Monday, September 25, 2023

Disappearing (Fiction)

Jana was worried about her nephew Blaise.

Without fail, Jana got an email from him at least once a day. Sometimes it was early in the morning. Or it could be at random times during the work-day. Often it was late at night. The emails were always short, just a line or two or a meme that had resonated with him.

Jana had been the one family member who had remained nonjudgmental with regard to Blaise. Part of it was that Jana worked at a small, Christian college so she was exposed to the wide range of the questioning that younger people go through. One of Jana’s favorite quotes was from J.R.R. Tolkien, “All that glitters is not gold and all who wander are not lost.”

The other part was that although the two were emotionally close, Blaise was physically distant enough from Jana that she was not yanked around by his day-to-day activities. If he did not come home from a political protest it was his parents or current girlfriend who was yanked through the knot-hole, not Jana.

Jana knew from the memes Blaise shared that he was “radicallized” but frankly, who wasn’t?

Jana found the middle-ground to be a lonely place. Jana considered herself to be both compassionate and to have a brain and believed that both ends of the political spectrum had valid points.

Gowain had pointed out that instead of a bell-shaped curve, the population’s politics were now “dumbbell-shaped”. They both chuckled at that. “Dumbbells” indeed.

After the second day passed without an email from Blaise, she sent him a text “Are you all right?”.

Blaise did not respond to the text.

After the third day, Jana sent out texts to the extended family asking if Blaise was all right.

Nobody had any information. Surely if he had been hit by a car or arrested, somebody would have known.

That is when Jana started to pray.


“Trust your gut” Blaise’s mentors had always told him. “Intuition is intelligence at a deeper level than words” was another gem he remembered.

So when the switch flipped for him, he knew it was time to don the Rowling cloak-of-invisibility and disappear.

There was a time when a person could disappear with very little effort. He could move to a different city and pick up work at his old trade. He would not even need to change his name. 

That all changed with Social Security.  A man could still disappear by pretending to be a musician and move in with a groupie or he could be a live-in health-aid for an elderly, disabled person and essentially fall off the grid. But even that was no longer possible as The Kraken now had its tentacles wrapped around everything.

 Woe to any who fall out of favor with The Kraken.

Blaise considered each alternative in turn. The reach of the state was enormous. If they highly motivated to find him, they could. That said, there was no reason Blaise had to make it easy for them. In his mind, it was a cost-benefit problem. If it cost more to find him than it was worth then they would not look for him. His main concern would be getting swept up in a random sweeps and making stupid mistakes.

The primary risk was that it costs almost nothing for spiders and servers and search engines to look for him. They were tireless and nearly eternal. A single sentence or photo of him got posted on the internet and he would have company if the current regime was still in power, even if it was twenty years later. That would make a good “article” for the local Pravda “Dangerous radical caught blah, blah, blah…”

Blaise did not fully trust the mail. He knew that there were imaging technologies that could read a folded up sheet of paper inside of a sleeve of aluminum foil, inside of an envelop and it had been available for decades. But the imaging technology was slow and required manual intervention so it was reserved for special cases. However, it was easy enough to scan the outsides of envelopes and back-track to where one had entered the system.

Blaise’s plan was simple. Late October is when the snowbirds headed south. The Winnebagos trundle south down the Interstates in long convoys reminiscent of the Mastodons migrating ahead of the glaciers in the movie Ice Age. In the week before his flight, he left a large footprint on the internet with searches using key-words like “sanctuary” and “Austin”, “San Antonio”, “Santa Fe”, "Denver" and “Phoenix”.

He also drained his bank account and used it to buy sun-screen and flip-flops at the local convenience store that were packed with security cameras. In fact, he made sure that he visited those kinds of stores several times a day.

He had a couple of neighbors who he did odd-jobs for. He turned off his smart-phone to conserve the battery and slipped it into the bags of one of his neighbors as they loaded up to go to Corpus Christi. He believed that his phone could be turned on remotely and its location accessed. If he became a person-of-interest that would be one of the first things authorities would do to locate him for collection.

After bidding the Texas bound couple bon voyage, he helped another neighbor winterize their summer cottage in exchange for sleeping on their couch. He told them that he and his roommate had a falling out. 

Blaise very carefully stayed out of convenience stores and took pains to stay more than 150 feet away from the searching eyes of the video-doorbells that seemed to be everywhere. His thinking was that beyond 150 feet the fish-eye lens would not have sufficient resolution to make a tentative ID possible.

A couple of days later, he bummed a ride with those neighbors by offering to help drive the motor-home. The husband was thrilled. They were heading to Panama City. His wife did not drive and it was a very long haul.

They made good time. The fridge was stocked and they took potty-breaks on-the-fly. They refueled after three-hundred miles. Blaise did not leave the motor-home when they refueled.

Blaise  picked Athens, Tennessee to leave them because it was as close to a blank-spot on the map as he could find along I-75. 

He had the old man drop him off on the edge of the parking lot of the Walmart. Blaise had a day-pack and was wearing a knit cap that covered his ears and a pair of sunglasses with large lenses.

The old man gave him a cunning grin and slipped him a hundred. “Good luck, Bud.” The old man was pleased that Blaise would not hit him up for the price of a plane ticket after they got to Florida. The old man understood that there was a lot that Blaise was not sharing with him...and the old man could afford $100.

From there, Blaise hitchhiked twenty-five miles west to the town of Dayton. Of course, he told the old man that he was hitchhiking east to visit his girlfriend in Asheville which was east of Athens.

The old couple were as deaf as fence-posts and he wasn’t too worried about them ratting. He was pretty sure that neither of them knew his name since they always called him “Bud”. Nevertheless, there is no point in giving away information that might point toward him.

Once in Dayton, Blaise quietly ingratiated himself into its fabric. He rarely spoke except to perfect his generic, Southern accent. He was always as clean and as presentably groomed as his circumstances allowed. He was quick to lend a hand.

His best move was to offer to help clean up the local campground after most of the campers had left due to the cooling weather. The campground manager was more than happy to let Blaise pick through the left-behinds for household goods and clothing and let him stay in one of the smaller cabins.

It looked like food was going to be a problem until he figured out that if he cleaned the bathrooms at one of the local fast-food joints that the manager would ask him to “...carry these out and pitch them into the dumpster…”, “these” being a paper bag full of food that had passed the time it was allowed to sit unsold.

Blaise never offered to clean the mist of grease off of the plastic bubbles that protected the security cameras, though. In fact, he MIGHT have added a bit to some of them with a spray can of cooking cooking-oil. Breaking the cameras would have attracted attention. Grease in a restaurant that fries everything...not so much.

Blaise dealt with curious locals by saying “My folks moved around a lot so I come from a lot of different places. Where do you think I come from?”

Then he would agree with whatever they guessed. “Yep, that is one of the places I lived as a kid…” and then he would claim to not remember a thing about the place.

He bought a used mountain bike with tip money from delivering food. He used the bike to explore the local area, pushing 30 miles up and down the valley. Anytime he saw seasonal work, he stopped and worked it, cash-at-end-of-day.

If he saw a place that looked interesting, he was not above knocking on the door and offering to cut the grass or help with slaughtering the chickens. No job was too onerous or unpleasant. Many of the small-holders were delighted to have an extra pair of hands. Fall is a very busy time of year.

Blaise evacuated Dayton when he saw strangers starting to show up. Some were like him. If you knew what to look for you could see that they were busy keeping a low profile. Others acted like they wanted people to look at them and took a lot of video and still pictures.

Ten miles south of town and almost as far west was a small enclave of back-to-the-landers. Blaise met them when he was hired to dig potatoes. He spent two days with them in cold, wet, back-breaking work. They had put-him-up over night in a Conex container that a previous member had turned into the roughest form of housing. But it was out-of-the-weather and had a wood-stove.

Blaise remembered the food as homemade, simple and extremely plentiful. Firewood was abundant and based on the mountains he assumed cell-service was non-existent. In fact, the man who picked him up where the driveway met the public road told him “Put your phone in that box” while pointing at an old, metal ammo box in a shed beside the drive.

Blaise responded “I don’t have a phone”. That made Sig, the man, smile which Blaise was to learn was a rare event. The ride up the two-track from the public road to the cluster of shacks was almost a half-mile.

At any rate, Blaise's dogged determination to help in every way he could and his taciturn nature had earned him the invitation to come back any time.

As far as Blaise could determine, they were some kind of Amish splinter group. They had a very, very strong aversion to “graven images”, which is what they called photographs. That suited Blaise just fine.

They knew him as "Blain" which was plenty close enough that it got "Blaise's" attention when they called him. 

Next Installment


  1. Alright, and what shenanigan's has Blaise done to un-a$$ from his original locale ? Very interesting beginning.

    1. It really doesn't matter what he did to piss off The Kraken.

      I wrote it so the individual reader can assume that Blaise leans left or right depending on their personal preference.

      The liberals who still talk to me seem to be terrified with Trump winning and their activists getting the January 6 treatment or worse. In their minds that just cannot be allowed to happen.

      If you absolutely need a backstory then what if Blaise is an Antifa type who switches sides depending on which way the wind blows. His latest escapades included coordinating the booby-trapping of heavy equipment installing solar installations and vandalizing the Michigan Attorney General's home by throwing several hundred eggs at it. His not-Antifa connections are organized in widely separated cells with minimal connections between the cells. He is vulnerable because he is a connection and because he left electronic fingerprints which identify him as the planner of a couple of the more spectacularly successful operations.

  2. Dayton? Athens?
    Brother, that's my neck of the woods! (ok, maybe a skosh south of me, but still...)
    Fishing below the dam @ watts bar is better than above due to the coal ash spill in Kingston a couple decades back. Can concur, fishing here sucks unless you go upstream from the spill.
    There are lots of campgrounds along the lake there, north of Athens/Dayton, too, residential, but rural. Boating and it's maintenance tasks are big business. Lots of help-wanted part-time ads for trailer mechanics/welders and boat engine techs. If you can wax gel coat you'll work all summer long.
    Inland you're spitting distance to Appalachia.. I-75=civilization. The roads that go into the Mountains from there are gorgeous rides for ramblers and motorcycles... And of course who could forget "The Dragon"?
    SE as you go into the deep ravines and valleys near Ocoee you have real mountain folks, don't get off the main roads if you hear a banjo. Ocoee area is big with white water rafting, hjiking, vacation homes, all kinds of seasonal/tourist work, no names, long beards. The guides work ski lodges in Colorado for the winter, white-water rafting in the summer, travel the country, 20-something vagabonds (I'm so jealous frankly!) Eventually they knock someone up and sell the camper/truck and take a real job, but I was offering local insights for the story, not facts about life, LOL!
    You are also on the outer edges of Atlanta-life. The $$$ distorts real estate prices, vacation homes and property. Locals resent it. Lots of Air-b-n-b. Prolly lots of empty buildings in the off season (Jan to March). You could easily stay lost in the hills and hollers there, more so than Dayton area. That's fairly built-up/civilized, like a real town. Ditto Athens, big Christian College there (Tenn Wesleyen). You're spot-on for the in-between parts though.
    Corn is stored in a mason jar around these parts.
    Despite legality elsewhere, mary jane is still largely frowned upon by the locals. It's here, but more underground. Outdoor farms, DEA has to use helicopters. Think Copperhead Road. Opioids, meth, and the horse are the big problems here, ravaged whole families (I know half a dozen kids in our HS living with friends/grandparents b/c mom and dad are both locked up on pill/meth charges). Deer country, hogs aren't a problem, yet.
    Big time Baptist country, God help you if you're Jewish (have a funny tale about that and an old lady at the grocery store).
    Racism is practically non-existent. There are few blacks, and those that are here act like normal people, so they integrate just fine and everybody gets along. It's telling when you go to Knoxvegas or some other city and encounter the ferals, as the tension is immediately palpable, and it's absence in the country becomes notable. At first I thought it extreme racism (aka blacks being the minority acted meek to avoid conflict), but seeing folks interact with each other, hug and shake hands, and talk to each other in stores, raise their kids together in school and in church, it's not racism, its beautiful! Brown people that don't speak english keep to themselves, but you do see them at gas stations in the morning/evening buying meals and fueling up for work. (As a former member of this group) Northerner's have no idea what it's like, frankly. It was real culture-shock to me when I moved down here 8 years ago. There's a whole sub-culture that they live in, we don't even know about, but it's everywhere (little trailer parks tucked back in the woods you never knew where there).
    Have been told by local law enforcement human trafficking is becoming a big problem, we're a distribution hub I guess.
    Hope that gives some inspiration! Really enjoy reading your writing, fiction and non-fiction alike!

    1. Is there any chance you can drop me an email at I have questions.

    2. Same here in west central KY. You get insights when a neighbor comes by and says not to get concerned if I hear shooting on Saturday morning. Well, “shooting” is approximately 10,000 rounds being sent down range by a bunch of serious looking “brother in laws and cousins”. Militia is a 4 letter word here and a like minded neighbor who doesn’t ask too many questions gets invited to the “bean field shoot” where stationary and mobile targets at ranges of 300-800 yards are dinged.
      Like Tennessee corn comes in mason jars and asking about someone’s preps is rude. Asking for tips and tricks about food p/ water procurement and storage is encouraged.
      For an “outsider” rule #1 is to remember that EVERYONES related so don’t speak ill of anyone.
      I’m not worried about the mobs coming from the cities, they’d have about 50,000 rednecks to get through before they get to me.

  3. Gonna be a whole lot of folks who dont take the mark. Woody

  4. I sympathize with Jana. I find myself in that position a lot.

    This reads a great deal like part of the book Patriots by James Wesley, Rawles when two brothers have to "disappear" into the woodwork.

    The darn doorbells are a concern for me in an urban neighborhood as they seem quite plentiful now.

  5. The game cameras with cell connections are everywhere too. And who put them up? Is your neighbor just checking for the big buck he's drooling over for deer season, or is Big Brother keeping an eye on you?

    1. And who else in the 'cloud' has access.....

  6. Flock Safety ALPRs are not just ALPRs. License plate character resolution at 70ft - go figure what else they can discern....

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  8. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I saw him as anti-antifa. The reference to Athens, TN is especially neat as it is famous for the Battle of Athens which successfully squelched a fraudulent election attempt.


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