As mentioned in my last post I am working on something totally different… Something set 5,000 years in the future! And to really shake things up, I am sharing it with you, chapter by chapter, as I write it. Each weekend I will release the next chapter (two if it’s been a really good week *grin*) for you to read, and comment on. I have to specify, this is the ROUGH DRAFT I am sharing, so the end release may look a little, or a lot different.
I decided to take this unusual ‘serial’ route for a couple of reasons. One, because I really enjoyed sharing snippets of my progress with AfterBurn on my Facebook page, and two, because radio serials were a big part of my school holidays (going up to a cabin with no electricity) and I wanted to bring a sense of that back.
If you really enjoy this serial, I hope you’ll follow along for the whole journey! What I am beginning with today is the first chapter in a novella (possibly novel, we’ll see) that sets the scene for a trilogy that will also be shared, in full, on here first. I think as an indie author, I should be pushing the norm for writing and reaching readers, so I’m really excited to see who joins us for the ride here.
In love with the stories? You can now support my work on Patreon for as little as .50c a chapter. But you don’t HAVE too! It’s just an option if you’d like to offer monetary support. Any money raised is going directly toward the costs of the production side of these stories. There are rewards available for anyone who does become a Patron, pop over to Patreon and have a look!
And now, it is my pleasure to introduce you all to…
The village teemed with activity. Children in skirts and shorts dashed around without shirts, shrieking and laughing. The air hung thick and humid, bringing an instant sheen of sweat to the skin. Alyssa stared at the mass of bodies shifting and moving through the center of the village, the market area. The rush of smells and sense of body electricity from so many in one small place made her hardwired hunter tendencies scream. She shrugged her shoulders, shifting the weight of her backpack a little higher.
A hand squeezed hers. She looked up to meet Eoin’s light gray eyes.
‘Easy as, Ally. Keep your veil up. No one will look twice. We just need to walk through the market, any vehicles or rides will be at the other end.’ Eoin said it with confidence though he knew himself to be partly lying. They would look twice. No one human moved quite like Ally.
Ally took a breath and returned the hand squeeze. ‘Let’s get moving.’
Eoin walked with ease, meeting eyes and smiling while moving on. People responded with a half smile, curiosity in their eyes. It died when they met her eyes. Ally could feel the gazes zero in on her back, the skin between her shoulder blades prickling beneath the canvas of her pack as they moved into the swell of humans. Only the occasional glance felt warm. She distracted herself by studying the architecture. This village was one of the originals that survived the outbreak. The humans who lived here were descendants of those who managed to live through the super-bug epidemic that struck almost five thousand years ago. Humanity reduced to a scant percentage of their once booming numbers. Her father estimated the current population at fifty million. Eoin thought it closer to double that. This village alone would be four or five times their hometown of almost twenty thousand. And this was a small human town. They’d avoided the capital city, Delhi, with its population of almost four million. While they might get away with passing through a village this size, a capital city posed a variety of problems, the least being the sheer overwhelming number of humans.
Ally breathed steadily beneath the veil, nostrils trembling as the scents bombarded her. Spices, cooked food, unwashed bodies, feces and urine. She caught a motion from the corner of her eye and with the slightest turn of her head, watched a man squat on the side of the street and relieve himself. It caused a stomach clench and churn that threatened to bring her lunch back up. Eoin gripped Ally’s hand tighter, feeling her agitation. He reached to adjust his pack, giving it a jiggle while glancing to check no one hung off the back. Ally met his eyes with an amused quirk of her lips. As if she’d allow a pick-pocket. It would take a very skilled human to get away with that.
They kept pace, walking deeper into street. The paved street sloped down at the center to allow an easy run off for rain and anything else. High stone walls of the dwellings on either side of the market lane were pierced with open windows and doors, balconies on the second, third, and fourth stories all hung with freshly washed clothes that undulated in the gentle breeze. The vibrant colors helped to distract her from the smells. She stared up then out, looking across the fabric roofs of all the different stalls, a sea of color and patterns that rippled in the breezes blowing through as they headed down the sloping street. Everywhere people called out, begging for customers, declaring their goods the best, the very best. On either side wagons with large trays were piled high with goods; fruits, nuts, brightly dyed and patterned lengths of fabric. Wedged in between them were men and occasionally women manning sizzling hot plates perched on tripods, fanning the sheltered fires beneath with woven fans. The smells of humans vanished behind the inhalations of those spicy, savory scents, punctuated occasionally with sweet cloying notes. The loud cries for buyers quietened as they drew near, but took up again the moment they passed. Ally’s head rung from all the sounds. No one seemed to just speak, everyone shouted. Clanging from the food stalls, rattling from the nut sellers as they shook and gestured at their wares, and the children running afoot, shrieking and yelling while adults shouted at them and scolded.
It was like nothing Ally had ever experienced before.
Eoin snuck a glance at his wife’s face. Ally had her cream silk shawl wrapped over her hair and across her face, allowing her eyes to show. The contrast of the cream against her olive toned skin with the hint of auburn brown curls peeking out and her almost violet blue eyes was striking. Ally ignored the stares but Eoin noticed an expression of longing on more than one human face they passed, men and women. Those in the market place gave them space, something no one else received, but not due from respect. Fear, as always with humans, inspired them. Eoin mentally shrugged it off, and made the effort to smile, keeping his body relaxed and calm. Ally, with her hunter instincts, wasn’t able to relax and she kept her eyes moving, avoiding eye contact. The hunters of the Promethian race found it hard to mingle with large groups without giving away their natural instincts. It made him thankful for his scientific engineering mind. As they passed another food vendor, the human’s hot plate piled high with crispy delicacies, Eoin paused. Ally stiffened, eyes staring. ‘Hungry?’ he asked with a smile before turning to bargain with the man. The human hurriedly piled the steaming hot pastries into a multi-colored container created from melted sand. The old human race’s obsession with petroleum based products had left its mark on this world. It was rare to find sources of sand un-littered with tiny grains of plastic. Glass, once so common if the shards found everywhere were anything to go by, was now a precious commodity. Accepting the container, Eoin passed some coins over.
The human waited until they’d moved on before he tested them, first checking the markings then weighing them. With a sigh of relief he added them to his tin. You never could trust Promethians.
Ally relaxed as they passed through the last of the market. The streets were still narrow, bordered by the high stone buildings in various states of disrepair. Occasionally a building front showed care, fresh plaster and mended cracks and holes. Against the others it stood out. Eoin led them on then veered to the right, down a narrow alley way. From windows and doorways humans watched them, their dark eyes varying from wide and alarmed, to suspicious and narrow. Ally ignored them but walked behind Eoin, her ears pricked. The whispered murmur of ‘Promethian’ brought unwanted anxiety up. But they wouldn’t be here much longer. ‘Here,’ Eoin passed the open container back as he munched on one of the pastries. ‘Try one, you’ll love it.’ Ally took the container and stared at the little crisp bundles of fried noodles. Beside it was a sauce, clear and orange tinged with small chunks of red floating through it. ‘What is it?’ Ally asked dubiously.
Half watching where she walked, half watching the container, Ally plucked one of the bundles, bits crumbling into the sauce as she dipped it then popped it in her mouth.
Eoin turned back to see Ally’s dark brows shoot up, eyes wide. A laugh from one of the human’s watching them made Eoin smile. ‘Like it?’ he asked. Ally’s eyes flicked side to side as she slowly chewed. She finished the mouthful and nodded, a rare smile breaking out. ‘Yes! It burns my throat, but it is good!’
He reached out to grab two of the crispy bundles, laughing as Ally eyed the remains. ‘They’re all yours.’
They continued down the narrow street then turned left. Eoin knew where he should find them. Anyone wanting to be rid a vehicle at a decent price would hang near the outskirts, far away from the market where they might be spotted and charged tax. The closer they got, the lower the buildings. From four and five levels in the center of the town, to three and two then only one and the occasional taller, two leveled dwelling. He could see them already. Men clustered in small groups stood near an open section, their eyes locked on the two of them as they drew closer.
‘Doesn’t look like we’ll have much choice,’ Ally said quietly. Eoin gave a short nod.
‘We don’t need much.’
Ally huffed at that but said nothing.
One of the men waiting stepped toward them as they reached the group. He extended his arms low with an open gesture though his smile was forced. The words he called were a peculiar mix of Hindu, English, and Chinese. Back home they also spoke the English and Chinese collaboration of language, punctuated with German. It was familiar enough for Eoin to understand the greeting, and question of what they wanted. Avoiding any German words, making the effort to recall what Hindu he could, Eoin greeted him then began to explain. They wanted something small and easy to run. Preferably solar powered.
Silence greeted him.
Eoin inwardly sighed then reached into a pocket and flashed three gold coins. Any hesitation vanished as the men rushed forward, seizing his arms, tugging him in varying directions. Knowing the reaction it’d provoke, he twisted and met Ally’s eyes that had began to glaze over to her calm, dangerous look. ‘It’s fine, Ally,’ he said it loudly and the men released their holds, giving nodding bows to him and Ally. Her eyes lightened and the pasty sheen to her olive skin vanished as she took a breath.
‘Please sir, this way.’
‘Here sir, see mine.’
‘Sir! Sir! This is best! Very best!’
The chorus of cries made Ally wince and she motioned at Eoin that she’d hang back. He nodded, allowing himself to be lead to where the varying vehicles sat in the open dirt section. The four different vehicles had two or three people enthusiastically selling its virtues; best condition, very best! Eoin let them talk while considering. The first car had small wheels, the rubber worn smooth. Eoin crouched on all fours beside it and peered underneath. This provoked the seller to do the same from the opposite side, a bright smiling dark face with white teeth gleaming. ‘Good! Very good!’
‘Hmmm,’ Eoin said noncommittally, not pointing out the wiring and loose panel. If it ran he’d be impressed, any vibrations would finish the job off.
The next two vehicles were more suited to the terrain, but in varying levels of disrepair. He could fix both, but that would take days. Eoin had more important tasks at hand. The fourth vehicle however, had almost no storage, but as they had very little gear and didn’t expect to bring anything of size back, it could work. Eoin circled the trike, aware of Ally’s presence seconds later. ‘Really?’ she murmured as he studied it. Eoin smiled but didn’t reply, eyes absorbing the various intriguing details. A two seater, the trike had large wide set back tires on high suspension, the front tire set a hint higher for balance. The back seat had a high back and steel wrapped clear tubing coiled around the seat, flowing alongside to create protective sides to the back seat and the front before it merged into the battery hidden in front of the front wheel beneath a detailed steel cover. Within the tubing a silvery liquid flickered in the sunlight.
‘Solar liquid?’ Eoin asked though he knew the answer.
‘Yes sir! Very best.’
This time the claims weren’t entirely exaggerated. Solar liquid was only produced in the human city of Eden, built on and with the remains of a city once called Rome. Eden was a place Promethians rarely returned from, if they had the misfortune of entering its gates. The hub of the righteous, Eden was home to the highest echelon of those of the Lady Mother religion many humans practiced. Eoin’s back tensed as he flicked his gaze to the smiling face of the owner. The man looked of this region. But for him to have such a vehicle. Eoin frowned and the owner leaped closer, a hand on his upper arm.
‘No sir! I give you very good price. Very good.’
Eoin appreciated the effort the man made to avoid Hindu words and grinned at him in spite of his concerns. ‘Do I speak Hindu that bad?’
All the men gathered close laughed hard at that, while the owner frantically waved his hands. ‘No, no! I am polite!’ Ally made a sound of amusement, but Eoin knew she’d picked up on his anxiety. Acting swiftly Eoin bargained with the owner, making the appropriate gestures and exclamations as they dramatically argued over the price. It ended on three gold coins. Just what he’d meant to pay, and no less than the owner would accept. Ally helped him push the bike away from the other vehicles. ‘What is it?’ she asked under her breath.
‘This sort of solar power is made in Eden.’
Ally stiffened and Eoin nodded. ‘Hmmm. Raiders. Hopefully long gone.’
‘Let’s get on our way,’ she said.
The back seat pulled up to reveal a space to store their bags. With those stashed away, Ally climbed onto the seat. Feeling a rush of excitement at trying out a machine he’d never used before, Eoin straddled the front seat and peered at the dash. The round coin like key he’d been given slotted in, just the indented edge sticking out to make for easy removal. The engine started almost silently, vibrations running through the bike. He eased the gear knob out of neutral and into drive. The pull as they set off was noticeable. Eoin grinned as Ally gave a whoop. Easing on the acceleration, they rapidly left the town behind, heading along the laneways bordered with farm lands as they aimed for the distant forest and the impressive mountain range that loomed above it.
To be continued in Chapter Two, next weekend