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Hague Publishing
presents

Slipstream

by

Alice Godwin

When the fantastic becomes real, people die!

When the body of a young heiress is found and her baby, ripped from the still warm corpse, is taken; the woman’s half-brother swears to bring those responsible to justice. It is a task that appears almost impossible until years later when he discovers the child’s name, Raven.

Now Raven lives on the edge of society, earning her living immersed in the electronic chatter and detritus of a future world. And then Ceriful crosses the boundaries, bringing the slipstream in his wake.

Ceriful – sometimes demon and sometimes angel, but always dangerous – a being from another reality, part fantasy, part product of those who still dream, and oh so enticing. Ceriful needs Raven to restore his realm, and he brings with him a promise. Now Raven’s decision will either save his world, or ours.

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SLIPSTREAM


A red rose absorbs all colours but red;
red is therefore the one colour it is not.

Aleister Crowley.



Chapter One


Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
We had crossed each other’s way:
But we made no sign, we said no word...

Oscar Wilde



The Past

The sky was azure blue, although Jo knew the pollution levels were extremely high today. Perhaps the toxins actually made the blueness of the sky deeper, richer: cobalt blue, heavy metal cyan, cerulean chemical contamination. What colour was quicksilver poisoning?

Blue, most probably, she thought.

Our veins contain blood that looks blue, not the red oxygenated blood of the arteries but a tired, depleted poison. Yet blood is always red, even death-blood, soaking out like some sad, dark stain.

I’ve never come across a corpse that leaked blue blood, but there is a first time for everything, she mused.

Jo slipped on her glasses of polarised black that turned everything into underwater murk, a place of shadows and slid into her ecopod. The streets above were narrow and harrowing; she gratefully left the outer world and went underground where the freeways broadened out into cobwebs of steel and asphalt. Here she could drive for days and not even have to surface for air. She headed west; following the curve of the river as it wound its way above, silently brimming with its own deep thoughts. She resurfaced three hours later; the plains were dusty, dry. Awnings that doubled as solar ventilators shielded the apartments. Everything was grey or ochre; no vegetation grew on the outside, and the buildings faced inwards to their own private oasis. Perspex ceilings diffused the light, and the humidity was sweet and gentle. Stay, live, love, die in your own highly organic, pure environment.

Jo checked in with security and entered the rainforest. Parrots flew through the trees, vines grew and bloomed with flowers the size of small children, butterflies fluttered, and the air was misty. The low music was calming and watery; synthesised torrents flowing over emerald cliffs. She always felt slightly unnerved with all these subliminal aural pacifiers – they just left everyone so alpha-waved that talking to them was like speaking to angels on lithium.

I don’t need this case; she thought as she crossed a bridge that swung perceptibly beneath her, woven using organic raffia fibres.

The apartment was located near a pond overgrown with lotus flowers; their narcotic scent was overpowering. Jo pressed her card into the slot and the wall moved. The place was dark: the walls, furniture, floors, and ceiling; everything was a dark serpentine metal. The floor was rough and of a serrated substance that reminded Jo of scaly creatures.

The body lay on the floor near a doorway. It was a woman: young, Asian, and pretty – once. She was naked – her full belly was slashed open, blood and gelatinous bits stained her skin, and the floor around her. A carnal slaughterhouse smell pervaded the room; white-coated professionals slinked around like lions circling a potential meal.

Jo entered another room. Connor sat at the kitchen bar drinking caffeine and smoking.

He’s so fucking ugly, she thought.

It always struck her that way. Although she had known him for years, his outward appearance still surprised her. He was a child’s nightmare – a monster, a hideous beast. Yet condemned to eternal loneliness. But his eyes were nice – that always struck her too; soft and sorrowful.

“What am I here for?” she asked bluntly, staring into those sad eyes.

He passed over a forensic plastic bag containing a piece of flat crystal. Paper-thin, etched with markings – a five-pointed star within a circle within a cross within a flaming comet; the sign of the Rapturists.

“Haven’t seen one of these for a while,” she said wistfully.

“That’s why you’re here.” He smiled, and his monster face looked even more grotesque and gargoyle-like.

I could fall in love with him, she thought, if I wasn’t the logical realist I am.

“The Rapturists were part of that profusion of end-time, plague-time cults.” Jo said. “They’re long gone, or at the very least diluted into nothing.”

“It was found on the body. A calling card perhaps.”

“A decoy.”

“You saw the body, the stomach?”

Jo nodded.

“Nearly full term. They just yanked it out, took it with them, and left her to bleed to death.” His voice was edged with bitterness. Connor rarely let any emotion creep into his persona; something had really gotten to him.

“What haven’t you told me?” she asked.

“Haven’t lost your touch, have you?”

“Not yet,” she said too brightly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out another bag, another crystal. This one was high-tech, hologram etched, shining with multi-fractured laser lights, very expensive.

“She was wearing this around her neck,” he said as he passed it over. “We scanned it. It’s basically a highly evolved amulet. Protects the wearer from evil. It’s superb quality and not cheap, but the rich have their superstitions too. The signature is unusual, an eccentric engraver, he made very few of these, none were ever sold, all were gifts. He was a founding member of the Pacific Rim Rapturists and he died fifteen years ago. She was his daughter.”

“Connor, like I said we’re talking years ago. Sects of that nature don’t hang around, they evolve, change, metamorphose into something else. Apocalyptic visions are not the order anymore.”

“Things like this don’t die, Jo. They just go underground – become secretive; more dangerous.”

Jo stood and stretched. She ran her fingers through her short, blonde hair. “You think because of my background, I can find things others won’t.”

“I think, Jo, you have the ability to just about find anything.”



Chapter Two


She takes a lute of amber bright,
And from the thicket where he lies.
Her lover with his almond eyes,
watches her movements with delight.

Oscar Wilde



The Present

Raven squinted in the strong afternoon sun; she looked at the derelict buildings, the weeds sprouting up among the broken bricks, the rows of windows each shattered in an almost uniform jaggedness, the sun-bleached lettering advertising something long forgotten. The bars at the window mockingly protecting decay and dust. For the first time, Raven felt uneasy. The sun was scorching as it beat down on her shoulders, her mouth was dry, and she felt nervous and skittish.

She lit a cigarette; she had swapped a small but extremely warm blanket for it from one of the transients passing through her home. She threw the match on the ground. The grass around her boots crackled with aridness and she hastily kicked soil over the match. An overwhelming dread of fire set her heart beating; she could almost see the flames igniting the dry vegetation, becoming an inferno. She imagined the flames licking up the paintwork, buckling the bars, melting the shards of glass so that they ran down the brickwork like tears. She could almost hear the screams, awful, terrifying.

But the dead don’t scream, she thought. Only the living scream.

She felt the smoke glide down inside her throat, and her body react to the stimulating effects of the chemicals. Most of them were now outlawed, but contraband was always there if you knew where to find it.

The inside of the crumbling warehouse was exactly as Raven remembered; quiet and undisturbed. Above her, light chains wavered in the breeze; metallic vines grew from the roof, trying in vain to reach their brothers lying idle and dead below them. She came here to get away from the noise that was always around her. This was the only place where she couldn’t hear the endless buzzing, the whisperings of the web, the electromagnetic humming that surrounded everything, everywhere. Here her head was silent. She made herself comfortable on a canvas shrouded mass and fell asleep.

***

It was the singing that stayed with her as she woke. It lingered faintly; so sweet and alluring that the world might just dissolve and become meaningless. It enthralled her. She could feel it working its sublime magic as it pulled her under again, as it had that first time she had heard it. There was a haunting, eerie tone to the singing, like she imagined the sirens might sound as they lured the sailors to the rocks. It tore into her mind, her heart, her soul. It beckoned her like a lover and as the nocturnal notes ebbed and flowed – she ebbed and flowed with it.

Long shadows blurred everything. She lay staring at the roof, at the cobwebbed girders, their ochre colour lost among the silver diaphanous gowns that clung to them. She tried to get up, but found she couldn’t. Was she still dreaming? She reached for her phone. The screen was dark. No connection.

This is why you come here, so you can’t go in. So you can get away, she reminded herself.

She closed her eyes and found herself falling, entering that free-fall state and then she was there, navigating the silver streams.

It was crystalline and tranquil; perfect is what it is. Perfect.

She sensed an echo, feeling the stream around her, flowing silently. It was beautiful; like an aurora, the colours vibrant, unearthly. Then she sensed it again more strongly; a heartbeat difference in the current. There were four of them, four riders in the slipstream – four where there should’ve been none. She stayed waiting, sensing their approach, watching the colours switch in acknowledgement of their presence, shifting to a darker spectrum. Closer and closer they came until there was only nano seconds between her and them. She saw their silhouettes, breaking up the stream like ripples on water, inky swirls, shadowy, indistinct.

She woke, heart pounding and sweat trickling down the side of her face. Above, a pale glowing orb moved from behind a cloud and streams of moonlight danced in spirals down through the skylights. The cobwebs glimmered with a phosphorescent glow, the light chains and the grimy machinery radiated sparkling moon dust. The place shone with a white lustre as though it were covered with a thin sprinkling of glittering ice.

Raven walked outside, and looked at her phone. The screen was still black. She looked around her, and tried not to focus too hard on all the shimmering shapes that had coalesced in this empty wasteland. She didn’t want to see them clearly, especially one of them. It was too similar to what she had seen in the slipstream. And what was there, shouldn’t be here.

About The Author

Alice was raised in the most southern of Australian cities, Hobart (Nipaluna), capital of the heart-shaped island of Tasmania (Lutruwita), gateway to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. Impacted by the mystical land of her childhood, Alice can recall days of climbing through Eden-like forests and around glacial waterfalls, where mystical ravens and colorful parrots flew through the Antarctic Beech forests, adding to her sense of wonder in the world around her.

Her family were European exiles from various countries from Turkey to Lithuania. She is the first mother in four generations to give birth to her children in the same country she was born in. Her first job was in the Editorial Library of The Mercury newspaper in Hobart before joining the chaotic, colourful world of fashion in a design studio off Chapel Street in South Yarra, Melbourne. Eventually she headed further north to Sydney and some interesting years working at the Museum of

Contemporary Art situated between the iconic Harbour Bridge and the Opera House on Circular Quay. Around this time she began writing and her first short story was shortlisted in the Northern Territory awards and printed in their anthology ‘Extra-Territorial’ and so she continued, stopping briefly for a few years when her two sons took her on other adventures. She has had forty short stories published in magazines, anthologies, and literary journals in Australia, USA and UK. She won the Australian Horror Writers Assoc short story of the year (2008), Wyvern Publications UK YA short story competition and has been shortlisted for the Irish Aeon Award.

Slipstream is Alice's first novel and you can find more about her by visiting her website at http://www.alicegodwin.com.

SLIPSTREAM

The moral rights of Alice Godwin to be identified as the author of this work have been asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher.

Copyright 2022 Hague Publishing

Cover: Slipstream by Jade Zivanovic http://www.steampowerstudio.com.au/

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