Today I have a New Release for you by my friend Thomas Watson, Where A Demon Hides: War of the Second Iteration – Coda, which sounds awesome, definitely on my TBR list, Thomas has very kindly given us a taste with an excerpt.
The war is over and Humanity has prevailed, but victory came at a terrible price. The weapon used to bring down the enemy killed or injured as many people as it saved. One of the unintended casualties, Alicia MacGregor, has existed in a medically induced coma for two years while her neurological injuries were repaired.
At last, to the relief of family and friends, the time has come for her to awaken and rejoin the world. She is healed physically, but the trauma she endured in that final battle left deep scars in her heart and mind. As she copes with the burden of horror and grief left by the war, Alicia discovers that she is haunted by something far worse than bad memories. Something that first threatens her sanity, and then her life.
Alicia awoke to nothing.
There was only the awareness of self, beyond which – nothing. She was frightened and confused. Lost. There were no boundaries; nothing contained her. She was open and vulnerable with no way to hide. For some reason, she very much wanted to conceal herself, but her self was all there was. There was nowhere to go.
Memories flickered at the edge of her fear, just within reach, and she clutched at them. They were horrible, the stuff of nightmares, but they were better than nothing — almost. Mind-shattering pain and a blinding light behind her eyes. She felt screaming rage mingled with tearing grief. And then she was dead. She was sure of this, so sure of her personal extinction that awareness was a painful shock. She existed and remembered, but the memories were brief and then, once again, there was – nothing.
Terror surged through her and threatened to become madness, a ripped and ragged edge to her raw sense of self. But before it could fully grip her there was a voice. A familiar voice, in her and around her, much beloved. Hope swelled within the terrible, formless nothingness of it all. Alicia yearned toward that voice.
“Alicia, wake up,” it said. “Please, it’s time. Wake up. Come back to me.”
She heard, but she could not respond. Alicia wanted so very much to answer that voice. And yet with hearing alone came a sudden sense of true existence, a jumbled awareness of her own physical form; it all felt disconnected. She was exhausted. Bone-deep weariness filled the disparate bits of her. There was relief at feeling such things, feeling anything at all; relief so intense it verged on painful, and nearly overwhelmed her. The voice went on, pleading, and she knew the speaker. It was Robert, her husband, who for some reason she thought was dead. But no, that was their ara’sana. That was Holm, taken by the silver Faceless swarm, dead and gone.
“Alicia,” said Robert. “Please.”
She felt a gentle touch to the side of her face, a soft, warm pressure that stroked her cheek. With that touch, the constant undercurrent of terror receded. Alicia drew a breath, aware that she could see a dim, reddish glow. Light through closed eyelids. It was a moment before she could remember how to open her eyes, but at last she managed, blinking as a world of faintly colored blurs seemed to swirl around her. They steadied, but remained unfocused, and Alicia realized there were people leaning over her. She counted three of them, although she could see nothing in detail. Having succeeded in a small way with her eyes, Alicia reached for her voice. That worked, but not nearly as well her eyes.
“Rob?” she whispered. She wondered if she had even spoken aloud.
“Here, my love,” he replied. “I’m right here.”
She still couldn’t focus her eyes, but her ears worked well enough, and she could tell from his voice that Robert was crying. Her mind sent the command to raise her arm, but her body did not respond. The weariness filled her with irresistible dead weight and held her firmly in place.
“Don’t try to move just yet,” said another familiar voice, although this one she could not at first identify. There was a flute-like, musical quality over and behind the words she heard in her head. A voice being translated. It was a soothing, pleasant sound. Not Human, she was sure of that much, and she was vaguely irked that she couldn’t recall the name for those with such voices. The flute voice spoke again, with Human words sliding through it from the translation system, providing meaning. “You have been asleep for a very long time. Now you must be at ease and rediscover yourself.”
There was a pause before she received a reply from Robert.
“Just short of two years.”