This is a story that used to be on an old geocities site that became defunct several years ago – I rediscovered it, did some minimal editing, and decided to re-post it onto .
Disclaimer: No matter what anyone may think, I am not using these characters for any reason other than to create a good story. They are not mine, no matter how much I may wish otherwise. The story idea, however, is mine, so back off. As I am a poor college student, suing me won't accomplish anything but heartache. Enjoy the story.
Voice of Alonzo:
*We've been on this planet for several months now. A planet designated as G889 by unimaginative bureaucrats who have never set foot on a living planet before, and probably never will. That's part of the problem, nothing we have ever seen or heard of on the stations could have prepared us for the reality of this place. By coming to this world, we were embarking on a new way of life. Each day presents us with new challenges and experiences. All of us have to learn and understand the ways of this planet; its seasons, its weather, its beauty and dangers, and its unique life-forms, terrians and grendals, as well as anything else that may be out there.
The terrians want to know more about us as well. They visit me in my dreams on an almost weekly basis, although their concept of time isn't anything like our own. They want to know everything they can about us and they are, in turn, teaching me about themselves and their world. It's slow going, though. As a human, I don't have the same extended capacity for dreaming and remembering as they do. I think they understand this and are doing what they can to accommodate by slowing down and simplifying the information. Unfortunately, I frequently wake after a night filled with unfamiliar dreams tired and frustrated at the slow rate of learning. The terrians and I are doing our best to learn and teach. We'll just have to face the fact that it's going to take some time.*
Dr. Julia Heller sat beside Alonzo as he slept. They had retired for the evening to the med-tent early, as Julia had wanted to monitor his dream state. She decided that it couldn't hurt to gather as much information about his terrian dreaming as possible. She thought she could use the information to explain to Dr. Vasquel how the dreamplane worked when he arrived with the 150 Syndrome children and their families. Staring at her dia-glove, she blinked as Alonzo's brain patterns shifted suddenly. He was still dreaming, but not on the deep level she had always associated with terrian dreaming, nor had Alonzo slipped into a normal dream state. She was unsure whether Alonzo _could_ dream normally, as he claimed to have lost that ability a long time ago. This new dream state was something in between the two. Excitedly, she turned to her laptop and began recording the information into her medical logs. She decided to label this phenomena N-REM, or new-REM, for her own purposes. With her back to him, she didn't notice Alonzo open his eyes suddenly and sit up in bed, his dark eyes staring blindly. He swung his legs around until he was sitting on the edge of the cot, on the verge of standing. He remained that way for a moment, before shuddering sharply once and laying back down. The strange REM patterns stopped and Alonzo dropped into a normal sleep. Julia finished entering the data and turned back to the cot. She smiled fondly at the pilot. Sometimes he got on her nerves. At times he was arrogant, and he hated to be dependent on anyone. But his charm, warmth, and sensitivity had worked their spell on her, she was hopelessly in love with the man. She sighed and ran her hand once through his dark hair before readying herself for bed and joining him on the cot. She curled up beside him and was soon fast asleep.
During the night, Alonzo Solace again entered N-REM. This time, he got out of bed and made it half-way across the tent, his eyes wide and unseeing, before he again shuddered violently, turned, and returned to the cot to sleep the rest of the night in Julia's arms.
Alonzo awoke feeling tired, but soon forgot about it in the confusion of picking up camp and traveling on for another 15 clicks. That evening, the group set up camp in a small clearing in the woods they had been traveling through. John Danzinger, the group's resident mechanic, came by to help Alonzo with the med-tent. They worked for a few minutes before Danzinger spoke up. "You doing all right, 'Lonz?"
Alonzo looked up from the supplies he was unpacking, a bit startled by the question. "Yeah. I'm fine. Why do you ask?"
Danzinger shrugged lightly. "You look tired, that's all. Been having any dreams lately?
Alonzo started to speak, then stopped, his brow furrowed. "I'm not sure. I woke up feeling like I usually do after a terrian dream, kinda tired and worn out. But I don't remember being in contact with them."
Danzinger nodded. "You may want to let Julia know. Can't have you falling asleep on us."
Alonzo nodded noncommittedly and the two men finished putting up the tent. Danzinger went to check on the perimeter fence while Alonzo headed for the camp's central fire. He stood for a moment looking fondly down at Julia, who sat on a log tugging snarls out of her honey blonde hair. "Hey doc," he dropped a kiss on the top of her head, "I could watch you do that all night."
She smiled up at him, "Have a seat, I'll get you something to eat."
He shook his head, "Nah, thanks anyway. I'll grab something later. I'm a bit tired, so I thought I'd get some shut-eye before guard duty tonight. Wouldn't want to doze off in the middle of a shift. Wake me in time?"
"Sure will." She shivered slightly at the warmth of his smile for her and watched him make his way to the med-tent. Half an hour later, Julia looked up from her spot by the fire to see Alonzo standing by the tent flap and staring off at the distant mountains the group was steadily moving closer to. She turned to see if anything special had caught his attention, but couldn't detect anything unusual. "Alonzo?" She looked and he was no longer there. Frowning, she entered the tent the two of them shared. Alonzo was on the cot, sleeping. He was curled up like a cat, his face buried in the pillow. She gently placed a hand on his shoulder and whispered his name. Alonzo didn't stir. Slightly concerned, she put on her dia-glove and ran it over him. The reading indicated that he was again experiencing N-REM. As she watched, the readings changed as Alonzo dropped out of it. A few minutes later, Alonzo opened his eyes and found Julia hovering over him.
"What's wrong?" he asked. She looked pretty worried.
"Probably nothing. Have a good nap?"
"I guess so, still a bit tired, but I don't think I'll get much more sleep. I'm going to grab a bite to eat and get ready for my shift." He stood, gave Julia a long lingering kiss before she could question him further, and left the tent. She was about to go after him when Baines came in complaining of a headache. By the time she had given him a mild pain block, she had forgotten about Alonzo's strange behavior.
Alonzo came back to the tent several hours later after being relieved from duty by Danzinger who had gruffly told him that he looked like hell and should get some sleep. Alonzo had been puzzled by the demand but grateful to comply. He smiled down at Julia's sleeping form. She was the most beautiful and brilliant woman he had ever known and he loved her deeply. He gently brushed her blonde hair away from her face and kissed her forehead. She murmured softly in her sleep. He changed into a pair of sweat pants and, yawning, slid into bed, careful not to disturb Julia. He kissed her shoulder once, then relaxed into sleep.
If Julia had been monitoring him, she would have been concerned to note the rapid shifting Alonzo went through between terrian dreaming and this new form of dreaming. After a few minutes, Alonzo was completely within the new dream state. His eyes snapped open and he quietly got out of bed without waking Julia. Unseeingly, Alonzo went through the tent flap and made his way across the camp until he came to the northern perimeter. He stood staring towards the mountains in the distance, fists clenching and unclenching. Danzinger came by on one of his rounds and noticed Alonzo. He called out to the pilot but received no response. Alonzo shivered convulsively once before returning to the met-tent and Julia. He completely ignored Danzinger, but the mechanic shrugged it off, deciding Alonzo probably hadn't heard him.
Julia awoke the next morning to find herself alone in bed. She glanced around the tent, thinking Alonzo had already gone to breakfast. Sitting up, she was surprised and concerned when she noticed Alonzo curled up on the ground beside the bed. She grabbed her dia-glove and knelt down beside him. She scanned him, only to find he was in a deep sleep. "Alonzo?" She shook his shoulder, he murmured sleepily but stayed asleep. "Alonzo, wake up."
Brown eyes fluttered open to meet her pale blue ones. "Doc? What's the matter?"
She smiled slightly to hide her uneasiness. "What are you doing on the floor, 'Lonz?"
He looked around him in confusion. "I don't know. How'd I get here?"
"I would have said you fell out of bed, only you're on the wrong side." She bit her lip as she considered something. "Alonzo, have you ever sleepwalked before?"
"Sleepwalked? No. Never have."
"Not even when you used to dream normally?"
He shook his head, a lock of dark hair falling over into his eyes. "No. Do you think I'm sleepwalking?"
"Possibly. I'm not sure." She was silent for a moment. "Do you remember coming to the tent flap yesterday, after you went to take your nap?"
Alonzo shook his head wordlessly.
Julia smiled suddenly and offered him her hand. "Come on, fly boy. Let's get you some breakfast."
At the tent flap Alonzo stopped her and pulled her into a hug. "I'm sorry."
She wrapped her arms around him in return. "For what?"
"For being such a nuisance."
She smiled into his dark eyes, committing his handsome face once again to memory. "Come on. We'll talk about this later. We'll be able to figure out what's going on after we get some food into our systems."
After breakfast, the couple cornered Devon and Danzinger. Devon took in Julia's worried expression and Alonzo's tired face. "What's wrong? Is it the terrians?"
After a glance around the camp, Danzinger opened the flap to the med-tent. "Let's take this conversation inside."
Julia and Alonzo sat on the cot together, Devon took the chair and Danzinger leaned against the desk, arms crossed. Julia cleared her throat. "I think Alonzo has started to sleepwalk." This was met by silence from the other two. "On two occasions, I've detected a shift in the pattern of REM during Alonzo's sleep. It is very different from what I've come to recognize as normal terrian dreaming."
Danzinger glanced at Alonzo who sat quietly staring at his tightly clasped hands, white knuckled. "Julia, I saw Alonzo last night by the perimeter." Alonzo stared up at him in slight shock. "You did?" John nodded, "Yeah, you never heard me call you, did you?" Alonzo shook his head.
Devon leaned forward. "Could he be dreaming normally, and this is just a manifestation of it?"
She shook her head. "It's different from terrian dreaming, but it's also not normal either. It's somewhere in between." She glanced at Alonzo and placed a hand over his, earning a tired smile in return. "Yesterday, Alonzo had turned in early. I noticed him at the tent flap a half hour later and yet he doesn't recall waking up. This morning, I found him sleeping on the floor."
Danzinger tried to lighten the mood, "Never quite made it back to bed, huh 'Lonz?"
Another tired smile and a shake of the head.
Devon spoke up. "What would you like us to do?"
Julia gave Alonzo a questioning glance and continued when he nodded. "Help me keep an eye on him. I'm afraid that if he really starts wandering around at night, he could get completely lost."
"Alonzo, what do you suggest?"
He ran a hand through his dark hair wearily, his brow furrowed. "Maybe if we could attach some gear to my clothing when I sleep. If I do wander off and get lost, I can always contact the group for some help. I really don't know. I've never had this kind of problem before."
Danzinger leaned forward. "Do you remember any of your 'excursions'?"
"No, I just wake up feeling like I haven't slept at all." He looked frustrated and worn out and his temper was wearing thin.
Devon patted his knee as she stood. "We'll all do what we can, 'Lonz. Everything will be just fine."
Danzinger herded Devon out of the tent. "Try to get some rest, we won't be ready to leave for a few hours yet, I need to check the ATV, it's acting a bit sluggish. We'll wake you in plenty of time to leave, okay?"
"Alright, thanks." Alonzo smiled as Danzinger took his leave. He sighed and rested his head on Julia's shoulder. "So, what do you think, doc?"
"We'll watch you for a couple of nights, see what happens. We'll get to the bottom of this, don't worry."
He gave her a tired grin as she brushed his hair away from his eyes and kissed his forehead. She rose from the cot and helped him lie down. He was asleep almost at once. She busied herself with packing up the med-tent, careful to keep the noise down, and Alonzo got two solid hours of uninterrupted sleep before the group was ready to roll.
For the next three nights, Julia monitored Alonzo's sleep, occasionally being relieved by Devon or Danzinger. Although she detected the strange REM pattern several times, Alonzo never stirred from his bed. And, although still waking up feeling somewhat tired, he wasn't exhibiting the exhaustion that had accompanied the previous sleepwalking episodes. A week went by, and Julia finally concluded that once Alonzo had been made aware of sleepwalking, he no longer had a need to do it.
The Eden group had been traveling approximately fifteen clicks every day during this time. Picking up camp in the morning, traveling through the day, stopping only to recharge the vehicle and change drivers, and setting up camp again in the evenings. They had been getting steadily closer each day to the mountains that Alonzo had seemed so interested in a week ago. The periods of N-REM that Alonzo experienced grew longer with each passing day, and the periods of terrian dreaming were almost non-existent, but he no longer sleepwalked. Julia decided that there wasn't anything she could learn from this shift in dream states until she had access to more proper equipment, so she decided to cease monitoring Alonzo's sleep.
One night, Devon awoke suddenly. Her son, Uly, was thrashing about in his bed. She ran to his side, checked his forehead for fever, and tried to wake him. "Uly?" His blue eyes snapped open and focused slowly on his mother's worried face. "What's wrong, Uly?"
"They terrians spoke to me. They said that they can't get through to Alonzo anymore."
"How do you mean?"
"Just that he keeps moving in and out of the dream plane too quickly for them to speak with him. The terrians are real confused and upset about it, they say it's not right." Devon sat for a moment in thought. "Mom?"
She looked up to see him staring at him solemnly, "Yeah, Champ?"
"Is Alonzo okay?"
"Yeah, he's fine." She tucked the blanket around his thin shoulders and hoped she wasn't lying. "Now get some sleep. We've got a long day tomorrow."
She brushed his hair out of his eyes and kissed his nose. "Night." She turned to Yale, who had heard them talking and came in to check on them. "Will you keep an eye on him? I'm going to talk to Julia." The elderly tutor nodded and Devon strode out of the tent. The only light came from the fire, as the sky was obscured by clouds. She found the other woman sitting by the fire, drinking a cup of coffee. Devon sat next to her and the two women stared into the fire for a moment. "Uly had a terrian dream tonight."
Julia looked startled. "About?"
"He says the terrians are concerned. They haven't been able to contact Alonzo lately on the dream plane."
"He mentioned that he hasn't heard from them in quite some time. Which, considering the past few months, is a bit unusual."
"Uly mentioned that Alonzo was flickering on the dream plane, moving in and out quickly. Could that be what caused Alonzo to sleepwalk?"
Julia bit her lip pensively. "Maybe, only he hasn't sleepwalked in almost a week now." She stood, "I'm going to talk to him about this, maybe he can talk to the terrians and find out what's going on." She left the fire and Devon debated following her. She jumped up at Julia's shout. "Alonzo? Alonzo!" Running towards the med-tend, Devon just missed hitting Julia as the doctor rushed out of the tent. "Baines! Have you seen Alonzo?"
Baines nodded. "About an hour ago. I saw him by the northern perimeter, but didn't think anything of it."
Julia ran a hand through her hair and tried to explain to Devon. "He went to bed a couple of hours ago. I left him alone, thinking his sleepwalking was finished. I just found his gear in the tent. We don't have any way of contacting him or tracking him."
Danzinger overheard this last remark and came up to the two women. "What direction was he headed?"
"Baines last saw him near the northern perimeter."
"How far could he have gotten?"
"He's had an hour head start, and he's in excellent physical condition, but I found his shoes next to the cot, so..." she shook her head helplessly. "It would depend on the terrain."
"Get your med kit, doc. We'll take the ATV and track him down." Julia gifted him with a smile and ran for the med-tent. He turned to Devon. "Meanwhile, Adair, we'll stay in gear contact. Keep an eye on True for me." Devon nodded and within minutes Julia and Danzinger were on their way.
They found his tracks leading from the camp almost in a straight line towards the mountains. Thirty minutes later, Julia frantically yelled for Danzinger to stop. She leapt out of the ATV and began to study the ground. "What is it?" She looked up at him, stricken. "Blood." She grimly climbed back into the ATV. "There's a blood trail leading north. I think Alonzo may have injured himself, by the amount of blood, I'd say pretty badly." John Danzinger reported this disturbing news to Devon and started up the ATV again. Julia used the jumpers to scan the area for any sign of the wayward pilot. The farther along they traveled, the more worried Julia became. They continued to find signs of blood, not a lot, but enough to make Julia pray they found Alonzo before he bled to death.
Five minutes later, the two were startled to hear the sound of a terrian lightning bolt. A squeal was heard and Danzinger slammed on the breaks as a Grendel dashed past them, its ragged clothing smoking. The creature growled at them but ran off as another bolt crashed at its feet. Julia grabbed Danzinger's shoulder and pointed. Alonzo was up ahead, lying unconscious along the path. A terrian stood next to the injured pilot, its staff's tip glowing with power. Danzinger held a hand out to the terrian and it solemnly lowered its staff, the power fading away. It gave a last look at the pilot and disappeared back into the earth. The two glanced at each other and then Julia grabbed her bag, jumped out of the ATV, and rushed to Alonzo's side.
"Alonzo? Alonzo, can you hear me?" He didn't stir. She slid on the dia-glove and checked his vitals, frowning at the signs of the N-REM patterns, but her main concern was for his health. Alonzo's skin was a pasty grey color and he was covered in sweat. Blood trickled from a long gash in his right leg. She ripped the cloth away to inspect the wound better. It started just below the knee and ran down the leg for four inches. It was deep and embedded with dirt and splinters of wood. Opening her bag, she rummaged around for antiseptic and bandages. As Danzinger positioned the leg at a better angle, she gently cleaned the wound, her frown deepening as Alonzo tossed his head fitfully and muttered in his sleep. Once finished with his leg, she began on his scraped hands and forearms.
"How is he, Julia?"
She glanced up at Danzinger, her blue eyes clouded with worry. "He's lost a lot of blood and if he's been in this new REM stage the whole time, then he's not getting any real rest, either." She returned to her administrations.
Danzinger contacted camp over gear. "Devon? We found him."
"Is he alright?" Her face was tight with concern.
"He's been injured. Lost a lot of blood. Julia says he's still in sleepwalker mode."
"Can she wake him?"
Danzinger glanced at Julia, who shook her head. "No. We're going to bring him back now. Maybe, he'll remember some of this when he wakes up on his own."
"Alright. I'll have Yale get the med-tent ready for you. Adair out."
Julia finished patching Alonzo and the two were about to pick the pilot up when Alonzo sat up quickly, his eyes wide with pain and fear. "Julia!" It was a strangled shout. He glanced around wildly at the unfamiliar landscape, not seeing Danzinger and Julia. "Julia!"
She quickly sat down beside him and wrapped her arms around him. "I'm here. Shhh. You're safe." She gently rocked him back and forth. Alonzo trembled violently, his heart pounding furiously and his breathing harsh and erratic. He clung to her tightly. "Shhh. Shh. It's alright. It's okay. You're safe. Shhh." He buried his face in the crook of her neck with a sob and shook. She murmured softly in his ear for several minutes before Alonzo began to relax.
He shuddered once more and raised his face, grey with exhaustion, to take in his surroundings. "Where are we?"
Danzinger crouched down in front of the pilot, hazel eyes meeting ebony. "We're about five miles north of the camp."
Alonzo's forehead furrowed. "How'd we get here?"
Julia smoothed his damp hair out of his eyes. "You were sleepwalking. John and I came after you in the ATV." Alonzo shifted on the ground and hissed in pain. "Careful, you injured yourself pretty badly."
He stared at the bandages for a moment before putting a hand to his head. "Ah, hell."
Danzinger handed him a canteen. "Here. You look like you could use it."
Alonzo drained the canteen and nodded his thanks, eyes drooping. "I'm tired, Julia."
Julia exchanged concerned glances with Danzinger over Alonzo's head. "Let's get you into the ATV, 'Lonz. Then we'll go back to camp. You can sleep on the way." The two helped the injured man to his feet and into the ATV. Julia sat in the back with Alonzo, his head on her shoulder. She wrapped a blanket around his shoulders as Danzinger pointed the vehicle back towards camp. "Do you remember why you came out here, 'Lonz?"
Danzinger strained his ears to hear the low reply. "There's something... It's frightening, Julia. It's so dark and cold." Alonzo's eyes were closed and he sounded half-asleep.
"I don't want to go. Don't want to see. But I can't help myself." Julia felt a shudder run through his body and Alonzo's voice dropped an octave and took on a menacing quality that no one had ever heard him use before. It sent shivers up and down their spines. "I will have him yet. And there is nothing you can do to stop it." Julia scanned him, watching as the last residues of N-REM left him and Alonzo fall into a natural sleep. She cradled the exhausted man in her arms. Danzinger turned to glance at them both, concern and a barely contained fright in his eyes. "We have to find out what the devil is going on." She nodded and the two were silent the rest of the way to camp.
Once Julia got Alonzo to bed, she finished cleaning and bandaging the rest of his scrapes and cuts. Alonzo woke long enough to give Julia permission to administer a dream inhibitor, so that he would be able to sleep the rest of the night without sleepwalking. Before falling asleep once more, Alonzo tried to apologize, saying he didn't mean to be such a burden. She stopped him with a kiss and stayed beside him as he fell asleep, making sure that the N-REM cycle didn't start up again. Satisfied that he would sleep peacefully, she left the tent and walked slowly to where Devon and Danzinger sat waiting by the fire. She pushed a hand wearily through her hair. "He's resting comfortably, now. Luckily, we got to him before he lost too much blood and before infection set in his wound. He's weak, but should heal quickly."
Devon handed her a cup of coffee which she sipped gratefully. "What exactly is going on?"
Julia and Danzinger exchanged glances. Danzinger cleared his throat. "It's like this, Adair. 'Lonzo doesn't seem to have any control over this, just as he has no control over his terrian dreaming, they just take over when they want. From some of his descriptions, it's like someone or something is drawing him towards it."
"Is it the terrians?"
"No, we already know they haven't been in contact with him, plus, Julia and I saw one protecting Alonzo from a Grendel. If they wanted him, they could have taken him at any time, no need to make him walk there."
"There was a Grendel?"
Julia nodded, "I think it was drawn to the bloodsmell. The terrian used its staff to the keep it away from Alonzo until we showed up. Then it left. I don't think they're what's causing this. On our way back, Alonzo said..."
Julia looked down into her cup and didn't respond. Danzinger shifted uncomfortably for a moment. "He mentioned that where ever this place is, its dark and cold, and someplace he'd really rather not see, but not being able to help himself." He glanced at Julia's strained face and his voice dropped to a whisper. "His last words, before he passed out, didn't sound like him at all."
Devon's brow wrinkled, "You mean out of character. That's hardly surprising after what he's been through."
"I mean that it was 'Lonzo talking, but the voice was deeper, very menacing. Not like him at all. As if..."
"As if someone else was speaking through him?" Both Julia and Danzinger nodded. Devon sighed. "So what do we do now?"
Julia looked up, face pinched with worry. "I have an idea. But we'll only do it if you agree, Devon."
Devon felt her stomach sink, "And that is?"
Julia took a deep breath. "We ask Uly to talk to the terrians about what's going on. He already mentioned that they haven't been able to reach him in a while. Maybe they know why." Danzinger and Julia kept quiet while Devon thought it over.
Devon glanced at their hopeful faces and sighed. "Alright. I don't like it, but alright. Will tomorrow night be early enough?"
Julia sighed in relief and nodded. "Tomorrow's fine."
Devon stood, wished them a good night left the fire for her tent and her son. Danzinger placed a hand on Julia's shoulder squeezing briefly before heading for his own tent. Julia tossed the rest of her coffee in the fire, stood, stretched, and walked to her tent. Entering, she looked worriedly down at Alonzo. He was tossing feverishly, mumbling agitatedly in his sleep. Using the dia-glove, Julia noticed he was running a low grade fever and that the strange REM cycle seemed to be warring with the terrian dreaming, normal sleep, and the inhibitor. She wasn't sure how much more of this he could take before retaining some serious damage. She applied a medi-derm to reduce the fever and gently bathed his sweat covered face. Kissing him on the forehead, she laid down next to him on the cot and wrapped her arms around his shuddering form. She was awarded a few minutes later when Alonzo relaxed and slipped into a deep sleep. Relieved, she soon followed.
The next morning, Julia awoke to find a pair of dark eyes, filled with warmth and affection, watching her. Alonzo was studying her face intently, as if he had never seen it before and found it absolutely wonderful. 'Or,' a small voice in the back of her mind said, 'as if this will be the last time he will ever see it again.' She shook that off as he bent to kiss her cheek. "Good morning," he murmured, his hand tracing the line of her jaw gently. A warm smile brightening his face and lifting her heart. "Morning," she responded. "Sleep well?"
He looked sheepish and shook his head. "Woke up three or four hours ago and couldn't get back to sleep."
She leaned back a bit and finally noticed the dark circles underneath his eyes and the paleness of his skin. "Why didn't you wake me? I could have given you a sleep aid."
He shook his head again, a lock of hair falling into his eyes. "Sleeping hasn't been very restful lately. Thought I'd do better just lying here for a while. I think it helped some." He grinned, dimples showing. "Besides, you looked so peaceful, I could bear to wake you."
She shook her head despairingly and got out of bed. "Come on, sleepjumper. Let's take a look at that leg of yours." She pulled up his pant leg and gently removed the bandages. The cut was still red and angry looking, but it had scabbed over well and Julia was satisfied that it was clean and that no infection had set in. "How does it feel?"
"It still hurts. And I can feel the leg stiffening up on me." Alonzo gently rubbed the injured muscle.
"Well, I'll give you another medi-derm for the pain, I want you to spend the day riding on one of the vehicles until I'm sure the wound won't reopen. If by lunch-time you feel up to it, I'll let you try walking on it for a while. We'll see what we can do about finding a decent walking stick for you."
"It's alright, doc. It shouldn't be too hard to find a long enough branch to use." Julia re-bandaged his leg and he rolled the pant leg down. Before she could get up, he caught her wrist and pulled her closer. He kissed her once, playfully, then a second time more lingeringly. Julia deepened the kiss and the two came up gasping for air a few minutes later.
Alonzo chuckled, "A couple more of those, and I'll be up to full charge in no time."
Julia laughed and quickly got dressed. She flashed a grin as she slipped out of the tent. "All right, flyboy. Get dressed, I'll save you some breakfast." Alonzo laughed and followed after Julia a few moments later.
True came up the small rise, she saw Uly crouched down in a dry stream bed. "If you're trying to scare me it isn't going to work."
Uly looked up, his blue eyes narrowed in the sun. "Come on down, got something to show you."
She slid down the bank and landed in a puff of dust. "What is it?"
"I found this tree branch, think it would make a good staff for Alonzo?"
True studied the branch carefully. "Well, it looks long enough." She tapped it. "Seems solid enough. It isn't rotten anywhere, so it probably would hold his weight. But the bark is real rough and prickly. It'd cut up his hand."
"We could strip the bark. The wood underneath won't be so scratchy."
She nodded. "Yeah. But when would we do it? I mean, I was sent to make sure you didn't fall too far behind. We aren't going to be able to walk and work on this at the same time."
"Yale's driving one of the vehicles. I'm sure he'll let us ride for a while, you know, just long enough to fix up the staff. And since it's for Alonzo, he won't think we're just trying to grab a ride. He might even help us hide it till we get done."
"So this will be our surprise to Alonzo, then, huh?"
Uly brushed sandy blonde hair out of his eyes. "What do you say?"
"I say," she tugged on the brim of her hat, "Let's get this to Yale."
The two children each grabbed an end of the branch and scrambled out of the river bed. Checking that Alonzo wasn't looking there way, they quickly brought the branch to where Yale had stopped to check his compass.
The elderly cyborg glanced up at the two of them. "Ah, what do we have here?"
True nodded to Uly, "We had a question for you."
"Yeah, Yale, could you help us make this into a proper walking stick for Alonzo. He's getting fed up with just riding around."
Yale smiled, "I've noticed that too. Especially since Dr. Heller won't allow him to drive any of the vehicles himself. Let me see." He picked up the branch and examined it. "Yes, children, I believe this will make an excellent walking staff. I take it you will wish to strip the bark off of it."
They nodded. "Where did you find this?"
Uly pointed, "In that old river bed."
"Humn. Strange, there doesn't seem to be any of those type of trees in this area. I wonder how it got there. Oh well, hop on. We've have quite some distance to travel before lunch, you can work on the staff until then."
The group stopped for lunch in a beautiful meadow. A small spring welled up, and everyone refilled their canteens with the sweet water. Audible sighs could be heard as boots were loosened and faces bathed. Alonzo and Julia sat under a small tree, the shade a blessed relief from the sun. The two of them looked up to see Uly, True, and Yale approaching them. All three of them had on similar expressions of seriousness. Julia leaned forward, "Is anything the matter?"
Yale stepped closer, "No, not at all, doctor. The children have something they'd like to present to Alonzo."
"Oh?" he shifted his leg a bit. "What is it?"
Uly glanced at True, "You say it."
She shook her head, "It was your idea, you do it."
"Just do it."
Alonzo chuckled softly and the other two adults just smiled in amusement. Finally, True cleared her throat. "Well, we know you don't like just sitting around all day, not doing anything. So, Uly and I made you this." She motioned to Yale who pulled the staff from behind his back. The two children grabbed a hold of it and, together, gave it to Alonzo.
Alonzo grinned at the both of them. "Thank you, this is beautiful." The staff was almost perfectly straight with a small Y at the top. The wood was a golden brown color and felt like satin when he ran his hands over it. With some help from Julia, Alonzo stood and found that the staff was about four inches taller than he was and that the slight curves in the wood were at just the right height to accommodate his hands. He balanced on his good leg and took a few tentative steps with the staff. His grin widened as he moved about with ease. He bowed low to the two children and their tutor, "Never in all of my days, have I seen or heard of such a wondrous staff. Mere words cannot express my gratitude to you. Thank you."
True and Uly exchanged delighted grins before scampering off for lunch. Yale stayed behind for a bit. Julia watched as Alonzo used the staff to help himself down into a sitting position. "Yale, make sure the kids know that I really do appreciate the gift and am not just saying it. I can tell they worked real hard on it. It's a beautiful staff, and will really help a lot."
"I'm glad. I was afraid that it would be too unwieldy, it is a bit long."
"No, it's perfect. Even be good for night time, it'll keep me from banging my head on anything."
The group continued on after lunch with Alonzo walking beside one of the vehicles, the staff allowing him to keep up with the rest of the group with a minimum of effort. A few hours passed before Julia was able to persuade him to ride again in order to rest. He carried the staff by his side, parallel to the ground, with ease, almost as if he'd always been familiar with the length and weight of it. Not having to be totally dependent on Julia and the vehicles anymore raised Alonzo's spirits considerably and he pushed the ugly thoughts of why he had to use a staff to the back of his mind. 'No use worrying over something you can currently do nothing about.' he thought.
That night, after the Eden Project had set up camp, Devon, Julia, and Danzinger sat with Alonzo and Uly by the fire. "Since you haven't heard from them in some time, 'Lonz," Danzinger explained, "We thought maybe Uly could talk to the terrians and see if they know what's going on."
Alonzo turned to Uly, old eyes solemnly meeting young, "Is this okay with you?"
Uly glanced at the others before returning his gaze to Alonzo. "Yes. I want to help if I can."
Alonzo smiled, dimples showing, "Sounds like a plan to me." He yawned suddenly and rubbed his eyes with slightly trembling fingers, not noticing Julia's concerned gaze. "I take it you were thinking of trying this tonight, yes?"
"Yes, we all figured that the sooner this is resolved the better for everyone." Julia studied Alonzo intently and took his hand in hers. "I honestly don't know how much longer you can continue like this. This new dream state takes a lot more energy out of you than the terrian dreaming, and I'm worried."
He nodded and gave her fingers a squeeze before pushing himself to his feet. "If you will all excuse me, I think I'll try to get some shut eye." He turned to Uly, "I know you'll do your best. I look forward to hearing your report in the morning, Champ."
Uly tossed off a salute, "Aye,aye, Captain."
Alonzo laughed and tousled the boy's hair before heading for the med-tent and some needed rest. "Good night."
Julia stood also, staring after Alonzo, preoccupied. "Uly, do want to do this in the med-tent, or in your own?"
"My own, please." Julia nodded and glanced again at the med-tent. "Dr. Heller? Don't worry, he'll be alright. The terrians will know what to do."
Julia was startled out of her thoughts and she smiled down at the solemn little boy. "Thank you, Uly. I know." She glanced at Devon. "Why don't you go with your mom to your tent and get ready for bed. I'll be with you in a few moments." Uly took his mom's hand and helped her off the log she was sitting on. The two figures made their way to their tent, hand in hand.
Danzinger placed a hand on Julia's shoulder. "What do you think?"
She shrugged lightly, glad for the contact. "I pray this works. I'm going to check on Alonzo first, give him a dream inhibitor so he doesn't sleepwalk tonight. Then... We'll see what happens."
Everything will work out just fine, you'll see."
She gave a wry smile. "I sure hope so. I sure hope so." She patted his arm in thanks and watched as he headed for his tent.
True sat on her cot, waiting for her father before going to bed. He'd been a bit distant the last few days and she was going to find out exactly why. "Hi, dad."
Danzinger felt his spirits lift at the sound of his daughter's voice. "Hey, True-girl." He sat next to her and wrapped his arms around her.
True twisted about till she was facing hr father. "Dad, what's going on? Everyone's been acting weird."
"It's nothing, True."
She gave him a look, "I'm not a baby, dad. I can tell something's wrong. Tell me what's going on, please."
Danzinger stared at his daughter, once again aware of how independent she was growing, and of how proud he was of her. He looked into her eyes, reading her determination to know the truth and worry and concern she felt for him. John set her on his knee. "Alonzo has been sleepwalking lately. He was gone last night and Julia and I had to go after him."
"Is he going to be alright?"
John sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "We don't know, sweetheart. His injuries will heal but this sleepwalking..." he shrugged.
"What exactly is sleepwalking?"
"Well, you're asleep, but you move around like you're awake. You usually never remember what happened or what you did when you wake up."
"But Alonzo's sleepwalking is different, isn't it." her blue-green eyes stared steadily into his.
John blinked, "Why do you say that?"
"Well, if it was normal, you, Devon, and Julia wouldn't be so worried about it."
"Yeah, we're worried all right. Alonzo doesn't have regular dreams like we do. Julia feels, and Devon and I agree, that his sleepwalking isn't normal either, or voluntary."
True frowned slightly, "So, what is it you guys want Uly to do?"
"Apparently, the sleepwalking is somehow interfering with Alonzo's ability to communicate with the terrians. Julia wants Uly to talk to them and try to find out what's going on. Hopefully, they'll be able to tell us how to help 'Lonz. Now you, young lady, need to go to sleep." He picked her up and swung her through the air to her cot. She giggled uncontrollably as she landed and quickly scooted under the covers. Danzinger kissed her on the cheek. "Sleep tight, True. Pleasant dreams."
Julia entered the med-tent. Alonzo was already in the cot, his breathing slow and steady, but his eyes opened as she entered the tent. "I thought you had already fallen asleep."
He shook his head and briefly looked at the staff Uly and True had given him. It comforted him to know it was close at hand. He turned back to Julia, "Nah, not yet. Think this will work? You know, having Uly talk to the terrians?"
"I don't know, 'Lonz. It can't hurt any. I'm going to give you another dream inhibitor tonight. There won't be anyone here with you, and I don't want you roaming the countryside, okay?"
"Sure, doc. Whatever you say." He closed his eyes as she applied the derm to his neck, his breathing slowing down and his heart rate lowering. Soon he was fast asleep. She waited for a few minutes to make sure he was doing all right, kissed his forehead, then left the tent and made her way to the Adair's tent. On the way, she encountered Mangus, who was on guard duty, and asked her to periodically check on Alonzo for her until she got back.
Uly was already asleep by the time Julia got there. She and Devon sat quietly in the tent, waiting. An hour later, Uly's heartrate sped up and Julia adjust her glove to scan him. She glanced up at Devon, who was staring anxiously at her son. "He's begun terrian dreaming. Cross your fingers."
Devon tried to ignore the dread welling within her. The hold the terrians had on her son was strong. She didn't know what kind of promise she made in exchange for Uly's health. She wouldn't change that for the world, but she was still unsure of what they were going to demand in return. Uly began to toss and turn, snapping Devon back to the present. The boy became increasingly more agitated as the dream went on. "No, no! Stay away! It's dangerous! Get away from there!" his voice got louder and louder. "No! Alonzo! Alonzo!" Uly's eyes snapped open, full of fear and uncertainty. He launched himself into his mother's arms and began sobbing.
Startled, Devon wrapped her arms around him, rocking and murmuring quietly to him. "Uly? Champ? Calm down, sweetheart. You're scaring me. Uly?"
Slowly, Uly released the death-grip he had around his mother's waist. Julia had called Danzinger over gear and now sat helplessly as she watched the small boy's shuddering frame. She was suddenly reminded of the way Alonzo had shuddered when trying to explain his dark memories. Danzinger soon showed up and asked Julia, "What happened?" She bit her lip in consternation, "He just woke up screaming."
Devon gently rubbed her son's back, rocking him back and forth. "Uly? Uly? What did you see, honey? What did the terrians tell you?"
Danzinger knelt by Devon and Uly and placed a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder. "Uly? Take a deep breath, that's a boy. Now, can you tell us what you saw?"
Uly sniffled, rubbed his red rimmed eyes. "The terrians are real worried. They say something bad's gonna happen." His voice dropped to a whisper and the adults had to strain to hear it. "I saw part of it."
"What's going to happen, Uly? What did you see?" Julia kept her voice soft and low, so as not to startle the boy.
"I wasn't on the dream plane. The terrians sorta showed me what might happen if we can't stop it. I saw Alonzo walking towards the mountains, he was limping real bad, as if each step was extremely painful, like he didn't want to go. Several terrians tried to stop him, but he didn't notice them at all, just walked right past them. Then there was this dark cave. And hands came out of the wall and grabbed him and dragged him into the rock face. Kind of like a terrian does, only..."
Devon hugged her son tighter to him, "Only what, Champ?"
"Only it looked like it hurt Alonzo a whole lot, not like when the terrians do it. Then, something stepped out of the rock face. It looked like Alonzo, only, somehow, I knew it wasn't really him." The boy shuddered again. "The terrians say that this thing is what's been causing Alonzo to sleepwalk, and it's been keeping them from talking to him. It's been drawing him to it 'cause it can't leave without a..." The boy frowned as he searched for the right word.
"Host." Julia whispered.
The other two adults looked stricken.
"Yeah, that's the word. It can't leave without at host."
Danzinger looked at Julia. "But why did it pick Alonzo, why not someone else?"
Uly shuddered again. "'Cause Alonzo and I are the only one who can use the dream plane and I'm too little." Devon went pale and clutched Uly tighter to her.
"Did the diggers tell you how we can stop this thing?" Danzinger grated, his fists clenched.
Uly looked confused. "They said he has what he needs to fight this thing, but they wouldn't say anything else."
"Damn." Danzinger ran a hand through his unruly hair. Julia looked sick and kept clasping and unclasping her hands nervously. She was about to speak when Mangus came running into the tent. "Julia! Come quick! Alonzo's not in his tent."
"When was the last time you saw him?" she rushed to the med-tent, praying that he would somehow, miraculously, be there. Danzinger, Mangus, Devon, and Uly were close behind her.
"Half an hour ago."
Julia quickly scanned the camp for signs of him. "Which direction?"
"Found tracks heading north, towards those rocks." Mangus pointed.
She grabbed her med-kit and ran through camp, in the direction Mangus indicated, remembering Baines' comment of how many caves seemed to riddle the area. If Alonzo reached them first, they'd never find him. 'Please be safe, Alonzo.' she prayed. She rushed headlong, following the faint trail, heedless to any danger to herself.
Danzinger caught up to her and a few minutes later he pointed. "Julia."
Alonzo was walking slowly towards the first set of caves, leaning heavily on his staff. As Julia approached him, she noticed the tension in his shoulders, back, and arms. His knuckles white as one hand grasped the staff and the other balled in a fist. She was horrified to see drops of blood ooze out of his clenched fist, as he dug his nails deep into his flesh. Reaching one of the caves, he seemed to stumble, only to catch himself with his staff at the last moment. He stood stock still and Julia quickly ran over to him and scanned his vitals with her dia-clove. She blinked at the readings; terrian dreaming, N-REM, and his waking self all competed for dominance. Each fluctuating dramatically, it was a wonder he was standing at all. She took a close look at him, shocked. He was very pale. Blood trickled down from where he had bit his lip clean through. His face was twisted with pain and his eyes were tightly clenched, but Julia didn't this it was from his leg wound, which had reopened and was darkening his pant leg. Alonzo opened his dark eyes and Danzinger took an involuntary step back. Alonzo's eyes blazed with pain, fury, and helplessness. Danzinger could see that he was aware of his surroundings, and of what was happening to him, but was powerless to do anything about it.
Alonzo sucked in a pain-filled breath, every nerve-ending screaming. All he could do was stand still, the pull he had felt for the past few weeks was at its strongest here, and he had no intention of following it to its end, but he wasn't sure for how much longer he could hold out.
"'Lonzo? Can you hear me?" Danzinger carefully eased himself between the pilot and the cave entrance. A cold wind emanated from the cave and sent shivers down his back.
Alonzo nodded, "Yeah. Julia?"
Julia took a step closer. "The terrians are worried. Uly says there's something evil in that cave that wants you as its new host." Alonzo paled even further, almost fainting from the shock. Julia bit her lip but continued. "It can't come out of there without you, or Uly."
"We're not sure, it might need your connection to the dream plane."
Alonzo winced suddenly and took a stumbling step forward. "No!" A look of concentration crossed his face and he came to a swaying halt, the other two looking on helplessly. "How can I stop it?" he cried in anguish.
"All the terrians would say is that you have what it takes to defeat it."
Julia shook her head sadly. Sweat popped out on Alonzo's face and he wearily leaned his forehead against his staff. He took two deep breaths to steady himself and, when he looked back up, Julia gratefully noted that some color had returned to his face and that he seemed stronger.
Danzinger had been in gear communication with camp ever since they had found Alonzo, he turned the eyepiece around so that Devon and the others could see what was going on. Despite their predicament, Danzinger was curious. "'Lonzo, how come you aren't in sleepwalker mode?"
Alonzo blinked, "I don't know. Half way here, I realized I as outside my tent, staff in hand, completely lost, and barefoot." Sure enough, Alonzo had no shoes or socks on, something Julia had failed to notice while she checked him earlier. Welts and thin lines of blood crisscrossed his ankles, the soles of his feet battered by the rocks. "The closer I got to the caves here, the more aware of my surrounds I became, till I was able to at least halt myself." He indicated their present situation with a wave of his hand. "Not that this is going to last much longer. I'm getting tired and weaker by the minute." Alonzo swayed again and took another two steps. He angrily planted his staff firmly into the ground and hung on with both hands, his face set in grim lines. He was only a few steps away from Danzinger and a couple of feet beyond him was the cave entrance. Alonzo thought he saw a formless shape deep in the cave's shadows and shuddered convulsively.
Danzinger scratched his chin in thought. "Can you ask the terrians for help?"
Alonzo shook his head. "No. If I try to dream, that thing," he nodded towards the cave, "will bring me right to it. Though you, if necessary. That, I know for a fact."
"So, I guess picking you up and carrying you back to camp is out of the question."
Alonzo laughed dryly. "If I didn't try to kill you, I think it would probably make me go insane."
During this interaction, Julia had been keeping an eye on Alonzo's vital signs. She was deeply concerned, the scans indicated that the stress levels on Alonzo's nervous system were reaching critical. She figured that one of three things would happen. Alonzo would give in to the evil spirit - a distinct possibility, as much as she hated the thought. It would give up on Alonzo and release its grip on him - unlikely. Alonzo's heart would give out and he'd die - most probably, as Alonzo didn't look like he was about to give in so easily. Julia expressed her concerns to the two men, Danzinger relaying the information to the group back at camp.
Alonzo furrowed his brow in thought, "What exactly did Uly see on the dream plane?" Danzinger told him. "And the terrians said I have what it take to defeat it?" They both agreed. Alonzo ran a thumb over the wood of his staff and he eyed it thoughtfully. "Did Uly notice if I had my staff with me in the dream?"
"I'm - I don't think so," Julia switched on her gear. "Devon? Can you find out if in Uly's dream Alonzo had his staff or not?"
Devon spoke with her son, "No, he didn't. What's going on Julia? Why is that so important?"
"When I find out... I'll let you know." She turned off her gear. "He says no. Why, 'Lonzo?"
Alonzo was about to answer when a low growl came from the cave. At his shout, Danzinger leapt away from the entrance as a large boulder shot out of the cave to crash where he had been standing. Julia crouched down suddenly as another boulder landed near her. She kept her attention split between Alonzo and the cave. Alonzo's concentration had been momentarily broken, and only by a large force of will was he able to keep from entering the cave. The pilot stood on the threshold of the cave, his vision blurred and his head ached and swam. He again planted his staff. Taking a deep breath, he trilled softly. A startled sounding growl answered him. Julia, Danzinger, and the rest at camp watched in amazement. Alonzo continued to trill, his voice running up and down the scale. Growls continued to answer him as the two immensely different beings held a conversation that was beyond the understanding of those who listened in. Although they didn't understand the language, the other humans got the general gist of what was being said, by how it was said.
Alonzo's voce stated firmly, 'You have no rights to me. I will not go.'
The answer was commanding and cajoling, 'You have no choice. I require you to leave this place. Allow me to join with you and you will have everything you ever dreamed.'
Alonzo spared a loving look to Julia, 'I already have what I want. No deal.'
Angry, 'You're a fool. I shall have you and then I will destroy the others.'
Alonzo painfully drew himself up to his full height, eyes snapping, voice commanding, 'Never. You won't have me or anyone else, for that matter. I'll destroy you first.'
The being chuckled evilly, 'You'd be destroying yourself, for we are already connected, you and I. My death would mean yours.'
Alonzo paled but held firm, 'If that's the way it must go. So be it.'
'Enough of your talk. I've seen into your soul. You value life so much, you do everything you can to prolong it.'
Wearily, 'You're right. By rights, I should be long gone. But if you've seen into my soul, as you say, you'd know that if it's between my life or my friends', I'd save theirs any day.' Alonzo remembered how he had risked his own life against a terrian demon that had possessed Danzinger and would have destroyed them all. Suddenly, Alonzo smiled, grasped his staff tight, and took a deliberate step forward.
Julia and Danzinger ran towards him to hold him back when two terrians exploded out of the earth before them, blocking their way, their staffs crosses and sparkling menacingly.
"Alonzo!" Julia screamed.
Alonzo had stopped just inside the cave's entrance. They watched in despair as he bowed his head to dream.
"Damn you, diggers" Danzinger yelled. "Let us pass." He made a move forward, only to shield his eyes as the staffs flashed. Julia gasped, grabbed Danzinger's arm, and pointed. His jaw dropped and a small part of his mind was glad he was recording this.
Alonzo stood silently, head bowed, and the air around him seemed to shimmer. The growling from the cave suddenly sounded different, uncertain, confused, and perhaps a bit frightened. The two terrians suddenly turned towards Alonzo, their staffs discharging pure electricity into the motionless pilot.
Julia screamed and tried to reach Alonzo, but this time was stopped by Danzinger. "Look." She stopped struggling. Alonzo was still standing, the air around him luminescent. The cave brightened considerably, the darkness retreating to the back of the cave and the growling became a pained yowling until all that was left was a large blob of darkness that scurried this way and that away from the light. Alonzo inhaled sharply, his body alive with the power from the two terrians, a glow running from his hands to the top of his staff. With a cry, Alonzo shoved the energy through the staff and into the cave, piercing the last black shadow. Everyone watched in amazement as the shadow writhed and screamed. Over the monster's death cry came a strange, yet familiar and oddly comforting humming sound. Julia couldn't remember when she'd heard it before, but the humming calmed her, allowing her to think again.
The beam of light continued to stab forward until the shadow was completely destroyed, a thin wailing could be heard for a moment, then the light, the wailing, and the humming, abruptly stopped. The terrians stepped away from the two humans, and Alonzo collapsed onto the ground, his face completely drained of color.
Julia rushed past the terrians to Alonzo's side. "No!" Danzinger started forward as Julia rolled the pilot onto his back and quickly administered two quick breaths. "He's not breathing, and his heart's stopped."
Danzinger quickly positioned himself over the man's chest and began compressions, counting under his breath. "1, 2, 3, 4, 5" After '5,' Julia would administer a breath. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Breath, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Breath. They continued this for several minutes.
1, 2, 3, *Dammit, 'Lonzo.* Breath.
The two terrians entered the cave, unnoticed by the frantic humans.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Breath
They picked a glowing stone that rested where the shadow had expired.
1, 2, *Come on, 'Lonzo.* Breath.
Reverently, one bent and picked it up. The other picked up the dreamwalker's staff off the cave floor where Julia had tossed it out of her way.
1, 2, 3, *Don't leave me.* Breath.
They attached the stone to the top of the staff, a special quality about both objects, creating an instant bond.
1, 2, *Come on, come on!* Breath.
1, *I can't live without you.* Breath.
1, 2, 3, 4, *Please.* Breath.
The two terrians chanted a special prayer over the dreamwalker's staff and regarded the two humans with, what was for them, pity. They didn't understand at all.
Danzinger finally pulled Julia away from Alonzo's still body. "He's gone, Julia. He's gone. There isn't anything you can do."
She struggled to go back to Alonzo, but Danzinger held her fast. She buried her face in his chest, beating his shoulders and sobbing. "Oh, God, No! Alonzo, no!"
The two terrians came out of the cave and approached Alonzo's body. Danzinger's sight turned red, "Keep away from him, diggers. It's your fault he's dead. If you hadn't have stood in our way, we could have saved him. Damn you, get away!" he growled menacingly and tried to chase them away, but Julia's weight was holding him down.
Unconcernedly, the terrians placed the staff lengthwise on Alonzo's body. Julia watched with tear-filled eyes as the two terrians made a complicated gesture with their staffs and planted them deep within the earth. The staffs shuddered on their own and the tips glowed with power, two beams of light joined together and hit the stone on Alonzo's staff. The air began to glow until the body was completely surrounded. For a moment, a halo of golden light played along Alonzo's body before disappearing. The stone came free from the staff and fell off the pilot's chest and crumbled to dust as Alonzo opened his eyes. The two terrians bowed slightly and disappeared into the earth. "Julia?" his voice low and weak.
Julia scrambled over to him, scanning him disbelievingly. She touched him to assure herself that he was here, that it was real, he was alive! Alonzo reached up and touched her hair. She sighed, tears of joy rolling down her cheeks.
An awed Danzinger helped the pilot sit up. "My God, man! You were dead!"
Alonzo frowned and rubbed his head. "I was?"
Julia nodded, speechless, then wrapped her arms around him, holding him tight. He hugged her back just as tightly, and they stayed that way for quite some time.
Alonzo and Julia got ready for bed that evening. When they had got back to camp, Alonzo had refused to discuss what had happened to him. Strangely, only the very first part of the encounter with the spirit was still on Danzinger's gear. Everything past the point from when the terrians had shown up had somehow been reduced to static. Also, whatever terrian dialect Alonzo had been speaking was so different from that of the tribe that had saved Uly, the boy was unable to translate what had been said.
Alonzo sat in bed watching Julia change. He lifted the blanket as she came over to the bed. She snuggled close to him, resting her hand on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. She looked up into his ebony eyes. "I thought I'd never hear that sound again."
He held her gently and looked deep into her blue eyes. The love he felt for her shining through his own. "I could never leave you." he whispered.
She gave him that rare smile that made his heart leap and snuggled even closer to him. "Alonzo?"
"How were you able to destroy that shadow spirit?"
He chuckled softly, "Magic?"
She sat up to look him fully in the face. "I'm serious."
He was silent a moment, gathering his thoughts. "I remembered how I used the terrian's staff to destroy the demon that had almost killed John and myself. I had to willingly join it on the dreamplane in order to destroy it."
"But, you didn't have a terrian staff. And it killed you!"
His eyes were dark with memory and he tried to shake it off. "I know. But the staff that I did have worked in much the same manner."
"The terrians receive their staffs from the earth, their mother. It is given in a special ceremony by both the youngest and eldest of their tribe. My staff was given to me by the children, who had thoughtfully and lovingly prepared it for me. That love was 'trapped' in the wood for me to draw upon. Yale had helped, and he served as the elder of the tribe, apparently, and when I accepted the gift, that served as the ceremony. Even you held the staff a couple of times, and you're love for me also could be drawn upon through the staff. I'm not exactly sure how, but I was able to drawn on those positive emotions to repel the evil."
"And when you died?"
"The shadow hadn't lied about that."
"It had said that we were connected. That if it died, so would I." he turned serious eyes her way. "I would have preferred death to what that creature offered and represented." He ran his fingers along her jaw. "I don't know exactly what happened to me after the terrians lent me their strength. Just that I was warm and safe. It felt like I was being held in my mother's arms and being sung a beautiful lullaby. But I had to get back to you." He pulled her close, kissing her tenderly. "Next thing I know, I was flat on my back, feeling better than I had in years." For during the return of his soul, all of Alonzo's wounds had vanished, everything had healed without even a scar to prove they had been there at all. Julia smiled brilliantly at him and gave him a long lingering kiss. Alonzo pulled Julia beside him as he stretched out on the cot and the two soon fell into a dreamless sleep.
Voice of Alonzo:
*I didn't tell Julia the whole truth. I do remember some of what happened - but it was what happened after I "died." I spoke with the planet, the very mother of everything on this world. An understanding has been reached, I believe. Just as humans can be both good and evil, so can this world's creations. She won't tolerate wanton destruction by either her children or us aliens and she will repay those who do so in her own time and way. For now, I will continue to dream with the terrians and learn all I can about this planet and its inhabitants. I'll take time, but the friends I have now, in both the Eden Project group and in other unlikely places, time doesn't seem so terrifying any more.*
Copyright - June 21, 1996