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The Priests of Psi – Frank Herbert #BookReview

Title:
The Priests of Psi

Authors:
Frank Herbert

Genre:
Science Fiction

Book procurement:
Bought this anthology in a heavily secured, highly stacked second-hand book store run by such a nice, though wary, old man. He looked like the gatekeeper to a secret library, awaiting the “Chosen One”.

Rating:

A mind-boggling 5 out of 5

Synopsis:

A psychic parasite who hijacks personalities.

A couple who discovers the house of their dreams … in the wrong dimension.

The priests of Psi, custodians of a forgotten wisdom which may exalt or damn mankind completely.

Five dazzling stories from one of science fiction’s masters

First Thoughts

Following the horrors of space in the last book I read Tales of Terror from Outer Space, I was expecting a lighter and perhaps more science-religious delve into the science fiction genre. And then I had an extremely vivid and emotional nightmare after reading the last story in the book. So… yeah.

Not at all what I was expecting and in a good way. Frank Herbert is a brilliant writer and articulates himself well. Each story was different from the other, with “space” being the bond that ties them all together. There is no horror, or not in its strictest sense. It’s the emotional and psychological horror of having your beliefs and ideas ripped apart by a story, while you’re undergoing emotional turmoil. And for me, that’s scary.

The Stories

Try to Remember!

A spaceship arrives on Earth. The aliens within send out representatives who speak in weird noises and make weird body movements. The reason: interpret the message or be eradicated. Thus the worlds greatest minds across the planet converge in an effort to make sense of the message.

The story is told from a woman’s perspective, who happens to be the only female in a room full of men. And desert sand. Really well written and a commentary on the different ways men and women think or rather, interpret the world around them. Women are the future!

Old Rambling House

This was an interesting story. Ted and Martha Graham live in a trailer, and are contacted by a couple willing to trade their house for the Graham’s trailer. Frank Herbert makes all of this believable in the sense that the couple was aware. Like they knew something was off, and when something seems to good to be true well…

Murder Will In

William Bailey is on his death bed, only he’s not William Bailey. Hasn’t been for the past 200 years or so because a parasite by the name of Tegas took over William’s consciousness and body. The Tegas has been body hopping for centuries, with one single powerful motivator – the emotions experienced by a murderer are the most thrilling. In that moment he hops from murdered to murderer and carries on life.

Fascinating concept isn’t it? Except this time William hasn’t been murdered and now the Tegas and his inner companion Bacit, must survive at all costs. What an amazing story. I could see it play out like a movie in my head. Not often you root for the alien… even when you know it’s a parasite. Odd.

Mindfield!

Ah. Humans. Such amazingly adaptive creatures. So in the far future, the earth is populated only by adults. I won’t tell you why since that would be a spoiler but there’s this psi-machine that “cleanses” the adult of everything and brings them back as effectively children. Your name becomes a variation of its original but never the original.

Priests and priestesses run the world. One is not allowed to dig anything in case one of the “Old-Machines” explode but of course there’s other reasons for that.

The story focuses on the head priest in control of the psi-machine, a rebel couple and their newly awakened partner, and an old-man who just came out of the psi-machine but is remembering too much. The shocking truth at the end is absolutely brilliant way of ending this story.

The Priests of Psi

Right, the final story centers around military man Lewis Orne who is an operator for the Investigation and Adjustment Agency. A hard man who has prevented countless wars from happening. Logical in every way. Which is why it comes as a shock when the religious Priest Planet, Amel, recruit him to be one of their disciples. The I-A, who have never been able to infiltrate the planet, send Orne as a spy. What follows is a psychological, emotional, spiritual journey he will never forget.

This story just messed with my mind. A planet encompassing every religion, all ascribing to one God, and explaining that miracles and other unexplained occurrences are the product of Psi. And Lewis Orne has this ability. What will that mean to a man who has rejected all forms of religion?

Writing

It’s quite interesting to see how each story is written so differently, set across different planes of reality, and each with their own commentary on us as humans.

Try To Remember has a very humanistic approach to it and in the style of writing. Focusing on the more real descriptions of the world, emotions, and frustrations seen through the eyes of the protagonist. It’s simple but the implications are quite massive. We tend to focus more on logic and less on emotion, as though “feelings” don’t have a role. When in truth, the body tells more truth than our words. It is also a commentary on how we as humans are never fully honest with each other, even if it threatens our existence. We must have some sort of power. Some kind of control. And we’ll remain uncooperative and mistrustful – not all of us of course but usually those in power *cough Government cough*.

Old Rambling House followed the same kind of writing. We are thrust into the world of a couple living in a trailer and hoping to get out. They are just regular people and it shows in their speech and in their encounter with something beyond their comprehension. More than that, they are stand-ins for a much larger story. A deeper complication with greater implications because of selfishness.

Murder Will In this one was again just human expression in an alien form. You see its fears and worries and hopes even though you know its a parasitic alien that thrives on the suffering of others to continue its own existence. Frank Herbert writes it in such a way that I was sympathizing with Tegas and Bacit and the many trapped conscious-es within. Herbert really knows how to capture emotion.

Mindfield! brings up the idea of forgetting the past and focusing only on the present under the guise of “Faith”. We know faith should be informed. Apart from that, the writing is quite fascinating. One of the characters is in a sense a relic and on the cusp of insanity so it’s amazing to see how they interact. Each person has their own voice and in the end the overall mystery is solved brilliantly.

The Priests of Psi broke my mind. This was a far more in-depth story. Lewis Orner is a fascinating character and so well written. You understand his fears, his worries, his skepticism and the gentle fraying of his mind when these opposing forces (science vs religion?) come against everything he knows and believes. There was also a really disturbing scene which probably fueled the nightmare I had while my mind was trying to decipher all the underlying meanings and suggestions this story was making. I’m still reeling.

Final Thoughts

It was a great little book with shifting perspectives and worlds. Top-notch world building, great, varying and believable characters, concepts that aren’t just about putting horror in someone but subtle ideas planted into your mind through cleverly veiled mysteries in a sci-fi setting.

 


The Priests of Psi was published January 1st 1981.

Did you know: Each of these stories appeared in different publications before being compiled into this anthology, the first being Old Rambling House in 1958.

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Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea #BookRecommendation

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (French: Vingt mille lieues sous les mers) is a classic science fiction novel by French writer Jules Verne, published in 1870. It is about the fictional Captain Nemo and his submarine, Nautilus, as seen by one of his passengers, Professor Pierre Aronnax.


This is one of those classics I have yet to read and have heard great things about. From Jules Verne, the man who wrote “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth” he is obviously on my to read list and should be on yours too.

Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the genre of science-fiction. Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before navigable aircraft and practical submarines were invented, and before any means of space travel had been devised. He is the third most translated author of all time, behind Disney Productions and Agatha Christie. His prominent novels have been made into films. Verne, along with H. G. Wells, is often referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction”.

The Warren by Brian Evenson – Review

Title: The Warren

Author: Brian Evenson

Genre: Science Fiction

Book procurement: Received a copy from Tor.com for Gamecca Magazine Vol 8 Issue 88.

Synopsis:

X doesn’t have a name. He thought he had one—or many—but that might be the result of the failing memories of the personalities imprinted within him. Or maybe he really is called X.

He’s also not as human as he believes himself to be.

But when he discovers the existence of another—above ground, outside the protection of the Warren—X must learn what it means to be human, or face the destruction of their two species.

Review:

First Thoughts

X, if that is his name, is a but a single person. Within him lies the imprinted personalities of others before him, salvaged minds seeking to keep knowledge within the last remaining human. However, X begins to question his humanity when he discovers another on the surface of what he calls, the Warren. Things begin to spin out of control as the two wrestle with an existential question: what makes one human.

I won’t say this was an easy read. Sometimes confusing. Sometimes annoying. Most importantly, it really did what it’s supposed to do: make us question the concept of what makes us human.

Writing

The Warren is a fascinating science fiction thriller, a dive into the mind of a man with multiple-personas within him. Only they aren’t just personas, bu the minds of people who came before X. Imprinting what remained of their minds into the remaining living being. The really creepy part was when X described the opening of eyes within his mind, as the individuals grew coherent of the fact that they too are fragmented minds living within another conscious mind. *shivers

Unable to comprehend the individuals within, X begins to seek out questions regarding his existence in the Warren. The personalities don’t share much and his only other source of knowledge is Monitor, a computer of some sort. It carries some of the information from before, but not enough to make a lot of sense to the questions that X asks. Questions that plague his existence. The most pertinent question, especially when X finds another human on the surface of the Warren, is: what makes someone human.

In light of this, you can imagine the conversations that occur. Also, the surface above the Warren is poisonous to all who stand in its air, and no one who has left has come back. Only there’s no way to know why it’s so bad, and why this person on the surface even exists. The only way to survive is to look for resources and continue your existence yet even resources have become scarce.

Not only that but imagine being the only living person with just a computer as your companion, trying to figure out who or what you are, and who the other person could possibly be. Would you risk the possibility of death to find out? Or continue in the routine of solitude and scouring where you can for resources.

Final Thoughts

Brian Evenson captures the isolation and alienation really well. One can almost imagine the paranoia and anxiety of solitude and confusion. Of having multiple minds just sitting in the darkness of your mind. More importantly, of trying to understand the world around you when there’s nothing to truly help. Except for the one thing you know you shouldn’t… exploring the surface.

Rating: A borderline 3 out of 5


What are you currently reading?

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Monday Book Recommendation: The Ghost Line

The luxury cruise ship the Martian Queen was decommissioned years ago, set to drift back and forth between Earth and Mars on the off-chance that reclaiming it ever became profitable for the owners. For Saga and her husband Michel the cruise ship represents a massive payday. Hacking and stealing the ship could earn them enough to settle down, have children, and pay for the treatments to save Saga’s mother’s life.

But the Martian Queen is much more than their employer has told them. In the twenty years since it was abandoned, something strange and dangerous has come to reside in the decadent vessel. Saga feels herself being drawn into a spider’s web, and must navigate the traps and lures of an awakening intelligence if she wants to go home again.


Andrew Gray‘s fiction has appeared in numerous speculative fiction magazines, including Nature Futures, Apex Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, The Sockdolager and On Spec.

He was awarded On Spec’s Lydia Langstaff Memorial Prize, has been nominated for a National Magazine Award for Fiction and has been shortlisted several times for the CBC/Saturday Night Literary Award. He was the runner-up prize winner in the 2015 Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition.

His first collection of stories, Small Accidents, was published by Raincoast Books and was shortlisted for the Ethel Wilson Award at the BC Book Prizes and an IPPY award in the US.

With co-author J.S. Herbison, he has written The Ghost Line, which is forthcoming from Tor.com’s novella imprint in mid-2017.

He lives with his family and several cranky chickens on Canada’s West Coast

Monday Book Recommendation: Tales Anthologies – Inklings Press

Inklings Press is the brainchild, and publishing house that brings together new, very talented authors together, select a genre, then continue to create amazing, fantastical worlds with riveting characters and amazing stories. I have had the honour of reviewing their anthologies and each time I do, I am blown away by the talent.

Tales of Wonder is their latest anthology, and it will be this Wednesday’s book review as well (and I must admit that I loved it.)

For a list of their anthologies, which you can buy on Amazon, visit their website: Inklings Press

We are a group of friends that share a love for many interests, be it comics, RPG’s, anime, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, alternative history, wargames and literature. But above all we are a group of like minded friends that decided to create our owned e-publisher in order to provided us with an outlet for our stories, novels, anthology and blog/ezine projects related to those interest. Working as a team we hope to create and share good quality work with our readers.

Our purpose is to provide a new offer when it comes to fantasy, science fiction, mystery & alternative history tales.

Mission Statement

We see us, The Inklings, as a group which aims to inspire, push, and support authors.

Inspire: to overcome the dreaded writer’s block, the blank page. To provide a sounding board for ideas and motivate us to keep writing.

Push: to offer critics, revisions and motivate us to keep working within deadlines, which are often the bane of any writer.

Support: during the writing, which is the toughest stage and celebrate their sucess post publication, providing a friendly platform.

Nurture: because every writer needs sometimes help, guidance or even someone to talk with (and even fight a bit) and nurture those ideas seeds. And what better way to do so than with friends that have been or are at the same stage.

LRE TV presents…

demonstration-767982_1920

Run.

Run.

Run.

The words played through his mind as darkness descended suddenly with the blotting out of the sun. The Dome was early on this twelfth day since the game had begun. It seemed that things were spiraling out of control and the Admins needed everything to run smoothly lest the crowds lost interest in the long drawn spectacle. Usually humans died by the third day; four if they were skilled enough. Tobor was the first exception to the rule.

“We commence day twelve of Last Robot on Earth!” A voice boomed from the Dome’s overhead speakers. “In this amazing spectacle of human survival, contestant 27274 has eluded Exterminator for yet another day. Is this not fantastic!?”

“Hell no.” Tobor whispered as he jogged to a stop and took a swig from his flask. He grimaced against the taste, shook his bedraggled locks then swept them back with one hand. It was completely dark. He knew this was some city lost during the Machination War, perhaps Chicago, perhaps Lagos – hell it could be Johannesburg or Mumbai for all he knew. But what he did know, was that he needed to get out of the street and find another place to hide. Artificial light had been completely shut off to make the game that much harder, but what the Admins didn’t know, was that Tobor didn’t need artificial light. In fact, he didn’t need much at all, which had so far helped him survive for so long. He saw the haphazardly parked cars as clearly as he saw the dilapidated buildings still crumbling as though the attack had been an hour ago rather than a couple of decades. He was about to move when the voice boomed into the darkness.

“And now a special announcement for the first time on Last Robot on Earth, a second human will be introduced into the game. That’s right folks! It’s a two for one special here on LRE!”

Tobor grunted, tucked his flask into the side pouch of his backpack and scanned the buildings for a vantage point,

“And of course, with a change to the game we must also change the rules slightly. Contestant 27274, I hope you’re listening carefully because this one is for you. If Exterminator finds and kills the second human, you must forfeit the game. And your life of course.” A laugh echoed through the silence.

“Ah come on.” he spat as he vaulted over a car hood and ducked through the broken entrance of some building. It looked like a bank from the tiny cubicles separated by broken glass dividers. He blinked a few times and let the world cascade from green, to amber to white; with his vision adjusted, he spotted a staircase and moved for it.

“Because we are such gracious hosts, we’ll give you thirty seconds to prepare yourself. Good luck to both of you.” There was an audible click and the silence that followed seemed deafening. Nonetheless Tobor was moving. From a decent height, he might be able to see the new player enter the stage; but knowing the admins, they would probably sneak the player in – and closer to the Exterminator too. Taking the stairs two at a time, deft and agile over some of the broken pieces, he reached the highest point he dared to go – a floor with a window surprisingly still intact – and looked across the concrete jungle.

“Not even a countdown for your best player?” He asked in the silence, adjusting the pack on his back. Looking out the window, he spotted a fleck of white further in the distance radiating with an aquamarine hue through its system. He realized it was the Exterminator but something about it was different. Usually it was a tall, bulky creature with humanoid features and none of the humanity. This was a smaller, sleeker version and its humanity disappeared with the six arms protruding from its torso.

“Well, well, well, Exterminator 2-point-spider. Someone’s been reading too many Spider-man comics.” He was about to laugh when he saw a new glimmer about two blocks from the human-arachnid. This glimmer was clearly human when the orange and red silhouette crawled out of a hole in the ground.

“Player two has entered the game.”

But player two was significantly shorter. The silhouette started to dash forward and smacked right into a car. The clang of bone on metal was loud in the ensuing silence and Extermi-arachnid turned towards the sound.

“Damnit!” Tobor considered running back down the stairs and knew he wouldn’t have enough time. He thanked the Admins for lack of light as his next feat would have crossed him off the human list. And ended the game. He moved back in the room, took a running start and dived out the window. He could still hear the tinkle of glass as his peripheral saw the Exterminator turn towards him and dash in his direction. He landed hard, the street breaking underneath him into a mini crater. But he was already in a crouching run, moving down the road and towards the second player. Within moments, faster than he’d anticipated, he sensed his opponent behind him. And sensors were like magnets facing opposite directions. He dashed forward, running with the balls of his feet hitting the ground first to soften his steps, moving around cars rather than over them but he could already feel his pursuer approaching. Looking ahead, he saw the pulse of red and orange further in the distance behind a car. At the same time, machine gun fire broke the silence as bullets ricocheted across cars and buildings. Tobor instinctively ducked but kept moving forward. Always prepared, he reached for a carefully stitched zip on the bottom of his backpack that he could reach without taking off the bag. He zipped it enough to drop a spherical object into his hand and a quick zip up closed it. He was nearing player two now, and he knew he only had one shot at this. The Exterminator stopped firing and at that point, Tobor rose from his crouch and sprinted forward. At the same time, Exterminator fired a single shot from a pistol. It was a dull sound compared to the machine gun fire, but it was as loud as it could have ever been. Tobor grunted as he felt the projectile lodge itself in his shoulder with a searing pain. It spun him around and at the same time he pulled the pin on the spherical object in his hand with a soft clink. He was still turning, when he threw the object at the pursuer and as the object spun in mid-air, he dived backwards over the car. There was a single clank as the object hit the ground and in the next moment, a white pulse flashed through the streets radiating with an electrical surge. The EMP would have worked on him too, but he’d gone to great lengths to appear as human as possible. And although the charge swept through his body as it surely did to the Exterminator, his inner insulation – which also made his vitals appear in the same red and orange as a human – prevented the charge from short-circuiting him. He twitched into a seated position and looked over at player two, blinking his vision back to green.  Long curls fell over the boy’s face where a bruise was swelling on his forehead. Tobor rose to his feet and picked the limp body up into his arms, his arms crackling under the weight and weakened synapses.

“Typical admins, bringing a noob to the battlefield.” He started moving fast as he knew the EMP wouldn’t keep Exterminator down for long. He gazed down at the drooling face and shook his own locks from his eyes,

“If it’s come to this, I guess it’s time to end this game.”


Hope you enjoyed this little short for my Patreon short story for the month Last Robot on Earth. This isn’t part of the main story; it’s nowhere near the final story actually. If you want an inside scoop, please check out my Patreon page.

Patreon.com/NthatoMorakabi

Also, new rewards as follows:

  • $1.00+ per Per story

    Star:
    • A Patreon-only 1000 – 3000 word short story of your making. You tell me what you want and I will write it for you. You will receive a PDF copy of the short story in your email, with a special mention in the acknowledgments.
    • Insight into the making of the story, including sources, first drafts, revisions etc.
    $5.00+ per Per story

    Superstar:
    • A Patreon-only +-3000 word short story of your making. You tell me what you want and I will write it for you. You will receive a PDF copy of the short story in your email, with a special mention in the acknowledgments.
    • Insight into the making of the story, including sources, first drafts, revisions etc.
    • All visual artwork and sources used for the making of the short story. Character insights, location guides, full backstory to the short story. Exclusive sketches of cover art for the anthology.
  • $10.00+ per Per story

    Legend:
    • Your opportunity to vote for stories appearing in the anthology.
    • A free .PDF, .mobi, or .epub copy of the Anthology.
    • A mention in the acknowledgements.
    • Special access to the “Behind The Scenes” of the anthology.
    • All previous rewards.

     

Hope you’re having a fantastic week so far! Happy writing/reading/blogging!

Friday Fiction: Self Improvement Friday

Happy Friday!

Sadly I don’t have a story for you today because my boss has been so gracious as to let us have self-improvement Friday today. So I have been spending my morning reading up on writing and editing, listening to podcasts, including one by Joe Hill (author of Locke and Key – I love this comic book!) and researching the Science Fiction genre. I love it!

Listen to Joe Hill’s podcast here: 10 Minute writer’s workshop with Joe Hill

I’m preparing to submit short stories to a whole list of publications and one of them has the space theme: Houston we have a problem. So I’m reading up on what is science fiction – well I know what it is but what is it? What makes a story science fiction? Is it space ships? Aliens? Half burnt men in black robes and breathing masks choking people with some metaphysical force? Surely not. So I’ve delved into it a bit more.

*

If you have been on my blog in the last month, you know I have been raving about an amazing writing book – On Writing Well by William Zinsser. It will be my first non-fiction book review for the next Wednesday Book Review. My boss gave me more books to read on improving writing, one of which is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. As a writer, you need to read a lot and not just books for fun but also self improvement books that will guide your writing.

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” ~ Samuel Johnson

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” ~ Ray Bradbury, WD

*

Although I don’t have a story for you, let me give you some insight into my writing process. I doesn’t look like this every time but it’s one of the main ways I brainstorm:

The Prompt

Houston we have a problem.

Okay so what does this prompt bring to mind:

Crash (so obvious)

Propeller system isn’t working as it should (probably not even called a propeller system. Also. Obvious.)

Jammed space jam into the control panel lever that sends me home (okay some humour… also something about a malfunction seems to the main idea/theme)

An alien ship has attached itself to mind and is reeling me in (we’re in space after all it’s plausible – also note I said mind not mine – error or my brain being sneaky?)

I have flown too close to the sun (Icarus!)

I am being attacked (obvious too)

Running out of oxygen/fuel/food/energy (hmmm interesting premise)

Virus has infected the crew (ok Dead Space how did you sneak in here)

One of the crew is a serial killer with a penchant for blood and we cannot escape (over done? Probably)

The Research

I don’t want to be calling things incorrectly (like propeller system… I’m probably thinking propulsion) so I ask memory for some insight.

Memory recalls Star Ocean (I love this game!) and some of the themes it carries. It brings an image to mind of a long eared priestess in flowing blue robes. On the side I read something about religion and the following ideas came to mind:

Religion. Sect. Think Star Ocean priests in blue robes praying to some foreign god in space.

Prompt: Astronaut alone in his own ship. Houston we have a problem his statement before he crashes.

Story: They see a pod flying towards them. They think the prophecy is coming true of “a being from beyond the vale”

Religion adopt him into their sanctuary.

Yes I know I misspelled “veil” but this is inconsequential to the writing and brainstorming process.

Next I question the great and wise Google for some insight. She overwhelms me with insight.

I also remember I get emails from Wattpad Science Fiction group and this leads me to: How to Write Science Fiction. It is a great, insightful resource just to help me get my bearings on a couple of things. This is the list I compile:

Communication. Time/Age/Distance. Travel. Food. Energy. Fuel/Refuel. Resources

History. Where. When. How. Why.

Evolution.

Implementation

From here my mind has already started putting bits and pieces together and a story has formed. Here’s an excerpt from a very rough draft. You can see from the brainstorming where the story stems.

Those nations were Samaria, Judea and the rest of the earth. But today we know there is more to nations than what we see here on earth. So I will implore you once again to heed my call to the word of God. The nation of Zeraiyus and the nation of Lweoyrigew and the nations in sector 01286 all need to hear the gospel. The good news. They need interplanetary missionaries.”

Space priests. That’s right. I’ve never heard nor read anything that dealt with this idea and in my particular way. So there’s my story. I don’t know where it’s going, but I at least know the setting.

Writing

So from here onward it’s putting words down and running with this idea. Who knows where it will lead?


What is your brainstorming process? How much effort do you put into your research?

Friday Fiction: 2055 – Peace

Vincentius Matthew copyright 2010

Image courtesy of Vincentius Matthew. Copyright 2010 – 2016 (deviantart.com)

“Abie Prinsloo. Welcome to the assimilation.” Akinyi Cisse said.

Assimilation. The word sounded cold and cruel, like a process carried by emotionless machines in a cold storage unit. Instead, families ambled across the wide expanse like they were on a field trip to the zoo. Smiles and laughs all around walking across the pristine tiled floors and glass windows, like the store fronts in a mall. Behind the windows were realistic mannequins of families, each of different races and each dressed in various garb – it looked like a store selling family clothing sets… or perhaps families altogether. He walked towards the first stall that featured a dark skinned family dressed in traditional Hausa-Fulani atteire, the sign at their feet read: West Africa – Peace. The male mannequin lifted its head and Abie jumped back in shock. An electronic voice rose from the exceptionally human-like mannequin, in a thick accent,

“Hallo friend. My name is Chidiebere Abuchi and this is my wife and our kids. We are living in peace here in Western Africa thanks to the power of assimilation. Crime has gone down by 75 percent, domestic violence by 82 percent and we have never been happier. Join the assimilation and make Africa whole again.”

“Wonderful isn’t it?” Akinyi asked from behind. Abie spun around and looked at the man before him.

“Is this what you mean by assimilation?”

“Of course. We seek to unite Africa and perhaps the world in the same way. Does it not make for a wonderful world to live in? No worries of crime or violence. You know your children are safe, your spouse is safe. You are safe.”

“At what cost? What part of ourselves do we lose?”

“What part of yourself have you lost Abie Prinsloo?”

“But… I haven’t been assimilated…”

“Haven’t you?”

Abie hesitated

“Well -”

“Of course you haven’t!” Akinyi laughed heartily and a few people turned to look towards them as they walked past. Abie for the first time flustered. He didn’t like feeling foolish and for a soldier it was a rare experience. Akini stepped up beside him, leaning in until their shoulders were touching,

“Not yet anyway.” he whispered. Abie recoiled, staring hard at the man.

“Don’t play with me.” He meant to sound menacing but it came out as a whisper and he hated it. Inside this compound, he was alone and on enemy territory. Even his military training didn’t prepare him for such a scenario. Aliens. It was such a foreign concept even in this age of technology and advanced warfare, where the enemy could very well be human-like robots that bleed oil instead of blood – the Terminator come to life. Yet humans were as close to discovering life on other planets now as they had been forty years ago.

And here he was talking to one.

“Indeed you are Abie. Remember that if nothing else, that you are in the presence of an extra-terrestrial and on the cusps of a new age. The age of assimilation. The age of peace.”

“The age of slavery.”

“Ha! Slavery? My great-grand father and his father once personally knew what slavery was and I can assure you that this is not what they experienced. There is no master and slave. No degrees of importance. We are all the same.”

“Except of course the extra-terrestrials in our heads.”

“We are more along the line of shepherds, no greater than the sheep. For what are we without them? Yet there has to be some form of authority don’t you agree? As a military man you understand?”

“These people are not sheep. Or soldiers.”

Akinyi waved him off and walked away.

“No matter, I’m showing you all of this so that you understand that we want peace as much as you do. The means we employ are far better than using weapons as you are so apt to.”

And yet it was a weapon he followed back when he was rescuing Bravo squad,wasn’t it. The little girl had a mechanical arm that was definitely a weapon.

“And what of the girl I met?” Abie asked. He hoped to gain some upper hand. Akinyi stopped and turned around.

“What girl?”

“The girl with the metal arm. She…” Abie felt the memory fade, watched it darken as the clear image he had slipped away. He mentally fought against the fading memory.

“What girl with the arm?” It was the first time Abie saw a new emotion in the man. No longer calm and collected. Abie shook his head,

“Her hair was tangled with something like tentacles. They were attached to her metallic arm and…” the image was fading faster and he couldn’t grasp it until it simply didn’t exist anymore. He tried to picture it but his mind was coming up blank.

“What did she say? What did she do?”

“I can’t remember. I can’t…” Akinyi suddenly lunged at him and held on to his head. He was about to attack, a simple maneuver in fact, but a white hot pain seared the inside of his head. He screamed. The sound echoed across the mall and people turned to look for a second, in passing really, and carried on. Abie was far too preoccupied with the burning in his mind to notice.

“Gaaaah!” He felt liquid seep from his ear, spill down the side of his face and a moment later his ear popped. The heat stopped as suddenly as it had appeared. He attempted to keep standing but his legs felt rubbery and in the next moment he was on his knees. He managed to raise his hand to his ear and it pulled away wet with a thick black liquid. Akinyi above him was staring in sick horror and it felt as though the whole compound had been plunged into silence. Abie turned to see what everyone was staring at and he fell back away from the hulking black mass. Had that come out of his ear? That tentacled monstrosity. He didn’t know where it began and where it ended, just a mass of slithering black coils writing there under the light. It was almost as tall as the ceiling.

<Assimilation.> The thing said. It was the same monotonous voice that been in Abie’s head. <I fear there will be no assimilation here, only subjugation.> 

<The moment we saw what Abie Prinsloo could do, and what he had done to our satellite, we had a feeling it would be you. That’s why we chased you.> Akinyi said, only it was the same monotonous voice that spoke. His mouth shut with a snap.

<So much work for little old me.>

<A necessity. You are here in our grasp and that’s all that matters.>

<Sadly not. I’m not the only one on this planet.>

Akinyi faltered.

<We’ll find the others too. It’s a matter of time.>

<Time you don’t have I’m afraid to say. While you were chasing me, the rest of us were setting up camp. Russia. North Korea. Germany. India. Australia. Ireland. Brazil. Mexico. Cuba. America. It’s already too late.>

“Too late for what?” Abie managed to ask, his whisper loud in the silence.

<Peace. As I said before, there will be no assimilation here, only subjugation.>

The creature raised it’s tentacles, a myriad of them all slick and oozing. Below them were more writhing coils, as though the creature was nothing but them.

<Oh lord> Akinyi cried. The compound was plunged into darkness. Abie listened to the continuous whispering slithers of all those tentacles moving around him, covering the sound of his short gasps. He felt them slither across his body, wrap around his arms, chest, neck. They trailed over his face. He struggled against them but they were too  many, like he had fallen into a sea of wet, wriggling snakes. He tried to cry out and felt one coil over his lips, a rancid coppery taste filled his mouth. As he felt completely consumed, he heard the thing whisper in his head,

<Abie Prinsloo of Sector Swartkoppies, Southern Republic of the United Commonwealth of Africa, your presence has been requested.>


What happens next? Who knows? I don’t know either… but it is merely the beginning! *cue scary music*

Friday Fiction: 2055 – Assimilation

The helicopter silently glided over dilapidated buildings stretching into the distance. It seemed to be a city of some sort but one that seemed foreign to Abie. He turned towards the man sitting opposite him who was also looking out at the destroyed city. Akinyi Cisse of Juluo. Here. One of them.

“I guess it is quite difficult to believe that a statesman would be one of them, as you so kindly put it.” Akinyi said, turning to face Abie. “Then again, you would think all these movies would make you look towards leadership first in the event of alien encounter.”

“It’s the most obvious.”

“Certainly.”

“So what’s your plan?” Abie looked back out into the open space. The city was fading into brown grassland.

“Assimilation.”

“Oh… I thought you only employed ‘voluntary hosts'”

“As you are of course.” Abie remained silent. Now that he was once again faced with the reality of an alien being lodged in his brain, he couldn’t help imagine what its intentions were. It also tried save him. To help him escape and like a fool he let his own judgement fail them.

<I’ve also kept you in control this entire time.> The voice in his head said

“For what purpose? What reason do you have for letting me be?”

<To show you that we are not all the same.>

“Are you not?”

“I cannot speak for you, but we are.” Akinyi said. The grassland was making way to a fenced off area, tar breaking the monotony of grass where a compound came into view. Building sand, white stones and various machinery where scattered around the building where half of it was still under construction. It looked like a warehouse of some sort but it was difficult to say what it was for, considering the barren landscape around it. It was too obvious. The helicopter began to descend.

*****

There were no soldiers or personnel when the helicopter landed on an empty parking bay. In the distance the sun was peeking from the horizon in an orange haze that lit up the area, making their shadows long. Only Akinyi and Abie stepped off the helicopter. Akinyi led the way with Abie following close behind. He knew he couldn’t escape, where would he go. He had seen no vehicles other than the construction vehicles and with that he wasn’t going to get anywhere fast.

“Where are we going?” Akinyi lifted his hand and twirled a finger. Behind them, the helicopter started up silently, the gust of wind it generated the only thing giving it away. Abie turned around and watched it fly off in the same direction they had come. Reinforcements? Was it fetching the creature he had shot in the guise of his old flame? Was it dead? He doubted it.

“Oh don’t worry, it will take more than just bullets to kill us, and yes, it is fetching our mutual friend.”

“For what? Where are you taking me?”

“You will see…”

Akinyi led him into the warehouse, where Abie noticed the large black and white billboard announcing the building of a mall. The name of it had been torn off on purpose it seemed, and only the date survived the tear: 2058.

“A mall huh?”

“Mall” Akinyi said, raising his hands to create quotation marks in the air.

“So what is it then?”

“A mall, obviously, but also a base of operations where we will push our plans forward.

“The assimilation plans.”

“Precisely.”

Abie wondered why Akinyi was telling him all of this, basically giving him the plan. If he were to escape he would have vital information should he go public. If he were to go public. If he could. Perhaps they would wipe his memory or force him to join. That made sense. He was already a “voluntary host” so it would make sense.

The inside of the “mall” was brightly lit, the skeleton frame stretching into the sky where the next floor would begin. Their footsteps crunched sand underfoot as they approached an elevator.

“An elevator. Of course.”

“We took most of our ideas from all the ‘alien invasion’ books and films that you humans created. I must say you are all very creative.”

Abie could only nod as they entered the elevator and Akinyi pressed the single button. Abie felt the slight lurch of the thing, it was an old fashioned elevator rather than the quiet modern ones. He thought of the invasion. What more would they need when humanity had given them all they needed, only this time there would be no hero to save them. No magic virus to destroy the super alien computer. No hero to foil the alien plot. Or perhaps he was the saviour, in the right place to foil whatever plot was in the pipelines; but what plot was it. He would need more information.

The elevator stopped.

“You do realize I can hear your every thought… right?” Akinyi asked. He stepped out of the elevator as the doors swung open. Abie remained still.

“There is no hero in this story my friend. Come along, we are almost at our destination.”

He followed. The alien in his head was transmitting his thoughts. It was so obvious how did he miss it. So caught up in the events happening around him that he didn’t think of that one vital thing when it was so obvious.

<Very obvious> The voice replied to him.

<Why didn’t you say?>

<I was prevented from speaking up. Don’t you think I would have tried?>

<I don’t know what you would have done.>

<You still don’t trust me?>

Abie wasn’t sure. He could. He should perhaps but… his thoughts were open. Bare. They walked down the narrow corridor, lit by gas lamps that Abie had only seen in history pictures.

“Are you allergic to modern technology?”

“Modern technology is traceable. Electricity. Wires. We don’t need any distractions right now.”

“Distractions from what?”

Akinyi didn’t answer and instead stepped aside to let Abie walk in front of him.

“You’re not going to knock me out are you?” He smiled. Wary.

“Of course not. We’re here aren’t we.”

“Hmmm.” The corridor ended at a metal door that swept open when he approached it. Abie stood for a long while. Unaware that his mouth was hanging open as he took in the sight.

“Abie Prinsloo. Welcome to the assimilation.”

Friday Fiction: 2055 – Hosts

earth from space

 

“Hallo liefie. Kom sit.”

Abie stood still for a very long time, gazing at the rolling sea-sand curls framing the pale face before him. Soft, hazel eyes he’d fallen in love with gazed back at him; a hand was raised to gesture at the chair in front of him.

“Ana-marie. What…” the words felt heavy in his mouth, weighing his bottom lip down in shock.

“Abie, please, sit.”

Abie eventually shuffled into the seat and fell into it hard. His arms stayed still at his sides, the heavy pistol slipping from his fingers to clatter onto the floor.

“What are you doing here?” He managed to ask. His mind was still reeling from the sight of the woman before him, a face from a memory that still haunted him so long after its occurrence.

“I came to find you. To save you.” She smiled as she sat forward in the chair, placing both her arms on the table so that her open hands were pointed towards Abie. He looked at them, afraid to hold them even as they seemed to be pleading to be held.

“You were captured. You were…” His eyes stared at the pale hands held out to him, he could almost feel their soft warmth. At his sides, his arms had begun to shake but he didn’t seem to be aware.

“Here I am Abie. That was the past and we are here in the now.”

His arms lifted, drawn to the outstretched hands before him of the girl he’d once thought he would marry. The girl who had been there before he’d joined the army as another soldier in the UAC. The girl who… the girl who…

<The girl who died!> 

Abie jolted back in his seat in shock, sending his body and chair tumbling back in one swift motion.

<She died Abie! This is not her, do you not sense its presence?>

Abie was attempting to breathe following his fall, the wind had been knocked out of him and as he lifted his eyes, he found that Ana-Marie was standing beside him, only it wasn’t completely Ana-Marie; from her waist down she was a mass of wet, grey tentacles. He wanted to scream. Instead, a wheeze escaped his open mouth.

“The shock wears off soon enough, and as a soldier you should be able to get over it fairly quickly.”

Abie’s eyes fell away from Ana-Marie’s face and down towards the slithering limbs as they slid back towards the chair. He could still hear them swish and suckle even when they were out of sight behind the table.

<What the heck is that thing? What the heck is it?> Abie cried at the voice in his head. It was frustratingly silent once again. He managed to sit up, his breath coming in better as he spotted the pistol on the floor ahead of him. He picked his chair up while he was sitting, grabbing the pistol on his way back onto the chair, careful to keep the weapon hidden. The Ana-Marie-creature looked at him in mild amusement.

<If you’re going to help, you need to speak!> Abie whispered into his brain. The voice remained silent.

“It can’t hear you. I’m making sure of that.” Ana-Marie said but the voice came out in the same monotonous tone, both out loud as well as in his head. “Also, I would put away that toy, it has no effect on me.”

Abie looked down at his shaking hand, and shook his head

“It gives me comfort…”

“Well good, then perhaps you won’t be as pathetic as your soldier friends down below yes?” Abie lifted his head,

“Who are you… what are you?”

“Ah for that, we would have to travel light-years away to an ancient planetary speck on the outskirts of the milky-way, and we just don’t have the time. Instead I’ll give you answers to questions you’ve blatantly avoided. First and foremost, we are an alien race. Extra terrestrial. Hence the tentacles as you so aptly described my limbs.”

Abie continued to stare, his mind listening. Absorbing.

“Secondly, we are not a hostile race as you may be inclined to believe. It seems that America has fed much of society’s expectations when it comes to extra terrestrials and their quest for Earth’s domination.”

“So what is it that you want? How can I trust anything that you say?”

“Well you aren’t dead, for one, and secondly, you haven’t seen or heard anything about an alien invasion have you? And let me guess what you’re thinking; we wouldn’t allow our presence to be known until it was too late for mankind to do anything about it?”

The creature didn’t need to read Abie’s mind to know what he was thinking of course. It waited for Abie to respond and when he didn’t, it continued,

“Currently there are about… five of us… on Earth, including the one in your brain right now. We were summoned. It seems that the UAC is in need of assistance when it comes to bringing peace across its vast, beautiful plain…”

“And you and your alien squad are going to unite Africa peacefully? No hostile take over? Nothing?”

“Well I wouldn’t say nothing. Everything comes at a price.”

“And what price are we to pay for your so called peaceful involvement?” The creature that was Ana-Marie smiled.

“Voluntary hosts.”

Abie stared hard at the creature before him, no longer distracted by its facade even though it unsettled him,

“Will you change appearance please, I can’t handle looking at my dead ex?”

“I fear you wouldn’t get over the shock of what you will see if I were to do that. Ana-Marie here is to pacify you, make who I am more acceptable.”

Abie nodded as though he understood even though he didn’t. He stared hard at the body before him, taking it all in, trying to find anything that would give away the creature’s true self

“This is a mental projection. I am not wearing her body as you once experienced with the little girl before, I have not found a suitable body to attach myself to, as one has attached to you.”

Abie remembered the voice in his head.

“Who are you?” he asked the voice.

<Run Abie! Run!> The voice quivered.

“Why is it always telling me to run?”

“I fear it is trying to…”

Abie’s arm shot up suddenly out of his control, the pistol gripped tight and sure. His body rose on its own accord and fired two quick shots into Ana-Marie’s face as it moved around her. Ana-Marie lurched back, the chair tilting backwards until it was impossibly leaning on its two back legs without falling. Abie saw the top half shimmer slightly, a sliver of grey waning in and out of existence in the space between Ana-Marie’s gaping face and the floor. His fingers pulled the trigger twice and then they were pushing out of the other door and into a long, dark corridor.

“What the hell are you doing!?”

“Saving you!?”

“From what?”

“What do you mean from what!? Did you really think this whole thing is about voluntary hosts?”

Abie let the words sweep through his mind. He wasn’t sure what he believed anymore. They barged through a heavy door at the end of the corridor while behind them, they could already feel the soldiers losing the hold Abie had over them. Ana-Marie wasn’t chasing them.

<We are all of the same mind, the five of us on this planet. That is how our planet works.> The voice continued. By now they were inside an office block of sorts with bright florescent lights lighting their way. It was eerily quiet

<A call reached our planet and we were tasked with investigating the commotion. What we had not anticipated, however, was the human tribal group standing before one of our communication pillars, in what was once our ancient calling ritual. We were summoned alright, but not by the UAC.>

“You were on our planet before?” Abie was suddenly feeling overwhelmed

<Of course. This time around we decided not to stay, to tell our overseers that it was a false alarm. So far from our planet, we found that we could influence each other’s thoughts as one; this was something only our overseers could do. One of us overpowered the rest and sought to remain on the planet as an overseer.>

Abie was beginning to catch on. The one in Ana-Marie’s body was calling the shots outside of home planet, and now was clearly trying to “oversee” the UAC under the guise of voluntary hosts.

<That’s exactly it!>

“So what now?”

The voice remained silent as they pushed through the doorway at the end of the corridor, and ran right into a squadron of soldiers with rifles pointed at them. Statesman Akinyi Cisse, of Joluo, the Eastern sector of the UAC, stood before the men in a shiny, silver, three-piece men’s suit. Behind them, a large helicopter stood waiting.

“Abie Prinsloo, so glad to finally meet my fellow host.” Akinyi stepped aside and gestured towards the waiting helicopter.

“Please…”

Understanding that it wasn’t so much a request as it was an instruction, Abie walked towards the helicopter; this was turning out to be much bigger than he’d thought.


Although not inspired by the prompt this time (I actually wrote this story yesterday), it fit the theme so… https://rachelpoli.com/2016/04/15/time-to-write-tension-rises/

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