Read the first thousand words of City of Ice and Dreams

woman reading on grass
Read the first thousand words of City of Ice and Dreams (Image: Flickr)

I’d like to present the first one thousand words of my novel City of Ice and Dreams, the third book of my series, Tales From A Warming Planet. In a near-future Antarctica damaged by climate change, a woman leads a ragtag group of refugees to find a lost city and a new life. Check out the video version after the text. I’ve love to read your comments.

The other books in the series are The Mother Earth Insurgency (free, full video and audio versions here), Carbon Run, and Restoration. All except the first are available in print and ebook versions on Amazon. Thanks for your support!

Chapter 1

The repetitive shriek of the ferry’s klaxon drowned out Sento’s pounding on the cabin doors. She hammered three or four times on each before switching.

“Everybody out! You have to get to the beach. The ship is sinking.”

Frightened inmigrantes crowded the passageway. Hundreds of desperate black, brown, and white faces searched the armed woman’s face for reassurance. She feigned a smile.

I’m scared I won’t make it either. I’m more scared I won’t get answers.

Sento urged them toward the stairs and doors onto the deck. A freezing Antarctic wind tinged with spray greeted them.

There weren’t enough life vests.

“The AI is still in control. Wait for the crew’s instructions. They’ll tell you what to do.”

Finished with the staterooms, she checked other spaces where she’d seen the group of pilgrims headed to Isorropia. They hoped to find a new start. They packed themselves into closets, heads, corners under stairways. The ferry from Punta Arenas was overcrowded, but that was standard for smugglers of human beings, the coyotes. She sought out an old woman.

Stray tawny hairs drifted in front of her eyes. She flicked the hairs behind her right ear. Someone once said she had the face of Aphrodite but the jaw of Hercules. Who said that to me? I wish I could remember.

The shipowner admired her buff upper arms and shoulders. He hired her as security for the trip from Chile to Nordenskjöld. He gave her a flak jacket. He compared the trip to rowing across a pond. She bought a pistol to protect herself.

The engine room was flooding.

Sento found the woman. She was a disidentified. Like ghosts, the disidentified inhabited a place between society’s light and dark. They were living husks, legal non-entities, socially dead, without names, with all data about their existence expunged from every database and document that might have stored facts and figures about their lives.

“We have to go. We’re taking on water.”

“Go away.” The voice was muffled behind a gauzy cloth.

Sento’s eyes lingered on the tulip-shaped welt on the woman’s forehead. The flower signaled an environmental crime of the worst kind. The bony growth warned the public to ignore the marked woman or face sanction. As if absently attacking an itch, Sento raised her fingers to her hairline, expecting to find a similar welt of disidentification.

Nothing was on Sento’s brow, but the younger woman thought there should be. Instinct as vague as the sun dogs on the Antarctic sun suggested something similar had happened to her. In her case, the procedure was a failure, or botched. She couldn’t nail down her feeling. She removed a food pack from her pocket and lay it near the woman’s bare, calloused foot.

The ragged woman’s shiny eyes stared at the meal. “They’ll report you. They’ll put you in jail.”

The Bureau of Environmental Security didn’t always ignore illegal acts of compassion, but Sento wasn’t worried. “I don’t think there’s any bessies on this rust bucket. Come on, we have to leave.”

“You have a beautiful heart. A little water, maybe?”

Sento handed the woman a sealed bulb of fresh water. When they first met, Sento wanted to ask about the crime, but the woman wouldn’t know. Dissing—invented a century ago as a response to public outcries against capital punishment—not only erased all official traces of life, but the latest practices permanently damaged parts of the brain that held memory important to identity.

The woman probably didn’t know her real name. Her memory was an empty shell, excised like a painting from its frame. Sento’s memory was a frame with only a few flakes on the canvas, frustrating in its fragmentation.

Twenty-three months, one week, five days ago since I last knew my name or where I’m from. Was I dissed? Was I hurt? Or have I always been this way?

She had two facts: The date she woke up in an operating room and a certainty as solid as the spine of the Andes that the answers to her identity were at the bottom of the world. If she did not find the answers, she was condemned to a life like the damaged creature on the Kildare‘s deck.

The dissed woman tore open the water pouch with hands that belonged to a skeleton. “Do you know why the ship has stopped?”

“Engine failure. We’re running out of time.” Sento hadn’t seen any crew since the order to abandon ship. They were frightened too. They paid her to keep the inmigrantes away from them. That didn’t mean let them die. as far as Sento was concerned. “Please. You’ll drown.”

She reached out to the woman’s greasy clothes, but the elder shrank away.

Immigrants peered out a nearby porthole, terror in their faces. One screamed. A motorboat sped away from the ferry toward the beach below the hamlet of Nordenskjöld, a kilometer or two away. Sento recognized the captain and cursed him.

She protected the old woman from the building chaos. “We have to go. Now.”

“Iso.” Koi Nahim, one of the pilgrims, 11 or 12 years old, dropped to his haunches near Sento and the woman, his mop of black, curly hair in need in a comb. “Come to Isorropia, both of you.”

Sento first heard the name spoken by the pilgrims on the road south. It represented salvation. The word meant something different to Sento.

“At least he pronounces it correctly,” the woman said. Sento wondered if she was once a teacher. “Idiots say ‘I so.’” The elder dropped the gauze cloth, which hid sores on her lips, to bite into the food pack. “Isn’t that right, boy? It’s the way moronic dreamers talk about Isorropia.” She said the first syllable like the “e” in “equal.”

“Iso.” The youth nodded to add emphasis.

“It doesn’t exist.” The woman relished the chewy food. She ignored the pandemonium. “Think El Dorado or Eden or similar nonsense.” The woman addressed Koi. “Child, Isorropia is about as real as the million euros in my hip pocket.” She rasped and dismissed Koi. “Go back to your rat hole and dream your dreams.”

Listen to the first thousand words of City of Ice and Dreams.

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