Clarisse stood, unable to move, captivated by both the strangeness of the scene and its familiarity. The street looked like the old photos of Palo Also from her family albums. The houses were small and pushed back from wide streets with generous sidewalks.
She was on a tree-lined thoroughfare. The trees were elms, even though she knew the elms had died off from the blight years ago. Water-guzzling, emerald laws covered the front yards, nothing like the postage stamp-sized hunks of grass of 2016.
The place was a throwback to Palo Also of the 1980s or earlier. before the dot.com money hit and new millionaires converted modest neighborhoods into suburban fiefdoms fit for modern royalty. Marring the city's character, as she and so many of her old-timer counterparts thoughts. Clarisse lived in the most legitimately patrician and authentic Palo Alto neighborhood: Professorville, the enclave of academics and scientists, intellectuals, and whole covens of psychiatrists, all nestled close to the university and downtown. Three generations of Hulls had lived in the ornately elegant Queen Anne Victorian with its deep porches and heavy, gingerbread trim she called home.
What was this street? The sparseness of everything: buildings, trees, traffic. She had to have been standing there for close to a minute, gawking. Nothing moved on the streets. Not a single car had passed, none were in sight. On each block, two or three were parked on the curb, as though placed for effect. She didn't recognize the models, they were like props on some movie set.
No people. Not a single animal. Not a cat or a dog.
The sun blazed and the air sparkled clear and bright. A bird trilled, as if to say everything was normal. More than normal--cheery.
Clarisse wasn't cheery. This was the worst day of her life. She wanted nothing more than to be home with Jack and the boys, in her jeans, sticking her hands in dirt. The vegetable garden had become her refuge this terrible year. She'd met with the committee today. Her fate was sealed.
But she wasn't home. Nowhere near home. The street signs on the corner said "Marble St. and Sawyer Way." She'd lived in Palo Alto all her life and had never heard of these streets. Maybe she was in Midtown, closer to 101 than where she lived and less familiar. Midtown was as close as Palo Alto came to a modest neighborhood.
If she was in Midtown, though, why was she there? How had she gotten there? Poof! Like she'd materialized out of thin air? She'd been walking toward her car after the meeting, and then, here she was. Clarisse was one to think things out before acting. Another person might have bolted, but she needed to consider what was happening.
Where was her car? No sign of it anywhere. She knew why she wore a suit and high heels rather than her usual slacks and blazer. She'd worn ceremonial clothing for the meeting with Dean Dog turd and his Nazi cohorts. Tears leapt to her eyes at the thought of the dean. The committee had been meeting about her tenure for a year; today's hurdle was to have been the final resolution, the discussion that would give her tenure, or not. And it had been...
"Hello? Is anyone home? Help me!" She dashed up a manicured walkway to a small gray house and struck the red door with an iron knocker shaped like a hand. "Hello?! Is anyone home?"
...When she turned around, he was standing right in front of her. "Shit!" she muttered, jumping back. "Where did you come from? Do you always scare people like that?" Her lips pulled back. She wanted to slug him.
He was thin and vague, like everything in the landscape. His dark lank hair hung over his forehead, but was short in back. The front separated out in greasy strands. His hands were shoved in his jeans pockets...
"Um... I'm sorry. I've never done this before. They, uh, sent me to take you home." His skin was very fair, almost blue-white, so his brows and lips and the shadow on his jaw stood out. If he hadn't been so cringing and subservient, she would have thought him handsome.
"You're going to take me home?" How? Where? "You know where I live?" He nodded slowly. "Hull House?" Another nod. "All right. Let's go." She pulled herself erect. "Let's go home..."
Mindspeak - Heartspeak:
By Sandy Nathan
The first thing you should realize about Author Sandy Nathan is that you will never be able to anticipate what her books might be about. They are normally 400-500 pages that, at first, makes you groan with the length, and then, by the first pages, you are so quickly immersed, that you are soon heading toward the amazing ending! And this one is even more so and, I think, is my favorite of her books...so far...
Readers walk right into the life of the main character, Clarisse, as she finds herself on a strange street, wondering how she got there. Her car wasn't there, and, in fact, nobody was around, no people, no animals... But the memory of where she'd been that morning was still clear in her mind... She had just lost her job at the university. Not only had she not received expected tenure, but she had been fired because of a recent incident with a student, which was certainly not her fault... at least in my opinion.
The sad part of her losing her job was that, in addition, to her research activities, she was also working for the government on a top secret project--which was essentially the same as she was doing at the university. The problem? The proof that her hypothesis was correct had been proven--but the government refused to allow her to share the information in support of her need to gain tenure...
Her research dealt with the opinion that alternate realities existed and that she was able to prove it through her study and move toward showing it beyond the point of hypothesis. In fact, for the government, she had built a large computer which had already been used to relocate items from earth to another realty. She was now working to determine how to bring something back...
Though her tenure committee said she proved nothing, there was another that had discovered her activities and the status of her work. It just happened to be that he was in one of those alternate realities... And he had sent his representative to earth to find and bring her back!
And when the young man who had been sent to meet her told Clarisse that he was to take her home, it turned out to be his home, not hers... In a box-like universe that expanded and contracted upon need and with the only alien to appear was via a face, which appeared on the walls as a holograph...
And a group of human people who appeared to have been taken off the streets of earth and brought here, supposedly to be an army to fight against the earth... Of course, Clarisse finally realized that it was she who had suggested that, and the face, that she started to call "Pops" had allowed her to believe she was right. But what they had planned for her was much more sinister...
Clarisse is a genius that had been born into a family of genius that went back generations. But she begins to discover that she has been "played" by her parents and discovers that things that had happened to her might have really been planned... Clarisse is a gutsy lady in addition to her genius mind and has been trained for combat conditions and certainly can handle herself.
But is she strong enough to fight against the power of aliens who were able to bring her automatically to a place she has been trying to prove existed...through the use of a computer?
The story concept is brilliant, in my opinion. Nathan continues to amaze me with her creative imagination in providing readers with awesome, innovative and fascinating science fiction that is exciting and intriguing...The activities that occur in the alternate universe are extraordinary and thrilling...
But, most of all, what Nathan did by bringing in the lives of Clarisse's two sons places this book into new realms of thought. Is the mind the strongest part of humans? Or does love have control?
Prepare for an ending that will answer that like no other book you will have read! I am quite certain of that! SciFi enthusiasts, this is a must-read, in my opinion. Highly recommended to all who love to explore the unknown!
I used to be a princess. My parents were born in the hungry days of the Great Depression. They overcame the poverty of their youth by becoming extremely successful. I spent my time showing horses and water-skiing behind my dad’s obscenely overpowered boat. That life vanished when a drunk driver hit my father head-on in 1964, killing him.
Not instantly, though. My dad's death was the stuff of horror movies and plunged my family into years of darkness.
My old life disappeared. I lived at close to poverty level for a while. What happened in the following decades opened my eyes. I've seen and lived the over-privileged existence I describe in the Bloodsong Series. I've seen how it can warp those who are lost in it. I've seen how the power of money can mask mental illness and allow evil to ruin lives.
I know the mental and emotional landscape of the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, as it has come to be known. I know the physical geography just as well; I lived on the San Francisco Peninsula for fifty years. I made my home in the iconic cities and towns of Atherton, Woodside, Cupertino, and Palo Alto during that time.
How did such a hothouse flower end up writing the rough and visceral fiction I do? It’s because of what happened in those dark years.
My writing has a bite. My life has had a bite. Recovering from what happened to me has taken many years. And I have recovered. What was legitimately mine came back to me, along with the fruit of my own labor. If your life echoes mine, you might like to see how I healed; it’s in my books.
My writing isn’t for everyone. I write about people getting better and the world working out, but it’s not always gentle and nice. A reviewer described one of my books as “equal parts horror, spiritual, romance, and action.” If that’s for you, you’re my reader.
I consider what I write as falling primarily into the visionary fiction genre, which is about psychological maturation and making the world a better place. I have had huge spiritual experiences all my life, as well as gentler, ongoing inner guidance. Whatever is behind these experiences and this earthly life wants me to tell you my visions through my tales: my darkness and light.
Now for my “regular bio”: I’ve been in school a very long time and have two advanced degrees. I’ve had prestigious careers. My writing has won thirty national awards. I’m very happily married; my husband and I have been together forty years. I have three grown children and two grandchildren. My husband and I live on our California horse ranch and love it. We still ride the trails together, metaphorically and on our horses.