Monday, May 11, 2009

Teaser Tuesday IV

Posting a Teaser Tuesday way early, mostly because the last couple weeks I totally forgot.

This one is a snippet from the first chapter (the only chapter, really) of what I was calling Project 4, tentatively titled Tactile. What would your world be like, if every touch told you the story of a thousand lives?


I was in the middle of eating lunch, and halfway through the Lady Cassandra’s forced wedding to the Duke Debarge, when Raleigh raised his head from his dish with a curious whuff.

“What’s up?”

“Rowl,” he said, quite firmly, and walked to the door.

I frowned but let him out, trying to peer down the winding drive to see who was intruding on my solitude. I couldn’t hear the diesel rumble of the McGoverns’ old truck, so I knew it wasn’t my neighbors.

Raleigh went bounding down the hill to vanish around the curve in a flurry of white and gray fur. I heard no screams of terror, so I assumed whoever it was would be walking up the hill shortly. With a heavy sigh, I started packing my pizza away in neat plastic bags.

It was ten full minutes before the quiet knock came at the door, and I wondered if Raleigh had given the unknown visitor a hard time. “Who is it?”

“Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ma’am.” A woman’s voice, young, hesitant. When I opened the door, my impression was confirmed. She was shorter than me, by a good deal, with a cute pageboy haircut and freckles across her pert little nose. Freckles! Her dark uniform gave her nothing at all in the way of authority. She looked like a kid playing dress up.

Her face lit up upon seeing me, as if she’d been afraid I wouldn’t open the door at all. “I’m Constable Sikes. May I come in?” She stuck her hand out at me.

You don’t offer to shake hands with a tactile psychic. It’s like offering to greet the queen by sniffing her crotch. I eyed the offending appendage until she blushed and withdrew her hand.

“Beg your pardon. I wasn’t thinking.”

I thought the girl might weep if I kept her on the doorstep any longer. “Come in, Constable.” I stepped away, keeping a very clear distance between the two of us.

She hovered just inside the door, and I went on about cleaning up the kitchen, plunging my hands under running water to wash my dishes. The water was soothing, easing away the tension that had sprung up between my shoulders. I didn’t like strangers in my house. I didn’t like familiar people there either. Who knew what kind of psychic bile they’d dribble all over the place?

Behind me, Constable Sikes attempted small talk. “You have a lovely home, ma’am.”

I turned in time to see her reach to pick up the little wolf figurine from the shelf by the door. “Don’t touch that!” It came out a bit harsher than I’d intended, and she jumped, snatching her hand back. “Dear God, what are they teaching you at Depot these days? Why would they send you here to meet with me, and not even tell you how to behave?” I dried my hands on the towel, scowling at the world in general now.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m nervous.” I watched her gather herself, drawing up to stand straighter. “You’re right. I should be thinking.”

“What is so important that they sent you here all by yourself?” I stopped myself from adding “little girl” to the end of that.

“I’m not by myself. My superior is in the car, ma’am.”

“And why is your superior not coming to talk to me?”

She blinked at me, as if I should have already known. “Your dog, ma’am. He won’t let him out of the car.”

I groaned, and my stomach tied itself into three or four intricate knots. There was only one person Raleigh reacted that strongly to. I gestured for the little Constable to move away from the door, then poked my head outside.

“Raleigh, let him go!” My voice echoed off the hills around the cabin, mockingly. Let him go, let him go! A moment later, Raleigh came bounding up the hill, tongue lolling happily. As far as he was concerned, he’d done a good deed. “Go lay down, trickster.” I ruffled his fur as he muscled through the door past me, getting only feelings of playfulness and contentment from him. That’s why I love animals. They’re such uncomplicated creatures.

Unlike the man now marching up my driveway. His dark coat flapped around his legs, taking the gravel road in strides twice as long as my own. He’d cut his hair since I’d seen him last, the tiny fringe of dark curls at the back of his neck now gone. It looked good on him. Not that I’d ever tell him that.

“Corporal Redfield. To what do I owe the distinct displeasure?”


sue laybourn said...

Me like.
Nice introduction, I love the way you drop her ability in with subtlety. I love her reasoning for having the dog.
I also love the way you've already set up the tension between the MC and the Chief Constable.

More please! :D

J.F. Posthumus said...

love it! especially the last line!

very good setup, and makes me want to read more.

dear gods, you purgies might manage to get me hooked on good 1st person narritives!!!

Jill Myles said...

Your writing is awesome, but I'm a hard win on this scenario. Mostly because you've set her up as a tactile psychic, and so now my brain is going to be paying extremely close attention to everything she touches. In this, she:

1) Eats lunch. Does her food have memories? What about what she's using to hold the food? Are her memories affected by touching her mouth, or only her hands?

2)Packing the pizza away in plastic bags. Was the pizza delivered? How were the bags made? In a factory? Did anyone at the store touch the plastic bags? etc.

3) She touches the door. Has anyone else touched the door? Wouldn't she automatically get an impression since the other person just knocked?

4) The water that runs over her hands. Would she pick up any traces from this?

Etc etc. I imagine this would work if I knew the setting itself and the established rules right away, but since they're not in the snippet, my brain is poking holes into the concept.

But your writing is great. So I don't know. I could be spoiled for this particular trope/power because I read Marjorie Liu's SHADOW TOUCH and she dealt with the same sort of power in an extremely oppressive sort of way (where the character was being driven insane by everything that touched him) and that particular aspect of it has kind of been ruined for me.

Er, that was probably way, way more than you wanted. Bottom line: your writing is lovely and I like the character, but the set-up doesn't work for me in this snippet. :)

K.A. Stewart said...

Jill - I think some of your questions might be answered in the section that comes right before this (this isn't how the chapter opens). But you are correct in that she has to be very careful of every single thing she touches. There is no such thing as a casual outing for her.

Jill Myles said...

That's always the problem with snippets - you miss out on big chunks of explainy stuff. :)

If you're aware of it, I'm good!

sunna said...

Oh, fabulous. Your MC's voice is seriously great, and I love the fact that her psychic abilities aren't romanticized.

Ella said...

You don’t offer to shake hands with a tactile psychic. It’s like offering to greet the queen by sniffing her crotch.

Love it! I just assumed it was only when she touched humans. In The Witching Hour( I think--Anne Rice--she had the charcter wear gloves, and isn't that like the Dead Zone.)Not everything would set off their psychic alarms. But I guess your character is still learning? Regardless, love the writing.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this, even if I had some similar questions as I wondered why someone in her situation would even have knicknacks that would be made by someone else.

Also, I love the dog's personification, but I totally disagree with you that they're uncomplicated creatures. Just complex in a different way. I think the "uncomplicated" downplays the very tangled web of their socialization among humans and their own personal lives.

Gretchen said...

Your MC is a fascinating character. I'm totally slow on the uptake in regards to her abilities, but what I love is the immediate "drop you in the middle of this world and let you figure out what the hell is going on" approach. I hate being handfed. It's obvious you have a strong world/setup here and I'm excited to learn about it!

Debra Driza said...

You hooked me--what's up with the guy at the end?? More, more!

And I love the bit about "psychic bile dribbling".

I do have to say, I was expecting a historical romance at first, because of the mention of the wedding and the Duke. So I was totally thrown off by the car and such. Of course, reading the bookjacket would probably be a good clue, lol.

Sarah said...

I really, really liked this. (And the RCMP hurrah!) I also like being dropped in - the narrative is very smooth and simple, and definitely makes me want to read more... so I think I will... Well done!

Anonymous said...

I really liked this, and you had some awesome lines. Like Jill, my mind was wandering over some issues, but that's the problem with snippets.

Auggy said...

*Eyes, waits*
Y'know, I'm going to have to do some serious work in the shop to make these things go. on the website.

Having said that, keep doing it. :)