Here is the seventeenth droplet of my novel Biotime. We complete Chapter 3 of the novel, introducing Jake Moonrath and his sister Life Sample in California, and begin Chapter 4, featuring Sue Phu and her daughter Last Chance, on the Mekong.
The ride speeds up.
Don’t forget the “story so far” page, bringing together the excerpts published up to now.
Santa Monica, California, 1979 – Photo Robert Pimm
[Chapter 3 continues]
Jake said nothing. She could feel him scanning her face. ‘Maybe.’ His fingers closed around the note. ‘But ‘Time’s still over three million dollars a gram. I don’t call that a crisis.’
‘Depends how you define a crisis.’ Life Sample could feel her heart racing. ‘Are you through? I hate it in here.’
‘I’m good.’ Jake turned to the guard opposite. ‘I’m going to stand, and kiss my parents.’
‘Please keep your hands behind your back at all times,’ the guard said.
Life Sample watched Jake move to the viewing platform. His mouth was working. Jake liked to pretend he lived for his work. But to see her brother’s eyes glisten on his weekly visit to their lost parents was a reminder of why she had been right to trust him with her secret.
He bent to kiss their mother. Mary Moonrath’s nakedness emphasised her vulnerability. Her hair was grey. But there were still traces of the beauty who’d tried to make it in Hollywood thirty years ago. Their father’s once-muscular chest was beginning to slacken. His lips were curled in a faint smile, as if he recognised the absurdity of his situation. Jake touched his lips to the plastic-covered forehead. He had once told Life Sample he could feel the warmth of their parents’ bodies through the protective contribution envelopes. The thought made her nauseous.
Jake stood. ‘Let’s go,’ he said. ‘It’s termination time.’
Life Sample nodded. ‘Jake, I know it’s hard being a little brother to a big sister. But what if your whole life’s a crime?’
Jake paused in the doorway. ‘It’s not me who’s fantasising about the end of the so-called Biotime Oppression.’
‘Holo me.’ She thought of the surveillance equipment, recording their every word. ‘I’ll be in Kansas.’
‘Sure.’ For a moment, he smiled. ‘And remember. You don’t know everything about me. Don’t ask me how I know the Biotime Oppression is a myth. But trust me. I know.’
EXTREME SUFFERING JUSTIFIES EXTREME MEASURES
One Life Army atrocity verification code
Sue Phu looked out at the rain and sighed. Three days into her confinement and still no sign of a break in the weather. From her front door the Mekong stretched, shimmering in the downpour. What kind of welcome was this for the new baby? Between her breasts a drop of sweat rolled down, a cool tickle which melted into warmth where her swollen belly rose against her dress. She yelled to her daughter, Last Chance.
‘Last Chance! Is the water still hot?’
‘Come and try it.’
Last Chance was crouched over an open fire in the corner of the hut, watching steam rise from a cauldron. She had helped deliver two of her mother’s children. The first time, the water had been too cold and Sue Phu had nearly died. Water-borne hepatitis, the man in the boat had said when he came for the baby. Neither Sue Phu nor Last Chance had dissented. No-one argued with the man in the boat.
The man had left lucky charms after that, to help Sue Phu. Now they had glass bottles full of powder to sprinkle around the hut; pills to swallow before and after the stud-boys came; and red pellets which fizzed and boiled in the river water Sue Phu and Last Chance drank when the bottles they bought from the supply boat were all empty.
Sue Phu stepped into the hut, touching the metal box over the door for luck. The box was smooth and cool; the man in the boat brought one whenever a woman in the village bled for the first time. A black dish on the roof stored up the sun in the box and shone it out during the night, from a glass eye on the front. The man in the boat said the box helped him know if Sue Phu needed anything.
Sue Phu had mixed feelings about the man in the boat. He never bargained. The prices he paid were falling. Sue Phu had even toyed with the thought of keeping the new baby. But she couldn’t afford it. It was good that the man in the boat supplied for free the stud-boys without whom nothing would have been possible. All the women were serviced thus. There were no other fathers to be had.
Not since the time of Sue Phu’s great-grandmother had men lived in the village. What had happened to them was a subject of dispute. Some said the Americans had killed them when they lost the great war, long ago. Others said the invaders had taken the men with them to work as slaves. Some of the younger women said men had never lived in the village. How could they, when the man in the boat took every male child away with him? The man in the boat, when people dared to ask him, smiled and said nothing.
[Excerpt ends][Next excerpt]
I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from my novel “Biotime”. If you’re interested in hearing about further episodes, follow this blog by e-mail (top right, “click here”); or follow me on Twitter @RobertPimm (left hand side). I can promise you a fun ride.
If you’d like to read some complete fiction by me, see what you think of my “wonderful, feminist and dark” Hotel Stories.