Tomorrow, my sci-fi novelette PROMETHEUS goes live on Amazon.com. To give you a treat, here is the PROMETHEUS official book trailer, plus the first chapter from the book. Want to read more? The ebook is only $2.99!
I do not like to scrounge in the lower levels. I would rather stay at the top, to weed the garden or to clean the pump filters, but Lee keeps those jobs to himself. What would I do, Lee asks, if I were alone at the top, and a Shimmer came? I tell him I can shoot a negatizer better than he can, but I know that is not good enough. Lee is older, almost seventeen, and he makes the rules.
Lee’s voice crackles over the communicator. “O? Are you there, O?”
I press the button on the side of the communicator. “I’m here.”
“Did you take an extra flashlight and set of batteries?”
“Yes. They’re in my backpack.”
The lift creaks as it continues its descent into darkness. When I first began to scrounge in the lower levels, the lift felt like a cage, with its ugly steel ribs and dim lighting, like a prisoner’s elevator. Lee used to come with me, and he told me that I was a princess who was escaping from the evil sorcerer, and journeying into the depths of earth to find refuge with her goblin cousins. He made me feel brave.
I am no longer afraid, but I still do not like the lower levels.
The lift jerks to a halt, and hisses as it opens like a gumless mouth, one panel of the door sliding upward, and a second sliding downward into the floor. I switch on my headlamp, shift my backpack on my shoulders, and step out into the lower levels.
The darkness feels like oil and I am sure it clings to my skin. I imagine that when I return to the surface, my skin will have turned black, like the skin of my friend Katie. I miss Katie. I wish her family had stayed. Lee thinks they are dead now. I hope he is wrong.
I have already scrounged through many of these rooms. My headlamp casts a ring of trembling light on the rough stone walls, and I catch occasional glimmers from shards of glass and old nails.
Step by step, I penetrate the darkness and continue deeper into the level. I wonder how anyone could have lived down here. The ceiling is low, too low for a grown man to stand at his full height, but spacious enough for me. The corridors are narrow, and the rooms airless and small. They remind me of the time, before the Shimmers, that Lee was angry with me for trying to follow him and his friend to the fishing place on the river. He locked me in the linen closet, and the dark and the loneliness scared me. When Mom found me later, she punished Lee. He would not speak to me for days, but he never locked me in the closet again.
The lower levels are worse than a closet. You might find a spider in a closet, but I prefer spiders to what I find sometimes in the lower levels. One time, when Lee and I were first learning to scrounge, I found a body. The skin had been shrink-wrapped to the skeleton, and the eyes were gone. I called for Lee. When he saw the body, he made the same sound that he made that time I punched him in the guts because he called me fuzz-brain. He gripped my arm with claw-like hands and made me sit against the wall outside the room.
Then he scrounged the body for valuables while I sat against the wall. When he returned, he had a pocket-knife and a pair of shoes, and he smelled sour. I was sure he had been sick.
We had not gone scrounging for several weeks after that, but soon our need for supplies grew too heavy. Lee did not dare leave me at the top by myself, and he did not want me to scrounge on my own, so we went together. Lee made a rule. If I find a body, I am to mark the place on my map and he will come back to scrounge it.
I use the map now as my guide to find rooms where I have not yet scrounged. The first thing I find is a can opener. We already have seven, but Lee is good at inventing new uses for old things. I put it in the backpack. Later on, I discover some nuts and bolts. I know Lee will make good use of those. They go into the backpack too.
I begin to pretend. Lee taught me to play games when I scrounge, and he makes up new games for me every so often. In the old games, I have been an enchanted princess, collecting items for a spell to break my curse. I have been an explorer, mapping out new places for people to live. I have been a hunter, on the trail of a mysterious beast that leaves signs of his passing just to tease me. Today, I pretend I am a treasure-hunter in an ancient, secret temple.
I mark a metal cot frame on my map. Lee will fetch it later.
The headlamp catches a gleam of white underneath the frame. When I reach under, my fingers touch paper. A book! Books are rare. Not many people brought books with them when they came to the quarry. Some of the pages are missing and others are tattered at the edges, but the sight of the crisp black words makes me grin.
I brush the dust from the covers, and draw my thumb over the pages so that they ruffle like feathers. The title is printed on the front cover in large gold letters: PROMETHEUS AND THE FIRE OF THE GODS. Then, under it, in smaller gold letters: And Other Stories From Greek Mythology.
I sink back on my heels and my eyes flicker over the pages. The words send shivers down my spine. Thus Prometheus set out to steal the fire from the gods, and bring light and warmth to the human beings who dwelt in the shadow of Mount Olympus.
The communicator crackles and Lee’s voice interrupts me.
“Check in, O.”
I grasp for the communicator at my belt. “I’m here.”
“What have you found so far?”
I check my backpack. “An opener of the sacred cylinder.” The can opener. “Some silver fasteners.” The nuts and bolts. “Three cleaning spells.” Bar soap. “And a collection of secret runes.”
“Not bad for just an hour. What’s the book?”
Lee sighs. “I was hoping it was a manual for the pumps. If you ever find one of those, let me know immediately.”
“I like stories.”
“Stories don’t irrigate the garden.”
“They irrigate the soul!”
Lee laughs. “You sound like Dad. Okay, treasure-hunter, carry on. I’ll call you in another half-hour.”
A few minutes later, I find the door.
Where does the door lead? Find out in PROMETHEUS!