Today marks the publication day of Paul Inman’s debut novel Ageless. Humans strive for immortality, yet when one possesses it, one begins to ask: Is immortality a blessing or a curse? Alessandra is a girl who struggles with this question in Ageless. Her genetics make her age much slower than other humans, making her seemingly immortal as she outlives everyone she meets. There are those who are willing to help her find her place in the world and then there are those who insist on hunting her down, hoping her genetics will unlock the secret to immortality. Who can Alessandra trust? Who will she trust?
Ageless is an incredibly unique story in more ways than one. It is a morbidly beautiful piece of work on par with stories such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark. It is told in a nonlinear manor and rightly so, for the story would not flow as well as it does if it read in chronological order. It takes place over a span of about eighty years, yet even with the jumps across various decades, the story itself makes sense and is easy to follow. Being a visual learner, Inman wrote Ageless with the intention of readers feeling as if they were watching a movie as they progressed through the story. “I really enjoy Stephen King as an author. He’s really descriptive. When he writes, I can easily visualize it and that’s what I was hoping for. That’s what I’m striving for: inside of your mind, when you’re reading the story, you can just see what’s happening because, for me, it plays out like a movie in my head. I want to, hopefully, be able to help other people see it clearly,” Inman said.
When writing Ageless, a part of the story did not make it into the final manuscript; however, Inman did not want to omit this missing part completely. He chose to continue writing this missing part, reworking and revising it into its own entity called “Selfless,” the sidequel to Ageless. But what is a sidequel? “It’s kind of a weird word. I don’t know what else to call it because it’s going on at the same time as the story. It’s not really a sequel and it’s not really a prequel,” Inman said. “The idea behind it was, I’m a visual person and, when you watch a movie or television story, you can be in the other character’s head and I was trying to make that happen. You see things from one point of view and then, all of a sudden, you can be outside of that room seeing from another character’s point of view and that’s what I was trying to do.”
With one particular chapter in Ageless, Inman experimented with the idea of switching character points-of-view as it is seen in film. He attempted to jump between three different characters: Alessandra, Grey Chapman, and Mark Richards; however, the chapter did not work out as originally planned. “Originally, I had some of [the sidequel] in there, but I scraped that whole chapter because, developmentally, it was all over the place,” Inman said. “I guess the idea was that we had already spent time in all of their heads, so why not spend time in their heads all in the same chapter? But it was too confusing for the reader.” So Inman rewrote this entire chapter and it was the last major change he made before submitting the final manuscript.
As aforementioned, Inman did not completely trash Grey’s story from Ageless, he just gave Grey his own story. “It is made to be supplemental to the book, but if someone hasn’t read the book, there’s going to be minor spoilers, nothing major [though],” Inman said. “It’s not so many spoilers that it ruins the book. This is definitely just extra. If it were in the book, it would be cool, but it’s not in the book and you don’t miss it.” The sidequel “Selfless” is an exclusive that is being released with the publication of Ageless and can be read below.
What Grey Did
2 minutes 47 seconds until detainment…
Grey turned and walked out of room number fourteen, not risking a final look back. He closed off the room with a quick jerk of his hand and leveled the rifle, burying the butt into his shoulder. He breathed deep and began walking toward the armed man on the far end of the parking lot.
7 hours after detainment…
The florescent light shone down into the jail cell lighting up the white painted cinder block walls. Grey Chapman lay on his cot staring out of the six-by-three inch chicken-wired window located eye level on the solid metal door. From this angle he could only see a couple of the ceiling tiles in the hallway. The lights never went off in his cell, distorting his sense of time slowly over the many hours he had called these four walls his home. If he had to guess, he would say it was probably sometime in the middle of the night. Sleep wouldn’t come, not with all these lights.
Occasionally, he saw a shadow roll by his door. He’d screamed to be let out, but all it did was hurt his throat. He’d had no visitors since Richards had pulled him out shortly after he’d arrived at this place, wherever it was.
His mind continued to replay all the events since the parking lot incident. As he lay on the cot, he thought back to his first conversation with the man named Mark Richards.
2 hours after detainment…
“You can’t hold me here! I know my rights, man!” Grey Chapman spat across the interrogation table to CIA Special Agent Mark Richards.
“Really?” Richards inquired. “Since that whole New York mess, national security trumps your so-called rights.” He leaned back in his chair.
“What? I’m no terrorist!”
“We don’t really know that for sure, now do we, not yet. I don’t think that matters, anyway. Pointing a weapon at a government official is a serious offence.”
“I want a lawyer!”
“Sorry Charlie, no can do, national security and all.” Richards tapped the red folder that was on the table between the two men. He reached into the folder and pulled out a picture. Grey saw the face of Aless, the special young woman he’d been protecting, and probably taken from a cell phone.
“Tell me what you know about this woman.”
“Never seen her before in my life,” Grey said glancing at the photo.
“Never seen her, huh.” Richards had a look of bemusement on his aging face. “I took a shot or two at you and her less then twenty-four hours ago, or did you forget that too?”
Grey hadn’t forgotten. He was sitting in this room because of those shots. “No, man, I didn’t forget. I know her, so what? Is it an act of terrorism to know somebody?”
Richards exploded upward from his chair and had Grey by his shirt before he could recoil. “Let me make this easy for you, Chapman. Lose the tough guy attitude before I beat it out of you.”
Grey Chapman tried to hold his gaze, but he was scared. He was a twenty-five year old man who had never been in a fight that was more than pushing, and here he was handcuffed with a guy who smelled like coffee and musk two inches from his face saying he was going to get physical.
“Sorry, I’m just scared. I’ve never been arrested for anything before.”
Richards pushed him back into his seat and pointed again at the picture. “This woman, let’s hear it kid.”
He sighed. “I met her in Florida,” he began.
Grey proceeded to tell him the story. He painted a hazy picture of their actual first encounter literally running into each other and then having breakfast. Richards wanted more, but Grey kept everything vague. After thirty minutes or so of recounting the same story Richards had had enough.
“Useless,” Richards mumbled.
“What?” Grey inquired.
“Do you have anything better to say?” Richards asked, “’Cus right now everything that you’ve said is useless. I need to find this woman, and you’re wasting my time. Get up.”
“What do you want, man?”
“Get up!” he enunciated each word as if he were trying to stab Grey with the sound waves. Grey stood.
Richards moved him back to the cell, shoving him into the tight quarters.
“Think hard about giving me something that I can use and we will talk about letting you go home.” He turned, looking through the crack as the heavy door closed. “Maybe,” he added.
The lock chunked into place. Grey pounded on the door until his hands hurt. He turned and leaned against the solid door in exasperation. He stood with his eyes shut, and after several seconds of letting defeat run its course, Grey rubbed his sore hands together gently then walked over to his cot. Once there he flopped down and waited, wishing he had his laptop so he could document his capture in his digital journal.
2 minutes 38 seconds until detainment…
“DROP YOUR WEAPON! DO IT NOW!” Richards bellowed across the asphalt emptiness.
Sweat rolled down the man’s brow into his eyes. He blinked the salty sting away and he watched the young man move toward him, lowering the rifle.
“DROP YOUR WEAPON!” he repeated. “I WILL SHOOT YOU!”
14 hours after detainment…
On Grey’s second day in captivity, Richards pulled him out of the cell early in morning, or so it had seemed; it had been shortly after he’d awoken. Richards dragged Grey down the short hallway and led him back into the interrogation room. Richards shoved him down hard into the chair under the large white light and got right down to business exactly where the two men had left off the day before.
“So, you want me to believe that she just ran into you, busting up you—”
“Just the other guy.”
“Whatever,” Richards roared. He closed his eyes, took a breath and continued, “and then took you tobreakfast?”
“Yeah, that’s what happened,” Grey said.
“And that was the same day I was chasing her? What an interesting coincidence. You know your girlfriend broke my arm?” he said, tapping his arm. Richards looked down at his note from the previous session. “What happened after breakfast?”
Grey hesitated, wondering how long he could continue to stall the man before he would grow tired of the games.
“We went back to my apartment and decided it was time to leave town,” Grey said.
“And you went with her? When you left town…”
“Yeah, girl asks you to go, you go.” Grey stared at the man across the table. He felt Richards’s penetrating gaze for several seconds.
“Continue,” Richards said, possibly deciding Grey was telling the truth.
“So we went north, then west to New Orleans. We stayed for a while then moved on. You know how it is,” Grey said, surprisingly unconcerned.
“No, I don’t know how it is. Why don’t you enlighten me?” Richards said as he rested his cheek against his hand.
Grey sighed. “We hung out, Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, all the normal stuff people do when they go to New Orleans.”
“Except none of the things people do right after a natural disaster,” Richards said.
“Look man, we went there to hide. What better place to go than a place where nobody knows where anything is?”
“Uh huh. What’d you do in New Orleans?” Richards asked.
“That doesn’t matter, its inconsequential. We hid. There are a lot of abandoned places; we had our pick of the litter. Not too many people coming and kicking folks out, know what I mean?”
“How long were you there?”
“A month, maybe,” Grey replied, “then we split, you kept us moving with the fear of being tracked down.”
“Listen man, I’ve given you some stuff, what are you gonna give me?” Grey asked with annoyance.
“More time with your walls,” Richards said.
“No, come on, wait!” Grey pleaded as Agent Richards dragged him out of the chair and back down the hall to his holding cell.
2 minutes 21 seconds until detainment…
Grey lowered his weapon slowly. He’d only raised the rifle as a defensive gesture because he was sure the agent would begin firing again as soon as he saw movement. Grey needed to stall.
“I just want to talk!”
“DROP YOUR WEAPON. LAST WARNING!” Richards shouted.
36 hours after detainment…
By the time Richards came back around to his cell, Grey had been contained at least twenty straight hours with no human contact. Grey had begun to occupy his mind with song. He sang every song he could think of at least twice, and then added some songs he couldn’t remember lyrics to, just humming the melody or sometimes rewriting the words in a parody of his current situation. Those were his favorite ones. He would sing nasty things about how he was being treated, or about Richards and then he would laugh out loud.
He lay on his cot with his latest song slipping through his lips and letting his mind wander. His thoughts turned to his online buddies and how the team was progressing with the preprogrammed game missions without his critical healing avatar, TakeMeGnomeTonight. He wondered if he was even missed or if they’d just recruited a new healer. Grey knew all too well how fickle the online community could be. As he thought about it, he realized that this life was turning out to be more entertaining than his online one. He smiled.
Grey was pulled out of his thoughts as he heard someone outside of his door. Through the small chicken-wired opening he could see the right side of Agent Richards’s face, looking down, probably to find the right key to open the door. In that moment, Grey’s fight or flight instincts prickled. He jumped of the cot and crouched down a bit like a runner on the starting blocks. As the door creaked open, Grey made a choice; he chose to run.
His movements were very quick, catching Richards off guard. Grey busted through the partially opening, knocking Agent Richards to his rear. Richards had the wherewithal to kick his legs out as he fell, tangling them with Grey’s lower limbs. Grey went headlong into the black and white checked tile floor, smashing his nose bloody. Richards was on him before he could push his way back to his feet.
“Dammit, kid, you’ve gone and broken your nose!” Richards said as he lifted Grey to his feet and began dragging him to the small interrogation room a few doors away. Richards produced a handkerchief and squeezed Grey’s bleeding, mangled nose with it.
Grey moaned a sickly sound through the blood streaming down his chin. Once in the room, Richards plopped him into his now familiar seat under the white lights.
“That was a stupid stunt you tried. Do you think running to the end of the hall will give you freedom?” Richards questioned.
Grey squeezed his nose, wiping blood out of it. “You can’t keep me here forever.”
“I think I can. You see, you ran off from your loved ones, and they have no idea where you are, so they probably aren’t looking for you. Even if they are, the country is large and as you know, it’s easy to disappear.” Richards smiled a greasy smile that made Grey’s stomach turn.
“If Aless is who you want, why are you holding me instead of looking for her?” Grey said in a nasal tone.
“Simple,” Richards stated, “you are the only person she has been close to that I have ever come into contact with. I want to get to know her like you know her.”
Grey scoffed at the man and rolled his eyes.
Richards then produced two pictures from his trusty red folder; neither were Alessandra or anyone Grey had ever seen.
“The old woman’s named Lela Jenkins,” Richards said, tapping an old picture of an elderly woman lying asleep in a hospital bed. “We know she tried to help the girl at some point. She’s dead now.”
Grey leaned forward, looking at the photograph over the bloody handkerchief. Maybe she wasn’t sleeping after all; everything seemed too saggy for someone who was still breathing. Grey’s eyes moved to the photo to the left of the woman’s. The picture was an older picture as well. In it was a head and shoulders shot of a black man lying on scorched earth. His eyes were glassy, half-rolled, lifeless brown marbles.
“He’s dead too, if you couldn’t tell,” Richards said coldly, “although we never got a proper ID on that man.”
Grey leaned back in the chair, nose still covered. “You’re not gonna intimidate me with dead people. If you think you will, you should try going on the internet once in a while.”
“The correlation between these two people is Alessandra Sartori. These people are the only other people, besides you, that have ever been associated with her, that we are aware of, anyway. They are both dead.”
“So you think I am going to die too?” Grey asked, still clamping his nostrils closed. “Holding me is your way of protection or something?”
The elder man chuckled. “Something like that.” He sat up and began to tap the pictures. “She’s dangerous, Mr. Chapman, surely you can see that.”
Grey loosened the grip on his nose and sniffed hard, tasting blood on the back of his throat. “All I see is a scared woman running from you, a monster in the darkness, trying to take away her freedoms.”
Richards stared Grey down for a grueling thirty seconds and Grey did not relent. Eventually, it was Richards who broke into a slimy smile and continued the conversation.
“After New Orleans—”
“I’m done talking,” Grey spoke with authority, his blood still pumping hard in his veins and dripping slightly from his left nostril, “take me back to my cell.”
2 minutes 08 seconds until detainment…
“I can’t put it down, not yet,” Grey said to the man hidden in the nook between the door and side of his crooked automobile. He was starting to shake with fear. This plan was failing faster than he’d imagined. He drew in a lungful of air, held it for a beat and let it out as calmly as he could. “I’m holding this rifle for my own protection,” Grey continued. “I don’t trust you’ll let me walk away if I drop it.”
“Son, whether you drop that weapon or not, you aren’t leaving this parking lot as a free man.” There was almost a hint of compassion in Richards’s voice. “You can choose to be alive. But that starts with disarming yourself. You’ve got until the count of three.”
60 hours after detainment…
Grey stared out of the tiny window towards the ceiling tiles for what must have been the hundredth time since waking. He reached up and felt the bandage that had been placed onto his nose after he was brought back to his cell. The dull, throbbing pain, though it lingered, was almost pleasant in comparison to the first few hours. The pain made Grey feel alive. There wasn’t a mirror in the holding cell, but if there were, no doubt he would’ve seen both of his eyes had blackened, making Grey he look somewhat like a raccoon or maybe a footballer who was trying to cut back the glare from the sun on game day.
Richards had not been in to see Grey in a long time – Grey had slept solid twice, and guessed it could have been at two days now, but who knew? The stupid, never-ending lights made it so hard to tell. And he slept a lot with nothing else to do. Grey tried pacing around the little room to no avail, but it gave him an idea. He walked the length and width of the room three separate times. He was measuring his surroundings averaging them out to figure out how much space he had. What else could he do? He was bored stiff. Ultimately, Grey came to the conclusion that his cell was about five feet wide by seven or eight feet long, in other words, tiny.
He flopped down onto the cot feeling cabin fever settling on his brain. Grey had no problem being stuck in the room; it wasn’t much different than sitting in his gaming chair for multi-hour gaming sessions. The problem was that his mind wasn’t engaged. He lay back on the cot and closed his eyes trying to let his mind wander. It always returned to Aless. His last thoughts as he dozed off were about her hand in his.
66 hours after detainment…
The brilliantly pointed light in the interrogation room caused Grey to perspire slightly. He was always a quick sweater when it came to physical actions, but he was usually good under pressure, keeping mostly calm when situations called for calmness. Richards had him moved into the room by another person this time; he’d kept Grey waiting, which was unusual as well. He could only guesstimate that it was somewhere around twenty minutes that he had sat under the hot fluorescents before Mark Richards strolled in, planting himself in the chair opposite Grey.
“North Carolina,” Richards stated with triumph.
“What about it?” Grey retorted with indifference.
“That’s where you went next, more specifically, near a place called Franklin.” Richards smiled.
“Well, you got me, can I go now?” Grey said dryly, holding up his hand-cuffed wrists.
Richards’s lips thinned, but he continued easily, “You stayed in the camper owned by your grandparents. The owner of the campground says you were definitely there well past the New Year.”
“Once again you got me, Agent Richards. How about a phone call? I’ll let you screen it.”
Richards ignored his remarks. “So the two of you shacked up in grandma’s camper? What did you learn about Ms. Sartori during this time period?”
“It wasn’t like that. We slept on opposite ends of the camper, man. Besides, you tell me, you seem to know it all today.” Grey smirked as Richards looked across the table with cool confidence.
“You either learned nothing, or everything. I’m going with everything.” He opened the red folder to where Grey could glimpse inside of it for the first time. There was a picture of Aless tucked under a paperclip and what looked like profile of a criminal underneath.
“Alessandra Sartori,” Richards began, “was born in Italy in 1934.”
“What? You’re crazy?” Grey exclaimed. “She would be like seventy years old! She was born in Oregon, ’81! She showed my baby pictures of her and her mom riding a horse when she was one, and there is no way that they had color photos in 1934!”
Richards eyed the young man, calculating his next words carefully.
“You are correct,” he spoke slowly, closing the red folder. “How silly of me to try to trick you.”
Richards gathered up his folder and stood. “We are done.”
“You don’t want to talk about North Carolina?” Grey asked.
1 minutes 46 seconds until detainment…
“ONE,” Richards bellowed.
Grey felt sweat roll down the nape of his neck. His heart pounded out an increasingly fast thud inside his chest cavity.
“TWO,” Richards continued as he adjusted his aim.
Grey caught movement just over Richards’s left shoulder. The desk attendant had stepped out of the safety of the small lobby. Grey glanced quickly around the motel lot and noticed others peeking between cracked doors and through the curtains of the windows. He had an idea.
“Wait!” Grey shouted just as Richards was filling his lungs for his final number. “Just wait.” He swallowed hard against his arid throat. “There are too many witnesses for you to just shoot me in cold blood.”
Grey lowered his weapon a little farther. Sirens rang out sounding closer than before.
Richards’s eyes flicked across the parking lot, darting back and forth between Grey and the observers gawking through their windows or doors at the situation.
Grey listened as the approaching sirens grew louder still. It occurred to him that he’d let this entire distraction go on for long enough. If Aless wasn’t to safety by now, there wasn’t much more he could do for her, not without endangering his own life.
71 hours after detainment…
Grey sat in his cell thinking about how he could find Aless after he’d escaped this prison. There wasn’t any real chance of escape. He knew that in the back of his mind, but still he held onto hope.
The door to his cell swung open. Richards was stood back a foot or two from the entrance. Since the incident where Grey tried to run, Richards no longer took any chances. Grey leaned back on the cot.
“I thought you were finished talking with me? It doesn’t matter, I’m done talking to you,” Grey said. “Just leave me alone.”
“Mr. Chapman, we don’t need you anymore.”
Grey sat up. “What?” He began to worry about Alessandra. “What’s going on?”
“I’ve arranged for you to make your one phone call, with supervision of course.”
Richards escorted him into the small interrogation room where a speaker was now placed in the middle of the table. The agent pressed a button on the side and spun the speaker toward Grey. Grey looked down and saw a numerical pad for what he assumed was dialing a phone number. Grey drew the conclusion that this was some sort of speaker phone probably used for conference calls or something. He reached up quickly, dialed and pressed the call button.
The phone rang with a tinny buzz from the small speaker.
“Hello,” the voice on the other end said.
“Ma?” Grey said.
“Oh my, Grey, honey, where are you? Where have you been?” his mother sobbed into the receiver.
“I’m ok mom, but I need you to get me.” He glanced at Richards, then spoke as fast as he could. “I’m in some kind of government trouble. I am being held against my will at some facility in Virginia. I don’t kno—”
“What? What do you mean, you don’t know where? How can I get you if I don’t know where I’m going, Grey?” his mom exclaimed.
The line hummed, and Grey realized that Richards had disconnected the call.
“What the hell?” Grey demanded.
Richards rolled the tension out of his neck. The tendons made audible popping sounds as he did so. “Let me be clear with you: you are done talking.” Apparently, Grey had said too much. Richards spun the speaker phone dial pad in his direction. “If you say anything this time, anything at all, I will not release you. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Grey slowly nodded his head with reluctant compliance.
“Good.” Richards pressed the call button redialing the previous number.
“Yeah, hello Grey! Where are you?” Mrs. Chapman spat in one frantic breath.
“Mrs. Chapman, my name is Agent Markus Richards of the Central Intelligence Agency. We’ve been detaining your son, Jason Chapman, also known as Grey, under the suspicion of a National Security threat. However, we have had a simple case of mistaken identity and would like to release your son into your custody.” Grey was disquieted by Richards’s smarmy tone.
“I… I… I don’t understand… he was mistaken for a terrorist or something?” she asked, still hazy on the details.
“Something like that ma’am, I can’t go into to many details, I’m sure you understand.”
“I don’t think I do,” she stated. “Where and when can I pick up my son?”
“He can go with you as soon as you arrive,” Richards said, and then he gave her an address that led her to a small motel in Nelson County, Virginia, the rendezvous point. “Please be there at 08:00 tomorrow morning to pick up your son.”
Richards disconnected the call. Across the table, Grey sighed and slumped back in his chair. He was already trying to think of a way to find Alessandra.
1 minutes 23 seconds until detainment…
Grey looked at Richards, who was still assessing the situation at hand, and spoke slowly and deliberately, “OK…OK.” The sound of Grey’s voice pulled the agent’s full attention back. Grey held out his empty, rifle-free hand in a gesture that said, “relax.”
“I’m putting it down,” Grey continued speaking slowly as he bent at the waist. The barrel of the rifle touched the ground with a soft metallic scrape, followed by the wooden thump of the stock. Then, unexpectedly, there was a series of loud bangs as the rifle discharged twice into the pavement. Everyone watching around the motel jumped or screamed from the noisy report.
Grey yelled out, “It was an accident. Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” He quickly laid down as he’d seen in the movies and on TV. Within a few seconds he could hear Richards’s feet shuffling across the pavement, the rifle was kicked away, and a heavy knee jammed down hard onto his spine. Grey was in handcuffs in a matter of seconds. The first Albemarle PD cruiser was pulling in as Richards pulled Grey Chapman to his feet.
Grey’s face was no more than eight inches from Agent Richards’s.
“I hope she was worth it,” the agent huffed. Grey didn’t unlock his gaze from the man’s eyes.
Richards hastily escorted Grey to the company car and shoved him into the rear of the vehicle. It wasn’t quite like an actual police car; there wasn’t a cage separating the back from the front seats. The doors in the back also seemed to be normal doors. The electric windows seemed to be intact and the handle to the door was still there. There was no doubt that the child safety locks were on, and the windows were in the locked position. Not that it mattered to Grey, he wasn’t going anywhere. He’d accomplished what he had set out to do.
Grey stared out of the rear window as the agent flashed some credentials to the
Local officer and barked out several quick orders. The two men proceeded to draw their weapons and then they disappeared into room fourteen.
I hope you’ve made it, Grey thought, I hope you’re safe, Aless.
“Selfless” is a story that adds to Ageless while also having the legs to stand on its own. It does give away minor spoilers to the story as a whole, but not enough to completely spoil the entire story. Inman hopes that those who have read Ageless will enjoy this exclusive peek of the story. He hopes the readers who are new and have not read his debut will become curious enough with “Selfless” to read Ageless. With Ageless now available to read, old and new readers will not have to wait long to discover the fascinating story Inman’s debut has to offer.