A sexy, thought-provoking, fast-paced mystery-adventure with some unexpected twists.
Two young women wake up naked, alone and with almost total amnesia in very different remote corners of the world. With simple instructions as to what they should call themselves, that they should first find clothing, and that they are going to need a great deal of money for what will follow, they set out to uncover the mystery of their own existence. Yet neither could have guessed just how bizarre the answer to that riddle would be. Only when they find themselves on opposite sides in a war to decide the future of humanity do they begin to realize that nothing is what it seems either for the human race or for themselves.
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Heat, hard earth, and dust-choked nostrils where the first things that greeted her. There was a stiffness throughout her body that made it hard to move at first; though this was dissipating with every passing moment. Her eyes refused to open, as if tears had turned the dust to cement. Still blinded she pulled herself into a sitting position, slowly reaching to brush the filth from her face. She opened her eyes.
A stark desert landscape lay before her, the vegetation sparse and desiccated, with an appropriately blazing sun high above. Yet this place was far from featureless, with a scattering of sheer buttes reminiscent of some old western movie standing proud above their skirts of debris upon an undulating plain. How she came to be there she had no idea, but more disconcerting still, she had no recollection of who she was. No recollections at all it seemed beyond the knowledge of her existence and the harsh reality of her surroundings.
Standing she looked around. There were no signs of roads or habitation anywhere to be seen; nothing to suggest that she wasn’t the only person living in this land. The foot of the closest butte lay no more than fifty metres away. Dusting herself off more thoroughly she headed for it. It was then that she observed her nakedness. Yet for some reason this just seemed natural and she simply dismissed it. Briefly it crossed her mind that such nakedness should have afforded a dreamlike quality to this experience; but there was nothing dreamlike about this place at all.
First she scrambled up the debris slope, aiming for a pronounced crevice in the cliffs that promised easy enough access to the summit. The slope was steep and loose, and as she scrambled upwards dust and gravel tried to hug her feet while small rocks bounced and clattered away behind her. The air tasted dry upon her tongue and instinctively she closed her mouth in order to preserve precious moisture. As her hands finally touched solid rock and she began to climb she was pleased to note that her body and her skills were both equal to the task. Soon the land fell away and she existed for a time in the world of the vertical.
At the summit, as she slithered on her belly over the rim, she found a flattened plateau with a sparse scattering of sagebrush. Briefly she marvelled at the stunning view before turning her attention to the place where she had woken up. The spot was all too easy to discern; an impact crater with a radial spray of debris as if a small meteor had recently hit. This made no sense. It was as if her body had fallen from the sky. Yet nothing of flesh and blood could have done this without being splattered across the landscape. With that knowledge came a pricking of thought and with it a tightening in her gut that threw her to her knees and made her vomit violently. Blinking back tears she discovered a lozenge-shaped object glistening with gastric juices. Like a short, fat sausage, it had a slightly organic, leathery look about it. Picking it up she found it to be deceptively light. With teeth and fingernails she tore it open to reveal a tightly folded piece of cloth-like material. Spreading this out she saw that it was thick but no more than about fifteen centimetres square. Upon it were written a few simple words.
Call yourself Gloriana Dostoyevsky.
Nakedness is unacceptable here. First you need clothing.
For the task ahead you will need to find a large sum of money.
When the time is right you will start to make sense of things.
The name meant nothing to her. And why had it said 'call yourself Gloriana Dostoyevsky' rather than that this was her name? Well, kneeling there gawping wasn't going to solve the mystery. The second instruction had been to find clothing and this was easier to understand. Yet looking around her all directions seemed equally unpromising; though it would be more comfortable with the sun to her back. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand Gloriana Dostoyevsky scrambled back down to the desert floor and began to walk.
Gloriana put one foot in front of the other and continued walking through the dry, dusty landscape until the light began to fade. On the horizon dark clouds were brewing, and lightning began to flash with increasing frequency. Deciding to stop for the night she made a place for herself beside a large boulder where she had a good view of the approaching electrical storm. She liked a good storm. Was that a memory or just a fact?
Gloriana awoke to the drumming of rain on her naked flesh. She didn't remember dozing off and had no idea how much time had passed. But now, between the flashes of lightning that showed the world in a brief, stark, monochrome, it was completely dark. Standing she opened her mouth to the falling rain. She didn't catch much that way, but at least it wetted her dusty tongue and lips. Then she set about using the downpour as a shower, scouring herself with her hands until most of the filth had gone. In the process she was gratified to discover that her body was in excellent shape. Even suffering from amnesia she retained just sufficient vanity to appreciate how shapely and attractive it was. She only hoped that her face would live up to this. Next she began to work on her hair. As the tangles were unknotted she was strangely pleased to find that it was glossy, straight, and waist-length. The lightning showed it to be a striking silvery colour, though she couldn't be sure if this was how it would appear by daylight.
Now that she was clean Gloriana didn't want to lie back down in the dirt again. Instead she sat on top of the boulder and watched the lightning display drift further and further off into the night. She wanted to think things through, but there really wasn't any place to begin. Jumping down she retrieved the cloth from beneath a stone where she had put it so it wouldn't blow away and then clambered back up to her perch to read it again. Briefly she sensed that her night vision was somehow exceptional, but this thought led nowhere and so she read the words once more.
Gloriana. That definitely wasn't her real name. She didn't like it much, but appreciated that she had better stick with it at least until its purpose became clear. Yet in her mind she would think of herself as Glo. It sounded radiant, warm, and friendly, and she decided that this was the kind of person she wanted to be. This, she realised, was a kind of rebirth, and in that sense a new beginning. So whatever she had been before she should be able to choose what she was going to be like from now on.
When Glo looked up once more the storm had gone and the first hint of morning was beginning to emerge from behind the distant mountains. East, she thought as the colours climbed the spectrum to a radiant sunrise that flooded the landscape with a new day. She had been walking north and saw no reason to change this as she marched off with a positive stride. The first hints of thirst had begun to nag her, but not insistently just yet. Strange that she hadn't thought about it until just now, but surely she should have been suffering in the dry desert heat of the previous day. And surely the long day ahead did not bode well for her survival in this place.
As she walked Glo kept all her senses alert for any subtle clues. Yet there was nothing but the dust and the heat and an occasional scattering of sparse vegetation that appeared more dead than alive. Of animals there was no sign. They knew better than to waste their energy in the heat of the day. When a warm wind blew up from the west, scouring her ankles with sharp sand and gravel, Glo took it as a further sign that this was no dream that she found herself in. The detail was just too trivial, too real.
The sun had risen to what she was thinking of as a little after noon when Glo heard gunfire. It was slow and sporadic. Not like a war. No, far too lazy for that. Guns were usually bad news she somehow knew; but being the only thing she had encountered that spoke of civilisation she decided to investigate and veered eastwards.
Glo had been walking for some time and had just begun to feel that the trail had grown cold before the next shots came. This time they were much closer and a bit to the left. In that direction the land rose steadily and she couldn't see very far. Breaking into a run, she cleared the slope to find a narrow, dusty road with a dilapidated old building on the far side. It was an abandoned gas station, she guessed, and beside it stood a dented, rusty pickup truck. The gunshots were coming from some way behind the building. Investigating she found a rough, narrow trail descending into a shallow canyon. Straggly juniper appeared here and there and she couldn't see very far ahead.
When at last Glo reached the bottom the first thing she saw were two men swigging beer and shooting with no great precision at empty cans. The second thing was the stream, and this blotted all other considerations from her consciousness. With a bound she fell to her knees and drank deeply, first lapping up the water like a cat before scooping up even more and downing it until her belly felt taught and full. Only then did she realise that the shooting had stopped. Turning she saw the two men standing open mouthed, guns hanging uselessly from their fingers. Only then did she remember the second line of her instructions. ‘Nakedness is unacceptable here. First you need clothing.’