Deus Ex Machina
Deus Ex Machina is my novella (20,000 words) from the 2009 Aurora-nominated Women of the Apocalypse anthology.
Vue Weekly states: The real stand out in the collection is “Deus ex Machina” by McFadden.
Don D’Ammassa of Critical Mass stated: Ryan McFadden’s story of death…best in the collection.
Robert J Sawyer (the dean of science-fiction) said: This is, without doubt, one of the major theme anthologies of 2009, and deserves a place on the Aurora Award ballot — as do the individual stories. The anthology recently made the bestsellers’ list published in the Calgary Herald.
Below is a very short snippet of Dues Ex Machina:
The car was going too fast, stuck in a track of inevitability. No matter what they did, Julia knew they’d end at the same destination – at the blinking traffic lights ahead.
“Stop!” she screamed.
But he wasn’t listening. Because it wasn’t Brandon. Her husband was gone. Gone.
Hell sat beside her, its mouth full of broken teeth, black blood splattered along its chin. The white skin caught the glow of the dashboard and became a sickly green. Those eyes, burning her face. Hell leapt at her but the seat belt bounced it back like a petulant child slapped down by a parent.
They rocketed to the cycling traffic light. Green. Yellow. Red. Red. Red.
Hell shredded the seat belt with scissor-like nails. She tasted his breath – warm, sour, shit. Then it was at her, trying to slash her face. My eyes…it’s going for my eyes.
She punched it. Her hand blasted it right in the nose, the flesh exploding in a cloud of pus and gore. As she sat shocked with her ferocity, Hell retreated, spikes and razors rending the car.
Two distorted circles of light from outside their car. Dear god, that truck is going to obliterate us. She couldn’t hear the approaching engine because of Hell’s tormented sobs but she remembered it.
She relaxed back into her seat and closed her eyes. Because there was nothing she could do. Nothing to stop it.
The truck tore through the back of their Audi, tossed it sideways, spinning it, spinning it. Glass shattered, a storm of glittering jewels suddenly weightless as they spun. It’s going to be all right. It’s going to be all right. Though she knew it wasn’t going to be all right. A cell phone floated before her face. Pens, paper, all disconnected from gravity like they had been launched from the atmosphere. A perfect, peaceful moment.
Then gravity wrenched them. A terrible moment that hurt as much in her memories as it had at the time. These are memories, aren’t they? The pavement seemingly buckled and the tires exploded. The twisting didn’t stop, the car careening to the right, too far, and over. Rolling off the road and down an embankment. Their momentum increased. She was vomiting.
Branches lashed at the car, leaves reaching in, scratching her, then torn away.
Freed from the seat belt, Hell became a projectile, slamming into the roof, flying into the backseat, and out the vacant hole of the rear window. Gone.
We’re going to die.
Then they stopped, branches punching holes in the roof. Hoses hissed and steamed from the ruined engine. The radio started playing. “If we’re still alive, my regrets are few, if my life is mine, what shouldn’t I do?” She hadn’t remembered turning it on.
From far away: “Oh Jesus.” Then the slam of a truck door.
Her head hurt. Because you have a concussion. Your cheekbone has been shattered. And there was wetness. Don’t look. With blurred vision, she gazed down. A shaft of metal protruded from her stomach. That doesn’t belong there. She felt the wetness in her groin, wasn’t sure if that was urine or blood. Either way, she didn’t think it was good.
The radio seemed to be getting louder: “They’re gonna eat me alive, Can you hear my heart, Beating like a hammer.”
She reached for the radio but the shank of iron made her yelp. When she breathed in, pain stabbed her in the chest. Breathing shallow, she tried to move again. Couldn’t.
“I’m going to die here,” she thought.
“You’re not,” her own mind answered, as if a separate instance of herself existed in her skull – and she wasn’t sure which one was real and which was the pretender.
She heard a rustling as someone fought their way through the brambles. Hell? A man leaned in her shattered window. Misplaced teeth and pock-marked skin.
“Oh my god,” he gasped. Then backed away.
She wondered if his ugly mug was going to be the last thing she saw.