The Embodied Trilogy
by J.B. Dutton
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/sci-fi
Page count: Approx. 560 pages
Release date: July 11th 2016
The Embodied trilogy is an unusual web of adventure, romance, fantasy, and science fiction.
Book one, Silent Symmetry, introduces smart, plucky Manhattan prep school student Kari Marriner, who becomes aware that mysterious aliens called the Embodied and their pseudo-religion, the Temple of Truth, have been influencing her family’s life for decades. As she falls for Cruz, a boy at school, and meets warring Embodied siblings Noon and Aranara, Kari starts to question her emotions and finds herself ensnared in a mystery that reaches further than she could possibly have imagined.
In book two, Starley’s Rust, a charismatic young English artist named Starley, who is plagued by race memories of the Embodied, convinces Kari that he can find her missing mother if she flies to Paris with him to draw out her kidnappers. But the Embodied seemed to have vanished, and now there’s a new, more terrifying visitor from the Dark Universe – a Thoth high priest in the form of a dragon. Kari soon discovers the mind-blowing extent of the Embodied beings’ involvement in human history and her own family’s tragic past.
In the trilogy’s thrilling conclusion, Diamond Splinters, Kari has a heart-wrenching choice to make: rescue her mother or save the Earth. And her only hope to figure out a solution is to team up with the one person she can never trust. When a submarine trip to the bottom of the Hudson River ends in death and disaster, Kari is scarred, both emotionally and physically. She wants to run and hide, but digs deep to find new sources of inner strength. As the storm of the century hits New York, a child’s life hangs in the balance and Kari gambles everything in a final confrontation with the genocidal Thoth.
When I got in, the apartment was empty. I dumped my stuff and had a shower. I only realized as I was drying my hair that the apartment was really empty. Flash wasn’t there. The hairdryer was his nemesis, and the feud had being going on since he was traumatized by it as a kitten. But he couldn’t resist confronting it. Whenever I blow-dried my hair he would freak, hissing and arching his back, fur standing on end. But not this time.
I turned off the hairdryer and called his name. Nothing. I made little squeaking noises with my lips, walking from room to room. Okay, this was bizarre. Where the eff could he be? There was only one sure-fire way of making him come running. I went into the kitchen and opened the cupboard where the cat food was stored. I shook the bag loudly. Silence.
Wait, there wasn’t silence.
There was a muffled voice coming from… coming from? I bent down to follow the sound. It was coming from the cupboard.
The cupboard was a medium-sized space, maybe three feet high and 18 inches wide, and as I stuck my head inside to listen I felt like I was somehow entering another world. It was a gut feeling. You know, the kind you can’t explain but know you should trust. Some people call it instinct, but Mom explained to me once that the gut and the ancient lizard brain are linked. This is the “fight or flight” response that you feel when you’re threatened. It’s helped us survive over millions of years of evolution. And it’s rarely wrong.
So what was different in there? What was my subconscious reacting to? The smell. Yes, that was it – something smelled different in there, and it wasn’t cat food. Now the muffled voice was louder, more distinctive. And I could tell that there were actually two voices, a man’s and a woman’s.
I put my head in further and another part of my gut sent me a second message. The dimensions were wrong. The cupboard stretched back much further than it should have, back beyond the kitchen wall.
I withdrew and stood up. I opened the cupboard above it and moved the cereal boxes to one side. This one was only a couple of feet deep. Looking back into the cat food cupboard, it was obvious that it went back at least a foot more.
I stood with my hands on my hips for a moment, trying to process. And where on earth was Flash? I called his name again and listened. Suddenly the voices stopped. I bent down and put my head back in the cupboard. There was a stale smell, and… was that a draft? I reached inside and felt around. The cupboard was so deep it was hard to see the back clearly. I shuffled inside, resting on my forearms and prodding the back wall with my fingers. It moved slightly. I pushed harder, and with a groan it swung open at the bottom. It was hinged somehow at the top, like a large flap. I opened the flap wider and felt a distinct whoosh of cooler, damper air hit my face. I peered through the opening but it was pitch black inside. Then the voices started again, this time much clearer. I still couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it was definitely a man and a younger woman talking.
Pushing the flap open even wider I realized that I could fit through the opening. The other side of the flap felt like a tunnel or duct the same width and height as the cupboard. The trouble was, it was too dark in there to explore it. I needed a flashlight.
Mom is nothing if not resourceful. There were always spare batteries in the house when I was a kid. A first aid kit that nurse-Mom whipped out at the first sign of fever. And a well-stocked emergency box in an easy-to-reach location.
Five minutes later I was back in the cupboard, flashlight in hand.
I wriggled inside on my hands and knees, then pushed the flap open again. I crawled through it, testing the strength of the surface beneath me as I went. The tunnel creaked a bit – I guess it was made of wood – but it seemed pretty firm. I advanced, the tunnel’s blackness stretching out in front of me. The flap swung shut and the dank air enveloped me.
I stopped and listened, probing the tunnel with the flashlight. It seemed to go on forever. “Flash?” I whispered loudly. But all I could hear were the echoey voices. I carried on crawling forward. They seemed to be getting louder. The young woman’s higher-pitched voice was easier to make out than the man’s gravelly rumble.
I thought I heard her say, “…control of it…here, I can get…here…make it…” Just snatches of sentences. The man said something in reply. When I was crawling, the noise my jeans made on the wood made it impossible to distinguish individual words in what the woman was saying. I shone the flashlight ahead of me. Was that a turn in the tunnel? As I got nearer, I could tell that there was a junction to the left in the tunnel up ahead.
I reached the bend and looked around it, the flashlight beam sweeping the tunnel walls. There was another long stretch that ended in…? A bend or a drop? “Flash?” I whispered again and listened. Now both voices were more distinct. They were definitely coming from further along the tunnel.
“…can’t stop them,” said the man.
“That’s just it,” answered the woman. Then silence.
I crawled onward, accompanied only by the swoosh and scrape of my jeans and shoes. Half a minute later I reached the end of this stretch of tunnel. Now there was a turn to the right, and a section that went upward. I raised my head to look up this chute. For a second my brain made a connection. That was it – garbage chutes! These big old buildings were usually equipped with them. Maybe that was what this was. But why did the tunnels go sideways? No, it made no sense.
I knelt at the junction, searching for an explanation. Then, before I knew what was happening, I screamed. Something had dropped from the chute and landed in front of me. Something alive. I scrambled backward, heart in mouth, the flashlight making crazy-ass shadows on the tunnel walls.
In seconds I was back at the first turn, but as I tried to crawl around it, one of the belt loops on my jeans snagged on a nail. I tried to pull it off, frantic. I glanced back down the tunnel and saw a movement. It was coming toward me. It was… Flash.
My limbs sagged, I stopped struggling, and the loop unhooked from the nail. The cat meowed and trotted up to me. Laughing in relief, I petted him. “You… you… I love you!” I said, happy to have found him. And happy that he wasn’t a giant rat. Or something worse that the depths of my imagination had conjured up in my state of panic. He purred and snuggled against my nose.
It was the young woman’s voice. Distant, but distinct. I strained my ears to hear more but I was already far from the source of the sound, and Flash’s purring obscured the rest of the words. But I know I heard it. I know I heard my name.
About the Author
After graduating from film school in London, England, JB Dutton emigrated to Montreal in 1987, where he still lives with his two young children and their even younger goldfish. He spent over a decade as a music TV director before moving into the advertising industry as an award-winning copywriter for clients such as Cirque du Soleil. JB Dutton has written novels, short stories, blogs, screenplays and a stage play. He also writes adult fiction under the name John B. Dutton.
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