BOOK DETAILS

Code Human

Code Human

by N. J. Paige

ASIN: B01M4NV755

Publisher Brown Dove Press

Published in Romance/Fantasy, Mystery & Thrillers/Mystery, Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Teens/Love & Romance, Mystery & Thrillers, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

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Fenesia Thornbark is a heroine to her people

When the Kakus, a totalitarian government, destroys her home and kills her parents, they have no idea that they have made her a lethal weapon and their worst enemy.

The Kakus rule with impunity, dividing their people into classes—some having more rights and privileges than others based solely on physical attributes. However, the people rise-up. And Fenesia Thornbark, whom had once been privileged, rises with them after losing her home and parents. She becomes a warrior to be reckoned with, yet she questions the rights and wrongs of war and killing.

Sample Chapter

THE AIR IS DIFFERENT TODAY. AM I THE ONLY ONE who feels the weight of it? ITcrawls on my skin like some creepy thing that I can neither see nor touch, and it reeks of fear and unrest, like something bad, something really bad, is going to happen soon.

Images fromthe dream which I had the night before continues to flash in my mind. I can’t seem to escape them, no matter how hard I try. They are strong, very strong, holding on to every neuron in my brain, causing feelings of panic to surge through me, and pain to hammer on the inside of my skull.

I try to lose my thoughts by concentrating on thedress in the display window of Mrs. Ems Dress Shop, but, instead, my eyes are drawn to the figure across the train tracks in the middle of Main Street. I don’t want to see what my eyes are seeing. As if I have a choice. Still, I pretend not to notice the Shiller coming towards us out of the wavering fog−a ghost lost in Manorville, wandering aimlessly in search for something lost long ago.

My heart feels like it has stopped for a moment, just a brief moment−a blip that has just reset my familiar reality. It hits me hard and fast, unexpectedly, knocking all the air out of me. And then, my heart starts again, this time pulsating to an unfamiliar rhythm, a new reality, and a new truth, which has just emerged before my eyes, like it has not always been there.

Now I see her, as if for the first time. Strange, because she, a Shiller, and the rest of the Underkind, are otherwise invisible to us. Not because we−the Purest and Purestkind−can’t see them, but because we choose not to recognize their humanity, which is unequal to any Purest or Purestkind on any level.

They are forbidden to make solid eye contact with any of us, taught only to obey our voices. But something...something undeniably strong...something intangible is drawing me to her. I see her. And it’s not because I have chosen to, or even want to; it’s because I have to. I have to see her. You know what it’s like when you feel you shouldn’t look at something or someone for whatever reason, but yet, you just can’t seem to control what your eyes decide to do; in the end, curiosity always wins. Doesn’t it?

My hands are balled inside my coat pockets, fingernails pressing into palms—indignant resistance on my part. The hammering in my head intensifies. The Maggot had better not come near me! Damn it, damn it! But of course she is coming...straight towards us! I did it to myself; I know, trying so hard to avoid her noticing me, but all I have done is manage to draw more attention to myself. Fool, fool; just call me a lightning rod waiting for a strike—strike me down now, damn it, and get it over with.

She bends her head towards the red cobbled road, dejected, perhaps wailing. She seems not to care about the vehicles traveling swiftly towards her on either side, horns honking loudly, tinged with rage and malice from their Purestkind drivers; one man even sticks his head out, white hair flopping in the wind, a flag of dominance, and then he sticks out his arm and waves his middle finger, and yells, “Get out the way, you, yellow maggot!” She pays him no attention though. And it’s probably because she has been fully inoculated against generations of abuse from us. She feels nothing anymore, just a stiff cold corpse lumbering through life, purposelessly, except to serve us. She’ll never have the chance to fulfill her own dreams, if she has any, never have the chance to be anything more than a maggot feeding off our discarded refuse.

She doesn’t even stop to check for the incoming train that would not cease, especially for a Shiller. She must be an idiot. Must be! I’m sure of it. Either that or she has a death wish. But who would care anyway? Who would care if she is suddenly splattered all over the tracks: a leg there, a piece of liver here, her eyeless head, what’s left of it, rolling down Main Street, towards Prosperity Circle in the Square? No one, at least, none among us.

She inches closer. I look at her with discerning eyes, to intimidate her in some way, trying to remind her of her place in our small country, Kākus. They say: I am Purestkind, and you. . .well, you are Underkind—you are beneath my feet, just slightly above vermin and worms. And when I feel like it...I can squash you without fear of punishment. And maybe, maybe, I won’t even feel the smallest amount of guilt because your life is worthless. It is worthless to me and others who look like me.

I want to direct her the other way. But. . .instead, it is I whom feel intimidated. Somehow, she is able to redirect my harsh feelings, feelings I’ve been taught since birth; she is able to appeal to my kinder self, reminding me that I actually do have a kinder self, a soft spot, or something like that. I can’t run away from it; I can’t run away from my own conscience. I feel pity for her. I try not to. Don’t want to. But I do. Maybe I’m wired the wrong way, or maybe I’m just weird. I don’t know the reason. It could be the dress she wears, or lack of it in the middle of February, the coldest month of the year; it is washed of all its colors, weathered by destitution and neglect, soiled and torn in various places, exposing the fold underneath her breast to the cold winter temperatures. I’m compelled to stare at it—such a trivial thing, I know—because it... it not only exposes her in a way, that had she been sane, she, I’m sure, would not have chosen to wander the streets, especially among us who would not waste any time in making obscene, jeering comments. The dress is almost invisible—naked— against her pale skin, like a sea of dying fronds, yellowed from the sun’s light, high upon a hill in the death of winter. It says something about her, her life... her people. Am I being made aware for the first time? Or, has this truth always been before my eyes, a truth I have only refused to acknowledge? Is it possible that I’m alone in this, in this awakening of sorts? I look around for clues. I see many Purestkind walking with their heads held high, some peering into shop windows, eyeing their next purchase, some with their Underkind just a few steps behind, weighted down with shopping bags, with their heads held low in submission, waiting to receive their next instructions.

Looking at her now, I can’t deny the reality of our society, harsh and merciless, the haves and have not’s, the free and bounded. But these are feelings that I must keep close to my heart, for I betray my own kind. And that alone is punishable by death. Besides, why am I concerned? I’m Purestkind, and I have nothing to fear. Right?

Still, I stare. And I can’t deny what I’m feeling beneath my inured heart; I’m being held hostage.

Her hair, yellow— thick as yarn— is knotted in strands, with each strand seeming to go in every direction—a wild entanglement of self- abandonment. I suppose that she doesn’t see the point in keeping herself in good appearance when her inside is already dead.

She moves closer towards us, now she’s shrieking like a banshee, “Devils, devils,” she is saying. A Cold chill runs through me. I pull the collars of my coat closer to my ears. Yes. I’m afraid....And now I know why. It’s like I’m in some type of day-mare, if there is such a thing—dreaming but awake—reliving the nightmare which I had just the night before. This is why I’m afraid. This is why I see her, I think, because I saw her in my dreams, just before a Nighthawk, fiery red with burning eyes, swooped down and sunk its massive talons deep into my shoulders, and flew away, my body swinging in the wind like an helpless animal, screaming at the anticipation of my death when it finally decides to sink its hooked beak into my brains.

She raises her head unexpectedly as she passes by, like a possum that’s been playing dead, and suddenly springs back to life. She looks at me. Pointedly! Right in the eyes with her sunken, yellow, slivered almond shaped eyes, glaring into my thoughts and fears as if she knows me, as if she knows that I’m afraid. She is looking straight at me, defiant, as if she is ready to die. How dare she? Who does she think she is, exacting power over me? I am Purestkind, and she...well, is a Shiller Underkind! Doesn’t she know her place in this world?

I feel my body tense, toes being squeezed by my leather boots, and my trousers sucking all the blood from my legs and butt. What is she going to do to me, to Anicey, and mother? My eyes are wide and fixed on her, gaping at something dark and foreboding. But I will stand firm. I will show her. I will not let her see me cower like a small child, although it’s probably too late for that now.

Lines, deep and worn with age, traverses her soiled face, like earth worms coiling themselves around each other in a dance of perpetual mating, at the same time, tunneling and feeding voraciously, defecating in their paths, lost to the pain and suffering of its victim, oblivious, or..., maybe, just choosing to live in the dark, instead of in the light because they are afraid of death.

“Devils, devils,” she says, grimacing, laced with hate. Who is she calling, Devils? What does she mean?

Mother yells at me, “Fenesia!” I jump, startled by the tone in her voice. “ Don’t stare at that woman.” She is forgetting that I’m no longer a little girl. In fact, I’ll be eighteen soon. And I will damn well stare at whomever I like. This is what I would like to say to her, but I won’t out of respect. Nevertheless, I roll my eyes as I had often done when I was a little girl.

Mother doesn’t understand. She doesn’t understand that I stare, not only because a part of me loathes the Shiller, but because she is a Shiller, and because another part of me pities her, and because I’ve seen her, or someone like her in my real dreams, except that, it...it was my face that I saw. I think this is why I fear her: I’m afraid of being poor and invisible, uselessly living, searching, searching for the freedom to find happiness and a purpose to life. And most of all, I’m afraid of being a slave like the Underkind. And I’ll say it again: although I hate to admit it, a part of me feels some kind of empathy for the woman, at least as much empathy as my Purestkind heart will allow.

Mother is giving me the look; she notices the obvious grim look in my eyes, “Don’t feel sorry for that woman.” Anicey’s eyes are now fixed on the Shiller, too. I can tell that she’s afraid, too, as she is always afraid of something. Everything. “She’s a victim of her own doing, just like the others.” Mother’s eyes follow the Shiller as she lumbers down the road like the walking dead, passing by other Purestkind going about their daily lives, some of which stare at her in a deprecating way, making not so well intended comments; some even spit at her like she is a disease walking on two legs, while to others, she’s virtually invisible—like I said before: a ghost lost in Manorville. I wonder if they, if any of them feel any measure of empathy for her or any other Underkind. Are we all so cold and lifeless? Or do we just pretend to be? Am I the only traitor? Am I?

Mother sighs. “I wish the Purest would exterminate every last one of them. They’re like vermin, feeding off the rest of us,” she says with sadness in her eyes. “They serve no other purpose than to multiply and create mayhem,” she says it in a stage whisper, as though no one else can hear her. But that seems to be her goal. It has to be: for everyone to hear her profess her loyalty to the Purest, leaders of Kakus, as we all must, if we are to survive.

She doesn’t mean that though. I think. I hope. The sadness in her eyes gives her away. She has a talent for being over dramatic—theatrical queen in a Kakusian opera. If she really believes this about the Shiller Underkind, or any Underkind for that matter, she would have done something like accuse Jules, our Besmirchian house maid−purple skin, deep black eyes, and black wholly hair−of plotting against the Purest, for which she would have been killed a time long ago, since Jules often rages about the unfairness and treatment of the Underkind freely when the mood hits her, especially after an Underkind execution in Prosperity Circle. Instead, only at home though, she treats Jules almost as though she is a part of our family: Jules, dear, will you take care of this for me or that for me? Or Jules, dinner was wonderful. Although ,most evenings, we eat at Wildgoosemulley, our restaurant in the Town Square—the pretty part of Manorville. In fact, Jules may be the best dressed Underkind in all of Kakus, with the exception of the Underkind servants—the Rubrics, Besmirchians, and Shillers—working in the Capital House, where the faction of one hundred Purest— acting as overseers, protectors of Kakus—go about the business of running the country the way they see fit. Complete Autocracy. Death to those who dare to oppose them.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what mother says. I’m still twisted. Something in me still feels fear and empathy for the woman. Maybe it’s guilt. After all, we, the Purestkind are the chosen. We enjoy the best that life has to offer. While the Underkind? Well. They fight for what’s left over or what we allow them to have. Meaning that, they actually do fight to win favor with the Purest: Shillers against Besmirchians, Besmirchians against Rubrics−red skin, black eyes, and slick black hair−Shillers against Rubrics, and the other way around, making false reports of treason in return for food and clothing, fighting for the last scrap of bread or whatever is left in the bottom of the bowl−figure of speech.

Under the watchful eyes of the Kakus Guards, the Underkind is not permitted to grow their own food, although all the food is produced with their own hands on land owned by the Purest Government; all land is owned by the Purest Government. If an Underkind is found growing their own food or taking the food which they have grown, they are immediately taken out to the fields and shot; and this happens often.

In Validia, near the Hinterlands, where water is plentiful, since it is near Lake Orion, and the Orion River, the Besmirchians produce the Hemp grass used for making clothing, and baskets, and furniture...They also plant and harvest our northern fruits like apples and pears....Foods like corn and beans, and certain leafy greens are mostly produced by the Rubrics in Manovic. While crops like wheat, cotton, and southern fruits are produced by the Shillers. All food must be grown for the Purest, and once they are harvested, they are shipped by train to the Capital Market the day before Market day, where they are distributed through a hierarchical system: Purest, Purestkind, then, the Underkind must compete for the next distributions. This is where it gets interesting.

Market Day is usually festive, at least for us Purest and Purestkind. This is the day that we almost always go with father to purchase food for our restaurant and home. Since it is only four times a year, most of our food such as fruits and vegetables are canned. Meat harvested only by Purestkind farmers are also sold at the market, but father and Moe usually like to go hunting for game.

The Underkind, however, well...they are forced to compete for their pick: one half mile out on the train tracks, leading from Prosperity Circle, large bins on metal wheels are filled with large rocks, a heavy metal chain is attached to the bin. Each group of Underkind must choose two of their strongest young men—once a Besmirchian woman was allowed, only because, other than the obvious, she’d fit the look and build of a man. Each group gets two chances: one chance from each competitor to attach the chain around his waist and pull the bin—with sweat, tears, and blood seeping from the raw mangled flesh caused by the chafing of the chain against the skin— as far as he can, back towards Prosperity Circle. People line the tracks on both sides: Underkind and Purestkind alike, each cheering, yelling, “Go, go!” for their favorite to win. We usually cheer for the Besmirchians, maybe because of Jules. Once they have completely stopped, time and distance is recorded. In the end, the group with the best distance and time becomes the victor. The Prize: a stock of food for the next few months. But that can be a long time. And often, on the return to their home towns, the victor is raided by the losing groups, beaten, sometimes killed, and robbed of most of their food. And so, they end up right back where they had begun—hungry and filled with hate and malice, forced to serve Purest and Purestkind for their daily bread.

Continues...

Excerpted from "Code Human" by N. J. Paige. Copyright © 2016 by N. J. Paige. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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