It Takes Two to Tango…but Only One Sci-Fi Thriller to Keep You Turning Pages
There is no tango rhythm here...that rhythmic thudding you hear is the frantic thud of your own heart as author M. Lachi invites readers to dance through a horror-laden futuristic New York.
We had a chance to sit down with the author and ask a few questions about the writing process. Read the interview and the excerpt...if you dare. Then be sure to take a chance in the giveaway of a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Happy reading!
Publication Date: October 2, 2023
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
In a Utopian twenty-third-century New York City, where corporations have replaced governments, AI dictates culture, and citizens are free to people-watch any other citizen they choose through an app, this horror-laden Sci-Fi Thriller follows four mismatched coeds as they attempt to solve the murder of an eccentric parascientist. Only someone or something able to navigate outside the highest levels of crowd-sourced surveillance could get away with murder in this town. If the team can't work quickly to solve the case, New York City will be devoured by a dark plague the eccentric had been working on prior to his death, a plague which, overtime, appears to be developing sentience.
Thank you for joining us today. We're excited about your new novel, but you may be new to some of our readers. Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Lachi. I’m a record producer, novelist, touring performer, and public speaker using music and storytelling to advocate for identity pride and bring light to disability and difference.
I believe reading is research, especially in Science Fiction, so you are knowledgeable of what’s already out there—what Sci-Fi fans have already experienced in order to build upon it. I also believe knowing as much about the scientific or innovation topics tackled in your Sci-Fi novel is imperative so you can bend the rules adequately. I want to give a nod to National Chemistry Week. I found myself doing heaps of stoichiometric research and falling in love with chemistry the way Death Tango chose to define it.
I completely understand. Research is one of my favorite parts of a project, too. But then comes the actual writing. How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
I wrote ‘Death Tango’ in two months. The story was there, waiting to be told, waiting for me to sit down and spawn it.
What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
Having a great idea, concept, or dialogue, and having to hold it in your mind until you get a chance to write it down!
What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?
For me, it’s clever, quippy dialogue.
Snark is my favorite language. Tell us. Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
For me, writer's block is remedied by reading, watching the news or a trending film, listening to music, and allowing the world outside of my internal pressures to inspire me.
It is nine years ago. I stand alone on an unstable rock. Beneath that rock are a few precarious slabs of granite. Beneath the granite lies a hundred feet of air, of silence, of potential bone-shattering death. Surrounded by a dusk sky, Mount Venom—the cliff aptly named for the lives it has claimed—stretches endlessly beneath my quivering legs and far beyond my blurring vision.
Through the blaring wind, I hear several SOIs—School of Intelligence kids—hurl down demoralizing insults from the cliff’s edge. “She’ll never make it!” “Fall and die, swine!” Each year the SOIs goad us TFs—Testing Facility subjects—into scaling the cliff. If successful, the TF is accepted as an equal, putting an end to constant ridicule and torment. There is little sympathy for those who accept the challenge and fail. I tell myself to reach for the next stone along the slope, to keep my hands steady, to breathe.
I near the finish line.
Every inch of my body tastes it as much as my mouth tastes it. Get there; say nothing; feel no pride. My face wet with tears and mucus, my fingers slippery with blood, I feel around for my next grip and pull on my burning calves. I have only two heaves left. Two heaves, and no more being treated like trash.
I notice a small gap between two large stones above me. As I place my dampened hands into the hole for leverage, the rubble on which I stand gives out. My legs dangle freely. I have the willpower to lift my body onward, but my concentration is broken by a pair of black-gloved hands that pop out of the fissure above me.
Someone is hiding behind the rocks.
Tech Sports knitted in thin red stitching on each glove slides into view. My body ignores the anxiety presented by this new predicament, and I continue to lift. The gloves grab both my forearms and yank. I am now dangling by the grip of those hands; I am now at their complete mercy.
“Friend or foe?” I manage to growl between pained gasps, the wind forcing hair into my mouth.
“You’re so close,” replies a male voice I can hardly distinguish.
“I know! I know! Help me up!” I yell. My legs work uselessly to find hold. Receiving no verbal or physical response, I wriggle my shoulders. “Hey! Help me up!”
“Beg me!” the voice demands, barely audible over the blood rushing in my ears. I fend off a rapidly growing well of despair. Despair is a choice, a manifestation of surrender.
“Please!” I bark, the word taking with it all of my remaining willpower. I look up wide-eyed at the gloved hands, ignoring the falling stones as I await my fate.
“This is for putting in the application!” he yells, and with a quick jolt he lets go of my arms.
I keep my eyes open, desperately hoping for something to grab, but all I see are a mix of gray sky, red rock face and my flailing arms. I hear my bones smash against the jagged teeth of Mount Venom and scream one long uninterrupted exhale, silenced only by the jarring collision of the back of my skull against the cold, hard pavement.
I don’t feel the fracture. I only hear it between my ears. Pop.
I lie at the foot of Mount Venom, looking up at dark clouds, a metallic taste oozing over my tongue, a harsh pain working its way down my neck. A thick puddle coalesces under my head as onlookers gather.
My vision snaps away instantly with a blink. Surrounding echoes fade slowly as the internal sound of my curtailed heartbeats takes over. Suddenly I feel cold and heavy. I am motionless, no longer taking in oxygen.
After an onslaught of euphoria, I feel my brain flatten. I hear its slight gummy movements of deflation against my last few heartbeats. And somewhere between no longer feeling the ground beneath me and no longer feeling the air around me, I realize I am dead.
I perceive only a black vastness about me. Like an autumn leaf I float in the Cartesian circle that is the keen awareness of my nonexistence. A mix of bliss and terror. I try to hold on to something physical, something I can understand. “You are safe. You are safe,” I repeat, exercising the remnants of my inner monologue.
Then I begin to see things.
A single bright blue diamond, about the size of a fist, appears five feet before me. It is soon joined by two more on either side, followed by two more still, until a string of blue diamonds surrounds me. I realize I can see my entire periphery, no longer limited by physical eyes. A light source switches on behind me, revealing that I am floating at the center of a rotating diamond-rimmed disco ball.
Trying to locate the light source, I push my perception upward, downward, left, right, only to find that I, myself, am the source of that light. The speed with which the disco ball spins steadily increases, faster and faster, until all is a blur of spinning frenzy. Suddenly thousands of quick snapshots of familiar faces speed toward me: my friends, my bullies, the dark skin of my estranged father, the Spanglish ravings of my drunken mother, their parents, their parents’ parents. Images of a cottage in France, a village in Africa, past wars, ancient discoveries, tree scavenging, gasping air, breathing ocean, swimming in gas, feelings of remorse, loss, shame, excitement, immense love, bitter anguish, and a desperate need for acceptance. Every imaginable emotion ravages me whole.
I experience my consummate past. A massive rewind that stops at a sweeping explosion. A sphere of white fire so bright, it could hardly be described as fire. I am an endless wave of raw emotion drowning in the unyielding flames. And in that eternal instant I understand everything.
Again, all fades to black, the warmth, the understanding. And though the blackness around me is infinite, I sense a presence. I am not alone.
“Look around you,” the presence communicates to me, not through sound, sight or touch, but through direct understanding. I am certain it is—at least in part—a being other than myself. I hold fast to my mantra. “Do not fear,” the presence continues. I allow the mantra to fade. “Do you see how far the blackness reaches, stretching beyond infinite horizons? That is how much you do not know, how much you’ve yet to learn.” A brief silence. “Fear is the great enemy of knowledge, and you, Rosa, are the switch between them.”
“Me?” I manage to convey through the slivers of my consciousness.
“Us? How? Why? What do you mean?” My figurative words come childlike and excited.
“You already know how,” the presence responds as it fades. “You already know why.” I feel a growing bitter loneliness as the presence drifts away.
“Wait!” I yell. The blackness around me congeals to a bumpy dark brown. “Come back!” The glistening euphoria gradually declines as my flattened brain begins to restructure. A physical atmosphere swiftly surrounds me, and a palpitating sensation starts beneath me, causing me to rise and fall. The pulsing sensation reveals itself to be my heart grappling for a pulse.
A crashing ocean of white noise fills my head. I feel that I have a head. A body. Arms. A face. My face.
I open my eyes as the rush of noise fades to the sound of an open room. I am lying on a bed in the infirmary, surrounded by the school nurse and Dr. Ferguson himself, their blurry faces examining my head wound.
Dr. Ferguson bends forward. “You had a very nasty fall, Ms. Lejeune. Do you remember that?” He watches a nurse as she dabs a cloth at my face. “You’re lucky to be alive.”
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Lachi is an internationally touring creative artist, writer, and award-winning cultural activist living in New York City. A legally blind daughter of African immigrants, Lachi uses her platform to amplify narratives on identity pride and Disability Culture. In her public life, Lachi has helped increase accessibility to the GRAMMY Awards ceremonies as well as create numerous opportunities for music professionals with disabilities, through her organization RAMPD. Lachi also creates high-quality content amplifying disability. She has hosted a PBS American Masters segment highlighting disabled rebels and releases songs such as "Lift Me Up" and “Black Girl Cornrows” that elevate disability and difference to the pop culture market. Named a “new champion in advocacy” by Billboard, she’s held talks with the White House, the UN, Fortune 100 firms, and has been featured in Forbes, Hollywood Reporter, Good Morning America, and the New York Times for her unapologetic celebration of intersectionality through her music, storytelling and fashion.
In her free-time Lachi writes sci-fi and fantasy novels with diverse, headstrong characters, focusing heavily on atonal world-building, quip-ridden character development, likable villains, and psycho-spiritual discourse.
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