I’ve recently made the acquaintance of author Daniel Ausema who is involved in an exciting project, a serialized work. Spire City is now in its second season (more detail on that at the end).
Characters Chels and reporter Kyner Banotosh meet up in Episode 9 of Season One: Infected. Chels hopes the reporter Kyner Bantosh can help her get the truth out there. Let’s eavesdrop:
Reporter Kyner Bantosh: Welcome. Please state your name and tell me something about yourself.
Chels: I’m Chels. Well, Cheliriana actually. That’s what my mom named me. It’s a Neshini name, because that’s where she came from. But I’ve been Chels since she died three years ago. Something about me? Well, I’m Neshini too, I guess. Or at least half. I don’t know who my dad was.
Kyner: How old are you?
Chels: I’m, let’s see…I guess I turned fifteen a couple of months ago. We don’t really pay much attention to birthdays in the, the place where we live.
Kyner: And you wish to keep that place a secret. I understand. You seem uncomfortable, sitting down for this interview. Is anything wrong?
Chels: Oh, no. I mean, I’m not really used to having important people pay attention to me. We usually try to avoid notice, those of us who’ve been infected. We sneak around, looking for food and stuff, and mostly try not to be seen. Except by other street urchins and people we know are sympathetic to us.
Kyner: Is that because of your infection?
Chels: Yeah. When the first people started getting infected, they told others, hoping for sympathy. Hoping people would help them. That’s not what they got, though. People got scared, thought they might get sick too. Friends, former neighbors, even family turned on them. Attacked them and drove them away. I guess it was pretty bad. I’ve only heard about it.
Kyner: So tell us about the infection. What exactly does that mean?
Chels (releases a deep breath): It’s not contagious. Make sure that’s the first thing you write. It’s a serum, and if you get shot with one of the darts, then you get sick. It doesn’t quite work how it was engineered, we think. It was supposed to turn people quickly into animals. Pests, like. Rats and other things that can easily be disposed of without questions. It’s not usually that fast, though.
Kyner: Whoa, whoa. Engineered? You’re saying someone created this infection? That’s a big accusation.
Chels: It is.
Kyner: OK, we’ll come back to that, then. Keep going with the infections themselves.
Chels: So we each have some animal characteristics. Some people a lot, like dog fur all over their bodies and mouths that look like snouts. Some just a little, a hint of mouse whiskers or, like, little feathers growing in their hair. I have these beetle antennae in my hair. And we might go for years with those little changes. Or usually we keep changing slowly, in fits and starts. And then one day we’ll suddenly…complete. Finish the transformation to an animal. That’s it, we’re dead. Not really dead, but might as well be. A mindless animal in the alleys or sewers or whatever, just waiting for a rat-catcher to snag us in his traps.
Kyner: That’s awful. Completing. How long have you been infected? And did you already know about the serum before that?
Chels: I did. When my mom died, I found a group of people willing to take me in. They were, almost all of them, infected. I avoided it for over a year. So I guess it was about a year ago that I was infected, or a little more. Just walking down the street in the rain, carrying a bag of food a kind person gave me. Anyone saw me, it was obvious I was a poor street urchin. Immigrant kid, no less. And that’s who they target. All the poor, jobless bums and urchins who are such a terrible drain on the city.
Kyner: Now I hear the anger as you say that. It must be a bitter reality. Are you ready to say who it is that’s targeting you?
Chels: Only the city’s most famous inventor, Orgood.
Kyner: Wait, that’s not who you accused in your letter. Let me see if I can find it. You accused a nameless group…
Chels: I know what I wrote. I was afraid you would be too scared to meet me if I accused him in writing. But that’s who it is. I don’t know if there are others behind him. Council members or factory owners or what. But he’s the one who created the serum, and he’s the one who sends out his people to shoot their darts at us on the streets.
Kyner: Wow. I…I don’t know whether I’ll be able to run this. But…wow. I’ll have to be careful. This is a lot to take in. I may need to meet up with you again to get all this sorted out.
Chels: Contact me the same way. I’ll try to find a time to meet again, if you need it. We just need this word out, need people to know the truth of what’s going on.
Kyner: I agree. I will do my best. Thank you for your time, Chels.
Chels: Thank you, Mr. Bantosh.
Spire City is home to mighty machines of steam power and clockwork, and giant beetles pull picturesque carriages over cobbled streets, but there is a darker secret behind these wonders. A deadly infection, created by a mad scientist, is spreading through the city, targeting the poor and powerless, turning them slowly into animals. A group of those infected by the serum join together to survive, to trick the wealthy out of their money, and to fight back.
Season One: Infected ran from November 2013 to August 2014, with a new episode every three weeks. Those thirteen episodes are now collected in two bundles, Contagion and Epidemic. Spire City Season Two: Pursued began serialization on November 28, 2014 with “Lady Janshi’s Acolyte.” Episode 2, “Williver’s Mistake” is out on December 19, 2014, and episodes will continue to be released through August 2015. Season Three: Unwoven will follow.
In addition to writing the Spire City series, Daniel Ausema is the author of The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame, the second title in Musa’s shared world series The Darkside Codex. His short stories and poems have appeared and are forthcoming in Penumbra, Daily Science Fiction, The Journal of Unlikely Stories, Strange Horizons, and many other places. He has worked as a journalist and educator and is currently a stay-at-home dad. He lives in Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
For more information, visit his blog (http://danielausema.blogspot.com), follow him on Twitter (@ausema), and find his Spire City episodes and other works in the Musa Publishing catalog (http://musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=38) and in most major online bookstores.