This week’s Sample Sunday comes from my latest short-story release – Silhouette – a 6,000 word sci-fi thriller about a scientist who makes a groundbreaking discovery of how to travel through time. But, he keeps on bumping into the same suspicious silhouetted figure at each of his former memories. What is the silhouette, and what does it mean?
I’ve provided the first section of the story below, so you can see what it’s like for yourself. If you do find yourself enjoying it, you can purchase the full story from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk for just 99c/99p.
I launched the story on Wednesday, and soon after, it shot into the Top 100 of Short Stories.
Brian paced along the corridor, gripping his suitcase. The steel beneath his feet echoed around the room. He looked over his shoulder to see if anyone else was around, but it was late. The people who were there were like him—busy, working away on something they shouldn’t be. Looking over their own shoulders, trying to keep whatever discovery they thought they had found to themselves.
Bob Birch claimed he’d found a cure for cancer once. He only had a little bit of the solution, but it would have been enough to prove to the world that cancer was curable. What did he do? He took it home and injected his tumour-ridden pet mouse with it.
The mouse’s tumours vanished within days. Rumours spread of a mutant mouse which terrorised Bob and kept him in check. Clearly, the pressure got to Bob—he threw himself into the nearby river just months later.
Brian fiddled away at the front pocket of his lab coat, the sharp edges of his keycard digging into his fingertips. A little smile grew across his mouth, which he wiped away with his hand. A cure for cancer. This was much, much bigger than a cure for cancer. He looked up at the vast, man-made wonder that was TCorps Labs.
TCorps used to be nothing more than another pharmaceutical company, struggling to break even. Unofficially, the biggest product was the flu tablet, but in reality, the brickdust and rat-shit filled penis enlargement supplements went down a treat. Sure, TCorps’ hands were dirty, but which leading pharmaceutical company’s hands weren’t?
That was until 2042, and the discovery of the medicinal benefits within micro particle accelerators. People were living longer. The discovery of the Adam particle and its undisputed potential brought in considerable profits. Flu tablets were replaced by particle exposure. Brian didn’t fully understand why it worked. Did anybody? It seemed to work, and that was all that mattered.
Brian pulled his keycard out of his lab coat pocket and took a deep breath, swiping into his private office area. The suitcase in his other hand was damp around the handle, as he tightened his fingers against it. He couldn’t let it go. Nobody else could see what he had seen—at least, not yet.
The office door opened, and he scurried in, checking one last time that no-one had been watching him. Just the janitor, and a tall man with ginger hair in the distance, looking similarly shifty as he smuggled something into his office under his jacket. Brian shut the door, flicking the extra lock across it, to be on the safe side. He dropped his case onto the table. It began to wobble at either side. He flung his arm to the other side of the case to support it. How stupid! He couldn’t let himself become complacent, not now. All that effort and all that work, wasted—no. He couldn’t bear to think about it. He bit hard against his lip.
Brian stared at the suitcase as it sat on the table. It felt as if it were staring back at him, its greying leather and dulling gold clips so… constant. He’d had that case for years, stuffed away under his wife’s many shoes and handbags. Now, though, it had meaning. It looked relevant. Brian took a peek outside the metallic blinds once more to check the area was clear, then paced over to the suitcase and began to open it. His fingers shook, and he felt giddiness in his stomach again. If this worked, which it should, then it was huge. He would tell someone about it, probably sometime soon, but he needed to see it for himself first. There was nothing wrong with that.
The case rattled open as Brian applied gentle force to each side. His stomach steadied as he saw the capsule inside. It was only small, perhaps as small as a child’s little finger, but it was enough. His heart began to pick up in pace as he reached into the suitcase and pulled the capsule from its position, being careful not to rattle it or shake it too hard.
He stared at it for a moment. Everything had led to this. He licked his lips in anticipation.
Brian walked over to his particle machine. Rubbing his hands down the interior, he thought about all the things he had put in there over the years. Mice, rabbits—even a monkey. Never himself. He couldn’t ever know what was going to happen, or whether he’d make it back, but he had to try.
He clicked the power button at the side of the machine and wandered back and forth around the room as it warmed up. The familiar whirring would not turn any heads, especially with the soundtrack of the generator in the main corridor. But it’d be typical for someone to walk in, the one time he was actually doing something of value. Karma, or whatever they used to call it.
Brian began to put his clunky grey protection gear on, complete with gloves. He looked like an idiot, but nobody would notice him anyway, if he’d programmed the solution correctly. Pulling the St. Christopher medallion from around his neck and emptying his pockets, he spotted the hologram of Cindy and his kid, Roger, on the screen of his phone. Staring at them, he thought back to that day in the park, with the sunshine. Those were nice days.
He stroked their faces and put his phone to one side. They’d be so proud of him.
When the machine whirred at full pace and a blue light beamed vertically through the centre, he lifted the lid of the little metal capsule and sprinkled a bit of the dust onto his thick glove. Then, he reached towards the machine, being cautious not to make contact with the light, and let the substance drop from his hand. It began to fall to the bottom of the machine, before taking flight like a team of helium balloons towards the sky. Seconds later, the dust was barely visible. Brian took another deep breath, and readied himself.
He didn’t remember feeling much as he stepped inside the chamber. It tingled a little at first, and made his hands feel a bit wobbly. He started to shake as his head felt light. He gripped the sides, but his fingers slid away underneath the warmth of the grey protective suit. Sweat started to drip down his face. He wanted to get out, and get back to his family, and…
The next thing he knew, he was lying on his back, staring up at the perfect blue sky.
Could it be?
He pulled himself to his feet. His body felt strange, like he was a sort of silhouette of himself. He looked around. There was grass, and people gathered in suits and dresses, smiling and cheering. A church sat in the background.
The church he was married in. The happiest day of his life.
Brian laughed, and dropped to his knees. He rolled onto his back and put the thick gloves across his head.
‘Oh my God… oh my God,’ he said.
He spent a few moments on his back, then jolted upright again. His arm shook, like a hologram. People were close by, but instead of looking at him, they looked through him.
It had worked. He’d done it.
His arms rattled now. Not the way they did when he was waiting for test results, or making a major discovery, but as they did when a dream was falling apart. He knew that he was there… but he wasn’t. He needed a bigger dose.
That’s when he saw himself, in the distance, showered with confetti as he left the church, Cindy on his arm. He looked so happy and handsome in the glare of the sun. Damn, he even looked skinny. Not even a beard in sight. How twelve years changed things. Brian felt a lump in his throat as he watched himself wave at the crowd and head towards the black limo. He felt pride again. He wanted to tell everyone about what he had discovered, about how right he was about everything, but he couldn’t yet.
He had to get back first.
His arm flashed and jolted more. He began to feel a little dizzy as his knees gave way underneath him and he fell to the floor. He looked up again. If this was the last thing he ever saw, then he was content. He tried to arch his neck upwards to catch one last glance of the majestic church, the shower of confetti, and the sky as blue as Cindy’s eyes.
That’s when he saw something unusual.
A grey silhouette, stood behind the crowd, peeking through the gap in the open church door. Who was this? Brian tried to pull himself to his feet, but he sunk back towards the ground, like a rock at the bottom of the sea. Why was he watching, and why was he hiding? Did it matter?
The grey silhouette disappeared, and Brian felt himself melt into the ground beneath him, like an ice cube in the sun.
If you want to check out another my releases, I have a sample from another short story here.
UPDATE: Silhouette will be free on Amazon from Wednesday 21st November to Friday 23rd November. Please spread the word via Twitter, Facebook and email.