Help Wanted Booth
For today’s booth we need some applicants to join our very special team. Do you love a good thrill? Have you ever wanted to try bungee jumping or shark diving? Are you flexible and immune to pain? Then you might be perfect for the job. You see we happen to know the owner of a company that owns a bunch of Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs! These machines can provide any type of thrilling experience you can imagine and he is looking for some new digital stunt girls since one of his recent employees was murdered. (No she wasn’t murdered while working so don’t worry this job is relatively safe!) You will be performing the actual stunts and recording them so that others can experience the same thrill without all the risk! So what do you say? Are you ready to fill out an application?
Paula: Want a sneak peek at what your job as a ViSE recorder might be like? Here’s an excerpt from Vicarious where Winter and her colleague Jesse go shark-diving. Sam and Eli are a pair of dive instructors hired to provide a safe but exciting experience.
After we eat a light lunch, Sam and Eli take the boat farther out from the shore, trailing turtle decoys and looking for tiger sharks as they head toward the Gulf of Mexico. People have swum with tiger sharks outside of a cage, but neither Jesse nor I have any wish to die today, so we will be recording our ViSEs from behind bars.
There’s a reef area a few miles offshore that draws lots of diverse wildlife. As we approach them, I see a fin slicing across the water’s surface. Once again my heart lodges neatly in my throat. Unlike the smaller hammerheads, these sharks can weigh more than a car and have been known to attack everything in their paths.
Jesse wraps an arm around my shoulder as I stand at the boat’s railing staring out at the ocean. “I’ll be right there with you,” he reminds me.
“I know. I’m fine.” I lift a hand to my head to make sure my recorder headset is properly positioned and secure.
Sam and Eli drop a cage and secure the SNUBA set-up to the top of it. Then Jesse and I enter the cage together. The water is cooler out here, the wind nipping at the exposed skin on my face as I sink beneath the surface. When I open my eyes, I see that a pair of tiger sharks have come to investigate the cage. Their monstrous bodies, the length of Cadillacs, cut through the water like huge circling torpedoes. I won’t need to do any neural amplifying for this recording. The rows of serrated teeth, the dead black eyes—there is nothing scarier than a giant shark.
On cue, the larger of the two sharks rockets up toward the surface. Sand swirls in the turbulent water. When it clears, tendrils of red curl before me. Looking up I see the blood spreading out on the surface. Pieces of . . . something fall through the cage bars. A turtle maybe, or a big fish.
A third shark appears, a mako, smaller but no less deadly. A few brave fish venture close to nibble on the leftover scraps of chum. The largest shark swims by, dragging a fin against the cage. The bars rattle sharply. The sharks disappear as quickly as they arrived, and for a few moments Jesse and I float in the water alone.
Or are we?
Shadows fade in and out in the distance. Slow. Fast. Waves? Sharks? I can’t tell. I glance over at Jesse. He’s spinning lazy circles in the water around me, seemingly unconcerned by the sharks’ behavior.
We float upward, away from the bottom of the cage. The metal groans under the weight of the water. The smaller tiger shark is back. I can tell them all apart. The bigger tiger is a monster, fifteen feet long at least. It’s the stuff of nightmares and horror movies. The other one is maybe ten feet and has a fin that flops to the side as it swims. And then there’s the mako, its giant black eyes receding into its head as it slices through the water. Floppy Fin races directly at the cage but then swerves away from the collision at the last moment.
I feel like food. Like a mouse dropped into a snake’s enclosure. My heart rattles in my chest. I’m fairly certain I’m sweating inside of my wet suit. Can the sharks sense my fear? I want to close my eyes, but I don’t. That would cheat the visers out of one of my senses.
I kick my fins up and down to hover in the center of the cage, being careful to keep all of my extremities away from the bars. The tigers swim in patterns. They circle around. They circle below. I wonder if this is what it’s like for their prey, if they toy with it for a while before striking the killing blow. Slowly I exhale and then take in another breath of air.
And then the cage ricochets against the side of the boat with a deafening clang and hard metal slams into me. One of the sharks must have rammed us.
The world goes dark for a second as I instinctively close my eyes. When I open them, Jesse signals me to surface. About time. I kick my feet and reach skyward, but I don’t go anywhere. My diving boot is caught on the cage.
I tug hard. Still stuck. I imagine the shark returning for another hit.
Its teeth closing around my ankle.
Bones snapping like raw spaghetti.
Bending down, I fumble with one hand, trying to free the loop of neoprene that has snagged itself on the bar. The mako swims by, leaving behind a wake that pushes my body away from the side of the cage. I flail in the water, yanking with all of my strength. And then I see the monster tiger shark glide past, its mouth wide enough to swallow me whole, its jagged teeth eager to tear me to pieces.
It fades into the distance.
Circles out away from me.
It rushes the cage, all dead eyes and sharp teeth.
I open my mouth to scream as the shark slams into the bars.
Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts. She’s the author of several novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.
Want to read more from Paula Stokes?
This contest is provided by Paula Stokes!
One lucky reader will win a finished copy of Vicarious!
Available August 16, 2016 by Tor/Macmillian
About this Book:
Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States. But they’ve escaped the past and started over in a new place where no one knows who they used to be.
Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you—for a price.
When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter is devastated. She won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the digital recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.