A Sample of What I Write (Part 2)

It has been a busy week, and I’m not even thinking about the presidential election. No. Politics are not something I will discuss here. This blog of mine will be much more interesting.

The reason this has been a busy week is that it is the first week of November, the novel writing month. Well, I have been working on writing another novel I plan to have ready for the end of March. Also, this week, one of my short stories earned an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest.

Last week I posted the first part of my story The Plight of Lost Souls, and this week, I’m going to post the last half. I’m going to make another tab, in the next week, for a few short stories, and at times, I will put some there, so you can see how I write. I hope you enjoy the second half of this story. Without wasting any more space, here is the second half:

The Plight of Lost Souls (Part 2)

by Daniel R. Burkhard


Evan planned to search the places Mr. Chandler had visited most. The Lost Soul had frequented many of the places Evan had visited. The next place was the Library of Heaven. It held records of everyone that had played VICE. He went there often, and, it seemed, so did Mr. Chandler. There was also a Security Station that may share video, if he didn’t have any luck with the library.

Evan headed for the bus stop and was immediately back at Central Station. The station was less crowded now, due to two large, green, and black dragons fighting in the main hallway. As Evan stepped off the bus platform, he saw the same man again.

The man’s head was turned away to the left, but Evan was sure the man had been looking at him before vanishing into the crowd.

Evan wasn’t sure what to do. The man could be another Retriever in disguise looking for the same Mr. Chandler.

He turned and hurried in the direction of the library’s bus. He hoped he would be able to get into the bus without being noticed by the strange man, or, worse yet, followed.

To get to the library’s bus, he had to leave one area of bus platforms and enter another hallway. There were buses that were designed in all colors, some of them faded. Some were just polished metal.

Soon, Evan found himself stepping onto a curb at the Library of Heaven, an enormous building that covered four blocks. The structure was made to look like solid crystal, with a large, clear dome on the top. He could see several people moving around the floors of the library.

Across the street was a small blue, windowless box that was the Security Station. It was programmed different, making the interior larger than the exterior. Inside that box there could be hundreds of people working on keeping VICE secure.

For now, Evan headed for the library’s front doors.

At the front desk were several versions of the same man and woman, each dressed differently. They were the librarians.

“What are you looking for?” a blonde iteration of the librarian woman in a purple business suit asked.

“Actually,” Evan corrected, “I’m looking for information on a real person that has become a Lost Soul.”

“Oh,” the librarian said, waving to another version of herself that approached. They traded places as the other version smiled at him.

The new version had dark hair that fell to her shoulders, and her face was young, and pretty.

“I am a Retriever,” Evan explained, and she nodded her head.

“I kind of guessed that.”

“I am trying to find a Mr. Chandler,” Evan said. “Do you have a record of what he was looking for in here?” He told her the file number to help her access the right Mr. Chandler.

“Give me a minute,” she said, and began to work with her computer. VICE’s designers always prided themselves in not taking too many short cuts. They made everything lifelike, except for the buses.

Evan took the break to look around at the library. He didn’t want to bother the young woman by staring at her.

Above the desk, the building was open all the way to the upper floor. He could see people searching through the virtual books or using computers located in several places. Looking toward the back of the building he had trouble seeing all of it. With the crystal walls and ceiling, the ambient light was more than enough.

On the third floor stood the man that had been following him. His back turned to Evan. Evan wished he knew what the man was after. Maybe he was an echo of something in VICE.

“Sir,” the librarian tried to get his attention. “I found what you asked about. The man you asked about did do some looking around in here.”

“What was he looking for?” Evan asked.

“It shows he was searching for a Lost Soul named Raul Sanchez,” she answered.

Evan was startled. He couldn’t understand why the man he was looking for would search for someone that Evan had already retrieved. “How long ago was that?” Evan asked.

“Two weeks,” she answered.

“Did he look for anything else?” Evan asked.

“Let me check,” she said, and searched more.

Evan looked back at the shelves where the other man had stood, but the man wasn’t there anymore. The man was nowhere in sight.

The librarian finally answered with a list of names that Evan recognized as people he had retrieved. He was feeling strange about the man he was after. There was something Laura wasn’t telling him.

Evan thanked the librarian and decided to look through the library on his own.

Evan was sure there was more to the retrieval than what he was being told. First there was the dream. Why would he dream about a person he had never seen before?  He had no explanation for it. Then there was the way he couldn’t find his data pad or access his account. Even the man that was following him seemed a part of the equation, but he wasn’t sure how, yet.

The next thing that troubled him was Laura’s actions. Usually, she was upbeat and happy, even if she had worry lines on her forehead. She always tried to be ready to help, but not this time. Something about this case was getting to her, he thought.

Why would Mr. Chandler be doing the same searches that Evan had been doing?  There had to be something in Mr. Chandler’s stored file that would give him a clue.

It took some time to find the file, and it was a good thing Evan could remember the file number from earlier. There were several files with the name Chandler.

Evan selected the file by its file number and headed for one of the tables to sit and study the virtual paper copies of the document.

The first line of the file shocked him. The man he was retrieving was Evan Chandler. Was the name a coincidence?  Mr. Chandler had been in an accident and paralyzed, and his wife, it said Laura, had bought him a contract in VICE. Mr. Chandler’s wife had the same name as Evan’s attendant. It was possible they were the same person. That would certainly explain the sad manner Laura had. If Mr. Chandler were her husband, Evan could understand her worry.

He read through more of the document, but there wasn’t much that was different than the file he had read earlier in the day.

Did Mr. Chandler really exist?  He had gone to the same places that Evan had been and searched for the same people that Evan had searched for. What was Evan missing?

A fleeting thought passed through his mind. It made sense, but he suddenly couldn’t remember it. It was VICE again. He had spent too much time in the virtual world.

He breathed a deep sigh.

A reflection in the tabletop caught his eye. Looking up, he saw the dark-haired man turn away to search the shelves nearby. Evan felt his heart begin to race, even if it was only his mind’s impression of his body’s fear response. There was no way to doubt the man was following him. No one else was around.

Sliding his chair out, Evan got to his feet. He left the file open on the table and headed for the stairs.

“Wait a minute,” a voice much like his own said. It was the dark-haired copy of Evan that spoke.

It was like being caught doing something bad. His heartbeat raced, as adrenaline forced its way into his veins. VICE’s fear programming was good.

“I just want to ask you a question,” the man said. “I won’t hurt you or anything. Can I ask a few questions?”

“I guess,” Evan said, turning back to the man, and trying to act calm.

“Sit down,” the man said. Evan reluctantly sat.

“Good,” the man said. “My name is Darren Parson, and I am a Retriever.”

Evan wasn’t sure he believed the man, but he listened anyway.

“I am searching for Evan Chandler,” Darren said, after a brief pause to sit. “I see you are looking for him, also. Pretty bad what happened to him, being paralyzed, I mean.”

“Yeah,” Evan said. He knew it was just small talk and wished Darren would get to the point.

“How many people like that have you had to retrieve?” Darren asked, making Evan wonder what the point of the man’s questions could be.

“Get to the point, please,” Evan said, his confidence waning at the end.

“Have you found Mr. Chandler, yet?”


“That is what I was afraid of,” Darren commented, shaking his head. “You have to be quicker.”

“Why?” Evan asked. “Everyone has been telling me to be quick. If you are looking for him also, why don’t you do it fast?”

Darren took a deep breath and leaned back in his seat, like he was trying to decide how to take control of the situation.

It was Evan’s chance to get out and away from Darren. He thought frantically of excuses he could use.

“I have another place that I need to look,” he told Darren. “If I have to be quick, then you had better let me get going.”

“Okay,” Darren agreed. “But, before you go, can I ask you one last question?”


“When you leave VICE, how do you know you get in the right body?” Darren smiled slightly as he waited.

Evan thought about it. There had to be a way to know for sure, but the thought had never worried him. VICE had ways for its customers to rent their bodies to others to help pay for the contracts, but Evan had never placed his body for rent.

“Just make sure you use the right body,” Darren said, as Evan turned and left the library.

He was sure Darren would follow him, and frequently looked over his shoulder. Darren waved the first few times from the table where they had talked but didn’t get up to move. He might just sit there and watch Evan leave.

Across the street was the Security Station. If Darren followed him there, they might help.

The small blue box had one door, which covered most of one side. He pushed on it and it opened freely. Instantly the interior of the Security Station exploded in size. There were people at computers filling the room, and two men dressed in full, futuristic body armor stood near the door. Each held a rifle the width and length of their legs.

“Can we help you?” one of the guards asked, but, by his tone, he wasn’t interested in helping.     

“I am looking for some help locating a man,” Evan stated, not wanting to waste much time. “I am a Retriever, and I am having a hard time finding a man. Can you guys help me?”

The men stood there, looking at each other, but saying nothing. Evan felt his heart sink. This was one of the last places he could think of looking. It was a long shot, but he hoped they would help him. The programmed area would have access to all the VICE recordings.

“What is your name, so we can check it on our records?” the guard to his left asked.

Now he was getting somewhere. “Evan,” he said, feeling a wave of dizziness wash over his mind. “My name is Evan–.” He couldn’t remember his last name for some reason. He almost said Chandler, but he knew that wasn’t right.

“Your last name, please,” the guard urged. “Without your name we can’t do anything.”

Evan felt trapped. He struggled to remember his name but couldn’t. Nothing he did would bring his last name to his mind. He tried again to locate his data pad but couldn’t.

“Well?” the guard asked.

Evan’s mind raced, but he couldn’t remember his name. His mind was blank. Something was wrong. He could feel sweat running down the center of his back, and, for a moment, he was surprised that VICE was programmed so well. He was forgetting too many things in the last few days.

“Sorry,” Evan said, and turned to leave. He couldn’t understand it. Too many things were happening. He thought of stopping his work on the case.

Evan walked slowly along the street, glancing from time to time, at the library, checking for signs of Darren. The man was nowhere to be seen.

As he rounded the corner, he decided he needed time to think. He also wanted to check on Laura. Maybe she could help him.


Evan took a deep breath of the dirty air of the real world, as his eyes adjusted to the light of the room. Laura was leaning over him and looking more worried than ever before.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, in a cold, straight-to-business, voice. It was like she was expecting someone else.

Evan immediately became worried. “What is wrong, Laura?” he asked.

If she hadn’t been leaning over his bed, he wouldn’t have noticed the brief flash of sadness that crossed her face. “Everything is a little stressed out around here,” she answered. “That’s all.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Strange things are going on today,” she answered. “You haven’t found Mr. Chandler, yet. Have you?”

Even shook his head and got himself dressed. There was more going on than what he had been told.

“Laura, is there something else I should know about Mr. Chandler?” he asked.

Laura had her back turned toward him, and she was slow to turn back around. He saw her sigh, and it seemed she might have been trying to hide tears.

“You need to find him quickly,” she answered. “His case is very important.”

“How much time is left?” he asked, trying to draw more information out of her.

“A few hours,” she answered.

Are you his wife? he wanted to ask but didn’t. “Is his first name Evan, like mine?” he asked.

That stopped Laura. Her eyes darted from him to the floor, and stayed there, but she didn’t answer.

“I went to the Library of Heaven,” Evan explained, “and there was a file there about him. And that wasn’t everything I saw there.” He allowed a pause to see if she would say anything, but when she didn’t, he was forced to continue. He was hoping that he was right, that she was Mr. Chandler’s husband. “It said his wife’s name was Laura,” he said, trying to manipulate her into saying something about it.

For a long moment, she didn’t move. She continued to stare at the floor, but he felt sure she knew more than she was letting on. During the time she was standing there, she didn’t seem to breathe. The whites of her eyes turned red, and tears started to form.

“It is you, isn’t it?” Evan said. “If you know more about this tell me. I want to help, but there are holes in this case. Too many things aren’t making sense.”

She looked him in the eyes, and he felt like he had seen that intensity before. “Yes,” she started, “Evan Chandler is my husband.” She paused and took a deep breath as she wiped tears from her eyes. “He was paralyzed ten years ago, and I thought it would help him adjust, but he disappeared. Now, they are threatening to take him out of VICE before he chooses to leave. He doesn’t even know who he is, I’m sure of it.” She wiped more tears from her eyes, and Evan couldn’t help himself. He reached out to hold her.

For some reason, she let him, and leaned into his shoulder, letting herself cry. “You have been taking care of his body for all this time?” he asked, feeling her shuddering quiet sobs against his shoulder.

She nodded, her face still on his shoulder.

It was too much for Evan. He hated seeing her cry. It made him give up on telling her about Darren. Maybe what he needed was a fresh night’s sleep. The night before he hadn’t slept, and he wanted a fresh start.

He held Laura for a long time, then she moved away from him, and straightened her clothing. “What are you going to do?” she asked.

“I really wish I could go home and get some sleep,” he said. “I didn’t sleep well last night, and today has been really stressful.”

“Your ‘today’ took the last thirty hours,” she commented. “But you can’t go home. They aren’t going to allow you to leave.”

That was an odd comment. “Why won’t they allow me to leave?” he asked, intrigued.

“Someone has reported that their body has been stolen,” she answered. “It was a body that could be rented, but the person who lost it didn’t have the body up for rent.”

“So, what should I do?” Evan asked, but he already knew the answer. “How do I find him? I can’t access my account anywhere.”

“You have to keep looking,” she pleaded, stepping back toward the doorway of the large room.

No longer caring if she watched, he pulled off his clothing and climbed back onto the bed.

“Hook me back up,” he said, waiting for the pleasant darkness that would signal the coming of VICE.


He had been back in VICE for long enough to walk the length of Central Station, and, in that time, he had reached some conclusions about the day’s events. However, his mind seemed to hide away each new conclusion. Several things bothered him.

There wasn’t enough time left, and Evan was feeling stressed, and sad. If he couldn’t retrieve Mr. Chandler, he would probably lose Laura. He couldn’t take that. He couldn’t imagine waking up out of VICE to anyone else.

Then there was the other Retriever that was looking for Mr. Chandler. VICE, or someone else, must be desperate to find the man. He couldn’t understand why they would allow Mr. Chandler to stay in VICE for an extra five years.

Evan sighed, found a bench near a deserted hall, and sat in despair.

“It isn’t making any sense,” Evan said to the space around him. He now knew that Laura was Mr. Chandler’s wife, and that explained her desire to have Evan find the man.

In the back of his mind he was certain if he traveled to the other places that Mr. Chandler had gone, no one would remember seeing the man. At Pirate’s Cove and the library, they hadn’t, and those were the two places Mr. Chandler had most recently visited.

A new realization struck as he thought about it. Evan had been in the same places, at the same times as Mr. Chandler. In fact, he could remember being at the library just before meeting Mr. Sanchez at Pirate’s Cove.

He caught a glimmer of the thought that had fled his mind each time he thought of it. His name and Mr. Chandler’s name might be more than a coincidence, but the thought fled as soon as he thought it. Something was blocking his mind, it seemed.

He then thought about the way Laura had spoken to him when he had come out of VICE the last time. She had greeted him like he was someone else.

Now he was really thinking he was right, with his idea. The clues were starting to add up, and he didn’t like what he thought. He fought to keep the thought going, this time. If he was right, there was a link between Mr. Chandler, the body that was stolen, and his missing data pad. It would also explain the way he felt about Laura. She had allowed him to hold her. That could mean she knew where Mr. Chandler was hiding.

A wave of sadness washed over him. Evan finally thought he knew what had happened, and it scared him.

“There you are?” Darren said from the other end of the hall. “You are a hard man to find. Have you had any luck with Mr. Chandler?” He moved closer and sat next to Evan.

“I found his wife,” Evan answered. He had forgotten what he was thinking about and wanted desperately to remember. “She is my attendant.” He wished he could remember his conclusion. Maybe VICE was ruining his mind.

“I know,” Darren said, speaking deliberately. “Have you noticed the similarities between you and Mr. Chandler?”

Evan thought for several minutes. He knew what Darren meant, but didn’t want to accept it. He wondered why Laura would be his attendant, and why Evan Chandler was the man he was after. Why had Evan Chandler had been given an extra five years in VICE?

Evan Chandler had to be doing something that helped VICE.

“I’m Evan Chandler,” Evan realized. “It is me that you are after, isn’t it?”

It all made sense. That was why there was another Retriever after him. That was why Darren had been following him and looking just like him. That was why he had been given five extra years. With the realization, he began to wonder how much time he had before they forced him out of VICE.

“It’s me, and I’m using someone else’s body,” Evan realized. That explained the way Laura had greeted him the last time. She thought he had returned to his own body, and the rightful owner had come into the body she was monitoring.

“You are right,” Darren answered. “Your wife has been waiting for a long time for you to come back to her. She has been taking care of two bodies so she could be close to you. One of those is mine, which you borrow every time you come out.”

Evan felt heart broken. Laura knew who he was all along. That explained the way she let him hold her. She was his wife.

With that realization sinking deeper, he began to remember other things. He could remember their wedding day, ten years earlier. She had been beautiful. He could remember the way the accident in the bus had paralyzed him, and the agonizing first few days after. Other memories began to come back. Day to day memories that filled in the gaps of his life.

If he went back, he would be paralyzed, a quadriplegic.

Did he really want to go back to that?  Evan had been comfortable here. If he didn’t leave, would the companies really force him out?  He had never seen that before.

“Why would they leave me here so long?” Evan asked. “Why not come after me sooner?” He was sure he knew the answer, but he wanted to see if he was right.

Darren leaned back in the bench, he seemed to be weighing his words carefully. “They felt you were better at helping them rid themselves of customers that didn’t pay for their contracts,” he answered. “But now, their North American management has changed, and they want you out of here.”

“Can’t I pay for a contract,” Evan asked, hoping there would be a way for him to escape a paralyzed body.

“They won’t allow it,” Darren answered. “They don’t want you to disappear on them again.” He shook his head. “You did a really good job in here, but now you need to leave.”

Evan’s mind raced, trying to grapple with the ideas and the memories that were starting to flood back in. In the few minutes he had been sitting there listening to Darren, his memories had returned, as if the dam holding them back had burst.

Evan wasn’t sure how long he sat there. Darren let him sit there, waiting for Evan to make the choice.

“Evan,” Darren started, “do you realize Laura has been there every day to take care of you?  She has devoted herself to your real body and the one you borrowed.”

Darren was right. It was time for Evan to stop hiding and face the reality of his paralyzed body. He was scared and didn’t know what to expect.

The only reason to go back was to be near Laura, his wife.

He sighed heavily and tried to calm himself. “I’ll go back,” Evan said, and Darren breathed a sigh of relief.


Laura had smiled brightly, through her tears when he had come back into his real body. Darren had led Evan toward a new portal in Central Station, and now he was out of VICE.

Immediately, she embraced him and kissed him. It was frustrating. Evan couldn’t move, and he yearned to hold her, or wipe the tears from his eyes. At Least her kisses felt good.

“I am so glad you came back,” she said, after she had kissed him enough. “You finally retrieved the most important of the Lost Souls, yourself.”

“Thank you for not giving up on me,” Evan said, feeling more tears forming in his eyes. “I’m glad I’m home.”

He was finally home, and even though he was paralyzed, he was happy to be home. It would take some adjustment, but he was sure the others he had helped had felt the same way.


One thought on “A Sample of What I Write (Part 2)

  1. Interesting story of what could happen in the digital world (hopefully way in the future). I enjoyed reading “The Plight of Lost Souls”.


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