Monday, December 10, 2012

The Dream Land

Just released: The Dream Land, by Stephen Swartz

How far would you go to save the love of your life? Through a doorway to another world?
Stephen Swartz, author of The Dream Land

Sebastian, that quiet tax examiner at the corner desk in the IRS service center, carries a dark secret: once upon a time he and his high school sweetheart Gina found a rip in the universe and stepped through it to a strange world of magical beauty.

Far from being a Disney-esque playground, the world of Ghoupallesz bursts with cosmopolitan elegance, alien perversions, and political strife. Gina, the adventurous one, falls in love with the adventurous possibilities. Not Sebastian; always practical, he insists they return to Earth. Gina refuses so he goes back alone, vowing never to return. Yet he finds himself drawn back repeatedly--he calls it “research”--and often crosses paths with Gina. Sometimes he saves her, sometimes she saves him, forever soul mates.

Now years later, life on Earth hasn’t gone well for Sebastian. The headaches revisit him, with flashes of memories from Ghoupallesz. Gina is in trouble again, he senses, and he must, as always, save her. 

Meanwhile, a pair of too-curious IRS co-workers have accidently overdosed on the Elixir of Love he brought back on his last trip and the antidote exists only on Ghoupallesz. With these co-workers in tow, Sebastian returns through the interdimensional portal, fearing it may be his final adventure. He must gather his old comrades from the war, cross the towering Zet mountains, and free Gina from the Zetin warlord’s castle before her execution. Perhaps then she will stay with him.

But are his adventures to the other side real? Or are they just the dreams of a psychotic killer? That’s what the police want to know when Sebastian returns without his co-workers.

THE DREAM LAND is a genre-mashing epic of interdimensional intrigue, alien romance, and world domination by a pair of nerdy sweethearts, spiced up with some police procedural and psychological thriller, then marbled with twisted humor, steampunk pathos, and time/space conundrums.


How long had it been? Sebastian never contemplated that there might be any time difference between the two worlds. He imagined that weeks had passed on Earth and everyone would be looking for Gina and him. And yet, it seemed like it was still summer. Because they had never expected to be able to travel as they did, they made no preparation for their return. He had no money now—no dollars, just a few gealan stones—and he could not remember where he’d left his car keys, or if he had even brought them. And the clothes he now wore were alien fashions—a little Star Trekkie, perhaps, but serviceable, he decided. It did not matter. He still had to walk home—most of the two mile distance was through the dark countryside where he could hide whenever headlights approached. For the last few blocks into suburbia he would have to try to keep out of sight.
As he came upon the 7-Eleven store, he saw the parking lot was empty, no customers inside. But he had no money. Hungry and thirsty, he was also curious. He pushed himself inside, the door hitting his backside as he paused there, feeling the stares of the clerk and another customer buying cigarettes.
“Halloween’s a ways off, ya know,” the man chuckled.
“Costume party,” he responded quickly, trying to act as though everything was perfectly normal, the English words surprisingly uncomfortable in his mouth.
But everything wasn’t normal. He continued to feel nervous twitches of energy running errantly through his body, strings of electric snakes wriggling up and down his arms and legs and back. The sensations, ticklish and cold, were the electricity still trying to find a way out of his body. And the colors were different—but only because he had been looking through a tinted atmosphere the past few months, seeing the alien sky in shades of green instead of blue. He felt thinner, yet every step he took seemed heavier to him.
“So, what’ll it be for ya tonight?” the clerk called to him as the other customer exited.
He was walking up and down the aisles unable to make up his mind.
“A newspaper,” Sebastian decided.
“They’re up here.”
He returned to the counter, pulled the top paper from the rack. Holding the newspaper in his hands, tightening his grip to help the electric spasm pass, he fixed his eyes on the date. It was the same year, the same month, he saw. But it was now two days later than when they had gone to the quarry. Only two days had passed! And yet he had lived 127 days on that other world.
Suddenly, he felt like he held a great secret and if he let down his guard others would be able to see it written on his face. He turned away quickly, stuffing the newspaper back into the rack. He circled through the store again.
“Excuse me,” he spoke up, the store clerk watching his every move closely. “I seem to have lost my wallet—this damn costume, no pockets, you know? Could I use your phone? It’s a local call.”
“Can’t let you use it,” said the clerk. “There’s a phone outside.”
Rather than waste time pleading, he stomped out of the store, thinking there was a chance someone forgot their change. But when he picked up the receiver of the pay phone and jumped back from the spark, he found the sidewalk becoming littered with quarters, dimes and nickels. He gathered them up, chose a quarter to insert into the phone, and dialed his friend Jason’s number.
“Jason!” he shouted into the phone.
“Hey, dude!” his friend shouted back. “Where the hell you been? Your mom and dad’s been calling me.”
“I thought they might.”
“They’re going crazy!”
“I know, I know.”
“So where were you?”
“The other side of the universe,” Sebastian replied.
“Can you pick me up?”
“You know where.”
As he waited, he imagined his mother asking him where he’d been and he would say with Gina, and his parents would quiz him about his behavior. She’s a dear girl, his mother would say, but did she lead you on? Did she pull you into temptation? He was supposed to be a good boy, study hard, start a good career, meet a nice girl. To cover his absence, he was prepared to say she had tempted him. “I resisted as much as I could,” he planned to say, then he would go to his room and think about the 127 days they were together. And the last day together.
The candy red Mustang roared into the parking lot of the 7-Eleven, the engine shaking the pavement, The Moody Blues’ Question blasting out the open windows.
“Ready to go?” Jason called out over the music.
A year later Sebastian would guide his friend to the other side....


Unknown said...

I vowed to take some time & actually read this winter. This book is on the list :)

Hart Johnson said...

Oh-interesting premise! Stephen, I wish you a ton of luck with it!

Alison DeLuca said...

After reading his excerpts, I simply have to add Stephen's books to my pile as well!