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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

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Chapter 29 (v.1) - Chapter 29

Submitted: February 14, 2020

Reads: 43

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 14, 2020



Chapter 29

Sylvia had one more trick up her sleeve. Not just an outstanding molecular biologist, she was an adept software programmer. Working at top speed in her home-office of ash wood and grey-tint glass, nothing stayed on her desktop monitor for more than a few seconds. I saw her glance at a manual once or twice, but she was in full flow.

I could only shuffle with the embarrassment. All the assumptions I had made. At least she knows some Shakespeare and Pink Floyd, I once thought. My only excuse was that her Breakfast Club regular gal server act was so accomplished. Only someone with time and wealth would do something like that, and no way she divulged her full skill set to her employer. Overqualified. No thanks.

Forgive me if this sounds odd, but do you sometimes get a greater measure of people from the backs of their heads? From this vantage I felt that Sylvia was not at rest, but, behind her glacial rage resided a good soul. Her short bob amplified this in a way that long hair might not, because, inexplicably, the neck resonates too. Hers sloped gracefully into her full, wide shoulders. She was the type that skinny, bitchy women dislike. So pretty on her own terms.

Typing away, she knew I was present but too focussed to care. I made her coffees and cut our pepperoni pizza I’d ordered into small wedges, just so she could devour them whilst glued to the screen.

“Will you tell me what you’re doing, Sylvia, now you’ve got me involved in lethal industrial espionage?”

She finally turned in her seat. “Walk away any time. I know how to make coffee and order pizza.”

“Well, that’s a change of tune from what happened in the car!”

She shrugged, and it hurt.

“I care about you and I care about Trevor,” I insisted, walking further in. “Here’s you struggling to keep control, but if you just admitted that it’s all backfired …”

For a second I thought she would shout at me, but she pulled a wicker chair to her desk. “Just sit down, Simon. Call it inspiration from Telostat. Remember how it works? Come on, I did tell you.”

“Yes Miss,” I replied sardonically. The rough wicker scraped my backside. “It stops the genes from breaking down and prevents the ageing process.”

She smirked. “Correction. It slows down telomeric attrition to slow the ageing process. It’s not an immortality drug.”

“Close enough, wasn’t I?” I was uncomfortable in this role. It was usually me explaining things to others.

Attrition,” is the watchword she went on. “Telomeres degrade over time, and genes too with each new cell generation … unlike computer code.”

I wondered where this was leading. I hoped her monitor would show some handy diagram. It was all text-based.

“What I’ve done is to echo nature in code. The more the Telostat system is accessed, the more it degrades. At first it will seem fine … in fact it will be entirely useable on the face of it, but who’s going to go into it once? They’ll have to keep referring. Then, bit by bit …”

“They’re screwed,” I finished. “But what if they make a copy to begin with?

She laughed, explaining that if you clone something that has an intrinsic fault, the fault gets copied. A rogue user would meet exactly the same problem with any replicated version. I drew back and rubbed my stubble. I hadn’t shaved for days. “So, if you’re sabotaging your masterpiece from within, did you make a back-up first?”

“No. I don’t want it anymore, this thing I cooked up with a man who’s dead. I know it now. I have to move on, like my hate for you has moved on.”

We sat for a while, silent by the hum of her computer.

“Anyway,” she piped up. “It’s a terrible product. They’ll develop it further, then the ultra-rich will live forever. Imagine that, and they already think they’re entitled gods!”

That wasn’t Sylvia being left-wing, she wanted to prevent a potential nightmare in the making, and I would help her any way I could. “I’m going nowhere, Sylvia. I still owe you for what happened to Martin.”

“And you want to save Trevor,” she said. Her coffee had gone cold. “Any chance of a fresh?”

I had every intention, but something on her wall caught my eye. It was framed art but with symbolic value. The circles connected by lines and adorned with Hebrew lettering were quite beautiful, though I had no clue what it was. I asked Sylvia about it.

“Oh that?” she said. “It’s the Tree of Life.”


“The Tree of Life.”

“You’re not helping, Sylvia!”

“It’s central to the Kabbalah, which is a body of ancient Jewish mysticism. The Tree of Life represents the Universe.”

I squinted like a cartoon mole. “I don’t see any stars or planets I recognise. What do those words say? Malkuth? Netzach? What you up to … summoning demons?”

“Not the Universe in that way,” she admonished. “It’s the spiritual Universe. Each circle represents a key influence that drives all life, all consciousness. I’ve been studying it for quite a while. It’s fascinating.”

“You into all that stuff, then? Illuminati? Secret societies?” The thought of Sylvia stripping off a hooded cape among a circle of nubile maidens gave me some pretty excellent shivers.


“Well, when you mentioned others involved earlier, I’m assuming that’s the territory we’re into.”

She sniffed like it was a moot point. “Extremely powerful people, yes, and such people tend to be intelligent, and because intelligent people are always curious about things, that’s how they become so successful. To me, our species isn’t just divided between the greedy and the selfless … there’s also the curious and the incurious.”

“Hardly a socialist viewpoint, and I actually agree with you, Sylvia, but look, I’m not after a self-help lecture.”

She swivelled in her chair, villainously Bond-like. “All I’m saying is there’s no need to get all mystical just because of my wall-art. Whatever those people I mentioned do in their spare time, whatever their faith or absence of it, that’s not my concern. They’re just an enormously powerful, globally influential elite, and they control just about everything, especially the flow of capital. These people can stimulate or destroy entire countries as they see fit.”

“Just the type who want to live longer, if not forever.”

“Precisely, and now I’m the type to say fuck you to them, and how many of us get that opportunity?”

“I’m liking you more and more Sylvia!”

“Thank you. Let me finish up. I’m nearly there.”

I prowled round her house in the meantime. If she wanted curiosity, I’d gladly be her cat. There was much to see, and every photo, every ornament, every fixture, screamed of understated Arts and Crafts taste. I went back to a family shot propped on her living room mantlepiece. Somehow, I doubted the terraced house story. I grew up in a typically working-class family. I knew the deal, and this wasn’t it.

She called from upstairs. “What are you doing down there? Where’s my coffee?”

“Yeah, coming!” I answered, staring at the picture. There were inferences from the kind of set-up Martin grew up in. Assuming the garden backdrop was theirs, it was a whopper with a wall of old trees and deep verges. Her Dad in a collarless shirt, slightly gawky, looked like a big city journalist: raffishly handsome with stylishly wavy, greying hair just touching his shoulders. To his right, Mum appeared free-spirited, emotionally independent, yet locked cheerfully into his arms. I thought Sylvia took after her the most: the same big brown eyes, thick hair and curvaceous figure. Her fashion sense was defiantly headshop judging by her colourful pashmina and knotted hairdo, rather like a woman of the First Nation Americans. I checked out her long, beaded necklace and thick bangles. No doubt about it. These were an offshoot of the hippy generation, so no surprise if Sylvia and Martin had met through a family connection … Quakers perhaps. I’ve never met a destitute one yet.

And there was yours truly at the front with her little sister. The younger, around eight I guessed, was fairer and more delicately built, whilst Sylvia, a few years older, already looked like the one upstairs: serious, dilgent, destined.

“Coffee, Simon!”

Yep, Destined. “Coming!”

As I placed the cup on her desk, I couldn’t resist. The way she’d pulled the wool over my eyes intrigued me. “Big garden for a little terraced house, aye, Sylvia?” I said, brimming with irony.

She vaporised me with the truth. “Six bedrooms. Detached garage. Driveway big enough to park several cars. We considered a swimming pool but they’re so much hassle.”

“Oh, naturally!” I mocked. The veritable egg was oozing over my face. “No cloth caps and whippets with you guys then!”

“Nope. My father was a leading neurosurgeon … retired now, and my mother was a Producer for local television. These days she writes about holistic health, and heavily published. My sister Vicki’s got her own Law practice in New York. She’s doing great.”

“Just tell me the Pink Floyd stuff is real … at least that!”

“Yes, Simon, it is.” she chuckled. “You saw the photo. Pink Floyd was a secondary religion in our family!”

I sighed with relief.

“What’s up? Don’t like me anymore?” she quizzed.

My worried expression wasn’t that. I was thinking of what lie ahead. All this confidence bred into her, and the same pluck I cultivated from nothing but bullying - how far would it get us? Swimming pools. Mercedes S-Class. All very nice, but whoever we were dealing with could piss all over us, and Sylvia would not deny it.

She logged off. “That’s it. If it works, it works. If not, we’re dead. Still want in?”

© Copyright 2020 Jay Northearn. All rights reserved.


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