Paradigms….

17 Jun

Next up on the GSP Legends Promo we welcome Chris McKenna.

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Chris McKenna was born in Scotland in 1983. After graduating from university he worked as programmer in Scotland and then Austria, before giving up his day job to explore the Far East. 

Presently Chris is working as an English language teacher in Asia and has lived and worked in many countries including: China, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines. We would tell you where he lives now, but by the time we do he’ll probably be living somewhere else.

Learn more about Chris at his Website
         His Blog
         On Facebook
         On Twitter

His book we are highlighting today is Paradigms.

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In Scotland, in the years after an apocalyptic disaster, the surviving people have reverted to clan life and are living off the carcass of the old world. But not everyone has forgotten the technology of the past and not everyone has forgotten the mystical secrets of the ages gone before. Propelled by an act of compassion, Malcolm, a young clansman, finds himself lost in a land of physical and metaphysical conflict that has changed far more than anyone realised. But which path is the right one? Which Paradigm is real?

Excerpt:

 Malcolm’s breath became a sparkling cloud, swirling lazily and dissipating into the frosty morning air. He reached up with chilled hands, tightened his green tartan scarf around his neck and wished for something more than his worn leather jacket to keep him warm. Glancing around at the others, he desperately wished he had a woollen hat like so many of his clansmen. Despite his longish dark hair, which was at least providing some warmth, he could feel the heat from his body draining out through the top of his head and into the persistent dawn winds.
    “That’s our target there,” said Thomas, using his sharpened metal pole to indicate a crumbling fire-lit house at the far end of the eroding street. Malcolm nodded, drawing what was once a kitchen knife from his belt, gripping it in his hand more tightly than necessary. It was a gift from an old uncle given to him two years before on his Risin, the celebration of reaching manhood.
    He remembered that day well, the meagre food and the half hearted way people had entered the ceremony. The resentment in their eyes when they gave their gifts. It was supposed to be a time of celebrating life, from a time when life was worth celebrating.
    His few years as an adult had taught him how hard people had worked for those gifts and how they had risked their lives for those little trinkets. He knew now why they resented giving them to the ungrateful child he was then.
    Only the knife from his uncle made him smile. He had known a weapon was coming: everyone got a weapon from their family on their Risin; it was traditional. But with supplies running short and a host of boys celebrating their coming of age at the same time, he had expected a wooden club or something equally common. A knife, even a poor one, was a rare gift.
    The thought came to him that people often looked like the weapons they chose to use. Perhaps they were somehow drawn to each other. Thomas, with his tall thin frame and long tapering fingers, proved an apt example when compared to his spike.
    He wondered if others thought he was knife-like in his demeanour; he didn’t imagine so. There was something of a sleekness to knives he aspired to at times, yet he never felt he quite managed to pull it off in the same way his generous uncle had.
    His frame, while not fat, was a little more bulky than Thomas’ and much broader in the shoulders. His movements, which could be considerably fast at times, often failed to master the gypsy-like dance he felt a knife was deserving of. Perhaps he had yet to find his own weapon.
    He brought his thoughts back to the matter at hand, taking time to survey the landscape ahead of them. All seemed unnaturally quiet and still in the glittering streets. It was as if some ice creature had arrived and sealed the houses in their dilapidated state for the rest of eternity. Only the occasional glow of cooking fires and the whip of a flapping tarpaulin, used to patch one of the bigger holes, broke the creature’s spell.
    The houses were old. Older than anyone bothered to remember. He could imagine they had once been quaint little buildings with families and communities. But the last age had passed, and like all things in his world, the houses had degenerated to squalor. No one knew how to build anymore; all but the simplest repairs were beyond them.
    As the sun dragged itself over the distant hills, he caught sight of a rag of tartan hanging heavily above one of the fire-lit houses. He didn’t need the bright lights of midday to know its colours. It would be a dark blue background with stripes of red and white running through it; the Likall clan would display no other.
    Another clansman, this one grim and bald, joined their little group. Malcolm was sure he was cousin or relation on his mother’s side, but he strained to remember his name. The man carried a weathered looking bat, perhaps once used for cricket. Those days were long past; it had now found its true owner and true purpose.
    His arrival brought their total to four. Despite the nature of clans and the intimate size of their group, Malcolm was surprised he knew only his friend Thomas, although there was a vague familiarity to the other two faces. Both were people he had passed every day, but never really spoken to. It seemed strange they would all be entrusting their lives to semi-strangers.
    Even the group leader, Calum, a well built man with a woollen hat and a fire axe, Malcolm knew almost nothing about. He found himself beginning to wish he had been assigned a better raiding party with a proven leader. They always got the best loot and the least casualties.
    Calum had the look of a man who had been given leadership purely because of his ageing years. If he had been placed there because of some heroic display or cunning tactic then Thomas would have known about it; his friend’s ambitions in the clan gave him an ear for such things.
    An owl hoot signalled the start of the raid. No owls lived in the clan lands any more, and Malcolm thought it an odd choice of sounds. Any Likall guards in the houses below, on hearing the alien sound, would be sure to know a raid was coming.
    Thomas had once tried to convince the leaders to drop the old signal in favour of something more stealthy.
    “It’s not about the signal, boy,” he had been told. “It’s about tradition!”
    As the battle cry of the most eager raiding party echoed amidst the broken buildings, they were certain the Likalls below would be on the alert.
    He didn’t have time to think of much else, finding himself running and then charging into the freshly lit streets. Other raiding parties emerged, streaming like insects towards prearranged targets. As they closed towards the weathered house, they could already hear the sounds of fighting breaking out throughout the thawing street.
    Malcolm’s doubts about their unproven leader were well founded. Despite his muscular frame he was slow, maybe even harbouring an injury. The houses’ few occupants were already up and ready.
    As the leader lurched his way towards the door, it swung open, revealing a rifle wielding man dressed only in his jeans. For a moment the man hesitated, perhaps thinking about the rarity of the bullets, before discharging the missile straight into the head of the raid leader.
    He didn’t have time for a second shot. Thomas, the fastest of the group by far, grabbed hold of the muzzle of the gun, thrusting it up into the air. A shot rang out, the second valuable projectile whizzed through the roof of a nearby house. A fast strike into the stomach with his knee by Thomas, followed by a blow to the head with the flat of the metal spike, brought the man crumbling to the ground, unconscious.
    Suddenly someone grabbed Malcolm from behind; he’d been too busy watching Thomas fight. He cursed himself for being so careless. No matter how many times his friend had told him to pay attention in raids, he always got distracted. It was like everything was moving a little faster than his brain could process. People like Thomas worked on pure instincts and reflex, but Malcolm needed time to think and consider.
    Luckily his attacker had no weapon, if the man had carried a knife or even a spike like Thomas’ he would have been dead. He struggled, trying desperately to break out of the man’s grip, but like a fish caught in an osprey’s talons, it was no use to struggle.
    He writhed and shook, pushing back against the man’s muscled arms while trying to wriggle from their grip. But his attacker held on, unable to incapacitate Malcolm while he kept thrashing about.
    Then Thomas was beside them, smacking the butt of the recovered rifle into the man’s neck. The big man fell back, releasing Malcolm as he did so, but it was not enough to knock him out. Taking one look at his two armed attackers the man fled, with Thomas giving chase at high speed.
    The bald clansman appeared beside Malcolm; he had been caught in a close fight with one of the young Likall and despite taking a bruise to his face, had come out on top. Together they ran to the house, pushing their way inside through the broken unguarded doorway.
    Once inside, with a desperate hunger they searched for loot. Clumsily and with impressive speed they began to strip the house of its goods: Food, potential weapons, clothing, all were bundled away into sacks. Nothing would be left behind.
    Only a few moments of noisy looting had passed when they heard a whimpering sound. The bald man saw them first, spotting the two shivering figures hiding at the far side of the room. Together an older woman and pretty young girl, whom Malcolm assumed to be her daughter, crouched like terrified animals under a small table. The older women looked at them sternly; ready to fight to defend her child.
    At the sight of them the bald clansman’s expression evolved to a cruel smile which spoke clearly of his intentions. He dropped his sack on the floor and turned to the pair adopting a crucified stance, ready to catch either of them should they try to escape.
    Malcolm turned away from the scene towards the door, breathing in deeply. He hesitated for a moment as the clansman took the first hunting step towards his quarry. Then Malcolm turned back.
    “No,” he said, advancing decisively and putting his hand on the man’s shoulder. “C’mon, it’s not our way.”
    The bald man turned to face Malcolm, looking into his eyes with a lustful fury. Malcolm stared back, trying to hold the flush of fear in his cheeks as the man’s grip tightened around the heavy bat in his hand. His veins throbbed as he held the weapon, a torrent of blood pouring through them. His adversary’s fury was seeping into and infusing with the wicked-looking wood.
    Crimes against women were not uncommon in clan raids and rarely punished. The fact that the law and the clan Ring would be on his side gave Malcolm little encouragement.
    “It’s not our way,” he repeated, if somewhat quieter and less sure than before.
    Just as he was certain the man was about to strike, he felt the presence of his tall, fast friend taking position at his side. The bald clansman broke the stare, muttering something unintelligible in a low growl. With a force, which risked smashing the fragile objects inside, he grabbed his sack and stormed off, shouldering past Malcolm on the way.
    Thomas put an encouraging hand on Malcolm’s shoulder for a moment, before following the clansman out into the icy morning.
    Malcolm looked across towards the woman and her daughter. Both still remained crouched under the table, staring up at him with hate filled eyes. A pang of anger rose up in him. He deserved more gratitude than such malice after risking his life for them. Had they not understood what was about to happen?
    Then he remembered the half dressed man lying crumpled outside. With a resigned sigh, he bent down despondently to pick up his sack, as he did so, dropping a glass bowl which had been sitting precariously at the top. He looked at the unscathed vessel lying on the floor, before picking it up and running his fingers familiarly over an old chip on its edge.
    “Funny,” he said quietly, not lifting his eyes from it. “This used to belong to my family. We lost it in a raid when I was still young.” He reverently sat it down on a near by shelf. “How long are we going to go on like this I wonder? How long can we go on like this?”
    “What would you know about it!” scolded the older woman defiantly. “Get out of my house, you bastard!”
    Malcolm stopped for a moment, lost in his own thoughts, before decisively putting his hand into the sack and retrieving small round loaf of bread. He placed it delicately beside the bowl, as if it was more valuable than a bullet. Then, with one last pleading look towards the two of them, walked out to rejoin his clan.                                  

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/ChrisMcKenna.html#ParadigmsExc

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Paradigms-Chris-McKenna/dp/0984452192/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371438619&sr=8-1&keywords=Paradigms+Chris+McKenna

 

 

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One Response to “Paradigms….”

  1. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough June 18, 2013 at 2:03 am #

    Well done, Chris.

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