This is the first chapter from the project that keeps distracting me from what I’m supposed to be doing right now (finishing the second Shadowlands book!)
This project is a book called Blood Red Rose, a near-future science fiction story set in Australia and inspired by Nazi Germany.
It is VERY rough! As these characters and this story have only existed for a couple of months I’m still working through the kinks, particularly with the narrative style.
Feedback is welcome!
They did not come down in a fancy spaceship. There was no overnight invasion. They crept into our world like thieves in the night. For decades they lived among us. Plotting. Planning. Preparing to take our world for their own.
And we let them.
One – Day 14
How do you protect your thoughts from creatures who can read a person’s mind as easily as a human tells the time?
That has been my dilemma for two weeks now. Every time he enters this room I must force my mind to focus on mundane tasks like recalling the exact step-by-step recipe for my mother’s famous cottage pie, or cataloguing every single Beatles album in release date and track order.
He is Kaspion dan Gahris, Commandant of the Talvari prison in which I am currently being held captive. He is the man—or should I say monster—responsible for my fate. I’m sure he is well aware that I am no loyalist—I am a captured resistance fighter, after all. But that hardly makes the prospect of his seeing into my thoughts an easier one to bear.
With the ease of practice, I push the worry from my mind. The Commandant has made it his habit to visit me whenever the whim strikes. I can’t afford to let my guard down. Ever.
I let my eyes fall closed, drawing a deep breath into my lungs. Release it. My eyes snap open. With a clear mind I turn my attention for the upteenth time to the room that has been my jail cell for the past two weeks.
The prison is not really a prison, but a hotel that I suppose might have been one of Melbourne’s finest establishments in its day, but by the looks of things it had fallen into disrepair long before the Talvari claimed it.
When I first heard they were using hotels for prisons it sounded absurd. Right before it made perfect sense. They wouldn’t have been able to use any of Australia’s actual prisons—they are all already full to absolute capacity. And it isn’t as though any humans will be needing luxury accommodation now—no holidays for us anymore.
I’d never been to Melbourne before joining the Resistance, and I’d certainly never been in a hotel. The furthest I’d ever ventured from the cattle station I grew up on was to Adelaide for the Show, and we always stayed with my aunt and uncle during those visits.
But I am not a complete hick. I’ve read books, I’ve seen TV shows and movies. And I have common sense. I don’t need to have stayed in a hotel room to know what the basic features should be. Which is why I’m quietly confident the Talvari must have made a few adjustments before moving their prisoners in. I’m certain, for example, hotel rooms are supposed to have beds…
There is not a single piece of furniture in this room. There are no beds, no chairs, no little desk attached to the wall. Definitely no tea and coffee station. The room is completely sparse. Barren. As though every single item that may have once been considered ‘useful’ was purposefully removed. A wool blanket folded neatly by one wall is my only luxury, used as much to shield my eyes from the bright city lights and early morning sun streaming through the uncovered windows as to keep me warm.
I know that some of the rooms here have balconies attached, but mine is not one of them. Instead I have a wall of floor to ceiling windows with a breathtaking view of a concrete courtyard.
There are no latches or locks on the windows. No possible way to open them. No possible means of escape. Not that an open window would be all that helpful anyway, stuck here on the nineteenth floor as I am. But a girl can dream.
Droplets of rain trickle down the glass from this morning’s downpour, dissecting the condensation that has accumulated from the combination of Melbourne’s winter temperatures outside and the absence of heating in here.
Though the picture is slightly distorted, I can still make out the figures of the Talvari guards training in the courtyard below. They are called ‘Lessers’, these Talvari who lack in telepathic abilities. Instead they rely on their telekinesis—the ability to move objects with their mind—to intimidate and brutalise the humans now living under Talvari rule.
As I watch, I glimpse a sole black-clad figure winding his way through the sea of grey. In his coal black military trench and matching officer’s cap, the Commandant is the picture of dictator-chic.
He does not join their practice—he never does. Instead he strolls back and forth, inspecting. Occasionally he stops to offer comment or correction. I have never seen him use telekinesis but I am certain he has the ability . It is obvious in the way the guards seem to worship him. His power is probably greater than all of theirs combined.
I take this moment while I am alone to recall the thoughts I dare not allow to cross my mind in his presence. The Commandant is a hideous monster, in every way but his appearance. In truth, he is anything but hideous to look at. It is a cruel joke that someone with a soul as monstrous as his should have a face so aesthetically appealing. Yet another example of Talvari deception.
I need to use the toilet but I’d rather pee my pants than call on one of the Lessers to unlock the bathroom for me. That’s another thing I’m sure normal hotels don’t have—locks on the outside of bathroom doors. Turning back to the window, I spot the Commandant take his leave of the Lessers and re-enter the building.
I turn my mind back to The Beatles once again, just in case it is his intention to visit my cell.
In my mind’s eye I see the front cover of Help! before turning it over to read the track listing. I refuse to think about my dad and how we used to dance to these songs on Sunday afternoons. I refuse.
So focused am I on my task that I barely hear the door opening.
…Ticket to Ride…Act Naturally…It’s Only Love …and then it’s…I’ve Just Seen a Face? No, that doesn’t seem right.
‘You Like Me Too Much,’ he says in the smooth, velvety voice that has no business belonging to a man like Kaspion dan Gahris.
I fix narrowed eyes on the Commandant, who is strolling toward the centre of the room, tearing off his black leather gloves. He removes his hat as well, revealing neatly-styled waves of rust-coloured hair. The coat, of course, stays on—it is, after all, probably colder in this room than it is outside.
‘I knew that.’ I lean back against the wall, folding my legs up to my chest and linking my arms around them. It feels wrong to hear one of them say the name of a Beatles song, but considering how many times I’ve ran through the entire Beatles catalogue in the Commandant’s presence over the past two weeks I guess it’s hardly surprising some of it has sunk in.
‘Are we going to talk today, Rose Jordan?’ My full name. Always my full name. ‘Like civilised beings?’
I let out a breath of wry laughter. Civilised beings. Civilised beings don’t tear people from their homes. They don’t leave children to die in the streets. They don’t slaughter innocents.
The breath leaves my body in a rush of realisation. I’ve erred. Miss-stepped. Fallen directly into his snare. My slip is evidenced by the glint in his icy blue eyes. There is no taking the thoughts back. He has seen them. And now he knows. Now he has one more weapon to wield against me.
‘Was that your father, Rose Jordan?’ he says. His slight accent is different to anything that could be found on this earth prior to the Talvari. ‘The one shot in the head after resisting the officers who came to enforce the New Laws?’
Shut it out. Shut it down. Where is the power down option for my mind?
I turn my head back toward the window. The rain forms a pattern on the glass. Like a map. Interconnected paths branching off in every direction. And there, right in front of me, is a fork.
A soft hand, a gentle grip at my chin guides my face around so that I am eye to eye with the Commandant, now crouching on his haunches. His gaze holds both curiosity and determination. ‘You are an intriguing girl, Rose Jordan. Rest assured, I will have my answers from you.’
Releasing my chin, he unfolds to his feet with cat-like grace, reclaiming his full height—at least six and a half feet. He replaces his gloves and hat and turns for the door. ‘Until next time, Rose Jordan.’
I do not breathe freely until well after he has left. Until after a female Lesser has escorted me to the bathroom. Until hours have passed and night is approaching.
Even then, as always, I am cautious with my thoughts, with my hopes, with my expectations.