Sunday Snippet: The Friar’s Lantern by Greg Hickey

Today’s Sunday Snippet is from the literary, interactive, science fiction novel The Friar’s Lantern by Greg Hickey. It was self-published by the author and is currently available as an Ebook (ASIN: B07RS59R1W, date published 05.04.19) and a Paperback (ISBN: 978-1733093705, date published 06.04.19). The ideal reader is aged 13+ and the book does contain some swear words.


book cover from science fiction sci fi novel The Friar's Lantern by Greg Hickey

Synopsis of The Friar’s Lantern by Greg Hickey

You are the protagonist in this stimulating choosable-path adventure!

You may win $1,000,000.

You will judge a man of murder.

An eccentric scientist tells you he can read your mind and offers to prove it in a high-stakes wager. A respected college professor exacts impassioned, heat-of-the-moment revenge on his wife’s killer – a week after her death – and you’re on the jury.

Take a Turing test with a twist, discover how your future choices might influence the past, and try your luck at Three Card Monte. And while you weigh chance, superstition, destiny, intuition and logic in making your decisions, ask yourself: are you responsible for your actions at all?

So choose wisely – if you can.

Chapter 1

The sign on the door reads “Lauterbur State University Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Laboratory.” The broken-down building skulks in the shadow of the university’s football stadium at the far north end of this once-prestigious institution whose name has fallen markedly since its late-Cold War Era heyday as a bastion of scientific and technological research. To the east of these two structures, three cars populate a 10,000-space parking lot, little islands of painted steel in a stark, asphalt ocean grid-marked by mottled and faded white lines. The stadium, Ozymandian on the bitumen shore, is beset to the north by woodlands, and here the hard blacktop, the steel girders and thick slabs of concrete devolve into dirt and dead yellow leaves and broken branches overhung by untrimmed trees and dotted with tangled bushes. The little laboratory remains as a mere afterthought, its wearied face shrouded by the sallow, emaciated branches of a willow tree, devoid of leaves even now in mid- May, the tree dead or dying as its limbs sag down in despair to scratch the top of the building.

The laboratory itself is squat and squalid like a red brick bomb shelter, the bricks a departure both from the cement and steel of the stadium that towers above it on one side and the black loam of the wilderness that drags it down from the other. These days, the woodlands’ influence has taken hold, smudging the lab’s once-crimson bricks a hazy brownish-gray and softening its edges with dirt and erosion. Ivy creeps up the lower right side of the front wall, its leaves splotched with black marks of death, like a zombie hand reaching up from the grave to pry the laboratory away from the force field of the stadium that looms above. Yet, all in all, the lab is well-built; the bricks are solid and hold their form, and the few windows are smeared with dust but remain uncracked.

You draw open the frosted glass door and step into a long hallway that veers to the right around a corner fifty feet ahead, and you realize the laboratory is much larger than it looks from the outside. Decades of footprints mopped and waxed into the adsorbent floor have stained the otherwise clean beige tile a murky gray. The walls are sea foam green, drably bright like those of an old hospital room, and you can just make out the flaked scabs of the previous coat of paint under this fresh exterior.

You wander down the hall and around the corner and come to three doors. The ones ahead and to your right are closed, but the door on your left opens into a 12’ by 12’ anteroom with a desk facing the door and two metal-framed chairs backed with shabby burgundy acrylic. A mid-thirties woman types incessantly on a computer at the desk, her hair tied back at the edges of a smooth face and oval glasses above a trim torso, a white lab coat pulled over her navy business suit. She looks up at you with the scarcest quizzical expression as you enter, the very image of clinical professionalism, all save for the hair’s breadth excess of cleavage beneath her lab coat and blouse which conjures up a scene from a cheap p*rnography.

“I’m here for the study,” you say in answer to her expectant gaze. “The MRI…” you pull a folded handwritten note from your pocket, “…about predicting human behavior?”

She lifts a paper-stuffed clipboard from the desk and stands to extend it in your direction. “Fill this out, please.”

You retreat to one of the chairs to complete the paperwork, the usual collection of disclaimers, consents and opt-out clauses required for legitimate universities to conduct research on voluntary participants. A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan will be performed to examine activity in your brain in response to certain stimuli. fMRI scans rely on the interaction of strong magnetic fields with the chemical properties of your body. No radiation will be used, and there are minimal hazards, although possible side effects include headaches, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, back pain, fever, weakness and/or seizures. You read the last sentence twice to confirm seizures aren’t considered a serious hazard. However, you may end the scan at any time during the procedure.

You glance up at the receptionist but she ignores you, her flat stare wedded to her computer monitor, her fingers cli-cli-clicking rapidly across the keyboard. No help there. You re-examine the slab of disclaimers, and a touch of doubt creeps into your thoughts. But people have MRIs every day, you remind yourself. This isn’t radical new technology anymore. Yet you feel your throat tighten nonetheless.

If you choose to sign the consent form and participate in the study, turn to page 11.
If you choose not to sign the consent form, turn to page 18.

This post was submitted by the author Greg Hickey

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