starless part 24
this is a collaborative work of three fantastic writers and myself... Slarty O'Brian, emichael, and Motown2Chitown. I am most privileged to be apart of this project. I submit the next installment of STARLESS, for your enjoyment and hopefully approval....
Thomas lay still as subconsciousness ebbed its way from his conscious mind. Eyes barely open to continue to feign sleep, no light could be found. Thomas felt like he was swallowed by the darkness. Thomas strained his senses to pick anything, any intel that would be useful in getting out of this situation and find his men. But nothing came. Silence, even the temperature of his skin remained unchanged. He sniffed nothing. He heard nothing. He felt nothing, save a slow hum that started to enter into his very bones. An odd vibration that was tugging at him to listen without his sense of hearing... He took a deep breath to see if he felt any different. It was as if he was in stasis, save for that hum. Objectively, his team must be in the same condition, which meant that whoever did this, needed prisoners? Or, maybe, hopefully, whoever did this meant no harm at all. He turned himself inward and tried to identify any sense, any meaning to the humming that was ebbing into him like an old telegraph system.....
Shadows flickered around the walls of the cave as luminous ferns and plant life gave off a greenish hue. Thoughts traveled quicker that the speed of light, giving way to a strange humming sound that could only be described as the hum from old electical transformers... but well below the frequency that could be detected by the human ear.
"How are the earthlings?"
"We have studied their shapes and are processing them as we speak, but sir... it is a difficult task. These beings have souls, a spirit that seems hard to imitate."
"If the dreamcatcher could do it, then we should be able to."
"Yes, but time is a factor. The planet is deteriorating fast."
"Yes. Maybe we are too late at that."
"The dreamcatcher has told us it is not these earthlings that are causing this."
"Yet they stole from the planet and have not replaced anything."
"I don't know. Their dead seem to be a way of replacing what they took."
"And they have a way of making their own replacements."
"That is a thought."
"Sir, we have a problem."
"One of the humans seems to be hearing us."
"Yes, it is minute, but there is a resistance to the stasis pool."
"Could it be... one of the hybrids?"
"A failed experiment. Early on before you came from the eastern hemisphere to the west, we tried to make contact. Unable, we attempted to mix with these earthlings... unfortunately, we could not cross the dimensional planes of such finite, frail creatures." A pause in the flow of communication in the shadows, gave way to the leader finally saying, "Take me to the resistant one."
Thomas lay still. He knew his team had been captured by something of this planet... He felt they meant no harm, but in their ignorance of his species, his men would be held captive in their minds, placing them into a state of subconcious awareness.... of dreams or nightmares, depending on what was hidden in that part of their mind.
Opening his mouth, he attempted to speak... but nothing seemed to come out. He forced his conscious mind to continue.... even though, he himself seemed to be fighting his own demons from within... when suddenly, he closed his mouth from frustration and felt the hum becoming his own, taking on a strange almost telepathic vibe that was being sent out of his own being.
"Did you hear that? This one is trying to communicate with us."
"Indeed.... this is familiar to us."
There was a collective gasp amongst the tribe.
"You must be the dreamcatcher's ....what would those earthlings call this replacement? Ah, yes... a son."
"One of the hybrids?"
Thomas then heard for the first time in his being....
"I do not know what you are... but you seem not to want to harm us."
"Your frequency needs to be toned down a bit, hybrid. You are yelling at us."
"Sorry, this is my first time of speaking this way."
An odd tickle resounded into Thomas's bones, as the group collectively ... for lack of a better word, chuckled.
"Forgive us, hybrid. You are new. We have lived forever on this planet and have no need for replacements as your kind does. But we have studied you for many years."
"You seem to have no ill intention towards my men. What is your purpose?"
"Our purpose? Why, that is simple. We must save this planet. But to do so, we must become like you.... we must find the object that you are seeking."
"My leader back in Paradise Mound wants this object back. It was stolen from him."
"Stolen?" Outrage entered into the collective minds... "He is the original thief."
Thomas was almost overwhelmed at the anger emitted by the group. He was feeling almost crushed as the hum took another course of emittting pain.
"Calm down." The leader whispered. And just as the pain had almost become too great, Thomas felt a strange calming balm enter into his bones.
"Your leader wants the item back. That is a given, but to what end?"
Thomas had not dared to think of the possibility of the reasons behind obtaining the stolen item. His motivation had been simple. Prove his worth, and he would get his girl. Ashamed, that such a selfish cause would not be appreciated by these noble beings, he shut up.
Chuckling again entered thru him.
"Ah, young one. You are a part of us now. You cannot hide."
Charity grabbed another sheet to drag it across the washboard. She and her son had moved into the house of the Master healer and she was given the household duties as was befitting her role of a widow. A week had gone by since she had knelt in front of Miss Sally, begging as it were to become a healer appentice. Miss Sally gently told her to be an apprentice would mean that the colony would come first, before her family.
Then, the master proceeded to take her to an empty room. It was the room of Sally's mother and stated, "Stay here. Be my housekeeper. I will teach you slowly... quietly, lest anyone else should hear of this. When your son is able to attend school, I will go to the council and ask for a variance to the mandate. Are you willing to do that?"
The week had passed without incident. Charity maintained the house, and soon a quiet order entered the home. One that allowed the Master, known for her mastery in healing, but not for her house keeping, to come to appreciate Charity's skills.
Charity rung out the sheet and placed it on the porch line built to protect the laundry from the grey ooze.
The master came up behind her and smiled.
"Sister Charity... I did not think that this old house could become so neat. Are you ready?"
"Yes. I shall teach you how my mother taught me."
Charity noted the sleeping baby on her back and smiled.
"Okay. What parts of the body does it take to hang up that sheet?"
"Well, my hands."
Charity thought hard. "My fingers hold the sheet. My hands are attached to my fingers and provide strength, my arms provide length."
"and what else?"
Charity thought. "My height. My back, my legs, everything is involved."
Charity frowned out of frustration.
"Can your body move on its own?"
"Ah, my mind tells it what to do."
"Yes. There is a series of messages being sent out by the brain It tells the body what to do. But, this movement uses more than just the conscious mind. Your sense of balance controlled by the inner ear allows you to perform the task."
Charity smiled. "The human body is amazing."
"it is." Sally took out one of her mother's precious books and a piece of paper and a pencil.
"Draw the hand and muscles of the arms. Memorize their names. When you are finished, then we will proceed to the nerves that are involved."
"But how does this help to heal people?"
"We do not heal people... they heal themselves. We must understand the body, its resources and assist it to heal itself." Sally then added. "That is a guild secret, by the way."
Sally grabbed her rain gear and placed her sliding shoes on, as she threw her knapsack onto her back.
"I must go and make my rounds. Will you be okay, if I leave this to you?"
"Yes... oh, yes..." The girl was lost in the picture before her of the human hand.
"I should be home around seven."
"Seven? I will have supper on the table."
Sally smiled at the woman.
"Sister Charity... thankyou."
"Thank you?" The girl looked at the Master healer like she was insane. "I I should be thanking you. You are taking a great risk."
"Time will tell. The mandates came from a time when the people here wanted to prevent earth problems.... the gene pool was too shallow to allow widows to marry...or work outside their designations... It is time for that to be challenged, perhaps by the time, your son is of school age... so we will take this one step at a time, cautiously."
"Bye, bye." Sally waved as she headed towards James' house. She needed to be very careful not to arouse suspicion in James' mother.... She had witnessed her own mother's and James' father's deaths that day. It was forever etched into her memory... how did that stranger come into town? Why was his appearance the exact same as James' father?
This week had been a bit of a blur. Rumor had it that James and a few others were seen on the outskirts of town wandering through the woods and hills that lay to the north of Rockbridge. Sally had not been able to speak with James... so this could be all for nothing.
She stood in front of the little house, poised to knock. She felt a presence behind her. As she turned, she had to raise her head a little for there stood none other than Guild Master Syrus.
She gave a respectful bow.
"Guild master healer? What brings you to young James' house, may I ask?"
"Guild Master Builder, I am wishing to speak with James' mother. But perhaps we should take a walk first. I am in need of a private consultation."
"Oh? Are you thinking of expanding your clinic?" He paused, then added. "It appears that Sister Charity has moved in with you. Her home is now forfeit."
Sally gave a gentle smile.
"Come. I must speak with you."
Just then the door of the little cottage flew open. There stood the frail form of James' mother, holding her sleeping son.
"I just got him to sleep and your noise could wake the dead!" The woman hissed as she held the door open, glaring at the two leaders.
"I am very sorry, Sister Millie." Sally stated in a hushed tone. "I just came to see how you and your family are doing."
"We are doing as well as can be expected, except I never see my James. He comes in long after nightfall, and leaves before dawn." She narrowed her eyes looking above Sally's head to the tall lanky man behind her. "I don't suppose this could be any of your doing, Master Builder?"
"My dear Sister Millie, that is why I am here... to give you some peace." A quiet plan entered the Master Builder's mind as he remembered the layout of Charity's and Charles' house would be much better for James' family.....
"Peace?" The woman scoffed. "Peace.." she turned and muttered again to herself. "Come in and get this over with. Something tells me I am not going to like it."
Sally entered slowly into the house, wondering what could all of this mean.....
"And stay out!!!!!!!!!!!"
The two guildsmasters stood out side the house. The Master Architect held his head, as the healer noted the trickle of blood flowing down the side of his face.
A crying boy could be heard from inside the little hut from waking too suddenly, and a tired mother's cooing him trying to get him tucked back in bed.
"Come with me." Sally stated as she took the man over to one of the resting lean-tos that provided a respite from the constant drizzle of rain and ooze, located about a quarter of a click from James' house. A stone bench offered itself as she sat the Master down. He looked at Sally in the eye.
"I think that went well, don't you?"
Sally stifled a laugh as she reached into her bag and shook the glow lamp.
"Here, hold this. I need to determine if you need some stitches or not." She paused. "Actually a little of show of anger is good. It means she has moved on, a little."
"Always the optimist, Master Healer."
"It is the only way for me to cope, Master Architect."
Sally concentrated on the task at hand. She felt the bone structure under the skin. A goose egg was starting to form, and that was a good thing. No loss of consciousness, the wound should approximate well.
"I think that you just might need two or three interrupted stiches that will allow for the swelling and then help you heal as the swelling goes down."
The man reached out and held her hands away from the wound.
"Leave it. I deserved as much." He paused. "You heard what James' mother said." He cleared his voice. "Do you... think I am to blame?"
Sally returned the gaze. "Are you responsible for a landslide? How could that be? The geologist stated that all the mining had destroyed the natural strength of that hill. Our focus was on the muck and mire that held the possiblitiliy of sink holes... and such. The truth of the matter is it was an accident, Master Guildsman. No more, no less."
"But I designed those mines."
"So? You remember earth history. If you were mistaken somehow based on what you knew, then learn from it. I cannot allow you to carry this guilt. It is showing in the stoop in your shoulders. So heavy a burden, you bear."
"I am sorry, Master Guildsman."
Sally grabbed a bandage and slapped it on the forehead of this complicated guilt ridden man. She walked around the bench and placed her hands along his shoulder, feeling the knots of tension, and started with a gentle massage, working out each knot.
"There is nothing that could be done that day, Master Guildsman. It was just fate. I cannot argue with that... for there is no one to listen, except the wind."
"Sally." The master architect's voice broke. "James and Millie were once dear friends to me."
"Yes. To see her suffer so, it is eating me alive And now, with young James..."
"So you will hold yourself accountable for him too?"
"We need him to do this ..." He stopped suddenly, realizing he almost gave too much away.
"Young James, as you call him, is my friend, too. I cannot help but worry about him. But I also know he is stifled here. He loves exploring... always has. You are talking about the safety of this villiage. So, now I must tell you something that happened the other day. I was hesistant, because it might sound like I was seeing things."
The Master Builder felt a harsh tweak on his one shoulder as Sally tensed up. He grabbed her hand.
"Enough. Our Master Healer is not known for her flights of fancy. Come sit and tell me." He grinned.... "I am not sure I can take any more of this massage. It has the same feel as that pot did when it hit me."
"Oh...oh.... I am so sorry." Sally quickly complied and sat down by the man. "I saw a stranger outside of the clinic. From afar, he looked like young James, but close up, he was the spitting image of James' father."
The master nodded thoughtfully.
"I swear it is the truth. But he had a strangeness about him. He was unaware of our customs."
"So you talked with this doppleganger?"
"Yes, but it was most uncomfortable... He stared right through me."
"And when we bid each other goodbye, it was as if he disappeared."
The Master Guildsman looked thoughtful, then concerned. He stood up and grabbed Sally, dropping to the ground and rolled under the stone bench. Shaking ever so slightly, Sally caught her breath as he held onto her, then realized it wasn't her body, but the ground. Twenty seconds of shaking to be exact, and the lean-to was now in pieces, covering the stone bench that held. As they crawled out from under the bench, the master architect stood catching his breath.
"An earth quake?"
"Yes." He pulled out a small box like device. "Damn, according to the Mercalli Intensity scale, the oldest part of the villiage will be in shambles."
"Come, Master Healer, we must survey the damage."
The two headed back towards the oldest part of the villiage. They stood in front of what was young James' house. It lay disintegrated. Sally quickly looked around at other huts equally as devastated. Cries and moans could be heard.
"I will set the alarms for help." Sally stated to no one there, for the Master Builder was gone, removing boards and mortar, bare handed, frantic to find Sister Milly and her son.
To be continued.........
- Starless - Part 23
This is an ongoing collaborative work of fiction. Currently, there are four fabulous hubbers involved. Aside from myself, we have Slarty O'Brian, emichael, and meow48. Read and enjoy what we have to offer so far. These are hubbers with amazing gifts