Eons have passed by since the star was dying. It has already engulfed all his children, melting into the boiling mass of expanding Hell planet after planet. Unique worlds had died a slowly and painful death as the star that have had brought them to life became their killer.
Now all was coming to an end. The space around the former planetary system was twisting and wavering under the pressure of the red giant. In this remote corner of the Galaxy, a final act of a once blazing life was gathering to the unavoidable ending.
Despite the huge distances that separated them, the neighboring stars watched the agony of their sister with mounting anxiety. They knew that the final blast was near but its triggering moment lied inside the glowing body of stardust and gas.
Ignition came in a split moment, shaking the Time-Space fabric from its intimate core of eternal entwining. The tidal wave of cosmic energies swept across the surroundings and echoed on and on through the void between the scattered stars. The deafening roar of the dying sun hit everything in its way, bent Time and Space, twisted the wormholes and clogged the pathways with smoldering ash and choking stardust.
The Cosmic event blew away the graceful starship caught in the huge blast of energies. The delicate shell cracked and released the handful of iridescent capsules throughout the unknown space. The seeds of life drifted away, carried by cosmic currents until they landed on thriving planets, barren soils or hungry stars.
One of these tiny capsules swirled through the atmosphere of a blue planet that circled a mild-tempered yellow sun. The slim silver shape spun until it reached the soft soil of a lush green forest that ran all over a magnificent island. In the moment of silence that followed the landing, hot steam rose from the heated metal, slowly dissipated and the sliding door opened, releasing the traveler from outer space to its new home.
The young man was scrolling down some pages on screen while his mind was drifting. It has been a long and busy year, with lots of projects, exhibitions, crowded social events and complicated relationships, haunting loose ends…He definitely needed a vacation. The healing power of Nature was what he needed the most; all the harmonious beauty left untouched…The Island he was dreaming about was such a small gem, an emerald-green spot of life hidden in the vastness of the ocean. Born out of the passionate embrace of fiery volcanoes and the foaming waves, this unique place embodied all his dreams of Paradise.
He turned off the computer and stood up. Night was seeping into the city and light started to flicker in the windows. He started towards the terrace when the cosmic tidal wave hit the planet; Space-Time fabric wavered, reality bubbled up and spread all around. The room spun around the youth; he felt his stomach rise suddenly, his vision blurred and he lost balance. He banged his head to the door and passed out.
A playful ray of light tickled his eyelids; a slight thumping echoed in his skull, reminding him of the fall he took the previous evening. Cautiously moving, he opened his eyes and looked around; he wasn’t at home.
The room was furnished with light bamboo and sisal furniture, the colors were warm and joyful and the light pouring in through the large window was not the sick one that used to shine above the city. This light was teaming with life. Curiosity aroused, he woke up and looked outside: he took a step back as he faced the Diamond Peak in its full height and magnificence, guarding the bay. He was on his dream island…
The creature looked around with eyes wide open in childlike awe; the place was rich in colors, scents and shapes. Various sounds entwined harmoniously, completing the natural beauty of this planet. The silver capsule closed with a hiss and the alien started its journey throughout the rainforest.
The small shape moved silently and swiftly through the dense greenery. It was a humanoid with androgynous features, a translucent body and wide, ink-blue eyes spotted with gold. Whenever it stopped, its body changed color, mimicking the surroundings, blending perfectly in the pattern. Only the pair of unusual eyes betrayed its presence, but in the symphony of colorful leaves and flowers it could be easily mistaken for the wings of an exotic butterfly. The creature watched the world unfolding around him with eyes glittering with excitement. Its strolling through the forest ended at a rocky part of the shore so it sat down on a higher cliff and lost itself in daydreaming. The ocean rolled waves after waves, sprinkling droplets of water above the rugged land.
“ If this is a dream-thought the young artist-at least it is a pleasant one.” He dressed up and descended in the hall. He made a few enquiries at the reception and relaxed. Except for the unusual way of getting here, his vacation seemed perfectly legitimate. The room has been booked and paid two weeks earlier; his bank account was comfortably filled up so all he had to do was to enjoy…whatever it was.
The island was full of beautiful, happy people, tourists and locals as well. He could easily mingle with them and let himself pulled into the stream of uninhibited energies. He chose to skip that and walk along the shore of white sands. He loved the feel of sand under his feet, the way the foam left behind by the waves seeped into tiny holes, the various sea-shells scattered on the beach, artful remnants of marine life…He took a fistful of silky sand and slowly poured it into the playful breeze. The small grains danced for a moment in the air like stardust in the mighty Universe.
He kept walking until the flow of people ebbed into nothing and he found himself all alone. He almost stumbled over the melting remains of an intricate sand-castle. The sea had already reclaimed some of it, but the artful shape spoke about a skillful dreamer. The youth sat down and guarded it until the last mound of sand was obliterated by the eternal thru and fro of the water…It was a small, cathartic moment…like the ocean had washed away all the sand-castles built in his heart…leaving a pristine shore inside, ready for another magic built.
He stood still for a moment, giving in to the feeling and then dismissed it; he wasn’t ready for that. He saw a gathering of black cliffs soaring from the water and decided to swim there. The water was smooth and pleasant, with no dangerous currents in the area. He explored the depths for a while and took a quick ride to the surface. He held out a hand to catch the cliff when he brushed against something warm and soft. He caught it instinctively: it was a human hand, small but firm. He heard a cry of surprise and the hand slipped off his grip.
The moment he surfaced, the youth searched for the person he had caught but there was no one around. A flicker of intense blue and a sense of movement towards the rainforest was all he glimpsed. It was an awkward moment but it looked like the island had some surprises for him.
That evening he joined the fiesta in the town, drifting along the narrow streets with singers and dancers…Later, he leafed through the local and the international newspapers but none of them mentioned anything about the strange events that brought him here.
He asked around about local myths and strange creatures but nothing fitted his encounter. He went to sleep with more questions than answers but decided to let things unfold at will. He felt a surge of adrenaline; he was ready for more mysteries and adventures.
First time in the morning he took the diving gear and returned to the remote beach. The morning was bright and the weather had been calm for days; the ocean was rocking back and forth peacefully, lacing the white sands with ribbons of elusive foam. Sunlight perched the translucent waters and played hide and seek with the lively colored schools of fish swimming between the solidified lava shapes. It was like the fiesta from above has descended into the water world, shining, dancing and moving to a rhythm that no one could hear. In this world inhabitants were speaking a very different language….
The young man swam along the island wall until he found a ragged opening leading probably inside a submerged cavern. |Eerie blue-green phosphorescence was shimmering inside the narrow corridor, inviting him to explore the area. It was risky but after checking on the air supply he decided to take the challenge. He slipped easily through the opening and swam carefully along the corridor. Small, crablike creatures were crawling on the walls, their delicate armor shining in blue and green; they were like tiny, living chandeliers, placed there to light the way for the bold trespasser. In the deep silence and waving light, caught between the thick darkness of the surrounding walls he felt like swimming through outer space, along ever changing constellations and glittering stars. Suddenly, the watery Universe opened into a huge cavern, inundated by the light that was seeping in from above; the ceiling of that submerged cathedral opened towards the skies like a magic eye.
The surrounding walls were covered by curtains of marine life in all shapes and colors, draping the rough edges of rocks, turning the heights into a swaying, colorful panorama. The shower of light filtered through the dense body of liquid created a swirl of energy that caught the youth in its subtle magic. Alternating layers of turquoise shades and golden rays drew mysterious shapes and designs on the walls…The young man followed the slowly changing patterns until his eyes started to recognize a story unfolding from that shift of shades and shines. Just like the soft sand castles crumbling under the caress of the waves, the play of light inside the underwater magic castle wrote down stories of the heart buried deep in his soul, unfinished, undiminished like the fire slowly burning under the smoldering ash…A sharp bright ray penciled the slim shape, delicately flowing see weeds created the illusion of the soft, long hair, star-like anemones opened wide, like those hauntingly beautiful eyes buried in his memory…The elusive shape moved on, floated in front of him, swam ahead, calling him with loving gestures. His heart thumped and he followed her instantly; the cavern ended in another straight leading probably to a row of underwater sea caves.
Like from a broken dam, all the bitter-sweet memories burst out from the depths of his soul, lighting up the water world. The magic image of the unfulfilled love took a firm shape and her closeness made the entire vision even more passionately painful. He kept swimming after her, oblivious of the fading light or the shortening supply of air. He had no eyes but for her, no heart except that filled with her warm presence, no need but the one to bridge the gap between lost memories and his own fantastic reality.
But outside the caverns and labyrinths of rocky corridors a tempest was building up at the horizon, wiping out the sunlight with eager hands. Inside the steep and narrow way the light went out and in a split of a moment the illusion of the lost love disappeared, engulfed by darkness. The young man stopped and reality came down on him with shocking earnest: what was gone was gone. No matter how much he yearned for that love, it was lost…the moment it broke. Days and years that had passed, built around that memory a shrine of unearthly magic and beauty; but the truth was that of an ending of no return. Just like the sand castles crumbling on the shore, time has eroded that love, turning it into a memory. He had to let go. He had to let her go, slip into the treasure chest of memories and look ahead. His soul opened a new page, white, pristine, full of awe and expectations. It was about time to write a new, fulfilling chapter.
At that moment he realized that this might prove harder than he thought. He was immersed in the deepest darkness ever, stranded in a narrow channel that lead somewhere into the unknown, while his air supply was dangerously thinning. His mind sped up, searching for the best chance to escape.
Then his wide open eyes caught a familiar glimpse of blue and gold followed by the faint shape of a somehow human body made out of glowing golden spots. The shape stood there for a moment, catching his attention then plunged ahead, showing the way out. The youth followed without hesitation; there was no time for questions…He could feel the waters becoming increasingly agitated under the constant pressure of the events unfolding outside. As they came closer to the end of the struggle, the waters calmed down and they got out in another remote bay, swam up and found another alignment of rocks, in the shade of the forest.
The young man climbed easily and he put aside the diving gear. He filled his lungs with the refreshing breeze, enjoying the salty taste filling his mouth. He looked around, searching for the creature that has lead him to safety. He saw no one; only the faint noise of a body leaving the water and some wet spots indicated that he wasn’t alone. He decided to wait. This second encounter has definitely aroused his curiosity. There was a light tickling in his mind and a faint question took shape:
“Are you fine now?”
“ Yes, I’m fine. Who are you?”
“I’m…a human”-came the long hesitating answer.
“Why can’t I see you? “
“ ….I’m ….adjusting. Wait….”
-I am waiting-he said out loud.
The answer was a small chuckle; the air in front of him thickened, a human shape emerged and the strange, gold speckled blue eyes watched him with deep curiosity. It took some time until the creature became fully visible: it was an androgynous human being, with shortly cropped hair and dressed in an iridescent overall. The creature took a deep breath before speaking:
-I am a stranger here.
The voice was light and pleasant; the young man laughed.
-I have imagined that. You’re very peculiar. How did you end up in the cavern with me?
-I was…curious. I have followed you ever since you scared me to death…when you caught me.
The creature grinned.
– I tried to warn you about the storm-it continued-but you were lost in chasing something.
The youth’s face clouded for a moment.
-I saw something…somebody dear to me-he murmured.
The creature shook its head.
-It was your imagination only. There was nothing in front of you except some shadows in the water….That cavern has a strange power field that dimmed your senses but enhanced your fantasy.
-How do you know that?-ha asked, surprised.
-From the look of your eyes….you know, such places are deadly traps if you lose grip of reality.
-Not anymore; I’ve learned my lesson. Anyway, thanks for your help!-he said and touched the creature’s hand.
A wave of glow ran over the body of the small human and the golden spots brightened inside the blue eyes. The creature gently retracted its hand and tilted its head. They both laughed.
-You got shy-said the youth, watching attentively.
-No…just different…new…I don’t know yet…
The creature smiled.
-It’s not that easy to adjust to an unknown world.
The young man agreed; this reality has given him some moments of awkward adjustment. They both stood up and headed to the forest, trying to short the way to the resort. The creature was leading the way while the young man watched it. The alien was medium high, graceful and mobile, with long limbs.
-Hey, Starchild- he said. The creature turned.
-Pardon me for asking but what are you: a boy or a girl?
-I am what you want me to be-came the swift answer followed by a playful flicker in the eyes.
The young man smiled inwardly; he summarized the day. His heart felt lighter once he got over his hidden heartbreak. Now something new was opening ahead, like the sky that cleared into bright azure after a ravaging storm. He took that bitter-sweet, beautiful memory, closed it into a glowing bubble of time and placed it carefully on the shelves of his soul. He sighed and returned to reality.
This wasn’t going to be a dull evening; he’s got himself a cheeky alien. He shook his head incredulously and followed his companion.
They split up as the reached the edge of the forest.
-I have to go back to the capsule; I still have work to do on the adjusting…-said the creature with a faint smile. Enjoy your vacation! Don’t worry, we’ll meet again…
It withered while speaking and faded into the background; the youth hummed but followed his way to the hotel. He could use some time to piece things together.
As the sun quietly slipped into the ocean, the tips of the rolling waves turned into liquid gold and deep carmine. After the daily stir, the vast body of water exhaled in hushed sounds and it was gently rocking. The ocean regained its peace and turned into a glowing mirror of the flaming skies and the waves died out in small ripples fingering the shores.
Crimson and amber melted then turned into deep shades of purple minutes before the night covered the land in its cloak of black velvet. Only a fistful of stars were twinkling above as the clear-cut, round face of the Moon took over the heavens. She glanced to the Earth, brightened up and filled the scenery with silver linings. The air cooled and it was trembling imperceptibly under the flow of light; hidden flowers of unearthly beauty opened their soft cups, releasing a harmony of scents into the wandering breeze.
As the hours slowly moved towards midnight the scenery changed; smooth skinned dolphins emerged from the silent depths and crisscrossed the silver toned surface, jumping and swirling in a happy dancing and boisterous run, splashing sparkling droplets of water in the air. Sheen of clouds covered for a moment the face of the Moon, dimming the light. When the thin vapor dissipated, the Moon has turned light blue.
Laying on his bed the young man was recalling the talk he had with his alien companion through the forest.
“ – Realities are infinite and they keep bubbling up all over the Universe. They are like cherry-blossoms; some of them ripen and become fruitful, others wither and fall. This one is unstable but its fate is hidden yet.
-How do you know? – he asked.
-There is a faint glow in the contour of objects, one that is undetectable for the human eye. But I am enhanced through bio-engineering so I can see it all around.
-So what’s the problem with that unstable state of reality?
-We’d better return to our previous reality; we might get lost in the Space-Time fabric if we’re not prepared.
The young man looked around and sighed.
-Are you sure this return to the previous reality is mandatory? – he said with regrets. There is nothing left there for me…I loved being here.
-Hmmm…-the creature’s face turned thoughtful. Let me think about it. I’ll give you a proper answer once I’m ready with the calculations. “
His mind slowly drifted…till it reached the realms of the Land of Nod. The swirl of sweet scents seeped into his room lead by the powerful vanilla. He woke up dazed and looked out the window. He faced the Blue Moon that hung up like a chandelier above the Diamond Peak. A strange veiling echoed in the night, calling him out. The youth decided to comply and descended to the shore. He walked along until he got to the spot where the dolphins were playing. He found a comfortable spot next to a palm tree and sat there, watching the joyful movement of the sea creatures.
Inside the silver capsule there was a constant low humming, like the buzzing of those small flying gems that kept speeding from one flower to another inside the rain forest.
The familiar sound soothed the soul of the alien; it was going through changes. The process was difficult mainly because it implied an inner rift that threatened to shatter the fragile creature. To fit into this new world it had to split personality and transform according to the final choice. So, it closed the eyes and dived inside its own mind, recalling the image of his terran companion. If they were to travel together through this place, it needed to meet his expectations and win his trust and collaboration. There was much passion and a constant thirst for freedom and fantasy emanating from that young man, a drive towards unknown horizons that probably brought the two of them together.
It wasn’t that much of information but at least it gave some guiding lines for the adjustment. The creature remembered the strangeness of his touch that electrified for a moment its entire being, so it made the final choice and set the whole process in motion.
The buzzing of the apparatus around became louder, the light brighter and the creature drifted into unconsciousness. She woke up stiff and dizzy around sunset; she stood up moving carefully and looked into the polished screen that served now as a mirror. She exhaled, stretched and watched the image with curiosity.
Her traits have softened, curves replacing the angles, smooth skin covering the cheekbones. The eyes widened and rounded a bit, the lips were full and pink. She still looked a bit boyish with that short, spiky hair but on the whole she has turned into a decent replica of a young terran woman. She made a quick mental check upon her special abilities and relaxed; they were untouched. She turned back to the main computer and started a complicated chain of calculations about the available realities.
It was almost midnight when she finished her task and decided to search the shore for the young man. She could sense him somewhere close so she hurried towards the edge of the rainforest.
The air was hot and sticky with excess of moisture inside the complex entwining of trees, roots, shrubberies and crawling lianas. Birds were crying out in sleep and unseen animals were growling from time to time in the dim, bluish light. Only the erratically flying fire-bugs lighted up the premises like miniature magic lanterns held by invisible hands. As she approached the shore, the light turned even stranger; she spotted the blue disk glowing in the midnight sky and stopped for a moment puzzled by the unexpected color. She stepped out cautiously in the open and spotted her terran friend. He was sitting in the sand, leaning against a palm tree, gaze lost in the distance where the boisterous creatures of the ocean displayed their joyful show. She silently approached and sat next to him. He turned towards her, surprise in his eyes but then he laughed pleasantly.
-Your eyes are the same-he said. But you look quite human…
-I am human-came the reply. And among so many peculiarities I hope I will blend easily even with that feature. So, what do we have here?-she asked, pointing out to the ocean.
-Dolphins and a blue Moon for now…I haven’t seen anything like this in my reality.
-Look!-she exclaimed. There, inside the water…
The family of dolphins were whizzing and whistling excitedly, swimming in large circles around the place where the water has started to bubble up. Eerie phosphorescence lighted up that growing mass of swirling water from inside. It looked like something huge and powerfully glowing was rising from beneath, pushing the heavy layers of liquid upside in an artesian splash. In a few moments, the huge ghost-ship surfaced in its long lost glorious appearance, lighted up and blazing under the azure eye watching from above. The sudden movement set the waters into a frantic movement and rolls of waves hit the shore, spreading electric blue beads of foam and light over the soft sands. The glowing pearls scattered along the shore, sizzling for a moment, the slowly fading. Some of those ephemeral jewels rolled next to the two young humans. They watched the unfolding play of foam and light in amazement. The girl touched one of the pearls but quickly retracted her hand.
-It’s …hot-she said, surprised by the finding. And it felt strange-she added pensively.
-It’s magic-he said dreamingly. And there is more to come, I guess…
The ghost-ship slowly moved towards the shore pushed by fantastic creatures. Some of them were swimming ahead, their long hair gently flowing in the warm breeze of the night. Their tails shone in the shower of strange light pouring from above. With their beautiful faces, long, glossy hair and shapely, naked bodies ending in powerful fish-tails it was no doubt that they were mermaids.
They were diving and dancing in a mesmerizing motion into the gently rocking waters, opening the way for that bright ship woven from golden rays and silver threads of mist. The air filled with strange sounds, a magic chanting that numbed the mind of the two humans watching the secret midnight show. The powerful scent of vanilla mixed with the salty odor of the ocean, deepening their state of dizziness. The procession of mermaids was quickly closing in, heading straight to them. As the waters were becoming shallow, the mermaids rose on their tails, like walking on the waters. They were undulating, smiling, arms held out in loving expectation. This was a display of perfect beauties born from the wonder- holding depths of that water-beast, the ocean. The call of the mermaids was painfully alluring, pushing the couple of humans to their feet. The enchantment was overwhelming….
But the enhanced vision of the gold-spotted blue eyes saw beyond the display of unearthly beauty: rows of small, razor-sharp teeth, barracuda-like were gleaming behind the friendly smiles. The instincts of the alien girl kicked in as her mind jumped into red alert. She grabbed the wrist of her companion and pulled him with a jerk to the forest behind them. He looked at her in dismay and freed his hand.
-What?!- he exclaimed, anger seeping in his voice.
She turned pale and the blue eyes rounded in fear.
-I don’t know but something is very wrong! It’s an illusion! Something is reading your mind! Come, we have to hide!
He shook his head incredulously.
-No. You must be mistaken. What danger could hide behind such a beauty? Go if you’re scared. I stay; I want to see them.
As they fought upon the proper decision, the light around them changed. The selenary disk turned blood-orange and the tree-trunks glowed in crimson. Sticky sap oozed from the branches…She heard a strange, rasping noise that made her skin crawl. Panic flooded her body; from the hidden corner of her ancestral memories a horrifying image emerged with a paralyzing force. An ever-changing, intelligent but ruthless creature, feeding on dreams and desires, a vampire of the mind had landed in this reality, squaring them out easily. The highly strung energetic minds, with intricate pathways and neural highways roamed by the rainbow –colored spots of bio-energy, carrying complex ideas and strong emotions were like light-houses in the night for the hungry creature that thrived on them.
So it tapped into the most active one, read the fantastic imagery born inside and recreated it through the play of light, scents and a choir of insidious sounds. As the monster prepared to lash out and catch his victims, the young man regained his control; the stench of rotting flesh hit his nostrils. He saw a hungry mouth bursting out between the branches, lancing towards the girl frozen by fear. Instinctively he jumped ahead and pushed her to the ground. As the monstrous limb retracted for a new attack, they both stood up and ran away, holding hands. They reached the tiny capsule and stumbled inside, breathless and trembling. The door sealed with a hiss. They were safe.
But outside, a very discontent creature was shaking the world. With an enraged growl it plunged into the forest, tearing it apart as the powerful sound-wave blasted through the thick greenery. The earth trembled and caved under the tremendous pressure. The tempest erupted above the ocean, pushing the waves inside the opening of the forest, washing away the last remnants of standing trees.
The unleashed fury broke the fragile equilibrium of this reality, the explosion breaking it to pieces, spitting the small seed of metal into the abyss. Time and Space waved opening new windows of reality. The small capsule picked up speed and boldly targeted the unknown.
He was laying on his back on an entirely different kind of surface. He still remembered the hard one inside the space capsule, with the two of them crammed inside a tiny place. He felt grass tickling his face; the air was crisp and breathable. The grass-blade tickled him again, held by a small hand that appeared before his eyes. He heard a muffled laughter. Oh, well. At least that was familiar. He turned on his belly and looked into the twinkling gold spotted blue eyes with a serious face. She smiled playfully.
-My dear friend, I found you a new reality. Unfortunately, you’re stuck here with me…
He watched her for a moment and sighed amusedly.
-I hope that I’ll survive to that.
The small planet looped between her two suns. It was a new day for adventures.