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FLICKER, Near-Future Thriller - Matt Varga


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  • Author - Matt Varga
  • Title - FLICKER
  • Genre - Near-Future Thriller
  • Comps - FLICKER blends the mystery of Alex Michaelides’ THE SILENT PATIENT with the mind-bending science of Blake Crouch’s DARK MATTER, and the moral complexity of Alex Garland’s EX MACHINA.
  • Hook Line - When therapist Rebecca is assigned as the counselor to dissuade Derrick from state-assisted suicide, she uncovers an online underground movement victimizing young men that threatens not only her family and her life, but seeks to control the very essence of life.

Pitch 

Dr. Rebecca Ansley provides mandatory counseling for assisted suicide patients at Flicker, an organization allowed to extract the life essence from the suicidal and use it to treat the terminally ill. Flicker has saved countless lives, but many consider them predators, and the subsequent violent protests threaten Rebecca, her colleagues, and their families.

When Rebecca’s newest patient, a cutting intellectual named Derrick, knows a little too much about her personal life, her suspicions leave her torn between helping patients and protecting her family. Investigating Derrick in return, she unveils an underground movement targeting vulnerable youth and pushing them to sacrifice their lives at Flicker. A cult with its crosshairs on her son.

Lacking evidence and accused of paranoia by superiors, Rebecca’s only way to save her son is to infiltrate the cult and expose its enigmatic leader. And Derrick is her passageway into the darkness.

Two of my short stories have been published (paid), and one was nominated for a Pushcart. I am a professional composer, songwriter, and scriptwriter whose work has appeared on national TV channels and won entry into film festivals.

 

Writing Sample

CHAPTER ONE 

A Molotov cocktail sends a clear message. This had escalated from a difference of political opinion to something personal. Something hateful. But I kept myself silent and focused.

My car purred as it drove itself forward, creeping through the chanting ranks of people and their placards. A heavy-eyed cop motioned me through the barricade as other officers kept the crowd parted. The picketers screamed the usual insults at me as my vehicle inched through them: murderer, bitch, slut, and worse. With the privacy shields up, they couldn’t see me. I guess they assumed I was a woman because I drove a tiny coupe, a sexist but correct inference. Not that it mattered. I could have been any employee—a janitor, a nurse, an office junior—they didn’t care. We were all the enemy.

A scruffy young man with straggly blond hair holding a placard broke the police barricade. He threw his sign against my windshield, and the car lurched to a halt, its collision detection screen flashing and beeping loudly. My body jerked against the safety belt.

Justice for Jared!! the sign screamed in daubed red letters before the cops dragged it and its bearer away. Alliteration. How clever.

My car crawled the last half mile to Flicker’s twin buildings in the heart of the city. I locked my eyes on them to refocus on my job. Connected by a thin walkway on the fourteenth floor, the silver, metallic buildings added a low set H to the Philadelphia skyline. While not tall enough to be visible from all angles, they were among the most recognizable structures in the States. Though, how people felt about them varied wildly. I found them magnificent. The masses blocking my entry, not so much. 

Once I was safe inside the half-filled parking garage, my car pulled into my reserved space, third after only my director and the receptionist, Theresa, who used a wheelchair. I gathered my belongings and stepped out into the cold, stagnant November air. I could still hear their chants whispering in my ear like a stranger standing too close behind me. I rubbed my ears and twisted my neck to shrug the jitters,  got in the elevator and took it to the lobby.

Flicker’s main lobby conveyed the calmness and tranquility of a spa with a dash of lemon-scented cleaner. Tall, vaulted ceilings made of glass stretched above the open reception area, giving views of the neighboring skyscrapers. Polished floors captured a sharp reflection of the room in stunning clarity. In the center, a black marble fountain spewed water half-a-dozen feet in the air. Its mist tickled my skin as I walked by.

To my right, businessmen huddled in the waiting areas, strategizing their pitch to acquire more than their fair share of flickers. One smiled at me, but I ignored him. One accidental acknowledgment and he’d be asking me for advice. These are the people the protestors should be targeting. The ones that treat lives like currency. I didn’t have time to think about that.

Soon I would meet Save 200. A feat no one thought was possible until I shattered the previous record in the early fall.

I should have been happy or excited or at least planning what to do after my inevitable victory. But intrusive thoughts lingered on Save 199, a former top-dog CEO of a Fortune 500. During our first session, he raged and railed against the world. By the second session, he stared at me with wide eyes that pleaded for hope like a puppy begging for treats. I’d somehow found a way to give him that hope. But I remembered the stench on him when he first came in. A man who had not bathed or changed clothes in who knew how long. Even when he did clean up halfway through our sessions, I could still smell the decay.

It reminded me of a scent from long ago that curled my stomach. A scent I couldn’t shake. 

I approached a long, angular desk made of white marble that stretched nearly twenty feet, manned by only two receptionists. I made a left and headed to security.

“Morning, Kingsley,” I said to the security guard hunched on his stool next to the metal detector. He stared at the crowd outside while tapping one finger on his desk. He was a pie shy of portly and his dark features always looked gloomy under his bright white beard.

 

 

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