Fusion of Cyberpunk and Fantasy
Indie Reader Discover Award Winner
Noveltunity Book Club Winner
“Smartly written, cleverly paced…”
“Safronoff creates a riveting story, beautifully written…”
Genetic causes, environmental, or self-imposed, the Collective treats all of the maladaptive sort the same way; plug and scrub. “It’s the only sane solution for society.” Approved before I was born, it was the cure for all mental dysfunction—and the financial hemorrhaging that resulted from all other forms of treatment. A ‘plug and scrub’ began with a chemical soup served up to diminish both your discomfort and the integrity of the proteins you use to make new memories, and re-imagine old ones. They plug into your Chip, if you have one, and start playing stimulus pulses, electrical discharges, across the prefrontal cortex. That part goes on for hours. Eventually the bad behavioral pathways of the brain are cleared out… along with most of your memories. During the time it takes to complete the process, the generated voice of your biological mother recites keywords to evoke images of each important developmental stage of your life. Specific memories are eradicated if a relationship is found between a subject’s undesirable behavior patterns and the memory. If you aren’t equipped with a Chip, the process is a little more random. The results of a chipless plug-n-scrub can be pretty frightening.
I’m chipless, so I’d rather not attract any attention from anyone, but especially not from the Collective Officer sitting beside me. She was sporting some fantastic GEaR, the kind of myth or military. No way was she an average Officer. No way I wanted…
“The world has chosen me, Demy,” Deliah squeezed Demy’s face between his hands, “Now, tell me, where is Joshua?”
Demy tried to squirm away, but Deliah only held tighter, digging his claws into Demy’s cheeks all the way to bone.
“I don’t know!” Demy spat at the former Secretary, more blood than saliva.
Deliah’s amber eyes flashed hotly. He scrutinized Demy’s face, looking for signs of deception or another bone to break. Finally, Deliah released his grip. Fresh blood pulsed out of the new holes, and then streamed down Demy’s cheeks.
Deliah stood and composed himself, placing his hands behind his back, “Demy, I’ve decided that your soul is irredeemable.” Demy was propped up against the couch, weakly holding his hand to the hole in his chest. Satisfied, Deliah turned and walked to the exit.
At the door, Deliah turned around, “The world has chosen me… to unmake it.” Demy offered no response. Deliah continued, “When there is no heart at the center of your choices, no expression, no desire to expand your soul, you wither and become nothing. I never turn away a lost soul at my door, no matter how poisoned, no matter how weak. I accept their offers. The deals are cheap. For a pittance in comfort and material accommodations, I claim something endless.”
“Let me show you what becomes of your soul when you don’t take care of it.” Deliah opened the door, revealing a hallway full of demons. They shuffled around quietly, heads bowed, waiting to be commanded. They were grey-skinned, hairless, slavering beasts with imposing fangs and claws.
Deliah bowed his head to the demons and they rose up. They looked at Demy with hunger and hatred and stalked into the room. One demon let out a fierce howling cry, an atonal, high-pitched, gear-grinding whine.
Demy closed his eyes and wished he could close his ears so that he wouldn’t hear himself screaming.