Read an Excerpt
By Marianne Mancusi
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2007 Marianne Mancusi
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Skye, Skye! Wake up!"
The voice seemed a thousand miles away as I clawed through the blackness, struggling to regain consciousness. After a few futile attempts, I managed to pry open my eyes and shake off the nightmare's iron grip.
"Ah, she rejoins the living. Welcome back," Craig teased, having no idea of the hell I'd just been through. He lay back down on his side of the bed, evidently satisfied he'd sufficiently fulfilled his duty as a boyfriend by waking me, and now felt justified to go back to his own much more peaceful dreams.
I rubbed my eyes and sat up in bed, taking in my surroundings, still trying to catch my breath. My eyes sought and focused on the familiar: The slightly battered four-poster bed, draped with my aunt's homemade quilt. My ragged teddy bear Melvin, strewn to one side. My antique bookcase against one wall, crammed with well-worn fantasy epics I couldn't bear to throw away. My prized Alienware computer, souped up to run the latest and greatest video games. And, of course, my framed movie posters on the wall-Star Wars, The Matrix, Phaze Runner. I smiled a little as Luke, Neo, and Deckard all glowered down at me, as if daring me to claim my nighttime adventure was more hellishthan their everyday realities.
I took a breath and plopped my head back down on my pillow. My closet of a New York apartment, the one the Realtor called "cozy" in the way only Realtors can get away with while keeping a straight face, for once actually did evoke a feeling of comfort and warmth.
I was home. I was safe. I was me again.
"Wow, that was the worst one yet," I remarked to Craig, in the rare hope that he was still conscious. There was no way I was going back to sleep now, and it would help to have someone to talk to. Not that Craig was the greatest of listeners, but he did have a knack for responding with a grunted "mm-hmm" at appropriate pauses in the conversation.
"Yeah?" he asked, for once going above and beyond.
"Yeah. I can't remember all the details. I mean, you know how dreams are. But it's like I'm running down this underground corridor, fleeing for my life. Someone's chasing me, but I don't know who-or why, for that matter. And then they inject me with some kind of drug. But the weird thing is it's, like, not exactly me. It's almost as if I'm someone else...."
"Were you naked?" Craig queried, rolling over on his side to face me, his green eyes dancing mischievously.
I swatted him. "No!"
He laughed. "Too bad. Here I thought this was going to turn out to be some really great sex dream. Like the one I was having with Scarlett Johansson before your screams woke me up."
I grimaced. "Uh, thanks for sharing your nocturnal infidelity."
"No, no," he corrected with a smile. "You were there, too. And amazingly enough, you'd just agreed to a threesome. Damn shame I woke up when I did, actually."
I forced a chuckle, but it sounded more like a sigh. I knew he was just trying to cheer me up. To make me feel better. Normally it would probably work. But after night upon night of horrible nightmares and little actual rest I was at my breaking point. Irritated, frustrated, and oh so tired. It was no wonder his lighthearted manner only succeeded in annoying me.
"Look," I said, "I know it sounds funny, but when I'm dreaming it all seems so real. And when I wake up, I'm ... terrified." I choked on the word. Great. The last thing I needed was for him to see me cry. I was supposed to be tough. The cool chick. In control of every situation thrown my way. And here I was, crying like a baby over a stupid dream.
Can we say, loser?
Craig's face softened, the way some guys' faces do when the girls they're sleeping with turn on the waterworks. Maybe he figured he could soothe my vulnerability and get some action at the same time. But lovemaking was the last thing on my mind. In fact, since I'd started having the dreams, I'd pretty much lost my sex drive altogether. Poor Craig. He'd selflessly gone without for nearly a month now. Who could blame him for trying to take advantage?
I allowed him to grab my hand and pull me into a hug. But just as I'd resigned myself to settle into his arms, he shoved me away again. "Ew, you're all sweaty," he complained, wiping his hand on his boxer shorts. So much for the comfort of a lover's embrace.
"Fine. I'm going to take a shower," I muttered, accidentally on purpose kicking him as I crawled out of bed. I headed to the kitchenette to pour myself a cup of yesterday's leftover coffee. I didn't care that it was ice cold or tasted like tar. It had caffeine; that was all that mattered. "And then maybe play some RealLife."
Craig groaned, grabbing a pillow and throwing it in my general direction. It fell short, landing on my unswept floor with a soft plop. I made no move to pick it up.
"You know, staying up all night with your little games can't be healthy," he lectured.
I narrowed my eyes. Little games? That was my livelihood he was talking about. At age twenty-four, I was the youngest game designer at Chix0r, the world's first all-girl-run computer gaming company. The launch of our massive multiplayer online game RealLife: Medieval Times was scheduled to happen in two weeks, and it'd been hyped by Wired magazine as the biggest thing since World of Warcraft.
Little games, indeed.
"How about you take your shower and then play some real real life instead of your virtual version?" Craig continued. "You know, maybe do your 'sleeping quest' tonight so that tomorrow you can be awake enough for your 'work quest' chain?"
"Hardy-har-har. You're so funny." He was always teasing me about that-implying that I considered my real life a series of quests, just like a character would in a video game. Accomplish one goal, get your reward, move on to the next. Level up day by day in the game of life. In a way, he wasn't far off the mark.
"Look, I can't go back to sleep," I said, forcing back my annoyance and focusing on his suggestion. I mean, what good did it do to justify my career to him? He was a techno DJ, for chrissakes. "I'm afraid I'll have another dream."
Even from across the room, I could see him rolling his eyes. "They're just dreams, Skye," he said slowly, as if addressing a child. "They're not real." "They might as well be."
"Look." He sat up in bed. "I wouldn't worry about them. Unless you start seeing Freddie Kruger wielding some terribly creative weapon of dream destruction, then you're not living Nightmare on Seventy-second Street, and you will be fine." He chortled to himself, evidently pleased by his wit.
"Whatever," I replied wearily. "I'm going to take that shower."
In the bathroom I switched on the light. The Realtor had described my apartment as having a marble bath and Jacuzzi tub. I assumed the marble was the cat's eye a past tenant had stuck in the window to plug an old bullet hole, and the tub did bubble when the plumbing failed and spurted out used bathwater from the neighbor downstairs. You had to love New York.
I turned on the shower and crossed my fingers. I had about a fifty-fifty chance of hot water at this time of night. In the morning, those odds would go down to about twenty-eighty. But hell, I only paid twenty-one hundred a month for the place. What did I expect?
I caught my reflection in the mirror. This no-sleep thing was definitely affecting my looks. Dark, puffy splotches circled my eyes. An unsightly zit had made itself at home on the tip of my nose. My once-stylish shag cut stuck out in all directions like straw from a scarecrow. In short, I was a mess.
Suddenly, my breath caught in my throat, which was constricting and making it nearly impossible to breathe. Argh. This was the last thing I needed tonight. I'd had asthma since I was a kid and sometimes it got pretty bad. Especially in stressful situations. I reached into the drawer under the sink and pulled out my inhaler. Putting the device in my mouth, I released a dose of Lunatropium into my lungs. Recently I'd been trying to cut back on the amount of times I used the inhaler each day and had been learning to control my breathing through yoga instead. But tonight seemed like a good time to give myself a break and let modern medicine lend a hand.
After my shower-there was hot water, thank God-I toweled off and headed back to the main room of my apartment. Changing into clean pajamas, I sat down at my computer desk. I glanced over at Craig. He'd fallen back asleep and was sure to be out of it until at least noon. As a DJ, spinning nights at a Lower East Side club, he was entitled to spend his mornings dead to the world while the rest of us sorry humans put in our Starbucks orders and jockeyed for positions on the subway.
Not that I didn't like my job. It was just with the lack of sleep I'd had, these days it was harder and harder to stay awake for it. I was pretty sure my boss had begun to notice my sudden drop in performance, too. Not good. Because Foosball table, creative dress code, and free Diet Cokes aside, twenty-first-century dot-coms like mine were downright traditional when it came to clocking in and working hard.
I logged in to the server and selected my game character. I was doing beta testing for the soon-to-be-launched RealLife, checking for bugs and other errors before it was distributed to the general public. The medieval virtual earth I'd created was practically empty now, inhabited only by computer-generated characters and myself. But soon it'd be alive with avatars from all over the world; players logging in to live a virtual existence, creating characters to fight digital monsters, competing for epic weapons and armor, and forming lifelong friendships with fellow gamers.
For now, though, it was empty and mine to explore. An escape from all that plagued my reality. I loved it in there. It was a haven, a solace.
For now, though, it was empty and mine to explore. An escape from all that plagued my reality. I loved it in there. It was a haven, a solace.
From my twenty-one-inch monitor, my game character "Allora" looked back at me impatiently, probably wondering why I wasn't moving her. As an all-girl company, Chix0r had gone one step further than the traditional guy-centric games like World of Warcraft or Everquest, where the player characters were flat and static and did exactly what you told them. Our characters had their own personalities, their own artificial intelligence built into their code. Sort of like if you could put The Sims in chain mail and give them swords. So while you could control your character's movements and direct his or her career path, you couldn't make them do things they didn't want to do. They wouldn't fight if you didn't feed them first. They'd refuse to accept a quest if they were tired. They got lonely if you didn't socialize them, and angry if someone did them wrong. Sometimes they were scarily like real people.
"Okay, fine, Allora. Let's go to the pub," I whispered, moving the mouse to direct her to the local tavern. "We'll get you a beer." For beta-testing purposes we'd temporarily sectioned this virtual town off from the rest of the game. Allora had no idea there was a world outside her city. To her, the outskirts of Mare Tranquilitatis were the ends of the earth. She was fortunate that way.
I sat her down at a table and bought her a beer. She raised her glass and drank, blissfully unaware of her own plight or her operator's exhaustion. So innocent. So happy. So content. If only I could join her there- crawl into my computer, immerse myself in my virtual world, and block out my reality. How wonderful would that be?
But that was just another dream. I took a big slug of coffee and started testing settings.
I entered Chix0r's SoHo headquarters at exactly 9:30 a.m., aka one hour later than I was meant to arrive. At some point I'd passed out at my computer (no dreams, thank God) and had fallen into such a deep coma that I completely missed my alarm clock. In fact, it beeped for about forty minutes before Craig got fed up and proceeded to knock it off the nightstand. The destruction of the third alarm clock I'd gone through that month finally succeeded in rousing me. Then there was the forty-five minute wait for the subway. Sigh.
I stepped off the elevator, greeted the receptionist, and walked through Cubicle Land until I got to my office. I loved it there. Getting out of Cube Hell had been the best thing about my promotion to senior game designer. Sure, it was small as anything, but the room had a floor-to-ceiling window, complete with an amazing view of a Chinese laundry and pizza stand. The only thing that slightly unnerved me was the smoked-glass inner walls. As people walked by, they inevitably peeked in-either to spy on whether I was actually working (my boss) or for the sheer pleasure of voyeurism (everyone else). After the first week of this, I went home and designed curtains for the bowl of my poor fish Omi. Unfortunately, I wasn't permitted to do the same for myself.
I walked over to my desk, sighing at the mess. Had I really left all these papers strewn about when I left last night? I used to be so conscious of organization, but now I barely had enough hours in the day to finish work, never mind scheduling time to clean up after myself. I needed an assistant, badly. Or a clone. That would be nice.
I settled into my chair and logged in to my computer. As I waited for Windows to start up, I heard a rap on my door. Great. Interruption number one, right on schedule. "Yes, what is it?" I snapped, trying not to sound cross even though I was. After all, it wasn't my visitor's fault I hadn't had a good night's sleep in weeks.
"It's Suzy. Can I come in?"
I groaned, suddenly shifting from merely tired to downright irate. I'd told security time and again not to let my cousin into the office during work hours. But they couldn't seem to resist her sweet talk, low-cut dresses, and chocolate chip cookies, which she bragged were homemade. Yeah, they were homemade all right- homemade by Jackie, Suzy's family housekeeper. Suzy wouldn't know the way to the kitchen if it wasn't where her stepfather stored the gin.
Since it would be easier to stop the running of the bulls than deny the vivacious eighteen-year-old entrance, I wearily instructed her to come in. She pranced into the room, enveloped in a cloud of Dior's Poison and dripping in diamonds, and approached my desk. She'd changed her hair color since the last time I saw her-surprise, surprise-and was now sporting a spiky, fire-engine red. It was a look few could pull off without channeling Bozo the Clown, but somehow Suzy managed to do it with style.
"Darling!" she cried in her slightly English-accented voice, throwing out her arms to hug me. Suzy was born on Long Island, but was constantly pulling a Madonna. She waltzed behind my desk, invading my space, and leaned over to plant air kisses on each cheek. Ugh. The girl was a walking, talking society-girl stereotype, and I always found myself biting my tongue not to tell her to get a real personality. "Where have you been all my life?"
"Suzy," I acknowledged, keeping my voice level and calm. "What can I do for you today?"
She threw on a wounded face. "Does a girl need a reason to come visit her favorite cousin in the whole wide world?"
"We've discussed this. Seventeen times at last count. I'm very busy when I'm at work. I don't have time for visits." Out of the corner of my eye I watched my boss walking past my office, staring in. Her displeasure would be readable a mile away. Damn these glass walls. Now, if the game had one tiny little mistake, she was going to blame me for socializing on the job. As if I had a choice.
"Oh yes," my cousin sniffed, taking a seat instead of my not-so-subtle hint to leave. "You and your important job. The free world as we know it would just collapse if gamer girls couldn't get their geek on."
"Did you come here solely to disturb me and insult my livelihood, or did you have some other purpose?"
"I wanted to see if you were going to Luna tonight. Craig's spinning, right?"
Luna was a nightclub on the Lower East Side where Craig occasionally DJ'd. Once a decrepit hole in the wall, it had gotten a write-up in the Village Voice and had recently become the trendiest place in town. Suzy's boyfriend managed the joint and she was always trying to get me to go.
"No way." I shook my head. "I haven't slept well in two weeks. The last thing I need is to go clubbing."
Excerpted from Moogazer by Marianne Mancusi Copyright © 2007 by Marianne Mancusi. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mari Mancusi's MOONGAZER is simply amazing. The way she makes you think of how society is heading with the gaming world. It really makes you think "What if?" Then there's the thriller part of the story the makes you question. Who is the really hero and the real villian? And most importantly, the love story hidden beneath it all.
This book has an interesting premise with the lead character being Skye, New Yorker to the bone and a clubber, and VR Game programmer to boot, who discovers her reality slipping away after an onset of disturbing dreams where everyone knows her as Mariah.The story was a quick read and not at all laborious to stick with. Skye sometimes struck me as a bit slow on the uptake, but then again this obtuseness might be understandable considering her circumstances. Her love interest, Dawn, was an interesting guy. Not as macho as you find a lot of modern paranormal/sci-fi romance heroes, although he certainly had his brooding down pat. Ultimately I liked him and thought he was a good foil for the heroine to play off of. There were a couple things that bugged me. The first person, present tense was a bit distracting sometimes and some of the "hip" wording to the book annoyed me. Although I wasn't overly impressed by the writing of the love scene and this wasn't what I would call a steamy romance by any stretch of the imagination, it was sweet romance once the characters got there. Overall an acceptable diversion with relatively engaging characters and a plot that keeps you reading.
Kind of, or actually very Matrix Lite. It's sweet, some good ideas. Not as well written or engaging as it could have been, but nice world building and I liked Skye, and felt for her. Dawn was a bit too perfect but I liked all the plays on the Moon and even though it was predictable, it was also time well spent. I will definitely look for this author again, I think she's trying to do something more interesting and would like to see her grow.
Ok imagine this... Your perfect hot boyfriend, your wonderful exciting job, your small but homey apartment ripped from under you. Skye's nightmares become reality, in this exciting book Moongazer. Skye ends up in a world where she is no longer the fun happy club goer Skye but she is Mariah underground leader for people who give everything and get nothing in return. She now has to convince everyone she is not Mariah, but Skye and this seems to be hard for people to accept seeing she looks, talks, and acts like their long lost hero, especially for Dawn. Who just happens to be Mariah's sexy ex-lover, who just happens to have a grudge against her. Its exciting to go along with Skye to figure out what she wants compared to what she needs to do. This action packed book keeps you wanting more and more. Its a great read and you will not regret one page.
i loved this book at first it was not to my taste but then i got really in to the fact that who Skye Brown is is not really who whe thinks she is and then i could not set this book down. a definite page turner.
ok at first i was like this isnt really my type of book but then i started to read it and it was great i really liked i told all my friends about it and theywent out and bought it ,..it also opened me up to those kinds of books and i really love them now mari mancusi is just a great writer all around
Moongazer is a new kind of book all in it's own. A real page turner from the beginning. It really keeps you wanting to read more, you never want to stop. And when you finish the book you're like, now what am I supposed to do? Moongazer is a amazing book and I think everybody needs to give this book a try.
this book was so good i couldnt put it down it took me just a couple of hours to finish it it was that good. it was incredibly intresting with what people think is the actual earth is only a game and you end up dieing if you stay to long. you dont even know who the main chracter actually is till the end and even though she isnt who she is she gets the terific Dawn at the end and the bad guy goes down.