ORLANDO — Freeline Productions has released the new fiction novel “When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead” by author Michael Freeman.
The book is available at Amazon.
What’s the Book About?
The novel tells the story of a journalist named Brandorff, who hasn’t left his tiny studio in days. He’s haunted by the photo of a smiling woman hugging her young son at a community celebration. And every sound in the hallway beyond his door sets off panic in his mind.
“When I Woke Up” is a horrifying story about mob violence exploding when demands for justice reach a fever pitch, leaving Brandorff hidden away, an innocent man waiting to be tracked down.
Who Wrote It?
Michael Freeman is an Orlando-based author, playwright, journalists and digital marketing specialist. His past novels have included “Bloody Rabbit,” “Koby’s New Home,” “Waking In The Dark” and “Of Cats And Wolves.”
How Long Is It?
The novel is 106 pages long and is a work of fiction.
How Do I Get It?
The novel can be ordered through Amazon or through the Freeline Media online bookstore. Order here:
Check out this sample chapter from the book.
The entire night sky lit up radiantly, as if daylight has miraculously set in at 9 o’clock. Brandorff stood there, transfixed, unable to turn away. He wasn’t alone; a large crowd had gathered as closely as police would allow them to go.
One small building was illuminating the night, as a raging fire devastated the store. Flames and dark plumes of smoke could be seen coming from the store, as firefighters worked desperately to prevent the flames from spreading to other buildings. The shop itself, it was clear, would be completely destroyed.
A few hours earlier, Brandorff had gotten back to the city after that tense visit with his father. He wasn’t ready to go back to his apartment yet; on a mild winter night, he wanted to be out among others for a while, as he tried to sort through his mind what he would do next.
As he walked the quiet streets, he first noticed the flames in the distance. Curious, Brandorff moved closer to where the fire was, to find a crowd already gathered near it. People were just standing there, transfixed, watching the inferno rage. It was like a dramatic reality show in action: firefighters had moved into structure-defense mode to protect nearby buildings, and were still evacuating other buildings within the area.
It was obvious that firefighters feared the flames might eventually reach other buildings, but they seemed to be successfully preventing that from happening. They were in a commercial district and there were no homes nearby, just other businesses. And as he stood there, listening to the people around him, Brandorff caught more and more of the little details of what he had missed. At first, he learned, the shop’s old construction and wood siding made it difficult for crews to get the flames under control, and the fire – which had started in the main room – spread quickly from the first floor to the second.
“There was this big red glow from the side of the house,” one older man said to the woman next to him. Brandorff was standing right behind them.
“Then all of a sudden there’s embers flying up,” the man continued, “and pretty soon there’s flames breaking out of the side of the building. It was scary. Now look at it – the whole place is gutted.”
Brandorff leaned forward and said, “Do you know what that building was?”
The man turned, looked at Brandorff and nodded. “I sure do,” he said. “Ready for this? It was called Flame Temehu. How’s that for irony?”
Brandorff stared at the man for a moment, as the gentleman shook his head in disbelief. It was safe to say Brandorff felt astounded as well. Flame Temehu was a popular restaurant serving Libyan cuisine. Brandorff had been there numerous times, and he could recall the note printed on the menu noting that food in Libya is one of the most important activities of a Libyan family, and that the Libyan viewpoint was that One must eat well. The restaurant had become a popular spot for those Americans interested in the Mediterranean.
It was owned by a young Muslim couple from Lybia, who had emigrated here just a few years ago.
“Did the fire start in the kitchen?” Brandorff asked. The man glanced at Brandorff again and grinned.
“The cook used too much oil? I don’t think so,” he said. “Try this: somebody smashed the window open with a rock and then tossed a Molotov cocktail in there.”
Brandorff stared back at the inferno. The man looked back at it as well, and said “I know the couple who own this place. They’re real nice. This is so disgusting.”
As he said that, Brandorff began scanning the crowd. He questioned for a moment if the assailant was still there, standing among the group of spectators and watching this harrowing scene unfold. He couldn’t help but wonder if one of these perfectly normal looking, respectable people had decided this was the night to behave monstrously in these conducive circumstances.
Ordinary people turned victimizer. It was a horrifying thought.
He wondered how many other people in the crowd were silently cheering on this destruction. Around him, were there now “decent people” suddenly discovering that they have within themselves the potential to become victimizers in the right circumstances, to commit an attack for a “higher reason” that customarily justifies this kind of violence against other groups of people at a given moment in time?
Brandorff realized they would go back home tonight and lead their “normal lives.”
Brandorff looked around again at the faces near him, trying to gage their expressions, their reactions to the blaze. Were they horrified … or excited? He couldn’t tell.
Most of them stared ahead blankly. Were all of these people just disinterested? Or were they solemnly observing, like mourners at an open grave?
Brandorff uncomfortably wondered then: Was he standing amidst a sadistic crowd, the Swastikas hidden under their shirts, or were they as appalled as he was to see this vicious act? Were some of them surveilling their handiwork?
A weird sensation swept over Brandorff. It was as if the entire city now felt alien and adversarial to him.
When it became clear that the fire was under control, Brandorff turned and walked away from the crowd, which if anything was still getting larger. He couldn’t deal with the bitter smell of smoke anymore. He felt depressed, hopeless now. The shadows were closing in.
The further away from the crowd he got, the quieter the streets became. As he shifted away from the flames, the night sky got darker.
It was more than depressing to watch that couple’s dreams being destroyed so cruelly. For Brandorff, it felt emotionally crushing to think of how successful this act of hatred had been. A beautiful restaurant that served hundreds every week was gone now, and chances are this act of intimidation was going to succeed, perhaps even excite and motivate others who shared the assailant’s hate …
Brandorff stopped dead in his tracks. A sudden panic swept over him, because as he was lost in his thoughts, his senses began sending him sharp, piercing alarm warnings.
Because he could sense that someone was following him.
Brandorff nervously glanced behind him. On this quiet urban street, not too far from his apartment building, there were just two people now. Brandorff was one of them, and the other was a tall, rather hulking man, who had stopped walking the second that Brandorff turned around.
He was just standing there, idling, like a ghostly specter.
Until then, Brandorff hadn’t even noticed the sounds of footsteps behind him on this quiet street, he had been so absorbed in his thoughts. Now he was seized by an uncontrollable intuition that something was wrong.
Brandorff was not nervous or fearful or anxious about this. He was downright terrified.
The man stood there like a dark silhouette, not even vaguely resembling someone that Brandorff knew. The man looked to be young, maybe in his early 20s, but it was hard to tell. He was wearing sunglasses and a cap, and in the darkness Brandorff could not get a good look at his features. A street lamp provided what little light there was to examine the stranger.
Still, Brandorff had no intention of standing there staring at him. He felt like he was cowering there on the street.
Maybe it was all coincidental. Maybe the stranger had only stopped because Brandorff had as well. Maybe he was just confused about why Brandorff was suddenly looking at him. Maybe this entire situation was perfectly innocent.
And if not …? There was something subtly menacing about this stranger.
For a moment, Brandorff imagined himself approaching the man – a brave and bold attempt to reason with him. This would be a rational and heartfelt discussion. Perhaps not entirely a plea, but a call to logic.
What would you want with me? I don’t get it. You know I can’t fight – I’m a total pipsqueak. I’m a coward. Does that make you feel better? I mean, you know you’d win this fight – I’ll admit it, too. You’re the stronger one. So what’s the point of hurting me …
Brandorff wished he had a big box of chocolates to present to the man as a gift, a peace offering. And yet, as he thought about this, Brandorff had the uneasy sense that he was standing there, looking foolish, posting a pathetic, almost subservient smile.
The man seemed to have a blank expression – not one of anger, not one of sadistic glee. Just a neutral positioning of all the facial features, without a hint of emotion. At the same time, Brandorff felt like the man was staring at him from behind those shades with pale, hating eyes, a kind of quiet contempt.
In a split second, Brandorff was on the move again – faster now, much faster. In the span of less than a minute, Brandorff’s chest was beating so rapidly that it felt like he had been walking for an interminable amount of time.
Brandorff wanted desperately to peek over and see if the man was still following him. Just then he heard a dog howling in the distance, and that gave him another start.
It was tormenting him that he felt this completely vulnerable, this impotent. And the darkness was bewildering him. Any sense that this was going to turn out all right was draining away as each second passed. And he now felt weakened by his fears, and sensed that his legs were suddenly moving too slowly, were dragging hopelessly, as if they had suddenly taken on an enormous extra weight.
He was clearly too frightened to turn around and look behind him again – but he could sense the man was still walking in his direction. Had the man seen him at the fire and decided to follow him? A mugger? Or … Brandorff felt so alone right then, like the entire world had deserted him.
About The Author:
Michael W. Freeman was born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts. A graduate of Hampshire College and George Washington University, Michael got his start in journalism in 1988.
In 2002, Michael relocated to Orlando, and has worked as an editor and writer at some of Florida’s top newspapers, including The Orlando Sentinel, The Sun Sentinel, The Lakeland Ledger and The Jewish Journal, the nation’s largest Jewish weekly newspaper.
In November 2008, Michael formed Freeline Productions as a vehicle to produce an original play he’d written, Hooked, which had its premiere at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival in May 2009. Michael continues to write original plays and remains active in local theater. He’s a member of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater Guild and remains a devoted and passionate lover of the arts and community theater.
His work includes fiction as well. His novels include “Bloody Rabbit,” “Koby’s New Home,” “Waking In The Dark” and “Of Cats and Wolves.”
Michael enjoys reading, traveling, the music of The Monkees, the films of Roman Polanski, catching re-runs of the 1970s TV series “Kolchak The Night Stalker,” and the fine art of comic books.
Michael is also the proud papa of his cats Fluffy, Midnight, and Sweet Pea.