PSYCHOTOPIA, LEVEL ONE. Create your own boutique psychopath, then deceive, manipulate and be ruthless, spreading mayhem and destruction to reach the next levels.
It’s the computer game for our times. After all, the amount of crazy in the world is increasing. Senseless violence on the streets is becoming the norm. Can Dr Arbus’s ground-breaking device identify and neutralize psychopaths before it’s too late?
In this increasingly dysfunctional world, surely Callum standing by Aimee after her devastating encounter with Charlie is proof that real love and goodness can still win in a world that’s increasingly rotten . . .
Or can it?
|Publisher:||Severn House Publishers|
|Edition description:||First World Publication|
|Product dimensions:||5.55(w) x 8.74(h) x (d)|
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To begin with, we pulled them in. Then there got to be so many of them we couldn't keep up.
There were a number of theories as to what was causing it. Some people blamed it on the new breed of VR computer games that were coming out. But when you looked at the facts, that just didn't hold up. No, games like Psychotopia and its ilk were one of the symptoms of whatever it was that was going on. Not the cause. The bad shit was already happening, way before that game got released.
Some said it was a disease. An epidemic. Psychodemic, the tabloids called it.
Some people blamed the MindNet. Said it had gone mad. And that the madness was affecting us all. But my view was the MindNet had always been mad.
Then Dr Arbus came forward with his theory and we realized it wasn't computer games and it wasn't an epidemic and it wasn't the MindNet. It was something bigger. You might say worse. Much worse.
Once Arbus's theory took hold, everyone started to panic big time.
Some of them were very young. That was what scared people the most, I think. It was almost as if the whole next generation was turning out that way. I didn't give too much thought to it myself. What will be will be. That's my motto. You have to be a fatalist in life. Otherwise you worry too much. Worrying never changed a thing. Me, I'm more someone who gets things done. If you want something done, you ask me. That's what everybody says.
I heard it first, that thing about the next generation, from some random guy in a coffee shop. I have to have my coffee. It's my greatest vice. Numerically speaking.
So there I was waiting for the barista to make my fifth flat white of the day when this guy next to me started going off on one. I don't even know who he thought he was talking to. The girl behind the counter? She was one of those retardistas that make you all nostalgic for the cheap, over-educated foreigners we used to have to do the shit jobs. Bring on the robots is what I say. Anyhow, she didn't have a clue what he was banging on about.
I knew, though.
He was talking about the Ardagh case. You remember. It was all over the NewsNet. Every time you switched on a screen, you'd see her sweet angelic face staring back at you. She was a little cutie, curly blonde hair, blue eyes, the big gap in her smile where she was waiting for her front teeth to grow. The first time you saw that picture you probably thought it was another missing child case. At the time, we were seeing a spike in child abductions, rapes and murders. Of course, the number of these cases was still small compared to the overall population. And over the preceding decades, rates for violent crimes of this nature had declined. So even with this spike, we were not up to the levels we had seen before. All the same, it was the kind of statistic that journalists have a field day with. It was bad enough with them just reporting all the cases that were happening. People were beginning to pick up on it. Things were starting to get a bit edgy.
The riots people could handle.
It was the involvement of children that freaked them out.
So, as far as we knew at the time, it was just a blip – the rise in child abductions, I'm talking about. Maybe even the kind of thing you could put down to one prolific offender. A one-man crime wave. Except the cases were geographically widespread, with some of them happening simultaneously. If it was one man, how did he manage to lift a four-year-old boy from his bedroom in Doncaster the same night he anally raped and left for dead a two-year-old girl in Exeter? It certainly was a conundrum.
So I guess I was kind of attuned to pictures of children popping up in the media. That kind of thing makes everyone jumpy. The top brass come down heavy on us foot soldiers. Like it's our fault. We have to be seen to be doing something. Knocking on doors. Combing wasteland. Tracking down known sex offenders and all the other usual suspects. Hours and hours of watching deathly dull CCTV footage.
It's always a pain in the arse when the job starts hitting the headlines. You feel like the whole fucking country is breathing down your neck. I don't like it.
From that point of view, it was not a good time to be a cop. On the other hand, you had the feeling that there was something happening out there. Something exciting. Something momentous, even. I mean, everyone likes a good serial killer case, so the thought that there might be several of them active at the same time, it was enough to get you hard. Certainly it was something to get up for in the morning.
But no, this was not another child abduction case. I knew it because she was one of the cases that crossed my desk. But it wasn't long before everyone pricked up their ears and knew it.
She was like the canary down the mine. Or her little brother was. The Ardaghs were a nice, well-to-do family, classic white, middle-class, educated elite. Wishy washy liberal ideas with a lifetime of privilege and comfort ahead of them. Until this hit them.
Father was something in IT. Mother was an architect. Worked for a fancy-arse firm in Islington. They had a live-in nanny. Swedish, I think she was. Or Danish. One of the Scandis.
So there was this guy in the coffee shop mouthing off about the Ardagh case. 'We're raising a whole generation of psychopaths,' he shouted. He was pretty agitated.
'You've got to be very careful who you label a psychopath,' I told him. 'Especially at such a young age.'
'Did you see what she did?'
'She was only a child. You know, kids ... Who knows what's going through their little fucking brains?'
'She showed no emotion at all. She didn't give a literal shit.'
'You seem to know a lot about it.'
'I'm a psychologist. I study these things. And I'm telling you, it's on the rise. Children. Psychopathic children.'
'You're talking bullshit, pal. Violent crime is down. These freak cases get a lot of attention. But it's all out of proportion. I know what I'm talking about. I'm a cop, a plain-clothes detective. So you'd better watch what you say.'
'What? There's no law against talking about something that's in the news. It's a free country, the last I heard.'
'There's such a thing as a public order offence.'
'Section Five of the 1986 Public Order Act. Causing harassment, alarm or distress. If I, or anyone here is alarmed or distressed by what you're saying, you could be guilty under the act. Certainly I'd have grounds for arresting you.'
'No one's distressed. Who's distressed?'
'Maybe I am.'
'You don't look distressed. You look fucking complacent. Let me tell you, I don't think you have anything to be complacent about. I don't think we've seen anything yet. This is the tip of the iceberg.'
It was then that one of the baristas shouted his name. You know how they write your name on the side of the paper cup? I had to laugh. This one couldn't read the writing so well, and what with her not being the brightest spoon in the cutlery drawer it came out wrong before she realized. 'Fuck?'
'Rick! The name is Rick. How do you get Fuck out of Rick, for fuck's sake?'
The male barista who wrote it in the first place came over to have a look. 'I'm sorry. It's the pen. It doesn't write so well.'
'I hope you've got my name right,' I warned him. 'Otherwise I will kill you.'
He looked at me like he didn't know whether I was joking or not.
When I looked round, the random guy was gone.CHAPTER 2
She saw him as soon as he came into the room. There was something about him that drew the eye. At first, she wasn't sure whether it was a good something or a bad something. But there was definitely something.
She felt it in the pit of her stomach. The fluttering play of attraction. Or maybe of fate. Sometimes it comes to the same thing.
Who is he?
She asked the question with a layering-in of irony, as if she was trying to detach herself from any suggestion that she was interested in the answer. Who is he? As in Who the fuck does he think he is? With an almost distasteful wrinkling of her nose. But her eyes told a different story. Her eyes couldn't stop looking at him. Drinking him in.
It was fascination. It was admiration. It was astonishment.
And it was instant, powerful and dangerous.
No one she asked seemed to know. And yet he spoke to everyone as if – well, almost as if – he was their best friend.
'I love your hair.'
'That looks great on you.'
'Have you just come back from holiday? You look so well!'
He didn't seem to have any of the awkwardness that you would have expected from a guy on his own at a party meeting new people. Someone must have invited him. But nobody challenged him about it, because the truth was he seemed to belong there.
The assumption was he was a friend of Rick's or Dave's or Si's or Ash's. And because he had to be someone's friend, everyone treated him as if he was theirs. And there was no doubt the party picked up after he arrived.
The first thing he did was change the playlist on MindMusic. Without asking anyone, naturally. But no one objected because everyone agreed he had great taste in music. Somehow he seemed to read the mood perfectly.
'I do a bit of DJing,' he explained. 'On the side. And producing. I'm actually doing a PhD in psychology. But I have my own website and sell my beats. To bands. I sold a whole set of beats to DeeZay Fontaine. It's basically how I funded myself through college.'
Someone asked him for the name of his website. But he didn't hear them and moved on without giving it.
You didn't doubt him when he spoke. Or, certainly, Aimée didn't. At the same time, somehow, you didn't really listen to what he was actually saying. You didn't care. You just wanted to believe him. So you did. He could have told you he was the Pope's son and you would have believed it.
Maybe he was.
He certainly could throw some slick moves. And that smile. It would have been hard for any ordinary human to resist that smile.
Another thing. He looked you in the eye. She noticed that immediately. He met your gaze directly. And held it. Which had to mean something. For one thing, it meant you could gaze a lifetime long into the bluest blue eyes you've ever seen. For another, it meant he had nothing to hide. Manifestly. No guilty secrets. You got the impression he was a stranger to the very concept of shame. He must have lived a blameless life. You even got the feeling he could wipe away your own sins.
Here was walking absolution. Just to be close to him was to feel yourself a better person, or at least believe in your potential to be one.
He moved confidently around the room, latching on to huddles and chipping in without inhibition, so that pretty soon he was dominating the conversation wherever he was. He didn't seem to be getting drunk. Didn't need to. He was naturally at ease. He made all the other guys there, the guys she knew, look like teenagers at a school disco. They glowered at him half in resentment, half in admiration. But before too long, even they were smiling at the sheer undeniable charisma of the stranger in their midst.
He seemed to have the knack of tuning into whatever conversation was going on. 'That exact same thing happened to me,' slipped from his lips more than once. His anecdotes were lively and amusing. Or you felt that they were, without really taking in what they were about. Whenever he moved on, he left everyone laughing and feeling better about themselves.
People were drawn to him. Guys as well as girls. But mostly girls. He shook hands with the guys – the high, give-me-some-skin handshake favoured by footballers and rappers – and winked at the girls. Yeah, maybe the winking was a bit corny but he could get away with it. Because of the eyes. And that smile.
The simple fact was he was the best-looking guy at the party. Maybe even the most physically attractive person of any gender identity there. You liked everything about him that you saw. His bluer than blue eyes, his sin-washing smile, his baby blond curls, his gym-primed torso, his perfect skin, his old-school movie-star features.
'Hi, I'm Charlie. You have the loveliest smile I've ever seen. Just that.'
As soon as he said it, he moved off. And immediately Aimée wanted him back. She ached for him to come back. The truth was, he had the loveliest smile she had ever seen. And she was bereft without it.
She found herself following him around. Abandoning the friends she had come with, even Callum, who she knew was a little bit in love with her, and who maybe saw tonight as his chance to take it to the next level. And maybe that would have happened if this guy, this Charlie, hadn't shown up.
She caught a glimpse of Callum's confused, uncomprehending face and hated him for it. How dare he take her for granted. How dare he assume. Just because he had been manoeuvring towards a situation, it didn't mean she had wanted it. Though the truth was, she had. And when the part of her mind that controlled these things allowed that truth to intrude, then she hated him even more.
He'd get over it. He was a big boy. They didn't owe each other anything. No promises had been made. They were mates, that was all. And if he was really her mate, he'd want her to be happy. He'd want this for her as much as she did.
So she did it. She made a play for the Charlie guy.
'Hi, I'm Aimée.'
Of course, the music was loud. So she had to get right up close to him to shout in his ear. No problem with that. It gave her the chance to press herself against him.
'No. Aimée. It's spelled the French way. A-I-M-E-E. With an accent on the first e.'
'The loved one.'
'And are you? Loved by anyone?'
She gave a bashful, happy shrug. Then dared everything on a look into the impossible blueness of his eyes. It was a look in which she invested every emotion that she was feeling at that moment, and every half-flickering beginning of emotion. Shyness, surrender, desire, supplication, invitation, courage, fear, happiness and hope.
He saw it all and read it all and understood it all.
Her lips went out towards him. He stooped to meet them.
She took him home with her that night. It was not the sort of thing she did. But she did it.
In fact, she practically pulled him into the U-car after her.
Her three flatmates sharing the ride could hardly keep their eyes from popping out.
'Who's this?' said Aryan. Was there an edge of hostility in his voice? It was possible. Aryan was Callum's best mate.
'Hi, I'm Charlie?' The hand came out and was reluctantly accepted. The open rising interrogative in his voice was an invitation for Aryan to reciprocate. He didn't.
It didn't matter. He already knew who Aryan was. 'You must be Aryan. Aimée has told me all about you.'
She must have. It was possible. It felt like she'd told him everything. Her whole life. Somehow he'd drawn it all out of her.
They'd gone outside to smoke. She didn't smoke, but she wasn't going to let him out of her sight. He offered her a cigarette and she took it without thinking. So now she smoked. She guessed.
He seemed to have a way of getting her to do things she didn't know she wanted to do. Dangerous, maybe. But exciting. Liberating, somehow. To be ever so slightly surrendered. She felt that was what was happening and didn't run from it, as she would have done if it had been anyone else. Callum, for instance.
'And you're Sal and you're Edith?'
'Other way round,' said Edith. The pointless lie provoked a snigger from Sal. Rude. Why were they being so rude and horrible? Sal was Aryan's girlfriend. She could be expected to side with Callum. But Edith? She had a right to expect Edith to understand. To get it. To be happy for her.
Fuck them. Fuck them all. What did she care?
But Charlie wasn't fazed at all. 'No. You must be Edith. I can see the resemblance.'
He kissed away the frown burgeoning on Aimée's brow. And their mouths locked together for more or less the rest of the journey. Whenever she came up for air, she purred and giggled and snuggled into him contentedly. She felt like she had never been kissed before. She could hardly wait for what was to come.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Psychotopia"
Copyright © 2018 R. N. Morris.
Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Selection of Titles by R. N. Morris,
Level One, Continued,
General Gameplay Notes, I,
Level Two, Continued,
Progressing From Level Two,
Level Three, Continued,
General Gameplay Notes, II,
General Gameplay Notes, III,
Progressing From Level Three, I,
Progressing From Level Three, II,
Progressing From Level Three, III,
Level Four, Continued,
Some Thoughts On Game Levels,
Notes For Game Designers And Experiential Architects,
One Final Thought,
For Immediate Release,