Sugar CoatedShannen Crane Camp
Shannen Crane Camp
Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing, LLC.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, duplicated, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Text Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved
Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing, LLC.
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious and are products of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual events, or locales or persons, living or dead are entirely coincidental.
Edited by Elizabeth A. Lance
Cover Photo by Trenton Michael Davis
For The Husband and Hemingway. Despite your best efforts of distracting me with your cuteness and epic movies
, I got this book written. Take that.
Blinding white lights flashed into life, revealing a room less cavernous and imposing than she had expected. Instead, the room with the white walls, ceilings, and floor was quite small; small enough for her to run from one end to the other without ever breaking a sweat. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust and once they did, she still couldn’t be sure of what she was seeing. There seemed to be a complete lack of color in this small room, as if it had been drained right before her arrival and was shining more brightly because of its recent purge.
Brynn blinked her eyes a few more times, trying to clear the spots that sprang into existence when the less-than-subtle lights had ignited. Now that she had a proper hold on her surroundings, she could see the impossibility of the room. There were no windows. There were no doors. There was no way in or out. So how had she gotten there?
“We apologize for any inconvenience your death may cause you at this time,” said a smooth, soothing female voice over what Brynn could only describe as a loudspeaker. If the woman’s voice hadn’t been so calm and collected, it may have taken her less time to understand exactly what she was saying before the sickly sweet smell of sugar hit her nose; like cookies right out of the oven.
This wasn’t just a room. It was a death chamber.
“We appreciate your cooperation and would like to take this opportunity to remind you that the best thing to do in this situation is enjoy this smell, generated for your pleasure,” the voice told her, never losing that deep, rich timbre.
Brynn thought that if she hadn’t been in an obviously dire situation, she would have loved nothing more than to listen to the beautiful voice and smell the sweet sugar all day long. But as it turned out, there wasn’t much time left in her day right at that moment.
Listening to the woman’s instructions against her better judgment, Brynn took one deep breath, enjoying the smell of the unnaturally rich sugar before her cheek made contact with the hard white floor with a sickening thud.
Chapter 1: Awake
Brynn couldn’t be sure if it was the muted beeping of her ceiling clock or her nightmares that had woken her this morning. Either way, she couldn’t deny that the throbbing in her head was something she’d have to take care of right away.
“I need a pain pill and some water,” she said to her room, which instantly obliged by dispensing two small blue pills next to her half-full glass of water. “Ice?” she asked, knowing she was being a bit picky, but not exactly in the mood to care. Two ice cubes dropped from a dispenser over her glass with a small plop.
Picking up the two pills and gingerly placing them on her tongue, she swallowed hard, never able to take pills with water. She always had to take the water as a chaser. The bitter taste left by the two blue tablets was quickly washed away by the sugar frozen into her ice cubes.
Her house really did know her well.
At first, moving out of her parent’s house at eighteen years old and into her own place had been scary. Having to teach an entire house what you liked and disliked could take years. Luckily for Brynn, she was a creature of habit and her house caught on quickly.
“Can you turn that alarm off please? I don’t think I have the energy to get up there,” she mumbled sleepily.
When she first designed her new house with a ceiling clock, she had thought it was a clever way to wake up. The only way to hit the snooze button was to bounce on the bed until you could reach the ceiling, like a child jumping on a springy mattress. After only a few weeks, however, the novelty had worn off and she had seriously considered short circuiting the nuisance.
The house immediately turned the alarm off as if it could read her mutinous thoughts.
“Thank you Charlie,” she said sweetly.
It wasn’t exactly customary to thank your house any time it did what you asked. That’s what it was there for, after all. But that didn’t stop Brynn from feeling like she owed the house something. It did wait on her hand and foot and make sure her life was as simple as possible. She could take two seconds out of her day to say thank you.
“What time is it?” she asked, knowing perfectly well that she could easily open her eyes and look at her ceiling clock.
Still, she asked because she liked the voice she had picked for her house. The high-pitched female child’s voice wasn’t a popular one, at least not among people her age. Most of her girlfriends had picked the deep male’s voice for their new houses. The child’s voice was more often used in the homes of empty nesters. But Brynn liked to be different, and somehow it seemed less foreign for her house to sound like the younger sibling she never had, rather than the boyfriend she wasn’t looking for at the moment.
“It’s ten o’clock in the morning,” her house told her, a little warily, she thought.
The time of day seemed to be an odd thing to be wary over, but she dismissed it, blaming her suspicions on her groggy imagination. The night before had not been kind to her and the handfuls of caffeine pills her friends Amber, Bennett, and Ty had persuaded her to take were definitely losing their appeal.
“Thanks for that,” she said to her friends who were not there.
“You’re welcome,” her house answered, mistaking the placement of her sarcastic gratitude.
“Messages?” she inquired, wondering if her parents had arrived in Eastern Metropolis safely.
Only yesterday they’d told her that they planned to take a last-minute trip across the world, and she expected their train would be pulling into the station any time now. She could have gone with them of course, but train trips were always so tedious, and she had her fill of vacations with her monthly trip to Central Wildwood.
Trains were the only mode of transportation if you planned to cross the world, but their lack of interesting games and complete lack of windows made them the worst method of travel. Brynn would prefer to take a bus across Halcyon if such a bus route existed. At least then she would have windows to look out.
“You have one new message from Bennett,” her house informed her.
“Play,” Brynn instructed through a yawn.
At her command, her friend Bennett’s voice materialized in her room, also bringing with it the sounds of whatever party she was at when she left the message.
“Brynn?” she said, obviously not understanding that her voice message system had picked up instead of her. Brynn smiled at this thought as she continued to listen. “Oh. This is your voice thing right? Oops! So anyway, by the time you get this it’ll be too late,” her friend said, instantly piquing Brynn’s interest. Something about those words sparked a memory from her nightmare last
night. Whatever recollection it brought, however, faded just as quickly as it had appeared. Bennett’s words continued on, unconcerned by Brynn’s attempt to recall her dream.
“So when I said you could take as many of those caffeine pills as you wanted, I got that mixed up. You can’t take as many as you want,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not smart. I don’t know what words mean. So hopefully you don’t have a major headache and if you do I’ll see you in—.”
Bennett’s message cut out before she could finish whatever thought she had started.
“Thanks for the warning,” Brynn said to her room with a grumble as she shielded her eyes against the sun streaming through her windows. “Can you close those blinds?” she asked, though the room had already anticipated her request and had begun closing them before the words escaped her lips completely.
Sitting up and swinging her legs out of bed, she let her bare feet make contact with the plush carpet in her room. She had chosen white carpet for her house, though now the decision sent a shiver down her spine as she remembered her dream. It wasn’t uncommon for Brynn to have nightmares like this. For as long as she could remember, she’d awoken in the middle of the night, breathing hard with a cold sweat trickling down her spine. But her dreams had always been vague.
Unearthly people dressed in white. Almost like the angels her mother had told her about when she was a child. But something about them was unsettling. The way they moved was unnatural; like the way you walked when you knew someone was watching you and you had to act normal. It was the way Brynn herself often walked when she was around Ty. It was the walk reserved for people with power. For the people who ran things in her city. The law enforcers, the politicians, even the people who fixed the machines when they broke.
There were only two types of people in the world. The people who had a purpose, and the people who enjoyed themselves. Brynn was in the latter group, however reluctantly. If you wanted a job you had to pass The Test, and no matter how intelligent she was, mastering The Test always seemed to be just out of her reach. Once she had accused The Testing Center of changing her answers to ensure that she didn’t get a job, but Amber calmed her down, showing her the absurdity of what she was saying.
“Why would they want to keep you from doing the one thing in our world most people try to avoid? Don’t you think they have to be desperate for new people?” she had asked Brynn that day, presenting her with a question she couldn’t quite find the answer to.
Brynn closed her eyes now, trying to remember the woman she had heard in her dreams that night in as much detail as possible. This wasn’t the first time they’d encountered one another, she knew, but it was the first time the woman had tried to kill Brynn.
Not tried, Brynn reminded herself. Succeeded.
She wore all white like the other Angels, the lines of her clothing sharp, tailored, and crisp.
Efficient, Brynn thought.
That was the word that best described this woman. Her white-blonde hair was styled in a blunt asymmetrical bob that brushed her sharp jawbone. A neat line of bangs cut across her forehead in a precise stripe. Her skin was pale in a way that made it seem as white as her clothing. Not white like Brynn’s skin, but a white as unnatural as her walk.
All of these things added to her ethereal quality, but none so much as her violet eyes. Eyes as intelligent as the sideways smile she always seemed to wear whenever she and Brynn met up in her dreams.
Brynn wanted to ask her room if dreams had any basis in reality, but she kept her question to herself. There were some things you didn’t say, even in the comfort of your own home.
As frightening as this woman was, Brynn tried desperately to hold onto the fading memory of her voice. It was the most beautiful and soothing thing she’d ever heard. If she could somehow change her home’s voice to that of the violet-eyed Angel, she would do it in a heartbeat and waste away, listening to anything the woman would say to her.
Brynn had gone through her home voice options countless times, in the hopes of finding a voice that came close to that of the one in her dreams. The closest she could ever get was that of the adult woman, whose voice was too rough and imperfect to be a truly satisfactory replacement.
Sighing deeply as the memory faded from her mind once more, she picked up her clothing pad, which she’d discarded at the foot of her bed the night before after trying to make the perfect outfit for the outing with her friends. Today, she was feeling less creative. Rather than spending a great length of time browsing the new patterns and silhouettes that she could bend to her own unique creation, she went with her old default outfit.
It was one she had created years ago when a "rough and tumble" look had become the fashion. Now it seemed that stripes were the latest trend, but Brynn wouldn’t mind missing out on that particular style. She didn’t think stripes flattered her at all. The old standby, however, looked as if it had been made for her, which, of course, it had been.
She pulled on her tight, grey denim pants, reveling in the rough, scratchy material that most people hated. To her it felt like something real. Something important and imperfect. Something like her.
Her black, short-sleeved V-neck shirt came next, followed by her turquoise necklace, and finally her black boots. It was a monochromatic and dark look to say the least, with the necklace being the only burst of color, but it was exactly what she wanted to see when she looked in the mirror after dreaming all night of the white-clad Angels. She pulled her long, black, wavy hair into a messy knot on top of her head and let a few strands fall into her blue eyes and frame her full lips, which were curling up into a smile.
People didn’t have much to be jealous of when everyone had access to the same things, so everyone complained about the one thing they couldn’t change—their physical features. Amber and Bennett would constantly remind Brynn of how lucky she was to have been born with full, plump lips and bright blue eyes, when most people only got one physical extreme to be proud of. Amber had gotten the blue eyes while Bennett had the perfect smile with a row of flawless, white teeth. But Brynn had been blessed with what Ty called, “The sapphire eyes and plum lips.”
“Why plum lips?” she’d asked him, wrinkling her nose at the description and wondering what color they must look to incite such a comparison.
“Because they’re so full and luscious that they look like a piece of fruit,” he joked with a glint in his eyes. Ty was by far Brynn’s closest friend and as such, she reserved the right to use his insight as a male to her advantage.
Ty had gotten the eyes as his physical perfection. The color was brown, and therefore not considered anything special, but the way they slanted slightly in the corners was unusual enough that people found it beautiful, not to mention the perfect understated freckle right below his right eye. Anything out of the norm was almost always considered beautiful, just like Brynn’s lips.
“Beautiful,” the room told her, echoing her thoughts without realizing it. And even though she had programmed it to compliment her when she got ready in the morning, she couldn’t help but allow a small smile to play on her plum lips.
Chapter 2: Pleasure
“We should see who’s made new movies,” Ty told the group after they met up at his house later that day.
Amber and Bennett had taken the bus there, but Brynn walked, since his house was right next to hers. She’d misjudged the time, however, and was late anyway. At first she’d apologized profusely for her tardiness, until she realized that they hadn’t even settled on an activity yet.
“I scanned through all the new movies this morning,” Amber said drolly, twirling her short blonde hair between her fingers. “They all looked like people rushed to make them so that their main characters would be wearing stripes. The graphics weren’t even that good. Lame,” she finished with a sigh.
“That always happens when a new trend comes out,” Brynn agreed.
The movies always seemed to be better when the city was between trends. That way, people tried to
focus more on the storylines and making their character’s graphics look realistic, and forgot about what they were wearing.
“We should make another one ourselves,” Bennett suggested from one of the squishy armchairs Ty had all over his house.
Ty had definitely built his new house with comfort in mind. Everything was stuffed furniture and happily roaring fireplaces. It was much darker and more grown-up looking than the style Brynn had chosen, and for a moment she worried that she’d made a typical juvenile mistake in designing a house she’d like while she was eighteen, but hate once she’d gotten older. The dilemma wasn’t a life-changing one, since remodeling was one of the best parts of having your own house, but Brynn still wondered self-consciously if she should have made a more grown-up decision to accompany her grown-up move.
Amber and Bennett’s houses looked similar to hers. They had all opted for the plush carpet, blank walls, and large windows of a house whose inhabitants didn’t have much to worry about.
“I’m up for making a movie,” Amber answered with a shrug, looking like she was up for almost anything that didn’t involve spending a boring afternoon doing nothing. “Maybe we can break the top weekly rank in the city again.”
“That’s all political,” Bennett said with a wave of her hand. “It just depends on how many views you get. It has nothing to do with how good your movie is.”
“Yeah, but if your movie is good you’ll get more views,” Amber replied, making her answer sound like the most obvious thing in the world.
“Well then, let’s make a good one,” Bennett suggested with her perfect smile.
The two looked over at Ty and Brynn, who had been silently watching the exchange. It always amused them to watch Bennett and Amber bicker, even though the two girls were inseparable.