim with vodka and orange juice last week was nothing more than a spittoon for sunflower shells now.  Calvin shut his eyes tightly and hoped that when he opened them, everything would be neat and tidy again.  Not just the room, but his entire existence.  He felt himself drift off for a moment, then was jerked back to reality by the sensation of falling in his mind.  He inhaled deeply, grimacing at the scent of unwashed laundry.

 

He sat up and pivoted toward the glass door, squinting slightly as he faced the sunshine.  The change in body elevation brought a sharp throbbing to both temples.  He rubbed them vigorously with his palms and felt slight relief.  Grabbing his cell phone from a nightstand, he looked at the screen and saw that it was 8:20 AM.  Doing a little quick math, Calvin determined that he had gotten three hours and ten minutes of sleep.  He shook his head, disgusted at the fact that he felt so tired, yet knowing he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep.  He placed both elbows on his legs, hunched his back and let his head drop a bit.  Contemplating how nice a Vicodin would feel, he wondered if he had any.

 

His phone began to buzz in his hands.  It didn’t startle him in the slightest.  He slowly raised his head to look at the phone screen.  It was an unfamiliar number from an unfamiliar area code.  Bill collectors, he thought to himself.  He sent the call to voicemail and tossed the phone back onto the nightstand.  Then, drifting again, he found himself thinking of Elena.

 

On their wedding day, Calvin and Elena shared vows and rode to the reception in a limousine.  Elena gave a short speech to their guests about how she first fell for Calvin because he charmed her by speaking Spanish.  She spoke about how she never thought a man with Calvin’s blond-haired, blue-eyed exterior would have been so well-versed in other cultures and languages.  Jokingly, Calvin snatched the microphone from his bride and shouted, “The years of high school in Mexico didn’t hurt either!”  Their guests laughed lightly as Elena took the microphone back, smiling.  Calvin’s brother, James, joked with him about how his life was over, while they sipped whiskey and Coke from clear plastic cups.  Their mother spoke at length several times during the night about what a blessing it was to see her son find his place within one of God’s most sacred institutions.  He held a ten-minute conversation in Spanish with one of Elena’s distant uncles who had flown in from Mexico, as his friends looked on silently, unable to follow.  There was the wedding cake, beautiful in arrangement but bland to the taste buds, the mountain of gifts that looked so colorful and vibrant, most of which would never come out of their packages, the bottles of Ballatore that turned Calvin’s ankle-deep buzz into a pleasant swim by night’s end…

 

Calvin snapped out of his daydream, while walking into the kitchen, where the disorder continued.  Dishes were stacked high, threatened with the prospect of never being washed again, as Calvin had long since switched to paper plates and red plastic cups.  Still groggy, he went to the fridge and fished out a clear plastic Starbucks cup from it, still half-full with a Caffe Mocha from last night.  He gulped it down in a single swallow, then set the empty cup on the counter.  He closed the refrigerator door and caught a glimpse of the new message light blinking on his home phone.  Playing it back, he found that his mom needed him to go next door and help her with some wireless network problems.  Why his mom couldn’t get used to the idea of communicating via cell phone instead of landline was beyond him.

 

After the foreclosure, Calvin returned home at the same time that his father found himself battling terminal cancer.  Calvin moved into the second unit of the duplex where his parents lived, which put Calvin, by default, in the position of resident IT, handyman, and family accountant.  Not that he minded – since his parents owned the duplex, the family discount when it came to rent proved to be enough of a worthwhile perk in itself.  James, his elder sibling, lived with his wife and newborn daughter in Eugene, Oregon.

 

Calvin ambled out of his apartment toward his mom’s front steps.  Still clad in sweat pants and an ancient, yellowed t-shirt (that was once pristine white), Calvin opened the screen and slid through the already-ajar front door.

“Mom,” he called out.  His nose caught the scent of breakfast and he wandered to the kitchen.

“Hey, I called you last night,” said Mom.  Calvin pulled up a chair as if about to eat, but was sitting in front of nothing more than an empty placemat.  The salty aroma of eggs and bacon was appealing, but he wasn’t hungry at all.

“Yeah, I got the message, that’s why I came by.”  His mom smiled at him.

“You sure it wasn’t the bacon?”  Calvin smiled back awkwardly and exhaled audibly through his nose.

“Nah, I’m not hungry.  Thanks though.”  He stood up, signaling that he was ready to try and fix the internet connection.

 

As he began fiddling with the wireless router, Calvin’s mind drifted again; this time to thoughts of struggling to get by with Elena – barely having enough to pay rent while living in cramped apartments and back lot houses.  Still, there was a sense of connection between them.  Even though they were constantly in fear of falling behind with money, their bond grew stronger as they struggled together.

He thought back to a time when they lost power for two days because a payroll snag prevented Calvin from getting his paycheck – a common occurrence at the school district where he did his translations.  It was February, and the winter had almost fully set in.  It never snowed in Pasadena, California, but at this time of year, one could still expect to wake up to ice-sheathed roofs and foggy windows on mornings like these.

It was about 3 A.M. by Calvin’s best estimation.  He and Elena were clad in thermal socks, sweatpants, and hooded sweatshirts underneath four comforters.  The lack of snoring in the room cast it in a dark, frigid silence.  They both knew that the other wasn’t sleeping.

“I never pictured our lives being like this,” Elena uttered softly.  She laughed delicately, yet the seriousness of her statement was an obvious undertone.

“I know, sweetie.”  Calvin’s voice, disembodied in the darkness, was breathy and low, the voice of someone who had gotten snatched off the path towards sleep a few steps in.  “It’s funny, the way they pump up the married life.  They make it seem like once you take the plunge, all your problems are solved.”

“Do you regret getting married?” Her tone was now sharp; battle lines had been drawn.  Calvin rolled over to face his wife.

“No, baby.  That’s not what I meant.  Of course I don’t regret it.  I just mean – ”  He paused and thought his words out tactfully.  “Think about every romantic comedy we’ve seen at the movies.”  She gave him an mmmm hmmm that stretched to enormous lengths.  “You know, the guy and the girl, they meet, they like each other, and the movie always ends right at that perfect moment, when everything’s great, all the tension’s been resolved, they’re free to just live their perfect lives.  But those movies don’t show a second of what goes on afterwards.”  Elena’s silent, paced breathing showed that she disliked Calvin’s cynical analysis, of her favorite movie genre no less.

“I guarantee, any of those movies, if you could film a sequel that started a few years after the first one ended, it wouldn’t be that same fairytale, they’d have to face the reality of living.”  Calvin realized that his speaking volume had greatly increased.  He was now standing on his soapbox.

“You’re so romantic baby, you’re winning me over with your charm.”  Elena’s sarcasm was now full blown.

“All I’m saying is, we get this idea stamped into our heads of how the married life is gonna be, how it’s supposed to be, but those movies don’t say anything about what happens when payroll screws up and now your lights are turned off and you’re fucking freezing.”  Elena said nothing so Calvin decided to take the conversation in another direction.

“Okay, listen.  In those movies, right before the end, right before the couple realizes how much they love each other, there’s always some kind of tension between them right?  And there’s the whole part where they’re not sure what’s gonna happen, are they gonna stay together, do they want each other bad enough?  Then they have some kind of huge revelation and they realize they want each other more than anything.  I’m just thinking, maybe this is the tension part of our movie.”

“So you’re thinking, this is something we have to go through to get to that ending?” Elena asked.  She felt Calvin smile even though she couldn’t see it in the dark.

“That’s exactly what I mean.”

 

Shortly after that, Calvin and Elena were finally able to fall asleep.

 

Calvin was sprawled out across the couch, back on his side of the duplex.  A bag of trail mix sat limply on the floor, half-finished.  An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation showed quietly on the TV screen as he flipped through random web pages on his phone.  As Commander Ryker set phasers to stun on an unexplored, non-Federation planet, a headline caught Calvin’s eye.  “Modified Blood Allows Humans To Hold Breath For Half Hour”.  He tapped the link, feeling not just curious, but enigmatically certain that the article was an important read.

As he soon found out, the article’s headline was somewhat misleading.  The idea of “modified hemoglobin” was still just that – a promising molecular biologist at the University of Maine claimed that he had a way to alter human blood to make it more akin to the hemoglobin in seal blood, thus allowing one to hold his breath for thirty to forty minutes at a time, like a seal can.  Sounds like science fiction to me, Calvin thought as he thumbed his way to the end of the article.  Yet something about it fascinated him, and the more he thought about it, it became utterly enthralling.  The applications of this modified hemoglobin were quite practical, as the article pointed out – from prevention of children drowning in pools all the way up to making space exploration more efficient by cutting down the need for bulky oxygen tanks.  For his own selfish indulgences, Calvin envisioned himself scuba diving with no scuba tank – exploring the Great Barrier Reef drawing only a single breath.

Calvin sat up straight, scrolled back to the top and read the article again.  Dr. Charles Amstel was the mind behind the idea of modified hemoglobin, a molecular biologist who had lost a son to SIDS years earlier, which inspired him to take his research in the direction that he had.  It was a noble enough tale, yet Calvin couldn’t understand what was drawing him to it so powerfully.  He set his phone down beside him and looked at the TV.  He wasn’t watching it; he was looking through it.  He allowed himself to daydream and drift off again.

 

Calvin reminisced on how fortunes had turned around for he and Elena when they bought their house together.  Elena had picked up a job as an administrative assistant and Calvin had finally landed a big translation contract with the Pomona Unified School District.  It was a brand new house in a brand new neighborhood, somewhere in the outer reaches of Riverside County where neighborhoods of tile roofs and sandblasted stucco formed what resembled a sea of salmon-red and crème-white from a distance.  It was a world ruled by Housing Association fees and manicured lawns.  Calvin never thought he and his wife would be able to live in such a place, yet there they were, assisted by innumerable cousins and uncles as they hauled in furniture.  The year was 2005 and the real estate market was booming.  Tens of thousands of these cookie-cutter slices of the American dream were springing up in California; Calvin and Elena now had theirs.  Calvin’s mom frequently alluded to their lives being almost complete.  They had wed, bought their own property, now all that was left was a little procreation.  Even though it seemed like something that was so far off in time, the thought of making his mom and dad proud by “completing” his own life was something that brought satisfaction to Calvin.

 

A downpour had fallen over Pasadena later in the evening when Calvin woke up. He could hear the intense sound of rain dropping from the clouds all around him, as well as the metallic, slow drip of water overflowing from the debris-packed gutters and falling onto an air conditioning unit which sat in the front living room window. He didn’t remember falling asleep, still on the couch with his phone next to him.  He turned the phone screen on and saw the article again.  The doctor’s name resounded in his mind.

Dr. Charles Amstel.

Calvin tried to shake the grogginess out of his head.  He placed the heels of his palms over his forehead and slowly ran his hands downward.  He wiped a thick layer of sweat from his face, something that was there in spite of the room being cold.  Elena was on his mind again.  This time, it wasn’t their early struggles that had fortified their bond, nor the good times shared at the house they bought together.  This time, it was the thought of the medication that made her cold and detached, the screaming arguments, her late nights working at the office, the quiet phone calls she would place in the house’s empty bedrooms when she thought he wasn’t paying attention, the admission of her ultimate betrayal…

Calvin’s fists clenched tightly.  His palms felt clammy.  He bit down on his lower lip, nearly hard enough to draw blood.

He saw Elena’s face, emotionless and blank, as he confronted her for the first time.  He heard her insincere, flat apology.  Vaguely, he heard himself asking her, “That’s it?  You’re sorry?”  He inhaled heavily and slammed both fists into his couch cushions.  He picked up his phone.  A guttural sound, that first sounded like he was screaming, “FUUUUUCK!” emanated from his mouth.  Whatever this noise was, it ended in a beastly yell as he threw his phone across the room.  He saw the case snap and the phone itself shattered, unable to absorb the blow.  Plastic shrapnel flew in all directions.  He toppled his coffee table; months-old mail and a lukewarm Carls Jr. cup of Sprite were launched into the air.  Calvin collapsed to the ground, unwilling to stand on two feet any longer.  His face was contorted into a bitter shape.  He was breathing heavily and he felt new sweat forming on the back of his neck.  He stared at the ceiling for a while, watching cobwebs as if they were going to move.  Once his ear caught on to the sound of the pouring rain, he was lulled back into the arms of sleep.

 

Although the loss of Calvin’s father came at a younger age than most, he saw this as a natural part of life, and part of God’s ultimate master plan.  However, he failed to see how losing his home to foreclosure fell into this plan.  Even worse, watching his wife get swallowed by mental imbalance after having discovered her infidelity was nearly impossible for Calvin to rationalize.

Calvin drifted back to his childhood years.  He was sitting in church and listening to a sermon about how a man who stayed faithful to his wife and treated her well would be blessed tenfold since there were so few ‘good men’ in existence.  He saw himself, seated on a couch, remote control in hand, catching glimpses of day time talk shows where female guests were screaming at the cameras: Where are all the good men at! Following all the rules he had learned in church and society at large, he simply could not accept what Elena had done to him.  In almost any other time in American history, there would at least be the consolation prize of selling one’s home after such a crisis and being able to go one’s own way with a decent amount of in-pocket capital, but because it all happened as the Wall Street housing bubble was bursting, Calvin was not only heartbroken, but pocketbroken as well.  He thought back to his days in middle school and high school, seated in an assembly where a speaker was preaching the gospel of real estate and property ownership.  He saw the face of a young, slick fellow in a suit standing at the podium.  Owning your own home is the ultimate culmination of the American dream.  It’s the one investment you will never lose money inJust breaking even is next to impossible!  Calvin realized that it wasn’t his adolescent self, but him as a grown man seated in the auditorium chair.  “Bullshit,” he whispered.

 

The silence was eerie and disconcerting when Calvin opened his eyes again.  The rain had stopped; the only thing audible outside was the occasional drip falling from the gutter onto the air conditioner.  An infomercial was bellowing from the TV, distracting and sharp, even though the volume wasn’t up very high.  Slowly, he rolled over and hoisted himself upright.  He pointed himself towards the bedroom and started walking.  It felt as if he was being carried there.  He was drawn to the laptop that was sitting on the floor, next to his bed.  He flipped it open and entered a name into Google search.

Dr. Charles Amstel.

It was then that Calvin began to write.

Today we are excited to bring you the official cover for Almanecer as well as a special sneak preview of the book’s first chapter!  Take a look at the cover below, artwork and design by Brandon Mahlberg.  Then, read the first chapter, and if you haven’t already, we would appreciate your support in the form of pre-ordering your copy by clicking here.

The cover:

Chapter 1

 

Calvin slowly opened his eyes.  He found his bedroom ceiling in view, illuminated by morning light which spilled in through a sliding glass door.  The light was aggravating, and he contemplated getting up to shut his blinds.  Instead, he rolled onto his right side and pointed his vision away from the glass door.  Before he shut his eyes again, he briefly glimpsed the disarray of his bedroom – clothes strewn about the floor, papers stacked on every piece of furniture, plates with nothing on them but crumbs and blotches of sauce.  A plastic cup that was filled to the rim with vodka and orange juice last week was nothing more than a spittoon for sunflower shells now.  Calvin shut his eyes tightly and hoped that when he opened them, everything would be neat and tidy again.  Not just the room, but his entire existence.  He felt himself drift off for a moment, then was jerked back to reality by the sensation of falling in his mind.  He inhaled deeply, grimacing at the scent of unwashed laundry.

 

He sat up and pivoted toward the glass door, squinting slightly as he faced the sunshine.  The change in body elevation brought a sharp throbbing to both temples.  He rubbed them vigorously with his palms and felt slight relief.  Grabbing his cell phone from a nightstand, he looked at the screen and saw that it was 8:20 AM.  Doing a little quick math, Calvin determined that he had gotten three hours and ten minutes of sleep.  He shook his head, disgusted at the fact that he felt so tired, yet knowing he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep.  He placed both elbows on his legs, hunched his back and let his head drop a bit.  Contemplating how nice a Vicodin would feel, he wondered if he had any.

 

His phone began to buzz in his hands.  It didn’t startle him in the slightest.  He slowly raised his head to look at the phone screen.  It was an unfamiliar number from an unfamiliar area code.  Bill collectors, he thought to himself.  He sent the call to voicemail and tossed the phone back onto the nightstand.  Then, drifting again, he found himself thinking of Elena.

 

On their wedding day, Calvin and Elena shared vows and rode to the reception in a limousine.  Elena gave a short speech to their guests about how she first fell for Calvin because he charmed her by speaking Spanish.  She spoke about how she never thought a man with Calvin’s blond-haired, blue-eyed exterior would have been so well-versed in other cultures and languages.  Jokingly, Calvin snatched the microphone from his bride and shouted, “The years of high school in Mexico didn’t hurt either!”  Their guests laughed lightly as Elena took the microphone back, smiling.  Calvin’s brother, James, joked with him about how his life was over, while they sipped whiskey and Coke from clear plastic cups.  Their mother spoke at length several times during the night about what a blessing it was to see her son find his place within one of God’s most sacred institutions.  He held a ten-minute conversation in Spanish with one of Elena’s distant uncles who had flown in from Mexico, as his friends looked on silently, unable to follow.  There was the wedding cake, beautiful in arrangement but bland to the taste buds, the mountain of gifts that looked so colorful and vibrant, most of which would never come out of their packages, the bottles of Ballatore that turned Calvin’s ankle-deep buzz into a pleasant swim by night’s end…

 

Calvin snapped out of his daydream, while walking into the kitchen, where the disorder continued.  Dishes were stacked high, threatened with the prospect of never being washed again, as Calvin had long since switched to paper plates and red plastic cups.  Still groggy, he went to the fridge and fished out a clear plastic Starbucks cup from it, still half-full with a Caffe Mocha from last night.  He gulped it down in a single swallow, then set the empty cup on the counter.  He closed the refrigerator door and caught a glimpse of the new message light blinking on his home phone.  Playing it back, he found that his mom needed him to go next door and help her with some wireless network problems.  Why his mom couldn’t get used to the idea of communicating via cell phone instead of landline was beyond him.

 

After the foreclosure, Calvin returned home at the same time that his father found himself battling terminal cancer.  Calvin moved into the second unit of the duplex where his parents lived, which put Calvin, by default, in the position of resident IT, handyman, and family accountant.  Not that he minded – since his parents owned the duplex, the family discount when it came to rent proved to be enough of a worthwhile perk in itself.  James, his elder sibling, lived with his wife and newborn daughter in Eugene, Oregon.

 

Calvin ambled out of his apartment toward his mom’s front steps.  Still clad in sweat pants and an ancient, yellowed t-shirt (that was once pristine white), Calvin opened the screen and slid through the already-ajar front door.

“Mom,” he called out.  His nose caught the scent of breakfast and he wandered to the kitchen.

“Hey, I called you last night,” said Mom.  Calvin pulled up a chair as if about to eat, but was sitting in front of nothing more than an empty placemat.  The salty aroma of eggs and bacon was appealing, but he wasn’t hungry at all.

“Yeah, I got the message, that’s why I came by.”  His mom smiled at him.

“You sure it wasn’t the bacon?”  Calvin smiled back awkwardly and exhaled audibly through his nose.

“Nah, I’m not hungry.  Thanks though.”  He stood up, signaling that he was ready to try and fix the internet connection.

 

As he began fiddling with the wireless router, Calvin’s mind drifted again; this time to thoughts of struggling to get by with Elena – barely having enough to pay rent while living in cramped apartments and back lot houses.  Still, there was a sense of connection between them.  Even though they were constantly in fear of falling behind with money, their bond grew stronger as they struggled together.

He thought back to a time when they lost power for two days because a payroll snag prevented Calvin from getting his paycheck – a common occurrence at the school district where he did his translations.  It was February, and the winter had almost fully set in.  It never snowed in Pasadena, California, but at this time of year, one could still expect to wake up to ice-sheathed roofs and foggy windows on mornings like these.

It was about 3 A.M. by Calvin’s best estimation.  He and Elena were clad in thermal socks, sweatpants, and hooded sweatshirts underneath four comforters.  The lack of snoring in the room cast it in a dark, frigid silence.  They both knew that the other wasn’t sleeping.

“I never pictured our lives being like this,” Elena uttered softly.  She laughed delicately, yet the seriousness of her statement was an obvious undertone.

“I know, sweetie.”  Calvin’s voice, disembodied in the darkness, was breathy and low, the voice of someone who had gotten snatched off the path towards sleep a few steps in.  “It’s funny, the way they pump up the married life.  They make it seem like once you take the plunge, all your problems are solved.”

“Do you regret getting married?” Her tone was now sharp; battle lines had been drawn.  Calvin rolled over to face his wife.

“No, baby.  That’s not what I meant.  Of course I don’t regret it.  I just mean – ”  He paused and thought his words out tactfully.  “Think about every romantic comedy we’ve seen at the movies.”  She gave him an mmmm hmmm that stretched to enormous lengths.  “You know, the guy and the girl, they meet, they like each other, and the movie always ends right at that perfect moment, when everything’s great, all the tension’s been resolved, they’re free to just live their perfect lives.  But those movies don’t show a second of what goes on afterwards.”  Elena’s silent, paced breathing showed that she disliked Calvin’s cynical analysis, of her favorite movie genre no less.

“I guarantee, any of those movies, if you could film a sequel that started a few years after the first one ended, it wouldn’t be that same fairytale, they’d have to face the reality of living.”  Calvin realized that his speaking volume had greatly increased.  He was now standing on his soapbox.

“You’re so romantic baby, you’re winning me over with your charm.”  Elena’s sarcasm was now full blown.

“All I’m saying is, we get this idea stamped into our heads of how the married life is gonna be, how it’s supposed to be, but those movies don’t say anything about what happens when payroll screws up and now your lights are turned off and you’re fucking freezing.”  Elena said nothing so Calvin decided to take the conversation in another direction.

“Okay, listen.  In those movies, right before the end, right before the couple realizes how much they love each other, there’s always some kind of tension between them right?  And there’s the whole part where they’re not sure what’s gonna happen, are they gonna stay together, do they want each other bad enough?  Then they have some kind of huge revelation and they realize they want each other more than anything.  I’m just thinking, maybe this is the tension part of our movie.”

“So you’re thinking, this is something we have to go through to get to that ending?” Elena asked.  She felt Calvin smile even though she couldn’t see it in the dark.

“That’s exactly what I mean.”

 

Shortly after that, Calvin and Elena were finally able to fall asleep.

 

Calvin was sprawled out across the couch, back on his side of the duplex.  A bag of trail mix sat limply on the floor, half-finished.  An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation showed quietly on the TV screen as he flipped through random web pages on his phone.  As Commander Ryker set phasers to stun on an unexplored, non-Federation planet, a headline caught Calvin’s eye.  “Modified Blood Allows Humans To Hold Breath For Half Hour”.  He tapped the link, feeling not just curious, but enigmatically certain that the article was an important read.

As he soon found out, the article’s headline was somewhat misleading.  The idea of “modified hemoglobin” was still just that – a promising molecular biologist at the University of Maine claimed that he had a way to alter human blood to make it more akin to the hemoglobin in seal blood, thus allowing one to hold his breath for thirty to forty minutes at a time, like a seal can.  Sounds like science fiction to me, Calvin thought as he thumbed his way to the end of the article.  Yet something about it fascinated him, and the more he thought about it, it became utterly enthralling.  The applications of this modified hemoglobin were quite practical, as the article pointed out – from prevention of children drowning in pools all the way up to making space exploration more efficient by cutting down the need for bulky oxygen tanks.  For his own selfish indulgences, Calvin envisioned himself scuba diving with no scuba tank – exploring the Great Barrier Reef drawing only a single breath.

Calvin sat up straight, scrolled back to the top and read the article again.  Dr. Charles Amstel was the mind behind the idea of modified hemoglobin, a molecular biologist who had lost a son to SIDS years earlier, which inspired him to take his research in the direction that he had.  It was a noble enough tale, yet Calvin couldn’t understand what was drawing him to it so powerfully.  He set his phone down beside him and looked at the TV.  He wasn’t watching it; he was looking through it.  He allowed himself to daydream and drift off again.

 

Calvin reminisced on how fortunes had turned around for he and Elena when they bought their house together.  Elena had picked up a job as an administrative assistant and Calvin had finally landed a big translation contract with the Pomona Unified School District.  It was a brand new house in a brand new neighborhood, somewhere in the outer reaches of Riverside County where neighborhoods of tile roofs and sandblasted stucco formed what resembled a sea of salmon-red and crème-white from a distance.  It was a world ruled by Housing Association fees and manicured lawns.  Calvin never thought he and his wife would be able to live in such a place, yet there they were, assisted by innumerable cousins and uncles as they hauled in furniture.  The year was 2005 and the real estate market was booming.  Tens of thousands of these cookie-cutter slices of the American dream were springing up in California; Calvin and Elena now had theirs.  Calvin’s mom frequently alluded to their lives being almost complete.  They had wed, bought their own property, now all that was left was a little procreation.  Even though it seemed like something that was so far off in time, the thought of making his mom and dad proud by “completing” his own life was something that brought satisfaction to Calvin.

 

A downpour had fallen over Pasadena later in the evening when Calvin woke up. He could hear the intense sound of rain dropping from the clouds all around him, as well as the metallic, slow drip of water overflowing from the debris-packed gutters and falling onto an air conditioning unit which sat in the front living room window. He didn’t remember falling asleep, still on the couch with his phone next to him.  He turned the phone screen on and saw the article again.  The doctor’s name resounded in his mind.

Dr. Charles Amstel.

Calvin tried to shake the grogginess out of his head.  He placed the heels of his palms over his forehead and slowly ran his hands downward.  He wiped a thick layer of sweat from his face, something that was there in spite of the room being cold.  Elena was on his mind again.  This time, it wasn’t their early struggles that had fortified their bond, nor the good times shared at the house they bought together.  This time, it was the thought of the medication that made her cold and detached, the screaming arguments, her late nights working at the office, the quiet phone calls she would place in the house’s empty bedrooms when she thought he wasn’t paying attention, the admission of her ultimate betrayal…

Calvin’s fists clenched tightly.  His palms felt clammy.  He bit down on his lower lip, nearly hard enough to draw blood.

He saw Elena’s face, emotionless and blank, as he confronted her for the first time.  He heard her insincere, flat apology.  Vaguely, he heard himself asking her, “That’s it?  You’re sorry?”  He inhaled heavily and slammed both fists into his couch cushions.  He picked up his phone.  A guttural sound, that first sounded like he was screaming, “FUUUUUCK!” emanated from his mouth.  Whatever this noise was, it ended in a beastly yell as he threw his phone across the room.  He saw the case snap and the phone itself shattered, unable to absorb the blow.  Plastic shrapnel flew in all directions.  He toppled his coffee table; months-old mail and a lukewarm Carls Jr. cup of Sprite were launched into the air.  Calvin collapsed to the ground, unwilling to stand on two feet any longer.  His face was contorted into a bitter shape.  He was breathing heavily and he felt new sweat forming on the back of his neck.  He stared at the ceiling for a while, watching cobwebs as if they were going to move.  Once his ear caught on to the sound of the pouring rain, he was lulled back into the arms of sleep.

 

Although the loss of Calvin’s father came at a younger age than most, he saw this as a natural part of life, and part of God’s ultimate master plan.  However, he failed to see how losing his home to foreclosure fell into this plan.  Even worse, watching his wife get swallowed by mental imbalance after having discovered her infidelity was nearly impossible for Calvin to rationalize.

Calvin drifted back to his childhood years.  He was sitting in church and listening to a sermon about how a man who stayed faithful to his wife and treated her well would be blessed tenfold since there were so few ‘good men’ in existence.  He saw himself, seated on a couch, remote control in hand, catching glimpses of day time talk shows where female guests were screaming at the cameras: Where are all the good men at! Following all the rules he had learned in church and society at large, he simply could not accept what Elena had done to him.  In almost any other time in American history, there would at least be the consolation prize of selling one’s home after such a crisis and being able to go one’s own way with a decent amount of in-pocket capital, but because it all happened as the Wall Street housing bubble was bursting, Calvin was not only heartbroken, but pocketbroken as well.  He thought back to his days in middle school and high school, seated in an assembly where a speaker was preaching the gospel of real estate and property ownership.  He saw the face of a young, slick fellow in a suit standing at the podium.  Owning your own home is the ultimate culmination of the American dream.  It’s the one investment you will never lose money inJust breaking even is next to impossible!  Calvin realized that it wasn’t his adolescent self, but him as a grown man seated in the auditorium chair.  “Bullshit,” he whispered.

 

The silence was eerie and disconcerting when Calvin opened his eyes again.  The rain had stopped; the only thing audible outside was the occasional drip falling from the gutter onto the air conditioner.  An infomercial was bellowing from the TV, distracting and sharp, even though the volume wasn’t up very high.  Slowly, he rolled over and hoisted himself upright.  He pointed himself towards the bedroom and started walking.  It felt as if he was being carried there.  He was drawn to the laptop that was sitting on the floor, next to his bed.  He flipped it open and entered a name into Google search.

Dr. Charles Amstel.

It was then that Calvin began to write.

More Options For Pre-Ordering Almanecer Now Available

We’d appreciate your support as we attempt to get this exciting project off the ground, without the help of a major publishing company!  Place your pre-order today, & you will be able to print out your invoice & use it as an admittance for you plus one guest to the exclusive book release/signing party, where author Michael Troy Knedel will personally autograph your copy! Just click the Buy Now button below!







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