Friday, August 3, 2012

"Charred Earth: The House" by TJ Hudson (Novelette)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  A person wakes up (yes yes, I know, but we have to start somewhere). They don't know where or who they are, and to top it all off the house they woke up in starts talking to them.

The first book in the Charred Earth series.


The final syringe like piece of metal was removed from the body, and it was left to its own survival, finally independent of technological aid.

The body shivered and his eyes instantly opened wide, taking in the stark white room. After a brief moment he decided to slowly lean up, expecting all manner of aches and disorientation after being out for what must have been an extremely long time. He did not know why he knew this, he just knew. Yet everything was fine, no dizziness, no sluggishness and no pain, he felt great in fact.

He was lying back in a reclining chair, it was white, soft and made out of a fabric, or a plastic? He could not tell. Maybe both. As he leant forward the chair moved with him, reading every move his body made that was in contact with the chair. He worried for a second the chair would not let him stand up, that it would follow him everywhere, wrapping around him like a possessive bean bag. There was no need to worry, this was a docile chair, and as his naked feet touched the warm floor the chair let them take his weight and find his balance then drifted away from his back, taking on the form of a normal, non-jealous chair.

“Where am I?” he asked aloud to no one in particular, it just felt like this was the sort of thing to do in a situation like this.

“You don't remember?” came the reply. The reply had come from all around him, a soft gentle voice, so much so he had trouble determining if it belonged to a male or female. Deciding it was more important to find out where the voice was coming from rather than its gender he fished for a reply.

“Should I?”

“Well, it was hoped,” followed by a frustrated sigh. The source was still non-directional, so too the sigh.

“Okay, where are you? Who are you? What do you want? And if I've forgotten to ask anything else, answer that too,” he asked. Well why not? Nothing about the room was giving anything away. It just contained the chair, a table, a hanging globe as a light source and nothing much else. The walls of the room were white, where they met the floor and the ceiling there was a curve instead of a corner, and traced on the surfaces were various chrome and black lines. He thought these must be some sort of doors or windows.

“Well, you are in the safest place I know, you could say that I am this place and I want to help you. I feel I should add that you are not to worry, this is not a prison and you are not guilty of anything,” the surrounding voice replied.

“Can you let me out of this room then? And do you have any clothes?” He was not naked, but like his surroundings was minimally dressed, white shorts and a white T-shirt. He wasn't cold but still felt exposed. As to the answers, typical he thought, as if anyone gets straight answers in a situation like this. A slight hissing sound alerted him to the creation of a door in the wall, just as he had thought, sliding away between a section of black outlines. The door slid to the side behind the wall with a quiet and calming hum, revealing a smaller room that contained a rack full of clothes. The hissing sound again and another door was moved, revealing an additional room, this time much larger and seeming to be flooded with natural light.

After a quick visit to the wardrobe, white trousers and a white shirt felt the most appropriate choice, he headed for the larger room. In the same style as the previous rooms this one also contained a kitchen, dining area, lounge and a further area with tables and chairs all in a long hall with a gentle curve to the whole layout. As he faced to his left, stretching the entire length was a window, this too curving with the long open plan rooms and had those customary black and chrome lines.

Upon entering, the first thing he did was head for the window and was greeted by forest, endless forest as far as he could see. The room he was in must have been high up; the forest made up the bottom third of his view with a brilliant blue sky taking up the rest. As he walked along the length of the window he felt the strange sensation of the forest moving with him. Eventually he had to ask, “What's going on?”

“Just giving you the best view,” came the voice.

“Well as fantastic as this view is I'd like a little reality please, don't adjust it, just give me what's outside,” and with that he saw the forest again, though this time the trunks of the trees and the forest floor. It didn't darken though, as it dimmed outside the internal lights raised their ambience. “Can I go outside? I mean, is it safe to go outside?” he asked.

“You're very eager aren't you?”

“I don't care how eager I am, can I go out? It's very comfortable in here, but that's just about it, it's just comfortable.”

“I don't know.”

“What? The omniscient voice doesn't know?”

“If you have to put it like that, yes. But I can find out, it'll just take me a little while.”

“I thought I wasn't a prisoner”

“You're not, believe it or not I actually want to protect you, please don't go outside until I know.”

“Well I'm not exactly in a rush to go anywhere, I can wait, though at least tell me what you are, come on.

“I'm.... I'm the house, I live in the core of the house, this house you are in now.”

“And by extension you control all of it, the lights brightened just because of you?”


He decided to end the conversation there, he didn't want to antagonise the house, just in case. This allowed him to have a wander around the large internal space and collect his thoughts. There was no panic, fear or anything like that which he thought he should be feeling. Instead there was just a nagging sense of being puzzled or inconvenienced, or both? He couldn't tell, his feelings didn't feel like, well, feelings. 'I can think, and I'm thinking in the same language I talk in,' he thought. As far as what he could think, that only went back a few minutes, all his memories consisted of what had just happened. What he did note was that he instantly recognised everything he saw, he knew instantly the kitchen when he saw it and the same for the forest.

Walking over to the kitchen he opened a cupboard and pulled out a pan, to test a theory. As soon as he touched the pan and thought about it, he knew what it was for. Even basic recipes that used such a pan started to trickle into his mind. This just increased the mystery, he was still no closer to being scared or nervous, just casually inquisitive with this itch of a puzzle.

Then the idea popped into his head, he would walk to the window and stare intently at his reflection and find out finally who he was.

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