Dear readers, I’m 99% of the way finished with Anagama– just one last pass, and then I can feel secure in it, and start the process of finding an agent to represent it. I have thought about self-publishing and if finding an agent proves to be impossible, I’ll go that route. I already have a few short stories on Smashwords (here, at bottom of page), some of which I am very fond of, that are self-published, as well as a novel (here). The main reason I don’t want to go this route again is that I am not fond of marketing my work and no one will see it unless I do, or unless I hand that off to someone else (the publisher, for the most part, though I know if I do get a contract I will have to promote my book as best as I can).
Here is a sneak peek at the first chapter. If you like it, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She ducked out of
her lab for a moment to take a sip of coffee from her travel mug, since food
and drink were forbidden inside the lab. In order to do this she had to first
take off her protective gloves, safety glasses, mask, and lab coat. Under all
the protective gear she was just another middle-aged woman, long dark hair
streaked with silver and twisted up into a bun, slightly overweight and soft
from spending long hours sitting in front of a computer or laminar flow hood.
helmeted figures in black security gear rounded a corner at the end of the
hall, one on each end of a white stretcher. A slender figure lay trussed up on
the stretcher, barely conscious, moaning. She noticed blood on his—his? It was
difficult to tell, but the lines of his ashen face she thought the figure might
be male—temple, under short dark hair, more blood coming from the neck. The
towels put on his neck to stop the bleeding were soaked in blood. The rest of him was hidden under cords and a
pale blue sheet. From his bare
shoulders, she surmised he was naked—perhaps stolen from bed.
moved past and Beatrice, standing in the hall with her coffee, pretended not to
be interested in the figure on the stretcher.
She closed her
eyes and pushed.
you there? She asked, silently, listening intently
as the guards and the figure moved down the hall. Can you hear me? Think your name.
was all she heard, indistinctly; she took a sip of coffee, and then—
ME GO LET ME GO LET ME GO
and nearly dropped her coffee; she slammed her mental gates shut just as a
loud, screeching wail emanated from down the hall, in the direction the guards
“LET ME GO! LET ME
There was a crash,
sounds of a scuffle, wordless cries, and finally, a thud.
Beatrice set her
coffee down on the small table by the lab door that was situated there just for
that purpose. Her hands shook slightly.
She turned, saw
her supervisor. He wore suit pants, a pressed shirt, a black and white tie which,
when examined closely, was a repeating tiled pattern of the Zurvan
Corporation’s black octopus logo. Beatrice had looked closely at it hundreds of
“How’s the run
doing? Specimen 5-15?”
“The run will be
ready in one hour,” she lied. The run would be ready in fifteen minutes. However,
her customized script which she had set to alter the run statistics would take
forty-five minutes. “I can send you statistics after that.”
“Good, good,” Phil
Knight said, stuffing his hands into his pockets and jingling some change. He
looked toward a wall.
one may be particularly valuable, she heard him
“I don’t need to
tell you that the more mutants we uncover, the better it is for Zurvan, and for
the stability of your job?”
back at him. “The run says what the run says. I don’t alter the data,” she
lied, and thought back to the boy they called Specimen 5-15.
drawing blood specimens from him. His eyes had been bloodshot and he had been
able to hear her. Luckily, he had not
given this away.
am I? he had asked. Where is my family? What do they want with me?
She had collected
his blood into a vial and put a cotton ball on the wound, then a bandage.
don’t think you’re human, she told him, and his
eyes had widened.
she said. Don’t react. I will make sure
the data shows you are human. They will give you back to your family. But move,
after—make sure you move, and make sure no one knows you can heal so quickly.
Try to keep it a secret.
He had simply
looked at her. Why are there people
locked up here? What did we do?
didn’t do anything, she said, taking an
inordinate amount of time to write the boy’s specimen number on her labels. It’s your DNA. They think you have DNA
different enough to make you not-human.
The boy started to
cry. Beatrice put down her blood sample vials, reached instinctively toward him
to give comfort.
The black barrel
of a tranquilizer gun appeared between them.
“What are you
doing, Dr. Holloway?” The guard’s voice was female. She still wore her helmet
here, inside this room they had caged the boy in, as was regulation. “You know the rules.”
over a scowl and an angry reply, and instead reached for a box of tissues from
her medical kit, handed one to the boy. He took it, did not look at her.
will make sure they let you go, she said. I promise.
stomach hurts, the boy said. I’m hungry.
will make sure they feed you, she said.
“How long has it
been since he’s been fed?” she asked.
“He’s young, make
sure he gets enough food and rest,” she said. “After all, we don’t know that he
isn’t human yet. We could have a lawsuit on our hands. Bad publicity.”
The guard shrugged
again. Both of them knew no one who wound up in these cells came from financial
wealth able to take on Zurvan Corporation.
The captive boy,
sitting on his thinly padded cot, seemed to shrink in on himself, and Beatrice
felt him withdraw.
She bit her lip,
then collected her things, and stood, blood sample vial in hand.
“Feed him,” she
said, trying to not seem very interested in whether they did or not, and hoped
for the best.
She would spend
the next few hours preparing the blood sample for sequencing and running it
through the sequencer, and the data through her custom scripts—scripts she had
quietly set in advance to make the percentage similarity of the boy’s DNA to
standard human DNA rise above the cherished 99.5% cutoff. She could do this for
the normal-looking mutants they brought in without raising too much suspicion.
Coming back to
herself in the hallway, she watched her supervisor’s smooth, handsome face,
listened without moving a muscle.
“You’re always in
the lab, Bea,” he said, jovially. “Maybe we should hire you an assistant.”
woman, you look like shit.
Beatrice smiled. She hated being called Bea.
“It’s just that I
love my job,” she replied. “The workload is not that much. I’d prefer to be the
one doing this work, and I like to work alone.”
spirit,” Knight said. He clapped her on the shoulder.
the work of three people, for one salary. Cost too much to replace her,
she heard him say to himself. What a chump.
“Keep up the good
work,” he said, tossing the words over his shoulder as he sauntered down the
hall, no doubt to look at Zurvan’s latest acquisition.
her head so the cameras couldn’t see her expression, then ducked back into her
laboratory, pulled on her protective gear. It was as much there to protect her
equipment and reagents from her own DNA as it was to protect her from harm.
of her own DNA. Her DNA that was only 99.2% similar to human normal—DNA which,
if she hadn’t altered her own sequence data files, would peg her as nonhuman,
with the same lack of rights as the poor souls kidnapped and locked up by
Zurvan, just down the hall.
She checked that
the sequencer was running, checked that her software was encrypting the raw
data files as each was written. She checked that the files being uploaded to
company cloud storage were the faked ones which would give Specimen 5-15
freedom again. Beatrice hated that she hadn’t asked him his name. She checked that her own private cache of
files on Zurvan was there, and that her scripts were adding to this pile as
they were supposed to, without interference.
Every other day she synced this cache with the one on a data cube she
kept on her person. Someday, she hoped, the files would be useful in bringing
Zurvan to its knees.
Beyond the heavy
door to her laboratory, she thought she heard someone screaming again.
over to the lab computer, set it to play soothing jazz music. She started
tidying up her lab bench, moving boxes of pipet tips to one side, closing boxes
of microcentrifuge tubes, wiping down the bench surface with 70% ethanol to
clean it. She knew it was only a matter of time before blood from this new
acquisition wound up on her lab bench—and she would be ready for it, she would
be waiting. It meant another evening spent in the laboratory instead of at
home, but she didn’t mind.
What was waiting
for her at home, anyway? An empty apartment, seeming to echo with the ticking
of the grandfather clock she had inherited from her parents; the small comforts
of a glass of wine and a book with dinner. But no other living soul, no pets, not
even a potted plant. She needed to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. She
lived with a packed bag ready to go in her closet, her account information
carried with her on data cubes she kept concealed in a keyring, she had her personal
cloud storage encrypted.
Her lab computer
pinged. She walked over to it.
new one’s retroviral, the screen read. Give me the run reports on 5-15 tomorrow
morning. If the new one makes it through the night, you might have to get ready
to sequence once the infection clears. It’s already showing signs of great
strength and altered musculature—I think we have a winner here!
her lips. There was no way she could save him if he were undergoing genetic
change after a retroviral infection. Even if he had been human prior to the
infection, afterward he was almost guaranteed, with the bad viruses, to have
experienced enough mutation to make him either nonhuman-looking or dead. Or
She thought of
walking down to Specimen 5-15’s cell and trying to speak to him one more time,
but expressing too much interest in the acquisitions would bring too much
attention to herself, and might lead to the uncovering of her work. Best to
leave him be, and hope someone had fed him, at least.
As for the new
specimen, Beatrice felt with a sinking heart that he was doomed—most retroviral
infections led to abnormalities that were fatal. It would be fine for Zurvan—they
could learn things from the genes that could lead to medical breakthroughs and
new therapies—but not so fine for the poor man they had picked up somewhere.
As she stripped
off her protective gear on her way out of the lab, she silently pushed toward
Specimen 5-15 and the new man they had just brought in, so new he did not yet
have a specimen label.
be at peace, she thought, pushing out as hard as
Beatrice made her
way to her locker, collected her coat and purse, made her way out the staff
entrance side door. Every doorway she passed through required her to swipe her
keycard, white with the black Zurvan logo on it. Every doorway she passed
through, getting closer to the outside world, felt like the lifting of a noose
from around her neck. She finally drove her small electric car away from the
Zurvan parking lot, finally was out of reach of the cameras for good. Her
keyring, nestled in her jeans pocket, pressed into her thigh. It was innocuous,
featuring cartoon characters popular in the 2000s (a white dog carrying a
martini glass, a baby with a football-shaped head).
She drove silently.
The news story on the radio was about the Humane Treatment Party, a fringe
element with no resources and the best of intentions. They wanted to change the
global legislation that made it legal for Zurvan to kidnap and incarcerate
humanoids with a less than 99.5% genomic DNA match to human normal, basing this
on legislation commonly found on some the outlying planetary colonies. Beatrice
actually agreed with them, but did not do a thing to support them in her
personal life because she knew if this were discovered, she would be
Halfway home, she
stopped at a red light. She exhaled. The news was now about stock prices.
Zurvan stock was up thanks to its invention of a genetic therapy for treating
Parkinson’s. Beatrice remembered hearing
gossip about this in the cafeteria—the gene therapy idea had been sparked by a
mutation found in a retroviral victim. Someone had died, incarcerated, and
Zurvan had turned this into profit.
spat. Then she grinned, toothily.
“One day you will
slip up, and I will get you. Fuckers.”
The light turned
green, and, smoothing her expression, Beatrice continued her drive home.