Involuntary Hiatus and a Sneak Peek

I try not to be dramatic (HA!) but it’s KILLING me right now to not be writing. I was at such a good place in my book, and now it sits in a folder on my computer, just waiting for me, feeling sad and dejected as I focus on other things.

I agreed to teach a class this month way back in January. How was I supposed to know at that time that I would be at a crucial point in my novel? And the extra income is needed, so I couldn’t really say no. But this class completely consumes the time I would otherwise be spending writing. Between planning classes and grading assignments, I am drained of any creative impulse.

So Eden and Kalon (my characters) sit and wait for my return. I miss them. Hopefully we will be reunited sooner than my last class, but if not, the end of April will be our time. Until then, a sneak peek at one of their first major interactions…

Eden brought her tablet to her room and was considering reading some of her History assignment before bugging Zoe and Fiona when her halo chirped. She eagerly slipped it on, shivering as it connected. Maybe her friends felt bad about her torture of staying at home and were going to rescue her, at least through the haloscapes.
An unfamiliar avatar blinked in Eden’s vision. Shrugging, she sent her thoughts to connect anyway.
Hey, Eden, it’s Kalon.
Eden could feel Kalon’s mental amusement at her obvious lack of enthusiasm. Wanna hang out in this new haloscape I programmed?
Eden hesitated. I think I have plans. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to lie in thoughts, since the halos picked up not only the words, but the intent and feelings behind them.
Come on, Kalon cajoled, Just for a little bit, and then you can run off and have your fan club meeting with Zoe and Fiona. Maybe program a hot guy to practice kissing on. Mua mua mua…
KALON! Eden was embarrassed. Even in her romantic haloscapes, the furthest she had gone with a guy was holding his hand skin to skin, an act practically unheard of even among families in the Underground.
Kalon’s tone was apologetic. Sorry, too far. So will you come? Just for a few minutes?
Because I asked you to.
Eden considered. She knew Zoe and Fi could be engrossed in the new clothes and vids for a long time, and she really didn’t want to do her homework. Fine, she said, and could feel Kalon’s glee. But don’t read anything into it. I’m babysitting my annoying Middler brother and have absolutely nothing better to do.
Whatever you say, was Kalon’s flippant response, but Eden sensed a smug satisfaction. She would have to take care of that pretty quickly before Kalon got the wrong idea.
A swirling haloscape invitation swooped into Eden’s line of vision, Kalon’s avatar front and center. She accepted, then closed her eyes and allowed herself to be dragged into the simulation.
When she sensed she was fully in the haloscape, Eden waited to open her eyes. She was always amazed at how her other sense operated in these simulations, and took a few moments to take in the sounds, smells, and physical sensations of the environment before taking her first look. She could hear water, a lot of it, and it sounded angry, coming in waves. She could taste the salt in the air, and smelled something suspiciously similar to fish Flavor. At first she thought she was at the “beach” but the surface under her was hard and gritty, and when she shifted, rocks clattered and caused echoes around her. Finally, Eden opened her eyes and looked around her. She appeared to be in a carved out section of rock. The ground was stone, uneven and covered in smaller rocks. The smaller pebbles poked at her feet, but not uncomfortably so. She stood and walked to the opening, then gasped and jumped back. She was standing high above the ocean, large, punishing waves crashing against the side of the cliff. Though she was high above, she could feel the salty spray on her face. Eden took a deep breath and backed up slowly, then turned and assessed the rest of her environment.
Pillows were scattered around a small fire happily crackling under the tallest point of the cave. Walking closer, Eden looked up and realized there was a hole through which the smoke was escaping. She breathed in the scent of the fire, appreciating the newness of the sensation. She had heard of camping sims, but had never had much interest in them. Now she wished she had a few in her possession, if only for the scent of the fire.
“Enjoying yourself?”
Eden jumped. Kalon was lounging in the shadows deeper within the cave, watching her intently. She had almost forgotten that he was there, and that this was his haloscape. In fact, he had said it was his own creation.
“This is a little different than the sims I usually hang out in,” Eden said nervously. “But it’s so detailed. Really impressive programming.”
Kalon pushed away from the wall and moved forward a few steps. He smirked. “Thanks for the compliment.” He walked to the fire and plopped down on one of the pillows. He gestured toward the one right next to him. “Have a seat.”
Eden moved to the fire and sat, but left a pillow between her body and Kalon’s. Even in the haloscapes, close proximity with someone she didn’t know well made her uncomfortable, unless the person was part of the sim.
“So how long did this take you?” Eden asked, truly curious about Kalon’s programming skills. A sim like this would take her several weeks to perfect, and she was one of the best programmers in her class. It helped that Ilaria was the head of the Programming department. She had been taking Eden along on jobs and showing her the ropes since she returned from Teensy camp.
“A few days,” Kalon said, leaning back on his elbows.
“You lie.”
“Okay, maybe a few weeks, but not really that long.” He shot Eden a smug look. “You’re not the only programming whiz around.”
Eden just shrugged and stared into the fire. Outside, dark and ominous clouds began to form. They flickered with electricity, and emitted sound that Eden felt to her bones. “What is that?”
“A  thunderstorm. They have them all the time on the surface. Rain and thunder and lightning.”
“How do you know about them?” Of course Eden knew about thunderstorms from working on the weather sims with her mother, but few people were interested in anything other than clear blue skies in their holowindows.
Another smug look. “My dad took me Above the last time they went to test the air. It was storming and we had to stay in a shelter for a couple days. I took a lot of notes.”
Eden stared at Kalon, open-mouthed. “You went Above?”
“No way.”
Kalon just smirked again and looked out toward the gathering storm clouds. He sat up, his face growing serious, and stared into the fire. “Wanna know a secret?”
He glanced up at her sharply. “Why not? I haven’t told anyone yet. You’d be the first.”
“I don’t think anything you have to tell me could be good news,” Eden said honestly.
Kalon nodded, still serious. “You’re right, but I’m going to tell you anyway. That’s why I asked you here.”
“Then I need to go. Actually, I think Cal is knocking on my door.” Eden cocked her head to the side as if listening. “Yup, that’s definitely him.”
“Eden, wait –“
“This is really impressive, Kalon, thanks for showing it to me.” Eden reached up to tug on her earlobe, her personal signal to her halo that she was ready to exit a sim.
Kalon’s eyes narrowed. “This isn’t over,” he warned as she tugged and disappeared.
Eden sat in her chair, breathing hard as she waited for the dizziness to pass. She ripped off her halo and tossed it on the bed, then stripped and put the sonic shower in massage mode. As the pulses kneaded her muscles and urged her to relax, Eden tried to figure out why she was so bothered by Kalon. He had barely spoken to her before today, though they had known each other for years, and yet he had singled her out not once, but twice today. He seemed determined to pass on some sort of message to Eden, and she was sure she didn’t want to hear it. She would just have to be extra careful to avoid him from now on. That decision made, Eden allowed herself to enjoy the massaging pulses, and let her mind go blank for a while.
Until next time!
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