Tenpenny Zen – First Chapter Sneak Peek

Tenpenny Zen won’t make its illustrious debut until Monday, March 20. That’s an agonizing 3 days away! We know that you will spend your weekend at home, staring at the clock, desperate for something — anything! — to make the time pass faster.

Don’t fret, faithful reader. Rune Skelley has your back. Here, for the eyes of none but the elite minority of humans known as “Internet Users,” is a sneak preview of Chapter One of Tenpenny Zen. Treat it as the holy relic it is, read it over and over until you have memorized every word, and then, come Monday, you will be primed for the full experience.

Dig in!

Tenpenny Zen

a novel of sex, cults, and an interdimensional henge contraption

Chapter One: Nice Town

Control subject EE may be exhibiting the traits we hoped to see in Group Sigma. Work continues toward establishing a reliable set of tests and measures for subject EE, but several measures are already in place, including surveillance gear in the school and the house.

Project Lullaby archives, 1962

JUNE 1973

Strapped down on her back on a black slab, Ester Elizabeth Finch felt like the dead frog from last year’s biology class. At least this year she’d be taking chemistry. Plus she’d turn 18 in November and her dad could no longer drag her to this asinine research program.

At first today seemed like the same familiar nonsense. Friendly but vaguely creepy men in white coats wanting her to guess what playing cards they held, make the marble roll, tell them what color light was shining on her hand within a box. Hypnotizing her and interviewing her about weird stuff she didn’t know while a lie-detector ran off its record of the answers she made up.

But then they wanted to give her a physical. A complete physical.

They apologized that no female nurses had clearance to examine her. When the doctor left, she couldn’t find her clothes. She was still wearing the stupid hospital gown.

Next they told her they needed a scan. It was a very sensitive machine. Any little movement would mess it up, so they needed to strap her down. They attached electrodes to her temples and forehead. It had now been over 15 minutes since any of them said a word to her. About half a dozen very creepy men in white coats drifted around the chamber, looking at the consoles and conferring excitedly, green-faced in the glow of their data screens. Ester caught isolated fragments of their speech.

“…resolution is awful compared to x-rays, but it images soft tissue…”

“Did you calibrate this scope?”

“…dripping serotonin today?”

“No. The synthetic.”

“…got it on-scale now. Jesus.”

“Hold off on that drip. We’re not…”

“…that can’t be right…”

“But the instruments agree. It must be.”

“Dial back another couple pegs. The synth has quite a kick.”

One of the men pushed an IV stand over to Ester’s left, and dabbed her arm with a cold swab before inserting the needle. He twisted the valve to start the drip, tossed a heartless little grin down at her, and strode off.

All the chatter ceased abruptly as a line of tiny green spiders began streaming down the IV tube and into Ester’s veins. Her chest constricted. She couldn’t scream.

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