Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Next Big Thing Since Harry Potter - Unknown Reality by Kurt Chambers





Unknown Reality
by Kurt Chambers


Chloe held her breath as the scene before her cleared. She had never seen anything so spectacular in her whole life. A blanket of stars shone in a pitch-black sky, and a creepy, gray light cast long shadows against the rolling mist that clung to the ground in a swirling haze. When hush spread through the crowd, she could sense the expectation hanging in the air. Chloe craned her neck and fixed her gaze between two large boulders, waiting to see who would appear. The moment lasted forever.

A booming clap of thunder broke the silence. The ground beneath them rumbled with the force of the sound.

Chloe gasped along with everyone else. She squeezed her hands between her knees and let out a giggle despite herself. This was far greater than anything she had expected.

From out of the mist, he drifted into view. Dressed all in black, he almost blended into the background. He swept back his greasy hair in an over-exaggerated gesture of defiance.

The crowd reacted immediately, exploding in a barrage of boos and hisses. Chloe joined them, screaming at the top of her voice and shaking her fist.

He ignored their assault with a simple wave of his hand. The crowd fell silent when he spoke, and Chloe swore he held a magical spell over them.

She relaxed and unclenched her fists. This would be the final battle, but she already knew what the outcome would be. The baddie never wins, that’s just the way it is. She glanced at her mum seated beside her. “Bringing me to the theatre is the best birthday present I’ve ever had.”

Her mum gave a warm smile and continued watching the show.

The performance ended in a standing ovation. Chloe clapped and cheered until the curtain came to rest on the stage, and then found she was still clapping with excitement. With her mum’s hand in hers, they followed the flow of people towards the exit.

Chloe tugged at her mum’s arm. “That was the best thing I’ve ever seen. Everything looked so real. Can we go and get some autographs?”

Her mum flicked her fiery red hair from her eyes. “And how do you plan to do that?”

“Oh, that’s easy.” She lowered her voice. “You just wait around by the backstage doors. If you get there quick enough, you can catch the actors as they come out to their cars.”

Her mum didn’t look convinced.

“I know it’s true,” she continued. “Sarah Mash in my class told me. Her big sister is in the show. She was the dancer in the green dress that fell in love with that funny looking bloke with the big hat. Sarah told me to go straight round to the backstage doors if I wanted to get their autographs.”

“I’m sure they don’t want a hoard of kids pestering them when they finish a show. Where is the backstage anyway?”

“It’s right by where you parked the car, and they’re not bothered. They love all that stuff. It’s the only reason they became actors in the first place.” She put on her most disappointed face. “Please, Mum? It won’t take long.”

She glanced at her watch. “I don’t suppose it’ll do any harm. We’re not in any great rush to get home.”

Chloe grinned. “Excellent!”

The minute her mum agreed, the line of people leaving the theatre slowed to a crawl. She bobbed with impatience and then took a moment to admire her new, waist-length furry jacket in one of the many-mirrored columns. The pure white nap magnified her stunning red hair. She grinned at her reflection, convinced she looked like a star, and wondered if anyone might ask for her autograph.

When they reached the outside, Chloe pulled her mum along as fast as she could. They almost reached the backstage door when they met Mrs. Evans, a neighbour from two doors down.

She was a sweet old lady, but living on her own meant she always had too much to say, and Chloe’s mum was already in deep conversation with her about the show.

Chloe smiled politely. “Hello, Mrs. Evans.”

The old lady bent over, supporting her weight with her wrinkly hands on her knees. “Did you enjoy the show, dear?” Her smile looked wider than it should with her bright red lipstick.

“Yes, thanks. It was excellent.” She shook her mum’s hand. “Mum, can I have the program and a pen? Look, there’s already loads of people coming out.”

She handed Chloe the program in mid-discussion, but showed no sign she was coming any time soon.

Chloe gave up waiting for a pen. “Excuse me, Mrs. Evans, but I have to go and do something. I’ll meet you over there, Mum.” She pointed to the double doors and waited for approval.

“Yes, that’s okay, Chloe. I’ll be there in a minute.” She smiled, stroked Chloe’s hair and continued chatting.

Chloe made an eager dash through the car park. I hope I’m not too late. The doors opened seconds after she arrived. The man coming out looked like any ordinary person, but he held the door open for her. She smiled a thank you, and took full advantage of the invitation and stepped inside.

The door closed with a clash behind her, but nobody paid any attention. She took a moment to examine these new surroundings. Lots of people stood around, or sat on a row of plastic chairs that lined one wall of the little room. Chloe decided they must be here for the same reason as she was and edged her way towards the only other visible doors on the far side of the room. A digital lock prevented her from getting any further, so she waited with one hand in her jeans pocket and the other clutching her program. She didn’t have to wait long before a teenage girl with a ‘Stagehand’ logo embroidered on her shirt pocket came walking through. As the door swung to close, Chloe snuck inside and waited to see if anyone would challenge her. The light from the corridor seeped away as the lock slipped back into place with a click.

Wow!

A musty, mushroom-like smell filled the air. She recognised it from the dry ice machine in the show. A lattice of scaffold tubes supported rows of different coloured lights. She couldn’t see the stage from here, but the staggered, blackened boards where the actors would wait in the wings were in full view. Her skin tingled, and her face tightened into a wide grin.

Chloe took a deep breath and walked straight into the path of two stagehands struggling along the corridor with a large section of scenery.

“Mind your back,” the nearest man called out.

She flattened herself against the wall, expecting them to stop and question her presence. However, they said nothing as they lumbered passed. She puffed out her cheeks and continued on. Two young girls rounded the corner chatting excitedly. They were both dressed in pretty costumes and wore an abnormal amount of make-up.

“Hi,” one said as they rushed along the corridor.

“Hello,” Chloe replied. She couldn’t remember seeing the two in the show. She considered asking for their autographs, but realised she didn’t have a pen. Dressed like that, they certainly wouldn’t be carrying one.

She wandered to the end of the bare-brick corridor and decided she was wasting her time. She glanced around the corner to her left and discovered the other wing to the stage. Everything looked much less glamorous from this side. To her right stood another two doors; one secured with a digital lock and the other ajar. She peered through the gap and her heart leaped. It was him. The baddie.

He sat in front of a large mirror mounted on an untidy dressing table. It was just as she imagined, with a border of light bulbs surrounding the glass, but only about five of them actually worked. Draped in a dark-blue dressing gown, the big man hunched close to his refection removing a set of false eyelashes with tweezers.

Chloe slipped inside, trying not to disturb the door. His eyes flickered towards her and then back to himself. He remained silent.

“I thought you were absolutely fantastic in the show tonight. I was totally impressed,” she began, confident that all actors loved to be praised. “I wasn’t expecting everything to look so real.”

He let out a grunt and sneered. “It’s just an illusion, like everything in this world. People are stupid. They only see what they want to see.”

That wasn’t the answer she’d expected. Her muscles tightened and she thinned her lips. Did he just call me stupid? She racked her brain for a suitable reply. “Isn’t the illusion the most important part? If you don’t believe what’s happening in the show, then there’s not much point in watching it, is there, really? It wouldn’t be much fun sitting there thinking, well that couldn’t really happen.”

“And what would you know, little girl?”

She bit her lip. “It’s Chloe, actually, and I know quite a lot for an eleven-year-old! I know how the universe was created in the Big Bang, and how stars are formed. I even know the latest theories by that Stephen Hawking fellow. I looked it up on the internet.”

He swivelled around on his stool and glared at her. “Scientists, ha! What do they know about creation? Scientists only know how to destroy, nothing else. They rip things apart just to see what they’re made of.” He waved his finger in the air. “What has science ever created? Destruction, that’s what!” He turned back to the mirror.

Chloe stood rooted to the spot wondering if she should just leave. “I take it you believe in God then?”

His eyes shifted back towards her. “I don’t believe in anything. A theory is exactly what it says, a theory. Personally, I prefer to deal in facts.” He turned around and examined her expression. His bushy eyebrows lowered, and he stroked his graying beard with the tips of his fingers. “What would you say if I told you science and religion were both wrong?”

She squeezed her lips together and thought for a moment, trying not to stare at the jagged scar above his right eye. “Well, what else is there?”

His face lightened with a slight smile, as though he had been waiting for her to ask. He leaned a little closer. “Supposing I told you that everything you see in this world is a lie. Merely an illusion in your own mind.” He paused for an uncomfortable moment. “Ever wondered why the whole universe seems to centre around you? Have you ever asked yourself why you’re actually here? There must be a reason. It can’t be just pure luck that after billions of years of evolution you just happened to be in my dressing room, pestering me.”

She held out the program she’d bought at the show. “I came to get your autograph. I haven’t got a pen though.”

He took the rolled up booklet and placed it on the dressing table. After finding a pen amongst the scatter of items, he scribbled something on the cover and offered it back to her.

She went to take it, but he didn’t let go. Chloe glanced up in surprise. He was too close for comfort. She wrinkled her nose at his putrid breath.

“You have the power to control this...” He gestured around the room with an outstretched palm. “…this universe you find yourself in. If you look close enough, you will find the mistakes. There are clues everywhere.” He released his grip on her program, and she stumbled back a step. “Didn’t the great man himself say, ‘All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.’” He gave a choking laugh. “Like I said...clues, everywhere. You just have to look for them.”

Chloe started backing towards the door. The cluttered dressing room appeared more claustrophobic than she first realised. Every nerve in her body screamed at her to get out. “Well, thanks for the autograph. I’d better go before my mum starts worrying about me. She’s just out there, you know. Waiting for me.”

The old man stared, his piercing eyes following her every move. “You were put here for a reason, Chloe, and it’s not by who you think.”

“Okay. Well, er...Thanks again!” She turned and ran towards the door. Her heart pounded. With every step she expected his grubby hand to grab her from behind. She reached the door and yanked it open. Safety! She stepped through the opening and glanced back over her shoulder. The room was empty. With a sharp intake of breath, she hurried back up the corridor. A bead of sweat ran down her back while she fumbled with the lock on the door leading back to the exit. She pushed with all her might and stepped into the light. Just one solitary figure stood beside the entrance door.

Her mum raised her arms. “There you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you. What were you doing in there?”

She presented her mum the program. “I was getting an autograph. Look.” For the first time she saw what he had written. It read, ‘See beyond the illusion.’ Underneath his name, which she couldn’t make out, he had drawn what looked like a circle with a star inside.



After Chloe arrived home, she spent the first hour explaining to her dad what an awesome time she had at the theatre. Her younger brother, Roger, listened to the conversation with a glazed look in his eyes.

“You should’ve come with us, Roger,” Chloe said, sliding from the rounded arm of the sofa onto the red, velvet cushions. “I reckon you would’ve loved it.”

He screwed up his nose. “Er...no! Go and watch a load of men dressed up like girls, prancing around a stage? I don’t think so.”

Her dad laughed as he flicked through the channels on the television, stopping on the news.

Chloe gave a grunt. “You two don’t know what you’re missing.” She pulled her knees to her chest and decided she was wasting her breath on them.

Her mum slumped on the sofa next to her. “They’d rather stay in and watch this rubbish. Look at them.”

Her dad sat engrossed in the television. Roger lay on the faded deep-pile carpet with his head against the sofa, tapping his leg to a tune on his MP3 player.

Her mum gave a playful wink. “Philistines.”

Chloe didn’t know what that meant, but she could see her mum thought it was funny, so she giggled.

She watched the news report on the mysterious damage caused to a wind turbine. Some of the locals claimed it could have been aliens. She yawned and sank further into the cushions. Warm and comfortable, an overwhelming drowsiness swept over her. She closed her eyes for a moment. Opening them, she focused her blurred vision back on the TV. Protesters with placards demonstrated outside a laboratory somewhere near the east coast. She saw the company’s logo on a close-up shot of the building. Her blood ran cold. It was the same sign as the one the old man drew below his autograph.

Memories of his words came flooding back. She shuddered. “I’m going to bed, Mum,” she said, and kissed her on the cheek. “I can barely keep my eyes open.” She forced herself to her feet.

Mum smiled. “Goodnight, darling. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself tonight.”

Chloe wandered to her room and got ready for bed. She lay her head on the pillow and stared at the pink, fluffy dream catcher suspended just above the pine headboard. “What a weird day,” she mumbled as she recalled what the man had said to her. You have the power to control the universe? She huffed. Whatever. She leaned over to get the glass of water from her bedside cabinet, but realised she’d left it on the windowsill. Oh, I can’t be bothered to get up again. With an outstretched hand, she wished she had the power to will the drink next to her.

The glass slid two inches closer along the sill.

She screamed.






If you like my stories, maybe try my fantasy series, Truth Teller...

Truth Teller is now available in all e-book formats from here:

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Truth Teller Reviews:

Dawne Dominique - Multi-published author and professional cover artist.

The Truth Teller is one of the best children's fantasy book I've read in a long while. Charlotte is so easy to picture in my mind, and the fantasy aspects are brilliant! There are underlying currents of "real life lessons" that are subtly included...ideal for parents looking for that perfect bedtime story to read to their children. I loved the entire premise of the novel and will definitely be purchasing the next ones in this series.

Kurt Chambers has captured the genre with a wonderful story that will delight many a child's (and adult's) imagination.

Annie McMahon - Editor, published author and Novel Workshop moderator.

This book has everything a bestseller should have: compelling story, endearing characters, vivid descriptions, genuine emotions, and a lot of surprising twists and turns. This is a story about a friendship that transcends race, gender, age, and even realms, between Charlotte, a ten-year-old girl, and Elderfield, a teenage elf. Beautiful and heartwarming. I strongly recommend it and have reviewed Kurt’s story on my blog, Dutch Hill News.

Ralene Burke – Writer, Editor for Wives in Bloom:

Honestly, I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to read these books. Kurt has written an amazing series that emphasizes such wonderful themes as friendship, family, hope, and faith. I’ve read Truth Teller and Wrath of Siren and, even though they are MG, enjoyed them immensely. If you’re looking for wholesome reads for your children, check out the next big thing for MG.