Hello, I’m Phillip Carter. I’m the guy who wrote Who Built The Humans? (and some other things coming out later in the year). This is my newsletter, where I give fans free science fiction stories, my thoughts on emerging technology, and news about my writing journey.
You’re probably here from my Facebook promotion. Here’s the free excerpt I promised. It’s from the 4th story in the book, part of Nori Furukawa’s universe.
From the stars, a million voices
Private William Bines stood in the doorway to the grey-green office. At the back of the room sat Clyde Waller, still not looking up from his paperwork, still playing the part of the disinterested superior. He was a chubby man wedged between the wall and his campaign desk, his fingers constantly tapping on something or swiping the mahogany surface for dust. He looked up at the slim silhouette in the doorway and nearly smiled before changing his mind, gesturing for William to take a seat. “Sir,” William said, sitting down. He heard the door close behind him, the two security guards walking away across cold concrete to the edges of the corridor outside. William waited for a moment before leaning in. “Is everything okay?” he continued. This wasn’t like their usual meetings. Clyde had usually let his guard down by now, usually smiled, but he was just sitting there. “It’s about the event near your father’s home,” Clyde announced. “The ‘Swamphenge incident’?” “You’ve been reading the papers.” “The Japanese plane, yes sir,” William said. Clyde leaned back on his chair, finally breaking character. “That’s the official story.” “Then what’s the real story?” William asked. Clyde moved about uneasily in his chair, adjusting his position as if bracing for an impact. “It’s about your sister.” William felt his heart stop. His mind was filled with images, faces of people who apologised and said they had stopped looking, people who left flowers but never helped comb the desert. William had stored all the faces of all the people who had let him down. Though he was never sure what he would do with them, he remembered them whenever the rage kept him awake at night. “I should have believed you,” Clyde said. His voice was low and hushed. William was still reliving it inside his mind, still ignoring the growing collection of empty whiskey bottles by his father’s chair, still helping the old man patch up his hands after he went mad and started making holes in the desert. William remembered the explosion, the hasty cover up. It was after Betty went missing, but he always felt the two were connected. “You found her?” he finally asked. “No.” “So why am I here?” “The thing that crashed, it wasn’t Japanese,” Clyde said. “Then what is it?” William leaned forward, trying to catch a glimpse at the paperwork on Clyde’s desk. “We don’t know,” Clyde said. He turned the paperwork so William could see it and cracked his knuckles. “It says here, four minutes sixteen seconds of broadcast, but not where from,” William said. Clyde looked down at his papers. “From above. The thing crashed and all nearby radios received four minutes sixteen seconds of nonsense on all channels. We tried to pinpoint the source but all our instruments pointed skyward. In the days since we’ve brought linguists on board. They keep identifying speech patterns, but nothing we can trace as being of this Earth,” Clyde explained. He sounded worried, as if someone was listening in. For a moment William wondered why, cycling through the possibilities in his head. “Am I supposed to have this information sir?” William asked. He saw an unfamiliar fear in Clyde’s eyes. His face was dark and serious, half eclipsed by the headlight beam of his lamp. William searched his features for a sign of something then said, “Wait. Are you trying to tell me that Betty was abducted by aliens?” “You have no idea what would happen to us if we leaked this sort of information,” Clyde replied. He placed a large hand over William’s, running the tips of his fingers over his knuckles. “It’s aliens. Isn’t it? My sister was right?” William asked. “There was a body at the crash site. But initial analysis suggests it died before the crash,” Clyde said. “Betty?” “Alien,” Clyde explained. The word filled the room. Suddenly William was back in his sister’s bedroom again, staring at crayon drawings of strange rooms and people, crying into the night as his father drunkenly clawed at the desert floor. Clyde opened a drawer in his desk and pressed the tip of his pen into one dark corner. He twisted it, listened for the click, and lifted the whole drawer out. Reaching into the cavity where the drawer had been, he pulled out a slim envelope and opened it, giving a single sheet of photograph paper to William. “It looks just like her drawings,” William said quietly. “Something killed the pilot and crashed the ship on purpose, and whatever it was went missing from the wreckage. There were tracks, but they stopped at the road to Swamphenge. Whatever it was had six legs,” Clyde said. “You think it went to Swamphenge?” “A car was spotted on the road. The theory is it killed someone and drove away. But the car was never found. My own theory is that the thing is killing people to eat. What if humans aren’t the only things the aliens take up there?” Clyde pondered. He passed William another picture. William looked closely at the deep claw marks in the grey alien’s body, but his focus kept returning to its eyes, two bulging obsidian orbs. Something in them made him sick, as if the creature was still alive on some level, as if it knew in death that he was staring down upon it, and it was staring back. He found his hands were cold and shaking, and he put the photograph down in fear. “So you’re saying they abduct people,” William said. He covered the photograph with one hand. “It’s not my department, but it’s usually adults,” Clyde explained. “I see,” William said. There was an uncomfortable silence in the room. William’s mind travelled back to Betty. “Preliminary reports suggest the six legged thing tore its way out of the wreckage,” Clyde added. William leaned back in his chair, raising an eyebrow, asking, “And you haven’t sent anyone out to stop it?” “My superiors have, people from an outside agency.” “Cover-up men,” William said, his voice low and angry. “It’s not like that. They considered using soldiers here, saying there’s a serial killer, but realised sending the army out into Swamphenge would attract too much attention. If we are catching this thing we are going to have to sneak up on it,” Clyde said. William shook his head in frustration, leaning back on his chair. He picked up the picture again. “From what I can see in this photo and what you’ve told me, you’re chasing a giant crab, how hard can it be to find?” “We have dealt with shapeshifters before,” Clyde said plainly. “This might be the same.” “Jesus Christ, what else don’t I know?” William asked, the photograph shaking in his hands. Clyde moved to put a reassuring hand on his again, but William flinched and moved away. “I think what we are looking at is the edge of something immense, something unimaginable. I think this is something not even the cover-up men are aware of, something entirely new,” Clyde said. William stared into his eyes for a moment, trying to decipher what his superior wasn’t telling him. He thought again about his father, about how he would spend nights in motels rather than in the house, as if that would stop the nightmares. “So that thing my father said he saw under his farm before he lost his mind. Was that the same type of vehicle?” William asked. “An old one. We think it’s been down there for ten thousand years,” Clyde answered. He handed William a handful of documents, watching him shake his head in disbelief as he skimmed over them. The craft had been covered up at first, then excavated from underneath and mapped out, with detailed notes explaining theories on what each chamber was thought to be used for. The official story was that a testing facility had been built underground, and that some piece of military tech had exploded under the far corner of the Bines’ family farm. William didn’t believe the story at first, but he trained himself to accept it. Even when the cover-up men came and told him his father was delusional, that missing Betty had drove him mad, William tried desperately to believe it, to throw away what his father had said. It was as if meeting the cover-up men had altered his reality, replaced the world he knew with their own, and now their implanted world was falling away before him. The photograph in his hands was like sunlight shining into a deep and dark cave, proof that something else was out there, something tangible, another reality. Again he looked at the blueprints, comparing them to the memory of Betty’s drawings. There were structures he remembered. William caught himself sighing with relief. This was at least some closure, his sister had told the truth. But the moment didn’t last. The truth alone wouldn’t bring her back. “This is alien technology?” William asked, as if to reassure himself. “Well it sure isn’t Japanese!” Clyde joked, a poorly timed attempt to defuse the tension. Briefly William looked up at Clyde, wondered how long he had kept these notes in his desk. The older man looked tense, as if he could sense the building contempt hidden behind William’s neutral features. “The signal from the sky. It was as if the stars themselves were screaming,” Clyde said, interrupting the uneasy silence. “Tell me the truth. Did they translate any of it, anything at all?” William asked. “No, but we suspect whatever is up there was looking for the craft.” “I see.” “I have asked to give you a promotion, see if you can be part of the recovery crew that is stationed at the crash site. I feel it may be cathartic for you, if you don’t mind me saying, to be close to the things that have done so much harm to your family,” Clyde said. He waited for a response, watched William straighten the papers and put them back in the drawer atop the desk. “Thank you,” William said suddenly, standing up. “Where are you going?” Clyde asked. He stood up too, the chair creaking as he struggled around the side of the desk. “I need some time to myself, I’ll see you soon, sir.” William said. He breathed in sharply and put his hand on the door handle.
I hope you enjoyed that little extract. This story and some others combine to form “The Furukawa Universe” inside WBTH. It’s a standalone novella hidden inside this novel-length short story collection, and it’s a fan favourite.
It’s even got fan art by the wonderful ozymandias on instagram.
If you want to grab the book now, here are the links.
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Thanks for reading,