Here lies Susan Dharma
“Well, Sue, I finally came to see you. And this time I’m not an utter mess.”
Although I had been at the funeral, the drugs they had given me at the Wona asylum had numbed me to the grief and left me a bumbling, wheelchair-bound fool. This was the first time I had visited the grave while fully lucid, and the guilt that it had taken me this long to give her a proper farewell dug at my heart. I tried to come up with something to say, but it was hard knowing she wouldn’t be able to hear me.
My mother had driven me to the graveyard today. It was a warm day, and she had offered to come with me to the grave for moral support and physical support if I needed it. She had never really stopped worrying about me after my month-long paralysis, no matter how many times I showed her I was fine to walk on my own now, so I requested she wait in the car. I was now glad I had because I was doing this all wrong. My lips weren’t trembling, my forehead wasn’t creased, and tears weren’t spilling down my cheeks like they were supposed to. The grief was coming out in another way. Anger tightened the cords in my neck until I felt like my skull was going to pop off.
“You were just a pawn!” I spat in my sudden fury. “Just another piece that Malcolm could shift so he could have his revenge. Now I’m the leader of Catastrophe and trying to prevent that. And here I was, just a few weeks ago, trying to avenge you by taking them out! The irony makes me want to puke!”
I was panting now, trying to keep it contained, hoping that no one else could hear me. The graveyard had been empty when I had arrived, but no doubt there was some old widow here now, updating her deceased husband on the latest gossip, and here I was having a tantrum like a child.
It didn’t matter. I needed to get this out.
“Now it turns out he’s achieved immortality. No one knows how, and on the very game you were trying to get pulled! You call that fair?” I exhaled heavily and forced a smile. “But that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few months, working with Windsor and trying to figure out how he did it. And once I find out, I’m going to destroy whatever’s left of him.”
The sun went behind a cloud, leaving me in shadow.
“I’m also helping this girl, Chloe. Her brother went missing a few years back, and we’ve been trying to track him through the game, but we haven’t had much luck. After what I did to find you in there, I can understand how she feels. I don’t think she’s deluding herself like I was, though. We met him, heard his voice, and . . .”
How would Sue have felt if she knew that Chloe and I were in a relationship less than a year after she had passed on? Knowing Sue, the fact that I worked as a gamer for Wona would have been enough to make her upset. But I had been playing for her . . .at first, anyway. After Samuel—or Sirswift, as he had been known in-game—was given twenty years in prison for assisting in her murder, it no longer felt like I was playing it for her sake.
“Murders, betrayals, kidnappings, and a ghost in the game. That’s what my life’s been like since you died. After everything that’s changed, it kind of feels like I died myself in that crash, but then if I had I would be with you and, well . . .”
I shook my head and turned to leave.
amazon.com/author/eawicklund Christopher Keene.
Q1: What drew you to write science fiction rather than any other genre?
The speculative nature of worlds, technologies and futures based in science allowed me to explore fantastic yet grounded ways to put characters into interesting situations and conflicts. I like fantasy as well, though I feel science fiction sometimes creates more tangible and relatable worlds through a general since of technological progression, or at least the illusion of one.
Q2: If you could bring one thing from your book into the real world what would it be?
The Dream Engine, a device that can read and simulate your thoughts as visual actions in an operating system connected to the internet, allowing people to use it to record dreams and play games while wearing it. It’s similar to VR game, only it avoids the pitfalls of physical movement as you don’t have to worry about walking into walls or hitting a bookshelves when you’re in a dream.
Q3: What is your inspirational beverage of choice when writing?
I generally get most of my inspiration before I start writing, which can be almost anything from a conversation I’ve had with friends to other media to, rather ironically given the title of the series, dreams. Beverage, though? Probably chocolate milk, as I get a lot of ideas when going for long walks to the shop to get a carton between writing sessions.
Growing up in the small town of Timaru, New Zealand, Christopher Keene broke the family trend of becoming an accountant by becoming a writer instead. While studying for his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Canterbury, he took the school’s creative writing course in the hopes of someday seeing his own book on the shelf in his favorite bookstores. He is now the published author of the Dream State Saga, as well as his new epic fantasy audiobook, Gods of the Mountain. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter or his own website.