Saturday, July 20, 2013
Summer 2336 New Atlantis, GAIAN CONFEDERACY
‘We are undertaking another major mission,’ Jac Ulster announced to the assembled group of Retrievers from the Child and Adult Programs. ‘Like our 1942 mission, we will require a large, well-orchestrated team working in strategic stages. Our main Target will be the forty-eight children our research has indicated were not seen during the chaos of the early hours of April 15, 1912, and whose bodies were never found.’
‘April 15, 1912. That is when…’ Pia Rogaland interrupted in stunned amazement.
‘The Titanic sank,’ Jac finished for her, nodding at the tall blonde. ‘Yes, you have correctly identified our objective. We are going to redress a little of the loss that occurred that day.’
Karl Ontario felt his heart flutter strangely in his chest. It wasn’t the first time he’d experienced this odd sensation since he’d heard the news of the planned Titanic mission, but it still struck him as uncharacteristic. It almost felt like sick excitement; but that was absurd. The only time he’d ever been excited by anything was in his Original body when an experiment had yielded interesting results.
Since then, some 216 years, excitement had never been an emotion he’d experienced. Interest, determination, compassion, contentment and satisfaction were feelings he recognised in varying degrees of mild intensity, but never excitement.
It was commonly believed that the cloned bodies they inhabited were responsible for their race’s lack of passion, but there was no scientific evidence for that. Whatever the cause, it was certainly factual to say that post-apocalyptic man’s emotions were dimmed and marginalized.
Of course for him, even in his Original, the ‘desires of the flesh’ and the concomitant passions it aroused had only ever been mild. One lady-friend had once told him he had ice water in his veins and he’d believed her. He was, after all, the product of his upbringing.
Karl’s father had been an eminent Canadian surgeon in the middle years of the twenty-first century. A fierce and cutting man, he’d ridiculed all emotion out of his son by the time he was ten years old. All that was left in Karl from that time on was the determination to excel. This he’d done spectacularly, out-shining his father in his chosen field by the time he was twenty-five.
Once this goal was achieved, he’d begun looking for new fields to conquer. It was then that he’d encountered the early work on accelerated cellular development the government was funding. Once he saw the potential for their experiments, his course was set.
It gave him satisfaction to know that he was partly responsible for saving what was left of humanity after the Last Great Plague decimated their numbers. Humanity had been whittled down to little more than a few hundred thousand after that last catastrophe, which ended the Second Dark Age.
He firmly believed that he’d been spared by Divine Intervention so that their work, which had previously been directed into military areas, could be utilized to save mankind. Had he or one of his team not been one of the one in a thousand who survived that horrendous pandemic, no one would ever have known about their spectacular research and results. The sterile and sickly survivors of their race would have died out, and humanity would have gone the way of the dinosaurs.
Before the Last Great Plague, if anyone had asked him about his beliefs about Divinity he would have called himself an “unconvinced agnostic.” He’d wanted to believe there was a God, but his analytical mind had never found the proof needed to commit to such a belief.
He’d gotten all the proof he needed the day he woke up alone in a town filled with the dead and realised he had the knowledge of cloning that could save the lives of those few who remained.
Man had paid a huge price for his hubris and neglect, but a merciful Creator had given them a way to redeem themselves. The statistical chances of any top scientists surviving that pandemic were infinitesimally small. Yet, among the survivors, there were a surprisingly large number of eminent specialists from a wide cross section of the sciences, including those involved in cellular transpositioning. Their research had eventually led to the time travel they now employed to Retrieve suitable candidates from the past to replenish their depleted numbers.
“Noah’s Ark for humanity” he called the Last Great Plague of 2120; somehow, it had selected survivors who could preserve the best of mankind’s legacy.
His mind returned to the topic at hand. The Retrieval teams were going to Jump to 1912 and pluck children and other suitable adult candidates from the decks of the mortally wounded Titanic. And, for the first time in his life, he was intensely excited by the prospect and wanted to be involved.
Karl wasn’t a Jumper. Such work was left to the more adventurous of his kind. He held a support role – the Head of New Atlantis’ Medical and Research Facility. Not once in the last seventy years of time travel had he felt the urge to involve himself in that other side of life.
Until now. Until the word Titanic reminded him of the undulating rows of grey stone markers, many unnamed, he’d seen in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when he was a child.
His mother had taken him to the Fairview Cemetery to visit the grave of her father that long ago day. While she stood quietly grieving, he’d wandered off into another part of the cemetery. There he found the 121 graves, arranged in three neat rows of markers, all bearing the same date of death: April 15, 1912.
Those graves had affected him. Separated by time – nearly 200 years – he’d still felt a strange bond with those unnamed bodies who were robbed of all that made them human: their names, their history and their loved ones. All they had left were their corpses, which had been collected up by unknown hands and buried in graves of earth, instead of the water that had claimed the bulk of their comrades.
His mother told the story for many years after – well out of his father’s hearing, of course – of how she’d found him standing there among those stones. When asked what had possessed him to wander off like that, he’d simply replied, ‘I came to keep them company. It must have been terrible to die cold and friendless that way and then to be left here to lie forever among nameless strangers.’
He didn’t remember saying that, but it was certainly what he felt for a long time afterwards. All he did remember of his interaction with his mother in that spot was her taking his cold hand in her warm one and gently leading him away.
Now, more than 200 years further on again, those nameless dead were calling to him once more. And this time he could do more than provide short-term companionship. This time he could help to save some of those lost souls from their lonely fate.
Jac and Chen, the leaders of the Retrieval programs, would fight him over his decision to join the undertaking. They’d claim he was too valuable to their society to risk on such a dangerous mission. However, he’d be adamant, and he had enough pull in the higher echelons of government to get his way.
The prep for the mission would take many months. During that time, he planned to integrate with a new clone. Currently, he had been housed in his fourth clone for fifty-five years. Not the limit of the lifespan for a clone by any means, but he wanted to be fit and energetic in a twenty-year-old body if he was to take on tasks that might prove physically demanding and dangerous.
That thought roused the sick excitement once again. Could he be changing in the same way some of the Old Timers were beginning to change after they found their significant other? It felt like it might be the case.
After nearly 250 years within a chrysalis of emotionless rationality, he seemed to be feeling the first tremulous moves toward freedom and life. Within the death throes of that metal Titan, he sensed he would be reborn. The how and why of it he didn’t know, but the when and where was certain: April 15, 1912, Mid Atlantic, aboard the doomed Titanic.
He couldn’t wait!
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Genre – Romance
Rating – Between PG13 and R (sensual but not erotic)
What motivates you to write? Enjoyment – but lately I’m motivated by the idea of developing my writing career. I’m doing this part time as a hobby, but it’s increasingly becoming more central to my life and a complementary career.
What writing are you most proud of? I’m most proud of my first book, How To Find Your Vital Vocation (http://www.viewbook.at/vitalvocation), which I’ve recently completed and self-published. I’m proud that I not only wrote it, but that I’ve managed to get it out there into the world where it can hopefully help people to find their purpose and improve their working lives. It’s amazing to think that it’s available the world over. The whole thing has been a lot of fun, and very educational. In fact, I wrote about the process in a series on “how to self-publish your first book” on my author blog: http://www.cormackcarr.com/2013/06/16/how-i-wrote-and-self-published-my-first-book-part-1/
What books did you love growing up? When I was a kid, I loved comics and would read them voraciously. Some people can be really snobby about comics but I read comics that were suitable for a wide age group, ranging from The Beano to the (fairly adult) British comic-magazine Warrior, which first published strips like V for Vendetta. I’m convinced that comics helped me develop my vocabulary and reading ability – and my writing too.
Who is your favorite author? I find that almost impossible to answer – I love lots of authors. My tastes do tend towards the fantastical. I grew up reading JRR Tolkien and Stephen King and I loved and still love their books. I wrote my MA dissertation on Shakespeare, and still find great pleasure and meaning in his plays, particularly the tragedies and romances. I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman’s new book. His Sandman series is one of my favourite pieces of writing – in fact, one of my favourite works of art – ever. I re-read it regularly. I also like a good whodunit. You can’t beat a bit of Agatha Christie on a rainy winter’s evening by a roaring fire.
HOW TO FIND YOUR VITAL VOCATION:
Ready to choose or change your job? Stuck in work you hate? Think the career of your dreams is beyond your reach?
IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO FIND YOUR VITAL VOCATION
If you don’t love your work, you deserve better – and with this book at your side, you can get it. A lively and potentially life-changing guide,How To Find Your Vital Vocation sets out a simple-to-follow yet profoundly effective process that will take you step-by-step from wherever you are now to a working life based on your most cherished dreams.
LEARN HOW TO:
- Hear the inner call that’s telling you what will make you truly happy
- Rediscover your gifts and use them to build a perfectly-tailored career
- Identify and overcome the obstacles that stand between you and your ideal work
- Create powerful networks to help you find great jobs that are never advertised
- Find out what it takes to become an entrepreneur of the future
- Maximise the impact of your job applications
- Ace every interview
- Attain reward levels that will help you thrive – even in this tough economy!
Put yourself in charge of your career – once and for all. Packed with valuable insights, powerful exercises and illuminating self-coaching questions, How To Find Your Vital Vocation will help you chart a practical path to a fun and fulfilling livelihood. In this comprehensive resource, expert career coach Brian Cormack Carr shows you how to find your passion and purpose and finally start doing the work you were born to do.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:
“Too many of us have gone about finding our livelihood in a haphazard way. Before long, we become a statistic in a job dissatisfaction survey. Happily, it doesn’t have to be that way and Brian Cormack Carr proves it. If you think that work should be about more – much more – than just a way to pay your bills, this book is the roadmap you’ve been looking for. Work with How To Find Your Vital Vocation for a short time and you’ll be working at your real work for a long time.”
~ BARBARA J. WINTER Bestselling author of Making a Living Without a Job
“Warm, witty and wise. I highly recommend this book. Brian knows his stuff and How To Find Your Vital Vocation is a breath of fresh air.”
~ GRACE OWEN Executive coach and author of The Career Itch
“I appreciated the step-by-step nature of Vital Vocation. It made finding a new career that much easier, and I’m still amazed at how well it helped me clarify what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”
~ DAVID Member of the Vital Vocation Online Coaching Programme
“Vital Vocation helped me focus after I had spent too long panicking and going nowhere. Now my part-time hobby has grown to a full-time occupation and I’ve finally given up the day job that was making me sad!”
~ STEVEN Member of the Vital Vocation Online Coaching Programme
Genre – NonFiction / Careers
Rating – G
More details about the author
THE ARKANA SERIES: Archaeological Thrillers That Defy History
Volume One – The Granite Key
“Think ‘MEDIUM meets THE LOST SYMBOL’ and it only begins to describe the pleasures of THE GRANITE KEY – 5 Stars.” (Kindle Nation)
A Wake-Up Call
In a nightmare, nineteen year old Cassie Forsythe sees her sister attacked by a man in a cowboy hat who demands something called “the key.” Her nightmare mutates into reality before the night is over. Cassie is called to identify her sister’s body–murdered exactly as her dream foretold. Cassie dismisses her vision as a fluke and fights to get on with her life. Disconnected and aimless now that her only family is gone, she drifts until the evening when she catches the man in the cowboy hat ransacking her sister’s apartment. He bolts with an odd-looking stone cylinder–the granite key. From that moment, Cassie’s normal world evaporates.
A Secret Society
She learns that her sister led a double life–retrieving artifacts for a secret organization called the Arkana. The Arkana’s leader, an elder named Faye, explains that her group performs a controversial kind of archaeology. They scour the globe for evidence of ancient pre-patriarchal civilizations in hopes of salvaging the lost history of the world. Their network of troves safeguards artifacts from highly sophisticated goddess-worshipping cultures on every continent. Cassie’s sister had the psychic ability to touch an artifact and relive its past. Cassie has now inherited this gift. Faye wants the girl to take over her sister’s role in the organization. Cassie doubts her powers but agrees. Now an insider, she is transported to the Arkana’s mysterious underground vault in the countryside outside Chicago where the group tackles the mystery of her sister’s murder.
A Dangerous Cult
The Arkana learns that the man in the cowboy hat is a hired mercenary named Leroy Hunt and that he is working for a fundamentalist religious cult known as the Blessed Nephilim. He takes his orders directly from the cult’s domineering prophet–Abraham Metcalf. The granite key which Leroy stole is inscribed with hieroglyphics revealing the location of a mythological artifact reputed to have mystical powers–the Sage Stone. Although skeptical of its legendary capabilities, the Arkana is still afraid to allow the relic to fall into the cult’s hands. Abraham’s fanatical belief in the power of the Sage Stone could be the catalyst to start a war of religious genocide.
Unlocking The Key
Before she died, Cassie’s sister took photos of the strange markings on the granite key. The Arkana decodes the hieroglyphics which point to the ancient ruins of Minoan Crete as the hiding place of the Sage Stone. Faye hastily assembles a retrieval team including Cassie, her newly-appointed bodyguard Erik, and a British researcher named Griffin. The band of treasure hunters is mismatched and wildly dysfunctional from the start. Griffin has never gone on a field mission, Erik treats his inexperienced colleagues with contempt, and Cassie second-guesses her psychic hunches. She battles to prove herself to Erik at every turn. Their internal clashes rival the bigger crisis of what to do when they come face to face with their enemies.
A Matter Of Life Or Death
Even as they rake through megalithic tombs and Minoan palaces for clues, Abraham dispatches his son Daniel and hired gun Leroy Hunt to recover the Sage Stone. The Nephilim operatives won’t hesitate to kill anyone standing in their way. Will Cassie and her teammates avert global disaster or find themselves casualties of Abraham’s mania to exterminate the world of unbelievers? The Granite Key holds the answer.
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Genre – Archaeology / Thriller
Rating – PG
More details about the author
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Friday, July 19, 2013
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What kind of book is this? I loved each and every sample in this book and if I had to pick one, I would choose The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge by Christine Nolfi. It is fiction story that has a very Nora Roberts feel to the story and Nolfi is an excellent novelist.
What was the author's purpose or purposes in writing this book? The Fagan family lost their son Jason 15 years ago when he was murdered. Now, when their other son is supervising renovations, Ourania who is a family friend, finds letters that can change their lives. I think the purpose of this book is to highlight the importance of family and how much damage secrets is caused from keeping secrets.
If you could continue the story, what events would you include? I don't think this story needs any further additions. The characters were well-developed, the plot flowed from beginning to end in a strong, non-predictable manner and each scene left this reader with a lasting impression.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author.
View all my reviews
Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it? My new book is THE REBELLIOUS HEIRESS. This is the 8th book in the Sweet Deception Regency series. Marry her cousin Woodie? Bella would sooner run away. On her escape to London she finds the Earl of Wyndham attacked and left for dead. When Tristram regains consciousness, he can’t believe this wisp of a girl has saved him. Unable to leave her to her own devices, he escorts her to London and hires her as governess to his son. Though he suspects Bella is lying about her identity, he welcomes her into his home and his heart. Will her controlling guardian find her and force her into a disastrous marriage when her heart belongs to the man she rescued?
Our son is adopted and so being accepted no matter what your heritage has always been important to me. The young boy in the story is not acknowledged as the heir by his grandmother so Bella and the hero try to help the dowager duchess learn to accept the child on his own merits.
I had the worst time coming up with a title for this book. My working title was A Case of Heredity however that sounded like some sort of dread disease. The Rebellious Heiress is much better.
Tell us a bit about your family. I’m married to a confirmed bachelor who discovered that it wasn’t all bad being married. We have two children.
How do you work through self-doubts and fear? I try to remember my mom’s words: “You can’t be perfect. All you can do is your best.” Somehow that takes some of the pressure off the need to do everything the “right” way.
What scares you the most? Every time I begin a book I worry that when I get into the middle of the story I won’t be able to come up with a satisfactory ending.
What makes you happiest? Spending time with my family. In my younger days I was so busy that I didn’t have the great gaps of time to enjoy my children and husband. These days I savor that time.
What’s your greatest character strength? Loyalty. I’m a good friend to have. I’m there if you need me. I value my friends and try to think what they might need from me.
What’s your weakest character trait? I’m hyper critical of myself.
Samples to Savor: Book Club Picks, presented by Her Books:
Discover your book club’s next page-turner and spark fascinating conversations with your friends in this free sampling from eight bestselling authors. You’ll find rich prose, evocative plots, compelling characters and surprising twists from:
Finding Emma by Steena Holmes
Composing Myself by Elena Aitken
Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby
The Scandalous Ward by Karla Darcy
The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge by Christine Nolfi
The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands
Broken Pieces by Rachel Thompson
Depraved Heart by Kathleen Valentine
About the Author(s):
Bestselling authors Steena Holmes, Elena Aitken, Rachel Thompson, Patricia Sands, Christine Nolfi, Kathleen Valentine, Bette Lee Crosby and Karla Darcy provide readers worldwide with contemporary fiction and nonfiction releases ranging from historical romance to literary.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Women’s Fiction
Rating – PG
Connect with the authors on Faceboook
It was one of those damp, warmish evenings so common to Puget Sound in spring. I was sitting on the deck of our still new-ish house, only now emerging from my little family’s first winter in her. I had been contemplating the mold on the railing over the far edge of a martini glass when I heard what sounded like rapid gunfire.
I sat up somewhat straighter and listened to the booming echo in the surrounding woods—or was it the ringing in my ears?The occasional gunshot on the rural peninsula where we live is not uncommon, especially at cocktail hour, but machine-gunning the gathering dusk seemed a bit much even for our sparsely populated neighborhood.
I heard it again: two or three quick, penetrating bursts. Seemed to be coming from the front of the house, near the road. That’s it, I thought. Roadwork. Must be a jackhammer. I forgot all about it.
Before sunrise the next morning, our three-year-old boy kicked open the bedroom door and announced, “I AM AWAKE.” I heard the jackhammer again. A rapid, relent-less pounding that seemed both to be in my head and wrapped around it. Of course, I thought, that’s what woke him. Damn early though. I’d speak to the work crew up on the road.
But there was no work crew.
I heard it again that evening. And again. I walked down our long gravel driveway to the road. The sound tore open the evening quiet: BDDDDDDTH! BDDDDDDTH! BDDDDDDTH!
My God, I thought. It’s coming from our house!
I crept back up the driveway, concealing myself in the rhododendrons. BDDDDDDDDTH! I slinked behind the house. BDDDDDDDTH! A bright flash rocketed down from the eaves and smashed into the suet basket hanging on our deck. There it was, a tan and speckled woodpecker, shining orange under the wings, talons sunk deep into the suet, twirling at the end of the basket’s chain. It sensed my gawking and turned its evil gaze on me. It took off in a blur and vanished into the tree line, violently beating the air with flashes of banded gold.
Dawn next morning. BDDDDTH! BDDDDTH! BDDDTH! The walls pulsated. The windows rattled. Our boy kicked open the door. “WOO’PECKER,” he said. We lay there, my wife and boy and I, innocents in the dark, listening to this twelve-inch tall bird produce a sound like all the jackhammers of hell destroying the Devil’s own driveway.
I crept downstairs and silently opened the back door. BDDDDTH! The very air was rent. I looked up to the eaves. He was near the apex of the roof, below the chimney, attacking a piece of flashing. His evil little head snapped back and forth with military precision. He aimed his beak at some secret confluence of roof, flashing and gutter and BDDDTH! BDDDTH! BDDDDTH! The sound it produced was stunning, and it was directly above our three-year-old’s room. It seemed an honor, in a way, to be thus embraced by the natural world, as if the arrival of the woodpecker was a sublime gift offered with outstretched arm by the open hand of nature.
Four weeks later, neither my wife nor my son nor I had slept past dawn. Five in the morning. BDDTH! Five in the evening. BDDDDDDTH! Any time in between. BDDDDDDDDTH! The boy started to have bad dreams. My wife demanded action. I searched for an answer in vain until one evening, while sitting on our deck, a small piece of freshly gouged wooden siding floated down and came to rest near my martini glass. The siege of the woodpecker was no longer just mental torture.
Our nemesis had a name—Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)—and we were not his first victims. The broad migration range of the flicker spills across North America like so much blood, seeping all the way into the deserts of the southwest down to Central America and even Cuba. The male will “drum,” as the rapid fire hammering of his beak is called, to proclaim his territory, but principally he drums to attract a mate. If decibels were any measure of desire, we had one lonely woodpecker on our hands. Once paired, however, flickers are monogamous. Ensconced in their choice locale, they may remain for a decade. They will defend their territory to the death.
Ordinarily, flickers seek out dead trees for nest excavation but ignore the well-seasoned wood of older homes. In the absence of appropriate dead wood, they will readily apply their skills to any structure for “drumming,” as the bird books modestly call this 20-beat-per-second head banging. Cedar shingles, metal gutters, roof flashing, an-tennae, chimney caps, highway signs—all are ripe targets for drumming. And the louder the better, for drumming is not a search for food, it is a declaration: “THIS LAND IS MINE. LOVE ME OR LEAVE IT.”
It must be said that the Northern Flicker is not only tough, adaptable and fearless—as anyone who has battled it will admit—it is a keystone species. The cavities it creates provide homes for numerous other animals. It is also, ironically, a mostly terrestrial feeder, scouring the ground for ants and termites and other insects potentially harmful to the very same houses it would happily chisel into oblivion by its hammering. “Ant bird” is one of the two hundred or so monikers that have been hung on this terrible creature since our colonial times. Other attractive handles include: Big Sapsucker, Carpintero, Cotton-back, Golden Winged Woodcock, High Holer, Little Wood Chuck, Pecker Wood, Shadspirit, Yellowhammer and, most fitting of all, the Blackhearted Woodpecker for the heart shaped mark emblazoned on its chest, Superman style.
The books urged us to cover up the damage with an array of anti-woodpecker paraphernalia. We took down our suet baskets and bird feeders, enraging the local jay population. We bought a battery-powered motion detecting plastic owl that turned its head and hooted whenever one of our dogs drew near. More extreme measures, such as attaching mirrors near the damage, applying foul tasting muck or stapling strips of Mylar along the roofline were impractical. Our roof, where the flicker chose to drum, is over thirty feet off the ground and too steep to stand on. The idea of renting an extension ladder long enough to reach it and risk plunging to my death while trying to scare away a bird was laughable. For a while.
By April, blood was in the air. None of our simple tricks had worked. The owl batteries had long since died. Friends who had laughed at our troubles now offered sympathy and firearms. I still resisted the idea of attaching anything to our roof, strictly out of concern for my own safety. I was not going to risk my life staple-gunning plastic ribbons to the gutter. Even if it worked, I’d have to go back up there and rip it all down. Or would I? Would we have to leave it there indefinitely? We needed a better answer.
One of the less helpful sympathy gifts we had received was a stuffed animal version of a Northern Flicker Woodpecker. We were encouraged to “try some voodoo on this guy and see what happens!”
Our son commandeered the toy and incorporated it into the menagerie of stuffed monkeys, bears and other exotics that accompanied him to bed each night. He carefully propped each one up among the pillows at the head of his bed, to watch over him as he slept. “We love you all the time, but now it’s time to go to sleep,” he intoned, which was exactly what we said to him each night.
As I tucked the boy in and observed the woodpecker in his burrow of pillows, I realized we were going about this whole thing the wrong way.
What if we welcomed this bird instead of fighting it? What if we installed a woodpecker house on our roof, right at his drumming spot? Perhaps he would move in and stop drumming there?
I went to a local tool store to rent the dreaded extension ladder. The aging owner behind the counter demanded to know what I was about. I found it difficult to say out loud, but admitted that I planned to nail a birdhouse to my roof to keep a woodpecker from hammering my home to pieces. He stared at me. “Is it a Flicker?” he whispered, as if one might be listening. “Had one on ah house ah mine once.”
My heart quickened. Here was a survivor of woodpecker battle, full of knowledge to share. “What did you do?”
Somehow I managed to climb the ladder, carrying a two-foot tall, six-by-six inch woodpecker house stuffed full of cedar sawdust (to give the flicker something to excavate), a cordless drill, and a bunch of screws. Cheating death, I installed this new totem, and waited for the silence to begin.
The hammering went on. The woodpecker house failed to attract, discourage, or even interest the woodpecker in any way. It occurred to me that this bird was obviously a veteran of many conflicts with humans. And there was that arresting phrase I’d read: “Will defend their territory to the death.” It began to hit home.
I am not ordinarily bloodthirsty and am a sincere believer that nature is best left to its own devices. But after more than two months this living hammer had still not attracted a mate despite its singular, incessant and spectacular hammering. After all, I too am part of the evolutionary circle of life. Sometime in May I decided that if he didn’t find a date soon, this woodpecker was going to be selected against.
Like all migratory birds, the Northern Flicker is a protected species. However, the federal government has kindly provided, in its familiar tortured fashion, a process by which one may obtain a permit to kill a woodpecker that is damaging property or driving a young family insane. My years in uniform had made me a competent rifleman—and I have been known to trim lofty tree branches with a shotgun—but I was not eager to start blasting holes in the side of my house to kill a bird. I took the decision seriously. With the grim and disciplined patience appropriate for such a measure, I began the tedious filing and phone calling necessary to obtain the two permits that would become my license to kill.
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Genre – Fiction / Short Stories
Rating – PG13
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Thursday, July 18, 2013
Blood Alley - David Wisehart
Genre - Thriller
Rating - PG13
4.4 (14 reviews)
Free until 19 July 2013
Buckle up for a high-octane, pulse-pounding thrill ride...
Could you survive a haunted highway?
Blood Alley is the deadliest road in Amqerica.
Some call it a death trap. Others say it's haunted. Only the locals know the truth...
Blood Alley belongs to the Highwayman, a vengeful phantom who drives his ghost car at night to claim the souls of all who cross him.
Teenagers on their way to a funeral get delayed by engine trouble and ignore the warnings:
Don't drive Blood Alley at night!
Four teenagers hit the road at sunset.
Will any survive to see the dawn?
Orangeberry Book of the Day – SILVER: Acheron (A River of Pain) (The SILVER Series) by Keira Michelle Telford
The Steep & Savage Path
The Fringe District
Amaranthe, 2342 CE
– Present Day
Condemned, Silver is left on the bridge to the Fringe District, her wrist still gushing blood. Moments ago, the delicate skin of her inner left wrist was sliced open with a scalpel and a small, platinum colored microchip was expertly removed.
That tag was her life story, containing every detail of her life from the day of her birth to the last time she ordered a cup of coffee. Formerly a Commander in an elite military institution called the Hunter Division, she is now a prisoner. Relegated to the Fringe District, she joins the ranks of the banished.
A criminal, or so she is accused of being, she’s cut off from her friends and family and left to fend for herself in this fetid, dank scrap of Old World land that was once called Staten Island.
Now, more than three hundred years after a global war changed the dynamic of our planet forever, humans are beginning to make their resurgence. This place, Amaranthe, is the first reclaimed human city—but Silver is not its first victim. Standards for occupation in the city are high, and many don’t make the cut. If you’re considered unworthy, any excuse will be used—any small indiscretion exposed—to place you before the Banishment and Enforcement Council.
In Silver’s case, she’s lucky to have been banished. In Amaranthe’s poorly constructed, two-tiered judicial system, her sentence could just as easily have been enforcement.
Death via bullet.
Fortunately, the man who raised her holds some sway in the government. Not enough to keep her from facing the gavel, but enough to keep her from facing the gun. Amaranthe’s governing body, the totalitarian Omega administration, is a harsh and cruel master, feared by all who dwell within its jurisdiction.
Left with nothing more than the clothes on her back and a few small weapons, Silver begins the lonesome walk toward her new Fringe District life. Her Hunter Division boots are the last identifiable remnants of her prior occupation. Stained with blood and dirt, the Omega emblems are hard to make out on the scuffed steel plates decorating the backs of the heels. Her well-worn jeans are made from a mixture of hemp, which flourishes rampantly in the New World, and para-aramid synthetic fiber—Kevlar. Designed to last for up to a decade of use, this pair has seen at least three rotations of the year already. They’ve survived countless days spent off-duty, romping in the playground of the unreclaimed world outside Amaranthe’s secure walls, often finding themselves covered in dirt and mud, and Chimeran blood.
The creatures generations of humans—including Silver—have been bred to kill. Born in the aftermath of a nuclear war, they were human once … until their humanity was lost over centuries of rapid genetic mutations. During this time, ninety-nine percent of all living things on Earth died, yet the Chimera proved to be an adaptive and resilient new species.
Outnumbering this small population of humans by 25:1, the Chimera lurk in the shadows, scavenging for food in the places where human feet no longer dare to tread. Ferocious meat-eaters, they will hunt alone or in packs, and human is their prey of choice.
Kill, or be killed.
A motto of the Hunter Division, whose job it is—among other things—to destroy Chimera so that Amaranthe can continue to expand. Not to mention, the whole city relies on the Hunter Division kills. Chimera is the only source of fresh meat, and no part of the animal is wasted. Their hide makes good leather, and many things can be made from bone. Some live specimens are even farmed for their milk.
Today, though, Silver’s jeans are clean. Held in the detainment corridor for almost a month prior to her sentencing, she’s had no time to play. Affixed to the belt loops, a utility belt contains holsters for a hunting knife, a handgun and two spare clips of 9mm ammunition. The knife, recently sharpened, bears a ferocious steel blade and a jet black handle custom inlayed with a sterling silver design—an Ella Cross .
This is Silver’s trademark; her territorial stamp. Not only is it an ancient Old World symbol, once known as a warrior shield, it’s a pictorial representation of her birth name. Ella Cross was born twenty-eight years ago. Silver was forged in battle, when she joined the Hunter Division.
Her handgun, an HK USP, also custom engraved, is silver-plated and bears her birth father’s initials. It never leaves her side, and his old Hunter Division dog tags never leave her wrist. They bear his name and rank, stamped ‘DECEASED’ over top. Her own set of dog tags still hang around her neck, despite her most recent fall into unemployment. Stamped ‘DISCHARGED’, she tucks them inside her shirt—both pairs: the ones bearing her name, and another set bearing the name of the lover she may never see again.
Alexander King has been hers since the day she first laid eyes on him, but now they’re separated by one impassable bridge. Only Omega employees can walk freely between the two polar opposite worlds on either side, and Alex was discharged from the Hunter Division, just like Silver. Though, with his spotless professional record, he was unable to be charged with anything more serious than engaging in a prohibited relationship with his unit Commander. Thus, he was spared banishment.
She wasn’t so lucky.
She had a secondary charge to contend with: treason.
Suddenly aware of the pain in her wrist, Silver pulls out a strip of gauze given to her by the surgeon and wraps it tightly around her oozing stitches. Better than nothing, she surmises. Her fingers wet with her own blood, she backhands some stray wisps of dark blonde hair away from her face. Always in a pony tail, her hair could go days without brushing and you’d barely even notice. She’s beautiful, of course, but not like the girls in Old World magazines. Raised for the Hunter Division, she’s tall and strong. Her shoulders carry a strength that could put some lesser men to shame, and her face hasn’t seen a lick of make-up since her sixteenth birthday.
Sharp, silver eyes look out upon the world with a new found cynicism, and her lips are fully prepared never to smile again.
Fuck ‘em, she thinks.
Fuck Omega, and the lies they’ve smeared her with. Fuck truth and justice, and all the things she’s ever fought for. Fuck love, and all the pain that’s brought her. Fuck dying, like they hope she will.
She’s armed, and ready. With steel boots, a steel blade, a stone cold heart and three full clips of hollow points, she’s got enough to take on the Fringe District … for today, at least—and she’s not prepared to go down without a fight. This place is rough, like the worst neighborhood you’ve ever been to, times a thousand. It wouldn’t be uncommon for an easier mark to be killed in the street for the hat on their head, or the loaf of bread in their hand.
Fortunately, though, Silver’s no fool. Combat trained from the age of five, she can take on a man twice her size, and her agility and stamina will out-maneuver him every time. She has that, and confidence—in the bucket loads.
Reaching the foot of the bridge, Silver receives her first welcome: a barrage of signs and graffiti intended to drive away those who have come to gloat, or to abuse. Since its inception, the Fringe District has been more than just a prison land, and within it the prisoners—the banished—run rampant.
Success of the banished population, on such a scale, was simply not anticipated; longevity was not considered. In a place crawling with disease, and with the complete lack of an established healthcare system, the predicted mortality rate was high. Breeding was not part of the plan, and by the time it became a noticeable problem, it was already too late. The Fringer population was thriving, despite their circumstances.
Stricter penalties in the Sentinel District ensure more banishments each successive year, but births in the prison District still outnumber new inmates at a growing ratio of 1000:1.
Hope of something better was abandoned long ago. Behind every depraved, grotesque, and often illegal action you may witness, there is one prime motivator: survival, at all costs.
An every-man-for-himself mentality exists here in the extreme, and this desperation is routinely exploited by the Hunters and Police Division Agents who frequent these parts for their own entertainment.
Everything prohibited in Omega’s superficial utopia, the Sentinel District, is available in the Fringe if you’re willing to pay for it, or if you have the strength to take it by force. Though, it should be said, this approach seldom has a happy ending for the aggressor, and the row of decapitated heads on spikes at the entrance to the Fringe is a testament to that. You cross these people—the Fringers—at your own risk, because they will retaliate.
For all their faults and the civil disorder that abounds here, violence perpetrated by outsiders is simply not tolerated. A crime against one is a crime against all, and from this simple understanding, a system of reciprocity has arisen.
Hunters routinely exchange meat for cannabis or liquor. Weapons are also traded across the border—for sexual favors, mostly. A Hunter will sneak a Striker 12 shotgun out of the Omega Armory and smuggle it into the Fringe where he’ll pay a whore’s Handler for an hour or two of her time. The Handler, in turn, will sell the shotgun to the highest bidder for money, or some other valuable commodity.
There are no philanthropists here. No charity, no compassion, only merchants and consumers, and Silver knows precisely what to expect. For a time, she and her fellow Hunters ran a pit fight ring in the back room of a seedy little Fringe District bar.
A butcher shop.
A place where Chimera are starved for days before being let loose in a ring and provoked to fight it out with others of their kind, in front of an audience. Bets are taken on the outcome, and the Hunters who bring in the animals are given a commission or free merchandise—whichever they prefer.
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Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – 18A
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013
One True Cat
there is no cat
but the One True Cat.
of the One True Cat.
Cat will leave no empty cardboard box unoccupied.
Cat will sing with pride
at six a.m.
and bring you gifts
and you may put that word in quotes,
but do not let Cat see you write it
for Cat will make Himself at home
on your notebook
and make play toys
of your crumpled notes.
and Cat will disobey.
Cat will calculate the timing
of your footfalls;
Cat will time them so that you fall
and Cat will disappear.
but Cat will disengage.
Cat will always know the proper time.
Cat will remind you until you show him
Cat will hunker,
Cat will hunt
at five a.m.
and you will stir
and Cat will know it’s time to play,
but you will not wake
you will drift
and Cat will tap your sheets
until you invite Him
but Cat will disdain
and you will roll away
trying to ignore Cat.
But Cat will disallow.
Cat will have your chair.
your ass is but a battery for heating seats
and Cat will take your seat
and Cat will never
Cat will do His best impression,
of a speed bump
in your living room.
But Cat will disobey.
Cat will make a lollipop of plastic bags
at four a.m.
Cat will leave no plastic bag untasted.
Cat will leave no belt buckle unjingled.
Cat will leave no shelf un-slept upon.
and Cat will be relaxed
and more refreshed than you,
and you will shake your head at Cat,
and Cat will be disinterested.
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Genre – Literature / Fiction Poetry Anthologies
Rating – PG
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
I’m stuck in this body. And I can’t get out.
I stare at my arms. These arms. They’re not mine, but I’m wearing them. They’re thick and muscular and covered in hair. The veins run like rope down the insides.
I squeeze my eyes shut for the hundredth time, hoping that when I open them, I’ll look down and see my own thin arms. My own delicate veins.
Oh, God, do I need help. I need help. Now.
I stand and my head spins. Grabbing onto the desk, I wait for the dizziness to pass. Wait for my head to clear. It doesn’t happen.
I look from the desk to the bed to the floor to the walls and see where I am. Clarity won’t come. Can’t come. Because I’m not where I’m supposed to be.
My eyes travel to the mirror and the face staring back in terror. “Please,” I say. The face says it back, but sloppily. Like a drunk. “Please,” I beg again. “Where are you?” This time the words feel formed. This time my lips, his lips, work the way I expect them to. Or close to it.
But there’s no response.
I lift a hand. Take a step. My movements are staccato. Jerky. Clumsy. Like electrodes are flexing these muscles. Not me. Everything about this body is heavy and long. I take another step forward and it’s smoother, but I’m not used to the bulk of this body.
And I don’t want to get used to it.
I want out. Of him. Of here.
August: Life As Usual (yeah, right)
“Rise and shine, Sylvie,” Dr. Hong says, his voice full of forced cheer. “PSG’s done. You have a couple hours of free time before the MSLT. Go crazy.” I open my eyes and the first thing I see is the bramble of silver hairs sticking out of his nose. Note to self: Buy Dr. Hong nose hair clippers for Christmas.
He helps me sit up and I look down at myself, feeling like something out of a horror movie. Sticky pads with wires dot my legs and chest. I can’t see the ones above shoulder height, but their glue makes my chin, forehead and the areas around my ears and eyes itch. A heavy ponytail of wires cascades down my back and leads to a machine on my left. Probes tickle my nostrils.
Doc rearranges things and unhooks me so I’m able to walk around. I almost thank him, but catch myself before I do. I’m here because he doesn’t believe me. He’s brought me here to prove himself right. As with all the other tests I’ve taken.
But so far, he hasn’t proven anything. It drives him nuts.
It drives me nuts, too.
I go to the window and open the blinds. Outside, the sun is bright. Another stifling summer day in Wisconsin. Outside, I know the air sticks to your skin like Saran-Wrap and feels thick as cotton wool. I can almost smell the fresh-cut grass, the acrid scent of blacktop burning.
But here, in the lab, it stinks like antiseptic. And it’s dry and cool. The perfect sleeping temperature. That’s what I’m here to do: sleep. It’s the last weekend before school starts, and while everyone else is tanning on the sand, I’m snoozing in a sleep lab.
Talk about social suicide.
Dr. Hong writes something on my chart. “I’m turning you over to the team,” he says. “I think these tests will help us figure it out, Sylvie.” When I don’t respond, he goes on. “You know, the cataplexy – that’s where you have the sudden loss of muscle tone. Then the sleep paralysis ... ” Here he looks up from the chart and directly into my eyes. “And, of course, the hallucinations.”
Of course. The hallucinations. I stare back at him without blinking. He breaks the gaze first and I feel a ridiculous sense of victory.
They’re not hallucinations. That’s what bothers me the most, what scares me and pisses me off: Dr. Hong insists it’s all make-believe.
“Your mother’s worried about you.” Dr. Hong’s voice is accusing. Like I’ve been giving my mom problems on purpose. If there’s one thing I don’t want, it’s to make my mom worry more.
“There haven’t been any more incidents,” I say.
Dr. Hong narrows his dark eyes at me. I know he doesn’t believe me. He never believes me. I might actually be offended – if I were telling the truth.
“Well, that’s wonderful, then. But with all that’s going on–”
“I’m doing fine. Really.” No need for him to play shrink any longer.
He’s silent a moment. Then he says, “Okay, Sylvie.”
“Everything’s set for school?” It’s a yearly ritual. Tests, tests, and more tests. Then the paper that declares me fit to fester in the classrooms of my high school.
“Sure. We don’t need these results to know that. I’ll contact St. Anthony’s and let them know everything’s in order for your –” he picks up my chart and looks at it again “—junior year.” He sticks out his hand and I shake it unenthusiastically.
“I’m sure school will be a lot of fun. You must have the boys lined up.” His eyes crinkle as he tries a smile.
“The only boys lining up are those who are trying to get away,” I say.
It wasn’t a joke, but Dr. Hong looks at me and laughs loudly. He throws his head back and I get a direct view up his nostrils.
Note to self: Forget the nose hair clippers. Buy the guy a weed whacker.
Genre – YA Paranormal / Coming of Age
Rating – PG13
Monday, July 15, 2013
Vice Principal Killjoy
Thomas fiddled with his thumbs waiting for his grandfather to emerge from his meeting with Vice-Principal “Killjoy” Khanna.
He hadn’t come up with that nickname; it was something he had heard since his first day at Oceanic High School, in Carlsbad, California. It was whispered along the corridors and classrooms with dread, like a monster under the bed. If you did something wrong, Killjoy would get you.
Even the adults knew about her fame. Morning drop-offs at school were always a chaotic cutthroat race until Killjoy took command of the school’s entrance. Holding a metal notepad in one hand and a large coffee mug in the other, Killjoy gained control of the drop-off zone. As parents cautiously drove through the parking lot, a mere frown stopped those who wanted to cut in line and a wave of the metal notepad dissuaded those who wanted to drive into the teacher’s parking lot. Her system was very simple: students wouldn’t be admitted to school that day if their parents tried to cut in line. Simple as that.
Killjoy always wore a long overcoat over a buttoned knitted sweater, even in the summer. Her haters compared her to a barrel with legs, but many of the girls were jealous of the wavy black hair that reached her lower back and her thin manicured hands. Nobody had seen her eyes — she always wore huge sunglasses that covered half her face — but it was rumored that her eyes were the blackest black.
She was shorter than the average sophomore girl, so it was easy for her to walk among students undetected during recess, and she was silent too, like a tiger stalking prey. Someone had found out that her shoe size was around 12 or 13, but Killjoy wore rubber-soled shoes and walked in a short step gait.
In those first two weeks, Thomas had been startled three times by her sudden appearance. Only the first time had she acknowledged his presence by nodding her head at him, her chin embedding itself deeply into her large double chin.
That simple nod was enough for an introduction.
There was a story about how Killjoy stopped a speeding SUV by standing in front of it and putting her hand on the grill of the car. The incident happened before Thomas even entered school, and he knew it must have been an exaggeration, but the story went that two days later, the family who was driving the SUV, moved from the county.
Or so it was rumored.
Parents avoided her, teachers respected her, and students were completely terrified. In a nutshell, the school was completely under Killjoy’s iron grip. The Principal seemed happy to be just a figurehead, the school ran like clockwork, and there were no problems between him and Killjoy since Killjoy was always right.
Everyone told Thomas to avoid her, but he was now on her radar.
Thomas shifted in his seat, swinging his legs back and forth. He stared at Killjoy’s closed door. He shivered. This was his first visit to her office, and since he had just transferred from Ohio, the Killjoy legend hadn’t really sunk in. A boy from his class had called him a “farm boy” in front of a group of girls, and although he had let that one slip by, he couldn’t ignore “hick,” “redneck,” and all the other names that followed. He dropped his backpack and immediately a ring of onlookers gathered.
The other boy, Roger Hill, was large and strong, blond hair and blue-eyed. He was three inches taller than Thomas, and his shoulders were many inches wider. Roger was a linebacker on the school’s football team.
Thomas was the complete opposite – always on the skinny side, black hair, brown eyes. But, three years in Tae Kwon Do earned him a red belt and third place in Ohio’s junior open. Of course, nobody knew that, and Roger found out the hard way.
Thomas didn’t throw the first punch; he tried to talk first, but when the punches came he made sure to throw the last kick, and then the next one, and the next one, as Roger’s teammates jumped in to help their linebacker. Thomas was in a trance – fighting – and zooming in on one of Roger’s friends when the circle of onlookers opened and Killjoy entered the arena.
With a wave of her notepad, Killjoy dissolved the spectators and assessed the situation. Everyone was silent. Thomas tried to catch his breath.
“You three,” she said in a thick Hindu accent, “to the principal.” Then she turned to Thomas and pointed with her coffee mug. “You, follow me.”
Thomas picked up his backpack and followed the short, plump woman through the school hallways. All the kids looked at him with pity; some even waved him goodbye.
With a little kick, Killjoy opened her office door and led Thomas inside. She pointed to a chair across from her desk and waited for him to sit down before plopping in her chair. She intertwined her fingers and leaned over her desk, staring at Thomas.
Thomas tried to keep his cool and held her gaze while he counted in silence. He’d never been prone to get into trouble. He was never singled out for anything other than for his prowess in Tae Kwon Do in Ohio.
In Fullton, a town of roughly eleven thousand people, and a high school with a total two hundred students, everyone was familiar with each other. They’d actually grown up together. His old principal, Mr. Blair, had been to barbecues at his home many times. When someone got into trouble, not only did the parents know about it, within hours, the whole town heard of the news. And, like it or not, your reputation grew up with you – screwing up as a kid you’d be branded a “bad apple,” and your reputation would follow you forever.
The switch to Carlsbad, a proper city between San Diego and L.A., and a school with about three thousand students, had been difficult. It was harsh and disorienting. It seemed that everyone was trying to be individuals, trying to do something that would set them apart from each other. Clothing, attitude, friends, sports. It was all about who was who. Who did what?And, who was with whom? Thomas had tried to keep a low profile, but once again, his prowess in Tae Kwon Do had singled him out.
And now he was sitting in front of Killjoy.
When he had counted to twenty Mississippi, Killjoy finally spoke.
“Did you throw the first punch?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Did you enticed the fight in any way?”
“E-N-T-I-C-E-D. Enticed,” she spelled. “To bait, to attract. Did you lure Roger to fight with you?”
“No. They started it.”
“Roger and his friends.”
“So you know him?”
“He’s in one of my classes.”
“And you don’t like him.”
“I don’t really know him.”
“You wanted to fight him?”
“You wanted to show off in front of the school? Build a little reputation? Show everyone who’s boss.”
“No to which question.”
“No to all of them.”
“Show me your hands.”
Thomas paused, and then extended his knuckles.
“Palms up,” Killjoy said leaning forward. He opened his hands and turned up his palms.
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Genre - YA Fantasy / Adventure
Rating – G
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How did you develop your writing? I didn’t. It is still developing. But I constantly read other authors in my genres to see how they do things and take those elements and combine them into my own formula.
Where do you get your inspiration from? The Dream Rider came as a result of a sequence of nightmares I had over the course of a month, several years ago. The other books come from things I see in the world, mysteries that pique my interest. Then I just create a story about that mystery.
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing? Publishing is easy. Writing is hard but once you have a disciplined system, it’s doable. Marketing, though. Jeez. I have a lot of trouble with that. I think because I don’t want to bother people.
What marketing works for you? Helping and teaching others.
Do you find it hard to share your work? Nope. I probably overshare.
Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you? My family is super-supportive. My good friends are too. My girlfriend is the biggest support in my life.
When you wake up, does it seem like your dreams were real? Maybe they were.
Imagine if Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins sat down together to write an up-tempo, action packed sci-fi thriller featuring terrifying nightmares, an evil emperor, a beautiful princess, and gladtiator games on another planet.
That’s The Dream Rider, the newest release from Ernest Dempsey, the author who brought you The Secret of the Stones and The Cleric’s Vault.
Falling from buildings, being attacked by terrifying strangers, and ghostly hands that strangle in the night are just some of the fears The Dream Rider must overcome.
Finn McClaren is an average college student, mediocre in every possible way, until one day, when strange men try to kill him. Finn wakes up in his dorm room to realize the whole thing was just a dream. Or was it?
The nightmares continue, forcing Finn to face his deepest fears until one night, he stops running and fights back. When he awakens, he is no longer in his dorm room, but on a strange planet on the other side of the galaxy.
After being arrested, Finn is thrust into an underground prison where the inmates are forced to fight to the death in the arena games. While there, he learns he has incredible powers, and of the true reason he has come to the alien world.
The Dream Rider is a fun, fast-paced, science fiction adventure that also asks serious questions about our fears, self-esteem, beliefs, and facing challenges in life.
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Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – PG13
More details about the author
Sunday, July 14, 2013
We met at the apartment the next day. There was a narrow door between the front of the bakery and the tailor’s shop next door. Remy used her key and we ascended the dark staircase to a single steel door. I flicked the light switch at the top of the stairs, but none of the three bulbs that hung overhead came on. The narrow hall was perfumed with a thick musky smell.
Once we were inside, I was shocked at the size of the place. The room was one large space, with tall picture windows that covered the entire back wall, bathing us in afternoon light. There was a small hallway to the left of the entryway that contained a single closet and full bathroom. Further down the left wall was a door leading into the bedroom, which happened to be the only separated space in the apartment. There was a galley style kitchen to the right with a long bar top counter that divided the kitchen from the rest of the room. Other than those details, and the fact that a layer of dust lay on top of every surface, the entire place was empty. The main room had old hardwood floors and brick walls that stretched up to the celling hanging twenty feet above. Every step echoed like a gunshot. The ducting and wiring were all exposed in the ceiling area and gave the room a modern industrial feel. I found out later the bakery owner had used the room for storage after she bought the building, but eventually paid a contractor to add the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen for her brother who needed a place to stay a few years back. He moved out after less than a year and it had been empty ever since.
The apartment was so amazing, and the price so cheap, that we immediately told the old woman we would take it. I wasted no time, and started bringing things over from my shitty old place later that same night. Remy followed suit the next morning. For the next few days, we spread our collected belongings throughout the apartment and it quickly began to feel like a place I could call home.
I expected an awkward conversation when it came to the lone bedroom. The single room meant limited privacy for one of us and I suspected Remy would claim it, being of the female persuasion and all. But, even after insisting multiple times, she would hear none of it.
“I sometimes keep very odd hours, and although you don’t sleep much, I would hate to wake you by bursting out into the living area.”
She chose the far corner of the room, farthest away from the front door, and sectioned it off using two sets of tall divider screens that were a dark hand carved wood. I thought they were quite nice, so it worked out well. She fit her bed and large chests behind the screens and had her own secluded space which she seemed very comfortable with. Who was I to argue?
On the far wall, next to Remy’s makeshift bedroom, she installed an entire workstation, complete with three computer monitors, two laptops, and multiple other electronics.
“Do you have your own computer, Jay?” she asked me a few days after we moved in.
“Yea, I have a laptop I use.”
“Good. I’m sure I can trust you, but I would just appreciate it if you didn’t make a habit of using my workstations. I keep things a very specific way.”
“That’s no problem,” I answered. Her only response was a small smile as she went about her business.
In no way was Remy a difficult person to live with, even with her many eccentricities. Her schedule was fairly regular; many nights she would stay out long after I went to bed and would be gone when I woke. Sometimes I would hear her come back in the middle of the night, but she was always quiet and respectful towards me. And nothing could derail her when she put her mind towards something. She would go non-stop for days on end. By the third week, I was convinced she only slept an hour or two a night. Her energy levels never ran low, that is, except for when she would enter into one of the episodes she had warned me about. When that happened, it was like living with an entirely different person. Dr. Jekyll and little Ms. Hyde. Remy would curl up into a ball on the couch in front of the wall of windows and stay there for hours, sometimes days. Her bouts would always follow the same pattern: First, she would curl up and go silent, and she looked as though she was suffering from one of the worst flu epidemics of all time. Next, she would sit up, open the window nearest to her, and stare out at the street below. It would be the first sign of life, sometimes in a day or two, and would act as a false hope for progress. Because within an hour of opening the window and letting in the fresh air, she would become irritated at the commotions, slam the window shut and curl back into the fetal position. Finally, she would go to the kitchen and brew a pot of coffee, always hazelnut, and after finishing exactly two cups, she would look around the apartment as if seeing it for the first time. A few minutes later, she would be up, bouncing around like nothing had ever happened. If I didn’t know better, and if it had been absolutely anyone else, I would have sworn it was the effects of a drug withdrawal.
As the days and weeks went by, my fascination with Remy only intensified. Never once did we discuss what had happened the day we met; hell, we never even acknowledged it. I would find myself looking her up and down as she worked at her computer, wondering why she had kissed me and what it meant. I wondered what was wrong with her and I wondered why she smelled the way she did. Remy carried her tiny frame with a grace that I found extremely appealing. In spite of the fact that I never saw her spend more than a few seconds getting ready – she never wore makeup – somehow she always looked attractive. Not gorgeous, maybe not even beautiful, but there was something undeniably alluring about her. Saying that she was confident in herself would be the equivalent of saying a lion on the plains of the Serengeti is capable of finding its own meals. On more than one occasion, I was online submitting my resume when I looked up to find her walking naked, with only a towel wrapped around her wet hair, directly through the middle of the living room. Whether she did this on purpose, was completely oblivious to the fact I was present, or simply just didn’t care, I’ll never know. But if it wasn’t an issue for her, then there was absolutely no way I was going to voice a complaint.
Seeing as how I was finding it difficult to locate even the slightest hint of a well-paying job, I immediately took notice of the fact that Remy never lacked for funds. Her computers and electronics had to have cost thousands and she never objected to going out for meals, many times, paying the bill behind my back when I got up to use the restroom . Yet, no matter how much I watched, or what questions I asked, she wouldn’t talk about what it was she did.
College was out of the question. Although Remy spent hours reading science journals and skimming through books that induced yawning just by reading the title, she never stayed on any one subject for long, quickly moving on to something completely unrelated. At one point, I was certain she was a freelance programmer because she stayed on her computer for days, going through screens of code line by line. So I asked her if she was a programmer. She looked at me for a moment, or better yet, she looked through me, and then turned back to her screen. I took it as a no. The idea struck me that whatever she was doing, it might not be what one would define as legal. Whatever her reasons, I knew that nobody would put in the effort Remy did if there wasn’t an end goal in mind.
She was educating herself but didn’t go to college. She spent hours behind her computer, but it wasn’t her job. She had “appointments” that kept her out at all hours, but no friends to speak of. She had money but didn’t answer to an employer. I was beginning to question my certainty that drugs weren’t involved when things suddenly changed.
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Genre - Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
Rating – PG13
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