I know what your are thinking..............
In the deepest part of the Pacific ocean near the Mariana Trench is a world undiscovered by man, an immense crystal dome — so big it is impossible to see where it begins or ends.
An infinite sparkling ceiling morphing pale blue to deep indigo produces a climate like earth’s, whilst concave transparent walls soar from the floor to the highest outer regions.
Inhabitants close to this perimeter can observe deep-sea creatures passing outside the dome, many inconceivable to humans.
Purified air circulates, enabling a society of super beings and unique flora and fauna to exist free of disease and strife. These are Sealiens who have endured for eons, perhaps being the genesis of man because they resemble humans, except their intelligence, is without limits. Their bodies can adapt to their surroundings; able to breathe the ocean's salt-water or earth's atmosphere.
Eons ago, renegade Sealiens orchestrated an unsuccessful coup to overthrow the goddess Alacra, the supreme ruler of the city. Because of this, they were exiled to a separate dark dome that is rapidly decaying. They became known as Quozers.
Over the ages, it has been Sealien custom to send one of their most intelligent young to the surface to further their knowledge of this other resourceful species and the planet where they live.
Silver flashes zoomed toward Orin and his friends. 'Oh, Mother! It is Taktay! And he has brought his clan, we are done for!'
Taktay pinned one milky eye on Vaardim, who flexed his lithe body and flipped, avoiding the lunge. Taktay circled, opening his jaws ready to attack again. A blur overhead caught Vaardim's attention. ‘It is another pod,' he said whipping away from Taktay.
The colossal dark shape of Modra hovered a distance away. 'Their leader says they have been at war with the sharks not far from here,' she said.
Taktay's two companions circled while the new pod prepared for an attack.
'Modra!' Orin called. 'You and Zeetar make a run for it, Taktay's target is Vaardim. I will try to distract him.'
Taktay switched his good eye in Orin's direction and he stalled at his first sight of the Sealien. It was no dolphin, on the contrary, a creature like those he tracked by the seashore when desperate for food. Muscular legs propelled Orin away from Vaardim, and Taktay followed his trail of bubbles until Orin stopped to tread water, daring the shark to follow. His shoulder-length black hair fanned out in the water in a mass of fine angel threads and his beefy arms pushed up and down holding him upright.
Modra cruised beside Zeetar - the giant Octopus, both watching the scene unfolding. A series of loud pulses, clicks, and buzzes emitted from her as she communicated with Zeetar and Orin.
Zeetar's eight legs each reaching twenty-five feet contracted inwards and his suckers turned from blue to red, their texture hardening as he turned to dart away at forty miles an hour. Modra whacked her tail toward the sharks and hurried away as a group of beings materialized in front of Orin.
The creature leading this assemblage was much taller than the others following behind, and shaped like Orin, though dark green glittering scales covered his body. Peaks like rose thorns trailed the ridge of his back, and in rows down his long arms and legs. Huge round eyes protruded like beacons in his square face, shielded by thin eyelids opening and closing laterally. More thorns jutted from each cheek, and round crinkled ears hung like dried apricots. His prominent lips wrapped around a breathing apparatus dangled from his chest, and he moved like a robot.
'Who are you?' Orin asked.
The figure spoke with a voice to Orin's mind, like all advanced sea creatures he communicated via telepathy. It was deep and echoed like rubber running over gravel.
'I am Zart, leader of the Quozers. We surround you and I do not think your friends the dolphins will survive Taktay's attack.'
Orin drew back and flexed his strong chest muscles, his thick biceps quivered. 'What do you want with me?'
'You are from Sealien City, we want information about them. It is no use blocking me, my powers are as great as yours.'
'I do not know what you are talking about.'
His voice rumbled. 'Errk! Do not lie.'
Zart frightened Orin. The tone was something new to him, sound did not accompany thoughts, but these rocketed into his brain like thunder.
'Why would I lie? I have no knowledge of anything other than my travels with my friends here.'
'I can see you will not cooperate so we will take you back to our city, where I have ways to learn your secrets. You will weaken and tell me what I need to know.'
Two smaller Quozers grabbed Orin and pinned his arms behind him and as Zart moved closer, he jutted out his square chin and his nostrils flared. His black orbs glared, and Orin received a sharp headache and fell limp in the Quozers grip.
'This is what I can do, so think carefully before you oppose me.'
'I told you, I cannot tell you anything!' Lightning bolts flashed in his head.
Zart snarled at his captors. 'Take him from me!'
The last thing Orin noticed was the ferocious thrashing between the sharks and the dolphins as they continued their war. 'Vaardim! Help me!'
Vaardim heard Orin's plea, but his attention was on escaping Taktay's fury. Blood streaked the water as they fought for survival.
Orin woke in a darkened room, his head throbbed with such intensity it weakened him. Shackles held his feet and hands so he could not move and he detected a low unrecognizable hum. As his eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, he learned he lay on a hard table in a small room and saw a pulsing rainbow light above him through a fog. The atmosphere was dense and soupy and he struggled to breathe.
'You will get used to the air here soon.'
Orin recognized Zart's gruff voice but he was not in sight. He flung his head back and tried to raise himself, pulling on the ties. 'Why am I shackled this way?'
'You may have super strength Orin, but not here, you have so far proven to be unyielding. Your Goddess Alacra equipped you well.'
'My Goddess? What do you mean?' Orin rotated his head looking for Zart.
'You are one of them.'
Orin's lungs hurt and his bones ached when he moved. 'I cannot tell you anything. Let me go!' He coughed. 'This is not air. Where am I?'
'In Quozer City not far from your Sealien home.'
'What is this Sealien home you talk about?'
A raucous laugh boomed. ‘Do not try to fool me. You have just come from there.'
'What? I,I do not know of Sealiens.'
'So Alacra has been up to her old tricks, heh? You do not remember! Rubbish! You'll remember or you will stay with us until you do.'
'Are you going to keep me prisoner?'
‘No, you cannot escape, you are trapped here like all Quozers.' Zart's ugly form appeared in front of Orin. His grotesque blackish hands covered with rigid thorns reached for him and the shackles fell away.
Orin struggled to sit and rubbed his wrists. He moved to stand but something held him back, and he fell against the table clasping his temples as the veins in his head pulsated.
'Eons ago our ancestors angered Alacra and she banished our race from Sealien City to this place. She lowered our intelligence prevented some of us from communicating and took away our ability to breathe sea-water, in a bid to stop us going to earth. This dome has trapped us here ever since. Nevertheless, one among us invented a device that allows us to enter the sea. My people need their powers returned so they can exist on earth and force the humans to kneel to us.'
Orin folded is arms. 'What has that got to do with me?'
'You are Alacra's son, she will do anything to save you. We could not get help from your father, so he had to die.'
'You killed my father?'
'He put up a heroic stand.'
Orin's face reddened and he moved toward Zart but staggered and fell back coughing. 'How do you know I am Alacra's son?'
'The silver band on your arm. Your father wore the same, he said only Alacra's kin wore it. You are young, so you must be her son.
Our atmosphere is dying, we must escape to earth.' Zart’s voice was slow and muffled. 'Enjoy your visit.'
Orin staggered from the table to follow him, but his legs wobbled and his chest ached. When he emerged and staggered from this room, he found himself in a forest of dead trees where fog swirled around him and pricked his eyeballs. The gray air confined his vision to his immediate surrounds where every shape loomed as a threat. Ghostlike figures in the distance trudged along a line heading in one direction. They swayed and jerked their ugly bodies as they dragged each foot from the sludge beneath them. Orin joined their line and a small Quozer wobbled against him. He held out his arm to stop him.
'Where is everyone going?'
A dark wrinkled thorny face glared. 'Eat time,' it croaked.
'Ugh!' Orin pulled away from the Quozer, the touch made his skin crawl.
He fastened his eyes on the back of the bent Quozer before him and battled to keep up as they stumbled forward. Sharp black sticks protruded at various heights above the greasy ground beneath his feet as they squelched along. He imaged he saw figures drifting among the skeleton branches of the trees, and he tried to make sense of the Quozers grunts.
They led him through the dead forest until they came to a square building blanketed by thick gray moss. He squinted and imagined he saw glittering eyes peering from the shivering mass and wondered what kind of creatures lived in those dark mounds. Steam from the building met with the surrounding fog and fell on them as mist. Several small dark domes circled in the visible distance, also covered in rotting moss, and in various states of collapse. Orin pinched his nose to block out the foul smell drifting in the murky air.
When he entered the eating place a putrid mess faced him. Long rough benches hewn from forest timbers filled the room occupied by hundreds of Quozers. They were eating something with their fingers that resembled black seaweed. The ones nearest him raised their heads and leered with red-ringed eyes.
Orin looked to his right and saw a queue waiting for plates of slop. He was starving by now, so he grabbed a plate from a stack and joined them. The closer he got to the food source the more disgusted he became. His eyes watered and the odor nauseated him, but the Quozers didn't seem to notice. A table ahead held two bins of food, and as each Quozer scooped some on their plate, an old wrinkled figure who reeked worse than the food replenished them.
Orin reached into the slop and put a handful on his plate and carried it to a space on the end of a bench. The occupants glared and moved away and animals shaped like pigs grunted and snatched at slop thrown to the floor. He sat for a moment contemplating the need to eat and his aversion to what was in front of him. He poked his finger into the mess and put it to his mouth, it smelled like rotten earth and tasted worse. He forced himself to eat a few handfuls, all the while fighting repugnance. When he could eat no more he fled the room to the forest, where even though the air was unbearable, it was better than the eating house.
He needed to find somewhere to rest and the ramshackle domes looked suitable. He stumbled past many before finding one vacant and crawled inside to collapse, breathing hard. His mind turned to his friends outside in the ocean, hoping Vaardim has escaped the sharks. He tried to think about Sealien City, but nothing registered. He felt sick and miserable and wondered why he had ended up in this terrible place. He drifted into an uneasy sleep vowing to escape this hell.
Orin awoke wishing it had all been a bad dream but realized it was not when he saw an ugly Quozer glaring over him. He sat up and rubbed his eyes.
‘Why are you people so unfriendly?'
He thrust a bottle of water at Orin.
'Thanks,' Orin said as he removed the cap and sniffed the water before drinking until it was empty He looked around the filthy dome devoid of any furnishings, and felt aches in his joints. The Quozer sat on the hard floor beside him.
'We have no choice, but why are you here?' he grunted. His spoken voice was not as guttural as Zart's mind blasts.
'I do not know.' Orin wiped his mouth. 'Zart believes I can give him information about the Sealiens.'
'The Sealiens huh! Ohhh, he is desperate, we all are. It is becoming harder to function and soon our city will collapse and the ocean will drown us.' His red-rimmed eyes oozed a gray liquid.
'Zart told me you are Quozers, but who are the Quozers? Who are you?'
'I am called Kree. We once lived among them but no more, because Zart's ancestors killed many. We have been trying to get back in ever since.
This world you see here is cruel. Fighting is the only thing that counts. We kill each other, steal, and cheat. Quozers are everything the Sealiens are not. We know we will eventually destroy everything. But Zart and his select few will survive because they have a way of leaving here. They want to get to earth where there is no pollution. Even the Roogers are dying out.’
'What are they?'
'Those small animals you saw in the eating hall. They eat our leftover food, but there is not much of that these days, so they are starving.'
Orin sighed. 'If Zart goes to earth he will destroy their world too.' He hunched up and hugged his knees. 'I cannot help you. Why am I unable to communicate with my sea friends outside this place?'
'The outer wall of our city is holding back the ocean and there is an inner wall that blocks communication to the outside, Between these walls is a void, supposedly to give the inner wall strength, but the sea barrier is weakening, and if it bursts we will be crushed.' He struggled to his feet. 'I suggest you do not talk to anyone here. Zart will not like it.'
'What does he expect me to do?'
'I told Zart it was no use.' Orin ran his fingers through his long black hair.
'Then you will stay here and face your fate with us.'
'How can he allow his people to die? He must be a monster. How many of you are here anyway?'
Kree's face darkened from slimy green to black. 'Only Zart knows. Perhaps thousands and many are barely surviving.' He paused and Orin saw fear in his red eyes. ‘We are all monsters, but the biggest monster is Zart and his son Droth. Some time ago Zart sent Droth to earth to set up a place for the Quozers to live. He still has some powers and he will take everything he needs from the earthlings, he is an evil creature and the cause of most of our troubles here.'
'If Zart wants to live on earth then why is he trying to get back into Sealien City?'
Kree emitted a gravel-laden laugh. 'Revenge! He hates the Sealiens and he'll do anything to destroy them. Grrrrr, I have told you enough!’ His lateral eyelids blinked back and forth as he leaned toward Orin. 'Why does he think you can help him?'
Orin drew back in disgust at the blast of foul breath emanating from Kree. 'He believes I am Alacra's son and know how to get into Sealien City.'
'Then you are doomed. Be careful. Zart can read your thoughts.'
‘I do not know why and yet I can block him.'
'If you do, he will know you are hiding something and he has ways of encouraging you.'
Orin bowed his head and thought about his predicament. He had not experienced the sensation of pain before finding himself here. He couldn’t remember anything other than being in the ocean with his friends. He squinted through the smoky air and his eyes landed on a pile of dirty rags against the wall. They were the only thing available to soften the hard surface. He crawled toward them and was so weak their foul odor did not deter him and he curled up and slept.
High above Quozer City in the shallows of the ocean, the battle between three sharks and the dolphins raged and blood tinged the water. So far Vaardim dodged Taktay's sharp teeth, however, several dolphins succumbed and received deep wounds, some fatal.
The shark's bodies were not as flexible as the dolphins, who can maneuver more swiftly, nor were their skeletons as hard. Vaardim's main weapon was the thick bone and hard rounded end of his snout. Taktay could only move side to side and while his attention focused on the other dolphins circling him, Vaardim nosedived. He spun on his horizontally mounted fluke and rushed up beneath Taktay to ram his belly again and again. Two dolphins followed his lead and the powerful punches were sufficient to knock the shark out. The other sharks fled while Taktay sank to the depths.
Vaardim's friends cheered and congratulated him, yet he was skeptical. Taktay had avoided defeat many times and he did not believe it was over. He watched as Taktay's body descended to a place where he risked crushing death if he followed.
He saw the dark blue shape of Modra approaching through the murky red water. 'Oh, Vaardim we were so afraid for you. We are all safer now Taktay has gone, thank you, you are a hero.'
‘Grrr, I do not feel like one Modra, I am sore all over and I have lost some of my friends. I am not convinced Taktay has gone.'
'The Quozers have captured Orin? What can we do? They want to use him to break into Sealien City. They will kill him! We must rescue him.'
'Their lair is too deep for you and I Modra, but Zeetar can go there, yes Zeetar?'
'Yes, although what can I do?'
'They will not suspect you, they do not know you are Orin's friend. Maybe you can communicate with Orin and see how we can free him.'
‘I am willing to try. I have heard nasty things about them lately. Their city is falling apart.'
'Good. Then let us begin.'
During Orin's restless night in the filthy dome, bad nightmares woke him with his heart pounding in his chest and his body trembling, and when he went back to sleep, they continued to bombard him. He saw himself stretched between two dead trees, his hands, and feet bound tightly by wire. Each time he moved the wire cut deeper drawing blood in copious quantities.
Zart stood over him wielding a leather strap covered with sharp needles while another Quozer stretched his limbs further. As the needles stripped his skin he cried out in pain and Zart laughed. 'I will keep doing this until your skin is shredded and your bones have snapped. When I am finished my guard will do much worse. Tell me how to enter Sealien City!'
When he awoke the second morning still struggling to breathe his head ached intensely. Grime covered his white loincloth and he longed for water to wash away the filthy dirt accumulated on his body. He rose and stretched, listened and frowned. There were no sounds other than a constant low hum droning through his head.
He tried hard to remember something. Who was Alacra and was he her son? He wondered about the silver bracelet on his arm, etchings on it meant nothing to him. He stroked its gleaming surface and attempted to remove it, but it would not open or slide over his hand. He shook his head trying to dull the ache lingering behind his eyes and leaned against the fractured entrance of the dome. Alone and frightened it came home to him how naive and safe he had been frolicking with his ocean family, for he couldn’t remember any other. He jerked back as a thunderous sound preceded Zart's angry voice in his head.
'Are you ready to tell me what I want Orin? Stop blocking your thoughts from me!'
‘I have told you, I have no knowledge of Sealien City. Leave me alone!' A bolt stabbed in his head and drove him to the ground, bringing tears to his eyes. ‘Ahhhh, please, you are wasting your time!’
'Alright. Have it your way. You will tell me.'
Orin's mind stalled and yet the pain remained. He collapsed by the door and it was several minutes before he regained his senses.
'You still here?' The voice of Kree filled the air. He emerged from the mist. 'I warned you about Zart. He will make you suffer until you can stand it no more and your heart will stop beating, or your brain will burst, and that would be a shame for one so young.’
'Can you help me Kree?' Orin pleaded.
'Why should I? Zart will know if I do and I will risk his fury.’ The Quozer’s breath came in gasps, his words followed by grunts.
Orin rubbed his temples. 'Well, at least tell me something about this place.'
Kree glanced around and pushed past Orin to enter the dome. Orin grabbed the doorway as he steadied himself against a headache.
'You are so different to us and just like your father. Pale skinned and powerful, ready to take on your adversaries, though you cannot win with Zart. He will destroy you as he destroyed your father.'
'You knew my father?'
‘Yes, he was a brave creature. I could not stand to watch his demise at Zart's hands. I thought it wrong to kill somebody who meant us no harm. I believe his heart burst because the pain receptors in his body were overwhelmed by Zart's relentless attacks of anger. He merely melted away as do all Sealiens when they die.
‘So, I am Sealien? You must help me escape before I become Zart's next victim.’
‘I will draw you a map so you know how to find the way to the void, then you can communicate with your friends.' He raised his hands and jutted his head forward before shaking it.
'Zart cannot read my thoughts, he is not here, he must be close to read our minds.'
Orin tried to understand Kree's thoughts and at the same time heard only a discordant noise that confused him. Kree squatted and drew a circle in the dust and Orin kneeled beside him.
‘You are here.' He marked an X in the circle. 'This is the eatery, and this is the toilet area. About a mile from here in this direction is the burial grounds. Do not go there! The dead are thrown into a ditch, not buried.'
He drew a large square and an arrow pointing toward the word WALL. Orin saw what Kree was trying to tell him and reinforced the block on his own thoughts lest Zart was listening.
'So, you are telling me there may be an escape somewhere along that wall?’ He touched Kree’s knee and smiled. ‘Where can I find you again, Kree?’
‘That does not matter. I am dying and soon you will only see me at the burial ground. I am going now. Do not look for me’
Orin made several trips to the eatery, each time fighting nausea to gather water bottles he brought back to the dome. He searched among the dirty rags and fashioned a sling to carry them on his back. The warning signal that preceded Zart's thought bombarded his mind and he tried to block them. He feared his head would explode, and fell down as it gained in strength. It lasted for only a few minutes although so intense his eyes watered and he wondered how much of this torture Zart would enforce on him. He also wondered if Zart was having him watched. Could he trust his new friend Kree?
He recovered and tied the sling with the bottles around his waist and lurched out into the encompassing fog. His shoulders slumped as the bleakness descended discouraging him, nonetheless, his physical strength was returning and he was ready.
The absence of animal sounds worried him and wondered where the Roogers lived, even their gargled noises would be better than the quiet surrounding him. He looked through the fog for the first bare tree on the edge of the dead forest and headed toward it. Sharp spikes from its twisted branches sagged toward the black slushy swamp. More shadowy trees crouched behind, promising a harrowing journey for someone so foolish to traverse their domain.
He glanced around to see no Quozers could witness his departure before continuing. Soon the thick fog swallowed him and he was confident nobody followed. Still, he imagined the hairs on his neck rippled when he fixed his eyes in the direction he needed to go.
The dark and sludgy ground scraped the soles of his bare feet and clung to his ankles, while dead spears sliced his shins and drooping wiry branches whipped his body. He trudged to where he judged would be halfway to his destination when he heard a twig crack behind him. This place was devoid of living things, where he doubted even the Quozers ventured, yet something or someone was following him. His throat tightened and he squinted ahead, quivering, watching for any movement.
A headache sent him crashing down, breath rushed from his lungs and his heart drummed as he writhed on the greasy ground. Potent laughter echoed in his head and he cursed Zart for inflicting such torture, swearing to seek revenge if he survived these attacks and escaped.
He lay on the sludge for several minutes waiting for the suffering to subside until he heard another crack sending his heart into overdrive again. He struggled to his feet and snapped the sling around to grab a bottle of water, swigging it down in great gulps, letting the water drizzle down his chin to his chest. He cast the bottle aside and hunched down to catch his breath. He was so stunned he lost direction, so he waited, scanning for Zart, imagining him behind every tree.
Concentrate! He told himself. He clutched his head and closed his eyes, zoning in on his memory for direction. He opened them and knew where to head.
What he came upon was far more gruesome than anything imagined. At first, it appeared to be a small hill with steam rising from its center, then as he approached he saw it was a high pile of rotting, dead Quozers. The powerful foul odor reached his nostrils and he retched while his brain attempted to block out the vision.
A solid murky haze emerged in the distance but as he neared it did not alter its properties. He reached out and touched its solidness and ran his hands over the stony surface, looking up at its endless height. It was cold and supported Kree’s description of the wall protecting the void, however, he had to withstand Zart’s torment until he found an inspection portal and a way out.
Zart’s warning came and he flattened his body against the wall in anticipation of the pain though It was weaker and less stupefying and he panted to ward it off. It seemed his proximity to the wall was helping to block the intensity and he sensed it would be zero once he got inside the void.
He continued on, needing to get as far away as possible from the burial ground, not only because of the horror, at the same time to rest. The journey and Zart's attacks to this point had drained every ounce of his energy. When he could go no further he looked across the barren strip separating the dead forest from the wall and returned to the trees to sleep under the cover of the fog. It was only a few hundred feet away and he dreaded entering that eerie place again, but he was more afraid to lie out in the open.
Once there he collected fallen branches and twigs and constructed a temporary shelter, terrified at the prospect of capture when he was so close to escaping. He crawled beneath the branches and closed his eyes, listening to the rhythmic beat of his heart to fall asleep in minutes.
Orin resumed searching the wall with his fingertips, squinting through the fog cursing the Quozers, until he found a small crack waist-high. He followed its edges around an area about three feet square. He pushed and prodded, wondering what type of mechanism sealed it, also wondering what would happen if he was to breach it. Would an alarm sound? Perhaps it required a key. His hopes deflated as his efforts to open it went unrewarded. He reared back and kicked hard, again and again until his legs ached until there was a pop and a small tunnel opened before him. He judged it wide enough, so he climbed in pulling the door shut to hide the breach. A double click echoed and the dense black silence shocked him.
He crawled forward swiveling his hips from side to side hearing only the sound of his body slithering through the short tunnel until his head touched the wall to the void. He moved his hands looking for a catch and lowered his head in a moment of panic. Was he trapped? He could turn his body and retreat, although he may find the same predicament where he entered. He lay a moment trying to regain his composure. Next, he heard a faint whisper in his head.
He edged closer to the wall.
He pressed his skull against the wall willing it to open.
'Orin, call me. Please call me!'
He thumped his elbows and feet against the walls of the tunnel.
'I can hear you.'
'Call me.' The voice was fading.
'No no no. Come back, please.' He rolled on his back and sobbed into the blackness. 'Please help me.'
He lay there drawing on every fiber of his body to cast out fear. It became clear when he folded his wrists on his forehead and the silver band on his arm vibrated. The mist rolled away from his brain and he visualized his mother Alacra pressing something to his arm. He lay back and kicked the wall until at last, a door popped open. He slid out of the tunnel into a dim light, like moonlight and found himself in the wide passage of the void, about thirty feet wide and twelve feet high, and vacant. He looked in each direction and it melted into infinity both ways, growing darker in the distance. He looked ahead to see the black ocean pulsating against the outer curved wall, its surface like an old worn mirror, crazed and bulging in many places, weakening as Kree had predicted.
Memories flooded in, memories of Sealien City, the Goddess Alacra, and Ribbi. He remembered Alacra telling him she would always be there for him, all he had to do was call and as Zart could not reach him in this void, he was safe from the debilitating vibrations. He touched the thin vein just visible beneath his skin on his left wrist and Alacra's calm voice flooded his mind.He explained his situation.
Use the silver bracelet. Just stroke it and imagine your destination in your mind. You will find yourself in one of our teleports. You will experience vibrations in your body yet do not worry, it is perfectly safe. I will meet you there.
Orin smiled and did as she instructed; his body trembled and he watched his hands disappear and for a moment he panicked.