The following is a second, short excerpt from Sustaining Utopia. In it, our main human character, Jazen, meets another main character, the Humanii female named Betzi. He also learns why he has been called to the Mayor's office.
This is unedited, so it very well may change before it gets published.
By nine hundred hours, Jazen left his apartment to head to his appointment. Since he was going to the Mayor’s office, he wore a long-sleeved white dress shirt, black tie, black slacks, and dress shoes. It was frigid and windy still, so he finished off his look with a heavy black jacket.
He took the railway train to the political district on the west end of Leikala City. The commute took about forty minutes, allowing for stops along the way. He was pleased with how clean the train car was; the walls, seats, and all the surfaces were almost shiny. The car itself was full of commuters who either enjoyed the plush seats or stood holding leather handles extended from the ceiling. Most of the travelers were either looking at their phones or engaged in light conversation.
Normally, Jazen was a people watcher, but he was too nervous and excited for that today. He kept looking out the window towards the political district as it grew nearer. Once he reached his stop and left the transit station, it was a short walk to the three-story building that housed the Mayor’s office. The overcast sky was unsuccessful at its attempts to dampen his mood.
Why does the Mayor’s office want to see me? he asked himself once again. He shrugged as he walked inside.
The lobby was small but had a high ceiling, wood panel walls, and a dark green carpeted floor. Jazen approached the bald male receptionist in a brown suit at the first table. Several people were patiently waiting on cushioned wooden benches along the back wall.
The dark-skinned man turned his attention to him and smiled. “How may I assist you?”
“I’m Jazen. I was told to report for a meeting at ten hundred hours.” He looked at the digital wall clock to his right that read nine hundred forty-seven. “I guess I’m a little early.”
The other man stood and smiled, extending a hand in greeting. “That’s alright, Jazen. I’m Ailton. I’ll let that team know you’re here.” They briefly shook hands. “Thank you for being prompt.”
Ailton made a quick call from his desk. Within thirty seconds, Olzai emerged from one of the back offices and quickly approached Jazen. She radiated excitement through her confident walk and smile.
“Jazen, it’s so good to meet you,” she said. “Please follow me.”
Jazen returned her smile and did as she said. He felt awkward passing by the men and women who were still waiting on the benches but continued on behind Olzai. She took him up a flight of stairs and into a conference room on the second floor. Like the lobby, this room had wood paneled walls and dark green carpet. It had a long rectangular oak wood table at its center. There were half a dozen small overhead lights in the ceiling, but the room still seemed dark and strangely cozy to Jazen. A couple of paintings of Leikala City graced the walls on either side of the table.
They were the first ones to arrive. She pulled out a black rolling office chair for him and he sat down. She sat down in another chair to his right.
“The others will be here soon,” she assured him.
A few minutes later, the human Mayor Relit and his Humanii female assistant entered the room. They were followed by a young auburn-haired Humanii woman. All took seats opposite Jazen and Olzai.
Mayor Relit was perhaps in his late fifties, with olive-hued skin and short, graying black hair. He seemed fit and healthy to Jazen if a bit stressed. Speaking first, he stood up again and extended a handshake across the table which Jazen nervously accepted. “Thank you for coming, Jazen. It’s good to meet you.”
“Thank you, Mayor. It’s an honor,” Jazen replied. “I — I didn’t expect to meet you.”
The mayor turned his head towards the quiet woman to his immediate right. Jazen had been so focused on the mayor, he hadn’t seen her stand up. “This is my assistant, Kadaline.”
The curvy Humanii woman appeared close in age to the mayor and wore oval-shaped glasses. That was unusual for Humanii, but not unheard of. Her shoulder-length black hair had silver streaks on either side. “Pleased to meet you,” she said in a hushed voice as she smiled nervously at Jazen. She gave him a weak handshake. A moment later, the mayor sat back down, so she did, too. Jazen followed their example.
The mayor gestured toward the other Humanii woman. “And this is Betzi.”
Betzi nodded and gave a half-smile. “Hi.” She didn’t bother to stand up or shake Jazen’s hand.
Mayor Relit cleared his throat and gazed right at Jazen. “As Olzai told you, Jazen, you’ve been chosen for a unique opportunity. You have been selected for a very special — and brand new — pilot program. It’s called Project Agnate.”
Not recognizing the term “agnate,” Jazen said, “I don’t understand. What’s Project Agnate about? What would my role be?”
Mayor Relit steepled his fingers and took in a breath before continuing. “The aim of Project Agnate is to bring humans together with Humanii…in marriage and then, hopefully, the creation of offspring.”
Jazen’s jaw dropped and he felt a chill shoot through his spine. “What?” He briefly looked at Betzi and then back at the mayor. “Is that even possible?”
This is a second short excerpt from the audiobook of The Former Things, a Christian fiction romance novel told from the perspective of a 24-year-old atheist named Sean Winter. Reproduced with permission from Haring Productions (which made the audiobook recording). Published by Ambassador International.
You can buy the full audiobook from Audible at THIS LINK.
Consider this a less than two-minute introduction to The Pavfarah Utopia (Christian dystopian science fiction) Series. Feedback welcome.
The following is an excerpt from Sustaining Utopia (Book One in The Pavfarah Utopia Series). This has not been edited yet, so it is subject to change between now and publication. In this segment, we get introduced to the main character, a young human man named Jazen.
Jazen wasn’t sure what time it was when he awoke. Sunlight was streaming across his bedroom ceiling. His arms and neck felt stiff. I musta slept too long on my side, he thought. The air conditioning made the air especially crisp, but he liked it that way. He blinked a few times and tried to focus his eyes. He heard the railway train zoom over the bridge a block away and the soft hum of his upstairs neighbor playing music.
“Alisto, what time is it?” he finally said groggily.
“It is fourteen twenty-seven hours,” his apartment’s male-sounding artificial intelligence system replied through speakers built into his night stand.
“Geez, when did I go to bed?” he mumbled to himself.
“You fell asleep at five forty hours,” Alisto replied.
“Oh, that explains it,” Jazen said, unbothered. He was used to these little conversations with the computer system. “Alisto, I’m gonna need some coffee.”
“I will prepare it to your specifications, and let you know when it is ready.”
“You are welcome.”
Jazen forced himself to sit up and got out of bed soon after. He shed his tee shirt and boxers to go take a shower. The hot water and steam chased some of his sleepiness away. The eye-level, waterproof digital timer informed him he had just over eight minutes to finish cleaning himself before the water would automatically shut off.
“Your coffee is ready, Jazen,” Alisto informed him through the built-in speaker in the bathroom ceiling.
“Thanks, Alisto,” he said, speaking over the splashing water.
Five minutes later, he had dried off, brushed his teeth, and was wearing fresh clothes. He decided to take a minute to style his short blond hair before heading into the kitchen to retrieve his hot beverage. On his first sip, he smiled. Alisto had made it exactly the way he liked it: extra-strong and extra-sweet. He took several gulps’ worth and savored the taste. “Thanks again, Alisto.”
“You are welcome, Jazen.”
Jazen walked into the medium-sized living room and looked towards the forty-inch flatscreen television mounted on the beige apartment wall.
“Do I have any new messages?”
“You have two new messages,” Alisto answered. “One from your mother and one from the Office of the Leikala City Mayor.”
Jazen was startled to hear that. “The Mayor’s office? Play that one first.”
The television automatically turned on and a slender human woman in her upper forties appeared. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a bun, she had a kind expression, and was wearing a gray pantsuit. “Good day, Jazen. This is Olzai from Mayor Relit’s office. We need for you to come to our office tomorrow morning at ten hundred hours. We want to offer you a unique opportunity. And once you hear the terms, I’m positive this will please you a great deal. I apologize that I cannot discuss the details over vidchat, but our team will explain everything to you in person and help you fill out the necessary paperwork.” She had been fairly businesslike up until this point. Now she smiled. “Needless to say, your attendance is mandatory. So, we look forward to seeing you at ten sharp tomorrow. Have a great day!”
The screen went dark again, leaving Jazen to wrestle with this revelation. “I wonder what they want?” He took another sip of his coffee. “What kind of special opportunity would the Mayor’s office have for me? I mean, what makes me so special?” he considered aloud. “I just volunteer part-time at the park. I don’t even go to school anymore.”
“Do you wish for me to play your mother’s message, Jazen?” Alisto interrupted.
“Is it marked ‘important?’”
“Then I’ll see it later. Just save it, okay?”
“Very well. Saving the message.”
After finishing breakfast — a ham and cheese omelet with a side of toast and tall glass of orange juice — prepared by Alisto’s six-foot-tall robotic avatar, Jazen put on a light bluejean jacket and his favorite gray baseball cap. Then he left his apartment to venture outside. It was late October, filled with blustery cool winds and falling temperatures in this Northmost Carolak region. The sun was shining overhead, and a number of people were out this afternoon either walking, offering food and services from sidewalk stands, or doing maintenance on the plants and greenery. Everyone looked happy and content as always.
One of the giant electronic billboards on the side of a building read, “Prior to the Arrival and Great Rebuilding, Northmost Carolak was part of a union of territories called The Disparate States of Americana. That union was dissolved during the Cessation, and Pavfarah was redefined by its current territories becoming the truly united world we have today. October 31st will mark the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Cessation.”
Jazen read it, recalling some of those history details from his time in school, and continued his stroll toward Leikala Park. His mood had brightened since breakfast, and he was looking forward to trimming hedges and watering the autumn encore amethysts and other azaleas. He found it both relaxing and productive. It was an activity he could do with his easygoing coworkers, Farben and Jela, or by himself.
When he arrived at the Park Headquarters building, a long one-story office building with a storage unit for supplies in the back, he went inside to his locker. There, he replaced his jacket with the bright green and yellow one that identified him as a park volunteer. He also put on his gardening gloves.
Jela opened her locker next to his and looked his way. “Hey, Jazen!”
Jazen was friends with Jela. She was short, plump, and had long brown hair that she always kept in a ponytail for work. “Hey Jela, what section of the park needs attention today?”
She shrugged. “We’re still working on Beta-Five.”
He nodded. “Okay. You heading back there now?”
“No, I’m done for the day,” she replied. “Vono and I are getting married in a couple of hours.”
He grinned. “Already? You two were only pledged through the system a few months ago, right?”
She blushed. “Four months, yeah. It takes that long for the local government to process the records and assign a local official to perform the legal acknowledgement. But we’re ready!”
“Happiness! Really, I’m glad for you two,” he added. “Give Vono my best!”
The next three hours passed surprisingly fast for Jazen. He and Farben had trimmed hedges on opposite ends of the Beta-Five section without much interaction, but that was normal. Jazen deposited his gloves and volunteer jacket in his locker and was glad he’d brought his bluejean one. It was starting to get colder.
Along the way home, he stopped at a food stand. A young tan-skinned woman with short blue hair wore a white uniform and cap as she took orders. Someone else was doing the cooking behind her.
“Fried potato bowl or meat snack sandwich?” she asked Jazen enthusiastically.
He looked down at the pictures of their offerings on the wooden counter and nodded. “Meat snack sandwich.”
She smiled. “Great choice!”
The older man behind her lifted a metal basket from the fryer and shook it over the hot oil a few times before tossing the toasty, rectangular light brown concoctions into a metal tray. Then with his white-gloves hands, he grabbed a small plastic plate, two pieces of bread and placed them on the plate. Finally, he took a pair of metal tongs and put one of the fried meat squares onto one piece of bread, squeezed some mayonnaise in a circle on top of the square, and placed the other slice of bread on top of it. He handed it to the young woman with a barely noticeable smile and she handed it to Jazen with an unmarked bottled water.
“Thank you!” he said graciously as he received the small meal and water.
“Enjoy the rest of your day!” she beamed.
He took the food and sat down nearby on one of the mustard yellow public benches. The water was lukewarm but fresh. The sandwich tasted like fried fish. Catfish, tilapia, or cod? he wondered. Then he shrugged. Doesn’t matter. It goes pretty good with the mayo.
Realizing he’d taken a while to eat his meal, and that the sun was setting, he looked up at the closest streaming billboard for the time. “Nineteen oh two hours?” he considered aloud. “I’ve got less than an hour till curfew! I better hurry back home.”
The following is a 7-minute audiobook except from chapter 1 of my latest Christian fiction novel, The Former Things (published by Ambassador International). The story is told from the perspective of a 24-year-old atheist named Sean Winter.
In this scene, Sean is at his first day of work at a new job when a tornado emerges during a storm. At the same time, he discovers that the co-worker who's been training him is a Christian, which upsets him. It's an interesting exchange between the two, and I hope you enjoy it.
This excerpt was reproduced with permission from Haring Productions which made the audiobook recording. Narration is by Joe James.
Click this link to get the full Audible audiobook of The Former Things
The excerpt below is from Queen of the Skies. Abe Fletcher (one of the main characters)'s girlfriend, Dior, has just broken up with him. Now, he is trying to deal with the ramifications.
Abe was glad he had taken a taxi to the restaurant. He was in no state of mind to be operating a roadster right now. In fact, he had barely been able to type in the street corner address to the taxi app on his mobile phone. Every instinct within compelled him to hurl the phone down onto the sidewalk and scream his rage mindlessly until it started to abate. But instead, he held it in, merely squeezing his other hand into a fist and occasionally releasing his fingers.
He was silent in the cab, merely nodding now and then at the male driver’s pleasant but unwelcome conversation.
"-- the Tigers, I think they have a real shot this season!" the cabbie continued. He was a thin and bald middle-aged man with a red and white beard.
"Uh-huh," Abe replied.
"They didn’t do so well last year, but that’s `cause Hennessy was the coach," the cabbie added. "This year, they’ve got Addison and he’s great!"
Abe knew there was only one thing that could keep him from losing his mind and small talk was not it.
The steam-powered vehicle was slow, following the local posted speeds to precision as the driver exited downtown New Liverpool and wound towards the suburbs. Abe normally enjoyed the change of scenery, from the constant noise, concrete, electric signs, and rising buildings to the greener lawns, sprawling trees and relaxed neighborhoods of one- and two-story houses. But this late afternoon, none of that phased him at all. His heart was gripped in ice and his thoughts were in orbit of Dior. Or rather, they orbited the absence of her.
Abe managed to thank the driver with some degree of pleasantness as he got out of the taxi. He briskly walked inside the large single-story home he had lived in all his life. His footfalls felt leaden and forced. Only his desire to purge his emotions kept him going.
In the living room, Dad was leaning back in his favorite chair, a black leather recliner. It was elegant and plush, easily accommodating his ample shape. In front of him, the wall-mounted television was playing a rerun of the crime drama Barnabas Jones. However, the older man with receding brown-gray hair and matching handlebar mustache was riveted to the newspaper in his large, strong hands. That is, until he heard Abe stomp into the room. He immediately dropped the paper into his lap as his legs forced the recliner to a sitting position. He peered at Abe with newly alert eyes.
"You’re back very early from your outing with Dior," Dad said. "Is everything alright?"
"No...but I don’t want to talk about it right now, Dad."
Dad nodded slowly. Then, with some effort, he stood up. "You go change clothes. I’ll set up the punching bag in the garage."
Abe let a thin smile cross his lips. "Thanks, Dad."
He remembered changing into a t-shirt and shorts before grabbing his gloves and heading to the garage. But in the blur of thoughts which rushed through his head, Abe didn’t know when he started attacking the punching bag, nor how long he’d been at it. With no attempt at precision or a specific routine, he continually slammed his fists into it. Sweat poured down his face, back, and legs. His breathing matched his turbulent mood: rough and jagged.
Becoming more coherent now, he opted for a one-two combination. And another one. Then three jabs in a row followed by a one-two-three combo. His fists were growing numb, and his arms ached, but he continued on.
Abe viewed the punching bag as the embodiment of whatever circumstances had conspired to rob him of his relationship with his cherished first love. And his own ineffectiveness at talking her out of leaving him. His own ineffectiveness, period.
I was just fooling myself, thinking we ever had a chance together, he thought. C’mon, it was only a matter of time before this happened! She’s in a different world. We had some good times together. I’d like to believe she loved me...
Then came the unwelcome memory of their first passionate kiss. It shattered his workout momentum. Grabbing the punching bag on both sides, he stopped its sway and drooped his head against it.
He recalled the tender and caring look in Dior’s eyes as they’d sat on the couch in his home, talking for hours at a time. The engaging conversations they’d had with Dad. And traveling with Dior to meet her parents in New Amsterdam.
Abe relived some of the intimacies he and Dior had shared over the last year.
"She did love me!" he shouted with eyes closed. "I know she did!"
Abe felt tears flow down his face as he continued to hold onto the punching bag. The room felt like it was slowly spinning.
"Why?" he asked no one in particular, his voice soft with grief. "Why do the women I love always leave me? First, Mum...now Dior."
"Your mum didn’t leave," Dad answered somberly from behind him. "She was taken from us by the illness."
Abe sighed. "You’re right. I’m sorry, Dad."
"As for Dior, I can’t answer that," Dad continued. "I thought she was a nice girl. You two had a good relationship."
“Yeah,” Abe added. “I thought so, too.”
“Want to talk about it now, son?”
Abe turned around, now spent from his exertions. Dad handed him a large cup of water that Abe gratefully accepted, gulping it down.
“Thanks,” Abe said a moment later, handing the empty cup back.
“No, I’m good now,” Abe replied. His responses were divided by deep intakes of air. “As for talking about Dior, I don’t know where to start. She met me and was super-pleasant. Then she said our ‘journey’ has ended, thanked me for my part in her ‘personal growth,’ and that she has some new path to follow. But she didn’t elaborate.”
Now Dad sighed.
“Utter nonsense,” he said, looking frustrated. “She has a reason. It could be that she didn’t want to hurt you with it.”
“Too late for that,” Abe interjected.
Dad nodded. He put his arm around Abe and looked at him sympathetically. “I’m sorry this happened,” he said. “I know you love her a lot.”
Abe was grateful for his rock-like support over the years. “Thanks, Dad.”
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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