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Dolores Esteban

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Everything posted by Dolores Esteban

  1. Dolores Esteban

    The Treasure of Escanaba

    I only recently read about Samhain and the other holidays. It was quite fascinating. I enjoyed your story a lot.
  2. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 15 - The Dawn of Day

    Thank you. I'm glad you liked the story. Many thanks also for the review. ☺️
  3. Dolores Esteban

    The George Mackenzie Poltergeist

    I once had a neighbor who had a gun and shot at a customs officer.
  4. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 15 - The Dawn of Day

    Thank you. ☺️
  5. Dolores Esteban

    The George Mackenzie Poltergeist

    Thank you. I'm happy you liked the story. ☺️
  6. Dolores Esteban

    The Dawn of Day

    A gravitational wave sweeps the USS Explorer to the star system 55 Cancri. The crew detects a deserted alien airport on a planet in the habitable zone. The planet, however, is not deserted. A young native and a stranded alien crew spots the arrival of the spaceship from Earth. Unsettling events follow. Will the humans ever return to Earth? Story completed. 15 chapters. Enjoy.
  7. Dolores Esteban

    The Dawn of Day

    Final chapter posted. Many thanks for reading.
  8. Dolores Esteban

    The Dawn of Day

    A gravitational wave sweeps the USS Explorer to the star system 55 Cancri. The crew detects a deserted alien airport on a planet in the habitable zone. The planet, however, is not deserted. A young native and a stranded alien crew spots the arrival of the spaceship from Earth. Unsettling events follow. Will the humans ever return to Earth?
  9. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 15 - The Dawn of Day

    The ship dropped back into real space at the edge of the solar system and moved on at a reduced speed. The sensors gathered data about the planets and their orbits and they checked the star system for transmissions coming from Earth, the Moon, the habitats on Mars and from satellites in space. The computer produced a map of the star system and compared it to the maps saved to the archives in space. It also searched the databases for registry entries about the solar system and the planet Earth. The computer identified the solar system. It had been mapped in the past. Earth was registered as planet XO-10874no, a planet in the habitable zone of its star system. The planet was not recommended for colonization and mining activities. No further explanation was offered, however. Nahusha handed the translation tablet to Eric. Eric read the text and then spoke to Brandon and Dave. “The computer identified the solar system. The planets are where they are supposed to be. Nothing has changed,” he said. “The computer produced a map. It matches the maps saved to the archives in space to a high degree. Some of the maps were produced in recent years, other maps are older. The USS Explorer didn’t jump millions of years into the past or onto the future. The Aryaka are checking for transmissions coming from Earth, from the habitats on Mars and the Moon and from beacons ins space, communication satellites for instance.” “Don’t they fear the ship will be detected by Earth’s monitoring systems?” Brandon asked. “No,” Eric said. “The ship has sophisticated shields. It can’t be seen by terrestrial devices.” “Our ship could have jumped two thousand years into the future and the civilization on Earth could be well advanced now,” Dave said. Nahusha turned in his seat and reached out for the tablet. Eric handed it to him and Nahusha typed a text. Eric read it to the others. The sensors are receiving signals from Earth, but not from Mars and the Moon and neither from beacons in space. You said Earth’s population was global but we’re receiving signals only from a restricted area. “What? What does it mean?” Brandon asked. His voice was shaking. The men looked at each other, fighting against a sudden fear. “It can only mean that something happened on Earth. A major disaster. A global catastrophe,” Dave said finally. “Where do the signals come from? Have they already identified the area? Can’t they send a map to a screen?” The ship approached Earth and went into orbit. Images of Earth were coming in. They showed the European continent in daylight. Everything looked familiar, but the images were taken from a great height. They saw the change when the ship crossed the American continents where the sun had not yet risen. The continents were dark with only a speck of light on the Southern continent. Nahusha told them that this was the area where the transmissions were coming from. The signals were regular and showed a repeating pattern. They were most likely automated and sent by a beacon still working after who knew how many years. It was the only active area on the planet. The ship completed a couple of orbits. The entire planet was silent and dark. The humans were devastated. Earth had looked different when they had left it. Humanity had come far. They had erected habitats on Mars and the Moon. Dwarf planets were mined in the asteroid belt and spaceships traveled regularly between Earth, Mars and the Moon. They had sent unmanned ships to Planet 9 in the outbound region of the solar system and to Alpha Centauri, four light years from Earth. Plans had been made to send manned ships with gravitational drives to exoplanets in the neighboring regions of space. Interstellar space flight and colonization of an Earth-like exoplanet was imminent because the overall situation had worsened on Earth. Energy resources, oil and gas, had become scarce, and climate changes had become a major factor all over the world. Vast areas in Africa had turned into wastelands and the people had fled as a result. War had never stopped in the Middle East. The European continent was hit by a never-ending migration flow from Africa and the Middle East. Welfare systems had collapsed and governments had gone down. Many European countries were ruled by military leaders. The situation and life conditions of hundreds of millions in Africa, the Middle East and Europe had deteriorated as a result. Russia, China and the USA had closed themselves up. The three still fairly stable countries watched each other suspiciously, but none had the will or the means to attack the other. That’s what the men had believed, what everybody had believed. The belief had turned out to be false. “A nuclear war in the past?” Brandon asked. “The gravitational wave that hit our ship. Was it the beginning of a major war?” “The catastrophe must have happened after a colonist ship reached the star system 55 Cancri,” Dave said. “They didn’t have space programs anymore after the war. The colonists were left to themselves. Think of the old spacesuit in the monastery. The logo was identical to the one on our suits. They must have sent a ship to 55 Cancri around the time we left Earth. They equipped a ship with the new warp drive that we were supposed to test and sent a colonist ship to 55 Cancri. They probably hoped to escape the catastrophe.” “The wave that swept our ship to 55 Cancri was immense. Which nation on Earth could have possessed such a powerful weapon? Could it have been an extraterrestrial attack?” Brandon asked. “Beings so vast and powerful that are able to snuff out a civilization as you would a candle between your fingers?” Dave asked in a doubting voice. “I don’t think the aggressors came from outer space,” Eric said. “Think of the monks and their hateful reaction. They know what happened on Earth. The truth is buried in their secret chamber. I think humanity started a war that led to total annihilation. Humanity destroyed the world and erased the civilization on Earth.” The men fell silent. “Do you think there’s still somebody down there?” Dave asked finally with a nod at the screen that showed Earth. “Are there survivors of the catastrophe? In the area with the transmissions maybe?” “The Aryaka think the signals are automated. They show a repeating pattern. It could of course be an emergency call, but we don’t know when the sequence was started. Centuries could have passed by,” Eric said. “What about the light coming from the area?” Dave asked. “Still working after hundreds of years?” “I don’t know,” Eric said. “I’m certain, however, that the Aryaka won’t land the ship to investigate.” “The inhabitants of the exoplanet in the system 55 Cancri are the descendants of the human colonists. The items in their secret chamber were old and the people had no clear picture of their origin anymore,” Brandon said. “Their civilization dropped to a more primitive state, peasants and monks with a weird cult. I think many centuries have gone by since the colonist ship and the USS Explorer left Earth. I think Earth’s civilization has degraded, too. I imagine agricultural societies with backward religious cults, hunter-gatherers societies possibly.” He paused. “If there are any survivors at all.” “Izanami mapped the solar system in the past. Earth is registered as planet XO-10874no, a planet in the habitable zone of the solar system. Earth is not recommended for colonization and mining activities, but unfortunately no further explanation is offered in the archives,” Eric said. “They know damn well what happened,” Dave said angrily. “They mapped the system and made an entry to their databases. They sure had a look at Earth after the war and they know what happened on Earth. The area with the transmissions could be an Izanami ground base now. The transmission station might be a beacon, the regular signals guiding spaceships in. Whatever they do down there or did in the past, I prefer not to know.” He leaned back in his chair. The men fell silent. The Aryaka watched the humans. Nahusha typed a text into the tablet and handed it to Eric. The first entry to the space archives is 1,859 Earth years old. It was most likely made after the catastrophe on Earth attracted Izanami’s attention. We could jump back 2,000 years for instance, to a time when transmissions most likely still leave Earth, and then calculate a precise second time jump based on the transmissions. You may find an intact world and the catastrophe may still be far in the future. Eric read the text to Dave and Brandon. He took a breath. “I was captain of the USS Explorer. I was responsible for the safety of the ship and the crew. I’ve already lost my ship. I don’t want to lose the crew. I think we know very well that the pulse that hit our ship was the beginning of a war that resulted in a global disaster. I consider a double time jump a tremendous risk. It would also put the Aryaka in danger. I opt for abandoning the ill-fated mission once and for all. I opt for returning to Kunjara,” he said. “Let’s talk it over. Dave and Brandon, what are your thoughts?” The Aryaka left the bridge and the humans slumped in their chairs. A chasm had opened out to them. *** The ship set course for Kunjara, a four days warp trip for the sophisticated ship. The men had retreated to their sleeping chambers. They had chosen the only reasonable option. They had opted for a fresh start on Kunjara, but they had to come to terms with Earth’s cruel fate and their own uncertain future. The men had not taken their decision lightly and they would forever feel guilty for it. The Aryaka were on the bridge. They let the humans be and only called them back when the ship was approaching Kunjara. The ship touched down in Patha’s spaceport. The group left the ship and was welcomed by an Ektari spaceport official and an Aryaka group. Varyuka, the Aryaka Elder, had come to Patha. He was accompanied by several individuals from Dharana and Patha, among them the trader Raktanga. The group talked and then proceeded to a gate. Patha spaceport refrained from security controls. The Ektari official would lead them from the landing area directly to an air cab stop outside of the spaceport. The group stopped at a sudden commotion. Two security men dragged an individual from a small passenger ship bound for a planet in the adjoining sector. “Izanami arrested the squad that threw the three Aryaka out on the half-deserted planet. They also arrested the captain of the Izanami ship that shot the repair ship off course. An investigation is underway. One man of the squad was missing, an Ektari individual who didn’t go to Izanami but to Varuna instead,” the Ektari official informed them. “You were lucky you didn’t fly to Varuna. You could have run into this man. He came back to Kunjara where he learned of the arrest of the others. He fled from the facility and, as we see, was seized before leaving Kunjara. He’s really a shame for the Ektari species.” The security men and their captive passed them by. The Elder pointed at them and spoke to Nahusha. Vasuki grabbed the translation gadget from Eric’s hands, typed rapidly and handed the tablet to Dave. That’s the man who knocked the Elder down. The man shot at the child. Varyuka recognized the tattoos on his hands. Dave handed the tablet back to Vasuki. He took a deep breath and started to run. “Hey, you there. Wait,” he shouted. The security men turned around, dragging their captive with them. Dave stared into the yellowish face with a broad nose and rubbery lips. “That’s for the little one,” Dave shouted and slammed his fist into the man’s face. “And that’s for having me wait so long,” he shouted, dealing another blow. A security man drew a weapon. “And that’s for you simply being an asshole,” Dave shouted, raising his fist again. He was dragged back by Raktanga who had hurried after him. The Elder hastened towards the group and explained the situation to the security men. They gave a sharp response but then moved on. The prisoner was bleeding from his nose and his lips. One eye was already closing. Dave was breathing heavily. Raktanga placed his hand on Dave’s shoulder and pushed the man back to the others. The Elder apologized to the spaceport official. Vasuki nudged Dave and held a thumb up. Dave grinned and gave a triumphant laugh. The group left the spaceport and the Ektari official departed. The Elder and Nahusha spoke with Raktanga, and then the trader left. The remaining group climbed into an air cab and traveled to Dharana. The Aryaka had gathered in their meeting place. They had prepared an opulent welcome meal. They greeted Nahusha, Shesha and Vasuki and they all nodded politely at the humans. Some even reached out their hand for a handshake. The teacher had trained the welcome gesture, typical for many warm-blooded species, with the Aryaka. She nodded at each handshake approvingly. Brandon spotted the teacher and walked over to her. “It’s nice to see you again, Karma,” he said, trying to convey the meaning of his words by gestures. Karma nodded. “Welcome Brandonchieftain,” she said with a heavy accent. “You’ve remembered my words,” Brandon said with surprise. “That’s nice, Karma. I’m glad to be in this beautiful place. You can’t imagine the havoc I’ve seen.” Nahusha, Shesha and Vasuki sat down on the step of a pyramid. The Dharana citizens asked questions and the three Aryaka answered them patiently. The official welcome ceremony ended and the meeting turned into a social gathering. Dave waited for a moment to leave the place unnoticed. He went to the pyramid where the little one had rested after the attack. Dave ran into the nurse who was just leaving the building. She pointed into the room. Dave went inside. The little one was sitting on the bed with colored pencils and a piece of paper on a clipboard. The child looked up. “Hello, little one, how are you doing?” Dave asked softly, sitting down on a chair beside the bed. “You’re drawing a picture? May I have a look?” The child had drawn a blue circle with a spaceship orbiting a yellow planet. “That’s the label on my shirt, right? It’s a beautiful painting, little one,” Dave said. The child looked at him, jerked its head and moved its fingers choppily, as if indecisive or thinking twice, and then it took a pencil and held it out to Dave. Dave smiled and painted a flower garland. “Kunjara flowers, blue, red, and yellow,” he said. “Kunjara is a beautiful place for a fresh start.” Night fell. The meeting dissolved and the place emptied. Eric was sitting on the step of a pyramid. He was listening to the sounds of the night. He was alone with his feelings and the scents and sounds of a new world. It was already late at night when the Aryaka Elder sat down beside him. They sat together quietly for some time. The Elder placed his hand on Eric’s arm softly, then made typing movements with his fingers. Eric pulled the translation tablet out and handed it to him. Varyuka typed slowly, then handed the gadget back to Eric. The Aryaka composed a song when their home planet went down and they became fugitives in space. We remember this time in a song. Witness the fate of the tortured land There is no graceful way to fall Son of dawn, star of the morning Darkness has crept into our souls The waves have risen and lowered When the sun rose high in the sky Son of dawn, star of the morning The old Dragon days have gone by We sing the song on our most important holiday: The Dawn of Day. We remember our fate and acknowledge our destiny. Our fate is written down in the Serpent Songs and our destiny is recorded in the book of the cosmos. We Aryaka believe in the concept of the balancing scales. Whenever we deviate from our way, destiny will take us back on the right path. We can’t avoid our destiny. We can only acknowledge it and learn on our way. We Aryaka have learned in our long history that destiny will lead us through the night and into the light of a new day. The Elder pointed at the sky. Dawn was breaking. He took the tablet and typed again. The celebration is closed with the words that I now want to say to you on behalf of all Aryaka. We may seem cold, but we know how your loss feels and we feel with you. The Dawn of Day. Welcome a new day. Peace be with you and your kin. Varyuka placed his hand on Eric’s arm, then rose to his feet and left the place. The first rays of the sun were shining through the leaves and Eric heard the wind whispering softly to the creatures and trees. The subtle sound was comforting. THE END
  10. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 14 - The Dawn of Day

    Well, like Eric said, things never turn out the way you expect. I'll post the final chapter today. Many thanks for reading and your feedback. I found your comments constructive.
  11. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 14 - The Dawn of Day

    The men and the Aryaka finally regained consciousness. None of them was seriously hurt. They ignored their blood-smeared faces and hands and Shesha said his overstretched arm didn’t need treatment. The Aryaka sat down at the console and checked the messages on the screens. Nahusha pressed his hand against his ear and attempted to open a line to his Aryaka supporters. He finally gave up on his communication attempts. He turned to the men, took the tablet from Eric and typed an explanation. Eric informed Brandon and Dave. “A gravitational pulse hit the ship and threw it off course. The Aryaka think the Izanami ship shot a pulse at the repair ship to shove it out of their flight corridor. They don’t rule out a directed attack entirely, but they think it unlikely,” he said. “We must proceed with caution, of course. The Aryaka approve of the destination you picked from the menu, Brandon. Varuna is an important stop-over and a trading place for ships and ship equipment. It’s a good place to get a ship without attracting attention, but it’s not a safe place now, considering the incident that happened in space.” “The gravitational pulse from the ship sent the repair ship off course. The space-time fabric was undulating as a result of the pulse and the moving fabric dragged the repair ship along. We’ve already experienced it before. A gravitational wave sent the USS Explorer from the solar system to the star system 55 Cancri. The ship crossed the distance of roughly forty light years in just a few of minutes. A powerful gravitational wave sent the ship through space and into the future. Sophisticated ships traveling the galaxy have shields that neutralize the side effects of an unexpected hit by a gravitational pulse. The repair ship, like other small vessels, has no such shields, however. The ship was dragged through space and most likely through time as well.” “Why? The ship’s computer was able to set course for Kuru,” Brandon said. “The computer was able to determine the ship’s location in space.” “Nahusha can’t establish a communication line to his Kunjara supporters. We must have deviated from our former timeline. I can’t think of a different explanation,” Dave said. “The communication break-down could as well be the result of a computer malfunction,” Eric said. “The Aryaka are currently looking into it.” Brandon shook his head. “Dave’s right,” he said. “They have an advanced communication system. Distance has no major effects on communication. Transmissions cross space without delay. Communication fails, however. This must be the result of a time jump. The ship jumped into the past or into the future. Nahusha’s contact doesn’t reply because he gave up waiting for an answer a long time ago. Or he’s not even yet born. We could as well be way in the past now.” “I guess the computer was able to determine our location in space by referencing star constellations. The constellations must still be the same or look very similar. We can’t be this far off in time,” Dave said. Brandon gave a dry laugh. “Referencing star constellations! They move slowly from our point of perspective, but the time set-off can still be thousands of years either into the past or into the future.” “We’re not talking millions of years,” Dave said. “We’ve already experienced an undirected space-time jump with our own ship,” Brandon said. “We could be anywhere in time now since we’ve left Earth.” “What are they going to do?” Dave asked with a nod at the Aryaka. “The computer is calculating the time set-off, but the result could be inaccurate. We will definitely know more when we have reached Kuru. It’s a minor planet with a long history as a mining place. Mining started thousands of years ago,” Eric said. “We could as well find an early star system with the planet Kuru just forming. We could also find the gas cloud of an old star that exploded a long time ago. I don’t like either prospect at all,” Dave said. He crossed his arms and stared into the room, brooding. Brandon leaned back and closed his eyes, Eric looked into the room and the Aryaka turned back to the console. It was another two days to go. The computer finally confirmed a time jump into the past but was unable to determine the exact time set-off. The time off-set was narrowed down to be at maximum 12,000 years. The result didn’t do much to relieve the humans. “12,000 years. That’s about the time the ice age ended on Earth,” Brandon said resignedly. “12,000 years at maximum,” Eric said. “It’s good news actually.” “It’s horrible news,” Dave said angrily. “I don’t want to come back at the end of the ice age. In this case, I don’t want to go back to Earth at all. I’ll go to Kunjara or back to the deserted planet in the system 55 Cancri and I’ll live with the monks. I may even prefer to board an automated ship and travel through space with no particular destination to go. I’ve not yet decided.” Brandon and Eric exchanged a look. The Aryaka were confident, however. The planet Kuru had already been an active place with regular flights between Izanami and Kuru 12,000 years ago. The Kuru residents would help a possibly time-stranded crew. *** The repair ship dropped back into real space at the edge of the Kuru system. The ship’s sensors, though less advanced than those of more sophisticated ships, scanned the Kuru system and the computer compared the findings to the maps that were saved to the ship’s database. The scans matched the maps. The star system was unchanged. The ship had not jumped hundreds of thousands of years either into the past or into the future. The humans and the Aryaka were somewhat relieved. Kuru was the second planet of the star system. The medium-sized rocky planet orbited its star, a red dwarf, in the habitable zone. The climate was harsh from an Aryaka’s perspective. The average temperature was 16° degrees and the oxygen level was low. The planet had six huge continents, all rich in cobalt, a material needed much in the past by the species located near the galactic center and still demanded to the present day by many young species. Kuru had been mined excessively for tens of thousands of years. Resources were getting short now, but a big mine was still active on the biggest continent. The computer was receiving signals from the planet and from beacons floating in space. The signals defined a flight corridor to Kuru. Shesha re-programmed the ship’s course. He tried to contact Kuru spaceport but couldn’t establish a line. They were receiving transmissions from Kuru but were unable to get messages out. The computer analyzed the transmissions coming from the planet and sent the results to a screen. Nahusha studied them, said something to Vasuki and Shesha, and then turned to the humans. “Good news?” Eric asked hopefully. Nahusha typed into the translation tablet. Eric read the text. A wave of relief rushed through him. He turned to Dave and Brandon. “They studied the time stamps of the signals coming from the planet. Our ship jumped into the past, but only one day, four hours, seven minutes, and forty-one seconds to be exact, measured from our last position in time and space,” Eric said. “Landing the ship on Kuru won’t pose a problem at all. We’re regular space travelers and not travelers from a distant past or future.” “Why can’t they establish a line to the spaceport?” Dave asked. “A computer malfunction most likely,” Eric said. “The ship receives transmissions from Kuru but the computer can’t open a line and contact the spaceport. Shesha is looking into something. He’s confident the communication system will work again soon.” Dave took a breath. “Thank goodness. The best news I’ve ever heard,” he said. He nodded at Shesha and held a thumb up. “Ask them if they are able to determine the time set-off we’ve experienced after the jump with our own ship from the solar system to the star system 55 Cancri.” Eric typed Dave’s question into the tablet. Nahusha replied. “They can’t, unfortunately, because they don’t have signals from Earth.” Eric said. “Nahusha says we must fly to Earth and listen into the transmissions that are leaving the planet. We could be far off from our former timeline, of course. We just don’t know. Nahusha offers a flight to Earth with the sophisticated new ship they hope to get on Kuru.” “Look,” Dave said, pointing at a screen. “We’re approaching Kuru.” The planet filled the monitoring screen. Kuru was not an inviting place. The planet looked like a poisonous ball in space. The planet was entirely covered with thick gray-greenish clouds that formed vortexes and swirls above the poles and along the equator. Three moons orbited the planet. The biggest one was a rust-brown marble, the other two were yellow and gray. They looked even less inviting than the planet Kuru. “A bleak, dismal place in space,” Brandon said. Eric and Dave nodded. Shesha finally managed to re-boot and re-calibrate the communication system. He contacted Kuru spaceport and they received an immediate reply. Kuru spaceport sent a landing vector. The repair ship approached the planet, entered the atmosphere and descended through the thick clouds. The ship touched down on the planet. The spaceport was surprisingly big. It had been built in ancient times when lots of mining ships had landed on the planet and departed from it. The Aryaka demanded breathing equipment that provided additional oxygen, just in case they found breathing was hard in the spaceport halls. A ground vehicle approached the ship and a spaceport employee brought the equipment onto the ship after the ramp of the repair ship had lowered. The Aryaka and the men got off the ship and the car took them to the spaceport building. They entered the hall. The air inside was good. They wouldn’t need additional oxygen. The Aryaka and the men proceeded to a counter. Nahusha told the individual behind the counter that an unexpected gravitational pulse had hit the repair ship and sent it off course. The wave had sent the ship through space and time, but the time set-off was luckily small. He asked if a sophisticated ship was available for rent on Kuru, preferably an advanced ship with proper shields. The employee told him that Kuru was a mining place and usually didn’t rent ships. Provided the circumstances, he would check, however, if a ship was available for them. He asked Nahusha’s name, entered it into the system and then looked up with surprise. “That’s odd,” he said. “A Kunjara individual deposited a big amount of credits for you yesterday. The amount covers the costs of renting a supply ship. Like I said, we don’t usually rent ships, but this deal was arranged yesterday. Didn’t you say your ship was swept away by a gravitational wave and you came to Kuru by accident?” “That’s true,” Nahusha said. “But Kunjara spaceport knew we were drifting through space. Our ship vanished from their monitoring screens. What’s the individual’s name?” “Raktanga,” the employee said. The Aryaka exchanged a look. Raktanga, the Kunjara trader, had deposited the amount. “We know him well,” Nahusha said. “Aryaka family, you know. They must have reckoned with us showing up here and asking for a ship.” “Well, a very considerate man,” the employee said. “The ship can be prepared for you anytime. When do you plan to leave?” “As soon as we can,” Nahusha replied. “When will the ship be ready for take-off?” “In the evening. Do you wish to contact the man? I could establish a communication line for you,” the employee said. “We’ll contact him from the ship,” Nahusha replied. “Can we have a meal somewhere?” “Sure,” the employee said. “There’s a lunchroom over there. I’ll let them know that you’ll get a meal for free.” “Thank you,” Nahusha said. “There’s something else. Our implants need recalibration. Can it be done?” The employee pointed at the far end of the hall. “Ask the man in the shop over there,” he said. “He should be able to re-calibrate your implants.” Nahusha thanked the man. They went to the lunchroom and received a warm meal and drinks. Shesha typed a summary of his talk with the employee into the tablet and Eric talked it over with the other men. They remained in the lunchroom until their ship was ready for take-off, then went to the shop to have their neural implants recalibrated. A man asked the Aryaka to sit down in chairs. He handed them helmets and studied a screen. “Your implants have shut down completely. I’d suggest a complete reset,” he said. “I’ll install the latest software. It will be done in almost no time. That’s more efficient than looking for errors and fixing them.” It was done in less than half an hour. The Aryaka and the men left the shop. A car took them to their rented ship and an employee collected the breathing equipment. The Aryaka and the humans boarded the ship. “Finally connected with the world again,” Shesha said when the hatch closed behind them. “I actually feel whole again,” Vasuki said, sounding relieved. “We’ll contact the Elder when we’re back in space,” Nahusha said. “Take-off is scheduled in an hour.” The group went onto the bridge. The ship was cleared for take-off. It climbed to orbit and set course for Earth. Nahusha contacted the Elder. Eric recounted what Varyuka had said. “Raktanga deposited credit amounts in all spaceports that were listed in the flight menu. The Aryaka trusted the ship had not drifted too far through time and space,” he said. “There was a commotion in the spaceport after the shot at the repair ship. The incident was classified as a hostile attack and was reported to Izanami. There will be an official investigation. The Elder thinks the Aryaka can safely return to Kunjara. Nobody will arrest them. No one has an interest to become the target of an investigation. Nahusha told the Elder they’ll take us back to Earth. Varyuka thanks us on behalf of the Aryaka for our support. The Elder wishes us well.” “I would have liked to confront the man who attacked the little one,” Dave said. “Sadly, I didn’t have the chance.” “I didn’t say a proper goodbye to the teacher,” Brandon said. “I could have never imagined that I’d return without my ship,” Eric said. “Things never turn out the way you expect.” ***
  12. Dolores Esteban

    The Tale

    Great story, northie. I absolutely loved it.
  13. Dolores Esteban

    The George Mackenzie Poltergeist

    Thanks everybody. Glad you liked the short piece. ☺️
  14. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 13 - The Dawn of Day

    Thank you. We'll know very soon if the Izanami get away with it.
  15. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 2 - The Dawn of Day

    Yes, the monks are definitely biased. Thanks for reading and commenting.
  16. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 13 - The Dawn of Day

    The Izanami ship was on full alert. All crew from the relevant compartments gathered in the cargo holds. The main computer had started the emergency procedure for a ship parked on the ground. The people flooded out of the ship and into the spaceport hall. Two containers, not yet secured in the cargo hold, were let down the ramp. They hovered down, landed on the ground and were taken away by the hovering way to the main door and out into the front hall. Nobody took notice of the crests. The crew talked excitedly until the commander spoke from the ship and said that it was a false alarm. The main computer had detected no self-induced overheating of the chemical engine. The sensor that gave off the warning was to be replaced and another test would be run before departure. Take-off was postponed for an hour. The commander asked the crew to get back on the ship. The Izanami squad had also left the ship. They didn’t know by now that the arrest rooms had unlocked during the emergency situation. The repair ship in the adjoining hangar was ready for take-off. The roof of the hangar had already opened. Take-off was scheduled in five minutes. The cargo hatch unlocked and opened and the ramp descended. A container hovered up and into the ship. An Aryaka jumped onto the ramp, ran into the ship, secured the container in the cargo hold, and then left the ship quickly. The hatch closed, the door locked and the light on the console changed from red to white. The take-off sequence started. The men on the bridge stared at the screen that monitored the cargo hold. The container was closed. Nahusha, Shesha and Vasuki were hiding inside. The first part of their plan had been successful. The repair ship hovered up, left the hangar and rose into the air. It reached the upper layers of the atmosphere, climbed to orbit and pulled out of the gravity well. The ship set course for the platform orbiting the dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. The ship’s speed increased steadily. The humans watched the monitoring screens. The planet Kunjara fell behind the ship and soon looked like a marble in space. The container in the cargo hold folded open and Nahusha, Shesha and Vasuki came out. They jerked their heads and moved their limbs choppily, but finally walked to the exit of the cargo hold. Nahusha pulled something out of a pocket and put it in his ear. The Aryaka proceeded to the bridge. *** The unlocked doors to the arrest rooms were detected half an hour before departure of the Izanami ship. A hectic investigation followed. Take-off was canceled until further notice and the entire ship was searched by Izanami security teams. The recordings of the monitoring devices in the ship and the spaceport hall were sighted. The prisoners could be seen moving down a corridor with crew from the zero compartments. The individuals were identified and immediately questioned. A few crew members remembered they saw the open doors of the arrest rooms, others had seen the prisoners but had not paid much attention because of the alarm and the ongoing evacuation. A recording showed the prisoners in the cargo hold, but neither the ship’s nor the facility’s recordings showed the three Aryaka leaving the ship. Search in the cargo hold and on the ship was intensified, but the search came up empty. The investigation then focused on the two containers. They had first been pushed to the side of the cargo hold to allow free access to the ramp during evacuation. The containers were not visible in the recording for a while. Then they were pushed onto the ramp. The investigation team concluded that the prisoners had climbed into a container while the crests were out of sight. A facility recording showed the containers hovering out of the hall with the ship and another recording showed the crests standing in the front hall. The crests had not been touched or moved until they hovered back onto the ship. The two containers were immediately opened. They were filled with supplies for the food processors. An Ektari individual working in repairs insisted he had seen a container hovering away to another door. The Aryaka officer on the investigation team was pleased with the Ektari’s professional eye and his mindfulness during an emergency situation. He asked the Ektari to carefully think over his observation as much depended on what he had seen. The officer asked if, just maybe, the Ektari had seen the container moving from the front hall back to the ship. The Ektari, anxious to provide help and professional advice, thought his observation over thoroughly and then admitted that he saw the container moving back to the ship. The Aryaka investigator thanked him. Other witnesses were heard. A few had seen the prisoners in the spaceport hall, while others saw them on the ship crossing the lounge area at the same time. It was a useless endeavor. Ship and facility crew were unable to contribute anything useful. They had all panicked because of the emergency situation and a possible blow-up of the ship’s chemical reactor. The investigation team was meanwhile certain that the prisoners had been freed. Their escape stank of a concerted action. It could, however, not been proved. The leader of the investigation team announced a more thorough investigation of ship and facility during the course of the day. Someone pointed at possible outside helpers who had gained access to the facility and had freed the prisoners. It remained a mystery, however, as to how the helpers had entered the compound and left it with the prisoners. The investigation team looked into the recordings of the monitoring device near the facility entrance, beginning with the hour the prisoners had entered the compound. No unknown individuals could be sighted. Everybody entering the facility was registered in the database and had accessed the compound with a registered identity card. Nobody had left the facility during and after the emergency situation. Neither the prisoners nor any unknown individuals could be seen in the hangar and in the halls. Nothing pointed to a tampering of recordings or registry logs. The three Aryaka in the monitoring room had done an excellent job. They had deleted the access logs of the humans and had perfectly edited all relevant recordings. The container with the prisoners had been replaced by an identical one in the front hall. The container with the prisoners had been pushed on the hovering way that moved the crest into the hangar where the repair ship was parked. The edited recordings showed nothing of it. The Izanami ship finally departed, nine hours delayed. The Izanami squad was in an extremely bad mood. They had reported the arrest of three individuals and their transport to Izanami and now had to report the prisoners had been able to escape. They advised the facility crew to find the prisoners and hand them over to them when they were back on the planet in a couple of weeks. They would have liked to perform the search themselves, but the flight to Izanami was the last one of a cycle of flights between Kunjara and Izanami for the squad and the ship crew. An off-time period and vacation followed and neither squad nor crew had an interest in a prolonged stay on a planet in the outbound region of the galaxy, far away from any real civilization. The Izanami ship hovered up into the air, climbed to orbit and set course for the Izanami hub near the galactic center. The ship’s speed increased and the sophisticated ship raced towards the edge of the system. *** The repair ship had almost reached the dwarf planet where the ship was supposed to deviate from its course. Nahusha, Shesha and Vasuki entered the bridge. The men unstrapped and turned to the Aryaka. The Aryaka each raised a hand in greeting. The men greeted back. “Right in time,” Dave said. “Glad to see you made it,” Brandon said with a smile. Eric typed into the translation tablet. Nice to see you again. Are you informed of the plan? Nahusha pressed his hand against his ear and focused on a transmission from Kunjara. Shesha took the tablet from Eric and typed a reply. They gave us a portable communication device. We can’t communicate through the neural implants. They’re still deactivated. We’re into the plan and we have received the instructions. We’re approximately one hour from the deviation point. Thanks for your support. You can sure count on ours. Balancing scales, you know. Nahusha jerked his head and spoke rapidly to Shesha and Vasuki. He waved at the men to rise from their seats. The men stood and the Aryaka sat down. They bowed over the controls and studied the messages that were scrolling down the screens. Finally, they leaned back in their seats. Nahusha was listening attentively to someone speaking on the line. Shesha typed an explanation into the tablet. We were just informed that the Izanami ship took off a while ago and is gaining speed rapidly. The ship might reach the edge of the system before we have reached our drop-out point. We’ve just checked on the pre-programmed course. We may have to delay drop-out of real space to not attract unwanted attention. The repair ship will answer all possible queries from the Izanami ship with automated replies. Eric informed Dave and Brandon. *** The Izanami ship was fast. It was shortening the distance to the repair ship quickly. An officer on the bridge reported a flying object ahead and slightly within the flight corridor of the Izanami ship. The object was soon identified as a Kunjara repair ship on way to a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. The automated ship didn’t follow the standard flight corridor for repair ships for some unknown reason. “Query the ship”, the commander ordered. “Automated reply,” the officer replied a short while later. “Unmanned repair ship on course for platform zz443. Automated flight and pre-programmed course. It’s not the standard course, however. It seems the ship swerved from its original course and the ship’s computer didn’t detect the deviation. Sensor malfunction possibly. Or computer failure.” “Report to ground control. They must send a course correction. We can’t risk the repair ship swerving into our flight corridor,” the commander said. “We’re shortening the distance to the repair ship rapidly,” the officer replied. “Time is getting short for a transmission cycle.” “Slight gravitational pulse in direction of the ship. Shove the unmanned vessel out of our flight corridor,” the commander ordered. “Sequence for a gravitational pulse, level 001, started,” the officer replied. “Pulse will hit the target in two minutes thirty-five seconds. Our ship will pass the target point in three minutes, two seconds.” The slight gravitational pulse hit the repair ship and shoved it out of their flight corridor. The Izanami ship passed by and reached the drop-out point shortly after. The sophisticated ship dropped out of real space and continued its flight in warp mode. A powerful gravitational beam was taking the huge disk-shaped vessel to the center space hub Izanami. The gravitational pulse, slight to the huge Izanami ship but powerful to the small vessel, blasted the repair ship off course. The repair ship was seized by the gravitational wave of the pulse and was dragged along with the undulating space-time fabric to a different location in time and space. Neither the men nor the Aryaka had strapped in. The Aryaka were thrown against the console with great force and then to the floor when the ship started tumbling. The men were likewise thrown from their seats. Their bodies hit hard on the floor. The blow had come unexpected, in a moment of inattentiveness, when the Aryaka had not yet seized full control of the ship. *** Brandon opened his eyes, turned his head and winced. His head was aching terribly. He was lying on the floor in front of the chairs. Dave was stretched next to him, motionless and with his eyes closed. Eric’s body had skidded across the floor. The three Aryaka were also sprawled on the floor. None of them stirred. Were they dead or unconscious? Brandon fought against feelings of despair and terror. He struggled to his feet, ignoring the pain all over his body, and checked on the others. They were unconscious. Dave’s face was injured and Eric had bit his lip. Nahusha’s forehead was lacerated, Vasuki’s hand was cut and Shesha’s right arm looked twisted. Brandon couldn’t tell about internal injuries. It was clear, however, that the Aryaka and the men needed support. Brandon sat down in a chair and looked at the console. Something had thrown the ship off course. Something had hit the ship. An asteroid? Another ship? Or the shot of a weapon? The computer worked, luckily, and attempted to balance the flight of the ship. Brandon felt numb. He stared at the buttons, the lights and the screens on the console. He knew he had to get the ship to a safe place in space, but the task seemed impossible to him. They had trained for hours on the repair ship, had run the simulation program time and again, but now he wasn’t able to read the messages on the screens and he had forgotten the meaning of the controls and buttons. “Focus,” he told himself, again and again. It didn’t work, however. Brandon’s despair grew with every second that passed. Suddenly, he heard a whisper, very low and very far. Brandon startled and looked around in alarm. His heart was beating fast. He was hallucinating. It made his situation even worse. Brandon wiped his face nervously. Once again, he told himself to calm down and focus. Another surge of despair rushed through his body, but then he heard the whisper again, a subtle call seemingly coming out of nowhere. “My name is Karma. Destiny.” The tension left him and a quiet calm settled over Brandon. He relaxed and took a deep breath. “My name is Brandon. Chieftain. I’m summoned to command this ship,” he said. He had run simulations. He had learned to engage the gravitational drive and pick a pre-programmed flight destination from a menu. Brandon remembered the meanings of the controls and buttons and he identified the messages on the screens. He pressed the buttons in the proper order and opened the flight menu with the flight destinations. Varuna was on top of the list. The alternate destinations were programmed for an emergency case. The Aryaka plan had failed. Something had gone very wrong. Brandon scrolled down the list and picked the pre-programmed flight destination Kuru. The computer stabilized the ship and determined the ship’s location in space. The system calculated the new course and confirmed the course change. Brandon pressed a button and commanded immediate drop-out of real space. A screen lit up. It showed the status updates sent from the warp drive. The gravitational engine came on and the ship continued its flight in warp mode. Brandon rose from his chair and attended to the wounded men and Aryaka. ***
  17. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 12 - The Dawn of Day

    I didn't forget about their implants. Three more chapters. We're inevitable coming to the end of the story. I hope I didn't forget about other things. I'll post chapter 13 today and will reread the final chapters tomorrow. Thanks again for reading and commenting.
  18. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 12 - The Dawn of Day

    The Aryaka and the humans gathered early the following morning in front of the Pyramid of the Elder. Varyuka spoke one more time to his people and then the group left Dharana. They went to the cab stop outside of the city where several air cars waited for them. The cars reached Patha at noon. A dark blue sky stretched over the city. Patha was the biggest town on Kunjara and the major trade center of the planet. The suburbs stretched far and wide and were dominated by flat houses with two or three stories. A few taller buildings were erected on major crossroads. The air cabs hovered along the streets, their movements coordinated by a computer system that was located in the suburbs of the city not far from the spaceport where they had landed their ship. The men saw the spaceport towers in the distance. A huge disk-shaped spaceship was hovering down. The cars drove into the city. People got off at every stop. High towers dominated the center. Many buildings were made of a glass-like material, others looked like made of plastics. The traffic got heavier and the sidewalks were crowded with people. Many Aryaka but also members of other species hurried up and down the streets of the town. Two cars stopped at Patha’s central place. The rest of the Aryaka and the humans got off. An elderly Aryaka, dressed in elegant blue and white clothes, waited for the humans and invited them into his cab. His name was Raktanga. He was a trader with widespread connections. Raktanga told the men he would show them to a place where spacemen preferred to spend their off-ship time. They would meet his nephew Andha in a hotel. Andha had seen the three Aryaka in a spaceport section that was primarily reserved for ships traveling between Kunjara and Izanami and other space stations near the galactic center. The squad had taken their prisoners to the security area of the compound. Andha was supposed to return to the facility around midnight. This was the only chance for the men to enter the site. The air cab stopped and Raktanga pointed down a street. They got off the car and the men followed the trader down a narrow lane. The quarter was buzzing with people, members of different species, mostly spacemen from everywhere in space. A few individuals wore fanciful clothes, but most were dressed in simple ship suits. They passed restaurants, shopping areas and amusement halls. A pulsating sound was coming from one of the buildings. The alien music was popular. A large crowd of people was waiting in front of the entrance to the Patha music hall. The trader stopped in front of a sleek tower where ship crews entered and left through a glass door. The Aryaka and the men went into the building. Raktanga pointed at a couch in the lounge area. They all sat down. The men looked around. Individuals and groups went to a touch screen, pressed buttons and pushed cards into a slit. It was an automatic booking system. A light above the touch screen indicated if a room was available or not. The people usually protested when the light turned from white to red and then they started the procedure all over again. A hatch opened when all was finished. People took a key card from it. A young Aryaka entered the hotel and joined the men and the Aryaka trader. Andha greeted his uncle, nodded at the men and then pointed at the elevator. The group crossed the hall. The elevator took them to the sixteenth floor. Andha opened a door with a key card and they entered a small, tidy room with a cupboard, chairs, a table and beds. They sat down. Andha took the translation tablet and entered a text. Eric read it and informed the others. “This hotel is a busy place. People come and go. We won’t attract attention here. Andha is an engineer on a ship that travels regularly between Izanami and Kunjara. The Aryaka know meanwhile that Nahusha and the others will be taken on board of the Izanami ship shortly before take-off. The next flight for Izanami is scheduled in roughly two days. Repair ships also launch from the site. They fly to other planets in the system and to platforms in the asteroid belt. The Elder’s grandson Kumuda works in the department that schedules the departure of the repair ships. He scheduled a flight at about the same time the Izanami ship is scheduled for take-off. The Aryaka plan to get the prisoners on the repair ship without the Izanami squad taking notice at once. The Aryaka think Nahusha and the others might not be fit to fly the ship to the designated drop-out point in space, however. There’s a cold chamber in the security area. You know what it means to an Aryaka. Their movements might be slowed down and their reflexes delayed. We’re ship crew, too. We will take the repair ship to the edge of the system and we will engage the gravitational drive. Nahusha and the others will take over as soon as they can.” Brandon took a deep breath. “Okay, I have no doubt we can fly the ship,” he said, his voice shaking slightly. “The Aryaka think we can. I have no doubt we can trust their expertise,” Dave said. “How will we get into the facility?” Raktanga produced three identity cards. The men would safely pass the controls. When asked how he got the cards, the trader waved his hand dismissively. A trade in hand finds gold in every land, he typed. A long exchange followed, only interrupted by a meal. The hotel room had an implemented food processor. They were not the only ones who worked on freeing Nahusha, Vasuki and Shesha. Many more Aryaka worked in the background on perfecting the plan. They communicated through their neural implants. Raktanga and Andha now and then paused the conversation, checked on their incoming messages and sent status updates and messages out. The trader departed late in the evening. Andha and the humans went to an air cab stop not far from the hotel. A large crowd had already gathered. The employees and workers waited for the cars that would take them back to the facility outside of Patha. The cabs arrived shortly before midnight at the compound. The people got off the cars and gathered in front of the entrance to the site. The workers had to file through a narrow gate and place their identity cards on a scanner. Two security men in a cube watched the group attentively through a glass pane. One of them was an Aryaka. Andha and the men approached the gate. The Aryaka in the cube rose to his feet when he spotted them. He pointed into the distance and said something to the other man in the cube. A shout was heard. Another individual shouted back loudly. Two Aryaka had picked up a fake fight. The other security man rose to his feet and tried to spot the fighting individuals through the glass pane. He was distracted for an instant. Andha and the humans took their chance, placed their identity cards on the scanner and swiftly passed the security gate. Andha showed the men to the hangar where the repair ship was parked. He asked the men to wait for their new contact, gave them a nod and left the hall. The humans had imagined a fairly small vessel, but the disk-shaped ship was bigger than their own ship was. Their new contact entered the hangar. The Aryaka unlocked the ship and led the men onto the bridge. They all sat down in the seats at the console. The Aryaka took the translation tablet from Eric and introduced himself to the men. His name was Samkha. He piloted a cargo ship that was scheduled for take-off in roughly four days. Samkha had opted to spend his off-time in the spaceport facility. He would train the men and he would stay on board until shortly before take-off. He told the men more of the plan. The Aryaka would free the prisoners and take them to the hangar where the repair ship was parked. Andha would make sure the Izanami squad would not miss the prisoners for a while. The repair ship would thus have a head start. Samkha had already programmed the ship’s flight to a platform that orbited a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. The humans would have to do nothing, if all worked out and according to plan. They had to take over and fly the ship to the edge of the system only in the unlikely case that something went wrong. The men exchanged looks. They knew all too well that every plan called fail-safe tended to fail in the end. They had roughly 48 hours to learn the essentials of manual flight and the procedure of engaging the warp drive. Since they didn’t have time for a written exchange, the humans would have to learn by observation. Samkha showed them the menu with the pre-programmed flight destinations, Aryaka-dominated planets and platforms in the adjoining space sectors. The planet Varuna, a trading place for ships and ship equipment, was the preferred flight destination. An Aryaka spaceship would be available for them on Varuna. The pilot pointed at the console and pulled up a checklist on a screen. The men stared at the unfamiliar lights and controls and the messages written in an unknown language. Samkha assured them that the task was simple. Take-off was automated and the flight was pre-programmed. It was all about engaging the gravitational drive after passing the dwarf planet, drop out of real space and do a warp flight to Varuna. The alternate destinations were programmed only for an emergency case. The Aryaka pressed a button and a screen lit up. The image showed a section of the console and a red arrow. It was a simple manual, pieced together quickly by the Aryaka. The men focused on the difficult task. They knew they were slow and time was running out fast. They made progress, however, and they finally trained with a simulation program. Samkha encouraged them every so often with a nod. After six training sessions, he told them to rest for half an hour in a sleeping chamber with several cots. The men slept until the Aryaka pilot called them back on the bridge to repeat the training sessions. The training ended half an hour before the Izanami ship was scheduled for take-off. The Aryaka left and the humans were alone on the bridge. The men were nervous, knowing very well that, if anything went wrong until launch of the ship, they would be regarded as the prime suspects of the release plot. They were sitting in their chairs, staring at the light that would change from red to white when the automated take-off sequence started and Nahusha, Shesha and Vasuki had hopefully entered the ship. *** Andha was in the engine room that housed the gravitational drive. He was watching two monitoring screens. One showed the cargo hold of the ship, the other the hangar with the Izanami ship. The huge disk-shaped ship was scheduled for take-off in approximately one hour, but the hatch of the cargo hold was still open and crests were being hovered up and into the ship. The ship’s commander, the officers and the rest of the crew were already on board, but the Izanami squad and their prisoners had not yet arrived at the ship. Andha was alone in the room. He glanced at the wall where he had removed a square flap and opened an entrance to the maintenance tubes. The tubes led to the electronic hardware that connected the gravitational engine with the computers on the bridge. Andha rehearsed the procedure. He had to be quick. He looked back at the monitoring screens. The hangar hall opened and the Izanami squad entered, dragging the three Aryaka with them. Nahusha, Shesha and Vasuki moved slowly, handicapped by a long stay in the cold chamber. Andha jerked his head in anger but then focused back on the screen. He blocked out every thought and sensation. The Izanami squad and the prisoners entered the ship. Andha seized the battery-operated hand warmer that he had placed on the console. Many Aryaka carried hand warmers in the pockets of their clothes just in case they experienced a sudden unpleasant temperature drop. The maximum heat output of the hand warmer was 55°C. Andha seized the warmer firmly. It was already hot. Andha put the warmer in a pocket, glanced one more time at the monitoring screens, then jerked around and raced to the entrance to the maintenance tubes. He crouched down, squeezed through the square hole into the narrow tube and crept forward, wiggling his way past machinery and consoles until he reached a flap that led into the tube to the compartment that housed the chemical reactor, the emergency drive. Andha opened the flap, pulled the hand warmer from his pocket and squeezed half through the flap. He reached out his hand and pressed the warmer on a small black box on a cable shaft. A minute later, an ear-deafening alarm was ringing on the ship. The sensor had measured a critical temperature rise in the compartment that housed the chemical reactor. Andha pulled back, closed the flap and crept back through the tube. A short time later, he was back in the gravitational engine room. A computer voice announced automatic sealing of the compartment with the chemical reactor in sixty seconds and called everybody to immediately leave ship compartments 0A, 0B and 0C and all corridors leading up to them. The compartments housed the drives of the ship, the emergency drive, the conventional drive for flight through real space and the long-range gravitational or warp drive. Andha closed the entrance to the maintenance tubes, threw the hand warmer in a waste recycling tube and left the engine room quickly. He hurried down the corridor past the arrest rooms that had unlocked automatically to release the prisoners due to the emergency case. ***
  19. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 11 - The Dawn of Day

    Thank you. Glad you liked the chapter.
  20. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 11 - The Dawn of Day

    The men left the cube the following morning. The air was cool and the place was empty and quiet. The Aryaka were still sleeping in their pyramids after the long celebration night. The men walked around and finally sat down on the step of a pyramid at the edge of the rainforest. A sapphire-blue snake uncoiled in the grass, reared up briefly, and then disappeared into the forest. The sun was shining and the air was filled with the intense scent of tropical flowers and blossoms. A huge bird crossed the sky and a carmine red lizard on a pyramid step watched the men with an unblinking eye. The wind was whispering softly. A loud noise broke the silence. A vehicle was descending to the ground. The men stood and watched. The helicopter-like vehicle touched down and a squad of black-clad men jumped out of it. They ran in direction of the Pyramid of the Elder, shouting wildly. The noise woke the Aryaka. They stumbled out of their pyramids, their movements slow and clumsy. Their bodies had not yet warmed up, but the males struggled and forced themselves to move faster. The men entered the Pyramid of the Elder. They came out a minute later, dragging the Elder with them. They forced Varyuka to his knees and a man pointed a weapon at the Elder’s temple. A man gestured and shouted at the Aryaka. Two male Aryaka started to run but were struck down by shots from a gun. The other Aryaka froze and stared at the scenery in shock. The man standing near Varyuka hit the Elder in the face. Nahusha entered the place and called out loudly. The leader of the squad turned around and pointed a weapon at him. Varyuka called out to Nahusha, but Nahusha shook his head, raised his arms and then moved towards the intruders. Shesha and Vasuki followed him. The men stormed towards the three Aryaka. They searched their clothes, bound their hands and finally dragged them to their vehicle. They thrust the three Aryaka inside and the leader of the squad shouted something to the man standing near Varyuka. The man hit Elder’s head hard with his gun. Varyuka fell to the ground. A child ran across the place in panicked zigzag movements, the little one that had clung to Dave’s sleeve the previous evening. The child stopped at the sight of the fallen Elder. It jerked its head, waved its arms and ran towards the man with the weapon. The man fired his gun. The child fell to the ground. “Little one,” Dave wailed in agony. The leader of the squad turned his head and searched the place with his eyes. The teacher came running towards the humans with a finger placed on her lips. She dragged Dave behind a pyramid. Eric and Brandon followed them quickly. The intruders climbed into their vehicle. It ascended into the air and disappeared out of sight. The humans looked at each other in shock. The teacher made a gesture with her hand. She pointed at the Pyramid of the Elder and started to run. The men followed her quickly. A few Aryaka were carrying the two shot males from the place. The Elder was nowhere to be seen. The child was lying on the ground. “Little one,” Dave wailed and raced towards the child. Dave knelt down, took the child up, held it in his arms and stroked its forehead gently. The nurse from the birth house knelt down beside him and took the lifeless child from his arms. She rose to her feet and walked away. Dave knelt in the place, his body shaking and tears streaming down his face. “Little one,” he wailed. The nurse went back to Dave and placed a hand on his shoulder while holding the child tight to her body with the other arm. Another female hurried to help her. The nurse walked away with the child and the other female pulled Dave to his feet. They followed the nurse. The Aryaka stood frozen in the place. Eric felt as if his heart was torn out. Brandon wiped tears from his face. The teacher came and placed her hand on Eric’s arm. She pointed at the Pyramid of the Elder, then crossed the place and entered the building. Eric and Brandon followed her inside. The old Aryaka was stretched on a bed. Varyuka was looking at them with sad eyes. The female raised her hand and made typing movements with her fingers. Eric pulled the translation tablet out and handed it to her. Varyuka made a weak gesture with his hand and spoke to the teacher. She pointed at the chairs in the room. They all sat down. Eric showed the teacher how to use the tablet. The Elder watched the scene with clouded eyes. It took the teacher a while to grasp the tool and type the words, but finally she had completed her text. She handed the gadget to Eric. Eric read the text and then turned to Brandon with an angry look. “Varyuka’s not seriously hurt. He feels numb and his head hurts, but otherwise he isn’t hurt. The teacher witnessed only part of what happened and heard only bits of the talk, but she has summarized everything to the best of her knowledge. The squad that raided Dharana was probably the squad that threw Nahusha, Shesha and Vasuki out on the planet. They said something of a backwater ship from a backwater planet and a registry archive that sent a belated warning. They must have questioned the man who produced our identity cards. He must have told them of the three backwater spacemen and the Aryaka that traveled with them. I guess they quickly found out about Nahusha and his crew. Nahusha called the air cab with a card, a personal credit card most likely. They found out the air cab drove to Dharana and hence they came here.” “Those men are criminals,” Brandon said in an enraged voice. “I totally believe they threw Nahusha and his crew out on the planet. They took the law into their own hands. It sure was not an authorized act. They now want to save their own skin. Either by getting rid of the Aryaka once and for all or by finally handing them over to the authorities like they were supposed to do in the first place. They’re simply dubious and corrupt. Look what these criminals did! They shot two Aryaka, knocked down the Elder and shot an innocent child. That’s absolutely brutal. Why this brutal slaughter? Because the Aryaka made plans for more independence, plans that were never put into action? I fear the entire galaxy is a corrupt and terror-fraught place. I don’t want to be part of it,” Brandon said, shaking his head in disgust. He crossed his arms and clenched his lips. “I’ll ask her if she knows what’s going to happen to them,” Eric said. The teacher typed a reply. Eric read the text and spoke to Brandon. “The teacher thinks they will take their prisoners to Izanami or another Izanami-controlled hub in space. She’s certain Nahusha and the others will never come back to Kunjara or any other Aryaka place. They will be sent to a prison in space. Many Aryaka were sent to prison in the time of the big war. They composed songs, lamenting their fate. Their songs were added to the Serpent Songs. The Aryaka prisoners are regarded as heroes. The teacher says Nahusha, Shesha and Vasuki will compose new songs and add to the legends that are written by heroes. They will forever be remembered in the Serpent Songs, until the day the Great Serpents coils and time itself will come to an end.” Eric looked up. Brandon swallowed. Eric placed the gadget on the table. “That’s not going to happen,” he said, his voice very calm. “What?” Brandon asked in confusion. “I said it’s not going to happen,” Eric repeated, rising to his feet. He stood, his feet firmly on the ground, and turned his eyes to the Elder. “It’s not going to happen. I will free the prisoners at whatever cost,” he said, then crossed his arms in front of his chest. The teacher pulled at Brandon’s sleeve and Brandon typed Eric’s reply into the gadget. The female read it to the Elder. Varyuka raised his eyes and studied Eric with apparent surprise. The Elder struggled to his feet and spoke to the female. She typed his words. “You sure have Aryaka blood in your veins,” Brandon read the Elder’s answer. The Elder gave Eric a respectful nod and then spoke solemnly. “I am the Elder of Kunjara, Aryaka governor, descendant of the great King Nahusha, and Son of the Great Serpent,” Varyuka said. “I speak on behalf of the Great Serpent.” A serpent guards the vault The celestial serpent A messenger from across space and time Ananta-Shesha Endless Shesha Brave One in the house of its founder Summon the serpent housed in silence Wake the Great Serpent from its sleep The ray of creation emerges from the Divine Ananta-Shesha Endless Shesha Time moves forward, Adishesha uncoils “The Great Serpent woke from its sleep and uncoiled. Brave One in the house of its founder, Ananta-Shesha has heard your call,” Varyuka said. The teacher listened to the Elder in awe and entered his words into the tablet. Brandon read them to Eric. Varyuka looked at Eric. Their eyes locked. The Elder raised his hand. “I speak on behalf of the Great Serpent. The Great Serpent calls his kin to arms.” *** The nurse had carried the child into a pyramid and laid the small body on a bed. Dave was relieved that the child wasn’t dead, but he was aware that the child was in a very bad state. He saw no blood coming from a gunshot wound, but the child was without conscience, the breathing shallow and the muscles numb. Dave sat down on a chair beside the bed and watched the child with tears in his eyes. “Oh, little one,” he said, deeply grieved. The nurse left the room. Dave placed his hand softly on the child’s cheek. The Aryaka child didn’t react. It lay still and didn’t move in its coma-like sleep. The nurse returned. She placed her hand on Dave’s arm and talked in a low voice. Dave gave her a questioning look. The female made a gesture. Dave understood she asked him to stand up and step back. Hesitatingly, he did what she said. An old Aryaka entered the room. He carried a bag in his hand. The nurse treated the old Aryaka with much respect. A healer, Dave guessed. He made a step back and leaned against the wall. The old Aryaka gave him a look and then turned to the child on the bed. He placed his hand on the child’s head, forehead and cheeks, put his hand on the chest and wrapped his fingers around the wrists. Finally, he pulled something out of his bag. Dave watched the healer suspiciously. He expected him applying magical cures and singing a serpent song as a treatment, but the healer produced a headset with a disk on each side. The disks were made of a black material with metallic inlays. The healer put the headset on the child’s head and pulled a gadget out of his bag. He studied a display, then pressed buttons and entered codes. Dave clenched his fists. Was the Aryaka manipulating the child’s brain functions? The nurse shot Dave a warning look. Dave took a deep breath and turned his eyes to the child. The sight left him stunned. The treatment was already working. The child stirred but didn’t wake up. Its breathing had improved, however. The Aryaka finally removed the headset from the child’s head and put it back in his bag. He spoke to the nurse and then left the pyramid. Dave moved to the bed and looked at the child with concern. The nurse placed her hand on his arm and nodded at him. Dave saw no concern in her eyes. Was she trying to say the child was getting better already? The female left the room and Dave sat down on the chair. The child lay still for a long time, but suddenly it moved its hands and its head. The child was still sleeping, but the coma-like sleep had ended. “You’re getting better, little one,” Dave whispered softly. He remained sitting by the bed until the child opened its eyes. The little one gazed at him for a long time, its eyes big and wide. Dave smiled at the child and gently stroked its cheek. The child jerked its head slightly, but showed no explicit discomfort at the touch. It said something in the Aryaka language and pointed at the colored NASA logo on Dave’s shirt. “Oh, little one. You’re doing fine. Rest. I will watch over you. I’m right by your side,” Dave said with a smile. The child reached out its hand and clung to Dave’s sleeve until it fell asleep again. Dave watched the child. “I’ll get the one who did this you. I will hunt him down. Promised,” he said. *** The Aryaka gathered in the meeting place and sat down on the pyramid steps. The place was crowded with people. Many Aryaka had come to Dharana for the celebration. Many had wanted to leave the following morning, but they all stayed in the city after the horrible event. They listened to their Elder Varyuka who had summoned the meeting. Varyuka talked to his people. He now and then pointed at the humans or raised a hand to the sky. None of the Aryaka interrupted the Elder. They all listened attentively, their eyes fixed on him. Eric and Brandon were sitting in the shade, under the leaves of a huge tropical tree, while the Aryaka were sitting in the morning sun. The Aryaka rose to their feet. Varyuka raised his hands in the air and the Aryaka started singing a sinister song. The females and children left the place after the song while the males sat down on the steps once more. All talk and movement suddenly ended. The Aryaka froze and sat like statues on the steps of the pyramids. Some had closed their eyes, others looked into the distance absent-mindedly. The sight was surreal. “What’s going on?” Brandon asked in bewilderment. “Combat mode,” Eric said. “They’re all in combat mode, focusing hard. Whatever they do, they want to accomplish it fast.” The men watched the Aryaka. A long time went time. The Aryaka teacher finally joined them. She touched their arms briefly and pointed in a direction. The men rose to their feet, cast another glance at the frozen Aryaka and then followed the teacher. She led them to a place where the females and children had gathered to eat. Eric and Brandon took bowls from a table and sat down on a pyramid step. Dave and the nurse entered the place. The female was carrying a sleeping child in her arms. The nurse joined the Aryaka females and children and Dave sat down next to Brandon and Eric. Brandon handed him a bowl filled with meatballs. “Eat,” he said. Dave nodded thankfully. “How’s the child doing?” Eric asked. “Better,” Dave said. “The child was in a very bad state, unconscious and numbed. Phaser shot or whatever. A healer was summoned. The child got better after the treatment. It wakes now and then it but mostly sleeps.” He nodded at the nurse with the child in her arms. “The child will eat now and then she’ll carry it back to the treatment room, if I understood her correctly. I swear I will hunt that bastard down. He won’t get away with the crime.” Dave looked around. “Only females and children. Where are the males?” “Sitting on the steps of the pyramids in the meeting place,” Brandon said. “They’re in combat mode, don’t talk and don’t move. They’ve been in their frozen state for hours. They focus on something, but we don’t have a clue.” “Varyuka summoned a meeting,” Eric said. “We’re going to free Nahusha and the others.” “Who goes? You and the Aryaka?” Dave asked with a surprised look. “I’ll go with those who are summoned,” Eric replied and then turned his head and looked over the place. “What’s he talking about?” Dave asked Brandon with a puzzled look. “The Great Serpent uncoiled. Varyuka called the Aryaka to arms,” Brandon explained. He told Dave what had happened. “I’ll sure go with you. I can’t wait to depart,” Dave said eagerly. The teacher joined them and made typing movements with her fingers. Eric pulled the translation tablet out and handed it to her. The female sat down on a step. Brandon studied her. She looked wretched and tired and her alien beauty had faded like a flower. Brandon felt pity for her. He sensed a deep rage stir within and rise to the surface. For the first time, Brandon felt truly attached to the alien people who had welcomed them to their place. The intruders had brought pain and trouble to the Aryaka. They had cast a shadow over their beautiful place. Brandon took in the sight, the pyramids in the sun, the ferns, the tall trees with the huge leaves and the bushes and scrubs with red, blue and yellow blossoms and blooms. Brandon heard animals squeaking, croaking and cooing. He heard the wind whispering to the creatures and trees. Brandon felt a shiver running up his spine. The wind was whispering to him. He had never before in his life felt so aware and determined. He sensed that all beings had a common origin. The source of life didn’t belong to the material world. It was a place where neither space nor time existed. Brandon felt deeply connected to the beyond. Adishesha uncoiled. Brandon heard the Great Serpent’s call. The moment lasted only a few seconds, but Brandon had irrevocably changed. “I’ll go with those who are summoned,” he said in a firm voice. He looked at the teacher. Her face looked tired, but her dark green eyes sparkled with life. The teacher saw the change. She deleted what she had written and typed only one sentence, the line of a song. I Am That I Am. Creation takes place. Brandon nodded. The time has come, he typed. My name is Karma. Destiny, the teacher wrote. My name is Brandon. Prince or Chieftain. Old Irish name, Brandon replied. Karma nodded solemnly. *** The sun was already low when the Aryaka ended their meeting. Varyuka summoned the humans to the Pyramid of the Elder. The teacher acted as their translator and typed Varyuka’s words into the translation gadget. Eric informed the others. “Many people from Patha came to Dharana for the celebration,” Eric said. “They leave Dharana tomorrow morning as soon as the sun rises above the horizon. We’re going with them. The Aryaka activated their wide-spread network. They communicate through their neural implants. That’s what they did all day long and still do. The Aryaka work on finding Nahusha, Vasuki and Shesha.” ***
  21. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 10 - The Dawn of Day

    Thank you.
  22. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 10 - The Dawn of Day

    The Aryaka gathered in the meeting place when the sun was low. The place was crowded with people, males, females and children. Individuals placed trays, bowls, plates and cups on tables of various heights. None of them spoke or paid much attention to the others. A few Aryaka glanced at the men but most ignored them completely. The Aryaka sat down on the steps of four medium-sized pyramids that surrounded the place. They were waiting for the Elder who had not yet arrived. Shesha led the humans to the meeting place. They joined Nahusha and Vasuki who had already sat down on a step. Varyuka entered the place. The Elder went to the tables and examined the food, took a plate and a bowl and sat down on the lowest step of a pyramid. He ate quietly. The Aryaka were watching him. When the Elder had finished his meal, the others rose to their feet and went to the tables. Each individual grabbed something to eat, returned to a pyramid step, not necessarily the former place, and started to eat. The men followed Shesha to the tables. The food was mostly meat in different forms, minced meat, small balls, flat pieces cooked or roasted. A few bowls contained finger-long green stalks or an unrecognizable yellowish mush. “What kind of meat is this?” Brandon asked, pointing at a bowl with roasted meat. “Shesha said the small balls are probably what we like most,” Eric said. The men each took a cup filled with water and a bowl with meatballs. Dave also grabbed a bowl with green stalks. They returned to a pyramid step. More individuals went to the tables. Finally, everybody was seated. The Aryaka ate with their fingers and none of them spoke. A small child entered the place belatedly and hurried to the tables. The young one surrounded the tables and peered into the bowls, but the bowls and plates were either carried away or empty. No one hurried to help the child. The small child searched the tables in vain. Dave watched the scene uncomfortably. The little one finally crossed the place with empty hands and sat down next to Dave. It jerked its little head, then froze and sat like a statue. The other Aryaka were eating silently and did not bother. Dave looked into his bowl and saw two meatballs. He placed the bowl next to the child. The child turned its head, moved its fingers choppily, then seized the bowl and ate rapidly. Dave smiled at the young one, then raised his eyes and met cold Aryaka stares. Dave startled and leaned back. Varyuka watched him with interest. He made a sign to Shesha and made typing movements with his fingers. Shesha put his bowl down, pulled the translation gadget from a pocket and typed rapidly. He handed the gadget to Eric. Eric read the text, then turned to Dave and Brandon. “Shesha says they don’t naturally socialize. It’s not in their genes. It’s an ability they must actively learn. They attend to wounded individuals and they care for the very young ones, but the children must soon see to themselves. The Aryaka would never give food to a child that is old enough to collect it from a table. They understand, however, why warm-blood creatures do it and why they socialize. They know that socializing is useful at times, for instance in trade and business or when operating in space. They actively learn in classes to do something together for no special purpose at all. They sing and chatter, play and dance, and do things they have learned from warm-blooded creatures.” “The class we saw in the morning,” Brandon said. “They were chatting with each other and with the teacher.” “Yes,” Eric said. “Some cope better, some don’t. Some simply don’t have an interest in learning to socialize. Those who cope better often end up in space military where discipline and precession, patience and rational thinking, quick decision-making and analytics are required together with the ability to work in a team. Others are active in the trade business. Many Aryaka are very successful in trade.” Dave startled at a touch. The Aryaka child pulled on his sleeve and examined the colored label on his shirt. Dave rose to his feet, took the child up and carried it in his arms. He moved across the place. “Well, let’s see where you belong, little one,” he said softly. “They’re sure somewhere around here.” The child jerked its head and looked at him. “Hopefully, this won’t provoke another commotion,” Brandon said in a worried voice. Dave approached a pyramid where a group of Aryaka was seated on a step. They were watching him attentively. A female placed her bowl down and turned her head to Dave. Dave approached the group and sat down on the step. The step was warm from the sun. “Well, little one, I think this is where you belong,” Dave said, placing the child gently on the pyramid step. Dave turned his head to the female and smiled at her. The female met his smile with a cold stare. The other Aryaka on the step jerked their heads. One narrowed his eyes to slits and licked his lips. Dave gazed at them in bewilderment, then looked helplessly over the place. The child still clung to his sleeve. Varyuka made a sign to the teacher. The young female went to the pyramid and took the child from the step. She carried it to a smaller pyramid where the other children had gathered. Dave watched the scene insecurely, then rose from the step and returned to the other men. “Strange creatures,” he said. “They’re different,” Brandon said. “Hard for us to understand them.” “I think the festivity is about to begin,” Eric said. Adults entered the place and collected the bowls, plates and cups. Others removed the tables. The sun was sinking and it was getting dark. A few Aryaka lit a fire in the center of the place. The sun sank beneath the horizon. Varyuka rose to his feet. “The songs start with the creation song. The creation of the universe,” Eric said. “Shesha said the creation song was composed in ancient times, at the very beginning of Aryaka time.” Varyuka raised his arms and the Aryaka rose to their feet and sang a song of praise in their language. It sounded weirdly beautiful, alien, and touching at the same time. A serpent guards the vault The celestial serpent A messenger from Across space and time A great arch of azure Lights in the hallway Strange visions in The subterranean night Summon the serpent Housed in silence What is the mystery Behind the door? The eyes of the serpent Lost in antiquity Gleaming like crystal Strangely attracted Time moves forward Adishesha uncoils As we move through seven levels We've got seven planes to be Shining star of the morning Undulating in eternity I Am That I Am Creation takes place Silence fell. Only the crackle of the fire in the center of the place could be heard. Eric looked at the translator tablet and read what Shesha had written before the song had begun. “The next song is a song of praise for the creation of the Aryaka species,” Eric whispered to Brandon and Dave. The Aryaka resumed singing. The stars light our infinite kingdom The heavenly fire ignites the dark Palest moonlight throws its glow Shining down upon our home Clouds float over trees that sway The ocean breeze flows gently The wind whispers to The creatures and trees We look to the stars in the sky What are we looking to receive? Kingdom has come We found solace and peace Varyuka answered the song. He was singing alone. I am the ancient of days Bringing light to the land I live on the mountain Searching life's scent We all have our reasons I am a dragon Majestic and glorious Oblivious to the world below Silence fell again. “They mourn the loss of their home planet in the next songs,” Eric said in a low voice. The Aryaka continued. The adults on the steps sang in wailing voices a sad lament. In the realms of despair All we have left are futile things In a time before time Mountain of shattered dreams Son of dawn, star of the morning Gazing upon the kingdom We've fallen The Elder sang a reply, his voice sad and low. Witness the fate of the tortured land There is no graceful way to fall Son of dawn, star of the morning Darkness has crept into our soul The waves have risen and lowered When the sun rose high in the sky Son of dawn, star of the morning The old Dragon days have gone by A long silence followed. A few adults threw more wood into the fire. The flames burst high into the air. Flickering shadows crept across the place and over the steps of the pyramids and a strange intoxicating scent wafted through the air. The Aryaka had thrown something into the fire. “They migrated to other worlds when their home planet went down, to a space hub and other planets, some far away from their original home,” Eric said. “The following songs are the Songs of Transit, the songs of crossing the universe and praising the great Nahusha, namesake of our captain, who commanded a ship that traveled to a planet in the outbound regions of the galaxy, a planet in a spiral arm, the planet Kunjara.” The Aryaka sang. Embarked on a mission To a far-away planet Nahusha, the fiery serpent Piloted the gigantic ship Dormant for years Buried in deep recesses Covered by aluminum foil Craving for pleasure A great fire rages A fire upon the deep People give up One at a time The giant ship rested On the waters and Nahusha, the serpent god Intoned the rite Chanting the triumph Nahusha reigned He acquired great power And he is king of heaven A short silence fell before they continued. “The final songs praise their new world Kunjara,” Eric said. The Aryaka resumed singing. Brightening the night with its illustrious light A grand wheel of fire is traversing the sky Roar of thunder disrupting the night Announcing the arrival of the Aryaka Kunjara shines among the blackness of space The Rainbow Serpent darts beyond the clouds The serpent speaks the echo of the deep Its golden scales are lighting our skies In the beautiful land covered in shroud Our vessel is fleeting across the hills A crown of gold is dancing in the sky Above the land that is the king's territory Sacred passage Kingdom has come Varyuka replied. The Elder closed the Serpent Songs with two spoken verses. This is the tale of the olden ones Spoken by Varyuka, the Great Serpent’s son Glorious marvels now under dust The first world, Snagana A tale of the past Solace in the gardens of Kunjara The wind whispers to the creatures and trees We are Aryaka, strong and beautiful We’ve recreated heaven and restored peace Varyuka raised his arms. “The Dawn of Day. Day of the Dragon. Peace be with you and your kin,” the Elder said solemnly. Varyuka and the Aryaka sat down on the steps of the pyramids. Shesha took the translation gadget and typed a text. Eric read it and spoke to Dave and Brandon. “The steps are warmed artificially. The Aryaka remain sitting for half an hour or so to warm their bodies and then they start all over again. They have thousands of songs. These songs are just a small selection. The celebration is called The Dawn of Day. They will be repeating the songs until dawn has come and the sun will rise above the horizon. We can stay or go to our rooms for the night. Shesha offers to take us there before the Aryaka start anew with their songs. The men left the place silently. Shesha led them to one of the cubes they had seen when they had arrived. The cubes were guest houses for visitors. The Aryaka lived inside the pyramids. Shesha led them inside the cube, showed them the beds and a bathroom, then left and returned to the celebration place. The men sat down on the beds, talked for a while, but soon got tired and went to bed. They heard the Aryaka resume their songs. Sounds of an alien beauty lulled them to sleep and accompanied their dreams. Eric dreamed of a secret passage in an alien spaceship. Aryaka were singing a sad song as the spaceship, illuminated by many lights, descended to Earth like a crown from heaven. ***
  23. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 9 - The Dawn of Day

    Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the chapter.
  24. Dolores Esteban

    Chapter 2 - The Dawn of Day

    Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the story so far.
  25. Dolores Esteban

    The George Mackenzie Poltergeist

    The George Mackenzie Poltergeist I met Brandon in the parking area. He was carrying five bags in each hand and his face was deep red. “Can I help you?” I asked, reaching out my hand. “Oh, thank you,” Brandon said, handing me four bags and taking a breath. “There are more bags in the car.” “A lot of stuff. What’s going on?” I asked as we climbed the stairs to Brandon’s apartment on the fifth floor. “Halloween,” Brandon said. “Are you having a party tonight?” We stopped in front of his apartment door. Brandon put the bags on the floor and pulled his key from a pocket. “No,” he said. “I’m going to write a Halloween story. NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. You know, National Novel Writing Month. Write a novel in a month. 50,000 words. I bought food for a month and stuff to get me into the right mood.” Brandon was very serious about his hobby. He wrote a novel set in Antarctica the previous year. He didn’t turn on the heating during the entire month to get into the story. He finished his novel on November, 26, and with a word count of 50.405. Brandon waved his winner certificate all the way I drove him to the hospital. He had caught a severe cold. I wondered if the effort was worth it. Brandon opened the door and picked up the bags. We went inside. “What’s your Halloween story about?” I asked. “The Mackenzie Poltergeist,” Brandon said. “The poltergeist is the restless spirit of George Mackenzie who oppressed religious minorities. Mackenzie was buried on Greyfriar's Kirkyard in Edinburgh. The cemetery is famous for the poltergeist. There are frequent sightings. The incidents are often severe, bruising, bites and cuts, and strange sensations. A few people lost their mind and quite a number died in the Kirkyard.” Brandon pulled a mummy mask from a bag, took a pen from a pocket and wrote Mackenzie on the face of the mask. He grinned. “I have more horror masks and costumes. I’ll wear them all month long, as long as I’m writing,” he said. “Oh,” I said, thinking of the frequent and severe things Brandon might want to do to get into the mood for writing. “Did you tell Mr. and Mrs. Ross of your plans for NaNoWriMo?” I asked as I left the apartment. Mr. and Mrs. Ross lived next door. “I’ll better do,” Brandon said with a guilty smile. “I won’t just wear a costume. I will also play the appropriate music and videos.” Oh my god, I thought, then nodded good-bye and hastened down the stairs. I was happy I lived on the ground-floor. Mrs. Ross wasn’t happy at all. I met her in the staircase at the end of Brandon's first writing week. “It’s horror,” she said. “Well, yes, that’s the novel theme,” I replied. She gave me a sour look and I suppressed my smile. “We hear screams of horror and bloodcurdling cries and a clattering noise all day long and half of the night. George, my husband, can’t go to sleep. I went over and told Brandon to turn down the sound. It was quiet a day and a night, but just half an hour ago, I heard another bloodcurdling cry. Emily heard it, too. I met her half way down the stairs.” We listened. Everything was quiet. “We must go up,” Mrs. Ross said. “You can’t hear it on the ground-floor.” We climbed the stairs until we reached the fifth floor. Everything was quiet. “Maybe he finished his novel already and dropped with exhaustion,” I said, joking. Mrs. Ross rolled her eyes. “I tell you I’ll hear the screams soon again.” I snickered and then went down the stairs. I met her again five days later. “Did you hear of our poltergeist fan?” I asked her. She shrugged. “No. Nothing,” she said. “Everything’s quiet. I haven’t heard a scream, a cry, not a single sound coming from Brandon’s door.” “Odd,” I said. “Maybe he has finished his novel.” “I haven’t seen him in five days. Did you see him? In the parking area maybe?” she asked. I shook my head. She left and I went to my car. Brandon’s car was parked next to mine. I was certain it had not been moved. I went back into my apartment, took my phone but put it down again. Why call Brandon? He was writing a novel and I wasn’t supposed to keep an eye on him. Another week went by. Mrs. Ross rang at my door. “He says it stinks,” she said. “Who? What?” I asked, confused. “George, my husband, says it stinks,” she said. “We haven’t heard a sound and we haven’t seen Brandon for almost two weeks.” “Do you think something’s wrong?” I asked. “I said it stinks,” she said impatiently. “It stinks in front of his door. It stinks through the door.” I swallowed. “Oh my god,” I said and then ran up the stairs. Mrs. Ross called after me, but I ignored her. I reached the fifth floor and rang at Brandon’s door, breathing heavily from my sprint up the stairs. Brandon didn’t open the door. I rang again and knocked. Mrs. Ross came up the stairs and joined me. I turned to her and then I smelled it, too. A disgusting smell, a horrible stench, like the smell from a tomb. “Call the police,” I said to Mrs. Ross who stared at me with widened eyes. She nodded and entered her apartment. I pressed my hand over my nose and my mouth and willingly blocked out every thought. The police opened the door. Mr. and Mrs. Ross watched with paled faced from their apartment door. I stood on the stairs to the sixth floor. An officer shoved us into the Ross apartment as soon as they had opened the door. We were not allowed to leave it until way after ten in the evening. They found his corpse in the corridor. Brandon had been stabbed to death. They found no traces of breaking and entering and no sign of burglary. Brandon had opened the door to his murderer. The murderer was never found. “The Mackenzie poltergeist,” George said with a hint of mockery each time the conversation turned to the murder in the house. Mrs. Ross, embarrassed, scolded her husband and everybody else lowered their eyes each time the old man made the disrespectful remark. He died of a heart attack two weeks ago. I helped Mrs. Ross to clear out her apartment. She moved in with her daughter. I carried a chest down the stairs and stumbled. The chest dropped and spilled its contents over the stairs. I knelt down and saw a mummy mask. The word Mackenzie was written on it. I felt a punch in the stomach. “George,” I said under my breath and in total shock. “The George Mackenzie poltergeist.” Old George had mentioned it often enough. I heard a snickering laugh seemingly coming out of nowhere.
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