Here are a few excerpts from my novel, now available for both Kindle, and as a paperback (links below). I’m donating all proceeds to charity. There is considerable mystery in the story, so I’m limiting the excerpts so as not to be providing any major spoilers.
1 The Shock of Reality
. . . .
Mum, groggy but back on her feet, thanks to Opti’s efforts, went into her trance to prepare for throwing her most powerful cure spell. After less than a minute, which seemed like hours to Max, the magician laid her hand on Twiny’s huge neck wound as she mumbled her incantations. The wound noticeably shrank, but was still worrisome. The mighty magician repeated the process knowing that her second use on the same day was not guaranteed to work. It did and she then was able to finish the job with a slightly weaker spell. As she was preparing that, suddenly something even scarier happened. Something that none of them were expecting.
It was such a sudden change it took them all a second to recalibrate their senses and figure out what had happened. After the initial shock wore off, they were all saddened to realize that they were going to have to deal with that boring thing called reality.
As they sat there in their comfy chairs looking at each other’s modern clothes and nerdy faces, they all wondered the same thing. Brady (“Max” just a second ago) always had the wise-crack. “Hey Bill, did that cure spell backfire or something?” Bill was too busy adjusting his mindset back to his true gender to answer. It was common for players to play characters that were very different from their true identities, and everyone agreed it didn’t necessarily mean anything, but it still could take a few seconds to reorient, even for Simsitters like them. The feelings ran so deep that Bill still felt like he was sisters with Carla, instead of just friends, which of course just added to the challenge of orienting himself. He wondered if Brady and Sam felt like twin brothers now. It was hard to believe with Sam about six feet tall, with a large head topped off with wispy blonde hair, and eyes clearly showing his intelligence, and most of all always taking things so seriously. Compare that with Brady being about a foot shorter, a bit overweight, and his partly bald head always smiling and laughing. No way are they even related. Bill had once remarked that it was strange that their characters choose to be twins, only to get rebuffed about how his choice of gender was not exactly realistic, either. Bill had a build that was slightly less than average for a teenage boy, but that was still considerably bulkier than the body of his alter-ego, Mum. About the only thing that was the same was the hair color, although of course Bill’s brown hair was much shorter, and was not at all naturally curly.
Suddenly, they all began to talk at once. Carla felt a bit shy, hiding behind her long, straight blonde hair, now that she was no longer a powerful gypsy. She tried to overcome her shyness by exclaiming “I’m surprised I didn’t know that was about to happen,” only to realize in horror that her ability to see into the future was just part of the simulation as well. Like many Simsitters, she spent more of her time in the simulation than in real life; to the point that the simulation and real life essentially reversed roles.
Everyone else was chiming in with their favorite theory of what went wrong. Brady proposed, “I bet our parents pulled the plug on it. They don’t like us to have fun.”
Sam looked a bit concerned as he offered, “I hope that’s all it is. If not, it means a lot of safeguards and backup systems failed at once, which would be a bad sign.”
“So what are we going to do now?”
Sam continued, “Myself, I plan to head back to the colony and see what’s going on.”
Bill chimed in, “Can’t we try to just fix it ourselves? I for one don’t look forward to dealing with the oldies.”
After some more debate that was going nowhere, they all decided they had to do the ugly task of interacting with mere people to find out.
They got up from their chairs, expecting them to pack themselves away as usual. When they didn’t, Sam’s dread turned into a sharp pain in his stomach. “Now I know something major is wrong.”
Still, the gangly teenagers left their misbehaving chairs behind and walked the short distance to the settlement. Carla was focusing on settling back into reality, and taking in her surroundings. New Cal was a beautiful planet after all, with its lush vegetation just to the right side of their path, and the cute monkey-like creatures they called Monkers joyfully prancing and bouncing around in the jungle. To their left she could see the Flippers, which her mom said reminded her of Earth’s Dolphins, except for their overly elaborate fins, splashing away in the nearby sea.
She heard the birds singing, much like the ones in the education downloads she had to take so she “would know what it was like back on Earth.” Why she needed to know that was a puzzle to her since the colony had left Earth a few years before she was even born. Still, it was related to Biology, which was one of her favorite subjects to study, and the few minutes it took to pack that lesson into her brain was hardly a high price to pay for knowledge. It was just one of thousands of downloads she had enjoyed in her short, but thorough education. To help her study biology, of course she had to learn chemistry and many other related fields.
They approached the little village, with its rows of perfectly fabricated housing units, each with a roof covered with atomically-precise, multi-layer solar cells. Bill was always a bit troubled by the hauntingly-dark black with an almost undetectable deep reddish tint of those cells, as they almost perfectly absorbed nearly the entire solar spectrum. The windows were variously-tinted, as usual.
“Well, the windows are still tinted, and that takes nano, right?”
“Yes, but the nano is what changes the tinting levels. It is not needed to keep them at a given tint setting.”
“You mean if the nano is not working, some of these people are going to be living in completely transparent homes? And others will be in dark homes with no way to see out?”
“That’s right. But, believe me, if nano is not working, the tint of their walls is going to be the least of their worries. Now, hush Bill, I want to hear what is being said.”
They were close enough to the colony grounds to start hearing the people in intense conversations. There was much commotion, furthering the theory that something major was wrong beyond just the simulation. It almost looked as though all two hundred plus of the colony inhabitants were out of their homes talking anxiously in large and small groups.
Clara observed, “Even the Monkers seem more active than normal. And there goes the adults, chasing them away, as usual. I feel kind of sorry for the cute things.”
Sam’s inherent knack, even compulsion, for solving problems kicked into high gear as he continued getting his bearings reset to the real world. Being the tallest of the four, he could see a little further. Even at a distance, it was easy to spot his dad, with his tall head covered in a mix of black and silver-grey hair, sitting on top of a tall, slender body. He was in serious discussions with several other adults.
Echoing Sam’s thoughts, Brady said, “I bet Mr. Wizard is pretty busy at this point.” He was of course using the informal moniker Sam’s father had earned, being by far the most technically-inclined person in the colony.
“Busy or not, I’m determined to get involved” Sam said as he marched straight towards the growing group around his father. He started to hear the conversation. A man with a puzzled look on his face was addressing his dad. “But Clark, I know enough about nanotechnology to know that not everything is made out of active nano, so why did everything stop working?”
Sam knew the answer even before hearing his father’s response, “You are right that most things do not have active molecular manufacturing capability in them. However, nearly every object we use has nano-based computers at least controlling it. Those computers no longer appear to be working, either. So, nearly everything has turned into bricks.”
A mother holding an infant added, “But, there are supposed to be all sorts of safeguards built into the overall system to prevent problems.”
Clark was feeling a bit trapped at this point, and this wasn’t getting anywhere, but he still answered, “Most of those safeguards, like the so-called Blue Nano, are there to prevent nano from doing something bad, not to ensure it keeps operating.”
“So, do you think it’s the Blue Nano that caused this?”
“What can we do to fix this, and how long will it take?”
Clark held up his hands, “Look I know we all have lots of questions and concerns, but I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I need time to study the problem and to try and generate some answers. So, please let me do that. . . I’ll tell you what, let’s meet in the commons tomorrow morning at 8 AM, and I’ll explain the best I can, and try to answer all your questions.” With that, he turned and started making his way out of the crowd towards his home office / lab. Sam was the only one that joined him.
“Father, you don’t think it’s the Blue Nano doing all this, do you?”
“Well, no, probably not. I don’t think it can shut down everything at once like this, and why would it, anyway? Things seemed to be working fine. The Blue Nano is supposed to just watch for the occasional errant nano”
“Yes, I know and police it by surrounding it and, if necessary, destroying it.”
“Yes, and it seems to have just stopped working, instead, which is another indication this is not the work of Blue Nano.”
“Look, I really want to help. What should I work on first?”
“I appreciate that son, and I’m happy to see you and your friends are Okay, but I’m afraid I just need to focus on this myself. I’m going to be unusually busy, possibly for quite some time. The best way you can help is to be patient and understanding of that.” Sam was taken aback by that condescending response. He stopped walking and watched as his father put distance between them, literally and figuratively.
. . . .
4 Creatures Large and Small
. . . .
Carla watched patiently while Sam built his instrument. When he finished, he tried it a bit, made some adjustments, then said, “Well, it’s far from perfect, but I think it’s good enough to help us.” He took a nearby leaf and put it under the homemade microscope, and looked through the eyepiece. “I don’t have a good way to focus it, and without a light, it’s a bit hard to see much, but have a look.”
Carla moved to look. She didn’t want to even touch what looked pretty delicate. She pulled away and looked at the leaf directly, then put her eye back at the end of the tube. “Good job. I can see some sort of bugs or parasites crawling around on the leaf. It’s kind of funny to consider that they are probably just as oblivious to us as we normally are of them.”
. . . .
The next day something delightful, albeit bit creepy, happened. As soon as the rain stopped shortly after sunrise, Clara opened the tent to find a pile of several types of berries and nuts sitting in their cook pot. When the others awoke, she said, “Okay, who had insomnia last night?” No one seemed to be the culprit.
“Well, if none of you did this, then where the heck did these come from?”
Everyone looked at Brady, figuring it was the sort of prank he would pull. “Hey, don’t look at me! I didn’t do it.”
About then Clara said, “I think I know who did this.”
. . . .
12 The Not-So-Simple Life
Betty woke up with a yawn as she stretched her little body. At under 15 kg, she was small even for a five year old girl, but she had big eyes to compensate. As she did every morning, she jumped out of bed and ran to the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the cute Monkers in the jungle behind her home.
Waving, she spoke quietly to them, “Good morning Monkers!” Shaking her head, she added even more quietly, “I sure don’t understand why mommy and daddy are so afraid of you. You seem to just be playing. You don’t seem bad to me.”
She lost sight of them as they retreated deeper into the vegetation, but then her eye caught something else. Some piles of something kind of shiny, just outside her window. “I wonder if the Monkers left me a gift? I better not tell anyone, or they’ll make me give it back.”
Betty’s run towards the back door was of course interrupted by a demand for her to eat breakfast, first. “OK, but then can I go out and play?”
She ate quickly, then ran out the door before her mother could even wipe her hands. The little girl was relieved to see the small piles still there. They looked a bit like little pebbles, but a little shinier and much lighter in weight. She wondered if she could make something pretty out of them. But, how to get them inside, where she could keep them? “I have an idea”. She ran over to her sand-box, and picked up a plastic bucket. She filled it with her new-found treasure, then headed towards the door. Her mother and big brother Simon were nowhere to be seen, so as quietly as she could, she slipped into the house, ran to her room, and hid the bucket behind some toys in her closet.
Once the excitement subsided, she remembered how hungry she was, despite having breakfast
. . . .
Behind a nearby home, Marie worked continuously picking berries, and digging up roots. Like so many in the colony, she knew food was going to become critical very soon, and if they didn’t solve that issue, none of the rest was going to matter. But, part of the reason she spent so much time outdoors is her home was overly darkened because of the heavily tinted windows. She had tinted them just before the Freeze so she could take a nap. Now, it was difficult to see inside, even during the day. When she had a full basket, she walked back to her home.
“How did you do today, Marie?”
“Pretty good, really. I came across some bushes with lots of berries; the kind we know are safe to eat. I must have somehow missed them yesterday. But, my back is very sore from all the bending over. I’m not used to doing so much manual labor. Oh Henry, I’m really concerned we may not make it through this.”
“If everyone pitches in as much as you do, we will do fine. I’m very proud of you, but perhaps you are overdoing it a bit. Especially at first. My arms and shoulders hurt from gathering wood today. I think we need to take it slowly to start, and let our bodies adjust. In the long run, it will be good for our health.”
“I suppose you are right, so I guess I’ve done enough for one day.” Marie started to take off her dirty clothes as she headed for the recycling bin. “Oops, I was about to toss these clothes. I guess we can’t afford to do that anymore either. It’s one more habit we have to break. I’ll have to head to the stream and try to scrub them the best I can, but all I want to do is sleep. We don’t even have soap. Sometimes I feel almost like we are cave people or something.”
. . . .