Excerpt: Annah: Children of Evohe by Clay Gilbert
Title: Annah: Children of Evohe
Author: Clay Gilbert
I’ve been asked why I feel my novel Annah: Children of Evohe, Book One is important, in a literary landscape crowded with stories of otherworldly beings and distant worlds. It’s a tricky question to answer, but the answer lies in character and situation. "Annah" is a story focusing on an important and timely message--people are people, whether they differ by gender, race, age, or culture; whether they are seen as normal or are viewed as 'outsiders' in their culture. Annah, the young alien girl who is the book's title character, has disabilities both social and physical--her appearance is seen by her people as a birth defect, and her questioning mind and desire to see the worlds beyond her planet, handicaps her as well. Gary Holder, the Earth man she meets and falls in love with, shares her desire to be more than his station in life, and also has a physical disability, being hydrocephalic. I was born with hydrocephalus myself, like Holder, and like Annah, I found myself on the receiving end of misunderstanding and bullying for a number of years in my youth. I feel that "Annah" is important because, like many classic science fiction novels, it uses the storytelling power of the genre to emphasize a truth about the human condition: that the 'alien' is an illusion--that we are each 'the other' until we have a reason to care and connect.
Here’s a short but pivotal scene from the book, when Holder has only been on Annah’s homeworld of Evohe for a short time, and she and Holder are still getting to know each other.
Excerpt from Annah: Children of Evohe, Book One, available now in hardcover, paperback and ebook from Rara Avis, an imprint of PDMI Publishing, LLC.
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“Do you care that I am not of your kind?” Holder asked Annah.
“I do not. We are creatures of the same Spirit. But there may be those who will care.”
“Do you care that I am, strictly speaking, older than you are?”
I do not. But--”
“I know. There may be those who will. Do you really care what they think?”
“I do not,” she said. “But I do care about you. I do not want to cause trouble for you, Holder. If something happened to you because of me--if you were hurt, or something worse--I could not bear it. I have never wanted to hurt anyone.”
“Nothing's going to happen, Annah.” It was the sort of lie he'd heard a lot of soldiers tell loved ones as they left for the wars. No. It wasn't a lie. It was a hope. “And, if you're ‘trouble’, I'll take you anyway. You're the best 'trouble' I've ever gotten myself into.”
“If you say so, Holder,” Annah said, and she was smiling as she said it. “Come and lie down by the fire. Come and lie down with me.”
He did as she asked. It was not the first night that he'd slept outside the ship--he'd been doing that now for nearly a week--but he usually made a bed for himself a little farther off from where she rested. He stripped out of his clothes as he usually did, leaving on only the boxer-shorts he slept in, and lay down just behind her. He kept his hands at his sides, although doing so felt awkward and uncomfortable.
“You do not have to be afraid to touch me,” Annah said after a moment.
Holder was startled at the simplicity of the statement, but he knew that was her way. It's a lot better than trying to hide things all the time, he thought. He put his arms around her, barely touching her at first, and then she slid back against him, and he felt the strange waves of heat that always emanated from her body. The sensation was calming--as it always was.
“I am not afraid of you, Holder. Do not be afraid of me. So many people have been. Do not be like them. Please.”
She shifted in his arms, turning so that she was facing him. She remembered how his skin had felt beneath her fingers at first, when he was still healing; thought of a question she had had, and reached up to touch his head, caressing it, feeling its shape and size with her fingers. There was a--strangeness--about it that she had wondered about before; something that did not seem to be the way she remembered from what she had learned from his ship's computer.
“No, it's not the way it's supposed to be. It's a condition I have. I was born with it. Hydrocephalus, they call it. Means the fluid from my brain wouldn't drain off like it's supposed to, without the tube--the shunt--that's there.”
“Oh.” Annah stared harder at the place where he'd said the tube was; felt it with her fingers. She thought she could feel it, but she was not sure. “Do your people--do they think you are strange because of this? Are they--afraid of you because of it?”
Holder thought about it. “When I was little, they were. Even when I was a--seed-youth. They just didn't understand it. When I tried to get into the Homesec Space Corps, they wouldn't pass me on the physical. Those goons knew that shunts are built for g's these days; they just don't give a shit. So I went into Recon, because they don't have a physical to fail. It's dirty work, hardly anyone wants it--and I wanted to see the Sea of Stars.” He looked at the shape of Annah's own head; reached out and stroked it. She made a sudden sound, like the surprised purr of a cat more used to being kicked than comforted, and pressed against his hand. “What about you?” he asked. “You said you look odd, too.”
Annah rubbed her face against his. “I do. My head--it is different too--but there is no fluid in it that is not meant to be there. As I said, I am different in a number of ways. I was born the way I am, too, though--and unlike you, no one can tell me why. My parents never knew, either.”
“And your people--they're scared of you?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Well, I'm not,” Holder said.
She rubbed her face against his again and pressed close to him. And then, without really thinking about it, she kissed him. A quick kiss, but a kiss nonetheless.
His eyes widened in surprise. There was the same sensation of humming energy to her lips as there was to the touch of her fingers. He returned the kiss, seeing the same wonder and surprise mirrored in Annah's strange blue eyes that he knew she had seen in his own.
About the author:
Clay Gilbert has been hearing the voices of aliens, vampires, and people from the future since about the age of four. It wasn't long before he started to think taking notes on what they said might be a good idea. This has led him many places—through the halls and classrooms of many schools, where he's been both in front of the teacher's desk and behind it, himself—to presenter's podiums at conventions, and, most often, to the comfortable chair behind his writing desk at home, where he uses his Dell computer as both a beacon and a translator for the voices that still find their way through from countless worlds and planes of existence. Clay is the author of Annah: Children of Evohe, Book One, Dark Road to Paradise, and Eternity, as well as the Chief Editor for PDMI Publishing. These days, the place he calls home is Knoxville, Tennessee, where his cat, Bella, and his ball python, Andy, keep him company between visits from a teenaged alien named Annah, an undead, blood-drinking English professor named Martin Cabot, and a boy from the future named Eternity. And it's a good thing, too—