A woman plunges into consciousness in the midst of what seems like someone else’s life, sending her on a quest to discover who she is and to craft an identity that makes sense within her current circumstances. As she digs into the mystery of her life, she uncovers a top-secret government organization plotting world domination and a clandestine vigilante organization dedicated to destroying it and is caught between these warring factions. Nobody in her new world is exactly who they appear to be, including herself. Identity, she learns, is complicated and inseparable from the body in which it resides.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 4 – R Rated
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This is a sequel to A Stand-in for Dying, a science fiction novel about the quest for immortality in the Twenty-first Century. Brink of Life offers a deeper dive into how the interaction between body and mind determine identity and behavior, which was one of my special interests during my career as a psychiatrist. Writing Brink of Life allowed me to play with these ideas within the framework of a fast paced science fiction thriller.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Some of the characters evolved directly from characters in A Stand-in for Dying, responding to readers’ requests for more background about those characters. Others arose naturally from the relationships I imagined that my primary characters would have. And still others sprung to life in my imagination from the tapestry of impressions of people I’ve encountered. The interplay of body and mind provided a guiding framework for my characters’ behavior.
Silence enveloped her. So many people and yet, this hushed stillness. And none more still than the strange man upon whose face she now gazed. Three fingers of her right hand were upon his cheek, which felt cold and waxen to her touch. She withdrew the hand and shuddered, then glanced at her arms, which were clothed in black. An arm gently draped across her shoulders. A brief stab of pain shot through the lower ribs on her left side, then another a couple of ribs higher next to her spine. She held her breath and the pain subsided. She kept her breathing shallow and the pain stayed at bay.
Now she glanced around the crowd. Tears fell from scattered faces. On a few other faces, though, she noticed ever so slight upturns at the corners of the mouths disturbing otherwise stolid expressions. Not everyone was here out of respect. The dead man before her must have had enemies. Were they also hers?
She heard the tempo of her pulse in both ears and her vision began to blur. Her breath quickened as the panic rose. The pain in her ribs caught her up short and she instinctively slowed her breathing to make it stop. Her vision cleared. The tension in her body subsided and a calm fell upon her as she observed the scene as if from far away. She focused all her attention on the drama unfolding before her, but could make no sense at all of any of it.
She was somehow at the center of this piece. Most eyes were upon her. Some faces wore expressions of concern, while on others she saw indifference and on still others glimmers of contempt.
“Who was this man?” she thought. “Who are these people? And how did I get here?”
Someone took her by the hand and led her out of the church as the pallbearers rolled the casket ahead of her.
“Watch your head, Mrs. Kresky,” said a voice behind her as she ducked to slide into the backseat of the limo. By now, she realized she must be the widow.
She glanced in the rearview mirror, saw the face of another stranger and recoiled. This face belonged to her. And she was certain she had never seen it before.
She felt the limo rise ever so slightly, then move silently forward on a cushion of air as it followed the hearse that bore the body of the man she presumed was her husband. The hearse passed through a bronze arch, then around a long curved driveway bordered by manicured grass that was punctuated by rows of identical bronze markers set flush with the ground. They were spaced just a few feet apart.
“Too close for bodies,” she thought.
The hearse stopped in front of a one-story marble front building with a hip roof of thick, gray clay tiles and a huge double entry door of rippled glass, translucent, but obscure, teasing the imagination about what might lie within. The limo glided to a stop and settled gently to the ground.
The back of the hearse opened, and the casket was lifted to the ground and rolled to the entrance of the building. The doors slid apart to admit the building’s newest client. As she watched the coffin roll through the opening, she couldn’t help but think that a giant monster was about to swallow its prey. When she stepped out of the car, someone motioned her toward the building’s entrance. She walked into the mouth of the monster as if in a dream.
Once within, she was faced with an enormous, gleaming cylindrical chamber, its length extending toward the far wall and its massive round door lying open toward her, revealing a brightly lit space inside. On the outside left surface of the chamber was a row of controls, a mixture of electronic interfaces and a large metal wheel designed to be turned by hand.
The pallbearers released a latch on the coffin and opened a panel on the end facing the chamber. They lifted casket from the rear and the body slid into the chamber onto a platform that rolled it to the middle of the space within. A man in a snow-white jumpsuit turned the wheel. The door slowly slid shut. With an extended hiss, the chamber was sealed.
“Would you like the honors, Mrs. Kresky?” said the man in white.
She returned a bewildered look. What was she being asked to do? Somewhere in the thickly veiled recesses of her mind were images of funerals from long before her time when corpses were lowered into the ground and mourners took turns shoveling piles of earth onto the coffin’s surface, a time-honored poetic ritual to say a final goodbye. Had this ritual evolved in the era of resomation to pushing the button that released the lye that would liquefy the loved one’s earthly remains? Hardly poetic. And even less meaningful to her in the absence of any emotional connection to the body within. She shook her head to decline and turned to leave. As she crossed the threshold, she heard behind her the whir of an opening valve, followed by the tide of liquid rushing to consume its gruesome meal.
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