“It’s charming, in a medieval-insane-asylum way,” Patrick Faber mumbled to his wife. The fencing that guarded Garceau’s Institute ran up and down a grassy hill, forming a crooked iron smile.
“Remember, Dr. Williams said this place was the best,” Jennie said. She pulled on the clammy hand of her teen-aged son, Terry. He shuffled along and looked at her with eyes stained red from thirty days of sleep deprivation. When they reached the entrance, the weathered doors opened to reveal two men.
“You are late,” said the first man. His bushy brown beard and wrinkled lab coat told of a dedication to working over grooming.
“This place isn’t easy to find,” Patrick snapped back. The other man, dressed in a black suit, approached with open arms.
“Forgive Dr. Garceau, he’s overworked. Please, come inside.” After the Fabers entered the gothic hall, the second man cleared his throat. “My name is Director Pablo Delacruz,” he said with a warm smile. “Pardon our haste, but we have a full schedule tonight. We should begin the sleep study immediately.” Dr. Garceau placed his arm on Terry’s shoulder to lead him away.
“I’m coming too,” Patrick insisted.
“It’s best if you let him work with your son privately,” Pablo suggested. “While you wait, we can review your case.” Patrick stepped back after seeing a nod from his wife. Then Dr. Garceau and Terry departed to a darkened hallway.
“How long has Terry been sleepwalking?” Pablo asked.
“Four weeks. Ever since he played that online game, Maze Mayhem,” Jennie answered.
“When did he start speaking new languages?” Pablo inquired.
“Last week. First Russian, then Greek.” Patrick said. “Then one I didn’t recognize.”
“It was ancient Gaelic,” Pablo answered. “After that, Terry broke into the museum and stole the Sumerian tablet?”
“Yes,” Jennie whispered. “He said he needed to finish a quest.”
During the next hour, Pablo posed more questions until a distant voice yelled incomprehensible words.
“What’s going on?” Patrick demanded.
“Have faith,” Pablo said. Another gurgling scream echoed from the hall.
“We’re leaving!” Patrick shouted, rushing toward the corridor. He stopped when he saw his son running toward him. Dr. Garceau limped behind.
“Dad!” Terry exclaimed. The teen’s face brightened, free of its gloom. “Where are we? What’s going on?” Tears streamed down Patrick and Jennie’s face as they hugged their son.
“Doctor, how can we thank you?” Jennie said.
“Destroy your computer,” Dr. Garceau wheezed.
After escorting the appreciative family outside, Pablo returned to his associate. Dr. Garceau’s brown beard now featured a gray streak. He leaned against the wall and dabbed his bloodied nose. Both of them turned to the window when headlights blazed at the gate.
“René, you must rest,” Pablo urged, frowning.
“It came through,” Garceau replied, watching horror crawl across Pablo’s face. He lit a cigarette with trembling fingers. “It will not stop. So we cannot.”
“Through the game?”
“New methods. Old hunger.”
“My daughter plays that game,” Pablo gasped. “What should I do?”
“Make her read books instead.”
By Eric Dallaire, author of “Shades: The Gehenna Dilemma”
In 2039, when people die owing money, the government turns them into mindless servants. Shades. These undead workers toil until their debts are settled. Without complaint, they pave roads, till fields, and build moon settlements for the wealthy.
Jonah Adams struggles to balance his life in this grim world. To prevent his dying mother from becoming a shade, he joins the IRS as a ghoul, an agent that collects recently deceased debtors. The pay is good, but the cost is high. His girlfriend, Vanessa, a bankruptcy lawyer protecting the rights of the poor, despises his line of work. To set things right, he just needs to complete a few more missions. With luck, he can settle all scores and maybe have enough to buy two tickets to the lunar colony. However, nothing comes easy for Jonah, especially when others come to reap what he has sown.
Bio: Eric Dallaire wrote his first book in 1995, the Strategy Guide for The Journeyman Project: Buried in Time for Prima Publishing. This led to a full time job at Presto Studios, a pioneer in the early CD-ROM adventure game genre. He became lead writer and designer of the acclaimed Journeyman Project adventure game series. Then Eric accepted the role of head writer for Activision, writing and producing Star Trek Hidden Evil and Away Team with Paramount Studios. Later, he formed his own mobile games studio and developed applications for Electronic Arts, Amazon, and other publishers. In 2005, he broke new ground with the Kindle, partnering with Amazon to create that platform’s first interactive adventure novel. The sci-fi noir novel Dusk World became the first Kindle book to feature a nonlinear story with multiple endings based on reader choice. The digital novel rose to number 54 on the Kindle Top 100. When he’s not writing, Eric pursues the development of technologies to further educational causes. He co-founded TeachTown, a company with a mission to deliver online lessons and applied behavioral treatments for children with autism and special needs. He co-authored a study that showed TeachTown’s intervention of behavioral science and game focused reward structure improved learning. More recently, he designed and produced Age of Learning’s groundbreaking mobile application to teach English to Chinese students. If you’d like to read more about him, check out his site at ericdallaire.com for more updates.