Whisper Gatherers – book 1 in The Song of Forgetfulness series
Amazon review By Josh Levingston
“If you like action, and science fiction then you’ll appreciate one of the first books EVER that gives you high powered adrenalin with chilling revelations of utter suspense! This book is amazing to read and you will not want to put it down! If you want a boring book…this one is not it…this book is pure excitement times 10x! Impeccable Plot & Terrific Job by such a talented Author who is not a just a “run-of-the-mill” journalist but a skillful Writer!”
A murmur haunts Cityplace. Something bad is coming.
In the future the world is ravaged by famine and disease, almost all animal life is extinct, people are starving and living in fear of the cruel Agros that rule NotSoGreatBritAlbion. Yet there is a haven amongst the desperate, scattered population – Cityplace – a closed community of peaceful folk, living a germ-free, worry-free existence.
Within this sanitised metropolis, lives a seventeen-year-old girl who is different – a girl with a special power. She is Adara – Catcher of birds.
Crazed half-starved Praisebees break into Cityplace to steal Adara and force her to do their bidding. But their plans are thwarted when Agros, using the attack to distract the inhabitants, send in troops to wreak havoc and abduct her brother Deogol. With the population weakened and scared, Adara and her Santy Breanna must fight to save their home and family from a savage and terrifying enemy.
I’m not like the other girlygigs in Cityplace. I’m a Bringer – Adara – catcher of birds.
I can sing to the only animals left in NotSoGreatBritAlbion and make them land.
Now that the Agros have cut supplies and folk are near starved, I’d best keep shutums about my name though, or everyone will want a piece of me.
Santy knows my secret, so does my bro. He’s a Meek and in danger from Agro scum.
There is a rustling in the wind. Lights beyond the boundary fence.
A sign of Agro threat.
An omen of the strife we must endure.
And the beginning of my perilous journey to find my bro.
Amazon review by Carol Cassada
“The author does a great job of drawing you in with her futuristic descriptions, at times it felt like I was watching a movie, that’s how enthralled I was with the book. There’s plenty of action throughout the story, just when you think everything’s calmed something comes along to shake up Cityplace.”
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Whisper Gatherers and all the books in The Song of Forgetfulness series began as a challenge from students that attended my creative writing class in the local High School.
They wanted me to write about a female protagonist in a futuristic/dystopian world. They advised me on what issues to address, such as global warming, the spread of contagious diseases and the possibility of food shortages. Then they wanted the character to do things that other characters in books could not. I thought oh right, she must have special powers, but they said, “Well, she could, but we want her to go to the toilet, eat and menstruate.”
Quite a challenge. I went away and did a lot of research on environmental issues, advances in technology with nano fibres and 3D printing and once I set NotSoGreatBritAlbion in Scotland, and decided on the protagonist’s name – Adara – which means in old Celtic, ‘Catcher of Birds’ the story took off.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I researched old Celtic/Scottish/Englis/Irish/Welsh names and looked at the definitions of them that were listed, such as Adara, which means Catcher of Birds and Wirt, meaning – He knows. This helped me to define the characters personality and the special ‘powers’ they have.
Chapter One: Too High
Sweat trickled down my armpits and back as I shinnied upwards. The climb was harder than it looked. I stopped midway and clung onto the thick twine for a much needed breather. The air hovered still for a sec and in that quiet I swear I heard an owlet hoot. Or maybe it was the ghosties of our lost ones wipple-warbling through the dirt-free walkways of Cityplace. Nah, what rot. Anyhoo, best not pause my ascent to ponder such a notion. It was nearly dusk-to-dawn time and my outsideness was in jeopardy.
“Flimsyfem. Feeblewomb,” voices beneath my swinging feet heckled each clammy-fingered fumble that I made. If I’d been on ground level they’d be red-nosed and crying like a bub, but I was not, so I ignored their goading and carried on.
I pulled myself up the rope, too vigorously as it turned out. The cord began to sway causing my shoulder to bump into the side of the massive metal frame. Although it hurt, I did not cry out. Even when the heat from the humming gastubes scorched my ear and I smelt the burnt sugar stench of singed hair. I kept shutums. If not, the bet would be lost.
Shaking my head to dispel the sizzle-sting, I over handed bit by bit until I reached the middle support rung. As I scrambled onto the narrow ledge, I heard a familiar two-pitch whistle. Flashlighters. Nad. I couldn’t be caught again.
The last time they fingered me sneak-thieving inside the Minion quarters outside Central Local. Well, my bro dared me to go and ask one of the dark-eyed dwellers exactly what the huff they did. Never did get to find out though. All I managed to do was to scare a grubby-faced little ‘un when I held out my mutant mitts. A thing I do too often as it turns out. Like accepting dares. Although this one was by far the least hazardous, despite it being so high up. One day I would say no to these challenges. Yeah, right.
Yep, I know, I know. Derisive calls did not help to clamp down my fear at teetering on the edge of an info board beam. Although nervous and height-stricken, I looked below and called to Drysi and Hrypa, “Oy, tug on the end of the rope so that I can slip-slide down before the Longarms get a whiff of wrong doing.”
The over washed sissy-necked juves fled, and I was left to hide as best I could before the Cityguards came searching for Curfewcrashers. Always get more folk risking being nabbed when something oddly occurs. The under-breath murmurs about the Carnies, and the kiddles that disappeared, had residents all skittish and in need of info that was not forthcoming.
Once, when these flesh-gobblers and their notsofunfair came to these parts, the mayor had to call in the S.A.N.T.S. to bumrush them out before they hoodwinked us and filched all the grain. Some say they use it to lure the birdybirds so they can suck out their eyes and brains.
A recollection stirred in my noggin. A half-memory of something best forgotten. Ah, Carnieval. That was it. I shuddered at the memory of their hideous show and sidestepped my way behind the vidscreen into almost darkness.
I put my hand on a cross section support strut and felt something gunky. I lifted my fingers to my face. It took a while for my eyes to become accustomed to the gloom, but they did. What was stuck there made me hold my breath and glance along the metal pole.
They’d been here. Birdles. The white and grey plops spattered along the beam proved it. Not that I’m an expert or anything, but the size and shape of said bowel squirts would indicate a sphincter no bigger than a newbies fingernail. No hominid I knew had a backside that small. Besides I found it hard to believe that any Citydweller would climb the central vidscreen to do a dump.
Huffin’ hell and back. Santy Breanna’s voice crashed through the buzzing of the neolights and I almost lost my balance. I inched sideways along the ridge, and peeked down at the plaza. Big mistake. The antivertigo tabs I’d taken earlier had worn off and I’d come over with a severe case of the wobbles.
“Adara, you are too much of an age to be playing ‘gohideandseek’. I’ll not count to a specified number in the hope that you’ll appear. No, I’ll just stand right here and wait.” Santy put her hands on her hips and lifted her head. I slid behind the screen and stood motionless.
A low bonging sound resonated around the square. I closed my eyes and gulped hard. Curfew chimes. I had no desire to be caught by the Flashlighters and spend the night in the filthhole, but the tone in Santy’s voice made me stay where I was. Every time she used my full name I knew I was in trouble. I moved my head round the corner and saw her pull back her shoulder length strawberry blonde hair and twist it into a tight knot.
“Hear that? You’d better come out right now before the Longarms appear. The Sheriff doesn’t look kindly upon re-offenders.”
Her words activated two hand-in-hand, lip locked ‘dults who sat on the rim of the palm tree-shaped fountain opposite the infoboard. They stood ‘bruptly, dropped their hands and skedaddled in different directions as shiftily as a Minion caught nattering with a Highup. I thought Santy would scarper too, what with the lateness of things, but she remained, arms folded, foot tapping and serious of face.
Inhaling deeply, I prepared to wait it out. Moontime was fast approaching and with it danger of exposure. I squinted when the spiral security beacons blasted on, floodlighting the entire space. I’d never seen the square like that before, and never from such a height.
The large paved rectangle that made up most of the plaza was dull in the extreme, and the fountain plonked in the middle did nowt to enhance its gloomy look. Up here it took on a more eerie appearance. Smothered in a sickly yellow glow, it made the surrounding concrete buildings look as if they were about to throw up. I thought I was too and stretched my neck out to see what Santy was up to so that I could make my descent.
I happened to look towards the perimeter fence, although far in the distance I thought I saw a blip of white light just behind it. I narrowed my eyes and made out the shivering shape of a hominid crouching.
“Right, that’s it, Adara, time is up. I am gone and you can wait for punishment.” Santy gave an eyescan of the square, then turned away from the infoboard and walked towards Cityhall. I pulled my gaze away from the suspish figure and despite my fear, quickly grappled my way down. I unhooked the zip rope, bundled it into my pants pocket and tiptoed up behind her back.
“Hi, hi, Santy. Shouldn’t you be indoors? Curfew’s chimed.”
She swivelled round grabbed my right ear and dragged me past Cityhall, the fountain, the Seedbank Centre and through the arched gateway towards the folkdwellings. I placed my hand over hers in an attempt to ease the pressure her fingers made on my lobe, but she was clamped on tight.
“You’re lucky the Curfewkeepers are late, or we’d be shivering in the dirt pit till sunup. Do you want us to go to the Decontamination House? Or be thrown out into the Wilderness to be eaten by Wolfies, or worse, Carnies?”
I said nowt except for, “Ow,” and mused briefly on what she’d said. Just the thought of those low-grade carnivores made my gut flip and my hands moisten.
Santy did not let go of my lobe, which throbbed until we reached Puritytowers. I rubbed my burning flesh and Santy shook her head. “That was a close call. Next time, and don’t look at me as if there won’t be, I’ll leave you out there to fend for yourself. I thought you’d outgrown these bub-like shenanigans.”
“But, they called me a flimseyfem.”
“Adara, you are nearing the time for joining. You must be ‘dult now and take on the role of legal age.”
With a sigh, I lifted my head. I never tired of looking up at the building we lived in. Even by Cityplace standards, this was an impressive structure. As tall as any mythical oak, Puritytowers loomed over the rest of the abodes like a giant many-sided mirror. The reflective outer cladding sparkled in the daylight and became a black mysterious object at night.
When I was a bub I used to think it was alive. I stared at the roof, at the long slim metal pole that pointed to the sky, and remembered Santy Breanna tell me that it was a lightning rod to protect the building from being split in two during a storm. To this day, I flinch each time I hear thunder.
There came a rustling from behind the building. A murmur, guttural and low. Followed by a thin grey mist that spread out and fingered its way towards us.
“Inside before they lock up for the night.”
“But, Santy, that noise, that fog.”
She pushed me forward and I almost fell through the entrance portal.
“Now, up those stairs, let me time you.”
I bolted up the polished steps and flung open the great glass doors. The white hallway was brightly lit. I was dazzled each time I set foot in the space. The familiar smell of just-washed everything stung my nostrils till I sneezed.
“You must be the only hominid in NotSoGreatBritAlbion to react allergy wise to clean.”
My nose ran and before I could commit the transgression of wiping it on my sleeve, Santy Breanna whipped out a nasalwipe from her tunic pocket and pressed it against my snout. “Ta,” I said and was about to drop the soiled thing onto the floor, when she raised her eyes to the wallcams. “Oh, right, yep, sorry. Habit.” I threw the snotty sheet into the wall incinerator and winked at whoever manned the cams.
“Indeed. Just where did you learn such a filthy custom?”
“Erm, well, from you actually.”
“What? I have never…” Santy did not finish her sentence. Instead, she gave me a grin.
“That was a one off girly.”
“Besides, we were out in the Wilderness where toiletries are not readily to hand.”
“Erm? As I recall, the only time we went near to the Wilderness, it was only a footstep over the perimeter fence.”
“True. I meant Cityparc.”
“Cityparc? How can two half dead trees and a patchly-patch of browning grass become a wilderness?”
“It can when it is used for reconnaissance training. No more backchat girly. Up the steps. I shall be clocking your ascent. Yesterday you were two secs slower.”
I ran to the great stone staircase at the end of the hallway, waited for Santy Breanna to click on her wrist timer, then legged it up the six flights to our living space.
She was already by the front door waiting for me, without a loss of breath.
“Better than yesterday, but still one sec down on your best.”
“How do you do that?”
“Outside emergency exit stairs. Plus, I am S.A.N.T. and Backpacker trained.”
I let out a whistle through my closed teeth and bent over to suck in oxy. When I recovered, Santy swiped the unlockcard across the entrance slit and the door opened. A blast of sanitising vapour doused us soundly when we stepped inside.
I sneezed again but avoided smearing the mucus on my clothing. Instead, I reached over to the hankybank attached halfway down the wall, pulled out a cloth, wiped my noz and disposed of the thing in the Sanitybin next to it. It made a gurgling noise as if swallowing, and then all went quiet. When I was no taller than knee height, I thought a Wolfie lived in the refuse tube and guzzled down all our rubbish whole. Santy stared at me. I felt a prickly heat rise up my face.
“Addy, I noticed a stain upon your pantaloons. Now, the only place that I can think of that would produce such a smear is the wastebin site in the Minion quarters, or the Trashland area. I hope you and your chums have not been frolicking in an outlawed place? If any folk eyeballed you and told, you’d be up before the Lawenforcer again.”
“No. I swear to the OneGreatProvider I was not there.”
“Tell the truth.”
“Then where did you spring from?”
I gulped and tried to avoid her unblinking stare, but such was the force of her half-closed eye missile, that I crumpled and blabbed all. “Drysi and Hrypa dared me to climb the main infoboard in Centralplaza place. They wanted me to tell them if I could see over the perimeter fence for the Carnieval. We thought we heard the thumps and sing-song of said festivities from afar.” Santy let out a longly sigh. “They said if I didn’t then they would put it about that I was feeblefem and scardybird and no S.A.N.T. camp would let me in.”
Santy Breanna looked down her long thin nose. “What age are you?’
“Seventeen orbits and seven moon cycles.”
“No more than a bub’s breath away from wombreadiness. You should be preparing for a match and settledown, not engaging in kiddle sport.”
The mention of my readiness for femhood and bub bearing caused a clenching of my fingers. “I will not become a missus and spend the rest of my lifespan spreadlegged and docile.”
“So, you want to be a S.A.N.T.?”
“Yep and then some.”
“Then behave as one who would deserve the honour and conduct yourself accordingly. Plus, you should respect the memory of your nearest and dearest by behaving in a manner they would be proud of.”
I forced out a, “Sorry,” at the mention of my departed ma and pa, and Santy lost the look of disapproval.
“Quite an achievement. That screen is mighty tall. I think you might have what it takes to step into my shoes.”
I grinned and she cuffed me gently on the noggin. We walked through the bright, white hallway into the kinsfolk room and saw Deogol sitting in the same place as I left him at sunrise.
When Santy called his name, he merely tilted his head, grunted and then went back to tip tapping on the keypad. All the while staring into the flickering compscreen as though it held the answer to everything. Santy shook her head and gave forth a greatly sigh. “I wonder your eyes don’t melt with all that peering at numbers, symbols and the like. I’ll take you both on a camping trip. Some outside air is what you need young male.”
Deogol paused from his tapping. “I have no relish for outdoor pursuits and I would have you cease from trying to make me what I am not.”
“No good will come from being stuck to the whispering and whirling of those tech things. They are for info only and not meant to be adjusted for your own pursuits. If the sheriff were to…”
My bro lifted his fingers from the keyboard and stood facing Santy Breanna. “I will never be sanitised again. I will commit the worst-of-all-sins before I would let them drag me to the Decontamination place.” His face was redder than a bub’s in full squeal, and both Santy and I took a step back. Deogol ran his hands through his thick blond hair, and sat back down. “I have found things out. Things that the great infoboard does not tell. Things about the Agros and the missing Kiddles.”
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