Why do teens love Dystopian fiction? Perhaps, because it’s very familiar to them. How can that be? It’s hard to remember how the world looks a teenager, but here’s a hint: it looks dystopic. Society functions, but in a way that is unfathomable and arbitrary and so to a teenager our society is dystopic. How so? There’s enough food in the world for everyone to eat, but instead of sharing it out at least somewhat fairly, some get to stuff themselves and some starve. If you’re born to privilege everything is handed to you, born to poverty and you have to fight just to stay alive. Some become popular in school (which means so much) due to attributes they did nothing to earn, looks, athleticism, height, intelligence, etc. and all the while adults are telling you that those thing aren’t important. All of these contradictory revelations are a brand new experience. So to a teen a dystopian society is nothing new and at the same time all new.
Despite all that, the world is secondary to the characters. Seeing that no matter what situation you put teenagers in, they’re still teenagers; they have issues of love and loss and insecurity and fear and conflict with their parents and whatever “authority” they have to answer to. Of course, there’s always love, and that great power of that first love. Nothing like it; and it’s fascinating to see the way that no matter the difficulties and strictures of the society, love will not be bound by it and in much speculative fiction it is romantic love that makes all the difference, as well it should.
Watching other teenagers face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and deal with them feels like what teenagers are dealing with every day. Especially now as they watch the prosperous world they believed they would inherit revealed as an illusion. To adults, having their beliefs ripped away is a knee-trembling shock, but to a teenager it’s just Tuesday.
Global pandemic is raging. Olivya Wright-Ono’s once loving home has been converted to a hospice for the dying. Her ability to see auras forces her to witness, with agonizing detail, the vibrant colors of life consumed by malignancy.
The beautiful and troubled, Mikah, is an elite Empath in the ancient Kindred clan, led by the brooding, ever-morphing, monster named Prime. Mikah has learned a terrible truth .
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Chapter One – The Good As Dead: Olivya has just learned that her mother plans to upgrade their home-based hospice center to euthanasia, a service called “deliverance”. GAD is short for “Good-As-Dead”. The first “customer” as arrived:
Deliverance. Olivya hated that slithery word, that thin euphemism. Why not call it what it was? Murder. Her legs tensed, straining to run through the front door, down the street, east to Lake Michigan, and keep on going, right into the cool deep waters. Instead, she crept to the foyer, careful to stay out of Mama’s line of sight.
The new GAD lay mummy-bound in a pale blue blanket. This one had no intention of hanging out in a tranquilized coma or happily zoned on Hypno-Peace. He just wanted out. She wanted to look into the soul of this death-wisher. Did it take courage to broadcast that invitation to the Reaper? You are cordially invited to escort me to oblivion.
The sickly sweet stench of diseased flesh and stale urine wafted from the GAD. His sweat-soaked orange hair lay like worms on his forehead. Straps held his wrists to the side rails. His lips fluttered with each labored breath. She frowned. He looked just like all the others. Nothing special – shrunken, coma-tranked, and reeking. Was he a coward or a hero? The answer didn’t show in his face, but she could find it in his aura.
A chill breeze rippled, raising gooseflesh on her arms. Maybe the old Reaper was already standing right there, ready to claim his prize. If she allowed herself to fully Sight, would she see Death’s black robes, its bottomless eyes rimmed in bone? She wanted to curse it, spit in its hideous face. Like Papa, this newcomer had set out a welcome mat for Death.
Mama would be furious if she caught her gaping, disobeying orders to stay away. Olivya would have to hurry, but a moment was all she needed.
She closed her eyes, lifted her defenses and willed the Sight to come. Colors, shapes and lights swirled behind her lids. She compressed them into a single point of white-light deep inside her mind, then she opened her eyes.
The GAD’s aura, at first vague and wavy, sharpened into view. Despite the drug-induced coma, misery rose from him in sluggish waves. The dull red of malignancy throbbed against a background of greenish-gray – similar to the other Good-As-Deads, but somehow weightier. Intuition told her to look more closely.
Faint hues darted behind that auric death-shroud, ghosts of the man’s former emotions. A streak of robin’s egg blue, shimmers of peach. An eerie feeling came over her. Something looked familiar about this combination of gentle pastels in this particular pattern.
The face of a smiling man rose in her mind’s eye, one who had always been patient with the friendless psychic girl. Mr. Gragg. Her Seventh Grade English teacher from the old brick and mortar. Could this be him? It looked nothing like him. Mr. Gragg had been thick-muscled and robust, his hair a riot of bright orange ringlets. Yes. That pastel aura was Mr. Gragg’s. She recognized the colors of his unique, unflagging kindness. Why him? Then again, so many in the world had cancer. Why not him?
Olivya caught Mama’s voice in the kitchen. “Any family?”
“Not any more,” the deliveryman said.
Excerpt – Chapter Two – Mikah: Mikah, an unitiated member of the Kindred clan, dreads his encounters with the Kindred leader, a demon hybrid who goes by the name of Prime . . .
It wasn’t just the thought of Initiation and what it might do to him that made Mikah sick with dread. It was the fact that he’d have to be alone with Prime, close to the monster’s twisted energy and constantly morphing shape, that hideous creature near enough to touch. He hated thinking about that cellar-dwelling thing, yet his presence permeated the Complex. Prime. The Ancient One. Vile. Disgusting.
Sometimes at night, Mikah would gaze out his bay window, dreaming about what it might be like to plunge through the glass and ride the gravity express straight down to eternal nothingness. He’d catch a glimpse of a lurching form among the trees, a darker dark in the shadows, oozing through the expanse of park-like grounds that joined the Complex with the shores of Lake Michigan. He’d spy Prime, the monster, slipping along the beach in random directions, as if lost.
That shape sometimes caught the moonlight, a pale glow darting among the perfectly manicured hedges at the Complex boundaries. Prime. No boogieman. Real. He’d haunted Mikah’s nightmares since he was a little kid. Lately, the changes had accelerated. Prime was growing restless, leaving the Complex more and more often, capering and shrieking about the grounds.
Just a week ago, Mikah caught a rare sight of Prime inside the Complex, slinking past an open door in one of the first floor parlors. He looked thick and clumsy. Then yesterday, Mikah saw the beast again. He’d changed, become taller, oddly flexible, and lighter on his feet. Only Prime’s brown, shapeless robes stayed the same, and the absurdly long black patent leather dress shoes sticking out beneath his hems.
“You should not put your attention on him,” Changarai said.
“My shield is up. How did you know I was thinking of Prime?”
“You wear the same expression you did as a toddler when Prime was near. One doesn’t need psionic ability to recognize fear.”
“Yeah, well. It’s just another thing that separates me from all of you. I fear him. You worship him.”
“You will too,” Changarai said. “Soon.”
No way would Mikah stay alone with that shambling horror while they’re at the Gathering. Then he relaxed. He wouldn’t be alone tonight. He’ll be with Olivya.
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