Ariion Kathleen Brindley

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  In two novels, Legend of Dream Café  and Jump,  I explore themes and implications of our growing capability to create and explore separate realities, not only for the purpose of entertainment, but as a potential way to learn more about our own existence. The worlds that comprise these stories are not just simulations or imitations of our own universe; they evolve their own unique desires and goals, unique views of life and creation, even their own fear of mortality.

   In Legend of Dream Café, Carl Rettick and Joni Morrison are thrown together by chance. Both must fight after they discover their future, even the foundation of their world, are suddenly in jeopardy. Carl and Joni have only a few hours to seal the passage that will prevent the return of someone who has the power to end everything.

   Legend opens with Joni Morrison, a woman in late middle age, walking in a busy and affluent section of a city with her teenage granddaughter and  friend. They come across a boarded-up store opposite an abandoned construction project, its metal scaffolding lying rusted and untouched, braced against collapse by massive supports and surrounded by an intimidating security fence.

   The friend has heard the stories about this place. She wonders why these two sites sit unused and surrounded by such prosperity and activity. Joni’s granddaugher decides it’s a good time for Joni to tell them about the legend of the café. Hesitating, but finally relenting to her granddaughter’s pleas, Joni surprises them by producing an old key and unlocking the front door of the café. She turns on the lights and the children gasp. Everything is surprisingly clean and polished after so many years, cared for like a shrine. Tables are set and polished, coffee of many exotic brands, dry as dust after two decades, are still in their containers.

   But there are stranger things. Across every window are nailed flimsy pieces of wood, the legs of tables and chairs, even the remains of pool cues, secured and still barely in place, an odd addition to the sturdy boards now covering the exterior of the windows. What remains of the original chairs and tables have been piled with obvious care in one corner of the shop. And then they see the fireplace. Several pieces of wood have been nailed awkwardly across its opening, but it’s something about the brick. They look closely, running their hands over the strange shapes formed from the material, and see they have been caused by extreme heat. Part of fireplace has even oozed, like lava, over one end of the wood, locking it in place forever. Everything has been molded from intense heat, but from the inside out. The children look at each other. It appears that whoever was in the café that night, over 20 years before, must have tried desperately to keep something from getting in.

   Joni, suddenly feeling uncomfortable in this setting, again suggest they leave. But the two teenagers, fascinated by the aura of this place, insist that they must hear about the legend. Reluctantly, Joni agrees. She has not told the story to anyone for many years, and in any event, she knew that few believed it anymore. The three sit at one of the tables, and Joni remembers. It is near this spot that she sat and worked on the coffee house books that night Carl Rettick arrived and shattered her life. The strange man with his hatred of time and his fear of straight lines. That was the night they fought to keep their world alive from someone with the power to toss it away.

   In the novel Jump, investigator Tom Harris is sent into a simulated Bosnia to recreate a crime that has baffled peacekeepers. Within this alternate reality, Harris must race the clock to solve the mystery before those who hope for this new conflict can stop him.

   Jump opens with the brutal murders of a high-ranking diplomat’s son and several peacekeeping soldiers in the mountains of Bosnia. The murders threaten to shatter a tenuous peace in Bosnia and carry the world to the brink of war. Official investigations have led nowhere, and Bosnian and Serb units are mobilizing again, each accusing the other of treachery. Peace negotiations have failed. As a last desperate effort, the U.S. government will try using massive computing power and simulation to re-create events leading up to the crime.

   Reconstructing the final days of the murders, they will attempt to solve the mystery before time runs out. Although such simulations or "jumps" have been created before, with varying success, no jump of this scale and significance has ever been attempted. The best researchers, programmers and simulation experts are assembled, and all attempts made to keep the project secret and hidden from the media.

   After much debate, government and military officials call in investigator John Harris to make the jump. It’s a controversial decision. Harris is a professional, once a specialist in military simulations, and once the best in this field, but he has fallen hard of late. A string of failed jumps and the loss of his wife have left him disillusioned, and close to becoming an alcoholic. Lately, the only work he can get are minor jumps in the private sector, demeaning hack work involving domestic squabbles and combat games for the most part. Only his agent Nash has stayed with him. For Harris and Nash, this jump could be their last chance for personal vindication and triumph, the biggest jump and crowning point of both their careers.

   Entering this dangerous new world in the Balkans, however, Harris soon suspects that not everyone involved wishes him to discover the truth behind the murders. Not long after Harris is "jumped" into Bosnia, and he connects with Mai, Coco and the other Bosnian fighters suspected of committing the crime, he begins to uncover clues that only feed his growing sense of danger and betrayal. Making their way through snow and mountains toward the site and time of the fateful murders, Harris reveals more of the conspiracy that makes it increasingly difficult to trust anyone. With tensions escalating and time running out, the conspirators launch a final effort to stop Harris before the truth can be brought to light.  

    Legend of Dream Café and Jump are finished novels, and film treatments have also been completed for both stories.

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