Uncategorized

Q&A and giveaway!

Hi everyone!

As The Origin Stone’s release day draws ever closer, I wanted to invite you all to ask questions that I can answer in a Q&A video on publication day – March 31st.

I’m running it alongside giveaways for the paperback on both Facebook and Twitter, which are open internationally. Check out my pinned posts on each platform for the full rules (they’re simple).

FB: https://www.facebook.com/authorKathrynRossati/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KaptainKat90

I am treating them as two separate competitions, so if you’re on both platforms, technically you can enter twice. If the same person initially wins on both, then I’ll draw another name so that there’s still two winners.

Also, if you don’t want to be in the giveaway but do want to ask a question, feel free to do so here.

Have fun!

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Uncategorized

I got my proof copy of The Origin Stone!

Hi everyone, just a quick post to show off my gorgeous proof copy of The Origin Stone.

As I mentioned in a previous post (here), The Origin Stone has been quite a few years in development, and now that I can finally hold it in my hands as an actual book – well, I really can’t put into words how completely amazing and astounding that feels.

There were many, many times when I thought it would never get published, but I refused to give up on it. And my stubbornness paid off!

Here it is in glorious paperback form:

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Isn’t it wonderful?

At the moment, pre-orders are only for the Kindle version, but the paperback will be fully available at the end of March when the book is released!

Poetry, Uncategorized

It’s release day for my poetry collection, A Book For Pandora!

Greetings, everyone!

A Book for Pandora has been a while in the making, so I’m delighted to finally be able to share it with you.

Those of you who have been following me since the beginning may recognise many of the poems in this collection, as most of them originated as drafts on this very blog. Of course, they have since been tweaked and fine tuned over the years until I was happy with them – which, being of the perfectionist type, was quite hard for me to do – and have now been neatly ordered and presented in one solid tome.

So, without further ado, here it is in paperback and on Kindle.

A Book for Pandora

Uncategorized

Pre-orders are up for The Origin Stone!

Hello everyone!

My latest book, The Origin Stone, is being released on March 31st this year!

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Here’s the first page as a sample:

Part of the reason we moved was because of our animals.

Our old house wasn’t big enough for them, especially when we got our nanny goat, Mrs. Swanson, who wandered next-door one day and ate our neighbour’s washing. Unfortunately, the old bat came home early and saw the mess. Furious, she threatened to have her taken away from us. Ru, my older brother, attempted to ease her anger by explaining we’d named Mrs. Swanson after her, but it made the situation much worse.

For three tense months, we looked for houses big enough for us, but nothing was in our budget. Then Great Cousin Maggie died, leaving the house empty, and several weeks later when her will was being carried out, dad got a letter saying she’d left it to him.

We all thought it was unusual, seeing as dad hadn’t been in much contact with her, but we were desperate by then, and moved in without question. He and mum fell in love with it straight away. It’s big enough that she’s now got her own home studio, and dad’s client base has expanded dramatically. Even Ru loves it, giving him six acres of land to explore for his bug obsession, including the woods at the back of the garden.

I’m the only one that hasn’t taken to it yet, but Ru keeps suggesting the move just stressed me out more than I thought. I hope so. I don’t want my uneasiness to bring them down too.

The clock chimes in the hall, and our young crow, the Grand Vizier, who’s snoozing on his perch in the corner of the room, opens one eye and looks at me. I hold my arm out to him and he flies over, landing gently on my shoulder. I scratch behind his neck, relishing the silkiness of his feathers. “Ravenswell. Ravenswell,” he croons to me softly. I blink at him; that’s the name of the house.

“You learnt that already?” I say, holding up my bowl of noodles for him to snatch some as his reward. “Everyone else really is settled here, aren’t they?”

 

Pre-orders are now up, so if you’re looking for a new young adult read full of mysterious creatures, conspiracy, parallel worlds and a race against time, check out the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NCD1DM4

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract: Necromancer’s Cage

Nodnol. The city of alchemy and invention. Its bustling streets were filled with shops of every kind, from humble florists and clockmakers to whole emporiums of spas and beauty parlors, garages for automobile alchemy, and Kerical (alchemy and electricity, a power source hailed for its efficiency) research centres.

Shop chimneys spat out colours from across the spectrum, vibrant oranges and pinks to inky purples and blues, and everywhere, in every street and every shop, was the sense of determination and drive; the drive to be the next big inventor or the one who would make the next alchemical breakthrough.

Well, every shop except for one.

In a small street backing off from Nodnol’s main square was a neat, green painted shop with the words ‘Alchemical Pharmacy’ stencilled above its broad windows in large, white lettering. But it showed no dispays of powders or jars of loose ingredients as one might have expected to find in other alchemy-based pharmacies. No, instead the windows revealed only cardboard boxes, being packed by a silver haired man still wearing his dispensing apron. His movements were slow and weary, as if he was packing away his very life into those boxes.

Short Stories

The Shades

The doorbell rang. Molly jumped out of her doze, disorientated for a moment. It rang again, and this time she realised what it was.  She glared at the grandmother clock on the wall. Five o’clock. Who the devil is it? I’m not expecting anyone.

She picked up her cane and heaved herself out of the armchair, managing to hobble over to the door. As she passed the window, she saw that a heavy gale was blowing and the snow had gotten deeper than last time she’d looked.

She unlocked the door, but just as she turned the handle the wind tore it open and knocked her backwards. It sent her sprawling to the floor, her cane rolling out of reach. Before she could get up, two figures darted through the doorway. One of them pushed the door shut again, and then knelt beside her, gently shaking her shoulder.

‘Are you alright?’

Molly looked up. The voice had been a woman’s, and it was very familiar. ‘Is it really you?’

The figure removed her chequered scarf. ‘Yes, mother, it’s me.’

Molly reached out a hand to touch her daughter’s face, but recoiled at the last moment. ‘Well, it’s about time you showed up. My chimney is in dire need of sweeping.’

She took hold of the cupboard she was slumped against, and tried to ease herself up. Her daughter grabbed her, taking most of her weight, but Molly shrugged her off and managed to pull herself upright. She stood breathing deeply, and caught sight of the other figure in the room.

‘Who on earth is that?’

‘Calm down, mother. This is Annie, and she is the reason I’ve come to see you.’

Molly looked at the girl huddled in the corner. She was so wrapped up in clothing that only her eyes were showing. They stared back at Molly, unblinking. There is something wrong with this child.

‘How old are you, girl?’ she asked. There was no reply, not even an acknowledgement that someone had spoken. Molly looked up at her daughter, and their eyes met. ‘Well, you have my attention. I’ll go and put the kettle on, and you can tell me all about it. Sit the child down in the lounge, it’s much warmer in there.’

 

They sat in the kitchen around the wooden table.  Molly wrinkled her nose at the strong smell of polish. As always, she had used too much.

‘Alright then, who is she? Where did you find her?’ she asked.

‘She’s an orphan. Her parents died in a fire about a year ago while she was on a school trip. She had no next of kin, but her neighbour kindly asked the court if they could look after her, and they agreed. The thing is, she hasn’t spoken a word since then.’

‘I was right not to take her silence personally, then,’ Molly grunted. ‘How did you get involved?’

‘I was her neighbour’s hairdresser. I did mobile work on the weekends, and so when I went around there I saw Annie. Each week Mrs Roberts used to tell me that she had had someone round to try and get her to talk, but they were never successful.’

‘So you brought her to me?’

‘So I brought her to you.’

Molly took a long drink of tea, absently fingering a mark on the table. ’Well,’ she said, putting the cup down, ‘I don’t think that this is a case of simply not wanting to talk, Samantha. I’ve seen that many times before, and this is different.’

‘Different how?’ Samantha asked.

‘It seems to me that she’s shut away her mind. She can follow simple commands, as I’m sure you know, but there is no emotional response. She’s a robot, or at least she might as well be.’

Samantha’s eyes grew troubled. ‘Is there nothing you can do?’

‘I’m not sure. If I can draw out her consciousness, then yes, but if my suspicions are correct it will take more than my power to do so. She is an unusual child.’ Molly drained her cup and picked up her cane again. ‘Stay here, I need to talk to her alone.’

She got up and hobbled back into the lounge where Annie was waiting. The girl was sitting close to the fire, staring into the flames. She had taken off her hat and coat, revealing long dark hair that fell down her back. Just like mine when I was her age.

‘You’ll burn your toes if you put them much closer,’ Molly said. There was no reaction. She sighed and sat back down in her chair, resting her cane back on the floor. Now what? Perhaps…

‘I’m going to tell you a story, girl. You should listen,’ she said. ‘Let’s see now…where should I start? Back before civilisation began, on the vast, barren plains of the continent, lived a small tribe. They had no home and no name, and wandered endlessly in search of food and water. For them, every day was a struggle, and often led to starvation and disease.

‘Yet one day, a particularly violent storm hit the area, and with it came a fierce earthquake that split the ground in two. From the chasm that formed, a green vapour spilled out and encompassed the tribe. It put them into a deep slumber for many days, and some of the elders died through lack of nourishment, but when the tribe finally awoke, they found that the vapour had solidified into shards of emerald crystal.  As soon as they touched it, every one of their senses became heightened. They could hear the thoughts of those around them, and converse telepathically. Their lives now had a new meaning, and a new purpose. Using their powers, they gathered information from the other tribes around them on where to find sources of food and water. No longer did they have to wander desperately on the brink of starvation.

‘For many years they prospered, and their abilities continued to develop. Soon they could even shut off part of a person’s mind to prevent them from remembering the tribe’s location or spread rumours of their powers, and it was found that children born to the tribe from then on also had those abilities. Even so, they could not keep themselves a secret from the other tribes forever. They became known as Shades- evil spirits, and the other tribes feared that not only would they leach every food source from them, but their very lives as well. They decided to take action against the Shades, and so joined forces to slaughter them. Hundreds were killed, but a handful of children managed to escape. Those children were my ancestors, Annie, and I too have the same powers as they, though mine are far weaker.’

Annie hadn’t moved throughout the story, but Molly knew it had reached her. She had been projecting images into the girl’s mind as she was speaking, and there had been little resistance.

‘Turn around, child.’

Annie turned as Molly knew she would. Her eyes were still unfocused, but there was something…a glimmer of hope, perhaps? I can feel her mind. It’s almost as though it’s encased in a shell. If I can break that, then surely I can return her to normal.

‘Another child would question that tale and say that it isn’t possible for a mind to gain so much power at the touch of a crystal.  They would say that it is the content of fairy tales, not real life. You, however, do not question. Like the Shades discovered, you know that it is possible to close the mind, and you dare to hope that it can be awakened once again.’

Annie blinked; Molly fought hard not to smile triumphantly. It was only a small response, but it was a response none the less. Her mind is stirring, but not enough. She is too strong for me to release her. There is only one way…

It was late now though, and the effort had drained much of Molly’s strength, and she was sure that Annie needed rest too. She got up once again, and hobbled out into the kitchen where Samantha was waiting. As she left, she saw Annie turn back to the fire.

‘The girl needs sleep. Show her to the guestroom.’

Samantha, who had just opened her mouth to speak, shut it again hastily and obliged without question. The stairs creaked as she and Annie made their way to the bedroom.

Molly had seen many people drawn in by their grief, but not to the extent that Annie was.  No-one else I’ve seen had that kind of strength, however, and there’s only one reason for a girl her age to possess it.

The stairs creaked again, and Samantha returned. She looked worn and stretched, as though she hadn’t had much sleep lately. ‘Did you get her to speak?’

‘No. It is beyond my own abilities to help her,’ Molly replied.

‘So there’s no hope?’ Samantha said.  ‘I thought for sure—’

‘I didn’t say I couldn’t help her. It’s true I can’t do it myself, but there is a way.’

For a moment, Samantha was confused. Then her eyes widened. ‘You…you mean to use the shard?’

‘Yes.’

‘But that could kill her!’

‘Indeed it could, but I strongly suspect it won’t. If she were a normal child then I wouldn’t dare use it, but then if she were a normal child I wouldn’t have to. You must have felt it, just as I did. I suspect that’s what drew you to her in the first place.’

‘I- perhaps I felt something yes, but what are you suggesting?’

‘That she is Shade, just as we are.’

‘Shade? Are you sure?’

‘Of course I’m sure,’ Molly snapped. ‘That is why only the shard can draw her out again. However, once it is done she will be a fully awakened Shade, just as the first ones were. She will need guidance and proper training. We have no choice but to keep her here.’

 

It was early, but Molly was already up and fully clothed. She headed down to the kitchen and out the back door, making her way to the stone shed at the bottom of the garden. She didn’t bother waking Samantha, it was clear she needed rest.

The snow was still deep and the wind seemed to eat away at her bones. Thankfully the lock on the shed door wasn’t frozen and opened easily. She slipped inside, glad of the slight warmth. The light flickered as she pulled the switch, finally settling into a dull glow, just enough to see by. There was a cupboard in the middle of the floor, and Molly cursed when she saw it. You old fool, how could you have forgotten that was there? Putting down her cane, she took the sides of the cupboard and pushed with what little strength she had.  

The cupboard moved, but slowly. Molly’s tired limbs were not what they once were, and she had to stop after each push to catch her breath. Eventually she pushed it off the loose floorboard that she was after, and with much grunting she lowered herself to the floor so she could remove it. She lifted it up, revealing a hole in the floor where an old chest lay covered in dust. Producing a polished brass key from her pocket, she opened it. Inside was a bundle of wrapped silk cloth. Good, it’s just as I left it. She picked it up, making sure the silk was still firmly bound around the object inside, and made her way back to the house.

When she opened the kitchen door, Annie was sitting at the table. She didn’t look up as Molly walked in, but she shifted ever so slightly in her seat.  Can she sense the shard’s power?

The door opened and Samantha appeared, looking very apprehensive.  She stared at the silk bundle Molly still held, and her lip trembled.

‘Is that…?’ she asked.

‘Yes,’ Molly said, setting it down on the table. ‘Is she well rested?’

‘Yes, she didn’t wake until I called on her this morning.’

‘Good. It’s time,’ Molly said. She turned to Annie. ‘Do you remember the story I told you last night, child? About the tribe who touched the crystal shards and had their minds awakened?’

Annie looked up from her tea cup, and slowly shifted her gaze to the silk bundle.

‘Inside that bundle is one of those very shards.  It will help you if you touch it.’

This time Annie moved her hand forward slightly in the direction of the bundle. It was all Molly needed to be sure. She found the knot on the silk and undid it, carefully unwinding it until the slim green shard was visible. She daren’t touch the bare crystal herself, to expose her aged body so such a jolt of power would damage her mind beyond repair.

Samantha took hold of one of Annie’s hands and laid it flat on the table. Ever so gently Molly let the shard touch it. Annie gave a shudder, and Molly quickly took it away and wrapped it up once more.

‘Do you think it worked?’ Samantha whispered.

‘Yes. We must take her to her room and let her recover.’

 

An urgent knocking woke Molly from her sleep.

‘What is it?’ she shouted, fumbling with the covers.

‘She’s awake, mother, she’s awake!’

Molly stumbled over to the door, ignoring her aching back, and opened it. Samantha was standing before her, her hair tumbling haphazardly across her face. ‘Well, of course she’s awake,’ Molly said. ‘Has she spoken yet?’

‘No, not yet.’

‘Take me to her, then.’

When they arrived in Annie’s room, she was sitting at the head of the bed with her knees tucked up against her chin. Her eyes were wild, as though she’d just woken from a bad dream. Molly could feel her mind writhing, trying to make sense of what she now felt.

‘Tell me your name, child,’ she said, pushing past her daughter and sitting on the end of the bed.

‘A…An…Annie.’

Behind Molly, Samantha gasped. ‘It worked! It really worked.’

‘Samantha, be quiet. We need to keep her calm,’ Molly said.

‘Where…where am I?’ Annie asked.

‘This is Shadesview House, child. It has been my home for many years, and now it will be your home too. I’m sure you have many questions that I will gladly answer, but first I think you could do with a nice strong cup of tea.’

Annie put her knees down, and turned to sit with her legs dangling off the bed. She looked at Molly. ‘Do you have any biscuits?’

Molly chuckled, a cackling, pot boiling chuckle that made Annie draw back slightly. ‘Yes, child, we have plenty of biscuits.’

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract: The Origin Stone

I close my eyes, not quite brave enough to face my fate so directly, but then I felt a tug at the back of my mind, willing my senses back to me. It comes again, more desperate. It forces me to open my eyes, and as I do, it’s as though I’ve been drowning and have just come up for air.

I gasp, drinking in the energy that’s now coursing through my vessel body.

Giving up no longer seems like an option; but now the Djorgar is mere inches away. It raises its scaled arm, ready to tear through me.

I watch it come down, as though in slow motion, but the impact never comes. Instead, a wave of energy bursts from my mind, hitting the creature full on and forces it into the fire behind it. I watch as it’s incinerated, the fire increasing in heat so that it’s reduced to ashes in less than a moment.

Without any effort at all, I break the rope that binds me and sink to my knees, staring hard at the ground. That power wasn’t mine. It can’t have been; I hadn’t even had time to focus it.

Short Stories

Second Body

I move my gaze from the ceiling to look over at the door, where the slight shadow of Dr Zaki lingers, waiting for me to reply to his knock.

‘I suppose you want my blood again?’ I ask, turning my head left so that the sensors on my bed register the movement. The top end rises up so that I’m in a sitting position.

Zaki takes this as a welcome and comes into my sparse room, a smile on his face. ‘You make me sound like some kind of vampire,’ he says, checking my drip and preparing a syringe to take my blood.

I sniff. ‘A vampire would have put me out of my misery long before now.’

He raises an eyebrow at me. ‘You’ve got the same self pity in your voice as my daughter has,’ he replies, inserting the needle.

‘I don’t know why. She isn’t paralysed from the neck down.’

‘No, but she’s a teenager too. All teenagers have problems, you know. True, yours are far worse than most, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be positive. You’ve still got your wits, after all.’

I open my mouth to protest, but he holds up his hand. ‘What would you say if I told you that you might be able to walk again; to sculpt, even?’

‘I’d say you were a lying git who’s toying with my hopes. I know that there’s no way any kind of surgery can help me,’ I spit back, noticing with annoyance that my colostomy bag is full. Zaki sees it too, and rings for a nurse to come and empty it.

‘I’m not talking about having surgery,’ he continues, once the nurse has finished, fleeing from the room as though I might shout profanities again, like the time she made a complete mess of my bed sheets.

‘There’s a new kind of technology that I believe will help you. We call it Second Body, and if you agree to try it, you will be the first person to do so in the world.’

It’s my turn to raise an eyebrow.  ‘So, what does it do, then?’

‘Before I answer that, may I ask if you’ve ever played any virtual reality games that have come out in the last five years?’

‘Don’t be stupid. My parents never let me play any kind of games; especially after I became known as some silly child prodigy.’

‘But do you know how they work?’ he presses.

‘I know they involve putting on some kind of helmet. One of my friends used to play them. She said that when you were inside the game, you had your own virtual body that responded just like your real one. You can even smell and taste things.’ I look at him and notice that he’s grinning. ‘What does this have to do with anything, anyway?’

‘Well, Second Body technology is based heavily off of the one used for those games. However, instead of allowing you to move around in a virtual world, Second Body lets you move around in this one. The idea is that you put on a helmet and then your consciousness is transferred into an artificial body.’

‘Like a robot?’

‘Yes…but it wouldn’t look like one. It will look very similar to how you look now, so in theory you would be able to go anywhere you want with it and no-one would know. Of course, your real body would have to stay here in the hospital so we can monitor you, and make sure you health doesn’t suffer, but—‘

‘I’ll do it. It’s a weird concept, but if I can get out of this loathsome bed for even a day, then it’ll be worth it. What do I have to do?’

Zaki looks awkward. ‘I do need your parents’ approval before we can actually go forward with any of the major preparations…’

I laugh; somewhere between sorrow and rage. ‘If you think they’ll bother coming to see you, then you’re an idiot. You know they abandoned me here as soon as they found out I’d never be able to sculpt again.’

‘If you really want this as much as you say; then I promise I’ll convince them for you.’ He looks sincere, but I say nothing. If he really believes that, then he is an idiot. ‘Just trust me, okay? Now, as to what we can do in the mean time, I’ll have the designer of your Second Body come in and talk to you. We can start your training, too.’

‘Training? What kind of training?’

He doesn’t reply, but irritatingly taps his finger to the side of his nose instead.

 

I hardly see Zaki over the next few days, despite asking everyone who comes in what’s going on. Finally, after the seventh time that I’ve spat out my food when nobody answers, he comes in with what looks like a strange biker helmet.

‘This is for your training,’ he says, holding it up so I can get a closer look. ‘It’s synced up to an online virtual reality game.  It’s the latest one out and uses the closest technology publicly available to the Second Body tech. Hopefully by playing it, you’ll get used to using this headgear and using your mind to control a body other than your real one.’

‘So my training consists of playing games?’ I say. ‘That doesn’t sound very professional.’

‘I suppose it’s unusual, but this is the only way to get you used to the technology that we’ll be using. Play it. Have fun.’

I roll my eyes. Playing a game sounds like a waste of time, but then all I’ve been able to do since the accident is waste time. If it helps me with the Second Body tech, then maybe I shouldn’t complain.

I allow Zaki to fit the headgear over my hair and face. It feels surprisingly warm. I can also hear a slight buzzing, presumably from all the gadgetry inside it.

‘Just relax,’ he begins, but then I can no longer hear him, or see the ceiling of my room. Even the smell of disinfectant that usually clogs my nostrils has been replaced with the scent of damp pine needles.

I open my eyes, without knowing I’d closed them, and see that I’m in a large forest clearing, with a single glass mirror floating upright just above the ground in front of me. I can tell what I’m seeing isn’t real, because everything has a definite stylistic touch to it, and when I peer into the mirror, I see that my virtual body is some kind of elf.

There are buttons on the mirror for adjusting not only my body, but also the game settings. I look down at my hands. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to move them…does my brain even still have the connections to do it?

Slowly, I think about wriggling my fingers, but the virtual body was obviously designed to feel much lighter than my real one, and I end up hitting myself hard in the thigh. I find tears on my cheeks, unsure if they are from mirth or joy.

I can move again, even if it is in a game.

 

After a month of ‘training’, Zaki introduces me to the chief designer in charge of the team that will be making my Second Body, a woman in her thirties called Elis. She has purple hair and a Celtic knot tattooed on her wrist, just like the ones I used to use on my sculptures and pottery.

The scent of clay and slip comes to me as I stare at it; all the hours I’ve spent shaping and moulding coming sharply back to me. I can even feel the wetness of the clay on my fingertips.

She coughs uncomfortably. ‘Dr Zaki tells me that you’re quite the sculpting prodigy.’

I snort. ‘I was…before this.’ I nod at my pathetic body.

‘You’d like to sculpt again?’

‘Of course I would,’ I snap.

‘Then I’ll help you. For the Second Body to work for you, I need to know everything. Your passion for sculpting means that the arms and hands of your Second Body need to be the same weight as your real ones, if you want to be able to use your skills straight away.’

She continues, telling me that once my parents give their permission, she will come back and take photos and plaster casts of my arms.

I’ve completely forgotten about needing their permission. Zaki hasn’t said a word about them, so I’d presumed he hadn’t gotten anywhere with them. But now that I’ve spoken with Elis, I know that this really is what I want. Getting them to sign the paperwork is vital.

Three months pass without a word, but then Zaki appears again grinning like some idiot school kid. He doesn’t say anything, but simply holds out his computer tablet. I can just make out the permission documents; signed digitally with both of my parents’ signatures.

‘How did you…?’

‘I mentioned that the Second Body project would let you sculpt again. Couldn’t sign it quick enough.’

‘Huh. Of course not,’ I sniff. ‘If I can sculpt again, then they can sell my work for extortionate prices, just like they used to. I should have known they’d sign it for that.’

Zaki shrugs. ‘No-one has perfect parents. Besides, until we get past the prototype stages, I don’t think making sculptures for sale is an option. Maybe you can keep them as a keepsake of your rehabilitation.’

For once, I smile.

 

The next year is busy. Zaki and Elis come in regularly to take measurements and update me on their progress. In total, it takes about thirteen months from getting permission to the first prototype run.

It’s today.

They wheel me into a room similar to a morgue, except that there is only one body laid out, covered in a sheet. It takes me a moment to realise that this is it. My Second Body.

As I get closer, Zaki raises my head so I can see properly as he pulls back the sheet. If I wasn’t  half expecting it, I would faint. My Second Body is almost identical to me, even having the same scar on my nose from where I had chicken pox as a kid.

‘What do you think?’ Elis asks, coming into the room holding the same type of headgear I’ve been using to play the game, except slightly smaller.

‘I feel like I’ve been cloned,’ I say, still staring at it.

She laughs. ‘I suppose you would. So… are you ready?’

I look at her, then at Zaki, who nods, and finally back to my Second Body, grinning. ‘I might give it a go.’

Zaki lowers my head again so that I’m lying flat, and Elis fits the headgear onto me. ‘It’s no different to when you play the game. Just relax and let the headgear do the work.’

I nod and rest my head against the pillow, but then she’s leaning over me, asking if I’m alright.

‘Of course I’m alright,’ I say. ‘Why didn’t  it work?’

Then I realise I’m sitting up. She and Zaki gape at me.

I look down at my stomach, feeling cold. I’m only in my underwear, and my colostomy bag is gone. Hardly daring to, I turn my head to the side and see myself lying down on a bed opposite, with the headgear still covering my face.

‘No. No way,’ I say.  ‘This can’t be real. It…it feels just like my real body. I don’t…’

Zaki manages to close his mouth and hands me some clothes. ‘We never expected you to have such control so quickly…a twitch of the fingers, maybe, or a nod…’ he coughs. ‘There’s a, er,  ceramics studio in our rehabilitation centre, if you—’

Before he can finish speaking, I jump off the table and rush from the room, pulling the clothes on as I go.