The Menangle Virus: Part 5

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

New city Ascot, the year 2130

Adam flops on the couch. “I know when I wake up in the morning I’m going to be back to normal. There’s no way I’m still going to be here.”

Rachel sits beside the guy, facing him. “So, you’re Cinderella now? You have until midnight, do you?”

He chuckles. “Yeah, sounds about right.” He kicks off his shoes. “Don’t know about these glass slippers, though. I’ve got to have a shower and find something normal to wear.”

Rachel nods. “Okay… Can I snoop around a bit?”

Adam looks side to side and shrugs. “Sure.”

Rachel has dispensed with the strange feeling of familiarity and flashes of knowledge about Patricia Holmes. She’ll tell her dad about it later. She stands back up with her new and interesting holiday project and follows him into the main bedroom. He finds clothing in a drawer and wardrobe and leaves her there alone. She looks around. One side of the bed is pulled back and ruffled, the other side untouched. She checks the wardrobe and finds no women’s clothing. She runs fingers along a dusty dressing table on the way out of the decidedly manly smelling room.

Rachel checks a spare room that’s completely empty. The laundry is in need of a mop. There’s a washing machine and dryer and an ironing board folded down with some clothes slung over it. There’s a cane basket with clothes to be washed. There’s fresh meat and vegetables in the fridge, along with some other basics and beer. The guy definitely lives alone and rarely entertains any women, if at all, Rachel decides. She picks up a 21st century Sydney travel book from one of the piles and sits at a small timber dining table browsing it while waiting.

Adam comes from the shower after only a few minutes. “That’s better.” He has on blue denim jeans and a white V-neck tee-shirt.

“I agree,” Rachel says, looking him over.

“Thank you.” He smiles and pats his stomach. “You’re right, I’m actually a bit chubby in real life.”

Rachel holds his eyes. “Same.”

His smile ends, his gaze remaining clear and sincere. “Well, I can see why I dreamed you just the way you are, Rachel.” His smile returns. “If you don’t mind me saying.”

Rachel glances down and back up the guy’s body. “I don’t mind,” she tells him. “Maybe I’m dreaming too.”

He takes that in with a slow nod. “Okay, so what now, dream girl?”

“It isn’t far to the hospital where my dad works. We could walk.”

The screen on the wall jingles with an incoming call. Rachel hasn’t logged off. It’s her father.

“Hey, Daddy.”

“Hello, love. Where are you? I’ve just been speaking with your mother.”

“We’re just stopped in at Adam’s apartment. We’ll be there in five minutes.”

“Okay, love…”

Rachel logs off.

“That was your dad?” Adam asks, grinning.

“I know… Sorry.”

“He looks like a mad scientist or something.”

“He needs a haircut… And he is a mad scientist.”

“Right. Too perfect. He looks like that. We mention going to see him now and he calls… This has got to be a dream.”

Rachel offers a shrug this time. She leads the way and turns back from the corridor outside of the apartment. “You can’t lock it. There is no lock.”

“But what about Cooper’s stuff—privacy?”

“No one’s going to go inside uninvited. Who would do that?”

“I don’t know… A thief.”

Rachel rolls eyes. “Come on, it’s going to rain. Let’s hurry.”

It’s three blocks to the hospital. They arrive drenched. The man at reception hands over towels, which they keep. Rachel’s father has an office in the administration section of the building on the ground floor. She leads Adam along and knocks on the open door.

“Hi, Daddy.”

“Hello, love. Come in… And this must be Adam? Come and take a seat.”

“Hello, Doctor..?”

“Hayes. Doctor Kepler Hayes. I have your diagnostics here… Darling, thank you. That will be fine.”

“What? Do I have to leave?” Rachel asks.

“I don’t mind if Rachel stays,” Adam says quickly.

The doctor frowns. “And what are you up to, darling? Don’t let my daughter push you around, Adam.”

“I’m not pushing him around. I know what’s happening and I want to help.”

“Alright. Sit… Now, Adam, any change? Any memory recall? Headaches?”

“No. We’ve just come from this Cooper guy’s apartment and nothing there is familiar. Except he has research about me.”

“He has links to all available information about Adam, Daddy. From his whole life.”

The doctor nods. “Yes, there has been other cases of this recently. You are the eighth reported in the past fortnight, Adam.”

“And all the others think they’re someone from history too?” Rachel asks.

“Yes. All have experienced some kind of identity transference with people from the early 21st century… It’s quite a phenomenon, but so far no one has experienced any physical health issue… We’re hopeful whatever is happening will prove to be temporary.”

“Physically, I feel fine. Never better,” Adam says with a shrug. “My mind is clear too. If this is a dream it’s amazingly lucid.”

“No, you’re not dreaming,” the doctor assures. “I’m sure it’s very confusing for you.”

“So, what is it, Dad? Even you aren’t going to suggest time travel, I hope.”

“Feels exactly like time travel to me,” Adam claims. “Apparently right now I’m supposed to be in a hospital after being in a bus crash. Or at least given the normal passing of time, that’s where I’d be.”

The doctor rubs his silver-bearded chin. “Yes. And most probably unconscious in or after surgery.” He checks a screen mounted on his desk and addresses it, “Note Adam O’Malley was most likely unconscious at the time his identity manifested within the mind of Cooper James Davis.”

“What, so Adam’s mind leaves his unconscious body and zooms a hundred years into the future?” Rachel scoffs.

Her father glares.

“Well, what’s going on, Dad? Where are these other people?”

“From all over: Iran, Kenya, two from Europe, one from Russia, China and America… There’s a team getting organized. They’d like you to report to a clinic in Denver, Colorado, Adam. Would you be willing to do that?”

Adam’s eyes have widened. “As in the US? America?”

“Yes. It’s about a days’ travel by train and air. We can send an escort with you. You’ll be well taken care of.”

A rush of excitement fills Rachel. “I can take him.”

Her father frowns at her.

“Well, I could… Why not? Don’t you guys have enough to do here?”

“Would you be willing to make this trip, Adam?”

“Yes, I suppose… I’d prefer to travel with Rachel rather than have to meet a stranger. This is all strange enough.”

“I don’t have school. I’ve got no commitments, Dad.”

“Yes, well, it would save us a nurse, I suppose.”

“Exactly. Nurses have important work here. No point having them sitting around on trains and planes for a week when these identity jumpers are otherwise perfectly healthy and just need a guide.”

Adam chuckles. “This is seriously freaky. I know I’m going to wake up in my own body tomorrow.”

“Unless you’re still unconscious. That’s interesting,” the doctor says, rubbing his chin again.

“What, so you are thinking some sort of leap through time?” Adam asks.

“I don’t know… I’m willing to learn something new, and this is the strangest thing I’ve ever come across.”

“Huh. Tell me about it.” Adam rests back with his hands behind his head. “I’m supposed to die in 4 years. Even if it were possible for your mind to leap through time—which is ridiculous—why wouldn’t that be at the point of death rather than just being unconscious? And why haven’t other unconscious people woken up and told about such an experience?”

“I don’t know, Adam. But this is the first time in recorded history anything like this has been reported to have happened,” the doctor offers supportively.

Adam looks from Rachel to her father. “And what became of Cooper? He just vanished—winked out of existence?”

“The research team will come up with something, son… This is beyond the expertise of anyone here, but they’ll figure it out.”

“And until then I’m right here for you,” Rachel says softly. “You’re not alone here.”

Adam meets her eyes steadily. “Thanks, Rachel… Thank you so much.”

Rachel’s blush rises. She glances away and looks to her dad. She smiles. “So, all expenses paid?”

“Hmm… Within reason.”

“Can we come back the long way? It wouldn’t cost much more doing it privately.”

“I’m not sure. I’ll attach authority to your profile, darling. I’ll need to clear it and there’ll be a budget.”

“Okay, Daddy. Can we go now? I’ll probably stay at Adam’s place tonight… Is that okay, Adam?”

Adam nods. “Yeah sure. Of course.” His cheeks have reddened.

Rachel motions to the door. “Come on, I’ll show you our city then we’ll go book our trip… This is so exciting.”

*

Adam follows Rachel from the doctor’s office and catches up. “I want to see the city.”

“I know… There’s a shuttle from here that does a loop through the shopping and social sector. You saw the houses and apartments on the way in and the other side is all boring old factories and warehouses.”

“So, what sort of social stuff is there? Restaurants and clubs?”

“Yep. There’s a huge virtual reality centre for the kids and men who never grow up. Would you like that kind of thing?”

“What sort of virtual reality?”

“Flight simulation with jets and space ships or car or boat racing and that, and sky-diving and zero-gravity things. Or weird adventure games where you become a character and walk through all sorts of animated scenery and fight things or whatever. I don’t know. It all just gives me motion sickness. You can try it all if you like. I can go window shopping.”

“Well, what else is there? What do you like to do?”

“For fun, I like dancing.”

“Dancing? Like, nightclub—pumping music?”

“Sometimes… Or my girlfriends and I usually go to the Friday night ball. We get to wear nice gowns, and the men wear fine cut suits and smell really good. And they take hold of you and sweep you into the music.”

“Oh… I’m not much of a dancer.”

Rachel tosses a smile back over her shoulder as she walks aboard a shuttle. “Too bad, history guy.”

“I mean, it’s probably all changed now. I used to know how to do a couple of basic dances.”

“I don’t think they ever change. It’s really old fashioned.”

The shuttle has 12 seats, 3 of them occupied by normal looking people. Adam doesn’t know what he expects people to look like, but so far there hasn’t been any weird fashion or anything—nothing that would have surprised in the 2020s.

The seats are in doubles either side of an aisle. Rachel sits by the window and he looking across her as the shuttle glides off along a single rail. The movement is smooth and silent, rain spattering the tinted glass, the air clean and warm as it blows from above.

Adam’s shirt is almost dry, as is Rachel’s blouse by the look of it. She looks younger than Adam at 34. He figures she’s probably mid-twenties. The body Adam is in could be late twenties or early thirties, he estimates. He’s stealing glances at Rachel’s womanly curves as the shuttle moves through a city park and enters a street of shops and restaurants. It stops, and the three other passengers disembark while others board and take seats.

“The cinema is in there,” Rachel says, pointing out a broad glassed building with a couple of groups of teenagers sitting on the steps. “I like movies on the big screen—especially the old ones.”

“It would all be 3D now?” Adam asks. He’s looking along the street ahead where there are alfresco cafés and people everywhere.

“Most of the old movies are still in original format,” Rachel tells him. “Do you like movies?”

“Yeah sure. I like any true stories. Don’t mind an action flick on the big screen.”

“Cool.” Rachel glances with a smile but quickly averts her gaze.

“What’s that?” Adam asks about a huge dome shaped building they’re passing as the shuttle does an arc around it.

“Sports centre… Swimming, squash, gymnasiums… There are playing fields over there for all the kids’ sports.”

The shuttle has dropped off and picked up other passengers and is heading back towards the big city park, along another street with lots of people strolling and shops and eateries lining both sides. It reaches the park and stops in front of a large stone building with tall pillars shrouding the entry.

“This is us,” Rachel says and pushes Adam to get up. She slips past and leads him from the shuttle. “Are you hungry again yet?”

“Yeah, I could eat.”

“Do you like Asian?”

“Sure. Satay anything is good. Or a curry.”

Rachel leads past the stone building that appears to be a Town Hall. Across the street is alfresco dining under cover from the rain. “That was where we have our Friday night ball but it’s not for a few hours yet.”

“At the Town Hall?”

“Yep. Do you want to go later? There’s lots of slow dancing music as well as the ballroom stuff.”

“Yes, I want to go. There was a nice dark suit back in the wardrobe.”

“I know… I saw,” Rachel tosses over her shoulder with a smile.

Adam’s chest is warm with tingles of euphoria. The idea of seeing this woman in any kind of ball gown has his imagination sparking. Right now she looks good in business day slacks and sensible shoes. She has their table. He sits opposite. Her brows rise. “Does Cooper have any credit? I’m so broke this week.”

“Credit?” Adam chuckles. “How can I find out?”

“Ask your device.”

Adam addresses the device on his wrist. “Do I have any credit?” The number 3,756 appears.

Rachel is rubber-necking to have a look. “Yes! Can we spend some?”

“I don’t know. Is that a lot?”

“We only get 200 a week. 3000 would pay for our whole America trip easily.”

“What do you mean, we get 200? All of us?”

Rachel nods. “Yep. That’s the basic wage for us adults. Kids get less.”

“What, for all adults?”

“Yes. It’s standard. If you do more than your 20 hours or have a business or some sort of sports or artistic talent you can make more. Or if you just work overtime or have a second job… But I don’t. So, I’m always broke. Plus I’m wasting credit on this stupid apartment, but that’s a long story.”

“Okay. So, that’s all way interesting,” Adam responds curiously.

“Really? No…” Rachel turns around a menu. “That’s a good curry… Your shout, right?”

Adam chuckles. “Cooper’s shout.”

Rachel’s smile lights up and she waves over a young waiter. “We’ll have the curry times two, a white wine and..?”

“Beer?” Adam asks.

“A beer,” Rachel tells the waiter. “And some more bread rolls, please? These won’t do.” She hands one of the two bread rolls to Adam. “Try that.”

“Well, what did you mean by kids getting less, at least? Do kids get paid?”

Rachel swallows her bite of bread roll. “Pocket money credit starts at age 10 and goes up each year until 21. Commitment is 20 hours of school or work until age 60, and optional after that. If you run a business or are a talented sportsperson or actor or something you can do that instead…” She ends with a shrug. “It’s pretty simple. If you don’t like it you can go live off the grid in one of the old cities or whatever. People do, but usually not for long.”

Adam is nodding, taking in the information and imagining it. “Okay… That makes sense… The grid? Everything’s connected?”

“Yep. Government is in Switzerland. We could probably stop there on our way back. It’s a nice trip through Europe and across to China. I’ve only ever been once when I was really young.”

“Government? Like the government? One government?”

Rachel takes a big breath and huffs. “Ask Dad. He’ll talk your head off about all that boring stuff.”

Adam chuckles. “Yeah, but I won’t even be here when I wake up tomorrow, don’t forget.”

“Hmm. Good point.” Rachel grabs Adam’s wrist and turns it to show his device. “Say record message to self.”

Adam complies.

“Now repeat after me… Hi. I’m Adam O’Malley living in this body.”

Adam complies again. “Hi. I’m Adam O’Malley living in this body.”

“And this is my cool new friend, Rachel.” Rachel leans forward to look at the screen and smiles.

Adam chuckles. “And this is my cool new friend, Rachel.”

She goes on, “And in case I remember none of this tomorrow, believe everything she says.”

Adam’s laughing now. He controls that. “And in case I remember none of this tomorrow, don’t believe a word she says.”

“Hey you!” She addresses the screen again. “Believe everything, because I’m honest…” She smiles. “See? I’m a teacher. You can trust me.”

They both have a laugh, eyes connecting. Adam’s feeling intense attraction now. He senses it in Rachel too. “Are you sure you don’t know Cooper?”

“I’m sure…”

“There’s just something familiar about you. It feels like I know you.”

Rachel bites a lip, her cheeks flushing slightly, her eyes holding Adam’s. He glances at her lips. They’re sitting a metre apart across the small table. Adam takes a breath.

Rachel looks away, peering about at other people seated and walking by. Conversation then resumes and remains light through a meal and a few drinks. Rachel directs their pod to her sister’s house in the family residential sector of the city. Adam is entertained by a happy yet sick young couple with a new baby while Rachel packs her bag for their trip to America.

Later that night with an orchestra playing slow dance music at the Town Hall, Adam takes Rachel’s hand. It’s the first time he has initiated any kind of even remotely intimate contact and the thrill of it is coursing through his veins.

She sways against him. He holds her close. She’s soft and submissive, her back bare. “Is this okay?” he breathes into her pretty hair.

“Yes…”

Part 6

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The Menangle Virus: Part 4

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

Pod to new city Ascot, the year 2130

After lunch and catching up for an hour, Rachel gives her mother a parting hug outside the Community Clinic. She never got to mention Kelvin—never even thought of him. Adam is waiting in the pod—checking it out. Rachel climbs in and sits beside him. It’s the same pod she rode in on the way down from the mountain.

“Nice seats,” Adam comments.

“Yeah. It’s hard to stay awake in them on this trip.”

The pod quietly moves off through the main street of the old village, which is the home of around 80 or so elderly residence. Rachel’s mother spends her working week there and has an apartment up in Ascot not far from her husband—their relationship being that of an independent couple and quite common for the times. They often vacation together and date or sleep over, but maintain separate residences.

“I kind of remember this area,” Adam says while gazing out at the old city suburb flashing by. “I had friends who lived out here.”

“And where did you live? We should go check it out.”

“Liverpool. It’s not far—about 20 kilometres in towards the city.”

“I know where that is,” Rachel says. “What did you do there? Are you married? Kids?”

“No, I just separated from a girlfriend but was hoping to get back with her. I actually worked right in the city, as a rent-a-cop.”

“A rent-a-cop?”

Adam smiles. “Door security. Fill up a uniform and stand there all day.”

“Oh… Well, a job’s a job.” Rachel yawns and stretches. “Wow, this trip puts me to sleep every time.”

“I’m sleepy too but this is all way interesting. It’s amazing how everything is still here but just overgrown.”

“Yeah, well it all ended kind of slowly. There was just no one to use the houses anymore, and everything closed down. Then there were quarantine restrictions around the new cities for the first 20 or so years—until the last trace of the Menangle Virus had gone. Then those people back there moved down to be closer to their families, and there was a service centre built for them.”

Adam turns from the window. “So Menangle Virus, as in the town called Menangle just south of here?”

“Yes. Exactly. That was ground zero in April 2030. It came from a bat colony on the Nepean River at Menangle. There was a piggery there and the virus mutated from bats to pigs to people. It had spread worldwide before the original outbreak and infection was traced back to Menangle. It spread so fast the old generation never knew what hit them until it was too late.”

“Wow… Awesome!” Adam muses. “It’s strange. It was all about climate change and the impact we were having on the planet. It’s like nature stepped in and hit reset.”

Rachel yawns and stretches back in her seat, tucking up her legs. “That’s precisely what nature did. She hit the reset button on us. Made us start over… It’s all in the system now—the population growth planning. It’s not going to be allowed to go anywhere near the 7 billion again.”

Rachel closes her eyes in the sun. She’s dozing off when Adam speaks again. “So, you’re a teacher, Rachel?”

“Yeah. Primary school. Six weeks’ vacation time until the New Year now.”

“And what’s that like—teaching kids?”

“It’s great. I love it.”

“And are you married? Kids of your own?” Adam goes on without looking.

Rachel’s face heats with a small blush. “Um, no. Same as you—just separated.” She had taken note of this guy’s nice physique and his smile and eyes at first glance. She looks at his face. “But then again, it’s only Adam who’s the love-life-loser like me. Who knows what the go is with Cooper? His wife might be waiting at home right now.”

“Shit. That’s true, I suppose. Do people still wear a ring when they’re married?” Adam shows his ring-free fingers.

“Usually,” Rachel explains. “Could be a pretty girlfriend, though.”

Adam shrugs. “There’s a couple of girls in my phone contacts.”

“But no one’s called you?” Rachel is still blushing a bit. This guy has a habit of drilling with his eyes, she has noticed. And she kind of likes it with him.

“No. I’ve only spoken to my parents—apparently my parents… Your mum spoke to them too. They’re on a cruise and can’t get back for a few weeks.”

“Can I see your contacts? I might know one of them by chance.”

Adam addresses his device.

“Do it on the screen there,” Rachel instructs. “Left thumb to the bottom left corner and say whatever you want the system to do.”

Adam presses his thumb. “Contacts list please.”

His contacts fill the screen. Rachel looks them over. “Nope. I’ve seen a few of those faces but don’t know any of them. It looks like you work at the community farms. Cool.”

“What do you mean?”

“There. AFP. Ascot Fresh Produce. That’s the control centre for farming. You probably work there would be my guess. You look kind of outdoorsy.”

“I do?”

Rachel nods, biting a lip. “Your hands.”

Adam inspects his hands. “Yeah, I guess…”

Rachel takes a breath and glances away as he looks at her. She fiddles with her blouse, tugging at it—her chest up and forward, her cheeks heating again as the guy’s eyes flash over her before he turns back to his contacts on the screen.

“I guess I could call some of these people, but I don’t know what to say.”

“You could check your call log to see if any of them call you often.”

“Oh yeah. Good idea… Do I just press the screen and say what I want?”

“You don’t need to touch the screen again now that you’re logged on. The system recognises your voice and the inflection when you’re talking to it.”

“Really? Um, call history please? Calls received.”

That information appears as a list on screen. Rachel scans it. The calls are infrequent.

“Doesn’t look like Cooper uses the phone much,” Adam suggests. “Calls made please?” he says to the system, and an even sparser list appears.

“That’s okay. Probably more of a doer than a talker,” Rachel suggests. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Log off please,” Adam tells the system. “Is that it?” he checks with Rachel.

“Yes. You’re logged off now.”

“And you can do that with any screen?”

Rachel nods. “Yes. Any community device. They’re supplied everywhere. Or you can use your little wrist one you have there, but the display’s a bit small. I carry a pocket one in my purse.”

“And the system? What’s the system?”

“Um, good question… I’m not much of a tech-head. It’s like all the data we each have stored plus all the interaction from the government and everything on the internet. It’s just everything, and you access it through your profile when you log on.”

“And it’s secure?” Adam goes on with a thoughtful frown.

“I don’t know… I don’t know what that means… It just works. Everyone uses the system for everything. We teach it from age 6 at school.”

Adam is nodding. “Hmm… Interesting… I still think I’m going to wake up from all this in the morning, but it’s way interesting.”

Rachel gives the guy a mock glare. “So you don’t think I’m real, huh?”

Adam chuckles. His face colours slightly. “Nice dream, though.”

Rachel holds his eyes and smile. “Hmm… I think we should check out your place before we go find my dad. Let’s see who Cooper James Davis is?”

“Shit yeah. Can we do that?”

“New destination,” Rachel tells the control screen. “Address of Cooper James Davis, please?” The address comes up on screen and the distance and estimated time of arrival adjusts to the new destination. “Apartment 4B. Don’t forget.”

“Got it. 4B,” Adam says. “This is nice here.”

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I love the forest.”

“And we’re climbing. I can feel it in my ears.”

“I know. We’re going to the top of the mountains. It’s not far, though.”

Adam nods, patting his seat. “Pods are cool. I like pods.”

“Only way to travel,” Rachel agrees with another yawn. “Sorry, I have to close my eyes for a minute… Wake me when you see a city, okay?”

“Okay. Have a sleep. I’ll be quiet.”

Rachel dozes then drifts into a deep sleep. It’s half an hour later when her travel companion taps her shoe.

“This looks like a city.”

They are already in the community apartments sector. The pod zooms around a corner and stops at a long, glassy, three-level building named Greystanes.

“Yep, this is you,” Rachel says and can’t help another yawn as she stretches. “Nice spot, Cooper, whoever you are.”

They enter the building and find on the plan that apartment 4B is on the second level. They take the stairs.

“What about a key? I don’t have one,” Adam says.

Rachel considers that, thinking of the old pre-virus movies she watches all the time. “There are no keys these days, Adam.” They are at the apartment door. Rachel backs through and holds it open for Adam to enter. She looks around a cluttered living room with the guy. There are old books and stacks of newspapers. “Wow. This is cool. You must be some sort of explorer or something. This is all from down there in the old city.”

Adam is in the kitchen facing the fridge. Rachel approaches beside him. There’s a picture of a man pinned with a Harley Davidson magnet. “That’s me,” Adam says blankly.

Rachel takes the photo. “This? This is you?”

“Yep. That’s me. Adam O’Malley.”

“Adam O’Malley,” Rachel echoes, reading the hand written name on the back of the photograph. “So you were chubby too.”

Adam frowns in protest. He shrugs with both hands turned up. “What am I doing on this guy’s fridge?”

“Looks like you’ve been researched. Which makes sense.”

“Researched?” Adam looks around. “Will that screen on the wall there work? Is it just a TV?”

“It would be set to your voice. You don’t need to thumb it. Just talk to it.”

Adam walks into the living room and faces the wall screen. “Stored or previously researched information about Adam O’Malley please?” The screen flicks on and displays a series of links and a notepad icon. Adam taps the notepad. It expands to show a list of dates and events. “This is all from government records or schools and workplaces,” Adam says. “There’s my driver’s licence. My passport.”

“These links would be to those records,” Rachel suggests. She’s examining the links. “What about this one?” She taps the screen and a news article about a car accident pops up.

“Yeah, there’s a death certificate at the end of the notes,” Adam says. “April 17, 2032. Four years from now, in my real time.”

A flood of trepidation and sorrow fills Rachel. She waits. The man beside her stands staring at the screen for a moment. He’s wringing his hands, his jaw set, his brow furrowed.

“Okay, so I’m going to die soon. In a car accident at Camden. With whoever that is.”

There’s a picture of a woman in the article. It’s small. Rachel looks closely, her heart quickening. She taps the image and it expands to a grainy picture half filling the screen. “Oh wow! Who is that?”

Adam shakes his head. “I don’t know. I’ve never met her as far as I know.”

Rachel closes the pic and checks the name in the article. “Patricia Holmes.”

Adam shrugs.

“She was a nurse,” Rachel utters—the thought flashing to mind.

Adam looks at her. She glances at him them turns back to the screen, thumbing it. “New window… Image of Nurse Patricia Holmes of Sydney 2030.” An image of the woman’s nursing registration card appears on screen: Born 2 Feb, 2001.

“How did you know that?” Adam asks. “How did you know she was a nurse?”

“I don’t know… Her face—her name… It just came to me. Clear as day.” Rachel’s gut tightens, her heart suddenly heavy. “She wanted a baby but couldn’t.”

“So, you’re remembering her?” Adam takes Rachel’s hands to face her.

“I don’t know… It’s weird… I don’t know anything else… I’m sure all women wanted to have babies back then.”

Adam huffs. “This is freaky.”

“Tell me about it.”

“No, that’s freaky on top of freaky. Everything was already freaky walking around in some other dude’s body a hundred years in the future… It’s like you’re turning into a part of my dream story now… I used to write sci-fi when I was a kid. This is pretty good.”

“But I’m not a dream or some silly sci-fi character. This is real.”

Part 5

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The Menangle Virus: Part 3

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

 

(Oakdale clinic, edge of abandoned city of Sydney, December 8th 2130)

“So, no headaches at all? Nausea?”

“Nope. I feel physically fine.”

Adam watches the doctor type on a touch-screen keypad. She swings back around in her chair and looks at him, frowning in thought. “And you have absolutely no memory of being Cooper James Davis?”

“Nope. Zero recollection and a pretty fierce disbelief.”

The doctor smiles. “Fair enough.” She does a little shrug. “Well your MRI detected nothing of concern. Your vitals are perfect… I’d like to refer you to another doctor, up in the new city.”

“The new city? Where’s that?”

The doctor points. “In the mountains. About 45 minutes in a pod.”

Adam rubs his chin. “Does a pod fly?” He doesn’t like flying much. Certainly not in anything small.

“No. It goes along a rail on the ground. It’s perfectly safe.”

“Oh, okay. And what kind of doctor is this other one—a shrink?”

Beneath the white coat being discarded is a normal looking middle-aged woman. She chuckles. “Actually the other doctor is my husband. Who is a general practitioner but yes—a bit of a shrink too.”

“So, how do I find this pod? How can I get to this new city?” Adam is being ushered from the small examination room.

“Well, you said you were hungry… Would you like to have a sandwich with me? Then I’ll organize you a ride to Ascot.”

“A sandwich? Sure. I’d love to.”

“The cafeteria’s on ground floor. I’m meeting my daughter. Do you mind if I mention your circumstances, Adam? Rachel will be returning home and you could ride with her. She’ll take you to the clinic and introduce you to her father.” The doctor presses G on the elevator panel. “You prefer I call you Adam?”

“Yes please.” Adam meets her kind eyes. “And thank you.”

“It’s fine… We’ll get to the bottom of this. And meantime you’re in good hands with everyone here. You’ll see.”

The elevator doors open to a clinic waiting area and eatery. Adam is led to a table and introduced to a younger version of the doctor—a woman with long, wavy dark-brown hair and a light, natural looking smile. Her eyes are clear and green. They lock with Adam’s and jolt him with their familiarity.

“Hi. Do I know you?” he blurts anxiously.

“Um…” Rachel grimaces. “Don’t think so. Why?”

“Adam’s a patient of mine, Rach. He’s having a problem with his memory.” The doctor checks with Adam. “Do you remember Rachel from somewhere?”

“No. Forgive me,” Adam tells the younger woman. He’s staring into her eyes again. “Sorry, I just…”

“It’s fine. It must be difficult,” Rachel offers warmly.

“Your father was telling me about something he read recently—about this kind of memory loss and identity transference,” the doctor tells her daughter. “I think there’s been other cases overseas.”

“Oh really? Identity transference? What’s that?” Rachel asks, sitting back as a platter of sandwiches are served.

“Could we have another of these, please?” the doctor asks the young waitress. “Same again.”

“I think identity transference is when you think you’re someone else entirely,” Adam suggests. He motions to himself. “I don’t know who this is, but I have a perfectly clear memory of being me—Adam O’Malley of 2028.”

“2028?” Rachel bites a sandwich.

Adam nods. “Thursday June 15th to be exact.”

The doctor frowns in thought. “That’s actually interesting… Pass me the device please, Rach? No, rather, just log on and search that date, June 15 2028 and Adam O’Malley.”

Rachel does as her mother asks and shrugs. “It says there was a bus accident. 12 victims including one Adam O’Malley.”

“I was on a bus,” Adam utters confusedly. “That’s where I was just before I woke up on that park bench.”

The doctor takes the device and checks some links. She hands it back to her daughter. “Log off please, Rach. I need access.”

Rachel logs off and the Doctor logs on. She searches for a moment. “You were not one of the 3 fatalities, Adam. It seems you survived.”

Adam huffs. “Wow, that’s seriously freaky.”

“I’m sure this is what your father was telling me about. I wasn’t listening because he’s always off on a silly tangent, but I’m sure there have been other recent cases of people waking up as someone from history… I just can’t get hold of him.”

“No. He’s probably listening to his music this afternoon—totally off-line,” Rachel suggests.

“Yes, I figured,” her mother agrees.

“Okay, so it’s now the year 2130?” Adam checks.

Rachel nods. “December 8th. Friday. End of school term. Yay!”

“Darling, be serious,” her mother scolds.

“I’m just saying.”

Adam meets the woman’s smile. Her eyes flash that familiarity at him again.

“I mean, it’s a bit of a stretch, don’t you agree? I mean what—time travel?”

“Hey, I agree. None of this is real,” Adam tosses back and bites into a sandwich. He chews and swallows. “And those guys who brought me here tried to tell me the world was wiped out by some fertility virus and the total population now is only about a million.”

“Nope. It’s closer to 1.2 million. Forecast to reach 1.5 by 2140,” Rachel says. “I think you need better research, funny guy.”

Adam chuckles. “Okay, ask me anything reasonable about the early 21st century and check me on your computer.”

Rachel swallows what she’s chewing and has a sip of water. “I’ve got a better idea. Tell your device there to call Rachel Hayes of Ascot.”

Adam addresses his device. “Call Rachel Hayes of Ascot.”

Rachel’s purse jingles. She takes the device her mother has finished with and presses her thumb to the screen. “Interface.” The screen lights up and she taps it then turns it around. “See the name on the bottom, Cooper James Davis? Voice recognition confirmed.”

Adam returns the challenging grin and turns up his hands in defeat.

The doctor addresses her daughter. “There’s just one little problem, darling.”

“Oh yeah? And what’s that?”

“Adam’s totally in sync with his brain. There’s zero deviation. He’s telling the truth as he knows it.” The daughter looks to her mother. “It’s measurable through brain activity, heart rate and blood pressure, darling. Standard diagnostics… He has absolutely no knowledge of Cooper James Davis or, it would seem, the world today.”

Rachel frowns confusedly. “But he seems fine… You seem fine.”

“I am fine. Just dreaming,” Adam suggests with a shrug.

Rachel’s eyes roll. “What’s that?” She points to something the waitress is carrying.

“What, the phone or whatever she’s holding? Is it to take the orders?”

“No. That’s done audibly through her ear piece and mic. Why is she carrying a device? You have to know what that’s for. It’s red. They’re always red.”

Adam shrugs. “I’m guessing it’s for making a payment then. I kind of thought orders and payments.”

“Yes it’s for making a payment,” Rachel says, less accusingly now. “But you seriously didn’t know that?”

“He doesn’t even know what a pod is, darling,” the doctor says. “Or where Ascot is, even though his home address is right there in the community apartments.”

Adam is holding Rachel’s eyes again. He’s tingling all inside.

“So, you’re for real?”

“Yes.”

“You’re some sort of identity leaper or something? You really think you’re this guy from history?”

Adam glances down. “This isn’t my body… I don’t understand what’s happening.”

Rachel nods. She looks from Adam to her mother. “Okay, I’m in… What can I do to help?”

The doctor smiles. “Rachel, meet Adam from last century. Would you mind taking him to see your father please?”

Part 4

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The Menangle Virus: Part 2

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility in pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

December 8, 2130

Rachel Hayes thanks the Barista for her flat white and takes it to a table by the café window. There are two common use devices in the stand on the table. She takes one and places it in front of her, presses her thumb to the lower left corner and says, “Interface.” The device activates and shows her screensaver—her and her ex’s smiling faces pressed cheek to cheek. “Ugh…” Rachel grimaces and taps the call icon. “Eloisa.” Her sister answers immediately.

“Hey, Rach, where are you?”

“I’m having a coffee. I’m going down to see Mum. Do you want to come?”

“I can’t right now. Steven’s come home from work sick.”

“Oh… Is he okay?”

“It’s just the flu… Probably best you stay away, Rach. I’m getting it too.”

Rachel scoffs. “Stay away, huh? And where am I supposed to go exactly?”

Eloisa glares, her brows raised.

“You know, I saw him today… I saw them!”

“Oh shit! Together?”

“Yes together. The scumbag… You’d think he could at least be discrete for a while. They were walking down the street holding hands in broad daylight. Right past work.”

Rachel’s little sister frowns supportively. “Are you okay, Rach?”

Rachel huffs. “I’m fine. I’m more angry than hurt now. I just want to get this stupid market apartment sold so I can be rid of him.”

“Yeah? Angry’s good.”

Rachel swallows at a knot in her throat. Her eyes are suddenly watering. She holds her sister’s gaze on screen. “Anyway, I just wanted to know if you were up for a trip down to see Mum… It’s okay, though, you take care of your man. At least you’ve got a nice one.”

“Okay, go and see Mum, Rach. Tell her all about arsehole Kelvin.”

“Yeah, so she can tell me she told me so again?”

“Well, go and tell Dad then. He’ll know what to do.”

Rachel smiles. “I know. I saw Dad last night… I might actually go and stay with him for a while if you guys are all going to be sick.”

“How long until you can get a community single? Did you check it out today?”

“Yeah, it’s a 6 week waiting list for a temporary. I put my name down.”

“Oh okay. A temp is probably best.”

“Definitely! I want to get a permanent but not by myself. I just can’t wait to get out of this stupid home loan with Kelvin. I’m so broke all the time. I can’t wait till pay day.”

“Do you need some credits? I can transfer some.”

“Oh, could you really? Just 100. I’ll pay you back on Tuesday.”

“Sure, Rach. Is that enough?”

“That’s plenty… Thanks, sis. Love you.”

“Okay. Love you too, Rach. Give Mum a hug for me.”

Rachel taps on the transport icon. “Pod for one, please.” She then quickly checks her email and logs off, returning the device to its holder on the table.

Five minutes later, a pod arrives at the door of the café. Rachel finishes her coffee and waves a thank you to the Barista. She gets in the pod, which is a two-seater, and addresses the command screen. “Oakdale community clinic, please.”

It’s a 45 minute ride from the new community of Ascot to Oakdale, which is the last active settlement on the edge of the old city of Sydney. There’s a direct line for the pod and shuttle services, anywhere off the grid requiring a manual control vehicle—something Rachel is licenced to use but avoids as much as possible. The pods are smooth, fast and completely hands-free. They are also free of any cost, which suits Rachel’s current budgetary situation. She’s more than happy that Kelvin took their private car and the payments for it.

The thought of moving in with her father rolls around in Rachel’s head as the pod zooms through downtown and up into the hills and the streets of community apartments that overlook Ascot. Beyond the built-up sections of the new city are housing estates with both community and market homes mostly populated by bigger families. Rachel’s pod hugs its electro-magnetic rail and carries her out into the community farmland. These valleys of green go on and on to the south and east of Ascot. There’s a large industrial area to the west that ends at the base of a mountain. It’s 2 hours by high-speed train in that direction to the nearest new city.

Rachel’s pod zooms through the last stretch of farmland and enters deep forest. Twenty minutes later, the beautiful greenery opens to the crumbling remains of the Sydney suburbs. The shuttle line uses an old highway with the houses and businesses visible in the distance.

Rachel teaches primary school, so general history is one of the fields of study she had to wade through, giving her some insight into the lives of people through the 20th and 21st centuries—before the Menangle Virus sterilized more than 99 percent of the worlds’ female population and wiped out the old cities.

Rachel presses her thumb to the bottom left corner of the command screen. “Interface.” She taps the call icon. “Dad, please.” The jingling bell icon dances then her father appears smiling. “Hi, Daddy.”

“Hello, sweetheart. Watcha doing?”

“I’m going to visit Mum. I’m on my way down now… Can I come stay with you please, Daddy? They’re all sick with the flu at Eloisa’s.”

“Sure, love. Of course.”

“Okay, I’ll be late, though. I’ll eat out somewhere. I’ll see you tonight.”

Rachel blows a kiss and waves before logging off the system. She then yawns and rests back in her seat, closing her eyes in the warm afternoon sun.

Part 3

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The Menangle Virus: Part 1

memory-3d

What if Mother Nature thought we humans were out of control and decided to reset population growth? How would it be if you somehow woke up 100 years after the event and didn’t find anything like what you see in the movies? What if violence and mayhem hadn’t come to rule, and that what you found was all peaceful and nice?
The year is 2130.
World population: 1 million.
Current fertility rate: 98%

Loosely based on an actual virus outbreak in Australia in 1997. The “Menangle Virus” was transmitted from bats to pigs to people. It caused illness in people. It caused massive infertility on pigs. This “Paramyxo” virus was localised and didn’t spread very far, fortunately.

Time travel?

Adam is sitting on a bus with his head rocked back and resting against the window. It’s late at night, about ten-thirty. He’s kind of hypnotising himself with the street lights flashing by.

The bus is on a straight stretch of road, so the stream of lights are constant for a while. Adam is drifting off into an episode in his life that he had shared with his ex-girlfriend, and he’s really going there. He’s floating right out of his body and walking with Amanda through the Westfield shopping centre at Liverpool. It’s as real as if they are doing it right then, as they had every Saturday morning when they were together. Adam can hear Amanda’s voice and feel the touch of her hand. He can smell the apple fragrance of her hair as the flashing streetlights turn to seagulls, and he squints then opens his eyes to a bright blue sky.

Suddenly he’s lying on a slatted wooden bench seat. He has his legs tucked up, and the wrought iron armrest is cutting into his shins. The other armrest is above his head, and he’s staring directly up at the sky—at the seagulls flashing by like streetlights through a bus window.

Adam doesn’t sit up right away. He just turns his head and looks at the barnacle infested remains of a small water taxi tied to its dock.

What the hell?

There’s a paved walkway between the bench and the wharf rail, but it’s cracked everywhere with grass and weeds growing up through it. Beyond the water taxi is a ferry terminal that Adam recognises, and above that is the Circular Quay railway station. He spins around to face the city of Sydney with the towering office blocks seemingly intact yet the streets abandoned. There are rusted shells of cars, and shrubs and trees growing up through the concrete and bitumen.

What the hell?

Adam is standing there with his mouth hanging open, gazing around at everything.

Is this for real?

He thinks of pinching himself but there’s no need. His shins are still aching and he’s thinking too clearly to be dreaming. He can smell the salt in the air, and the sound of the ocean gently crashing into the wharf is clear and distinct. He’s wringing his hands and can feel the heat and sweat in his skin.

Adam gazes out to the ocean and the horizon there—all seemingly real and true. A hundred metres to his left, there is an ocean liner docked. Like the city, it’s aged and rusted, and it has smashed at the wharf and seems to be resting slightly off kilter. Adam wanders towards it and makes out the name Pacific Princess III on the side. From there, he is able to see beyond the ferry terminal and across to the Opera House. It looks perfectly preserved with its white sail-like roof glistening in the sun. The forecourt is overgrown with trees, though, and as Adam spins back around he is looking up at the Harbour Bridge.

“What the hell?” he utters, out loud this time. The bridge is also intact but it’s a rusty orange colour, and there’s a massive sign suspended beneath it that reads QUARANTINE.

Adam’s mind is numb. He’s trying to grasp what he’s looking at but… It was night time and I was on the bus. I remember that clearly. It was like, five minutes ago.

There’s a sound to Adam’s right, and he spins with his heart pounding. There’s nothing for a few seconds, then the head of a small grey kangaroo emerges above the height of the grass and weeds in the park. It’s behind a bench like the one Adam had woken up on. Another kangaroo lifts its head and the two of them watch him intently, their ears and noses twitching.

Adam tries to force his mind to shift—to snap it out of neutral. He looks down at his clothing. He has on weird faded-orange jeans and leather pointy-toed shoes. He had been in uniform and should be wearing navy blue trousers and a white shirt with the CMR logo embroidered above the pocket.

CMR is the Centre for Microbiological Research, not more than two kilometres from where Adam’s standing. He works on the gate mostly, but today he’d swapped with Carl and done his shift on the front desk checking ID’s and signing people in and out—issuing visitor passes and the like. He had done a sweep of the building before knocking off and poked his head in Amanda’s office as he was passing. All had been quiet, so Adam snuck in and left a small gift box right in the middle of Amanda’s desk. It was just a pendant he had made from a shell. They had been sort of friendly again lately and Adam knew Amanda liked shells. He figured it would be nice for her to find it there in the morning, and maybe it would lead to something. There had been a scattering of white coats bent over microscopes or glued to computer screens in the labs. There was always something that needed monitoring 24/7—something they were incubating or the odd rodent they had injected with one thing or another. None of it meant much to Adam. He was just a rent-a-cop security dude.

“I’m no time travelling super hero,” he mumbles to himself as he watches three black and white spotted cows wander from the street and into the park with the kangaroos.

After work Adam had stopped at the pub for a counter-meal, then he had caught the bus and was sitting there minding his own business and drifting off a bit.

The absurdity of the situation is hanging in the air all around, but Adam takes hold of it and ventures forth. There is something seriously unreal going on, but he’s feeling quite thirsty and needs to find a drink.

Adam follows the walkway along the wharf and approaches the ferry terminal. There are stalls there where he often buys lunch. The first one has the shutter pulled down and locked. The next one has a timber counter that’s flaked and warped. The glass display cabinet below has plastic sandwich packets that look like they’ve been pecked open and small foil dishes that were probably for cakes. There are shelves at the back of the stall with bleached white cardboard boxes and faded candy bar wrappers. There’s a display case of cigarettes that looks okay, although caked in a thick film of dust. There’s a fridge with a sealed glass door with cans and plastic bottles of juice, water and soft drinks. The water is clear and appears reasonably safe. Adam cracks open a bottle and has a drink. It tastes fine.

Inside the ferry terminal is a stall with newspapers and magazines on display. Adam pulls a paper from underneath the faded one on top. The headlines are about a plane crash in India and a sex scandal involving the Australian Foreign Minister. The date reads October 27th, 2063—2063 being thirty-five years in the future.

Adam looks at his hand and notices the absence of his tattoo. As a drunken youth he had let a buddy tattoo the word GAME across the knuckles of his left hand. It’s gone and his hand is bigger than it should be. Adam’s arm is more muscular too. He flexes, and squeezes and feels his bicep and shoulder.

What the hell?

There’s a glassed poster on the wall of the ferry terminal. Adam approaches and looks at his reflection to find a stranger looking back at him. He’s blond and his face is too narrow. The reflection is not Adam at all.

Adam feels his face—pinching at this point to prove the dream.

He backs away from the stranger and turns to the city again. He walks. He has no idea what he’s supposed to be doing, but he walks up a street, sticking to the middle of the road and gazing into the abandoned shops and up at the towering buildings. Most shops are empty. Adam considers they have been more so closed down than abandoned. The buildings are intact. They haven’t been bombed or anything. There are no broken windows that Adam can see. There are just big cracks in the pavement and road with grass and weeds growing everywhere.

There’s a distant humming sound. It’s high-pitched and quickly approaching. It pierces the air, and suddenly a train flashes across the road ahead of Adam. It had appeared from between buildings and is gone. Adam runs and sees it vanishing into the distance. It’s fully tinted glass, sleek and hugging a single rail, and it’s moving at an incredible speed.

Adam enters a building and finds stairs. He leaps upward, gaining the tenth storey with his lungs clenching and his legs numb. He kicks open a door marked with a no entry sign and stumbles out onto a roof-top. The train is gone. The rail spears off between buildings, some having been roughly knocked down to accommodate it.

Adam turns and looks the other way, out at the ocean. The rail is suspended above. It swings in a broad arc and follows the coastline with massive steel pillars jutting up out of the sand and the water, and it disappears beyond a headland.

Adam slumps back onto a concrete ledge and sucks in some breaths. He’s fitter and stronger than he used to be. He couldn’t have bounded those ten flights of stairs in his own body.

He looks himself over again, feeling his legs and genitals. He has a look down the front of his pants and finds no appreciable difference. He has less hair, though. It looks trimmed. Adam is thirsty again. He still has the bottle of water. There’s a kind of metallic taste in his mouth but he’s thirsty enough to ignore it.

The distance in all directions reveals no further sign of human life. There are birds and bugs, and more kangaroos and some goats. There’s a boundless silence, so stark and crisp that it’s ringing in Adam’s ears. The air is thin and clean and alive with the sweetness of spring or early summer. It had been winter an hour earlier—when Adam was himself and in the real world.

This can’t be real. If I jump off here I’m going to glide to the ground or wake up on a bus.

Adam’s looking over the edge of the building. He considers testing that theory but has never been big on heights. He suddenly thinks to check the pockets of the jeans he’s wearing and finds what looks like a watch. It’s an oddly thin device with a large square screen and a black plastic band. The screen is blank, as if turned off or with a dead battery. There are no buttons of any kind. Adam taps the screen to no effect. He tries pressing and the words VOICE PROMT flash. He presses again and says, “Hello”.

“Good afternoon, Cooper, who can I get you?”

Adam gulps. “Home, please?”

The screen shows a jingling bell icon. It lasts for a minute.

“Sorry, no answer,” the device says. “Would you like to record a message?”

Adam sniffs and clears his throat. “No message, thanks… Contacts list, please?”

The smiling face of a middle-aged woman appears. It’s a still image. Adam swipes across the screen and the face of a middle-aged man is next. It looks like him—the face he currently has. Adam assumes it to be his father. He swipes again and gets a logo AFP. The next image is another face—that of a guy about his age, completely unfamiliar. There are twenty or so contacts in all before the woman in the first image appears again.

Adam takes a breath and taps the screen. The ringing bell appears. The screen then flashes to an image of the woman, obviously live now.

“Cooper! Darling, how are you?” The woman looks to her side. “Hanson, it’s Cooper.”

A man’s voice replies, “Put him on screen, love.”

The screen flashes to a broader shot with the man who Adam assumes to be his father looking over the woman’s shoulder.

“How are you, son? What’s up?”

“Um… I’m not sure… I’m…” Adam stammers.

“Are you okay, son?”

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know who you are. You’re on my phone thingy… I don’t know who I am or what’s happening.”

“Wait… What?” the man asks. “You don’t know who we are?”

“Cooper, are you hurt? Are you okay?” the woman adds.

“I’m not hurt. I’m fine… Just—what the hell’s going on? I’m not who you think I am. I’m not this Cooper.”

The two faces on screen are staring blankly. The man speaks again after a moment. His demeanour shows confusion and concern. “Who do you think you are, son? Is there something wrong with your mind or memory or something? Do you have a head injury?”

“My name is Adam O’Malley. As far as I can remember, this is the year 2028… I’m going to wake up from this any minute now.”

The man and woman look to each other, their faces streaked in concern—horror. They turn back. The man speaks again. “Son, where are you right now?”

Adam glances around. “Standing on top of a building in Sydney… Where are you?”

The couple confer once more, their faces unchanged as they turn back to the screen. The woman answers, “We’re on our cruise in the middle of the Pacific, darling.”

The man adds, his tone measured, “Son, I want you to stay where you are. I’ll get the clinic at Oakdale to send someone for you… Are you right in the old city?”

“I’m near Circular Quay,” Adam replies. “I can go back to where I woke up a while ago.”

“No, that’s fine. Just wait somewhere safe. The clinic will GPS your device. It’ll probably take them an hour to get there.”

“I don’t know why you have to go exploring that silly old city all the time, darling,” the woman adds. “You must have fallen and hurt yourself. It’s just not safe there with everything crumbling down.”

“Now, Lola, just…” the man says to the woman, cuddling and patting her arm.

“Oh, but he shouldn’t even be going down there!”

The man addresses Adam again. “Are you safe right now, son? Will you be okay to wait?”

“I’m fine. I’ll wait,” Adam tells him. “I don’t know what the hell’s going on but I’ll wait for whoever.”

“Alright, son, I’ll check in with you again in ten minutes… We’ll sort this out.”

Adam’s device screen flashes back to the still picture of the woman smiling. He puts it on his wrist and fastens the catch. He has another drink of his metallic water.

The clinic is sending someone, huh? Think I might need a frigging clinic.

Part 2

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A pretty librarian versus a creepy undead guy…

never-linger-1

“What guy? What did he look like?” Lena asked Anita. They had called in for dinner. Anita was cooking.

“He looked creepy. Dressed in a long dark coat with skin as pale as the dead. He had such dark eyes that I saw when I was close enough.”

“And he was hiding? From you or from my crow?”

That was an odd question. “Actually, he was watching Samson. He could have been scared of him.”

Lena frowned. “Oh shit!”

“Why? What’s the matter?”

“It’s just that my kind don’t get on so well usually. We don’t like crossing paths or messing with each other. It takes a lot out of you to deal with a fellow witch.”

Anita gulped. “A fellow witch?”

“Yes, I’d guess so—hanging around the old cemetery the day before Halloween… Did you read the sign?”

“Never Linger?”

“Yes… Never linger! And did you linger? Inviting the interest of some freaky undead creature?”

“I lingered,” Anita confessed. “Only until I saw him, though. Then I ran.”

Lena huffed. “And he was at the grave of the Hawthorne boy? That’s particularly bad news. This would be the dark rising I sensed. It would be Alex Hawthorne come for another bride.”

“A bride?”

“Yes. For his willow tree. Every generation or two he comes back for a new young spirit to feed to his three hundred year old whispering willow. Which apparently grew from the body of his wife, who the townsfolk of Apple Glen burned as a witch.”

Anita turned from stirring sauce to face the strange witch girl. “The willow tree story is true?”

“Well, it was before my time, but yes, I think it’s largely true,” Lena said quite seriously. “And it would be tomorrow night that he comes for you, if he’s chosen you, that is. Maybe you just disturbed him and he’ll pick someone else. It’s always a local girl.”

“I’m not a local but I was actually born here.” Anita had been born right there in Apple Glen, at the local doctor’s clinic, though she was taken to the city to live before she was three months old. “Plus I had this really weird feeling today. But I didn’t grow up here or anything. I haven’t been here in years.”

Lena took her hands. “What weird feeling? Nostalgia, right? Yes, I can see it in your eyes—like you own the place, right?”

“Yes. Like that,” Anita uttered, her heart fluttering.

“Oh boy, this is big. This is huge!” the witch went on. “I can’t quite see… There’s something…” She paused in thought for a moment, struggling to grasp some idea or other, it seemed. She met Anita’s eyes again. “You might be more local than you think, Anita. You may have lived here before—in a past life.”

Lester came into the kitchen sniffing the air. “Are we eating soon? I’m hungry.”

“Come on. We’ll talk more later,” Lena said. “Don’t worry. This could be a good thing.”

A good thing? Anita couldn’t see how having a reincarnated dead guy choosing her for his bride could be a good thing…….

*****

What is true wisdom? A young and pretty mortal girl scares the hell out of a reincarnated dead guy….. Powerful meaning-of-life themes underpin this short, fun Halloween read.

Preview Never Linger on  Amazon US  Amazon UK  Amazon AU

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The Trelor Sect Killings…

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He was saving them. He was gathering them unto his spiritual flock, and he would shepherd them there. He was protecting them from the evil materialism and godless destruction of nature that had become the modern world. How long would it be until the end of humanity was brought about in nuclear devastation? This was the way to peace and salvation, Warren Trelor reasoned as he depressed the trigger and discharged a bullet into the back of Star’s head.

The woman’s bloodied hand slipped from the door handle, and her body slumped with her head coming to rest against the door frame at an odd angle. Her eyes were wide but life had abandoned them. Her mouth was open, and there was a strained gurgling sound, then her body convulsed softly in a final nervous spasm.

Trelor met the eyes of his daughter as they lifted from the woman’s face. “She’s in a safer place now, Summer,” he said. “Lock the door now and wait till I come for you.”

Summer didn’t quite close the door. She watched through a tiny crack as the woman’s body was dragged away. There had been sounds of fighting and screaming, and there had been other gun shots. She understood that the adults were being executed. She had been told to stay in the room with the children, and they were all huddled on a bed in the corner with tears dripping from their faces and snot dripping from their noses. They were past crying, though. She had soothed them, and they were all calm in their trust of her.

There had been single gun shots at short intervals. The massacre had been in progress for only ten minutes. There had been two more shots in the time since Summer had closed the door. There was another, and then another that sounded like it came from the back of the house.

She peeked from the curtain to see Joel Dixon lying in the doorway and her father stepping over his body and stalking away toward the kombi van.

Summer knew what was planned. She needed to get to her aunt and make her stop her father from killing the children. She snuck from the door, tip-toeing along the edge of the narrow hallway to avoid stepping in the trail of smeared blood. She looked in the living room where the adults were all lined up against the wall, dead. She saw her Aunt May sitting on the floor in the kitchen. Her head was slumped forward, her arms by her side. Her hand moved, and she made a sound with her head lifting a little then rocking forward again.

“Aunty, you have to wake up!” Summer implored. She was on her knees beside the woman. “You have to wake up and stop him! You have to stop Daddy,” the young girl pleaded, crying and trying to hold her aunt’s head upright.

There was a loud yell from outside. Summer recognised the voice of her friend Bert Dixon. She crawled past the prone man lying in the doorway and snuck with her back pressed against the side of the house until she could see around the corner. It was her father fighting with Bert. She watched the two men thumping and trying to strangle each other, hoping and praying Bert would win, but her dad was strong.

***

It had been only a week since Summer’s eleventh birthday. There had been a party where the women had dressed her up. They were all dead now, those women. They were lined up against the wall in the living room covered in blood with their eyes and mouths open. Summer could smell the blood. It was a thick, syrupy smell like sour milk and lemons.

The men had all bathed and combed their hair for her birthday party. They were nice men. They played guitars and sang. They were all dead now too. They were all lined up against the wall with their eyes and mouths open and blood all over their shirts.

“Summer! Now put that down!” Trelor commanded, but Summer depressed the trigger of the rifle she had picked up off the ground and discharged a bullet into her father.

She had been taught how to use the rifle by her aunt. She had been shooting targets since she was eight.

She fed another bullet into the chamber and worked the bolt forward and down. She pulled back the hammer until it caught. Then she lifted the rifle to her right shoulder and looked through the sight on top of the barrel.

Her father was sitting on the ground holding his stomach. He looked up from his bloodied hand and met his daughter’s eyes. Bert Dixon staggered to his feet and swayed there against the kombi van. He held out his hand to Summer, motioning for her to give him the rifle.

“It’s okay now, Summer.”

His voice was strange. He was struggling to breathe, but it was more than that. It was as if he was in another dimension or something, and Summer didn’t believe him—that it was okay now.

She aimed the rifle at her father’s chest, at the left side, imagining where his heart would be, and she depressed the trigger, discharging another bullet that made his eyes pop open and seem to focus on the far off distance.

The rifle was then taken from her grasp and she was led back into the house and into the room with the children. She was told to stay there, and she did. She waited until she heard someone sneaking along the hallway, and she peeped out to see her aunt edging along the wall toward her room. And a while later there were police lights and people everywhere. And Summer made sure to collect her shoulder bag as she was taken out through the back of the house and placed in the police bus.

In her shoulder bag she had her makeup and jewelry, her small beaded purse with her money, and a bone handled hair brush that she took out to brush her hair….

****

The Children’s Room is a romantic suspense novel featuring two of the children who survived that massacre. The setting 35 years later…

Preview The Children’s Room on  Amazon US  Amazon UK  Amazon AU

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A little bit quirky…

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BOOK REVIEW: This sharp, quirky little story is kind of like the lead character in it. You don’t really have a choice – you just have to go along with everything you’re being told. It’s hypnotic. It’s fun and really interesting. I’d defy anyone to read a few pages of this and stop reading. You absolutely have to know what’s going to become of the emerald eyed thief girl… What does become of her – where this story goes – is a total surprise. The writer tackles a subject here that is always kind of strange and confusing, but she keeps it simple and does it very well. I always loved the Twilight Zone series. This little story would fit right in there and be one of the best of them.

Preview Terrible Me on Amazon

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BOOK REVIEW: Terrific imagination and very easy reading style. This is a strange, foreign, alternate reality where you feel right at home and quickly pick up what’s going on. Cool, quirky characters and an interesting story that may have only just begun… A very enjoyable read.

Preview Engines of Empathy on Amazon

 

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BOOK REVIEW: I liked this. What a weird story. It’s very cleverly constructed and intriguing from start to finish. There’s something so simple and true about The Pusher. I’m wondering why I can so easily relate to him, lol… It’s a short read – definitely worth your time.

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Flawed characters – great drama…

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BOOK REVIEW: Julia’s life is not extraordinary, but it is fascinating. She steps off a plane, returning from an unplanned trip away, and is faced with a whole bunch of problems that have sprung up in her absence. It’s a scene easily related to – everything falling apart at the same time. Everyone who has lived a bit of a life has experienced this… What are the decisions and incidents that shaped your life and brought you to that point? Well, in this story, Julia is a flawed character. Reading through the chapters of her life, there were times I didn’t particularly like her. But she is human – brilliantly depicted as such. And I found myself cheering for her in the end. The real heroine in this story, to me, is her best friend. Raz is mysterious… strong. We don’t spend much time inside her head, but that adds to the story, lending a depth of dimension that exist in all of our lives… This is a captivating read. Authentic.

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BOOK REVIEW: Actually, I’ve been to the beach house, metaphorically. Any place with important personal history is the beach house. It’s horrible when you drive past somewhere you remember fondly from some life event years ago and find it’s been re-developed. It’s gone… This is a wonderfully uplifting read. The many stories, brilliantly intertwined, are so real and inspiring… If you’re an Aussie you will probably like this book. If you’re not an Aussie you will probably like this book.

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BOOK REVIEW: True to life characters and an outback Aussie road trip… this is a touching and shocking human drama, the telling of which begins in turmoil and takes us on two journeys. One is the road trip – onward into discovery and hurt. The other is a series of flashbacks that lead us to our starting point and an expertly crafted reveal. Wonderfully written – mesmerizing… this is a terrific novel.

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Authentic historical settings…

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BOOK REVIEW: I made it as far as about the second page before I was cheering for Rosa. Or falling for her, to be more precise. But her vulnerability makes for difficult reading. It’s so hard to see how she will ever find happiness under the influence of her sister and the weight of societal tradition. I was really worried for her as I read. I wanted to be her hero and save her from the horrible choices she had. I was so into this story – completely captivated…. In a broader sense, I’d say this is an interesting study of how a calculated marital arrangement might take time to get going, but may well develop into something rich and powerful…. The resolution for sweet Rosa worked very well for me. This is a poignant little regency romance with plenty beneath the surface.

Preview In Want of a Wife on Amazon

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BOOK REVIEW: I like the villain…. No, I don’t mean I’m on his side or anything – just that I like the way this kind of character contributes to the angst of the period and makes for interesting reading. He makes it so difficult for the heroine and hero to get together – for romance to flourish (and I agree with other reviewers that this is a good romance). The villainous uncle is portrayed, I think, quite realistically. He has so much power and brings this to bear against what we are hoping for as we read, and just when it looks like he’s being defeated, he goes and does something to rip the heart out of our triumph. What he does is an excellent bet-you-weren’t-expecting-that moment, which sets off an exciting and wonderfully written journey and pursuit that we have to live through before we can have any kind of happily-ever-after…. Yes, this is a terrific love and adventure story. It’s heart wrenching, touching, enlightening and steamy. And it also has a classic Victorian era villain, whose portrayal is particularly powerful and interesting in my opinion.

Preview Devin’s Dilemma on Amazon

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BOOK REVIEW: The heroine is a handful. Way too intelligent and strong willed for the conventions of her time. The way she fights, deceives and manipulates to get what she wants out of life makes for a bit of a romp, but the fact that this tale is based on a true story is quite sobering. It’s also very romantic and interesting because of that. For word of this lady to be around 300 years later, she must have made quite an impression at the time… I felt well enough immersed in the early 18th century setting, with minimal detail allowing the plot to move along quickly, making for a fast and exciting read. There’s a cute supernatural twist that offers another dimension to the tale. This quite cleverly heightened the intensity of the climax and ending with a parallel timeline. It also brought our protagonists to the intersection of storytelling and true-to-life… Well done!

Preview The Berkshire Lady on Amazon