Solstice - Black Moon Rising by John J. Blenkush is a Stress Busting Festival pick #fantasy #romance
Title: SOLSTICE – BLACK MOON RISING
Author: John J Blenkush
Genre: Fantasy/Magical Realism/Romance
Harboring the Holy Grail, Julissa must learn to harness her newfound powers while warding off antagonists.
Dr. Z shakes his head. “We’re not going to let that happen. That’s why I need her to stay here. What’s taking place in there,” he says nodding to the room full of petri dishes, “is what man has been chasing since the day of his inception. The fountain of youth. You see, what’s keeping those cells propagating without becoming senescent is they have an active version of telomerase, which prevents the incremental shortening of telomeres.”
Dierdra looks confused. “I don’t know what any of that means.”
But I do. I remember back to when Cherrie and I had the conversation about aging and, when she asked me the question of whether or not I knew what telomeres were, I told her they’re the clock that controls aging. They’re like the caps on our shoelaces, I had said. They protect our chromosomes from deterioration. I explain this to Dierdra as best I can.
“Mom, every time one of our cells divides and our chromosomes replicate, they get shorter and pretty soon our cells can’t divide anymore. That’s why we die of old age. But if,” and I say this with trepidation, “we could control the enzyme telomerase, we’d be immortal. We’d never die.”
“That’s not possible. Is it?” Dierdra says, as she turns her question on Dr. Z.
Dr. Z gives me the it’s-okay-nod-to-answer. “I think Julissa knows.”
“It happens all the time.” I look down at my belly. “Eggs and sperm never age. If they did, we’d have babies the same age as us.”
I can see by the look on Dierdra’s face she is churning this new information over in her mind. “Makes sense. Where do you learn this stuff?”
I play the question off and keep mum about what I’ve learned from Aaron and in my conversations with Cherrie. “In school, Mom.”
“I don’t remember learning that in school.”
“They didn’t teach you about sex back then, either,” I say, much too abruptly. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to make it sound like you’re dumb.”
Dierdra grazes my face with her hand. “I didn’t take it that way.” Dierdra’s face grows dark. She stares at me. At the same time, she levels a gut-punching question at Dr. Z. “You’re not telling us Julissa is going to be immortal!”
Dr. Z moves to within an arm’s length away from us. “Let’s not rush into any assumptions. But immortality is not as farfetched as it might seem. Have either of you ever heard of Henrietta Lacks?”
We both look at each other as if the other has the answer. I remember, vaguely, reading something about this woman in my biology class, who had died, and they were using her cultured cells for research.
“Henrietta Lacks died in October of 1951.”
Dierdra is quick to interrupt. “How is that a case for immortality? She died.”
“But her culled cells,” Dr. Z says, nodding to my room full of growing cultures, “didn’t. They became immortal, continuing to be remarkably durable and prolific. They live in laboratories around the world. Even today. And they’ve had an incalculable, profound impact on medical research. Which is an understatement to the nth degree. Hers was the first human cell line to prove successful in-vitro. Jonas Salk used Henrietta’s cells for his first test on the polio vaccine way back in the 1950s. There aren’t many advancements in the treatment of diseases that Henrietta’s cells, known as HeLa cells, haven’t been the key to discovery.”
I need to know, so I ask. “What did she die of?”
“Cancer.” Dr. Z holds up a hand, as if he can stop what Dierdra and I are thinking. “It’s true HeLa cells are cancerous, but they’re unlike any other cancer cells in that they can proliferate abnormally rapidly.”
“And how are those cells,” Dierdra asks, as she points to the room full of my cultures, “any different than the HeLa cancer cells?”
“Because,” Dr. Z says as he turns to me with a look of awe shrouding his face, “they’re not only replicating faster than HeLa cells, they’re reprogramming themselves.”
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Julissa and Aaron’s story draws one into a magical-realism world. “Blenkush has created a universe that stands out from the rest, wrapping his main characters up in narratives that are full of mystery, passion, and inspiration.” Red City Reviews
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Runs May 1 – 31, 2021.
Drawing will be held on June 1, 2021.
John J Blenkush is the author of the critically acclaimed thrillers REDDITION and STACY’S STORY, (Kirkus Reviews) and the epic SOLSTICE SERIES. Besides writing, John loves the great outdoors, running marathons, and recreational mountain climbing. He lives with his wife, Nancy, in Northern California.
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