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Otherworldly
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-366-0
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 187 Pages
Published: May 2017

From inside the flap

In the 23rd century a young woman disillusioned with the sterile life of a utopian society is taken on a profound journey of self discovery and personal transformation. She encounters a wealth of powerful secrets, from the hidden depths of Edinburgh’s underground to the devastating revelation within a forbidden region.



Otherworldly (Excerpt)


Chapter 1

She studied the ground to avoid the innumerable concealed snakes, scorpions and spiders which might take an opportunistic bite of her pale ankle.

The smooth soles of her feet left shallow impressions in the desert sands. She had been walking so long she'd forgotten where she came from and lost interest in where she was going. With each step the sun hardened, pressing firmly on her scalp. The young woman tried to stop and rest awhile but her legs insisted on levering her forward. The sky was a haze of blue, the sands an endless pallor. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she thought she heard a faint explosion. Still she couldn't stop. Along her trek from the distant mountains to the slow air before her she had never known such beatific peace. When her left foot touched the earth, a titanic rumble grew louder until she felt the tremor growl in her chest.

Suddenly, the desert ripped open as the earthquake shook. A widening crack toppled her as she was pushed by a dry blast of heat into the ravine. Her bloody numb fingers slipped over the waterfall of sand. She was being prised off the edge by the importuning winds. Squinting below she saw, felt, heard, tasted the frozen vacuum imploring her.

"Let go."

The whites of her fingertips scraped across the gritty surface. The winds pushed, jostled, screamed in her ear:

"Jump, bitch!"

Weary from her exhausted muscles the girl leaned in, willing her hands to search for a lump, a stone, a rare plant; anything to cling to. She had no memory of this place, no recall of how she should find herself hiking across merciless rock and sand. The skin of her face attached to the dry under soil, her feet pushing for a thread of relief. As if sensing this was her last gamble, the wind gathered force, squeezed into the impossible gap between her clothes and the mountainside and shoved hard. She plunged into the howling crevasse, thrashing the air, swimming in the groundless space, drowning in the endless deep black. She clawed desperately, her limbs pinioning, trying to swim with every ounce of strength left, the bottomless pit drawing the breath from her lungs as she was pulled under. As she dropped into the pit she saw she was being swallowed into the jaws of a gigantic slavering wolf. Burying her eyes in their sockets, she waited for the closing bite.

Then was spat rigorously back into her world drenched in phlegm.

She woke soaked in her sweat; surfacing from the recurring dream like a bubble, heart punching her chest cavity, opening her eyes gently because her firm eyelids were glued tight.

A cold breath hissed along her spine.

Then the burning chills and wrung muscles struck like a merciless alarm. Through painfully erratic breaths she fumbled blindly for the palm sized Scarab on her bedside table.

Her (current) favourite song filled the bedroom. As the icy guitar and rumbling bass of The Sisters of Mercy's 'Adrenochrome' echoed in her skull Judy Christie relaxed as her body regulated the raging chemicals in her bloodstream.

We'll turn away in a passive decision

We'll take the steps through the unmarked door

A look back for another collision

But the boys of the spires

Are boys no more

The monolithic guitars crushed the tension until at last she could relax and begin some recognizable form of familiar breathing.

Following 'A Hundred Years' and finishing with 'Day of the Lords' her breath resumed its steady pattern, her heartbeat the regular rhythm. Picking the crust from her eyelids, she surveyed the band complete the track on a white podium in the corner of her room chasing the disapproving silence from her bedroom.

When the track had finished its job, she reluctantly left the warmth of her cave, a black cover, sitting on the edge of her bed sinking back into the sanctuary of gloom mired inside her warming guts.

Holopics of her three weird sisters, Soiuxsie Sioux, Liz Fraser and Patricia Morrison were accompanied by a cast of mid twentieth century black and white film stars gathered around her bed: Lugosi, Chaney, Karloff, Laughton and Rains: The vampire, wolfman, monster, deformed and invisible.

A simple appropriation of period detail which her music collection convened as her Learning Facilitator would say.

What did he know.

The walls of her bedroom were velvet black. Silky threads covered the roof, resembling a giant spider web. Artificial bats hung from corners. The adhesive from the new black carpet was wonderfully reassuring.

She selected the Skeletal Family's 'Delirium' to dance around her bedroom.

Soaked in good sweat, Judy watched the distant sea from her tinted bay window undulating aquamarine, turquoise and jade. The house was a uniquely English shire cottage, identical to the one her father grew up in, even down to the herbaceous borders, lily pond and honeysuckle climbing the walls.

Delicate blossom snowed on the withering daffodils, covering the imported Connecticut soil.

She noted how weeds had strangled some of the space from the flowers, sapping their nutrients and generally overwhelming the usually well-tended garden. The service droids must be malfunctioning again.

The cottage was placed over 300 Zt high, uplifted on enormous white mushrooms sprouting behind the Pentland Hills, to the Scottish Borders. These legs supported Archonopolis Two, one of several Skyscape autarchies built during the war which saved a beleaguered people: A vast urban saucer stretching above the K9 zone of the Central Belt: The polluted wasteland of poisoned earth. Judy's home lay close to the eastern coastline near the prehistoric splendour of the Bass Rock.

Her father preferred the original wood, iron and stone decor. However at Judy's insistence he allowed the bathroom the concession of a 23nd century upgrade.

She usually kept the Holoimager turned off to avoid the ugly reminder of the wispy hairs on her forearms, shoulder and upper back. Why do I need reminding of the filthy red rash slashed across my nose?

The Higenie unit was large enough to accommodate her bulky body. In the shower cabinet a warm lather encased her, solidified and began the active cleansing cycle which disintegrated within minutes. Blue liquid doused her before the Unidrier finished off the morning ablutions. She placed a Dential under her tongue, waited until her teeth were smooth then swallowed the minty foam. A panel in her bedroom opened revealing pure black footwear, black blouses, black bodysuits and black dresses.

Judy opted for a long hem and sleeves of calming dark, neatly fringing the margins of her wrists and ankles. Two black star earrings completed the outfit. She smoothed her generous eyebrows with a forefinger, rubbed her thick jaw with Luxcreme (more to sink into the memory of Patchouli than to attract any [unlikely] boyfriend). She finished her morning ritual by applying white mascara over the Lupus rashes bridging her nose, applying heavy black eyeliner as the finishing touch. Finally - a squirt of mousse with proactive ingredients. Programmed to style and shape any hair any time of day. Judy selected just-woke-up.

The smell of furniture polish and fresh toast waited for her downstairs. Before a breakfast of milky tea and biscuits was prepared she slid a wall panel open to reveal her childhood treasures: An assortment of model bricks and Action Figures, all bought for a small fortune on the underground Netmart. She rummaged in her toy brick box to add another buttress to her model of Bran Castle, the Romanian Fortress associated with the character of Dracula. Lodged between mountains of clothes, the brick structure towered over wattle and daub effect cottages. Little figures carried pitchforks and shovels. Knights on horseback nudged through columns of battle axe wielding foot soldiers. The blacksmith was nearly complete, save for the forge which required a specific piece. She sloshed her hand through a pile of multicoloured bricks, enjoying the tactile satisfaction of crunching the parts in her solid hands. Her belly was as hard as a shield again.

Picking up the Actiongall figure she dressed her in a red bodysuit, completing the outfit with a pair of white Hydroboots. She could now fly, climb up buildings and walk on water.

The girl returned to the Higenie unit, readjusted her hair, tried to find her learning intentions on her Scarab while searching for coconut topping to spread on her toast, lost four minutes locating a missing boot, spent two minutes remembering where she left the scarab and a further minute wiping smeared butter from her dress.

A clean, friendly voice from the roof beams reminded her she was late so she shamefully sequestered the toy city further into the recess beside the parched copies of Shakespeare's plays before closing the pane.

She left breakfast behind and stood in the doorway. The curves, angles, spires, turrets and towers filled the horizon. Judy held the door frame, pausing on the threshold like a cat ready to pounce.

The same routine every morning. She held her breath and hurried to the docking bay where her beloved two -seat yellow Protorque Mantaray II was moored. Another year and she would be fully manual. In the meanwhile, the craft assumed all destinations: Agency, home and her grandfather's house.

With a limited top speed of 250 Zts and a ceiling of a 1000 the Mantaray Aereocraft was the ideal option for learners. The broad wings and tapering tail gave the pilot a highly maneuverable ride. The flight options offered manual, semi or fully automatic.

She travelled with her father to Skyscape Four in Switzerland mid January using the Mantaray. The Journey took as long as eating breakfast.

Leaving the dusky cottage Judy placed a pair of sunshields over her eyes protecting her from the hard light. As she approached the vehicle it recognised her pheromone structure, opened the cockpit and welcomed her with an enthusiastic Good morning. The craft was set to a pre-programmed course to the Academy where she would hopefully graduate next summer. Her sponsor, Heimlich, would accommodate her through internship then employ her talents, probably the southern rim of Archonopolis - an assistant in the research pods. Before embarking she gave herself a final view of the Forth, the cobalt waves flanking the gauzy Fife hills on the horizon. As she turned her head the sea flashed a dull green.

The outline of hills and, perhaps the fuzz of trees just disappeared.

Judy rubbed her eyes. Her belly quivered then settled. When she dropped her grandfather for his medical today she would bring forward her biannual eye test. Recently corners and edges of objects were blurring again. The myopia must be back.

Travelling to and from The Learning Agency was her day's least arduous time; The journey was at least one Birthday Party track long, bookending lectures and tutorials in Biophysics, Quantum Maths and Classical History. The Mantaray, powered by Protorque electromagnetic cells, began its launch sequence, disengaging then yawing towards the Facility. The machine nudged forward, increased velocity and reaching 100 Zt above sea level cruised forth. Two Megalodon freighters, arriving directly from India, began their descent above her.

When she reached the Skyscape boundaries the vehicle suddenly dipped, dropping 10 Zt before climbing abruptly to a flight path. Other craft - Mantas, Starfish and Morays skimmed and whizzed in their own destinies.

"Bit of a rough ride today" she said in a chastening tone to the harassed control panel.

Judy looked down upon her agency colleagues in their own Aereocrafts. There they were scuttling along in their inferior Morays, their pathetically underpowered Nurses and Greys.

She crossed blue and white plazas, ziggurats, Athenian temples, Roman villas, Oriental gardens. A couple of repair droids were busy refitting a faulty screen on a pagoda.

The craft passed the actor Joe Keen's Romanesque abbey, Globo's 2nd petty officer's villa and the estate of the woman who developed the disposable lavatory.

On a wide grassy plain, droid technicians were completing Narrow Victory, another of those endless films about the USCON's defeat of ASIAF. This was one of many studios which programmed serials, films and documentaries across the surface of the earth.

She slung around the iSflesh building, constructed from warp reactor plates, capable of dissembling the entire structure and rebuilding in an entirely new form. Yesterday it was a transparent dome; today a glittering obelisk which housed Tagorran and Soge, the property concern. The craft flew over the newly completed Globo offices; a perfect facsimile of the multifunctional device. Used by medics and security forces alike, the hand held globe could fire a burst of pulse energy to disrupt a person's neural network or project a healing beam of electrons. Approaching the Academy she slowed as her craft entered the parking bay ringed with olive trees.

The craft Autodocked and wished her an enterprising day.

The Academy complex consisted of tri level faculties. Judy's was located on the ground floor inside an enormous gold dome.

She kept her eyes on the polished walkways. The young Learning Investors were heading to classes crossing high walkways, taking Hoverplats to their faculties on the upper floors, running early, walking late. Most were gazing into the back of their Scarabs, absorbed in the perpetual updates held in the palm of their hands. In an attempt to cloak her awkward frame from the bobbing, endlessly chirruping school drones with their self-righteous Bodywraps and inane gossip Judy clung to the marble walls. She hated every loathsome and idiotic word they bellowed. Who did what to whom and when and why and how and wait and no and yes and but and guess what but yes. The boys were no better. They all stank of the same dull scents, wore the same expressionless faces and walked along, claiming every inch of space as their own. Two of her colleagues slouched against the gleaming walls. When they lifted their smooth chins for Judy to admire, screwed on fresh bodies and confidence inspiring clothes, they mumbled 'dirty hound' as she overtook them swerving a pile of lovers busy soaking each other's faces in saliva.

Judy lurched past the sniggers and giggles (as much as a six foot plus black clad teenager can). She walked between the Doric columns. Entering the cool interior a droid escorted her to the subject assembly.

History was an exam refresher. Her class settled their noise and movement as the facilitator took the register by scanning the neat rows with his Scarab.

She always thought he looked dead like Bela Lugosi.

He arrived from one of Archonopolis' sibling Skyscapes outside Vienna six months previously. When the dissemination phase of the lesson was completed he immediately shot a command in Judy's direction.

She was caught napping. The dream was still washing through her in dull ripples.

"Christie. List the benefactors of the social and economic reformation."

Judy's thumbnail dug deep into her index knuckle.

"Emm..."

"How did Zen and Goblet restructure the Crown Estate?"

Judy tied her thick fingers together. "Umm..."

"How were the executive and judiciary transferred from Westminster to district trust administration?"

"Ahh..."

He shook his head.

"See me at break," he pouted.

The hologram vanished as the light source broke up.

A hard bite chewed her tender heart.

The facilitator's office was uneasily silent. Even the temperature regulator, which constantly busied itself to maintain optimum thermal equilibrium, was beyond her auditory range. The walls were decorated with degrees and certificates, qualifications ranging from specialist subject attainment to child guardianship. Quotations from the back classics were placed strategically around the room to beckon the approval of visitors. Judy caught one particular line reading it over and over, memorising the authority of the tone, the rhythmic assurance. Of all the collated couplets, speeches and phrases this one slipped easily between her thoughts.

The facilitator opened his door, confirming an appointment with his assistant before placing himself before Judy. He had salt and pepper hair and a cheese and onion face. Without any formal greeting he began.

"Judy."

He tied his fingers together then rested his chin on the knot work.

"Judy. I am contractually obliged to engage in a progress conversation with you. Now, your grades."

Judy, startled by his abrupt introduction, showed no visible sign of reaction. Her stomach was doing enough gurning as it was. The silence became (as it does) palpably thick, as Judy's roiling emotions filled the void. Finally, as if talking to a Level 9 Servodrone, the facilitator exclaimed:

"I've been monitoring your outcome framework. Tracking your Learning Experiences. An alarming inconsistency. Assessment Fascia Disengagement, Judy. Performance Indicators… Suggest, perhaps Experiential Intervention stage?"

Judy shrugged, smiled as blandly as the moment could afford as he mentally ticked off each item on her recourse program.

"I mean...look at your recent Anthropology Unit Outcome."

He opened the Course Record folder projecting from his Scarab.