After letting it simmer on the back burner for a couple of years, I've finally gotten around to writing my paranormal novella. It's called Chasing Omega, and it will be out in ebook form before long.
The 30,000 word story explores Dan Brown territory - people on the run, uncovering facts about a conspiracy. Along the way, there's a fair amount of expository dialogue laying out the basics of the empirical case for postmortem survival - NDEs, mediumship, etc. There's also some stuff about the nature of reality, which gets into the ever-controversial notion of the universe as the rendered output of an information processing system. In short, there's something to annoy just about everyone.
I've created an online bibliography for the book, which gives a pretty good idea of the topics covered (as well as some that aren't, like reincarnation). Note that most of these subjects are addressed very briefly in the story, since a full presentation would be impossible in a short novel. Though it's somewhat top-heavy with exposition, it's still essentially a thriller, and I have to keep the pace moving.
I'll put up an announcement when Chasing Omega goes on sale, but for now, here's a look at an early mockup of the cover (with original artwork by my friend Reenie Price) and a preview of the first scene.
“Do you believe in life after death?”
The question took me by surprise. It didn’t seem to track with anything we’d been talking about.
“I don’t know,” I said, tightening my grip on the steering wheel. “Haven’t really thought about it.”
She turned in the passenger seat and fixed me with a stare. “Everybody’s thought about it.”
That was true, I supposed. And the fact was, I had thought about it–thought about it too much in the past two years. But I didn’t see why it was any business of hers.
I’d picked her up twenty minutes earlier on a desolate desert highway midway between Tucson and the Mexican border. Unusual to see a woman hitching alone, and even more unusual when it was after 2:00 AM in the middle of nowhere. She looked scuffed up and careworn and haunted. She had no handbag, only a leather satchel that she gripped close to her chest. She was dressed in a sort of white pantsuit that didn’t flatter her, her skin was pale, and even her hair was white, or silver-gray anyhow. Prematurely so–she couldn’t have been more than forty. My age, for what that’s worth.
The only thing I wasn’t sure about were her eyes. Green, maybe–or gray. In the chancy light, I couldn’t tell.
Something about the way she’d materialized out of the moonlight appealed to me on a visceral level. From a distance she was almost more wraith than woman. Up close she was real enough. Her name, she said, was Claire–just Claire–and she was nervous. Throughout our ride she’d kept her head down while glancing slyly in the side-view mirror, trying to be inconspicuous as she scanned the road behind us.
I’d kept the conversation going, talking about nothing in particular, as we sped west with the top down, the warm sandpapery wind scrubbing our faces. My car was a 1962 Rambler American with a long-ago rebuilt engine, and nothing about it was cherry except the color. I’d picked it up three years ago from a friend who had put a hundred thousand miles on the new engine, and since then I’d added nearly another hundred thousand myself. The damn thing still started up every time I turned the key, a fact that never stopped taking me by surprise.
Our talk had been safely meaningless until she suddenly went all metaphysical on me. Which is where you came in when I started my little story, like Homer, in medias res.
Yeah, that’s right. Latin. I have unexpected depths.
She was still staring at me, waiting for a better answer.
“All right,” I said, “if you want to know … I think it’s crap. When you’re gone, you’re gone. Lights out. Food for worms and beetles.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“The same way I know about Santa Claus, or those Nigerian princes who want to transfer a million dollars to my bank account. Anything that sounds too good to be true is a lie.”
“That’s the answer a lot of people would give. But not all of them would be so angry about it.”
Was I angry? I decided I was. “I don’t like people who give false hope. Who prey on weakness. Like those phony psychics who claim they can get your dear departed on the line–for a fee. It’s cruel and … and stupid. I don’t know which part bothers me more. Probably the stupidity. Cruelty I almost understand. Stupidity just pisses me off.”
She was quiet after that.
I wondered why it mattered to her. It wasn’t a subject I wanted to pursue.
But when I looked at her again, she was still watching me with that vaguely disappointed, vaguely challenging stare.
“How about you?” I asked reluctantly. “Do you believe?”
“No, I don’t believe. I know.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. So I let the road speak for me with its endless low-octave hum.
“You’re awfully quiet all of a sudden,” she said.
“That afterlife stuff is kind of a conversation stopper. Why’d you bring it up?”
“Because there’s a car following us. The people in the car are after me. And it all has to do with life after death.”