The following is a Medium.com (unedited) exclusive. Note: The above illustration is an image found online, and not our book cover. “Yael” will be released in the fall of 2019.
She had stood in front of the painting for an hour when she was joined by another.
“Have you ever?” she whispered to the stranger alongside her. “Have you ever stared at something that showcased such grace, such … truth, that you are compelled to make it your life’s mission … to live there?”
It was exactly that. Her heart, straightaway. Thandie Newton exposed herself to a complete stranger as a hopeful, neurotic nut. She was immediately embarrassed, but as her eyes remained affixed on the art that so compelled her she decided on the spot she would not worry about it.
Never mind, she thought. And then, she worried about it. God I love his scent.
As to the painting, it was a Frank Kelly Freas original, an unused cover for a 1962 edition of Amazing Stories. A worried robot in the stead of a sci-fi cityscape among itinerant humans sleeping on the streets — as other mechanical men who have robbed them of their jobs labor throughout — looking up beyond the buildings to a massive shadow threatening to reinvent the power structure. Not unusual for such a cover illustration, but so detailed was the work that a casual viewer could easily get lost in its design.
Despite the temptation, Thandie would not turn to look at the stranger. It was for the best, as physically the imposing gentleman stood 6’3” and was immaculately-attired in a stark black suit with beige tie. His hair was short and perfect; his biceps were prominent. This was a perfect human specimen.
Only he wasn’t human, and neither of them had a clue.
He, for his part, was fully cognizant of the moment’s fleeting intimacy, but he knew he could not take advantage. He didn’t answer her query, and he left.
“Rude,” Thandie said, to no one in particular, as she listened to his pronounced footsteps become quieter and quieter. She finally turned to look at him but he was already gone. “Men,” she lamented. “They’re all the fucking same.”
200 some-odd miles away, yet another opened his eyes. He could have been an identical twin to the stranger at Thandie’s side, so alike were they in appearance. His first vision was the blazing sun, from which he found no need to shield his eyes or blink, expressing neither interest nor curiosity as if he was engaging that particular sense for the very first time.
He then slightly lifted his head and peeked down at a fully nude and nearly hairless form that was pleasing enough to his eye but to an observer could easily be read as disinterest. Thickly matted jet black hair that wouldn’t move a centimeter in a windstorm covered his scalp. Judging by his looks, he would be early to mid-thirties.
He sat up, and then stood. There was no one in the vicinity, no other entity like him as far as his eyes could see.
He walked on. Interstate-15 beckoned but yards away, and the sudden sound of car horns — in seconds no longer so sudden and increasing in volume to a nearly ear-shattering degree — was to him barely tolerable. He covered his ears and instinctively squinted his eyes, doing what he could to block the sonic attack.
When he arrived at the side of the Interstate and saw the cars, he panicked and yet continued to walk — despite the now-sodden legs and general looks of disbelief — and then looked back up to the calming fire in the sky and without speaking a word he unleashed a single internal scream:
Joel Eisenberg is the author of “The Chronicles of Ara” fantasy series with Steve Hillard.
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