April 29, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Thirteen Part 2

Life beneath the surface settled back into a comfortable routine for all its citizens and helpers, in spite of the growing unrest above. Duran’s daily blogs often spoke of new mob violence spreading out from urban areas across the country as Americans struggled with a plunging economic recession, a collapsed housing market, high unemployment, and skyrocketing oil and gas prices. The global market fared little better, the disturbing details of spiraling interconnected dependency readily broadcasted over all online media outlets.

Even government secrets were no match for Duran’s unparalleled hacking skills. High level communication channels with the latest encryption coding and sites with clearance above ‘top secret’ were regularly monitored by the small department of human-Thalian interrelations for any news that could affect the underwater cities or the Thalian nation’s chances for living in the sunlight.

One such classified report concerned the correlation between the thinning ozone layer to systemic infant and elderly fatal diseases, with one in every three adults between the ages of twenty and sixty subjected to some form of skin or organ cancer. In the years since the atmospheric virus wiped out the entire on-land colony and construction crew, the humans had done nothing but bicker amongst themselves as to the validity of ozone sickness and the green house effect.

Now, over twenty years later, humans were finally beginning to acknowledge the connection to deaths and the environment, a lethal trend which in turn created havoc with normal climate zones, bringing abnormal rain and snowfall, super tornados and hurricanes, mild winters and hotter summers that fashioned perfect irrevocable droughts. The doom-sayers called it the end of the world. Thalians called it gross mismanagement by a race with a predilection toward self-destruction.

The original Thalian directive had been to quietly intermingle with the human population; to become as human as possible. Future generations would eventually see the complete assimilation of the Thalian nation. But the archives and stories about the past and a willingness to sacrifice in order to survive would live on, maybe destined to become the stuff of legends and myths.

Not anymore. If the humans were too weak to save themselves, then Thalian psychic strength and technology would infiltrate their governments and set a new direction for them. Of course, the modified directive still awaited a cure or atmospheric virus inhibiter before beginning phase one of Redirect.

“This is ridiculous, Rowan. How many damn skin samples do you need?” Debra chafed, propped on the high stool by the lab counter, arm stretched out flat under some kind of moving kinetic energy microscope. Her customary black sweatshirt had been pushed up almost to shoulder height, revealing several slender pinkish lines from earlier scrapings.

Over the past week Debra had been paged to the cell research lab on the third level no less than six times. On each occasion numerous samples had been taken from different areas of her body for study and comparison to those who had died from the atmospheric virus and also with a diverse selection of samples from the viral database that housed genetic data from every Thalian resident on Earth.

“Sorry, Deb, but you’re the only living Thalian donor we’ve got who’s immune to the virus,” Rowan mumbled, nose pressed almost to the monitor as new data filled the screen. “And don’t forget, no self-healing until all the testing is done. I don’t want the findings skewed with data from the same location.”

“Doesn’t the human half of me automatically corrupt your findings?” Debra grimaced as a new painless inch-long scraping automatically started closer to her wrist. The scowl remained on her face as dark eyes glared at Rowan’s back. She only had forty-five minutes until her next class and Damon had promised to let her be master to his slave. It was difficult enough finding time to be alone in a city full of people and helpers and sovereign’s duties and classes. Something had to give and it was usually sleep.

Frustrated by the delay, Debra sighed and went back to boring imaginary holes in her current nemesis.

Rowan grinned, noting the pouting mouth and snapping brown eyes. One could almost feel the irritation radiating in waves from the younger woman. “Don’t you worry about that, honey. Your genetic makeup is predominantly Thalian. The human substance you have is easily factored out.”

“Really?” Debra said, thinking of her mother’s new found happiness. “Don’t tell Edith that. Let her go on believing I’m half and half.” Ever since the truth had come out about Debra’s parentage, Edith had made a point of texting, Thalian style, or dropping by one of her classes almost on a daily basis. Debra loved seeing her mother but was beginning to feel like a rescued abductee whose parent refused to let them out of their sight.

“Whatever you and I discuss, medically speaking, is privileged,” Rowan replied tolerantly. All in all, Debra continued to be more resilient and adaptive than many had first expected. With most everyone but the fish hoping for a moment of her time, Rowan couldn’t resist having a little fun. “And speaking as your doctor, how much longer is this game going to continue.”

The scowl deepened over tired eyes as Debra stared blankly at the other woman.

Failing to suppress the grin on her face, Rowan offered a teasing shrug. “I was with elder Mica yesterday in Damon’s office.” She watched as recollection dawned in Debra’s widening eyes. “Muffled voices coming from the side room, Damon coming out breathless and flushed, his shirt buttoned up wrong. Or reports of skinny-dippers in the pool after midnight two nights ago. And my favorite, putting one of the lifts out of order for forty-minutes during the dinner hour. That game. Need I go on?”

Bare lips opened, then shut without a sound. What was the use in denying it. The fact that their extracurricular activities were probably known all over the city brought a momentary flush of embarrassment to her cheeks. Yet deep inside Debra felt a tingle of rebellious arousal just thinking about Damon waiting for her by the waterfall.

“Not much longer,” Debra said with quiet disarming openness. “I’m paying off a debt that ends tomorrow night.” The final scraping completed, the machine hinged back, freeing Debra’s arm. “Are Damon and I to be called before the elders like misbehaving teenagers?”

Eyes twinkling with amusement, Rowan calmly remarked, “Manton let me know something was going on.” In truth, she felt more than a little envious of her brother’s sex life. “Sensors notified a couple of his key security people. Nobody else knows. But in this city the computer is always watching and our sovereign should know better,” she smirked. “Now, as your doctor, I recommend a good night’s sleep instead of playing games. But I doubt either of you will listen to me. So get out of here and tell Damon he owes me dinner at The Terrace.” Hands on hips she shouted at the closing door. “And no self-healing.”

“More bloody samples,” Debra groused, running for the nearest lift, and wondered how much trouble she’d be in if the damn machine was suddenly found broken. Knowing Rowan she’d probably use a dull knife to scrape off her samples instead.

April 22, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Thirteen Part 1

The city’s twilight nightfall had already cycled into simulated daylight by the time Damon and Debra thought about leaving the Heart. A forty-eight hour leave had been encouraged by the council of elders, a kind of belated honeymoon in honor of the couple’s now mutually accepted marital bond.

Duties dictated only two days could be spared before earthbound nation business demanded the sovereign’s full attention again. Having been born to leadership, Damon loved his work as supreme administrator over all Thalians. The long hours and hard decisions came easily to his psychic disposition and physical fortitude. The deeply respected and much lauded council of elders often presented protocols and procedures for all Thalian citizens to live by while trapped below the surface. But in the end, the sovereign’s word was law.

The onset of this year’s Jubilee would be steeped in spectacular Thalian pageantry, as the public joining of Damon and Debra brought a bittersweet end to the propagation experiment started thirty years ago. Their marital bond would also be the first Thalian marriage recorded on Earth, in spite of Debra being the last of her kind.

No less busy than her new husband, Debra had promised to settle down as a serious student in tutored psychic studies and control, and to help Rowan in viral research by supplying numerous new skin and blood samples for the database. The delivered datapad had provided a syllabus of day-long courses and instructors, each day to end in the council chamber for instruction in the duties of a consort, under the tutelage of the elders. For the time being, Manton’s combat classes were relegated to any available spare time, which wouldn’t be much.

Willing to please her new relatives, Debra accepted their enthusiasm in the training of her Thalian half, up to a point. And wasn’t above saying no if pushed too far. Her reclusive nature had yet to adjust to all the constant attention and people that sometimes seemed to zap her strength. But mostly she felt confident at eventually adapting to her new life knowing Damon and Manton were there to beat on in hand-to-hand when she needed an outlet for her frustration.

Their first night on holiday Damon had placed a mumbled call to Manton, who showed up ten minutes later at the door, offering a small package to Damon and a friendly wink and wave at Debra. Where only a half-hour earlier he had been reluctant to even enter the bedroom, now, with package in hand, Damon couldn’t seem to get her underdressed and on the bed fast enough.

His black eyes had blazed with need and love as he draped the thin gold chain about her bare neck, laying the slender gold and crystal Talisman pendant gently between her breasts. It was an exact replica of the bonding pendant he had given her nine years ago in the dream world. Only this time Debra understood its meaning and the ritual words that followed. First Rites may have been claimed and taken in the dream world, but loving each other as physical beings made their joining and journey to the Heart of the Talisman no less special.

Not considered a state of mind or another dimension, the Heart was a sacred place outside of the body, a gift to all bonded Thalians from The Mother and Father God of Home. It was not a solid existence holding onto material things, but more a realm of energy and color and the influence of love’s purest form. Within the journey to the Heart a bonded couple gave much more to each other than just heightened physical pleasure. Those willing to take the time experienced the immortal joys of Home in the shared blending of intellect and lifeforce; a renewing and strengthening of a mortal commitment to each other.

Awareness returned slowly, the only major downfall of the journey to the Heart. The exhaustive toll on the mind and body afterward promised a day of sleeping and little else. They would be lucky to crawl from the bed to the bathroom during the next twenty-four hours. Still in their large comfortable bed, Damon held onto Debra and rolled over onto his back, determined to keep their bodies joined before falling back to sleep.

A stray beam of light helped pull Debra’s consciousness back to the surface from a long comforting slumber. It took a moment to realize the drapes were slightly parted, offering a small point of reference for the widening slice of light that eventually cleaved the darkened room in half.

Fingering the Talisman crystal pendant about her neck, Debra smiled. Many of the memories of the Heart had been demoted to hazy flashes of thoughts and vague vibrant colors. What remained clear was the feeling of an infinite wholeness with another human being, to know another so completely and realize how alone life had been before.

The bond with Damon was real. She could sense him, even now while he slept. How remarkable to know the slight curve of his lips was caused by a deeper sense of contentment in mind and body. The smile broadened as his eyes slowly worked their way open to mere slits. Debra sympathized with his efforts to make that final leap into wakefulness.

“I wanna be inside you again, but I’m too damn tired,” he whispered, covering a yawn. “So I’ll imagine it in full color and be just as happy.”

Debra sprawled across her side of the bed, strong healthy thigh muscles almost groaning in pleasure with her version of deep manipulating stretches. “Why are all these astral travel things so exhausting afterward?”

His large hand rubbed over the bristling whiskers on his neck and chin. Had they still been on Thalia, unwanted facial and body hair would have been easily repressed for a month or more with a localized discharge of channeled energy. Even though he had been raised learning the ways of shaving paraphernalia, occasionally Damon ignored recommended human hygienic procedures and indulged in the effortless precision of his own kinetic power.

Eyes closed, he felt the tiny bristles dissolve in the customary blue glow of painless energy, leaving behind softly smooth golden-toned skin. “I can only surmise there must be payment for the privilege of experiencing perfection,” he chuckled, yawning again. “It’s the reason why the Heart is saved for special occasions.” He rolled his head on the pillow and gazed at Debra and grinned. “Takes too long to recover. Can you imagine the state of the city if everyone was popping off for a trip to the Heart?”

Slender fingers traced the clean strong jaw line where only moments ago had been a dark shadow of prickly stubble. “Please, tell me I can do that with the hair on my own body and I’ll be your sex slave for a week.”

Damon’s tongue lazily flicked over his full bottom lip as he contemplated a full week of Debra at his beck and call. “The week begins—seven full days and nights—as soon as we’re completely recovered, which should be day after tomorrow.”

“Before I say deal, let me clarify the terms,” Debra said, humor in her eyes. “If I can, you have to teach me first.”

“Done,” Damon said without hesitation, pulling her silky nakedness against his chest so they could cuddle spoon-fashion in sleep. In truth, a week of unbridled pleasure would be hard pressed to say exactly who was master and who was slave.

April 15, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Twelve Part 4

Edith refused to let go of Debra’s hand and pulled her over to the nearest sofa. Seated almost hip to hip she held onto her daughter’s arm with both hands. The end of the secret had her heart pounding and her mind ecstatic. Debra was hers again. Yet as the room quieted in anticipation of Eron’s findings, Edith also found herself feeling vulnerable. Would Debra still love her once the whole truth was out in the open?

Muscled arms and strong backs arranged two of the larger sofas and a couple of overstuffed chairs into a tight grouping so voices wouldn’t carry, but more important, to achieve an intimate show of support for Edith. Eron waited until all were ready and lowered himself into the remaining empty chair.

Seeing Debra wedged between Damon and Edith on the green plaid sofa, Eron sheepishly smiled at Debra like a kindly old uncle. Under Thalian law they were family, all members of the House of Bromon. “My dear,” Eron began, his tone purposefully neutral. “I’m going to keep you guessing about your evaluation for just a bit longer.” He glanced at Edith’s anxious face, believing the direct approach to be the fastest way to ease the woman’s fears.

Sitting on the edge of his seat, elbows flat against the cushioned armrests, Eron focused his attention on Debra. “You’ll no doubt be wondering why you ended up in Dorothy’s care.” An excellent poker face, Eron mused, then berated his wandering thoughts. “One of the reasons Trevon stayed at the Montana settlement was because of you, dear. The only guarantee of keeping your immune system strong and healthy against the atmospheric virus was to keep you on the planet surface.

“Your father wasn’t willing to give you up for the sake of staying alive a few more months on the ship. You had a very special bond with your father. Part of the reason was that you both shared Thalian abilities. But even more important was the fact that you were Thalian and human. He saw you as the best part of himself and Edith and took great pleasure in parental pride.”

Try as hard as she could, Debra failed to recall any memories of her father at all. Mind and heart found it so easy to love the sentiments of the man described to her. Yet she would never know him or remember that special loving bond between father and daughter. Times like these she had to wonder what good her total recall served when the most important memories were beyond her abilities.

“You were linked to your father at the time of his death.” Eron paused to let that fact sink in before carefully choosing his next words. “It’s because of that link that I can tell you what happened the day your father died.”

Eyes widened in surprise about the silently enthralled group. Except for Eron and Edith, all of them had been only children at the time of Trevon’s death; Debra only a baby. Each had still been growing into their abilities and learning Thalian ways of the past and future. Now as responsible adults, it was a little bit of a shock to discover that their old tutor’s skills as observer still had something new to teach.

Sitting back in the comfy chair, Eron looked inward at a memory not his own. “The two of you were in the backyard, lying on Trevon’s motorized recliner and watching the clouds float by. It was warm that day. Edith had cut the grass earlier, an earthly smell Trevon found deeply pleasing.  Although physically weak, Trevon remained strong mentally until the end. He was sharing visions with you about how Thalian’s view corporal death as a joyous release, like graduating from the university of life with honors, and the well earned pass to journey Home.

“The two of you were laughing at his funny images of the large flowers and trees that exist at Home. So he took you to the back fence and opened the gate to show you the verdant meadow beyond the ravine and the stunning wildflowers in bloom. He told you the colorful species of nature on Earth were just like Home, only at Home they were much, much bigger.”

Hearing the candor of the older man’s words brought back so many wretched memories of that day. As though Edith would ever let herself forget. So she sat like a condemned prisoner, awaiting sentencing from her peers and loved ones, and let the truth of Eron’s words stab into her heart over and over.

“The strain of walking that short distance was too much in Trevon’s depleted condition. He went into convulsions and collapsed in the yard, leaving the gate open.  Instinctively you laid hands on your father’s chest, trying to make him well. Because of the link, he knew it was more a matter of your body automatically doing what came naturally than a conscious thought.

“When his heart stopped, he lay dying, his mind watching with the help of the link between you as kinetic energy channeled through your hands and restarted his heart. In the process, the energy created a cloaking aura around the both of you. And because of the amount of energy being channeled into him, his torso levitated a good foot off the ground.”

Eron glanced at Edith’s stricken face, tears streaming, hands holding onto Debra so tightly she threatened to cut off the blood flow. “Your mother had come out onto the veranda and saw you standing over Trevon. She witnessed the energy leaving your tiny hands and driving into Trevon’s chest several times. The stress of the long illness had drained Edith’s strength, leaving her emotionally exhausted. We all knew Trevon’s passing would be very difficult for Edith to accept. When she came out and found the two of you—”

“She thought I was killing him.” Debra answered jadedly, eyes unafraid and intense. “Are you sure I didn’t?”

“Let me finish,” Eron said gently, watching the stubborn young face flush with self-recrimination, “and I think you’ll be able to answer that question for yourself. The sight of Trevon being bombarded by all that energy was too much for Edith to handle, and in human terms, her mind snapped.

“Screaming like a demented soul, Edith tried to tear you away from Trevon. You never made a sound, never cried out once. But even at the tender age of two, your cloaking aura was formidable and held her off. Using clasped hands, Edith beat you off of Trevon, then threw your body outside the fence and closed the gate to keep you away.

“By the time she got back to Trevon he had just enough strength to whisper the word “No” and place the image of you tumbling down the ravine in her mind. Already in a catatonic state, Edith couldn’t comprehend the danger she had placed you in. It took almost six months for her to recover and piece together what she had done. By then it was too late for both of you.”

What Eron refused to divulge were all the horrendous words Edith had shrieked at her baby daughter. The face of hate and fear screaming murderer, bad seed, evil and demon . . . kill you.

The insanity of that day had never been apparent in the woman he had known before or after her recovery. He saw no reason to taint the relationship further between mother and daughter for the sake of full disclosure. Edith still suffered for her actions that day and the ten years of hell Debra suffered at the hands of her sister, Dorothy. Often Eron was the voice of calm at counsel over Edith’s rebellion against protocol where Debra was concerned; a fragile mind’s way of trying to make amends.

“After that you would cry yourself sick whenever Edith was present. The decision was made by the elders to place you in the care of Dorothy and Jeff, who was still alive at the time. No one had any idea Dorothy would become psychotic about normal psychic behavior.”

Eron accepted a cold bottle of water from Manton and took several deep swallows to relieve his parched throat before continuing. His attention remained focused on Debra as he hurried to explain. “An evaluation was done at that time but you were way too young to get any accurate images from. And of course, your memory of that day had been completely eradicated. Yet you continued to suffer mentally and physically, as if tormented by phantom recollections. Shortly after your fourth birthday a memory block was inserted, concealing all memories of the first four years of your life.”

Silence hung heavy in the brightly lit room as tears rolled down Edith’s cheeks. “I’ve never forgiven myself,” she quietly sobbed. “So many times I wished I could just forget the whole mess. But then I’d see Debra, getting older and dealing with everything as best she could. Fighting on, no matter what. And I’d tell myself there had to be part of me inside her, making her strong to keep going. How could I do any less?”

Releasing her stranglehold on Debra’s arm, Edith took a deep breath and wiped away the fresh tears. “I deeply apologize, Debra, for me and my sister. You deserved so much better than we gave you.” Glancing at Debra she smiled halfheartedly. “I’ve often wondered what our lives would have been like had I not lost it that day.”

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” Debra answered calmly, feeling no real emotions over Eron’s words because there were no memories of the fear and pain as a baby. “Believe me, mother, I understand what it means to ‘lose it’. It’s happened to me, more than once.” She studied Edith’s lovely familiar face and remembered a little girl of five and that magical summer with Edith. Instead of feeling angry about the past, she felt the magic returning to her soul a hundred times over.

Eyes gleaming in amusement, Debra grinned. “I may be backward where some of my abilities are concerned, but at this moment I like who and what I am. I like being here and knowing you’re my mother and actually having a future for a change.”

Debra glanced around the group of smiling, caring faces, no longer strangers, more than a little surprised at how much of herself had been shared with these people in so short a time. In all honesty, she had lived more in the few weeks she had been here than could be said for her entire past.

“I even accept that Damon is the consort’s husband,” Debra said regally, then spoiled the effect by giggling when Damon choked on a mouthful of water. “But I’m only half Thalian and the human part of me doesn’t feel married.”

“Are you expecting me to get down on one knee?” Damon asked with sardonic laughter.

“We can discuss it later, over dinner,” Debra said genially, giving Damon a wink. Turning her thoughts inward, she listened to that tiny voice inside and tried to describe all the new feelings to Eron. “At the moment I feel so strong, like all of a sudden an oppressive weight, I didn’t even know I was carrying, has been taken away. Actually, I feel quite free and I don’t recall ever experiencing that sensation before.”

“I guess that means you’re ready to start linking with your tutors tomorrow,” Damon innocently grinned, lightly patting the slender hand that jerked against his thigh. Her fleeting frown did little to reprimand or change his plans for a quiet evening alone for two. At the moment happiness seemed a contagious commodity in the OT lounge. And like the others, he doubted anything could squelch the contentment bursting inside him right now.

Was she ready to link? Debra wondered, and stopped to consider if the feeling of dread in her stomach was a habit response or how she truly felt about linking with others? And yet she did feel different since hearing the truth about the past. But did that knowledge automatically wipe clean all the havoc her abilities had caused? At this point there was no way to be sure except by actually taking Damon, and her tutors, up on this challenge.

Dark eyes flashed with understated sarcasm at Damon’s smug expression, promising retribution later. Being on intimate terms with the sovereign, Debra knew every one of his weak spots and wasn’t above using them against him. She smirked to herself; no doubt that was one of her more human traits exerting itself from under the mountain of Thalian procedures and protocols.

Always the researcher, Rowan left Debra to her brother’s charms and zeroed in on the logistics of what they had just heard. “All this detail from a memory Debra doesn’t even remember. How is this possible, Eron?” Rowan curiously asked. Routine had her shutting out the lively voices of Manton and Theron as they drew Edith into a conversation of the many preparations still to be completed for the upcoming Jubilee.

Ready for inquiries, Eron leaned closer to Rowan to be heard. “From a medical standpoint you’re aware that the mind dies slower than the body. But it’s not just the electrical aspect of the brain that continues to function. Cerebral awareness is also present.”

Rowan mutely nodded in agreement, accepting the premise of one specialist to another.

“And although it’s not a secret, many Thalians don’t realize that when linking with another, a part of them is left behind in the other. These bits of left behind memories are easily ignored because linked memories are often mirror images of each other. Trevon saw everything that happened just as Debra did, until she was rendered unconscious and tossed into the ravine.

“Debra’s memories of that day were destroyed when her father died, brutally severing the link between them. If she hadn’t already been unconscious then the severing would have put her into a coma, like what happened with Damon. Trevon knew what was coming and buried his memory deep in her consciousness. As it was, the chemical pathways where destroyed, but the memory remained intact. Without those vital chemical pathways Debra will never remember.”

“And that’s what you went looking for,” Rowan stated, her eyes reflecting an earnest fascination. “How did you know Trevon would send the memory deep? For that matter, how did Trevon even know how to manipulate a memory?”

Eron laughed at her eagerness, allowing himself a moment to reminisce about the old days. His current duties kept him quite busy and in constant interaction with the city’s residents. But his heart and soul deeply missed evaluating and teaching; what he had been born to do. Now, looking back, he better understood the discord his old friend had suffered.

“Trevon’s first love was wood sculpting,” Eron boasted warmly, sitting back in the chair, suddenly realizing all eyes were once again on him. “Many of his pieces are on display throughout the city. Excellent craftsmanship.” He chuckled at Edith. “He spent hundreds of hours hand carving each interlocking piece of wood for that Lover’s Box he gave you. Every spare moment till it was finished. A premier master for sure.”

A seriousness came over Eron’s demeanor that seemed to darken his drawn face. “But the times and survival in a new home called for sacrifices from many. Trevon was my trainee.” There were several gasps. Not many Thalians were born with the right qualities to be an observer. “I’m the only psychic master on Earth. There are several good psychic observers I’ve trained over the years. But Trevon was the first.”

Noting Edith’s confusion, Eron nodded and resumed. “It’s true, my dear. Not many knew. Mass assessments were conducted aboard each ship, with prospective trainees relocated to the mother ship. Trevon had one of the highest scores and had been training with me for almost four years before he became infected. None of the trainees had a natural aptitude for psychic observation. What set Trevon apart was his talent for learning. A gift he often cursed, at the time, when training took him away from working with the abundant supply of wood Earth had to offer.”

He looked at Rowan. “To answer your question, Trevon was fully qualified to perform psychic evaluation and memory manipulation. I knew I would find something buried in Debra’s consciousness about that day.” He rolled his eyes and glanced at Debra. “The problem was getting her to link with me so I could carry out the fact-finding evaluation.”

Debra shrugged sheepishly. “Sorry. Out in the real world it’s better to be tight-lipped and extremely cautious,” she touted in her own defense.

“What about her nightmare,” Damon inquired quickly, giving Debra’s hand a light squeeze.

“Repressed fears,” Eron said simply. “Debra and the kinetic energy became the evil killing power that destroyed Trevon, something that was reinforced by Edith’s actions. To cope, a sane young mind will often use monsters, fear, and punishment as persecutors rather than admit to the possibility of truly being all those terrible things. An insane person would have no conscience and not care, but go merrily about their way wrecking havoc.

“Linking or melding became painful, like the viciously severed link with her father. It was something to be avoided and caused numerous aberrations when tried.” Like a tutor to his students, Eron swiftly glanced at each face. “The mind has a way of self-correcting when the root cause of a fear or other problem has been confronted. It’s my opinion that Debra will no longer suffer her previous lack of control or the nightmare.”

“But if she didn’t remember anything—” Rowan challenged respectfully.

“Her awareness can’t remember anything of that day. It’s something she will never be able to access. But Trevon’s linked memory will always be a part of her consciousness.”

“Why did Debra and I never have any trouble linking and melding? We’ve known each other since she was eighteen months. So why were those memories never forgotten?” Damon asked, intrigued.

Eron smiled widely. “From a psychic observer’s perspective, the two of you are made from the same mental fabric. You were a part of each other on a daily basis well before Trevon died. There was nothing to fear between you, only comfort. Your memories of the dream world reinforced Debra’s early existence every time you joined mentally. She knew herself as a baby through you and the environment you created together.” Becoming more formal, Eron faced Damon directly. “With your permission, sovereign, I would like to be the one to announce your consort as Vion at this year’s Jubilee.”

“I knew it,” shouted Edith gleefully, pumping raised fists in the air victoriously.

Laughter filled the room, voices talking over each other, and whoops of delight rending the air. Eron sat watching the joyous pandemonium and sighed, a satisfied grin on his face. Damon and Debra, the only two Vions on Earth. Between the two of them there had to be an answer to the virus.

April 8, 2012

Are Brain Dead and the Eleventh Hour Synonymous?

This disturbing question arose on Monday, the day after I normally post my weekly novel installment. Only a handful of chapters, maybe less, are needed now before reaching that final page and doing a victory dance around my computer chair. The end of my novel is definitely in sight and I should be one happy writer. Shouldn’t I?

In terms of nearing completion and having my mettle tested, month after month, in the dogged writing trenches, I’ve reached my eleventh hour—along with my second wind several chapters back—and ought to be bursting with cerebral energy and a focused vision, since the climax of this epic story is thankfully all downhill now. Right?

Sadly, my expectations were wrong when Monday’s writing session found me brain dead and reluctant to even open the chapter file. As I listlessly watched the cursor blinking on the page, my mind tired and barren of one viable piece of dialogue or descriptive phrase, I realized this lack of enthusiasm had been creeping into my consciousness for a couple of weeks now. As to the root cause or how permanent the affliction, I took some time this past week to evaluate my situation.

Whether work, personal, or a journal, a day doesn’t go by when I haven’t written something to please myself or others. The daily stress of life is basically the same for everyone—family, job, money, health—so I set aside the day to day stuff and concentrated just on the writing aspect and what it still means to me.

Writing has always provided an inner contentment and enjoyment, a form of recreation to get lost in for hours and a way of re-energizing brain cells from the often rigid responsibilities of life. At the same time writing is also essential for my happiness, an attribute of who I am, like the color of my eyes.

In all the years that I’ve been writing I’ve experienced many emotions that helped make my work heartfelt respectable or a lackadaisical contribution, a righteous statement to the cause or no gold star and headed for the trash. But never once did I suffer through that dreaded dis-ease known as writer’s block. Was I finally due?

Anyone who consistently works with words can understand when I say that writing is often a pleasurable torment. There is nothing more delightful than experiencing that pleasurable high when the day’s writing has gone well. Of course, the flipside means equal measures of frustrating torment when the words won’t come together and all that work gets axed by the delete button. But having good days and bad is nothing new, nothing to stress about, unless you’re on a tight deadline.

During this evaluation period I reaffirmed my passion for writing, accepted the pros and cons of what it means to write and my own abilities. And wanting to make the limited time I have for writing each day to count for something, even if it was just one perfectly crafted paragraph, I set aside the novel and opted to try an experiment.

For the remainder of the week I did free-writes about anything that wasn’t connected to the novel.

The change was almost instantaneous. Suddenly intrigued by the limitless possibilities, I found myself perched on the edge of my chair in anticipation. After so many days of fighting with each word, my mind felt light and spontaneous again, my fingers moving over the keys with their usual nimble energy. The culmination of several writing sessions resulted in a rough draft of this blog.

The experiment quickly made it clear that I wasn’t suffering from writer’s block or becoming brain dead. A sense of fun had returned while writing this piece, something I hadn’t felt in several weeks while working on the novel.

What does it all mean? I’ve come to the conclusion that after months of high energy output and a strict daily discipline to composing each chapter, I was slowly losing my edge and enthusiasm for want of a little writing variety; a holiday, if you will, from work on the novel to relax my brain and get the juices flowing again.

Finishing the novel is important to me. But I have no desire to simply grind away with words and sentences and eventually fall across the finish line in numb exhaustion. I may be tired when I print out that last page but I want a smile on my face and a sense of accomplishment humming throughout my body.

For me the moral of the story seemed simple. Discipline and determination would only get me so far. To be the best writer I could be required a sense of fun and an eager anticipation of each day’s work as an ongoing part of the equation as well.

So, with a little holiday thrown in, now and again, I’ll be typing that last page of the novel in no time at all. Definitely my finest hour indeed.

April 1, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Twelve Part 3

“Calm yourself, Rowan,” Eron said stiffly. “I said no such thing. I’m simply presenting the findings from that long ago day, facts now part of the archives because that’s all the elders had to work with.”

“I beg your pardon, Eron,” Rowan said contritely, head bowed like a school girl being chastised. Her mentor’s opinions meant a great deal to her and she would no more insult Eron than she would her own father. “Please, continue.”

It was rare for Eron to lose his temper. A telling sign as far as Damon was concerned that his old friend was more upset by Debra’s evaluation than he let on. Theron stepped away from the bed, feeling uncomfortable at seeing his superior and the head of medical-science rebuked in front of witnesses, and busied himself with gathering up the last few blackened towels and tossing them in the hamper.

Cold drink in hand, Eron glanced at the empty doorway and stalled for time. “By the end of the day, the reached consensus was that only Trevon, Edith, and Debra had been in the backyard, the gate presumably opened at one point, and left slightly ajar when Trevon went into convulsions. And Edith, overcome with grief, had passed out leaving Debra alone in the yard.”

Glancing at the doorway again, Eron finished off the cold juice and tossed the glass bottle down the recycle chute. “A neighbor heard Edith screaming and went to investigate. Only Trevon and Edith were found and the back gate was closed. Without further evidence, the elders assumed the tension-spring automatically pulled the gate closed when Debra, unable to wake either adult, pushed it open and stepped through. Fortunately the irrigation ditch was empty of water at the time or Debra would most likely have drowned after falling down the ravine.”

Rowan kept waiting for a ‘but’ that never came and finally asked what everyone else was thinking. “But after evaluating Debra, you don’t think it happened that way anymore?”

“Only two people survived Trevon’s death. And both of them were severely traumatized. Debra has no memories of that day on a conscious level. Her link to Trevon, and the brutal shock of separation caused by his death, erased those memories forever.” Looking for confirmation, Eron met Damon’s baffled eyes.

“It’s true,” Damon agreed, wondering what new evidence Eron could have found if Debra’s memories of that day were gone. “I don’t remember that last link with my father or much of what happened that day. The memories are just gone.”

“What’s going on, Eron?” Rowan asked earnestly. “I’ve read many of the archive files that pertain to Debra, looking for something to explain her psychic difficulties. If Debra’s memories can’t tell us about that day, and the archives say Edith can’t remember that day, I don’t understand what it is you’re getting at.”

“I lied,” Edith said breathlessly, standing in the lounge doorway, tears glittering in her eyes. Manton stood just behind her in the hallway, feeling cleaner from a quick shower and a change of uniform, his large hands resting lightly on Edith’s shoulders as though offering support.

Eron gave Edith a kindhearted nod and gestured for her to come in.

Debra groaned, drawing everyone’s attention back to the wheeled bed. Long, slender hands made feeble motions of helplessness as her system purged the last of the drug from her body. Eyelids slowly fluttered open, seeking out Damon, his mind gradually separating from her own and ending the reassuring meld. Theron promptly raised the head of the bed, helping Debra in her efforts to sit up.

Smudged faces, framed with oddly sticking out hair, stared at her, a perplexed frown creasing Debra’s brow. “I gather things didn’t go as planned,” she grimaced, longing to spit the awful taste from her mouth. Intense dark eyes zeroed in on Rowan and the tranquilizer guns sticking out of her smock pockets. “I don’t recall anything being said about shooting me. So why was I drugged?”

“After we’re through here I’ll take you down to the crisis room so you can see why,” Rowan said drolly and offered a bottle of water. Fingers coated with maintenance cleaner rubbed an itch on the side of her nose and came away covered with bits of black. “Damn,” she muttered, certain it would take at least a dozen showers to get this crap out of her hair. “Your defenses kicked in again when things went a little sideways.”

“We’re all okay,” Damon offered. “The extra precautions worked.” He fingered aside several loose strands of hair from Debra’s face. No sense mentioning the crisis room needed to be completed gutted and rebuilt. Later would be soon enough. “You were only out about fifteen minutes, just long enough for me to reestablish the meld again and make you feel safe.” He placed a quick comforting kiss on her lips.  “Eron has been giving us some background information about your situation.”

“What did you find, Eron?” Debra quietly asked, eyes focused on her dirty thumb stroking across Damon’s knuckles. With the moment finally at hand, she was suddenly afraid to hear the answer.

“What do you remember about your father?” Eron asked, his eyes compassionate as her head came up, confusion clear on her face.

A small gasp sounded. Debra glanced toward the sofa and blinked in surprise. “Edith, I didn’t know you were here.” Her aunt’s erratic heartbeat resonated in her head. The woman reeked of fear. Whatever was coming, Debra braced for the worst and hoped to survive the heartbreak.

Sad eyes watched Edith as Debra answered Eron. “Until I came here I grew up believing Jeffrey Hall was my father. No one told me any different.” Damon squeezed her hand, reassuringly. “I have no memories of my real father. I don’t even know his name.”

Tormented, tear-filled eyes held Debra’s gaze. “Trevon was your father,” Edith blurted, needing to get the truth out as though her life depended on it. Tired of the secret and living with the shame, Edith held her breath and prayed to see forgiveness this day.

At first comprehension was slow in coming. Blood flushed her cheeks as Debra struggled to understand. Lips moved in silent agitation, her breath audible and brows deeply furrowed. Eyes slowly widened and gaped at Edith as the blood drained from her face. “Then . . . you’re—”

“Yes,” Edith cried, “I’m your mother. I’m so sorry for what happened. I didn’t mean it. Please, Debra, believe me. I didn’t mean it.” Rushing to take her daughter’s hand, Debra instinctive leaned away in confusion, chest heaving, a heaviness closing in about her, unable to get enough air.

“She’s hyperventilating,” Damon warned, feeling Debra’s heart racing, her thoughts spinning, throwing out flashes of the past, of wishes and torment.

Theron hastily dropped the head of the bed and Rowan flattened her hand over Debra’s solar plexus, letting the heat of her touch-healing relax the diaphragm while applying pressure to several nerves at the base of the neck and shoulder.

The attack eased almost immediately. Damon kept Debra on the bed, giving her time to catch her breath and a moment to adjust to the truth. Their bond allowed him to reassure her there would be no more surprises. The secret of her parents was the last hurdle to overcome.

Gut-wrenching sobs intruded as reality slowly returned to normal. Held tightly in Manton’s brawny arms, Edith cried in abandoned wretchedness like a child. Both Eron and Manton encouraged their friend to let it all go, to get the poison of the past finally and forever out of her heart. Now they could all join together on the same path toward obtaining a new future.

The tightly knit group of family and friends all watched as Debra shifted off the bed and moved to stand before Manton as he gently rocked Edith. Defenseless against such heartbreak, the big man waited for Debra’s judgment with tears glittering in his eyes. Today the Thalian nation would judge the consort’s compassion and control toward her people.

“Edith,” Debra said, sounding lost, her hand resting lightly on the older woman’s shoulder.

Slow to turn around, Edith finally faced her daughter, sniffing loudly and wiping streaming tears from her face. Manton remained behind her for support in case his instincts were wrong.

“I’ve always loved you, Edith,” Debra began slowly, softly. “I can’t tell you how many times I wished you had been my mother instead of Dorothy.” The familiar heartbeat continued to rapidly pound in Debra’s head. “You’re still afraid, so there must be more to tell. I just want you to know . . . I love you mother.” With a moist, lopsided grin, she gave Edith’s shoulder a little shake. “That doesn’t mean I’m not mad as hell at all your manipulating and deceptions. But I am ready to listen with an open mind.”

Surrounded by grunts and chortles of good humor from the others in the room, Debra glanced at Damon. “In the last few days I’ve learned that shit happens to everyone and we all do the best we can with what we’ve got.” She touched fingertips to Edith’s wet cheek. “I know you, the kind of person you are, and I know you love me.”

Edith threw herself into Debra’s arms, fiercely hugging for the first time as mother and daughter. Now it was tears of joy sliding down her reddened cheeks. But Edith wasn’t alone. Giving them privacy to enjoy the moment, the others stepped away, blinking back tears and dabbing at wet lashes.

Holding her mother at arm’s length, Debra suddenly laughed at the wide smudges of black soot smeared across the front of Edith’s green summer top and cotton pants. Frayed nerves made ruined clothes seem like the funniest thing since slapstick and had everyone laughing uproariously.

“Please,” Eron choked, holding the stitch in his side. He couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed so hard. Seeing those he loved flushed with happiness sent a surge of hope through his soul. It was time to reveal the final pieces of the puzzle. “Please, everyone find a seat and I’ll tell you what I found during Debra’s evaluation.”

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