This game is easy. All you have to do is check out the Goodreads Gay Science Fiction group and post in my Author of the Month thread. If you do, you enter your name into a hat (it's a virtual hat, very spiffy) with a chance to win my newest release! Below you can find the blurb and a sneak peak at the first chapter.
So what is being released? Drumroll please:
The war is over. The majority of humanity has fled the dying planet to live in space, leaving behind a chemical called Overgrowth that will speed up the restoration of the war torn world.
Some were left behind, and not all by choice. As one chapter of humanity comes to a close, a soldier who thought he had nothing left and a historian who sees potential even in destruction will make a life out of what remains.
A man strode out of the forest, his blond hair gray in the ashy light of the streetlamps and the roiling fog, which clung like a cat to his legs. A loose hinge on the side of his tattered briefcase rattled lightly as he walked.
“Got anything?” A leathery man held out a hand from the shadows, his voice creaking as he spoke. “Just a bit?” The tall man passed by without answering, and the beggar became lost in the fog.
The man walked by metal structures, some of them leaning crazily to one side or the other and some standing firm. Flickering lights and fluorescent hums marked those that had survived, though the signs spelled only gibberish in the roiling mist. Pictures could still be made out, mostly of red lips, long legs and huge breasts. Words were unnecessary. The man turned down a narrow street, putting his back to the signs.
There were no leaning buildings here, and the grit from the main street had amassed in full so that the man’s footsteps crunched rather than clacked. Wooden buildings, dwarfed by the metal ones still visible in the skyline, promised light and food. Voices could be heard here, female and male, laughing uproariously at some common joke. The words here were etched or carved into the wood. The man took his chances on one, a sign that waved in the damp wind with faded letters that promised “Bes Drosoph in the City.”
A woman whose ribs showed through the skintight clothing she wore opened the door for him, a smile plastered on her face. “Lemme guess-pounds over pity?”
The man nodded, the pupils of his eyes constricting painfully in the light. He didn’t usually stay long in these places, where those who had been left behind scraped to live as they could, indulging in the glaring phosphorescence of the buildings that surrounded them.
His feet thudded heavily on the wooden floorboards, making them creak. No one looked up save for one young girl bedecked in plastic pearls, and she smiled at him as winningly as she could with a mouthful of graying teeth.
The man looked away, focusing on the rough grain of the wood as he took a seat. A group of men to his right slapped their table, making the dishware rattle.
“Over here, Nella!” The girl’s wide hips swayed invitingly as she walked, the folds of her blue dress brushing the man’s ear as she strode by. She turned to smile at him, a ruby rictus, before a long haired man grabbed her with one arm, pulling her into his lap.
“You’re good luck, beauty.” He chuckled, and she bit her lip as she adjusted herself to straddle the burly man’s knee. His thick arm completely covered her waist, and she slumped in his grasp.
The tall man turned away, carefully placing the battered briefcase under the table. For a time he closed his eyes and basked in the presence of other people, letting their conversations wash over him. He had traveled alone for a long time.
“Ouch! Don’t bite me!”
“Have you heard? Another youth gang hit the food stores.”
“Oh really? Then why do we have this then?”
“You think this is any good?! I shoulda ordered the pork. And this beer tastes like weasel piss.”
“There are no weasels here, idiot.”
Forks clanged on plates, feet tapped on the floor, and laughter rose and fell. Low voices discussed sweet nothings in the room above the lounge, and he tried to make out what they said.
A tap on his shoulder finally stirred him from his concentration. “You can’t sleep in here, you know. You need a room for that.” The slim hipped woman from before stood over him, a twang of annoyance in her voice hiding behind her plaster smile.
“I’m merely relaxing,” he spoke, his voice a rasping whisper. “May I order a meal?”
The woman blinked long lashes in surprise at his voice, and her mouth turned down. “What do you want?”
The woman sashayed away to fulfill the request. The man closed his eyes, letting the voices in the room wash over him once more. When his food arrived he ate slowly, waiting for the water that was supposed to accompany it. Then a clatter at the table caught his attention.
A dark haired man had sat down across from him.
“What’s your name?” he asked hurriedly, his voice pitched low.
“Aldric,” the man answered, pain finally blooming in his throat as he spoke. He tensed as he watched the other man’s eyes rove around the room like a hunted animal. His damaged, rasping voice, ordinarily off-putting to the people he met, didn’t seem to faze this one.
“Alright, Aldric, I’m Daniel. Just pretend you know me. Please? Just…talk.”
“What about?” Aldric listened. There was nothing dangerous here that he could sense, no indication of what this man could be running from. Then again, with no real law enforcement, no structure since the end of the war save for one rule—survive as long as you can—a certain amount of paranoia was expected.
“Where do you live? Around here? I don’t recognize you.”
Aldric sighed. “I am a traveler. I’ve come from…inland.”
“A traveler?” Some of the tension left his companion, replaced with curiosity. “How far have you come?”
Aldric looked away from the other man’s gaze, watching as the woman who was supposed to be serving him water got waylaid by two men who stared at his new companion out of the corner of their eyes. One of them palmed the woman’s breasts, and the other whispered in her ear. She smiled and her eyes met his. “A long way.”
“I’d love to hear about your travels,” the man said, speaking just a bit louder to get his attention. Aldric shifted his gaze, wondering if his new table companion had noticed the two men. His eyes were fixed on Aldric. “No one here has ever left and come back.”
“Is it…nice here?” Where had the two men gone? Now there was only the woman, filling the pitcher, and the other one, called Nella, shrieked as some other man tickled her.
Finally the other man followed his gaze. “Look, I’ll buy you a nice woman for the night if you just—”
Aldric stood and caught the knife that had whistled through the air inches from the dark haired man’s ear, the blade slicing through the fabric of his glove and then stopping. He turned and locked eyes with one of the men, the one who had whispered to the girl, who ran out the door. Voices quieted for only a moment before the buzz resumed. Something like this was not uncommon here.
The dark haired man’s eyes boggled. “Are…is your hand alright?” He reached for it, and Aldric snatched it away, pocketing the knife.
“There’s still one more. You should leave.”
“Alone?” the man squeaked. “Why not come with me?” When Aldric narrowed his eyes, he continued, “If you’re a traveler, you need a place to stay, and you’ve already saved my life once. Let me repay you? C’mon, I need your help.”
Aldric raised an eyebrow. If he was desperate enough to be begging strangers… “Lead on then.”
The two stood up together and headed out into the dirty night air. Aldric had never gotten his glass of water, but he threw a few coins onto the table anyway.
As he followed the man, who walked hunched as if to hide himself, the dingy shops gave way to shacks and houses, gaping holes in the sides on some of them signaling either the presence of an inhabitant or lack of one. No shortage of housing here. Mud began to squelch around Aldric’s boots as he walked further, and though the streets were more mired and pitted, at least the houses began to look nicer as they moved away from the heart of the city.
Aldric watched his new companion closely. He had seen his like before, the same furtive, nervous walk that betrayed a long time of persecution, coupled with a strong desire to live. What did this man have to live for? Who targeted him? This curiosity led Aldric to walk silently behind Daniel, using years of training to accomplish the same vigilance that Daniel clumsily tried to perform.
He sensed them long before Daniel did, and gave no sign of it. Three men and a dog. The dog attacked first, growls cutting the night, and Aldric stepped in front of its target, throwing him arm up as the animal leapt for Daniel.
Teeth clamped down, and Aldric spun and threw the animal to the ground, shoulder muscles straining under the weight. With a pivot he faced the men who had begun to run toward them with clubs held high. The fingers of his right arm twitched, as though preparing to fire a gun he did not hold.
The men slowed and stopped when they saw the dog limping away, realizing their ambush had failed. The two groups faced each other for a moment before the men shrank back into the shadows, scattering and disappearing behind houses and fallen wood.
“Once again, thank you.” Daniel moved close to him, so close Aldric could smell his piney scent. He kept clean, too. Unusual in a place like this.
“Is you arm alright?” Aldric took a step back, giving Daniel a firm nod. The man stared, his gaze fixed for a moment, before shrugging and turning.
“Come on. We’re almost there, and I don’t think they’ll try anything again tonight.”
* * * *
They crossed a muddy, pitted track that was once probably a creek or stream, the forest looming close and the lights and stink of the city receding. Fitting.
“Here we are.” Daniel jogged up the steps of a stone house that looked to once have housed at least two families. Unlocking numerous deadbolts from keys on his belt, he thrust the heavy metal door open and waved Aldric inside. Fluorescent lights stung his eyes as he entered, ducking through the warped doorway. It looked almost like a bunker.
“Let me see your hand. Take off your gloves.” Daniel moved toward him, arms outstretched.
“No.” Aldric firmly stepped away. “I am fine.”
“That dog bit you! I saw it! And the knife…” He trailed off in the face of Aldric’s firm stare.
“So you’re really fine?” Aldric nodded, standing stiffly in the foyer.
“Fine then. Well…I guess I owe you hospitality, and breakfast too, since you saved me twice. Do you want to sleep now, or maybe you could tell me about your-”
“Sleep,” Aldric said gruffly, ignoring Daniel’s disappointment. “Do you…have running water here?”
“I do. There’s a bathroom and sink down the hall. You can sleep here on the floor, or if you don’t mind, we can share the bed in the other room.”
The offer tempted him. Once such an offer would mean something, but now Aldric knew that sharing a bed was simply a necessity of the times, a comfortable place to sleep snatched whenever and wherever it could be. Even so…he couldn’t risk it.
“The floor is fine.”
“Really? Well, if you’re sure…”
“Alright. I have extra blankets. There’s no heat, but that hasn’t been a problem for years now.” He flashed a sad smile. “I guess I’ll head to bed. Um, thanks again for your help. I hope…I mean, well…”
Aldric cocked his head, waiting.
“It’s nothing. I’ll take you out for breakfast in the morning. Good night. Give me ten and then the bathroom is all yours.”
Aldric ran a gloved hand through his hair, then set up his blankets into a makeshift bed on the floor. Daniel confused him, being kind, or perhaps desperate, enough to invite him into his home after having barely known him. Other people in his travels had rarely been so caring.
It would certainly not last, so he might as well try to enjoy it. Aldric prepared for sleep after Daniel entered the bedroom, shutting the door behind him. Rummaging through his suitcase, Aldric moved his gun and tools out of the way and took out a change of clothes, then locked it up again. He slept in the clothes he had worn that day, down to the gloves. He would change in the morning, before Daniel awoke. It would not do if the other man saw him.Sleep came easily, unusual for Aldric.
Want more? Check out the Goodreads Gay Science Fiction group and post in my author of the month thread for a chance to win it!