“Matt!” The high-pitched squeal made his knotted muscles relax, but he didn’t open his tired eyes until a loud thud next to him startled them open. Sarah was kneeling next to him. She was horribly pale, and her eyes were huge in her face. He looked her over blearily. She seemed ok. Better.
“He’s all right, Sarah,” Mom said. With great effort, Matt rolled his head to the right and found her kneeling on that side. She was looking at Dad. Matt blinked as his dad laid a hand on her head, and she leaned against his side. Their faces were paler – and older – than he’d ever seen them.
There was something about that that should bother him, but it was too hard to keep his eyes open.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s just tired,” Dad’s deep voice was low and reassuring. “Now, back up a bit, sweetie. I need to get to your brother.”
Not really listening to the words, Matt felt the rest of his worry ease automatically at the sound of that deep rumble. By the time the shuffling around him was done, Matt’s world was the half-fog of approaching sleep. He barely felt the hands pressed lightly against his chest, and their warmth only made the fog deepen. Then, it was as if a blast of wind rushed through him, entering his chest and flowing through his entire body.
Matt sat up with a gasp, completely awake as terror spiked. His head twisted from side to side, trying to find evidence of the wind. How had it gotten in? What would it do? No matter where he looked, he saw nothing. The drapes didn’t move; the papers didn’t rustle. But he couldn’t feel that awful stillness either.
“Shhhh, it’s ok Matt,” his mom reached out and touched his shoulder. The touch made him jerk back, and he stared at her hand.
“It was you!” he gasped. His dad moved, and Matt flinched away from them both, instinctively scooting as far away as he could and running hard into the door. “It was both of you!”
Sorry for the late posts the last few days! I have been working on other projects with deadlines and nearly forgot to write for twytte both days. I will try to be more disciplined about posting in the morning. This morning’s post is almost ready and will be along soon. Thanks for your patience!
Raised up to the lips –
A glass overflowing with
Moonlight and stardust
From sleeping to waking
A half instant’s surge.
All senses alert
And seeking the reason,
The cause for this scene.
But the darkness is total,
The silence complete.
Senses relax, and the mind
Starts to sleep.
Then a small furtive rustle
Jerks me back from the deep.
The darkness and silence
Are empty, serene,
But the cause of the rustle
Waits there unseen.
A night full of waking
Is plenty to scheme:
A bag full of mousetraps –
The cost of sweet dreams.
Shattered splinters sparkled, barely visible from certain angles – the baseball lay among them, decorated with tiny fragments. Outside, young voices rose and fell in panicked chorus, then faded amidst pounding feet that fled in the bright afternoon light. Alone, one pair treaded hesitantly but determinedly closer to the door.
The float stopped with a suddenness that slapped me back so fast that the fancy seat barely adjusted in time. A huge CarbonCoreTM mesh gate towered inches from the float’s nose. There was no visible scanner. Of course, the dim blue lights of the tunnel weren’t conducive for seeing mucah of anything.
Even as I opened my mouth to ask if this was the here he meant, the gate swung open inwardly, and I was blinded by a flood of light. Feeling the float moving forward, I blinked rapidly to try to clear my vision and then stared dumbly.
And I thought I was nervous before.
I had expected a mansion, something expensive and intimidating. What I saw was a compound. Fields of flora spread out to either side until they we ran into a vast wall. There were hundreds of different colors along with shades of green that I had never seen before. And the land! The entire city could practically fit in these walls. Of course, the house in the middle could probably have held most of the people from the city. At least half.
Not only was it huge, especially by Kaihmi standards, but it also had an Old-World feel that simply wasn’t used anymore. I had never seen it outside of books or old shells that had somehow survived back on Earth or New Earth. People simply didn’t decorate their houses like that now. They couldn’t. It was nearly impossible with the new interstellar building standards. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could manage to build a place like this. Or why people weren’t knocking at the gates to see it.
Unless they didn’t know it was there. I frowned. But we’d have to be completely out of sight of the city for that to happen. How far had we traveled in that tunnel?
Eyebrows furrowed, I peered back behind me. The towering shadows of the city were visible but distant. People in the city should be able to see it. Come to think of it, I should’ve seen it as Whisp danced through the entry field. My eyes narrowed and I leaned forward as far as I could to look up. I could see the sky and the ships moving as they landed. I turned my head, trying to see the walls from a different angle.
“Figure it out yet?” The laconic voice startled me so that I jumped and hit my head on the float’s ceiling. “Maybe you’re not so slow after all. Not many people ever think to look.”
My head hurt, and the back of my neck heated as I realized that I’d been practically crawling around his float – I’d gotten so caught up that I’d completely forgotten he was there. Before I could catch my scattered wits, his door field had already dissolved, and he was out of the float. I nearly fell out of my side in my hurry to catch up.
“It’s LightBlock isn’t it?” I asked quickly, trying to show that I wasn’t a complete rube. “A whole dome of it.” I had seen a dome during the flight in. It was the only explanation I could think of that made sense.
He stopped and gave me a long considering stare. It was the first time I’d actually seen surprise on his face.
“You’ve heard of LightBlock?” he asked instead of answering my question.
Actually, the new factory head had hired Neph to talk to the inventor, who had unfortunately died before sharing the secret of the technology with his son. It was the first deathwalk Neph had let me sit in on, so I remembered it vividly although I hadn’t understood all the nuances at the time. But the son had been nice, so I was glad to see he’d gotten everything working.
I didn’t say that though. Neph had recommended (ordered) me to never mention her name to the Ialuans, especially deathwalkers. So as much as I wanted to see Ter Dryst’s reaction to the story, I simply nodded instead.
As the door field reformed, the luxurious seat adjusted, conforming to my body and exerting exactly the right amount of pressure in all the right places. It was both extremely comfortable and slightly disturbing. The fact that I could probably buy the Whisp a total overhaul for the cost of one seat was even more disturbing – make that nerve-wracking. Subtly, I counted the seats. There were four. Whatever this man was, he was not an average deathwalker.
I sat and pondered in silence as he drove. He didn’t seem inclined to start a conversation. And his demeanor certainly didn’t invite one. A string of unanswered questions paraded through my mind. One by one, I dismissed them, deciding that the safest course for the moment was to keep my mouth shut and pay attention.
Paying attention was not particularly difficult. While the Kaihmi were not especially poor, we spent our money on more practical items, not opulent toys like floats. Since stealing was taboo (including “borrowing” without permission), I had never had the opportunity to zip through a city at high speed. Space, yes, but space ships weren’t made to maneuver in tight spaces. This float was sleek and stream-lined. It whipped around corners and through tiny openings, blurring the passing buildings in a way that was exhilarating to say the least. I couldn’t help but wish that I was riding with my cousins so that I could yell and whoop with the pleasure of the movement. Instead, I had to sit perfectly still and silent.
Well, not perfectly still. I was still a little too jittery from the accusations earlier to be that calm. My right knee jiggled up and down constantly. When I noticed and forced it still, my fingers beat erratic patterns on my side. I glanced at Dryst out of the corner of my eye. Had he noticed? He didn’t seem to be paying me any attention. I heaved a silent sigh and relaxed slightly.
The sudden growl of my stomach echoed in the quiet float. Wincing, I risked another glance. His eyebrows were up again. But he said nothing. Was he even human? My leg began to bounce again. So did my fingers.
“Excuse me, sir,” I blurted, unable to contain myself any longer. “But who are you exactly?”
He executed a tight turn so fast that the force pressed me against the fancy seat.
“It’s a little late to ask,” he replied dryly in the sudden dark of a narrow tunnel. “We’re here.”