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Glitched by Tiffany Yao - Book Tour + Giveaway

By 6:00 AM , , , , ,



Science Fiction

Date Published: April 14, 2022

 

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Kashmira lived an ordinary life until an army of invaders sacked her city and left her for dead. When she awakens, she discovers she is a glitch in a virtual reality video game – destined only for deletion by the bots that hunt her. 

Dugan is a bitterly disgruntled engineer who played a pivotal role in the creation of virtual reality games and the NPCs who inhabit them. Fired from the company he helped found, he seeks only revenge.

In a chance encounter, Dugan sees in Kashmira a tool to sabotage the games and avenge himself, and through him, Kashmira finds the help she desperately needs. As they traverse the worlds of virtual reality and their friendship deepens, it will take everything they have not only for her to win her freedom and survive, but also to answer the fundamental question of what “life” is.


 Excerpt

Chapter 3

            A damp coolness brushed across her brow, and Kashmira murmured in comfort, slipping back into the sweet oblivion of unconsciousness.

            Next thing she knew, pain stabbed her side and she was once again in the burning building. She woke up gasping, but a pair of hands, gentle but firm, pressed her down against the woven mat.

 When at last she came to, she was lying on her back as if glued there, hushed voices speaking over her, a dull ache at her side. It was an awakening different from the ones before, less foggy, and she had more distinct sensations of her body. And truth be told, it hurt.

            “Ahhh,” Kashmira moaned weakly, opening her eyes bit by bit and biting her lower lip in agony. She moved her fingers to lightly touch the side of her lower belly and pulled away in pain. Her body was wrapped in linen, and she rolled her arm back to her side.

            Eyes open, she stared at what appeared to be a ceiling made of dirt. Off in a corner, she detected a square of light partially illuminating the room she was in. A wooden ladder was propped against the wall, leading up through the square opening. Bundles of cloth lay in shadowy piles around her on the floor next to clay pots and bowls.

            As Kashmira lay there, Baba’s face was the first to appear as she shuffled through her most recent memories. Tears poured out of her eyes and dribbled into her ears. A knot clenched in her chest as she sobbed.

            Kashmira’s thoughts were interrupted when the sound of approaching footsteps grew louder and descended the ladder. She shut her eyes hurriedly and pretended to sleep. Who is this person?

            A rhythmic thump, thump, thump followed by the clattering of bowls reached her ears. Shuffling feet edged closer to her, and she heard the swishing of cloth. Soon, the same hands patted her forehead and tugged at the bandages.

            Kashmira winced.

            “Cha. The troubled dreamer awakes,” croaked a voice, warm and husky like the rustling of dry leaves.

            “Uhhh,” Kashmira groaned.

            “Lie still. I’m only changing your bandages. The linen is soaked clean through,” the voice clucked. Kashmira’s lids fluttered open and she stared into the face of an older woman.

The woman’s wrinkles etched themselves across her skin and her eyes, which were deep and honey brown. Her lips curved in the shape of a small smile, and her hands carried a bowl of strange-smelling paste.

            Tossing aside the bloody bandages, the woman applied the paste with her bare hands, talking as she did so. “You were out for a while. We had a hard time getting you down here. You were losing so much blood, I worried you would not make it. Only days before, you were running a high fever and crying out in your sleep. But your cut was not deep. This poultice keeps the infection at bay.”

            “Who is we?”

            “Oh. Just me and Zahmud. He’s a clever boy, you know. It isn’t easy to steal or find the ingredients for the poultice, but somehow, he was able to get them. He was up and down the streets this past week.”

            Past week? How long have I been out? Streets? What streets?

            “What?! Where am I?” Kashmira asked as the woman wrapped fresh bandages around her.

            “Underground. In Al Shebbat.”

            “Al Shebbat?! Are we hiding?! The soldiers! They could still be here. They might be looking for us.” Kashmira gulped air in panic and tried to sit up.

            “Quiet! Please, calm yourself.” The woman pushed her down, her eyebrows knit in guilt and worry. “I’m so sorry for upsetting you. Maybe you should take another draft of powdered poppy to help you sleep.”

            “NO!” cried Kashmira, suddenly fearful of falling back into the wakeful slumber. “You’ve been drugging me?”

            “I’m so sorry. So sorry,” the woman repeated, shaking her head in genuine sorrow. “I had to sedate you. Your pain would have been unbearable.”

Kashmira’s mind buzzed with questions, but she decided to ask the most pressing one.

            “Who are you?” she croaked.

            “I am Aasfa,” the woman said. “And it looks like Zahmud has brought dinner.”

            Kashmira craned her neck in the direction of the creaking ladder where a young man descended while clutching something wrapped in parchment. Skipping the last few rungs, he jumped to the bottom and handed the package to Aasfa. As he did so, his eyes caught sight of Kashmira. He blinked in surprise before narrowing them at her with suspicion.

            “She wakes,” he said.

            Aasfa unfolded the parchment and tossed the fish onto the frying pan, apologizing all the while. “Please forgive him. He is a little suspicious of everyone.”

            Kashmira surveyed Zahmud in silence, guessing him to be about her age. His nose jutted out as if it had been broken before, and his sour mouth was carved into a frown.

            While Aasfa seasoned and fried the fish, Zahmud busied himself by washing the used pots in a basin by the far wall with his back to her. But she sensed him watching her out of the corner of his eye.

            Aasfa diced the meat to serve along with cold flatbread. She handed a plate to Zahmud and carried another one over to Kashmira. Propping herself onto one elbow, Kashmira tried to take the plate with her other hand.

            “No need. I feed you.” Aasfa spooned bits of the fish and bread into Kashmira’s mouth.

            At first, her queasy stomach recoiled, but after a moment, Kashmira swallowed as fast as she could chew.

            “Easy, don’t choke,” chuckled Aasfa lightly.

            After she cleaned the entire plate, Kashmira was struck by a wave of fatigue. She supposed sitting up, talking, and thinking was hard work. But as she lay back down to digest, the pain from her wounds faded bit by bit and she grew sleepier by the minute.

            The poppy seeds! She cursed as the drug numbed her senses. Where am I? Her thoughts echoed and sleep washed over her once more.

          Through the days that followed, Kashmira slept and woke up only to eat and use the chamber pot. She lay awake a few minutes at a time, listening to what went on around her. Both her new companions came and went through the opening she figured led to the outside world, for it was bright or dark depending on the time of day or night. Her curiosity gnawed at her. What was beyond that tantalizing little square of light?

            One day, Kashmira opened her groggy eyes and wiggled her fingertips, expecting to return to her slumber. But sleep did not come. She gingerly sat up and glanced around. The whole chamber was bathed in a soft yellow glow. Feeling her side, she found her wound closing nicely and the pain was low and dull.

            “Aasfa probably lightened my dose,” she mused.

            Mustering all her strength, she stumbled to her feet, placing one hand on the wall for balance. She paced around the small space to stretch her legs. After countless laps to prove to herself she would not keel over anytime soon, she hobbled slowly up the ladder. When she poked her head above the entrance, the heady odor of soil and greenery filled her nostrils. Grabbing the root of a tree for support, she hauled herself up onto the dirt and looked around. She gasped as she recognized where she was.

            Above her were vines and flowers, gently fluttering in the breeze the same way they did on the day of the invasion. She sat there for a moment listening to the fountain’s song.          Kashmira frowned. Was that the noise of market chatter? Standing up, she wandered to the archway, gazed out, and covered her mouth in shock. Her movements strained her wound, but her pain was completely forgotten in her confusion.

            “But how?!” Kashmira’s heart thumped as she peered out. The market was exactly the way it was before with the same bustling pace. Peddlers spread their wares on rugs. Wealthier merchants set up awnings over tables of glimmering copper pans and silver teapots. Chickens clucked in cages beneath tents while men haggled and women hunted for groceries.

            She blinked and blinked, but the scene before her did not disappear. The spires and minarets of Al Shebbat pierced the clear skies above her head. She left the archway behind and emerged into the street. Sure enough, the city was still there.

            “It’s probably just another dream.” Kashmira walked the streets, past bathhouses exhaling steam and mosques with their gold-leafed doors, until she stood before the familiar space she called home.

            She was unsure what she expected to see. Blackened ruins?

            But no. Kashmira’s lungs tightened at the sight of a raven-haired girl with olive skin pouring coffee from a silver teapot. As if sensing Kashmira’s eyes on her, the girl straightened and stared back. For a moment, both froze. Then, pointing a bewildered finger at her, the girl called with a slight quiver in her voice, “Baba, come here. Please.”

            “Kashmira, what is it?” The gruff voice nearly made her knees buckle. A mustached man came out of his kitchen and paused.

Baba did a double take and rubbed his eyes.

            “She…” said the girl, “looks…like me.”

            By then, the other guests of the coffeehouse had stopped to see what all the fuss was about. Murmurs and whispers spread through the room. Even the neighbors heard the commotion and craned their necks to see.

            “I didn’t know your wife had twins, Mussef.”

            “Who is that girl?! She looks just like your Kashmira!”

            “Coincidence?”

            “The daughter of a long-lost cousin of your wife? But it can’t be. You don’t have other relatives here, do you?”

Kashmira turned and ran.


About the Author

Tiffany writes science fiction to explore the ways technology shapes our view of ourselves. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she bumped shoulders with diverse folks from all walks of life who inspire her characters. She incorporates her experience working in the aerospace and tech industry into her storytelling. She is now based in Austin, Texas.


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2 Comments

  1. Sci-fi is my favorite genre and Glitched sounds like an awesome read. Thank you for sharing the author's bio and book details

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  2. Glitched sounds like an awesome read and I like the cover, thanks for sharing it with me and have a sunshiny day!

    ReplyDelete

Please try not to spam posts with the same comments over and over again. Authors like seeing thoughtful comments about their books, not the same old, "I like the cover" or "sounds good" comments. While that is nice, putting some real thought and effort in is appreciated. Thank you.