IWSG meets the first Wednesday of every month. A community of brilliant writers led by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Visit the Insecure Writer’s Support Group website and database! You’ll find everything from writing to marketing, along with encouragement and support!
In December, we launched a global campaign to support the relief effort in regions of the Philippines devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The collaboration began with Peter Ebbinghaus and the brilliant music of over 30 composers hailing from 16 countries, giving rise to the inspiring Composers for Relief album. An amazing cast of 28 authors added their voice to the music, breathing life into words woven with hope for humanity.
Even now, the collaboration has captured the creative minds of film students at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Malaysia, whose GLOBAL VISUAL HARMONIES project, under the direction of Ray Kril, adds a stunning element of hope in the form of short films inspired by the album. A documentary of the relief efforts is also underway. Watch the magic unfold, HERE.
It is an incredible experience when a community spans crafts and continents to make a positive difference in the world. There’s no limit to what we can accomplish together. I appreciate, beyond measure, those of you who joined me for the journey.
We dedicate this collection of hope to those who have lost their loved ones. Though we are scattered across the globe, we are connected to your anguish. You are not alone…
Coming Soon to iTunes, B&N, Kobo, Sony & Diesel
Cover designed by Jennifer Redstreake Geary
All proceeds of the Composers for Relief album and Beyond the Binding will go to Gawad Kalinga (“give care”) and GVSP (Gualandi Volunteer Service Program), to support the relief efforts for victims of the deadliest natural disaster in Philippines’ history, Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Embark on an exciting journey Beyond the Binding of the imagination with 29 authors from across the globe, in a groundbreaking collaboration where music meets fiction. Surrender to soaring compositions as they surge through the veins of every story, capturing the triumphant pulse of the notes in heart pounding sci fi, enchanting fantasy and gripping slices of realism.
Enter to WIN copies of the Beyond the Binding ebook and Composers for Relief album during Crystal Collier’s VALENTINES GIVEAWAY celebrating the release of MOONLESS in print!
Composers for Relief
by Samantha Redstreake Geary
Inspired by the Composers for Relief Album
There are secrets behind these sleeping trees. I can feel them prickling up my spine, itching for me to find them.
A twinge of pain tugs at my arm, pulling my gaze to the bright crimson drops dripping from my fingers, their warmth sinking into white powder.
I cradle my wrist, wincing from the pull of tender skin. I’ve ripped the wound wider in my haste, ensuring another scar. The deepest marks of my past go beyond the binding of flesh and blood, threatening to swallow me whole as I chase the dying breath of a ghost…
“It’s a false lead. I’ve checked it out. The place is empty,” Dumakulem throws his hands up, waving off the surrounding agents. “Missed all the excitement, Peter,” he slapped me on the back. “Aside from an astonishing amount of rodents subletting a Steinway, there’s nothing of interest down there.”
“They’re banned, regardless of condition,“ I replied, motioning for the shadow hovering near the entrance. “I’ll have the handlers bring it back to headquarters.”
Dumakulem reached for my arm, pressing it down slowly. “That won’t be necessary. There’s no threat. Unless the rats take up lessons, it’s worthless.” He flashed an easy grin, but not before I saw a trace of something else flicker behind his eyes.
He turned from the stairs, leading me to the doorway. “Let’s grab a bite on the way back. I’m hungry enough to eat that piece of drywall you call food.”
“It’s a Quinoa bar,” I stepped in beside him, unease tightening around my collar. “It’s about time you eat something besides bacon. Although, your body would most likely go into shock.”
I told myself it was nothing. He wasn’t the same since he lost his daughter. Death has a way of changing people. I should know.
Dumakulem let out a raucous laugh. “There’s never a Right Time to eat that cra—”
A deafening crack split the air.
The ground beneath us rumbled and shifted, shaking loose its skin. The mouth of the building stretched, its jagged teeth threatening to snap shut, the floor of its tongue rippling back and forth, throwing us from our feet.
The earth quaked, pitching bodies and debris into clouds of dust. In seconds, we were adrift on an ocean of crumbled concrete and shattered shards, the bones of the building laid bare.
“Dumakulem?” I shouted, coughing on the choking haze. Something stirred in the rubble—a snatch of red glistening in a sea of grey.
Dumakulem’s body lie broken under a beam, his breath ragged. Ruby rivulets poured from his mouth, pooling on the ashen floor.
“P—Pete,” he rasped, eyes wild.
I tore at the metal beast biting through his ribs, my flesh ripping on its claws, but it was hopelessly anchored to the earth.
“Aurrrrra,” he moaned.
I bent over his bloodied face, powerless to save him. “I’m gonna get you out of here…just breath…keep breathing.”
“F-find…Aur…ora,” he pleaded.
“Aurora?” I asked, desperate to understand. “I don’t—”
A sickening crunch drowned my words as his chest caved under unforgiving steel.
The Phoenix hums near my ear, its wings flapping fervently. The steady scarlet pulse of its throat echoing the drumming dread of my uncertain heart. I’ve come this far in search of answers that may be my undoing.
A faint amber glow flickers in the frozen valley. An unregistered dwelling in a forbidden territory basking in a betrayal its isolation hoped to conceal.
I sync my synaptic sites to Moonside, the molecular machinery linking our thoughts, our senses. A hybrid Trochilidae, the part bird, part micro-mechanical system curls its icy fingers around my mind, its stannic presence flooding my mouth. I close my eyes and look through those of the bird, guiding it across the arctic expanse Into the Unknown corners of a life I thought I once knew.
It slips inside soundlessly, scanning each room within the slumbering walls with rapid precision. The house is empty, save for the startling evidence of treason scattered in a single room, digging deeper into the fresh wounds of a fraudulent friendship.
I cut a path through the sea of snow, breaching the boundary easily. Too easily. I trained him better than this. Dumakulem was careless—believing these savage mountains alone would guard his secrets.
I cross the threshold into air heavy with cinnamon and burning pine,a strangely familiar scent tied to the thread of a memory wound tight beneath my rib.
The chasm between us had grown, the silence thick with regret. Celestia left months ago, her sorrow sliding further down a path I couldn’t follow.
Until the night I came home to an inviting fire and foreign swirls of sugar-spun air.
Celestia floated from the kitchen, an apparition of silken skirts and copper curls. “I’m baking a pie. Apple,” she smiled warmly, offering a steaming steel mug, her hands wrapped tight around the flashing red words PRETENDING TO BE AWAKE, a gift from Dumakalem.
“What’s this?” I asked, voice trembling with confusion and relief.
“A Cup of Peace.”
In the space between melancholy and madness, she changed. The past was paved over with New Days, full of unexpected, unexplained behavior. I never dared to question where she’d been or mention the alarming nature of her actions.
Music was outlawed nearly a century ago, the idea of it fading into obscurity. Only highly disciplined agents were exposed to the arts, in order to recognize the threat in the field. And there I was, haunted by a forbidden melody that spilled from the lips of my wife when she thought herself alone.
I was plagued by the archaic words she strung together in the sighs of sleep, their meaning bound to the dusty breath of books banned long ago.
But I was willing to look past all this. I would have done anything, risked everything, to give her the Beautiful Life she sought. I fooled myself into thinking she was safe.
“I’m afraid there’s No More.”
I whirl around to face the voice cutting into my thoughts. A woman emerges from the shadows, a storm of silver spirals framing a network of lines that traced her long life across olive skin, her flowing flowery shift at odds with the frigid climate.
I shoot Moonside a disapproving glare. It’s sensors must be faulty. I couldn’t afford to risk a mission for an inferior Phoenix, regardless of sentiment.
“No more?” I ask.
“Pie. It was apple.”
Icy fingers skitter along my skin. “I’m not here for…pie.”
“Clearly, you don’t know what you’re missing,” the woman cocks her head, studying me. “Only a handful of us left with the skill to bake one.”
She frowns at my dangling arm. “You’re bleeding on my rug.”
I glance down, following the ruby trail that bloomed into the floor. The woman motions towards the kitchen. “There’s a towel by the sink I never liked. Feel free to bleed on that.”
I cross the room and grab the cloth, tying it around the gaping gash. Most people cower in the presence of an agent. Her ease was disarming. “I’m here on behalf of the Imperium, investigating allegations against—”
“My son,” the woman interrupts, chin held high, her words pinning me with unsettling candor. “I know why you’re here, Peter. I’ve come a long way to speak with you.”
She must have traveled from the Philippines for the funeral. “I’m sorry…Mrs.—”
“Call me Idiyanale,” she insists, settling into a threadbare seat facing the dying fire.
I move closer to Idiyanale, a shimmering wave washing over her form. I steady myself against the hearth stones. The blood loss was catching up to me. “I wish we could have met under better circumstances. But, I can’t ignore what’s behind those doors,” I cast a meaningful glance behind her.
Idiyanale’s gaze doesn’t waver. “I’m not asking you to.”
“Why risk imprisonment by staying here?”
“For the fading memory of a dying breed who believes in Fighting Back,” she sighs.
That was not the answer I was expecting.
“Don’t look so surprised, “ her keen eyes register my shock. “The urge to fight for what we believe in is woven into the fabric of Our Nature. We’re meant to defend the ones we love—to ensure our future. The Imperium can’t possibly contain the will of a people, even after ripping it from our ribs.”
“The Imperium will never lose contr—”
“It’s already begun.”
In a world where everyone’s free will, with the exception of a select few from the ruling class, is extracted by the age of two, encountering a resistant citizen was unheard of. Until a year ago, when a spark of unrest ignited a raging inferno that consumed everything I held dear…
Celestia was captured in the currents of the uprising, its hungry flames licking the life from her bones as it consumed the Extraction headquarters. The Phoenix found her in the smoldering smoke, but it was too late.
I waited by my wife’s side, her life bound by a single, silken thread, its sustaining light pulsing with the promise that This Is Not the End. Through it all, Moonside never left her side, as if lamenting her slow descent into darkness. She favored that bird, believing it was different than the other hybrids. You’re a hard soul to save, she’d say, but that doesn’t stop it from trying.
It wasn’t me who needed saving.
Seven days later, she broke the surface of her fitful sleep only to plunge into the seas of oblivion. All I had left were memories and mourning bird. A Requiem for a Queen followed, the ruler of my life locked inside a cold casket, a snaking line of inky figures shrouded in grief whispering God Is With You, grinding my barely beating heart further beneath a hard packed layer of vengeance.
Despite a chain of raids and interrogations, the Insurgence would Rise Again and again, growing steadily stronger. Incidents increased exponentially in the past year, triggering riots across the country. The Imperium dedicated all field agents to uncovering the origin of the uprising.
I shake myself from the shackles of memories I long to forget. “Extraction maintains the peace,” I argue, “There’s no need to fight. The Imperium ensures our safety through submission.”
“The Imperium’s motives for extracting our free will lie somewhere on the Continuum between pacifism and brutality.”
“It’s the resistance that killed your son,” I swallow the acidic anger lodged in my throat. “And my wife.”
Idiyanale shakes her head, eyes a reflecting pool of pity. “I’m sorry…about Celestia. But her blood is on the Imperium’s hands.”
“You’re treading a dangerous line—”
“That line was crossed the moment they first tore the possibilities from a child’s Existence. This is what Dumakulem fought against. What Celestia hoped to conquer. Honor their memory by listening to your heart over your orders,” Idiyanale pleads.
“What do you know of my wife?” I demand.
“That she never stopped loving you…she loves you still. Your Heart Is Brave, Peter. Even now, she knows you’ll make the right choice, though it won’t be easy. The right path never is.”
“You’ve no idea what you’re—”
“Spes Et Libertas.”
The last time I heard those words, they were slipping from the sleeping lips of my wife. “Wh—what did you say?”
“Hope and Freedom. This is the pledge of the resistance. Celestia was one of us. ”
I feel the tattered tether to sanity snap. “No…that’s impossible.”
“Celestia came to us, broken, fragile. She felt lost in her own skin. We all go through it, before the Awakening.”
“I don’t understand.”
“With the proper catalyst, The Power of Will can heal. It takes time to knit the fabric of our being back together. When your wife returned, she was—”
“Whole.” Idiyanale beamed. “Her soul found Rebirth quicker than most. She had something to live for. She believed the best—”
“The Best Is yet to Come.” I whisper, falling into the chair behind me. “That’s what she said to me, that first night. She said I needed to have faith. I don’t even know what that is…” I throw my arms up. “But she was wrong. There was nothing but pain in the end.”
Idiyanale closes her eyes. “We can’t always save the ones we love, but you never truly lose them. Their spirits watch over you when you need it most.” She gazes off into some far off place. “The day my son fell to his death…there was someone else who needed saving.”
Her words sink in, drowning in the pool of my thoughts. It took me a full minute to realize someone else had walked in the door. Moonside was frantically fluttering near the edge of my nose, its wings grazing my skin in warning.
Dumakulem’s wife approaches cautiously, a small figure peeks from behind her hip. Ana reaches an arm protectively around the little girl, nudging her towards a door. “Go on. Give us a minute.”
The girl’s ebony curls bounce against her shoulders as she skips from the room.
Ana gives me a cursory glance, her emerald eyes guarded. “You look like hell.”
“It’s been an eventful day,” I sigh, gesturing towards the window where crystalline fingers climb up the glass. “I’m not overly fond of dangerous secrets…or snow.”
“We’re not overly fond of visitors.” She walks to the hearth, picking up an iron rod to poke at the pulsing ashes. “Dumakulem thought we’d be safe here.” A raven curtain falls across her face as she leans over to feed the fleeting flames a bite of wood. “The Imperium mustn’t find us, Peter. You have to understand–”
“How can I possibly understand all this, Ana? You know the penalty for treason!” I jump from the chair and snatch her arm, forcing her to face me. “You risk your life for…for what?”
“For that One spark of Hope.”
“Is that how you turned Celestia?” I accuse.
Ana flinches. “We never intended to hurt anyone.” She confesses, flames dancing in her gaze. “She was…suffering, Peter. Just as we had only a few years before. We saw the signs. We knew how to help her.”
“What are you saying? That she was…sick?”
“Some of us can feel the phantom limb of our extraction.” Ana clutches her chest, eyes wide with wonder. “When nurtured, somehow it…mends itself. We become whole again. But the healing process is…painful. After,” her eyes grow dark, “the realization of what was stolen from us is…unbearable.”
Ana lays her palm against the cage of my heart. “We were never meant to be mindless machines, surrendering our choices, our freedom, to a corrupt few. We were designed for so much more than this.”
Snatches of a haunting melody slip through the cracks of a closed door. Recognition pulls me like an invisible thread, beckoning me. I brush past Ana and open the door.
Antiquated relics wink from walls in glistening gold and burnished browns. They curve into corners with strings stilled in stands. In the center, is the girl, her delicate hands flying across a blur of black and white, flooding the room with a familiar song.
Something inside my chest stirs.
Ana edges behind me. “Dumakulem brought home a harp from one of the first raids, too exhausted to haul it to headquarters in the dead of night. The next morning, we found her plucking notes from the strings as if she’d done it a thousand times. She wasn’t yet two.” Ana walks along the walls, her fingers brushing over each polished surface to the memories beneath. “No matter what he brought home, she could play it…beautifully.”
“Who is she?”
Ana faces me, her hands cupping my shoulders. “We couldn’t bring her in for extraction, not after that. She’s special, Peter.”
“She’s your daughter?” I clutch the door frame, the realization stealing my breath. “The one who…died?”
Ana drops her hands to her side, her expression fearful. “I’m sorry, Peter. We had no choice. He didn’t want to lie to you.” She shakes her head, eyes pleading for me to accept the impossible. “We couldn’t afford to be discovered. She’s an instrument of the Renaissance. Her music…it…changes people.”
“She’s the source of the uprising…” I fall back, lurching away from her, away from a truth I couldn’t bear to hear. “Are you insane? Your resurrected daughter is being hunted by every agent in the Imperium! By ME!”
Ana charges towards me, conviction burning in fearless eyes. “Aurora is a beacon for A New Dawn. I need you to help us. I’m asking you to protect her. Please, Peter…”
“Aurora,” I murmur—the name that’s haunted me, that drove me to this place. “The raid,” I grasp the full meaning behind Dumakulem’s plea. “She was there.”
Ana nods. “She made it out of the building’s basement without a scratch. No one knows how she survived.”
“Someone else needed saving…” I whisper, echoing the words of Idiyanale. “Dumakulem’s mother. Where—” I search around me. “Where is she?”
Ana shakes her head, confusion wrinkling her brow. “She’s gone.” Ana reaches into her pocket and pulls out a sleek silver device. “Idiyanale was killed in the same explosion that took Celestia. They were there together.” She calls up a three-dimensional image of smiling faces in an animated summer scene. “This was taken a few hours before they left for the protest. They were…very close.”
There, in the center of the crowd, is my wife, looking so…alive. Standing by her is a woman wearing the same flowing, flowery frock I’d seen only moments ago.
I stumble against the wall and slide to the floor.
“Peter?” Ana crouches down in front of me, her hands gripping my arms.
A laugh climbs up my throat. “She came a long way to speak with me…”
Ana’s eyes swim before me, weary with worry. I should worry. I’m losing my mind.
“Who came a long way, Peter?”
Pain and loss collide, coursing through my veins, consuming everything in its path. “She wanted me to know…Celestia loved me…loves me…still.” I steady my spinning head against my knees as the music lays waste to the remains of sanity.
Moonside perches on my shoulder, its beak nudging my neck.
Suddenly, a blanket of silence falls over me, deafening in its emptiness. I sense a small weight settle beside me on the floor, surrounding me in cinnamon. I dip my head to look at the little girl with Dumakulem’s eyes that flicker from me to the Phoenix.
She strokes the bird’s glowing ruby chest. “Hello, Moonside. Thank you for bringing Peter.” It glances briefly my way before hopping onto her finger. Traitor.
Aurora tilts her head, studying me. “Don’t be sad, Peter. She wouldn’t want you to be sad.” Aurora gently traces her finger along the path of liquid sorrow staining my cheek. “She wanted you to hear it…the song I wrote for her. She asked me to play the Hymn of Faith for you…before she died.”
I swallow a sob.
“Can you feel it?” Aurora asks.
“What’s…happening to me?”
Aurora lays her small palm against my chest, a knowing smile lighting her face.
© 2014 Samantha Redstreake Geary