Welcome to Beyond the End of the World. My name is Aaron Dennis, and I will be presenting this published novel to you one chapter at a time. The entire novel is free for download via Barnes and Noble online.
This is an action-packed, scifi military novel. Some language may not be suitable for minors.
They Lurk Among Us, Lokians 2, has officially been released, so make sure to visit www.storiesbydennis.com too!
O’Hara and crew all retired to their quarters for the night; Fitzpatrick, however, tossed and turned, unable to fall asleep. Ominous buzzing sounds rattled around. She lied there, wide eyed, staring into the darkness.
There was a major difference in her composure since having met the traveler. She distinctly remembered the awe, fear, and joy, which exuded from the creature. Whatever the depths of those emotions, they had passed, and she was left with some consuming emptiness.
Marty…Zak…Imes, Becker; what happened? What’s going to happen? Look at us; we’re just like a bunch of frightened children. I sure act tough, but man, the next fight could really be our last, my last, and that traveler; he’s able to destroy those Lokians with his mind, but he sends us to get a ship?
Frowning, she felt the impotence within turn into anger. Grumbling as she flung the sheets from her body, she marched out of her room, and decided to pay the mysterious creature a visit. The elevator door slid open after she pushed the call button, and she walked in, taking it down to the loading zone, where she found the traveler. He was still standing there, meditating, or sleeping, or doing whatever he did. Deckhands scurried around him like he was just a statue.
“’Sup, dude?” she sat down cross-legged in front of him.
He didn’t move, or sway, or even twitch. He barely even breathed. She looked him over, and thought he was built like an athlete, stocky and muscular. Thick, gray fur covered most of his body. Only his face and the palms of his hands were bare.
His tranquility was something she coveted. “Not a worry in the world, huh?”
Moments eased by during which she also relaxed. She found her eyes growing heavy. There he stands—the great savior—and what does he do? Nothing. I suppose I should just be thankful he saved us, and he is providing a plan of action…. Whatever pessimism had possessed her melted away. In its place sprouted a degree of calmness.
For a moment, her mind went blank; she wasn’t talking to herself, or wondering about the future, or even the present. It was like a daydream, but without fantastical images. Instead, there were physical sensations; her spine tingled, her fingers were warm.
When she realized what she felt, she started trying to dissect the phenomenon; she wanted to think about it, reason it out, but lacked the impetus. Then, the color behind her closed eyes wavered. An intense, pleasing redness wormed its way around. Long waves of energy waned away from her, giving the impression of feeling long, not tall, but somehow stretched.
What she originally thought was fatigue, or the sensations, which came while falling asleep, intensified; she was totally awake, but her body was unresponsive. Scared out of her mind, she fought to stand, but an outside force calmed her. Pressure in the center of her brain drew her attention; something was building up. Then, it released like bubbly effervescence, and the image of the traveler cleared.
She thought she was imagining him, or perhaps remembering him; an image imprinted on her mind, which she was able to isolate and scrutinize, but he opened his eyes, and they weren’t black pools of nothingness; they were all colors, radiating, wafting, melting, but contained. Beyond a doubt, she knew he was guiding her, and she tried to question the experience, but his overwhelming presence turned her around; she saw behind herself, and then a jolt rattled some unknown part of her. It took her a second to comprehend that he hadn’t turned her; he was allowing her to see in all directions.
Instantly, Fitzpatrick felt something break around her, it was like having pierced a barrier, and she knew she was in control. She looked all around the deck; there were aliens at work, ships undergoing repairs, cranes, lifts, and carts were all moving throughout the immense area. Another pang of fear, which culminated in a bodily jolt, brought her back to reality; she was sitting in front of the traveler, only his eyes were closed, and he bore a smile.
“What the fuck,” she said, dryly.
Gazing at the creature, she figured something transcendental had occurred. An imperative need to inform someone possessed her, and she took off like a bat out of Hell. Dancing on her toes while riding the lift back to crew quarters, she began to doubt the experience. I must be losing it…did that really happen? The elevator dinged, and the door slid open.
She went to DeReaux’s room first. Best to get a second opinion before bothering the captain. His door was closed. Rather than knocking and waking up DeReaux’s quarter mate, she decided to sneak in.
“Wake up, Frenchie,” she whispered. Then, she tugged at his sleeve. “Wake up, you ass.”
He turned, and looked at her, and grumbled, “What?”
“Get up, you have to come check this out,” she pleaded. He muttered something unintelligible before getting out of bed. She led him to the elevator. He rubbed his eyes, complaining he needed to pee. “I think the traveler was showing me something. I just wanna’ see if he shows you something, too.”
He looked at her with a tiresome expression. He wanted to blow her off, tell her to get some rest, but they had pretty much known each other their whole lives, and he saw the distress in her face and body language. Back in front of the creature, she ordered him to sit down.
“Let me grab a chair,” he whined.
He sighed dramatically as though it was an extraordinary ordeal. “Okay, what now?”
“Just relax,” she said.
He shook his head in mock desperation, but figured placating her was the quickest road to getting back to sleep. A moment eased by during which he experienced nothing beyond grogginess. Mental complaints about his partner suddenly seemed distant and disconnected; he felt like he was underwater. The colors and shapes he witnessed behind closed eyes were marvelous but little more than whatever was experienced after pushing on the eyes. It was a novelty, which made him want to scratch his head, but it took his body an eternity to react.
When it did, it moved incredibly slowly. His eyelids remained heavy, but he focused all of his intent into looking around. He was shocked at the physical sensations plaguing his body. Vibrations and waves of energy shot through him like his heart was pumping electricity.
Frightened, he rose to his feet as if his muscles were made of molasses; everything was slowed, even the sounds in the ship; they were elongated. Focusing on the sounds was like choosing portions from a recording and playing it back. He knew the traveler was showing something of monumental importance; he recalled a similar sensation while fighting on Sahagun, and what he was experiencing was the ability to take all the time in the world to observe whatever he chose, whatever he saw with his eyes, heard with his ears, touched with hands. They were all separate events for him to witness at his own leisure.
He brought his gaze to the traveler, whose eyes were closed. An order to move, to walk around and explore, pressed him. Though he managed to pick up his pace, there wasn’t any way to move at a normal rate of speed; he knew it wasn’t his muscles he was using, but some vibratory force, some base energy lodged deep within.
He sluggishly reached out to touch Fitzpatrick. Before making contact, DeReaux’s brain was flooded with sensory input. He saw all her angles, every possible way she might move, and he knew where to strike, or trip her, or maneuver around her. Then, the elevator dinged in a drawn out fashion. Ever so slowly, the door slid open, and a Thewl ambled out like he was on slow motion, instant replay. With a crack, time caught up, and everything was back to normal.
DeReaux blinked rapidly; his eyes were dry. The Thewl who had stepped from the elevator nodded to him before shuffling off to do inventory.
“What the Hell was that,” DeReaux gasped.
“What did you see,” Fitzpatrick was anxious.
“Everything was slow, I, I don’t know.”
“Could you see everything around you, like move around, like, like, you’re just a pair of eyes or something?”
“What? No! Is that what you got,” he asked. “I didn’t get that at all. Everything was just slow, but I guess, I felt like I knew how to do…whatever needed to be done, like before on the battlefield, only I was in control this time.”
“I’m glad it isn’t just me then. We should tell everyone,” she declared.
They returned to the quarters deck and attempted amassing the crew by running excitedly from door to door. They pounded while screaming about the traveler. Korit and some Thewls joined up when Fitzpatrick started a hurried explanation. DeReaux followed up with his version. For a moment, they all looked at each other.
“Perhaps these are gifts,” Korit finally ventured.
Adams and Franklin exchanged a trademark glance. “What do you two know,” Swain asked.
“Surprisingly, nothing,” Adams answered after a pause.
“Although,” Franklin began.
“What?” Fitzpatrick demanded.
“Well… No. I don’t know,” Franklin said and looked down with a furrowed brow.
“Okay, this is the first time either of you have been at a complete loss. Now, I have to know,” O’Hara chuckled.
“Guess we should all get down there,” Day suggested.
Humans and Thewls surrounded the traveler. One-by-one, they all relaxed. A similar undertaking enveloped the Humans.
Nandesrikahl was shown how to interpret any language and signal. In the distance, across the loading zone, he listened and heard Thewls talking about the inventory. They were saddened by the loss of a friend in the last battle and were bickering about whether or not they had enough parts to fix the ships without having to scrap their friend’s ship. Anything he heard broke to down to a core vibration, allowing him to distinguish meaning and intentions.
Swain was able to feel his way through machines and equipment. If it had components, he was able to enter them, unravel how they functioned. The nearest machine was the elevator. He visualized, like x-ray vision, the vertical, conveyor track to which the cab was hooked. Then, he delved into the buttons and saw how each created a circuit in the cab’s mechanisms.
Adams and Franklin were shown that there was nothing to offer them. The cybernetics and gene augmentation they had received during their training with The Bureau had created a barrier within them. They accepted the fact; there was no alternative, yet the creature shared with them a bit of the old culture and history. It was like living among the travelers, if only for an instant.
Thewlian DNA was different than Human DNA, and the travelers had never examined it, or mastered it, as they did with their Human creations. The two species were overly dissimilar, so the traveler was unable to open their minds to give them gifts. Humans, however, all had a special, reserved potential. Their pineal glands were the same as the traveler’s gland, but Thewls were different, so he taught them meditation techniques designed to help them reach their potential on their own.
Day was told that her time was nigh. All she needed was patience. The final lesson was for the captain.
All outcomes occur at all times, but the ability to choose one outcome over another is the key to survival, to success.
He taught O’Hara to silence his mind. With no thoughts or distractions he was able to focus wholly on the task at hand. It didn’t mean knowing the exact outcome of every situation, but quieting his mind allowed him to feel the push and pull of the universe. It flowed like a river. One might walk along side it. One might walk away or towards it. One might get into the river, and try to swim against it, or across it, or with it. O’Hara was able to create a moment in time wherein he decided which of all those was best and when to utilize such decisions.