Geoff O'Brien

The active-minded author

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Existence

Get Existence from Amazon as an ebook or paperback, plus in ebook form everywhere else.



When the young woman Zhéxué first spawned, she couldn’t identify where she was.  What were all these machines filled with viscous liquid?  How were other people sleeping inside them?  Why were other people fighting?

When Zhéxué first awakened, she didn’t understand how she was.  How could she converse now, but not earlier?  How does she suddenly possess a lifetime’s worth of knowledge without experience or conception?  Why are some people eager to kill her while others are desperate to keep her alive?

When Zhéxué first perceived, she didn’t remember who she was.  What sort of animal was her pet?  Who were her parents?  Where did she live?  What did she do with her life?

All sorts of people are ready to help or hinder Zhéxué–even both.  Religious fundamentalists are hunting her.  A cantankerous old man abducts her first, ostensibly for her own good, though she barely has time to fear his violent tendencies before an unknown military group abduct
them.  The two are whisked away to a luxury ocean liner, of all things, forced to live aboard an oasis upon post-apocalyptic Earth.

Not everything aboard the ocean liner is perfect.  Zhéxué’s newest incovenient ‘companions’ and their friends are distrusted or despised by the vast majority of the thousands of other people living aboard.  Despite that, she uses her chance to catch her breath for a day or two, vacillating between exploring and escaping–until she, the old man, and their newest companions are all forced to evacuate for their lives at the behest of the religious fundamentalist’s leader:  an ancient and mysterious figure whom few know and all fear.

Thinking upon her situation, Zhéxué inadvertantly discovers life-changing information about her biology–her very nature–and of existence.  She also realises that her friend, a man she once thought lost, is actually being held in thrall, inside a prison he cannot smell or taste or touch.  If Zhéxué is to rescue him, she must return to hostile territory, administered by the seemingly omnipotent fundamentalist leader.

Inexperienced Zhéxué, alone, must somehow match wits against a god-like techno-tyrant.  Unless she can conceive of the first axiom–the most fundamental, irreducable truth–she will be crushed.

Existence is a whirlwind introduction to an Earth that exists hundreds of years from now, after a late twenty-first century singularity-esque cataclysm.  Existence is also the first novel in the Philosophy of Life series.



About the Philosophy of Life series:

Those uninterested in philosophy are most helpless to it’s power.  The Philosophy of Life series of novels is an ambitous exploration of one of the most pressing questions of our time:  how do we survive technological progress?

Does every new technology represent another step toward our inevitable doom?  Does technology represent the biggest human hubris of all, our misguided attempts to escape our inescapably destructive nature?

Or is the issue within ALL of our most cherished philosophies, intrinsic or subjective?
What if the proper identification, let alone resolution, of our modern woes remains hidden to us due to the fundamentally irrational bases of these ideas?

Perhaps we need a new set of ideas to explore and guide us:  a Philosophy of Life.


Existence is comprised of about one hundred and seventy scenes. Below are four:


1.1 — Heofon


1.2.1 — Period of Imagining      1.4.1 — Period of Belief      1.9.4 — Up and Down      Top ⬆⬆⬆     Home

(Most of Existence is written in third person limited POV.  Some few scenes, however, including this scene that opens the novel, are written in third person omniscient)

He observed the two women surrounded by the enthralled mob.  The young woman in the spring of her life was as motionless as a corpse, hovering above them, paralysed within a coffin of air.  The ancient woman of winter standing on the ground below, so withered that she might have just dragged herself out of the grave, vibrated with vitality.
The young woman’s paralysis wasn’t complete.  Her roving jade eyes quested for information—reflecting a likewise active mind?  The Asian aspect of her face and petite body distinguished her from the Persian features of the mob.  Contrasting against their vibrant tans, her skin was more sun-shy.  Violent winds gripped and tugged at strands of her shoulder-length diamond-black hair that normally would frame an earnest face that couldn’t disguise a lie.
The mob consisted of random men, women, couples and families who happened to be patronising the marketplace.  They were not as uniform as they portrayed.  Some were forced to participate without their knowledge or consent.  A scattered few did enjoy the spectacle, anticipating what was to come.  The rest waited.  The palette of their emotions ranged from resentful boredom to hesitant apprehension, from conspicuous fear to disguised pity.
None dared step beyond the confines of the congregation, thereby distinguishing themselves as for or against.  Beyond their periphery, safely anonymous customers exchanged coinage from idle servers.  Others walked casually past, looking in different directions, feigning ignorance.  Stallholders and assistants began silently packing up their stalls, waving would-be customers away.
One shopkeeper paid no attention, favouring the beads upon the wires of his abacus.  The computer calculated his earnings for the day.

————————————

Quite a spectacle, judged the nonchalant patron from afar.  A visitor to this region, the patron was unsure of staying or leaving.  Rumour had it that this area had some interesting art.  The ruckus beyond interrupted what was a relaxing day—or night—of possibly browsing, possibly chatting with other patrons.
Art works could reflect the morals, ideals and wisdom of not just their artists, but of their region.  As could a gathering.
The patron settled in to observe.  This may yet be interesting.

————————————

Zhéxué slumped against the invisible ropes of air binding her, for which she would have otherwise collapsed.  A distant part of her mind tried to remind her of the last time she had been bound, a mere hour ago.  Then, she had broken free, because… because… ?
Despair bound Zhé’s mind, holding her thoughts as surely as the ropes bound her body.  Her steadfast companion had been murdered.  Beside the wizened woman, her son fell to his hands and knees, sickened by this experience, or praying about it.  The wizened woman’s other companion, the Black and bald ranger, had collapsed to the ground.  He lay motionless.  What caused his malaise?  A furious dust cloud, stirred up by the mob, shrouded his prone body.  His skin shimmered through the dust, portraying him as a distant mirage to Zhé’s watering eyes.

————————————

Mary of Heofon didn’t need to encourage her faithful.  They didn’t acknowledge their emotion, or their life force trickling away, much less who set the siphon.  Her loyal adherent swayed in unison, shouting and clenching fists, spitting and jeering.
It wasn’t enough.  Certain acts required an appropriate setting.
Swirling black clouds shrouded the sun overhead, darkening the day not in steady degrees, but almost at once.  Vanquished daylight silenced most of the faithful, craning their necks to take in the awe-inspiring spectacle.  The rest shouted in surprise, or loosed wails of terror.
Much better.  Emotion—fear—garnered the most power.
“Why is this happening?” pleaded her son, her salvation—the salvation of all.  In accordance with his nature, he remained naïve.  By the end, he would understand, and thereby submit.
All would submit.

————————————

One of the congregated pulled himself back to one side, twisting his hips to lend power to the stone he threw.  Struggling against her bindings, Zhé braced for impact, wishing that it would somehow—
—fly past her?  How had that happened?
A cramp clenched the muscles in one of her legs.  The tight, invisible ropes were causing such pain and discomfort all over her body.  Her impotent squirms, trying to relieve the pressure, prompted a smirk from Mary.
Zhé’s rage flared at last, triggered by the other woman’s reaction to her pain.  Surprised by the seed of righteous anger, Zhé fumbled with the feeling, trying to focus on it.  How she had defied Mary’s will before, she had no idea.  All Zhé knew is that it had begun with this, a feeling of outrage that she had somehow stoked to something… more.
What had Zhé ever done to her?  Did Zhé’s mere existence arouse the wizened woman to lash out with such ferocity and disregard?
It wasn’t fair!

————————————

This was getting out of control.  Time to step in.
After a moment, he and the girl disappeared.



1.2.1 — Period of Imagining


1.1 — Heofon      1.4.1 — Period of Belief      1.9.4 — Up and Down      Top ⬆⬆⬆     Home

Zhéxué awoke.
The being observing the recorded video of her—several days after the fact—tried to imagine, even empathise, with what she was thinking and feeling.
Her upright naked body floated within liquid, totally immersed.  The liquid blurred her sight, rendering most visual phenomena opaque.  Or was something wrong with her eyes?  She decided to check them.  Her hands pushed slowly upward, through the liquid, to touch her eyes.  Or did her eyes touch her hands?  Such clumsy things, hands.  Not precise enough.  There were other things.  Fingers, attached to her hands.  She could feel those too.  She brought her fingers closer to her eyes, touched them, pushed against them.  Unpleasant.  She moved her fingers away.  The unpleasant feeling—pain?—persisted for a moment, then eased.  She sighed with relief… or tried to.
She couldn’t breathe!  Where was air?  Thrashing in slow motion, she tried to rise, to surface, but her head bumped into an invisible barrier.  Ducking in reflex, she raised her arms up through the viscous liquid, intending to push up at the barrier.  Her fingers bumped awkwardly against it, causing more unpleasant feelings.  Her fingers could touch the barrier that she couldn’t see.  Why?  The barrier felt smooth, cold.  Moving her hands along it, they bumped into a rounded corner, part of another barrier that extended away from the first.  Her hands quested down the second barrier, until she couldn’t reach any more.  How much farther?  She curled her body, clumsily twisting around in the liquid, eventually facing down.  Her questing hands discovered another solid surface, parallel to the one above.  The barrier surrounded her, forming what she imagined to be a cylinder.
The tightness in her chest had eased.  Why?  Even as she wondered, the pressure resumed.  Harried by the sensation, she pushed against the barrier will all her might.  Nothing.  She tried striking at the barrier, but the viscosity of the liquid prevented her from being able to…
… oh?
Her distress had eased.  Yet as she focused upon it, her chest began to tighten once more.  Not again!  What was enabling it?  What stopped it?  Could anything—?
The barrier shuddered.  The vibration it transmitted through her hands was so fast, so subtle, that she wondered if she had imagined it.  An obfuscated splash of red light flashed in steady rhythm beyond the barrier.
The barrier shuddered again, not stopping this time.
Something tickled the tip of her head.  Raising her hand to investigate this new physical sensation, she felt the liquid slosh against her hand.  Without warning, the feeling of viscosity surrounding her hand eased, causing it to move faster through empty air to collide against the edge of the enclosure.
More pain.  She felt another tickling sensation, this time at her ears.  Yet another sensation distracted her, because it wasn’t physical.  A muted whoosh… noise?  Yes, a noise, rising in pitch.  Her ears were now exposed to air.  Where was the liquid going?
The muted whoosh exploded into a startling loud, liquid sucking noise that she could hear with her ears.  The frightening aural detonation caused her to cry out—the water level had descended past her mouth, now.  The horrific sucking noise drowned her cries.  Many new tickling sensations competed at once for her attention.  Droplets of water dripped down her bald head, around her breasts, past her hips, trailing around her abdomen to the edges of her inner thighs, then down her legs to finally rejoin the lowering pool lapping around her feet and toes.
The liquid was draining.  The lightness of the newly exposed air increased her feeling of weight, dragging her down.  The harsh sucking noise was all the water draining, sinking into… what?  Beneath her feet, in between them, lay a hole, crisscrossed with metal lines to form multitudes of smaller holes, each tinier than the width of a finger.  The wet sucking noise intensified to an excruciating pitch, piercing her ears.  An errant puff of air caressed her wet, exposed skin.  She shivered as goose bumps sprouted.  The pitch and volume of the noise faded while the last of the liquid gurgled away.
Legs trembling, straining to hold her unassisted weight, they could hold her no longer, and she collapsed.



1.4.1 — Period of Belief


1.1 — Heofon      1.2.1 — Period of Imagining      1.9.4 — Up and Down      Top ⬆⬆⬆     Home

Zhéxué awoke to nausea.  Her eyes opened by degrees.  The only sources of light crept around dusty curtains drawn across small windows.  She could barely see a thing.  The ceiling above was almost close enough to reach up and touch.  Box-shaped objects in her periphery, equally near.  A thin sheet with small tears covered her bare skin.
Bleariness encouraged her to close her eyes again.  Sleep would allow her to escape the nausea.  Whatever she lay open felt uncomfortably hard, perhaps a thin mattress or covering atop an unyielding, solid material like wood or metal.  Or perhaps she had been laying here for a long time.  Her stomach churned.  Her head throbbed.  Closing her eyes seemed to increase her unease, so she opened them again.
Where was she?
Pain erupted inside her head when she moved it.  Best to wait before trying that again.  Soon, she could see well enough to perceive details.  The box-shaped objects were small wooden drawers and cupboards, each about the length of her forearm.  The drawers and cupboard were situated beneath windows of similar dimensions.
At first, she thought she was in a very small room.  The ceiling belied that idea.  It was perhaps only a—
pace
—metre away.  It looked to be made of—
thin metal
—aluminium.  She raised her head forward, only a little, wincing as a crick in her neck announced itself.  Beyond her feet were a pair of doors, maybe half the size of the sorts one would find in a house.  Dirty curtains covered dusty windows.  The windows barely admitted light, let alone any details of what was outside.  Was she in a—
carriage
—vehicle of some…?
What was going on inside her head?  Bewildered, she shook it, then wished she hadn’t, groaning, holding still and exhaling in an effort to manage the pain.  As it slowly subsided, she tried to think.  Sometimes, during the briefest of instants—so quick she hadn’t noticed at first—another thought or idea replaced her original conception.  It felt as though she were riding a horse, jumping to one running alongside, then jumping back.  No, that wasn’t quite it.  The strange idea would occur… beside the other, as though she were briefly straddling two horses at once, with one foot upon each.
Horses?  Why think of those?  She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a horse.
Based on what she could discern, she guessed that she lay inside the rear compartment of a camper van or pickup truck.  If so, she couldn’t feel it idling or moving.
The minimal padding beneath her lower back was damp with sweat.  She peeled the sheet off and set it aside.  A hard, lumpy pillow awkwardly supported her head.  Someone else probably used this pillow.  Taking her time, she adjusted her head, neck and shoulders in minute amounts.  A musty smell pervaded the pillow and linen.  Her stomach curdled.  This prompted an odd feeling of having experienced such nausea before.  Bracing for the possibility of vomiting, she rolled on to her side—or tried to.  Her body thumped unexpectedly into something, bringing on more pain—the metal frame of the van and wooden supports for the cupboards and drawers hindered her movement.  To lay on her side, she would have to twist her body in place rather than roll.
Gritting her teeth, she raised her head again, to examine the handles to open the rear doors.  How had she come to be laying in here?  Should she try to leave?   The light coming in from the windows suddenly seemed brighter, forcing her to close her eyes.  She focused on her breathing, trying to control the nausea.  This also echoed some almost forgotten experience.
Why?
The old man.  He had found her, cornered her, rendered her unconscious.
Her body tensed, the elbows pressing painfully against the metallic surface of the van or truck.  He had confronted her, done something to her.  She concentrated, trying to recall.  He’d reached for her and she’d retreated, her feet scrabbling backwards on the surface of the—
strange material
—plastic of the—
shallow hole
—toilet seat, only to lose her balance.
“You’re no vegetable,” a rough, raspy man’s voice said.  “It might be right after all.”
She gasped, shuddering with a thrill of fear.  He was here!
No, the voice had sounded within her mind, a vivid memory.  She was alone.
When he’d found her, he’d spoken—sound that she hadn’t comprehended as speech at the time, yet understood now.  How was that possible?  Another unanswerable question to add to the stack.  He’d said something else, after that.
“Chinese sheila.  Ironic.”
She had tried telling him that she couldn’t understand, yet he had shaken his head, apparently not understanding her, which would be amusing if it wasn’t so bizarre.  In her head, she reviewed every moment of their strange confrontation.  Her mind kept snagging on his comment about being Chinese…?
Oh.  She had spoken to him using Chinese:  “Wǒ bù míngbái.”
“I don’t understand,” she repeated aloud.  Her lips twisted wryly.  An appropriate sentiment.  The smile faded as she wondered:  why had she used Chinese before?  Also, why hadn’t she understood him?
No wonder her head hurt.  She didn’t understand a fraction of what was going on, then or now.  The quality of her memories had faded, like vague recollections of early childhood.  Who remembered every exact detail of the day they first spoke, or took their first steps?
He’d groped her until… until what?  She didn’t have the faintest clue.  She had lost consciousness.  Had he taken advantage of her afterward?  That could explain her discomfort.
Where was she?
Enough of this pointless mental meandering.  Lying here wasn’t answering any questions or solving any problems.  She rotated herself to the other side, gently this time, her leg catching and twisting the sheet.  Whoever had left her here seemed mindful of her modesty, though she couldn’t find any clothes.  Did the sheet and pillow belong to the vehicle’s owner?  Did he or she usually sleep in here?
Were those doors locked?  Taking her time, she sat up and reached across to check.
Click.  Before she touched anything, one of the handles shifted downward.  The door swung out, allowing a blinding flare of light—daylight—to filter inside.
A short person’s figure silhouetted the opening, blocking the way out.



1.9.4 — Up and Down


1.1 — Heofon      1.2.1 — Period of Imagining      1.4.1 — Period of Belief      Top ⬆⬆⬆     Home

(This scene occurs later on, after the above scenes.  The context here is that the main character Zhéxué and her current savior-slash-abductor Neal, an old man, are on the run from so-called thralls, aggressive people who want to kill the two.
Trapped high, atop an old concrete silo with Neal, Zhéxué has just spotted more people in the distance below, within what is supposed to be a deserted town.  She has called out to Neal to investigate)


“Yeah?”
“You may want to look at this.”
“May also want to fly to Mars.”  Despite the sarcasm, he briefly checked the stairs, then trotted over to her, the wind tossing his grey mane.  “What’s doing?”
She pointed.  His dry, irritated eyes squinted for a long moment.
“If you can’t see, there’s—”
“I see.”  He muttered something else to himself, then added, “I’m gonna complain to my travel agency.  They described this place as an isolated getaway.”
“Do you think they’re…?”
“Thralls?  Dunno.  Have to assume they are.”  He swore.  “And now they’re coming.”  Shaking his head in disbelief, he double-checked his revolver.  “Awright, plan B:  back to the van.”  Closer to the landing, he quietly said to her, “Stay close behind me.  Don’t engage.  We’ll sneak first, try to surprise them.  Then we’ll bust through, if we have to.”
“But they’ll see—”
“Shut up and get in behind.”
They crept down the stairs, him as vanguard.  Unfortunately their adversaries starting rushing up, anticipating him.  Zhé halted, confused.  Neal didn’t hesitate, raising his revolver on the run and firing two shots before yelling and bowling into them.  Two pinwheeled back, scattering the others.  Below, the gathered horses were thrashing and bucking, frightened by all the shouting and gunshots.  They broke their minder’s grip on their reins and bolted.
Standing his ground, Neal fired, again and again, felling more people, until his revolver clicked.
Three remained, curled up around themselves and wincing, anticipating being shot.  When that didn’t happen, they straightened, patting at themselves in wonder.
Neal spun around and yelled, “Up!”
Zhé bounded up the stairs, Neal at her heels.  A step beyond the top of the staircase, he whirled to engage the three.  She understood why he picked this spot.  Here, he had space to move.  On the stairs, they didn’t.  In their zeal, they hadn’t considered that.
His opponents were forced to approach one at a time.  Neal fought as he had with that young man in the hallway, ignoring each opponent’s flurry of attacks to launch his own, heavier blows.  The ensuing scuffles were brief.
After tossing the last one over the side, Neal hunched over.  Wrinkles on his face hid cuts, revealed only by pooling and dripping blood.  “Getting too old for this,” he panted.  He waved her back and hobbled on the stairs.  “Let’s get—”  He halted.
Down at ground level, a new group of people were gathering by the busted gate.  Two more joined them, running from the direction of the truck yard.  Zhé and Neal wouldn’t have time to reach the ground, let alone the van.
Neal patted at his pockets, then pawed at the box of bullets on the ground—the empty box.  Beside it lay an unused bullet, fumbled in haste and not retrieved.  One bullet.  Neal bent, plucked it, flicked open the revolver’s cylinder and shoved the bullet in.
The new group rushed for the base of the staircase.  They were not friendly.  Only one bullet and a wearied old man separated Zhé from them.  A few discarded bows and crossbows lay on the stairs or ground below, broken in the fighting, rendered useless.  At least none of them were armed, with medieval weaponry or otherwise.
When Neal’s revolver bucked, her heart skipped as though she had been shot.  So much for saving his last bullet.  Instead, he’d immediately fired into their midst, forcing them to pause.  Having gained their attention, he tossed down the empty bullet box.  After they studied it and threw it aside, he mimed reaching out of their sight, making a show of plucking out more bullets and ‘reloading’ his revolver, careful to not show the supposed contents of his hands, finishing with a flourish.  “Plenty more where that come from!”  He projected a boisterous laugh.  “Who wants to go to heaven first?”
Oddly enough, none of them did.  So far as they knew, Neal’s revolver was loaded, and he had access to another box of bullets.  With that much ammunition, he could plausibly pick them off the stairs whenever he wanted.
“We only want to talk!” one of them called.
“Good for you.  Maybe try doing that first, next time.  If you don’t die today, that is.”
“Are we going to die?” Zhé quietly wondered aloud.
“Don’t be so negative.  They’re too scared to come up.”
“What happens when they do?”
“That’s a problem for future us.”
Zhé could hear a faint noise, distant, rhythmic.  Mechanical?  An engine?  It didn’t sound like a car.
Neal stopped to listen as well.  “You’re kidding me,” he growled in disgust.  “Now I’ve heard everything.”
“What is it?”
“A helicopter.  Thralls flying a bloody helicopter.”

1.1 — Heofon      1.2.1 — Period of Imagining      1.4.1 — Period of Belief      1.9.4 — Up and Down     

Top ⬆⬆⬆     Home

Excerpts from Existence by Geoff O'Brien. Copyright (c) 2018.

Existence front cover

Existence

Existence exists.

Newly awakened young woman Zhéxué thinks she knows many things, from the Vatican to virtual reality, yet she doesn’t know anything about herself. Who is she? How was she created? Why is she at the centre of everyone’s schemes?

Rushed along in an unwitting tour–actual and virtual–of parts of post-cataclysmic Earth, constantly pushed around for days at a time by her so-called allies as much as her enemies, Zhéxué is barely able to stop and think. At last, she uncovers vital information about her nature, and of existence. These discoveries inform a desperate plan to save a friend she once thought lost.

Yet if Zhéxué cannot conceive the first axiom, the most fundamental truth, she and her friend will be killed… or worse.


Book one of the Philosophy of Life series.

Amazon ebook and paperback.
Everywhere else: ebook.
Blurb and sample(on this website).



Ambition (working title for Win-Win For The Win novel two).

Drafts:  28%
Content edits:  0%
Copy edits and proofreads:  0%
Miscellaneous:  0%



Better Together front cover

Better Together

A twelve year old girl with type 1 diabetes wants to play sport, but she has problems. Her diabetic routine must change. She’s horribly unfit. Her mother forbids it. Most of her team don’t care or dislike her. Winning the odd game would be nice.
And it's for one of the world's toughest sports: rugby league.


First book in the Win-Win For the Win series.

Amazon: ebook and paperback.
Everywhere else: ebook (universal book locator).
Blurb and sample (on this website).
FAQ.



Amazon: ebook and paperback.
Everywhere else: ebook (universal book locator).
Blurb and sample (on this website).
FAQ.



Siren Plays Zeperno front cover

Siren Plays Zeperno

A deaf teenage girl and her mostly hard of hearing friends learn to play an online digital card-collectible game with a pro-disability esthetic called Zeperno. Despite trolls and well-meaning parents, they soon hone their skills enough to compete in esports.

Standalone novel.

Amazon: print and ebook
Everywhere else: ebook (universal book locator)
Blurb and sample (on this website)
FAQ


About me



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