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Aaru – David Meredith – Review

(I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All comments and thoughts are my own).

35649191.jpgAaru is one of those books that you think you understand but by the last page you realize you were wrong. There are two stories here but one is much deeper than the other.

Rose is a 16 year old who is dying of cancer. All the treatments have failed and she is being made comfortable for her last days. As a last ditch effort  to save her, her parents sign Rose up for an experimental new system called Aaru.

Aaru is a computer system that copies and uploads a person’s brain and personality into a computer system. The person is able to live on digitally even though their body has died.

As Rose adjust to her new “life” her sister Koren is finding a way to live a new life of her own. She is made the spokesperson for the new technology but quickly learns what happens when you are forced into the spotlight at a young age. She is thrust into this role that begins to destroy who she is and puts her life and well-being in danger.

What I loved/enjoyed:

Aaru was a beautifully created world. I had no problem imaging this new place. It was vivid and alive. I felt like I was inside this computer program as they built it into a new home. I liked the system even though I didn’t quite understand why some aspects were chosen. Why there were Lords and  Ladies or rankings didn’t quite get adequately explained but that didn’t keep me from sinking into this new world.

I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of what could be done and how things were made and changed. There was one scene in particular where Rose and her friends play a game of soccer that was exciting. I was enraptured by the game and how they used their new home and powers to make it more than just a simple and easy game of soccer.

I also liked the way life, personhood and afterlife were spoken about in this story. Is Rose still Rose without a functioning brain and body? Without the brain to create new pathways and links, can she evolve beyond who she was when she died? Who is she in this new setting?

Also if you become part of this place are you excluded from a traditional afterlife? Can you die again and move on to either Heaven or another place you believe in? What if your family is unable to join you? Is it worth staying in this place then? I liked asking these questions as we read because it put this new technology into a stark and real perspective.

Koren’s story was handled well. I can’t say I “liked” it, because of the way it went but I respected it and its part in the story. Her side of the tale explained how thrusting a child into a spotlight can do irreparable harm to them. Putting them on TV, or in magazines all dressed up can cause people to view them beyond their age. We saw how dangerous this concept can get. It was a good look at the dangers of child celebrity, even if it did disturb me into almost stopping reading at times.

 

What I was was okay with (didn’t love/hate):

I had some trouble with the way accents were written. They felt out of sorts, almost forced. There was only one character who was written with an accent while a number of them were supposed to be foreign. I found his speech difficult to follow at times and it threw me out of the story at times. I don’t know if his speech was needed to be written the way it was.

 

What I was wished was different:

My biggest issues in Aaru was with a handful of decisions that were made. Koren accepts the role as spokesperson without a minute of thought. Her parents never step in and demand a contract. There is no waiting period to think it over, she shakes hands and that is it.

Koren and her parents just trust a company they know next to nothing about. It was hard for me to believe they wouldn’t want details. Even beyond protecting their daughter’s well-being they don’t verify the money or the details of the deal. Her parents don’t even speak up during the exchange and decision process. There was also no later indication that they ever talked the contract over with a lawyer or verified everything that was as they were told it would be.

I also had an issue with the fact that there were cameras throughout the house. I can’t see anyone being okay with that idea right off the bat. Maybe it would have made more sense if there had been a discussion about it. Koren’s parents were intent on gaining the power and money that comes with being celebrities. I think I would have bought the idea more if there had been a scene where they were convinced to allow the cameras to be set up everywhere from the living room the the bedrooms.

Koren doesn’t even seem to know about the cameras. She states multiple times she doesn’t know how they got the footage. Shouldn’t she have at least known they were there? I don’t think it is even slightly legal to set up cameras without the owner’s knowledge and permission. I wanted more discussion about that fact.

I also would have liked more background on Rose and Koren’s parents. The story is about the girls but the parents felt flat. They were almost cliche’s. All her mother talks about it things “happening as they should” or “that is how things are in show business.” Her father falls into drinking, quickly. We have no foundation for them so watching them fall is hard to follow. I wanted to understand them better and why they allowed certain things to happen as they did.

 

This wasn’t something I hated but what I found hard to read. The way the Magic Man’s actions and desires were written were difficult to read. I understood why his storyline was there but I did almost stop reading because of his chapters. The first time he appeared I didn’t know where the story was going and I wasn’t sure I could continue. I did end up finishing and I understood his part but I would say that anyone reading the story should be made aware of the thoughts and actions that may be triggering to some people.

I gave Aaru 4 stars on Goodreads. It wasn’t the story I was expecting but it was well written and did tell a story with an important warning about the dangers of celebrity.

My Book, Is There More?, is a Year Old!!

IsThereMore_AmazonToday is my book’s, Is There More?, birthday! A year ago I self-published my book of short stories.  The stories in this collection are stories that I worked on for a handful of years. Always Been Ours was one that I first wrote in one of my college writing classes. It was the first time someone had read my writing and say it was intriguing. It was one of the first times I thought of the possibility of publishing my writings so that others could read it.

I spent a year compiling the stories in this collection. I edited and rewrote them a number of times. I took them to a writing group and got critiques and opinions about them. I found beta-readers and an editor to make them the best I thought they could be.

And a year ago I compiled them together and put them out as a book. I am still working on marketing and finding ways to get it into more people’s hands. I have enjoyed hearing from those who have read it. I hope to continue to be able to get more people to read and allow more people to think about the vast possibilities that surround our day to day lives.

Here is the summary of it:
The world around us is more vast than we may believe. Look deeper. Push past the veil of reality to find out what truly lies beneath. What you will find looks a lot like the world you see everyday, but a closer look shows you how much more there is to see. It is a world where the books on your shelves have voices, and they are not happy. A world where a person can be reset as easily as a computer. Somewhere you can open your door to find a “Choose Your own Adventure,” book waiting to take complete control of your world. It is a place where you may believe you know what is possible, but looking deeper shows you just how many possibilities truly exist. Turn each page and always ask yourself, is there more?

If you enjoy the Twilight Zone or stories that make you question the world around you, you will enjoy Is There More? It is available through Amazon, either as a paperback for $8.99 or an e-book for $3.99. If you check it out and enjoy it, please leave a review! I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

I am very proud of this collection and love nothing more than seeing it on my own bookshelf. As I work on my novel, it is there for me to glance over at  to use as my motivation to keep writing and to keep creating new stories, lands and characters. Happy Birthday, Is There More?

What Are You Reading Wednesday- Ariel Rising

What Are You Reading Wednesday, #WAYRW, is a weekly feature over at It’s a Reading Thing. Want to join in? It is easy, just answer the following three questions about the book you are currently reading!

272376941.) What are you currently reading? – Ariel Rising (Ariel Between Two Worlds Episode One) by: AJ & CS Sparber

2.) Go to page 34 in your book or 34% in your ebook and share a couple of sentences:

Hmm. He’s handsome, witty and personable. How can he not have tons of friends?
Really? You seem very friendly.”
“I was engrossed in my work…my studies. I really didn’t leave myself much time for friends.”

3.) Would you like to live in the world that exists in the book? Why or why not?

The world is very close to ours with the exceptions of aliens hiding amongst us. They are a race that has been around forever and have had a part in everything that has happened in our past. I like the idea of living in a world where there are hidden secrets we are unaware of. So yeah, I’d live in this world where the aliens are hanging out.

Did you know I wrote a book?

IsThereMore_AmazonLooking for something different to read? Something that may remind you of The Twilight Zone? Something that makes you think about the world a little bit differently? Then you will enjoy my self-published,short story collection, Is There More?

The world around us is more vast than we may believe. Look deeper. Push past the veil of reality to find out what truly lies beneath. What you will find looks a lot like the world you see everyday, but a closer look shows you how much more there is to see. It is a world where the books on your shelves have voices, and they are not happy. A world where a person can be reset as easily as a computer. Somewhere you can open your door to find a “Choose Your own Adventure,” book waiting to take complete control of your world. It is a place where you may believe you know what is possible, but looking deeper shows you just how many possibilities truly exist. Turn each page and always ask yourself, is there more?

Sound like something that intrigues you? Then be sure to head over to Amazon to get yourself a copy, available in e-book as well as paperback! http://amzn.to/2auN9nK

It is an easy and quick read but one that is exciting and will hopefully make you think. And if as one reviewer stated you found it to be a, “… real eye-opener and conversation-starter,” then please leave a review.

Thank you!

Is there More?

 

More Happy Than Not By Adam Silvera – Review (Minor Spoilers)

9781616956776More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera was another book I saw a review for on Youtube. The premise intrigued me, someone having the ability to erase memories as a way to deal with a tough situation.  The reviewer also mentioned it was an emotional read, and I was curious to see if that was true. It was true, this book was heartbreaking. I am not a person who gets emotional easily. It takes a lot in a book or movie to make me feel heartbroken, but this book managed just that.

Aaron is a sixteen-year-old whose life is not the greatest. His family is poor. At the beginning, you find out that his father has recently committed suicide. Aaron himself has also has had a suicide attempt.

There is one light in his life though, his girlfriend, Genevieve. They have a very cute relationship. They tease one another and have little rituals. She is what Aaron needs in order to be able to handle what is going on with his life at the moment. She makes him happy and he does love her.

For three weeks in the summer, Genevieve goes to an art camp, leaving Aaron by himself. While she is away Aaron meets a new friend, Thomas. They become close very quickly. Their growing closeness makes Aaron question his sexuality. He realizes that he is falling for Thomas. This creates a cascade of events that has a bigger twist that I won’t reveal here.

The events lead Aaron to consider a new technology at the Leteo Institute that can erase memories. Aaron has to decide whether he should get the procedure, whether it will help him at all. Does erasing your memories really change your life, or does it just cover up an issue you don’t want or know how  to deal with?

The main of the idea this book revolves around the idea of what makes someone gay or straight. Does it have to do with memories? Is it a nature or nurture idea? Can you make someone straight by erasing their past actions and memories?

Now, I believe that being gay, straight or bi is not a choice. It is the way you are born. It is a part of you just like any other aspect of yourself. It is not something that can be changed. It can be ignored and covered up. But like when you dye your hair the roots always show through sooner or later. You can pretend as long as you want, convince yourself that you aren’t but at the end of the day it is a part of you.

This story took an interesting look at that idea. It presents you with a young man who is  trying to navigate his world. He is lost. He has no one to go to talk about what he is feeling. There is no one with experience around him. He tries to navigate his new world but it becomes too overwhelming. He ultimately has to make a choice between erasing his memories and becoming “straight,” or not going through with the procedure and trying to find a way to make people understand who he is. As a teenager, this is a very overwhelming and confusing situation. He has support around him but not much knowledge.

I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it, praying and hoping things were going to work out for him. I desperately wanted Aaron to end up happy and feel content with who he was. I wanted him to have a revelation about being gay and how it is not something to be ashamed of scared of. But this was no Happy Ever After book. As I stated before this whole thing broke my heart.

I just wanted to be the support system that Aaron needed. I wanted him to be able to get away from the negativity in his life, to find somewhere where he was accepted but that would have made the book too neat. Everything working out perfectly, all his friends accepting him and understanding would have been too easy. This was much more like real life. I think that if everything had worked out with a smile, I would have felt cheated and annoyed. This isn’t a situation that is fixed with a few words and a handshake or hug. It takes time and it is a process and Silvera portrayed that well.

If you like science-fiction with heart you will enjoy this book. Don’t expect a light uplifting read, though. Expect a story that goes deep into your heart and will stay there leaving a lasting effect on you.

Need Something to Read This Weekend?

IsThereMore_AmazonLooking for a quick, fun and interesting read this weekend? Why not check out my book Is There More?  A short story collection with eight stories that will make you re-think the world around you. Stories that give you a different way to look at love, the books on your shelves, dating apps and more.

As one reviewer on Amazon stated: “I wasn’t sure what to expect at first… In her forward, Brittney Rz explains that she is interested in writing stories that leave her readers wondering “what else is possible.” But after my husband and I finished reading the book, I found we had often experienced the stories differently. It was a real eye-opener and conversation-starter. Very nice piece of work. Quick, easy read. Highly recommended.”

Summary: The world around us is more vast than we may believe. Look deeper. Push past the veil of reality to find out what truly lies beneath. What you will find looks a lot like the world you see everyday, but a closer look shows you how much more there is to see. It is a world where the books on your shelves have voices, and they are not happy. A world where a person can be reset as easily as a computer. Somewhere you can open your door to find a “Choose Your own Adventure,” book waiting to take complete control of your world. It is a place where you may believe you know what is possible, but looking deeper shows you just how many possibilities truly exist. Turn each page and always ask yourself, is there more?

Available through Amazon in paperback as well as e-book. Check it out!

P.S. And if you enjoy it a review would be much appreciated!

Virtual Book Fair Haul (Part 1)

IMG_1996Back at the end of February and beginning of March I particpated in a virtual book fair on Facebook. While I did not get any new sales, the exposure was great. I also found some great books as well and am very excited to read them.

(These are just four of the books that I wanted from the fair. I like physical copies of books and that can get expensive. I created an Amazon wishlist of the number of other books that I want and will be buying them little at a time. I will do a post  each time I get the new ones).


27237694Ariel Rising
– AJ & CS Sparber

This one was on my wishlist but I actually ended up winning it in one of the giveaways that took place during the fair. (Interestinly enough, though the fair was open to authors from anywhere, these authors actually live about half an hour from me. Talk about small world!)

Synposis from Amazon:

“My dreams were simple. College, a career, and let’s see what happens from there. But things don’t always go according to plan.

My name is Ari Worthington and I’ve had a very eventful week. A life-changing week. The kind of week that would make the average person whimper.

It started when my ex-boyfriend Luke accosted me in the woods.

How badly was I injured? Not a scratch. And Luke? Not so lucky. Nope, I whupped him good. It surprised the heck out of me. And it probably surprised him, too—once he woke up.

And then I met Davin. Handsome, witty, amazing Davin. Perfect in every way, unless you think being an alien, from a planet called Olympus, might be a liability.

“Seriously? Your planet is named after a Greek mountain?” I ask him.

“Actually, it’s the other way around,” he tells me. “The mountain was named after us. We’ve been visiting Earth for a very, very long time. As a matter of fact, we are responsible for human evolution.”

So, ancient aliens are real? Yeah. But there’s more. Davin’s an angel, which I could have handled, would have handled, if only he hadn’t told me I was one, too.

“But we don’t have wings,” I say.

“Real angels don’t need wings,” he counters.

“Ah, that explains everything,” I reply.

So, you think this is just another angel story? Well, it’s not. It’s got humor, romance, adventure, science, tragedy, and… did I say romance? It’ll make you think, and laugh, and cry.

Davin and I, you see, are part of a larger plan. A noble plan. A plan to save the sons and daughters of man, or what’s left of them, after the war. A big war.

Okay, enough of my rambling. Davin and I need to get back to training. And you’ve got some reading to do, yeah?”

The voice of this summary is what drew me to this book. I like the way the speaker is speaking to us as a reader. This intriqued me and makes me want to read to see where this story is going to go.

Purchase link: Buy Here

41g9iQyYFxL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_The Veiled Soul – Abbie Chandler.

This book was actuall written by the organzier of the fair. Who also has a blog here, The Little Book Nook.

Summary from Amazon:

As punishment for her past sins, Lia has served for hundreds of years as a reaper. Stripped of her soul and her memories, she exists in the reaper realm, unable to touch anything real. When the reap for a young girl’s soul goes terribly wrong, and a human killer can inexplicably see and harm her, Lia is ripped out of the reaper realm and given a second chance at life. As she forges new relationships and learns what it means to live, she regains the memories of her past, and nothing can prepare her for the damage she’s done. Old habits die hard, and Lia fights to resist the overwhelming urge to take another life. But there is an evil that lurks in the shadows. And he’ll do anything to make sure she embraces her past. The body count is rising, and Lia must make the final decision between who lives and who dies.”

I love the idea of a story about a reaper and this interesting idea of reincarnation. I think this will be an interesting story about the tug between good and evil.

Purchase link:Buy Here

51xWxGq8dsL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_B is for Broken – Edited by Rhonda Parrish

Summary from Amazon:

“Broken people, broken promises, broken dreams and broken objects are just some of the ways these 26 fantastic stories interpret the theme of ‘Broken’. From science fiction to fantasy, horror to superheroes the stories within these pages cover a vast swath of the genres under the speculative fiction umbrella. Contributing writers are: ~ Brittany Warman ~ Milo James Fowler ~ C.S. MacCath ~ Sara Cleto ~ Samantha Kymmell-Harvey ~ Megan Arkenberg ~ Gary B. Phillips ~ Alexandra Seidel ~ Jonathan C. Parrish ~ Simon Kewin ~ Beth Cato ~ Cory Cone ~ Cindy James ~ Alexis A. Hunter ~ Michael M. Jones ~ Steve Bornstein ~ BD Wilson ~ Michael Kellar ~ Damien Angelica Walters ~ Marge Simon ~ Michael Fosburg ~ Suzanne van Rooyen ~ L.S. Johnson ~ Pete Aldin ~ Gabrielle Harbowy ~ Lilah Wild ~ KV Taylor ~”

I love short story collections. I liked the theme of this collection. I am curious how many different ways broken can be interpereted.

Purchase link:Buy Here

41fsTkmTOaL._AC_UL320_SR208,320_Apocalypse Wow – Ben Mariner

Summary from Amazon:

“Jack Winters is in a bit of a pickle. Things started out just fine. He had a decent job and a few friends. Then he met the woman of his dreams. They go out on a date and things go really well. That’s when things go south. The morning after turns out to be a week later and the world went ahead and ended itself while Jack was far away in dreamland. Now he’s awake in a post-apocalyptic world with no family, no job, and worst of all, no girlfriend. Along with his friends and some other random tag-alongs, Jack will journey cross country to find the woman of his dreams against zombies, heavy metal horsemen, pirates, and a power so immense and evil it will put his very soul to the test.”

I love apocalyptic novels. This one seems like a humerous take on the idea which will be a welcome respite from the dreary ones I have been seeing and reading.

Purchase link:Buy Here

These are all by indie authors and any support is always nice and appreciated. I will be posting reviews of each of these after I have read them.

IsThereMore_AmazonAlso if you are looking for something else to read my books also available on Amazon. Print $8.99 and ebook is $3.99.  Get Is There More? Here

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles) Review

9780141340135I have been putting off reading this series for a long time. I kept hearing about it through blogs and Booktubers but it hadn’t been finished yet. I have read too many series with disappointing endings that I was afraid this would fit that bill. But then the last book came out and all I heard was positive reviews about the way the series ends. So, I finally picked up the first book and I had trouble putting it down.

Cinder (first int the series) is a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella. Cinder is a cyborg who lives in a future society. She can’t remember any of her life before the age of eleven when she was made into a cyborg. She lives with her harsh and cruel stepmother and two stepsisters. One stepsister is actually very nice and loving towards Cinder. While the other is just as mean and cruel as her stepmother.

Cinder is a well-known mechanic and one day the prince (soon to be emperor) Kai comes to her to fix one of his androids. This one meeting changes everything about Cinder’s life. She learns about her past and gets caught up in an intergalactic problem that involves the Lunars, the people who live on the moon.

The story is fast paced, there is very little downtime between events. The characters are lively and relatable.

I loved Cinder’s character. She has a sarcastic attitude which is one of my favorite character types. Cinder has not had an easy life. She believes that her parents were killed in a crash that injured her so badly she had to become a cyborg. She has been an outcast her whole life. No one wants to be around her because of her cyborg nature. She is seen as less than human, which influences her view of herself.

I wrote a post about storylines that drive me nuts, one of those being a character hiding a part of themselves from someone else because they are afraid of what will happen if they tell their secret. Usually, this storyline makes little sense and makes the character holding the secret weaker as well as the other person. But in this story it was different and I didn’t hate how it was used.

Cinder is afraid to tell Kai that she is a cyborg. All her life people have looked down on her because of this condition that she had no control over. She did not choose to become a cyborg, that was a choice made for her. No one respects her. She is seen as less than human. So her holding onto that secret makes sense. This is how she views herself. She doesn’t see herself as worthy of affection or respect. She doesn’t understand Kai’s kindness towards her. She is sure that once he learns who she is, he will run. For this story, this all makes sense. I wanted her to tell Kai everything but I understood why she didn’t.

Both Kai and Cinder are thrown into an adult life. Both have to grow up fast. Kai has to rule his people, keep them safe and try to find a cure for a plague that is destroying their lives. Cinder is thrown into a new life that she isn’t sure how to navigate.

I liked the way both of the characters were written. They don’t become rational adults right away. They have to make some huge decisions that they shouldn’t have to make at their age, but at the same time, they hold onto a youthful view of the world. Kai and Cinder both hold onto a youthful naivety about the way their lives are and should be.

Their story doesn’t wrap up neatly in this book. Everything is left hanging and I loved that. I was worried that they would finish up their story, and only be side characters in the rest of the series with no more real growth or extension of their story. But that doesn’t happen. We are left wondering what will not only happen in their lives but between the two of them. It made me go right out and buy the next book. I am eager to see how not only does the story progress but what is in store for Cinder and Kai’s characters throughout the rest of the series.

Is There More?- A short story collection on sale now!!

IsThereMore_AmazonFor a while now I have been absent from this blog and the blogging world. That is because I have been hard at work finalizing the last details of my book!! I am very excited to announce that after over a year of hard work my short story collection, Is There More? is officially available for sale.
It is a collection of stories that I have been working on for years and am very proud of. They are stories set in our modern day world but with a slight twist that makes them seem unreal yet possible at the same time. The idea of the collection is to make you think and reconsider the world around you.
Here is the blurb that appears on the back and as the summary for the collection:
             The world around us is more vast then we may believe. Look deeper. Push past the veil of reality to find out what truly lies beneath. What you will find looks a lot like the world you see everyday, but a closer look shows you how much more there is to see. It is a world where the books on your shelves have voices, and they are not happy. A world where a person can be reset as easily as a computer. Somewhere you can open your door to find a “Choose Your own Adventure,” book waiting to take complete control of your world. It is a place where you may believe you know what is possible, but looking deeper shows you just how many possibilities truly exist. Turn each page and always ask yourself, is there more?

If you enjoy fantasy stories or stories with a slight twist you will enjoy these. It is available in both e-book version as well as paperback. The e-book is $3.99 and the paperback is $8.99. Check it out on Amazon!

Also be sure to add it to your shelves on GoodReads!

Is there More?

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These are fun stories that will hopefully make you think a bit. I hope you enjoy. If you do pick it up and enjoy, mind leaving a review as well? Thank you!!

 

Maybe We can be Friends

I rubbed the ache in my chest again. My friends barely noticed, they were too busy ordering another round of drinks. They handed me a bright blue shot. I didn’t ask what was in it. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t driving and the goal was to stop thinking and not remember this evening. The plan was to black out the world for a little while and I was well on my way to accomplishing that goal.

Rachel had told me, “I’ll make sure you survive the night, so have fun.” I trusted her. I wouldn’t wake up in an alley or on someone else’s lawn. I would wake up in her bed or on her couch and that was all that mattered right now.

She knew I needed this night out. I needed to forget where I was and what had been happening over the last week. I had tried everything from binge watching mindless television to excessively working to keep myself occupied. Anything to ignore the bruises and the aches that kept appearing all over my body. If I drank until I couldn’t see straight then I could wipe this craziness from me. At least for one night.

“You still here?” I heard Rachel whisper in my ear. She was the only one I had told about what had started happening exactly a week ago.

“Half,” I told her. I reached out a hand for the bright pink drink in her hand. “Need to go over the edge.”

“Any new ones?” she asked.

“No idea, that is the point of this.” I told her. I sucked down the pink concoction. It was sickly sweet but left a burn that I would be feeling for a while. I wondered as I rubbed my chest again if he/she was feeling the same effect. I laughed to myself. After what I had endured this was nothing for them. Hell, they might even be enjoying it.

The world was starting to spin. I I had to hold onto the edges of my seat to keep myself from tipping over and landing on the ground. That is all I would need, a few extra bruises and bumps. I straightened myself and reached out for another drink.

 

The sun was so bright, like it had been set to blazing. The birds weren’t singing this morning, they were legit screeching at me. And whoever was stomping around the apartment needed to quit before I jumped up and chopped off their feet.

“Glad to see you are still with us,” It was Rachel. Did she have to scream? Couldn’t she just whisper? I waved at her and slid my head under my pillow, trying to muffle some of the chaos around me. The world muted but it was still too loud, I needed everyone to just go silent for a day.

I felt a tug at my pillow. I tried to hold on but she was much stronger then me and at a better angle. She pulled it off and the world came back at me full volume. I tried not to cry.

“Go away,” I whined.

“No,” Rachel was tapping my arm. I pulled up my head, my tangled hair falling into my face and gave her a glare. She was grinning one hand held out with a two pills on her palm. There was a glass of water on the nightstand. “Take these and come into the kitchen with me.”

“Don’t wanna,” I told her.

“Don’t care. I let you have you fun last night. I let you drink yourself into literal darkness. I understood that you needed it for one night. I put you to bed. Now you have to deal with the after affects and I get my turn to help you,” she was still tapping me. “Take them. Now.”

I groaned and sat up. I knew if I didn’t listen she would just get louder and more annoying. The woman wasn’t good with the word no, and either was I. We were probably the two most stubborn people on the planet and if we decided to battle it out we would be here for a while. I really just wanted to sleep and not to argue so I gave in.

I took the pills with the water. It was lukewarm. They went down pretty roughly making me cough.

“Come on,” she threw the covers off my legs. I saw I was still in my clothes from last night.

“What, couldn’t put any pajamas on me?” I teased her.

“You were lucky I got you into that bed. I can only perform so many miracles in a day,” she told me.

“Fair enough,” I stood up and was glad to see the world didn’t sway.

I followed her into the kitchen. On the dining room table there was McDonald’s fries and toast. I laughed to myself. She might be a stubborn bitch sometimes but she did know me well. This was why we were still friends.

I sat down and ate a handful of the fires. My stomach was already feeling calmer.

“So are we going to talk about what is going on? Or am I going to talk while you glare and groan?” she asked.

I held up two fingers. I didn’t feel like talking at the moment. All I wanted right now was food and sleep.

“Fine,” she snapped. She wasn’t even trying to hide her annoyance anymore. “Have you told anyone but me about the bruises? Does anyone else know you’ve been connected?”

I shook my head no, as I licked the salt from my fingers.

“Surprise, surprise. So what are we going to do about it?” she asked.

I shrugged. My head was still pounding and my stomach was just stopping it swaying. I had no plan for any of this and I didn’t want to try to come up with one right now. My body was in revolt and I didn’t need my brain to be freaking out as well. One problem at a time. Once the physical side of me was calm again then maybe I could jump into the emotional hurricane, but not right now.

“No shrugging at me and no more ignoring this. You have been avoiding this for a week. It is killing you. Last night you tried to literally drink it away and that worked so well. You need to go down and register, find him and work from there. You know you only get one connection and if you don’t find him you could lose him. Do you want that?” she asked me.

“What I want right now is a shower and then a nap,” I told her. “Thanks for the breakfast,” I picked up my keys and shoes. I gave her a one armed hug and headed toward the door. I was not going to argue with her when I felt like my head was going to split open.

I heard a muffled, “Dammit,” follow me out the door as I left to go home.

 

Did I really need a headache and nausea on top of everything else I had to deal with? Did she not understand the concept of being connected? What she did I felt, and vice versa. Then again I couldn’t really blame her; if this was my pay back I could deal with it.

I hissed as I laid a washcloth to my newest cut on my upper arm. It was angry red with dried blood around the edges. After a moment I pulled back the cloth and saw that much of the blood was gone. I laid a bandage over it and wrung out the cloth. I laid it over the edge of the sink and looked at myself in the mirror.

My face looked perfect. There wasn’t a cut or bruise to be seen. From just my face you would think I was happy and safe. When I met people I gave them a big and genuine smile. My voice was alway happy and pleasing. You would have no idea that from the neck down my body was a disaster.

If you saw my chest and upper legs, my shoulders and arms you would see how I really was. I kept that smile on my face to hide what was under my clothes. I had to hide it all. I couldn’t let anyone know. If they knew they would take her away and put her somewhere I couldn’t get to. They would treat me like a victim, reassuring me over and over again that it wasn’t my fault. I would get hugs and tears, pats on the backs and offers for condolences. None of which would heal the bruises, broken ribs or cuts. None of which could turn back time and keep her from losing control that one night that set flipped the switch. None of those words were going to help me fix her.

They wouldn’t understand. I didn’t stay out of fear of her. Could she kill me if she wanted to? Most likely. I have about fifty pounds on her, as well as much more muscle, but she was smart and cunning. She knew how to use what was closest, she knew how to keep me down and she knew that the last thing I would do was hurt her. She could get out of control but she was always able to pull back before she did any major damage. For her to survive, I needed to survive and she knew that.

No one else would understand and I couldn’t have her branded as evil or cruel. She was just sick and I was the only who could help her. I had a price to pay for being beside her but I knew what I was doing. I had everything under control until this damn connection came into play.

Now, not only did I have Susan and her breakdowns to deal with, but I had my supposed “soulmate’s” poor choices kicking me when I was down. I am getting pummeled from both sides and I clutched onto the sink and wondered how long I could keep this mask plastered on my face.

I expected the knock to come hours earlier. It was almost six when I heard the soft knock on the door. I didn’t act surprised when I opened it to find Rachel on the other side.

“You’re late,” I told her as way of greeting.

 

“Excuse me?” she looked confused.

“I expected you to come bug me about this hours ago,” I told her.

“I had to get something,” she came inside without invitation. I noticed the papers in her hands now.

“Oh, come on,” I whined. “Did you really go and get them? Can’t you just leave this all alone?”

“You wake up each morning with a new bruise or cut. You are my best friend, and not only do I not want to see you being hurt but someone else is obviously being destroyed as well. Do you want to lose your soulmate and end up being lonely forever? Do you want to have their possible death on your hands?” She turned and headed to the living room when I didn’t say anything.

“What are we supposed to do exactly?” Again I wasn’t in the mood to go into a stubbornness battle with her. Being used as a punching bag was getting old I did have to admit. I never actually felt the impacts, just the after effects. They came in slowly but it was definitely getting old. I was out of ideas of how to deal with this. So I guess I could listen to whatever mad idea Rachel had come up with.

“You know the basics. Every new child is injected with this serum at birth and after 23 you can become connected. One day you wake up physically feeling whatever your intended soulmate feels. They stub a toe and a few minutes later you toe is killing you. First it is just physical but it evolves to an emotional connection after a while,” She was sitting with her back against my arm chair.

I nodded. You learned about the whole process in middle school. It was all complete bullshit but I knew how the idea worked.

“Now you can go to City Hall to have them help you find your soulmate if you want. You register, they use their database and some magic I don’t understand, to find whoever it is. You find them, you both seal the connection and then you run off and live happily ever after,” she was fanning out the papers in her hands.

I sighed and waved her on. “Get on with it. I know this and I am bored.”

“Now what they never told us in school was two things. Number one, is you can actually disconnect from someone if you so desire. If you want to be alone or hate people or whatever you can disconnect and then you are free. But you can’t ever be connected again,” she looked up at me.

“Knew that. I was told that a while ago, don’t remember by who. But yeah I knew all that,” She looked a bit shocked but nodded and continued on.

“Number two, is that if you suspect abuse of your soulmate, whether from someone else or themselves, you have a legal obligation to report it,” She informed me.

“Okay but what if you aren’t sure there is abuse?” I asked her.

“You look like an abstract painting. I saw your back last night. It is a patch work of blue and purple. I think that qualifies.”

“No, it actually doesn’t,” I didn’t look down at her paper, which I was sure had a plan to fight me with. “We do not know the source of this. We could bring down cops and state officials onto someone who just can’t walk over a flat surface. Now is that fair?”

“Someone is abusing your connection!” Rachel snapped. “How can you not care? Even if you take out the connection part, do you not care about someone getting hurt!?”

“A. Do not try to label me some cold hearted bitch you doesn’t care. You know better then that. B. We don’t know anything. Maybe they are a cage fighter and lose a lot? Or maybe they are a thrill seeker and fall down hills all the time? We do not know anything for sure,” I told her.

She took a deep breath trying to calm herself. “Fine,” she pointed down at the papers. “Here are all the papers you need to have them find the person. Fill them out and find them. See for yourself what is going on. I knew you wouldn’t do this the easy way. So here,” she stood up. “I just hope you aren’t too late and I hope it doesn’t end up kill you in the process.” She turned and headed out, the door slamming behind her.

 
Susan was just finishing up putting the lid on her coffee when I came into the kitchen. She gave my a sad smile.

“How are you?” she asked quietly. I could hear the guilt in her voice. It was almost a permanent part of her personality these days.

“I’ve been better and I have been worse,” I told her. It was my usual response to the daily question.

“I’m so sorry,” she came over and wrapped her arms around my waist and kissed my cheek. I let her sink into my chest, “I’m trying,”

I winced at the pain in my head. She pulled back her eyes swimming with tears, fear evident on her face. Worried that even something this simple was hurting me.

“No, it wasn’t you,” I reassured her. “It’s my head.”

“You have a headache?” she asked gently. She walked to the counter and got me two aspirin and filled a glass of water. I took the pills with a grateful smile and swallowed them down.

“I have to get to work,” she squeezed my hand, her eyes begging me to understand and to not give up on her for just a little big longer. I nodded and watched her leave the house.

Once I was positive the car was long gone I got my own keys. I needed to get City Hall. I needed to break this connection. I knew what the decision meant. I knew that this was the end of my possible soulmate, the end of the possibility of having a perfect life handed to me on a platter. I didn’t have the time or energy to think about all I was giving up by breaking this connection. Did I believe in this concept? I didn’t know and I didn’t have the luxury to research or think it through. Susan needed me and right now that was all that mattered.

City Hall was packed today. I glanced down at my watch, it was one. Of course it was packed, it was lunch hour. Everyone here had a finite amount of time to iron out whatever drama they were dealing with and get back to the office in time to have a bite or two of their sandwich. This was going to be even more of a headache then I previously thought.

I almost left and headed back to my apartment but I remembered the anger on Rachel’s face and her accusation. It only took me about ten minutes after Rachel left to realize how much of a point she had. Yeah, whoever was my supposed soulmate was not someone I knew personally and I didn’t know what his problem was but I did know that whatever was happening was seriously starting to hurt me. After she left I got up, gathered together the papers and filled them out. They were pretty basic and were not asking me for too many details but as I was filling them out I hit my side on the counter and nearly broke down into tears. I didn’t do pain well and I needed to end this horrible ordeal and quickly.

So here I was off to see if I could find this person and figure out what was going on. I could sever the connection fully and be completely done with this forever but there was this little voice that was whispering to me. It wanted to know what was going on. So more out of curiosity than anything else I was here.

My goal was to turn the papers in, get the address and name and go find this person. I would figure out if they were just some clumsy idiot who couldn’t walk straight or if they actually needed some type of help. What I would end up doing from there I have no idea. I would pass that threshold when I got to it, right now I needed to find the main office first.

I found the elevators and hit the button. A second later the elevator arrived.

“Hold the doors, please,” I heard a man’s voice call just as the doors started to close .I held the button even though I couldn’t see who the owner of the voice was. A few seconds later a tall, brown haired stranger entered, glanced at the buttons and waited to ride the car up to the right floor.

I was only a few inches shorter then the man but the way he held himself made him seem feet not inches taller then me. I stopped leaning back on the wall and stood up straighter. He didn’t look at me or say a word. His eyes stayed trained on the numbers as the floors slid by.
We got to the fifteenth floor, the doors opened and he exited first. I followed. We both walked straight down the hall. He was quick, knew where he was going. He turned right at the last door on the end, he reached out and grabbed the door knob; as he did his arm swung out and his sleeve slid up just a few inches. I saw for half a second a bruise ring on his wrist.

He went into the room. I stopped and pulled out my own right sleeve and looked down at the bruise there. I shook my head, it was nothing. I pushed it from my mind and headed into the office.

The office was half filled. On the counter there was a ticket dispenser. I took a number, 37. They were on 31.

I glanced around and saw two seats. One in the far corner and one beside the mystery man from the elevator. I took the seat beside him.

I didn’t say anything. Just sat and crossed my legs. I made sure to act like I had no idea who he was. I watched the people around me. Two individuals stood at the counter, having a muffled conversation. While others were sitting bent over clipboards filling out some sheets, that were probably similar to the ones clutched in my hands.

Some people looked excited. They were here to get that coveted name and address. Maybe within the next hour they would be face to face with their soulmate. A soulmate supposedly found by some highly scientific process that one could even begin to explain to me. They would meet and would assume they were in love. From that very moment on they would start forcing all their actions to work with this person because they were their soulmate, so of course whatever they were doing was right. That annoying laugh you could barely tolerate was suddenly cute because they were the “one.” Need to change your style to make them happy? Sure that was fine because they are the love of your life so it was right. All those things you normally would run from screaming were suddenly bearable and perfect because they had to be. It was all ridiculous.

Others looked more sane. They were here to disconnect and get control back for themselves. They would choose who they loved, not some process that no one actually understood. Like me they didn’t automatically assume that this soulmate was their chosen one and that they would be perfectly happy after they met. They decided to think with their own brains and not their hearts. Smart people.

“Ouch,” I screeched, hand going instantly to my side where the ache came from, just as the man beside me hissed and clutched his side in the exact same spot.

I looked over and caught his eyes, they were wide in shock and fear. He quickly turned away trying to pretend nothing happened. He folded his arms across his chest causing the side of his shirt to rise a few inches. I saw the finger shaped bruise on his hip.

I pulled up my shirt and saw the exact same bruise.

“You,” I hissed at him. He rose to his feet and began to rush away, not saying a word.

“Oh no,” I said to myself. He was my man and he wasn’t getting away from me that easily. I followed behind him, keeping to his heels until he was out of the office. Once we were both clear of the door I grabbed his wrist and felt an ache go up my arm.

“Where the fuck do you think you are going?” I snapped.

He finally stopped to look at me.

“You talk?” I asked.

“My name is Zack. I’m sorry,” he said.

“Not what I was looking for but name is Samantha. Now what is going on with you?” I asked. I was not in the mood to have a long conversation full of introductions and small talk.

“Nothing. I’m sorry you are affected but it’s personal,” he said. “Let me go back in and break the connection and it will all stop.” He turned to walk around me.

I should have just let him go but something stopped me. I grabbed his arm again. Again the bruise there throbbed.

“Not until I get an answer. What is with the new coloring?” I asked. I pulled back my sleeves to show my black and blue arms. “I look like a modern art paining. Explain.”

“I can’t. I am sorry. Just let me go fix this,” he told me.

“Are you being abused?” I asked plainly. This man wasn’t going to spill his secrets to me at the moment. The only way I was going to get any type of answer was if I somehow guessed it.

“It is not that simple. She is sick. She needs me. I just have to deal,” is all he said. “Can I go in now? Please?” I let him walk in the door.

 

They were on number 35. I was next. I didn’t retake my seat. I just stood on the wall, anxiously waiting for the woman ahead of me to finish. Samantha didn’t follow me inside. I don’t know what to make of her. She was pretty but blunt. She didn’t have stars in her eye unlike so many did when they were connected. She seemed closer to Earth. If I didn’t have Susan would we get along? Could she possibly be the one?

I hit my head back against the wall. None of that mattered anymore. Maybe in another timeline we would be connected and fall into each others arms. We would be perfect but that wasn’t here and now. Now I had to break this so my decision stopped hurting her.

“36?” they called. I walked up to the window.

“How can we help you today?”
 “I need to be disconnected,” I told the lady. Her eyes instantly lost their sparkle.

“Would you like to speak to someone first? Would you like a pamphlet on the process? How long have you been connected? Have you considered every single possibility?” she asked one question after another. I was prepared for this. They wanted to make sure you completely understood what you were doing.

“I know it all. Just please let me disconnect,” in the end it was my choice and my choice only.

“Sure,” she held out a clipboard with two sheets on it. “Fill out both and bring them back here.” she sounded as if she was helping me bury someone.

“Thanks,” I turned and found the first open seat.

I was half way down the first page when someone sat down beside me.

“How sick?” the familiar voice asked. It was softer then her accusing one from the hallway.

“It is complicated,” I told her not taking my eyes off the paper.

“Well, in my experience things that are complicated are easier to deal with, with two people. Alone it can look like a mountain to tackle but with a friend maybe it is only a hill.” she said. She put her hand on my paper and I had to stop and listen to her. “This concept is all bullshit, I know that. I don’t know you and I don’t understand your problem but I know the effects of it; at least physically. I can only imagine the emotional trauma. You can’t do this alone. Now I am not saying I want to end up being carted off into the sunset with you but you are going to need some help, a friend. So put down the pen and come get a cup of coffee with me. You can explain some of it and I can make my decision from there . If it is too much for me to even think about I will walk away and you can finish filling these out. But maybe, just maybe I can help you in some fashion. Maybe I can be a friend,” she save me a small grin.

I should have politely told her no and finished my task. This was my problem and pulling in a complete stranger was cruel and potentially dangerous. Then again I was so tired. This process was starting to get exhausting. It might be nice to have a shoulder to lean on and an ear to talk to.

“One cup,” I told her. I put the board and pen on the chair. She led the way out the door. As I left I could have sworn I saw a smile thrown my way by the receptionist.