Whistler s Murder
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187 pages

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Elizabeth Oliver is a travel writer who somehow gets drawn into a mystery each time she is researching an article for a travel magazine. In Whistler's Murder Elizabeth Oliver has tagged along with her best friend Sally Matthews to Whistler where Sally is attending a science fiction/fantasy writing retreat. Of course, Elizabeth's penchant for falling over bodies and discovering murders has followed her to Whistler as well.



Publié par
Date de parution 13 juin 2014
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781773627533
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0032€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Whistler’s Murder
By Joan Yarmey
Digital ISBNs
EPUB 978-1-77362-753-3
Kindle 978-1-926965-95-6
WEB 978-1-77362-754-0
Amazon Print 978-1-77362-755-7

Copyright 2014 by Joan Yarmey
Cover art by Michelle Lee
All rights reserved. Withoutlimiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of thispublication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into aretrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means(electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise)without the prior written permission of both the copyright ownerand the above publisher of this book.
The woman stood near theclimbing wall, waiting, listening. The dim light from the buildinga short distance away shone faintly making the dark even darker.She was quickly regretting that she had been talked into meeting atthis time of night. She should have insisted on a better lit placeor even scheduled it for during the day. She realized now that theydidn’t have to do all their catching up in oneday . They had years ahead of them forgetting to know each other.
She heard a noise and turnedquickly, her heart skipping a beat. She peered into the darknessand waited but no one stepped up to her. No one called “Hi” givingher a feeling of relief. She looked at her watch to see what timeit was. They were supposed to meet at eleven-fifteen and she knewshe had gotten here early but it felt like she had been waitinghalf an hour. According to her watch she’d only been here fifteenminutes. She pulled her cell phone out of her purse and checked thetime on it. Yes, fifteen minutes.
She stepped to the side of thewall and leaned her back against it. This put her into the darknessas well as giving her only three directions to watch. She had noreason to be afraid of the person she was meeting but she did fearthe bears and other nocturnal animals that could be roaming around.She had been warned to keep to the known areas during the day andto make noise if she did go into the bush. No one had said what todo at night.
Another noise and shetried to pinpoint where it came from and what may have made it. Wasit someone walking, an animal prowling? Should she call out lettingwhoever or whatever it was know she was there? It felt better toremain quiet although her stomach was churning and her handssweating. She was sure that if it was her sister , she would have come up to her by now.
Which made her wonder, where washer sister? After all, she was the one who had wanted to meet hereand at this time, claiming she wanted so badly to have a longtalk.
Maybe her sister was runninglate or something had happened but if that were true, why hadn’tshe called to tell her?
A rattling sound like pebblesbeing rolled across concrete to her right. What could have causedthat? It hadn’t sounded natural but then she wasn’t from here anddidn’t know what natural was.
Her fear was getting the best ofher and she wanted to head back to her room. She wanted to get intothe light, where she could see what was around her. She knew shewasn’t supposed to run if she encountered a bear during the day butshe wasn’t sure what was out there and her instinct was to run tothe steps, down them, then across the bridge, along the sidewalkand to her car.
Would her mad dash startle theanimal enough that it wouldn’t follow her? She would have to takethe chance because staying here just wasn’t an option anymore. Shepushed herself away from the wall and hurried over to the concretesteps. She heard the scrape of shoes as the person jumped out ofthe darkness and her peripheral vision saw them but she had neithertime to think about why they had hidden beside the steps and whythey had leaped out just as she was going by. Her mind registeredthe pain in her head and the sense of falling and then wentblank.
Chapter 1
"Wow, so this is Whistler,"Sally Matthews said, looking around at the green tree-coveredmountains outlined against the bright blue sky.
"Yeah, it looks different in thesummer than what we see in the photographs of it in winter,"Elizabeth Oliver said, as she drove along the Sea to Sky Highwaythrough the town. "It would be nice to come for the skiingsometime."
"I don’t think we could affordto come here in the winter," Sally said, ruefully. "It’s expensiveenough now during the off season."
Elizabeth and Sally werebest friends, had been since grade school. They were both in theirthirties, medium height with Sally slightly taller, and slim.Elizabeth’s hair was light brown, straight, and hung to hershoulders usually pulled back in aponytail. Sally’s was blonde and curly. The summer before, Sallyhad enrolled in a two week long science fiction/ fantasy retreat inWhistler and had invited Elizabeth to come along for aholiday.
Elizabeth hadn’t hesitated inaccepting. Whistler, B.C. The name was iconic with downhill skiingand snowboarding, excitement, fun, money, and the 2010 Olympics.She had immediately Googled Whistler and learned, to her surprise,that there were also summer activities.
Over the past few summers she’dwritten travel articles for magazines, doing the travelling andresearching while on her holidays. After learning about Whistlershe’d sent off a proposal to one of the magazines she contributedto and suggested an article on the resort town, tentatively titledWhistler--A Summer Vacation Spot. The idea had been accepted andshe’d made her plans.
Both Elizabeth and Sally workedat a long term care facility as nursing attendants. Wanting to makesure they got their holidays at the same time, they’d booked themearly in the year.
They’d left Edmonton theprevious morning and spent the night in Chilliwack. After aleisurely breakfast to miss the rush hour traffic, they’d followedHighway 1 through some of the cities that made up GreaterVancouver. Just before the Horseshoe Ferry Terminal they’d takenthe Sea to Sky Highway, also known as Highway 99, to Whistler.
On their way they’dstopped at various attractions andElizabeth had recognized the wealth of material she’d have fortravel-related articles from this trip. She’d e-mailed the magazineeditor about doing a second article tentatively titled, The Journey toWhistler , which could be published at thesame time or maybe the month before.
* * *
After entering the townElizabeth drove her Tracker past Village Gate Boulevard and at thesecond set of lights turned right on Nancy Greene Way.
Sally glanced to her right justafter the turn. "Down that driveway and behind those tall trees iswhere the Whistler Sci-Fi and Fantasy Retreat and Convention beginstomorrow," she told Elizabeth. "Now, just follow this drive aroundand it becomes Ambassador Crescent." Sally looked at the set ofdirections she’d been sent. "SnowBound Bed and Breakfast should beon the left part way down."
Ambassador Crescent was a narrowstreet with no sidewalks. Elizabeth drove slowly. Ahead they couldsee a large backhoe in a yard and a crowd of people standing on thestreet. They passed three other bed and breakfasts before spyingthe large sign that was shaped like a mountain and had snow paintedon top. It was just beyond the yard where the backhoe was tearingdown a house.
Elizabeth inched along the roadand the crowd grudgingly moved out of her way. She pulled into thesmall, paved parking lot in front of the white, three storey housewhere they had rented a suite for the two weeks.
Elizabeth and Sally stepped outof the Tracker. Elizabeth grimaced at the roar of the machine’smotor and the cracking of the wood. They looked over and were justin time to see the operator direct the bucket out so its teeth duginto the roof of the old, wood-sided house, pulling off some moreof the shingles and plywood. The next time it broke some of therafters. The crowd was silent as the watchers stared at theprogress.
"I wonder what’s so fascinatingabout demolishing a building?" Sally asked.
"Yeah, you’d think in WhistlerB.C. there would be more interesting things to do."
Elizabeth reached in and pickedup Chevy, her cockapoo dog. She didn’t want him running off becauseof the noise. They went around to the back of the vehicle and Sallyopened the door. She pulled out her two bags.
"I’ll come back and get mineonce we’ve checked in," Elizabeth said.
It was a short walk along a paththrough some low bushes to the office. Beside the door was a signto just walk in. They pushed open the door, which rang an overheadbell. The room they entered was large and looked like a livingroom, dining room, kitchen combination. There were tables to theright and left, a small kitchen in the far right corner, and aliving room with a fireplace to the far left. Ahead was a hallwaywith doors opening off it and a set of stairs at the end. A womancame out of one of the doors and smiled when she saw them.
"Ms. Matthews and Ms.Oliver?"
"That’s us," Sally said, settingdown her bags.
"Good." The woman walked up tothem and held out her hand. "I’m Beverly Sanders."
They shook hands. "And this mustbe Chevy." She held out the back of her hand to him. He sniffed itthen struggled to get down.
"What’s happening next door?"Sally asked, while Beverly led them down the hall into a smalloffice.
"The owners of that house havedecided to tear it down and build a bed and breakfast."
"Another bed and breakfast?"Sally said. "We saw three along this street just getting here."
"And there are more furtheralong the crescent. Our street’s nickname is B&B Crescent."
"So, why the crowd out there?"Elizabeth asked.
"Well, it seems that years agothe mother of a previous owner disappeared and rumour has it thather daughter killed her and buried her body in the housesomewhere." She handed each of them a card to fill out.
"Oh, no," Elizabeth mutteredunder her breath, as she wrote her name, address, and vehiclelicence number on her card.
Sally turned to her with asmirk. "And you thought you were going to be able to relaxhere."
Beverly looked at them, apuzzled expression on her face.
"My friend here is quiterenowned for solving murders," Sally said, handing back the card."She has four to her credit already."
"Well, if there is a body, thenthe murderer will probably have been the daughter, like the story,"Beverly said. "And if there is no body then the rumour will be putto rest."
"How come it took so long totear down the house and see?" Sally asked.
"Because the police reallyhad nothing to go on other than the woman’s disappearance.And the woman’s daughter said she had runoff with her boyfriend. She even had a letter from her mother toprove it. So nothing was done until today and for an entirelydifferent reason."
They followed Beverly up twoflights of stairs to their suite on the top floor. There was akitchen to the right, a dining room table and chairs in the middle,and a couch and two overstuffed chairs facing a television on theleft. Beside the table an open patio door led to a balcony that hada bistro table and two chairs. Beverly hurried over to close thedoor blocking out most of the noise from the demolition.
"The two bedrooms are exactlythe same," she said, opening a door off the kitchen. Inside was adouble bed, dresser, desk and chair and an en-suite. She dug in herjean pockets. "Here are keys for each of you to the front door andfor the suite. The front door is unlocked all day but we do lock itat 10:00pm."
"Thank you," Sally said,pocketing hers.
Elizabeth did the same.
"The pool is covered until afterthe demolition," Beverly said, as she went out the door. "I’ll bedownstairs if you need anything."
Elizabeth went over to thepatio door. She looked down on the rapidly disappearing house.Though the door was closed , it did littleto muffle the noise. She also saw the pool. She planned on spendinga lot of time swimming and sun tanning.
"I’d better go get my things,"she said. She hated the idea of having to go down where the machinewas so loud, but she also wanted to get unpacked.
"I’ll stay here with Chevy,"Sally called from her bedroom. She was already hanging her clothesin her closet.
At the vehicle Elizabeth grabbedher suitcase and laptop then locked the door and hurried back toher room. She entered the other bedroom, which was off the livingroom. After she’d hung her clothes and put her suitcases away sheset her tape recorder and computer on the desk. She used hercomputer with its voice activation to record the distance betweenattractions, what streets or roads her readers would take to get tothe sites, and what she saw from her vehicle as she drove. Her taperecorder was for when she entered buildings, went on hikes, andread interpretive signs. She also used it when she interviewedpeople. On the days when weather or some other problem preventedher from travelling, she spent her time entering the data she’drecorded onto her laptop.
She’d just finished organizingher room when the backhoe finally shut off. Both she and Sally wentout on the balcony to look down.
"Well, no one seems excited soit looks like there’s no skeleton," Elizabeth said.
"Are you disappointed? Becausethere’s still the basement or crawl space, or whatever is underit," Sally grinned.
"Oh, stop it." Elizabeth steppedinside and picked up Chevy’s leash with two plastic bags tied toit. This set him jumping at her leg and barking. "I’m going to takehim for a walk then we can go buy groceries."
Chevy was her companion onher research trips. He supplied company and a reason to go forwalks to keep in shape. While she did get out to visit sites andattractions, she also spent a lot of time driving from place toplace. By the end of the day she felt the need to get rid of her excess energy
* * *
I’m up earlierthan usual. I quickly shower then get my suitcase out and open iton my bed. It’s time to pack for my stay in Whistler. I am at thecloset when an image appears and blocks out my closet door. Itdisappears before I can recognize it and I see the door again.Another shape replaces the door. I turn to my dresser and then mybed. More images flit in and out of my sight overlying anything Iam looking at. Then the short flashes of ligh tning begin.
I know what’s happening. I hurryto my case and unpack my laptop, quickly turning it on. I waitimpatiently. It’s taking so long. I wonder who is contacting methis time. Is it Mikk relating his story about his experimentalfreezing and thawing of bodies or Gwin telling about herexperiences as a convict sent to this planet during its very earlyhistory.
The words come. It’s acontinuation of Mikk’s story. I type as fast as I can. I know Imiss words, sometimes whole sentences but I can’t help it. I’vetried writing it out by hand but that’s even slower.
* * *
Mikk pushed open the door to thetest room and entered. He glanced at the man strapped to the bedand nodded. He didn't have to look to know that the eyes of the manfollowed him as he walked over to the table beside the bed. On itwas a button, a chart, and a syringe. Mikk picked up the chart andread the notations of the night staff.
"Your glucose levels haveremained within our target range for the past week."
"Yippee for me."
Mikk ignored the sarcasm. Allthe volunteers were all like that, eager to join the test group atthe beginning but over time…. " Looks like you spent anotherrestful night."
"What else am I going to dobeing chained to my bed day and night?"
"We have to protect our staff."His eyes ran down the chart. "You had your final meal of potatoesthis morning."
"If I survive this I’ll nevereat potatoes again."
Mikk put the chart back andpicked up the syringe. He uncapped it and held it up to the light,checking the dosage.
"You understand what’s going tohappen," Mikk said.
"Yeah, yeah. You've told meenough times."
"I just want to make sure youare aware that this is an experiment and there is no guarantee asto the final results."
"I know. I may wake up and I maynot. What are you trying to do? Ease your guilt at using a humanbeing for your experiments?"
"The choice was yours."
"Yeah, and some choice.Either stay in the Orbital Prison for the rest of my life or befrozen solid for awhile and hopefullystill be alive when I’m thawed."
"If you're alive you get toreturn to your family on Megalopolis Two with a pension."
The man snorted. "Just get onwith it."
Mikk stuck the needle into theman’s arm and injected the sedative. He threw the syringe in thegarbage and checked his watch. It should take effect in a fewmoments.
Mikk was a scientist and one ofhis assignments was space cryonics. The Space Organization hoped toeventually send frozen explorers to other galaxies, thawing themonce they’d reached their destination. For the past two years he’dbeen working on a way to freeze living bodies and then thaw themwithout harming their cells.
He’d tried various unsuccessfulmethods before reading a history book about a species of reptilesthat had once lived on the planet. In winter they would burrow intothe ground and freeze; come spring they would thaw with no illeffects. Scientists at the time believed that the glucose in thereptile’s cells prevented ice crystals from forming and burstingthose cells.
He’d asked for Orbital Prisonvolunteers and had spent weeks feeding them various foods andmeasuring their glucose. With all the foods the level had risenafter eating but had lowered again within ninety minutes. Evenhaving them eat often throughout the day hadn’t kept their count upfor more than the ninety minutes.
Working with a planet scientisthe’d devised a synthetic glucose solution which he administered tothe volunteers intravenously. It had increased and maintained theglucose for up to three hours after the intravenous was removed.But that still wasn’t long enough, so he and the planet scientisthad injected the solution into potato plants. When the volunteersate the potatoes over a three week period the glucose in theircells increased and remained at that level for a few days aftertheir last potato. He hadn’t been sure how high a quantity ofglucose was needed to ensure a safe frozen state and eventualthawing, and unfortunately all of the Orbital Prison volunteersused so far had died.
He now hoped he had the rightamount, for time was running out. A group of fellow spacescientists were beginning work with a segmentation machine, which,they hoped, could separate the mind from the body. Once separated,the scientists planned to transport the “person” to another planetand implant it into a body there. The mind then would direct thatbody and through it explore the planet, gaining an understanding ofthe life on it.
Mikk watched the eyes of the manas they slowly closed. As in the others, he saw fear replace thehostility they’d all exhibited throughout the pre freezeanalysis. Their final thoughts were that they might not return.
Mikk checked the man’s pulse andfound it slow and steady. He lifted the eyelids. The eyes staredback at him, unseeing. There would be no problems. He pushed thebutton which summoned two attendants with a trolley bed. While hewaited he undid the straps.
When the bed arrived, Mikkhad the attendants lift th e man onto itand strap him in this time so that if he had a seizure he wouldn’tfall off. Mikk led the way from the test room to his freezinglaboratory.
They wheeled the bed over besidea long, oval shaped chamber. Various hoses and wires ran from theglass lid to a large machine. Mikk opened the lid, taking care toposition the wires so the electrodes on the ends didn’t touch. Theattendants stripped off the man’s clothes and rubbed the oil usedto prevent freezer burn all over his body. They placed the body inthe chamber and after washing their hands, left.
Mikk checked the man’s vitalsigns which were still good. He hooked up a pulse instrument to theman’s wrist and neck. He taped electrodes to the man’s foreheadjust above his nose, behind his right ear, over his heart, on hisleft testicle, behind his left knee, and just above the ankle boneon his right leg. He picked up a long, needle sizedthermometer and inserted it through the stomach into the innerbody. The hole would be stitched up if the man survived theprocess.
Mikk turned on the tracingmachine and checked that the thermometer and each electrode wassending back a signal. When he was satisfied, he closed the glasslid and fastened it securely. Beside the tracing machine was aninstrument panel with dials, switches, and gauges. Mikk twisted twodials watching to make sure their pressures were the same. Hewatched two gasses swirl together under the glass.
He checked the gauges. Thetemperature inside the chamber had to drop gradually giving thebody time to adjust to the cooler conditions. He studied thereadouts on the tracing machine. So far the temperature of thewhole body was falling at the same rate. Mikk looked through theglass lid. The body was shivering, a natural response as it triedto keep warm. By noon the temperature hovered just above thefreezing mark. Mikk shut off the gasses. It was time for the finalbody function check.
The pulse instrument showed avery weak, very slow movement. The glucose helped maintain a stateof life until the actual freezing. The tracing machine displayedthe body temperature as being uniform and the thermometer indicatedthat the inner temperature had dropped. Everything was proceedingnormally.
Mikk turned the dials again andthe gasses stirred. He increased the pressure, mindful that thetemperature couldn’t drop too fast. The objective was to steadilytake the whole body down to just under the freezing point. Thegasses slowly created a layer of frost on the lid blocking Mikk’sview. When the gauge registered five degrees below freezing, Mikkslacked off the pressure. He now would have to spend the rest ofthe day minutely adjusting the dials until the temperature remainedconstant.
* * *
That’s it. Isit back drained. My back hurts. My arms ache. While I’m typing Idon’t move. Again, I wonder when this will all make sense, what thefull story will be when it has all been told. I wish I could tellsomeone what’s happening to me, but they wouldn’tunderstand. I look at my watchand jump up. Where did the time go? The retreat starts tomorrow andI have to drive to Whistler yet today.
Chapter 2
The demolished house was nowjust a pile of splintered wood, drywall, and shingles. Elizabethwas surprised to see some people still grouped in front of it.Chevy stopped to smell a small bush and Elizabeth smiled at acouple who glanced her way.
"What’s going up now?" sheasked, even though she knew the answer. A question was always agood icebreaker.
"Another bed and breakfast isone of the stories we heard," the woman said. She had reddishblonde hair and was wearing blue capri pants with a matching bluetop. She looked to be in her early forties.
"There are a lot of them on thisstreet," Elizabeth said.
"And they are full up all winterand most of the summer."
Although she had solved othermysteries, Elizabeth had initially been reluctant to get involvedin each of them. Since she was already talking with these people itwouldn’t hurt to learn more about this one. She was unsure,however, how to broach the subject about the old rumour.
"Well, I guess we can go," a mansaid. "Doesn’t look like they will be doing anything moretoday."
"Yeah," another man agreed."They won’t find any bones until they start to remove all thatrubble."
"Bones?" Elizabeth asked, givinga mental sigh of relief. It’s nice when people cooperate.
"Haven’t you heard?" the womanasked.
Elizabeth shook her headwondering if, by not actually saying the word "No," she was stilltelling a little white lie. "My friend and I just arrived fromEdmonton. We’re staying in that the SnowBound Bed & Breakfast.My name is Elizabeth Oliver."
"I’m Alison and this is myhusband Rick. We live in that house across the road." She pointedto a gray, two storey place with a multi-coloured stone parkingarea.
"So, what was this about bones?"Elizabeth asked.
"Back in the 1980s a woman wholived in this house disappeared and has never been seen since,"Alison said.
"Right," Rick agreed. He hadgray brown hair and was dressed in shorts and a golf shirt. TheMaui Jim sunglasses he was wearing hid the colour of his eyes. "Shewas living with her daughter and from what we’ve heard she was hardto get along with and they fought all the time. Everyone thoughtthat the daughter had killed her."
"What did the daughter say?"Chevy had grown tired of the bush and wanted to go into the yard.Elizabeth held firm onto his leash causing him to turn and look ather.
"She denied it, of course."Alison said.
"Were the police notified?"
"Yes, but they had nothing to goon. The daughter said the mother had left with her boyfriend."
Elizabeth was disappointed thatshe hadn’t learned anything new. "Did you know either the mother ordaughter?"
"No, we just moved here threemonths ago. But our neighbour, Cynthia, did and she’s the one whotold us the story."
Chevy pulled on his leash.Elizabeth knew he was anxious to begin exploring his newsurroundings. She looked at the pile of splintered wood. Thebackhoe operator hadn’t been too careful at knocking the placedown. Obviously, he and the present owners didn’t believe thestory.
For a little dog, Chevy had alot of pulling power. Elizabeth’s arm stretched out and her upperbody leaned forward. "I’d better go," she said. "He has a one trackmind when he’s on his walk and that doesn’t include me stopping andtalking."
She walked to whereAmbassador Crescent intersected with Fitzsimmons Road South andcrossed it. She passed three houses on the left and reached somelarge boulders across the road. Ahead was a berm with a wire fenceat the top. The gate in the fence wasopen. Elizabeth climbed the berm and was thrilled to see therushing waters of Fitzsimmons Creek. She let Chevy off his leashand he headed to the nearest fence post where he lifted his leg.What looked like an old road ran along-side the river and she beganwalking down it. Chevy, his nose to the ground, zipped from rock torock.
* * *
I thought the story was finishedfor today but the images and flashes of light begin again. Ihaven’t replaced my computer in its case so I leave my packing andreturn to the keyboard. It’s Gwin’s story this time.
She’d had a career as a spaceexplorer on Terrene and she’d been part of a three-person team thathad gone in search of a suitable planet to colonize with theprisoners of Terrene. They’d found three which had the rightatmosphere to support a colony. On the last planet, Gwin had donesome exploring on her own and had seen some inhabitants who stoodon two legs and wore animal skins. Their interaction with eachother had been gentle and they seemed content with their lives. Thefirst thing that entered her mind was, what would the arrival ofmurderers and cigarette pushers from her planet do to thosepeople?
At the meeting of the GlobalAlliance the other members of the team had stated that in theiropinion the last planet was the best. Gwin hadn’t told anyone elseabout her sightings but she’d read a statement at the meetingciting reasons for why she thought the first planet they hadvisited would be better. She’d been invited back to present herevidence. However, other people had had their own lucrative plansthat involved the settling of the last planet, and to stop her frominfluencing the decision they had framed her for murder. Foundguilty, she was sent to the Orbital Prisons. Her ship was one ofthree that were being sent to establish a settlement on the newplanet.
Also, she’d been engaged toMikk.
* * *
When they arrived at the planetthe ships had landed near a large clearing by a river and Gwinrecognized the site immediately. She and her co-explorers hadstayed here for three days during their exploration.
It was deemed that all prisonerswould sleep and be fed on the spaceships until the dormitories,warehouses, and kitchens were built. Lots were laid out anddecisions made as to where each building would go. However, theprisoners had been raised in the Megalopolis. They had no idea whatto do with the equipment and tools sent and few had any willingnessto learn. The project supervisors were equally in the dark. Theyhad a rudimentary understanding of what the tools were for but noexperience in using them.
Fortunately some of the convicts realized that theirexistence depended on setting up the colony. Eventually, the sidesof the dorms and warehouses were completed. To speed upconstruction, canvas was stretched overhead for a makeshift roof.The prisoners were moved into the dorms and the supplies stacked inthe warehouses. Pens were erected for the animals that had beenbrought. Ground was dug up with the tools that had been sent andseeds planted.
When this wasdone , two of the space ships were readiedto fly home.
Gwin didn't consider herself aconvict. She hadn’t committed a crime as the others had. So shedidn’t feel the need to help with the building of the colony.Instead she set about trying to find a way to get off the planetand back to Terrene to clear her name. She watched for a favourabletime to sneak aboard one of the ships before it took off. But shewasn’t the only one with that idea. It seemed that most of theprisoners wanted off the planet.
Guards with their weaponsready were stationed at the ships and five prisoners were shot whenthey attempted to climb aboard during the night. No one made it onthe ships before takeoff.
One space craft was left. Ithoused the police and guards until their barracks were built andwas also there to travel to the nearest supply planet in anemergency. Since she knew how to fly it, Gwin waited for anopportunity to board. But it was heavily guarded so she had to bideher time, watching for any opening in their routine that could beto her advantage.
Leaving the planet wasn’t theonly thing that occupied Gwin’s mind. When she could, Gwin snuckaway to look for any planet people in this area.
"Where are you going, Gwin?"Sari, another prisoner, asked one day when Gwin was heading intothe nearby bush.
Damn. She’d tried to disappearquietly into the trees each time she went and so far had beensuccessful.
"I see you have some food," Saricontinued. "Are you setting up a cache somewhere?"
"No, actually, I’m going for awalk. Do you want to come?"
Sari had been one of the womenin her cell on the voyage over. They had fought for the first fewdays then had reached a mutual agreement to leave each other alone.Gwin knew that if she tried to hide anything, Sari would be thefirst to begin digging into what she was doing.
"No," Sari shook her head.
As Gwin headed through the bushshe pretended to be interested in the flowers she saw. At the sametime she kept an eye out for Sari. She’d been curious enough to askand Gwin didn’t trust her to just walk away. So, instead of takingher usual route, Gwin wound her way through the trees, making ashow of eating the food as she went. Then she hurried back to thesettlement.
The next day she tooka roundabout way along the river to gointo the bush. When she was sure that no one had seen her, shecrossed a large meadow into more trees. Here, on a previous search,she’d found a well-worn path. She wasn’t sure if it was fromanimals or the inhabitants. She’d already checked through the treesto see if there was a camp or a sign of habitation and hadn't foundany.
She’d decided to extend hersearch towards some hills in the distance. Maybe they lived in avalley or a cave. She was so intent in scrutinizing the trees andopen areas that she wasn’t prepared when one of the inhabitantsstepped out in front of her on the edge of a clump of bush.
Gwin stopped cold, staringat him. Her heart beat faster. After all the rehearsing she’d donefor this moment , she couldn't think ofanything to do. So far, she’d assumed that any of them she metwould be friendly, but now looking at what she supposed was themale of the species, she realized just how stupid that thought hadbeen.
He stood on two legs and had twoarms. He was taller than she was and very sturdily built. He hadlong shaggy hair on his head and shorter hair on his chest, arms,and legs. He wore an animal skin around his waist and it hung halfway to his knees. He carried a tool with a long handle and whatlooked like a pointed end made of rock. He had two blue eyes, anose, two ears, and a mouth. He was carrying a small deadanimal.
He was exactly like the ones shehad seen on another part of the planet during the exploratoryvisit.
Gwin calmed enough to smile athim and hold her hand with the food in it towards him. He looked atit then back at her. Thinking he might not know what it was, shetook some and put it in her mouth. She chewed and swallowed it,then offered him the rest. He made no move to take it.
What did she do now?
Suddenly another man stepped outof the trees. Behind him were a woman and child. The second man wasmuch the same as the first while the woman was shorter and herskins covered her from shoulder to knee. The hair on her head wasjust as shaggy but she didn't have as much body hair. The child wassmall with only hair on his or her head.
They stared at Gwin. None ofthem made a sound nor moved their hands in any type of greeting.They turned and went back into the bush. The first man waited a fewmoments before taking off after them.
It looked like they were on apath and Gwin decided to follow it. She'd just started into thetrees when the first man stopped and turned back. He shook his handwith the tool in it at her. She stopped. It looked as if he waswarning her not to continue.
She hesitated then smiled andwaved to the man before retreating. She would try again in a fewdays. That may give them time to get curious about her and maybe befriendlier.
* * *
Unfortunately, these episodescome at their whim not mine. I quickly finish packing then grab mysuitcase and laptop and head to my car.
I didn’t enrol in the retreatfor the instruction on how to write science fiction and fantasy. Ienrolled for the one-on-one session with the instructor. I’vealready e-mailed her the first few chapters so she can read thembefore our meeting. That way she will be able to give me some ideason how to pull this together. I’ve already decided that I’m notgoing to tell anyone where this is coming from and about the imagesand lights. They might think I’m crazy.
Chapter 3
"I saw you talking to the peoplein front of the demolished house," Sally said with a grin whenElizabeth and Chevy returned to the room. "Did you learn anythingmore about the possible body?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "Theytold the same story as Beverly. The only new thing I learned isthat the person who lives next door to them knew the woman whodisappeared."
"Well, while you were gone I gotdirections to the nearest grocery store from Beverly and I made alist. Have you phoned your dad and Terry and Sherry yet?"
Elizabeth took out her cellphone. "I’ll do that now." She dialled the numbers for her youngertwin siblings and left messages on their machines then called herdad’s number. Her mother had died a few years ago from cancer andshe and Sally had moved into his basement suite to keep himcompany. When he answered the phone she told him they had arrivedokay.
"Did you stop in and see yourGrandmother on your way through Vancouver?" Phil asked.
Her maternal grandmother livedin a condo on False Creek near Granville Island. When the finalarrangements had been made for the trip, Elizabeth had called herto let her know she was coming to Whistler. She’d agreed to contacther when she arrived so they could get together.
"No," Elizabeth said. "Sallywanted to get here and set up. But I called her and I’m going tosee her next weekend."
Her last phone call was toJared, the man she had met and fallen in love with last year. Hewas in a wheelchair due to an accident and because of that hadtrouble with his bowels. He’d already had one operation for anobstruction two years ago and had had a colonoscopy three weeksago. The doctors had found precancerous polyps and were going toremove part of his large intestine tomorrow.
She’d been willing to cancel hertrip to be with him for his operation but he’d insisted she go. Heunderstood how important her writing career was to her. "Besides,"he’d said. "I’ll be spending my convalescence at Paul’s. We’restill adjusting to our new family dynamics."
Elizabeth had nodded. Lastyear, at Jared’s request, she’d helped him discover who hadmurdered his mother but in the process they had found out thatPaul, the man who had raised him and whom he called Dad, was nothis biological father. She was glad that he was coming to termswith that because the knowledge had destroyed his concept of family.
In the grocery store, Elizabethand Sally pushed the cart up and down the aisles not sure what topurchase. They’d be having breakfast at the bed and breakfast andSally’s lunches were included in her package. They didn’t know howtheir schedules would work for supper so they’d decided to waituntil each evening arrived. Either they would fend for themselves,or they would buy something to cook in their kitchen, or they’d goout.
So, really Elizabeth just neededsomething for her lunch. She stocked up on sandwich meat, bread,butter, and mustard and grabbed a carton of Pepsi. She didn’t drinkcoffee, getting her caffeine jolt from the pop. Sally addedvegetables and fruit for her snacks, and juice containers. Theyalso threw in a pizza for their supper and some crackers, cheeses,and salsa.
When they’d unpacked thegroceries, Elizabeth went to her bedroom to set out her researchequipment. Besides her laptop and tape recorder she also had herdigital camera with its four rechargeable batteries, charger, andextra memory cards for pictures. She plugged in the charger to madesure the batteries were topped up for tomorrow. As a precaution incase she took a lot of pictures she carried regular batteries asbackup.
She had begun planning herresearch for Whistler by looking up the town’s web site on theInternet. Then she used Google Map to see all the streets. Sinceshe could only see small sections of the town at a time, she’dbought a Whistler map so she could lay the whole town out at onceand see how the streets interconnected. She wasn’t sure if she wasgoing to begin the article with the reader arriving in the town orif she was going to start at the Whistler village and spread outfrom there. She would have to gather her information first and seewhich worked best.
* * *
After a shower and a quick earlymorning walk with Chevy, Elizabeth joined Sally and they headeddownstairs to the dining room for breakfast. She liked staying atbed and breakfasts while doing her research because the owners werealways friendly and usually gave her information for herarticle.
In the dining room there werethree round tables that each accommodated four and one that sat twopeople. They all had white crocheted tablecloths over amulti-coloured underlay. The chairs had cushions to match theunderlay. There was a couple at the smaller table so Elizabeth andSally chose one of the larger ones. The plates, cutlery, and cupswere already in place. On the table was a candle burning in aholder.
While they waitedElizabeth looked around the room. The Whistler Question and the Vancouver Sun newspapers were on a small table by the hall entrance.Beside the table was a yellow sideboard with a coffeepot, kettle,teapot and various teas, a pitcher half full of orange juice andmatching glasses, a vase with a single artificial rose, a bowl ofmints, and two burning candles. On the wall above it hung four Anneof Green Gables collector plates.
The living room consisted of acouch, a loveseat, and two chairs arranged in front of a fireplace.On the mantle of the fireplace were four old-style oil lamps. Alongone wall were three cabinets with shelves full of books, and a rolltop writing desk. Floor length windows with sheer drapes made upthe opposite wall. Just about all the space on the other threewalls was covered with photographs or paintings or needlework.
The guest kitchen had anapartment sized fridge and stove, and a glassed-front uppercupboard full of cups, glasses, and dishes. On the counter was amicrowave, toaster oven, paper towels, and various other utensils.The bottom cupboards were closed but Elizabeth imagined they heldpots and pans for cooking. She doubted that she and Sally would beusing them very much.
A man in his early forties andthen a woman in her mid-thirties came down the stairs. They eachchose to sit by themselves at the other tables.
Beverly entered the room withtwo, three-tiered trays. On the top tier were grapes andstrawberries, the second one contained bran and fruit muffins, andthe third held butter and various jams. She set one each on the twoother occupied tables and headed back down the hall. She returnedwith two more.
"Your breakfasts will be readyshortly," Beverly said, as she placed them on the tables. "Helpyourself to some orange juice or coffee. The kettle has hot waterin it for tea."
While Sally went to getsome coffee, Elizabeth headed over to look at the newspapers.The Whistler Question was dated last Thursday so it must come out oncea week. The VancouverSun had today’s date. She returned to hertable. She wasn’t interested in the Vancouver paper and would readthe local paper later when she came back this evening.
Breakfast was a plate with ashish kebob of sausage, tomato, onion, and mushroom, and scrambledeggs and toast. Each plate was delivered to the tables byBeverly.
The room was quiet as everyoneate. The meal was very good and Elizabeth ate extra because sheknew it would be a long time until lunch. After breakfast theyreturned to their room and Elizabeth made her lunch while Sally puther retreat papers into her backpack, then stepped out onto thebalcony to enjoy the sunshine. Elizabeth gathered up her researchequipment said goodbye and she and Chevy headed to her vehicle.
On the way she stopped in at thekitchen to see Beverly. "On the highway coming here I noticed theVillage Gate Boulevard goes to the visitor information centre. Isthere any parking there?"
"There is," Beverly said."But you have to pay for it. If you get back onto Highway 99 fromNancy Greene Way and turn left onto Lorimer and then right ontoBlackcomb Way you will find some large parking lots. Some of themare free and if you park there you can walk across BlackcombWay to the Village.”
"How do I get to the UpperVillage?" She’d looked at the maps she had but hadn’t been able tofigure out the way there.
"Go to parking lot #1 and justas you enter it you will cross a walkway. If you follow the walkwayto your left you will reach the village."
"Thank you," Elizabeth smiled.Again the bed and breakfast owner had come through for her.
As she loaded her stuff shecould see that a crew with a front-end loader had come in to startcleaning up the site next door. She felt a twinge of disappointmentthat no body had been found but then grinned. That was good. Itmeant that she wouldn’t be trying to solve anything during herresearch and thereby having to put off her article writing untilshe returned home. She would get her research done and her articlewritten in the first week she was here. And once that was completedshe would be able to relax by the pool and catch up on her readingwhile Sally was at her retreat. Her holiday would go asplanned.
She started her Tracker andheaded to her first stop, the Village.
* * *
I'm barely out of bed when theimages and flashes of light begin. I quickly bring up my Terrenefile.
* * *
Mikk left his apartmentearly each morning, arriving at work an hour before everyone else.As soon as he entered the building , heheaded to the sixth floor to check on the chamber even though analarm was set that would ring on the pager he had strapped to hisarm if something went wrong with the instruments. It wasn't that hemistrusted the alarm, it was that this was his project and hewanted to maintain control over it. He didn't want a machinedeciding to shut it down or to change settings.
On this morning Mikk turned thetwo dials and watched the temperature of the chamber rise to thefreezing mark. The frost gradually melted off the glass and hecould see the prisoner lying in the frozen state. He now had toslowly raise the temperature in the chamber so the body thawedevenly.
He looked at the tracing machinehooked to the electrodes on the outer body and the body thermometerhe'd inserted through the belly button before freezing. It showedthat the body temperature inside and out was at the freezing point.This was the crucial time. He'd learned that the temperature had torise so minutely as to almost not move at all. It would be another24 hours before the prisoner's body temperature would benormal.
As the day wore on Mikk couldfeel the tiredness creep up on him. He needed some sleep andsomething to eat but there was no one he trusted enough to work thedials. He'd had a cot installed after the first successful thawingbut, because of the one flaw in that thawing, during the secondexperiment and this one he seldom took the time to relax or sleepon it. He went over to the cot now and stretched out. He had timefor a short nap before he had to raise the temperature again.
But he didn't get tosleep. As soon as his mind was off the chamber , his thoughts turned to Gwin. How was she doing? Was thecolony being established as planned? Had she really murdered thatperson and if so, why? There were so many questions he neededanswered.
According to the law, noone could visit a prisoner once they had been charged. Everythingwas left up to the courts to sort out and then make a decision. Ifthe person was found guilty , they wereimmediately sent to the Orbital Prisons. After a year of goodbehaviour, they were allowed visitors.
He hadn’t been able to see Gwinbecause just after her conviction, she’d been sent to the colonyplanet. He knew the Space Organization was receiving messages fromthe spaceship Lederer that had been left with the colony. He'dcontacted them many times under the pretext of finding out how thetools he'd helped design were working. They'd only been able totell him that the construction of the buildings and the planting ofseeds was progressing. There was nothing about anyone specific.
He'd even asked about any spaceships flying to the colony planet but had been told that none werescheduled. There just wasn't any way that he could contact anyonethere or even fly there himself. He felt so powerless. He missedGwin so much and he wanted to do something to find out whathappened and to bring her back. There must have been a mistake, forhe never believed that she could kill someone.
All he couldd o now was hope something happened eitherhere or on the colony planet to make a flight necessary. Then hewould apply to go along.
An hour later Mikk rose andadjusted the temperature again and he did it every hour until thebody began shivering. Once the shivering started he raised thetemperature at a faster rate until the body was at its normalstate. He'd been instructed to contact his superiors just beforethe awakening so they could watch the final moments of the prisonerreturning to life. He let them know the moment was imminent andthey hurried over.
According to the pulseinstrument and the body temperature gauges the prisoner should beopening his eyes soon. Mikk leaned over the chamber to watch formovement. He'd finally hit on the amount of glucose needed to keepthe body from dying while frozen and the last two bodies had returnto life just the same as before the freezing. The pulse, breathing,heart rate, and bodily functions were normal. The problem had beenthat their minds were dead. Their bodies had nothing to directthem. He'd made some adjustments after the first but the same hadhappened in the second thawing. This was his third attempt and hehoped this one worked.
"How is the research going onseparating the mind from the body and transporting it?" Mikk askedhis superiors as they hovered over the chamber.
"They haven't been able toovercome the mind fighting that goes on when it enters anotherbody."
Mikk still felt that hehad been right to pursue his idea of freezing the whole person. Hejust had to get the mind to thaw intact, though. When that finallyhappened , they'd only have to make surethe temperature of the compartment sent to a far off planet couldbe controlled from here. That way it would only thaw when the spaceship had securely landed. But that part had nothing to do with him.It would be up to the technicians to build a chamber that would fitin a spaceclipper.
Mikk undid the latches on thechamber and lifted the cover. He felt the body and it was warm. Heremoved the electrodes and probe but the contact failed to make theprisoner move. Mikk had a sinking feeling as he lifted the lid ofone of the eyes. Behind it was a blank stare, the same as the firsttwo volunteers. Mikk let it close.
He turned to his superiors. "Itdidn't work. The body thawed but his mind is lost."
"What do you mean lost?"
"It's gone. The body is alivebut there is no mind to operate it."
"So you won't be able to freezea scientist and sent him to explore another planet?" one of hissuperiors said.
"His body will make it but hismind won't."
"So what are you doing now?"
"I'm still trying but I don'tthink I can do much more."
"Perhaps you can offer your helpwith the mind separation experiment."
* * *
Again Gwin continues herstory.
* * *
The leaves on the treeshad begun to turn a bright yellow and orange colour. One day, whilemost of the other prisoners wandered aimlessly up and down thestreets, Gwin decided to search for the inhabitants she had seen.Making sure no one was watching her she headed into the bush. Whenshe reached the spot where she had seen them , she stopped unsure if she should wait to see if they cameor follow the path. They had acted as if they didn't want her to goany further the first time, however, her curiosity won out and shewalked into the bush. Some of the leaves had begun to fall from thetrees carpeting the forest floor and sending up a pungent odour.Gwin inhaled deeply, liking the smell.
She came to a meadow and couldsee where the trail meandered through it to the hills beyond. Therewas still no sign of activity.
"If they are in the hills,they'll see me coming," Gwin mused. "And they'll either come tomeet me or hide."
As shewalked , her nerves were on end, expectingthem to jump out of the grass at any time. This is getting spooky,she thought. They should have seen me by now. She followed the pathup the slope to the crest of the hill and looked down on a lovelyvalley. In the middle, the waters of a small lake shimmered. Goldengrass waved softly in the breeze. Wild animals, which were small inthe distance, grazed contentedly. The trail continued along theslope to a cave in the hillside.
Gwin looked around but could notsee any of the inhabitants. She headed to the cave. As she drewnearer she could see where rock had been placed to form a smallterrace in front of the opening. A large pit with ashes in thebottom was to one side and a huge pile of bones lay halfway downthe slope.
"Hello," Gwin called. "Anyonehere?"
There was no answer.
She stepped closer to the caveopening and called again. No reply. Gwin walked up to the openingand peered inside but because of the sun all she could see wasdarkness. She stepped in and waited until her eyes adjusted to thedim light. She saw many small hearths with wood beside them andashes in them. There were animal skins spread out on the floor andvarious tools, some similar to the one she'd seen in theinhabitant's hand, leaned against the wall. Baskets wove from grassor carved from wood sat near the hearths. Long bones shaped asspoons rested in the baskets. The cave didn't look abandoned. Itlooked as if the inhabitants had left but expected to returnsoon.
Gwin didn't touch anything. Whenshe stepped out she looked down at the valley, shielding her eyesagainst the sun with her hand. Far in the valley where the wildanimals had grazed, she could see figures with long spears in theirhands chasing one of the animals. As she watched one of the peoplethrew his spear and hit the animal in the side. The animal stumbledand that was enough for the other figures to crowd around itstabbing with their spears. When that animal was dead, two othershurried over and began to remove the hide. The hunters headed afterthe herd again.
The skinners were fast. They hadthe hide off and the animal gutted in minutes. Another group beganto cut up the meat as soon as they were finished.
They were hunting for food. Thatwas why the place is empty. Gwin watched for a while then headedback to the colony.
* * *
I look at my watch. Geeze, if Idon’t hurry I’m going to be late for the first class.
Chapter 4
After breakfast with Elizabeth,Sally got out the map of Whistler that had been supplied with allher papers and looked at it again. It was a four block walk fromtheir bed and breakfast back to Nancy Greene Way and the privateschool where the retreat was being held. She could go that way orshe could wander through the neighbourhood. Today, just to makesure she got there on time she decided to go the route she knew.She placed the map in her backpack with her notebook and the barebones outline for her course.
When she’d received theinformation, she’d been given the choice of four differentsections: writing novels and short stories, writing scripts formovies or television series, designing games, or writing plays fortheatre. Since she’d already started a novel, she’d chosen noveland short story writing.
There would be lectures in themorning with the afternoons left free to write, to work onassignments, or to explore Whistler. Each of those who had sent intheir short stories or the first three chapters from their novelswould have their one-on-one time with the instructor in theafternoon. She hadn’t signed up for that. She was new to this andjust wanted to sit back and gather information for now.
The course ran from Monday toFriday. The first weekend was left for the students to do as theypleased. The second weekend was reserved for a large SciFi/FantasyConvention to end the retreat. During the day on Saturday therewould be a number of panels with science fiction or fantasy writerswho would talk on different subjects. These panels were included inthe students’ package but were also open, for a fee, to anyone ofthe general public who was a science fiction or fantasy fan. Therewould also be two agents to answer questions about how to sendquery letters and proposals to an agent.
Saturday evening was for asupper followed by a dance where everyone who wished to do so coulddress up as their favourite hero or alien. Prizes would be givenfor the best costumes in different categories. Sally had gonelooking for a costume to rent but found that there weren’t many forwomen unless she wanted to wear a mini dress with metallic trim, ora two piece Amidala with a sexy top, or a red or blue Star Trekmini dress. She decided against a costume. She wasn’t sure if sheeven wanted to go to the party. Sunday was reserved for a finalclass with the instructor giving each student suggestions on howbetter to approach their writing.
Sally turned right when she gotout onto Ambassador Crescent and walked to the end where it curvedand became Nancy Greene Way. She passed Toni Sailor Lane and cameto the crossroad where Fitzsimmons Road North and South met, thencrossed Fitzsimmons Creek. Finally after passing Blackcomb Way,which she had noticed seemed to wander through much of Whistler,she reached the entrance for the retreat. She stopped and lookeddown the driveway. The building wasn’t visible from the street butshe could see cars parked in a lot.
"Don’t be afraid," a voice saidbehind her.
Sally jumped and turned to see atall man with graying hair smiling at her. She tried to think of aquick come back but nothing suitable came to mind so she justsmiled back. "Are you going to the retreat?" she asked. It wasobvious that he was but she couldn’t come up with anythingelse.
"Yes." He held out his hand. "Myname is Michael Wolf."
"Sally Matthews." She shook hishand, which felt very soft. She wondered what he did for aliving.
They started down thedriveway.
"Have you been to a retreatbefore?" Sally asked.
Michael nodded. "This is mysecond one. You?"
"My first."
When the trees ended they cameupon a large two storey building with plenty of gables. Somecovered small patios, others windows and doors, and one seemed justfor decoration. The lower storey was gray brick while the secondone was white siding. Two people were having a smoke and talking atthe far corner of the building.
Michael opened the door forher.
A polite man, Sally thought asshe thanked him.
In the foyer was a map showingthe four rooms where the different sections of the retreat werebeing held.
"What part are you taking?"Michael asked.
"Novel and short story," Sallyanswered. "What about you?"
"Script writing."
"I thought about that butfigured I should have a story first."
Michael nodded. "I took thenovel writing course here with Kat Mac two years ago. I finished mynovel and have found a small press to publish it. Now I want tomake it into a screenplay."
They studied the map. Sally’sclassroom was down the hall to the right while Michael’s wasupstairs.
"Congratulations on gettingpublished and success with your script writing," Sally said, whenthey parted.
The classroom, with tieredplatform seating, was almost full when Sally arrived. She stoppedinside the door and looked around. Tables with chairs behind themwere set on the raised sections so that three people shared atable. She climbed to the top and took an empty chair at the end ofa table. There was a man at the other end and a woman in themiddle. Both appeared to be about her age. From where she sat shecould look down on the heads of the rest of the students. Shefigured she could watch what was happening without getting tooinvolved. Usually the ones who wanted to interact with theinstructor sat in the front row.
It was a mixture of studentswith twice as many males as females. Some were introducingthemselves to the ones next to them. Others were organizing theirlaptops or their notebooks and pens on the table. Some were likeher, observing. She recognized two of them from breakfast at thebed and breakfast. When the instructor entered the room, all noiseceased. They looked at her expectantly.
She was dressed in a calf lengthmulti-coloured peasant skirt and matching vest with a long sleevedwhite blouse. Her dark blonde hair was knotted in a braid that hungdown her back.
"Good morning and welcome to myclass," she said. "My name is Katherine MacKenzie and I will beyour instructor for the next two weeks. You may call me Katherine,Ms MacKenzie, or even Kat Mac, which is the name I write under. Ifyou looked at the material I sent you, you will have noticed that Ididn’t give you any idea of what my lectures would be about. That’sbecause I didn’t want you rushing to the Internet looking it allup. I wanted you to come here with an open mind so that you listento what I have to say."
Then my mind is exactly what youare wanting, Sally thought. There hadn’t been time in her busyschedule to look at much more than the map and the list of placesto stay.
Kat Mac looked around the room."We will start this morning with introductions and then get rightinto the course. I want to cover as much as I can in the short timewe have."
Sally had thought two weeks wasa long time, but then again, she didn’t know much about writing andeven less about writing science fiction.
Kat Mac eyes settled on Sally."We’ll begin with the last row and work our way down to the front.Would you please stand, give us your name and a brief bio aboutyourself and why you are here?"
Sally stood slowly. She hatedthat the instructor had called upon her first There were twelveother writers in the group and she didn’t know how brief was brief.Were these introductions supposed to take ten minutes, five minutesor just thirty seconds?
"My name is Sally Matthews. I’mfrom Edmonton, Alberta. I love to read science fiction and somefantasy. I’m in the beginning stages of writing a novel and I’mhere to learn as much as I can about the creative process forscience fiction. Uh… this is my first retreat." Sally sat down herface reddening. She turned to the woman who sat beside her.
The woman stood. "I’m LisaZhang. This is also my first retreat. I’ve almost finished a novel.I live in Chilliwack, B.C."
The man at their table was LukeJohnson from Lillooett, B.C. and he had completed his novel. He wasreally here because he needed the time away from work and family toedit it.
"My name is Bonnie Stone and Idon’t know if any of you have noticed but there are thirteen of usand that is an unlucky number to have in a class."
"I’m number fourteen," Kat Macsaid.
Bonnie shook her head. "Theinstructor doesn’t count. There are thirteen students. That’s a badsign. I might not be able to stay." She sat down without sayinganything about herself.
So Bonnie was the woman she’dseen at breakfast, Sally thought. She waited to learn who the manfrom the bed and breakfast was.
"This is my third retreat," RussPeters from Vancouver said. "I didn’t learn much at the other two,so I’m still working on the same novel. I’m hoping this one will bethe charm."
And so it went around the room.Sally marked down names and the places they were from so she knewwho they were. She didn’t trust her memory. Most were from theprovince but one man, Reggie Shaw, was from Hinton, Alberta. Sheput a tick beside Daryl Cannon from Victoria because he was the manshe’d noticed at the bed and breakfast.
For many this was their firstretreat. Most had already started a novel, while a few were hopingto begin one during these two weeks. One man, Kirk West, had comebecause he had a story idea and thought it might fit into thescience fiction genre. He was wanting to learn all that hecould.
"I am going to speak in myregular voice at my regular speed," Kat Mac said, at the end of theintroductions. "If you want to record my lecture, you may do so butI will be moving around as I talk so my voice will be quieter orlouder depending on where your recording device is. I do not allowthem on my desk."
Sally had checked theInternet to find out what there was in recording technology thatwould make it easier for her to take notes during the lecture. Shehad found microphones for investigators to wear on their body,which she’d laughingly shown to Elizabeth and suggested she mightneed it for her amateur sleuthing. There was a bionic ear thatwould allow her to hear conversations up to thirty-five metres feetaway. That would help her hear the lecture but not write it. Thenshe’d read about the super high sensitivity microphones that weregood for anyone attending a large conference. They came with up tothirty-five metres of cable and attached to a recorder. One with aneight metre cable cost about one hundred dollars plus shipping andhandling and relevant taxes. When she’d read that , she’d opted for the old-fashioned art of writing it outby hand and then she’d use the new technology and read it back intoher computer via the voice activated software.
"With that out of the wayI now have a surprise for you," Kat Mac continued. "On the lastFriday there will be a publisher here to give a speech on what hispublishing house is look ing for inmanuscript ideas."
There was a gasp from some ofthe students. They began talking to her and to each other.
Kat Mac held up her hand.When it was quiet, she continued. "After hisspeech , each of you will have ten minuteswith him in order to pitch an idea for a book, tell him about yourbook and ask if it would be a fit for his publishing house, or justask him questions. The choice is yours."
This set the room a buzzagain. Everyone was talking excitedly. Sally didn’t take part init. She wasn’t sure how she felt about this. She was working on astory and had written the first three Chapters but she didn’t knowif she wanted to share it with anyone, especially a publisher. Ifhe said he didn’t like it, what would she do, and if he did likeit , then the pressure would be on for herto finish it and she wasn’t even sure how the next Chapters wouldgo or even how the story was going to play out. Maybe by the end ofnext week she would have a better idea.
Kat Mac waited a few minutesthen brought the room back to order. "Science fiction and fantasyare sometimes called speculative fiction because the writer allowstheir imagination to wander outside the realm of our reality," shesaid, getting right into her lecture. She paused and looked aroundthe room. "I don’t know how familiar you are with science fictionor fantasy writing so this morning I will give you an overview.Later we’ll discuss them in length.
“ Over the years there havebeen many definitions given for science fiction and fantasydepending on who you ask. Rod Serling, host of the late 1960s,early 1970s television show, The Twilight Zone , is supposed tohave said. ‘ Fantasy is theimpossible made probable and science fiction is the improbable madepossible. ’"
She was pacing up and down theroom as she talked, stopping occasionally to look at the students.It was easy to see that she was passionate about her subject.
"Science fiction writing comesfrom each writer’s conjectures based on present events or oninventions in science or technology. They take that event orinvention and project it into the future, modifying it to suit thecircumstances of their story. But the story’s abstract componentsare possible within the laws of nature as seen by the scientificestablishment.
"Science fiction writers shouldhave a basic knowledge of the world around them, some understandingof science, and a good imagination. In the case of fantasy writing,usually magic, the supernatural, or mythology is the basis for thethemes, plots, or settings. It stays away from the scientifictechnology but follows the ‘Laws’ of whatever its theme is. If thetheme is magic, then the story must be contained within the rulesof magic. Myths, fairy tales, and legends are thought to be some ofthe first fantasy stories."
Sally tried to write as fast asKat Mac was talking but it was impossible to write what she hadheard and listen to what was being said. She quickly looked aroundthe room and saw the most of the students were like her, bent overtheir notebooks pens flying across their pages. Now would have beento good time to know shorthand, she lamented.
"Science fiction writingdates back to the 2nd century with Lucian of Samosata’s True History ," Kat Mac continued. "It is about space travel, aliens,and space wars. Some of the Arabian Nights stories are sciencefiction as are Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Voltaire’s Micromegas , and Kempler’s Somnium .Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.G. Wells werefour of the most famous 19th century science fiction writers. Andof course we have Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, andJudith Merril in the 20th century."
Doesn’t she ever pause for abreath, Sally wondered writing furiously.
"Fantasy is believedto have begun with the poem from ancientIraq called The Epic ofGilgamesh , versions of which date back to2150 BCE. Over the centuries there have been The Odyssey , Beowulf ,the Authurian tales, and the Divine Comedy . Modern fantasyliterature is said to have begun with George MacDonald, whowrote Phantastes in 1858. One of the most famous modern fantasywriters was J.R.R. Tolkien author of Lord Of the Rings. And who hasn’theard of Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowlings.”
Finally, Kat Mac called for abreak and everyone swarmed out of the room. Some headed to a smallatrium with stuffed chairs, a coffee machine, and a vending machinewhile some went outside. A few gathered around the instructor asshe walked away.
Sally went to the atrium andpoured herself a coffee. She stood listening to the others talkabout the lecture so far.
"I’m not sure if I should be inthis class," Kendra Logan said, with a smile. "I got lost once shestarted mentioning the different writers and their works of sciencefiction." She appeared to be the outdoor type dressed in jeans,shirt, and hiking boots. Her blonde hair was cut short. "So far Ihaven’t understood much of what she has said."
"Oh, I’m glad you said that,"Lisa Zhang said. She was short and slender with dark hair pulledinto a pony tail. "I’ve never heard of most of them and yet shemade them seem as if they were very important to the genre."
Sally nodded her agreement.
"Obviously, you three arenot true science fiction fans," Daryl Cannon said, a touch ofarrogance in his voice. "So far she has given one of the bestintroductions to science fiction and fantasy that I have heard. Ifyou don’t like it , you shouldn’t behere." He walked away.
Sally remembered that he wasfrom Vancouver and this was his third retreat. He had on jeans anda blue t-shirt. His hair was dark and curly and his blue eyes hadburned into hers. She didn’t like his attitude, mainly because asfar as she could tell, Kat Mac had hardly said anything in depthabout either genre. She’d just been touching on certain features ofthem and the people who wrote them explaining that she would gointo them more extensively later.
Kirk West, piped up. "I’m afraidI agree with Kendra. I hope Kat Mac starts talking about how towrite soon."
Sally noticed that one man,Reggie Shaw, just stood to one side with a coffee in his hand. Heseemed to be listening but didn’t try to make a comment. She wishedhe would because she thought he was cute in a mature sort of wayand, although she usually went for older men, it wouldn’t hurt toget to know him while here.
Bonnie was the one whointerested Sally the most. She was dressed in brown slacks andcream blouse and she wore large glasses that had gone out of styleyears ago. She also stood on the fringes, not taking part in theconversation. If they were staying in the same bed and breakfasttogether they might as well get to know each other.
"Do you really think the classis unlucky?" Sally asked her.
Bonnie looked at her and nodded."Something bad is going to happen. I can feel it."
"Bad in what way?" Kendra asked.She was twisting and turning her body and stretching her legs.
Bonnie shrugged. "I don’t know,but thirteen always brings bad luck."
"It probably means I’m going tofail the course," Lisa laughed.
"It’s not funny," Bonnie saidsombrely. "If my feeling doesn’t go away within the next few days,I’m dropping out." She walked away.
"Wow, she takes her superstitionseriously, doesn’t she?" Kendra said.
Back in class after the breakKat Mac continued her outline of science fiction and fantasy forthe rest of the morning, then just before noon she ended with."There are many subgenres to science fiction such as military SF,which is based on interplanetary or interstellar wars. Another istime travel, which is used to correct some event in the past or tosee into the future. The subgenre I want you to think about todayis apocalyptic. This deals with the end of our civilization throughsome disaster or with our world after such as disaster."
She looked around the room witha smile. "So your first assignment is to write, in one thousandwords or less, a different ending to the movie, Armageddon, whichstarred Bruce Willis. You are to assume that the asteroid that wasabout to hit the earth was not averted and describe the aftermathof its slamming into our planet. I would like it by Thursdaymorning."

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