October 27, 2011

Putting My House in Order

Filed under: Uncategorized — cnwood @ 8:17 am
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November 1st and the novel challenge is fast approaching, a month that will see me chained to my computer and living the novel I’m determined to etch from my imagination. So I’ll be spending these last remaining days before D-day with my family and friends and apologizing beforehand for the missed meals and rude expletives bellowed from behind the DO NOT DISTURB sign taped to my office door.

I’ll be stocking the cupboards and filling the fridge. And having one last round with the vacuum cleaner and toilet bowl brush. Maybe a glass of wine as I carve scary faces on this year’s fat pumpkins waiting on the deck.

Come November 1st, in the wee small hours, writing will start so I can submit my first installment of Beneath the Surface. I’ll be trying for around 2000 words each day.

Join me, and I’ll tell you a story about aliens and humans, love and greed, survival and death . . .

October 26, 2011

Sketch – The Nightmare

Filed under: Sketches — cnwood @ 10:09 am
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The high pitched screams stabbed against the cold darkness. She ran from her hiding place in the shadows, breath bellowing loudly from aching lungs, her bare legs covered in blood and fighting to keep upright and running. If she fell again there would be no strength left to get up.

Pain radiated from the burning wounds about her body in hot, tormenting waves that pounded into her brain like the shrill screams that pierced her throbbing ears, over and over. Yet pain was the only thing keeping her conscious.

Alone with the terror that hunted her, she screamed again, tears blinding her eyes, the sweat soaked hair plastering about her face like thick ropes. The blistering blue energy swelled painfully from the center of hands gone numb, her feet tripping and stumbling in her rush to turn this way and that, willing the power inside her body to kill.

Torrents of scorching blue light cut through the darkness, the air heavy with the retching smell of burnt skin and hair.

Evil howled in agony, its roar shattering her eardrums and violently shaking the ground.

Her legs buckled, the breath driven from her lungs, her body seeming to take forever to reach the ground. The bolt of energy smashed into her chest, exploding her ribcage and heart in seconds. Blood gushed from every gaping wound and orifice, covering her in a shroud of dark, thick red.

“Dada,” she whimpered weakly . . .

“Ahhh,” Debra roared, lunging up from beneath the bedcovers, still clawing her way out of the nightmare. Heavy breaths stuttered loudly in the quiet bedroom as her body viciously trembled from shock and cold. Like a terrified child she rocked back and forth as hands clutched at the agony that burned in her chest. Autonomic healing was useless against the pain of dreams.

Rivulets of sweat glistened on pale, cold skin, her T-shirt and panties soaked through. Tears flowed unheeded from eyes squeezed tightly shut against anything more cognizant than the reassuring sound of her beating heart. Debra groaned as the intensity of the familiar nightmare eased.

Why now, goddammit, her mind raged. “What else can go wrong,” she mumbled, trying to push free of the soggy linen sheet and swing heavy legs over the side of the bed.

With the pain finally subsided, her breathing slowed and her mind cleared. Always about the killing power, she lamented, struggling to pull up memories of the handful of other times the nightmare has assaulted her senses. Eyes stared, watching the past roll through her mind, instinctively sensing the answer was right in front of her.

But she was too drained to concentrate and piece it all together. An omen, maybe. A warning that the killing power was evil and would end up destroying her and everyone she cared about.

Sighing loudly, Debra accepted there would be no more sleep this night, and stiffly padded off to the bathroom for a much needed shower.

October 25, 2011

Sketch – Debra and Rowan in the Park

Filed under: Sketches — cnwood @ 10:13 am
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As reported, Rowan found Debra under the great willow tree, back resting against the wide trunk as long legs stretched out over the neatly trimmed grass. Watching their newest resident to the city, Rowan compared the reality of the younger woman to the impressions she had grown up with through reports and conferences. The image that kept her brother enthralled throughout the years and never at a loss for stories of their time together in the dream world.

A world no one else could create or share.

She was beautiful, Rowan thought, in a wild exotic sort of way. Brown-black hair tied back in a long French braid that draped over a shoulder buried beneath an oversized black sweatshirt. The matching black sweatpants concealed an exceptionally strong, lithe body. Or so Damon often bragged about when telling tales of their regular sparing matches in the dream world.

Moving closer, Rowan recognized the empty stare, the fast heart rate, the palms pressed flat to the ground. Mind-sight, a gift Rowan did not possess, had Debra off on some mental exploration.

Very old memories surfaced, bringing a twinge of shame. Damon had the same mind-sight ability. In fact, he shared a great many of the higher abilities with Debra; like mirror images.

Time had taken away the mean spirited jealousy she had punished Damon with as children for not being as gifted as her younger brother.

A state of mind that was swiftly excised when testing and evaluation revealed her own distinctive gifts in the medical arts. From that moment, her feelings of inadequacy were tossed aside as a waste of time. Today, she was the head of all Thalian medical-science on Earth and a master of healing.

Rowan looked around the spacious, beautiful park, enjoying a rare moment of contentment, and quietly approached Debra sitting under the willow.

The grass would surely play havoc with her white smock and jumpsuit. Rowan sat down beside the newcomer anyway to wait. She wondered what Debra was seeing with the sight. Black eyes closed, letting normal senses see her surroundings. Nostrils flare at the smell of tended soil and fresh-cut grass. The crunch of crushed mountain rock meant someone was on the jogging trail for an early morning run. A bee flew passed her ear and eyes snapped open to watch the tiny creature gather nectar from the plentiful blossoms, then disappear in the direction of the honey posts down by the orchard.

Overhead the crystal lighting rods were duplicating the sun’s intensity up above and increasing the brightness throughout the city. For a moment, Rowan remembered the early morning sunlight peering through the great protective domes on Thalia. The automated sensors changing the clear night filters to opaque before the scorching heat of the day forced everyone below and away from the demoralizing view of the arid wastelands beyond.

“Have you news about Damon?”

Rowan yelped, her heart galloping in her chest for a handful of seconds before returning to normal. “Bloody hell, Debra,” she gasped. “That’ll teach me to daydream.”

Each stared at the other, suddenly unsure what to say.

October 24, 2011

Sketch – Rising From Below

Filed under: Sketches — cnwood @ 11:18 am
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The sun felt good on her face, the large boulder surprisingly warm against her back. Barely an hour into sunup, she was alone on the beach. Debra welcomed the isolation, needing distance from others as a way of re-energizing her strength. Arms resting on pulled up knees, she gradually opened herself to the gentle sound of lapping water and willed her chaotic thoughts to rest.

But the image of Damon refused to be banished. She should have realized he was at the heart of her turmoil.

Protective senses quivered in warning. Someone was coming.

Splayed fingers rested palm down on the shifting sand, activating the sight. Instantly her mind’s eye soared high above the beach, searching for an intruder. With most residents still asleep in their beds, the park’s roads and walkways were clear.

Instinctively, Debra turned inner eyes toward the lake. Nothing was visible, but senses warned of a presence.

Damon was coming, as though thoughts of him had sent out a call.

The placid lake remained black below the surface. Debra’s mind processed cold mountain water characteristics as fast as the sight could gather the minutiae.

Suddenly the blue aura was visible, moving through the blackness at a high rate of speed.

Heartbeat pounding a little faster, adrenaline surged through Debra’s veins. Although still a great distance from the surface, the tethered aura was clearly visible now and took on the explicit shape of a man.

On impulse, Debra focused the sight at the top of the aura and tensed at the self-assured smile on his striking face, as though he knew she was watching.

Blackness finally filtered to gray, the strong sunlight bleeding downward, until the aura’s blue energy blended with the prism colors of the surface light.  Lifting her hand from the sand, Debra braced, the warrior ready for the next round, and studied the distinctive shimmering blue aura as Damon broke the lake surface and walked ashore with commanding animal grace.

October 22, 2011

Sketch – Buried Memories Unfold

Filed under: Sketches — cnwood @ 9:09 am
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(Timeline: Debra has explored the underwater city; Damon has confronted her with the truth)

Dawn burst in an explosion of pure white light between twin peaks rising like sacred steeples high above the mountain range. Curled up in the thickly cushioned wicker chair, Debra sat alone on the spacious veranda and watched the velvet blackness of night hasten from the early morning sky. The splendor of color and light seemed surreal as mist rose from the ground to fuse with rainbow refractions from the orchard glass house and the hundreds of crystal teardrops that hung throughout the garden.

Her nostrils flared with each deep breath of clean freshly turned soil and trim green grass. Tired eyes roamed the bluff, taking in the morning dew clinging like jewels to intricate webs and nearby leaves and flower petals.

Here, on the surface, was where she belonged. Letting this moment of peaceful beauty fill her senses with some measure of comfort.

Damon’s shocking words and haunting images continued to pound through her mind. Instincts that were never wrong shouted that his words were truth. And finally with that acceptance, Debra lost herself and what little identity she had come to rely on over the years.

Alone on the veranda, surrounded by the soft summer night, Debra had opened herself to emerging Thalian memories and let a new reality take control of her senses. And by the first sliver of light in the eastern sky, Thalia and its ill-fated cloud cities had become as real to her as the history of Earth.

Once a great nation of genetic telepaths, the Thalian race had eventually splintered into two powerful legislative bodies: those unwilling to believe in the reported death of their world as predicted by the distinguished scientific House of Bromon; and those who sacrificed everything to discover compatible new worlds that offered survival and a future for those willing to risk the unknown.

Hundreds of delegation fleets carried thousands of men, women, and children from each supporting lineage House and their associate families—the elite in technology, medical science, agriculture, and craftsmen. All who stood the best chance of securing a strong foothold in a new world.

Thousands from the House of Bromon waited their turn to leave, building new ships, scrounging for resources, documenting Thalia’s orbit and decay, and reaching out to any who would listen and save themselves. Their ranks were thin, even if disciplined and willing; aging craftsmen, trainees, scholars, the optimistic who waited for the signal from their designated worlds before saying goodbye to Thalia forever.

And now Thalian survival on Earth was uncertain. While the fate of hundreds of other fleets throughout the galaxy remained unknown. Thirty-six years was a long time to wait on a dying planet for a signal that might never come.

October 21, 2011

Sketch – Waking Up in the Enemy’s Bed

Filed under: Sketches — cnwood @ 8:57 am
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Debra bolted upright, alone in the room with the vast firmness of his giant bed beneath her backside. A great deal of concentration was needed to shut out the images of Damon sleeping naked in this sizable sea of blank linen.

Soft sheets snagged against the loose material of her white jumpsuit. A silk duvet cover of teal, black, and silver had been hastily pulled to the foot of the bed in a dark swirling heap.

The bedroom was spacious, twice as long as it was wide, with walls painted a soothing deep teal, trimmed in black with exquisite crown moldings. Solid colored fabrics, metals, and lacquered pieces of finely crafted wood picked up the teal, black, and silver theme in the elegant furnishings and draperies. Paintings dominated clean walls or highlighted tucked away corners and small alcoves.

The smell of fresh cut flowers and sparkling crystal pulled Debra’s eye around the well-tended room. Suddenly, the far wall had her doing a double take. Beyond the foot of the bed hung a stunning full-length portrait of herself.

Debra rolled to her knees, alarmed yet equally baffled. The clothing and background of the painting were completely unfamiliar. As was any memory of posing for an artist. She judged herself to be no more than eighteen in the portrait, standing, slightly turned away, as if looking back over her shoulder at someone.

Not just someone, she thought dryly, but a lover, judging by the affectionate gaze in the wide brown eyes and the look of sensual pleasure in the small satisfied smile that touched the full lips.

The woman in the painting was a fantasy, an illusion of femininity and a lover’s perception. A characteristic Debra did not share. Call for a warrior or a skillful strategist and she was unmatched among humans. The only time she had ever felt like a woman was in the dream world.

Beside, needing another made you vulnerable. Made you take stupid chances.

Kalon’s lies came to mind. And Damon’s cold-hearted manipulating of her mind. Debra glanced at the portrait once more as she stepped from the rumpled bed. The blue killing power arced gently between her fingers.

One by one she shut her emotions down, clearing her mind, and refocused on the need to discover how this underwater city was connected to her, to the dream world, and to Edith.

Time enough later to settle old scores.

October 20, 2011

Sketch – Cat and Mouse in the Entrance Chamber

Filed under: Sketches — cnwood @ 8:53 am
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Completely protected behind full mental barriers, Debra’s warrior persona calmly waited behind the last broad column before the paneled wall. Her normal senses were now heightened, reaching out like radar, zeroing in on the intruder.

Quickly the mind sorted all the bits of incoming data to create a mental picture.

Heavy footfalls resonated inside the entrance chamber, approaching from the glass corridor. Debra guessed a tall male, alone, judging by the widely spaced distinctive steps. The rustle of clothing was difficult to hear over the playful splash of the water fountain. But she could easily imagine a flowing black robe billowing briskly about the intruders’ long legs.

The footsteps abruptly halted, the scuff of shoes turning slowly, this way and that, as she pictured him glancing down aisle ways, listening.

He was looking for her. She could feel it.

The footsteps resumed, calmly now, as though the need to hurry no longer existed. Heightened hearing followed his route along the far aisle where he deliberately turned to the right and paused by the fountain, the water smacking loudly against his open palm.

Eyes widened in surprise. He was playing with her, his cat to her mouse. She could almost see his arrogant smile and thought of Damon, Edith’s friend and accomplice at mind incursion.

The thud of heel against stone drew closer to the main aisle running parallel to the airlock wall. Debra flinched at the unexpected reverberating clang from a hanging chime; no doubt letting her know just how close he was getting.

The bastard.

As though intentionally, a lone robed figure stepped into the spacious aisle and stopped by the sealed airlock. The cowled head was slightly dipped, shading his face in deep shadows. Beneath the loosely hanging cloak she spied a trim waist and long firm legs in tight fitting riding pants and glossy knee-high boots.

There were horses down here?

Debra had trouble imagining a horse willing to undergo the trip beneath the lake, no matter how pleasant or harmless the ride.

The stranger’s wide stance spoke of strength and arrogance. From her secluded position, she avoided staring to elude any chance of alerting his senses to her location.

In silence they waited on the other to make a move.

He was only one against her strength and abilities. Debra calculated the odds of reasoning with his mind or physically taking him out for several hours and continuing her clandestine tour of the underwater complex.

Yet instinct told her this one would not go down easy. She shifted tactics and prepared to confront him with defensive negotiations.

October 19, 2011

Sketch – Vacation from Hell

Filed under: Sketches — cnwood @ 8:04 am
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At nineteen, Debra accidentally catches herself on video camera during a black rage while on a short trip to Miami; a much needed holiday that quickly turns into the vacation from hell.

First the air-conditioning in the rental car stops working once she’s out of range to conveniently return the vehicle for another. Then still fifty miles from her hotel the car breaks down completely, leaving her stranded on a lonely stretch of highway in the sweltering heat for three hours before the company arrives with another car and canned apologies.

And even though she notifies the hotel of her predicament and late arrival, her beautiful suite with a waterfront view is mistakenly given to another and Debra has to be satisfied with a complimentary fruit basket and a single room overlooking the side parking lot and flamingo pond.

Drained, exasperated, and unable to face the small, depressing room, Debra stands on the tiny balcony, her mind completely blocked to the world around her. Tired eyes stare unseeing at the famous pink birds through the camera’s swivel-viewer.

Weakness sets in almost the moment the tremors start, giving her little time to hang the do-not-disturb sign, lock the room, and toss the camera, still running, onto the bureau across from the bed.

It’s the perfect end to an already disastrous day.

Her last rational thought before becoming completely incapacitated is to wish the bastards in hotel management a trashed room, compliments of the black rage.

Five days later she wakes to find the bedspread scorched black where her body has lain. Hotel security is in the final stages of busting down the double-locked door, and a doctor and a nurse from the school are outside in the hall claiming a medical emergency. The forgotten camera is hastily shoved in her unpacked suitcase and Debra is quickly hustled down to the waiting private ambulance. Exhausted after her ordeal, she manages to sleep the entire way back to Virginia.

Two weeks later, and camera batteries recharged, Debra witnesses for the first time the unholy creature she becomes during a rage. She burns the video tape after just one viewing and tells no one except Kalon.

October 18, 2011

Medical – Thalian Radiation Infection

Filed under: Medical — cnwood @ 8:56 am
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NOTE:  A physical is mandatory for every newcomer to Tantria. Thalians can’t risk any form of infection spreading citywide. The cloaking aura energy field has a simple form of decontamination, as well as all the elevators. All exists from the entrance chamber have stronger decon sensors for about 20 feet on both sides of the sliding doors. If there’s a problem an alarm is triggered on the medical level and brings down a force-field to contain the contaminant. All those within the force-field are given a ‘physical from hell’.


In May 1982 the breakthrough came when it was discovered that continued thinning of the earth’s ozone layer, and in some areas the complete disintegration, allowed deadly radiation to penetrate earth’s atmosphere.

Unaware, Thalians’ were exposed over a four-year period (1976-1980) to radiation buildup that caused a viral infection that went undetected. Some of the colonists started getting ill in 1978, just respiratory problems to begin with. By the end of 1981 all 32 original on-land colonists and craftsmen were dead. Priority research was underway to build up Thalian resistance to the atmosphere.

Ozone layer could mend itself if the humans would just stop poisoning the air!

Those picked for the original on-land colony were vaccinated against every known bacterial and viral infection ever recorded in human history. The cause of infection: humans through ignorance and apathy gradually damaged the protective layer around the earth and did nothing to stop it. Now the humans are at risk as well. No longer totally shielded from harmful space radiation they struggle against a losing battle to overcome tougher forms of cancers and mutating bacterial and viral strains. All more deadly with each passing year.

The loss of the original Thalian colonists was devastating. Many Thalians and human helpers needed help recovering. Some simply required a long rest and therapy while others just couldn’t deal with it. Eventually a handful had memory blocks implanted to suppress all memories of pain and loss of the deaths.

Should Damon become unconscious while above the cloaking field would collapse allowing the virus to begin cell erosion, eventually leading to fatal infection. Skin cell erosion does begin within moments of exposure but is not, in itself, fatal or noticeable unless studied under a microscope. It is unknown the amount of exposure required to degenerate cell structure to a fatal state. Tests using Thalian skin cell samples above were inconclusive. Detailed records for the original 32 on-land colonists and town craftsmen showed no set life duration once individual was conclusively infected. Data supported the theory that life expectancy depended on each individual’s strength and stamina.

Since not one of the 32 individuals plus the craftsmen survived beyond a one-year period after onset of initial respiratory problems, any future infections should be considered fatal within that time period. Without live testing, isolating the exact point that exposure becomes fatal is not possible.

Damon is accidentally exposed for several seconds during an argument with Debra before she can channel another protective aura around him; tests are run every week for two months to make sure his body has not become infected.

Conclusion:  Several seconds’ exposure to atmosphere is not fatal for Damon. For someone else the results might not be the same.

October 17, 2011

Sketch – Second Trip through the Meditation Globe

Filed under: Sketches — cnwood @ 7:55 am
Tags: , ,

(After arriving at Edith’s home Debra succumbs to the black rage and Edith accidently stops the rage by shoving the meditation globe a few inches from Debra’s eyes)

Colors blended—pale amethyst invading deeper blue, merging into wispy strands of black. Somehow Debra was back in the mysterious domain of the globe. And like before, all sense of time and dimension were lost. Void of physical substance, instinct warned that resistance was pointless.

The mind’s eye remained vigilant, instantly aware when darkness thinned, brightening into shades of gray.

Just beyond the shifting mist, they waited for her. Thousands of black haired, black eyed men and women, their similar jumpsuits blending like camouflage against the dimensionless, gray atmosphere.

Thousands of minds gave welcome. Her consciousness staggered under the unbearable onslaught of thoughts and images begging for hope, crying in fear. Protective barriers were useless. With no control or defenses, Debra helplessly waited for awareness to rupture into oblivion . . .


Compliance to the telepathic command was instant. The multitude of judgments and feelings receded as one, leaving a sense of indebted esteem.

The ranks of men and women parted and Kalon approached. And with their minds linked once more, he filled Debra with his strength and love. His tender kiss lifted from her lips. Debra was startled to have actually felt the sensation; to once again see with her eyes and fingertips as well as the perception in her mind.

Kalon pressed a finger against his lips for silence, stepping to one side, watching her searching eyes settle on the small group of children.

Their beauty took Debra’s breath away. Fragile little faces filled with delightful acceptance. And a strength of will that seemed so much more controlled than the adults that hovered protectively around them. Large black eyes revealed an innocent curiosity, their smiling lips sweetly mouthing her name.

A young girl, no more than five or six, tucked her fingers into Debra’s hand and beamed when thoughts and energy merged between them. Ruthie was pulled back to rejoin the other bubbly youngsters.

Debra’s smile quickly fell, though, as the truth became painfully clear: Ruthie and the other children were dying.

She glanced over her shoulder for Kalon’s help but nothing remained but gray mist. “Kalon,” she called out telepathically. “Don’t leave.”

The mist receded and darkness fell, for a moment or a week there was no way to tell. Then blackness alter into shades of blue and time and space became relative once more with the unmistakable hum of Edith’s vexed muttering, the feel of the sofa beneath her back, the smell of coffee and dust in the air.

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