The crowd gathers in the bustling town square of the seaport city of Pharsis. You meander your way through the groups of passengers holding your satchel close to your body. After a few days of not being able to steal anything you were going to make certain to gather more evidence against Tasha and Dalton's secret cruise. They may try to wipe your mind after the cruise is over but you'll have the items you stole and your journal to remind you of the truth. Tasha and Dalton were manipulating people's minds so the people would create literary and artist works based on their experiences. Only thing was the people would think it was something they had created not something they had experienced. You know this secret project came out of the great need to preserve art in America. After all, the arts were in constant danger of extinction in the United States. Creativity just wasn't something valued by schools and politicians. But still to go to such lengths as to create doppelgangers so that the real participants could enjoy the cruise without losing their jobs and to make certain the participants forgot they were even on the cruise to begin with after the cruise was over. That was way too much. You wonder just how long had Tasha and Dalton been working with the United States military to create this little scenario.
You jump as someone places their hand on your shoulder. You turned around. Tasha stands before you. "I wanted to thank you for finding the thief," she says lowering her hand.
"Are you certain that soldier you killed was the only one?"
The only one? Hadn't you set up that situation perfectly in Scotland. Why would Tasha be asking that unless she had valued reasons to suspect something else.
"I'm sure. Why?"
"I just want to make certain. I would hate to have some piece of a zombie show up in the United States."
"I doubt that will happen." You know that won't happen because that trip scared the living heck out of you. "Tasha, there hasn't been any other incidents, has there?"
"No, but not all of the items stolen have been located. We check that soldier's quarters after we got rid of the body. The room was clean and we've questioned her unit. She was an upstanding soldier with no need to steal. Served five tours with us already with no incidents. It just doesn't make sense for her to start stealing when she could have done so long time ago."
"Do the soldiers have their minds wiped after the cruise?"
"Never. I need them to remember everything in case there are complications. They don't live on a base. They live on the ship. Every soldier on this ship has been declared missing in action"
"Because this ship does more than give cruises. You know the crew numbers and how many MIA there are listed in the United States. Do the math."
You think for a moment. "More than 83,000 if you count from World War II to the 1991 Iraq War," you answer.
"I have plenty of people to chose from. I have 1,000 crew members not counting the standing unit of 600 army soldiers and 600 navy sailors. Everyone on works on this ship is from those missing. They are exclusively selected for the duties they hold. Now I have one dead soldier that need to be replaced."
"How do you get them?"
"Time travel. How else?" Tasha taps you on the arm. "I could just recruit you."
"Oh, no. I'm retired, remember?"
"Give it a thought. I could make it worth your while." Tasha chimes then walks away from you. She starts to gather everyone to welcome the next tour guide. You stand bewildered and confused. What else isn't Tasha telling you?
|Harbor Cottages by crabchick|
Can you smell it? No? You will. The scent and stench of the great city of Pharsis will creep across the water, until suddenly you are aware of it. It will grow until it drowns the sea.
The distinctive scents of the different quarters will bustle against each other, all competing for your attention. The flower markets of the eastern quarter, where I buy the raw ingredients of my trade. The butchers’ quarter with its shops and slaughterhouses and the stench of animals in their terror. The sharp smell of metalworkers’ lanes, with the rhythm of hammers on warm copper. And of course the richness of the Carnival Road, the spices of the world gathered in hessian bags. My own road, the Carnival Road, a place of elaborate perfumes.
If you focus you will detect the heart and base notes of daily life: the brown aroma of baking, the creamy yellow of newly washed linen in the sun, woodsmoke from a million stoves in as many homes. And above it all the stench of millions, labouring, loving and dying
Now you smell it. Ah yes, that smell of frying fish. When we get into harbour you will see crowds gathered around the small boats moored at the quayside. Each boat has a pan of boiling oil, swaying from metal chains over a large charcoal burner. The fish is so fresh that it might leap out of the frying pan into the sea and swim away. Whenever I return from my journeys I buy a portion and eat it with my fingers, watching the big ships come and go. It is this last scent that tells me I am home. Join me in my feast.
When we have picked the bones clean and fed the fishheads to the gulls, I will lead you up one of the many roads that lead from the port to Pharsis, overtaking the sweating carthorses labouring up the city’s steep hills and the donkeys piled so high with sacks that their height is doubled.
We have a choice of many roads, all with secrets. One leads to the university, sitting within its brilliant white walls and looking down at the city, but I will not take you there. It is not for the likes of me. I will not get past its gates - as a woman I can only enter as a servant. So if the men in the party wish to visit they must find an official guide. Make sure you dress as men of money and leisure. A working man has as little chance of entering as I.
But why would you wish to go there, when there is so much to see in Pharsis? Even I haven’t seen it all yet. Pharsis is not so much an anthill as a multitude of anthills, each with its queen, workers and drones. We keep to our own, seldom venturing into the other nests, following well worn tracks. But for you I will do my best and show you what I can. There are areas which you will not wish to visit, unless you are the type of tourist who likes to gape at the poor, in which case get yourself another guide.
Who is Zoe Brooks?
Zoe Brooks is a British writer and poet, who spends half her life in a partly restored old farmhouse in the Czech Republic, where she writes all her novels and poetry. She aims to write popular books, which have complex characters and themes that get under the reader's skin.
Your tour guide is Judith the central character and narrator of the books in The Healer's Shadow trilogy. The second book in the trilogy Love of Shadows is published on Amazon as well.
Zoe's books can be found on http://www.amazon.com/Zoe-Brooks/e/B0034P3TDS/ & http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoe-Brooks/e/B0034P3TDS/
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Do you want to win a copy of Zoe's Book? Just leave her a comment below. The winner will be announced on December 23rd.