Inhuman (12)

To read from the beginning, please visit the Inhuman Page.

Sunday had proved uneventful. After a fitful night’s sleep, Amanda set to work putting her house together: hanging artwork, shelving books, organizing the kitchen and bathroom. By dinner time, she was weary and ready to put her feet up. She heated some soup and had just turned on the television when her phone rang. Nathan’s name came up on the ID. “Hello?” she answered nervously.

“Amanda, how are you settling in? The house to your liking?” he asked.

“Um, yeah. It’s great, just great.”

“Good. I called to give you instructions for coming to work tomorrow. Are you ready?”

“Yes.” As if there was an option, she thought.

“Excellent. We have a bus service dedicated to bringing our staff into the facility. That way we don’t have a lot of traffic or wasted space for parking cars. You need to walk out of your development to the main road where you will see an unmarked shelter. That is the pickup location. Be there by 8:00 sharp for your bus.”

“Alright. I’ll be there,” she replied.

“When you arrive at the facility, I will meet you and take you to Human Resources where you will be issued a photo ID badge…”

“What no retina scan?” she asked sarcastically.

He ignored the remark. “…and then I’ll take you to your department. After tomorrow you’ll be on your own. Any questions?”

She sighed. “Nathan, I have a million questions…”

“About tomorrow, Amanda,” he cut her off. “Anything else you need to ask me can wait, do you understand?”

Not safe to talk on the phone, then, she thought. “No, I guess not.”

“Good. I’ll see you in the morning,” he said and disconnected abruptly.

Amanda set the phone down and chewed her thumbnail. A bus. She wasn’t the only agency employee in town, then. It made sense. She had checked the area on the map and saw that besides Makepeace, there were no other towns within ten miles, just a few isolated farms and a truck stop out on the interstate. Wouldn’t a bus service attract attention, though? The rest of the people in town surely would wonder about it, wouldn’t they? There must be some sort of cover story… Just one more question to add to the list.

Despite her exhaustion, apprehension kept her tossing and turning all night. In the morning, she showered and dressed on autopilot. Then, after coffee and cereal, she made the short walk to the bus stop. Three other people were already waiting. She pasted on a smile and said hello. They all returned the greeting but when Amanda looked away, she immediately felt their eyes on her again. She stared at her phone and checked her email to avoid the stares. The bus arrived exactly on time and as the passengers all boarded, they quietly acknowledged the driver and found seats. Amanda sat next to a woman who appeared to be in her late forties or early fifties, reading a paperback novel. In fact, everyone on the bus seemed to be middle aged or older. I’m so much younger, she thought. Maybe that’s why they’re all staring.

The bus made its journey not out to the main road, but along a narrow, winding country road which eventually left all signs of civilization behind. Not long after leaving the town, a chain link fence perimeter, marked with warning signs for the hazards of the underground coal fire beyond, appeared along the right side of the road. When the bus stopped, there was no evidence whatsoever of the sprawling facility beneath their feet. Unsure what else to do, Amanda rose and followed the other passengers exiting the bus. They swiftly and wordlessly hurried toward a small, dilapidated building just outside the fence, which must have once been a storage shed or garage for the mine. Amanda followed at the end of the line. Once inside the building, she found Nathan waiting for her. Relieved, she squeezed through the crowd to his side.

“Amanda, good to see you,” he said. “All’s well so far?”

“I suppose. Except I feel like everyone is watching me,” she replied.

He gestured for her to walk with him. “Hm, well, considering we haven’t had a new employee join the team in over ten years…”

“You’re kidding. Isn’t there any turnover? People retiring? That kind of thing?”

“Not yet. The original staff and support personnel are aging, but this program is new enough that no one has retired yet.” They joined a queue of people at the back of the building. Amanda couldn’t tell what was happening at the front, but the line steadily moved forward.

“And no one just decides to leave? To find a new job elsewhere?” Amanda lowered her voice. “Or isn’t anyone allowed to leave?”

Nathan frowned. “It’s a situation we have yet to encounter. The doctor is the first person who demonstrated a desire to leave. Anyone else who may want to go has kept it to themselves,” he said quietly. Then looking at her out of the corner of his eye, he added, “So far.”

When the line of people had dwindled to just a few, Amanda was able to see that one by one, the employees were being retina scanned at a panel discreetly camouflaged as an intercom. As the employees were cleared, a hidden door opened and closed behind them. After everyone had passed through and she and Nathan were the last ones left, he stepped forward to be scanned and pulled Amanda close to his side. “We’ve got to go through together, Amanda. It might be a tight squeeze.”

As the door opened, Nathan stepped in and pulled Amanda into his arms. Amanda gasped as she was pressed up against his body and the floor seemed to drop beneath their feet.

The Writers Tag

I’ve been tagged by fellow author, GJ Stevens, to participate in a tag for writers to get to know one another. GJ is releasing his first novel this month so be sure to visit his blog and read all about it. The tag was created by Lorraine Ambers and Ari Meghlen for writers to connect with one another and help expand this lovely writing community. We are asked 12 questions and encouraged to tag other writers. As always, no obligation on any of my nominees. Here are my answers and my nominees:

Name one novel that inspired you to write. 

I can’t say there is one novel which inspired me to write, but there are quite a few novels that I would aspire to write. My current work in progress is historical fiction set partly in the time of World War I and partly in modern day. An author who manages to slip seamlessly between time periods in her books in Kate Morton, so I will choose her novel The Forgotten Garden as a book that inspires me.

What’s your favorite genre to read and to write?

I read avidly and across many genres. I’m writing historical fiction AND science fiction at the moment, but I suppose the genre I find myself reading most frequently are mysteries/detective stories. And as a result, four of my five published novels are mysteries.

Do you prefer to write stand alone or series?

Thus far, my published novels are a series. The Bucks County Novels are romantic suspense stories set in the region of Pennsylvania where I live. These five books have repeating characters but each plot focuses on a different one. It was a great deal of fun to include local restaurants, bars and other businesses in the books as well as being able to send the characters to the city of Philadelphia which is only about an hour away. I am not entirely sure whether I will continue the series because of the other projects I have going, but I won’t rule it out.

Use three words to describe yourself:

Curious. Adventurous. Distracted.

Reveal your WIP aesthetics or an image that represents your main character or setting.

This a a collection of art and photography (some of it my own) that represents the historical novel I’m working on.

How long did your first manuscript take you to draft?

I worked relentlessly on my first novel. I think I finished it in about six months. However, the first draft was only one of many versions of that novel. I revised it again last year and republished it as a second edition. AND it totally paid off – Three Empty Frames won the Writers Digest first place award for mainstream fiction in 2017.

Who is your author idol?

It’s a tie between Jonathan Kellerman and John Grisham. Both these writers have been writing for decades and their books are consistently good. That’s not to say that having just one good novel in you is a bad thing, but I’d love to have a lengthy novel writing career like these two guys.

Share a writing memory that made you determined to carry on.

Getting positive feedback from an independent source is definitely a strong motivator. Your parents or your spouse are pretty likely to be biased in their support for you, but when a total stranger loves your work, that is really validating.

Tell us something surprising or unique about yourself.

Tough question. Despite being friendly and rather outgoing on my blog, I really am a pretty private person. I keep a lot of things locked tightly inside my head.

Share the hardest part about being a writer and how you overcame it.

I think this is something many writers can relate to: having people ‘read into’ what you are writing. In other words, people thinking maybe you based a character on them, or a scenario you’ve written hits a little close to the truth and they assume you (the writer) feel the same way the character does. Borrowing from real life to write fiction is not a direct progression but sometimes it isn’t easy to convince the people who read it. How to overcome it? Add a disclaimer and remind everyone that an author can write about serial killers without having a basement full of bodies!

What’s your favorite social media and why? Share your link.

Not a huge fan. Social media is, however, a necessary evil for authors hoping to get noticed. I have a Facebook Author Page, a LinkedIn account and a Google+ account —all of which I have linked to my blog but mostly ignore. I have a private Instagram and I mostly ignore that too, at least for sharing my own stuff. Do you really want to see what I had for dinner? But it is a nice way to keep in touch with friends who are far away.

Share some uplifting wisdom in six words or less.

Carry a notebook, inspiration is sneaky.

I nominate the following writers:

I understand that we’re all busy with writing and probably with a day job too, so if this is extra task is too much, I completely understand! But if you can, I’d love to hear your answers to the questions.

Sandra – What Sandra Thinks

Darnell Cureton

Rebecca Moon Ruark  – Rustbeltgirl

Tom Austin – abitsa

Andrick Schall

Instructions:

 Post the Tag and Image (see above) on your blog.

 Thank whoever nominated you and give a link back to their blog.

 Mention the creators of the tag and link back to their blogs.

 Answer the 12 questions.

 Nominate 6+ bloggers and notify your nominees by commenting on their blogs. (Optional!)