You can read the full extract from my upcoming novella, available the 18th of October 2016 from Tor.com starting below. You can pre-order from the Amazon link here.
Time is a weapon wielded by the rich, who have excess of it, against the rest, who must trade every breath of it against the promise of another day’s food and shelter. What kind of world have we made, where human beings can live centuries if only they can afford the fix? What kind of creatures have we become? The same as we always were, but keener.
In the ancient heart of Oxford University, the ultra-rich celebrate their vastly extended lifespans. But a few surprises are in store for them. From Nina and Alex, Margo and Fidget, scruffy anarchists sharing living space with an ever-shifting cast of crusty punks and lost kids. And also from the scientist who invented the longevity treatment in the first place.
Letter from Holloway Prison, December 5, 2098.
We were never really friends, were we? Somehow, though, you’re the person I want to write to most in here. I hope these letters get to you. I’m giving them to Alex, who I am absolutely sure is reading them too, and although they aren’t for meant for him, I hope he gets something instructive from them.
Hello, Alex. I hope you’re well. I hope you’re safe. I hope you understand that you are not forgiven. Even after the awful, terrible thing we did. Even after the time bomb, and everything that came afterwards. I can’t let it go. The anger keeps me sharp. Keeps my brain from turning to paste. It’s that or the crossword, and rage is more reliable. I am sorry about your hands, though.
Anyway. I’ve got a story for you, this time. For both of you, as it happens.
Have you heard the one about the Devil’s bridge?
It’s an old story, and there are lots of different tellings, but it goes something like this.
A carpenter wants to build a bridge across a river. Not just any bridge, but the strongest, sturdiest bridge that has ever been made or thought of, to take him and his wife to the far bank, where there are treasures whose nature is unimportant to the story. Let us assume that he has good reasons for wanting to get there, or thinks he does. Let us assume that his tools and skills are insufficient to the task. Let us assume that he is out of options and ideas.
He sits down on the plain, grey bank he calls home and makes a wish.
Instantly there appears before him a handsome man with savage eyes and shining hair, and his clothes are rich and strange and he blinks less than a person ought to, and the carpenter knows that this is the Devil.
I can build a bridge for you, says the Devil. I can build you a bridge across the wild, wide river, and it will be the greatest bridge ever seen, the strongest, the most magnificent. It will stand for a hundred years, and people from all around will come to walk on it and say: the man who made this must be a fine carpenter indeed. The bridge will draw visitors from seven counties. Boys will take their sweethearts here to propose. You can charge an entry fee. You can open a hot-dog stand. Whatever you want.
I’m not really interested in that, says the carpenter. I just want to get to the other side.
Well, says the Devil, that’s part of the package.
What would it cost me? Says the carpenter.
Alright, I don’t have a lot of time left to write. They come in and stop me at guard change.
Meanwhile: consider that time is a weapon.
Before the coming of the Time Bomb, this was true. It was true before men and women of means or special merit could purchase an extra century of youth. It has been true since the invention of the hourglass, the water clock, the wrist watch, the shift-bell, the factory floor. Ever since men could measure time, they have used it to divide each other.
Time is a weapon wielded by the rich, who have excess of it, against the rest, who must trade every breath of it against the promise of another day’s food and shelter. What kind of world have we made, where human beings can live centuries if only they can afford the fix? What kind of creatures have we become?
The Time Bomb. Aerosolised Gerontoxin. Currently being deployed around a world in panic by desperate people with nothing to lose and nothing to make but their point. You know you could have stopped it. Alex, I’m talking to you now. You could have stopped it all from happening. Maybe someday soon I’ll tell them how. After all, so much life has been wasted.
So very much life.
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