Chapter Fifteen Banished To Earth
Three hours had crept by since they said goodbye to Trudy Beth and Nikki. The first two hours everything appeared normal they had even managed to complete a cell phone call to Trudy and were greatly relieved to hear they and Corith were safe and well back her farm. However, Chase had noticed a few things that had given him pause. Over the past hour, he had seen no side roads and this road had become unusually straight and flat. He wondered if they were still heading west, if so, then they should be climbing up North Carolinas foothills not cruising down its coastal plain. Still it was obvious they had not spent the last two hours driving toward the beach, too many tall trees, besides if that were the case they should be near the ocean by now and clearly they were not.
And another thing was bothering Chase, they had met several cars and trucks heading east but not one vehicle had approached them from behind, a grim reminder that they were indeed, heading into trouble. Moreover, where was Raleigh, they should have arrived there hours ago, but they had yet to see a mileage sign for Raleigh or any other town for that matter. If their destination was deep strangeness then they were definitely going the right direction.
They were well into their forth hour on the road and it appeared it would be just like the last hour, no traffic, no fields, no yards or houses and no people, just dense dark forest rising up on either side of them like tall green canyon walls.
Scott and Silhouette had shifted their attention to the sky. It had suddenly turned gray as a heavy cloud cover cast an eerie pall over their already ominous surroundings.
Silhouette checked her watch. It read 1:45 P.M. It appeared much later, more like dusk than early afternoon.
While she checked her watch, Chase checked his gas. They had started out with a full tank. It was nearly empty now. "Wonder if we are going to run out of road before we run out gas?" he asked Pri.
"Does it matter Chase," Pri asked as she leaned forward and tried to imagine what might be waiting for them.
"Guess not, glad we can still portal shift. But I would be a lot happier if I could see what is at the end of this road and beyond these woods.
At least we haven't seen any monsters yet, looks like we have managed to keep our presence and intentions hidden.
Still we can't just shift willy-nilly. We really need see where we are shifting, in fact we can't shift otherwise."
"I know," she murmured just before the road's black pavement abruptly ended and became a single lane clay road. Chase slowed the truck, hunched over the wheel and kept his eyes open for deep ruts and washouts. Determined to stay in the truck as long as he could, he kept driving even as thick underbrush and overhanging tree limbs began to close in around the dirt path from both sides.
It was not long before the truck was plowing through tall grass and tender knee high saplings. Suffocating green grayness settled over them as they slowly jostled through the woods on a path that was quickly becoming a hiking trail. A short time later, the path dwindled to an overgrown rabbit path and Chase finally brought the truck to a stop two feet from a huge pine, that was completely blocking their way.
Chase looked over at Pri and was just about to speak when a loud knock on the truck's metal roof snatched his attention.
"Time to fly, don't'cha think' Scott said as yanked up an arm full of spindly saplings hanging down in his face and flung them over the tree tops and out of sight.
Chase cracked open the door only to have it spring back in face. "I've really got this thing wedged in don't I," he said pushing the door back open with all his strength and knocking a bunch of skinny young trees right out of the ground in the process. "Maybe I should have pulled over before it got this bad."
Silhouette flew over the cab then settled down on the hood and helped Pri crawl out of the passenger's side. "Yeah, you are a bit single minded. I was ready to get out that box two hours ago."
"Man, the sky looks mean," Chase said as he stepped into knee deep underbrush looked up and watched twisted bands of black cloud winding and undulating from north to south beneath a sheet of pale purple overcast.
"Well what are we waiting for," Silhouette asked.
"I need to pray," Scott boldly announced, "should have already asked God to keep us safe, which also means I need to repent."
Silhouette nodded as she Chase and Pri traded uncomfortable glances. "That is good Scott," Pri said, "you are an angel and if demons are real after all then his power will be greatly needed."
"From the way the sky looks like now I'm inclined to think that maybe there are such things." said Chase as he, Silhouette and Pri turned away from Scott and made their way back down the path the truck had just cleared, trying to give him some privacy.
"While's he looking down," said Silhouette as she flung her body toward the sky, "I going to go look around," she yelled down just before she darted off toward the west.
Chase and Pri continued walking away from the truck. Neither of them thought Silhouette's rash departure was particularly wise. Chase was just about to say something about when they heard a loud whooping sound overhead. Crouching together in the underbrush that had already closed in behind the truck, they looked up and saw a black figure streak across the sky.
" Silhouette!" Pri yelled just as a deafening crack of electricity shook the entire forest.
Everything blurred and rippled as gravity released them and they shot up toward the clouds.
"Sorry about that," Scott yelled at them as he sliced up in front of them," but we have to help her! Don't worry I've got you covered. I'm taking you with me! We can't get separated" He said as he swung around and sped off toward the clouds.
Feeling like two cats in an invisible sack, they suddenly realized that he had just scooped them up in some sort of force field and had quite literally slung them over his shoulder.
"Spread out, if you want! The inside of the field is elastic but the outside is like armor plating. It should protect you!" He said over his shoulder as he bore toward a long black line bending up and down in the distance.
"Oh no!" Chase said, right after they spread out and drifted several inches apart, 'We've seen this before."
"It is not organic Scott." Pri said as she and Chase saw that the dragon of their nightmare now shared the sky with them and was clearly not in a sharing mood.
Scott nodded darted straight up, looped high in the air and searched for Silhouette far below.
"There she is," he said as they watched her sleek black form shrink against the mist draped forest far below and what was without a doubt the largest flying beast they had ever seen streak down after her.
"That's a dragon, just flesh and bone! I got this!" Scott said as they bore down at it.
"Not just a dragon," Pri said," be careful, it's a synthetic just like you."
"Grab my legs," said Scott I can't fire at this thing through my force field. The moment I drop it I drop you."
"Fire what." Chase asked as he latched on to Scott's right legs and Pri grabbed his left."
"This!" said Scott lowering his head and squinting his eyes a split second before two bright red beams of energized particles shot from them, burned vapor trails through the air and bore deep into the dragon's back.
It buckled and flopped then tumbled out of the sky, crashed through the forest canopy and disappeared beneath the mist -laden treetops.
"Easy peasy," Scott bragged as his force field reclaimed them and they drifted backup beside him.
"Can't be that easy Scott,"
"I know Chase so let's go get Silhouette and make sure that thing is dead."
"It was never alive," said Pri, as they watched Silhouette glide over the tree tops then arc back to them, "it is who may yet live inside it that troubles me."
Scott, suddenly feeling like a rash young fool, did not reply as they flew down and joined Silhouette over the dragon's crash site…
"Thank's", said Silhouette right after she and Scott linked force fields, "But I was trying to lead it away from you. Main thing is you got it. And I got something too, my sensors detected a huge metal object hovering in sky due west of here. It has to be an Ahrian ship. I think we should go find it, now that's big bird has bitten the dust. That's one monster that won't be sneaking up on us."
"I hope so," said Scott as they slid cautiously toward a long jagged patch of splintered treetops. Silhouette did not like the ominous tone in his voice but kept her misgivings to her self.
Half expecting the dragon's armor plated head to fly up like a jack in the box they slowly drifted toward the pit-like opening in the forest's thick green canopy. However, they saw not so much as a wisp of smoke rising toward them, as they hovered directly over the opening. Somewhat emboldened, they leaned forward until they were descending face first into the leafy pit, and could easily see what lay sprawled out beneath them.
This thing was supposed to be a machine, but as they hovered mere feet above its twisted torn body all they could see was lifeless remains not inanimate wreckage. Wings like tattered punctured sails draped and dangled on splintery spikes of broken timber. Talons as long as sabers and just as sharp hooked menacingly at the sky on sinewy scale encrusted limbs that looked frozen in death not merely deactivated. Its muscular sickly white trunk bore a disturbing human resemblance especially disturbing since its neck and tail tapering off it at both ends like giant snakes.
Scott and Silhouette could not help but take odd comfort in the creature's hauntingly organic demise. They like it were also synthetic.
"Looks dead to me," said Scott as Silhouette retracted her force field and settled down near the creatures ornate fang-fringed snout, which lay half buried beneath a ten foot log.
Not wanting to get any closer she flung a burst of psychokinetic energy at the timber and sent it sailing straight up and over the tall pines surrounding them, uprooting a large patch of underbrush and saplings in its wake.
Scott slid down into the clearing releasing Chase and Pri and they all encircled the thing's huge head. Two black softball sized eyes glared up at them from the ground. Pri and Chase held their breath waiting for them to blink. After a few moments of uneventful gawking, they started to turn away when Chase noticed a fleeting flash of white in the corner of its left eye. At first he took it for nothing more sun light reflecting off the creature's onyx like eye ball, but then remembered the thick quilt of cloud sagging overhead diffusing its gleaming brightness to dull gray.
Bending down he inched closer afraid to turn his back until he was satisfied that it was a nothing more than a trick of light or mind.
"What is it," asked Pri drawing the attention of Scott and Silhouette as she spoke.
"Not sure, probably nothing," said Chase as they all hunched over the head trying to see what he was talking about.
A white filament the width of a single strand of hair slowly uncoiled beneath the eye's glassy black surface, then another and another curling and twisting toward the center of the eye. They backed away but kept their eye trained on the bizarre display. Soon a dozen serpentine white strands were gracefully undulating toward the center of the eye.
They soon came to the disgusting conclusion that the strands were merely the appendages not the body. Apparently, something like an octopus was swimming toward the center of the eye.
A few more tense moments of silent dread suddenly confirmed their fears. The sickly white tentacles suddenly yanked an egg white like eye with a blood red pupil from the corner. Dangling from the bottom of the eye like an octopuses' tentacles they neatly positioned it where the black pupil should be.
Pulsating like a pounding heart, it began to expand and contract growing larger with every beat. They stumble back as they watched it bulge like a blister crowding out the black until it split the eyelid wide open, shattered the boney socket and tore itself free.
No longer restricted by its bony encasement it exploded to the size of a small car shot straight up, jerked to a stop twenty feet over their heads then hovered just below the treetops as if taking aim.
Sensing they were about to be attacked Chase and Pri whipped open a shift portal. They leaped out of sight, moments before Scott and Silhouette darted apart and fired on the eye. The eye jerked left then jumped right whipping fifty feet long searing tendrils of energy at both of them as it deftly dodged their crimson particle beams.
Scott back flipped flinging his force field up just as the tendrils sliced inches from his head. They glanced off the shield and sheered through the surrounding trees like a lawn mower. The thunderous roar of a dozen tall pines crashing to the ground at the same time shook the air.
Having already portal shifted above the eye, Silhouette flung her force field at the writhing ball of energy just as it was about to sling another band of searing energy at Scott. It engulfed and immobilized the thing just long enough for her to slice open a portal and sling it out of sight.
Scott shot up like a cannon ball, sidling up to her in less than second. "That was neat Sil."
"No Scott it was fun, it was cool, but neat-don't use that word." said Silhouette. "Now where did Pri and Chase get off to I wonder?"
"There," said Scott pointing at two tiny figures falling through the sky then suddenly disappearing only to reappear in another part of the sky. "Portal skipping."
"Next best thing to flying," Said Silhouette as they flew further west to join them.
"Hey," she yelled, the next time she saw them fall out of the air, "over here!"
A moment later, they dropped right in front of them. Scot and Sil flung out their conjoined fields and plucked them right out the air.
"The woods thin out further west, "Chase said, "and I think I glimpsed shapes on the horizon."
"Shapes, good, sounds concrete," Scot said, "we need that, we need a destination, don't wanna waste time flying in circles."
"Deep strangeness," Pri murmured, "that is what Corith called it. That ball, that eye thing, what was that, surely not the Ahrian."
They all looked at Pri, wondering the same thing.
"Maybe some sort of remote," said Chase, "I'm thinking it must have energized the dragon served as some sort servo or even a remote viewing device, with a really bad attitude."
"But it was not Stayner." said Pri looking back, her eyes narrowing with worry as flew away hoping to never see the dragon again.
Far below and far behind, something moved, rippling beneath the dragon's hide, pushing and clawing its way up from the pit of the dragon's stomach. Bowing up like a waking sleeper rising beneath a bed sheet, its lifeless belly inflated. Then it expanded further and further until the sickly white gut grew to three times its original size and exploded, flinging slimy black bile, bloody strips and hunks of Grant Staynor's shark body in all directions, drenching, contaminating and mutating every living thing in the vicinity.
Vines slowly lost their leaves and deep green color, turning black and serpentine as they unwound themselves from the trees, pulled free from the ground slithered off into the dark woods to continue their horrific transformation.
Trees quivered and drooped losing their rigidity as they slunk to the ground. Soon their limbs became limbs indeed living and willful. Bark turned to skin, twigs became fingers, and buds blinked open and looked up searching the sky for Chase and Pri.
Like the foliage and trees, a menagerie of birds, worms, flying insects and every kind of vermin inhabiting the area were also soaked by the vile rain of mutagen expelled from the dragon's belly. Within minutes, Grant Stayners blind hatred, murderous will and perverse presence had twisted them into a vengeful mutant army. No longer content with invading Chase's mind this new abomination of humanity wanted to rip Chase and Pri to bloody ribbons devour the strips, digest their essence and make their own.
A cloud of birds and flying bugs soon swept skyward through the ragged tear in the forest canopy heading west spear heading an army of walking trees and slithering vines that was going contaminate and 'recruit' every living it touched along the way.
A vast tidal wave of living hatred was rising up behind Chase and Pri, which they knew nothing about. However, an unimagined past was rising up to meet them. They could no be bothered to look back...
Far below the dense woods had thinned and grown sparse until it finally petered out to become swaying fields of yellow grain and rolling hills of lush green pasture. They kept flying, keeping a watchful eye on the thick dark clouds still stubbornly blocking out the sun.
They had not seen the white eye since Silhouette slung it away but could were beginning to sense presence and movement just over their heads. The clouds were definitely hiding something, ancient Ahrian ships, possibly. Or were cloud shrouded demons looking down bidding their time, letting the Ahrians do their 'ground' work until the meat sacks, otherwise known as people, were fully tenderized and ready for consumption.
They were truly traveling back in time, rummaging through a vast memory closet. Just how far back they had already gone they had no way of knowing. It could well be this place had no chronological order. Just because Kembly had been 'normal' did not mean the western regions would be, in fact they had been warned of just the opposite, and were about to see just how deep the western strangeness was.
Growing more wary of the thick cloud cover, they slid toward the greens pastures far below and made an unsettling discovery. It seemed to be taking much longer to reach the ground than it should. And, as the ground grew closer, the sky grew brighter. It was as if they were traveling through an invisible field of distorted space-time. And as long as they flew parallel to ground and sky, they could not detect the distortion.
"Weird," Scott said. They others shrugged as they dove at the ground far below. At first, it was as if they were not moving at all then they jolted forward as the ground came rushing up at them. It wasn't long before they pulled up and settled down to feet first on a grassy plain.
They dropped their shields looked around and saw the sun bright shining high in against a cloudless blue sky. Seeing only grass in every direction they portal shifted further west knowing they needed to get on with it.
An unbearable stench assaulted their nostrils, which was nothing compared to what they saw as they stepped out of the air and sank knee deep in mud.
"Blood, dead blood," Pri murmured as they looked out and saw a vast swamp of bloody water and human bones protruding from rotting corpses.
Forcing themselves to look down they saw that they were not standing knee deep in mud, but putrefied flesh.
"The Flood," Said Scott. "It happened. See." he said as they covered their noses and wondered if maybe Scott was right. One thing was certain none of them wanted to stand around knee deep in liquefied human remains and debate the Bible.
Silhouette focused her eyes on a point much further west whipped open a portal and they all dove in. This time they stepped out on solid ground. A cool breeze blew her hair back and they smiled at the sound of rushing water.
She was just about to suggest they wash up, when a rock bounced off her forehead.
"Hey!" she yelled as they ducked and scanned the moss-draped forest that now surrounded them. Gleaming shafts of sunlight streamed through a sagging patchwork of bright green foliage hanging high overhead like hammocks. Just then, another rock sailed at them. Chase yanked it out of the air and crushed it to powder in his right hand. Shadow and light trees and bushes encompassed them and providing perfect cover for their rock-throwing assailant.
"Come out and show yourself," Chase yelled, "we will not hurt you so stop trying to hurt us!"
Suddenly they heard a sheep bleating over the sound of rushing water. A longhaired boy hair clad in fur-fringed leather jumped from behind a tree. Yelling in a language, they had never heard he snatched a bow from his back and he ran off toward the bleating. They followed him a short distance though the forest until they came to riverbank where a dozen sheep where drinking water.
Another loud bleat and the boy drew an arrow from his quiver and sent it sailing over the river. It sank deep into the chest of a wolf that had just brought down one of the sheep at the water's edge.
The wolf dropped dead, but it was too late for the sheep, which also hung lifeless in its mouth.
The moment he realized they had followed him, turned and chased his little flock away from them. They wasted no time in rushing down to the river to wash away the horrid filth. Fearing the boy might return with help they quickly slashed opened a portal and disappeared into it.
This time they stepped unto vast undulating plain of glistening dew-beaded grass. A full moon looked down on them though a milky veil of high clouds.
Another lone shepherd sat on rock at the top of a rise looking out over his flock. A black spot suddenly appeared in the center of the moons milky face. At first, they feared it might great Ahrian eye, but as they watched, they slowly realized the black spot was not a pupil but a great black disc descending from the sky eclipsing the moon as it neared them. They had found the ship Silhouette's sensors had detected miles, and, considering they were traveling backward it time, years back as well.
Bound together in Scott and Silhouette's force field the all flew up at the disc, "They have to Ahrians," said Chase as a beam of blue light shot from the disc's underbelly engulfing in its own force field. "Don't fight it," he said as the beam drew them up.
The bottom of the disc spiraled open like an iris. Soft soothing purple light washed away the blue drew them in and held them in place until the iris like opening twisted shut beneath them.
Scott and Silhouette dropped their field, knowing they could throw it back up in an eye blink if necessary and realized the four of them were still hovering two inches above the gleaming white porcelain like floor of the ship. Without warning, the ship released them and they dropped flat footed on the center of the ships circular floor.
A door sized opening suddenly appeared directly if front of them ten feet away. Green misty light wafted into the room as a slight feminine figure dressed in a loose knee length shift stepped into opening and walked toward them.
As she approached, they noticed she was holding a small bowl in her hands. As soon as she was close for them to see her perfectly formed reddish features and her long golden hair, she lifted the bowl high in air, tilting it until its vaporous blue contents slowly spilled out and undulated through the air toward them.
Fearing it might be some sort of toxic gas Scott and Silhouette cast their force field over all of them. However, the blue vapor easily passed through the field. They covered their faces but the vapor wormed its way into their nostrils and mouths anyway.
Their lips began to quiver; their thoughts raced as words they had never heard infiltrated their minds and made a home in their memory.
"Now we may talk, my name is Charot Koss, I manage this vessel." Her voice had a forced sternness to it, that betrayed her insecurity, "and you are what?" She looked straight at Scott, Silhouette Chase and Pri as she spoke.
"Senders," said Scott.
She walked up to him still holding the bowl, "Inorganic Senders do not exist." she turned her attention to Pri and Chase, "and the two of you also claim to be senders." she said as she pressed the bowl between her hands until it shimmered and shrank into a small flat silver plate. She held it up to her face and it suddenly became translucent silver.
"Do not move. This scanning devise can not harm you, but your movement may distort its reading." She said as she peered through the plate as she walked around them. After she finished her scan, she held it up in the palm of her hand. It promptly collapsed to a palm-sized sphere, which she casually slipped into her dress pocket.
"Two aliens, two synthetics," again Charot has tried to convey sternness, but failed. "Where do you come from? Why are you here? Earth is under our authority, our care."
"Do you fear us?" Pri asked as she reached out to the ancient Ahrian. "We came to help you, nothing more."
Charot looked up and around as if she glanced something then lost sight of it.
Pri took her hand. "What frightens you so?"
"You claim to be senders," said Charot, slowly pulling her hand from Pri's gentle grasp. "Yet you are all strangers. The monitors have never spoken of you. They do not know you. You have not sent."
"We have not sent yet." said Chase, "but we will in the future."
"You are saying you come from the future, time travelers?" Charot's tone softened, "How is that possible."
"May we see the rest of your ship?" Pri asked, "We will answer all your questions. Please answer ours as well."
"What do you want to know?" Charot turned her attention to Silhouette and Scott.
"We know you are not alone," Silhouette said, "they are looking aren't they, holed up in some back room gettin' an eye full through other peoples eyes and a lot more than that. I think they need to stop, while they can, if they can, don't you?"
Charot blinked and looked at the floor, her eyes darting, as if the very ship she was standing in was about to eat her alive. "You all look like Earth natives, but your knowledge, your nature is foreign to this primitive world." she bowed her head and turned away from them.
"Not foreign Charot," said Chase, "changed, changed by your people four thousand years from now."
"You have not sent yet." Charot said, more to herself than to them. She turned back to them. "If you truly come from our future tell me what become of us, of them?"
"Them?" Pri asked.
"The monitors, the monitors, what happened to them." Charot answered.
"You don't look do you?" Silhouette asked.
"No, I, I can't" Charot's answer sounded more like a confession, "I have looked at the screens and saw nothing, even had a portal surgically implanted, still I could not receive. Some of them receive while they sleep, others sit and watch the screens for hours on end, and a few need no screens or even dreams. They are the ones who first discovered Earth. They did not merely see Earth they experienced it. Their minds are all the screens they need. They talk of joint meditation, of mind linking so they might share their gift with other less gifted monitors. They frighten me. But I amuse him or her; serve them- I am after all inferior- a freak. They share nothing with me, which is why they chose me to manage. I am just a caretaker, not a captain but an outsider however, that has not kept me from listening. They brag and I learn; there are more than mere senders beyond this ship. Something, some things make their home here above your world. The monitors call them dream walkers. But I fear they are dream invaders. The monitors speak of them kindly, too kindly and refuse to question them. They do not fear them. They adore them, almost worship these entities. Since you are from the future, tell me what becomes of them."
"They succeed," said Chase, "they become one watcher, one mind, one eye, one pathetic fool that is pouring his every experience into this realm."
"This Realm?" Charot said as she smiled, "you mean the Transit Realm. That is just a theory. The notion of a pocket universe was dimissed as ludicrous years before I left Ahri. My present is your past that is the realm we now occupy."
"I was imprisoned in the Transit Realm," said Pri, "I was one of many creatures collected by your people, held in another reality. It is real. This place is that other reality."
"Then they lied to me." Charot said angrily, "This ship is a lie, and I a thief!"
"So you have been to other worlds," Pri asked, "have you been to Phastanar."
"Yes," Charot answered, "but only to observe and collect geological samples and atmospheric samples."
"And me!" Said Pri. "You scanned my body. You know it is from Phastanar! Do not lie to yourself."
"And now the cell in the ship has become the cell that contains the ship." Chase said, and we are four thousand years old," he declared. "When we were on Alisar I seeing Earth's distant future. When we dissipated we traveled forward in time."
"No," said Pri, "you went forward while I was lost on Phastanar, trapped in the past until I was cast into the Transit Realm, where I was plucked from time and where I waited for your love to find me."
"The love that binds is a love that finds," Chase said, as the others wondered what he was talking about.
"Charot tell us everything you can about this ship. But then there is much more to this vessel than even you know!"
Charot wrung her hands, "Yes there areas of the ship I am forbidden to visit. If you are from the future then what you just told should have drastically altered the present, but nothing has changed, has it? If that is so, we must be outside the natural flow of time. This vessel is not just a vehicle, it must be a threshold, a mobile passage way to another state of being, another world!"
"A bubble universe," said Scott, "a Transit Realm which by passes normal space and time, like a stone skipping across a pond, but thanks to the Ahrian the skipping stone will soon become a sinking boulder and punch a hole through time and space."
"A black hole," Charot murmured, as she hurriedly waved her hand transforming the oval entry chamber into a three dimensional blue print of the massive saucers' vast interior.
They suddenly found themselves standing in a sea of intricate multicolor lines that snaked out, intersected and led to various color coded circles and squares.
Every line represented a passge way, every shape a chamber.
"I must find what they do not want me to see. I must pinpoint that blank spot in the ship I am not privy to. " Charot said as she walked through the holographic display, "That place in the ship I am not privy to. There!" She declared as she waded though a maze of colorful translucent light beams, stopped and pointed at a vacant area that should have been a block of color -room.
"It's really hard to spot something that isn't there," Silhouette quipped.
"Yes it is," Charot said, "especially since this should not be possible. The ship's internal snanning rays penetrate every wall, detect and display every opening. The ship builders on Ahri installed them as a safety device. Any breach or even the slightest deviation in molecular density of the ship's external and internal walls could easily trigger a devastating explosion while traversing deep space. I know of nothing that can escape the scanning ray's detection." She swiped her right hand. The hologram vanished.
"Please follow me," again Charot tried to convey confidence, but they all heard fear in her voice.
"Can you display the area near the void," Chase asked. "I would love to tour your ship but shifting there would save time and hide our approach."
"Shifting?" Charot asked. "What are you talking about?"
"Wow," said Silhouette," you really don't know. It seems your people learned a lot of knew tricks in the last 4,000 years."
Charot just stared at her in unbelief and wiped her hand as if she were clearing fog from a window. An oval shaped translucent picture of a pale blue hallway suddenly in appeared in their midst.
Silhouette swiped through it, "Now we join hands and step though," said Silhouette casually.
Charot glanced about the room shrugged her shoulders just before they all joined hands and stepped into the picture. The invisible opening bowed over them, as the image warped engulfed them and deposited them in the hallway instaneously.
"Remarkable!" Charot gasped, "They gave you this ability? Maybe they became Gods after all!" She said as they started down the seemingly endless hallway toward the void.
"I do not see anything out of the ordinary," said Pri. She was just about to speak again when they air around then began to vibrate. They slowed their pace which was already creeping at a snail's pace. But as they continued, the hallway began to slope downward.
"This is not right," said Charot thinking aloud, "there are no sloping floors in the ship. We should go back." The moment she spoke those words the noticed the walls ceiling had widened. They balked but found they could not resist the subtle gravity like force that was gently pulling them forward and down the strange growing hallway that appeared to have no end.
Pri's hair lifted and spread as Chase tried and failed to swipe open a shift portal. Scott and Silhouette threw up their hands to cast a force field but were unable to project even the slightest amount of energy from their synthetic bodies.
"Is this ship dissolving or is it swallowing us?" Silhouette asked as they saw tendrils of swirling black mist curling toward them. They tried to to turn away only to find that the walls had spread out even further. Suddenly the floor dissolved disappearing like vapor in the wind and they were falling into an undulating wall black fog.
Scrambling to turn back only hastened their descent as blackness overwhelmed them.
Falling helpess though the darkness they realized too late they had fallen into a trap.
Though they could not yet see, they could sense his malevolent presence drawing near. Try as they might they could not move away from it. It was as if the dark had invaded their bodies, pushed them into the minds' back seat and took control.
Chase tried to reach out with his hands for his eyes were useless in the inky fog, but could not feel his hands even when he tried to slap them together.
Words like thunder rumbled through their minds as they finally felt something; dry hard earth slamming into their bodies as the voice slowly burned away the darkness.
"I missed you. I sought you, and allowed you to find me! Behold me!" It roared, "That I might behold my deity and my glory through your eyes!"
Blinding white light suddenly streamed over a barren desert plain. They struggled to their feet, shielding their eyes as they shrank from the blinding brilliance of the great white eye slowly rising over the horizon like a gleaming ivory sun.
Scott and Silhouette were able to screen out some of the brightness but they still had to turn their faces away. Pri huddling under Chase's right arm hid her face in his chest as he clamped his right hand over sealed eyelids.
Charot had turned her back toward the sun. "God," she murmured, "he thinks
He is God!"
"What" Scott yelled in defiance as he started to turn toward the false sun and confront the pretender.
Charot, realizing what he was about to do jumped in front of him turning face first toward the searing brightness. In a flash of insight, she clawed at her cheeks forcing her eyelids open and stared directly into the massive blinding white eye that was once her shipmates.
"Charot no!" Scott yelled as the false sun streaming across the desert shined directly into her face, bore through her eyes and burned deep into her brain.
Her head flew back, her neck cracked, her petite frame dropped to the ground like a puppet on broken strings.
"Charot!" Pri yelled her eyes glowing in the darkness as she ran to Charot's limp body.
"She's dead!," Pri cried as the others huddled around her. Chase managed to press his fingers against Charot's throat hoping Pri was wrong, but only confirmed her words.
"It killed her!" Silhouette yelled and suddenly realized they were back in the hallyway-back in the ship-a ship that they had never really left.
Scott scooped up Charot's lifeless body, stood up, opened a portal and they all shifted back to the entry chamber. "We have to tell them, maybe they can help!"
"Who," Silhouette asked as they all searched for a doorway.
"The monitors," Chase said, "but we have no idea where to find them."
"We can not just leave her here.," said Pri, "we have to find her people."
"I doubt they care, they're addicts they'll never see their own future even when it's burning their face off," Silhouette said grimly, as Scott gently laid Charot's body down on the floor.
"She sacrificed herself," Chase said kneeling down beside her, "We owe her."
"A funeral," Scott said his eyes watering as he spoke, "we can shift her outside, find a nice spot, something peaceful and bury her. "She saved us and killed the Ahrian for us, a decent funeral is the least we can do for her." He then bent down and lifted her flimsy frame. They looked at each other and nodded in agreement just before Chase whipped open a portal and they departed.
Chase had spotted a grassy hill a short distance from where they saw the Sheppard and the saucer, they stepped out of the air and unto to spot in an eye blink.
Using and needing nothing but their hands, Scott and Silhouette had soon dug a six-foot deep grave for their new friend.
The funeral was spare but strange, Pri and Chase stood at either end of the grave, while Scott and Silhouette stood on either side of the grave suspending Charot's body over the opening with force fields.
Tears streamed down Scott's face, as he realzed he had not even mentioned the name of Christ to this poor girl and now it was too late. He had no words of comfort only a silent prayer that God might take into account her sacrifice and her place in Hell might not be as deep and painful as it would otherwise be.
He looked up at Silhouette and motioned with his head to let her down.
"Now," she asked, "where's the funeral, you're not going to pray for God to have mercy on her soul!"
Scott just looked at with wet helpless eyes, "It's too late Sil. I should have talked to her told her that even she should confess her sin and turn to Christ for salvation, but I was too busy and now it's just too late."
"Huh," Silhouette grunted, "that's it then, Christ or Hell, what she did for us for the whole world is nothing in God's eyes. You know what, keep your God 'because I don't want a God like that!"
"Neither do we," said Charot as she casually rolled over in mid air. Bending her right arm up propping it on thin air as she laid her head in her right hand. Sneering, she winked at Silhouette. She then sat up in the midst of their force field as if she were rising from her own bed, cackled as she flattened her hands together. Pushing her fingertips through their force as if she were merely stretching she easily parted it like a flimsy curtain. She then shot straight up glaring down them with hate-filled eyes one pure black the other pure white but both pure evil.
Coal black clouds suddenly dropped out of the sky, gathered and coiled above her head turning and spinning gathering speed and shrinking toward her head.
They all leaped back bolting from the grave as if blown back by an explosion and tumbled down the hill. None of them could even think what to do next they just wanted to fly away, but none did.
They all knew the needed to see what was about to happen next, that they simply could not run and away from their terrible blunder.
Dazed but determined they struggled to their feet. Sil and Scott managed to cast a force field around Pri and Chase. Although, they doubted it would do them much good if this demonic thing decided to attack, it was the best they could do.
Huddled beneath a dome of energy they forced themselves to look up just in time to Charot's tiny frame flutter up to the cloud vortex like a leaf caught in an updraft. Soon floating spread eagle beneath the cloud her entire body began to shiver and vibrate. It was as if the things inside her were frantically shaking off its last visage of humanity.
"Matter matter what's the matter," she growled and gurgled, her back arching upward as she bent her head back so far it shattered every bone in her spinal column. Glaring down at them she stretched her lips into such a huge hideous smile it actually split her face, "Thank you for the matter, flesh so soft so pliable, but then it is just clay." She hissed snaking her head down on a neck more serpentine than human, as her arms and legs suddenly flopped down like over cooked spaghetti.
Scott dropped to his knees as he bowed his head. Sneering she slung her right arm up which was now limp as a rope. As if made from rubber, her fingers stretched skyward. They slithered toward the swirling cloud mass as it weaved between her wriggling snake like fingers.
"Pray little Christian pray," she said as the last tortured remnants of Charot's once pretty face twisted beyond recognition. All her hair then fell out at once, showered down of him and Charot was gone. "Pray for the farm girl my pet is own its way." She shrieked as she yanked the spinning cloud down and let it wind her elastic boneless body up like warm taffy.
"Trudy!" Pri cried as she ran to Chase, moments before the cloud wound Charot's pathetically warped body out of sight hovered and pulsated overhead as if it were gathering strength or sporting its new persona.
Stricken dumb by disbelief they gawked at the hellish living cloud. And as they watched they saw a carousel grotesque demonic faces push out then sink back in the cloud as it slowly spun upward and eastward toward Kembly and Trudy's farm.
"Another trap!" Silhouette yelled as the cloud shrank out of sight in the eastern sky.
"Of course it is!" Said Scott as he rose to his feet," but it is not giving us a choice."
"Stayner is the pet." Pri sighed as Chase comforted her. "It has to be."
"But we killed the dragon!" said Silhouette.
"No," said Chase, "you just broke the piñata. That white eye thing was not the only piece of candy it held! We have to get of here. There is no time to lose!"
"More mutants!" Said Silhoutte , "that last one…"
"Killed you," interrupted Scott quietly.
"What is it Scott," asked Pri, noticing strange calm about him.
"This thing is a demon," Scott answered, "it played the Ahrian, it knew exactly what to wait for-Charot. She must have trapped The Ahrian but the Ahrian was not alone, he was possessed. Obviously these so called dream walkers were demons. They invaded the minds and possessed the souls of the monitors, the Ahrians, thousands of years ago, lying to them, using them, warping their will and biding their time.
Only God can stop them. I am not going anywhere until I know I have his permission and his power.
"Well hurry up and pray, so we can get going!" Chase shouted.
"The demon is playing us now." Scott shouted back at Chase. "Do any of you finally believe? It wants us to hurry after it but I am not ready. I need to pray. I'd better pray, long and hard!" He dropped to his knees and proceeded confessing his wickness and weakness and pleading for God's help..
Chase shook his head as Pri and Silhouette, running his fingers through his hair, frustrated with Scott then jerked his head to the east as they walked away.
"Do you believe that was a demon Silhouette?" Chase asked when they were out of ear shot.
"I don't know Chase, but I do know I am not going hang around here until Scott gets the all clear from God. I also know that thing whatever it was did not kill us. I'm sure it could have. And all this stuff about Charot being in Hell. I just can't accept that. Pri, how do you feel about it?"
"Charot was the weakest of us and made the greatest sacrifice. I can not accept she is suffering for that, or anything else. How can she not be in Heaven if there is such a place? Nikki is in danger. We dare not wait!"
Chase nodded and headed back to Scott, "Hey man, " he said bending and laying his right hand on Scott's shoulder, "we're not waiting they need our help now."
"Then go," said Scott, lifting his head slightly, but not making eye contact, "if you do not believe you will never understand."
"Be careful." he replied looking up at Chase this time.
They all exchanged nervous glances, Pri and Silhouette walked over to Scott and touched his shoulder, then hugged him goodbye, then Chase swiped open a shift portal. They stepped into the air then into Trudy's living room.