THE CROOKED CITY
by Ryan Whitwam
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GENRE: Sci-fi Thriller
Jonah doesn’t want to run–he has to. There’s only so much pain one man can cause before he needs to start over. Unstuck from his tainted past, he craves the anonymity he can only achieve by vanishing like a specter in the night.
Before his new life is even underway, a chance encounter leaves him in possession of a curious object–something the mysterious Keepers of The Oracle will kill to obtain, but there’s more to the Keepers than Jonah could possibly imagine. They have the ability to do much worse than kill, and now he’s in their sights.
The Keepers wield power unlike anything Jonah has ever seen, and they’re closing in fast. He’s placed a new group of innocents in danger this time, and he can’t run away again.
The pain came on slowly, but everywhere at once. Kat’s skin tingled and burned, waves of it passing over her. She fought against the panic as flashes of light clouded her vision. Kat’s senses told her with certainty it was fire that crept across her body. She could feel the cruel flames washing over her, kissing her pale skin with burning lips. Gordon was right, the fire consumed her.
Then the heat dissipated and her skin was taken over by a stiff, harsh chill—like the pain of an ice cube pressed to the skin until it sticks. She felt it over every inch of her. It wasn’t just cold, a numbness permeated her being, reaching to her core. It separated her from everything she knew. Kat writhed and pulled at the bonds as the numbness spread.
> Connection Request Detected … … …
> Local Connection: Signal Strength 100
> Command Control: Unique Neural Address [GORDON] 1145976523×02
> Command Control: Root Access Granted
> Target: Unique Neural Address [KAT] 2684791236×08
> Command Control: Make File System Writable
> Success: Full Read/Write Access Granted On [KAT] 2684791236×08
> Command Control: Set Mode, Hibernate
> Success: [KAT] 2684791236×08 Offline
> Command Control: Establish Full Remote Control
> Success: Remote Control Granted
> System Notification: Connection Integrity Check In Process…
> Packet Loss: 0%
> Command Control: End Session
> Entering system idle mode
Kat’s vision shimmered and blurred, getting progressively darker with each blink. She had the vague sense of her limbs moving, but they did so without her consent. She could no longer make out the shape of Gordon standing in front of her. He was merely a dark, unimportant blob in a field of slightly lighter blobs. Everything faded from gray to black, then to the color of nothingness. The pain faded along with everything else, and she was at least thankful for that.
It was very dark in the place Kat went next, save for a point of light far in the distance. She looked up and struggled forward, straining against unseen forces that threatened to drag her down. It felt like she was swimming through molasses. A powerful, unyielding presence swept around her, wrapping her in its embrace. She was not alone, not even in her mind. The sickening apparition was everywhere, forcing into the Dark.
She stood in the emptiness for a very long time. At least it felt that way. The hazy indistinctness of the place made it hard to tell. Interminable millennia ticked by as she waited in the Dark for something of note to happen.
Finally, when opportunity failed to present itself, she sat down. Rather, she imagined sitting down. Kat had no legs to fold under her, and no hands to place calmly in her lap. She had no corporeal form at all. All that remained of Kat was a wispy sense of self, stuffed down in the darkest corner of the brain’s microcosm.
Ryan lives in Minnesota with his wife and dogs. He writes words like the ones in this book, as well as some very different words on the internet about technology and science. He likes smartphones, sci-fi, and people who read his book. He’s not very good at describing himself.
The author will award a randomly drawn commenter via Rafflecopter a $20 Amazon/B&N gift card.