Interview with Lachi, author of scifi horror Death Tango
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 mis-matched coeds as they attempt to solve the murder of an eccentric parascientist. Only someone or something able to navigate outside the highest levels of croud-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.
Excerpt from Death Tango
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.”
An Interview with Lachi
-What inspired you to become a writer?
Apparently today is Authors Day and Literacy Day, so naturally, I’m very excited to share my thoughts on writing today in honor of those.
Several aspects from my childhood contributed to my passion for writing. Growing up a legally blind kid, I often kept to myself, expressing myself through music I created, poetry I wrote and comics I drew. I daydreamed a lot through class, unable to see the board, escaping the confusing and not-so-kind world by creating my own. This eventually led to my love for song writing and novel writing, world-building and character development.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
In Death Tango there are a good number of standout multi-dimensional characters working through everything from stress triggers, generational traumas, disabilities and social strata issues while tapping into those very same things for strength.
I’d go out with Michelle Brier, the fashion kitsch of ChatTV, who hosts a popular gossip column. Not only is she smart and clever–working on her postdoc–and a huge trans activist, but she’s also sweet and authentic. As a powerful so-and-so with a hefty ax to grind against Mr. Ferguson, she’s definitely a murder suspect, but that shouldn’t make her a bad hang.
-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?
It’s also Day of the Dead today, and Death Tango doesn’t shy away from skirting with, dancing with, looking into, around and through the part of the life cycle that is death. In the Death Tango-verse there are Mandala Monasteries where secular monks spend their days solving high-level scientific inquiries using pencil, paper and divine spirit, while working through LaPlace’s ultimate cosmic equation as a pastime between assignments. LaPlace posits that if some creature knew everything’s position and motion at one moment, then the laws of physics would give it complete knowledge of the future. The monasteries often engage in ritualistic chants and ohms to free their minds for such high-level mental and physical work led by chapter Mothers; however these rituals have often caused heart attacks in laymen visitors. I’d love to attend and witness some of the legendary Mothering.
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.
Lachi will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.