I promised yesterday that Disrupted Worlds, a novel-length short story collection that features my own effort, The Information Monster, plus five others, would be published tomorrow. Well, it turns out that those digital printing presses at Amazon have been running on overdrive because it’s already available as a Kindle ebook.
You can read a free preview of the first story-and-a-half by clicking on the cover image below. But since The Information Monster is the third story, I’ve decided to post a short excerpt from the beginning:
“The darkness is our friend,” whispered Sigi.
Coleoptera snuggled closer. She didn’t understand. Darkness had always meant death. It was in the books with paper, so it must be true. The books that held stories of children losing themselves in deep, dark forests where wolves prowled, trolls lurked and witches squatted in their hovels waiting to feast on plump cheeks. Darkness had always meant death.
He kissed her hair softly. Maybe he was a fool. Maybe there was nothing anyone could do to defeat it.
“You know how plants need light to grow?”
“So does the monster, and that’s why the darkness is our friend.”
“We’re safe here. Sleep now, Beetle.”
“Tell me a story. From when you were little.”
“Okay, just one.”
“Thank you, daddy.”
She rubbed the fabric of his shirt sleeve between her thumb and forefinger. He wondered whether the tactile sensation of its silky NanoNylon was more soothing than her own bamboo thread nightshirt. His mind flashed through molecular configurations.
He clenched his teeth. It was so easy to slip. So easy to go down that path.
“Yes. Okay. When I was about your age, most of the books were paper.”
“Uh-huh. And they never changed. A story was a story with words, and sometimes pictures, and it was written by a storyteller.”
“Like my fairy tales.”
“Yes, and they used to be my books. But the fairy tales changed from one book to the next because they had lots of storytellers.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Sorry, Beetle, it’s complicated. And it doesn’t really matter for my story. What matters is that I had a book that was really special to me. It was about a bear who learned to read, and I loved it. Then one day my grandma took me for a walk and I brought the book along with me. But somehow it must have slipped out of my hand along the way because when we got home to my mommy and daddy’s house I didn’t have it anymore and I cried so much that my grandma walked all the way back along the route we’d taken to look for it. But she couldn’t find it.”
“Yes, I was really sad. But the next day when my mom came home from work she’d bought me another copy.”
He felt her tug a bit harder on his sleeve.
“The only thing was, I didn’t understand. I thought that the book I’d lost was the only one like it in the whole world. It was my favorite, and it was special. Suddenly I realized it wasn’t special because there was another one the same. And others in the store. Then when I grew up, things started to change. The books on screens took over. Soon nothing was special.”
“Because everything was a copy.” He kissed her hair again. “But now it’s time to sleep.”
“Why are we here, daddy?”
“Because we need to get away.”
He drew breath sharply. “No. From everything.”
“You’ll keep me safe, right?”
There was the slightest pause in his answer and he hoped she hadn’t noticed.
“Yes. That’s why we’re here.”
She squeezed his arm and let out a big yawn.
Once he was sure that she was sleeping soundly, Sigi carefully moved away from her sleeping bag so as not to disturb her. He rose and closed the door of the Correlator room. This was where they were “camping”. It was an adventure. That’s what he’d told her. She was lucky to be going on an adventure with her daddy – not a lot of five-year-olds got to do that.