This ain’t Tolkien!
The Wulf and the Tiger is my in-progress novel, still fairly early stages, that contains some pretty big ideas to it. Think a both gritty and comedic blend of sci-fi, fantasy and western, all with a real world backing to it. It’s adult, it’s humorous, it’s bloody, it’s complex (a little bit of brain melting might occur), it’s full of surprises, and it’s got some seriously badass characters. I certainly hope anyone looking for ‘strong female characters’ won’t be disappointed.
I also intend for it to be the first in a crazy series (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).
I’ve mentioned it before, but not posted anything written until now. Here is the very first part. I hope you like it. Please bear in mind that it is a first draft, a work-in-progress, and may undergo corrections and revisions in the future.
All across the world philosopher scientists united, having finally discovered the Ultimate Secret: the meaning of life, the meaning of existence, and the meaning behind the universe, all of which amounted to pretty much the same thing.
In reaction to this monumental breakthrough the Earth was racked by waves of suicides. Countless others were numb and silent. Many stayed in denial.
The deniers would convert the fastest.
It was around this time that the universe (which was only a mirage, a trick, anyway – not that they knew) was Reshuffled, as it sometimes was.
The order of things is moved around. Different minds to different bodies. Some of it is repair work, but most of it is experimental. Memories are changed to fit the new build. You will always remember things just as they have always been, even if the way things have been has only been true for the last day. A body that once housed a kind, sensitive soul now holds a rough, arrogant mind – and everybody remembers them as this new sort, and an entirely new shape has had its effect on the lives of everybody that come into contact with them.
Needless to say, a Reshuffling takes an enormous amount of work. A lot of it is simple presets, now, but there are always new configurations to make, new hiccups to consider. The debug program points out any gaps or mistakes, any potential bogeys let through before the changes become live. And afterwards, mistakes can always be quickly rectified, or at least smoothed over somewhat.
A great deal of change can be made simply by putting different minds into different people in different positions.
It is no wonder the world is so confusing, and people struggle so. Their minds and lives have gone through so many changes, and many people’s minds are not in their original bodies. Some people may never be directly touched by the reshuffle, and some people’s memories will be rewritten over and over as their brains or the brains of their friends and family find themselves with new occupants.
Thankfully, Earth had never achieved interstellar contact or cross-dimensional exploration, and so the latest Reshuffle was localised to Earth. That said, it was the greatest single-planet Reshuffle ever yet done. Some would say it was in response to Earth’s self-claimed Ultimate Discovery, while others might point out that the plans had been in motion for a long time, and Earth had been due a Reshuffle for some time.
Afterwards, the Ultimate Discovery would be seen to be bogus, a piece of nonsense so derided that people thought it was a wonder it had ever been taken seriously, and noted both the ‘discovery’ and the resulting reactions as an unpleasant black spot on modern history. The philosopher scientists were blamed wholeheartedly, and they in turn blamed each other, and all tried not to broadcast their own personal shame.
It was almost perfect. And it would have been, if not for one oversight.
That oversight was one man.
He was Reshuffled, but his memories were left intact, and his mind was sent to the wrong place. It was not sent to one of his friends, or his friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s dog’s groomer, or someone in Africa or someone in New Zealand.
It was sent to another world.
He woke up standing with a gun to his head.
Desert plain, sand-coloured rocks, a stunted shrub of a tree. The touch of hot metal against his temple.
There were two men in front of him, also with guns, smiling toothy, dirty smiles.
He blinked, and opened his mouth. ‘What the fuck -’ he started, before immediately changing to ‘Oh my -’ and then ‘what’, and finishing with ‘This isn’t my voice!’ as his knees buckled.
The smudge of a man in his corner vision who held the gun pressed to his head grabbed him roughly by the neck, keeping him upright. ‘Don’t even think bout pullin some trick,’ came the growl in his ear.
The men looked like mercenaries from an old age. They were dirty and ragged, yellowed cloth and brown belts and heads covered in bristles. They leered and snarled at him.
‘Wha – what’s going on?’ he managed to breathe, and he trembled again as he heard another person’s voice form the words.
The pistol barrel nudged harder into him. ‘Cut the shit Jay.’
‘Please. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.’
‘You’re gonna die, that’s what. And not before time.’
He didn’t delude himself into thinking it was a dream. The gun against his head felt all too real. It seemed to be heating up under the glare of the sun. His hands were tied behind his back, and the rough knots bit into his skin.
It was that when he saw the lilac sky, a bright, alien colour that ringed the sun’s circle in purple flame.
He looked down, blinking as velvet motes danced over the sand and the rocks. He saw high boots and pants the colour of bark. His hair felt different, his face felt different. His whole body felt different. He was . . . stronger.
‘Wait,’ he said, licking his lips, trying to understand the voice. The accent seemed vaguely familiar – something exotic, a voice of spiced incense and long burning days and silks stained with blood – and yet nothing he could put a country’s name to, or even a region. His new voice was deeper, tougher, and instinctively he flexed his jaw and flexed the muscles in his arms. It felt good.
He squinted back up at the day’s light, that soft white-purple haze that quilted the land. The terrain lay about him like a bruise. There was no horizon; everything led to one slope or another. The astonishment of it all, the incredulity taming itself through a rising awe, was almost enough to make him forget the gun.
‘Time to die, tabaca.’
It was then that he realised nobody was speaking English. Not even him. He hadn’t realised because while he was hearing another language, something he’d never heard before, he was understanding it in English. Words – his own words too, circling back on him – had been hitting his ears in whatever-the-fuck-it-was and appearing in his brain perfectly sensible.
Was this what been fluent was like? He figured not.
The gun clicked, ready for the end.
He wanted to say, ‘There’s been a huge misunderstanding.’ He wanted to say, ‘I’ve just woken up like this and I have no fucking idea where I am who I am and more precisely who I am to you and you’re about to kill me, possibly forever unless this really is the biggest most expensive whopper of a trick ever played on someone.’ He wanted to say a lot of things, a lot of things that wouldn’t have done him one bit of good, and yet in the end all that came out of his new mouth was ‘Wait,’ again.
One minute in a new body in a new world and I’m gonna die. Just my luck.
‘Goodbye,’ growled the reprobate in front of him.
‘This is ridiculous.’ He looked surprised for a second at himself, the words as unfamiliar as the voice. Well, at least I’m not crying at the end…