Good morning. This is a sad week for me. At my age, I expect dear aunts and uncles to pass on, but not old friends, especially old friends eight years younger than me. As I write this week, I’ll create a character based on Keith and immortalize the best of him my way.
As always, my sincere thanks go out to Sandra Bunino and the other marvellous authors who let me play along each week. Your imaginations astound me! And of course I need to once again thank Danielle Doolittle who made the changes to the original cover for Episode Two.
We all have different aspect to our characters. Some of them are the ones we show the world, others come out on occasion when our grip on ourselves slips, and we have secrets we keep hidden from everyone–occasionally, everyone includes ourselves.
Secrets, Episode Two of my sci-fi space opera, Eloisia, tests Darla’s abilities and as she scans deeply into Striker’s mind in search for the saboteur. What she finds is the last thing she expected.
Here’s your tease.
Pushing harder, she forced back the layers of confusion and fear. The colonel’s breathing became erratic, his pulse increased as blood sped through his veins and arteries, pumped by a distressed heart. She couldn’t see what was upsetting him, but whoever had implanted that block and the terrors it contained knew the man well. She hadn’t even begun to probe the memory, and his body was reacting violently. She felt his nausea, afraid her body wouldn’t be able to distinguish between his reactions and hers. Whatever was coming would be unpleasant.
Stepping deeper into his terror, she’s suddenly on a battlefield. She’s Striker, but she’s also outside of him, watching them move, Siamese twins in a strangely disturbing place. Their hearts beat faster, their breathing shallow, and she feels lightheaded. The terrain changes. It’s harder to walk, her gravity boots sink into the ground all around her, the surface sticky and wet, covered in a viscous liquid—not water, blood. Peering closely, she realizes what she’s mistaken for rocks are chunks of human bodies, a shoulder here, an arm, a leg, a hip there. What kind of weapon inflicts this damage?
The stench hits her. It’s the same odor Striker encountered in the cargo bay. Gazing down, she’s surrounded by bodies—men and women in space marine uniforms, some intact, others partially decomposed. Large black insects, the size of brown rats, multi-legged monsters too hideous for words, feast on the flesh all around them.
Low sounds, muffled by the clicking insects, grow stronger and she realizes not everyone is dead. Some are being consumed alive while other insects are spinning silken cocoons over the victims—food for a later date. Her stomach clenches as she recognizes the cries for help. One voice draws Striker. It’s a young marine, barely out of his teens, lying pinned under the bodies of two others, insects crawling over them.
Trevor! The name leaps out of the colonel’s mouth but the sound disappears amid the screams of the living dead. How can anyone even conceived such horror?
Forcing a calmness she doesn’t feel, Darla separates herself from Striker so that she can force him to look at her instead of the young marine. It’s a risky move, but he can’t dwell on this.
Jim, listen to me. This isn’t real. It’s a nightmare. Trust me. Trevor’s not here. These monsters are figments of your imagination. Let them go.
Using every relaxation technique her mother has ever taught her, Darla concentrates on erasing this vicious dream from the colonel’s mind. His heartbeat and respiration slow, only to increase exponentially when one of creatures sinks its teeth into his arm, the blood dripping from its mandibles. Whoever has planted this block is skilled at psychological torture. Activating nerves and pain centers when the subject doesn’t comply immediately isn’t easy. Looking down, she feels her skin bubble. The insects’ saliva is acidic. She has to stop this before they both collapse from the pain.
Swallowing her agony, she seeks that part of his mind that controls his rationality. Jim, listen to me. You have to fight this. It’s a trick, put here to prevent you from learning the truth. This is a nightmare. You want to know what happened don’t you. Fight your fear.
Without warning, flames shoot from the weapon in Striker’s hand, burning those around them, bringing death to both human and insect alike. The unmistakable stench of burning flesh gags her, and amid the crackle of fire, cocoons and bodies blacken as flames turn the landscape red. Fire licks at her arms and legs. Her skin peels, but it isn’t her opalescent skin—it’s Striker’s golden, sand-colored body—and she understands why he’s kept the scars. It’s his way of honoring his fallen comrades. What she’d thought a dream is an actual memory, and using a memory such as this makes the block even harder to break.
It’s over, Jim. This happened a long time ago. The burns have healed. Trevor’s gone. He’s at peace. Let it go, you’re safe. You’re in bed aboard your ship. We’re together. We need to keep going and find out what happened.
The nightmare ended as suddenly as it began, and she tweaked his libido. Better to deal with sexual desire than this.
Both Eloisia, Episode One, Stowaway and Eloisia Episode Two, Secrets are available from Amazon.
Please take a few moments to visit the rest of this week’s teasers.