Paradise WIP – Chapter 12
Author’s note: It is hard to believe that I have been sharing chapters of my science fiction, work-in-progress (WIP) for three months now. I am so very appreciative of all of you that are following my journey. Your kind words and encouragement mean more than you will ever know.
If you are just stumbling upon this find, Paradise is the working title for my current WIP. It tells the story of a man that wakes in two different realities. His memory is unreliable. Most of his past is a complete blank.
One reality is paradise, filled with enjoyable work, an abundance of food and pleasant happy people. The other reality is a stark opposite with people living underground with barely enough water or sustenance to keep them going. In the dark reality, they are at war with an enemy they have barely glimpsed and have never caught.
I have chosen to share this story as I write it. Keep in mind you are reading a first draft. It has only had basic editing and is bound to have inconsistencies and errors. If you enjoy it, please share it with others. Be sure to leave comments about how you are enjoying the story at the end of the post.
Several days passed with no new information. Then one day at lunch, the look in Peadar’s eyes as he sat with his guards told me he had news. I nodded once in his direction and he nodded back.
Seconds dragged on to eternity as I waited for dark and first rain. As the rain slowed, I took off at a dead run for the meeting place.
Peadar was soaked when I found him. He had evidently arrived before first rain. That was a bit of a risk. I opened my mouth to scold him, but as he turned to me I could see something resembling terror in his eyes.
He held a finger up to his lips. With his other hand he pointed toward the entrance to the center. I didn’t see anything, but he grabbed me arm and pulled him down to crouch alongside him.
I didn’t see anything, but I knew he would not act that way if he did not feel it was vitally important. His hand still clutched my arm and I could swear that I could feel a slight tremor from him.
Two hours must have passed as we crouched in the thicket. Peadar held my arm in his tight grip the entire time. Finally, my legs started to protest the position and I had to move.
“Peadar,” I whispered as quietly as I could. “I don’t see anything. What has you so worked up?”
“Watch,” he pointed again toward the entrance. “It won’t be long now.”
He was right, it was not long. I never heard a sound, but suddenly Vann and the two white tigers appeared just twenty paces from the entrance.
What happened next, well, I understand why Peadar could not tell me. Just a few steps from the entrance, Vann reached into his shirt and pulled out a pendant that hung on a leather strap around his next. I vaguely remembered seeing the leather before but didn’t think anything of it.
As he held the pendant between his thumb and forefinger, the two tigers stood on their hind legs. In the blink of an eye, they were no longer tigers. No, instead, there now stood Gregg and Todd and either side of Vann.
“What the…” Peadar’s large hand tightly sealed my mouth.
Gregg may have heard something because he turned and looked in our direction. In another second the door to the entrance opened and the three of them disappeared inside.
It was one thing for Jasmine to tell me they were shape-shifters. In theory, I could accept the concept. Sure, they were shape-shifters. To actually see them change shape, and so quickly, was more than my mind could handle. I slumped hard to the ground.
A flood of information rushed into my mind. No wonder we had been unable to catch any of the Plax. If they could change in an instant… how could you catch something like that?
Peadar was definitely shaking. That was even more disconcerting. If Peadar was afraid, that drove the terror even further home for me.
“The tigers.” His words were half whisper and half desperation. “Any of them. All of them.”
He wasn’t speaking complete thoughts, but my mind was following perfectly. The tigers were Plax. Vann was Plax. Anyone and everyone in the compound outside of Peadar and me could be Plax. The realization was overwhelming.
We sat in silence for several more minutes.
Something in my military mind finally clicked. I put my thoughts in order and stood. Peadar followed suit but was a little unstable at first.
“Soldier,” I said to him, “we now know what we need to do.”
Peadar clicked to attention awaiting my order.
“We have to find a way to get that pendant.”
It was an easy plan to conceptualize, but another matter entirely trying to put it in action.
Peadar and I carefully inspected every person we saw in the compound. No one other than Vann wore any type of necklace, let alone a leather one with a pendant on it. Vann seemed to hold all the cards.
“There has to be more than one control,” I was thinking out loud as Peadar and I sat in darkness again in the thicket.
“Vann can’t be the only one with the ability to enter the center. Have you seen anyone else go in.”?
“Not during the night. No, sir.”
Even though it was a risk, I had taken to spending hours of daylight in the thicket as well. The door never opened other than late at night when Vann opened it. Sometimes with Todd and Gregg and sometimes on his own, Vann was the only one to ever open it.
Just then the door opened. Peadar and I hugged the ground as we watched.
“I hate the way they smell.” It was Gregg’s voice. He was carrying something large. Todd was walking alongside him.
“Not as much as I hate looking like them,” Todd replied.
In the dark we couldn’t be sure, but Gregg appeared to be carrying a person.
“It’s pointless reconditioning them,” Gregg went on. “We should just exterminate the lot of them.”
“You know that’s not an option.”
“I know,” Gregg signed heavily. “I hate that we need them.”
They didn’t speak any further while they were in earshot.