Teaser Selections from the Novel by Joshua Stelling
Arch & Gravity Publishing 2019
“A soaring vision of the near future. Genex of Halcyon is, quite simply, an outstanding literary work of sci-fi that pushes the boundaries of expression and self-realization.” —Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review
December 30, 2051
A few clouds lace the sky at the turn of day. They hang, threadbare and pink in the radiant yellow, gold-brushed sky. Sol, the native star is risen, this pregnant orb of coronal haze, hovering at the horizon, unseen by most in its early hour, a wave of color cresting steel walls.
At this clear sunrise the Strange Attractor powers down lamps throughout the city. The generators rest but the people still endlessly pulse – blood in the asphalt chambers of metropolis’ clockwork heart – in cars, or pedestrians on bicycles. Gliding even on the winds above the rails, under the infinite cold of this utopian sky, man is a flurry of motion.
“Morning,” she says, and he looks to see her standing by him, her thick blonde hair unkempt around her face. “Your name is Azad?” He does not answer. He looks in her large blue eyes and she smiles. Her voice is fuzzy with morning. “That blanket is very warm, quiet one,” she says, bending to pick it up from the floor, folding it into a sloppy square in her arms. His eyes return to the window. “What are you doing?” she asks and pauses. “Why don’t you talk? Are you afraid of me?” Azad laughs easily, without malice.
“My name is Azad.”
“Oh.” The gravity of his voice leaves her quiet, if just for a second. “Do you have eggs? I’m very hungry.”
“Wait,” he says.
He is silent for a long minute and she follows his eyes. The sun is shining. Halcyon moves, as if breathing. “Ok then. What are we waiting for?” she asks.
Still he is quiet, standing at the large glass, rapt in the cityscape. Day puts his blanket on the couch and walks into the kitchen.
“Her wings aren’t even fully grown,” Orion says.
Harmony dresses as he lay out on her bed. Her thick black hair dangles, wet and uncombed, trickling over her bare collar. She is a little too thin, and she might appear fragile, though only to those who have not tested her. Orion knows her every curve, yet the angles of her naked form never tire him.
Her muscles tighten in faultless skin as she pulls a striped sock over one foot, and now looks again to him, saying, her voice softer than the words, “You’re jealous, kid. She wants to impress you. She seems so lost . . . no, like somebody lost her.” She smiles uncertainly.
“Atmospheric and lyrical, telling the story like it took place in a dream without slowing the pace or dulling the storyline.” — Jennia Ahava, Blogger
The Eye Of Orion
Orion spent his childhood in military academy and Young Galileo camps. Though he studied philosophy and the stars with all of the passion of the most curious, his two sisters were the real wizards of math and hard science. Born to raise their eyes to the stars, Amber and Faith were Orion’s protectors and tutors. Long before he was old enough to understand the promiscuity of his father, or the abandonment of his mother, his two half-sisters held his hand while he opened his eyes to the Earth.
Orion was a young man, changes roiling in the world, as humanity cracked open the sky. Astronauts and robots explored Mars, Europa and Io, and launched probes deep into the distance of space. The escape for humanity was mental, bold if mostly fantasy, but to Orion for years then it was encompassing. Meanwhile the oceans of Earth heaved. Global storms came, and waves took millions of lives away. War, he would learn, was itself a storm. Nuclear clouds met the red morning skies. Yet even so there was no apocalypse. Simultaneously the vault of knowledge was opening, genetics and robotics maturing into world-shattering sciences. Hundred of millions did die in the disasters of the century, yet billions thrived, and the population curve of humanity swept upward. Somewhere just beyond these breaking horizons, the Strange Attractors were being perfected, like a dawning light.
He walks to the bathroom, where he pulls off his button-down pajama shirt, in front of the mirror. Almost thirty, he looks like he did just past twenty – virile, unbroken – though with less body hair. The genex are rare, but most people have been stabilized, freed from fear of diseases, from the chains of erosion, cured of ugliness through a simple procedure, a needle penetrating. It is the ultimate personal vaccine, a fundamental genetic adaptation.
SSP is a broad-scope life enhancer, perfecting the body’s natural immunity with dynamic genetic code manipulation.
I was always me, no doubt, but I’ve been polished now. No scars. Is this face even mine? Does it speak of my memories? he wonders. Does it tell my age? Am I getting older? In the mirror is the shameless, shapeless face modern humanity, looking back at his eyes. Something in those eyes is endless. Something in its eyes is still getting older. Something in his eyes is waiting, yet unsung.
He thinks, After all of this, in the age of immortality, at less than thirty I am somehow obsolete. Though I am the dream of millennia. Just wait.
Something new is rising – that may not much longer be known as man. We evolve a desire to evolve, and find an incomparable method in gene extension.
If the potter is made of clay, anything is possible.
There stands a powerful man, this civilized warrior, hypnotized. Orion steps into the shower. Warm water rushes over him, over the big tiles, and he thinks for a second he should not have let Harmony go.
She will be waiting for me, in front of the TV. She’ll be with me. I won’t stray. Not too far.
“Something special and unique in its genre. Worth reading the first time and even worth revisiting to explore its complex, fresh ideas . . . In the dystopian genre, this can be a difficult line to walk, but Stelling does it masterfully . . . [The] writing in this book is beautiful.” — Steph Huddleston, The Independent Book Review
Close To Distance
The sun arcs slowly through the sky above them, casting his form as a steely silhouette to her vision, lacking any motion save the slow dance of his hair in the wind. She raises a hand to shield her eyes from the glaring lights of the glass curves in the city skyline.
The roof is empty, save two rows of raised solar panels and these siblings now between them. It is a sanctuary for Azad, looking on a tranquil sea of circles amid spires, reflecting images of the clouds and sun, of a few winged men and groups of birds.
“Azad . . .” she mutters loudly, eventually, coming up behind. “I’ve been looking for you, you son of a bitch.”
He does not answer, and she does not expect him to, so she goes to sit beside him, just back farther from the edge.
“No need to bring mom into this,” she says. He smiles, so that she knows he has heard, but does not turn his head, entranced by the city.
The towers in the residential blocks are all the same height – grecian pillars of habitation – allowing them to see far into the distance from this perch. Now she thinks it is, in truth, the center of the world. In all directions, to the mountainous horizons, is a honeycomb of metalwork and glass, laid out in huge blocks. Atmospheric Generators tower as thin spears at intersections, piercing heaven, drawing out its energy. They grab electricity right out of the clouds, oscillator discs glinting in the light behind their sheer, sapphire-screen spear tips.
Rails curve and slowly sway, between the buildings. Catching the light, speeding past the towers, the railcars themselves are like evanescent dew on blades of grass. These rails switch and turn, moving deftly over the city heights as if alive.
Far off in the curve of distance, nearer the center of the larger part of the system of valleys, distorted by haze and humidity, the buildings are jagged and rise toward the sun. The architecture there is more varied than in the blocks, rising to heights that humble the fifty stories upon which Harmony sits. A gyrosphere atop a thin, monolithic shaft, rotates almost imperceptibly with the moving sun, small amid the mass of buildings. The skyline of downtown Halcyon is anything but humble, curved, clean and organic, striking in glass. Amber-toned steps, small, lined with studio windows and lush with gardens, are like iron petals.
A pair of jet planes is carving pale lines through the blue. She watches as they cross paths, near the spectral moon, then disappear behind a cradle of frayed gray clouds.
Race the Stones
Quiet is sometimes like a storm, here streaking the windows between raindrop flows. Each rolling bead is unfinished, dragged long across the glass as the railcar ascends into the hills outside Halcyon.
Scarla sits, her slim legs crossed beneath the trim of her coat. Violet’s lavender head rests on her shoulder. Sayd stands apart from them, his feet set wide, with his hands in the pockets of his black raincoat. He gazes ahead, looking out through the beads across the window.
Harmony had hair like a deep breath of autumn night, in waves, healthy as though with the force of the rolling earth. His love for her, like a diamond did not change despite the crash of years. Sayd sees the past now in an instant all at once.
The looking glass of his decisions is clouded by regret, and even more by doubt. Sayd came up as an orphan in the green valleys of Asturias, never knowing his parents or siblings until he was a teen. Unknown, the illegitimate child of one of his father’s many lovers, Sayd was raised by two older, native Spanish parents. So he has known Harmony for longer than his birthmother, and it was a longing like a son that held him in audience to her light, through the years, swayed not by tides or revolutions, though both would rise.
When privacy died, the hackers of the Curtain Call were outed by their own devices. Some resigned in the public eye, worshipped as heroes, but as a group they were not without lies or thought-crime. Underground, they created their own Strange Attractors, fighting for independence. With these rogue SAs they killed, if in self-defense. Yet every one was rounded up by Parliament before the end. Imprisoned, caught by their own holy wars before the movement came to fruition, they were, like every other class, unprepared for the breadth of the changes coming.
The hungry, the orphans and the migrants were drawn to the Ren Cities until there was no room left even there. Population growth outpaced the renaissance construction, and population limits were drawn. Still the flow of refugees and orphans into Halcyon would never entirely stop.
Remnants of the collective hold vigil still today above ground, hackers with their own Attractors, dedicated to watching the oracles, kept clear of the Coliseum for the rule of CE.
Nothing stays the same for long.
Entropy is a force in society, Sayd knows, the predictive rule behind never ending revolution and freedom.
Like a diamond is faster than light, unchanged across any distance of time, the city is itself a storm, violent in its ambition to eclipse the stars, dark before dusk with the weather. Harmony had hopes without plans, and he fell into her like a vision yet to pass, a hawk in the wind.
The Quiet Grace of Chaos
Like a drop of mercury in a veil of rain, Azad catches the light. Like a firefly in Vegas he is unseen. Like a delta splits a river he confronts the tide – a lonely tree round which the ocean curls. Like a metaphor he is not what he seems. A lost monolith awaiting his calling, he walks through the streets of this synthetic valley.
A group passes now in cheap costumes, drama masks hiding their faces in their hoods. One boasts twisted horns, protruding bone from his forehead. Their chatter is full of laughter, drink and life. An explosion rings in his ears, and Azad looks to the sky, lighting up in green and blue flowers, designs rotating and blooming on the bottoms of the clouds, now melting inward, until they are nothing again. Now for the lightworks, he thinks.
Liquid blue lights race up to the sky, to clouds tinted purple and rolling in the astral wind. Three birdwomen glide by beneath them, far above him, following the road to their destination. Their raincoats are shimmering and their wings are massive, feathered in gray, spanning a wide glistening arc through the remnants of the rain.
Coming to his home he holds a plastic bag in hand, marked with a chaos butterfly. Walking through the apartment he realizes its vacancy. Maybe she went to a party, he thinks, or to see Orion. Maybe she’s feeling better. Azad hopes this is so, but the empty rooms do nothing to console his imagination. Orion’s manifesto lights on the screen, drawing his attention.
On her bed he finds a red raincoat abandoned.
Domes range into the Asturian hills, deserted of life. Paths cut over the ridges, clean and gray across the yellow and brown. A gliding robot, visible against the white of the mist, before the glow of the city, traces a clear horizon, climbing the long incline. The mountains are ancient, sculpted by the heave of time itself, old almost as the water, frozen now on the long blades of wintering grass. Flowers, large and wet with dark colors, creep in wild, broken patches amid the landscape.
Sayd sits beyond the crest of a plateau, on a gray block that is vented for airflow. It is connected by a trio of low, wide tubes to the silver domes of an underground factory, down the far hill.
He watches snow falling on the wildflowers. Genex breeds, their seeds have escaped the city streets and are scattering on the wind through the countryside. A small bot lies a few feet away, torn open by two long, smoldering wounds. He is not entirely certain why he fired the dragon on it. It was just shredding the flowers.
For a moment in the light and snow he was alive. These things will not be undone. No matter my vengeance. No matter my punishment. There is no path from this.
Over the hill’s rocky crown, the reflecting shimmer of Halcyon casts a rippled blue-silver crescent in the clouds. The AG spires reach high. A blast echoes from the city and he looks at the blue-gray sheet above the next high, distant mossy rise, as a barrage of artificial lightning bursts in the snow-flecked air.
Reflections scatter nearby on the steel and snow.
Now two veiled forms are rising over the hill’s steep horizon.
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