Shadows of the Past – Part Five
"Just a moment," Brand said.
He quickly darted out from behind the counter and was at the break room in the blink of an eye. His hands rested against the doorframe as he leaned into the room. "Guys!" He hissed loudly. "You´ll never guess who´s out there!"
"William Shatner?" Megan asked.
He faltered for a moment then managed to regain his balance before tumbling into the break room. The steady hum of the soda machine drove into his ears like an ice pick as he stared at Megan with unbelieving eyes. "How...?"
"She heard him trying to get your attention, Brand," Buba said.
Now he felt dumb. He chuckled. "You! Come on, come on. It´s Captain–Fucking–Kirk! Come see him!"
As Megan wandered toward the door, she could only shake her head. "When, oh, when did you shove that inner–nerd into a box? Musta been before I knew you."
Back at the counter, William Shatner waited patiently. Although it was a limited patience, judging by the slightly irritated look in his eyes. Brand pulled the pile of books Shatner had left on the counter toward himself, but his eyes remained on William Shatner. Megan and Buba stepped out of the short hall. Megan rested against the wall, while Buba stepped forward and stuck out a hand. "Hi," he said with all the timidness of a mouse.
Shatner shook his hand, then ripped a gun out of the back of his pants and blasted Buba and Megan to hell. The echoing blast deafened Brand into shocked horror as Buba splattered to the ground, sending blood all over the place. A second later Megan toppled over on top of Buba with a sickening thud. Shatner blew away the fumes at the top of the gun then slipped into the back of his pants.
A moment passed where nothing at all happened. Brand wasn´t even entirely sure his heart was still beating. He could only stare at William Shatner with a surreal feeling of emotion starting to tickle at the tip of his brain. After what seemed like an eternity, Shatner lifted his eyebrows and asked, "Are you going to ring up my books?" with all the casualness of someone who hadn´t just killed Brand´s closest friends.
"Yeah, I did. Now ring them up."
Brand reached toward the top book, his hands shaking like he´d suddenly grown into an old, old man, then ran the scanner along the spine. He slowly turned toward the computer as it beeped. Dreams Versus Reality. He grabbed the second book, then the third, repeating the process until he´d scanned the entire pile of books. His mind was a frozen wasteland of emptiness. Nothing was coming or going. It was as if he´d just turned on autopilot and gone to sleep. The Power of Symbolism – Volume 5: The Sword, Destiny: Fate or Fiction, Physical Manifestations in the Dream World, How to Get With the Program, Enough is Enough By R.U. Thereyet.
The lightbulb flickered then came to life.
Brand turned toward William Shatner with a frown. "You´re the Sword of Destiny and I´m dreaming this? The other was real?"
The jolly big man laughed. "Bravo! You are so... intellectual. I didn´t think you could do it. Not one bit of faith."
Too much, too fast. Too much, too much, too much. Brand´s eyes darted toward his dead friends, the blood puddling out in a rather large circle underneath them. Little drops of blood ran down Megan´s finger and plopped endlessly into the puddle. This was just a dream, he told himself. This was just a dream and that wasn´t real. But it was real, in a way. Megan really was dead. For all he knew, Buba could be dead too.
Suddenly his shoulder flared with pain and his knees buckled. He dropped down to the floor behind the counter, a scream of agony exploding from his mouth. "What´s happening to me?" he managed to shout over the pain.
William Shatner took a seat on the counter and peered down at Brand. "You... are... dying!" And once more that jolly good laugh escaped Shatner´s lips. He was enjoying this far too much.
There were times in his life when Brand was absolutely positive he was about to die. There was one common thread to all those times, though. He had been the direct cause of the pain and suffering. Had he been smarter or perhaps just a little more self–conscious of the people around him, he might have been able to prevent the beatings that brought him to such a place. Now was different, though. He had no idea why he was dying, assuming he could believe William Shatner or the Sword of Destiny or whatever the hell was going on. All he knew was that his arm and shoulder felt like it was about to explode and he wanted to make it stop.
Still peering over the edge of the counter, William Shatner asked, "Could you describe what it feels like, Brand? Being immortal, I have no way to experience such a thing and I´ve always been so curious."
In response, Brand unleashed another agonizing scream of pain.
"We need to go!" Lisya shrieked at the top of her lungs.
Two large hands grabbed her shoulders and spun her around. She stared into Buba´s face with eyes so full of panicked fear Buba was almost startled by what he saw. He shook her for a moment, then shook her again even harder. "You ought not freak out like that, Lisya! It´s okay. It´s okay. We´re safe." It didn´t work. She screamed again and Buba sighed. Never in his life had he ever been confronted with a situation where he thought it´d be all right to hit a woman. It was so deeply imbedded in him that it wasn´t all right to do any such thing that he almost didn´t do it. But one more ear–splitting shriek from Lisya gave him all the incentive he needed. Buba slapped Lisya across the face so hard that the red handprint left behind didn´t fade for some time. Shame welled up in his stomach and flowed to his chest like heartburn. He hadn´t known what else to do but didn´t like it nonetheless.
She stared at him, mid–scream with mouth open and eyes wide. Her left cheek turned very red; the outline of Buba´s hand started to become visible almost immediately.
"I´m sorry," Buba said. "I´m sorry but I need you."
Slowly but surely the world cleared in Lisya´s mind. Her cheek was on fire and her jaw sent a stab of pain through her as she closed her mouth. "Okay, it´s okay," she murmured. It wasn´t the first time she´d done something like removing the emotions of others and as much as she wished she could never do it again, she feared it would have to be repeated again. "You did the right thing."
She pulled away from Buba and checked Brand. His pulse was weak, so weak she almost couldn´t find it. As she peered under the bandaging Buba had made she gasped, "Oh, no." Buba remained behind her, his head down, frowning deeply. "Ben, we need to get him to a hospital." Lisya wiped some blood from her hand onto her shirt then stood and turned to face Buba. "Are you listening?"
She stepped toward him and placed a hand on his cheek. "Ben, listen to me," she said as she looked up into his downcast face. "You did the right thing. I was hysterical and that brought me out of it. Don´t beat yourself up over it, all right?"
The weak nod did nothing for her. Not that she needed to see the nod at all. She could see what he was feeling as plain as day and it dawned on her just how much it had hurt him to hit her. But there was no time for this, not now. "We need to go, Ben. The nearest hospital is too far away. Brand will be dead by the time we get there." The brutal truth was probably not the best at this time but she was serious and they needed to get a move on if they had any hope of helping Brand.
Buba said, "All right." Then stepped around her and scooped up Brand with strength that was not apparent from looks. He was a tall man that had lost a lot of weight since he arrived in this world, but he was still getting up there in age and one might expect him to be losing muscle strength. One would be expecting wrong. Buba positioned Brand in his arms as if he were carrying a bride over the threshold of their honeymoon suite, then started off into the forest for parts unknown. Lisya was at his side, turning him back toward the clearing that they´d stopped at before he went too far.
They went back to the clearing, grabbed their gear and took off at a good speed. As things stood, the poison would kill Brand within a matter of days. Lisya didn´t see much hope at all in his survival. Not without something short of a miracle, at least.
"A mind is a private sanctuary where people should feel safe to express their deepest, darkest secrets without fear of the outside world being exposed to them."
"It is never acceptable to view those thoughts without explicit permission from the owner."
"Any thoughts viewed should be kept in the strictest of confidence between myself and the owner of the thoughts."
"It is never, ever acceptable to share another person´s thoughts without prior permission from the owner. And then it´s still up to me to be sure it is absolutely necessary to express such thoughts aloud."
"I should never force my will upon people, no matter the reason."
Adara gazed through the wavering flames at the little girl of nine that sat across from her with her legs crossed beneath her and nodded. "Very well, Chrava. You may rest for now."
Things were starting to make less sense to little Chrava and she was beginning to question Adara. Not aloud, mind you. Never would she dare dream of questioning Adara and her lessons aloud. But in her mind she was starting to doubt some of the rules that were being taught.
Then inspiration struck her like a hammer to a nail. She turned her big violet eyes toward Adara as flames reached toward the sky between them. Her heart began to race; her mind reached toward the possibility that maybe Adara wanted her to question the rules. If only she could reach out and glimpse Adara´s mind. Sure it was against the rules, but it didn´t matter much. Adara´s mind was unreachable.
So instead she reached out with her mind in another way. "Adara?"
"Why was I given such a gift?" Chrava asked. "All of your rules tell me never to use my gift, so what´s the point?"
Adara nodded her head in thought. She didn´t look mad; she never looked mad, of course, so that didn´t mean much. Chrava waited, her heart trying its best to escape through her chest. And then Adara said: "I´ve decided. Since you´re old enough to ask such a question, I believe you are old enough to hear the answer."
Relief washed over Chrava. She breathed deeply, unaware that she´d been holding her breath as she awaited the answer. "Okay," she said, her voice trembling faintly with excitement. Here it was. The answer to the question that had been bugging her for some time was sitting right across the fire and about to appear to her.
Only the answer didn´t come. At that moment her brain split in two. She screamed out at the top of her lungs, her hands diving to her head only to find two halves where only one belonged.
Chrava´s eyes shot open. A glaring light assaulted her eyes from directly overhead. As her head throbbed with unfathomable pain, she heard voices murmuring all around her. Voices that didn´t belong to anywhere she could rightly recognize, at least not with this inhuman pain coursing through her head. She jerked her head to the right, trying to escape the light, but it was impossible. She found herself tied down to a bed of some short, unable to move much at all.
She did, however, get a look at the man standing directly to her right. He was wearing some kind of white outfit, smock–like, perhaps, and his nose and mouth were covered with some kind of cloth mask. He leaned closer to her face; his breath was a disgusting onion–like odor attacking her senses when he spoke. "Relax, Chrava. Just relax and you´ll be all right."
While her mind screamed out for mercy, she stuffed the ever–growing urge to unleash a scream of her own. Instead she reached out to the man´s mind, the only thing she could think to do, and then realized at once she couldn´t do it. For the first time in her life, her telepathy was impotent and she suddenly found herself scared.
Chrava screamed like she hadn´t screamed in some time.To be continued...
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PIKER PRESS