Friday, April 22, 2016

Ghost In The Head

An extract from the first chapter of Into Everywhere.

There were some days now when she didn’t think about the ghost in her head. Or there might be a moment when she’d wonder if it was asleep or awake, if it was looking out through her eyes, and then the moment would pass and she’d get on with whatever it was she happened to be doing. It hadn’t shown itself for eight years. It had receded into the background hum of her life. But then there was the day when it returned in all its terror and glory. Black lightning snapping in the cave of her skull. A thunderous swell obliterating all thought.

Lisa’s dog was nuzzling her neck when she came back to herself. She flapped a hand, trying to push him away or gather him close, she wasn’t sure. Pete sat back on his haunches and wordlessly barked, once, twice. She was sprawled in the yard, halfway between the house and the barn, looking up at the cloudless dark blue sky. Someone had hammered a nail into her skull, right between her eyes.
    She pushed onto her elbows, managed to sit all the way up. A greasy swell of nausea washed through her and she rested her head between her knees for a minute or so. Her mouth tingled with a metallic taste like a battery’s kiss. The sharp pain in her head began to diffuse into a general skull-cramp; she noticed that her pipe wrench lay next to her. She’d been fixing something, a leak in the water supply to the hurklin pens. She’d gone to fetch the wrench from the toolbox in her pickup truck ...
    Pete told her that she had fallen over.
    ‘I’m okay now,’ Lisa said, although she was very fucking far from okay. She was frightened and confused and angry. After all this time it had happened again. After all this time her ghost had woken in thunder and lightning and had knocked her on her ass.
    Later, she told her friend Bria that she didn’t know what had triggered it.
    ‘I haven’t been handling any especially weird shit. Just the usual tesserae, sympathy stones, so forth. And anyway, I haven’t had a client for two weeks now. More like three. I haven’t eaten anything I haven’t eaten a hundred times before, I’m clean and sober . . . I can’t figure out what I did to set it off.’
    ‘You sound like you’re trying to find some way of blaming yourself,’ Bria said.
    They were sitting in Lisa’s kitchen, drinking coffee. Lisa dressed in her usual blue jeans and denim shirt, Bria in a pale green pants suit, caramel-coloured hair done up in a high curly ponytail. She’d been in a business meeting when Lisa had called, had insisted on driving over.
    The two of them went way back. They had both come up and out to First Foot on the same shuttle trip, had both started out working as coders in the Crazy 88 collective. Lisa’s freelance career had run onto the rocks, leaving her with a reputation as a brilliant eccentric whose best years were long behind her; Bria, ten years younger, with a relentless work ethic and good people skills, had founded one of the first code farms in Port of Plenty, was happily married with two kids. A rambling red-tiled house in the burbs, school runs, dinner parties, a subscription to the city’s theatre, weekends at the country club where she was attempting to reduce her golfing handicap with the focused zeal that characterised her work. The whole aspirational middle-class-professional bit. Lisa had once asked her friend if this was how she had imagined things turning out when she had won her emigration ticket; Bria had said that back in the day the so-called Wild West had opera houses and gas lighting, and wasn’t she dealing with alien shit every day, down on the code farm?
    ‘It’s been eight years since the last time. Eight years, three months, nine days. What I’m wondering,’ Lisa said, ‘is did Willie’s ghost give him a kick in the head too? I gave him a call, but it went straight to voicemail. So then I phoned around the hospitals and clinics. You know, just in case. No sign of him anywhere, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t zapped. Maybe he shrugged it off. Or he’s lying hurt somewhere ...’
    ‘Have the two of you ever been affected at the same time?’
    ‘Sure. During the Bad Trip.’
    ‘Apart from that.’
    ‘Not that I know of. But Willie and I aren’t exactly close any more.’
    Bria raised an eyebrow.
    ‘So he stops by now and then,’ Lisa said. ‘But he doesn’t tell me everything. I can’t help thinking he had some kind of accident. That maybe something happened to him and woke up his ghost, and that’s what woke up mine.’
    ‘He’s probably scratching around in the City of the Dead, out of phone range,’ Bria said. ‘Or he’s in the drunk tank after one of his parties.’
    She didn’t have much sympathy for Lisa’s ex.
    ‘If Willie had been arrested I would probably know,’ Lisa said. ‘Because he would have asked me to bail him out.’


Blogger PeteY said...

I've been looking forward to this. Now bought as ebook. It's worth interrupting my John Brunner marathon for.

April 23, 2016 1:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just raced through this and enjoyed it immensely. It's been really interesting to spend more time exploring your Jackaroo universe in more depth in these two novels. Looking forward to whatever comes through next!

April 24, 2016 5:20 pm  

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